Archive for June 2nd, 2009
Claudia search team gets 40 calls
Detectives probing the disappearance of York chef Claudia Lawrence, missing for more than 10 weeks, are following up calls in response to a TV appeal.Crimewatch on BBC One on Tuesday night featured a reconstruction of her disappearance and her family pleaded for news of her whereabouts. Det Supt Ray Galloway said she may have had a “complex” private life and asked for confidential details. Within an hour police had had more than 40 calls offering information. Her sister Ali had told Crimewatch: “I just find it hard to accept that people just vanish into thin air.
“There must be people out there that have seen something suspicious or who know something that’s happened.” Her father Peter said: “The hardest thing about all of this is the not knowing. “It’s very unusual, I think, for an adult to disappear without anything being known for this length of time.” Ms Lawrence was last seen near her home in Heworth, York, on 18 March and failed to arrive for her early-morning shift at the University of York’s Goodricke College the following day. The investigation into the disappearance is now the biggest the North Yorkshire force has conducted since the search for multiple killer Mark Hobson five years ago. Her disappearance is being treated as suspected murder. Poster appeals have appeared at railway stations across Yorkshire and amateur pilots are to help in the search by watching out for signs of activity around derelict buildings. Ms Lawrence’s father has set up a website, in a fresh effort to find his daughter.
Irish low-cost airline Ryanair posted a €169 million (240 million) loss in the last year after being hit with higher fuel costs and a writedown in its investment in rival carrier Aer Lingus.
Ryanair has forecast a rise in passenger numbers this year.
Ryanair’s boss Michael O’Leary said though that he hoped to see a recovery this year, forecasting profits to “at least double” thanks to anticipated lower fuel costs. The loss compares with a profit of €390 million the previous year. The company said that with the writedown on the Aer Lingus stake stripped out, its figures showed a more “robust” net profit of €105 million. The number of passengers travelling on Ryanair planes increased by 15 percent in 2008/09 to 58 million and the airline said it hoped to increase that number to 67 million this year by cutting average fares by upt to 20 percent. Richard Hunter, head of UK equities at Hargreaves Lansdown Stockbrokers, said the Aer Lingus stake was “an albatross around the company’s neck.” He told the Press Association: “There are, however, also a number of positives, not least of which is the determination of Ryanair to continue to make life uncomfortable for its competitors. “Growth in passenger numbers and a focus on costs were proof that the company has a close eye on strategic wins, while further reductions in fares could well tempt travellers who are currently deserting other legacy carriers.”
STERLING HEIGHTS, Mich. – A door-to-door solicitor apparently rubbed a Michigan man the wrong way, prompting him to grab a rifle and fire two shots — one of which hit his own car. Police said the 20-year-old apparently was intoxicated when the solicitor paid a visit Monday afternoon. In irritation, they said he fired once inside and once outside the suburban Detroit house.
One shot struck the resident’s car, but no one was hurt.
Lt. Luke Riley told the Detroit Free Press police arrested the man, who’s expected to face charges of illegally discharging a firearm.
Information from: Detroit Free Press, http://www.freep.com
Former Vice President Dick Cheney says there was “never any evidence” that Saddam Hussein’s Iraq played any role in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.
“On the question of whether or not Iraq was involved in 9/11, there was never any evidence to prove that,” Cheney said during an interview Monday night with Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren.
“There was some reporting early on, for example, that Mohammed Atta had met with a senior Iraqi intelligence official,” Cheney said. “But that was never borne out.”
In a 2003 interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Cheney said that “the Czechs alleged that Mohamed Atta, the lead attacker, met in Prague with a senior Iraqi intelligence official five months before the attack.”
But Cheney added, “We’ve never been able to develop any more of that yet, either in terms of confirming it or discrediting it. We just don’t know.”
Cheney said Monday that former CIA Director George Tenet brought to the Bush White House information pertaining to potential links between the hijacker and Iraq as “it became available.” But Cheney pointed out that Tenet “did say and did testify that there was an ongoing relationship between al Qaeda and Iraq, but no proof that Iraq was involved in 9/11.”
The former vice president explained away the early uncertainty of the connection by insisting that intelligence gathering is “more an art form than a science,” pointing to several examples of past CIA failures.
The Politico 44 Story Widget Requires Adobe Flash Player. // “They misread Saddam Hussein's intent when he invaded Kuwait in 1990,” Cheney said. “They underestimated the extent of the Iraqi program to try to acquire nuclear capability back in '90 and '91. They missed 9/11.”
Cheney did not list the never-found Iraqi weapons of mass destruction as an intelligence failure, saying only that the CIA and the broader intelligence community have done a “magnificent job as part of the effort to keep the United States safe these last seven and a half years.”
“The intelligence community has had some enormous successes in the last few years,” he said. “You usually don't hear about the successes. What you hear about are the train wrecks, the things that didn't work out quite right.”
Los Angeles (E! Online) –
My friends and I have a bet about the future of Susan “Hairy Angel” Boyle. After her trip to the hospital, do you think she can handle her fame and maintain a career?
—Linea, Oak Grove, Ill.
The answer is, in a way, unfortunate. Yes, music insiders tell me, Boyle can have a massive career. But only if she leaps up out of that hospital bed and starts cutting deals right now, whether she's rested and recovered…or not.
“She's not a mainstream singer, so it's not like young people are going to flock to her next year,” says music business consultant Daylle Deana Schwartz, who works with independent labels and artists. “So this really is the time to strike. I don't think you can book a tour overnight, but she needs to start getting the ball rolling immediately.”
But can Boyle handle it? I've been on the blower all day with celebrity shrinks, talent managers, Industry consultants, publicists, and like your friends, they're deeply divided on whether Boyle is even remotely ready to face her fame.
For the record, officials with Britain's Got Talent said today that Boyle is recovering after an anxiety attack resulting from the pressures of insta-fame. Some of my contacts say that her behavior isn't anything odd, considering the circumstances.
“We should give the lady a pass,” says psychiatrist Dr. Paul Dobransky, who works with celebrities in his practice. “I just picture her going without sleep for days on end, preparing nonstop.”
But others point out that Boyle may need more than just a bit of R & R if she's going to survive as a pop icon. In fact her outbursts have indicated she isn't ready for direct exposure to the public, Schwartz tells me. A show official said today that Boyle has no underlying mental problems, but if she wants a Kelly Clarkson-size career, Schwartz says, Boyle may need at least one perk: an entourage.
“Sure, she's ready to perform in front of a large audience,” says Schwartz, author of Start & Run Your Own Record Label. “But she doesn't know how to push people away, and I think that's why she screamed and cursed.”
If she were Boyle's manager, Schwartz adds, “I would hire a full-time person to travel with her, work with her, talk to her, run interference between her and fans and media.”
But regardless of what Boyle actually needs, rest is most likely out of the question.
Translation? Lemme guess. Susan Boyle: The Dream the Dream Tour 2010.
Dream my dream on Twitter @answerbitch
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BRUSSELS – Before it vanished, Air France Flight 447 was flying hundreds of miles beyond the scope of the nearest radar station, just as scores of commercial flights do every day over the world’s oceans.
Above those vast waters, pilots follow different rules for navigation and safety because they are so far from land that air traffic controllers may not be able to pinpoint their precise positions.
Much of what happened to Flight 447 is still unknown, largely because the plane was soaring in a remote zone between Brazil and West Africa. Air crews in that region are never out of radio contact with the ground, but radar cannot track them until they draw closer to shore.
The route was not unusual. Pilots of long-haul flights are often beyond the reach of radar for many hours at a time. Radar coverage over oceans is largely limited to coastal areas extending no more than a couple of hundred miles out to sea.
Because of this radar-free void, crews aboard many transoceanic flights must observe safety procedures that are significantly different from those for flying over land.
Land overflights are normally separated by 5 to 10 miles. But long-range oceanic flights are spaced 20 minutes apart — the equivalent of 80 nautical miles — to minimize the possibility of midair collisions in places far beyond radar.
Oceanic flights also use different navigation techniques. A land-based flight typically follows aerial pathways marked with radio beacons that crisscross the continents. But those paths do not exist over water.
Instead, flight controllers determine specific flight tracks each day — one eastbound and one westbound — on the basis of weather reports and other information. Thousands of airliners follow each other along these tracks.
Pilots can still speak with ground controllers, but standard VHF radios do not work on transoceanic routes because of the earth’s curvature. Long-haul pilots must use less reliable HF voice communications which are more susceptible to interference.
Modern airliners also have a digital datalink that automatically transmits and receives messages between the aircraft and ground stations. Those messages are then relayed to air traffic control centers or the airline’s own dispatch center, and are used by controllers to determine the aircraft’s approximate position.
On Tuesday, Brazilian aircraft located debris from the Airbus A330 in two areas about 410 miles beyond the Brazilian island of Fernando de Noronha.
The only other clue to the plane’s fate was an automated message received by an Air France dispatch center in Paris that reported an electrical failure and loss of cabin pressure.
There was no mayday or distress call, but an Air France spokesman has mentioned that a lightning strike in an area of heavy turbulence may have sparked a chain of events that led to disaster.
Air traffic controllers lost contact with the jet just as it was entering a band of violent thunderstorms and heavy turbulence that stretched along the equator.
All modern planes like the A330 are equipped with weather radar that displays a multicolored map showing hazardous weather in yellow or red colors.
Since thunderstorms can tower to altitudes of more than 60,000 feet, where passenger planes cannot climb over them, pilots will often weave left and right to find a route that avoids the worst of the weather.
“I’ve been on flights that have had to divert hundreds of miles to avoid a wall of thunderstorms,” said Gideon Ewers of the London-based International Federation of Air Line Pilots Association.
Some analysts have speculated that the pilot may have been trying to return to Fernando de Noronha, about 220 miles off Brazil’s northeastern coast, when disaster struck.
The airport there, built by the U.S. military during World War II, has a runway that is more than 6,000 feet long — sufficient for an Airbus A330 to land safely in case of emergency.
As the crash investigation progresses, analysts will zero in on the flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder — if they are recovered from ocean depths up to 9,800 feet.
“The aircraft was cruising at 35,000 feet,” Ewers said. “Wreckage could have dispersed over a wide area of ocean and then drifted even further apart while sinking to the ocean floor a couple of miles down.”
Despite the lack of radar data, officials from the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board and from Eurocontrol, Europe’s aviation agency, say that investigators have many ways to begin investigating the accident even before they recover any wreckage or the black boxes.
“Investigators will have to do a forensic analysis, by piecing together all available information as best they can,” said Jim Hall, a former chairman of the NTSB.
They will review the maintenance records of the aircraft, interview the crews who flew the plane in the last few weeks and go to the locations where recent maintenance was done to interview mechanics.
They will also study the personal histories of the crew members and reconstruct what they did in the last 36 hours before the crash.
“In other words, they’ll be compiling as much background information as they can to compensate for the lack of other data,” Hall said.
WASHINGTON – Judge Sonia Sotomayor on Tuesday countered Republican charges that she would let her background dictate her rulings as Americans signaled a favorable first impression of President Barack Obama’s first Supreme Court choice.
A new Associated Press-GfK poll suggested that Americans have a more positive view of her than they did for any of former President George W. Bush’s nominees to the high court. Half backed her confirmation.
As Sotomayor made her Senate debut with a series of private meetings, Republicans said they would prefer holding hearings on her nomination in September, which could cloud the speedy summertime confirmation Obama wants.
Sotomayor, who would be the high court’s first Hispanic and its third woman, told senators she would follow the law as a judge without letting her life experiences inappropriately influence her decisions.
“Ultimately and completely, a judge has to follow the law no matter what their upbringing has been,” Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the Judiciary Committee chairman, quoted the nominee as saying in their closed-door session.
Republicans are questioning how she would apply the law, noting her remark in 2001 that she hoped her decisions as a “wise Latina” would be better than those of a white male who hadn’t had the same experiences. Obama has said she misspoke; some Republicans have called the comment racist.
Leahy, hoping to shepherd a smooth and quick confirmation for Sotomayor, asked her what she meant by her 2001 comment and said the judge told him: “Of course one’s life experience shapes who you are, but … as a judge, you follow the law.”
Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the top Republican on the committee, said Sotomayor used similar words with him as well, but he appeared to come away from the meetings unconvinced about her approach and whether she would be an “activist” who tried to set policy from the bench.
“We talked about the idea and the concept of personal feelings and … how that influences a decision, and how it should not,” Sessions said, declining to elaborate on the private discussion. Sessions, who is to meet Wednesday with Leahy to discuss scheduling Sotomayor’s confirmation proceedings, said he thought hearings should wait until September — more than a month after Obama and Senate Democrats had hoped to have Sotomayor confirmed.
The exchanges came as Sotomayor rushed from one hotly anticipated meeting to another on Capitol Hill — 10 in all — visiting senators who will decide her future. She meets 10 more Wednesday.
In public, the nominee and senators were all grins and polite exchanges. Sotomayor chatted with Leahy about his grandchildren and smiled demurely as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid praised her. Sessions called their talk “a delight.”
But behind closed doors, they touched on the weightiest matters of the law and judging.
Democrats praise Sotomayor’s life story as the New York-born daughter of Puerto Rican parents who was reared in a housing project and went on to Princeton and Yale before ascending to the highest legal echelons.
“We have the whole package here,” said Reid, D-Nev. “America identifies with the underdog, and you’ve been an underdog many times in your life, but always the top dog.”
In the new poll, half said she should be seated on the court while 22 percent opposed her confirmation. About a third had a favorable view of Sotomayor while 18 percent viewed her unfavorably.
Questioned about affirmative action, 63 percent support it for women and fewer, 56 percent, favor affirmative action for racial or ethnic minorities. The poll did not define affirmative action.
She was looked upon more positively than any of three Supreme Court nominees President George W. Bush put forward over four months in 2005: Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Samuel Alito and Harriet Miers, who withdrew from consideration.
Roberts, the most popular of the three in polling at the time, was supported for confirmation by 47 percent, and 25 percent had a favorable impression of him.
Sotomayor’s 2001 speech has inspired sharp rhetoric from some Republicans. Radio host Rush Limbaugh and former House Speaker New Gingrich have both branded Sotomayor a racist, and Limbaugh said choosing her for the high court would be like nominating former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke.
Leahy called the criticism “among the most vicious attacks that have been received by anybody” and said given the tone, it would be irresponsible to wait until September for hearings that will give her a chance to respond.
Democrats hope to begin the sessions next month, which would meet Obama’s goal of having her confirmed before the Senate departs in early August for a monthlong vacation.
But Reid said while Democrats want to hold hearings “as quickly as we can,” they would not seek to impose “arbitrary deadlines.”
Democrats hold 59 votes in the Senate — more than enough to win Sotomayor’s confirmation — but short of the 60 it would take to advance the nomination should Republicans try to block it. Leading Republicans including Sessions have said they don’t see doing so, but they are facing calls from conservative leaders to try to prolong the process by engaging in a long debate on the Senate floor.
While GOP senators have steered clear of tough language, they have in their own way questioned whether Sotomayor would bring a personal agenda to the bench.
“We need to hold our fire until we examine all of these opinions and writings,” said Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona, the No. 2 Republican. “The one clear thing that is becoming an issue … is the question of the basis for making decisions.”
Leahy told reporters he asked the judge whether he could repeat publicly what she told him privately during their meeting about how her personal experiences would shape her rulings.
Leahy quoted Sotomayor as saying, “There’s not one law for one race or another. There’s not one law for one color or another. There’s not one law for rich, a different one for poor. There’s only one law.”
The White House, choreographing Sotomayor’s interactions with the Senate, called the first meetings productive.
“We believe that she will get a fair shake and a fair set of hearings,” presidential spokesman Robert Gibbs said.
At the same time, he kept up pressure on Republicans to allow a confirmation vote before the Senate’s August recess.
The White House says it wants Sotomayor seated by September so that she can take part in discussions about which cases the high court will hear when the new term begins in October. There is a political component, too. Should her confirmation drag on through the traditionally slow news month of August, it could give opponents more time to try to derail it.
Associated Press Writers Ann Sanner, Laurie Kellman and Ben Feller contributed to this report.
BEDFORD, Va. – On the eve of the 65th anniversary of D-Day, the foundation that runs the National D-Day Memorial is on the brink of financial ruin. Donations are down in the poor economy. The primary base of support — World War II veterans — is dying off. And the privately funded memorial is struggling to draw visitors because it’s hundreds of miles from a major city.
Facing the prospect of cutting staff and hours, the memorial’s president believes its only hope for long-term survival is to be taken over by the National Park Service or by a college or university.
So far, he’s found no takers.
“All institutions are in various states of privation of one kind or another,” foundation President William McIntosh said. “Everybody’s endowment has been slapped around pretty badly by the economy.”
But by contrast, the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, which opened as a D-Day museum in 2000, is thriving with an 8 million budget supported largely by 120,000 memberships.
The Bedford memorial opened eight years ago at a ceremony attended by President George W. Bush. It was built in Bedford because the community about 115 miles west of Richmond suffered among the nation’s highest per-capita losses on D-Day.
Several thousand visitors are expected at the memorial Saturday to mark the anniversary.
Members of Congress will be reminded of the memorial when they attend a special screening Tuesday night of a new documentary about Bedford’s role at Normandy titled “Bedford: The Town They Left Behind,” hosted by Sen. Mark Warner, a Democrat from Virginia.
The outdoor museum tells the story of the Normandy invasion in sculptures of soldiers and their leaders. Air jets shoot mini-geysers of water to mimic enemy gunfire as bronze figures of soldiers struggle for shore in a reflecting pool. Some 10,000 Allied troops were killed or wounded in the costly landing.
The memorial’s attention to detail evokes an emotional response for those who lived through D-Day, said James A. Huston, a World War II veteran and historian who will receive the French Legion of Honor on Friday in Paris.
“The whole idea is well done,” said Huston, retired dean of nearby Lynchburg College. “It tells the story.”
The privately owned foundation faced financial disaster soon after its 2001 opening, prompting a criminal investigation and Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Federal fraud charges eventually were dropped against the memorial’s former director, Richard B. Burrow, who led aggressive efforts to build the monument in time for many aging World War II veterans to see it. Soaring construction costs put the foundation some 7 million in debt, but McIntosh said donations erased the deficit by 2006.
Still, as McIntosh looks ahead, he sees a bleak future.
“It makes me sad for America that we can’t do a bit better than this,” he said.
Expenses run about 2.2 million yearly, only 600,000 of which comes from visitors.
Slightly more than half of visitors come from outside Virginia, McIntosh said, but the memorial cannot count on increases at the gate. It is 200 miles from the tourist crowds of Washington.
Salaries and benefits for 20-plus employees amount to nearly 1 million a year, according to Internal Revenue Service documents. McIntosh said the memorial relies on a crew of 220 volunteers for much of the work of putting on programs and maintaining about 20 landscaped acres.
McIntosh said layoffs and reduced hours will be necessary in a few weeks, but even those measures will not be enough to keep the gates open for long.
The foundation has just 300,000 available to pay operating expenses, he said, and an endowment of 400,000.
Democratic Rep. Tom Perriello of Virginia, whose district includes the memorial, plans to introduce legislation this week to transfer the site to the Park Service.
A Park Service spokesman said new parks are created primarily by Congress, which proposes them and then authorizes the Park Service to study whether they meet the criteria for a national park.
“It’s not a common everyday occurrence,” said Phil Sheridan, of the Park Service’s regional office in Philadelphia.
McIntosh thinks the Bedford memorial would be an ideal companion museum to the World War II Memorial in Washington, which is overseen by the Park Service.
The foundation president has courted other potential owners including Liberty University, the fundamentalist Christian school founded by the Rev. Jerry Falwell.
Liberty, about 25 miles away, is hosting a D-Day conference this week as part of the memorial’s anniversary celebration, but it declined to take any responsibility for the site.
McIntosh believes the memorial’s mission of telling the D-Day story would be better served if it could build an interpretive center. But that would take money the memorial does not expect to get, he said.
“I don’t think you do anybody any favors to keep making something bigger and better if you can’t see a way to feed it,” he said.
McIntosh, 65, would like to see the memorial’s future secure before his contract ends in a year.
“It is in a very good position to move to the next level, to open a new chapter on its story,” he said.
Hummer to be sold to Chinese firm
General Motors is to sell its Hummer brand to China’s Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery for an undisclosed amount.It is part of GM’s plan to reinvent itself by concentrating on fewer brands following Monday’s bankruptcy filing. GM says it hopes the deal will save about 3,000 jobs in the US. Hummer will remain based in the US. Tengzhong specialises in making equipment for the road, construction and energy industries. It is based in China’s Sichuan province. Hummers were originally built as military off-road vehicles by a company called AM General. GM bought the Hummer brand in 1999. Its sales have suffered as the gas-guzzling performance and military image have become less popular. When it began the sale process a year ago, GM had hoped to make more than 500m (302m), but analysts say that it is likely to have made about 100m from the sale.
BAGHDAD, IraqA court found an Iraqi man guilty of kidnapping and killing a humanitarian worker in 2004 and sentenced him to life in prison Tuesday, Iraqi court officials said.
Margaret Hassan spent nearly half her life helping Iraqis before she was kidnapped in October 2004.
Ali Lutfi Jassar al-Rawi was found guilty at Baghdad Central Criminal Court for the killing of Margaret Hassan, who headed operations in Iraq for Care International. The suspect, arrested in May 2008, was also found guilty of attempting to blackmail Hassan’s family. Al-Rawi is the second person found guilty in connection with the case. The other was sentenced to life in prison in 2006, but the sentence was reduced on appeal, court officials said. Hassan, who was in her 60s and held British and Iraqi citizenship, appeared in hostage videos where she pleaded for her life and urged British troops to withdraw from Iraq. The British Foreign Office issued a statement saying John Tucknott, the charge d’affaires in Baghdad, welcomed the news that the man had been “brought to justice by the Iraqi authorities for the role he played in the kidnap and murder of Margaret Hassan. Our thoughts are with Margaret Hassan’s family for the suffering they continue to endure. “We hope that this may be a step further to finding the other people responsible for this dreadful crime, and to finding Margaret’s body,” the office said. “We will continue to work with the Iraqi authorities as they continue their investigation, and press them to follow up all possible aspects. We urge anyone with information on this crime to please come forward.” A Care spokeswoman had no comment on the development. Videotapes had surfaced purportedly showing Hassan’s killing. Arabic language network Al-Jazeera reported that it had “obtained a video showing a masked militant shooting a blindfolded woman, who was referred to as Margaret Hassan, in the head using a handgun. Al-Jazeera decided to wait on reporting the news until it confirmed the authenticity of the tape.” Al-Jazeera did not show the video. Then-British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said, “Our experts have been examining a video which appeared to show that Margaret Hassan has been murdered, to establish whether it is genuine. “As a result of our analysis, we have today had to inform Margaret Hassan’s family that, sadly, we now believe that she has probably been murdered, although we cannot conclude this with complete certainty.” Hassan was born in Ireland and had lived in Iraq for 30 years. A highly respected humanitarian official in the Middle East, she was kidnapped on the street shortly after she arrived at her office. Her abductors never explained why she was targeted. Shortly after her 2004 abduction, patients at a Baghdad hospital took to the streets to protest the kidnapping. They credited her with helping rebuild the medical facility last year.
Brazilian star Kaka has agreed to join Real Madrid from Italy’s AC Milan in a 92 million deal, the Spanish radio station Cadena Ser reported on Tuesday.
Former World Player of the Year Kaka has agreed to join Real Madrid in a 92m move according to reports in Spain.
Cadena Ser claimed that Real president Florentino Perez had thrashed out a deal with AC Milan vice-president Adriano Galliani and Bosco Leite, Kaka’s father and agent. Kaka is currently in Brazil with the national team ahead of a World Cup qualifier against Uruguay and earlier in the day had appeared to rule out a move from Italy’s Serie A. “I’ll say it for the last time. The last time. I don’t want to leave Milan,” he told Gazzetta dello Sport. “In this period I prefer to remain silent because I don’t want to be misunderstood. Or, worse still, to be used. “To the millions of Milan supporters, I say that I have made my choice. I have said what I want to stay. Leave me in peace, please.” However, AC Milan owner Silvio Berlusconi also hinted at Kaka’s departure just before Cadena Ser’s claim.
Pellegrini unveiled as Real boss
“I do not know if we can keep Kaka at Milan because they (Real) have offered him so much money,” Berlusconi was quoted as saying by Italian press agency Ansa. Spanish reports said Kaka will sign for five years with a salary worth nearly 13 million a year. Former team-mate Paolo Maldini, who retired at the end of the season, admitted he still had doubts about Kaka’s future at the San Siro. “I don’t know if he’ll still stay at Milan,” Maldini told Gazzetta dello Sport. “Ancelotti might have been cryptic about his future but Kaka has been even more so.” Last January, Kaka rejected a move to Premier League Manchester City who were prepared to pay the 2007 world player of the year 750,000 per week. Kaka’s coach at Milan Carlo Ancelotti was on Monday appointed manager at Premier League Chelsea who have also been linked with a bid for the Brazilian.
PARIS/LONDON (Reuters) –
The first sighting off Brazil's coast of possible wreckage from a missing Air France jet signals the start of what could be one of the most challenging operations ever mounted to retrieve the tell-tale “black box.”
The box, which is in fact two separate devices containing cockpit voice recordings and instrument data, offers the best chance of finding out why the Airbus jetliner vanished in an Atlantic storm en route to Paris with 228 people on board.
The devices are designed to send homing signals when they hit water, but merely locating them presents one of the most daunting recovery tasks since the exploration of the Titanic and barring good fortune, could take months, experts said.
If they are in waters as deep as some people fear, 4,000 meters (13,100 ft) or more, unmanned submersibles would be tested to their limits. Yet past disasters have led to advances in equipment which do give hope for finding out what happened.
“There is a good chance that the recorder would survive but the main problem would be finding it,” said Derek Clarke, joint managing director of Aberdeen-based Divex, which designs and builds military and commercial diving equipment.
“If you think how long it took to find the Titanic and that the debris would be smaller, you are looking for a needle in haystack. You are very quickly looking at a large area to survey and could spend months running sonars down to a deep depth.”
Black boxes have an underwater beacon called a pinger which is activated when the recorder is immersed in water. The beacon can transmit from depths down to 14,000 feet, according to the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board.
Clarke spends time preparing for the unthinkable as part of an industry network on stand-by to help rescue submarines.
But the depths in this stretch of ocean far exceed the 600 meter maximum at which any navy could attempt a useful submarine rescue, a senior diving expert at Britain's Royal Navy said.
Brazil said on Tuesday its military planes had spotted wreckage 400 miles off its northern coast. [nN02494080]
Speaking beforehand, based on reports of the plane's probable location, Neil Wells, senior lecturer in oceanography and meteorology at Britain's National Oceanography Center, said the black box could be more than 4,000 metres below the surface.
“There is no doubt about it; you will be pushing the limits of the technology. It is not a straightforward operation.”
The oil industry has significant unmanned deep-sea capability but only operates down to 3,000 metres, Clarke said.
Such depths are well below the reach of manned craft.
A handful of deep-sea prowlers such as the U.S. Navy's Alvin, which surveyed the wreck of the Titanic at 4,000 metres below the Atlantic in 1986, could be equipped for such depths.
A U.S. Navy report based on similar disasters, released under the Freedom of Information Act late last year, found it was possible to recover aircraft wreckage including the black boxes from depths of up to 6,000 metres.
It cited advances since the 1980s in technology such as sonar for combing rugged sea floors, new software and acoustic beacons or “pingers” which indicate a position under water.
Both recorders were recovered from the crash of Air India Flight 182, which was blown up off the Irish coast in 1985.
They were recovered from some 2,000 metres in a search which lasted more than two weeks.
Two years later, South African Airways Flight 295 crashed into the Indian Ocean near Mauritius, triggering the deepest hunt for an airliner yet undertaken, with investigators recovering the cockpit voice recorder after a three-month search from a record depth of more than 4,200 metres.
Whatever the challenges, industry experts say the stakes are too high to give up on the search. “Not knowing would be totally unacceptable to Airbus and to aviation in general,” said David Learmount, safety and operations editor of British-based aerospace magazine Flight International.
(Additional reporting by Jonathan Saul, Helen Massy-Beresford, editing by Janet McBride)
ST. PAUL, Minn. – Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty erased one doubt about his political future while blowing open another, passing Tuesday on a third-term bid while declining to say if he’ll set his sights on the White House. Pawlenty dismissed talk of a 2012 Republican presidential campaign as premature, saying he would focus on the next 19 months to finish his term strong.
But he said he wouldn’t hesitate to travel the country on behalf of a party he thinks needs refreshing. He’ll be in Washington on Friday to address the College Republicans.
“I’m going to try to lend voice to the need to raise issues and ideas for my party here and elsewhere if I’m asked,” Pawlenty said, “because I think we need new ideas and faces in the party. That’s a collateral activity — something I will do as a volunteer.”
Pawlenty has spoken in the past of the GOP’s need to remake itself to attract “Sam’s Club Republicans.”
While Minnesota doesn’t have term limits, Pawlenty said he’d impose them on himself. “Time marches on, and now it’s time to give someone else a chance.”
At a news conference flanked by his wife, two daughters and the lieutenant governor, Pawlenty shot down suggestions that he was nervous about losing a governor’s race or facing fallout from deep budget cuts he’ll soon make.
He repeatedly brushed aside questions about life beyond the governor’s mansion, saying he had no plans beyond his current term.
A conservative with blue-collar roots, Pawlenty, 48, has been considered a likely White House candidate for months.
He gave his political profile a boost in 2008 when he endorsed John McCain early, then campaigned for the nominee around the country. He was seen as one of two or three finalists to be McCain’s running mate until McCain upended the campaign by choosing Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
His announcement comes as he’s in the middle of a prolonged dispute over one of the state’s U.S. Senate seats months after the election. The governor hasn’t issued an election certificate because Republican Norm Coleman, whose term expired in January, is still contesting the results that tipped the race to Democrat Al Franken by a few hundred votes.
Pawlenty said he’ll follow the state Supreme Court’s direction on the certificate and won’t “hold it up or delay it in any fashion.”
Pawlenty’s success as a right-leaning Republican elected twice in left-leaning Minnesota marked him in national GOP circles as a young politician to watch. Despite his two victories, Pawlenty never exceeded 46 percent of the vote. Third-party candidates factored into both elections.
If running for president is his goal, there are numerous advantages to vacating the governor’s mansion. A 2010 gubernatorial campaign would be costly and potentially difficult. He also will be free to travel to political events and, more important, to key nominating states such as Iowa and New Hampshire.
The GOP field could be crowded with former and current governors. Among the potential candidates are Palin, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.
“The Republicans are looking for leaders and his experience as governor gives him an entree,” said Merle Black, a professor of politics at Emory University in Atlanta. “One of the things that he would be trying to do is increase his name recogition and visibility throughout the country because outside of Minnesota he isn’t known at all.”
Pawlenty has taken a conservative’s stance on taxes, most recently holding firm against attempts by legislative Democrats to increase some taxes to fill in a massive state budget deficit. Failing to reach a compromise with Democrats, Pawlenty instead invoked executive powers that allow him to trim state spending without legislative consent.
Pawlenty strayed from his tax orthodoxy just once, when in 2005 he proposed and helped pass a 75-cent-a-pack “health impact fee” on cigarettes that critics said was just a creatively named tax.
The governor has followed traditionally conservative stances on most social issues, favoring freer access to guns and opposing abortion and legal partnership rights for gay couples. But he’s broken from party orthodoxy on a few issues, speaking out in favor of importing prescription drugs from Canada and promoting pro-environmental business initiatives.
The lawyer and native of South St. Paul served on the Eagan City Council before his election to the state House where he became majority leader. Pawlenty first ran for governor in 2002, and managed to win against a veteran Democratic legislator and a prominent former congressman running for a third party.
He was re-elected in 2006 in another three-way race; despite his two victories, Pawlenty has never exceeded 46 percent of the vote.
Associated Press writers Henry C. Jackson and Liz Sidoti contributed to this report from Washington; Patrick Condon from Minneapolis; and Beth Fouhy from New York.
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – A Yemeni detainee at Guantanamo Bay has died of an “apparent suicide,” U.S. military officials announced Tuesday.
The Joint Task Force that runs the U.S. prison in Cuba said guards found 31-year-old Muhammad Ahmad Abdallah Salih unresponsive and not breathing in his cell Monday night.
In a statement issued from Miami, the U.S. military said the detainee was pronounced dead by a doctor after “extensive lifesaving measures had been exhausted.”
The Yemeni prisoner, known as Al-Hanashi, has been held without charge at Guantanamo since February 2002. Military records show he was about 31. His is the fourth apparent suicide at Guantanamo.
The U.S. military says the remains will be autopsied by a pathologist from the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology.
The prisoner appears to have joined the long-running hunger strike at Guantanamo, according to medical records previously released by the military in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by The Associated Press.
His weight was down to about 86 pounds (39 kilograms) in December 2005. He weighed 124 pounds (56 kilograms) when he was first taken to Guantanamo in February 2002.
A prison spokesman, Navy Lt. Cmdr. Brook DeWalt, confirmed the incident but declined to discuss further details on how the Yemeni man committed suicide and whether any family members have been contacted.
DeWalt declined to say whether procedures have changed at the prison as a result of the apparent suicide.
Here’s the running tally so far in the seemingly endless battle between Democratic challenger Al Franken and Republican incumbent Norm Coleman over Minnesota’s still unfilled U.S. Senate seat: nearly 3 million votes cast, one recount, two court appeals, seven months, 10 judges, 142 witnesses, 13 million in legal fees and 19,181 pages of filings stacked in binders reaching over 21 feet. But in reality, for all parties concerned, the prospect of cementing or blocking a 60-vote majority for the Democrats in the Senate appears to be priceless.
That much was clear on Monday, as the Minnesota Supreme Court heard an hour of oral arguments on Coleman’s second appeal of a statewide recount that took away his initial lead of 215 votes and handed the advantage to Franken. The January recount had given Franken a 225-vote lead, and a three-judge panel expanded that lead to 312 votes in March, deciding Coleman’s first appeal in Franken’s favor. No one knows when the state’s supreme court will issue its decision on Coleman’s second appeal, but legal experts say it should be fairly soon after Monday’s arguments, which came nearly three weeks after the supporting briefs were filed. (See the top 10 actors turned politicians.)
The balance of power in Washington hangs on the decision – or so both national parties would like people to believe. Since Senator Arlen Specter switched sides in April, Democrats have controlled 59 seats in the Senate. One more would give them a theoretically filibuster-proof majority – a possibility that has helped both sides raise money in recent weeks. “The stakes have never been this high,” Coleman wrote in his last fundraising plea. “Our ability to overturn this flawed recount process – and preserve checks and balances against the near total control of our government by Obama and the Democrats – rests in your hands.” Likewise, the liberal group MoveOn.org in April started a “Dollar a Day to Make Norm Go Away” fund. “We’re just one Senator short of 60 – enough votes to keep Republicans from blocking President Obama’s progressive agenda,” the group’s letter said.
With the stakes apparently that high, there is no guarantee that the next state supreme court ruling will end the saga. A unanimous decision in Franken’s favor, especially one with instructions to Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty to certify the results so that Franken could take his seat on Capitol Hill, would be very hard for Coleman to overcome. Pawlenty has said that under such an order, he would have little choice but to sign the certification, but Coleman has made no promise that he wouldn’t try to appeal to the highest court in the land. “The only caveat would be if the U.S. Supreme Court ordered cert and issued a stay in a certificate, which I find highly implausible – it would enrage the Senate and appear blatantly political,” says Norm Ornstein, a scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. Everything about the Franken-Coleman battle, of course, is blatantly political, but under this scenario, the U.S. Supreme Court would have to overcome its preference for staying out of state disputes and take up the case in its current session – a rare but not unheard of move (see Bush v. Gore, 2000).
A ruling in favor of Franken without a certification order would leave Coleman more room to either appeal to the Supreme Court’s October session or to start a new case in federal court – both processes that would take months to run their course. Some GOP Senators, including Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, have encouraged Coleman to push ahead no matter what the decision. But such a move, particularly in federal court, might also backfire, warns Don Kettl, dean of the University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy. “It’s unclear what case Coleman could make that he hasn’t already put forward, so it would risk looking like a quest for delay instead of a search for fairness,” Kettl says. “He has little to gain in a suit with few chances of success and little but criticism as a result.”
A decision in Coleman’s favor would send the case back to lower courts to reinterpret the standard for including absentee ballots. “The trial and appeal were based on the fact that different counties counted the ballots differently,” Ben Ginsberg, a lawyer for Coleman who also represented George W. Bush in the 2000 Florida recount, tells TIME. “Whether or not a voter’s vote counts shouldn’t depend on where they live.”
The judges’ tone on Monday seemed to favor Franken, as it was Coleman’s lawyers who endured much of the tough questioning. Interrupting another Coleman attorney, Joe Friedberg, just one minute into his remarks, Justice Christopher Dietzen (a Pawlenty appointee) said Friedberg’s argument that there were enough problems to make a difference in the outcome of the election had “no concrete evidence to back it up.” He added, “In my experience, I’ve never seen an offer of proof like this.”
Progressive groups are calling on Senate majority leader Harry Reid to seat Franken provisionally no matter the outcome of the Minnesota Supreme Court’s decision, a move that would likely provoke a GOP filibuster. Reid thus far has taken a wait-and-see approach, though his patience is wearing thin. “The time for do-overs is over,” says Jim Manley, a Reid senior adviser. “Now is the time – now more than ever – for Norm Coleman and Washington Republicans to stop once and for all their ongoing effort to block President Obama’s agenda.”
Virtually anything other than a decision in Coleman’s favor could make it more difficult to convince donors to continue bankrolling his increasingly slim chances. The National Republican Senatorial Committee last month gave Coleman 750,000, but in this tight economy, any money it gives to Coleman takes away from defending seats opening up by retirements in tough states like Ohio, Florida, Missouri and New Hampshire. And after all, continuing to pour money into a losing candidate – even if it gains you a few more months of minority power in the Senate – isn’t exactly priceless.
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View this article on Time.comRelated articles on Time.com: Coleman and Franken Still Battle, as Minnesota Awaits a Senator Two-Thirds Want Coleman to Concede Franken Responds to Coleman Appeal Coleman Readies His Appeal as Franken Hires Minnesota’s Top Court Enters the Fray
CAIRO – Al-Qaida’s deputy leader on Tuesday criticized President Barack Obama’s upcoming speech to the Islamic world in Cairo, saying it will not change the “bloody messages” the U.S. military is sending Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan. Al-Qaida has repeatedly lashed out at Obama since he was elected, a move some analysts believe indicates the terrorist organization is worried he will be effective in improving the U.S. image in the Muslim world.
Obama has pitched his speech at Cairo University on Thursday as a key part of that process.
“His bloody messages were received and are still being received by Muslims, and they will not be concealed by public relations campaigns or by farcical visits or elegant words,” said Ayman al-Zawahri, al-Qaida’s No. 2, in a new audio message posted on militant Web sites.
Al-Zawahri said the Egyptian officials who will welcome Obama are U.S. “slaves” and have turned the country into an “international station of torture in America’s war on Islam.” He was likely referring to suspected Islamic militants who have been captured by the U.S. and sent to Egypt for interrogation, a process known as rendition.
Al-Zawahri urged Egyptians to reject Obama when he makes his speech, calling him “that criminal who came seeking, with deception, to obtain what he failed to achieve in the field after the mujahideen ruined the project of the crusader America in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Somalia.”
He said Obama’s decision to come to Cairo showed the U.S. had not given up its alliances with dictatorial and corrupt Mideast governments.
“It is a clear message that America does not stand with reform and change and other lying American propaganda, but it stands with the continuation of the existing tyrannical, rotten regimes,” said al-Zawahri.
The authenticity of the almost 12-minute audio message titled “The Torturers of Egypt and the Agents of America Welcome Obama” could not be confirmed. But it was posted on militant Web sites that have been used by al-Qaida in the past and carried the logo of As-Sahab, the terrorist organization’s media wing.
Al-Zawahri criticized Obama’s trip to Israel before he was elected president and his visit to the Western Wall — Judaism’s holiest site, also known as the Wailing Wall — where he wore a yarmulke.
“The White House said that Obama will send a message from Egypt to the Islamic world, but they forgot that his messages have already been received by the Islamic world when he visited the Wailing Wall, put on his head the Jew’s cap and prayed their prayers, though he claims to be Christian,” said al-Zawahri.
The audio message was accompanied by a picture of al-Zawahri wearing a white robe and white turban. It also included videos of Obama visiting the Western Wall in Jerusalem and speaking at AIPAC, a pro-Israel lobbying organization in the United States.
Shortly after Obama was elected last November, al-Zawahri issued a Web message in which he slurred Obama with a demeaning racial term for a black American who does the bidding of whites, calling him and former secretaries of state Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice “house Negroes.”
Los Angeles (E! Online) –
Robert Pattinson just may be the best thing that happened to awards shows since Billy Crystal.
With Pattinson and his Twilight mates heaped with buckets of ceremonial popcorn at Sunday's MTV Movie Awards, the show, which also featured the debut of teaser trailer for the vampire gang's upcoming New Moon, scored a whopping 76 percent more viewers than last year.
Its average audience of 5.3 million was the show's biggest since 2004.
This is the second awards show this year in which a little bit of Pattinson has helped produce a whole lot of ratings. February's Oscars, featuring Pattinson on presenting duty, saw its numbers zoom among teens and kids.
Sacha Baron Cohen's Brüno's fall into Eminem's lap, meanwhile, would like to think it aided the MTV Movie Awards' cause, too. According to MTV, the incident was its site's most-watched award clip at one point today—drawing even more traffic than the New Moon trailer.
If such a thing is possible.
··· THEY SAID WHAT? Get today's most commented stories now at www.eonline.com
WASHINGTON (Reuters) –
President Barack Obama will try to repair U.S. ties to the Islamic world this week in a speech from the Middle East that aides say will reach out to Muslims but deal with tough issues like the peace process and violent extremism.
Obama, who departs for the region on Tuesday, will use his address to try to repair some of the damage to America's image caused by the Iraq war, U.S. treatment of military detainees and the lack of progress in Mideast peace talks.
“This is about resetting our relations with the Muslim world,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters before Obama's departure. “We don't expect that everything will change after one speech. It will take a sustained effort.”
Asked on Monday if the continuing U.S. conflict in Afghanistan would undermine his effort to engage the Islamic world, Obama said the United States had no territorial ambitions in Afghanistan and only wanted to prevent al Qaeda from launching another September 11-style attack.
“What we want is simply that people aren't hanging out in Afghanistan who are plotting to bomb the United States,” Obama told National Public Radio. “That's a fairly modest goal that other Muslim countries should be able to understand.”
The success of the U.S. leader's diplomatic initiatives in the region — like advancing the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and halting Iran's nuclear program — may depend on how well Obama, whose father was a Muslim and who lived in Indonesia as a boy, is able to improve U.S.-Islamic ties.
The first stop on the president's four-day visit to the Middle East and Europe is Saudi Arabia, where he will hold talks with King Abdullah on issues like the Mideast peace process, Iran's nuclear program and energy prices.
Washington and Riyadh differ over oil prices. Obama has spent heavily trying to lift the U.S. economy out of a major recession and has expressed concern about oil price spikes, which could hurt any recovery.
Saudi Arabia has been calling for stable prices, but at $75 to $80 a barrel, versus the current price of $68 a barrel, said David Ottaway, a Mideast scholar at the nonpartisan Wilson Center.
“On oil prices, there are, I think, significant and sharp differences in the two positions,” he said.
The Saudis would like to see greater pressure on Iran over its nuclear enrichment program, which the West fears is aimed at making atomic weapons but Tehran says is for nuclear power. The Saudis also are frustrated at the lack of progress toward a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
'FED UP WITH TALK'
“On the issue of peace talks … Saudis, like most Arabs, are fed up with talk and really want to see something concrete happen,” Ottaway said.
Obama travels on Thursday to Cairo, where he will fulfill a campaign promise to deliver a speech to the Islamic world from a major Muslim capital early in his presidency.
“The speech will outline his personal commitment to engagement, based upon mutual interests and mutual respect,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said. “He will discuss how the United States and Muslim communities around the world can bridge some of the differences that have divided them.”
While discussing ways to improve U.S.-Muslim relations, Obama also will discuss difficult issues like extremist violence and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, aides said.
“He doesn't hesitate to take on the tough issues in his speech,” said Deputy National Security Adviser Mark Lippert.
Aaron David Miller, a Wilson Center public policy analyst, said Obama's speech would be closely watched in the region to see whether it would break new ground on the Arab-Israeli conflict or would say anything about authoritarianism, human rights and good governance in the Muslim world.
“If he doesn't do either of those two things, this is going to be a dog bites man speech. It's not going to be a man bites dog speech, which is what … the Arab and Muslim world is expecting: something new, something different and something real,” he said.
After Cairo, the U.S. leader will travel to Europe for visits steeped in World War Two symbolism, visiting the Nazi Buchenwald concentration camp in Germany and the beaches of Normandy in France to mark the 65th anniversary of the D-Day invasion.
He will meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy during his European trip as part of his effort to improve transatlantic ties.
(Editing by Eric Walsh)
NEW BRIGHTON, Pa. – A western Pennsylvania husband and wife will enter a first-time offender program after both were charged with drunken driving in connection with the same car crash. Police charged 45-year-old Robert Kotoff Sr. and 42-year-old Tina Kotoff after their car hit a tree in Daugherty Township on April 5.
Police were told of the accident, and found the damaged car in a nearby mobile home park. Robert Kotoff claimed he was driving. But police say witnesses told them Tina Kotoff was driving when the car hit the tree, and that her husband only drove the car to the mobile home park afterward.
The Kotoffs agreed to enter the first-time offender program Monday. Both will lose their licenses for 60 days, but will have their records expunged if they complete the probation program.
Information from: Beaver County Times, http://www.timesonline.com/
Amman, Jordan; and Jerusalem –
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and senior members of his cabinet have pushed back hard against a renewed US demand to end settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territories. Interior Minister Eli Yishai said Sunday that it amounted to “expulsion.”
But 53 Israeli parliamentarians have moved to explore another kind of expulsion: Under a proposal to be reviewed this week, Jordan would become the official homeland for Palestinians now living in the West Bank.
Among the challenges facing the proposal is this: nobody asked Jordan if it would support such a plan.
Not surprisingly, it doesn't.
Nearly half of the Knesset's 120 members moved last Wednesday to pass the “two states for two peoples on the two banks of the River Jordan” proposal on to the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee for further discussion.
Israeli officials say the Knesset's vote does not represent the government's position and is unlikely to become official policy, while analysts dismiss it as a bid from the far right to undermine Mr. Netanyahu. But for many in Jordan, the bill personifies concerns about Israel's new, conservative government and its lack of commitment to the peace process.
“It has done big damage,” says Mamdouh Abbadi, a member of the Jordanian parliament who has been among the most vocal in calling for government action against the proposal. “Even if it's not passed, when 53 members of the parliament [Knesset] accept this law in the first reading, this is very important. We can't think it's just for show; it's the real thinking of the Israeli parliament and they represent the people.”
Last week, Jordan's foreign minister summoned the Israeli ambassador to deliver an official letter rejecting the idea and calling for the Israelis to stop the bill last week. In parliament, a group of at least 36 lawmakers are working to encourage their government to take strong action against Israel.
Right-wing idea, but some support from leftThe proposal, put on the Knesset's agenda by Aryeh Eldad of the National Union party, holds that Palestinians in the West Bank should either become residents of Israel or be offered Jordanian citizenship, since – in the view of its authors – it is already the de facto Palestinian state. Already, more than half of Jordanians are of Palestinian origin, many the descendants of refugees who fled or were expelled when Israel declared independence in 1948.
The idea of Jordan as a Palestinian homeland has existed for years in Israel, but has never gained much support. This most recent bill, however, found a handful of supporters among Israel's liberal Labor Party.
Officials in Israel's foreign ministry tried to minimize the importance of the bill by pointing out that it was not supported by members of the ruling coalition. The National Union party holds only four seats in the 120-seat Knesset.
“This proposal doesn't represent the government,” says Andy David, a spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry. “In a parliamentary system, there are many suggestions that turn into policy, and some of them don't. If it turns into policy, we'll discuss it then.”
Main damage: peace processNawaf Tell, director of the Center for Strategic Studies at the University of Jordan, doubts that the bill will go much further. But he says it may damage the peace process that Jordan's King Abdullah II and other Arab leaders have been working to restart.
“What one wants from Israel today is basically to prove its peace credentials, especially given the current composition of Knesset and the trends that are becoming evident in Israeli public opinion,” says Mr. Tell. “What these groups are doing … is to maintain the status quo and to prevent the peace process from relaunching and achieving its desired results.”
He adds that newly elected Netanyahu brings the baggage of his last term in the late 1990s, in which he alienated many Jordanians with his hard-line polices.
Khalil Atiyah, a member of Jordan's parliament, is among those unable to fully trust the new Israeli government. Aside from questioning Netanyahu's commitment to peace, he says that Israel's foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, is “against all types of coexistence and peace process.” So although he recognizes that it's unlikely Israel's bill about Jordan will come to fruition, he says that is not outside of the realm of possibility.
“It's not a remote idea that the Knesset might take foolish steps towards the peace process,” he says.
Bid to undermine Netanyahu?Most Israelis are quite dismissive of the proposal, however. Prof. Shmuel Sandler, a Bar-Ilan University professor who specializes in Israeli politics and the settlement movement, says the bill was more of a symbolic move meant to frustrate Netanyahu and outflank him on the right. Professor Sandler notes that the National Union didn't even make it into Netanyahu's government because the rightist prime minister chose to put the traditionally left-wing Labor party in his coalition over far-right parties that would rule out options for peacemaking.
“As for how serious this is, I don't think the Jordanians have to worry about it. Most Israelis in the establishment see Jordan as an important ally,” he says. “The National Union doesn't carry much weight. But it can cause trouble to Netanyahu by making his effort to evacuate settlements more and more difficult.”
DETROIT (Reuters) –
General Motors Corp said it reached a tentative deal to sell its Hummer brand, part of an effort to drop four unprofitable vehicle lines and leave bankruptcy as a leaner company.
GM, a day after filing for bankruptcy, said in a statement on Tuesday that it was not disclosing the identity of the buyer or the value of the deal under the terms of the agreement.
The deal, which is subject to regulatory review, is expected to close in the third quarter.
The New York Times reported that the buyer was Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery Co Ltd, a manufacturing company in western China with ambitions of becoming an automaker.
Such a deal, if confirmed, would mark the first time that a Chinese buyer had acquired an automotive brand from one of the struggling U.S. automakers.
Chinese parts suppliers and automakers have shopped for U.S. automotive assets, including those at also-bankrupt Chrysler LLC, but no deals have been completed despite the enormous pressure on U.S. automakers in recent years to cut costs and raise cash.
GM Chief Financial Officer Ray Young said the buyer found for Hummer after a year-long sale process preferred to remain anonymous for now.
“It was their preference, and we respected that preference,” Young said on a conference call for analysts. GM would reveal the name of the buyer following a definitive agreement, he said.
The Hummer buyer would contract to build the H3 model SUV and the H3T pickup truck at GM's plant in Shreveport, Louisiana, through at least 2010.
In addition, GM said the investor would fund future vehicles for Hummer and invest in alternatives to the heavy gas-guzzling engines that are the hallmark of the brand.
A Chinese buyer for Hummer could face additional scrutiny from politicians or GM's major union if it involved taking over U.S. factories as well, analysts have said.
United Auto Workers President Ron Gettelfinger has previously said he would not have supported a Chinese buyer for Chrysler, which is to be taken over by Italy's Fiat SpA as its best assets are sold out of bankruptcy.
In Shreveport, where 800 workers work on a single-shift building Hummer H3 and H3T models, there was relief that a new buyer would keep the line running for at least a while longer.
“As of today, no one has informed us of who the buyer is,” said Morgan Johnson, president of UAW Local 2166, which represents workers at the GM plant.
“We're just excited that Hummer may live on,” he said.
GM had expected Hummer to fetch more than $500 million when it went up for sale in June 2008.
The automaker said in a court filing on Monday that the sale could not proceed on “reasonable terms” due to tight credit and concerns about GM's financial condition.
Bankers have said Hummer could fetch about $100 million in cash in addition to other commitments. In April, people with knowledge of the sale process, said there were three remaining bidders, none of them established automakers.
Part of the problem has been that the military-derived Hummer has become an emblem of excess, turning consumer tastes against the brand's macho styling and prices that can top $71,000.
U.S. sales were off by more than two-thirds during the first four months of the year.
First seen as multipurpose, off-road military vehicles, Hummers were originally built by AM General. Its first model was the Humvee, built for the military. GM bought the Hummer brand from AM General in 1999.
Citicorp has been financial adviser to GM for the Hummer sale process.
After losing $88 billion since 2005, GM is in the process of cutting debt, workers and brands in bankruptcy.
It is seeking to sell its Saab and Saturn brands by the end of 2009 and plans to discontinue Pontiac by the end of 2010.
That would leave a smaller GM to be rebuilt around the Chevrolet, Cadillac, GMC and Buick brands. Together those account for more than 80 percent of current sales.
(Additional reporting by Jui Chakravorty Das and Chris Kaufman; Editing by Gerald E. McCormick and Patrick Fitzgibbons)
Editor’s note: Fawaz A. Gerges holds the Christian A. Johnson Chair in Middle Eastern Studies and International Affairs at Sarah Lawrence College. His most recent book is “Journey of the Jihadist: Inside Muslim Militancy.”
Fawaz A. Gerges says President Obama must appeal to thosefacing economic hardship and political oppression.
In his speech Thursday to the Muslim world from Egypt, President Obama must seize the moment to stress that the U.S. is not at war with Islam, to appeal to millions of young men and women burdened by economic hardship and political oppression, and to help broker an Arab-Israeli peace settlement. To be effective, the president must simultaneously address not only thorny regional conflicts but also the fears, hopes and aspirations of young Muslims for a better life. The challenge facing Obama is to strike a balance between foreign policy concerns and bread-and-butter issues and to convince the youth, by far the largest constituency, that America feels their pain, supports their participation and inclusion in political and social life, and opposes the violation of their human rights, period. It is a tall order that requires active presidential engagement and considerable investment of political capital. Obama could not have chosen a more appropriate venue than Egypt, a pivotal country, to deliver his message to the Muslim world. As the Arab world’s most populous nation (about 80 million people) and its cultural capital, Egypt is a microcosm and driver of Arab politics. iReport.com: Share your thoughts on American-Muslim relations In the past century, Egypt has defined the dominant political systems and ideologies in the Arab arena, including constitutionalism, militarism, secular nationalism and Islamism.
Poll: Few in U.S. have favorable view of Muslims
Commentary: Does Obama want Netanyahu out?
TIME.com: Can Obama meet Arab world’s expectations?
In Depth: Commentary
Today Egypt’s political authoritarianism is the norm, not the exception, in other Arab countries. Autocratic Arab rulers, including Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, now in his 28th year in power, have repressed legitimate political dissent and stifled personal initiative and innovation. Their prolonged repressive and failed policies have literally broken Arab societies and caused chronic poverty, pervasive corruption and the rise of extremism. According to the World Bank’s World Development Indicators, 43.9 percent of Egyptians live on less than 2 a day, a figure consistent with poverty conditions in other Arab countries, excluding the oil-rich producing Gulf sheikdoms. Young people under 30, who represent more than 60 percent of the Muslim population, suffer disproportionately and cannot find good jobs or afford marriage, with one in four young Egyptians sitting idle, the United Nations says. Educated youth suffer double-digit rates of unemployment, triggering discontent and despair, a recipe for social turmoil and instability. Exacerbating the dire economic situation, Mubarak and his Arab counterparts have allowed the rich to grow richer at the expense of the poor and to flaunt their wealth before the eyes of a population struggling to survive. According to the United Nations, the proportion of Egyptians living in absolute poverty increased in the first part of the decade, while the economy has been growing at up to 7 percent a year, filling the coffers of the small, wealthy elite. Growth has not trickled down to the poor majority pressed by high inflation, particularly a 50 percent increase in food prices in recent years. Religious-based opposition groups are the main beneficiary of failing pro-Western Muslim rulers such as Mubarak. In the early 1970s, economically Egypt was on the same level as South Korea. Today, it is far behindalmost half of the Egyptian population is either poor or on the brink of poverty. Repression and corruption are pervasive, and legitimate dissent is forbidden. It’s not a surprise that Egypt is home to the Muslim Brotherhood, the most powerfully organized Islamist network in Muslim countries, as well as militants who founded the jihadist movement. The brain of al Qaeda is Egyptian, not Pakistani, Saudi or Afghana fact that has received scant attention in the U.S.with Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man, and his lieutenants masterminding the terrorist group’s operations worldwide. Like other Muslims, 78 percent of Egyptians say they have an unfavorable view of the United States, an alarming finding given that Egypt is the second largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid (2 billion annually) after Israel. As Obama completes the draft of his historic address, he must tackle three key factors that fuel anti-American sentiment in Egypt and the Muslim world: a widespread belief that the U.S. blindly supports Israel at the expense of powerless Palestinians, that America wages a war against Islam and that it sustains autocratic Muslim rulers who oppress their citizens and deny them basic rights. Equally important, the president cannot afford to ignore the plight of millions of voiceless Muslims, particularly the youth, who feel marginalized and ghettoized with no stake in the existing order. He already has raised expectations of a change in U.S. policies to a feverish pitch. In the most recent survey in six Arab countries, 73 percent felt positive or neutral toward Obama, while as many had an unfavorable view of U.S. foreign policy. Many ordinary, poor Egyptians say that the story of the African-American president holds lessons for them: He succeeded in overcoming social and ethnic hurdles and reached his dream. With the right message, Obama will have a positive impact on the Middle East and relations between America and the region. Human rights and pro-democracy activists on both sides of the country’s nationalist-Islamist political divide have called on Obama to send a powerful message to Muslim opinion that he will genuinely promote the rule of law and human rights as a central plank of the U.S. agenda in the greater Middle East. While the government-controlled media have welcomed Obama’s speech in Egypt as an acknowledgment and recognition of Mubarak’s leadership, the nonreligious opposition fears that Obama’s embrace of Mubarak will bolster his regime and legitimize its further repression of dissidents. Obama’s decision to address the Muslim world from Cairo has raised the stakes. He must walk a fine line between offending his Egyptian host, Mubarak, and undermining the stability of his regime and downplaying human rights violations and subversion of the rule of law by Mubarak and his Arab counterparts. Despite what some of his “realist” advisers tell him, Obama must not shy away from stating the obvious: Political repression not only violates human dignity but is also a source of perpetual instability, economic and intellectual stagnation, and extremism as the case of the greater Middle East shows. Obama should say there are no inherent contradictions between an open society and national security, as some in the region wrongly believe. And he must say that the U.S. is ready to assist in gradually opening up closed Muslim political systems and making them more inclusive and transparent. To allay the fears of the ruling elite, Obama must stress that his administration will not experiment in shock tactics or social engineering; checks and balances will ensure a smooth and orderly and responsible political transition. For his message to strike a deep chord, Obama must pledge to invest in institution building, particularly the creation of a vibrant and effective economic base. Only then can he reach the hearts and minds of Muslims who otherwise will dismiss him as just another contributor to their collective grievance. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Fawaz A. Gerges.