MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexican police have arrested an alleged leader of the Juarez drug cartel's armed wing linked to a deadly car bomb last year, local media said on Saturday.

El Universal daily, quoting government sources, said Jose Antonio Acosta Hernandez -- also known as "El Diego" and reputed to be one of the bosses of the La Linea hitmen -- was captured in Ciudad Juarez on Friday.

The media reports said Acosta Hernandez was behind a cell phone-detonated car bomb that killed four people in Ciudad Juarez in July of 2010, the first attack of its kind in Mexico's drug war, and ordered the killing of at least a dozen more.

Formed by renegade police officers in the northern state of Chihuahua, La Linea act as enforcers for the Juarez cartel, a group based in the border city of Ciudad Juarez which controls some of the main drug trafficking routes into the United States.

The Mexican government had offered a 15 million peso reward for the capture of Acosta Hernandez, a former security chief who worked for a now-extinct Chihuahua state attorney's office, El Universal added.

A spokeswoman for the federal police in Mexico City on Saturday said she was aware an arrest was made but could not confirm it was Acosta Hernandez.

Since President Felipe Calderon sent the army to fight the drug cartels in late 2006, some 40,000 people have died.

In a separate statement late on Saturday, Mexico's Attorney General office said that Hector Guajardo Hernandez, a top drug trafficker for the Sinaloa cartel in the state of Baja California, escaped from custody on July 27.

Guajardo Hernandez, believed to be an ally of Mexico's most powerful drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, escaped from a Mexico City hospital where he was recovering from wounds he suffered during his May arrest.

(Reporting by Jean Luis Arce and Cyntia Barrera Diaz; Editing by Vicki Allen)


 AMMAN (Reuters) - Syrian army tanks firing shells and machineguns stormed the city of Hama on Sunday, killing at least 45 civilians in a move to crush demonstrations against President Bashar al-Assad's rule, residents and activists said,
The government forces began their assault on the city, scene of a 1982 massacre, at dawn after besieging it for nearly a month.
Citing hospital officials, the Syrian Observatory for human rights said the death toll was likely to rise, with dozens badly wounded.
A doctor, who did not want to be further identified for fear of arrest, told Reuters that most bodies were taken to the city's Badr, al-Horani and Hikmeh hospitals.
Scores of people were wounded and blood for transfusions was in short supply, he said by telephone from the city, which has a population of around 700,000.
"Tanks are attacking from four directions. They are firing their heavy machineguns randomly and overrunning makeshift road blocks erected by the inhabitants," the doctor said, the sound of machinegun fire crackling in the background.
Hama has particular significance for the anti-government movement as Assad's father, the late president Hafez al-Assad, sent in his troops to crush an Islamist-led uprising in 1982, razing whole neighborhoods and killing up to 30,000 people in the bloodiest episode of Syria's modern history.
Another resident said that in Sunday's assault, bodies were lying uncollected in the streets and so the death toll would rise. Army snipers had climbed onto the roofs of the state-owned electricity company and the main prison, he said.
Tank shells were falling at the rate of four a minute in and around northern Hama, residents said, and electricity and water supplies to the main neighborhoods had been cut -- a tactic used regularly by the military when storming towns to crush protests.
Assad is trying to end an uprising against his 11-year rule that broke out in March, inspired by the Arab Spring revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, and has spread across the country.
Syrian authorities have expelled most independent journalists, making it difficult to verify reports of violence.
In southern Syria, rights campaigners said security forces killed three civilians when they stormed houses in the town of al-Hirak, 35 km (20 miles) northeast of the city of Deraa.
Local activists and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, adding that dozens of people, including three women, had been arrested.
The Observatory said troops also arrested more than 100 people in the Damascus suburb of Mouadamiyah. A Western diplomat said he saw several tanks enter the suburb
"The regime thinks it can scare people before Ramadan and make them stay home. But especially the people of Hama have shown themselves to be resilient," he said, referring to the Muslim Holy month, which begins in Syria on Monday.
The U.S. ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, visited Hama earlier this month in a gesture of international support for what he described as peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations.
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, once one of Assad's main allies, said in May "we do not want to see another Hama massacre," and warned the 45-year-old president that it would be hard to contain the consequences if it were repeated.
The Syrian leadership blames "armed terrorist groups" for most killings during the revolt, saying that more than 500 soldiers and security personnel have been killed.
An activist group, Avaaz, said in a report last week that Syrian security forces had killed 1,634 people in the course of their crackdown, while at least 2,918 had disappeared. A further
26,000 had been arrested, many of whom were beaten and tortured, and 12,617 remained in detention, it said.
In the east of the country, Syrian forces began an assault two days ago in a tribal oil-producing province on the border with Iraq's Sunni heartland.
Residents said at least 11 civilians were killed in the eastern provincial capital of Deir al-Zor on Saturday and Sunday, the second day of a tank-and helicopter-backed attack on the city.
"There are army tanks in the streets, but most of the deaths have been at the hands of Military Intelligence," one of the residents, an engineer, told Reuters, referring to the secret police division that has been spearheading the assaults in Deir al-Zor.
The Syrian Revolution Coordination Union, said 57 soldiers in Deir al-Zor, including two lieutenants and a captain, had defected to the demonstrators. It said residents had formed local committees and erected makeshift barriers to try to halt the advance of tanks and armored vehicles inside the city.
"More tank columns are heading to Deir al-Zor. By using heavy weapons, security forces are waging war against their own people," the group said in a statement.
The official state news agency said: "Armed groups in Deir al-Zor cut off roads, terrorized citizens and attacked police."
It added: "An exchange of fire occurred. The police forces confronted these armed groups and are still chasing them... The inhabitants of Deir al-Zor have expressed their rejection of these actions which are bad for the homeland."
(Additional reporting by Suleiman al-Khalidi)
(Editing by Mark Tre
velyan and Angus MacSwan)



WASHINGTON (Reuters) - American lawmakers raced against the clock on Sunday to forge a last-minute deal that could raise the U.S. debt ceiling by $2.8 trillion and provide assurance to financial markets that the United States will avoid default.

Prospects that a significant package was within grasp brightened after Republican and Democratic leaders reopened stalled talks with the White House, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he was confident and optimistic.

"I think we've got a chance of getting there," McConnell. a Republican, said.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, pushed back a key procedural vote on a debt limit plan by 12 hours to 1 p.m. EDT (1700 GM) on Sunday, buying additional time for both sides to hammer out details before Asia markets open.

"There are negotiations going on at the White House now on a solution that will avert a catastrophic default on the nation's debt," Reid said on the Senate floor late on Saturday.

"There is still a distance to go," he said.

A White House official said that no deal had yet been reached, and cautioned that details being circulated were "inaccurate."

Time is running out for the U.S. government to raise its $14.3 trillion borrowing limit before the Tuesday deadline when the Treasury says it will run out of money to pay its bills and could no longer service the national debt. But a cautious optimism had begun emerging on Capitol Hill.

"We're a long way from any kind of a negotiated agreement, but there is certainly a more positive feeling about reaching an agreement this evening than I've felt in a long time," Senator Richard Durbin, the No.2 Democrat in the Senate, told reporters late on Saturday.


If a credible bipartisan deal is tantalizingly close, the White House has said it would accept a very short-term extension of the debt limit to allow lawmakers time to nail down the compromise.

Given talks are heading down to the wire, Washington is chafing against the deadline to get a deal agreed, legislation drafted, voted upon and signed into law.

The elements of the package under consideration would raise the debt ceiling through 2012 and cut spending by an amount equal to the increase in the debt limit over a 10-year period.

The first $1 trillion in cuts have been largely agreed by lawmakers. A further $1.8 trillion would be recommended by a special committee appointed by Congress and automatic measures would implement the planned cuts if Congress failed to vote on them, an aide familiar with the talks said.

It was unclear whether increases would be part of the deal, an issue Democrats have pressed hard for.

The political gridlock over how to reduce the U.S. deficit and raise the debt ceiling has put the United States at risk of losing its top-notch Triple A credit rating.

A downgrade could prompt global investor flight from U.S. bonds and the dollar, raising borrowing costs for Americans for years to come and threatening an already fragile economy that could easily fall back into recession.

A U.S. default would plunge financial markets and economies around the globe into turmoil. U.S. stocks markets last week posted their worst losses in a year, the dollar slumped and nervous investors pulled up cash into insured bank accounts.

Top Wall Street banks warned Washington last week not to risk defaulting on the U.S. debt.

"Our country is not going to default for the first time in its history -- that's not going to happen," McConnell said, holding out hope for a compromise deal.

The procedural Senate vote on Sunday requires a minimum of 60 "yea" votes to close debate and move a debt plan to a vote on passage. It would be a barometer of whether bipartisan support could be mustered for a compromise that could pass both houses by Tuesday.

The partisan squabbling and brinkmanship has dented the U.S. image as the world's capitalist superpower, causing alarm among foreign governments, some of whom have expressed incredulity that American politicians would risk a national default by clinging to hardline, intransigent positions.

(Additional reporting by Dave Clarke, Alister Bull, Lily Kuo and Laura MacInnis in Washington and Michael Erman and David Gaffen in New York; Writing by Stella Dawson and Pascal Fletcher; Editing by Sandra Maler)


Daily deal sites are increasingly offering medical, dental and other care for cheap. But are cut-rate procedures a good idea?

Daily deal sites, home of the half-off, limited-time-only, pre-paid coupon craze, are no longer content to sell low-cost dinners and dye jobs. Now on the discount table: laser eye surgery, dental checkups, and other medical services.

More from

• Surgeries -- Now 40 Percent Cheaper

• 10 Things Life Insurers Won't Tell You

• More Help for Those With Pre-Existing Conditions?

In the first quarter of 2011, there were more than 2,500 medical, health and dental offers published on daily deal sites in the U.S. -- an eight-fold jump over the 300 offered during the same period a year ago, according to Dan Hess, CEO and co-founder of Local Offer Network, a daily deal aggregator. That's a startling increase, even compared to the rapid growth of the sites themselves, which had a five-fold increase total deal volume over the first quarter. And, says Jack Vonder Heide, president of Technology Briefing Centers, "We're seeing more of them coming onto the market every week."

Considering the never-ending medical-care sticker shock consumers face, the deals have an obvious appeal: They're extremely cheap. In one recent offer, Groupon sold four porcelain veneers, plus a full dental check-up for $2,400 -- a 52% savings off the normal $5,000 cost of the procedures. Living Social and a Washington DC-based optician recently offered an eye exam, plus $225 toward a pair of prescription eyeglasses, for $58, a saving of 81%. More than 5,400 people purchased the offer. In New York, Melissa Morgan, a communications coordinator, recently bought a dental cleaning, examination and X-ray on Groupon for $50, saving 82%. "I don't have dental insurance so it seems like a really good deal," she said.

But medical organizations say this is the wrong way to sell medical services. Consumers may pay too much attention to the low prices and not enough to the quality of care or the provider's track record, says Greg Sterling, a San-Francisco-based Internet analyst with Opus Research. And the "limited-time only" nature of daily deal sites doesn't encourage measured, thoughtful decision making, adds Malcolm Z. Roth, president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. "You shouldn't be doing procedures on a whim," he says.

Unlike a half-off dinner coupon, where the biggest risk is a wasted meal, the consequences of poorly-performed procedures are more severe, says Carolyn Jacob, an Illinois-based board-certified dermatologist. Any time anyone has an invasive procedure involving needles, there's a risk of infection, she says. Laser and other skin treatments designed to zap blemishes or hair can burn a patient's skin; Botox and other chemical lifts can cause lumps or droops, Jacob adds.

There's also the risk of an up-sell: the half-off dental checkup that leads to the full-price teeth whitening. For some merchants, this is an integral part of the strategy. Because of the steep discounts they offer and the percentage taken by the deal sites, many merchants lose money on the initial offer, so they're betting on customers returning for other procedures, or adding on to the ones they buy.

Of course, practitioners say they have their clients' best interests at heart, and besides: it's a free country. "Unless there's a risk or a health hazard customers have a right to plump their lips if they want and decrease the movement in their forehead," says Jack Berdy, owner and medical director of SmoothMed, a New York-based dermatology clinic and spa. He has used around five daily deal sites to promote Botox treatments, laser rejuvenation and other minor medical procedures. Customers often come out of curiosity, inspired by a bargain. But, he adds, "we're not telling people they need it. In fact we go out of our way to tell them that they don't."


For their part, the daily deal sites say they choose their partners carefully. Maire Griffin, director of
communications for Living Social, says the services they offer are minimally invasive and mostly outpatient. "We do everything in our power to connect our members with reputable merchants with the highest ethical standards," she says. Groupon spokeswoman Julie Mossler says every merchant goes through "at least eight rounds" of checking before they are placed on the site. Whitney Crisp, director of business development and sales for Sharing Spree, also says the site only uses qualified doctors.

And the sites say they'll continue to do so. Sharing Spree's Crisp says it is open to offering new medical services as long as they're safe, there's a demand and the surgeons are qualified. "We're open to anything and feeling out the medical industry deals," she says. But that doesn't mean a discount nose-job is in the offing any time soon. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons has set an official policy to put the kibosh on selling daily deal vouchers for more invasive cosmetic procedures. "It's a no-no," says spokesman Roth.



Old Dominion State returns as America's Top State for Business in 2011, and we're starting to detect a pattern here.
Virginia topped our inaugural study in 2007 with Texas at number two. In 2008, they switched positions and Texas took the title. In 2009, it was Virginia/Texas. In 2010, it was Texas/Virginia.
This year, Virginia powers back to the top spot with the best overall score in the history of our study — 1,660 out of 2,500 points. Texas slips back to number two with a respectable 1,578 points.
Trust us. We couldn't have planned it this way, and if we could have, we might have mixed things up a bit.
Our fifth annual study once again puts all 50 states to the test, measuring them on 43 different metrics in 10 key categories of competitiveness. We weight those categories based on how frequently the states use them as selling points to attract business. That way, we hold the states to their own standards, and tell you how they measure up.
This year's categories and weightings, for a total of 2,500 points, are:
• Cost of Doing Business (350 points)
• Workforce (350 points)
• Quality of Life (350 points)
• Infrastructure & Transportation (325 points)
• Economy (300 points)
• Education (225 points)
• Technology & Innovation (225 points)
• Business Friendliness (200 points)
• Access to Capital (100 points)
• Cost of Living (50 points)
Virginia is a perennial favorite with its strategic location, friendly business climate and diverse economy. It moved back on top this year thanks to marked improvements in a couple of key areas.
We found Virginia's tax burden improved considerably, helping the state move up five places to number 21 in our all-important Cost of Doing Business Category.
In Education, Virginia jumps seven points to rank sixth, reflecting an effort begun in 2009 to reduce class sizes.
But not all is rosy in Virginia. The state fell eight spots to number 26 in Quality of Life, which, among other things, measures healthcare. The number of uninsured residents in Virginia has risen steadily in recent years.
Virginia lost some ground in the Workforce category as well, dropping three places to number 12. But that was mainly because an improving unemployment rate is shrinking the pool of available workers.
Still, Virginia did what it does best—and has done in each year of our study: It turned in a solid all-around performance, with top ten finishes in five categories (Infrastructure & Transportation at number 10, Economy at number 8, the aforementioned 6th place in Education, second in Business Friendliness and tenth in Access to Capital).
Texas Two-Step
So what happened to Texas, which was gunning for a repeat as America's Top State for Business?
While the state improved or stayed the same in seven out of ten categories, it stumbled in three important ones: Cost of Doing Business (33rd this year versus 30th in 2010), Quality of Life (32nd, down from 29th), and most notably Economy, where the top-ranked economy four years in a row plunged to 14th this year on the weight of a nagging budget crisis.
The state has been struggling to close a $13.4 billion budget gap for the 2012 fiscal year—one of the worst in the nation as measured by the non-partisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
Texas adopts its budgets two years at a time, and the 2011 legislative session has been a gut-wrenching affair. While Gov. Rick Perry and the state legislature have so far managed to avoid raising taxes or dipping into the state's rainy day fund for 2012-13, the crisis is forcing severe cuts in state services, including education. But that's not the only area where the Texas economy has suffered.
Texas no longer leads the nation in Fortune 500 companies headquartered there. In fact, the state comes in third, with 51 major companies headquartered in Texas compared with 57 last year. Some of that is the result of mergers, like Fort Worth-based Burlington Northern Santa Fe being acquired by Nebraska-based Berkshire Hathaway spacer, and Houston-based Continental Airlines spacer merging with Illinois-based United.
But other Texas companies simply saw their fortunes decline, like Dallas-based Blockbuster and Irving-based industrial equipment-maker Flowserve.
Nonetheless, Texas remains a business powerhouse. It remains tops in Infrastructure & Transportation, and ranks 4th in Technology & Innovation. And a surge in investment helped Texas jump to 4th place in Access to Capital from 7th place in 2010.
If Virginia and Texas seem to have the top two spots locked up year after year, the rest of our rankings are a lot less predictable.
Top Five And Honorable Mention
Take Georgia, which joins our Top Five for the first time in four years. Adding to its typically strong finishes in Workforce (4th place), Infrastructure & Transportation (second place) and Cost of Living (9th place), Georgia moved into the top half of the states in Education (22nd place, versus 28th last year).
Massachusetts drops out of the Top Five this year, finishing at number six overall. The Bay State lost ground in our Workforce category because of a shrinking pool of available workers. And the state's vaunted Education system slipped a bit — to 4th place from first — because school class sizes increased relative to other states.
Ohio is this year's most improved state, jumping eleven places to 23rd overall thanks to a huge improvement in Cost of Doing Business. Ohio improved to 5th place in our most important category, from 29th place last year. A multi-year effort to reform the tax code in the Buckeye State is paying off with a tax structure that welcomes new investment. At the same time, wages have fallen in Ohio relative to other states. That helps businesses on the cost side, but workers suffer.
The biggest overall decline came in New Jersey, which fell eight spots this year to 30th place overall largely because of the state's budget situation—one of the worst in the nation, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. New Jersey is no garden spot when it comes to the Economy, which ranked 42nd in our study this year.
Our decision to consider each state's fiscal situation in our rankings this year also led to a change at the bottom for 2011.
For the first time, Alaska — which ends fiscal 2011 with nearly $12 billion to spare in the state's coffers — does not come in last. Instead, Alaska finishes 49th this year, and Rhode Island drops to number 50.
Top 10 States for Business 1. Virginia
2. Texas
3. North Carolina
4. Georgia
5. Colorado
6. Massachusetts
7. Minnesota
8. Utah
9. Iowa
10. Nebraska


Home buyers pay a premium to buy a slice of paradise.

During the first three months of 2011 the median price of a home sold in Honolulu was nearly $580,000, according to the latest data from the National Association of Realtors. That gives Honolulu the distinct honor of being the most expensive housing market in the nation.
Here is a list of where home prices are the highest in cities across the U.S., from Honolulu to New York to San Francisco:

Courtesy: Century 21 Hawaiian Style
$585,000 buys three beds and three baths in Honolulu.
1. Honolulu
Median home price: $579,300
Home buyers pay a premium to buy a slice of paradise.
During the first three months of 2011 the median price of a home sold in Honolulu was nearly $580,000, according to the latest data from the National Association of Realtors. That gives Honolulu the distinct honor of being the most expensive housing market in the nation.

"Oahu is beautiful and it has the best weather in the world," says Honolulu-based real estate agent Bryan Hino. That has attracted many well-heeled foreign buyers, which has helped keep prices high.
It's not just the lure of balmy weather and palm trees that keeps homes pricey. Hawaii is one of the most remote places on earth and many building materials have to be shipped long distances to get there.
Land is also limited and the terrain difficult to navigate, which helps to inflate property values and construction costs. Honolulu is hemmed between ocean and mountains, leaving little land left that is easy to develop. Much of the land that remains on Honolulu's home island of Oahu has been set aside for preservation, military or agricultural purposes, leaving a small fraction for home building.
[Click here to check home equity rates in your area.]
Luckily, many Hawaiians are better prepared to afford the sky-high prices: Residents' median household income is $81,000, about 25% higher than the national median, according to Wells Fargo Bank.

Courtesy: Carolyn Wesson
For $745,000, buy a three-bedroom home in a gated San Jose community.
2. San Jose, Calif.
Median home price: $545,000
Silicon Valley's tech millionaires and other residents have seen their home values plunge dramatically, but they're still holding some of the most valuable properties in the nation.
Home prices in the region have fallen 36% from their peak, according to Wells Fargo. Still, the metro area market is anything but cheap.
Prices in many coastal California communities have remained high due to tight regulations, strict building codes and the tough-to-build-on hillsides and mountains that surround places like the Silicon Valley. That, added to a post-World-War II population boom during which many engineers, scientists and other technology experts flocked to the emerging semiconductor industry here, has kept demand for homes high.

Courtesy: Prudential California Realty
A 3,000 square-foot modern house in the Anaheim Hills for $599,900.
3. Anaheim, Calif.
Median home price: $511,800
Before Disneyland was built here in 1955, Anaheim was a sleepy farming community of fewer than 15,000 residents. Orange groves gave way to tourism and real estate developers soon followed. Land in the swiftly growing Los Angeles-Orange County megalopolis became much more valuable as building sites than as farmland.
Then came the housing bubble -- and real estate speculation drove prices into the stratosphere.
Anaheim's housing bubble inevitably burst and home prices fell some 40%. Prices have since stabilized. Yet despite the precipitous drop, median home prices are still lofty enough to rank the market as the third most expensive in the nation.

Courtesy: Century 21 Baldini Realty
This 1,200 square-foot, two bedroom is a bargain in pricey San Francisco.
4. San Francisco
Median home price: $465,900
Home prices in San Francisco may be dropping but that doesn't mean that the "City by the Bay" has become a real-estate bargain.
The second most densely-populated city in the nation (behind New York) is a prime example of the old real estate maxim: "They're not making any more land." With so many people vying for so little space, prices can only fall so far. A 1,200 square-foot row home in town can easily fetch more than $500,000 and suburban houses are also equally expensive.
The area economy has always been a diverse mix of finance, trade, tourism and light industry. In the city's South of Market area, a once-struggling part of town is now a hot spot for "new media" and software companies: Twitter, Wired and Cnet Networks have all found homes here. The metro area unemployment rate dropped to 9.5% in April from 10.3% a year earlier. It's now close to the national average and far below California's 11.9%.
Home prices in San Francisco are more than 30% off their peak, according to Wells Fargo. Given that home prices have remained at a bottom for the past couple of years, they are not likely to decline much further. Should an economic recovery take hold, though, they are bound to start climbing again and that makes now a good time to buy, says local real estate agent Michael Mihelich.

Courtesy: E&M Real Estate
In New York, you can have a five-bedroom house selling for $469,000, yet a four-bedroom a few miles away may cost more than $2.5 million.
5. New York
Median home price: $439,300
Just like its residents, New York's housing market has proven itself to be resilient during tough times. Home prices, especially in Manhattan and Brownstone Brooklyn, have held up well during the bust and should continue to do so, says Jonathan Miller, president of New York appraisal firm, Miller Samuel.
All told, the metro area's housing market is down a little less than 20% from the peak set in the third quarter of 2007, according to Wells Fargo. That's considerably better than the nation as a whole, where prices have dropped by more than a third.
In Manhattan, you won't get much more than a modest one-bedroom condo for $440,000. But you can get a lot more home for that sum in the outer borough neighborhoods and suburbs.
New York has two things helping it weather the economic storm: an acute shortage of land to build on and an ability to attract young people. On average, there are 28,000 New Yorkers crammed into each square mile of the five boroughs -- and the people keep coming.
Young graduates flock to the city for high-paying jobs in finance, as well as lower-paying jobs in the arts and other industries.
In addition, New York University was named the number three dream school for students in the Princeton Review's 2011 College Hopes and Worries Survey. And then there are companies like UBS, the giant Swiss bank, which is moving back to Manhattan from Stamford, Conn., because it has become too difficult to recruit young talent: They all want to live in Manhattan.



The summer season is almost over. If you're a parent that means back-to-school shopping is right around the corner.

And there's one product — one fairly expensive product -- likely to be in high demand for college-bound students in particular: The Apple iPad!

But as dealnews' media editor Jeff Somogyi says there are 10 reasons why you should NOT buy your kids an iPad — especially in place of a more traditional laptop.

"It is a great product [and] I have the utmost respect for Apple," Somogyi tells tells The Daily Ticker's Aaron Task in the accompanying interview. "But in this instance I think that the cost per benefit is a little too high especially when it comes to students."

The tablet device starts at $499 for the most basic model with 16GB of storage with Wi-Fi connectivity.  Meanwhile, the higher-end 64GB models with 3G connectivity start at $829 and expect to pay an extra monthly fee if the wireless Internet plan is enacted.

"You can get a very nice laptop for that price," he says. "You can get a laptop that does everything that your student needs it to do for less than the low end iPad."

Not only can you save money, a laptop will enable students to do all the things they need to do — like write 500-word papers -- easier and more conveniently.

Which brings us to Somogyi's top reasons to not buy your student and iPad for back to school: It's expensive and it's not the best solution for note-taking or editing documents.

If these two reasons alone are not enough to convince your child that the iPad is not the right choice for them, here is Somogyi's full top ten list of reasons why you should not cave and buy your child the iPad:

#1 It's Expensive

#2 It's Not the Best Solution for Note-Taking or Editing Documents

#3 It's Too Distracting

#4 It's Ultra-Portable and Ultra-Droppable

#5 What Makes it Desirable to your Kid is What Makes it Desirable to Criminals

#6 It's Meant for the Enjoyment of One Person, Which Means Social Seclusion

#7 Digital Text Books are a Marvel, but There's No Secondary Market

#8 It's a Status Symbol, Plain and Simple

#9 It'll Already be Old Technology by the Time You Buy It

#10 They'll Also Want a Laptop, Too


TOKYO (AP) — A strong earthquake has rattled northeastern Japan, leaving seven people injured. No tsunami warning was issued.
The Fire and Disaster Management Agency says the magnitude-6.5 earthquake struck at 3:54 a.m. Sunday (1854 GMT Saturday) off the coast of Fukushima, a region struck by the March 11 massive quake and tsunami. The epicenter was 35 miles (57 kilometers) below the sea surface.
Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. says the temblor caused no further damage to its Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power complex, which was crippled by the March disasters.
Seven people in nearby cities were injured mildly.
The March disasters left about 23,000 people dead or missing across Japan's northeast coast and forced 80,000 others to evacuate their homes due to the radiation threat.


Men and women don't always see eye to eye — especially when it comes to what makes a lady look amazing. While you might find a blunt and structured 'do incredibly chic, there's a really good chance he just finds it weird. In an effort to demystify what guys find sexy, we polled a handful to find out which hairstyles men really do prefer.

photo credit: Michael N. Todaro/Contributor/Getty Images
photo credit: Michael N. Todaro/Contributor/Getty Images

Retro Bangs
"I'll always like that sort of late '60s long bangs with longer hair look. Think Mary Jane, Spider-Man's girlfriend. I've noticed that Rose Byrne, who seems to be in every other movie right now, has been wearing her hair this way, and it has certainly captured my attention.
Tom, 33, Book Jacket Designer

photo credit: Julien Hekimian/Getty Images
photo credit: Julien Hekimian/Getty Images

Vivid Hues
"Good hair will get my attention from across the room. I really like warm, vivid colors. The style itself, and whether it looks good, will change with the times and who is wearing it, but a great color will always get me."
Tim, 35, Software Developer

Want more? Check out our list of the Best Celebrity Hairstyles of All Time!

photo credit: George Pimentel/Getty Images
photo credit: George Pimentel/Getty Images

The Ponytail
"I love a simple ponytail and no makeup. I guess that's the sporty look."
Christian, 23, Environmental Engineer

photo credit: George Pimentel/Getty Images
photo credit: George Pimentel/Getty Images

Long and Simple
"Keep it simple! I like women with longer hair. It can be straight — slight curls are okay — but in general girls should keep it long and in good condition. I like it long because it looks more feminine."
Daniel, 31, Financial Consultant

photo credit: Eric Ryan/Getty Images
photo credit: Eric Ryan/Getty Images

Messy Bob
"My personal fave is a messy bob. I cut my girlfriend's curly red locks this way; it makes the back of her fair neck look so appealing. I've cut most of my past girlfriends hair. They always seemed to like it. I'm a serial bob-ist."
Reid, 30, Illustrator

photo credit: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images
photo credit: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

Short and Punky
"I was always a fan of short, punky and messy black hair look."
Graham, 26, Nanny

What else is on men's minds? Here, 20 Secrets Men Never Tell.

photo credit: Larry Busacca/Getty Images
photo credit: Larry Busacca/Getty Images

Long and Wild
"I love long, messy hair. Mary-Kate Olsen and her messy bohemian look is hot. But I can also get down with a really structured short haircut. The trick is to match your hair with your face shape, and more importantly your persona. This may come as a surprise to a lot of women, but guys are much more perceptive when it comes to visual cues than we're given credit for. Though many of us may not be able to verbalize, we do notice."
Stephen, 28, Fashion Photographer

photo credit: Christina Hendricks/Getty Images
photo credit: Christina Hendricks/Getty Images

Classic Coifs
"I like the more classic hairstyles, like Christina Hendricks on Mad Men. Of course, that might also be my preference for redheads."
Jason, 27, Copywriter

photo credit: Michael Buckner/Getty Images
photo credit: Michael Buckner/Getty Images

Soft Layers
"I like long layers on a girl; it's more interesting than just straight hair. Blunt haircuts make girls look too harsh, and they're not contemporary — if her hair is too structured, it can be distracting and intimidating. Loose, wavy hair makes a girl look relaxed and approachable."
Tom, 28, Longshoreman

photo credit: Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images
photo credit: Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images

Pixie Cut

"I love when a woman feels confident about her face to wear short hair. It's strong and powerful."
Martin, 34, Artist and Entrepreneur



Retouched advertisements are certainly nothing new, but The British Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has been cracking down on companies they believe have been heavy handed with the airbrushing wand. According to BBC News, Member of Parliament Jo Swinson has been lobbying against digitally altered images and she raised the red flag on two L'Oreal advertisements she claimed were "not representative of the results the products could achieve." One ad features actress Julia Roberts for Lancome Teint Miracle foundation, while the other shows supermodel Christy Turlington for a Maybelline foundation called The Eraser. As evidenced by the ads, the results of these products, both owned by parent company L'Oreal, are just a little too flawless.

Click here for another L'Oreal beauty ad that came under scrutiny

In Roberts' foundation ad, the text claims it is the "1st foundation that recreates the aura of perfect skin." MP Jo Swinson felt the real magic was done digitally. L'Oreal admitted they retouched the photos, but stood true to their claim that the products could potentially yield these results. The French company said Teint Miracle took 10 years to develop and that their research proved it makes skin "more radiant and luminous." According to the ASA Adjudication, L'Oreal insisted Julia Roberts' "naturally healthy and glowing skin" was the perfect palette to show the effects of their product, and that acclaimed photographer Mario Testino used lighting that reduced imperfections. The ASA requested a before shot to illustrate just how much the ad was digitally manipulated, but unfortunately Roberts' contract stipulates that no un-airbrushed shots can be released. L'Oreal supplied red carpet photos of the actress to illustrate her nice complexion, but that was not enough.

"Advertisers must be able to provide appropriate material to us to demonstrate what retouching they've done in the event we question them, and they mustn't mislead," Guy Parker, Advertising Standards Authority chief executive, told BBC News. "In this event, L'Oreal didn't provide us with that evidence so we were left with no choice but to uphold the complaint." In other words, Roberts' ad must be pulled in the UK.

Christy Turlington's Maybelline ad has also been pulled for portraying unrealistic results.

Christy Turlington's Maybelline ad has also been pulled for portraying unrealistic results.
As for Christy Turlington's ad, L'Oreal confirmed to the ASA that the ad was modified to "lighten the skin, clean up make-up, reduce dark shadows and shading around the eyes, smooth the lips and darken the eyebrows." They said they didn't believe they had crossed the line, but the ASA said her left eye had been significantly altered (seriously, where are the wrinkles?). As Parker told BBC News, "If advertisers go too far in using airbrushing and other post-production techniques to alter the appearance of models and it's likely to mislead people, then that's wrong and we'll stop the ads."

Once again, L'Oreal refused to provide the un-retouched images to see exactly how much work had been done. Since this is a requirement for the ASA, Turlington's ad was pulled in the UK as well.


What's the matter with kids today and why doesn't anyone want them around? In June, Malaysia Airlines banned babies from many of their first class cabins, prompting other major airlines to consider similar policies.

Lately, complaints about screaming kids are being taken seriously, not only by airlines, but by hotels, movie theaters, restaurants, and even grocery stores.

Read more about restaurants around the country banning kids.

Earlier this month, McDain's, a Pittsburgh area restaurant that banned kids under 6 became a mascot for the no-kids-zone movement.

According to a Pittsburgh local news poll, more than half of area residents were in favor of the ban. And now big business is paying attention.

"Brat bans could well be the next frontier in destination and leisure-product marketing," writes Robert Klara in an article on the child-free trend in AdWeek.

Klara points to, a travel website for kid-free vacations, with a massive list of yoga retreats, luxury resorts and bargain hotels around the world that ban children.

"Call me a grinch, a misanthrope, a DINK (dual-income-no-kids), or the anti-cute-police, but I hate (hate a thousand times over) ill-behaved children/infants/screaming banshees in upscale restaurants (ok, anywhere, really, but I don’t want any death threats)," writes Charlotte Savino on Travel and Leisure's blog. She lists a slew of a popular destination restaurants with kid-free areas and policies for travelers looking for quiet vacation dining.

Traveling is one thing, but what about in kids' own hometowns? Should kids been banned from local movie theaters, like they were at a recent adults-only Harry Potter screening? In Texas, one cinema chain has even flipped the model, banning kids under six altogether, except on specified "baby days".

Even running errands with toddlers may be changing.  This summer Whole Foods stores in Missouri are offering child-free shopping hours. Kids are allowed inside but childcare service is available for parents who want to shop kid-free. (Whole Foods contacted Shine to clarify that the company does not have a kid's ban. The store's child-free shopping hours are "about giving parents a break, not about clearing out the kids for those who want a child-free zone," says a spokesperson for the grocery chain.)

Meanwhile in Florida, a controversy brews over whether kids can be banned from a condominium's outdoor area. That's right, some people don't even want kids outdoors.

When did kids become the equivalent of second-hand smoke? Blame a wave of childless adults with money to spare. "Empty nesters continue to wield a huge swath of discretionary spending dollars, and population dips in first-world countries mean more childless couples than ever," writes AdWeek's Klara.

Catering to the child-free community may be good for business but is it good for parents? It could help narrow choices and make kid-friendly environments even kid-friendlier.  And let's be honest, babies won't miss flying first class. They won't even remember it. But their moms and dads will.

Most parents with young children have self-imposed limits on spending and leisure. This new movement imposes limits set by the public. And the public isn't as child-friendly as it used to be.  As businesses respond to their new breed of 'first-class' clientele, are parents in danger of becoming second-class citizens?



elBulli, the beachside Spanish restaurant repeatedly crowned the world's best, will close Saturday after pushing the boundaries of cuisine for more than two decades under chef Ferran Adria.
The remote eatery in Cala Montjoi, some two hours north of Barcelona, will re-open in 2014 as a non-profit culinary think tank that will investigate new cooking techniques and develop new flavors.

The elBullifoundation plans to grant between 20 and 25 scholarships annually for chefs to spend a year working with elBulli's core staff. It will share its ideas and findings on the Internet.
Adria, whose radical innovations since he became the head chef at elBulli in 1987 include foie grass noodles and potato foam, says he is dispensing with the Michelin three-star restaurant to spend more time being creative.
"elBulli is not closing, it is transforming itself, because its soul is going to remain," he told a group of students in Valencia earlier this month.
Under Adria, the eatery, known as El Bulli until 2008, has never been a commercial restaurant in the strictest sense.
Shortly after becoming head chef, Adria decided to open the restaurant for just half the year to give staff to develop his trailblazing approach to cooking, which uses hi-tech methods to "deconstruct" and rebuild ingredients in surprising ways.
In 2001, just as El Bulli was becoming well known, he decided to close the eatery for lunch to give staff even more time to be creative in the kitchen.
The 50-seat restaurant fields more than two million requests a year for its roughly 8,000 sittings, with tables mostly allotted by form of lottery.
Dinner is a degustation menu of some 40 small dishes and it costs around 250 euros ($360) per head.
The final dinner on Saturday night will be served to longtime staff members of the restaurant and their families.
But despite its popularity, the restaurant was losing half a million euros ($700,000) a a year, Adria said during an interview with AFP last year.
The 49-year-old makes up the shortfall through a series of elBulli spin-offs, including books, a range of kitchenware, speaking engagements and by lending his name to a range of brands, from olive oil to cutlery.
The restaurant is credited with helping to transform Spain from a culinary backwater to a world leader.
Britain's Restaurant magazine ranked elBulli to be number one on its list of the world's top 50 restaurants for a record five times -- in 2002 when the list was first published and between 2006 and 2009.
"It is not the best restaurant in the world because that does not exist, but it is today the most influential place in the world in terms of cuisine, and especially when it comes to creativity," Adria said last week.
Veteran Barcelona restaurateur Ramon Parellada, a personal friend of Adria's, said the closure of elBulli would free up the chef.
"All this exuberance and creative capacity, which gave our sector innovation and creativity in a way that was never done before, will no longer be the target of the criticism that was levelled at the restaurant," he said.
While some critics have described Adria's food as the best they have tasted, he has been criticised as elitist and pretentious -- and even a health hazard.
Paris-based German food critic Jorg Zipprick, the author of "The Unappetizing Underside of Molecular Cooking", says Adria's creations should carry health warnings informing diners of the additives in dishes.
"While it is true that Ferran Adria introduced a great deal of creativity to the kitchen, he also opened the door to additives and aromas from food industry laboratories which have now firmly conquered a place in the restaurant business," he said.



Norwegian police ended a six-day search for bodies on the island where Anders Behring Breivik shot dead 68 people, and said they were increasingly certain he acted alone. Here are the faces of just some of the victims from the bomb attack and shooting rampage. (Reuters)


Margrethe Boeyum Kloeven, 16, from Baerum, was identified as one of the victims in last Friday's shooting spree on Utoeya island. REUTERS/Scanpix


GEORGETOWN, Guyana (AP) — A Caribbean Airlines airliner coming from New York crashed with 140 passengers aboard while landing in Guyana early Saturday and broke in two, causing several injuries but no deaths, said President Bharrat Jagdeo.

The Boeing 737-800 apparently overshot the 7,400-foot (2,200-meter) runway at Cheddi Jagan International Airport in rainy weather. It barely missed a 200-foot (60-meter) ravine that could have resulted in dozens of fatalities, he said.

"We are very, very grateful that more people were not injured," he said as authorities closed the airport, leaving hundreds of passengers stranded and delaying dozens of flights.

Authorities struggled at first to remove passengers without adequate field lights and other emergency equipment. The extent of the injuries was not immediately clear.

Geeta Ramsingh, 41, of Philadelphia, said passengers had just started to applaud the touchdown "when it turned to screams," she said, pointing to bruises on her knees. She said she hopped onto the wing and then onto the dirt road outside the runway fence.

"I am upset that no one came to rescue us in the dark, but a taxi driver appeared from nowhere and charged me $20 to take me to the terminal. I had to pay, but in times of emergencies, you don't charge people for a ride," she said, sitting on a chair in the arrival area surrounded by relatives. She was returning to her native country for only the second time in 30 years.

The plane had left New York and made a stop in Trinidad before landing in Guyana. No further details were immediately available.

Jagdeo said he has asked the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board to help investigate the crash. He said crews were pushing to reopen the airport as soon as possible.

The crash of Flight BW523 is the worst in recent history in Guyana, and only one of the few serious incidents involving the Trinidad-based airline. It is the single largest carrier in the region, operating at least five daily flights.



ISLAMABAD (AP) — The Pakistan government has placed travel curbs on American diplomats in another sign of the breakdown in ties between the countries since the May 2 American raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

A letter from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs sent to the American Embassy states that all diplomats must now get special permission to leave the capital.

The restrictions would appear to be a violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations that requires host states to allow foreign diplomats "freedom of movement" in the country except for restricted areas.

The letter, dated June 13, was obtained by The Associated Press Saturday.


LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Former President George W. Bush says his apparent lack of reaction to the first news of the September 11 2001 attacks was a conscious decision to project an aura of calm in a crisis.

In a rare interview with the National Geographic Channel, Bush reflects on what was going through his mind at the most dramatic moment of his presidency when he was informed that a second passenger jet had hit New York's World Trade Center.

Bush was visiting a Florida classroom and the incident, which was caught on TV film, and has often been used by critics to ridicule his apparently blank face.

"My first reaction was anger. Who the hell would do that to America? Then I immediately focused on the children, and the contrast between the attack and the innocence of children," Bush says in an excerpt of the interview shown to television writers on Thursday.

Bush said he could see the news media at the back of the classroom getting the news on their own cellphones "and it was like watching a silent movie."

Bush said he quickly realized that a lot of people beyond the classroom would be watching for his reaction.

"So I made the decision not to jump up immediately and leave the classroom. I didn't want to rattle the kids. I wanted to project a sense of calm," he said of his decision to remain seated and silent.

"I had been in enough crises to know that the first thing a leader has to do is to project calm," he added.

The National Geographic Channel will broadcast the hour-long interview on August 28 as part of a week of programs on the cable network called "Remembering 9/11" that mark the 10th anniversary of the attacks.

The interview was recorded over two days in May, without any questions being submitted in advance, the channel said.

National Geographic said Bush gives "intimate details" of his thoughts and feelings in a way never seen before. Most of the interview is about the first minutes and hours of the day that Islamic militants hijacked four planes and crashed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Executive producer and director Peter Schnall said Bush, who has adopted a low public profile since leaving office in January 2009, brought no notes to the interview.

"What you hear is the personal story of a man who also happened to be our president. Listening to him describe how he grappled with a sense of anger and frustration coupled with his personal mandate to lead our country through this devastating attack was incredibly powerful," Schnall said.

U.S. television networks are planning a slew of specials to mark the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11 attacks. Those on National Geographic also include a documentary on the continuing U.S. war on terror, and stories of ordinary people on Sept, 11 2001 called "Where Were You?"



WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The House of Representatives approved a Republican deficit plan on Friday that has no chance of becoming law but could pave the way for a last-ditch bid for bipartisan compromise to avert a crippling national default.
With time running short ahead of a Tuesday deadline to raise the debt ceiling, the Republican-controlled House pushed the deficit-cutting plan through by a vote of 218-to-210 after the party's leaders reworked the bill to appease anti-tax conservatives in their ranks.
The legislation, denounced earlier by President Barack Obama who had admonished lawmakers to stop wasting time and find a way "out of this mess," was doomed to defeat in the Democratic-led Senate where all of Obama's Democrats have vowed to vote against it later on Friday.
But the House vote broke weeks of political inertia and opened the door to talks on a compromise that could pass Congress before Tuesday. That is the deadline to lift the $14.3 trillion U.S. debt limit or else render the world's largest economy unable to pay all of its bills.
Delays and procedural hurdles will now make it all but impossible for Congress to strike a deal and send it to Obama's desk until the 11th hour, injecting a dangerous level of uncertainty into already rattled global financial markets. A late deal also raises the prospect of the United States losing its top-notch AAA credit rating.
Both sides have been at impasse for weeks with lawmakers locked in a blame game that has brought the country to the brink of an unprecedented default, which could plunge America back into recession and trigger economic turmoil globally.
World leaders have been stunned by the dysfunction in Washington. World Bank President Robert Zoellick on Friday said the United States was playing with fire.
America's largest foreign creditor, China, has repeatedly urged Washington to protect its dollar investments and its state-run news agency on Friday said the United States had been "kidnapped" by "dangerously irresponsible" politics.
House Speaker John Boehner's failure on Thursday to quell a rebellion among Tea Party-affiliated conservatives in his party and bring his proposal to a vote exposed a rift among Republicans that complicated efforts to reach a compromise.
But Boehner brought enough of his recalcitrant Republicans onboard on Friday with a retooled plan that included a requirement for Congress to pass a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution and send it to the states for ratification, a long-time core demand of fiscal conservatives.
"I stuck my neck out a mile to try to get an agreement with the President of the United States," Boehner said on the House floor shortly before the vote, his voice rising.
"Where are other ideas?" he asked as he accused Obama of failing to come up with a plan of his own. Republicans applauded loudly and Democrats hissed.
Boehner's two-step plan would cut spending initially by about by about $900 billion and lift the debt ceiling only enough to last a few months. That would mean a re-run of the acrimonious debate which Obama is determined to avoid at a time when he will be deeper into 2012 re-election campaign.
Top Senate Democrat Harry Reid has said a short-term solution is unacceptable and is pushing his own bill that would cut $2.2 trillion in spending over 10 years.
Reid's plan is expected to be amended to make it more palatable to moderate Republicans in the House, and, with Democratic votes, offset the inevitable loss of support from anti-tax Tea Party-aligned Republicans.
Jittery financial markets will be watching what is expected to be a weekend of hard bargaining and further brinkmanship.
"This is just a signal that Republicans have rallied around a common set of ideas. But they still have to negotiate with Democrats," said Michael Woolfolk, senior currency strategist with BNY Mellon in New York. "We're going to have to wait until next week."
Obama, who has been sidelined in recent days by the debt battle on Capitol Hill, said the parties were not that far apart on spending cuts. "There are plenty of ways out of this mess but we are almost out of time," he said earlier.
Shortly before the House vote, ratings agency Moody's signaled it probably will not downgrade the United States' triple-A credit rating immediately, even if there is no deal to raise the debt ceiling, but a cut could come in the medium term.
Moody's said the United States would still have enough money to pay its debts to bondholders after Tuesday.
Rival ratings agency Standard & Poor's has warned it could cut the rating soon if there is no deal to address the underlying budget problems, a move which could push up U.S. borrowing costs and further hobble the weak economic recovery.
Fears about the health of America's economy multiplied after a government report showed weaker-than-expected growth in the first half of the year, raising the risk of recession.
The government reported U.S. gross domestic product grew at an anemic pace of 1.3 percent in the second quarter. Growth during the first quarter was revised sharply down to a meager 0.4 percent pace.
(Additional reporting by Rachelle Younglai, Donna Smith, Lily Kuo, Margaret Chadbourn, Laura MacInnis, Tabassum Zakaria in Washington and Karen Brettell, Steven C. Johnson and Jennifer Ablan in New York; Writing by Stuart Grudgings and Matt Spetalnick)


Joao Silva, the New York Times photojournalist who lost his legs to a landmine nine months ago in Afghanistan, made a triumphant return to the Gray Lady's pages with an A1 photo heralded by his colleagues.

Silva, a contract photographer, was on assignment last Oct. 23 with Times reporter Carlotta Gall, shadowing American troops on patrol near a small Afghan village, when he stepped on the mine.

At the time, Times executive editor Bill Keller told the newsroom: "He will be missed until--as I have no doubt he will--he returns to action, cameras blazing."

That moment came Wednesday, when Silva documented the closing ceremony for Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where he has been a patient since he returned the United States to recuperate last year. One of his photos ran alongside a front-page story about the event written by Times reporter Sabrina Tavernise.

As the Times' Lens blog reports: "He was smiling. He was walking on his prosthetic legs. And he was taking pictures." You can view the front-page photo, in which "soldiers and guests watched a parachute demonstration," according to the accompanying caption, below:

(New York Times/

Silva's Walter Reed assignment was serendipitous. A Times photo editor, according to the Lens blog, thought to ask Silva to pick up the assignment since he would be on hand for the ceremony anyway. But it turned out Silva beat them to the punch--he was already shooting the event out of personal interest. The Lens blog also reports that Silva, seen in the video above taking his first steps since losing his legs, will transfer to the nearby National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., for outpatient care, and that he has entered November's New York marathon.

A Times spokeswoman confirmed to The Cutline that "Silva will continue working for the Times and eventually return in a full-time capacity when he is ready."

Some of Silva's Times colleagues took to Twitter to express their elation.

"Seriously, what a badass. Joao Silva is my hero. Truly inspiring," wrote Liz Heron, a social media editor at the paper.

"How wonderful is it to see a photograph by Joao on page one today?" asked Times Bagdhad bureau chief Tim Arango, while war correspondent C.J. Chivers chimed in: "Chin high."

Silva's recovery is an uplifting story in a year marked by far grimmer news of journalists being detained, beaten, kidnapped and killed while reporting in danger zones.

Indeed, Thursday reports confirmed that a Taliban offensive had claimed the life of a BBC stringer in Afghanistan.

The correspondent, Omid Khpalwak, was among 17 killed amid suicide bombings and gunfire, which occurred in Afghanistan's Uruzgan province, according to AFP. Unconfirmed reports on Twitter claimed Khpalwak was killed not by the Taliban, but by NATO forces responding to the deadly attacks.



The revelation that more than 80 Atlanta teachers admitted to cheating on state standardized tests--with one group of elementary teachers even holding a "party" after school to change their pupils' answers by hand--has rocked the education reform movement.

But one question has been left unanswered: Why would a teacher resort to cheating in the first place?

The Notebook blog has found a Philadelphia teacher willing to explain why she helped her 11th-grade English students cheat on the state's standardized tests. (The blog earlier broke the story that Pennsylvania officials suspected cheating may have occurred in 60 state schools.)

The teacher, who remains anonymous in the story, says she began to help her students cheat because she worried their self-esteem was crushed by taking tests they were in no way academically prepared for. If a student asked a question during one of the eight yearly testing periods, she would help him or her find the right answer, or occasionally just point to it on the exam.

"I never went to any student who didn't call me to help them cheat," said the teacher. "But if somebody asked me a question, I wasn't willing to say, 'Just do your best.' They were my students, and I wanted to be there for them."

The teacher said administrators bullied teachers about boosting test scores so that the school would make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), creating a constant state of performance anxiety in the classroom. Schools with low scores must improve by a certain amount each year to avoid federal sanctions set forth by the No Child Left Behind law. In some cases, the federal government shuts down schools that fail to boost scores year after year.

"The prevailing message was, 'We have to make AYP this year, or they're going to shut our school down and you're all going to lose your jobs.' At every professional development [session], that's what we discussed," the teacher said. She added that many teachers at her school engaged in cheating.

Read her whole story here.

The Atlanta scandal and a USA Today report of potential teacher-sanctioned cheating in 1,600 classrooms across six states has put pressure on the Obama administration for its focus on standardized testing. Teachers in some districts are being paid bonuses for their students' performance on state tests, and many others have their performance evaluation tied to those scores.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan says that the emphasis on tests does not encourage cheating. In fact, he sees it as the only way to ensure schools are adequately teaching their students.;_ylt=AovnjR9Fuv7wDYB_EJvctKibCMZ_;_ylu=X3oDMTNkb2E4amVsBHBrZwM1NzVmNThmYy0zZDI3LTNjYTEtOTcyZS05ZmRjMDA1ZWE0ODIEcG9zAzMEc2VjA01lZGlhRmVhdHVyZWRMaXN0BHZlcgMyNTg4MGRhMC1iOWZlLTExZTAtOWRkZi1mNzI3OThjNTVmZTk-;_ylg=X3oDMTM2bjIxMTZpBGludGwDdXMEbGFuZwNlbi11cwRwc3RhaWQDNDYzMjg1ZGQtMzlhNi0zYzdkLTgzNzQtYWIyMmI0ZmFkZjAzBHBzdGNhdANvcmlnaW5hbHN8dGhldGlja2V0BHB0A3N0b3J5cGFnZQ--;_ylv=3


VANITY FAIE IS FIRST OUT OF THE GATE WITH PHONE HACKING EBOOKWhere are all the rapid-turnaround e-books on the U.K. phone-hacking scandal?, we wondered earlier this week.

The saga has so far produced two print book deals, including one for Guardian reporter and resident champion of the phone-hacking beat Nick Davies, who has tirelessly chronicled the many shocking twists in the reported criminal behavior within the British tabloid wing of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. empire..

But news organizations, which have been quick to churn out electronic treatments of other fast-moving stories (WikiLeaks, the Arab Spring, the operation that killed Osama bin Laden) as the e-reading market picks up speed, don't seem to be responding-- yet!--with the same vigor in conceiving digital titles on the scandal.

Vanity Fair appears to be the first out of the gate to produce such an offering, with "Rupert Murdoch: The Master Mogul of Fleet Street," described in a press released as "a probing, behind-the-scenes, no-holds-barred look at the embattled News Corp. chairman whose media empire is straining under the pressure of a growing phone-hacking scandal." The title hit the Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble Nook stores today for $3.99.

"Tracing the rise of the ultimate media baron and illuminating the roots of his current predicament, 'Rupert Murdoch: The Master Mogul of Fleet Street,' paints a truly intimate portrait of Murdoch from his days commanding tabloids on London's Fleet Street to his cunning maneuvers on Wall Street, from his acquisition of 20th Century Fox to his launch of Fox News," the release states.

The e-books trade has yet to bulk into a significant threat to the traditional book industry model. But it has proved an accommodating format for news outlets seeking to somehow squeeze revenue from readers for quality long-form journalism in digital form. E-books are cheap and easy to produce; they don't require extensive design work and can be culled from a newspaper or magazine's existing cache of reporting on a topic. As a result, media companies are starting to embrace the format as "a welcome addition to the bottom line," as Nieman Journalism Lab's Joshua Benton put it. The New York Times e-book about WikiLeaks, for instance, sold thousands of copies at $5.99 a pop in the first few months following its January pub date and was quickly picked up in paperback by Grove/Atlantic. ProPublica, Time, the Daily Beast, Foreign Policy, the Washington Post, ABC News and others also have jumped on the e-book bandwagon.

The Murdoch collection is Vanity Fair's second such effort. The magazine launched its e-book career with a trove of reportage on Elizabeth Taylor following the iconic film star's death in late March. Reached for comment, a Vanity Fair spokeswoman did not have sales numbers for the Taylor title handy, but said: "We are committed to doing e-books."

"The Master Mogul of Fleet Street," meanwhile, has stories about Murdoch dating from 1984 to the present scandal, including contributions from veteran News Corp. chroniclers Sarah Ellison and Michael Wolff. Vanity Fair editor-in-chief Graydon Carter also got in on the action with an introduction that puts the whole phone-hacking affair in context.

"It is Shakespearean in detail and scope," he writes.


Who's ready for iAmerica?

As the BBC has reported, the software company Apple has more cash on hand than the United States federal government, according to the company's financial records.

Apple's quarterly financial report shows that the company responsible for the iPad, iPod and the iPhone now has $76.4 billion in reserve cash, while the Treasury Department is sitting on just $73.7 billion.

The feds could probably learn a thing or two from Apple's success. Congress remains embroiled in a debate over spending and whether the federal government, which currently owes trillions in debt, should be allowed to borrow even more. International credit rating agencies have threatened to downgrade the national debt for the first time in the nation's history if Washington doesn't come up with a solution to lift the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling while implementing a concrete plan to get the nation's financial house in order.

Meanwhile, Apple's financial report shows that the company's profits, even through the last recession, are booming.


KILLEEN, Texas (AP) — An AWOL infantry soldier caught with weapons and a bomb inside a backpack admitted planning what would have been Fort Hood's second terrorist attack in less than two years, the Army said Thursday. He might have succeeded at carrying it out, police said, if a gun-store clerk hadn't alerted them to the man's suspicious activity.
"We would probably be here today, giving you a different briefing, had he not been stopped," Killeen Police Chief Dennis Baldwin said, calling the plan a "terror plot."
The 21-year-old suspect, Pfc. Naser Abdo, was arrested Wednesday at a motel about three miles from Fort Hood's main gate. He had spoken out against the 2009 Fort Hood shootings last year as he made a public plea to be granted conscientious objector status to avoid serving in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Like the soldier charged with killing 13 people in the shootings, Abdo is Muslim, but he said in an essay obtained by The Associated Press the attacks ran against his beliefs and were "an act of aggression by a man and not by Islam."
Abdo was approved as a conscientious objector this year, but that status was put on hold after he was charged with possessing child pornography. He went absent without leave from Fort Campbell, Ky., during the July 4 weekend.
On July 3, he tried to purchase a gun at a store near the Kentucky post, according to the company that owns the store. Abdo told an AP reporter a week later that he was concerned about his safety and had considered purchasing a gun for protection, but had not yet done so.
Police in Killeen said their break in the case came from Guns Galore LLC — the same gun store where Maj. Nidal Hasan bought a pistol used in the 2009 attack. Store clerk Greg Ebert said the man arrived by taxi Tuesday and bought 6 pounds of smokeless gunpowder, three boxes of shotgun ammunition and a magazine for a semi-automatic pistol.
Ebert said he called authorities because he and his co-workers "felt uncomfortable with his overall demeanor and the fact he didn't know what the hell he was buying."
According to an Army alert sent via email and obtained by The Associated Press, Killeen police learned from the taxi company that Abdo had been picked up from a local motel and had also visited an Army surplus store where he paid cash for a uniform bearing Fort Hood unit patches.
Agents found firearms and "items that could be identified as bomb-making components, including gunpowder," in Abdo's motel room, FBI spokesman Erik Vasys said.
The Army alert said Abdo "was in possession of a large quantity of ammunition, weapons and a bomb inside a backpack," and upon questioning admitted planning an attack on Fort Hood. Officials have not offered details about a possible motive.
Baldwin, the police chief, said Abdo "was taken down rather quickly without incident."
Vasys said the FBI would charge Abdo with possessing bomb-making components and he would be transferred from Killeen police into federal custody. Vasys said there was nothing to indicate Abdo was working with others.
An Oklahoma attorney who has represented Abdo said Thursday he hadn't heard from Abdo in weeks.
"I've been quite anxious to get in touch with him," said attorney James Branum.
The AP was among the media outlets to interview Abdo in the past year when reporting on his request for objector status. On Tuesday, July 12, Abdo contacted an AP reporter with whom he had spoken previously, said he had gone AWOL and considered purchasing a gun for personal protection. Abdo said he had not yet done so, because he knew he would have to give his name and other information to the gun dealer.
Abdo said he had received critical emails about his conscientious objector case and was worried about his safety as an increasing number of soldiers were returning to Fort Campbell from Afghanistan.
The AP described the contents of this conversation that Thursday to a civilian Army spokesman. The next day, when contacted by Army investigators, the AP said it did not know Abdo's location and provided the telephone number from which he made his original call.
An Article 32 military hearing last month had recommended that Abdo be court-martialed over military charges that 34 images of child pornography were found on a computer he used.
In addition, the military's criminal investigation division, along with the federal Joint Terrorism Task Force, investigated Abdo earlier after he was flagged for making unspecified anti-American comments while taking a language class, according to a U.S. official briefed on the investigation.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing, said neither the military nor the task force discovered anything at the time to indicate Abdo was planning an attack, the official said.
FBI, police and military officials have said little about whether or how they were tracking Abdo since he left Fort Campbell. Patrick J. Connor, special agent in charge with Army Criminal Investigation Command at Fort Hood, said efforts had been made to locate him after an arrest warrant was issued but he would not elaborate.
Abdo grew up in Garland, a Dallas suburb about 170 miles from Fort Hood. In his essay, which he sent to the AP last year as he made his conscientious-objector plea, he said his mother is Christian and his father is Muslim, and that he decided to follow Islam when he was 17.
"Little did I know that when I first became a Muslim that I was going to learn what Islam meant to me and what I was willing to sacrifice for it," he wrote.
He wrote that he joined the Army believing he could serve in the military and honor his religion, but he ended up having to endure insults and threats from fellow soldiers over his religion during basic and advanced training. He said life was better after he arrived at his first duty station, but that he studied Islam more closely as he neared deployment to learn "whether going to war was the right thing to do Islamically."
"I began to understand and believe that only God can give legitimacy to war and not humankind," he wrote. "That's when I realized my conscience would not allow me to deploy."
His application was filed in June 2010. The Army's Conscientious Objector Review board denied his request, but the deputy assistant secretary of the Army Review Boards Agency recommended he be separated from the Army as a conscientious objector. The discharge was delayed when he was charged with possession of child pornography on May 13.
Fort Campbell civilian spokesman Bob Jenkins said Abdo had been aware of the child pornography investigation since November.
Abdo lived for about five years with his mother and sister in a corner duplex in Garland, according to a neighbor, Yawonna Wilson. Wilson said the family moved out about a year ago.
Shakira Doss, a neighbor who went to the same Dallas-area high school as Abdo and was good friends with his sister, said she wasn't surprised by news of the alleged plot because the suspect seemed "weird." When she visited Abdo's duplex, Doss said he would spend most of the time in his room.
Abdo's sister "had all the friends," said Doss, a 17-year-old high school senior. "Her brother just didn't fit in."
Abdo attempted to purchase a gun July 3 from Quantico Tactical, a store near Fort Campbell in Oak Grove, Ky., said David Hensley, president of the seven-store chain.
Hensley said Abdo went into the store twice that day. The first time, after asking questions, he left. The second time, he attempted to buy a handgun, Hensley said.
"He exhibited behavior that alerted our staff and our staff refused to, based upon that behavior, sell him a firearm," he said.
Hensley said normally when someone buys a weapon, federal paperwork is filled out and there is an instant background check by the FBI, but the attempted purchase didn't get to that stage.
Associated Press writers Diana Heidgerd in Dallas; Danny Robbins in Garland; Pauline Jelinek, Eileen Sullivan and Robert Burns in Washington; Kristin M. Hall in Nashville, Tenn.; and Bruce Schreiner and Janet Cappiello in Louisville, Ky., contributed to this report.