Wednesday 31 July 2013

Lloyds Banking Group back in profit

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Breaking news

Lloyds Banking Group has returned to profit, after announcing a profit of £2.1bn ($3.2bn) for the six months to the end of June.

It compares with a loss of £456m for the same period last year.

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Vinamilk wants to take over U.S. milk firm

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Besides the increase of capital investment in Miraka of New Zealand to above 19.3 percent, Vinamilk Board of Directors also approved the acquisition of the California-based Driftwood Dairy Company, which was founded in 1920.

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Explaining the death of craft villages

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The craft villages fall into distress because of their own faults. Some villages do business without a long-term development plan. Some others label their products as Chinese goods.

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Sweet taste of Phu Da snails

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Oc gao or rice snails in Phu Da Islet of Cho Lach District in the Mekong Delta province of Ben Tre are known for their unique sweet taste.

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Da Nang faces shortage of 1bil. cubic meters of safe water

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he central city of Da Nang, the best city in Vietnam to live in as selected in a recent survey, has been warned that it would lack over one billion cubic meters of running water in the dry season.

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Uruguay MPs back marijuana bill

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People demonstrate demanding a new law on cannabis in Montevideo on 8 May 2013. Those supporting the bill want it passed quickly

Uruguay's House of Representative is preparing to vote on a bill to legalise marijuana on Wednesday.

If passed by the House and the Senate, Uruguay will become the first country to legally regulate the production, distribution and sale of marijuana.

The law is backed by the government of President Jose Mujica, which says it will remove profits from drug dealers and divert users from harder drugs.

Under the bill, only the government would be allowed to sell marijuana.

The state would assume "the control and regulation of the importation, exportation, plantation, cultivation, the harvest, the production, the acquisition, the storage, the commercialization and the distribution of cannabis and its by-products".

Buyers would have to be registered on a database and be over the age of 18. They would be able to buy up to 40g (1.4oz) per month in specially licensed pharmacies or grow up to six plants at home.

Political hot potato

Fifty representatives out of the 99 sitting in the House will have to vote in favour of the bill for it to go to a second vote in the Senate.

While the governing Frente Amplio (Broad Front) coalition has a majority of one in the House, Frente Amplio Congressman Dario Perez has threatened to vote against the bill.

Uruguayan President Jose Mujica on a visit to Cuba on 25 July 2013President Jose Mujica says he has never tried marijuana but believes it should be decriminalised

Three opposition representatives have expressed support for the bill, but it is not clear whether they will vote accordingly on Wednesday.

President of the House of Representatives German Cardoso predicted it would be "a long session, in which many representatives will want to take part".

The bill was unveiled last year by Defence Minister Eleuterio Fernandez Huidobro who argued that "the prohibition of certain drugs is creating more problems for society than the drugs themselves... with disastrous consequences".

But Mr Cardoso of the opposition Colorado Party said that "in no country in the world has the consumption of drugs been reduced through legalisation".

Another opposition politician, Richard Sander, said that even if the law made it through both chambers, he would launch a petition to have it overturned.

The vote comes amidst a vociferous debate about drug legalisation in Latin America.

A group of former presidents and influential social figures, including the Brazil's Henrique Cardoso, the Mexico's Ernesto Zedillo and Colombian ex-leader Cesar Gaviria, have called for the legalisation of marijuana.

But only last week Pope Francis criticised drug legalisation plans during a visit to Brazil.

Speaking at the inauguration of a clinic for drug addicts in Rio de Janeiro he said it was "necessary to tackle the problems which are at the root of drug abuse, promoting more justice, educating the youth with the values that live in society, standing by those who face hardship and giving them hope for the future".

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Move to extend fuel discount scheme

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Fuel pumpInformation is being gathered on fuel prices in remote and rural parts of the UK

A fuel discount that applies to the Scottish islands and the Isles of Scilly could be extended to remote and rural parts of the UK mainland.

The scheme, which was introduced last year, gives motorists a maximum 5p per litre reduction in duty.

The UK government is now looking at petrol and diesel prices in 35 areas in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The European Commission would have to approve any change to the scheme.

Introduced in March 2012, the discount applies to the Hebrides, Northern Isles, islands in the Clyde and the Isles of Scilly.

Fuel prices have been sought from almost 1,500 retailers ahead of making an application to the EC in the autumn for an extension to the scheme.

Businesses in the following areas have been asked for information:

  • England - Cumbria, Devon, Herefordshire, North Yorkshire, Northumberland.

  • Wales - Gwynedd, Isle of Anglesey, Monmouthshire, Powys.

  • Scotland - Aberdeenshire, Angus, Argyll and Bute, Dumfries and Galloway, Highland, Moray, Perth and Kinross, Scottish Borders, South Ayrshire.

  • Northern Ireland - Antrim, Armagh, Ballymena, Ballymoney, Banbridge, Coleraine, Cookston, Down, Dungannon, Fermanagh, Larne, Limavady, Magherafelt, Moyle, Newry and Mourne, Omagh, Strabane.

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said the scheme aimed to keep fuel prices down where costs of transporting petrol and diesel were high.

He said: "I know that there are other remote rural areas of the UK with similarly high fuel costs.

"So we are today starting to gather further evidence that will form part of an application to the commission to extend the island fuel duty discount scheme to very remote rural areas.

"We will need to prove that there are areas which are similar to the islands in terms of pump prices and distribution costs, so I would urge local areas that may qualify to provide the information we need to make the case as robust as possible."

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Councils 'make huge parking profits'

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City of Westminster parking signCouncils use parking charges and fines to pay for the cost of parking services

Parking charges are providing huge cash surpluses for some English councils, according to the RAC Foundation.

The 359 councils across England had a total current account surplus of £565m from on and off-street parking schemes in 2011-12, according to the figures.

Eight of the biggest 10 surpluses came from London councils with Westminster leading the way with a £41.6m profit.

Westminster City Council disputed many of the figures but said it would work with motorists to reduce fines.

The other two councils making the top 10 were Brighton and Hove in sixth with £14.4m and Cornwall eighth with £7.9m.

The total profit was a £54m increase on the surplus from 2010-11 and only 52 of the councils reported a deficit on their 2011-12 parking operations.

The RAC Foundation figures, produced for them by transport consultant David Leibling, are from the annual returns that councils make to the Department for Communities and Local Government.

They are based on three factors - on-street parking charges, off-street parking charges and parking penalties.

Running costs of parking operations are deducted from this total to produce the surplus or deficit figure.

Top 10 parking surpluses

  • Westminster £41.6m

  • Kensington and Chelsea £28.1m

  • Camden £25m

  • Hammersmith and Fulham £19.5m

  • Wandsworth £16.1m

  • Brighton and Hove £14.4m

  • Islington £10.9m

  • Cornwall £7.9m

  • Newham £7.3m

  • Hounslow £7.3m

Source: RAC Foundation. Figures for 2011-12

While disputing many of the figures, Westminster City Council still signalled its intention to work with motorists and road users.

Councillor Daniel Astaire, Westminster City Council cabinet member for business, said: "The system is already changing and councils are already looking to work with motorists to issue fewer fines and crucially increase the amount of people parking correctly.

"Parking is about traffic management, tackling congestion and trying to implement positive benefits for businesses and high streets.

"If we stay in this Jurassic age of pure rhetoric about cash cows and money making, innovation will be stifled and we cannot engage with motorists properly in order to find the best solutions that will benefit everyone."

Kensington and Chelsea Council made the second biggest surplus of £28.1m and a spokesman told BBC London: "There is a greater demand for parking spaces in Kensington and Chelsea than practically anywhere else in the country.

"The council has discretion on how to spend any surplus that may arise, within the allowable purposes provided for by Section 55 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984."

Havering Council had the second lowest figures in London, despite its surplus of £703,000 having gone up by £563,000.

A spokeswoman said: "These latest figures show our commitment to giving residents and visitors to the borough value for money, as well as showing our support for local high streets and as a result the wider economy.

"Havering has so much to offer and parking charges are a key factor in encouraging people to shop in the borough and improving trade for businesses.

Is technology the answer to London's parking problems? BBC London's Tom Edwards finds out

"Despite being the third largest London borough, parking charges in Havering are still among the lowest in London and have stayed the same for several years. But in April this year, we cut prices even further."

Councillor Peter Box, chairman of the Local Government Association's economy and transport board, said: "Parking revenue is spent on paying for parking services.

"Any money left over goes towards transport services like filling potholes, concessionary travel and road improvement projects.

"As the report makes clear, many councils have to subsidise parking services as the cost is not covered by charges.

"Parking charges and fines help councils keep traffic flowing and pedestrians and motorists safe."

On Wednesday, government figures showed that money made from parking charges and fines by English councils is set to continue to rise.

The councils expect that net income from parking services is likely to increase from £601m in 2012-13 to £635m in 2013-14.

Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles said: "This municipal parking profit shows why we need to review and rein in unfair town hall parking rules. The law is clear that parking is not a tax or cash cow for town hall officers."

Last week, the High Court ruled against Barnet Council's move to raise the cost of residents' parking permits in a landmark victory for campaigners.

Mrs Justice Lang ruled that the council acted unlawfully when it increased permit costs to generate more money for road maintenance.

The council had claimed it had the power to raise extra cash through permits, and said it would appeal.

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UK counts cost of damaged passports

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A British passportIt can cost up to about £200 to replace a UK passport, the Foreign Office warns

The number of UK nationals whose passports expired or were damaged while abroad and needed replaced rose sharply last year, says the Foreign Office.

It said there were 2,254 such "avoidable" cases of people needing emergency travel documents in 2011-12, but 9,614 in 2012-13 - a 300% rise.

It cited examples of passports put in a washing machine or used as beer mats.

Almost 30,000 cases, also including lost or stolen passports, cost millions of pounds, the Foreign Office said.

The number of UK passports reported lost or stolen abroad fell steeply last year, from 26,295 to 19,169.

In all, 28,783 emergency travel documents were issued to UK nationals in 2012-13, costing £95 each.

Emergency documentation

  • About 80 emergency travel documents (ETDs) were issued to UK nationals around the world each day last year

  • Of these, more than a fifth (6,005) were issued in Spain

  • Consular staff in the USA issued 3,180

  • In Australia, there was reportedly a sharp rise in the number of Britons having to obtain ETDs as their passport became no longer valid

Such documents are usually issued to people who need to leave a country but do not have time to get a replacement passport. They permit travel to a destination via a maximum of five countries.

In can take several days to obtain an emergency travel document, the Foreign Office warned.

It then costs about £70 to £80 in addition to replace the original passport.

Will Middleton, the Foreign Office's consular director for southern Europe, said: "Our staff deal with people every day who require ETDs for a range of reasons.

"Some are victims of crime, but we also hear of passports being damaged carelessly, like becoming damaged after being hidden in the freezer.

"These are situations that could have been avoided and end up costing holidaymakers valuable time and money.

"We strongly advise people to look after their passport, keep it safe and check its validity well in advance of travel.

"Simple steps such as locking your passport in a safe if you have access to one and carrying a photocopy with you can help prevent problems later on."

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The Sun website begins charging

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Sun front page 31/7/13The Sun used its front page on Wednesday to set out various of its editorial positions

People now have to pay to read The Sun newspaper online.

The online version is called Sun+ and costs subscribers £2 per week. The print tabloid is published everyday and costs £3.20 a week.

Other UK newspapers such as The Times, Telegraph and Financial Times already charge for online access.

Rupert Murdoch's News UK, which owns The Sun, announced the paywall in March, saying free online access had become "untenable".

Online readers get free access to 20 articles each month before they have to pay.

The Sun has a circulation of 2.3 million in print, while about 1.7 million people visit its website each day.

The Times, also owned by News UK, introduced its own paywall three years ago.

Sun+ will try to attract subscribers with offers such as video of all Premier League goals.

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Living room TV 'making a comeback'

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1950s typical familyThe way we were - in the 1950s homes were likely to have one screen at most

'Typical' living roomThe way we are - Ofcom says mobile devices are bringing us back to the living room

UK families are more likely to watch TV together now than they have been in over a decade, according to a study.

Communications regulator Ofcom said 91% of adults watched their main TV set once a week - up from 88% in 2002.

It said the popularity of smartphones and tablets was taking teens out of bedrooms back into family rooms.

However, their attention may be distracted. Most family members now multi-tasked while sat in front of the TV, the study said.

Far from technology pulling family time apart, it said, the huge growth in mobile was actually having the opposite effect. Family members are being brought together just as they were in the 1950s when a TV was likely to be a home's only screen.

"There are number of factors that are fuelling this - we're now watching on much bigger, better television sets," said Jane Rumble, Ofcom's head of media research.

"But also, there's the rise of connected devices, such as a smartphone or tablet. We're coming into the living room today clutching those devices, they offer a range of opportunities to do things while we're watching television."

More than half of those surveyed said they distracted themselves from television by talking on the phone, texting friends, using social networks or even watching different content altogether on YouTube or other streaming sites.

Nokia Asha 210 phoneInstant messaging apps like Whatsapp are more popular among young people than normal texts

A quarter of those asked also said they were "media meshers", people who use devices to do something related to the programme they are watching. This might be tweeting or using tie-in apps for shows such as Britain's Got Talent.

Backing up a long-regarded view of the sexes, the research said it was women who were more likely to multi-task when watching TV.

These changing habits have left advertisers needing to adapt but change is slow in happening, said Daniel Knapp, director of advertising research at the IHS consultancy.

"Advertising is an extremely conservative industry, focusing on what works and where a return on investment is clear," he told the BBC.

Multiplying machines

The trend has been attributed largely to massively increased ownership of smartphones and tablets.

Ofcom said that just over half of adults now use a smartphone, up from 27% just two years ago. The number of tablet owners has more than doubled too, from 11% to 24% in a year.

It means the average UK household owns more than three devices capable of connecting to the internet, with one in five homes having more than six.

Ninety-one percent of adults view TV on the main set each week. 49% use smartphones and tablets while watching. 25% share their viewing via phone (16%), text (17%) and social networks (11%)

In contrast to the proliferation of mobile devices, the number of televisions we own is steadily decreasing.

Teenagers' bedrooms, once incomplete without a small TV in the corner, are now less likely to have sets.

According to Ofcom's data, 52% of UK kids aged 5-15 have TVs in their room, compared with 69% in 2007.

Watching television - particularly sports and other live events - is becoming a pursuit enjoyed solely in the living room on TVs that are getting larger.

Sets measuring 43in (109cm) or above accounted for 15.8% of all TV sales during the first three months of this year, up 4.3% on 2012, said Ofcom.

Despite the popularity of on-demand services such as the BBC's iPlayer, the huge majority of TV watching is still as-broadcast.

"Although there are changes in audience behaviour, when it comes to overall scale, on-demand still cannot complete with linear TV," said Mr Knapp.

Breaking up

The Communications Market Report, which the regulator publishes once a year, also looks at habits across various different parts of our digital lives.

Tablets are seen by parents as a great way to keep children entertained with apps, as well as providing a way for the youngsters to watch the programmes they want while the adults view other shows.

One in three parents said they encouraged their child to use their tablet for school or college work.

Young child playing with a tabletAlmost all tablet-owning parents said they used the device to keep kids entertained

For teens and younger adults aged 16-24 sending messages via mobile internet messaging apps, rather than the typical SMS text, is now more popular.

And compared to older generations, this age group has less restraint when it comes to what is off-limits.

One in five 16-24 year olds said they considered it reasonable to start a relationship via text, email or instant message.

Sixteen percent said they had no problem with ending a relationship in this way. Two percent of over-75s surveyed thought the same.

The report also indicated:

  • 85% of tablet owners keep it at home

  • 91% of parents said their children use a tablet

  • 11% of tablet owners use their device in the bathroom

  • Drama is the most popular programme genre to watch on catch-up, news is the least popular

  • Mobile internet use among the over-55s has increased considerably in the past three years

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Counting begins in Zimbabwe polls

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Mark Lowen reports on the day's voting, which featured long queues of determined voters

Vote counting has begun in Zimbabwe's presidential and parliamentary elections.

Turnout was high in a fierce contest between President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF and PM Morgan Tsvangirai's MDC.

Some polling stations remained open into the evening to allow those already queuing at closing time to cast votes.

Mr Mugabe, 89, has said he will step down after 33 years in power if he and his party lose. Zanu-PF denied MDC claims it doctored the electoral roll.

African Union (AU) observers have described the voting as "orderly and peaceful".

Zanu-PF and the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) have shared an uneasy coalition government since 2009 under a deal brokered to end the deadly violence that erupted after a disputed presidential poll the previous year.

Western observers barred

Polls opened at 07:00 local time (05:00 GMT) and had been due to close at 19:00.

At the scene

Brian Hungwe, Harare

People are queuing with enthusiasm and determination.

Most of the voters have been speaking of the hope that the outcome will make a huge difference in their lives.

The polling officers told me some voters had been turned away for various reasons, such as because their names are missing from the voters' roll in their ward.

The majority of these are newly registered voters - and party agents are having to intervene to get electoral officials to check with the electoral commission's national command centre to see if the names are on the constituency register.

If the name is verified, they can go ahead and vote, but it is a long, tedious process which voters are finding frustrating.

Thabo Kunene, Bulawayo

Hundreds braved the cold and the wind to stand in queues, which started forming as early as 04:30. A security guard said he saw some people sleeping opposite one polling station.

Women with babies strapped to their backs were being given special preference by other voters and allowed to go to the front. Women selling tea and coffee nearby made good business as those in the queues bought hot drinks to ward off the cold.

At one polling station in Makhokhoba, voting was progressing in an impressively ordered manner. People from different parties were chatting to each other and laughing but they avoided discussing who would win.

However, because of the high turnout election officials said people who were still waiting in queues to vote by 19:00 would have until midnight to cast their ballots.

Results are due within five days.

To be declared a winner, a presidential candidate must win more than 50% of the vote. If no candidate reaches this mark, a run-off will be held on 11 September.

The elections were the first to be held under the new constitution approved in a referendum in March this year.

The government barred Western observers from monitoring Wednesday's elections, but the AU and the Southern African Development Community (SADC), as well as local organisations, have been accredited.

Zimbabwe Election Support Network, the main domestic monitoring agency, said the vote appeared to be taking place without too many problems, Reuters news agency reports.

"There are some concerns around long queues, but generally it's smooth," said its spokesman Thabani Nyoni.

Former Nigerian President Olesegun Obasanjo, who heads the AU monitors, said the elections seemed credible.

"It's been quiet, it's been orderly. The first place I called in this morning, they opened prompt at seven o'clock and there haven't been any serious incidents that... would not reflect the will of the people." he told Reuters.

But while big queues were reported across the country, there were numerous complaints that voters were unable to find their names on the electoral roll.

According to villagers, MDC polling agents and local election observers, some irregularities were recorded in parts of rural Masvingo district.

A policeman stands as Zimbabweans line up near a polling station in Harare to vote in a general election on 31 July 2013Zimbabweans have been voting in fiercely contested presidential and parliamentary elections. These voters queued up in the capital, Harare, before polls opened. It is winter in Zimbabwe, so the mornings are chilly.

An 80-year-old Zimbabwean casts her vote in a polling station in a pass cart in Harare on 31 July 2013Before polls opened there were already allegations of fraud over the voters' roll which was only published on the eve of the elections. The document features the names of thousands of dead people. Some names also appear twice or three times with variations to their ID numbers or home address.

MDC supporters in Zimbabwe at a campaign rallyZanu-PF's Robert Mugabe and Movement for Democratic Change's Morgan Tsvangirai are the main contenders in the presidential poll. Mr Tsvangirai's supporters are hoping it will be third time lucky for him.

Robert Mugabe casts his vote in Highfields outside HarareMr Mugabe, who has led Zimbabwe for 33 years, has said he will step down if defeated. His wife Grace (middle) has played a prominent part in his campaign. Campaigning was mostly peaceful, with few reports of intimidation.

Morgan Tsvangirai votes with his wife Elizabeth Macheka in HarareMr Tsvangirai, casting his ballot in Harare with his wife Elizabeth Macheka, described the poll as a historic moment.

In Mashonaland West, 65-year-old Monica Chivera standing in her burnt house But there have been reports of some violence, especially in Mashonaland West, a Zanu-PF stronghold. The house of 65-year-old Monica Chivera, from Hurungwe, was set ablaze on Friday in an incident suspected to be politically motivated arson. ''We were force-marched to a Zanu-PF meeting but I did not do a slogan denouncing Tsvangirai. I escaped with my five children but I lost virtually everything,'' the widow said.

Chipo Matemo and her husband Daniel Bhobho, a Zanu-PF supporter, in their hut which was set ablaze in Mashonaland WestIn the same region on the same day a young family's thatched hut was also set ablaze by an unknown arsonist. ''I lost everything,'' said 18-year-old expectant mother Chipo Matemo whose husband Daniel Bhobho is a Zanu-PF activist. Police said the incident was being investigated.

A Zanu-PF poster with indigenise spelt incorrectlySome had hoped for the election to be held later in the year so there would be more time to prepare but the Constitutional Court ruled it must be held by 31 July. Zanu-PF has been campaigning on a platform of indigenisation and economic empowerment. At its campaign launch in Harare, a spelling mistake was noticed on the main banner. After an hour a sticker was put over the word "indegenise".

Supporters of Zimbabwe's prime minister climb up a tree during an election rally in Harare on 29 July 2013The turnout is expected to be high among the 6.4 million people registered to vote, with tens of thousands of people attending rallies in recent weeks.

Zimbabweans line up near a polling station in Harare to vote in a general election on 31 July 2013To be declared the victor, a presidential candidate must win more than 50% of the vote. If no candidate reaches this mark, a run-off will be held on 11 September.

And on Tuesday, the MDC accused Zanu-PF of doctoring the roll of registered voters, which was released by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) only on the eve of the polls after weeks of delay.

Zimbabwe election: Key facts

Zimbabweans wait to cast their votes in presidential and parliamentary elections in Harare, Wednesday 31 July 2013

  • About 6.4 million registered voters

  • Voting takes place between 05:00 GMT and 17:00 GMT

  • Vote for president and parliament

  • Zanu-PF's Robert Mugabe and MDC's Morgan Tsvangirai are the main presidential contenders

  • Mr Mugabe, 89, is seeking to extend his 33-year rule

  • Mr Tsvangirai, 61, hopes to become president after three failed attempts

  • The poll ends the fractious coalition between Zanu-PF and MDC, which was brokered by regional mediators after disputed elections in 2008 that were marred by violence

  • First election under new constitution

The MDC claimed the roll dated back to 1985 and was full of anomalies.

A BBC correspondent has seen the document and says it features the names of thousands of dead people.

MDC Secretary-General Tendai Biti said there were as many as two million such names, while some genuine voters were not finding their names on the rolls.

"The greatest worry which we have is the number of persons that are being turned away," he added.

A Zanu-PF spokesman denied the allegations and pointed out that appointees from both parties were on Zec.

He also accused Mr Biti, who is finance minister, of not funding the commission properly. Zec has not commented.

In addition to Mr Mugabe and Mr Tsvangirai, there are three other candidates standing for the presidency - Welshman Ncube, leader of the breakaway MDC-Mutambara; Dumiso Dabengwa of the Zimbabwe African People's Union (Zapu), and Kisinoti Munodei Mukwazhe, who represents the small Zimbabwe Development Party (ZDP).

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British Gas plans free weekend power

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British Gas logo above hob flameEarlier, British Gas warned that fuel bills could go up again this winter

British Gas has said it is planning to offer free power at weekends to some of its customers.

The idea is to encourage consumers to use more of their electricity at the weekend when there is less demand from businesses, according to the BBC's industry correspondent John Moylan .

The scheme would be available to its one million UK customers who have smart meters.

British Gas is understood to have already started piloting the scheme.

The parent company, Centrica, already offers the scheme - called Free Power Saturday - in its Direct Energy operations in Texas and the north-east of the United States.

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Female journalists face bomb threats

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Breaking news

Police are investigating bomb threats made on social networking site Twitter against several female journalists.

Guardian columnist Hadley Freeman, Independent columnist Grace Dent and Time magazine's Catherine Mayer all said they had been threatened.

It follows rape threats made on Twitter against MP Stella Creasy and feminist campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez.

Meanwhile, a petition calling on Twitter to do more to prevent online abuse has topped 100,000 signatures.

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Care homes abuse suspect charged

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A 71-year-old man has been charged with 32 serious sexual offences by detectives investigating allegations of historical child abuse in north Wales.

John Allen, of Ipswich, Suffolk, was re-arrested on Wednesday when he answered bail in north Wales.

The charges include 22 indecent assaults and one offence of gross indecency, alleged to have taken place between 1968 and 1989.

He is in custody and is due to appear before Mold Magistrates on Thursday.

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US declassifies phone-snooping order

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John Inglis deputy director of the National Security Agency, speaks with committee chairman Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) after testifying during a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill 31 July 2013 in Washington, DCDeputy director of the NSA John Inglis (left) is among the officials to be questioned by the Senate

The Obama administration has released documents on its phone-snooping, as a Senate panel questions intelligence officials about the programme.

The declassification was made in the "interest of increased transparency", intelligence officials said.

But the three documents include significant redactions.

Meanwhile the father of Edward Snowden, who leaked information about the surveillance, says the FBI has asked him to go to Moscow to see his son.

But Lon Snowden told Russian state TV he wants more details, including the FBI's intentions. His son is a US fugitive sought by the government for revealing details of the electronic snooping by phone and internet.

Blacked out

The documents released on Wednesday include a court order describing how the data from the programmes would be stored and accessed.

Two reports to US lawmakers on the telephone and email records were also declassified.

But lines in the files, including details on "selection terms" used to search the massive data stores, were blacked out.

Deputy Attorney General James Cole told a Senate judiciary committee hearing on Wednesday that the court order spells out how the government can use call data obtained from telecom giants such as Verizon.

It is the first congressional session on the issue since the House narrowly rejected a proposal to effectively shut down the NSA's secretive collection of hundreds of millions of Americans' phone records.

During the early parts of the hearing, NSA deputy director John Inglis said "no" when asked if anyone had been fired over the leak.

"No-one has offered to resign," Mr Inglis said. "Everyone is working hard to understand what happened."

Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy, the chairman of the committee, also questioned the deputy director on the number of attacks the agency said had been disrupted by the programmes.

General Keith Alexander, the head of the NSA, has said phone and internet surveillance disrupted 54 schemes by militants.

Sen Leahy said a list of the relevant plots provided to Congress does not reflect dozens or, as he said, "let alone 54 as some have suggested".

Mr Inglis said the phone surveillance helped disrupt or discover attacks 12 times, and the larger number were foiled thanks to both the phone-records snooping and a second programme collecting global internet users' data.

In a letter to lawmakers last week, the Obama administration acknowledged there had been an unspecific number of "compliance problems" with the rules governing the secret collection of US phone records.

But the director of national intelligence, James Clapper, said no intentional or bad-faith rules violations were found.

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Police ordered to end Cairo sit-ins

Source BBC News@

Breaking news

Egypt's military-backed government has ordered police to end sit-ins by supporters of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in the capital Cairo.

"The cabinet has decided to take all measures necessary to confront these risks and put an end to them," an official said in a televised statement.

The statement termed the continued rallies "a national security threat".

Muslim Brotherhood supporters have staged sit-ins for several weeks since President Morsi was removed on 3 July.

They have defied previous threats of removal from their sit-in protests, despite deadly clashes with security forces.

"The continuation of the dangerous situation in Rabaa al-Adawiya and Nahda squares, and consequent terrorism and road blockages are no longer acceptable given the threat to national security," the statement said.

Đăng ký: Tieng Anh Vui

Mum and partner guilty of boy murder

Source BBC News@

  • Rancher torn by border choice between liberty and security

  • Where half of the population is made up of sex offenders

  • What does it take to bring up a child in Antarctica?

  • The offices where you can never have a private conversation

Đăng ký: Tieng Anh Vui

Private detectives to be licensed

Source BBC News@

Breaking news

Operating as an unlicensed private detective is to be made illegal, Home Secretary Theresa May has announced.

The Home Office said it would regulate the industry because of "rogue investigators" infringing privacy.

Ministers say they want to introduce the restrictions, including criminal record checks, by next year.

MPs earlier revealed that police know of law firms, insurance companies and celebrities who have used investigators to obtain information illegally.

Đăng ký: Tieng Anh Vui

Doreen Lawrence to be made a peer

Source BBC News@

  • Where half of the population is made up of sex offenders

  • Rancher torn by border choice between liberty and security

  • What does it take to bring up a child in Antarctica?

  • The offices where you can never have a private conversation

Đăng ký: Tieng Anh Vui


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