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Bush Lifts Presidential Ban On Offshore Drilling

Bush Lifts Presidential Ban On Offshore DrillingThe move, decried by environmentalists, pressures Congress to act before its moratorium on offshore energy exploration expires Oct. 1.WASHINGTON -- President Bush today lifted a long-standing presidential ban on new oil and gas drilling off the nation's coastlines and urged Congress to remove its own restrictions on offshore energy exploration, stoking the battle over how Washington should respond to high gasoline prices.

But the wall of opposition on Capitol Hill to relaxing the drilling ban, though softening, appeared to be holding. A congressional moratorium remains in place, but expires Oct. 1 unless Congress acts.

  • Graphic: Offshore drilling
Lawmakers are growing increasingly nervous in the election year about high gasoline prices, and polls show increasing support for expanded domestic energy production.

Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the Republican presidential candidate, recently changed his position on the offshore drilling ban, coming out in favor of letting states decide whether to allow energy exploration off their coasts.

In his announcement at the White House, Bush shifted pressure on the issue directly onto Congress.

"The executive branch's restrictions on this exploration have been cleared away," he said. "This means that the only thing standing between the American people and these vast oil resources is action from the U.S. Congress."

Environmentalists decried the move to lift a ban that has been in place since President Bush's father.

"One of the two safety nets that protect our most treasured coastal areas, as of today, is gone," said Richard Charter, who has been working with Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund to preserve the moratorium.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) quickly rejected Bush's call to lift the drilling ban and instead called on him to release some of the 700 million barrels of oil stored in Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) called Bush's action a "false promise that simply won't deliver."

The federal moratorium was inspired by the images from 1969 oil spill off Santa Barbara of oil-soaked birds and sludge-covered beaches and ocean waters. Congressional Republicans have sought to increase pressure on Democrats to support expanded domestic production, but so far have been blocked in their attempts to force a House vote on whether to allow drilling more than 50 miles off the coast.

Jack N. Gerard, the president and CEO of the American Chemistry Council, cheered Bush's action.

"Clearly, the ground is shifting on energy policy," he said.

Industry officials believe lawmakers will be judged by many constituents according to how they vote on the question.

"This action places the pressure on Congress to act before the elections," said Jeff Eshelman of the Independent Petroleum Assn. of America. "It could be one of the most monumental votes faced by candidates running for office."

In a sign of the changing mood, Rep. John Campbell (R-Newport Beach), who voted in 2006 against relaxing the moratorium, said in a recent interview, "I am becoming more flexible on the issue, which is clearly a function of the crisis in which we find ourselves."

On a recent trip home, he said, gas prices were "all anybody wants to talk about."

"What I hear all the time is . . . I'm tired of sending all this money over to those people who hate us, " Campbell said. "And now, it's a ridiculous amount of money we're sending to those people who hate us, and we need to stop that."

Lisa Speer, director of the water and oceans program for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said Bush's action removes "one layer of protection" for the coasts.

"It's going to be up to the coastal states and their representatives in Congress to fight this off," she said in an interview. She said that any oil that could be developed from new offshore leases won't hit the market for years, and she asserted it would have negligible effect on prices.

"This is not a solution to the gas price problem," she said, calling Bush's action a "cynical ploy" to undo the moratorium.

But she said that the battle to preserve the drilling ban has become tougher.

"It's a reflection of the pressure that politicians are feeling on gas prices," she said. "Everybody has to be very vigilant over the next few months until Congress goes out."

Supporters of relaxing the moratorium by letting states decide whether to permit offshore exploration say that technological advances have made drilling safer.

Original Source :,0,5999538.story

www.plentyoffish.comPlentyofFish is a free online dating service. The founder and sole operator, 29-year-old Markus Frind, runs the site from his 83-square-metre Vancouver apartment. The site pulls in more than $5 million a year from Google advertising.History

Markus Frind, CEO and Founder of Plentyoffish Media Inc., graduated in 1999 from British Columbia Institute of Technology with a diploma in Computer Systems Technology. Over the next few years, he worked for several companies as the number of them in Vancouver began to wane. Markus ended up working at a company as a website and database administrator where he found and fixed errors.

In 2003, Frind had to learn ASP.NET and to better learn the language, he built a dating website. The free dating website quickly grew in Canada and then spread, via word of mouth, to the U.K., Australia, and the United States. His first Adsense check arrive in July 2003 and was for $1,100 USD.

In 2004, PlentyofFish became a full-time business for Markus.


Members can add photographs, if they choose to do so. Members can flag another person's photographs if they are not clear photographs of that person. There is a rating system in place similar to the site HOTorNOT.

The site also has a chat feature which allows members to chat with other members, regardless of age, sexual orientation and location.

An extensive forum discussion group allows members to discuss dating experiences and organize local events.

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Don't squash those insects!

Some people believe that the only good insect is a dead insect. While it is true that there are some bad bugs out there, there are many more kinds of good bugs doing their part to keep the bad bugs in check. The ratio is actually about 99 percent good insects, 1 percent pests.

I better quickly mention that technically I shouldn’t call them “bugs.” True bugs are in the insect order Hemiptera, and lack hard wing covers. There are 36 other orders of insects.

Ladybugs are among the most visible and well-known of all the beneficial insects. Did you know that there are over 500 different species of ladybugs in North America alone? The adults tend to be orange to red, with no spots to many brown or black spots on their wing covers. The larvae look evil, however, like hairy little orange and black caterpillars. They help though, stalking around on leaves, eating over their weight in other bugs every day. They like sweet aphids but will also eat insect eggs.

Ladybugs are really beetles, in the order Coleoptera. Mantids, including the praying mantis, are predatory beasts. Mantids stalk their prey, seize it, and devour it with sharp saw-like jaws. Mantid egg cases look like miniature volcanic mountain ranges, laid on twigs or even on walls. The young emerge, hungry for bugs, and may even eat unlucky siblings.

Lacewing larvae are perhaps the most prodigious insect eaters. Looking like a little caterpillar with a large pair of wickedly hooked jaws projecting from the front of the head, they are pest killers on the prowl. They feed voraciously on many plant pests, including caterpillars, beetle larvae, bug larvae and scale insects, consuming prey several times larger than they are. Adult lacewings pollinate any number of small shallow flowers, and eat a few pests while they are at it.

In the Southwest, lacewings are not always green. There are brown lacewings that look sort of like a giant mosquito. Don’t kill the lacewings.

If it looks like a bee, and sounds like a bee, it must be a bee, right? Not if it is a syrphid fly. These black and yellow bee-mimics are great for the garden. Adults pollinate flowers, but their larvae are the ones you want. Syrphid larvae are green or gray maggots that feed on aphids and other soft body plant pests. To tell if it is a bee or a fly, check the waist. Bees and wasps are in the Hymenoptera, the wasp-waisted order, and have four wings, while flies have fat waists and are in the order Diptera, meaning “two wings.”

Fly eyes are different too, flat at the back instead of rounded. Many wasps are good wasps, unless you are a bug. Braconid and Ichneumid wasps are straight out of science fiction. Or maybe it’s the other way around, fiction taken from true life. Basically, the wasp mothers find nice, juicy insects to lay their eggs on. The wasp larvae hatch, burrow into the insect, and slowly eat it alive, from the inside. They eat muscle tissues first, immobilizing their food, and leave the vital organs for dessert. Aliens. When they are not looking for insects to support their young, adult parasitic wasps feed on nectar and pollen. You may occasionally find them feeding at hummingbird feeders. There are well over a thousand species of parasitic wasps, each of which attacks a specific kind of host insect.

Ant lions are another insect that have made their way into science fiction. The larvae dig a cone-shaped pit in the dirt and wait for an unwary ant or other bug to walk near. Then they throw grains of sand at the hapless insect until it loses its footing and tumbles into their trap. Lunge. Chomp. The bug is history. (Remember the creature in the pit in “Return of the Jedi”?) Quite unlike their grublike larvae, the adult ant lions look like large mosquitoes.

There is simply not enough space to discuss owlflies, dragonflies, damselflies, snakeflies, mengieds, halictophagids, elenchids, scorpionflies, hangingflies, figitids, ibalids … and so on. “For every flea there is a flea Upon his back to bite him. And so on, and so on, Ad infinitum.”

So let the bugs live in your yard. They provide food for many species of desert birds, lizards, even bats. Besides, they eat the pests, not be the pests.

Original Source :

Hard Knox For Jolie-Pitt Boy, But Vivienne Still Shines In Name Game

Hard Knox For Jolie-Pitt Boy, But Vivienne Still Shines In Name Game
Knox Leon's first report card wasn't great. Or maybe it's just that his twin sister, Vivienne Marcheline, ruined the curve.

When babies are born to celebrities, the burning question - after establishing that everyone's healthy, of course - is inevitably, "So what's the name?"

Blame it on Suri, Apple, Moses, Shiloh, Pilot Inspektor and Sunday Rose. Famous people just can't seem to help but hang interesting monikers on their kids.

So we asked a few baby-name experts - people who make their living consulting with regular folks on christening their offspring - to grade the names of the twins born to Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt on Saturday in Nice, France

EXPERT: Whitney Walker, co-author with Eric Reyes of "The Perfect Baby Name" and consultant through

SPECIALTY: Phonetics and rhythm - how names sound and flow together.

IMPRESSIONS: "Knox Leon has the short 'O' vowel sound in both names, so they match. . . . Vivienne Marcheline is kind of a mouthful, but rhythmically it goes together because both names are French, with the accent on the last syllable.

"It seems they've got some kind of fixation with always having an 'X' in the boy's name. . . . It used to be people named their kids with the same first letter; people frown on that now as a little too cliche. But she wants them to have something in common. And 'X' is unusual, it stands out.

"I'm sure she's going to call them Knox and Viv, and the 'V' and the 'X' kind of tie them together. . . . She's going to say these names together a lot; you want them to sound good together, and not be too disjointed."

GRADE: Knox Leon: B-minus, Vivienne Marcheline: B-plus.

EXPERT: Maryanna Korwitts, author of "Name Power 101" and founder of

SPECIALTY: The holistic approach, from sounds and meanings to the impact of names, possible nicknames - even initials - on personality traits.

IMPRESSIONS: "So with Knox Leon, we see they're picking the boys' names with an 'X' at the end. ... In an associative sense, I wouldn't give it a good grade; makes you think of 'hard knocks,' or knocking someone on the side of the head. We also have Fort Knox. That is something I would steer clear of - you want to think ahead of what kids will face in school.

"On a subliminal basis, it will encourage him to be very physical, very stubborn, and to be someone who will always want to do it himself. ... I think this could be a child that might be difficult to discipline.

"Vivienne, this particular name is one that comes back - we're seeing it more and more (Rosie O'Donnell's daughter is Vivian Rose). It's got some difference to it, yet it's still not out-of-the-box totally. It's another name that will create a lot of independence and stubbornness. That may be a positive with twins - that they may be their own people. A little bit longer, probably will be 'Vivvy,' so that could work out quite well."

GRADE: Knox Leon: D-plus, Vivienne Marcheline: C.

EXPERT: Jennifer Moss, author of "The One-in-a-Million Baby Name Book" and founder of

SPECIALTY: Practicality. "We're not numerologists, and we're not psychics," she says. Moss focuses on the research process, looking for influences such as family history and life experiences.

IMPRESSIONS: "Knox is an interesting name. It seems to be a family name on Brad Pitt's side; he also is a big collector of the Scottish artist Archibald Knox. The 'X' at the end seems to run in the family! But people commenting on our site aren't quite getting the whole 'Knox' thing. It has been a trend to use family surnames as first names - Madison was the biggest one. . . . But Knox is also a verb, and will be identified with 'school of hard knocks.' . . . On the positive side, it's easy to spell, it's easy to pronounce, and it's easy to remember.

"I think Vivienne Marcheline is a very feminine, very beautiful name. Members on our site are responding very well to it. . . . I think it'll bring popularity to French names. . . . It's a very long name. And when she says it, she's going to have to spell it for people."

GRADE: Knox Leon: B, Vivienne Marcheline, A.

COMPOSITE PANEL GRADES: Knox Leon: C, Vivienne Marcheline: B-plus.

Original Source :

Halo Blue

Halo Blue

Halo to go blue?

The latest rumour going around the gaming press is at Bungie are preparing to announce the next episode of the Halo series. Apparently entitled 'Halo Blue' after being spotted listed in a Walmart database, the new game is going to be grittier, more along the lines of Gears of War and Ghost Recon, with all members of the squad playable over Xbox Live co-op.

According to Gamespot, Halo Blue will be "less cartoony" and "more bloody, violent, and grim" tale of a battle between UNSC forces and the pan-racial religious empire known as the Covenant.

No doubt we'll find out how true this all is when E3 starts.

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Palm Treo 800w : Highly Recommended

Palm Treo 800w : Highly RecommendedThere's a brand new smartphone on the market that's sleek, slim, super fast and loaded with 21st century smartphone features.

No, it's not the iPhone(AAPL - Cramer's Take - Stockpickr) 3G. It's a newly designed handset from Palm(PALM - Cramer's Take - Stockpickr) -- and it's a winner.

Early this morning, Palm and Sprint(S - Cramer's Take - Stockpickr) announced the Treo 800w, the Centro's big brother. It's smaller and sleeker than any of the older Treos, and doesn't have the ugly antenna hump on top.

In a side-by-side comparison, the new Treo is only slightly longer and wider than the Palm Centro but is just as deep. The 800w has a touch screen and a stylus as well as a larger version of the Centro's keyboard. It's even easier to use on the 800w.

The first thing you need to know is that this phone has been designed as an enterprise workhorse. That means it is made to primarily handle tasks that business users require to do their work -- not primarily as a music/video/Web browsing media center, which is also able to make phone calls.

The new smartphone runs on Microsoft's(MSFT - Cramer's Take - Stockpickr) Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional Edition operating system.

Before you dismiss this completely, I agree that previous Palm/Windows Mobile devices left a lot to be desired. I couldn't stand them, to be honest.

That's not the case with this one. Right off the bat, I'll tell you that both speed and battery life between charges are both greatly improved.

There are all sorts of nifty features on this phone. As for hardware:

  • 320 by 320 pixel touchscreen (use your finger or the infamous Palm stylus)
  • 5-way navigation device with one-button shortcuts to your email and calendar
  • Full QWERTY keyboard
  • 802.11b/g Wi-Fi (with a dedicated on-off button)
  • Built-in GPS
  • EV-DO Rev A wireless data connections (average upload speeds of 350-500 kbps)

  • And matching software:

  • Customized home screen with search functions for contacts and nearby GPS landmarks
  • Office Mobile suite (Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote)
  • Microsoft Exchange mail (both push and pull)
  • Sprint Navigation (works with built-in GPS to provide voice-guided and on-screen turn-by-turn driving directions, 3-D moving maps and more than 10 million local listings and real-time traffic alerts with one-click rerouting.)
  • Pocket Express (customized Web content delivered to your phone)
  • Yahoo!(YHOO - Cramer's Take - Stockpickr) Messenger, AOL's AIM and MSN Messenger
  • Sprint TV (50 TV channels)
  • There's a miniSD memory card slot but no headphone jack. The 800w is designed primarily to do business. I'm happy to say that it does it well. I'm not thrilled with the micro-USB connector on the AC charger though. The slightly larger mini USB connector is much easier to use.

    I was able to set up an Exchange mail account on the new Treo in less than five minutes.

    Except for these preliminary tests, I know from experience that it isn't wise to leave the wireless mail service set to "push" my email to the device -- meaning that it was always receiving email. That kills battery life. So I set it to "pull" email every five minutes. That allowed me to stretch the 800w's battery life from a low of five hours (with "push" mail) to more than 36 hours (with "pull" service). That is a huge difference. That's a smart thing to do with any smartphone set to receive "push" Exchange mail.

    Otherwise, all the functions I've had a chance to test seem to work as described. I did get to enjoy watching some programming on the Sprint TV service. Because the phone operates on the fast EV-DO data network, I was able to watch high-quality TV feeds on the 800w.

    The IT manager here at requires that any wireless email devices I want to test on his network have a remote kill feature. That means that if my smartphone is lost or stolen, that he can broadcast a signal that makes the phone unusable. The Palm 800w supports that feature -- and gets our IT seal of approval (at least on that count).

    Sprint has priced the new Treo at $249.99 with a two-year contract (after rebates, discounts, etc.) Yes, that's priced higher than the consumer-oriented iPhone 3G -- but very competitively priced compared to other enterprise smartphones such as Research In Motion's(RIMM - Cramer's Take - Stockpickr) BlackBerrys and others.

    I should also remind you that Sprint is still offering what they call their Simply Everything pricing plan with a flat rate of $99.99 per month for unlimited voice and data.

    Palm's new Treo 800 is a winner -- and another feather in the hat for the people now running Palm. Highly recommended.

    Original Source :

    Unclaimed Money / Missing Money

    Unclaimed Money / Missing Money

    Finding Missing Money with the Government's Help

    What if there were a way for you to become wealthier than what you were right now? I am not talking about stealing or anything to that sort, but many people have missing money, unclaimed property, unclaimed funds, un-cashed checks or wages, and even unclaimed utility deposits. This money is yours and now you can find your missing money at is a place for people to go to find out if they have any missing money that they can claim. It is easy to find your missing money by entering your information into the selected fields and hitting enter or go.

    Once you have entered the required fields, another screen will pop up that lets you know if you have any missing money anywhere in the United States.

    If you find missing money that might be yours, will ask you a few questions. If you answer yes to any of the questions for unclaimed money then you will need to fill out an online form. Once the online form at is filled out, the government will contact you in regards to your missing money.

    Retrieving your unclaimed funds is easy and each step that you take on the website will ensure that you missing money is returned to you as quickly as possible.

    There are some who have spent their years not knowing that they have missing money out there and this is a way for the government to make sure that your unclaimed funds is back in your hands.

    Since I was eager to see if I had any missing money, I filled out the online form and found many names that matched mine but not in any places that I have lived. I did however, find missing money for my dad along with unclaimed property that I am sure he can use.

    My dad was a hard one to look up on since he traveled a lot in past. I did a search with his name and all the states that he had lived in. It is exciting when you find someone that you know who has missing money that they can claim.

    Original Source :

    Obama Camp Slams Satirical ‘New Yorker’ Magazine Cover

    Obama Camp Slams Satirical ‘New Yorker’ Magazine Cover

    Aides to Barack Obama are blasting a New Yorker magazine cover that depicts “President Obama” in the Oval Office, wearing a Muslim-style outfit and doing a fist-bump with his wife, Michelle, who is dressed in camouflage with an automatic rifle slung over her back.

    A picture of Usama bin Laden hangs above the mantel of the fireplace, which has an American flag burning in it.

    The July 21 cover, titled “The Politics of Fear,” is intended to be a parody, an attempt to show how “scare tactics and misinformation” are being used to try to derail Barack Obama’s campaign, says cover artist Barry Blitt.

    “I think the idea that the Obamas are branded as unpatriotic [let alone as terrorists] in certain sectors is preposterous,” Blitt wrote in an e-mail to the Huffington Post. “It seemed to me that depicting the concept would show it as the fear-mongering ridiculousness that it is.”

    The Obama campaign has had to fight an intensive e-mail spam campaign that claims Obama is secretly a Muslim, and his wife is a black radical. Campaign spokesman Bill Burton called the New Yorker cover over the top.

    “The New Yorker may think, as one of their staff explained to us, that their cover is a satirical lampoon of the caricature Senator Obama’s right-wing critics have tried to create,” Burton said.

    “But most readers will see it as tasteless and offensive. And we agree.”

    Obama did not reply to a question about the cover when he answered reporters’ questions on Sunday in San Diego. John McCain’s campaign also slammed the cover as “tasteless and offensive.”

    The New Yorker editors also issued a statement Monday saying the cover “combines a number of fantastical images about the Obamas and shows them for the obvious distortions they are.”

    “The burning flag, the nationalist-radical and Islamic outfits, the fist-bump, the portrait on the wall? All of them echo one attack or another. Satire is part of what we do, and it is meant to bring things out into the open, to hold up a mirror to prejudice, the hateful, and the absurd. And that’s the spirit of this cover,” reads the statement.

    Original Source :

    Santander Buys Alliance & Leicester For $2.6 Billion

    Santander Buys Alliance & Leicester For $2.6 Billion July 14 (Bloomberg) -- Banco Santander SA, Spain's biggest bank, agreed to acquire Alliance & Leicester Plc for 1.26 billion pounds ($2.6 billion), less than half the U.K. mortgage lender's market value at the end of last year.

    The Santander, Spain-based bank said today in a statement it will pay 317 pence a share, including a dividend, to Alliance & Leicester investors, plus inject 1 billion pounds into the company. Alliance & Leicester rose a record 53 percent in London trading, the most since it went public in 1997.

    Santander Chairman Emilio Botin plans to combine Alliance & Leicester, hurt by the collapse of the U.S. subprime mortgage market and the worst U.K. housing slump in 15 years, with Abbey National, purchased for 9.2 billion pounds, in 2004. Botin has spent $60 billion on acquisitions from Brazil to Portugal since he took over in 1985.

    ``They've shown with Abbey that they can turn a business around in the U.K.,'' said Piers Hillier, the London-based head of European equities at WestLB Mellon Asset Management, who oversees 6 billion euros ($9.5 billion), including Santander shares. ``If they buy Alliance & Leicester at this price, it's a great deal for Santander.''

    Alliance & Leicester jumped 115.75 pence to 335 pence in London, valuing the bank at 1.4 billion pounds and paring this year's decline to 48 percent. Credit Agricole SA, France's biggest bank, scrapped an offer two years ago to buy Alliance & Leicester when its market value was 5.2 billion pounds.

    Better Deal

    Botin said earlier this year the bank wouldn't bid for Alliance & Leicester after looking at its books in December. The price Santander is offering in the three-for-one stock swap is 46 percent below U.K. lender's price of 588 pence on Feb. 7, the day Botin said he wouldn't make an offer.

    Shareholders have to decide between ``317 pence a share and an unknown future,'' Alliance & Leicster CEO David Bennett said on a conference call with reporters.

    Santander rose 0.1 percent to 11.24 euros in Madrid, giving the bank a market value of 70.3 billion euros, the second-largest in Europe after London-based HSBC Holdings Plc.

    ``They are acquiring Alliance & Leicester on giveaway terms,'' David Cumming, head of U.K. equities at Standard Life Plc, said in a statement. ``I would be amazed if no one else counters with a higher offer,'' Cummings said. The Edinburgh-based insurer has a 2.35 percent stake in Alliance & Leicester.

    `Very Quickly'

    Santander approached Alliance & Leicester on July 11 and talks continued over the weekend before an agreement was reached, Antonio Horta Osorio, Abbey's head of banking, said on a conference call today. Alliance & Leicester has had no other offers, Bennett said. He declined to comment on whether the bank had held earlier talks with Santander or other potential bidders.

    Abbey and Alliance & Leicester will have 959 branches and 7.6 percent of U.K. market when they are combined, Santander said.

    ``This deal gives us critical mass in the U.K.,'' Jose Antonio Alvarez, chief financial officer of Santander, said on a conference call. ``We're not oblivious to the possible risks that a deal of this kind in the British market could bring.''

    House prices fell the most in 15 years in June as rising interest rates and reduced mortgage lending exacerbated the worst property slump since Britain's last recession in 1991, according to HBOS Plc, the U.K.'s biggest mortgage lender.

    `Credit Watch'

    Funding difficulties at Northern Rock Plc, Britain's third- biggest mortgage lender, triggered the first run on a British bank in more than a century. It was nationalized by the government in February after it couldn't find a buyer.

    Alvarez said Santander can fund the Alliance & Leicester takeover without allowing core capital ratios to drop below its target of 6 percent. Santander plans to reduce British assets by as much as 30 billion pounds within the next two years.

    The bank said it can cut costs by more than 180 million pounds in Britain by the end of 2011. About 400 million pounds of the new capital from Santander will be used to cover writedowns, said Alliance & Leicester Finance Chief Chris Rhodes. The rest is for possible further writedowns and reserves for bad loans.

    Standard & Poor's left Santander and Abbey's credit ratings unchanged, and it put Alliance & Leicester's A/A-1 credit ratings on ``credit watch with positive implications.''

    Under Santander's ownership, the U.K. bank ``will have greater strategic and financial flexibility,'' analysts at S&P said in a statement.

    Santander focuses on consumer rather than investment banking and has reported no losses related directly to the collapse of the U.S. subprime market. Banks and securities firms have raised $324 billion in the past year after record writedowns and credit losses of almost $410 billion from the collapse of the subprime mortgage market, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

    `Deal Machine'

    Santander acquired the Brazilian unit of Amsterdam-based ABN Amro Holding NV last year for 10.6 billion euros.

    ``Santander is a deal machine focused on costs savings,'' said Simon Maughan, a London-based analyst at MF Global Securities Ltd. who has a ``hold'' rating on Alliance & Leicester. ``It's been looking at increasing its returns in the U.K., which are lower than anywhere else in the world. Whenever it looks to increase returns, it does so by acquisition.''

    Santander said first-quarter profit at the Abbey unit was 311 million euros, up 3.8 percent from a year earlier as it tripled its share of the U.K. mortgage market. Net mortgage lending was 2.9 billion pounds in the year's first three months.

    Adding to Earnings

    Alliance & Leicester, with more than 5.5 million customers and 254 branches, will produce a return on investment of about 19 percent by 2011, Santander said. The deal is scheduled to close in October and will add to earnings starting in 2009, Santander said. Its adviser was Merrill Lynch & Co.

    Alliance & Leicester, which gets almost 60 percent of its funding from capital markets, abandoned its 2009 profit target in March amid higher funding costs and 391 million pounds in credit writedowns. It also took a funding charge of charge of 49 million pounds in the first four months of the year, it said in May.

    The bank will probably post a first-half loss, said Derek Chambers, a London-based analyst at Standard & Poor's Equity Research Ltd., who has a ``hold'' rating on Alliance & Leicester.

    ``The pressure on margins and volumes makes the free-standing outlook unattractive,'' Chambers said. ``The portfolio might be more profitable if controlled by an owner with lower funding costs,'' Chambers said.

    Alliance & Leicester's advisers were JPMorgan Cazenove Ltd., Morgan Stanley and NM Rothschild & Sons Ltd.

    Santander's takeover probably won't trigger U.K. antitrust concerns, said Mark Phin, a London-based analyst at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods Ltd., who raised the bank's stock to ``market perform'' from ``underperform.'' Today's offer ``will likely provide some bedrock.''

    Original Source :

    'World's Oldest Blogger' Dies In Australia

    'World's Oldest Blogger' Dies In AustraliaSYDNEY (AFP) - An Australian woman described as the world's oldest Internet blogger has died at the age of 108 after posting a final message about singing "a happy song" in her nursing home.

    Olive Riley "passed away peacefully on July 12 and will be mourned by thousands of Internet friends and hundreds of descendants and other relatives," a note on her website said.

    Riley had posted more than 70 entries on her blog from Woy Woy on the east coast since February last year, sharing her thoughts on modern life and her experiences living through the entire 20th century.

    Born in the outback town of Broken Hill on October 20 1899, she lived through two world wars and raised three children while doing various jobs, including ranch cook and barmaid.

    In her final post on June 26, she wrote: "I can't believe I've been here in this nursing home for more than a week.

    "How the days have flown, even though I've been in bed most of the time. I still feel weak, and can't shake off that bad cough.

    "Penny, who's in the next bed to mine, had a visit one day this week from her daughter, who's a professional singer. Guess what happened! She and I sang a happy song, as I do every day, and before long we were joined by several nurses, who sang along too. It was quite a concert!"

    Riley's blog, initially on and more recently at, was "mind-blowing to her," her great grandson Darren Stone said.

    "She had people communicating with her from as far away as Russia and America on a continual basis, not just once in a while," he told the national AAP news agency.

    "She enjoyed the notoriety -- it kept her mind fresh."

    Original Source :

    Gordon Brown Defends Plans To Tackle Knife Crime

    Gordon Brown Defends Plans To Tackle Knife Crime
    Those carrying knives are more likely to be caught, prosecuted and punished than ever before, Gordon Brown said today as he defended the government's shock tactics for tackling knife crime.

    The prime minister used his monthly press conference to set out the government's response to growing public alarm over the recent spate of fatal stabbings.

    "Too many people, young and old, do not feel safe in the streets, and sometimes even in their homes, as a result of the behaviour of a minority," Brown said.

    "We need to make it absolutely clear to everyone, but especially young people, that in our country there are boundaries of acceptable behaviour, that it is completely unacceptable to carry a knife."

    The prime minister promised tougher measures on "enforcement, punishment and prevention" of knife crime.

    There would money made available for stop-and-search procedures, and a new presumption to prosecute offenders also meant they were ever more likely to be punished.

    He said community sentences were being strengthened to make them "tough, visible and effective" and that the government would do more to prevent youngsters "falling into crime".

    Early intervention would be extended to 20,000 families, who would face the threat of eviction if they failed to respond positively to support.

    The home secretary, Jacqui Smith, yesterday rushed out plans to bring youngsters caught with knives face to face with the victims of stabbings in an attempt to deter them from carrying weapons.

    But a leading accident and emergency doctor today warned that the proposal could lead to a "secondary victimisation" of individuals at the hands of the perpetrators.

    Smith said that she believed that confronting offenders with the consequences of their actions was more effective than jailing anyone convicted of possessing a knife.

    But the plan drew a scathing response from the opposition parties, who described it as "half-baked" and "ill-thought through".

    Brown said the measure was "one of the ways" that knife crime would be tackled.

    "I wouldn't want people to think there is one measure we are taking alone," he said. "There will be tougher sentences, tougher enforcement and a toughening up on prevention to tackle knife crime."

    Smith's measures include visits by offenders to A&E wards where people are being treated for knife wounds, meetings with the families of stabbing victims and prison visits to offenders jailed for knife offences.

    An A&E doctors' leader attacked the idea of bringing offenders into hospital, arguing that patients being treated in emergency departments would be in "extremely vulnerable states".

    Donald MacKechnie, clinical vice-president of the College of Emergency Medicine, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that the proposal was impractical for a busy emergency department, whose priority was the patient.

    He said: "When someone is brought in having been stabbed or assaulted with a knife, it's a very emotive situation. Doctors and nurses first of all have got to assess the injuries and then manage those injuries.

    "We certainly don't think it would be a good idea if then potential or actual perpetrators of knife crime were marched through to see these patients, who are in an extremely vulnerable state.

    "It's tantamount to secondary victimisation of someone who has already suffered a horrendous insult to them. From a practical point of view, working in an A&E department, it's very difficult to see how this would work."

    The home secretary defended her proposals, as she rejected Tory demands that anyone caught carrying a knife should expect to go to prison.

    "I am very keen that we make people face up to the consequences. In my book it is tougher than simply saying there is one simple solution and that is: everyone goes to prison," she said.

    However, the shadow home secretary, Dominic Grieve, said that "ill-thought-through, piecemeal announcements and failed initiatives" were nowhere near enough to deal with the problem.

    "Sending serious offenders to visit victims in hospital in is not anywhere near the same as sending them to prison," he said.

    Chris Huhne, the Liberal Democrats' home affairs spokesman, said that Smith had been "panicked" into bringing forward proposals that evidence in the United States had shown did not work.

    The government is expected to come forward with more detailed proposals tomorrow when it publishes its £100m youth crime action plan.

    Meanwhile Deputy Assistant Commissioner Alf Hitchcock of the Metropolitan police, who has been appointed to coordinate the police effort across eight "hot-spot" areas, warned last night that attacks were becoming more serious while victims and assailants were getting younger.

    Original Source :

    Militants Breached US Afghan Base

    Militants Breached US Afghan BaseMore than 100 insurgents breached a US outpost in north-eastern Afghanistan on Sunday, killing nine US troops in hours of fierce fighting, Nato says.

    The militants used rocket propelled grenades and homemade mortars to bombard the base, close to Pakistan's border, from several sides.

    The attack caused one of the single worst losses of life for foreign troops since operations began in 2001.

    It came as international and Afghan forces fought militants in many areas.

    One soldier from the US-led coalition was also killed by a bomb in the southern province of Helmand.

    On Sunday, US forces said 40 insurgents had been killed in Helmand province in 24 hours. There was no independent confirmation of the report.

    Also on Sunday, at least six Afghan security guards escorting a Nato supply convoy were killed in a roadside bombing in Helmand's Gereshk district, according to police.

    Insurgents 'hiding'

    The nine US soldiers were killed in several hours of fierce fighting at the outpost at Wanat, a mountain village in Kunar province, according to a statement from Nato's International Security Assistance Force (Isaf).

    US troops in Kunar, file pic from 2006
    Kunar has seen some of the fiercest fighting of the conflict

    Insurgents pounded the Afghan army and Nato base - which had reportedly only been fully constructed days earlier - with rockets, mortars and machine guns, before breaching the compound and attacking the soldiers from inside.

    Isaf and Afghan National Army forces responded with small arms, machine guns, mortars and artillery, before deploying fighter jets and apache helicopters, the statement said.

    A further 15 Isaf soldiers were wounded along with four Afghan troops, the statement added.

    "It was a complex attack, well organised and planned," said Isaf spokesman Captain Michael Finney.

    "It was clear they wanted to overrun the combat outpost. They chose their positions well. It wasn't just an attempt to rush the gate."

    There may also have been civilian casualties in the rugged area on the border with Kunar and Nuristan province, according to Afghan officials.

    Nato says the rebels suffered heavy casualties. It did not name the attackers but there has been a sharp increase in Taleban attacks in the country, and in that region in particular, although other rebel groups are also known to operate there.

    The BBC's Martin Patience in Kabul says Afghanistan's north-eastern border with Pakistan is a well-known trouble spot.

    'Wedding procession' attacked

    The fighting is close to where US forces were accused of killing 47 civilians in an air strike in Nangarhar province a week ago.

    The US military said they were militants.

    In a separate incident on Sunday, a suicide bomber killed at least 21 people, many of them children, in a market in the Deh Rawud district of Uruzgan province in the south.

    No group has claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing.

    According to the US military, the number of Taleban attacks in the east of the country has increased by 40% since last year.

    More than 130 foreign soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan this year and recent weeks have seen a sharp rise in insurgency-related violence.

    Hundreds more, including many militants and civilians, have also died in 2008.

    Isaf currently has 53,000 troops from 40 countries. A separate, smaller US-led military force operates alongside it.

    Original Source :

    Apple iPhone Store Forced To Close

    Apple forced to close store after iPhone madness

    Police called to ensure doors shut without trouble from queuing masses Apple was forced to call in the police on Friday to help it close its Regent Street store at 3pm, after problems with O2's authorisation system meant that customers wishing to purchase a 3G iPhone were facing a three hour wait.

    Staff at the store were forced to tell the queue, which by that point had snaked around the corner onto Oxford Street, that the store was closed and that they weren't able to guarantee that they would receive an iPhone anyway.

    The problems saw the store close to those wishing to browse, or make purchases other than the iPhone, with the police called in to make sure things didn't turn sour.

    Original Source :

    Three Muslims Plead Guilty To Explosives Plot

    Three Muslims Plead Guilty To Explosives Plot

    LONDON (Reuters) - Three British Muslim men pleaded guilty on Monday to conspiring to cause explosions, part of a plan prosecutors say would have involved smuggling liquid bombs onto airliners with the intention of blowing them up mid-flight.

    The same three, and two others, also pleaded guilty to conspiring to cause a public nuisance by publishing martyrdom suicide videos, admitting their guilt in the final stages of a major airline bomb plot trial.

    Those who entered the pleas are among eight men on trial for the so-called Heathrow airport bomb plot, which was uncovered in August 2006 and led to the imposition of tight new restrictions on carrying liquids on board flights worldwide.

    The jury must still decide if the remaining three men, and the five who have admitted guilt, are also guilty of the key charge of conspiring to murder thousands of people by carrying out the attacks on passenger jets bound for North America.

    The changes of plea form part of the defence for some of the accused, who say that while they might have been planning to carry out explosions, and had made martyrdom videos, they never intended to attack airliners or kill people.

    Instead, according to Abdulla Ahmed Ali, the alleged ring leader of the plot, the men had planned to carry out a publicity stunt-type explosion -- possibly at the Houses of Parliament -- in order to draw attention to a documentary film they were planning to make criticising British and U.S. foreign policy.

    "We never intended to murder anyone or to injure anyone," Ali told the court on the opening day of the trial last month. "We wanted something that would not just make a bang but also be considered serious and credible," he said.

    The admissions of guilt were made in the closing stages of a trial at London's Woolwich Crown Court that started six weeks ago and is expected to conclude next week, when the jury is likely to be instructed to retire to consider its verdict.

    Britain has seen a series of high-profile terrorism trials over the past two years, including the conviction of those responsible for explosions on the London transport system in July 2005 that killed 52 people, and a similar, failed plot two weeks later.

    Original Source :