Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Breaking News

Breaking News

Pakistan clashes: Many dead in Kurram fighting

Posted: 25 Jan 2012 04:51 AM PST

At least 23 people have been killed in clashes between soldiers and militants in Pakistan's tribal region of Kurram near the Afghan border, officials say.

Security officials said six of the dead were soldiers, while the rest were described as Taliban militants.

Kurram is one of Pakistan's seven tribal regions, where troops have for several years been fighting groups linked to the Taliban or al-Qaeda.

A ban on journalists make independent confirmation of casualties impossible.

A senior official of the paramilitary Frontier Corps told the AFP news agency that troops had now taken control of the area.

Pakistan launched an offensive in Kurram in July against the militants. Troops say they are still carrying out a search operation after clearing most of the area.

Correspondents say that while the army has fought Pakistani Taliban militants across many of the tribal regions, it has so far not bowed to intense American pressure to take action against the al-Qaeda-linked Haqqani network in its stronghold of North Waziristan.

Belfast nightspots' value plummets by 90%

Posted: 24 Jan 2012 10:22 PM PST

A group of Belfast nightspots are now worth about a tenth of what they were bought for in 2007, according to an administrator's report.
In 2007, with the property boom at its peak, CDC Leisure bought four clubs/bars for £13.5m.
They were Katy Daly's, The Limelight, Spring & Airbrake and Auntie Annie's.
CDC went into administration in 2010 and a year later Shine Productions and MCD were able to buy three of the clubs for about £1.5m.
It is as stark a snapshot of the collapse in commercial property prices in Northern Ireland as you are likely to find.
The Limelight and Spring & Airbrake complex was one of the most popular live venues in the city for touring bands - Oasis, the Strokes and the Manic Street Preachers all made their Northern Ireland debuts there.
Auntie Annie's and Katy Daly's were thriving pubs, packed at weekends with a young crowd and hosting successful nights for local musical talent on week nights.
Levels of trade fell for all bars in Belfast as the recession took hold, but it was the crippling levels of debt taken on by CDC just months before the property crash that meant the new venture was doomed.
The Limelight sign The Limelight venue has been at the heart of Northern Ireland's music scene for decades
The precise size of the fall in value is unclear as Shine/MCD did not buy Auntie Annie's as part of the deal.
Those figures are contained in the administrator's report which has been seen by the BBC.
As well as the Ormeau Avenue bars, that £1.5m also secured substantial office space above them - a further indication of just how low the price of such property has fallen in the city centre.
There was relief in the music scene when Shine/MCD confirmed their new premises would continue to operate as live venues.
There had been fears the bars could close completely, as well as rumours that a large UK wide pub chain wanted to take them on and would change their nature completely - and abandon staging gigs.
Now jointly run by two of the leading concert promotion companies in Ireland, there seems every chance that the venues will continue to be at the centre of live music in Belfast.
And, compared to their previous, ill-fated owners, Shine/MCD acquired them for a song.

Shah Rukh Khan shows his love for Gauri

Posted: 24 Jan 2012 10:20 PM PST

SRK has his ways of putting rumours to rest and proving everything's fine between him and Gauri Khan.

For everyone working overtime contemplating problems in Shah Rukh Khan's paradise, King Khan has proved that he is an eternal romantic and loyal lover not just onscreen but also off-screen, in personal life.

Recently rumours were rife that there seem to be some problems between the steady couple Shah Rukh and Gauri Khan because of SRK's over-friendliness with Priyanka Chopra. The sizzling chemistry between the Don costars was said to have transpired beyond the silver screen. Shah Rukh never reacted to these reports but had his own way of putting the rumours to rest.

Shah Rukh and Gauri Khan had recently been to an awards function in foreign lands and their camaraderie at the after party seemed just out of a Bollywood love story. A source present at the party said, "Shah Rukh invited Gauri for a dance and expectedly she graced the dance floor. The couple indulged in a love-soaked ball-dance on some beautiful numbers and their chemistry was for everyone to see".

We must say Shah Rukh Khan clearly knows how to silence his detractors without speaking a word!

Williams sisters named to US FedCup squad

Posted: 24 Jan 2012 10:16 PM PST

WHITE PLAINS:( Serena and Venus Williams were both named Tuesday to the US squad to host Belarus in a Fed Cup first-round tie in Massachusetts next month.

The US Tennis Association and American captain Mary Joe Fernandez said the Williams sisters would be joined by Christina McHale and top doubles player Liezel Huber when the Americans host a Belarus side likely to include world No. 3 Victoria Azarenka in Worcester, Massachusetts, February 4-5.

Serena Williams, 30, will make her first Fed Cup appearance since 2007. She was toppled in the fourth round of the Australian Open on Monday in an error-strewn performance against Russian Ekaterina Makarova, although she refused to blame the upset on a right ankle injury she had been nursing since the WTA tournament in Brisbane.

Venus Williams, 31, will be making her first appearance in sanctioned competition since the 2011 US Open, when she revealed she had been diagnosed with the auto-immune disorder Sjogren's Syndrome. (AFP)

Dollar edges up as Japan reports trade deficits

Posted: 24 Jan 2012 10:11 PM PST

TOKYO: The dollar firmed slightly in Asian trade Wednesday as the yen slipped on official data showing Japan saw an annual trade deficit for the first time in more than 30 years.

But the greenback's upside was limited as many exporters were still selling the US unit.

The dollar stood at 77.79 yen in mid-morning trade in Tokyo, edging up from 77.71 yen in New York Tuesday.

The euro was at $1.3024 and 101.31 yen, from $1.3030 and 101.25 yen in New York.

Importers and foreign investors sold the yen after Japan said, as expected, it had logged a calendar-year deficit in goods of 2.49 trillion yen ($32 billion) in 2011, its first since 1980. (AFP)

Bus driver hijacks bus, goes on rampage killing 9 in Pune

Posted: 24 Jan 2012 10:05 PM PST

PUNE: A rogue bus driver went berserk on the crowded streets of the city this morning, smashing all vehicles coming in its way and leaving nine persons dead and 27 others injured.

It was a nightmare in the Swargate area in the heart of the city, as the bus driven by a Maharashtra State Corporation bus driver came from wrong side of the busy Pune--Solapur Road and went past smashing all types of vehicles in the way and injuring pedestrians, who ran for their lives.

The driver 30-year-old Santosh Mane was arrested after an hour-long chase near Neelayam theatre in the city. Though initial reports said the bus driver was mentally disturbed, police said it was too early to comment.

Satpal Singh, ADG (Law and Order), said, "Nine persons are dead and 27 have been injured in the accident".

"He was hitting everything that was coming in his way," he said.

The Swargate bus terminus officials said they were investigating the incident involving the bus, which was scheduled to leave for Satara.

Pune mayor Mohansingh Rajpal, who visited the spot, asked angry citizens to maintain peace.

Newspaper review: Papers focus on £1tn debt

Posted: 24 Jan 2012 09:56 PM PST

The Financial Times pictures George Osborne chatting to his German and Danish counterparts at a meeting of EU finance ministers on the day it was announced UK debt had passed £1tn.

"A penny for your thoughts, chancellor", is the FT's caption.

The Times notes that Britain is now one of a small band of countries measuring its debt in trillions - including Italy, the United States and Japan.

It adds that figures out later are expected to show that the UK economy shrank at the end of last year.

The Guardian says the Governor of the Bank of England, Sir Mervyn King, has warned that the path to recovery would be "arduous, long and uneven".

The Daily Mail celebrates an article written for the paper by the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey.

He criticises the Anglican bishops who joined the rebellion in the House of Lords against government plans to cap benefit payments at £26,000 a year.

Lord Carey says the current welfare system rewards "fecklessness".

Distinctly less supportive of the government is Sir Mick Jagger.

The Daily Mirror says he backed out of an event designed to promote Britain at the World Economic Forum in Davos, after complaining of being "used as a political football".

The Rolling Stones front man says he has "always eschewed party politics".

A senior government source has insisted the event, being hosted by David Cameron, is "non-political", adding that there was never any suggestion that Sir Mick was a Conservative.

Fears that Britain is heading for a so-called "integrity crisis" provide the lead for The Independent.

It says research carried out by the University of Essex suggests people are becoming less honest.

Lying, having an affair, driving while drunk and buying stolen goods are more acceptable than they were 10 years ago.

Finally The Guardian reports beards are now acceptable in Disneyland. Disney has opened its theme parks to staff with facial hair or even goatees.

Misbah, Strauss expect tough work for bowlers

Posted: 24 Jan 2012 09:51 PM PST

ABU DHABI: Rival captains Misbah-ul Haq and Andrew Strauss expect tough work for bowlers on a batting-friendly pitch at Abu Dhabi Stadium where the second Test starts on Wednesday.
Pakistan have edge with off-spinner Saeed Ajmal in good form, having taken a career-best 7-55 during his 10-wicket haul which helped his team win the first Test by 10 wickets in Dubai inside three days. "Ajmal got 10 wickets which created so much pressure on England so I think that is really an edge for us but at the same time I think the nature of the pitch here will make it tough to get 20 wickets," said Misbah on Tuesday.
Misbah urged the bowlers to stick to discipline and basics. "I think you have to come out hard and just bowl a disciplined line and bowl according to the weakness of the batsmen, and just try to exploit the conditions but I think it will be really really tough to get wickets here," said Misbah.
He added his team was ready for a backlash from England, who have not lost a Test series since January 2009. "There is no doubt that England, the world number one team, will try their 100 percent best and stage a strong comeback. We are ready for them," said Misbah, who has not lost a series since taking over as captain in October 2010.
Pakistan were likely to retain the winning combination, but if the pitch seems to offer initial pace they could Aizaz Cheema with Junaid Khan.
England will wait on the fitness of paceman Chris Tremlett who has a sore back. England captain Andrew Strauss agreed that the pitch looked good for batting. "At the moment it looks a very good wicket, there's no doubt about that.
"We are expecting it to be very good wicket for batting," said Strauss, whose team has not lost two Tests in a row since beaten by South Africa in July 2008. "It's a big challenge for us and one I personally really looking forward to. We clearly let ourselves down at Dubai, we got to hold up our hands and say there are no excuses for that," said Strauss who will open with Alastair Cook for the 100th time.
About his own batting form which saw him dismissed for 19 and six in the first Test, Strauss said he hopes to overcome the slump. "It's obviously disappointing and certainly not getting runs in the last game was disappointing for me but having been around the Test match scene for a while now I know form ebbs and flows and one innings can completely change both your perspective and others' perspective in how well you're playing.
"I do think I've been hitting the ball well and hopefully that means there's a nice recipe in place to go on and get a big score," said Strauss, who has scored only one hundred in the last 30 months, at Brisbane in 2010.
When asked whether Ajmal's bowling action, questioned by various quarters after the Dubai Test, could threaten the sense of harmony between the two teams, Strauss said: "Maybe, but you're not going to hear any discussion about it from us. It's not an issue for us, it's not something we're concerned about, we're far more concerned about coming onto the pitch and winning this game."
The third and final Test will be played in Dubai from February 3-7. Both teams will also play four one-day and three Twenty20 Internationals.

Russia row over Nazi massacre site in Rostov-on-Don

Posted: 24 Jan 2012 06:26 AM PST

A row has erupted in Russia over the replacement of a Holocaust memorial plaque in the southern city of Rostov-on-Don which named Jews as victims.

In August 1942 Nazi German troops murdered at least 27,000 people at Zmiyevskaya Balka, regarded as the worst Holocaust atrocity in Russia.

More than half the victims were Jews, the Russian Jewish Congress (RJC) says.

A new plaque does not mention Jews, but "peaceful citizens of Rostov-on-Don and Soviet prisoners-of-war".

The RJC, a secular foundation representing Russian Jews, says it will take legal action over the unauthorised decision to replace the former plaque, which spoke of "more than 27,000 Jews" murdered by the Nazis. That plaque had been put up in 2004.

According to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Centre in Israel, 15,000-16,000 Jews were murdered by the Nazis in Rostov-on-Don from August 1942 to February 1943.

In the Soviet Union memorials commemorating victims of Nazi massacres spoke of "Soviet citizens" rather than "Jews".
Violation admitted

The former plaque mentioning Jews has now been put in the Zmiyevskaya Balka memorial hall, Rostov's Deputy Culture Minister Valery Gelas told Moscow Echo radio.

He admitted that the rules for historical memorials had been broken, but said the new plaque would remain and "we've done all we can".

He said the wording was in line with historical research and data presented to the Rostov cultural authorities.

RJC president Yuri Kanner said the site was "Russia's Babi Yar" - a reference to the notorious Nazi mass shootings of Jews near Kiev during World War II.

He said it was important to specify exactly who was shot at Zmiyevskaya Balka, pointing out that in law the Nazi slaughter of Jews "is considered a separate crime, with separate prosecutions".

"There could have been refugees from Poland, not necessarily Soviet citizens, it's not a question of citizens," he told Moscow Echo.

He said he did not believe the plaque decision was a case of anti-Semitism, rather that it was a local official's "attempt to do something to please somebody".

A Communist MP on the Russian parliament (Duma) committee for nationalities, Tamara Pletneva, said it was time to "forget our bitterness and live in peace".

"The memorial should commemorate all the war victims... the Soviet Union saved Jews, Russians saved Jews... so why single out Jews? We shouldn't single out any ethnic group."

Romney reports tax bill of $6.2 million for 2010-11

Posted: 24 Jan 2012 06:20 AM PST

TAMPA/WASHINGTON: Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney released tax records on Tuesday indicating he will pay $6.2 million in taxes on a total of $42.5 million in income over the years 2010 and 2011.

Bowing to increasing political pressure to provide more detail about his vast wealth, the former private equity executive released tax returns indicating he and his wife, Ann, paid an effective tax rate of 13.9 percent in 2010. They expect to pay a 15.4 percent rate when they file their returns for 2011.

Romney's tax rate is below that of most wage-earning Americans because most of his income, as outlined in more than 500 pages of tax documents, flows from capital gains on investments.

Under the US tax code, capital gains are taxed at 15 percent, compared with a top tax rate of 35 percent for wage earners.

Romney released the tax returns after a week in which his chief rival for the Republican presidential nomination, former House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich, questioned whether Romney was hiding information about his finances and cast him as being out of touch with most Americans.

Gingrich's attacks on Romney helped him upset the former Massachusetts governor in the South Carolina primary on Saturday.

Since then, Romney has vowed to be more aggressive in returning fire.

He has launched a series of attacks questioning Gingrich's character, judgment and lucrative work as a Washington consultant, and released his tax returns to try to nullify Gingrich's criticisms on that front.

The tax rates Romney reported paying could add fuel to a national debate over the fairness of the tax code, and coincides with broader concerns about income inequality symbolized by the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Romney's campaign officials stressed that his tax rate is based mostly on income from investments that are held in a blind trust. Romney's holdings include an undisclosed amount in funds based in the Grand Cayman Islands and other overseas entities.

Romney advisers stressed that the holdings in the Caymans - along with those in a Swiss bank account that was closed in 2010 after an investment adviser decided it could be politically embarrassing to Romney - were reported on tax returns and were not vehicles to avoid taxes.

They also stressed that Romney, whose holdings are in three blind trusts, makes no decisions as to how his money is invested.

Regardless, the emerging picture was of a man of great means who contributes mightily to charity. The documents showed he and his wife contributed $7 million in charity over the two years, much of it going to his Mormon church. That represents more than 15 percent of the Romneys' income for those years.

Romney, whose estimated net worth is $190 million to $250 million, is among the wealthiest Americans ever to seek the presidency.

Top campaign officials and the director of Romney's blind trust, Brad Malt, briefed Reuters on the details ahead of a more general release of the information Tuesday morning.

Campaign counsel Ben Ginsberg, asked why Romney was not releasing tax records for the years in the 1980s and 1990s in which Romney made his fortune at private equity firm Bain Capital, said the two years covered by the tax returns should give a broad picture of Romney's financial situation.

"We're not going to get into the game of once you give them something, they demand more," Ginsberg said. "This is a fulsome release and we're proud of it."

The tax issue may have been a factor in Romney's loss to Gingrich in South Carolina. It became a distraction to Romney's campaign, and Romney's fuzzy answers on when and if he would release his records aggravated the problem.

First he said he might release them, or might not. When the questions kept coming, he said he would put them out in April, after his 2011 forms were completed. Only after he was defeated in South Carolina did his aides say he would release them this week. Gingrich has released his returns for 2010, but has not released an estimate for last year, as Romney did.

Long considered the front-runner for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, Romney was staggered by Gingrich's lopsided win in South Carolina, and is looking to regain enough momentum to defeat Gingrich in Florida, which votes on Jan. 31.

US snubs India on Leno skit, says comments satirical, constitutionally protected

Posted: 24 Jan 2012 06:15 AM PST

WASHINGTON: The United States on Monday snubbed India even before it could lodge a formal protest over the purported insult to Sikhs, saying comments made by the comedian Jay Leno in a skit briefly involving the Golden Temple appear to be satirical in nature and are constitutionally protected under free speech.

A State Department official emphasized at the same time that the US has "absolute respect for all the people of India, including Sikhs," and pointed out that President Obama was the first president ever to host a celebration in honor of Guru Nanak Dev in the White House. "And our view is, obviously, that Sikh Americans have contributed greatly to the United States," spokesperson Victoria Nuland added.

Nuland's comments came even before the Indian Embassy, at the prodding of Indian overseas affairs minister Vayalar Ravi, objected to a comedy skit in which Leno twitted wealthy presidential candidates for their lavish homes, topping it by showing the Golden Temple as Mitt Romney's vacation home. The skit mainly ridiculed Romney, who is being scrutinized for his immense wealth ahead of the Presidential election, and neither Sikhs nor their holy shrine appeared to be subjected to derision. Only a brief, second-long still photo of the Golden Temple was flashed on Leno's Tonight Show.

Ravi himself admitted he had not seen the skit, but was driven to comment on the matter by a journalist who conveyed to him the "outrage" in the Sikh community in the form of an online petition. But most Sikhs didn't watch the skit, didn't care, or simply took it in the satirical or comedic spirit in which it was made. Spoof and hyperbole is the lifeblood of late night comedy skits.

In fact, two major Sikh activist organizations -- United Sikhs and Sikh Coalition -- which have campaigned successfully for more sensitive treatment of Sikhs at US airports and their rights to bear religious articles, took no note of the purported offense. A turbaned Sikh was recently elected mayor of the historic city of Charlottesville. Some publicity-hungry campaigners in the US, including self-professed Hindu activists, routinely invoke religious sensitivity and outrage on behalf of their community to generate headlines.

Nuland barely hid US exasperation at the Indian government's hypersensitivity on the matter, while presenting Washington's fortitude in protecting Leno's right to free speech. "I think that Mr. Leno would be appreciative - I hope he'll be appreciative - if we make the point that his comments are constitutionally protected in the United States under free speech, and frankly, they appear to be satirical in nature," she said.

The US observation, obliquely critical of New Delhi's stand, comes at a time when liberal activists say the Indian government has abdicated its responsibility of protecting free speech at the Jaipur Literary Festival by buckling before communalists for electoral gains. In remarks to journalists in Washington, Ravi maintained that it was the responsibility of the government to maintain communal order and freedom of expression did not mean the right to hurt religious sentiments.

5 Ways to Double Your Hourly Rate

Posted: 24 Jan 2012 06:09 AM PST

What if I told you that there are proven methods for raising your rates that will boost your bank account and won't scare clients away?

It doesn't matter whether you're a consultant, coach, or freelancer--asking people to pay you more money for the same services can be a scary proposition. Most people are afraid that if they raise their rates, clients will run screaming out the door.

In reality, this mental block is the biggest barrier to raising your rates. Here are five ways to overcome it.

1. Showcase your value. An easy way to show that your work is worth more is to highlight the value you provide.

Revamp your portfolio. Ask some of your favorite clients for glowing testimonials. Create a video that showcases all of the work that goes into a typical project. Build a chart that compares how much money you saved for clients compared with how little you charged them. Make sure that your service offerings highlight the total value that you're providing and not just the price tag. Your price--no matter what it is--should look small in comparison to the value you provide.

Your rate is determined by the value you provide and the results you bring, not by how you feel about the price. Do a better job of proving your worth to prospective customers and they will gladly pay a higher price.

[See 5 Phrases That Will Get You a Higher Salary.]

2. Target better customers. There is no doubt that some of your customers are better than others. Certain jobs are a stretch for you while others hit your sweet spot.

Think about how you can hit that sweet spot more often. Odds are, there are certain clients who love you because you're exactly what they are looking for in a solution. You're the answer to their problems. What would it be like to work with clients like that all the time?

You can charge a higher price if you only work with your best clients because you're such a clear answer to their specific problem. The more specific of a problem you solve, the higher a price you can charge.

3. Raising rates is a part of business. If you're still scared to make the leap, schedule your rate increases at a set time. Raise them every three months or raise them after every 10 clients ... or set your own schedule.

Regardless, if you make rate raising a part of business, you take the emotion out of it. Raising your rates isn't a random event. I talked to one freelancer who has raised her rates 40 times over the years!

If you've worked with 10 more clients, your skills are better and you're more experienced. That means it's time to raise your rates.

[See 5 Ways to Become a Self-Made Millionaire.]

4. Switch to price tiers. If the thought of raising your rates still terrifies you, let your customers make the decision for you.

It's common knowledge that different people have different price points, and you can use this to your advantage by giving people a few options.

Instead of charging $300 per project, you could offer a basic package at $349, a premium package at $499, and an elite package at $799. You'll be surprised by how often clients opt for the higher priced services.

The real beauty of price tiers is that they shift the client's mindset from "Should I pay you at all?" to "What price should I pay you?"

And if you're wondering, three price tiers is usually best. When you offer more than three options, people tend to get overwhelmed.

[See 5 Ways to Earn Extra Income Online.]

5. Charge in chunks. Perhaps the easiest way to make more money per hour is to stop charging per hour.

One of the hardest parts about charging per hour is that you're always looking for the next project so you can bill for the next hour. This constant search takes a lot of time and reduces the amount you can get paid. You can overcome this by searching for bigger clients and taking their projects on in larger chunks of time.

For example, let's say you charge $40 an hour and you spend about 10 to 15 hours per week trying to find new clients. That means you can bill clients for about 30 hours per week, which comes out to $1,200 per week. Over the course of a month, you're making about $4,800.

What if you sold your services in one month blocks for $5,000? Not only would that boost your pay a bit, it would also result in an immediate increase in time because you wouldn't have to spend 10 to 15 hours every week trying to find the next client.

With the extra 40 to 60 hours per month, you could search for another major client (who could also pay you $5,000 per month) or spend more time with your kids.

No matter what strategy you choose, start charging more today. You'll be glad you did.

James Clear is the founder of, a website that teaches you how to earn more money, time, and freedom. Join Passive Panda's free newsletter for fresh ideas on earning more money.