US homemade balloon lands, but six-year-old boy still missing

A homemade flying saucer-shaped balloon in which it was feared a six-year-old boy could have been trapped has been found to be empty after it landed in a field in Colorado following a desperate chase through the skies.

The silver, car-sized craft reportedly came untethered from the garden of the man who had constructed it. Reports named him as Richard Heene, an amateur science and weather investigator.

It was feared that Heene's son, Falcon, had climbed through an entrance into a small plywood-lined capsule at the bottom of the balloon, which was not designed to carry people, shortly before it drifted into the skies above Fort Collins, a town north of the state capital, Denver, at around 11am local time (6pm BST). Some reports said a sibling had seen Falcon climb in.

As the balloon drifted dozens of miles to the south-west, climbing hundreds of metres into the air, it was pursued by helicopters while emergency crews in ambulance followed its path from the ground.

But after more than two-and-a-half hours in the air, when the helium-filled craft drifted gently to the ground in a ploughed field, rescue workers found no one inside, television pictures showed.

It was not known whether the child climbed into the balloon, and so, whether he might have fallen out in mid air.

There were fears that flights from Denver's international airport could have to be diverted as the balloon began drifting towards its flight paths.

Jon Gosselin sued by TLC for breach of contract; Kate may take legal action against 'hacking' claims Read more:

The TLC network filed a lawsuit this morning in Maryland against the octodad for breaching his contract, according to the Associated Press.

The network claims the "Jon and Kate Plus 8" star hasn't kept up his end of its exclusive deal, by allegedly getting paid to appear on other shows and making unauthorized disclosures about the show.

That's just one of the legal issues he faces this morning.

Also, thanks to the Gosselin's ex-nanny, who told yesterday that Jon had allegedly hacked into Kate's personal email, phone and online bank accounts, Jon may also be facing another legal battle battle with his ex.

According to the site, Kate read the interview with Stephanie Santoro and her attorney released a strong statement on her behalf.

"Kate Gosselin has heard the allegations made by Stephanie Santoro that Jon Gosselin ‘hacked' into her e-mails, phone, and online accounts, and she is profoundly disturbed by them. Under the circumstances, Ms. Gosselin is carefully considering all of her legal options regarding this matter, and she will pursue them if and when the time is right."

Cue his lawyer.

"I spoke with him today concerning this statement made by Stephanie and he unequivocally told me that he's never illegally invaded Kate's electronic privacy in any way," Mark Heller told shortly after Kate's statement. "He also finds it a little disappointing that Kate would give credence to an uncorroborated statement made by an individual who clearly has a motivation to tell stories about Jon that might result in financial [compensation]."

This is just days after a judge ordered Jon, 32, to pay back $180,000 to couple's shared bank account, after Kate, 34, claimed he took $230,000 without her knowledge.

Santoro was rumored to have had a romantic fling with Jon while working for the family.

The divorcing duo's reality show "Jon and Kate Plus 8" will be going off the air in November..

Read more:

Raj Rajaratnam of Galleon Group, ex-Bear Sterns directors, others charged in insider trading scam Read more:

A piggish hedge fund hotshot who ranks among the world's richest men was charged by the feds Friday with making millions of dollars on insider-trading tips.

Raj Rajaratnam, the billionaire founder of the New York-based Galleon Group, was among six people charged in what federal prosecutors labeled the largest-ever hedge fund insider-trading case.

"The defendants operated in a cozy world of you scratch my back, I'll scratch your back," Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said at a news conference announcing the arrests.

Rajaratnam, who Forbes ranked as No. 559 on its 2009 list of the world's billionaires, was snared in a $20 million insider-trading case touted by the authorities for its first-ever use of court-authorized wiretaps against Wall Street big wheels.

"They may have been privy to a lot of inside information, but there was one secret they did not know - and that was that we were listening," Bharara said.

The six suspects are accused of having enriched themselves by using non-public information about companies that included Google, Hilton Hotels and Sun Microsystems.

Some of their conversations intercepted by investigators via wiretap are detailed in the federal criminal complaint.

"I'm dead if this leaks," Danielle Chiesi, who worked for the one-time equity hedge fund group of Bear Stearns Asset Management, is quoted as saying. "I'll be like Martha f------ Stewart."

Rajaratnam, whose fortune was pegged by Forbes as $1.3 billion, is accused of being at the heart of several insider trades by leading Galleon Technology Funds to make dirty deals off privileged information.

Authorities said the Sri Lankan hedge fund guru used his high-level contacts at other Wall Street firms to engage others in the scheme.

"He is not a master of the universe," said Robert Khuzami, director of enforcement for the Securities and Exchange Commission. "He is a master of the Rolodex."

The others charged include Mark Kurland, a top executive at New Castle Funds; Rajiv Goel, a director at Intel's investment arm; Anil Kumar, an executive with the consulting firm McKinsey & Co. and Robert Moffat, a senior vice president at IBM.

Read more:

Middle East peace plan threatened after UN passes Gaza war crimes report

The UN Human Rights Council today voted to endorse a Gaza war crimes report despite Israel's threats to pull out of the Middle East peace talks in retaliation.

The international body approved a resolution recommending the report after two days of heated debate. The document condemns Israel’s conduct in last winter’s conflict and theoretically paves the way for international prosecution of Israelis and Palestinians accused of war crimes.

Britain opted out of the vote in protest after the failure of frantic last-minute negotiations between London, Paris and Tel Aviv to wring Israeli concessions in return for a no vote.

Britain and France had been planning to abstain and had hoped for a united European position. But as it became clear that other European countries would vote against, a decision was taken to use the lure of a no vote as a bargaining tool with Israel.
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Gordon Brown spent the morning in intense telephone exchanges with Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister, according to British officials, offering him Britain’s support in return for three concessions: an immediate independent Israeli investigation into alleged war crimes committed in Gaza; a freeze on all settlement activity; and full freedom of access to Gaza.

“Obviously that would have influenced our decision on the vote,” Peter Gooderham, the British Ambassador to the UN in Geneva, told The Times.

Last night Mr Brown and Mr Netanyahu engaged in a "robust exchange", when the Israeli leader strongly urged Britain to oppose the resolution.

France’s representative urged the Council to defer the vote until the afternoon to allow negotiations to continue but was refused twice by Egypt, the co-sponsor of the resolution, which insisted that the vote go ahead immediately. It passed with 25 votes for, 6 against and 11 absentions. Britain, France, Madagascar, Kyrgyzstan and Angola were the only countries that refused to register a vote.

Eli Yishai, the Israeli Interior Minister, said it was an “anti-Israel decision".

“The Israeli Army acted with silk gloves towards innocent [civilians],” he said. “The committee’s decision is a diplomatic farce.”

The resolution calls for the endorsement of the recommendations contained in the report produced by Richard Goldstone, a South African international war crimes prosecutor, who investigated the 22-day conflict.

It also “calls upon all concerned parties including United Nations bodies, to ensure their implementation".

Mr Goldstone concluded that both Israel and Hamas, Gaza’s rulers, committed war crimes and possible crimes against humanity during the conflict launched by Israel in response to rocket fire from the enclave in late December 2008.

The report recommends referring its conclusions to the International Criminal Court prosecutor in The Hague, if Israel and Hamas fail to conduct credible investigations within six months.

Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, said he was delighted that the resolution had been passed. “The Palestinian Authority welcomes the decision of the UN Human Rights Council and we hope this will be followed up in the UN Security Council to ensure such Israeli crimes are not repeated,” he said.

FDA approves Glaxo's cervical cancer vaccine

WASHINGTON -- GlaxoSmithKline said Friday U.S. regulators approved its vaccine Cervarix to prevent the leading cause of cervical cancer in women, following a two-year delay.

The approval from the Food and Drug Administration allows the British drug maker to compete against Merck's billion-dollar selling vaccine Gardasil, which has been on the U.S. market since 2006. Glaxo said it expects to launch Cervarix in the U.S. later this year.

Cervarix is already approved in nearly 100 other countries, but had been delayed in the U.S. since 2007. The FDA had requested more data on muscular and neurological problems, which turned out to be unrelated to the vaccine. Side effects from Cervarix were mostly mild, including pain and swelling at the injection site, fatigue and headache.

The vaccine blocks human papilloma virus strains 16 and 18, the two types of HPV that cause 75 percent of cervical cancers. Glaxo said the vaccine is also highly effective against strain 31, which is the third most common HPV type that causes cancer. There are more than 100 types of HPV, though about 15 are known to cause cervical cancer.

Cervarix's effectiveness against extra strains of the virus could help differentiate it from Gardasil, which protects against HPV 16 and 18, but not other cancerous strains.

SeparatelyMerck said the FDA cleared its Gardasil vaccine to prevent genital warts in boys ages 9 to 26. While the new use for the vaccine could double the market for Gardasil, analysts do not expect it to be widely used in boys because genital warts caused by HPV usually clear up by themselves.

Still, Glaxo is likely to face an uphill battle in the U.S. Besides an established brand, Merck's vaccine also defends against two HPV types that cause 90 percent of genital warts, which Cervarix does not target.

Gardasil became an early success story for Merck after its 2006 launch, achieving sales that are rare for a vaccine. The Whitehouse Station, N.J., company has sold about 50 million doses worldwide, with more than $1.4 billion in revenue last year. But sales have been slowing amid questions about the longevity of the vaccine's effect and its price tag of nearly $400 for the three-injection regimen. Glaxo has not discussed pricing for its vaccine.

HPV infects about 6 million people in the U.S. each year, and is spread mainly through sexual contact. It usually causes no symptoms and goes away within two years, although rare cases can develop into warts and cancer in both men and women.

Last year, nearly 4,000 women died of cervical cancer in the U.S., less than 1 percent of all deaths from cancer.

Health Insurers Cherry-Pick Facts

The insurance industry trying to pick holes in the Democrats health care overhaul, is using facts selectively, while mixing accurate assertions and putting a misleading spin on them, embracing worst-case scenarios.

A 30-second TV spot run by America's Health Insurance Plans, the industry's trade group in six states, even as the Senate Finance Committee was approving the overhaul of the legislation, we saw a series of beleaguered, elderly people on camera, as a soothing female voice accurately informed the Congress was proposing an over $100-billion cut from Medicare Advantage. Private firms administering the programme, provide extra services like eye and dental care, including serving about a quarter or 10-million Medicare beneficiaries.

Soon after, we hear the announcer add: 'The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says many seniors will see cuts in benefits,' even as '50% reduction in extra benefits,' flashes on the screen for three seconds. The words are true, but can be easily misunderstood making one think basic Medicare coverage is at risk.

The fact that Medicare Advantage has been targeted for savings, as it is far too expensive for the government to administer, as it costs about 14% more per recipient than regular Medicare, is not mentioned.

A favoured tactic of Washington interest groups, the ad arouses worry about the bill among a key constituency, which in this case happen to be elderly voters, even as the announcer concludes: 'Call your senators. Tell them we need health care reform that protects seniors.'

According to a top Medicare official, the premiums seniors are paying for Medicare Advantage plans are set to increase by an average of 25% next year i. e. from $32 to $39 a month, mostly because insurers responding to new federal requirements, have cancelled many plans that carried no premiums.

About 400-plans will be eliminated next year, as according to Medicare officials they have too few enrollees or the plans are much too similar to other plans.

Raj Rajaratnam of Galleon Group, ex-Bear Sterns directors, others charged in insider trading scam Read more:

A piggish hedge fund hotshot who ranks among the world's richest men was charged by the feds Friday with making millions of dollars on insider-trading tips.

Raj Rajaratnam, the billionaire founder of the New York-based Galleon Group, was among six people charged in what federal prosecutors labeled the largest-ever hedge fund insider-trading case.

"The defendants operated in a cozy world of you scratch my back, I'll scratch your back," Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said at a news conference announcing the arrests.

Rajaratnam, who Forbes ranked as No. 559 on its 2009 list of the world's billionaires, was snared in a $20 million insider-trading case touted by the authorities for its first-ever use of court-authorized wiretaps against Wall Street big wheels.

"They may have been privy to a lot of inside information, but there was one secret they did not know - and that was that we were listening," Bharara said.

The six suspects are accused of having enriched themselves by using non-public information about companies that included Google, Hilton Hotels and Sun Microsystems.

Some of their conversations intercepted by investigators via wiretap are detailed in the federal criminal complaint.

"I'm dead if this leaks," Danielle Chiesi, who worked for the one-time equity hedge fund group of Bear Stearns Asset Management, is quoted as saying. "I'll be like Martha f------ Stewart."

Rajaratnam, whose fortune was pegged by Forbes as $1.3 billion, is accused of being at the heart of several insider trades by leading Galleon Technology Funds to make dirty deals off privileged information.

Authorities said the Sri Lankan hedge fund guru used his high-level contacts at other Wall Street firms to engage others in the scheme.

"He is not a master of the universe," said Robert Khuzami, director of enforcement for the Securities and Exchange Commission. "He is a master of the Rolodex."

The others charged include Mark Kurland, a top executive at New Castle Funds; Rajiv Goel, a director at Intel's investment arm; Anil Kumar, an executive with the consulting firm McKinsey & Co. and Robert Moffat, a senior vice president at IBM.

Read more:

World Divided on Obama The Nobel Peace Laureate

When the chairman of the Nobel Prize Committee announced this morning that President Obama had won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize the news was received with a collective gasp from the room full of journalists. Around the world the announcement was received with similar surprise and divided reactions. His allies applauded the choice, while his critics questioned his qualifications.

For many in the two countries that have most recently seen U.S. military intervention, Afghanistan and Iraq, an award for peace to a president still at war is anathema.

"The peace award which has been given to Barack Obama is not right because under Obama, a lot of civilians have died here in the bombing," Abdul Rasoul, a resident of Afghanistan's capital, Kabul, said. Afghans are questioning Obama's receipt of a medal that rewards efforts to broker peace when violence has increased there since he became president. This year has been the most violent year of the war for both civilians and troops.

The Taliban echoed this sentiment in a statement that condemned the award.

"He reinforces the war in Afghanistan, he sent more troops to Afghanistan and is considering sending yet more. He has shed Afghan blood and he continues to bleed Afghans and to boost the war here," the Taliban said.

There is, however, a widespread hope in Afghanistan that a president who has reached out to the Muslim world can figure out a way to tackle the growing insurgency there. Many Afghans ABC News spoke to today -- especially the better educated -- believe that even if Obama hasn't brought peace yet, he will.

Across the border in Pakistan, however, there is huge mistrust of the United States right now. Anti-Americanism is running rampant as coverage of the Kerry-Lugar bill to boost nonmilitary aid to Pakistan portrays the bill as an invasion of Pakistan's sovereignty.

Pakistanis are much more critical of Obama than Afghans, arguing that he has brought more violence to the country. As Muhammad Munir asked ABC News in Islamabad today: "There are killings all over the world, whether it's Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine or Kashmir. Who is doing the killing? They [Americans] are doing it. But he is getting peace prizes as well?"

Lahore hit by three Taliban attacks

The Taliban has stepped up its assault on Pakistan's security establishment with synchronised commando-style raids on three law enforcement agencies in the country's second-biggest city, Lahore.

In the fifth major terrorist attack in Pakistan in 10 days, heavily armed militants staged gun and bomb attacks at Lahore's Federal Investigation Agency building and at two police training centres yesterday.

The attackers, some wearing police uniforms, took hostages and detonated suicide jackets. There were reports of women among the attackers. At least one attacker was reported to be in custody last night.

The death toll from the raids was at least 39 last night, including 12 policemen, eight militants and two civilians. But there were fears that figure could rise.

''We found grenades and a suicide jacket near one dead person,'' a police spokesman said. ''Two dead bodies have been found near the front gate.

''The building has been cleared and the employees are safe.''

The attacks were the latest to underscore the growing threat to Punjab, the province next to India where the Taliban are believed to have made inroads and linked up with local insurgents.

Pakistan's President, Asif Ali Zardari, said the bloodshed that has engulfed the nation would not deter the Government from its mission to eliminate the violent extremists.

Meanwhile, in the town of Kohat in northern Pakistan, a suicide bomber rammed a car into a police station, killing 10.

Witnesses say civilians and police officers were among the dead.

The Pakistan Taliban claimed responsibility for the attacks, which created mayhem in Lahore.Pakistani commandos were deployed last night at an elite police training centre at Bedian on the outskirts of Lahore, where terrorists were holding hostages.

The police academy at Munawan on the outskirts of Lahore was hit for the second time in six months.

In March more than 30 recruits were killed and about 90 injured when terrorists attacked the academy and took hostages.

Seven were reported killed at the FIA headquarters including a senior inspector. In March last year, 21 people were killed in a suicide attack on the agency's Lahore headquarters.

Lahore has been on high alert after terrorist attacks in Islamabad, Peshawar and Rawalipindi in the past nine days.

Even so, Taliban militants were still able to carry out the sophisticated attacks, which bore similarities to the March attack on the Munawan police academy and a commando-style ambush on the Sri Lankan cricket team in the same month that killed six police.

The well-organised attacks come amid speculation that the Pakistan army will launch a major ground offensive against Taliban strongholds in South Waziristan, a lawless province ordering Afghanistan.

''The enemy has started a guerilla war,'' said Interior Minister Rehman Malik.

He also congratulated security forces on their response to the attacks in Lahore.

More than 100 people have been killed in terrorist attacks in Pakistan over the past 10 days. On Saturday, Taliban gunmen dressed in military uniforms attacked Pakistan's military headquarters in Rawalpindi and staged an 18-hour hostage siege.

Last Friday, a suicide car bomb in the north-western city of Peshawar killed 49 a few days after a suicide bomber blew himself up in the UN's World Food Program building, killing five humanitarian workers.

Gorgeous 'Wild Things' roars to the screen

LOS ANGELES -- "Where the Wild Things Are," the book, is just 339 words long. But in turning it into "Where the Wild Things Are," the movie, director Spike Jonze has expanded the basic story with a breathtaking visual scheme and stirring emotional impact.

It's a gorgeous film: This may sound contradictory, but it's intricate and rough-hewn at the same time, dreamlike and earthy. What keeps it from reaching complete excellence is the thinness of the script, which Jonze co-wrote with Dave Eggers.

The beloved and award-winning children's book, which Maurice Sendak wrote and illustrated 45 years ago, still holds up beautifully today because it shows keen insight into the conflicted nature of kids - the delight and the frustration that can often co-exist simultaneously.

Jonze gets that, too. There's always been an inventiveness to his films, a childlike playfulness even amid some of the darker material within "Being John Malkovich" and "Adaptation." With its warm lighting and detailed production design, "Where the Wild Things Are" remains lovingly faithful to the look and spirit of the book but functions assuredly as its own entity.

But Jonze obviously understands the feelings of fear and insecurity - and the inability to articulate them - that the wild things of "Wild Things" represent, and he's taken the bold step of showing the creatures not through animation but rather by using actual people in giant, furry costumes. The monsters were voiced by an all-star cast and enhanced through digital effects to make the facial features seem more lifelike.

And because talented character actors like James Gandolfini, Forest Whitaker, Catherine O'Hara and Paul Dano had the benefit of voicing their roles on the same stage at the same time - rather than recording their parts independently of each other, which is standard practice - their interplay feels more organic.

At their center is Max, played by 12-year-old Max Records, a lonely, misunderstood kid who runs off one day to the magical land where the wild things are and becomes their king. Records is no self-conscious, precocious child actor: He makes Max feel real and relatable, full of joy and rage like any little boy. (Catherine Keener has some lovely, subtle moments at the film's start as Max's struggling single mom, who inadvertently neglects him when he needs attention the most.)

Because so much is right about the look and feel of "Where the Wild Things Are," you wish there were more to the screenplay. Despite many individual moments of great energy, the overall narrative momentum is seriously lacking, and you walk out of the film realizing that not a whole lot happens. There's the wild rumpus, of course - lots of running and jumping through the forest, leaping and wrestling and collapsing in a giddy, exhausted heap. (The indie-rock score from Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Carter Burwell adds to the film's sense of melancholy.)

Mainly, though, the wild things (who have names like Carol, Judith, Douglas and Ira) bicker among themselves about whether to make Max their king, and the best way to build a fort. Many amusing lines do emerge, though - and perhaps a potentially frightening moment or two for little kids.

"Where the Wild Things Are" is certainly as suitable for children as the book that inspired it, but it'll probably roar even more loudly to adults in the audience who aren't ashamed to get a little nostalgic about their own childhoods.

"Where the Wild Things Are," a Warner Bros. Pictures release, is rated PG for mild thematic elements, some adventure action and brief language. Running time: 101 minutes. Three stars out of four.

Can the War in Afghanistan Still Be Won? Opposing arguments in a debate as old as the conflict itself.

Only those who were in the room know what was said in the series of White House meetings about America's policies in Afghanistan and Pakistan. But it's likely that at least some of the views expressed paralleled those heard at last week's Intelligence Squared US debate at New York University, because the six speakers among them counted decades of experience in defense, intelligence, diplomatic, and think-tank circles. The topic, "America Cannot and Will Not Succeed in Afghanistan/Pakistan," put the question about as bluntly as possible.hose arguing for the motion were Steven Clemons, a senior fellow at the New America Foundation; retired Col. Patrick Lang, a former military-intelligence officer; and Ralph Peters, a retired Army officer, author, and Fox News strategic analyst.

Arguing against the motion were Steve Coll, CEO of the New America Foundation; retired U.S. ArmyLt. Col. John Nagl, president of the Center for a New American Security; and James Shinn, assistant secretary of defense for Asia in 2007–08. The moderator was John Donvan of ABC News. Excerpts:

Lang: General [Stanley] McChrystal [the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan] evidently wants 40,000 more people. I would say that's how we started in Vietnam too.The reason I don't think we can win with a counterinsurgency strategy is because three or four years down the pike all you good people are going to say, "Are the Taliban really our enemies, in the sense that Al Qaeda was? Is this really what we want to do?" And when that happens I suspect you're going to tell Congress you've had enough of this, and they will vote to end the war as they did in Vietnam.

Coll: We too often talk about Afghanistan as a primitive land that has been at war for centuries. Afghanistan [before the Soviet invasion in 1979] was a coherent and mainly peaceful independent state. After 2001 Afghans returned to their country from refugee camps and exile to reclaim their state. A strong plurality of Afghans still want to finish that work, and they want the international community to stay and help. Most Afghans are sick of war, and afraid of the Taliban's return. We have an obligation and a national interest and we have the capacity to stand by them.

Obama May Be Met By Frustration in New Orleans Visit

Even before Air Force One touches down in New Orleans on Thursday afternoon, President Obama is discovering the burdens of rebuilding a city that feels abandoned by the federal government. Four years after Hurricane Katrina, swaths of New Orleans remain devastated by the winds and floods that tore through. More than 65,000 homes remain abandoned. There is no public hospital. The levees that keep back the Gulf of Mexico are still vulnerable.

The responsibility for getting more federal help to New Orleans has now passed from President George W. Bush to Obama, and with it the impatience of the city's residents.

"The people that I talk to are frustrated with the setbacks that they have had to endure, are frustrated with the nature of the bureaucracy that allows decisions to be unmade for long periods of time," said Sheila Crowley, president of the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

The frustration, she said, is a reflection of "the pent-up need . . . for a sense of serious attention from the federal government."

Obama has repeatedly sent Cabinet secretaries into New Orleans, often with money to jump-start stalled projects. White House officials say they have cut red tape and loosened $1.5 billion in assistance that was stuck in the federal pipeline. They say more than 3,500 people have been moved to permanent housing.

But civic leaders are grumbling that the president's scheduled five-hour visit to the hurricane- and flood-damaged area -- his first since taking office -- is not sufficient to communicate his concern.

"A town hall event and a mystery stop? That's it?" the Times-Picayune newspaper editorialized last week before the trip was finalized and a school tour was added. "The White House plan for President Barack Obama's first post-election visit to New Orleans seems to be lacking in substance and fun."

Criticism is also coming from Mississippi and southwest Louisiana, where storm-weary residents are asking why New Orleans is the only visit on Obama's schedule before a quick stop in San Francisco for a Democratic National Committee fundraiser.

The White House calls the criticism unfounded, noting that as a candidate and a senator, Obama visited the Gulf Coast repeatedly.

"The president has been to New Orleans five times since Katrina and has done most of the things people are saying they want him to do," spokesman Nick Shapiro said. "What he hasn't done is hold a public event where he can hear directly from the people."

As a candidate, Obama used the plight of the city as a rallying cry for change, often citing what he said was an inadequate response by the Bush administration to the needs of the people there.

Goldman Sachs ponders $1bn charity donation

The investment bank, which is set to report its results for the three months to September on Thursday, is understood to be giving serious thought to some form of large philanthropic donation.

The aim of the donation, first disclosed by Henry Blodget's Business Insider blog, would be to deflect the likely row come at the end of the year. By then Goldman's total compensation pot is expected to be a record $22bn, delivering average pay and bonuses of more than $700,000 per employee, higher even than the average $661,000 paid out in 2007 – its last record year.

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The bank's partner managing directors – a top-tier of approximately 300 senior bankers who tend to be its biggest money-earners – are believed to be discussing the plan as one of a number of ways of deflecting political and investor backlash over the eventual size of the bonus pool.

Goldman has repaid $10bn of funds received from the US Treasury's Troubled Assets Relief Programme, but politicians are likely to question whether the bank could have made such spectacular profits without taxpayers assistance.

Meanwhile, Goldman shares fell $3.72 – or 1.96pc – to $186.43 after banking analyst Meredith Whitney downgraded its shares from "buy" to "neutral".

Ms Whitney said Goldman's shares had risen 34pc in the last quarter – past her $186 price target – but stressed that the "strong fundamentals behind our upgrade last quarter still stand".

A Goldman spokesman said: "We don't make decisions about any major expenditure or commitments until the end of the year."

Analysis: Pakistani Taleban more dangerous than ever

A wave of Pakistani Taleban attacks over the last 11 days shows that the militant network is more dangerous than ever, despite the death of its charismatic leader in August and the apparent success of the army’s six month campaign in the northwest.

It also suggests an unprecedented level of cooperation between Pashtun militants in north-western Pakistan, Al Qaeda and other foreigners sheltering there, and militant groups based in Punjab - the country's most populous province.

And it shows, more vividly than ever, that Pakistan’s security forces - including the powerful army - are unable even to protect even their own headquarters against the militants, many of whom have military training themselves.

Today's triple attack on law enforcement buildings in Lahore coincided with a suicide bombing in the northwest and followed a weekend raid on the army headquarters and two more suicide bombings last week. The militants’ immediate aim is clear: to discourage the army from launching an imminent ground assault on the tribal region of South Waziristan - the main stronghold of the Pakistani Taleban and its closest allies.

The Pakistani Taleban has already suffered one major setback this year when they advanced into the north-western region of Swat - getting to within 60 miles of the capital, Islamabad - only to be driven out by the army.

The government announced the South Waziristan operation in June and, ever since, the army has been moving troops into the area, blocking the roads around it and pounding militant hideouts with air strikes and artillery.

Early this month, the government and the army began saying that preparations for the operation were complete and it would start imminently. That is when the wave of Taleban attacks began.

The Taleban has also made several public statements, warning clearly that the assault on South Waziristan will trigger further militant attacks across Pakistan, where it now claims to have branches in all major regions.

What is less clear is whether they are doing this from a position of strength, having re-grouped since the death of Baitullah Mehsud, their former leader, or out of desperation in the face of imminent defeat in South Waziristan.

When Mehsud was killed by a US drone strike in August, it was prematurely hailed as a death blow for the Pakistani Taleban, which he founded and used to carry out dozens of attacks against targets in Pakistan.

There were unconfirmed reports of a violent leadership struggle within the Taleban, in which several potential successors had also been killed, including Wali-ur Rehman and Mehsud’s brother, Hakimullah.

Ten days ago, however, Hakimullah Mehsud made a public appearance at which he claimed the Taleban leadership and threatened to avenge his brother’s death.

Mr Rehman was then heard in telephone intercepts communicating with the militants who attacked army headquarters over the weekend, according to the army spokesman.

The implication is that the Taleban has indeed re-grouped under a new leadership, probably headed by Hakimullah Mehsud, and is sufficiently united to stage attacks every bit as big as those perpetrated by its former leader.

The involvement of Punjabi militants in the army headquarters raid also suggests that Mr Mehsud is working closely with members or former members of the Punjab-based groups, Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Janghvi.

Analysts have been warning for years that southern Punjab, in particular, has become a fertile recruiting ground for these groups, some of which have had close links to the Pakistani military.

The government and the army will now come under increasing political and public pressure to begin the ground assault on South Waziristan to show that they are taking firm action against the militants.

The hope is that the army will be able to reduce the Taleban's capabilities by killing or capturing leaders like Mr Mehsud and Mr Rehman and destroying militant training camps and hideouts.

The fear, however, is that even if the army prevails in South Waziristan, Taleban allies in other tribal areas, and particularly in Punjab, will still be able to respond with attacks like those over the last 11 days.

Meditation Helps Women with Breast Cancer

A meditation technique has been found to help relieve stress and improve mental health among women with breast cancer.

Researchers from St. Joseph Hospital in Chicago studied the use of a transcendental meditation technique among 130 women with breast cancer.

All participants were 55 years and older and were randomly assigned to either the transcendental meditation technique or to a usual care control group.

Patients were administered quality of life measures, including the Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy-Breast (FACT-B), every six months for two years. The average intervention period was 18 months.

“It is wonderful that physicians now have a range of interventions to use, including transcendental meditation, to benefit their patients with cancer,” said Rhoda Pomerantz, M.D., study co-author and chief of gerontology, Saint Joseph Hospital.

“I believe this approach should be appreciated and utilized more widely.”

Stress contributes to the onset and progression of breast cancer

According to background information in the article, breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, striking about 13 percent. Women over the age of 50 have four times the incidence of breast cancer compared to women below 50. Breast cancer remains a leading cause of death among women, according to the National Cancer Institute.

“Emotional and psychosocial stress contribute to the onset and progression of breast cancer and cancer mortality,” said Sanford Nidich, lead author of the study and senior researcher at the Institute for Natural Medicine and Prevention at Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa.

“The transcendental meditation technique reduces stress and improves emotional well-being and mental health in older breast cancer patients. The women in the study found their meditation practice easy to do at home and reported significant benefits in their overall quality of life,” Dr. Nidich said.

“Decades of research have shown that stress contributes to the cause and complications of cancer,” said Robert Schneider, M.D., F.A.C.C., co-author and director of the Institute for Natural Medicine and Prevention at Maharishi University of Management.

“The data from this well-designed clinical trial and related studies suggest that effective stress reduction with the transcendental meditation program may be useful in the prevention and treatment of breast cancer and its deleterious consequences.”

The study is published in the current issue of the peer-reviewed journal Integrative Cancer Therapies.

Young, healthy adults hard-hit by swine flu: Study

New York, October 13 -- A Canadian research shows that H1N1 influenza associated with respiratory failure could prove to be more fatal for the younger population with no serious underlying medical conditions, contrary to the chronically ill and the elderly who are believed to be more prone to the disease.

The findings of the study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association, emphasize the fact that there is an increasing need for healthy adults to get vaccinated against the pandemic flu.

To determine whether relatively healthy adults are especially at risk from the swine flu, a Canadian research team conducted an in-depth examination of nearly 168 patients infected with the lethal virus and who were treated at 38 Canadian hospitals between April 16 and Aug. 12 at the height of the swine flu outbreak.

The average patient was 32 years old, including 113 women (67.3 percent) and 50 people under the age of 18 (29.8 percent). Only 30.4 percent who fell severely ill had severe health problems.

Healthy adolescents and adults more at risk
The results of the examination suggested that of all the admitted patients, 24 (14.3 percent) died within the first 28 days and five within the first 90 days, resulting in a 17 percent mortality rate.

“What the public needs to understand is that people who are getting critically ill with H1N1 look just like you and me – they're essentially healthy people,” said Anand Kumar who compiled the research with the Canadian Critical Care Trials Group H1N1 Collaborative.

Kumar also is an associate professor for critical care and infectious disease at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-Camden.

"But healthy people can be hit. Once they are,” he said, "these people are spectacularly ill -- it's hard to believe how ill these people are.''

"Our data suggest that severe disease and mortality in the current outbreak is concentrated in relatively healthy adolescents and adults between the ages of 10 and 60 years, a pattern reminiscent of the W-shaped curve [rise and fall in the population mortality rate for the disease, corresponding to age at death] previously seen only during the 1918 H1N1 Spanish pandemic," concluded the team.

Swine flu’s toll worldwide
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), nearly 4,500 people worldwide have died of H1N1, including 79 in Canada.

Worldwide, more than 3,75,000 laboratory-confirmed cases of swine flu have been reported until recently, but many countries, including Canada, have stopped counting individual cases because the disease is so widespread.

Modern medical therapies suggested
Health experts say that modern therapies, including breathing assistance from ventilators and antiviral medicines, can prevent most swine flu deaths as most patients can be supported through their critical illness with such therapies.

Most people with flu-like symptoms don't need to go to emergency rooms or even take antiviral medicines such as Tamiflu. However, people who undergo severe shortness of breath or very rapid heartbeat should go to hospitals, they say.

Analysis: Pakistan confronts growing terrorist menace

The danger comes not only from Taliban, who are ethnic Pashtuns from Pakistan's north-west fringe, which borders Afghanistan, but also from extremists from its heartland Punjab province, who have forged a network with the Taliban.

So Pakistan is threatened by a network of extremism that has cells throughout the country, able to mount attacks seemingly at will against any target. The militants are able to mount both suicide attacks and more sophisticated commando or "fidayeen" gun and grenade assaults, using well-trained jihadists against sometimes highly protected targets. Such attacks have intensified in frequency to leave more than 100 people dead in the space of a week, mostly from suicide bombings which have predominantly killed civilians.

The deadly nexus between Punjabi jihadists from more established groups, and their Pakistani Taliban comrades was exposed in the attack on the military headquarters (GHQ) at Rawalpindi at the weekend. Five of the 10 assailants were Punjabis. Their ringleader, Aqeel alias Dr Usman, was from a Punjabi extremist outfit, but the training for the operation was carried out in Waziristan, according to the army.

The "fidayeen", military-style tactics could even be used against Pakistan's nuclear sites, according to Shaun Gregory, a professor at Bradford University and an expert on Pakistan's nuclear programme. This could result in installations being bombed, set on fire or nuclear material stolen.

"The only thing that stands between al-Qaeda and nuclear weapons is the Pakistan army," said Prof Gregory. "It is an incredible shock that terrorists can strike at the heart of GHQ . Terrorists could mount this sort of assault against Pakistan's nuclear installations."

The same sort of fidayeen attack was seen in the assault on Mumbai in late 2008 by the Pakistan-based Laskar-e-Taiba (LeT), and the ambush of the visiting Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore earlier this year. Aqeel was already being hunted as the mastermind of that attack.

While Pakistan has taken on the Taliban extremists and plans to strike their sprawling stronghold in Waziristan, the menace from Punjab, a developed and highly populated area, is much harder to tackle and so far there has been no concerted military action taken against militants operating there.

Many see the strike on the army headquarters as a "wake up" call about the threat from Punjab.

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - CIT Group Inc is seeing little interest from bondholders in a debt exchange offer aimed at repairing its fragile balance sheet, making bankruptcy increasingly likely, sources familiar with the matter said.

The lender to small and medium-sized businesses said earlier this month it was looking for investors to approve a large debt exchange that would reduce its borrowings, or to approve a prepackaged bankruptcy.

CIT is now more likely to try a prepackaged bankruptcy, two people familiar with the matter said. They declined to be identified because the exchange offer is ongoing and information about its progress is private.

But separately, investors in CIT securities said it is possible the company will not find enough debtholder approval for a prepackaged bankruptcy, which requires sufficient support before the company files for protection from creditors. Instead, CIT might have to aim for a prenegotiated bankruptcy, which typically has less support before the actual filing.

CIT spokesman Curt Ritter declined to comment.

CIT has limited time to work out its debt difficulties. It has about $3 billion of debt to repay in the fourth quarter, including both secured and unsecured obligations, according to a CIT quarterly filing with regulators.

CIT has lost access to unsecured debt markets, but has billions to refinance in coming years. In three of the next four years, it will have more debt to repay than cash to pay it back. CIT has roughly 1 million customers and more than $70 billion of assets, but many of its borrowers are struggling amid the worst recession since the Great Depression.

The company's debt exchange aims to reduce CIT's borrowings by at least $5.7 billion, with specific targets for lowering the company's liabilities through 2012. The exchange offer expires on October 29.


At least two groups of investors are pushing for better terms in a bankruptcy than those suggested by the company earlier this month, one of the sources and investors said.

A subordinated debt holder said last week he was hoping to press for either more equity, or for a promise from the company to pay extra money to current subordinated debt holders if the company's assets perform well enough.

Separately, investors holding debt that funded CIT business in Canada are pushing for greater consideration in any bankruptcy plan, too. These investors are entitled to recover money from Canadian assets and the parent company in the United States and could therefore get close to 100 cents on the dollar in any bankruptcy.

One investor that would take a hit in a CIT bankruptcy is the U.S. government. The United States' Troubled Asset Relief Program invested $2.3 billion in CIT in December and much or all of that could be lost if the company files for bankruptcy, analysts said.

But many debt investors are likely to end up with much more than zero if CIT files for bankruptcy. One group of bondholders lent $3 billion to the company in July. That loan is collateralized by an estimated $30 billion of assets, which would ensure that the July loan could likely be paid back in full.

(Reporting by Dan Wilchins and Paritosh Bansal; editing by Richard Chang and Andre Grenon)

Palestinian reconciliation deal delayed by UN row

An agreement to reconcile bitterly divided Palestinian groups has been delayed for several weeks, Egypt's foreign minister said today. A deal was to be signed on 25 October, clearing the way for Hamas militants and the more moderate Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, to cooperate in rebuilding war-damaged Gaza and preparing for Palestinian elections in the first half of next year. The two sides have been divided since Hamas violently seized control of the Gaza Strip from Abbas's forces in June 2007. Since then there have been rival Palestinian governments in Gaza and the West Bank. Egypt has been trying to broker a deal to reconcile the groups and push them toward a power-sharing agreement. The division has also complicated efforts to revive stalled peace talks with Israel.

Egyptian foreign minister, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, would not name the Palestinian faction that requested the delay, but Hamas said on its website it was postponing the agreement because of a much-criticised decision by Abbas to delay action on a UN report condemning Israeli attacks on Gaza.

The report, drawn up by a team of experts led by former South African judge Richard Goldstone, accuses Israel of using disproportionate force and failing to protect civilians during its winter assault on Gaza. It also calls Hamas' firing of rockets at civilian areas in southern Israel a war crime. The report recommended that the security council require both sides to carry out credible investigations into alleged abuses during the conflict – in which 13 Israelis and almost 1,400 Palestinians, including hundreds of civilians, were killed.

Israel has rejected the report's war crimes allegations. The US has called the report deeply flawed and said it disagrees with many of its assessments. Abbas was under pressure from the US to withdraw Palestinian support for having the UN human rights council forward the report to the 192-nation general assembly for possible action. Abbas's decision has been widely condemned by many Palestinians, not just Hamas.

Today, seven Palestinian groups joined Hamas leaders based in Damascus, Syria, in issuing a statement of support for the postponement of the Palestinian reconciliation deal. They called Abbas's decision to freeze action on the UN report a "crime and scandal".

The groups emphasized the importance of reconciliation but said Abbas's actions should not go "unpunished". President Barack Obama's Middle East envoy, George Mitchell, met with Egyptian officials, including the foreign minister, on Sunday in an effort to move Israeli-Palestinian peace talks forward.

MPs' expenses: Sir Thomas Legg explains his rule change

Sir Thomas, a former senior civil servant, is writing to every MP about their second home expenses claims between 2004 and 2008.

Some are being told that their claims were excessive and they should pay back money. Some are being asked for more information and some are being told they are in the clear. Most controversially, Sir Thomas has imposed limits on the amounts MPs should have been allowed to claim for categories including cleaning and gardening.

The caps – of £2,000 a year for cleaning and £1,000 for gardening – were the cause of more than £10,000 of the total £12,500 paid back on Monday by Gordon Brown.

Sir Thomas's letters have been accompanied by a note in which he explained his decision.

He told MPs that there had effectively already been a limit on the amount that could be claimed for mortgage interest, because the total additional cost allowance budget prevented an annual claim of more than about £24,000 last year.

Household goods, he said, were also subject to limits. The so-called "John Lewis list", which was kept secret from MPs, told Commons officials that they could allow, for example, up to £750 for a television and £10,000 for a new kitchen.

However, Sir Thomas said that he could find nothing in the existing rules setting out the maximum allowable for other large expenses, including cleaning and gardening. Therefore, he believed that limits must be imposed retrospectively.

"Some limits must be regarded as having been in place to prevent disproportionate and unnecessary expenditure from the public purse," he said.