Iran tests new missiles in war games.


Twitter gets new round of funding, new backers.


By Alexei Oreskovic
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Twitter received $100 million in funding on Friday, valuing the company at $1 billion, according to a person familiar with the matter, as investors bet that the Web company’s explosive growth will yield actual revenue or a lucrative deal.
Investors including mutual fund giant T. Rowe Price and private equity firm Insight Venture Partners took part in the latest round of funding which closed on Friday, according to Twitter. Twitter did not give the amount of the funding.
Analysts and industry executives say the involvement of T. Rowe Price and Insight set the stage for an eventual IPO or acquisition, and illustrated how private equity and investment fund houses were increasingly getting into tech startups.
But the three-year-old Internet microblogging company has yet to figure out how to make money from the free service.
Executives have cited premium features and advertising as key initiatives to make money, though co-founder Biz Stone told Reuters this week that Twitter would not take advertising this year, despite widespread speculation that it would.
While the heady valuation for a company without revenue may, for some, recall the unbridled exuberance that defined the dotcom bubble of the late 1990s, others argued that Twitter was a special case.
«I wouldn’t take this as a sign that the entire market has become frothy now and that every entrepreneur can get funding,» said Raj Kapoor, a managing director at the Mayfield Fund.
Most startups raising capital still need to prove that they have real revenue opportunities, Kapoor said.
«If Twitter gets a pass, it’s because it has «pierced the mass market,» he said. «It’s become a verb.»
Twitter, which lets people send, or tweet, 140-character text messages to groups of «followers,» is one of the fastest-growing Internet social media companies. Worldwide visitors to its site hit 44.5 million in June, up 15-fold from a year earlier, according to comScore.
Twitter announced it had closed a «significant» round of funding on the company’s official blog on Friday, with existing backers Institutional Venture Partners, Spark Capital and Benchmark Capital also participating.
A person familiar with the matter, speaking anonymously because the deal terms were not public, said the investors contributed $100 million in new funding, granting the company a $1 billion valuation. The amount of financing and the investors was reported by the Wall Street Journal on Thursday.
A February round of funding in Twitter, led by Institutional Venture Partners and Benchmark Capital, had valued Twitter at just about $250 million. The pair jointly invested $35 million in Twitter during that round.
Some analysts believe Twitter could eventually be acquired by one of the established Internet companies such as Google Inc, Yahoo Inc or Time Warner Inc’s AOL. Google CEO Eric Schmidt called Twitter a «poor man’s email.»
The company however has said it intends to remain independent, and in Friday’s blog post, Chief Executive Officer Evan Williams said the new investment partners «share our vision for building a company of enduring value.»
The investment in Twitter by T. Rowe Price, a mutual fund known more for investments in public companies than in startups, stirred speculation that Twitter could be moving toward an eventual public offering.
Martin Green, Chief Operating Officer of online messaging service Meebo, said large funds are increasingly looking to invest in late-stage private companies.
Analysts say they are chasing higher returns with a still-acceptable level of risk, given the small amounts invested, usually for preferred shares.
«When we did our funding round 18 months ago we ended up talking to a bunch of those kinds of firms as well,» Green said. The big funds offer insight into the public markets and can help lay the groundwork for an eventual IPO.
But «it speaks more of their (Twitter’s) aspirations, than it speaks to proximity to an IPO,» he said.
(Editing by Edwin Chan; Editing by Andre Grenon, Richard Chang, Matthew Lewis and Carol Bishopric)

Pentagon chief says «tough» to meet Gitmo deadline.


By Deborah Zabarenko
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates acknowledged in an interview broadcast on Sunday that it would be difficult to meet the Obama administration’s January 22 deadline for closing the Guantanamo detention camp.
Asked directly whether that deadline would be met, Gates told ABC’s «This Week» program, «It’s going to be tough.»
Recent reports have suggested the administration may not meet the deadline because of legal, political and diplomatic issues involving the detainees at the controversial prison at a U.S. naval base in Cuba.
There are still some 223 detainees at the facility set up by the Bush administration in 2002 to hold foreign terrorism suspects captured after U.S.-led forces invaded Afghanistan.
Some detainees are expected to be transferred abroad while others could face charges in U.S. military tribunals or in American courtrooms. The Justice Department said on Saturday three detainees had been sent to Ireland and Yemen.
Gates said, «I actually was one of those who said we should (set a deadline) because I know enough from being around this town that if you don’t put a deadline on something, you’ll never move the bureaucracy.
«But I also said and then if we find we can’t get it done by that time but we have a good plan, then you’re in a position to say it’s going to take us a little longer but we are moving in the direction of implementing the policy that the president set,» he said.
An administration official said on Saturday the White House was close to selecting a location on U.S. soil to house some detainees.
«We are doing everything we can to close it by the (January) date,» the official said, adding, «We are in the final stages of locating a secure facility in the U.S. where detainees can be held.
Democrats have mostly backed closing Guantanamo, pointing to international criticism of the detention camp and concerns the prison provides a rallying cry to groups like al Qaeda.
Most Republicans have criticized Obama for wanting to close the camp since it is already set up for detention and trials.
But Senator John McCain, Obama’s Republican opponent in the 2008 presidential election, disagreed.
«We should continue to work toward the closure of Guantanamo Bay because of the image it has in the world of brutality,» he told ABC. «It harms our image very badly.»
(Additional reporting by Jeremy Pelofsky, Ross Colvin and Susan Heavey; Editing by Peter Cooney and Doina Chiacu)

Κυβέρνηση με τους φιλελεύθερους ανακοίνωσε η Μέρκελ.


Τη δημιουργία κυβερνητικού συνασπισμού με τους φιλελεύθερους του κόμματος FDP ανακοίνωσε η Γερμανίδα καγκελάριος Άνγκελα Μέρκελ.
«Καταφέραμε να εξασφαλίσουμε μια ισχυρή πλειοψηφία ώστε να σχηματίσουμε μία νέα κυβέρνηση του CDU/CSU και του FDP», δήλωσε χαρακτηριστικά η Μέρκελ στα κεντρικά γραφεία του κόμματός της στο Βερολίνο, αμέσως μετά την ανακοίνωση των exit polls, που έδιναν σαφές προβάδισμα στο κόμμα της.
Από την πλευρά του, ο υποψήφιος του Σοσιαλδημοκρατικού Κόμματος της Γερμανίας (SPD) για την καγκελαρία, Φρανκ-Βάλτερ Στάινμάιερ, παραδέχθηκε την ήττα του στις ομοσπονδιακές εκλογές που διεξήχθησαν σήμερα, αφού το κόμμα υπέστη το χειρότερο εκλογικό αποτέλεσμά του μετά το Β’ Παγκόσμιο Πόλεμο.
«Οι ψηφοφόροι αποφάσισαν και το αποτέλεσμα είναι μία πικρή μέρα για τη γερμανική Σοσιαλδημοκρατία…. δεν υπάρχει άλλος τρόπος να το πούμε -το αποτέλεσμα είναι μια πικρή ήττα», δήλωσε ο Στάινμάιερ στα μέλη του κόμματός του που συγκεντρώθηκαν στο Βερολίνο μετά τα αποτελέσματα δημοσκοπήσεων κατά την έξοδο από τα εκλογικά τμήματα, τα οποία δείχνουν τη συντηρητική καγκελάριο Άνγκελα Μέρκελ να εξασφαλίζει αρκετή υποστήριξη για έναν κεντροδεξιό συνασπισμό με τους φιλελεύθερους Ελεύθερους Δημοκράτες.

Iran tests short-range missiles amid nuclear tension.


(CNN)Iran tested a missile-launching system and two types of missiles Sunday, the state-run Press TV said. The missile tests come amid tension over the Islamic republic’s nuclear program.
The missiles, fired at targets around the country Sunday, included the Fateh-110, a short-range ground-to-ground missile, and Tondar-69, a short-range naval missile, the station said. Iran plans to test the long-range Shahab missile on Monday.
The tests, which are expected to go on for the next 10 to 11 days, are codenamed «Payghambar-e Azam 4» or «The Great Messenger 4,» Press TV said.
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps had said it would stage missile exercises to promote the armed forces’ defense capabilities.
The tests come after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s disclosure Friday that Iran was building a second uranium enrichment facility.
The United States and Israel believe that Iran is seeking nuclear weapons under the guise of a civilian nuclear energy program. Iran has denied the allegation.
In May, Iran said it tested a surface-to-surface missile that is capable of reaching parts of Europe.

Iran Test Fires 2 Short-Range Missiles.


Iran said it successfully test fired two short-range missiles during drills Sunday by the elite Revolutionary Guard, a show of force days after the U.S. and its allies condemned Tehran over a newly revealed underground nuclear facility that was being constructed secretly.
English-language Press TV reported that the solid-fuel Fateh-110, Tondar-69 and Zelzal missiles were test fired, but did not give specifics on range or other details. Both are short-range, surface-to-surface missiles.
Gen. Hossein Salami, head of the Revolutionary Guard Air Force, told reporters Iran tested for the first time a multiple missile launcher. Press TV showed pictures of at least two missiles being fired simultaneously and said they were from the latest drill.
Salami said the missile tests and military drills were meant to show Iran’s strong resolve to defend its national values. The Revolutionary Guard controls Iran’s missile program.
Reuters reported state radio as also saying Sunday that Tehran would test-fire a missile Monday capable of hitting Israel and U.S. bases in the Gulf region.
The tests came two days after Western intelligence officials and diplomats disclosed that Iran had been secretly developing a previously unknown underground uranium enrichment facility. The site in the arid mountains near the holy city of Qom is believed to be inside a heavily guarded, underground facility belonging to the Revolutionary Guard, according to a document sent by President Barack Obama’s administration to lawmakers.
After strong condemnations from the U.S. and its allies, and a demand to open the site to international scrutiny, Iran said Saturday it will allow U.N. nuclear inspectors to examine the site.
Reuters reported Iran’s ambassador to the U.N.’s nuclear agency watchdog, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, as saying Sunday that «fabricated Western clamor» over the facility would, however, negatively affect its talks with world powers.
Nuclear experts said the details that have emerged about the site and the fact it was being developed secretly are strong indications that Iran’s nuclear program is not only for peaceful purposes, as the country has long maintained.
Iran has had the solid-fuel Fateh missile, with a range of 120 miles, for several years. It also has the solid-fueled, Chinese-made CSS 8, also called the Tondar 69, according to the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control, a private group that seeks to stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction. The Tondar has a range of about 93 miles.
Iran has previously tested the Zelzal missile, versions of which have a range of 130-185 miles.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Senators Call for More Economic Sanctions on Iran, Remain Skeptical of Diplomatic Talks.


Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., reinforced the call for tough economic sanctions against Iran on Sunday the same day the country test-fired two short-range missiles and two days after learning of its secret, underground nuclear facility.
The vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Sunday called the revelation of Iran’s secret uranium enrichment facility a «poke in the eye» to those who believe diplomatic efforts will lead to the country’s nuclear disarmament.

Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., reinforced the call for tough economic sanctions against Iran on the same day the country test-fired two short-range missiles and two days after learning of its secret, underground nuclear facility.

In an interview with «FOX News Sunday,» Bond said Iran’s track record of «lies» undermines any possible negotiations made during upcoming nuclear talks with U.S. officials.

«I think, as the ‘Show Me State’ senator, they’ve shown us enough, much of it through speeches by Ahmadinejad saying, ‘We’re going to wipe Israel off the face of the Earth,'» Bond said.  «He has launched the missiles to show that they are taking seriously their threat.»

After claiming to successfully test-fire two short-range missiles during drills Sunday by the elite Revolutionary Guard, Iran reportedly said it will test-fire a missile on Monday that could have the capability to hit Israel and U.S. bases in the Gulf region.

The drills are a show of force days after the U.S. and its allies condemned Tehran over a newly revealed underground nuclear facility.

Iranian diplomats have agreed to nuke talks with the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council  the U.S., Britain, Russia, China and France — and Germany on Oct. 1 in Geneva, but U.S. lawmakers say Iran’s actions cast doubt on the effectiveness of such diplomatic efforts.

«This is the moment of decision for Iran,» said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

«Iran can either make itself a pariah or it can recognize it has much more to gain by eliminating any potential military aspects of a nuclear program,» she told FOX News Sunday.

Both Feinstein and Bond echoed Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ pessimism over a U.S.-led military strike on Iran.

Gates said in an interview Sunday with CNN’s «State of the Union» that «the reality is, there is no military option that does anything more than buy time.»

«The Iranians are in a very bad spot now because of this deception, in terms of all of the great powers. And there obviously is the opportunity for severe additional sanctions,» he said.

Feinstein agreed, saying the country’s nuclear plants are «in several different places,» and a U.S. strike would require ground operations.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Χάος από τις πλημμύρες στις Φιλιππίνες.

Υπεράνθρωπες προσπάθειες καταβάλλουν τα σωστικά συνεργεία στις Φιλιππίνες, προκειμένου να εντοπιστούν και να σωθούν οι εκατοντάδες κάτοικοι που έχουν αποκλειστεί σε όλη σχεδόν τη χώρα από τις καταστροφικές πλημμύρες που ακολούθησαν την τροπική καταιγίδα Ketsana.Μέχρι στιγμής ο αριθμός των θυμάτων έχει φτάσει επισήμως τα 51 άτομα, ενώ άλλα 21 αγνοούνται και εκφράζονται φόβοι ότι είναι νεκροί.Ο υπουργός Άμυνας της χώρας, Gilbert Teodoro, είπε ότι ο στρατός με τη βοήθεια της αστυνομίας και των εθελοντών πολιτών έχει διασώσει περίπου 4.000 ανθρώπους μέχρι στιγμής.

Περισσότεροι από 250.000 άνθρωποι υπολογίζεται ότι έχουν αναγκαστεί να εγκαταλείψουν τα σπίτια τους, σύμφωνα με τις τοπικές Αρχές.Ο αρχηγός του στρατού, στρατηγός Victor Ibrado, πέταξε με ελικόπτερο πάνω από τις περιοχές που έχουν υποστεί τις σοβαρότερες ζημιές στα περίχωρα της πρωτεύουσας, Manila, για να εκτιμήσει προσωπικά την κατάσταση.

Πληροφορίες από τα τοπικά ΜΜΕ αναφέρουν ότι μέχρι και το 80% της Manila ενδέχεται να έχει πλημμυρίσει.Από την πλευρά της, η πρόεδρος της χώρας, Gloria Arroyo, έκανε έκκληση για ψυχραιμία και για οποιαδήποτε βοήθεια μπορούν να παράσχουν άλλα κράτη.

Θα εκδοθεί στις ΗΠΑ για να δικαστεί ο Πολάνσκι;


Ο 76χρονος σκηνοθέτης Ρομάν Πολάνσκι συνελήφθη σήμερα από την ελβετική αστυνομία, αμέσως μόλις έφθασε στο αεροδρόμιο της Ζυρίχης, βάσει εντάλματος σύλληψης που είχαν εκδώσει σε βάρος του οι αμερικανικές Αρχές.
Ο διάσημος σκηνοθέτης «κρατείται προσωρινά και αντιμετωπίζει το ενδεχόμενο έκδοσης», καθώς ισχύει ανάλογη συμφωνία μεταξύ Ηνωμένων Πολιτειών και Ελβετίας, αλλά υπάρχει περίπτωση να ασκήσει έφεση, δήλωσε εκπρόσωπος του Υπουργείου Δικαιοσύνης.
Ο Πολάνσκι, πολωνικής καταγωγής, που έχει όμως γεννηθεί στο Παρίσι, πήγαινε στην Ελβετία γιατί απόψε θα βραβευόταν στο φεστιβάλ κινηματογράφου της Ζυρίχης.
Οι διοργανωτές του φεστιβάλ ανακοίνωσαν ότι η κράτηση του Πολάνσκι τους προκάλεσε «σοκ και φόβο», ωστόσο θα προχωρήσουν κανονικά στην προγραμματισμένη τελετή βράβευσης για τη δουλειά του διάσημου σκηνοθέτη.
Ειδική τελετή έχει προγραμματιστεί για απόψε, ώστε να επιτραπεί «σε όλους να εκφράσουν την αλληλεγγύη τους στον Ρομάν Πολάνσκι και τον θαυμασμό τους στη δουλειά του», αναφέρει η διεύθυνση του φεστιβάλ σε ανακοίνωσή της.

Προβάδισμα της κεντροδεξιάς δείχνουν τα exit polls.


Προβάδισμα του Χριστιανοδημοκρατικού κόμματος (CDU/CSU) της Μέρκελ με ποσοστό 33,5% δείχνει η δημοσκόπηση του καναλιού ZDF κατά την έξοδο από τα εκλογικά τμήματα.
Σύμφωνα με την ίδια δημοσκόπηση, οι Χριστιανοκοινωνιστές της Βαυαρίας (CDU-CSU) παίρνουν ποσοστό 23,5%, το Σοσιαλδημοκρατικό Κόμμα (SPD) 14,5%, το Κόμμα των Φιλελευθέρων (FDP) 10%, οι Πράσινοι και 13% η Αριστερά 12,5%.
Εάν τα exit polls επαληθευθούν, η Γερμανίδα καγκελάριος Άγκελα Μέρκελ διασφαλίζει νέα κυβερνητική θητεία αλλά και δυνατότητα σχηματισμού κυβέρνησης με τους Φιλελευθέρους του FDP.

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