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Monday, January 31, 2011

Liverpool Agree A Fee With Chelsea For The Sale Of Fernando Torres

Liverpool have confirmed that they have agreed a fee with Chelsea for the sale of Fernando Torres, potentially signalling an influx of players in to Anfield to replace the Spaniard.

After negotiations throughout the day the two clubs have agreed a fee, rumoured to be £50m, and Torres will travel to London to agree terms and complete a medical.

Chelsea made their first offer for the striker last Thursday which was rejected but after intense negotiations which saw Nicolas Anelka and Daniel Sturridge mentioned as make-weights in the deal but it now appears a cash only deal has been agreed.

Losing their talisman will be a disappointment for Liverpool but they have moved quickly to fill the gap left by Torres with a deal for Luis Suarez agreed from Ajax, and continuing discussions and negotiations with Newcastle for Andy Carroll and Blackpool for Charlie Adam.

The Reds agreed a fee, rumoured to be £35m, for Carroll and the striker arrived on Merseyside earlier tonight to discuss terms and complete a medical. What is less clear is whether a deal for Adam can be agreed before the transfer window shuts, the Scot has been the subject of two bids from Kenny Dalglish’s men but so far Blackpool have rejected both bids.

Spanish Inquisition: Is Real Madrid's La Liga Title Challenge Over After Falling Seven Points Behind Barcelona?

The Primera Division title is now officially out of Madrid's hands, says Goal.com's Subhankar Mondal...

Javier Camunas put his hands over his eyes, then kissed the ring on his right hand and embraced Carlos Aranda. His team-mates caught up to them, rushed towards the touchline and geed up the Osasuna supporters. It was a beautifully crafted goal and an important one as well - it propelled them three points above the relegation zone and could potentially turn their season around because of the inflation of confidence and self-conviction it could spark.

But while Camunas and his team-mates were going bonkers with delirium, the Real Madrid players were sinking into desperation. They had had their chances but had failed to take them, and now with a goal down with just under 30 minutes of normal time remaining their belief was evaporating. Fast.

It wasn't the first time that they had gone down to an opponent in the league on the road - Hercules and Almeria both had given los Blancos a scare - but there was a spooky nameless apprehension that this time there would be no comeback, no salvation. Madrid's last three competitive games were won by a one-goal margin and prior to that came a disappointing draw at Almeria - the defeat at the Reyno de Navarra was all too obviously coming.

Madrid players looked devastated after their 1-0 defeat to Osasuna.
Jose Mourinho made a triple substitution, bringing on Kaka, Xabi Alonso and Emmanuel Adebayor, not so much a pre-meditated chess move as a last-ditch attempt from a father to rescue his daughter from her kidnappers by taking a gun and going barrel-chested all on his own.

After all, making a triple replacement at a time when you are a goal down is as much a 'tactical masterstroke' as it is a 'tactic' to push everyone back to defend when you are a man down in the semi-finals of the Champions League (remember Inter's 1-0 loss to Barcelona at Camp Nou last season?)

The substitutions didn't work, inevitably, and Madrid lost the game. And probably the Spanish Primera Division title too.

Because Madrid are now seven points behind Barcelona in second place. That is effectively eight points since Barca destroyed Mourinho's aura and Madrid's charm in November by inflicting on them what club president Florentino Perez described as "the worst game in the history of Real Madrid". Unless Madrid better that 5-0 humiliation, they will lose to Barca on head-to-head record should the two teams end up level on points at the end of the campaign.

Now you could argue that under Juande Ramos in the second half of 2008-09 and Manuel Pellegrini in 2009-10 Madrid provided Barca with a stiff challenge and kept alive the title race until the concluding weeks. You could argue that with games against bogey team Atletico Madrid (home), Athletic Bilbao (home), Valencia (away), Sevilla (away), Villarreal (away), Madrid (away) and Espanyol (home), Pep Guardiola's side are likely to drop points - maybe they will not lose but they will not win either. Furthermore, the Blaugrana will probably rest some of their key players from time to time given that they will be involved in the Champions League from February.

But so will Madrid, who also have Espanyol (away), Atletico (away), Athletic (away), Barcelona (home), Valencia (away), Sevilla (away) and Villarreal (away) to take on in the remainder of the campaign. Barcelona have won their last 15 league games in a row and dropped just five points in the first 21 matches - between now and the end of the season the Blaugrana have 17 games left. Furthermore, Barca can afford to lose a match and still remain confident; Madrid cannot fail not to win the next 17 league encounters - and it includes the Clasico against Barca at the Bernabeu.

 Barcelona are to Real Madrid what Jenny is to Matt in My Super Ex-Girlfriend - they are everywhere Madrid look, a ghost that has attached itself to Madrid's shadow.
Mourinho claims that he wasn't appointed the coach to defeat Barcelona - he came in to win trophies. Problem is that to win silverware he would have to mastermind a conquest over Barcelona just as he did last season at San Siro with Inter.

Everywhere Madrid look, they find Barcelona - leaders in the Primera Division, favourites for the Champions League and on course to meet them in the final of the Copa del Rey. Barcelona are to Madrid what Jenny is to Matt in My Super Ex-Girlfriend - they are everywhere Madrid look - a ghost that has attached itself to Madrid's shadow.

Barcelona have scored 401 goals in 157 competitive games under Guardiola, and Messi, who was on target twice against Hercules, has scored 164 goals and is fourth in Barcelona's all-time scorers' list. Barca are carrying on in death-defying form to shatter all sorts of records in the league and although there is a whisper that they are not exactly looking as great as they were in 2008-09, their records and the ease with which they are pillaging everyone in Spain suggests otherwise. Barca look unstoppable.

Perhaps Mourinho knows that too and is trying to hide behind excuses but the eclipse isn't going to last long. Mourinho wanted a striker to complete his squad and he got Adebayor. Mourinho could also claim that this is his first season at the Bernabeu and that he needed two years to make Inter great; but he should also know that winning nothing at the end of the 2010-11 campaign would be the third year in a row that Madrid would have ended empty-handed - the same as the drought between 2003 and 2006.

Mourinho's substitutions were uninspiring and terribly desperate.
Maybe the Portuguese would blame off-pitch factors (namely his supposed difficult relationship with director-general Jorge Valdano) as disruptive influences on his team's performance. But then again, Barca don't have an exceptionally healthy admin with the future of Pep Guardiola, Daniel Alves and even the club's financial stability concealed in uncertainty.

Mourinho remains the best coach in the world and the one best placed to rescue Madrid's league campaign, but even he needs a spar to keep himself afloat. There may be 51 points still to play for in 17 Primera Division weeks, but the stark, naked truth is that the title is out of Madrid's hands. They showed a fraction of the silver to Barcelona at Camp Nou on November 29 and since then the Blaugrana have continued to lure the trophy-mistress towards themselves so much so that she is now their concubine.

La Liga title is not for Madrid's to win; it is Barcelona's to lose.

Two Liberias: The "Haves" and the "Have Nots"

The “Haves” and the “Have Nots”
Two Liberias with No Middle Class
 By Vee Ward

“Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is in an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.”Frederick Douglass 

Economic Inequality is on the rise in Liberia, and with this comes a huge divide.  There is a dividing line or fault line that is very easy to distinguish once you have spent a few days in the country.  Names can be given to the divisions, such as the “Haves” and the “Have-nots”; the rich and the poor; the educated and the uneducated; or the “big people” and the “little people”.  The fault line is not new; only the players have changed over the years.  It is no longer the same line that divided so-called “Conga” or “Kwi” Liberians from indigenous Liberians prior to unrest in Liberia. However, it has become two Liberias: One for the privileged and the other for the underprivileged.

I am no economist or politician, but I don’t think it takes one to know that creating and expanding a middle class helps to attain political stability and real democracy. This trend of the growing poor with majority of the population living on $1.00 a day, while high income bracket citizens are  living lavish lifestyles, does not augur well for the stability of Liberia.

Perhaps economic inequality would be less troubling if there were opportunities in Liberia where those from humble beginnings could rise to the top because of skill and intellect.  For example, if there were quality schools and colleges throughout the country, a poor student who attends a struggling government school in Zwedru could have a chance at a bright future as well as a student from an affluent family attending a highly rated school in Monrovia after they complete college. This is how a boy from the American South who grows up in a single parent home with not much money can grow up to become the President of the United States.  This is how the son of an African can attend Harvard University and become the President of the United States. But this is not the case in a Liberia that has no middle-class.  This is not the case in a Liberia that although resource rich, most of her people are dirt poor.

Most of our Liberian schools are substandard schools where not too much learning takes place.  Many of the teachers are unqualified and even though  the curriculum on paper at the Ministry of Education matches that of most schools in the United States, many teachers are not qualified to deliver same to their students.  The quality of education in Liberia has been on the decline for years due to the unrest in the country.

It is sad because each generation should be better than the last. When I was in school in Liberia I had a textbook for each subject. We also had elective courses for which we had books.  I remember taking Business Math, Typing, Music and Home Economics. Male students in my high school class opted for a class in Automobile Mechanics. This type of education ensured that even if you were not one with an aptitude for Biology or Algebra, you could still develop skills in a vocational area that could land you a decent job after high school.

Currently, high school students in Liberia head to school each day with one notebook and a pen or pencil.  For the most part the schools do not have textbooks.  Teachers have a high absentee rate in some schools and their teaching methods are antiquated, to say the least.  In fact, the Chemistry Department at the University of Liberia has a limited amount of textbooks.  Chemistry students are sometimes in groups of 15 to one lab station. An external assessment report paid for by the Ward Educational Fund and conducted by two PhD. Chemistry professors from the University of Nairobi, Kenya in 2009 showed that a major weakness in the department was a lack of qualified professors.  In more recent times, the new President of the University of Liberia, Dr. Emmet A. Dennis, has sent several instructors (most of them Ward Fund beneficiaries) abroad for further studies due to bi-lateral scholarships from the Chinese and Indian governments.

Education is not the only determinant of whether Liberia becomes economically able or not; but, it is certainly a key determinant.  The best way to mend the divide and bring about a middle-class is education and training.  The two Liberias need a link in the middle: a place where the little people, the “have-nots”, the poor, the uneducated find reachable. This can be done if Liberia places the education budget line at the top of the list.  Liberia also has not tapped into its human resources as it should.  Too many young men are hanging outside the Abi Joudi supermarket doing absolutely nothing.  Too many young girls are hanging outside the Cape Hotel waiting for men to pull up.  Imagine a Liberia where those same young men were participating in a program such as Americorp, where young people can volunteer their time and service for money toward their education. Imagine a Liberia where teenage girls could be linked to female mentors in business and government who sponsor them in school and at the end of their schooling they could go to work for their mentors or others in business and government.  I remember when I was a teenager in Liberia, I worked for the National Port Authority during my vacation breaks under Ms. Comfort Bedell, a woman I admired and looked up to because she worked in an office and commanded a certain salary because she was educated.  But, it was the experience of getting up each morning and going to work that taught me the value of making my own money. When I was not at school and work, I was busy with my church youth group where I was the Secretary and Recreational Chairperson.  It is at the First United Methodist Church where I learned to speak before a group of people. Little did I know I was developing leadership skills that would prepare me for my life now.  I am sure some of my peers had similar experiences. I guess the burning questions on my mind are: Why are we not engaging our young people in positive, uplifting and educational opportunities that will raise them out of poverty?  Why are we not arresting men who pick up underage girls for the sole purpose of sex?  Is it enough that we finally have a law that has a large penalty for rape on the books?  Why are we not enforcing this rape law?  Why are we not making the army attractive enough so that our young men can enroll into boot camp and learn discipline and a skill? Liberia, why are we wasting away our future generation by not preparing them to lead the country when we are gone?

What breaks my heart when I travel to Liberia is how poor most Liberians are.  They work harder and yet get paid pennies.  They are up at dawn preparing for the day, washing their clothes, cooking and getting ready to go off to the market.  If they have enough to send their children to school by purchasing the uniform and a note book, and giving them money for lunch then they send them off to school.  If not, then they take the children with them to the market.

During my recent trip to Liberia, we took our driver to eat and have drinks with us at Kendejah (American Bob Johnson’s resort) and other establishments such as Palm Spring Hotel and the Mamba Point Restaurant. He mentioned that he never knew places like these existed in Liberia. It’s a shame that Liberia is his country too and as small as Monrovia is, he had no clue that these places existed.  He seemed somewhat reluctant to enter these establishments.  My guess is he feared someone would ask him to leave.  He lives in the first Liberia.

Imagine selling kidney beans all month only to make $25.00 for your family.  Butter rice (the cheaper rice) costs about $35, so that means many people buy rice by the cup for the month after paying your $10.00 rent. One lady said to me, “I ain’t got no man oh..da jes me and my chayren…..plee hep me.”  She is only 28 years old.  If her situation does not change, she will die a poor woman. She has never seen a dentist; she only goes to the neighborhood clinic when she or her children have malaria.  There are days when she doesn’t have water, so she buys water in a 3 gallon jug to cook.  When I saw the jug, I cringed because I saw enough dirt in it to keep me sick for the rest of my stay in Liberia.  Her name is Hawa, and she lives in what I call the first Liberia.

In the other Liberia, there are Liberians who have drivers, gardeners, security guards, kitchen staff, house boys, house girls, and bag carriers.  It is something to see this type of opulence smack in the middle of grinding poverty.  In the United States and other countries, the rich live in insulated mini cities tucked away behind trees with wrought iron gates and fences.  Rich Americans can leave their homes without having to once lay eyes on poor people because they don’t share the same zip codes. So, it becomes out of sight, out of mind. In Liberia, the rich live among the poor and the only thing that separates them is a high 11-foot concrete fence with a metal gate. But, most of the rich turn a blind eye and perhaps pretend that they are not there.

As you walk or drive through various parts of Sinkor, Congotown, Brewerville, Virginia and Robertsfield Road, you see huge homes with gigantic Roman columns hidden behind high fences and right outside the fences are zinc shacks and sometimes mud houses inhabited by poor Liberians.  I visited a couple of these homes and what I saw blew my mind. As the driver drove us up this winding road, I saw the home in the distance and for a few seconds forgot I was in Liberia.  We could have been in Great Falls, Virginia, USA or the Rockliffe Park area of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.  As I got out of the car to walk into this marbled- floor passageway into the house, I looked behind me and saw a little girl looking into the gate to get a quick glimpse of what she will probably never experience in her lifetime. In fact, she will be lucky if she becomes the maid one day to the rich people who are her neighbors. Yet, Liberia is her country, too.

As we entered the home, I marveled at the beauty of it and how well laid out it was.  Silk curtains hung from the gigantic windows and music piped throughout the home through speakers. There were flat screen televisions and expensive-looking leather sofas, and a veranda off the master bedroom with a view to die for. As we sat down to have dinner, all I could think about was the little girl outside the gate. I believe she was walking home and I couldn’t wait to leave so I could check out the homes outside the gate and maybe get to see where she lived. After dinner, I walked into a very large kitchen to take plate and drinking glass I had used.  There I met the kitchen staff and they seemed surprised to see me, and I said hello and asked them how they were doing. The family was very nice and hospitable and we had a nice visit with them.  We said our goodbyes and thanked them for having us over for dinner, and as we got into our car and pulled out of the gate, I saw a zinc shack in the direction the little girl was headed earlier.  It was the only house toward the end of the dirt road and I remember thinking to myself, that must be where she lives. The house was so small and I wondered how many people lived in it.  It was roofed with old zinc and there was one small opening near the doorway that serves as a window.  A little boy stood at the window looking outside.  The image of the little girl has stayed with me even as I write this blog. The children in this rich home looked nothing like the little girl.  They wore name brand sneakers and name brand clothing.  They walked around with expensive cell phones and in fact, one of them was home on holiday from school abroad. This family lives in what I call the second Liberia.

How do we increase the living standards for the first Liberia? How do we create better-paying jobs for the first Liberia? Is it only members of the second Liberia who should be privileged enough to have the ability to fly out of the country to seek medical attention or get check-ups while members of the first Liberia die from severe dysentery, malaria, and  other diseases that are curable?

Without more investment in education, Liberians will struggle to move up the economic value chain.  So, it seems to me that the lack of educated and enlightened people in Liberia should be treated as if it is the bubonic plague.  We should be addressing this plague that is killing off our citizens.  We need to send in trained and qualified educators.  We need to overhaul our education system.  We need to start growing a strong and robust middle-class.
According to the United Nations, if every child could read in Africa, 17 million children could be lifted out of poverty. No child in Liberia should live in deep poverty. We can start here, but we also need to look at our market women and our “Yanna” (Here now) boys, street sellers, farmers, high school and college dropouts.  They are part of what I call the real Liberia.  They have the power and once they understand it, they should use it.  They have the power to demand from their country their fundamental rights as described in the Constitution:

Article 6
The Republic shall, because of the vital role assigned to the individual citizen under this Constitution for the social, economic and political well being of Liberia, provide equal access to educational opportunities and facilities for all citizens to the extent of available resources. Emphasis shall be placed on the mass education of the Liberian people and the elimination of illiteracy.

Article 7
The Republic shall, consistent with the principles of individual freedom and social justice enshrined in this Constitution, manage the national economy and the natural resources of Liberia in such manner as shall ensure the maximum feasible participation of Liberian citizens under conditions of equality as to advance the general welfare of the Liberian people and the economic development of Liberia.

Article 8
The Republic shall direct its policy towards ensuring for all citizens, without discrimination, opportunities for employment and livelihood under just and humane conditions, and towards promoting safety, health and welfare facilities in employment.

Those of the real Liberia should use their power in their votes in the upcoming elections.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

U.S. Embassy Tells Americans to Weigh Leaving Egypt

CAIRO -- The U.S. Embassy in Egypt on Sunday recommended that Americans leave the country as soon as possible, while other nations urged their nationals to avoid traveling to Cairo as days of protests descended into chaos, with looters roaming the streets and travelers stranded in the airport.
The Sunday morning travel warning came as uncertainty mounted over how the demonstrations that have roiled the Arab world's most populous nation will play out. Those questions, coupled with the growing lawlessness, have panicked Egyptians and foreigners alike, with thousands flocking to the airport frantically trying to secure a dwindling number of available seats. Others hopped on private jets and made their escape.
The travel warning said the Embassy will update Americans about departure assistance as soon as possible. Other nations, including China, France, Germany, Belgium and Russia have warned or advised their citizens against travel to Egypt.
The U.S. has yet to send in any special flights, and the only American carrier with direct service to Cairo, Delta Airlines, has suspended that service. Other nations, however, have flown in additional flights to evacuate their citizens as a growing number of commercial flights are either canceled, suspended or delayed because of a curfew that only leaves a few hours in which people can freely move around the city.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and Jordan sent in over 15 flights in total to transport their national out of the country, an official at Cairo International Airport said, speaking on condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to brief the media. Royal Jordanian and Bahrain's Gulf Air switched to larger flights to accommodate more people.

Gulf Air's Chief Executive Samer Majali said the carrier is in touch with officials in both Egypt and Bahrain and is prepared to put additional measures in place if necessary.
"As the national airline of the kingdom of Bahrain, it is our responsibility to ensure our Bahraini nationals are brought back home," Majali said in a statement.
The protests have largely been centered on the main cities, including Cairo. The Red Sea resorts favored by European and Russian tourists have not been affected, though a growing number of tour companies are offering those who booked trips to Egypt either refunds or other destinations as alternatives, without penalty.
The lawlessness and uncertainty, further fueled by the appearance of a mass exodus from Cairo, are likely to batter the tourism sector whose revenues account for as much as 11 percent of the country's gross domestic product.
With questions abounding, the evacuations mounted.
Turkey's Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency said the government is evacuating about 750 nations from Egypt on three planes, that are slated to arrive later in the evening, according to the Dogan news agency.
Azerbaijan sent an aircraft to evacuate many of its approximately 70 citizens in Egypt, including families of embassy staff and some staff. The decision followed the death of an embassy accountant on Saturday during the unrest, Foreign Ministry spokesman Elkhan Polukhov said.
And Iraq, a nation no stranger to chaos, offered to evacuate its citizens stranded in Egypt.
"We will send whatever planes needed to those who want to leave Egypt," Transportation Ministry spokesman Aqeel Hadi Kawthar told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. "It will be free of charge."
Belgian tour operator Jetair said it was evacuating its remaining tourists from Egypt starting Monday, and was dispatching two jets.
The wealthy found other options.
Within the span of four hours, 25 private jets flew out of the airport early Sunday, carrying a range of Arabs, Westerners and in some cases Egyptian celebrities, the airport official said. Among the celebrities who left was pop star Amr Diab, who was headed to London with his family aboard his private jet, she said.
A day earlier, at least 19 other jets flew out carrying the families of wealthy businessmen.
But for as many as 5,000 travelers at the airport, the options were limited. Thousands were forced to spend the night at the facility, either because they were unable to secure seats on flights or because their flights arrived after the curfew went into effect at 4 p.m.
The curfew hammered Egypt Air. The country's national carrier was forced to cancel or delay 25 flights Sunday because flight crew were either unable, or were too concerned about their safety, to make it to the airport in time for the flights.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

In Egypt, government resigns amid anti-Mubarak sentiment

Cairo, Egypt The Cabinet of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak officially resigned on Saturday as thousands of demonstrators staged protests in Cairo and Alexandria, kicking off another day of anti-government ferment.
The atmosphere in Cairo's Tahrir Square remained tense as demonstrators continued chants of, "Down with Mubarak."
And on Saturday, state-run Nile TV reported that officials in the country had stepped down hours after Mubarak announced that he asked the government to resign.
In Cairo, demonstrators also chanted, "We are all Egyptians," and people gathered in the square were posing for pictures with tanks and shaking troops' hands.
Tahrir Square, located near many government buildings in downtown Cairo, has been a focal point for anti-government protests, which started Tuesday.
The demonstrations crescendoed Friday as Egyptian soldiers moved onto the streets, the first time the army had been deployed to quell unrest since 1985.
Cell phone service appeared to have been restored Saturday morning -- a day after the internet went dark in many parts of the country, and some text messaging and cell phone services appeared to be blocked amid calls for intensified protests.
Police fired tear gas on protesters who were pushing toward the country's Interior Ministry in Cairo Saturday.
At least 2,000 protesters had gathered in Raml Square in Alexandria on Saturday. There was no sign of police, and protests appeared peaceful.
Protesters smiled and shook hands with troops patrolling the area. One soldier cradled a baby and posed for a picture.
People chanted, "No for Mubarak and his dynasty" and "the military and the people together will change the regime."
The Egyptian president said early Saturday that he asked the country's government to resign after thousands of angry Egyptians defied a government curfew and faced stinging police tear gas as they marched for change.
"I asked the government to resign today and I will commission a new government to take over tomorrow," Mubarak said in a national address on Saturday shortly after midnight.
As Mubarak spoke, Egyptian tanks rolled into the country's major cities after the nation's police force had been largely faced down by protesters on Friday. Demonstrators burned police stations in Cairo and Alexandria, and overturned and torched police vehicles.
U.S. President Barack Obama said he talked with the Egyptian president.
"I just spoke to him after his speech, and told him he has a responsibility to give meaning to those words, to take concrete steps and actions that deliver on that promise," Obama said in a televised appearance. "Violence will not address the grievances of the Egyptian people. Suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away."
Mubarak said in his speech that "these protests arose to express a legitimate demand for more democracy, need for a greater social safety net, and the improvement of living standards, fighting poverty and rampant corruption."

"I understand these legitimate demands of the people and I truly understand the depth of their worries and burdens, and I will not part from them ever and I will work for them everyday," he said. "But regardless of what problems we face, this does not justify violence or lawlessness."
A senior Obama administration official, meanwhile, said Friday evening that Mubarak's speech was "hardly conciliatory and highly disappointing, but what did you expect?"
It's clear, the official said -- speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter -- that Mubarak believes he can ride this out, "and this time, we're not so sure that is the right assumption."
Celebratory crowds that had gathered overnight Friday ahead of Mubarak's speech, expecting him to announce his resignation, quickly transformed into street demonstrations when the president announced he was staying put.
The streets of downtown Cairo appeared to calm somewhat overnight Friday and Saturday morning as the army -- a much more respected force than police among Egyptian civilians -- took control of the country.
The government cracked down throughout Friday with thousands of riot and plainclothes police, later joined by army troops in tanks and armored personnel carriers equipped with gun turrets. Undeterred, people ran, screamed, hurled rocks and accosted walls of security as they tried to make their way to central Cairo.
Protesters defied a curfew imposed Friday night and other warnings, continuing their demands for an end to Mubarak's authoritarian 30-year-rule.
The headquarters of the ruling National Democratic Party was ablaze Friday night. Nile TV said protesters ransacked the building and set it afire.
In the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria on Friday, at least 1,000 protesters gathered and youths hurled rocks through black clouds of gas. In Suez, 15,000 riot police were out, using tear gas to disperse crowds, Nile TV said. Riot police also confronted protesters in the cities and towns of Ismailia, Fayoum and Shbin Elkoum, according to the anti-government group Egyptian Liberation.
At least six people have died in the demonstrations this week, according to Egypt's Interior Ministry. But Nile TV reported Friday that 13 have died and 75 were injured in Suez, south of Cairo, citing medical sources
As the government cracked down on protesters across Egypt, opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei, who returned home to Cairo to join the demonstrations, was placed under house arrest, a high-level security source told CNN.
The protests sent ripples around the world, with stocks plunging on news of Egypt unrest and airlines cancelling flights.
The protests in Egypt come weeks after similar disturbances sparked a revolution in Tunisia, forcing then-president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to flee the country. Those demonstrations were also followed by protests in Algeria, Yemen and Jordan.
Mubarak has not been seen in public for some time. He is 82 and there has been speculation of failing health. Many Egyptians believe Mubarak is grooming his son, Gamal, as his successor, a plan that could be complicated by demands for democracy.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Mother of soccer star Ronaldo's child 'dead,' his sister claims

THE mystery mother of Portuguese soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo's baby is dead, according to a bizarre claim made by the striker's sister, The Sun reported today.

Katia Aveiro, 33, spoke out as she denied stories about the woman's identity - but did not explain when or how she died.
"There is no woman calling him. There is no mother, no telephone calls, nothing. His mother died. The baby doesn't have a mother," she said.
When the former Man United ace said last July that he became a dad, he said the mother wanted to stay secret and that the boy, called Cristiano Ronaldo Jr., would be under his "exclusive guardianship."
Portuguese media claimed the £200,000-a-week ($320,000-a-week) Real Madrid star, 25 - who is dating Russian underwear model Irina Shayk, also 25 - paid a surrogate in the US to have the baby.
But in December, a British newspaper claimed the mother was a 20-year-old British student who had a one-night stand with the striker. She accepted £10 million from the sport's top-paid player to give up her rights as a parent, the paper claimed, but then changed her mind and called Ronaldo, demanding to see the boy.
The star reportedly told friends he was worried she would try to take his son away, but Aveiro dismissed the UK reports as "nonsense" and said Ronaldo's mother Dolores, 55, was raising the child as her own.
She refused to discuss surrogacy claims but told a Portuguese magazine, "The boy is ours. I'm not going to say how he arrived with us, but I guarantee he's my brother's son, my nephew, from our blood. His mother is my mother, who is the person who is with him 24 hours a day."
The family said the baby was born in the US on June 17.
And while critics accused the soccer star of jettting around the world with his girlfriend, leaving the baby behind, the striker's sister said, "He's the most important thing in my brother's life."

Masked UK robber jailed after raiding shop that sold him disguise

A BRITISH robber was behind bars today after CCTV images showed him raiding a store in Wales wearing the same Halloween mask he bought from the shop days earlier.

Neil Simons, 27, from Cardiff, south Wales, was the only man who bought the £3.99 ($6.00) Halloween disguise from the combined Co-op shop and gas station before October 25 last year, a court heard Wednesday.
He returned to the store three days later, wearing the mask and carrying an ax, which he used to threaten a lone female cashier, the South Wales Echo reported.
Simons, a former £1000-a-week asbestos remover, admitted robbery and was jailed for five years.
Prosecutor John Probert said, "For a minute, she [cashier] thought it was a colleague playing a practical joke, but then she saw the ax" and pleaded with Simons not to use the weapon. “He told her he wouldn’t as long as she did what he said, and she put between £40 and £50 into the bag he handed over."
The court heard that police searched through the store’s CCTV recordings to find that Simons was the only person who bought the mask at the site.
"The fact he bought the mask then returned to the same petrol station wearing it, shows it wasn't a sophisticated crime," said Simons' defense lawyer, Kieron Malloy.
Simons was made redundant at his job and wanted to pay off drug debts, the court was told.

Man 1, God 0 in school chaplains case

A FATHER won the first round in his historic battle yesterday to have government-funded chaplains thrown out of the nation's public schools.

Ron Williams journeyed from Toowoomba to Sydney yesterday for a directions hearing in his challenge and was thrilled to hear that his case could be heard in the High Court over three days in May.
"This is a very important moment," a jubilant Mr Williams said yesterday.
The father of six, who has four children attending Queensland public schools, said his main argument was that the funding for chaplains in schools breached Section 116 of the Australian Constitution, which states that the "Commonwealth not legislate in respect of religion".
"This is not about getting chaplains out of schools, it's about the government funding them, which I believe is against the Constitution," he said.
If Mr Williams wins his challenge, government funding for chaplains would be removed.
The National School Chaplaincy Program was introduced in 2006 by former prime minister John Howard.
The national program won support from Prime Minister Julia Gillard, an atheist who, just before the election last year, pledged $222 million to extend the program for four years.
More than 430 schools in NSW get up to $20,000 each a year for their chaplain services, totalling almost $12 million, and more than 2500 school across Australia now have chaplains at a cost of more than $151 million.
The chaplain program is run in Queensland by that state's branch of the Scripture Union.
In NSW the program is run by the National School Chaplaincy Association which is based in Western Australia.
A spokesman for the association said yesterday it was not appropriate to comment.
NSW Greens MP John Kaye said yesterday's decision was good news for those who believed in separation of church and state. "The anger felt by many of us at the use of public money will now at least be tested in the court," he said.
"There will now be an opportunity to hear in court why this program so deeply contradicts the integrity of the Australian Constitution."

Mubarak calls out army as protesters go on rampage

EMBATTLED Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak called out the army and declared a curfew in three major cities Friday, as tens of thousands of protesters rampaged through the streets demanding his ouster.

People remained on the streets in defiance of a curfew that kicked in at 6:00pm local time in Cairo, Alexandria and Suez and will run until 7:00am.
Mubarak was to address the nation last night.
Part of the Cairo headquarters of Egypt's ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) was set on fire and explosions and gunfire were heard in the capital, Al Jazeera reported. The broadcaster said some of the blasts may have been due to gas cylinders exploding in police cars that had been torched.
Mubarak "has asked the armed forces, in cooperation with the police, to implement the decision, and maintain security and secure public establishments and private property," Egyptian State TV said, referring to the curfew.
In Cairo, protesters poured out of mosques after Friday prayers and ran rampant through the streets, throwing stones and torching two police stations as police chased them with batons, firing tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets.
In the canal city of Suez, protesters overran a police station, seized weapons and set fire to security force vehicles in fierce clashes in which a demonstrator was killed, witnesses said.
The nationwide demonstrations, inspired by the "Jasmine Revolution" in Tunisia, have swelled into the largest uprising in three decades, sending shockwaves across the region. Eight people have been killed, hundreds injured and some 1,000 arrested.
But in a hint that authorities might heed the rising tide of popular anger, a senior lawmaker and member of the ruling party called for "unprecedented reforms" in order to stave off a revolution.
As the violence raged, Mustafa al-Fekki, National Democratic Party (NDP) member and chairman of parliament's foreign affairs committee, said security forces alone could not prevent revolution in Egypt, that reform was necessary.
"Nowhere in the world can the security forces put an end to revolution," he said in remarks to Al Jazeera.
"The security option alone is not sufficient, and the president is the only one to put an end to these events," he added, calling for "unprecedented reform."
The White House said Friday it was "very concerned" about events in Egypt.
"Very concerned about violence in Egypt - government must respect the rights of the Egyptian people & turn on social networking and internet," press secretary Robert Gibbs said in a Twitter message.
US President Barack Obama said Thursday that "violence is not the answer in solving these problems in Egypt" and that it was "absolutely critical" for Mubarak to move towards political reform.
Egypt is one of Washington's closest allies in the region, but analysts say the United States is growing increasingly concerned that its refusal to implement more political reforms could lead to further unrest and instability.
Mubarak, aged 82 and said to be in poor health, has not been seen publicly since the unrest erupted.
Demonstrations spread around the capital of Cairo, where police appeared overwhelmed as protesters broke through several police barriers.
Protesters were seen being dragged away and pushed into police vans, as others defied the heavy police presence and made their way to the central Tahrir Square.
Leading opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei, who has said he would be prepared to lead a transitional authority if he were asked, was among a crowd of around 2,000 targeted by police and was forced to take refuge inside a mosque in Giza Square and not allowed to leave.
In Alexandria, protesters threw stones at police after prayers with cries of "God is greatest" followed by "We don't want him," referring to Mubarak.
The crowd attacked police vans, torching one, after a civilian had most of his hand blown away, allegedly by police.
Protesters also set fire to a government building in a central part of the city.
In the Delta city of Mansura, hundreds chanted "Down with Mubarak" as they emerged from prayers, heavily outnumbered by security forces.
Some imams had encouraged worshippers to "go out and seek change," an AFP correspondent reported.
In another Delta city, Damietta, tens of thousands protested and set fire to the NDP headquarters, witnesses said.
Egypt's largest opposition group, the banned Muslim Brotherhood, has also joined the uprising, and at least 20 of its members were arrested overnight, a lawyer for the group said.

Artist's Biography-Nicki Minaj'S BIOGRAPHY

  • Birth Date December 8, 1984
  • Birthplace Saint James, Trinidad and Tobago
  • Height 5'4"
  • Relationship Status Rumored to be dating rapper Drake
  • Where You've Seen Her This Trinidadian has been heating up the charts as a rapper for Young Money Entertainment.
  • Defining Quote “The people that are inclined to hate are also inclined to be losers. A loser could never congratulate a winner—it’s not in them.”
We know that she loves to “check it out, check it out, check it out, check it out,” but in her expedited rise to fame, it seems like the whole world is checking her out.
Born in Trinidad and Tobago, Nicki lived there until she traded her Caribbean island for a different kind of island—Queens, on the Long Island of New York. Recognizing her innate ability to perform, Nicki attended the famed LaGuardia High School of Music and Performing Arts. Then, like her techy counterparts Lily Allen and Sean Kingston Nicki got acquainted with a little thing called MySpace. Nicki’s MySpace page showcased the pint-sized cutie’s awesome freestyle skills and innovative and unexpected rhymes.
Dirty Money Entertainment was first smitten with Nicki’s killer curves and invited her to be part of their urban DVD magazine The Come Up. She was featured in several issues of the magazine before famous and infamous rapper Lil Wayne got a hold of one of the issues in which he was also featured and contacted the budding rapper before signing her to his label, Young Money. With the help of Lil Wayne, Nicki began collaborating on mix tapes with the likes of T.I. and Jeffree Star. But her big break came when Lil Wayne himself collaborated with Nicki on her single ‘High as a Kite’ in 2008.
Two years later, in November of 2010, Nicki released her debut album Pink Friday with singles like ‘Massive Attack’ and ‘Your Love’ that had been released earlier in the year. Nothing short of an overnight sensation, Nicki topped Billboard Hot 100 charts and was performing ‘Check it Out’ with big leaguer Will.I.Am before anyone could ask, “who is this girl?”
But Nicki’s music isn’t the only thing that has created buzz for the rap newcomer. She stirred the rumor pot regarding her sexuality when she explained to magazines that although she does not date men or women, she embraces both genders. Similarly ambiguous, but mostly confusing, is Nicki’s outlandish style. The songstress, who has said she doesn’t want young girls to think they have to be as sexual as the music industry portrays most young artists, often completely covers up in skintight patent leather or outer-rib-like contraptions. But whether she’s donning pink hair or a gold exoskeleton, we’re buying what she’s selling.

Nicki Minaj Opens Up About Parental Abuse and Drug Use

It's been quiet a week for Nicki Minaj who caused big waves on her first trip overseas, she inciting a near-riot outside of her London hotel and got thrown out of the establishment. But, in an interview with U.K. newspaper The Sun, the singer got deep, discussing her troubled past and revealing that her father's abuse and mother's subsequent addictions caused her to "act out."

"All of my young and teenage early years we lived in fear that my mother would be killed by my father," Nicki explained. "It was ridiculous. It made me act out to guys and be evil to them when I was growing up."

While her father's abuse may have damaged her early relationships, Nicki also said that her difficult childhood made her stronger. "It made me tough. Of course it did," Nicki continued. "I am an emotional person, but I am a tough person. It was very tough emotionally for me to have a parent who was an alcoholic and a drug addict. I had a mum with no money."
Ultimately, the lesson Minaj said she learned from her mother was to "keep it moving" and be prepared to walk away from any situation when things aren't working out.

"I will cry about something but I never let anything stop me. I can't be like my mum. I know I can cut ties and still make it," Nicki said. "She didn't cut ties when I felt like she should have done. That's been my whole thing. I've been able to say, 'This isn't working anymore. You need to get out of my life.' I keep it moving and it has worked."

Recently, Minaj was asked about her rumored relationship with rapper Drake and whether they indeed were a couple. She toyed with the idea jokingly, "I think (our children will) definitely have my personality," she said. "My mother-in-law will be super beautiful, so that's good 'cause Drake's mom is freaking amazing. I love her. (Our kids will) have Drake's intelligence. They'll have his sarcastic wittiness that I love about him, and they'll have his songwriting skills."

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Ferrer ends Nadal's Slam bid-could Nadal's reign be ending?

Melbourne - David Ferrer dumped injury-hit Rafael Nadal out of the Australian Open in straight sets on Wednesday, ending the world number one's bid for a historic sweep of the Grand Slam titles.

The grimacing Nadal was in trouble right from the 18-minute second game, but despite repeated medical attention and a strapped left thigh he grimly battled to a 6-4, 6-2, 6-3 quarter-final defeat.

Nadal's shock loss comes on the exact anniversary of last year's injury pull-out in the quarter-finals against Andy Murray, which also came on Australia Day as celebratory fireworks lit up the Melbourne night sky.

The demise of Nadal, 24, halts his quest for the "Rafa Slam", a non-calendar year Grand Slam which would have united the four major titles for the first time since Rod Laver in 1969.

"It's not easy because Rafael is a gentleman and he was playing injured and we are friends," Ferrer said. "He was injured in the first set but I played my game, I fight a lot and sometimes it's not easy."

Nadal stands at nine Grand Slam titles and is the youngest man to win all four of the big tournaments. However, another injury setback will revive doubts about his longevity in the game.

Spain's Ferrer will face Andy Murray in Friday's semi-final after the British fifth seed outgunned rising star Alexandr Dolgopolov. Ferrer has a 3-2 winning record against Murray but has never beaten him on hardcourt.

Murray, last year's runner-up to Roger Federer, dropped his first set of the year against Ukrainian shot-maker Dolgopolov, 22, who dominated a third-set tie-break before going down 7-5, 6-3, 6-7 (3/7), 6-3.

"It was very tough and every point was different, he hits the ball different to a lot of other players and I struggled a little bit with my rhythm early on," Murray said.

"He came back at me well in the third set but I thought I did well enough."

Murray, 23, is now into his fifth Grand Slam semi-final as he bids to break a British men's major drought stretching back to Fred Perry's 1936 US Open win.

Earlier three-time Grand Slam-winner Kim Clijsters beat Poland's Agnieszka Radwanska 6-3, 7-6 (7/4) to set up a heavyweight semi-final with world number two Vera Zvonareva, who downed Petra Kvitova 6-2, 6-4.

Zvonareva wore a black ribbon on her cap to support victims of Monday's deadly suicide bombing at Domodedovo airport in Moscow, her home city, which killed 35 and left her frantically calling relatives.

"You're calling back home and making sure everyone is okay, the people that you know," she said. "I just tried to put it away. It happened, it is terrible. But you try to move on."

The 26-year-old remains on course for her third straight Grand Slam final, after losing to Serena Williams at Wimbledon and Clijsters at the US Open in September.

Clijsters overcame a high error-rate to see off Radwanska, who played a limited game but stayed in the match with some scrambling defence, taking advantage of the Belgian's 37 unforced errors.

"Everything has to be better (against Zvonareva)," said Clijsters, who beat the Russian in September's US Open final. "I mean, serving, returning, the unforced errors. Everything has to be better."

World number one Caroline Wozniacki will face China's Li Na in Thursday's other semi-final, while defending champion Federer plays third seed Novak Djokovic in a mouth-watering men's last-four match-up.

Collated results from day 10 of the Australian Open at Melbourne Park on Wednesday (x denotes seeding):



Vera Zvonareva (RUS x2) bt Petra Kvitova (CZE x25) 6-2, 6-4
Kim Clijsters (BEL x3) bt Agnieszka Radwanska (POL x12) 6-3, 7-6 (7/4)



Andy Murray (GBR x5) bt Alexandr Dolgopolov (UKR) 7-5, 6-3, 6-7 (3/7), 6-3
David Ferrer (ESP x7) bt Rafael Nadal (ESP x1) 6-4, 6-2, 6-3

Women's doubles


Gisela Dulko (ARG)/Flavia Pennetta (ITA x1) bt Liezel Huber (USA)/Nadia Petrova (RUS x3) 6-4, 7-5
Victoria Azarenka (BLR)/Maria Kirilenko (RUS x12) bt Kveta Peschke (CZE)/Katarina Srebotnik (SLO x2) 6-2, 6-4

Men's doubles


Mahesh Bhupathi (IND)/Leander Paes (IND x3) bt Michael Llodra (FRA)/Nenad Zimonjic (SRB x8) 6-4, 6-4
Max Mirnyi (BLR x2)/Daniel Nestor (CAN x2) bt Mariusz Fyrstenberg (POL x5)/Marcin Matkowski (POL x5) 7-6 (7/3), 6-3

Rafa refuses to blame injury

Melbourne - Rafael Nadal has refused to use an injury as an excuse for his bitterly disappointing early exit from the Australian Open on Wednesday, and the end of his bid for a 'Rafa Slam'.
The world number one was dumped from the quarter-finals by his close friend and seventh seed David Ferrer in straight sets (6-4, 6-2, 6-3) to end his quest for a fourth straight non-calendar year Grand Slam victory.
Nadal appeared to injure his left hamstring in a drawn-out second game of the match, and sought several medical timeouts to continue.
He bravely stayed on court for over two-and-a-half hours, even though he was nowhere near his best, as Ferrer knocked out the world number one to set up a semi-final on Friday with last year's runner-up Andy Murray.
Nadal was not looking for excuses as he faced the media following his elimination, and preferred instead to laud Ferrer's performance rather than dwell on his injury misery.
"I can say nothing about the injury. Seriously, I would prefer I don't talk a lot about the injury," he said at the start of his news conference.
"First of all, I don't know nothing (about the injury), and secondly in respect to the winner and to a friend, I prefer to talk about the match.
"David played at a very high level. I congratulate him and wish him all the best for the semi-final.
"I think he's having a fantastic tournament. If he keeps playing like this, he's going to have a good chance."
Nadal, who arrived in Australia suffering the effects of a virus which hit him in Doha, said he didn't want to cultivate an image of blaming problems for his defeats.
"For me it is difficult to come here and speak about tonight," he said.
"In Doha I wasn't healthy. Today I have another problem. I seems like I always have problems when I lose, and I don't want to have this image.
"I prefer not to talk about that today. If you can respect that, it will be a very nice thing for me. Thank you."
Nadal said there were highs and lows in tennis, and the start of the new year had been a difficult for him.
"Last year I was very lucky. I was healthy for most of the year. I was playing unbelievable all the year," he said.
"This year I think I did all the right things to start the season playing really well.
"I was playing in the first exhibition in Abu Dhabi and after that the problem started. It was a difficult month for me.
"But it's part of the sport. I have to accept it, keep working and try my best in the next tournament. That's what I can do."
Nadal said he did not know what his next tournament would be.
"I don't know yet. I have to think a little bit about everything, and we will see what's going on in the next weeks," he said.
Nadal said he hated injury retirements, and had bad memories of his pull-out on the same Australia Day holiday at last year's Australian Open, during the third set of his quarter-final with Andy Murray, with knee trouble. He did not return to the tour until March.
"I hate the retirements. I did it here last year. I hate that moment. I didn't want to repeat that," Nadal said.

Messi fined for birthday jig

Barcelona - The Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) on Tuesday fined Barcelona star Lionel Messi after the Argentine world player of the year showed off a vest bearing a birthday message to his mother.

Media reports said the fine was believed to be between 2 000 and 3 000 euros which the RFEF deemed Messi should pay for ripping off his shirt after scoring at the weekend against Racing Santander and showing a vest emblazoned with the words "Happy Birthday Mum".

The Federation stipulates that no such slogans should be shown off.

Barcelona won the match 3-0 to maintain their position as La Liga leaders ahead of Real Madrid.

Murray toughened by final loss

Melbourne - Andy Murray said on Wednesday he was now more experienced and consistent in Grand Slams after last year's Australian Open heartbreak, as he clinched his hard-earned place in the semi-finals.
Last year's runner-up dropped his first set of the year, and was made to struggle before overcoming Ukraine's Alexandr Dolgopolov 7-5, 6-3, 6-7 (3/7), 6-3.
The British fifth seed needed 3hr 06min to book a place in the last four, where he will play Spanish seventh seed David Ferrer on Friday.
Murray, who lost in three sets to Roger Federer in last year's Australian final, improved his unbeaten run in the new season to eight matches.
"I feel just way more experienced. I know how to deal with playing deep into Grand Slam events now, how to get prepared for them mentally and physically," Murray said.
"It's something that I'm a lot better at. I've tried to become more consistent, have fewer weaknesses. I think this year I'm a little bit more solid.
"It's always very tough when you come up against those guys. You need to be on your game physically and mentally if you want to beat them. So that will be the case in the next match."
The streaky Dolgopolov proved a handful with his 57 winners, offset by 77 errors, while the steadier Murray had 33 winners and 34 errors.
It took the Scot a set to work out the quirky, 46th-ranked Ukrainian's game, before he went two sets up and was seemingly poised for a straight-sets victory.
But Dolgopolov hit back, taking advantage of Murray's sloppiness to win the third-set tiebreaker and force the match into a fourth set.
As a measure of his difficulties, Murray had lost a total 22 games in his four matches leading up to the quarters, but Dolgopolov took 18 games off him.
"He's just unorthodox, very different to how most guys play," he said.
"It's tough to get into a rhythm. But he's also a very good player, definitely not someone to be underestimated.
"I wouldn't say I was necessarily in trouble at any stage. I was ahead in most of the sets. Getting ahead early in the fourth set made a big difference.
"But I thought I dealt with his game well. It was just difficult to get into a rhythm."
Murray was broken twice in the opening set, but he broke the unpredictable Ukrainian's serve three times to go one set up in 57 minutes.
The puzzled Scot took some time to figure out the free-spirited Dolgopolov, who constantly went for his shots and ran up a stream of errors in the process.
Flashy Dolgopolov hit 21 winners in the opening set, but they were offset by 26 mistakes.
Murray grabbed a vital break in the fourth game of the second set when Dolgopolov casually over-hit a volley, when it was easier to play a routine winner on game point.
The determined Scot tightened up his serving in the second set, playing the percentages and not dropping a point on his opening four service games to take a grip on the match.
Dolgopolov played another erratic game to lose his opening service in the third set, but he broke back in the sixth.
The Ukrainian had another purple patch in the tiebreaker, as the rattled Murray made three crucial errors to drop his first set of 2011 and take the match into a fourth set.
Dolgopolov began the fourth set disastrously, dropping his serve to love, and Murray rammed home with another service break to lead 4-0.
The Scot gave one break back with a sloppy game, but recovered his consistency to get over the line.

No word on Nelson Mandela 'routine tests'

Johannesburg - A veil of silence was drawn late on Wednesday over the condition of former president Nelson Mandela who was admitted to a Johannesburg hospital for "routine tests".
Staff at Milpark Hospital declined to speak to journalists who descended on the premises for news on the elder statesman.
By 19:30, the only formal word on the condition of 92-year-old Mandela remained a short statement issued by the Nelson Mandela Foundation spokesperson Sello Hatang around 16:15.
It stated: "We can confirm that Mr Mandela is at Milpark Hospital undergoing routine tests. He is in no danger and is in good spirits."
Hatang did not answer his cellphone for follow-up questions.
Mandela's daughter Makaziwi from his first wife Evelyn said: "You got the statement? No further comment."
Members of the Mandela family were seen coming and going at the hospital by reporters.
A staffer from the French news agency AFP saw Mandela's wife, Graça Machel, leaving the hospital around 17:30, with four other family members departing shortly after.

Makeshift barrier
At a far corner of the hospital, a makeshift barrier of green mesh was erected. Inside the area were VIP cars, presumably belonging to family members.
As night fell over Johannesburg, journalists, photographers and cameramen lined a nearby bridge outside the hospital.
A hospital official was expected to address them but this had not yet happened.
One of Mandela's grandsons was seen buying magazines and refreshments at the hospital eatery. Ndaba Mandela and his youngest brother were also seen near the barricaded area.
Mandela's long-time aide, Zelda la Grange, flanked by a bodyguard entered the barricaded area.
Hospital security remained on high alert, ushering wandering journalists to the bridge.

Blending in
Some journalists sat inside the hospital waiting area, blending with hospital visitors and patients. One journalist carrying a brown paper bag, was seen limping in an attempt to blend in with the ill.
A hospital nurse standing outside the main entrance was overheard saying: "I saw him being flown in (by helicopter) at 14:00."
Mandela's "routine tests" came a day after Archbishop Desmond Tutu told Sapa that Mandela was "frail".
"I saw him last week," Tutu said in Cape Town on Tuesday.
"He was all right, I mean he's 92, man, you know. And he's frail."

Twitter abuzz
Twitter was abuzz on Wednesday evening with news of Mandela being admitted to hospital.
Sandiso Ngubane, @Sandiso_N, tweeted: "My thing is; why would family members from Qunu come to check Madiba out during his "routine check-up"? Sometimes spin is just that... Spin!"
Other tweets speculating about Mandela's health included Siphojanuary who tweeted: " why would the family and high profile people be visiting #Madiba in hospital if he just went for a routine check-up???!"
RanjeniM tweeted "having dinner at Nelson Mandela Square cos only place I can feel close to him now. That statue is somehow comforting #Madiba".
"Hope Mr Nelson Mandela is okay n it really is a routine check up!! I'm really woRried **praying hard**," wrote another twitter user Purplemooky.
Twitter user Norwin tweeted: "#Madiba not in ICU; family and friends seen chatting and laughing. Hospital security stepped up".
"If something happens to Nelson Mandela tonight or in a day or so, do I close shop and let my staff off for the day? 80 employees nationwide?" user WarrenRSmith said.
Earlier this month, a report circulated on the social network that the elder statesman had died.
It was condemned as malicious and insensitive by the African National Congress.
Afrikaans Sunday newspaper Rapport said though the rumours were false, reliable sources had confirmed that Mandela's health had deteriorated.
In mid-January, a Nelson Mandela Foundation spokesperson said Mandela was well and on holiday with his wife Graça Machel.

US admits: We've got no evidence on Julian Assange

WIKILEAKS founder Julian Assange has slipped from the reach of US investigators, according to an American news report. 

Authorities had been unable to link the WikiLeaks founder to Bradley Manning, the army private jailed for passing confidential information to the whistleblowing website, NBC News said yesterday.
The network's chief Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski said sources inside the US military claimed they were struggling to find any evidence to prove Mr Assange and Pte Manning communicated with each other.
"The officials say that while investigators have determined that Manning had allegedly unlawfully downloaded tens of thousands of documents on to his own computer and passed them to an unauthorised person, there is apparently no evidence he passed the files directly to Assange, or had any direct contact with the WikiLeaks figure," Mr Miklaszewski said.

If the reports are true, authorities will be powerless to extradite Mr Assange to the US to face criminal charges relating to his website's leaking of classified documents.
The recent release of a massive cache of US cables angered and embarrassed the US, leading the Obama Administration to label Assange a "hi-tech terrorist".
News reports late last year revealed the White House was exploring options of criminally prosecuting Mr Assange under the Espionage Act.

US authorities were reportedly trying to build a criminal conspiracy case against Mr Assange, to prove he helped Pte Manning when the soldier allegedly copied more than 250,000 classified US government cables on to a CD and smuggled the data to WikiLeaks.
Australian-born Mr Assange, 38, is on bail in England while he waits to face a London court on February 7 for extradition to Sweden on sex offences that allegedly occurred last year.
Mr Assange has claimed he had never heard of Pte Manning.

But the 23-year-old soldier, in solitary confinement since July, allegedly communicated with Mr Assange and WikiLeaks on Twitter, according to reports last year.

Girl home alone while mum gets married

A NEW Jersey mother pleaded guilty today to child neglect after leaving her 12-year-old daughter home alone while taking a trip across the country to get married.

Sarah Haines, 31, of Mount Olive left her daughter on June 3 last year with plenty of food, beverages and $US10 in cash for what was supposed to be a three-day trip, the Morris County Daily Record reported.
Haines said she had made arrangements for a friend to look after her daughter but the girl ended up staying alone most of the time.
Police, acting on a tip, stopped at the home on June 9 to conduct a welfare check on the girl who told officers her mother had travelled to Washington State to get married and was delayed because her flight home was cancelled.
It was later determined that Haines was actually in Idaho.
The Morris County assistant prosecutor recommended that the mother be given a three-year probation at her sentencing next month.

US woman 'hangs dog for chewing Bible'

A WOMAN has been charged with animal cruelty after she hanged her nephew's pit bull from a tree with an electrical cord and burned its body because the dog chewed her Bible, police say.
Animal control officers said 65-year-old Miriam Smith told them she killed a female dog named Diamond because it was a "devil dog" and she was worried it might harm neighbourhood children.

Authorities said bond wasn't immediately set for Mrs Smith, who remains jailed in Spartanburg County, South Carolina, US after her arrest at the weekend.

She faces 180 days to five years in prison if convicted.

Authorities say the dog's remains were found under a pile of grass with part of an electrical cord around its neck.

Blast traps at least 30 in Colombian coal mine

FOUR miners were killed and 13 trapped after an explosion in a coal mine in northeastern Colombia, the mayor of the town of Sardinata said today.
Another six persons were injured and taken to hospital, according to Mayor Yamile Rangel, who had originally said 30 miners were trapped.
"Officially we have four persons dead and six injured," she said. "There are 13 still trapped in the mine."
The explosion was apparently caused by an accumulation of methane gas, Ms Rangel said.
Six miners were killed and two others injured in a similar accident in the same mine in October 2010.

Divorce after mum goes on son's honeymoon

A FURIOUS 36-year-old Italian woman has filed for divorce just a month after her wedding because her husband brought his mother on their honeymoon.
As the couple set off for their honeymoon to France in December, the newlywed was shocked to find her new mother-in-law at Rome's Fiumicino airport, all set to come on the trip, ANSA news agency cited her lawyers as saying.
When she protested, her husband of two days said he couldn't leave his mother alone for health reasons.
The three spent the honeymoon together, but as soon as they returned from France the woman filed for divorce, citing an "excessive emotional attachment" between her future ex-husband and his mother.

Michigan twins give birth fifteen minutes apart

MICHIGAN twins Alison Oliverio and Amy Gilbert do everything together according to their husbands - including giving birth.
The 25-year-olds were due to give birth a day apart but welcomed their babies into the world within 15 minutes of each other.
The pair went into labour at the same time and checked into Henry Ford Macomb Hospital in Detroit's north.
"It's a good thing they put them next to each other so I could run quickly from room to room, but they did great," said Dr Timothy Kim, who delivered both babies.
The girls' husbands even held a friendly bet over which baby would arrive first.
"It was a race between Greg and I. We had a side bet going. The girls, I don't think, really cared too much" Gilbert's husband, Andy, said.
Alison gave birth to a girl named Claire while Amy produced a boy named Garrett.

Grandpa at 29 after daughter 14 falls pregnant

A MAN of 29 who is set to become Britain's youngest grandfather when his teenage daughter gives birth was today criticised for trying to 'cash in' on the pregnancy.
The soon-to-be record breaker was earlier said to be "fuming" that his 14-year-old daughter was 11 weeks pregnant because she was due to start her school exam courses.
But neighbours said he was in fact celebrating because more state benefits would be given to his family - and said he had bragged about "making a fortune" on selling his story.
The man - whose identity is being kept a secret to protect his young daughter - is now said to be in negotiations to sell his family's story to a Sunday newspaper.
But before talks with the tabloid had begun, the man said: "It’s like history repeating itself".
"I quite like the idea of being the youngest grandad in Britain, but at the same time I’m fuming that she is pregnant.
"I know myself how tough it is being a teenage parent and now she has to go through the same thing.

"However, we’re all going to stand by her and we will welcome the little one into the family. She is very young, but she was determined to keep the child. We were not going to force her into doing anything else. We don’t want her to hate us."
He added: "I don’t feel like a grandad. I’ve not got grey hair and my hearing is top notch."
But a mother in her 30s who lives nearby said: "He just wants it to be all about him. He should realise how serious it is.
"If it was my daughter pregnant so young I certainly wouldn't be singing about it."
Speaking from his home in South Wales, the man admitted he became a father back in 1996 when he was just 14.
He said his own mother, who is 47, is excited about the prosepct of being a great-grandmother.
"She was 18 when she had me," he said. "She was shocked when I told her the news, but she is happy now.
"Her own mum is alive, and so too is her grandmother, who will become a great-great-great grandmother.
"There can’t be too many families with six generations alive at the same time."

Turkish man seeks protection from sex-mad wife, Germany

A DESPERATE Turkish man living in Germany has turned to the police for protection from his insatiable wife's constant demands for sex, authorities said yesterday.
The man came to his local police station in southwestern Germany on Tuesday saying that he had been sleeping on the sofa for the past four years to escape the clutches of his wife of 18 years and mother of their two children.
"Now he has decided to get a divorce and to move out ... in the hope of finally getting some rest, particularly as he is anxious to arrive at work well rested," police said in a statement.
"At the moment this is impossible because he says his wife keeps coming into the living room demanding that he perform his marital duties. He asked for police help in getting some sleep at night."

At least 500 arrested in Egyptian protests in Cairo and Suez

EGYPTIAN police and protesters clashed in the centre of the capital and in the port city of Suez on Wednesday, the second day of anti-government rallies threatened with a massive security crackdown.
The interior ministry had banned all protests, and security officials said at least 500 people were arrested around the country.
The figure includes 90 people in Cairo and 121 members of the opposition Muslim Brotherhood in the southern city of Assiut, the officials said without providing further details.
In Cairo, police fired tear gas at hundreds of people gathered near the journalists' syndicate demanding the ousting of President Hosni Mubarak, an Agence France Presse reporter said.
Protesters chanted "The people want the ouster of the regime," and threw rocks at police in response to the tear gas.
In Suez, where three demonstrators died on Tuesday, witnesses told AFP police used batons to try disperse at least 2,000 protesters gathered outside a morgue and chanting "Down with Mubarak."
Riot police trucks lined the streets of downtown Cairo where thousands had gathered the day before to demand that Mubarak step down.
Officials said four people - three protesters and a policeman - had died in Tuesday's protest in a "day of anger" inspired by the uprising in Tunisia.
The United States, a key Egyptian ally, said Cairo should be "responsive" to its people's aspirations, while both France and Germany urged restraint on all sides.
An Egyptian security official told AFP around 200 people had been detained by yesterday in the largest protests in Egypt since bread riots in 1977.
Security forces had surrounded the journalists' syndicate yesterday, briefly detaining one of its board members.
The pro-democracy youth group April 6 Movement, the driving force behind Tuesday's protests, had urged people to head back to Cairo's main square today.
This, despite the fact that in the early hours, police had ended the Cairo protests by firing tear gas and rounding up protesters, with reports of dozens arrested or missing.
"Everyone needs to head down to Tahrir Square to take over the square once again," the group said on its Facebook page which, along with Twitter, had helped to organise Tuesday's protests.
In a separate statement, it urged Egyptians to carry on protesting.
"To continue what we started on January 25, we will take to the streets to demand the right to life, liberty, dignity and we call on everyone to take to the streets ... and to keep going until the demands of the Egyptian people have been met," the group said.
The interior ministry said further demonstrations were banned and anyone taking part would be prosecuted.
"No provocative moves, or protest gatherings, or marches or demonstrations will be allowed," the ministry said.
"Legal measures will be taken against anyone (in contravention), and they will be transferred to the prosecution," a statement continued.
April 6 Movement members said they would take to the streets regardless.
"We've started and we won't stop," one told AFP yesterday.
On Tuesday, a police deployment of some 20,000 to 30,000 personnel had allowed demonstrators to march to Tahrir Square, where they chanted in unison: "The people want the ouster of the regime."
Among demands are the departure of the interior minister, whose security forces have been accused of heavy-handedness; an end to a decades-old state of emergency; and a rise in minimum wages.
Late on Tuesday, the interior ministry said security forces had decided to allow demonstrators "to voice their demands and exercise their freedom of expression," with a commitment to "securing and not confronting these gathering".
But it accused the Muslim Brotherhood of rioting and causing public disorder, which the group denied.
Egypt's stock market saw a sharp decline and the Egyptian pound hit a six-year low of 5.83 to the US dollar yesterday.