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    Thursday, April 17, 2008

    Reuters - Suicide bomber kills 50 at Iraq funeral

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    Suicide bomber kills 50 at Iraq funeral

    Thursday, Apr 17, 2008 6:2PM UTC

    By Dean Yates

    BAGHDAD (Reuters) - A suicide bomber struck a funeral in northern Iraq on Thursday, killing 50 mourners and wounding 55 in an attack that suggests militants have launched a new campaign of violence in the north.

    Survivors said the funeral had been for two members of a U.S.-backed neighborhood security unit who were killed on Wednesday. Blame is likely to fall on the Sunni Islamist al Qaeda, which has vowed to target the neighborhood units because they work with U.S. forces.

    The attack was one of the deadliest in Iraq for months and underscored the ability of militants to wreak havoc despite an overall fall in violence that has prompted the United States to start withdrawing troops from Iraq.

    Police said the bomber detonated a suicide vest after entering the funeral tent in a Sunni Arab village near the town of Adhaim in Diyala province. They put the final death toll at 50.

    "Suddenly a fireball filled the funeral tent. I fell to the ground. I saw bodies scattered everywhere," said mourner Ali Khalaf, who was taken to a hospital in the nearby town of Tuz Khurmato to have wounds treated.

    Outside a hospital in the northern city of Kirkuk, to which pickup trucks took many of the bodies, frantic relatives gathered to look for loves ones. Several women wearing black robes sat on the ground, wailing.

    Northern Iraq has seen an upsurge in bombings this week, including one that killed 40 people in the town of Baquba, capital of Diyala, on Tuesday.

    The U.S.-backed neighborhood security units, called "Concerned Local Citizens" by the U.S. military, have been credited with helping to bring down violence in Iraq.

    Around 90,000 men, mainly Sunni Arabs and including some former Sunni Arab insurgents who have turned against al Qaeda, have been recruited. They largely man checkpoints and provide intelligence tips to the U.S. military.

    In northern Baghdad, police sources said a roadside bomb killed four of the neighborhood guards and two civilians. Gunmen also killed another guard in the city's south.

    U.S. and Iraqi authorities say al Qaeda militants have moved into northern provinces after being pushed out of the westerly Anbar province, their former stronghold, and also Baghdad.

    Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, in a speech in Brussels on Wednesday, said Iraq was "near to announcing victory over the terrorist organization al Qaeda".

    But U.S. commanders say that while al Qaeda has been significantly weakened, it can still carry out big attacks.

    MORE FIGHTING IN SADR CITY

    In Baghdad, fighting has been dominated by weeks of clashes between gunmen and security forces in the Shi'ite slum of Sadr City, stronghold of the anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. Fresh battles erupted overnight, officials said.

    U.S. military spokesman Major Mark Cheadle said five gunmen had been killed in the early hours of Thursday in three separate incidents, including an air strike.

    Hospitals in Sadr City said they had received nine bodies and 36 wounded after clashes and air strikes.

    Most U.S. troops in Iraq are deployed in Sunni Arab areas, which have become quieter in the past year after a "surge" in U.S. forces. But troop levels are being cut. By July, 20,000 U.S. soldiers will have left Iraq, bringing numbers to 140,000.

    Al Qaeda militants are frequently blamed for attacks on funerals, which are often held with little security. The group also has a history of striking with car bombs near government targets and civilian crowds.

    While the U.S. military says security has improved in the north, the strikes this week have been a reminder of the instability there at a time when attention has been focused on fighting in southern Shi'ite areas that erupted late last month.

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    Reuters - Darwin's private papers get Internet launch

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    Darwin's private papers get Internet launch

    Thursday, Apr 17, 2008 6:56AM UTC

    By Jeremy Lovell

    LONDON (Reuters) - The first draft of Charles Darwin's "On The Origin Of Species" is among a wealth of papers belonging to the intensely private man who changed science being published on the Internet on Thursday for the first time.

    Comprising some 20,000 items and 90,000 images, the release on http://darwin-online.org.uk is the largest in history, according to the organizers from Cambridge University Library which holds all the Darwin papers.

    "This release makes his private papers, mountains of notes, experiments, and research behind his world-changing publications available to the world for free," said John van Wyhe, director of the project.

    "His publications have always been available in the public sphere - but these papers have until now only been accessible to scholars."

    The collection includes thousands of notes and drafts of his scientific writings, notes from the voyage of the Beagle when he began to formulate his controversial theory of evolution, and his first recorded doubts about the permanence of species.

    It also contains photographs of Darwin and his family, newspaper clippings, reviews of his books and much more.

    Giving a more personal insight, there is also his wife Emma's cookbook including recipes for delicacies such as 'Ilkley pudding' and a rudimentary recipe for boiling rice, written by Darwin himself.

    Other papers include caricatures and notes with his boyhood musings on birds.

    Publication in 1859 of Origin of Species after years of prevarication established Darwin -- already known to the public after publication of The Voyage of the Beagle -- as a leading scientific thinker.

    But it also sparked a major public debate and a bitter denunciation by the Church of England, which regarded the book as heretical.

    "Darwin changed our understanding of nature forever. His papers reveal how immensely detailed his researches were," said van Wyhe.

    "The release of his papers online marks a revolution in the public's access to - and hopefully appreciation of - one of the most important collections of primary materials in the history of science."

    (Reporting by Jeremy Lovell; editing by Paul Casciato)

    Reuters - Samsung boss indicted for tax evasion

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    Samsung boss indicted for tax evasion

    Thursday, Apr 17, 2008 9:28AM UTC

    By Jon Herskovitz and Rhee So-eui

    SEOUL (Reuters) - Samsung Group Chairman Lee Kun-hee was indicted on charges of tax evasion and breach of trust on Thursday, but was cleared of a more serious bribery charge after a probe into South Korea's biggest business group.

    Investors, relieved the four-month investigation had ended, said it may help bring transparency to the murky management structure at Samsung, bringing it closer to global standards.

    The investigation was launched in January after a former top legal executive at the group accused some of its top management of hiding money and keeping a slush fund of more than $200 million to bribe politicians, prosecutors and officials.

    A special prosecutor indicted nine other senior Samsung executives, but said Lee and the others would not be arrested.

    "The criminal acts subject to indictment today constituted grave crimes because the amount of tax evaded and profits taken by violation of duties were astronomical figures," the prosecutor said in its findings.

    Lee, 66, could face from five years to life in prison but analysts say he would likely escape prolonged jail time because judges have often been lenient towards corporate leaders convicted of wrongdoing, saying jailing them could hurt South Korea's economy.

    SAMSUNG PREPARING REFORMS

    While the prosecutor cleared Samsung of the bribery allegations, he said group officials conspired to hide 4.5 trillion won ($4.55 billion) in Lee's assets and worked secretly to transfer wealth to Lee's children.

    In a statement, Samsung apologized "for causing concerns".

    "Taking this special prosecution investigation as a new starting point, Samsung is preparing reform plans, based on advice from various sectors of our society," it said, adding it would make an announcement on details next week.

    Shares in flagship Samsung companies retained strength after the indictments and analysts say the results of the probe may prompt the group to be more open. Samsung Electronics <005930.KS> which delayed release of its quarterly earning due to the probe, was up 1.54 percent to 661,000 won by 0700 GMT, leading the wider market's <.KS11> 0.57 percent gain.

    Kim Gee-soo an analyst at Goodmorning Shinhan securities noted the foreign stake in the Samsung Electronics, South Korea's biggest company and the group's flagship firm, had fallen due to a lack of transparency and questions of corporate governance.

    "The indictment is meaningful in that this may motivate the Samsung Group to become more transparent before the eyes of the investors," he said.

    Critics noted few changes over the years at the family-run conglomerates known as "chaebol", despite a number of high-profile convictions of their leaders.

    Lee, who was questioned twice this month, said last week he took moral and legal responsibility for the case and would look into reforming management practices at the group.

    The country's chaebol, which powered South Korea from the ashes of the 1950-53 Korean War to become Asia's fourth-largest economy, have been accused for years of having opaque management. Some of their leaders have been convicted of white-collar crime, but have avoided long jail sentences.

    Last week, the Supreme Court overturned a high court's suspended jail term for Hyundai Motor Group <005380.KS> Chairman Chung Mong-koo, which could lead to a review of his sentence for fraud and embezzlement.

    Chung, who heads the world's sixth largest car manufacturing group, spent at brief spell behind bars, but then got a suspended sentence because the judge said his role in South Korea's economy was too important for him to be taken away from his job.

    (Additional reporting by Jack Kim, Park Ju-min, Park Jung-youn, Lee Jiyeon and Marie-France Han, editing by Jonathan Thatcher and Bill Tarrant)

    Reuters - FACTBOX: A look at South Korea's powerful Samsung Group

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    FACTBOX: A look at South Korea's powerful Samsung Group

    Thursday, Apr 17, 2008 6:22AM UTC

    SEOUL (Reuters) - A South Korean special prosecutor investigating corruption at the Samsung Group on Thursday indicted Lee Kun-hee, the head of the country's largest conglomerate for tax evasion and breach of trust.

    Following are some key facts about the Samsung Group and the Lee family that founded and runs it:

    THE BEGINNING

    Samsung was launched in 1938 when Lee Byung-chul (1910-1987), the son of a wealthy landowner who was in the rice milling business, opened a trading company.

    To increase revenue, Lee added a trucking business but Samsung, which means "three stars", did not take off until during and after the 1950-1953 Korean War when Lee added a textile company, started his country's first major sugar refinery and built a powerful trading network.

    THE GREAT EXPANSION

    In the 1960s and 1970's Lee adds a dizzying array of companies to the group that included the Shinsegae department store, the JoongAng Ilbo daily newspaper, a shipbuilder, a chemical company and most importantly, in 1969, Samsung Electronics. Several firms were later spun-off.

    During this period, the family-run conglomerates known as "chaebol" formed a close alliance with the government run by authoritarian President Park Chung-hee to lift the economy. Samsung was an also-ran at this time with Daewoo, Hyundai and Lucky Goldstar, now known as LG, at the top of the pack.

    THE TRANSITION

    Lee Kun-hee, after being groomed for the top spot for years, officially took over when his father died in 1987. Father and son both went to university in Japan.

    The younger Lee changed the focus of the company from one that mostly produced mass quantities of lower-end goods to one that would use innovation and superior goods to build a respected brand name.

    Under his rein, Samsung became the country's largest conglomerate with about 60 affiliates, accounting for about one fifth of the country's exports.

    Samsung Electronics became the world's biggest maker of memory chips. The group also includes Samsung Heavy Industries, the world's No. 2 shipbuilder, and South Korea's biggest life insurance company Samsung Life.

    THE NEXT GENERATION

    Lee Kun-hee's son, Lee Jae-yong, began working in a Samsung Group's division in 1991 and has spent many years with the flagship Samsung Electronics. Considered as the heir to throne, he is now chief customer officer at Samsung Electronics.

    In 2005, a Seoul court found two former Samsung executives guilty of conspiring in a 1996 deal to help Lee Jae-yong and other children of Lee Kun-hee buy a majority stake in Samsung Everland, which serves as the group's de facto holding firm.

    (Reporting by Rhee So-eui, editing by Jon Herskovitz and Sanjeev Miglani)

    Reuters - TIMELINE: Key events related to Samsung Group probe

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    TIMELINE: Key events related to Samsung Group probe

    Thursday, Apr 17, 2008 5:47AM UTC

    SEOUL (Reuters) - A South Korean special prosecutor investigating corruption at the Samsung Group on Thursday indicted Lee Kun-hee, the group's chief and one of the country's most powerful businessmen, for tax evasion and breach of trust.

    The special prosecutor also indicted nine other senior executives at country's largest conglomerate.

    Following are key events related to the investigation:

    - November 5, 2007: A former head of Samsung Group's legal division, Kim Yong-cheol, accuses the conglomerate of operating a slush fund to bribe prosecutors, politicians and bureaucrats to quash investigations into the company's murky management structure. Samsung said the accusations were not true.

    - November 20: South Korea's financial watchdog Financial Supervisory Service says it has started a probe into Kim's allegation that Samsung Group used so-called "borrowed name accounts", or accounts used by the company but set up in the names of trusted employees, to stash secret funds.

    - November 23: South Korea's parliament approves an independent counsel investigate the allegations made by Kim Yong-cheol.

    - November 26: Kim says Samsung had used its subsidiaries to help create a 200 billion won ($202.2 million) slush fund.

    Regular state prosecutors start investigation. In the first week, they ban Samsung Group officials from traveling abroad in order to face possible questioning, raid Samsung's brokerage unit, Samsung Securities <016360.KS> and a data centre at Samsung SDS, the group's integrated IT services unit.

    - December 12: South Korea's financial watchdog says Woori Bank and brokerage Goodmorning Shinhan Securities had broken rules in setting up accounts for Samsung Group, giving credibility to Kim's claim of "borrowed name accounts".

    - January 10, 2008: The parliament-approved special counsel begins its investigation. In its first week, it raids an office of Samsung Chairman Lee Kun-hee, the homes of seven other executives, Samsung's Seoul headquarters and Lee's residence.

    - February 14: The special prosecutor counsel raids the headquarters of Samsung Electronics <005930.KS>.

    - February 28: The special prosecutor counsel questioned Chairman Lee Kun-hee's son, Lee Jae-yong.

    - April 2: Lee Kun-hee's wife was questioned on allegations she tapped into slush fund to buy artwork.

    - April 4: Group chief Lee questioned by special prosecutor.

    (Reporting by Rhee So-eui, editing by Jon Herskovitz)

    Reuters - Japan's high-tech displays give paper a cutting edge

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    Japan's high-tech displays give paper a cutting edge

    Thursday, Apr 17, 2008 12:41PM UTC

    By Toshi Maeda

    TOKYO (Reuters) - Bend it, write on it, read it -- just don't try to fold it into a paper plane. Electronic paper is Japan's answer to rising raw material costs, depleted resources and booming demand for printed matter from emerging markets such as China and India.

    At a high-tech fair in Tokyo this week, Japanese firms showed the latest versions of what is still considered a niche product, ranging from thick, sturdy readers to thin displays that look like plastic sheets and can be bent.

    E-Ink, which manufactures Sony's Reader tablet, says consumers will eventually embrace the energy-saving technology as the cost of paper and fuel goes up.

    "The BRIC nations like India and China are consuming so much paper as their economies expand that the cost of A4 size paper is up 20 to 30 percent," said Ryosuke Kuwada, vice president for E-Ink corporation's Asia pacific region, referring to an abbreviation that groups Brazil, Russia, India and China.

    "As people try to wean themselves off pulp paper, the push for electronic paper is going to intensify," he added.

    Japan, known for its beautiful hand-made paper as well as its cutting-edge technology, has already been trying to combine the two.

    Companies such as Fujitsu and Sony use electrophoretic displays, or EPD, for everything from watches and mobile phones to electronic readers.

    The display sends electronic charges along a grid embedded in the e-paper which cause tiny black and white particles to move, creating text and images.

    "This is going to be a new kind of personal tool that businessmen would carry in their bags. It will be yet another powerful tool after the cell phone," said Yoshiaki Kageyama, director of Fujitsu's e-paper division.

    Fujitsu recently developed flexible e-paper that can display different colors, a further step towards publishing to e-magazines and newspapers.

    (Writing by Sophie Hardach)

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