CORRECTED-UPDATE 1-Marvel's 'Guardians' rockets to $94 mln domestic debut

"Guardians of the Galaxy," Walt Disney Co's offbeat space adventure featuring extraterrestrial misfits and a talking raccoon, made $94 million in ticket sales this weekend, setting a record for an August film opening.

The film's strong beginning, however, isn't likely to jumpstart a lackluster summer box office season.

The 3D movie, which stars lesser-known characters in Disney's Marvel comic book universe, added $66.4 million from international markets, for a global debut of $160.4 million, Disney said on Sunday.

"Guardians" outgunned last weekend's leader, the science-fiction thriller "Lucy" that collected another $18.3 million in sales at domestic theaters, according to estimates from Rentrak.

"Lucy" stars Scarlett Johansson as a woman with a super-powered brain.

"Get On Up," a biography of the soul singer James Brown, was third with $14 million in its first weekend in theaters.

"Guardians" stars an ensemble cast that includes Zoe Saldana, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper and Chris Pratt. After positive reviews, the film was the year's biggest Thursday night opening with $11.2 million in sales starting with 7 p.m. shows.

Even before the film's opening, Walt Disney said it was planning a sequel for release in July 2017.

Head of distribution for Walt Disney Studios Dave Hollis attributed the strong performance of "Guardians" to a combination of momentum started by "Transformers: Age of Extinction" in June, skillful marketing, and strong reviews.

"It starts with a great movie, and certainly the marketing was inspired," Hollis said.

Disney had marketed the film's lighter moments in trailers and commercials, including a machinegun-firing raccoon, to expand its popularity beyond traditional Marvel movie fans.

The movie features a soundtrack of music from the 1970s, including the songs "Hooked on a Feeling" and "Spirit in the Sky."

"Transformers: Age of Extinction," just passed $1 billion in global box office returns, according to Paramount Pictures.

"Guardians" performance, which beat Hollywood forecasts of a $65 million to $80 million opening, are not likely to energize the summer box office, however, as ticket sales are currently running 18 percent behind last year, according to Rentrak.

"It doesn't end it but it's certainly a step in the right direction," said Rentrak's senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian about the slump.

It only gave the overall summer box office a two percent lift, he said.

_0">

"Hercules," starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson as the legendary muscle man, was fourth for the weekend with $10.7 million.

_1">

"Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" was fifth with $8.7 million. The film has totaled more than $189.3 million in sales in U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Rentrak.

_2">

"Lucy" and "Get On Up" were released by Universal, a unit of Comcast Corp.

_3">

Fox, a unit of Twenty-First Century Fox, distributed "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes." "Hercules" and "Transformers: Age of Extinction" were released by Paramount Pictures, a Viacom unit. (Reporting By Ronald Grover and Andrea Burzynski; Editing by Lynne O'Donnell)

_4">

Iliad may face tough battle cutting costs at T-Mobile

French telecoms firm Iliad will be hard-pressed to meet its goal of generating $2 billion in additional annual operating profit at T-Mobile US Inc by cutting costs and slashing prices if its takeover bid is accepted, analysts said.

Iliad, which in recent years has shaken up the French mobile market with cheap subscriber plans, bid $15 billion last week for a 56.6 percent stake in T-Mobile, the No. 4 U.S. mobile operator.

The Paris-based company, majority owned by billionaire founder Xavier Niel, said a merger would result in $10 billion in synergies and an additional $2 billion in annual earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA).

It would hit those targets by running T-Mobile, majority owned by Deutsche Telekom AG, in an "Iliad-like" way, sources familiar with the takeover bid told Reuters.

Even if successful in its takeover bid, Iliad faces significant obstacles in reaching those cost savings and negotiating better deals with U.S. cellular transmission tower operators, said Roger Entner, an analyst at Recon Analytics in Boston.

"T-Mobile is not bloated at all. It is cut to the bone," said Entner, adding that the carrier doesn't have the legacy equipment costs other carriers bring in.

"T-Mobile already has a history of squeezing the vendors. But you can't squeeze water out of a stone," he said. Iliad has a better chance of raising EBITDA by attracting more customers, than by cutting costs, Entner said.

"Very few people have cut themselves to growth," he said.

While direct comparisons are difficult because U.S. telecoms companies get most of their earnings from standalone cellular service rather than bundles, Iliad's profit margins are roughly comparable to larger carriers like Verizon and AT&T but well above T-Mobile's 26 percent.

Iliad's triple-play market bundle in France - a combined offer of cellular, broadband and cable TV services - has 40 percent EBITDA margins.

On a revenue-per-employee basis, Iliad averages $195,000 per employee versus $177,000 per employee at T-Mobile, according to the companies' most recent regulatory filings.

Iliad, which controls about 13 percent of the French mobile market, entered the mobile industry in 2012 and has a history of operating at minimum costs with cutthroat rates. Its no-frill plans start at just over $2 a month.

The company's entry into the French mobile market sent mobile plan prices down 30 percent and squeezed bigger rivals' profits.

T-Mobile has similarly restructured prices across the industry in the past year, with aggressive promotions that have cost its rivals thousands of subscribers. It reported the industry's largest post-paid phone subscriber additions in the second quarter of 2014.

"It's a different model," said BTIG Research analyst Walter Piecyk, referring to Iliad's strategy in France. While Iliad's EBITDA margins are larger than T-Mobile's, the latter has advantages like a more developed high-speed network than Iliad, which depends heavily on volatile roaming agreements, Piecyk said.

Iliad's bid of $33 per share sets up a potential bidding war for T-Mobile with rival Sprint Corp, the U.S. mobile carrier now controlled by Japan's Softbank Corp. Sprint has bid $40 per share for T-Mobile.

Iliad's bid is lower because it lacks the synergies Sprint can offer in stringing the two networks together and stripping out excess towers, staff, IT, and real estate. (Reporting by Marina Lopes in Washington and Leila Abboud in Paris; Editing by Paul Simao)

Iliad may face tough battle cutting costs at T-Mobile

French telecoms firm Iliad will be hard-pressed to meet its goal of generating $2 billion in additional annual operating profit at T-Mobile US Inc by cutting costs and slashing prices if its takeover bid is accepted, analysts said.

Iliad, which in recent years has shaken up the French mobile market with cheap subscriber plans, bid $15 billion last week for a 56.6 percent stake in T-Mobile, the No. 4 U.S. mobile operator.

The Paris-based company, majority owned by billionaire founder Xavier Niel, said a merger would result in $10 billion in synergies and an additional $2 billion in annual earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA).

It would hit those targets by running T-Mobile, majority owned by Deutsche Telekom AG, in an "Iliad-like" way, sources familiar with the takeover bid told Reuters.

Even if successful in its takeover bid, Iliad faces significant obstacles in reaching those cost savings and negotiating better deals with U.S. cellular transmission tower operators, said Roger Entner, an analyst at Recon Analytics in Boston.

"T-Mobile is not bloated at all. It is cut to the bone," said Entner, adding that the carrier doesn't have the legacy equipment costs other carriers bring in.

"T-Mobile already has a history of squeezing the vendors. But you can't squeeze water out of a stone," he said. Iliad has a better chance of raising EBITDA by attracting more customers, than by cutting costs, Entner said.

"Very few people have cut themselves to growth," he said.

While direct comparisons are difficult because U.S. telecoms companies get most of their earnings from standalone cellular service rather than bundles, Iliad's profit margins are roughly comparable to larger carriers like Verizon and AT&T but well above T-Mobile's 26 percent.

Iliad's triple-play market bundle in France - a combined offer of cellular, broadband and cable TV services - has 40 percent EBITDA margins.

On a revenue-per-employee basis, Iliad averages $195,000 per employee versus $177,000 per employee at T-Mobile, according to the companies' most recent regulatory filings.

Iliad, which controls about 13 percent of the French mobile market, entered the mobile industry in 2012 and has a history of operating at minimum costs with cutthroat rates. Its no-frill plans start at just over $2 a month.

The company's entry into the French mobile market sent mobile plan prices down 30 percent and squeezed bigger rivals' profits.

T-Mobile has similarly restructured prices across the industry in the past year, with aggressive promotions that have cost its rivals thousands of subscribers. It reported the industry's largest post-paid phone subscriber additions in the second quarter of 2014.

"It's a different model," said BTIG Research analyst Walter Piecyk, referring to Iliad's strategy in France. While Iliad's EBITDA margins are larger than T-Mobile's, the latter has advantages like a more developed high-speed network than Iliad, which depends heavily on volatile roaming agreements, Piecyk said.

Iliad's bid of $33 per share sets up a potential bidding war for T-Mobile with rival Sprint Corp, the U.S. mobile carrier now controlled by Japan's Softbank Corp. Sprint has bid $40 per share for T-Mobile.

_0">

Iliad's bid is lower because it lacks the synergies Sprint can offer in stringing the two networks together and stripping out excess towers, staff, IT, and real estate.

_1">

_2">

(Reporting by Marina Lopes in Washington and Leila Abboud in Paris; Editing by Paul Simao)

_3">

Muhammad Ali's 'Fight of the Century' gloves up for auction

The gloves that boxing legend Muhammad Ali wore in his legendary 1971 fight against Joe Frazier in what became known as the Fight of the Century will come up for auction on Thursday and are expected to fetch more than $300,000.

The auction is being run by Texas-based Heritage Auctions at the National Sports Collectors Convention in Cleveland. Heritage previously auctioned a set of gloves Ali wore to claim his first World Championship in 1964 for $836,500.

The Fight of the Century, in New York's Madison Square Garden, was the first of three fights between Ali and Frazier during the 1970s.

In 1971, Frazier officially held the title of Heavyweight Champion of the World. Ali had been stripped of the title he had held since the 1964 bout against Sonny Liston because of his refusal to participate in the Vietnam War-era draft.

The March 8 fight against Frazier was Ali's second after returning to the ring following a 3-1/2 year absence. Ali's conviction had just been overturned earlier in 1971 by the U.S. Supreme Court and his boxing license was re-instated.

"It was a controversial fight at a controversial time in America and the bout took on distinctly political and cultural overtones," Chris Ivy, director of sports auctions for Heritage, said in a statement.

Frazier and Ali were each guaranteed $2.5 million, a record purse for the time.

"The fight sold out a month before the event with ringside seats commanding a record $150, with even Frank Sinatra unable to get his hands on one," Ivy said. Sinatra received a press credential and shot ringside photos for Life Magazine.

Ali lost to Frazier but prevailed in a re-match at Madison Square Garden in 1974 and a third match-up known as "The Thrilla in Manilla" in 1975.

(Ediing by Edith Honan and Sandra Maler)

Mountain bikers eye $1 mln in 'toughest race on earth'

Mountain bikers tempted by the $1 million in prize money up for grabs in a new South African endurance race are given a warning before they sign up: "This could change your life, or end it".

Teams of two will have to come up with a $10,000 entrance fee to race on Dec. 3 in The Munga - a grueling unassisted 1,000-km (620-mile) ride across South Africa's semi-arid Karoo desert region at the height of summer.

But the pair that crosses the finish line first in the southern Cape wine-country hills of Stellenbosch will collect $750,000, dwarfing the sum shared by the winning Tour de France team.

The challenge of mountain biking almost non-stop across the desert with barely any food or sleep ranks The Munga among the world's most punishing endurance events.

But it is the cash that makes the race stand out.

"I've observed in me and guys around me digging deep in extreme races and they were doing that for nothing more than intrinsic motivation and war stories," Alex Harris, the endurance athlete and explorer behind the event, said.

"I am convinced the money and format will make people dig deeper than ever before, hence the 'toughest race on earth'," added Harris who, as well as being a multiple national track cycling champion, has walked unsupported to the South Pole and climbed Mount Everest.

Harris says 20 percent of the entrants will be experienced or professional cyclists with a chance of victory, while the remaining 80 percent will be amateur adventurers who just want to finish the race within the five-day cut-off time.

Riders will have to successfully mix strategy and psychology, choosing when to catch a couple of hours' sleep or stop to eat while all the time keeping an eye on the mental and physical state of their teammate.

"Two things will happen as the race gets to the business end: one, there is the psychological stress that eats away at you and, secondly, your body starts to break down," Harris said.

"You start to get 'sleep monsters' and they come on at any time, night or day. This force pulls down on your eyelids and you just want to roll up in a ball and fall into a deep sleep.

"If that happens when you're on a bike, you're in trouble."

(Editing by Michael Roddy and John Stonestreet)

Property along Berlin's former 'death strip' lures wealthy buyers

When luxury living quarter The Garden opens next year only a metal strip across the courtyard retracing the Berlin Wall will remind its affluent inhabitants that 25 years ago this was the "death strip" on no man's land separating east and west.

Instead of barbed wire and sentries, residents will be greeted by a 24/7 doorman and concierge service - and perhaps eventually, a growing, city-wide pushback against gentrification.

On the anniversary of the fall of the Wall in 1989, Berlin is belatedly attracting the kind of wealth normally associated with the capital of a major economic power.

A fluke of history means the city has a supply of vacant lots in coveted central locations along the Wall built by East Germany's communists to keep capitalism at bay, though some developers are wary of being too brazenly commercial about this.

"Clients, international and German alike, value living on historical ground," said Michael Ries of the property developer Pantera which is behind The Garden project and is the German partner to Sotheby's International Realty.

That same history has led to a less-than-linear growth path for Berlin's property market in the last quarter-century.

"For the longest time, it was just not worth buying here. This changed once Germany and Berlin emerged as a safe business location and investment destination in the wake of the economic and financial crisis," said Nikolaus Ziegert, whose consultancy has a 17.5 percent slice of the luxury market.

Economy Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble has warned of the danger of a German property price bubble and the central bank has said apartments in some urban locations are over-valued by up to 25 percent, but the financial watchdog sees no evidence of this and Berlin itself seems to be years away from any such risk.

"Only if this price increase continues for years and years would we approach something close to a property bubble in Berlin," said Franz Eilers, head of research at the VDP mortgage bank association.

Last year 220 luxury condominiums were sold in Berlin, up from 185 in previous years, according to a report by consultancy bulwiengesa for Ziegert. International clients now make up half of the buyers in the luxury market, said Ries.

Dubbed the "epicenter of cool" and "Brooklyn on the Spree" river by the foreign press, Berlin is seeing economic growth to match its trendy reputation. Its output grew 1.7 percent in 2013, higher than the German national average.

Compared to London, New York and Paris, the Berlin market is still in its infancy. An exclusive complex, like Ziegert's Lux, is rare. It is more common to have a few luxury flats rub shoulders with normally priced ones, as in Pantera's The Garden.

SELLING POINT?

Legal disputes are often behind the long delays in building along the Wall's route.

Not all developers agree that the Cold War history is a valid selling point. Annette Mischler of the Groth Group sees it as "artificially resurrecting history" to put it in promotional material but Ries at Pantera said it would be to "ignore important history if we didn't".

_0">

The Wall is not the only historical association on Berlin's luxury property market. Film enthusiasts can now buy one of 220 lofts in Ziegert's red-bricked Metropolis Park, named for the Fritz Lang movie masterpiece of 1927. The most expensive flat in the complex went for 1.3 million euros (1.75 million).

_1">

The brochures did not mention its past role as the Karl Marx Academy where communist cadres were trained, though it does add to the "aura" of the building, the Ziegert consultancy's Schlueter said.

_2">

Eva Maria Fallenberg, 42, a radiologist hunting for an apartment in Berlin, said such matters were "not a priority" in her search but she was drawn to the Metropolis complex's "rich history", though she decided against buying there.

_3">

"I really liked the project's efforts to preserve and restore the exterior of the building, unlike projects by the Wall Park and the East Side Gallery," she said, referring to two of the tourist landmarks along the route of the Berlin Wall.

_4">

A 600-apartment project by the Wall Park, a former border strip turned into a park with live music and a flea market that attract about 50,000 people each weekend, has locals up in arms - part of an anti-gentrification backlash in a city better known for squatters and struggling artists than plush condominiums.

_5">

"The argument that they're helping the community by building much-needed new apartments is ridiculous," said Alexander Puell, a 39-year-old member of the Wall Park Friends Association.

_6">

"Yes, we need a lot of new apartments, but there is no shortage of luxury apartments, what we need is socially responsible investment appropriate to this neighborhood," Puell said as he promoted recycling at a school near the Wall Park.

_7">

The Groth Group, which owns the site, said the plan is for middle-class housing, but for locals like Puell luxury begins much lower than the official definition of 5,000 euros ($6,700)per square meter.

_8">

Parallel protests against a luxury project at the East Side Gallery, a 1.3-km section of the Wall covered with paintings, suggest there is a "slowly crystallizing network of Berliners concerned about city development", Puell said.

_9">

_10">

_11">

(Reporting by Anja Nilsson; Editing by Stephen Brown and Michael Roddy)

_12">

Sudanese woman who had faced execution for conversion arrives in U.S.

A Sudanese woman who was sentenced to death for converting from Islam to Christianity, then detained after her conviction was quashed, arrived in the United States on Thursday.

Mariam Yahya Ibrahim was scheduled on Thursday evening to arrive in Manchester, New Hampshire, where she has relatives, her brother-in-law Gabriel Wani said in a phone interview.

"I'm very happy," Wani said as he waited for Ibrahim to arrive at Manchester airport. "I have been waiting for this for a long time."

Since leaving Sudan after her sentence and detention triggered international outrage, Ibrahim has been in Rome, where she met with Pope Francis along with her husband and two children.

She first touched down in the United States at Philadelphia International Airport, where she briefly met with that city's mayor, Michael Nutter.

"It's very clear she is a tremendously strong woman," Nutter told reporters after greeting Ibrahim and giving her family a toy version of the Liberty Bell, one of the city's historic artifacts. "Ibrahim is a world freedom fighter."

Ibrahim, 27, was sentenced to death in May on charges of converting from Islam to Christianity and marrying a Christian South Sudanese-American.

Her conviction was quashed in June, but Sudan's government accused her of trying to leave the country with falsified papers, preventing her departure for the United States.

Renouncing the Islamic faith is punishable by death under many countries' interpretation of Islamic law.

(Additional reporting by Daniel Kelley in Philadelphia; Editing by Bill Trott and Ken Wills)

Sudanese woman who had faced execution for conversion arrives in U.S.

A Sudanese woman who was sentenced to death for converting from Islam to Christianity, then detained after her conviction was quashed, arrived in the United States on Thursday.

Mariam Yahya Ibrahim arrived in Manchester, New Hampshire, where she has relatives and where she was greeted by a crowd of people from the local Sudanese immigrant community who sang and handed her bunches of flowers.

"I can't describe the feeling," said her husband, Daniel Wani, who had traveled with Ibrahim and their two children from Rome, where the couple had been recovering after Ibrahim's release by the Sudanese government.

"We are so tired," Wani told reporters at Manchester airport. "The ordeal is over."

Ibrahim smiled and waved to the crowd of about three dozen supporters, but she did not speak publicly.

Since leaving Sudan after her sentence and detention triggered international outrage, Ibrahim had been in Rome, where she met with Pope Francis along with her husband and two children.

She first touched down in the United States at Philadelphia International Airport, where she briefly met with that city's mayor, Michael Nutter.

"It's very clear she is a tremendously strong woman," Nutter told reporters after greeting Ibrahim and giving her family a toy version of the Liberty Bell, one of the city's historic artifacts. "Ibrahim is a world freedom fighter."

Ibrahim, 27, was sentenced to death in May on charges of converting from Islam to Christianity and marrying a Christian South Sudanese-American.

Her conviction was quashed in June, but Sudan's government accused her of trying to leave the country with falsified papers, preventing her departure for the United States.

Renouncing the Islamic faith is punishable by death under many countries' interpretation of Islamic law.

(Additional reporting by Daniel Kelley in Philadelphia; Editing by Bill Trott and Ken Wills)

Muhammad Ali's 'Fight of the Century' gloves sell for nearly $400,000

The gloves that boxing great Muhammad Ali wore in his legendary 1971 fight against Joe Frazier in what became known as the Fight of the Century sold at auction on Thursday for almost $400,000.

An anonymous bidder bought the gloves for $388,375 at the auction run by Texas-based Heritage Auctions at the National Sports Collectors Convention in Cleveland. Heritage previously auctioned a set of gloves Ali wore to claim his first World Championship in 1964 for $836,500.

The Fight of the Century, in New York's Madison Square Garden, was the first of three fights between Ali and Frazier during the 1970s.

In 1971, Frazier officially held the title of Heavyweight Champion of the World. Ali had been stripped of the title he had held since the 1964 bout against Sonny Liston because of his refusal to participate in the Vietnam War-era draft.

The March 8 fight against Frazier was Ali's second after returning to the ring following a 3-1/2 year absence. Ali's conviction had just been overturned earlier in 1971 by the U.S. Supreme Court and his boxing license was reinstated.

"It was a controversial fight at a controversial time in America and the bout took on distinctly political and cultural overtones," Chris Ivy, director of sports auctions for Heritage, said in a statement.

Frazier and Ali were each guaranteed $2.5 million, a record purse for the time.

"The fight sold out a month before the event with ringside seats commanding a record $150, with even Frank Sinatra unable to get his hands on one," Ivy said. Sinatra received a press credential and shot ringside photos for Life Magazine.

Ali lost to Frazier but prevailed in a re-match at Madison Square Garden in 1974 and a third match-up known as "The Thrilla in Manilla" in 1975.

(Ediing by Edith Honan and Sandra Maler)

Putin wants monasteries, church rebuilt inside Kremlin

Russian President Vladimir Putin has called for two monasteries and a church that were demolished during Soviet times to be rebuilt in the Kremlin, the largest overhaul of the site's architectural landscape in nearly a century.

Putin has cultivated strong ties with Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, adopting more conservative policies and prompting some critics to suggest the line separating state and church has become blurred.

At a meeting on Thursday with Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin and top administrators of the Kremlin site, Putin said his plan would involve tearing down a building used for administrative purposes to restore the site's "historic appearance".

Putin gave no indication of the costs of construction. Russia's economy is teetering on the brink of recession and faces reduced access to foreign capital after the West imposed sanctions over Moscow's policies in Ukraine.

The Kremlin, a fortified landmark sprawling across 28 hectares in central Moscow and home to the president's office and his administration, has seen many attacks in its six-century history and has come to symbolize Russia's enduring power.

"Here is the idea ... to restore the historic appearance of the place with two monasteries and a church, but giving them, considering today's realities, an exclusively cultural character," the Kremlin's website quoted Putin as saying.

UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITE

Putin said the plan hinged on winning the support of the Russian public and UNESCO, the United Nations' cultural agency. The Kremlin, built between the 14th and 17th centuries, is a listed UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The monasteries and the church were torn down in 1929-1930, a time of religious persecution under the rule of Communist dictator Josef Stalin, to make space for the administrative building that has been undergoing refurbishment since 2011.

"I do not insist on anything, it's an idea, a proposal," said Putin, who enjoys popularity ratings of more than 80 percent since Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimea. "If the public deems it appropriate then all needs to be worked out calmly."

Putin also supported Sobyanin's idea to open another gate to the Kremlin for tourists, the Spassky Gate, which is currently closed off.

"If there is an immediate access from Red Square to Spassky Gate, it will be of course, more comfortable for residents and tourists," Sobyanin told Putin.

"Let's do it," Putin replied.

(Writing by Lidia Kelly, editing by Elizabeth Piper and Gareth Jones)

Pakistan widows, 'second' wives flee fighting but are denied aid

Thousands of women displaced by fighting in Pakistan are struggling to get food and other aid because they lack identity cards and conservative Muslim elders have forbidden them from going to distribution centers.

The women are among nearly a million people who registered for aid after the army began an offensive against the Pakistani Taliban in North Waziristan, a mountainous region on the Afghan border.

The army ordered most civilians to leave before the offensive began in June. Many ended up in Bannu, a small city on the main road out of the semi-autonomous tribal region.

No census has been conducted in North Waziristan for years, so no one knows the true scale of the problem. Government figures, however, show almost three-quarters of those seeking aid are women and children.

There's plenty of food to go around, with the World Food Program handing out nearly 5,000 tonnes and many other aid groups active.

But women face two problems: the lack of identity cards and an edict from elders of their Pashtun tribes forbidding them from going out to get aid. Conservative tribal traditions demand women stay at home and men fetch the food.

The same traditions prevent many women from getting identity cards. Some families also find the idea of a woman being photographed or fingerprinted for cards highly intrusive, even though the national identity agency runs women-only centers. Others simply lived in areas too remote to get cards.

For now, women and children without male relatives are largely dependent on handouts from neighbors who are themselves dependent on aid. Even women who have husbands may face problems, since many men have multiple wives depending on them.

"I HAVE NO CHANCE"

One woman sobbed behind her veil as she waited outside the main sports stadium in Bannu last week, watching men with wheelbarrows carry out sacks of flour and containers of water.

"They are not letting me in," the woman said. "I have no chance to enter."

The woman, Basmira, had no identity and no male relative. She stood near a cluster of women in all-covering burqas beseeching stick-wielding police and army guards to let them into the stadium.

Another woman, Maimoona, said her husband was killed by a stray bullet three months ago.

"You see those sticks in their hands? They will beat us if we try to go in," said 30-year-old Maimoona, who like many in Pakistan uses only one name.

Two other women said they were also widows and one said her son was a drug addict.

_0">

A soldier at the gate said women were welcome to go to other distribution sites around the city, but Reuters found that women were also being denied entry at four other centers.

_1">

"This lack of ID cards is a major problem for widows, second wives, and many women whose husbands are not here," said Yasmin Akhtar, regional manager for Khwendo Kor, an aid group helping about 1,000 of the women.

_2">

Muhammad Abbas Khan, the commissioner for displaced families in Bannu, was exasperated.

_3">

"We tried to resist the elders but it was like talking to a brick wall," he said. "This conservative culture overrides religion, it overrides ethics and it overrides human rights."

_4">

The government says it will set up a women-only distribution point in the next few weeks but until then, women have to rely on handouts from other hungry families.

_5">

That generosity is keeping many people fed at Bannu's Government School Number 3, where hundreds of displaced live in concrete classrooms partitioned by cotton sheets.

_6">

Shashparizada, 45, and her co-wife are at the school with their 12 children and husband, a frail 70-year-old with a long white beard. He lay on a rope bed with a fan nearby, too weak to stand.

_7">

"He is so old, it is hard for him to wait in line," Shashparizada said. "We do not have ID cards and he cannot go, so there is nothing for us."

_8">

_9">

(Additional reporting by Haji Mujtaba; Writing by Katharine Houreld; Editing by Paul Tait)

_10">

Alzheimer's documentary 'Alive Inside' pushes for music therapy

Michael Rossato-Bennett initially thought it was the worst job he had ever taken.

The filmmaker was flabbergasted when he entered a nursing home on a commission to film a few clips for a website.

"I walked into these hallways with hundreds of residents in wheelchairs just sitting on the side of the hallway, and I had felt like I'd entered into Dante's 'Inferno,'" he said.

That visit, though, eventually sparked "Alive Inside," an award-winning independent documentary on musical therapy for those suffering from Alzheimer's disease and other neurological ailments.

When Rossato-Bennett started filming three years ago he met Henry. The 94-year-old man was crumpled in his wheelchair with his head down, eyes closed and hands clasped. He had been in a nursing home for a decade and couldn't recognize his daughter.

But when a nurse put headphones over Henry's ears and played his favorite music, he began to shuffle his feet, move his arms and sing.

"It was like a resurrection of life in a person," Rossato-Bennett, 53, said. "Then when we took the headphones off the guy, and we started talking to him, the being revealed itself. He had this incredible voice and he spoke poetry, like greater poetry than I'm capable of."

Henry's story, which went viral a few years ago when the video clip was released online, is a common occurrence in the film that has begun its rollout into U.S. theaters this month after winning the audience award for top U.S. documentary at the Sundance Film Festival in January.

The documentary chronicles New York social worker Dan Cohen's effort to bring such therapy to dementia patients as a way to lessen the use of medication and combat its cost on a strained healthcare system about to absorb aging Baby Boomers.

Cohen, the 62-year-old founder of Music & Memory, a program that seeks to make musical therapy a standard part of nursing home care, began using the treatment in 2006.

"It was just an instant hit," Cohen said with a snap of his fingers. His program is now in more than 600 facilities worldwide.

Music, which targets areas of the brain not affected by dementia, brings back a sense of identity to dementia patients neurologist and author Oliver Sacks says in the film.

"If you give somebody music for an hour, they're going to be in a better mood for the day, which is really no different if a relative visits," Cohen added.

The film shows patients singing and dancing, seemingly re-animated while listening to music. At one point, Henry sings in the scat style of jazzman Cab Calloway, his favorite singer.

"When people see this they get it," Cohen said.

Many of the subjects, which also includes a woman with schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder, show deep emotional resonance to the music.

_0">

"Music is a companion to our becoming," Rossato-Bennett said. "So to enter the desert of soul and bring back something that precious is a great gift."

_1">

_2">

(Editing by Mary Milliken and Andrew Hay)

_3">

Student starts global class action against Facebook

Austrian law student Max Schrems appealed to a billion Facebook users around the world on Friday to join a class-action lawsuit against Facebook's alleged violations of its users' privacy, stepping up a years-long data-protection campaign.

Schrems, a thorn in Facebook's side who has a case involving the social network pending at the European Court of Justice, has filed a claim at Vienna's commercial court and invited others to join the action at www.fbclaim.com using their Facebook login.

Under Austrian law, a group of people may transfer their financial claims to a single person - in this case, Schrems. Legal proceedings are then effectively run as a class action.

Schrems is claiming damages of 500 euros ($670) per user for alleged data violations, including aiding the U.S. National Security Agency in running its Prism program, which mined the personal data of users of Facebook and other web services.

The 26-year-old is also seeking injunctions under EU data-protection law at the court in data-privacy-friendly Austria. "Our aim is to make Facebook finally operate lawfully in the area of data protection," he said.

Facebook has come under fire before for allegedly violating data-protection laws.

Most recently, Britain's data watchdog began investigating whether a 2012 experiment on unwitting users, in which it tried to alter their emotional state to see if their postings turned more positive or negative.

The world's biggest social network, Facebook now has 1.32 billion users. It posted a 61 percent increase in sales in the second quarter thanks to mobile advertising, sending its shares to a record high and valuing the company at almost $200 billion.

Facebook declined to comment on the Schrems case on Friday.

POINTING THE FINGER

Users from anywhere outside the United States and Canada may sign up to join the Austrian case, since Facebook runs all its international operations from Ireland, another EU country. The case relies largely on the EU Data Protection Directive. Europe in general has stricter data-protection rules than the United States and considers itself more privacy-conscious.

But its history of enforcing data protection is mixed, bar a few high-profile cases such as the ECJ's ruling in May that compels internet companies to remove irrelevant or excessive personal information from search results.

"We have this habit of pointing the finger at the United States, but we're not enforcing our rights anyway," Schrems told Reuters. "If we can get a class action through like this, it will send out a huge signal to the industry overall."

Schrems has had limited success pursuing cases in Ireland, home to the European or international headquarters of some of the largest U.S. technology companies, including Microsoft and Google, who employ thousands there.

His europe-v-facebook group appealed to the Irish High Court to rule on allegations that U.S. companies helped the NSA harvest private data from EU citizens after the Irish data watchdog said there were no grounds for an investigation.

_0">

The High Court referred the case to the ECJ.

_1">

Schrems's Austrian court case relies on EU law for the alleged data violations, which also include tracking of users on external websites through Facebook's "like" button and unauthorized sharing of user data with external applications.

_2">

The claims for damages will have to be assessed under more financially generous California law, Schrems said, since Facebook says California law governs its terms of service.

_3">

A specialist financier will bear the legal costs if Schrems loses the case and will take 20 percent of the damages if he wins, meaning users can join the case at no financial risk.

_4">

Schrems himself is not charging a fee but stands to win 500 euros, like the other claimants.

_5">

($1 = 0.7473 Euros)

_6">

_7">

(Editing by Larry King)

_8">

Jailed Indian tycoon gets office to negotiate hotel sales

India's Supreme Court has granted a jailed business tycoon an office, a phone, Internet connection and three secretaries in the Delhi prison that has been his home for five months so he can sell two of his company's iconic hotels to help pay bail.

Subrata Roy, head of the Sahara conglomerate, was jailed on March 4 for failing to appear in court in a legal battle with India's capital market's watchdog. He needs to raise 100 billion rupees ($1.6 billion) to have a chance of release.

The Supreme Court gave him 10 working days from Monday to accomplish the sale of the Grosvenor House Hotel in London and the Plaza Hotel in New York.

So he can negotiate with potential bidders, Roy will get a conference room inside the jail complex, a mobile phone, laptop and desktop computers, Internet access and video conferencing facilities, as long as he pays for them.

Three of his company's secretaries will be allowed to join him to assist with the sale, the court said.

"This is a distress situation. It is a battle of nerves. And we need all the facilities and gadgets to negotiate the deal," Harish Salve, one of India's top lawyers who represented Sahara in the case, told the court on Friday.

If Roy raises the funds and deposits them with the regulator, the court will meet again to decide on any further conditions for his release.

Roy was jailed after he failed to appear at a contempt hearing in the long-running dispute over the company's failure to repay billions of dollars to investors who were sold outlawed bonds. He has yet to be charged over the bonds dispute and denies any wrongdoing.

Sahara said it had repaid most investors, but its claims have been contested by the regulator and the court.

Despite multiple pleas, Roy has been denied bail unless he can deposit the 100 billion rupees with the regulator. The court estimates Sahara's total liability to be between 330 and 350 billion rupees.

The sale of Roy's prized hotels abroad are seen as critical to raise the deposit. Sahara paid 470 million pounds ($791 million) for Grosvenor House and about $570 million for the Plaza in 2012. It also owns the Dream Hotel in New York.

Media reports have named Indian billionaire Cyrus Poonawalla and U.S.-based Madison Capital Holdings LLC as potential buyers.

Based in Lucknow, the capital of India's most populous state Uttar Pradesh, Roy calls himself "managing worker and chairman" of Sahara and chief guardian of the "world's biggest family", overseeing businesses with almost a million staff and agents.

He has often been described in media as a billionaire, although last year he said his personal assets were worth less than $1 billion. In his heyday, the tycoon was often photographed with Bollywood stars and cricketers.

Sahara is worth $11 billion and has more than 36,000 acres (15,000 hectares) of real estate, according to its website. One of its main businesses is the sale of financial products, largely to small investors in towns and rural areas. It was two such products, later ruled illegal, that drew the market regulator's attention.

Critics say Sahara's investment products are designed to evade regulatory oversight and that the company lacks transparency on the source and use of funds.

_0">

($1 = 61.2100 Indian Rupees)

_1">

($1 = 0.5944 British Pounds)

_2">

_3">

(Writing by Devidutta Tripathy; editing by Rafael Nam and Tom Pfeiffer)

_4">

French hospital to open wine bar to cheer up terminally ill

A hospital in the French city of Clermont-Ferrand is to open a wine bar where terminally ill patients will be able to enjoy a "medically-supervised" glass or two with their families.

_0">

"Why should we refuse the charms of the soil to those at the end of their lives? Nothing justifies such an prohibition," the Clermont-Ferrand University Hospital Center said in statement.

The center's head, Dr. Virginie Guastella, said terminally ill patients had the right to "enjoy themselves".

The bar will be the first in France to offer such a facility for patients and their families. Staff will be specially trained before it opens in the hospital's palliative care center in September.

"Medically supervised tastings will help brighten what is often a difficult daily life," the hospital said.

Although some researchers have long held that an antioxidant found in red wine is good for the heart, some recent research has determined that wine's health benefits are exaggerated.

(Reporting By Alexandria Sage, Editing by Angus MacSwan)

How do you make a bird? Shrink a dinosaur for 50 million years

Large flesh-eating dinosaurs evolved into small flying birds, but it did not happen overnight.

An international team of scientists on Thursday described an extraordinary evolutionary process that unfolded over a period of 50 million years in which a lineage of carnivorous dinosaurs shrank steadily and acquired numerous traits that led to the first appearance of birds.

The researchers, using techniques developed by molecular biologists to reconstruct virus evolution, examined 1,500 anatomical traits in 120 different dinosaurs from the theropod group. These bipedal meat-eaters included giants like Tyrannosaurus rex and Giganotosaurus as well as the lineage that produced birds.

"Our study measured the rate of evolution of different groups of theropod dinosaurs," said lead researcher Michael Lee, a paleontologist at the University of Adelaide and the South Australian Museum.

"The fastest-evolving group also happened to be ancestral to birds. So, ultimately, the most adaptable dinosaurs proved to be the best long-term survivors, and surround us today in their feathered splendor," Lee explained.

The earliest known bird was the crow-sized Archaeopteryx, which lived in Germany 150 million years ago. It was characterized by primitive traits like teeth, a long bony tail and the absence of a bony, keeled sternum where flight muscles attach, as well as some attributes shared with modern birds.

"What was impressive was the consistency of the size change along the dinosaur-to-bird transition - every descendent was smaller than its ancestor. The lineage was continually pushing the envelope of life at a smaller body size, little by little, over 50 million years," Lee said.

The researchers completed a family tree of this dinosaur lineage and their bird descendants. These dinosaurs decreased in size from about 440 pounds (200 kg) to 1.7 pounds (0.8 kg) in 12 discernible steps.

Aside from sustained miniaturization, this lineage also benefited from new traits such as feathers, wishbones, wings, shorter snouts and smaller teeth. The study found that this lineage acquired evolutionary adaptations at a rate four times faster than other dinosaurs.

"The dinosaurs most closely related to birds are all small, and many of them - like the aptly named Microraptor - had some ability to climb and glide," said study participant Gareth Dyke, a paleontologist at Britain's University of Southampton.

The decrease in body size may have helped dinosaurs in the lineage that evolved into birds to take advantage of certain ecological niches that would have been off-limits to their larger relatives and to experiment with unique body shapes.

"It would have permitted them to chase insects, climb trees, leap and glide, and eventually develop powered flight," Lee said.

The changes may have helped these creatures to survive the cataclysm that doomed the other dinosaurs - an asteroid that struck Earth 65 million years ago, Lee said. Flight, for example, would have allowed them to cover vast territory in search of suitable habitat, and warm-bloodedness would have buffered them against climate changes, he said.

The study was published in the journal Science.

(Reporting by Will Dunham; Editing by Gunna Dickson)

Museum celebrating 'Big Bang' of country music opens in Virginia

A museum celebrating 10 days in 1927 that helped introduce the mountain music of Appalachia to mainstream America opened in Virginia on Friday.

The Birthplace of Country Music Museum tells the story of record producer Ralph Peer, who offered $50 to "hillbilly" musicians willing to come to a makeshift studio in Bristol, Tennessee, and play into his modern microphone.

  The result, which launched the careers of such luminaries as Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family, was dubbed by music historian Nolan Porterfield as "the Big Bang of country music" and hailed by Johnny Cash as the genre's most important moment.

The session featured 19 acts recording 76 songs for the first time, including Rodgers' "Sleep Baby Sleep" and the Carters' "Single Girl, Married Girl."

The museum's exhibits trace the origins of hillbilly music through the fields, the train tracks and the churches of the Appalachian Mountains.

Most of the story is told through song lyrics, although interviews with some of the original old-time music artists also help describe the poverty and the natural environs that helped shaped the sound.

"Our goal was to get the story right and get it deep by capturing the personal experience," said Jessica Turner, the museum's director and head curator.

  The museum, heavy on listening stations and music videos, features spots where visitors can craft their own songs. All the original Bristol Session songs can be heard, many also in modern versions.

Among those on hand to commemorate its opening was famed Bluegrass performer Ralph Stanley, whose 68-year career is also charted by the museum.

"We sang natural," Stanley said. "We meant it, what we sang. I am honored that people accepted it."

Bristol, which straddles Tennessee and Virginia, is recognized by both states and by the U.S. Congress as the “Birthplace of Country Music."

While other location recordings preceded the Bristol Session, the depth of talent found in the area helped it eclipse prior efforts.

In the exhibit, the signature song of the Carter Family, “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” is played and sung by a variety of historic and modern artists in a panoramic video collage. All are invited to join the circle, and sing.

(Reporting by Verna Gates; Editing by Jonathan Kaminsky, Frank McGurty and Lisa Shumaker)

Jason Mraz's first summer job? Sweaty, hard work

Summer jobs: The very mention brings up memories of low pay, long hours and sweaty, clueless teenagers who don't really know what they're doing.

Memories like that are still vivid for some of the nation's greatest achievers. Since last August, Reuters has been gathering the first-job stories of successful Americans, including sports legends, business titans and media superstars.

This month, to coincide with the nation's monthly jobs report, we spoke to a few of them about those memorable summer jobs that got them started.

JASON MRAZ, SINGER AND SONGWRITER

First summer job: Fence builder

"My dad was a fence contractor in Mechanicsville, Virginia, so my first paying gig was building fences. It involved a lot of digging holes, cleaning up construction sites and distributing lumber. It was for $5 an hour, which, at the time, was more than minimum wage."

"It was hard manual labor, and I certainly would rather have been at the pool with my friends rather than driving an hour to some muggy, mosquito-infested area to build a fence around a horse field. But I was getting paid, so I didn't mind."

"My dad was happy to have me working for him. We would just blast the stereo all day, and I would sing along to the radio or some mixtape I made. He would turn to me and say, 'I hope you pursue that, and live your dream. I would rather you do that, than this.'"

"That stuck with me, big time. That could have been my future, and I could have easily taken over the family business. I still build fences sometimes - but now it's around my garden, and I do it with great pride."

BRIAN WILLIAMS, ANCHOR, MANAGING EDITOR, "NBC NIGHTLY NEWS"

First summer job: Lawn guy

"I don't remember when 'work' started in my life. I caught on rather quickly that it was the only way to make money: to buy things, to take girls on dates, and to buy a car to take girls on dates."

"My primary summer job was mowing lawns. I was the lawn guy for many of our neighbors. I mowed lawns through the intense heat of summer, through rain storms, swarms of bugs and more rain."

"I'm 55, so I don't mean for this to sound like 'tales from our grandparents' but remember, this was before anything more thirst-quenching than water, and it was before water bottles became ubiquitous."

_0">

"What did I drink from? A Thermos? Probably a garden hose."

_1">

"Worst of all: It was before the invention of the Walkman. Your music had to be in your head, competing with the nasty roar of a smelly one-cylinder engine muffled through a 50-cent paper filter. I grew to prefer the neighbors who spent the extra on a self-propelled mower, which were luckily becoming all the rage in the mid-70's."

_2">

"I first got my 'working papers' at age 14 (the State of New Jersey minimum age) and then I was off to the races. Real jobs - two of them - one as a busboy at our local pancake house, the other selling hardware at Sears. I always tried to convince people to spend the extra on a self-propelled mower, knowing there was a sweaty kid out there who would appreciate it."

_3">

_4">

DANA PERINO, CO-HOST, FOX NEWS CHANNEL'S THE FIVE, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY

_5">

First summer job: Telemarketer

_6">

"Young people might not know what I'm talking about, but back in the day, people used to call you up and try to sell you things, and that was me. One product that I had to sell was the Nordic Chair, from the same company that made the NordicTrack. It was a chair you could put in your living room, but you could pull out the arms and do all sorts of exercises with pulleys."

_7">

"It was so humiliating. You would be interrupting somebody's dinner, and they would be screaming at you. I learned a lot about rejection, and getting back on the horse every time. I think that job was excellent training to become the White House press secretary."

_8">

"Another thing that job taught me, is to be a lot nicer whenever a telemarketer tries to call me. They don't relish calling your house. They're just trying to make a living."

_9">

"I know I didn't sell many Nordic Chairs. I'd love to know if anyone still has one."

_10">

_11">

RAUL DE MOLINA, HOST, UNIVISION

_12">

First summer job: Wrestling photographer

_13">

"Back when I was in high school, I used to be a big fan of professional wrestling. This was in the days of guys like Bruno Sammartino, and the Funk Brothers, and Abdullah the Butcher. I would bring my camera with me, and take pictures of wrestling matches and try to sell them to different magazines."

_14">

"I actually got a job with a Japanese magazine, a weekly full-color glossy, because professional wrestling was huge in Japan. They would pay for my trips and give me $500 per assignment, sending me to places like Charlotte, Atlanta, and Amarillo, Texas. I actually had to ask my mother for the travel money, and then the magazine would refund her."

_15">

"All my high school friends were jealous, because here I was going around taking pictures of professional wrestlers, who were our big heroes back then. I did become a photographer later on, working for the Associated Press. And when I started working on TV for Telemundo, one of my first reports was on Abdullah the Butcher, who came out of the ring and tried to grab me and started bleeding all over me. It turned out to be a good story."

_0">

_1">

(Editing by Lauren Young and Bernadette Baum)

_2">

Obama commemorates Special Olympics anniversary at star-studded White House event

Katy Perry, Jason Derulo and Stevie Wonder were all there - but the only guest who got to give President Barack Obama a hug during his speech was restaurant owner Tim Harris.

Harris has Down syndrome, but he owns his own restaurant and is a Special Olympics star in year-round sports.

And the focus was more on the star athletes than on the pop stars at a White House event on Thursday to commemorate the anniversary of the Special Olympics organization.

"Presidents need encouragement once in a while too...Thank you, Tim," Obama said after Harris left his seat during the president's remarks to give him a hug, Harris' trademark at his restaurant in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Established in 1968, the Special Olympics give people with intellectual disabilities opportunities to participate in sports ranging from basketball and bowling to figure skating and gymnastics.

Obama and first lady Michelle Obama will serve as honorary chairs of the Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles next year. Some 7,000 athletes from 170 countries will take part.

At Thursday's dinner, entertainment celebrities mingled with business magnates under chandeliers before digging into a menu of "Maryland crab and corn ravioli" and "caramelized plum galette". Dignitaries from the sports world included former basketball player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, former tennis player Andy Roddick and former figure skater Michelle Kwan.

Obama praised the other set of athletes in the room, including Loretta Claiborne, the first Special Olympian to speak to the United Nations General Assembly and Dustin Plunkett, Special Olympics "international global messenger" who wrote that the organization had "saved his life."

"What all these people represent is what the Special Olympics is all about - overcoming obstacles with love and kindness, and generosity, and healthy competition," he said. "It's about pride and it's about teamwork and it's about friendship. And it's about treating everybody with dignity, and giving everybody a chance."

Seven athletes told their stories after the dinner before Katy Perry started her concert with her hit "Roar."

"We are here to put an end to the injustice and captivity and intolerance," said Ricardo Thornton, recently appointed by Obama to the president's Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities. Thornton said he had spent time in two institutions but Special Olympics changed his life.

And Claiborne said because of Special Olympics, she converses in four languages, holds two honorary doctorate degrees and has run 26 marathons.

"The days of being left out are over," she said.

(Editing by Ron Popeski)

Michael Jackson's Neverland estate being considered for sale

Late pop singer Michael Jackson's Neverland estate is being considered for sale, a spokesman for the company controlling the property said on Friday.

_0">

Owen Blicksilver, spokesman for investment firm Colony Capital LLC, said the company will make a decision soon as to whether it will place Jackson's estate near the central Californian coast on the market. He declined to reveal any further details.

Jackson, who died in June 2009 at age 50 from an overdose of the powerful anesthetic propofol, had handed over the title on his Neverland ranch in 2008 to Colony Capital, which held his $23 million loan on the property.

At the time of the deal, Colony Capital said the firm had been planning to spruce up the ranch and sell it for an estimated $70 million to $80 million or more if Jackson was able to revitalize his career.

Jackson's estate, managed by John McClain and John Branca, said it is "saddened at the prospect of the sale of Neverland," and will continue to manage the singer's family home in Encino, a neighborhood of Los Angeles.

"We hope and trust that any new owners of Neverland will respect the historical importance and special nature of this wonderful property. Michael's memory lives on in the hearts of his fans worldwide," the statement said.

Neverland, named by Jackson after the land from the fairytale of Peter Pan, whose main character refused to grow up, featured a private amusement park and zoo on its grounds.

Since his death, Jackson has been featured each year on Forbes' highest-earning dead celebrities list, with his estate making an estimated $160 million from October 2012 to 2013, the magazine said.

(Reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by Sandra Maler)

Officer arrested in Paris police headquarters cocaine robbery

French police arrested an officer on Saturday whom they suspect of stealing some 52 kg (115 pounds) of cocaine, worth around 2 million euros ($2.69 million), from a locked room inside central police headquarters in Paris.

_0">

Police discovered on Friday that the cocaine, which was seized in a raid in July and then kept in a locker inside the headquarters overlooking the Seine river, had disappeared.

Security camera footage helped investigators to identify a man entering the anti-drugs squad's quarters with two bags on the night of July 24 and leaving shortly after, police said in a statement.

Other officers helped to identify the man as a member of the Paris anti-drugs unit and he was tracked down and arrested in southern France, the statement said.

A police source said the officer, 30, had been arrested in the southern city of Perpignan, near the border with Spain, during a raid.

It was the second time this year that the Paris police headquarters at 36 Quai des Orfevres has been involved in scandal.

In April, two officers from an anti-gang squad were placed under investigation after they were accused of having raped a 34-year-old Canadian woman visiting Paris.

The investigation is ongoing.

(Reporting by Nicholas Vinocur and Nicolas Bertin; Editing by Stephen Powell)

German police rescue elderly man with bicycle on motorway

German police rescued an 83-year-old man pushing his bicycle in the middle of a motorway on Saturday after he gave up trying to cycle to Luxembourg to withdraw more than 100,000 euros ($134,300) from a bank there.

_0">

The police in Schweich, near the western town of Trier, said they closed the high-speed A 602 motorway in both directions after the man was spotted pushing his bicycle there.

Police said he told them he wanted to get the money out of his bank account before German tax authorities found out about it. The grand duchy is a preferred banking center for Germans trying to hide savings from taxation at home.

Police said the man, who had been reported missing on Wednesday, was sent home in a taxi with his bicycle and the motorway was later re-opened. They declined to give any further information about the case.

(Reporting by Erik Kirschbaum; Editing by Tom Heneghan)

Property along Berlin's former 'death strip' lures wealthy buyers

When luxury living quarter The Garden opens next year only a metal strip across the courtyard retracing the Berlin Wall will remind its affluent inhabitants that 25 years ago this was the "death strip" on no man's land separating east and west.

Instead of barbed wire and sentries, residents will be greeted by a 24/7 doorman and concierge service - and perhaps eventually, a growing, city-wide pushback against gentrification.

On the anniversary of the fall of the Wall in 1989, Berlin is belatedly attracting the kind of wealth normally associated with the capital of a major economic power.

A fluke of history means the city has a supply of vacant lots in coveted central locations along the Wall built by East Germany's communists to keep capitalism at bay, though some developers are wary of being too brazenly commercial about this.

"Clients, international and German alike, value living on historical ground," said Michael Ries of the property developer Pantera which is behind The Garden project and is the German partner to Sotheby's International Realty.

That same history has led to a less-than-linear growth path for Berlin's property market in the last quarter-century.

"For the longest time, it was just not worth buying here. This changed once Germany and Berlin emerged as a safe business location and investment destination in the wake of the economic and financial crisis," said Nikolaus Ziegert, whose consultancy has a 17.5 percent slice of the luxury market.

Economy Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble has warned of the danger of a German property price bubble and the central bank has said apartments in some urban locations are over-valued by up to 25 percent, but the financial watchdog sees no evidence of this and Berlin itself seems to be years away from any such risk.

"Only if this price increase continues for years and years would we approach something close to a property bubble in Berlin," said Franz Eilers, head of research at the VDP mortgage bank association.

Last year 220 luxury condominiums were sold in Berlin, up from 185 in previous years, according to a report by consultancy bulwiengesa for Ziegert. International clients now make up half of the buyers in the luxury market, said Ries.

Dubbed the "epicenter of cool" and "Brooklyn on the Spree" river by the foreign press, Berlin is seeing economic growth to match its trendy reputation. Its output grew 1.7 percent in 2013, higher than the German national average.

Compared to London, New York and Paris, the Berlin market is still in its infancy. An exclusive complex, like Ziegert's Lux, is rare. It is more common to have a few luxury flats rub shoulders with normally priced ones, as in Pantera's The Garden.

SELLING POINT?

Legal disputes are often behind the long delays in building along the Wall's route.

Not all developers agree that the Cold War history is a valid selling point. Annette Mischler of the Groth Group sees it as "artificially resurrecting history" to put it in promotional material but Ries at Pantera said it would be to "ignore important history if we didn't".

_0">

The Wall is not the only historical association on Berlin's luxury property market. Film enthusiasts can now buy one of 220 lofts in Ziegert's red-bricked Metropol Park, named for the Fritz Lang movie masterpiece "Metropolis" of 1927. The most expensive flat in the complex went for 1.3 million euros (1.75 million).

_1">

The brochures did not mention its past role as the Karl Marx Academy where communist cadres were trained, though it does add to the "aura" of the building, the Ziegert consultancy's Schlueter said.

_2">

Eva Maria Fallenberg, 42, a radiologist hunting for an apartment in Berlin, said such matters were "not a priority" in her search but she was drawn to the Metropol complex's "rich history", though she decided against buying there.

_3">

"I really liked the project's efforts to preserve and restore the exterior of the building, unlike projects by the Wall Park and the East Side Gallery," she said, referring to two of the tourist landmarks along the route of the Berlin Wall.

_4">

A 600-apartment project by the Wall Park, a former border strip turned into a park with live music and a flea market that attract about 50,000 people each weekend, has locals up in arms - part of an anti-gentrification backlash in a city better known for squatters and struggling artists than plush condominiums.

_5">

"The argument that they're helping the community by building much-needed new apartments is ridiculous," said Alexander Puell, a 39-year-old member of the Wall Park Friends Association.

_6">

"Yes, we need a lot of new apartments, but there is no shortage of luxury apartments, what we need is socially responsible investment appropriate to this neighborhood," Puell said as he promoted recycling at a school near the Wall Park.

_7">

The Groth Group, which owns the site, said the plan is for middle-class housing, but for locals like Puell luxury begins much lower than the official definition of 5,000 euros ($6,700)per square meter.

_8">

Parallel protests against a luxury project at the East Side Gallery, a 1.3-km section of the Wall covered with paintings, suggest there is a "slowly crystallizing network of Berliners concerned about city development", Puell said.

_9">

(The story is corrected to fix name of property development to Metropol in paragraphs 15, 17)

_10">

_11">

(Reporting by Anja Nilsson; Editing by Stephen Brown and Michael Roddy)

_12">

Supporters, foes of pot legalization post rival ads in NY Times

Supporters and opponents of the federal ban on marijuana took to the pages of The New York Times this weekend with full-page color advertisements that highlight the fast-evolving debate in the United States about medical and recreational drug use.

The advertisements followed The New York Times' decision last month in a series of editorials to call for repealing the ban, the biggest U.S. newspaper to do so. Opinion polls show a majority of Americans now back the legalization of pot.

The ads are also designed to undercut pot's decades-old association with the counterculture and drop-outs by featuring people dressed in everyday working attire.

In an ad in Sunday's edition of the paper, Seattle-based Privateer Holdings features its medical marijuana website Leafly.com, which helps users to find pot dispensaries and to choose strains.

The ad depicts a woman jogger in Spandex gliding past a brownstone building as a crisply dressed professional man stands atop its steps with a bundle of papers under his arm.

"Ian chose an indica cannabis strain to relieve his MS symptoms," a bubble next to him says.

"While fighting cancer, Molly preferred a sativa cannabis," says the bubble next to the jogger.

Explaining the decision to use ordinary working people in the ad, Privateer Holdings' chief executive, Brendan Kennedy, said: "This product and this industry are still depicted as sub-culture or counter-culture. That's just not the reality."

Last month, New York became the 23rd state to allow medical marijuana.

In 2012, Colorado and Washington state became the first in the nation to approve state-sanctioned recreational marijuana for consumers aged 21 and older.

However, Saturday's edition of The New York Times carried an ad from a group opposed to pot legalization, Smart Approaches to Marijuana, and allied organizations.

It featured a suit-and-tie-clad executive leaning over a conference-room table with a photo of a grinning, bandana-wearing hippy superimposed over his face. The word "Perception" is next to his flowing hair. The suit has the word "Reality."

"The legalization of marijuana means ushering in an entirely new group of corporations whose primary source of revenue is a highly habit-forming product," the advertisement says.

(Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis and Gareth Jones)

Thai surrogate says unaware twin had Downs until late in pregnancy

A Thai surrogate mother left with one twin by his Australian biological parents after the child was born with Down's Syndrome said on Sunday she was not informed of his condition until late in her pregnancy.

Pattaramon Janbua said her doctors, the surrogacy agency and the baby's parents knew he was disabled at four months but did not inform her until the seventh month when the agency asked her - at the parents' request - to abort the disabled fetus.

Pattaramon, 21, told Reuters Television she refused the abortion on religious grounds and carried both him and his twin sister to term six months ago. The parents, who have not been identified, took only the girl back with them to Australia.

The boy, Gammy, needs surgery for a congenital heart condition, according to media reports. An online campaign in Australia had raised nearly A$200,000 ($186,200) in donations so far for the operation.

"I want to warn those who are considering becoming a surrogate mother, don't only think about the money," Pattaramon said. "If the child is born with an unusual condition or if anything goes wrong, it will become a burden for you and society."

The case has caused controversy in both Thailand and Australia and brought calls for commercial surrogacy to be banned in the Southeast Asian country. Thailand is a top destination for medical tourism and many couples come for services such as fertility treatment and some for surrogacy.

LAW DELAYED

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said on Saturday that authorities there would look to see if there was anything they could do about the case. "It is an incredibly sad story," he told Australian reporters.

Pattaramon said she agreed to a fee of 350,000 Thai baht ($10,900) to carry the twins for the couple. She said they agreed to pay her another 150,000 baht to keep Gammy.

She declined to identify the agency or give details of the providers of medical services to her during the pregnancy.

Gammy is being treated for a lung infection in a hospital east of Bangkok and his condition is stable, a spokesman as the hospital said on Sunday.

There are no laws governing surrogacy in Thailand, said Vichien Chavalit, permanent secretary of Thailand's Ministry of Social Development and Human Security. A law has been drafted but not yet submitted to parliament.

Gammy was not the first case in which a child has been left with a surrogate mother, Vichien said, adding: "This will lead to further social problems."

Lawmaking in Thailand has been paralyzed since December, when parliament was suspended by then Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. She was forced from government amid mass protests in Bangkok shortly before the military staged a coup on May 22.

The military government named an interim legislative assembly on Thursday and it is expected to hold its inaugural sitting on Aug. 7.

_0">

_1">

(Additional reporting by Apornrath Phoonphongphiphat and Morag MacKinnon; Writing by Simon Webb; Editing by Tom Heneghan)

_2">

Electronics giant Panasonic wants Singaporeans to eat its veg

Japan's Panasonic Corp, best known for its television sets and home theater systems, wants to feed Singaporeans its radishes and lettuce.

A unit of the electronics conglomerate last week started selling to a chain of Japanese restaurants in Singapore fresh produce grown in what it says is the first licensed indoor vegetable farm in the island state.

The move ties Panasonic's deeper push into farming technology with land-scarce Singapore's ambition to reduce its near-total reliance on food imports.

"We foresee agriculture to be a potential growth portfolio, given the global shortage of arable land, climate change and increasing demand for quality food as well as stable food supply," Hideki Baba, managing director of Panasonic Factory Solutions Asia Pacific, told reporters.

The facility, which presently has a small production capacity of 3.6 tonnes annually, produces 10 types of vegetables such as mini red radishes and baby spinach.

Indoor farming has found favor with other hi-tech Japanese companies as well. Fujitsu Ltd is growing lettuce at its Fukushima province plant, while Sharp Corp is testing growing strawberries indoors in Dubai.

In Singapore, Panasonic's 248 square meter farm is located inside a factory building on the outskirts of the city, where standard fluorescent lighting gives way to a pinkish-purple glow from LED lights brought in to nurture the plants. The company restricts visitors to maintain the controlled levels of temperature, humidity and carbon dioxide.

It aims to grow more than 30 crop varieties by March 2017 and account for around 5 percent of local vegetable production. It said the vegetables grown at its facility could be half the price of those flown in from Japan.

Panasonic said Singapore was ideal for its indoor farm due to the country's low food self-sufficiency and limited land.

Singapore, ranked by the World Bank as the second most densely populated country, imports more than 90 percent of its food.

Singapore produced nearly 22,000 tonnes of vegetables in 2013, compared with a little more than 17,000 tonnes in 2004, according to the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority. Last year it imported 514,574 tonnes of vegetables.

While Singapore ranks fifth out of 109 countries in the Economist Intelligence Unit's global food security index, the government wants to diversify its food sources and become more self reliant in producing eggs, fish and leafy vegetables.

As part of its efforts, it has provided some funding and research support to local vertical farming company Sky Greens, which grows leafy vegetables at its farm in three-storey high frames inside greenhouses.

The farm currently has 600 such towers and intends to expand to 2,000 by next year. It can produce up to one tonne of vegetables a day, which it sells to local supermarket FairPrice. Some farms in Singapore are also using aeroponics or hydroponics - growing plants without soil.

Agro-technology expert Lee Sing Kong said Singapore can improve its food security for perishable items like vegetables, which cannot be stored for long periods unlike grains, by using new techniques of cultivation to increase productivity.

"We must grow some of our own in order to provide a kind of buffer during the period when supply has been disrupted," said Lee, a professor of biological sciences at Singapore's Nanyang Technological University.

_0">

Still, some locally grown produce comes at a premium. At FairPrice, Sky Greens' nai bai vegetable retails at more than double the price of an import from China.

_1">

(1 US dollar = 1.2470 Singapore dollar)

_2">

_3">

(Additional reporting by Sophie Knight in TOKYO; Editing by Rachel Armstrong and Emily Kaiser)

_4">

Hybrid kalette veggies set to tempt U.S. taste buds

The prospect of eating kale or Brussels sprouts might make some people gag, but a British company is hoping a hybrid mix of the two vegetables called "kalettes" will appeal to taste buds when they start to hit the broad U.S. market this fall.

The tiny, curly-leafed purple and green sprouts are being promoted as the first major new vegetable product since broccolini, a cross between broccoli and the Chinese leaf vegetable kai-lan, was introduced in the United States in 1998.

Though vitamin and mineral-packed kale has become trendy among health-conscious Americans, its marriage with Brussels sprouts in the United Kingdom was a product risk, said David Rogers, sales manager for Britain's Tozer Seeds, which created the hybrid after 15 years of research and development.

"Kale for a long time has just been known as a sheep food, really," Rogers said of its reputation in Great Britain. "For a lot of people, the only time they'll eat Brussels sprouts is at Christmas."

The vegetable was introduced in the U.K. in 2010 exclusively to the up-market Marks and Spencer food chain under the name flower sprouts, and is now moving into other stores. Rogers said it was "catching on" with British buyers although prices are more than 10 times the cost of Brussels sprouts.

"New varieties of fruits and vegetables are introduced all the time, but they’re usually minor breeding tweaks that result in better flavor profiles or color," said Ray Gilmer, a spokesman for the United Fresh Produce Association.

Those who have tried kalettes say they have a slightly nutty taste that is milder than kale and less earthy than Brussels sprouts.

"They look like a tiny little head of lettuce on a Brussels sprouts stalk," said Lisa Friedrich, director of marketing for Golden Sun Marketing, the Minnesota company hired to promote kalettes.

WHAT'S IN A NAME?

Despite the big promotional effort, some Americans have already sampled kalettes, albeit under a different name.

The Tozer seeds have been available for several years in the United States but have been slow to catch on, in part because growers say the vegetable hybrid is labor intensive, heat sensitive and takes almost six months to cultivate.

Nevertheless, some smaller U.S. growers have been selling it as a niche vegetable to the restaurant industry under the names Lollipop kale sprouts and BrusselKale.

"They're saying kalettes is a brand new vegetable. It is a brand new brand name," said John Moore, president of Salad Savoy Corporation in Salinas, who says he has a good relationship with Tozer but will continue marketing his Lollipop kale sprouts.

Small organic grower Rock Garden South in Miami also plans to continue distributing its BrusselKale to food stores in Miami and California.

Tozer is hoping to clear up the confusion by working directly with large growers - mostly in California - settling on the name kalettes, and getting them into U.S. supermarket chains across the country.

_0">

"We will have distribution pretty much nationwide in Whole Foods and Trader Joe's by September," said Friedrich.

_1">

"Obviously, our preference is to have it all under one name for consumers to avoid confusion. But we understand (that the other U.S. growers) had already started and made headway with their own effort. That's fine with us.""It is a new vegetable," she said. "It will be brand new (this fall) to the majority of customers."

_2">

_3">

(Editing by Colleen Jenkins, Jill Serjeant and Andrew Hay)

_4">

Biota's lead drug fails mid-stage study, shares slump

Biota Pharmaceuticals Inc said its influenza treatment failed to meet the main goal in a mid-stage study, about two months after the company lost a key government contract supporting the drug's development.

_0">

Biota's shares fell as much as 29 percent to a record low of $2.29, making the stock one of the top percentage losers in early trade on the Nasdaq.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services told the company in April that it was pulling out of its contract to support the drug's development with up to $231 million in funding.

The agency did not offer a reason for ending the contract.

After losing the contract, Biota announced a restructuring plan that included cutting its workforce by about two-thirds and closing a facility in Melbourne, Australia.

The long-acting drug, Laninamivir octanoate, is a neuraminidase inhibitor administered via inhalation.

Neuraminidase inhibitors, like Roche Holding AG's Tamiflu and GlaxoSmithKline Plc's Relenza, target a protein that enables the virus to emerge from the host cell and reproduce.

Two doses of the drug were tested against a placebo in 639 patients to treat influenza A and B, the company said.

Patients given a 40 milligram (mg) or 80 mg dose did not achieve a statistically significant reduction, compared with the placebo, in the median time taken to alleviate influenza symptoms, Biota said.

The company's partner, Daiichi Sankyo Co Ltd, has been marketing Laninamivir octanoate in Japan since 2010 under the brand name Inavir.

The company will not independently advance development of the drug, Chief Executive Russell Plumb said on Friday.

Biota said it would provide detailed efficacy and safety data from the trial in early September.

The Alpharetta, Georgia-based company's shares were trading down 25.4 percent at $2.39.

The stock, which traded at more than $105 a decade ago, has fallen 42 percent since the company lost the contract.

(Reporting by Natalie Grover in Bangalore; Editing by Savio D'Souza and Simon Jennings)

Smith & Nephew sees more sector deals, not under investor pressure

Smith & Nephew (S&N), Europe's largest maker of artificial joints, expects continued deal-making in the medical technology sector but has not come under pressure from investors to sell out, its chief executive said on Friday.

Olivier Bohuon, who has eschewed a wave of mergers sweeping the industry, said S&N had a bright future as a standalone group after reporting improved second-quarter results that came in just ahead of analyst expectations.

The British company is no stranger to bid talk, having been touted as a target, on and off, ever since receiving an approach from Unilever in 1968.

But the deal rumors have lately grown louder, with a wave of U.S. healthcare companies now striving to move their tax bases abroad in a tactic known as "inversion".

Reports that Stryker was considering such a move on S&N in May sent its shares surging, only for the U.S. rival to rule out bidding for six months.

S&N shares were up again on Friday, gained 3.7 percent by 1405 GMT.

While Bohuon sees no strategic case for getting bigger in orthopedics for the sake of it, he acknowledged that inversion deals were likely to continue.

"Are we going to remain independent? It is not up to me to tell you that - I don't have the answer. But I believe we have a good future, we have great growth in front of us, we have a number of new programs and I believe success is here," he told reporters in a conference call.

"I don’t have any specific pressure from shareholders at this stage.”

REGAINING MOMENTUM

The company reported a 10 percent rise in second-quarter trading profit as it regained momentum after a weak start to the year, despite problems in wound management.

It made a quarterly trading profit of $255 million on revenue of $1.15 billion, up 7 percent from a year earlier.

A company-supplied survey of analysts had forecast trading profit of $250 million on revenue of $1.14 billion. Adjusted earnings per share of 20.4 cents, up from 18.0 cents a year, also came in above an expected 19.4 cents.

S&N took a $25 million provision for problems associated with its Renasys negative pressure wound therapy product and said it expected a $30 million hit to revenue this year.

"This should be a temporary issue, so is not significant to the longer term, in our view, and should not detract from what were otherwise reasonably strong results," said Tom Jones, an analyst at Berenberg Bank, which has a "hold" rating on S&N shares.

_0">

Bohuon also unveiled a new "no frills" service for U.S. customers that will slash the cost of buying its replacement hips and knees.

_1">

The so-called Syncera service is designed to strengthen S&N's position in a highly competitive market and appeal to between 5 and 10 percent of U.S. hospitals that cannot afford its full-service offering.

_2">

By stripping away some traditional costs, such as sending a company technician to attend procedures, U.S. customers using Syncera could cut costs by 40 to 50 percent.

_3">

S&N said it expected to start shipping the first product under the new system shortly, adding that its profit margins would remain broadly similar since operating costs under Syncera would be sharply lower.

_4">

Bohuon said he remained confident in the company's prospects this year, although the wound management business was expected to grow more slowly than the wider market.

_5">

_6">

(Editing by Tom Pfeiffer and David Holmes)

_7">

Yum pledges to improve China supply chain oversight

Yum Brands Inc on Friday said it would strengthen oversight of its China supply chain after it severed ties with supplier OSI China following a food safety scandal.

_0">

Yum, which owns KFC and Pizza Hut restaurants in China, said on its microblog it would require suppliers to install monitoring equipment in their production facilities, improve scrutiny during unannounced visits and introduce an incentive system for whistleblowers.

(Reporting by Brenda Goh and Samuel Shen; Editing by Stephen Coates)

Ebola patient coming to U.S. as aid workers' health worsens

A U.S. aid worker who was infected with the deadly Ebola virus while working in West Africa will be flown to the United States to be treated in a high-security ward at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, hospital officials said on Thursday.

The aid worker, whose name has not been released, will be moved in the next several days to a special isolation unit at Emory. The unit was set up in collaboration with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

CDC spokeswoman Barbara Reynolds said her agency was working with the U.S. State Department to facilitate the transfer.

Reynolds said the CDC was not aware of any Ebola patient ever being treated in the United States, but five people in the past decade have entered the country with either Lassa Fever or Marburg Fever, hemorrhagic fevers similar to Ebola.

News of the transfer follows reports of the declining health of two infected U.S. aid workers, Dr. Kent Brantly and missionary Nancy Writebol, who contracted Ebola while working in Liberia on behalf of North Carolina-based Christian relief groups Samaritan's Purse and SIM.

CNN and ABC News reported that a second American infected with Ebola was to be flown to the United States. CNN identified the U.S.-bound patients as Brantly and Writebol. Reuters could not independently confirm the reports.

Amber Brantly, the wife of Dr. Brantly, said in a statement: "I remain hopeful and believing that Kent will be healed from this dreadful disease."

Earlier on Thursday, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the State Department was working with the CDC on medical evacuations of infected American humanitarian aid workers.

The outbreak in West Africa is the worst in history, having killed more than 700 people since February. On Thursday, the CDC issued a travel advisory urging people to avoid all non-essential travel to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the epicenter of the outbreak.

Brantly and Writebol "were in stable but grave" condition as of early Thursday morning, the relief organizations said. A spokeswoman for the groups could not confirm whether the patient being transferred to Emory was one of their aid workers.

CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden said in a conference call that transferring gravely ill patients has the potential to do more harm than good.

Meanwhile, the National Institutes of Health plans in mid-September to begin testing an experimental Ebola vaccine on people after seeing encouraging results in pre-clinical trials on monkeys, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the NIH's allergy and infectious diseases unit, said in an email.

In its final stages, Ebola causes external and internal bleeding, vomiting and diarrhea. About 60 percent of people infected in the current outbreak are dying from the illness.

Writebol, 59, received an experimental drug doctors hope will improve her health, SIM said. Brantly, 33, received a unit of blood from a 14-year-old boy who survived Ebola with the help of Brantly's medical care, said Franklin Graham, president of Samaritan's Purse.

Frieden could not comment on the specifics of either treatment but said: "We have reviewed the evidence of the treatments out there and don't find any treatment that has proven effectiveness against Ebola."

(Additional reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles and Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Editing by Will Dunham, Sandra Maler and Lisa Shumaker)

Crowdsourcing the answers to medical mysteries

For people plagued for years by mysterious illnesses, a new online service aims to help by “crowdsourcing” among medical professionals for a diagnosis.

The service, called CrowdMed (www.crowdmed.com), relies on retired doctors, nurses and other “medical detectives” to help patients find answers to their hard-to-diagnose medical conditions.

Jared Heyman, the founder of CrowdMed, told Reuters Health, “We’ve been live for 15 months, and more than 50 percent of our patients tell us that their case was successfully solved.”

Heyman was inspired to launch CrowdMed after watching his sister suffer from a chronic undiagnosed medical condition and rack up nearly $100,000 in medical bills.

Today CrowdMed has nearly 2,000 active medical detectives. The company claims its approach has so far helped solve more than 200 unique cases out of some 400 submissions that some patients say have “stumped” their doctors for years.

Patients remain anonymous. They pay a $50 deposit to submit a case; the fee is refunded after a case is closed. There’s an option to pay $199 for help preparing a case for submission, and patients can offer compensation to draw more attention ($200 minimum).

According to Heyman, cash compensation tends to attract more and better “medical detectives.” Ten percent of that compensation goes to CrowdMed, Heyman said.

Once a case is submitted, it can take days to months to receive a CrowdMed report.

Patients who wish for their case to remain on CrowdMed for more than 30 days pay $99 per month. Patients can get refunds if they submit a letter from a physician stating that none of the diagnostic or solution suggestions were accurate.

But some physicians worry about the accuracy of CrowdMed. Dr. David Zich, for example, an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, said he believes crowdsourcing for a diagnosis could do more harm than good.

“If the patient isn’t actually sitting in front of you, if you can’t poke and prod and observe, then you may not be getting accurate information. I have seen a number of patients who have inaccurately described their issues and led nurses and medical students down a completely erroneous path,” he told Reuters Health.

Most patients, Zich said, will receive an accurate diagnosis from their doctor. “Probably just one percent of cases result in multiple specialists and rack up large bills. Most people are able to be handled by one or two physicians,” he added.

Exposure of health workers weakens Africa's Ebola fight

Jenneh became a nurse in Sierra Leone 15 years ago with the hope of saving lives in one of the world's poorest countries. Now she fears for her own after three of her colleagues died of Ebola.

Health workers like Jenneh are on the frontline of the battle against the world's worst ever outbreak of the deadly hemorrhagic fever that has killed 729 people in Sierra Leone, neighboring Liberia, Guinea and Nigeria so far.

With West Africa's hospitals lacking trained staff, and international aid agencies already over stretched, the rising number of deaths among healthcare staff is shaking morale and undermining efforts to control the outbreak.

More than 100 health workers have been infected by the viral disease, which has no known cure, including two American medics working for charity Samaritan's Purse. More than half of those have died, among them Sierra Leone's leading doctor in the fight against Ebola, Sheik Umar Khan, a national hero.

"We're very worried, now that our leader has died from the same disease we've been fighting," said Jenneh, who asked for her real name not to be used. "Two of my very close nursing friends have also been killed ... I feel like quitting the profession this minute."

Jenneh works at a 64-bed emergency clinic set up by the medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) in Kailahun town in eastern Sierra Leone, at the center of the outbreak. She said she didn't know why so many doctors were dying from the virus, which in its most deadly strain can kill 90 percent of those it infects. In the current outbreak, the rate is running at about 60 percent.

But like other carers interviewed by Reuters, she is worried the fabric of the yellow full-body suits used to protect workers on isolation wards is too flimsy to block the virus. "Improper personal protective gear is a serious issue here," she said.

World Health Organization (WHO) experts strongly deny there is any problem with the protective equipment. They point to a chronic lack of experienced staff that is forcing health workers to cut corners in the arduous daily task of decontaminating wards and treating patients.

The WHO launched an urgent appeal for hundreds more trained medical personnel on Thursday as part of a $100 million drive to bring the outbreak under control. It said it was seeking ways to safeguard scarce medical workers from infection.

“Protection of healthcare workers is important for two reasons," said David Heymann, a professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. "Number one, so they don't get infected and take it home to their families; and number two ... so healthcare workers don’t just carry the infection from one patient to another.”

SECOND WAVE SURPRISED DOCTORS

Doctors turned patients have been a common feature of Ebola outbreaks since the virus was discovered in Democratic Republic of Congo in 1976 near the Ebola river. However, the infection rate typically tails off as doctors and health staff get used to strict procedures for handling patients, experts say.

But a second wave of Ebola infections in West Africa from late June caught many by surprise as the disease popped up in new areas after relatives took infected patients out of clinics rather than leave them in wards they feared were death traps.

This year's outbreak was the first time the rare disease had struck in West Africa, blindsiding both the superstitious local population and unprepared healthcare systems, where even basic equipment like medical gloves was in short supply.

The scale of the disease meant that for the first time MSF - the organization that usually spearheads Ebola reaction - was not able to cope with all the outbreaks, so local governments and other agencies had to step in.

_0">

Daniel Bausch, associate professor in the department of Tropical Medicine at Tulane University, who has worked in hemorrhagic fever outbreaks since 1996, said he was alarmed by conditions at a state-run clinic in Kenema, Sierra Leone.

_1">

"This is for sure the worst situation I've ever seen," he said, noting that doctors were examining patients in scrub suits before proper protective equipment arrived. "You don't have enough staff, and you don't have enough doctors."

_2">

When nurses walked out on strike in Kenema after their colleagues got sick, Bausch and another WHO-sponsored expert were left to cope with a ward of 55 Ebola patients, he said.

_3">

The virus is only transmitted via contact with body fluids - blood, urine, saliva, faeces - from someone showing symptoms of Ebola. Patients in the final stages of the disease can be bleeding from their orifices, covered in blood blisters, vomiting and suffering from diarrhea.

_4">

For doctors attempting to clean them or deliver palliative care - like intravenous drips for hydration - while wearing protective suits, goggles clouded by tropical heat, and thick gloves, the work can be physically and mentally exhausting.

_5">

"None of us expected to have as many healthcare workers get sick as we did," said Bausch, who said 10 staff in Kenema became ill with Ebola during the three weeks he was there in July.

_6">

"There were times when nurses were getting sick and I thought, 'We have to close this ward', but that's just not an option."

_7">

Constant fatigue among overworked and poorly trained staff probably led to mistakes, Bausch said. He said he saw some staff not wearing protective suits or wearing them incorrectly, but even experienced professionals were at risk.

_8">

"Fear is not quite the right word ... but you haven't slept a lot, it's a stressful environment in a tropical country, and maybe you feel feverish. Everybody has a moment where you start to wonder," he said. "No-one who I talked to could give me a specific incident or say the moment when they got infected."

_9">

_10">

RIGOROUS TRAINING

_11">

Experts say the techniques for avoiding Ebola are not complex but require rigorous training and application. But, with a crisis underway, there was not time to spend hours every day practicing drills as floods of new patients arrived at centers.

_12">

Derek Gatherer, a virologist at Britain’s University of Lancaster, said Ebola was not "super-infectious”. Each case is expected to lead to two or three more, similar to a flu outbreak and much lower than diseases like measles, where one case could lead to 12 to 18 more.

_13">

“The reason doctors need to wear all the protective gear is because of the sheer consequences of getting it,” he said.

_14">

Sierra Leone's Chief Medical Officer, Brima Kargbo, admitted that many local health workers were not following standard precautions, leading to their infection.

_15">

Mohamed Sheriff, spokesman for nursing staff in Kenema, said workers had only been offered workshops in how to wear the protective clothing once the crisis was well under way: "We don't have the technical know-how ... Some of our colleagues are new nurses dealing with a new disease."

_0">

Just taking the suits on and off under controlled conditions required up to 45 minutes and must be done with the assistance of another person, experts say. After removing goggles, mask, suit and gloves and throwing them in a plastic bag, workers are sprayed down with chlorinated water.

_1">

Samaritan's Purse, which ran the case management centers in Foya and Monrovia, said that with its workers only able to wear the suits for four hours, it was using 75 Personal Protective Equipment suits per center per day.

_2">

"The risk of getting infected when taking the suit off if proper procedures are not followed is high," said Ken Kauffeldt, Liberia country director for the U.S.-based charity.

_3">

It has said its two American staff - Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol - probably contracted the virus in the scrub-down area from a local worker who caught it at home.

_4">

_5">

HARD TO TRACK

_6">

As well as the medical challenges, health workers in West Africa also face social stigma for working with Ebola, including the risk of physical attack by a sometimes hostile population.

_7">

MSF has said some of its staff in Guinea prefer to conceal where they are working for fear of being ostracized. Gangs of youths have blocked access to affected villages and mobbed health workers.

_8">

Tracking the infected and isolating them is a key element in tackling Ebola. If a case were to be detected in the West, it would likely be relatively easy to contain, experts say, but not so in West Africa.

_9">

With a highly mobile population, sufferers have often reappeared in an entirely new community - exposing the lack of equipment and training in rural healthcare.

_10">

"In rural health clinics and centers, they don’t have the ability to protect themselves,” said Kauffeldt. “They don’t even have simple supplies such as examination gloves.”

_11">

Early symptoms of the disease are like malaria or flu, with headaches and joint pains, so doctors can be unaware they are coming into contact with the disease for the first time.

_12">

One of Liberia's top doctors, Samuel Brisbane, became the first healthcare worker to die from the disease after examining a patient in a Monrovia hospital for symptoms of peptic ulcer disease. Since then, more than 17 doctors in Liberia have died.

_13">

“A lot of health workers are getting infected, and they're afraid," said Assistant Health Minister Tolbert Nyenswah. “Every patient who goes to a facility during this outbreak should be an Ebola suspect until it is proven otherwise.”

_14">

_15">

(Additional reporting by Clair MacDougall in Monrovia and Adam Bailes in Freetown; Editing by Will Waterman)