Sunday, February 20, 2011

US condemns crackdowns on Mideast protests

The Associated Press
Sunday, February 20, 2011; 3:57 PM

WASHINGTON -- A senior U.S. diplomat on Sunday condemned the brutal crackdown on opposition protesters in Libya, saying Arab leaders facing pro-democracy protests need to lead the way rather than resist reform.
Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said the Obama administration was "very concerned" about reported armed attacks by Libyan security forces on peaceful protesters in the eastern city of Benghazi.
"We've condemned that violence," Rice told "Meet the Press" on NBC. "Our view is that in Libya as throughout the region peaceful protests need to be respected."
Libyan forces fired machine-guns at mourners marching in a funeral for anti-government protesters in Benghazi Sunday, a day after commandos and foreign mercenaries pummeled demonstrators with assault rifles and other heavy weaponry. A physician in Benghazi told The Associated Press that at least 200 had been killed in demonstrations against the regime of Moammar Gadhafi.
Al Jazeera television reported that Benghazi demonstrators had seized army vehicles and weapons, that the police academy had been set ablaze and that some soldiers had joined the demonstrators.
Libya's response to opposition demonstrations may be the most brutal since uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt began spreading across the region.
State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said the U.S. has received a number of credible reports that hundreds of people have been killed and injured in the unrest, although the extent of the violence is unknown because Libya has denied access to international media and human rights groups. Crowley said the U.S. has raised "strong objections to the use of lethal force against peaceful protesters."

The European Union also denounced the Libyan government's response to the protests, with the EU's foreign policy chief calling for an end to the violence.
Rice said meanwhile that President Barack Obama and other top administration officials apparently persuaded the government of the island kingdom of Bahrain to halt its violent crackdown on protesters. Five demonstrators were killed and some 230 wounded last week when riot police stormed the demonstrators' makeshift camp in the capital's Pearl Square, wielding clubs and firing tear gas.
"We've been very clear with our partners in Bahrain that they ought to exercise restraint, that there's no place for violence against peaceful protesters there or anywhere else," Rice said. Bahrain had apparently responded, she said, citing reports that military forces had been withdrawn from Pearl Square and jubilant protesters had returned.
Rice said Bahrainian officials had begun a "real effort" at dialogue with the opposition.
Asked if King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalif's pro-U.S. government could survive the challenge to its rule, Rice said: "I wouldn't want to be in the business of predictions in this very volatile environment." She added that Mideast leaders need to respect calls for reform and "need to get ahead of it by leading rather than being pushed."

Hundreds protest in Iraq, TV station torched

Hundreds protest in Iraq, TV station torched

Hundreds protest in Iraq, TV station torched

ARBIL, Iraq (Reuters) - Gunmen raided and set fire to a television station in northern Iraq on Sunday, shutting down broadcasts of protests inspired by unrest around the Arab world, station and government officials said.
Iraqi Kurds gather near burnt tires during a demonstration in Sulaimaniya, 260 km (160 miles) northeast of Baghdad, February 19, 2011. (REUTERS/Stringer)
At least four people were wounded in the city of Sulaimaniya as hundreds of protesters took to the streets. Rallies seeking better public services, the ouster of local officials and other demands also took place in Falluja and other locations.
In Baghdad, the cabinet decided to have ministers visit demonstrators to soothe anger over corruption, shortages of food and electricity and other issues behind a series of protests that have triggered skirmishes with security forces.
Unlike their regional counterparts, Iraqi protesters generally have not been calling for the removal of their elected government, installed just two months ago after months of tense negotiations between political factions. Dictator Saddam Hussein was swept away by the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.
The overnight raid on NRT satellite channel in Sulaimaniya was carried out by 50 masked gunmen wearing security force uniforms who sprayed the station with gunfire, smashed equipment, wounded a guard and lit fires, Twana Othman, the station's manager, said.
NRT aired coverage of violent protests in Sulaimaniya last week.
Bahrouz Mohammed, the local governor, condemned the attack and promised to bring the perpetrators to justice.
"Those saboteurs who attacked the TV station are trying undermine stability in Sulaimaniya," he said in a statement.
In central Sulaimaniya, a police official said security forces fired in the air when demonstrators chanting against corruption tried to approach the headquarters of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, where clashes on Thursday killed two people and wounded dozens.
"We can't prevent people from demonstrating but we will not allow them to sabotage public properties," the official said.
Hazar Hasan, head of a hospital in Sulaimaniya, said the facility received four wounded from the rally.
In the western city of Falluja, about 300 protesters demanded the firing of the governor and provincial council members in Anbar province. Dozens of people rallied for jobs in the southern province of Nassiriya, Abdul Hadi Mohan, deputy head of the provincial council, said.
The cabinet decision to reach out to protesters underscored politicians' concerns over growing unrest.
"The general secretary of the council of ministers has called for immediate action to improve the food ration card system and to work on reforming the social benefits system," said a statement issued by the cabinet's media office.
"The finance minister has been ordered to request parliament to start launching job opportunities to reduce unemployment."
In recent days Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has moved to soothe anger by cutting his pay, reducing electricity bills, buying more sugar for the national food ration programme and diverting money from fighter jets to food. [ID:nLDE71G1MY]
(Additional reporting by Ahmed Rasheed in Baghdad, Fadhel al-Badrani in Falluja and Aref Mohammed in Basra; Writing by Jim Loney and Serena Chaudhry; editing by Mark Trevelyan)
Copyright © 2011 Reuters

Barcelona beats Bilbao 2-1 in Spain

BARCELONA, Spain (AP): Barcelona beat Athletic Bilbao 2-1 Sunday to move five points clear of Real Madrid at the top of the table in Spain.
David Villa gave Barcelona the lead in the fourth minute after Dani Alves tapped back a long pass from Xavi Hernandez for the Spain striker to volley home.
Bilbao's Andoni Iraola equalized in the 50th from the penalty spot after Sergio Busquets had fouled Fernando Llorente in the area.
Xavi and Alves linked up again for the Brazil right back to assist Lionel Messi inside the six-yard box for Barcelona's 78th-minute winner.
With the victory, the defending champions laid to rest any doubts about their form after having drawn with Sporting Gijon and lost to Arsenal in the Champions League this past week.
Bilbao had earned a 0-0 draw in its last visit to Camp Nou in the Copa del Rey in January by playing without forwards and putting everyone behind the ball.
Bilbao manager Joaquin Caparros repeated the same strategy in the first half, with the exception of striker Fernando Llorente alone up front.
With Carles Puyol still recovering from a leg injury, Busquets played alongside Gerard Pique in the middle of Barcelona's defense, while Jose Pinto replaced Victor Valdes in goal as he rested a sore knee.
Both sides were true to their styles early with Barcelona controlling the ball and Bilbao playing deep and looking for the counterattack.
Villa put the hosts ahead early with his 16th goal of the season, but Bilbao held firm and Llorente sent a dangerous cross that Markel Susaeta shot into the side netting in the 11th.
Barcelona continued to dominate possession with Villa hitting the crossbar with a chip shot in the 26th. Even so, Bilbao remained dangerous and Llorente drew a save from Pinto with a header in the 37th.
Caparros sent on forward Gaizka Toquero after the break and ordered his team to press up the pitch.
The tactic soon paid off when a bad pass from Eric Abidal led to Llorente winning the spot kick that leveled the score.
Villa came close to regaining the lead in the 70th, but Bilbao goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz touched his shot just enough to send it wide.
Messi, much more active after halftime, beat his mark in close to score his league-best 25th goal_ one more than Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo. The Argentina star has 41 goals in all competitions.
Earlier, Villarreal was held to a 1-1 draw by last-place Malaga, Javad Nekounam scored twice in Osasuna's 4-0 win over Espanyol on coach Jose Luis Mendilibar's debut, and Ivan Rakitic gave Sevilla a 1-0 win over Hercules.
Marco Ruben put Villarreal ahead in the 36th minute, but Malaga's Sebastian Fernandez finished off a counterattack led by Jose Rondon to split the points in the 82nd.
"We were playing well, looking for the second goal, but we didn't get it and they waited for their chance and took it," Villarreal coach Juan Carlos Garrido said.
With the draw, Villarreal remained in fourth place, two points behind provincial rival Valencia.
Nekounam gave Osasuna the lead in the 14th minute, heading in a corner delivered by fellow Iran international Masoud Soleimani, and added the second from the penalty spot in the 55th after Espanyol's Aldo Duscher had handled in the area.
Manuel "Lolo" Ortiz made it 3-0 in the 80th, and Fernando Soriano capped the victory in the 88th.
"You dream to win in your debut," Mendilibar said. "But the important thing is the motivation of the players who believe in what they are doing."
Osasuna moved out of the drop zone with the win, while sixth-place Espanyol has lost its last four games.
At Sanchez Pizjuan stadium, Rakitic scored his first goal since joining Sevilla in January when he converted a pass from Alvaro Negredo in the 21st.
Sevilla's first win in four weeks lifted it within three points of the Europa League positions.
Deportivo La Coruna goalkeeper Daniel Aranzubia scored in injury time to give his team a 1-1 draw at Almeria, and Racing Santander beat Getafe 1-0.
Almeria looked set to convert Pablo Piatti's 49th-minute opener into three points, but Aranzubia headed home a corner right on the final whistle in the 95th to record the first goal scored by a goalkeeper with a header in the history of the Spanish league.
"I did what I see my teammates do," Aranzubia said. "I had come forward other times, but never scored a goal. I am thrilled."
In Madrid, Pablo Pinillos scored the 88th-minute winner for Racing Santander from the penalty spot after Getafe defender Ivan Marcano was sent off for pulling down Giovani Dos Santos with only the keeper to beat.
Mallorca is at Real Sociedad on Monday.

Michael Waltrip triggers 14-car wreck early in Daytona

DAYTONA BEACH, FLA. — We knew that the two-by-two racing would play a significant role in Sunday's Daytona 500. And we knew that Michael Waltrip would have a significant role on the 10th anniversary of his landmark 2001 win. As it turns out, both storylines blended early in the race, with catastrophic effect.
In Lap 29, Michael Waltrip, pushing David Reutimann, got misaligned and spun Reutimann, triggering a wreck that took out literally one-third of the field. Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Brian Vickers, Greg Biffle, Marcos Ambrose and feel-good story Brian Keselowski were among those collected in the wreck.
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Coincidentally, Waltrip had spun out Kyle Busch earlier in the race in almost exactly the same way. But in that incident, Busch didn't hit anyone, and was able to get back in the mix with little lost but some sheet metal. Reutimann and the huge pack around him weren't quite so lucky.
"I'm involved in both [spins] and I don't know what I could have done different," Waltrip said afterward. "... I just hate it. I hate it that my cars got tore up and I hate it that you have to be so aggressive so early. Maybe you don't. Probably now you can see that probably waiting around would have been a good idea." 
"It wasn't Mike's fault," Reutimann said.
But others could, and did, take issue with Waltrip.
"The first four, five, six rows, guys are pushing hard to maintain position," Gordon said. "You expect a little more patience further back, and that's not what I'm seeing now. Guys are so adamant about getting with their drafting partner and getting that push and getting up there into that top 6, 8 cars, some guys are getting in such trouble because of it."
The new points system heavily penalizes drivers for poor finishes, and as a result the garage was a whirling nest of duct tape and welding torches as crews worked to get their cars back on the track. Johnson and Biffle were the first out of the garage, while Gordon, Reutimann and Vickers, among many others, could only wait as their crews hammered their cars back into some kind of race-ready shape.  
Waltrip, his day done ("that's a hundred thousand right there," he said ruefully as he looked at his ruined front end), tried to stress the difficulty of this kind of racing. "When people watch and say (in a disappointed voice), 'What's this?' Damn! It's hard," he said. "You're just so focused. You're watching your temperature gauge. You're watching the car in front of you. You're wondering what's ahead. You're wondering what's coming up from behind. There are so many things happening mentally that it's almost impossible to keep up with."
But many fans weren't feeling particularly charitable. Rage at Waltrip boiled over on Twitter and in the Daytona infield. "Hey, Waltrip!" one fan yelled as Waltrip was doing postcrash interviews. "Tell me what time you're leaving so I can get out ahead of you!"
Waltrip made no indication that he heard the fan. But if the fan did decide to depart the race early, he had plenty of disappointed drivers joining him in heading for the exit. 
As he watched crews pounding his car back into shape, Gordon was philosophical. "It's exciting," he shrugged. "I think it's going to be a great finish."

Wisconsin protests continue; counter-demonstrators support governor's bill

Conservatives call for approving Gov. Scott Walker's proposal, which would reduce collective-bargaining rights to aid the budget shortfall.
Conservatives call for approving Gov. Scott Walker's proposal, which would reduce collective-bargaining rights to aid the budget shortfall. (Darren Hauck)
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 20, 2011

MADISON, WIS. - And on the sixth day, the counter-protesters came.
A clear, cold Saturday saw some of the largest crowds yet descend upon Wisconsin's state capitol to march, chant and shout about Republican Gov. Scott Walker's controversial proposal to trim benefits and curtail collective-bargaining rights for many of the state's unionized workers.
The overwhelming majority of protesters were teachers, students and other public-service workers who spent the better part of a week demonstrating against Walker's bill. But Saturday's throngs included a sizable and vocal collection of tea party activists who arrived to show support for the embattled governor.
"I wanted Scott Walker to know that there are tons of people behind him," said Karen Wartinbee of Oconomowoc, Wis., who carried a sign that read, "Go Scott Go!"
Law enforcement officials ramped up security Saturday, bolstering their ranks with officers from nearby counties to guard against any violent clashes. But the protests remained largely peaceful, if not altogether friendly.
The opposing groups traded ear-splitting chants of "Kill the bill!" and "Pass the bill!" Some demonstrators ended up in nose-to-nose arguments over whether unions were bankrupting the state or protecting its workers. Others simply traded insults and made obscene gestures from a distance.
Walker's bill would force public workers to put 5.8 percent of their wages into the pension system and pay a larger share of their health insurance in addition to curtailing their collective-bargaining rights.
Opponents argue that Walker helped create the budget shortfall by giving away millions in tax breaks to private businesses. Union leaders have offered to make concessions on benefits but have drawn the line at restrictions on their collective-bargaining rights.
Meanwhile, the state's 14 Democratic senators showed no sign of returning from out of state, where they headed last week to stall a vote on the controversial measure. Walker urged them to return in a statement Saturday, saying they "should come back to Wisconsin and do their jobs."
For all the populist feel at the capitol, progressive and conservative political figures have seized on the Wisconsin protests as an opportunity to shape the national debate.
Richard Trumka, the president of the AFL-CIO, paid a visit to the capitol Friday, as did civil rights activist Jesse Jackson. President Obama's organizing arm was on hand, as was the Services Employees International Union and other national labor groups.
On Saturday, influential conservative groups such as Americans for Prosperity, funded in part by billionaire industrialist brothers David and Charles Koch, helped to organize the counter-rally at the capitol in support of Walker's proposals.
"He's actually trying to do the right thing and something we believe is responsible government," said Ned Ryun, a former speechwriter for George W. Bush and the president of American Majority, a grass-roots political training organization that also helped coordinate Saturday's rally alongside tea party groups across Wisconsin.
By mid-afternoon, neither side had done much to win over the other, and both vowed to return day after day until resolution came.
"Government is too big," said Dane Christiansen, a hardwood-floor refinisher who drove from his home south of Madison. "I voted for Walker to come and cut the budget."
Stacy Smith, a first-grade teacher who was marching with her husband, said, "People are willing to give up the money, but we're not willing to give up our rights." She said she planned to return to protest another day.

North Korea completes second missile site

Models of a North Korean Scud-B missile (C) and South Korean Hawk surface-to-air missiles are seen at the Korean War Memorial Museum in Seoul February 17, 2011. REUTERS/Jo Yong-Hak
SEOUL | Thu Feb 17, 2011 8:44am EST
SEOUL (Reuters) - Satellite images show North Korea has likely completed a second long range missile launchpad, an expert said on Thursday, amid U.S. concerns that Pyongyang's ballistic missile program is fast becoming a direct threat.
The launchpad is more sophisticated than the country's first facility and strikingly similar to a Chinese site, suggesting Beijing's involvement, Tim Brown, an image analyst from military analysis group, told Reuters in a telephone interview.
And he said the reclusive North, which says its missile program is peaceful and intended to put a satellite in orbit, was working on development together with Iran and Pakistan.
The facility at Tongchang-ri is equipped with a 100-ft (30-m) launch tower and is sited near North Korea's northwest border with China, making it more difficult for U.S. intelligence to observe compared to its Musudan-ri launchpad in the east.
The Tongchang-ri site has been under construction for a decade.
Brown, who identified the latest development, said the images were taken about a month ago, and that there were no signs of an imminent test launch. He said it would take weeks, possibly months, to put a rocket on the launchpad.
A South Korean government official also said there were no signs the North was preparing a missile test.
The North is developing the so-called Taepodong-2 missile, with an estimated range of 6,700 km (4,160 miles), but testing so far suggests production of the complete weapon is a long way off.
The North's arsenal already includes intermediate-range missiles that can hit targets up to 3,000 km (1,860 miles) away, officials say, putting all of Japan and U.S. military bases in Guam at risk.
"Basically this thing is done, and the question is how long it will be before they launch. Then it is matter of what kind of vehicle are they going to launch -- a missile or something for their space program. The answer to that is we just don't know," said Brown. A launch, he said, was likely in months.
He said the site was nowhere near the standard of advanced countries. "But it's as close as a third world country can come to having a first world facility," he said.
Brown said the facility was very similar in design to a Chinese site being monitored. "Either they adopted those design characteristics on their own, or the Chinese were technically advising them and providing assistance."
He said Iran, Pakistan and North Korea were working together on missile and nuclear programs. "We think they all work on different aspects and share and benefit from comparative advantages of each program," said Brown.
The North Korean site is seen as key to Pyongyang's quest to build a missile capable of delivering a nuclear weapon across the Pacific.
Experts say they do not believe the North can miniaturize an atomic weapon to place on a missile, but it is trying to develop such a warhead. It needs more nuclear testing to build one.

5 things you don't know about Kate Middleton

The royal wedding is a little over two months away and we admit we’re getting a little obsessed. Maybe more than a little. So we took a trip across the pond to find out some interesting tidbits about the future princess. Watch to see what we learned!

We know the wedding’s going to be at Westminster Abbey at 11am on April 29. We know that Kate’s going to arrive in a car, not a carriage. We’re placing bets that couturier Bruce Oldfield will design Kate’s wedding dress (or dresses). But what’s interesting about the princess-in-waiting that we didn't already know? On our trip to London, we invited celebrity style journalist Zoe Hardman to the Thread to dish on little-known Kate facts.
Here’s what we learned:
1.    At 29, Kate’s going to be the oldest royal bride.
2.    She’s allergic to horses—interesting because she’s marrying into the one of the biggest equestrian families.
3.    The sheer dress she modeled in a fashion show while at Oxford University will be worth $160,000 after she marries the prince.  
4.    William and Kate are 12th cousins once removed. It’s distant, yet true.
5.    Forget polo— she’s a tennis girl.  
Do you have royal fever the way we do? Let us know what YOU think Kate’s dress should look like. Post on our Facebook wall and let’s get the conversation going.
A special thanks to everyone in London. How about that London Bridge in the background of our set? Gorgeous.

Best Places to Travel Alone: Hot spots for the solo traveler

Traveling alone can be just as rewarding – if not more – than traveling with a friend or loved one.

“The biggest appeal is the freedom of it,” said Sarah Schlichter, editor of "You make your own itinerary, see what you want to see and don’t have to make allowances for anyone else.”

In fact, that’s the No. 1 reason travelers cited for why they like to go solo in a poll on Fifty-six percent said freedom, followed by 45 percent who said it’s developing a sense of independence and confidence and 30 percent who said it was meeting new people along the way.

When choosing a destination to travel alone, you should consider how much there is to do there, how easy it is to get around and how safe it is to travel alone there. Here are 10 of the best places to travel alone from the editors at Independent Traveler.

Michael Dunning | Getty Images 


The big appeal for solo travelers is how friendly the Irish are. It’s very easy to meet people and it’s also very safe.

“I’ve never been to a place where people were more likely to say hello or strike up a conversation with you,” Schlichter said. “That makes you feel like you’re not alone.”

The sights: Expedia recommends the Wicklow Mountains, Valleys and Lakes plus City Tour of Dublin ($50), which takes you through the countryside, including lakes and charming villages, plus the city and some of the big sights like Dublin Castle. Independent Traveler also recommends the Dublin Writers Museum and a literary tour of Ireland that celebrates authors including Frank McCourt, James Joyce and Oscar Wilde. You can take a walking literary tour or multi-day trip.


Australians are super friendly and there’s a real culture of travel here, particularly traveling solo. It’s very easy to get around.

“They have a real sense of independence down there,” Schlichter said. “No one’s going to look at you funny if you’re traveling by yourself!”

The sights: Single Travels International recommends the Great Barrier Reef for diving, the Blue Mountains near Sydney for hiking and Banzai Beach for relaxing or surfing. Plus, you can actually climb the Sydney Bridge ($120-$300) and the Sydney Opera House is “phenomenal,” Weiler said. You can also take a tour of the outback, Independent Traveler says, including one of these from Gray Line ($60-$220). Expedia also recommends a combined tour of the Sydney Aquarium, where you can walk through an underwater walkway, Wildlife World, where you can see koalas and kangaroos, and Sydney Tower ($70).


“When you think of really romantic travel, you don’t think of Iceland,” Schlichter said, which makes it perfect for traveling alone!

“It’s got cool culture, cool landscape with all the waterfalls and strange formations – it’s fascinating to explore,” she added. “And, it’s not so hard to do it alone!”

The sights: You can’t go to Iceland without going to the Blue Lagoon Spa, a massive 10,000-square foot outdoor geothermal bath surrounded by snow-capped lava rocks. The water, known for its healing properties, is over 100 degrees Fahrenheit! ($35) Nordic Visitor offers packages to Iceland that include the Blue Lagoon, boiling mud pots and, depending on the season, the Northern Lights (winter) or the Midnight Sun (summer).

Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a great place for the solo adventurer, with a variety of activities, including white-water rafting, hiking, relaxing in hot springs or “scaring yourself silly zip lining through the forest canopy,” Schlichter said.

Its lush landscape (the name literally means “rich coast”) includes beaches, rain forest, volcanoes and diverse wildlife, including white-faced monkeys, speckled owls and toucans, Expedia notes.

The sights: Independent Traveler suggests Manuel Antonio National Park, where you can hike through the rain forest, and La Posada Private Jungle Bungalows, a lodge right outside the rainforest where you can share tales with your fellow travelers and watch a sunset on the beach. Singles Travel International also recommends Tamarindo Beach, a great spot for surfers and for rainforest zip lining. Costa Rica is also a great place to do a volunteer vacation, such as helping with turtles or teaching English, Independent Traveler said.


Peru offers a great combo for single travelers: Rich history and culture, with great food and a diverse landscape – from desert to mountains and rainforest. And there’s something for everyone, Lonely Planet reports, from ancient ruins to neon-lit discos!

The sights: One of the top hiking trails in the world is the Inca Trail in the Andes Mountains from Cusco to Machu Picchu. Past visitors say the trek makes you feel like you are discovering these ancient ruins for the first time. You can do it in four days and camp or take the train up and do a half-day hike. When you get to the top, you look down on an ancient city. Independent Traveler also recommends rafting/canoeing/kayaking trips on nearby rivers like the Urabamba and Apurimac.


Amsterdam is a small, lively city with great history, culture and architecture. Plus, it’s very walkable and there’s a great biking culture, which makes it very easy to get around.

“I love Amsterdam! It’s one of those places I feel like I could live happily someday,” Schlichter said.

The sights: International Traveler recommends touring the city’s many canals and historic canal houses by foot or on a canal cruise. Plus, tons of cultural stops, including the Anne Frank House, the Van Gogh Museum, the Rijksmuseum and the Rembrandt House. And, of course, lots of cafes for taking breaks in between. Singles Travel International recommends going for Queen’s Day, the celebration of the Queen’s birthday, where the city turns into one, big party.


Arizona offers gorgeous desert landscapes perfect for hiking and mountain biking, resorts for tennis and golf, and luxurious spas for the solo traveler looking to unwind and shake off their stress. Plus, there’s southwestern art and rich Native American culture to explore.

For those looking for a little more lively adventure, Singles Travel International notes that Scottsdale and Tempe are college towns and baseball spring training is a great time to go.

The sights: Sedona is a popular spot, with its stunning red-rock formations and of course, the Grand Canyon is a must on any bucket list. TripAdvisor members rave about the Enchantment Resort and Mii Amo Spa. For a cheaper trip, Independent Traveler recommends staying at the Sedona Motel and booking your own excursions.


Travel in Asia can be daunting for western travelers, given how different the culture – and the language – can be. And that goes double for single travelers. That’s why the editors at Independent Traveler suggest Singapore, a safe, English-speaking and easy-to-navigate island nation off the southern tip of Malaysia.

“It’s a great place to experience the Far East for the first time,” Schlichter said.

Singapore encourages tourism, with the Singapore Food Festival every July and the Singapore Sun Festival, a celebration of music, art, literature, film, wine, food and wellness, in the fall.

The sights: Independent Traveler suggests visiting all the different ethnic quarters, including Malaysian, Indian, Peranakan and Chinese. They recommend hop-on, hop-off bus tours. Expedia also notes the Fountain of Wealth, which at 216 feet wide is the Guinness-approved largest fountain in the world; It’s located in the Suntec City shopping mall.

New York

New York is such a great city for singles, much of its population is single!

“You couldn’t feel alone walking down Fifth Avenue!” Weiler quipped. She recommends checking in with a singles organization to find out what type of singles events are going on when you’re there. “You could probably find an event every single night you’re in the city!”

It’s highly walkable and the subway system and abundance of taxis make it easy to get around. And, contrary to their surly reputation, New Yorkers are extremely helpful if you ask them for directions. Whether you’re lost or not, try asking for directions on the subway – see how many heads turn and offer their two cents!

The sights: There’s a ton to do, from the Statue of Liberty and Empire State Building to Broadway shows, museums, restaurants, sporting events, shopping and parks, including the famous Central Park.

A Caribbean Cruise

The Caribbean is a popular destination for couples but don’t count it out for singles – a singles cruise is a great way to experience the gorgeous blue Caribbean water, luxurious beaches and cool trade winds.

The sights: Of course, you’re going for the beach, but there are tons of other activities. Singles Travel suggests Turks and Caicos and Jamaica for diving, Aruba and Antilles for windsurfing and St. Maarten and San Juan for the casinos. She also recommends going for a festival: The Bahamas has a sailing regatta, Barbados and Puerto Rico are among the places that have jazz festivals and several have their own carnivals. There’s a celebration somewhere year round!

Justin Bieber: Never Say Never film tells story of his rise to fame

Justin Bieber: Never Say Never
THE story of Justin’s rise to fame is told in Never Say Never – the 3D documentary of his life which grossed £18.8million in its ­opening weekend in the US.
He was born in Ontario, Canada, to Pattie Malette, who was 18 at the time and in a casual relationship with his father ­Jeremy.
Jeremy left when Justin was three leaving Pattie as a struggling single mum.
Justin’s musical flair was obvious from an early age. In the film he is ­seen, aged five, in a home video peering out from behind a fringe and shouting: “Mummy, this is how I drum” – before banging out a rhythm on a plastic chair.
He taught himself to play four ­instruments and when he was only 12 he started ­busking outside a local theatre.
He made £2,000 one summer, playing covers of songs by his R and B heroes Usher and Neyo then took Pattie to Walt Disney World with the proceeds.
She posted a clip of him in a local talent competition – in which he came second – on YouTube and it became a sensation.
In 2008, hip-hop talent manager Scooter Braun clicked on one of Justin’s uploads by mistake and decided he should meet the young ­musician.
Justin and Pattie flew to Atlanta and Braun became his manager.
As Bieber fever spread, Usher began to ­battle it out with Justin Timberlake, who also wanted to mentor the young star.
Justin ­eventually signed to Island Def Jam Records, the label his hero Usher had joined aged just 14. First album My World went ­platinum in the US in 2009 with its follow-up My World 2 reaching No 1 around the globe.
He is now the ­biggest teen star since Michael ­Jackson.

Death toll in Afghanistan bank raid rises to 38

Smoke rises from a bank in Jalalabad, east of Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Feb. 19, 2011. Gunmen wearing explosives vests stormed a bank in eastern A AP – Smoke rises from a bank in Jalalabad, east of Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Feb. 19, 2011. Gunmen wearing …

KABUL, Afghanistan – The Afgan government has put the death toll at 38 from a brazen weekend attack in which five suicide bombers dressed in security force uniforms stormed a bank in the eastern part of the country.
Interior Ministry spokesman Zemeri Bashary said Sunday that 21 of those killed were Afghan security forces, including many waiting to collect their pay at the local branch of Kabul Bank where the attack occurred shortly before noon Saturday in the eastern city of Jalalabad. The 17 other victims were civilians.
A total of 71 people, mostly civilians, were injured in the attack, he said.
"Five armed suicide bombers entered the Kabul Bank building and started shooting," Bashary told reporters at a news conference in Kabul. "The incident happened while Afghan security forces were there to get their monthly salaries. That is why the casualties were so high."
Since no one is allowed inside the bank with weapons, none of the Afghan policemen or soldiers collecting their pay had weapons to defend themselves.
He said guards at the bank tried to prevent the armed militants from entering the building. A gunbattle broke out between the guards and the militants, who were all wearing suicide vests. During the fight, four of the attackers were killed and their suicide vests detonated. The fifth suicide attacker — a man from North Waziristan in Pakistan — was arrested and his vest was diffused, Bashary said.

'Siamese Dream' Cover Girl Found... in Smashing Pumpkins?

Billy Corgan has revealed a really weird coincidence: the latest female bassist to join Smashing Pumpkins may have a history with the band -- she says she was one of the two young girls featured on the cover of the group's 1993 album "Siamese Dream." Nicole Fiorentino evidently just broke the news to the singer/guitarist, and he tweeted it to fans last night. "She said she didn't want us to know because she thought maybe we wouldn't let her be in the band," he wrote.
This revelation is especially curious since in 2007 Corgan was actively looking for the pair of kids who played Siamese twins on the cover: "In a bit of a fun story, The Smashing Pumpkins are looking for the young girls that adorned the album cover of their record, SIAMESE DREAM. They have most definitely aged to their teens at this point, and are no longer conjoined. If anyone has any information on how to find the girls, please email" Corgan even sought info on the duo on a fan message board.
So did Billy's '07 search really turn up nil, was he hoarding the info for just the right moment, or is this a fun long weekend publicity stunt? We'll have to vote for option C. If Fiorentino was one of the girls in the photo, it had to have been a pretty vintage shot -- since she's 31 years old now, she was 14 when "Dream" was released. Check out the photos and judge for yourself!

Elizabeth Taylor improving but still hospitalized

File photo of Elizabeth Taylor arriving for a play in Los Angeles Reuters – Elizabeth Taylor arrives for a play in Los Angeles in this December 1, 2007 file photo. Taylor's …

LOS ANGELES – Elizabeth Taylor's health is improving, but the Oscar winner is still hospitalized in Los Angeles.
A spokeswoman for the 78-year-old actress says Taylor "has continued to show great improvement, and her family and friends are very pleased with her progress."
Publicist Jamie Cadwell said Friday that Taylor will remain under observation at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center "for the time being." She was admitted more than a week ago.
Taylor is being treated for symptoms of congestive heart failure, a condition she disclosed in November 2004.

2011 New York Fashion Week

2011 N.Y.
Fashion Week
Thursday's shows: Isaac Mizrahi, Ralph Lauren, Son Jung Wan, Calvin Klein Women's, Elene Cassis, Naeem Khan, Lublu Kira Plastinina, L.A.M.B, Ivana Helsinki
Models take a break while presenting creations at the Marchesa Fall/Winter 2011 collection show. (REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi)
A model presents a creation at the Marchesa Fall/Winter 2011 collection. (REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi)
A model has makeup applied backstage by a colorfully clad artist before the Betsey Johnson Fall 2011 fashion show. (AP Photo/Stephen Chernin)

Models pose during a presentation of the Yoana Baraschi Fall/Winter 2011 collection. (REUTERS/Lucas Jackson)

Pull and tug: A model backstage before the start of the fashion show of Jason Wu. (AFP/Timothy A. Clary)