Thursday, April 17, 2008

Study says 300,000 US troops suffer mental problems

By David Morgan

WASHINGTON, April 17 (Reuters) - About 300,000 U.S. troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan suffer symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder or depression, but about half receive no care, an independent study said on Thursday.

The study by the RAND Corp. also estimated that another 320,000 troops have sustained a possible traumatic brain injury during deployment. But researchers could not say how many of those cases were serious or required treatment.

Billed as the first large-scale nongovernmental survey of its kind, the study found that stress disorder and depression afflict 18.5 percent of the more than 1.5 million U.S. forces who have deployed to the two war zones.

The numbers are roughly in line with previous studies. A February assessment by the U.S. Army that showed 17.9 percent of U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan suffering from acute stress, depression or anxiety in 2007, down from 19.1 percent in 2006.

But the 500-page RAND study, based in part on interviews with more than 1,900 soldiers, sailors and Marines, also said that only half of troops suffering debilities receive care. And in half of those cases, the care is only minimally adequate.

"There is a major health crisis facing those men and women who have served our nation in Iraq and Afghanistan," said Terri Tanielian, a RAND researcher who helped head the study.

"Unless they receive appropriate and effective care for these mental health conditions, there will be long-term consequences for them and for the nation."


The study said many service members do not seek treatment because they fear the stigma associated with psychological problems could harm their careers.

Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, can result from wartime trauma such as suffering wounds or witnessing others being hurt. Symptoms include irritability or outbursts of anger, sleep difficulties, trouble concentrating, extreme vigilance and an exaggerated startle response.

RAND recommended that the Pentagon create a way for service members to receive mental health service confidentially and monitor the quality of care.

Army Col. Loree Sutton, director of the U.S. Defense Center of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury, welcomed the study.

She was concerned at the finding that only about half of those who sought help received "minimally adequate" treatment and said it would spur the military to try harder to recruit more mental health specialists.

The Army wants to hire 275 civilian mental health professionals but a tight labor market and difficulties getting civilians into war zones has slowed the effort, officials say.

RAND, a private research organization, estimated that stress and depression among returning soldiers cost $6.2 billion in the two years following deployment, mainly due to lost productivity, medical costs and a higher risk of suicide. (Additional reporting by Andrew Gray; Editing by Alan Elsner and Will Dunham)

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Suicide bomber kills 50 at Iraq funeral

By Dean Yates

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - A suicide bomber struck a funeral in northern Iraq on Thursday, killing 50 mourners and wounding 55 in an attack that suggests militants have launched a new campaign of violence in the north.

Survivors said the funeral had been for two members of a U.S.-backed neighborhood security unit who were killed on Wednesday. Blame is likely to fall on the Sunni Islamist al Qaeda, which has vowed to target the neighborhood units because they work with U.S. forces.

The attack was one of the deadliest in Iraq for months and underscored the ability of militants to wreak havoc despite an overall fall in violence that has prompted the United States to start withdrawing troops from Iraq.

Police said the bomber detonated a suicide vest after entering the funeral tent in a Sunni Arab village near the town of Adhaim in Diyala province. They put the final death toll at 50.

"Suddenly a fireball filled the funeral tent. I fell to the ground. I saw bodies scattered everywhere," said mourner Ali Khalaf, who was taken to a hospital in the nearby town of Tuz Khurmato to have wounds treated.

Outside a hospital in the northern city of Kirkuk, to which pickup trucks took many of the bodies, frantic relatives gathered to look for loves ones. Several women wearing black robes sat on the ground, wailing.

Northern Iraq has seen an upsurge in bombings this week, including one that killed 40 people in the town of Baquba, capital of Diyala, on Tuesday.

The U.S.-backed neighborhood security units, called "Concerned Local Citizens" by the U.S. military, have been credited with helping to bring down violence in Iraq.

Around 90,000 men, mainly Sunni Arabs and including some former Sunni Arab insurgents who have turned against al Qaeda, have been recruited. They largely man checkpoints and provide intelligence tips to the U.S. military.

In northern Baghdad, police sources said a roadside bomb killed four of the neighborhood guards and two civilians. Gunmen also killed another guard in the city's south.

U.S. and Iraqi authorities say al Qaeda militants have moved into northern provinces after being pushed out of the westerly Anbar province, their former stronghold, and also Baghdad.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, in a speech in Brussels on Wednesday, said Iraq was "near to announcing victory over the terrorist organization al Qaeda".

But U.S. commanders say that while al Qaeda has been significantly weakened, it can still carry out big attacks.


In Baghdad, fighting has been dominated by weeks of clashes between gunmen and security forces in the Shi'ite slum of Sadr City, stronghold of the anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. Fresh battles erupted overnight, officials said.

U.S. military spokesman Major Mark Cheadle said five gunmen had been killed in the early hours of Thursday in three separate incidents, including an air strike.

Hospitals in Sadr City said they had received nine bodies and 36 wounded after clashes and air strikes.

Most U.S. troops in Iraq are deployed in Sunni Arab areas, which have become quieter in the past year after a "surge" in U.S. forces. But troop levels are being cut. By July, 20,000 U.S. soldiers will have left Iraq, bringing numbers to 140,000.

Al Qaeda militants are frequently blamed for attacks on funerals, which are often held with little security. The group also has a history of striking with car bombs near government targets and civilian crowds.

While the U.S. military says security has improved in the north, the strikes this week have been a reminder of the instability there at a time when attention has been focused on fighting in southern Shi'ite areas that erupted late last month.

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Surviving son denied health benefits post-Iraq

FRESNO, Calif. - Forced to leave the combat zone after his two brothers died in the Iraq war, Army Spc. Jason Hubbard faced another battle once he returned home: The military cut off his family's health care, stopped his G.I. educational subsidies and wanted him to repay his sign-up bonus.

It wasn't until Hubbard petitioned his local congressman that he was able to restore some of his benefits.

Now that congressman, Rep. Devin Nunes, plans to join three other lawmakers in introducing a bill that would ensure basic benefits to all soldiers who are discharged under an Army policy governing sole surviving siblings and children of soldiers killed in combat. The rule is a holdover from World War II meant to protect the rights of service people who have lost a family member to war.

"I felt as if in some ways I was being punished for leaving even though it was under these difficult circumstances," Hubbard told The Associated Press. "The situation that happened to me is not a one-time thing. It's going to happen to other people, and to have a law in place is going to ease their tragedy in some way."

Pair enlisted after brother's death
Hubbard, 33, and his youngest brother, Nathan, enlisted while they were still grieving for their brother, Marine Lance Cpl. Jared Hubbard, who was 22 when he was killed in a 2004 bomb explosion in Ramadi.

At their request, the pair were assigned to the same unit, the 3rd Brigade of the 25th Infantry Division in Hawaii, and deployed to Iraq the next year.

In August, 21-year-old Cpl. Nathan died when his Black Hawk helicopter crashed near Kirkuk. Jason was part of the team assigned to remove his comrades' bodies from the wreckage.

Hubbard accompanied his little brother's body on a military aircraft to Kuwait, then on to California. He kept steady during Nathan's burial at Clovis Cemetery, standing in dress uniform between his younger brothers' graves as hundreds sobbed in the heat.

But Hubbard broke his silence when he found his wife, pregnant with their second child, had been cut off from the transitional health care the family needed to ease back to civilian life after he was discharged in October.

"This is a man who asked for nothing and gave a lot," said Nunes, R-Calif., who represents Hubbard's hometown of Clovis, a city of 90,000 next to Fresno. "Jason is one person who obviously has suffered tremendously and has given the ultimate sacrifice. One person is too many to have this happen to."

Hubbard went to Nunes, who began advocating for the former soldier in December, after hearing the Army was demanding that he repay $6,000 from his enlistment bonus and was denying him up to $40,000 in educational benefits under the GI bill.

After speaking with Army Secretary Pete Geren, Nunes got the repayment waived, and a military health policy restored for Hubbard's wife.

But the policy mandated that she be treated at a nearby base, and doctors at the Lemoore Naval Air Station warned that the 45-mile trip could put her and the fetus in danger. Hubbard said doctors offered alternative treatment at a hospital five hours away.

Meanwhile, Hubbard and his 2-year-old son went without any coverage for a few months.

The Hubbard Act, scheduled to be introduced Wednesday, would for the first time detail the rights of sole survivors, and extend to them a number of benefits already offered to other soldiers honorably discharged from military service.

Legislative action
The bill — co-sponsored by Rep. Jim Costa, D-Calif., Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga. — would waive payback of their enlistment bonuses, allow them to participate in G.I. educational programs, give them separation pay and access to transitional health care.

Meanwhile, Hubbard, his wife Linnea and his son Elijah, have permanent health coverage now that he is once again working as a Fresno County sheriff's deputy, the job he left in 2004 to serve in Iraq.

The Army will adopt to any changes in policy springing from the legislation, said Army spokesman Maj. Nathan Banks.

"Foremost the Army itself sympathizes with him for the loss of his brothers," Banks said. "We will do everything within our means to rectify this issue. He is still one of ours."

Hubbard's father, Jeff, said that resolving the family's bureaucratic difficulties would provide some comfort, but would not help lessen their pain.

"We're still very much deeply involved in a grieving process. We're pretty whacked," he said. "This doesn't relate back to the loss of our boys, it can't, but we would consider it a positive accomplishment."

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Report reveals Iran seized British sailors in disputed waters

Fifteen British sailors and Marines were seized by Iran in internationally disputed waters and not in Iraq’s maritime territory as Parliament was told, according to new official documents released to The Times.

The Britons were seized because the US-led coalition designated a sea boundary for Iran’s territorial waters without telling the Iranians where it was, internal Ministry of Defence briefing papers reveal.

Documents released under the Freedom of Information Act detail for the first time the blunders last spring that led to what an all-party committee of MPs came to describe as a “national embarrassment”.

The captured 14 men and one woman were paraded on Iranian TV for a fortnight before being freed a year ago by a smiling President Ahmadinejad, who gave them new suits and bags of presents.

Newly released Ministry of Defence documents state that:

— The arrests took place in waters that are not internationally agreed as Iraqi;

— The coalition unilaterally designated a dividing line between Iraqi and Iranian waters in the Gulf without telling Iran where it was;

— The Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ coastal protection vessels were crossing this invisible line at a rate of three times a week; It was the British who apparently raised their weapons first before the Iranian gunboats came alongside;

— The cornered British, surrounded by heavily armed Iranians, made a hopeless last-minute radio plea for a helicopter to come back and provide air cover.

Iran always claimed that it had arrested the Britons for violating its territorial integrity.

Des Browne, the Defence Secretary, repeatedly told the Commons that the personnel were seized in Iraqi waters.

The MoD, in a televised briefing by Vice-Admiral Charles Style, the Deputy Chief of the Defence Staff, produced a map showing a line in the sea called “Iraq/Iran Territorial Water Boundary”. A location was given for the capture of the Britons inside what the chart said were “Iraq territorial waters”. But the newly released top-level internal briefing accepts that no such border exists.

The report, addressed to Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, the Chief of the Defence Staff, blames the incident on the absence of an agreed boundary and a failure to coordinate between Iraq, Iran and the coalition.

Under the heading “Why the incident occurred”, the report examines the history of a border that has been disputed since a treaty between the Persian and Ottoman empires in 1639.

Professor Robert Springborg, of the School of Oriental and African Studies, said yesterday that it was negligent to fail to clarify with the Iranians where the notional boundary was.

Using the Freedom of Information Act, The Times made requests about the events. The MoD released two documents, although parts are censored. One is the report to Sir Jock dated April 13, 2007, a week after the Britons returned home unharmed. It was compiled after they had been debriefed. The other is the communications log between the mother ship HMS Cornwall and the two seaboats used by the boarding party.

What they said

“There is no doubt that HMS Cornwall was operating in Iraqi waters and that the incident itself took place in Iraqi waters . . . In the early days the Iranians provided us with a set of coordinates, and asserted that was where the event took place, but when we told them the coordinates were in Iraqi waters they changed that set and found one in their own waters. I do not think that even they sustain the position that the incident took place anywhere other than in Iraqi waters”

Des Browne, Defence Secretary, House of Commons, June 16, 2007

“Since the outset of the Iraq-Iran War there has been no formal ratified TTW [territorial waters] agreement in force between Iraq and Iran . . . In the absence of any formal agreement, the coalition tactical demarcation (the Op Line) is used as a notional TTW boundary. It is a US NAVCENT [US Naval Forces Central Command] construct based on an extension of the Algiers accord demarcation line beyond the mouth of the Shatt al-Arab [waterway] into the NAG [northern Arabian Gulf]. While it may be assumed that the Iranians must be aware of some form of operational boundary, the exact coordinates to the Op Line have not been published to Iran.”

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Consumer groups urge "do not track" registry


By Diane Bartz

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Two consumer groups asked the Federal Trade Commission on Tuesday to create a "do not track list" that would allow computer users to bar advertisers from collecting information about them.

The Consumer Federation of America and the Consumers Union also urged the FTC to bar collection of health information and other sensitive data by companies that do business on the Internet unless a consumer consents.

The call echoed those of other privacy advocates who filed statements with the FTC on Internet companies' use of "behavioral advertising." That is the practice of tracking a computer user's activities online, including Web searches and sites visited, to target advertisements to the individual consumer.

In December, the FTC approved Google's purchase of advertising rival DoubleClick over the objections of some privacy groups.

At the same time, the agency urged advertisers to let computer users bar advertisers from collecting information on them, to provide "reasonable security" for any data and to collect data on health conditions or other sensitive issues only with the consumer's express consent.

In comments to the FTC on online behavioral advertising, advertisers made clear a strong preference for self-regulation rather than government dictates on how personal data are collected, what disclosures are made to computer users and how long the information is stored.

Consumer groups said on Tuesday they were skeptical of self-regulation.

"Self-policing schemes are not enough to protect consumers' privacy and offer no enforcement against improper behavior," said Chris Murray, senior counsel for Consumers Union, in a statement.

"While companies like Google are trying to put pretty good practices in place, we don't want to rely on the good graces of the companies because they might change their minds," he told Reuters in a telephone interview.

Several child advocacy groups, including the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and American Academy of Pediatrics, urged the FTC to bar advertisers from collecting information on or advertising to anyone under the age of 18.

Several advertisers also questioned whether the FTC and privacy groups had established that any harm had been done by the data collected and pointed out that the advertisers subsidized the free information often sought on the Internet.

"The associations (of businesses and advertisers) strongly believe that self-regulation and leading business practices comprise the most effective framework to protect consumers and further innovation in the area of privacy and behavioral advertising," the American Advertising Federation, Association of National Advertisers and other organizations said in a statement.

"We believe that any additional principles or guidelines should be issued only after the commission specifically identifies harms and concerns so that business is in a position to consider and address them," the group said in its comments to the FTC.

(Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Gary Hill)

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Wall Street Winners Get Billion-Dollar Paydays

Chip East/Reuters

John Paulson of Paulson & Company earned $3.7 billion.

Hedge fund managers, those masters of a secretive, sometimes volatile financial universe, are making money on a scale that once seemed unimaginable, even in Wall Street’s rarefied realms.

One manager, John Paulson, made $3.7 billion last year. He reaped that bounty, probably the richest in Wall Street history, by betting against certain mortgages and complex financial products that held them.

Mr. Paulson, the founder of Paulson & Company, was not the only big winner. The hedge fund managers James H. Simons and George Soros each earned almost $3 billion last year, according to an annual ranking of top hedge fund earners by Institutional Investor’s Alpha magazine, which comes out Wednesday.

Hedge fund managers have redefined notions of wealth in recent years. And the richest among them are redefining those notions once again.

Their unprecedented and growing affluence underscores the gaping inequality between the millions of Americans facing stagnating wages and rising home foreclosures and an agile financial elite that seems to thrive in good times and bad. Such profits may also prompt more calls for regulation of the industry.

Even on Wall Street, where money is the ultimate measure of success, the size of the winnings makes some uneasy. “There is nothing wrong with it — it’s not illegal,” said William H. Gross, the chief investment officer of the bond fund Pimco. “But it’s ugly.”

The richest hedge fund managers keep getting richer — fast. To make it into the top 25 of Alpha’s list, the industry standard for hedge fund pay, a manager needed to earn at least $360 million last year, more than 18 times the amount in 2002. The median American family, by contrast, earned $60,500 last year.

Combined, the top 50 hedge fund managers last year earned $29 billion. That figure represents the managers’ own pay and excludes the compensation of their employees. Five of the top 10, including Mr. Simons and Mr. Soros, were also at the top of the list for 2006. To compile its ranking, Alpha examined the funds’ returns and the fees that they charge investors, and then calculated the managers’ pay.

Top hedge fund managers made money in many ways last year, from investing in overseas stock markets to betting that prices of commodities like oil, wheat and copper would rise. Some, like Mr. Paulson, profited handsomely from the turmoil in the mortgage market ripping through the economy.

As early as 2005, Mr. Paulson began betting that complex mortgage investments known as collateralized debt obligations would decline in value, much as Wall Street traders bet that shares will drop in price. In that case, known as shorting, they borrow shares and sell them, wait for the price to fall, buy the shares back at a lower price and return them, pocketing the profit.

Then, over the next two years, Mr. Paulson established two funds to focus on the credit markets. One of those funds returned 590 percent last year, and the other handed back 353 percent, according to Alpha. By the end of 2007, Mr. Paulson sat atop $28 billion in assets, up from $6 billion 12 months earlier.

Mr. Soros, one of the world’s most successful speculators and richest men, leapt out of retirement last summer as the market turmoil spread — and he won big. He made $2.9 billion for the year, when his flagship Quantum fund returned almost 32 percent, according to Alpha. Mr. Simon, a mathematician and former Defense Department code breaker who uses complex computer models to trade, earned $2.8 billion. His flagship Medallion fund returned 73 percent.

Like Mr. Paulson, Philip Falcone, who founded Harbinger Partners with $25 million in June 2001, cast a winning bet against the mortgage market. He pulled in returns of 117 percent after fees in 2007 and made $1.7 billion. The trade thrust him from relative obscurity to hedge fund heavyweight: he now manages $18 billion. Harbinger recently won agreement from The New York Times Company to add two members to its board.

Hedge fund managers share their success with their investors, which include wealthy individuals, pension funds and university endowments. They typically charge annual fees equal to 2 percent of their assets under management, and take a 20 percent cut of any profits.

With a combined $2 trillion under management, the hedge fund industry is coming off its richest year ever — a feat all the more remarkable given the billions of dollars of losses suffered by major Wall Street banks.

In recent months, however, scores of hedge funds have quietly died or spectacularly imploded, wracked by bad investments, excess borrowing or leverage, and client redemptions — or a combination of those events.

“To some degree it’s a very gigantic version of Las Vegas,” said Gary Burtless, an economist at the Brookings Institution.

As Alpha’s list shows, managers who reap big gains one year can lose the next.

Edward Lampert, the founder of ESL Investments and a member of the 2007 Alpha list, was absent this year. His fund fell 27 percent last year, according to Alpha. About 60 percent of ESL’s equity portfolio is invested in Sears, whose shares plunged 40 percent last year. ESL is also a major holder of Citigroup, whose abysmal performance matched that of Sears.

A manager who ranked high in the 2007 list and fell off in 2008 was James Pallotta of the Tudor Investment Corporation, who was 17th last year and earned $300 million. Mr. Pallotta’s $5.7 billion Raptor Global Fund fell almost 8 percent last year, according to Alpha.

A few who did not make the cut still made buckets of money. Bruce Kovner of Caxton Associates and Barry Rosenstein at Jana Partners didn’t make the top 50. But Mr. Kovner earned $100 million, and Mr. Rothstein earned $170 million, according to Alpha. Spokesmen for the hedge fund managers either declined to comment on Tuesday or could not be reached.

Since 1913, the United States witnessed only one other year of such unequal wealth distribution — 1928, the year before the stock market crashed, according to Jared Bernstein, a senior fellow at the Economic Policy Institute in Washington. Such inequality is likely to impede an economic recovery, he said.

“For a recovery to be robust and sustainable you can’t just have consumer demand at Nordstrom,” he said. “You need it at the little shop on the corner, too.”

Despite the explosive growth of the industry — about 10,000 hedge funds operate worldwide — it is relatively lightly regulated. On Tuesday, two panels appointed by Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. advised hedge funds to adopt guidelines to increase disclosure and risk management.

And Mr. Gross, the fund manager, warned that the widening divide among the richest and everyone else is cause for worry.

“Like at the end of the Gilded Age and the Roaring Twenties, we are going the other way,” Mr. Gross said. “We are clearly in a period of excess, and we have to swing back to the middle or the center cannot hold."

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Citigroup's Market Value Drops Below Apple's Amid Credit Crisis

By Connie Guglielmo and Bradley Keoun

April 12 (Bloomberg) -- At the end of 2006, Citigroup Inc. was the fourth-largest company in the Standard & Poor's 500 Index, with a market value of $274 billion, almost four times that of Apple Inc. Now investors say the maker of iPods is worth $7.7 billion more than the biggest financial services provider.

Citigroup, reeling from the collapse of the subprime mortgage market, has lost 13 percent in value since reporting the biggest quarterly loss in its 196-year history in January. That followed a 47 percent drop last year. Even after a 26 percent decline in its own shares this year, Apple has a market value of $129.3 billion to Citigroup's $121.6 billion.

The shrinking of Citigroup underscores the devastation that has rocked the financial industry, highlighted by the Federal Reserve-managed takeover of Bear Stearns & Co. last month. Apple, on the verge of bankruptcy 10 years ago, has emerged as a technology star under Chief Executive Officer Steve Jobs. Its shares more than doubled last year.

``The market looks at what Steve Jobs has done and what he's likely to do,'' said Michael Holland, who oversees more than $4 billion as chairman of Holland & Co. in New York. ``The market is valuing that far more than the financial assets of Citigroup.''

Holland sold his Citigroup shares a year and a half ago because he felt the ``prospects were pretty lousy'' and instead bought JPMorgan Chase & Co. shares. He also holds Apple and Google Inc., owner of the most popular Internet search engine.

``While we don't comment on our stock price, Citi remains focused on serving customers and implementing the priorities Vikram Pandit has developed, including better managing the firm's capital resources and risk management for improved profitability, stability and future growth,'' spokesman Michael Hanretta said.

Apple declined to comment, spokesman Steve Dowling said.

Subprime Writedowns

New York-based Citigroup, whose market value dipped below $100 billion on March 17 for the first time since 1998, now ranks 19th globally by that measure. Among the other companies that have overtaken it in the last quarter are International Business Machines Corp., Coca-Cola Co. and JPMorgan.

Citigroup fell 35 cents to $23.36 yesterday in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. Apple fell $7.41 to $147.14 on the Nasdaq Stock Market.

Of 29 analysts tracked by Bloomberg, 26 recommend investors buy Apple shares, two suggest holding and one says sell. Seven analysts recommend investors buy Citigroup's shares, five say hold and six suggest selling.

Citigroup, the biggest bank by assets since the merger of Citicorp and Travelers Group Inc. in 1998, took $24 billion in subprime writedowns and reduced its dividend 41 percent in January, the first cut since Citigroup was formed.

Pandit Takes Over

CEO Charles O. ``Chuck'' Prince stepped down in November and was replaced by Vikram Pandit, who has eliminated about 6,000 jobs and plans more cuts. The bank may be poised to dispose of more than $200 billion of loans and securities to shore up its capital, a person with knowledge of the plans said last month.

``Citigroup got itself into a really big mess,'' said Richard Sylla, a financial historian and professor of economics at New York University. ``Apple is an innovative company, having come up with iPods and iPhones, and they seem to have a lot of promise for the future.''

The slump in market capitalization puts Citigroup behind technology companies that themselves slid this year, including Google and Cisco Systems Inc., according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Bank of America Corp. passed Citigroup last year. Bank of America now ranks ninth and JPMorgan is 11th.

IPod Players

Citigroup also ranks below Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Procter & Gamble Co., Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer Inc. -- so it trails the world's largest retailer, the top U.S. consumer-goods producer, the largest health-products maker and the biggest drugmaker even as slowing consumer spending weighs on the U.S. economy.

Apple's Jobs relied on iPod music players, the Web-surfing iPhone handset and Macintosh computers to drive profit to more than $3 billion last year for the first time in the Cupertino, California-based company's 32-year history. Sales may rise 31 percent to almost $31.5 billion this year, according to the average of 23 estimates in a Bloomberg survey.

Citigroup had a record loss of $9.83 billion in the fourth quarter and may post another loss when it reports first-quarter financial results next week, said Ed Maran, who helps manage about $10 billion at Thornburg Investment Management in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

May Bounce Back

Citigroup shares may bounce back, Maran said. At its current valuation, Citigroup is ``extremely attractive'' he said, because the company seems poised to reap the benefits of efforts in emerging market lending, wealth management, brokerage and even consumer lending in the U.S., which he says may have better long-term prospects than it seems today.

``The market is completely ignoring the earnings power of Citigroup and is completely focused on the balance sheet damage they have incurred,'' said William Fitzpatrick, an equity analyst at Optique Capital Management in Racine, Wisconsin, which owns Citigroup. He says this is a buying opportunity. ``This franchise has tremendous value, particularly from a global perspective.''

Citigroup's prospects in international banking convinced historian Sylla to buy the shares a few months ago. He said he may add to his holdings if the shares decline further.

``Once they get some infusions of capital, then life will go on again and Citigroup will come back,'' Sylla said. In the meantime, ``there's an opportunity for bottom feeding.''

To contact the reporters on this story: Connie Guglielmo in San Francisco at; Bradley Keoun in New York at

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Feds to collect DNA from every person they arrest

A strand of DNA is seen in an undated handout image. REUTERS/National Institutes of Health/Handout
Reuters Photo: A strand of DNA is seen in an undated handout image. REUTERS/National Institutes of Health/Handout

WASHINGTON - The government plans to begin collecting DNA samples from anyone arrested by a federal law enforcement agency — a move intended to prevent violent crime but which also is raising concerns about the privacy of innocent people.

Using authority granted by Congress, the government also plans to collect DNA samples from foreigners who are detained, whether they have been charged or not. The DNA would be collected through a cheek swab, Justice Department spokesman Erik Ablin said Wednesday. That would be a departure from current practice, which limits DNA collection to convicted felons.

Expanding the DNA database, known as CODIS, raises civil liberties questions about the potential for misuse of such personal information, such as family ties and genetic conditions.

Ablin said the DNA collection would be subject to the same privacy laws applied to current DNA sampling. That means none of it would be used for identifying genetic traits, diseases or disorders.

Congress gave the Justice Department the authority to expand DNA collection in two different laws passed in 2005 and 2006.

There are dozens of federal law enforcement agencies, ranging from the FBI to the Library of Congress Police. The federal government estimates it makes about 140,000 arrests each year.

Justice officials estimate the new collecting requirements would add DNA from an additional 1.2 million people to the database each year.

Those who support the expanded collection believe that DNA sampling could get violent criminals off the streets and prevent them from committing more crimes.

A Chicago study in 2005 found that 53 murders and rapes could have been prevented if a DNA sample had been collected upon arrest.

"Many innocent lives could have been saved had the government began this kind of DNA sampling in the 1990s when the technology to do so first became available," Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., said. Kyl sponsored the 2005 law that gave the Justice Department this authority.

Thirteen states have similar laws: Alaska, Arizona, California, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.

The new regulation would mean that the federal government could store DNA samples of people who are not guilty of any crime, said Jesselyn McCurdy, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union.

"Now innocent people's DNA will be put into this huge CODIS database, and it will be very difficult for them to get it out if they are not charged or convicted of a crime," McCurdy said.

If a person is arrested but not convicted, he or she can ask the Justice Department to destroy the sample.

The Homeland Security Department — the federal agency charged with policing immigration — supports the new rule.

"DNA is a proven law-enforcement tool," DHS spokesman Russ Knocke said.

The rule would not allow for DNA samples to be collected from immigrants who are legally in the United States or those being processed for admission, unless the person was arrested.

The proposed rule is being published in the Federal Register. That will be followed by a 30-day comment period.

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Minnesota teen helps dozens escape fiery Congo plane crash

Thomas Rippe, Associated Press

Marybeth Mosier, right, an American missionary, with her daughter April, holds her 3-year-old adopted son Andrew whose leg was broken during the plane crash, in a hospital in Goma, Congo on Wednesday.

The daughter of Minnesota missionaries in Tanzania found a way to get off a burning jetliner. Her quick thinking worked.

Inside the shattered Congolese airliner, 14-year-old April Mosier raced away from where flames were swelling, a surging throng of human panic close behind.

She came upon a crack toward the right front of the fuselage, too small even for her 4-foot-9, 96-pound frame to wriggle through.

A man stood next to her. Both feared for their lives.

"Let's open this crack; otherwise we're going to die," April said to him in Swahili.

The two clawed at the opening long enough to create an escape route that April, her parents and her injured little brother, along with dozens of others, used to flee the deadly wreckage.

April, her parents, Barry and Marybeth Mosier, and her 3-year-old brother, Andrew, all survived Tuesday's crash in Congo of the privately operated DC-9. The Seventh-Day Adventist missionary family from Dodge Center, in southeastern Minnesota, were on their way from nearby Tanzania to see their oldest son, Keith, a missionary in Congo.

The jet failed to lift off in the eastern town of Goma, rammed through an airport fence and into a bustling market area, then caught fire. The casualties included some of the 80 or so on the plane and others on the ground.

"We tore the crack open with our hands," April said Wednesday evening in a telephone interview from a private residence in Goma, where the family is resting. And while "I felt rushed because of the fire [and] people ... pushing to get out," April said she remained calm.

April, who along with her family moved from Dodge Center to Tanzania in 2000, said, "I was just trying to help myself live. ... I didn't know it was going to be one of the main ways for people to get out."

Including her parents and Andrew.

"It was big enough for us to get out quite easily," said Barry Mosier, 53, who along with his son and his 51-year-old wife fled through the hole that April and the man widened. "I think most of the people got out of that hole."

Pinned inside the plane

Mosier said "the mass of humanity kept pushing" to get out and had Andrew pinned in the plane. "We pulled him up out of there, but that's probably where he broke his leg."

Once away from the burning airliner, April scrambled to find her parents and Andrew, adopted in Tanzania by the Mosiers when he was 8 days old. Barry and Marybeth, their eyeglasses lost, were just as frantic about locating their daughter.

"Somehow, we missed each other," Barry said. "The plane landed on top of the market, the people you are seeing are smashed or burning. ... I didn't want to leave without my daughter, but we needed to go."

Once on the road to a hospital in a police vehicle, he said he heard "several major explosions" from the scene about five minutes later.

Nearly 30 minutes after the crash, April and her parents were reunited at the hospital, she having been spirited there by police.

"When we saw each other, she just burst into tears," Barry said. "My daughter thought we were dead. ... We couldn't believe that the four of us from one family were walking away alive."

Waiting and praying

At the plane's destination, nearly 350 miles to the northwest in Kisangani, Keith Mosier waited for, then prayed and wept when the plane failed to arrive Tuesday afternoon.

After being told of the crash, "I started crying immediately, but I still had to ... make some calls to find out" what happened, Keith 25, said in an e-mail to his friends and to supporters of his family's mission work.

"After several phone calls, a lot of prayer and a lot of tears, I decided to go home, realizing that there was nothing I could do."

But before leaving, Keith said, he knelt under the hot sun and prayed aloud at the edge of an open field next to a parking lot.

Once home, he spoke with a pastor who was in contact with Barry Mosier and had good news: "My family was all safe. I can't express the joy I felt at that moment, knowing that God had spared their lives and that I would see them again."

In a later e-mail to the Star Tribune, Keith said he spoke by telephone with his family and learned that "they lost everything they had except the clothes on their backs ... ."

"But the thing [April] said she missed the most was the travel Bible I gave her for her birthday last year."

While grateful for his daughter's poise, Barry was not surprised. "She's an action girl," he said. "She makes things happen and moves very quickly."

The Mosiers, members of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church in Dodge Center, also credit their good fortune to "people at home praying for us," said Barry, who eight years ago left behind a 20-year career as an accountant for the mission work in Tanzania.

"We know that's the reason we are alive. ... We know God has more work for us to do here."

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482

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1 Year After Rampage, Va. Tech Remembers

(CBS/AP) Candle flames flickered at dusk as some 30,000 people gathered at Virginia Tech's campus for a vigil to remember those killed by a gunman in the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

Students representing each of the 32 killed one year ago lit their candles from one burning since midnight when another event on the same field began a day of grieving for the victims.

As the vigil ended, "Let's go," was screamed at one end of the field. "Hokies" was the reply from the other end in what became a growing participatory chant.

Earlier, a sea of people clad in maroon and orange, some with heads tearfully bowed, others with arms interlocked, paid tribute to the victims who died a year ago.

"We remain deeply and profoundly saddened by the events of that tragic day...," Virginia Tech President Charles Steger told the crowd. "Indeed, all our lives were changed on that day."

The accomplishments of each of the 32 people echoed across the drill field, a litany of what they had done and planned to do before a student gunman killed them in classrooms and a dormitory.

Austin Cloyd had an iron will. Caitlin Hammaren loved playing the violin. Emily Hilscher was a skilled horsewoman. Ryan Clark was a collector of friends. Daniel Alejandro Perez Cueva dreamed of bringing people together and making the world peaceful.

"The world was cheated - cheated out of the accomplishments that were sure to come from these extraordinary lives," Gov. Timothy M. Kaine told the crowd.

People held back tears as a moment of silence was observed for those killed by Seung-Hui Cho, who took his own life as police closed in. But as music started playing, many sobbed and wept openly, overcome again by the magnitude of loss.

One grieving young woman fell to the ground and EMTs hurried to tend to her, eventually helping her off the field as she blinked back tears.

After the ceremony, bells in the nearby administration building tolled 32 times as mourners approached the semicircle of memorial stones, each engraved with the name of a victim.

The mourners gathered on the same field where a white candle lit at midnight began a day of grieving for the victims. Its flame was to be used to light candles for a vigil at dusk.

Some 20 people gathered in front of Norris Hall shortly after 9:30 a.m., the time one year ago that Cho killed 30 people in the building.

Shane Hutton, a senior from Bristol, said he had wanted to go into Norris but it was closed. Hutton, who had studied under instructor Jamie Bishop, one of the victims, said he has visited the wing of locked classrooms a half-dozen times in the past year.

"I find comfort in it," he said. "I just go in and think about the victims and the families."

Some in this close-knit campus of 27,000 were just hoping to make it through what they knew would be a difficult day.

"It's just so emotional for everybody," said Lori Haas, whose daughter Emily survived being shot. "The kids - you're just so worried about them and think, `Are they reliving those moments?"'

(AP/The News & Advance, Chet White)
Smaller, reflective gatherings were to take place during the day. About 50 people laid down in protest of Virginia's gun laws (left). The protesters stretched out on the grass for three minutes, to symbolize the amount of time they say it takes to buy a gun in Virginia.

A similar "lie-in" was held at the University of Toledo, Ohio, and more were planned for other campuses.

Seung-Hui Cho had a history of bizarre and threatening behavior and had been declared dangerously mentally ill by a court. Under federal law, Virginia authorities should have sent his name to an FBI database, and when the gun stores ran their instant background checks his purchases should have been denied.

In the past year Virginia tightened its laws, sending thousands of names to the FBI, and congress gave all the states financial incentives to do the same, but CBS News correspondent Chip Reid reports that progress has been slow at best.

Numbers provided by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence show that a year ago there were 166,000 names in the FBI database and today, about 402,000. But an estimated 2.6 million Americans have been declared dangerously mentally ill.

The Brady Campaign's Paul Helmke says that means, "8 out of 10 people that have a history of being dangerously mentally ill are still going to be able to buy a gun in this country."

Others argue that solving the problem isn't as simple as creating stricter gun laws.

"If you have someone who's intent on committing criminal acts and they want to get a gun, they're gonna find a way to get a gun," says Virgina House of Delegates majority leader Morgan Griffith.

Some family members of victims entered War Memorial Chapel early Wednesday for a private service. Other family members of those killed said they couldn't bear to attend the official events and planned to grieve privately.

I won't be able to walk my daughter down the aisle at her wedding. I won't be able to bounce her children on my knee.

Bryan Cloyd, Father of Austin Cloyd
Bryan Cloyd, whose daughter Austin was killed, hopes to plant an oak tree with his wife Renee to honor their daughter's life. It is a way of looking toward the future, he said, rather than reflecting on the horrors of last April 16.

As a Virginia Tech professor and Blacksburg resident, Cloyd has faced reminders of his daughter every day. He believes Austin would want the community to honor her life, but then move forward.

"I won't be able to walk my daughter down the aisle at her wedding. I won't be able to bounce her children on my knee," he said softly. "And I don't think it's helpful to dwell on that, because where that leads is just more sadness. I think what's helpful to do is to dwell on what can be. What can we do with what we have?"

"It's been difficult at times. The nightmares and reliving flashbacks and other things," said Derek O'Dell, who was shot in the arm in his German class. He told CBS News there were 13 people in his class, and five didn't survive.

"I try and not let this event define me. It's tough to not be defined by tragedy, especially when you are in the news as much as I might be," O'Dell said. "It's difficult for people who might not have known me prior to April 16th to learn who Derek O'Dell is. Hopefully I will eventually reach all of my aspirations in life and become a great veterinarian and hopefully change the world for the better, and hopefully become remembered for that, and not just as a survivor."

No public memorials were planned for Cho.

Gerald Massengill, who led a governor-appointed panel that investigated the slayings, has tried to focus his thoughts on the changes that have been made to the state's mental health system and school security procedures in light of the panel's recommendations.

"I think a lot of us have been anticipating April the 16th with some reservations as to how it would impact us," he said. "And I think as it's gotten closer, what I have tried to consume myself with are those things ... the lessons that we think we could learn from Virginia Tech."

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The Wellbeing of Nations

This world map on happiness was distributed through a Globe and Mail article by Sheryl Ubelacker (28/07/06). It is an interesting perspective, but primarily focused on the social side of well being. It provides a strong visualization but lacks the substance to become a strategic or policy significant map. This map was prepared by Adrian White, University of Leicester
Work on exploring the well being of nation has gone on for several decades. For example Robert Prescott-Allen provides a more interesting and holistic approach in his comprehensive book on "The Wellbeing of Nations: a Country-by-Country Index of Quality of Life and Environment. Co-published by Island Press in cooperation with IDRC, IUCN-The World Conservation Union, IIED, FAO, UNEP and MapMaker Ltd, (the supplier of specially tailored mapping software for this project). An example of one of the many maps in this books is shown below. This map provides a combined ranking and mapping of both human wellbeing and environment well being.

Robert Prescott-Allen has been a co-author on a number of documents of global significance including Blueprint for Survival (1972), World Conservation Strategy (1980) and Caring for the Earth: A Strategy for Sustainable Living (1991)

Prescott-Allen's Wellbeing of Nations is an important document for any global strategist and policy analyst. A copy can be obtained through Island Press. Interview is on-line at IDRC.

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Abuse Victims Not Placated by Pope

Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

Members of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests demonstrated outside St. Dominic Church in Washington, asking the pope to meet with the families of abuse victims.

WASHINGTON — Far from tamping down emotions, Pope Benedict XVI’s expression of remorse on Tuesday for the church’s sexual abuse scandal prompted an angry and skeptical response from victims, who said they wanted actions, not words from the Vatican.

“He talks about feeling shame for the scandal but it’s a far cry from the shame that victims have had to live with our entire lives,” said Becky Ianni, 50, an abuse victim who joined a vigil in front of St. Dominic’s Catholic Church here.

Holding an eight-foot-long vinyl banner with photographs of more than 60 children abused by priests, a group of about a half-dozen victims and supporters gathered to voice their frustrations with the pope.

The protesters explained that the 15 or so faces on the banner that were framed with black boxes were those of abuse victims who committed suicide.

“We don’t really need his sense of shame,” said Ms. Ianni, who said she was abused by her parish priest in Alexandria Va., from age 9 to 11. “We need him to take firm actions to correct the situation.”

Speaking to reporters on his flight to the United States, Benedict addressed the scandal that has produced more than 13,000 sexual abuse victims and cost the church more than $2 billion.

“It is a great suffering for the church in the United States and for the church in general and for me personally that this could happen,” Benedict said, adding that he would work to keep pedophiles out of the priesthood. “It is difficult for me to understand how it was possible that priests betray in this way their mission.”

Robert Costello, however, was among the child abuse victims not moved by the pope’s remarks. “I think they were rehearsed,” he said.

At a news conference in Boston organized by a victims’ group, Mr. Costello, who said he was abused by a priest in West Roxbury, Mass., starting when he was 10, said he was shocked that the pope would talk about his own suffering and that of the church while making no mention of the harm done to victims.

“What about the suffering of the children?” he said, adding that he planned to travel to New York to read aloud the names of victims on Friday while the pope addresses the United Nations.

David Carney, who says a priest abused him during his freshman year at Catholic Memorial High School in West Roxbury, also dismissed the pope’s comments as insincere.

“Don’t sit around on your plane and talk about it,” said Mr. Carney, 41, who also attended the Boston news conference. “If you’re ashamed about it, do something about it.”

At the vigil in Washington, another victim, Peter Isley, who is a national board member of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, said the pope’s comments rang hollow.

“The pope says he has empathy and that he doesn’t understand how this could happen, and yet he is not willing to talk to actual victims to get our input,” he said.

Various victims’ organizations requested several months ago that the pope or his representatives meet with them during the papal visit, Mr Isley said, but all such requests were met with silence.

Mr. Isley added that like most victims, he wants two clear actions from the pope. First, he wants him to announce this week that he plans to change canon law so that every priest who has assaulted a child anywhere in the world will be removed from ministry. Second, he wants the pope to announce plans to take disciplinary action against any bishop who has been involved in covering up an assault.

Anne Barrett Doyle co-director of Bishop Accountability, a Web site that documents the sexual abuse scandal, expressed similar skepticism. She said that what the pope did not say is more important that what he did.

“Rather than shifting attention to pedophile priests, he needs to focus on the culpability of bishops,” she said. “The crisis occurred because many U.S. bishops were willing to hide their priests’ crimes from the police with lies.”

Ian Urbina reported from Washington, and Abby Goodnough from Boston.

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Somali 'pirates' taken to Paris

The Ponant seen on 5 April from a French military aircraft off northern Somalia
The Ponant's 30 crew members were held hostage for a week

Six Somalis accused of taking a luxury yacht's crew hostage have arrived in Paris on a military plane to face questioning, judicial sources said.

They were detained on Friday by French commandos in a helicopter raid soon after pirates released 30 hostages from the French yacht, the Ponant.

The hostages, 22 French citizens, six Filipinos, a Cameroonian and a Ukrainian, were seized a week earlier.

The six Somalis will be questioned at French police headquarters.

They can be held for questioning for up to four days, and, depending on the outcome, may face trial in France.

This would be the first trial of its kind in France, says the BBC's Alasdair Sandford in Paris.

The group arrived in France on board a military plane at about 0600 (0400 GMT).


French commandos chase and detain Somali 'pirates'

A senior legal source said Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed had given his consent for them to be taken out of the country, our correspondent adds.

French authorities are said to consider the matter a criminal one rather than one linked to terrorism.

Police specialising in organised crime are to investigate the case. They are also expected to question the crew members who were flown to Paris earlier this week.

The yacht's 30-member crew was released after its owners apparently paid a ransom of $2m (£1m; 1.3m euros).


Gen Jean-Louis Georgelin, the chief of staff of the French armed forces, described on Saturday how troops moved in after the Ponant came ashore, seized six pirates - said to be part of an original group of 12 - and found part of a probable ransom paid by its owners.

The crew of the Ponant are brought to a French navy vessel after being released  (11 April 2008)
None of the hostages were harmed

The 88-metre (290ft) boat and its 30 crew were seized in the Gulf of Aden on 4 April.

It was then moored near the port of Eyl in the northern Somali semi-autonomous Puntland region, while the pirates held negotiations with its owners, French charter company CMA-CGM.

The suspected pirates are believed to be fishermen and were detained in the village of Jariban.

France has troops in nearby Djibouti and also participates in a multi-national naval force that patrols this part of the Indian Ocean.

Somali coastal waters are known to be among the most hazardous in the world. More than 25 ships were seized there by pirates in 2007.

Somalia has not had an effective central government for more than 17 years and is plagued by insecurity.

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Palestinian homes demolished without warning

© Amnesty International">Bulldozer destroys Palestinians' property in Hadidiya, West Bank, 11 March 2008

Bulldozer destroys Palestinians' property in Hadidiya, West Bank, 11 March 2008

© Amnesty International

© Amnesty International">Israeli soldiers and Palestinian residents amidst debris in Hadidiya, West Bank, 11 March 2008

Israeli soldiers and Palestinian residents amidst debris in Hadidiya, West Bank, 11 March 2008

© Amnesty International

© Amnesty International">The family of Omar 'Arif Mohammed Bisharat amidst the wreckage of their homes in Hadidiya, West Bank, 11 March 2008

The family of Omar 'Arif Mohammed Bisharat amidst the wreckage of their homes in Hadidiya, West Bank, 11 March 2008

© Amnesty International

The Israeli army demolished more homes in Palestinian villages in the occupied West Bank on Tuesday morning. The homes and property of Palestinian families in the villages of Hadidiya, Jiftlik and Furush Beit Dajan, in the Jordan Valley area of the occupied West Bank, were demolished.

Amnesty International's researcher on Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories witnessed the demolitions. Donatella Rovera described the scene:

"In all the places, most of the people are children. These homes mostly have three generations – the grandparents, parents and children. In Hadidiya, there were four families, in Furush Beit Dajan, five families.

"All of the people have had homes demolished before, but this time they had no warning. The people were very, very upset. They were running to get their things out of their homes, but the bulldozer just went on demolishing."

Soldiers of the Israeli army arrived early in the morning in jeeps accompanied by a bulldozer and then demolished the buildings where the four families were living. The destroyed properties belonged to Mohammed Fahed Bani Odeh, Mohammed Ali Shaikh Bani Odeh, Ali Shaikh Musleh Bani Odeh and Omar 'Arif Mohammed Bisharat and their families – at least 34 people, including some 26 children.

After destroying these homes, the soldiers moved on to destroy homes and livelihoods in Jiftlik and Furush Beit Dajan, where homes have previously been demolished in recent months.

"In Jiftlik, they are destroying a farm – it is one of the rare farms here and there is otherwise not much livelihood for the people. They first bulldozed the vegetable area a couple of months ago; then they bulldozed the home last month," said Donatella Rovera.

"The family of Mahmud Mat'ab Da'ish, his wife and seven children were given a tent by the Red Cross and they started planting vegetables again. Today, the army has been bulldozing the green plants.

"In all three locations the soldiers haven't allowed us to get near, I don't even know if they have a military order to destroy everything - we asked them but they didn't show us anything."

The families in Hadidiya have lived in the same area for generations, herding sheep and goats and cultivating land on the Jordan hills. They have come under increasing pressure from the Israeli army to leave the area. The same four families had their homes destroyed in February this year and other homes were demolished several times by the Israeli army in 2007.

The demolitions are part of intensified efforts by the Israeli army to expel Palestinians from the area of the Jordan Valley. Much of the Jordan Valley, including the Hadidiya area, has been designated by the Israeli authorities as a "closed military area" and the army has been exerting increased pressure on local Palestinian villagers to force them to out of the area.

For years, the Israeli authorities have pursued a policy of discriminatory house demolition, on the one hand allowing scores of Israeli settlements to be built on occupied Palestinian land, in breach of international law, while simultaneously confiscating Palestinian lands, refusing building permits for Palestinians and destroying their homes. The land vacated has often been used to build illegal Israeli settlements. International law forbids occupying powers from settling their own citizens in the territories they occupy.

The demolitions come one day after the Israeli government came under international criticism for approving the construction of hundreds of new houses for Israelis in the Givat Ze'ev settlement north of Jerusalem. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged the government to "halt settlement expansion" in the West Bank. Javier Solana, the European Union (EU)'s foreign policy chief, said the EU opposed the move to expand the settlement.

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China fund buys nearly 1 percent of BP: report

By Alan Wheatley and Zhou Xin

BEIJING (Reuters) - China has accumulated a stake of just under 1 percent in British oil major BP Plc (BP.L: Quote, Profile, Research), the Daily Telegraph reported, raising fresh questions about Beijing's strategy for investing its huge foreign currency reserves.

A spokesman for BP, Britain's largest company, told the newspaper that it was aware of the Chinese stake, which is worth about $2 billion, and that it welcomed all shareholders.

The Telegraph did not name the investor but said it was the same Chinese state fund that had built up a stake in French oil giant Total (TOTF.PA: Quote, Profile, Research).

That fund is the State Administration of Foreign Exchange (SAFE), an arm of the central bank that manages China's $1.68 trillion in currency reserves, the Financial Times reported last week. It said SAFE's stake of 1.6 percent was worth about $2.8 billion.

The disclosure of China's investment in BP coincides with a visit to Beijing by Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling, who has said sovereign funds are welcome in Britain as long as their investments are commercially, not politically, driven.

Darling is due to meet Premier Wen Jiabao on Tuesday as well as Lou Jiwei, head of China Investment Corp (CIC), a $200 billion sovereign wealth fund that Beijing set up last September to increase the returns on its reserves by taking greater risks.

SAFE talked about diversifying its investments long before the creation of CIC, and He Fan, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said it was a good thing for China to have two sovereign wealth funds.

But he said if SAFE continued to expand its investment portfolio, it might eventually threaten the legitimacy of CIC, especially if the latter was unable to generate juicy profits.

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French Lawmakers Target

PARIS -- French lawmakers have passed a bill that makes incitement of "excessive thinness" a crime.

Does this mean prison pinstripes could be the next big trend in a French fashion industry known for celebrating waif-thin models?


Lawmakers who passed the bill in France's lower house of Parliament Tuesday are touting the toughness of the proposed law. If passed in the Senate as well, it would allow judges to punish offenders with a fine of as much as €45,000, or more than $70,000, and three years of imprisonment.

In a speech before the vote, French Health Minister Roselyne Bachelot called on lawmakers to uphold "the prestige of French fashion" by passing the measure.

The fashion industry is hardly quivering in its stilettos, however.

The bill mainly targets Internet sites that explicitly encourage anorexia, offering tips on food deprivation. The bill also doesn't explain how it will determine who is responsible for pushing anorexia.

Since the high-profile death of a Brazilian model two years ago, the fashion industry has been under pressure to tackle anorexia. The National Chamber of Italian Fashion in Milan now requires models to obtain notes from physicians attesting they are healthy. Spain has also taken measures to crack down on ultrathin models on the catwalk.

Yet much of the fashion industry's discourse on the issue can be characterized as finger-pointing. Modeling agencies, fashion brands and magazines have refused to take the lead in cleaning up the catwalks. Many of the same waif-thin models continue to stalk the runways.

Top designers also question whether a link between fashion and eating disorders exists.

"Fashion has never been thought of as inciting anorexia," said Didier Grumbach, president of France's Fashion Federation, which organizes Paris fashion week.

Mr. Grumbach said he supports a law that targets Web sites that promote anorexia. However, he added, "If the law is to regulate fashion, to make everyone fit the same standard of beauty, then we're against it."

Critics of the bill cast it as the latest attempt by the French state to micromanage the affairs of its citizens at the expense of time-honored French customs.

French smokers' hackles have been raised over a smoking ban that took effect in cafés and restaurants this year, barring indoor smoke in a land that coined the word "nicotine."

Being thin, though not excessively so, is also part of being French.

"A law is for when people don't respect self-discipline," said Hervé Brossard, president of France's Association des Agences Conseils en Communication, an communications-industry group, and vice chairman of advertising agency DDB Worldwide, a unit of Omnicom Group Inc.

In recent months, Messrs. Brossard and Grumbach took part in drafting a charter requiring members to ban emaciated-looking models from advertisements. The charter was signed by Ms. Bachelot.

By passing the law Tuesday, however, lawmakers signaled that tougher measures were in order in France, where between 30,000 and 40,000 people suffer from anorexia.

The law does allow for some instances of food deprivation.

Advocates of political hunger strikes, religious fasts and health-related dieting don't risk falling into the cross-hairs of the proposed law, said Valérie Boyer, a member of President Nicolas Sarkozy's center-right Union for a Popular Movement party, who introduced the bill in Parliament.

Instead, the proposed law aims to crack down on "social pressure, notably exerted by the media," she said, adding that the bill targets anyone who "promotes abusive food behavior that can turn pathological."

Write to Christina Passariello at and Stacy Meichtry at

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