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Palestinian rivals to try reconciliation

Written By prayud samsah on Rabu, 23 April 2014 | 21.29

PALESTINIAN officials say Hamas and the Fatah party of President Mahmoud Abbas are making a new attempt to overcome the Palestinians' political split by holding general elections in seven months.

Similar agreements were reached in principle in the past but never implemented.

The Islamic militant Hamas seized Gaza from Abbas in 2007, leaving him with only parts of the West Bank. Both sides have become entrenched in their territories.

Abbas sent a delegation to Gaza this week for reconciliation talks.

Bassam Salhi, one of those sent by Abbas, said on Wednesday that under an emerging agreement, a joint interim government would be formed within five weeks, followed six months later by elections.

A Hamas official confirmed the outlines of the deal, speaking on condition of anonymity pending a formal announcement.

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NASA satellites used to protect reef

Written By prayud samsah on Selasa, 22 April 2014 | 21.30

OUT-OF-THIS-WORLD techniques are being used to help protect one of the world's greatest natural wonders.

Researchers at James Cook University in north Queensland are using images from NASA satellites to study the impact of polluted land run-off on the Great Barrier Reef.

The researchers say river flood plumes from heavy rain or cyclones push polluted water, containing pesticides and fertilisers, into the reef.

Dr Caroline Petus, from the university's TropWATER program, says the publicly available images can be effectively used to map the extent, nutrient content and muddiness of flood plumes.

It replaces the need for costly and labor-intensive methods like using submerged data loggers or boats and helicopters to gather water samples, she said.

The images will be used develop river plume maps for the reef's seagrass and coral ecosystems, which are in decline.

"These maps will help our understanding of the resilience of these ecosystems to water quality changes," Dr Petus said.

"In the near future they should help us predict ecosystems' health changes associated with human activities or climate change."

Seagrass expert Dr Michael Rasheed said the new information would help researchers better understand flood plume impacts, leading to better management of the reef.

"It is often difficult to determine whether declines in seagrass beds are due to polluted river run-off or coastal development such as dredging around a port," he said.

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Comcast 1Q earns surge

COMCAST Corp says its first-quarter net income rose by 30 per cent as ad revenue surged at broadcast network NBC.

The results, released on Tuesday, beat Wall Street estimates and its shares edged up in morning trading.

Comcast is the largest cable company in the country with 22 million video customers and 21.1 internet customers.

It is in the midst of an expected yearlong review of its $US45 billion ($A48 billion) acquisition of No. 2 rival Time Warner Cable Inc.

Regulators are examining whether the combination would give it undue pricing power over customers and too much leverage with programmers.

Its net income in the quarter through March rose to $US1.87 billion, or 71 cents per share, from $US1.44 billion, or 54 cents per share a year ago.

Excluding one-time items, adjusted earnings came to 68 cents per share, beating the 64 cents expected by analysts polled by FactSet.

Revenue grew 14 per cent to $US17.41 billion from $US15.31 billion - also higher than the $US16.99 billion expected by analysts.

NBCUniversal revenue grew 29 per cent to $US6.88 billion while cable services revenue grew 5 per cent to $US10.76 billion.

Olympics broadcast rights boosted NBCU revenue by $US1.1 billion.

Even excluding the games, broadcast revenue rose 17 per cent, helped by Fallon's selection for NBC's late night slot, replacing longtime host Jay Leno.

The network was also boosted by more hours of The Voice and the popularity of new shows such as The Blacklist.

On the cable connections side, Comcast added 24,000 video customers during the quarter, the second quarterly gain in a row following a six-and-a-half year losing streak.

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Halliburton posts $US622m Q1 net income

Written By prayud samsah on Senin, 21 April 2014 | 21.29

HALLIBURTON says it was profitable in the first-quarter after reporting a loss for the period a year ago.

Its latest results topped Wall Street expectations, and its shares edged up in premarket trading on Monday.

The Houston-based company reported net income of $US622 million ($A665.92 million), or 73 US cents per share. Revenue rose 5 per cent to $US7.35 billion.

Analysts polled by FactSet expected 72 US cents per share on revenue of $US7.26 billion.

A year ago, the company reported a net loss of $US18 million, or 2 US cents per share on revenue of $US6.97 billion. That included a charge for setting aside money for litigation over the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Without the charge, its adjusted profit was 67 US cents per share a year ago.

Halliburton shares rose 45 US cents to $US61.35 in premarket trading.

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More than 400 charges in Operation Unite

MORE than 400 charges have been laid for assaults and drink driving offences in Western Australia during the eighth Operation Unite targeting alcohol-fuelled anti-social behaviour.

Total statistics from Thursday to Sunday night included 433 charges, 165 arrests and 200 summons.

They include 21 assaults, as well as 15 people caught driving under the influence, 43 people in excess of 0.08 per cent, 12 people in excess of 0.05 per cent and two people in excess of 0.02 per cent.

Specialist squads made up of officers from the Liquor Enforcement Unit and the Regional Operations Group joined the operation in WA for the first time.

Police Commissioner Karl O'Callaghan said last week that the excessive consumption of alcohol was still the most significant factor contributing to night-time violence.

Operation Unite is not about restricting people from having a good time, it is about continuing to raise community awareness about the dangers of determined drunkenness and the impact it has on others, he said.

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Mourners arrive for Peaches Geldof funeral

MOURNERS have started to arrive ahead of the funeral of Peaches Geldof as a host of celebrities prepare to say farewell to the television presenter and model.

Bob Geldof is expected to lead tributes to his daughter later on Monday at the same church where the funeral of her mother, Paula Yates, was held.

Musician and television personality Jools Holland was among the first to arrive at St Mary Magdalene and St Lawrence church in the village of Davington, near Faversham in Kent.

Dozens of locals also looked on as cars began to arrive outside the church, which is where the 25-year-old socialite married musician Tom Cohen, the father of her children, in 2012.

The funeral of TV presenter Yates was held there after she died from an accidental heroin overdose in 2000, aged 41.

Bono and Annie Lennox are expected to be among the mourners who will attend the funeral, according to reports.

The Geldof family have said the service will be held in private.

Mystery still surrounds the sudden death of Geldof on April 7.

Her body was found at the home she shared with her husband and their two young sons, Astala, 23 months, and 11-month-old Phaedra, in Kent, after officers were called "following a report of concern for the welfare of a woman".

Former Boomtown Rats singer Geldof paid tribute to his daughter alongside his partner Jeanne Marine and Peaches' sisters Fifi Trixibelle, Pixie and Tiger, saying she was the "wildest, funniest, cleverest, wittiest and the most bonkers of all of us".

Kent Police said it was being treated as a "non-suspicious, unexplained sudden death".

An inquest is not expected to be opened until after the results of toxicology tests are known.

Cars carrying flowers for the funeral arrived outside the church, which is next to Sir Bob's Davington Priory country estate, where Peaches grew up.

There were bouquets and cards left by well-wishers outside the entrance to the property's driveway.

Peaches' ashes are expected to be scattered in the estate's garden, where she played as a child, according to reports.

Written in chalk on the church's wall, a message read "RIP Peaches".

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Mickey Rooney laid to rest in California

Hollywood veteran Mickey Rooney has been laid to rest at a private funeral in California. Source: AAP

MICKEY Rooney has been laid to rest at a private funeral in California.

Family and friends of the Breakfast at Tiffany's star bid farewell to the beloved actor at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery on Saturday, following a memorial service on Friday.

The funeral comes a week after Rooney's conservator and attorney Michael Augustine, and Rooney's estranged wife, Janice Rooney, debated on where to hold the send-off. The two parties eventually settled on the popular site, where other Hollywood legends are buried.

Rooney, 93, died on April 6.

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NAB lags on business customer ratings

Written By prayud samsah on Minggu, 20 April 2014 | 21.29

NATIONAL Australia Bank continues to lag behind its major rivals when it comes to business customer satisfaction, despite a slight improvement.

NAB, Australia's biggest business lender, had an average customer satisfaction rating of 7.0 out of 10 in March, which lagged behind ANZ, Commonwealth Bank and Westpac, which all scored 7.4.

But according to the monthly DBM Consultants Business Financial Services Monitor (BFSM), NAB has improved its standing among small and medium sized business.

DBM Consultants director Maria Claridad said the NAB ranked alongside the Commonwealth and Westpac in both categories, with ANZ lagging behind.

However, the bank's performance had been weighed down by its relatively weak standing among micro businesses.

"The key is to delight the micro businesses, as they make up close to 90 per cent of all Australian businesses," she said.

"NAB's score amongst these businesses is 6.9, although it has shown signs of improving in recent months."

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Two killed in Bahrain car bomb explosion

Written By prayud samsah on Sabtu, 19 April 2014 | 21.29

TWO people have been killed and a third seriously injured when a car exploded in Bahrain.

The three were inside the vehicle when two successive explosions took place.

Police investigating the scene in Muqsha, north of the capital Manama, said explosive materials were inside the car.

Residents said one of the people was wanted by the police.

A hardline Shi'ite opposition movement, al-Wafa, released the names of the two dead and called them martyrs.

Further details were not immediately available.

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Bin Laden library causes storm in Pakistan

Written By prayud samsah on Jumat, 18 April 2014 | 21.29

A DECISION by an Islamic seminary for women to name its library after former al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden has caused a controversy in Pakistan's capital.

Maulana Abdul Aziz of the Red Mosque, known for its alleged links to militant groups, renamed the school's existing library Maktbah Usama bin Laden Shaheed - Urdu for Osama bin Laden, the martyr.

Aziz said the main objective of the initiative was to show "respect" for bin Laden.

"He is our hero, and we do not care if the world calls him a terrorist," the cleric said.

The library is situated in the centre of Islamabad, about half a kilometre from the headquarters of Pakistan's intelligence agency, which has been accused of protecting the former al-Qaeda chief before he was killed by the US military in 2011 during a raid in Pakistan.

Commentators have referred to the renaming of the library as inappropriate and have branded it an embarrassment for the government and its security institutions, which have come under fire for failing to curb the activities of extremist groups.

"It is a huge embarrassment," security expert Hasan Askari Rizvi said.

"It shows that the government is confused, and it does not have a clear policy towards the groups who cherish al-Qaeda ideology."

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