BEIJING – This investment turned out to be as risky as it was risque.
A sex theme park that featured explicit exhibits of genitalia and sexual culture is being demolished before it can even open, a government spokesman in southwestern China said Monday.
The park, christened “Love Land” by its owners, went under the wrecking ball over the weekend in the city of Chongqing, said the spokesman, who like many Chinese bureaucrats would give only his surname, Yang.
Yang refused to give the reason for the demolition or other details. However, photographs of the adult-only park had circulated widely on the Internet over the weekend, prompting widespread mockery and condemnation.
Exhibits had included giant-sized reproductions of male and female anatomy, dissertations on how the topic of sex is treated in various cultures and what the official China Daily newspaper called “sex technique workshops.”
The park’s main investor, Lu Xiaoqing, had earlier claimed that the attractions sought only to boost sexual awareness and improve people’s sex-lives.
The demolition highlights conflicted views on sex in modern China, where a prudish attitude toward discussion of sexuality is paired with an almost clinical approach to its physical aspects.
While pornography is banned and sex education largely unheard of, shops selling sex toys and related items stand out prominently in many neighborhoods and sex outside marriage is widely tolerated. Prostitution, while technically illegal, is widespread, and the keeping of mistresses among prominent businessmen and Communist Party officials is considered commonplace.
Such attitudes are blamed in part for risky sex and ignorance about birth control among minors. With public discussion of sex so limited, there is relatively little awareness of sexual harassment and abuse and laws and regulations covering such matters are weaker in China than in many countries.
Newspapers last week carried prominent reports on a government official who was let off with a fine simply because he said he had not known that the 13-year-old girl he paid to have sex with was underage.
The man, Lu Yumin, a local tax bureau official in Sichuan province’s Yibin county, was arrested on charges of child rape, but was convicted only of visiting a prostitute and fined 5,000 yuan (730).
Archive for May 18th, 2009
BEIJING – This investment turned out to be as risky as it was risque.
President Barack Obama welcomes Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House on Monday, at a moment when the White House and the Israeli leadership are undeniably at odds over the path to Middle East peace. While the Obama Administration remains steadfastly committed to Israel’s security, its ideas on how to achieve that security differ markedly from those of the hawkish Netanyahu government. As Obama moves to revive the stalled Middle East peace process, Monday’s meeting has been widely predicted to be a tense affair, but that may be overstating the drama. Netanyahu, like any Israeli Prime Minister, has an overwhelming incentive to get along with Israel’s single most important ally; Obama, for his part, needs to fashion a peace process that produces results, for which he requires Netanyahu’s cooperation. So Monday’s encounter won’t be a showdown as much as the opening exchange of a difficult conversation that could continue for months.
Herewith, a short guide to the issues that divide Obama and Netanyahu:
A Two-State Solution? The idea of creating an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel on the territory it occupied in 1967 is the overwhelming international consensus, accepted even – according to opinion polls – by a majority of Israelis. The Obama Administration is not content to simply articulate that vision, as President George W. Bush did; instead, it seeks to move briskly toward realizing such a solution before the evolving facts on the ground make it untenable. Netanyahu, however, has refused to endorse the principle of Palestinian statehood, insisting that sovereign independence for the Palestinians would endanger Israel’s security. The Palestinians, Netanyahu has argued until now, will have to settle for a more limited form of self-government within borders still effectively controlled by Israel. Despite some speculation that he might make a rhetorical concession on the statehood issue on Monday, a top aide told the Israeli media Netanyahu would not do so – at least, not yet. (See pictures of Israel’s recent war in Gaza.)
The Administration has made clear that it expects Israel to work toward a two-state solution. Netanyahu is expected to agree to talk to the Palestinians, to ease their circumstances and build their economy. But he maintains that trying to reach a final-status agreement right now is misguided and counterproductive, arguing that the priority is to build Palestinian administrative, security and economic capacity – and to tackle Iran, which he sees as a spoiler to any peace effort. (See pictures of Israel at 60.)
Next: What Gets Priority?
Iran First? Netanyahu will argue that Washington’s goals are best achieved if it gives priority to curbing Iran’s nuclear and geopolitical ambitions before separating Israel from the Palestinians. He claims his Arab neighbors agree that reining in Iran is the region’s priority, because it threatens their own stability. Given Tehran’s support of Hamas, he’ll say progress toward peace between Israel and the Palestinians is impossible until Iran has been pushed back. (See pictures of Jerusalem divided.)
Obama will agree that curbing Iran’s regional influence and limiting its nuclear activities is an urgent priority. But the U.S. President won’t buy Netanyahu’s sequencing. Resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains a matter of urgency, Obama will argue, and he’ll point out that the moderate Arab neighbors with whom the Israelis want to stand against Iran are also the ones most urgently insisting on the immediate implementation of a two-state solution with the Palestinians, whose unresolved plight strengthens radicals against moderates. Netanyahu will say no progress is possible on the Palestinian front until Iran is defanged; Obama will argue that rallying Arab support against Iran’s ambitions requires resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Next: The Timetable
What’s the Hurry? Netanyahu will argue that whether the outcome is two states or something less, this is not the moment to try to conclude the peace process. The Palestinians are hopelessly divided, with the moderate Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas lacking the political authority to deliver on any peace promises. Indeed, the PA President’s term of office expired in January, and polls show he’d lose to Hamas in an election held now. Instead of final-status negotiations, Netanyahu will advocate building the Palestinians’ administrative and security capacity, and promoting economic development, in enclaves currently under Abbas’ control. Without this infrastructure of stability – and the neutralizing of Hamas – he’ll argue, no progress is possible. (See pictures of Hamas-Fatah conflict.)
Obama will make clear that whatever stability has been created thus far in the West Bank is premised on the achievement of Palestinian statehood, and will collapse without rapid movement along that path. Politically, President Abbas’ Fatah movement suffers from the fact that its moderation and almost two decades of negotiation has seen only an expansion of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank. Fatah cannot remain committed to a peace process without end if it is to reverse its declining political fortunes among its own people. The same may be true for the U.S.-trained security forces that have helped subdue the West Bank. Hamas has proven to be an intractable reality of Palestinian political life, and Obama may argue that a workable peace process would require its consent. Most importantly, he’ll note that time is running out for Abbas and the Arab regimes that have cooperated with Israel and have come away empty-handed in the eyes of their own people.
Next: The Settlements
Freeze the Settlements Obama will tell Netanyahu that stability is undermined, potentially fatally, by Israel’s continued expansion of its settlements in the West Bank, and by its moves to extend control over East Jerusalem, captured by Israel in the 1967 war but claimed by the Palestinians as their future capital. But Netanyahu’s government includes strong settler representation, and while he’ll unenthusiastically promise to dismantle outposts built in violation of Israeli law, he’s unlikely to court a confrontation with the settlers unless there are substantial political rewards. He’ll insist on maintaining the “natural growth” of Israel’s settlements, and reiterate his view that sharing Jerusalem with the Palestinians is a nonstarter. (See pictures of Israeli settlers resisting eviction.)
Unfreeze Gaza The Gaza war earlier this year forced the Israeli-Palestinian issue to the top of the Obama Administration’s agenda, and although the fighting has ended, no formal cease-fire has been agreed, and the Israeli blockade – and Palestinian political infighting – has prevented any of the 4.5 billion pledged for reconstruction by international donors from actually reaching the territory. The potential remains high for a renewed outbreak of fighting, and Obama will press Netanyahu to ease Israel’s blockade to allow in construction materials and normalize economic traffic. Netanyahu remains committed to overthrowing Hamas in Gaza, and he wants Obama to pursue the same course. And his government will insist on securing the release of captive soldier Gilad Shalit before easing up on Gaza.
Next: Dealing with Iran
How to Handle Iran While supporting Obama’s diplomatic efforts, Israel wants to see time limits imposed to prevent Iran playing for time while increasing its nuclear capabilities. Netanyahu has repeatedly warned that if diplomacy fails, Israel stands ready to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities. Obama agrees that negotiations with Iran should not be open-ended, but will allow a longer time frame than that preferred by the Israelis for diplomacy to succeed. Israel’s leaders believe Iran will not back down and that negotiations are necessary primarily to win support for stronger sanctions or military action. Israel has agreed to refrain from attacking Iran without first consulting the U.S. following reported warnings from the White House to avoid surprising Obama, whose military and security advisers have long argued that military strikes on Iran would cause more problems than they would solve. Once the diplomatic process with Tehran gets under way, the two sides may also disagree on where to draw the bottom line on uranium enrichment on Iranian soil.
View this article on Time.comRelated articles on Time.com: Israel’s New Leader: Can the U.S. Work With Netanyahu? Israel’s New Government Won’t Make Obama’s Middle East Task Easier Looking Ahead and Back on Netanyahu Meeting Obama Is Obama Ready for a Hard-Right Israel? Netanyahu to the White House
Serie A giants Juventus have sacked coach Claudio Ranieri following a weekend that saw Inter Milan clinch a fourth successive Scudetto in Italy.
Juventus have ended Ranieri’s two-year spell as coach with the Serie A club desperate for a third place finish.
Former Chelsea chief Ranieri took charge of the Turin club in 2007 and Sunday’s 2-2 home draw with Atalanta left Juventus three points behind second-placed AC Milan with two games left. The club have now gone seven league matches without a win and Ranieri’s departure came in a Web site statement. “Juventus can announce the dismissal of coach Claudio Ranieri. From today the coaching of the first team will be entrusted to Ciro Ferrara,”. “Juventus would like to thank Claudio Ranieri for the job he has carried out over the past two years.”
Mourinho’s Inter mark title in style
Former player Ferrara has been in charge of the club’s youth structure and it was not immediately clear whether his promotion was on a long-term basis or just for the rest of the current campaign. “I think the players need to understand that we’re in a tight spot. They need to rediscover the right motivation to tackle our last two matches with the right attitude,” said Ferrara. “The players need to rediscover their pride and the right motivation. I want to thank those who thought I could be useful at this time, I really appreciate that.” There had been mounting media speculation that Ranieri would be replaced at the end of the season. But weekend events prompted club hierarchy to act with Juve anxious for a third place finish and an automatic place in the Champions League group stage. General manager Jean Claude Blanc said the club had to act after Ranieri became the first Juve coach to be fired in 40 years. “It’s the standings which have changed. They (the players) must absolutely start doing things differently and as of tonight Cira Ferrara will be pushing them,” he tolf media. “The fourth-placed team (Fiorentina) are just a point behind us, we needed to jolt everyone into action and now it is the player’s responsibility. “We have two finals to play. We wanted to give ourselves the opportunity to change our destiny.”
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Ranieri, nicknamed ‘the Tinkerman’ at Chelsea for his habit for rotating his players, joined Juve after a successful, if brief, stint in charge of Parma, whom he helped save from relegation to Serie B in 2007. He left Stamford Bridge in 2005 after club owner Roman Abramovich turned to Jose Mourinhoand an unsuccessful spell as coach of Valencia followed.
Turkish president ‘facing trial’
A Turkish court has ruled President Abdullah Gul should stand trial for alleged embezzlement in the late 1990s.The Welfare Party, a precursor of the governing AK Party, was accused of misappropriating funds from the state treasury after being banned in 1998. Mr Gul, a founder of the AKP, was elected president in 2007. The case will now be considered by an appeal court. But it is unclear whether Mr Gul will end up going on trial, as he could have immunity as president. Correspondents say Turkey’s secular establishment has often used the courts to oppose the activities of the Islamist-rooted AKP. Last July, the Constitutional Court came close to banning the party for allegedly trying to undermine the country’s secular system. ‘Missing money’The Welfare Party briefly held power as part of a coalition government between 1996 and 1997, during which time it implemented some pro-Islamist reforms, such as allowing women to wear headscarves in government offices.
Its leader, Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan, was eased from office following pressure from the military in a so-called “soft coup”. In 1998, the party was banned for violating constitutional obligations to respect secularism. Afterwards, the Welfare Party’s assets were transferred to the state treasury, which found that more than 1bn lira (3.5m at the time) was missing. The party said it had transferred the money to its local branches, while prosecutors argued that the money had never reached the branches but did not say where it went. In 2002, Mr Erbakan was sentenced to two years and four months in jail for embezzlement in connection with the alleged fraud, and fined. Mr Gul, who was deputy chairman of the Welfare Party and a state minister under Mr Erbakan, pardoned him last year. In Monday’s ruling, the court said it was “the rule in the Turkish Republic’s constitution and laws that everyone should stand trial”. However, Mr Gul’s office said that according to the constitution, “the president cannot be put on trial unless it is on charges of treason”.
Los Angeles (E! Online) –
Teresa Giudice insists she's just a sweet Jersey girl who usually doesn't let anger get the best of her.
However, cameras from The Real Housewives of New Jersey did catch the mother of three flipping a table aimed at the show's resident vixen, Danielle Staub, during a very heated, cuss-filled argument.
While none of the Housewives will reveal exactly what went down during that exchange, Teresa tells me, “I've never done that in my life. That was my first time.
“That's normally not me, but I guess when I'm pushed to a certain level…,” she says. “I'm so sweet. I have a heart of gold and I'm really a great person.”
How are things with Danielle right now?
“She blogged the other night and I got a little annoyed,” Teresa says. “But then I was like, I'm not even going to let her get to me. I'll just save it for the reunion.”
Teresa also wants to clear up a misconception you may have of her about money. In the first episode, she's shown buying 120,000 worth of furniture—in cash!
“Who walks around with 120,000 cash?” she laughs. “It was just a deposit! The rest went on credit.”
And then there's Teresa's derriere. While discussing the possibility of getting breast implants during the first episode, she noted that her husband of eight years, Joe, doesn't really mind her lack of cleavage.
“He loves my butt,” she says. “I always did have a big butt. Do you remember that song back in the day? There was a song that had my name in it: 'Teresa's got a big ol' butt.' Everybody in high school used to sing that to me. Everybody liked my ass.”
··· THEY SAID WHAT? Get today's most commented stories now at www.eonline.com
NEW YORK – A surprisingly strong profit report from Lowe’s Cos. gave investors a reason to put money back into stocks on Monday.
The nation’s second-largest home improvement chain posted earnings that easily beat Wall Street’s forecasts and the company raised its full-year profit outlook — an encouraging sign for the market that activity in the housing industry could be picking up.
Investors bought up stocks across several industries, pushing the Dow Jones industrial average up more than 160 points and wiping out about half of the losses it suffered last week.
The market will get another indicator on housing later Monday when the National Association of Home Builders releases its index of builders’ confidence for May.
Steep declines in home values have been at the center of the economy’s troubles, slicing into consumers’ personal wealth and saddling banks with huge losses. Analysts believe that stability in the housing industry is imperative for a rebound in the economy.
The better-than-expected profit report from Lowe’s reignited investors’ confidence in the economy following a slump last week. That decline interrupted a powerful rally that still has the Standard & Poor’s 500 index up 30.5 percent since early March.
Financial stocks, which have been a main driver of the market in recent months, turned higher after a handful of upbeat reports from analysts came out. A big jump in oil prices on the improving economic outlook spurred energy companies higher.
In midday trading, the Dow rose 161.84, or 2.0 percent, to 8,430.48. The S&P 500 index rose 17.27, or 2.0 percent, to 900.15, and the Nasdaq composite index rose 30.24, or 1.8 percent, to 1,710.38.
Investors were also pleased that State Street Corp. became the latest bank to turn to the capital markets to raise money. The commercial bank said it expects to raise about 1.45 billion through a stock offering as part of an effort to repay a 2 billion government loan that came as part of the financial rescue program last fall.
Analysts say the ability of banks to turn to the market to raise cash is a welcome sign of strength, even if the introduction of added shares makes those already in circulation worth somewhat less.
“The banks are stable,” said James Cox, managing partner at Harris Financial Group. “We’re not going to see any of the large banks go down. And now that we have stabilization in the banking system, we can move forward.”
Rochdale Securities analyst Richard Bove noted the potential for “explosive earnings growth and unusually strong stock price performance” for banks as the economy recovers. BMO Capital Markets upgraded its view of the banking industry saying it expects profits will start to rebound in coming quarters.
State Street rose 2.70, or 7 percent, to 41.21. Bank of America Corp. rose 1.19, or 11.2 percent, to 11.86 after Goldman Sachs raised its rating on the bank.
Last week, the Dow slid 3.6 percent, the S&P 500 index lost 5 percent and the Nasdaq fell 3.4 percent as investors worried that the economy’s recovery might be further off than hoped following a two-month rally off of 12-year lows.
Investors are looking for signs that the economy is starting to recover, not simply slow its descent. At the start of the market’s upswing March 9 investors were willing to scoop up stocks when signals emerged that the economy might be stabilizing. But now analysts say more will be needed to carry the market higher.
“I don’t get too excited about these initial rallies,” said Darin Newsom, senior analyst at DTN. “We might see some pullback this fall. I don’t think fundamentally this market is sound yet.”
Beyond the housing sales report, Wall Street will be looking this week to data Tuesday on housing construction and regional manufacturing on Thursday.
In other trading, the Russell 2000 index of smaller companies rose 10.56, or 2.2 percent, to 486.40.
About five stocks rose for every one that fell on the New York Stock Exchange, where volume came to 342 million shares.
Lowe’s rose 1.60, or 8.7 percent, to 20.05 after posting its results.
Oil prices shot up 1.86 to 58.20 on word that two oil pipelines were destroyed in Nigeria over the weekend by the country’s main militant group, helping to push energy stocks higher. Marathon Oil Corp. jumped 1.43, or 5 percent, to 29.82, while Consol Energy Inc. rose 2.65, or 7.7 percent, to 37.04.
Indian stocks rocketed an unprecedented 17 percent after investors saw election results in the country as paving the way for economic reforms. Infosys Technologies Ltd. rose 3.55, or 11 percent, to 35.57, while Sify Technologies Ltd. rose 51 cents, or 40 percent, to 1.80.
Bond prices slipped, pushing the yield on the 10-year Treasury note — a widely used benchmark for home mortgages and other loans — up to 3.15 percent from 3.14 percent late Friday.
The dollar was mixed against other major currencies, while gold prices fell.
Stocks overseas were mixed following weak corporate earnings reports in Asia. Japan’s Nikkei stock average fell 2.4 percent. Britain’s FTSE 100 jumped 2.3 percent, Germany’s DAX index rose 2.4 percent, and France’s CAC-40 rose 2.4 percent.
NEW YORK – The Fox network is making a play for laughs next season, with four new comedies planned and a late Saturday-night series with Wanda Sykes.
“Glee” uses a pop-music soundtrack for an aspirational high school series and starts in the fall after getting a special preview Tuesday. Former New York Giant Michael Strahan is in a series about an ex-NFL star who goes back to live with his mother, and Fox is also doing a “Family Guy” spinoff.
“Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” was canceled, but the low-rated “Dollhouse” was surprisingly brought back.
Fox will also air the summer hit “So You Think You Can Dance” in the fall.
MIAMI – A Haitian man was charged with human smuggling Monday after federal authorities accused him of piloting a boat overloaded with migrants that capsized off Florida’s coast, killing at least nine people.
Jimmy Metellus faces charges of smuggling that caused the death of another person. He was scheduled to make an initial court appearance Wednesday in West Palm Beach. Court documents did not list an attorney for him.
Metellus was among 16 people rescued when the boat capsized early last Wednesday off Boynton Beach, about 60 miles north of Miami. Most of the survivors will be deported to their home countries under U.S. policy. Fifteen of the survivors are Haitian and one is Jamaican.
According to a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent, Metellus told investigators he was hired by a man known only as “Shine” to pilot the vessel from the Bahamas to the U.S. with about 30 undocumented migrants aboard. The affidavit says Metellus was offered 6,000 for the trip but decided instead to be paid with free passage on the boat.
“He said that the boat was going to Miami, Florida, and that he was going to beach it in Miami and leave it,” ICE agent Jon Longo said in the affidavit.
One survivor, who identified Metellus as the boat’s captain, told agents that his brother had paid the smugglers 4,000 for him to make the ill-fated trip. It was unclear in the affidavit how many other people were involved in the smuggling operation.
That survivor, who was not identified, said the boat ran out of fuel after leaving Nassau, Bahamas, and drifted for about three days until a small boat arrived with more fuel. The migrants then were taken to a house in Bimini, Bahamas, and later set off for Florida’s southeastern coast.
The survivor said he had been in the Bahamas for five months waiting for a smuggling trip to the U.S., according to the ICE affidavit.
WASHINGTON – Sen. Robert C. Byrd, 91 and the longest-serving senator in history, was hospitalized last Friday with a temperature spike evidently caused by a minor infection, his office announced Monday.
Byrd, a West Virginia Democrat, “is being treated with antibiotics, responding well and is expected to be released from the hospital in a few days,” the office said in a statement.
Byrd has been in Congress since 1952 and was first elected to the Senate six years later.
He has been plagued by health problems in recent years, uses a wheelchair and sometimes appears frail. He has been hospitalized several times.
He stepped down as chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee last November, but not before first chastising party leaders whom he said had been discussing his removal.
In the statement, Byrd’s office said the senator was hospitalized late Friday afternoon as a “precautionary measure.” It said his doctors attributed the temperature to a minor infection.
The statement did not say why no word was released for more than 48 hours after the senator was taken to the hospital, nor did it identify the facility where he is being treated.
NEW YORK – Woody Allen agreed Monday to a 5 million settlement in his lawsuit accusing American Apparel of using an image parodying him as a rabbi without his permission.
Both sides announced the settlement — to be paid by American Apparel’s insurance company — on the morning a trial was to start in federal court in Manhattan.
Reading from a statement outside court, Allen said he hoped the outcome “would discourage American Apparel or anyone else from ever trying such a thing again.”
American Apparel president Dov Charney told reporters it wasn’t his decision to settle. The company’s insurance company “controlled the defense” in the case, he said.
“I’m not sorry of expressing myself,” he said.
Allen, 72, sued the trendy clothing company last year for 10 million after the advertisements turned up on billboards in Hollywood and New York, and on a Web site. Using a frame from the film “Annie Hall,” the ads depicted Allen as a Hasidic Jew — long beard, side curls, black hat — and featured Yiddish text meaning “the holy rebbe.”
Court papers filed on Allen’s behalf had described the actor-director as one of the most influential figures in the history of American film, and say he believes maintaining strict control over his image has been critical to his success.
The papers claimed Allen hasn’t done commercials in the United States since 1960s, when he was a struggling standup comic. The billboards, he says, falsely implied he endorsed a clothing line known for its racy advertising — a “blatant misappropriation and commercial use of Allen’s image.”
American Apparel lawyers have called the 10 million demand “outrageous,” especially since the billboards were taken down after a week. They also have threatened to call Allen’s former longtime companion, actress Mia Farrow, and his current wife, Soon-Yi Previn, as witnesses to show that his image has already been devalued by scandal. Previn is Farrow’s adopted daughter.
Farrow starred in several of Allen’s movies, including “Crimes and Misdemeanors.” Their relationship ended in 1992, when she discovered he was having an affair with Previn, then 22.
On Monday, Allen blasted American Apparel, calling their First Amendment defense “sheer nonsense,” and accusing of it of trying “to smear me.”
Charney insisted there were no hard feelings, saying the billboards were misunderstood.
“We would never try to malign the dignity of Mr. Allen,” he said. “I have respect for Mr. Allen. … I hope to meet him on more friendly terms at a different point.”
LONDON, EnglandMichael Martin, the speaker of the House of Commons, rebuffed calls from lawmakers for his resignation Monday amid widespread public anger about improper expense claims by UK members of parliament.
Michael Martin, pictured here in December 2008, has faced calls from lawmakers step down as Speaker.
Martin said lawmakers had let the public down “very badly indeed,” adding: “To the extent that I have contributed, I am profoundly sorry,” said Martin. The Speaker traditionally chairs debates and ensures protocol is followed in the main legislative chamber of the UK parliament. No Speaker has been forced out of office since 1695. Critics argue Martin allowed expense claims to run amok and failed to recognize the depth of public disgust at the amounts being claimedinto the tens of thousands of dollars for some lawmakers Lawmakers demanded to know if they would be allowed to debate a call for his resignation Tuesday. He refused. There had been rumors Martin would announce that he would not run for re-election, but he made no such promise Monday. Watch more on voters’ anger »
Comment: Payback time for UK MPs
Comment: Anger at UK MPs’ expenses could change politics
Comment: Advantage to Cameron over MPs’ expenses
Nick Clegg, the leader of the small opposition Liberal Democrat party, has already called for Martin to resign. Politicians across the political spectrum have been under fire after weeks of front-page headlines revealing their expense claims. What do you think about the expense scandal? They included requests for reimbursements for mortgages that had been paid off; multiple members of the same family claiming the same expenses, and reimbursement for lavish home furnishings.
The justice minister, Shahid Malik, resigned from the Cabinet over the claims, while insisting he had acted within the rules. The governing Labour party cut ties with a former minister, Elliot Morley, over his expense claims. Watch London cabbies speak out against lawmakers » Many lawmakers put in the spotlight by the Daily Telegraph newspaper say they broke no rules. Part of the reason MPs are now focusing their anger on Martin, the speaker, is that his office handles expense claims.
Top Republicans are demanding an apology from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi or proof to back her claim that the CIA misled Congress about the use of harsh interrogation tactics.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi says the CIA misled Congress about harsh interrogation tactics.
Pelosi last week said that she was briefed by the CIA on such techniques only oncein September 2002and that she was told at the time that techniques like waterboarding were not being used. Pelosi, D-California, said she learned from an aide that waterboarding had been used after other lawmakers were briefed in 2003. A recently released Justice Department memo says the CIA used waterboarding at least 83 times in August 2002 in the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, a suspected al Qaeda leader imprisoned at U.S. facilities in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Rep. Pete Hoekstra, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, said Monday that if Pelosi’s accusations are not true, she may need to step down. “She made some outrageous accusations last week where she said that the CIA lied to her and lied systematically over a period of years. That is a very, very serious charge,” Hoekstra said Monday on CNN’s “American Morning.”
John King: Pelosi goes mute, but not her critics
Gingrich: ‘Obligation’ to investigate Pelosi
“Either the CIA needs to be held accountable for their performance during this time or the speaker needs to be held accountable and be responsible for the actions and the statements that she made last week. One or the other is correct, one or the other is wrong,” he said. Watch Hoekstra’s criticism of Pelosi » Hoekstra wants the notes from the CIA briefing in question to be declassified, as does Pelosi. The House speaker says the notes will show she wasn’t told that techniques such as waterboarding were being used. Related: GOP wants Pelosi held accountable While Pelosi declined offers to appear on the Sunday talk shows, her critics fired away. House Minority Leader John Boehner demanded that Pelosi provide evidence to support her accusations. “Lying to the Congress of the United States is a crime,” Boehner, R-Ohio, said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “And if the speaker is accusing the CIA and other intelligence officials of lying or misleading the Congress, then she should come forward with evidence and turn that over to the Justice Department so they can be prosecuted. And if that’s not the case, I think she ought to apologize to our intelligence professionals around the world.” Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that Pelosi “has stepped in it big time.” Steele said he wants to know if President Obama backs Pelosi’s account or that of the CIA director. The White House has not commented on the controversy. Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor and Republican presidential candidate, used a different outlet to voice his criticism, posting a seven-stanza poem about the House speaker on his Web site. “She sat in briefings and knew about enhanced interrogation; But claims she wasn’t there, and can’t give an explanation. She disparages the CIA and says they are a bunch of liars; Even the press aren’t buying it and they’re stoking their fires.” “I believe in the integrity of the men and women who sacrifice to keep us safe; Not the woman who has been caught flat-footed, lying to our face. I say it here and I say it rather clearIt’s time for Nancy Pelosi to resign and get out of here,” he wrote. As Republicans continue to hammer away, Republican strategist and CNN contributor Ed Rollins said Monday that Pelosi has no one to blame but herself. “This is a self-inflicted wound. … She brought the whole subject up,” he said. “She started this. I think it was the worst week she’s had. I’m not accusing her of lying or any of the rest of that, but I think she certainly doesn’t have her facts correct.” But Democratic strategist and CNN contributor James Carville said he doesn’t see what the big deal is. “I think that she and [CIA Director Leon] Panetta ought to sit down, come out. I don’t think the Democrats want to be like the Bush administration and be at war with the CIA. And it might be that they have different recollections here. And if there are different recollections, we’re not going to resolve what was said in a meeting seven years ago,” he said on CNN Sunday. “It could be that people remember something differently. I have no idea. But it looks like something we can get to the bottom of without a lot of trouble.” Following Pelosi’s remarks, Panetta on Friday stood up for the agency and challenged Pelosi’s assertions. “There is a long tradition in Washington of making political hay out of our business. It predates my service with this great institution, and it will be around long after I’m gone. But the political debates about interrogation reached a new decibel level yesterday when the CIA was accused of misleading Congress,” Panetta said in a letter to employees. “Let me be clear: It is not our policy or practice to mislead Congress. That is against our laws and our values,” he said. Panetta said the agency’s records from September 2002 indicate that CIA officers “briefed truthfully on the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, describing ‘the enhanced techniques that had been employed.’”
Pelosi issued a response to Panetta and shifted her criticism from the CIA to the Bush administration. “My criticism of the manner in which the Bush administration did not appropriately inform Congress is separate from my respect for those in the intelligence community who work to keep our country safe,” she wrote.
BAGHDAD, Iraq The Iraqi government released what it said was the confession of a top terrorist leader in the country Monday, nearly a month after the government claimed to have captured him.
In the video, the man calls himself Ahmed Abed Ahmed Khamees al-Mujamaie.
Government-run Iraqiya TV showed a news conference by Maj. Gen. Qassim Atta, spokesman for Baghdad Operations Command, and a short clip of a man the government says is Abu Omar al-Baghdadi. The man in the video says that his name is “Ahmed Abed Ahmed Khamees al-Mujamaie,” that he “joined al Qaeda in Iraq in 2005″ and that the following year, he “became the emir [leader] of the Islamic State of Iraq,” an umbrella group that encompasses al Qaeda in Iraq. He says the goal of the movement was to “separate Sunni and Shia in order to create the birth of the Islamic State of Iraq.” It is not clear when the video was made, and it appears to show only a portion of a longer interrogation. Two years ago, there were erroneous reports that al-Baghdadi had been captured and killed. A radical Islamist Web site has denied that the man in custody is al-Baghdadi.
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“The news that was announced by the apostate Qassim Atta is false and the picture that they showed on the Iraqi satellite [television] is for someone that we are not aware of,” said the statement, which claimed to be from the Islamic Republic of Iraq media center. The United States military has refused to comment on whether the prisoner is al-Baghdadi, saying the military has not had access to him. “They believe that, based on the intelligence they have, the statements that they have, the people that have talked to them, that … they have Omar al-Baghdadi,” Gen. Ray Odierno, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq, said of the Iraqis on May 8. “We have not yet had access to him in order to question him or ask him any questions, so I can’t say that our intelligence … agrees with that. But it’s … mainly because we have not had access,” Odierno added. The United States has not commented on the video shown Monday. Buhriz City Council officials identified the man shown on TV as Ahmed Abed Ahmed Khamees al-Mujamaie, an agricultural engineer who lives in the town and was head of the council in 2005. His family was surprised when Iraqi security forces arrested him, and shocked when the Iraqi government announced he was al-Baghdadi. He is from al-Mujamaie Sunni tribe, they said, and was a sergeant in the Iraqi army under Saddam Hussein. Buhriz is about six miles (10 kilometers) south of Baquba, in Diyala Province, and about 30 miles (50 kilometers) north of Baghdad.
Electricity to power ‘smart grid’
Global electricity networks could become smart grids that can help us monitor and control our energy usage, if plans from net firm Cisco take off.The giant US firm, whose technology helps underpin the net, is building a two-way link into electricity grids. Smart grids would allow devices to communicate with utility firms to give an accurate view of energy use that could cut CO2 emissions by 211m tonnes Cisco believes the market could be worth up to 20 billion a year. The basic premise is to link different parts of the electrical grid – from a single home to the largest of power stations – using a customised network based on Internet Protocol (IP). Cisco say the proposal would be a “once in a generation capital investment”. With the rising cost of electrical power and concerns about how that power is generated – especially when it comes to fossil fuels – a number of other firms are also making a bid to modernise the electrical networks. IBM launched a range of embedded software applications, although these communicate through the regular internet, rather than via the mains; General Electric and a number of new start-up firms are also making bids to capture a slice of the market. Cisco say its system is different, because it would send the IP data down the power lines themselves, rather than using the internet. Shocking newsSecurity is also a factor. In April the Wall Street Journal reported that hackers had penetrated the “US electrical grid and left behind software programs that could be used to disrupt the system”. Speaking to the BBC, Neil Harris – Cisco Europe’s head of green IT – said it would be harder for hackers to penetrate the new network. “It won’t make it invulnerable, but as the network is separate from the net is adds a new layers of resilience,” he said. “We expect to see a rise in micro-generation, not just in Europe, but round the world, and the smart grid would be able to handle the bi-directional flow of data and electricity.”
However, the existing grid is not exactly empty. Stewart Larque, a spokesman for the UK’s National Grid, said they already monitored the main power network. The problem, he said, arose when you started dealing with individual streets. “We have a lot of detailed information on what’s going happening on our network at any given time,” he told the BBC. “We can see everything down to the substations, after that it’s down to the distribution companies. “And there is only so far they can see. Sometimes they won’t know that there has been a small power cut until the users phone them to say there is a problem.” Mr Harris says the new system could address that issue. “One of the aims is more agility in distribution. The packets would carry information on the health of the network – just as they currently do on the internet – and you could use this data to spot operational issues or even a malicious attack,” he said. Cisco say that the network would not just benefit the utility companies. “Ultimately, this can help users see where there power is being used and from that you can see where it is being wasted and thus save on your electricity bills.”
WASHINGTON (Reuters) –
President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu launched their first White House talks on Monday grappling with rare U.S.-Israeli differences over Middle East peacemaking and how to deal with Iran.
Wading into the thicket of Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy four months after taking office, Obama planned to press the hawkish Israeli leader to endorse Palestinian statehood and freeze Jewish settlement expansion on occupied land.
But Netanyahu, who heads a new right-leaning government that has balked so far at embracing a two-state solution to the decades-old conflict, appeared unlikely to comply.
He was expected instead to urge Obama to put the elusive quest for Israeli-Palestinian peace on the back burner and make the campaign to curb Iran's nuclear ambitions a more urgent priority. Israel, uneasy over Obama's overtures to engage with Tehran, has not ruled out military strikes if diplomacy fails.
Netanyahu's effort to shift the focus of stalled peace talks away from tough issues such as borders and the future of Jewish settlements could mean a rocky road ahead in traditionally strong U.S.-Israeli relations.
It puts him at odds with Obama, who has endorsed the goal of Palestinian independence, a cornerstone of U.S. policy for years, and has pledged to keep peacemaking high on his agenda.
Underscoring the obstacles Obama faces, an Israeli official confirmed that contractors had been asked for plans to expand a settlement in the occupied West Bank, a project the United States has already condemned as problematic to peace moves.
Despite diverging views, Obama and Netanyahu, meeting for the first time since both took office, were expected to tread carefully in talks that could set the tone for a still-emerging U.S. strategy to revive stalled peace talks.
Obama sees engagement in Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking — in contrast to the Bush administration's largely hands-off approach — as crucial to repairing the U.S. image in the Muslim world and to convincing moderate Arab states to join a united front against Iran.
There have been signs Obama hopes to sway Netanyahu with the prospect of normalized ties between Israel and all Muslim countries, but such a comprehensive deal would require extraordinary diplomatic work by the United States.
The Iranian issue loomed large over the White House talks.
With Israeli leaders mostly skeptical of Obama's efforts to engage Iran diplomatically, Netanyahu planned to stress Israel's growing concerns about Tehran's nuclear ambitions.
“There is a sense of urgency on our side,” Netanyahu's national security adviser, Uzi Arad, told reporters on the eve of the White House meeting, calling a nuclear-armed Iran a threat to Israel's existence.
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said earlier this month that world powers should take action against Iran if it does not curb its nuclear activities by August.
Israeli leaders have left open the option of pre-emptive strikes on Iran, which maintains it is enriching uranium for civilian power generation.
But any call by Netanyahu to put a time limit on diplomatic overtures — a departure from Bush's strategy of isolating the Islamic republic — could pose a challenge to Obama's Iran strategy.
Obama, in a Newsweek magazine interview, said he hoped to persuade Netanyahu that the diplomatic approach was best.
Netanyahu is under pressure from rightist political allies to pursue settlement building and resist pressure to pursue the peace strategy of former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for a Palestinian state alongside Israel.
In the West Bank, a Jewish settlement official on Monday said contractors had taken steps to begin expanding the enclave of Maskiot in the Jordan River valley with the addition of 20 homes. He said a decision in principle to go ahead was made last year by Israel's Defense Ministry.
Netanyahu has said Arab concern over a nuclear Iran presents an unprecedented opportunity to pursue regional peace between Israel and Muslim states. But Obama sees progress on negotiations for a future Palestinian state as a way to line up Arab states against Iran.
With Hamas Islamists in charge of the Gaza Strip, Netanyahu has said peace efforts with Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who meets Obama on May 28, should focus on economic, security and political issues. Palestinians reject that approach as a ploy to deny them statehood. (Editing by Doina Chiacu)
NEW YORK – Cynthia Nixon is engaged to her partner, Christine Marinoni.
Charlotte Burke, a representative for the “Sex and the City” actress, confirmed the engagement. No other details were given.
Nixon showed off an engagement ring at an ActionMarriage Equality rally in midtown Manhattan on Sunday.
She has two children from her relationship with photographer Danny Mozes.
Wilkinson agrees to join Toulon
England fly-half Jonny Wilkinson will play in France next season after agreeing a two-year deal with Toulon.Wilkinson leaves Newcastle after 12 years with the club, joining fellow Falcons Tom May, Jamie Noon and Ollie Phillips in heading across the channel. The 29-year-old, who had a year left on his Newcastle contract, played just four games last season after dislocating his knee in September. French media reports Wilkinson’s deal could be worth 700,000 euros a year. Wilkinson joins the exodus of English players who have left the Premiership to join the cash-rich French league, including Riki Flutey, James Haskell, Tom Palmer and Iain Balshaw.
The 2003 World Cup winning fly-half has been beset by a number of injuries in the past six years and has not played for England since coming on as a substitute in the Six Nations win over Ireland on 15 March 2008. England elite rugby director Rob Andrew has already insisted players who move to France must attend all training sessions with the national team in order to be selected.
LAGOS, NigeriaNigeria’s military has rescued 18 hostages held by militants in its oil-rich Niger Delta region, a military spokesman said Monday.
File image shows Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta fighters.
The first groupnine Filipinos and five Nigerianswere released on Saturday, while four Ukrainians were released on Sunday, according to Col. Rabe Abubakar, spokesman for the Nigerian military’s joint task force. Nigeria’s military began clearing the western Niger Delta region last week, its first major operation against the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, an armed militant group that demands a better distribution of the country’s oil wealth. Both the Nigerian military and the militants have said the ongoing fighting has resulted in a high number of casualties. As many as 1,000 have been killed, according to Victor Burubo, a spokesman for the Ijaw National Council which represents the region’s largest ethnic group. However, aid groups and journalists have been unable to verify that figure. “We want the international community to know that we are getting rid of criminals and terrorists in our communities so foreigners who come here to work and invest are safe,” Abubakar said. Four villages near the militants’ camps have been destroyed in the fighting, Burubo said. However, the military spokesman stressed that Nigerian forces are not targeting civilians, blaming such attacks on the militants. “We are not attacking villagesjust (militant) camps,” Abubakar said. On Friday, MEND declared “an all-out war” on the government after what it said was a deadly bombing raid on civilians.
Nigerian militants declare ‘all-out war’
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Nigerian militants declare ‘all-out war’
It is not the first declaration of war by MEND, which demands that more of Nigeria’s oil wealth be reinvested in the region instead of enriching those the militants consider corrupt politicians. The militant group declared war against the government in September for what it said were unprovoked attacks. At that time, MEND destroyed several oil facilities, forcing Nigeria to cut its oil exports by as many as 1 million barrels of oil per day, or 40 percent. The recent violencewhich has included attacks on pipelines and hostage-takinghas limited shipment of crude oil supplies out of Nigeria, Africa’s largest producer. MEND has threatened to blockade oil vessels, and has warned oil companies in the region to leave and “cease oil production until further notice.” The militant group said Friday the country’s armed forces conducted “indiscriminate aerial bombardment on the defenseless civilians in the Gbaramatu area of Delta state.” It said the strikes were punishment “for the humiliating defeat” of the army in raids on two militant camps Wednesday. “Casualties are mostly women, children and the elderly who could not get away quickly into the bush or high sea,” the militant group said. The military says it is responding to the militants’ attacks on troops, hijackings of vessels, and threats to innocents, such as the “expatriates who were given ultimatum to leave the region by the militants.” It characterized the various claims by the militants as “propaganda.” “We are not at war with any individuals or groups in the region,” Abubakar said. “Ours is to protect lives and property and also to rid the region of criminals who hide under the guise of struggle agenda to perpetrate crime.”
Tight race in Malawi poll
By Raphael Tenthani
BBC News, Blantyre
Malawi’s 5.9 million registered voters go to the polls on Tuesday in the country’s tightest ever election race.The battle pits the incumbent President Bingu wa Mutharika against a united opposition, in the culmination of the incessant political fighting that has consumed this southern African country in recent years. The 75-year-old economist-turned-politician has John Zenus Ungapake Tembo, 77, as his main challenger. Grace Mhango, a recently-graduated student, said as a first-time voter she is excited to cast her vote. “I am excited; my vote is on JZU [as Mr Tembo is popularly known],” she said. “Our university has run down; diet is poor, the library has no books… but I hear when Tembo was chairman of the University Council, the cafeteria was like a three-star hotel.” Back to the futureMr Tembo’s Malawi Congress Party (MCP) has been the country’s main opposition since it lost power 15 years ago, having been at the helm of Malawi politics for 30 years, under the one-party dictatorship of founding President Hastings Kamuzu Banda.
A former teacher and pastor’s son, Mr Tembo held a number of important positions during the Banda regime, including being the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Malawi for a record 13 years. His MCP has now joined forces with the United Democratic Front (UDF), led by former President Bakili Muluzi, who has widespread support in the populous Southern Region. “The MCP brings experience to Malawi politics,” said Mr Tembo. “I belong to the past, I belong to the present and I also belong to the future. “We are well geared and determined to bring genuine socio-economic development to Malawi.” UDF leader Mr Muluzi had originally intended to contest the presidential elections himself. But he was prevented by the Malawi Electoral Commission because he had already served for the constitutional two five-year terms. After his appeal was rejected at the weekend, Mr Muluzi vowed to do his utmost to oust his friend-turned-foe Mr Mutharika “for being ungrateful”. It was he who had personally anointed Mr Mutharika to lead the UDF at the 2004 polls. But the new president jumped ship nine months into his presidency, accusing the UDF of frowning on his tough anti-corruption drive. Bubble burst”Bingu would never have been president had it not been for me,” the former president told the BBC.
“I cannot fail to deflate a tyre I personally inflated. Come Tuesday, he is out of the State House. “Even if I am not taking part in these elections, I still have influence on their outcome. “I have teamed up with the right honourable JZU Tembo because we want to unite the country that has been divided because of Bingu’s disregard to the rule of law. We want to restore order.” Some feel the ruling to ban Mr Muluzi from standing may actually work against President Mutharika – by bringing together his two main opposition parties in one powerful alliance of voters. Mr Mutharika won last time with just 36% of the vote, as his rivals were divided. However, there are signs that some Muluzi supporters have been left disillusioned by his apparent “flip-flop” from Mr Mutharika to Mr Tembo. Mary Banda, a fruit-seller in Blantyre’s main market, told the BBC that she will not cast her vote because – as a UDF supporter – she is confused about Mr Muluzi’s stand.
“In 2004, Muluzi told us to vote for Bingu; now he is saying Bingu is bad, vote for Tembo. I am confused so I won’t vote,” she said. The UDF leader is also tainted by allegations of corruption. He is one of several former senior government officials who are currently answering fraud cases. Mr Muluzi stands accused of siphoning about 11m into his personal bank account from donor countries, while president – charges he denies. Meanwhile, Mr Muluzi and several of his political allies, such as Vice-President Cassim Chilumpha, are also answering treason cases, for allegedly plotting to assassinate the president. Mr Muluzi accuses Mr Mutharika of arresting opponents with reckless abandon on “trumped up charges like fraud, corruption and treason”. However, John Yeremiah, a farmer from the southern district of Chiradzulu, said he sees no reason for a change in government. “Bingu has improve roads and he is fighting for good tobacco prices,” he said. “Mr Tembo has been in power before under Dr Banda. I am voting for Bingu.” Handy workMr Mutharika, who founded his own Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), believes he will have his mandate to rule extended because his presidency has translated into real progress for ordinary people.
“I will let the work of my hands speak for me,” he said. “Apart from removing me, the opposition has no agenda for the nation. Within the shortest of times we have built several roads and other infrastructure.” Mr Mutharika, an India and US-trained development economist, has been praised by Western donor nations for his fiscal discipline. He has overseen economic grow of more than 8% – the world’s highest this year, after the oil-rich gulf state of Qatar. Should he lose on Tuesday, Mr Mutharika, who had a long career at the World Bank and the Economic Commission of Africa, promised he would retire from active politics. In all, seven candidates – including Malawi’s first ever woman presidential aspirant Loveness Gondwe and an independent, James Nyondo – are running for president. The country’s 5.9 million voters are also electing members of the 193-member parliament. Results are expected by Thursday, 21 May. Analysts say this is the closest election since the re-introduction of multiparty politics in 1994. But not all voters are excited. “These people are the same. I don’t care who wins,” said Moses Bauleni, a vegetable seller, in Blantyre. “Whoever is in State House, we will still remain poor.”
DETROIT (Reuters) –
The United Auto Workers union expects a crucial round of restructuring talks with General Motors Corp “to intensify this coming week” ahead of an end-of-May deadline set by the Obama administration.
In an e-mail message sent to rank-and-file workers, the union also repeated its opposition to GM's plans to close 16 U.S. manufacturing plants and cut about 21,000 jobs while also planning to increase vehicle imports from GM plants in lower-wage economies such as Mexico, South Korea and China.
“The UAW is actively involved in these complex negotiations, which involve the Obama auto task force, GM management, bondholders and secured lenders, dealers, parts suppliers and other stakeholders,” the union said in the message. “These negotiations will have a major impact on wages, benefits and jobs for active and retired UAW members.
“We are expecting the restructuring negotiations to intensify this coming week,”
The unusual email message to UAW-represented workers comes as UAW President Ron Gettelfinger and GM Chief Executive Fritz Henderson are both due in Washington on Monday for talks with U.S. officials.
Those discussions have a growing urgency because GM faces a deadline to restructure its debt, including healthcare-related obligations to the UAW, by the end of the month ahead of a bankruptcy filing that the automaker says is now probable.
GM has a $1 billion bond payment due June 1 and must complete debt restructuring talks by then or file for bankruptcy, executives have said.
GM has been kept in operation since the start of the year with more than $15 billion in federal loans and would be majority owned by the U.S. government under the terms of the reorganization it has proposed to the Obama administration.
In its email message to members sent late Sunday, UAW leadership urged auto workers and retirees to write to President Barack Obama and ask him to dictate job-saving changes to GM's restructuring plan.
The union campaigned for Obama during last year's election, and the White House-appointed autos task force being steered by former investment banker Steve Rattner has shown special consideration for the union's position in the reorganization of GM's smaller rival, Chrysler LLC.
GM needs to win concessionary agreements from the UAW to reduce factory operating costs and to halve the debt owed to a trust fund aligned with the union in order to match deals already approved for UAW-represented workers at Chrysler and Ford Motor Co.
In exchange for foregoing about $10 billion in cash payments owed to the UAW's health-care trust, GM has proposed giving the union a 39-percent stake in the reorganized company.
But the UAW has stepped up its opposition to GM's plans for operating its restructured business over the past several weeks and has tried to enlist Democratic lawmakers to put pressure on the administration to force changes.
In one element of the automaker's restructuring plan that has attracted criticism from the union, GM has said it would look to import smaller vehicles built in joint-venture factories it operates in China to the U.S. market.
Chrysler, by contrast, has pledged to build a new small car in a U.S. plant. The No. 3 U.S. automaker, which like GM is shedding costs and dealers, plans to emerge from bankruptcy under the management control of Italy's Fiat SpA.
“We need President Obama and his auto task force to stand up for the interests of American workers and retirees in the restructuring negotiations,” the UAW said in its email message.
“Tell him to insist that GM must change its restructuring plan. If GM is going to receive government assistance to facilitate its restructuring, along with the tremendous sacrifices by UAW active and retired members, it should be required to maintain the maximum number of jobs in the U.S. instead of outsourcing more production to foreign countries,” the message said.
(Editing by Maureen Bavdek)
Loach like Ferguson, says Cantona
Working with director Ken Loach was like being managed by Manchester United boss Alex Ferguson, footballer-turned-actor Eric Cantona has said.Cantona is playing himself in Loach’s Palme d’Or contender Looking for Eric. “The way they go about getting 100% out of the actors or the players is very similar,” he told a press conference at the Cannes Film Festival. The British film stars Steve Evets as a Manchester United fanatic postman whose life is touched by visions of his hero. Loach, 72, is hoping to repeat his success of 2006 when he won the Palme for The Wind that Shakes the Barley.
Cantona, who became a hero for Manchester United fans while playing under Ferguson between 1992 and 1997, said: “They are very similar. “These are two activities that are totally different, but the way they go about getting 100% out of the actors or the players is very similar. “The great difficulty is to maintain your quality from match to match, from film to film.” Cantona, 42, added: “Ferguson and Ken Loach are where they are because they have an enormous amount of humility.” ‘Military operation’Loach said he wanted make a film that was more light-hearted than his more serious recent outings.
“But you can say that a comedy is a tragedy with a happy ending and the story in this film could be a tragedy. But equally it could be a comedy,” he added. “We felt what we had to do was play the story with truth and sometimes that’s funny and sometimes that’s sad. “But if you play it with truth, that’s okay.” Leading man Evets, 49, said he had no idea Cantona would be acting in the film until the Frenchman suddenly turned up on set. “They’d got him in there like a military operation behind this curtain,” Evets added. “There he was, bang, in my room – it was dead surreal. “It was like an acid trip condensed into one minute. I was in a scene with Eric Cantona.”
Iraq sets election date of January 2010
Iraq will hold a general election on 30 January next year, officials say.It will be the second time that Iraqis vote for a national parliament since the US-led invasion six years ago. Correspondents say the election will be a key test for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, whose allies made big gains in local elections earlier this year. The last parliamentary vote in December 2005 was largely boycotted by Sunni Arabs, resulting in an easy victory for Shia parties and Kurdish groups. The office of Iraq’s first deputy parliamentary speaker said the date was proposed by the country’s federal court and must now be agreed by parliament, Reuters news agency reports. The decision to hold the election comes after allies of Prime Minister Maliki, under the State of Law Coalition banner, won a resounding victory in the 31 January provincial vote, giving the premier a popular mandate.
The women who want to save banking
Can women bankers and investment managers get us out of the economic mess that their male colleagues got us into? Will it take women to ensure the future health of the financial sector?Halla Tomasdottir and Kristin Petursdottir are convinced the answer is yes.
They set up their investment firm Audur Capital in Iceland to prove it. So should the boardrooms be filled with women now? “But not women alone,” says Halla, the Audur chairman. “A world of only women would be just as imbalanced. We need a balance between men and women to make healthier decisions.” Halla and Kristin set up Audur Capital in 2007, with Kristin as CEO. As they explained to Peter Day for this week’s Global Business on the BBC World Service, for them, running a successful company “is all about using our own values”. The reason the male-female balance matters, is that women, they argue, bring different values to the table. Female valuesThey founded Audur in 2007, and by the time they got their operating licence in May 2008, the economic crash was looming. “Yes, but we were very careful, and very risk-aware,” they say. “Risk-aware, not risk-averse. Women are risk-aware, men are risk takers.” And now Halla Tomasdottir, the chairman, thinks that “six months after the crash, we’re one of perhaps two [investment] companies in Iceland still alive, not accepting government assistance, and we won’t need it. So we managed to do very well with the values we brought.”
Being “risk-aware” is one of those values, and one reason why they are convinced that getting the male-female balance right is so important. “Women tend to bring a lot to the table. They think more long-term, they think about the team, and not only themselves. They think more about people, and they see other business opportunities than men.” There is another, crucial difference, they find: “Women are willing to ask stupid questions. We want to understand. We won’t take risks we don’t understand, so we ask: what is sub-prime? Who’ll pay these loans back?” The power of threeBut if there are just one or two women on a company board, as there often are nowadays, they will not ask those “stupid” questions. “That is why tokenism is no help. You need true diversity. When someone is a token presence, they have two choices: marginalising themselves, or belonging. Most women choose to belong, to be accepted. To really be themselves is much more difficult.”
So how do you get round this? “Three is a critical number. If there are three women, things work out much better.” Do we need quotas, like the 40% in Norway? “I used to be against it, but am now leaning towards it. It would do the world a whole lot of good to have a better balance.” But it is not as easy as that, as she admits: “The problem you sometimes get, like with affirmative action in the US, is people get around it. The board may have the right balance, but the actual board meeting is in the steam room or on a golf course. And that is not a good thing. ” Emotional due diligenceBeing risk-aware, asking the right questions, why else do they think it matters to have a gender balance at the top? “You do need people that put ethics and corporate governance high on the agenda. I have learnt through years in personnel management that women tend to put these values higher on the agenda. They’re also interested in a wider definition of what’s a good return. ” Moreover, they say, as women “we are willing to use our rational mind and our emotional intelligence to release value out of our investments. The touchy-feely side is actually the harder side. We reject a lot more investment opportunities as a result of emotional due diligence than financial due diligence.”
The value of the Icelandic currency, the krona, has plummeted
They argue that there is another, perhaps more pragmatic reason, too, why having more women on the board can matter. “80% of household purchasing decisions are made by women. Both their financial, and their human capital, like education, are growing fast. It is very important to have women round the decision-making table to really understand this growing female market.” Kristin and Halla are convinced that their results prove them right. “Our values got us through the crisis. We tripled out wealth management business when everyone else was losing business. We achieved this through trust, and the things we stand for. And straight talking. We told our clients things that they would not have been told elsewhere. We believe in being authentic to our clients, that’s in our DNA. ” The glass cliffAudur is an Icelandic woman’s name, and it means wealth, happiness and clear space. Audur Capital is already turning a “healthy” profit. And, unlike many others in the sector, they say they work nine or ten hours a day, no more. They want their staff, and society, to have a better work-life balance, with time for family as well as the office. Anything else would just lead to burn-out and not be sustainable. But there is a risk they are concerned about. Not the glass ceiling that stops women rising above a certain level, but the glass cliff. Halla is very worried that a woman’s success can be “a cliff that will break off so easily, and then she won’t be able to rise again. But look at men, they’re belly down, and most will soon rise up again.” There is one thing both Halla and Kristin do have in common with more men than women though: a love of fly-fishing! You can hear Peter Day’s interview with Halla and Kristin in full on Global Business from Tuesday the 19th of May.
to listen or to subscribe to the podcast.
Jerusalem Diary: Referees and rubbish
By Tim Franks
BBC News, Jerusalem
Spending last week covering the Pope’s visit to the Holy Land got me thinking about football referees.
Infallibility, Catholics will tell you, is a much misunderstood concept. It does not mean that the Pope is, himself, infallible. And so – you might argue, after a heavy night in the pub, or too much nargilah – with referees. Don’t take my word. Last week I spoke to one of the greatest refs ever to don black shorts. “There’s no referee in the world who doesn’t make mistakes,” Avraham Klein told me, on the phone from Haifa. I had rung him because of the hoo-ha over the Chelsea-Barcelona Champions League semi-final, when the Norwegian ref, Tom Henning Ovrebo, had – by common consent – made a complete ham sandwich of it. Several Chelsea players had screamed abuse at him or about him. Some of the football chatterati wondered what else could be expected of a ref from a small country, low down the football rankings. And so, bravely, I thought I would present 74-year-old Mr Klein from Israel with the journalistic equivalent of an open goal. “Do you agree?” I asked him down the telephone. He did not. British journalists had written the same of him, when he was chosen to referee England-Brazil in the 1970 World Cup – his first of three World Cup tournaments. Come the game, “there were no problems”, Mr Klein reports. You can read a fair amount into the body language of the photo above – Mr Klein telling Pelé, the best player in the world, ever, to stop making a meal of it. Pelé returned the compliment in Mr Klein’s 1995 autobiography (The Referee’s Referee: Becoming the Best), describing himself as an “admirer”. Indeed, the whole tournament was, Mr Klein believes, the apogee of international refereeing. The evidence: no red cards. There was no need. Not because the players were morally superior. They just did not dare try it on. Today it is a little different, he concedes. “Money. What players are earning in one day, one minute. Maybe it makes them crazy.”
Mr Klein did not want to pass judgment on Tom Henning Ovrebo’s performance. “I’ve never criticised a fellow referee in my life.” But he did hint that for players to respect refs, the man in black needs to project “authority”. Another flavour of that: this photo from one of the greatest World Cup matches ever – Italy-Brazil, 1982. Giancarlo Antognoni does that Italian thing with his shoulders. Avraham Klein does that parent-to-toddler thing with his hands. The money has changed for the referees, too. Mr Klein says that, in the last World Cup, FIFA paid refs more than 50,000 for a month’s work. In 1982, for the Italy-Brazil match, he was paid 100. He had to pay for his own drinks and sandwiches.
The day of the Chelsea-Barcelona semi-final, I had met some men down the other end of the pay-ladder.
Professional Palestinian scavengers appreciate the rubbish thrown out by settlers
You smell the rubbish tip before you see it. It lies, in the occupied West Bank, between the Jewish settlement of Psagot, and the Palestinian city of al-Bireh. Six professional scavengers were waiting for the next delivery. None wanted to be named. But a thick-set man who told me he was 35, with 10 children, living in al-Bireh, explained the routine: “We come seven in the morning until four in the afternoon. I’ve been doing it for 30 years. It’s not nice work. Aluminium, metal is what we’re after. We sell it to a dealer in al-Bireh. We make around 1,000 shekels (241) a month.” They have a special agreement with the Israeli soldiers to allow them to come to the tip. And they appreciate the relative profligacy of the people who are occupying what the rest of the world regards as Palestinian land: not only are there twice the number of Israeli rubbish trucks each day, compared to the Palestinians’, but the settlers “are better, because they throw out more of the stuff we want”.