Mega 101: Everything You Need to Know

An Internet entrepreneur in a legal battle with the U.S. Department of Justice over his file-sharing and cloud storage site is at it again, and this time he says his new website is legal.

Kim Dotcom, the man behind the file-sharing site Megaupload, launched a new site called Mega (, Sunday in New Zealand, which allows users to upload up to 50 gigabytes worth of files and store them, and share them — in a limited way — with other users. The amount of storage space increases if users sign up for a premium account.

The twist is that this time the company doesn’t know what’s in the files, because they are encrypted. The encryption keys are in the hands of the user only.

It is possible to share the files by providing a URL with the password embedded in it, but in this case as well, only the person accessing the file can see the data.

For users, it could be a great way to store confidential files, and it’s a larger space initially than Dropbox, which starts its free service at 2GB, or Google Drive at 5GB. That said, there are some caveats.

First is the encryption. If you lose the password, you won’t be able to recover it — period.

Then there is the question of the site’s legality. Kim Dotcom has told the BBC that “This startup is probably the most scrutinized by lawyers in Internet history.”

That gets into Kim Dotcom’s legal problems with the U.S. government. Dotcom funded Megaupload in 2005 as a place for people to store files on the Internet. The big difference between it and other file storage services was the amount of space offered — 200 gigabytes. Users could share files with each other or with the general public.

The Motion Picture Association of America and the Department of Justice saw a massive copyright abuse system. The DoJ said in its indictment that Megaupload’s business model, which rewarded popular downloads with cash payments, encouraged people to upload copyrighted content.

Dotcom and Megaupload argued that they complied with takedown notices. Either way, in January of last year, police raided Dotcom’s New Zealand home, arrested him, and shut down Megaupload. The U.S. government then requested he be extradited. A hearing to determine whether that happens is due in March.

In the wake of the arrest, hacktivist group Anonymous staged a series of distributed denial of service attacks.

Because the new site is encrypted —Mega says it doesn’t even have the key, because the key is the password to the site known only to the user  — Dotcom can legitimately say he has no idea what is being uploaded. Generally, copyright violations apply to people who know that their site is being used to pirate content and don’t make a good faith effort to remove it in the wake of takedown requests (which fall under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, or DMCA).

A big part of the legal argument between Dotcom and the DoJ is whether he made that effort and whether he deliberately encouraged thesharing of copyrighted content. The DoJ says the company didn’t because the files were still on their servers and if there were multiple copies, the links all had to be taken down individually.

It’s still possible that the DoJ will go after Dotcom’s new website Mega, though, because by setting the site up so that he can’t know what users are doing, he also leaves himself open to the charge that he’s offering a safe haven for copyrighted works. On top of that, one of the terms of Dotcom’s bail in New Zealand is that he cannot start any new businesses until the criminal copyright case in the U.S. is resolved, according to the Economist.

So if you’re thinking that you might want to use the new Mega site, be aware that it could be forced to shut down if Dotcom’s lawyers haven’t covered all the angles.

This story was provided by TechNewsDaily, sister site to LiveScience.

Copyright 2013 LiveScience, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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How Obama made opportunity real


  • LZ Granderson: Specifics of Obama's first term may not be remembered

  • He says his ability to win presidency twice is unforgettable

  • Granderson: Obama, the first black president, makes opportunity real for many

  • He says it makes presidency a possibility for people of all backgrounds

Editor's note: LZ Granderson, who writes a weekly column for, was named journalist of the year by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association and is a 2011 Online Journalism Award finalist for commentary. He is a senior writer and columnist for ESPN the Magazine and Follow him on Twitter: @locs_n_laughs.

(CNN) -- In his first term, President Barack Obama signed 654 bills into law, the Dow Jones Industrial Average increased by about 70% and the national debt by $5.8 trillion.

And in 10 years -- maybe less -- few outside of the Beltway will remember any of that. That's not to suggest those details are not important. But even if all of his actions are forgotten, Obama's legacy as the first black president will endure.

And even though this is his second term and fewer people are expected to travel to Washington this time to witness the inauguration, know that this moment is not any less important.

LZ Granderson

LZ Granderson

Obama's address: Full text

For had Obama not been re-elected, his barrier-breaking election in 2008 could have easily been characterized as a charismatic politician capturing lightning in a bottle. But by becoming the first president since Dwight Eisenhower to win at least 51% of the vote twice, Obama proved his administration was successful.

And not by chance, but by change.

A change, to paraphrase Martin Luther King Jr., that was not inevitable but a result of our collective and continuous struggle to be that shining city on a hill of which President Ronald Reagan spoke so often.

For much of this country's history, being a white male was a legal prerequisite to being president. Then it was accepted as a cultural norm. Because of that, we could not be the country we set out to be.

But today, somewhere in the Midwest, there is a little Asian-American girl with the crazy idea she could be president one day, and because of Obama, she knows that idea is not very crazy at all.

That's power -- the kind of power that can fade urgent numbers and debates of the day into the background of history.

Gergen: Obama 2.0 version is smarter, tougher

Few remember the number of steps Neil Armstrong took when he landed on the moon, but they remember he was the first human being who stepped on the moon. Few can tell you how many hits Jackie Robinson had in his first Major League Baseball game, but they know he broke baseball's color barrier. Paying homage to a person being first at something significant does not diminish his or her other accomplishments. It adds texture to the arc of their story.

I understand the desire not to talk about race as a way of looking progressive.

But progress isn't pretending to be color blind, it's not being blinded by the person's color.

Or gender.

Or religion.

Or sexual orientation.

Somewhere in the South, there is an openly gay high schooler who loves student government and wants to be president someday. And because of Obama, he knows if he does run, he won't have to hide.

That does not represent a shift in demographics, but a shift in thought inspired by a new reality. A reality in which the president who follows Obama could be a white woman from Arkansas by way of Illinois; a Cuban-American from Florida; or a tough white guy from Jersey. Or someone from an entirely different background. We don't know. Four years is a long time away, and no one knows how any of this will play out -- which I think is a good thing.

'Obama: We are made for this moment'

For a long time, we've conceived of America as the land of opportunity. Eight years ago, when it came to the presidency, that notion was rhetoric. Four years ago, it became a once in a lifetime moment. Today, it is simply a fact of life.

Ten years from now, we may not remember what the unemployment rate was when Obama was sworn in a second time, but we'll never forget how he forever changed the limits of possibility for generations to come.

Somewhere out West, there is an 80-year-old black woman who never thought she'd see the day when a black man would be elected president. Somehow I doubt Obama's second inauguration is less important to her.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of LZ Granderson.

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Body of cyanide-poisoned lottery winner is reburied

Mohammed Zaman on the exhumation of his brother-in-law, poisoned lottery winner Urooj Khan. (Posted on: Jan. 21, 2013.)

The body of a West Rogers Park man who died of cyanide poisoning last summer after winning a million-dollar lottery was laid to rest again Monday, three days after his remains were exhumed for an autopsy as part of a homicide investigation.

The scene at Rosehill Cemetery on Monday afternoon was in sharp contrast to Friday morning, when a throng of reporters and TV cameramen had massed outside an entrance gate as numerous Chicago police, Cook County medical examiner officials and cemetery workers surrounded the gravesite while Urooj Khan's remains were unearthed.

About half a dozen people — two in light blue coveralls — wheeled a gurney carrying Khan's body Monday from the back of an unmarked white minivan to under a tent at his gravesite in the Far North Side cemetery. The body was then lowered into the ground while two of Khan's relatives stood at the gravesite in the bitter cold.

Haroon Firdausi, a funeral director and imam, gave a brief prayer during the reburial.

The entire reburial took about 20 minutes.

Shortly before the reburial, one of Khan's relatives, Mohammed Zaman, talked briefly at the cemetery about the family's discomfort with his body being exhumed for the police investigation.

"The sad part is that he wasn't resting in peace," Zaman said of the exhumation. "... Now we have to bury him back again. For any religion, it's hard."

As the Tribune first revealed earlier this month, the medical examiner's office initially ruled that Khan's death in July was from hardening of the arteries, after no signs of trauma were found on the body and a preliminary blood test did not raise any questions. But the investigation was reopened about a week later after a relative raised concerns that Khan may have been poisoned.

Chicago police were notified in September after tests showed cyanide in Khan's blood. By late November, more comprehensive testing showed lethal levels of the toxic chemical, leading the medical examiner's office to declare the death a homicide.

After Khan's body was exhumed Friday, an autopsy was performed for evidence that could aid in the homicide investigation. At the time, Chief Medical Examiner Stephen Cina said it could take several weeks for the tests to be completed. The medical examiner's office hopes samples taken from Khan's organs will show whether he ingested or inhaled the cyanide.

Although a motive has not been determined, police have not ruled out that Khan was killed because of his lottery win a few weeks before his death, a law enforcement source has told the Tribune. At the time of his death, he hadn't collected his winnings — a lump-sum payment of about $425,000 after taxes.

Zaman said he hopes the autopsy sheds more light on his brother-in-law's death.

"It's very hard for the family," Zaman said of the exhumation and reburial. "But it's the only way to find out what happened to him."

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Algeria vows to fight Qaeda after 38 workers killed

ALGIERS (Reuters) - Algeria's prime minister accused a Canadian of coordinating last week's raid on a desert gas plant and, praising the storming of the complex where 38 mostly foreign hostages were killed, he pledged to resist the rise of Islamists in the Sahara.

Algeria will never succumb to terrorism or allow al Qaeda to establish "Sahelistan", an Afghan-style power base in arid northwest Africa, Abdelmalek Sellal told a news conference in Algiers where he also said at least 37 foreign hostages died.

"There is clear political will," the prime minister said.

Claimed by an Algerian al Qaeda leader as a riposte to France's attack on his allies in neighboring Mali the previous week, the four-day siege drew global attention to Islamists in the Sahara and Sahel regions and brought promises of support to African governments from Western powers whose toppling of Libya's Muammar Gaddafi helped flood the region with weapons.

The attack on a valuable part of its vital energy industry raised questions about the security capacity of an establishment that took power from French colonists 50 years ago, held off a bloody Islamist insurgency in the 1990s and has avoided the democratic upheavals the Arab Spring brought to North Africa.

Sellal said a Canadian citizen whom he named only as Chedad, a surname found among Arabs in the region, was among 29 gunmen killed and added that he had "coordinated" the attack. Another three militants were taken alive and were in custody.

Among hostages confirmed dead by their own governments were three Americans, seven Japanese, six Filipinos and three Britons; others from Britain, Norway and elsewhere were listed as unaccounted for. Sellal said seven of the 37 foreign dead were unidentified, while a further five foreigners were missing.

Nearly 700 Algerians and 100 other foreigners survived.

An Algerian security source said investigators pursuing the possibility that the attackers had inside help to map the complex and gain entry were questioning at least two employees.

Prime Minister David Cameron told parliament in London that Britain would increase its help to Algeria's intelligence and security forces and might do more for France in Mali, though he ruled out sending many of its stretched armed forces to Africa.

Noting a shift in the source of threats to British interests from Afghanistan to Africa, he also noted Sellal's rundown of a multinational group of gunmen from across north and west Africa and said the region was becoming "a magnet for jihadists".

Alongside a "strong security response", however, he called for efforts to address long-standing grievances, such as poverty and political exclusion, which foster support for violence. Some militants in Algeria want autonomy for the south and complain of domination by an unchanging establishment in Algiers.


As Algerian forces combed the Tigantourine plant near the town of In Amenas for explosives and the missing, survivors and the bereaved told tales of terror, narrow escapes and of death.

"The terrorists lined up four hostages and assassinated them ... shot them in the head," a brother of Kenneth Whiteside told Sky News, in an account of the Briton's death given to the family by an Algerian colleague who witnessed it. "Kenny just smiled the whole way through. He'd accepted his fate."

Filipino survivor Joseph Balmaceda said gunmen used him for cover: "Whenever government troops tried to use a helicopter to shoot at the enemy, we were used as human shields."

Another Briton, Garry Barlow, called his wife from within the site before he was killed and said: "I'm sat here at my desk with Semtex strapped to my chest."

Several hostages died on Thursday when Algerian helicopters blasted jeeps in which the militants were trying to move them.

An Algerian security source had earlier told Reuters that documents found on the bodies of two militants had identified them as Canadians: "A Canadian was among the militants. He was coordinating the attack," Sellal said.

In Ottawa, Canada's foreign affairs department said it was seeking information. Security experts noted that some Canadian citizens had been involved with international militants before.

Officials have also named other militants in recent days as having leadership roles among the attackers. Veteran Islamist Mokhtar Belmokhtar claimed responsibility on behalf of al Qaeda.

In a video distributed on the Internet, the one-eyed veteran of Afghan wars of the 1980s, of Algeria's civil war and of the lucrative trans-Sahara cigarette smuggling trade, said: "We in al Qaeda announce this blessed operation."

Dressed in combat fatigues, Belmokhtar demanded an end to French attacks on Islamist fighters in Mali.

The jihadists had planned the attack two months ago in neighboring Mali, Sellal added. They had traveled from there through Niger and Libya, hence evading Algeria's strong security services, until close to In Amenas. Their aim, he said, had been to take foreign hostages to Mali, and they made a first attempt to take captives from a bus near the site early on Wednesday.

Normally producing 10 percent of Algeria's natural gas, the facility was shut down during the incident. The government said it aimed to reopen it this week, although officials at Britain's BP and Norway's Statoil, which operate the plant with Algeria's state energy firm, said the plans were not clear.


An Algerian newspaper said the jihadists had arrived in cars painted in the colors of Algerian state energy firm Sonatrach but registered in Libya, a country awash with weaponry since Western powers backed a revolt to oust Gaddafi in 2011.

Using his oil wealth, the Libyan dictator exercised a degree of influence in the region and the consequences of his death are still unfolding.

In a sign of the complexities wrought by the Arab Spring revolts, Egypt, a former military dictatorship now led by one of the generals' Islamist foes, criticized France's intervention in Mali on Monday. President Mohamed Mursi called instead for more spending to address rebels' grievances and warned that the military moves would "inflame the conflict in this region".

The bloodshed also increased the strains in Algeria's long fraught relations with Western powers, where some complained about being left in the dark while the decision to storm the compound was being taken.

But this week, Britain and France both defended the military action by Algeria, the strongest military power in the Sahara and an ally the West needs in combating the militants.

Chafik Mesbah, a former Algerian presidential security adviser, said: "The West did not criticize Algeria because it knows an assault was inevitable in the circumstances ... The victims were a minimum price to pay to solve the crisis."

(Writing by Alastair Macdonald; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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Harbaugh brothers take 49ers, Ravens to Super Bowl

Preparing to coach the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC championship game Sunday night, John Harbaugh watched on the stadium's big video screen as Jim Harbaugh's San Francisco 49ers wrapped up their victory in the NFC championship game.

John looked into a nearby TV camera, smiled broadly and said: "Hey, Jim, congratulations. You did it. You're a great coach. Love you."

Less than four hours later, the Ravens won, too. Some siblings try to beat each other in backyard games. These guys will do it in the biggest game of all. Yes, get ready for the Brother Bowl.

It'll be Harbaugh vs. Harbaugh when Big Bro John's Ravens play Little Bro Jim's 49ers in the Super Bowl at New Orleans in two weeks.

As much chatter as there will be about the players involved — from Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis and his impending retirement to 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick's sudden emergence — the Harbaugh family angle will make this coaching matchup the most scrutinized in the nearly half-century of Super Sundays.

The Harbaughs' sister, Joani Crean, wrote in a text to The Associated Press: "Overwhelmed with pride for John, Jim and their families! They deserve all that has come their way! Team Harbaugh!"

Who's a parent to cheer for?

During the 2011 regular season, the Harbaughs became the only brothers to coach against each other in any NFL game (the Ravens beat the 49ers 16-6 on Thanksgiving Day that year).

Now they'll be squaring off with a championship at stake in a Super Bowl filled with firsts — and one truly significant last.

It will be the first one between coaching brothers, of course. First one for Joe Flacco, the oft-doubted Ravens quarterback with the superb touch on deep balls and a QB-record six postseason road wins. First one for Kaepernick, the second-year player with the tattooed arms, the sprinter's speed, and a shoulder that zips throws like the high school baseball pitcher he used to be.

And it will be the last game for 17-year veteran Lewis, Baltimore's emotional leader and this postseason's top tackler with 44 so far.

"This is our time," Lewis pronounced.

He appeared to be on the verge of tears before and after helping Baltimore become the only team in 68 tries to overcome a halftime deficit against Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in Foxborough, Mass.

The NFC West champion 49ers (13-4-1) open as 5-point favorites, seeking a record-tying sixth Super Bowl title but first since 1995. The franchise of Hall of Fame quarterbacks Joe Montana and Steve Young is 5-0 in Super Bowls.

The AFC South champion Ravens (13-6) are headed to their second Super Bowl; Lewis was the MVP when Baltimore beat the New York Giants in 2001.

With Kaepernick's terrific passing — he was 16 of 21 for 233 yards and a touchdown in only his ninth career NFL start — and two TD runs by Frank Gore, San Francisco erased a 17-point deficit to beat the Atlanta Falcons 28-24 Sunday.

Baltimore then fashioned a comeback of its own by scoring the last 21 points to defeat the New England Patriots 28-13, thanks in large part to Flacco's three second-half touchdown tosses, two to Anquan Boldin.

In the often risk-averse NFL, each Harbaugh made a critical change late in the regular season in a bid to boost his team's postseason chances. Clearly, both moves worked.

After 49ers quarterback Alex Smith, the starter in last season's overtime NFC title game loss to the New York Giants, got a concussion, Jim switched to Kaepernick for Week 11 — and never switched back. Now San Francisco has its first three-game winning streak of the season, at precisely the right time.

Baltimore, meanwhile, was in the midst of a three-game losing streak when John fired offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and promoted quarterbacks coach Jim Caldwell to replace him.

The 50-year-old John is 15 months older than Jim and generally the less demonstrative of the pair, although John certainly did not lack intensity while making his case with officials a couple of times Sunday.

The ever-excitable Jim — who was treated for an irregular heartbeat in November — was up to his usual sideline antics in Atlanta.

He spun around and sent his headset flying when the original call stood after he threw his red challenge flag on a catch by the Falcons. He hopped and yelled at his defense to get off the field after their key fourth-down stop with less than 1½ minutes left. He made an emphatic-as-can-be timeout signal with 13 seconds remaining.

Expect CBS to fill plenty of time during its Super Bowl broadcast with shots of Jim, that trademark red pen dangling in front of his chest, and John, who usually wears a black Ravens hat. Yes, that is sure to be a focal point, until they meet for a postgame handshake.


Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at


AP sports writer Janie McCauley contributed to this report from San Francisco.


Online: and

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Asian shares pause, yen volatile as Bank of Japan meeting eyed

TOKYO (Reuters) - Asian shares held steady on Monday after surging to multimonth highs last week, while the yen firmed after touching a new low in choppy trade ahead of a Bank of Japan policy meeting this week that is expected to yield bold monetary easing measures.

The MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan <.miapj0000pus> was steady after earlier easing as much as 0.3 percent. The index closed at a 17-1/2-month high on Friday as upbeat U.S. and Chinese data lifted sentiment.

Australian shares <.axjo> inched up 0.1 percent while South Korean shares <.ks11> recouped earlier losses but remained capped as a stronger local currency hurt exporters.

The focus in Japan was on the BoJ, which starts its two-day policy meeting on Monday under growing political pressure to pursue bolder measures to beat deflation, with speculation ranging from an open-ended commitment to buy assets until a 2 percent inflation target is achieved to simply boosting its asset buying schemes.

Early on Monday, the dollar touched a fresh 2-1/2-year high of 90.25 yen, and the euro rose to a high of 120.27 yen, near its peak since May 2011 of 120.73 hit on Friday.

But the yen clawed back some of its losses against the dollar and the euro. The dollar slipped back to a low of 89.42 yen and was last trading at 89.66 yen, while the euro also fell to a low of 119.08 and last traded at 119.44 yen.

"Profit taking pushed the dollar and the euro down against the yen but short covering lifted them off their lows. Trading is thin and quite volatile. I don't think there will be any clear direction until the BoJ decision," said Yuji Saito, director of foreign exchange at Credit Agricole in Tokyo.

Saito said "sell the fact" behavior could push the dollar down about 1 yen, but a serious disappointment on the BoJ outcome was unlikely.

The correction to the yen's years of excessive strengthening is now spurring adjustments to currencies such as the Korean won. A firmer won weighed on the Korea Composite stock Price Index <.ks11>, held back by exporters, and capping it near levels unchanged from Friday.

"Concern over the weakening yen appears to be playing a large part as the main board (Kospi) continues to underperform compared to Asian peers due to foreign selling," said Kim Joong-won, an analyst at NH Investment & Securities in Seoul.

Tokyo's benchmark Nikkei average <.n225> also slipped 0.9 percent as investors booked profits from the Nikkei's 2.9 percent rally on Friday, its biggest daily gain in 22 months. The Nikkei posted a 10th straight week of gains, its longest since 1987. <.t/>

Many investors largely keep short position on the yen.

"We expect the door for further easing will likely be left open irrespective of the outcome of BoJ policy meeting, either explicitly by the BoJ or implicitly through government's plan to nominate doves to replace the governor and deputy governors," Barclays Capital said in a note to clients.

Friday's data showed while currency speculators slightly cut their bets against the yen in the week to January 15, they remained overwhelmingly negative on the currency.


The steady showing in Asia equities followed a rise in global equities late last week when signs Washington may avert a fiscal crisis helped improve sentiment.

Republicans said the House will consider a bill to raise the U.S. debt ceiling enough to allow the country to pay its bills for another three months. The strategy would buy time for the Democratic-controlled Senate to pass a budget plan that shrinks the federal deficit.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.dji> and the Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.spx> ended Friday at five-year highs on a solid start to the quarterly earnings season. U.S. markets are closed on Monday for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

Oil prices, however, took their cues from a weak consumer sentiment report in the United States, which showed a drop to the lowest in a year in January as a result of the uncertainty surrounding the country's debt crisis. Concerns about demand overshadowed supply disruption fears, reinforced by the Islamist militant attack and hostage-taking at a gas plant in Algeria, a member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

U.S. crude futures fell 0.4 percent to $95.21 a barrel while Brent fell 0.3 percent to $111.60 early on Monday.

(Additional reporting by Ian Chua in Sydney and Joyce Lee in Seoul; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

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UK scientists to mimic plants to make zero-carbon fuel

LONDON (Reuters) – British scientists seeking to tap more efficient forms of solar power are exploring how to mimic the way plants transform sunlight into energy and produce hydrogen to fuel vehicles.

They will join other researchers around the world studying artificial photosynthesis as governments seek to cut greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels.

The research will use synthetic biology to replicate the process by which plants concentrate solar energy to split water into hydrogen and oxygen, which is then released into the atmosphere.

“We will build a system for artificial photosynthesis by placing tiny solar panels on microbes,” said lead researcher Julea Butt at the University of East Anglia (UEA).

“These will harness sunlight and drive the production of hydrogen, from which the technologies to release energy on demand are well-advanced.”

Hydrogen is a zero-emission fuel which can power vehicles or be transformed into electricity.

“We imagine that our photocatalysts will prove versatile and that with slight modification they will be able to harness solar energy for the manufacture of carbon-based fuels, drugs and fine chemicals,” she added.

The 800,000 pound project will be undertaken by scientists from UEA and Cambridge and Leeds universities.

The scientists believe copying photosynthesis could be more efficient in harnessing the sun’s energy than existing solar converters.


Many countries have deployed at least one kind of renewable energy, such as solar, wind power or biofuels, or use a mixture to see which becomes most competitive with fossil fuels.

But as carbon dioxide emissions continue to rise, some experts argue more extreme methods are needed to keep the average rise in global temperatures below 2 degrees Celsius this century, a threshold scientists say would avoid the most harmful effects of climate change.

“Many renewable energy supplies, such as sunlight, wind and the waves, remain largely untapped resources. This is mainly due to the challenges that exist in converting these energy forms into fuels from which energy can be released on demand,” said Butt.

Some of the more extreme methods which are being studied are controversial, such as removing large amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and geo-engineering techniques such as blocking sunlight using artificial clouds or mirrors in space.

Such technology is far from being employed on a large scale and the costs are enormous.

Critics argue these techniques manipulate the climate, are too costly, take too long to prove and governments should concentrate on more mainstream renewable energy sources.

Last year, British scientists abandoned a 1.6 million pound experiment to test the possibility of spraying particles into the upper atmosphere to stem global warming.

(Editing by David Cowell)

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Why Hollande must 'reset presidency'

John Gaffney says Francois Hollande, seen here at the Elysee Palace on January 11, 2013, needs to rethink his presidency.


  • French President Francois Hollande and the country's Socialists are in a strong position

  • Despite this, Hollande has made little progress since his election, says John Gaffney

  • Gaffney: Hollande "like a stunned bunny in the headlights" of economic reality

  • President must act now, and act decisively, to make France admired again, says Gaffney

Editor's note: John Gaffney is professor of politics and co-director of the Aston Centre for Europe, at the UK's Aston University.

(CNN) -- France is the fifth richest country in the world. It is the world's sixth largest exporter. It has the second largest diplomatic network in the world, after the US. It is a member of the UN Security Council. It is the most visited country in the world, welcoming 82 million visitors last year. It is a major nuclear power. It is the true founder of the European Union. And it is in a terrible mess.

Socialist Francois Hollande was elected president almost a year ago, ousting the deeply unpopular "Mr Bling," President Nicolas Sarkozy.

John Gaffney is professor of politics at Aston University in the UK.

John Gaffney is professor of politics at Aston University in the UK.

France's Socialist left have never been so strong politically: They control the presidency, the government, both houses of parliament, the regions, and all the big towns and cities. And in his first eight months in office, Hollande has done virtually nothing. He is like a stunned bunny in the headlights of an oncoming vehicle called "Harsh Economic Reality."

Hollande has three fundamental problems. The first is that he doesn't have a plan. Tens of thousands of people are losing their jobs each week, and it is going to get worse and worse.

France faces a huge public spending crisis - in health, pensions, and now welfare, and a government debt of 90% of GDP. Not one single adequate measure has been put forward, nor even proposed in his eight months in office.

The second problem is that he lacks the political will to break the log-jams in French society: Making industry more competitive, reducing government spending. He cannot do these things because one of the constituencies he needs to take on -- the huge public sector -- is made up of the people who voted him into power.

He could take on the equally irresponsible banks -- they didn't vote for him -- but he risks sending the economy into a tailspin if he does.

And not only does he need to address the structural issues in France's economy and society, but he made the mistake of telling everyone he could solve the country's problems painlessly, or by taxing the super-rich, and he is not managing to do that either, so he is just taxing everyone else.

Now he faces the worst situation possible because no one believes a word he says. He delivered a robust New Year's message last week, watched by millions; yet 75% don't believe he can deliver on its promise.

In fact, the New Year's Eve wishes everyone in France did believe were the Churchillian tones of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Her message was essentially the opposite of Hollande's bizarre optimism, which seems to involve little more than following the "Keep Calm and Carry On" mantra. But waiting for the upturn will find France unprepared and in a worse predicament than Spain or Italy, who are now busily restructuring their economies.

The third and fundamental problem Hollande has is that he does not understand the nature of the office he holds, the French Presidency of the Republic. If he did, he might find a way forward. In his New Year message he likened himself to a ship's captain. But he has to be one, not just say he is one. The office of French President is a highly complex mixture of the political and the symbolic. But it is fundamentally about leadership; that is leading not following, and taking the French with him.

Hollande urgently needs to reset his Presidency - and there are a few clear rules to do so:

He needs to take on the banks where necessary, take on the benefits system, the impediments to innovation and to setting up new businesses, take on the appalling situation of France's forgotten inner city misery; his need not be a hard-nosed liberal agenda.

No government in French history is in a better position to make France a more equal society while making it and its economy more efficient. He should focus on young people trying to set up their own business. Focus on small businesses generally. Drag France away from its drive to over regulate everything and throttle innovation. Tax the super-rich if necessary, as long as it contributes to the overall solution he is aiming for.

He also needs to get into step with Merkel and lead Europe with Germany, not pretend he is the spokesperson for the irresponsible spenders.

But above all, he should use the presidency in a more imaginative way: Begin an ongoing and exciting conversation with the French. No other office in the world, not even the presidency of the US, offers such scope for an intimacy between leader and population.

He should boldly use the referendum to build up and direct the conversation towards change and innovation. If the vested interests won't move, bring in the people. Use the referendum like de Gaulle did between 1958 and 1962, as a major political weapon to break the deadlocks in French political society.

In Europe and the wider world he has to make France admired again, as it once was. Inside France, he has to forget about not upsetting anyone. In fact, he should have a plan that upsets just about everybody. The French would love him for it.

So far it remains to be seen what impact his first major foreign policy challenge -- in Mali -- will have. As French forces, with the backing of the international community, go into the West African country to take on Islamist rebels, the coming weeks will tell us whether fate just gave to him the best or the worst opportunity to show the French, and the rest of the world, what he is made of.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of John Gaffney.

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Obama sworn in for second term in White House ceremony

Singers, musicians, vendors and a veteran parade planner tune up on Sunday, Jan. 20, 2013, for President Obama's Monday inauguration. (Chris Walker, Chicago Tribune)


  President Barack Obama took the official oath for his second term on Sunday at the White House in a small, private ceremony that set a more subdued tone compared to the historic start of his presidency four years ago.

Gathered with his family in the Blue Room on the White House's ceremonial main floor, Obama put his hand on a family Bible and recited the 35-word oath that was read out loud by U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts.

"I did it," Obama said as he hugged his wife, Michelle, and daughters Sasha and Malia. "Thank you, sweetie," he told Michelle when she congratulated him.

"Good job, Dad," 11-year-old Sasha told her father. "You didn't mess up."

It was a low-key start to the first African-American U.S. president's second term, which is likely to be dominated - at least at the start - by budget fights with Republicans and attempts to reform gun control and immigration laws.

Obama, 51, will be sworn in publicly on Monday outside the West Front of the Capitol overlooking the National Mall in front of as many as 800,000 people, a much bigger ceremony replete with a major address and a parade.

Downtown Washington was all but locked down with heavy security. Many streets were closed and lined with barricades. Outside the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue, an elaborate presidential viewing stand, encased in bullet-proof glass, was set up for Obama and other VIPs to watch the parade.

Sunday's ceremony, shown live on television, was needed because the U.S. Constitution mandates that the president take office on January 20. Planners opted to go with a private ceremony on the actual date and then hold the ceremonial inaugural activities the next day.

At a reception on Sunday night, Obama thanked supporters and joked that he did not want to give too much of a preview of his upcoming address.

"Tonight I'm going to be pretty brief because, you know, there are a limited amount of good lines," he said to laughter.

"What the inauguration reminds us of is the role we have as fellow citizens in promoting a common good," he continued, more seriously. "What we're celebrating is not the election or swearing-in of a president, what we're doing is celebrating each other and celebrating this incredible nation that we call home."

By Monday, Obama will have been sworn in four times, two for each term, putting him equal to Franklin Roosevelt, who won four terms. A second Obama swearing-in was deemed necessary in 2009 when Roberts flubbed the first one. On Sunday, Roberts read the oath carefully from a card and there were no mistakes.


Obama, who won a second four years on November 6 by defeating Republican Mitt Romney after a bitter campaign, opens round two facing many of the same problems that dogged his first term: persistently high unemployment, crushing government debt and a deep partisan divide over how to solve the issues.

This has taken some of the euphoria out of his second inauguration, with TV pundits debating how successful he will be and whether he can avoid policy over-reaching, which often afflicts two-term presidents.

"The newness has already worn off. Last time it was the inauguration for our first black president. Now, four years later it is a bit of old news," Mark Hoye, 52, of Sterling, Virginia said at an inauguration ball at a hotel in Washington.

If the president harbored any doubts himself, there was no sign of it as he attended a rousing service at Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church in Washington where he and Michelle, who is sporting a new hair style featuring bangs, clapped and swayed to gospel music.

"Forward, forward," shouted Reverend Ronald Braxton to his congregation, echoing an Obama election campaign slogan.

Early on Sunday morning, Vice President Joe Biden was sworn in by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, making her the first Hispanic judge to administer an oath of office for one of the nation's two highest offices.

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Algeria toll rises as attack claimed for al Qaeda

ALGIERS, Algeria (Reuters) - The death toll has risen to at least 48 hostages killed during a four-day siege at a gas plant deep in the Sahara as a veteran Islamist fighter claimed responsibility on behalf of al Qaeda for the attack.

Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal is expected to give details at a Monday news conference about one of the worst international hostage crises in decades, which left American, British, French, Japanese, Norwegian and Romanian workers dead or missing.

A security source said on Sunday Algerian troops had found the bodies of 25 hostages, raising the number of militants and their captives killed to at least 80. He said six militants were captured alive and troops were still searching for others.

One-eyed veteran Islamist fighter Mokhtar Belmokhtar claimed responsibility on Sunday for the attack on behalf of al Qaeda.

"We in al Qaeda announce this blessed operation," he said in a video, according to Sahara Media, a regional website. He said about 40 attackers participated in the raid, roughly matching the government's figures for fighters killed and captured.

The fighters swooped out of the desert and seized the base on Wednesday, capturing a plant that produces 10 percent of Algeria's natural gas exports, as well as a nearby residential barracks.

They demanded an end to French air strikes against Islamist fighters in neighboring Mali that had begun five days earlier. However, U.S. and European officials doubt such a complex raid could have been organized quickly enough to have been conceived as a direct response to the French military intervention.

The siege turned bloody on Thursday when the Algerian army opened fire saying fighters were trying to escape with their prisoners. Survivors said Algerian forces blasted several trucks in a convoy carrying both hostages and their captors.

Nearly 700 Algerian workers and more than 100 foreigners escaped, mainly on Thursday when the fighters were driven from the residential barracks. Some captors remained holed up in the industrial complex until Saturday when they were overrun.

The bloodshed has strained Algeria's relations with its Western allies, some of whom have complained about being left in the dark while the decision to storm the compound was being taken. Nevertheless, Britain and France both defended the Algerian military action.

"It's easy to say that this or that should have been done. The Algerian authorities took a decision and the toll is very high but I am a bit bothered ... when the impression is given that the Algerians are open to question," said French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius. "They had to deal with terrorists."

British Prime Minister David Cameron said in a televised statement: "Of course people will ask questions about the Algerian response to these events, but I would just say that the responsibility for these deaths lies squarely with the terrorists who launched this vicious and cowardly attack.

"We should recognize all that the Algerians have done to work with us and to help and coordinate with us. I'd like to thank them for that. We should also recognize that the Algerians too have seen lives lost among their soldiers."

Algeria had given a preliminary death toll of 55 people killed - 23 hostages and 32 militants - on Saturday and said it would rise as more bodies were found.

The security source said that toll did not include the bodies of 25 hostages found on Sunday, which meant the total number of captives killed - foreign and local - was at least 48. The search was not over, and more could yet be found, he said.

Among foreigners confirmed dead by their home countries were three Britons, one American and two Romanians. The missing include at least 10 Japanese, five Norwegians, three other Britons, and a British resident. The security source said at least one Frenchman was also among the dead.


Alan Wright, now safe at home in Scotland, said he had escaped with a group of Algerian and foreign workers after hiding for a day and a night. While hiding inside the compound, he managed to call his wife at home with their two daughters.

"She asked if I wanted to speak to Imogen and Esme, and I couldn't because I thought, I don't want my last ever words to be in a crackly satellite phone, telling a lie, saying you're OK when you're far from OK," he recalled to Sky News.

Despite the incident, Algeria is determined to press on with its energy industry. Oil Minister Youcef Yousfi visited the site and said physical damage was minor, state news service APS reported. The plant would start back up in two days, he said.

The Islamists' assault has tested Algeria's relations with the outside world and exposed the vulnerability of multinational oil operations in the Sahara.

Algeria, scarred by the civil war with Islamist insurgents in the 1990s which claimed 200,000 lives, insisted from the start of the crisis there would be no negotiation in the face of terrorism.

France especially needs close cooperation from Algeria to crush Islamist rebels in northern Mali.

(Additional reporting by Balazs Koranyi in Oslo, Estelle Shirbon and David Alexander in London, Brian Love in Paris and Daniel Flynn in Dakar; Writing by Peter Graff; Editing by Sophie Hares and Myra MacDonald)

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