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Rasputin had nothing on this guy.
Italy reform deal puts Berlusconi back centre stage
Italy's controversial ex-PM Silvio Berlusconi has returned to the centre of the political stage, striking a reform deal with a centre-left rival.BBC
Berlusconi was thrown out of parliament in 2013 after a tax fraud conviction.
But he still heads the opposition Forza Italia party and held lengthy talks with Democratic Party (PD) leader Matteo Renzi late on Saturday.
Under their agreement, he will back electoral and constitutional proposals aimed at making Italy more governable.
The current electoral system has left Italy with a series of shaky coalitions.
Last year's general election left no party strong enough to govern alone, until a broad coalition emerged, headed by Enrico Letta of the PD.
Berlusconi, 77, was initially part of the government but later pulled out. Several key former allies abandoned him to form the New Centre Right party while he became a more marginalised figure.
The owners of New York's Empire State Building have sued a photographer who shot images of a topless woman on the skyscraper's observation deck.BBC
They say Allen Henson's actions in August were "inappropriate" at a family tourist attraction and that he lacked permission to hold a photoshoot there.
The owners seek $1.1m (£670,000) in damages.
Henson says the photos were taken of a friend on his personal cellphone and have "zero commercial value".
The New York-based photographer and Iraq war veteran told the BBC he first learned of the lawsuit through the news media on Monday and had not yet retained a lawyer.
'A great view'
Allen Henson, an Iraq war veteran, says tourists were taking photos without permission, too
"It wasn't a photoshoot," he said, adding the images were taken of a good friend, Texas-based model Shelby Carter, on the 86th storey observation deck.
A nun who gave birth to a baby boy in the central Italian city of Rieti, said she had no idea she was pregnant, local media report.L A Times
The 31-year-old was rushed to hospital with abdominal pains, which she thought were stomach cramps.
The young mother, who is originally from El Salvador, reportedly named her newborn Francis after the current Pope.
The mayor of Rieti, Simone Petrangeli has appealed to the public and media to respect the woman's privacy.
The news has drawn international attention to the small city of 47,700 inhabitants.
The nun called the ambulance on Wednesday morning. A few hours later she gave birth to a healthy baby boy.
"I did not know I was pregnant. I only felt a stomach pain," she was quoted as saying by the Ansa news agency.
California's exceptionally dry winter is having a visible consequence: bad air.USA Today
A high-pressure zone off the West Coast that has been warding off rain for months has worsened air pollution across California and the Southwest. The stagnant conditions have trapped fine particles close to the ground, leaving a buildup of sooty haze that poses a threat to people's health.
To keep pollution levels down, air quality officials in California have issued an unprecedented number of no-burn alerts that ban wood fires in homes. Even so, clinics report treating more patients who have trouble breathing, tightness in their chest, itchy eyes and runny noses.
"It's not just an inconvenience, it's a significant health issue," said Dr. Sunil Saini, an allergist in Upland. Saini said he typically sees a drop-off in patients with respiratory problems starting in December. "This year we haven't seen that decrease."
14th arrest in protest of Calif. officer acquittal
FULLERTON, Calif. (AP) - Police have arrested a 14th person following a protest against the acquittal of officers in the beating death of a homeless man.AlJazeera
The protest in the Orange County city of Fullerton turned violent Saturday afternoon when a few of the 200 participants attacked a television news camera operator.
Initially, one person was arrested for assault, two for vandalism and 10 for refusing to follow police orders to disperse. Fullerton police Sgt. Jeff Stuart said Sunday a 14th protester was arrested later, after trying to steal from a nearby supermarket. More arrests are possible.
The protesters objected to a verdict earlier last Monday that absolved two Fullerton officers in the 2011 death of Kelly Thomas, whom police had kneed and jolted with an electric stun gun.
PITTSBURGH — Eddie Zorak sips his coffee and recalls the day his buddy was killed in an explosion just west of Baghdad.Aljazeera
Eyes darting side to side, Zorak says his friend and fellow soldier Chad Edmundson died during his deployment in a blast from an improvised explosive device (IED).
After that day, Zorak was never the same.
"I had a hard time after I lost my friend," he says, recalling his difficulties coping with Edmundson's death while conducting a dangerous yearlong mission as specialist in the National Guard. His unit went on arduous foot patrols — sometimes two or three a day — through streets riddled with IEDs. The patrols consisted of regular raids of suspected insurgent safe houses, he says, where armed men might lie in wait.
Here in his native western Pennsylvania, life proved difficult. Zorak drank heavily and made rash decisions, he says, like getting behind the wheel of a car while intoxicated. Before long, he was arrested on DUI charges.
But instead of being tried in a conventional court, where he could face several months in prison, Zorak was tried in a court specializing in treating troubled veterans. In veterans’ court he had access to counseling and was given a strict schedule of meetings aimed at teaching him how to cope with haunting memories of war brought home.
BATON ROUGE, La. — The smell of freshly cut wood wafting from a dirt lot along an industrial stretch of road near the state capital might not conjure up an image of green energy, but some say this is the future of sustainability.Aljazeera
The smell comes from two white plastic domes rising high along the Mississippi River. Stored inside those domes are millions of wood pellets, which started as trees in the surrounding 50- to 75-mile area, and were converted to easily shippable and burnable material at mammoth factories where wood can stretch as far as the eye can see.
The white domes aren’t the pellets' final destination.
After being packed into containers the wood is shipped to Europe, where power companies will burn them in an effort to meet the European Union’s stringent renewable energy requirements.
This is known as biomass energy.
The problem is, not everyone thinks burning wood is green.
Environmentalists in Louisiana are crying foul over European corporations using Louisiana’s forests for their profit, and perhaps polluting the planet in the process.
The nation’s major banks reported record fourth-quarter profits Wednesday, with Bank of America announcing that its profit jumped to $3.44 billion from $732 million in the same quarter in 2012, and Wells Fargo edging out JPMorgan Chase as the nation’s most profitable bank.Aljazeera
The jump represents a major turnaround for Charlotte, N.C.-based Bank of America, the country’s second-largest bank, which was hit last year by an $11.6 billion settlement with home mortgage giant Fannie Mae.
The settlement is the result of the bank’s involvement in the subprime mortgage crisis of 2007–08, which contributed to the massive financial crisis and subsequent recession in the U.S. As a result of the crisis, more than 6 million homeowners have an underwater mortgage, meaning they are paying more than what their house is worth.
Bank of America’s profits got a big boost because it was able to significantly reduce the amount of money it holds on its balance sheet to protect itself from bad loans. The bank's provision for credit losses fell to $336 million from $2.2 billion in the same period a year earlier.
Mexico has strongly objected to the scheduled execution in Texas of a Mexican convicted of killing a U.S. police officer, arguing that by executing him, the United States would be in "clear violation" of international treaties.CNet
Edgar Tamayo, who is scheduled to be executed on Wednesday, was convicted of shooting dead a Houston police officer in 1994 when he was in the United States illegally. But Tamayo was not informed of his right, enshrined in an international treaty known as the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, to diplomatic assistance.
Tamayo's lawyers say assistance from the Mexican consulate could have helped him obtain mitigating evidence to persuade jurors to choose a punishment other than death.
In 2004, the United Nations' International Court of Justice ordered the United States to reconsider the convictions of 51 Mexicans, including Tamayo, who had been sent to death row without being informed of their consular rights.
So far, two of that group have been executed; Tamayo would be the third.
In a statement on Sunday objecting to the scheduled execution, Mexico's foreign ministry said, "If Edgar Tamayo's execution were to go ahead without his trial being reviewed and his sentence reconsidered ... it would be a clear violation of the United States' international obligations."
DNA solves one of the Titanic's oldest mysteries
DNA has helped solved a nearly 70-year-old hoax -- one that has haunted a family and its ancestors in the debacle over the identity of a girl who was said to have died on the Titanic.N Y Times
When the massive ship struck an iceberg more than 100 years ago, it was believed that only one child from the first class died in the sinking ship: Loraine Allison. The two-year-old apparently didn't get safely on a life boat because her parents were said to have been frantically searching for her little brother, who unbeknownst to them was already on a life boat. Allison and her mother's body were never found in the ship's wreckage.
In 1940, 28 years after the Titanic went down, a woman named Helen Kramer appeared on a radio show claiming that she was Loraine Allison. She had an intricate story of being saved by the ship's designer and builder Thomas Andrews, who was also thought to have died on board. Kramer said she was raised in England before going to boarding school in the US.
For more than 50 years, Kramer adamantly lobbied the wealthy Allison family trying to prove that she was kin. But, for the most part, the family was skeptical of Kramer's claims and held her at arm's length.
WASHINGTON — After years of recession, financial crisis, fiscal wars and a patchwork recovery, there are relatively few dark clouds on the horizon for the global economy.
That is the conclusion of the World Bank’s latest global growth forecast, released on Tuesday. The bank’s economists expect growth over all to increase from 2.4 percent last year to 3.2 percent in 2014, and to maintain that level for the next two years.
“The performance of advanced economies is gaining momentum, and this should support stronger growth in developing countries,” Jim Yong Kim, the president of the World Bank, said in a statement.
Indeed, in the latest sign that even battered Europe is on the mend, Eurostat reported on Tuesday that factories in the euro zone ramped up output in November after two months of decline. Industrial production rose 1.8 percent from October, which itself was revised upward to show a smaller monthly drop.