Lawsuit Says Microsoft Tracks Phone Users

SEATTLE, Sept. 2 (UPI) — A lawsuit filed in Seattle charges Microsoft has been gathering location data on users of its Window Phone 7 even when the users have opted out.

Kim Stephens, a lawyer for the Michigan woman who brought the suit, says Microsoft wants the information to develop targeted marketing, reported. To do that, the company would need a detailed digital map of its customer base, Stephens said.

“Faced with the expensive and laborious task of collecting this information, Microsoft has elected to gather instead the necessary geolocation information through its customers’ mobile devices,” Stephens said. “In this way, Microsoft uses its customers as a virtual army of surveyors who constantly gather and transmit the geolocation information necessary to build its digital map.”

The lawsuit says Microsoft is invading its customers’ privacy and that its executives lied to Congress.

Couple Charged With Extorting Berlusconi

ROME, Sept. 2 (UPI) — An Italian healthcare entrepreneur and his wife were charged Thursday with extorting money from Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Prosecutors in Naples say Giampaolo Tarantini and his wife Angela Devenuto received 500,000 euros (more than $700,000) from the prime minister, the Italian news agency ANSA reported. Tarantini has said he supplied women for Berlusconi and he allegedly threatened to say the prime minister knew the women had been paid, the weekly magazine Panorama said last week.

The couple were arrested in Rome and transferred to Naples.

Berlusconi denied doing anything wrong and said he was simply trying to help the couple out.

“I helped a person and a family with children that found themselves and find themselves in very serious economic circumstances,” Berlusconi told Panorama.

Prosecutors taped a telephone conversation between Berlusconi and another extortion suspect in July in which Berlusconi said he wants to leave Italy.

“In a few months I am leaving, I am leaving this sh-t country which makes me sick, that’s it, enough,” Berlusconi said.

China: Center Of Cooperation, Xinjiang

BEIJING, Sept. 1 (UPI) — Northwest China’s Xinjiang-Uighur region will lead Beijing’s effort for greater cooperation with Eurasian nations, Vice-Premier Li Keqiang said.

Li spoke at the opening of the weeklong China-Eurasia Expo in Urumqi, capital of the ethnically-tense region. The opening was attended by Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and leaders and executives from other Eurasian nations.

Beijing has been battling rising violence in Xinjiang-Uighur, home to the Turkic-speaking Muslim Uighurs who resent being ruled by Han Chinese. The region is close to Pakistan and several central and west Asian countries.

“Our goal is to give full play to Xinjiang’s role as a bridgehead in the process and forge it into a major window and pillar of (China’s) opening-up,” Li said at the Expo, China Daily reported.

Zardari’s visit comes in the wake of last month’s violence in the Xinjiang cities of Kashgar and Hotan which left at least 40 dead. The Kashgar violence has been blamed on Islamic extremists trained in Pakistan, which is a close ally of China.

Li said increased engagement with countries in the Eurasian heartland is an important part of China’s overall opening-up.

“Looking to the future, we will accelerate the opening-up of the interior and border regions as well,” Li said, adding the Chinese government plans to implement a number of favorable tax, infrastructure and resources development policies in Xinjiang.

He said the government also wants to speed up the setting up of special economic zones and encourage the use of yuan in cross-border trade and investment, China Daily reported.

“We support the comprehensive development of a trade route in Eurasia, which is beneficial for most countries in the region as they have no direct access to the sea,” said Kyrgyz President Roza Otunbayeva.

Tropical Depression Threatens Gulf Coast

MIAMI, Sept. 1 (UPI) — A tropical depression in the Gulf of Mexico Thursday threatened to bring heavy rain to the Gulf Coast this weekend, forecasters in Miami said.

A tropical storm warning was posted from Pascagoula, Miss., to Sabine Pass, Texas, Thursday because of the tropical depression, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said.

At 11 p.m. EDT, the center said Tropical Depression 13 was about 225 miles southwest of the mouth of the Mississippi River and about 270 miles south-southeast of Port Arthur, Texas, with top sustained winds of 35 mph. The depression was moving northwest at 2 mph.

The tropical storm warning area includes New Orleans, Lake Pontchartrain and Lake Maurepas, forecasts said.

The depression as forecast to move slowly toward the northwest through Friday before turning toward the north Friday night or Saturday. On its forecast track, the center of the cyclone is likely to reach the southern Louisiana Coast during the weekend, forecasters said.

Gradual strengthening is expected and the depression could become a tropical storm Friday.

The southern portions of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama could receive total rain accumulations of 10 to 15 inches through Sunday.

Noda Announces New Cabinet

TOKYO, Sept. 1 (UPI) — Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s Cabinet will include Koichiro Gemba as foreign minister and Jun Azumi as finance minster, it was announced Friday.

The announcement was made by the newly named Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura, a close ally of Noda. The chief cabinet secretary, a powerful post, functions as the main spokesman for the government.

Fujimura, 61, a Lower House member from Osaka, is a longtime friend of Noda and is considered the new prime minister’s closest aide, Japan Times reported.

The report said Fujimura led the effort that helped Noda become head of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan and to succeed Naoto Kan as prime minister.

Kan, who had been in office only since June 2010, resigned as criticism grew about his government’s handling of the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant set off by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

Other members of Noda’s Cabinet were to be announced later Friday.

Both the new Foreign Minister Gemba and Finance Minister Azumi are in their 40s.

Professor Charged With Leading Meth Ring

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif., Sept. 1 (UPI) — Authorities said they were searching for a 43-year-old professor at a California university, charged Thursday with leading a methamphetamine ring.

San Bernardino Sheriff Rod Hoops said Stephen Kinzey, a 43-year-old professor of kinesiology at California State University, San Bernardino — who also allegedly led a chapter of the Devils Diciples motorcycle gang — was being sought as a fugitive, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Nine others involved in the alleged drug ring have been arrested since Friday, Hoops said.

“It’s alarming to me — I have kids in college — to have an associate professor who is a member of Devils Diciples dealing methamphetamine,” Hoops said.

A drug task force recovered a pound of methamphetamine, rifles, handguns and biker paraphernalia in a raid of Kinzey’s home Aug. 26, Hoops said.

Authorities were trying to determine whether Kinzey had been dealing drugs on campus, the Times said.

Kinzey’s girlfriend, Holly Robinson, 33, who lives with him, was taken into custody and charged with possession and sale of methamphetamine and firearms violations.

Robinson, a 2005 CSUSB graduate, was Kinzey’s business partner and helped distribute methamphetamine to mid-level dealers in San Bernardino, Highland, Redlands and the community of Mentone, Detective Jason Rosenbaum said.

Kinzey has taught at CSUSB for 10 years

U.N.: Gaza Flotilla Response ‘excessive’

NEW YORK, Sept. 1 (UPI) — Israel had a legal right to stop a flotilla approaching Gaza but used “excessive and unreasonable force” against the flotilla last year, a U.N. report says.

The report is scheduled to be released Friday, The Washington Post reported. It was leaked Thursday to The New York Times.

Israel was urged to apologize to Turkey for the deaths of nine of its nationals and to pay compensation to the men’s families, the report said.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon set up a special committee to investigate the May 2010 incident because of the discrepancies between Israeli and Turkish versions of what happened. The panel found Israel has produced no “satisfactory explanation” of why the killings occurred.

“Forensic evidence showing that most of the deceased were shot multiple times, including in the back, or at close range has not been adequately accounted for in the material presented by Israel,” the report concluded.

Organizers said the flotilla was intended to bring humanitarian aid to Gaza. Israeli authorities said commandoes were acting self defense when they killed the nine activists.

A U.N. commission led by former New Zealand Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer concluded in July the military operation was “premature” and the deaths “unacceptable,” The Daily Telegraph reported.

U.S. Spent $7M Storing Seized Fireworks

COVINGTON, Ky., Sept. 1 (UPI) — The federal government has paid more than $7 million to store fireworks seized from a Kentucky man during a legal dispute about their ownership, officials say.

One million pounds of fireworks are being held at a former Army ammunition plant in Nebraska, The Cincinnati Enquirer reported. That was one of the facts that came out during a three-day hearing in federal court.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Kinnicutt said the government has paid far more than the fireworks are worth to warehouse them. Much of the stash is probably worthless because of drastic changes in temperature during storage and damage from rodents.

The fireworks were seized in 2007 from Sam Droganes, who owned Premier Fireworks in Covington, Ky. He pleaded guilty in 2009 to distributing fireworks without a license and received a short prison sentence.

Magistrate Judge Candace Smith can uphold the forfeiture of the fireworks, order some or all returned or order compensation for Droganes. His lawyers are scheduled to file their recommendation in October, and no decision is expected for months.

Allstate: Fort Collins Safest U.S. City

NORTHFIELD, Ill., Sept. 1 (UPI) — Drivers in Fort Collins, Colo., were the safest in the country in 2010 for the second consecutive year, Allstate Insurance said Thursday.

In its seventh annual ranking of the 200 largest cities, Allstate said drivers in Fort Collins have collisions an average of once every 14 years. That makes them 28.6 percent less likely to crash than the national average.

Collisions were more likely in cities with populations of 1 million or more, Allstate said. In this category, Phoenix was the safest, with drivers only about 1 percent above average in collisions, while Philadelphia was the most dangerous with drivers averaging a collision every six years, 60 percent above average.

Nationally, the average driver has a collision a decade.

Mike Roche, executive vice president of Allstate’s Claims Organization, said most crashes are caused by “human behavior” and can be prevented. The insurer recommends avoiding distracted driving, staying off the road in bad weather — or driving appropriately for conditions — keeping an appropriate distance from other cars, planning ahead to avoid traffic jams and road rage and keeping cars well maintained.

Mistrial Declared In Gay Student’s Slaying

LOS ANGELES, Sept. 1 (UPI) — A judge declared a mistrial after jurors failed to reach a unanimous verdict in a case of a student who shot a gay classmate at a California junior high school.

The jury voted 7-5 Thursday in favor of finding 17-year-old Brandon McInerney guilty of voluntary manslaughter in the death of 15-year-old Larry King in a computer lab at the junior high school in Oxnard, Calif., the Los Angeles Times reported.

Jurors had begun deliberating Friday after hearing eight weeks of testimony and nearly 100 witnesses, many of them teachers and students at E.O. Green Junior High School.

When Superior Court Judge Charles Campbell asked whether the jury could reach a decision if it had more time, the forewoman replied, “I suppose it’s possible” but said it seemed “unlikely.”

The trial had been closely watched by gay-rights groups seeking to protect gay and transgendered students from school bullying.

McInerney, then 14, shot King twice in the back of the head in February 2008 in what the prosecution called a calculated murder committed in part because McInerney was exploring white supremacist ideology and didn’t like homosexuals.

Defense attorneys said McInerney had been sexually harassed by King, who had begun wearing makeup and girl’s boots to school.