Los Angeles (E! Online) –
Ah, the weekend. Time to relax, reboot and reflect on all the celebrity news we inhaled over the past week. We start with a trip down memory lane—all the way back to Sunday, when a certain award show came to town, bringing with it a “Dick in a Box” tribute, a bare Austrian behind and, sigh, the first New Moon trailer…
1. The 2009 MTV Movie Awards were bigger than they'd been in ages—and more viral, thanks to Brüno's thong-clad butt and what turned out to be a faux furious reaction from Eminem. Most of the popcorn was handed out to Twilight and its delish young stars, and speaking of Pattz & Co…
2. What would a list of the hottest anything be without New Moon, for which the hype is only going to keep growing before its November (so far away…) premiere. Hell, we're even starting to talk about Eclipse. Fanggirls and boys can't get enough Robsten updates—and lucky for them, neither can the Awful Truth. (When AT's not busy determining the Most Awful Celeb, that is.)
3. Kill Bill's David Carradine died—suddenly, shockingly and possibly while engaged in autoerotic asphyxiation. His family and friends insist it wasn't a suicide, as Thai police first suggested.
4. Susan Boyle did not win Britain's Got Talent and she ended up on bed rest for her efforts. Which, of course, led the Answer Bitch to pass judgment on whether the runner-up is equipped—physically, mentally, emotionally—to take the heat that comes with worldwide fame.
5. Should they stay or should they go? Speidi just couldn't make up their minds about I'm a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here! and they made a few enemies by quitting multiple times. Anyway, now it's up to the castmates they scorned (including Octomom's twin, Janice Dickinson—no offense, Octomom) to decide whether the see-'em-to-believe-'em duo get to stay on the show. Ratings for Thursday were up as people tuned in to bask in the horribleness, but turrns out we won't know Speidi's fate until Monday. Smart, NBC…
6. Voting for the 2009 Tater Top Awards is in full effect, thanks to Watch With Kristen's copious efforts to watch everything and report back on the best and the brightest. All this, and there's dish on So You Think You Can Dance's Top 20, too!
7. Jon and Kate Gosselin continued to separately and privately go about their business. You know, on the cover of People and whatnot.
8. The Tonight Show With Conan O'Brien landed on NBC. Coco Christopher (thanks, Tom Hanks) seemed a bit rusty—and now he's looking into the year 3000!—but with his trusty irreverence (and Andy Richter) by his side, we're sure the kinks will be worked out in no time.
9. Hodgepodge for a thousand, Alex: Brangie are still together, Lance Armstrong's lady had a baby, Shia LaBeouf is more powerful than Robert Pattinson, Angelina's more powerful than everyone, Joe Jonas danced to “Single Ladies,” Christina Ricci is single, Gilles Marini had surgery, Zefron's on Entourage, Hannah Montana's coming back, Jennifer Hudson's pregnant, Nicole Kidman isn't, and Adam Lambert held a fella's hand.
10. We've been posting tons of pictures of famous people. What have you been doing?
··· THEY SAID WHAT? Get today's most commented stories now at www.eonline.com
Archive for June 6th, 2009
Los Angeles (E! Online) –
PARIS (Reuters) –
Airbus has faced problems with the speed sensors on its A330 aircraft dating back to at least 2001, forcing changes in equipment as well as the pilot's flight manual, according to regulatory documents.
An automated error message from the flightdeck pointing to discrepancies in airspeed data is among a handful of clues available so far to experts investigating last week's crash of an Air France A330 in an Atlantic storm that killed 228 people.
France's chief crash investigator said on Saturday airspeed problems had arisen on the same type of plane before but stressed it was too soon to say if these were to blame for the crash and added the plane was still safe to fly.
Airbus confirmed on Saturday it had recommended before the crash that airlines change speed sensors called pitot probes. But it said it was an optional move based only on performance rather than concerns about safety, which would be mandatory.
Operators have however been warned in the past of unsafe conditions resulting from potential ice damage to the sensitive probes fixed to the fuselage, according to online filings.
In 2001, France reported several cases of sudden fluctuation of A330 or A340 airspeed data during severe icing conditions, according to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration.
“Lost or erroneous airspeed indications could result in lack of sufficient information for the flight crew to safely operate the airplane, and consequent inadvertent excursions outside the normal flight envelope,” the FAA wrote in a 2001 summary.
Airbus was ordered as a result to update the cockpit manual. On Thursday, following the crash, Airbus issued a reminder to pilots on procedures in the event of speed discrepancies.
The plane which crashed was an A330-200, the newer of two variants of the A330 wide-body twinjet. It was built in 2005.
In 2002, operators of the A330-300 sister model had been ordered to upgrade speed sensors, again because of problems in extreme weather, according to a directive issued in Australia.
The pitot probes, angular tubes sticking out from the side of the aircraft, measure speed based on pressure but their measurements can be halted or skewed if they become blocked.
Two companies manufacture sensors suitable for the A330, France's Thales and U.S.-based Goodrich.
A spokeswoman for Thales, which supplied the sensors on the crashed aircraft, said on Friday it was premature to speculation whether they were linked to the crash pending the investigation.
France's weather office said on Saturday the equatorial storm in the plane's path was severe but “not exceptional.”
(Reporting by Tim Hepher; Editing by Matthew Jones)
Swat men’s first post-Taliban shave
BBC Urdu, Islamabad
Men who have fled the fighting in the Swat valley between the Pakistani military and the Taliban have little to cheer them.They have left their homes, lost their jobs and gone though the ordeal of becoming displaced people in their own country But some have found freedom to pursue their profession only after arriving in camps set up to provide people fleeing the fighting food and shelter. These people are the barbers who were banned from shaving off people’s beards by the Taliban. There are about seven barbers in Rangmala, a camp for displaced people which is a couple of kilometres from Malakand Top. Although they want to go back home once the Taliban have gone they are relishing the chance to work without being threatened. Shaukat Ali came to the camp from Mingora.
On Sunday he shaved his first client for eight months. He says that there were about 100 barber shops in Mingora and they all were ordered by the Taliban to immediately stop shaving off beards as it was un-Islamic. Since that order, the barbers stopped shaving off beards and only trim hair. “I am really pleased that I shaved someone’s beard off. I am really lucky because I am one of the few people in the camp that can earn some money,” Shaukat Ali says. Another barber, Farman Ali, used to have a shop but now he is happy just to have a chair in the open. “The Taliban threatened to attack the barber shops and their houses if they kept shaving customers’ beards. Before the Taliban came along with their restrictions I used to do 15 to 20 shaves a day so as soon as they took over I saw my income plummet,” says Farman Ali. He said that almost all the barbers have moved out of Mingora and that although he can work in freedom in the camp and earns 100 rupees a day there, he is longing to return home and work there. One man from Mingora said that he was having his first shave by a barber for a year. “I used to shave at home but the luxury of having one’s beard shaved by a barber is completely different.”
Pollution and poverty in Kyrgyzstan
By Alex Kirby
Twenty years after independence, the small Central Asian state of Kyrgyzstan remains one of the poorest parts of the former Soviet Union, struggling to make its way in a complex and sometimes hostile world.
There is something of Arcadia about Kyrgyzstan in the spring. Heading out of the southern city of Osh, you pass apple and apricot orchards, with the road climbing every now and then to cross a spur of the mountains which march close at hand along the Tajik and Uzbek borders. And when it does, the vistas transfix you, long upland valleys reaching through the juniper forests towards the snow line, their flanks close-cropped and neat as a suburban golf course, thanks to the herds of fat-tailed sheep and other livestock. There are not as many sheep as there were in Soviet times, when Kyrgyzstan was expected to provide winter overcoats for the world’s largest army but there are still plenty. You never really escape the pervasive whiff of mutton. We were heading for the small town of Khaidarkan, home to the only mercury mine in the world which is still exporting its output. Mercury threatBut not for much longer. There is international agreement that mercury is such a threat to health and the environment that mining should stop, with essential uses relying on recycled mercury until substitutes are available and it can be phased out completely. So Khaidarkan is, understandably, a worried town. You reach it by crossing a pass over 7,000 feet (2,100m) high, then dropping slightly into the small, ramshackle settlement overshadowed by the encircling peaks. The most prominent features of Khaidarkan are the massive waste tips which stretch along the valley, interspersed with pools of mercury-contaminated sludge which the local cattle lap thirstily.
Seventy years ago there was even less to Khaidarkan. The pit did not exist until the early 1940s, when Josef Stalin resolved that the Nazis should not get their hands on his mercury mine in Ukraine, had everything that was portable loaded onto a train, and sent it all, smelter, production equipment, and probably the winding gear itself, to distant Kyrgyzstan. Today the town is quiet. The mine’s employees have not been paid since November, and many have gone north to seek a wage in Kazakhstan or Russia. There are a few border guards, still sporting those improbable Soviet military peaked caps almost the size of a bicycle wheel.
Most of those who have stayed behind are friendly enough. There was the shepherd who had just ridden home from a day in the mountains, yet slipped from the saddle and asked us in to share a meal with his family. In the market – the stalls laden with pistachios, cherries and strawberries – there was the elderly lady who explained how she supports her son, a miner. “I’m 76, but I come here and sell what I can to make sure he can keep going,” she said. One of her friends called out: “And tell them how your boyfriend helps to keep you going.” Going undergroundThe one classically frosty reception came from the mine manager. He told my UN companions they had a hidden agenda, to ensure that the mine was closed. What they are trying to do, in fact, is to find ways of keeping it in business, once the world turns its back on mercury. But, for him, they were the enemy, until I ambled into his sights. After travelling several thousand miles to Khaidarkan, I thought at least I should appear interested enough to want to see the mine at first hand. Asked if I could descend to the galleries where the mercury ore was being dug out, the manager rasped: “Tell me about your professional background.” I barely had time to say that I had worked for the BBC than he pounced. “Once a journalist, always a journalist,” he said. Electrocution risk”You’re not going down my mine.” Stung by this rejection, I told him I had not wanted to go down the mine anyway. I had asked to do so only from some cock-eyed notion of what was expected of visitors. So he could keep his secrets, and I would happily stay up top in the evening sun. In fact the UN team had told me what it is like 1,200 feet (360m) down in the galleries. At one point you have to walk through knee-deep water while remembering not to raise your head, for fear of touching the live electric cables which loop along the tunnel roof. Water rivalryI left Khaidarkan soon after, happy to have escaped electrocution. Back in the capital, Bishkek, not many people seemed very interested in the fate of the mine. What is preoccupying many Kyrgyz is the difficulty which can only increase of reconciling the country’s need for water with the demands of their neighbours. Kyrgyzstan relies on hydropower for 90% of its electricity. The other ‘stans’ rely on its water for their agriculture. And there is nobody in Moscow now to knock their heads together and make them share it.
Kyrgyzstan has to reconcile its need for water with its neighbours’ demands.
But there are hopes that China will step in. It is preparing to sign an agreement to exploit the waters of the river Sary-Djaz, which flows from Kyrgyzstan’s eastern mountains into western China, to generate hydropower. And if it does get involved, that will mean a new and very powerful friend for the Kyrgyz. “Why don’t you just talk to your neighbours about the dispute,” I asked one scientist. “Oh,” he said, “we invite them – but they never turn up, unless there’s an emergency.” “Yes”, muttered a colleague. “They come then, with their Kalashnikovs.” How to listen to: From our own CorrespondentRadio 4: Saturdays, 1130. Second weekly edition on Thursdays, 1100 (some weeks only) World Service: See programme schedules Download the
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Lebanese Christians – kingmakers in vote
By Natalia Antelava
BBC News, Beirut
There is a new joke in Beirut – Lebanon’s heated election campaign, it goes, has given birth to two new religious sects… Shia and Sunni Christians. In Lebanon, people have always voted along sectarian lines. As the country prepares for a crucial parliamentary vote, in many districts, the result is already a foregone conclusion. The Shias are expected to vote for the opposition, backed by Iran and Syria and led by the Shia militant group Hezbollah. The Sunnis will back the pro-Western, Sunni-led alliance. But Christians are the kingmakers of the vote. Lebanon’s Christian neighbourhoods are divided between the two main groups – it is this Christian choice that will sway the vote. Western focusFor Naila Tweini, the 26-year-old daughter of famous journalist and politician, Gibran Tweini, the choice is clear.
In 2005, Gibran Tweini became one of the first victims in a series of assassinations targeting anti-Syrian politicians. Tens of thousands attended the funeral, during which Neila Tweini gave an emotional address. In a shaking, grief-stricken voice, she vowed to keep her father’s memory alive by taking up his cause. Four years on, a more mature, glamorous and determined Neila Tweini looks down from huge billboards across Achrafiyeh, one of the Christian neighbourhoods of Beirut. She is running for her father’s old seat in parliament. Throughout her rigorous campaign, she has rallied supporters to vote with the pro-Western alliance, to make sure that Syria does not dominate Lebanon again. “Syria and Iran have no future in Lebanon, our future is with the West,” one of her supporters shouted over loud music at a pre-election rally.
Many Christians fear that victory of the Hezbollah-led bloc will inevitably bring another war with Israel, and could ultimately even turn Lebanon into an Islamic state. “I respect Hezbollah for its resistance to Israel, but if they are a political party, why do they have weapons? They kidnap tourists, they carry out attacks – they can be dangerous,” says businessman Robert Farah. Hezbollah promiseBut for every Christian who opposes Hezbollah, there seems to be one who supports the alliance that it leads.
Many of them say they see Hezbollah as the only force capable of defending them from Israel. “The Lebanese army has never done anything to protect us,” said Joanna, a student in Beirut. “Israel will attack again, and we will need Hezbollah.” The United States and Britain consider Hezbollah a terrorist organisation, but while fighting Israel is the group’s main aim, its alliance with a powerful Christian group is one of many signs that Hezbollah has evolved from a mere militant group into a sophisticated political organisation with a strong power base and cunning strategy. “Since the 1990s, Hezbollah has been playing a very intelligent game. They made a clear decision and put aside the idea of creating an Islamic state, instead focusing on national resistance. Their alliance with Christian leaders is part of this strategy,” says Karim Makdisi, a political analyst at the American University of Beirut. Christian allianceHezbollah’s main electoral partner is the Free Patriotic Movement, led by the retired Christian general, Michel Aoun. Mr Aoun’s critics see the general as a traitor and an opportunist who in 2006 allied himself with Hezbollah, abandoning his anti-Syrian stance.
But his supporters say he is a reformer, and they approve of his alliance with Hezbollah. “The opposition has never been in power, and when I listen to their speeches they focus on internal security, economics, political reform. But the government block is only busy with retaliatory attacks on opposition,” says Joe, a graduate student in Beirut. Decades ago, Christians dominated politics in Lebanon. But over the years many left, fleeing wars and instability. Those who stayed failed to unite. Politically their community is now split between the Shias and the Sunnis, but in this crucial election Christians are the ones who will determine the outcome.
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) –
The death toll from a fire at a day-care center in northern Mexico rose to 35 children with at least 40 more hospitalized, many with life-threatening burns, Mexican authorities said on Saturday.
Mexican President Felipe Calderon said he has ordered an investigation into Friday's fire at the ABC day-care center in the northern city of Hermosillo to find who is to blame.
As flames blocked the center's doorway, employees and neighbors used cars to punch holes through a wall and stumbled over unconscious infants and toddlers as they tried to rescue them, witnesses said.
Smoke inhalation killed many children before rescuers could reach them, with the victims ranging in age from a few months old to about 3 years old, authorities said. It was unclear where or how the fire started, although it may have broken out in a nearby warehouse or a tire workshop, the government said.
“According to what our people saw, there was an explosion followed immediately by flames,” Daniel Karam, head of the Mexican agency responsible for health care and social security, said at a news conference in Hermosillo.
The city of about 700,000 people is located about 170 miles south of the border with the U.S. state of Arizona.
Calderon said he was rushing medical assistance to overwhelmed medical staff in Hermosillo, including air ambulances and specialists in reconstructive surgery.
“I have ordered the attorney general, along with local authorities … to investigate as soon as possible to find out exactly what happened and identify whoever may be responsible,” Calderon said in a speech during an event in the state of Quintana Roo.
FACILITY PASSED INSPECTION
More than 140 children were in the ABC day-care center when the fire broke out, Karam told reporters. Karam said the center had passed its last government inspection in May.
The previous death toll given by the government was 31 children, but four more died in the hospital overnight.
In addition, at least 40 more children remained hospitalized, authorities said. About 20 were in “extremely grave” condition, some with burns covering more than 70 percent of their bodies, the government said.
Six adults also were hospitalized in less serious condition following the fire, authorities said.
At a government auditorium, parents waited silently for their children's bodies to be turned over to them.
At least one child was being flown to the Shriners children's hospital in Sacramento, California, which specializes in burns and has been consulting with Mexican doctors, the hospital said.
“Our burn team here has been working all night with the medical professionals in Mexico to triage these patients, on the phone,” Shriners hospital spokeswoman Catherine Curran told Reuters.
(Additional reporting by Anahi Rama; Editing by Will Dunham)
BANGKOK/LOS ANGELES (Reuters) –
The family of David Carradine has asked U.S. authorities to help unravel the mystery of his death, amid conflicting reports about how his body was found hanging naked in a Bangkok hotel.
Mark Geragos, a Los Angeles attorney who represented Carradine's brother, the actor Keith Carradine, said on Saturday the family has contacted the Federal Bureau of Investigation and filed a formal request to have the FBI contact authorities in Thailand for further information.
“They've done it because of the conflicting reports and the nature of those reports that have given the family great pause,” Geragos told Reuters.
Speculation about the death of Carradine, 72, who starred in the 1970s-era U.S. television show “Kung Fu” and the more recent “Kill Bill” movies, has deepened since his body was discovered on Thursday by a maid in the Bangkok hotel suite where he was staying while filming the movie “Stretch.”
With coroners awaiting results of toxicology tests, Thai media pointed to suicide or accidental autoerotic asphyxiation as possible causes of death. Some reports have said a cord was wrapped around Carradine's genitals and others that his hands were bound behind his back. None could be confirmed.
Geragos said Carradine's family had no more information than what had been written and said in the media, which was why they were seeking the FBI's help.
“I wish for them, and their sake, that they did (have more information), but it's the opposite,” Geragos said. “They are getting reports that both seem conflicting and evolving.”
Geragos said Thai authorities must invite the FBI into the investigation, and he did not know how long that might take.
TIGHT-LIPPED IN THAILAND
In Bangkok, police said it could take several weeks for coroners to confirm exactly how Carradine died.
“What we're doing right now is interviewing more witnesses,” Police Colonel Somprasong Yentuam told Reuters.
“It should take roughly three weeks for the blood test result, then we can wrap this case up.” Somprasong said he believed the likely cause of death was asphyxiation.
Thai television said Carradine's body was flown back to Los Angeles early Saturday, which Geragos confirmed.
A maid found Carradine hanging in the closet of his hotel suite at Bangkok's Swissotel Nai Lert Park hotel. Initial reports indicated a possible suicide, but family representatives have repeatedly denied that possibility.
Family representatives have declined to comment on possible autoerotic asphyxiation, which involves intentionally cutting off oxygen supply for strong sexual arousal.
Thai investigators have said there was no indication that other people had been in the room where Carradine was staying.
Carradine, the son of the late character actor John Carradine, enjoyed a long career on Broadway, TV and in films. But he was most famous for his role in “Kung Fu,” playing Caine, a martial arts specialist who wandered through the American Old West seeking wisdom and beating up bad guys.
(Additional reporting by Bob Tourtellotte in Los Angeles; Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Patricia Zengerle)
AUBURN, N.Y. – Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin set aside politics only briefly Saturday to help Auburn officials celebrate their inaugural Founder’s Day and raise money for a museum honoring William Seward, the 19th-century U.S. secretary of state who acquired Alaska for the United States.
More than 20,000 people turned out to see the former Republican vice presidential candidate lead a parade through downtown Auburn and sign a proclamation on the steps of City Hall honoring Seward as “the one person most responsible for Alaska.”
But after spending a day and a half as a tourist visiting some of the upstate New York region’s most historic sites, Palin turned back into a politician at a private fundraiser for the Seward House museum, where she had sharp words for President Barack Obama’s national security and energy policies and his handling of the nation’s economic crisis.
“It’s clear to many that some of our priorities as a nation are reversed,” Palin told the several hundred people who each paid 100 or more to attend a garden party on the museum grounds. “Alaskans get tired of hearing that Washington bureaucrats know what’s best for us so we push and fight and challenge decisions made inside the Beltway when they are not in the best interests of the country, and we know that decisions that are being made recently are not in the country’s best interests.”
Palin, who emerged as a leading voice in the Republican Party after Arizona Sen. John McCain picked her as his running mate in the contest against Obama, is thought to be considering a run for president in 2012. Auburn residents welcomed her to the podium at City Hall with a chant of “Run, Sarah, run!”
As she spoke, about a dozen protesters from the Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund, a lobbying group that seeks to protect wildlife and the environment, held up signs condemning her continued promotion of the aerial hunting of wolves, but the large crowd was mostly receptive to her appearance.
Palin rode the mile-long parade route in a red convertible, getting out to walk about 100 yards while carrying small U.S. and Alaska state flags in each hand. Spectators yelled out “Welcome, Sarah” and “Thanks for coming” as Palin waved back.
Local resident Chris Stone, with his wife and three children, said he didn’t care for Palin’s politics but didn’t want to miss the chance to see her in person.
“You can see by the turnout, she’s become a personality and a historical figure,” said Stone, who voted for Obama. “I know all these people aren’t Republicans. This is a chance to see someone who has had a big impact on history.”
At City Hall, Palin spoke for about 10 minutes, praising Seward for his foresight and courage.
“We are blessed that William Seward recognized what Alaska could offer with our strategic location, with our resources that today could help secure the United States and make us less reliant on foreign sources of energy,” Palin said.
Palin noted that Seward was harshly criticized at the time for buying Alaska but “sought to do what was right, not what was easy.”
Seward, who lived much of his adult life in Auburn, was U.S. secretary of state under Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson. He negotiated the deal for the U.S. to buy Alaska from Russia in 1867 for 7.2 million. Decried by critics as “Seward’s folly,” the purchase became one of his greatest legacies.
Alaska became the nation’s 49th state on Jan. 3, 1959.
Palin and her entourage arrived in upstate New York on Friday. She toured the home of Harriet Tubman, the Civil War-era abolitionist who led dozens of slaves to freedom on the Underground Railroad and is buried in Auburn. Later Friday, she traveled to Seneca Falls to visit the National Women’s Hall of Fame and Women’s Rights National Historic Park.
Palin’s trip was paid for by her political action committee, SarahPAC.
Palin’s trips have been an issue in the past. The Alaska governor has been given until June 23 to reimburse the state for an estimated 10,000 in costs associated with trips taken by her children, under an agreement resolving an ethics complaint against her.
Her husband and daughter Willow, as well as Palin’s sister and her son, accompanied the governor to upstate New York. On Sunday, she’s scheduled to be on Long Island to raise money for Independent Group Home Living, an agency for the developmentally disabled.
PARIS (AFP) –
US President Barack Obama and his family received a hero's welcome in Paris on Saturday as they were given a private tour of the famed Notre Dame cathedral.
Thousands of cheering Parisians and tourists lined bridges over the River Seine as the presidential motorcade swept past, desperate for a glimpse of Obama, his wife Michelle, 10-year-old Malia and seven-year-old Sasha.
Applause and whistles erupted as Obama's 20-vehicle motorcade pulled in to the large square in front of the cathedral, closed off to the public specially for his visit.
With Paris abuzz, the presidential party spent more than a hour being given a tour of the 12th century cathedral, considered one of the finest examples of French gothic architecture in the world.
The crowd below erupted jubilantly when the Obama daughters Malia and Sasha, on their first trip with dad since he became president, waved from a balcony high on the iconic building.
There was no disappointment from sightseers hoping to get inside the cathedral, simply excitement that an even bigger attraction was in town.
“It doesn't matter we'll come back tomorrow, we wanted to see Obama anyway,” one of a group of Venezuelans said.
Security was tight around Notre Dame — located on Ile de la Cite, an island in the heart of Paris on the River Seine — with sharp shooters in place and a helicopter hovering overhead. Police had earlier cleared out the cathedral.
Obama, in France for commemorations to mark the 65th anniversary of D-Day, was to dine later with his family at a Parisian restaurant before returning to the home of the US ambassador, a French presidential source said.
BAGHDAD, IraqFive American security contractors were detained in connection with the killing of another American contractor last month inside Baghdad’s Green Zone, sources with knowledge of the investigation told CNN Saturday.
The body of James Kitterman was found in a car in Baghdad’s heavily protected Green Zone.
Iraqi and U.S. personnel took the five into custody in an operation inside the Green Zone before dawn on Friday, according to an Iraqi official involved in the investigation into the killing of James Kitterman. The five, who have not yet been charged, were being held by Iraqi security forces Saturday at a jail inside the heavily protected zone, he said. The troops also confiscated weapons during the raid on the suspects’ firm at about 4 a.m. (11 a.m. ET), said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The names of the suspects and the company they work for were not released. The U.S. military declined comment and referred questions to the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. Embassy officials did not immediately respond to request for comments. Kitterman was found bound, blindfolded and fatally stabbed in a car in the district, formally known as the International Zone, on May 22. The 60-year-old Houston, Texas, resident owned a construction company that operated in Iraq.
Iraqi gets life for killing aid worker in 2004
The five suspects knew the victim, a source inside the Green Zone familiar with the investigation said. Both the Iraqi and the Green Zone sources noted that the FBI has been involved in the investigation from the start. Once the suspects are charged and referred to trial, the case would be sent to Iraq’s Central Criminal Court, the Iraqi official said. If that happens, it would be the first time U.S. citizens were tried in Iraq since the United States returned the country’s government to the Iraqis.
LOS ANGELES (AFP) –
The family of US actor David Carradine, found dead this week in a Bangkok hotel room with rope tied around his neck and genitals, have called on the FBI to probe the death.
Mark Geragos, a lawyer for Carradine's brother, Keith, told a CNN talkshow on Friday that the actor's family had met Federal Bureau of Investigation officials to ask for help with the investigation.
“They're looking into it through the FBI and trying to get to the bottom of this,” Geragos said.
Thai police suspect Carradine, 72, died from a sex act that went wrong after his body was discovered Thursday morning hanging from a wardrobe rail in a Bangkok hotel room, naked and with rope attached to his neck and testicles.
Geragos said the family rejected early reports that the actor had committed suicide.
“The family and Keith specifically doesn't for a minute think he was suicidal,” he said.
Experts in Bangkok have said police may need up to four weeks to say conclusively how the star of the 1970s television series “Kung Fu” and the film hit “Kill Bill” died, as they wait on forensic tests.
“(It) will take three weeks to examine the toxicology tests and after that everybody concerned will meet to conclude the cause of death. It will take four weeks,” said local police commander Colonel Somprasong Yenthaum.
Carradine had been in the Thai capital to shoot a film called “Stretch.”
An initial autopsy report revealed that the actor died from a sudden lack of oxygen and his body showed no signs of struggle.
The actor's body was being repatriated on United Airlines flight 890 that left Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi airport at 6:48 am (2348 GMT Friday) bound for Los Angeles and New York via Tokyo, local media and officials said.
He was married five times, most recently in 2004, and was the father of two daughters.
PARIS (AFP) –
Prime Minister Gordon Brown renamed the famed Omaha beach “Obama beach” in a slip-up while giving his D-Day commemoration speech in France on Saturday.
Brown, who is fighting for his political survival at home, was meant to be enjoying a few hours' respite in Normandy with US President Barack Obama, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Prince Charles.
“And so next to Obama beach we join President Obama in paying particular tribute to the spectacular bravery of American soliders who gave their lives on Omaha beach,” Brown said, almost stumbling again when he said Omaha the second time.
No correction was made and Brown went on to give a gracious tribute to the “sacrifice and valour” of those who died in the World War II landings 65 years ago.
MOMBASA, Kenya (Reuters) –
When agents for Hollywood actor Samuel L Jackson came looking for Andrew Mwangura in Kenya, he could not meet them — he was on the run.
The man they call the “Pirate Whisperer” was dodging both local authorities and well-connected criminals who were chasing him for exposing the international links of a wave of hijackings afflicting the busy international shipping routes off Somalia.
“I said I was in trouble, come back again when the coast is clear,” Mwangura told Reuters in an interview at Mombasa port.
Tinseltown plans to make an action movie about the piracy scourge. Jackson is to play Mwangura — the quiet 47-year-old founder of the non-profit East African Seafarers' Assistance Program with seemingly unrivalled contacts with maritime groups, ships, ports and even pirates around east Africa.
Himself a former seaman, Mwangura breaks news time and time again on seizures and releases of ships by Somali pirates, revealing details of ransom payments in what has become a multimillion dollar business.
He is a hero to seamen, but a pain for the pirates' financiers, said to be sitting in Nairobi, Dubai and London, managing the business by calls to the gangs' satellite phones. There are strong suspicions that officials in the region could be involved, and Mwangura has not been shy of saying that.
Now Jackson and filmmaker Andras Hamori have secured the rights to his life story — but getting a chance to sit down and talk scripts has been more difficult than expected.
Mwangura fell foul of the Kenyan government last year after the MV Faina, a Ukrainian ship carrying 33 tanks, was hijacked en route to Mombasa. Mwangura said the consignment was really for south Sudan — and not Kenya, as officially claimed.
In October, on his way to a talk-show where he was due to speak to the relatives of the Russian and Ukrainian crew, Mwangura was arrested.
“They were waiting for me in Moscow and Kiev on camera. But I was taken to police headquarters for interrogation.”
Mwangura spent nine days in jail. One frightening night, he said he was woken by security agents who wanted to take him out of the prison for reasons unknown.
“I think maybe they wanted to harm me,” he said.
His cellmates joined hands to prevent the guards from taking him, and he was left in jail.
Mwangura was charged with making alarming statements to foreign media and for possessing $2 worth of marijuana. The government called him a frontman and spokesman for the pirates.
He says the charges were trumped up to silence him, and the marijuana was planted. Charges were dropped last month.
“They were trying to stop me but they lost. You cannot stop a calling,” he said.
FEAR OF ATTACK
Mwangura still fears he may be attacked, not by the government now but by criminals unhappy with the light he shines on their activities. But he is now in contact with the filmmakers, and ready to collaborate with the project.
At first, the father-of-two was hesitant. “I'm not a movie actor, I don't want to spoil their movie,” he said.
The film makers reassured him that they just wanted to capture the real Mwangura for their story. Experts will shadow him for a couple of weeks to get the feel of his mannerisms.
At first he kept the film quiet, even from his wife, but now the news is out.
“Local media, TV and radio. People are calling, congratulating. Others come up with ideas — they say to do the film in a few different languages: Chinese, Pinoy, Arabic and Vietnamese, to represent the seafarers of the world. But I have no power on that, it is up to them.”
Mwangura is amazed at how often his name appears in a Google search, and the National Museum of Kenya wants to record his story for posterity too.
He says he has no time to watch films and still has not seen a Samuel L Jackson movie. But he hopes the film project will help to raise public awareness of seafarers, the “forgotten people” as he calls them, who keep sea trade alive.
(Editing by Kevin Liffey)
SALT LAKE CITY – Authorities have arrested a man who allegedly told bank tellers while cleaning out his savings account in Utah that he was on a mission to kill President Barack Obama.
The Secret Service said Daniel James Murray, 36, was arrested Friday outside a casino in Laughlin, Nev., a gambling town 100 miles from Las Vegas on the Nevada-Arizona line.
He was charged Thursday in Salt Lake City with a federal count of conveying threats while talking to tellers last month at Zions First National Bank in St. George, Utah.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Barbara Bearnson said Murray was in federal custody in Nevada and likely will get a court date there Monday. Neither Bearnson nor the Secret Service would discuss whether Murray was considered to be a serious threat.
Charging documents say Murray, originally from Rexford, N.Y., is the registered owner of eight guns.
He was described by his father and former neighbors in Rexford as troubled but not dangerous, known for strolling down a street wearing a cape while talking to himself.
“He’s sick. He’s been sick for about 10 years,” Michael Murray, his father, told the Times Union of Albany, N.Y.
In charging documents filed Thursday, the Secret Service said Daniel Murray made bizarre statements while opening — and then closing within two weeks — an 85,000 savings account.
First, he demanded to know if Zions First National Bank was solvent, saying, “I’m sure if citizens happen to lose their money, they will rise up and we could see killing and deaths,” bank tellers told a Secret Service agent.
On May 27, as a teller counted out bills no larger than 50, Murray delivered a rambling discourse on the probability of economic and social disorder, ending with “We are on a mission to kill the president of the United States,” a bank employee told the Secret Service.
The next day, Murray withdrew the remaining 72,000 and closed his account.
In Washington, Secret Service spokesman Malcolm Wiley said Murray offered no resistance when he was arrested at 7 p.m. Friday on a warrant in the parking lot of the Riverside Hotel and Casino in Laughlin, Nev. Wiley wouldn’t offer any further details. It wasn’t clear if Murray had a lawyer.
Associated Press writer Kathleen Hennessey in Las Vegas contributed to this report.
LONDON – The mysterious disappearance of an Air France jet this week while flying over the Atlantic in fierce thunderstorms is stirring a debate about whether new technologies and procedures are needed to prevent similar tragedies in the future.
Experts say it’s going to be hard to build a better plane than the Airbus A330 that plunged into the ocean Sunday, killing all 228 aboard. But they see room for improvement in other technological areas that could help boost safety.
One idea is to move from radar to satellite surveillance systems that would allow air traffic controllers to track a plane’s progress on flights across the ocean: currently, planes go out of radar range after 200 miles (320 kilometers) from land.
The Air France flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris disappeared nearly four hours after takeoff on Sunday night. It was Air France’s deadliest plane crash and the world’s worst commercial air accident since 2001.
Brazilian and French rescue teams have been scouring the area for the wreckage, but France’s transportation minister said Friday that no traces of the plane have been found.
The plane’s disappearance has prompted calls for the U.S. and other countries to hasten the move to GPS-based networks that would pinpoint planes and enable air traffic controllers to monitor them as they cross the ocean outside radar-range.
“It does seem a little disconcerting for the public who have not been familiar with the lack of surveillance in oceans,” said Bill Voss, president and CEO of the Flight Safety Foundation in Virginia.
Nearly 70 percent of the world’s airspace is not radar-controlled, and the existing radar system is likely to remain for at least another decade.
While some European and Asian countries are moving toward satellite systems, which would reduce travel times and fuel usage by helping the pilot find the most efficient route, a huge obstacle is expense. In the U.S., technology for such a system is being tested, but full implementation — estimated at a cost of 35 billion — has languished amid funding delays and disputes over technical complexities.
Some of the elements of these essentially GPS-controlled systems already exist, but they are not in widespread use.
Major carriers are already capable of using automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) technology, whereby the plane emits data that shows up in the screen of the controller. But the overall infrastructure is not yet in place to allow for its general use.
Voss believes that being able to better communicate with aircraft is more important from a safety point of view than surveillance.
Passengers may be able to use cell phones on a flight, but the pilot may be relaying information via VHF — which has been standard in aviation for at least 60 years. When crossing oceans, pilots communicate with air traffic control if necessary via high frequency radio, which is prone to interference from sun spots and lightning, and which can be difficult to hear.
“This crash may put more pressure on international organizations to advance the use of satellite voice communications,” — technology that you would use when you hire a satellite phone to “go off to Antarctica or deepest darkest Africa,” said Voss.
One key factor in figuring out what went wrong on Air France Flight 447 is finding the black boxes. But the flight data and cockpit voice recorders could be scattered nearly anywhere across a vast undersea mountain range, throwing retrieval efforts into doubt.
The situation has prompted debate about how to make black boxes more easily recoverable in the event of an ocean crash. Some experts say one solution currently being discussed in aviation circles is wiring the black box to make it stream data to help air traffic officials locate the box and the wreckage.
“The black box could be set up to send an immediate message that could give the parameters of the plane,” in a similar way that Flight 447 put out a burst of automated messages detailing mechanical failures, said Michael Boyd, a Colorado-based airline analyst.
Or the black box could be configured to automatically send messages out every 10 minutes or so, he added. “I think we’re going to go in that direction now.”
But new black box technology may be held up by cost, the rarity of ocean crashes, and the aviation industry’s culture.
A flight crashing over the sea is “very rare,” said Boyd, noting that the last such accidents to happen were in the 1980s.
There has been no “imperative need” to change black boxes since there have been very few situations where they have not been found. “Most airline accidents happen on landing or takeoff. You always find a black box there,” said Boyd.
Furthermore, “the aviation industry is extremely conservative in accepting new technology,” according to Voss. “Part of that is because the accident rate is so good.”
Chris Yates, Janes’ aviation security editor, rules out black boxes that would float, saying the shell would have to be so flimsy that “in the event of a crash it would automatically break up and we would lose that data.”
In the end, though, some experts believe the Air France crash was simply a case of a plane in an unequal fight against Mother Nature.
The Air France plane disappeared in a region that gives rise to some of the world’s strongest storms. Winds from the northern and southern hemispheres clash in what is known to scientists as the Intertropical Convergence Zone, spawning violent thunderstorms that can tower up to 60,000 feet — far higher than any commercial airliner could fly over.
European planemaker Airbus has sent an advisory to all operators of the A330 reminding them of how to handle the plane in conditions similar to those experienced by Flight 447.
Given that the plane was one of the safest around, is the answer to avoid this zone at certain times of the year?
“It’s not possible, and nonsensical,” said Yates. “In this day and age we live and breathe world commerce and if you shut a part of the world off from the availability of flights elsewhere for a period of time then you cause significant economic damage.”
There were other airplanes that flew through the zone at the same time as the Air France flight, said Boyd, adding: “I think this situation will be very like killer waves. There are rogue waves that come out of nowhere and sink ships.”
The Federal Aviation Administration’s timeline for transitioning from a radar-based air traffic control system to a satellite-based system calls for the new technology to be fully phased in by 2020. Some lawmakers say it should be accomplished sooner. U.S. airline industry executives met with White House officials in April seeking 4 billion to help them pay for the equipment they’ll need to install in cockpits. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said he was optimistic they money would be forthcoming, but funds haven’t yet materialized.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) –
U.S. lawmakers plan far-reaching insurance market reforms, and would require that businesses and individuals purchase medical coverage as they seek to overhaul the U.S. healthcare system, an early draft of Senate legislation said on Saturday.
The legislation seeks to provide health coverage for all Americans and would prohibit insurance companies from refusing to cover anyone because of health history. It also would outlaw annual or lifetime limits on coverage.
The bill would require individuals and businesses to purchase insurance. The business community is likely to raise strong objections to the employer requirement in the measure, being drafted by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee headed by Senator Edward Kennedy.
The sweeping healthcare overhaul is a top legislative priority for Democratic President Barack Obama, who says he wants Congress to send him a bill by October.
To help small businesses and individuals without employer-provided insurance, the Kennedy committee bill would establish government operated “gateways” for them to purchase affordable medical coverage. The gateway, or insurance exchange as some have called it, would act as a clearinghouse that would help customers compare plans and prices.
The bill also provides for a sliding scale of subsidies to help people with incomes up to 500 percent of the poverty level purchase insurance. Exceptions would be made for poor people and some small businesses. The bill also would make millions more people eligible to join the Medicaid health program for the poor.
Kennedy's committee is one of two writing the massive overhaul. The Senate Finance Committee headed by Senator Max Baucus is working on similar legislation and also will decide how to pay for the subsidies and a proposed new government plan that many Democrats want to compete with private insurers.
Republicans and insurance companies oppose the idea of a new public plan, arguing that it would drive many firms out of business and lead to a total government system.
Kennedy's spokesman Anthony Coley said the legislative language that was being widely circulated in Washington was an earlier draft of the bill.
Lawmakers are still fine-tuning the details in closed door sessions with an aim toward holding open committee sessions in the next few weeks. Both Baucus and Kennedy have said they would like to achieve broad bipartisan support on the bill, which is expected to be brought to the Senate for a vote in July.
(Reporting by Donna Smith, editing by Patricia Zengerle)
BANGKOK (Reuters) –
Mystery continued to shroud the death of actor David Carradine on Saturday, with rumor and speculation rife about how the star of 1970s-era U.S. television show “Kung Fu” met his demise.
With coroners awaiting the result of toxicology tests, Thai media pointed to suicide or an accident during autoerotic asphyxiation as possible cause of death, two days after he was found naked, hanging dead in his plush Bangkok hotel suite.
Police remained tight-lipped about the progress of their probe on Saturday and the chief investigating officer said it could take several weeks for coroners to confirm exactly how the 72-year-old died.
“What we're doing right now is interviewing more witnesses,” Police Colonel Somprasong Yentuam told Reuters.
“It should take roughly three weeks for the blood test result, then we can wrap this case up.”
Somprasong said he believed the likely cause of death was asphyxiation.
Thai television said Carradine's body was flown back to Los Angeles early Saturday, although U.S. embassy officials could not confirm the reports.
A maid found Carradine hanging naked by a rope in the closet of his hotel suite at the Swissotel Nai Lert Park hotel on Thursday. He was staying at the hotel while shooting the movie “Stretch.”
Initial reports indicated a possible suicide, but family representatives in Los Angeles have repeatedly said Carradine was not suicidal.
Tiffany Smith of Carradine's Los Angeles-based talent manager Binder & Assoc said: “It's not where he is in his life right now, he was completely full of life, extremely happy to be going to Bangkok and doing this film.
An employee at the Nai Lert Park hotel told Reuters Carradine was “very happy” and “always smiling” the last time he was seen alive.
Representatives for Carradine declined to comment on media reports that the death was related to autoerotic asphyxiation, which involves intentionally cutting off oxygen supply for strong sexual arousal.
Long-time family friend and Carradine's former lawyer Vicki Roberts, who represented the actor in a past divorce, said press reports of how he was found caused her to suspect foul play.
She said Carradine had no history of using autoerotic asphyxiation.
Thai investigators said there was no indication other people had been in the room where Carradine was staying.
Carradine comes from a family of performers, including actor Keith Carradine, whose father is the late character actor John Carradine.
He enjoyed a long career on Broadway, TV and in movies such as Quentin Tarantino's “Kill Bill: Vol. 1″ and his role in “Kill Bill: Vol. 2″ earned him his fourth Golden Globe nomination.”
But he was most famous for his role in “Kung Fu,” playing a martial arts specialist known as Caine who wandered through the American Old West seeking wisdom and beating up bad guys.
(Additional reporting by Bob Tourtellotte and Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Sugita Katyal)
WASHINGTON (Reuters) –
The Obama administration is expected to announce next week that a higher-than-expected number of large financial institutions will be allowed to repay their government bailout funds, the Washington Post reported in its Saturday edition.
Citing unnamed sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the official announcement has not been made yet, the newspaper report said the size of the repayments may be twice the initial estimate of $25 billion.
That could mean that nearly all of the nine institutions found to have sufficient reserves in a recent government-run “stress test” might be allowed to return the money under the Treasury Department's Troubled Asset Relief Program.
The companies include JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N), American Express Co (AXP.N), Bank of New York Mellon Corp (BK.N), BB&T Corp (BBT.N), Capital One Financial Corp (COF.N), Goldman Sachs Group Inc (GS.N), State Street Corp (STT.N) and U.S. Bancorp (USB.N). MetLife Inc (MET.N)>, the ninth company, did not take money from TARP.
Institutions want to repay the government as soon as they can in order to get out from under some unwanted obligations such as executive compensation restrictions, dividend payments, among others.
The government also sees repayments as a positive sign for financial institutions that have raised more capital than needed to exit the bailout program.
The newspaper report also said Treasury could unveil rules on executive compensation for bailout-assisted institutions as early as next week.
Executive compensation practices at Wall Street firms will be the subject of a congressional hearing scheduled for next week.
The House Financial Services Committee is planning a June 11 hearing focusing on how to eliminate compensation practices that encouraged excessive risk-taking and contributed to the financial collapse and ultimately hurt the U.S. economy.
“Executives have a perverse incentive to expose their companies to more and more risk, but only the shareholders realize the downside of bad bets,” the committee's chairman, Democrat Barney Frank, said in a statement.
(Reporting by John Poirier; Editing by Eric Beech)
LONDON – One of Britain’s last surviving veterans of World War I has celebrated his 113th birthday.
Henry Allingham, who is also Britain’s oldest man, marked the occasion Saturday with a cake and a party.
His cake was delivered by the Royal Marines, and a Royal Navy helicopter flew overhead.
Allingham was surrounded by his family and said he “never expected this honor.”
Allingham joined the Royal Naval Air Service — precursor to the Royal Air Force — in 1915. A year later he took part in the Battle of Jutland, which was the war’s largest naval battle.
In March, he was made an Officer of France’s Legion of Honor. Allingham and 110-year-old Harry Patch are the only two surviving World War I veterans in Britain.
MEXICO CITY, MexicoThe death toll from a fire Friday at a Mexican day care center in the northwestern state of Sonora has risen to at least 31, the government reported Saturday via the state-run news agency.
A crib and baby seats lie outside a day care center Friday in Hermosillo, Mexico, as police cordon off the area.
At least 28 people were injured in the 3 p.m. blaze in Hermosillo, the official Notimex news agency said. Originally, the number hurt was reported to be more than 100. At least 12 of the injured have burns over 70 percent of their bodies, La Tribuna newspaper reported, citing Health Secretary Raymundo Lopez Vucovich. Some of the children, who were between ages 1 and 5, will be treated at Shriners Hospitals for Children in Sacramento, California, the medical facility and Mexican officials said. Shriners Hospitals is a health care system that gives children free treatment for burns, spinal cord injuries, orthopedic conditions, and cleft lip and palate problems, according to its Web site. It admits children under 18. The fire started in a warehouse next door to the one-story concrete building that housed the ABC Daycare, news reports said. The day care had the capacity to house 190 children, but only 135 were inside at the time of the fire, Notimex said. Mexican President Felipe Calderon sent the director of the Institute of Social Security, Daniel Karam Toumeh, to Hermosillo to supervise the care of the children and their families. The president also ordered the nation’s attorney general to investigate the blaze.
Shot abortion doctor buried in US
Hundreds of mourners have attended the funeral of US abortion doctor George Tiller, who was shot dead at a church in Wichita, Kansas, last Sunday.Anti-abortionists had vilified Dr Tiller for being one of the few US doctors to perform late-term abortions. His funeral was conducted in a different church to that in which he was killed by a single gunshot. A man aged 51 who is believed to be an anti-abortionist has been arrested and charged with the murder. Scott Roeder had occasionally attended services at Dr Tiller’s church two months before the attack. Following the murder, US Attorney General Eric Holder pledged protection for “appropriate people and facilities”. Dr Tiller’s clinic – called Women’s Health Care Services – had often been the site of demonstrations, and he had been shot and wounded by an assailant 16 years ago. A small group of anti-abortionists demonstrated near the funeral which was attended by, among others, 50 motorcyclists from the American Legion Riders, who said they were there to honour Dr Tiller’s service in the US navy.
PARIS (AFP) –
French investigators said Saturday that the Air France jet carrying 228 people which plunged into the Atlantic suffered multiple systems failures and had speed monitors that had failed on other planes.
The 24 automatic error alerts sent by the Airbus A330 just before it crashed on Monday showed that its autopilot had cut out after it received conflicting speed readings, the head of the French air accident investigation agency, the BEA, said.
“We have seen a certain number of these types of faults on the A330,” BEA director Paul-Louis Arslanian told reporters as reconnaissance planes and navy vessels started a sixth day of hunting for debris.
Arslanian confirmed that the missing jet had had a problem calculating its speed on the flight from Rio de Janiero to Paris.
“There is a programme of replacement, of improvement,” he said, adding that planes that have not yet replaced speed monitors are not necessarily dangerous, and that in other cases pilots had regained control.
Arslanian said the error messages sent in its final moments showed the autopilot and other systems shut down.
It was impossible to tell from the signals whether the doomed crew had shut off the autopilot or whether it cut out, he added.
On Friday, Airbus urged all pilots to review a warning issued in July 2001 on procedures to follow if speed indicators give conflicting readings and cut the autopilot.
Investigators seeking clues to what had caused flight AF 447 to crash have only the automatic messages to work on as salvage crews have not located the wreckage.
After the Brazilian air force said that debris found at sea was not from the A300-200 jet, a French nuclear sub and a research ship equipped with mini-submarines are steaming to the scene.
Early speculation as to the cause of the accident focused on the storms that the jet was flying through, but Arslanian said the conditions had not been exceptional.
He played down the idea that a terrorist bomb might have destroyed the plane, saying the error messages showed the onboard electronic systems including the autopilot had shut down one by one.
But he did not formally rule out an attack: “Really, that would be truly astonishing, but that's not to say it is 100 percent impossible.”
The search operation is concentrated about 1,000 kilometres (600 miles) off Brazil's northeast coast.
Five more Brazilian navy vessels are in the area, where 12 Brazilian and French aircraft are operating.
The head of air traffic control for the area, Brazilian Brigadier Ramon Cardoso, told reporters “we have not made any recovery of material.”
Some items spotted floating in the vicinity were “not relevant,” he said, adding that weather conditions were terrible, limiting visibility, and currents had changed direction.
Brazilian officials said items picked up Thursday turned out to be trash, probably from passing ships.
Cardoso said objects spotted from planes might have since sunk.
The black box flight recorders that could give most information transmit an emergency signal for one month.
While the investigation cast about for clues, families of the victims expressed frustration with the lack of physical evidence that their loved ones were gone forever.
A group of 10 Brazilian relatives were flown from Rio to the main search operations centre in the Brazilian city of Recife on Friday to speak to a pilot involved in the search.
They left without speaking to media, and returned to Rio where another service was held in memory of the Air France passengers and crew.
An investigation into a previous accident showed it was caused when the Australian Qantas airline's A330 flight computer gave incorrect information to the autopilot, causing the plane to plunge into an almost catastrophic dive.
An Airbus spokesman insisted there were no similarities between the Qantas and Air France accidents, telling AFP that the latter jet was fitted with an air data computer from a different manufacturer.
Brazilian police have begun collecting genetic samples from relatives of the passengers on the flight to accelerate the identification process should any remains from the crash be found.