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Google sours on $1 billion AOL investment


Written on 10:29 AM by yahoo

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Google acknowledged late Thursday that it may have made a bad bet on AOL.

The search giant said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that its $1 billion investment for a 5 percent stake in Time Warner's Web unit "may be impaired" and that it may have to take a charge in the future:

Based on our review, we believe our investment in AOL may be impaired...We will continue to review this investment for impairment in the future. There can be no assurance that impairment charges will not be required in the future, and any such amounts may be material to our Consolidated Statements of Income.

The December 2005 investment secured a renewal of Google's search advertising deal with AOL, preventing its largest ad partner from defecting to Microsoft. The deal gave AOL a valuation of $20 billion at the time.

Google didn't estimate in its filing what AOL might be worth today, but observers have suggested a figure closer to $10 billion.

Google's deal allows it to demand that Time Warner spin off AOL in an initial public offering of stock or buy back its stake, which would result in a $500 million loss for Google.

Time Warner, perhaps signaling its intention to dispose of AOL to focus on its media business, announced Wednesday that it will split AOL's dial-up unit from its advertising business by early 2009.

Egypt to test fetuses from King Tutankhamun tomb


Written on 5:46 PM by yahoo

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CAIRO, Egypt (AP) -- Egyptian scientists will carry out DNA tests on two mummified fetuses found in the tomb of King Tutankhamun to determine their link to the young pharaoh, Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities said in a statement Wednesday.

The face of Tutankhamen displayed in a climate-controlled case at his tomb near Luxor in Egypt.

The face of Tutankhamen displayed in a climate-controlled case at his tomb near Luxor in Egypt.

The two tiny female fetuses -- found in the tomb in Luxor as part of the 1922 King Tut discovery -- may be his stillborn children, the Council said.

The statement quoted Zahi Hawass, the head of the Egyptian antiquities, as saying that the tests will also try to determine Tutankhamun's family lineage, a source of ambiguity among many Egyptologists.

"All of these results will be compared to each other, along with those of the mummy of King Tutankhamun," Hawass said.

There has been no archaeological indication that the young pharaoh, who died around the age of 19 under mysterious circumstances over 3,000 years ago, left any offspring.

Scholars believe that at the age of 12, Tutankhamun married his half-sister, Ankhesenamun -- the third daughter of Pharaoh Akhenaten by his wife Nefertiti -- but the couple had no surviving children.

Tutankhamun was one of the last kings of Egypt's 18th Dynasty and ruled during a crucial, turmoil-filled period.

Ashraf Selim, a radiologist and member of the Egyptian team, said the tests could take several months. So far, the team has carried out CT scans on the two fetuses and taken samples for DNA tests.

"We want to find out the truth and facts relevant to the history of these kings," Selim told The Associated Press.

Since they were found in King Tut's tomb, the mummified fetuses were kept in storage at the Cairo School of Medicine and were never publicly displayed or studied, Selim said.

Hawass has announced ambitious plans for DNA tests on Egyptian mummies, including tests on all royal mummies and the nearly two dozen unidentified ones stored in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. He has said the tests may show that some royal mummies on display are not who archaeologists thought them to be.

Last year, Egypt announced that archaeologists had identified the mummy of Hatshepsut, Egypt's most powerful queen and the only female pharaoh. But scientists later said they were still analyzing DNA from the bald, 3,500-year-old mummy to try to back up the claim.

There is some secrecy surrounding Egypt's DNA testing of mummies.

Hawass has long rejected DNA testing on Egyptian mummies by foreign experts, and only recently allowed such projects on condition they be done exclusively by Egyptians. He has never disclosed the full outcome of the examinations of Hatshepsut's mummy or submitted results for a test by second lab, as it is a common practice in a DNA testing.

This has raised concerns about the validity of the Egyptian results.

Abdel-Halim Nour el-Deen, a former head of the council and a leading Egyptologist said DNA testing on mummies thousands of years old is very difficult.

"It is doubtful that it could produce a scientific result to determine such important issues such as the lineage of pharaohs," el-Deen told the AP. El-Deen also criticized the Council for not making public the results of the tests already carried out.

"We haven't seen any of their results," he said. "Such announcements are good for publicity ... They sell well in the media.

Bush chides China over human rights


Written on 9:09 PM by yahoo

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BANGKOK, Thailand (CNN) -- U.S. President George W. Bush expressed "deep concerns" over religious freedom and human rights in China on the eve of the 2008 Beijing Olympics in a wide-ranging Asian policy speech delivered Thursday in Bangkok, Thailand.

President George W. Bush meets with Thailand's Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej Wednesday in Bangkok.

President George W. Bush meets with Thailand's Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej Wednesday in Bangkok.

"America stands in firm opposition to China's detention of political dissidents, human rights advocates, and religious activists," Bush said.

"We speak out for a free press, freedom of assembly, and labor rights not to antagonize China's leaders, but because trusting its people with greater freedom is the only way for China to develop its full potential," he said. "And we press for openness and justice not to impose our beliefs but to allow the Chinese people to express theirs."

Despite the harsh critique, Bush praised what has become a "constructive relationship" between the United States and China in trade and diplomacy. He also said that the association "has placed America in a better position to be honest and direct on other issues."

Bush spoke at the Queen Sirikit National Convention Center in Bangkok.

The trip to Asia is Bush's last as president, and he took the opportunity to shine a light on the well-publicized crackdowns on political dissenters in the "people's republic" -- a communist country that has emerged as a symbol of soaring capitalistic growth.

"I have spoken clearly, candidly, and consistently with China's leaders about our deep concerns over religious freedom and human rights," he said. "And I have met repeatedly with Chinese dissidents and religious believers. The United States believes the people of China deserve the fundamental liberty that is the natural right of all human beings."

China cracked down on protests this year in Tibet. Some demonstrators advocated autonomy and greater religious freedom there while others sought outright independence from China.

On Wednesday, four Tibet activists unfurled Tibetan flags and pro-independence banners near National Stadium in Beijing, a main Olympic venue.

Two men in the group scaled electric poles to display the banners, police said, according to the state-run Xinhua news agency. Police took away "four foreigners" -- three men and a woman, it said.

Students for a Free Tibet, a Tibet activist group, issued a statement saying those involved in the demonstration were from the United States and Britain.

According to the group, one of the signs read, "One World, One Dream: Free Tibet" in English, while the second read, "Tibet Will Be Free" in English and "Free Tibet" in Chinese.

The group said the signs were on display for about an hour, but police said it was about 12 minutes. The demonstrators entered China on tourist visas, police said, according to Xinhua.

Meanwhile, the government's reaction to people protesting in northwestern China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, home to a Sunni Muslim ethnic minority, also has generated concerns. The Uygur people in that region are supposed to enjoy autonomy, guaranteed by China's constitution, but some seek independence.

Millions of Han Chinese, the country's dominant ethnic group, have migrated into Xinjiang over the past 60 years, prompting complaints that they dominate local politics, culture and commerce at the Uygurs' expense.

In the Xinjiang city of Kashgar, Chinese paramilitary police beat two Japanese journalists Monday night, hours after a deadly attack that killed 16 police officers, journalist groups said.

China has also been widely criticized for its policies toward Sudan. It has been perceived as backing the African regime and widely accused of gross human rights abuses in a crackdown against citizens in the Darfur region after a rebellion in 2003. The United States has condemned the campaign of killing in Darfur as genocide.

Team Darfur, a group of athletes committed to raising awareness about Darfur, complained that former speedskating gold medalist Joey Cheek had his visa revoked by the Chinese Embassy.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino, speaking to reporters en route to Thailand, said, "We were disturbed to learn that the Chinese had refused his visa. We are taking the matter very seriously."

She said U.S. diplomats are asking the Chinese to reconsider their actions and emphasized that the administration hopes China changes its mind.

In Thursday's speech, Bush also focused on other issues, including the economic strides in China -- which endured "rampant" poverty three decades ago.

Beijing is "sprinting into the modern era -- covered in skyscrapers, filled with cars, home to international businesses, and hosting the Olympic Games," Bush said.

He said the "growth sparked by China's free market reforms is good for the Chinese people" and that "China's new purchasing power is also good for the world, because it provides an enormous market for exports from across the globe."

Bush urged China to adhere to the "rules of the international economic system" and "act responsibly on issues such as energy, the environment and African development."

He said the United States and China are embarking on "a new strategic economic dialogue," saying they will "discuss ways to ensure long-term growth and widely shared prosperity in both our economies, as well as issues like currency exchange rates and intellectual property rights."

Bush cited two areas of diplomatic cooperation -- the six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear program and the easing of tensions along the Taiwan Strait.


PETA to Obama: Melting Pot Deserves a National Mutt


Written on 2:42 AM by yahoo

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America is a mishmash of races and proud of it. Whoever denies that fact obviously slept through American history class. To put it simply, we are a nation of mutts!

So PETA President Ingrid Newkirk has sent a letter to Sen. Barack Obama and his family stressing this very point—and urging them to adopt a "pound pup," or Great American Mutt, rather than buy a dog from a breeder or a pet store.

In her letter, Ingrid says, "Senator, no one needs to tell you that this country is proud to be a melting pot and that there is something deeply wrong and elitist about wanting only a purebred dog. Millions of Great American Mutts—the dog that should be our national dog—are set to die in our nation's extremely overcrowded pounds and shelters for lack of good homes. When you are ready, please adopt a homeless pound puppy—a grateful refugee from a society that has not always treated the true "underdog" kindly—rather than cater to special interests who do not have dogs' interests at heart."

Let me break it down for you: Mutts want to live in a good home, eat good food, and live with responsible, loving, patient caretakers just as much as any purebred dog does. It doesn't take a genius to see that if we as Americans were treated the same way that we treat mutts—essentially, ourselves in the dog world—then we'd all be locked up, wasting away in cages, and hoping for someone to take us for "walkies." If we can't be true to mutts, then we can't be true to ourselves.

Posted by Jennifer Cierlitsky

Note: PETA supports animal rights and opposes animal neglect and educates the public on those issues. PETA does not directly or indirectly participate or intervene in any political campaign on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for public office.


Anthrax suspect, scientist, kills self as FBI closes in


Written on 5:02 PM by yahoo

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Prosecutors likely would have sought the death penalty against a researcher who killed himself after learning he was going to be charged in the 2001 anthrax killings, two sources told CNN on Friday.

Former U.S. Army researcher Bruce Ivins was found unconscious in his Frederick, Maryland, home on Sunday.

Former U.S. Army researcher Bruce Ivins was found unconscious in his Frederick, Maryland, home on Sunday.

Three sources familiar with the investigation said the case soon will be closed because a threat no longer exists. No information has been made public about what charges were planned.

Authorities had been investigating Bruce Ivins, 62, a former researcher at the Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, a bioweapons laboratory at Fort Detrick, Maryland, according to the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is still officially open. Ivins had been working at Fort Detrick trying to develop a vaccine against the deadly anthrax toxin.

A U.S. official with knowledge of the investigation told CNN on Friday that authorities were looking at whether Ivins released anthrax as a way to test his vaccine.

A spokesman for Maryland's medical examiner told CNN Friday the official cause of Ivins' death on Tuesday was suicide. One of CNN's sources said Ivins knew he was about to be charged.

The medical examiner's spokesman said he could not confirm a report in the Los Angeles Times that Ivins had taken Tylenol mixed with codeine. The Times first reported Ivins' death on its Web site early Friday.

Ivins' attorney said Friday his client was innocent of the anthrax deaths, and said he is disappointed that he "will not have the opportunity to defend his good name."

In a written statement, attorney Paul Kemp said his firm had represented Ivins for more than a year.

"The relentless pressure of accusation and innuendo takes its toll in different ways on different people, as has already been seen in this investigation. In Dr. Ivins' case, it led to his untimely death. We ask that the media respect the privacy of his family, and allow them to grieve."

The anthrax mailings, which killed five people, shook the nation just weeks after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

There have been no arrests in the case, which started after someone sent letters laced with spores of deadly anthrax to congressional offices and several news organizations. Among those who died were two postal workers. Two contaminated letters were sent to senators, exposing 30 staffers.

A spokesman for the Frederick County, Maryland, Fire and Rescue Service told CNN that someone called the 911 center at 1:08 a.m. Sunday to report an unconscious person at a home at 622 Military Road.

Frederick Police Capt. Kevin Grubb said Ivins was found unresponsive on the floor of a bathroom. He was taken to Frederick Memorial Hospital. Ivins' modest two-story home is located across from Fort Detrick.

Court documents show that a judge issued a restraining order against Ivins on July 24, days before his suicide.

A woman sought the order against "Dr. Bruce Edward Ivins," whom she accused of making threats of violence, harassment and stalking in the previous 30 days.

In the order, Ivins is told not to contact the woman -- whom CNN is not identifying -- by telephone or other means, and to stay away from her place of employment.

A hearing on the order had been scheduled for Thursday, and according to court documents, she had been subpoenaed to testify before a federal grand jury in Washington on Friday.

John Ezzell, former chief of special pathogens at Fort Detrick, said he was involved in hiring Ivins, who worked at the facility for years before retiring in 2006.

He declined to describe Ivins' exact job responsibilities, but said, "He was an interesting character."

Ezzell said Ivins was the one who examined an anthrax-laced letter that was sent to Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, in November 2001. The envelope, which was opened in the lab, contained 23,000 anthrax spores and was postmarked October 9 in Trenton, New Jersey.

Ivins' brother, Tom, said the FBI questioned him about his brother about a year and a half ago. Investigators "asked you about your personal life, how you got along with your brothers when you grew up," he said.

"They said they were investigating him when they talked to me," said Tom Ivins, who said he was not close to his brother and never spoke to him about the anthrax investigation.

"I stay away from him," he said.

An FBI spokeswoman declined to comment about Ivins on Friday. A Justice Department spokesman could not be reached for comment.

Police believe the anthrax was made at Fort Detrick, one of CNN's sources said.

Fort Detrick issued a statement mourning the death of Ivins, who worked at the U.S. Army Medical Institute of Infectious Diseases for more than 35 years as a civilian microbiologist.

"In addition to his long and faithful government service, Bruce contributed to our community as a Red Cross volunteer with the Frederick County chapter. We will miss him very much," the statement said.

Ivins had been questioned previously by the FBI, as had many scientists assisting the FBI, the source said.

Investigators believed the culprit might be a scientist because of the amount of knowledge needed to process the anthrax.

FBI Director Robert Mueller told CNN in July that "there have been breakthroughs" in the investigation and he was confident it would be resolved.

"We've made great progress in the investigation and it's in no way dormant," Mueller said. "I'm confident in the course of the investigation, I'm confident of the steps that have been taken in the course of the investigation, and I'm confident that it will be resolved."

Early in the investigation, Attorney General John Ashcroft publicly identified a "person of interest" in the anthrax case -- Steven Hatfill, a former civilian researcher on anthrax.

Hatfill and Ivins both worked at the bioweapons lab at Fort Detrick.

Hatfill was not charged and strongly denied involvement. He sued the Justice Department, claiming his privacy rights were violated when his name was leaked to the media in connection with the ongoing federal investigation into the biological attacks.

The Justice Department reached a settlement with Hatfill in June. He is to receive a one-time payment of $2.8 million and $150,000 a year for life.


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