Monday, 27 May 2013

PHOTOS: Hulk Hogan Badly Burns His Hand


The legendary wrestler, who is married to Jennifer McDaniel, was forced to seek emergency treatment at a hospital in Tampa, Florida when a radiator in his nearby home exploded, badly injuring his hand.
The 59-year-old star revealed his hand is covered in huge blisters from the incident and admitted it is extremely painful.
He wrote on Twitter: "Just had a radiator explode in my hand. OUCH."
He later posted two pictures of his burnt fingers, captioned "Double Ouch," and "Triple Ouch!"
The father-of-two, whose real name is Terry Bollea, assured fans he was doing okay after several expressed their concern, saying: "I at the ER now at Tampa General Hospital (sic)."
The wrestling star recently revealed he is attempting to have all copies of his leaked sex tape - which features him engaging in sexual activities with Heather Clem, the ex-wife of his friend and radio personality Bubba the Love Sponge - removed from various websites by threatening legal action.
Hulk recently obtained a restraining order against website Gawker.com, the first website to post a one-minute clip of leaked footage last year, resulting in the company agreeing to remove it and now Hulk's lawyers hope to use the restraining order to eradicate other existing clips and screenshots that have accumulated around the web.
Here are the pictures below

Meet The Last Man Alive That Was Born In The 19th Century


With the death in Barbados on Thursday of James Emmanuel ''Doc'' Sisnett, at the age of 113 years and 90 days, Jiroemon Kimura, of Japan, has become the last man alive to have been born in the 19th century.Meet The Last Man Alive That Was Born In The 19th Century
Supercentenarian: Jiroemon Kimura, right, is the last man alive to have been born in the 19th century.
Literally the last man. There are, according to the Gerontolgy Research Group at UCLA, 21 women born before New Year's Day, 1901, who are still with us, most of them living in the United States or Japan, with others in Europe and Canada.
But while the females born in the reign of Queen Victoria strongly outnumber him, Mr Kimura, born on April 19, 1897, has one record the girls can't match - not just yet, anyway.
At 116, the ''supercentenarian'' is the oldest human on the planet. Supercentenarians are people who have lived past their 110th birthday, and while it's estimated that there may be 200 or 300 living today, only 60-odd have been verified by reliable birth records.
Of them only two, Mr Kimura and Japanese woman Misao Okawa, are known to be still living aged 115 or older.
Advertisement Being born in the year 30 of the Meiji period, Mr Kimura has lived in the reigns of four emperors, and through the premierships of 61 Japanese prime ministers, from Matsukata Masayoshi to Shinzo Abe.
Mr Kimura retired in 1962 aged 65, after working for 45 years in the Japanese post office. He now lives in Kyōtango, Kyoto Prefecture, with his eldest son's widow, 83, and his grandson's widow, 59, and attributes his long life to eating small portions of food, and admits to spending most of his time ''in bed''.

Nigeria, Fastest Growing African Country – Jonathan


In spite of security challenges in the country, President Goodluck Jonathan on Sunday declared that Nigeria was growing faster than any country in Africa.
 
He said the country’s foreign policies had continued to receive global applause, as most investors coming to Africa preferred Nigeria.
Jonathan spoke in Abuja at the 2013 Democracy Day Interdenominational Church Service.
In his speech read by Senate President, David Mark, Jonathan described the declaration of emergency rule in Yobe, Adamawa and Borno states as “unfortunate but inevitable.”
He said, “No responsible government anywhere in the world will fold its arms and watch anarchy reign supreme within its borders. This government, therefore, will do whatever is within the ambit of our laws to protect and defend not only our citizens, but the unity and cohesion of our country”.
The President said he had information that the security agencies were achieving progress in efforts to tackle insurgency in the three affected states.

Angelina Jolie's Aunt Dies Of Breast Cancer


Angelina Jolie’s beloved aunt Debbie died after a battle with breast cancer on Sunday morning (26.05.13) in California. Angelina Jolie’s aunt has lost her battle with breast cancer.
The ‘Salt’ actress – who recently revealed she underwent a double mastectomy after she was identified as carrying the BRCA1 cancer gene, which gave her an 87 per cent chance of developing breast cancer and a 50 per cent risk of ovarian cancer – and her family are in mourning after her aunt Debbie Martin, 61, passed away at Palomar Hospital in Escondido, California on Sunday morning (26.05.13).
The Oscar-winner’s uncle Ron Martin confirmed the sad news and praised the 37-year-old star and her brother James Haven for their support.
He told E! News: “Angelina has been in touch throughout the week and her brother Jamie has been with us, giving his support day by day. They both loved Debbie very much and although Angie is not able to come right now she has sent her love and support, which was very nice.
“We have seen Angelina a number of times since Debbie was diagnosed with breast cancer and Debbie and I were both very proud of her recent decision to have the double mastectomy and to do everything she can to keep her family from having to go through what we’ve been through.
“Angelina’s father Jon Voight has also been tremendously supportive – he came down to see Debbie last Sunday and spent the whole day, talking with her and sharing his love and I know Debbie really enjoyed seeing him and talking with him.”
Debbie is survived by her husband Ron and their two sons Chris and Cory Martin.

Emergency Rule May Not Last 6 Months – Jonathan


President Goodluck Jonathan has said the State of Emergency declared in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states may not last six months as prescribed by the constitution in view of the successes recorded even as it has been gathered that before the deployment of troops, Boko Haram sect had planned to hijack a commercial plane and crash it into the Presidential Villa or other national monuments.
President Jonathan who met with the Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr Ban Ki Moon on the sideline of the Africa Union conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, said the military operation in the troubled states was going very well and the military has strictly adhered to the rules of engagement.
He explained that the successes recorded by the military was exemplified by the lack of collateral civilian casualties, noting that the operation has helped in creating a better relationship between the civilian population and members of the armed forces.
The president told the Secretary General of the United Nations that the government would do everything possible to ensure that the civilian population was not put through hardship, adding that the governments’s decision to release women and children members of the Boko Haram was in the spirit of the rules of engagement of the operation.
Joint Military Task Force (JTF) patroling the streets of the restive northeastern Nigerian town of Maiduguri, Borno State. AFP photos
Ban Ki Moon cautions Nigerian military The Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr Ban Ki Moon, sympathized with the government and people of Nigeria over activities of Boko Haram, saying that terrorism was a global phenomenon that must be confronted by the international community.
He reiterated his call on the Nigerian military engaged in operations in the affected states where state of emergency has been declared to be prudent and cautious in protecting the civilian population in the areas of operation.
Mr Moon also thanked President Jonathan for Nigeria’s contributions to peace keeping operations of the United Nations.
Meanwhile, as the military onslaught against Boko Haram terrorists continues, Vanguard has gathered that before May 14 when President Goodluck Jonathan declared a State of emergency, credible intelligence revealed plans by the sect to hijack commercial aircraft fully loaded with passengers and use it to attack one of three national monuments.
Boko Haram plans to attack national monuments These are Aso Rock, the seat of the Federal Government, the Central Bank Headquarters, CBN, Glass house and the Four Towers headquarters of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC.
It was gathered that the terrorists would have carried out the attack on Aso Rock and NNPC Towers similar to the September 11 attack on the Twin Towers in the United States with all the passengers on board and send a message that they have taken over affairs of running Nigeria.
Aside the planned attack, Vanguard was told by very competent security sources that the acquisition of Anti-Aircraft Gun and Long Range Surface to air technical guns by the sect, was meant to shoot down aircraft that flew over the North Eastern parts of the country, especially as the terrorists had hoisted their flags in Yobe and Borno states.
According to the sources, “Consequent upon our discovery of their plot, security agencies warned the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, and other aviation agencies to stop local and international aircraft from over flying the North East airspace to avoid collateral damage.
“This warning was heeded and for about three weeks before the State of Emergence was declared, commercial aircraft, both local and international were diverted from over flying the North East areas except military aircraft”.
It was to unearthing the ammunition and heavy weapons capability of the Boko Haram sect that troops of the multi-national Joint Task Force on reconnaissance mission to the Mosque in Baga, where some of the anti-aircraft guns were to be mounted, were attacked and when reinforcement came, they fired the weapons at the soldiers.
“As I am talking to you, many people will not know that in one of the deadly Boko Haram attacks and coordinated bombings in Kano State, that resulted in the destruction of the headquarters of the Assistant Inspector General of Police, Zone 1, and the killing of over 120 people, including about 40 Policemen, over 15 Immigration, Customs and Federal Road Safety officers, the terrorists tried getting to the Kano Airport”, the source said.
Vanguard was further told that the terrorists shot at an Air Force Helicopter gunship from the dreaded Sambisa Forests where several camps for recruitment, training and IEDS construction were located, using anti-aircraft technical guns from mounted vehicles, confirmed that indeed the terrorists were on course to carry out that plot.
From Borno and Yobe states, the ultimate strategy of the terrorists was to launch a jihadist type of invasion of the entire Northern part of the country hence the gradual build up of arms depots and training/recruitment centres in several parts of Yobe, Borno and lately Adamawa states where several raids were carried out on banks, prisons and police stations
It would be recalled that Vanguard exclusively reported in April, during President Goodluck Jonathan’s official visit to Borno and Yobe states, that plans by Boko Haram terrorists to shoot at the Presidential Jet were uncovered hence the flooding of the two states with security operatives and deployment of technical equipment with ability to intercept signals of such attacks.
Following these deployments and raids by the Joint Task Force code named ‘Operation Restore Order’, two anti-aircraft guns, several anti-aircraft bombs, GPMG’s, AK 47 Rifles and other heavy weaponry were recovered in some houses in Maiduguri.

CPC Calls Presindent to Resign


The Congress of Progressive Change (CPC) gave its assessment of President Jonathan’s half-time performance, calling him to resign.
In a statement assessing President Goodluck Jonathan’s mid-term performance, the party spokesperson, Rotimi Fashakin, said on Sunday that “as a party, we consider it unacceptable the precipitous governance of the nation in the last two years”.
According to the statement, the performance score-card on the economy, security, education, youth employment, foreign relations, and infrastructural development reveals overall dismal failure by the Peoples Democratic Party government.
On the Education sector, the opposition party said Nigerian students have recorded failure in Mathematics and English examinations more than at any other time in the nation’s history.
“In the 2013 appropriation Law, the allocation of N426.53 billion to the sector takes only 8.67per cent of the total budget of N4.92 trillion, whereas the UNESCO recommended for the allocation of 26percent of the total budget to the sector which is very vital to national development", it said.
The CPC said there was no need to in re-state the situation of the Nigerian economy under the political governance of Goodluck Jonathan.
“With over 70 per cent of the State’s budget spent in servicing over-bloated paraphernalia of government and accumulation of foreign debts to finance all the economically unsound fancies of the regime, it is a matter of time before the Nigerian economy plummets under the weight of gross incompetence and unpatriotic handling by the Jonathan administration,” the statement added.
It also said the infrastructural decay in the polity has undoubtedly ensured the closure of many industrial concerns and has brought the youth unemployment to an all-time high of over 44 per cent.
“As a Party, we are forced to believe that this may just be a deliberate policy of this administration as a way to continue to have tether-hold on the Youth to implement its program for electoral manipulations. Clearly, this administration seems unfazed by the portent of a burgeoning number of unemployed youth in terms of National security!
“We are saddened by the insecurity in the Land. Ordinary citizens can no longer pursue unfettered happiness without fear of forced kidnapping, harassment and possibly, fatal injury. There is full-scale war going on in some parts of the Nation state as a result of politically festered hate which had been bred by the President’s hateful politics.
“In the run to the 2011 Presidential elections, an undiscerning observer would have been swayed by Dr Jonathan’s statement: “My ambition is not worth the blood of anybody.” Meanwhile, considerable number of the Nigerian youth was put on harm’s way to facilitate the ambition of Mr. President. But, truly, the divisiveness embedded in the President’s win-at-all-costs brand of politics has inevitably brought us to the sorry-pass of this indescribable conundrum of insecurity,” the CPC said.
The opposition party also claimed that in the last two years, the President’s brand of politics has brought deleterious effect to the country.
“Shortly after being sworn in as President, Dr Jonathan showed more interest in securing another mandate than in working assiduously for the Nigerian people who elected him.
“Posters of President’s electioneering campaigns for the 2015 elections have continued to adorn our cities, with hypocritical denials from government. It did not matter that no arrests have been made of the culprits,” the opposition party said.
The CPC also said the president’s leadership of the PDP, as a microcosm of his leadership of the nation, in the last two years, is worthy of note.
According to the opposition party, the governors elected on the platform of the PDP, who have shown aversion to Mr. President’s desire for re-election, have been treated with utter ruthlessness.
“A noxious desire to truncate Governor Rotimi Amaechi’s Chairmanship of the Nigeria Governor’s Forum, NGF had seen the birthing of new platforms for PDP governors. The bilious discontent arising from the elections for the new chairman of the NGF bears the imprimatur of the Presidency,” it said.
The CPC said that as a Party, it considers as unacceptable the “precipitous governance of the nation in the last two years”.
“More galling is the priorities of Mr. President which, unfortunately, are at variance with the political and economic health of the Nation. This, undoubtedly, makes us –as citizens –to ask: Mr. President, do you still have a conscience?” it said.
The statement added that “It seems that the President, for the self-centered reason of his re-election desire, is at the epicentre of most of the dire security challenges assailing our dear Nation”.
“As our National leader once asserted, we believe it is time for the President to throw in the towel because he has ceased to serve the Nation but self,” the statement added.

Amaechi: PDP Sets 11-Man Investigation Committee

The case of Amaechi's suspension gets a new development, as the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has named an 11-man committee to investigate the allegations leveled against the Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi.
Amaechi: PDP Sets 11-Man Investigation Committee
The committee is headed by a Joe Gadzama, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria. The party had earlier suspended Mr. Amaechi after an emergency meeting of its National Working Committee.
It would be recalled that at today's meeting of PDP's national working committee the decision was announced to suspend the River's state governor.

Women With Tattoos Are More Likely To Be Sex Freaks

Well, that's according to a French research...
It's no secret that when it comes to the mating game, men tend to place a higher premium on beauty than women do — whether it be for a liaison or a lifetime.
Ample research shows that men are sensitive to a range of physical cues in women, such as a low waist-to-hip ratio, larger breasts, effective cosmetics use, revealing clothing, and wearing the color red (which signals sexual receptivity). But according to psychologist Nicolas Guéguen of the Université de Bretagne-Sud, this research also highlights another kind of sensitivity: Men tend to overestimate women's sexual intentions. Put another way, men often misinterpret women as having more sexual interest than they really do.
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By comparison to other physical cues, Guéguen notes that, remarkably, the research on men's responsiveness to tattooed women has received scant attention. In France, where he's based, 12 percent of women sport a tattoo. In the United States, that number stands at 23 percent. The few studies that have focused on men's perceptions of tattooed women have found that these ladies are seen in a negative light. One study, for example, had a photograph of a 24-year old woman rated along personal characteristics, both with and without a black dragon tattoo on her upper left arm. When she displayed the tattoo, she was judged as less athletic, motivated, honest, generous, religious, intelligent and artistic than when she displayed no tattoo. But Guéguen noticed a curious set of findings in this thin research area: While men see tattooed women as less attractive, they also see them as more promiscuous.
Are tattooed women more promiscuous than those who display no body art? Guéguen conducted a survey of tattooed and pierced women in France, and found that they had had sexual intercourse at relatively younger ages. But what these numbers couldn't determine was whether women with tattoos and piercings were more interested in sex, or if women with tattoos and piercings simply had more sexual solicitations by men. Given this lack of clarity, he set out to investigate men's responses to tattooed women.
These findings add to multiple lines of evidence showing how men value women's physical attributes when judging and interacting with them. A healthy body of research indicates that men exalt beauty in both long-term and in short-term mating.
Guéguen interprets the results from an evolutionary perspective. Like cosmetics or clothing, women may adorn tattoos as a way to enhance their appeal to men and, in turn, to attract more males. A woman has a better chance of choosing a mate of “higher quality” when there are more of them from which to choose. Tattoos may then serve as an effective means to capture male attention. Along similar evolutionary lines, men are driven to mate with many women in order to spread their genes. Logic then dictates that they will pursue women who display more sexual receptivity. Again, like cosmetics and clothing, men may see tattoos as advertising greater interest in sex on the part of women.
Guéguen is sure to point out that this study has its share of limitations. Similarly, he recommends that future research should focus on whether the association between tattoos and promiscuity is based on men's stereotypes or real experiences. Nonetheless, this study offers some novel insights into why when it comes to tattooed women, some men see body art and others see a “tramp stamp.”
What do you guys think, do you think this is true of Nigerian women?

Couple Return Home From Cinema To Find A Naked Man Having Sex With Their 2-Year-Old Daughter (Photos)

A couple returned home from the cinema to find a naked man had beaten their grandparents to death and was raping their two-year-old daughter.
Touch Chea, 71, and his wife, Sorn Sreap, 73, were found dead in Anchorage, Alaska, on Saturday night from significant blunt force injuries.
Police said both Sreap and the toddler were raped.
Officers arrested Jerry Andrew Active, 24, as he fled the east Anchorage homicide scene wearing just his boxer shorts.
The registered sex offender was later charged with first and second-degree murder, sexual assault and burglary.
Active was on parole for an almost identical attack he committed four years ago.
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In 2009 he entered a home in Togiak and sexually assaulted an 11-year-old girl while the family slept. He then attacked three members of the family.
The 24-year-old served time in jail for attempted sexual abuse of a minor and trespassing in 2010 and 2011, court records show.
He was charged with violating his probation this spring and was supposed to be on probation until 2014.
Police said the younger couple, who are in their twenties, went to a movie on Saturday night with their son and left the two-year-old in the care of Chea and Sreap.
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They returned shortly before 8pm and found the door locked from the inside by the chain, but peeking through they could see the body of one of their grandparents.
The father told police he forced his way in through a window and discovered the bodies of Chea and Sreap.
They then discovered a naked man in the bedroom with their daughter.
His wife called 911 and police dispatchers heard screaming over the phone. She reported a man had broken into her home and killed her grandmother, Sreap.
The man was described as being naked with several tattoos.
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The wife, who is pregnant, and her husband tried to keep the suspect from leaving and a struggle began, Police Sergeant Slawomir Markiewicz said.
The suspect, by then wearing boxer shorts, was able to get away after a few minutes of fighting, Markiewicz said.
Officers found Active about a block away.
'He did offer some resistance but he was arrested,' Markiewicz said.
The suspect apparently entered the apartment through a window, Markiewicz said.
The two-year-old was taken to hospital for a forensic physical examination, and it was discovered that she had also been physically assaulted.
She was taken to a hospital where she underwent surgery for her injuries.
Investigators were affected by the brutality and the ages of the victims, police department spokeswoman Anita Shell said.
'They said this was the worst thing they had ever seen in their lives, and these are seasoned detectives,' Shell said.
Police Sergeant Slawomir Markiewicz said yesterday that there are no indications that the victims were connected to the suspect.
'It doesn't appear that he knew them,' he said. 'It looks like a totally random act.'
The victims were part of an extended family that lived in a ground-floor, east Anchorage apartment with their granddaughter and her husband, who are the parents of the toddler and her four-year-old brother.
The younger couple's 90-year-old great-grandmother also lives in the apartment and was at home during the incident.
Markiewicz said the case is unusual.
'It's certainly very rare to see this kind of violence - a complete stranger, sexually assaulting and murdering someone,' he said.
The bodies of Sreap and Chea were taken to the state medical examiner's office for autopsies. Names of the toddler and her parents were withheld.

PDP Faces Imminent Collapse, Says Ex-VP Atiku

Atiku Abubakar Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar has called on concerned founding fathers of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to speak up and come together to save the party from imminent troubles capable of leading to avoidable implosion and mortal crisis.
PDP Faces Imminent Collapse, Says Ex-VP Atiku
Former Vice President
In a statement by his Media Office in Abuja, Atiku said he was particularly disturbed by the worsening polarization of the party and internal divisions which might weaken the party structures at the states and deepen the crisis between Governors and the President.
The former Vice President explained that as one of the founding fathers of the party, he had a duty to call on other founding members to rise to the occasion and caution the forces that are bent on tearing the party apart and providing the ammo for self-destruction.
He lamented the failure of the National Executive Council (NEC) to meet in line with the provisions of the party’s constitution and the inability of the Board of Trustees to rise to the occasion of arresting this ugly development.
According to him, the bitter internal divisions within the PDP, has led to crisis in the party leadership in some states, division in the Nigeria Governors’ Forum and the suspension of a sitting Governor over disagreements on principle could have been avoided if the founders of the party had added their voices of caution and moderation.
With the challenges of providing good governance and the bid for re-election in 2015, Atiku noted that the PDP could not afford the current acrimony as it is undermining democratic structures at all levels.
He warned that if the crisis was left to get out of hand or not properly managed, the PDP might find itself weaker and politically vulnerable.
According to Atiku, a house divided against itself could not stand, adding that silence by concerned PDP stakeholders was a dangerous option at this point when the party faces the challenges of retaining its leadership in 2015.

Woman Jailed After Her Boyfriend Catches Her Having Sex With His Teenage Son


A woman whose boyfriend caught her sleeping with his 16-year-old son after he set up a camera to film ghosts has been jailed for six months and ordered to attend a sexual rehab clinic in Tasmania.
The boyfriend, who had set up a video camera to try and catch ghosts in his haunted home in Australia, returned home to find his partner of 11 years had seduced his teenage boy last October.
He demanded the truth and phoned police to report their lewd betrayal - as the age of sexual consent is 17 in the Australian state.
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After pleading guilty to seven counts of unlawful sex with a young person aged under 17, the 28-year-old woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was jailed for 12 months today at Hobart Supreme Court, with six months suspended.
Justice David Porter said: 'You are the one who must bear full responsibility for what happened.
'Although the relationship that commenced was more opportunistic than predatory, that cannot truly be said of your conduct later on.
'You actions call for a lengthy sentence but there is sufficient prospect of rehabilitation.'
Crown Prosecutor Jackie Hartnett revealed the woman had gone to the youngster's room to discuss his driving lessons.
The pair previously had a tense relationship, but soon after tickling led to kissing and then to intercourse, the court heard.
The woman's partner had set up a video camera in a bid to capture evidence of paranormal activity, but left for work forgetting to turn it off.
While reviewing the footage, he saw his son and the woman kissing and having sexual contact.
He confronted his partner who downplayed the actions but his son confessed that they had had sex on numerous occasions.
The court heard the woman had continued her attempts to groom the boy by messaging him on Facebook under a false name.
The woman has an 18-month-old son with her partner and has already become dejected and depressed following her short stint in jail, her defence lawyer said.
Justice Porter said he accepted the woman's early plea of guilty but condemned her decisions to continue the affair.
The woman insisted she did not know the age of consent in Tasmania was 17.
Also Read: Father Accidentally Films His Girlfriend Having Sex With His Teenage Son

Cows Are Losing Their Sacred Status In India


New Delhi, India — When night falls in this gritty capital, gangs troll the darkened streets looking for easy prey among a portion of the city’s vast homeless population; thousands have been rounded up and carried off in trucks in recent years.Cows Are Losing Their Sacred Status In India
The police say they have increased patrols and set up roadblocks in an effort to stop the trafficking. In some cases, officers have infiltrated gangs in hopes of catching them in the act. But the brutal kidnappings continue, and the victims — scrawny cows, which are slowly losing their sacred status among some in India — are slaughtered and sold for meat and leather.
Cattle rustling, called “lifting” here, is a growing scourge in New Delhi, as increasingly affluent Indians develop a taste for meat, even the flesh of cows, which are considered sacred in Hinduism. Criminals round up some of the roughly 40,000 cattle that wander the streets of this megacity and sell them to illegal slaughterhouses located in villages not far away.
Many of the cattle in Delhi are part of dairy operations and their owners have neither the land nor the money to keep them penned. So the animals graze on grassy medians or ubiquitous piles of trash. Others too old to be milked are often abandoned and left to wander the streets until they die — or get picked up by the rustlers.
Posses of police officers give chase to the outlaws, but the desperados — driving souped-up dump trucks — think little of ramming police cars and breaking through barricades. They have even pushed cows into the pathways of their pursuers, forcing horrified officers to swerve out of the way to avoid what for many is still a grievous sin.
“These gangs mostly go after stray cattle, but they will also steal motorcycles and scooters,” one police officer, Bhisham Singh, said in an interview. “They kidnapped a woman recently and gang-raped her.”
Behind the cattle rustling is a profound shift in Indian society. Meat consumption — chicken, primarily — is becoming acceptable even among Hindus. India is now the world’s largest dairy producer, its largest cattle producer and its largest beef exporter, having surpassed Brazil last year, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.
Much of that exported beef is from buffalo (India has half of the world’s buffalo population), which are not considered holy. But officials in Andhra Pradesh recently estimated that there are 3,100 illegal slaughterhouses in the state compared with just six licensed ones, and a recent newspaper investigation found that tens of thousands of cattle are sold annually for slaughter from a market in just one of that state’s 64 districts. Killing cows is illegal in much of India, and some states outlaw the possession of cow meat.
Cows Are Losing Their Sacred Status In India
Much of the illicit beef is probably sold as buffalo, an easy way to hide a sacrilegious act. But sometimes it makes its way to meat sellers in Delhi whose cellphone numbers are passed around in whispers. Steaks can be ordered from these illicit vendors in transactions that are carried out like drug deals.
Beef from cattle is also widely consumed by Muslims and Dalits, among India’s most marginalized citizens. Indeed, meat consumption is growing the most among the poor, government statistics show, with overall meat eating growing 14 percent from 2010 to 2012.
Anuj Agrawal, 28, said he grew up in a strictly vegetarian Hindu household but tried chicken for the first time in his teens when he was at a restaurant with friends. He now eats every kind of meat, including beef steaks and burgers. “Once you taste meat, you’re not going back to just fruits and vegetables,” Mr. Agrawal said.
He says many of his friends have made similar transitions. But he never eats meat with his grandparents: “I would be excommunicated if I did, so I go pure ‘veg’ when I’m with them. I want to inherit something.”
To some extent, the growing acceptance of beef is a result of the government’s intense focus on increasing milk production, which has led to a proliferation of foreign cattle breeds that do not elicit the same reverence as indigenous ones, said Clementien Pauws, president of Karuna Society for Animals and Nature, an animal welfare agency in Andhra Pradesh.
“Cows are all about business and money now, not religion,” Ms. Pauws said. “They’re all taken to slaughterhouses. It’s terrible.” This is not to say that eating beef from cattle is widely accepted. The vast majority of Hindus still revere cows, and the Bharatiya Janata Party, one of the country’s two major political parties, has demanded that laws against cow slaughter be strengthened.
Some landlords even refuse to rent to those who confess to a taste for meat. But the demand for beef keeps rising, many here say, and with it the prevalence of cattle rustling. Last year, the police in Delhi arrested 150 rustlers, a record number. This year, arrests have continued to surge, Mr. Singh said.
Typically, the rustlers creep into the city at night. When the criminals spot stray cattle and few onlookers they stop the truck, push out a ramp and use a rope to lead the cow to its doom. The thieves can usually fit about 10 cows on a truck, and each fetches 5,000 rupees — about $94. In a country where more than 800 million people live on less than $2 a day, a single night’s haul of more than $900 represents serious temptation.
One man who has helped the police in neighboring Uttar Pradesh said the rustlers were often able to bribe their way to freedom. “Even if they’re sent to jail, they come out in 10 to 15 days and commit the same crimes again,” said the man, who did not want his name used for fear of reprisals.
The unfortunate fate of some of Delhi’s cattle has led some Hindus to establish cattle shelters on the fringes of the metropolitan region. One of the largest is Shri Mataji Gaushala, where thousands of cattle live on about 42 acres.
Sometimes, the rescue comes too late. Brijinder Sharma, the shelter manager, whose office walls are decorated with drawings of Lord Krishna hugging a calf, showed a video of a truck packed with cattle that was seized on its way to an illegal slaughterhouse. Many of the cows had already died of heat exhaustion.
“The social and religious status of cows has been under attack in India,” Mr. Sharma said. He hopes that his shelter, which has an annual budget of $5.4 million, underwritten almost entirely by wealthy Indians who have emigrated to the United States, will help reverse that trend.
The afternoon feeding at the shelter attracted a crowd of happy onlookers. Abhishek, a one-named cowhand, called out among the lowing throng: “Sakhi! Sakhi!” A large cow with huge horns rushed to the front of the herd, and Mr. Abhishek kissed her on the nose.
The cow responded by licking one entire side of his face, and Mr. Abhishek beamed.

Anti-Muslim Violence Rises After Soldier’s Death, Woolwich

Nearly two-thirds of people believe there will be a ‘clash of civilisations’ between British Muslims and white Britons in the wake of the murder of a British soldier in Woolwich, a new poll shows.
VIDEO: Anti-Muslim Violence Rises After Soldier’s Death, Woolwich
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The number of those who believe such a clash is inevitable has increased by 9% from last year.
There has also been a small increase in the proportion of people who believe British Muslims pose a serious threat to democracy, up to 34% on Thursday and Friday from 30% in November 2012, according to the YouGov survey of 1,839 adults.
The poll will fuel concern of an explosion of race hate, with one interfaith charity reporting a huge increase in anti-Muslim incidents since the murder of soldier Lee Rigby in south-east London on Wednesday.
Faith Matters, which runs a helpline, said they had received 162 calls since the attack, up from a daily average of six.
A number of people have also been charged by police after allegedly offensive messages were posted on social media websites. These include a 22-year-old man from Lincoln, a 28-year-old man from London, a 23-year-old woman from Southsea, and a 19-year-old man from Woking.
The BNP has also announced it will be demonstrating in Woolwich. National organiser Adam Walker claims the brutal murder meant a “line has been drawn in the sand and it signals the beginning of the civil war we have predicted for years”.
However the YouGov poll provides evidence that Britain does remain a tolerant country and that the far-right support remains at the margins of society. Nearly two-thirds (63%) believe the vast majority of Muslims are good British citizens, up by 1% from last November.
There has also been an increase from 24% to 33% in the proportion who believe Muslims are compatible with the ‘British way of life’. Around two-thirds (65%) said on the whole most people tend to get along well with each other.
Half of respondents said they felt positively about demonstrations being held against last week’s terror attacks.
However, two-thirds said they felt negatively about such protests led by the BNP or English Defence League (EDL). Asked if they would join the EDL, 84% said they would never do so, although there has been a 9% increase in the proportion of respondents who had heard of the far-right organisation.
Dr Matthew Goodwin of Nottingham university, who commissioned the poll, said: “Compared to last year, when we ran the exact same survey, today people are either just as likely, or more likely, to endorse a series of more positive statements: that Muslims are compatible with the national way of life; are good citizens; make important contributions to society; and share British culture and values.VIDEO: Anti-Muslim Violence Rises After Soldier’s Death, Woolwich
“In fact, while far right groups were pointing to the murder as evidence that Islam poses a fundamental threat to modern Britain, the percentage of respondents who view Muslims as compatible actually jumped by almost ten points, to 33%.
“Clearly, the numbers remain low, and point to wider challenges facing government, and our local communities. But in the aftermath of events that could well have triggered a more serious backlash, the direction of travel remains positive, and suggests there has not been a sharp spike in prejudice.”
The underlining tolerance appears to back up the prime minister’s statement last week in which he said the murder of Rigby on a Woolwich street was “not just an attack on Britain, and on the British way of life, it was also a betrayal of Islam and of the Muslim communities who give so much to this country.”
On Saturday a demonstration by the EDL in Newcastle was met by a anti-fascist protest, chanting: “Nazi scum, off our streets.”
Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, said groups such as the EDL were fuelling division and helping those behind terror attacks. She said: “Anyone who seeks to divide our communities is doing the work of the extremists they say they oppose.
“Mindless acts of violence against any of our communities serve no-one. Some people are trying to use the vile attack in Woolwich as an excuse for more hatred, violence, and extremism. We must not let them.
“The police, security services and all right minded people in this country will do everything they can to make sure any act of violence and intimidation is dealt with robustly and quickly.
“The clear message from the overwhelming majority of British people is ‘not in my name’. We stand together against violent extremism, intolerance and hatred – whether it comes from Islamist extremists, the EDL, the BNP, or extremists of any kind.”

Amaechi Is Threat To PDP – Modibbo

Photo - Amaechi Is Threat To PDP – Modibbo
The National Coordinator, Concerned Democrats of Conscience, Ibrahim Modibbo has said that the reason Governor Chibuike Amaechi is not getting the full support of his party members is because he is considered a ‘threat’ to the leadership of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP).
“Amaechi has been seen as a threat to the present leadership of the PDP,” he said.
He said the reason PDP is not giving the Rivers governor full support because the party sees him as an antagonist” in the sense that Governor Amaechi “stands for good governance in this country.”
Speaking on Channels Television’s breakfast programme, Sunrise Daily, Mr Modibbo said he believes Amaechi is the rightful winner of the election which was conducted by members of the Nigeria Governors Forum.
He described the governor, who has now been suspended from the PDP fold, as a ‘harmless democrat of conscience’ who “brought finesse, credibility, character and characterization to the Governor’s Forum.”
He decried the conflict among members of the forum as a ‘reckless display of insensitivity to democratic tenets” which has never been seen in the history of modern democracy in Nigeria.

Mixed Reactions Greets Gov. Amaechi’s Suspension From PDP

A frontline politician, Chief Abiola Ogundokun, said the decision of PDP to suspend Gov. Chibuike Amechi of Rivers was timely because members of political parties, who go against party rules should be punished.
He told reporters on Monday in Abuja that in present day politics, selfish interest and greed could not over ride the principles of the party.
Ogundokun said, “If you work against the decision of the party then you should be ready to face the music.
“The constitution of every party has a way of operating and stipulates the management system of the party, but some leaders don’t have respect for the constitution of the parties.”
He said that the governor’s suspension would serve as a deterrent to others for them to realise that no member of PDP was indispensable.
In his reaction, the National Secretary Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), Malam Buba Galadima, said the suspension was a minus for PDP, adding that the party had now polarised itself.
Galadima said  the party stood to lose many of its members stressing that “It is obvious any member, who is loyal to the governor will go with him and it will be a big minus to PDP.
The Alliance for Democracy (AD) National Secretary, Mr Rafiu Salau, said Amechi’s  suspension was as good as asking him to leave the party.
He advised that the opposition must not use the event to commence controversy, rather they should see it as a way to strengthened democracy.
Salau advised that PDP should always apply crisis resolution method in handling it’s inter-party crisis and learn how to keep to the agreement.
Dr Yunisa Tanko, Chairman Inter Party Advisory Council (IPAC), said the matter on ground was party matter and any action taking by a political party if it did not conform to the party processes might spell danger.
“This might send a wrong signal to the lager society and beginning of the downfall of such a party.
He said PDP should give all concern a listening hears and be upright in its decision so as not to endanger the democratic dispensation.
Meanwhile, the Rivers Government on Monday described the suspension of Amaechi by the PDP as a political witch hunt.
Mrs Ibim Semenitari, the Commissioner for Information and Communication, told NAN in Port Harcourt that the reason given for the suspension, which was suspension of the Obio/Akpor Council  chairman and the 17 councillors, was purely a legislative matter.
She said the suspension of the chairman and councillors of Obio/Akpor council was done in accordance with the laws of Local Government Councils in Rivers.
Some residents of Port Harcourt, the state capital said they received the news of the governor’s suspension with surprise.
One of them, Mr Chidi Igwe, a businessman,  said though he did not have enough details on the suspension, “it came to me as a huge surprise’’.
He urged the party to call the governor for a meeting to sort their differences out.
A school teacher, Mrs Rose Ndu, said teachers in the state would not take kindly to anything that would stop them from getting their monthly wages regularly.
“Governor Chibuike Amaechi is the only governor, who has paid us, primary and secondary school teachers salaries regularly. We will not be happy if the party goes ahead with his suspension,’’ she said.

Islamists Chanting “Allahu Akbar” Attack Kissing Couple Protest


Islamist Extremists attacked a group of kissing couples who locked lips in a Turkish metro station to protest a morality campaign by the authorities in Ankara, the local press reported on Sunday.VIDE: Islamists Chanting “Allahu Akbar” Attack Kissing Couple Protest
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One person was stabbed when about 20 Islamists chanting "Allah Akhbar" (God is Greatest) and some carrying knives attacked the demonstrators on Saturday, the Milliyet and Hurriyet newspapers reported.
About 200 people staged the kissing protest after officials in the Ankara municipality, which is run by Turkey's ruling Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP), admonished a young couple for kissing in the street.
Turkey is predominantly Muslim but staunchly secular, although the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has introduced several measures opponents see as a sign of the creeping Islamisation of the country, including restrictions on alcohol.
A young Turkish couple kiss to protest against subway officials' harassment of a couple for kissing in public last week, at a subway stop in Ankara, Turkey.
VIDEO: Islamists Attack Turkey Kissing Protest
Ankara subway officials made a reproaching announcement asking passengers "to act in accordance with moral rules," after spotting the couple kissing through security cameras.
Riot police stand at the entrance as young Turkish couples expected to kiss in protest against subway official's harassment of a couple for kissing in public last week, at a subway stop in Ankara, Turkey.
VIDEO: Islamists Attack Turkey Kissing Protest

S.Africa Postpones Teen Axe Murder Case


S.Africa Postpones Teen Axe Murder CaseA South African court on Monday postponed the trial of a teenager charged with hacking to death four family members with an axe pending a psychological evaluation, police said.
The 14-year-old was undergoing tests in hospital after the murder of his mother, grandmother, brother and baby sister, said police spokesman Lungelo Dlamini.
He had been due at Benoni Magistrates Court, but will instead appear on Wednesday.
The boy is charged with hacking his victims to death in the early hours of Friday morning as they slept.
Two sisters, aged eight and nine, escaped during the killings and raised the alarm in Etwatwa, east of Johannesburg.
Police tracked down the boy by midday after he ran away.
The mother, 42, was found dead in the corrugated iron-shack the family lives in, while the three-month-old sister was found dead in a nearby field.
The grandmother, 58, and brother, 7, died in hospital.
The murder weapon has not been found.
Police have not disclosed a possible motive, but community members told radio’s Eyewitness News the murders may have been part of a satanic ritual or related to drug abuse.
The teen’s family told the radio they had disowned the boy.
“Even now I can’t cope, because I have to take the kids and they have to stay with me,” an uncle said.
“There is no other family member. They are all dead.”
South Africa has one of the highest murder rates outside war zones.
Around 16,000 people were killed between 2011 and 2012, according to official statistics.
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Man Caught By Policemen With Freshly Cut Penis (Photos)

Police in Malawi have arrested a 24 year old man after he tried to sell the freshly cut penis from a 45 year old.
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Officers in the central Lakeshore District of Salima say they responded to a report of a man lying bleeding and unconscious next to railway tracks on Tuesday.
But when the man was admitted to hospital, doctors were shocked to discover his penis was missing, local media reported. Salima police chief Foster Mangani said hours later, police were called to a local motel where the owner reported a guest had tried to sell her a penis for US$360.
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“We rushed to the lodge and arrested the suspect. We also recovered the private parts,” Mangani was quoted as saying by the Nyasa Times newspaper. Police have named the suspect as Samuel Banda, whose picture was published in the newspaper along with what looked like a severed penis wrapped in white paper.

Police said Banda had admitted selling “many body parts to well known business personalities”. Many locals believe human parts can bring riches, and unscrupulous businessmen and witchdoctors pay thousands of kwachas to poor locals to kill people and mutilate their bodies.
The Nyasa Times reports that the victim was intercepted by Banda as he walked home after a drinking bender. His condition is described as “serious” by staff at the local hospital.

PDP Suspend Governor Amaechi

governor
In an official bulletin issued at the end of NWC’s emergency meeting on Monday and signed by the National Public Secretary of the party, Mr. Olisa Metuh stated that this decision was taken in order to promote the party’s leadership’s determination to impose discipline at all ranks within the party.
On Monday, 27 May 2013, the NWC considered the petition submitted by the Executive Committee of PDP against Executive Governor of the Rivers State, His Excellency, Rt Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi for refusing to obey the legal instructions of the Rivers State Executive Committee as well as violating the Articles 58 1 (b), (c), (h), and (m) of PDP constitution.
Additionally, the former Executive Governor was suspended as member of PDP and the matter has already been referred to party’s disciplinary committee.

PDP Suspension Of Governor Amaechi Causes Disquiet In The Party

Governor Rotimi Amaechi
By SaharaReporters, New York
The People's Democratic Party wielded the big stick against the Governor of Rivers State, Rotimi Amaechi on Monday as it suspended him from the party. The suspension has worsened high-stakes tension in the party between loyalists of President Goodluck Jonathan, engaged in a bitter political feud with Mr. Amaechi, and others who accuse the president of fomenting crises in the party in order to advance his bid for reelection.
The decision to suspend Governor Amaechi was taken at a hurriedly convened meeting of the party’s National Working Committee which held at the residence of the party's national chairman, Bamanga Tukur.
A statement issued by the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Olisa Metuh, said the governor was suspended for his refusal to "obey the lawful directive of the Rivers State Executive Committee to rescind his decision dissolving the elected Executive Council of Obiokpor Local Government Area of Rivers State."
Though the party claimed the governor was suspended because of this, party insiders told SaharaReporters that Mr. Amaechi’s decision to run for the chairmanship of the Nigeria Governors' Forum was the main reason for the party’s wrath.
Against all odds, Mr. Amaechi won the election, edging Governor Jonah Jang of Plateau who had the blessing of Mr. Jonathan. Governor Amaechi’s margin of victory was 19 votes to Mr. Jang’s 16.
A Presidency source revealed that Mr. Jonathan has been in a sour mood since the defeat of his candidate for chairman of the Governors Forum. President Jonathan was attending the 50th anniversary celebration of the African Union (formerly known as Organization of African Unity) in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, when he received news of Mr. Jang’s loss. Sources within his delegation said Mr. Jonathan was so furious that he made angry phone calls to Governor Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom, blaming him for allowing the election to take place when Mr. Jang’s victory was in doubt. The sources also added that Mr. Jonathan got so drunk that he was unable to wake up the next morning to deliver a scheduled address to fellow heads of state at the AU summit. Nigerian delegates said it was a moment of national embarrassment when the Nigerian president was called to deliver his speech and Jonathan was a no-show.
A PDP governor from the northern part of the country told SaharaReporters this morning that the party must rescind “this unfair action [the suspension of Governor Amaechi] or make itself weaker.” He added that many party members were unhappy that President Jonathan was teleguiding the party’s leadership to take actions that would weaken the party.

Update: Why PDP suspended Governor Amaechi


Rotimi Amaechi
The PDP said Mr. Amaechi disobeyed the party’s state chapter.
Twenty four hours after the National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Bamanga Tukur, announced that the national secretariat is not officially aware of the problems in its Rivers State chapter, the party chairman, approved the suspension of the Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi.
The issues that Mr. Tukur claimed ignorance of on Sunday are the same reasons for which the party’s National Working Committee, headed by him, held an emergency meeting on Monday morning to suspend the Rivers Governor.
While hosting selected journalists in his house on Sunday, Mr. Tukur said the Rivers PDP crisis is a state matter as the matter has not been brought to the national secretariat.
“It is a state affair for the time being. If somebody is fighting, you have to know what is happening. When they bring to us what is happening, at the centre, we take action,” the party chairman said.
Less than 24 hours later, the PDP spokesman, Olisa Metuh, announced in a statement that the NWC held an emergency meeting on Monday morning, and agreed to suspend Mr. Amaechi from the party.
Mr. Metuh said the NWC’s decision follows the petition submitted by the PDP Rivers Executive Committee against the Rivers state Governor “for violating Articles 58 1 (b), (c), (h) and (m) of the PDP Constitution following his refusal to obey the lawful directive of the Rivers State Executive Committee to rescind his decision dissolving the elected Executive Council of Obiokpor Local Government Area of Rivers State”.
The statement added that “the National Working Committee after preliminary hearing, in exercise of the powers conferred by Articles 57 (3), 59 (3), 59 (5) and 29 (2.b) hereby suspends the Executive Governor of River State, Rt Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi as a member of the PDP and refers the matter to the appropriate disciplinary committee of the Party”.
It also said the decision is in furtherance of the determination of the leadership of the party to enforce discipline at all levels within the Party.
Mr. Metuh did not state when the national secretariat was informed or if the national secretariat made any effort to hear from the governor or mediate in the crisis following the chairman’s Sunday’s confirmation that the secretariat had taken no action on the matter.
Meanwhile, the PDP currently has no disciplinary committee as the party leadership has failed to call a National Executive Council meeting to set up one.
Amaechi’s sins
Mr. Amaechi has had a turbulent time with the PDP leadership over his opposition to and criticism of major policies of the President Goodluck Jonathan administration.
The Rivers Governor had criticised the corruption in the management of the petrol subsidy funds, and as chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum, NGF, led the opposition to the federal government’s deduction from the federation account.
Perhaps his final albatross was his decision to re-contest the position of the NGF chairman, which he won last week after defeating Governor Jonah Jang of Plateau, who had the support of the party and the party’s governors forum, PDPGF.
Mr. Jang and his supporters, led by Governor Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom, have vowed to run a parallel NGF and the Plateau Governor has already declared himself Chairman of the Forum despite losing by 16 votes to 19.

German Chancellor moves to cool EU-China trade dispute

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang at a press conference Germany was the only EU stop on Chinese Premier Li Keqiang's overseas tour
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said she wants to reach an agreement with China over import tariffs and avoid triggering a damaging trade war.
Earlier China's Premier Li Keqiang had warned he was unhappy with European Union probes into Chinese pricing practices in a number of industries.
The EU wants to levy tariffs on Chinese solar panels and phone gear amid claims they are unfairly undercutting rivals.
Chancellor Merkel now wants "intense" talks between the EU and China.
She was quoted as saying that Germany would use its position of power within the EU to ensure that the talks were productive.
According to the Associated Press news agency, she said that Germany would work for the issues to be resolved as quickly as possible because she did not believe that tariffs would help either side.
"We should very intensely use the next six months, and Germany will do everything to ensure that the talks will really advance," she explained.
Mr Li and Mrs Merkel were meeting as part of the Chinese leader's first overseas tour. Before Germany, he had already touched down in India, Pakistan and Switzerland.
China's premier has been warning that any attempt to impose tariffs would be seen as protectionist and ultimately hurt consumers.
"This decision will not only harm jobs in China, as well as development in the affected industries, but it will also affect development and endanger industry in Europe," he told a press conference in Berlin.
The probe into whether China has been selling solar products below cost is the biggest ever undertaken by the EU.
EU Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht has proposed taxes averaging 47% on solar imports and a decision is expected next month.
The EU is also investigating subsidies provided to China's telecoms sector.

Bank holidays around the world

(clockwise from top left): Traffic jam in Korea; sunset in California; rainy in Venice; shopping in India
In traffic jams, at the beach, or still at the office - how are bank holidays marked around the world? BBC correspondents from Seoul, Los Angeles, Rome, Calcutta and Moscow provide a worldwide view.
South Korea Working hours in South Korea are some of the longest in the world - it's not unusual for office workers to stay in the office until 9 o'clock at night - and nobody leaves before the boss. So when a bank holiday rolls around, there's a desperate bid to break for freedom. Which often means another long day spent sitting - not at a desk, but in a traffic jam. A quarter of the nation's population lives in Seoul, and on summer bank holidays, some of the jams clogging the roads out of town are spectacular enough to make the front pages of the newspapers.
South Korea is a car-producing nation - Hyundai and Kia are both Korean brands - and the country is rich enough that almost every family has at least one. Most people head to the coast or to the cool, forested mountains in the north, particularly when the bank holiday creates the chance for a long weekend. For many Koreans, this little escape is a substitute for the annual leave they don't take. The working culture here is so strong, that a day or two at a time is the most some office workers say they can afford without incurring disapproval from their senior colleagues.
It's a shame then, that up to a third of their bank holiday escape can be spent sitting in the national car park normally known as the Gyeongbu Express Motorway. Lucy Williamson
Korean traffic jam Bank holiday traffic, Korean style
United States The average American gets less than three weeks' paid holiday a year - assuming they've got a job. So when a public holiday comes around, like Memorial Day, it is embraced with relish - relish that usually goes with along with the hot dogs, burgers and tacos at a family cookout. It's a day for getting out and doing something. And that usually means packing a lot in, seeing family and friends and making the most of the day. Here in California it can be an excursion to the beach or a trip to the mountains to catch the dying days of the winter skiing season. The BBQ spots in city parks fill up quickly.
California surfers California holidays: Let's go surfing now
For most Americans, the major bank holidays signpost the year (not that they're known as "bank" holidays here). The final Monday of May marks the official start of summer, carefree days, hot weather, pool parties and summer movies. But Memorial Day, lest we forget, is an occasion, fundamentally, to remember the men and women who died while serving in the US armed forces. Families visit graves and there are ceremonies at the cemeteries. In this hugely patriotic nation, people do not forget. Peter Bowes
Italy
A day off work in Italy. What could be better. The possibilities are endless - there's the food and the wine, and the countryside, and in this long, thin nation many people live close to the beach. And the great thing about Italian bank holidays is that they aren't tied to Mondays. They float around in the week. So if there's one on a Thursday, you might get the Friday off too, and then disappear for a very long weekend.
Tourists in Rome in the rain Roman holiday: It doesn't just rain in the UK
Of course not everyone can afford to take advantage of this. And many weary workers just choose to slump at home with the family on a holiday. But here in Rome - during the holidays in spring - there is a strong tradition of getting out beyond the city's ancient walls. It's a time for picnicking in the cool of the hills. Up in the woods the smell of barbeques can hang thick in the air, and artichokes are sometimes roasted in the embers. But there's a very different mood on a holiday in November. This is when Italians choose to remember the dead. Families visit the graves of relatives. Prayers are said, and chrysanthemum flowers - always associated here with death and mourning - are left behind. Alan Johnston
India As India's economy continues to grow, lots of the youngsters around in the IT sector are working long hours, six days a week. They love bank holidays. As a friend of mine who runs a software business tells me, "In the days before a holiday, my staff seem to spend all their time trying to book train tickets for day trips, or have mysterious illnesses the day before." It is a great day for the shops - India's new malls are packed, and restaurants and cinemas are full of families spending their hard-earned money. Even the temples are busier here as people have time to go and visit their favourite gods.
Saree shopping at a mall in Hyderabad Saree shopping at a mall in Hyderabad
But not everyone is happy. My cousin runs a PR company. Ask him about bank holidays and he just scowls - it's madness, he says. There's republic day, independence day, Gandhi's birthday, and then all the religious holidays - what's the point of trying to work here? But for hundreds of millions of Indians, a bank holiday is just another day, because they cannot afford to stop working if they want to survive. Here in the world's largest democracy, bank holidays are for the rich. For the poor they are just another day. Rahul Tandon
Russia I really feel for the residents of Oimyakon, a little village in eastern Siberia. A couple of years back on Russia's February bank holiday, temperatures there plummeted to -56C. Now, you're not exactly going to pop off to the seaside and enjoy an ice cream in cold like that, are you?
Vladimir Putin with his shirt off In the Russian summer, it's warm enough to take your shirt off
Oimyakon is an extreme case, but there many places in Russia where winter digs her heels in, determined to stick around as long as possible. Which means that if you're not careful, chilling out here on a bank holiday can leave you with a nasty case of frostbite - if you don't wrap up warm. By May, though, it's a very different story.
The snow's melted, temperatures are rising and millions of Russians spend their May bank holidays enjoying the fresh air. Either on allotments - the so-called ogorody - where they plant fruits and berries and vegetables - or, if they're lucky enough to have one, at their country cottages, or dachas. Lying ahead are the sleepy summer months, filled with barbecues, beer and vodka - and being bitten to pieces by mosquitoes. Oh well, it makes a change from shivering in the snow. Steve Rosenberg

Kristin Scott Thomas on the joy of being evil

Kristin Scott Thomas in Only God Forgives  
Kristin Scott Thomas plays the "beastly" Crystal, who runs a drugs empire
She has a reputation as one of the most upper-crust of British actresses, thanks to roles in The English Patient, Gosford Park and Four Weddings and a Funeral. But Kristin Scott Thomas is about to destroy those preconceptions with her latest role.
In Only God Forgives, made by Danish film-maker Nicolas Winding Refn, Scott Thomas plays foul-mouthed peroxide blonde American matriarch Crystal, who she describes "as a cross between Lady Macbeth and Donatella Versace." She adds: "I wanted her long blonde hair."
According to the director, the actress had to "turn on a bitch switch" to play Crystal, who runs a drugs empire and has a relationship riddled with Oedipus overtones with her son Julian, played by Ryan Gosling.
However, it is the film's extreme violence that has divided critics. When Only God Forgives premiered at the Cannes Film Festival last week, its grisly torture scenes prompted booing and walk outs.
Other critics loved it, with The Guardian describing the film as "a glitteringly strange, mesmeric and mad film set among American criminal expatriates in Bangkok".

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She is actually unimaginably bad, and that is what drew me to the project”
Kristin Scott Thomas
Movie blog Indiewire, however, said of it: "As empty, soulless, frenziedly art-directed viewing experiences go, Only God Forgives is one of the better examples."
"I'm glad it's polarising," says Scott Thomas. "You want people to be shaken up, you don't want them to come out at the end of a film and say, 'Oh that was nice.'
"Either you want the audience to be angry or enamoured of it. At least it's getting a reaction."
One aspect of the film that critics agree upon, however, is the strength of the 53-year-old actress' performance, with The New York Observer describing it as "the saving grace" of the movie.
"She's a Shakespearian character," observes Scott Thomas of Crystal. "She is much larger than life, she is actually unimaginably bad, and that is what drew me to the project. She is just beastly.
Ryan Gosling in Only God Forgives Ryan Gosling plays Kristin Scott Thomas' son Julian
"To be honest, when my agent first sent the script to me, I sent it right back to him with a bit of a shirty note telling him to control his emails because this was clearly not meant for me, but another client.
"Then he said, 'No, no, it really is meant for you,' and I was quite excited. It's nice to be asked to do something with the underworld and not in a country house or to sit weeping in my kitchen.
"I am asked to do a lot of the same things, particularly in English-language films, and this was just refreshing."
Scott Thomas, who lives in Paris and acts in both English and French, says she also wanted to work with 42-year-old Winding Refn, who has become one of Europe's most celebrated arthouse film-makers after winning best director at Cannes in 2011 for Drive. That movie was also another ultra-violent collaboration with Ryan Gosling.

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I actually loved finding out how violence is made on screen and how it works”
Kristin Scott Thomas
"I just thought how interesting it would be to play this wild, savage person and work with Nicolas and Ryan," Scott Thomas continues. "I think he wanted me because I am his mother's favourite actress. I really need to ask her if I still am now that she's seen the film."
Winding Refn has described himself as having "a fetish for violence". According to the actress, "his favourite saying is, 'Taste is the enemy of creativity.'
"So you can go as far as you like, and together as a cast we just went further and further. We developed the script and scenes together during shooting. Some of the scenes were written in a classically evil way, but we just said, 'Oh why don't we just make it worse? Why don't we make it unthinkably bad?'
"So Nicolas just breaks down all these barriers, he deals with all these things that people don't want to think about. Certainly as far as their mothers are concerned."
Nicolas Winding Refn and Scott Thomas Only God Forgives has been directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, best known for making Drive
Scott Thomas does, however, confess that she had a problem with the swearing in the script. "It took me eight takes to get some words out," she says.
"And also, in real life I am not a fan of violence at all. I can't actually watch. But I actually loved finding out how violence is made on screen and how it works. There was so much blood and gore, and at some stages, I have to be covered in it.
"You do it all with pumps. But if I found the mechanics of the whole thing exciting, you should have seen the men on set running round like 10-year-old boys.
"Everything about me in this film is over the top - from the nails to the hair to being so unimaginably vile as a person and a mother. It's been a wonderful experience."

Almost human: Lab treats trauma with virtual therapy

 
A computer screen shows a virtual image of a woman. Ellie is a creation of ICT, and could serve as an important diagnostic and therapeutic tool for veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
The University of Southern California's Institute for Creative Technologies is leading the way in creating virtual humans. The result may produce real help for those in need.
The virtual therapist sits in a big armchair, shuffling slightly and blinking naturally, apparently waiting for me to get comfortable in front of the screen.
"Hi, I'm Ellie," she says. "Thanks for coming in today."
She laughs when I say I find her a little bit creepy, and then goes straight into questions about where I'm from and where I studied.
"I'm not a therapist, but I'm here to learn about people and would love to learn about you," she asks. "Is that OK?"
Ellie's voice is soft and calming, and as her questions grow more and more personal I quickly slip into answering as if there were a real person in the room rather than a computer-generated image.
"How are you at controlling your temper?" she probes. "When did you last get into an argument?"
With every answer I'm being watched and studied in minute detail by a simple gaming sensor and a webcam.

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This is not a replacement for a live provider, but it might be a stop-gap that helps to direct a person towards the kind of care they might need”
Stan Rizzo The University of Southern California's Institute for Creative Technologies
How I smile, which direction I look, the tone of my voice, and my body language are all being precisely recorded and analysed by the computer system, which then tells Ellie how best to interact with me.
"Wizard of Oz mode" is how researcher Louis-Philippe Morency describes this experiment at the University of Southern California's Institute for Creative Technologies (ICT).
In the next room his team of two are controlling what Ellie says, changing her voice and body language to get the most out of me.
Real people come in to answer Ellie's questions every day as part of the research, and the computer is gradually learning how to react in every situation.
It is being taught how to be human, and to respond as a doctor would to the patients' cues.
Soon Ellie will be able to go it alone. That opens up a huge opportunity for remote therapy sessions online using the knowledge of some of the world's top psychologists.
But Dr Morency doesn't like the expression "virtual shrink", and doesn't think this method will replace flesh-and-blood practitioners.
"We see it more as being an assistant for the clinician in the same way you take a blood sample which is analysed in a lab and the results sent back to the doctor," he said.
The system is designed to assess signs of depression or post-traumatic stress, particularly useful among soldiers and veterans.
"We're looking for an emotional response, or perhaps even any lack of emotional response," he says.
"Now we have an objective way to measure people's behaviour, so hopefully this can be used for a more precise diagnosis."
The software allows a doctor to follow a patient's progress over time. It objectively and scientifically compares sessions.
A human face is diagrammed Researchers diagram the minute movements of the human face to create more realistic computer models
"The problem we have, particularly with the current crisis in mental health in the military, is that we don't have enough well trained providers to handle the problem," says Skip Rizzo, the associate director for medical virtual reality at the ICT.
"This is not a replacement for a live provider, but it might be a stop-gap that helps to direct a person towards the kind of care they might need."
The centre does a lot of work with the US military, which after long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has to deal with hundreds of thousands of troops and veterans suffering from various levels of post-traumatic stress disorder.
"We have an issue in the military with stigma and a lot of times people feel hesitant talking about their problems," he says. A virtual counselling tool can alleviate some of this reluctance.
"We see this as a way for service members or veterans to talk openly and explore their issues."
The whole lab is running experiments with virtual humans. To do so, it blends a range of technologies and disciplines such as movement sensing and facial recognition.
Dr Morency has won awards for his work into the relationship between psychology and minute physical movements in the face.
"People who are anxious fidget with their hands more, and people who are distressed often have a shorter smile with less intensity. People who are depressed are looking away a lot more," he says.
Researchers analyse data to create more accurate computer models The researchers analyse the data to make their computer models more accurate
Making computer-generated images appear human isn't easy, but if believable they can be powerful tools for teaching and learning. To that end, the lab is involved in several different projects to test the limits and potential of virtual interactions.
In the lab's demonstration space a virtual soldier sits behind a desk and responds to a disciplinary scenario as part of officer training.
The team have even built a Wild West style saloon, complete with swinging doors and bar.
Full-size characters appear on three projection screens and interact with a real person walking in, automatically responding to questions and asking their own to play out a fictional scenario.
Downstairs, experiments are creating 3D holograms of a human face.
Throughout the building, the work done is starting to blur the lines between the real world and the virtual world.
And the result just may be real help for humans who need it.

World powers struggle to reach agreement on Syria

Syrian rebel fighter takes aim in the northern city of Aleppo (5 April 2013)  
Many EU states fear sophisticated weapons will end up in the wrong hands

In a conflict which worsens by the week, this is a week when critical decisions on the next steps in Syria must be made.
On Monday, meetings of foreign ministers in Brussels and Paris could pave the way for more weapons to be supplied to the opposition or more arm-twisting to push all sides towards the negotiating table.
In Brussels, EU foreign ministers need to decide whether to renew a package of sanctions on Syria, including an arms embargo which expires at the end of this week.
Key players, including the UK and France, have been lobbying for months for an easing of the embargo.
But there is strong resistance from other members, as well as EU officials, who fear that channelling more arms to the opposition will only worsen violence that has already cost at least 80,000 lives.

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We must make clear that if the regime does not negotiate seriously at the Geneva conference, no option is off the table”
William Hague UK Foreign Secretary
There is also mounting concern that weapons could make their way into the arsenals of militant groups Europe does not want to empower.
The US Secretary of State, John Kerry, has added his voice to those urging Europe to ease restrictions on military support for the opposition.
"Fine for him to say but what is Washington willing to do?" one European foreign minister opposed to lifting the ban told me.
The US has so far refused persistent calls to arm the rebels.
Geneva conference On Monday, Mr Kerry meets his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, in Paris.
Their talks are expected to focus on plans for the first conference to bring together representatives of the Syrian government and opposition.
John Kerry and Sergei Lavrov in Moscow (7 May 2013) Many obstacles remain in the way of the peace conference planned by the US and Russia
Diplomats hope the gathering can be held next month in Geneva, but continuing rifts over who will be invited, and under what conditions, still stand in the way.
On Sunday, Syria's Foreign Minister, Walid Muallem, announced that Damascus was ready "in principle" to send a delegation to Geneva.
But in Istanbul, where members of various opposition groupings are meeting to choose a new leadership for the National Coalition, various conditions are still being voiced.
Many opposition figures still insist they will not sit with members of President Bashar al-Assad's regime unless it is clear he will be stepping down.
There was even a suggestion the opposition would not attend unless the EU arms embargo was lifted.
Pressure on opposition The meetings in Brussels and Paris are linked.
One of the main concerns in many European capitals is the impact any lifting or easing of the EU arms embargo might have on the fragile effort to fashion a political transition.
In a statement to Parliament last week, Foreign Secretary William Hague emphasised: "The United Kingdom and France are both strongly of the view that changes to the embargo are not separate from the diplomatic work, but essential to it."
William Hague talks to reporters after a Friends of Syria meeting in Istanbul (20 April 2013) William Hague is to join with the French to table a call for watering down the arms embargo
"We must make clear that if the regime does not negotiate seriously at the Geneva conference, no option is off the table," he added.
The UK insists that, as yet, it has made no decision on whether to arm the rebels.
But various options are being suggested in advance of the Brussels deadline including the distribution of weapons through the National Coalition, recognised by many Western and Arab states as the sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people.
Such a move would also be an effort to strengthen the opposition alliance's bargaining position at any future talks vis-a-vis more extremist groups as well as the government.
The National Coalition is also under pressure to resolve its well-publicised divisions and expand its membership to bring in more liberal elements as well as representatives of the Free Syrian Army.
Jockeying for position among an array of Syrian groups also reflects interventions by key backers - like Saudi Arabia and Qatar, as well as Turkey and the US - to try to forge an opposition to their liking.
Weapons contract This protracted debate over arming the rebels has been given added weight by the Syrian military's recent advances on the ground, and its solid support from allies like Iran and Russia.
Well-trained fighters from the Lebanese Shia Islamist movement, Hezbollah, have joined battle with government forces fighting to regain control of the strategic western town of Qusair, which lies on vital supply routes for both the rebels and the government.

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The reality is Britain and France don't have those weapons in their armouries now and, even if they were available on the market, you would need to send in foreign forces to help use them”
European foreign minister
And Moscow insists it must continue to honour its arms contracts with Damascus, including the provision of the powerful S-300 air defence missile batteries.
Media reports at the weekend that the contract was cancelled after a meeting between Russian and Israeli leaders have been denied.
"It's more than a bit fanciful that where John Kerry failed to persuade Vladimir Putin to abandon the S-300s sale to Syria, Benjamin Netanyahu will have succeeded," says Syria specialist Michael Weiss.
Embargo extension Arguments over the arms embargo are complicated by the reality that the only possible game-changer is more sophisticated weaponry the opposition may not, at present, be able to operate.
"The reality is Britain and France don't have those weapons in their armouries now and, even if they were available on the market, you would need to send in foreign forces to help use them," commented the European foreign minister.
If there is no consensus on amending or extending the arms embargo, a package of other sanctions putting pressure on President Assad and his supporters would also disappear.
That is an outcome EU member states want to avoid.
So, while divisions persist, other options being considered include a short extension to see how any negotiations play out.
This week is likely to end up being no different from most weeks in this deepening war - the only agreement on all sides is on how far away a real solution is.
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