Curfew widened amid Iraq violence

A daytime curfew is in force in and around the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, in an attempt to curb a surge in violence.

Police have been ordered to seize any private vehicles that defy the ban, on what is the Muslim day of prayers.

In continuing violence, the bodies of at least 18 people killed in a suspected sectarian attack were found near Baghdad on Friday.

Hundreds of people have died since a key Shia mosque was bombed last week in the city of Samarra.

In the latest large-scale attack, police quoted residents as saying about 50 gunmen ambushed the small town of Nahrawan, south-east of Baghdad, at nightfall on Thursday.

They said the attackers targeted a power station, killing an as-yet unknown number of people, before moving on to two brick factories, where they killed 18 workers, all believed to be Shia.

Last week, the bodies of 47 factory workers, who had been dragged from their vehicles and shot, were also found in Nahrawan.

Imams warned

Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari said he had ordered the curfew "because of the sensitive security situation our beloved country is passing through".

Friday's ban - which came into effect as the regular overnight curfew ended - will remain in place until 1600 (1300 GMT).

Although cars are banned from the streets, people will still be able to walk to nearby mosques for Friday prayers.

Mr Jaafari urged mosque leaders not to use "inflammatory" language in their sermons on Friday, warning of "severe measures" if they try to "incite terrorism".

"The street is angry and they should know how to calm the people," he told reporters.

Political tensions

A similar curfew was imposed last weekend to try to quell a wave of sectarian violence that followed the bombing of the shrine in Samarra on 22 February.

At least 400 people have been killed.

On Thursday, at least nine security forces members died in an attack on a checkpoint near Tikrit.

Mr Jaafari cancelled a meeting with senior political leaders on Thursday, apparently to protest against a campaign to oust him.

Kurdish and Sunni Arab leaders are unhappy with Mr Jaafari, and have said they will not join a national unity government with him at its head.

It is the latest crisis to hit attempts to form a new government following the December election.

New viruses aimed at Apple

Computer experts have discovered two new viruses that target Apple computers, and they say more could be found in the future.That's the advice being passed to owners of Apple computers by computer experts.

They are sharing those words of wisdom because two viruses written to target Apple computers were discovered on the Internet last month and a major security hole in OS X, the latest operating system for Apple computers, was found.

While viruses and security weaknesses are almost everyday occurrences for owners of Windows-based computers, they are virtually unheard of in the world of Apple.

But that world is changing.

Computer security experts say more viruses and security flaws for Apple computers will be found in the near future. It's the price of popularity, they explained.

''You will start to see more exploits, but only because Apple has garnered a lot of attention in the past year,'' said Vincent Weafer, a senior director at Symantec. Symantec makes anti-virus and security software for computers.

''But it's certainly not the dam bursting,'' Weafer said, adding that Apple computers will be getting a lot more attention from virus writers and security experts.


There are two reasons Apple computers are in the spotlight, he said:

  • Apple recently switched to Intel chips for its computer processors. Intel chips primarily had been used in Windows machines. Though the Intel-based Apple computers have been on the market less than two months, researchers want to see if the switch will create Windows-like problems in Apple machines. Virus writers are hoping the chip creates more security holes that they can exploit.
  • Apple computers are becoming more popular, thanks to the success of Apple's iPod portable music player. Exact sales figures of Apple computers in the past year were not released by the company, but analysts said the company had stronger than expected sales of Macintosh computers in December.

The problems in Apple computers started in midFebruary, when two viruses were discovered.

One virus, named OSX.Leap.A, infects computers through Apple's iChat instant-messaging program. Once on a computer, it replicates and sends itself to all other computer users listed as contacts in iChat.


The other virus, OSX.Ingtana.A, is a worm that spreads itself through Bluetooth connections to Apple computers. Bluetooth is wireless technology that lets devices communicate at distances of about 30 feet.

Neither virus did much damage.

Despite the security threats, that doesn't mean that Apple computers suddenly have as many viruses and security weaknesses as Windows machines, Weafer said.

''There are 200 known worms for Apple computers, as opposed to a few hundred thousand for Windows computers,'' he said. "From a home user point of view, I would not panic or worry."

"But it's a good opportunity to go back and look at your computer practices and see if there's something that can be changed to make the computer a little safer.''

He said that Apple owners should check that their virus detection software and operating system are updated.

Antarctica Cannot Replace Ice Loss


Study finds continent is shrinking faster than it can grow. Experts say changes to the global water cycle could hasten the pace of sea-level rise.

The ice sheets of Antarctica — the world's largest reservoir of fresh water — are shrinking faster than new snow can fall, scientists reported Thursday in the first comprehensive satellite survey of the entire continent.

Researchers at the University of Colorado determined that between 2002 and 2005 Antarctica lost ice at a rate of 36 cubic miles a year, rather than growing from heavier snowfalls as had been predicted. That amount of ice is equivalent to about 30 times the fresh water used by Los Angeles every year.

"It is the first time we can say that if you look at the entire ice sheet, it is losing mass," said geophysicist Isabella Velicogna, whose findings were published online Thursday by the journal Science.

This month, an independent research team at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge reported that the Arctic glaciers of Greenland were melting twice as fast as five years ago, adding an extra 38 cubic miles of fresh water to the Atlantic Ocean every year.

Taken together, the findings suggest that a century of steady increases in global temperatures is altering the seasonal balance of the world's water cycle, in which new snow and ice neatly offset thaw and rainfall runoff every year to maintain the current level of the seas.

If so, experts say, increasing global temperatures — the 10 warmest years on record all occurred after 1990 — may be hastening the demise of the polar icecaps and estimates of the pace of sea-level rise could be too low.

By previous calculations, Antarctica's coastal glaciers shed enough meltwater every year to raise sea levels by 0.02 of an inch, even as new snow falling in the interior locked up the same amount in the icecap. The result was that sea level remained more or less the same from year to year.

"A little bit of change in one of these things could throw it all out of balance and, evidently, that is what is going on," said University of Colorado geophysicist John Wahr, who helped analyze the new satellite measurements.

Portions of the Antarctic coast are 4.5 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than 60 years ago, research has shown.

Those same areas have lost an estimated 5,500 square miles of ice in the last 30 years, calving icebergs the size of Belgium and Rhode Island. In 2002, an entire ice shelf collapsed into the sea.

But the newest work signals a broader loss across the entire continent — an amount equal to more than 13% of the annual sea level rise measured in recent years, the researchers said. The shrinkage is concentrated in the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, which has enough fresh water to raise sea levels more than 20 feet.

The researchers based their findings on unique gravity measurements collected by a pair of orbiting satellites, the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment, launched in 2002.

Eric Rignot at JPL called the gravity measurement technique "a breakthrough" because the satellites allow researchers for the first time to measure changes across immense swaths of Earth's surface.

In a separate measure of the effects of changing temperatures on a continental scale, researchers in South Africa reported Thursday in Science that even minor changes in rainfall caused by climate change could drastically affect lakes, rivers and streams across one quarter of Africa by the end of the century.

Climate-driven changes in water supplies "potentially have devastating implications," said researchers Maarten de Wit and Jacek Stankiewicz of the University of Cape Town.

They used computer databases of drainage basins and global climate models to calculate the potential impact of changing rainfall patterns on drainage across Africa.

Bird Flu Found in Cat in Germany

Swans swim in the harbour of Wittower Faehre on the northern German island of Ruegen on Feb. 15, 2006. The H5N1 strain of bird flu was confirmed Tuesday Feb. 28 2006 in a cat in Germany, the first time it has been positively identified in a mammal in Europe, the World Health Organization said. The cat was found dead over the weekend on the Baltic Sea island of Ruegen close to Wittower Faehre , where most of Germany's more-than 100 cases of H5N1-infected wild birds have been found, said Thomas Mettenleiter, leader of the Friedrich Loeffler institute lab. Sign reads:No Trespassing.BERLIN - The deadly strain of bird flu has been found in a cat in Germany, officials said Tuesday, the first time the virus has been identified in an animal other than a bird in central Europe.

Health officials urged cat owners to keep pets indoors after the dead cat was discovered over the weekend on the Baltic Sea island of Ruegen, where most of the more than 100 wild birds infected by the H5N1 strain have been found.

The cat is believed to have eaten an infected bird, said Thomas Mettenleiter, head of Germany's Friedrich Loeffler Institute. That is in keeping with a pattern of disease transmission seen in wild cats in Asia.

Mettenleiter insisted, however, there was no danger to humans as there have been no documented cases of a cat transmitting the virus to people.

However, Maria Cheng of the World Health Organization in Geneva said there was not enough information on how the disease is transmitted to be sure. She noted that tigers and snow leopards in a zoo in Thailand became infected after being fed chicken carcasses, dying from H5N1 in 2003 and 2004.

"But we don't know what this means for humans. We don't know if they would play a role in transmitting the disease. We don't know how much virus the cats would excrete, how much people would need to be exposed to before they would fall ill," Cheng said.

In addition to the large cats infected in Thailand, three house cats near Bangkok were infected with the virus in February 2004. Officials said one cat ate a dead chicken on a farm where there was a bird flu outbreak, and the virus apparently spread to the others.

WHO said tests on three civets that died in captivity last June in Vietnam also detected H5N1. The source of that infection was unknown.

Twenty-one people in Turkey tested positive for H5N1 in January and four of them, all children, died.

WHO on Monday raised its official tally of human bird flu cases worldwide to 173, including 93 deaths. Almost all human deaths from bird flu have been linked to contact with infected birds.

Health officials are concerned H5N1 could mutate into a form that is transmitted easily among humans, which could lead to a pandemic.

Cheng said the discovery of bird flu in a cat in Germany underscores that the deadly H5N1 strain can infect a wide range of mammals.

Scientists are particularly concerned about bird flu infecting pigs, because swine can also become infected with the human flu virus. The fear is the two viruses could swap genetic material and create a new virus that could set off a human flu pandemic.

"We're particularly worried about pigs because they can have both human and bird flu at the same time and they can pass it on back to humans in a new form, which is essentially what happened in the last two pandemics" in 1957 and 1968, Cheng said.

Several other European nations registered cases of H5N1 on Tuesday. The worst outbreak was in Russia, where authorities confirmed the illness that devastated a poultry farm in the southern region of Krasnodar was bird flu.

More than 100,000 chickens at a farm in the village of Lavliniskaya have been killed to try to stem the spread of the disease, Gov. Alexander Tkachev said.

Forty-three countries — including the United States — have partially or totally banned French poultry products after H5N1 was confirmed in commercial birds over the weekend. A group of veterinary chiefs meeting in Paris said Tuesday no country should consider itself safe from the deadly strain and that it is "highly likely" the disease will continue its spread in poultry stocks in Europe and beyond.

"The risk now is high for everybody," said Bernard Vallat, director of the Paris-based World Organization for Animal Health, which hosted the two-day meeting of experts from 50 countries.

Authorities in Sweden and Hungary also said they were conducting further tests to confirm whether wild birds that had tested positive for a form of bird flu were infected with the H5N1 strain.

Slovenia, as well as the southern German state of Bavaria, both registered new cases of H5N1 in wild fowl.

Sony Ericsson and Google bundle software on new phones


Sony Ericsson has signed a deal with Google that will mean owners of the Sony Ericsson mobile phones will be able to file to a personal blog on the move as soon as they turn on their new phone.

The company today announced that it will be integrating Google’s Blogger and Web Search features on all its future mobile phones.

Owners of a account will be able to file stories via their mobile phone on the move with the included software.

It is the first time a mobile phone manufacturer has included tools to allow people to blog directly from their handset and shows that blogging is about to get a whole lot bigger.

The first Sony Ericsson products to offer the new service are the recently announced K610 UMTS phone and new flagship imaging handsets, the K800 and K790, announced today and available sometime before the end of June.

"We are seeing exponential growth in blogging and consumers are turning more and more often to the Internet as a means of sharing information or images in personal blogs”, said Jan Wäreby, Corporate Executive Vice President, Head of Sales and Marketing, Sony Ericsson. “By working with Google, we're able to offer a quick and easy way for people users to blog as they discover how convenient it is as a way to share words and pictures with friends, family and beyond. We are also delighted to collaborate with Google, the undisputed leader in Web Search, to provide our end users with relevant internet information directly to their Sony Ericsson handsets."

Additionally, commencing today Google will become the standard search engine for all new Sony Ericsson internet-capable phones.

Sony Ericsson is the latest company to announce that it will feature Google software on its handsets.

The announcement comes after Motorola and Vodafone have said that they too would be offering users access to Google Search.

Google's hiring spree

Free Image Hosting at

Over the last two years, Google has lured some of the best and brightest minds in technology and science to join the search giant's lava lamp and snack-filled offices. Here's a rundown.

Credit: CNET

Click the thumbnail

First J2ME Mobile Phone Trojan Spotted

Russian anti-virus specialist Kaspersky Lab has discovered evidence of the first mobile phone Trojan targeting J2ME (Java 2 Platform, Micro Edition) devices.

The sample Trojan, identified as Redbrowser.A, works on most phones with J2ME support, raising fears that malware writers are expanding the target beyond just Symbian-based smart phones.

Redbrowser.A is a J2ME-based Java Midlet that pretends to be a WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) browser that offers free WAP browsing.

Instead, once a phone is infected, the Trojan sends text messages to premium rate numbers, saddling the victim with exorbitant messaging charges.

The infected user gets charged between $5 and $6 for each text message sent by the Trojan, said Shane Coursen, Kaspersky Lab's senior technical consultant.

In an interview with eWEEK, Coursen said the Trojan, which was not found in the wild, is further proof that the mobile malware threat "is expanding rapidly."

Click here to read more about cell phone viruses.

"We now know that it's not only a threat to smart phones. All these regular phones that support J2ME are vulnerable and can become a major target," Coursen added.

The Redbrowser.A Trojan can be downloaded to the victim handset either via the Internet (from a WAP site) or via Bluetooth or a personal computer, he said.

F-Secure, a Finnish anti-virus vendor, has issued updated virus definitions for the latest threat.

"The fact that Redbrowser claims to send free SMS messages as part of its normal operation, is to fool the user into allowing the application permission to use Java SMS capabilities in phones that require permission from the user before sending SMS messages. This claim of free service is a form of social engineering," said F-Secure researcher Jarno Niemela.

He said the social engineering texts are in Russian, which limits the Trojan only to Russian-speaking countries.

Read more here about the Cabir worm targeting smart phones.

Niemela said the Trojan contains a fixed list of 10 phone numbers to which it will send SMS messages.

After the social engineering texts are shown, Redbrowser.A it will pick one number from the list at random and send a SMS message to that number.

"The message sending function is in an infinite loop, so unless terminated by the user, it will send a constant stream of messages. Each of those message will be changed to the user's account," Niemela said.

A separate blog entry by F-Secure's Mikko Hypponen contains screenshots of Redbrowser infecting a Nokia 6630 cell phone.

"Some old Java viruses like Strangebrew do work on some Java phones, but RedBrowser is the first malware targeting Java phones on purpose," Hypponen said, noting that it is also the first mobile malware that tries to steal money.

"The threat is still very limited; this thing does not spread by itself, and we have no direct reports of anybody being hit by it in Russia [where the first reports were from]," he added.

Hypponen said the Redbrowser Trojan works on many low-end closed phones.

F-Secure has successfully tested it under Nokia 9300 (Communicator, running Symbian Series 80), Nokia 6630 (Symbian S60 smart phone), Nokia 5140i (low-end Series 40 phone).

"We've also heard it works under BlackBerrys with J2ME support. We will be testing it with Nokia 6310i—one of the first phones with Java support," he said.

Check out's Security Center for the latest security news, reviews and analysis. And for insights on security coverage around the Web, take a look at Security Center Editor Larry Seltzer's Weblog.

Microsoft Ships IE (Eolas) Update

Microsoft has shipped a new version of its Internet Explorer browser to permanently change the way multimedia content is rendered on Web pages.

The cumulative non-security IE update was released Feb. 28 as an optional download for IE6 on Windows XP and Microsoft Windows Server 2003 and is a direct result of the multimillion-dollar patent spat with Chicago-based Eolas Technologies.

The modifications mean that IE users won't be able to directly interact with Microsoft ActiveX controls loaded by the APPLET, EMBED, or OBJECT elements without first activating the user interface with an extra mouse click.

Some widely deployed programs that use ActiveX controls within the browser include Adobe's Reader and Flash, Apple's QuickTime Player, Microsoft's Windows Media Player, RealNetworks' RealPlayer and Sun's JVM (Java Virtual Machine).

A Microsoft spokesperson said the changes will have "little to no impact on customer experience and partner applications" except for an extra mouse click in certain cases.

The company first detailed the modification plans last December after a start-stop-start-stop scenario that included a warning that the Eolas court ruling would force certain technical modifications to IE that would significantly disrupt the display of multimedia content on its dominant browser.

On Dec. 2, 2005, Microsoft changed course and notified ActiveX control vendors, OEM partners and content providers of modifications, which affects all future releases of Windows 2000, Windows XP and Windows Server 2003.

The spokesperson said all versions of IE that are currently being sold will be updated in a phased approach.

"Over the next few months, other versions will be updated and released, such as the update that went live as an optional download Feb. 28.

"These changes will also be reflected in IE7 for Windows XP and in IE7 in Windows Vista," she said.

According to Windows enthusiast site ActiveWin, localized full versions of Windows XP SP2, Windows Server 2003 SP1, and Windows Server 2003 R2 (including all SKUs of those products) will be released in a phased approach during March and April this year.

"At this time we are not releasing other down-level versions of IE or Windows," the spokesperson said. However, a final decision on browser revisions for Windows 2000 is still pending.

A white paper detailing the ActiveX changes has been published on the MSDN (Microsoft Developer Network).

Despite the changes, Microsoft has vowed to vigorously appeal the $521 million patent infringement ruling won by Eolas and the University of California over the use of certain patents in the browser.

Test Versions of New Windows Live Services Arrive

SAN FRANCISCO-- Test versions of new Windows Live hosted services--Windows Live Expo and Windows Live Local--are now available.

Windows Live Expo is an online classified service Microsoft plans to launch in the United States, the company said. In addition to traditional classified ads--such as listings of items for sale or apartments for rent--the service also will provide social networking and community features. Users can sign up for the beta of Live Expo.

The new test version of Windows Live Local, formerly MSN Virtual Earth, which is a local search and mapping service already in beta, will include a new viewing feature called "street side," Microsoft said.

Street side offers images in a split-screen navigation window. In the upper pane, Windows Live Local users can view street-level images of destinations, while in the lower pane, they can navigate using three view categories--race car, sports car, and walk--to travel to their local destinations.

The Windows Live Local version available this week will feature street-side viewing for two U.S. cities, Seattle and San Francisco, with more cities to be added over time, Microsoft said. The service already includes a map view, an aerial satellite view, and a bird's-eye view that is similar to the satellite view but offers images at a 45-degree angle instead of from directly overhead.

To better understand the entire Windows Live Web applications concept, read PC World's broad overview.

Hotmail to Become Windows Live Mail

Two other new test versions for Windows Live services--Windows Live Mail, which you can preview now, and Windows Live Mail Desktop Beta--will be available in early March, the company said.

Windows Live Mail, already in beta, is expected to go live on Friday to a wider audience with new features added at the request of customers, Microsoft said.

Those features are the ability to view Windows Live Mail with a Hotmail user interface, and the ability to personalize the service by applying color themes to the user interface. Windows Live Mail eventually will replace MSN Hotmail, the free e-mail hosted service Microsoft currently offers. (Hotmail users can sign up now for the new beta.)

Services Accessible From Each Other

Once Windows Live Expo is available, users can access the service from other Windows Live services, including MSN Messenger, Windows Live Local, Windows Live Search, Windows Live Spaces,, and, Microsoft said. However, users can access the beta of the service that will be released tomorrow only through MSN Messenger and Windows Live Local.

Windows Live Mail Desktop Coming

Microsoft will release the first beta for another service, Windows Live Mail Desktop, in mid-March, the company said. The service is an e-mail client that is similar to Microsoft's Outlook Express offering and can work in conjunction with Windows Live Mail and other services. Windows Live Mail Desktop will make offline mail, account aggregation, and other services available for free to Windows Live Mail users, Microsoft said.

Microsoft introduced its plan to offer hosted services under the Windows Live moniker last fall. A beta version of Microsoft Office Live--a hosted service offering small businesses Web-site hosting, e-mail, CRM (customer relationship management), and business intelligence--also is available now.

Napster rues Microsoft, player glitches

Technical glitches by Microsoft and the digital music device makers have hampered Napster Inc.'s (Nasdaq:NAPS - news) ability to close the gap with Apple's iTunes, the dominant online music service, Napster's chief executive said on Tuesday.

"There is no question that their execution has been less than brilliant over the last 12 months," Napster Chairman and Chief Executive Chris Gorog said at the Reuters Global Technology, Media and Telecoms Summit in New York.

"Our business does rely on Microsoft's digital rights management software and our business model also relies on Microsoft's ecosystem of device manufacturers," he added.

Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq:MSFT - news), he noted, had to grapple with the complexities of dealing with a number of different services and device makers.

"It's a lot more complex to get organized properly than it is to build one device and one service as Apple has done," Gorog said. "It's always been painful at the introduction of new technologies. But it always takes shape like it's done in the past."

Gorog, whose company has one of the best known names in the business but has failed to put a dent in Apple Computer Inc.'s (Nasdaq:AAPL - news) 80 percent market share, argued that eventually the "Microsoft ecosystem" and its Windows Media format will prevail, with new devices on the way from firms like Samsung and Sony.

"Ultimately, the consumer electronics giants ... are all going to come to this Windows Media party," he said. "This is really going to be the ubiquitous format."

Apple's seamless combination of music player and download service has not yet faced a significant challenge from devices made by companies like Samsung, Sony or Creative, or from services such as Napster or RealNetworks' Rhapsody, which offer monthly subscription plans using a Microsoft format.

"Apple set the bar ... it just worked," said a spokesman for RealNetworks. "That's one of the things -- it's hard to make it easy and easy to make it hard."

Napster, which shares a brand but little else with the free service that originally shook up the music industry in the late 1990s, has struggled to make its case with investors and consumers, Gorog acknowledged.

"We have not been as successful as we might in articulating the real value of this business," he said. Napster's market capitalization is about $160 million, but it has cash assets of about $112 million, leaving it with a relatively small enterprise value.

The company's third-quarter net loss widened to $17 million for the three months to December 31, from a loss of $12.8 million a year earlier. Revenue rose to $23.5 million from $12.1 million.

Napster has faced persistent speculation that it may be bought by a larger rival, a device manufacturer or a telecom company, but Gorog insisted there was no sale in the works despite numerous approaches.

"We have not ever sought any sale of our business. But we have received many enquiries from around the world and I think we well continue to receive many inquiries," he said. "We will do a deal if and when we feel it's in our shareholders' interests."

The company is working on an advertising-funded music service hosted at, and on developing a platform for mobile phones along with telecom equipment giant Ericsson (ERICb.ST), but so far it has only stuck one deal with a mobile phone carrier.

Gorog insisted that despite Apple's dominance, the competitive landscape would be far different "in the next 12 to 24 months."

"A lot of people following this story in the media and investors ... are really focusing on the tree and are not stepping back and looking at the forest. To date, only 5 percent of (music) sales have migrated digitally. We are in the very, very early days of this."

Microsoft Updates Web Search Offering

SEATTLE - Microsoft Corp. unveiled several new online technologies Tuesday, including early versions of an Internet classified service and a local search function that provides extremely detailed pictures of local streets.

Microsoft also said it plans to begin testing a desktop e-mail product designed to work with the company's online e-mail accounts, similar to Microsoft Outlook Express.

The spate of online efforts are part of the Redmond, Wash.-based software maker's broader goal of improving its Internet-based offerings, to better compete with rivals such as Google Inc. and Yahoo Inc. (Nasdaq:YHOO - news)

The new search function, dubbed "street view," aims to give people a driver's view of downtown Seattle and San Francisco, using pictures detailed enough to make out cars and people. Available in test form, it's similar to Inc.'s A9 search engine, which provides detailed street-level views of certain cities.

Microsoft had previously announced plans to start the U.S. online classified service, called Windows Live Expo, in the hopes of competing with the likes of Craigslist.

The test version launched Tuesday distinguishes itself from competitors by giving people the option to narrowly define who sees their listings. For example, sellers could make their goods available only to people who work at their company, based on e-mail addresses. Or they could limit their offerings only to people on their instant messenger "buddy list."

It also hopes to be more geographically personalized by asking sellers to provide a ZIP code for searching purposes.