Moscow Warns Of ‘sad Fate’ For Damascus

MOSCOW, Aug. 5 (UPI) — Russia’s representative to NATO said the Western alliance might be ready for a Syrian assault after the Russian president warned of a “sad fate” for Damascus.

Members of the U.N. Security Council this week issued a strong statement condemning the brutality in Syria. The Syrian military is waging a bloody crackdown on anti-government protesters, leaving at least 1,000 people dead since early this year.

Russia, China and other Security Council members are said to oppose a full resolution at the Security Council out of fear any Syrian measure would ultimately result in a protracted conflict like the one in Libya.

Dmitry Rogozin, the Russian envoy to NATO, said he believed the statement was a prelude to another NATO assault.

“(The statement) means that the planning (of the military campaign) is well under way, he was quoted by Russia’s state-run news agency RIA Novosti as saying. He added that NATO is bent on meddling in the affairs of regimes “whose views do not coincide with those of the West.”

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev called on Syrian President Bashar Assad to enact meaningful and concrete reforms in the country or Moscow would be forced to act.

Medvedev warned that if Assad didn’t take unilateral action, the Syrian president was destined to “a sad fate and ultimately we will also have to make some kind of decisions.”

Online Brand Ad Model Adapted To Politics

LOS ANGELES, Aug. 5 (UPI) — SocialVibe, a leading U.S. digital advertising company, said it launched political advertising tailored to campaigns and political action committees.

SocialVibe’s engagement ads are used by many of the world’s largest brands to offer people something of value for interacting with an ad. The political ad product presents messaging to potential voters, gathers information about their political priorities and encourages them to act on campaign-related activities and share with their friends, the Los Angeles company said Wednesday in a release.

A recent virtual field study in Iowa demonstrated the effectiveness of political engagement ads in generating interaction and sharing on social networks, SocialVibe said. The test campaign — an interactive quiz about political affiliation — was shared at more than twice the rate of a typical SocialVibe brand campaign, results indicated. SocialVibe said the study indicated this type campaign could launch in Iowa and reach people in all 50 states in a 24-hour period.

“Campaigns that insist on reaching out to voters only through traditional means will find themselves left on the sidelines in 2012. Print mailings, robocalls, and even TV advertising will all take a back seat to digital advertising this election season,” said Jay Samit, SocialVibe chief executive officer. “Engagement advertising has proven to be the most cost effective form of advertising for brands. By bringing the model to the political landscape, campaigns and voters alike can get the true value out of political advertising within social environments like Facebook.”

SocialVibe said its engagement advertising would be appropriate for all types of political campaign at all government levels.

Greek Cabbies Suspend 19-day Strike

ATHENS, Greece, Aug. 5 (UPI) — Greek cab drivers halted a 19-day strike Friday after the government agreed to temporarily limit the number of new taxi licenses.

After several hours of negotiations, taxi owners and drivers voted to suspend the strike against a government deregulation plan until Sept. 5, Ekathimerini.com reported.

The vote came after cabbies won assurances Thursday from regional governors that no additional taxi licenses would be issued until the government submits a draft law near the end of August.

But cabbies, who want the number of licenses to be limited, based on cities’ populations, said they could stage more strikes if they are not satisfied with the law.

Ekathimerini.com reported that Transport Minister Yiannis Ragousis is expected to call for deregulation of the industry, opening it to competition in response to demands from Greece’s foreign creditors.

Ragousis said none of the 4,600 applications for new licenses would be approved before the legislation is made public.

The strike came in the heart of tourist season, and cabbies, facing the loss of income, had already returned to work on the Aegean islands of Lesvos, Myconos, Rhodes, Kos and Santorini, Ekathimerini.com said.

‘Rent Is Too Damn High’ Man Being Evicted

NEW YORK, Aug. 5 (UPI) — The New York man who ran for governor on the “Rent is Too Damn High” platform says his landlord company is trying to have him evicted so it can raise the rent.

Jimmy McMillan said he paid about $275 a month for his rent-controlled ground-floor apartment on St. Marks Place in the East Village during the 1970s, and rent has since increased to $872.96, but his landlord, Lisco Holdings, wants to get rid of him so the monthly price can be drastically increased, the New York Post reported Friday.

“I’ve been here since 1977, and they want more money,” McMillan said. “It’s about ‘My Rent is Too Damn Low.'”

“Maybe the landlord doesn’t know, but he can’t bulldog me because I know the law,” McMillan said.

McMillan, who said he is planning a 2012 presidential bid, said he has instructed his lawyer to file a $70,000 counter-claim in Housing Court.

Lisco Holdings said McMillan is being evicted because he violated his lease by spending most of his time living at another residence elsewhere in the city.

“This is a case where the landlord alleges that it’s not the tenant’s primary residence,” said Robert Goldstein, an attorney representing Lisco Holdings.

However, McMillan said the East Village apartment is his permanent home.

“That’s my apartment. It is my residence. My name is on the lease,” he said.

Florida Teacher Admits To Sex With Teen

MIAMI, Aug. 5 (UPI) — A Florida teacher was arrested for allegedly having sex with a 16-year-old high school student, authorities said.

Waleska Velasquez, 29, a science teacher at Miami Jackson Senior High, was arrested Wednesday and release on bond Thursday, The Miami Herald reported.

Police say Velasquez, charged with three counts of having sex with a minor, has confessed to having sexual relations with the student, who is now 17, starting in August 2009 and continuing through 2010.

Velasquez told investigators she gave the boy gifts, cash and a cellphone she used to send him romantic texts and photos of herself nude and in sexy lingerie.

Velasquez was hired by the Miami-Dade district in 2007.

In light of her arrest, the district “will work toward a swift termination,” district spokesman John Schuster said.

“The district regularly reminds staff that personal relationships with students are unethical, forbidden by school board rules and may be illegal, as in this instance,” Schuster said.

Obama’s Birthday The Subject Of ‘Late Show’ Top 10

NEW YORK, Aug. 5 (UPI) — David Letterman read a “Late Show” Top 10 list in honor of U.S. President Barack Obama’s 50th birthday.

The commander in chief celebrated the milestone Thursday with a party featuring performances by Stevie Wonder and Herbie Hancock. Jay-Z and Chris Rock were among the guests who attended.

To mark the occasion, Letterman read the “Top 10 Ways Barack Obama Celebrated His Birthday” on Thursday’s edition of “Late Show” in New York.

It read as follows:

10. Updated his resume.

9. Treated himself to piece of first lady’s carob-flavored kelp loaf birthday cake.

8. Asked for an iPad, let Republicans negotiate him down to a wad of gum.

7. Pizza and video games at Washington kids’ restaurant “Chuck E. Schumer’s.”

6. Asked for any cash gifts to be in Canadian dollars.

5. Sent 82nd Airborne on In-N-Out Burger run.

4. Invited fun costumed characters.

3. “Shark Week” and two pints of Chubby Hubby.

2. Got a fabulous makeover from Michele O’Bachmann’s husband.

1. Forged a Kenyan birth certificate to get him out of this miserable job.

Widespread Support For A ‘Caylee’s Law’

ORLANDO, Fla., Aug. 5 (UPI) — Florida voters would overwhelmingly support a proposed “Caylee’s Law” that would make it a felony not to report a dead or missing child, a poll indicates.

Following the Casey Anthony murder trial, a survey by Quinnipiac University of 1,417 Florida voters found 83 percent supported proposed legislation that would make such a failure to report a criminal offense, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reported Friday.

Casey Anthony, cleared by a jury of killing her 2-year-old daughter Caylee, waited a month before telling her parents or police the child was missing.

State Reps. Scott Plakon, R-Longwood, and Jose Diaz, R-Miami, have filed a proposal making it a felony not to report a dead or missing child within 48 hours, and a number of other lawmakers have pledged to support similar proposals.

The Quinnipiac survey was conducted July 27 to Aug. 2 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.6 percentage points.

Oil Spill Impacts On Nigeria Studied

ABUJA, Nigeria, Aug. 5 (UPI) — Oil spills have made Nigeria’s troubled Niger Delta one of the most polluted places on Earth, requiring $1 billion and 30 years to clean up, a U.N. report says.

The Nigerian government commissioned a study by the U.N. Environment Program that looked at 200 locations and 75 miles of pipeline and more than 4,000 soil and water samples, the Los Angeles Times reported Friday.

“Pollution from over 50 years of oil operations in the region has penetrated further and deeper than many may have supposed,” the report said.

There were more than 7,000 oil spills from 1970 to 2000, the Nigerian government said.

The report focused on the activities of Shell Petroleum Development Co., the major oil operator during the period, which still produces about 40 percent of Nigeria’s oil in partnership with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corp.

The company, part of the Royal Dutch Shell group, has said the oil spills were caused by theft and sabotage.

“We clean up all spills from our facilities, whatever the cause, and restore the land to its original state,” Shell said in a statement after the report was released.

But the U.N. report called control and maintenance of oil facilities in the region inadequate.

“The Shell Petroleum Development Company’s own procedures have not been applied, creating public health and safety issues,” it said.

‘Bendable’ Computer Developed In Canada

KINGSTON, Ontario, Aug. 5 (UPI) — Researchers in Canada say they’ve developed a paper-thin computer so flexible it can be rolled up and carried in a pocket.

Computer scientists at Queens University in Ontario say their prototype computer utilizes a flexible, touch-screen display that is completely bendable, the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday.

A university release describing the device interchangeably used the terms “computer” and “smartphone,” the newspaper said.

“This computer looks, feels and operates like a small sheet of interactive paper,” said creator Roel Vertegaal, director of the Human Media Lab at Queens. “You interact with it by bending it into a cellphone, flipping the corner to turn pages or writing on it with a pen.”

The device is a “smartphone prototype, called paperphone” that is “best described as a flexible iPhone,” he said.

The technology could be used in tablets, phones and other devices that will “shape with your pocket,” the researchers said.

Russian Buddhists Request Dalai Lama Visit

ELISTA, Russia, Aug. 5 (UPI) — Russian Buddhists have asked the country to let the Dalai Lama visit, a request Russia has consistently denied.

The request to the Foreign Ministry came from Buddhists in the Caspian north coast region of Kalmykia, European Russia’s only Buddhist-dominated region, a representative of a Kalmykia central temple said, RIA Novosti reported.

In March, the Dalai Lama resigned as Tibet’s political leader to the Tibetan Parliament-in-exile in Dharamsala, India.

At the time, he called on Tibetans to continue seeking autonomy from China, which has controlled Tibet for 52 years.

China has claimed the Dalai Lama orchestrated the March 2008 unrest in Tibet that killed 19 people and injured 623, according to official Chinese reports. The Dalai Lama has denied the claim.

The Dalai Lama, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, is the spiritual leader of Tibetans.