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By Anna Pan

A Houston scrap collector hauled an old safe from a family's home, but when the vault was pried open he discovered it held a fortune in gold coins and silver dollars.

The man who opened the safe was David Molick, owner of Robbie's Key & Lock shop who told ABC News that the scrap collector asked him to break into the safe before it was turned into scrap about a month ago.

"He showed me a picture of this safe, and I saw that it was a high security one," Molick said. "It was real difficult to get into. It was pretty beat up. Looked like somebody had tried forcing their way into it since the front was beat up."

Molick said he spent more than 20 hours trying to open the safe last week. Finally, after drilling 10 holes through six-inch walls of concrete, he discovered a bonanza.

"I thought, 'Oh, this ain't real,'" Molick said. "There were 50 Krugerrands in one pipe, and brand new, un-circulated silver dollars in ammo boxes. All of them were well over half full. The entire safe must've weighed at least 3,000 pounds." Molick estimates the safe to contain $2.5 million.

Molick then called the police and put a lock back on the safe the next day.

"We temporarily took custody of the coins on Monday," said Houston Police Department spokesperson

Keese Smith.

Smith declined to estimate the value of the coins.

"I don't have an exact number,but there was a substantial amount," he said.

The scrap dealer and the family that originally owned the safe have remained anonymous, but Mike DeGuerin, an attorney for the family, told ABC News affiliate KTRK that the coins were returned to the family. He told the station the family's father had been saving them for decades, but had died recently. Someone who was helping his family clear out the garage was given the safe to sell as scrap, but was supposed to return anything inside of value once he figured out a way to get it open.

Smith said, "The two parties involved worked out their differences, and the coins were released to the individuals involved yesterday afternoon."


What in the World Are They Spraying? (Full Length)


Nightmarish sea creature found


California coast

An 18-foot-long, serpent-like beast washes up near the coast of Southern California to provide nightmare fodder for all who behold it.


Students and staff from the Catalina Island Marine Institute heft the giant fish.

(Credit: Catalina Island Marine Institute)

The ocean coughs up some odd things on occasion. You might find a message in a bottle, a giant octopus, or a massive overgrown eel of a fish that wants to take up residence in the deepest, darkest realms of your psyche and scare the bejeezus out of you.

Fortunately, I didn't personally stumble across this very creature. Marine science teacher Jasmine Santana found the 18-foot-long oarfish while snorkeling off the coast of Catalina Island in Southern California. Rather than scream like a girl, as I would have, Santana bravely dragged the carcass toward shore where 15 people helped pull it onto dry land.

Unlike cuddly sea lions and sleek dolphins, oarfish sightings are rare. When they have been spotted, they tend to be much smaller specimens. Generally, the serpent-like fish keeps to itself thousands of feet deep in the ocean.

The now-famous fish may live on as a resident of the Catalina Island Marine Institute, unwittingly donating its body to science. If the institute keeps it, it will be buried in the sand to decompose. Then, the skeleton will be dug up and put on display. For some reason, this method is considered preferable to just hosting a giant sushi party.

Despite this particular oarfish's extensive size, it's really just a pup. The big-dog giant oarfish can reportedly grow up to 56 feet in length and is nicknamed the "king of herrings." Just keep that in mind before the next time you take a dip in the Pacific.

It would be nice if California's very own Nessie sparked an orgy of oarfish in popular culture. The Discovery Channel could launch Oarfish Week. The magnificent beast could provide fodder for the next made-for-SyFy movie. "Oarfishalanche," anyone?

Oarfish head

The decomposing head of the oarfish.

(Credit: Catalina Island Marine Institute)

(Via CBS News)

Charitable Incarceration Comes for South Carolina Homeless


3MIN News



More Flooding in Central Europe


The historic flooding throughout central Europe continues, as the Elbe River has broken through several dikes in northern Germany, and the crest of the swollen Danube River has reached southern Hungary, and threatens Serbia. Parts of Austria and the Czech Republic are now in recovery mode, as thousands of residents return home to recover what they can. Gathered here are images from the past several days of those affected by these continuing floods. See earlier entry: Flooding Across Central Europe. [24 photos]

Use j/k keys or ←/→ to navigate  Choose:
A garden with a swimming pool is inundated by the waters of the Elbe River during floods near Magdeburg in the state of Saxony Anhalt, on June 10, 2013. Tens of thousands of Germans, Hungarians and Czechs were evacuated from their homes as soldiers raced to pile up sandbags to hold back rising waters in the region's worst floods in a decade. (Reuters/Thomas Peter)
Clouds reflect in the floods by the Elbe River near Tangermuende, Germany, on June 11, 2013. Weeks of heavy rain this spring have sent the Elbe, the Danube and other rivers such as the Vltava and the Saale overflowing their banks, causing extensive damage in central and southern Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary. (AP Photo/Jens Meyer) #
Cars damaged by the floodwaters of the Danube River, at a car dealer in Fischerdorf near Deggendorf, Germany, on June 11, 2013. (Christof Stache/AFP/Getty Images) #
Houses in the flooded town of Lauenburg, beside the Elbe River, on June 12, 2013. (Reuters/Fabian Bimmer) #
A Super Puma of the German Federal Police Bundespolizei carries sandbags to fix a broken dam built to contain the swollen Elbe River during floods near the village of Fischbeck, on June 10, 2013. (Reuters/Tobias Schwarz) #
A helicopter drops sandbags next to a broken dam near the Elbe River during floods near the village of Fischbeck, on June 10, 2013. (Reuters/Tobias Schwarz) #
A flood-damaged drugstore in Pirna, Germany, on June 8, 2013. (AP Photo/dpa, Arno Burgi) #
A dead deer, hung up on a fence along the flooded A3 motorway near Deggendorf, on June 8, 2013. (Reuters/Wolfgang Rattay) #
Floods of the Elbe River submerge rail tracks near Schoenhausen, Germany, on June 11, 2013. (Christian Charisius/AFP/Getty Images) #
Helpers control a wall to protect a restaurant from Elbe floodwater in Lauenburg, Germany, on June 10, 2013. (AP Photo/dpa,Christian Charisius) #
A firefighter sprays two members of Bavaria's water rescue service Wasserwacht with fresh water to remove spilled heating oil and other waste from the flooded Danube River near the small settlement of Singerhof, on June 8, 2013. (Reuters/Wolfgang Rattay) #
Uwe Peterle rows across an area flooded by the Mulde River with a boat made from a bathtub in Niesau, Germany, on June 11, 2013. (AP Photo/dpa, Jan Woitas) #
An aerial view of houses partially submerged in flood waters from the swollen Danube River, near Nagymaros, Hungary, on June 9, 2013. (Reuters/Laszlo Balogh) #
Fleeing from the flood, two deer swim in the water of the swollen Danube River in the Gemenc Forest, about 170 km south of the Hungarian capital of Budapest. About 4-5 thousand deer, boars and foxes live on the largest contingent, cared for by the Gemenci Forest and Game Co. (Peter Kohalmi/AFP/Getty Images) #
Local residents fill and transport sandbags to hold back the floods of the Elbe River, in Wittenberge, Germany, on June 10, 2013. (Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images) #
The flooded River Danube, with a city view of the parliament building in downtown Budapest, on June 10, 2013. The Danube peaked at 891 cm, 31 cm higher than the record levels of 2006. (Attila Kisbenedek/AFP/Getty Images) #
Fisherman Gernot Quaschny rescues a deer from the floods near Schoenhausen, Germany, on June 12, 2013. Due to a broken dike on the Elbe River, several villages in the area were flooded. (AP Photo/dpa, Christian Charisius) #
A hovercraft drives through a flooded area by the Elbe River near the village of Fischbeck, Germany, on June 11, 2013. (AP Photo/Jens Meyer) #
Manuela Schmid takes a picture for the insurance company of her previously flooded kitchen after the floods of the nearby Danube River subsided in Fischerdorf, on June 11, 2013. (Reuters/Wolfgang Rattay) #
A street submerged in the floods of the Elbe River in Schoenhausen, Germany, on June 11, 2013. (Christian Charisius/AFP/Getty Images) #
A partially submerged billboard on the flooded embankments of the Danube River in Budapest, on June 10, 2013. (Reuters/Laszlo Balogh) #
A helicopter transports sandbags to a flooded area by the Elbe River at sunset, near Fischbeck, Germany, on June 10, 2013. (AP Photo/Jens Meyer) #
A man inspects a sandbag wall near the Elbe River in the German town of Schoenebeck, on June 9, 2013. (Reuters/Tobias Schwarz) #
Women work to empty their home flooded by River Danube in Dunabogdany, 36 km (22.3 mi) north of Budapest, Hungary, on June 8, 2013. (AP Photo/MTI, Balazs Mohai) #

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The rise of influencer marketing and Coca-Cola’s conflicting findings

San Francisco : CA : USA | Mar 20, 2013 at 6:14 PM PDT
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Views: 17,036
Bonin Bough
Bonin Bough will speak about Return on Influence at the Under the Influence Summit co-located at ad:tech San Francisco (Image: Reuters/Mario Anzuoni)
Bonin Bough

Will you be under the influence at ad:tech SF? Digital influence is becoming increasingly important for marketers. Crucial to driving brand recognition and engagement, what’s the secret to executing winning influencer campaigns? Following the workshops April 10, ad:tech and Under the Influence host a jam-packed summit to end the night.

A “conference within a conference,” Under the Influence focuses on people-based marketing and emerging trends within the industry. “The promise of authentic social influencer marketing at scale is finally here," said Bonin Bough, Vice President of Global Media and Consumer Engagement at Mondelēz International.

Bough believes this is a transformational period for influence-based marketing. "By bringing the rigors of paid media to influencer marketing, we can move from hype to actual ROI – that is, Return on Influence,” he noted. The afternoon features speakers and exhibitors who will showcase the power of social influencer marketing.

S Does Not Stand for Sales in Social Media

Earlier this week, Coca-Cola conducted a social impact study that indicated social “buzz” does not translate into increased sales. With over 62 million Facebook fans and 650,000 Twitter followers, social media has done little to boost sales.

“We didn’t see any statistically significant relationship between our buzz and our short-term sales,” said Eric Schmidt, senior manager for corporate market strategy and insight. The key is “short term,” building trust and influence with customers takes time. Time, which requires more resources companies don’t have.

Despite the limited scope of the Coke study, the report raised concerns for investors, causing Facebook’s stock to drop. Nonetheless, a poll on Yahoo Finance asked readers if their purchasing decisions were influenced by social media, in which 87 percent answered “Never.”

Tapping the Influence of Bloggers

While S doesn’t stand for Sales in social media, blogger influence programs have widespread success. Earlier this week, cloud-based SaaS provider TapInfluence unveiled their latest influencer marketing platform. With Coca-Cola as a client, the platform streamlines the four stages of influencer marketing: identifying influencers, managing content, distributing and tracking results.

“Earned media is the Holy Grail these days, so influencer marketing programs have to maximize the value of the content and be able to measure it,” said Holly Hamann, chief marketing officer at TapInfluence.

This article is part of Allvoices’ series on ad:tech, the largest, longest-running digital marketing and technology event. Check out allvoices.com/adtech for more of Allvoices’ ad:tech coverage. This series is supported by ad:tech.

Joseph Thomas is based in Redwood City, California, United States of America, and is an Anchor for Allvoices.

East Orange water agency fined over allegedly falsifying records on illegal dumping into Passaic River

The Record

State officials fined the East Orange Water Commission $402,000 on Tuesday for allegedly falsifying records less than a month after its two top executives were indicted for illegally dumping polluted water into the Passaic River.

The water was contaminated with perchloroethylene, or PERC, a chemical linked to cancer, but it never posed a threat to the 350,000 Bergen and Passaic county residents who get their drinking water from the Passaic River, state officials reiterated Tuesday in announcing the penalties.

The fines are against the water utility but stem from the alleged dumping by William Mowell, 51, of Wyckoff, its assistant executive director and engineer, and Harry Mansmann, 58, of Lawrenceville, the executive director.

The two allegedly ordered that water from a well with as much as 25 times state safety standard for PERC be pumped to a pipe that discharged directly onto the bank of the Passaic River in Florham Park from March 24, 2011, through April 20, 2011.

They wanted to flush the contaminant out of the well, allowing them to record lower levels of contaminants in the drinking water the utility supplied to its customers in East Orange and South Orange, the state Attorney General's Office said when the two were indicted in mid-February.

The two also allegedly falsified water reports by shutting down contaminated wells before monthly water tests.

“It’s vital that the data we get from [water companies] is legit,” said Larry Ragonese, a spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Protection. “It’s the basis for whether you require testing or cleanup steps to be taken.”

No one at the water commission was available for comment Tuesday evening. The fines could be appealed in an administrative law court.

PERC, a dry cleaning solvent and one of the most common groundwater pollutants, became diluted by the time it reached the Passaic Valley Water Commission’s intake valve several miles downstream in Little Falls. The Passaic Valley commission draws about 80 million gallons a day from the river for residents in Passaic, Paterson, Clifton, Lodi, Garfield, North Arlington and towns in Morris and Essex counties.

Mansmann and Mowell face charges including unlawful release of a toxic pollutant, multiple counts of violating the New Jersey Safe Drinking Water Act and tampering with public records. Their lawyers have maintained their innocence and insist no one was ever put at risk.

The East Orange City Council will hold a public hearing on Wednesday night about the water system at City Hall from 6 to 8 p.m.

Email: fallon@northjersey.com

East Orange water agency fined over allegedly falsifying records on illegal dumping into Passaic River

The Record

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Toddler thrown from car into oncoming traffic in Russia

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Diane Sawyer's Election Coverage Gets Noticed on Social Media

11/07/2012 at 10:00 AM EST

Diane Sawyer
Barack Obama supporters had plenty to toast to Tuesday night when the President claimed victory over Republican candidate Mitt Romney.

Also saying cheers to the end of a tight election season: Diane Sawyer?

Amid the nail-biting unveiling of the presidential election results, some viewers of ABC's news coverage were just as focused on host Sawyer, 66, wondering on social media if her political celebrating got the best of her. Her seemingly odd conduct was even chronicled by the Associated Press, which noted her slow speech and the way she seemed to hold out her arms to prop herself up as the election night results trickled in.

But as a TV insider tells PEOPLE: "I worked with Diane for many years and she never slurred or acted silly. She does not have an alcohol issue."

Even so, social media outlets lit up with observations about the veteran broadcaster's commentary, which seemed off and, at times, slurred, with co-host George Stephanopoulos.

Tired? Tipsy? Here's what you, a handful of celebs and Sawyer herself were talking about on Twitter as the night unfolded.

  1. As voters hit the polls, Sawyer took her seat to document the final chapter of the 2012 election season. 
  2. Ready, set at the @ABC desk for Election Night. RT if you'll be watching as America chooses a President.
  3. 2 days ago
  4. But her coverage fell short for some political junkies, who wondered if the motto of the night was "four more years" ... or "four more beers."

  1. The Internet's infatuation with "Drunk Diane Sawyer" quickly followed in the footsteps of the debates's Big Bird, binders full of women and bayonets. The comparatively light-hearted political commentary continued through the results -- on a parody account. 
  2. DrnkDianeSawyer
    hey guys wh o won i fell aslee?p
  3. Celebs took notice of the ABC host's behavior on national television.
  4. joshgroban
    I'll have what Diane Sawyer is having.
  5. BravoAndy
    I swear everyone on abc seems a little bit wasted. Is it me??
  6. dinamanzo
    I want whatever Diane Sawyer is taking or drinking tonight
  7. gruber
    Everyone, let's switch to ABC. I think Diane Sawyer is drunk.
  8. tmbg
    And Diane Sawyer declares tonight's winner is... chardonnay!
  9. You did, too.
  10. Pierzy
    "FOUR MORE BEERS! FOUR MORE BEERS!" - Diane Sawyer last night
  11. karyninny
    "You do it." "No, YOU do it." Producers fighting over who tells Diane Sawyer during the commercial break that Twitter thinks she's drunk.
  12. kaames7
    I drank a lot last night but Diane sawyer had me beat on national television......
  13. But Sawyer's antics aside, the winner of the night was still Obama, who scored 303 electoral votes.
  14. BarackObama
    Four more years. pic.twitter.com/bAJE6Vom

Relief and Hope in Asia Over Obama Victory

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American ambassador to Japan, John V. Roos, center, with Japanese students during an event to celebrate the U.S. presidential election at the American Embassy in Tokyo.
Franck Robichon/European Pressphoto Agency
The American ambassador to Japan, John V. Roos, center, with Japanese students during an event to celebrate the U.S. presidential election at the American Embassy in Tokyo.

10:59 a.m. | Updated HONG KONG — Judging by a recent global opinion poll, much of the world outside the United States would have voted to re-elect President Obama if it could have. In the end, the rest of the world got what it wanted. And as concession and acceptance speeches were held, the first of the congratulatory telegrams went out to the winner.

“I extend my congratulations to President Obama on his re-election to office. In winning this historic election, the President has a unique opportunity to realize his vision for the United States,” the Malaysian prime minister, Najib Razak, said in an emailed statement on Wednesday.

“On behalf of the Government and people of Australia, I offer warm congratulations to President Barack Obama on his re-election and wish him every success for his second term in office,” said Julia Gillard, his Australian counterpart.

Less restrained, Daniel Flitton, a senior correspondent at the Sydney Morning Herald, one of Australia’s main daily newspapers, told readers to “breathe a sigh of relief.”

“Had Mitt Romney won the day, it would have made for an ugly time with our big alliance partner,” he wrote.

Ananth Krishnan, China correspondent for the Indian newspaper The Hindu, had this early reaction to President Obama’s victory speech:

What a speech. What a man. Wow. Sigh. After this, covering the Party Congress in Beijing is going to be such an anticlimax.

Even the Internet multimillionaire Kim Dotcom, who is awaiting potential extradition from New Zealand to the United States on copyright charges, had this to say:

Kim Dotcom ‏Congratulations @BarackObama – May the next 4 years be better than the last 4 years.

Earlier in the day, as the polling stations began closing in the United States — around about the time that tens of millions of people were heading to work across the Asia-Pacific region — the mood in the Hong Kong was also predominantly pro-Obama.

“It was so special when he won the last time. There was a lot of hope and I think there still is,” said a woman who was heading to work in Causeway Bay, a bustling neighborhood of Hong Kong that is dominated by shopping malls.“ I think he can do it.”

Continuity with another four years of Barack Obama, rather than a jump into the relative unknown with his challenger, is what many people appeared to prefer.

“I just think it’s not a good time for big change,” said Harris Shim, 32, who works for a bank in this Asian financial hub. “People in Asia are affected by what’s going on over there, and I don’t think many people would know what the effect of a new president would be.”

“I’m all about keeping it simple, so I hope he wins,” echoed Benjamin Sun, 46, who works for the car manufacturer Ferrari and spent many years living in the United States before moving to Hong Kong. “He is doing all right. It could be better, but if he has another four years he might be able to do better.”

Students at Mr. Obama’s former elementary school in an affluent neighborhood of Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, cheered his win, as did Indonesian elites gathered at a party hosted by the U.S. Embassy. On the streets, motorcycle taxi drivers raised their fists and shouting, “Obama, Obama.”

Obama’s popularity with the ordinary folks outside the United States comes as no surprise.

As our colleague Mark McDonald wrote in this recent blog post, a global opinion poll conducted by the BBC World Service showed that if the rest of the world got to vote Obama would likely be re-elected in a landslide.

Chinese respondents preferred Mr. Obama, 28 percent to 9 percent, as did South Koreans (58 to 9); Japanese (33 to 9); Indians (36 to 12); and Malaysians (28 to 13), the poll found. In Indonesia, where Mr. Obama spent four of his boyhood years, he was favored, 59 percent to 3 percent, over Mr. Romney.

Still, there was also a sense of guarded anticipation on Wednesday, as analysts, commentators and the financial markets took stock of the daunting economic that the administration faces, as well as the foreign policy issues that are closest to Asia’s heart.

In Hong Kong, for example, the South China Morning Post highlighted the divisiveness of the campaign that led up to election day through a cartoon showing a top-hatted Uncle Sam being sawn in half, watched over by the two contenders.

In China, the state-run China Daily reported that that the outcome of the election would not affect the nature of U.S.-Chinese relations. While Mitt Romney raised the specter of China as a threat to US economic prosperity Obama would try to mend the country’s relationship and “initiate greater diplomacy over a range of issues to find common ground,” it quoted a Chinese economics professor at New York University as saying.

The China Media Project at the University of Hong Kong, which monitors the media in China, said the U.S. election had drawn millions of comments on Sina Weibo, the Twitter-like microblogging service, and offered a taste of the comments.

In Cambodia the hope was that Obama would push for free and fair elections in the country when he is scheduled to visit later this month. The heads of Cambodia National Rescue Party Sam Rainsy, who is exile, said it was time for more international involvement in Cambodia’s troubles. “Now the whole world is paying attention to Cambodia, to demand true democracy,” he told Voice of America Khmer.

Meanwhile, the English-language version of Xinhua had a clear reminder that the U.S. elections were not the only thing that matters to the world in which China’s importance has grown.

Xingua’s site was dominated by a slide show of pictures from the U.S. vote. But the site’s main news story on ­Wednesday morning was this:

“World looks to China as key congress nears.”

Sara Schonhardt contributed reporting from Jakarta.

The Taliban's main fear is not drones but educated girls

If Pakistan really wants to combat the fundamentalists, it should be protecting its children and their teachers

Malala Yousufzai vigil Lahore
People in Lahore held candles and pictures of Malala Yousufzai, who was shot by the Taliban for speaking out in favour of education for girls. Photograph: Mohsin Raza/REUTERS

Apparently, Pakistanis don't need the Taliban to destroy their schools any more – they can do it themselves. Last week, a girls' high school was set ablaze in Pakistan's second largest city, Lahore. And no, the Taliban were not the culprits. A mob, enraged after allegations of blasphemy against a teacher, carried out the attack. Instead of taking action against them, the police arrested the school's 77-year-old owner.

The accused teacher, who allegedly committed blasphemy by photocopying the wrong page of a book for homework, is in hiding. Pakistan may have declared an "education emergency" earlier this year, but it still fails to protect the schools it already has. How did we get here?

"They have shut down girls' schools," I told a childhood friend who was effusively praising the Pakistani Taliban after its temporary takeover of the Swat valley three years ago. Malala Yousafzai, the 14-year-old Pakistani peace activist shot last month by the Taliban, was a bored 11-year-old schoolgirl then. My friend lived about 350 miles away from Swat, and had three daughters. His reasons for liking the Taliban were simple: they were local heroes who had decided to take things into their own hands. "If only people in our area had the same courage," he said. "Would you like a Taliban-type system here in your city?" I asked him. Yes, of course, he would.

Every morning, my friend drove two of his daughters to school and was pretty certain that one of them would go to medical school. "But the Taliban don't allow girls' education. What will happen when they shut down your daughters' school?" I asked. My friend was puzzled, but only for a moment. "They wouldn't do that here. What they did in Swat is their culture, Pashtun culture."

Not educating girls is not the only myth about Pashtuns: Pashtun mothers produce sons so that they can send them to war; fathers will shoot their daughters if a stranger sees their faces. Of course, as the myth goes, they also don't want to send their daughters to schools. And why do they need to send their sons to school anyway, if they are born soldiers in an eternal jihad?

But there was no evidence of any such Pashtun culture in the Swat valley I had visited the day before our conversation. When the Taliban made their bid to rule the region, Swat could have easily passed as the education capital of Pakistan. There were law schools, medical schools, nursing schools and more computer schools than any other valley of this size could accommodate. And that's without counting the hundreds of informal beauty schools that provide on-the-job training for girls so poor they can't afford any other type of education.

A lot of Pakistanis, as well as people the world over, have expressed their solidarity with Malala by doing the obligatory status update or tweet: "We are all Malala". But for most people, she is someone else's child and will remain so. She is a child whose name can be invoked to start another military operation, a child whose name can be used to prove the blindingly obvious – that parents, whatever their religion or culture, would like their children to be at school – if they can afford it.

What is conveniently ignored in the debate over Malala is the fact that every 10th child in the world who doesn't go to school is Pakistani. The Taliban are not the only ones keeping kids out of school. Some fairly secularly minded people think of Pakistan's children as someone else's children – not deserving the education that their money buys for their own kids. As such, Pakistan is a booming marketplace for private education. Ask anyone on the street, and they'll tell you it's the biggest business in Pakistan.

You can see people on donkey carts driving their children to private schools that offer English-medium education in air-conditioned rooms for 400 rupees a month. Every morning, in every small town and city, you can see kids – three on a bicycle, five on a motorbike, 10 squeezed into a rickshaw – all heading for a school somewhere. Girls top almost all university exam tables in Pakistan.

Whatever sad destiny the country may be hurtling towards, there is one thing standing between Pakistan and the Taliban's dream of heaven on earth: the number of women who have been to school, and the number of women who couldn't go to school but are determined to send their daughters to school, no matter the economic imperative. Whatever your ideas about a good Muslim girl, you can't really lock up 90 million of them behind closed doors.

Listen to the Taliban, not to their cuddly intellectual friends, and you begin to get a clearer picture. Their apologists in political parties may try to prove that girls' education is an invention of the infidels, but the Taliban seem to know what they are talking about. An educated female population is more threatening to them than armies equipped with all-seeing drones. Every girl who crams for a high-school exam, every woman who runs a hospital, and every semi-educated mother who makes sure her daughter gets a better education than she herself received, is a mortal threat to the Taliban's declared ambition that every little girl who talks about school gets it in the head.

By abdicating its responsibility to educate our children, to protect those who manage to go to school and those who teach them, Pakistan is making it that much easier for the Taliban's mission to succeed.


Thousands of GM Mice Killed by Hurricane Sandy

Thousands of GM Mice Killed by Hurricane Sandy

Scientists from New York University have been left reeling in the wake of hurricane Sandy after thousands of lab mice were killed as a result of rising flood waters, potentially setting back this medical research into heart disease and cancers by as much as a decade and leading scientists to have to contemplate starting all over again — something neither they, nor animal rights campaigners, relish.

The loss of animal life was first reported by New York Daily News on Tuesday. In a short account, told to them by an unnamed researcher at the university, the Daily News reported that emergency power was lost at 8:30 p.m. on Monday, leading to the loss of many specialist enzymes and antibodies that had been cultivated by the scientists and which needed to be stored at below-zero temperatures.

The NY Daily News went on to say:

Even more alarming, thousands of mice that are used by scientists for cancer research and other experiments, drowned during a flood. It is unclear how the mice died, but the source told the News that many of these mice are genetically modified for certain research and took years to produce. It will likely set back several scientists’ work by years, the source said.

A researcher is then quoted as saying that while this “did not equate to a loss of life” it was still deeply upsetting because of the loss of research. The mice that perished, you could argue, might disagree.

The NYU Langone Medical Center was able to confirm on Wednesday that the Smilow Research Center, one among three animal research facilities at NYU, was “adversely impacted” by the flooding that resulted from Sandy’s arrival.

Reports NBC:

“Animal resource staff was on site continuously to mitigate the damage from the storm, but due to the speed and force of the surge, animal rescue attempts were unsuccessful,” the medical center said in a statement. “This facility is a barrier facility that is ‘super clean,’ which restricts the movement of animals in and out of the facility.”

It should be noted the report goes on to say that, despite what the NY Daily’s rather oblivious unnamed source said, NYU was “deeply saddened by the loss of these animals’ lives” as well as “the impact this has on the many years of important work conducted by our researchers.”

The failure of the backup generators also meant the facility was forced to evacuate more than 200 patients to other hospitals.

Another complicating factor is, of course, money. Research grants are hard to come by, and so if these mice have been tragically lost, scientists will have to begin if not from very start of their research then at a much earlier stage, and will require funds to do so, something that is not guaranteed.

This also throws up serious implications for anyone who considers the lives of the animal test subjects to be of importance because it means that not only has this generation and previous generations of transgenic mice had their lives claimed in the devotion to find a cure for our diseases, but now countless more stand to endure medical tests in order for researchers to regain the ground that has been lost.

This, from an animal rights standpoint, is a deeply serious thing, and one more tragedy left in Sandy’s devastating wake. Perhaps this horrible event can be seen as an opportunity to reevaluate the use of mice in research.


Related Reading:

New Technology More Reliable and Ethical Than Animal Experiments

Animal Experiments at 25 Year High in the UK

What If Animal Testing Brought A Cure For Cancer?


Read more: , , , , , , , , ,

Sandy Exacts Toll on the Economy

Natalie Keyssar for The Wall Street Journal

A statue of Mother Mary stood among hurricane wreckage in Queens, New York, Tuesday.

Sandy is delivering a blow to the U.S. economy that will reverberate for weeks, disrupting commerce in the nation's most-populous region, destroying billions of dollars' worth of property and likely boosting gasoline prices.

Along the East Coast, some restaurants, car dealers and other retailers are likely to see sales slip. Many workers aren't being paid for lost hours. Shipments of goods through eastern seaports and airports are being delayed.

That would drain billions of dollars from the economy at a time when it already is growing sluggishly. Much of this economic activity will be delayed or shifted, such as when the money not spent in a coffee shop this week is spent on a movie next week.And other commerce will pick up as utility workers earn overtime pay, construction crews start rebuilding and homeowners buy materials to repair damage. Many grocers and home-improvement stores rang up higher sales as people prepared for the storm.

Still, the short-term damage likely will cause the economy to grow more slowly in the final three months of the year than it did over the summer, when the economy grew at a tepid 2% annual pace, forecasters said.

Consultancy IHS Global Insight estimated Tuesday that the storm could shave 0.6 percentage point off the annualized pace of growth in the nation's gross domestic product in the fourth quarter. This doesn't capture the complete impact because GDP measures the value of the economy's output of goods and services, but not the wealth destroyed.

Early estimates Tuesday were that the storm had already caused roughly $20 billion in damage to property—including roads, bridges, office buildings and homes, according to IHS. By comparison, Hurricane Irene last year caused $15 billion in infrastructure damage, according to IHS.

"It's not catastrophic but it's not trivial," said Gregory Daco, an economist at IHS Global Insight. "You're seeing major disruptions in trade flows, both on the import and the export side. You're seeing disruptions in terms of construction, in terms of manufacturing, and also in terms of services—movie theaters closing, your local grocery store may not be open. It's a number of combined shots that overall affect the U.S. economy."

At Towson, Md., retailer, the Sofa Store, only two shoppers showed up on Monday instead of the roughly 40 who usually drop in, said General Manager Jason Brager. "It was pretty much a ghost town," he said. Mr. Brager said many of the furniture store's sales lost to bad weather happen later. "When people can get back out and about, we get a little bump in business," he said.

Sandy's damage estimates could rise in coming days due to more flooding. Many property losses will be covered by private or government insurance.

Analysts don't expect the storm's effects to show up immediately in the economic data. The Labor Department said Tuesday it intends to release its October employment report Friday, as scheduled. The figures won't be affected by the storm because they are based on surveys conducted earlier in the month.

Motorists are likely to feel the pinch of higher gasoline prices. IHS said 70% of East Coast refineries were idled Monday night. That will lead to a shortage of gasoline supplies, which will likely translate into higher prices at the pump.

Sandy caused the price of gasoline futures to climb 10 cents to 15 cents a gallon, and a similar increase could unfold at the pump, Mr. Daco said, adding that any price spike would last just days. By comparison, Hurricane Isaac earlier this year caused a temporary 45-cent-a-gallon increase in retail gasoline prices, Mr. Daco said. The spike was larger because Isaac hit the Gulf Coast, shutting down not only refineries but also and oil drilling.

Gasoline prices have been political fodder in the presidential campaign and other electionraces. Candidates could seek to use a storm-related surge in gas prices to score political gains in the final days of the campaign. President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney mostrecently clashed on gas prices and other energy topics in theirpresidential debates this months.

Sandy affected a broader geographic area than most storms, hitting a bigger population and a range of industries from manufacturing and finance to retail and shipping. Also, unlike Irene, which occurred on a weekend, Sandy hit on a Monday and Tuesday, causing a bigger disruption in commercial activity. Sandy's aftereffects—mainly, flooding-—also are lingering longer than usual.

"If you tally everything up it's going to be quite a laundry list because it's such a diverse economy" in the Northeast region, said Beata Caranci, an economist at TD Economics.

—Jeffrey Sparshott and Tennille Tracy contributed to this article.

Write to Josh Mitchell at joshua.mitchell@dowjones.com and Sudeep Reddy at sudeep.reddy@wsj.com


Alien Life May Require Rare 'Just-Right'

Asteroid Belts

Date: 02 November 2012 Time: 07:00 AM  ET
Three Scenarios for Asteroid Belt Evolution
Three possible scenarios for the evolution of asteroid belts. Top: A Jupiter-size planet migrates through the belt, scattering material and inhibiting the formation of life on planets. Middle: A Jupiter-size planet moves slightly inward but is just outside the belt (this is the model proposed for our solar system). Bottom: A large planet does not migrate at all, creating a massive asteroid belt. Material from the hefty asteroid belt would bombard planets, possibly preventing life from evolving.


Asteroid belts similar to the one between Mars and Jupiter appear to be rare beyond our solar system, implying that complex alien life may be rare as well, a new study reports.

Fewer than 4 percent of known alien solar systems are likely to have an asteroid belt like the one in our own neck of the woods, researchers found. Belts that look like ours may help spur the evolution of life, seeding rocky planets with water and complex chemicals but not pummeling the worlds with a constant barrage of violent impacts.

"Our study shows that only a tiny fraction of planetary systems observed to date seem to have giant planets in the right location to produce an asteroid belt of the appropriate size, offering the potential for life on a nearby rocky planet," study lead author Rebecca Martin, of the University of Colorado in Boulder, said in a statement. "Our study suggests that our solar system may be rather special."

World Action Plan Emerging to Combat Asteroid Threat
An artist's illustration of a large asteroid headed for Earth.

Asteroids: friends and foes

Most people regard asteroids as a threat to life. After all, a 6-mile-wide (10 kilometers) space rock is thought to have wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago here on Earth. [5 Reasons to Care About Asteroids]

But asteroid impacts may have helped life get a foothold on our planet as well, scientists say.

For example, space rocks and comets likely delivered huge loads of water and organic compounds — the carbon-containing building blocks of life as we know it — to the early Earth. And the theory of punctuated equilibrium suggests that occasional impacts could have helped accelerate the rate of biological evolution by disrupting the status quo and opening up new niches.

A just-right asteroid belt may thus be key to the evolution of complex lifeforms on rocky worlds, researchers said. And that may bad news for those of us who hope to make contact with intelligent aliens someday.

A giant planet in the right place

Our solar system's asteroid belt formed where it did because Jupiter's powerful gravitational pull prevented the material in the region from glomming together to create a planet. And the belt looks as it does today because Jupiter moved just the right amount long ago, researchers said.

"To have such ideal conditions you need a giant planet like Jupiter that is just outside the asteroid belt [and] that migrated a little bit, but not through the belt," said study co-author Mario Livio of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore.

"If a large planet like Jupiter migrates through the belt, it would scatter the material," Livio added. "If, on the other hand, a large planet did not migrate at all, that, too, is not good because the asteroid belt would be too massive. There would be so much bombardment from asteroids that life may never evolve."

Our own asteroid belt is found near the solar system's "snow line," the point beyond which it's cold enough for volatile substances such as water ice to stay intact. So Martin and Livio reasoned that alien belts are likely to be found near their systems' snow lines as well.

Using computer models, the duo calculated where the snow line should be in planet-forming disks around young stars. They confirmed their calculations using observations from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, which showed the presence of warm dust — a possible asteroid belt indicator — in about the right place around 90 such stars.

"The warm dust falls right onto our calculated snow lines, so the observations are consistent with our predictions," Martin said.

Asteroid Basics: A Space Rock Quiz
Asteroids are fascinating for lots of reasons. They contain a variety of valuable resources and slam into our planet on a regular basis, occasionally snuffing out most of Earth's lifeforms. How much do you know about space rocks?
Start the Quiz
Earth Causes Asteroid-Quakes
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Moving inside the snow line

The researchers then studied observations of the 520 giant planets that have been found beyond our solar system to date. They determined that just 19 of them — or about 4 percent — reside outside the snow line.

The find suggests that the vast majority of Jupiter-like planets have migrated inward too much to support the existence of an asteroid belt like the one we're used to, reseachers said.. Such big moves would likely have disrupted any nascent belts, sending space rocks scattering this way and that.

"Based on our scenario, we should concentrate our efforts to look for complex life in systems that have a giant planet outside of the snow line," Livio said.

The study was published Thursday (Nov. 1) in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society: Letters.

Follow SPACE.com on Twitter @Spacedotcom. We're also on Facebook & Google+.

JERUSALEM — A simple, ancient ritual is threatening the delicate security balance atop Jerusalem's most sacred plaza: Jews are praying.

On most days, dozens — sometimes hundreds — of Jewish worshipers ascend to the disputed 36-acre platform that Muslims venerate as Al Aqsa mosque and Jews revere as the Temple Mount with an Israeli police escort to protect them and a Muslim security guard to monitor their movements.

Then, they recite a quick prayer, sometimes quietly to themselves, other times out loud.

Jewish activists call the prayers harmless acts of faith. Police and Muslim officials see them as dangerous provocations, especially given the deep religious sensitivities of the site and its history of violence. Twelve years ago, the presence of Jews on the plaza was so controversial that a brief tour by Israeli politician Ariel Sharon helped trigger a Palestinian uprising that lasted more than four years.

But today Jewish worshipers are commonplace, coming in greater numbers than at any time since Israel's founding and perhaps, some scholars say, as far back as half a millennium ago. Their goal? To challenge the Israeli government's tacit acceptance and enforcement of a ban on Jews praying there by the Islamic trust that has continued to administer the site even after Israel captured the Old City in 1967.

Jewish visits to the plaza are expected to surpass 12,000 this year, up 30% from 2011, according to estimates by Jewish worshiper groups.

"What is provocative about a person wanting to pray?" Rabbi Chaim Richman asked after defying mainstream rabbinical religious rulings and risking arrest by praying on a recent morning near the golden Dome of the Rock. The world's oldest surviving Islamic monument, it's built atop the site where Jews believe their first temple held the Ten Commandments.

"It's the most basic human right," said Richman, international director of the Temple Institute. "I'm not asking to build a temple. I'm just asking to move my lips."

His group and others that advocate the rebuilding of a Jewish temple have often been dismissed by other Israelis and the international community as extremists and zealots who seek to destroy the Dome and the nearby Al Aqsa mosque. Now they are betting this prayer campaign will give their cause more mainstream support, portraying it as a matter of religious equality and free speech.

How can it be, they ask, that in the state of Israel, Jews and Christians are banned from praying at Judaism's holiest site, while Muslims can worship freely? Even the U.S. State Department has cited Israel's ban on non-Muslim prayer on the plaza in its annual report on religious freedom, they note.

The groups want the Israeli government to implement a time-sharing plan that would set aside certain hours for Jewish worship, similar to one used to divide Hebron's Cave of the Patriarchs, a holy site for Muslims and Jews.

Palestinians and Muslim leaders call the prayer campaign the latest ruse designed to instigate clashes so that Israel can justify putting the plaza under military control.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas this month accused Israel of launching a "fierce assault" on the mosque after soldiers broke up a Muslim riot triggered by a group of Jewish worshipers.

Jordan, which has maintained day-to-day supervision of the plaza through an Islamic trust called the Waqf, is asking the U.N.'s cultural body, UNESCO, to condemn Israel for permitting an increase in Jewish prayers.

"The Israeli strategy is to take it over," said Mahdi Abdul Hadi, chairman of the Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs, a Jerusalem think tank. "We don't want to share, not because we don't accept them, but because we don't trust them." He said the Hebron agreement was supposed to result in sharing, but it led to bloody clashes between Jews and Muslims, and finally a military takeover.

Hadi also noted that temple-rebuilding extremists set fire to Al Aqsa mosque in 1969 and plotted to bomb the Dome of the Rock in the 1980s.

Jewish prayer at the Jerusalem holy site is certainly not new, but it has been rarely seen during the last 2,000 years. After the Roman destruction of the Second Temple in AD 70, a Jewish presence on the plaza was mostly banned or severely limited during Christian and Islamic rule.

Under the Ottoman Empire, Jews were given access to the Western Wall — believed to be a remnant of the Second Temple compound — but banned from the plaza above, which was reserved for Muslims only, according to Israeli historian F.M. Loewenberg.

Even after Israel took control of East Jerusalem in 1967, most Jews stayed away because of rabbinical prohibitions that warned them against visiting the site lest they inadvertently step on hallowed ground.

In recent years, however, a small but growing number of rabbis have softened that position. At the same time, national religious groups have argued that Israel should exert greater control over what is considered Judaism's holiest site.


Famed boxing trainer Emanuel Steward dies in Chicago
Emanuel Steward trained many champion boxers, including Thomas "Hitman" Hearns and Wladimir Klitschko.
October 25th, 2012
07:08 PM ET

Famed boxing trainer Emanuel Steward dies

in Chicago

Famed boxing trainer Emanuel Steward, who was in the corner of champions such as Thomas "Hitman" Hearns, Oscar De La Hoya and Wladimir Klitschko, died Thursday in a Chicago hospital, his executive assistant said.

Steward passed away at 1:46 p.m. CT (2:46 p.m. ET), said Victoria Kirton, who did not provide any further details. He was 68.

A national Golden Gloves champion himself in 1963 at 18, Steward hung up his boxing gloves soon thereafter and took a job at Detroit Edison Company, according to his official bio from HBO, for which he was a commentator.

But he returned to the sport as a Detroit-based trainer in 1971, and he went on to work with some of the biggest names in the business. His pupils - among them more than two dozen champions, by HBO's count - include Sugar Ray Leonard, Julio Cesar Chavez, Leon Spinks, Evander Holyfield and Klitschko, the current WBA, WBO and IBF champion.

"It is not often that a person in any line of work gets a chance to work with a legend," the Ukrainian boxer said on his website. "Well I was privileged enough to work with one for almost a decade.

"I will miss our time together - the long talks about boxing, the world and life itself. Most of all, I will miss our friendship."

He continued working with boxers into his 60s, while also weighing in on big fights for HBO Sports. (HBO is a division of Time Warner, as is CNN.)

Ken Hershman, the president of HBO Sports, lauded Steward as "respected colleague who taught us so much not only about the sweet science but also about friendship and loyalty."

"His energy, enthusiasm and bright smile were a constant presence," Hershman said. " Ten bells do not seem enough to mourn his passing."

Health & Beauty|10/27/2012 6:30:30 AM

Is The Electronic Cigarette Healthy? Is It The Future of Smoking? .!DONT TRUST!


The use of electronic cigarettes have recently grabbed the attention of countless tobacco users worldwide. Are they really a healthier and cheaper alternative to traditional cigarettes? Creators and product users claim you can enjoy a cheaper, healthier cigarette without the bad smells, second-hand smoke, or cancer causing chemicals. With these huge claims, we decided to investigate the electronic cigarette for our readers.

A few of the benefits claimed from using the electronic cigarette:

  • No tar, tobacco, carbon monoxide, or ash.
  • Get the same amount of nicotine as a regular cigarette.
  • Each cartridge costs less than $2, and is equivalent to an entire pack of cigarettes.
  • The average consumer can expect to save over $1,000 each year
  • You won’t “smell” like a smoker any longer.
  • Different flavors are available.
  • No more second-hand smoke.

We first researched exactly what expert medical doctors and product users had to say about electronic cigarettes, and the results were surprising. In fact, a study by researchers at the Boston University School of Public Health in 2010 concluded that electronic cigarettes were safer than real cigarettes and may aid in breaking the habit of smoking. "Electronic cigarettes were found to be "much safer" than traditional tobacco ones, and had a level of toxicity similar to existing nicotine replacements". In the report, the level of carcinogens in electronic cigarettes was found to be up to 1,000 times lower than regular cigarettes. It also said early evidence shows that electronic cigarettes may help people to stop smoking by simulating a tobacco cigarette.

Doctors have even suggested that while utilizing the electronic cigarette, there is virtually no risk of getting cancer. These conclusions come from studies which show that nicotine is about as equally harmful to your health as caffeine. These studies also show that the real harm in traditional cigarettes comes from the tobacco smoke and the hundreds of additional added chemicals.

Referenced in the video to the left, four very well known doctors, from the popular TV show “The Doctors”, have also studied the electronic cigarette and was featured as one of their top 10 key health trends for 2010.

“The Electronic Cigarette gives you nicotine, but it doesn't give you any of the other 4,000 chemicals from a cigarette that can cause cancer, among other problems..” - Dr. Travis Stork from “The Doctors”

We also learned that the electronic cigarette is not encompassed by most smoking bans and regulations. With the lack of second-hand smoke, smokers are excited to find that many businesses, bars, and even air planes allow them to smoke e-cigarettes indoors. Many electronic cigarette users have also received special permission from their employers to smoke e-cigarettes in the work place.

In the United States alone, over 700,000 smokers have already switched to electronic cigarettes. Beverly, a smoker of 15 years was interviewed , one of the many whose life has dramatically changed thanks to the electronic cigarette. She concluded that she smoked almost two packs a day for 15 years, and she thought that she would never quit. To her surprise though, when she tried electronic cigarettes she was able to become cigarette free two days later. “As a smoker, I would recommend this product to anyone who plans on becoming cigarette free. Its a great alternative, and it still gives you the action of smoking. You inhale and blow out, unlike an awkward nicotine patch or chewing gum.” – Beverly

We have researched a number of positive testimonials such as this one and we feel that as more and more Americans are made aware of this new technology, that more and more smokers will make the switch. Our interviews and research have found that the electronic cigarette will quickly become the #1 choice for smokers looking to lead a healthier lifestyle. With the high cost of smoking traditional cigarettes, and with the danger cigarettes bring to your health, we give our recommendation and “thumbs up” to anyone looking to give these devices a try.

While conducting this research, No Flame E-Cig™, one of the most reputable electronic cigarette company, has agreed to offer our readers a limited time Electronic Cigarette Risk Free Trial kit. While supplies last, you only pay $4.95 for shipping and handling costs with promo code “VAPOR” to see if this new breakthrough will help improve your life. As pictured below, you will receive your No Flame E-Cig™ Kit, along with 15 nicotine cartridges (a month's supply).

We thank No Flame E-Cig™ for providing the chance to “try it before you buy it” and a chance for thousands of smokers to make the switch. We encourage readers who currently smoke to give E-Cigarettes a try for their health and for the health of their friends and family. Make sure to order quickly, before Saturday, Octob

Physician-assisted suicide remains illegal in Canada

Published on Friday October 26, 2012

Carlos Osorio/Toronto Star Dr. Sharon Cohen, a behavioural neurologist and medical director of the Toronto Memory Program, a facility for dementia care and research, says physician-assisted dying happens all the time.
By Robert Cribb Staff Reporter

What would Toronto neurologist Dr. Sharon Cohen do if a patient wished to escape the slow, inescapable torment of a terminal disease through suicide?

Would she agree to help if the patient asked?

She pauses thoughtfully for several seconds.

“I’ll say no,” she finally declares, her eyes rising to make direct contact.

Has she assisted patients to die in the past?

“Again, I’ll say no.”

It’s the kind of careful phraseology used by many Canadian physicians torn between the threat of imprisonment for assisting a death in Canada and the instinct to help patients pleading for relief.

“Are you going to find physicians who are willing to come forward and attest to the cases where they broke the law?” Cohen says. “No. But physician-assisted dying is happening all the time.”

Countries including Belgium, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Luxembourg have all adopted various forms of liberal laws around assisted death and euthanasia.

Even in the U.S. — which many Canadians see as more politically and culturally conservative — Oregon and Washington have legalized physician-assisted suicide for people with terminal illnesses.

In Washington, 103 people requested and received prescriptions for lethal drugs last year. Seventy used them. In Oregon, 114 people obtained prescriptions, and 71 used them.

Massachusetts is considering a similar law in a vote next month.

In Canada the practice remains illegal — even though many say it continues to take place.

One in five of the two dozens physician interviewed for this story say they’ve provided, or know colleagues who have provided, some form of support to terminally ill patients seeking to end their lives.

Physician surveys in the U.K. and the U.S. starting in the 1990s report a minority — generally ranging between 6 and 20 per cent — willing to assist patients end their lives.

“I hear about it from doctors who assure me it’s happening in medical contexts,” says Wayne Sumner, a University of Toronto philosopher and author of Assisted Death.

“It reminds me of the abortion situation 30 years ago. The law says one thing, but you’ve got doctors who simply refused to cooperate.”

And like abortion prior to legalization, convictions against physicians would be difficult even if authorities could prove incidents of illegal assisted death, says Sumner.

“In abortion, people responded to compassion on the part of physicians. These are people taking a personal risk to provide abortion and acting on compassionate grounds. Likewise in this case, juries would respond to compassion.”

Few physicians are willing to test that theory, however.

They’re fearful, says Cohen. For their reputations, their medical licenses, the antipathy of those who disagree.

“There’s fear that physicians will be cast in a negative light and that religious bodies and others will lose confidence in the medical profession,” says Cohen, the 57-year-old medical director of the Toronto Memory Program. “Those fears are a very poor reason not to speak out.”

In April, one of Cohen’s patients — Nagui Morcos — took his own life in a suicide he had carefully planned with his wife.

He decided to wrest control from Huntington’s disease, which was overtaking his body.

In the months leading up to his chosen day of death, Morcos shared his plans with Cohen. She listened. And despite legal and professional concerns, she offered her support.

Morcos completed the act without her direct involvement.

But even emotional support for a patient taking his life is a rare public admission for a doctor in Canada, where a code of silence around such conversations is firmly entrenched in the medical profession.

Consistent with Canadian law, most of the country’s medical governing bodies are opposed to assisted death. So taking a principled stand, even within the quiet confidence of colleagues, can trigger career-ending attacks from within.

There are some visceral examples, burned into the minds of Canadian physicians that illustrate what can happen to a doctor seen to be offering the promise of a speedy death to patients.

Halifax physician Dr. Nancy Morrison was charged with first-degree murder in 1997 after police alleged she injected a terminally ill cancer patient with potassium chloride.

It was Morrison’s colleague who reported the incident to police.

A judge eventually dismissed the charges, saying there was insufficient evidence to show the injection had caused the death of the 65-year-old patient. But the incident created big headlines, a reprimand from Morrison’s provincial governing body and a chilling legacy for members of her profession.

Morrison declined a request for an interview.

“You have to worry as a physician how the public, your patients, and your colleagues are going to view you,” Cohen says. “Are you really going to have the opportunity to defend yourself and are your views going to be respected? Whenever you depart from the traditional viewpoint in medicine, it’s somewhat uncomfortable.”

Cohen is far more willing than others to bear that discomfort.

It’s a disposition shaped by her history.

She is the daughter of a Holocaust survivor mother from wartorn Europe who, along with her own mother, made ammunition for German soldiers in a concentration camp.

They were the fortunate ones in the family.

The rest of her family on her mother’s side was exterminated.

“I was very affected by the fact that people suffered,” she says. “How does one live a moral, ethical life in what one does? How does one do the most one can for people?”

From a young age, she was fascinated with the human brain and human behaviour.

As a child she’d spend hours in her room dissecting her beloved pets after they had died, prying the tiny brains of mice and hamsters from their cranial cavities and plopping them into Heinz baby food bottles filled with vinegar.

As a medical student in Toronto, she became troubled with how physicians under pressure would treat patients without proper consideration of the implications.

“I watched countless brain-dead patients being kept alive with catheters and tubes and invasive monitoring,” she recalls. “I couldn’t see a point to it. It was inhumane. And wasn’t it supposed to be the physician’s job to be humane and to know when to stop?

“We can’t cure everything. I don’t understand being inhumane. And yet, we are. It’s a real paradox.”

Margaret McPhee is an 80-year-old living in Vancouver who was diagnosed with lupus at the age of 24 and an autoimmune disease called Sjogren’s syndrome in her 50s. For most of her life, the retired social worker has believed we should all have the right to choose our deaths.

It’s a right she wishes to exercise for herself.

“I don’t know how any sensible person can’t believe in an assisted death if their life isn’t worthy of living.

“I do believe in Christianity and that what Jesus preached is absolutely valid,” continues McPhee, who was raised in the Church of Scotland. “But I don’t believe in what organized religions preach.”

McPhee’s systemic lupus has triggered several health problems that could eventually bring serious illness, she says. And her Sjogren’s disease dries her body’s membranes requiring eye drops several times a day and other treatments — care she says she’s unlikely to get in a hospital or care facility if she were immobilized.

She fears the point at which discomfort will turn to misery.

And she fears that if death does eventually become preferable to life, the means of accomplishing will prove impossible under current legal restrictions.

“Putting a plastic bag over your head is not 100-per-cent foolproof,” she says. “If I started getting breathless, I’m not sure I could do it.”

Violent acts aren’t an option for her either.

What she wants — and knows she can’t have — is a physician to help her.

“I think of it quite a lot. If I knew somebody could give me a pill, I’d have a much happier life. I can’t think of many things that would make me happier than to hear that physician-assisted dying is legal. But I don’t count on it.

“When animals are suffering, we put them down. Why don’t we do the same for humans?”

Medical tradition and the health-care mythology portrayed in TV doctor dramas celebrate the saving and maintaining of a heartbeat at all costs.

That may be the right choice for many patients.

But not for all, Cohen says.

Too often, the final choice is paternalistic, made by governments, legislators or physicians without much consideration of the ailing person’s wishes.

She returns to the question.

What is the moral choice? And what restrictions does the law place on that choice?

The answer is shrouded in grey.

“There’s no clarity,” Cohen says. “The law says you can’t assist an individual in the dying process or in hastening their death. But what does that mean? Does that mean you can’t have a conversation with them on this topic?

“Does it mean you must implement treatments you know are futile or continue all treatment previously initiated? Does it mean that you are liable if an individual discloses a plan to end their life and you don’t try to prevent them?”

She doesn’t know.

Few people alive have witnessed as many self-chosen deaths as Dr. Richard MacDonald, an 85-year-old Alberta-born and -trained physician.

Now the senior medical adviser for the U.S. right-to-die group Final Exit Network, MacDonald claims involvement in nearly 200 “death hastenings” across North American over the past 15 years.

When he graduated from the University of Alberta in 1952, there was no prohibition against helping patients to die peacefully when they were close to the end, he says.

That changed in the 1970s, when helping end a life became controversial.

It never made sense to him.

And he says he’s far from alone.

“Most deaths these days are medicalized, totally controlled by the medical profession,” he says. “I would say, qualitatively, in the time you and I have been speaking there have been patients who have been assisted to die by their physicians. I think it goes on in every country when a patient and physician have a close relationship that has been established.”

The process can be easily conducted with plausible deniability. But a physician’s intentions are obvious, he says.

Many doctors increase pain medicine or give very strong sedatives that will speed up the process. That might not end a life in an hour or two, but it will provide a peaceful death over a period of hours or days.

“It’s what we used to call the ‘wink, wink,’ syndrome. A doctor says, ‘This sedative should give you a good night’s sleep if you take one but it could end your life if you take them all.’ ”

Like most North American right-to-die advocates, MacDonald wants to see progressive, European-style legislation allowing for controlled and safe assisted death.

“It’s a sensible, rational approach to people who are near dying,” he says.

The pace of legal evolution has been glacial in Canada, he argues.

“Politicians don’t really want to touch the subject, but they’re being forced to by the public.”

But they are also pushed in the opposite direction by fierce opposition to the notion of legalizing assisted death.

Alex Schadenberg, executive director of Canada’s Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, says legalizing assisted suicide is simply not safe.

“Other jurisdictions clearly indicate that the number of assisted deaths increases after legalization and abuse continues.”

The 2010 study published in the British medical journal, for example, found only about half of assisted deaths in Belgium in 2007 were reported and reviewed by the country’s Federal Control and Evaluation Committee.

“Just because it is legal doesn't make it safe.”

For her part, Cohen favours legalization of physician-assisted suicide in Canada so long as safeguards are in place to protect patients and ensure autonomy.

Would she wish to end her own life is she faced the kind of intractable disease she sees in her patients?

“I don’t know the answer,” she says. “I’ve seen tremendous strength in people who decide to live on. And I’ve seen some people who are heartbreaking because the best thing for them is for their life to end. I would never say that to them, but sometimes I know it.”

In those moments, when a patient pleads for help, the confusing, messy, amorphous questions of law and morality re-emerge.

Her eyes make direct eye contact again, glistening this time.

“People don’t think about how physicians feel about this,” she says. “I would want to assist, but the law says I can’t.”

Robert Cribb is a 2012 Atkinson research fellow who has spent the past four months examining how Canadians face the end of life. These stories are part of a series that continues over the next two months.


A Texas woman has been arrested on charges that she impersonated a doctor in a bizarre scheme to trick a friend into engaging in a lesbian love affair and becoming her life partner.

Angela Buchanan, 30, of Lufkin, Texas, has been charged with online impersonation, a Class A misdemeanor. If convicted, she faces up to a year in jail, The Lufkin News reported.

According to the arrest affidavit, Buchanan contacted a longtime friend on Yahoo Messenger in March, saying she had breast cancer in 2008 and was now suffering from a pre-cancerous mass. Buchanan told her friend -- a 51-year-old woman who is not identified in court documents -- that she was being treated by a Lufkin-area gynecologist.

Buchanan's friend was later contacted by the doctor on Yahoo Messenger. Unbeknownst to the woman, the individual posing as "Doc" was actually Buchanan pretending to be a doctor, police said.

"[The victim] [said] that 'Doc' advised that the pre-cancerous mass in Buchanan's breast could possibly be delayed or cured by an increase in certain hormone production," the affidavit said. "'Doc' advised that this hormone production could be stimulated by sexual intercourse. 'Doc' began to recommend to [the victim] that she participate in sexual activity [with Buchanan] in order to bolster this hormone production and possibly save her friend's life."

The victim told police she was initially reluctant, due to religious convictions, but ultimately decided to "make this sacrifice as it might benefit Buchanan's medical condition," the affidavit said.

The nature, frequency and duration of the sex between the two women was allegedly directed by "Doc," via Yahoo Messenger.

50 Cent Calls Out Shady Club, "Jankie Promoter - Don't Waste Your Time Or Money"

Saturday, Oct 20, 2012 12:30PM

Written by Cyrus Langhorne

G-Unit's 50 Cent may be overseas but his location is not stopping him from calling out shady club promoters while out in Dubai.

Fif resorted to Twitter to publicly blast Dubai nightspot Cash Club after turning down an opportunity to have an event there.

"There is no after party tonight. Don't waste your time or money. (scam)," he tweeted Friday (October 19).
"Ill be at the Atelier fest in Dubai but no after part. Cash club is No good (scam)"
"I'm not going to cash club don't waist your money. I will not be at a after party 50cent"
"Jankie promoter cash club is a no go Dubai 50cent."
"No CASH CLUB do not go.WARNING" (50 Cent's Twitter)

The club has since responded and said the promoters, not the venue, are responsible for costing fans a 50 Cent appearance.

"@zak_vision55 indeed the promoters of Atelier made a wrong deal with 50 and we were mentioned since we were the official club for the AP!" (Cash Night Club's Twitter)

In a flyer, 50 is shown as the club's headliner with felllow entertainers Nelly, Ciara and more.

Ladies & Gents, we are proud to ANNOUNCE the grand opening of "CASH CLUB" Dubai!! Proudly presents Atelier Music festival official after party with the LEGEND ?50 CENT? -Awards: 1 x Grammy Award+ 13 x Billboard Music Award+5 x American Music Awards ?NELLY? -Awards: 4 x Grammy Awards+3 x American Music Awards+4 x Teens choice Awards ?CIARA? -Awards: 1 x Grammy Award+ 2 x MTV Music Awards+2 x Teens Choice Awards ??Celebrating Her Birthday?? ?CRAIG DAVID? -Awards: 2 x MTV Music Awards+ 4 x MOBO Awards ?EVA SIMONS? Along with DJ "NICKIE CARTEL" ALSO CELEBRATING HIS BIRTHDAY!! Get Ready DUBAI!! ? CAN YOU CASH IT? (Platinum List Dubai)

Jay-Z Gets Pressured Over Nets Ownership: "Tell The Truth, Jay-Z" [Video] <-click here

Saturday, Oct 13, 2012 7:53PM

Written by Cyrus Langhorne

Weeks after reports revealed Jay-Z may not own as much of the Brooklyn Nets as once believed, renowned political speaker Dr. Cornel West wants Young Hov to clean his slat

Reports of West's need for Jay to be honest with his fans have circulated into the weekend.

Once again, folks are all up in Jay Z's business over exactly how much of a stake he has in the Brooklyn Nets. Academic and activist Cornell West recently implored the rapper to disclose the financial facts. "Now I love Jay-Z, I've spent much time with the brother. He's a lyrical genius. But we've got to tell him the truth. Tell the truth, Jay-Z. You tell the truth on 'Reasonable Doubt' in 1996, that's what he started out with. He's telling the truth, we love you negro. But we gon' make sure you're accountable too. All of us in this together, and I'm saying it out of love," said West. (Atlanta Black Star)

Coincidentally, Jay reportedly took a jab at his haters and critics alike over his ownership percentage late last month.

During his third night of concerts at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, Jay-Z took the time to speak to the crowd and address some recent criticism. In particular, he noted how newspapers have pointed out his minority ownership of the Brooklyn Nets. "Don't let anybody diminish your accomplishments," he said to the crowd. "It's our motherf*cking time now." He then told "every single person" to throw up their middle fingers and direct them at everyone who tried to hold them back before tearing through "99 Problems." (Complex)

In August, New York Times reporter David Halbfinger discussed Jay's resistance to get featured in a Brooklyn Nets feature.

"The first couple of calls I made was to try and see if Jay-Z would talk to us because that would take the story in a very friendly direction presumably. There are issues with doing that. The issue if you get an interview is how much do you allow the interview to shape the direction of your reporting? In this case his people said, "No way, no how!" In fact, they tried to shut the story down arguing that this is just a hype story and why don't we wait until later when the arena is open. ... It was very straightforward and exactly how the story turned out to be. ... I also reminded them that I wrote the "American Gangster" piece. It's very simple. He invested $1 million and that was out of a $300 million purchase price. That's one-third of one percent, period. End of story." (The Launch Magazine)

He also opened up on the controversy behind Jay only owning one-fifteenth of one percent of the Nets.

"When Mikhail D. Prokhorov (the billionaire owner of the Brooklyn Nets) bought 80 percent of the team what that does is squeezes down the 100 percent of all the other people into 20 percent. Everybody who had a piece up to that point had their stake divided by five. That's it. Clearly what Jay's stake is worth now, you could calculate it if you knew what the team was valued at based on Prokhorov's purchase and then you could guess how


Astronomers Discover Planet Made Out of Diamond

| 12 October 2012 1:25 pm

"55 Cancri e" is a girl's best friend.

Why not visit 55 Cancri e? It's a mere 40 light years away from Earth, completely orbits its sun in a blisteringly quick 18 hours and its surface temperature can reach a pleasant 3,900 degrees Fahrenheit. Oh, did I mention that scientists believe that at least a third of the planet is made of diamonds?

Discovered back in 2011 when it crossed in front of its star, 55 Cancri e is packing some serious booty. It's roughly twice the size of Earth, but estimates put its mass at roughly eight times that of our planet. The mass estimate, when checked against the planet's radius and orbital difference, have allowed a team of astronomers to determine its chemical make up with the aid of computer modeling tools. Their best guess? It's mostly made of bling. Previously, scientists believed the planet contained substantial amounts of super-heated water.

"The surface of this planet is likely covered in graphite and diamond rather than water and granite," explained Yale researcher, Nikku Madhusudhan. "Science fiction has dreamed of diamond planets for many years, so it's amazing that we finally have evidence of its existence in the real universe. It's the first time we know of such an exotic planet that we think was born mostly of carbon-which really makes this a fundamental game-changer in our understanding of what's possible in planetary chemistry."

This isn't the first "diamond planet" astronomers have come across, but it's the first time one has been observed in a solar system similar to our own. The system's sun, 55 Cancri A, is actually visible to the naked eye and can be seen in the constellation of Cancer. According to Madhusudhan, the discovery of the planet's jeweled interior challenges commonly held assumptions about the composition of Earth-like planets.

Taliban shoot Pakistani schoolgirl campaigning for peace

Prince Lord

Prince Lord read this

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) - Taliban gunmen in Pakistan shot and seriously wounded on Tuesday a 14-year-old schoolgirl who rose to fame for speaking out against the militants, authorities said.

Malala Yousufzai was shot in the head and neck when gunmen fired on her school bus in the Swat valley, northwest of the capital, Islamabad. Two other girls were also wounded, police said.

Yousufzai became famous for speaking out against the Pakistani Taliban at a time when even the government seemed to be appeasing the hardline Islamists.

The government agreed to a ceasefire with the Taliban in Swat in early 2009, effectively recognizing insurgent control of the valley whose lakes and mountains had long been a tourist attraction.

The Taliban set up courts, executed residents and closed girls' schools, including the one that Yousufzai attended. A documentary team filmed her weeping as she explained her ambition to be a doctor.

"My friend came to me and said, 'for God's sake, answer me honestly, is our school going to be attacked by the Taliban?'," Yousufzai, then 11, wrote in a blog published by the BBC.

"During the morning assembly we were told not to wear colorful clothes as the Taliban would object."

The army launched an offensive and retook control of Swat later that year, and Yousufzai later received the country's highest civilian award. She was also nominated for international awards for child activists.

Since then, she has received numerous threats. On Tuesday, gunmen arrived at her school and asked for her by name, witnesses told police. Yousufzai was shot when she came out of class and went to a bus.

Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan said his group was behind the shooting.

"She was pro-West, she was speaking against Taliban and she was calling President Obama her ideal leader," Ehsan said by telephone from an undisclosed location.

"She was young but she was promoting Western culture in Pashtun areas," he said, referring to the main ethnic group in northwest Pakistan and southern and eastern Afghanistan. Most members of the Taliban come from conservative Pashtun tribes.

Doctors were struggling to save Yousufzai, said Lal Noor, a doctor at the Saidu Sharif Teaching Hospital in the Swat valley's main town of Mingora.

The U.S. State Department condemned the attack.

"Directing violence at children is barbaric. It's cowardly. And our hearts go out to her and the others who were wounded, as well as their families," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in Washington.

(Writing by Katharine Houreld; additional reporting by Andrew Quinn in Washington; Editing by Robert Birsel and Paul Simao)

Ahmadinejad nears last UN speech: expect a doozy

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is in the US ahead of his last speech to the UN as Iranian president Wednesday, and he's already living up to his reputation as a provocateur.

Latoya Williams

Latoya Williams read this

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad takes his final bow at the United Nations this week, and he’s likely to go out more like a lion than a lamb.

The global provocateur may be winding up his second and final term as president in dispute with Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and held in low esteem by the Iranian public as Iran’s economy falters under tough international sanctions.

But if his first comments after landing in New York for this week’s UN General Assembly are any indication, Mr. Ahmadinejad can be expected to outrage again when he speaks Wednesday from the UN podium.

RECOMMENDED: 7 most controversial UN speeches, from Ahmadinejad to Khrushchev

Speaking to reporters Monday, Ahmadinejad dismissed Israel as having “no roots in [Middle Eastern] history” and ridiculed Israel’s threats to launch air strikes against Iran’s nuclear facilities. “We do not take seriously the threats of the Zionists,” he said. “We have all the defensive means at our disposal, and we are ready to defend ourselves.”

Prospects for surprise Israeli military action against Iran have roiled US-Israel relations in recent weeks, with President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu openly disputing whether it’s time for military action. Some foreign policy experts predict Israel will reluctantly wait until after US elections for clearer support from the US. In the meantime, they say, Ahmadinejad is using the threat of attack to trot out his trademark bravado while trying to boost his standing at home.

On the international stage, Ahmadinejad continues to present himself as the defender of a new world order that would give emerging powers – and in particular Muslim counties – their due. Earlier this month, he hosted a summit of the Non-Aligned Movement in Tehran.

On Monday, the Iranian president addressed a high-level UN meeting on the rule of law – an appearance that drew howls of protest from human-rights advocates. Human rights in Iran have deteriorated further since the regime violently put down the country’s “green revolution” in 2009, rights promoters say. They also cite the plight of religious minorities, homosexuals, and dissidents in Iran.

Ahmadinejad used his time at the UN meeting to sound a moderate note, insisting that Iran’s nuclear program is for peaceful, civilian purposes. He also said that time has not run out on diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis – leaving him sounding a bit like Mr. Obama, who insists that the diplomatic window, while narrowing, has not yet closed.

As usual, Ahmadinejad's visit to the US is causing a stir. The US group United Against Nuclear Iran every year tries to “shame" New York hotels into slamming their doors in the Iranian leader’s face – and is as busy as ever mounting anti-Ahmadinejad protests this year, too.

In a bit of a if-you-can’t-beat-'em-join-‘em move, UANI has set up its command post in the Warwick Hotel – after failing to convince the West 54th Street establishment to deny the Iranian a room. It planned to hold an anti-Ahmadinejad rally outside the hotel Monday afternoon, joining a list of organizations that plan to hold similar events – including outside the UN on Wednesday, when Ahmadinejad speaks.

RECOMMENDED: 7 most controversial UN speeches, from Ahmadinejad to Khrushchev

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  • B.W.  •  15 days ago
    A MURDERER of his own people doesn't DESERVE a platform to talk in the USA.
  • The Guy Next Door  •  15 days ago
    It is too bad the People of Iran do not have the same right to Freedom of Speech as the President of Iran.
    • Charles 13 days ago
      You mean the godless left?
  • Dan  •  15 days ago
    tell me again what's so good about the UN?
    I know they like our money. What else?
  • Rog  •  15 days ago
    I think he's going to host SNL also.
  • Wayne Hall  •  15 days ago
    he needs to go on the veiw
    • Josh 1 day 6 hrs ago

      You must be very young. This was in response to us through a coup overthrowing their elected leader, and installing a US approved dictator that brutalized his people... I suppose facts aren't important though, if you get enough propaganda.
  • Bo'i  •  15 days ago
    Want another mad muslime with nukes? How about Hezbollah , one of Irans prostitutes with one of those things.....no .Send the Iranian midget home in a box.
  • wha  •  15 days ago
    The UN should be in Switzerland not the US.
    • Tellitlikeitis 14 days ago
      The city of 911 false flag should not be allowed to host the UN any more.
  • BOAT CANVAS  •  15 days ago
    What hotel is he staying, and can we get to him?
    • Old One 14 days ago
      I wouldn't amahabablowjob a glass of water even if he was dieing of thirst .
  • Mark  •  15 days ago
    Get your shoes ready!!!!
    • A Yahoo! User 15 days ago
      Senior Personals Find True Love
  • william w  •  15 days ago
    So The UN wants to pass a rule that disallows anyone speaking up against Islam but they'll let this guy get up and take the podium. ....I'm confused.
    • Bradley 14 days ago
      V. We know the 'story" Now you should read the truth.
  • Nick  •  15 days ago
    I'm sure they have "crack" in Iran, and his masjesty Ahmaddinejad smokes it... a lot of it... a whole lot of it!
    • Fran Spear 14 days ago
      Mr. Bob, I personally think there should be one and only one law prohibiting "free speech' AND THAT ONE SHOULD BE DIRECTED AT ALL MUSLIMS SAYING ANYTHING.
  • Big Oil is watching  •  15 days ago
    AhmaNutjob and the mullahs need to "disappear"
  • Carolyn  •  15 days ago
    Give the Iranian people the freedom of speech, and see how long this Tyrannt will last !
  • Mike in Missouri  •  15 days ago
    Iran has term limits...imagine that!
  • Living in Oblivion  •  15 days ago
    Iran could inflict pain if they choose, but the leaders really fear annihilation and only wave the sword thinking that everyone else will quiver in response and bow to them. So far its worked. The answer is soon to come and it probably won't be without the US giving them aid to rebuild. It's what we do best.
  • Snake Plissken  •  15 days ago
    They should replace Ahmadinejad's UN translator with a comedian like Sacha Cohen (Borat) and make him say silly $#!T!

  • Lawrence  •  15 days ago
    The UN shows why as an organization is stupid, spineless, and incompetent by allowing this idiot to even speak. Does anyone at the UN really think Iran nuclear power program is for generating power?
  • Sandi  •  15 days ago
    anyone that thinks this cowardly little weasel is going OUT is a fool!!
  • Panama Red  •  15 days ago
    Ahmadinejad: 9/11
  • 100th meridian  •  15 days ago
    Goes out with a bang? I'm not even sure that is funny. The ultimate irony would be that after so many years of fearing our governments will use nuclear warfare; it turns out that even our governments fear nuclear weapon

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Latoya Williams

Latoya Williams read this

Libyans and "foreigners" carried out the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans, Libyan President Mohamed Magariaf told NBC News on Saturday.

Magariaf's interview with NBC's Ayman Mohyeldin was the first time any Libyan official has said foreigners were involved in the planning and execution of the Tuesday night attack that took the lives of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three others.

"We have assumptions and we have some information, and all that information we have now leads to the same direction about the perpetrators, the criminals," Magariaf told NBC in the interview scheduled to air on "Nightly News" Saturday.

Foreigners were involved in the planning and execution of the attack, he said. Magariaf did not identify where the foreigners came from but said he was sharing details with U.S. officials.Many people reportedly have exploited Libya's security vacuum and loopholes, Libyans have told NBC.
                        HARLEM IN TIME LAPSE PHOTOGRAPHY

Published: May 29, 2009 Correction Appended


From the time he arrived in the United States from Chile as a college student in 1965, the photographer Camilo José Vergara has been haunting, and haunted by, American cities.

He lives in New York but has spent the better part of the past four decades in Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit and Los Angeles, urban centers with big, poor, largely segregated minority neighborhoods. He has also frequented smaller, fallen-apart industrial cities like Camden, N.J., and Gary, Ind., places he calls “permanent ghettos.”

By his own estimate he has returned to Gary more than a hundred times.

On each visit he has done the same thing: take pictures, mostly of buildings, often the same ones, recording over decades their abandonment, disintegration, demolition and replacement by cheaper structures, or parking lots, or by nothing at all.

This vigilance has produced several books, among them two great, generative visual essays in architectural anthropology, “The New American Ghetto” (1995) and “American Ruins” (1999), and exhibitions like “Harlem, 1970-2009: Photographs by Camilo José Vergara” now at the New-York Historical Society.

His self-created job as documenter is demanding. It can require the fearlessness of a reporter in a war zone and the solicitous detachment of a doctor doing rounds, though Mr. Vergara doesn’t claim these qualities. He has said in interviews that he goes where he goes and does what he does because he needs to.

Focusing on images of constant material change distracts him from anxieties, transports him back to the decaying, now disappeared world of his childhood, and connects him empathetically to an American culture from which he otherwise feels removed. Far from being a brash photographic adventurer, he is more like a ghost haunting ghosts.

The ghosts are unusually vivacious in the 100 pictures of Harlem at the New-York Historical Society. Mr. Vergara first visited that neighborhood soon after he arrived in New York in 1968, at the age of 24. Urban poverty and ill-conceived urban renewal had already done irreparable damage. New York was jittery with change. He started taking pictures.

At the time he was exploring a genre broadly known as street photography. (Helen Levitt was an artist he particularly admired. An exhibition of her work at Laurence Miller Gallery is reviewed on Page 29.) And the earliest pictures in the historical society exhibition are shots of people going about their lives on Harlem sidewalks: black children playing with white Barbies on a stoop, a nervous wedding party gathered in front of a church.

Although tied down by a Midtown desk job, Mr. Vergara returned regularly to Harlem on his lunch hours, establishing a repeat-visit pattern that would lead to time-lapse architectural sequences stretching over years.

In 1977 he photographed the exotic-looking exterior of a nightclub-bar called the Purple Manor at 65 East 125th Street, the wide facade, with sets of double doors, painted a very 1970s lavender; the windows, fitted with decorative paper borders, had a jazzy hourglass shape. The club’s clientele was reputed to move in upper levels of the drug trade.

By 1980 much had changed. In a picture Mr. Vergara took that year, the bar is gone and its premises divided into two small storefronts painted different colors: the one on the left baby blue, the one on the right fire-engine red. Over several years the storefronts also took on different functions, each of which Mr. Vergara photographed.

In 1980 the left-hand storefront was a fish-and-chips shop, a year later a discount variety store. After an initial lag in activity, the storefront on the right began selling women’s clothes before turning into a smoke shop, an identity it retained for some years, even as its neighbor morphed from furniture store to unisex boutique to beauty salon, with superficial alterations at each change.

Both stores hit hard times in the recession-plagued 1990s. The facades are marked up, the sidewalk cluttered. Then in 2004 the two stores were reunited to accommodate a Sleepy’s mattress showroom. But within a few years that franchise moved on. In 2008 the space that had been the Purple Manor 30 years earlier was plate-glass-fronted, accessible to the disabled, and for rent.

Mr. Vergara takes us through all these dramatic shifts in function, fashion and fortune with an attitude of studied neutrality. He shoots storefronts always straight on, from the same distance, in unmoody light. The results are urban photography as archaeological field work. Over the span of eight images we see many changes, but we aren’t asked to feel good or bad about them. We’re meant to think: Look what life does.

By contrast an unmistakably elegiac current flows through Mr. Vergara’s single pictures of Harlem architecture. The Renaissance Ballroom and Casino on West 137th Street, built in the 1920s as a showcase for performers like Count Basie and Duke Ellington, is now a moldering pile. A 19th-century fire watchtower in Marcus Garvey Park, the only surviving example of its kind, looks rickety and vulnerable.

A group of buildings on Madison Avenue near 127th Street that Mr. Vergara shot in 1982 is, we learn from his terse wall label, long gone. “There is now an empty lot in this space.”

And yet, however ambivalently, an upbeat note comes through. Harlem is, after all, an economic success story. Old town houses, once derelict, are being preserved. Tenements abandoned in the 1990s have been rehabilitated. Churches are flourishing. Storefronts have paying occupants.

That the occupants may be McDonald’s and Kentucky Fried Chicken, and that portions of 125th Street are now corporate-brand shopping malls, may not be unalloyed good news. But the neighborhood around them suggests a degree of material security that its equivalents in Camden, Detroit and Gary can, at this point, not even dream of.

The show’s true source of warmth, though, lies in the unusually high number — for Mr. Vergara — of pictures of people, of a kind that bring him full circle to the street photographer he was 40 years ago.

He made some wonderful portraits back then: one of a Bolivian Indian in traditional clothes in East Harlem in 1970 is in the show. And he’s making some beauties now, as in his 2008 picture of the street evangelist Pierre Gaspar, known as the Hallelujah Man, and a 2009 shot of a man and child walking past billboard-size portraits of Malcolm X and Barack Obama on West 125th Street.

But in portraits, as in architectural pictures, time marches on. A man wearing overalls poses for the camera in what looks like a densely planted sunlit field. The year is 1990. From a wall label we learn that the man’s name was Eddie; that he was originally from Selma, Ala.; and that he farmed an empty lot on Frederick Douglass Boulevard between 118th and 119th Streets. We further learn that today, almost two decades later, a luxury apartment occupies the lot and “a Starbucks has opened on the exact spot where Eddie stands.”

In “American Ruins” Mr. Vergara lists works of art in various mediums that have influenced him deeply. He mentions the photographs of Levitt, Eugène Atget and Walker Evans. From literature he cites the death-obsessed novels of Dostoyevsky and the apparition-filled stories of that connoisseur of decay, Edgar Allan Poe.

Miles Davis, Mahler and the British composer John Dowland, who wrote his sad songs of longing from exile in France, are on the list. Among artists, he singles out Piranesi, the Dutch landscapist Jacob van Ruisdael, and Claude Monet, particularly Monet’s images of Rouen Cathedral with its facade disintegrating into light.

The reason for Mr. Vergara’s attraction to Ruisdael — painter of crumbling towers, castles and cemeteries — seems obvious. And he specifically likens Piranesi’s vast, hollow, exitless prisons to the bombed-out American cities in which he has spent so many years. He makes no direct connection between Monet’s spectral cathedral — is it falling down or coming together? — and the facades morphing, dying and resurrecting in the Harlem photographs, but I think he could.

“Harlem, 1970-2009: Photographs by Camilo José Vergara” is at the New-York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West, through July 12. “Storefront Churches: Photographs by Camilo José Vergara” opens at the National Building Museum in Washington on June 20.

Correction: June 04, 2009

A photograph on Friday with an art review of “Harlem, 1970-2009: Photographs by Camilo José Vergara” at the New-York Historical Society, using information provided by Mr. Vergara, was published in error. While three of the photographs in a series showed the storefront at 2038 Fifth Avenue in 1992, 1996 and 2007, the fourth photograph, showing a laundry, was of an adjacent building. It did not show 2038 Fifth Avenue in 1999.

YEMEN : RENEWED violence reaches Taiz

A woman demonstrates to denounce violence in the southern Yemeni city of Taiz during a demonstration in Sanaa December 3, 2011. The words on her headband reads "Oh coward, Taiz is free and can't be disgraced!" REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah
(YEMEN - Tags: POLITICS ,CIVIL UNREST , blackmoney848pages worldscope)... d(O_o)b


Dirtiest Cities in America Christopher Helman, Forbes.com November 4, 2011 Provided by: Christopher Helman, Forbes.com November 4, 2011 SendPrint Share this page  Facebook Twitter Myspace  Delicious  Digg California has gone to extremes to improve the state’s air quality, pushing out coal-fired power plants and implementing the strictest auto emissions standards in the nation. L.A.’s persistent smog layer may be a shadow of its former self, but it hasn’t been enough. Lots of people and too many cars means California still has seven big cities that rank among the 20 most polluted in the nation.

L.A. ranks No. 2 on our list of America’s Dirtiest Cities, and San Diego is no. 9, but some of the worst air in the country is in smaller cities in the San Joaquin Valley, where a ring of mountains traps a stagnant stew of ozone and particulate matter. According to data that Forbes crunched from The American Lung Association’s State of the Air 2011 report, the most hazardous breathing in America is in Bakersfield. Hot, dusty, adjacent to California’s biggest oil fields, Bakersfield has 60 days a year of unhealthy air, 10 times a level considered acceptable. Its ozone levels are better than at any time in the past 15 years, but still unhealthy for 100 days out of the year.

See full list: America’s Dirtiest Cities
By contrast, Houston (No. 18) has 25 bad ozone days a year while New York (No. 14) suffers just 17, down from 40 a decade ago).

The Lung Association figures that half of the U.S. population lives in places where the air is sometimes unfit to breathe, contributing to asthma and lung cancer. And death. The data show that more people die of respiratory ailments on bad-air days.
Here are the top 10 dirtiest cities:

#10 Sacramento-Arden-Arcade-Yuba City, CA-NV

2.4 million
Year-round particulate pollution rank:
45 (approx.)
Short-term particulate pollution rank:
Ozone pollution rank:

Sacramento, CA
Photo: Getty Images A little better than Bakersfield and Fresno, but Sacramento still suffers stagnant air stuck in the San Joaquin Valley.

San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, CA

3 million
Year-round particulate pollution rank:
30 (approx.)
Short-term particulate pollution rank:
Ozone pollution rank:

San Diego, CA
Photo: iStock There's no dirty coal plants here, and you'd think the ocean breeze would keep the air clean, but San Diego has a big port and busy highways that lead to and from Mexico.

Phoenix-Mesa-Glendale, AZ

4.4 million
Year-round particulate pollution rank:
Short-term particulate pollution rank:
Ozone pollution rank:

Phoenix, AZ
Photo: iStock Heat plus cars equals ozone. Epic dust storms also regularly engulf Phoenix.

Birmingham-Hoover-Cullman, AL

1.2 million
Year-round particulate pollution rank:
Short-term particulate pollution rank:
Ozone pollution rank:

Birmingham, AL
Photo: iStock Pollution levels have improved a lot, but Birmingham suffers from being located in a valley that tends to trap stagnant summer air. Two interstate highways don't help either.

Modesto, CA

Year-round particulate pollution rank:
Short-term particulate pollution rank:
Ozone pollution rank:

Photo: Forbes Home to E&J Gallo Winery, which also operates the largest wine bottle manufacturing plant in the world.

Pittsburgh-New Castle, PA

2.4 million
Year-round particulate pollution rank:
Short-term particulate pollution rank:
Ozone pollution rank:

Pittsburgh, PA
Photo: iStock This old steel town is a new boom town for natural gas drilling, and downwind of coal-fired power plants in Ohio and West Virigina.

Fresno-Madera, CA

1.1 million
Year-round particulate pollution rank:
Short-term particulate pollution rank:
Ozone pollution rank:

Fresno, CA
Photo: Forbes San Joaquin Valley air might be getting better; last August, for the first time in recorded history, Fresno had no days with unhealthy ozone levels.

Visalia-Porterville, CA

Year-round particulate pollution rank:
Short-term particulate pollution rank:
Ozone pollution rank:

Visalia, CA
Photo: Forbes Proximity to the giant trees of Sequoia National Park isn't enough to clean Visalia's smoggy San Joaquin Valley air.

Los Angeles-Long Beach-Riverside, CA

17.8 million
Year-round particulate pollution rank:
Short-term particulate pollution rank:
Ozone pollution rank:

Los Angeles, CA
Photo: iStock Millions of cars, a huge port in Long Beach, busy airports -- at least L.A.'s smog is better than it used to be.

Bakersfield-Delano, CA

Year-round particulate pollution rank:
Short-term particulate pollution rank:
Ozone pollution rank:

Bakersfield, CA
Photo: iStock Hot, dusty and surrounded by California's biggest oil fields, Bakersfield has all the ingredients for the worst air in the nation.


George Benton

Managers: Herman Diamond (1949-1965), Joe Gramby (1965-1970) George Benton was born in 1933, one of eleven children. He grew up in Philadelphia and discovered boxing as a teenager. He turned pro at the age of 16, and became a highly ranked middleweight contender in the early 1960s. Known for his classic boxing skills, he posted wins over the likes of Joey Giardello and Jimmy Ellis.

George Benton vs. Joey Giardello After he defeated Giardello in 1962, Benton thought he would get a title shot, but it never happened. Giardello's manager was well connected and was able to get Giardello a fight with world middleweight champion
Dick Tiger. Giardello's manager was Lou Duva. "Yeah, I screwed George out of his shot," Duva told Sports Illustrated. "He didn't even know about it til I told him many years later." Benton never fought for a world title, but he did win the Pennsylvania State middleweight title in 1964.

Benton's boxing career ended when he was shot in 1970. The shooter, known around the neighborhood as Chinaman, had tried to pick up Benton's sister at a bar and Benton's brother knocked him out. Vowing to kill someone from the Benton family, Chinaman shot Benton in the back as he was walking to work. The bullet is still lodged near his spine.

Benton turned his attention to training. He studied under Eddie Futch and was in Joe Frazier's corner for The Thrilla in Manilla. He also devised the strategy for Leon Spinks's upset of Muhammad Ali.

Known for his quiet demeanor, the "Professor" has imparted his boxing knowledge to such fighters as Johnny Bumphus, Evander Holyfield, Rocky Lockridge, Mike McCallum, Meldrick Taylor, and Pernell Whitaker, among others.

For 17 years, Benton worked with Lou Duva and Main Events as the head trainer for many of their fighters. In 1989 and 1990, he received the Futch-Condon Award for "Trainer of the Year" by the Boxing Writers Association of America.

In 2001, Benton was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame for his work as a trainer. He was also inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame in 2007.


"Hand of Hope."

A picture began circulating in November. It should be "The Picture of the Year," or perhaps, "Picture of the Decade." It won't be. In fact, unless you obtained a copy of the U.S. paper which published it, you probably would never have seen it.

The picture is that of a 21-week-old unborn baby named Samuel Alexander Armas, who is being operated on by surgeon named Joseph Bruner. The baby was diagnosed with spina bifida and would not survive if removed from his mother's womb. Little Samuel's mother, Julie Armas, is an obstetrics nurse in Atlanta. She knew of Dr. Bruner's remarkable surgical procedure. Practicing at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, he performs these special operations while the baby is still in the womb.

During the procedure, the doctor removes the uterus via C-section and makes a small incision to operate on the baby. As Dr. Bruner completed the surgery on Samuel, the little guy reached his tiny, but fully developed hand through the incision and firmly grasped the surgeon's finger. Dr. Bruner was reported as saying that when his finger was grasped, it was the most emotional moment of his life, and that for an instant during the procedure he was just frozen, totally immobile.

The photograph captures this amazing event with perfect clarity. The editors titled the picture, "Hand of Hope." The text explaining the picture begins, "The tiny hand of 21-week-old fetus Samuel Alexander Armas emerges from the mother's uterus to grasp the finger of Dr. Joseph Bruner as if thanking the doctor for the gift of life."

Little Samuel's mother said they "wept for days" when they saw the picture. She said, "The photo reminds us pregnancy isn't about disability or an illness, it's about a little person" Samuel was born in perfect health, the operation 100 percent successful. Now see the actual picture, and it is awesome...incredible....and hey, pass it on! The world needs to see this one!

Troy Anthony Davis

Execution of Troy Davis in Ga. sparks protests from outside
White House

(October 9, 1968 – September 21, 2011[1][2]) was an American death row inmate convicted of the August 19, 1989, murder of Savannah, Georgia, police officer Mark MacPhail. MacPhail was working as a security guard at a Burger King when he intervened to defend a man being assaulted in a nearby parking lot. During Davis’ 1991 trial, witnesses testified they had seen Davis shoot MacPhail, and two others testified that Davis confessed to them. Although the murder weapon was not recovered, ballistic evidence presented at trial tied bullets recovered at or near the scene to those at another shooting in which Davis was also charged. Davis was convicted of murder and various lesser charges, including the earlier shooting, and was sentenced to death in August 1991.

Seven of nine eyewitnesses signed affidavits changing or recanting all or part of their testimony. The limited ability to appeal his conviction, due in part to the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act,[3] brought his plight to international attention.[3][4] Prosecutors argued that it was too late to present the recantations as evidence.[5]citation needed] Witnesses stated they had felt pressure by police to implicate Davis. Witnesses also implicated another witness, Sylvester "Redd" Coles, in the crime. The appeals were denied with state and federal courts declaring that Davis had not provided a "substantive claim" of innocence and that the recantations were unpersuasive. In July 2007, September 2008, and October 2008, execution dates were scheduled, but each execution was stayed shortly before it was to take place.

Amnesty International and other groups such as National Association for the Advancement of Colored People took up Davis' cause. Prominent politicians and leaders, including former President Jimmy Carter, Al Sharpton, Pope Benedict XVI, Nobel laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu, presidential candidate Bob Barr and former FBI Director and judge William S. Sessions called upon the courts to grant Davis a new trial or evidentiary hearing.

In August 17, 2009, the Supreme Court of the United States, over the dissenting votes of two justices, ordered a federal district court in Georgia to consider whether new evidence "that could not have been obtained at the time of trial clearly establishes [Davis'] innocence". The evidentiary hearing was held in June 2010, during which affidavits from several prosecution witnesses from the trial changing or recanting their previous testimony were presented; some affiants asserted they had been coerced by police. The State presented witnesses, including the police investigators and original prosecutors, denying any coercion. Other witnesses who had not testified at trial asserted that Coles had confessed to the killing, but this evidence was excluded as hearsay as Coles was not subpoenaed by the defense to rebut it. In an August 2010 decision, the conviction was upheld by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia, which described defense efforts to upset the conviction as "largely smoke and mirrors". Subsequent appeals, including to the Supreme Court, were rejected, and a fourth execution date was set for September 21, 2011. Nearly one million people signed petitions urging the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles to grant clemency.[6] Following a hearing, the Board denied him clemency.[7] On September 21, 2011, the Board denied a request to reconsider its decision,[8] and Davis was executed.

Davis maintained his innocence. Various appeals in state and federal courts followed his conviction. Davis and his lawyers argued that the racial composition of the jury (seven of the twelve were black, as is Davis) and poor advocacy from his lawyers had affected his right to a fair trial.[

                           Desperate plight of Burma's Rohingya people


Nasima, 22, is from the Rohingya ethnic group, a Muslim minority that lives in western Burma. Rights groups say it is one of the most persecuted communities in the world - they were made stateless in 1982, and deemed to be illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

Several hundred thousand have since crossed into Bangladesh, where people speak a similar language. This year Dhaka has been accused of arresting hundreds of Rohingya and forcing them over the border - claims the government denies. It says it is too poor to help them. The BBC's Mark Dummett spoke to Nasima in the Kutupalong makeshift camp, which is now home to more than 30,000 Rohingyas.

Nasima's baby died as she fled Burma back to Bangladesh "In Burma my people face persecution, so that's why we come to Bangladesh," Nasima said.

"In my family's case, we came under pressure from the government because we had some property.

"One day, the army accused my father of sheltering someone who had just returned from Bangladesh. Anyone who comes back to Burma is sent to jail, so it is illegal to look after them. But that accusation was false.

"They took my father to a military camp and beat him up. After seven days they sent us his blood-stained clothes and said they would kill him.

"So we sold all our cattle and chickens at the market. We sent that money to the camp and they then released him.

"Later, my brother was attacked by some Buddhist people. He was badly injured and after lots of suffering he eventually died.

"As I grew up, my father decided that I wasn't safe in Burma. The government doesn't let us marry so he told me to leave for Bangladesh.

"We had a relative who was handicapped and a beggar, and she agreed to look after me.

"We took a boat over the river and it was very dangerous. On the other side we were stopped by the Bangladesh Rifles [BDR].

"They demanded bribes of 100 taka each [$1.50] to let us through, but we only had 100 taka between us.

"'You must leave the girl with us then,' the BDR men said. But my relative refused and argued that she could not move without me helping her. So finally they let us through."

Police raid

Nasima said: "I already had one sister in Bangladesh but I didn't know where she was living. So we went to Cox's Bazar and lived as beggars.

"Sometimes people would give us a little rice or a bit of money to survive.

"Finally I met a man who knew my sister. She was living in Alikadam, and her husband came and got me.

Nasima says death would be better than life in the camp "I lived there for two years, working as a farm labourer. Life was fine, and I was able to marry and have a child.

"But five days after the baby was born the police arrived. They came without warning when we were having dinner.

"They rounded up all the Burmese men including my husband and my sister's husband and put them in a police truck.

"I told the police that I had a newborn and that we could not survive without my husband.

"I begged them to let him stay, but they said that the Rohingya should expect no mercy. So I told them to take me too.

"They put me into the lorry and drove us to the river.

"They found a fishing boat and threatened to beat up the captain if he didn't take us to the other side - to Burma.

"Once we got there, he told us that he had seen some other Rohingyas being shot by the Nasaka [the Burmese border guards], and he told us how to follow the river upstream and then sneak back into Bangladesh.

"We walked the whole night and then finally in the morning we got back to this side.

"That's when I noticed there was something wrong with my baby. He had died during the journey and I hadn't even realised it. We dug a small hole with our bare hands and buried him there.

"We came to a road and waved to a passing jeep. We begged the driver to save our lives and take us away from there. All I had to pay him with was my scarf.

Families in the camp are struggling to feed their children "He had heard about the Kutupalong camp and said that the Rohingya were safe there.

"One week after arriving at the camp my husband said he had to go and find work. He left and I have no idea where he is now.

"I survive by going into the jungle and collecting firewood to sell. If I collect some, I can then eat a little.

"This week I have only had three meals. But I am living alone. It is much worse for some of the families with 10 or 11 mouths to feed.

"Death would be better than this life."

Alleged drug lord barricades Jamaican slum

By DAVID McFADDEN, Associated Press Writer David Mcfadden, Associated Press Writer1 hr 48 mins ago

 KINGSTON, Jamaica – Security forces fought their way into the warren-like complex that is the slum stronghold of a Jamaican gang leader facing extradition to the United States and sporadic gunfire could be heard late into Monday night.

More than 1,000 police officers and soliders attacked heavily armed gang members defending the West Kingston base of Christopher "Dudus" Coke, who has been indicted in the U.S. on drug and arms trafficking charges. Military helicopters flying with their lights off could be heard buzzing above the darkened slums, where authorities cut off power.

As security forces broke through barbed-wire barricades Monday afternoon to begin their offensive in Coke's Tivoli Garden neighborhood, clashes with masked gunmen spread to other volatile slums close to the capital on Jamaica's southeastern coast, far from the tourist resorts on the north shore.

It was not immediately clear what was happening inside the virtual fortresses where Coke's supporters had massed since last week, when Prime Minister Bruce Golding dropped his nine-month stonewalling against extraditing the Jamaican "don," who has ties to his governing party.

Exact details were not known about casualties. Authorities said two officers had been killed and at least six wounded since Sunday, and at least one Jamaican soldier was shot dead during Monday's fighting at Tivoli Gardens, the Caribbean island's first housing project.

A woman in the besieged slum told Radio Jamaica that she and her terrified family were hunkered down in their apartment as a firefight raged outside.

"I really pray that somebody will find the love in their heart and stop this right now. It is just too much, my brother," the woman told the station, the sound of a gunbattle nearby.

Gangsters loyal to Coke began barricading streets and preparing for battle immediately after Golding caved in to a growing public outcry over his opposition to extradition. Jamaica's leader, whose represents West Kingston in Parliament, had claimed the U.S. indictment relied on illegal wiretap evidence.

West Kingston, which includes the Trenchtown slum where reggae superstar Bob Marley was raised, is the epicenter of the violence. But on Monday, security forces also came under fire in areas outside that patchwork of gritty slums.

Gunmen shot at police while trying to erect barricades in a poor section of St. Catherine parish, which is just outside the two parishes where the government on Sunday implemented a monthlong state of emergency.

A police station in an outlying area of Kingston parish also was showered with bullets by a roving band of gunmen with high-powered rifles.

Security Minister Dwight Nelson said "police are on top of the situation," but gunfire was reported in several poor communities and brazen gunmen even shot up Kingston's central police station.

The drug trade is deeply entrenched in Jamaica, which is the largest producer of marijuana in the region and where gangs have become powerful organized crime networks involved in international gun smuggling. It fuels one of the world's highest murder rates; the island of 2.8 million people had about 1,660 homicides in 2009.

Police Commissioner Owen Ellington said "scores of criminals" from drug gangs across the Caribbean island had joined the fighting in the Kingston area, where the fear of gun violence has driven many to live behind gated walls with keypad entry systems and 24-hour security.

In a sun-splashed island known more for reggae music and all-inclusive resorts, the violence erupted Sunday afternoon after nearly a week of rising tensions over the possible extradition of Coke to the United States, where he faces a possible sentence of life in prison.

Coke is described as one of the world's most dangerous drug lords by the U.S. Justice Department.

He leads one of the gangs that control politicized slums known as "garrisons." Political parties created the gangs in the 1970s to rustle up votes. The gangs have since turned to drug trafficking, but each remains closely tied to a political party. Coke's gang is tied to the governing Labor Party.

Civil aviation officials said some flights to Kingston were diverted Monday to the north coast tourist mecca of Montego Bay and a few flights were canceled altogether. U.S. officials have warned that access roads to the airport could be blocked by unrest.

The U.S. State Department said Monday it was "the responsibility of the Jamaican government to locate and arrest Mr. Coke." A U.S. Embassy spokeswoman denied widespread rumors that U.S. officials were meeting with Coke's lawyers.

Coke's lead attorney, Don Foote, told reporters his legal team had planned to have talks with U.S. officials at the embassy but the meeting was canceled.

Foote refused to say whether Coke was hunkered down in the barricaded Tivoli Gardens slum or was somewhere else in the country.

In a national address Sunday night, Golding said the state of emergency order for Kingston and St. Andrew parish gives authorities the power to restrict movement. Security forces will also be able to conduct searches and detain people without warrants.

The U.S. extradition controversy and the ensuing violence has brought to the fore issues that have been simmering for a long time in Jamaica, specifically the links between the political parties and volatile slums that are virtually one-party garrisons.

Amid the escalating tension, the country's civil society has been demanding through talk shows, blogs and Facebook groups that the government sever all links with powerful "community dons" like Coke.

"If Coke is somehow able to hold out and formally establish his community as a state within a state, then Jamaica's future is bleak," said Brian Meeks, a professor of government at Jamaica's Mona campus of the University of the West Indies.

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Ex-priest says he reported

Belgian bishop abuse

By RAF CASERT and ALESSANDRA RIZZO, Associated Press Writers Raf Casert And Alessandra Rizzo, Associated Press Writers – 1 hr 12 mins ago BRUSSELS – A retired priest said Saturday that he told church authorities years ago about allegations that Belgium's longest-serving bishop had abused a boy but he was stonewalled until the bishop was forced to resign.

between 15 and 17 years ago after learning of them from a confidant of the Retired priest Rik Deville told The Associated Press that he made the allegations to Archbishop Godfried Danneelsvictim's family. Danneels said through a spokesman that he had no recollections of Deville's allegations at the time.

Bruges Bishop Roger Vangheluwe, 73, resigned Friday and expressed sorrow for having sexually abused the boy.

Norbert Bethune, who was dismissed after a doctrinal conflict with superiors, told the AP that he had brought allegations by some 30 other victims of other clerical abuse to the attention of Danneels and "he was so angry was us, so negative that he did not want to hear anything." Bethune said reports in the Belgian media that he also reported allegations of abuse by Vangheluwe to Danneels were inaccurate.

The Vatican is moving to get rid of bishops tainted by the scandal — either those directly responsible of abusing children or ones who had sought to shield abusive priests. A Vatican spokesman said Saturday that the Catholic Church is capable of healing the wounds inflicted on it by the scandal.

The Rev. Federico Lombardi said a recent meeting between Pope Benedict XVI and abuse victims in Malta brought the victims new hope. He said the meeting had been held in the context of a living, dynamic church that is "capable of recognizing its wounds sincerely but also of obtaining the grace of healing."

"We needed this message," Lombardi told Vatican Radio.

In recent days Benedict also accepted the resignation of an Irish bishop who acknowledged failing to report abuse to police.

Two more Irish bishops have offered to resign and the pope is expected to agree. There are also mounting calls for the country's top prelate, Cardinal Sean Brady, to leave because of his handling of the case of a notorious child rapist.

"The time has come for truth, transparency and credibility," Lombardi said in separate comments reported by the ANSA news agency. "The situation we are going through is extremely demanding and it requires us to be absolutely truthful and credible."

Lombardi, who was speaking at a meeting organized by the Italian Bishops' Conference, also called for "rigor and the refusal of any hypocrisy," according to ANSA.

Hundreds of people have reported cases of abuse by priests at schools, orphanages and other church-run institutions. Victims say bishops and other church higher-ups covered up the crimes, choosing to protect the church rather than children.

The scandal has swept across Europe, including in Benedict's native Germany, and elsewhere.

This week, the Vatican has said it would do everything in its power to bring justice to abusive priests and implement "effective measures" to protect children.

Benedict himself recounted his tearful meeting with Maltese victims, and promised action to confront the scandal. Neither Benedict nor the Vatican has elaborated on what action or measures are being considered.

The Vatican recently published guidelines instructing bishops to report abuse to police when civil laws require it. The Vatican insists that has long been church policy, though it was never before explicitly written.


Rizzo reported from Vatican City.

                 Airlines: passengers should give seats to stranded

By DAVID STRINGER, Associated Press Writer David Stringer, Associated Press Writer – 46 mins ago LONDON – Airlines appealed to passengers to give up their seats to stranded travelers Saturday, as carriers across Europe attempted to clear a backlog of thousands of tourists grounded by the ash cloud spewed from Iceland's volcano.

British Airways and Virgin Atlantic appealed for passengers booked on long-haul flights next week to consider giving up their seat to make way for travelers still stuck following flight disruptions.

A week of airspace closures caused by ash clouds gusting from Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull (pronounced ay-yah-FYAH-lah-yer-kuhl) volcano caused the worst breakdown in civil aviation in Europe since World War II. More than 100,000 flights were canceled and airlines are on track to lose more than $2 billion.

"It's a very difficult situation, and we've had to deal with a lot of complexity, aircraft stuck in different parts of the world, crew stuck in different parts of the world," said British Airways chief executive Willie Walsh.

Flight authorities in Europe say the majority of the continent is now free of volcanic ash, and most airline services are operating as normal. Several carriers said they are adding extra flights to help the stranded return home.

Iceland's civil protection agency said Eyjafjallajokull was still spewing ash, but that the plume was now around 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) high — not large enough to reach jet streams. Winds are now gusting from the south east — away from Europe, said Olof Baldursdottir, of the civil protection agency.

Most airports in Iceland — including Keflavik International Airport and Reykjavik International Airport — were closed.

"There are still a lot of tremors in the volcano, but the plume is now less than 3 kilometers high and the ash is falling mainly locally," said Baldursdottir.

Pall Einarsson, a geophysicist at the University of Iceland, said Eyjafjallajokull was being closely monitored, and spewing ash in much smaller quantities than at the beginning of its eruption.

At London's Gatwick airport — the city's second busiest hub — Daniel Starks, a 39-year-old farmer, said he was one of 200 tourists stuck on the Spanish island of Tenerife for an extra five days as a result of the disruptions. "There's a lot still out there that can't get back," he said.

France's Foreign Ministry said Saturday that about 10,000 French travelers remain stranded — about half the number estimated Friday, including 60 people stuck in Nepal. France has made euro1 million ($1.3 million) available in aid to French travelers to help cover expenses due to ash-related delays.

A spokesman for Germany's Deutsche Lufthansa AG said only a few passengers were still stranded abroad.

"There are only a few passengers who are still waiting to get on a plane abroad to get back to Germany, but since there's always a few empty seats on our planes, we're taking care of this on an individual basis and are filling up those vacant seats," said Peter Schneckenleitner. "Our flight traffic is almost back to normal."

Virgin Atlantic founder Richard Branson has labeled as unnecessary the Europe-wide ban on flights prompted by concerns the volcanic ash could cause problems with airliner engines.

"A blanket ban of the whole of Europe was not the right decision," Branson said. "Planes have to put up with sandstorms in Africa, the engines are designed to put up with a lot more than existed."

He said Virgin engineers had insisted that there "were plenty of corridors through which the airlines could have flown." Branson said his airline lost 50 million pounds ($77 million).

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has defended the decision to close European airspace, insisting it was correct to prioritize passenger safety.


Associated Press writers Raphael Satter in London, Kirsten Grieshaber in Berlin and Elaine Ganley in Paris contributed to this report

                                                          Jafar Abbas

Jafar Abbas Jafar Abbas, center, grieves during a funeral for his son Ahmed, 19, in the Shiite stronghold of Sadr City in Baghdad, Iraq, Saturday, April 24, 2010. Ahmed was killed when a series of bombings mainly targeting Shiite worshippers killed at least 69 people on Friday, officials said, just days after U.S. and Iraqi forces killed the top two al-Qaida leaders in Iraq in what was described as devastating blow to the insurgency.« Read less

(AP Photo/Karim Kadim)

By REBECCA SANTANA, Associated Press Writer Rebecca Santana, Associated Press Writer – 2 hrs 26 mins ago BAGHDAD – An influential anti-American Shiite cleric called on his followers to defend themselves and places of worship after deadly Baghdad mosque bombings but urged self-restraint to avoid giving the U.S. military an excuse for postponing withdrawal plans.

Muqtada al-Sadr
's statement signaled growing impatience among Shiites over continued bombings by insurgents and the government's failure to protect them.

Friday's bombings — most targeting Shiite places of worship as crowds were at prayer — killed 72 people in Iraq's bloodiest day so far this year in an apparent backlash by the Sunni-led insurgency after the slaying of the top two al-Qaida leaders last weekend.

Nobody claimed responsibility for the attacks, but Iraqi officials were quick to blame al-Qaida in Iraq, which frequently targets Shiite mosques and processions in a bid to stoke new sectarian bloodshed. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said the insurgents were fighting back after the deaths of their two leaders.

Al-Sadr, whose forces have frequently clashed with the Americans, issued a statement late Friday calling on "believers" to join the Iraqi army and police "to defend their shrines, mosques, prayers, markets, houses and their towns."

He stopped short of mentioning the Mahdi Army, his once-powerful militia, which used to respond to such attacks with raids on Sunni areas. Several advisers said al-Sadr was offering his assistance to the government in a rare show of magnanimity to al-Maliki.

The two men were once allies but became rivals after al-Maliki backed U.S.-Iraqi offensives in 2008 that crushed al-Sadr's fighters and forced him to declare a series of cease-fires.

The cleric, who is widely believed to be based in Iran, has re-emerged as a prominent politician and a potential kingmaker after his followers fared well in the inconclusive March 7 parliamentary vote. That left al-Maliki and his secular rival Ayad Allawi jockeying for allies to give them the necessary majority support to govern.

The protracted political wrangling has raised fears of sectarian violence akin to that seen at the height of the war. U.S. and Iraqi officials have acknowledged that insurgents maintain the ability to stage high-profile bombings while noting the Shiites have not resumed retaliatory attacks.

A Sadrist who won a seat in the new parliament, Hakim al-Zamili, emphasized that al-Sadr's statement was not meant to supplant the Iraqi military or put armed supporters on the streets.

Al-Sadr urged Iraqi leaders "not to be pulled toward the malicious American plans that intend to pull Iraq into wars and fighting in order to find the pretext for staying on our holy lands." He appeared to be appealing for a renewed commitment, despite continued violence, to stick to a deadline for all U.S. forces to withdraw from Iraq by the end of 2011.

Al-Zamili — himself once imprisoned for alleged links to Shiite death squads although the charges were eventually dropped — said he and other Sadrists had to intervene when the Iraqi military arrived on the bomb scene Friday because people in the neighborhood were so angry that he feared a serious altercation between residents and military personnel.

Weeping and wailing crowds marched in funeral processions Saturday in the vast eastern Baghdad slum of Sadr City, where the worst of Friday's violence occurred, and Shiite leaders called for three days of mourning. Women in black cloaks comforted crying boys, and anguished men held posters of clerical leaders as they marched.

Al-Sadr's office erected a large mourning tent close to where the bombs exploded, with prayer mats still stained with blood left on the street. Few Iraqi security forces were deployed. Persistent violence has cast doubt on the government's ability to secure the country as U.S. forces pull back.

"The government, I hold the government responsible," said Najim Abdul-Hussein, who works near one Sadr City blast site. "There is no stability. That's why these attacks are increasing."


Associated Press Writers Sinan Salaheddin and Bushra Juhi contributed to this report.

                Compensation sought in Afghan deaths*  

by_TONYA wooD

Compensation sought in Afghan deaths Thu Dec 17, 3:09AM PT - Reuters 1:58 | 6394 views

A lawyer for the Afghan victims of the attack on two tankers in the country's northern Kunduz region demands lifetime compensation for the victims' families.


              Iran acknowledges prisoners were beaten to death

TEHRAN, Iran – Iran's hard-line judiciary acknowledged for the first time Saturday that at least three prisoners detained after June's disputed presidential election were beaten to death by their jailers, confirming a key claim by the country's opposition movement.

The surprising acknowledgment followed months of repeated denials by police and other authorities that the deaths of protesters in Iranian custody were caused by abuse.

In a statement, the judiciary said 12 officials at Kahrizak prison were charged — three of them with murder. The prison, on the southern outskirts of the capital, Tehran, was at the center of the opposition's claims that prisoners were tortured and raped in custody.

The claims embarrassed Iran's clerical rulers and forced Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to order the closure of the facility.

Police and judiciary officials had for months rejected the claims, saying the deaths were caused by illnesses, not physical mistreatment. Authorities fired back, accusing the opposition of running a campaign of lies against the ruling system.

"The coroner's office has rejected that meningitis was the cause of the deaths and has confirmed the existence of signs of repeated beatings on the bodies and has declared that the wounds inflicted were the cause of the deaths," the Web site of Iran's state TV quoted the statement as saying.

The opposition says at least 72 protesters were killed in the postelection crackdown, but the government puts the number of confirmed dead at 30.

Iran's police chief, Gen. Ismail Ahmadi Moghaddam, said in August that protesters were beaten by their jailers at Kahrizak, but he maintained the deaths were not caused by the abuse.

The opposition's criticism was implicitly aimed at the elite Revolutionary Guard, which operates with some autonomy from the ruling clerics and led the harsh crackdown and detention of protesters in the tense weeks after the election.

The unrest broke out after Iran's opposition leader, Mir Hossein Mousavi, claimed he was robbed of the presidency through massive fraud in the vote.

  Divided climate talks end in  deal?9(._-)

By JOHN HEILPRIN, Associated Press Writer John Heilprin, Associated Press Writer – 2 hrs 18 mins agoCopenhagen ended Saturday after a 31-hour negotiating marathon, narrowly avoiding collapse by accepting a compromise that gives billions to poor nations to deal with global warming but does not require the world's major polluters to make deeper cuts in their greenhouse gas emissions.

Two weeks of wrangling exposed sharp divisions between rich and poor nations — and even among major greenhouse-gas emitters like China and the United States — on how to fight global warming. Yet in the end, nearly all 193 nations at the U.N. climate conference agreed to a deal brokered by President Barack Obama that points toward deeper emissions cuts for rich nations, but without mandatory limits.

Obama's successful 11th-hour bargaining Friday with China, India, Brazil and South Africa — the world's key developing nations — sets the stage for future cooperation between developed and developing nations.

But the resulting "Copenhagen Accord" was protested by a several nations that demanded deeper emissions cuts by the industrialized world and felt excluded from the major-nation bargaining process.

Obama's day of hectic diplomacy in the snowy Danish capital, where more than 110 presidents and premiers had gathered for a rare climate summit, produced a document promising that rich nations would provide $30 billion in emergency climate aid to poor nations in the next three years, and set a goal of eventually channeling $100 billion a year to them by 2020.

The accord includes a method for verifying each nation's reductions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases — a key demand by Washington, because China has resisted international efforts to monitor its voluntary actions.

Under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol — rejected by the U.S. — 37 industrial nations were already modestly cutting back on their emissions of greenhouse gases. Under the new, nonbinding agreement, those richer nations, including the U.S., are to list their individual emissions targets, and developing countries must list what actions they will take to reduce the growth in their global warming pollution by specific amounts.

"This conference really has been a roller coaster ride in many ways," U.N. climate chief Yvo de Boer said in the final minutes Saturday. It's "an impressive accord, but not an accord that is legally binding."

Others were much harsher.

"The deal is a triumph of spin over substance. It recognizes the need to keep warming below 2 degrees but does not commit to do so. It kicks back the big decisions on emissions cuts and fudges the issue of climate cash," said Jeremy Hobbs, executive director of Oxfam International.

The Copenhagen conference also failed to act on one issue many thought was near success here: A plan to protect the world's rain forests, vital to a healthy climate, by paying some 40 poor tropical countries to protect their woodlands.

Deforestation for logging, cattle grazing and crops has made Indonesia and Brazil the world's third- and fourth-biggest carbon emitters, after China and the United States.

The overall outcome was a significant disappointment to those who had hoped Obama could put new life into the flagging prospects for some kind of legally binding agreement this year. Instead, it envisions another year of negotiations and leaves myriad details yet to be decided. The next major U.N. climate conference is planned for a year from now in Mexico City.

The Copenhagen Accord, initiated by five of the world's biggest greenhouse-gas polluters, was accepted only after it bogged down in an all-night debate early Saturday, when Bolivia, Cuba, Sudan and Venezuela traded barbs with Danish Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen, who chaired the meeting.

Lumumba Di-Aping of Sudan, a spokesman for the world's developing nations, said the deal's temperature goal would condemn Africans to widespread deaths from global warming, comparing it to Nazis sending "6 million people into furnaces" in the Holocaust.

That language drew rebukes from other delegates, however, and the African Union backed the deal.

The document says carbon emissions should be reduced enough to keep the increase in average global temperatures below 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F) since preindustrial times. But average temperatures already have risen 0.7 degrees C (1.3 degrees F) since then.

The nations most vulnerable to climate change, including low-lying islands, believe that limit is already too high.

Because the deal envisions emissions cuts no bigger than what countries pledged coming into Copenhagen, U.S. experts say the world's temperature is already on track to increase by 3.9 degrees C (7 degrees F) above preindustrial levels, said team leader John Sterman of MIT.

After a break around dawn Saturday, Loekke Rasmussen was replaced with a new conference president, Philip Weech of the Bahamas, who gaveled in a compromise decision to "take note" of the agreement, instead of formally approving it.

"We have a deal in Copenhagen," said a visibly relieved U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who had a lot riding on the conference since making climate change his No. 1 priority when he took office three years ago. Ban said "this is just the beginning" of a process to craft a binding pact to reduce emissions.

Disputes between rich and poor countries and between the world's biggest carbon polluters — China and the U.S. — dominated the two-week Copenhagen conference. Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets and staged demonstrations, even within the stylish high-tech conference center, to demand action to cool an overheating planet.

Obama met twice with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao — once privately and once with other leaders — in hopes of sweeping aside some of the disputes that had blocked progress.

If the world waited to reach such a binding deal, "then we wouldn't make any progress," Obama said, warning it could produce "such frustration and cynicism that rather than taking one step forward, we ended up taking two steps back."

Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama called the deal "a major step forward." German Chancellor Angela Merkel, a leading proponent of strong action to confront global warming, gave the Copenhagen Accord only grudging acceptance, saying she had "mixed feelings" about it.

Annie Petsonk, international counsel for the Environmental Defense Fund, called the U.S.-led climate deal "a stepping stone on the path to a new climate treaty. The next stone must be a bill enacted by the U.S. Congress."

Legislation to impose the first caps on U.S. carbon dioxide emissions has been moving only slowly through the Congress. The resulting tentativeness of the U.S. commitment — to relatively weak emissions cuts by 2020 — complicated efforts this year to negotiate a firmer global agreement on emissions.

Obama upended his schedule Friday to reach the deal, turning a 9-hour trip to Copenhagen into a 15-hour negotiating whirlwind. Besides critical meetings with the leaders of the developing world, Obama and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton held talks with European leaders, including Merkel, Britain's Gordon Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

The promised $30-billion, three-year package of financing by richer nations is intended to help poorer nations build seawalls, cope with unusual droughts and deal with other impacts from climate change, as well as to develop clean energy and reduce their own emissions.

The $100-billion-a-year goal set for 2020 falls below estimates made in some expert studies, including by the World Bank, which foresee a need for hundreds of billions of dollars each year to combat global warming as seas rise, species go extinct, farmlands go dry and storms become more severe.


Associated Press writers Charles J. Hanley, Arthur Max, Karl Ritter, Seth Borenstein, Michael Casey and Jennifer Loven contributed to this report.


Find behind-the-scenes information, blog posts and discussion about the Copenhagen climate conference at http://www.facebook.com/theclimatepool, a Facebook page run by AP and an array of international news agencies. Follow coverage and blogging of the event on Twitter at: http://www.twitter.com/AP_ClimatePool COPENHAGEN – The historic U.N. climate talks in

                     Kidnappers in threat to kill French hostage

KHARTOUM (AFP) – A group claiming to have kidnapped three French citizens in Chad and the Central African Republic threatened on Thursday to kill one of the hostages if Paris fails to start negotiations within a week.

"We met (Thursday) and have decided that if in one week France doesn't agree to negotiate with us, we will kill one of the hostages we are holding," Abu Mohammed al-Rizeigi, spokesman for the kidnappers, told AFP by telephone.

"We will also target French forces in Chad and we will carry out assassinations against French diplomats," he said.

Rizeigi said the hostages were in Chad and in good health, but a Chadian official said later Thursday that neither the kidnappers nor their victims were in the country.

"We don't know who these people (the kidnappers) are and they are not even in Chad," he told AFP on condition of anonymity.

The French embassy in Ndjamena declined to comment on the matter, saying it was being dealt with by Paris.

A shadowy Darfur group calling itself Falcons for the Liberation of Africa has claimed the kidnappings of a French agronomist with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and two unidentified staff of relief agency Triangle in the Central African Republic (CAR).

On November 30, the group threatened it would kill the aid workers but did not specify a deadline.

"We want to negotiate directly with France, but France wants to negotiate through a third party like Chad. We reject that," Rizeigi told AFP at the time. "We're going to kill them because France is not negotiating directly with us."

In an interview with AFP last month, ICRC worker Laurent Maurice, who was kidnapped in a Chadian village near the Sudanese border, said he was bearing up despite the ordeal.

The group also claimed responsibility for kidnapping two other aid workers, a Frenchwoman and a Canadian, earlier this year. They were held for 25 days before being released in April.

The motives of the group have been shadowy ever since that abduction, and it remains unclear whether the appeal for a change of France's policy is genuine or a cover for a ransom demand.

Paris has difficult relations with the Sudanese government as it hosts a leading Darfur rebel leader -- Abdel Wahid Nur -- and has troops across the border in both Chad and the CAR.

Over the past three years, the armed groups in Darfur -- rebels and pro-government militias alike -- have splintered into two dozen separate factions, some of them with no clear political aims.

The ICRC has already said that it received a ransom demand for a second staff member, Gauthier Lefevre, who was abducted inside Sudan in November.

The spate of abductions has hit relief efforts in the region. Six organisations suspended their operations in eastern Chad after Maurice's kidnapping, depriving 37,000 people of aid. 

EU seeks to preserve united front on climate

BRUSSELS – The EU's self-proclaimed position as global leader in the fight against climate change was rocked Thursday by the bloc's failure to agree on how much they are willing to pay as a continent to help poor countries cope with and fight global warming.

"You will always find between 27 sovereign nation states that there are differences," Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt told reporters after pledges fell well short of the euro6.6 billion ($9.72 billion) leaders were aiming for.

He said officials would continue to lobby through the night for more money and announce the figure Friday at the close of the two-day summit.

Seventeen of the EU's 27 members came up with offers of money totaling about euro5.4 billion ($7.95 billion) over the next three years, according to a French official. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the talks are continuing Friday. That money would go toward $10 billion a year in fast-track funds for developing countries that negotiators at Copenhagen climate talks are trying to drum up.

"We are still working on putting together what the European countries on a voluntary basis are able to do," Reinfeldt said Thursday night. "We will work though the night to see that we get all the resources in place."

The EU leaders had hoped that by putting a firm figure on the table they would incite other rich economies to work harder toward a new global climate pact at negotiations under way in Copenhagen.

Instead, activists accused them of ceding their leadership role.

"Now other countries like Japan and Norway are being more ambitious and it looks like the current EU leadership is getting cold feet," said Greenpeace EU climate policy director Joris den Blanken. "Indecision from the EU is not what brought the U.S. to the negotiating table and is certainly not what will clinch the deal in Copenhagen."  (=_=)*

  Filipino abductors free 9 more hostages, hold 48

Joebert 'Ondo' Perez, a Government-armed former militiaman, talks to the media at a remote village in Prosperidad township, Agusan del Sur province in southern Philippines Friday Dec. 11, 2009. Perez and his group took more than 70 people, including 17 school children hostage Thursday after police tried to serve summons for murder charges. Initially Perez released 18 hostages and released nine more Friday.The abductions Thursday by 15 gunmen raised new questions over the Philippines' long-standing policy of arming civilian volunteers to protect against insurgencies. Just a day earlier, 100 other militiamen in the south were named suspects in the massacre of 57 people in the country's worst political massacre, prompting the government to order a review of the security policy. Hours after the kidnappings, a government negotiator persuaded the gunmen to free 17 schoolchildren and an elderly woman among more than 70 people they initially seized. As negotiations resumed Friday, the gunmen released nine more — eight women and a man — negotiator Josefina Bajade said.  (=_=)*


                                                       THE PREZ : Obama

.President Obama's attempt to strike a balance between the balance for peace and the occasional necessity of war is driving most of the response to the Nobel Peace Prize speech.Reactions also seem to be falling along ideological lines.Liberals who support Obama praised his call for better alternatives to war, while retaining the right to self-defense; Conservatives who have criticized Obama's foreign policy questioned his approach as naive, though some applauded Obama for saying that sometimes force is necessary and just.At the liberal-leaning New Republic, Jonathan Chait lauded Obama for rebuking both the left's reflexive opposition to any military force as well as the right's "blinkered nationalism." Chait notes that "Obama attempted to explain how he blends idealism with diplomatic realism."The conservative John Bolton, the U.N. ambassador under President George W. Bush, found Obama's speech "pedestrian, turgid, and uninspired."National Review website that "the speech was also typical of Obama in its self-centeredness and 'something for everybody' approach." Bolton told the

If you want to see The Oval's report on the Obama speech, click here. For the president's remarks in their entirety, look here. And our website folks have put together a terrific photo gallery on this morning's events in Oslo.The Oval's old pal Joe Klein, on the Time magazine website, writes that Obama "did the nation proud" with a speech that "balanced the rationale for going to war against the need to build a more peaceful and equitable world."Joe points to the section of speech in which Obama, the nation's first African-American president, describes himself an heir to the non-violent revolution of Dr. Martin Luther King,. Jr., another Nobel Peace Prize recipient. But Obama adds thatI face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. For make no mistake: Evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler's armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda's leaders to lay down their arms.By the way, our Gannett colleague Chuck Raasch reports that Obama mentioned "war" at least 44 times and the terms "peace" or "peaceful" at least 32 times.And not all conservatives are critical.Peter Wehner, a director of "strategic initiatives" in the Bush White House, writes on National Review that that while some of Obama's remarks were "simplistic and pedantic and much too long," the speech a whole was "significant and heartening." Wehner notes that Obama "praised the United States for the burden it has borne and the sacrifices it has made on behalf of peace, justice, and stability."William Kristol, editor of the conservative Weekly Standard, blogs here about the similarities between Obama and George W. Bush on the specter of nuclear terrorism.In many ways, Obama's speech and his approach to foreign policy echo that of Woodrow Wilson, the president who led America through World War I (and also won a Nobel Peace Prize).Historian John Milton Cooper, Jr., who has written a terrific new biography of Wilson, writes of the parallels on The Daily Beast website. Writes Cooper: "Obama, like Wilson, has drawn both praise and condemnation for his soaring rhetoric, but, like Wilson, he looks for practical, down-to-earth measures to advance his ideals."(Posted by David Jackson)(=_=)*

LAST YEAR RECAP:-DONT FORGET HOW THIS SH!T     HAPPEN'ED_- September 25, 2008 | THE SUE NITTY EXPERIENCE-THE POLITICAL MIX  WITH                               PEACHFROG & LIZARD KING                                                                                       

                                          - September 25, 2008 


Attorneys ask court to dismiss Polanski sex case

By LINDA DEUTSCH, AP Special Correspondent Linda Deutsch, Ap Special Correspondent – Thu Dec 10, 4:43 pm ETLOS ANGELES – Lawyers for Roman Polanski and his victim in a 32-year-old case joined forces Thursday to ask an appeals court to dismiss a sexual misconduct charge against the director in the interest of justice.It was a surprise move in a lively hearing where appellate justices peppered lawyers and a prosecutor with pointed questions, often interrupting their arguments to raise new issues.Associate Justice Laurie Zelon asked the prosecutor why the district attorney's office had not investigated recent allegations of misconduct by a judge and prosecutor during Polanski's 1977 court proceedings."Doesn't the district attorney's office have an interest in finding out what happened here?" Zelon asked.Deputy District Attorney Phyllis Asayama replied, "Yes, we are interested. But I'm not sure we have the proper agency to do this." She didn't elaborate.Presiding Justice Dennis Perluss, acknowledging there was misconduct by the now deceased judge, also questioned Asayama about whether "the district attorney has an obligation to see that justice is served."The California Second District Court of Appeal is being asked to decide if it should order a Superior Court judge to consider dismissing the case without Polanski's attendance in court. The justices did not immediately issue a ruling."He has to be here," Asayama said, "especially given he had options 30 years ago and he didn't use them."Polanski, the director of such classic films as "Chinatown" and "Rosemary's Baby," has been a wanted man since he fled to France on the eve of sentencing in 1978 for having unlawful sexual intercourse with a 13-year-old girl.He was accused of plying the teen with champagne and part of a Quaalude pill then raping her during a modeling shoot at Jack Nicholson's house in 1977.Polanski was initially indicted on six felony counts, including rape by use of drugs, child molesting and sodomy. He later pleaded guilty to one count of unlawful sexual intercourse.Polanski reached the plea deal in 1978, but was threatened by a judge with more prison time than previously agreed upon and fled to France before he was formally sentenced.Polanski is now confined to house arrest in his Swiss chalet in the resort town of Gstaad, and his fate is in the hands of judges in two countries. He is fighting extradition.Perluss, Zelon and Associate Justice Fred Woods also asked if Polanski could have sought appellate relief before taking the extreme measure of fleeing the country."There were a host of alternate remedies to fleeing because a bargain wasn't kept," Perluss said.Attorney Chad Hummel, who represents Polanski, suggested the extent of judicial misconduct was not known at the time."It sends chills up your spine what the judge did," he said. "Would there have been available alternatives at the time? There should be a hearing on that."If the justices don't dismiss the case, they should send it back to Superior Court Judge Peter Espinoza for a hearing to decide the dismissal question in Polanski's absence, Hummel said. Asayama insisted such a hearing could not be held without the director's return because of the fugitive disentitlement doctrine, a 100-year-old law that denies hearings to fugitives unless they return. She said making an exception for Polanski would set a bad precedent. "Do we want to send the message to other defendants that flight is an option?" she asked. Attorney Lawrence Silver, who represents Polanski's victim Samantha Geimer argued for dismissal on grounds of a recently adopted law allowing victims to have a say in cases. Geimer has repeatedly said she wants the case dismissed, and Silver reiterated that to the justices. Justice Woods responded that when the law was passed, "No one could have anticipated the facts of this case." Silver added, "No one in this room would say the proceedings were fair. Thirty-two years is enough." Among those on hand for the hearing were Polanski's original lawyer Douglas Dalton and the French Consul General of Los Angeles David Martinon, who declined to comment and said he was just there as an observer. The appeal began last summer when Polanski's lawyers pressed to dismiss the case in California that has haunted the 76-year-old director. Any decision by the three-judge panel will not immediately affect Polanski's current predicament of fighting extradition from Switzerland to the United States. Still, ordering a hearing on misconduct would put the issue before a judge who already found substantial misconduct in the case. Hanging over the case is an HBO documentary, "Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired" which uncovered the judge's actions. Judge Espinoza said months ago he had watched the documentary and determined there was substantial misconduct. But he declined to act because of the fugitive disentitlement doctrine. Polanski sought dismissal of the case in July after the documentary detailed alleged back-room dealings between the judge and a prosecutor who said he meddled in the case. The former prosecutor recanted his statements after Polanski's arrest. Marina Zenovich, who directed the documentary, watched the hearing and later said she found the justices' questioning "refreshing" and they seemed to be trying to find the truth. ___ AP Entertainment Writer Anthony McCartney contributed to this report.   (=_=)*

Senate Dems may change health care compromiseConcerns from doctors and hospitals prompt Dems to search for changes to health care compromise

PictureWASHINGTON (AP) -- Senate Democrats are considering changing a proposed expansion of Medicare to address complaints from doctors and hospitals and defray costs for consumers, officials said Thursday, two days after party leaders hailed it as part of a breakthrough for health care.AP - Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., from left, Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., partially hidden, and Minority Leader Mitch Mc Connell take ...

Under the plan, uninsured individuals ages 55 to 64 could purchase coverage under Medicare. The expansion is part of a compromise for dropping a full-blown national government-run insurance plan from the legislation that Democrats and the White House hope to push through the Senate by Christmas.

The American Hospital Association and American Medical Association have both criticized the proposed Medicare expansion since it was announced Tuesday night, saying the program pays health care providers less than private insurance companies, and warning against increasing the number of patients.

"We are trying to find a solution," Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, told reporters in the Capitol, saying that the groups had raised legitimate concerns.

Separately, officials said there were discussions about the possibility of defraying the expense of Medicare coverage for uninsured individuals under 65. Under some estimates, the cost could be as high as $7,600 annually -- more than $600 a month -- until subsidies become available in 2014.

Current Medicare beneficiaries pay $96.40 per month, with the government picking up the rest of the premium cost.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity, saying they were not authorized to discuss possible changes publicly.

The other key part of Tuesday night's compromise called for creation of private insurance plans to be overseen by the Office of Personnel Management, the federal agency that oversees the insurance program used by members of Congress and their families.

When Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid unveiled the compromise, he told reporters he could finally see the end in sight of the long struggle to overhaul the nation's health care system. The measure under debate in the Senate would extend coverage to tens of millions who lack it, ban the insurance industry practice of denying insurance because of pre-existing medical conditions and generally rein in the skyrocketing cost of medical care nationally.

Democrats need 60 votes to overcome Republican opposition and pass the legislation, and optimism has seemed to increase since the Tuesday night announcement.

While Democrats worked privately to wrap up changes to the legislation, debate on the Senate floor was desultory. A proposal to permit the importing of prescription drugs from Canada and other countries as part of a cost-cutting move has been awaiting a vote since Tuesday, and none has been scheduled.

Political jousting did not rest, though, and at times, it verged on the personal.

When Reid outlined a proposed schedule under which the Senate would take the weekend off, Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, noted that there earlier had been plans to debate health care during that time.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., spoke up, asking if it was possible to have a vote and adding, "I know New Orleans is very nice this time of year, but perhaps we ought to stay here and get this job done."

That was a reference to a fundraiser Reid had scheduled for the weekend -- an event the majority leader later said he had canceled.

But he got in a dig at Republicans, saying that Rush Limbaugh was "upset at Sen. McConnell because he's not opposing the health care bill enough."

McConnell has given over 75 speeches in recent months criticizing the Democratic health care plan. He has also worked behind the scenes to try and prevent any defections from the ranks of Republican opponents.

Associated Press writers Donna Cassata and Erica Werner contributed to this report. 

### The smile pockets a rattling controversy.:

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