US President Barack Obama may have moved the masses attending Nelson Mandela's memorial service with his stirring eulogy, but it was his grinning "selfie" with the Danish and British premiers that set social networks abuzz.
In a candid moment captured by AFP photographer Roberto Schmidt, Denmark's Helle Thorning-Schmidt can be seen holding up her smartphone, with Obama lending a helping hand, as they pose for a picture with David Cameron, all three of them smiling broadly in their seats at Soweto's World Cup stadium.
First Lady Michelle Obama, sitting to the left of her husband, does not join in with the lightheartedness, keeping her eyes firmly trained on the podium where world leaders were paying tribute to South Africa's anti-apartheid hero Mandela, who died Thursday aged 95.
The so-called selfie -- short for self-portrait -- was quickly picked up by major international news outlets and went viral on social media sites, with many questioning whether the moment of mirth was appropriate for the occasion.
"There should be a moratorium on 'selfies' during memorials and funerals, no?" tweeted @JeffryHalverson.
"Is This The Most Important Selfie Of 2013?" headlined the US-based social news website Buzzfeed, noting that Michelle Obama seemed "not amused" by the impromptu photoshoot.
A photo of the leaders photographing themselves was featured on the front pages of British media such as The Times, The Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mirror.
In the United States, the Washington Post also ran the photo of the trio on its website in a story on that incident and Obama shaking hands at the service with Cuban leader Raul Castro. It was not on the front page but rather in the Politics section. It noted the viral trajectory of the photo.
"All of it serves as ..... (article cut to save bandwidth)
Dec 11 2013
A woman is celebrating the return of her treasured family pet - more than nine years after the dog went missing.
Staffordshire bull terrier Niamh disappeared through a gap in the fence at Milissa Mae's home near Worcester in May 2004.
Despite a frantic search for the-then three-year-old pet, Niamh remained undiscovered and her owners had reluctantly resigned themselves to the fact that she was lost forever.
Then, last week, Mrs Mae received a phone call from an animal sanctuary in Salisbury, saying Niamh had been brought in after being spotted wandering the streets of the cathedral city, some 80 miles from her original home.
The dog, who was identified through her microchip, was reunited with her owner at the Bath Cats and Dogs Home , and staff at the shelter shed a tear when the dog appeared to recognise Mrs Mae.
Mrs Mae described the find as a "Christmas miracle".
"I know in my heart someone must have taken her," she said. "She is such a friendly thing, she would walk right up to anyone.
"She's gone a little deaf and a little grey, but otherwise she's just the same."
She went on: "She was very thin, but apart from that she's in surprisingly good condition, especially considering she's a 12-year-old dog.
"Someone has obviously been looking after her in the intervening years.
"I don't know how long she'd been wandering, but she must have been in someone's care for at least some of those nine years."
Niamh is now back at home with the Mae family, and is getting on well with their other dog Ferdy, seven, and her granddaughter.
Dec 11 2013
Canada vowed Tuesday to defend the North Pole and Santa Claus, insisting the mythical figure is a citizen, after Russia ordered its military to step up its Arctic presence.
Paul Calandra, parliamentary secretary to the prime minister, cited Canada's claim of the North Pole to bash an opposition party in Parliament.
"We are defending the north further by making a claim on the North Pole," he said.
"We know that the (opposition) Liberals do not think that the North Pole or Santa Claus are in Canada. We do. We are going to make sure that we protect them as best we can."
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau agreed, saying: "Everyone knows that Santa Claus is Canadian.
"His postal code is H0H 0H0," he said, alluding to a mailing address assigned to Santa by Canada Post. The postal service responds each year to tens of thousands of children's letters from around the world addressed to Santa Claus, North Pole, H0H 0H0, Canada.
The main opposition New Democratic Party, however, insisted that "Santa Claus is a citizen of the world."
The frosty exchange came after Canada signalled its intentions to claim the North Pole and surrounding Arctic waters while announcing Monday the filing of a UN application seeking to vastly expand its Atlantic sea boundary.
Russian President Vladimir Putin responded to the move by ordering the formation of new military units in the Arctic that are to remain on constant combat alert.
Russia, he said, was "ever more actively reclaiming this promising region, returning to it" after a brief absence that followed the Soviet Union's collapse.
Dec 11 2013
Istanbul is planning to introduce floating car parks to try to resolve the chronic traffic problems of Turkey's largest city, local officials said Tuesday.
The municipal car park operator said it will use out-of-service ferries anchored in the Bosphorus to create multi-storey lots near traffic hotspots.
The floating car parks will also have facilities such as cafes, recreation areas and art galleries, according to ISPARK.
Traffic congestion and a lack of parking is a major problem for the bustling metropolis of 16 million people.
The car park plans are among several mega projects launched in Turkey's main gateway city by the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
In October, Turkey opened a sea tunnel under the Bosphorus -- the world's first linking two continents -- and is also planning a third airport in Istanbul and a third bridge across the Bosphorus.
The city, with its wealth of spectacular Ottoman and Byzantine monuments, is Turkey's most visited, welcoming over 9.7 million foreign tourists this year, according to official figures.
Erdogan came under fire during mass street protests in June over the government's grandiose construction projects, which critics say are aimed at wooing voters with a series of elections looming in 2014 and 2015.
Initially, a 400-vehicle floating parking lot costing $12 million (almost nine million euros) will start operating in Istanbul, ISPARK said, but did not give a timeframe.
Dec 11 2013
Hopes among resourceful inmates of an Austrian prison for a cheerier Christmas have been dashed after 50 litres (13 gallons) of a festive homebrew hooch were discovered by guards.
Prisoners at the Stein prison mixed bread rolls with fruit to create "Punsch", a popular winter-warmer at Austrian Christmas markets on the outside world, the jail's management said on Tuesday.
"Bread rolls contain yeast. They expand a great deal and speed up the fermentation process," the prison's deputy director Christian Timm told AFP, saying the moonshine was recovered in several cells.
With prisoners at the jail in the outskirts of the northern city of Krems allowed to buy food and having regular visitors, such incidents were difficult to prevent entirely, he said.
"This is a facility with 800 inmates in more than 400 cells ... and an area of almost 60,000 square metres (650,000 square feet).
Unfortunately one or two things can go unnoticed, which is why we do searches," Timm said.
Dec 10 2013
Flights have been grounded and thousands of homes remain without power after a powerful storm covered parts of the United States in snow and ice.
The Arctic blast sent temperatures plunging across the country, with a record low of -42F (-41C) recorded in Jordan, Montana, on Saturday.
At least 1,600 flights were cancelled on Monday - half of them at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport in Texas, where hundreds of passengers were left stranded over the weekend.
An estimated 6,000 flights have been grounded in just three days as the storm moved east, battering the East Coast with unprecedented ferocity.
Up to 10 inches of snow fell in some places, blanketing NFL side Philadelphia Eagles' Lincoln Financial Field ground, where it fell so heavily that yard markers were completely obscured.
It was a similar picture in Pittsburgh, where the snow intensified after kick-off.
Eagles fan Dave Hamilton said: "Twenty-seven years I've been a season-ticket holder (and) I've never seen snow at the game like this. It just kept coming down."
Some of the most difficult conditions were in northern Texas, where more than 22,000 homes and businesses were still without power on Monday.
At one stage on Friday, more than a quarter of a million properties were without electricity.
Power outages have also been reported in West Virginia, Maryland and in Washington, DC.
Meanwhile, drivers endured treacherous conditions on roads across several states.
In Oklahoma, a five-year-old boy died when the van he was travelling in slid off an icy bridge, while a man was killed in a 50-vehicle crash in the Philadelphia area.
A crash near New York City involved about 20 vehicles, although no one was injured.
The National Weather Service has warned of more severe ..... (article cut to save bandwidth)
Dec 10 2013
The coldest ever recorded temperature on Earth has been reported by scientists in East Antarctica.
Newly analysed data showed the temperature plunged to -94.7C (-135.8F) in August 2010.
The review of Nasa satellite data also revealed it came close again in July this year, with -92.9C (-135.3F).
Both beat the previous record of -89.2C (-128.6F).
Ice scientist Ted Scambos at the National Snow and Ice Data Centre announced the record at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco on Monday.
"It's more like you'd see on Mars on a nice summer day in the Poles," he said.
"I'm confident that these pockets are the coldest places on Earth."
However, Mr Scambos said the temperatures would not be in the Guinness Book of World Records because they were measured by satellite, not thermometers.
"Thank God, I don't know how exactly it feels," he said, of the record temperature.
He added that scientists routinely made naked dashes in the South Pole during temperatures of 73C below zero (-100F) as a stunt, so people can survive such extreme cold for about three minutes.
Mr Scambos said researchers needed to breathe through a snorkel that brings air into the coat through a sleeve and warms it up "so you don't inhale (the cold air) by accident".
Waleed Abdalati, an ice scientist at the University of Colorado and Nasa's former chief scientist, said the new record was likely to be an unusual random reading in a place that has not been measured much before.
He added that it may have been colder or hotter in the past, but that we would not know.
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Dec 10 2013
A ban on plastic guns that can evade airport detection machines has been renewed, but the Senate has rejected tougher restrictions demanded by gun-control advocates.
The vote in the Senate came just days before the nation marks the first anniversary of the Sandy Hook school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut.
It was the final congressional approval to a 10-year extension of the prohibition against guns that can slip past metal detectors and X-ray machines. The House voted last week for an identical renewal of the ban.
Congressional approval came just in time - without action, the ban would have expired on Tuesday.
But Republican senators voted against a measure requiring that such weapons contain undetachable metal parts.
The current law allows plastic guns with a metal piece that can be removed, raising the threat of them being slipped past security screeners at schools, airports and elsewhere.
The rejection of stricter curbs highlighted the repeated setbacks for gun-control advocates in Congress since last December 14, when a gunman fatally shot 20 first-graders and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School before killing himself.
The shooting rekindled the debate on gun control, but no firearm restrictions have been pushed through Congress.
The National Rifle Association, which has been instrumental in blocking gun restrictions, expressed no opposition to renewing the ban on plastic arms.
President Barack Obama signed the law before midnight as he travelled to Africa for ceremonies honouring Nelson Mandela .
The ban was first signed into law in 1988 by Republican President Ronald Reagan following the introduction of the Austrian-made Glock firearm.
Made largely of synthetic material, the Glock prompted fears about undetectable weapons.
Concerns have mounted more recently with the proliferation of the underground production of ..... (article cut to save bandwidth)
Dec 10 2013
CCTV footage shows the moment a man accidentally set several cars on fire after allegedly lighting a cigarette while trying to steal petrol.
The 26-year-old was charged with arson and illegal interference with a motor vehicle after he was found by police with burns on his legs near a car park in Millicent, Australia, reports The Advertiser .
Fire crews were called and managed to stop the blaze from spreading to nearby buildings.
The damage is estimated at £60,884.
Car yard owner Angus McDonald told Channel Ten Eyewitness News: "He was trying to get the fuel out of the car by punching a hole in the tank - that's when the explosion happened.
"There's about $110,000 worth of cars that have been lost and there's a bit of damage to the walls.
"We were very lucky the workshop didn't catch on fire because there's cars just over the other side of the wall."
Dec 10 2013
A Louisiana man flying to California woke up on a dark, empty plane parked at Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston after sleeping through the call to exit the aircraft, officials said on Monday.
Tom Wagner was supposed to leave the plane in Houston last Friday and board a flight to California. Instead, he found himself locked inside the ExpressJet plane, which was operating as a United Express flight.
He called his girlfriend for help, according to an exclusive interview he gave to Houston television station KTRK.
"She thought I was crazy. I said ... 'I'm locked on the plane. I'm telling you the truth; you better go somewhere and get me off this plane'," Wagner told the broadcaster.
Ground staff servicing the airplane a few hours after it landed found and released Wagner, ExpressJet spokeswoman Samantha Harrison said.
Company policy requires the flight crew to do a final sweep of the cabin and the company was investigating how Wagner was left onboard, Harrison said.
"As part of post-flight procedures, our flight attendants are responsible for completing a walk-through on the aircraft," Harrison said in an email.
The company said in a statement: "We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience this caused for the passenger."
Wagner told KTRK the airline paid for a hotel in Houston and gave him a $250 voucher for his trouble.