Woman pulled alive from rubble two days after Taiwan quake

TAINAN, Taiwan A woman was pulled alive from the rubble of a collapsed building in the southern Taiwan city of Tainan on Monday and another man has been found alive trapped inside more than 48 hours after a deadly earthquake struck, officials said.The death toll from the quake rose to 35 earlier on Monday, with more than 100 people still missing.The quake struck at about 4 a.m. on Saturday (5.00 p.m. ET/2000 GMT Friday) at the beginning of the Lunar New Year holiday, with almost all the dead found in the toppled Wei-guan Golden Dragon Building in Tainan city.Rescue efforts are focused on the wreckage of the 17-storey building, where 117 people are listed as missing and are suspected to be buried deep under the rubble.Wang Ting-yu, a legislator who represents the area, told reporters the woman, Tsao Wei-ling, was found lying under her dead husband. Their 2-year-old son, who was also killed, was found lying nearby.Another person has also been located, a man called Li Tsung-tian, Wang said. The man is conscious and talking to rescuers. Tainan mayor William Lai said Tsao and Li were the only signs of life at present, although rescuers were continuing to look for others."We have not given up on even the tiniest of possibilities," he told reporters.Rescuers continued to scramble over the twisted wreckage of the building as numbed family members stood around, waiting for news of missing relatives.Lin Tong-meng said he had been waiting at the site for word of his 11- and 12-year-old nephews, who have yet to be found. "I came back and forth all yesterday and now I'm here again," Lin said. The boy's mother and father were rescued soon after the quake. Their father also stood nearby, pacing close to the rubble in tears.Taiwan's government said in a statement 33 of the 35 dead were from the Wei-guan building, which was built in 1994.President-elect Tsai Ing-wen, who won election last month, said during a visit to Tainan there needed to be a "general sorting out" for old buildings to make sure they were able to cope with disasters like earthquakes. "There needs to be a continued strengthening of their ability to deal with disasters," she said.Outgoing president Ma Ying-jeou is also scheduled to visit. Chinese President Xi Jinping conveyed condolences to the victims, state news agency Xinhua reported late on Sunday, and repeated Beijing's offer to provide help.China views self-ruled Taiwan as a wayward province, to be bought under its control by force if necessary. (Reporting by J.R. Wu; Additional reporting by Megha Rajagopalan in BEIJING; Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Paul Tait)

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Super Bowl 50 party circuit shifts into overdrive

SAN FRANCISCO With a Super Bowl 50 party circuit that could bring rock stars to their knees hitting overdrive on Saturday the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers may be the only ones well-rested for the NFL's title game.Private jets have crowded into Bay Area airports unloading their precious cargo of A-list celebrities and billionaires who have joined locals for a party-packed week of celebrations big and small in the lead-up to Sunday's Super Bowl.The NFL Experience and Super Bowl City have provided plenty of interactive family fun for an affordable price.But an invite to one of many VIP events may be harder to come by than a ticket to Sunday's game which were going for an average price of $4,827 on online ticket resale site StubHub, with one fan shelling out $27,983 for lower prime club seat.If you want to party in style this weekend, you might want to talk to your bank manager, particularly if you are interested in the San Jose Fairmont Super Bowl package which is going for $150,000 and includes three nights in their presidential suite and use of a chauffeured Escalade. Of course you will want to keep that credit card handy, since you will not be sitting in your room.Billionaire Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban's DirecTV Super Saturday Night Party with the Red Hot Chili Peppers is one of the big tickets for Super Bowl eve with those not on the guest list plopping down $2,000.If that is a little too rich for your taste, entrance to the Rolling Stone magazine bash will set you back a cool $1,000, according to StubHub. ESPN, Maxim and Playboy, with two dozen centrefolds, are always among the hottest tickets for party goers.This year Playboy, who pitched their party tent in the parking lot at Major League Baseball's AT&T Park, used the event to officially debut the iconic magazine's first non-nude issue that will hit the stands in March.Metallica will perform at AT&T Park later on Saturday. Two of the bigger Super Bowl soirees were the Media Party for 3,000 accredited press and friends and Taste of the NFL, a charity event which offers the chance to sample chef-created gourmet dishes from every city represented in the league.San Francisco homeless who have protested during Super Bowl Week over the display of hedonistic excess while the needy and poor are brushed to the sidelines will also get a small taste of the party.A volunteer group called Food Runners has been gathering up leftovers from catered Super Bowl events and distributing them to homeless shelters and those living on the street. (Editing by Frank Pingue)

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Judge dismisses Pennsylvania woman's lawsuit against Bill Cosby

A U.S. federal judge on Thursday dismissed a defamation lawsuit brought by a Pennsylvania woman against Bill Cosby, which contended the comedian smeared her character when he accused her of lying in claiming he had sexually assaulted her in the 1980s.Renita Hill, 48, had claimed she was defamed her when the comedian and his representatives called her a liar and extortionist as he defended himself after she went public in 2014 with allegations of decades-old sexual misconduct.Hill, a Pittsburgh resident, sued in October over three comments made by Cosby and his representatives. The three statements in question "do not support a claim for defamation as defined by Pennsylvania law," U.S. District Judge Arthur Schwab said in his dismissal ruling, court documents showed.Hill's attorneys have said Cosby mentored her when she was a young woman, and paid for her education at Temple University and Spelman College. They said he also arranged meetings in Atlantic City, New York and Denver, where he sexually assaulted her. Hill's first public accusation of sexual assault came in a 2014 interview with a Pittsburgh TV station. Her lawsuit concerned statements Cosby and his representatives made in response to that interview. Schwab said the remarks were protected under free speech rights, and that Hill did not prove the comments harmed her. More than 50 women have come forward to accuse Cosby, 78, of sexual assault. The allegations date back as far as the 1960s, making most of them too old for criminal prosecution. Hill and several other women have sued Cosby.Cosby's attorneys welcomed the judge's decision in a statement and said they hoped it would influence the outcome of other pending lawsuits. "The Court found opinionated speech by a defendant's attorney is protected and not actionable as defamatory," the attorneys said. "It is our hope that courts in other jurisdictions with similar matters will respond in like manner."The drumbeat of accusations has toppled Cosby from his cultural status as one of America's most-admired comedians. He built his career on family-friendly humor and was best known as the loving but often befuddled father in the 1980s television hit, "The Cosby Show."The only criminal charges against Cosby were filed last month, over the alleged sexual assault of Andrea Constand in 2004.Cosby, who has repeatedly denied wrongdoing, is free on $1 million bail. His lawyer has said he is not guilty and will not consider a plea bargain. (Editing by Scott Malone, Frances Kerry and David Gregorio)

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India may decide on GM food as China makes big leap with Syngenta buy

NEW DELHI Officials may decide on Friday whether to allow what could be India's first genetically modified (GM) food crop, mustard, spurred by food security concerns and as China makes a big bet on the technology with a $43 billion bid for seed firm Syngenta.Permitting GM food crops is a big call for a country that spends tens of billions of dollars importing edible oils and other food items every year.Farmers are stuck with old technology, yields are at a fraction of global levels, cultivable land is shrinking and weather patterns have become less predictable.Two straight droughts for the first time in three decades have made India a net importer of some food products for the first time in years.If a commercial launch of GM mustard is allowed, it could pave the way for other food crops such as corn varieties developed by Monsanto, in one of the world's biggest farm markets."I see this as a test case and I am hopeful," said Deepak Pental, the lead scientist who used government grants to conduct tests on the oilseed crop over the past decade."How can we keep on running so scared when there is so much need for improving agricultural production?"But even winning the panel's approval is no guarantee that the GM crop would be introduced.Political and public opposition to lab-altered food remains strong amid fears they could compromise food safety and biodiversity. There is also suspicion among farmers that their introduction would give foreign seed suppliers too much control."Why is the government imposing its decision on farmers on an unsafe and unproven technology, despite the availability of good varieties of mustard in our country?" Manish Sisodia, Delhi's deputy chief minister, told Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a letter this week."We pray to you not to compromise our agriculture, citizens' health and the environment under pressure from a handful of foreign companies." PRESSURE BUILDING?Friday's meeting, the third held to evaluate field trial data on GM mustard, is an indication of how serious Modi's government is about pushing technology to lift food production after an impasse under the previous government halted research on transgenic crops.A member of the GM approval committee comprising government and independent experts said they had already discussed the mustard in the past two meetings this year, and the next gathering would be crucial to deciding its future.He declined to be named and did not give more details. Ashok Gulati, a farm economist who advised the last government, said that China's takeover of Swiss GM seed developer Syngenta should push the government into taking quick action."It should come as ... a wakeup call for India, which has to feed more than a billion mouths," said Gulati. "India now doesn't have the luxury to sit on the issue of GM. It just needs to take this bold and decisive step."India placed a moratorium on GM aubergine in 2010, fearing the effect on food safety and biodiversity. Field trials of other GM crops were not formally halted, but the regulatory system was brought to a deadlock after that.However, Modi, who was instrumental in making Gujarat state the leading user of GM cotton in India when he was chief minister, cleared several field trials soon after taking office in New Delhi in 2014.Some grassroots groups associated with Modi's nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party have opposed GM crops because of the reliance on seeds patented by multinationals like Monsanto, DuPont, Dow Chemical and Syngenta.But New Delhi-based Pental said the mustard variety was developed by Indian scientists, and local firms could easily supply farmers with cheap seeds. TESTS REVEAL NO PROBLEMSThe government's chief scientific adviser, R. Chidambaram, has also asked Modi for a quick decision on the issue.A senior environment ministry official, who is a member of the GM approval committee, had said earlier that studies found no ill effects from GM foods.Pental's mustard makes use of three genes already incorporated in rapeseed hybrids in Canada, the United States and Australia and extensive biosafety tests have revealed no cause for concern, according to a copy of the field trial report submitted to the government and seen by Reuters.Additionally, oil derived from its seeds does not contain proteins linked to the three genes used, Pental said.The mustard's yield is up to 38 percent higher than normal varieties, which would help Modi slash an annual bill for vegetable oil imports of more than $10 billion.A farm ministry official said they were keen to roll out any innovation that can help farmers produce more, as long as concerns of human and soil health are addressed. (Editing by Mike Collett-White)

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Japanese ward off evil spirits at bean-throwing festival

Tokyo - Thousands of people threw beans to ward off evil spirits and bring luck at Tokyo's Zojoji temple on Wednesday during a festival to mark the eve of spring according to the lunar calendar.During the ancient, annual festival the roasted soybeans are tossed during ceremonies known as mame maki that are held at shrines and temples throughout the country. "We throw the beans to kick out the demons so the good luck can come in," said Reiko Sasaki, a Buddhist priest at the temple. After the ceremony if people eat the number of beans equal to their age it will bring them good health for the year, according to Japanese tradition.         

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