Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Gmail goes down worldwide

B26H17_2196066b Shortly before 5:45pm UK time, many Gmail users received error messages on their accounts, meaning they could not send or receive email or access their inboxes.

The search giant said it was "investigating reports of an issue" with its popular email service, which was partially restored by 6.30pm.

A subsequent statement issued as services were being restored said "We're aware that some users are experiencing an error when accessing their Gmail. We are working on a resolution and apologize for the inconvenience. Thanks for your patience."

Google first acknowledged the problems via their apps status dashboard at 5.42pm and tweeted that they had received several reports of errors.

At 6.24pm the Gmail status was updated to read "Google Mail service has already been restored for some users, and we expect a resolution for all users in the near future. Please note this time frame is an estimate and may change."

Many users, however, were still reporting problems accessing their account after 7pm.

Gmail, which is one of the world's most popular email services, claims more than 350 million active accounts but said overall fewer than 2 per cent of its users were affected worldwide.

The service is currently being upgraded to a more efficient network running the 'Openflow' open source standards. A Wired report claimed "hundreds of engineers" were working on the project, and that Google was even building some of its own network switches.

Gmail and Google's Apps have been widely praised for their recent improvement, with Gartner saying last year that "Gmail is ready to tackle Outlook".

The Telegraph

Italian woman kidnapped in Algeria is freed

An Italian woman kidnapped in southern Algeria over a year ago has been freed, Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi said Tuesday.

Terzi said he had just told the family of Maria Sandra Mariani of her release.

"I join in their great joy and relief for this wonderful news," he said in a written statement. "My deepest gratitude goes to all of those who have contributed to the positive outcome with great dedication, constancy and professionalism."

Mariani, 54, was seized by al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, a sub-Saharan offshoot of the terrorism network, in the Algerian Sahara in February 2011, Italian news agency ANSA reported.

Mariani, a tourist, was seized by armed men near the Niger border, the agency said.

She is expected to return to Italy on Wednesday, Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera reported.

Her father, in Tuscany, wept with joy when he heard the news of her release, the newspaper said.

The Italian government has not given details of how Mariani's freedom was secured.

Another Italian, non-governmental organization worker Rossella Urru, was kidnapped last October by the same group and remains in their hands, the Italian foreign ministry said. She was abducted near the border with Mauritania.


U.S. factory decline suggests economy losing steam

U.S-factory-decline-suggests-economy-losing-steam Output at U.S. factories slipped in March and builders started construction on fewer homes, offering cautionary signals for an economy that appeared to be gaining traction.

Manufacturing output slipped for the first time in four months, dropping 0.2 percent, the U.S. Federal Reserve said on Tuesday.

The decline dragged on overall industrial production which was unchanged and fell short of analysts' expectations.

"It looks pretty bad on the face of it," said Tom Porcelli, an economist at RBC Capital Markets in New York.

Surging exports and efforts by companies to restock their shelves have made economic growth look more solid in recent weeks.

The factory data did little to change that view, but economists said it suggested the recovery lost a little steam at the close of the first quarter, in part due to headwinds from Europe's debt crisis, which is weighing on global growth.

"(It) raises the possibility that the recent easing in global demand is starting to take a toll on U.S. manufacturers," said Paul Dales, an economist at Capital Economics in London.

Signs of a cooldown in growth became apparent earlier this month when a report showed hiring slowed sharply in March.

Still, Porcelli and others said the factory sector, which has been a key driver of America's recovery from the 2007-2009 recession, appeared to have enough momentum to continue growing.

Auto production, for example, increased 0.6 percent after rising 0.8 percent in February. Also, initial estimates for manufacturing output in February were revised higher.

Citing these factors, Goldman Sachs on Tuesday raised its forecast for first-quarter growth in gross domestic product to a 2.6 percent annual rate from 2.5 percent. That would be a slowdown from the 3 percent rate clocked in the fourth quarter, but still faster than many analysts expected a few weeks ago.


A separate report on new home construction also provided mixed signals.

Housing starts slipped 5.8 percent in March to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 654,000 units, the Commerce Department said.

That unwinds some of the incipient recovery seen in recent months in the long-moribund U.S. housing sector. At the same time, the data still suggests housing construction will add to gross domestic product during the first quarter, said Millan Mulraine, a macro strategist at TD Securities in New York.

Also, new permits for home construction surged to their highest level in 3-1/2 years, which could lead to more housing construction in coming months.

Although many economists think homebuilding could add to economic growth this year for the first time since 2005, an oversupply of unsold homes is depressing prices, creating a big hurdle for the sector.

"It's going to be rocky for a while," said Gregory Miller, an economist at Suntrust Banks in Atlanta, adding the data pointed at best to a tentative recovery.

Some analysts speculated that a mild winter in the United States led homebuilders to start new projects ahead of schedule, and that March's decline amounted to a payback.

U.S. stocks rose and government debt prices fell as investors welcomed a slew of corporate results and as a decline in borrowing costs for Spain eased concerns about Europe's debt crisis.

Coca-Cola Co posted higher-than-expected quarterly profits and its chief executive said the company saw signs the U.S. economy was improving. Goldman Sachs Group Inc said its first-quarter profit fell from a year earlier, but the drop was milder than analysts had expected.

The drops in factory output and housing starts will give Fed policymakers more to chew on when they review interest rate policy next week.

Stronger economic data has made the central bank more reluctant to consider further monetary stimulus.

(Additional reporting by Lucia Mutikani in Washington and by Julie Haviv, Ryan Vlastelica and Richard Leong in New York; Editing by Andrea Ricci)

Last 5 cruise ship bodies identified; 2 Americans named

120404093120-cox-costa-concordia-story-top The last five bodies recovered from the wrecked Costa Concordia cruise liner have been identified, the mayor's office in the Italian city of Grosseto said Tuesday.

Two Americans, Gerald and Barbara Heil, were among those named in the statement from the mayor's office.

The others are identified as two Germans, Christina and Norbert Ganz, and an Italian crew member, Giuseppe Girolamo. Two people remain missing, the mayor's office said.

At least 30 people died when the cruise liner struck rocks and turned on its side off the Italian island of Giglio January 13.

Recovery teams have spent weeks searching the submerged decks and cabins for those who failed to escape the sinking vessel.

The liner, owned by Genoa-based Costa Cruises, was carrying about 3,200 passengers and 1,000 crew members at the time of the incident.

The Concordia's captain, Francesco Schettino, remains under house arrest while he is investigated for possible criminal charges.

He faces allegations of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck, abandoning ship, failing to report an accident to the coast guard and destroying a natural habitat, a prosecutor said last month. Giglio is a protected park.

Schettino's first officer, Ciro Ambrosio, and six other officers both on the ship and from the firm Costa in Genoa are under investigation over allegations including manslaughter, shipwreck and failure to report the accident, the prosecutor said.

No one has yet been charged in connection with the incident.

Schettino has previously said managers of the Costa cruise line instructed him to sail close to the island and has denied allegations that he was sailing too fast. He has said the rock the ship struck was not indicated on his charts of the area.


Australia to end Afghan mission in 2013

Australia to end Afghan mission in 2013 Australia has announced that its troops will be withdraw from Afghanistan nearly a year ahead of a previously scheduled 2014 withdrawal date.

Julia Gillard, the Australian prime minster, said on Tuesday that most of 1,550 remaining Australian troops in Afghanistan were expected to return home by the end of 2013.

That timetable would see the largest force provided by any nation outside of the NATO alliance leave the country a year ahead of the proposed December 2014 withdrawal date for all international forces.

Australian forces had mainly been stationed in the central Uruzgan province, where they trained an Afghan national army brigade to take responsibility for security in the province.

"This is a war with a purpose. This is a war with an end," Gillard said
in a speech to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute in Canberra.

"We have a strategy, a mission and a timeframe for achieving it."

The deaths of Osama bin Laden and many of al Qaeda's senior officials, along with general improvements in security were cited as reasons for the accelerated withdrawal.

Gillard has said that she will take the proposed timetable to a NATO summit on Chicago on May 20 where she is also expected to sign a partnership agreement with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Citing mid-2013 as a milestone period for the international presence in Afghanistan, Gillard also said that she expected the Afghan President Hamid Karzai to make an announcement on transition in Uruzgan and other provinces in the coming months.

Al Jazeera's Bernard Smith, reporting live from Kabul, says Gillard is "just pre-empting Hamid Karzai" in his statement about which regions of the nation will be handed over to Afghan security forces.

The prime minister said she expected the handover of the central province to Afghan forces to take 12 to 18 months, at which point, the Australian presence in Afghanistan "wll look very different to that which we have today".

"We will have completed our training and mentoring mission. ... And the majority of our troops will have returned home", Gillard said.

Our correspondent said that though "it's theoretically possible that those Australian troops could have been deployed elsewhere to help the NATO efforts", the 1,500-strong Australian forces will largely see their job as complete once control of Uruzgan has been handed over to Afghan forces.

Australia would consider keeping some special forces soldiers in Afghanistan beyond 2014 and help fund the ongoing costs of Afghan security forces, Gillard said.

"Australia has an enduring national interest in ensuring that Afghanistan does not again become a safe haven for terrorists,'' Gillard said.

Opinion polls in Australia have shown falling levels of support for the country's presence in Afghanistan where 32 Australian soldiers have died since a US-led invasion to overthrow the Taliban in 2001.

Some within the political opposition suggested the early withdrawal was an attempt by Gillard to boost support for her unpopular Labor Party.

"It would be a shameful thing if, after nearly 12 years of deployment in Afghanistan and the loss of more than 30 Australian lives, this mission was foreshortened for reasons of domestic political convenience for the Labor Party rather than on the basis of the advice of the military commanders in the field,'' opposition Senator George Brandis told Sky News ahead of Tuesday's announcement.

But opposition leader Tony Abbott signaled support for the early withdrawal, telling reporters in Melbourne he had no reason to believe "it shouldn't be possible to finish the job sooner rather than later".
Referencing the deaths of Australian soldiers, Abbott said, "We want to make sure that sacrifice has been worthwhile and that will happen if our troops come home soon with their mission accomplished".


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