Sunday, March 31, 2013

President Waheed to form election coalition with ... - Minivan News

President Waheed to form election coalition with religious conservative Adhaalath Party thumbnail

President Dr Mohamed Waheed has announced plans to form a coalition between his Gaumee Ithihaad Party?(GIP) and the religious conservative Adhaalath Party (AP), ahead of presidential elections scheduled for later this year.

Writing on his personal Twitter account Thursday (March 28), President Waheed welcomed the support of the ?AP, while expressing hope other undisclosed parties would be making similar announcements at a later date.

The AP tweeted the same day that its council have approved the coalition with the current president ahead of the September this year.

By yesterday (March 29), the AP tweeted that it aimed to ?form a large, strong coalition? including other parties in the country to try and provide stability and prosperity in the Maldives following the presidential race.

The AP, one of five parties in the country?meeting a recently approved regulation requiring any registered political body to have 10,000 registered members, is part of the coalition government of President Waheed following the controversial transfer of power that brought him into office in February 2012.

Both Adhalaath and GIP do not presently have any elected members in parliament.

The religious conservative party was previously a coalition partner in the government of former President Mohamed Nasheed, later leaving the government citing concerns at what it alleged were the irreligious practices of the administration.

This led the AP in December 2011 to join then fellow opposition parties ? now members of Waheed?s unity government ? and a number of NGOs to gather in Male? with thousands of people to ?defend Islam?.

During the same day, Nasheed?s MDP held their own rally held at the Artificial Beach area in Male? claiming his government would continue to practice a ?tolerant form? of Islam, reminding listeners that Islam in the Maldives has traditionally been tolerant.

?We can?t achieve development by going backwards to the Stone Age or being ignorant,? Nasheed said at the time.

Shortly after coming to power in February 2012, flanked by members of the new government?s coalition, President Waheed gave a speech calling on supporters to ?Be courageous; today you are all mujaheddin?.

GIP Spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza, President?s Office Media Secretary Masood Imad and President?of the?Adhaalath Party Sheikh Imran Abdulla were not responding to calls regarding the coalition announcement today.

Diverging opinions

Despite the agreement to cooperate between the two parties, Waheed and the AP differ in their reaction to the recent controversial sentencing of a 15 year old rape victim to 100 lashes for fornication with another man.

President Waheed?s ?stated on his official Twitter account at the time: ?I am saddened by the sentence of flogging handed to a minor. Govt will push for review of this position.?

The Foreign Ministry subsequently expressed ?deep concern by the prosecution and the Juvenile Court?s sentence to flog a 15 year-old girl on the charges of pre-marital sex.?

?Though the flogging will be deferred until the girl turns 18, the government believes she is the victim of sexual abuse and should be treated as such by the state and the society and therefore, her rights should be fully protected. The Government is of the view that the case merits appeal. The girl is under state care and the government will facilitate and supervise her appeal of the case, via the girl?s lawyer, to ensure that justice is done and her rights are protected,? the Ministry stated.

The President?s Office also recently announced it was looking at the possibility of bringing about reform to potentially bring an end to the use of punishments like flogging in the country?s justice system.

However the Adhaalath Party has publicly endorsed the sentence, stating that the girl??deserves the punishment?,?as outlined under Islamic Sharia.

The party, members of which largely dominate the Maldives? Ministry of Islamic Affairs, stated that the sentence of flogging had not been passed against the minor for being sexually abused by her stepfather, but rather for the consensual sex to which she had confessed to having to authorities.

?The purpose of penalties like these in Islamic Sharia is to maintain order in society and to save it from sinful acts. It is not at all an act of violence. We must turn a deaf ear to the international organisations which are calling to abolish these penalties, labeling them degrading and inhumane acts or torture,? read a statement from the party.

?If such sinful activities are to become this common, the society will break down and we may become deserving of divine wrath,? the Adhaalath Party stated.

Coalition potential

Of the parties yet to announce candidates to stand during the upcoming presidential elections, Dr Hassan Saeed, Leader of the government-aligned Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) and People?s Alliance MP Ahmed Nazim were not responding to calls regarding President Waheed?s announcement today.

Earlier this month, the government-aligned Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP) ruled out a coalition with the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) ahead of elections,?despite being open to collaboration with other parties.

Both the PPM and DRP serve within President Waheed?s national unity government.

The DRP has also previously ruled out a collaboration with the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).


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PBS shows how hacking is reclaiming its good name after a bad rap (video)

PBS explains how hacking got a bad rap and is reclaiming its good name video

Hacking is still a loaded concept for many, often conjuring negative images of corporate espionage, fraudsters and prank-minded script kiddies. PBS' Off Book wants to remind us that hacking wasn't always seen this way -- and, thanks to modern developments, is mending its reputation. Its latest episode shows that hacking began simply as a desire to advance devices and software beyond their original roles, but was co-opted by a sometimes misunderstanding press that associated the word only with malicious intrusions. Today, hacking has regained more of its original meaning: hackathons, a resurgence of DIY culture and digital protests prove that hacks can improve our gadgets, our security and even our political landscape. We still have a long way to go before we completely escape movie stereotypes, but the mini-documentary may offer food for thought the next time you're installing a custom ROM or building your own VR helmet.

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Riding in style: The evolution of the popemobile

Alessandro Di Meo / EPA

Images of the automobiles that have transported popes over the years.

By Elizabeth Chuck, Staff Writer, NBC News

Comes outfitted in protective bullet-proof glass. Draws a crowd wherever it goes. A driver is included; gold trim is optional.

Popemobiles also include such amenities as a handrail to let the pope easily stand and wave while in motion, a built-in stereo and arctic-cool air conditioning.

Eight popes have had their own set of holy wheels since Pope Pius XI got a stretch 460 Nurberg edition Mercedes-Benz in 1930, but the eighth, Pope Francis -- known for?taking the bus to work?before he was named pope -- may not want all the frills and custom built-ins that popemobiles offer.?

By retiring, Benedict XVI has passed along a white armored Mercedes SUV, which has a white leather interior with gold trim and a white leather turret that can be raised by hydraulic lift high enough for crowds to see the pope, if he wants to sit. (For longer trips around Italy, Benedict enjoyed his own helicopter.) Bullet-proof?Plexiglas?that's strong enough to withstand explosions surrounds the turret on three sides. There's an emergency oxygen supply built in, according to?The Telegraph.?

"The pope must feel comfortable. People must be able to see him. People have traveled very far; they want to be able to get a good look at him," said Christoph Horn, Director of Global Communications of Mercedes-Benz, from Stuttgart, Germany. "This is about creating a comfortable and safe environment for the pope to travel in and be seen in.?

The pre-mobile
Popes didn't have to wait for the invention of automobiles to be mobile. For centuries, popes traveled by throne when going out on local outings. The popes were carried by 12 bearers (representing the 12 disciples of the church) as they moved through crowds, Ronald Rychlak, a University of Mississippi law school professor who has written numerous books on religion,?said.


The first car used by a pope.

All that changed when Pope Pius XI got his Benz. The limousine was a gift from the car company, which would provide vehicles for many popes after that.

"Usually more than one vehicle was provided, especially for the popes in the 1930s," Horn said. "They were traveling a lot, so many popemobiles were built for them."

Back then, popes traveled in limousines with open tops, he said. Over the years, more than 12 different models of cars and trucks would be provided for popes. Pius XI himself ushered in a new era of pope cars in 1960 with a Mercedes 300D Landaulet, which had a throne that rose high in the back, The New York Times reported, before he switched to a 1964 Lincoln model. His successor, Pope Pope VI, went back to the preferred Mercedes brand a year later.

But don't call it 'popemobile'
When popes travel abroad for state visits, it's not always possible for the vehicles they use at home to make the journey with them. Instead, customized cars are prepared ahead of the visit, submitted for Vatican approval from the country he will visit.

"The primary level of security is assigned to the host nation,"?Rychlak said. "If they want to have something like a popemobile for a major parade, let's say they're doing Mass at Yankee stadium or something like that, they would have to make arrangements to ship something over, or that's the kind of situation where there may be a gift made to the pope" by a major car company.

That was how the car that officially became known for the first time as the "popemobile" came into existence: Pope John Paul II had visited Ireland in 1979, and a boxy yellow Ford Transit van awaited him as his chariot. Last November, The Telegraph reported an Irish businessman had acquired the van from the Dublin Wax Museum, where it had been since the papal visit, and was transforming it into a party bus.

Many other popemobiles have stayed in the countries they were used in. In 2008, Newsweek got a peek at the popemobile Benedict used for his U.S. tour, describing it as "by far the fanciest and sleekest papal car ever built ... The papal handlers can shift their passenger from zero to 60 in less than eight seconds, but the drivers probably won't exceed 10 mph along the parade routes."

In 2002, John Paul II asked the media to stop using the term "popemobile," insisting it sounded "undignified."

A clear need for better security
John Paul II survived an assassination attempt in 1981 while in St. Peter's Square. A Turkish man was later convicted of firing the shots, which punctured the pope's car and struck him four times. John Paul II survived, but it was clear his wide-open truck wouldn't suffice to protect him. From then on, bulletproof glass has encased popemobiles, although popes have occasionally ridden around without covering for brief periods.

Arturo Mari / AP

A 1981 assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II in St. Peter's Square.

Since adding bulletproof glass, popemobiles have added other necessary features, including ultra-powerful air conditioning to cool down the glass dome that popes sit in, reports The Telegraph.

Other protection measures include heavy-metal reinforcement on the bottom of the vehicle as well as the other sides, and the driver is always a trusted longtime Vatican employee. There's no partition between the pope and his driver; a microphone enables him to broadcast messages to crowds through speakers outside the popemobile.

The current weighs five tons and was just presented to Benedict last December by Mercedes-Benz.

"We work with the members of the Vatican and with the people in charge of the garages of the Vatican," Horn said. "These are all individual vehicles that are built to specifications."

The new pope's desire to get up close and personal with his faithful has presented challenges for his security detail.

"The pope's going to want to be up close hugging and touching and meeting people and that's going to be a tremendous concern for his security people,"?Rychlak said. "His security forces have taken him aside, or probably already have, and are going to say, 'Holy Father, you're putting us in a horrible situation if you don't go along with these things.'"

They're used to having to say that, though: Benedict didn't always like the feeling of a "shield between him and the people,"?Rychlak said. Most popemobiles are designed so the glass can be lowered, though.


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Source: Business, labor get deal on worker program

FILE - In this May 17, 2012 file photo, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. gestures during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. Big business and major labor unions appeared ready Friday, March 29, 2013 to end a fight over a new low-skilled worker program that had threatened to upend negotiations on a sweeping immigration bill in the Senate providing a pathway to citizenship for 11 million immigrants already in the U.S. Schumer, who's been brokering talks between the AFL-CIO and the Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement that negotiators are "very close, closer than we have ever been, and we are very optimistic." He said there were still a few issues remaining. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

FILE - In this May 17, 2012 file photo, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. gestures during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. Big business and major labor unions appeared ready Friday, March 29, 2013 to end a fight over a new low-skilled worker program that had threatened to upend negotiations on a sweeping immigration bill in the Senate providing a pathway to citizenship for 11 million immigrants already in the U.S. Schumer, who's been brokering talks between the AFL-CIO and the Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement that negotiators are "very close, closer than we have ever been, and we are very optimistic." He said there were still a few issues remaining. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

Several southwest Michigan pastors along with immigrant families and members of the general public take part in a pray-in for immigration reform event outside of Representative Fred Upton's office in downtown Kalamazoo on Friday, March 29, 2013. (AP Photo/Kalamazoo Gazette-MLive Media Group, Matt Gade ) ALL LOCAL TV OUT; LOCAL TV INTERNET OUT

Several southwest Michigan pastors along with immigrant families and members of the general public take part in a pray-in for immigration reform event outside of Representative Fred Upton's office in downtown Kalamazoo on Friday, March 29, 2013. (AP Photo/Kalamazoo Gazette-MLive Media Group, Matt Gade ) ALL LOCAL TV OUT; LOCAL TV INTERNET OUT

WASHINGTON (AP) ? Big business and labor have struck a deal on a new low-skilled worker program, removing the biggest hurdle to completion of sweeping immigration legislation allowing 11 million illegal immigrants eventual U.S. citizenship, a person with knowledge of the talks said Saturday.

The agreement was reached in a phone call late Friday night with AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, U.S. Chamber of Commerce head Tom Donohue, and Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, who's been mediating the dispute.

The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of a formal announcement, said the deal resolves disagreements over wages for the new workers and which industries would be included. Those disputes had led talks to break down a week ago, throwing into doubt whether Schumer and seven other senators crafting a comprehensive bipartisan immigration bill would be able to complete their work as planned.

The deal must still be signed off on by the other senators working with Schumer, including Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Marco Rubio of Florida, but that's expected to happen. With the agreement in place, the senators are expected to unveil their legislation the week of April 8. Their measure would secure the border, crack down on employers, improve legal immigration and create a 13-year pathway to citizenship for the millions of illegal immigrants already here.

It's a major second-term priority of President Barack Obama's and would usher in the most dramatic changes to the nation's faltering immigration system in more than two decades.

The AFL-CIO and the Chamber, longtime antagonists over temporary worker programs, had been fighting over wages for tens of thousands of low-skilled workers who would be brought in under the new program to fill jobs in construction, hotels and resorts, nursing homes and restaurants, and other industries.

Under the agreement, a new "W'' visa program would go into effect beginning April 1, 2015, according to another official involved with the talks who also spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of a formal announcement.

In year one of the program, 20,000 workers would be allowed in; in year two, 35,000; in year three, 55,000; and in year four, 75,000. Ultimately the program would be capped at 200,000 workers a year, but the number of visas would fluctuate, depending on unemployment rates, job openings, employer demand and data collected by a new federal bureau pushed by the labor movement as an objective monitor of the market.

A "safety valve" would allow employers to exceed the cap if they can show need and pay premium wages, but any additional workers brought in would be subtracted from the following year's cap, the official said.

The workers could move from employer to employer and would be able to petition for permanent residency and ultimately seek U.S. citizenship. Neither is possible for temporary workers now.

The new program would fill needs employers say they have that are not currently met by U.S. immigration programs. Most industries don't have a good way to hire a steady supply of foreign workers because there's one temporary visa program for low-wage nonagricultural workers but it's capped at 66,000 visas per year and is only supposed to be used for seasonal or temporary jobs.

The AFL-CIO and the Chamber have long been at odds over temporary worker programs, which business has sought in a quest for a cheaper workforce but labor has opposed because of concerns over working conditions and the effect on jobs and wages for U.S. workers. The issue helped sink the last major attempt at immigration overhaul in 2007, which the AFL-CIO opposed partly because of temporary worker provisions, and the flare-up earlier this month sparked concerns that the same thing would happen this time around. Agreement between the two traditional foes is one of many indications that immigration reform has its best chance in decades in Congress this year.

After apparent miscommunications earlier this month between the AFL-CIO and the Chamber on the wage issue, the deal resolves it in a way both sides are comfortable with, officials said.

Workers would earn actual wages paid to American workers or the prevailing wages for the industry they're working in, whichever is higher. The Labor Department would determine prevailing wage based on customary rates in specific localities, so that it would vary from city to city.

There also had been disagreement on how to handle the construction industry, which unions argue is different from other industries in the new program because it can be more seasonal in nature and includes a number of higher-skilled trades. The official said the resolution will cap at 15,000 a year the number of visas that can be sought by the construction industry.

Separately, the new immigration bill also is expected to offer many more visas for high-tech workers, new visas for agriculture workers, and provisions allowing some agriculture workers already in the U.S. a speedier path to citizenship than that provided to other illegal immigrants, in an effort to create a stable agricultural workforce.


Follow Erica Werner on Twitter:

Associated Press


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Kia's compact four-seater urban CUB concept

Kia's new CUB concept unveiled at the Seoul Auto Show has been designed with the trendy urban demographic in mind. Measuring just 13 feet (3.96 m) long, the concept vehicle still manages to provide space for four within its compact cabin.

Designed at Kia?s Seoul design studio under the direction of President and Chief Design Officer, Peter Schreyer, the CUB has rearward-opening rear doors and an "access-all-areas" interior concept. Essentially, the design team left the B-pillars out, hence the all access thing. Clever though, as it looks to significantly improve ingress and egress for the trend setters.

On the outside there are a number of personalized design cues going on. Side mirrors are almost non-existent, while strange little upturned winglets on the doors that Kia refers to as ?turning vanes? look to be more nautical than dry land effective. These aerodynamic vanes at sill level are designed to streamline and add definition to the CUB?s profile.

On the hood, recessed "wing treatments" similar to the CUB?s hood and door details can be found. From the front, the CUB?s distinctive snickering, mustachioed face reminds one of the infamous masks used by Anonymous. Headlights feature two-point LED lights, similar to those on the Kia Quoris, while big 19-inch alloy wheels fill out the stubby wheel arches.

With seating for four the CUB?s interior is trimmed in black leather with yellow seat accents around the armrests and steering wheel. Think Bumblebee with suicide doors and twin-turbochargers. Kia says the instrument panel was inspired by wild animal eyes ? although they look more robot-eyed than animal to us. The gauge cluster is deepset binnacle behind a thick, three-spoke steering wheel ? which, by the way, can monitor your biorhythms. The dash overall is a minimalist affair with air vents controlled by a touch sensor and a place for an iPhone.

A DIS (Driving Information System) controller, similar to Xbox?s Kinect system, is connected to a gesture camera. With what Kia calls ?well-defined motions,? drivers can scroll through and select menu items via the center display. So now you have people throwing about Dance Dance Fever like "motions" in an attempt to turn the AC down. I can?t see this being a problem ever.

Cute and urban trendy is nice but to ensure the CUB isn?t made fun of on the freeway, Kia has placed a new 1.6 liter engine with direct injection under the hood. This powerplant, recently confirmed for use in Kia?s ?pro_cee?d GT? and ?cee?d GT? in Europe, should provide ample power for most situations.

Fitted with twin-scroll turbochargers and beefed up internal bits, the CUB?s new engine generates 51 percent more power ? 204 hp (154 kW) ? and 60 percent more torque ? 195 lb. ft. (265 Nm) ? than the boring old 1.6 engine. In partner with six-speed manual gearbox, the wee CUB is reported to reach 100 km/h (62 mph) in a sort of quick 7.7 seconds and reach a top speed of 230 km/h (143 mph).

Looking to go head to head with the Mini, this turning-vaned, suicide-doored, turbocharged urban assault vehicle could be just what the doctor ordered. Unfortunately, there are no plans to put the Kia CUB concept into production as yet.

Source: Kia


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Saturday, March 30, 2013

North Korea's Internet? What Internet? For most, online access doesn't exist

You won't find people in North Korea checking Facebook or Twitter for the latest updates on the tense situation created by its leader, Kim Jong Un. That's because the nation of 24 million is largely shut out from the Internet. Few outside the government and military have ever been online.

"In North Korea, we don't see evidence that much of anyone has access," Jim Cowie, chief technology officer and co-founder of Renesys, which does global Internet measurement, told NBC News.

"You don't see banks or factories or universities attached to the Internet," he said. "In North Korea, Internet is extremely limited. They don't have those resources. There's basically one service provider and that is state-controlled."

The country's Internet access physically comes through from China, he said, supplemented "sometimes" by a satellite provider.

"We don't have first-hand knowledge of who has access," Cowie said, but Internet use is "very tightly restricted."

So much so that North Korea was named one of 12 "enemies" of the Internet last year by Reporters Without Borders, which monitors censorship globally. "We still consider North Korea as an enemy of the Internet," Delphine Hagland, the group's director in Washington, D.C., told NBC News. Other countries making that list included China, Iran, Syria and Vietnam.

There aren't many other sources of information available in North Korea, which according to the CIA World Factbook, has "no independent media," with "radios and TVs ... pre-tuned to government stations."

About 1 million people in North Korea have cellphones, but they are not phones with Internet access.

There may be some exceptions, said Hagland. North Koreans who live near the border with China "can have the (illegal) option of connecting to the Chinese mobile network."

In its report, Reporters Without Borders also noted the existence of what's sometimes called a "sneakernet" ? that is, people handing off data to one another via physical media, rather than across a network. The North Korea-China border is "sufficiently porous to allow mobile phones, CDs, DVDs and USB flash drives containing articles and other content to be smuggled in from China."

North Korea did, for a very short time recently, allow tourists who were staying at one hotel to have Internet access via their 3G cellphones. But that access was yanked within less than a month, according to a report in Wired UK.

That brief mobile Internet availability was not tied to Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt's visit to the country, along with former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson. The two had gone to North Korea in January to seek the release of American detainee Kenneth Bae ? which did not happen ? as well as to promote Internet freedom.

Nearly two years ago, the United Nations said that access to the Internet should be considered a basic human right. But North Korea has not gotten ? or has ignored ? that memo.

Schmidt, who met with North Korean scientists and software engineers, said after his visit that the country runs a risk of being left behind economically if it does not provide Internet access.

"Once the Internet starts, citizens in a country can certainly build on top of it, but the government has to do something,? he told NBC News' Ed Flanagan at that time. ?They have to make it possible for people to use the Internet, which the government in North Korea has not yet done.?

Check out Technology, GadgetBox, DigitalLife and InGame on Facebook, and on Twitter, follow Suzanne Choney.


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Air Force general picked for NATO post

WASHINGTON (AP) ? A senior Air Force general is being nominated to take over as commander of all U.S. and NATO forces in Europe.

Gen. Philip M. Breedlove is the top Air Force commander in Europe. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says Breedlove is particularly well qualified. Hagel announced the nomination Thursday.

If confirmed, Breedlove would be the first Air Force general to hold the top NATO job since Joseph Ralston served in the post from 2000-2003.

Breedlove would succeed Navy Adm. James Stavridis, who has held the job since 2009.

President Barack Obama chose Breedlove after his first choice for the job, Marine Gen. John Allen, announced he would retire after 19 months commanding allied forces in Afghanistan because of his wife's health issues.


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Friday, March 29, 2013

Justin Bieber Visits Selena Gomez, Will Be "Seriously" Investigated


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In Chicago, thousands march to protest proposed school closings

By Renita Young and James B. Kelleher

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Thousands of demonstrators rallied in downtown Chicago on Wednesday to protest the city's plan to close 54 public schools, primarily in Hispanic and African-American neighborhoods.

The closings, which the school board plans to vote on in May, would be the biggest one-time shutdown ever by a U.S. city. Wednesday's demonstration, organized by the teacher's union, drew parents, students and other critics of the plan.

Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union, encouraged parents of the roughly 30,000 children whose schools will be closed later in 2013 to simply ignore the city's action at the end of summer vacation.

"On the first day of school, you show up at your real school," Lewis said at the rally in Daley Plaza.

The public school district, the third largest in the United States, has said it has a $1 billion annual deficit and needs to close under-used schools to save money. It believes the plan will save $560 million over the next decade.

After the rally at Daley Plaza on Wednesday, the demonstrators marched toward district headquarters. About 100 of them were handcuffed and removed by police after they locked arms and sat down in the street, chanting "Protect our children, save our schools."

Earlier Wednesday, a group of ministers from Chicago's South and West Sides opposed to the closings attempted to deliver a letter to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel at City Hall.

Emanuel, who supports the closings, did not meet with the group, which left their letter with a police officer.

"I think their No. 1 responsibility is a high quality education for every child and this plan simply does not deliver that," said Reverend Marshall Hatch of the New Mt. Pilgrim Baptist Church. "It seems to, of course, be more about the budget."

Enrollment in Chicago Public Schools has fallen 20 percent in the last decade, mainly because of population declines in poor neighborhoods.

The district has said it can accommodate 511,000 students, but only about 403,000 are enrolled and nearly 140 of its school buildings are more than half empty. The school board must approve the plan and is expected to vote on it May 22.

The closings are "not easy for our communities," CPS head Barbara Byrd-Bennett said in a statement. "But as CEO of this district, I need to make decisions that put our children first."

She said children at the under-used schools have been "cheated of the resources they need to succeed" for too long.

The decision to close dozens of schools follows a bitter strike by Chicago teachers last September, fought partly over the teachers union's accusation that Mayor Emanuel was undermining schools in poor areas of the city.

Chicago's is just one of many urban school districts around the United States grappling with declining enrollment.

Over the past decade, 70 large or mid-sized cities have closed schools, averaging 11 per district, according to the National Education Association, a labor union for teachers.

In Washington D.C., 23 schools were closed in 2008 and 15 more are expected to close over the next two years. Earlier in March, Philadelphia announced plans to close 23 schools.

An expansion of charter schools is at the heart of the school closings debate in Chicago. Charter schools are publicly funded, but mostly non-union and their numbers have increased even as neighborhood public schools are closed.

Chicago has promised a five-year moratorium on school closings after the planned shutdowns this year.

Many of the schools that would be closed are in neighborhoods that have seen frequent gun violence, leaving parents and school activists concerned the changes will endanger students who will have to cross gang boundaries.

Chicago recorded 506 murders in 2012 largely due to gang violence and nearly all of the children affected by the closings are in kindergarten through eighth grade.

(Writing by James B. Kelleher; Editing by David Bailey and Andre Grenon)


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Senator Johnston Finally Unveils School Finance Act to Taxpayers ...

Colorado State Senator Mike Johnston (D-Denver), a?former Obama Administration educational advisor, recently began to roll back the curtain on his proposed public school finance overhaul. The School Finance Act (SB 213), which has successfully moved out of committee and could be scheduled for a full vote at any time, includes a $1 billion tax increase and controversial enrollment formulas.

Though the bill has been in the works for the last several years, it has only been in the last three weeks that school districts and citizens are actually getting a ?peek behind the curtain? for the first time, according to Douglas County Board of Education member Kevin Larsen.

Last night, the Douglas County School District Accountability Committee (DAC) hosted Senator Johnston at a public event to discuss SB 213. The meeting was closely followed by social media outlets and organizations on both sides of the educational aisle, as Johnston spoke to a crowded room of skeptical Coloradans.

Audience members were allowed to ask questions or give comment at the DAC event, and one citizen highlighted a common concern of many in attendance when he expressed his opinion that Johnston?s bill would not work because ?more money does not mean a better education.?

Larsen, the Douglas County Board of Education?s liaison at the DAC meeting on Tuesday night, spoke at length his latest findings from within SB 213.

?Some of the parts of the bill are commendable, however there a number of things of great concern in this bill,? said Larsen, who has a background in finance.

Larsen cited worries about cost, noting that public education currently receives $6.5 billion from the state and if the bill passes, nearly 50% of Colorado?s state budget will be devoted to education. He also pointed out that ?money from the bill will not go directly to the children, merely the educators and teacher union members? because the language of the bill does not allocate it for student or per-pupil spending.

When Sen. Johnston?s bill was originally drafted in 2011, it was estimated that the School Finance Act would cost Colorado taxpayers an extra $750,000 a year. That estimate has now increased to $1.2 billion a year, according to Larsen.

Should the School Finance Act pass through the House and Senate, the bill would have to be voted on via ballot measure under TABOR because of its projected $1 billion price tag for Colorado taxpayers.

Johnston claims the bill, the first major school finance act in the state of Colorado since 1994,?will help school districts financially by providing a new system to count and record the enrollment of students. The plan is modeled after Rhode Island?s School Finance Act, and proposes a new formula that would allegedly work toward adequacy and equity by distributing state financial aid to districts based on their ability to pay.

This new formula for the class enrollment count would require the state of Colorado to tweak its current system of counting students, as well as adjusting the way districts qualify to receive state funding. For over twenty years school funding has been based on student enrollment as determined each year on October 1, which does not take into account changes in the district?s enrollment throughout the remainder of the school year.

Enrollment counting would change significantly as a result of SB 213. Instead of enrollment being recorded once a year, the bill requires a system to count daily averages every five years.

In short, each district?s students would be calculated using average enrollment over time.

Under SB 213, each Colorado district?s property tax (determined on a per-pupil basis) would be adjusted accordingly, tied to the district?s median income. If local districts were to lose educational funding over time, each district would be required to increase local taxes in order to make up the loss in state funding.

This story was originally featured at Media Trackers Colorado.


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Gold headed for 4th day of fall as upbeat US data dents appeal

By Rujun Shen

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Gold inched lower on Wednesday in its fourth day in the red, as promising U.S. data curbed safe-haven demand, while worries about the euro zone's fiscal health after Cyprus' unprecedented rescue deal continued to support the precious metal.

Orders for long-lasting U.S.-made goods surged last month and home prices posted their biggest year-on-year gain in six-and-a-half years in January, the latest signs the U.S. economy regained momentum early in the first quarter.

Upbeat U.S. data in recent months has boosted confidence in the recovery of the world's top economy, driving investors to high-yielding assets such as equities, while little inflationary pressure has kept gold's appeal as a hedge against rising prices muted.

"It's tough to keep investors in gold, and even tougher to motivate them to buy gold," said Dominic Schnider, analyst at UBS Wealth Management in Singapore.

Gold is likely to remain in consolidation in the next few months, but an improving economic growth could fuel inflation later in the year, which would help lift gold, he said.

"When we get into the second half of the year, there will be growth and there will also be price pressure, which should give gold stimulus towards $1,800 an ounce," said Schnider.

Spot gold fell 0.4 percent to $1,592.46 an ounce by 0706 GMT, on course for a fourth session of straight losses, matching a similar run in late February and early March.

U.S. gold dropped 0.3 percent to $1,591.60.

The popular Shanghai silver forward lost nearly 2 percent to a three-month low of 5,860 yuan a tonne, and spot silver dropped to a more than three-week trough of $28.22.

Traders attributed the sharp fall to technical selling after a break below recent support levels.

"Silver had been in a range between $28.50 and $29.50 for a while, so some stops may have been triggered," said a Tokyo-based trader.

For the short term, worries about the financial stability of the euro zone after Cyprus clinched a rescue deal that forces losses on depositors and bank bond holders will keep a floor under bullion.

Reflecting the stalled momentum in gold, holdings of SPDR Gold Trust, the world's largest gold-backed exchange-traded fund, were unchanged at 1,221.260 tonnes for the third session on March 26.

Activities in Asia's physical gold market slowed to a trickle as prices bounced in a small range, dealers said.

"Prices are not going anywhere and there is no buying interest," said a Singapore-based dealer.

In Thailand, retail jewellery business was bustling thanks to a strong baht, which traded near a 16-year high hit last week, though investment demand was sluggish, she added.

Platinum and palladium also faltered. Spot platinum lost 0.4 percent to $1,568.25, retreating from a two-week high of $1,601 hit earlier in the day. Spot palladium inched down 0.2 percent to $758.68.


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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Saturn is like an antiques shop, Cassini suggests; Moons and rings date back to solar system's birth

Mar. 27, 2013 ? A new analysis of data from NASA's Cassini spacecraft suggests that Saturn's moons and rings are gently worn vintage goods from around the time of our solar system's birth.

Though they are tinted on the surface from recent "pollution," these bodies date back more than 4 billion years. They are from around the time that the planetary bodies in our neighborhood began to form out of the protoplanetary nebula, the cloud of material still orbiting the sun after its ignition as a star. The paper, led by Gianrico Filacchione, a Cassini participating scientist at Italy's National Institute for Astrophysics, Rome, has just been published online by The Astrophysical Journal.

"Studying the Saturnian system helps us understand the chemical and physical evolution of our entire solar system," said Filacchione. "We know now that understanding this evolution requires not just studying a single moon or ring, but piecing together the relationships intertwining these bodies."

Data from Cassini's visual and infrared mapping spectrometer (VIMS) have revealed how water ice and also colors -- which are the signs of non-water and organic materials --are distributed throughout the Saturnian system. The spectrometer's data in the visible part of the light spectrum show that coloring on the rings and moons generally is only skin-deep.

Using its infrared range, VIMS also detected abundant water ice -- too much to have been deposited by comets or other recent means. So the authors deduce that the water ices must have formed around the time of the birth of the solar system, because Saturn orbits the sun beyond the so-called "snow line." Out beyond the snow line, in the outer solar system where Saturn resides, the environment is conducive to preserving water ice, like a deep freezer. Inside the solar system's "snow line," the environment is much closer to the sun's warm glow, and ices and other volatiles dissipate more easily.

The colored patina on the ring particles and moons roughly corresponds to their location in the Saturn system. For Saturn's inner ring particles and moons, water-ice spray from the geyser moon Enceladus has a whitewashing effect.

Farther out, the scientists found that the surfaces of Saturn's moons generally were redder the farther they orbited from Saturn. Phoebe, one of Saturn's outer moons and an object thought to originate in the far-off Kuiper Belt, seems to be shedding reddish dust that eventually rouges the surface of nearby moons, such as Hyperion and Iapetus.

A rain of meteoroids from outside the system appears to have turned some parts of the main ring system -- notably the part of the main rings known as the B ring -- a subtle reddish hue. Scientists think the reddish color could be oxidized iron -- rust -- or polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which could be progenitors of more complex organic molecules.

One of the big surprises from this research was the similar reddish coloring of the potato-shaped moon Prometheus and nearby ring particles. Other moons in the area were more whitish.

"The similar reddish tint suggests that Prometheus is constructed from material in Saturn's rings," said co-author Bonnie Buratti, a VIMS team member based at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "Scientists had been wondering whether ring particles could have stuck together to form moons -- since the dominant theory was that the rings basically came from satellites being broken up. The coloring gives us some solid proof that it can work the other way around, too."

"Observing the rings and moons with Cassini gives us an amazing bird's-eye view of the intricate processes at work in the Saturn system, and perhaps in the evolution of planetary systems as well," said Linda Spilker, Cassini project scientist, based at JPL. "What an object looks like and how it evolves depends a lot on location, location, location."

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The visual and infrared mapping spectrometer team is based at the University of Arizona, Tucson.

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Story Source:

The above story is reprinted from materials provided by NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.

Journal Reference:

  1. G. Filacchione, F. Capaccioni, R. N. Clark, P. D. Nicholson, D. P. Cruikshank, J. N. Cuzzi, J. I. Lunine, R. H. Brown, P. Cerroni, F. Tosi, M. Ciarniello, B. J. Buratti, M. M. Hedman, E. Flamini. The radial distribution of water ice and chromophores across Saturn's system. Astrophysical Journal, 2013; (accepted) [link]

Note: If no author is given, the source is cited instead.

Disclaimer: Views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of ScienceDaily or its staff.


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Twitter can get you fired! Here's (more) proof

Social media

3 hours ago

Y'all know the stuff you post on social media get can get you fired, right? Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest ... well, probably Pinterest ... the platform doesn't matter. Your big dumb publicly viewable words are what counts. This may seem fairly obvious, but I ask because, despite all the years I've been writing about people getting social-media fired, SO MANY OF YOU KEEP POSTING STUFF THAT WILL GET YOU FIRED!

Looking for evidence of this? FireMe! provides a real-time list of public tweets that may double as firing offenses. New Scientist first wrote about the new system, developed by research team at Germany's University of Hanover. SPOILER ALERT: There is a lot of swearing.

The site sorts tweets from all over into categories: Haters ("They want to get fired..."), Horrible Bosses, Sexual Intercourses (sic) and Potential Killers.

One of the few Hater tweets that isn't lousy with expletives reads, "I don't think anyone realizes how much I hate my job." Well, maybe they do now!

Under Horrible Bosses, we have the funny offering (except to this dude's boss perhaps), "It's not that I hate my boss, it's just that he does not lend himself to being tolerable." The Sexual Intercourses tab (again, this is from Germany) contains the "f" word, used to abandon. And Potential Killers is a collection of people whose tweets would likely prove injurious to them if read aloud in a courtroom, mostly along the lines of, "Today might be the day where I shoot my boss."

You can even find out if your own tweets are crossing any lines, by adding your username (or someone else's) into the "Check Yourself" tool. You'll learn quickly what percent chance your tweets have of getting you fired. It may not be too scientific, but if you're scoring over 50 percent, you should probably be concerned.

As illuminating as FireMe! is, its algorithm is somewhat limited ? seemingly centered around word combinations including "job," "hate," "boss," "kill" ... and of course, the "f" word. It doesn't have the sophistication to analyze a tweet that may not include those words, but is nevertheless detrimental to a Twitter user's particular job.

How about that 23-year-old high-school teacher in Aurora, Colo., who was placed administrative leave pending an investigation into the half-naked pics and pot-smoking boasts posted from her Twitter account. Would FireMe! have the wherewithal to warn her not to joke about having drugs on campus?

To be fair, FireMe! is in its development stages ? it's really just a public-facing portion of a study in which participants who tweeted irresponsibly received a warning alert. "Can you imagine if your boss gets to know that you said: 'I hate my job so much'. You said that on Twitter and the whole world can see it!" read the message.

The whole world can see it! That bears repeating, as we ponder how easy it is for a temporary fit of rage to become a permanent statement thanks to an itchy Twitter finger. Scroll through the FireMe! tweets if you want a good laugh ? and maybe some safe job-hating catharsis. Just remember, as we laugh about these ridiculous tweets, that this applies to us.

Helen A.S. Popkin goes blah blah blah about the Internet. Overreact to her inconsequential nonsense on Twitterand/or Facebook.


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4th GCC Government and Business 2020 Human Resources ...

The event was graced by the presence of various keynote speakers and delegates who have made a mark transforming the HR map of the region.

Day 2 was initiated with the presentation of Ms. Clare Woodcraft, Chief Executive Officer, Emirates Foundation, wherein she focused on the challenges and opportunities encountered by GCC nationals in the private sector.

Dr. Othaman Al Khoori, VP HR and Administrator, Abu Dhabi Airport Company, focused on the various strategies that can help in achieving success in the Emiratization policies that have been implemented in the organizations.

Mr. Abdulhussain Tejani, on the second day focused on the significance of integration in HR workplace and addressed the issue of creating a new direction towards building new culture in an organization.

Dr. Ahmed Tahlak elaborated his views on the strategies to achieve and compete for international positions in a globally competitive economy.

He emphasized on the need to develop the eminence of young leadership training programs and the reasons that are hindering the nationals from breaking the monopoly of some countries in international position leadership.

The fourth edition of this conference plays an extraordinary role in supporting, educating, orienting, and promoting competitive HR strategies for bringing a transformational change in the development of regional and national leadership in a globally competitive economy.

Datamatix has been a leading knowledge and service provider in the GCC for 24 years, welcoming businessmen, intellectuals, leaders and professionals and providing valuable business and leadership advice for change by promoting development and economic empowerment.


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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Stocks and Valuations ? Mebane Faber Research ? Stock Market ...

Nice article by USA Today on the number of stocks listed declining over the years. ?Did you know there are only 3700 stocks in the Wilshire 5000? ?

I am surprised this doesn?t have much of an effect on market cap / GDP but guess it is dominated by the largest of cap stocks? ?May run the numbers later?via?@AlexRubalcava

Screen Shot 2013-03-27 at 10.07.13 AM Screen Shot 2013-03-27 at 10.17.14 AM


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Scientists examine nothing, find something

Two studies of vacuums suggest that the speed of light in a vacuum might fluctuate, pointing the way to a quantum mechanical explanation for why the speed of light and other so-called constants are what they are.

By Eoin O'Carroll,?Staff / March 25, 2013

A young person attempts to navigate a laser maze during the grand opening ceremony for the Angry Birds Space Encounter at the Kennedy Space Center earlier this month. Researchers say that the speed of light in a vacuum, long thought to be a universal constant, may actually fluctuate.

Malcolm Denemark/Florida Today/AP


Where did the speed of light in a vacuum come from? Why is it 299,792,458 meters per second and not some other figure?

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The simple answer is that, since 1983, science has defined a meter by the speed of light: one meter equals the distance light travels in one?299,792,458th of a second.?But that doesn't really answer our question. It's just the physics equivalent of saying, "Because I said so."?

Unfortunately, the deeper answer has been equally unsatisfying: The speed of light in a vacuum, according to physics textbooks, just is. It's a constant, one of those numbers that defines the universe. That's the physics equivalent of saying, "Because the cosmos said so."?

Or did it? A pair of studies suggest that this universal constant?might not be so constant after all. In the first study, Marcel Urban from the University of Paris-Sud and his team found that the speed of light in a vacuum varies ever so slightly.

This happens because what we think of as nothing isn't really nothing. Even if you were to create a perfect vacuum, at the quantum level it would still be populated with pairs of tiny "virtual" particles that flash in and out of existence and whose energy values fluctuate. As a consequence of these fluctuations, the speed of a photon passing through a vacuum varies, about?50 quintillionths of a second per square meter.

That may not sound like much, but it's enough to point the way toward a new underlying physics.

Before 1905, when?Albert Einstein formulated his special theory of relativity, scientists regarded space and time as composing the backdrop of the universe, the immovable stage upon which motion takes place. The only problem with this model is that light seems to move at the same speed regardless of the speed of the its source, creating an apparent paradox. Einstein's theory resolved this paradox by replacing Newton's absolutes of time and space with a single absolute, the speed of light.

But if even that can vary, what's left for us to hang our hat on? Nothing, it turns out.

But, as we just noted, nothing is something. Urban's paper suggests that the speed of light and other constants "are not fundamental constants but observable parameters of the quantum vacuum." In other words, the speed of light emerges from the properties of particles in the vacuum.

In the other paper, physicists?Gerd Leuchs and Luis L. S?nchez-Soto, from the Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Light in Erlangen, Germany, hypothesize how this emergence occurs. They suggest that the impedance of a vacuum ? another electromagnetic 'constant' whose value depends on the speed of light ? itself depends only on the electric charge of the particles in the vacuum, and not their masses.

If their hypothesis is correct, it answers our question of where the speed of light comes from: it emerges from the total number of charged particles in the universe.?

Time will tell if this hypothesis is correct. And of course, by "time," we mean "space and time," by which we mean "the speed of light," by which we mean "nothing," by which we mean "the properties of the quantum vacuum." But in the meantime ? or whatever ? you can thank us for informing you that, as the speed of light in a vacuum continues to fluctuate, so too does the length of the meter. Think nothing of it.?


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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Official: US to bring Arab states into peace push

RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) ? The U.S. is seeking to bring Arab countries into efforts to restart Israeli-Palestinian negotiations that broke down more than four years ago, a senior Palestinian official said Monday.

Also Monday, the Israeli government said it would resume regular transfers of millions of dollars of tax revenue to the Palestinian Authority, easing the economic woes for many Palestinians.

The decision could be seen as a sign of goodwill on the Israeli said and could also shore up the legitimacy of Palestinian rules should they decide to resume peace talks.

However, there are wide gaps on the terms of renewing talks. The Palestinians say Israel must freeze settlement building on lands it captured in 1967 before any negotiations can resume. Israel says the issue of settlements can be addressed during negotiations.

During a visit to the region last week, President Barack Obama sided with the Israeli view. But it is not clear how the U.S. can bring the Palestinians back to the table without a settlement freeze.

Arab countries are now being asked to help, said Yasser Abed-Rabbo, a top official in the Palestine Liberation Organization.

"U.S. efforts will increase in coming weeks and will include other Arab parties, such as Jordan and Egypt," Abed-Rabbo told Voice of Palestine radio, adding that an Arab League delegation is to visit Washington as part of these efforts.

However, he said there would be no flexibility on Palestinian demands for a settlement freeze.

"For us, the important thing is the substance, such as the full settlement freeze and the recognition of the 1967 borders," he said.

The Palestinians want a state in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem ? territories Israel captured in 1967 ? but are ready to negotiate border changes, provided the 1967 frontier is the baseline.

Palestinian officials say they cannot return to talks without such a clear framework, arguing that open-ended negotiations will simply provide diplomatic cover to Israel to keep expanding settlements.

"We fear they (the Israelis) would waste time by getting us into a bargaining process over details and steps here and there, and in this way would waste two to three years and then get us to wait for a new U.S. administration," Abed-Rabbo said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he is willing to resume talks immediately. However, he has said he will not relinquish control over east Jerusalem and has refused to recognize the 1967 lines as a starting point for talks.

For 10 months during his previous term, Netanyahu curbed settlement building as part of a U.S. push to bring the Palestinians back to the table, but negotiations never got off the ground.

Successive Israeli governments have built dozens of settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, now home to more than half a million Israelis. Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, dismantling almost two dozen settlements there, but sharply restricts access to the territory.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said Sunday that the Palestinians would wait two to three months to see if a new U.S. push to restart talks will yield results.

Resuming tax revenue transfers could be considered a signal of good intentions on the Israeli side.

In a brief statement, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he instructed Finance Minister Yair Lapid to resume the transfers. The monthly cash transfers are from taxes and custom duties that Israel collects on behalf of Palestinians.

The decision was announced on the eve of the Jewish holiday of Passover, and Israeli officials were not available to further comment on the decision.

Israel froze the transfers to punish Palestinians after the U.N. endorsed a de facto Palestinian state in the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza in November. Some money was released during the past few months, but it arrived late and only appeared to be transferred in response to international pressure.

Jamal Zakkout, an adviser to Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, said it was believed that Israel would now transfer the money regularly.

The money, around $100 million a month, is a key part of the Palestinian government budget. The Palestinian Authority has struggled to pay tens of thousands of civil servants, the backbone of the local economy, because of a shortfall in donor aid and the delayed transfers from Israel.

If the tax transfers substantially ease the Palestinians' budgetary problems, it would make it easier for their leaders to argue in favor of resuming peace talks.


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Knox, Sollecito to face retrial for Kercher murder

By Virginia Alimenti and Catherine Hornby

ROME (Reuters) - Italy's top court on Tuesday ordered a retrial of American Amanda Knox and former boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito for the murder of British student Meredith Kercher, re-opening a case that prompted harsh criticism of the Italian justice system.

Kercher's half-naked body, with more than 40 wounds and a deep gash in the throat, was found in the apartment she shared with Knox in Perugia in 2007.

Prosecutors accused Knox and Italian Sollecito of killing the 21-year-old Leeds University student during a drug-fuelled sexual assault that got out of hand.

The two, who always protested their innocence, were initially found guilty in 2009 and sentenced to 26 and 25 years in prison respectively after a trial that grabbed headlines around the world.

In 2011, their convictions were quashed after forensic experts challenged evidence in the original trial, prompting accusations of a botched police investigation and leaving many aspects of the killing unexplained.

They were released after four years in prison and Knox returned to her family home near Seattle immediately afterwards.

On Tuesday, the Court of Cassation overturned the acquittal and accepted a request for a retrial from prosecutors and Kercher family lawyers who had criticised the earlier ruling as "contradictory and illogical".

Unlike law in the United States and some other countries, the Italian system does not contain so-called "double jeopardy" provisions that prevent a defendant being tried twice for the same offence.

The court has not yet provided a full reasoning of its decision and a date has not yet been set for the new trial, which will be held in Florence.

However it was immediately welcomed by the Kercher family lawyer Francesco Maresca who said it would provide an opportunity to find out what happened to Meredith.

"This is an important day for the Italian justice system," he said outside the court, criticising the earlier judgment acquitting Knox and Sollecito as "extremely superficial".

"I've spoken to the family and Stephanie, her sister, is very happy, she's trying to understand what happens now," he said.

It is unclear if Knox, now 25, intends to return to Italy for the trial but in a statement issued through representatives, she said the decision was "painful". The prosecution had repeatedly been revealed as "unfounded and unfair," she said.

Knox, dubbed "Foxy Knoxy" in many early media reports, was initially portrayed as a sex-obsessed "she devil" by prosecutors but a lobbying campaign by her family helped change perceptions and she is due to publish a book of memoirs in April.

"She was very sad, she thought that this nightmare was over," Carlo della Vedova, one of her legal team told reporters after speaking to Knox. "At the same time she is ready, we went through all this before, we are strong enough and strong enough to fight again."


Tuesday's ruling by the Court of Cassation examined whether there were procedural irregularities which gave grounds for a retrial, rather than assessing the details of the case, which remain obscure in many particulars.

Kercher, from Coulsdon in Surrey, was on a year-long exchange program in Perugia when she was murdered, bringing a flood of unwelcome attention to the medieval town in central Italy that her family said she loved.

Much of the attention of the case was focused on the carefree image of foreign students enjoying a year abroad in Italy as well as on lurid stories of sex and heavy partying.

Prosecutors had said that Kercher resisted attempts by Knox, Sollecito and a third man, Ivorian Rudy Guede, to involve her in an orgy in the apartment the two women shared in the town.

However their case was weakened by forensic experts who undermined the credibility of DNA evidence provided by police and made strong criticisms of their first response procedures at the scene of the killing.

Guede, found guilty and sentenced to 16 years in a separate trial, is now the only person serving time for the murder, although prosecutors say he could not have killed Kercher by himself.

"We are convinced there were more people in that room than Rudy Guede," Maresca said. "We are asking the judges to tell us something on this point, as long as their decision is well-grounded and thorough, not like the appeals court which was absolutely superficial."

The defence argued that no clear motive or evidence linking the defendants to the crime had emerged, and said Knox was falsely implicated in the murder by prosecutors determined to convict her regardless of the evidence.

Giulia Bongiorno, a lawyer for 29-year-old Sollecito, said the decision was not a guilty verdict for her client but just meant the court wanted a more in-depth examination of some aspects of the case.

"Unfortunately we have to continue the battle," she told reporters. "This is a sentence that says, with regards to the acquittal, that something more is needed," she said.

(Additional reporting by James Mackenzie and Gavin Jones; Editing by Angus MacSwan)


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