Archive for May 9th, 2009
‘No PM impropriety’ on expenses
The Telegraph says there is no suggestion of impropriety over expenses claimed by Gordon Brown to reimburse his brother for shared cleaning costs.
The paper, which has been publishing Commons expenses claims, said the PM was among MPs who had “fallen victim to an overly complex expenses system”.
Immigration minister Phil Woolas and Labour MP Margaret Moran have said they could take legal action over reports.
Further reports about MPs from other parties are expected in coming days.
A Sunday Telegraph leader article said: “There are those MPs who, despite their good intentions, have none the less fallen victim to an overly complex expenses system that has served to portray their actions in an unflattering light.
“For example, the receipts submitted by Gordon Brown for the cost of a cleaner, shared with his brother Andrew, fall into such a category.
“There has never been any suggestion of any impropriety on the part of the prime minister or his brother.”
On Friday, the Daily Telegraph reported the 6,577 claim made by Gordon Brown to reimburse his brother for payments to a cleaner that the men shared.
This was among details of 13 Cabinet ministers’ expenses, followed on Saturday by details of claims made by junior ministers and other Labour MPs, as well as one prominent Conservative MP.
Communities Secretary Hazel Blears, named in reports on Friday, has confirmed that she did not pay capital gains tax on the sale of a London flat that had been declared as her second home to Commons authorities.
Ms Blears sold the flat in August 2004, when it would have been registered with tax authorities as her main residence.
Four months earlier, she had declared the flat to be her second home to Commons authorities and started claiming 850 a month for the mortgage.
A spokesman for Ms Blears said: “Hazel has complied with the rules of the House authorities and [HM Revenue & Customs]. No liability for capital gains tax arose on the sale of her flat in Kennington.”
Capital gains tax is charged at 40% on the sale of a property not regarded by the taxman as a main residence.
The Sunday Telegraph reports that five Sinn Fein MPs have claimed a total of almost 500,000 in second home expenses – despite the party not taking up its Commons seats.
A Sinn Finn spokesman denied that the MPs, including president Gerry Adams and Northern Ireland deputy first minister Martin McGuinness, had done anything wrong.
“It is widely known that Sinn Fein MPs travel regularly to London on parliamentary business and utilise the accommodation that we rent when there,” he said.
“We do not purchase properties at public expense and therefore do not profit from the expenses claimed as of right.”
Mr Woolas has accused the Telegraph of “absolutely disgusting” reporting, over allegations he claimed for women’s clothing, nappies and comics.
He says the items were listed on a receipt for food which he submitted, but he did not receive any money for them.
The minister said he believed the newspaper’s claims might be “actionable” and he was seeking legal advice.
Ms Moran, Labour’s Luton South MP, told the BBC the paper’s report was “inaccurate” and “probably actionable”.
The Telegraph alleged that she spent 22,500 on treating dry rot at a Southampton property, designated as her second home 100 miles from her constituency.
In an interview for the Politics Show East to be broadcast on Sunday on BBC One at 1100 BST, Ms Moran insisted she had “done everything by the rules” and said the Telegraph article was “incredibly misleading”.
It included “inaccuracies, some of which I think are probably actionable, and I think that it is deeply irresponsible”, she added.
Full details of all MPs’ expenses dating back four years, running to 2.4 million receipts, were due to be published in the middle of July after the Commons authorities lost a Freedom of Information battle.
But the Telegraph is revealing the information early.
The Commons authorities have complained to the Metropolitan Police, who confirmed they were considering a request for an investigation into the leak to the paper.
The Telegraph printed details of the expenses of Keith Vaz, a former minister who now chairs the home affairs select committee.
Mr Vaz reportedly claimed 75,000 for a Westminster flat although his family’s home is 12 miles away in Stanmore.
He said that he had acted within the rules. He added that his designated home was in his Leicester constituency, the Westminster flat was his second home, and he made no claims for the home in Stanmore where his family lives.
The first prominent Conservative MP was also named by the paper. Shadow climate change minister Greg Barker denied he made a profit on the sale of a house by “working the expenses system”.
He said the Telegraph story did not make clear “that there was a very substantial six-figure sum of my own money involved, that wasn’t claimed for”.
“It would be completely inaccurate and untrue for the Telegraph to allege that the difference in purchase and sale price represented a profit.”
Health minister Ben Bradshaw – MP for Exeter and minister for the South West – says claims made about his expenses in Saturday’s paper were factually wrong.
Labour ministers Phil Hope and Barbara Follett, who were also named, say they have not broken parliamentary rules.
Former chairman of the committee for standards in public life, Sir Alistair Graham, said the expenses system had to be decided in the public and taxpayers’ interest, by an independent outside body.
“It is depressing to keep hearing [MPs] saying, ‘Well, it’s the system that was wrong and we are changing the system.’
“The question you have to ask is who devised the system? MPs devised the system under their self-regulating arrangements and that’s what must change for the future.”
An ICM poll of 508 adults for the News of the World found that more than two-thirds of respondents said they believed the expenses revelations had damaged the prime minister.
Some 89% believed the reputation of Parliament had been tarnished, and 91% said they wanted expenses records to be published in full straight away.
Labour’s poll ratings have slumped to just 23% – lower than when Michael Foot was party leader in the 1980s – according to a survey of 2,246 people by BPIX for the Mail on Sunday.
A YouGov poll of 2,209 voters for the Sunday Times suggested Labour’s support had dropped by seven percentage points to 27% – 16 points behind the Conservatives.
Dating advice books take a tech-addicted turn with the release of “Flirtexting: How To Text Your Way To His Heart.”
The authors of “Flirtexting,” above, say women need to learn how to text their way to love.
The book’s co-authors, Olivia Baniuszewicz and Debra Goldstein, seek to explain the dating scene based on the premise that men understand text messages while women need to catch up. “It’s official. Boys text, therefore girls must learn how to flirtext!” they say on their Web site, flirtexting.com. Baniuszewicz and Goldstein offer up a new etiquette for what they call the “A.C.” world of datingor “after cells.” The pair, who described themselves as “best friends” and “best flirtexters,” spoke with CNN about their book, and the text message’s role in society. The following is an edited version of that conversation. CNN: What abbreviations would you need to know in order to flirt over text messages? Debra: We say, “If you don’t wanna date, abbreviate.” Too many abbreviations is a turn off, so be very careful. If you don’t have to abbreviate, then don’t. For “OK,” you can write the letter “k,” and for “are” you can write the letter “r,” but never the “great” with the 8 in the middle [gr8]. Please never do that.
Hungry for love? Matchmakers thrive in slump
Why some single women just need to shut up
How not to beor datean overlapper
Olivia: So, the things you should avoid when abbreviating is writing “perf” [short for "perfect"] or “brill” [short for "brilliant"] back to a guy. That’s fun for girls texting to each other, but not when you’re trying to flirtext. CNN: What’s the difference? Why would a guy take it differently? Olivia: It’s just a little girly. You just have to know your audience and speak to it, and that’s all flirtexting is all about. CNN: Do you think the idea that you need to teach girls how to use text messages to pick up guys is a little sexist? Debra: Sexist? Oh absolutely not. I think it’s about empowering women to have the time to come across exactly the way they want and in the best light. Watch how to enter this new dating world » Olivia: I think flirtexting is all about empowering. It’s all about you choosing your moment. Girls can choose their moment. Girls can decide what they want to get out of this text in order to ask him out, or is it a date, or for him to just meet up with you that night just to have a good laugh, and banter back and forth because you’re bored at work. This is all that it’s about. CNN: Are there any people who date exclusively through texts? Debra: There’s a lot of girls who will say, “He keeps texting me but I want him to call” … I think there is a time when you need to put the cell down and pick up the phone if you really like someone. Olivia: There’s a huge no-no: not to be heavy in your text messages. So a lot of times, I think things like “I want to break up with you” or “I love you” for the first time over textyou should just not be doing that, and I think that’s a mistake a lot of people do. CNN: What are some other things that shouldn’t be discussed over text? Debra: We say, “Don’t kid yourself.” If he only texts you past 10 p.m. he’s probably just looking to hook up. So girls, watch out for that. Olivia: True. And the other don’tI think we’ve all been thereis texting under the influence: TUI. [Laughs]. It’s true. I think you’re out with your girlfriends, you’re having a drink, or it’s a lonely Sunday evening and you just feel the urge to flirtext a guy. You’re going to regret it the next morning. So find a sponsor, one of your friends that you call or text instead, to kind of wean you off of texting in that moment. CNN: What about dating using other mediums, like Facebook or Twitter? Olivia: Flirtweeting? … Facebook has really taken that up to a different level and has opened our dating world in a sense to us. Because we could be like, “Oh! Todd is friends with my friend Sara. Let me ask Sara about Todd before I respond back to his message or his friend request. I mean, it’s beautiful! Debra: It is beautiful. Olivia: I’m gonna cry. CNN: Could you all give me some personal examples of “dos and don’ts.” Either texts that you’ve sent that you’ve regretted or things that were sent to you that were really bad. Debra: Oh absolutely. In flirtexting there are the most important three dos. We call them “The Three Ts.” The first is timing. Just because it’s speedy technology doesn’t mean you have to be speedy with your response. It’s your moment, and we say, “Text when you’re ready.” And the second one is thought. You’ve got 160 characters to create a message that’s sure to impress. So take your time, and be sure to make him laugh. And the third one is texting plan. If you’re going to be flirtexting off the chain like we do then you’re going to need an unlimited texting plan. And Virgin Mobile has a really good one right now, it’s called the Texter’s Delight. And it is delightful. Olivia: It is a delight. CNN: Do you all both use that company? Are you sponsored by that company? Debra: Both. We do, yeah, we use it. It’s great, it’s really easy. CNN: Do you use the cell phone to talk? Olivia: I do with my mom, who doesn’t text [laughs]. But um, she’s slowly learning and then maybe I can just get rid of that altogether. CNN: How has that experience been, trying to teach your mom how to text? What does she think of it? Olivia: It’s been challenging at first, being that she came from an over-the-phone, old-school approach. She is coming to realize that it’s really becoming a cultural phenomenon and it’s something that she needs and wants to adapt to. And she’s also single. She knows that she needs to pick up that phone if she wants to be flirtexting and going on dates.
CNN: Are you working on anything after this? Debra: There’s hopefully more books. I think guys are really interested to know what girls are thinking. We’ve taught girls how to text her way into his heart and now we think guys are really wanting to know how to get into our hearts. So there’s a lot. Good stuff.
ST. LOUIS – The heirs of the late “Wizard of Oz” actor Mickey Carroll have sued his caretaker for control of his assets.
Carroll, one of the last surviving Munchkins from the beloved 1939 film, died in suburban St. Louis on Thursday at age 89.
Four months before he died, Carroll signed papers turning over control of his assets to caretaker Linda Dodge. Relatives estimate he left an estate of more than 1 million.
They claim Dodge and others took advantage of the actor in the throes of dementia and that he wasn’t competent to sign the papers.
Dodge denies the claims, calling the disagreement a “family squabble.”
The family has asked a probate judge to freeze the assets and appoint a caretaker for them.
Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com
WASHINGTON – When the sun sneezes it’s Earth that gets sick.
It’s time for the sun to move into a busier period for sunspots, and while forecasters expect a relatively mild outbreak by historical standards, one major solar storm can cause havoc with satellites and electrical systems here.
Like hurricanes, a weak cycle refers to the number of storms, but it only takes one powerful storm to create chaos, said scientist Doug Biesecker of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s space weather prediction center.
A report by the National Academy of Sciences found that if a storm as severe as one in 1859 occurred today, it could cause 1 trillion to 2 trillion in damage the first year and take four to 10 years to recover.
The 1859 storm shorted out telegraph wires, causing fires in North America and Europe, sent readings of Earth’s magnetic field soaring, and produced northern lights so bright that people read newspapers by their light.
Today there’s a lot more than telegraph lines at stake. Vulnerable electrical grids circle the globe, satellites now vital for all forms of communications can be severely disrupted along with the global positioning system. Indeed, the panel warned that a strong blast of solar wind can threaten national security, transportation, financial services and other essential functions.
The solar prediction center works closely with industry and government agencies to make sure they are prepared with changes in activity and prepared to respond when damage occurs, Biesecker said in a briefing.
While the most extreme events seem unlikely this time, there will probably be smaller scale disruptions to electrical service, airline flights, GPS signals and television, radio and cell phones.
On the plus side, the solar storms promote the colorful auroras, known as the northern and southern lights, high in the sky over polar areas.
An international panel headed by Biesecker said Friday it expects the upcoming solar cycle to be the weakest since 1928.
The prediction calls for the solar cycle to peak in May 2013 with 90 sunspots per day, averaged over a month. If the prediction proves correct it will be the weakest cycle since a peak of 78 daily sunspots in 1928.
Measurement of sunspot cycles began in the 1750s.
The panel described solar storms as eruptions of energy and matter that escape from the sun. At least some of this heads toward the Earth.
Solar cycles of more and fewer sunspots last several years and the cycle currently building up will be number 24 since counting began.
It’s only the third time researchers have tried to make such a forecast. In 1989 a panel predicted Cycle 22, which peaked that year. And in 1996 scientists predicted Cycle 23.
Both earlier groups did better at predicting timing than intensity, according to Biesecker.
The last solar minimum occurred in December, the researchers said.
W. Dean Pesnell of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration said the forecasts are based on such indicators as the strength of the sun’s magnetic field at the poles and the reaction of the Earth’s magnetic field to the sun. Both are weak right now, he said, with only a few sunspots visible since 2007.
A preliminary forecast issued in 2007 was split over the outlook for the upcoming cycle, Biesecker said the researchers have now reached consensus.
On the Net:
Space Weather Center: http://www.spaceweather.gov
SANAA (AFP) –
Yemeni authorities destroyed on Saturday four tonnes of hashish and six million pills of amphetamines with a street value of more than 83 million dollars, incinerating them in a Sanaa field.
The drugs, seized over the past 16 months, were stored for smuggling to Arab countries across the Gulf, especially oil-rich Saudi Arabia, Saeed al-Akel, a representative of the state prosecutor, told reporters.
He described Yemen, an impoverished Arabian peninsula country, as a key transit route for drug trafficking and said the authorities sought regional cooperation to stem the flow of drugs.
Akel said about 75 suspected drug traffickers were tried in connection with the seized drugs and some of them, including foreigners, were handed prison sentences ranging from 25 years to life.
In March, a Yemeni court condemned a Pakistani man to death for drug trafficking and sentenced 14 of his compatriots to 25 years in jail.
It’s official: our minivan is a toxic asset.
The “toxic” part I knew already. Between the catastrophic diaper failure while touring Amish country circa 2004, and the projectile vomiting episode on the way to the beach in ’01, my family van has been a rolling Superfund site for years. (See the 50 worst cars of all time.)
The news flash is “asset.” Thanks to the cash-for-clunkers program cooked up in Congress, our 2001 Honda Odyssey may actually be worth something – up to 4,500 if we trade it in on a new, more efficient vehicle. That works out to nearly a dollar per dent, scratch, stain and tear.
Being too rich for foreclosure, but too poor for derivatives, I had begun to think the government would never craft a bailout for me. However, prodded by crafty old John Dingell of Michigan, dean of the House of Representatives, Uncle Sam has selected me to stimulate the economy by buying a new car. This program will pay me to do it.
My first reaction to this news was shock. Sometime after I backed into a stump, but definitely before I clipped the neighbor’s garage – actually it was around the time the babysitter somehow creased a perfect inch-deep furrow along the entire passenger side, headlight to brake light – I stopped thinking of the van as having any monetary value whatsoever. I resolved to drive it for at least 10 years, or until I developed a capacity for shame, whichever came first. At which point I would pay someone to take it off my hands.
Now I see the van with fresh eyes. It’s no longer just a sun-bleached hulk with the rear wiper snapped off. It’s a wiperless hulk worth thousands. If this is socialism, call me comrade!
The idea, I realize, is to lure the Von Drehle clan out of our gas hog and into a phone booth-sized vehicle powered by switchgrass and meditation. Unfortunately, with four kids, all in grade school, we need a minivan. So is this program for us? To find out, I took a ride on the information superhighway to www.fueleconomy.gov, which is an easy way to compare the efficiency of just about every car imaginable.
Within a few clicks, I determined that our current van averages 16 miles per gallon in the city and 23 mpg highway, which somehow averages out, according to the government, to 18 mpg. That’s right on the cut-off for the program, but let’s say they vote me in. Given our relatively light usage – around 8,000 miles per year – this translates to about 5.4 tons of CO2 emissions and 10.1 barrels of oil consumed each year. Could be worse, though in the category called “air pollution” the old van rates a pitiful 1 on a scale of 10 (and that’s not counting the stench of fossilized chicken nuggets).
Could we do better? We’re partial to Honda products, so I clicked on the 2009 Odyssey. The new model averages 20 mpg, two more than our clunker. And that is enough of an improvement under the Dingell plan to earn us 3,500. Upgrading would also cut pollution, shave half a ton from our carbon footprint and reduce our nation’s dependence on foreign oil by a full barrel.
Not to mention leather seats.
Maybe we should buy American, though. I summoned up the stats for the new Chrysler Town & Country – though not without trepidation. Back in the day, Chrysler invented the minivan and made a lot of money on them, but then they had a ’70s flashback and let themselves get creamed by the Japanese.
Apparently, they’re back on track. According to the Edmunds.com review, the new model of Chrysler’s top van is “a bona-fide contender for the Best-in-Class sash.” Which sounds good – but would the sash count under “receivables” in bankruptcy court? The 4-liter T & C is virtually identical to the Odyssey in fuel efficiency and emissions, which means I could pick up 3,500 for buying one. (See the most important cars of all time.)
Of course, I’d still be paying a boatload for such a fine ride, but as a taxpayer, I’m writing regular checks to Chrysler anyway. What’s one more?
To pocket the large money, the 4,500, I would need to find a buggy that averages five or more miles per gallon above our current wreck’s fuel intake. But that’s an easy search on this website. In a matter of seconds I discovered the Mazda 5 minivan, with manual transmission, which averages 24 miles per gallon, spews just 4.1 tons of carbon and sips a mere 7.6 barrels per year. It’s a van that a guy could proudly drive to a lunch with Al Gore and the Dalai Lama, with just one downside: evidently we would have to grease the kids before squishing them into the tiny backseat.
All in all, a tough call. On the one hand, I could get a new car, reacquaint myself with some of the tax dollars I so patriotically pay, and – who knows? – maybe help out a polar bear or two. On the other hand, something about this past year has me feeling less than flush.
And there is such a thing as sentimental value. My clunker has loads of that. We raised three babies and a toddler in that old van, which means it was doomed from the start to be both filthy and loved. That trim we sheared off during our first family vacation. The crayon mural across the backseat. The permanent apple-juice glaze at the bottom of the cup holders. The energetic scribble engraved with mommy’s keys in the car door. The Cinderella stickers fused to the back window. We have stories, and memories, to match every disgusting inch of that van.
I guess it’s true what they say. It is hard to put a price on toxic assets.
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SAN JOSE, Costa Rica – Costa Rica reported the death of a 53-year-old man with swine flu Saturday, the first fatality from the epidemic outside of North America, while Japanese authorities scrambled to limit contacts with their first confirmed cases.
Like other deaths outside Mexico, the Costa Rican man suffered from complicating illnesses, including diabetes and chronic lung disease. The United States has reported the deaths of a toddler with a heart defect and a woman with rheumatoid arthritis. Canadian officials say tests show that a woman who died last month had the disease.
But in Mexico, where 48 people with swine flu have died, most of the victims have been adults aged 20 to 49, and many had no reported complicating factors.
The Costa Rican fatality was one of eight swine flu cases in the Central American country confirmed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Health Minister Maria Luisa Avila told The Associated Press. Previously, deaths had only been reported in Mexico, the United States and Canada.
Avila said officials have been unable to determine how the Costa Rican patients became infected, but she said he had not recently traveled abroad. Many flu sufferers in other countries have been linked to recent trips to the United States or Mexico.
In Japan, authorities quarantined a high school teacher and two teenage students who tested positive in an airport test for swine flu on Friday after they returned from a school trip to Canada.
They also launched an international hunt for other passengers who may have come into contact with the three.
Australia and Norway joined the list of countries with confirmed cases of swine flu and an upswing in suspected — though not confirmed — cases in parts of Mexico prompted authorities in at least six of the country’s 31 states to delay plans to let primary school students return to class on Monday after a two-week break.
“It has been very stable … except for those states,” said Health Department spokesman Carlos Olmos, referring to states in central and southern Mexico.
The chief medical officer for the Canadian province of Alberta, Andre Corriveau, said Friday that a woman who died on April 28 had been infected with the virus. The death of the woman, who was in her 30s, was initially attributed to her other health problems.
Officials said she had not left the country recently, but could not confirm whether she was in contact with anyone who had recently returned from Mexico. Corriveau said 300 people who attended the woman’s wake were being monitored for signs of the illness.
People with chronic illnesses are at greatest risk for severe problems from flu, along with the elderly and young children.
Mexican health authorities released a breakdown of the first 45 of the country’s 48 flu deaths that showed that 84 percent of the victims were between the ages of 20 and 54. Only 2.2 percent were immune-depressed, and none had a previous history of respiratory disease.
Hard-hit Mexico said only one confirmed new infection has been reported in the past four days and the country was gradually lifting a nationwide shutdown of schools, businesses, churches and soccer stadiums. It raised its count of confirmed cases to 1,626 based on tests of earlier patients.
Japan’s national laboratory confirmed the virus in a teacher and two students who arrived in Tokyo Friday on a Northwest Airlines flight from Detroit. The Health and Welfare Ministry said it was working with the World Health Organization to contact at least 13 people on that flight who had gone on to other destinations in transit.
Local news media reported that as many as 11 people on the flight avoided screenings for swine flu.
Japanese Health and Welfare Minister Yoichi Masuzoe acknowledged it would be difficult to trace all those who came into contact with the three infected Japanese, who visited Ontario on a home-stay program with about 30 other students. The three were isolated and recovering at a hospital near Narita International Airport.
“There are limitations to what we can do, but we will continue to monitor the situation and strengthen or relax such measures as needed,” he told reporters.
Public broadcaster NHK TV urged people who were aboard the flight to call a special telephone number for consultations. So far, 49 have been traced and will be monitored for 10 days, officials said.
But a handful of cases have cropped up in the region, including in South Korea and Hong Kong. The Chinese territory quarantined more than 200 people in a hotel after confirming its first case in a guest a week ago. They were released on Friday.
Australia reported its first case on Saturday in a woman it said was no longer infectious. She first noticed her symptoms while traveling in the U.S., federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon told reporters.
New Zealand — the first country in the Asia-Pacific region to confirm cases — reported two more on Saturday for a total of seven. The two high school students returned last month from a school trip to Mexico. Six of the country’s cases were in students and a teacher on that trip; the seventh traveled on the same plane as the group.
Norway’s National Health Directorate reported that country’s first two confirmed cases: a man and a woman, both aged 20, who had been studying in Mexico.
Associated Press writers Yuri Kageyama and Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo, Jeremiah Marquez in Hong Kong, Ray Lilley in Wellington, New Zealand, Dennis Passa in Sydney and Debby Wu in Taipei, Taiwan, contributed to this report.
WASHINGTON (AFP) –
President Barack Obama will make his long-awaited address to Muslims in Egypt on June 4, accelerating his bid to mend the US image in the Islamic world from an epicenter of Arab civilization.
The speech, fulfilling an Obama campaign promise, will focus on how Americans and Muslims abroad can secure the “safety and security” of their children in a more hopeful future, Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs said.
The trip, certain to unfold amid a massive security operation, will come as Obama tries to ignite stalled Middle East peace efforts, and will represent his most significant attempt yet to engage the Muslim world.
Arabs and Muslim believers across the world have been alienated by the war in Iraq, abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib jail outside Baghdad and the Guantanamo Bay “war on terror” camp which Obama has ordered closed.
Gibbs said that the exact venue for the speech had yet to be decided, but most speculation will center on Cairo, the capital of Egypt, the most populous nation in the Arab world.
“On June 4, the president will give a speech in Egypt. The speech will be about America's relations with the Muslim world,” Gibbs said.
He added that there were no plans for Obama to make any further stops in the Middle East during the visit, which will precede a trip to France and Germany focusing on World War II commemorations.
The president promised during his 2008 election campaign to make a speech at a major Islamic forum within the first 100 days of his administration which ended last week, but the timetable slipped for logistical reasons.
He did however make a speech in the Turkish parliament last month, during his first presidential visit to a Muslim-majority nation, declaring the United States was not at war with Islam, and noting his own partly Muslim heritage.
As Obama tries to kick start Middle East peacemaking, the visit will follow trips to Washington by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas.
Obama is also trying to coax sworn US foe Iran to the negotiating table in a bid to halt the Islamic state's nuclear program.
Gibbs defended Obama from claims that by choosing Egypt, where the State Department says there are “significant restrictions on the political process and freedom of expression” the US president was watering down US support for democracy promotion abroad.
“It is a country that in many ways represents the heart of the Arab world,” Gibbs said. “I think it will be a terrific opportunity for the president to address and discuss our relationship with the Muslim world.”
Obama last month reached out to Muslims from the well of the Turkish parliament.
“You cannot put out fire with flames,” Obama said, arguing that brute force alone could not thwart extremism as he sent a flurry of coded messages throughout the Middle East.
Obama, who spent part of his childhood in Indonesia, and is the son of a Kenyan father of Muslim heritage, drew on his own biography as he sought to forge new trust with the Islamic world.
The president said US ties with Islam could not be simply defined by opposition to terrorism, decades into a US struggle with extremism that was sharpened by the September 11 attacks in 2001.
“The United States has been enriched by Muslim Americans. Many other Americans have Muslims in their family, or have lived in a Muslim-majority country — I know, because I am one of them.”
Within days of taking office in January, Obama launched his effort to engage the Muslim world by granting an interview with the Al-Arabiya television network.
“Obama has created a combination of curiosity and excitement throughout the Middle East,” said Jon Alterman, the director of the Middle East Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies here. “He embodies change in a region where many people are terribly thirsty for political change.”
The White House also said Friday that Obama will visit the German city of Dresden and the former Nazi death camp at Buchenwald in June 5, before traveling onto D-Day commemorations in France.
Obama's great-uncle, Charlie Payne, took part in the liberation of part of the Buchenwald camp in 1945 with the US Army, but Gibbs said it was unclear whether he would travel with the president.
Payne was a private in the 89th Infantry Division during World War II when he took part in the liberation of Ohrdruf, a forced-labor camp that was part of Buchenwald.
INDIANAPOLIS – Ryan Briscoe took the provisional pole position for the Indianapolis 500 in early qualifying on Saturday.
The fastest driver in practice this week showed the way on a cool, windy afternoon with a four-lap average of 224.131 mph.
With wind gusts up to 25 mph making the 2.5-mile Brickyard oval more treacherous than normal, many of the teams were trying to outguess the gusts and few of the early qualifiers were happy with their speeds.
Dario Franchitti, the 2007 Indy winner, waited until the first flurry of qualifiers had finished and the track was opened for practice before he made a qualifying attempt. The guessing game worked well enough that the Scot bumped Briscoe’s Penske Racing teammate Helio Castroneves out of second place on the tentative grid.
Franchitti’s 224.010 was just good enough to relegate Castroneves, a two-time Indy pole and race winner, to the outside of the three-car front row with his 223.949 run.
Scott Dixon, who won last year’s 500 from the pole, and 2005 pole winner Tony Kanaan also waited for a while after the six-hour qualifying session began at noon. Dixon, Franchitti’s Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate, took the fourth spot at 223.781, moving 20-year-old Graham Rahal (223.266) to the middle of the second row.
“It was pretty good, but I had to lift on the last lap when I got hit by a big gust of wind,” Dixon said. “It’s just not real good out there.”
Kanaan was considerably slower at 222.742, good for the middle of the third row in the tentative lineup for the May 24 race.
Eleven of the 33 starting positions for the 500 were up for grabs on the first of four days of time trials. Eleven drivers completed qualifying runs in the first hour, but Justin Wilson’s 220.934 mph run was disqualified because of an unapproved weight location.
But the unique qualifying format at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway allows each of the entries up to three completed attempts on each of the four days of time trials leading up to the 500.
Even Briscoe, who was pleased with his run, was thinking he might have to do it again later.
“That’s good, that’s solid. It’s a good start,” the Australian said. “I think, having gone reasonably early, it gives us a chance to get through tech early and get the car back and look at the setup and everything and see what we can do to go faster if we need to.”
Danica Patrick, who expected to have a shot at a spot on the front row, was confused and disappointed after a four-lap run at 221.785 that left her 10th among the early qualifiers.
“I’ve never been this far off at Indy, never,” she said. “It really just was slow. … We’re going to have to think about it and be ready to go back out.”
Many of the 32 drivers who have been on the track since practice began on Wednesday opted to wait until later in the day, hoping the wind dies down, with only 12 qualifying attempts in the first three hours of the session.
Will Power, the third Penske driver, was sixth at 223.028, followed by Marco Andretti at 222.789. Mario Moraes at 222.470 was ninth and Hideki Mutoh at 221.680 was 11th.
Raphael Matos (221.527) and Ed Carpenter (221.272) were the first two drivers bumped out of the top 11.
“That’s fine for the first run,” Power said. “If we have a shot at the front row, (the team) may decide to send me out again. It’s up to them.”
Andretti, the grandson of Indy legend and 1969 race winner Mario Andretti and son of longtime racing star Michael Andretti, said, “We were debating a wave-off, but we decided to just use it as a practice run and get one in the bank.
“If the wind keeps up, we might have to settle. I just hope it’s good enough for the top 11.”
Indy rookie Robert Doornbos crashed in the morning practice, his second wreck in two days, and 2005 Indy winner Dan Wheldon crashed during afternoon practice. Neither was injured.
Pirates free UK ship for ransom
Somali pirates have released a British-owned cargo ship, the Malaspina Castle, after more than a month following the payment of an undisclosed ransom.
The 32,000-tonne vessel, which has a mainly Bulgarian crew, was seized on 6 April in the Gulf of Aden while carrying a cargo of iron.
A Bulgarian government official confirmed the ship’s release, saying the pirates’ demands had been met.
He said that all members of the 24-strong crew were in good health.
Apart from 16 Bulgarians, they include several Russians, Ukrainians and Filipinos.
“The demands of the hijackers were met and the ship has been freed,” said Bulgarian Deputy Foreign Minister Milen Keremedchiev.
Andrew Mwangura, coordinator of the East African Seafarers Assistance Programme, based in Mombasa, Kenya, confirmed the release of the vessel.
“It was freed today,” he said on Saturday. “Ransom was paid a week ago.”
Heavily armed Somali pirates continue to attack shipping in the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden despite the presence of international warships and a string of recent operations against them in recent months, some of which resulted in bloodshed.
SOMERSWORTH, N.H. – A 3-year-old New Hampshire boy was left alone on a school bus this week when the driver did not notice the youngster after delivering other kids to preschool.
Chris Castano said his son, Nicholas, was unnoticed as the driver ran errands on Monday, and locked inside alone for 45 minutes while the driver visited with her mother.
Castano told Foster’s Daily Democrat his son was dropped off at home in Somersworth, N.H., on schedule late Monday morning, but the driver did not mention the incident. The parents learned about it from the school district.
Special Education director Bob Marquis said the bus company told him the driver had been disciplined.
Castano said the youngster told him he did not call to the driver because he was being patient and waiting to be unbuckled.
Somersworth is about 70 miles north of Boston.
Information from: Foster’s Daily Democrat, http://www.fosters.com
HOUSTON – Ron Artest will play in Game 4 of Houston’s Western Conference semifinal against the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday.
The NBA ruled Saturday that Artest’s hard foul on Pau Gasol late in the Lakers’ 108-94 win on Friday did not merit a one-game suspension. Artest was whistled for a flagrant foul, penalty two and ejected for the hit.
League spokesman Tim Frank said Saturday the foul was downgraded to a flagrant one.
The temperamental Artest was also thrown out of Game 2 in Los Angeles after a verbal confrontation with Kobe Bryant. Artest claimed that Bryant elbowed him in the neck, a blow that wasn’t called by the officials.
The Lakers have a 2-1 lead in the series.
Two-goal Steven Gerrard fired Liverpool back to the top of the Premier Leaguefor 24 hours at leastwith a 3-0 win at West Ham on Saturday.
Liverpool skipper Gerrard led by example with two goals as his side returned to the top of the Premier League.
Rafael Benitez’s side moved ahead of Manchester United on goal difference after England midfield star Gerrard helped them to victory at Upton Park. Fernando Torres made his return from injury and it took only 76 seconds for his partnership with Gerrard to carve their London rivals apart. The Spaniard expertly measured a through-ball for his captain, who rounded Robert Green to put the Reds ahead. Gerrard scored again seven minutes before the break, missing from the spot after Luis Boa Morte had tugged Torres’ shirt but making no mistake with the follow-up. Substitute Ryan Babel completed the scoring six minutes from time. United, who have two games in hand over Liverpool, play Manchester City at Old Trafford on Sunday when Chelsea, in third, take on fourth-placed Arsenal. Liam Lawrence guaranteed Stoke’s top flightsurvival with a stunning strike that hurled Hull closer to relegation after a 2-1 home defeat. Lawrence fired home from 25 yards with 18 minutes remaining at the KC Stadium to double Stoke’s advantage after an earlier Ricardo Fuller effort. Andy Dawson replied with an injury-time free-kick but it was too late as Stoke held on to clamber to 42 points and safety. The result left fourth-from-bottom Hull with just two wins in 26 games since October and with their survival hopes depending largely on the form of their fellow strugglers. West Bromwich Albion gave their fans fresh hope that they can still beat the drop after an emphatic 3-1 home win over Wigan. The Baggies remain at the foot of the table but are now level on points in the relegation zone with Middlesbrough and Newcastle who meet on Monday. West Brom made a bright start and Marc-Antoine Fortune gave them the lead in the eighth minute, pouncing after Chris Kirkland could only parry a powerful effort from Gianni Zuiverloon. It was 1-1 within 10 minutes, Hugo Rodallega claiming his first goal in English football after his free-kick took a wicked deflection off Chris Brunt. But midfielder Brunt made amends on the hour, following up to score at the second time of asking after substitute keeper Richard Kingson had saved his initial penalty. Fortune wrapped up the win with just over a quarter of an hour remaining to set the home crowd dreaming of yet another great escape after the heroics of 2005. There was more good news for Tony Mowbray’s side, who could have been relegated today if results had gone against them, as Hull were beaten 2-1 by Stoke at the KC Stadium. Sunderland, who are also fighting for their lives just outside the bottom three, dominated long periods of their dour goalles encounter with Bolton at the Reebok Stadium. Kieran Richardson was guilty of wasting Sunderland’s best opportunity in the 24th minute, skying his shot from 12 yards, while Martin Fulop’s late stop from Gary Cahill saved the Black Cats from a last-gasp defeat and leave them in 16th place, five points above the drop zone. Blackburn put an end to any lingering relegation fears with a 2-0 victory over Portsmouth, who will still be looking over their shoulder with two games to go.
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Morten Gamst Pedersen took advantage of an error by David James to put the hosts in front in the first half and Benni McCarthy settled the issue with a penalty on the hour. European hopefuls Fulham moved up to seventh spot after condemning Aston Villa to a 3-1 defeat at Craven Cottage. The hosts went ahead after six minutes when James Milner pushed Diomansy Kamara in the box and Danny Murphy slotted the resulting spot-kick into the bottom right-hand corner. Villa equalised on 15 minutes when PFA Young Player of the Year Ashley Young slid in to prod John Carew’s cross past Mark Schwarzer. Fulham wrapped up the points early in the second half thanks to Diomansy Kamara who struck twice in the space of 10 second half minutes. Everton and Tottenham played out a goalles draw at Goodison Park.
Sri Lankans arrest UK news team
A British Channel 4 News team has been arrested in Sri Lanka after reporting allegations of abuse in camps for displaced Tamils, the broadcaster said.
The Sri Lankan Defence Minister ordered Asia correspondent Nick Paton-Walsh, cameraman Matt Jasper and producer Bessie Du to leave the country.
The report contained claims that dead bodies were left where they fell and allegations of sexual abuse.
The Sri Lankan government has denied the allegations in Tuesday’s report.
Mr Paton-Walsh said the crew was being driven to Sri Lanka’s capital, Colombo, with a police escort.
Police spokesman Ranjith Gunasekera told reporters the trio were arrested in the eastern city of Trincomalee on Saturday. He said investigations were continuing.
A spokesperson for ITN, which produces Channel 4 News, said: “We will be seeking an explanation from the Sri Lankan government for this decision.”
The Channel 4 team had been covering fighting between the government and the Tamil Tiger rebels.
Its report looked at the conditions in camps that had been set up by the government for the refugees who had fled the northern war zone.
It explored allegations of sexual abuse as well as shortages of food and water.
The United Nations estimates that about 50,000 civilians are trapped by fighting as government troops attempt to oust the Tamil Tigers from their strongholds across the north.
The rebels have been driven back into a small pocket of land on the north-eastern coast.
The Tamil Tigers have fought for an independent homeland for Sri Lanka’s Tamil minority since 1983. More than 70,000 people have been killed in the war.
McKINNEY, Texas – A man arrested for allegedly failing to appear for jury duty was released Saturday after spending 83 days in jail, a length of detention that a judge called “unacceptable.”
Douglas Maupin was released a day after The Dallas Morning News brought his plight to the attention of a Collin County judge.
Maupin, a masonry contractor, was arrested Feb. 15 after police pulled him over for speeding. Police then detained him on a 2003 warrant for failure to appear for jury duty.
He wrote a letter to the newspaper about his lengthy jail stay, then said in a jailhouse interview that he, his friends and family could not afford his 1,500 bail.
He said his attempt to get a public defender was rebuffed by a jail clerk.
District Judge Chris Oldner said he was unaware of Maupin’s detention until Friday, even though the case was assigned to his court. The judge who signed the original 2003 warrant had retired, and officials said the case was assigned to the court of his replacement but the offense didn’t fall under that court’s responsibility.
“He should not have spent that much time. This is unacceptable,” Oldner told the Morning News. “I don’t know why the process failed to notify us.”
Oldner also said that Maupin should have been allowed to apply for a public defender.
Maupin, 34, said he just wanted his day in court.
“I do know I have the right to due process and a speedy trial,” he said. “I’ve had neither. It’s not right.”
The judge said he was “disappointed this has happened,” and promised to investigate.
LIVERPOOL, England (AFP) –
Wilson Palacios has flown home to Honduras after being told that police there had found the body of his younger brother Edwin, who was abducted in 2007.
The Tottenham midfielder was in Liverpool for his club's Premier League match at Everton when he heard the news.
“I got a phone call from him at seven o'clock this morning,” Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp revealed after the match.
“The kid heard last night at one o'clock in the morning that they had found his brother's body and they had caught some of the gang that had murdered him.”
Edwin Palacios had been missing since October 2007, when he was kidnapped at his home by assailants who demanded a ransom from the family. He was 16 at the time and his elder brother had just signed for his first English club, Birmingham.
Wilson Palacios subsequently moved to Wigan before joining Tottenham in a 14-million-pound deal in January.
Redknapp added: “He's a wonderful lad Palacios and if his brother was anything like him, he's one of the most respectful people I have come across, he's unbelievable.
“It's so sad. He's a 16-year-old kid who gets kidnapped and then gets murdered. I think the ransom even got paid and this still happened.”
“His mother's been over visiting him on her first visit to England. And she left yesterday and is flying back home so she's travelling and won't know until she got home. I think it's been confirmed. I think one of his other brothers is identifying his remains.”
HOUSTON – A 7-year-old boy who was allegedly shot in the head by a couple who thought he and three other people were trespassing on their property died Saturday, authorities said.
Donald Coffey Jr. died Saturday morning at a Houston hospital, less than two days after the boy was struck in the head by shotgun pellets, Liberty County Sheriff’s Cpl. Hugh Bishop said.
Sheila Muhs and her husband, Gayle Muhs, both 45, were charged with second-degree felony counts of aggravated assault in the shootings Thursday. They were being held at Liberty County Jail with bail set at 25,000 each and had not yet retained an attorney, Bishop said.
Bishop said the district attorney could upgrade the charges to murder on Monday, but investigators were “still trying to get the circumstances behind the incident.”
The boy, his 5-year-old sister, their father and a family friend were off-roading near a residential area about 40 miles northeast of Houston when they were shot after stopping so the children could go to the bathroom.
Authorities said the couple fired after they mistakenly thought the group was trespassing on their property.
Bishop said the area includes a dirt road, trees and overgrown brush and that it wasn’t uncommon for people to go off-roading there. The Houston Chronicle reported that a sign in front of the suspects’ home reads: “Trespassers will be shot. Survivers will be reshot!! Smile I will.”
Liberty County Chief Deputy Ken DeFoor said Sheila Muhs fired a 12-gauge shotgun once, then handed it to her husband, who also fired once.
DeFoor said Sheila Muhs then called 911 and told the dispatcher: “They’re out here tearing up the levee, so I shot them.”
DeFoor said the levee belonged to the subdivision and was not private property.
Bishop said there was no indication the unarmed victims did anything threatening toward the Muhs.
Donald Coffey Sr. suffered a pellet wound in his right shoulder and his daughter, Destiny, suffered a wound to the elbow. The family friend, 30-year-old Patrick Cammack, was in serious condition Saturday with a head wound, Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center spokeswoman Alex Rodriguez said.
Los Angeles (E! Online) –
Grey's Anatomy: Izzie's illness is even freaking out Grey's Anatomy boss Shonda Rhimes, who blogged about the 100th episode: “I went up to the editing room when the show was being edited, and I saw my first images of Izzie lying in the hospital bed bald. And I started to cry. And I said to Susan Vaill, our brilliant editor, I said, 'Ummm…I think Izzie is really sick.' And she hollered at me 'You made her sick!'…But here's the thing. Until I saw my Izzie, bald and pale and wheezing in that bed…I mean, she's sick. She's really sick. And I didn't see it coming. My brain got ahead of my heart on this one.”
In happier, potentially less-fatal news, Shonda also tweeted that there is “some good Cristina/Owen coming up too.” Yay! BTW, despite having had her third baby literally yesterday, Chyler Leigh is doing interviews on Monday (!), so if you have any Q's for Little Grey, email email@example.com, and we'll get you answers!
Weeds: If you're addicted to good TV and/or illegal drugs (not that we encourage the latter), check out Showtime's new “Yes We Cannabis” promo for season five of Weeds.
Radha: Dollhouse's chances of renewal are reportedly slim. Please, please say it isn't so! Do you have any happier news?
You know that 14th episode of Dollhouse that's set in a post-Apocalyptic universe and that won't be appearing on Fox network but will be included on the season-one DVD? Well, no one's officially confirming anything, and this is all still entirely in the theoretical dreamy dream stage, but reliable sources tell us exclusively that spinning off “Epitaph One” into a new series is “not exactly outside the realm of Joss' master plan.” So even if Dollhouse proper doesn't get a pickup for season two, there might still be an alternate Dollverse for us to play in. What do you think of that?!
··· THEY SAID WHAT? Get today's most commented stories now at www.eonline.com
WASHINGTON (AFP) –
The US restaurant chain T.G.I. Friday's has asked the New York State Police to open a criminal investigation into suspected product tampering after a severed snake head was found among vegetables.
According to a statement issued by the chain late Friday, the head was found among broccoli by a restaurant patron in Clifton Park, New York, last Sunday.
“This is obviously something we took very seriously and we immediately pulled the product from all of our restaurants until an investigation could be completed,” said Amy Freshwater, vice president of communication and public relations for Carlson Restaurants Worldwide, the parent of T.G.I. Friday's.
As part of the investigation, the head was sent to an independent laboratory for testing, and the lab said the snake's head was never cooked.
It has been concluded that the head was placed in the food at some point after the cooking process, the company said.
“We don't know who was involved in this senseless act of product tampering, but we are cooperating fully with the authorities and will prosecute the individual or individuals involved to the fullest extent of the law.” Freshwater said.
Iraq arrests minister’s brother
By Natalia Antelava
BBC News, Baghdad
A brother of Iraq’s trade minister has been arrested on suspicion of corruption, officials say.
Sabah Mohammed al-Sudany was held at a checkpoint in the south of the country.
News of the arrest came on the same day Prime Minister Nouri Maliki said Iraq needed an anti-corruption campaign to match the fight against insurgents.
Until very recently, the two brothers of the trade minister worked as his aides. But they vanished in late April as they were about to be arrested.
When Iraqi forces went to the ministry to deliver warrants for their arrest, they were greeted by gunshots fired into the air by the ministry’s own guards.
The two brothers in the meantime escaped through the back gate.
The police say they have now arrested one of the brothers, who they believe was trying to flee the country, and that they are still looking for nine other senior trade ministry officials.
All of them are accused of embezzlement and corruption.
The trade ministry is in charge of Iraq’s massive food rationing programme and millions of dollars worth of grain imports.
Iraq’s anti-corruption agency says these programmes have been marred by fraud. The trade minister denies the allegations.
Prime Minister Maliki says corruption is one of the country’s biggest problems and that it has to be confronted.
But the prime minister’s critics question whether his own office is free of fraud and bribery.
Fighting corruption in Iraq is not just difficult, it can be dangerous: the country’s last anti-corruption boss had to flee Iraq.
Zuma warning of economic ‘pinch’
South Africa is facing hard times economically, its newly inaugurated President, Jacob Zuma, warned in his acceptance speech.
“Jobs are being lost in every economy across the world,” he said. “We will not be spared the negative impact, and are beginning to feel the pinch.”
But the ANC leader said the foundations of the economy were strong.
Mr Zuma’s first task as president is to form his cabinet and he is due to announce its composition on Sunday.
Investors are watching to see if Finance Minister Trevor Manuel, who has been praised for his fiscal management, will be retained and also to what extent Mr Zuma’s communist allies will be represented.
Mr Manuel has expressed confidence in the new leader’s abilities.
“Frequently people look for experience but what matters is attitude and aptitude,” he said.
“The mood is very buoyed. Feeling very strong. There’s a big wave to ride.”
Mr Zuma was elected president by parliament after the African National Congress won the general election last month, albeit with a slightly reduced majority.
He was sworn in on Saturday before 5,000 invited guests and crowds of supporters who had gathered at the Union Buildings in Pretoria.
“We must acknowledge that we find ourselves in difficult economic times,” he said.
Despite his bitter power struggle with his predecessor Thabo Mbeki, the new president paid tribute to his economic management.
Mr Mbeki had, he said, created a “firm foundation” for economic growth and development.
Turning to the 2010 World Cup, he promised “a world class event that will forever change the perceptions of the international community”, drawing loud applause.
All South Africa’s leaders since 1994 attended the lavish ceremony in Pretoria.
Jacob Zuma thanked Nelson Mandela for healing the wounds of the past in South Africa and establishing the “Rainbow Nation”.
The Mandela-Mbeki years are now part of history, the BBC’s Peter Biles reports, and it is President Zuma who has to address huge economic and social challenges.
The first test of his presidency will come in the 24 hours when he reveals the members of his cabinet, our correspondent says.
Jacob Zuma’s journey to the Union Buildings has been an epic struggle, our correspondent adds.
He was sacked as vice-president by Thabo Mbeki four years ago after being implicated in a corruption scandal – allegations Mr Zuma always denied.
The case was eventually thrown out amid evidence of government meddling in the investigation.
In February 2006, he was acquitted of rape in a separate case, though he was widely criticised for his comments about sex and HIV/Aids.
At the time, few observers believed Mr Zuma could remain a serious contender for president, our correspondent says.
But he fought to clear his name, retained enormous popularity, especially among his fellow Zulus, and led the ANC to a convincing election victory two weeks ago on a pro-poor populist ticket.
He has listed his five priorities as land redistribution, education, health, lowering crime levels and finding decent work for all South Africans.
LOS ANGELES – “Star Trek” has gone to warp speed at the box office with 31 million in domestic ticket sales after just over a day in theaters.
Distributor Paramount said “Star Trek” took in 24 million Friday, plus 7 million during preview screenings Thursday night.
Paramount estimates that by the end of the weekend the movie will be near or over 70 million in ticket sales.
That puts the movie light years ahead of the previous 10 “Trek” movies.
The best opening weekend ever for the franchise was 30.7 million for 1996′s “Star Trek: First Contact.” According to inflation-adjusted numbers compiled by Hollywood.com, that translates to 51.2 million in today’s dollars.
ALBANY, N.Y. – He’s a comic, actor, “Saturday Night Live” veteran and “Late Night” talk show host.
Add one more thing to Jimmy Fallon’s resume: College graduate.
The 34-year-old Fallon has finally gotten his bachelor’s degree, 14 years after he left an upstate New York college to pursue his comedy career.
The television and film star picked up his degree in communications and spoke to graduates at Saturday’s College of Saint Rose commencement.
Fallon was a Saint Rose student from 1992 through 1995, when he left the Albany college to pursue a show business career. He was just one semester short of graduating.
On the Web: http://www.strose.edu
Authorities discovered a body Saturday during a search for a University of Georgia professor accused of killing three people, Athens-Clarke County police said.
Authorities examine a Jeep belonging to professor George Zinkhan on May 1 in Clarke County, Georgia.
Cadaver dogs searching for George Zinkhan discovered a body about 65 miles northeast of Atlanta, police said. Zinkhan, 56, is suspected of shooting his wife and two other people to death last month at a community theater in Athens, Georgia. The body was discovered about a mile from where Zinkhan’s red Jeep Liberty was found on May 1, police said in a statement. The body was concealed, the police statement said. The body will be transported to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation laboratory near Atlanta for identification, according to the statement. Authorities identified the dead from the April 25 shooting as Marie Bruce, 47, Zinkhan’s wife and a prominent Athens attorney; Tom Tanner, 40; and Ben Teague, 63.
Missing professor’s Jeep found
Professor sought in shooting deaths of wife, 2 others
Police said they would hold a news conference at 3 p.m. Saturday. The victims were all associated with the Town and Gown Players, a theater group that was holding a reunion picnic at the time of the shootings. Police said Zinkhan arrived while the Town and Gown event was under way and got into a disagreement with his wife. Police believe he went to his carwhere the couple’s children apparently were waitingand returned with two handguns. In addition to the three deaths, two other people were wounded, police said. After the shooting, Zinkhan left with his childrenages 8 and 10in the car, police said. He drove to a neighbor’s home in nearby Bogart, Georgia, where he lived, and left the children with the neighbor. Authorities put out bulletins across the nation for Zinkhan after the shootings and revealed that he had purchased a May 2 ticket in March to the Netherlands, where he owns a house.
The day of the flight passed without any sign of Zinkhan. He had been an endowed marketing professor at the University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business. The university fired Zinkhan the day after the shootings.