BOSTON (Reuters) –
Johan Santana prevailed in a pitching duel with Daisuke Matsuzaka to lead the New York Mets to a 5-3 win over the Boston Red Sox on Friday.
The two-time Cy Young winner Santana (6-2) struck out eight batters and allowed two earned runs in seven innings to help the Mets win their first inter-league matchup of the year.
New York made three errors to put Santana in a bit of trouble, but the left-hander worked his way out of tricky situations in the first and sixth innings.
“We cannot afford to make a lot mistakes, that's for sure,” Santana told reporters. “It seems like every time I'm out there, we cannot get things done. But at the same time, they backed it up.”
Japan's Matsuzaka, pitching for the first time since April 15 when he went out with arm fatigue, had a light outing of 80 pitches over five innings. The loss dropped his record for the season to 0-2.
Matsuzaka has allowed at least four runs in all three of his starts this season.
New York broke open a 1-1 tie with three RBI singles in the fourth inning from David Wright, Omir Santos and Ramon Martinez.
Martinez also made two errors, including one in the fourth that helped Jason Varitek reach base and two runners score to make it 4-3.
Bobby Parnell and Francisco Rodriguez pitched the final two innings to nail down the game and allow New York (22-19) to snap its four-game losing streak.
Boston (25-17), second in the American League East, had its three-game winning streak broken up.
First baseman Kevin Youkilis and Santana had a small altercation in the fifth inning when he was hit by a pitch. Youkilis stared down Santana, who yelled at him.
“He wanted me to go down to first base and not joke around, I guess,” Youkilis said. “But I wasn't mad. I've been hit so many times. You joke around one time, I guess, and pitchers don't like it.”
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)
Archive for May 23rd, 2009
BOSTON (Reuters) –
PRINCETON, New Jersey (Reuters) –
The U.S. Federal Reserve is likely to keep benchmark interest rates near zero for a while in an economy that is pulling out of a steep decline and appears on course for a very gradual recovery, Fed Vice Chairman Donald Kohn said on Saturday.
“The economy is only now beginning to show signs that it might be stabilizing, and the upturn, when it begins, is likely to be gradual amid the balance sheet repair of financial intermediaries and households,” Kohn told a conference at Princeton University.
“As a consequence, it probably will be some time before the FOMC will need to begin to raise its target for the federal funds rate,” he said, referring to the Fed's policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee.
The U.S. central bank has cut interest rates to near zero and committed to massive lending and securities purchases to heal shattered financial markets and pull the economy out of the longest recession since the Great Depression.
Kohn said that in spite of the fragile state of the U.S. economy and the prospect for low rates for a while, the Fed must make plain its plans to pull back its lending when a recovery begins to take hold.
“To ensure confidence in our ability to sustain price stability, we need to have a framework for managing our balance sheet when it is time to move to contain inflation pressures,” he said.
The Fed has said it is willing to expand extensive purchases of mortgage-related and longer-term Treasury securities to support any nascent recovery.
“The preliminary evidence suggests that our program so far has worked,” Kohn said referring to the commitments to buy securities to date. He said he believes they have held down long term interest rates by as much as 1 percentage point.
An analyst said Kohn's remarks are a signal the Fed is ready to buy more longer-term securities.
“Kohn's comments today on the effects of these actions are the most supportive to date of any Fed official and they increase the likelihood that the FOMC will extend or expand the existing asset purchase programs,” JPMorgan Economics economist Michael Feroli wrote in a note to clients.
Kohn said government spending is likely to have a more powerful effect in helping pull the economy out of recession now — with interest rates near zero — than it would if the Fed were still in a position to lower interest rates further.
“In this situation, fiscal stimulus could lead to a considerably smaller increase in long-term interest rates and the foreign exchange value of the dollar, and to smaller decreases in asset prices, than under more normal circumstances,” he added.
The Fed is studying how the current crisis may have affected U.S. economic productivity and how those changes may have affected the difference between how the economy grows and its full potential, he said.
“The effect of the crisis, the shifting of labor across markets, the effects on productivity have been very much one of the topics at the Fed,” Kohn said in response to questions speaking.
“Right now, there's no question in my mind there's a very substantial output gap,” he said.
In its actions to buttress the economy through a period of crisis, the Fed has taken on some risks both from swings in interest rates as well as from the possibilities that some borrowers could default, Kohn said, adding the Fed has sought to minimize those risks.
Even specialized vehicles such as three “Maiden Lane” limited-liability companies set up at the New York Fed to hold so-called toxic assets from two firms the central bank stepped in to prevent from failure — investment bank Bear Stearns and insurer American International Group, Inc — may not result in losses, he said, since the Fed is holding the assets to maturity.
BlackRock Inc, the firm that is managing those vehicles, has told the central bank those holdings are likely to eventually turn a profit, Kohn added.
In pictures: S Korea in mourning
The former president of South Korea, Roh Moo-hyun, is believed to have committed suicide by jumping from a cliff near his home.
Hundreds of people came to pray and burn incense at an impromptu altar in Seoul, amid massive media interest.
Mr Roh left a note in which he said life had “become unbearable”, police said. He asked to be cremated.
Well-wishers put up a portrait of Mr Roh in Gimhae, about 450km (280 miles) from Seoul, where he was born.
Grief overcame one mourner as he arrived to burn incense in Mr Roh’s memory in the capital, Seoul.
In Seoul, thousands attended candlelit vigils to pray for Mr Roh.
Bernard Madoff’s hidden victims
By James Coomarasamy
BBC Washington correspondent
The collapse of disgraced financier Bernard Madoff’s multi-billion dollar pyramid scheme has had wide-ranging consequences – not least on American charities.
Bernard Madoff is responsible for many things: from the biggest pyramid scheme in US history, to a series of ruined lives, shattered friendships and battered bank accounts. He is also responsible, in part, for Steven Barnes walking free from jail, after serving 20 years for a crime he did not commit. Steven is the embodiment of a little-mentioned aspect of the Madoff affair, the dozens of charitable foundations, being financed by his mythical money, that now find themselves as out of pocket, and pursued by the authorities. In Steven’s case, the money went to the Innocence Project, a New York-based criminal justice organisation, which uses the latest DNA techniques to prove the innocence of the wrongfully imprisoned. Innocence ProjectIt was partly funded by the JEHT Foundation, a private charity backed by a wealthy couple, Ken and Jeanne Levy-Church.
Like many of the Madoff victims, they were wealthy Jews who had placed their money with their old friend. When he went down so too did their foundation. Within days all of JEHT’s employees had been fired, its offices closed. Steven had been freed just in time. I met Steven at the Innocence Project’s Manhattan office. He is a well-built man, in his early forties, with spiky fair hair and the distant gaze of someone still adjusting his focus, as he contemplates the freedom he was denied for so long. As he sat and told me his story, his right knee jerked up and down in a staccato rhythm, like a needle in a sewing machine. A mixture of nerves and anger. He had been arrested in 1985, after a local girl was raped and murdered. Three years later he was convicted and sentenced to 25 years in prison. DNA testsSteven always protested his innocence and so did his family. When he told them about a TV item he had seen about the Innocence Project they were quick to act. The results took somewhat longer though. An initial DNA test proved inconclusive, but a second, several years later using improved technology, finally cleared Steven. “I called my mother one Friday,” he told me, the shadow of a half-remembered smile flitting across his face. “She said the tests had come back and they’d cleared me. I yelled down the gallery: ‘I’m going home. I’m going home’.” The following Tuesday, 25 November 2008, he was home. Sixteen days later Bernie Madoff was arrested. As Steven regained his freedom the man whose funds had helped to liberate him was losing his. These days, Steven talks on behalf of the Innocence Project. He is angry that Madoff’s corruption has deprived it of necessary funds to secure the release of others. “I hope he gets his day with the guy upstairs… or in prison,” he says. Missing cureAcross town, in a laboratory at the University of Columbia’s medical school, neurologist Dr David Sulzer, leads a group of eager young researchers, peering at slides. They are looking for connections between neurons, but have been hampered by their connection to Bernie Madoff. This research into the causes of Parkinson’s disease was being partly funded by another wealthy couple, Jeffrey and Barbara Picower, their Picower Foundation was the hardest hit by the Madoff scandal losing nearly 1bn.
Mr Madoff recruited several clients at the Palm Beach Country Club
Through it the Picower’s had poured vast sums into the kind of cutting edge research for which it is hard to get federal funding. In the lab, the centrifuges are still whirring but the dots that were being connected, in the form of a Picower-financed, seven lab consortium, are no longer joined. A potential cure for Parkinson’s may have evaporated. Not everyone is sympathetic to the foundation’s plight. In Palm Beach, Florida where Madoff befriended, and then defrauded, people like the Picowers. ‘Irresponsible’ greedI met Jose Lambiet, society columnist with the Palm Beach Post. He says there is an element of one-upmanship to the charitable work of the rich and famous, whose endeavours were being bankrolled by Madoff. Their huge returns may have gone towards positive ends he says but they were still the product of greed. The Palm Beach investors, victims, call them what you will, are a private bunch.
They shun the media and make every effort to shield their exclusive homes from prying eyes. As you drive along the the lanes surrounding the Palm Beach Country Club, the place where Madoff persuaded members of this tight-knit Jewish community to invest their millions with him, you pass a succession of what appear to be green, leafy battlements, 30 feet high in places, the flat top foliage offers towering, natural protection to the people in the barely-glimpsed houses behind. They once spent their days counting their Madoff-made money. Now they are licking their Madoff-inflicted wounds. Claw back timeAnd, in the latest legal twist, the foundations are being targeted by the authorities, trying to recover tens of billions of fraudulent dollars. That stolen money, which the foundations have dispersed, is the subject of a process known as “claw back”. As victims sue victims, the foundations hope that tracking down money that has already gone into medical research, criminal justice programmes or school systems will seem absurd but the process will be charitable to the charities. Enough damage has been done already. In the words of one of the lawyers involved, Bernie Madoff has wiped out a whole generation of Jewish philanthropy. How to listen to: From our own CorrespondentRadio 4: Saturdays, 1130. Second weekly edition on Thursdays, 1100 (some weeks only) World Service: See programme schedules Download the
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MP family expense claims revealed
The latest revelations in the Sunday Telegraph have shown how MPs have been able to claim extra expenses by employing members of their family.Some have received money for a main home as well as a second home because spouses use it for Parliamentary work. London MP Derek Conway, who lost the Tory whip, claimed on a house 330 miles from his constituency, the paper says. And Malcolm Bruce, the president of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, claimed for his London flat and a home in Scotland. The Telegraph said the MP, who employs his wife, Rosemary, was paid nearly 3,100 towards his Scottish home as well as more than 61,186 for his London property between April 2006 and March 2008. Thousands of poundsMr Bruce said he done nothing “improper”, adding: “I’ve always claimed the actual costs that I’ve incurred for providing an office for my wife to work from. “The fact is I’m meticulous in making sure that I claim retrospectively for the costs I’ve incurred, wholly and exclusively for the purposes for which they’re provided.” The information about Mr Bruce’s expenses is among the paper’s latest set of revelations, which focused on the employment of family members by MPs, and the expenses which related to this practice.
They show how Derek Conway, who had the Tory whip withdrawn last year after being reprimanded by the Commons’ Standards and Privileges Committee for overpaying his sons, received thousands of pounds for two family homes. He claimed taxpayers’ money on a family house in Northumberland after telling Commons officials he did Parliamentary work there, even though it is 330 miles away from his Commons seat of Old Bexley and Sidcup, in south-east London, the paper said. The paper also alleges Michael Clapham, Labour MP for Barnsley West and Penistone, claimed 210 for a pair of glasses for his wife and assitant, Yvonne, on his taxpayer-funded office allowance. Mr Clapham also claimed 694.93 on the office budget for dinner services and 19.97 for an iron, the paper said. The revelations over MPs’ expense claims reported in the Telegraph have led to considerable political fall-out. Number of casualtiesIn the latest developments on Saturday, Tory MP Andrew MacKay, embroiled in a expenses row, said he would step down at the next general election. The MP for Bracknell, Berkshire, made the announcement on after a conversation with the Conservative leader, David Cameron. Mr MacKay had already resigned as Mr Cameron’s aide because he and his wife, Julie Kirkbride, MP for Bromsgrove, both claimed second home allowances. She is now having to defend herself against newspaper claims her brother lives rent-free in one of the homes. The Conservatives have the highest number of casualties, including Douglas Hogg, MP for Sleaford and North Hykeham, Sir Peter Viggers, MP for Gosport, Totnes MP Anthony Steen. Labour has seen Commons speaker Michael Martin resign and Shahid Malik step down as justice minister. Two others, former agriculture minister Elliot Morley and backbencher David Chaytor, have been suspended by the Parliamentary Labour Party. Earlier on Saturday, senior Labour MP Ian McCartney, for Makerfield, announced he would be standing down at the next election due to poor health. On Friday, Vale of Glamorgan MP John Smith, also said he was also standing down due to his health and a wish to spend more time with his family.
The week's top ten best quotes:
“I'll bet a thousand bucks that I can get him to say 'Barack Obama is the greatest president'.” –Former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura, telling the Huffington Post what he thinks he could get Fox News host Sean Hannity to say, via waterboarding.
“I have made the statement that I am going to make on this. I don't have anything more to say about it. I stand by my comments. …And on the subject that you asked, I have made the statement that I am going to make. I won't have anything more to say about it. … I won't have anything more to say about it.” –Speaker Nancy Pelosi, dodging a reporter's question on Friday regarding her recent tussle with the CIA.
“I think I've had about enough of this” –Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nv.), brushing off questions by reporters on Guantanamo Bay detainees.
“Anyone, any detainee, over 55 has an opportunity to have a colonscopy. Now none of them take 'em up on it, because once they explain what it is, none of them want to do it. … But nonetheless it's an opprtunity that they have.” –Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Ok.), defending the conditions at Guantanamo Bay.
“I understand we have some Marylanders here — that’s a suburb of Delaware. Only kidding, guys, only kidding. Only kidding.” –Vice President Joe Biden, addressing troops at Camp Bondsteel.
“All right, now, I also want to give notice, I told Coach I'm going to take off my jacket while we're putting this thing here, so he's allowed to, too. He's showing no disrespect to the White House.” –President Barack Obama, in remarks to the Pittsburgh Steelers during their White House visit.
“Girls need to imagine and picture their life with a screaming newborn baby and then think before they have sex. Think about the consequences. If girls realized the consequences of sex, nobody would be having sex. Trust me. Nobody.” –Bristol Palin in an interview with People Magazine.
“Bo Obama would not be happy with this piece of legislation.” –D.C. Republican Committee Chairman Robert J. Kabel, urging Council members to vote against a proposed tax on paper and plastic bags, some of which are used to pick up after dogs.
“I partied my behind off. I heard there were classes, and some people told me I should go. But I was having a good time.” –RNC Chair Michael Steele, speaking to students at H.D. Woodson High.
“At 6:30 tomorrow morning, the president will announce his Supreme Court nominee …. Gotcha!” – White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, to reporters eager to get out of town Friday for the long weekend.
GREENVILLE, Maine – “Buddy” the boa has a new home, after escaping from his cage at Greenville, Maine, High School, then getting away from the police.
The two-foot-long boa constrictor disappeared on May 12, prompting a big search at the school. They even moved everything out of the room where Buddy lived, including an old computer printer. Turns out, Buddy was inside the printer and no one knew it until the school gave it to a student to take home and dismantle.
The Bangor Daily News reports the student gave the printer to a friend’s mom, and Buddy decided to peek out Thursday afternoon in the woman’s home.
A police officer got the snake into a cat carrier, temporarily. Buddy made a break for it in the cruiser, but was captured.
Buddy now lives with a teacher.
Information from: Bangor Daily News, http://www.bangornews.com
LONDON – An unlikely duo of a fashion heiress and a Nobel Prize-winning economist is pushing a controversial plan to boost aid to the developing world by giving wealthy donors a greater say in how the money is distributed.
Backed by the head of the United Nations and a bevy of billionaires, supermodels and pop stars, socialite Renu Mehta and economist James Mirrlees say a private-public partnership on foreign aid is the only way to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, since governments are falling short of U.N. targets.
But the notion sits uneasily with critics already unhappy about the juxtaposition of champagne-fueled fundraisers and the poverty of those they are supposed to benefit. Critics argue it would set a dangerous precedent for the super-rich to determine foreign aid policies.
On its face, the Mehta-Mirrlees plan is simple. They are calling on the Group of Eight industrialized nations, which are meeting in Italy in July, to agree to match private donations with state aid. For every 100 pledged by the private sector, a government would add a matching 100 from existing aid budgets.
The plan seeks to address the fact that governments are falling behind in their commitments to the United Nations to donate 0.7 percent of gross national incomes to meet eight goals, including halving extreme poverty by 2015 from its 1990 level.
In 2007, only five countries — Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden — met the commitment. Collectively, all U.N. members delivered 103.7 billion, just 0.3 percent of gross national income and far short of the goal of 155 billion.
“The U.N. Development Goals are widely recognized as the most comprehensive template to address these issues, but the program is in jeopardy because governments are not meeting their commitments,” said Mehta, who launched her Fortune Forum charity in 2006 at a glitzy London dinner with former U.S. President Bill Clinton as the keynote speaker.
Mehta, the daughter of an Indian textile magnate, added: “What we need to do is come up with a new model, find a new way to meet these targets, on the one hand. On the other hand, we need to make sure that the money is deployed to the maximum effectiveness.”
Mirrlees and Mehta estimate their plan could raise 75 billion, even in the current economic climate, arguing that people will donate if they know their contributions will be doubled.
“We see a number of countries cutting back on government assistance … that inevitably makes things more urgent” since developing countries are suffering further from the falloff in global trade, Mirrlees said.
The World Bank has warned that millions more people will fall into poverty and as many as 400,000 more babies will die each year because of the economic crunch.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has welcomed the pair’s attempt to find a new aid financing mechanism, saying cooperation between public and private sectors can make a difference.
Mehta and Mirrlees propose that private contributions, along with matching public funds, should be channeled through a new organization of both government and private sector representatives. That body would monitor how money is spent “so as to meet the private sector’s performance expectations,” which they argue would attract further donations from the private sector.
But it is that element of private involvement that has many critics worried.
“There are so many potential problems and issues with this. The biggest problem is a question of ethics,” said Richard Murphy, director of Tax Research LLP. “Just because you’re rich and you give to charity doesn’t mean you necessarily make better decisions. Also, what if a company that specializes in retroviral drugs says its money must go to HIV funding, to AIDS funding?”
Another sore point is the plan’s proposal for governments to match donations from assets held in offshore tax havens.
Murphy questioned whether many people would welcome an aid fund accepting money from tax haven accounts, considering U.S. President Barack Obama, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and leaders of the other Group of 20 nations just pledged to clamp down on the offshore vehicles.
Murphy said if officials instead forced the shifting of funds in offshore accounts into taxed accounts back home, some 250 billion could be raised annually — five times the money needed by governments to meet the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals.
Without any firm agreement on the plan, there is no estimate of how much it might cost to administrate the proposed aid fund. Nor is it clear what the impact might be for private foundations.
Mehta and Mirrlees have already had to revamp their proposal after earlier criticisms that the original plan included a 50 percent tax break for the wealthy. For example, a private donation of 100 would have attracted 50 in tax relief, funded from the government’s existing aid budget.
That idea was received coolly at Britain’s Treasury, which said this is not the time for tax breaks.
Mehta said discussions are being held with the Treasury on the revised plan. The pair have also taken the incomplete project to Italian officials ahead of the G-8′s July 8-10 meeting, where they would like to present the proposal.
VIENNA – In high-rise offices along the Danube, scientists riveted to computer screens “listen” to sounds no one can hear, “feel” every rumble in the Earth, “sniff” global skies for exotic gases — on alert for signs of a newborn atomic bomb.
Governments over the past decade have quietly built up a 1 billion International Monitoring System to enforce the treaty banning nuclear weapons tests. At more than 200 stations around the world, from deep in the Pacific to high in the Bavarian Alps, they have deployed advanced technologies to detect secret explosions. And they have waited.
Since 1999, when a Republican-led U.S. Senate rejected it, the treaty has languished in a diplomatic limbo, and this unequaled — and growing — system of global sensors has remained in long-running rehearsal.
Barack Obama wants to change that.
“After more than five decades of talks, it is time for the testing of nuclear weapons to finally be banned,” the U.S. president said in a pivotal speech April 5 in Prague, Czech Republic.
Major nuclear powers, including the U.S., have observed moratoriums on testing since the 1990s, but India, Pakistan and North Korea all have tested bombs since the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty was negotiated.
Obama vowed to “immediately and aggressively” pursue treaty ratification by the Senate, now in Democratic hands. If other holdout countries follow suit, the “CTBT” would come into force, putting the power of international law and the U.N. Security Council behind a ban.
A new report from a divided U.S. congressional commission, however, signals that the debate will be a difficult one — between those who see a test ban as a step toward de-nuclearizing the world, and those who see it as a risk for U.S. national security. And that debate will focus on how verifiable the treaty is, on just how good a global alarm system all that money has bought.
The French engineer in charge of completing it says it’s very good.
“We can already see the network is providing much better performance than envisaged at the time the treaty was negotiated,” Patrick Grenard said. “It’s extremely sensitive.”
Three-quarters of the planned 320 stations are built, certified and on line, each using one of the system’s four technologies: seismic, sensing the shock waves of an underground blast; hydroacoustic, listening for underwater explosions; infrasound, picking up the low-frequency sound of an atmospheric test; and radionuclide detection, sampling the air for a test’s radioactive byproducts.
From the Arctic to Antarctica, from dozens of islands in the world’s oceans, from forests, mountaintops and cities on every continent, the stations transmit data via six satellites back to the Vienna headquarters building of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization.
Seismologists, physicists and other specialists among the agency’s 286-member staff review the stream of information — readings of earth tremors and mining explosions, of undersea volcanos and discharges from nuclear power plants. They then package the data and relay it to the treaty’s signatory nations, including the U.S., which signed the pact in 1996, only for the Senate to reject it three years later.
While not yet fully accepting the treaty, the U.S. government benefits by obtaining data from monitoring stations in China, Russia and other sensitive places, even Iran. In fact, the U.S. itself hosts more stations than any nation — 38 when the network is completed — and pays 22 percent of the treaty agency’s operating costs.
Installations at tiny Wake Island, a U.S. territory in the remote mid-Pacific, typify America’s commitment to the infrastructure of a treaty it isn’t fully committed to.
In 2006-2007, the Vienna agency and the U.S. Air Force built an 18 million hydroacoustic facility at Wake, the costliest single station in the global system. Three hydrophones in globular nodes were moored to seamounts in each of two locations about 100 kilometers (60 miles) from the coral atoll’s shores, linked to Wake by undersea cable.
Some 750 meters (2,500 feet) down, the listening devices take advantage of a layer of ocean that, because of temperature and salinity, “traps” and transmits sounds over vast distances.
“Blast fishing” — use of a couple of kilograms (pounds) of dynamite to kill fish — “can be heard 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles) away,” said Andrew Forbes, a British hydroacoustic specialist here.
Wake rounded out the “hydro” network of 11 stations, enabling the Vienna monitors to listen in to all the oceans, confident of detecting an explosion down to the unlikely micro-level of one ton of TNT equivalent, 15,000 times smaller than 1945′s Hiroshima bomb.
Above ground, plans call for Wake also to host an infrasound station, a sprawling array of microbarometers that detect minuscule changes in air pressure — in effect, “hearing” atmospheric vibrations at frequencies below the human ear’s 20-hertz minimum.
The sound of an aboveground blast dies quickly in the atmosphere, but its “infrasound” can circle the globe, to be picked up in Australia, the Azores or any of 58 other locations.
Because of its strategic location, Wake also has a radionuclide station, sampling air currents for strontium-90 and other radioactive fallout, smoking guns of a nuclear explosion. Half the system’s 80 radionuclide stations, including Wake’s, are also being equipped with gear to detect gases such as xenon and krypton, which are created in nuclear blasts.
Fallout from underground tests usually is absorbed in surrounding rock, but the gases seep out. Xenon was the smoking gun in North Korea’s nuclear test.
Shock waves from that October 2006 explosion registered at half the monitoring system’s 40 operating seismic stations. Then an agency radionuclide post in northern Canada detected trace amounts of xenon-133 in the air. Computerized wind models enabled the Vienna team to track the gas back to North Korea, confirming the explosion was nuclear.
The monitoring system is operating on a provisional basis. If the treaty enters force, it authorizes onsite inspections of suspicious events. Together that “will enable us to detect any possible test which is militarily significant,” Hungary’s Tibor Toth, the treaty organization’s executive secretary, said in an interview.
That statement may be challenged on the U.S. Senate floor.
On May 6, a congressional commission on nuclear policy, led by two former defense secretaries, William J. Perry and James R. Schlesinger, issued a final report in which one faction asserted the test-ban treaty is “wholly unverifiable” for very low-yield, clandestine underground tests. The other faction said such concerns were “overstated.”
As in 1999, treaty opponents are expected to contend that “decoupling” a small blast, conducting it in an underground cavity so large its shock waves are muffled, will defeat the seismic monitors.
But a 2002 U.S. National Academy of Sciences study listed 10 logistical difficulties a nuclear newcomer would face in attempting such decoupling. Another study by U.S. government advisers said a very small test — in the range of 500 tons TNT equivalent — would produce little of military significance. Besides, said physicist David Hafemeister, a 2002 study participant, the latest satellite radar technology would spot even a slight depression in the earth caused by an underground blast.
Next month in Vienna, the treaty organization will assemble scores of scientists from around the world to assess the International Monitoring System. Their endorsement would be a boost for treaty supporters. But a new, all-American assessment might prove more important to a Senate debate.
Geophysicist Raymond Jeanloz, chairman of the National Academy’s Committee on National Security and Arms Control, favors conducting a new study of a system now nearing completion.
“Very reasonably, a political leader might ask, ‘Is it performing up to standards?’” he said. “The scientific community is in a position to give an answer.”
EDITOR’S NOTE — Charles J. Hanley has been reporting on nuclear arms control since 1983.
LEXINGTON, Ky. – Kentucky defensive end Jeremy Jarmon was ruled ineligible for his senior season by the NCAA because of a failed drug test.
He said at a news conference Saturday he had inadvertently taken a banned substance that turned up positive during a random NCAA test in February. An appeal was denied, in effect ending his college football career.
Jarmon did not identify the substance and took no questions.
Jarmon took the supplement while recovering from a shoulder injury and was not taking part in activities. He had been taking the supplement for 15 days before checking with the training staff, who told him to stop taking it.
“But it was too late,” Jarmon said, reading from a prepared statement.
Jarmon said his goal in the offseason was to become leaner. He bought a dietary supplement while shopping for vitamins on the recommendation of a worker at a nutrition store, not knowing that it contained a banned substance.
“I do not need to cheat to be successful,” he said.
Jarmon has the third-most sacks in Kentucky history. He was an honorable mention on last season’s AP All-Southeastern Conference Team.
Athletics director Mitch Barnhart had hoped the NCAA would consider “extenuating circumstances” in Jarmon’s case.
“The NCAA rules are the rules that we all live by and they’re consistent, based on precedent and we’ve got to honor this,” Barnhart said. “It may not always feel right, but there is precedent and it is consistent.”
Party quits talks in Madagascar
By Jonny Hogg
BBC News, Antananarivo
One of four political parties in Madagascar has pulled out of the talks to end a political crisis.The team of former President Didier Ratsiraka said it was not possible to hold peaceful polls and constructive dialogue in the current climate. The move came shortly after the UN said significant progress had been made in finding a way to end the instability. The Indian Ocean saw former President Mark Ravalomanana driven from power in a military-backed takeover in March. Political posturing?Hours after an unlikely breakthrough in negotiations, the decision of one of the political parties to pull out is a more predictable turn of events. It is also a timely reminder of the problems still facing mediators as they try to find an exit to this bitter and complex political dispute. In a hand-written fax Didier Ratsiraka, who was forced into exile in France following the country’s last political crisis in 2002, said his delegation was suspending its involvement until there was an amnesty for all his supporters who were found guilty of politically-related crimes at that time. He also condemned the current transitional authorities’ decision earlier this week to set up – without consultation – a military council to push through army reforms. In reality, this can be seen as political posturing from a movement that had become virtually obsolete until this latest crisis erupted and reopened old wounds. Nonetheless, Mr Ratsiraka’s decision to walk out may set a precedent for others to do likewise and could seriously diminish the goodwill that has helped drive the talks until now.
Reporters ‘paid way into Palace’
Buckingham Palace has said it is investigating allegations undercover reporters were given access to highly sensitive areas of the Palace.Two reporters from the News of the World newspaper are said to have been waved inside, without security checks. It is alleged one of them even sat in the Queen’s State Bentley car. According to the newspaper, chauffeur Brian Sirjusingh was paid 1,000 to give the reporters a tour. The Palace said it takes security very seriously. ‘Fake Sheikh’BBC royal correspondent Peter Hunt said he understood Mr Sirjusingh was a pool chauffeur – one called when the dedicated royal chauffeurs are unavailable. The News of World reports the journalists posed as Middle Eastern businessmen and were waved into what were supposed to be secure areas of the Queen’s home. According to the paper, the men were led past a police checkpoint and a sign demanding to see identification, and then on into the royal garage.
The newspaper’s royal editor, Robert Jobson, told the BBC that lessons should have been learnt from previous security breaches. He said: “There have been a number of security breaches at the palace over the years but this is right up there in terms of being a flagrant breach of the security. “They should have been checked as they walked in but they weren’t and therefore it could easily have been a terrorist walking into the palace and planting a bomb in the car rather than the News of the World exposing the poor security of the palace.” A Buckingham Palace spokeswoman said: “Any security matter is taken very seriously and we will look into these allegations.” The paper’s investigation was led by Mazher Mahmood, who has become known as the “fake sheikh” after a series of high-profile journalistic stings for the newspaper in recent years.
NEW YORK – Michelle Lee’s career was solving crimes. Working as a forensic investigator for the New York Police Department, she was training to do the type of “CSI” work made famous on television.
But the 24-year-old became a victim of a crime herself, stabbed to death in her bed, her naked body found in a pool of blood. Using the same investigative techniques Lee was learning, authorities on Friday arrested her ex-lover Gary McGurk in the case, charging him with second-degree murder.
McGurk pleaded not guilty and was being held without bail. His attorney, Joseph Corozzo said his client was innocent.
“This is a gruesome crime, but my client is not responsible for it,” he said. “We look forward to seeing the purported evidence in this case.”
Lee had recently moved out of her parent’s home and was living in Sunnyside, Queens, a quaint neighborhood of working-class families. She started working for the NYPD last September and was training in forensic investigations at a police lab analyzing evidence like hair samples, drugs, gunshot residues and bodily fluids. She was going to specialize in narcotics.
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly described her as a “very talented young woman.”
The weekend of her death, her roommate was out of town. She returned Sunday, April 26, and thinking Lee must’ve been sleeping, she didn’t bother to say hello. When she wasn’t up the next morning, the roommate peeked into Lee’s room and discovered the grisly scene. Lee was naked and had been tied to her bed, a knife jutted out of her neck. Her chest had been burned with an iron. Investigators would later say she was hit with a blunt instrument before she was stabbed.
There was no sign of forced entry. She was last seen leaving the gym in her neighborhood around 5 p.m. the Saturday before her roommate discovered her body.
Police offered a 12,000 reward for any information leading to her death. Meanwhile, investigators probed the case, talking to her friends and acquaintances. Lab workers — though none of Lee’s co-workers — analyzed forensic evidence from the scene.
Weeks went by, and one person’s story didn’t quite add up, according to police and prosecutors. McGurk, a 23-year-old Irish-born student at John Jay Criminal College, was apparently the last person to have contact with her, and his statements kept changing, investigators said.
The two had met at the John Jay athletic center in 2004, where she also attended, and he asked her out. But dating didn’t work, and so they were “friends with benefits,” according to his statement to police. He claimed they had rough sex — tied each other up, choked each other, that sort of thing, according to court documents.
“Sweet girl. Friends first, herself last,” McGurk said in a statement to police. “She told me that she made bad decisions. I told her that I was a bad decision, joking.”
After he started dating another girl, their relationship cooled but they still spoke regularly. They chatted online the Saturday before she was found dead. And he was apparently upset investigators didn’t contact him immediately, according to court documents.
She also owed him at least 2,000, he said. McGurk had lied to Lee, telling her he was sick with cancer and needed the money immediately. She didn’t have it, he said.
His statements to police on how much he owed her and how much she had paid kept changing, along with when and where he last saw her, according to court documents. Forensic evidence also tied him to the scene, but police wouldn’t get into details.
McGurk was charged Friday by District Attorney Richard Brown with second-degree murder, tampering with physical evidence, and two counts of criminal possession of a weapon.
He maintains his innocence.
“If I were to have done this to Michelle I would not only embarrass myself but I would also embarrass my family,” McGurk said, according to court documents. “I did not go into her apartment. She had company. You don’t like it but you accept it.”
He is due in court June 4. He faces 25 years to life in prison if convicted.
In his court statements, McGurk said he is scheduled to graduate May 28, but he wasn’t sure he could handle the life of a forensic psychologist.
“I find crime scene photos and cadavers disturbing,” he said.
SAO PAULO (Reuters) –
A private plane crashed in Brazil's northeastern state of Bahia, killing 14 people, including four children, the Brazilian air force said on Saturday.
The twin-engine plane was coming from Sao Paulo and crashed late on Friday about 450 miles from Salvador in Bahia state, near a luxury resort.
An air force spokesman said there was no report of survivors. The plane was owned by Roger Wright, owner of financial consulting firm Arsenal Investimentos, according to local media. Wright, his wife and two children were on board, local websites reported.
The cause of the crash was not known. The air force said the plane's black box was found and was being analyzed.
An Arsenal Investimentos spokesman would not confirm who was on board.
A spokeswoman at Brazil's National Civil Aviation Agency said the plane, a King Air B350, had been inspected and that its documents were in order.
Brazil had two major plane crashes in 2006 and 2007, raising concerns about the safety of air travel in Latin America's largest country.
In July 2007, all 187 people on board and 12 people on the ground died when a TAM airline Airbus A 320 overshot a runway at Sao Paulo's Congonhas airport.
In September 2006, a Gol airline passenger jet crashed in the Amazon jungle after it and a small private plane collided. All 154 people on board died.
(Reporting by Inae Riveras and Ana Nicolaci da Costa; Editing by Peter Cooney)
KATHMANDU, NepalAn unopposed former Communist leader was elected Nepal’s new prime minister Saturday, ending nearly three weeks of political uncertainty.
Madhav Kumar Nepal waves at his supporters at the country’s parliament in Kathmandu.
Madhav Kumar Nepal of the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) was the only person to serve as a candidate for the post after he received backing from more than 20 of the 25 parties in parliament. Nepal, 56, is a former general secretary of the Communist Party, but had resigned after the party made a poor showing last year against another Communist movement. In that vote, the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) became the largest party, with 38 percent of the seats in the 601-member constituent assembly which also functions as parliament. Nepal had been general secretary since 1993 and served as the country’s deputy prime minister for nine months in 1995.
Nepali PM resigns in bid to save ‘infant democracy’
Nepal government splits over general’s firing
Pushpa Kamal Dahal, the Maoist chairman, resigned as prime minister May 4 after the president overturned the Cabinet’s decision to sack the army chief. Nepal became a republic last year. The new government has two important tasks before it: the writing of a new constitution within a year, and integration of 19,600 Maoist combatants into the security forces. Without the support of the former Maoist rebels, these tasks cannot be achieved. The Maoists fought a 10-year insurgency aimed at abolishing the monarchy.
US ‘Viagra scientist’ dies at 92
A leading US scientist whose work helped lead to the development of the anti-impotency drug Viagra has died.Robert Furchgott shared a Nobel prize in 1988 for work showing that the gas nitric oxide played an important role in the cardiovascular system. The discovery that the gas could help enlarge blood vessels was a factor in the development of Viagra by the US pharmaceutical company Pfizer. Mr Furchott’s family announced he had died in Seattle on Tuesday. He was 92.
TEHRAN, IranThe Iranian government has blocked access to the social networking site Facebook amid political jockeying for the June 12 presidential elections, according to the semi-official Iranian Labour News Agency.
Opponents of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad like Mir Hossein Mousavi are using technology to reach voters.
Reformist candidate Mir Hossein Mousavia former prime minister considered a threat to current hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejadcreated a Facebook page for his campaign that has more than 5,000 supporters on the site. Those attempting to visit Facebook received a message in Farsi saying, “Access to this site is not possible,” according to CNN personnel in Tehran. ILNA reported the Masadiq Committee, made up of representatives from Iran’s intelligence ministry, judiciary and others had ordered the action. After a few hours, the blockage was lifted, but was then reinstated, ILNA said. No reason was given for the block. “We are disappointed to learn of reports that users in Iran may not have access to Facebook, especially at a time when voters are turning to the Internet as a source of information about election candidates and their positions,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement.
Journalist who was jailed by Iran returns to U.S.
Iran tests new surface-to-surface missile
“We believe that people around the world should be able to use Facebook to communicate and share information with their friends, family and co-workers. It is always a shame when a country’s cultural and political concerns lead to limits being placed on the opportunity for sharing and expression that the Internet provides.” Ahmadinejad’s challengers are increasingly turning to new technology to spread their message, according to a May 13 article in the Financial Times newspaper. Iran’s populationestimated at more than 66 million by July 2009, according to the CIA World Factbookhas a median age of 27. The Financial Times, which put the country’s population at 70 million, said 47 million Iranians have cell phones and 21 million have Internet access. “We are using new technologies because they have the capacity to be multiplied by people themselves who can forward Bluetooth, e-mails and text messages and invite more supporters on Facebook,” Behzad Mortazavi, head of Mousavi’s campaign committee, told the Financial Times. At a Mousavi rally at a stadium Saturday, the Facebook blockage was a topic of conversation among reporters. Many said they had accessed Facebook on Friday night and believe the site was blocked Saturday morning.
‘Record’ Afghanistan drugs bust
International and Afghan troops have killed 60 militants and made a record drugs haul in an operation in southern Afghanistan, the US military has said.Its statement said the four-day attack targeted the town of Marja in Helmand province – a Taliban stronghold. The troops seized 92 tonnes of opium poppy seeds and other drugs, “severely disrupting” a key narcotics centre and command hub of the insurgency. The US denied reports that civilians were killed during the operation. However, a spokesman for the Afghan defence ministry told the BBC that it was investigating the reports. Taliban militants have so far not commented on the US statement. Weapons seizedOn Saturday, the US military said the joint operation focussed on Marja, south-west of the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah. It said the troops targeted the town’s bazaar, describing it as a key hub for militant and criminal operations.
The area was emptied of civilians overnight on Friday, before precision airstrikes were launched, the statement said. The international and Afghan forces then seized the poppy seeds, along with tar opium, processed morphine, heroin and hashish. Helmand is the main producer of Afghan opium, which accounts for more than 90% of the global supply. The US military also said that a large amount of weapons and bomb-making equipment was seized during the operation.
Australians get stimulus handouts
By Phil Mercer
BBC News, Sydney
Australians have begun receiving bonus payments worth US700 – the largest cash handouts in the country’s history.The payments, aimed at protecting a flagging economy from the worst effects of a recession, will cost the government a total of 33bn. Recipients are being urged to spend the money to keep their fellow Australians in work. A previous stimulus package aimed at pensioners and parents at the end of last year has been hailed a success. The government said a jump in retail sales had shown that the handout policy was working. About half of the Australian population will receive the new payments. Ministers hope that giving cash to low- and middle-income workers, as well as families with schoolchildren, will help to revive the economy. Common goodIt is estimated that about a fifth of the cash bonuses so far have been spent on non-essential items, such as clothes and cosmetics. Margy Osmond from the National Australian Retail Association says the money is offering some help to struggling businesses. “We’ve already seen some impact from the stimulus package before Christmas,” she said. Australia has fallen into recession following the collapse of the mining sector. With unemployment expected to rise significantly, recipients of the government’s money have been urged to spend it for the good of the nation. There are reports that some Australians have used their share to splash out on tattoos and the services of sex workers.
MUMBAI, India – The search for new homes for two impoverished child stars from the hit movie “Slumdog Millionaire” has intensified, as one child fell sick days after city authorities demolished the shanty where she lived, family members said.
Nine-year-old Rubina Ali came down with a fever Friday and spent a few hours in a local hospital, they said.
“I’m fine now, but I feel tired,” Rubina said Saturday as she lay in bed, resting at her uncle’s house.
Rubina’s block was razed Wednesday to make way for a planned pedestrian overpass at a commuter train station in Mumbai. Last week, co-star Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail’s home was demolished, part of a pre-monsoon slum clearance drive.
Rubina and her parents have been staying with relatives. Azhar, 10, and his family have tied tarpaulins and blankets around a thin wood frame for shelter in the Garib Nagar — “city of the poor” — slum where both families live.
After the runaway success of their film, “Slumdog” director Danny Boyle and producer Christian Colson set up the Jai Ho trust to ensure the children receive proper homes, a decent education and a nest egg when they finish high school. They have also donated 747,500 to a charity to help slum children in Mumbai.
The filmmakers have agreed to raise the amount of money they will spend on new apartments for each family from 30,000 to 50,000, a Jai Ho trustee and Rubina’s father, Rafiq Qureshi, both told The Associated Press on Saturday.
Family members had worried that 30,000 would not be enough to secure decent housing in Mumbai’s pricey real estate market.
In addition, the filmmakers have agreed to give each family a stipend of 130 a month and a lump sum of 3,000 a year to support the children while they are in school, the trustee and Qureshi said.
That is substantially more than any of their neighbors in Garib Nagar make, where many bring home 4 a day as auto rickshaw drivers and maids.
“We are trying our best to finalize things as soon as possible,” Jai Ho trustee Nirja Mattoo said Saturday. She said representatives of the trust took Azhar’s family to look at a few nearby apartments earlier this week.
City authorities have also promised the children and some of their neighbors new homes.
The state’s top politician, Chief Minister Ashok Chavan, told the Mumbai Mirror that he would expedite the process now that national elections are over.
“The elections delayed the process, but very soon we will allot them flats,” he was quoted as saying.
Slum demolitions are common in India’s cramped cities, and government promises to resettle slum-dwellers often come to nothing. Even when slum-dwellers are given housing, it is often in poor-quality buildings on the outskirts of cities, far from jobs.
Rajanish Kakade and Gautam Singh contributed to this report.
RIVERSIDE, Calif. – Abts, Richard. Adamski, Walter. Ahlman, Enoch.
The names are whisked away by the hot, gusting wind as soon as they are spoken, forgotten in the stream of the next name and the next name and the next name.
Fuller, Addison. Fuller, Mary. Furlong, John.
The story of America could be told through these names, tales of bravery and hesitation, of dreams achieved or deferred and of battles won and lost.
Taken alone, they are just words, identities stripped of place and time, stripped of rank and deeds and meaning.
But they are not taken alone. They are taken together — 148,000 names, representing the entire veteran population of Riverside National Cemetery, a roll call of the dead read aloud over 10 days by more than 300 volunteers.
They read in pairs, rotating through 15-minute shifts in the beating sun, in the chilly desert night and in the pre-dawn hours thick with mosquitoes.
Some time on Memorial Day, they will read the last name on the 2,465th page.
Some read for their country.
Others read for a father lost in battle or a beloved son cut down in his prime.
And one man reads for no one in particular — except, maybe, for himself.
Richard Blackaby was just 18 and fresh out of high school in 1966 when he was drafted for Vietnam. His father had served as a Seabee in the U.S. Navy during World War II and Blackaby was desperate to follow in his path.
But the Army said no: Blackaby had epilepsy and asthma and was unfit for service.
Twelve years later, Blackaby — now married with three children — reapplied to the Army and was accepted to the 4th Infantry Division as a forward observer.
But Vietnam was over and the eager recruit spent the next six years waiting for a war that never came. When he was honorably discharged in 1984, he was a sergeant but had never experienced combat, had never called in a real air strike or fired at a real target.
Nearly 25 years later, Blackaby’s missed opportunity weighs on him as he patrols his self-selected battleground: Riverside, the nation’s busiest national cemetery. While others gave their lives, Blackaby gives his time — and a lot of it, nearly 30 hours a week.
Over the years, Blackaby has made his specialty here not among the remembered and the honored, but among the lost, the abandoned and the forgotten. The work seems to fit his story of missed chances and dashed dreams, his yearning to belong to something greater than himself.
Every day, the 60-year-old grandfather with the crinkly, blue-gray eyes slips on the black leather vest that’s his personal uniform and stands at attention as the cemetery honors the cremated remains of dozens of abandoned or forgotten veterans.
Every day, he salutes as the National Guard reads the names off the simple wooden boxes filled with ashes.
Every day, he accepts the folded flag for soldiers he will never know — and then gives it back for the next day’s dead.
Dog tags engraved with the names of 145 forgotten veterans dangle from a thick key chain that never leaves his side, a different color for each branch of service. He knows the story behind almost every name.
“If I didn’t do it, who would do it?” he says. “I mean, they have friends, they HAVE to have friends. They don’t go through a whole lifetime and not have somebody that cares about them.”
And, true to form, Blackaby reads names — hundreds of them — for the roll call project.
He reads for hours on overnight shifts in the cemetery’s eerie gloom, the podium illuminated only by a floodlight. He reads during the weekend afternoons and late into a Saturday night to cover gaps in the schedule.
“Every one that we read off, I feel like I am probably doing their family a favor because they can’t be here,” he said.
“I’m reading off a whole litany of history. It kind of makes you wonder what’s behind each name, what their life was like, what they did.”
Lamborn, Richard. Lamphear, Everett. Landaker, Jared.
A gust of wind springs up and snatches the last name away.
No one notices it and later, even the volunteer readers won’t recall the name of the young Marine or which one of them read it.
All they know is he was a 1st lieutenant, fifth from the bottom on page seven of 2,465.
Joe Landaker was the first person to touch his son, Jared, as he slipped into the world on his parents’ bed on May 3, 1981, after 36 hours of labor.
From the beginning, Jared was special — but not in the way most parents would want. His skull was compressed during birth and doctors warned that he might be mentally challenged.
During childhood, he kept falling off the growth chart. He barely topped out at 5-foot-8.
But Jared, who went by the nickname J-Rod, surprised everyone.
He took calculus in high school, knuckled down in college and got a degree in physics. He signed up for the Marines his sophomore year and graduated from officer training school in Quantico, Va., among the top five in his platoon of 80 men.
By fall of 2003, he was in flight school and on Aug. 18, 2006, Jared shipped out for Iraq as a Marine helicopter pilot flying a CH-46 Sea Knight with the famed HMM-364 Purple Foxes.
“He overcame so many adversities in his life, time after time,” said his father, Joe.
On Feb. 7, 2007, a week before Jared was expected home in Big Bear City, his father was watching CNN at 5:30 a.m., getting ready to go to work, when he saw that a CH-46 chopper had been shot down near while on a medical mission.
Two months before, when two Marines died in a CH-46 crash, Jared had e-mailed his parents within two hours to let him know he was OK.
But this time, hours passed with no word.
“They said there were seven people on board, so I waited. I didn’t go to work, waited and waited all day long, waited again for his e-mail or a phone call that he was all right,” said Landaker, choking back tears. “It never did come.”
At 4:15 p.m., a Marine captain, a chaplain and a 1st sergeant came to tell Landaker his son had died on his last mission before coming home.
Since that day, Landaker has been consumed with keeping his son’s memory alive. He shares his story with anyone who will listen. He has memorized every detail of his son’s life and death. He now knows that the boy who called him “Pops” took 58 seconds to lower his stricken chopper from 1,500 feet to 200 feet; seven seconds faster, and he might be alive today.
“The last thing I want to do is forget about Jared. He comes to my mind all the time, songs, things that you see,” said Landaker. “When he was a baby, I’d give him a shower and I’d hold him up and those kind of memories come to mind all the time.”
“He’s so special to me,” he said. “Those Iraqis have no idea who they killed.”
The rows of grave markers are cool and smooth in the heat, their numbers obscured by tufts of grass that have crept around the edges of the stone.
Landaker walks, head bowed, along the rows of plots in Section 49B.
“3438. It should be right around here,” he says, bending low.
Then Landaker falls to his knees, weeping.
The stories, the details don’t matter now: There is no way to unbury the dead, to bring the CH-46 from 200 feet back to 1,500 feet, to reset the clock with seven extra seconds.
“Well, all right son,” he says. “Take care, son.”
And so he volunteers to help call the roll at Riverside. He will not have an opportunity to read his own son’s name, but at least he can ensure that the sons of others are not forgotten.
The heat beats down on the volunteers. A dozen spectators press themselves into any sliver of shade — a tree, the thin shadow of the flagpole, an awning.
In the shade near the sign-in booth, Richard Blackaby and Joe Landaker stand ready to take the podium, two strangers awkwardly chatting before their shared 15 minutes of service.
Landaker wears a white T-shirt printed with Jared’s photo; Blackaby, for once, has shed his black leather vest for a dark suit adorned with military ribbons and an American flag pin.
They discover a bittersweet bond: Blackaby escorted Jared’s coffin to his military funeral at the cemetery two years before. The two men embrace, then step to the podium.
The names pass between them like fragile treasures.
White, Clark. White, Mary. Whito, Russell.
Their 15 minutes pass, and they step down. Landaker, eyes red with tears, has another piece of his puzzle, another connection — another story to cling to.
But Blackaby is not finished. He steps forward again, ready to read for those who will never have the love of a father like Jared’s. He will be there until 2:30 a.m. on this muggy Sunday and back again the next day and the next day and the next.
He is patrolling the boundaries of the past, filling gaps in this American story and in his own life — one name at a time.
LONDON – Britain’s unlikely singing sensation Susan Boyle, the frumpy church volunteer who wowed the world with her angelic voice, was on Saturday voted into the next round of a TV talent show that propelled her to global fame.
The 47 year old, who lives alone with her cat Pebbles in one of Scotland’s poorest regions, will now perform in a live show on Sunday, weeks after her surprising performance of “I Dreamed a Dream” from the musical “Les Miserables” shocked judges and charmed tens of millions of people worldwide.
Boyle’s performance last month on the “American Idol”-style show “Britain’s Got Talent” has been viewed almost 60 million times on You Tube, and saw the shy Scot feted by celebrities, including Oprah Winfrey and Demi Moore.
The awkward looking Boyle, who says she’s never been kissed, was greeted with giggles from a skeptical audience and eye rolls from the show’s famously sardonic judge Simon Cowell when she appeared in April — but startled viewers with her soaring voice.
In an update on her Twitter Web site, Moore wrote that Boyle’s voice had “made me teary!”
Cowell and his fellow judges said Saturday that Boyle is among 40 performers they’ve selected to advance in the competition.
Bookmaker William Hill makes Boyle a runaway favorite to win the final on May 30.
“She had a tremendous reaction because of the phenomenon that is YouTube — it’s now all over the world and she’s coping rather well,” said the singer’s brother, Gerry Boyle. “But I think some of the reality is now starting to sink in.”
The youngest of nine children, Boyle grew up in Blackburn, a community of 4,750 people 20 miles (32 kilometers) west of Edinburgh, in Scotland — a district blighted by unemployment and crime. Boyle had learning difficulties as a child and was bullied by other children.
As an adult, she’s struggled for work but had been a regular on her local karaoke circuit and performed in church choirs.
In an interview with The Associated Press at her home last month, she said the death of her mother had inspired her to enter the TV talent show. “I wanted to show her I could do something with my life,” Boyle said.
Since then, she’s appeared on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and had a makeover, to tame her frizzy gray-tinged hair.
“I think she is coping very well at the moment, she is just Susan. Just as calm as you like. Just carrying on as normal,” said Jackie Russell, manager of Boyle’s local pub The Happy Valley Hotel, in Blackburn.
Sara Lee, a spokeswoman for “Britain’s Got Talent” said that Boyle’s performance on Sunday will be available almost instantly on Internet, allowing her international fans a chance to watch the singer’s latest appearance.
But she refused to say what song Boyle will perform in the broadcast, which will be screened live in Britain.
On The Net::
Britain’s Got Talent http://www.itv.com
Renewed pride at Germany’s birthday party
By Steve Rosenberg
BBC News, Berlin
Forty years ago, the President of the Federal Republic of Germany (then West Germany) Gustav Heinemann was asked if he loved his country.”I do not love the state,” President Heinemann replied. “I love my wife.” It was a sign of how reluctant Germans were back then (even the country’s president) to display patriotism. Memories of World War II and the horrors inflicted by the Nazis were still fresh. Germany felt a collective responsibility for what had happened. German pride was something which needed to be kept under wraps. Times have changed. Today Germany celebrated the 60th anniversary of the Federal Republic, which rose out of the ashes of the Third Reich.
There were big celebrations in Berlin with concerts and fairs. The city was awash with German flags. “We have accomplished a lot,” the country’s President, Horst Koehler, told parliament on the eve of the celebrations. “We can be proud of what we have achieved.” Germany has achieved a great deal. After the war, the country lay in ruins, defeated and divided between the victors of World War II. But as the Cold War blew in, the Western powers – Britain, France and America – backed the establishment of a new German state, in the zones they controlled. The Federal Republic of Germany would be a democracy. It would respect human rights. A new constitution, the Basic Law, would help transplant democracy into soil tainted by the Nazis, transforming this Germany into a reliable ally of the West. Worst recessionVery quickly the Federal Republic became a success story. There was the economic miracle of the 1950s which saw the country rebuilt and prosper. It became a dynamo for European integration – and, eventually, a vehicle for German reunification. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, communist East Germany became part of the Federal Republic. There have been problems along the way, too. In the 1970s terror groups targeted the state, assassinating judges and industrialists, in protest at the Establishment’s Nazi past. Reunification brought an enormous financial burden. And there is economic hardship today, as Germany suffers its worst recession since the war.
No passers-by could fail to notice the exact age of the Federal Republic.
Despite the difficulties, in recent years Germans have felt more able to express their love of their country. It was evident during the 2006 World Cup in Germany, when fans painted German flags on their faces. A recent survey by the Identity Foundation discovered that more than 70% of people believe they should show more confidence about being German. More than 60% said they were proud to be German. At the Brandenburg Gate, the centrepiece of Sunday’s celebrations, I noticed a giant queue snaking round the square. I wondered what everyone was standing in line for. Then I saw. Someone was handing out German flags to wave, and carrier bags decorated with another German flag. National pride was in big demand.