Archive for July 7th, 2009
TEHRAN, Iran – Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Tuesday sought to put the turmoil over the disputed presidential elections behind him and declared on national television that the contests were clean, fair and marked the start of a new era.
His speech came as the country’s top three reformist leaders sought to rekindle their opposition movement, demanding that ruling clerics end the heavy “security atmosphere” imposed after the elections and free those detained in the unrest, according to an opposition Web site.
It was Ahmadinejad’s first national speech since the supreme leader declared the election results valid despite outcry from the other candidates and weeks of street protests claiming that the results were fraudulent.
“This is a new beginning for Iran … we have entered a new era,” the president said, explaining that the 85 percent turnout and overwhelming win had given his government a new legitimacy.
“It was the most clean and free election in the world,” he said, adding that during the re-count “no fault was discovered. The whole nation understood this.”
“This election has doubled the dignity of the Iranian nation,” he said.
During the half hour speech, Iranians in many parts of the capital Tehran could be heard shouting from their rooftops, “death to the dictator” and “God is great” — actions that have become a symbol of defiance since the elections.
Opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, who claims to have won the June 12 election, is struggling for a way to channel the widespread discontent since the vote but which has since been shattered by the harsh crackdown by police, Revolutionary Guards and Basij militia.
Mousavi hinted on Monday that he may move away from the tactic of protests and create a political party to work in what he called “a legal framework.” Late Monday, he met with the other top stars of the reform movement — former president Mohammad Khatami and Mahdi Karroubi, another election candidate — in a show of unity.
The three warned Iran’s clerical leadership that if the security crackdown continues, it “will only lead to radicalization of political activities,” Mousavi’s Web site reported on Tuesday.
But it is not clear how much margin the opposition will have for political action. Many of the top reform figures — including Khatami’s former vice president and one-time members of his Cabinet — are in detention and could face charges of fomenting riots. Earlier this week, the head of the Revolutionary Guards warned that the elite force would take a major role in defending the country’s system of clerical rule.
There was no sign of a let-up in the clampdown imposed since Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei declared the official election results valid and Ahmadinejad the victor.
Police say 20 people were killed in postelection violence and more than 1,000 arrested, though they say many have been released.
Authorities this week closed universities and dormitories, apparently because of Web site calls for new protests on Thursday, the anniversary of a 1999 attack by Basij and police on protesting students. It is unclear if anyone will attempt a march — not only because of the security measures but also because of heavy dust clouds and pollution hanging over the capital and other parts of the country the past two days, forcing the closure of government offices.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy, meanwhile, demanded the release of a young French academic detained after taking photos of Iranian protests and accused of espionage.
Clotilde Reiss, 23, was arrested last week at Tehran’s airport as she was about to leave Iran after a five-month stay during which she taught French at Isfahan University.
“These accusations of espionage are high fantasy,” Sarkozy said at a news conference Tuesday.
Iran’s hard-line leaders have been trying to erase any lingering doubts about the legitimacy of Ahmadinejad’s government by portraying the unrest as sparked by foreign meddling.
In his speech Tuesday, the president criticized his election rivals and accused them of working with Iran’s enemies.
“Unfortunately, some people inside Iran collaborated with them. They repeated the remarks made by certain Western countries,” Ahmadinejad said, as he accused the West of interfering in the country’s politics.
“The result of their childish acts of interference in Iran’s internal affairs is that the Iranian nation and government will enter the global stage several times more powerful,” he said.
Also Tuesday, six U.N. human rights experts issued a statement expressing “grave concern about reports of killings, ongoing arrests, use of excessive police force and the ill-treatment of detainees.” They questioned the legality of the arrests of journalists and demonstrators, saying they face “arbitrary detentions.”
Ten Nobel Peace Prize winners including Archbishop Desmond Tutu sent a letter to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon Tuesday asking him to send a special envoy to Iran to investigate allegations of human rights abuses.
“We deplore the violence and crackdown on peaceful protesters, the increasing restrictions on civil liberties and the imprisonment of … civic leaders,” the letter said.
Despite the regime’s rhetoric, a number of top clerics have continued to question the election — a rare defiance of the supreme leader from the ranks of the religious establishment.
This week, a party close to one of the most politically powerful clerics — former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani — issued a statement rejecting Ahmadinejad’s victory. It was one of the strongest hints yet on the powerful cleric’s stance. He is the head of two major clerical ruling bodies and is a bitter enemy of Ahmadinejad, but has kept his distance from the postelection turmoil.
“Due to the unhealthy trend of the election, widespread irregularities and the support extended by a majority of Guardian Council members to a specific candidate, the result of this election is not acceptable,” the Kargozaran party said in its statement, published on Mousavi’s Web site.
AP correspondent Elaine Ganley in Paris and Ron DePasquale at the United Nations contributed to this report.
JAKARTA, IndonesiaIndonesians head to the polls on Wednesday to elect their next president and vice presidentonly the second time such a vote has occurred in the young democracy’s history.
Volunteers in Jakarta seal ballot boxes before officials send them to voting stations.more photos »
Three familiar faces are vying for the top spot: incumbent Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono; his vice president, Yusuf Kalla; and former President Megawati Sukarnoputri. Analysts and polls have Yudhoyonoriding high on the country’s economic strengthwidely expected to win a second five-year term. “He has positive global image; relations with the American government have been the best in all the time that I have been here, the last 30 years,” said James Castle, who analyzes Indonesian politics and economy. “He’s very popular in the foreign community and, to be honest, if he’s not re-elected, the markets will react negatively for a month or so.” Yudhoyono’s Democratic Party was the only party to get enough votes in April’s legislative elections to nominate a candidate on its own. Kalla’s Golkar Party came in second and Megawati’s Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, or PDI-P, placed third. See a photo slideshow of Indonesians talking about who they will vote for » Kalla and Megawati had to form coalitions with other parties to run for president. It is the country’s second direct presidential election since the authoritarian regime of Suharto fell in 1998, in the wake of the Asian financial crisis. In the 2004 election, Yudhoyono defeated incumbent Megawati in a runoff.
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Yudhoyono is known as “Mr. Clean” because of his anti-corruption efforts. He has also gained popularity for his handling of the 2004 tsunami recovery and the country’s battle against terrorism. “I choose SBY (Yudhoyono), I feel like he knows what poor people like me feels like,” Taopiq Rachmat, a 21-year-old parking security guard, told CNN. “He has this same vision with me, a bright future of Indonesia, where people look at each other equally. He lowered the oil price, he tried his best to make his people happy. The direct cash aid was really helpful.” Indonesia has had impressive economic growth over the past five years, though how much direct credit Yudhoyono can take for that is questionable. And despite Indonesia posting an average of 5.9 percent annual growth during his presidency, little of that has trickled down to the country’s poor. One voter, a 25-year-old entrepreneur, said she would choose Kalla over the president to steer the economy during the global recession. “He is also an entrepreneur, he knows what is important for us,” said Juineti Nasution. “I know, in his hands, Indonesia will get a better future.” Yudhoyono’s opponents say he is too liberal, is too skewed toward the West, and doesn’t pay enough attention to the 40 million Indonesians living below the poverty line. Sakri, a 59-year-old street vendor, echoed those sentiments. “I think I should go with the bull (Megawati’s political party icon),” he said. “She understands poor people’s feeling. Basic needs prices were much lower under Megawati’s administration. I know SBY had lowered the oil price, but still he couldn’t keep up his promise to pull down the price of basic needs.”
Still, the country is exhibiting surprising resilience in the face of the global economic downturn. Growth topped 6 percent last year, and Indonesia was the fastest-growing economy in Southeast Asia in the first quarter of this year. “All of a sudden, everybody is contracting except for Indonesia,” Castle said. “We’ve had more visiting regional heads and so on in the last six months than we had in the last six years.”
Los Angeles (E! Online) –
As befitting the King of Pop, Michael Jackson may forever be part of Hollywood's starriest constellation…eventually.
Led by a police escort, the Jackson family arrived at Forest Lawn Memorial Park at approximately 8:15 a.m. for an hour-long service, while nearly a dozen helicopters hovered overheard and hundreds of press and fans gathered outside the gates.
But the morning ceremony did not include a burial. Instead, after the private funeral ended shortly after 9 a.m., Jackson's coffin was loaded into a hearse to be transported 11 miles away to Los Angeles' Staples Center for the public memorial.
A motorcade of more than 30 vehicles—including Rolls Royce limousines, black Escalades and two small shuttle buses, and escorted by 12 CHP motorcycle units—left the family compound in nearby Encino shortly after 7 a.m. The trip across L.A.'s San Fernando Valley—in the teeth of rush hour—took about an hour.
Dozens of curious onlookers gathered on a grassy area adjacent to the cemetery to watch the spectacle unfold.
It is not yet known whether his body will be interred at Forest Lawn. Officials say there is no immediate plan for a motorcade back to the grounds following the memorial.
The heavy police presence at Forest Lawn began last night, as the Jacksons gathered for a viewing—an event Jackson matriarch Katherine hoped would “focus the family” before today's events, an insider tells E! News.
“It's kind of mind-boggling. An estimated billion people are going to watch this across the world,” Jackson family spokesman Ken Sunshine told CNN this morning. “I don't think there's ever been a world entertainer like Michael Jackson…it's unparalleled.”
Meanwhile, with the logistical costs of Jackson's funeral expected to approach 4 million, the cash-strapped City of Los Angeles is now soliciting tax-deductible donations to help cover the tab.
“Donations are being accepted to help defray the costs of providing public safety, traffic control and related costs associated with the Michael Jackson Memorial at the Staples Center. Please submit your donations by check payable to: 'City of Los Angeles,' ” per the city's Website.
If Jackson's body is ultimately be interred in the picturesque cemetery nestled in the Hollywood Hills, it will be near the graves of his idols Sammy Davis Jr. and Fred Astaire.
Already a necessary stop on any star tour, Forest Lawn is also the final resting place of Bette Davis, Gene Autry, Humphrey Bogart, Jean Harlow and, more recently, Ed McMahon and David Carradine, who preceded Jackson by a matter of days.
—Additional reporting by Lindsay Miller
(Originally published on July 7, 2009, at 7:20 a.m. PT)
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WASHINGTON – A military strike to thwart Iran’s nuclear weapons capability remains on the table but could have grave and unpredictable consequences, the top U.S. military officer said Tuesday.
“I worry a great deal about the response of a country that gets struck,” said Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “It is a really important place to not go, if we can not go there in any way, shape or form.”
Iran is perhaps one to three years away from getting the bomb, leaving a small and shrinking opening for diplomacy to avert what he said could be a dangerous nuclear arms race in the Middle East, Mullen said.
“I think the time window is closing.”
Mullen said President Barack Obama’s diplomatic outreach to Iran holds promise, despite political upheaval and deadly protests following Iran’s disputed presidential election.
Obama told The Associated Press last week that persuading Iran to forgo nuclear weapons has been made more difficult by the Iranian government’s handling of claims that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stole re-election.
Mullen pointedly said “the strike option” — is one possible outcome. He suggested that a strike, meaning missile or other attacks to blow up Iran’s known nuclear facilities, is a last resort. It would be “very destabilizing,” Mullen said.
Mullen was referring to Iran’s response should it be attacked by either the United States or Israel, although he was careful to say that Israel can speak and choose for itself. His remarks made clear that the Obama administration wants to avoid a strike by either country.
Mullen, speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said it is critical to find a solution “before Iran gets a nuclear capability, or that anyone … would take action to strike.”
On Sunday, Vice President Joe Biden had suggested that the new U.S. administration would not stand in the way of an Israeli strike. That is not the message U.S. officials have been trying to deliver in public and private, but spokesmen insisted Biden was not speaking out of turn.
The United States would join European nations, Russia and China in negotiations over Iran’s disputed nuclear program, if Iran agreed to terms for beginning the talks. Obama has also said he would hold direct talks with Iran’s leadership if it would help.
The leaders of Group of Eight countries, set to meet in Italy, have yet to forge a common position on Iran’s violent crackdown on post-electoral protests, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said Tuesday on the eve of the summit.
Berlusconi, who chairs the gathering of world leaders opening Wednesday, noted that some countries, such as France, were calling for tougher action against Tehran, while others, such as Russia, favored a softer stance to keep dialogue open.
Iran claims its fast-track nuclear development project is intended only for the peaceful production of electricity. Mullen, like other U.S. officials, said he is sure Iran intends to develop weapons and is working hard and fast to do so.
LOS OLIVOS, Calif. – The skies were brilliant blue, the breezes gentle and the television reception excellent, which was good news for dozens of fans outside Neverland Ranch who huddled around a wide-screen TV on Tuesday to watch Michael Jackson’s memorial service.
The Neverland fans clapped and cried along with mourners far away at the memorial in downtown Los Angeles.
Stephanie Cook and her boyfriend flew in from Georgia, hoping to be part of a memorial if it had been held at Jackson’s ranch in Santa Barbara County’s wine country.
The couple did some sightseeing in Los Angeles on Monday, visiting several Jackson landmarks, then headed the 130 miles northwest back to Neverland to be with fellow fans during the public memorial.
Cook said she was happy and thankful she didn’t have to watch the service on her cell phone.
“It was emotional, very emotional, especially when Paris got up to speak, that was toughest for me,” Cook said, referring to brief remarks by Jackson’s 11-year-old daughter.
Throughout the service, Cook used her sequin-gloved hand to snap photos of the 60-inch television screen.
After the service ended, the TV truck lowered its satellite antenna and sheriff’s deputies asked all the T-shirt vendors to pack up their tents and move on.
In the days since Jackson’s June 25 death, thousands have come by the ranch, but it was down to dozens Tuesday afternoon, the stage left to a handful of die-hard fans reluctant to leave the place Jackson called home during his heyday.
They stood by what was left — piles of balloons, flowers, candles, stuffed animals, notes, photos and one primitive painting of Jackson wearing nothing but a loincloth and angel wings.
The huge gates to Neverland had mammoth, matching red rose wreaths. One side had a banner saying “Neverland,” the other read, “Once upon a time.”
And then there was the music drifting from the other side of the gates. Michael Jackson music.
LOS ANGELES – A cemetery that is the burial place for many celebrities was slowly returning to normal Tuesday after its latest service — a private memorial for Michael Jackson.
Sprawling Forest Lawn Memorial Park in the Hollywood Hills reopened by late morning after the Jackson family moved on to a public service in downtown Los Angeles.
“The cemetery wants to get back to normal,” said Los Angeles police Officer April Harding as she tried to disperse the media throng gathered at the cemetery’s massive gates. She said Jackson’s body would not be returning to the cemetery, but didn’t say where it would be taken.
One family had to wait briefly to gain entrance to Forest Lawn because surrounding streets were closed to allow Jackson’s funeral motorcade to pass. Peter and Alexandra Wintersteller and their 5-year-old daughter biked from their nearby Los Feliz home to visit the grave of a child friend of the family buried there a week before.
“We could see the commotion,” Wintersteller said. “I think the hoopla is warranted for Michael Jackson. We don’t have royalty here. We have presidents and pop idols.”
Forest Lawn is the final resting place for dozens of actors, musicians and other notables, including Liberace, Gene Autry, Bette Davis and Andy Gibb. Recently deceased actor David Carradine and “Tonight Show” sidekick Ed McMahon also are buried there.
Jackson’s maternal grandmother, Martha Bridges, is buried at Forest Lawn, beneath a dark, flat headstone decorated with etched roses and bearing the inscription, “Beloved Mother and Grandmother, 1907-1990.”
The cemetery lawn has sweeping views of the San Fernando Valley and is close to the Warner Bros. and Walt Disney studios. Scenes from the 1915 D.W. Griffith epic “The Birth of a Nation” were filmed in the area.
Earlier Tuesday, a half-dozen fans waited hours to get into the area. Jobana Soto, 25, flew from her home in Peru to Los Angeles last Friday to honor Jackson. She spent 800 on the round-trip ticket and spent 63 for a cab from the airport to the cemetery.
“I was a big fan of Michael Jackson. I’ve been listening to him since I was born,” said Soto, who was sunburned from her wait. “None of my family was crazy enough to come.”
David Calvo, 28, traveled from Hawaii to Los Angeles last Saturday. His twin sister, Paola, came from Germany to meet him in Los Angeles. They spent more than 3,000 on the trip.
They arrived at a police blockade down the street from the park at 6:30 a.m. (1330 GMT).
“When you follow Michael Jackson, you just feel it,” he said. He did not see the motorcade come into the park but did not seem disappointed.
“We don’t want to follow the car. We just want to show respect,” he said. “No screaming. No yelling.”
Scientists claim sperm ‘first’
By Fergus Walsh
BBC medical correspondent
Scientists in Newcastle claim to have created human sperm in the laboratory in what they say is a world first.The researchers believe the work could eventually help men with fertility problems to conceive. But other experts say they are not convinced that fully developed sperm have been created. Writing in the journal Stem Cells and Development, the Newcastle team say it will be at least five years before the technique is perfected. They began with stem cell lines derived from human embryos donated following IVF treatment. The stem cells had been removed when the embryo was a few days old and were stored in tanks of liquid nitrogen. The stem cells were brought to body temperature and put in a chemical mixture to encourage them to grow. They were “tagged” with a genetic marker which enabled the scientists to identify and separate so-called “germline” stem cells from which eggs and sperm are developed. The male, XY stem cells underwent the crucial process of “meiosis” – halving the number of chromosomes. The process over creating and developing the sperm took four to six weeks. Understanding spermThe Newcastle team say the sperm were fully mature, mobile sperm and they have produced a video to back up the research. Professor Karim Nayernia at Newcastle University and the NorthEast England Stem Cell Institute says: “This is an important development as it will allow researchers to study in detail how sperm forms and lead to a better understanding of infertility in men – why it happens and what is causing it. “This understanding could help us develop new ways to help couples suffering infertility so they can have a child which is genetically their own. “It will also allow scientists to study how cells involved in reproduction are affected by toxins, for example, why young boys with leukaemia who undergo chemotherapy can become infertile for life – and possibly lead us to a solution.”
But Dr Allan Pacey, a sperm biologist at the University of Sheffield, said he was not convinced the sperm were fully developed. “The quality of the images is not of sufficiently high resolution and I would need more data. They are early sperm, but functional tests would be needed to know exactly what has been achieved.” The sperm cannot be used for fertility treatment as this is prohibited under UK law. The scientists in Newcastle say it will be at least five years before the technique is perfected – when they believe it should be available to help infertile men. This research also raises ethical issues. Josephine Quintavalle from Comment on Reproductive Ethics (Corethics) said: “This is an example of immoral madness. Perfectly viable human embryos have been destroyed in order to create sperm over which there will be huge questions of their healthiness and viability. “It’s taking one life in order to perhaps create another. I’m very much in favour of curing infertility but I don’t think you can do whatever you like.”
Thai FM ‘won’t resign’ over siege
Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya has refused to resign after police questioned his involvement in last year’s Bangkok airport siege.Mr Kasit said he would fight his case in court. Mr Kasit was among more than 30 leaders of the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) summoned by police this week. Persistent protests by the PAD, also known as the Yellow Shirts, contributed to the ousting of a government loyal to the deposed Thai PM Thaksin Shinawatra. Thaksin supporters complained when Mr Kasit was appointed foreign minister by new Prime Minsiter Abhisit Vejajiva. Mr Abhisit says he will not force Mr Kasit to quit the foreign ministry post. His Democrat Party said it would allow Mr Kasit to exercise his own judgement on the matter, and would only decide on his movements if Mr Kasit is formally indicted and his case filed in court. Police probeOther PAD leaders called to the police for questioning include media mogul Sondhi Limthongkul, retired general Chamlong Srimuang and Somsak Kosaisuk. The Nation newspaper reported that Mr Kasit faced terrorism charges. The opposition Pheua Thai Party, backed by Mr Thaksin, said Mr Kasit should step down immediately in the national interest. Mr Kasit was seen speaking at several rallies by the Yellow Shirt protesters, who occupied the prime minister’s office compound for three months and shut down Bangkok’s airports. Mr Kasit later described the blockade – which left mroe than 250,000 travellers stranded – as an “innovation in public protests”. Since Mr Abhisit’s government took control in December, there have been several street protests by Mr Thaksin’s supporters, known as the Red Shirts. Rioting in April left two dead and more than 120 injured.
UK to reform financial regulation
By Steve Schifferes
Economics reporter, BBC News
The UK government is set to announce its plans to reform the financial system to prevent future crises.But the White Paper will leave many questions unanswered about the role of the key regulators, the Bank of England and the Financial Services Authority. New powers will be proposed to curb bank lending and prevent asset bubbles, such as the housing boom undermining the real economy. The government has put up more than 1 trillion to bail out failing banks. The aim, according to Chancellor Alistair Darling, is a “significant toughening up of the regulatory system” in order to “learn the less of what went wrong… and make sure we reduce those risks”. However, many of the detailed proposals in the White Paper will need further discussion with international regulators and the financial services industry, so only a limited number will be included in parliamentary legislation this autumn – leaving the next government to sort out many tricky issues. Angela Knight, head of the British Bankers Association, says that the government should move cautiously in order not to make the recession worse. The government plan will build on the proposals made by Lord Turner, the head of the FSA, in March, and endorsed by the G20 summit in April. The US is expected to introduce broadly similar legislation later this week.
KEY PROPOSALS: WHO WILL BE REGULATED
There will be broad power to regulate any financial institution that poses a “systemic” threat to the financial system. “If an activity looks like a bank and sounds like a bank, we regulate it like a bank,” said Lord Turner in his report. This means that the government will retain the right to examine the books of hedge funds as well as all banks operating in the UK. But the Treasury is resisting EU proposals to block US hedge funds from registering and operating in the EU. However, other off-balance sheet activities which banks used to hide their risky lending, such as structured investment vehicles, will be brought under regulation. The government will also be clear that such regulation will have to be agreed at a global level, to avoid firms migrating to “softer” jurisdictions.
KEY PROPOSALS: WHO WILL BE THE REGULATORS
Mr Kings says the Bank needs new powers
The White Paper is likely to endorse the current system of “tripartite regulation” where responsibility in a financial crisis is shared between the Bank of England, the Financial Services Authority, and the Treasury. However, the Bank, which has been given the legal mandate for maintaining financial stability, argues that it needs more powers beyond raising interest rates to carry out its mandate. Bank Governor Mervyn King has said that without such powers, his role is merely to “preach sermons”. The FSA, which currently has the power to declare individual banks insolvent and trigger a government takeover, says it is more important to resolve how banks are regulated than by whom. One possibility might be to set up a special committee, including both the Bank and the FSA, to look at issues of systemic risk and regulation. However, if the Conservatives win the next election, they have pledged to give the Bank of England a lead role in financial regulation.
KEY PROPOSALS: WHAT NEW POWERS THEY WILL HAVE
The key issue in the White Paper will be how to implement the new objective of “macro-prudential” regulation, which aims to ensure that the whole system, and not just individual banks, is prevented from collapse. One approach, which will be endorsed by the White Paper, is to raise the capital requirements of banks so that they have to put aside more of their funds for a rainy day – and also hold more in cash equivalents, to prevent a bank run. Britain may take the lead on this, although ultimately it would seek agreement on a common framework for all banks around the world through the Basel Committee, which sets capital requirements for banks. But there will also be a discussion of other ways to prevent risk – such as self-insurance by banks; more open and transparent derivatives markets; and further restrictions on bank lending. These could be various ways of regulating credit creation, from the restriction on the size of consumer mortgage loans (or a loan-to-value limit) or a higher tax on incremental bank lending when there was a risk of overheating. The Bank of England has urged caution in deciding too quickly what are the right instruments. Mervyn King has said that “we are a long way from identifying precise regulatory instruments that would improve the functioning of markets”. It is possible that some of the regulatory instruments could also be applied to encourage banks to reward their executives differently, so as to discourage too much risk-taking behaviour.
KEY PROPOSALS: RESTRICTING THE SIZE OF BANKS
One key issue that is unlikely to be resolved by the White Paper is whether banks should be allowed to grow so big that they pose a risk to the global financial system. Bank of England governor Mervyn King has said: “If a bank is too big to fail, it is too big.” But although the crisis has produced a wave of consolidations within banking, it could prove legally and economically difficult to unravel bank mergers.
One possibility would be to tax big banks more heavily, perhaps with some form of windfall tax to cut their profits, in good times. Another idea would be a return to the US-style separation of investment banking and retail banking (as in the Glass-Steagall Act, which was repealed in 1999). FSA boss Lord Turner says he is “agnostic” as to whether this would be effective.
Indonesians voting for president
Indonesians are voting in the country’s second direct presidential election since the overthrow of the Suharto regime in 1998.Opinion polls have given incumbent President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono a comfortable lead over his rivals. He faces challenges from former president Megawati Sukarnoputri and outgoing Vice-President Jusuf Kalla. More than 250,000 police and 20,000 soldiers have mobilised across the Indonesian archipelago. Security is reported to be especially tight in the provinces of Aceh, in the far west, and Papua, in the far east, both of which have experienced unrest in recent years. About 176 million people have registered to vote at more than 500,000 polling stations. The first polling stations opened in Indonesia’s easternmost region, Papua, on Wednesday morning. ‘Better future’Unregistered voters will also be able to use their identity cards to cast a ballot, after the Constitutional Court relaxed rules on voter registry on Monday.
The decision followed a complaint by Mr Kalla and Mrs Megawati, who said millions of people had been left off voter lists. In a reaction to the ruling, Mr Yudhoyono called on voters to make the election a success. “Tomorrow is your day… You who have the right and opportunity to vote freely without intimidation and pressure from anyone,” he said on Tuesday. Ms Megawati appealed to Indonesians to vote with a “clear and honest mind.” “We are convinced that we can create a better future,” she was quoted as saying by AFP news agency. Mr Yudhoyono, a 59-year-old former general, was elected in Indonesia’s first direct election in 2004, defeating then-President Megawati. He has been boosted by the success of the economy and a corruption-free image, correspondents say. Some opinion polls have suggested that he could surpass the 50% of votes needed to avoid a second round run-off in September. Support for his Democratic Party surged to more than 20% at parliamentary elections in April.
Ethnic mobs overrun Chinese city
By Quentin Sommerville
BBC News, Urumqi
Urumqi is again under curfew. China began Tuesday saying it had the city under control, but a surprise interruption to a government tour showed that claim to be false.As journalists stopped to view a burned out car showroom, hundreds of Uighur women poured in from side streets, shouting and wailing. Old and young, some carried babies. They seemed oblivious to the batons and guns of the paramilitary troops who had taken control of their neighbourhood. “We don’t want to fight,” said one. “Please release our families. Almost all the men were taken away, hundreds of them, thousands of them! We believe in our police, we don’t fight, please release our men.” Uighur defianceOvernight, some 1,400 men – husbands, sons and brothers – were taken away for questioning. They are accused of being a part of Sunday’s murderous riots.
We watched as they raged at the police, some even threw their shoes. A number of the women fainted. On the edges of the scene, policemen had un-holstered their pistols, some stood ready with long steel batons. One of the troops climbed on top of an armoured truck and used a loudhailer to tell people to disperse. Some did, heading for side streets. At the other end of the road, riot police arrived. These stony-faced defenders of Chinese rule rarely come face-to-face with such defiance. Looking fearsome in their dark bulletproof vests and armed with teargas and guns, they didn’t respond. We stayed until we saw the protest end without violence. The women left in single file. Then our government minders pushed us back into the buses that had brought us there. Han revengeBack in a central hotel – perhaps the only one in town with access to the internet following a citywide government shut down – it soon became clear that the protests were far from over.
Han protesters roam the streets armed with sticks and shovels
Suddenly the roads emptied of traffic. In the distance a crowd could be heard. Then, around People’s Square, Han Chinese demonstrators in shorts and T-shirts marched along the streets. They were armed with steel rods and bamboo poles. Some carried knives. At first they had been shocked by Sunday’s brutal attacks – Han Chinese suffered the worst. Now they were angry. As they marched past, shouting they would protect Xinjiang, and crying, “Down with the Uighurs”, office workers came out to applaud them. “We’re protecting our property,” one man said. “We’ve run out of patience,” said another. At a bank across the street, employees appeared in their shirtsleeves, waving spades and iron rods. In a surreal moment, a group of girls in miniskirts walked by, each with their own 5ft-long poles. It seemed as if every other person had acquired a weapon of choice. At first the paramilitary forces simply watched – one snapping a picture with his camera phone. But later the streets emptied again, things were suddenly still. Reports spread that tear gas had been fired at the Han Chinese. People began heading home as the hour of curfew approached. Deep divisionsThese would be extraordinary scenes anywhere, but they are particularly astonishing in a country as tightly controlled as China. As the sun began to set and the guards around the square changed shifts, dozens of trucks and buses full of camouflaged troops began arriving in the city. Despite the curfew, small groups of Han Chinese – mostly young men – wandered around, weapons still in their hands. Ethnic harmony and stability are watchwords for China’s leadership, but there has been little of either on display here in Xinjiang. After days of violence and threats, Uighurs and Han Chinese have never been further apart. It will take more than additional troops to bring the people who share this city back together.
MP claims UK ‘outsourced torture’
An MP has used parliamentary privilege to accuse the British intelligence service of “outsourcing torture”.Former Shadow Home Secretary David Davies cited the case of Rangzieb Ahmed, from Rochdale, who was jailed for life for being an al-Qaeda planner. Mr Davies told the House of Commons that intelligence services had allowed Ahmed to go to Pakistan. Once there, they alerted Pakistani authorities who arrested him and tortured him, parliament was told. Mr Davies is calling for a judicial inquiry into at least 15 cases where torture of terrorist suspects has been alleged. Using the legal protection afforded to MPs, he told the Commons there was a chain of evidence of complicity in torture and passive rendition. Surveillance materialHe said that although British police and the intelligence services had enough surveillance material to charge Ahmed, they still allowed him to go to Pakistan. Once there, British intelligence suggested to the Pakistani authorities he should be arrested. A list of questions to be put to Ahmed was drawn up by the security services and Manchester police, said Mr Davies. Ahmed has said he was whipped with tyre rubber, beaten with staves and had three fingernails pulled out. Replying to Mr Davies, Foreign Office minister Ivan Lewis said he could not comment in detail on Ahmed’s case for legal reasons.
Comments on Michael Jackson on the day of his memorial service:
“I just wanted to say, ever since I was born, daddy has been the best father you could ever imagine! I just wanted to say I love him so much.” — Jackson’s daughter, Paris, who broke down in tears.
“Michael, when you left us, a part of me went with you. … I will treasure the good times, singing, dancing, laughing. … We will never understand what he endured … being judged, ridiculed. How much pain can one take? Maybe, now, Michael, they will leave you alone.” — Marlon Jackson.
“Michael always knew he could count on me to support him or be his date. … We had a bond and maybe it was because we both understood what it was like to be in the spotlight from a very, very young age. I used to tease him and say, `I started when I was 11 months old. You’re a slacker. You were like 5?’ Both of us needed to be adults very early, but when we were together, we were two little kids having fun. … M.J.’s laugh was the sweetest and purest of anyone I’ve known.” — Brooke Shields.
“He created a comfort level, where people that felt they were separate became interconnected with his music. … Those young kids grew up from being teenage, comfortable fans of Michael’s to being 40 years old and being comfortable to vote for a person of color to be the president of the United States of America. Michael did that. Michael made us love each other. Michael taught us to stand with each other.” — The Rev. Al Sharpton.
“I’m here representing millions of fans around the world who grew up listening to Michael, being inspired and loving Michael from a distance. … Somehow when Michael Jackson sang and when he danced … we felt he was right there. … He made you believe in yourself.” — Queen Latifah.
“When he did his iconic moonwalk, I was shocked. It was magic. Michael Jackson went into orbit and never came down. Though it ended way too soon, Michael’s life was beautiful.” — Motown Records founder Berry Gordy.
“This is a moment that I wish that I didn’t live to see come. But as much as I can say that and mean it, I do know that God is good and I do know that as much as we may feel — and we do — that we need Michael here with us, God must have needed him far more.” — Stevie Wonder.
“Michael was a personal love of mine. A treasured part of my world … ” — Smokey Robinson, reading a note from longtime Jackson friend Diana Ross at Tuesday’s memorial service in Los Angeles.
“You don’t think you’ll live to see them gone. … He is going to live forever and ever and ever and ever.” — Smokey Robinson.
“We miss you, Michael.” — Mariah Carey, after singing “I’ll Be There” at Jackson’s memorial service.
“There are certain people in our popular culture that just capture people’s imaginations. And in death, they become even larger. Now, I have to admit that it’s also fed by a 24/7 media that is insatiable.” — President Barack Obama, who was asked about the outpouring of emotion related to Michael Jackson’s death during an interview with CBS while he was in Moscow.
“They’re holding up well in part because they’re a strong family … a big family, religiously devout family. Therefore, they have a sense of insulation of their faith.” — The Rev. Jesse Jackson, on how Michael Jackson’s family is coping.
“He was a true gift and there are very few that have come to the magnitude of influence that he had on the world.” — Neil Portnow, president of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.
LOS ANGELES – Michael Jackson’s three young children, after a lifetime of fierce protection from the prying eyes of the world, came out into the open Tuesday for the most public and heart-wrenching debut imaginable.
Before an audience of thousands at the Staples Center and millions more around the globe, 12-year-old Michael Joseph Jr., known as Prince Michael; 11-year-old Paris-Michael; and 7-year-old Prince Michael II, known as Blanket, sat in the front row, taking in their father’s memorial service at Staples Center.
Gone were the veils, the party masks and the guarded gates and walls that kept the Jackson children hidden from view for more than a decade.
Those were replaced with images of their young faces up on stage as the ceremony came to a close, comforting one another and fidgeting as kids will: Prince chewed gum and toted the memorial service program; Paris turned a small patent-leather purse over in her hands; and Blanket held his program and clutched a Michael Jackson doll.
And in a moment of almost shocking openness, Paris went to the podium to address the crowd, fighting back sobs in the ceremony’s defining moment.
“Ever since I was born, Daddy has been the best father you could ever imagine,” she said, her tiny voice cracking. “And I just wanted to say I love him — so much.”
Photos of the children’s faces, which eluded the paparazzi for years, had leaked out recently, and were widely circulated in the days after Jackson’s death June 25. But the live images of the children — Paris in a black dress with white trim and the two boys wearing the same dark suit and yellow tie as the rest of the men in the Jackson family — represented their first true coming-out for the youngest generation of Jacksons.
RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) –
Researchers have discovered a new sub-species of monkey in a remote part of the Amazon rain forest, a U.S.-based wildlife conservation group said on Tuesday.
The newly found monkey was first spotted by scientists in 2007 in the Brazilian state of Amazonas and is related to the saddleback tamarin monkeys, known for their distinctively marked backs, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) said.
The small monkey, which is mostly gray and brown and weighs 213 grams (0.47 pound), has been named the Mura's saddleback tamarin after the Mura Indian tribe of the Purus and Madeira river basins where the new sub-species was found.
It is 240 millimeters (9.4 inches) tall with a 320 millimeter (12.6 inch) tail.
“This newly described monkey shows that even today there are major wildlife discoveries to be made,” Fabio Rohe, the lead author of a study confirming the new discovery, said in a statement released by the WCS.
The study found that the monkey is threatened by development projects in the region, including a major highway through the forest that is being paved and which could fuel deforestation.
“This discovery should serve as a wake-up call that there is still so much to learn from the world's wild places, yet humans continue to threaten these areas with destruction,” Rohe said.
(Reporting by Stuart Grudgings; Editing by Philip Barbara)
In bowing out as Governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin harkened back to her high school basketball days – although there was no sign of the “Barracuda,” as she was nicknamed for her ability to cut through the opposing team’s offenses. In a hastily called press conference on the eve of a three-day holiday, Palin presented herself as a point guard exhausted by the “full court press from the national level.” The 2008 Republican vice-presidential nominee explained how the metaphorical point guard should respond. “She drives through a full court press, protecting the ball, keeping her head up because she needs to keep her eye on the basket, and she knows exactly when to pass the ball so that the team can win,” Palin said. “And I know when it’s time to pass the ball for victory.” Or take a timeout, as the case may be.
Palin’s stunning announcement raised more questions than it answered: Is she bowing out of public life? Is there a more nefarious reason for her resignation after only two-and-half years in office – yet another G.O.P. scandal in the offing? Or is the woman who tops most G.O.P. 2012 shortlists to challenge Barack Obama stepping down to get a head start on her next presidential campaign? Palin took no questions after her unscripted, rambling address, and her comments seemed to hint both ways: that she’s “passing the ball” of elected office, and that she plans on working for all Americans, not just Alaskans. “Some are going to question the timing of this and let me just say that this decision has been in the works for a while. In fact this decision comes after much consideration,” Palin said, holding up her left index finger as she amended her thought, “Much prayer and consideration. And finally, I polled the most important people in my life, my kids. And the count was unanimous. While in response to asking, ‘Hey, do you want me to be a positive influence and fight for all our children’s futures from outside the governor’s office?’ it was four yeses and one ‘Hell, yeah.’ The ‘Hell, yeah’ sold it.” (TIME Photographs: Sarah Palin.)
If her goal is to position herself for higher office, the stagecraft and timing of her announcement left Republicans scratching their heads. The Friday before Independence Day, when media attention is at its lowest, would be a more appropriate moment for a scandal-plagued politician to slink from the national stage. Palin made the announcement with no fanfare, no teleprompters, no prepared remarks. Waterfowl in the background at times challenged her for the microphone. “To step down on a Friday before a three-day holiday, people are going to scrutinize it: why is she doing it, question her judgment,” said Ed Rollins, who ran former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee’s presidential campaign last year. “It leaves her with less than three years as governor on her resume – not a very strong argument to run for president. The way she did it – the fact she did it – damages her, damages her immensely. People aren’t happy about a governor quitting, unless you’re Governor [Mark] Sanford [currently under fire for his extramarital affair in Argentina]. Her doing this adds to the Sarah Palin mystique, but not in a good way.” (TIME Photographs: Memories of Bristol and Levi.)
Palin’s had a rough 2009 thus far, drawing headlines often more suitable for Britney Spears than for a serious politician and gracing the covers of more tabloids than news magazines. She’s picked heated public battles with Levi Johnston, the father of her teenage daughter’s baby, and with late night comedian David Letterman for crossing the line in mocking her daughter’s sex life. In the last week, she’s been eviscerated in a Vanity Fair article that has reduced the Republican Party into two camps, Palin supporters and detractors, who slug it out on the cable shows. She’s also rankled Republican insiders by accepting two high profile speaking engagements and then bailing out. And then she twice bolted a congressional dinner before finally agreeing to appear, but declining to speak. Such fickle behavior has not endeared her to many party stalwarts, and her name is consistently left off the list when reporters ask the likes of John McCain and former Presidents George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush for ideas on who could be the next leader of the party.
Perhaps because of these missteps, many GOP advisers have urged Palin to keep a low profile, to follow the Ronald Reagan trajectory by studying up on the issues, maybe do a listening tour and spend time building relationships behind the scenes. After finishing out his term as Governor of California, Reagan spent four years traveling the country, speaking to groups, building support, says Phyllis Schlafly, founder of the conservative Eagle Forum. Palin “certainly is the most sought-after speaker on the Republican side at this time. She draws big crowds; anywhere she goes, she’s a star. I hope she’ll continue that – we need good speakers,” Schlafly said in a phone interview. “It’s what Reagan did to great success.”
But by quitting her governorship, she relinquishes her best platform. “I wouldn’t call this a strategy,” said John Weaver, a former top adviser to McCain. “This makes no sense. The way for her to increase her chances in 2012 is to be reelected in 2010.” Weaver cited the difficulties faced by former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney’s in competing in 2008 against politicians still in office, adding, “A good point guard doesn’t quit.”
“This is classic Sarah Palin, the mixture of the personal and political,” says Michael Carey, an Anchorage talk show host. “It’s all done ad hoc. There’s no strategic plan. It’s, ‘This is what I’m going to do, baby. Here we go,’ ” Carey said in a phone interview. A Washington friend with whom Palin spoke Friday morning said the soon-to-be ex-Governor of Alaska doesn’t have a concrete plan going forward but she plans on working on her book – bought by HarperCollins in May – and helping Republican candidates. The friend also said that Palin, who will step down July 25, had become increasingly unhappy with the media scrutiny, her battles with the state legislature, the 15 ethics complaints filed against her by outside progressive groups and politics as a whole.
Palin’s announcement caps a miserable few weeks for the Republican Party. Senator John Ensign, often mentioned as a potential 2012 candidate, resigned his leadership position after admitting to an affair, followed the next week by Governor Sanford’s admission of several indiscretions. “The way we are going, if you are the Junior Jaycees president in Memphis you could be in line for the nomination,” quipped Weaver. Indeed, many in the GOP must now be wondering whether being on the party’s 2012 shortlist is a blessing or a curse.
- With reporting by Michael Scherer and Karen Tumulty in Washington and Mark Halperin in New York
The original version of this story mistakenly identified the end of Palin’s gubernatorial term.
View this article on Time.comRelated articles on Time.com: Where Palin Made Her Name Sarah Palin To Quit As Alaska Governor 10 Things to Know About Sarah Palin Surveying Palin Palin Bow-Out: Boon to Her Book Sales?
England & Australia set for Ashes
First Ashes Test, Cardiff: England v AustraliaDate: 8-12 July Scheduled start: 1100 BSTCoverage: Test Match Special commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live sports extra, BBC Radio 4 Long Wave, Red Button and BBC Sport website, plus live text commentary on BBC Sport website and mobiles. Live on Sky Sports
England and Australia renew their famous sporting rivalry when the first Test of the five-match Ashes series begins in Cardiff on Wednesday.Australia are defending champions after winning the 2006-07 series 5-0, but England won the last series on English soil in 2005 following eight defeats. The Australians have also lost stars such as Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath to retirement since the last meeting. And they are without injured pair Brett Lee and Shane Watson for Cardiff. A capacity crowd of 16,000 will be at the ground for each of the first three days – and something approaching that number on the fourth – as Cardiff becomes the first new Ashes venue since 1902, and 100th Test venue in all. Cash from the Welsh Assembly and the Welsh Tourist Board helped Cardiff secure hosting rights for the match, and Glamorgan chief executive Paul Russell has rebuilt the old Sophia Gardens facility up to a standard befitting international cricket.
However, the selection of this ground to stage such a high-profile match has courted controversy, and the state of the pitch was criticised earlier this year – though there have been no recent complaints. Lord’s hosted the series opener in 2005, but this time will stage the second match, while Manchester’s famous Old Trafford ground has been left off the schedule altogether. England will hope their Cardiff experience works out more favourably than it did when they ventured into Sheffield’s Bramall Lane, which never staged another Test after England lost there, by a hefty margin, 107 years ago. The Ashes have been contested since 1882, with Australia having won 31 series and England 28, while there have been five draws in the 64 matches. England, led by Andrew Strauss, have a squad that is fit and firing after crushing West Indies 2-0 in May and then being strengthened by the return from injury of key all-rounder Andrew Flintoff.
But Australia are still rated the number one team in the world compared to England’s fifth, despite having lost some of their greatest names in Warne, McGrath, batsmen Justin Langer and Matthew Hayden, plus wicket-keeper Adam Gilchrist. All five have retired. Of their replacements, all-rounder Watson and paceman Lee have been ruled out through injury. Lee is not likely to feature until at least the third Test after tearing a rib muscle in the draw against England’s second-string Lions team at Worcester. The only bowler in the squad to have played a Test in England, Lee troubled the Lions, taking 6-76 in the first innings with some brilliant reverse swing at high pace. Australia’s only specialist slow bowler, Nathan Hauritz, now comes under the spotlight – though if he does play he will be heartened by the news that the Cardiff wicket is expected to turn.
Brown in colour, and with an even covering of grass, it is unlikely to provide much pace or bounce – and has been prepared in a manner to assist the slow bowlers from the fourth day. Flood prevention works around the adjoining River Taff, and a generally dry build-up, have forced much of the moisture to be sucked out of the wicket – and the occasional downpours which disrupted the practice sessions have not affected its preparation. For England, that means Durham seamer Graham Onions is likely to be dropped as spinners Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar will both be firmly in the frame. For Australia, Hauritz and seamer Ben Hilfenhaus are battling for the spot vacated by Lee, and although Hauritz has not performed brilliantly so far, neither did Hilfenhaus against Sussex at Hove, before being left out altogether for the Lions match. Since the highs of 2005, England have been through a troubled period, struggling to win Test series with any consistency before coach Peter Moores and captain Kevin Pietersen were sacked after Christmas. But things have not been particularly fruitful for Australia either. Ricky Ponting’s men field just four survivors from the 2006-07 campaign, and endured a poor winter in which they lost in India and at home to South Africa (though they did then bounce back to win in South Africa in March.) Strauss said Australia were “not quite as intimidating as they used to be”, pointing to the absence of their retired superstars.
He added: “We’re going to be ready for some hard cricket and we’re going to be ready to counteract that. The stadium looks ready to go, the wicket looks good and I hope the Welsh get behind us for five days. “An Ashes series is different – the history, the tradition, the battles of the past. It’s is special and it would be wrong not to treat it in a special way. In seven weeks there are going to be some epic moments.” The match could be an important one for Panesar, who has lost his place as England’s primary spinner to Swann and struggled at county level this season. But Strauss said: “There is something about being back in the England fold that switches on a light for Monty. I am very happy with where he is.” Ponting is desperate to avoid the fate of Allan Border, the last Australian captain to lose two Ashes series.
Aussies in high spirits for Ashes – Ponting
He gave a speech to his players in the dressing room at Cardiff on Tuesday, in which he charted his path from nephew of an Australian cricketer (Greg Campbell) to captain. He said afterwards: “I remember going down to (Campbell’s) house just after his kit arrived with his baggy green and his jumper and playing shirts in the bag. To go through that and touch the clothing and touch the baggy green cap was where for me the dream of playing Ashes cricket really all started.” Dry weather is expected to prevail for the first three days of the Test, with the possibility of more unsettled conditions at the weekend. England (probable): Andrew Strauss (capt), Alastair Cook, Ravi Bopara, Kevin Pietersen, Paul Collingwood, Matt Prior (wkt), Andrew Flintoff, Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann, James Anderson, Monty Panesar. Australia (probable): Phillip Hughes, Simon Katich, Ricky Ponting (capt), Michael Clarke, Michael Hussey, Marcus North, Brad Haddin (wkt), Mitchell Johnson, Nathan Hauritz, Peter Siddle, Stuart Clark.
Relive classic TMS Ashes moments
Greece fined over airline subsidy
Europe’s highest court, the European Court of Justice, has fined Greece 2m euros (2.8m; 1.7m) for failing to recover state aid from Olympic Airways.The case dates back to 2002 and relates to 41m euros of state aid which was given to the airline as part of an unsuccessful restructuring. Since the case began the carrier has been renamed Olympic Airlines. Athens has one month to comply or it will face additional fines of 16,000 euros a day until it pays up. The money will be paid into the EU Budget. In 2005 the European Commission found the Greek government guilty of giving illegal state aid to Olympic and demanded it reclaim the money. Greece said in court that much of the aid had been paid back, but the court found that the proof provided by Greece to show that it had already recovered the aid was inappropriate. The European Commission approved the privatisation of the airline last year on condition that Athens reimburse aid given to the firm, which has been state owned since 1975.
LONDON, England Michael Jackson has officially become the most popular person on Facebook, with more than 7 million fans on the social networking site.
The Michael Jackson Facebook page is now the most popular on the social networking site.
Previously, the most popular person on Facebook, with just over 6 million fans, was U.S. President Obama. Over the past week, Jackson’s page has grown from 80,000 fans to just over 7 million, generating the largest response on a Facebook page, the social networking site says. He has continued to gain about 20 fans per second and even more during peak traffic hours, said social media commentator Nick O’Neill, founder of the Social Times Web site. By comparison, actor Ashton Kutcher recently entered a race to beat CNN’s Larry King to 1 million followers on Twitter. Kutcher won and remains the most popular person on Twitterbut still has only 2.6 million followers. During his memorial service at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California, all 10 trending topics on Twitter.com were Jackson-related.
Michael Jackson: The Memorial
On Tuesday, join CNN, HLN and CNN.com Live for all-day coverage as the world celebrates the life of a worldwide pop icon, and don’t miss our prime time coverage starting at 8 p.m. ET.
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Jackson’s popularity and the viral nature of Facebook fan pages are the primary reasons for the huge fan base, O’Neill explained. He said, “It’s simply his popularity. Also, as users become fans, the page gets recommended to others, driving the viral growth of the page. “Michael Jackson is simply the largest celebrity in the world. While he was a controversial figure, he clearly attracts the attention of the global media,” he continued. The Facebook page has become an online memorial to Jackson, with thousands of comments from around the world; dozens appear every minute.
Complete Michael Jackson coverage
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Free virtual versions of Jackson’s famous glove are the most popular gift on the site, with more than 800,000 sent to members. The huge following leaves the singer’s heirs (and his record label) with a massive network to communicate with fans and continue the massive resurgence of interest in Jackson’s music, O’Neill said. “While Sony has not heavily engaged the fan base on Michael Jackson’s page, they at least have a presence. If your fans are there, you should be there. “This also provided an ongoing promotional channel for any future products that are released. It’s simply not an option and will become a component of all marketing strategies.” There have been 2.6 million downloads of Jackson’s music since his death. He has the top two albums on iTunes, as well as three of the top 10 singles. In the United Kingdom, Jackson held 11 of the top 200 album positions and 43 of the top 200 singles, based on sales monitored by the Official Charts Co. for the week ended June 27. His “Number Ones” album topped the OCC album chart after selling 46,400 physical copies and 10,000 downloads. The surge for demand in Jackson’s music looks likely to continue for several months: The fan page has a music player with some of Jackson’s hits and an option to buy them through Amazon.
JASLO, Poland (Reuters) –
An oak tree planted in Nazi-occupied Poland during World War Two to mark Adolf Hitler's birthday may soon face the axe if the local mayor has her way.
Authorities in Jaslo in rural southeastern Poland discovered the origins of the tree when plans were lodged to fell it to make way for a traffic roundabout.
“We obtained information that this is no ordinary tree but was put here to mark Adolf Hitler's birthday,” said Jaslo's mayor, Maria Kurowska. “So should I try to improve our town's communications or should I allow a memorial to that criminal to remain standing? The choice is simple for me.”
Nazi Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, triggering World War Two and beginning more than five years of occupation. Six million Poles died, including almost all of the country's three million Jewish citizens.
Not everybody in this town of 38,000 shared Kurowska's view that the tree must go.
“It was 1942 when the Germans brought a seedling of an oak here and planted it in the center of the town with all honors, an army orchestra and salutes,” said Kazimierz Polak, who was present at the planting ceremony as a child 67 years ago.
“My father told me then that it was Hitler's birthday and we found out later the seedling had come from Braunau am Inn (in Austria) where Hitler was born,” Polak said.
“It's a historic curiosity. What is the oak really guilty of? It's not the tree's fault that it was planted here to honor the biggest criminal and enemy of Poland.”
(Reporting by Piotr Augustynek, writing by Gabriela Baczynska, editing by Gareth Jones and Ralph Boulton)
NAIROBI, Kenya – Eight bodies that have washed ashore in Tanzania may be from a plane that plunged into the Indian Ocean with 153 people onboard, Yemeni authorities said Tuesday. Only one 12-year-old girl survived the crash.
The Yemeni committee overseeing the investigation of last week’s Yemenia 626 crash said in a statement that search and rescue teams in Comoros received a report from Tanzanian authorities informing them that bodies of the victims of the crash and some wreckage were located off the shores of Tanzania, some 370 miles (595 kilometers) away from Comoros.
The committee did not say how the bodies had been identified, give details about the debris or elaborate further. There have previously been several false reports about the recovery of bodies and of survivors.
Officials say they hope locating the plane’s black boxes will assist them to find the remains of the plane and passengers. The search has been narrowed down to an area 1,000 feet (300 meters) in diameter, said Ali Abou Abasse, a senior Comoran police officer coordinating the search and rescue site at the coastal town of Mistamiouli.
Investigators have concluded that the black boxes from the plane are too deep to be reached by divers, a French official said.
A French submarine picked up signals from the plane’s two black boxes on Sunday but no one has yet located the boxes, which contain the plane’s flight data and cockpit voice recorders.
The French official, speaking from a crisis unit set up at the French embassy in Comoros after the crash, said two teams of investigators from the French navy and the French aviation agency BEA were trying to determine the exact zone where the black boxes can be found.
The teams are using equipment that allows them to pick up signal beacons but cannot pinpoint the direction or distance of the sound, he said, declining to give his name.
The black boxes are believed to be lying between 1,600 to 4,000 feet (500 to 1,200 meters) under the surface of the ocean, French military spokesman Christophe Prazuck said Monday.
France is sending special robots able to operate on the sea floor to the Comoros, expected to arrive this Sunday.
The BEA investigation agency and the French Defense Ministry did not respond to calls from The Associated Press for comment on the embassy report.
Abdul-Khaleq Al-Qadi, chairman of Yemenia’s board, said the crash was a “shock and catastrophic news.”
He said his airline would reconsider deals to purchase 10 Airbuses in the last five years. He didn’t elaborate, or say if his company is already in contact with Airbus.
Before the report from Tanzania, Comoran crisis center spokesman Col. Ismail Mogne-Daho said only a few parts of the plane and no bodies have been found in the weeklong search.
The absence of bodies or debris contrasts strongly with the Air France crash off the coast of Brazil on June 1. Fifty-one bodies and large pieces of debris were recovered from that crash site in the Atlantic Ocean.
Pressure has grown on investigators to recover the Yemenia plane’s black boxes after thousands demonstrated at the airline’s offices in France over the weekend. French authorities have said the plane had several safety faults when it was inspected in 2007, but the Yemeni Transport minister Khaled al-Wazeer said Tuesday that French authorities apologized for comments made about the possible cause of the crash before investigations were completed.
“We explained to them that from a security standpoint, this plane has roamed European airports in the last two years and there were no problems,” he said.
Associated Press Writers Ahmed al-Haj in Sana’a, Yemen, and Debbie Seward in Paris contributed to this report.
NEW YORK – A giant audience formed for Michael Jackson’s memorial service, as millions gathered in public, in front of televisions and at computer screens to experience the mourning of the celebrated pop star.
Chants of “Michael! Michael!” rang out in Harlem, where about 1,000 gathered to watch the memorial service on a giant screen live from Los Angeles’ Staples Center.
A steady stream of fans — wearing Jackson T-shirts and listening to hits like “Billie Jean” — visited the singer’s boyhood home in Gary, Ind.
“I felt like I needed to pay homage to ‘the greatest,’” said 49-year-old, retired chemical operator Jackie Ford, who used to do Jackson’s moonwalk and drove to Gary from Aberdeen, Miss.
The media-saturated event was expected to rival the online audience of even President Barack Obama’s January inauguration — which similarly was a daytime event witnessed by many on their computers at work.
Aside from the wall-to-wall coverage by the TV networks and cable news channels, the memorial service was streamed online by many news outlets and Web sites, including Hulu.com, MySpace.com and The New York Times’ Web site. The Associated Press’ online video network also offered a live broadcast.
Several outlets rolled out interactive features previously used for Obama’s inauguration. CNN.com integrated its live video with chatter from Facebook.
“This has a shot to be one of the biggest lives events we’ve hoisted up,” said Kenneth “KC” Estenson, senior vice president and general manager of CNN.com. “It’s tracking to be pretty big.”
Estenson noted, though, that live video on the Web is still in the nascent stage. A huge swell of traffic — and the heavy bandwidth of video — can cause troubles across the Web.
“Live video on the Web is still a dicey proposition any way you cut it,” said Estenson. “We’ve built out the infrastructure to be able to handle a very large event.”
Alan Wurtzel, chief of research at NBC Universal, called it “the first multi-platform significant culture event.”
“This is definitely going to be the first worldwide event where there is going to be a significant amount of multi-platform viewing,” said Wurtzel. “But I don’t have a clue how many people are going to watch it.”
Not all the coverage was virtual.
Cinedigm Digital Cinema Network carried the memorial service on its live digital network in more than 80 movie theaters nationwide.
Crowds watched the broadcast in New York’s Times Square and in Harlem near the Apollo Theater, where the Jackson 5 won “Amateur Night” in 1967. Jackson impersonator Moses Harper, teary-eyed at the sight of the singer’s casket, danced Jackson’s version of “Ease on Down the Road,” from the musical “The Wiz.”
“I’m just grateful that I got to live in his time,” said Harper.
In Detroit, where his career was launched with Motown Records, hundreds of people filled into the auditorium at Detroit’s Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, where the memorial service was to be shown on a giant screen.
“I think he was somebody who really did change the style of music,” said Jonathan Contreras, a 23-year-old college student from Westland, Mich. “They call him the King of Pop. I call him the King of Music.”
Outside the White House in Washington, Rocky Twyman, a community activist, asked tourists to sign a “book of condolences” for Jackson’s family.
“We consider him a national hero,” said Twyman. “We want people to remember the good things he did.”
A total of 8,750 people out of 1.6 million registrants were chosen to receive two tickets each to the memorial service in downtown Los Angeles. Participants included Stevie Wonder, Mariah Carey, Usher, Lionel Richie, Kobe Bryant, Jennifer Hudson and many more.
The 50-year-old singer’s June 25 death brought an outpouring of grief and remembrance from fans across the globe.
The reaction was especially considerable online, where many people first read the news. The avalanche of traffic temporarily brought Twitter, Wikipedia and AOL’s instant messaging service to a crawl.
Jackson generated the most tweets per second since Obama was elected president in November. Akamai’s Net Usage Index, which monitors global news consumption online, found that Web traffic to news sites increased by about 50 percent.
Traffic flowed to YouTube, where many celebrated Jackson by watching his iconic music videos. Last week, Internet video research firm Visible Measures said Jackson’s 14-minute, 1983 video “Thriller” had been watched more than 8.5 million times online since his death.
At the same time, others have grown tired of the continual coverage of Jackson’s death, believing it has overshadowed more important news and that Jackson — who was tried and acquitted of sexually abusing a child in 2005 — doesn’t deserve such attention.
A Pew Research Center poll published last week found that 64 percent of those surveyed said Jackson’s death has received too much coverage. New York Rep. Peter King also released a YouTube video calling Jackson, who was acquitted of child molestation charges, a “pervert” and a “lowlife.”
While many celebrated Jackson’s life Tuesday, others shrugged off the spectacle. In Baltimore, a simulcast of Jackson’s funeral at the Enoch Pratt Free Library, drew only about 10 people. Much of the normal crowd went about their business checking out books without seeming to notice the screen showing the memorial service.
Associated Press writers Ben Greene in Baltimore, Jim Irwin in Detroit, Jennifer Peltz in New York, Caryn Rousseau in Gary, Ind., and Nafeesa Syeed in Washington and Television Writer David Bauder in New York contributed to this report.