Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Bar Refaeli: I Got Groped by Lesbian Security Worker

bar-refaeli-mtv-europe-music-awards-2011-01 Supermodel Bar Refaeli is the latest celebrity who complains of a too thorough security check at the airport. On Twitter, the ex girlfriend of actor Leonardo DiCaprio shared the unpleasant encounter with a female airport security worker in London.

Refaeli tweeted, "I got a security 'patdown' by a woman at the airport that made me feel very uncomfortable and left no doubt about her sexual preferences." She did not go into further details.

Refaeli spent the weekend in the English capital, hitting tourist spots and nightclubs. She took a ride on the London Eye, toured around the city in a bus and visited the Arts Club on Dover street among others.

The 26-year-old model is not the only celebrity to feel violated at the airport. Cheryl Burke tweeted last year that one TSA agent went far on body search. "I think I may have just gotten f*ngered by a TSA agent!! Wow!" she wrote.


Cuba's motorcycle culture roaring back to life

120417010737-harley-davidson-cuba-3-story-top Decades navigating the roads in Cuba have left deep scars on Sergio Morales' jet black 1947 Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

The Harley's frame is a battlefield of craters and gashes. The frozen odometer stopped counting at 45,000 kilometers. In Cuba, where little is in abundance save shortages, Morales uses a car wheel for his motorcycle's back tire.

But when Morales kick-starts the Harley, its engine roars to full-throated life.

Morales is a "harlista," what Cubans call the small band of men and women who have preserved the island's motorcycle culture.

That hasn't been an easy task in a country where a five-decades-old U.S. economic embargo makes getting new parts -- much less bikes -- near impossible.

"It's work. You have to have spirit, desire," Morales said. "There's nowhere to buy spare parts here so over the years we have had to find alternative fixes or invent our own."

And being a Harley fanatic courted controversy in the early years of the Cuban revolution when everything American, from jazz music to rock 'n' roll, was considered suspect. It also didn't help that Harleys were the motorcycle of choice for police during the Batista dictatorship.

But now the iconic American bikes are enjoying something of a comeback.

Over the weekend, Morales was one of about 50 harlistas to participate in Cuba's first ever nationwide Harley-Davidson rally in the beach resort town of Varadero.

"It's an opportunity for us to celebrate not just the Harley but the Cuban Harley," Morales said. "And in one of the prettiest places with the best beaches in the country."

The sight of the motley crew of black leather-sporting motorcyclists pulling into a seaside town seemed like a scene straight out of the classic Marlon Brando film "The Wild One," where a band of bikers terrorize a small community.

But in Varadero it was the bikers who were beset upon by admiring locals and tourists. One family of American tourists said they had changed their travel plans to come from Mexico to Cuba for a few days after learning about the event.

"We are here to give these guys a hand; it's lot of work to keep their bikes running," said event organizer Kristen MacQueen.

Cuban Harley aficionados are unique, MacQueen said, because their vintage bikes are not just for show.

"A lot of the people use them in their everyday life to get around," MacQueen said. "For some people here, it's their only form of transportation."

The bikes lined up at the Varadero rally were a mix of Harleys from the decades leading up to Cuba's 1959 revolution. Some Harleys were adorned with the face of revolutionary icon Che Guevara, others with American eagles.

In between demonstrating their agility in biking competitions, the harlistas checked out one another's rides and explained to tourists how they keep them running.

Even with foreigners bringing in replacement parts from the outside, keeping the Harleys running is no small feat. Many of the bikes used parts cannibalized from Asian and old Soviet bikes and cars. Some Harlistas are legendary in the community for hand-making the parts they need.

But however challenging, none of the Cuban Harley fanatics says they plan to abandon their passion any time soon.

"You get to a point where the Harley becomes part of your family," Cuban Harley owner Yuri Garcia said. "You become inseparable. If you sold it, you'd never find another bike like it."


India set to test its long-distance missile

India plans the maiden test flight this week of its longest-range nuclear-capable missile, which can travel more than 5,000 kilometers (3,100 miles), military officials said.

The Agni V rocket could be launched between Wednesday and Friday, said Ravi Gupta, the spokesman for the country's Defense Research and Development Organization.

"It's the most advanced missile so far," he said.

In November, India successfully tested the fourth version of Agni, meaning "fire" in Hindi, with a range of 3,500 km. Built years earlier, Agni I could travel 700 km, according to Indian defense authorities.

India says that it pursues no aggressive designs and that its military program is based on building a credible minimum deterrent with a "no-first-use" policy.

"Our missiles are purely for deterrence," said Gupta.

The flight of Agni V would be a significant move to demonstrate India's technological competence, said Uday Bhaskar, a strategic expert.

But the home-grown missile, he said, would undergo several tests more before it becomes fully operational.

"Yet, the first test of Agni V will enhance India's technological profile," he said.

A successful experiment, Bhaskar said, would bring India closer to the group of nations capable of building intercontinental missiles. Currently, the five permanent member nations of the U.N. Security Council are thought to have developed such technology, he said.


China Joins World Powers in Strong Warning to North Korea

China has joined other world powers in warning North Korea that they will not tolerate any more provocations after the isolated nation's failed rocket launch last week.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said late Monday in Brasilia that the U.N. Security Council members, including China, are agreed there will be "further consequences" in the event of another provocative act by North Korea. Recent satellite photographs show Pyongyang may be preparing for an underground nuclear test.

China's state-controlled media are also showing signs of frustration with Pyongyang, noting that China took "a clear attitude in condemning" its longtime ally when it backed a U.N. Security Council statement criticizing the rocket launch.

China's Communist Party-controlled Global Times newspaper said Tuesday that Pyongyang should not be misled into thinking it can ignore Beijing's wishes with impunity. The paper said North Korea will "pay the price if it tries to abduct China's North Korea policy."

In its unanimous statement Monday, the Security Council condemned Friday's rocket launch as a "serious violation" of existing U.N. resolutions, and ordered its sanctions committee to tighten measures aimed at preventing North Korea from developing and exporting nuclear and missile technology. The statement said the council will respond accordingly to any further provocations.

Pyongyang had announced the failed launch as an effort to put a weather satellite into orbit, but the United States and other countries condemned it as a covert attempt to test a ballistic missile that could later be used to fire a nuclear warhead. Existing U.N. resolutions bar it from any use of ballistic missile technology.

Japanese media reported Tuesday that Pyongyang has also withdrawn an invitation for International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors to visit its facilities in retaliation for the U.S. cancelation of a food aid package.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice, who heads the Security Council this month, said in New York Monday that the failed space shot had caused "grave security concerns" across much of East Asia.

"The swift and unanimous adoption of this strong presidential statement shows that the international community is united in sending a clear message to North Korea that such provocations are serious and totally unacceptable.  Critically, the Security Council made clear there will be consequences for any further North Korean launch or nuclear test," she said. "If North Korea chooses again to defy the international community, then the Council has expressed its determination to take action accordingly."

Hours later in Brasilia, Clinton stressed China's commitment to punishing any further provocations. China has long been North Korea's most reliable ally and is believed to have more influence over its behavior than any other country.

Several analysts have noted that two previous failed North Korean missile launches were shortly followed by underground nuclear tests. South Korean officials last week made available satellite photos of new activity at North Korea's nuclear test site.

However, Global Times quotes the dean of the Center for Korean Peninsula Studies at Tongji University in Shanghai as saying Pyongyang knows the consequences of another nuclear test would be much graver than in the past.

"The rocket launch has already cost the state roughly $850 million, enough to buy 2.5 million tons of corn," Cui Zhiying told the paper. "Does it have enough money to carry out another nuclear test? I seriously doubt it."

VOA News

Australia to withdraw troops from Afghanistan earlier than expected

walsh-australia-afghan-withdrawal-plan-00005622-story-top Australian troops could begin pulling out from Afghanistan in the coming months and may leave the country almost entirely by the end of next year, Prime Minister Julia Gillard said Tuesday.

It's the latest announcement of foreign troop drawdowns in Afghanistan, a trend that signals the coalition's confidence in the country's fighting forces and the transition to Afghan security control.

Australia's move would mean that most of the more than 1,500 Australian soldiers in Afghanistan could leave a year earlier than the government had previously suggested.

"We continue to see steady gains in the fight against the Afghan insurgency," Gillard said in a speech in Canberra, suggesting that the strategy of international forces in the country had led to "security gains over the past year and a half."

She highlighted the progress made by Afghan troops, notably in the southern province of Uruzgan, where most of the Australian forces are concentrated.

Gillard said she expected the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, to make an announcement in the coming months about beginning the process of putting Afghan troops in charge of security in Uruzgan and other provinces, a transition that should take 12 to 18 months.

"And when this is complete, Australia's commitment in Afghanistan will look very different to that we have today," she said, adding that "the majority of our troops will have returned home."

That timetable puts Australian forces on a quicker withdrawal timetable than Gillard had previously described. In a speech to parliament in November, she said that the transition in Uruzgan might well be completed before the end of 2014.

Australia has been among those nations that have contributed troops, supplies and other resources to the NATO-led military effort in Afghanistan, which began in the weeks after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Gillard made her remarks Tuesday ahead of a summit meeting in Chicago in May. At the meeting, the leaders of countries with troops in Afghanistan will make key decisions about the future of the international coalition's mission there.

Australia's 1,550 troops in Afghanistan are a fraction of the overall number of foreign troops deployed to keep a lid on the country's insurgency more than 10 years after allied airstrikes marked the start of Operation Enduring Freedom.

The number of Australian soldiers killed in the war stands at 32, according to a CNN count.

More than 130,000 troops from 50 countries are currently operating in Afghanistan, according to the International Security and Assistance Force.

The international force has been there since 2001, shortly after the al Qaeda attacks on the U.S. The campaign was launched to stop the Taliban from providing a safe haven for al Qaeda fighters and to stop the terror group's use of Afghanistan as a base for its future activities.

The United States is the biggest contributor, providing about 90,000 troops, followed by the United Kingdom (9,500), Germany (4,800) and France (3,600).

In June 2011, U.S. President Barack Obama announced that U.S. combat operations in Afghanistan would end by 2014. At that time, there were more than 100,000 U.S. troops in the country after a 30,000-strong troop "surge" in December 2009 to help bolster the campaign against the Taliban.

In February, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced that the United States hoped to end its combat mission in Afghanistan in 2013, transitioning primarily to a training role as Afghan forces take more responsibility for security.

France announced in February that it would begin an early drawdown, and its troops would be gone by 2013. Germany plans to pull out some troops next year, with the remainder leaving in 2014.

Britain plans to hand over its security operations to local forces by the end of 2013 before continuing in a "supporting role" from 2014.

Some countries have already pulled out. Canada, which once headed the ISAF mission, removed almost all of its 3,000 soldiers at the end of 2011. Norway also withdrew almost all of its 500 troops during this period.


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