NEW YORK – Following his cameo with Will Ferrell in the new movie “Land of the Lost,” NBC’s Matt Lauer had better get used to being part of a new catchphrase.
“For the past 10 years I have walked down the street to a chorus of `Where in the world is Matt Lauer?’” he said, “and I’m thoroughly convinced that starting June 5 that will change to `Matt Lauer can suck it.’”
Lauer’s role in the movie isn’t a stretch. He plays Matt Lauer, “Today” show host, interviewing Ferrell’s character, scientist Rick Marshall, who wrote a book about his theories on time travel.
It doesn’t go well. Marshall rips off his microphone and stomps off the set when Lauer asks for a response to physicist Stephen Hawking’s characterization of the theories as “nonsense.”
Lauer quickly moves on, turning to the camera and saying, “when we come back, trampolines — summer fun or silent killer?” Marshall storms back to attack him, and Lauer grabs a fire extinguisher to subdue him.
Marshall shouts the catchphrase, “Matt Lauer can suck it,” later in the movie when his theories have proven true.
Lauer was approached about the role about a year ago by his executive producer, Jim Bell, and “I just thought it sounded like a hoot,” he said.
It was filmed on the “Today” show set in New York, with much of the backstage staff he’s familiar with. Lauer said he generally followed the script, with a few tweaks to better reflect his voice.
“These people are really talented, these comic actors,” he said. “Their timing is just impeccable and I viewed my job as to just not screw up his timing.”
Purists might wonder whether a job as a movie actor is something a prominent journalist should avoid, something Lauer said never worried him. He doesn’t mind laughing at himself and having others laugh at him.
There’s hardly a clear dividing line: In the 1970s, Walter Cronkite appeared as himself in an episode of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” One of Lauer’s competitors, Julie Chen of “The Early Show” on CBS, is also host of the entertainment program “Big Brother.”
If someone believes a few minutes acting in a comedy means he’s no longer worthy of attention as a journalist, “I think that’s overreacting and overthinking,” he said.
In real life, Lauer’s never had any one storm off the stage on the air. One prominent female newsmaker bolted quickly without a word the instant a commercial break came on. (He won’t name her.) As for whether he’s been tempted to use a fire extinguisher on anyone, well, Lauer won’t go there.
Given that Lauer’s scenes are featured prominently in trailers for the movie that have been running for the past few months, it’s evident that producers enjoyed his work. The Associated Press movie critic Christy Lemire praised Lauer’s comic timing and said his scenes were the only funny ones in the film.
Maybe that was on Ferrell’s mind when he came on the “Today” show this week and jokingly reminded Meredith Vieira that he was the real star of the film. The movie studio that made “Land of the Lost” and TV company that makes “Today” are both owned by NBC Universal, making it a festival of synergy. (NBC Universal is a unit of General Electric Co.)
Lauer’s wondering about the first time a passer-by shouts “Matt Lauer can suck it” at him and whether his three children will hear it. The oldest child, who’s 7, is still too young to see the PG-13 movie.
Archive for June 4th, 2009
NEW YORK – Following his cameo with Will Ferrell in the new movie “Land of the Lost,” NBC’s Matt Lauer had better get used to being part of a new catchphrase.
MOSCOW (Reuters) –
A Russian far-right party posted an open letter to British talent show singer Susan Boyle late on Tuesday, heaping praise on the 48-year-old Scot and wishing her well after she was admitted to a clinic for exhaustion.
“Susan! You have already gained popularity and many admirers and fans,” leader of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR), Vladimir Zhirinovsky, said in an open letter on the party's website www.ldpr.ru.
Andrei Lugovoy, Britain's main suspect in the London murder of Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko, holds a seat in parliament for the ultra-nationalist party which has called on countries belonging to the former Soviet Union to rejoin.
In an effort to console Boyle, whose clips of her earlier appearance on the “Britain's Got Talent” TV contest were downloaded nearly 200 million times and who came second on the show, LDPR leader Zhirinovsky compared her near-win to that of his own.
“The people also love our party, but, just like you, we do not always get the deserved result at elections,” he said.
LDPR came third in the Russian presidential elections in March 2008, behind the Communist party and the winning United Russia party, which saw Dmitry Medvedev replace Vladimir Putin as president.
At the end of his letter to Boyle, who has become a global Internet sensation, Zhirinovsky wished her a speedy recovery: “Get better soon and know that many victories await you.”
Boyle was admitted to a London clinic suffering from anxiety and exhaustion on Monday after the former church volunteer was defeated in the final of the TV contest on Saturday.
Boyle's future has been seen as secure despite not winning. The talent show's creator Simon Cowell and his Syco music label were widely expected to sign her up for an album.
Starved of oxygen at birth which caused minor brain damage, Boyle has been pursued by the world's press since early April when she sang “I Dreamed a Dream” from “Les Miserables.” She broke down in tears repeatedly ahead of the final.
(Reporting by Amie Ferris-Rotman)
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – A Kentucky pastor is inviting his flock to bring guns to church to celebrate the Fourth of July and the Second Amendment.
New Bethel Church is welcoming “responsible handgun owners” to wear their firearms inside the church June 27, a Saturday. An ad says there will be a handgun raffle, patriotic music and information on gun safety.
“We’re just going to celebrate the upcoming theme of the birth of our nation,” said pastor Ken Pagano. “And we’re not ashamed to say that there was a strong belief in God and firearms — without that this country wouldn’t be here.”
The guns must be unloaded and private security will check visitors at the door, Pagano said.
He said recent church shootings, including the killing Sunday of a late-term abortion provider in Kansas, which he condemned, highlight the need to promote safe gun ownership. The New Bethel Church event was planned months before Dr. George Tiller was shot to death in a Wichita church.
Kentucky allows residents to openly carry guns in public with some restrictions. Gun owners carrying concealed weapons must have state-issued permits and can’t take them to schools, jails or bars, among other exceptions.
Pagano’s Protestant church, which attracts up to 150 people to Sunday services, is a member of the Assemblies of God. The former Marine and handgun instructor said he expected some backlash, but has heard only a “little bit” of criticism of the gun event.
John Phillips, an Arkansas pastor who was shot twice while leading a service at his former church in 1986, said a house of worship is no place for firearms.
“A church is designated as a safe haven, it’s a place of worship,” said Phillips, who was shot by a church member’s relative for an unknown reason and still has a bullet lodged in his spine. “It is unconscionable to me to think that a church would be a place that you would even want to bring a weapon.”
Phillips spoke out against a bill before the Arkansas General Assembly that would have permitted the carrying of guns in that state’s churches. The bill failed in February.
Pagano, 50, said some members of his church were concerned that President Obama’s administration could restrict gun ownership, and they supported the plan for the event when Pagano asked their opinion.
Marian McClure Taylor, executive director of the Kentucky Council of Churches, an umbrella organization for 11 Christian denominations in Kentucky, said Christian churches are promoters of peace, but “most allow for arms to be taken up under certain conditions.”
Taylor said Pagano assured her the event would focus on promoting responsible gun ownership and any proceeds would go to charity.
“Those two commitments are consistent with the high value the Assemblies of God churches place on human life,” she said in an e-mail message.
Pagano is encouraging church members to bring a canned good and a friend to the event. He said guns must be unloaded for insurance purposes and safety reasons.
He said the point was not to mix worship with guns, though he may reference some passages from the Bible.
“Firearms can be evil and they can be useful,” he said. “We’re just trying to promote responsible gun ownership and gun safety.”
How the Chinese reported Tiananmen
By Chris Hogg
BBC News, Shanghai
For most Chinese in 1989 the only source of information about the protests in and around Tiananmen Square and elsewhere in the country was the state-controlled media.Initially at least, the reporting appears to have been fairly open and straightforward. On 21 April the People’s Daily reported “almost 300 students gathered in front of Xinhua Gate (in Tiananmen Square) and attempted to attack Zhongnanhai (the leaders’ compound) throughout the night. “Some made aggressive speeches, some shouted anti-government slogans and some threw bricks and soda bottles at policemen who were maintaining order.” The paper went on to describe in more detail the events of the previous 24 hours. Open at first”There was a lot of openness at first, because the Chinese leadership wanted to show their openness, they wanted to show there was a dialogue with the students,” says Professor Joseph Cheng from Hong Kong’s City University.
“Domestically there were a lot of complaints about hyper-inflation, and accusations of corruption, so the country’s leaders didn’t think at the time the protests were a direct threat to them,” he said. The state broadcaster, China Central Television (CCTV), he says, gave brief and fairly neutral reports initially about what was happening in the square. But that all changed on 26 April 1989. That day the People’s Daily produced an editorial accusing the protesters of causing “turmoil”. From then on the tone of much of the coverage changed markedly. “After that the state-controlled media had a line defined for them by the authorities, that these protesters were people who were influenced by the West, challenging the government. “Once that line was established there was more coverage,” the professor says. On 16 May, for example, the paper reported the hunger strike by students and appeals by officials for the protesters to take “calm and reasonable actions”. “The hunger strike in Tiananmen Square,” the paper said, “is having a negative impact on our national image”. ‘Scoundrels’By June the tone had become more strident describing the protesters as “scoundrels”.
Newspapers are often in public parks, putting across the government’s view
On 5 June, the day after the crackdown, the paper published a letter to all members of the Chinese Communist Party and people of the country from the Central Committee of the CCP and State Council. It described the protests as “an appalling counter-revolutionary rebellion” involving “saboteurs” who “humiliated, beat and kidnapped PLA [People's Liberation Army] soldiers, officials and policeman” shouting “pick up weapons and overthrow the government”.
Ruan Yunfei, a freelance writer from Chengdu, was 24 in 1989. He remembers “inconsistent” coverage in the media – at first more “liberal” but then after the clampdown on 4 June quite different. “CCTV aired pictures of people burning military vehicles repeatedly,” he says. “My family lived in a remote place, we had no idea what was going on. I was angry and sad; our own army had fired at our own people.” Cui Wei Ping, a professor at the Beijing Film Academy, who was 33 in 1989 and living in the capital, also describes the early coverage as “liberal”. “It was very close to press freedom,” she says. But the journalists who had been very active in covering the protests were subject to directives from “higher authorities” and soon the events in the square were being referred to as a “counter-revolutionary riot” and “playing up the PLA casualties”, she says. Hong Kong sorrowIn Hong Kong, according to Professor Michael DeGolyer from Hong Kong Baptist University, newspapers were “pretty open about reporting events although Wen Wei Po and Ta Kung Po, two ‘mainland’ papers, maintained a pro-government stance”.
Hong Kong is the only place under Chinese rule to mourn 4 June 1989
Prof DeGolyer remembers the phone-in programmes on radio stations in Hong Kong full of “sorrow, anger and fear” for several days afterwards. The morning shows were extended into the afternoon between news updates with regular broadcasting suspended. The reality though was that throughout the protests, and after the clampdown, it was hard for people to get accurate information about what was going on. Even now many people in China do not know much about what happened. And persuading people to talk to you today about their memories of that time is not easy. The word people use most often to describe the subject is “taboo”. Even anonymously they do not want to be quoted in the foreign media. Ruan Yunfei says it is almost “a common understanding” among Chinese people that the subject should be avoided. “Even if you dare to talk about it,” he says, “people don’t dare listen to it.” Cui Wei Ping, the film professor in Beijing, says that feeling that the subject is taboo exposes the inconsistency of the official verdict on the events of 4 June. “In the beginning the PLA soldiers were regarded as heroes,” she says. “Now even the government doesn’t talk about how to commemorate the heroes. If it was a victory the government should celebrate it.”
NEW YORK – Traders are betting that an improving economy will reward banks and energy companies.
Stocks rose for the fifth time in six days Thursday after analysts raised their ratings on banks and oil prices rose again, making energy firms look increasingly attractive. Investors were also willing to take more chances on stocks after the government reported that the number of workers continuing to receive unemployment benefits unexpectedly fell for the first time in 20 weeks.
The drop in unemployment rolls, as well as in first-time claims for jobless benefits, gave investors another bit of hope that the economy is finding a more stable footing. The idea that the economy is halting its slide has driven a powerful rally that has lifted the Standard & Poor’s 500 index 39.8 percent in three months.
The data arrived a day ahead of the government’s monthly tally of job losses — often seen as the most important report on the economic calendar. The unemployment rate stood at a 25-year high of 8.9 percent in April and economists expect it will rise to 9.2 percent when the May report is issued Friday.
Investors are looking for any sign that unemployment is ebbing because that could help shore up consumer spending, retail sales and the housing market.
“Things seem to have stabilized and people are hunting for any sort of information they can get to determine the next move in the market and the economy,” said Jim Sinegal, equity analyst at Morningstar in Chicago.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 74.96, or 0.9 percent, to 8,750.24. The broader Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 10.70, or 1.2 percent, to 942.46, and the Nasdaq composite rose 24.10, or 1.3 percent, to 1,850.02.
The S&P and Nasdaq are at new highs for the year, and both are showing gains for 2009. The Dow is now down only 26 points for the year after having been in the red since early January.
Bond prices fell after the drop in jobless claims. Fewer worries about the economy made the safety of government debt less attractive. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which moves opposite its price, rose to 3.71 percent from 3.54 percent. The yield has been fluctuating recently as investors absorbed a mix of economic data.
The gains in financial and energy stocks offset mixed reports from retailers on their May sales.
Banks got a boost after RBC Capital Markets analysts said the worst of the financial crisis is over. The KBW Bank index, which tracks 24 of the nation’s largest banks, rose 4.8 percent.
KeyCorp. jumped 90 cents, or 19.6 percent, to 5.50 after an upgrade from RBC, while Goldman Sachs Group Inc. rose 7.32, or 5.2 percent, to 149.47 after a Bernstein Research analyst raised his rating.
The improved data on unemployment and a weak dollar helped push oil prices to fresh highs for the year. Oil and other commodities have been rallying on expectations that an improving economy will lift demand.
Light, sweet crude rose 2.83 to settle at 68.71 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange after climbing as high as 69.56, its highest level since November.
That helped energy companies. Anadarko Petroleum Corp. rose 1.52, or 3.2 percent, to 48.57, while Occidental Petroleum Corp. advanced 1.75, or 2.6 percent, to 68.62.
Retailers including Macy’s Inc. and Abercrombie & Fitch Co. lost ground as traders worried that shoppers were still reluctant to spend. A year ago, sales benefited from government stimulus checks. Macy’s fell 44 cents, or 3.3 percent, to 12.88, while Abercrombie slid 3.75, or 11.8 percent, to 27.95.
The market’s surge this spring since hitting 12-year lows on March 9 has been driven by better-than-expected data. But investors are now looking for clearer indications that the economy is improving.
“If we’re on the cusp of a recovery and a convincing recovery, then the stock market makes all the sense in the world,” said Michael Darda, an economist with MKM Partners in Greenwich, Conn. “If it turns out there is no recovery until next year, then the market could run into some trouble.”
On Wednesday, investors sold stocks following weaker-than-expected reports on factory orders and the services industry.
Scott Jacobson, chief investment strategist at Capstone Sales Advisors in New York, said investors should be careful about expecting that the gains will continue to come.
“It’s too late right now to dump all your money into the stock market given where it is,” he said.
Investors are likely to remain focused on concerns like unemployment and the dollar. The greenback has fallen steadily since early March as investors’ appetite for riskier assets increased. A falling dollar can trigger inflation, hurting consumers’ buying power.
In other trading, the Russell 2000 index of smaller companies rose 8.97, or 1.7 percent, to 531.68.
About three stocks rose for every one that fell on the New York Stock Exchange, where consolidated volume came to 5.1 billion shares compared with 5.2 billion traded Wednesday.
Last week, the 10-year yield surged to a six-month high of 3.75 percent on worries over mounting U.S. government debt loads. Investors are on edge because higher rates on mortgages and other loans could stall an economic recovery.
Overseas, Japan’s Nikkei stock average fell 0.8 percent. Germany’s DAX index rose 0.2 percent while Britain’s FTSE 100 and France’s CAC-40 each gained less than 0.1 percent.
Los Angeles (E! Online) –
The woman who attempted to choke out Terri Seymour last month appeared in court this morning to face a judge who, lucky for her, seems to have nothing on Simon Cowell.
Janice Thibodeaux pleaded guilty to one count of battery in Los Angeles Superior Court this morning. The additional count of misdemeanor assault she originally faced for the May 19 incident was dropped as part of her plea.
Thibodeaux was put on three years' probation, and ordered to complete an anger-management program, undergo a psychological evaluation and complete 36 hours of community service. She must return to the courthouse July 16 to provide the findings of her evaluation and must also show proof of enrollment in the anger-management class by that time.
The judge also ordered Thibodeaux to adhere to the terms of the restraining order the Extra correspondent obtained last month.
··· THEY SAID WHAT? Get today's most commented stories now at www.eonline.com
PARIS – A reservation mix-up, an overbooking and a Brazilian cabbie’s passion for soccer are all that separated some would-be passengers on Air France flight 447 from the fate of 228 others who lost their lives in the mid-Atlantic.
The survivors say their relief is overshadowed by the immense sense of loss they feel for those who didn’t make it.
“It feels miraculous and sad at the same time,” said Amina Benouargha-Jaffiol, who tried to get on the flight Sunday night, even enlisting a diplomat friend to try to pressure Air France to let her and her husband on.
“Of course, at some level we feel lucky, but we also feel an enormous sadness for all those who perished,” she said.
For some it was a simple matter of arriving at Rio’s airport late; for Andrej Aplinc, it was because he got there early.
The 39-year-old Slovenian sailor and father of two was spared because his cab driver was in a hurry to see a soccer match.
With time to spare at the airport, Aplinc, who was supposed to take Flight 447, learned there was no seat on the plane with enough legroom for him to stretch out his bum knee. But since he’d arrived early, he was able to board an earlier 4 p.m. Air France flight, which did have a roomy seat.
“It was such huge luck that I flew with that earlier plane,” Aplinc said from his home in Radelj Ob Dravi in northeastern Slovenia.
Gustavo Ciriaco was scheduled to be on that 4 p.m. flight. But he arrived late at the check-in and was told airline agents could not find his seat and the gate was about to close.
The 39-year-old Brazilian choreographer and dancer was on his way to Europe for two weeks of rehearsals for his next ballet, and had a connecting flight to catch in Paris.
Ciriaco pleaded to be let him on the plane, and finally the airline discovered the seating error and relented.
If the reservation mix-up hadn’t been resolved, “I would have tried to take the following flight because I would have arrived in Paris with enough time to catch my connection,” Ciriaco said.
The next flight? Air France 447.
“Survivors” like these often need psychological counseling, said Guillaume Denoix de Saint-Marc, whose father was among the 170 people killed in 1989 when Libyan terrorists downed UTA Flight 772 with a suitcase bomb. He now heads an association that helps victims of airline disasters.
“They can have big psychological problems. We meet a lot of people like that,” said Denoix de Saint-Marc, who was asked by French authorities to counsel relatives of the victims of Flight 447 at a crisis center at Paris’ airport.
In the case of UTA flight 772, some of the pilots and cabin crew who had flown the French DC-10 jetliner before handing it over to the doomed crew “couldn’t resume their careers,” Denoix de Saint-Marc said.
“They lost their flying licenses because of big psychological problems or alcoholism,” he said.
Such traumas have a name: “Survivors’ syndrome,” seen often in combat and other crisis situations in which those who make it feel as though they fled, deserted their buddies or were cowardly, said psychiatrist Ronan Orio.
But being saved by the ticket counter, traffic or other caprices of life should not be considered traumatic, said Orio, who has worked with victims of hostage situations, terror attacks and airline crashes.
Instead, near-miss situations should be viewed in a positive light, he said.
“People who take a plane and have a second chance win the lotto. They have the right to continue where the others died,” he said.
Benouargha-Jaffiol and her husband Claude Jaffiol got a second chance last Sunday.
The couple, who live in Montpellier, France, had pulled strings to try to get on Flight 447, even drafting a family friend, a Dutch diplomat, to phone Air France and try to get them seats on the overcrowded plane.
“My husband demanded that Air France put us on that flight,” Benouargha-Jaffiol said. “But nothing doing, the flight was totally full.”
She and her husband finally left the airport, returning Monday after the disaster.
“This type of tragedy should give us all a lesson in humility and humanism,” she said. “No one lives forever. We often forget that.”
Associated Press writers Ali Zerdin in Ljubljana, Slovenia; Hubert Vialatte in Montpellier, France, and Elaine Ganley in Paris contributed to this report.
BANGKOK – Actor David Carradine, star of the 1970s TV series “Kung Fu” who also had a wide-ranging career in the movies, has been found dead in the Thai capital, Bangkok. A news report said he was found hanged in his hotel room and was believed to have committed suicide.
A spokesman for the U.S. Embassy, Michael Turner, confirmed the death of the 72-year-old actor. He said the embassy was informed by Thai authorities that Carradine died either late Wednesday or early Thursday, but he could not provide further details out of consideration for his family.
The Web site of the Thai newspaper The Nation cited unidentified police sources as saying Carradine was found Thursday hanged in his luxury hotel room.
It said Carradine was in Bangkok to shoot a movie and had been staying at the hotel since Tuesday.
The newspaper said Carradine could not be contacted after he failed to appear for a meal with the rest of the film crew on Wednesday, and that his body was found by a hotel maid at 10 a.m. Thursday morning. The name of the movie was not immediately available.
It said a preliminary police investigation found that he had hanged himself with a cord used with the room’s curtains. It cited police as saying he had been dead at least 12 hours and there was no sign that he had been assaulted.
A police officer at Bangkok’s Lumpini precinct station would not confirm the identity of the dead man to The Associated Press, but said the luxury Swissotel Nai Lert Park hotel had reported that a male guest killed himself there.
Carradine was a leading member of a venerable Hollywood acting family that included his father, character actor John Carradine, and brother Keith.
In all, he appeared in more than 100 feature films with such directors as Martin Scorsese, Ingmar Bergman and Hal Ashby.
But he was best known for his role as Kwai Chang Caine, a Shaolin priest traveling the 1800s American frontier West in the TV series “Kung Fu,” which aired in 1972-75.
He reprised the role in a mid-1980s TV movie and played Caine’s grandson in the 1990s syndicated series “Kung Fu: The Legend Continues.”
He returned to the top in recent years as the title character in Quentin Tarantino’s two-part saga “Kill Bill.”
Chavez to seize chemical projects
Venezuela is preparing to nationalise petrochemical projects as part of President Hugo Chavez’s campaign to limit the private sector.The national assembly is reading a law that would force the country’s chemical companies to become minority partners in joint ventures with the state. It would extend the list of companies in Venezuela’s huge oil sector that are under government control. The law is likely to be passed when it goes for its second reading next week. It is the latest in a series of nationalisations by President Chavez – on Wednesday he announced that he was taking control of 70 gas compression units. He has also taken control of oil services companies and iron works this year as well as buying the country’s third largest lender, Banco de Venezuela, for 1.05bn (651m) from Spain’s Banco Santander. In February he won a referendum that allowed him to keep running for new terms in office. Venezuela already has a large petrochemical company called Pequiven.
Canada decides on Sudan ‘suspect’
A Canadian court has ordered the Ottawa government to allow the return of an alleged al-Qaeda suspect, who has spent the last six years in Sudan.Abousfian Abdelrazik, who has dual Canadian-Sudanese citizenship, was arrested in Sudan after going there on a visit in 2003. Canada has been refusing to issue him with an emergency passport so he can leave, and he has been in the lobby of the Canadian embassy for a year. He denies any links to terrorism. A Canadian federal judge in Ottawa has now ruled that the Canadian government has failed to justify its decision not to help Mr Abdelrazik. He said the government should issue him with an emergency passport and arrange to fly him from Sudan to Canada within 30 days. Mr Abdelrazik says he was beaten and tortured while in a Sudanese prison after Canadian agents allegedly recommended his arrest on suspicion of terrorism. He has not been charged with any crimes, and Canadian intelligence officials have since acknowledged there is no information linking him to any crime.
NEW ORLEANS – A 17-year-old mother was so angered that a city bus driver ordered her to fold up a stroller carrying her toddler, she poured a bottle of milk over the driver’s head and then stabbed her, authorities said.
New Orleans Regional Transit Authority rules require strollers to be collapsed so they do not block aisles. After the woman refused several requests, veteran bus driver Hanella Johnson said she would not move the bus until the stroller was folded, Officer Garry Flot of the New Orleans Police Department said Thursday.
“The woman then got up and spilled milk from a baby bottle on the victim,” Flot said. “Then she took the baby and stroller off the bus.”
Johnson, 41, followed Derrion Scott off the bus Tuesday, and a scuffle took place near the bus door, Flot said. Johnson was treated for a 4-inch-deep stab wound and got out of the hospital Wednesday.
“She’s resting at home,” Monaco said.
The RTA refused to allow Johnson to talk to reporters or release video from the bus surveillance cameras, citing the ongoing police investigation.
Johnson has been driving RTA buses for 18 years.
Scott, who was booked with aggravated battery, remained in jail on Thursday in lieu of 25,000 bail, court records show. The 2-year-old child was released into the custody of a cousin, Flot said.
It was not immediately clear whether Scott had an attorney. The public defender’s office was unable to confirm Thursday that it was representing her.
Attacks on bus drivers are rare, RTA spokeswoman Rosalind Blanco Cook said. “I was totally blown away by this,” she said.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – The tone of respect was set from the opening lines of President Barack Obama’s address to the Muslim world.
“Assalamu Aleikum” — Arabic for “peace be upon you” — he said, triggering applause from the crowd at Cairo University and bringing nods of approval in places like a coffee shop in the West Bank town of Ramallah, where some began calling him “Abu Hussein” — using his Muslim middle name — as a sign of honor.
Obama’s ambitious speech — which sought to define a new relationship between Washington and the Islamic world — also represented an opportunity to shape his own image in the eyes of Muslims. He quoted from the Quran, paid homage to the cultural and intellectual achievements of Muslims and noted his middle name and his father’s ties to the faith.
“As the Holy Quran tells us, `Be conscious of God and speak always the truth,’” Obama said. “That is what I will try to do today, to speak the truth as best I can.”
Whether political stagecraft or sincerity, his gestures resonated strongly among many Muslims who often complain their traditions and culture are devalued in the West and have become overshadowed by Islamic radicals.
“He came across as sincere and credible,” said Sheik Muhammad al-Nujaimi, a member of committee in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, that tries to moderate the radical views of jailed militants. He said he plans to give a copy of Obama’s address to the inmates with a message: “Muslims should offer help to the new American administration and reciprocate its overtures.”
Obama also sprinkled his address with Arabic words that are well-known to all Muslims: “hijab” for the Islamic coverings for women, “zakat” for alms giving, which is one of the Five Pillars of Islam.
Even these few references carry powerful significance in the Arab world, where the language is cherished as an important ethnic bond, revered for its connection to the Prophet Muhammad, and filled with elaborate greetings and finely crafted formalities that display respect.
Obama’s closing line — “And may God’s peace be upon you” — rings with authenticity and cultural sensitivity to Arabic ears.
It’s not clear whether Obama’s address will have a lasting glow. A Jordanian jeweler, Ibrahim Hreish, described its effect as a “drug” that will eventually wear off.
But there were obvious comparisons to Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, whose use of language — such as calling for a “crusade” against terrorists after the Sept. 11 attacks, a term that brought to mind the Christian Crusades against Islam in the Holy Land — helped stir anti-American anger in the Muslim world.
Obama “was fair on basics, soft on tone,” said Labib Kamhawi, a political analyst in Amman, Jordan. “He avoided using provocative terms of the previous administration like `war on terrorism.’”
Obama said he was “proud to carry with me the good will of the American people and a greeting of peace from Muslim communities in my country.”
Even some extremist Web sites, which have carried statements from al-Qaida and other groups in the past, added some rare hints of praise amid the scorn for Obama.
One posting on a chat room noted admiration for U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton “wearing a head scarf … and she and Obama taking off their shoes” during a visit to a Cairo mosque. The contributor also praised Obama’s quotation of verses from the Quran, “while many of our leaders don’t memorize these verses.”
In response, another writer said Obama “is manipulating the emotions of the people the same as a lute player does. … He is undoubtedly a wise enemy compared with George Bush, the enemy known for his stupidity.”
In his speech, Obama cited an account from the Quran in pleading for peace in Jerusalem among “all the children of Abraham” — Muslims, Christians and Jews. The president referred to a miracle called al-Isra, or the Night Journey, in which an angel took Muhammad to the heavens, where Muhammad prayed with Moses and Jesus.
In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, a 27-year-old computer engineer, Yasmine Bennami, said of the president’s address: “It’s the first time ever that I see an American president quoting verses from the Quran.”
In Saudi Arabia — home of Islam’s holiest sites — Rabah al-Mutawa said Obama, by quoting from the Quran, “touched people.” “I challenge any Arab leader to go to the U.S. or the West and quote the Bible like Obama quoted the Quran,” she said at her home in Riyadh.
Muhsin Karim, 45, an engineer at Iraq’s Ministry of Electricity, said the speech was carefully crafted to reach Muslims: “As if he was trying to tell us, `Trust me, I’m like a cousin for you.’”
When Obama opened with his Arabic greeting, Mahmoud Ramahi smiled.
“This is good,” said Ramahi, a lawmaker with the anti-Israel militant group Hamas in the West Bank. “This is the first good signal. We’ll start counting.”
Associated Press writers contributing to this report: Ahmed al-Haj in San’a, Yemen; Mohammed Daraghmeh in Ramallah, West Bank; Dale Gavlak and Shafika Mattar in Amman, Jordan; Donna Abu Nasr in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; Mammoun Youssef in Cairo; Sean Yoong in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; and AP staff in Baghdad.
NEW YORK – President Barack Obama showed respect for Islam by quoting from the Quran in his speech Thursday but did so in a way meant to resonate with Christians and Jews as well.
The passages he chose from the Muslim holy book had meanings that were universal in their appeal. He also referred once to the Talmud, the collection of Jewish law, and quoted a verse from the Gospel of Matthew. Both underscored the Quranic verses.
“The Holy Quran tells us, ‘Mankind, we have created you male and a female. And we have made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another,’” Obama said in the Cairo address. “The Talmud tells us, ‘The whole of the Torah is for the purpose of promoting peace.’ The Holy Bible tells us, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.’”
To gain a hearing in Islamic society, Obama was wise to go beyond geopolitics to make some reference to religious tradition, scholars said. Religion is closely connected with the state in the Islamic world, unlike Western society where church and state are separate.
“Obama’s taking that step, showing familiarity with the Quran, is the palpable demonstration of the respect he went to Cairo to show,” said Burton Visotzky, a professor of interreligious studies at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York.
Obama, who embraced Christianity as an adult, had a Kenyan father who was Muslim. As a child, the president lived for a time in predominantly Muslim Indonesia, and noted his experience in the country in his address.
Imam Yahya Hendi, a Georgetown University chaplain who specializes in Quranic translation, said the first Quranic passage that Obama cited effectively framed a frank speech. The president said, “As the Holy Quran tells us, ‘Be conscious of God and speak always the truth.’”
“It says, ‘I’m going to be truthful,’” Hendi said. “It says, ‘Sometimes the truth is painful. I’m going to take you to it and some of it will be painful.’ For me, that was good.”
He noted a passage that Islamic leaders often cite to dissuade Muslims from using religious teachings as justification for suicide bombing and terrorist attacks. “The Holy Quran teaches that whoever kills an innocent,” Obama said, “it is as if (he) has killed all mankind.”
Obama also referred to a miracle called al-Isra, or the Night Journey, a significant event from the Quran. According to Muslim tradition, an angel took the Prophet Muhammad from Mecca to Jerusalem and the heavens, where Muhammad prayed with the prophets, including Moses and Jesus. Obama noted the al-Isra story in the speech when addressing the future of Jerusalem, saying the city should be “a place for all of the children of Abraham to mingle peacefully together.”
He continued, “There is one rule that lies at the heart of every religion, that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us.”
Paul Martindale, who teaches Islamic studies at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, a prominent evangelical school near Boston, said Christian minorities in predominantly Muslim countries likely would find Obama’s religious plea naive. Many Muslim countries do not allow religious freedom and have persecuted religious minorities.
But Martindale said Christians understand that Obama’s goal was political, not religious, and he praised the president for making a distinction between extremists and other Muslims.
“He addressed all the issues and problems head on. He was not skirting anything,” Martindale said. “Obama very effectively addressed the idea of stereotypes on both sides. By going there and speaking directly to them, he has, I hope, made a beginning for getting a microphone in these societies.”
LOS ANGELES – Shia LaBeouf is heading to Wall Street.
The actor confirms he will appear in “Money Never Sleeps,” director Oliver Stone’s follow up to “Wall Street.”
LaBeouf will star opposite Michael Douglas, who won an Oscar for his role in the original 1987 film.
The “Transformers” star describes the film as “a walk and talk money movie” that’s “wordy and heady.”
Filming begins in August, an experience LaBeouf says should be like taking a college course — he says he has “no concept” of the ins and outs of the financial world.
“I don’t know what … a credit derivative is,” LaBeouf said. “I have no idea. I don’t know what a CPO is. IPB. LVC. You gotta know ticker names.”
Cuba welcomes OAS vote result
A senior Cuban official, Ricardo Alarcon, has welcomed a decision by the Organisation of American States to lift the 1962 ban on Cuban membership.Mr Alarcon, the Speaker of the Cuban parliament, said it was a major victory – but added it did not mean Cuba actually wanted to re-join. The OAS decision has been sharply criticised by Cuban exiles in the US. They say the communist system is incompatible with OAS calls for respect for human rights and democracy. A Cuban-American member of the US Senate, Robert Menendez, suggested that a bill should be introduced in the US Congress to eliminate Washington’s funding for the OAS, which accounts for 60% of the regional body’s total budget. Intense wranglingOAS countries agreed to lift the ban on Cuba at a summit meeting in Honduras on Wednesday. The resolution was passed after intense wrangling over US demands that Cuba face conditions on re-joining. Cuba was suspended from the 34-member OAS 47 years ago over its “incompatible” adherence to Marxism-Leninism. In April, President Barack Obama said he wanted a new beginning with Cuba, after slightly easing the long-standing trade embargo against the island. Washington and Havana have also agreed to resume regular talks on migration issues.
Federer eyes elusive French title
Roger Federer knows he has his best ever chance of winning the only Grand Slam title to elude him as he prepares for Friday’s French Open semi-final.A surprise defeat for four-time Roland Garros winner Rafael Nadal has opened up the opportunity for Federer to complete the set of Grand Slam titles. “It’s incredible. Everybody’s telling me ‘this is your year’,” said Federer, who will face Juan Martin del Potro. Nadal’s conqueror Robin Soderling plays Fernando Gonzalez in the other semi. Soderling, who became the first player to beat Nadal on the clay of Roland Garros, and Del Potro have never reached the semi-final stage of a Grand Slam before, while Gonzalez has only been in the last four once (when he went on to lose to Federer in the final of the 2007 Australian Open). In contrast, Federer has made the semi-finals, at least, of the last 20 Grand Slam tournaments.
The 27-year-old has won 13 Grand Slam titles in total but has found his path at Roland Garros blocked by the incredible consistency of Nadal, who has beaten Federer in the last three finals in Paris. Federer would be a popular winner should he draw level with Pete Sampras’s record of 14 by becoming the first man to complete the full set of Wimbledon, the US Open, the Australian Open and the French Open since Andre Agassi. “I’m delighted to see the extent that people are supporting me,” said Federer after beating Gael Monfils in straight sets in the quarter-finals. “They’re screaming from their scooters and out of the car. They even get out at the red lights and want me to sign an autograph or take a picture. It’s quite incredible this last couple of weeks. “I have felt it for a few years now, to be honest, but this year is even more extreme. “It’s nice feeling the support – it can only help a player. I’m very thrilled and excited to be back in another semi and to have the opportunity here. “It doesn’t mean that, because I have a good record against all the players left in the draw, that I am going to win this but I’ll definitely try everything I possibly can to do it.”
Federer has an overwhelmingly superior record in his previous matches against Soderling (9-0), Gonzalez (12-1) and Del Potro (5-0) and has won 63 of 69 sets against the trio. His most recent victory over Del Potro came on clay in Madrid in May. But the in-form Argentine, at 20 the youngest man left in the draw, has made a significant improvement on the surface this year. Del Potro easily overcame Tommy Robredo in the quarter-finals and has dropped only one set, to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in round four, during a fine run to the semi-finals. “He has improved in incredible ways since a year ago,” added Federer. “I expect a very difficult match – it’s too big a match and he is playing too well to underestimate him.” Del Potro has climbed from 44th in the rankings to fifth in the past 18 months but is not getting carried away about his chances ahead of his meeting with Federer. “With his game, he does everything perfectly,” Del Potro explained. “His game is much of a problem to me, and this is why I never won when I played him. “We all know how he plays, and we all know what he wants to achieve here now that Rafa is no longer here.
“We all feel the pressure of the fans, everybody wants Roger to win this tournament but when I play Roger, I’ll have to play my game. Otherwise I’ll never achieve anything.” Friday’s second semi-final sees Soderling, who is looking to to continue his surprising progress, up against Gonzalez, who beat Andy Murray in the last eight. The 24-year-old Swede, seeded 23rd, sprang one of the biggest shocks in the history of Roland Garros when he ended Nadal’s four-year reign by beating him in the fourth round, and followed that up by breezing past Nikolay Davydenko. He is growing in confidence but will have to be at his best to overcome Gonzalez, 28, who outclassed Murray with some incredible groundstrokes. “If you’d asked me four years ago, I’d have said I would never reach a semi in Paris,” said Soderling. “But for every year, I think I started to play better and better on clay.” Gonzalez, the 12th seed, admitted he did not expect Soderling – who possesses some huge groundstrokes but is also known for his erratic play – to progress this far but says he will take nothing for granted. “It is a big surprise. We all know Soderling, how he plays,” the Chilean said. “Had someone told me I would reach the semi-final of a Grand Slam and I would have to play him, I don’t know if I would have believed it. “But this is a big moment in my career and I want to make the most of it. I want to think I’m a favourite because I feel fit to win my next match, and that is what I want to focus on.”
Stage set for Twenty20 showpiece
ICC WORLD TWENTY20Venues: Lord’s, The Oval, Trent Bridge Date: 5-21 June Coverage: Test Match Special commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra, Radio 4 LW, Red Button and online, with live text commentary on BBC Sport website & mobiles. Live TV coverage on Sky Sports with highlights on BBC at 2335 BST and this website
Hosts England are ready to get the second ICC World Twenty20 under way at Lord’s on Friday.Paul Collingwood’s men open up against the Netherlands in the first of their two Group B matches, with Pakistan set to face England at The Oval on Sunday. Holders and favourites India open their Group A campaign against Bangladesh while Australia play the West Indies on Saturday in Group C. The final will be staged at Lord’s on Sunday 21 June. There are four groups of three, with the top two from each group going through to the Super Eights which will be made up of two groups of four. The top two from each of those groups go into the semi-finals to be played at Trent Bridge and The Oval.
India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni led the tournament favourites to an impressive nine-wicket win over fellow 2007 finalists Pakistan in Wednesday’s warm-up, but said the formbook should be thrown out of the window when it comes to the shortest format of the professional game. “I don’t think the win against Pakistan underlines our status as favourites,” said Dhoni, who played in the final two years ago.
“It’s not about being favourites, you have to perform like this throughout the tournament to win. “You can be thrown out of the tournament easily, especially at the knockout stage. “We are the side that has done well, but that’s all on paper after all that you have to go and do it but we have potential and we will be a tough team to beat.” South Africa captain Graeme Smith is more bullish about his side’s chances. The second favourites open their campaign against Group D opponents Scotland at The Oval on Monday, followed by New Zealand at Lord’s on 9 June. “We have an exciting squad with pace, swing and spin in the bowling department and plenty of depth to our batting,” Smith said.
“In terms of talent, flair and confidence, this is the strongest Proteas team that I have captained.” He added: “We are very well balanced both in terms of youth and experience and in terms of having all our bases covered regardless of whether the conditions favour swing or spin. “Most international cricketers have not played a lot of international Twenty20 cricket to date and the 14 matches in the recent Indian Premier League has given them the chance to formulate new ideas and plans for this format of the game.” Australia’s challenge was dealt a huge blow on Friday when it was announced that all-rounder and big-hitter Andrew Symonds would be returning home because of an “alcohol-related incident”. However, captain Ricky Ponting believes his side have enough strength in depth to cope with the loss. “He will be difficult to replace but we have got what we’ve got now,” said the Australian. “It is no good worrying about that any more, he’s ruled out of this squad and we have to find someone who can have the same kind of impact on a game as what Andrew Symonds can.
“That is the challenge that lies ahead for our group now. It throws the balance a little bit in our side. We will probably have to re-jig things and look at things in a slightly different way but the beauty of our team is we have a lot of flexibility.” England only managed a victory against Zimbabwe at the inaugural tournament in South Africa. Skipper Collingwood believes low expectations this time around could work in favour of the hosts. “We’re very much dark horses and hopefully that will give the boys a bit more of a licence,” said the Durham player. “The belief and the freedom to go out there and express yourself is important in this form of the game so hopefully that gives the boys a bit more of a licence and they won’t have as much pressure on them.” With all respect to the Dutch, Pakistan will provide England’s toughest test in the group stages. Pakistan suffered heavy defeats to South Africa and India in their two warm-up matches, but the team’s coach Intikhab Alam says the results should not serve as a guide to how his team will perform in the tournament. “I’m not really concerned,” he said. “It’s early days and the first match we will come good at the right time. “We have lost two games but we will perform when the real time comes.” Friday’s opening ceremony at Lord’s is set to be a low-key affair. It begins at 1630 BST with the 12 captains of the men’s teams and the eight skippers from the women’s competition introduced to the crowd during the half-hour ceremony. Pop star Alesha Dixon will also perform at the event.
CAIRO (Reuters) –
President Barack Obama sought to change Muslim perceptions of the United States on Thursday in a speech that urged Arabs and Israelis to declare in public the realities he said they accept in private.
Addressing the world's more than 1 billion Muslims from Cairo, Obama called for a “new beginning” in ties between Washington and the Islamic world in his speech that also tackled grievances over two U.S.-led wars and tensions over Iran.
Some Muslims welcomed Obama's fresh tone after George W. Bush's departure even as others expressed frustration that he failed to outline specific changes to U.S. policy, reflecting skepticism in the region Obama must still overcome.
In his keynote speech, occasionally interrupted by shouts of “we love you,” Obama said he did not want U.S. troops to stay in Iraq or Afghanistan forever and offered mutual respect in seeking to resolve differences with long-time foe, Tehran.
“We meet at a time of tension between the United States and Muslims around the world — tension rooted in historical forces that go beyond any current policy debate,” Obama said in the address that included quotes from Islam's holy book, the Koran.
“I have come here to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world, one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect,” he said. “America and Islam are not exclusive, and need not be in competition.”
“This cycle of suspicion and discord must end,” he said.
Highlighting hostility the U.S. leader faces from some quarters, al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, in a message on a website, warned Muslims against alliance with Christians and Jews, saying it would annul their faith.
The supreme leader of Washington's regional arch foe, Iran's Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said before Obama spoke that America was “deeply hated” and only action, not “slogans,” could change that.
The choice of Cairo for the speech underscored Obama's focus on the Middle East, where he faces big foreign policy challenges, from trying to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks to curbing Iran's nuclear plans that Washington says is to build atomic bombs. Tehran denies any such aims.
His trip included touring a 14th century mosque and the pyramids in the desert on the edge of Cairo. He was seen off at the airport, walking up the red carpet in the t-shirt and trousers he wore while visiting the ancient pharaonic sites.
Although the administration tried to lower expectations in recent days about what the speech would accomplish, there were high hopes in the region that he would take a tougher line on Israel and follow up his words with actions.
He offered few specifics on democracy, rule of law and human rights in the Arab world, issues many hoped he would spell out.
“He should have been outspoken about democracy and the universal principles of human rights,” said Syrian lawyer Mohannad al-Hassani.
Obama, who wants to build a coalition of Muslim governments to back his diplomatic moves, affirmed his commitment to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying it was in the interest of all concerned parties.
“That is why I intend to personally pursue this outcome with all the patience that the task requires,” he said.
He said Palestinians had to abandon violence and urged them to acknowledge Israel's right to exist. He also said Israel should stop building settlements in the West Bank.
“It is time for us to act on what everyone knows to be true,” Obama said, adding Washington would “say in public what we say in private” and told others to follow suit.
Palestinian official Nabil Abu Rdainah said: “President Obama's speech is a good start and an important step toward a new American policy.”
Israel responded by saying it shared President Obama's hopes for Middle East peace but Israel's security interests remained paramount. The official statement made no mention of Jewish settlements nor Palestinian statehood.
Obama said Iran should have access to peaceful atomic power, but it must adhere to nuclear non-proliferation.
“(This) is about preventing a nuclear arms race in the Middle East that could lead this region and the world down a hugely dangerous path,” Obama said.
Obama said the United States had no interest in keeping military bases in Afghanistan and said Washington had a responsibility to “leave Iraq to Iraqis” and build a better future for them.
“This speech was very inspiring and I think many people will welcome it, because he tried to be neutral and honest and objective,” said Egyptian analyst Khalil al-Anani.
Other reaction was mixed.
“The Islamic world does not need moral or political sermons. It needs a fundamental change in American policy,” said MP Hassan Fadlallah of Lebanon's Hezbollah.
Mohamed Habib, deputy leader of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, said: “It's a public relations address more than anything else.”
(Additional by Reuters bureaus; Writing by David Alexander and Edmund Blair; Editing by Samia Nakhoul.)
American Muslims reacted enthusiastically to President Obama’s much-anticipated effort to “reboot” relations with the Islamic world Thursday, while the U.S. Jewish community gave his speech mixed reviews.
President Obama urges a new chapter in ties between the U.S. and Muslims in a speech Thursday in Cairo, Egypt.
Khadija Athman, a member of the Muslim community in Washington, said she is always impressed with Obama, but she had never been more surprised by him than she was Thursday. “I felt he was extremely candid. He didn’t mince words. He touched every aspect of Muslim world issues,” said Athman, who is originally from Kenya, where Obama’s father was born. “He talked about women’s rights, he talked about religious tolerance, he talked about education for women, and I feel very strongly about those issues,” she said. He also got the details right, she said, pointing out that he used the traditional Muslim phrase “peace be upon him” when referring to the Prophet Mohammed. Watch Muslim-Americans comment on Obama’s speech » “It is expected of him, but the fact that he did it, people would love it,” she said an Iraqi friend told her. “That will resonate extremely well and people actually will believe in Obama’s sincerity.” Shahed Amanullah, editor of the Web site altmuslim.com, said he thinks Obama “accomplished exactly what he needed to accomplish” with his speech in Cairo, Egypt.
Obama in Egypt reaches out to Muslim world
Transcript of Obama’s speech (PDF)
Obama’s speech receives mixed reviews in Middle East
Obama draws questions, praise from Muslims
“He was really pressing for people to say in public what they say in private. Everybody knows what the solutions to a lot of these problems are and I think there is vast agreement on what they are going to be. But nobody really talks about it and puts the cards on the table,” said Amanullah, of Austin, Texas. Asma Hasan, a lawyer in Denver, Colorado, and the author of “Red, White and Muslim: My Story of Belief,” agreed, but said Obama now needs to move quickly to turn words into action. “I think Obama, better than any other recent political figure, gently asserted that effort will be expected from Muslims, too,” she said. “Hearing the most powerful man in the world acknowledge their grievances in so public a manner will make Muslims very receptive to Obama for at least a few months.” Obama’s understanding of Muslims will help clear the way, she said. “When he started his speech by pointing out that Muslims had suffered under colonialism and globalization, I knew he was on the right track. So many Westerners gloss over these major historical events and ignore how hard it has been for Muslims,” she said by e-mail. Mona Eltahawy, an Egyptian-born columnist who moved to the United States nine years ago, wanted more from the speech. “I would’ve liked to have heard more about civilian casualties and suffering in Pakistan and Afghanistan, because that upsets many Muslims as much as Palestinian suffering does,” she said. “And I also wish he had assured Muslim women and girls in Afghanistan that their rights would not be sacrificed for the sake of a cease-fire or truce with the Taliban or other violent extremists.” She also would have liked him to press harder for democracy in the region. “Muslims around the world are upset with the U.S. because the U.S. supports dictators in many Muslim-majority countries such as Egypt, where Obama gave his speech today, and Saudi Arabia, where he began his Middle East visit. So I was disappointed that he didn’t say anything about that support that inflames Muslim sentiments as much as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict does.” James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute in Washington, admired the way the speech was “designed to address a wide range of problems across a broad region.” “In speaking with friends in the Middle East this morning, I was impressed how many parts of the speech resonated. Everyone could take away somethingpeace activists, advocates for democracy and women’s rights, religious minorities, etc. In that regard, the menu worked,” he said in an e-mail. But the very breadth of the speech may make it harder for the message to get across at home, Zogby said. “There was so much to the speech that its central thrust will be lost here in the U.S.,” he said. “Listening to some of the commentators on TV this morning was troubling,” he said. He was concerned that they were “totally missing the point that this president wasn’t talking ‘at’ Muslims, he was working to engage ‘with’ them. I fear that what may be lost is the fact that the president was also talking to us” in the United States “about what we need to know about Islam and our relationships with the many parts of the Muslim world. Fixing our side of this divide will take some work.” Obama did not shy away from discussing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a flash point for tensions in the region. American Jews responded cautiously to the speech, in which a U.S. president referred to “occupation” and “Palestine.” Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, is well-placed to hear different viewpoints because his organization represents several groups. Hoenlein cited important human rights references in the speech and thought the comments on the strong U.S.-Israeli relations and Obama’s commitment to Israel were very positive. But he said there were omissions in framing the history of the region. Arabs, he said, weren’t the only people who were displaced from their homes when Israel became a country in 1948. He cited Jewish refugees who found their way to Israel after they had been driven out by Arab countries. Also, he said, there was no acknowledgment of the potential agreements with Israelis that were spurned by Arab leaders. He said there was no reference to Syria, Lebanon’s upcoming elections or Hezbollah. Hoenlein was pleased that there was no linkage between the Iranian issue and the Israeli and Palestinian conflict, but he didn’t think Obama delivered a strong message about the dangers of a nuclear-armed Iran. Some people Hoenlein heard from said they were angry about the speech and others praised it, he said. At least two groups that are part of the conference of presidents weighed in. The Anti-Defamation League, the U.S. group that monitors and fights anti-Semitism, said Obama’s speech was “groundbreaking and honest,” but the president “missed an opportunity” to place the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in proper historical perspective. Glen S. Lewy, the league’s national chairman, and Abraham H. Foxman, its national director, issued a statement saying the speech touched on “many important issueshuman rights, education, democracy, the need to deal with Islamic extremistswith candor.” “He issued a clarion call for recalibrating America’s relationship with the Muslim world through constructive outreach and dialogue. Speaking directly to the Muslim people, he broached issues that have never really been addressed to the Arab world before now. We share the president’s genuine quest for respect, tolerance and peace,” the statement said. Lewy and Foxman also said they are willing to give Obama’s “approach a chance to work and we are waiting to hear a response from the moderate Arab states. It will be interesting to see how the Muslim world reacts to the speech.” But the Anti-Defamation League said Obama should have mentioned that “six Arab nations attacked Israel from day one and the occupation of Palestinian land was a product of Israel’s wars of self-defense.” “While strongly reiterating the importance of America’s relationship with the state of Israel and articulating Israel’s right to exist, President Obama missed the opportunity to address the misperceptions in the Arab world and to make clear that the Palestinians would have had a state had they accepted the United Nations resolution in 1948,” the group said. The group noted that Obama denounced anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial but didn’t make clear “that Israel’s right to statehood is not a result of anti-Semitism and the Holocaust.” It also expressed “disappointment” that Obama “found the need to balance the suffering of the Jewish people in a genocide to the suffering of the Palestinian people resulting from Arab wars.” The American Jewish Committee, a group dedicated to safeguarding Jews and Jewish life, welcomed the speech, praising the rejection of anti-Semitism and embracing Israel’s legitimate right to exist. “In the heart of a region where denial is routinedenial of Israel’s right to exist, denial of the historic link of Jews to their homeland, denial of the HolocaustPresident Obama spoke the truth with a clear, unwavering voice,” said David Harris, the committee’s executive director, in a news release.
Harris praised Obama for pursuing “a negotiated settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” and said the group was pleased the president denounced violence and called for Hamas to reject violence and recognize Israel. He also welcomed “Obama’s focus on Iran’s confrontation with the international community over its nuclear weapons drive,” but said the committee was disappointed that Obama “was not more explicit about the danger” of a nuclear-armed Iran.
Dutch far-right ‘gain’ in EU poll
A right-wing Dutch lawmaker’s party has made big gains in European Parliament elections, exit polls suggest.They say Geert Wilders’ Freedom party will win four of the 25 Dutch seats in the parliament, just one behind the country’s Christian Democrats. Dutch and British voters were the first to go to the polls to elect the EU’s most powerful legislative body. Some 375 million people in 27 member states are eligible to vote. Most will cast their ballots over the weekend.
Voters are deciding who is elected to the 736 seats up for grabs under various forms of proportional representation. Polls closed in the Netherlands at 1900 GMT and in Britain at 2100 GMT on Thursday. Observers will be watching to see if turnout is higher than in 2004, when only 45% exercised their right to vote. In the UK, elections were also held in some areas for local councils. The results of both polls are keenly awaited to see how they might affect the national political scene, following weeks of turmoil over MPs’ expenses claims. The vote is seen as a crucial test for the governing Labour Party, with a general election due within a year. Three senior ministers resigned earlier this week. Irish voters go to the polls on Friday. Latvia, Cyprus, Malta and Slovakia vote on Saturday, while the Czech Republic and Italy vote over Friday and Saturday, and Saturday and Sunday respectively. People in the remaining 18 member states will vote on Sunday. ‘For the Netherlands’Exit polls showed late on Thursday that Mr Wilders’ Freedom Party (PVV) was on course of winning just over 15% of votes in the Netherlands.
If confirmed, the result is second only to Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende’s Christian Democrats (CDA), which dropped alsmost 5% to just under 20% of the vote. The polls showed that the party’s governing coalition partner, the PvdA, was the biggest loser – down nearly 10% to about 14% of the Dutch vote. “We dare to talk about sensitive subjects like Islamisation and we use plain and simple words that the voter can understand,” Mr Wilders has said. Mr Wilders was refused entry to Britain in February on the grounds that he had sought to incite hatred with a film he made last year that equated Islam with violence and likened the Koran to Mein Kampf. The controversial politician is also facing prosecution in the Netherlands for making anti-Islamic statements, following a court ruling the previous month. Despite the charges many Dutch voters seem to like what Mr Wilders is saying, the BBC’s Geraldine Coughlan in The Hague reports. His party was campaigning under the motto “For the Netherlands” and was extremely anti-EU, our correspondent says. Mr Wilders has said he will not take up his seat if elected as an MEP. Polls show that Euroscepticism among Dutch voters has increased since the last European elections, with EU enlargement and integration the most unpopular issues, our correspondent adds. Across Europe, far-right parties are hoping to win at least 15 seats. However, the centre-right European People’s Party bloc is expected to remain the main force, followed by the European Socialists.
WEIMAR, GermanyA long narrow road winds through a thick forest up a hilled called the “Ettesberg,” on the outskirts of Weimar in central Germany.
The ovens where tens of thousands of bodies were cremated are restored and working.more photos »
The road goes on for miles through the forest, but every once in a while you see an old railway station, a tower, or an old structure withering in the German rain. This road was named “the trail of blood,” by inmates of the infamous concentration camp Buchenwald, because of the death marches they were forces to undertake as they were deported to work as slave laborers for Nazi Germany’s defense industry from 1937 to 1945. “The trail of blood,” leads straight to the entrance gate of the former concentration camp. A structure with a huge iron-gate in the middle, a tower with a clock above and arrest cells in the building’s wings. U.S. troops saw the horror of the Nazi regime first hand when they came through this gate on April 11, 1945 and found camp inmates starved to the bone, many too weak to stand. “We couldn’t even show our joy at this moment which we had been waiting for so long,” said former inmate Zeev Factor recalling the day American troops came to liberate the camp. Now the camp is getting ready to host President Obama who has a special relationship with Buchenwald. His great uncle Charlie Payne, 84, helped liberate a sub-camp here when he was an infantryman fighting in World War II. “The survivors see President Obama almost like a grandson of their’s,” said the director of the Buchenwald memorial, Volker Knigge, as we spoke just outside the font gate. “The president is related to one of the brave men who came here and saw the Nazi horror first hand. The soldiers only had vague knowledge of what concentration camps actually were, but here they saw people too weak to survive, even after having been liberated.”
Obama reaches out to Muslims
Historians estimate that of the 20 000 inmates who were liberated by U.S. troops, 1,000 died shortly after because of exhaustion and the effects of years of starvation. It is easy to see why. Every building in the Buchenwald complex radiates death, suffering and evil. In the crematorium, where tens of thousands of bodies were burned, the ovens have been restored and are fully functional.
In a cellar below the cremation room, meat hooks in the walls were used by SS guards to hang and strangle to death more than 1,000 inmates, many of them women and children. Obama will see these testimonies to the barbarism of the Nazis when he takes a tour of the camp with German Chancellor Merkel. He will also meet some of the survivors that Volker Knigge says feel so close to this president.
Obama speech: An analysis
This is an annotated transcript of President Obama’s Cairo speech, with analysis of key passages by BBC world affairs correspondent Paul Reynolds.I am honored to be in the timeless city of Cairo, and to be hosted by two remarkable institutions. For over a thousand years, Al-Azhar has stood as a beacon of Islamic learning, and for over a century, Cairo University has been a source of Egypt’s advancement. Together, you represent the harmony between tradition and progress. I am grateful for your hospitality, and the hospitality of the people of Egypt. I am also proud to carry with me the goodwill of the American people, and a greeting of peace from Muslim communities in my country: assalaamu alaykum. (Applause.)
Paul Reynolds, BBC world affairs correspondent, says:
“President Obama’s speech is divided into a number of sections. He starts by urging greater mutual understanding between the United States and Islam. He then considers seven issues that have to be, in his view, confronted. “These are violent extremism, the Israeli/Palestinian dispute, nuclear weapons (with a reference to Iran), democracy, religious freedom, rights of women and economic development. He finishes with a flourish about the future.”
We meet at a time of great tension between the United States and Muslims around the world – tension rooted in historical forces that go beyond any current policy debate. The relationship between Islam and the West includes centuries of co-existence and co-operation, but also conflict and religious wars. More recently, tension has been fed by colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims, and a Cold War in which Muslim-majority countries were too often treated as proxies without regard to their own aspirations. Moreover, the sweeping change brought by modernity and globalization led many Muslims to view the West as hostile to the traditions of Islam. Violent extremists have exploited these tensions in a small but potent minority of Muslims. The attacks of September 11th, 2001 and the continued efforts of these extremists to engage in violence against civilians has led some in my country to view Islam as inevitably hostile not only to America and Western countries, but also to human rights. All this has bred more fear and more mistrust.
The words used most frequently by Barack Obama in his Cairo speech
So long as our relationship is defined by our differences, we will empower those who sow hatred rather than peace, those who promote conflict rather than the cooperation that can help all of our people achieve justice and prosperity. This cycle of suspicion and discord must end. I have come here to Cairo to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world; one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect; and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive, and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles – principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings. I do so recognizing that change cannot happen overnight. I know there has been a lot of publicity about this speech, but no single speech can eradicate years of mistrust, nor can I answer in the time that I have all the complex questions that brought us to this point. But I am convinced that in order to move forward, we must say openly to each other the things we hold in our hearts, and that too often are said only behind closed doors. There must be a sustained effort to listen to each other; to learn from each other; to respect one another; and to seek common ground. As the Holy Koran tells us, “Be conscious of God and speak always the truth.” (Applause.) That is what I will try to do today – to speak the truth as best I can, humbled by the task before us, and firm in my belief that the interests we share as human beings are far more powerful than the forces that drive us apart.
Paul Reynolds, BBC world affairs correspondent, says:
“The key phrase here and of the whole speech is a new beginning, with mutual interest and mutual trust added for good effect. In this opening section, the president seeks the common ground – he will leave differences until afterwards. “He quotes from the Koran (Be conscious of God and always speak the truth) before he quotes from the Bible and the Torah as a way of flattering his audience. “But he also uses the authority of the quotation to justify being quite blunt in places. But first, this part is about creating a sense of shared experiences. “Right at the top he refers to 9/11 and violent extremists (no mention of al-Qaeda by name – that would accord it respect) among a small but potent minority of Muslims. He wants to break this cycle of suspicion.
Part of this conviction is rooted in my own experience. I am a Christian, but my father came from a Kenyan family that includes generations of Muslims. As a boy, I spent several years in Indonesia and heard the call of the azaan at the break of dawn and at the fall of dusk. As a young man, I worked in Chicago communities where many found dignity and peace in their Muslim faith.
As a student of history, I also know civilization’s debt to Islam. It was Islam – at places like Al-Azhar – that carried the light of learning through so many centuries, paving the way for Europe’s Renaissance and Enlightenment. (Applause.) It was innovation in Muslim communities that developed the order of algebra; our magnetic compass and tools of navigation; our mastery of pens and printing; our understanding of how disease spreads and how it can be healed. Islamic culture has given us majestic arches and soaring spires; timeless poetry and cherished music; elegant calligraphy and places of peaceful contemplation. And throughout history, Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality. (Applause.) I also know that Islam has always been a part of America’s story. The first nation to recognize my country was Morocco. In signing the Treaty of Tripoli in 1796, our second President John Adams wrote, “The United States has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Muslims.” And since our founding, American Muslims have enriched the United States. They have fought in our wars, served in government, they have stood for civil rights, they have started businesses, they have taught at our Universities, they have excelled in our sports arenas, they have won Nobel Prizes, built our tallest building, and lit the Olympic Torch. And when the first Muslim-American was recently elected to Congress, he took the oath to defend our Constitution using the same Holy Koran that one of our Founding Fathers – Thomas Jefferson – kept in his personal library.
Paul Reynolds, BBC world affairs correspondent, says:
“The president’s own family connections to Islam stand him in good stead here as he tries to build rapport, but he is careful also to state that he is a Christian, having been subject to comments at home about his background. He does not want that debate restarted. “He emphasises the peaceful characteristics of Islam, with a romantic allusion to Muslims in Chicago finding dignity and peace in their Muslim faith. He then reaches into history to recall the achievements of Islamic countries in the development of learning – navigation and algebra among them – and to tie Islam and America together by bringing in revered figures from early US history – John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. But he carefully introduces the idea that Muslims also thrive in modern America – Muslims have enriched America – an important theme of the speech.
So I have known Islam on three continents before coming to the region where it was first revealed. That experience guides my conviction that partnership between America and Islam must be based on what Islam is, not what it isn’t. And I consider it part of my responsibility as President of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear. (Applause.) But that same principle must apply to Muslim perceptions of America. (Applause.) Just as Muslims do not fit a crude stereotype, America is not the crude stereotype of a self-interested empire. The United States has been one of the greatest sources of progress that the world has ever known. We were born out of revolution against an empire. We were founded upon the ideal that all are created equal, and we have shed blood and struggled for centuries to give meaning to those words – within our borders, and around the world. We are shaped by every culture, drawn from every end of the Earth, and dedicated to a simple concept: E pluribus unum: “Out of many, one.” Much has been made of the fact that an African-American with the name Barack Hussein Obama could be elected President. (Applause.) But my personal story is not so unique. The dream of opportunity for all people has not come true for everyone in America, but its promise exists for all who come to our shores – and that includes nearly seven million American Muslims in our country today who, by the way, enjoy incomes and education that are higher than average. (Applause.) Moreover, freedom in America is indivisible from the freedom to practice one’s religion. That is why there is a mosque in every state of our union, and over 1,200 mosques within our borders. That is why the United States government has gone to court to protect the right of women and girls to wear the hijab, and to punish those who would deny it. (Applause.) So let there be no doubt: Islam is a part of America. And I believe that America holds within her the truth that regardless of race, religion, or station in life, all of us share common aspirations – to live in peace and security; to get an education and to work with dignity; to love our families, our communities, and our God. These things we share. This is the hope of all humanity.
Paul Reynolds, BBC world affairs correspondent, says:
“Here he begins to get tougher, using the phrase negative stereotypes, with the important principle that while there should not be stereotyping of Muslims by Amercians Muslims do not fit a crude stereotype, nor should there be stereotyping of Americans by Muslims – America is not the crude stereotype of a self-interested empire. “The speech is designed to break down negative perceptions on both sides. And he notes that seven million Muslims in the US enjoy a higher than average standard of living. “He points out that US government supports the right of Muslim women to wear the hijab. He sums up Islam is a part of America.
Of course, recognizing our common humanity is only the beginning of our task. Words alone cannot meet the needs of our people. These needs will be met only if we act boldly in the years ahead; and if we understand that the challenges we face are shared, and our failure to meet them will hurt us all. For we have learned from recent experience that when a financial system weakens in one country, prosperity is hurt everywhere. When a new flu infects one human being, all are at risk. When one nation pursues a nuclear weapon, the risk of nuclear attack rises for all nations. When violent extremists operate in one stretch of mountains, people are endangered across an ocean. When innocents in Bosnia and Darfur are slaughtered, that is a stain on our collective conscience. (Applause.) That is what it means to share this world in the 21st Century. That is the responsibility we have to one another as human beings. This is a difficult responsibility to embrace. For human history has often been a record of nations and tribes – and yes, religions – subjugating one another to serve their own interests. Yet in this new age, such attitudes are self-defeating. Given our interdependence, any world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will inevitably fail. So whatever we think of the past, we must not be prisoners to it. Our problems must be dealt with through partnership; progress must be shared. (Applause.) Now, that does not mean we should ignore sources of tension. Indeed, it suggests the opposite: we must face these tensions squarely. And so in that spirit, let me speak as clearly and as plainly as I can about some specific issues that I believe we must finally confront together.
Paul Reynolds, BBC world affairs correspondent, says:
“Now he begins to get tough. Having created goodwill and stated his aims, he tackles the first of the issues that we must finally confront together. The first issue is violent extremism, by which he means Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda, the Taliban and sympathisers. He seeks to separate the extremists who claim to speak in Islam’s name from the ordinary people of all faiths, who reject the killing of innocent men, women and children.
The first issue that we have to confront is violent extremism in all of its forms. In Ankara, I made clear that America is not – and never will be – at war with Islam. (Applause.) We will, however, relentlessly confront violent extremists who pose a grave threat to our security. Because we reject the same thing that people of all faiths reject: the killing of innocent men, women, and children. And it is my first duty as President to protect the American people.
The auditorium at Cairo University was packed
The situation in Afghanistan demonstrates America’s goals, and our need to work together. Over seven years ago, the United States pursued al Qaeda and the Taliban with broad international support. We did not go by choice, we went because of necessity. I am aware that there are still some who would question or justify the events of 9/11. But let us be clear: al Qaeda killed nearly 3,000 people on that day. The victims were innocent men, women and children from America and many other nations who had done nothing to harm anybody. And yet Al Qaeda chose to ruthlessly murder these people, claimed credit for the attack, and even now states their determination to kill on a massive scale. They have affiliates in many countries and are trying to expand their reach. These are not opinions to be debated; these are facts to be dealt with. Make no mistake: we do not want to keep our troops in Afghanistan. We seek no military bases there. It is agonizing for America to lose our young men and women. It is costly and politically difficult to continue this conflict. We would gladly bring every single one of our troops home if we could be confident that there were not violent extremists in Afghanistan and now Pakistan determined to kill as many Americans as they possibly can. But that is not yet the case. That’s why we’re partnering with a coalition of 46 countries. And despite the costs involved, America’s commitment will not weaken. Indeed, none of us should tolerate these extremists. They have killed in many countries. They have killed people of different faiths – but more than any other, they have killed Muslims. Their actions are irreconcilable with the rights of human beings, the progress of nations, and with Islam. The Holy Koran teaches that whoever kills an innocent, it is as if he has killed all mankind. (Applause.) And whoever saves a person, it is as if he has saved all mankind. (Applause.) The enduring faith of over a billion people is so much bigger than the narrow hatred of a few. Islam is not part of the problem in combating violent extremism – it is an important part of promoting peace. Now, we also know that military power alone is not going to solve the problems in Afghanistan and Pakistan. That is why we plan to invest 1.5 billion each year over the next five years to partner with Pakistanis to build schools and hospitals, roads and businesses, and hundreds of millions to help those who have been displaced. And that is why we are providing more than 2.8 billion to help Afghans develop their economy and deliver services that people depend upon.
Paul Reynolds, BBC world affairs correspondent, says:
“Repeating his line from his earlier speech in Turkey – America is not and never will be at war with Islam – he tackles the problem of the war in Afghanistan, trying to explain why the US went in after 9/11. “He stresses al-Qaeda’s responsibility for 9/11, thereby rejecting claims widely circulating in the Muslim world that it was the US government itself that carried out the attacks in some way: Let us be clear: al-Qaeda killed 3000 people on that day. “He states that the US does not want to keep its troops in Afghanistan, offering a reassurance that there is no long-term plan of occupation. But he also stresses that America’s commitment will not weaken. He urges Muslims to reject extremists. None of us should tolerate these extremists. He is getting into the nitty gritty.
Let me also address the issue of Iraq. Unlike Afghanistan, Iraq was a war of choice that provoked strong differences in my country and around the world. Although I believe that the Iraqi people are ultimately better off without the tyranny of Saddam Hussein, I also believe that events in Iraq have reminded America of the need to use diplomacy and build international consensus to resolve our problems whenever possible. (Applause.) Indeed, we can recall the words of Thomas Jefferson, who said: “I hope that our wisdom will grow with our power, and teach us that the less we use our power the greater it will be.”
Today, America has a dual responsibility: to help Iraq forge a better future – and to leave Iraq to Iraqis. (Applause.) I have made it clear to the Iraqi people that we pursue no bases, and no claim on their territory or resources. Iraq’s sovereignty is its own. That is why I ordered the removal of our combat brigades by next August. That is why we will honour our agreement with Iraq’s democratically-elected government to remove combat troops from Iraqi cities by July, and to remove all our troops from Iraq by 2012. (Applause.) We will help Iraq train its Security Forces and develop its economy. But we will support a secure and united Iraq as a partner, and never as a patron. And finally, just as America can never tolerate violence by extremists, we must never alter or forget our principles. 9/11 was an enormous trauma to our country. The fear and anger that it provoked was understandable, but in some cases, it led us to act contrary to our traditions and our ideals. We are taking concrete actions to change course. I have unequivocally prohibited the use of torture by the United States, and I have ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed by early next year. (Applause.) So America will defend itself respectful of the sovereignty of nations and the rule of law. And we will do so in partnership with Muslim communities which are also threatened. The sooner the extremists are isolated and unwelcome in Muslim communities, the sooner we will all be safer.
Paul Reynolds, BBC world affairs correspondent, says:
“Iraq – a big issue. He does not criticise his predecessor President Bush but does say that this was a war of choice (meaning it was not his choice) while trying to put a gloss on the results in that the Iraqi people are ultimately better off. “He lays down his own foreign policy approach by contrast: diplomacy and international consensus. This is really the heart of his philosophy on foreign affairs – a switch from interventionism to a more detached but determined effort at persuasion. “He is careful to repeat his commitment to the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. The message is – whatever happened in the past might have been bad, but the future will be better. “He reminds his audience that he is also closing Guantanamo Bay, which has done untold damage to the US reputation across the Muslim world. “But that dual message – you must do your bit as well as us – is also there when he says that extremists should be isolated and unwelcome in Muslim communities.
The second major source of tension that we need to discuss is the situation between Israelis, Palestinians and the Arab world. America’s strong bonds with Israel are well known. This bond is unbreakable. It is based upon cultural and historical ties, and the recognition that the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied. Around the world, the Jewish people were persecuted for centuries, and anti-Semitism in Europe culminated in an unprecedented Holocaust. Tomorrow, I will visit Buchenwald, which was part of a network of camps where Jews were enslaved, tortured, shot and gassed to death by the Third Reich. Six million Jews were killed – more than the entire Jewish population of Israel today. Denying that fact is baseless, it is ignorant, and it is hateful. Threatening Israel with destruction – or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews – is deeply wrong, and only serves to evoke in the minds of Israelis this most painful of memories while preventing the peace that the people of this region deserve. On the other hand, it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people – Muslims and Christians – have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. For more than 60 years they have endured the pain of dislocation. Many wait in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, and neighboring lands for a life of peace and security that they have never been able to lead. They endure the daily humiliations – large and small – that come with occupation. So let there be no doubt: the situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. And America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own. (Applause.)
Paul Reynolds, BBC world affairs correspondent, says:
“Now comes one of the core issues – the Israeli/Palestinian dispute. Remember that the President has previously signalled his intention to revive peace talks and that he has distanced himself from the Israeli settlement policy, calling for an absolute freeze. First, however, he has to reaffirm US support for Israel. He does not want expectations of differences to get out of hand: This bond is unbreakable. And in a passage designed to refute Holocaust deniers, of whom there are quite a few in the Muslim world, he dwells for a time on reasserting the truth: Six million Jews were killed… Denying that fact is baseless, ignorant and hateful. It could hardly be stronger. But he has to balance support for Israel by support for the Palestinians – and a Palestinian state. He does this very clearly, emphasising how the Palestinian people have suffered in pursuit of a homeland and are under occupation with daily humiliations in a situation that is intolerable. He says America will not turn its back on the Palestinians.
For decades then, there has been a stalemate: two peoples with legitimate aspirations, each with a painful history that makes compromise elusive. It is easy to point fingers – for Palestinians to point to the displacement brought about by Israel’s founding, and for Israelis to point to the constant hostility and attacks throughout its history from within its borders as well as beyond. But if we see this conflict only from one side or the other, then we will be blind to the truth: the only resolution is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states, where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security. (Applause.)
The audience interrupted the speech with frequent applause
That is in Israel’s interest, Palestine’s interest, America’s interest, and the world’s interest. And that is why I intend to personally pursue this outcome with all the patience and dedication that the task requires. The obligations that the parties have agreed to under the Road Map are clear. For peace to come, it is time for them – and all of us – to live up to our responsibilities. Palestinians must abandon violence. Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and does not succeed. For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation. But it was not violence that won full and equal rights. It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of America’s founding. This same story can be told by people from South Africa to South Asia; from Eastern Europe to Indonesia. It’s a story with a simple truth: violence is a dead end. It is a sign of neither courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus. That is not how moral authority is claimed; that is how it is surrendered. Now is the time for Palestinians to focus on what they can build. The Palestinian Authority must develop its capacity to govern, with institutions that serve the needs of its people. Hamas does have support among some Palestinians, but they also have to recognise that they have responsibilities. To play a role in fulfilling Palestinian aspirations, and to unify the Palestinian people, Hamas must put an end to violence, recognize past agreements, recognise Israel’s right to exist. At the same time, Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel’s right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine’s. The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. (Applause.) This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop. (Applause.)
And Israel must also live up to its obligation to ensure that Palestinians can live, and work, and develop their society. Just as it devastates Palestinian families, the continuing humanitarian crisis in Gaza does not serve Israel’s security; neither does the continuing lack of opportunity in the West Bank. Progress in the daily lives of the Palestinian people must be a critical part of a road to peace, and Israel must take concrete steps to enable such progress. And finally, the Arab States must recognize that the Arab Peace Initiative was an important beginning, but not the end of their responsibilities. The Arab-Israeli conflict should no longer be used to distract the people of Arab nations from other problems. Instead, it must be a cause for action to help the Palestinian people develop the institutions that will sustain their state; to recognize Israel’s legitimacy; and to choose progress over a self-defeating focus on the past. America will align our policies with those who pursue peace, and we will say in public what we say in private to Israelis and Palestinians and Arabs. (Applause.) We cannot impose peace. But privately, many Muslims recognize that Israel will not go away. Likewise, many Israelis recognize the need for a Palestinian state. It is time for us to act on what everyone knows to be true. Too many tears have been shed. Too much blood has been shed. All of us have a responsibility to work for the day when the mothers of Israelis and Palestinians can see their children grow up without fear; when the Holy Land of three great faiths is the place of peace that God intended it to be; when Jerusalem is a secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims, and a place for all of the children of Abraham to mingle peacefully together. (Applause.) As in the story of Isra, when Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed (peace be upon them) joined in prayer. (Applause.)
Paul Reynolds, BBC world affairs correspondent, says:
“Here he gets into the detail of how a settlement might be reached. “It is not new – very little in the Middle East ‘peace process’ is new. The President seeks to reaffirm the two-state solution – a swipe at those on each side who reject this, or perhaps, like the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who are equivocal. “The aspiration of both peoples must be met through two states, he says. It is interesting how even-handed he is in his vision. “He sticks by the currently little-read ‘roadmap’, an international plan drawn up but not followed up. “Both sides have responsibilities – Palestinians must abandon violence and Israelis must acknowledge Palestine and its right to exist. “He repeats his opposition to continued Israeli settlements and states firmly: It is time for these settlements to stop. He ends quite a long section by calling on Arab states to help and he finishes by making the expected reference in such speeches – calling for peace for all of the children of Abraham.
The third source of tension is our shared interest in the rights and responsibilities of nations on nuclear weapons. This issue has been a source of tension between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran. For many years, Iran has defined itself in part by its opposition to my country, and there is in fact a tumultuous history between us. In the middle of the Cold War, the United States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically-elected Iranian government. Since the Islamic Revolution, Iran has played a role in acts of hostage-taking and violence against U.S. troops and civilians. This history is well known. Rather than remain trapped in the past, I have made it clear to Iran’s leaders and people that my country is prepared to move forward. The question, now, is not what Iran is against, but rather what future it wants to build. It will be hard to overcome decades of mistrust, but we will proceed with courage, rectitude and resolve. There will be many issues to discuss between our two countries, and we are willing to move forward without preconditions on the basis of mutual respect. But it is clear to all concerned that when it comes to nuclear weapons, we have reached a decisive point. This is not simply about America’s interests. It is about preventing a nuclear arms race in the Middle East that could lead this region and the world down a hugely dangerous path. I understand those who protest that some countries have weapons that others do not. No single nation should pick and choose which nation holds nuclear weapons. (Applause.) That is why I strongly reaffirmed America’s commitment to seek a world in which no nations hold nuclear weapons. And any nation – including Iran – should have the right to access peaceful nuclear power if it complies with its responsibilities under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. That commitment is at the core of the Treaty, and it must be kept for all who fully abide by it. And I am hopeful that all countries in the region can share in this goal.
Paul Reynolds, BBC world affairs correspondent, says:
“In this section he deals with Iran and its nuclear activities. “President Obama has already offered talks with Iran but has not heard back yet. Here he continues to try to encourage Iran into such contacts and again promises that my country is prepared to move forward. “He says that he is willing to move without preconditions. He hints that he, like many Israelis, is afraid of Iran’s intentions, saying that this is about preventing a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. Iran insists it has no ambitions to become a nuclear-armed state but wants nuclear power. “What is interesting here is the absence of any threat against Iran – no mention of ‘all options on the table’ (meaning the military one) or even a tightening of sanctions. This is in line with the President’s policy of avoiding threats against Iran (at least for the moment).
The fourth issue that I will address is democracy. (Applause.) I know there has been controversy about the promotion of democracy in recent years, and much of this controversy is connected to the war in Iraq. So let me be clear: no system of government can or should be imposed upon one nation by any other. That does not lessen my commitment, however, to governments that reflect the will of the people. Each nation gives life to this principle in its own way, grounded in the traditions of its own people. America does not presume to know what is best for everyone, just as we would not presume to pick the outcome of a peaceful election. But I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn’t steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. Those are not just American ideas, they are human rights, and that is why we will support them everywhere. (Applause.) Now, there is no straight line to realize this promise. But this much is clear: governments that protect these rights are ultimately more stable, successful and secure. Suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. America respects the right of all peaceful and law-abiding voices to be heard around the world, even if we disagree with them. And we will welcome all elected, peaceful governments – provided they govern with respect for all their people. This last point is important because there are some who advocate for democracy only when they are out of power; once in power, they are ruthless in suppressing the rights of others. (Applause.) No matter where it takes hold, government of the people and by the people sets a single standard for all who hold power: you must maintain your power through consent, not coercion; you must respect the rights of minorities, and participate with a spirit of tolerance and compromise; you must place the interests of your people and the legitimate workings of the political process above your party. Without these ingredients, elections alone do not make true democracy. (Shout from audience.) Thank you.
Paul Reynolds, BBC world affairs correspondent, says:
“Here he deals with the delicate issue of democracy and Islam. Many Muslim countries are not full democracies. President Bush was vigorous in promoting democracy as the solution to the Middle East’s problems (even justifying the war in Iraq that way) but President Obama is less forthright. However he cannot ignore it. “He carefully states up front, not wanting to offend friendly governments, that no system of government can or should be imposed upon one nation by any other. “That said, he goes on to say that he favours those governments that reflect the will of the people. “It is quite a short section, especially when compared to the whole speeches that George W Bush devoted to this. Mr Obama basically contents himself with a reference (unstated) to Abraham Lincoln in the Gettysburg address – government of the people and by the people – though why has he left out Lincoln’s last phrase ‘for the people’?
The fifth issue that we must address together is religious freedom. Islam has a proud tradition of tolerance. We see it in the history of Andalusia and Cordoba during the Inquisition. I saw it firsthand as a child in Indonesia, where devout Christians worshipped freely in an overwhelmingly Muslim country. That is the spirit we need today. People in every country should be free to choose and live their faith based upon the persuasion of the mind, and the heart, and the soul. This tolerance is essential for religion to thrive, but it is being challenged in many different ways. Among some Muslims, there is a disturbing tendency to measure one’s own faith by the rejection of somebody else’s. The richness of religious diversity must be upheld – whether it is for Maronites in Lebanon or the Copts in Egypt. (Applause.) And if we are being honest fault lines must be closed among Muslims as well, as the divisions between Sunni and Shia have led to tragic violence, particularly in Iraq. Freedom of religion is central to the ability of peoples to live together. We must always examine the ways in which we protect it. For instance, in the United States, rules on charitable giving have made it harder for Muslims to fulfill their religious obligation. That is why I am committed to working with American Muslims to ensure that they can fulfill zakat. Likewise, it is important for Western countries to avoid impeding Muslim citizens from practicing religion as they see fit – for instance, by dictating what clothes a Muslim woman should wear. We cannot disguise hostility towards any religion behind the pretence of liberalism. Indeed, faith should bring us together. That is why we are forging service projects in America that bring together Christians, Muslims, and Jews. That is why we welcome efforts like Saudi Arabian King Abdullah’s Interfaith dialogue and Turkey’s leadership in the Alliance of Civilizations. Around the world, we can turn dialogue into Interfaith service, so bridges between peoples lead to action – whether it is combating malaria in Africa, or providing relief after a natural disaster.
Paul Reynolds, BBC world affairs correspondent, says:
“This section on religious freedom takes the audience back to thinking about Islam. “He again praises Islam – Islam has a proud tradition of tolerance – but, again reaffirms his theme that there have to be improvements on both sides, he is also critical: Among some Muslims there is a disturbing tendency to measure one’s own faith by the rejection of another’s. “The introduction and main theme of the speech was about political tolerance. This part is about religious tolerance and he again appeals to the sensitivities of his audience by urging Western countries not to impede Muslims in their worship – or their dress.
The sixth issue that I want to address is women’s rights. (Applause.) I know, and you can tell from this audience, that there is a healthy debate about this issue. I reject the view of some in the West that a woman who chooses to cover her hair is somehow less equal, but I do believe that a woman who is denied an education is denied equality. (Applause.) And it is no coincidence that countries where women are well-educated are far more likely to be prosperous. Now let me be clear: issues of women’s equality are by no means simply an issue for Islam. In Turkey, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, we have seen Muslim-majority countries elect a woman to lead. Meanwhile, the struggle for women’s equality continues in many aspects of American life, and in countries around the world. I am convinced that our daughters can contribute just as much to society as our sons. (Applause.) Our common prosperity will be advanced by allowing all humanity – men and women – to reach their full potential. I do not believe that women must make the same choices as men in order to be equal, and I respect those women who choose to live their lives in traditional roles. But it should be their choice. That is why the United States will partner with any Muslim-majority country to support expanded literacy for girls, and to help young women pursue employment through micro-financing that helps people live their dreams. (Applause.)
Paul Reynolds, BBC world affairs correspondent, says:
“He devotes a section to women’s rights, which is as delicate an issue in some Muslim societies as references to democracy. It is a short section but quite hard hitting. “His basic point is that women should have the choice about whether to live their lives in traditional roles. He is strong about the need for women’s education, a challenge to the Taliban. He does not lecture, but he does state his views and there is a personal element perhaps when he says Our daughters can contribute just as much to society as our sons. As elsewhere in this speech, he is careful to balance a call for action by Muslims by a call to understanding in the West, which should not think, he says, that a woman who chooses to cover her hair is less equal.
Finally, I want to discuss economic development and opportunity. I know that for many, the face of globalization is contradictory. The Internet and television can bring knowledge and information, but also offensive sexuality and mindless violence into the home. Trade can bring new wealth and opportunities, but also huge disruptions and change to communities. In all nations – including America – this change can bring fear. Fear that because of modernity we will lose of control over our economic choices, our politics, and most importantly our identities – those things we most cherish about our communities, our families, our traditions, and our faith.
But I also know that human progress cannot be denied. There need not be contradictions between development and tradition. Countries like Japan and South Korea grew their economies enormously while maintaining distinct cultures. The same is true for the astonishing progress within Muslim-majority countries from Kuala Lumpur to Dubai. In ancient times and in our times, Muslim communities have been at the forefront of innovation and education. And this is important because no development strategy can be based only upon what comes out of the ground, nor can it be sustained while young people are out of work. Many Gulf States have enjoyed great wealth as a consequence of oil, and some are beginning to focus it on broader development. But all of us must recognize that education and innovation will be the currency of the 21st Century. (Applause.) And in too many Muslim communities there remains underinvestment in these areas. I am emphasizing such investment within my own country. And while America in the past has focused on oil and gas when it comes to this part of the world, we now seek a broader engagement. On education, we will expand exchange programs, and increase scholarships, like the one that brought my father to America. (Applause.) At the same time we will encourage more Americans to study in Muslim communities. And we will match promising Muslim students with internships in America; invest in on-line learning for teachers and children around the world; and create a new online network, so a young person in Kansas can communicate instantly with a young person in Cairo. On economic development, we will create a new corps of business volunteers to partner with counterparts in Muslim-majority countries. And I will host a Summit on Entrepreneurship this year to identify how we can deepen ties between business leaders, foundations and social entrepreneurs in the United States and Muslim communities around the world. On science and technology, we will launch a new fund to support technological development in Muslim-majority countries, and to help transfer ideas to the marketplace so they can create more jobs. We will open centers of scientific excellence in Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia, and appoint new Science Envoys to collaborate on programs that develop new sources of energy, create green jobs, digitize records, clean water, grow new crops. Today I am announcing a new global effort with the Organization of the Islamic Conference to eradicate polio. And we will also expand partnerships with Muslim communities to promote child and maternal health. All these things must be done in partnership. Americans are ready to join with citizens and governments; community organizations, religious leaders, and businesses in Muslim communities around the world to help our people pursue a better life.
Paul Reynolds, BBC world affairs correspondent, says:
This is a feel-good section about economic cooperation and development. It seeks to balance the heavy political messages with an affirmation that modernity can but does not have to lead to corruption. Change can bring fear, he says. But he adds, in a swipe at the regressive attitudes of some, that There need not be contradiction between development and tradition.
The issues that I have described will not be easy to address. But we have a responsibility to join together on behalf of the world that we seek – a world where extremists no longer threaten our people, and American troops have come home; a world where Israelis and Palestinians are each secure in a state of their own, and nuclear energy is used for peaceful purposes; a world where governments serve their citizens, and the rights of all God’s children are respected. Those are mutual interests. That is the world we seek. But we can only achieve it together. I know there are many – Muslim and non-Muslim – who question whether we can forge this new beginning. Some are eager to stoke the flames of division, and to stand in the way of progress. Some suggest that it isn’t worth the effort – that we are fated to disagree, and civilizations are doomed to clash. Many more are simply sceptical that real change can occur. There is so much fear, so much mistrust that has build up over the years. But if we choose to be bound by the past, we will never move forward. And I want to particularly say this to young people of every faith, in every country – you, more than anyone, have the ability to reimagine the world, to remake this world. All of us share this world for but a brief moment in time. The question is whether we spend that time focused on what pushes us apart, or whether we commit ourselves to an effort – a sustained effort – to find common ground, to focus on the future we seek for our children, and to respect the dignity of all human beings. It is easier to start wars than to end them. It is easier to blame others than to look inward; to see what is different about someone than to find the things we share. But we should choose the right path, not just the easy path. There is also one rule that lies at the heart of every religion – that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. (Appluase.) This truth transcends nations and peoples – a belief that isn’t new; that isn’t black or white or brown; that isn’t Christian, or Muslim or Jew. It’s a belief that pulsed in the cradle of civilization, and that still beats in the hearts of billions around the world. It’s a faith in other people, and it’s what brought me here today. We have the power to make the world we seek, but only if we have the courage to make a new beginning, keeping in mind what has been written. The Holy Koran tells us, “O mankind! We have created you male and a female; and we have made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another.” The Talmud tells us: “The whole of the Torah is for the purpose of promoting peace.” The Holy Bible tells us, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (Applause.)
Paul Reynolds, BBC world affairs correspondent, says:
“This is the final flourish. President Obama lets rip a bit with his rhetoric – Choose the right path, not just the easy path. He repeats this key phrase new beginning and echoes the references to the need for change that brought him to power: We have the power to make the world we seek, but only if we have the courage to make a new beginning…”He lays out what he hopes will be the results of his policies – “a world where extremists no longer threaten our people” and American troops have come home, where Israelis and Palestinians are each secure in a state of their own and where nuclear energy is used for peaceful purposes. (This last phrase is a reference to Iran). And he ends by quoting from the Koran, the Talmud and The Bible.
The people of the world can live together in peace. We know that is God’s vision. Now, that must be our work here on Earth. Thank you. And may God’s peace be upon you. (Applause.) Thank you very much. Thank you. References to applause, from the audience in Cairo, inserted by the BBC.
Quantum entanglement is just spooky – even Einstein thought
so. As if particles (as in particle physics) have telepathic empathy.
of quantum mechanics predicts that two or more particles can become
“entangled” so that even after they are separated in space, when an
action is performed on one particle, the other particle responds immediately.
Scientists still don't know how the particles send these instantaneous messages
to each other, but somehow, once they are entwined, they retain a fundamental
This bizarre idea riled Einstein so much he called it “spooky
action at a distance.”
A new study found that this eerie
quantum link can apply even to situations that resemble the larger,
everyday world. Scientists entangled two pairs of vibrating particles separated
in space, so that when one pair was forced to change its movement, the other
pair did as well.
“We've entangled something that has never been
entangled before, and it's the kind of physical, oscillating system you see in
the classical world, just much smaller,” said John Jost, a physics
graduate student at the University of Colorado at Boulder, and a guest
researcher at the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Jost and team
describe their findings in the June 4 issue of the journal Nature.
Previous experiments have entangled the internal properties
of particles, such as spin states, but this is the first time scientists have
entangled the particles' pattern of motion.
The breakthrough could help researchers build quantum
computers, which could theoretically make calculations much faster than
“Apart from adding another toy to the quantum
mechanic's playground, this is an important tool for further developments in
quantum-state engineering,” wrote physicist Rainer Blatt of the Austrian Academy
of Sciences in a separate essay in the June 4 issue of Nature. Blatt was not involved in the new study.
To achieve this feat of entanglement, Jost and colleagues
set up two pairs of ions (atoms with one electron removed, so that they have a
positive charge). Each pair included one beryllium and one magnesium ion,
vibrating back and forth toward and away from each other as if they were
connected by an invisible spring.
Using electric fields and lasers, the researchers herded the
ions into separate pairs and then entangled their motion. Then they separated
the pairs by 240 micrometers (millionths of a meter), which is actually quite a
span for an atom. Even at this distance, when the researchers changed the
motion of one pair – stopped or started the vibrations – the other responded immediately,
stopping or starting in kind.
The experiment proved that this kind of everyday springy
motion is entangle-able, and blurred the boundary between the quantum world and
the regular macroscopic world we live in, where normal objects don't behave like
As for why this entanglement, or any entanglement, is
possible, physicists aren't so sure.
“It's a very difficult question,” Jost told LiveScience. “I would just have to
say that it stems from the laws and rules of quantum mechanics. There are a lot
of people trying to understand what it means.”
10 Unexplained Phenomena
Quantum Physics Could Power the Future
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Original Story: Einstein's 'Spooky Physics' Gets More Entangled
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UK house prices ‘up 2.6% in May’
UK house prices rose by 2.6% in May compared with April but activity remains low in the market, according to the latest survey from the Halifax.The lender, now part of the Lloyds Banking Group, warned against placing too much weight on one month’s figures. The rise came after three successive months of property price falls, it said. The annual rate of decline has now eased to 16.3% from 17.7% in April. The average UK home now costs 158,565, the figures showed. Market figuresPrices in the last three months compared with the previous three months are generally regarded as a less volatile measure of the housing market.
Between June 2008 and January 2009, this three-month figure showed consistent declines of between 5% and 6%. However, prices fell by 3.1% in the quarter to May compared with the previous three months. The annual drop comparing the average price in May 2008 compared with the average price a year later is 13.7%, although the Halifax prefers to compare quarter-on-quarter prices for its annual figure – which calculates at 16.3%. “There are some tentative indications of a possible stabilisation in activity, albeit at a low level,” said Nitesh Patel, the group’s housing economist. “It is always important not to place too much weight on any one month’s figures. Historically, house prices have not moved in the same direction month after month even during a pronounced downturn.” He pointed to the fall in house prices of 11% during 1991 and 1992, during which time there were still five monthly price rises. Low activityHowever, the monthly jump is the highest since October 2002 and echoes the increase in property prices reported in May by the Nationwide.
The building society reported a 1.2% rise in prices in May compared with April – the second rise in three months. Both lenders suggested that a low supply of homes for sale was likely to have had an effect on average prices. “House sales remain substantially below their long-term average and market conditions are expected to remain difficult with housing activity continuing at low levels over the coming months,” said Mr Patel. The Bank of England reported earlier in the week that the number of new mortgages approved for home buyers in the UK had risen in April for the third month in a row. These are a good indicator of short-term trends and suggest sales may continue to rise. Completed sales have also jumped, but remain much lower than a year ago. First-time buyersLow interest rates have eased mortgage affordability for many. The Halifax index showed that the proportion of disposable income spent on mortgage repayments by a new borrowers dropped from a peak of 48% in the third quarter of 2007 to 31% in the first three months of this year. With house prices dropping year-on-year, of those people buying a home with a mortgage in March some 40% were first-time buyers. The actual number – 12,500 – was a third lower than a year ago, but this was the highest proportion of first-timers in the market since April 2005. Yet figures released to the BBC earlier this week from financial information service Moneyfacts found that mortgages were still being rationed, making the initial outlay for first-time buyers relatively expensive. Of the 1,623 mortgage deals currently on offer, two-thirds still require a deposit of at least 25%, with a quarter of all deals needing a down-payment from the borrower of at least 40%. Mortgage brokers and estate agents have highlighted low activity in the housing market, but said there were some signs of optimism for them. “At the moment predicting monthly house price figures is a little like predicting the weather and it would be foolhardy to talk about a recovery based on one set of data,” said Ashley Brown, director of mortgage broker Moneysprite. “While activity in the property market remains low, there has been an increase in the number of mortgage approvals, which indicates growing confidence among buyers.” Simon Rubinsohn, chief economist of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics), said: “Crucially, a lack of new instruction to estate agents is resulting in a shortage of good quality stock in the right locations. This could continue to provide support for prices in the near term.”