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British Prime Minister's Spin Doctor Resigned Over Illegal Phone Hacking

andy coulson
© AP Photo/Oli Scarff
In this April 13, 2010 file photo, Andy Coulson, the ruling Conservative Party's Director of Communications speaks on the phone in London, England. Coulson quit as Downing Street communications chief Friday Jan. 21, 2011, saying the continuing row over phone-hacking when he was editor of the News of the World newspaper was distracting from his job.
The British prime minister's powerful spin doctor resigned Friday amid claims he sanctioned widespread illegal phone hacking against politicians, celebrities and royalty when he was editor of a top-selling tabloid newspaper.

Andy Coulson denies any knowledge of the hacking, but admitted he'd committed a cardinal sin for a back room operator - he became the story.

Coulson said "continued coverage of events connected to my old job at the News of the World has made it difficult for me to give the 110 percent needed" in his role as Downing Street communications chief.

"I stand by what I've said about those events but when the spokesman needs a spokesman, it's time to move on."

A reporter and a private investigator working for the News of the World were caught illegally eavesdropping on the phones of the British royal family's entourage in 2007. Coulson quit the paper when the pair were convicted, but says he knew nothing of the hacking.

His resignation is a blow to Prime Minister David Cameron, who has resisted calls to fire Coulson despite the scandal.

Arrow Down

America must brace itself for turbulence

America is experiencing the hard slog of recovering from the financial crisis. Prospects have turned more positive over the past two months. But a year ago growth was picking up too - and then it stalled, at about the same time Greece's fiscal problems infected the global economy. The question now is whether a home-grown fiscal crisis could derail this year's rebound.

Some analysts have reached dramatic conclusions, suggesting the near-certainty of hundreds of billions of dollars in government defaults within the US over the next 12 months. Such predictions will undoubtedly turn out to be substantially overblown. Yet the rejection of one extreme is not the affirmation of the other. International investors would be wise to pay close attention to fiscal trends within the US.

The severity of fiscal risk varies considerably depending on which level of government is under discussion. At the federal level the combination of ongoing weakness in the labour market and large structural budget deficits means that the right policy mix should be more stimulus now and much more deficit reduction, enacted now, to take effect in two to three years. Policymakers have acted on the first part, most prominently through the payroll tax holiday announced in December - one of the factors making the short-term outlook more promising.

Rocket

Massive 235ft rocket carrying a secret spy satellite replacement blasts off from California coast

It is the largest rocket ever launched from the U.S. West Coast.

The 235ft-tall Delta IV Heavy Launch Vehicle lifted off at 1.10pm local time yesterday with a classified U.S. government defence satellite on board.

Carrying cargo for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), the booster rose into the sky over California's central coast and arced over the Pacific Ocean, a spectacle visible from 50 miles away.
Delta IV -1
© Reuters
Blast off: The Delta IV Heavy Launch Vehicle lifts off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in the California desert at 1.10pm local time yesterday

record breaker rocket
© AP
Record breaker: The 235ft-tall spacecraft is the largest ever rocket to launch from the U.S. West Coast

War Whore

UK: Blair Faces 2nd Grilling on Iraq War

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© Luke MacGregor/Reuters
Former British prime minister Tony Blair arrives at the Queen Elizabeth II conference centre in central London on Friday.
Britain's ex-prime minister Tony Blair returned to the country's inquiry into the Iraq war Friday, after witnesses raised doubts about sections of his testimony from a year ago when he made a defiant defence of the decision to topple Saddam Hussein.

Blair arrived several hours before he was due to give evidence to the five-member inquiry panel, as a group of about 100 anti-war demonstrators gathered outside London's Queen Elizabeth II conference centre to denounce the former leader's decision to join the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

Protesters shouted "Tony Blair, terrorist," an echo of massive protests in London in the buildup to the conflict almost eight years ago.

Blair, wearing a dark blue suit and tie, flashed a wide smile at the panel as he began his testimony and confidently fielded questions.

Offering a familiar argument from his session a year ago, Blair said he believed there were two, competing world views in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. Some, including then-French President Jacques Chirac, believed the threat from terrorism could be managed without the need for major conflict, Blair said.

Penis Pump

Church pressure on Berlusconi rises over scandal

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© Cable News Network
Silvio Berlusconi has been tried on at least 17 charges since first taking office as prime minister in 1994.
Vatican City - Premier Silvio Berlusconi came under increasing criticism Friday from the Catholic Church over his dalliances with young women, with the pope saying officials must offer good moral examples and Italian bishops planning to discuss the scandal.

Pope Benedict XVI didn't mention the scandal or Berlusconi by name. But during an audience with Rome's police chief and police officers, he said public officials must "rediscover their spiritual and moral roots."

"The singular vocation that the city of Rome requires today of you, who are public officials, is to offer a good example of the positive and useful interaction between a healthy lay status and the Christian faith," Benedict said, echoing more direct comments about the scandal a day earlier by his No. 2.

Prosecutors have placed Berlusconi and three associates under investigation, alleging he paid for sex with a 17-year-old girl nicknamed Ruby and used his office to cover it up. Prosecutors have said Berlusconi had sex with several prostitutes during parties at his Milan estate.

Arrow Down

Italy: The Caligulan Court of Silvio Berlusconi Laid Bare

At a certain point, a woman at one of Silvio Berlusconi's parties says, "a girl started flashing her bottom and the evening took off".


The Italian prime minister says he has nothing to be ashamed of, and that he has just been having fun. But the sheer mass of sordid details of his "bunga bunga" parties has now been revealed for the first time. The descriptions provided by prosecutors, investigating allegations of wrongdoing, prostitution and sex with an under age dancer, read like a bacchanalia.

Che Guevara

Chavez Says He Won't Give Up Decree Powers

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Hugo Chávez
President Hugo Chavez said Thursday he won't relinquish special legislative powers - a possibility he raised last week as a means of seeking reconciliation with Venezuela's opposition.

Chavez's offer to reduce the period of time he has to enact laws by decree through the "Enabling Law" surprised opposition leaders, who welcomed his overture while expressing doubts regarding the president's call for mutual respect and dialogue between political rivals.

"I'm not going to return the Enabling Law," said Chavez, speaking in a televised address. "I made a call to encourage courteous and respectful dialogue, but look at their response."

Chavez first said that he needed special legislative powers for 18 months, which were approved by a lame-duck congress dominated by his allies in December, to swiftly approve disaster-relief measures after severe floods and mudslides that left thousands homeless last year.

Megaphone

Russian Spy Anna Chapman to Reveal 'All Secrets'

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© Mikhail Metzel, AP file
Russian spy Anna Chapman is enticing viewers to watch her television show by promising to reveal "all secrets."
Russian spy Anna Chapman is enticing viewers to turn on her new Russian television show by promising to reveal "all the secrets."

But that won't be about her years of undercover work in the United States -- these secrets are about the mysteries of the world.

The director of documentary programs at the private REN-TV network says Chapman's Friday night debut program will focus on stigmata and other skin marks. A seductive tagline for the show cites Chapman as saying "I will uncover all the secrets, if you have the courage."

There are no plans for any show on espionage, Mikhail Tukmachyov was quoted as saying in Friday's Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper.

Tukmachyov told online journal www.er-portal.ru that Chapman will also investigative the reported spontaneous combustion of a 4-year-old child in a town near Moscow.

The 28-year-old Chapman was one of 10 Russian agents exposed in the U.S. and deported last summer in the biggest spy swap since the Cold War. She has not publicly discussed her role as a spy, and Tukmachyov told the newspaper the subject was taboo during filming.

Arrow Down

The World is Sinking: Dubai Islands 'Falling Into the Sea'

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© AFP/Getty
The low-lying islands represent a vague shape out to sea when viewed from Dubai's beaches,
The islands were intended as the ultimate luxury possession, even for Dubai.

But the World, the ambitiously-constructed archipelago of islands shaped like the countries of the globe, is sinking back into the sea, according to evidence cited before a property tribunal.

The islands were intended to be developed with tailor-made hotel complexes and luxury villas, and sold to millionaires. They are off the coast of Dubai and accessible by yacht or motor boat.

Now their sands are eroding and the navigational channels between them are silting up, the British lawyer for a company bringing a case against the state-run developer, Nakheel, has told judges.

"The islands are gradually falling back into the sea," Richard Wilmot-Smith QC, for Penguin Marine, said. The evidence showed "erosion and deterioration of The World islands", he added.

With all but one of the islands still uninhabited - Greenland - and that one a showpiece owned by the ruler of Dubai, most of the development plans have been brought to a crashing halt by the financial crisis.

Wolf

Propaganda Alert: Bin Laden says France will pay a 'high price' for its policies in Afghanistan

bin laden
© Reuters/Stringer

In a purported audio tape aired on Al Jazeera television on Friday, al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden warned French President Nicolas Sarkozy that his refusal to withdraw troops from Afghanistan was a "green light" to kill French hostages.

In a message specifically targeting France, al Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden warned that Paris would pay a "high price" for its policies and that the fate of French hostages would depend on the pullout of French troops from "Muslim lands", in a purported audiotape broadcast on Arabic news network Al Jazeera on Friday.

"We repeat the same message to you: The release of your prisoners in the hands of our brothers is linked to the withdrawal of your soldiers from our country," bin Laden said. "The refusal of your president [Nicolas Sarkozy] to withdraw from Afghanistan is the result of his obedience of America and this refusal is a green light to kill your prisoners," he added.