Crosby has 2 goals, 2 assists in NHL return after long recovery from concussion

PITTSBURGH, Pa. – The Pittsburgh Penguins would have accepted an average Sidney Crosby in his first game in nearly 11 months – a routine performance, a regular night at the office.

Instead, they got the extraordinary.

Crosby scored the game’s first goal on his first shot since Jan. 5, scored again in the third period and added two assists during the NHL’s most-awaited comeback game since Mario Lemieux’s return in 2000 as the Pittsburgh Penguins roughed up the New York Islanders 5-0 on Monday night.

Choose an adjective befitting the superlative, and it worked on this special night: Dazzling, exceptional, brilliant.

No one in the hockey world knew exactly what to expect as Crosby, hockey’s biggest star, played his first game in 321 days following his prolonged layoff with a concussion that caused him considerable discomfort for months. But few probably expected him to be this good, this fast, this dominant.

This much like the Sidney Crosby of old.

Even the score was the same as when Lemieux returned from a 44-month retirement to collect a goal and two assists against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Dec. 27, 2000, in the last NHL comeback to generated this much interest.

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The Penguins, already one of the NHL’s top teams, now have a superstar looking just like the player who was dominating the NHL scoring race at this time a year ago, when Crosby was on pace for the league’s highest scoring total in 15 years before he was hurt.

Crosby showed not a speck of rust from his extended absence and was the fastest player on the ice from the very start of a memorable night. He helped set up a Chris Kunitz shot off the crossbar on his very first shift – shades of Lemieux getting an assist only a half-minute into his comeback – and was a motivated and driven player from the start.

And who could have scripted this any better – Crosby grabbed a Pascal Dupuis pass in stride on his third shift, accelerated to the net and, while fending off defenceman Andrew MacDonald, lifted a hard backhander under the crossbar only 5:24 into the game. Islanders rookie Anders Nilsson, making his first NHL start, never had a chance.

It never got any better after that for the Islanders, who dropped their 12th game in their last 14 overall and their 13th in a row in Pittsburgh, a city that isn’t very hospitable to them even when Crosby isn’t playing.

Now Crosby is back and, based on Monday’s game, appears to have the same form that saw him to score 32 goals and pile up an NHL-leading 66 points in 41 games before he sustained a concussion in early January.

For Crosby, the first-place Penguins and the league that has long awaited the return of its signature star, it couldn’t have gone much better than this.

He also took a few hard hits – the kind that can’t be handed out in practice – with Travis Hamonic shoving him in the end boards during the first period. Crosby quickly jumped up, not shaken a bit.

The standing-room crowd of 18,571 in Consol Energy Center was predictably loud and supportive, holding up Welcome Back Sid: signs by the thousands while chanting “Crosby, Crosby” as a huge No. 87 was displayed on the scoreboard before the opening faceoff.

There were signs everywhere – one read “Merry Sidmas” – from a crowd that came prepared to welcome back Crosby no matter how well he played, and was rewarded with a performance that bordered on the otherworldly.

During the morning skate, Penguins forward Steve Sullivan warned it might take any player coming off an extended layoff a few games to regain his timing, his top speed and his game legs, even if he managed to play a game or two on adrenalin.

Crosby looked as if he hadn’t missed a shift, much less half of one season and one quarter of another. He showed his playmaking abilities as he set up the Penguins’ second goal following a four-minute break between shifts late in the first period. His backhander from the left wing boards found defenceman Brooks Orpik at the point for a one-timer that beat Nilsson to the stick side at 16:29.

The score was only 2-0 but, given the emotion and the energy generated by the Crosby comeback, it was all but over.

It was a difficult assignment from the star from Nilsson, whose only previous NHL playing time was a 40-minute stint during a 6-0 loss to Boston on Saturday night. Crosby’s comeback didn’t make it any easier.

Neither did the Penguins’ third goal, scored by Evgeni Malkin on a power play with Crosby assisting 3:17 into the second period. Crosby drove hard to the net after coming off the bench and was turned aside by Nilsson, but got the puck back and fed it to Kris Letang at the point, who in turn sailed a hard pass to Malkin near the left post for his 10th goal.

Crosby didn’t figure in Pittsburgh’s fourth goal, scored by Sullivan off Malkin’s set-up only 2 ½ minutes later. The big lead allowed coach Dan Bylsma to start trimming Crosby’s ice time a bit, given the Penguins play three more times in the next five days.

Not that Crosby was done.

He finished off the unforgettable night with his second goal, slamming a hard backhander off defenceman Steve Staios and by Nilsson after carrying the puck from behind to net to along the right-wing boards 2:06 into the third period.

With so much attention on Crosby, Marc-Andre Fleury quietly went about putting together his 21st career shutout and second of the season, stopping 29 shots as the Penguins won their sixth in a row at home and improved to 12-6-4.

Now, for Crosby, it’s one game down, two goals scored and the rest of the season to go.

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Occupy Calgary protesters cool to city deal, ask for electric hookups

CALGARY – Talks between Occupy Calgary and city officials went cold Saturday as protesters wavered on a deal that would see them vacate Olympic Plaza.

Despite facing temperatures below minus 20 degrees, the campers vowed to continue their occupation. Protester Aaron Doncaster read the city’s proposal out loud during a general assembly on Saturday.

“Personally, if I had my own choice, I would light this on fire,” Doncaster said, holding a copy of the city’s offer.

Last Thursday, city officials presented protesters with an informal proposal that would allow them to host several public forums and establish an information booth somewhere near the plaza in exchange for the group leaving the park.

But protesters balked at the offer, citing several concerns including the proposal’s informal nature. Doncaster invited Mayor Naheed Nenshi and other city officials down to the camp for further discussions.

“They won’t even come down to our (general assemblies) and recognize us,” he said. “That is an open line of communication that needs to be acknowledged.”

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Saturday marked the fifth week the group has occupied Olympic Plaza. The city previously ticketed and threatened to evict the protesters, but has since taken a more neutral stance, citing constitutional rights to freedom of expression.

The movement seems to be waning in several Canadian cities. Protesters in Vancouver have been given until Monday to pack up and camps in Regina and Victoria have already been dismantled.

 

“Calgary’s said from the get-go we’re looking for a peaceful resolution,” said Bill Bruce, director of animal and bylaw services.

Several protesters called for access to electrical services before they’d continue talks with the city. Bruce said there is no plan to offer power to the camp.

“That’s not on the table from the city’s side,” he said. “Realistically, we’ve cautioned them about the weather.”

The idea of continuing without power didn’t sit well with all the occupiers. Anthony Hall, a University of Lethbridge professor who recently joined the movement, said they have the right to use electrical devices, such as laptops.

Hall would like to see city hall engage the group in a respectful discussion on the matter.

“We’re human beings,” he said. “He (Bruce) deals with bylaws and animals, and he’s dealing with us like we’re animals. We’re humans. It’s winter in Canada.”

Protesters say they hope to make a formal counter-offer to the city by next Saturday.

“The city is missing the point in that they don’t seem to understand that the way this group operates isn’t through demands or proposals,” said protester Arran Fisher.

However, Fisher didn’t have a solution as to how the two parties could reach a deal.

“I can’t think of an appropriate response apart from just letting it happen.”

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Mayor says his 5% tax plan is doable

CALGARY – Mayor Naheed Nenshi has released a roadmap to stick with a five-per-cent tax increase for 2012 by the end of this week’s budget debates, but he likely lacks the support to get there.

He is confident the police chief can handle 45 fewer officers at community and district desks and in other support services, feels transit won’t suffer with fewer service hours, and thinks less money for parks maintenance will prompt more efficient delivery of the service.

“On the face of it and on the facts, there is no reason we can’t do it,” Nenshi said of his tax plan.

He’s going to have a tough job convincing others on council.

At least one councillor who reluctantly joined Nenshi’s push to keep property tax hikes to the rate of population and civic cost growth now wants to go higher – six per cent, perhaps – to prevent service reductions for police, transit or snow clearing.

“We’re going to have to add. I just don’t see places where we can cut,” Jim Stevenson said Sunday, the day before council begins a likely marathon stretch of hearings and debates on the 2012-2014 city fiscal plan.

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When council gave city managers pre-budget direction on taxes in June, Stevenson was one of nine members who initially backed finance committee chairman Councillor Gord Lowe’s plan for an eight-per-cent increase in 2012, and six points in the next two years.

He was then one of the three councillors who switched their stances after Nenshi pitched hikes of 5.0, 5.1 and 5.5 per cent in successive years.

Lowe plans to bring back his eight-point tax proposal, and colleagues have eyed many department budgets to shore up.

A plan to add no new transit routes outside the west LRT corridor and cut $1 million in transit service in 2013 has won few fans other than the mayor, who argues the new LRT line will offset the need for more bus service.

The police commission has many members in their corner – including Stevenson – calling to reverse the planned elimination of 45 officers this year, and hire additional police.

“I’m so happy with what (Chief) Rick Hanson has done over the years. I just don’t agree we should hamstring them,” the Ward 3 member said.

Nenshi supports the idea for new officers as the population grows but will ask council to await word on possible aid from the Redford government.

Many also oppose a $5.7-million clawback to parks maintenance over three years, and there’s apparent unanimity against a $3.5-million cut to the roads budget that would end the newly upgraded plowing strategy for side streets.

To staunch that problem, Nenshi will propose taking $7 million from the rainy day reserve to start a snowy-day fund so the city can draw from it in tough winters, and add to it in lighter winters.

Civic Camp, a group of urban activists which Nenshi helped form, will appeal today for the higher tax hike that Lowe endorses and the mayor is against.

There’s streamlining to be done, but even the city’s own pre-budget consultations showed Calgarians favour enhanced services, Civic Camp organizer Peter Rishaug said.

“They are willing to pay more for certain services, if they are reliable and improve quality of life,” he said.

There will also be public speakers coming out for operational dollars to further the cycling strategy, which got short shrift in a budget that cuts back in most areas.

“It will result in savings that exceed its costs many times. The benefits include improved health, long term transportation cost savings, more vibrant street life and increased tourism,” said Bike Calgary’s letter to Nenshi and council last week.

For support on a more modest tax hike, Nenshi can likely count on Councillors Dale Hodges and Andre Chabot, as well as Peter Demong, who wants a four-per-cent hike. But they’re aware of the long odds.

“I don’t think council will have the intestinal fortitude to get it below six per cent,” Chabot said.

On top of tax rates and service levels, council will also tackle user fees. Many members will try to alter the draft plan to hike the senior’s annual transit pass to $55 next year and $96 by 2014, from the present deeply discounted $35 (low-income seniors would still pay $15 a year).

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David Ferrer beats injured Andy Murray in straight sets at ATP World Tour Finals

LONDON – David Ferrer pulled off the first upset of the ATP World Tour Finals by beating an injury-hampered Andy Murray 6-4, 7-5 on Monday.

In the opening match of Group A, Ferrer’s consistency was enough to overcome the third-seeded Murray, who struggled with a groin injury that he said may prevent him from taking any further part in the season-ending tournament.

The seventh-seeded Spaniard broke in the 10th game of the first set and twice came from a break down in the second to stun Murray and the home crowd inside London’s O2 Arena.

Murray finished with 44 unforced errors and made just 46 per cent of his first serves. He said he sustained the injury during training a few days after the Paris Masters earlier this month.

“I’ll decide tomorrow whether I keep playing or not,” Murray said. “If it wasn’t Slams or this event, I wouldn’t have played (at all).”

Murray added that it would be “really gutting” to have to withdraw.

In the last event of a season in which the top players have complained about the gruelling nature of the men’s tour, No. 1-ranked Novak Djokovic was due to test his shoulder injury in his opening match against Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic later Monday.

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Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer both came through three-set matches on Sunday to set up the 26th meeting of their long rivalry on Tuesday.

But while Nadal, who struggled with an illness, and Federer were able to overcome their dips in form on the opening day, Murray couldn’t escape his problems.

Ferrer, meanwhile, won his first match at the O2 Arena after going 0-3 last year, and beat Murray for the first time on a hard court after five losses.

“I played very good,” Ferrer said. “I played very consistent all the match. Maybe the first set I play better than the second. In the second sometimes I was a little bit nervous. In important moments, I take my chance, and nothing else.”

Murray beat Ferrer in straight sets in Tokyo and Shanghai on a run of three straight titles in Asia in September and October, part of a 17-1 run following the U.S. Open that helped him overtake Federer for the No. 3 ranking.

British boxer David Haye was in the crowd and tweeted that he was looking forward to seeing his friend Murray “smash the Spaniard!” Instead, Murray repeatedly swung and missed.

He broke for a 2-1 lead in the first set but then immediately conceded the advantage with an error-strewn game. And as Murray’s form fluctuated wildly, Ferrer maintained his trademark consistency from the baseline.

Serving to stay in the set at 5-4 down, Murray asked the umpire to call for the trainer and subsequently dropped serve for the second time, blazing a forehand long and wide on Ferrer’s second set point.

The trainer gave Murray a vigorous massage during the injury time-out, and it seemed to have done the trick when Murray immediately broke serve in the second set.

The stadium was about two-thirds full for the afternoon session and Murray’s performance didn’t give them much to shout about as he first lost serve to love in the fourth game and then double-faulted to give up another break in the eighth.

Ferrer, meanwhile, found his best form just when it counted. Leading 6-5, the Spaniard punched a perfect volley onto the sideline to bring up match point, and then pounced on an ill-advised drop shot from Murray to seal the win.

If Murray decides to continue, he will face the loser of the Djokovic-Berdych match on Wednesday, needing a win to maintain any realistic hope of reaching the semifinals.

Janko Tipsarevic of Serbia is the first in line to replace Murray if he withdraws.

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Arizona’s Heard Museum exhibits versatility of bolo ties; worn with tux or jeans

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – The sometimes plain, sometimes heavily decorated neckties are a symbol of the West, worn with everything from blue jeans to tuxedos.

Texas links the bolo to the romanticism of the pioneer era and suggests that anyone who wears one refuses to be bound by convention. New Mexico says they reflect the state’s tri-cultural heritage – a mix of Hispanic, American Indian and Anglo influences.

In Arizona, where the bolo tie was declared the official state neckwear in 1971, an exhibit honouring the ubiquitous western neck adornment opened Saturday at the Heard Museum in Phoenix.

The braided leather cord with an ornament on a sliding clasp has decorated the necks of cowboys, politicians and runway models, reflecting the bolo tie’s versatility.

“I just like it because it’s a distinctive look,” said Norman Sandfield, a Chicago resident who donated his collection of bolo ties to Phoenix’s venerable Native arts and culture museum. “It makes me look confident. It’s a conversation starter.”

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The exhibit, “Native American Bolo Ties: Vintage and Contemporary,” showcases Native designers who have brought unique designs with traditional inspirations to the bolo. Small ornaments made with silver and a single turquoise stone have evolved into elaborate figurative pieces with numerous stones or jewels.

The bolo tie emerged as a form of men’s neckwear in the 1940s but it’s difficult to pinpoint its exact origin, said exhibit curator Diana Pardue, who co-wrote a book on bolos with Sandfield that accompanies the exhibit. While the authors found pictures with bolos in magazines and other publications from the 1950s and 60s, Pardue said there was little written about them.

One common story is that Wickenburg, Ariz., silversmith Victor Cedarstaff hung his silver-trimmed hatband around his neck on a windy day in the 1940s while on horseback to keep it from flying away. Someone comment just how nice his “tie” looked. Cedarstaff later patented it. Others say the bolo tie as fashioned by American native artists appeared much earlier.

Western television personalities including the Cisco Kid, Hopalong Cassidy and Roy Rogers helped popularize the bolo.

The bolo tie long has been a staple of western wear in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and surrounding states, and generally is an acceptable replacement for a cloth or bow tie. Popular with men and women, bolos have carried over to more trendy fashion.

New Mexico lawmakers declared the bolo the official state tie in 2007 – following up on a non-binding memorial nearly 20 years earlier. What legislators wore around their necks prompted spirited debates about which chamber had the more professionally-attired members – the bolo-sporting senators or the representatives whose rules didn’t allow bolos on the floor until 2009.

Said Sandfield, “The simple rule is – if there are any rules – is that the higher you wear it to the collar, the dressier it is. The lower you wear it, the more casual it is.”

Don Prusakowski promotes the wearing of the ties through the Bola Tie Society of Arizona. Yes, bola. Prusakowski quickly explains that b-o-l-a is the tie and b-o-l-o is a knife, showing that not everyone even agrees on the spelling. They’ve also been called string, Texas, lariat and goucho ties, and piggin necklets.

“It’s consistent,” said Prusakowski, 77, of the tie’s popularity. “What you do get is a lot of people who come from the East and Mideast, and they want to be cowboys. They start wearing bola ties. They find it’s much easier and much more comfortable.”

Texas also designated the bolo as state tie in 2007.

The Heard has 350 bolo ties on display, with the exhibit running through September 2012.

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If You Go…

NATIVE AMERICAN BOLO TIES: VINTAGE AND CONTEMPORARY: Through Sept. 3 at the Heard Museum; 2301 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, 杭州桑拿按摩论坛杭州夜生活heard杭州夜网 or 602-252-8848. Open Monday through Friday 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Closed Christmas. Adults, $15; seniors 65 and over, $13.50; students with ID and children 6-12, $7.50; children 5 and under, American Indians and members, free.

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Shafia murder trial hears about girl’s fear of brother

KINGSTON, Ont. – A teenage Montreal girl who was allegedly murdered,
along with two sisters and her stepmother, by her brother and parents,
warned a suitor at school that her brother could not know about their
friendship.

“Let me explain the rules of my friendship. First, be
aware of my bro, then if (you) sometimes wanna talk, come in the
library, and if my brother is around, act like complete strangers,”
Zainab Shafia wrote in an email sent Feb. 16, 2008, to the young man.

Two days earlier, he had sent her a card on Valentine’s Day, expressing romantic interest.

Zainab’s brother Hamed attended the same school.

The
witness dated and later married Zainab, although their union was
annulled one day after the wedding. His name cannot be published because
of a court order that protects his identity until he completes his
testimony at the murder trial of Mohammad Shafia, 58, Tooba Mohammad
Yahya, 41, and their son Hamed Shafia, 20.

The three are accused
of murdering Zainab, 19, her sisters, Sahar, 17, and Geeti, 13, and Rona
Amir Mohammad, 52, who was Shafia’s first wife. All three defendants
have pleaded not guilty.

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The victims were found dead on June 30, 2009, inside a car submerged in the Rideau Canal.

Prosecutors
allege the incident was an honour killing, orchestrated by the father
because he was angry over the conduct of the victims, particularly
Zainab, and because he believed they had shamed him and their family.

Zainab’s suitor was on the witness stand for just five minutes Monday morning before the trial adjourned.

He
read from a document handed to him by crown lawyer Laurie Lacelle. The
witness said the document included the text of Zainab’s first email to
him in 2008.

In it, she thanked the young man for the valentine
and explained that she would call him while they were at school, using a
friend’s cellphone.

“I don’t want to give (Hamed) the slightest idea that we’re friends,” she wrote.

Defence
lawyer Patrick McCann, who represents Hamed Shafia, rose to express
concern about the document that was being tendered as an exhibit.

“That
document, your honour, was produced for the first time this morning,”
McCann said. “It’s not been covered by any ruling with respect to
admissibility of hearsay and I’m not sure how that is being filed at
this point.”

Lacelle asked that the jury be excused.

Discussions that took place in the absence of the jurors cannot be reported.

The trial then adjourned for lunch.

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10 things about Botox injections

TORONTO – Botox has been a favourite of North American women for years, as Hollywood stars and soccer moms alike embrace the cosmetic injection to temporarily treat the appearance of wrinkles. But more and more, men are taking to the skin-smoothing treatment.

We take a look at 10 things you should know about Botox:
 

(1) Botulinum Toxin Type A, more commonly known as Botox, is a protein complex produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. In large doses, this toxin can cause the paralytic illness botulism.

(2) Botox® Cosmetic injections are commonly used for treating wrinkles on the face, but Botox injections can also be used to treat various neurological disorders, such as dystonia.

(3) Botox is the only botulinum toxin product marketed in Canada. 

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(4) Adverse reactions to Botox include: bruising at the injection site, headaches, allergic reactions, paralysis of the face, irregular heartbeat, and chest pains.

(5) Botox injections generally last for 3 to 4 months.

(6) Botox injections should not be given more frequently than every two months.

(7) In 2009, Health Canada made changes to the labelling information of Botox and Botox Cosmetic, warning of “distant toxin spread.”

(8) Possible symptoms of “distant toxin spread” include, droopy eyelids, muscle weakness, swallowing difficulties, pneumonia, speech disorders, breathing problems and death.

(9) Botox was recently approved by Health Canada as a treatment for chronic migraines. 

(10) Uses of Botox also include treating muscle spasms in the neck, eyes and feet, muscle pain, and excessive sweating.

 

 

With files from Health Canada

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European Commission proposes to ban removal of shark fins, then tossing the fish back into sea

BRUSSELS – The EU’s executive arm said Monday that it wants to completely ban shark finning – the practice of removing sharks’ fins and throwing the finless creatures back into the sea to die.

Under the proposal approved by the European Commission, all boats in EU waters – and EU-registered boats anywhere in the world – would have to land sharks with their fins attached to prove that the rest of the shark had not been discarded. The law, should it go into effect, would primarily affect fishing vessels from Spain and Portugal.

In theory, the EU already bans shark finning. But as it now stands, the fins and bodies can be separated on board vessels with special permits, and then landed at different ports. The EU tries to ensure that no bodies have been discarded by making sure the weight of the fins does not exceed 5 per cent of the entire weight of the fish landed.

But environmentalists have called the EU effort lenient and a loophole, and said having the fins and carcasses offloaded at different ports made the law difficult to enforce. EU Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki on Monday agreed.

“We want to end the horrendous practice of shark finning and protect sharks much better,” he said.

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The environmental group Oceana welcomed the proposal, saying it deplored the waste involved in discarding the body, which can be used for food. The practice of shark finning is driven by the lower value of shark meat compared to the fins, which are in demand in China for use in shark fin soup.

Also, landing the fins and bodies still attached allows researchers to document the variety of sharks taken and use the data to protect the fish populations, said Amelie Malafosse, a policy adviser at Oceana.

The European Commission says sharks are vulnerable to over-exploitation because they mature late and give birth to small numbers of young at a time. And some species have come under threat because of the sharp increase in demand for the fins, the commission said.

To become law, the proposal must also be approved by the European Council – the 27 EU heads of government – and the European Parliament. European Parliament fisheries committee Vice-President Struan Stevenson predicted a tough fight.

“When these proposals come before MEPs,” he said, referring to members of the European Parliament, “I have no doubt that a few countries will seek to water them down. However, we will push for a rigorous ban. We need a ban on finning that enables fishermen to catch sharks in a way that puts conservation and humane treatment before making a quick buck.”

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Brazil official says government expected to fine Chevron in nearly $28 million for oil spill

SAO PAULO – Brazil is expected to fine Chevron nearly $28 million for an ongoing offshore oil spill, Rio de Janeiro state’s environment secretary said Monday.

Carlos Minc said the national government will also ask Chevron to pay for damages caused by the Atlantic spill.

“We believe the accident could’ve been avoided. There was an environmental crime,” Minc told Globo TV and other Brazilian media. “They hid information and their emergency team took almost 10 days to start acting.”

Chevron Corp. officials have accepted responsibility for the spill but reject accusations they did not notify local authorities quickly enough or properly manage cleanup operations.

Minc said he considers the fine lenient, but it’s the maximum allowed under current Brazilian law.

The fine has not been officially announced because the government was still waiting for a final report by local investigators.

Minc said officials would also analyze imposing further fines on Chevron based on state laws in Rio de Janeiro, and that Brazil’s National Petroleum Agency could even consider banning the company from operating in Brazil for a limited time.

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“There was negligence,” Minc said. “Rio will not allow any kind of environmental impunity.”

He said Chevron, based in San Ramon, California, will be expected to pay about $5.6 million in reparation for the damage to the environment.

“We are still calculating the costs,” he said. “Part of that money we want to use to increase the monitoring of our ocean.”

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff was expected to meet with the national environmental minister and its mines and energy minister later Monday to discuss the oil spill and determine the government’s actions.

The National Petroleum Agency said more than 110,000 gallons (416,300 litres) of crude oil may have reached the ocean floor since the lead began on Nov 7.

George Buck, chief operating officer for Chevron’s Brazilian division, said Sunday the spill occurred because Chevron underestimated the pressure in an underwater reservoir.

Chevron was drilling an appraisal well about 230 miles (370 kilometres) off the northeastern coast of Rio de Janeiro when the leak started as crude rushed upward and eventually escape into the surrounding seabed.

The oil has leaked through at least seven narrow fissures, all within 160 feet (50 metres) of the well head on the ocean floor.

Eighteen boats work on a rotating basis on the slick, with a varying number of vessels working simultaneously, Buck said.

The leak is a test for Brazil as huge offshore oil finds have been announced recently, with estimates they could hold at least 50 billion barrels of oil.

Brazil has had bigger oil spills. In 2000, crude spewed from a broken pipeline at the Reduc refinery in Rio de Janeiro’s scenic Guanabara Bay, dumping at least 344,400 gallons (1.3 million litres) into the water. Just a few months later, more than 1 million gallons (3.8 million litres) of crude burst from a pipeline operated by state-controlled oil company Petrobras into a river in southern Brazil.

Brazil’s worst oil disaster was in 1975, when an oil tanker from Iraq dumped more than 8 million gallons of crude into the bay and caused Rio’s famous beaches to be closed for nearly three weeks.

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Android under attack

Google Inc.’s Android software was the “exclusive” platform for hackers targeting mobile devices in the last quarter, McAfee Inc. said in a report Monday.

The amount of malicious software (read: malware) targeting Android devices jumped 37% between late June and late September, according to the digital security company’s third-quarter threats report. Following a previous quarter of spiking threats against Android devices, McAfee said 2011 is on track to be the busiest year in mobile malware history.

All new mobile threats identified by McAfee during Q3 were specifically designed to target Android users, the report said. Android’s popularity among cyber criminals has been growing in parallel to its popularity among consumers as hackers seek the largest possible group of victims.

Last week, communications equipment maker Juniper Networks Inc. identified what it called an “exponential” increase in Android malware over the last few months, noting 472% growth malicious software samples since July. Accelerating attacks against Android led Juniper to say “the months of October and November are shaping up to see the fastest growth in Android malware discovery in the history of the platform” in a Nov. 15 blog post.

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“We’re seeing a mix of the traditional hacking community [working] on malware very similar to organized efforts on the PC side, as well as people who are just a little smart, the ’15-year-old kid crowd,’ who are able to hide some malicious content in an app,” Dan Hoffman, Juniper’s chief mobile security analyst, explained in an interview with ITbusiness.ca on Monday.

Far more attack apps have appeared in Chinese app stores that distribute Android software, Mr. Hoffman said.

Most of the new threats came in the form of apps on Google’s Android Market disguised as benign programs that secretly record and transmit a user’s activities once downloaded in hopes of obtaining sensitive financial information. However, the McAfee report also noted a rise in what many would consider an even deeper privacy invasion: malware capable of recording and transmitting phone calls.

“Two examples are Android/NickiSpy.A and Android/GoldenEagle.A – both of which record user conversations and forward them to the attacker,” reads an excerpt from page four of the report.

“Attackers can’t be sure that the first one or two calls have the information they seek, so these malware remain on the devices for extended periods without being detected; that’s a very persistent threat indeed!”

Researchers blame Google’s lax approval process of new Android apps in addition to the platform’s general popularity as the reason for the dubious honour. As the following excerpt from Juniper’s blog post explains, the process of removing an allegedly malicious app from the Android Market is reactionary based on user complaints and therefore open to sustained vulnerability.

“With no upfront review process, no one checking to see that your application does what it says, just the world’s largest majority of smartphone users skimming past your application’s description page with whatever description of the application the developer chooses to include. Sure, your application can be removed after the fact-if someone discovers that it is actually malicious and reports it. But, how many unsuspecting people are going to download it before it is identified as malicious and removed?”

Of course, it is worth noting that Apple Inc., which applies the exact opposite philosophy to accepting apps designed for its iOS platform by subjecting them to an intensive and occasionally onerous review process, is by no means exempt from hacker threats either.
 

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IMF, EU confirm Hungary’s request for possible financial assistance

BUDAPEST, Hungary – The International Monetary Fund and the European Union said Monday they were considering a request from Hungary for “precautionary” financial support.

With its credit rating just one step from junk status, Hungary announced last week it would seek a “safety net” – but no new loans – from international lenders to help support economic growth.

IMF chief Christine Lagarde and the European Commission, the EU executive, both issued statements Monday saying that Hungarian authorities had asked for “possible financial assistance.” Hungary hopes a new credit line will boost investor confidence and stabilize the country’s finances.

In 2008, during a Socialist government, Hungary became the first EU member to receive an IMF-led bailout, a €20 billion loan to avoid defaulting on its debts. Last year, however, Prime Minister Viktor Orban and Economy Minister Gyorgy Matolcsy cut ties with the IMF and implemented a series of controversial economic policies, such as windfall taxes on the telecommunications, banking and other sectors, in a desperate attempt to increase state revenues while avoiding unpopular austerity measures.

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Orban, Matolcsy and other government officials have been very critical of the IMF, so having to seek support from the Washington-based fund was considered a blow to the administration’s political integrity.

Still, the new IMF-EU deal, which the government said could be agreed upon in early 2012, is far from certain, because Orban wants Hungary to maintain its “free hand” to set economic policy, a condition the lenders are highly unlikely to accept.

Despite the political U-turn, Janos Lazar, head of the governing Fidesz party’s parliamentary faction, said Monday that Matolcsy enjoyed “100 per cent” support among government lawmakers, temporarily cooling expectations that the minister’s credibility problems could soon force him out.

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Bill Gates testifies in Utah for WordPerfect maker’s antitrust lawsuit

SALT LAKE CITY – Microsoft’s Windows 95 rollout presented the most challenges in the company’s history, leading to several last-minute changes to technical features that would no longer support a rival software maker’s word processor, Bill Gates testified Monday in a US$1-billion antitrust lawsuit filed by the former owner of WordPerfect.

“We worked super hard,” the Microsoft co-founder said. “It was the most challenging, trying project we had ever done.”

Gates was the first witness to testify Monday as Microsoft lawyers presented their case in the trial that’s been ongoing in federal court in Salt Lake City for about a month. He is set to resume testimony Tuesday morning.

Utah-based Novell Inc. sued Microsoft in 2004, claiming the Redmond, Wash., company violated U.S. antitrust laws through its arrangements with other software makers when it launched Windows 95. Novell says it was later forced to sell WordPerfect for a $1.2-billion loss. Novell is now a wholly owned subsidiary of The Attachmate Group, the result of a merger that was completed earlier this year.

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The Ottawa-based company that bought WordPerfect, Corel Corp., attempted to parlay the program’s status as the industry’s leading word processing software at the time but was eclipsed by Microsoft’s Word

Gates said Novell just couldn’t deliver a Windows 95 compatible WordPerfect program in time for its rollout, and its own Word program was actually better. He said that by 1994, Microsoft’s Word writing program was ranked No. 1 in the market above WordPerfect.

Gates called it an “important win.”

He testified later that Microsoft had to dump a technical feature that would have supported WordPerfect because he feared it would crash the operating system.

“We were making trade-offs,” he said.

Novell argues that Gates ordered Microsoft engineers to reject WordPerfect as a Windows 95 word processing application because he feared it was too good.

WordPerfect once had nearly 50 per cent of the market for computer writing programs, but its share quickly plummeted to less than 10 per cent as Microsoft’s own office programs took hold.

Microsoft lawyers say Novell’s loss of market share was its own doing because the company didn’t develop a Windows compatible WordPerfect program until months after the operating system’s rollout.

Novell lawyer Jeff Johnson has conceded that Microsoft was under no legal obligation to provide advance access to Windows 95 so Novell could prepare a compatible version. Microsoft, however, enticed Novell to work on a version, only to withdraw support months before Windows 95 hit the market, he said.

Microsoft lawyer David Tulchin said Gates decided against installing WordPerfect because it couldn’t be made compatible in time for the rollout. He argued that Novell’s missed opportunity was its own fault, and that Microsoft had no obligation to give a competitor a leg up.

“Novell never complained to Microsoft,” Tulchin said during arguments Friday. “There’s nothing in the evidence, no documents.”

Johnson maintains Novell was tricked in violation of federal antitrust laws so Microsoft could monopolize the market.

“We got stabbed in the back,” he said.

Microsoft’s arguments for a dismissal of the case resumed Monday afternoon.

Throughout arguments Friday, U.S. District Judge Frederick Motz openly expressed doubts that Novell’s claims had merit.

“I don’t see why I have to give a product to a competitor so he can beat me,” Motz told Novell attorneys.

Gates, a billionaire, began by testifying about Microsoft’s history. He was just 19 when he helped found the company. Today, Microsoft is one of the world’s largest software makers, with a market value of more than $210 billion.

“We thought everybody would have a personal computer on every desk and in every home,” Gates said. “We wanted to be there and be the first.”

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AP writer Jennifer Dobner contributed to this report.

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Brazil’s environmental agency fines Chevron nearly $28 million for oil spill off Rio coast

SAO PAULO – Brazil’s environmental agency said Monday it will fine Chevron nearly $28 million for a continuing oil spill off the Rio de Janeiro coast, and the company could face several more similar fines in the coming days.

The agency said through its press office that it will fine the oil company the maximum 50 million reals allowed under current Brazilian law.

Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira said at a press conference in Brasilia, however, that as an investigation into the leak continues, Chevron could face “five or six” other fines of the same amount if more infractions are found.

Rio de Janeiro state’s environment secretary, Carlos Minc, said the national government will also ask Chevron to pay for damages caused by the Atlantic spill.

“We believe the accident could’ve been avoided. There was an environmental crime,” Minc told Globo TV and other Brazilian media. “They hid information and their emergency team took almost 10 days to start acting.”

Teixeira and other officials said Chevron hid information about the extent of the spill from the Brazilian government, took far too long to begin clean-up operations and didn’t have the proper equipment to contain the leak.

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Chevron Corp. officials have accepted responsibility for the spill but reject accusations they did not notify local authorities quickly enough or properly manage the cleanup.

Minc said he considers the environmental agency’s fine lenient, but opened the possibility that other fines could eventually be added under Rio de Janeiro state law. In addition, Brazil’s National Petroleum Agency could even consider banning the company from operating in Brazil for a limited time.

“There was negligence,” Minc said. “Rio will not allow any kind of environmental impunity.”

He said Chevron, based in San Ramon, California, will be expected to pay about $5.6 million in reparation for the damage to the environment.

“We are still calculating the costs,” Minc said. “Part of that money we want to use to increase the monitoring of our ocean.”

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff was expected to meet with the national environmental minister and its mines and energy minister to discuss the oil spill and determine the government’s actions.

The National Petroleum Agency said more than 110,000 gallons (416,300 litres) of crude oil may have reached the ocean floor since the lead began on Nov 7.

George Buck, chief operating officer for Chevron’s Brazilian division, said Sunday the spill occurred because Chevron underestimated the pressure in an underwater reservoir.

Chevron was drilling an appraisal well about 230 miles (370 kilometres) off the northeastern coast of Rio de Janeiro when the leak started as crude rushed upward and eventually escape into the surrounding seabed.

The oil has leaked through at least seven narrow fissures, all within 160 feet (50 metres) of the well head on the ocean floor.

Eighteen boats work on a rotating basis on the slick, with a varying number of vessels working simultaneously, Buck said.

The leak is a test for Brazil as huge offshore oil finds have been announced recently, with estimates they could hold at least 50 billion barrels of oil.

Brazil has had bigger oil spills. In 2000, crude spewed from a broken pipeline at the Reduc refinery in Rio de Janeiro’s scenic Guanabara Bay, dumping at least 344,400 gallons (1.3 million litres) into the water. Just a few months later, more than 1 million gallons (3.8 million litres) of crude burst from a pipeline operated by state-controlled oil company Petrobras into a river in southern Brazil.

Brazil’s worst oil disaster was in 1975, when an oil tanker from Iraq dumped more than 8 million gallons of crude into the bay and caused Rio’s famous beaches to be closed for nearly three weeks.

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