LOS ANGELES – A nurse-nutritionist who worked with Michael Jackson says she was interviewed by Los Angeles homicide detectives who told her that needle marks were found on the pop singer’s body.
Cherilyn Lee said Tuesday that she told the detectives that she didn’t see any so-called “track marks” on Jackson’s arms when she provided vitamins and other supplements earlier this year.
Lee also was asked by the detectives Friday if she saw bruising on Jackson. Lee said she didn’t but told police that Jackson’s veins made placing an IV needle difficult, which could result in bruising.
Lee has said that Jackson asked her for a powerful anesthetic to alleviate his insomnia. She said she refused to help him get access to the drug, which was found in his home.
Archive for July 14th, 2009
LOS ANGELES – A nurse-nutritionist who worked with Michael Jackson says she was interviewed by Los Angeles homicide detectives who told her that needle marks were found on the pop singer’s body.
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. – A Los Angeles coroner’s official has visited the office of Michael Jackson’s dermatologist to serve a subpoena seeking additional medical records.
Assistant Chief Coroner Ed Winter went to Arnold Klein’s Beverly Hills office around midday Tuesday.
Speaking to a throng of reporters outside the office, he said Klein had been cooperating in the investigation. Craig Harvey, the coroner’s chief of operations, says it’s the second time coroner’s investigators have served Klein a subpoena.
They are focusing on the role drugs played in causing Jackson’s death.
Klein has recently given TV interviews saying he sedated Jackson for medical procedures. He denied ever giving the pop star an unnecessary dose of drugs.
WASHINGTON – The Homeland Security Department will review and possibly replace the often-ridiculed multicolored terror alert system created after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. Since it was created in 2002, the system has been confusing and became the butt of jokes by late-night television comics.
Critics have said assigning different categories to different colors is too vague an approach to deliver enough information to be useful. And Democrats said the Bush administration used it for political manipulation.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano appointed a task force Tuesday to determine in 60 days how effective the current system is.
“My goal is simple: to have the most effective system in place to inform the American people about threats to our country,” Napolitano said in a statement.
The 17-member task force consists of Democrats and Republicans and will be chaired by former FBI Director William Webster and the former White House homeland security adviser, Fran Townsend.
The system which goes from green, signaling a low danger of attack, to red, signaling a severe threat of attack, could get an overhaul — or could be eliminated entirely.
There’s been bipartisan concern in Congress about the current system and in 2007 required the department to “provide greater specificity in its threat advisories and warnings,” and include countermeasures as part of the program.
Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., who chairs the Senate’s Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said he would support the review and hoped it would achieve what Congress asked for two years ago. The top Republican on the committee, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, explained Congress’ reasoning behind the requirements added in 2007: “Rather than rely solely on a color-coded designation, we wanted to make more information available to citizens, first responders and the private sector, so that appropriate steps could be taken by local officials and the general public.”
The system was widely panned from the outset. Democrats in particular criticized it in recent years, suggesting at times that the Bush administration was using the alert codes to swing public opinion by focusing attention on national security — a signature issue then for the Republican White House.
The alert level has not been changed since 2006 when it was raised from yellow to red then lowered to orange in the aviation sector after it was discovered that terrorists planned to blow up jetliners en route to the U.S. from Britain.
The nation has never been below yellow since 2001, although Hawaii put itself at blue for a year after the national system was adopted. It has since raised the level to yellow.
The United States hasn’t been attacked since 2001, although several plots have been disrupted.
The department will accept public comment on the system by e-mail to hsasreview(at)dhs.gov.
Thailand’s misguided rice policy
By Jonathan Head
BBC News, Bangkok
The first rains of the year have been falling for a couple of months now in Thailand’s often dry north-east, and farmers are out most days in the freshly-flooded fields, transplanting young jasmine rice seedlings.They work quickly, bent over double, expertly spacing the seedlings in the silt. But it is back-breaking work. And although jasmine is one of the most highly-prized rice varieties – it is grown almost exclusively in north-eastern Thailand – the farmers in this region are some of the poorest people in the country, most of them mired in debt. Lack of investmentTheir problem, says veteran rice researcher Kwanchai Gomez from Bangkok’s Kasaertsart University, is a chronic lack of investment in rice farming. Very little of the north-east – one of Thailand’s most populous regions – is irrigated. “Water is the most important thing that guarantees low risk,” she says. “And risk is the main problem for farmers. One year no rain, the next year floods. So you have to get a loan. Then your crop fails, and you get into debt.”
When world rice prices soared last year, everyone assumed that farmers in Thailand – for many years the world’s top rice exporter – must have done well. Some did. But only those in the central plains region, which get irrigation from the Chaophraya River. They grow up to three crops a year, mostly higher yield varieties than jasmine. That is where most of Thailand’s exports come from. The indebtedness and poverty of farmers was ignored for decades by governments in Bangkok. Then in the 2001 election, a wealthy telecoms tycoon, Thaksin Shinawatra, drew up a platform of policies aimed directly at farmers, like debt forgiveness and a village loan fund. It proved a stunningly successful vote-winning strategy, delivering Mr Thaksin three successive election victories, before he was ousted by a coup in September 2006. But many of those policies have done less for farmers than Mr Thaksin claimed. Rice mortgageOne, in particular, is proving a huge headache for the current government, led by his main rival, the Democrat Party.
It is called the rice mortgage scheme. The idea is to help farmers ride out price volatility by allowing them to sell their rice to the government at a guaranteed price. Farmers usually have no way to store or process their rice, so they are all forced to sell at once at harvest time, allowing the millers – who do have these facilities – to bargain down the price and take most of the profit. But the scheme has become riddled with corruption, and benefits only a minority of farmers. “Most of them, unfortunately, are rich farmers with irrigation,” says economist Nipon Poapongsakorn from the Thailand Development Research Institute. “Poor farmers in the north-east don’t have a surplus of rice to sell, so they don’t benefit from this policy at all. It is a pro-rich, pro-business policy”. The scheme is also very expensive for the government, especially now, because last year – when rice prices were unusually volatile – a weak government, led by Mr Thaksin’s allies, set the guaranteed price too high. Those with rice to sell would only sell to the government. Rice traders, like Asia Golden Rice – one of Thailand’s most successful – found it difficult to procure supplies at competitive prices for their overseas customers. “We might even lose our number one ranking as a rice exporter to our competitors,” says Saranyu Jeamsinkul, deputy managing director for Asia Golden Rice. “We are at least 100 a tonne higher than Vietnam – so it is rather difficult to export at the moment”. Sorting the messThe government has ordered Deputy Prime Minister Kobsak Sapavasu to sort out the mess.
The escalating price of rice has not made many Thai farmers any richer
He estimates it has already cost 11 billion baht (325m) just to process and store crops bought under the mortgage scheme. And because rice prices have fallen this year, when the government sells the stocks he estimates it will lose another 20 billion baht (590m). “The numbers are just unbelievable,” says Mr Kobsak. But his attempts to close down the mortgage scheme, and replace it with a simpler subsidy, have been blocked by his own coalition partners. There is a strong suspicion, shared by Mr Kobsak, that a lot of politicians are making money out of the scheme – perhaps from bribes from warehouse-keepers storing it, or traders trying to buy at bargain prices. With any hope of a new agricultural policy stalled over political bickering, one group of farmers near the north-eastern town of Ubon Ratchathani have decided to try to lift their living standards by themselves. They have joined forces to run their own rice mill, and they are saving on escalating fertiliser costs by recycling cow dung and growing organic jasmine rice. “I wondered why so many farmers were abandoning their farms,” said Tongsuan Sodapak, the local teacher whose idea it is. “Then I realised that our problems with debt and crop prices would never be cured just by waiting for the government to help.” This group of farmers has been fortunate, because they have been able to make contact with a buyer for their organic rice in Italy. Most other farmers in the north-east have no way of marketing their jasmine rice, despite its famed fragrance and flavour. Thailand’s long preoccupation with being the number one exporter should now shift, says Nipon Poapongsakorn – to a strategy of marketing Thai rice for its quality and variety. One retailer in Bangkok has made a start in promoting Thailand’s 81 rice varieties. Gourmet Market, a luxury supermarket chain, has bins of different kinds of rice, explaining exactly which region they come from, and their characteristic. It is a bit like the terroir of wine. “We have people coming here from places like Hong Kong,” says company vice president Lakana Naviroj. “They take rice home, because they don’t have the variety and quality we have here.” One supermarket alone, though, will not give Thailand’s rice the impact it could have on global markets. That requires a concerted drive coordinated by different government agencies, something that seems unlikely in today’s volatile political climate. At the school where Tongsun Sodapak teaches, when he’s not helping grow to rice, I asked a group of teenage girls – nearly all of them the children of farmers – how many of them would be happy to stay on the farm when they left school. Only four, out of 34, raised their hands.
Love beats the recession in Japan
By Roland Buerk
BBC News, Tokyo
Japan’s love hotels are attracting interest from more than just couples looking for a place to spend a few private hours.Investors are also interested; this vast market seems to be proving more resilient to the recession than luxury business hotels. There are about 25,000 love hotels in Japan which are visited an estimated 500 million times a year. Clustered around train stations, they are doing a brisk business despite the worst recession in living memory.
Flamboyantly designed and exotically named – Hotel For You, Sunpalace, Asian P-Door – they offer rooms by the hour, euphemistically marketed as a short rest or a longer stay. Contact with staff is kept to a minimum. This is a business that runs on discretion. Some have underground car parks and entrances, while others provide screens to shield visitors’ number plates. Plenty of customers are using love hotels to indulge in affairs or to meet prostitutes, although many are couples looked to escape the narrow confines of Japanese apartment living. Crowded countryAt many hotels the reception desk has been replaced by a touch screen of pictures of the rooms, brightly lit if available, dimmed out if already occupied. Love hotels offer time alone in a crowded country where privacy is rare. Yuichi Ito and Kyoko Shio are typical of Japanese in their twenties, still living with their parents.
Yuichi Ito and Kyoko Shio both still live with their parents
“My family is my Dad and my Mom, and I have two younger brothers,” says Yuichi Ito. “But we only have four rooms, so it is a very crowded house.” He adds that he and his girlfriend, who met while they were studying in the United States, visit love hotels to find somewhere to be alone. Providing privacy is big business in Japan. The love hotel industry is huge, estimated to turn over about 25bn (40bn) a year. And hotel owners claim they have been barely touched by the recession. “Of course some hotels did [suffer], but not love hotels,” says Joichiro Mochizuki, an executive with a company which runs a number of love hotels, including the Asian P-Door in Tokyo. “Not like city hotels, not like business hotels – for this love hotel we had a 3-4% drop but otherwise we have kept a 400% occupancy rate.” That means each room is, on average, used four times a day. The sheer variety on offer for couples is huge. There are mock castles, perched by motorway intersections. One love hotel is decorated on a theme that combines soft toys and bondage. In others, visitors can dress up as doctors and nurses.
The hotels cater for all, even fans of the film “Titanic”
Some rooms look like school classrooms or train carriages. There’s even a love hotel for fans of the film Titanic, shaped like a cruise liner with life-size statues of Leonardo di Caprio and Kate Winslett on the prow. With 25,000 across Japan, there is one to suit every fantasy. Seedy reputationBritish businessman Steve Mansfield sees great potential in the industry which has traditionally been shunned by big Japanese corporations put off by its seedy reputation. The rooms in his hotels are rather straightforward. He says he aims to create the ideal living area which people would have at home if money was no object. There is a bed, of course, a flat screen television and a projector, a karaoke machine and an outdoor bathroom in the more expensive suites. There are also payment machines by every door in case guests want to leave unseen.
Steve Mansfield is looking to invest in more love hotels
Mr Mansfield’s company, Japan Leisure Hotels, listed on London’s AIM market, already runs six hotels, and he would like many more. “When we looked at it and saw the fragmentation – 90% of owners have five or fewer hotels – we thought this is interesting,” he says. “Here is a massive industry that has no market leader and there is a great opportunity here for consolidation.” Steve Mansfield does not like the phrase love hotels. He prefers “leisure hotels”, pointing out that what goes on in his premises happens in every other hotel in the world. Whatever they are called, Japan’s short stay hotels remain busy with customers. The Japanese may have cut back on many things in the downturn – but not on a few hours to spend alone with a loved one.
Planning ‘plagued by box-ticking’
By John Andrew
Local government correspondent, BBC News
England’s planning system is plagued by box-ticking and target-setting and does not deliver the homes needed at local level, a think tank says.The centre-right Bow Group is calling for a new approach based less on regional plans and more on a flexible system focused on neighbourhoods. It says the planning system is slow and costs the economy about 2.7bn a year. The government says regional plans allow local authorities to work out homes and transport for themselves. The report argues that the current system is top-down, is not delivering for communities and in some areas has produced a massive oversupply of flats. In London, for instance, just 12% of new homes completed in 2007/8 were houses. A public planner told the Bow Groups interview panel: “What the government doesn’t seem to realise is that while regional plans might set targets for housing, it’s quite another thing to actually see a local community or a council accept those targets, particularly when a perception exists that they’ve been set centrally.” The push for higher densities, says the report, does not have to equal high-rise development, as so much of our surviving Victorian and Georgian housing stock shows. Good practiceThe report argues that the government’s decision to give more power to regional development agencies has damaged the fabric of local democracy and that the resultant regional plans are unpopular, expensive and undemocratic. It says better urban design is the key to improving a system which has provoked conflict and strife in many local communities. As models of good practice it points to the developments like Poundbury in Dorset – modelled on Prince Charles’s ideas – and the Millennium Village in Greenwich. These are both examples where councils, local communities and developers discussed the design before any planning application was submitted. A Communities and Local Government spokesman said: “Regional plans allow local authorities to work out for themselves the best way of building new homes, building business parks, siting green energy sources and routing transport links. “This process is led by local government leaders and now scrutinised by regional select committees. “Without this process central government would be imposing decisions on local areas.”
‘Better data needed’ on swine flu
The government must map the spread of swine flu more accurately in order to predict the number of people who are likely to die from it, scientists say.Researchers at Imperial College say data is vital to ensure the country is “best prepared to fight the pandemic”. They predict that one in 200 people who get swine flu badly enough to need medical help could go on to die. Meanwhile, the BBC understands that vaccines may not be ready until later than the government had predicted. Medical correspondent Fergus Walsh said World Health Organisation officials expected the first stocks to be available in September or October, not August as ministers had said. Chief medical officer Liam Donaldson also told the BBC that to cope with “the height of the pandemic”, the government was considering changing the rules to speed up the death certification process for swine flu victims. “We want to try and reduce as much as possible the burden of work on doctors and we are considering all sorts of things which will help will that,” he said. “That’s one of the options that’s being looked at.” Margin of errorAccurate predictions about the number of deaths likely to occur from swine flu are not yet available.
Current estimates suggest it is about as virulent as some types of seasonal flu, but far less deadly than some previous flu pandemics. The BBC’s science editor Susan Watts said in a good year a thousand people die of seasonal flu, but in a bad year it can be 30,000. Any estimates about swine flu are subject to a wide margin of error, not least because not everyone who catches it develops symptoms and where they do, not all seek medical help. But despite the difficulties, the Imperial College scientists – who are advising the government on its swine flu strategy – say more accurate mapping of the spread of the virus must be carried out if it is to be effectively managed. Dr Tini Garske said: “If we fail to get an accurate prediction of severity, we will not be providing healthcare planners, doctors and nurses, with the information that they need to ensure they are best prepared to fight the pandemic as we head into the flu season this autumn.” She said data must be collected “according to well designed study protocols and analysed in a more sophisticated way than is frequently being performed at present”. ‘Only an estimate’Health Secretary Andy Burnham has said there could be 100,000 new cases of swine flu a day later in the year. If that prediction and the Imperial College figures are both correct, that could mean 500 people dying every day.
The chief medical officer told the BBC that was “only an estimate”. “There are higher and lower estimates, we can’t be absolutely sure at this stage where the mortality will fall,” Sir Liam said. “Our own estimates show a much broader range than that and a lower figure, but the truth of the matter is it’s far too early to say.” There have so far been 17 swine flu-related deaths in the UK. On Tuesday, a post-mortem examination ruled that a GP who died after contracting it was not killed by the virus. Prof Steve Field, from the Royal College of GPs, said plans to manage the outbreak were on schedule. “What we’re learning is this is happening in hotspots around the country… so there need to be plans for individual hospitals and for hospitals to share workloads across areas,” he said.
ELKHART, Ind. – A 51-year-old man told a police officer he was naked in a northern Indiana cemetery because he had taken off his wet clothes after checking on his in-laws’ grave and then wanted a closer look at some flowers. The officer was off duty and jogging through Rice Cemetery in Elkhart Sunday afternoon when he saw the naked man get into a truck and drive away. The officer later tracked down the Mishawaka man from his license plate number.
The man said he had been golfing all day and that he undressed in his truck because his underwear was wet. He said he left his truck naked to look at the flowers because he did not have his glasses.
He was arrested on a preliminary misdemeanor charge of public indecency.
It’s rare for public prosecutors to appeal successful convictions in high-profile criminal cases. But that’s exactly what French justice officials are now doing, arguing that sentences handed out to several members of a gang which tortured a young Jewish man to death on the outskirts of Paris were insufficient punishment for their barbarous anti-Semitic crime.
Hundreds of people gathered outside France’s Justice Ministry Monday evening to hail the decision by French authorities to re-try 14 of the 27 people convicted of the abduction and brutal 2006 murder of cell phone salesman Ilan Halimi. Though the verdict announced July 10 handed out stiff sentences to the leaders of the gang, Halimi’s family, their supporters, and Jewish groups across the nation were outraged that 14 defendants got lighter punishments than prosecutors had requested. In response, Justice Minister MichÈle Alliot-Marie announced Monday evening that she’d ordered prosecutors to appeal any sentence that was less than the state had sought. (See pictures of Nazi Germany’s Kistallnacht pogrom.)
No new trial will be held for the group’s leader, Youssouf Fofana, 28, who received a life sentence without possibility of parole for 22 years. The other two main accomplices in the kidnapping and torture of Halimi, who was 23, received maximum sentences of 18 and 15 years. Other members of the self-dubbed “Gang of Barbarians” received sentences ranging between six months and several years.
The plot to kidnap Halimi was predicated on the gang’s belief that all Jews are rich. The group had tried to abduct two other Jewish men before ensnaring Halimi – a focus that, along with Fofana’s outrageous baiting of Halimi’s family during the trial – led French public opinion to belatedly agree with Jewish groups that the crime had been anti-Semitic in nature.
“It’s the first time since the Shoah – since Nazi occupation, [French] collaboration, and deportations – that a Jew was murdered in France purely because he was Jewish,” Sammy Ghozlan, president of the National Office of Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism told reporters outside the Justice Ministry following the decision to hold a re-trial. (See pictures of the rise of Adolf Hitler.)
Halimi’s family and their backers want the new trial and sentences to punish both the brutality of the murder, and serve as a warning that anti-Semitism will not be tolerated in France. They also want the new trial held in public and not behind closed doors as the first one was. Under French law, when someone accused of committing a crime as a minor – as was the case with one member of the “Gang of Barbarians” – the hearings are closed to the press and public to protect the defendant’s identity. Officials have yet to say whether they’ll move for the new trial to be opened up. (Read: “Germany Confronts Its Dark Past.”)
But members of the legal community have voiced concerns about the political intervention in France’s independent justice system. That action provokes even more alarm given French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s planned reforms to shift investigative control of criminal cases to state prosecutors – who as political appointees, critics accuse, are more attentive to the interests of their governmental mentors than the law.
And despite the unspeakable brutality and hatred in Halimi’s murder that has unleashed wide condemnation of anti-Semitism in France, some officials are worried that the re-trial will set a bad precedent. “Justice isn’t the same thing as vengeance,” warned Emmanuelle Perreux, president of one of the French legal profession’s main labor unions, on radio station RTL. “Giving in to pressure from any [civil party] that believes, and will always believes that punishment isn’t severe enough strikes me as troubling.” Perhaps, but as those pushing for a new trial note, adding a few years to prison sentences is a trifle compared to the fate Halimi met.
Read: “Murder Trial Puts Focus on French Anti-Semitism.”
See pictures of Paris.
View this article on Time.comRelated articles on Time.com: Murder Trial Puts Focus on French Anti-Semitism French Terror Conviction: Lesson for U.S.?
Longest insect migration revealed
Editor, Earth News
Every year, millions of dragonflies fly thousands of kilometres across the sea from southern India to Africa.So says a biologist in the Maldives, who claims to have discovered the longest migration of any insect. If confirmed, the mass exodus would be the first known insect migration across open ocean water. It would also dwarf the famous trip taken each year by Monarch butterflies, which fly just half the distance across the Americas. Biologist Charles Anderson has published details of the mass migration in the Journal of Tropical Ecology. Each year, millions of dragonflies arrive on the Maldive Islands, an event which is well known to people living there. “But no-one I have spoken to knew where they came from,” says Anderson, an independent biologist who usually works with organisations such as the Maldivian Marine Research Centre to survey marine life around the islands.
Their appearance is especially peculiar because the 1200 islands that make up the Maldives lie 500 to 1000km from the mainland of southern India, and all are coral cays with almost no surface freshwater, which dragonflies need to complete their lifecycle. Anderson noticed the dragonflies after he first arrived in the Maldives in 1983. He started keeping detailed records each year from 1996 and now collates data collected by local observers at other localities in the Maldives, in India and on vessels at sea. When Anderson compared these observations with those made of dragonflies appearing in southern India, he found a clear progression of arrival dates from north to south, with dragonflies arriving first in southern India, then in the Republic of Maldives’ capital Male, and then on more southern atolls. Each year, dragonflies first appear in Male between 4 and 23 October, with a mean arrival date of 21 October. Dragonfly numbers peak in November and December, before the insects then disappear once more. The insects arrive in waves, with each staying for no more than a few days. Over 98% of the dragonflies recorded on the islands are Globe skimmers (Pantala flavescens), but Pale-spotted emperors (Anax guttatus), Vagrant emperors (A. ephippiger), Twisters (Tholymis tillarga) and Blue perchers (Diplacodes trivialis) also appear in some numbers. The dragonflies then reappear between April and June. Longest journeyThe dragonflies are clearly migrating from India across the open sea to the Maldives, says Anderson. “That by itself is fairly amazing, as it involves a journey of 600 to 800km across the ocean,” he says. Quite how they do it was a bit of a mystery, as in October at least they appear to be flying against the prevailing winds. However, in October, and continuing into November and December, a weather system called the Inter-tropical Convergence Zone moves southwards over the Maldives. Ahead of the ITCZ the wind blows towards India, but above and behind it the winds blow from India. So it seems that the dragonflies are able to reach Maldives by flying on these winds at altitude above 1000m.
But that is not the end of the animals’ epic adventure. “As there is no freshwater in Maldives for dragonflies, what are they doing here?” asks Anderson. “I have also deduced that they are flying all the way across the western Indian Ocean to East Africa.” Anderson has gathered a wealth of circumstantial evidence to back his claim. Large numbers of dragonflies also start appearing in the northern Seychelles, some 2700km from India, in November, and then in Aldabra in the Seychelles, 3800km from India, in December. That matches the slow southerly movement of the Inter-tropical Convergence Zone weather system, behind which winds blow steadily from India to East Africa. It is also known that Globe skimmers appear in large numbers through eastern and southern Africa. In Uganda, they appear twice each year in March or April and again in September, while further south in Tanzania and Mozambique they appear in December and January. Record breakersThat strongly suggest that the dragonflies take advantage of the moving weather systems and monsoon rains to complete an epic migration from southern India to east and southern Africa, and then likely back again, a round trip of 14,000 to 18,000km. “The species involved breeds in temporary rainwater pools. So it is following the rains, taking sequential advantage of the monsoon rains of India, the short rains of East Africa, the summer rains of southern Africa, the long rains of East Africa, and then back to India for the next monsoon,” says Anderson. “It may seem remarkable that such a massive migration has gone unnoticed until now. But this just illustrates how little we still know about the natural world.” The monarch butterfly is often cited as having the longest migration of any insect, covering around 7000km in an annual round trip from Mexico to southern Canada. On average, it takes four generations of butterflies to complete the journey. Anderson believes that the dragonflies survive the ocean flights by gliding on the winds, feeding on other small insects. They too, take four generations to make the full round trip each year. He says the migratory paths of a number of insect-eating bird species, including cuckoos, nightjars, falcons and bee-eaters, follow that of the dragonfly migration, from southern India to their wintering grounds in Africa. That suggests the birds feed on the dragonflies as they travel. “They [fly] at the same time and altitudes as the dragonflies. And what has not been realised before is that all are medium-sized birds that eat insects, insects the size of dragonflies,” he says. Extraordinary ability”There are earlier records of swarms of Globe skimmers flying out to sea, and at sea,” Anderson continues. “But it was always assumed that those dragonflies were doomed. Which says rather more about our earth-bound lack of imagination than it does about the globe skimmers’ extraordinary flying abilities.”
Government to map low-carbon road
By Richard Black
Environment correspondent, BBC News website
A huge expansion of wind power, home insulation and “smart” electricity meters are among measures being planned to build the UK’s low-carbon future.Ministers hope their Carbon Transition Plan will help them meet 2020 targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions and expanding renewable energy. Campaigners say the plan is a chance for the UK to lead on climate change. The government admits consumers will pay more for energy, but believes that overall the economy can benefit. The plan is due to be published later on Wednesday. Current government figures say emissions have already fallen by 22% from 1990.
The Low Carbon Transition Plan and its associated measures will plot a path towards the 34% target by 2020. They will also aim to point the economy towards EU targets for 2020 of a 15% share of energy from renewables and a 20% increase in energy efficiency. Beyond that, the government has set a goal of slashing emissions by 80% by 2050. As well as tackling climate change, the government believes changing to a low-carbon economy will help create jobs and industries. Writing in Sunday’s Observer newspaper, Gordon Brown declared that “within a decade, 1.2 million people in the UK will be employed in the green sector as a result of the investment decisions we are making”. Countries that develop green technologies and services first will, he said, “reap the richest rewards”. In the windIn April, Chancellor Alistair Darling formally announced that the UK would live within “carbon budgets” – limits on emissions – just as it attempts to live within financial budgets. The budgets were recommended by the government’s advisory body, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), in December; and the key figure – which the government has accepted – is a 34% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels by 2020.
However, many observers say that the renewables sector is currently growing far too slowly to meet the 15% target, and want ministers to be specific about how they will encourage green businesses. “We will be looking for hard policy content and rapid delivery timetables from Wednesday’s documents,” said Gaynor Hartnell, policy director of the Renewable Energy Association (REA) “The encouraging rhetoric we are now hearing from (Energy and Climate Secretary) Ed Miliband and the Prime Minister on the vital importance of our industry must translate into practical and rapid measures.” The Low Carbon Transition Plan – a white paper – will be accompanied by: a Low Carbon Industrial Strategy, focussing on “green growth” in industry and businessa Renewable Energy Strategy detailing how the UK will meet its 15% targetLow Carbon Transport: a Greener Future, outlining the transport sector’s contribution to greenhouse gas reductions’Vast potential’Environmental campaigners have long criticised the government as being long on international rhetoric but short on action. But the low-carbon strategy, many believe, is a chance for the UK to show the rest of the world that it is serious about cutting emissions, and that economic benefits can accrue. Governments are currently discussing elements of a prospective major new deal on combating climate change, which is supposed to be finalised at a UN climate summit in Copenhagen at the end of the year. “The government has a unique opportunity to… show bold international leadership ahead of crucial UN climate negotiations by setting out a detailed route map for slashing UK emissions,” said Andy Atkins, executive director of Friends of the Earth UK. “Seizing the green initiative will create exciting new jobs and business opportunities through ambitious measures to cut energy waste and develop the UK’s vast green energy potential.”
Tell it straight on debt – Clarke
Ken Clarke will accuse Gordon Brown of a “lack of candour” on public spending, in a speech to business leaders.He will say the prime minister is “trying to hide the scale of the crisis” by delaying a spending review and should “tell it straight”. Failing to address the issue will lead to a loss of market confidence, the shadow business secretary says. Labour says the Tories are planning stinging cuts while the Tories have accused Labour of being dishonest. Both parties have been under pressure to spell out how they would tackle the UK’s biggest peacetime deficit, ahead of the general election which must be held by next June.
Business Secretary Lord Mandelson has suggested there will be no comprehensive spending review before the next general election – although the chancellor has since said there could be one. The last comprehensive spending review (CSR) – normally held every two years – was in 2007, covering the period up to 2011. In his speech at the Institution of Civil Engineers, Mr Clarke will say putting one off until after the next general election is “the single gravest example of this government’s lack of candour”. “We have never needed a spending review as desperately as we need one today,” he will say. “Since the last CSR the predicted budget deficit for 2010/11 has grown from 1.7% to 12% of GDP … And what do we get from the government here? Nothing, except a denial from the prime minister that a problem in public spending levels exists.” ‘Crude’ attacksHe will say political debate on public spending has been “dumbed down” and businesses need “certainty” to plan ahead. “The risk, if we do not have a sensible debate on public spending, is that no action will be taken to get public borrowing onto a credible downward course,” he will say. “Interest rates will be driven up and stifle the recovery before it can become established. Not only will the consumer be crowded out but business will be too.” He will pledge that the Conservatives will bring “bring candour back to government”. “We need frankness in our political dialogue. Tell it straight. It is going to be very tough.” The prime minister has urged politicians to be careful about “crude” personal attacks – after Conservative leader David Cameron said he was not being straight with the public about the need for future spending cuts. Labour says improvements in public services can still be maintained despite the tougher economic climate. Ministers insist that real spending can increase after 2011 if tough decisions are taken on tax and “efficiencies” and accuse the Tories of planning 10% cuts in many areas. The Liberal Democrats say both of the main parties need to be more honest about the fact that “big programmes” will have to be cut back.
Tagging technology to track trash
By Jonathan Fildes
Science and technology reporter, BBC News
The ebb and flow of thousands of pieces of household rubbish are to be tracked using sophisticated mobile tags.It is hoped that making people confront the final journey of their waste will make them reduce what they throw away. Initially, 3,000 pieces of rubbish, donated by volunteers, will be tagged in New York, Seattle and London. “Trash is almost an invisible system today,” Assaf Biderman, one of the project leaders at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told BBC News. “You throw something into the garbage and a lot of us forget about it. It gets buried, it gets burned, it gets shipped overseas.” The Trash Track aims to make that process – termed the “removal chain” – more transparent. Friends of the Earth’s Senior Waste Campaigner Michael Warhurst said the project could be a “useful tool” for highlighting the impact of rubbish. “[Waste] doesn’t simply disappear when we throw it away, and all too often it ends up causing damage when it could be recycled instead. “People must have much better information on – and control over – where their rubbish and recycling ends up.” Global wasteIn order to monitor how the pieces of rubbish move around the cities and beyond, the MIT team has developed a small mobile sensor that can be attached to individual pieces of waste. “It’s like a miniature cell phone with limited functionality,” said Carlo Ratti, another member of the project. Each tag – encased in a protective resin – continuously broadcasts its location to a central server. The results can then be collected and plotted on a map in real time.
“It’s like putting tracers in your blood and seeing where it moves around your body,” said Mr Biderman. Because cell phone technology is cheap and – importantly – ubiquitous, the system should be able to track rubbish around the globe. This could be important when tracking computers and electronic waste, which is often disposed of incorrectly, according to Mr Ratti. “Some of them are shipped to Africa to pollute,” he said. The team aims to tag different types of waste from computers and cell phones to bags of garden waste. The group is currently looking for volunteers to donate their trash. The results of the US studies will be shown at two exhibitions in Seattle and New York during September. ‘Zero waste’The team stresses that it has tried to limit the impact of its study and of the technology, and limit the amount of extra waste it contributes to the “removal chain”. “We are adhering to the highest standards in terms of environmental impact,” said Mr Biderman. “The impact this could have on waste management and removal… could be significant, so these kinds of experiments could be much more useful than harmful for the environment.” The MIT team has previously revealed the movements of people around cities, such as Rome and Copenhagen, by analysing mobile phone signals. They used a similar method to show how crowds moved around Washington during the inauguration of US President Barack Obama. The tags used to track the rubbish are a departure from these more passive studies of city movements. Ultimately, the team hopes that the technology can be miniaturised and made cheap enough that the tags could one day be attached to everything. “Think about a future where thanks to smart tags we will not have waste anymore,” said Mr Ratti. “Everything will be traceable.”
NEW YORK – Actor David Arquette is raising awareness about hunger by spending some time inside a Plexiglas box atop New York City’s Madison Square Garden marquee.
The star of the “Scream” movie franchise hopes to raise 250,000 for Feeding America on Tuesday and Wednesday. The organization is the nation’s largest domestic hunger relief charity.
Donations are being accepted on site or through text messages and a Facebook page setup.
The “Bar Hunger” campaign is being sponsored by Mars Inc., the makers of Snickers candy bars.
Arquette, who’s 37, will eat during his stay in the enclosure. He will spend about eight hours each day in the box.
He is chairman of Feeding America’s Entertainment Council.
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Los Angeles (E! Online) –
Jonas Brothers, beware!
MTV has just announced that Russell Brand is returning as host of this year's Video Music Awards.
Brand came under attack during his debut last year for cracking jokes about the JoBros' purity rings…
American Idol winner Jordin Sparks was so taken aback that she took the British bad-boy comedian to task when she hit the stage to introduce a performance by T.I.
“It's not bad to wear a promise ring, because not everybody—guy or girl—wants to be a slut,” Sparks said
Brand, of course, didn't let things rest there. Returning to the stage, he said, “I don't want to piss off teenage fans. Promise rings, I'm well up for it. [But] a bit of sex, it never hurt anybody.”
Wonder who Mr. Brand will be targeting this time around? Miley Cyrus, anyone?
MTV also announced this morning that the show will include performances by Taylor Swift and British rockers Muse.
This year's show will be telecast live from New York's Radio City Music Hall Sept. 13.
··· THEY SAID WHAT? Get today's most commented stories now at www.eonline.com
LOS ANGELES, CaliforniaElizabeth Taylor, contrary to a New York tabloid report, was not hospitalized because of her grief over her friend Michael Jackson’s death, according to her publicist.
Elizabeth Taylor is in the hospital, but not because of grief over Michael Jackson’s death, she says.
Taylor, 77, was admitted to a Los Angeles hospital last week for scheduled testing, which the legendary actress herself announced in an online message posted on Twitter.com. “Although my grief over Michael could not be any deeper, I am not on suicide watch as some of the cheaper ‘rags’ would have you believe,” Taylor tweeted July 5. A New York Post column published Tuesday quoted an unidentified source as saying she was hospitalized because the “heart’s gone out of her” after Jackson’s death last month. Taylorwho uses a wheelchair because of scoliosis, or abnormal curving of the spinegave fans several days advance notice of her hospitalization through her Twitter.com account, DameElizabeth. “I wanted you my friends to know that I’m going into the hospital Wednesday or Thursday to complete a test I was in the middle of,” she wrote. Taylor said she declined an invitation to speak about Jackson at his public memorial because she “cannot be part of the public whoopla.” “I just don’t believe that Michael would want me to share my grief with millions of others,” Taylor tweeted. “How I feel is between us. Not a public event. “I certainly don’t want to become a part of it,” she said. “I love him too much. … And I cannot guarantee that I would be coherent to say a word.” Her publicist, Dick Guttman, said last week’s messages from Taylor “still pertain.” Taylor regularly posts short messages to her 111,000 Twitter followers through the account she opened this year at the suggestion of her close friend model-actress-author-businesswoman Kathy Ireland, Guttman said.
CNNBen Steele hated the young man as soon as he saw him.
Ben Steele at a Japanese coal mine prison camp in 1944.
The man’s almond-shaped eyes, dark hair and olive skinSteele had seen those Asian facial features before. He saw that face when he watched Japanese soldiers behead sick men begging for water, run over stumbling prisoners with tanks and split his comrades’ skulls with rifle butts. “Men died like flies,” Steele says. “I thought for a while I would never make it.” Steele, now 91, is one of the last survivors of the Bataan Death March. During World War II, the Japanese army forced American and Filipino prisoners of war on a march so horrific that the Japanese commander was later executed for war crimes. Steele returned home to Montana after the war to teach, but he still had something to learn. When he saw a young Japanese-American student seated in his class one day, he felt both anger and anguish. What, he wondered, do I do with all of the hate I’ve brought home with me? ‘The worst war story’ he ever heard Steele’s answer to that question can be found in the new book “Tears in the Darkness,” a searing depiction of the Bataan Death March. The book details how Steele found help through an unlikely source. But he would first have to survive one of the worst defeats in U.S. military history. In December 1941, Japanese forces attacked an army of American and Filipino soldiers in the Philippine Islands and forced them to surrender. They captured 76,000 prisoners, double what they had expected.
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The Japanese forced the POWs to march 66 miles under a tropical sun to a railway station for transport. They shot, bayoneted and beat to death prisoners who couldn’t keep pace. At least 7,000 soldiers died during the march. More died later. The brutal conditions of the march contributed to the subsequent deaths of an estimated 25,000 Filipinos and 1500 Americans in Japanese prison camps, says Michael Norman, a Vietnam veteran who wrote “Tears in the Darkness,” with his wife, Elizabeth. “It’s the worst war story I’ve ever heard,” Norman says. “What they [the Japanese] did was monstrous.” Prisoners were forced to bury others alive and work as slave laborers; some were executed for sport. One Japanese soldier, who later became a Buddhist priest, told the authors that he is still haunted by what he did on Bataan. Some Filipinos who live today near the march’s route say that they, too, cannot forget what happened, Elizabeth Norman says. “They would tell us that when they lay awake at night, they thought they could still hear the trampling of the men’s feet on the death march,” she says. Why Steele survived The death march was filled with villains, but the authors also found a hero: Steele. The march is told through his eyes and drawings. Steele was a cowboy from Montana who could ride a horse, rope cattle and shoot by the time he was 8 years old. “I thought that if anybody gets out of here, I’m going to be one of them,” says Steele, who was a 22-year-old Army Air Corps private when he was captured. At times, though, Steele wondered whether he was being too optimistic. He was bayoneted, starved and beaten. He was constantly ill, and his weight fell to 112 pounds. Steele found a way to preserve his mind even as his body wasted away: He drew. He started sketching pictures of what he saw during his captivity. “I felt an obligation to show people what went on there,” he says. Steele was released after three years of captivity when World War II ended. He returned to Billings, Montana, where he became an art professor at a state college. “I had a lot of anger when I got home,” Steele says. “We were beaten for so long. I hated [the Japanese].” Steele meets his ‘nemesis’ Steele’s hatred smoldered for 15 years. It threatened to spill out into the open in 1960, when he walked into his classroom on the first day of the semester and saw a Japanese-American student. In “Tears in the Darkness,” Steele says that his “heart hardened and filled with hate.” But he was so anguished by what he was feeling, he returned to his office after class to think. He told himself that the war was over; he wasn’t a prisoner anymore, and he had to treat the Japanese-American student like anybody else, because he was an American, too. Then he did something else. He invited the student to his office for a talk. The student’s name was Harry Koyama, and he, too, had been marked by the war. His family had been imprisoned at a “relocation camp” in Arizona during the war. Steele also discovered that he and Koyama had something else in common: a passion for drawing Montana’s rural life. By the end of the semester, Koyama was one of Steele’s best students. Steele says that talking to Koyama helped his hatred evaporate. “We had a discussion and finally came to an understanding that we liked each other,” he says. Today, Steele and Koyama remain in touch. “We’re the best of friends,” Koyama tells CNN from his Montana art studio. “We see each other regularly.” Koyama says he can’t remember exactly what he and Steele talked about first, only that Steele had always treated him well. Steele did tell him later that their relationship helped him recover from the war, he says. “I was just there,” Koyama says. “I just happened to be there for him to use my presence as a way to overcome his dark time.” Koyama says he is still amazed by Steele’s survival story. “Just to be a part of his life is an honor,” Koyama says. Steele’s voice is still strong and his mind sharp. He’s been married to his wife, Shirley, for 57 years, and they have three children and six grandchildren. Steele says Bataan taught him to treasure small pleasures, like a drink of cool water and a warm bed at night. “I’m thankful that I have a plateful of food,” he says. “I can remember when that plate was empty.” He still remembers tiny details from the death march as well. He constantly draws pictures of his friends and tormentors on Bataan. Their faces fill his sketchbooks. Steele’s hate may be gone, but the death march lingers. “I think about it every day,” he says. “It’s in my mind, and I’ll never get it out.”
Sandy Lyle apologized for disrupting Colin Montgomerie’s British Open preparations on Tuesday, but did not retract his allegations of cheating against his fellow Scot.
Sandy Lyle, left, chats to Colin Montgomerie during the Pro-Am prior to last week’s Scottish Open.
Lyle angered his friend, who he lost out to in a bid to become Europe’s 2010 Ryder Cup captain, when last week he brought up an incident involving Montgomerie at the 2005 Indonesian Open. Montgomerie was accused of taking an incorrect drop in a bunker after a rain delay, and gave his prize money to charity despite being cleared by the tournament committee. Lyle made his comments when asked if his decision to walk off after 10 holes of last year’s British Open had cost him the Ryder Cup captaincy. “In my frustration over continually being asked about the incident at last year’s Open Championship I regretfully brought up another old incident, one that has long since been resolved,” he told a packed press conference at Turnberry. “I was trying to make the point by comparison that neither of these incidents had anything to do with the selection of the current Ryder Cup captain.
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“I deeply regret making this comparison and apologize to Colin for involving him in my own issue. I sincerely hope that nothing more will be made of this issue. I hope our friendship is still there.” However, Lyle insisted that Montgomerie was still guilty of breaking the rules in Jakarta. “It’s all been well documented. It’s all on video. It’s not like I’m pre-fabricating this,” the 51-year-old said. “The drop wasn’t close to where it should be. And of course on TV it doesn’t lie.” Lyle had hoped to talk with Montgomerie at Turnberry on Tuesday, but the UK Press Association reported that the 46-year-old walked straight past him on the way to the first tee. “It’s a rather strange apology to be honest with you,” Montgomerie told PA before going out to practice. “It’s nothing much to do with me at allit’s all Sandy. I’ve read it and I’m digesting it and I’ll let you know when I’ve digested it further. “I’ve nothing much to say. I’m just trying to come down here and compete in the Open and my preparations have been slightly dented. I’m not very happy about that at all.”
Though street demonstrations in Tehran have largely died out under the government's strict security measures, Iran's protest movement is gearing up for a big showing at Friday prayers this week – an action that would mark the hijacking of a conservative bastion by the media-savvy opposition.
Meanwhile, passive resistance includes trying to crash the electricity grid by turning on home appliances at appointed times and creating power surges, or stuffing newspapers into Islamic charity boxes reputed to contribute to the upkeep of ideological militias involved in suppressing the protests.
Following two weeks during which the government prevented the sending text messages, many Iranians are trying to affect text-messaging profits by boycotting the medium altogether.
“People are still continuing their support, but it has been moved from streets to homes. People are changing their lifestyles to support the cause,” says Pouya, an office worker reached by phone who requested anonymity for fear of retribution. “And there's still a lot of violence on the part of the ninja turtles [heavily armored, black-clad riot police] who … wear masks that cover their faces.”
Top military official vows to continue crackdownThe regime has signaled it will not back down. More journalists were arrested in recent days and the commander of the Joint Armed Forces pledged Sunday to continue the crackdown until order is restored.
“Some may think that by protesting and chanting their slogans against us we will back down, retreat, and give up,” said Gen. Sayyed Hassan Firouzabadi, according to the state-run Fars News Agency. “We are ready to sacrifice our lives as we showed during the time of the Sacred Defense [the Iran-Iraq war].”
The next flash point in the face-off is expected this Friday during prayers at Tehran University when Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, an influential former president, will be leading them for the first time since the election a month ago.
A strong supporter of defeated presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, Mr. Rafsanjani – a pillar of the regime for 30 years – has emerged since the contested June 12 election as one of the key figures in a power struggle with Iran's supreme leader and his allies, including President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Mohsen Rezai, a conservative presidential candidate who finished third in the June 12 elections behind Mr. Mousavi, warned Sunday night of “disintegration” of the Islamic regime. In a statement on his website translated in part by the Los Angeles Times, he emphasized the imperative need for unity that he had also cited in withdrawing his initial legal challenge to the election results last month.
Call to reformists: Flood Friday prayersPosters titled The Promised Day Has Arrived are already being circulated ahead of Friday prayers. They promise the presence of Mr. Mousavi and former President Mohammad Khatami, and urge reformists to flood the prayer hall.
Friday prayers at Tehran University have traditionally been a political agenda setter for the Islamic Republic and conservative rallying point. The open-air hall rings weekly with condemnations of the enemies of the Islamic Republic and cries of “Death to America.” A week into the postelection rioting, Iran's supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, took the unusual step of personally addressing Friday prayers and delivered a speech condemning the rioters as the unwilling pawns of a British-fomented “Velvet Revolution.”
“The British involvement in the recent unrest in our country is definite and clear,” said Law Enforcement Forces chief Ismail Ahmadi Moghadam last week, while announcing that two-thirds of the 1,032 individuals imprisoned after the elections were released. “Their involvement, either through their embassy or the BBC … is so clear that it can't be denied.”
Watchdog: Iran 'biggest prison for journalists'In a fresh spate of detentions, Getty Images photographer Majid Saeedi was arrested this weekend at his home and taken away to Evin Prison, according to friends and colleagues. Mr. Saeedi had been covering both sides of the story but had told his circle that he feared arrest. Another photographer reported missing is Satyar Emami, an accomplished feature photographer who has won the Press News section of the Tehran Photo Biennal. No charge has been announced against Saeedi, but his house was searched and items confiscated.
“They [the government] want to scare people at the moment; it's a show of power,” says Vali, a friend of Saeedi's speaking from Tehran. “They've carried out a coup and need to keep people crushed so that their act will be accepted.”
Iran has become the world's preeminent jailer of journalists with 41 media workers currently incarcerated, according to Paris-based watchdog Reporters Without Borders. “Iran is already the world's biggest prison for journalists and cyber-dissidents and is on the way to becoming the world's most dangerous place for them to operate,” it charged in a press release Sunday.
“You think images have no power?” asked Mana Kia, a PhD candidate at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., focusing on contemporary Iran, in an e-mail. “When the government refuses to acknowledge the legitimacy of anything to protest, then Iranian journalists involved in spreading information and images about demonstrations and protests domestically and internationally become perceived as threats to the state.”
Michael Jackson has dominated headlines in recent weeks, but sister Janet may come up during the Sotomayor confirmation hearing.
It has been more than five years since Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” during the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show touched off a Federal Communications Commission crackdown on broadcast indecency. And the fight is still tied up in court, pitting free-speech advocates against family-values conservatives. The Supreme Court in May sent the Janet Jackson case back to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia, which had thrown out the FCC’s 550,000 fine against CBS Corp. for the breast-baring incident after concluding the government’s actions were arbitrary and capricious.The justices have ordered the lower court to reconsider that decision in light of their April ruling in the so-called “fleeting expletives” case. In that narrow opinion, the Supreme Court reversed a 2nd Circuit decision and upheld an FCC sanction of Fox Television after Cher and Nicole Richie uttered profanities during live broadcasts of the Billboard Music Awards.Now both cases have gone back to the appeals courts. And another broadcast indecency fight is also winding its way through the 2nd Circuit, with ABC challenging an FCC fine for showing a woman’s behind in an episode of “NYPD Blue.” But many predict the battle could eventually go back to the Supreme Court, forcing the justices to weigh in on a larger constitutional debate over the FCC’s authority to regulate broadcast television. So even if Sotomayor won’t have much time to watch TV once she is confirmed, she may yet get a crash course on what’s on the tube.-Joelle Tessler, AP technology writer in Washington
WASHINGTON – The House Intelligence Committee has asked the CIA to provide documents about the now-canceled program to kill al-Qaida leaders, congressional officials said Tuesday.
The agency spent at least 1 million on the eight-year program before it was terminated last month, one congressional official said. Intelligence officials say the operation never progressed beyond a planning stage.
The CIA said Tuesday that the agency would cooperate in the House move, a precursor to what would likely become a full-blown investigation into the secret operation and why the program was not disclosed to Congress. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.
CIA Director Leon Panetta, meanwhile, ordered a thorough internal review, agency spokesman George Little said.
Panetta told Congress on June 24 that he had canceled the effort to kill al-Qaida leaders with hit teams soon after learning about the operation. Panetta also told lawmakers that former Vice President Dick Cheney directed the CIA not to inform Congress of the specifics of the secret program.
President George W. Bush authorized the killing of al-Qaida leaders in 2001. Congress was aware of that notification.
A congressional official said the secret CIA program was meant to carry out ground attacks with hit teams. Most attempts to kill al-Qaida’s leaders, believed to be hiding in Pakistan’s troubled western border region, have used armed drone aircraft because it is difficult terrain controlled by sometimes hostile tribes. But those strikes have sometimes killed and injured innocent civilians and caused outrage in Pakistan.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, is expected to decide as early as this week whether to press ahead with a full investigation into the CIA operation.
The House Intelligence Committee will try to establish how much was spent on the effort, whether any training was conducted, and whether there was any officials traveled in associated with the program, a committee official said.
Those factors would determine whether the program had progressed enough to warrant congressional notification, the official said.
Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., said Monday that the CIA’s failure to brief congress violated the law.
Rep. Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich., the senior GOP member of the committee, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that he would support an investigation. But from what he knows now, Hoekstra said, he does not believe the effort merited congressional notification.
Like many other Republicans, Hoekstra believes the Democratic anger about not being notified of the program sooner is meant to bolster House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who came under an avalanche of GOP criticism in May for saying she believes the CIA lied to her about its harsh interrogation program in 2002.
The House has delayed floor debate on an intelligence bill that would require the president to expand the number of members of Congress briefed on covert operations_ that is, secret missions undertaken in foreign countries to affect their political, military or economic situation.
The White House has threatened to veto that bill if it includes the notification requirement. Current law allows the president to notify top members in the House and Senate and on the intelligence committees on the most sensitive operations.
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) –
An attorney for Michael Jackson's ex-wife Debbie Rowe on Tuesday angrily denied reports that she had agreed to take millions of dollars to give up parental rights to her two children with the King of Pop.
In a letter to the New York Post, attorney Eric George said that Rowe, who was married to Michael Jackson from 1996 to 1999 and is the mother of his two oldest children, “has not and will not” give up her parental rights.
Nor will Rowe, whose attorneys have been in talks with lawyers for Michael Jackson's parents, Katherine and Joe, will not take any money beyond the spousal support to which she and the singer agreed years ago, George's letter states.
In a 2002 will signed by Michael Jackson, he said he had “intentionally omitted” to provide for Rowe.
The New York Post reported on Tuesday that Rowe had agreed to take about $4 million to give up her parental rights to children Prince Michael Jr, 12, and Paris, 11.
George has asked the newspaper to publish a retraction.
The New York Post had no immediate comment on the letter.
Katherine Jackson, 79, was granted temporary guardianship of the King of Pop's three children on June 29, only days after the “Thriller” singer died.
George's letter states that no agreement has been reached between Rowe and the Jacksons on custody or visitation.
Jackson, who died on June 25 after suffering cardiac arrest at his rented Los Angeles mansion, was the father of a third child named Prince Michael II, 7, but the boy's surrogate mother has never been identified.
Rowe in 2001 sought to give up parental rights to her children, but she later went to court to contest her waiver of those rights and it never went into effect.
Also on Tuesday, celebrity website TMZ.com reported that an official from the LA Coroner's office, which is one of several law enforcement agencies investigating Jackson's death, visited the office of Dr. Arnold Klein, the singer's dermatologist, to obtain medical records.
As it happens, Rowe once worked as a nurse for Klein.
Legal experts say that if Rowe were to fight in court to gain custody of her two children with Jackson, she stands a good chance of winning because California law favors a parent over a more distant relative.
A custody hearing on Jackson's three children is set for this coming Monday.
(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis: Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Sandra Maler)
BUTNER, N.C. – Bernard Madoff’s life of luxury is a thing of the past. The disgraced financier blamed for what is believed to be the largest Ponzi scheme in history arrived Tuesday at a federal prison in North Carolina to begin a 150-year sentence in a cell with two bunk beds, a toilet and a sink.
Madoff — also known now as prisoner number 61727-054 — arrived somewhat under cover at the Butner Federal Correctional Complex about 45 miles northwest of Raleigh. Onlookers said a bus backed into the entrance, then a sport utility vehicle pulled in front of it, blocking photographers and TV cameras trying to get a glimpse.
A prison official said he would be treated like any other inmate. If so, Madoff can plan to work seven-hour days on jobs like painting, plumbing and groundskeeping. There’s also no Internet access, televisions in common rooms only, and limited recreation time.
Madoff will be held in one of two medium-security facilities, and will likely have a cell mate who could be a convict sentenced for a similar white-collar crime or something violent.
“I wouldn’t describe any of the facilities here as a nice place,” Butner spokesman Greg Norton said.
Madoff pleaded guilty in March to charges that his investment advisory business was a multibillion-dollar scheme that wiped out thousands of investors and ruined charities. His Ponzi scheme was stunning for its size and duration.
In a Ponzi scheme, early investors are paid by diverting money from new investors. When the flow of new money dries up, the scheme collapses and the fraud is exposed.
Authorities said Madoff had carried out the fraud for at least two decades before confessing to his sons in December that his investment business was a fraud and that he had lost as much as 50 billion.
A consultant who advises convicts on what to expect behind bars said it will be hard for officials to treat Madoff like other inmates.
“He’s a special case,” said Larry Levine of Wall Street Prison Consultants. “We’ve never had anyone steal this much money before. He’s one of the most hated people in the United States.”
Levine was held at numerous federal prisons after being sentenced for drug dealing and securities fraud, according to his company’s Web site.
Madoff left a New York lockup on Monday, then arrived at federal prison in Atlanta before heading to Butner.
He will first go through an intake screening process, where he receives a medical checkup, then be assigned housing, Norton said. Madoff’s former secretary of 20 years, Eleanor Squillari, has said his health deteriorated in the weeks before his arrest.
Within the federal prison system, Butner is perhaps best known for its hospital facility to treat elderly or ill prisoners. The prison’s Web site said its medical center housed nearly 970 of the facility’s total inmate population of 4,800 last week.
Other inmates being held at Butner include Omar Abdel-Rahman, also known as the blind sheik, who was sentenced to life in prison in 1995 for his role in a plot to kill Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and blow up New York City landmarks, including the United Nations. John Rigas, founder of Adelphia Communications, and his son, Tim, the company’s chief financial officer are also at Butner. They were convicted on multiple charges of securities fraud, conspiracy to commit bank fraud and bank fraud.
Associated Press writer Estes Thompson in Raleigh contributed to this report.
SAN RAFAEL, Calif. – The days before he was arrested for beating his ex-girlfriend to death and kidnapping their daughter brought a string of bad news to James “Rafe” Mitchell, the son of late San Francisco pornography mogul Jim Mitchell.
Last Tuesday, he was ordered to attend a yearlong rehabilitation program for domestic batterers. On Friday, his girlfriend’s lawyer wrote to let him know that a judge had permanently granted Danielle Keller’s request for sole custody of their child and a restraining order prohibiting him from contacting her.
“I think that was the trigger. He would have got the e-mail on Saturday,” said Charlotte Huggins, Keller’s lawyer.
Police in the Marin County city of Novato allege that by weekend’s end, the 27-year-old Mitchell’s problems only got worse. Keller’s body was found on Sunday evening in the yard where she had just held a first birthday party for her daughter.
The toddler, Samantha Rae Mitchell, was missing, prompting a statewide Amber Alert. Just before midnight, Mitchell’s car was tracked to a Sacramento suburb where police arrested him on suspicion of murder, stealing a child and violating a restraining order.
The violent allegations saddened, but did not surprise those who knew Mitchell only through the prism of his famous father. Sunday also was the two-year anniversary of the heart attack death of “Behind the Green Door” director Jim Mitchell, one-half of the Mitchell Brothers empire that included X-rated films and theaters.
Jim Mitchell was convicted in 1991 of manslaughter and weapons charges in the shooting death of his brother and business partner, Artie Mitchell, in Marin County. The slaying led to a spectacular trial, and the elder Mitchell served half of a six-year prison sentence.
“By definition, he had an incredibly traumatic family life,” veteran newspaper editor David McCumber, who published a book about the Mitchells in 1992, said of the younger Mitchell. “It’s hard to say what’s related to what. It’s just that nobody who comes out of that kind of background comes through intact.”
James Mitchell’s defense lawyer, former San Francisco District Attorney Terence Hallinan, seemed to agree while addressing reporters outside his client’s arraignment hearing Tuesday.
“It’s a tragedy — the uncle, the father, now this woman. It’s just a tragic family, no question,” Hallinan said.
Hallinan said the younger Mitchell “feels terrible about what happened. He’s depressed about it. But we’ll get through this. … But hopefully we can work through this and the real facts about what happened can come out.”
Huggins said that James Mitchell never held a job because he had inherited money from his father and had a methamphetamine addiction. Keller left him because of his drug problem, but over the years struggled with staying away from Mitchell, Huggins said.
In her request for a restraining order, Keller painted a frightening picture of repeated abuse and horror she endured during her relationship.
“I live in constant fear of James and fear that he will take Samantha. James just bailed out of jail and I am worried about what he might do to us,” she wrote.
She wrote that Mitchell first hit her in the mouth in September 2007 and that the abuse escalated from there.
“One time he dragged me naked by my hair across the floor because I would not have sex with him. He dragged me from the bedroom down the hallway and threatened to throw me out the front door of the apartment, naked.”
Keller said Mitchell’s brother and two sisters have a 5-year restraining order against him for an incident involving threats with a gun.
Court documents state that Mitchell brought his gun in November 2007 to a family meeting at the Mitchell Brothers O’Farrell Theatre in San Francisco, waving the firearm in a threatening manner.
Keller said the gun was used to threaten her that same month.
“James took his gun out as if he was going to shoot me and I saw him pull the trigger as I ran away but discovered there were no bullets when I hear nothing,” she wrote in her declaration.
Mitchell first was arrested for domestic violence when Keller was four-months pregnant with their daughter, Huggins said, in February 2008. He was arrested again in March for violating his probation from the previous case.
Keller’s mother, Claudia Stevens, showed up for Mitchell’s arraignment with a picture of her daughter pinned to her shirt. Stevens said neighbors have told her they saw Mitchell bludgeoning her daughter with a baseball bat Sunday while holding Samantha in his arms.