Japan Video Games Blog


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Saturday, May 17, 2008

Banking: Bank of America Mistakenly Shuts Down Access To Your Account, Charges You For The Pleasure

Poor Jacob. He only wanted to deposit a $2,019 check with Bank of America. Apparently, this was enough to provoke the bank into shutting down his account, leading to overdraft fees whenever Jacob tried to access his money.

He writes:

Hello, I am writing to "vent" in a way about my latest experience with Bank of America. So last Friday I made a deposit of $2019 into my check account and had my balance printed out to see what kind of shenanigans BOA was going to try and pull this time. Well I apparently had access to roughly $366 if I remember correctly. I figured as much because apparently this is standard for any large deposit, but hey I figured I could live on that for the weekend. Well the next day I went to seven eleven to buy myself a pack of cigarettes and when I swiped my card the cashier says "cards been denied" and I didnt think twice about it because there was a post it on the register saying the debit was not working and I never use credit. So I bought my cigs with some cash and headed to the hardware store. I picked out about $21 of nuts and bolts and went to the register. Can you guess what happened? Card denied!!! So I had the cashier run it through again. Same result so I had to leave the store with nothing.

I get home and decided to give BOA a call to figure out whats going on. While I was on hold I logged onto my online account access and saw in bold red letter "HOLD". When I finally did speak with someone he verified that indeed my account was on hold. So I didn't have access to any of my money not even what was in there before my large deposit. I was told that Tuesday at 9:00 AM my money would become available. I was frustrated but I had to deal with it.

So an hour ago about 8 hours after the hold was released I check my account to find I have 3 overdraft fees and immediately call BOA. After waiting 15 minutes to speak to someone I was told that as a "courtesy" they would remove the charges for me today. Wow, what happened to "sorry we made a mistake". Which is all i was really hoping to hear. Then when I asked why it was a courtesy to remove unwarranted overdraft fees, the phone operator told me it was my fault? Just WOW! Then she said that there was never a hold and that the credit just hadn't been applied yet. Then I asked her well why was my card denied? Why did it say my account had a hold on it online? Why did the phone operator i talked to the other day tell me there was a hold? Why couldn't I access the money I already had in the account? All I heard was dead silence, followed by "As a courtesy I have removed the charges from your account today." Bank of Americas wonderful service is about to lose another customer...

Bank of America doesn't want your service nearly as much as they want to win our Worst Company in America contest. Ditch the monolithic banking monster in favor of a friendly local credit union.

Banking: Bank of America Mistakenly Shuts Down Access To Your Account, Charges You For The Pleasure
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Haze will have a 4GB mandatory install - PS3 Fanboy

You had to have known in some area of your brain that Haze would come with a mandatory install. It's almost a trend and almost always a hassle -- especially when it comes to hard drive space (we're so very sorry, 20GB PS3 owners!). The size of Ubisoft's oft-delayed shooter is going to be in the realm of 4GB's. Time to make a sandwich, huh? Well, love it or hate it, just be ready to let the game web itself into your PS3 for a while before you get crackin' on killin' those Mantel troops. It sure would be a bummer to break it out of its shrink-wrap at a party only to make everyone wait. You've been warned.
Haze will have a 4GB mandatory install - PS3 Fanboy
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BBC NEWS | Health | Obese blamed for the world's ills - stop eating you fat fucks, if you REPORT ME TO BLOGGER, THAT MEANS YOU'RE OBESE

Obese people are contributing to the world food crisis and climate change, experts say.

The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine calculated the obese consume 18% more calories than average.

They are also responsible for using more fuel, which has an environmental impact and drives up food prices as transport and agriculture both use oil.

The result is that the poor struggle to afford food and greenhouse gas emissions rise, the Lancet reported.

It comes as the World Health Organization predicts the obese population will double by 2015 to 700m.

Transport and food policy and the importance of sustainable transport must not be overlooked
Dr Phil Edwards, report co-author

In the UK, nearly a quarter of adults are classed obese, twice as many as there were in the 1980s.

The team found that obese people require 1,680 daily calories to sustain normal energy and another 1,280 to maintain daily activities - a fifth more than normal.

The higher consumption of food has a two-fold effect, researchers said.

First of all the increasing demand for food, drives up production.

This means that agricultural processes are using more oil to meet demand, which contributes to the rising cost of fuel.

The cost of fuel is then passed on in the cost of food, making it more difficult for poorer areas to afford it.


What is more, the researchers said obese people are likely to rely on transport more and put more strain on that transport because of their mass, which again drives up prices and usage.

But the researchers said there was a solution.

Phil Edwards, who co-authored the article, said: "Urban transport policies that promote walking and cycling would reduce food prices by reducing the global demand for oil and promotion of a normal weight.

And they added: "Decreased car use would reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

"Transport and food policy and the importance of sustainable transport must not be overlooked."

But Dr David Haslam, of the National Obesity Forum, said it was "stretching it a bit" to blame the obese in the way that the study appeared to do.

"Really, it is discriminatory towards obese people. They are an easy target at the moment, but I think the causes of climate change and rising food prices is much more complex."
BBC NEWS | Health | Obese blamed for the world's ills
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Water is vital, but how much should you drink? - CNN.com

ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- Very few people question the importance of water in a healthy diet, but lately the needed quantity has been called into question.


Illness, pregnancy and breast feeding are also factors that will increase our bodies' need for fluids.

The conventional wisdom of eight, 8-ounce glasses a day has been tossed aside, leaving one to wonder what food group myths might topple next.

The apple-a-day thing? The medicinal aspects of Mom's chicken soup?

"There has been research out there for a while that the eight, 8-ounce glasses a day has no research to back up it at all," Food Network dietitian Ellie Krieger told CNN.

"People just latched onto this number because it was really easy to remember. And I think people feel that if they're not drinking eight glasses of water, then they are not doing well for their bodies, and that is not necessarily true. "

But what is true is that our bodies are made up of a good deal of water. It makes up on average 60 percent of our body weight. And it seems to enable our basic functions.

Not only does it moisten tissues -- such as those around the mouth, eyes and nose -- it also cushions our joints, regulates our body temperature, helps our bodies get nutrients, and flushes out waste products.

Whew, talk about multitasking!

But if the rule of eight is out, how do we know we're getting enough to keep us flowing?

"The general guideline is to pay attention to your thirst," Krieger said. "Your thirst is actually a good guide of how well hydrated you are and if you drink according to your thirst, you will stay hydrated."

She also had more good news: Liquids other than water count.

"So if you drink coffee or tea, even if it's caffeinated, it counts towards hydration," she said. "So do fruit juices and milk and soups and things like that."

Less caffeine -- which can dehydrate -- is better than more, in the fluid count.

Krieger says a good rule of thumb for moderately active women in temperate climates is that they need about nine 8-ounce glasses of fluids a day.

"Ideally," she adds, "you want at least half of that to be water."

Some conditions ramp up our water needs.

Obviously temperature is one thing, whether from a seasonal shift or a thermostat redial. The hotter your surroundings, the more you will sweat out your inner water supply and the more fluids you will need to consume. Turning up your own inner temperature through exercise will also increase the need to refuel the fluids.

Experts at the Mayo Clinic suggest that water is fine after short exercise sessions but recommend drinking a sports drink during longer, more intense workouts. Those drinks contain sodium and will reduce your risk of developing hyponatremia, a rare yet possibly life-threatening condition that occurs when you drink too much water.

It happens when the kidneys can't flush out the excess water, making the electrolyte content in the blood diluted. That leads to low sodium levels in the blood. This is very uncommon and mainly seen in endurance athletes, such as marathon runners.

Illness, pregnancy and breast feeding are also factors that will increase our bodies' need for fluids.

And don't forget, those fluids can also be found in food.

"It is a very good idea to eat water-rich food like fruits and vegetables and dairy and lean protein even," says Krieger. "Those are foods that are great for your body that are going to keep lean and healthy and keep hydrated."

So the quest for hydration is pretty easy to pursue, and Krieger gives hope to those of us who don't beat a constant path to the water cooler.

"The people who are walking around with huge bottles of water all day long probably don't need to be doing that," she said. "They are probably not hurting themselves, but it's probably not helping them as much as they think it is, and it's a psychological crutch."

Of course as psychological crutches go, how bad can a hefty bottle of water really be? Probably no couch time needed for that!
Water is vital, but how much should you drink? - CNN.com
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Chemist gets life for husband's acid vat murder - CNN.com

FRESNO, California (AP) -- A biochemist was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole Friday for killing her estranged husband by knocking him out and stuffing him into a vat of acid, possibly while he was still alive.

Larissa Schuster was convicted in December of murdering Timothy Schuster with the special circumstance that the murder was committed for financial gain. At the time of his death in July 2003, the Schusters were in the middle of a divorce after nearly 20 years of marriage.

Just days after Timothy Schuster was reported missing, his half-dissolved remains -- intact from only the belt buckle down -- were found inside a 55-gallon barrel concealed in a storage unit his wife had rented.

Kristin Schuster, the couple's adult daughter, told the judge that she felt safer knowing her mother would be behind bars.

"I've been living for five years not knowing if I would have to worry for my own safety," she said. "In your quest to become a dominating power freak, you became your own demon. You have hurt me for so many years and probably smiled inside, but look who's smiling now."

At the sentencing hearing for the 47-year-old Schuster, the judge also rejected her attorney's motion for a new trial.

Prosecutors said Schuster and her former lab assistant, James Fagone, first immobilized Timothy Schuster with a stun gun and a chloroform-soaked rag. Then they bound his hands and feet, dumped his body headfirst into a barrel while he was still breathing and poured hydrochloric acid on him.

Fagone has already been sentenced to life in prison without parole for first-degree murder and burglary.
Chemist gets life for husband's acid vat murder - CNN.com
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McCain predicts Iraq war over by 2013 - CNN.com

COLUMBUS, Ohio (CNN) -- Sen. John McCain envisions that by 2013, the Iraq war will be won, but the threat from the Taliban in Afghanistan won't be eliminated, even though Osama bin Laden will have been captured or killed.


Sen. John McCain envisions his first-term achievements during a speech in Columbus, Ohio, Thursday.

The presumptive Republican presidential nominee made both statements in a speech in which he envisions the state of affairs at the end of his first term if he is elected president.

"What I want to do today is take a little time to describe what I would hope to have achieved at the end of my first term as president. I cannot guarantee I will have achieved these things," McCain said in Columbus, Ohio.

McCain's speech was unusual -- and somewhat risky -- in that it laid out benchmarks on which he could be judged.

"It certainly was an ambitious speech," said Bill Schneider, a CNN senior political analyst, noting that many of the things McCain mentioned will be "very tough things for a president to accomplish."

"But perhaps the key point that he made was the tone and tenor of his presidency when he said near the end of his speech, 'If I'm elected president, the era of the permanent campaign will end. The era of problem solving will begin,' " Schneider said.

"What's interesting about that is that precisely echoes what Barack Obama is talking about in his campaign," Schneider said, referring to the Democratic presidential candidate.

The Arizona senator said he believes that the United States will have a smaller military presence in Iraq that will not play a direct combat role, and he predicts that al Qaeda in Iraq will be defeated. Video Watch McCain say most troops will be home from Iraq by 2013 »

"By January 2013, America has welcomed home most of the servicemen and -women who have sacrificed terribly so that America might be secure in her freedom.

"The Iraq war has been won. Iraq is a functioning democracy, although still suffering from the lingering effects of decades of tyranny and centuries of sectarian tension," McCain said.

The violence in Iraq will persist, the candidate believes, but it will be "spasmodic and much reduced." But civil war will be prevented, armed militias will be disbanded, security forces will become "professional and competent," and the government will be able to impose "its authority in every province of Iraq" and properly defend its borders.

Speaking with reporters after his address, McCain insisted that "we are winning and we will win" in Iraq but said he's not assigning a date for success.

"It could be next month; it could be next year. It could three years from now. It could be, but I'm confident that we will have victory in Iraq, but I'm certainly not putting a date on it. "

McCain said victory means "our troops come home with honor and we do maintain a security relationship ... if viewed necessary by both governments."

He said withdrawing troops would basically be setting "a date for surrender."

Responding to the speech, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Clinton said in a statement that McCain had offered "the same Bush policies that have weakened our military, our national security, and our standing in the world. Our country cannot afford more empty promises on Iraq."

McCain said he also believes that the "threat from a resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan will be greatly reduced but not eliminated" and that U.S. and NATO forces will remain in the country "to help finish the job, and continue operations against the remnants of al Qaeda."

If he is elected, he said, he would hope that Pakistan will work with the United States in deploying counter-insurgency tactics in the al Qaeda-laden tribal regions.

McCain envisions that Osama bin Laden and his chief lieutenants, would be captured or killed.

"There is no longer any place in the world al Qaeda can consider a safe haven," McCain said.

He also believes that in 2013, there still will not have been a "major terrorist attack in the United States since September 11, 2001."

Other milestones McCain hopes to see at the end of what would be his first term are:

  • Witnessing Russia and China cooperating in "pressuring Iran to abandon its nuclear ambitions, and North Korea to discontinue its own."
  • Significantly increasing the size of the Army and Marine Corps, which will be "better equipped and trained to defend us."
  • The application of "stiff diplomatic and economic pressure" by the United States -- acting in concert with a newly formed League of Democracies -- to cause Sudan to agree to a multinational peacekeeping force, with NATO countries providing logistical and air support, to stop the genocide in Darfur.
  • Several years of robust economic growth.
  • Taxpayers filing under a flat tax.
  • The world food crisis ending, low inflation and a "much-improved" quality of life "not only in our country but in some of the most impoverished countries around the world."
  • More accessible health care for Americans and an easing of pressure on Medicare because of lower health care costs.
  • A United States well on its way to "independence from foreign sources of oil."
  • A Social Security system that is solvent, does not reduce benefits for those nearing retirement and includes individual retirement accounts
  • The confirmation of "scores of judges" to the federal district and appellate courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court.
  • A secure southern border for the United States after "tremendous improvements to border security infrastructure and increases in the border patrol, and vigorous prosecution of companies that employ illegal aliens."
  • McCain also made veiled criticism of President Bush when he said, "I will exercise my veto if I believe legislation passed by Congress is not in the nation's best interests, but I will not subvert the purpose of legislation I have signed by making statements that indicate I will enforce only the parts of it I like."

    Bush has made a practice of issuing signing statements that outline portions of legislation he will not enforce or abide by because he felt that they infringed on his executive powers.

    McCain pledged to work with members of either party to make the country safer and more prosperous.

    "And I won't care who gets the credit," he said.

    McCain predicts Iraq war over by 2013 - CNN.com
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    Woman opens heart to man who slaughtered her family - CNN.com

    GITARAMA, Rwanda (CNN) -- What does Macy's have to do with healing from genocide? Nothing and everything.


    Iphigenia Mukantabana sits with Jean-Bosco Bizimana, her family's killer, at her home after church.

    Fourteen years after Hutu extremists killed between 800,000 and 1 million people -- mostly Tutsis -- in a devastating slaughter, Rwandan women are weaving peace baskets for sale at Macy's in the United States. Not only does the work bring them a regular salary, the business is also fostering reconciliation between victim and perpetrator.

    Iphigenia Mukantabana, a master weaver, sits in front of her house in Gitarama -- an hour from the capital, Kigali -- making beautiful baskets with her friend Epiphania Mukanyndwi.

    In 1994, Mukantabana's husband and five of her children were hacked and clubbed to death by marauding Hutu militias. Among her family's killers was Jean-Bosco Bizimana, Mukanyndwi's husband.

    "In my heart, the dead are dead, and they cannot come back again," Mukantabana said of those she lost. "So I have to get on with the others and forget what has happened."

    Forgetting and forgiving everything she lost, everything she witnessed.

    "Women and girls were raped, and I saw it all," she told CNN. "The men and boys were beaten and then slaughtered. They told others to dig a hole, get in, then they piled earth on top of them, while they were still alive." Video Watch Mukantabana say how she survived »

    Yet today, Mukantabana shares her future and her family meals with Bizimana, the killer she knew, and his wife, her friend Mukanyndwi.

    Bizimana did spend seven years in jail. He then went before a tribal gathering, part of a return to traditional ways by the new government in 2002 with Rwanda's justice system unable to cope and process hundreds of thousands of imprisoned perpetrators.

    The government decided that the master planners and worst perpetrators would face formal justice. But lower-level killers were allowed to publicly confess and apologize to the families of their victims at gacaca courts, where elders would hear grievances and decide on the punishments.

    "In the gacaca court, I told them how we killed our fellow men, and I asked for forgiveness in front of the court, and the whole district was there," Bizimana said.

    "The people who died in this very area -- I knew all of them because they were our neighbors." Video Watch Bizimana describe how he killed Tutsis »

    He places blame squarely on the extremist Hutu government at the time and on vile radio broadcasts that urged on the killers during the 100-day slaughter.

    "They were giving instructions all the time that was from the government, and so we thought it as the right thing because we were getting this instruction from the government," Bizimana said.

    He showed where he and a Hutu mob had killed 25 people, including members of Mukantabana's family, a few yards from where he had just shared lunch with her. "We used machetes, hoes and wooden clubs," he told CNN.

    Mukantabana admits that it was difficult to forgive. She said she did not speak to Bizimana or his wife for four years after the killings. What put her on the road to healing, she said, was the gacaca process.

    "It has not just helped me, it has helped all Rwandans because someone comes and accepts what he did and he asks for forgiveness from the whole community, from all Rwandans," she said.

    Bizimana said he did just that.

    "You go in front of the people like we are standing here and ask for forgiveness," he said.

    But despite his confession and apology, Iphigenia said, reconciliation would not have happened unless she had decided to open her heart and accept his pleas.

    "I am a Christian, and I pray a lot," she said, the pain etched in the lines on her face and around her sad eyes.

    But the basket business also played a key role in forging forgiveness and reconciliation after the horror.

    "We knew how to weave baskets," Mukantabana explained. "It helped unite Rwandans in this area because they accepted me as the master weaver, and I could not say, 'I am not taking your basket' or 'I am not helping you because you did something bad to me.' " Photo See photos of the women who have learned to forgive »

    Macy's sold the first "peace baskets" in 2005, and officials say the deal generates between $300,000 and $400,000 a year. A Rwandan weaver can earn about $14 per week -- a king's ransom in a country where so many live on less than $1 per week.

    The international project is a far cry from 1994, when the United States, Europe, the United Nations and the rest of the world turned away while the genocide went unchecked in Rwanda.

    "They didn't care; they were totally indifferent," Rwandan President Paul Kagame told CNN in his office in Kigali.

    He said the world thought Rwanda "was just another bloody African situation where people just kill each other and that's it." Video Watch Kagame explain why he sought reconciliation »

    Today, Rwanda is an African success story. It has one of the fastest economic growth rates in the region, one of the lowest crime rates and the lowest rate of HIV-AIDS. About one-third of Rwanda's cabinet are female ministers, and 48 percent of parliamentarians are women -- the highest anywhere in the world, according to the United Nations.

    The country is clean because of a mandatory policy that sees even government ministers participate in clean-up once a month. Plastic bags are banned. The international business community praises Rwanda's good governance and the absence of official corruption or graft.

    Kagame is credited not just with turning Rwanda around, but with being the driving force behind rejecting revenge.

    "We were in danger of having another genocide," he said.

    "People were so badly aggrieved they could easily have turned on those they thought were responsible for this and actually killed them in another wave of killings. But that did not happen," he said. "We said building a nation is the most important thing."

    Now no one talks about Hutus or Tutsis, he explained. "There is Rwanda, there are Rwandans, and the common interest we have for a better future for this country is more important than any other interest."

    In Gitarama, Bizimana said, "It hurts my heart to see that I did something wrong to friends of my family, to people who we even shared meals with," he said. "I am still asking for forgiveness from the people I hurt."

    Amazingly, many seem to have forgiven.
    Woman opens heart to man who slaughtered her family - CNN.com
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    What working moms miss and wish for - CNN.com

    How to make it work

    Although raising children while holding a job outside of the home will always be a challenge, here are some steps you can take ease the pressure of being a working mom.

    1. Incorporate telecommuting into your workday. Many companies allow their employees to work from home one or more days per week, which is an easy way for you to spend more time in the morning and afternoon with your children rather than in standstill traffic.

    Check with your human resources department and employee manual to see if telecommuting is an option. Of course, to telecommute you should be self-disciplined and able to get your work done even though the boss isn't leaning over your shoulder.

    2. Use one calendar for all appointments. If you have a conference scheduled for Monday morning, you're not going to be late to work. If your daughter has a soccer game Wednesday night, will you have the same determination to be there on time?

    Putting all of your appointments -- whether they involve the office or the family -- on one calendar makes it easier to avoid schedule conflicts and missing personal appointments. You'll also be able to notice if you're spending more time on work than on family with a quick glance at the calendar.

    3. Make your family a priority. Although your family is the most important thing in your life, you might forget to show it. Devote your weekends and any free weekday evenings to family activities. Even if you can't plan a mid-week activity, make a quick phone call to your children to see how their school day went.

    4. Take it easy. Work can become so hectic that you forget that you actually do like your job and the people around you. Leave some free time to relax and regroup between meetings so you don't stay in a constant state of stress.

    You'll be able to appreciate what you do and whom you work with. Also, keep evenings and weekends free of projects so you can rest and be completely recharged when you head back to the office.

    5. Let others do their share. Make sure you're letting the people around you take on some responsibility. You might be tempted to do everything yourself, but you'll only stress yourself out. If you're a manager, delegating responsibility will ease your workload and allow your staff to develop their skills.
    What working moms miss and wish for - CNN.com
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    China's government gives rare transparent look at disaster - CNN.com

    BEIJING, China (CNN) -- Graphic footage of death and destruction has been shown on China's state-run news networks in the days following the massive earthquake that hit southwest Sichuan province earlier this week.


    Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao holds the hand of a victim at Jiuzho Indoor Stadium in Mianyang.

    Such telling video has rarely been shown by domestic media so extensively and so quickly after a national disaster.

    CCTV, China's state-run television network, as well as some local TV stations, have interrupted their regular programming to provide 24-hour coverage of the disaster.

    Field reporters give live reports of search-and rescue operations. News about China's deadly earthquake is being updated around the clock -- tallying death tolls, the horrendous damage and the government's swift response.

    Footage shows Premier Wen Jiabao surrounded by grieving villagers, his arms tightly holding two young girls.

    "Your sorrow is our sorrow," he assures them. "As long as people are still alive, we can start all over again."

    Premier Wen traveled to the disaster areas within hours of the massive earthquake. Chinese television covered his movements while leading rescue operations and comforting people in distress. Wearing a hard hat, he was shown standing on rubble and consoling trapped survivors through a loud speaker. The message is compelling: This disaster is terrible but the government is doing everything it can.

    Such swift reaction and extensive news coverage has not been seen in previous disasters. When the Great Tangshan earthquake struck 32 years ago, the Chinese media kept the information secret for a long time, even though over 240,000 people were killed. In the early stages of the 2003 SARS outbreak, domestic media downplayed reports on the deadly epidemic, even as it spiraled out of control and spread globally.

    More recently, severe snowstorms hit southern China during Spring Festival, the nation's most important holiday. Local media initially downplayed the crisis, following the government's cue; Premier Wen Jiabao was later forced to apologize for the government's slow response.

    With the Beijing Olympics just three months away, China is in the spotlight.

    Wenran Jiang, acting director of the Chinese Institute at the University of Alberta, believes the nation has drawn lessons from its past experiences with disaster. "China made mistakes before. They seemed to have learned their lessons from the earlier episodes and this one -- they probably want to manage it as well as they can." Video Watch latest report on rescue efforts »

    Why China's new approach? Jiang notes that "the media follow-up is quite transparent," in part because it "is politically less sensitive covering such a natural disaster." Besides, Chinese officials see tangible benefits in allowing media transparency. By showing the leaders helping people and coordinating search and rescue efforts, he explains, "the result is that the whole [of] China is being mobilized. The disaster has now become a rallying point of the country."

    Experts in the region note the stark contrast between China's open response in the aftermath of the earthquake and Myanmar's defensive, clumsy response in the aftermath of a deadly cyclone earlier this month. Unlike its southern neighbor, China appears open to accepting international help and providing accurate information.


    Chinese officials say they welcome offers of sympathy and international assistance. Aid groups have been on standby, ready to help as soon as the Chinese government gives the green light. Officials say that will come "when the time is ripe."

    Today's more open, quick and aggressive reporting is a stark departure from China's poor performance in recent years.
    China's government gives rare transparent look at disaster - CNN.com
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    Girl's twin found inside her stomach - CNN.com

    ATHENS, Greece (AP) -- A nine-year-old girl who went to hospital suffering from stomach pains was found to be carrying her embryonic twin, doctors in central Greece said Thursday.

    Doctors at Larissa General Hospital examined the girl and surgically removed a growth they later discovered was an embryo about six centimeters (more than two inches) long.

    "They could see on the right side that her belly was swollen, but they couldn't suspect that this tumor would hide an embryo," hospital director Iakovos Brouskelis said.

    The girl has made a full recovery, he said.

    Andreas Markou, head of the hospital's pediatric department, said the embryo was a formed fetus with a head, hair and eyes, but no brain or umbilical cord.

    Markou said cases where one of a set of twins absorbs the other in the womb occur in one of 500,000 live births.

    The girl's family did not want to be identified, hospital officials said.
    Girl's twin found inside her stomach - CNN.com
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    Couple, now exes, to admit jet-set ID theft scam - CNN.com

    PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania (AP) -- Presumably, she didn't fleece Prince Charles. But a couple of young jet-setters plan to admit in court that other people who crossed their paths unwittingly financed their luxury lifestyle.


    Jocely Kirsch and Edward Anderton's alledged fraud scheme paid for jaunts to Paris, London and Hawaii.

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    A lawyer for Jocelyn Kirsch, 22, said she and her now-ex-boyfriend have signed federal plea agreements that probably will send them to prison for several years for ID theft and other crimes.

    Since her arrest, Kirsch's friends and classmates at Drexel University have portrayed her as a serial liar who even masked her identity when she met the heir to the British throne at a student forum in Philadelphia last year; in a favorite myth, she told him she was Lithuanian.

    When Kirsch and Edward K. Anderton, 25, were arrested in December, photos found on a laptop in their $3,000-a-month apartment showed the couple smooching under the Eiffel Tower, riding horseback on a beach and flaunting skimpy red swimsuits by a swanky hotel pool.

    They stole credit-card and bank-account information from friends, co-workers and neighbors to finance lavish purchases and travel, prosecutors said.

    They were arrested when they claimed a package at a local UPS store under a neighbor's ID. The package contained lingerie from a British retailer.

    "They were just so arrogant," Philadelphia Detective Terry Sweeney, the lead investigator, said Monday. "When you start committing ID theft around the corner from where you live, it's going to come back to haunt you."

    Anderton, who graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 2005 with an economics degree, also set up eBay accounts with stolen identities to buy and sell nonexistent goods, authorities said. That scheme alone netted $33,000, U.S. Attorney Patrick Meehan said.

    State charges against the pair were dismissed as federal charges were filed Monday by way of an information, which often indicates a defendant's cooperation.

    Kirsch's lawyer, Ronald Greenblatt, said his client signed an agreement to plead guilty to two counts of aggravated identity theft, money laundering, bank fraud and other charges. The sentencing guideline range is about five years.

    Anderton also signed a plea deal, Greenblatt said. Anderton's lawyer, Larry Krasner, did not return calls for comment.

    Kirsch is living with her mother in Novato, California, and Anderton, who had a $60,000-a-year starter job in real-estate finance, is back home with his family in Everett, Washin gton.

    "She's supposed to be graduating college now, and instead she's going to be going down to federal court in a few weeks and entering a plea," Greenblatt said.
    Couple, now exes, to admit jet-set ID theft scam - CNN.com
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    Mom indicted in deadly MySpace hoax - CNN.com

    LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- A Missouri mom was indicted Thursday for her alleged role in the death of a teen who killed herself over a failed Internet romance that turned out to be a hoax.


    Megan Meier, 13, hanged herself in her bedroom after being targeted in a MySpace hoax.

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    A federal indictment accuses Lori Drew, 49, of O'Fallon, Missouri, of using the social networking Web site MySpace.com to pose as a 16-year-old boy and feign romantic interest in the girl.

    The girl, Megan Meier, committed suicide after her online love interest spurned her, according to prosecutors, telling her the world would be a better place without her.

    Drew faces up to 20 years in prison on charges of conspiracy and accessing protected computers to obtain information to inflict emotional distress.

    The indictment, which was filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, accuses Drew and others of registering on MySpace as "Josh Evans" and using the account to lure Meier into an an online romance.

    Authorities have previously said that Drew set up the account to find out what Meier, who lived in her neighborhood, was saying about her daughter.

    Prosecutors allege that Drew and the others violated MySpace's terms of service by using false information to create the account so they could "harass, abuse or harm" Meier, according to the indictment.

    The two corresponded for about four weeks before "Josh" broke off the relationship, authorities said. Within an hour, Meier hanged herself in her room and died the next day.

    The indictment does not allege that Drew sent the final message telling Meier the world would be a better place without her. Instead, it blames her unnamed co-conspirators, who authorities have previously said include a teenage girl.

    After Drew learned of the teen's suicide, the indictment alleges, she directed one of the teens involved to "keep her mouth shut" and deleted the account.

    Meier's mother, Tina Meier, told CNN in November that her daughter had self-esteem issues and had struggled with depression since childhood.

    She said when her daughter began receiving messages from "Josh" telling her she was pretty, she was thrilled.

    When "Josh" broke off the relationship, Tina Meier said, her daughter was devastated.

    "She was looking for me to help calm herself down like I always did and be there for her. And I was upset because I didn't like the language she was using, and I was angry she didn't sign off when I told her to," Tina Meier told CNN. Video Watch Tina Meier's reaction to the charges »

    "She said to me, 'You're supposed to be my mom, you're supposed to be on my side,' and then took off running upstairs," Tina Meier said.

    Tina Meier found her daughter hanging by a belt shortly afterward.

    "It's as if my daughter killed herself with a gun," Meier's father, Ron, told CNN. "And it's as if they loaded the gun for her."

    Drew is scheduled for arraignment in June.

    "This adult woman allegedly used the Internet to target a young teenage girl, with horrendous ramifications," U.S. Attorney Thomas P. O'Brien said in a written statement.

    "Any adult who uses the Internet or a social gathering Web site to bully or harass another person, particularly a young teenage girl, needs to realize that their actions can have serious consequences," O'Brien said.


    In December, Missouri prosecutors declined to file charges against Drew, saying there was no law under which she could be charged.

    "There is no way that anybody could know that talking to someone or saying that you're mean to your friends on the Internet would create a substantial risk," St. Charles County Prosecutor Jack Banas said. "Under the law, we just couldn't show that."
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    Teen alleging rape turns to YouTube - CNN.com

    (CNN) -- The video is hard to turn away from. A sobbing 16-year-old sits in her bedroom and, staring into a camera, says she has been raped.


    Crystal, 16, of Florida posted a video on YouTube pleading for help after she allegedly was raped.

    "Hi, my name is Crystal. ... I need some help. I didn't want to do it this way, but it's the only way I know that's going to work, that someone out there in the world is gonna listen to me."

    The teen, whom CNN interviewed but is not identifying by her last name, is among dozens of young people who are turning to social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace to talk about sexual assault.

    For an online generation, the Web offers what traditional counseling does not. It's a chance to communicate without having to face someone or fear their judgment. Some people are seeking legal advice and medical information, and many younger victims believe that they can warn others about their accused attacker, counselors say.

    There also are people like Crystal, whose case was dropped by the Orange County, Florida, state attorney's office, who feel slighted by the justice system.

    "Young victims, particularly girls, turn inward. They are going to reach out and try to connect in the isolation of their dorm room or their bedrooms," said Jennifer Dritt, the director of the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence. "Most young women feel like they want somebody to know that someone did this to them."

    One in four American women under the age of 25 report that they have been sexually assaulted, according to the nation's largest rape crisis counseling organization, RAINN, the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.

    "We noticed that this trend of posting details of an attack really picked up speed a few years ago," said Scott Berkowitz, RAINN's founder and president. "A rape survivor's intention may be to reach out, and we encourage that, but this is a dangerous way to do it."

    Advocates worry that victims are divulging too much information. CNN found several Facebook and MySpace profiles on which young people say they have been raped. The postings include their names, photographs and hometowns. But Crystal is probably one of the few who have gone so far as to post a plea for help on YouTube.

    Because anything posted on the Web is available forever through an Internet search, a rape survivor must consider how they would feel if that information were dredged up in the future, counselors said. By making themselves -- or their IP address -- available, victims open themselves to unreliable and unprofessional advice and the harsh judgment of their peers.

    Perhaps worst of all, they could give their perpetrator a chance to find them again or gain more satisfaction.

    In April, RAINN teamed with online security company McAfee Inc. and launched an anonymous and secure chat service where assault survivors can communicate with trained professionals. IP addresses are not tracked and transcripts of conversations -- which look like instant message boxes -- are not recorded. The service has helped more than 10,000 people, Berkowitz said. Go to RAINN's Web hotline

    But counselors said survivors are going to look wherever they can to find help and comfort, particularly when they don't get it through the court system.

    Fewer than 5 percent of reported cases in Florida make it to a prosecutor's office, Dritt said. Whether because of lack of forensic evidence or because many are he said/she said accounts, rape cases can be very difficult to try.

    "What you hear from every rape crisis center from Pensacola to Key West is that there are hardly ever any prosecutions," she said. "Most sexual violence is acquaintance rape, and unfortunately, a lot of juries still think that if a victim had a relationship with their attacker, then they cannot be raped by that person."

    Stacy, 25, worried about that when she was raped by a man she knew as a friend in 2001 while attending Ohio State University. Although she has spoken publicly numerous times about her experience, CNN is not using her last name in keeping with its policy of not identifying sexual assault victims.

    As is typical of younger survivors, Stacy spent the days and weeks after her assault struggling to assure her friends and family that she was OK. She reported the assault to university authorities, but her attacker continued to go to class. She grew increasingly depressed and anxious. Her grades plummeted, and she gained weight.

    "I thought that people who had never been assaulted would never understand. I thought I had no one to talk to, but then I realized, I had the Internet," she said. "Sometimes, talking to people who were not close to me was refreshing because there was no judgment to face. If you talk to someone online, there's no judgment, right? How can they judge you when they don't even know you?"

    She began instant messaging in chat rooms but quickly realized that many people who initially seemed sympathetic were only pretending.

    "The next thing you know, they are making it seem like they are turned on. They were asking me for details of my rape. It was very disturbing," she said. "I had to block several people. After that, I thought the worst of the world. I thought everyone was a perpetrator, and I trusted no one."

    After years of face-to-face therapy, Stacy began to heal and feel more confident. She partly credits RAINN, which she found via an Internet search, for helping her recover. Other female students came forward to say they, too, had been assaulted by her attacker. He was expelled from the university and pleaded guilty to a lesser charge -- sexual imposition, a misdemeanor -- and was placed on probation.

    Stacy watched Crystal's video.

    "That's just heartbreaking," she said. "I feel really sad for her because no one seems to have explained that the justice system isn't always going to help. I understand why she's outraged. That's exactly how I felt, too."

    Orange County authorities charged the 23-year-old man Crystal accused of assaulting her with lewd or lascivious battery. According to court documents, Crystal and the man both said they had an ongoing sexual relationship.

    The prosecutor, who declined to comment to CNN, concluded that the teen and the 23-year-old had consensual sex, according to the case file.

    Florida law states that a 15-year-old cannot give consent to sex. And though Crystal was 15 at the time of the alleged forced encounter, the prosecutor wrote that the case would not be prosecuted because Crystal was "a mere 1 month away" from turning 16, when it would be "legal to give consent," according to documents.

    A spokeswoman for the Orange County state attorney's office declined to comment further.

    Stacy had some advice for Crystal: Get counseling and keep talking.

    "You're not always going to get what you want from the court system," she said. "So you've got to think about yourself, figure out who you are and realize that you're stronger than what he did to you."
    Teen alleging rape turns to YouTube - CNN.com
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    China aftermath: Total chaos, small miracles - CNN.com

    (CNN) -- iReporter Ben Geisler rode his motorcycle into some of the areas hardest hit in Monday's earthquake.


    A girl finds some ice cream that's still frozen on Wednesday in a village near Qingchengshan.

    Geisler said he was able to get within about 15 miles (25 kilometers) of the quake's epicenter Wednesday, but some areas are still accessible only by air.

    He said it took several hours to make the 25-mile (40 kilometer) trip from Chengdu to Dujiangyan because of the "mass exodus" of people in cars and on motorcycles, on bicycles and on foot, carrying everything they had left from their shattered cities and towns.

    "I'm fortunate to have a motorcycle and be able to navigate between lanes of traffic, use access roads, ride the wrong direction down one way roads just to get into an area that everyone's trying to get out of," he said.

    Geisler was on the 17th floor of a Chengdu office building when the quake struck and said he "could feel the marble tiles on the walls cracking underneath my hands." Video Watch Geisler describe riding out the quake »

    The Idaho Falls, Idaho, native is the operations manager for an international relocation company and works as an English-language broadcaster for Chinese media.iReport.com: Are you there? Send your photos and videos

    He described the dramatic journey in an e-mail to CNN, which is reprinted below:

    I left the city today to get a better idea of the situation. I rode out of Chengdu toward Dujiangyan.

    Almost all traffic was headed out of the city, lanes clogged. Filling stations that were still open had lines that extended for blocks. Nearer the center, the extent of the destruction was obvious.

    I came into Dujiangyan off of an access road, all of the roads leading to and away from the expressway were completely blocked by traffic, military vehicles, mobile aid stations.

    Choppers were touching constantly to deliver supplies. I made my way farther in -- total chaos.

    The extent is unbelievable. Some buildings leveled, others undamaged. People everywhere, living everywhere, crying.

    Refugee-type camps set up amid the red cross tents, enormous piles of rubble, garbage etc. Half-destroyed buildings everywhere, some shifting.

    Dozens of cranes, dozers, backhoes, etc. picking through the rubble, unburied bodies in the street.

    Others coming out of the wreckage continually, some survivors, some worse. Field hospitals occupy several open areas.

    Fortunately, the rain has stopped for now, there are fears that the sun and the cooler temperatures at night will complicate the situation by causing dehydration and hypothermia.

    The military seems to be making progress. I saw several hundred rescue workers deployed, marching military-style in orange jumpsuits.

    I tried to get deeper into the zone, but was stopped in a village above Dujiangyan.

    Road marginally passable. Old wooden construction all flattened especially buildings built on the hillsides. Boulders partially blocking the road.

    A continuous stream of people, with whatever they could salvage, walking toward the camps; sense of community the only armor against the night.

    Large-scale aid does not seem to have reached the villages.

    I turned back to Dujiangyan and worked my way around Qingchengshan.

    Not as damaged there, but much the same situation as Dujiangyan. People everywhere, short on supplies of food, water, blankets, first aid. The far side of Qingchengshan was less damaged. I talked with locals for an hour who said the only aid received so far is water and rice. No power, no gas, no running water, no telephone.


    The quake has destroyed everything they own.

    Only upside was a girl discovered a freezer with ice cream that had not thawed. Small miracle.
    China aftermath: Total chaos, small miracles - CNN.com
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    911 dispatcher gets pink slip after cursing caller - CNN.com

    NASHVILLE, Tennessee (AP) -- A Nashville, Tennessee, 911 operator has been fired after he was recorded saying that he didn't "give a s---" about what happened to a woman who had just called to report her ex-boyfriend was threatening her.

    Emergency Communications Center spokeswoman Amanda Sluss said Wednesday that Frank Roth was in training during the February incident and was fired a month later.

    Roth made the comments after promising police would arrive soon for a woman who called saying her ex-boyfriend held her at knifepoint and later was threatening her.

    After hanging up with her but while still being recorded, he said, "I really don't give a s--- what happens to you."

    Sluss says the incident is not reflective of how 911 operators treat callers and that "a series of errors" led to the delay in response to Sheila Jones.

    "Certainly this particular caller didn't receive the service she deserved," Sluss said. "This is not indicative of how our employees treat citizens. It's not something that should have been said. It's not what we train our employees to do."

    It took police three hours to reach the scene after the first call.

    Nashville TV station WTVF first reported the story after one of its reporters obtained the 911 recording.
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    Five common ticketing errors -- and how to avoid them - CNN.com

    (Tribune Media Services) -- As far as mistakes go, the one Janet Gordon recently made didn't seem like a big deal. She booked an airline ticket from Toronto to London under the name "Jan."

    But what happened next could only be summed up in one word -- "chaos" -- says her husband, David.

    "It was a major hassle," remembers Gordon, a human resources director for a college in Swansea, England. At almost every turn, the couple had to explain why the name on Jan's ticket didn't match her passport. "The computers wouldn't allow us to check in and issue a boarding card," he says.

    In a business where slip-ups are almost as common as surcharges, the wrong-name-on-my-ticket error is a standout. You don't have to look far for ticketing mistakes in an age of do-it-yourself booking. Take it from me: not only do I write the Travel Troubleshooter column, a question-and-answer feature that helps people solve real-world problems, but I'm also an expert on errors.

    I'll get to my own shortcomings in a minute. But right now, let's review the five biggest booking blunders -- and how they could have been prevented:

    Wrong name on my ticket

    Before 9/11, airlines and security personnel -- and I use the term "security personnel" loosely -- might have let a nickname or even a maiden name on a ticket slide. No longer. If you have the wrong name on your ticket, you're probably grounded. And there are two reasons for this: security and greed.

    The Transportation Security Administration wants to be sure the same person who bought the ticket, and who was screened, is boarding the plane. But when there's an inexact match, the airline can either charge a $100 "change" fee or force you to buy a new ticket. In an industry where every dollar counts, the exact-name rule is the government's gift to cash-starved air carriers.

    That's the situation Gordon was confronted with, even when it was obvious that "Jan" and "Janet" were one and the same. There were suggestions that a new ticket might need to be purchased. "We didn't let it get to that," he recalls. Instead, he asked to speak with a supervisor who could finally fix the codes so that the ticket and passport matched up. How did all of this happen in the first place? Turns out Jan Gordon had signed up for a frequent flier account under her informal name, so when she booked an award ticket, it also used her informal -- and inaccurate -- name.

    How to avoid it? Triple-check the name on your ticket. Make sure your computer doesn't autofill another name and that the name on your passport or driver's license matches up with your ticket.

    Booking a ticket on the wrong airline

    Believe it or not, people board the wrong flight every day. I'm not even talking about codeshare flights, which is industry-speak for booking a ticket on one airline but then flying on a "partner" airline with different rules and maybe lower service standards. I'm talking about simply making the wrong choice of airline.

    For example, the elite-level business traveler who is accustomed to being treated like royalty when he flies on his preferred carrier might want to stay away from a budget airline. "I gave Southwest a try and I hated it," they'll write to me. "I'm never flying with them again." Of course not. If you don't like flight attendants with a sense of humor, peanut snacks and on-time flights, you'll probably hate Southwest, too. On the flip side, I hear from travelers who book tickets on full-service network airlines and then complain about the price. Which is silly. How else do you think an airline is going to pay for all of that service?

    How to avoid it? Watch for the codeshare designation when you book online and do a little research before buying an airline ticket. That way, your expectations won't be too high. Or too low. Also, consider using an experienced travel agent.

    The city switcheroo

    Selecting the wrong city pairs -- going from point 'B' to point 'A' instead of from 'A' to 'B' -- is another common error. Jennifer Hyde bought four tickets on Delta Air Lines through Orbitz. But instead of booking them from Boston to Baltimore she inadvertently switched cities, rendering the tickets completely useless. "Needless to say, neither Orbitz nor Delta is doing anything to help," she says. Hyde, a homemaker from Newton, Massachusetts, would have to pay a change fee for each ticket, plus any fare differential, to make things right. Not good.

    How could someone switch cities? It's easy. To an inexperienced Web user -- and OK, let's be completely honest here, even to some experienced users -- those pull-down menus on travel sites can be utterly confusing. When you're typing in airport city codes like BWI and BOS, it's easy to forget which airport goes where. (But it could be worse -- Hyde might have ended up with a ticket to the familiar-looking BAL city code, which would have taken her to Batman, Turkey.) Point is, if you're not paying attention, or if you're dyslexic, you could click "accept" all the way through the reservation process and you wouldn't know you messed up until it was too late.

    How to avoid it? Pay attention! If you're easily distracted maybe you should be working with a qualified travel agent instead of booking yourself. And read your confirmation immediately. If you spot a mistake, your agent might be able to undo it at no charge.

    Buying a ticket that's too restrictive

    Booking the wrong kind of ticket is yet another common error. Airline sites often assume you want to purchase the cheapest and most restrictive fare, so that's the first quote you're usually offered. The pricier, fully refundable tickets are buried deeper in the site, which is too bad. For air travelers whose plans might change, these are the best selections.

    Why should you pay more for a ticket? Because if your plans change and you're holding a nonrefundable ticket, it will be practically worthless. Every day I field a question from an air traveler who would have benefited from this advice. They ask the airline to make exceptions to its refundability rules. They make up excuses. They throw tantrums. It almost never works.

    How to avoid it? If you can't buy the right ticket, at least buy the right insurance policy. It might protect you if you change plans.

    Wrong date

    Like the wrong city switcheroo, the wrong date problem is an epidemic among air travelers. Part of the reason is simple absentmindedness: choosing the sixth month instead of the seventh month and then not reading the subsequent screens.

    But part of the reason is that airline Web sites are anything but user-friendly. Reader Nancy Smythe wrote to me recently about her flight from West Palm Beach, Florida, to London, which she booked directly online through the airline. It turns out the carrier had sold her a ticket it couldn't deliver -- her connection times were too short. So it agreed to rebook her on a later flight. But when it sent her the new ticket, it had the wrong date on it. When she pointed out the mistake, she was asked to pay a change fee. "This wasn't my error," she says. So why should she pay for it? Smythe's experience reveals the maddening secret of ticketing mistakes. The airline will try to make you pay for an error -- even if it's not yours.

    How to avoid it? Wake up and read the screen! No, seriously. This can usually be avoided by just reviewing your itinerary before you click the "book" button.

    So look out for wrong names, wrong airlines, wrong cities, wrong dates and wrong expectations. Easy for me to say, right?


    I've made every mistake in the book -- and then some -- when it comes to travel. All of the above errors are on my record. And let me also add that my mistakes aren't limited to travel. I have some big-time screw-ups to my name that extend into my professional and personal life. Hey, don't we all?

    But as I look at the subject of mistakes in general, and ticketing mistakes in particular, I'm not worried about the ones we make once and learn from and are unlikely to repeat.

    It's the ones that we make over and over for no other reason than that we're just easily manipulated -- those are the screw-ups that infuriate me.

    Five common ticketing errors -- and how to avoid them - CNN.com
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