Saturday, May 5, 2012

'The Vampire Diaries' 3.22 Clips: Elena Realizes She Has to Choose

the-vampire-diaries-3-22-elena-realizes-she-has-to-choose Elena is close to make her choice in a new sneak peek of "The Vampire Diaries" season 3 finale. Waking up from sleep, she tells Matt she's sorry for stringing him along in the past, and realizes that she makes the same mistake with Stefan and Damon.

"I have to let one of them go," so the mortal beauty says. "Which one?" a curious Matt asks, but before Elena gives the answer, Stefan bursts into the room to see if she's okay. The two then share an embrace.

In another clip, Damon and Bonnie are on their way to a storage locker where Klaus' coffin is hidden. He reveals that he decided against using the obvious 666, and chose 1020 instead, which has mini-fridge, couple bird cages, box of old playboys, and "one beef-jerkified Original" inside.

Titled "The Departed", the last episode of "Vampire Diaries" season 3 will air Thursday, May 10 at 8/7c on The CW. It will feature a flashback to Elena's past, when life was much simpler for her and when her adoptive parents as well as Aunt Jenna were still alive.

Damon, meanwhile, finds himself in a difficult situation as Alaric beats him down to force him to reveal where Klaus' body is. "I was getting my ass kicked. The last shot of the finale of the show, [I'm] just getting beaten down. I got my ass kicked a lot in that episode," Ian Somerhalder gushed about his scenes. "It's pretty bloody."


Friday, May 4, 2012

U.S. drone strike kills nine in Pakistan, officials say

A U.S. drone aircraft killed nine suspected militants on Saturday in Pakistan's North Waziristan region near the Afghan border, Pakistani security officials said.

The controversial drone program, a key element in U.S. counter-terrorism efforts, is highly unpopular in Pakistan where it is considered a violation of sovereignty which causes unacceptable civilian casualties.

In Saturday's strike, a drone fired missiles at a compound in the Shawal area of North Waziristan, killing the nine, said the officials who declined to be identified.

Shawal is a remote area of forested ridges and valleys that spreads out on both sides of the border and has long been known as a haven for militants from Pakistan, Afghanistan and beyond.

A Pakistani parliamentary committee recently demanded an end to drone strikes on Pakistani territory as part of its recommendations for how its relationship with the United States should change.

The United States has given no indication it intends to halt the campaign, and the administration of President Barack Obama has said the use of the remotely piloted aircraft is legal under international law.

(Reporting by Haji Mujtaba in Miranshah and Jibran Ahmad in Peshawar; Writing by Qasim Nauman; Editing by Robert Birsel)

Ringing the changes: Big Ben's tower may be renamed for Queen's Jubilee

British lawmakers want to rename one of London's most famous landmarks -- known to tourists around the world as "Big Ben" -- after Queen Elizabeth II, for her Diamond Jubilee.

The Queen marks 60 years on the throne in 2012, and politicians believe that naming St. Stephen's Tower, the clock tower at the Houses of Parliament, in her honor would be a fitting tribute to her years of service.

"Not many kings and queens have served for such a long time," Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood, who is leading the renaming campaign, told CNN. "Only two have celebrated their Diamond Jubilee -- Queen Elizabeth II, and Queen Victoria.

"The other tower at the Palace of Westminster is named in honour of Queen Victoria; the clock tower has lots of nicknames -- Big Ben, St Stephen's Tower, or just the Clock Tower -- but no official name.

"It seems a superb way to honor a very distinguished life, and the many years of service she has given to the country."

Ellwood said his plan had the support of MPs from across the political spectrum, and that he hoped they would back his bill to officially name the tower after the Queen in the coming weeks -- in time for the Diamond Jubilee celebrations in June.

"Of course, if it does go ahead it will mean that the next time a monarch reaches their 60th anniversary we'll have to build another tower -- but I don't suppose we'll have to worry about that for a while," he joked.

"Big Ben" is officially the name of the 13.5 ton bell inside St Stephen's Tower, and not the name of the tower itself.

The bell rang out for the first time in July 1859 -- but cracked two months later. Its chimes were silenced for the next four years, until a way was found to make it peal again in 1863 (by turning it slightly), however, the crack is still visible. Today it rings -- in the key of E -- each hour, while a series of quarter bells chime every 15 minutes.

It remains unclear whether the new name -- Elizabeth Tower -- will capture the public imagination, or if they will continue to refer to it as "Big Ben". However, jokers have already suggested a new nickname: "Big Beth."


French election: François Hollande vows to rid politics of sexism

Francois-Hollande-campaig-008 He has promised an equal number of men and women in cabinet, and to reintroduce a ministry of women's rights. But will François Hollande be the president who finally took on the pervasive sexism in French politics, if as polls predict he wins Sunday's presidential election?

The Socialist frontrunner, who was on Friday leading by at least five points in the final opinion polls of an increasingly vitriolic campaign, is under pressure to prove he will shake up his image of a middle-aged man surrounded by middle-aged men. Voting in the first round showed women favoured the incumbent, Nicolas Sarkozy, over the man bidding to become the first Socialist to win a presidential election since 1988.

Hollande has sought to portray himself as a feminist, and recently won the backing of a petition of more than 150 feminists. He has said he will reintroduce a ministry of women's rights and has promised an equal number of women and men in government if he wins. This would be historic. It was something Sarkozy promised in 2007, but never achieved, despite the media spotlight on figures such as the justice minister Rachida Dati.

Sarkozy retorted this week that it is not the number of women in government that matters but their seniority. "I appointed the first woman finance minister in France," he said of Christine Lagarde, now head of the International Monetary Fund. It is a charge Hollande is vulnerable to. In March, he told women at his campaign headquarters: "It would be good in principle to have as many men as women in a government." He then added: "That is not to say the responsibilities would be the same."

Marie-Jo Zimmermann, an MP for Sarkozy's UMP party, and head of the women's rights delegation in parliament, described the comments as "scandalous", warning women could not simply be relegated to junior cabinet posts.

Several women in Hollande's team are being tipped for key positions. Martine Aubry, the first woman leader of the Socialist party and a former minister for employment and solidarity, had been touted as a possible prime minister but is now seen as more likely to take a ministry. France has only had one woman PM, the Socialist Edith Cresson, who served for less than a year.

New faces, who were children when the last Socialist president, François Mitterrand came to power, include Aurélie Filippetti, a former ecologist and MP in Lorraine, who heads the culture team in Hollande's campaign, and Delphine Batho, an MP in western France, both of whom could take posts. Fleur Pellerin, a state auditor, who was born in South Korea, is Hollande's adviser on digital issues and is seen as an important diversity figure, as is Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, one of Hollande's spokeswomen, who hopes to run for parliament in Lyon in June.

Ségolène Royal, Hollande's ex-partner, who was defeated by Sarkozy in 2007, has had an increasing presence in the campaign and is tipped as a possible head of parliament, the first time the post would have gone to a woman.

Hollande has also promised to clamp down on equal pay for men and women, and vowed to enforce the law on political parties fielding equal numbers of men and women in parliamentary elections. Women MPs make up 18.5% of the French parliament, compared with 21% in the UK, 33% in Germany and 46% in Sweden.

Despite two men facing each other in Sunday's runoff, the campaign has not been devoid of the kind of creeping sexism that France had hoped to put behind it. Sarkozy raised feminist hackles this week when he observed "a woman's life is more difficult than a man's because she has three lives: a mother's life, a working life, and a sentimental life" – as if men had no need to juggle the same responsibilities.

One MP in Sarkozy's ruling rightwing party called Hollande's partner, Valerie Trierweiler, a rottweiler, before adding that was "unfair to the dog" and commenting on the comparative ugliness of former women ministers in Sarkozy's government. Trierweiler was furious when her employer, the magazine Paris Match, put her on its cover under the headline "Hollande's charming asset". The Green candidate Eva Joly complained she had been the victim of ageism, sexism and xenophobia, calling herself the "Menopausal Norwegian woman". Sarkozy, when attacked over his bling habits at the start of his presidency, blamed his ex-wife.

Women's groups have been pleased to find equality issues on Hollande's agenda but will be holding him to account. He has now promised one of his first priorities will be to pass a law on sexual harassment.

The Guardian

Hollande-Merkel: A new entente cordiale?

120423012508-merkel-sarkozy-story-top There has been a great deal of austerity-bashing -- that is to say Germany-bashing -- this French election season. Buoyed by his success in the first round, socialist contender Francois Hollande declared last Thursday: "It is not for Germany to decide for the rest of Europe." Vowing to reset Europe on a growth path, he said, "we're not just any country, we can change the situation."

As for French President Nicolas Sarkozy who's leading Hollande in the polls, he was quick to throw off the "Merkozy" mantel early on in his campaigning once he realized that vaunting his friendship with the German chancellor was the last thing his electorate wanted to hear.

Merkel has stood by her one-time ally, saying she continues to support him in his re-election bid. This comes despite increasingly anti-immigrant, protectionist rhetoric from the Sarkozy camp in order to appeal to voters on the far-right that must sit uncomfortably with Berlin.

Much has been made of the fact that the German chancellor's office has made no official overtures to Hollande. The chairman of Germany's Social Democrat party Sigmar Gabriel called his socialist counterpart in Paris a "victim of slander" by the ruling coalition and by Merkel personally in a recent interview with German daily Die Welt. "She knows perfectly well that it is a lie that Hollande want to scrap the fiscal compact and incur mountains of debt."

Whether or not she is sure of that, Merkel has made it quite clear that Hollande cannot scrap the fiscal pact. Not up for renegotiation, she said. But it is also clear that Berlin recognizes the writing on the wall. "Germany is clever enough to adapt its position to a new political constellation in France," said Etienne Francois from the French Center at Berlin's Free University. "Germans are not people to improvise."

And Merkel has already responded with more talk of growth, although she's at pains to argue this isn't a new position on her part. "It is important that we break with the idea that growth always costs a lot of money and must be the result of expensive stimulus programs," she told the Hamburger Abendblatt. The way out of this crisis has always rested on two pillars: "solid finances and measures for growth and employment."

Hollande for his part has said if he does become president, his first trip will be to Berlin. This is a man who does not underestimate the strength of the Franco-German alliance. Plus he's of a more similar temperament to the German chancellor than Sarkozy ever was. "He's pragmatic, prepared to compromise, accepts budget discipline and he'll be under enormous pressure from the markets," says Claire Demesmay, French expert at the German Council on Foreign Relations. "Once the summer's over, once the parliamentary elections have happened, he will have to start saving and he will have to push through reforms."

For now, expect small modifications to the fiscal pact but no rewrites. "Germany will be clever enough to accept little changes in formulation in order to help Hollande tell French voters that he's been victorious," Francois said. "But it's just tactics." Merkel is already talking about more flexible use of EU infrastucture funds to spur growth, a strengthened role for the European Investment Bank. But that is a long way from meeting any future French leader on proposals such as eurobonds or a European Central Bank lending directly to governments, both anathema to Berlin.

How far the German chancellor will be forced to compromise to Hollande's growth mantra may well depend on matters outside France. Greece also holds elections on Sunday. Greek voters stung by austerity are turning to extremist parties on the left and right. Recession is biting across Europe, swingeing cuts making electorates restive in Spain, Portugal and Italy. The more support Hollande gets from other disgruntled eurozone countries, the less lee-way Berlin has to stick to its tough belt-tightening course.

But that is still some way off. Sunday's election outcome is not a done deal. Greece will vote, Merkel has two crucial state elections coming up in the next two weeks and the Netherlands goes to the polls in September. If the past decades are anything to go by, it is more than likely the Franco-German alliance will remain an anchor of stability amid all the uncertainty, whoever holds the reins of power in each country.


News Update Users