Thursday, April 8, 2010

Netanyahu Cancels US Nuclear Trip

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu has canceled a visit to the US where he was to attend a summit on nuclear security, Israeli officials say.

Netanyahu made the decision after learning that Egypt and Turkey intended to raise the issue of Israel's presumed nuclear arsenal, media reports said. Obama is due to host dozens of world leaders at the two-day conference, which begins in Washington on Monday.

Israel has never confirmed or denied that it possesses atomic weapons.

"The prime minister has decided to cancel his trip to Washington to attend the nuclear conference next week, after learning that some countries including Egypt and Turkey plan to say Israel must sign the NPT," Reuters news agency quoted a senior Israeli official as saying.

Israel's Intelligence and Atomic Energy Minister Dan Meridor will take Netanyahu's place in the nuclear summit, Israeli radio said.

More than 40 countries are expected at the meeting, which will focus on limiting the spread of nuclear weapons to militant groups.

World Powers Mull Iran Sanctions

The UN ambassadors of six world powers have met in New York to discuss possible new sanctions against Iran over its disputed nuclear program.

China and Russia have so far refused to back the new measures put forward by the US and some European delegations. Arriving with his Russian counterpart, China's new ambassador Li Baodong said it was a "very important negotiation".

The fourth round of sanctions mainly target Iran's Revolutionary Guards, but not the country's oil and gas sector. Iran insists its uranium enrichment program is for peaceful purposes.

Rio Mudslide 'Buries 200'

Some 200 people are feared to have been buried by a landslide in Rio de Janeiro, following the heaviest rains in decades, Brazilian officials say. Mud came crashing down into a slum in Niteroi, across the bay from Rio, sweeping away at least 50 homes.

Rescuers are still searching for survivors of previous mudslides. The number of confirmed dead is 150 but is now expected to rise steeply.

Officials are to distribute thousands of aid packs with food and medicine.

Hundreds of people and rescuers rushed to find buried victims after the fresh mudslide hit Niteroi, one of the worst affected parts of the greater Rio de Janeiro area, late on Wednesday.

A nursery for children was among the 50 buried buildings, officials said.

Brazilian media initially said some 20 people had been pulled from the debris alive and that six had died - including five women and a child.

However, civil defense spokesman Pedro Machado later told the Globo news network that at least 200 people were feared buried in the landslide.

Snake Owner Faces Huge Bill As Pet Cobra Comes To An End

A venomous snake that escaped in Germany triggering an extensive three-week hunt has been found dead, leaving its young owner facing a huge bill. In their efforts to locate the snake, authorities stripped the owner's flat bare, ripping out walls and floorboards and evacuating the building.

The 12 in thick monocled cobra was eventually caught on double-sided sticky tape laid by the fire brigade. The 19-year-old owner now reportedly faces $125,000 in costs.

The snake escaped on 18 March from its reptile tank, or terrarium. After sealing the building and laying the sticky-tape trap, firefighters checked the building daily.

One of them spotted the snake on Thursday, lying on a piece of tape having apparently died of exhaustion. It is believed the snake may have emerged from its hiding place because of the warmer weather.

The owner's flat has been left uninhabitable, though other residents could return to the building, local media reports said.

"Everything has had a happy end," a spokesman for the town of Muelheim in western Germany said. "Not for the snake but for us."

US & China Hold Economic Talks

US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has held talks in Beijing with Vice-Premier Wang Qishan. Neither the US nor Chinese officials would comment in detail on the meeting.

But it is understood to be part of a long-running dispute over the value of the Chinese yuan, which the US says has been kept artificially low. The US is trying to persuade China to allow its currency to trade more freely on foreign exchange markets, and there are signs that this will happen.

"The two sides exchanged views on US-China economic relations, the global economic situation and issues relating to the upcoming economic track dialogue of the second US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue, to be held in Beijing in late May," the US Treasury Department said.

The department has confirmed that Mr Geithner departed Beijing after the 75-minute meeting and is flying back to Washington.

New Zealand denies US Controls Intel Base

A New Zealand government intelligence base is not "under US control or assisting military operations in Iraq", the country's spy chiefs say. The rare public statement comes after three activists were cleared of burglary and wilful damage last month after breaking into the base in 2008.

The activists claimed that the intelligence center in the country's South Island was under US control. The Waihopai Valley base contributes to "torture" and "war", activists said.

"The Waihopai station was not - and is not - being used to contribute to 'torture, war and the use of weapons of mass destruction'," the director of the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) Bruce Ferguson and his predecessor Bruce Tucker said in a statement.

"The claims that the Waihopai station is 'a United States spy base in our midst', contributing to ...'unspeakable evil' cannot be left unchallenged.

"It is totally operated and controlled by New Zealand, through the GCSB as an arm of the New Zealand government", they added.

Teacher Adrian Leason, Dominican friar Peter Murnane and farmer Sam Land deflated the Waihopai base's radar dome covers when they broke into the site in 2008, the news website reports.

The base undermines New Zealand government policy by helping military operations in Iraq, the activists claimed. Reports in the New Zealand media say that the Waihopai listening post is part of the US-led Echelon eavesdropping network.

The Waipohai site, in the Marlborough region on the northern tip of South Island, is a regular target for activists who want to have the base closed down.

Police: Potential Juror Shows Up Drunk

A prospective juror in suburban Detroit was dismissed after authorities said she was seen stumbling and downing vodka in the jury room, Detroit TV station WDIV reported. A court employee ordered a preliminary breath test on the 30-year-old St. Clair Shores woman after he noticed her stumbling in the lobby of the Macomb County Court Building in Mount Clemens, authorities said.

"We had a juror who had, perhaps, a little too much to drink," Chief Circuit Court Judge Mark Switalski said.

According to Switalski, the woman arrived at court Monday and spent the morning in the fifth floor jury assembly room. Switalski said the woman went into the lobby during the lunch break and asked a security officer if she could sit down. The officer said the woman then nearly fell onto his table and banged her body into a set of glass doors as she was escorted into an office.

Witnesses told court officials the woman had been drinking from a water bottle in her purse. Court officials said they later found a vodka bottle in the jury room where the woman had been sitting. Switalski said the woman's blood-alcohol level registered above 0.40 and she was taken by ambulance to an area hospital.

The woman could now face contempt of court charges.

FBI: Smoker Caused Scare On United Flight

A law enforcement official said an incident aboard a Washington to Denver flight Wednesday night appears to have been a misunderstanding after the man was confronted trying to sneak a smoke in the bathroom.

The FBI was probing whether the man, identified as Mohammed al-Modadi, a diplomat in the Qatar embassy in Washington, tried to ignite his shoes on a flight, according to law enforcement officials said.

An official said an air marshal on the flight apparently restrained al-Modadi. Officials said fighter jets were scrambled but proved unnecessary, as the plane landed safely in Denver with no injuries to passengers.

Transportation Security Administration spokeswoman Kristin Lee said al-Modadi is being interviewed by law enforcement officials in Denver.

Unlike the Christmas Day bomb attempt on an Detroit-bound airliner, officials say it is not immediately clear what the man was trying to do - something harmful like start a fire or explosion, or something as innocent as smoke a cigarette.

A media hot line at Denver International Airport says the United Flight 663 from Washington to Denver was met by FBI and TSA officials around 7 p.m. MDT.

Deputies: Horse Killed With Pool Acid

Two New River residents were arrested on animal cruelty charges after authorities found a horse killed by a pool acid injection and another starving to death, Phoenix TV station KPHO reported. Laurel George and John Henkle, both 54, were booked into jail Tuesday on multiple charges of felony animal cruelty, misdemeanor animal cruelty and animal cruelty that caused protracted suffering.

Maricopa County Sheriff's Office animal crimes detectives said an examination determined a 26-year-old Arabian mare was killed in early March with a homemade injection of pool acid and sodium bicarbonate.

Detectives believe Henkle carried out the killing, which probably caused the horse "extreme distress and pain," the sheriff's office said.

A 15-year-old male horse was found alive but very thin. The horse was suffering from extreme malnutrition and starvation, the sheriff's office said. The second horse was taken to an animal safe haven unit, where it will be cared for by sheriff's inmates and ultimately put up for adoption.

HP Shows 'Memory of the Future'

The fundamental building blocks of all computing devices could be about to undergo a dramatic change that would allow faster, more efficient machines. Researchers at computer firm Hewlett Packard have shown off working devices built using memristors - often described as electronics' missing link.

These tiny devices were proposed 40 years ago but only fabricated in 2008. HP says it has now shown that they can be used to crunch data, meaning they could be used to build advanced chips.

That means they could begin to replace transistors - the tiny switches used to build today's chips.

And, crucially, the unique properties of memristors would allow future chips to both store and process data in the same device. Today, these functions are done on separate devices, meaning data must be transferred between the two, slowing down the computation and wasting energy.

"The processor and memory could be exactly the same thing," Professor Stan Williams of HP told BBC News. "That allows us to think differently about how computation could be done."

Professor Leon Chua - the first person to propose memristors - said the work was "conceptually, just the tip of the iceberg".

He compared the devices to the human brain's synapses and axons.

"In the near future we can use memristors to make real brain-like computers, he said.

Researchers at the University of Michigan recently showed that the devices can mimic synaptic activity in the brain.

The HP work is published in the journal Nature.

BBC; World; Reuters; AP; Globol News Network; Spiegel; Wall Street Journal; WDIV-TV, Detroit; Sky News; KPHO-TV, Phoenix; Nature.

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