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U.S. prods North Korea on nuclear deadline


Written on 10:02 PM by yahoo

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- In a last-minute nudge to North Korea, the U.S. State Department said Sunday it was "unfortunate" that Pyongyang had not supplied a complete declaration of its nuclear programs before a Monday deadline but signaled it would continue disarmament talks with its allies.


A satellite image of North Korea's Yongbyon nuclear facility.

Under a deal struck in February, North Korea began to disable its nuclear reactor at Yongbyon -- which produced weapons-grade plutonium for the bomb it tested in 2006 -- in exchange for economic and energy assistance. But it has yet to document its past and present nuclear secrets, another condition of the deal.

"It is unfortunate that North Korea has not yet met its commitments by providing a complete and correct declaration of its nuclear programs and slowing down the process of disablement," State Department spokesman Tom Casey said in a written statement Sunday evening.

"We will continue to work with our close allies Japan and South Korea, and partners China and Russia, as we urge North Korea to deliver a complete and correct declaration of all its nuclear weapons programs and nuclear weapons and proliferation activities and complete the agreed disablement."

Washington has signaled that it was willing to let that deadline slide by a few days, saying the most important goal was a full and complete declaration.

"The United States is committed to fulfilling our obligations under the Six Party agreements as North Korea fulfills all its obligations," Casey said.

Sunday's statement follows a December 1 personal letter from U.S. President George W. Bush to North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, urging his government to fulfill its end of the bargain.

North Korea responded two weeks later in a verbal statement, restating its plans to follow through with the deal and calling on the United States to do the same, according to senior State Department officials

from cnn

Man pardoned over Saudi rape case


Written on 4:48 AM by yahoo

(CNN) -- Saudi King Abdullah's letter pardoning a rape victim from 200 lashes and six months in prison for appearing in public with an unrelated male also included a pardon for the man she was with, according to the Saudi Justice Minister.

The case cast light on the treatment of women under Saudi Arabia's strict Islamic law.

Minister of Justice Abdallah bin Mohammed al-Sheikh, in a phone call to a Saudi Television newscast Monday, also said contrary to earlier reports the woman's lawyer did not lose his license for defending her.

Until now, it was not confirmed that the male companion, who was abducted along with the 19-year-old woman last March, had also faced charges. While details of what happened to the man while the woman was raped have not been made public, the King's letter concluded that he also suffered "torture" along with her.

The seven men convicted of kidnapping them and then raping her were ultimately sentences to lashings and prison terms of two to nine years.

Although the pardon letter has not been released to the news media, Al-Sheikh read from it in his call Monday to Saudi TV:

"After going over all the document and a thorough review of the evidence, we found that the crime committed against this woman is one of the most savage kind," it read.

"The woman and the man in her company have experienced enough torture which should be enough punishment for them and a lesson to learn from."

"Since according to the Sharia (Islamic law) clerisy, a mistake in pardon is better than a mistake in punishment, we here request the release of both of them and we ask for the continuation of all legal charges followed by a just punishment against the other accused," it read.

Al-Sheikh, in answer to a question, said reports that defense lawyer Abdulrahman al-Lahim was revoked were false.

"Such decisions are made through institutions in the Kingdom," he said. "The punishment of the lawyer or any lawyer does not come from a reaction; it comes from a carefully examined procedure within a special council in the ministry."

He said the council charged with deciding law license revocations has not issued any decisions in this case.

The attack took place in Qatif, Saudi Arabia in March 2006 when the woman was engaged to be married.

A Saudi court ruled the woman had an "illegitimate relationship" with a man who was not her husband, and that the assault occurred after she and the man were discovered in a "compromising situation, her clothes on the ground."

The case has drawn international attention, provoked outrage in the West and cast light on the treatment of women under Saudi Arabia's strict Islamic law.

The woman was meeting with a man -- described by the her attorney as a former friend from whom she was retrieving a photograph -- when they both were abducted.

Digital wanted posters help find fugitives


Written on 6:49 AM by yahoo

MOBILE, Alabama (AP) -- Between ads for hamburgers and liposuction, the giant digital billboards flashed an image of Oscar Finch's face taken by a surveillance camera. The young man wasn't selling anything. He was running from police.

A billboard on Airport Blvd just west of Interstate 65 shows a wanted poster of Oscar Finch.

Finch was a suspect in a bank robbery last month. More than a week after the crime, authorities obtained the photo and immediately posted it on 12 digital billboards in Mobile, using the eye-catching electronic signs as digital wanted posters.

The billboard showed a grainy mugshot of Finch taken during the November 20 heist. The image, which was mixed in with commercial ads, included his name, his alleged offense and a phone number to contact police.

The 21-year-old Finch, who was the first suspect featured on an electronic billboard in Mobile, surrendered on December 1 -- just a day after his picture appeared. Police spokeswoman Nancy Johnson said he apparently turned himself in after seeing news coverage of the billboards.

"We had been looking for this individual for 10 days and turned it around in 24 hours," Johnson said. "So we're thinking it's going to be highly effective. I think it's a great asset for us."

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Wanted posters have been used to find suspects for generations. Sketches of criminals in the Wild West were tacked onto trees and buildings. In more recent years, photos of the FBI's most wanted fugitives have been displayed in post offices.

With digital billboards, police can now display a suspect's face to thousands of people, sometimes almost immediately after a crime is reported.

"We can be up in 15 minutes" of getting a suspect's photo, said Troy Tatum, general manager of Lamar Advertising, the Baton Rouge, Louisiana-based company that provided free use of the billboards in Mobile as a public service.

When the electronic boards aren't showing suspects, they display regular advertising in moving, full-color images that stand 14 feet tall and 48 feet wide. They can also be used for AMBER Alerts for missing children and to deliver weather bulletins.

"We have a special slot set up for local emergencies," Tatum said.

Mobile Police Chief Phillip M. Garrett doesn't want to give such prominent display to "every lawnmower thief" wanted by police. He said the billboards will be used only in high-profile cases or in searches for missing people.

Only a fraction of U.S. billboards are digital -- 500-plus out of an estimated 450,000 total signs, according to the industry. But production of electronic boards is expected to grow.

Police in other parts of the country are also beginning to use the billboards.

In September, Florida authorities arrested a drug suspect two weeks after his photo was displayed on a billboard in Daytona Beach. A tipster who saw the suspect's picture found him sitting in a McDonald's.

The billboards have also been useful in disasters. When an interstate bridge collapsed in August in Minneapolis, billboards displayed an emergency message within 15 minutes.

The signs also have critics. Mobile City Council member Connie Hudson has proposed a temporary moratorium on any new billboards, saying the city needs safety regulations to control the number and spacing of the signs because they may distract drivers.

The full council has not acted on Hudson's concerns.

Ken Klein, vice president of the Outdoor Advertising Association of America Inc., in Washington, D.C., said billboard wanted posters became more common after a young woman was slain in 2002 in Leawood, Kansas.

The victim's father, Roger Kemp, approached Lamar Advertising for help, and the company posted a composite sketch of the suspect on a conventional billboard. A tipster who saw the sketch led authorities to Benjamin Appleby, 31.

Appleby was convicted in 2006 and sentenced to life in prison for killing 19-year-old Ali Kemp.

UBS takes fresh $10B subprime hit


Written on 6:04 AM by yahoo

(CNN) -- Struggling UBS admitted Monday it would write down a further $10 billion in U.S. subprime losses and said it could record losses for the entire financial year.

UBS's third quarter operating loss was its first in nine years.

The Swiss banking giant also said it would borrow 13 billion Swiss francs ($11.51 billion) to strengthen its capital base, including 11 billion Swiss francs from Singapore's state-owned investment company, GIC, making it UBS's largest single investor with a nine percent stake.

Another 2 billion Swiss francs came from an undisclosed Middle Eastern investor.

UBS's board has also approved the replacement of a 2007 cash dividend with a stock dividend and the re-sale of 36.4 million treasury shares, raising a further 4.4 billion Swiss francs, according to a statement.

Chief Executive Marcel Rohner said the company had updated its loss assumptions in response to deteriorating conditions in the U.S. mortgage and housing markets which had made the value of UBS's subprime holdings "unknowable."

"In our judgement these writedowns will create maximum clarity on this issue and will have the effect of substantially eliminating speculation," said Rohner.

"Losses in sub-prime are very disappointing but come at a time when most of our businesses are generating close to record levels of profit. I am confident that, after these writedowns and with a strong balance sheet, we are well positioned for growth and profitability."

UBS's latest problems come after the bank reported third-quarter net losses of Swiss francs 830 million for the period to September 30, the first time in nine years it had recorded an operating loss. In the statement Monday, UBS admitted it could now face further losses.

"UBS revises its outlook for its fourth quarter 2007 from an overall Group profit, as anticipated in its announcement of 30 October 2007, to a loss," the statement said.

"It is now possible that UBS will record a net loss attributable to shareholders for the full year 2007."

Tony Tan, deputy chairman of GIC, denied its investment in UBS meant it was seeking control of the banking group.

"GIC is now the single largest investor in UBS and this is the largest investment GIC has made in any company," Tan told a news conference, The Associated Press reported.

"We did not make it a condition that our investment should have a representation (on UBS's board.) We have no desire to control the business of the bank."

Previously, Merrill Lynch and Citigroup had been the biggest casualties of the subprime crisis with Merrill losing more than $8 billion on mortgage securities in the last quarter, prompting the resignation of chief executive Stan O'Neal. Further losses are expected when it reports again in January.

At Citigroup, chief executive Chuck Prince was also toppled after he had to admit the company could take a writedown of $8-11 billion in the fourth quarter.

Meanwhile, Morgan Stanley is expecting to lose $3.7 billion in the fourth quarter when it reports this month and Bear Stearns expects to post a $1.2 billion writedown.

Altogether, mortgage-related writedowns cost the banking industry $40 billion in the third quarter and the fourth looks set to be worse

from cnn

Report: Wife knew kayaker was alive


Written on 11:03 PM by yahoo

LONDON, England (CNN) -- The wife of a British man who reappeared five years after he was thought to have drowned in a kayaking accident knew he had been alive all along, British media reported Thursday.


Darwin was arrested late Tuesday in the southern English county of Hampshire.

John Darwin, 57, was arrested on suspicion of fraud late Tuesday after showing up at a central London police station on Saturday claiming he was suffering amnesia.

Darwin was presumed to have died in 2002 after the remains of a kayak he paddled into the North Sea off the coast of Seaton Carew in northeastern England washed up on shore.

British tabloid newspaper the Daily Mirror published a photograph that it claimed showed Darwin on holiday in Panama City last year with his wife, Anne.

His wife, who claimed Wednesday not to have seen her husband since he went missing, moved to the Panamanian capital six weeks ago, according to British media reports.

But in its Thursday editions, the Daily Mirror reported that Anne Darwin broke down crying when she was shown the photograph -- which has a date stamp of July 14, 2006.

"My sons are never going to forgive me," the paper quoted Mrs. Darwin as saying to a reporter at her home in Panama.

"They are going to hate me."

The paper said she would not say how often or when her husband made contact with her after his supposed disappearance, but that she acknowledged they had spent time together in Panama, including a number of short vacations there.

The manager of a holiday firm in Panama said the couple rented a room in the Panamanian capital and agreed to pose for the picture for the company's Web site, the Daily Mirror reported.

Police are investigating the authenticity of the photo.

In an appeal for public help, Detective Superintendent of the Cleveland Police, Tony Hutchinson, said: "There will be people out there who know exactly where he has been, what he has been doing and where he has been living."

Hutchinson said police reopened the investigation into the disappearance three months ago, when information about Darwin's finances came to light.

"One side is that he has suffered amnesia, but the other side is that some criminal case has occurred," he said.

Darwin, a prison officer and former teacher, was declared dead by a coroner in 2003, 13 months after he went missing. A massive air and sea rescue operation was launched in March 2002 and within 24 hours, his kayak paddle was recovered by police near the area where he was thought to have gone missing.

Two months later the remains of his kayak washed up on the coast.

Hutchinson said there had been one alleged sighting of Darwin in his hometown in 2005.

According to widespread media reports, Darwin told police that he did not remember where he had been for the last five years.

Following his reappearance, Darwin was reunited with his two sons, Mark, 31, and Anthony, 29, who released a joint statement saying their father claimed to have no memory of the last seven years.

"We have spoken with John and he appears to be in good health, however he currently has no memory of events since June 2000," his sons said in the statement.

The sons said the reappearance of their father was "a huge shock."

Anne Darwin said she collected life insurance payouts on her husband and sold the couple's family properties for 400,000 pounds (US$820,000), the newspaper reported Wednesday.

Darwin's 90-year-old father, Ron, said the last time he saw his son was just a few days before he went missing, reported his local newspaper, the Hartlepool Mail.

"The people were in to put in a television and he was round for a chat, but the house was full. He said 'tell you what dad, see you later,' and I said 'cheerio' and that was the last time I saw him," the newspaper reported the father as saying.

His father said he was looking forward to seeing his son and giving him "a nice hug and kiss."


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