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    Monday, March 26, 2012

    Reuter site - Sultry French pop song gives 'Mad Men' a new star

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    Sultry French pop song gives 'Mad Men' a new star

    Mon, Mar 26 19:54 PM EDT

    LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - "Mad Men" returned to television with bumper ratings, an unusually happy Don Draper and a new star, courtesy of Draper's sexy young wife, Megan.

    And it's all because of a sultry performance in Sunday's 5th season premiere of a 1960s French pop song, "Zou Bisou Bisou" (Oh you, Kiss, Kiss).

    Megan, played by Canadian actress Jessica Pare, was the talk of the town on Monday for her rendition, in French, of the song during a surprise birthday party for Draper and for a racy bra and panties sex scene in Sunday's new season premiere.

    "In just a few scenes, she becomes 'Mad Men's' most watchable new asset," The Washington Post declared. In an unusual move for the show, the single was released on iTunes.

    Pare, 29, said on Monday she had little professional singing experience but was thrilled with how her two big scenes had worked out.

    "I like to sing around the bonfire, in my car and in the shower, and that is about it," the actress told reporters on a conference call.

    "It was a lot of fun to do. Certainly a lot of the awkwardness and embarrassment (of the character) was definitely felt. It takes a lot of courage to do something like that. I am not sure I would gear up for it myself," she added.

    Cable network AMC said 3.5 million U.S. viewers tuned in for Sunday's two-hour premiere, making it the most-watched episode ever of the Emmy-winning drama. The show had been off the air since October 2010, partly due to a contract dispute.

    Pare, who began her career in Montreal at age 17 and has had small parts in movies like "Hot Tub Time Machine", was cast in "Mad Men" midway through season four as new secretary Megan Calvet at the 1960s ad agency. By the end of the season, actor Jon Hamm's suave but conflicted Draper had proposed.

    Pare said she had no idea she would be thrust into the limelight in the new season until she was handed the script.

    "At the time I just was like, I can't believe I am on the show, and the first thing I have to do is an entire song and dance routine for the whole cast of 'Mad Men.' That is a bit intimidating so I just focused on getting through that day," she said.

    The season premiere was filmed in August 2011, and like the rest of the "Mad Men" cast, Pare was sworn to secrecy about the plot by creator Matt Weiner.

    "I have been waiting for last night for months. I am really excited about it! I am really proud of the work that I did. I could not be more thrilled or honored to be part of such an incredible show," she said, describing her new role as "life-changing."

    (Reporting By Jill Serjeant; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)

    Thursday, March 22, 2012

    Reuter site - Whitney Houston drowned with cocaine in system: coroner

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    Whitney Houston drowned with cocaine in system: coroner

    Thu, Mar 22 18:30 PM EDT

    By Dan Whitcomb

    LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Pop star Whitney Houston died of accidental drowning due to the effects of cocaine use and heart disease, a Los Angeles County coroner's spokesman said on Thursday.

    The 48-year-old singer, who spent years battling addiction to drugs including cocaine, was found submerged in the bathtub of her Beverly Hills hotel room on February 12, the eve of the Grammy Awards.

    An autopsy into Houston's death found that the cause of death was accidental drowning with atherosclerotic heart disease and cocaine use listed as contributing factors, Los Angeles County Coroner's spokesman Craig Harvey said.

    Harvey said toxicology tests also turned up marijuana, an anti-anxiety medication, a muscle relaxant and an anti-histamine in Houston's system.

    Those drugs were not found to have contributed to her death, and no trauma or foul play were suspected, the coroner's office said. A final report was expected to be made public within two weeks.

    "We are saddened to learn of the toxicology results, although we are glad to now have closure," Patricia Houston, the pop superstar's manager and sister-in-law said in a statement on Thursday.

    Houston soared to the top of the pop charts in the 1980s, best known for a string of hit songs including "I Will Always Love You." But her career declined as she battled personal issues that included drug addiction.

    Patricia Houston told Oprah Winfrey in an interview this month that she had believed the pop star's worst days of drug abuse were behind her.

    Members of the family told Winfrey that Houston was found face down and naked in the bathtub, and that attempts by her staff to revive her proved fruitless.

    Houston was last in rehab in May 2011. But celebrity media reported that she was seen drinking heavily and behaving erratically in the three or four days before her death.

    Sales and downloads of Houston's best-known songs, including "Saving All My Love for You" and "My Love is Your Love" soared around the world after her death.

    (Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Jill Serjeant and Xavier Briand)

    Sunday, March 11, 2012

    Reuter site - Apple's new iPad making waves in video game market

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    Apple's new iPad making waves in video game market

    Fri, Mar 09 21:57 PM EST

    By Liana B. Baker

    (Reuters) - Apple Inc's <AAPL.O> faster and sharper-looking new iPad is drawing the notice of the traditional video game industry, as developers are envisioning games for it that have more in common with the visceral 3D shooter "Call of Duty" than "FarmVille."

    The company is also setting itself up to take on Microsoft <MSFT.O> and Sony <6758.T> on their home turf of game consoles.

    From Electronic Arts to "Crysis" developers Crytek, industry executives are figuring out ways to migrate graphics-intensive so-called hardcore games to the iPad. Epic Games and Namco Bandai <7832.T> took the stage at Apple's iPad unveiling this week to show off what they can do with an iPad that has a faster quad core processor.

    With more than 55 million iPads sold to date, including 15.43 million last quarter, the tablet is quickly catching up to the number of consoles on the market: the PlayStation 3 has sold 62 million units and Xbox 360 has moved more than 65 million units. That growing user base is drawing developers who want to see their games played on as many devices as possible.

    "Apple is definitely building their devices as if they care a lot about 'triple-A' games," said Mike Capps, president of Epic Games, the studio behind "Gears of War" for consoles and "Infinity Blade" for the iPad.

    The "triple-A" moniker is bequeathed to only the highest-quality video games -- those with the best graphics and that cost in the tens of millions of dollars to produce. So far, not many "triple-A" titles appear on mobile devices.

    Capps, who has appeared on stage at all three of Apple's iPad launches, said he is trying to push the console manufacturers, Sony and Microsoft, to come out with more powerful devices so they do not get left behind. On Wednesday, he told the crowd in San Francisco the new iPad has better screen resolution and more memory than Microsoft's Xbox and Sony's PlayStation.

    While gamers today might still prefer to play shooter games at home on big screen TVs with a handheld controller, that could soon change, Capps said, especially if a bluetooth controller is developed for the iPad.

    "It is quite easy to imagine a world where an iPad is more powerful than a home console, where it wirelessly talks to your TV and wirelessly talks to your controller and becomes your new console," Capps said in an interview.

    Meanwhile, the industry is bracing for change. Frank Gibeau, president of Electronic Arts' Labels <EA.O>, who oversees the company's biggest games such as "Battlefield 3" and "Star Wars: The Old Republic," said the company is eyeing Apple's moves closely.

    "When the iPad gets to the processing power that's equal to an Xbox 360 and it connects to a television, that's no big deal to us. We'll put the game through the iPad and have it display through the television." Gibeau said.

    BRING ON THE GAMES

    EA has already brought some games from its marquee franchises to the iPad: "Dead Space" and "Mass Effect".

    For publishers, "it used to be, oh hey, it's just the Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft show, but that's not the case anymore," Gibeau said.

    Germany's Crytek, which developed "Crysis 2" for consoles and PCs, is working on its first game for the iPad, due out in the spring. While that game will be puzzle-based -- minus the free-wheeling pyrotechnics -- the company said it could one day bring that genre of hardcore games to the device.

    "As more people come to these platforms, we have to follow our fans," said Kristoffer Waardahl, a Crytek studio manager.

    While speedier iPads will soon be getting into more gamers hands, Jeremy Parish, editor in chief of gaming blog 1UP.com, said it does not necessarily put pressure on console makers to come out with a new product any faster. The Xbox 360 launched in 2005 and the PlayStation 3 came out in 2006.

    "For the console makers, it has got be a little bit of an embarrassment to say that this tablet has more power and better screen resolution. But at the same time, this will not be the motivating factor to get them to jump into a new generation of consoles," Parish said.

    Yet the industry is counting on a new wave of gaming hardware in the near future. Nintendo will release the "Wii U," its first console with high-definition graphics, later this year.

    For now, experts are divided as to whether the new iPad will make a dent on consoles but at least one investor said he does expect sales of rival gaming products to be hurt.

    "While consoles won't cease to exist, it does create pressure on them by hurting their growth and taking away some of their customers," said Michael Yoshikami, CEO of Destination Wealth Management.

    Sony spokesman Dan Race said "the PlayStation 3 business is having its strongest year ever" and the "PlayStation $249 price point is resonating with gamers and families alike."

    Nintendo's U.S. executive vice president of sales and marketing, Scott Moffitt said "Regardless of the device, consumers have repeatedly demonstrated that they care more about the experience than the tech specs."

    Microsoft declined to comment.

    Apart from the iPad, Apple's fledgling TV product is also being watched closely by video game companies. Hudson Square analyst Dan Ernst said he doubts the iPad will affect console sales, but said an Apple TV with an app store could one day pose a viable threat.

    (Reporting By Liana B. Baker, Editing by Edwin Chan and Bernard Orr)

    Reuter site - Japan mourns tsunami dead; grapples with aftermath

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    Japan mourns tsunami dead; grapples with aftermath

    Sun, Mar 11 09:16 AM EDT

    By Yoko Kubota

    OFUNATO, Japan (Reuters) - With a moment of silence, prayers and anti-nuclear rallies, Japan marked on Sunday one year since an earthquake and tsunami killed thousands and set off a radiation crisis that shattered public trust in atomic power and the nation's leaders.

    The magnitude 9.0 earthquake unleashed a wall of water that hit Japan's northeast coast, killing nearly 16,000 and leaving nearly 3,300 unaccounted for. The country is still grappling with the human, economic and political costs.

    In the port town of Ofunato, hundreds of black-clad residents gathered to lay white chrysanthemums in memory of the town's 420 dead and missing.

    "We can't just stay sad. Our mission is to face reality and move forward step by step," said Kosei Chiba, 46, who lost his mother and wife in the disaster.

    "But the damage the town suffered was too big and our psychological scars are too deep. We need a long time to rebuild."

    The country observed a minute of silence at 2:46 p.m. (0546 GMT), the time the quake struck.

    Residents of Ofunato gathered before a makeshift altar with a calm, sun-flecked sea behind them. Ofunato paused again 33 minutes later -- the time when a year ago a 23-metre (75-foot) tsunami engulfed the town of 41,000.

    Just a kilometer (half a mile) from Tokyo Electric Power Company's (Tepco) wrecked Fukushima plant, where reactor meltdowns triggered the world's worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl, residents of the abandoned town of Okuma were allowed back for just a few hours to honor the dead.

    "It was a wonderful place. If it wasn't for all that has happened, I'd be able to come back. But thanks to Tepco, I wasn't even able to search for the bodies of my relatives," said Tomoe Kimura, 93, who lost four members of her family in the tsunami, two of whom were never found.

    Authorities have imposed a 20-km (12 mile) no-go zone around the plant and residents may never be allowed back.

    "My home is in Namie town, so we can't go home," said Katsuko Ishii, who had to flee from the exclusion zone.

    "There are really no words for it," said Ishii, attending a memorial service with her 3-year-old daughter in Iwaki City, Fukushima prefecture.

    Along the northeast coast, police and coastguard officers, urged on by families of the missing, continue their dogged search for remains despite diminishing chances of finding any.

    RESOLVE AND ANGER

    The prevailing mood in tsunami-hit communities was one of solemn reflection and resolve to move on despite frustration with the confused official response and slow pace of rebuilding.

    In contrast, those who felt betrayed by Japan's "nuclear village" -- the powerful nexus of utilities, politicians and bureaucrats that promoted nuclear power as clean and safe -- were less forgiving.

    "We are angry at Tepco and came here to show our anger," said Tomoe Suzuki, 65, a restaurant owner and chef.

    "The earthquake was something that was unavoidable because it was a natural disaster, but you can't stay quiet about Fukushima because it's a man-made disaster," she said, marching with about 12,000 other protesters to form a "human chain" around the parliament building in the capital city Tokyo.

    The protest was one of several around the country including in Koriyama City, where some 16,000 people gathered to express their pain and anger.

    The Japanese people earned the world's admiration for their composure, discipline and resilience in the face of the disaster, while its companies impressed with the speed with which they bounced back.

    As a result, the $5 trillion economy looks set to return to pre-disaster levels in coming months with the help of about $230 billion earmarked for a decade-long rebuilding effort agreed in rare cooperation between the ruling and opposition parties.

    Emperor Akihito, recovering from coronary bypass surgery last month, attended a memorial service in Tokyo's National Theatre and urged people to work together, echoing his unprecedented televised address five days after the disaster.

    "I hope all the people will keep the victims in their hearts and work so that the situation in the disaster-hit areas improves," the 78-year-old monarch said.

    Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, who took over in September from Naoto Kan -- who was premier at the time the disasters struck -- pledged to work for recovery:

    "Our forebears who built this country's prosperity have emerged from each crisis even stronger. We will fulfill our historic mission of realizing the rebirth of this nation."

    "FOURTH DISASTER"

    Yet many people are increasingly disillusioned about the political establishment's ability to tell the truth and rise to the occasion, a deep lack of trust that one commentator called "the fourth disaster of March 11".

    Politicians and bureaucrats drew fire for the chaotic response to the Fukushima disaster and disappointed many with their failure to seize the moment to tackle the ills which have plagued Japan for over two decades.

    After a brief truce, parliamentary squabbles resumed, giving Japan its sixth leader in five years and now threatening to block an important tax reform and stall other business, including the launch of a more independent nuclear watchdog.

    Tepco, criticized by many for its failure to prepare for the disaster, issued a fresh apology.

    "Each and every member of our company and its group remembers March 11 and will work with our all hearts to solve challenges with safety as our first priority," Tepco President Toshio Nishizawa, who marked the anniversary at the plant, said in a statement.

    Slow progress in drawing up plans for the tsunami-damaged and radiation-contaminated region is deepening the misery of survivors, about 326,000 of whom are still homeless, including 80,000 evacuated from the vicinity of the Fukushima plant.

    While the government declared it had reached "cold shutdown" in December, the nation lives under a cloud of anxiety over the long-term health effects of radiation. It also faces the huge financial burden of dismantling the plant and cleaning up an area the size of Luxembourg -- a task that will take decades and technologies yet to be developed.

    Taxpayers, who face proposed sales tax increases to help fund the country's debt, will also need to pay tens of billions of dollars to prop up the still politically powerful Tepco.

    ($1 = 81.4000 yen)

    (The story corrects the location of demo to Koriyama City from Fukushima City)

    (Additional reporting by Chris Meyers in Okuma, Yuriko Nakao in Koriyama City and Antoni Slodkowski and Taiga Uranaka in Tokyo; Writing by Tomasz Janowski; Editing by Linda Sieg, Robert Birsel, Daniel Magnowski)

    Friday, March 9, 2012

    Reuter site - Hacker combined online attacks with petty crime

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    Hacker combined online attacks with petty crime

    Fri, Mar 09 16:46 PM EST

    By Basil Katz

    NEW YORK (Reuters) - A computer hacker-turned-FBI informant known as "Sabu" combined daring online attacks against governments and major companies with a life of petty crime and drugs, according to a copy of his plea agreement.

    The court document, made public late on Thursday, describes how authorities agreed not to charge the hacker, whose real name is Hector Monsegur, with a variety of crimes he allegedly committed as long as he obeyed the terms of his plea deal.

    Monsegur, 28, was arrested at his small apartment in a Manhattan housing complex on June 7, 2011 and two months later pleaded guilty to 12 computer crimes, prosecutors and the FBI said this week in announcing charges against him and five others.

    All six were top members of LulzSec, an offshoot of the loose-knit cyber-activist hacking group Anonymous, authorities contend. The government says Monsegur became a secret FBI mole almost immediately after his arrest.

    On two different occasions, Monsegur tried to sell a combined total of five pounds of marijuana, according to his August 15, 2011 cooperation agreement. In 2010, he owned a handgun that was not permitted in New York state. That same year, the document showed, Monsegur made $15,000 worth of unauthorized purchases on his then-employer's credit card. Prosecutors also listed "his purchase of various electronics and jewelry, in or about 2010, that he believed at the time to have been stolen."

    Monsegur's court-appointed lawyer, Peggy Cross, could not be reached for comment on Friday.

    Monsegur was freed on $50,000 bond the day after his arrest last year and later pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in New York to charges brought in four states. The cases were consolidated in New York.

    The cooperation agreement also said that while the charges carry up to 122-1/2 years in prison, with a mandatory minimum 2-year sentence, prosecutors would recommend a more lenient prison term provided he obey the terms of the deal.

    The case is U.S. v. Hector Monsegur, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, no. 11-666.

    (Reporting By Basil Katz; Editing by Richard Chang)

    Reuter site - Hacker "Sabu" worked full nights online for FBI

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    Hacker "Sabu" worked full nights online for FBI

    Fri, Mar 09 08:54 AM EST

    By Basil Katz

    NEW YORK (Reuters) - One late-night visit by the FBI was all it took for the notorious hacker known as "Sabu" to switch sides and become a valued snitch.

    Hector Xavier Monsegur cooperated immediately in June, helping investigators close a net around five other leaders of the international hacking group Anonymous, according to court documents made public on Thursday.

    Monsegur sometimes stayed up all night, talking with co-conspirators to help the government build its case, Assistant U.S. Attorney James Pastore told a Manhattan federal court judge at a secret hearing days before Monsegur's August 15 guilty plea, the court papers showed.

    Monsegur, 28, was arrested at his small apartment in a Manhattan housing complex on June 7, U.S. authorities said on Tuesday in announcing charges against him and five others. The precise time, 10:15 p.m., was revealed in Thursday's court papers.

    "Since literally the day he was arrested, the defendant has been cooperating with the government proactively," Pastore told Judge Loretta Preska.

    Monsegur was freed on $50,000 bond the day after his arrest. He later pleaded guilty to each of the 12 computer crimes he was charged with in cases brought in four different states. The cases were later consolidated in New York.

    Federal prosecutors said Monsegur had confessed in court after signing a cooperation agreement with the government. Details of the deal and any reduction in prison time that he hopes to receive will not be known until the court makes the information public.

    Monsegur and the five others were senior members of Lulz Security (LulzSec), an offshoot of Anonymous that took credit for hacking attacks on government and private sector websites, U.S. authorities said on Tuesday. Targets included the CIA, Britain's Serious Organised Crime Agency, Japan's Sony Corp and others including in Ireland and Mexico.

    Among those publicly charged this week was Jeremy Hammond, known as "Anarchaos," who was arrested in Chicago on Monday on suspicion of hacking into Strategic Forecasting Inc, or "Stratfor," a global intelligence and research firm, in December 2011.

    Federal prosecutors also brought U.S. cases against Donncha O'Cearrbhail, 19, and Darren Martyn, 25, of Ireland as well as Jake Davis, 19, and Ryan Ackroyd, 23, of Britain.

    Anonymous and its offshoots such as LulzSec and AntiSec were initially focused on fighting attempts at Internet regulation and blocking free illegal downloads, but have since taken on other targets including Scientology and the global banking system.

    Anonymous - and LulzSec in particular - became notorious in late 2010 when they launched what they called the "first cyber war" in retaliation for attempts to shut down the Wikileaks website.

    They attacked websites such as MasterCard.com that tried to block payments to Wikileaks after apparent pressure from the U.S. government following the release of thousands of diplomatic cables.

    LIVING ON $400 A MONTH

    As a LulzSec leader, Monsegur took responsibility for attacks on the websites of eBay Inc's PayPal, MasterCard Inc and Visa Inc between December 2010 and June 2011, according to court papers.

    Despite the severity of the charges against Monsegur - the prison term could total up to 122 years - federal prosecutors argued that he should remain free on bail under the supervision of the FBI. It is highly unlikely that Monsegur would receive consecutive prison sentences.

    Born in New York, Monsegur attended college and worked at technology jobs, displaying a rare combination of hacking talent, working-class sensibility and political conviction. He said he first hacked for a cause more than a decade ago when he interfered with communications during controversial U.S. Navy bombing exercises in Vieques, Puerto Rico.

    At the time of his arrest in June, Monsegur was unmarried and collecting a $400 unemployment check every month, a court document showed. He had been living in a small apartment on the sixth floor of a 14-story brick housing project on Manhattan's Lower East Side, overlooking a busy highway.

    The document, which detailed his bail conditions and was made publicly available on Thursday, also showed that Monsegur was paid $6,000 a month at his last job, which he said he held until April 2010. Monsegur also stated that he had parental custody over his two nieces, aged 4 and 5.

    The case is U.S. v. Hector Monsegur, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, no. 11-666.

    (Reporting By Basil Katz; Additional Reporting by Grant McCool in New York and Joseph Menn in San Francisco; Editing by Richard Chang)

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