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Earth Hour Philippines saves 56MWh!


Written on 6:44 PM by yahoo

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WWF and Meralco estimates that more than a million Filipinos participated, saving 56MWh of energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 30-tonnes in Luzon alone – equivalent to shutting down an entire coal-fired powerplant!

Yes, the 30 tons is for the entire hour. This translates into:

Number of cars equivalent

Luzon: 334 cars consuming full tank fuel of 40L; 263 jeepneys consuming full tank fuel of 45L

MM: 96 cars 75 jeepneys

Number of households equivalent

Luzon - 560 households consuming 100kWh/ month

MM - 160 hh @ 100kWh/month

Millions of pesos equivalent

Luzon - 552,338.47 = P532,000 (kWh savings@ P9.5/kWh) + P20,338.47 (CO2 avoidance @ EUR10/t-CO2 and P66.034/EUR)

MM - 157,810.99 = P152,000 (kWh savings) + P5,810.99 (CO2 avoidance)

Again, thank you very much for your support.

Dozens killed as Iraq fighting rages


Written on 4:50 PM by yahoo

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Iraq's government imposed a weekend curfew in Baghdad on Thursday amid clashes between government troops and Shiite militia fighters, and U.S. Embassy staff were told to remain indoors after days of rocket attacks left two Americans dead.

Smoke rises after a mortar attack as U.S helicopters fly over the International Zone Thursday in Baghdad.

The curfew, which took effect at 11 p.m. Thursday (4 p.m. ET), bans pedestrian, motorcycle and vehicle traffic through 5 p.m. Sunday, said Gen. Qassim Atta, an Iraqi military spokesman.

U.S. Embassy workers in Iraq were told to remain in secure buildings and wear protective clothing as rockets continued to rain down on Baghdad's International Zone.

Iraq's parliament called a special session for Friday to address the crisis caused by three days of fighting between government troops and Shiite Muslim militia fighters, while Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr called for an end to attacks on his followers.

A U.S. government official was killed in one of those rocket attacks Thursday, an embassy spokesman said. The man's name is not being released; he was the second U.S. government official to die in the attacks this week.

The first, Paul Converse, died Wednesday from wounds he sustained Sunday, officials said.

Such strikes, called indirect fire attacks, have been occurring for days. The military believes that they are being launched by Shiite militants.

"Personnel should only move outside of hard cover for essential reasons. Essential outdoor movements should be sharply limited in duration," an Embassy statement read. "Personal protective equipment is mandatory for all outside movements."

In addition to Thursday's death in the International Zone, a U.S. soldier was killed by a roadside bomb in eastern Baghdad, the U.S. military reported.

The International Zone, often called the Green Zone, is a heavily fortified central Baghdad district housing the U.S. Embassy and Iraqi government offices.

Fighting between Iraqi government troops and what officials call rogue or outlaw members of Shiite militias has spread through southern Iraq's Shiite heartland to Baghdad since the launch of a government crackdown in Basra on Tuesday. Three days of fighting have left more than 100 Iraqis dead.

The fighting threatens to unravel a seven-month cease-fire by al-Sadr's Mehdi Army.

Casualty figures from Basra weren't available Thursday, but the number of deaths is expected to rise from the 40 to 50 reported Wednesday.

Al-Sadr issued a statement Thursday urging "all groups to adopt a political situation and peaceful protest and to stop shedding the Iraqi blood," according to a senior member of al-Sadr's movement. The official, Hazem al-Araji, said the statement was being distributed to all the movement's offices across Iraq.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who has been overseeing the operation in southern Iraq, has given militants an ultimatum to surrender their weapons by Saturday.

In Washington, U.S. State Department official Richard Schmierer said the rocket attacks appear to be coming from fighters affiliated with al-Sadr who were "trying to make a statement" about the government offensive in Basra.

"We probably won't know for some time exactly what is behind it, but that seems to be the general approach," said Schmierer, the State Department's director of Iraq affairs. But he discounted the prospect that the cease-fire, first ordered in August, was collapsing, blaming the violence on "marginal extremist elements" who have associated themselves with the Sadrist movement.

Iraq's Interior Ministry said mortar rounds killed one person and wounded four in the city's central Karrada district on Thursday evening, and the ministry's own compound was hit by one shell, wounding seven police officers.

"These rogue elements are haphazardly firing rockets and mortars, killing and injuring innocent Iraqi and governmental civilians," Col. Allen Batschelet is quoted as saying in a U.S. military news release. He is chief of staff for the American-led Multi-National Division-Baghdad.

"Most Iraqi civilians want peace and stability," he said. "These few are trying to discredit the government of Iraq and Iraqi Security Forces. Our response will be measured, targeted and precise."

Also Thursday in Baghdad, dozens of gunmen kidnapped the spokesman for the Baghdad security plan, Tahseen Sheikhly. Three of his guards were killed and his house burned in the attack, which an Interior Ministry official said was carried out by "outlaws," a reference to al-Sadr's militia.

Also Thursday, a car bomb killed three people and wounded five others near a police patrol in central Baghdad, an Interior Ministry official said. There are no apparent links to the violence in the Shiite regions.

People in Basra report smoke rising and gunfire and explosions ringing out across the city. Iraqi security forces, backed by U.S. and British troops, have been taking on fighters using grenades, mortar rounds and machine guns.

There was fighting Thursday in Jamhouriya, one of five neighborhoods the Mehdi Army controls, and Muqal, according to an official from Basra province and witnesses.

The provincial official said on condition of anonymity that weapons such as machine guns and grenades were stolen from a military post in the Muqal area.

Al-Maliki briefed city and provincial officials Wednesday about the offensive and vowed to finish the job, even if it takes a month.

Provincial officials expressed reservations about the operation, saying Basra will fall into the hands of "outlaws" if al-Maliki fails to restore order.

Since the fighting started, Sadrists and government officials have spoken by phone in efforts to quell the violence, but no face-to-face talks have been scheduled. The Sadrists, who say security forces have unfairly targeted them in recent weeks, have been urging their followers to stage protests against the government. But the cease-fire has not been rescinded.

Basra has been relatively quiet during the war, but the southern city has seethed with intra-Shiite tensions as Sadrists, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq and the Fadhila party have jockeyed for power.

Much of the fighting in the Shiite heartland involves followers of al-Sadr and security forces aligned with the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq's militia, the Badr Brigade.

The council dominates the ruling United Iraqi Alliance, but the Sadrist movement left the government last year after al-Maliki refused to demand a timeline for the withdrawal of American forces from Iraq. Both groups have strong contingents in the Iraqi parliament.

A provincial council official also said insurgents sabotaged an oil pipeline Thursday in Zubeir, a town near Basra. The attack sparked a large fire on the pipeline, which transfers crude oil to tanks in the city.

Meanwhile, the FBI identified the remains of two U.S. contractors who had been missing in Iraq for more than a year, a bureau spokesman said Thursday.

Minnesotan Paul Johnson-Reuben, 41, and Californian Joshua Munns, 25, were among four men kidnapped in November 2006 during an ambush in the southern Iraqi town of Safwan. All four worked for the Crescent Security Group, a Kuwaiti-based firm that escorts convoys.

The other two men -- Jonathon Cote, 25, and Bert Nussbaumer, 26 -- are still listed as missing. The FBI has the remains of one more body, which the bureau is trying to identify.

Three missing after New York City crane collapse


Written on 9:01 PM by yahoo

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NEW YORK (CNN) -- Three people were missing Sunday, a day after a crane collapsed, killing four construction workers on the east side of Midtown Manhattan, Mayor Michael Bloomberg told reporters.


Workers stand on an elevator at the construction site where a crane collapsed Saturday.

Rescue workers were searching for two construction workers and a woman believed to have been in a five-story townhouse that was destroyed by the top portion of the crane.

The accident occurred Saturday on 50th and 51st streets near Second Avenue when a piece of steel fell, shearing a tie holding the crane to a skyscraper under construction.

The crane, which is about 22 stories tall, is still leaning against a building, and removing it is a very delicate process, Bloomberg said Sunday.

As portions of the crane are removed, rescuers are using listening devices to hear if anyone is still alive in the rubble.

In addition to the four dead and three missing, 24 people were injured, including 11 first responders. Three were critically wounded, said Bloomberg, but had been upgraded Sunday to serious condition.

The crane damaged six nearby buildings, including an 18-story residential high-rise across the street from the construction site. A dozen other buildings in the area were evacuated, Bloomberg said.

Ellen Sweeney, a witness to the collapse, said the crane had looked "wobbly.

"It was the highest crane any of us had ever seen," she said. "It's a small street, not full of high-rises, and the noise sounded like an earthquake. That's what I thought it was."

The American Red Cross offered shelter Saturday night at a nearby high school, the mayor said, and 10 people stayed overnight while others reached out to family and friends. Several streets remained closed Sunday evening.

City officials inspected the crane Friday and found no violations. Bloomberg said that violations had been issued in the past 27 months, but that was routine for a large construction job. He noted that those violations had nothing to do with the crane.

However, New York's environmental control board had cited the construction site itself for at least nine comparatively minor infractions -- from failure to have a safety manager present, as required, to failing to perform adequate housekeeping.

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer on Sunday argued it should not be considered "business as usual" for such violations to occur.

Stringer provided a list of the violations, plus another five "open violations" being looked at by the New York Department of Buildings.

Clinton apologizes to black voters


Written on 2:43 PM by yahoo

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Can Sen. Hillary Clinton stem eroding support from black voters in the wake of racially controversial remarks by former congresswoman and Clinton fundraiser, Geraldine Ferraro?


Sen. Clinton at the National Newspaper Publishers Association event in D.C. Wednesday.

That's the big question Clinton now faces as she hits the campaign trail before Pennsylvania's crucial April 22 primary.

Clinton found herself back in the hot seat Wednesday, after facing the fallout from racially charged remarks by Ferraro -- a former New York congresswoman and Democratic vice presidential candidate.

Ferraro resigned from the campaign Wednesday after widespread criticism over her comments about Obama's race, originally published late last week in the Torrance, California, Daily Breeze.

"If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position. And if he was a woman, he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is. And the country is caught up in the concept," she said.

At a gathering of black newspaper publishers on Wednesday, Clinton tried to make amends.

"I rejected what she said and I certainly do repudiate it," Clinton said at the National Newspaper Publishers Association meeting in Washington.

Clinton was full of apologies before this group as she was confronted with various perceived offenses, including remarks considered racially insensitive that her husband, former President Clinton, made on the campaign trail.

"I'm sorry if anyone was offended. It certainly was not meant in anyway to be offensive," she said.

She even apologized for President Bush's lackluster response regarding Hurricane Katrina.

"I apologize and I am embarrassed that our federal government so mistreated our citizens."

Her aides say this is not a mea culpa tour, but rather a clear message that she has not given up on the black vote.

"So the numbers are skewed and it appears that we are losing ground in the African American community. She is not conceding that vote whatsoever," a Clinton spokesperson said.

But looking ahead, she certainly has her work cut out for her.

While Obama has steadily seen his African American support grow -- 78 percent in South Carolina, 90 percent in Virginia and 92 percent in Mississippi -- Clinton has lost ground.

"They're open to her, but at this point they're kind of lukewarm because of the disparaging comments of some of her people, not necessarily hers," said John Smith, chairman of the NNPA.

While Clinton tries to minimize the damage, she is leaning on loyalists.

One of her biggest fans is Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, seated in the critical state of Pennsylvania, where she'll campaign relentlessly in an effort to deny Obama a clean sweep in the rest of the nation's contests.


Mortgage mess CEOs defend pay


Written on 3:26 PM by yahoo

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A Congressional committee scrutinized the outsized pay packages of Stanley O'Neal, Charles Prince and Angelo Mozilo and the chairman of their compensation committees against the backdrop of the mortgage crisis.

Minorities seen as subprime target

NEW YORK ( -- A trio of high-profile CEOs defended their oversized pay packages to Congress on Friday, even as their companies and shareholders lost billions of dollars as a result of the ongoing mortgage crisis.

Countrywide Financial's (CFC, Fortune 500) founder and CEO Angelo Mozilo, former Merrill Lynch (MER, Fortune 500) Chairman and CEO Stanley O'Neal and ex-Citigroup (C, Fortune 500) chief Charles Prince testified before the House Committee on Government and Oversight Reform, calling reports of their pay "grossly exaggerated" in some instances and pointing out that they lost millions as well.

Their remarks found little sympathy however, as a number of lawmakers chastised the execs for helping to foster the current mortgage crisis at a time when homeowners are at risk of losing their homes and as the country teeters on the brink of recession.

"If you don't bear personal responsibility, I don't know who does," said Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md.

All three executives made headlines in the past year for their lofty compensation after their companies lost billions in the U.S. housing market.

Between 2002 and the close of 2006, the three executives were paid $460 million, according to a report issued by the Congressional committee just a day earlier.

Mozilo, who grew Countrywide from its modest beginnings into the nation's largest mortgage lender, reportedly stood to collect a windfall of $115 million after his firm agreed to a yet-to-be completed sale to Bank of America (BAC, Fortune 500). After facing heavy criticism from lawmakers, Mozilo forfeited $37.5 million in payments tied to the deal.

In his testimony, Mozilo called reports of his pay package "grossly exaggerated."

Upon his departure from Citigroup in November, Prince left with approximately $68 million, while O'Neal collected about $161 million after he stepped down in October.

Defending lofty pay packages

Both men contended that their compensation was in line with pay scales in the broader financial services industry and that reports about their pay packages were "inaccurate."

Their compensation was tied directly to the performance of the company, via stock and options that the executives have held over time. Prince, O'Neal and Mozilo argued that their pay was buoyed by impressive profits the companies delivered in the years leading up to the mortgage crisis. They also said that they have lost millions since as their companies have seen the price of their stock plummet in recent months.

In all three instances, the terms of their pay packages were determined independently by members of their respective board of directors who commonly rely on handsome pay packages to attractive and retain top talent.

But also in focus were the cozy relationships between the directors responsible for determining pay and compensation consultants who get hired by directors to advise on executive pay, which was the centerpiece of an earlier hearing sponsored by the committee in December. Lawmakers have argued that these consultants are merely getting paid to tell the board and CEO what it wants to hear.

One remedy proposed Thursday by Nell Minow, editor and co-founder of the corporate governance research group The Corporate Library, was to give shareholders greater rights in determining members of the board or creating an indexing system where pay would adjust based on the company's performance in relation to its peers.

Minow argued that hefty pay packages for CEOs are sensible, but only when they generate such returns for shareholders.

"We want CEOs to be paid hundreds of millions of dollars," Minow told lawmakers. "But there is no excuse for people getting so much for doing so little."

Rep. Henry Waxman D-Calif., who heads the committee and was one of the CEOs staunchest critics, offered similar sentiment during his opening remarks.

"The obvious question is how can a few execs do so well when their companies are doing so poorly?" asked Waxman, D-Calif.

Pay in focus

Even though Prince, O'Neal and Mozilo garnered plenty of attention on Capitol Hill Friday, they are not the first, nor will they be the last, top execs to enjoy handsome pay packages.

In December, Goldman Sachs (GS, Fortune 500) Chairman and CEO Lloyd Blankfein took home nearly $68 million in restricted stock, options and cash, making it the largest bonus ever given to a Wall Street CEO.

Chrysler Chairman and CEO Robert Nardelli made headlines when he was forced out of Home Depot (HD, Fortune 500) in January of last year and left with $210 million in cash, stock options and retirement benefits.

Excessive compensation and hefty severance packages or "golden parachutes" have been burning issues in recent years. Many companies have rewarded CEOs handsomely through multi-million dollar salaries, eye-popping bonuses or attractive perks like country club memberships.

Executive pay has drastically outpaced the pay gains experienced by the average American worker, according to an annual study published in August by The Institute for Policy Studies and United for a Fair Economy.

Between 1996 and 2006, CEO pay rose 45%, at a time when the average pay for an American worker grew just 7%.

That same study revealed that CEOs at 386 of the Fortune 500 companies took home $10.8 million in total compensation in 2006, more than 364 times what the average worker earned that same year.

Friday's hearing marks the second time in nearly three months that legislators have attempted to tackle the issue of executive compensation.

Friday's hearing was originally scheduled for Feb. 7, but was postponed twice - once due to scheduling conflicts and again last week following the death of Mozilo's mother.


Voters turn out for key US polls


Written on 4:17 PM by yahoo

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A poll worker signing in a voter in Bowling Green, Ohio, 4 March 2008
The contest in Ohio is seen as too close to call
Americans are voting in what could be the most important day so far in the races to stand for US president.

Democratic front-runner Barack Obama says rival Hillary Clinton may have to quit if he wins polls in Texas and Ohio. She says she will carry on.

Contests in two smaller states also voting - Vermont and Rhode Island - may prove crucial in such a tight race.

On the Republican side, John McCain - already comfortably ahead of his rivals - could seal the nomination.

But most attention is focused on the Democrats' battle.

I think Hillary will win Ohio but by a very small margin, which may not be enough to save her campaign
US voter Faith Barrow-Waheed, Cleveland, Ohio

For the Democrats, Texas is the biggest prize remaining, with 228 delegates to the nominating party convention in August up for grabs.

Voting in the Democratic polls is proportional, meaning that Mrs Clinton needs landslide victories on Tuesday and beyond to catch up with Mr Obama.

An opinion poll published as voting began gave Mrs Clinton a narrow lead in Texas - though within the poll's margin of error. It had the two candidates exactly level in Ohio.

"I feel really good about today," Mrs Clinton told voters in Houston. "I think it's going to turn out well."

She added: "You don't get to the White House as a Democrat without winning Ohio."

Arya Kamangar stands in the rain near a polling station in Columbus, Ohio, 4 March 2008

Since the nationwide Super Tuesday contests on 5 February, Mr Obama has won 11 states in succession and leads Mrs Clinton in the delegate count.

Mr Obama seemed confident that he would win in the end.

"We've got a very sizeable delegate lead that is going to be hard to overcome," he told reporters travelling with him.

"You'll recall that when we were running those 11 races in a row the theory was they had to blow us out in Texas and Ohio.

"I don't think that's going to happen."

Mr Obama has spent twice as much as Mrs Clinton on TV adverts in the state, including a number in Spanish. Hispanics account for about one in five eligible voters in Texas.



Hillary ClintonHillary Clinton
13 states, 1,276 delegates
Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Tennessee
Barack ObamaBarack Obama
24 states, 1,386 delegates
Alabama, Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Carolina, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington state, Wisconsin
2,025 delegates needed for nomination. Source AP (includes all kinds of delegates)
Q&A: US election delegates
Mike HuckabeeMike Huckabee
8 states, 257 delegates
Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, Tennessee, West Virginia, Kansas, Louisiana
John McCainJohn McCain
17 states, 1014 delegates
Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia, Washington state, Wisconsin
Mitt RomneyMitt Romney
11 states, 255 delegates
Campaign suspended
Alaska, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Wyoming, Utah
1,191 delegates needed for nomination. Source: AP (includes all kinds of delegates)

According to exit polls for the Associated Press news agency, however, they have cast nearly a third of the election day votes in the state - up from a quarter in 2004. In previous contests this year, they have favoured Mrs Clinton.

African-American voters - who have heavily supported Mr Obama - accounted for about a fifth of the votes cast in Texas, exit polls indicate, about the same as four years ago.

The economy was the most important issue for Democratic voters in all four states, especially Ohio, exit polls suggest. The Iraq war came a close second in Vermont.

For the Democrats, a total of 370 delegates are at stake in the four races, which includes 67 delegates up for grabs in Texas caucuses, which begin after the day-long primary vote.

Mr Obama currently has 1,386 delegates to Mrs Clinton's 1,276, according to the AP. A total of 2,025 is needed to secure the Democratic Party's nomination.

The New York senator and former first lady has played down suggestions that she is facing a make-or-break moment.

Vermont 0000GMT
Ohio 0030GMT
Rhode Island 0200GMT
Texas 0200GMT - caucuses then begin
New Mexico's Democratic Governor Bill Richardson, an influential voice who was in the race himself until January, has suggested that whoever has the most delegates after Tuesday's votes should be the party nominee.

The BBC's Kevin Connolly, in Ohio's state capital, Columbus, says the struggle between the two senators remains fierce and close, and it is far from certain that America will get the clear outcome from these latest battles that it craves.

Mrs Clinton has been focusing her attacks on Mr Obama's foreign policy and national security experience, echoing a campaign advert asking who would respond better to a national emergency in the middle of the night.

Hillary Clinton in Austin, Texas on 3 March 2008
Mrs Clinton insists she can go all the way to the White House

Mr Obama, senator for Illinois, has countered that with an advert questioning Mrs Clinton's judgement in supporting the invasion of Iraq from the start.

Meanwhile, Mr Obama denied on Monday that his campaign had privately assured Canada his criticism of the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta), widely opposed in economically depressed Ohio, was just for political show.

A leaked memo suggested Mr Obama's senior economic adviser, Austan Goolsbee, had given Canadian officials the impression that Mr Obama's criticism over the US free trade deal with Canada was "political positioning".

John McCain in Waco, Texas, on 3 March
John McCain is expected to beat closest rival Mike Huckabee

The dispute led Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to assure parliament that the memo leak was not an attempt to scupper Mr Obama's chances or to favour Mr McCain, who strongly backs Nafta.

On the Republican side, Mr McCain is expected to beat his chief rival Mike Huckabee in all four states.

The Arizona senator currently has 1,014 delegates, according to the AP, while Mr Huckabee has 257.

A total of 1,191 delegates is needed to claim the nomination at the party's national convention in September.

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