Wednesday, January 28, 2015

'Intellectually disabled' double murderer executed in US

EXECUTED: Warren Lee Hill has been put to death despite his lawyers claiming he was "intellectually disabled" [IG/GETTY]

Warren Lee Hill, 54, was killed by lethal injection at a Georgia prison.

Hill, who was jailed in 1986 for killing his 18-year-old girlfriend, did not make a final statement and refused a special last meal.

His lawyer has slammed the death as a "moral stain" on the US justice system.

Brian Kammer said: "Today, the Court has unconscionably allowed a grotesque miscarriage of justice to occur in Georgia.

"Georgia has been allowed to execute an unquestionably intellectually disabled man, Warren Hill, in direct contravention of the Court's clear precedent prohibiting such cruelty

Source:UK Daily Star

Extremist postman in UK delivers an Islamic State hate sermon

SPECIAL DELIVERY: Postman Sajid Idris delivered the hate speech to a crowd in Cardiff [Wales News Service]

Royal Mail worker Sajid Idris, 31, waved the Islamist flag as part of a group holding up signs saying: "Islamic State will bring peace to the Middle East".

Idris was seen with the flag in a busy shopping area in Cardiff - where he is employed to drive around the city delivering packages in a red Royal Mail van.

Heavily bearded Idris works at a Royal Mail sorting office and has been given a special prayer room to use at the depot.

Idris, who has links to hate preacher Anjem Choudary and British IS fighters in Syria, is currently being investigated for allegedly handing out extremist leaflets.

He was seized by anti-terrorist police in a dawn raid for allegedly trying to recruit young Muslims to his radical cause.

In the pictures he is seen in long white robes and a large black beard preaching hate through a microphone and waving the flag which states in Arabic: "There is no god but Allah; Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah."

The flag is the same design as the one Sydney gunman Man Haron Monis made his hostages hold up to the window during the 16-hour cafe siege.

“The false idols of democracy, freedom and the so-called equality does not apply to the Muslim community and we should not have any hope in their false ideals”

Sajid Idris

Idris, who delivers business mail, has posted videos online in which he is seen railing against Western society.

In the video he said: "The false idols of democracy, freedom and the so-called equality does not apply to the Muslim community and we should not have any hope in their false ideals.

"Wider society is falling and crumbling because of the moral values it has adopted. For example drugs, alcohol, fornication, adultery, paedophilia."

Idris - also known as Abu Hajar - has headed up a number of radical groups, repeatedly changing their names to continue operating.

He has also been linked to Reeyad Khan and brothers Nasser and Aseel Muthana - who left Cardiff last year to fight Jihad in Syria. Nasser Muthana and Khan have both appeared in recruitment videos for IS.

The pair were filmed in cardiff allegedly handing out leaflets for Supporters of Tawheed - an extremist group led by Idris - before leaving for the Middle East.

Idris later dropped the name Supporters of Tawheed and started a group called Islamic Dawah Association - who were also banned last year.

Source:UK Daily Star

Is that the booty secret? Kim K exposes ugly granny pants in Superbowl ad

CURVY Kim Kardashian has finally revealed the secret to her devastating derriere – and it's not as sexy as you'd think.

SECRET? Kim reveals her granny pants [TMOBILE]

The reality babe is the star of this year's big Superbowl ad, which pokes fun at her selfie obsession.

In promotion of T-Mobile's latest data-saving campaign, Kimmy pleads with viewers to use up their cyber seconds ogling her solo Kodak moments. Naturally.

Just in case anyone's unaware of what Kim's Instagram feed looks like, she then acts out her favourite selfie situations – which includes her posing in stomaching-cinching granny pants.

Although they aren't the prettiest of knickers, the flesh-toned undies suck in Kanye's missusin all the right places.

While her bust is given a little boost with the help of a cleavage-enhancing bra as she throws her best pout towards her camera phone.

Other scenes see the KUWTK hottie show off her rump in some tight ski pants and her taut midriff in a teeny crop top.

RUMP: Are granny pants the secret to Kim's glorious rump? [T MOBILE].                                                                                            Source:UK Daily Star 

Meet the incredible smartphone case that can print out your selfies

HAPPY SNAPS: The Prynt smartphone case prints your pictures as you take them [PRYNT]

We’ve seen cases that protect your phone when dropped space and give it a charge when it has run flat, but now there’s one that’ll print out your favourite photos.

The Prynt Case attaches your smartphone and turns it into an instant camera, a bit like a Polaroid.

According to the makers your snaps take just 30 seconds to print and once the’ve appeared can even be transformed into 3D using the augmented reality function.

This new case has just started a Kickstarter campaign in the hope of raising $50,000 (£30,000), but within hours of it going live they've already got over 1,000 backers and have raised $125,000.

The Prynt case has just started a Kickstarter campaign [PRYNT]

“Prynt hopes to bridge this gap by printing memories off from your phone”

Clément Perrot, CEO

CEO Clément Perrot said: “Most people have a smartphone with a camera, and social media lets us immediately share and ‘like’ photographs, meaning images have more social value than ever.

“Yet it’s the quantity rather than the quality of images that are valued.

“They have lost the deeper meaning that they had in past generations when photographs were precious, physical items that were used to share stories and memories.

“Prynt hopes to bridge this gap by printing memories off from your phone, and bringing back the joy of holding an actual photograph in your hand.”

The images can also be transformed into 3D using augmented reality [PRYNT]

With the Prynt Case already receiving its funding it will be available in three colours and be compatible with the iPhone 5, 5S, 5C, 6 and Samsung Galaxy S4 and S5.

The company is hoping to begin shipping the printers in the summer with early backers getting the case and 10 sheets of print paper for $49 (£30).

Prynt case gives you instant photos [PRYNT].                                                                                                                                     Source:UK Daily Star                           

OFFICIAL: Launch date for Apple Watch finally revealed

IT'S TIME: Apple Watch will hit wrist in April [APPLE]

It's the moment Apple fans have been waiting for since September last year.

Apple's first ever smartwatch will hit stores in April.

The news was revealed by Apple's CEO, Tim Cook, during a quarterly earnings call with investors and the media.

It was previously thought that the Apple Watch would arrive in March but it will now launch a month later.

Pricing is yet to be confirmed although it seems a starting price of around £230 is likely.

The Apple Watch will come in three styles including Standard, Sport and a 18-carat gold version called Edition.

Apple Watch will work with your iPhone to bring notifications to your wrist, but it will also track your daily activity levels and allow you communicate via its pressure sensitive display.

It also includes interchangeable straps and the new digital crown on the side of the device helps to interact with the small Retina display.

Some recent reports have suggested that battery life could be an issue and Apple have admitted it's likely to need a daily charge.

The Daily Star Online was lucky enough to have an exclusive look at the watch last September and we were impressed with what we saw.

We hope to have more news on price and UK availability in the coming weeks.

TESTED: The Daily Star Online has had an exclusive play on the Apple Watch [DAVE SNELLING]

Tragic family-of-five found dead in suspected murder-suicide to escape 'evil world'

TRAGIC: The Strack family regularly held talks about the "evils of the world" [IG]

The bodies of distressed couple Benjamin and Kristi Strack were discovered at their home with their children Benson, 14, Emery, 12 and 11-year-old Zion.

Their surviving son told police his parents would regularly hold talks about the end of the world.

Worried mum Kristi had indicated in these talks that she would rather "take herself and her family in a comfortable way" to escape the evil in the world.

Police ruled the couple's deaths as suicide.

“It was a fairly common theme for the parents to talk about, the apocalypse, the end of days, final judgement”

Springville Police Department detective Greg Turnbow

While the deaths of the two younger children were branded as homicide.

Eldest son Benson had a left a note in his bedroom in which he wrote he was aware of "possible impending doom", police said.

Father Benjamin was found with heroin in his body and forensics found the others had taken methadone and over-the-counter medication.

Investigators believe the children all drank the drugs concoction from a small bucket on instruction from their parents.

Source:UK Daily Star

Google: Impossible to filter all YouTube "terror"

On YouTube, users can highlight problem videos and have them reviewed by a member of staff [YouTube Screen Grab]

Internet giant Google has said that its video-sharing website YouTube is so inundated that staff cannot filter all "terror"-related content.

Google said the volume is complicating the struggle to halt the publication of terrorist propaganda and hostage videos.

Verity Harding, Google public policy manager, said on Wednesday that about 300 hours of video material is being uploaded to YouTube every minute, making it virtually impossible for the company to filter all images.

Harding spoke at a European Parliament meeting of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) liberal group on a counter-terrorism action plan.

She said that "to pre-screen those videos before they are uploaded would be like screening a phone call before it's made."

The European Union's counter-terror chief said it is time to help companies to contain the security risk by having experts from member states flagging terror-related content.

'Monumental exercise'

"We have to help them, and refer to them, and signal content," Gilles De Kerchove said. "Each member state should have a unit with people trained to do that."

On YouTube, users can highlight problem videos and have them reviewed by a member of staff.

When a Scotland Yard unit recently told Google about material that did not comply with the company's own guidelines, De Kerchove said 93 percent of that content was removed. But when individuals flag up problems only a third of it is taken down.

Detecting violent, extreme and racist material is a mammoth task. But concerted, targeted warnings from organised groups work best, the meeting was told. 

"There are community groups and others who do this on a larger scale and they're incredibly helpful to us,'' Harding said.

Neither the big Internet companies nor the European Union appear willing to take on a legal battle to enforce their removal.

"We can contemplate legislation but I suspect it would be an awfully monumental exercise," De Kerchove said.

Source: Agencies

Samsung earnings hit by tumbling mobile sales

Intense competition led sales of Samsung's smartphones to tumble in the fourth quarter

South Korean tech giant Samsung Electronics reported its first annual earnings decline in three years.

Its net profit fell 27% from a year earlier to 5.3tn won ($4.8bn; £3.2bn) in the October to December period, in line with expectations.

But its profit of 25tn won for the year, down from a record 36.8tn won in 2013, was the lowest since 2011.

The world's biggest smartphone maker has been facing stiff competition from Apple and cheaper Chinese rivals.

Revenue in its mobile business, which was the driver of record earnings in 2013, tumbled 23% in the fourth quarter from a year ago, while for the year it fell 19%.

Overall, the company's sales fell 11% in the fourth quarter.

Despite its earnings coming within market expectations, the conglomerate's shares still fell 1.6% in Seoul in morning trade.

Demand for its smartphones and tablets will continue to fall in the first quarter of this year compared to the last because of seasonal factors, said Samsung in a statement on Thursday.

"The mobile business will focus on increasing sales and improving business performance through new product line-ups, such as the Galaxy A series," it said.

The company's lacklustre earnings come just a day after rival Apple reported thebiggest quarterly profit ever made by a public company.

On the positive end, a boom in Samsung's high-margin chip sales helped offset the downturn in its mobile business. Its semi-conductor division's operating profit jumped almost 36% in the quarter.

Source:BBC News

Africa's new breed of solar energy entrepreneurs

Let there be light: A new breed of entrepreneur is bringing solar power to millions of Africans who don't have access to mains electricity

African economies may be booming, but continued growth and quality of life are being jeopardised by lack of power.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates 585 million people in sub-Saharan Africa lack access to electricity, with the electrification rate as low as 14.2% in rural areas.

The problem is most acute in East Africa, where only 23% of Kenyans; 10.8% of Rwandans; and 14.8% of Tanzanians have access to an electricity supply, according to the World Bank.

In spite of efforts to get people onto the grid, population growth has meant these figures stay fairly steady, with the majority of people still using costly and unhealthy forms of energy for cooking and lighting.

A number of companies and organisations on the continent have identified solar power as the solution.

And a new breed of "solar-preneurs" is emerging, increasing access to power and generating revenues at the same time.

This solar array is in Morocco, but harnessing solar power doesn't have to be done at this scaleSmall, portable units like this solar-powered street light in Mali can make major changes to a community

Modular living

"Solar is a valuable source of distributed energy," says Sachi DeCou, co-founder of Juabar, a company operating a network of solar charging kiosks in Tanzania.

"In many places in sub-Saharan Africa, populations are quite dispersed. Solar is modular so it can be sized to fit the needs of anywhere, from a light to a business, household to an entire village."

In agreement is Jesse Moore, managing director at M-Kopa Solar, which provides "pay-as-you-go" renewable energy for off-grid households in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.

Off-grid households in East Africa, which also are largely low-income households, spend about $0.50-$0.60 (33p-40p) per day on kerosene lighting and basic charging costs, he says.

M-Kopa Solar provides pay-as-you-go energy to people off the grid paid for by mobile money transferThe kit comes with several lights, a torch, a solar radio, a USB phone charging port and a solar panel

"With more than 20 million homes off the grid, this means over $3bn (£2bn) is spent each year on these inefficient and unsafe energy substitutes."

Given the inefficiencies and high costs associated with alternative power sources, solar has proven hugely popular in places where it has been available.

M-Kopa Solar provides power to more than 140,000 households in East Africa for $0.45 per day, and is adding over 4,000 homes each week. And with this increased uptake comes economic opportunities for the companies that provide it.

M-Kopa Solar's revenues are nearing $20m per year, and the company is starting to licence its technology in other markets, such as Ghana.

"M-Kopa is demonstrating that off-grid energy will be as revolutionary to Africa in the coming decades as mobile telecommunications have been in recent years. Solar is a massive opportunity for entrepreneurs and investors alike," Mr Moore says.

Build a business

Other business models are seeking to allow ordinary African individuals to start their own solar businesses.

Ms DeCou's Juabar, for example, builds and operates a network of solar charging kiosks in Tanzania which it leases to entrepreneurs, who then offer electricity services to their communities.

Juabar's entrepreneurs are currently earning profits of between $75 and $150 per month, with the company currently leasing out 30 kiosks to Tanzanians and looking to raise $15,000 through crowdfunding in order to increase that number to 50.

"There has been a lot of development in the pay-as-you-go solar space over the past few years, facilitating access by reducing the upfront costs of purchasing a solar system," Ms DeCou says.

New solar kiosk entrepreneurs being trained by Juabar

"As we continue to make solar technology more widely available and affordable, one of the most exciting areas of opportunity becomes what you can do with this solar electricity.

"Solar is a source of reliable, accessible electricity. Once you can develop that access you have the opportunity to develop new ways to use that electricity to meet community needs. That is what I get most excited about."

Henri Nyakarundi is employing a similar model in Rwanda. His company has developed a mobile solar charging kiosk.

The kiosks are operated under a franchise model, offering Rwandans the chance to run income-generating businesses by providing services such as charging of electronics and sales of electronic vouchers.

Wi-fi hotspots will be available from the kiosks soon - there are already 24 up and running with another 100 due this year.

Mr Nyakarundi says he plans to offer a single distribution channel for different products, services and content, while providing opportunities for entrepreneurship through a low-cost franchise model.

He believes the opportunities to create solar businesses in Africa are "huge", but as yet, they only exist at the micro level. The next step, he believes, is to move to the macro level - producing power for the grid through solar.

"However macro level requires large investment, and unfortunately local banks are still not willing to finance such projects unless you are a big company," Mr Nyakarundi says.

One of Henry Nyakarundi's solar-powered phone charging stations in RwandaPhones being charged at a mobile solar powered charging station

Ms DeCou and Mr Moore cite different issues, with the Juabar co-founder saying there was a lack of adequate data on population density in the areas where the company works.

"We do our own research to determine ideal places for expansion, as there is limited access to reliable maps of population distribution," she says.

Mr Moore says the main obstacle to the growth of solar in Africa is the unaffordability of purchasing solar power "up front" for consumers, though he believes M-Kopa Solar has been so successful to date because it addresses the affordability barrier head on.

Governments see the light

As the likes of Ms DeCou, Mr Moore and Mr Nyakarundi look to boost access to solar and the entrepreneurial opportunities associated with it, assistance has been on hand from east African governments.

Ms DeCou commends the Tanzanian government for not charging Value Added Tax (VAT) on solar products, which she says is a great support to the industry and helps to increase access.

"Beyond that, there are specific government programmes to help facilitate rural energy access," she adds.

"East African countries offer VAT exemption on all solar products, which is a big saving for a small company like ours," Mr Nyakarundi says.

"It will be great to see an east African R&D [research and development] fund for local entrepreneurs that wants to develop new innovative technology to solve our local challenges, so we can stop just importing foreign technology - which most of the time is not designed for the African market - and create a new industry that can level the playing field between Africa and the rest of the world."

Culled from BBC News

Facebook reports strong profits, adding millions of users

Facebook reported fourth-quarter profits of $701m (£462m), a 34% increase on the same period a year ago.

Advertising revenue grew by 53% to $3.59bn, with nearly 70% of that coming from mobile ad sales.

The social networking giant said it now has 1.39 billion active users each month, a 13% increase from a year ago.

"We got a lot done in 2014," said Mark Zuckerberg in a statement accompanying earnings.

Total profits for the year were $2.9bn, almost double the total for 2013.

However, the amount of profit the company made on each dollar of revenue decreased from 44% to 29% from a year earlier, as the social network invested more heavily in marketing and research and development (R&D).

The amount Facebook is spending on R&D nearly tripled to $1.1bn this quarter, as the company spent considerable sums on developing its various acquisitions such as Instagram, WhatsApp and virtual-reality headset maker Oculus Rift, as well as its own in-house messaging products and video services.

Facebook also echoed a common complaint amongst US firms this earnings season, saying its revenue would have increased by 53% instead of 49% were it not for unfavourable foreign exchange rates.

Analysis: BBC technology reporter Dave Lee

When Facebook first floated on the stock market, founder Mark Zuckerberg said his firm needed to figure out how to make money from mobile users - and quick.

Well, job done. Facebook's mobile ads lack subtlety, for sure, but the tactic is working, and it hasn't put users off. Mobile advertising threatened to be Facebook's Achilles' heel, but now it can be regarded as its strongest asset.

When Wall Street looks at social network earnings reports, a massive emphasis is put on growth. If not enough new people are signing up, the share price suffers - just ask Twitter.

With big acquisitions - Whatsapp and Instagram - and its "next billion" targets for the developing world, Facebook is continuing to grow at a rate that satisfies shareholders.

So what's next? Last week I visited Facebook's new London HQ. It was lunchtime, and I saw several employees spending their break immersed in Oculus Rift, the virtual reality headset bought by Facebook last year. It is expected to launch this year. Mark Zuckerberg has already changed the way the world interacts once. Can he do it again?

Source: BBC News

Castro demands Guantanamo Bay in return for US-Cuba diplomatic deal

There are still several hurdles for Barack Obama and Raul Castro to clear

Cuba has demanded the US hand back the Guantanamo Bay military base before relations with Washington are normalised.

In a speech, President Raul Castro also called for the lifting of the US trade embargo and Cuba's removal from a terror list.

Last month the two countries announced a thaw in relations, agreeing to restore diplomatic ties. They were severed in 1961.

High-level talks were held last week.

A Congressional delegation arrived in Havana to begin negotiations aimed at reopening embassies in the two countries' capitals.

Meanwhile, former Cuban leader Fidel Castro appeared to signal his approval for the political rapprochement.

Fidel Castro stood down as Cuban president in 2008

Cuba's state-run newspaper published a letter on Tuesday in which he wrote: "We will always defend co-operation and friendship with all the people of the world, including with our political adversaries."

He wrote that although he did not "trust the policy of the US", it did not mean he rejected a "peaceful solution to conflicts".

'Illegally occupied'

His brother Raul, who succeeded him as president in 2008, made his demands at the summit of Community of Latin American and Caribbean States in Costa Rica.

"The reestablishment of diplomatic relations is the start of a process of normalising bilateral relations," he said. "But this will not be possible while the blockade still exists, while they don't give back the territory illegally occupied by the Guantanamo naval base."

The land on which the base stands was leased to the US government in 1903 by Cuba's then-rulers.

US officials have so far not responded to Mr Castro's remarks.

President Barack Obama has called on Congress to put an end to the trade embargo, which has been in place since 1962.

Earlier this month he also used his executive powers to loosen trade and restrictions on travel to the Caribbean island.

The land around Guantanamo Bay has been leased to the US for more than a century

Source: BBC News

Sydney siege inquest: Police gunfire killed hostage Katrina Dawson

Katrina Dawson was having coffee in the cafe with a friend when the gunman entered

The start of an inquest into the Sydney cafe siege has heard that hostage Katrina Dawson was killed by fragments from a police bullet or bullets.

The inquest heard that another hostage, Tori Johnson, was killed by a bullet to the head from gunman Man Haron Monis.

That sparked the police raid on the Lindt Chocolat Cafe last month in which Ms Dawson and Monis died.

The inquest is seeking to establish exactly how the three died and whether their deaths could have been avoided.

Monis took 18 people hostage at the cafe in Martin Place in central Sydney on 16 December, holding them for more than 17 hours.

It led to a shutdown of a large part of the city centre and the biggest anti-terrorism operation in Australia's history.

Man Haron Monis was facing a range of criminal charges at the time of the siege

Jeremy Gormly, a lawyer assisting the coroner, told the inquest that Ms Dawson was "struck by six fragments of a police bullet or bullets which ricocheted from hard surfaces into her body".

"I will not detail the damage done to Ms Dawson other than to say that one fragment struck a major blood vessel. She lost consciousness quickly and died shortly afterwards."

The inquest has now adjourned, with no date yet announced for the next hearing.

Australia media reports earlier this month had indicated that Ms Dawson, a 38-year-old barrister and mother of three young children, had died after fragments from a police bullet hit her in the heart and shoulder.

Monis, a refugee from Iran, was facing a range of criminal charges and had a history of religious activism.

He claimed to be a cleric and asked his hostages to display an Islamic flag during the siege. However, police believe he was not linked to international militant networks.

Source:BBC News

Iran picks Gholamali Khoshru as new UN envoy

Iran has selected a new lenvoy as ambassador to the United Nations in New York, 10 months after the US rejected its first choice.

The new candidate, Gholamali Khoshru, is a career diplomat who previously served as Iran's ambassador to the UN.

Mr Khoshru, a moderate, is currently Iran's ambassador to Switzerland.

In 2014, the US refused to grant a visa to Iran's UN nominee, Hamid Abutalebi, for his supposed role in the Iran hostage crisis in 1979.

Mr Khoshru was Iran's representative to the UN from 1989 to 1995, and served as Iran's deputy foreign minister from 2002 to 2005.

Analysis: Nick Bryant, BBC News, Washington

The US Congress moved with unusual haste in rushing through legislation last year, aimed at stopping Iran's original choice of UN ambassador from entering the country. Hamid Abutabi acted as translator during the Tehran hostage crisis, a traumatic event that still looms large in the American psyche.

Iran complained that the US had violated the treaty it signed in 1947, when New York became the home of the United Nations, which obligates the State Department to grant visas to diplomats from UN member states.

Back then, it was thought that the diplomatic row would complicate, even derail, sensitive nuclear talks between Iran and the so-called P5+1 - the US, UK, France, China, Russia and Germany.

But the case of Hamid Abutabi seems to have had a negligible effect on the stalled talks, and has not poisoned the relationship between the two key negotiators, the US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif.

What the controversy did demonstrate was the problems that Barack Obama will face on Capitol Hill if there is a nuclear deal. The same lawmakers who rushed through legislation blocking Abutabi would scale the barricades to stop sanctions being lifted against Iran.

Mr Aboutalebi denies being part of the core group that took the US diplomats hostage in 1979

According to a statement from Iran's foreign ministry, Mr Khoshru will pursue through legal channels the perceived illegal actions taken by the US as the host country at the United Nations.

Iran is said to believe the White House's refusal to grant Mr Abutalebi a visa is in contravention of international law and undermines a country's right to appoint who they choose to the UN.

Washington, however, has said it can deny visas for security, terrorism and foreign policy reasons.

Mr Abutalebi was linked to the student group that took dozens of people hostage at the embassy in Tehran in 1979.

He subsequently said his role was limited solely to that of a translator

Source;BBC News

AI will not kill us, says Microsoft Research chief

Alex Garland's film Ex Machina is one of several movies to consider the threat posed by AI

Microsoft Research's chief has said he thinks artificial intelligence systems could achieve consciousness, but has played down the threat to human life.

Eric Horvitz's position contrasts with that of several other leading thinkers.

Last December, Prof Stephen Hawking told the BBC that such machines could "spell the end of the human race".

Mr Horvitz also revealed that "over a quarter of all attention and resources" at his research unit were now focused on AI-related activities.

"There have been concerns about the long-term prospect that we lose control of certain kinds of intelligences," he said.

"I fundamentally don't think that's going to happen.

"I think that we will be very proactive in terms of how we field AI systems, and that in the end we'll be able to get incredible benefits from machine intelligence in all realms of life, from science to education to economics to daily life."

Mr Horvitz published his views on AI after receiving an award for his work in the field

Mr Horvitz heads up a team of more than 1,000 scientists and engineers at Microsoft's research wing.

The division's work on AI has already helped give rise to Cortana - a voice-controlled virtual assistant that runs on the Windows Phone platform and will shortly come to desktop PCs when Windows 10 is released.

Mr Horvitz said that he believed Cortana and its rivals would spur on development of the field.

"The next if not last enduring competitive battlefield among major IT companies will be artificial intelligence," he said.

"The notion that systems that can think, listen, hear, collect data from thousands of user experiences - and we synthesise it back to enhance its services over time - has come to the forefront now.

"We have Cortana and Siri and Google Now setting up a competitive tournament for where's the best intelligent assistant going to come from... and that kind of competition is going to heat up the research and investment, and bring it more into the spotlight."

'Existential threat'

Mr Horvitz's comments were posted online in a video marking his receipt of the AAAI Feigenbaum Prize - an award for "outstanding advances" in AI research.

But while the Microsoft executive describes himself as being "optimistic" about how humans might live alongside artificial intelligences, others are more cautious.

The physicist Prof Hawking has warned that conscious machines would develop at an ever-increasing rate once they began to redesign themselves.

Source:BBC News

South Africa's Cape Town renames street after FW De Klerk

FW de Klerk negotiated South Africa's transition to democracy

Cape Town's city council has voted to rename a street after South Africa's last white ruler despite opposition from the national governing party.

City mayor Patricia de Lille accused the African National Council (ANC) of thuggish behaviour during a chaotic session of the council.

It opposed renaming a major highway after FW de Klerk, saying he had the blood of black people on his hands.

Cape Town is South Africa's only major city controlled by the opposition.

Mr De Klerk handed power to then-ANC leader Nelson Mandela in South Africa's first democratic election in 1994.


The BBC's Mohammed Allie in Cape Town says that the session was marred by councillors spitting, banging their fists on tables and pushing and shoving.

Racial segregation ended in South Africa in 1994

The meeting became so chaotic that the venue had to be changed, and ANC councillors were locked out.

Officials in the Democratic Alliance-controlled city said the decision to rename Table Bay Boulevard was taken following a recommendation by prominent South African personalities, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Mr De Klerk shared the Nobel Peace prize with Mr Mandela for his role in negotiating an end to apartheid.

However, he has faced a backlash from the ANC in recent years after saying that not all aspects of apartheid were morally repugnant and it had aimed to create separate but equal states for different races and ethnic groups in South Africa.

Although he said he apologised for the injustices apartheid had caused.

The National Party (NP), which Mr De Klerk led in the late 1980s and early 1990s, introduced apartheid in South Africa in 1948.

It discriminated against black people in all spheres of their lives, and saw them as inferior to white people.

Mr Mandela spent 27 years in jail, mainly on Cape Town's Robben Island, after taking up arms to end white-minority rule.

Source:BBC News

Omotola Celebrates 20 Years In Nollywood

All roads led to Stella Maris College in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, as Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde kicked-off celebrations marking her 20 years in the Nigerian movie industry, otherwise called Nollywood.

The famous Nollywood star also used the event to flag off her tour of 20 cities in the world, as part of the programmes outlined for the celebration, which commenced at the weekend.

To Omo Sexy, as she is popularly called, the event was an opportunity to encourage younger generations to believe in themselves for a better nation.

“That was my motivation,” said the Nollywood star, “to meet with young children”.

She also used the occasion to launch her pet project ‘I gat value’ and also motivated the young pupils by sharing her experience while growing up to stardom.

According to Omotola, “what is lacking most among us in Nigeria is value. We don’t feel valued. I wonder if our governments care about us. What is the value of a Nigerian child? How many people died in France and the whole world was in France? Even our president is sending commiserating messages to them and is not acknowledging all the things happening here in northern Nigeria. Are northerners not part of Nigerians anymore?” she asked.

However, the thespian emphasised the need for Nigerians to value themselves, irrespective of whether the government cares about its citizens or not.

“Starting a career as a young girl of 16, all I wanted was to help my widowed mother provide for our young family. I stumbled on the opportunity to model freely, and by fate, I was invited to a movie casting. Who knew as frightened and vulnerable as I was then, that I was starting the journey of my destiny. 20 years later, not only did I provide for my now late widowed mother, I also helped train two younger ones and earned myself a career in Nollywood, an industry that I helped start with practically nothing, but which has gone on to become the second largest English producing and third largest movie industry in the world,” she stated.

Fascinated by her story, the students described Omotola as a living legend and a role model to many of them. They celebrated her as a humble wife and great mother who has kept her marriage intact unlike her contemporaries and urged her to share her secret of success so they could grow to be like her.

Omotola, who is also a United Nations Peace Ambassador, is married to Captain Matthew Ekeinde and they have four children.

A representative of the students, Isigwe Chiamaka, in her opening remarks, celebrated the actress’ achievements and thanked her for choosing their school as a flag-off point for her world city tour.

Culled from Leadership Newspaper

Bomb explosion destroys Ohanaeze secretariat in Enugu

There is heightened tension in Enugu following a bomb explosion at the national headquarters of the apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, in the state.

A source told LEADERSHIP that the sad development, which occurred at No. 7 Park Avenue, G.R.A Enugu, destroyed parts of the building and some infrastructure.

It was further gathered that the explosion caused a fire outbreak but it was swiftly put out, and that the devastation affected parts of the main hall of the Ohanaeze secretariat where major meetings of the body are held.

Although no life was lost, close sources reported that the impact of the explosion shook the entire vicinity.

Many people have attributed the explosion to the recent leadership crisis which has pitched the Enwo Igariwey-led leadership against the Elders Council of Ohanaeze led by elder statesman, Mbazuluike Amaechi.

The group’s executive body is claiming a four-year tenure but the elders’ council has insisted that the exco’s two-year tenure expired on January 7 this year and has thus constituted a caretaker committee led by Chief Ralph Obioha.

Chief Obioha, who inspected the Ohanaeze main hall after the blast yesterday, described it as unfortunate.

But the public relations officer, Enugu State Police Command, Ebere Amaraizu, said that it was a bomb attack, but an attempt by unknown persons to burn down the Ohanaeze building.

He said police detectives were already searching for the perpetrators.

Source:Leadership Newspaper

UK Jews and Muslims team up against hate

Rabbi Herschel Gluck is a veteran international conflict mediator and the founder of the Muslim-Jewish Forum [Simon Hooper/Al Jazeera]

London, United Kingdom - Muslims and Jews living in the same North London neighbourhood are making a stand together against hate crime amid concerns of an increased threat to both communities in the aftermath of theParis attacks.

Jewish communities in the UK have been on a heightened state of alert since a siege orchestrated by a gunman at a kosher supermarket in the French capital left four hostages dead, with police and Jewish neighbourhood watch groups stepping up security around synagogues and schools.

The government also pledged police support for mosques amid reports of an increase in anti-Muslim hate crime following the linked attack by gunmen claiming allegiance to al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula on the offices of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.

Meanwhile, a widely reported survey conducted earlier this month by the Campaign Against Antisemitism, a lobbying group established last year, suggested that increased numbers of British Jews were questioning their place in their own country.

More than half of respondents said they were fearful that Jews had no long term future in Europe, and one in four said they had considered leaving the UK because of rising anti-Semitism. 

Although subsequently criticised as methodologically flawed, and described as "incendiary" by the Institute of Jewish Policy Research think-tank, senior politicians expressed alarm at those conclusions.

"I never thought I would see the day when members of the Jewish community would say they were fearful of remaining here in the United Kingdom," said Theresa May, the home secretary. Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, vowed the city would remain a "safe haven" for Jews.

It isn't just that we acknowledge each other's faith, cultures and ways of life. It is more to do with justice and fairness... Where justice and fairness are not there, division grows.

Eusoof Amerat, community advocate

Difficult times

But in the Stamford Hill neighbourhood of Hackney, north London, where Europe's largest concentration of Haredi Jews and a substantial Muslim minority share the same streets, community leaders of both faiths said they stood united.

"The Jewish community and the Muslim community are facing difficult times at the moment, but it is not a case of them or us. We are all in the same boat," Munaf Zeena, chairman of the North London Muslim Community Centre, told Al Jazeera.

"We have a big Jewish community here, and they have been victims in Paris. I think we have a responsibility to make sure that those who feel uncomfortable or unsafe feel supported. It is our role to give them that moral support and to stand by them in every way we can."

Rabbi Herschel Gluck, a veteran international conflict mediator and founder of the Muslim-Jewish Forum, a local initiative established in 2000, said Jews and Muslims were "not just living side by side".

"There is a palpable feeling of warmth when one sees members of the other community in the street or going about our business," Gluck told Al Jazeera. "It is not just that we tolerate each other. We actually engage constructively as very good neighbours with each other."

Gluck said the idea for the forum, the first Muslim-Jewish interfaith organisation of its kind in the world, grew out of his involvement in peace and reconciliation work in conflict zones, including the Middle East, Kashmir, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, and Sudan.

"I thought, 'Hang on a second, here I am working throughout the world, what's happening in my own backyard? Is everything as rosy as it could be?'" he said.

"I felt that while things were okay, we were living in a changing world and you never know what tomorrow is going to bring. I thought, 'Is our relationship strong enough to stand a crisis in the future?'"

'Never forgot'

Relations between the two communities in Stamford Hill have deep roots, dating back to the arrival of Muslim migrants from South Asia from the late 1950s onwards. Among those who initially welcomed and helped them settle was a small community of Hindi-speaking Indian-born Jews.

"When we came we had nothing, and a lot of the estate agents and solicitors were Jews. Many of them were very helpful at a grassroots level. We never forget someone who helps us and the relationship grew and blossomed," Eusoof Amerat, a community advocate, told Al Jazeera.

"It isn't just that we acknowledge each other's faith, cultures and ways of life. It is more to do with justice and fairness. When we deal with things we try to be just. If it is our side that is wrong we will accept that. Whether at a local, national or international level, where justice and fairness are not there, division grows."

One recent initiative endorsed by both communities has been the work of the Shomrim, a police-trained voluntary Jewish community patrol that responds to reports of crime, anti-social behaviour and other incidents.

In recent months, information provided by the Shomrim has helped police make arrests following a number of cases of apparently anti-Semitic vandalism, with vehicles and a school sign daubed with swastikas, and dozens of cars, including many belonging to Muslim families, having their tyres slashed.

But Ian Sharer, a local councillor, said none of the reported incidents had involved anyone from the local Muslim or Jewish communities.

"There have been a few nasty things, but the number of incidents involving Muslims and Jews in the past year is nil and despite everything that has happened in the Middle East and Paris it is still nil. Relationships are not strained at all," Sharer told Al Jazeera.

In 2013 Al Jazeera reported on how the Shomrim had added local mosques and other Muslim institutions to the sites monitored on their patrols following attacks on places of Islamic worship in the aftermath of the killing of a British soldier in London.

The group has also advised the Muslim community on protecting its own buildings, and Chaim Hochhauser, Shomrim's supervisor, told Al Jazeera he would be "more than happy" to see a Muslim counterpart organisation established.

"We still do patrols around the mosque. We are there for the whole community. At the heart of Shomrim's objectives is an ethos of supporting all Londoners' safety. If any harm happens to the community everyone suffers," said Hochhauser.

Last year the Shomrim were cited for their "courage" in supporting the Muslim community by John Kerry, the US secretary of state, in a speech introducing the US' annual report on international religious freedom. Addressing an anti-Semitism conference in Berlin in November, Samantha Power, the US ambassador to the United Nations, also paid tribute to their efforts

"The rights they were defending were not only the human rights of Muslims, but the human rights of Jews as well," said Power. "The Shomrim understood that a Europe where anyone feels afraid or endangered because of the actions, beliefs, or speech of a neighbour is a Europe where everyone's rights are at risk."

Faithful cooperation

Stamford Hill's Muslim leaders have also been praised for standing in solidarity with their Jewish neighbours.

"I was greatly impressed with the cooperation between the Jewish and Muslim communities, and particularly with the work done at the North London Muslim Community Centre, which is available to everyone in the area," Gillian Merron, chief executive of the Board of Deputies, the representative body of the British Jewish community, told Al Jazeera during a visit last week.

"This is a great model of local cooperative engagement and something we all could learn from. It feels as if the community is really reaping the rewards of the many years of work through the Muslim-Jewish Forum."

Munaf Zeena admitted that maintaining neighbourly relations sometimes meant agreeing to disagree on divisive issues, such as Israel's occupation of Palestinian lands. Yet, he said, when local Muslims raised money for the victims of Israel's assault on Gaza last year, a substantial donation was made by the Jewish community.

"Everything we do here, we have a bigger picture in mind," he said. "Sometimes you ignore problems that exist because if you want to have peace in the world, if you want people to be able to live side by side, then you look at the bigger picture."

For local Haredi Jews, many of whose families arrived in London as refugees from Nazi-occupied Europe or as Holocaust survivors, Tuesday's Holocaust Memorial Day and 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, marks a grim reminder of the darkest days in their history.

But Rabbi Gluck said he believed the example of Stamford Hill proved the potential for Jewish and Muslim communities elsewhere in the world to flourish side by side.

"Historically, Jews and Muslims have generally got on well," he said. "Of course, different situations have a different dynamic and we can't say it works here so it will work somewhere else. But at the same time, if we do put in the work it will certainly make things better."

Source: Al  Jazeera

Figo makes bid for Fifa presidency

Figo played 127 times for Portugal

Portuguese great Luis Figo has become the latest shock candidate for the role of Fifa president.

The former Sporting Lisbon, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Inter Milan forward, 42, joins David Ginola in the race to replace Sepp Blatter as boss of world football's governing body.

Prince Ali of Jordan, Dutchman Michael van Praag and Jerome Champagne are also would-be presidential challengers.

Blatter has been Fifa boss since 1998 and intends to run for a fifth term.

"Football has given me so much during my life and I want to give something back to the game," said Figo.

"I look at the reputation of Fifa right now and I don't like it. Football deserves better. In recent weeks, months, and even years, I have seen the image of Fifa deteriorate.

"As I speak to many people in football - to players, managers and association presidents - so many of those people have told me that something has to be done."

Chelsea boss and compatriot Jose Mourinho"Luis Figo's candidacy is a great step forward for football. His career over many years grants a better future for Fifa. I believe in his character and determination, as well as his passion for the game. He will be a president focused on football and its general improvement, acting closely with all federations."

All potential candidates have to register their interest in standing before Thursday's deadline.

According to Fifa electoral committee member Dominico Scala, all confirmed challengers must pass an anti-corruption test.

Figo played 127 times for Portugal and won the Champions League with Real Madrid in 2002.

He also won the Ballon d'Or in 2000 and was Fifa World Player of the Year in 2001.

In 2000, he made a controversial move from Barcelona to bitter La Liga rivals Real Madrid for a then world record fee of £37m.

Figo was one of Real Madrid's Galacticos, alongside the likes of Roberto Carlos, Ronaldo and Zidane

Figo is married to Swedish model Helen Svedin

Source:BBC News

IS hostages: Jordan in pilot exchange offer after Goto video

Supporters of Mr Kasasbeh had called on the government to agree to the prisoner swap

Jordan says it is willing to hand over an Iraqi woman on death row in exchange for a Jordanian pilot being held by Islamic State (IS) militants.

The offer comes ahead of a 24-hour deadline by IS to kill Moaz al-Kasasbeh and Japanese hostage Kenji Goto.

The ultimatum came in a video aired on Tuesday, days after IS said it had killed a Japanese man, Haruna Yukawa. It had demanded a $200m (£130m) ransom.

Sajida al-Rishawi is an al-Qaeda militant sentenced to death in Jordan.

She was convicted for her involvement in a 2005 attack that killed 60 people.

"Jordan is ready to release prisoner Sajida al-Rishawi if the Jordanian pilot Lt Moaz al-Kasasbeh was released and his life spared," Jordanian government spokesman Mohammad al-Momani said, according to Jordanian state television.

He did not mention Kenji Goto.

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had described the new IS video threat as "despicable" and said Japan was working with Jordan to secure the hostages' release.

In the footage that emerged on Tuesday, a voice believed to be Mr Goto says he has "only 24 hours left to live" and Jordanian hostage Moaz al-Kasasbeh "even less" unless Jordan releases Sajida al-Rishawi. There is no mention of a ransom payment.

Kenji Goto is a well-known freelance journalist and film-maker

Kenji Goto, 47, is a well-known freelance journalist and documentary film-maker who went to Syria in October, reportedly to try to secure the release of fellow Japanese national Haruna Yukawa.

Mr Goto's mother appealed publicly to the prime minister to help her son.

"Please save him," she said. "Kenji has only a little time left."

Analysis: Frank Gardner, BBC security correspondent

The deal being offered by IS, whether genuine or not, goes right to the heart of the universal dilemma over hostage-taking. Do you give in to demands to win the release of your loved ones?

The Jordanian authorities, who were given a final 24 hours on Tuesday to make this decision, found themselves in a dreadful position. IS wants the release of a convicted al-Qaeda terrorist from Iraq. To release her could be seen as giving in to terrorism.

Yet at the same time many Jordanians don't support their country's role in US-led air strikes on IS positions. They want their captured pilot to come home alive and for Jordan to stay out of the fight against IS.

A video appeared on Sunday apparently showing Mr Goto holding a picture of what appeared to be the body of Mr Yukawa.

On Tuesday night, several hundred relatives and supporters of the Jordanian pilot held a protest outside the prime minister's office in Amman, demanding he meet the IS demands.

Media captionPrime Minister Shinzo Abe: "We need to work together as one on securing the release of Kenji Goto"

Mr Kasasbeh's father, Safi al-Kasasbeh, told the Associated Press news agency: "The safety of Moaz means the stability of Jordan, and the death of Moaz means chaos in Jordan."

Who are Islamic State (IS)?

Formed out of al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) in 2013, IS first captured Raqqa in eastern SyriaIt then captured broad swathes of Iraq in June, including Mosul, and declared a "caliphate" in areas it controls in Syria and IraqPursuing an extreme form of Sunni Islam, IS has persecuted non-Muslimssuch as Yazidis and Christians, as well as Shia Muslims, whom it regards as hereticsKnown for its brutal tactics, including beheadings of captives and public executionsThe CIA says the group could have as many as 31,000 fighters in Iraq and Syria

Source:BBC News