Archive for May 26th, 2009
PHOENIX – Police say the 4-year-old daughter of boxer Mike Tyson has died a day after her neck accidentally was caught in a treadmill cord while she was playing at home.
Phoenix police spokesman Andy Hill said Exodus Tyson was pronounced dead in a hospital just before noon Tuesday. Police have said an investigation showed it was a “tragic accident.”
Police say the girl was playing on the treadmill Monday when her head apparently slipped inside a cord hanging under the console. Exodus’ 7-year-old brother found her and alerted his mother.
Former heavyweight champion Tyson was in Las Vegas at the time of the accident and flew to Phoenix on Monday.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.
PHOENIX (AP) — The near-fatal strangulation of boxer Mike Tyson’s 4-year-old daughter appears to be a “tragic accident,” police say.
Exodus Tyson was on life support Tuesday after apparently accidentally hanging herself on a cord dangling from a treadmill in her modest central Phoenix home.
“Somehow she was playing on this treadmill, and there’s a cord that hangs under the console — it’s kind of a loop,” police Sgt. Andy Hill said. “Either she slipped or put her head in the loop, but it acted like a noose, and she was obviously unable to get herself off of it.”
Exodus’ 7-year-old brother found her Monday and told their mother, who was in another room. She took Exodus off the cord, called 911 and tried to revive her.
Responding officers and firefighters performed CPR on Exodus as they rushed her to a nearby hospital, where she was in “extremely critical condition” and on life support, Hill said.
Hill said former heavyweight champion Tyson, 42, had been in Las Vegas but flew to Phoenix immediately after learning of the accident.
“The Tyson family would like to extend our deepest and most heartfelt thanks for all your prayers and support, and we ask that we be allowed our privacy at this difficult time,” the boxer said in a statement.
Brief footage from local TV station KTVK showed Tyson arriving at the hospital in a white button-up and black pants, and looking around with a frown before going inside.
Hill said everything in the investigation pointed to a “tragic accident,” adding that calls involving children is an officer’s most difficult duty.
“Those are the things that stay with you in your career,” he said. “We always hope for a miracle — not to have the worst happen to a child.”
Neighbors said they were surprised and saddened when they heard what had happened.
“It’s terrible,” said Abby St. Jermain, who grew up in the neighborhood and is house-sitting for her parents down the street. “The kids are so sweet. We always see them riding their bikes, playing. They’ve just been wonderful people.”
Dinka Radic, who lives across the street, described Exodus as smart and sweet.
“The little girl, she says ‘You got chocolate in your house?’” Radic said. “I say ‘Yes,’ and she says, ‘OK, give me some.’”
When she gives the girl the chocolate, Radic said “she just kisses me on my knees. Kiss, kiss, kiss. Very nice.”
McLEAN, Va. – Lauren Kirk had a hamburger in hand, a new friend by her side. On Monday afternoon, she was one of the cool kids.
The 14-year-old from Bloomington, Ind., with the lime-green headband and wild shoelaces wasn’t about to skip the annual Scripps National Spelling Bee barbecue to pore over lists of obscure words for the weeklong spell-off.
While a few did choose to hang out at the hotel to study — with the hope they’ll be crowned champion Thursday on prime-time network television — the rest were in their element at a park in the Virginia suburbs, romping around, playing volleyball, trading autographs and singing karaoke. (ABBA seemed to be a favorite this year).
“It’s a lot more social than I thought it would be,” said Lauren said, who had a peace sign painted on her temple and yellow-and-black bee on her leg. “It’s really nice to be among people who actually get your jokes.”
Only a dozen or so of the 293 spellers who descended on the nation’s capital this week will make it to finals on ABC, and a handful more will get past the written test and appear on the ESPN-televised semifinals earlier Thursday. For most of the rest — who might stand out as a bit dorky back home — socialization trumps competition for the more than 40,000 in cash and prizes.
“The competition is very important,” said 13-year-old Kavya Shivashankar, a three-time finalist from Olathe, Kansas, and one of the favorites to win this year. “But this is the time that I get to meet all my friends that I’ve met in the past years. We keep in touch over the year. It’s so easy to make friends. Everyone shares the same interest.”
This week, they are the cool crowd. Only at a spelling bee picnic could 12-year-old Kira Simpson of Bluff, Utah, wear a blue T-shirt that reads “I love nerds” and fit right in.
“It’s kind of the same thing at MIT,” said 19-year-old Jose Cabal of Miami, who finished 31st at the 2003 bee and is now a rising junior at the Massachusetts school. “It’s like back home I’m a nerd. Up there, everyone else is a nerd.”
But nerds also love to have fun. Those who stayed at the hotel to study might wish to note that last year’s winner, Sameer Mishra, never missed the barbecue.
“Even though I was a bit too big, there was those jumpy inflatable things — I always had to go to that every single year,” Sameer said in a telephone interview from his home in West Lafayette, Ind. “It was like the first thing I always did before I ate.”
The serious spellers have memorized homemade lists of tens of thousands of words. Others were simply good enough to win their local bee and just being here is enough.
“I just want to come here and have fun,” said Katie Bohrer, of Bunker Hill, W.Va., who turns 13 on Friday. “All my friends are like, ‘You should have a party if you win.’ I’m like, ‘There are other good spellers that have been studying since the beginning of the year.’ I don’t know if that completely frazzles their brain or if they can stand it.”
Perhaps no one has a better understanding of the two perspectives than Helen Evans, mother of Matthew and Hannah. Matthew was a five-year participant who drove himself hard and was tearful when he didn’t win as one of the favorites last year. Now that Matthew’s too old, 13-year-old sister Hannah won their local bee in New Mexico and is competing this year with a more mellow approach.
“With Matthew it was kind of a lifestyle. It consumed him,” Helen Evans said. “Hannah wasn’t sure if she wanted to do it or not. We didn’t push her. She knew how much work it was, so she didn’t decide until late fall that she wanted to do it.”
She has big brother to help. Matthew displayed a sheet of paper outlining a “spelling rewards program” he designed to motivate Hannah to learn more words. She can earn things like iTunes downloads or drinks and desserts from Sonic “up to 4 in value.” Brotherly hugs, of course, are free.
“I don’t know if I’ve learned as much as he did,” Hannah said. “I definitely don’t know as much, but I would like to make it past the written test.”
DENVER – A day later, the NBA blew the whistle on Dahntay Jones for tripping Kobe Bryant.
The league assessed Denver’s defensive specialist a flagrant-1 foul for sending the Lakers’ star sprawling through the lane with a trip late in the third quarter that Bennett Salvatore’s officiating crew missed.
Los Angeles coach Phil Jackson complained about Jones’ “unacceptable defense, tripping guys and playing unsportsmanlike basketball” during a rant about the officiating after Los Angeles fell 120-101 to Denver to tie the Western Conference finals at 2.
Asked if he felt Jones went out of his way to trip Bryant, Jackson replied: “Yes. It’s not the first time it’s happened in this series.”
Bryant kept things light when asked if Jones tried to trip him.
“I just fell on my face for no reason,” he said. “I’m a klutz.”
Was Jones playing him dirty?
“Good defense,” Bryant said.
Bryant had beaten Jones cutting to the basket when Jones stuck out his right foot.
Jones called it an accident, an instinctive move that lacked any malice or even forethought.
“It wasn’t intentional,” said Jones, who was at a loss to explain his actions.
“I can’t. I was just playing basketball. We got tangled up.”
Nuggets coach George Karl went to the film room to watch the play after the game.
“It was a weird reaction by Dahntay,” Karl said. “I don’t think it was premeditated and not in any context other then he got off balance, Kobe back-doored him, he looked like he slipped a little bit and it looked like he kicked out.”
Jones had no explanation for extending his leg.
“Every movement that I have out there is not something I can explain. I’m just playing basketball, just reacting,” Jones said. “I think he cut, so I guess I was trying to get my upper body position back there and we got tangled up.”
Karl felt relieved that the league didn’t suspend his top defender for Game 5 Wednesday night in L.A.
“I’m glad it just was a flagrant and no suspension,” Karl said. “I don’t think this series is anything but a pretty even, NBA playoff series. They’re not liking us, we’re not liking them and it’s not getting any kinder. It’s going to be harder, tougher and meaner.”
Karl said the league is toeing a thin line, however, by imposing a foul that wasn’t whistled in the game.
“I don’t think the precedent is good. If Bennett Salvatore saw that play would he have called a flagrant? I think he would have called a foul, but I don’t think he would have called a flagrant,” Karl said. “I think the mood of the game is being overridden by the mood of the office. I’m not sure that’s the right precedent.”
Jackson is the second coach to call Jones dirty during the playoffs, joining Byron Scott of the Hornets, who said the same thing in the first round, when Jones relentlessly hounded Chris Paul.
“I wouldn’t expect them to call me the greatest player in the world,” Jones retorted.
The Nuggets’ defensive-first philosophy and physical style of play has produced plenty of critics, including Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and his team’s fans, who filled the arena with chants of “Den-ver Thug-gets!” during the semifinals.
“Everybody knows how we use him,” Karl said. “We sic him on the best perimeter guy. That’s his job, that’s his assignment. A Bruce Bowen mentality and he’s done a good job with it. He’s done well with it.”
And although Bryant is still scoring at a fantastic pace, the Nuggets are wearing him out, and Jones is playing a big part in that.
“If I was Kobe I wouldn’t want him to cover me. He’s a pain, he’s a nag, he’s always bothering you,” Karl said. “He has a good defensive base, he has a good stance. He’s professional, whatever we want him to do from fronts to denials he’s willing to do. I think he’s doing as good a job as anyone on our team.”
Jones isn’t backing down from his detractors.
“They know there’s a presence there and I’m going to play hard and I’m going to scrap and I’m going to try to help my team win, so whatever you want to call it,” Jones said. “We call it playing hard.”
Gay-marriage supporters who want to restore California’s place at the head of a growing number of states welcoming same-sex marriages are going to have to do it the hard way: by persuading the same neighbors who voted to ban such marriages last fall to change their minds. They aren’t going to get any help from the state’s supreme court, never mind that Chief Justice Ronald George’s historic opinion last May ruled that any discrimination against gays is no less outrageous – and illegal – than discrimination based on race or religion. Despite the sweep of that ruling, George and five other justices ruled on Tuesday that there is nothing so special about gay-marriage rights that make them exempt from the state’s famously disruptive and pliable constitutional-amendment process.
“In a sense, petitioners’ and the Attorney General’s complaint is that it is just too easy to amend the California Constitution through the initiative process,” wrote George for the 6-1 majority. “But it is not a proper function of this court to curtail that process; we are constitutionally bound to uphold it.” Translation: Until Californians themselves change their system for amending the constitution, it will be the people – not the courts – who have final say on even the most fundamental rights enshrined in the constitution. (See pictures of the gay-rights movement, from Stonewall to Prop 8.)
Besides, George wrote, Prop 8 – the initiative that reinstated the ban on same-sex marriages – hardly eviscerates the sweeping opinion he wrote last year. Gays, he said, are still entitled to the highest level of protection against discrimination afforded in the land, except in the instance of marriage.
That’s little consolation to the other side, of course. And while the ruling may have taken the issue out of the courts for now, it has placed the issue squarely back on the political front burner. Rick Jacobs, president of the Courage Campaign, a 700,000-member political movement, said efforts to put the issue back before voters as soon as 2010 have already begun. “The initiative process in California is flawed,” Jacobs tells TIME. “The very idea that a majority can vote to take rights away from a minority is flawed. It really is quite outrageous.”
That view got one vote on the court – that of lone dissenter Justice Carlos J. Moreno. “The rule the majority crafts today not only allows same-sex couples to be stripped of the right to marry that this court recognized [in last year’s opinion], it places at risk the state constitutional rights of all disfavored minorities,” Moreno wrote. “It weakens the status of our state Constitution as a bulwark of fundamental rights for minorities protected from the will of the majority.”
But while the rest of the justices disagreed with Moreno, George’s opinion did suggest a way out: Californians could change the constitution again and write in extra safeguards that would make it more difficult for changes to weaken the most important rights enshrined in the constitution. But in saying that, the court also rejected an argument by attorney general Jerry Brown, a likely candidate for governor, who had argued the court should itself declare some rights off-limits to the regular amendment process. George declined, saying that’s something only the people can do.
Gay-marriage supporters are now trying to use the same amendment process that created the fix they are in to restore gay marriage. “The tools are what the tools are, and until the process is fixed we don’t have any choice,” Jacobs says. “We have no choice other than to use the system that is in place.”
A new ballot initiative will put California back into the gay-marriage fight, which has considerably broadened in the months since Prop 8 passed. States like Vermont and Maine have embraced gay marriage, and New York is among others that may do so soon. And in a telling bit of irony, Moreno began his dissent by quoting not from his own court’s historic 2008 opinion, but from one issued earlier this year in Iowa. “The ‘absolute equality of all’ persons before the law [is] ‘the very foundation principle of our government,’” he wrote.
Read about how Iowa is adjusting to gay marriage.
Watch a video of gay marriage in the American heartland.
The fight for gay rights has been broadened in other ways too – not just geographically. President Obama is under pressure to stop enforcing the military’s prohibition that prevents gay servicemen and -women from serving openly. And activists want Congress to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, a law they say that is increasingly at odds with the small but growing number of states that have made gay marriage legal.
Jacobs tells TIME he still sees California as the epicenter of these fights. Obama will get a taste of the passions running deep in the Golden State as soon as Wednesday night, when he appears at the Beverly Hills Hilton in Los Angeles for a fundraiser. Lieutenant Dan Choi, an Arabic-speaking Iraq War veteran who is the first soldier to be dismissed from the Army under Obama, will be standing outside with Jacobs and others to urge the President to take action. “So much is coming from California right now,” says Jacobs. “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is really hurting American national security. This lieutenant is a West Point graduate, served in the Triangle of Death [in Iraq], and is now being fired, kicked out of the Army, because he went on the air and said he loves a man.”
If gay-marriage supporters do press the vote again, they will have one ready source of allies – the 18,000 couples who were married in the brief window of time when gay marriage was legal in California and whose marriages remain intact. The court unanimously upheld those marriages in Tuesday’s opinion. Already, the Human Rights Campaign, a gay-rights advocacy group, has released a video promising that it will not back down even after the latest California defeat. (See pictures of the gay-rights movement, from Stonewall to Prop 8.)
Meanwhile, gay marriage opponents were relieved that the court ruled in favor of Prop 8. Speaking just before the ruling was announced, the Rev. Albert Mohler told TIME that the court must tread carefully to avoid eroding its credibility. “Repeatedly, courts at every level have taken action to undermine their own legitimacy in view of public,” said Mohler, who is president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. But he also said that thanks in part to the democratic nature of amendment processes like those in play in California, even the most outrageous rulings can be absorbed by the church.
“The courts are part of a larger governmental structure that remains legitimate,” he told TIME. “So long as there is a democratic recourse to change [decisions that Christians consider extreme], I would counsel the church to continue to see the courts as legitimate. Should the California supreme court invalidate Prop 8, it would put that court in direct defiance of the people of California.” As long as the initiative process exists, there is a political solution, he said.
That’s exactly what’s on the minds of people on the other side. They have already begun to gather signatures and hope to ask voters to change their minds in 2010. After that, somebody may want to take George’s advice and think though whether it makes sense to be able to change the constitution so easily in California.
Watch a gay-marriage wedding video.
See TIME’s Pictures of the Week.
View this article on Time.comRelated articles on Time.com: Gay Marriage: Is California’s Supreme Court Shifting? Jerry Brown Reverses Course on Gay Marriage A Gay Marriage Solution: End Marriages for Everyone? Roadblocks Ahead for Gay Marriage Viewpoint: What the California Gay Ruling Won’t Do
SEOUL (AFP) –
North Korea has fired off another missile, the latest in a series since its nuclear test two days ago, South Korea's Yonhap news agency said Wednesday.
The North fired a short-range missile into the Sea of Japan (East Sea) overnight, it quoted a Seoul government source as saying.
“Intelligence authorities are now closely monitoring the situation,” the source said.
The communist state fired three short-range ground-to-air missiles from locations near its east coast on Monday, the same day it conducted an underground nuclear test that shocked the world.
It launched two more off its east coast on Tuesday, Yonhap news agency reported. South Korea's military says it does not comment on intelligence matters.
The missiles fired Monday and Tuesday were said to have a range of 130 kilometres (80 miles).
Several times in recent years, the North has test-fired short-range missiles in either the Yellow Sea or the Sea of Japan. The exercises are often staged to coincide with periods of regional tension.
UK ‘broadband notspots’ revealed
By Jane Wakefield
Technology reporter, BBC News website
Around three million homes in the UK have broadband speeds of less than two megabits per second (2Mbps) according to research commissioned by the BBC.The government has promised to provide all homes in the UK with speeds of at least 2Mbps by 2012. The research revealed that so-called notspots are not limited to rural communities with many in suburban areas, and even streets in major towns. The government has pledged a range of technologies to fill the gaps. “We had assumed that these notspots were in remote parts of the countryside. That may be where the most vocal campaigners are but there is a high incident of them in commuter belts,” said Alex Salter, co-founder of broadband website SamKnows. No TwitteringThe SamKnows map offers an insight into where the homes are that the government needs to reach out to and connect to faster broadband.
It was created by comparing a sample of UK postcodes with a database of information about which providers offered services in the 85,000 telephone exchange around the UK. By working out how far properties were from a particular exchange, a picture of the speed of services can be determined as line length is a crucial factor in determining how fast broadband services will operate. To get speeds of 2Mbps or more homes need to be four kilometres or less from an exchange.
Click on the left hand map for more details of the NotSpots around the UK and on the right for broadband speed results in the UK.
Data provided by: SamKnows.com
In Basingstoke, for example, 50% of telephone lines are more than six kilometres from the exchange, and in Hampshire as a whole a quarter of postcodes get less than 1Mbps. For those struggling on slow connections it can mean a very different surfing experience from those enjoying higher speeds. “In some cases people aren’t able to shop online, aren’t able to view certain websites or use social media applications such as Facebook and Twitter and they can’t watch the BBC’s iPlayer,” said Mr Salter. For commuters it could impact the way they work. “It prevents flexible working. If the problem is fixed it means a lot more people could work from home which offers a very real way to improve society,” said Mr Salter. New definitionTo date it has been difficult to get an exact picture of where notspots around the UK are or even how to define them. Under 1% of homes in the UK cannot get any broadband at all. Many official bodies around the globe define broadband as anything more than half a megabit per second.
But the Digital Britain interim report, which represents the government’s strategy for broadband, raised the stakes by promising 2Mbps to all homes. The Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, charged with delivering the Digital Britain report, has acknowledged that current definitions of broadband are “outmoded” in a world where some countries enjoy speeds of up to 100Mbps. “Our view is that given the prevailing conditions and usage in the UK 2Mbps is right,” said a Berr spokeswoman. EconomicsEwhurst in Surrey is a prime example of a notspot. It is prime commuter belt but of the 1,000 or so properties only a handful can get speeds over 2Mbps. Retired telecoms engineer Walter Willcox has been campaigning on behalf of residents for better broadband.
He has contacted both BT, which is planning to upgrade a percentage of its telephone cabinets with Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) technology and Virgin Media, which is upgrading its cable network. Both have said extending their networks to Ewhurst would not be economically viable at the current time. Lord Carter’s Digital Britain report, due next month, will lay out the details of how it believes notspots can be eliminated. Berr told the BBC it will be considering a range of technologies for communities such as Ewhurst. “There are different ways of doing this which will vary from location to location. In some non-rural areas that are currently underserved the answer may be FTTC. Or it may be that the economics mean a wireless solution is the best option,” said a Berr spokeswoman. Easy solutionsBroadband news site ThinkBroadband has launched its own NotSpot map, inviting people to enter their postcode if they think their broadband is slower than 2Mbps, as a means of launching grassroot campaigns to find solutions. “Hopefully the map will show people that it is not just them suffering. If there are distinct clusters we can put people in touch with each other,” he said. People will be invited to comment on their speed which could reveal some easy solutions. “There are some common problems such as the state of the wiring in a home or an old modem that are easily solved,” said Mr Ferguson. For others the solutions may be harder to come by. He thinks the government could easily reach its target of getting 2Mbps broadband in every home by 2012. “There are satellites up there which cover the whole UK and 3G could have been rolled out to more areas,” he said. But it will come down to a question of cost. “Some places will be just too expensive to enable. If you say to someone you can have broadband if you pay 400 to have a satellite installed they might just say no thanks,” he said.
Natural birth classes questioned
Relaxation and breathing techniques do not reduce the need for an epidural during childbirth, a study suggests.More than 1,000 mothers-to-be took part in the Swedish trial, thought to be the first significant analysis of the efficacy of such methods in labour. They attended one of two classes: the first taught natural coping methods, the other emphasised pain relief. But the BJOG study found no difference in the use of epidurals between the women when they went into labour. Just over half the women in each group ultimately opted for the spinal analgesia which reduces or eliminates the pain of contractions.
Some 70% of the women who had attended the natural childbirth class said they employed the psychoprophylaxis techniques they had learned, which included breathing and relaxation methods as well as ways of coping with pain such as positive imaging. As well as there being no difference in epidural rates, which researchers saw as a useful measurement of perceptions of pain, the proportion of vaginal births and emergency caesareans was the same between the two groups. In the natural childbirth group, there was a slightly higher rate of instrumental births, involving forceps or a ventouse. Normal birthBut overall the majority of women in both groups were satisfied with their birth experience, with the same small minority in both describing it as “negative” or “very negative”. “Our conclusion is that natural childbirth preparation with psychoprophylaxis does not reduce the need for epidural analgesia or improve the birth experience, when compared with the standard form of antenatal education,” said Malin Bergstroem, a clinical psychologist at the Karolinska Institute who co-authored the study. In the UK, the contents and availability of classes varies across the country. The majority are carried out by the NHS or the National Childbirth Trust (NCT), which defines “normal” birth as one without an epidural. Patrick O’Brien, a consultant at UCLH and spokesman for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists said it was “only fair that women should be told the results of this study”. “It’s almost accepted that these techniques might help but the evidence out there is not that strong. This is the first good evidence to compare the two approaches. “I’m not suggesting discarding relaxation techniques completely. They could still help people feel more in control and more relaxed. But this research may temper the statements of the more pro-natural people.” Professor Cathy Warwick, general secretary at the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), said: “We believe that preparation for birth is an important component of delivering high quality maternity services. “These classes can boost a mother and her partners’ confidence. Classes here do more than focus on breathing and relaxation techniques, they allow mothers to develop a support system and learn about becoming a parent.” Belinda Phipps, head of the NCT, said: “This limited study in Sweden compares two slightly different types of antenatal education and does not look at the more common situation in the UK which is no or limited antenatal preparation. “Testing to see whether breathing and relaxation techniques alongside antenatal preparation have an effect on birth outcomes is a tall order – they are only one small part of antenatal education.”
Los Angeles (E! Online) –
T.I. is officially King of the Clink.
The Grammy-winning rapper reported to an Arkansas federal prison today to begin serving his sentence on a weapons conviction. He surrendered two days after bidding farewell at concert in his hometown of Atlanta—a show designed to tie fans over until his release.
“See y'all in 366 days,” T.I. told the sold-out crowd at the ATL's Phillips Arena.
It's not likely he'll be behind bars that long, however. Last month, court officials acknowledged that T.I. would be receiving credit for 305 days spent in home detention, meaning he's likely looking at less than two months.
With little fanfare, the MC entered the double-fenced minimum-security lockup in Forrest City, situated 85 miles due east of Little Rock, at about 12:29 p.m. CT.
A black van with Georgia license plates and tinted windows was spotted being escorted by three prison vehicles into the complex. Authorities also stationed five guards at a roadblock down the street to control the flow of traffic while several other officers were assigned to keep the media at bay.
The artist otherwise known as Clifford J. Harris Jr. will bunk up with another inmate in either dormitory-style housing or cubicle housing and will pass much of his time doing menial tasks as part of a work program.
The 28-year-old hip-hopster copped to a federal felony weapons charge in March 2008 as part of a plea deal that saw him receive a light prison sentence and 1,500 hours of community service.
T.I. already fulfilled 1,030 hours of that requirement by talking to kids about the dangers of guns and drugs, taking part in a pro-voting campaign, and starring in the MTV reality show, Road to Redemption. He also paid a 100,000 fine and will remain on supervised release for three years after he's sprung.
··· THEY SAID WHAT? Get today's most commented stories now at www.eonline.com
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – White Stripes drummer Meg White has married fiance Jackson Smith in Nashville.
The 34-year-old rock drummer’s publicist said in a statement Tuesday that the ceremony was part of a double wedding Friday in the backyard of White’s musical partner, Jack White.
Smith is the son of punk singer Patti Smith and the late guitarist Fred “Sonic” Smith of the rock band MC5. The younger Smith is also a rock guitarist.
The other couple that wed Friday was Jack Lawrence and his girlfriend Jo McCaughey.
Jack Lawrence is the bass player in Jack White’s other musical projects: the Raconteurs and the Dead Weather.
The wedding was attended by a small party of close friends and relatives.
The White Stripes got their start in Detroit. Though Meg and Jack White have claimed to be siblings, court records have suggested they were married for four years before divorcing in 2000.
Meg White and Jackson Smith live in Detroit.
President Barack Obama called Judge Sonia Sotomayor at 9 p.m. on Memorial Day to say she was his pick for the Supreme Court.
Obama showed he was willing to pick a fight with his choice — Republicans do not consider her a “consensus” nominee and had signaled that they considered her the most liberal of the four finalists.
He played smart base politics with the historic selection of a Hispanic (a first) and a woman.
And he fulfilled his pledge to pick someone with a common touch by nominating someone who was raised in a Bronx housing project, and lost her father at age 9.
Right after talking to Sotomayor on Monday night, the president telephoned the three other finalists, each of whom he had formally interviewed for the job — Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Solicitor General Elena Kagan and federal appeal Judge Diane Wood of Chicago.
Then the president called the two Senate leaders and ranking members of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday morning.
By making the pick during a congressional recess, when lawmakers are back home or on far-flung foreign trips, Obama caught the Republican minority off-guard, with critics not equipped to respond with the force they would during the session.
Although the press reported that he had interviewed Wood, Sotomayor was at the White House for seven hours on Thursday without being discovered by reporters.
An Obama aide said the president, who interviewed her for an hour in the Oval Office, “was blown away by her — her personal story, her sharp intellect and confidence, and her experience as prosecutor, trial judge, litigator and appellate judge.”
There was a “full vet,” according to a senior administration official, and both her taxes and health were examined.
Sotomayor has diabetes, and White House aides consulted both her doctor and other doctors to ensure that she was fit to serve.
“I don’t think there’s any stone that’s been left unturned,” said a senior administration official.
Ironically, it’s the pick both sides wanted:
— As the most arguably liberal of the four finalists, Sotomayor provides the most fodder for conservative groups, which have vowed to spend millions of dollars on television advertising. Leaders hope a court brawl will help rebuild their movement.
— Democrats like that Justice David Souter is being replaced by a Hispanic woman, and feel sure she’ll be confirmed. As insurance, they note that when she was confirmed for the federal appeals court in 1998, among those voting for her were then-Sen. Bill Frist and then-Sen. Rick Santorum, both of whom are abortion opponents.
Democrats contend that Sotomayor does not have a long paper trail on hot-button social issues, especially abortion. In one case, the administration will argue she came down on the side of judicial restraint.
Sotomayor’s record on the divisive issue of abortion is murky. In 17 years on the federal bench, she has issued no opinions dealing directly with abortion rights. And in two cases dealing tangentially with the issue—involving anti-abortion protesters and the government right to limit abortion-related speech by foreign recipients of U.S. aid—the appeals court judge’s ruling favored abortion opponents. Still, anti-abortion forces are convinced that Obama would not nominate Sotomayor without being confident that she supports abortion rights.
Other arguments the administration will be making in support of Sotomayor:
— Her incredible American story and three decades of distinguished career in nearly every aspect of the law provide her with unique qualifications to be the next Supreme Court justice.
— As a prosecutor, litigator and trial and appellate judge, Sotomayor brings more federal judicial experience to the Supreme Court than any justice in 100 years, and more overall judicial experience than anyone confirmed for the Court in the past 70 years.
— Sotomayor is widely admired as a judge with a sophisticated grasp of legal doctrine and a keen awareness of the law’s impact on everyday life. She understands that upholding the rule of law means going beyond legal theory to ensure consistent, fair, common-sense application of the law to real-world facts.
Obama looked at “volumes of material” on the final four candidates and aides read the opinions and legal writings of over 40 prospects, according to a senior administration official. They narrowed the list to nine, of which information was obtained, before bringing in the final four to meet with the president.
Cynthia Hogan, Vice President Biden’s Counsel and a former Staff Director of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has been chosen to help lead the confirmation effort along with Stephanie Cutter, according to a senior administration official. And Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), an early backer of Sotomayor, is expected to play an active role as her home state’s senior senator.
But Obama aides are hoping to avoid a contentious battle with Senate Republicans.
“I hesitate to use the term war room because we’re not anticipating a war,” said a senior administration official of their confirmation preparations.
As for whether they’re inviting Republicans to oppose the first Hispanic on the high court and suffer the resulting political consequences, a senior administration official said: “We’re not daring anybody to do anything. We’re inviting people to support an outstanding nominee.”
But the same official said the president felt like her history-making appeal was a “positive thing.”
A top Democrat close to the White House was more candid about the political implications among a fast-growing constituency in some of the most pivotal presidential states.
“For those of us who think about electoral votes, we feel kind of good about it,” said the Democrat.
Josh Gerstein contributed to this article.
US cancer teen ‘to get treatment’
The parents of a US teenager who ran away with his mother after refusing treatment for cancer have said he can now be given chemotherapy.Daniel Hauser, 13, has Hodgkin’s lymphoma and had been warned that he would die without medical attention. But his mother, Colleen, had said her religious beliefs meant she wished to treat his cancer with natural methods. A judge had ordered Daniel to be placed in foster care but repealed the order on condition that he receive treatment. Mrs Hauser told a court hearing in Brown County that she now believed chemotherapy was the best option for her son, reported the Associated Press news agency. Judge John Rodenberg said Daniel should remain with his parents but that “this course of chemotherapy has to commence and commence soon”.
“Danny loves his parents and they love him. He’s a fine boy, a very pleasant young man,” he said. “I know he should be in the custody of his parents – as long as I’m satisfied they are going to follow the prescribed course of treatment.” But county prosecutors objected to the withdrawal of the earlier custody order, saying they were concerned the family could pull out of treatment again. “These folks have had a history of changing their minds,” said Brown County prosecutor James Olson. Nationwide searchDaniel underwent one round of chemotherapy in February, but stopped after that single treatment, citing religious beliefs. He and his mother failed to attend a court hearing last Tuesday after a court-ordered X-ray showed Daniel had a tumour in his chest. After a week-long nationwide search, the pair surfaced in California and returned to Minnesota on a charter flight. “They wanted to get together with their family, they wanted to be home,” said Brown County Sherriff Rich Hoffmann. He said Daniel was “immediately” given a full medical check. Defence lawyer Jennifer Keller said she understood Mrs Hauser now intended to “abide by whatever orders the court makes”. But she told America’s ABC News that Mrs Hauser “also wanted to put her best case forward for her son to have a chance at alternative treatment”.
NEW YORK – Conan O’Brien says there’s been little backstage angst associated with the “Tonight” show transfer of power from Jay Leno.
“He’s happy, I’m happy.” O’Brien said Tuesday. “That’s actually been kind of a godsend.”
O’Brien is the guest on Leno’s last “Tonight” Friday, before doing the show for himself next week. Leno is moving to prime time on NBC with a one-hour comedy show each weeknight at 10, starting in the fall.
Past transitions haven’t been as smooth. Leno was chosen over David Letterman to replace Johnny Carson at “Tonight,” a decision that still causes some hard feelings.
O’Brien credited Leno’s kindnesses for helping on the transition. He said he’ll be looking to his predecessor for what comedy to do on Friday’s shoot.
“It’s Jay’s night,” he said. “I don’t have any illusions that it’s going to be my night.”
In a conference call with reporters, however, O’Brien discussed their comedy differences. When asked to think about career highlights, Leno would probably cite specific jokes while he would be more apt to think about sketches, he said.
After a few months off the air and thinking about the “Tonight” show, O’Brien said he’s eager to get on stage and do it.
“The biggest danger to me taking over the `Tonight’ show is overthinking,” said O’Brien.
WASHINGTON – The reigning national spelling champion is a 14-year-old boy whose spontaneous jokes kept everyone laughing a year ago. His parents moved to the United States from central India, and he wants to be a neurosurgeon when he grows up.
Last year’s runner-up — and one of this year’s favorites at the Scripps National Spelling Bee — is an all-business 13-year-old Indian-American boy from Michigan. He also has set his sights on neurosurgery.
The spelling bee is a contest sponsored by an American newspaper chain that attracts youngsters from throughout the United States to face off in round after round of progressively more difficult words. Contestants who misspells a word leaves the competition, and the last speller standing the U.S. champion.
Another favorite expected to be onstage for Thursday night’s nationally televised finals is a 13-year-old Kansas girl with a sweet smile and a last name that is a spelling challenge unto itself. You guessed it: Her family comes from India, and she wants to be a neurosurgeon.
“Is that right?” said Naresh Chand, bursting out in laughter. “That’s a coincidence. That’s a big coincidence.”
Naresh is father of Sidharth Chand, whose mishap in the final round last year allowed Sameer Mishra to claim the title. Trailing closely behind both was Kavya Shivashankar, a three-time finalist who tied for fourth. The three have come to know each other through the bee — spellers are a tight-knit community, keeping tabs on each other through e-mails and instant messages throughout the year — but it never occurred to any of them that they share more than a heritage.
“They only want (to be) neurosurgeons. How many people are going to go for neurosurgery?” Sidharth’s mother, Sunita, said with a shrug and a laugh.
Those who follow the bee see the Indian-neurosurgeon quirk as less of a coincidence. In the same way that Hakeem Olajuwon’s success in the National Basketball Association inspired a generation of Nigerians to take up basketball, Sidharth, Sameer and Kavya can trace their roots to Balu Natarajan of Chicago, who in 1985 became the first Indian-American national spelling bee champion.
Balu inspired others, who in turn became role models for more would-be champions. Kavya’s heroine is Nupur Lala, who won the bee in 1999 and was featured in the documentary “Spellbound.” Sameer was motivated when his friend Anurag Kashyap won in 2005 and was coached by older sister Shruti, a three-time national bee participant. Altogether there have been eight Indian-American champions, including six of the past 10.
While it is tempting to suggest the spellers were just showing off by picking a long word as a potential occupation, their choice of neurosurgery is not surprising. The 293 competitors in Washington this week are bright kids flush with big goals. In a survey conducted by the bee, physician was listed as the No. 1 career ambition, followed by author, lawyer, scientist and engineer.
Sameer, for his part, thinks his mind is perfectly wired to study the brain.
“It’s really interesting how I can memorize a lot of words, (while) some people have a knack for logic for math and stuff,” Sameer said in a telephone interview from his home in the midwestern state of Indiana. “It’s a really interesting aspect of the brain.”
Kavya’s father said his daughter became fascinated with medicine in 2005, when she won a spelling bee that featured nothing but medical terms. Kavya also was quick to point out that her idol, Lala, is now a research assistant in the brain and cognitive sciences lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
“I’ve always been interested in how the body works, and especially the brain,” Kavya said. “I always thought it was really interesting.”
Sidharth is a different case altogether. He came home one day as a fifth-grader with news he had won his school’s bee. His mother had no idea what he was talking about, but from that day on, spelling became his passion.
He is among the rare spellers who wear a suit and tie for his photograph in the official spelling bee guide. Sidharth seemed nervous Tuesday and skipped the annual spellers’ barbecue on Monday to study; he declined an interview so he would not be distracted from reams of pages of words and notes. He allowed a reporter into his hotel room just long enough to be photographed, so the origin of the neurosurgeon ambition listed in his bio remained a mystery, even to his parents.
“He doesn’t have any friends from the spelling circle,” Sunita said. “He’s not a very social kind of a person, so where this neurosurgeon business comes from, I don’t have a clue.”
On the Net:
Scripps National Spelling Bee: http://spellingbee.com/
Afghans counter US deaths figure
A report by the independent human rights commission in Afghanistan says 97 civilians were killed in a US air attack earlier this month.The figure differs from that of the US military, which says it believes 20 to 30 civilians may have been among up to 90 people killed. The deaths occurred in the province of Farah, during a battle between Afghan and US security forces, and insurgents. President Karzai says civilian deaths are boosting support for insurgents. The report by Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission – AIHRC – is also very different from earlier Afghan government figures, which said up to 140 civilians died in the US air attack.
This independent commission says it believes that the vast majority of those killed in Bala Baluk district were not armed insurgents, but children. After a week-long study, the report’s initial conclusion is that 65 children and 21 women died in the US air attack, along with 11 adult male civilians. The air strike took place after insurgents attacked Afghan police positions. The commission says a group of up to 300 militants knowingly placed civilians at risk by sheltering in their houses. But it accuses the US military of an excessive response. It says: “AIHRC believes that the level of force used by pro-government forces, particularly in the follow-up air strikes, was disproportionate.” ‘Human shields’The Americans’ own investigation concluded that US forces acted appropriately.
A spokesman told the BBC there had been little – if any – indication that civilians were present when the bombs were dropped. He said insurgents had used civilians as human shields, fully aware of the consequences. The United Nations calculates that more than 2,000 civilians died in fighting in Afghanistan last year. Most were killed by insurgents. The coalition forces have revised their rules of engagement, to try to minimise the loss of civilian life. But the BBC’s Sarah Rainsford, in Kabul, says every mistake plays into the hands of the Taliban. She says mistakes fuel opposition to the troops’ presence – and to the elected government of Afghanistan that they’re in the country to support.
WASHINGTON – The Pentagon is prepared to leave fighting forces in Iraq for as long as a decade despite an agreement between the United States and Iraq that would bring all American troops home by 2012, the top U.S. Army officer said Tuesday.
Gen. George Casey, the Army chief of staff, said the world remains dangerous and unpredictable, and the Pentagon must plan for extended U.S. combat and stability operations in two wars. “Global trends are pushing in the wrong direction,” Casey said. “They fundamentally will change how the Army works.”
He spoke at an invitation-only briefing to a dozen journalists and policy analysts from Washington-based think-tanks. He said his planning envisions combat troops in Iraq and Afghanistan for a decade as part of a sustained U.S. commitment to fighting extremism and terrorism in the Middle East.
Casey’s calculations about force levels are related to his attempt to ease the brutal deployment calendar that he said would “bring the Army to its knees.”
Casey would not specify how many combat units would be split between Iraq and Afghanistan. He said U.S. ground commander Gen. Ray Odierno is leading a study to determine how far U.S. forces could be cut back in Iraq and still be effective.
President Barack Obama plans to bring U.S. combat forces home from Iraq in 2010, and the United States and Iraq have agreed that all American forces would leave by 2012. Although several senior U.S. officials have suggested Iraq could request an extension, the legal agreement the two countries signed last year would have to be amended for any significant U.S. presence to remain.
As recently as February, Defense Secretary Robert Gates reiterated the U.S. commitment to the agreement worked out with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
“Under the Status of Forces Agreement with the Iraqi government, I intend to remove all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of 2011,” Gates said during an address at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. “We will complete this transition to Iraqi responsibility, and we will bring our troops home with the honor that they have earned.”
The United States currently has about 139,000 troops in Iraq and 52,000 in Afghanistan.
Obama campaigned on ending the Iraq war as quickly as possible and refocusing U.S. resources on what he called the more important fight in Afghanistan.
That will not mean a major influx of U.S. fighting forces on the model of the Iraq “surge,” however. Obama has agreed to send about 21,000 combat forces and trainers to Afghanistan this year. Combined with additional forces approved before former President George W. Bush left office, the United States is expected to have about 68,000 troops in Afghanistan by the end of this year. That’s about double the total at the end of 2008, but Obama’s top military and civilian advisers have indicated the number is unlikely to grow much beyond that.
Casey said several times that he wasn’t the person making policy, but the military was preparing to have a fighting force deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan for years to come. Casey said his planning envisions 10 combat brigades plus command and support forces committed to the two wars.
When asked whether the Army had any measurement for knowing how big it should be, Casey responded, “How about the reality scenario?”
This scenario, he said, must take into account that “we’re going to have 10 Army and Marine units deployed for a decade in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
Casey stressed that the United States must be ready to take on sustained fights in the Middle East while meeting other commitments.
Casey reiterated statements made by civilian and military leaders that the situation in Afghanistan would get worse before it gets better. “There’s going to be a big fight in the South,” he said.
Casey added that training of local police and military in Afghanistan was at least a couple years behind the pace in Iraq, and it would be months before the U.S. deployed enough trainers. There’s a steeper curve before training could be effective in Afghanistan, requiring three to five years before Afghanis could reach the “tipping point” of control.
He also said the U.S. had to be careful about what assets get deployed to Afghanistan. “Anything you put in there would be in there for a decade,” he said.
As Army chief of staff, Casey is primarily responsible for assembling the manpower and determining assignments. He insisted the Army’s 1.1-million size was sufficient even to handle the extended Mideast conflicts.
“We ought to build a pretty effective Army with 1.1 million strength,” Casey said. He also noted that the Army’s budget had grown to 220 billion from 68 billion before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
He said the Army is two-thirds of the way through a complete overhaul from the Cold War-era force built around tanks and artillery to today’s terrorist-driven realities. The Army has become more versatile and quicker by switching from division-led units to brigade-level command.
Casey said the Army has moved from 15-month battlefield deployments to 12 months. His goal is to move rotations by 2011 to one year in the battlefield and two years out for regular Army troops, and one year in the battlefield and three years out for reserves. He called the current one-year-in-one-year-out cycle “unsustainable.”
Los Angeles (E! Online) –
Kim Kardashian may not know when she and Reggie Bush are getting engaged, but she's already looking at rings.
“It's just easier,” the E! reality star tells me. “Isn't it easy if someone's like, 'This is exactly what I want.' It'll make your life so easy.”
She's already let sisters Kourtney and Khloe know which baubles she's been eyeing, because she figures Bush will ask them for their help when he decides to pop the question…
“She found one the other day and she was like, 'It's only 20 million,' ” Kourtney says.
Kim promises that's not the real price but says with a laugh, “I exaggerated a bit so that when he went in, he would feel like he's getting a good deal.”
Reggie has already made it clear he would not want cameras rolling on their wedding ceremony.
“Reggie would rather die,” Kim says. “He would rather not marry me. He's very private. We're complete opposites.”
Meanwhile, Kourtney says their new Dash boutique in Miami won't be the last stop in the sisters' quest to build a fashion empire: “If all goes well in Miami, Vegas and New York could be next.”
Follow Marc on Twitter @marcmalkin and get our free iPhone app
··· THEY SAID WHAT? Get today's most commented stories now at www.eonline.com
Los Angeles (E! Online) –
The law of trainwrecks—hard to watch, harder not to watch—was in full effect during last night's Jon & Kate Plus 8.
The reality show's heavily promoted fifth-season premiere, featuring octoparents Jon and Kate Gosselin addressing the state of their tabloid-tracked marriage (from separate couches, no less), averaged nearly 10 million gawkers.
With 9.8 million viewers, per TLC, the episode drew more eyeballs than Farrah Fawcett's recent NBC cancer documentary and more people than all-time top-rated cable fare such as the original High School Musical.
Unfortunately, there is no Nielsen stat on how many people just felt bad for the kids.
··· THEY SAID WHAT? Get today's most commented stories now at www.eonline.com
NEW YORK – The Mexican drug cartels battling viciously to expand and survive have a powerful financial incentive: Across the border to the north is a market for illegal drugs unsurpassed for its wealth, diversity and voraciousness.
Homeless heroin addicts in big cities, “meth heads’ in Midwest trailer parks, pop culture and sports stars, teens smoking marijuana with their Baby Boomer parents in Vermont — in all, 46 percent of Americans 12 and older have indulged in the often destructive national pastime of illicit drug use.
This array of consumers is providing a vast, recession-proof, apparently unending market for the Mexican gangs locked in a drug war that has killed more than 10,780 people since December 2006. No matter how much law enforcement or financial help the U.S. government provides Mexico, the basics of supply and demand prevent it from doing much good.
“The damage done by our insatiable demand for drugs is truly astounding,” said Lloyd Johnston, a University of Michigan researcher who oversees annual drug-use surveys.
The latest federal figures show that 114 million Americans have used illegal drugs at some point — and 20 million are current users.
Marijuana is by far the No. 1 drug, sampled by 100 million Americans, including nearly half of high school seniors. But more than 35 million Americans have used cocaine at some point and 34 million have taken LSD or other hallucinogens.
“It’s a drug dealer’s dream — sell it in a place where he can make the most money for the risk taken,” said Dr. H. Westley Clark, director of the federal Center for Substance Abuse Treatment.
“There’s a tremendous amount of denial until you’re face to face with it,” Clark added. “A substance abuser can be anybody. Everybody is at risk.”
The Mexican cartels are eager to feed this ravenous appetite. Once used mostly to transship drugs from South America, Mexico is now a major producer and distributor; its gangs control cocaine networks in many U.S. cities and covertly grow marijuana on U.S. public lands.
For now, the Mexican government is fighting the cartels and working with U.S. authorities who have promised to stop the southbound flow of weapons and cash — but all parties are aware of the role played by the U.S. market.
“When the U.S. government turns up the pressure a lot, then is when you see a return to the old formula of saying (to Americans), ‘You also have corruption, you consume the drugs, you’re the biggest drug consumer in the world,’” said Jose Luis Pineyro, a sociologist at Mexico’s Autonomous Metropolitan University.
Gil Kerlikowske, a former Seattle police chief recently appointed by President Barack Obama as the U.S. drug czar, said the Mexicans “make an excellent point.”
“Our drug abuse causes problems elsewhere — our per capita consumption is very high,” said Kerlikowske, who argues that reducing demand through education and treatment is as vital as border interdictions in quelling Mexico’s drug violence.
Country of origin didn’t matter much to David Hart.
Now 49, Hart said he started using drugs at 14 and didn’t stop until he entered a one-year recovery program in January at the Springs Rescue Mission in Colorado Springs, Colo.
The son of an alcoholic father, Hart moved from Arizona to Colorado in 1993. A promised construction job didn’t materialize, and since then he’s mixed part-time work with stints of homelessness, panhandling to pay for hits of crack, marijuana and speed.
“When you’re depressed about your lot in life, and angry about the way you’ve been treated, drugs are a perfect way out. You smoke that crack and your problems just go away. You know they’re going to come back, but for that brief moment you don’t have to deal with it.”
He’s grateful to his supporters at the recovery program, but unsure what lies ahead.
“It’s been a part of my life for so long,” he said. “It’s going to be a challenge for the rest of my life to stay clean.”
Yet Hart is, in some respects, lucky. Federal figures indicate that roughly 7.5 million Americans needed treatment for illegal drug abuse in 2007, and only about 1.3 million received it.
The Rescue Mission’s CEO, the Rev. Joe Vazquez, said Hart is part of a wave of drug-abusing transients who’ve settled into the netherworld of an outwardly prosperous region.
“There’s this whole segment of our community living well below what their creator created them for — these men coming with a toolbelt and backpack, living in little rundown motels, struggling with addiction,” Vazquez said.
Federal surveys reveal cyclical trends in drug abuse — but the number of lifetime users keeps growing. Overall abuse rates were highest in the 1970s, declined through the early ’90s, went back up and now seem to have stabilized over the past six years.
Studies of youth drug use in Western Europe show a few countries with serious problems, but overall a far lower portion of young people there are abusing drugs than in America. Elsewhere around the world, drug use also is widespread, though data is generally not as thorough as in the U.S.
“There’s no escaping the fact that we have the highest drug rates in the world,” said Craig Reinarman, a sociologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
U.S. authorities were encouraged that drug use among 12-to-17-year-olds declined by about 25 percent between 2002 and 2007. But Johnston, the University of Michigan researcher, says his latest student survey suggests the decline halted in 2008, and he is concerned by data showing that fewer students view smoking marijuana as a serious risk.
There was no similar recent drop-off of drug abuse among the biggest demographic category — young adults aged 18-25. Illicit drug use also has surged among those aged 55 to 59 — baby boomers whose young adulthood coincided with the drug culture’s heyday. And there is deep concern about increasing abuse of prescription medicines among all age groups.
Survey after survey shows the vast scope of illegal drug use — deep-rooted in all regions, among all races and socio-economic groups. Big cities indeed have severe problems, but the states with the highest overall abuse rates include Rhode Island, Vermont, Montana and Alaska.
“There’s this assumption that drug abuse is more common in racial minorities, especially blacks,” said Dr. Wilson Compton, a division director at the National Institute on Drug Abuse. “It’s not true. Either the rates are lower or at least no higher.”
Reinarman reflected on the recent methamphetamine outbreak across the American heartland — Iowa, Missouri, Kansas and elsewhere.
“Here they live in crummy little houses, in towns that are dying … and along comes a drug that provides a great rush,” he said. “You can’t separate drug problems from the broader matrix of social and personal problems. You can’t have a drug policy that works unless it’s part of a much broader social policy.”
For those concerned about marijuana, Vermont is an active front line, with the nation’s highest rates of pot usage. It’s one of several regions where joints may now be more prevalent among teens than cigarettes.
“People say, ‘It’s easier for me to get pot than to buy a beer,’” said Barbara Cimaglio, deputy commissioner of the state Health Department’s Division of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Programs.
Annie Ramniceanu, clinical director at Spectrum Youth and Family Services in Burlington, Vt., says many of the 350 youths her agency counsels annually started smoking pot before their teens.
“They just get high all the time,” she said. “They never learned how to have fun without smoking pot, never learned how to deal with conflict, how to focus on anything.”
In both blue-collar and affluent families, she sees multigenerational problems.
“It’s become the cultural norm for these families, where drug use is absolutely no big deal,” she said. “The kids smoke with their parents, or know their parents use other drugs.”
Another drug counselor, Yolanda Morales of New York City, is cautiously upbeat about the attitudes she observes among young people.
Now 55, Morales lapsed into a cocaine habit and a 15-year addiction while trying to juggle graduate school and a job. She spent five years in federal prison for trafficking, got out in 2003, and now works for the Fortune Society in New York, counseling other ex-offenders.
She has shared her story candidly with her college-bound daughter.
“When I was in school in New York, people stood on the corner selling drugs — no one gave a damn,” Morales said. “The consequences of that era has the younger generation a little more scared. I don’t see them doing the hard drugs like we were. They’re more informed — there’s more wariness about trying different stuff.”
But other Fortune Society staff members see worrisome signs.
Damien Cabezas, vice president for clinical services, says New York teens are starting to use cheap heroin arriving from Afghanistan.
Kerlikowske, as he takes over the Office of National Drug Control Policy, would like to beef up treatment programs and divert more drug offenders to them instead of prison. It’s an issue with personal overtones — the drug czar’s own stepson has faced drug charges.
Eliminating drug abuse is not a realistic goal, Kerlikowske cautions. “But we can reduce the harm, the dangers, the drain on our economy.”
Associated Press writer Mark Stevenson in Mexico City contributed to this report.
On the Net:
Latest federal data, http://www.oas.samhsa.gov/NSDUHlatest.htm
Eredivisie giants Ajax Amsterdam have announced that Martin Jol has signed a three-year contract to coach the club, starting from July 1.
Jol has signed a three-year contract to take over as coach of Dutch giants Ajax from July 1.
The 53-year-old Dutchman moves from German side Hamburg, where he had recently secured a European place with a fifth-placed Bundesliga finishas well as leading the club to the semifinals of this season’s UEFA Cup. Jol has also coached Den Haag and Rodawith whom he won the Dutch Cupin his homeland. However, he really came to prominence at Tottenham Hotpsur, leading the London side to consecutive fifth-placed finishes in the English Premier League. Ajax chief executive Rik van den Boog, told the club’s official Web site : “Martin has all the qualities that the new coach of Ajax should have in our opinion. “He is experienced and has gained that experience both in the Netherlands and abroad. He has worked for big and not so big clubs and has shown he can get the maximum potential out of his players. “He is furthermore a coach who has proven that he is willing to give talented young players a chance, which is of the utmost importance.” Jol’s appointment comes after Marco van Basten resigned earlier this month, following a disappointing season for the former Dutch national coach. Under van Basten’s tenure, the four-time European champions failed to qualify for next season’s Champions League.
Werder put further dent in Hamburg’s season
Petric double leaves Hamburg in title hunt
Dutchman Jol to take charge at Hamburg
A delighted Jol told the Ajax Web site: “Ajax are a fantastic football club and I am really looking forward to getting started. “I had a great time at Hamburg, it is a big club and a nice city to live in. I have worked abroad the past years and now I get to return home, I am looking forward to that too.” As a player Jol, turned out for Dutch sides Den Haag and Twente, before moving to Germany with Bayern Munich and then later to England with West Bromwich Albion and Coventry City.
OTTAWA (Reuters) –
Canada's public broadcaster was wrong to show a skit that joked about the possible assassination of U.S. President Barack Obama and suggested he could be a thief, an industry panel ruled on Monday.
The New Year's Eve “Bye Bye” comedy program — shown by the French-language Radio Canada network — generated more than 200 complaints. In one segment, two hosts discussed Obama's election in November 2008. Obama, who took office in January, is the first black U.S. president.
“We're not racists. It will be good to have a Negro in the White House. It will be practical. Black on white, it will be easier to shoot him,” one of the show's hosts remarked.
The Canadian Broadcasting Standards Council said it found “nothing redeeming in the allegedly comedic notion that an American president should be shot, still less that this would be easier to achieve because of the color of the president's skin. It was a disturbing, wounding, abusive racial comment.”
The show also featured an interview with an actor pretending to be Obama. The host said, “The blacks, you all look alike,” and then warned viewers to hide their purses.
The council said the comments and sketches breached regulations, adding they went “too far in terms of Canadian broadcast standards.”
The producers of the show denied the skits had been racist, saying they had meant to mock the characters making the offensive remarks.
Complaints about Radio Canada are usually handled by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). In this case the CRTC asked the council — which deals with commercial channels and has more experience in handling such complaints — for advice.
The CRTC, which is due to conduct its own probe into the show, does not have the power to fine Radio-Canada but can issue a public reprimand.
A spokeswoman for the commission said such reprimands could cause problems for networks when it came time for them to seek renewal of their broadcasting license. Radio-Canada is due to apply for a license renewal in 2011.
Polls regularly show that Canadians like Obama far more than they do their own leaders. Tens of thousands turned up to cheer him when he made a brief visit to Ottawa in February. A spokeswoman for the U.S. embassy said she did not know whether the White House had complained about the show.
(Reporting by David Ljunggren; editing by Peter Galloway and Frances Kerry)
NEW YORK (Reuters) –
Stocks climbed more than 2 percent on Tuesday as data showing the biggest monthly jump in consumer confidence in six years lifted hopes of an economic rebound, and a brokerage upgrade of Apple Inc drove sharp gains on the Nasdaq.
Apple's (AAPL.O) shares closed nearly 7 percent higher after Morgan Stanley said the iPhone will drive strong earnings growth over the next two years and raised its price target on the stock.
An index of U.S. consumer confidence surged in May, strongly topping expectations as it registered the biggest monthly jump since April 2003, according to the Conference Board, an industry group.
Consumer discretionary shares were among the top gainers on the Dow and S&P 500, with McDonald's Corp (MCD.N) up 3.1 percent, retailer Macy's Inc (M.N) up 5.9 percent and the S&P consumer discretionary index (.GSPD) up 3.8 percent.
“Today the market is celebrating the return of some sign of consumer confidence,” said Peter Kenny, managing director at Knight Equity Markets in Jersey City, New Jersey. “It was so strong, even the dismal housing numbers couldn't” bring the market down.
The news influenced the broad market, but consumer discretionary, restaurants and even Apple shares received the biggest boost, he said. “It's all the same script,” Kenny said.
Other data on Tuesday showed prices of single-family homes fell in March from a year earlier. The pace of decline, however, slowed for a second consecutive month.
The Dow Jones industrial average (.DJI) rose 196.17 points, or 2.37 percent, to finish at 8,473.49. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index (.SPX) was up 23.33 points, or 2.63 percent, at 910.33. The Nasdaq Composite Index (.IXIC) was up 58.42 points, or 3.45 percent, at 1,750.43.
Consumer spending accounts for roughly two-thirds of the U.S. economy. The U.S. confidence data followed similarly rosy consumer reports in Germany and France.
The data also seemed to outweigh geopolitical concerns over North Korea's latest nuclear and missile tests, which pressured stocks at the open.
The market's gains came after four straight days of losses that marked the Dow's longest losing streak since the five days ended March 3. Worries about a possible cut to the United States' credit rating on Friday had pressured stocks.
On the Nasdaq, Apple shares gained 6.8 percent to close at $130.78. On the New York Stock Exchange, McDonald's shares were up 3.1 percent at $58.84 and Macy's shares were up 5.9 percent at $11.85.
Homebuilder DR Horton's (DHI.N) shares rose 5.1 percent to $9.47.
Trading was active on the New York Stock Exchange, with about 1.37 billion shares changing hands, below last year's estimated daily average of 1.49 billion, while on Nasdaq, about 2.09 billion shares traded, below last year's daily average of 2.28 billion.
Advancing stocks outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by 5 to 1 while advancers beat decliners on the Nasdaq by about 7 to 2.
(Editing by Leslie Adler)
ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – French President Nicolas Sarkozy opened his nation’s first military base in the Gulf Tuesday, boosting the naval presence along strategic oil routes and in pirate-infested waters off the Somali coast.
The new naval base outside the United Arab Emirates’ capital, Abu Dhabi, is France’s first major foreign military installation since the 1960s and its first outside Africa. It is expected help safeguard vital Persian Gulf shipping lanes. It also puts France in position to play a higher profile role in calming the growing tensions between Iran and Gulf Arab states.
Some of the most pressing missions, however, may come off the coast of Somalia. Pirates have expanded their assaults on ships in the Gulf of Aden farther into the Indian Ocean. Somali pirates have attacked more than 80 ships this year alone in the Gulf of Aden, and successfully hijacked about 30 of them.
The United States remains the major foreign military presence in the Persian Gulf with key air bases, logistics operations and the headquarters of the 5th Fleet in Bahrain.
At a ceremony Tuesday, Sarkozy watched the French and UAE flags being raised over the naval base as forces from both nations stood at attention.
France is also seeking a bigger role in the region’s culture and business.
Sarkozy’s two-day trip includes a visit to the future site of a branch of the Louvre. The arm of the French art museum will be part of a cultural and residential district being built in Abu Dhabi. The city also hosts a branch of France’s Sorbonne University, and is set to receive outposts of New York University and the Guggenheim Museum.
In light of all these new projects, Sarkozy called the oil-rich UAE “a laboratory for globalization.” He is pushing a deal for the UAE to purchase twin-engined Rafale fighter jets and supports the Emirates’ push to develop civilian nuclear power plants.
“Nuclear power is not the sole prerogative of Western states,” Sarkozy said.
President Barack Obama approved plans for the U.S. to help the UAE become the first Arab nation with a nuclear power industry last week, though Congress could still try to block the deal. U.S. companies are expected to compete against ones from France, Japan and Russia for a share of the 41 billion project.
In a speech to French military personnel and diplomats, Sarkozy also focused on the importance of economic stability, urging oil-rich nations and industrial powers to work to stabilize world oil prices. He noted that the global economy cannot afford major price swings while it works to recover from the economic downturn.
Sarkozy did not give a target price range, but he said he wanted to work with the Emirates, an OPEC member, and others to lower volatility in oil markets.
The French president said high prices undermine growth, but low prices “sow the seeds” of future shocks by discouraging investment in other investment technologies, including nuclear power.
Oil prices have rebounded significantly from lows near 30 a barrel earlier this year, but remain about 60 percent below the record 147 level they hit last July. Crude now sells at about 60 a barrel — above the level the UAE needs to balance its budget but below what some fellow OPEC members consider to be a fair price.
Sarkozy’s visit also sought to forge strategic commercial alliances between one of Abu Dhabi’s government-backed investment vehicles and France’s newly created strategic investment fund.
Obama to visit Saudi before Egypt
US President Barack Obama will visit Saudi Arabia next week for talks with King Abdullah, the White House says. Spokesman Robert Gibbs said the two leaders would meet in Riyadh on 3 June to discuss the Mid-East peace process, Iran’s nuclear programme and terrorism. The visit will be Mr Obama’s first to Saudi Arabia as president. Afterwards, he will travel to Cairo to give a major policy speech addressed to the Muslim world, and then go on to Germany and France. The speech in Egypt fulfils an election promise and is part of Mr Obama’s bid to improve the US image among key regional allies. In Germany, the US president is set to visit the Buchenwald concentration camp. He will wrap up the trip on 6 June by commemorating the 65th anniversary of D-Day in Normandy, France.
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) –
California's supreme court backed a ban on gay marriage on Tuesday, upholding a voter-approved proposition defining marriage as between a man and a woman, but said the marriages last year of 18,000 same sex couples were still legal.
The court, which last year unexpectedly opened the door to same-sex unions in the most populous U.S. state, bowed to the majority of California voters who passed the ban known as Proposition 8 last November.
Gay marriage backers vowed to continue the fight at the ballot box in 2010, and more than a hundred supporters blocked San Francisco streets in a show of peaceful civil disobedience.
The court said the roughly 18,000 marriages that took place in the state before the November ban remained valid since the ban was not retroactive. That left the state of 37 million people with a tiny group of married same-sex couples that cannot grow.
“Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California,” Chief Justice Ronald George wrote in the court's opinion, arguing that the decision did not end broad protections for same-sex couples to form families.
Tuesday's ruling was unlikely to be the last move in what is seen as a pivotal state in U.S. culture wars.
Social conservatives applauded but in Los Angeles gay advocates promised to try to change the state constitution again — to affirm gay marriage — in a battle seen as soon as November 2010.
“There is a smear on our constitution and the only way to get around it is through the ballot box,” Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, told supporters.
'SHAME ON YOU'
The focus of the court's opinion was on the constitutionality of the vote last November. It rejected arguments that a majority could not vote away rights of a minority. The court also said — countering arguments against the ban — that the change in the state constitution was not substantial enough to require a tougher process for passage.
The passage of Prop 8 by a 52 percent majority last year, in the same election that put Democrat Barack Obama in the White House, bucked California's reputation as a liberal trendsetter. It spurred nationwide protests by gay advocates and drew praise from social conservatives.
Gay rights advocates on the courthouse steps in San Francisco began shouting “Shame on you” as soon as the decision was made public, and blocked streets.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger asked for peaceful and lawful protests in a statement. He predicted same-sex marriage would eventually prevail in California.
Tony Perkins, president of the conservative Family Research Council, predicted continued success for his group, which has prevailed against gay marriage in every state where the question has been put to a popular vote.
“This is not an issue that is going to go away,” he said.
The California court on Tuesday did not back away from its sweeping decision last year, which held that same-sex couples had fundamental constitutional rights and deserved special legal protections as a minority class. Proposition 8 was put to voters as a result of that court decision.
The proposition's single line, reading “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California,” was too narrow to invalidate fundamental rights, the court held.
“Proposition 8 reasonably must be interpreted in a limited fashion as eliminating only the right of same-sex couples to equal access to the designation of marriage, and as not otherwise affecting the constitutional right of those couples to establish an officially recognized family relationship,” Chief Justice George wrote.
Before the California court's move on Tuesday, a flurry of pro-gay marriage rulings and votes in Iowa and New England this year had appeared to reverse a trend toward banning them in the United States.
Forty-two U.S. states explicitly prohibit same-sex marriage, including 29 with constitutional amendments, according to Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights advocacy group. Several states provide for same-sex unions that grant many of the same rights as marriage.
(Additional reporting by Braden Reddall, Jim Christie, Clare Baldwin, Steve Gorman, Jason Szep, David Lawsky, Dan Whitcomb and the San Francisco Newsroom, writing by Peter Henderson, Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Frances Kerry)