Trio ejected after Aussie cyclist’s family abused

Three spectators were thrown out of the Olympic Velodrome, London police said Friday, after a stream of verbal abuse was directed at the family of Australian cyclist Kaarle McCulloch.

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The incident took place Thursday during the track cycling team sprint events. One of the ejected trio was arrested.

McCulloch, who has not commented on the matter, “shared a tear with her parents”, said a source close to the cyclist.

McCulloch and Anna Meares had been targeting a gold medal but had to settle for the bronze instead.

Cycling Australia confirmed that an incident took place and the police were involved.

The 24-year-old track star’s mother Karen McCulloch and her partner Ken Bates also declined to comment, regarding the incident as “an aberration”.

Witnesses said other spectators were appalled by the abuse and alerted security and the police.

“Three spectators were ejected — one of whom was arrested — for abusive behaviour at the Velodrome,” said a London 2012 spokeswoman.

“We won’t tolerate abusive behaviour in our venues.”

London’s Metropolitan Police said their officers helped staff eject three people from the Velodrome, “following a minor altercation with other spectators”.

The trio were two men aged 33 and 27 plus a 37-year-old woman. The police did not reveal their nationality.

The 33-year-old man was subsequently arrested under section five of the Public Order Act, which deals with words and conduct likely to cause fear of harassment, alarm or distress.

He was issued with a fixed penalty notice, meaning he must pay the stated amount or request a court hearing within a given time.

McCulloch has vowed to push on to the 2016 Games, believing she and Meares can take gold in Rio de Janiero.


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Largest hacking scam in US history uncovered

US authorities indicted five men on charges of running a global hacking operation that enabled them to steal the bank card numbers of more than 160 million people.

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Prosecutors in Newark, New Jersey described the scheme as the largest hacking and data breach case ever prosecuted in the United States.

According to the indictment, the men — four Russians and a Ukrainian — targeted major payment processors, retailers and financial institutions around the world over the course of seven years, resulting in hundreds of millions of dollars in losses.

The defendants were charged with attacks on, among others, NASDAQ, Visa Jordan, the Belgian bank Dexia, and Diners Singapore. Just three of the corporate victims have reported combined losses in excess of $300 million.

“This type of crime is the cutting edge,” New Jersey US Attorney Paul Fishman said.

“Those who have the expertise and the inclination to break into our computer networks threaten our economic well-being, our privacy and our national security.”

The defendants were named as Russians Vladimir Drinkman, Alexandr Kalinin, Roman Kotov and Dmitriy Smilianets, and Ukrainian Mikhail Rytikov.

Only Smilianets is currently in US custody. He was arrested in the Netherlands last year along with Drinkman and extradited. Drinkman is awaiting an extradition hearing in the Netherlands. The other three suspects are still at large.

US investigators have been on the trail of the hackers for at least four years with Kalinin and Drinkman having been identified as Hacker 1 and Hacker 2 in a 2009 indictment of Albert Gonzalez, who was subsequently convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison for accessing the confidential data of Heartland Payment Systems and other corporations in what was, until then, the biggest case of its kind.

The pair were described as specialists in penetrating network security and gaining access to the systems of major corporations. Moscow-based Kotov was said to be the expert in mining the networks his accomplices had opened up.

This involved installing malicious code, or malware, on compromised systems, enabling the harvesting of user names and passwords, means of identification and bank card numbers.

The US investigators regard the estimate of 160 million numbers obtained by the group as a conservative one.

The group was prepared to wait for months at a time for their efforts to break a particular company’s security.

Instant message chats between the defendants indicate they had malware implanted on some companies’ servers for over a year, according to investigators.

Rytikov, based in Odessa in the Ukraine, allegedly run the web-hosting services the hackers used to disguise their activities and Similianets, also a Muscovite, was said to be the person who sold on the information and shared the proceeds with the group.

A stolen American credit card number and the details needed to use it were said to be worth 10 dollars, a Canadian one $15 and a European one $50 to the identity theft wholesalers who bought the data.

They would then sell them on to individuals who could encode the data onto blank plastic cards and use them to buy goods or make cash withdrawals.

Kalinin was named Thursday in a separate indictment in New York which accuses him of hacking into computer servers used by the New York technology market NASDAQ.

He is also charged by the New York authorities with a scheme to steal bank account information from US financial institutions in partnership with another Russian hacker, Nikolay Nasenkov.


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Electric car boom an opportunity for lithium-rich Chile

Global demand for lithium is on the rise thanks to its use in electric car batteries.

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That could mean big business for Chile, which has near 23 per cent of the world’s reserves. A leftover dictatorship-era statute, however, threatens to stand in the way.

Traffic is still slow at the seven electric car charging stations that Chilectra, a local electricity provider, has set up around Santiago. But that will no doubt change, which is why the company is planning to install 20 more such stations – outside of hotels, office buildings and in residential developments.

“By 2020, at least 10% of the cars in major cities will be electric,” says Jean Paul Zalaquett, Chilectra’s innovation director.

What the owners of these cars don’t know is that the batteries used to store that electricity also contain a local product: lithium carbonate. According to studies carried out by the Chilean Copper Commission, a government agency, Chile has close to 23% of the world’s lithium reserves. Neighboring Argentina and Bolivia are also lithium-rich. Together the three countries boast more than half of the world’s reserves.

Right now, Chile produces close to 40% of the approximately 140,000 tons of lithium carbonate sold annually around the world. Overall, the global lithium industry is worth some $800 million. Thanks to an expected boom in electric cars, the industry is likely to grow rapidly in the coming years – with annual production tripling by 2030, according to projections by the consulting firm Signumbox.

“It has already grown by between 5% and 7% over the past decade, basically because of [electric] car batteries,” says Daniela Desormeaux, Signumbox’s general manager.

But Chile also faces a real risk of falling behind in an industry it has long led. In the late 1970s, the military government of Augusto Pinochet classified lithium as a “strategic material” because of its possible uses in nuclear fission. The classification has kept potential investors at arms length by prohibiting the state from negotiating lithium extraction concessions.

As a result, lithium mining has been limited in Chile to just one location – in the northern salt flats of the Atacama desert. Only two companies operate there: SQM, a Chilean firm that produces 24% of the world’s lithium; and Chemetall, a German company that accounts for 16% of global production. Both companies, whose concessions predate the restrictions, rent the desert land from the Chilean state.

Other countries with substantial lithium reserves are developing new mining projects at a much faster clip. Argentina has 15 such products in the works. Chile has fewer than five. And as the lithium industries develop in neighboring Argentina and Bolivia, Chile could also be eclipsed in terms of overall reserves.

“The Uyuni salt flats in Bolivia are much bigger than [the salt flats] in the Atacama. Plus the laws are better there,” says Roberto Mallea, an expert from the Center of Mining and Metallurgical Research (CIMM) in Santiago. “And in Argentina there are numerous unexplored salt flats.”

A backdoor approach

In order to strip lithium of its “strategic material” label, and thus authorise the state to issue extraction concessions, the Chilean government would have go through Congress, which could create major delays. To sidestep the problem, the government has instead floated the possibility of auctioning off so-called Special Operation Contracts, or CEOLs, which are usually associated with oil and gas extraction. CEOLs would be available only to companies that already possess mining rights, such as Li3 Energy, a Chile/U.S./South Korean firm with rights over part of Chile’s Maricunga salt flats.

This potential “back-door” approach is favored by the current Chilean government, led by billionaire businessman Sebastián Piñera. “We have 1,500 years worth of lithium, but in order to participate in the world market, we need to be more competitive,” says Pablo Wagner, Chile’s undersecretary of mining. “Before, Chile had a 50% market share. Now we’re at about 41%. And if we don’t do anything, we’ll fall to 20%.”

Chile would also do well to develop on the technology end so that it can compete in the lucrative market for producing lithium derivatives. Value-added materials like lithium hydroxide and lithium cathodes, also in high demand for use in batteries, are much more sophisticated and thus fetch a far higher selling price than does simple lithium carbonate.

Some local firms are beginning to make headway in this direction. The Korean company POSCO, one of the owners of Li3 Energy, has the technology to produce these more expensive lithium derivatives. And SQM has teamed up with Japan’s Marubeni to set up an institution called the Center of Lithium Innovation (CIL), which operates within the University of Chile.

Jaime Alée, the CIL’s director, has an even bigger dream: develop an entire lithium battery industry in Chile. “One lithium battery for an electric car costs $20,000. Chile’s contribution to that right now is worth just $40,” he says. “By 2014, the global lithium industry will be worth roughly $1 billion. The [lithium] battery industry will be worth $25 billion.”


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Does the EU deserve the Nobel Peace Prize?

The European Union has won the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize, but is it a worthy winner?

Kristina Kukolja reports for SBS World News Australia Radio.

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The Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Thorbjørn Jagland, made the announcement at a news conference in the Norwegian capital Oslo.

Mr Jagland says the Prize recognises the European Union’s work in advancing stability and reconciliation for the past six decades.

“The division between East and West has to a large extent been brought to an end. Democracy has been strengthened. Many ethnic-based national conflicts have been settled. The admission of Croatia as a member next year, the opening of membership negotiations with Montenegro, and the granting of candidate status to Serbia, all strengthen the process of reconciliation in the Balkans. In the past decade, the possibility of EU membership for Turkey has also advanced democracy and human rights in that country.”

First awarded in 1901, the Nobel Peace Prize was created by the 19th century Swedish inventor and philanthropist Alfred Nobel.

Today, it represents the culmination of a week of Nobel prize announcements — including in the fields of medicine, physics, chemistry and literature.

The EU was one of 231 contenders for this year’s Peace award.

The president of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso says it’s a justified recognition of the work of the EU on behalf of the 500-million citizens of the continent, and the rest of the world.

“The European Union, then the European Community, has unified countries split by the Cold War and has made it around the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, justice, the rule of law, and respect for human rights. Through its transformative power, the European Union was able, starting with six countries, to reunited almost all the European continent.”

Professor Jurgen Brohmer is a European Union expert at Perth’s Murdoch University.

He says this year’s Nobel Peace Prize recognises what he describes as possibly the most successful peace project in world history.

“I’m thinking back to the beginnings in the late 1940s and early 50s with great personalities like Jean Monnet and Robert Schuman, Konrad Adenauer, getting together and trying to put the continent, the little part of what western Europe is on a different footing – one away from confrontation, one away from nationalism and antagonism to joining together, collaborating together, providing institutions and fora in which they can handle their disputes in a better way than what the confrontation of the centuries before and all the wars that were part of it yielded.”

The European Union traces its origins to the European Coal and Steel Community, formed in the 1950s, and the European Economic Community.

From six original members it grew to 15 members in 2004 when it embraced the first of the former Soviet states.

Jan Egeland, from Human Rights Watch, has told the BBC it’s a controversial decision to give the Nobel Peace Prize to the EU.

“It will be very controversial, not the least in Norway, which has not joined the European Union and where the European Union is controversial as a membership project. In many ways what Jagland is saying is that it’s an ommission that the European Union and the Coal and Steel community didn’t get it in the 1950s or 60s or 70s so we have to give it today in 2012. I would say there are other and more worthy winners in 2012. And correcting something that yes is wrong, seen in an historic perspective, is perhaps a bit controversial.”

Questions remain about whether the Nobel Peace Prize itself is still a meaningful way recognising the promotion of peace in the world.

There have been accusations over the years about the intrusion of politics into the selection process.

United States President Barack Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2008, only weeks after entering office.

Years later, increased US troop involvement in Afghanistan is among the reasons some have given to question whether he deserved the award.

And there have been other controversial winners.

One of last year’s three recipients — the Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is accused by human rights groups of supporting the former Liberian President Charles Taylor, a convicted war criminal.

Doctor Keith Finlayson from the Australian National University is an expert on the Nobel Peace Prize.

He says such criticisms are not surprising.

“Criticisms of Obama are justified… It was a very hopeful period, lots of promise, lots of hope, … Whether he has delivered some things and not some others, for example Guantanamo Bay is still open. The due process of law, the fundamental foundation of the way that America works is still being circumvented. Henry Kissinger, you go back into the 1970s and you just wonder how even then in the middle of the Vietnam War with the record there, how could Henry Kissinger be selected for the Nobel Peace Prize? And there are no doubt other recipients where you just ask yourself how could that have happened and was there something else happening in the decision-making process which skewed people’s decision for some other purpose besides identifying the right people to promote peace?”

Dr Finlayson says another issue is the process used to select the Nobel Peace Prize recipient, which differs from that used in the other Nobel prize categories.

“They’re selected by academies mostly based in Sweden where they’re composed of international experts and a range of Swedish scientists or literary critics and international scientists, so there’s quite a representative balance there and the people who are selected for those prizes are selected on the basis of a majority vote. I think that’s quite a robust system. Now you come to the Nobel Peace Prize and actually the people who make the decision at the end of the day are a small group of Norwegian politicians, just a handful, and they’re just drawn from the Norwegian political elite. I don’t think I would like to pay so much attention to what they think without a wider representation of the rest of the world.”

The Nobel Peace award carries prize money of just over a million dollars.

Some commentators have suggested the EU may have to put it into a bailout fund for one of its member countries being swamped by debt.


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Pakistani schoolgirl ‘doing well’: doctors

Malala is unable to talk due to the breathing tube inserted into her windpipe but she can communicate by writing, said Dave Rosser, the medical director at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, central England.

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The teenager escaped certain death by a matter of centimetres (inches), with the bullet grazing the edge of her brain, he said.

The hospital released a first picture of Malala, in her hospital bed, clutching a teddy bear.

“Malala is still showing some signs of infection… in the bullet track which is our key source of concern,” Rosser told reporters outside the hospital.

“It’s clear that she is not out of the woods yet.

“Having said that, she is doing very well. In fact, she was standing with some help for the first time this morning when I went in to see her.”

In an attack which outraged the world, Malala was shot on a school bus in the former Taliban stronghold of Pakistan’s Swat valley on October 9 as a punishment for campaigning for the right of girls to an education.

On Monday she was flown in an air ambulance from Pakistan to Birmingham in a medically-induced coma, and taken to the highly specialised hospital where staff have extensive experience of treating British soldiers seriously wounded in Afghanistan.

Rosser explained that Malala’s airway became swollen after the bullet passed through it, so doctors inserted a tracheotomy tube to protect it.

The tube means she cannot speak but there is no reason to believe she would be unable to talk once it is removed, which may happen in the coming days.

She has movement in her arms and legs and is “communicating very freely — she is writing,” Rosser said.

“Malala is keen that I thank people for their support,” he added, after thousands of people left messages for her on the hospital’s website.

‘BULLETS GRAZED HER BRAIN’

With the schoolgirl’s permission, the hospital gave a full breakdown of her injuries, condition and the slow path to her possible recovery.

Rosser explained how the bullet passed through the face of the girl, who the hospital now say is 15 although she has previously been described as 14.

“The bullet grazed the edge of her brain. Certainly if you’re talking a couple of inches more central, then it’s almost certainly an unsurvivable injury,” he said.

Shot at point blank range, the bullet hit her left brow, but instead of penetrating her skull it travelled beneath the skin down the left side of her head.

The shock wave shattered the thinnest bone of her skull and fragments were driven into her brain.

The bullet damaged soft tissues at the base of her jaw and in her neck, which the bullet travelled through before lodging in the tissues above her left shoulder blade.

The bullet was removed in Pakistan soon after the shooting, but specialists have found her left jawbone is injured at its joint, while a bone behind the ear and the base of her skull have been fractured.

Her brain is still swollen, meaning doctors have not been able to do a full brain injury evaluation.

Malala regained consciousness on Tuesday. She is aware of her surroundings but gets tired very easily.

“She seems to have understood why she is no longer in Pakistan and what has happened to her,” Rosser said.

It was clearly “very difficult” for her to suddenly wake up in a foreign country, he added.

It will take weeks to months for Malala to defeat the infection and recover her strength enough to face surgery.

“Then her skull will need reconstructing either by reinserting the piece of bone that was removed initially or with a titanium plate,” Rosser said.

“Her jaw joint may need further work down the line but that remains to be assessed in a couple of weeks’ time.”

In a separate statement, the hospital stressed that she is “still very ill”.

“This is a fluid situation and she sustained a very, very grave injury,” it said.

Former British prime minister Gordon Brown, who in his new role as a UN special envoy for global education will visit Pakistan to meet President Asif Ali Zardari next month, said he was “delighted”.

“I have been able to get a message through to her family that the whole world is with Malala as she fights for her health and wishes Malala the best of progress,” Brown said.


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