Monday February 23, 2009 A.D.
Seoul: N. Korean missile can hit U.S. bases
SEOUL, South Korea (CNN) -- Stalinist North Korea deployed new medium-range ballistic missiles and expanded special forces training during 2008, South Korea's defense ministry reported.
North Korea's reclusive leader Kim Jong-Il
The missiles can travel about 3,000 kilometers (1,900 miles), possibly putting U.S. military bases in the Pacific Ocean territory of Guam within striking distance, the Ministry of National Defense said in its 2008 Defense White Paper, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported Monday.
The paper, published after weeks of delay, calls the North's 1.2 million-strong military an "immediate and grave threat," according to Yonhap.
The report adds that the North has recently bolstered its naval forces, reinforcing submarines and developing new torpedoes, in addition to increasing its special forces training after reviewing U.S. military tactics in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Tension between Pyongyang and Seoul has increased in recent weeks, with North Korea announcing it would scrap peace agreements with the South, warning of a war on the Korean peninsula and threatening to test a missile capable of hitting the western United States.
U.S. and South Korean officials have said that North Korea appears to be preparing to test-fire its long-range missile, the Taepodong-2. Pyongyang tested one of the missiles in 2006, but it failed 40 seconds after launch.
The missile is thought to have an intended range of about 4,200 miles (6,700 kilometers), which if true, could give it the capability of striking Alaska or Hawaii.
North Korea has been involved in what is known as the six-party talks with the United States, Japan, Russia, South Korea and Japan, which is an effort to end the nation's nuclear program, which the U.S. says is linked to nuclear weapons.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who returned from Asia on Sunday after her first overseas trip in the post, recently called North Korea's nuclear program "the most acute challenge to stability in northeast Asia."
Author jailed for insulting Thai king freed
BANGKOK, Thailand (CNN) -- An Australian author imprisoned last month for insulting the king and crown prince of Thailand was on his way home Saturday after receiving a pardon from the king.
Harry Nicolaides behind the bars of a Thai holding cell.
Harry Nicolaides, 41, was arrested last August over his 2005 book titled "Verisimilitude."
The book includes a paragraph about the king and crown prince that authorities deemed a violation of a law that makes it illegal to defame, insult or threaten the crown. CNN has chosen not to repeat the language because it could result in CNN staff being prosecuted in Thailand.
Mark Dean, a lawyer for Nicolaides, said he was released Friday and taken to the Australian embassy in Bangkok, where he stayed until leaving for Australia at about midnight.
"He is obviously very relieved and grateful that the pardon was granted," Dean said.
Nicolaides was sentenced to three years in prison after pleading guilty last month. He faced a term of up to six years before the plea.
His lawyers then requested the pardon. King Bhumibol Adulydej had pardoned foreigners in similar cases in the past.
Dean said Nicolaides was deported from Thailand, but that he did not know of any other stipulations related to the pardon.
In an interview with CNN International, Dean avoided repeating what Nicolaides wrote, but said the passage was presented as a rumor, not a fact.
"This is probably not the best time to repeat the passage that was found to be offensive," Dean said. "But it concerned the crown prince of Thailand and a rumor that was being circulated in Thailand about the crown prince."
Nicolaides had been living in Thailand since 2003, lecturing at two universities about tourism.
He was about to leave Thailand when he was arrested on August 31. It is not clear why the authorities waited three years after the publication of his book to bring charges against him.
Fifty copies of the book were published, and only seven were sold.
Thailand's king is highly revered in the Buddhist nation. But even he has said in the past that he can be criticized. Thailand's prime minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva, also has told CNN he is concerned about what he called misuse of the law.
Still, other cases of violating the law are pending before the Thai Criminal Court, involving both Thais and foreigners.
Thursday February 12, 2009
Facebook turns 5 -- but can it survive?
CNN -- A Web site started by a student as a way of staying in touch with friends celebrated its fifth birthday Wednesday as a billion-dollar business and a global phenomenon.
Around 15 million users update their statuses on Facebook daily.
Mark Zuckerberg was 19 when he launched Facebook from a Harvard dorm in 2004. Within 24 hours, more than 1,000 of his Harvard classmates had signed up for the social-networking site and one month later half of those on campus had a profile.
Five years on, the Web site claims more than 150 million users worldwide while Zuckerberg, now 24, was named the youngest billionaire on the planet -- with an estimated fortune of $1.5 billion -- last year by Forbes magazine.
Writing in Time on Zuckerberg's inclusion in the magazine's 2008 list of the most influential 100 people in the world, Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist, said Zuckerberg had created "a social network that not only reflects your life but maybe expands it."
Along with sites such as MySpace and Bebo, Facebook has also been credited with bringing social networking into the mainstream, with politicians, businesses and celebrities jumping on the bandwagon.
iReport.com: From Harvard kids to Facebooking your Mom: How have things changed?
According to Facebook figures, around 15 million users update their statuses daily. More than 850 million photos are added to the site each month while the average user has 120 friends.
Meanwhile, Web sites such as Facebook were widely credited with helping Barack Obama secure victory in last year's U.S. presidential election by helping him connect via the Internet with younger, previously disengaged voters.
In a blog published Wednesday to mark Facebook's birthday, Zuckerberg said the site offered a way of making the world more open and giving people a voice to "express ideas and initiate change."
"The culture of the Internet has also changed pretty dramatically over the past five years. Before, most people wouldn't consider sharing their real identities online," Zuckerberg said. "But Facebook has offered a safe and trusted environment for people to interact online, which has made millions of people comfortable expressing more about themselves."
In a new Facebook first, the Web site featured at last week's World Economic Forum in Davos with users contributing to live discussions and polls that were flashed onto big screens during sessions with world leaders.
Speaking to CNN, Randi Zuckerberg, Mark Zuckerberg's sister, said politicians and businesses were looking to Facebook as "a place for insight and to get a real time pulse."
Yet questions still remain about the finances behind Facebook's remarkable expansion. The company has attracted more than $200 million in investment from venture capitalists while in 2006 it rejected a reputed $1 billion bid from Yahoo!
In 2007 Microsoft paid $250 million for a 1.6 percent share, a figure that gave Facebook a total projected value of some $15 billion.
But with the global financial crisis hitting Web advertising -- Facebook's core revenue stream -- those sort of figures now appear to belong to a bygone age.
"What Facebook isn't yet is a slam-dunk success," said Adam Lashinsky of Fortune magazine last month. "It is selling advertising, it is bringing in revenue but it's not wildly profitable even if it is profitable at all.
"There is no question that it has entered the zeitgeist but that doesn't mean that it has progressed beyond the stage of being cool or viral or exciting to being a mega-business success the way that Google, Microsoft or even its arch-competitor MySpace is."
Yet in an industry prone to short term fads and rapid evolution, Mark Zuckerberg said Wednesday he remained committed to making sure that Facebook remained as relevant in the future.
"Building and moving quickly for five years hasn't been easy, and we aren't finished," he said. "The challenge motivates us to keep innovating and pushing technical boundaries to produce better ways to share information."
Arrests made after tainted medicine kills 84 children
AGOS, Nigeria (CNN) -- Twelve people were arrested in connection with a tainted teething medicine that killed at least 84 children in Nigeria, authorities said Thursday.
The My Pikin teething medicine has been reomved from shops in Nigeria.
The medicine was found to contain a solvent typically found in antifreeze and brake fluid, authorities said.
More than 110 children have been sickened since November by the tainted batch of My Pikin, which was found to contain diethylene glycol, the country's health minister has said.
Tests on the teething formula showed high concentrations of diethylene glycol, which can damage the kidney, heart and nervous system and can lead to death.
The victims ranged from ages 2 months to 7 years, authorities said.
Five of the suspects arrested were from the company that manufactured the medicine. The rest of the suspects were from a chemical company that sold the diethylene glycol, said Abubakar Jimoh, deputy director of Nigeria's National Agency for Food and Drug Administration.
The suspects have been bonded out of jail but could face 15 years in prison or $3,380 fine, Jimoh said.
Diethylene glycol found in other products, such as tainted toothpaste from China, has led to recalls and public health warnings in the United States.
In July 2007, such toothpaste was linked to 83 deaths in Panama.