Craigslist will replace its controversial online “erotic services” listings with a section where ads are individually checked by Craigslist employees before they are posted, according to Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal.
Craigslist will replace its “erotic services” listings with ads that are screened by the site’s employees.
The popular national classified-ad Web sitewhich Blumenthal called “a blatant Internet brothel”has been accused by law enforcement officials across the United States of promoting prostitution through its erotic ads. “Craigslist is heeding our clear call for conscience and common sense, sending a strong signal that Internet sites must police themselves to protect others,” Blumenthal said. Craigslist representatives met in New York last week with Blumenthal and the attorneys general of Missouri and Illinois, all of whom asked the company to shut down its “erotic services” sections in their states. Cook County, Illinois, Sheriff Thomas Dart called Craigslist “the single largest source of prostitution in the nation.” “As head of the multistate attorney general task force,” Blumenthal said, “I was informed by Craigslist late last night that it will eliminate the ‘erotic services’ section within seven days, create a new section called ‘adult services,’ and manually review every ad posted there to bar flagrant prostitution and pornography.”
State vows criminal action over Craigslist sex ads
Craigslist executives did not immediately respond Wednesday to CNN’s calls and e-mails seeking comment. Blumenthal said state agencies will keep a close eye on the Web site and others “to make sure prostitution and pornography do not migrate and move elsewhere.” “We will be monitoring closely to make sure that this measure is more than a name change from ‘erotic’ to ‘adult’ and that the manual blocking is tough and effective to scrub prostitution and pornography,” he said. “Our continuing investigation will assure that these steps are substance, not just spin, and that Craigslist really shuts down its open online red light district.” In November 2008, Craigslist entered into an agreement with more than 40 attorneys general and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to add safeguards to combat unlawful activity and improve public safety. As part of the reforms, Craigslist agreed to implement credit card verification, assess a fee and require a phone number from people posting “erotic services.”
Archive for May 13th, 2009
Craigslist will replace its controversial online “erotic services” listings with a section where ads are individually checked by Craigslist employees before they are posted, according to Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal.
WASHINGTON The contentious debate over so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” took center stage on Capitol Hill on Wednesday as a former FBI agent involved in the questioning of terror suspects testified that such techniquesincluding waterboardingare ineffective.
From left: Sens. Lindsey Graham, Sheldon Whitehouse,
Patrick Leahy and Dianne Feinstein listen Wednesday.
Ali Soufan, an FBI special agent from 1997 to 2005, told members of a key Senate Judiciary subcommittee that such “techniques, from an operational perspective, are ineffective, slow and unreliable, and harmful to our efforts to defeat al Qaeda.” His remarks followed heated exchanges between committee members with sharply differing views on both the value of the techniques and the purpose of the hearing itself. Soufan, who was involved in the interrogation of CIA detainee Abu Zubaydah, took issue with former Vice President Dick Cheney, who has said that enhanced interrogation techniques helped the government acquire intelligence necessary to prevent further attacks after September 11, 2001. The techniques, which were approved by the Bush administration, are considered torture by many critics. “From my experienceand I speak as someone who has personally interrogated many terrorists and elicited important actionable intelligenceI strongly believe that it is a mistake to use what has become known as the ‘enhanced interrogation techniques,’ ” Soufan noted in his written statement. Such a position is “shared by many professional operatives, including the CIA officers who were present at the initial phases of the Abu Zubaydah interrogation.”
Al Qaeda figure who provided link to Iraq reportedly dead
Poll finds lack of support for ‘torture’ investigations
AG Holder hit from both sides over Bush-era memos
Soufan told the committee that within the first hour of his interrogating Zubaydah, the suspected terrorist provided actionable intelligence. But once the CIA contractors took over and used harsh methods, Soufan said, Zubaydah stopped talking. When Soufan was asked to resume questioning, Zubaydah cooperated. After another round of more coercive techniques used by the contractors, however, Soufan said it was difficult for him to re-engage Zubaydah. One of four recently released Bush administration memos showed that CIA interrogators used waterboarding at least 266 times on Zubaydah and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the suspected planner of the September 11 attacks. “People were given misinformation, half-truths and false claims of successes; and reluctant intelligence officers were given instructions and assurances from higher authorities,” Soufan testified. “I wish to do my part to ensure that we never again use these … techniques instead of the tried, tested and successful onesthe ones that are also in sync with our values and moral character. Only by doing this will we defeat the terrorists as effectively and quickly as possible.” Soufan was hidden behind a protective screen during his testimony before the Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Administrative Oversight and the Courts. Staffers for the committee cited “documented threats” against him, noting his previous interaction with al Qaeda terrorists, as well as his undercover work against Islamic extremists. Phillip Zelikow, who was a top aide to Condoleezza Rice when she was secretary of state, repeated an accusation during the hearing that Bush officials ordered his memo arguing against waterboarding to be destroyed. The order, “passed along informally, did not seem proper, and I ignored it,” Zelikow said. He said that his memo has been in State Department files and is being reviewed for possible declassification. Zelikow slammed the “collective failure” behind the government’s adoption of “an unprecedented program of coolly calculated dehumanizing abuse and physical torment to extract information. This was a mistake, perhaps a disastrous one.” He added that some “may believe that recent history, even since 2005, shows that America needs an elaborate program of indefinite secret detention and physical coercion in order to protect the nation. … If they are right, our laws must change and our country must change. I think they are wrong.” Committee Republicans warned that the hearing could ultimately contribute to diminished national security. “As we harshly judge those who had to make decisions we don’t have to make, please remember this: that what we do in looking back may determine how we move forward,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina. “And let’s not unnecessarily impede the ability of this country to defend itself against an enemy who, as I speak, is thinking and plotting their way back into America.” A top intelligence source familiar with the Bush administration’s interrogation program was dismissive of Soufan’s credibility as a witness. “It’s puzzling that someone who questioned a single high-value detainee for just a few months claims to be able to talk about the value of a program that lasted nearly seven years after he was part of it,” the source said. “Suffice it to say, there are varying accounts of the facts and circumstances surrounding the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah.” Soufan wrote an op-ed in The New York Times in April arguing that there “was no actionable intelligence gained from using enhanced interrogation techniques on Abu Zubaydah that wasn’t, or couldn’t have been, gained from regular tactics.” He said that “using these alternative methods on other terrorists backfired on more than a few occasions … The short-sightedness behind the use of these techniques ignored the unreliability of the methods, the nature of the threat, the mentality and modus operandi of the terrorists, and due process.” While at the FBI, Soufan was involved with numerous investigations of sensitive international terrorism cases, including the East Africa bombings, the attack on the USS Cole, and the September 11 attacks. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-Rhode Island, opened the hearing by accusing Bush administration officials of lying about the use of techniques that had damaged the country’s standing in the world. “The truth of our country’s descent into torture is not precious. It is noxious. It is sordid,” Whitehouse said. “It has also been attended by a bodyguard of lies. … President Bush told us America does not torture while authorizing conduct that America has prosecuted. … Vice President Cheney agreed in an interview that waterboarding was like a dunk in the water, when it was used as a torture technique by tyrannical regimes from the Spanish inquisition to Cambodia’s killing fields.”
President Obama has ordered government lawyers to object to the planned release of additional detainee photos, according to an administration official.
The Iraqi Ministry of Justice gave journalists an inside look at the prison formerly known as Abu Ghraib.
The Defense Department was set to release hundreds of photographs showing alleged abuse of prisoners in detention facilities in Afghanistan and Iraq. “Last week, the president met with his legal team and told them that he did not feel comfortable with the release of the [Defense Department] photos because he believes their release would endanger our troops, and because he believes that the national security implications of such a release have not been fully presented to the court,” the official said. “At the end of that meeting, the president directed his counsel to object to the immediate release of the photos on those grounds. … [Obama] strongly believes that the release of these photos, particularly at this time, would only serve the purpose of inflaming the theaters of war, jeopardizing U.S. forces, and making our job more difficult in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.” The release is in response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the American Civil Liberties Union. It follows President Obama’s decision to release Bush-era CIA documents showing that the U.S. used techniques like waterboarding, considered torture by the current administration. Photographs released in 2006 of detainees being abused and humiliated at the Abu Ghraib military prison in Iraq sparked widespread outrage and led to convictions for several prison guards and the ouster of the prison’s commander.
The politics of torture heating up in Washington
Senate report: Rice, Cheney OK’d CIA waterboarding
Lawsuit on alleged prisoner abuse can move ahead
The Pentagon shut down the prison in the wake of the scandal, but it reopened under Iraqi control this year. The ACLU said the Pentagon had agreed to release a “substantial” number of photographs by May 28. Officials at the Pentagon have said the photographs are from more than 60 criminal investigations between 2001 and 2006 and show military personnel allegedly abusing detainees. “The disclosure of these photographs serves as a further reminder that abuse of prisoners in U.S.-administered detention centers was systemic,” said Jameel Jaffer, director of the ACLU National Security Project. “Some of the abuse occurred because senior civilian and military officials created a culture of impunity in which abuse was tolerated, and some of the abuse was expressly authorized. It’s imperative that senior officials who condoned or authorized abuse now be held accountable for their actions.” ACLU attorney Amrit Singh adds that the photographs “provide visual proof that prisoner abuse by U.S. personnel was not aberrational but widespread, reaching far beyond the walls of Abu Ghraib.” But Pentagon officials reject ACLU allegations that the photos show a systemic pattern of abuse by the military. Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said the Defense Department has “always been serious about investigating credible allegations of abuse.” “The policy of the Department of Defense is to treat all prisoners humanely, and those who have violated that policy have been investigated and disciplined,” he added. More than 400 people, Whitman said, have been disciplined based on investigations involving detainee abuse. The discipline ranged from prison sentences to demotions and letters of reprimand. The Pentagon wanted to prevent the images from being put into the public domain but decided to release them after losing two court cases, according to Whitman. “We felt this case had pretty much run its course,” he said. “Legal options at this point had become pretty limited.” Last month, Defense Secretary Robert Gates expressed concerns about the photo release, saying that terrorist groups like al Qaeda could exploit the photos to recruit terrorists or incite violence. It’s a sentiment echoed by two veteran U.S. senators. In a March 7 letter to the Obama administration, Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, and Joe Lieberman, I-Connecticut, expressed concern over the new photographs. “We know that many terrorists captured in Iraq have told American interrogators that one of the reasons they decided to join the violent jihadist war against America was what they saw on Al-Qaeda videos of abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib,” the senators wrote. “Releasing these old photographs of detainee treatment now will provide new fodder to Al-Qaeda’s propaganda and recruitment operations, undercut the progress you have made in our international relations, and endanger America’s military and diplomatic personnel throughout the world.” Andrew McCarthy, writing on the Web site of the National Review, issued a harsh warning Tuesday: “American soldiers, American civilians, and other innocent people are going to die because Pres. Barack Obama wants to release photographs of prisoner abuse.” “The photos at issue won’t tell us anything significant about prisoner abuse, and they may very well serve to distort reality. What seems certain is that they will get Americans killed,” he added. David Rehbein, the national commander of the American Legion, wrote in the Wall Street Journal last week that nothing good can come from the release of the photographs. “Other than self-flagellation by certain Americans, riots and future terrorist acts, what else do people expect will come from the release of these photographs?” he asked. But group such as Human Rights First have argued in the past that releasing photographs of alleged abuse is vital. The group, in a release on its Web site, says it has set up a nonpartisan inquiry to “evaluate the full cost of abuses, look at how we got there, and come up with safeguards so we don’t repeat the same mistakes.” “The U.S. needs to invest in a forward-looking strategy on intelligence gathering that gives interrogators training and guidance on which techniques work, and which techniquessuch as torturedon’t.”
New warning over Arctic ice-cap
By David Shukman
Environment Correspondent, BBC News, Eureka, Canadian Arctic
The Arctic ice-cap, a permanent feature for at least 100,000 years, could vanish in summertime far sooner than predicted, a leading scientist says.Professor Peter Wadhams, from the University of Cambridge, told BBC News he has brought forward his estimates of the ice-cap’s demise. He believes the ice is now so thin that almost all of it will disappear in about a decade. He says it will become seasonal, forming only during the winter. He told the BBC: “By 2013 we will see a much smaller area in summertime than now, and certainly by about 2020, I can imagine that only one area will remain in summer.” His assessment is based on analysis of nearly 40 years of sonar data gathered on Royal Navy submarines patrolling beneath the ice – the first, HMS Dreadnought, was in 1971.
Until recently, most climate forecasts suggested that the Arctic Ocean would have ice-free summers only towards the end of the century. The most extreme scenario was for the ice to retreat as soon as 2013, but that was dismissed by many as far too soon. Now Professor Wadhams, who has studied the Arctic for the past 40 years, says that there is “almost a breakdown” in the ice-cover.
Over most of the Arctic, there has been a massive decline in the amount of so-called multi-year ice – ice that is tough enough to withstand the summer warmth. Much of what is left of this ice accumulates in an area north of Greenland and Ellesmere Island in Canada, and may form what he calls “a last holdout, a kind of Alamo”. Professor Wadhams said: “The change is happening so fast. It’s the result of this steady thinning over four decades that has brought it to a state where its summer melt is causing it to disappear. “It’s like the Arctic is covered with an egg shell and the egg shell has been thinning to the point where it is now just cracking completely.” His prediction comes as the Canadian Ice Service prepares to issue its annual summer forecast. After a record melt in 2007, and an above-average melt last year, this coming summer is seen as crucial for determining the rate at which the ice-cap will disappear.
An ice service analyst Dr Trudi Wohlleben said that the ice was likely to retreat as much as it has in the last two years. Typically about 40% of the Arctic Ocean is covered with older, thicker ice, but that has been greatly reduced. The forecast for a rapid decline is reinforced by data gathered on the Catlin Arctic Survey, the expedition that is coming to an end after 10 weeks. Measurements of ice thickness made in hundreds of drill-holes have confirmed assessments made by satellite and submarine sonar. According to Dr Wohlleben: “It is very nice to have ‘ground-truthing’ of what you’re interpreting from the satellite data. “So when we look at the imagery, we’re expecting the first year ice to be between 1m and 2m thick and it’s nice to have those numbers confirmed.”
CANNES, France – The evening gowns glittered, the red carpet was unfurled — and the 3-D glasses were at hand as the 62nd Cannes Film Festival opened Wednesday.
Organizers were hoping the opener, the soaring 3-D adventure “Up,” would provide a buoyant start before the festival plunges into 12 days of movies that take in passion, murder, Korean vampires and a band of Nazi-hunters led by Brad Pitt.
Soon members of the jury, led by French actress Isabelle Huppert would be wrangling over which auteurs — from a slate that includes Pedro Almodovar, Ang Lee, Quentin Tarantino and Ken Loach — should receive Cannes’ coveted prizes. But on Wednesday, Huppert was in a gentle mood.
“I don’t think we are here to judge,” she said. “I think we are here to love films — and to see what we love more than others.”
Huppert is one of only a handful of women ever to head the jury at the world’s most prestigious film festival. She said the numbers didn’t bother her: her predecessors — who include Sophia Loren and Liv Ullmann — were “women who count for a lot.”
Fellow juror Hanif Kureishi, the British screenwriter of “My Beautiful Laundrette” and “The Mother,” was more concerned with another omission.
“I’m not aware we’ve ever had a black or Asian president of the jury,” he said. “It will be interesting to see when that will occur.”
Politics is never far away from the art at Cannes — and neither is spectacle.
Scores of celeb-watchers waited patiently outside Cannes’ waterside film complex Wednesday, hoping for a glimpse of the stars — any stars. Few knew who was due to arrive, but most didn’t seem to mind.
“I want to see Angelina Jolie on the red carpet,” said Corinne Besnier, who traveled hundreds of miles (kilometers) from Reims in northern France. “And Johnny Hallyday” — the French rock star who plays a killer in Hong Kong’s director Johnnie To’s “Vengeance.”
Hundreds of brightly colored helium balloons festooned the building in honor of Disney and Pixar Animation’s “Up,” the story of an old man and a young boy who float off to South America in an airborne house.
There’s also plenty of weightier fare among the 20 films in competition, including Tarantino’s World War II epic “Inglourious Basterds,” with Pitt as leader of a group of Jewish soldiers hunting down Nazis.
Gloom and gore abound: Lars von Trier’s “Antichrist,” about a couple’s trip to the woods that turns chilling; Park Chan-Wook’s “Thirst,” in which a priest turns bloodsucker; and Gaspar Noe’s “Enter the Void,” billed in the festival program as a nightmarish “hallucinatory maelstrom.”
On a gentler note, Jane Campion’s “Bright Star” depicts the poet John Keats in love, while Lee’s “Taking Woodstock” set on the fringes of the seminal ’60s rock fest.
The lineup looks strong, but festival organizers and industry attendees are apprehensive about how the global recession will affect the event.
Festival director Thierry Fremaux said he expects attendance to be up slightly from last year, but Vanity Fair magazine has canceled its annual Cannes party, and some soirees are rumored to have swapped champagne for sparkling wine.
Off the red carpet, there is an apprehensive mood in the sprawling festival market where movie deals are done.
“We all know the world is not going very well and the crisis is here, for the industry of cinema like for the industry of cars,” Fremaux said.
But for one evening, stars and festival-goers ignored the gloom, walked the famous red carpet in their evening finery — and promptly donned clunky plastic glasses to watch the 3-D opener.
John Lasseter, the chief creative force behind “Up” makers Pixar Animation, said coming to Cannes was one of the highlights of his career. “Up” is the first animated film to open the festival.
“The thing I’m looking forward to the most is seeing that great image of all these people tonight in their tuxedos, bow ties and gowns, wearing 3-D glasses in that big theater,” he said. “That’s going to be a good picture.”
Los Angeles (E! Online) –
Crikey! Woody Allen's latest ensemble project is down one Aussie.
According to Variety, Nicole Kidman has opted out of the director's London-set flick, though the actress has yet to offer up a reason for her departure.
Maybe she's a particularly ardent American Apparel fan, or maybe it's time to cue the bump watch? In any case, the hunt is on for a replacement.
Even sans Kidman, there will be plenty of star power to go around: Naomi Watts, Freida Pinto, Antonio Banderas, Josh Brolin and Anthony Hopkins remain on board and will begin shooting this summer in the U.K.
Meanwhile, those wondering what you'd get if you crossed Wolverine with a Mummy-seeking archaeologist need wonder no more. According to Hollywood, the answer is Robert Pattinson.
The New Moon hunk heads up today's castings, along with Hugh Jackman, Rachel Weisz, Kevin Spacey, Monica Bellucci, Guy Pearce, Danny Glover and Al Pacino.
• Robert Pattinson is set to star as the son of Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz in the period drama Unbound Captives. Per Variety, the film centers on a woman whose husband is killed and two children are captured in 1859. She's rescued by a frontiersman, played by Jackman.
• Kevin Spacey may not know Jack, but he's gonna play him. According to Variety, the actor is set to star as fallen power lobbyist Jack Abramoff in the reality-based thriller Casino Jack. The film follows how Abramoff's fraudulent dealings with Indian casinos landed him in prison.
• Monica Bellucci, Guy Pearce and Miranda Otto are going light with Black. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the trio are set to star in The Women in Black, a romantic comedy based on the same-named Madeleine St. John novel. The story follows a group of saleswomen and their families working in a 1960s department store. Cameras roll in Sydney this October.
• Dear Alice fits like a Glover. Per Variety, Danny Glover has signed on to star in the Swedish indie drama centering on four people whose fates intertwine based on life-changing decisions they make on one day.
• Al Pacino is in talks to star in the Leonardo DiCaprio-produced adaptation of Malcolm Gladwell's bestseller Blink, per the Hollywood Reporter. The film will center on the relationship between an older finance-world man and the twentysomething drifter son he has long distanced himself from, with whom he reconnects.
• Jean-Claude Van Damme and Vinnie Jones are using their powers for evil, not good. Per the Hollywood Reporter, the action duo are teaming up to play rival assassins who form a tenuous alliance in order to take down the head of a drug cartel backed by the DEA. Cameras roll on Weapon in August.
Follow us on Twitter @eonline
··· THEY SAID WHAT? Get today's most commented stories now at www.eonline.com
WASHINGTON – In a reversal, President Barack Obama is fighting the release of dozens of new photos showing U.S. personnel allegedly abusing prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan, a White House official said Wednesday.
Obama’s decision came after the top military commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan told the president they feared the release of the photos could endanger their troops.
Obama decided he did not feel comfortable with the release and last week instructed his legal team to challenge it in court, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the president’s decision had not yet been made public.
Obama has instructed administration lawyers to make the case that the national security implications of such a release have not been fully presented to the court, the official said.
The president informed Gen. Ray Odierno, commander of U.S. troops in Iraq, of his decision during a White House meeting on Tuesday.
Gen. David Petraeus, the senior commander for both wars, had also weighed in, as had Gen. David McKiernan, the top general in Afghanistan. Defense Secretary Robert Gates fired McKiernan on Monday for unrelated reasons.
Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said military “commanders are concerned about the impact the release of these photos would have for the troops in Afghanistan and Iraq,” and that Gates shares their concerns.
In Afghanistan, release of the pictures this month would coincide with the spring thaw that usually heralds the year’s toughest fighting. Morrell also noted the release as scheduled would come as thousands of new U.S. troops head into Afghanistan’s volatile south.
Federal appeals judges have ruled the photos should be released.
Through an arrangement with the court, the Pentagon was preparing to release, by May 28, two batches of photos, one of 21 images and another 23. The government had also told the judge it was “processing for release a substantial number of other images.”
The American Civil Liberties Union, which is suing the government for the release, criticized the decision.
“The decision to suppress the photos is profoundly inconsistent with the promise of transparency that President Obama has made time after time,” ACLU lawyer Jameel Jaffer said.
The Obama official said the president believes that the actions depicted in the photos should not be excused and fully supports the investigations, prison sentences, discharges and other punitive measures that have resulted from them. But the president does not believe that so publicizing the actions in such a graphic way would be helpful.
Associated Press writers Anne Gearan, Devlin Barrett and Lara Jakes contributed to this report.
Kenyan MPs’ fury over island row
Kenyan MPs have expressed fury over remarks made by Uganda’s president about ownership of the Migingo islands.Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni sparked fury on Monday when he said the islands belonged to Kenya but the water around the one-acre rock was Ugandan. He suggested that no Kenyans should be allowed to fish off the Migingos under existing boundaries drawn up in 1926. Parliamentarians in Nairobi want the African Union and the United Nations Security Council to resolve the row. The two East African nations are conducting a joint survey to verify ownership of the Migingos in the rich fishing waters of Lake Victoria. The exercise is due to last two months and both countries have agreed to call an independent expert in case of further dispute. Railways uprootedPresident Museveni triggered a fresh diplomatic row over the Migingos when he told the BBC on Monday: “The island is in Kenya, the water is in Uganda. “But the [Luos, a Kenyan ethnic group] are mad, they want to fish here but this is Uganda.” On Wednesday, one MP in the Kenyan capital accused the Ugandan president of “exporting his dictatorial tendencies”. Another wondered if they should continue to regard Uganda as a friendly country. Yet another said Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki must consult the UN as she said the Migingo dispute posed a threat to international peace and security. Furious protesters in Nairobi reacted to Mr Museveni’s remarks by uprooting railway lines linking Kenya and Uganda. The BBC’s Anne Mawathe says this caused disruption for landlocked Uganda, which relies heavily on Kenya to transport its goods. In the Ugandan capital Kampala, the BBC’s Joshua Mmali said Mr Museveni’s spokesman found himself in the difficult position of having to deny his boss’ remarks. “His Excellency’s statement has been misconstrued, misunderstood and taken out of context,” he said.
Bayern appoint Van Gaal as coach
Bayern Munich have appointed ex-Ajax and Barcelona boss Louis van Gaal as their new coach.The former Dutch national coach succeeds Jurgen Klismann, who was sacked last month. Bayern say van Gaal, 57, who has just guided AZ Alkmaar to the Dutch league title, will sign a two-year contract and formally take over on 1 July. “We are happy to have gained an experienced and successful coach,” said Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. Dutch side Alkmaar have reportedly released their coach without any conditions.
Up set to launch Cannes festival
Pixar film Up is set to open the 62nd Cannes Film Festival – the first time an animation has launched the event.A host of celebrities will don 3D glasses for the film, about about a curmudgeonly man who ties balloons to his house to get airborne. Among the stars due on the French Riveria for the festival are Brad Pitt, Penelope Cruz and Johnny Depp, all of whom have new films to promote. The event runs until 24 May when the Palme d’Or prize will be announced. The 10th feature film from animation powerhouse Pixar was warmly received at its press screening, where the closing credits were greeted with a warm round of applause.
The star-studded gala screening takes place in the legendary Palais de Festivals later. “The thing I’m looking forward to most is seeing all those people in their tuxedos and gowns looking at this movie in their 3D glasses,” Up producer and Pixar co-founder John Lasseter joked at a news conference. “To see animation respected at the world’s premier film festival. To be given opening night, you pinch yourself. You just can’t believe it.” Ed Catmull, president of Disney and Pixar’s animation studios added: “There’s a perception that animated films are for kids, which I think is very unfortunate. “What happens now at Cannes is they’re recognizing it as a film. Not as a category, but as a really great film.” UK hopefuls
The 20 directors with films in the running for the festival’s top prize include four past winners including Tarantino, who returns with Inglourious Basterds, a Dirty Dozen-style World War II saga starring Pitt, Samuel L Jackson and Mike Myers. Three UK films are also competing for the prestigious prize, including Ken Loach with Looking for Eric, in which former footballer Eric Cantona plays himself as the personal hero of a postman whose life is spinning downhill. Bright Star – a period drama about poet John Keats – and Fish Tank, a domestic drama starring Michael Fassbender, complete the British contingent in the main competition. Fassbender who won plaudits for his portrayal of hunger striker Bobby Sands in Hunger last year, also has a role in Tarantino’s film. Out of competition, Terry Gilliam will be premiering The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, starring the late Heath Ledger in his final screen role, which had to be completed by Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law. French actress Isabelle Huppert will chair the jury this year, having previously served as a juror on two separate occasions.
Shuttle in rendezvous with Hubble
Space shuttle Atlantis has reached the Hubble telescope, orbiting at a height of 560km (350 miles) over the Earth.The shuttle crew completed a delicate dance of manoeuvres to align the shuttle’s robotic arm with the telescope on their approach. The arm was used to get hold of Hubble and draw it into the shuttle’s bay. Five spacewalks beginning on Thursday will upgrade and repair the telescope, which has suffered from recent equipment failures.
The shuttle crew will now be able to get their first close look at Hubble since March 2002. On the final approach the shuttle paused at a distance of about 75 metres, then made an adjustment of 42 degrees to its “yaw”, or twist. Though the crew can control Hubble’s movements, the team opted to align the shuttle to the telescope, rather than vice versa. At a distance of about ten metres from the telescope, astronaut Megan McArthur used the 16-metre robotic arm to grasp the telescope’s “grapple fixture”. “Houston, Hubble has arrived on board Atlantis,” said Atlantis commander Scott Altman as the robotic arm locked with the fixture. The telescope will now be drawn delicately to a platform in the shuttle’s bay. From there, the series of spacewalks to be undertaken over the next five days will repair and replace a number of experiments on the telescope.
ALMA, Ark. – Police in Arkansas say a school bus has gone through an intersection where a stop sign was missing and collided with a pickup truck, injuring several people.
Arkansas State Police Trooper Chase Melder said the stop sign had been stolen or otherwise removed from the intersection near the town of Alma.
He said the bus drove onto a highway from a secondary road and was hit by the pickup.
The trooper said several children were taken to a hospital for treatment of minor injuries, and four people in the pickup were hospitalized for treatment of more significant injuries.
Melder told The Associated Press there was no indication who took the stop sign from the intersection.
He said neither vehicle overturned after the collision.
Modern Australia lacks big land predators, but until about 30,000 years ago, the continent was ruled by Thylacoleo carnifex, the marsupial “lion.”
Several well-preserved skeletons of the leopard-size beast have been
found. Now, a newly discovered cave painting offers a glimpse of the
animal's external appearance.
In June 2008, Tim Willing, a
naturalist and tour guide, photographed an ancient painting on a
rockshelter wall near the shore of northwestern Australia. Kim Akerman,
an independent anthropologist based in Tasmania, says the painting
unmistakably depicts a marsupial lion.
It shows the requisite catlike muzzle, large forelimbs, and heavily
clawed front paws. And it portrays the animal with a striped back, a
tufted tail, and pointed ears.
Those last three features aren't preserved in skeletons, but
Aborigines would have known them well. Australia's first people landed
on the continent at least 40,000 years ago and were contemporaries of
the big predator.
Previously known rock paintings hinted at
marsupial lions, but were rudimentary and could have depicted the other
striped marsupial predator, the dog-size Tasmanian “tiger.” That species succumbed to competition from humans in 1936, much as the marsupial lion may have done millennia before.
The findings were detailed in Antiquity.
Gallery: The World's Biggest Beasts (Here and Gone)
This article was provided to LiveScience by Natural History Magazine.
Original Story: Cave Painting Depicts Extinct Marsupial Lion
LiveScience.com chronicles the daily advances and innovations made in science and technology. We take on the misconceptions that often pop up around scientific discoveries and deliver short, provocative explanations with a certain wit and style. Check out our science videos, Trivia & Quizzes and Top 10s. Join our community to debate hot-button issues like stem cells, climate change and evolution. You can also sign up for free newsletters, register for RSS feeds and get cool gadgets at the LiveScience Store.
LONDON, EnglandThe Renault F1 team have shown a united front with Ferrari with a threat to boycott the 2010 Championship unless proposed rule changes are dropped by the sport’s governing body.
Renault have now joined Ferrari in saying they will not race in 2010 unless proposed changes are dropped
The decision comes in the wake of plans by the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) to introduce optional cost-caps and technical restrictions for competing teams. Renault stated on their official Web site that the decision by the FIA to introduce two sets of technical regulations has led to the team “reconsidering its entry in next year’s World Championship.” Renault F1 Team Managing Director, Flavio Briatore said: “We refuse to accept unilateral governance handed out by the FIA. If the decisions announced are not revised, we have no choice but to withdraw … at the end of 2009.” Are Ferrari and Renault right to serve the FIA with an ultimatum? President of the team, Bernard Rey, added: “We remain committed to the sport, however, we cannot be involved in a championship operating with different sets of rules.” The controversy centers on plans for an optional cost-capping policy to operate next season which the FIA argued, in an April press release, would allow technical innovation to flourish without promoting a “spending race.”
No team orders Brawn tell Barrichello
FIA throw out protest against three F1 teams
Champs leader Button wins Spanish GP pole
Renault F1 official site
Ferrari official site
FIA official website
It would mean that teams operating within a budget cap of 60 million would be free of technical restrictions, while those over this amount would not.The FIA believed this would attract new teams to join the sport and stated in April”interest has been extraordinarily high from both existing teams and potential new entrants” to the idea. However, Ferrari and Renault fear this will create a two-tier competition with cars in the same race competing under different rules. Renault’s announcement comes after Ferrari – the only constructor to have taken part in every season since 1950 – confirmed they would not be entering a team for the 2010 world championships, for the same reasons on May 12. “Ferrari confirms its opposition to the new technical regulations adopted by the FIA and does not intend entering its cars in the 2010 F1 Championship,” the team said in a statement on its official Web site. The spotlight now turns to a crunch meeting between the teams and the FIA in London on Friday which will aim to resolve the growing crisis in Formula 1.
The furore comes despite F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone telling the Times newspaper that he did not envisage the Italian team carrying through its threat earlier in the week. “Ferrari are not stupid,” he said. “They don’t want to leave Formula 1 and we don’t want to lose them, so we’ll get to grips with it.”
The European Commission handed down its ruling in a landmark anti-trust case against Intel Wednesday, fining the computer chip giant a record1.45 billion for abusing its dominant position in the computer processing unit (CPU) market.
On Wednesday the European Commission fined Intel a record 1.45 billion for violating anti-trust laws.
The ruling, which Intel plans to appeal, may have future implications for American companies accused of “jurisdiction shopping” to avoid anti-trust verdicts against them, says CNN’s Jim Boulden, who explains the basics of the Intel case. The commission has hit Intel with the biggest fine everwhat were its reasons? The European Commission says Intel has been abusing its dominant market position in semiconductors for years. The EC says Intel has systematically given PC makers and stores rebates to keep computers with AMD chips off the shelves. AMD (another American company and Intel’s only competitor) first raised the red flag in 2000. Why does the commission have the power to impose such fines? EU law does not regard market dominance as illegal, but it is allowed to fine a company that abuses its position as the biggest in any given market. It has a guideline of fining a company based on a percentage of profits. EU law is set up to “protect consumers,” and the anti-trust office says consumers were hurt. Yet as Intel likes to point out, consumers did not launch this caseAMD, a competitor, launched this in Europe (and in Japan and South Korea) as the U.S. antitrust officials under George W. Bush were unlikely to pursue a case on these merits.
Inside the EC’s Intel ruling
The EU could fine Intel (or any company) based on 10% of global annual revenues, but chose to fine it on a smaller percentage made in the EU. Can Intel afford to pay this fine? What state is the company in at the moment? Intel reported first quarter revenue of 7 billion. It can easily afford this. Interestingly, it lost 4 percent of its market share to AMD so far this year. The company says it will appealwhen is that likely to be heard? Another appeal will take months. Intel already appealed a preliminary part of this ruling last year and lost. Meanwhile, the EC can argue that Intel is still abusing its position and increase the fine during the appeals process, as it did to Microsoft. Intel is not the first tech company to be hit by the European Commission. What about Microsoft? The anti-trust unit has launched another round of investigations against Microsoft. It has already paid its fine and the EU continues to watch the company’s behavior on the previous matters. What kind of precedent does the Intel case set? The EU has fined all kinds of cartels and market abusers, but rarely does it fine big American companies based on complaints from American competitorsso the case catches the eye, especially with critics who accuse American companies of “jurisdiction shopping” to get a favorable outcome.
Nadal and Djokovic post easy wins
World number one Rafael Nadal swept aside Jurgen Melzer in brutal style at the Madrid Open on Wednesday, joining Novak Djokovic in the third round.Home favourite Nadal was in stunning form as he took his unbeaten record on clay to 31 matches with a 6-3 6-1 win. Djokovic, the third seed, eased past Spain’s Oscar Hernandez 6-3 6-3. There was a brief scare for the Serb as he fell awkwardly on his right knee early in the second set but he recovered to cruise through. Before the tournament began, Nadal expressed his fears that conditions at the high-altitude venue would make the ball bounce higher and partly negate his advantage on clay. But the 22-year-old did not appear to encounter any problems against Melzer and remains on course to pick up his 16th Masters 1000 (the new name for Masters Series) crown. Juan Martin Del Potro advanced after Tomas Berdych retired at 6-2 4-1 down. The Czech player had looked unlikely to repeat his victory in the Munich Open last week before a leg injury forced him out. Argentina’s Del Potro will take on Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland, while Djokovic will face Andreas Seppi of Italy in the next round.
Djokovic, who won the inaugural Serbia Open on Sunday, is playing his first tournament since losing his world number three spot to Andy Murray. Murray survived a tough challenge against Simone Bolelli on Tuesday and could be further tested by Spain’s Tommy Robredo on Thursday. Robredo is the world number 17 and has already won two titles on clay this year. “He is one of the top 10 clay-court players for sure,” said Murray. “He won a couple of tournaments on clay in South America and he is playing at home, so he’s going to have good support. “It’ll be a very good test for me but hopefully I can play like I did (against Bolelli) and give myself a good chance.”
Among evangelical leaders, debate over the use of harsh interrogation techniques against suspected terrorists has prompted introspection about faith, ethics, the Golden Rule, just wars, Jack Bauer and Jesus.
A number of evangelical leaders have made opposition to torture without exceptions a moral cause over the past three years, part of a broadening of the movement’s agenda beyond traditional culture war issues. Others in the movement, including many Christian right leaders, have largely resisted or stayed silent.
Now, President Barack Obama’s release of Bush administration memos justifying harsh interrogation techniques and a new poll showing white evangelicals more sympathetic to torture have leaders taking stock of whether evangelical opinion has shifted on the topic.
“I have said before that torture is like a bone caught in our throat — we can’t swallow it and we can’t spit it out,” said David Gushee, a professor of Christian ethics at Mercer University in Atlanta and president of Evangelicals for Human Rights. “I think we’re still there.”
The poll data from a survey of 742 U.S. adults released April 29 by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found 62 percent of white evangelical Protestants said torture of a suspected terrorist could be often or sometimes justified to obtain important information.
By contrast, 51 percent of white non-Hispanic Catholics, 46 percent of white mainline Protestants and 40 percent of the religiously unaffiliated held that position.
Those who attend religious services at least once a week were more likely than those who rarely or never attend to say torture is sometimes or often justified in that scenario — 54 percent to 42 percent.
The findings immediately prompted questions for evangelicals: How exactly did poll participants define torture, since the survey did not? Did evangelicals reach their conclusions because of their religious beliefs, or their politics or ideological leanings? How do you untangle those factors from each other?
Pew officials later updated the analysis to emphasize that religion “is only one of many factors” — and that political party and ideology are much better predictors of opinions on torture than religion and most other demographic factors. At the same time, the report noted, religion itself can play a strong role in shaping partisanship and ideology.
“My experience is that people who are comfortable supporting torture support it because they think it’s going to produce information our country needs,” said the Rev. Richard Killmer, a Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) minister and executive director of the interfaith National Religious Campaign Against Torture, which formed in 2006. “I don’t think they would shy away from use of the word ‘torture.’”
“During the last eight years, people have been concerned about this ticking time bomb thing and Jack Bauer and ’24′ and all that,” said Killmer, referring to the TV drama in which the protagonist takes a by-any-means-necessary approach to extracting information from terror suspects.
Among evangelicals, Gushee has been a leading anti-torture advocate. He led the effort to draft, in 2006, “An Evangelical Declaration Against Torture: Protecting Human Rights in an Age of Terror.” The document, which has 250 signatures, renounced torture and “cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of detainees.”
Last fall, a poll commissioned by Faith in Public Life and Mercer University found that 44 percent of white Southern evangelicals rely on life experience and common sense to form opinions on torture. By contrast, 28 percent said they relied on Christian teachings or beliefs.
Even so, Gushee said he senses a “deep moral, spiritual and theological problem” in evangelical support for torture.
“There is a version of Christianity in America that I think is not adequately committed to the Bible’s teachings about the sacredness of every human life, including the lives of our enemies,” Gushee said. “It’s also insufficiently committed to the peacemaking teachings of Jesus and the example of Jesus as one who did not resort to violence or cruelty to accomplish any of his goals and instead suffered violence instead of inflicting it.”
Gary Bauer, a former Republican presidential candidate affiliated with several Christian right groups over the years, said the discussion should not come down to “Would Jesus torture?”
“There are a lot of things Jesus wouldn’t do because he’s the son of God,” he said. “I can’t imagine Jesus being a Marine or a policeman or a bank president, for that matter. The more appropriate question is, ‘What is a follower of Jesus permitted to do?’”
Bauer said the answer is “it depends” — but the moral equation changes when the suspect is not a soldier captured on a battlefield but a terrorist who may have knowledge of an impending attack. He said he does not consider water-boarding — a form of interrogation that simulates drowning — to be torture.
“I think if we believe the person we have can give us information to stop thousands of Americans from being killed, it would be morally suspect to not use harsh tactics to get that information,” Bauer said.
Under Christianity’s just-war tradition, recognized political authorities have the responsibility to protect the innocent from grave harm, said Keith Pavlischek, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, evangelical scholar and retired Marine colonel.
That means not just lives that would be lost in an attack, but the justice, order and peace of the broader international community at risk from terrorism, said Pavlischek, a member of the Presbyterian Church in America, a conservative denomination.
If authorities believe a detainee has information about an imminent attack, it’s morally acceptable to use coercion, inflict pain, cause discomfort and use force in an attempt to prevent the attack, he said.
But it is not black and white in determining when interrogation tactics cross the line to unjust torture, Pavlischek said. He said while evidence exists that water-boarding might be out of line, “it’s a hard call.” Similarly, sleep deprivation can also be used to extremes and cross the line, but not always.
Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation’s largest evangelical church body, revealed this month that he believes water-boarding is torture and never justified. He said part of his conclusion is based on his belief that it’s “very likely to cause permanent psychological damage.”
“It seems to me once you accept the ‘end justifies the means’ argument, then you have taken a step onto a very steep and slippery slope to dark and dangerous place,” Land said.
He emphasized that Christian tenets that guide the debate — including the Golden Rule, or “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” — can be applied differently. He said that while terrorists should not be “mistreated,” neither do they deserve protections afforded prisoners of war by the Geneva Convention.
Land said some harsh interrogation techniques — such as slapping with an open hand — can be morally permissible.
David Neff, editor of Christianity Today magazine and chairman of the board of the National Association of Evangelicals, which endorsed the evangelical declaration against torture, said torture is not a subject preached at most evangelical churches. So white evangelical support for torture is more likely rooted in their strong allegiance the Republican Party.
“There is a sense of, ‘We trust this administration that was leading us through this difficult time post-911, and if they say we have to do this, chances are that sometimes it’s necessary,’” Neff said.
He added: “It think it is extremely important for the U.S. government, for our own security, to operate as ethically as possible, because what we sow, we reap.”
FORT WORTH, Texas – The Kimbell Art Museum will soon be the only U.S. museum to display a Michelangelo painting after acquiring his earliest known work, a rare treasure that was tucked away and doubted as authentic for more than a century.
The museum declined to disclose how much it paid for “The Torment of Saint Anthony,” a 15th-century oil and tempera painting on a wood panel that depicts scaly, horned, winged demons trying to pull the saint out of the sky. Experts believe he painted it when he was only 12 or 13 years old.
And only four such works — including this one — by the artist exist, and two of them are unfinished. Most of his paintings are frescos, the famous scenes on the ceiling and wall of Rome’s Sistine Chapel.
“This is one of the greatest rediscoveries in the history of art,” Eric M. Lee, the Fort Worth museum’s director, told The Associated Press on Tuesday. “The evidence could not be stronger. It’s like a detective story, like a mystery, and it involves one of the greatest artists of all time.”
The painting was exhibited as late as 1874 in Paris. But some questions about its authenticity had surfaced through the years, and after a London family acquired it in the 1900s, the painting was kept privately and largely forgotten in the art world, Lee said.
Last summer an art dealer bought it for nearly 2 million at a Sotheby’s auction and then took it to New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, where one department chairman shared his hunch that it was the work of the Renaissance artist, Lee said.
Experts in the Met’s paintings conservation department carefully cleaned it by removing decades of dirt, as well as paint layers that art restorers had applied through the ages to fill in chips or dull areas, Lee said.
When they examined the painting further using X-rays and infrared technology, they were able to see how the artist made certain brush strokes, scraped paint layers to achieve detail and even changed elements of the painting before the final version, Lee said.
Museum experts said they determined it not only was Michelangelo’s — based on similarities to his other works and the artist’s stories of the piece as told to biographers — but also that it was his earliest work — based on its age and details in the painting. The confirmation came a few months ago, and then the Kimbell decided to buy it, Lee said.
The generations of dirt and paint buildup had obscured the painting’s identity, and some doubted its authenticity because a similar painting existed, Lee said. But an art expert who extensively studied both paintings said the other was done in the 17th century.
Michelangelo’s piece has previously been known as “The Temptation of Saint Anthony” because he was inspired by a similar engraving of that name while learning to be an artist. But after the Kimbell acquired the oil painting, Lee decided to change its name because that engraving depicts a different scene, he said.
The painting will be displayed at the Kimbell starting this fall after a summer exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Lee said he may loan the painting to other museums later for traveling exhibits.
“This could not be a rarer object,” Lee said. “That’s why this is such an extraordinary opportunity.”
On the Net:
Kimbell Art Museum: http://www.kimbellart.org
CANNES, France – After nine hits and four Academy Awards for films including “WALL-E” and “Ratatouille,” the Pixar Animation gang finally feels it has made it to the grown-ups’ table with “Up,” the first animated movie to open the Cannes Film Festival.
The Oscars compartmentalize animated films into their own category. Audiences often do the same, lumping animation in as a genre meant mainly for kids. But Pixar’s creative minds feel the choice of “Up” as the Cannes curtain raiser signals that animation can stand alongside the best that live-action films might offer.
“It is one of the greatest kinds of rewards, it’s one of the greatest things that’s happened to us in our career,” said Pixar’s John Lasseter, who pioneered feature-length computer animation with the two “Toy Story” movies.
“To see animation respected at the world’s premier film festival. To be given opening night … you pinch yourself. You just can’t believe it,” said Lasseter, who also oversees animation at Walt Disney, Pixar’s parent company.
The English-language version of “Up” features Edward Asner providing the voice of Carl Fredricksen, a brokenhearted widower who renews his spirit of adventure after floating his house off to South America under thousands of helium balloons. The film is released in U.S. theaters on May 29.
“Up” has moments of deep pathos, including a couple of sequences that brought tears to viewers’ eyes in preview screenings as Carl’s life with his beloved wife is chronicled in montages and old photos.
“There’s a perception that animated films are for kids. A lot of people have that, which I think is very unfortunate. The films are made by adults who have very adult concerns,” said Ed Catmull, president of Disney and Pixar’s animation studios. “What happens now at Cannes is they’re recognizing it as a film. Not as a category, but as a really great film.”
While the movies can soar off on whatever flights of fancy the animators imagine, Pixar aims to ground the stories in human emotion, whether they’re about talking fish (“Finding Nemo”), working-class superheroes (“The Incredibles”) or chatty autos (“Cars”).
“Up” director Pete Docter said animation was a tool, not the star.
“It’s not a genre, it’s a medium. Animation can do anything. If we decided to, we could do horror films or drama, suspense, anything,” said Docter, who also made Pixar’s “Monsters, Inc.”
“We think about characters much in the same way live-action filmmakers think about the characters. Motivation and underlying goals, and needs and wants,” he said.
“Up” producer Jonas Rivera said Pixar thinks of its productions not as animated films, but as films that “happen to be animated.”
“Sometimes, you feel like animation sits at the little kids’ table,” Rivera said. “We just want to make films that people enjoy, so to be honored with opening night at the festival, it feels a little bit like, OK, maybe somebody else sees that, too. … This is the big kids’ table.”
SHANGHAI – General Motors Corp. plans to begin exports of vehicles made in China to the United States within two years, ramping up sales to more than 50,000 by 2014, reports said Wednesday.
A spokeswoman for GM in China did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the reports, which were said to be based on a company recovery plan given to U.S. lawmakers.
GM intends to sell 17,335 made-in-China passenger cars in the U.S. market by 2011, the Shanghai Securities News and other reports said. By 2014 exports would triple to more than 51,000, it said.
The main focus would be on exporting small cars similar to the Chevrolet Spark, the reports said.
If true, GM could end up becoming the first automaker to begin exporting to the U.S. from China: previously announced plans by Chinese manufacturers to crack the U.S. market have so far fizzled.
Most Chinese automakers have been daunted by the challenge of meeting stringent U.S. safety standards. They also face the uphill battle of winning consumer confidence for their unfamiliar brand names.
Brand name recognition is perhaps the least of GM’s problems as it faces a June 1 government-imposed deadline to finish a restructuring plan or follow Chrysler LLC into bankruptcy protection.
Opting to export from China would help the company, now surviving on 15.4 billion in federal loans, to slash production costs and make full use of its huge investments in factories here.
But it would likely raise protests from labor unions it has been seeking to win concessions from as part of its restructuring.
The plan also would represent a shift from past strategy. GM officials have long emphasized their commitment to first meeting demand in China before considering exports to the U.S. or other markets.
WASHINGTON – Republicans blocked President Barack Obama’s pick for the No. 2 job at the Interior Department Wednesday, the first nominee by the new administration to be stopped on the Senate floor.
In a 57-39 Senate vote, Democrats fell short of the 60 votes they would have needed to advance the nominee past GOP obstacles.
David Hayes is an environmental lawyer picked by Obama to serve as deputy secretary of the Interior Department. Hayes held the same post during the last three years of the Clinton administration. And before his nomination, Hayes led Obama’s natural resources transition team, responsible for naming a new Interior Department head.
Republican opposition to Hayes’ nomination was led by Utah Sen. Bob Bennett, who was angered by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s recent decision to revoke 77 oil and gas leases in Bennett’s home state. He was joined by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska.
Murkowski had questions about the administration’s plans for oil and gas development and objected to recent reversals of several Bush-era rules on endangered species and mountaintop mining.
“It may be uncomfortable for some to watch us have to clean up mess after mess — from corruption to lawbreaking — that is the previous administration’s legacy at Interior, but to cast a vote against such a qualified and fine person is the height of cynicism,” Salazar said in a statement following the vote.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., left open the possibility that Hayes’ nomination could be revived.
Robert Dillon, a spokesman for Murkowski, said that the senator had hopes that the disagreements could be worked out with Interior.
LONDON, EnglandA pregnant British woman jailed in Laos has met with a British lawyer for the first time ahead of her impending trial, a U.K. legal aid charity said Wednesday.
Briton Samantha Orobator has been jailed in Laos since August on a drug charge.
Samantha Orobator, 20, has been in a Lao prison since August. She had no legal representation until last week, when the Lao government appointed her a local lawyer. Her trial is expected to happen sometime this week. Legal charity Reprieve sent a lawyer to Laos to offer independent legal advice to Orobator, who is five months pregnant. That lawyer, Anna Morris, finally met with Orobator on Tuesday, the charity said Wednesday. The meeting was not in private, however, and was also attended by 10 members of the Lao government, including some senior officials. “Samantha was at the head of a large table and I was not able to sit next to her or speak to her really directly, and certainly not confidentially,” Morris told a London news conference Wednesday from Laos. “Despite during that meeting pressing for a further meeting in a private context, it became clear to us that this was really the only access we were going to be given before the trail took place.” Morris said Lao officials told her the trial was “prepared” but they had not yet given a date. She said the British Foreign Office was told it would be given 48 hours notice of the trial. Orobator was “clearly nervous” during the meeting and repeatedly asked when her trial would be held, Morris said.
Jailed Briton could be transferred from Laos to UK if convicted
Pregnant Briton denied lawyer visit in Laos, rights group says
Mom of jailed pregnant Briton: Please help my daughter
Penalties for drug-related crime in Asia
“What we hope does not happen is that the Lao government delays matters further,” Morris said. “That clearly is putting a lot of undue stress on Samantha during her pregnancy. She told me yesterday that she was anxious and that the baby was excited and kicking.” Orobator was detained at Vientiane’s airport last August for allegedly carrying about half a kilogram of heroin. The charge can carry the death penalty, but Lao officials have said that does not apply to pregnant women. Orobator became pregnant in prison, possibly as the result of rape. That, coupled with the poor conditions of Lao jails and the nature of the Lao justice system, has prompted the British government and charities to voice concerns about her case. “To say they are basic would be an understatement,” Piers Bannister, the head of the death penalty team at Amnesty International, said about Lao prisons. Prisons in Laos lack rudimentary medical care as well as a decent dietboth of which are important for pregnant women, he said. Prisoners often don’t get enough food and it is not nutritionally balanced, he said. “We have very great concerns about the fact that she is pregnant,” Bannister added. “How did that happen?” Orobator’s mother, who lives in Dublin, was due to arrive in Laos Wednesday, said Clare Algar, the executive director of Reprieve. The charity hopes her presence will have some impact on Lao authorities, perhaps influencing them to schedule a trial more quickly, Algar said.
Britain and Laos signed a prisoner transfer agreement last week that would allow Orobator, if she is convicted, to serve out any sentence in Britain. “We are hopeful that Samantha will be given a trial reasonably soon and then that she either will be released without charge or that she’ll be sentenced to a short term of years, and would then be able to transfer to the United Kingdom to serve that term and therefore be in the United Kingdom when she gives birth,” Algar said.