DETROIT – A federal judge on Friday accepted the resignation of a court-appointed Detroit Police Department monitor, saying the monitor had inappropriate contact with ex-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick that included personal meetings and discussions about the department.
Sheryl Robinson Wood resigned Thursday, the Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News reported.
In a Friday order accepting the resignation, U.S. District Judge Julian Cook said Wood had “meetings of a personal nature” with Kilpatrick, who resigned in September after pleading guilty to obstruction of justice and assault.
The judge said Wood also improperly discussed with Kilpatrick the city’s consent agreements with the U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division to reform police use of force and prisoner treatment. The agreements were reached in 2003, when Kilpatrick was mayor.
Cook, who is overseeing the consent decree, said Wood had “engaged in conduct which was totally inconsistent with the terms and conditions of the two consent judgments in this litigation.”
That included “inappropriate discussions with (Kilpatrick) about this lawsuit,” Cook said.
Wood works for the global risk-management outfit Kroll Inc., whose Web site says it monitors both the Detroit and Los Angeles police departments. Calls to Kroll were not answered after business hours Friday and a call to Wood’s personal cell phone went unanswered.
The judge said he asked Wood about her ability to remain effective as monitor after he reviewed documents during a July 22 status conference in the case.
Cook’s order did not specify what documents he saw or where they came from and did not elaborate on the “personal nature” of the relationship between Wood and Kilpatrick.
The order suspended all court monitoring of the department and set a July 31 deadline for the city and Justice Department to submit names of prospective replacements.
“We agree with the court’s decision and will move forward in a positive manner to select a new monitor,” Alejandro Miyar, a Justice Department spokesman in Washington, told the Free Press.
Cook said last week that the city and police department have met only 39 percent of provisions in the consent decrees and were making “grossly inadequate” progress in correcting the abuses that brought the department under federal supervision.
A statement from Detroit Mayor Dave Bing’s office called Wood’s resignation “appropriate.”
“We will work with the Justice Department in selecting a new monitor, and remain dedicated to fulfilling the requirements of the consent decrees,” the statement said.
Archive for July 26th, 2009
DETROIT – A federal judge on Friday accepted the resignation of a court-appointed Detroit Police Department monitor, saying the monitor had inappropriate contact with ex-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick that included personal meetings and discussions about the department.
PARIS (Reuters) –
Alberto Contador emerged as the new cycling boss on Sunday when the Spaniard wrapped up his second Tour de France title on seven-times champion Lance Armstrong's return to the race.
The 26-year-old Contador stayed safe in the main bunch as the last stage, over 164 km from Montereau Fault-Yonne, went to Briton Mark Cavendish.
“I am really happy. It was an especially difficult Tour for me but that's why I am enjoying the victory all the more,” Contador said on the podium.
Over three weeks, Contador proved the strongest rider in the mountains and in the time trials, beating Luxembourg's Andy Schleck by four minutes 11 seconds. Armstrong, back from 3-1/2 years in retirement, finished third overall 5:24 off the pace.
Schleck, who also took the white jersey for the best under-25 rider, said: “He (Contador) was the strongest rider. He is the boss of the peloton.”
The victory kept the Spanish flag flying high on the Champs-Elysees following triumphs for Oscar Pereiro in 2006, Contador in 2007 and Carlos Sastre last year.
Contador, who missed last year's Tour after Astana were not invited because of their past doping record, took the overall leader's yellow jersey with a strong attack in the first Alpine stage in Verbier, Switzerland.
But throughout the race, he had to contend with criticism from team mate Armstrong, who twice said publicly the Spaniard had ignored team orders.
“This Tour was very difficult as you could see and although it sometimes seems easy on television it wasn't because of other factors,” Contador, who is set to leave Astana at the end of the year, told Spanish television.
“I will enjoy this second Tour win as if it was a double victory.”
“The only thing I can tell you is that I will be here next year with a team that has the most secure guarantees and that is the most focused on winning this race.
“There are several possibilities but what is clear is that we are totally incompatible and Armstrong will go one way and I will go the other,” Contador added.
Armstrong, 37, stayed in contention for almost two weeks but he discovered his limits in the Alps and in the final time trial in Annecy, which Contador won.
However, the American, who dominated the race from 1999 to 2005, was satisfied with his comeback Tour, during which he finally struck a positive relationship with the French crowd.
“It feels good, I feel like I did my best. There are many young guys and it's difficult to compete against them,” he said.
“I am happy. I am as happy as I was in 2005.”
Armstrong, who will launch his own team with electronics company RadioShack in 2010, was confident he would be back next year.
“I will certainly be here and I hope to be stronger,” he said.
Cavendish outsprinted Columbia team mate Mark Renshaw of Australia and American Tyler Farrar on the Champs-Elysees to clinch his sixth stage win in this year's race.
“I wanted so bad to reach Paris, my team mates helped me to this,” said Cavendish.
“And winning on the Champs-Elysees… All my dreams come true.”
Norway's Thor Hushovd clinched the green jersey for the points classification and Italy's Franco Pellizotti won the polka dot jersey for the best climber.
(Additional reporting by Iain Rogers in Spain; Editing by Alison Wildey)
SAN DIEGO (Reuters) –
Filming for “Iron Man 2″ finished just last week but thousands of fans got their first sneak peek at the star-studded new cast members this weekend at the Comic-Con convention.
Ten months before “Iron Man 2″ hits movie theaters in May 2010, fans saw Robert Downey Jr.'s industrialist-turned-playboy superhero Tony Stark working alone and considering another request to join forces with Nick Fury, played by Samuel L. Jackson.
In the brief footage, Mickey Rourke (villain Ivan Vanko/Whiplash) shows off his electrical suit with dual whiplash action, Don Cheadle employs a quick quip to address the change of actors for Col. James “Rhodey” Rhodes, and a red-haired Scarlett Johansson brings Natasha Romanoff (Black Widow) to life.
“Iron Man” turned Downey Jr. into an unexpected action movie hero in 2008 and made an impressive $585 million at the worldwide box office, making it one of the most successful Marvel comics film franchises.
Director Jon Favreau told reporters at Comic-Con that the team behind the sequel wanted to add characters — although not too many — and retain the same tone and dynamic of the first movie.
Downey Jr. added: “Tony (Stark) goes on a much more perilous journey this time. You can't tell a story better than the way it really happened, so we started to look back at the comics. We didn't take ourselves seriously, but we took the story very seriously.”
Favreau said Johansson turned up for their first meeting having already dyed her blonde hair red for the part. The actress said she also learned mixed martial arts for the role and did as many of her own stunts as possible.
“We had an incredible stunt team. It was really just putting in the time training with the stunt team. If I see a movie, I like to see an actor doing their own stunts because you see their face and recognize their body movement. You want to believe it's them,” Johansson said.
Cheadle was brought in to replace actor Terrence Howard in the sequel, after differences between the studio and the actor who played Rhodes in the first movie.
Fans got a look at how the change is dealt with. In a quick exchange during a Senate hearing in Washington, Rhodes surprises the courtroom and Stark says: “I didn't expect to see you here,” to which Rhodes replies, “I'm here. Deal with it. Let's move on.”
Favreau said that one of the goals of “Iron Man 2″ is to move the story forward toward the movie “The Avengers” that is planned for 2012. He said he hoped the Marvel Studios movies would continue to cross-pollinate their superhero characters.
Asked by a fan whether he would be directing “The Avengers”, Favreau was non-committal.
“I still have another year on this one to go and to get ready to make 'Thor' with Kenneth Branagh directing,” replied Favreau, who added that the prep work on “Thor” is looking fantastic.
“(Producer) Kevin (Feige) and I haven't talked about that. 'Avengers' doesn't shoot until after 'Iron Man 2',” he said.
(Editing by Jill Serjeant)
HOLGUIN, CubaSunday was a day of commemoration in Cubathe 56th anniversary of the start of the Cuban Revolutionbut the message from President Raul Castro was not all celebratory.
President Raul Castro tells the Revolution Day crowd, “The land is there, waiting for our sweat.”
The island nation will face a second round of belt-tightening as a result of the global financial crunch, Castro said in a speech marking Revolution Day. He said that on Tuesday he would hold a meeting of the Council of Ministries “dedicated to the analysis of the second cost adjustment in this year’s plan, due to the effects of the global economic crisis, especially on the reduction of revenues from exports and the additional restrictions on accessing external financing.” The global economic downturn has hit Cuba hard. Revenues from key exports like nickel are down. The price of imports, like food, is up. Castro said he would also meet with the central committee of the Communist Party this week to discuss the situation. Any proposed cuts will affect a Cuban population already feeling the squeeze. Public transport has been reduced as part of austerity measures. The government has ordered factories and businesses to cut energy consumption or face sanctions.
U.S.-Cuba migration talks set to resume
Castro took a few swipes at the U.S. trade embargo that has been in place since 1962, but made it clear Cubans have only themselves to blame for agriculture shortages. “The land is there. We Cubans are here. We’ll see if we get to work or not, if we produce or not, if we keep our words or not,” he said, pounding his fist on the podium. “It’s not just a question of shouting ‘fatherland or death, down with imperialism, the blockade knocks us out’ when the land is there, waiting for our sweat.” Cuba has seen hard times before and has always worked to pull through, Castro said in front of the 200,000 people packed into the parade grounds of Holguin, about 500 miles southeast of Havana.
The women who clear Sudan’s minefields
By Peter Martell
BBC News, Bungu
Jamba Besta had planned to be a secretary, hoping to find work in an office as her homeland of South Sudan emerged out of a 22-year long civil war.Instead, the pregnant mother heads an all-female team of de-miners, removing dangerous explosives from former battlefields. “I never thought I would be doing this,” says Ms Besta, welcoming her six-woman team back from the danger zone they are clearing.
“But it shows those people who think that women can’t do jobs like this that they are wrong.” The team’s members say they work better as an all-women team – supporting each other against often critical comments that de-mining is work only for a man. “We live and work away from home all as one team, so it is good we are all women together,” she says. Sudan’s north-south war – fought over ideology, religion, ethnicity and oil – ended more than four years ago. Some two million people died in the war, and its bitter legacy of landmines and unexploded ordnance continues to kill and wound. Warning signsIn Bungu, where Jama and her Sudanese team working for Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) are clearing mines, the community want to rebuild a school abandoned during the war.
The small settlement, some 30 miles from the southern capital Juba, was a northern government outpost on a key rebel supply line from neighbouring Uganda. Soldiers ringed the outpost with mines against the surrounding southern guerrilla forces, while unexploded ordnance is left from the battles between the two sides. “It will take a long time to clear,” says de-miner Tabu Monica Festo, waving at the waist high grass and tangled bushes. “We don’t know where there may be something hidden.” Only a narrow passage has so far been cleared through the ruins of the old school, a jumbled pile of rocks covered in thick shrubs.
The path is clearly marked with warning sticks tipped with red, to show the rest remains unsafe. “We have to be very careful to check all the ground is clear,” Ms Festo added, resuming her slow sweeping of the ground with a metal detector. A solid squeaking sound indicates hidden metal – and the risk of a mine or unexploded bomb. Some were designed to maim people, others to take out an armoured tank. “It’s a job that is important to do – many people have died or had their legs shot off because of a mine,” Ms Festo adds. Painstaking workSimilar all-women teams work elsewhere in the world, including Kosovo and Cambodia.
Mine clearance is arduous and the teams must be alert for booby traps
But Kjell Ivar Breili, NPA’s programme manager, says this is the first such team to be used in Sudan. Mr Breili said NPA’s two female teams have recently beaten several of the six male teams in terms of the numbers of mines cleared. “The women do a great job – and we don’t have problems of fighting or drinking,” he said. Each de-miner creeps painstakingly forward down thin alleys, moving the safety line forward only once every section has been checked. It is tough work in baking sun, and the plastic face-shields they wear inside the minefield mean that it is not possible to drink water during each 45-minute shift. However, the women must pour water on to the hard-baked soil to soften the earth and allow the gentle probing of suspect objects. Critics ‘are jealous’One cleared passage stops just short of a tall mango tree, whose cool shade looks an inviting place to rest.
Their children sometimes join the women during breaks
But the women say such spots are especially risky – booby-trapped simply because they are likely places for people to go. “The soldiers are believed to have buried mines all around here,” said Fazia Annet, dressed in a heavy protective bomb blast jacket. “But we have to check all the ground of course, because there could be danger anywhere.” Later, in the tent-camp a short distance outside the minefield, the women eat lunch before relaxing for a break in the shade. One mother plays with their daughter, who is looked after in the camp while the women are at work. But the team leader, currently assigned to logistical duties during the later stages of her pregnancy and for the following nine months, is clear that women can do the job just as well as men. “Some say it is dangerous for a woman, but they are jealous because we are doing the same job as the men,” said Ms Besta, with a laugh. “What is dangerous is leaving mines hidden in the ground.”
Big rise in male Childline calls
A record number of boys called the children’s counselling service ChildLine last year – double the amount seeking help five years ago.More than 58,000 boys phoned the charity in 2007/8 with problems ranging from loneliness to violent abuse. The majority of calls to ChildLine have always been from girls – but the number of boys needing help has risen from 20% five years ago to one in three today. Boys are most likely to call about bullying, with 12,568 cases last year. Head of ChildLine Sue Minto said: “Desperate boys call because they feel they have no-one to turn to. “It’s heartbreaking to hear their stories of rape and violent beatings, often by their parents.” She continued: “There’s still the stigma that boys don’t cry but it may be there’s no longer so much pressure to be macho. “They sometimes suffer in silence for months – by the time they call us they can be suicidal.” The calls included one from a 14-year-old boy who said: “My dad hits me with a belt as punishment. “This happens once or twice a month and leaves marks for days.” Vivid memoriesAnother boy, 17, told a counsellor: “I was sexually abused by a relative when I was a child. “I have very vivid memories – I still feel angry that it ever happened.”
Alex Gray, a ChildLine counsellor, said: “Sometimes you have to work hard to get boys to talk about what’s really troubling them. “But once they do they’re surprised that someone’s there listening to them.” ChildLine was launched in 1986 to provide youngsters with free and confidential advice. It is run by the Nation Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC). Children’s Minister Delyth Morgan said: “ChildLine is a vital resource for thousands of children and that is why the government is providing 30m to support the expansion of the NSPCC helpline. “Bullying must be stamped out and bullies must be made to understand the harm they have been doing.”
Henry Louis Gates Jr. felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand up as he looked across the threshold of his home at Sgt. James Crowley. Looking back at Gates, Crowley worried about making it home safely to his wife and three children.
Fear was the only thing the white police officer and black scholar had in common. Soon their many differences would collide, exploding into a colossal misunderstanding.
How could things go so wrong? How could two by all accounts decent men start a fire that drew comparisons to the O.J. Simpson case and knocked President Barack Obama off his racial tightrope?
Part of the answer lies in the truth seen through each man’s eyes during the episode, which ended with one of the most influential men in America charged with disorderly conduct.
If this really is to become a “teachable moment,” as Obama hopes, then we have to examine what they saw, according to their public statements — and why they saw it that way.
It’s early afternoon on Ware Street in Cambridge, Mass., a few blocks from the campus of Harvard University. Gates and his car service driver, a large black man, are trying to force open Gates’ jammed front door. Lucia Whalen, a 40-year-old white woman who works up the street at the Harvard alumni magazine, is passing by and calls 911.
According to Crowley’s police report, he arrived to find Whalen standing on the sidewalk in front of the home. She told Crowley that “she observed what appeared to be two black men with backpacks on the porch … her suspicions were aroused when she observed one of the men wedging his shoulder into the door,” the report says.
No one is blaming Whalen, who has not spoken publicly since the story broke.
“It wasn’t her fault,” Gates said.
We don’t know how she sees the world, what types of experiences color her vision.
But had she shared just one or two different details with Crowley — or if the sergeant had gleaned something else from their conversation — things might have happened differently.
Gates, 58 and gray-haired, says he was dressed in a blazer and walking with a cane. He says his driver was wearing a black suit jacket and matching pants. After they forced open the door, Gates says, the driver carried Gates’ luggage into the house, then drove off in the vehicle.
None of that was on Crowley’s mind when he walked up the steps to Gates home.
“Witnesses are inherently reliable,” he said later. “She told me what she saw.”
Crowley is on the porch, alone; Gates is inside his home. They apparently notice each other through the front door window at about the same time.
Crowley sees the unknown: “I really wasn’t sure exactly what I was dealing with,” he said later.
The sergeant is 42, a decorated 11-year police veteran who grew up attending diverse public schools in Cambridge. All three of his brothers work in law enforcement. He’s an instructor in a police academy class on how to avoid racial profiling.
He asks Gates to step outside.
“I was the only police officer standing there and I got a report that there was people breaking into a house. (The request) was for my safety, because first and foremost I have to go home at night, I have three beautiful children and a wife who depend on me,” he said later.
“So I had no other motive other than to ensure my safety, because this gentleman either could have been one of the people breaking in, or he could have been the homeowner who was unaware that there were people in his house unauthorized. I just didn’t know.”
Gates, meanwhile, is a renowned scholar of black history who has spent most of his life literally cataloguing the sins of the past in volumes like “Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience.”
“I know every incident in the history of racism from slavery to Jim Crow segregation,” he said recently.
He knows some of it firsthand. About 1989, hired by Stanley Fish to teach at Duke University in Durham, N.C., “one of the first things Gates did was buy the grandest house in town,” Fish wrote in a recent blog on The New York Times’ Web site.
“During the renovation workers would often take Gates for a servant and ask to be pointed to the house’s owner. The drivers of delivery trucks made the same mistake.”
“The message was unmistakable: What was a black man doing living in a place like this?” Fish wrote.
So when Gates hears Crowley ask him to step outside, he sees history. How could he not?
“All the hairs stood up on the back of my neck, and I realized that I was in danger,” Gates said later. “And I said to him no, out of instinct. I said, ‘No, I will not.’”
Crowley asks Gates to prove he lives there.
Looking out his front door, Gates sees someone who should be asking, “Is everything all right, sir?” He sees someone who would not doubt that a 58-year-old, gray-haired Harvard professor lived in this home — if he were white.
Gates sees a racist.
Gates leaves the front door to get his identification. Crowley follows him inside. Gates says he provided a driver’s license with the address of the home they were standing in; Crowley’s police report only mentions a Harvard ID.
“Now it’s clear that he had a narrative in his head,” Gates said. “A black man was inside someone’s house, probably a white person’s house, and this black man had broken and entered, and this black man was me.”
Gates demands that the sergeant provide HIS identification.
Crowley sees someone who should be grateful, but instead is yelling and falsely accusing him of being a racist. He sees a problem — “something you wouldn’t expect from anybody that should be grateful that you’re there investigating a report of a crime in progress,” he said.
Neither man understood what the other one saw.
Gates continues to demand that Crowley provide his name and badge number.
Crowley said in his report that he had already told Gates his name, twice, but Gates was yelling too much to hear him. Gates said Crowley ignored his demands.
Gates doesn’t let up. Crowley says he’ll talk to Gates outside. Then he says something Crowley understands perfectly, boiling down his 2,095 pages of “Africana” down into one cry of resistance:
“I’ll speak with your mama outside,” he said, according to the police report.
Gates denies making the remark.
Should Gates have realized that you can’t antagonize the police? Should Crowley have understood what it means to suspect a black man of breaking into his own home? Arguments will persist for years.
Once he recovered his balance, backing off his statement that Crowley acted “stupidly,” he Obama assumed his traditional position of racial referee and said that both men overreacted.
“My hope,” the first black president continued, “is that as a consequence of this event, this ends up being what’s called a teachable moment, where all of us, instead of pumping up the volume, spend a little more time listening to each other … and that instead of flinging accusations, we can all be a little more reflective in terms of what we can do to contribute to more unity.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: Jesse Washington covers race and ethnicity for The Associated Press.
(This version CORRECTS Gates denies making remark about ‘your mama.’)
Poorest at risk of worst diabetes
The poorest people in the UK are more than twice as likely to have diabetes at any age than the average person, a charity has warned.And those with the condition who live in the most deprived homes are also twice as likely to develop complications, Diabetes UK said. Obesity, lack of exercise, poor diet and smoking are to blame, it added. One public health expert said efforts to prevent and treat the disease should be targeted at the most vulnerable. As of 2008, there were 2.5 million people diagnosed with diabetes in the UK. Numbers have been climbing in recent years due to increased efforts to find people who were unaware they had the condition.
It has been predicted that by 2025, there will be more than four million people with diabetes in the UK. The most common type is type 2 diabetes, which is generally associated with lifestyle factors, such as being overweight. It is caused by the body not producing enough insulin or when the insulin that is produced does not work properly. If not managed effectively it can lead to complications such as heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, blindness and amputation. DeprivationThe report also found that women in England who live in homes with the lowest income are more than four times as likely to get diabetes as those who live in homes with the highest income. And diabetes in Wales is almost twice as high in the most deprived areas compared to the least deprived. Douglas Smallwood, Diabetes UK chief executive, said action is needed to prevent a generation of people living in deprivation “ending up in an early grave”. He said health authorities needed to raise awareness among those at high risk. “In addition, the NHS must ensure that appropriate, high quality care is available across the country and that everyone, regardless of their socioeconomic status, is accessing it. “Research has shown that people with diabetes in deprived or high ethnicity areas are less likely to have key health checks, putting them at increased risk of developing devastating complications such as heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, blindness and amputation. “Finally, in these times of economic uncertainty when people are more likely to turn to cheaper, processed foods, food labelling must be clear and consistent to allow people to make informed choices about what they are eating.” Professor Alan Maryon-Davis, president of the UK Faculty of Public Health, said the figures were not surprising as the risk factors for diabetes were very closely associated with deprivation and hard to tackle. “We do need to target efforts at the most vulnerable.” He added that the national vascular screening programme which started in April and is still gearing up would help diagnose people and help them manage the illness. “But we need to set up a proper call and recall system, we can’t just wait for people to go to the GP, it has to be done in a more active way.”
BERLIN (AFP) –
A fishing boat trawling for mussels off the Dutch coast has instead landed a 40,000 year-old human bone, German scientists said on Sunday after examining the find.
Anthropologists from the University of Leipzig in eastern Germany confirmed that the forehead bone was “at least 40,000 years old and therefore the oldest ever found underwater,” according to August's edition of GEO magazine.
The fishermen also found the caveman's “tool kit”, consisting of a hand-axe and flints.
However, despite the fact the bone was found under the sea, the man dwelt on land and primarily ate meat, the scientists said.
When he lived, the Netherlands and Britain were one land mass.
INDIANAPOLIS – Jimmie Johnson cashed in on the most expensive speeding ticket in NASCAR history, grabbing an improbable third victory at Indianapolis Motor Speedway when a penalty to Juan Pablo Montoya blew the race wide open.
In a performance that mirrored his dominating Indianapolis 500 victory nine years ago, Montoya was in cruise control as he led 116 laps and built a 5-second lead over the competition. Then NASCAR flagged him for speeding on a routine pit stop with 35 laps remaining, and the driver became unglued.
“I swear on my children and my wife that I was not speeding!” he shouted over his radio. “There is no way! Thank you NASCAR for screwing my day.”
Crew chief Brian Pattie begged his driver to calm down and focus on salvaging a solid points day, to no avail.
“Don’t tell me to relax, dude!” Montoya yelled. “We had this in the bag.”
Indeed he did, but the penalty took him out of contention and relegated him to an 11th-place finish. Montoya, who had moved as high as sixth in the Sprint Cup standings as he ran out front, instead lost a spot and is now 10th in the race for the Chase for the championship.
The difference in his paycheck was severe: Johnson earned 448,001 for the victory, while Montoya’s share of the purse was knocked down to 224,048.
The performance was reminiscent of Montoya’s win in the 2000 Indy 500, when he led 167 of 200 laps in his first race at the storied track. His team celebrated his return Sunday with a retro paint scheme that duplicated that winning car, and as he clicked off lap after lap, it was deja vu for the Colombian driver.
“I was cruise(ing). I was super fast,” a calmer Montoya said after the race.
Too fast, actually.
NASCAR said the electronic timing system caught Montoya twice exceeding the limit as he drove down pit road.
“There’s nothing to prove wrong,” said Robin Pemberton, vice president of competition. “It’s about as simple math as you can use.”
The penalty opened up the race for anyone else to claim, and overshadowed Johnson’s third win in the last four years at Indy. Johnson, who won for the third time this season, also became the first driver to win in consecutive seasons since Indy opened to NASCAR 16 years ago.
Johnson wouldn’t speculate on if he would have won the race if Montoya had not been penalized.
“I do know I have the trophy,” he offered. “I hate it for him. I know it is a story, Juan led so many laps, but when we come back and look at it two months from now the stat sheet is going to have a ‘W’ next to my name. That’s all that matters.”
Current points leader Tony Stewart, a two-time Brickyard winner who finished third, wasn’t sure anyone could beat Montoya. A victim of his own Indy heartbreak, Stewart could commiserate with Montoya’s disappointments.
“He never really was challenged all day,” Stewart said. “He did a great job. I know what he’s feeling like — he’s got to be sick inside. He had the car, he had the talent to do it, he just made a mistake and it cost him.”
Johnson had to hold off Hendrick Motorsports teammate Mark Martin to get it, though. After Montoya’s penalty, Martin moved into the lead for the restart with 24 laps to go and Johnson lined up on his outside.
Johnson sailed to the front and pulled away, only to have to hold off Martin over a nerve-racking final five laps. Martin, who at 50 became the oldest polesitter in Indy’s 100 years, finished second and moved up two spots in the standings to ninth.
“I would have liked to win it,” Martin said. “Just got beat by Superman.”
It was a 1-2 finish for Rick Hendrick for the second straight race — Martin and Jeff Gordon led the way in Chicago two weeks ago — and gave the team owner his seventh victory in visits to The Brickyard.
“I still get chills when I walk down Gasoline Alley and see the grandstands on both sides of the track,” Hendrick said.
Greg Biffle was third and followed by Brian Vickers and Kevin Harvick, who grabbed his best finish in 15 races.
Kasey Kahne was seventh and followed by David Reutimann, four-time Brickyard winner Jeff Gordon and Matt Kenseth.
A cut tire caused Kyle Busch to finish 38th and drop out of contention for the Chase. The bad day cost him four spots in the standings. He is 14th with six races left to set the 12-driver Chase field.
“I think it’s pretty self-explanatory that we’re trying to fight for a spot in the Chase,” said Busch, a three-time winner this season.
The tire problems that plagued last year’s race were never a factor, as Goodyear made good on its promise to find the right compound for one of the biggest races of the season. Goodyear’s product last year couldn’t last longer than 10-to-12 laps, and the tiremaker spent 11 months diligently correcting the problem.
KUWAIT CITY – A Kuwaiti businessman linked to Citigroup and charged in the United States with fraud committed suicide Sunday, a security official said.
Hazem al-Braikan was found dead in his bed with a gunshot wound to the head and a handgun at his side, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he did not have the full details.
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission charged al-Braikan last week with scheming to make millions by manipulating the stock of certain U.S. companies. The SEC said it was freezing more than 5 million in profits believed to have been made off the questionable deals by al-Braikan and three companies with whom he is associated.
Al-Braikan was CEO of Al-Raya Investment Co. which is 10-percent owned by the New York-based Citigroup Inc.
The SEC says al-Braikan’s company as well as two other companies — the United Gulf Bank and KIPCO Asset Management Co. — traded shares based on two phony announcements. One announcement faxed to media outlets July 19 and subsequently reported on the Internet the following day stated that a Middle Eastern investment group made an offer to acquire Stamford, Connecticut-based electronic systems maker Harman International Industries Inc.
Harman was forced to issue a statement last Monday denying it had been approached by a mysterious Gulf investor known as the Arabian Peninsula Group following a number of media reports. The company’s shares tumbled sharply once the hoax was revealed.
In April, rumors and a report in a Kuwaiti newspaper that a consortium of Middle East companies was offering to buy Textron Inc. sent shares of the Providence, Rhode Island company soaring more than 50 percent in a single day. No deal for the manufacturer of Bell helicopters, Cessna jets and turf-maintenance equipment emerged, and shares plunged a few days later.
The SEC said al-Braikan and the others “amassed positions in the one or both of the securities of the companies shortly before the bogus offers were publicized.” They then sold their securities at “prices inflated by the false information to reap their illicit profits.”
In an statement published in Kuwait’s Alrai daily Sunday, Al-Raya Investment Co. denied the fraud allegations and said it had full confidence in al-Braikan.
KIPCO Asset Management attempted to distance itself from the SEC probe over the weekend, saying in a statement that the deals under investigation were carried out on behalf of a client in the “normal course of business.”
The Kuwait-based company said it “had or has no proprietary investment or any interest in the related shares and thus has not benefited and has not gained from the reported trades.”
United Gulf Bank, a Bahrain-based investment bank also named in the complaint, issued a similar statement linking the transactions to “specific instructions of their client.” Like KIPCO Asset Management, in which it holds a controlling stake, the company said it did not benefit from the trades.
“Everybody is shocked,” said Shiny Rajan, a secretary at Al-Raya who worked closely with al-Braikan. Speaking of his suicide, she told The Associated Press: “We can’t accept it. We celebrated his 36th birthday last week.”
AP Business Writer Adam Schreck in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed to this report.
TEHRAN, IranIranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad fired two members of his cabinet, and may have to face a vote of confidence in parliament for the final few days of his current term, two semi-official Iranian news agencies reported Sunday.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad begins his second term in the first week of August.
But the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) quoted a government official as saying that only one cabinet member was fired, so no such vote would be needed. Iran has 21 ministries. According to the country’s constitution, if more than half the cabinet members are changed in a single term of presidency, a vote of confidence in Iran’s parliament is required. During his presidency, Ahmadinejad has replaced nine cabinet members. Two more would make 11more than half the total. Ahmadinejad, whose controversial victory in presidential elections in June stoked widespread unrest in Iran, is scheduled to be sworn in for his second term during the first week of August. The Iranian Labour News Agency and Fars News Agencyboth semi-officialsaid Sunday that Ahmadinejad had fired intelligence minister Mohseni Ejeie and culture minister Saffar Harandi. Fars said that after firing Harandi, the president was trying to get him to come back in order to avoid a confidence vote. Fars quoted Ahmad Tavakoli, a powerful rightist member of parliament who does not support Ahmadinejad, as saying, “I advise the president to change his mind.”
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“Firing the ministers has no logical reason and creates difficult conditions for the country. This is not a suitable response to the trust of 24 million people who voted for the president,” Tavakoli was quoted as saying. The deputy head of Ahmadinejad’s information office, Mohammad Ja’afar Mohammadzadeh, was quoted by IRNA as saying that only Ejeie was fired.
TEHRAN (AFP) –
Ex-president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani denied there is a power struggle among Iran's top hierarchy in the wake of last month's disputed presidential poll, the Mehr news agency reported on Sunday.
Rafsanjani, 75, pointed to more than half a century of friendship between himself and Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, 70, starting long before the 1979 Islamic revolution. “He is a progressive and forward-looking thinker in different subjects,” the former president said.
“The propaganda by the foreign media who try to suggest that there is a power struggle in the top level of the regime is unfair injustice to the Islamic revolution,” Rafsanjani was quoted as saying.
Khamanei is facing the nation's biggest crisis since the 1979 Islamic revolution after a crackdown by the security forces on widespread protests that followed the disputed June 12 re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad left at least 20 people dead.
The crisis has ricocheted all the way up the state structure, with Khamenei denouncing protestors, giving unconditional support to Ahmadinejad and declaring the vote legal.
Cleric Rafsanjani, who remains powerful as the head of Iran's main political arbitration body and the chairman of the council which oversees the work of the supreme leader, has accused the regime of having lost the trust of the people.
“The issue (which has caused) differences these days is about the election and repercussions (that followed) which, if solved, the current row will end,” Rafsanjani said, without elaborating.
More than a week ago, The Kayhan newspaper, the leading hardline broadsheet, whose editor is appointed by Khamenei, accused Rafsanjani of backing lawbreaking through his implicit support for the demonstrators and slammed him for casting doubt on the election outcome.
Rafsanjani had told worshippers during a Friday sermon on July 17 in Tehran that many still doubted the result of the election.
“We should work to address these doubts,” he said.
With reformist Mohammad Khatami, Rafsanjani is one of two former presidents who supported Ahmadinejad's main challenger, moderate former premier Mir Hossein Mousavi, in the election.
“I have hope in the supreme leader to solve the current problems based on his knowledge and experience and I still stick to the solutions I offered in the Friday prayer,” Rafsanjani said, according to the news agency.
Rafsanjani's continued questioning of the election outcome after the supreme leader had endorsed it in a sermon at the same Tehran prayers on June 19 is a mark of the huge rift that has opened up within the Islamic regime.
Rafsanjani also on Sunday called for the release of those rounded up during the demonstrations.
On Saturday, opposition leaders called on Iran's top clerics to intervene to prevent “oppression” by the authorities, as a detained protester was reportedly killed in custody.
NEW DELHI – India on Sunday launched the first nuclear-powered submarine built on its soil, asserting itself as a world power by joining just five other countries that can design and construct such vessels.
The 367-foot (112-meter) -long submarine, named “Arihant” or “Destroyer of Enemies,” was sent for sea trials at a ceremony attended by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
It will be capable of launching nuclear weapons, said Rahul Bedi, an analyst with Jane’s Defence Weekly.
That would complete India’s strategic triad for nuclear weapons — giving it the ability to deliver them from the air, ground-based mobile platforms and the sea, he said.
Singh called the project a “historic milestone in the country’s defense preparedness.”
India is upgrading its armed forces as part of efforts to match its military strength with its growing economic and political clout. The plans include a proposed 9 billion purchase of 126 new fighter jets.
Singh insisted that the nation does not seek to threaten anyone.
“Nevertheless, it is incumbent upon us to take all measures necessary to safeguard our country and to keep pace with technological advancements worldwide,” he said at the launching ceremony in the southern port city of Vishakhapatnam.
Previously, only the United States, Russia, France, Britain and China had developed nuclear submarines.
There was no immediate comment from Pakistan, India’s neighbor and longtime rival. The submarine’s development is likely to rattle Islamabad, which has fought three wars with India, two of them over control of the Kashmir region, since they won independence from Britain in 1947.
But India is looking beyond the old rivalry, asserting itself as a power on the Asian and international stage, according to Uday Bhaskar, a former naval commander and director of the National Maritime Foundation.
The U.S., in particular, has encouraged India’s role as a possible counter to China, stepping up exercises with the Indian navy and selling the South Asian nation an American warship for the first time in 2007.
American defense contractors — shut out from the lucrative Indian market during the long Cold War — have been offering the country’s military everything from advanced fighter jets to anti-ship missiles.
“If the U.S. companies are willing or able to share their technology with India in nuclear propulsion, that would give a very significant boost to India’s long-term plan,” Bhaskar said.
Still, it could take three to five years for India’s submarine to become operational, after undergoing sea trials of its nuclear reactor, surveillance equipment and ordnance, Bhaskar said.
India’s state-run Defense Research and Development Organization could take two to three years to develop cruise and ballistic missiles that can be fired from the submarine, said Bedi of Jane’s Defence Weekly.
“India can’t buy them from the international market as these are prohibited weapons,” Bedi told The Associated Press.
India modeled its submarine on Charlie-class vessels that it leased from the Soviet Union between 1988 and 1991, Bedi said.
India is leasing another nuclear submarine from Russia for 10 years. It is expected to arrive by early next year.
The country currently has 16 aging non-nuclear submarines, all purchased from other countries.
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Soldiers from an Army unit that had 10 infantrymen accused of murder, attempted murder or manslaughter after returning to civilian life described a breakdown in discipline during their Iraq deployment in which troops murdered civilians, a newspaper reported Sunday.
Some Fort Carson, Colo.-based soldiers have had trouble adjusting to life back in the United States, saying they refused to seek help, or were belittled or punished for seeking help. Others say they were ignored by their commanders, or coped through drug and alcohol abuse before they allegedly committed crimes, The Gazette of Colorado Springs said.
The Gazette based its report on months of interviews with soldiers and their families, medical and military records, court documents and photographs.
Several soldiers said unit discipline deteriorated while in Iraq.
“Toward the end, we were so mad and tired and frustrated,” said Daniel Freeman. “You came too close, we lit you up. You didn’t stop, we ran your car over with the Bradley,” an armored fighting vehicle.
With each roadside bombing, soldiers would fire in all directions “and just light the whole area up,” said Anthony Marquez, a friend of Freeman in the 1st Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment. “If anyone was around, that was their fault. We smoked ‘em.”
Taxi drivers got shot for no reason, and others were dropped off bridges after interrogations, said Marcus Mifflin, who was eventually discharged with post traumatic stress syndrome.
“You didn’t get blamed unless someone could be absolutely sure you did something wrong,” he said
Soldiers interviewed by The Gazette cited lengthy deployments, being sent back into battle after surviving war injuries that would have been fatal in previous conflicts, and engaging in some of the bloodiest combat in Iraq. The soldiers describing those experiences were part of the 3,500-soldier unit now called the 4th Infantry Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team.
Since 2005, some brigade soldiers also have been involved in brawls, beatings, rapes, DUIs, drug deals, domestic violence, shootings, stabbings, kidnapping and suicides.
The unit was deployed for a year to Iraq’s Sunni Triangle in September 2004. Sixty-four unit soldiers were killed and more than 400 wounded — about double the average for Army brigades in Iraq, according to Fort Carson. In 2007, the unit served a bloody 15-month mission in Baghdad. It’s currently deployed to the Khyber Pass region in Afghanistan.
Marquez was the first in his brigade to kill someone after an Iraq tour. In 2006, he used a stun gun to shock a drug dealer in Widefield, Colo., in a dispute over a marijuana sale, then shot and killed him.
Marquez’s mother, Teresa Hernandez, warned Marquez’s sergeant at Fort Carson her son was showing signs of violent behavior, abusing alcohol and pain pills and carrying a gun. “I told them he was a walking time bomb,” she said.
Hernandez said the sergeant later taunted Marquez about her phone call.
“If I was just a guy off the street, I might have hesitated to shoot,” Marquez told The Gazette in the Bent County Correctional Facility, where he is serving a 30-year prison term. “But after Iraq, it was just natural.”
The Army trains soldiers to be that way, said Kenneth Eastridge, an infantry specialist serving 10 years for accessory to murder.
“The Army pounds it into your head until it is instinct: Kill everybody, kill everybody,” he said. “And you do. Then they just think you can just come home and turn it off.”
Both soldiers were wounded, sent back into action and saw friends and officers killed in their first deployment. On numerous occasions, explosions shredded the bodies of civilians, others were slain in sectarian violence — and the unit had to bag the bodies.
“Guys with drill bits in their eyes,” Eastridge said. “Guys with nails in their heads.”
Last week, the Army released a study of soldiers at Fort Carson that found that the trauma of fierce combat and soldier refusals or obstacles to seeking mental health care may have helped drive some to violence at home. It said more study is needed.
While most unit soldiers coped post-deployment, a handful went on to kill back home in Colorado.
Many returning soldiers did seek counseling.
“We’re used to seeing people who are depressed and want to hurt themselves. We’re trained to deal with that,” said Davida Hoffman, director of the privately operated First Choice Counseling Center in Colorado Springs. “But these soldiers were depressed and saying, ‘I’ve got this anger, I want to hurt somebody.’ We weren’t accustomed to that.”
At Fort Carson, Eastridge and other soldiers said they lied during an army screening about their deployment that was designed to detect potential behavioral problems.
Sergeants sometimes refused to let soldiers get PTSD help or taunted them, said Andrew Pogany, a former Fort Carson special forces sergeant who investigates complaints for the advocacy group Veterans for America.
Soldier John Needham described a number of alleged crimes in a December 2007 letter to the Inspector General’s Office of Fort Carson. In the letter, obtained by The Gazette, Needham said that a sergeant shot a boy riding a bicycle down the street for no reason.
Another sergeant shot a man in the head while questioning him, lashed the man’s body to his Humvee and drove around the neighborhood. Needham also claimed sergeants removed victims’ brains.
The Army’s criminal investigation division interviewed unit soldiers and said it couldn’t substantiate the allegations.
The Army has declared soldiers’ mental health a top priority.
“When we see a problem, we try to identify it and really learn what we can do about it. That is what we are trying to do here,” said Maj. Gen. Mark Graham, Fort Carson’s commander. “There is a culture and a stigma that needs to change.”
Fort Carson officers are trained to help troops showing stress signs, and the base has doubled its number of behavioral-health counselors. Soldiers seeing an Army doctor for any reason undergo a mental health evaluation.
On the Net:
Colorado Springs Gazette: http://www.gazette.com
Sarah Palin to step down formally
Former US vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin is due to formally step down as Alaska governor, 18 months before the end of her term in office.She announced her resignation abruptly on 3 July, leading to speculation of a bid for the presidency in 2012. She is due to hand over to Alaska’s Lieutenant Governor Sean Parnell at a picnic ceremony in Fairbanks, Alaska. Mrs Palin, who is dogged by ethics probes and legal bills, has given few clues about her political future.
She has signed a book deal and reports say she could host a television chat show. ‘No plan’But a spokeswoman for the Palin family has dismissed the claims. “I cannot express enough there is no plan after July 26. There is absolutely no plan,” Meghan Stapleton told The Associated Press news agency. “[On Monday] we’ll sit down and say, ‘OK, here are your options. How do you now want to effect that positive change for Alaska from outside the role as governor?’,” Ms Stapleton added. Mrs Palin, 45, shot to fame as John McCain’s Republican running mate in the election of November 2008, becoming a lightning rod for praise and criticism alike. She said a major factor in her decision to quit as Alaska’s governor was the mounting legal cost she and the state faced in fighting nearly 20 ethics charges. But she has insisted her opponents would not “find any dirt”. However, an independent state investigator says her legal-defence fund – formed to help pay more than 500,000 (304,000) in lawyers’ fees – is itself an ethics violation because it uses her government job for personal financial benefit. Her popularity rating has fallen to 40% in the wake of her resignation, a Washington Post-ABC poll showed. But her supporters defend her as an outstanding leader with a strong Christian faith and unwavering support for her family.
Of all the horrid accusations against evangelist Tony Alamo — and the list is long — it was the testimony of formerly loyal subjects, recounting “marriages” between their cult leader and girls as young as 8, that may end his 40-year rule and send him to prison for life.
Born Bernie Lazar Hoffman, the 74-year-old faces up to 175 years behind bars following his conviction Friday on 10 counts of transporting young girls across state lines for sexual purposes. Some jurors wept while women described being molested by and forced into sex with their decades-older pastor.
Among many who’ve watched Alamo’s handiwork since the 1970s — which produced allegations including kidnapping, brainwashing, child abuse, tax evasion and threatening a federal judge — there was never any doubt the street-hustler-turned-pastor should be locked away for good. Their question is, what took so long?
“This man has been running around the country for decades getting away with doing awful things and hurtful things to people,” said Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which lists Tony Alamo Christian Ministries as a hate group for its virulent anti-Catholicism and homophobic leaflets.
“Law enforcement is very reluctant to intervene in what looks like religion,” Potok said “You’ve got to be very careful when you are attacking people’s beliefs. There is a tendency to not want to violate people’s constitutional rights.”
To understand Alamo’s twisted legacy and once-massive movement, it helps to know the beginning.
Bernie Hoffman of Joplin, Mo., a self-admitted petty criminal, arrived in Los Angeles in the 1960s, claiming he was a music promoter with clients including the Beatles. In a bar, he met a chain-smoking aspiring actress named Susan Lipowitz.
Both were married to others. Both soon divorced. They married in 1966 in Las Vegas and legally changed their names to Tony and Susan Alamo for reasons that remain unclear.
The Alamos built a congregation from runaways, drug addicts, and drifters that littered Hollywood Boulevard. They started businesses, including making rhinestone-studded denim jackets that fetched 500 or more.
They promised eternal salvation and free room and board. In exchange, they demanded total control of their followers’ money, communication and sex lives. The congregation swelled to 700 or more and the Alamos grew rich.
When Susan died in 1982 from lung cancer, Alamo displayed her embalmed body in a glass coffee table, ordering the faithful to pray for her resurrection.
But defections started. Former members carried tales of corporal punishment, forced marriages and being refused food for days.
In 1987, brothers Carey Miller and Bob Miller fled the California compound, leaving three sons. When the men came back one night to take the boys, they found that 11-year-old Justin had been paddled. Authorities said he had been beaten for “misbehavior” including asking a science question in history class, punished with 140 blows from a 3-foot board while Alamo gave orders via speaker phone.
“Justin Miller was beaten and mistreated,” said Pennsylvania attorney Peter Georgiades, who specializes in cult cases. Not as punishment, he said, but “because they were trying to control all the other parents who were thinking ‘we should get out of here.’”
His bloodied backside prompted authorities to raid the compound, but Alamo was gone.
The Los Angeles District Attorney’s office charged him with felony child abuse and the FBI launched a manhunt. Alamo was arrested in 1991 in Florida, where he’d been living under an assumed name and running local businesses. The IRS also charged him with tax evasion, and he was sentenced to six years for refusing to pay taxes totaling 7.9 million. While he was incarcerated, Los Angeles prosecutors dismissed their case against Alamo.
After Alamo left federal prison, he started another compound in the tiny town of Fouke, Ark., near the Texas border, with about 100 followers. He still preached that Armageddon was around the corner and young girls made the best wives.
Until last September, when more than 100 agents, including state police and the FBI, raided his Arkansas property. Alamo surrendered five days later and was denied bail. For the first time, his followers openly revolted.
Women were talking — on an Internet site and to state police, who alerted the FBI. They were tired of being abused, they said. They’d been given to Alamo as teenagers. They’d seen others handed over at ages 8, 9 and 10.
Neighbors, angry that Alamo posted armed guards on the public road leading to his property, said they’d had enough. The town council got complaints.
Carl Hassan, a mental health therapist who counsels cult defectors, said he’d heard the abuse complaints and offered help. “There was a lot of lobbying done behind the scenes on behalf of these victims by their families and others,” he said. He declined to provide details, and neither the FBI nor Arkansas State Police would comment on the Arkansas case.
“Liars,” Alamo called them on his Web site. “Bull—-,” he said aloud in court.
HONOLULU – Hawaii’s decades-old law aimed at increasing health coverage by requiring companies to provide insurance to their workers has brought something less than universal health care to the 50th state.
The experience in President Barack Obama’s home state poses some cautionary realities as Congress considers a similar federal requirement that businesses provide health insurance to their employees in any sweeping overhaul of the nation’s health care system.
Since its passage 35 years ago, the percent of uninsured in Hawaii has fallen to lower levels than nearly every other state, but the system left coverage gaps. And cost-conscious business owners have found an easy way to avoid the law by hiring more part-time workers who aren’t required to be covered.
“If it weren’t for that law, medical benefits are one area we would look to cut because of this recession,” said Debi Halcro, president of Valenti Print Group, which publishes everything from brochures to coffee table books. “It hurts the business. You can’t pass it on to customers in this economy.”
Like many Hawaii bosses, Halcro is careful to limit the hours of her three part-time employees so she doesn’t have to pay for their health insurance. In all, the company has 43 workers.
Similar loopholes could be exploited under vague language in legislation pending before Congress. The House bill doesn’t clarify who is a full-time employee, and the Senate measure only fully covers employees working at least 35 hours a week.
“An employer mandate is not an effective means for achieving universal coverage,” according to an analysis published by the Federal Reserve Bank last month. “Although overall insurance coverage rates are unusually high in Hawaii, a substantial number of people remain uninsured, suggesting a need for alternative approaches if universal coverage is the ultimate goal.”
Since Democrat-controlled Hawaii passed its employer health insurance mandate, it has consistently had one of the lowest rates of uninsured in the nation, at about 8 percent in 2007, according to the Henry J. Kaiser Foundation. A federal survey showed Massachusetts had even fewer uninsured, at about 3 percent. The national average is 15 percent.
Massachusetts approved a broad health care reform measure in 2006 that requires near-universal coverage and penalizes individuals who refuse to get coverage. Massachusetts is also different from Hawaii in that it has had some of the highest health costs in the country, while Hawaii has the lowest.
Because Hawaii’s law only covers those who work more than 20 hours per week, some companies have changed their hiring practices so they can save money.
“Naturally, everybody tries to keep their workers as part-time,” said Jack Schneider, president of J.S. Services, which handles human resources and mandated benefits for about 200 Hawaii companies. “If you create a law, people find ways to get around it.”
Hawaii has the highest percentage of private-sector part-time employees without employer-sponsored insurance in the country, according to a University of Hawaii study of the law’s impacts.
But the study also shows that Hawaii ranks in the middle nationally in the percentage of employees working 19 hours or fewer per week, which negates the idea that businesses have significantly switched to part-time workers to dodge health insurance costs, said economics professor Gerard Russo, the report’s researcher and co-author.
Low-hour employees make up only about 3 percent to 6 percent of the overall Hawaii work force, according to the Federal Reserve Bank report.
About 17 percent of Hawaii residents lacked insurance that would cover both doctor visits and hospital bills in when the law was passed in 1974, and that figure dropped to around 5 percent in the early 1980s, according to the Hawaii Uninsured Project.
Russo said the climb to 8 percent uninsured by 2007 was caused by a combination of factors: the number of uninsured grew as the unemployment rate rose, health care costs increased across the country and some businesses hired more part-time workers to avoid the law’s reach.
Supporters of the employer-paid health insurance program credit it for making Hawaii the “Health State.”
Hawaii leads the nation with the lowest death rate, longest life expectancy, lowest frequency of emergency room visits and second-fewest deaths due to heart disease, according to Kaiser Foundation data.
While not immune to skyrocketing health costs, Hawaii residents have the most affordable health insurance in the nation, with average family coverage costing 9,426 annually for employer-based health insurance in 2006. Nationwide, the average was 11,381.
“It has worked here. It’s a cost of doing business for folks in Hawaii, and it has provided stable health insurance for most people here,” said state Insurance Commissioner J.P. Schmidt. “But we have not been immune to increases in health care costs, and the premiums have continued to rise.”
Hawaii’s good health coverage is a result of a long history of employer-provided health care, from plantation owners a century ago to the 1974 law covering all businesses, said Cliff Cisco, senior vice president for Hawaii Medical Service Association, the state’s largest health insurer.
“Generations of people who were born here in Hawaii … have always enjoyed from birth a very high level of coverage,” Cisco said. “It shows what can happen with an employer mandate, and it contributes a lot to the discussion nationally.”
Hawaii’s law is hindered by its inflexibility, which limits worker health insurance contributions to a maximum of 1.5 percent of the worker’s wage. The law was permitted under an exemption to the 1974 federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act, with the condition that it couldn’t be changed.
Attempts to modify the law so that the costs were more evenly split between employer and employee failed because of fears that the entire program would be discarded. For a minimum wage worker, employers’ share of health care premiums jumped 2,529 percent between 1974 and 2008, while maximum employee costs only went up 263 percent, according to HMSA.
Despite drawbacks to employers, Big Island emergency room Dr. Josh Green, who is also a Democrat in the state Senate, urged the U.S. Congress to follow Hawaii’s example.
“It’s important to take this leap of faith,” said Green, who works at Kohala Hospital. “Fortunately for Washington, there is a model here in Hawaii, and on a whole it has proved to create a very healthy society.”
On the Net:
Kaiser State Health Facts: http://statehealthfacts.org/
Taiwan president wins party vote
By Cindy Sui
BBC News, Taipei
Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou has been elected head of the island’s ruling party, the Kuomintang, in a vote by party members.The move will make it easier for him to pass policies through parliament and to have more say in relations with China. China considers Taiwan as one of its provinces, not a country, and does not recognise Mr Ma as Taiwan president. But as chairman of the ruling party, Mr Ma will now be able to meet Chinese President Hu Jintao. Until now, negotiations between the two sides have been conducted largely between the Kuomintang (KMT) and China’s Communist Party, rather than between the two governments. The past year has seen relations between the two countries improve dramatically, but a summit between the two presidents still may not be likely in the near future. Local media has anticipated a summit between the two men, which would be the first between Taiwan and China since they separated in 1949 following a civil war. But analysts say Mr Ma doesn’t want such a meeting to happen soon. Sensitive issueMeeting Mr Hu now would be too sensitive, as Mr Ma’s plans to bring the two sides economically closer – including the signing of a type of free-trade agreement – face opposition from those who fear he will sell out to China. Mr Ma has indicated he is in no hurry to visit China. Analysts say the main reason he sought the party chairmanship is to exert control over his party, which controls the legislature, so he can get his bills and appointments approved. Being party chairman, however, will also give him more say over dealings with China.
KEY WEST, Fla. – Wearing a wool fisherman’s sweater in 90-degree heat, a Texas man won an Ernest Hemingway look-alike contest at a Key West festival honoring the late Nobel prize-winning author.
White-bearded David Douglas, 55, bested 139 other contenders at the “Papa” Hemingway Look-Alike Contest, staged Saturday night at Sloppy Joe’s Bar, the author’s favorite watering hole.
Douglas’ attire emulated Hemingway’s appearance in a famous 1957 photograph by Yousuf Karsh.
“It’s very possible the sweater did it,” said a perspiring Douglas of his victory. “It’s about 120 (degrees) inside the sweater, but it’s worth it.”
Douglas, from Cypress, Texas, won the competition on his eighth attempt after originally entering on a dare.
The mechanical contractor said he shares Hemingway’s fondness for fishing and cocktails, but has no literary aspirations.
“I haven’t written any books, but I’m good writing checks and text messaging,” Douglas said.
Other Hemingway Days events included literary and theatrical presentations, a marlin tournament and a short story competition coordinated by author and Hemingway granddaughter Lorian Hemingway. The festival ends Sunday. July 21 was the 110th anniversary of Hemingway’s birth.
Judged by a panel of former look-alike winners, 30 prospective “Papas” made Saturday night’s contest finals to parade across the stage at Sloppy Joe’s. Finalists included Denis Golden of Rockport, Mass., who sang a parody of “Hello, Dolly” onstage with lyrics pleading for victory.
While living in Key West during the 1930s, Hemingway wrote some of his most famous works, including “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” “To Have and Have Not” and “Death in the Afternoon.”
On the Net
Hemingway Days festival: http://www.hemingwaydays.net
EVIAN-LES-BAINS, France – Ai Miyazato of Japan won the Evian Masters with a birdie on the first playoff hole Sunday, beating Sophie Gustafson of Sweden to clinch her first victory on the LPGA Tour.
Miyazato steadied herself and sank a putt from about 6 feet after Gustafson had missed her birdie putt from the edge of the green.
“I had a tough time these last few years,” Miyazato said, referring to her long wait for an LPGA title. “It is obviously a relief, but I feel a sense of accomplishment at achieving this great win. I have so many things going through my head at the moment.”
Miyazato shot a 3-under 69 and Gustafson had a 70 as both finished at 14-under 274.
Gustafson had a chance to win it on the 18th, but her eagle putt stopped at the edge of the hole.
Michelle Wie tied for 23rd at 5 under, but failed to collect any points in her bid for a place on the United States team for next month’s Solheim Cup match against Europe.
Wie had three birdies on the last four holes to salvage her round, but finished just out of the top 20 to miss out on getting Solheim Cup points. She gets another chance at next week’s British Open, where points count double.
“I think for next week, my tee shots feel good, I’ve got to get that working,” Wie said. “Get that groove back.”
The 24-year-old Miyazato, who has won numerous titles on Japan’s JLPGA circuit, is the first Japanese woman to win at Evian since Hiromi Kobayashi in 1997 — who also won on the first playoff hole.
“Every time I walk up the stairs to the locker room I tend to see her scorecard,” Miyazato said. “When I saw it, I wanted to achieve what she achieved. I wanted to be a champion. I respect her a lot and feel very proud as another Japanese player to have done the same.”
Miyazato clenched her fist as her last putt rolled in, then stood still for several moments with her hand on her brow as she paused to savor the win. She takes home 487,500, tied for the highest first prize in women’s golf with the Women’s U.S. Open.
The 35-year-old Gustafson was aiming for her first title since winning the 2007 Scottish Open, and fifth overall on the LPGA Tour.
Both had birdies on the 18th hole, after Gustafson’s 30-foot putt for eagle stopped at the lip of the cup.
Meena Lee of South Korea — who shot a 65 to creep into contention — finished in a tie for third with Cristie Kerr of the United States at 13-under.
Defending champion Helen Alfredsson of Sweden eagled No. 18 to tie for fifth with former Evian champions Paula Creamer (2005) of the United States and Karrie Webb of Australia (2006). All had 277.
After holding a share of the lead for the first three days, Becky Brewerton of Wales shot a 76 to drop into a tie for 13th place. Brewerton had bogeys on 2, 3, 4, 10, 15 and a double bogey on No. 14.
Miyazato started the playoff with a strong tee shot down the fairway, while Gustafson found the rough. Miyazato went for the green on her second shot and landed in the bunker next to the green, but made a good chip.
Gustafson’s third shot took her onto the right edge of the green, and she took several moments to compose herself before sending her birdie putt well left of the hole.
“When I had good success in Japan I was still very young, but when I came to the States I had to adjust to many things, the culture, the language,” Miyazato said. “But I don’t think the length of time it took me to win was that important. It was very valuable (to learn).”
ATLANTA – Vernon Forrest, a former three-time champion who gained stardom when he became the first boxer to defeat “Sugar” Shane Mosley, was shot to death during an apparent robbery in Atlanta, police said Sunday.
Sgt. Lisa Keyes said in an e-mail Sunday that Forrest, 38, was shot several times in the back Saturday night, which an autopsy confirmed. Keyes said there are no suspects.
“Vernon was one of the few decent people in boxing,” promoter Gary Shaw said. “I mean really decent. He cared about mentally challenged adults. He cared about kids. I just can’t believe it.”
Fulton County medical examiner Michele Stauffenberg confirmed the case was a homicide and that the autopsy showed Forrest died from “multiple gunshot wounds involving the torso and thigh.” Keyes said a police report on the shooting was not immediately available.
Forrest, a native of Augusta, Ga., who lived in Atlanta, was a member of the 1992 Olympic team. He also was a former IBF welterweight and two-time WBC junior middleweight champion with a 41-3 career record with 29 knockouts.
“He was one of the most gracious and charitable fighters in boxing and he will be missed by the entire boxing community and all of his friends at HBO,” HBO Sports president Ross Greenburg told The Associated Press.
Greenburg helped put on eight of Forrest’s fights.
“Maybe Vernon’s lasting legacy will be for Americans everywhere to rise up and end this kind of senseless violence,” Greenburg said.
Those who knew the fighter praised his role in launching the Destiny’s Child group homes in Atlanta, which work to provide homes for the mentally disabled.
“It was truly his calling,” Forrest’s publicist, Kelly Swanson, said of his work with children. “When he wasn’t boxing, this was his full-time job.
“When they would see him, they would just light up, and some of them couldn’t even talk. Vernon was very much involved. He’d have some of the kids over to his house on Sundays. They were part of his family.”
Swanson said Forrest was not married and has one son, Vernon Jr.
Inside the ring, Forrest was known for taking two wins over Mosley in 2002. On Sept. 13, 2008, Forrest reclaimed his WBC 154-pound title by beating Sergio Mora in a rematch of a fight won by Mora.
The win over Mora was Forrest’s last fight. He suffered a rib injury while training for an April fight against Jason LeHoullier, which was canceled, and Forrest had to vacate his title.
Ken Hershman, vice president in charge of boxing at Showtime, which aired Forrest’s first fight with Mora, said Forrest was a popular fighter dedicated to his charity work.
“He wasn’t looking for anything, he just did it because it was the right thing to do,” Hershman said.
“Vernon was a young, vibrant guy coming to the end of his career. He still had a lot of life ahead of him.”
There were tentative plans for a title fight against Sergio Martinez, perhaps in October, Shaw said. Plans for an August fight against Martinez were pushed back the rib injury.
“Instead of being an Olympian, a two-time world champion, a guy who beat Shane Mosley twice, the guy who did some good for boxing — maybe his legacy will be for something else,” Shaw said. “Maybe boxing will finally get around the violence outside of the ring. Maybe Vernon’s name and legacy will be for that.”
Forrest is the third prominent boxer to die this month.
Former two-time champion Arturo Gatti, who retired in 2007, was found dead July 11 at a Brazilian resort. Gatti’s wife, Amanda Rodrigues, is being held as the prime suspect.
Another former champion, Alexis Arguello, was found dead on July 1 at his home in Managua, Nicaragua. He was elected mayor of Nicaragua’s capital last year.
“If the saying is bad things come in threes, hopefully we’re done with that for a long time to come,” Hershman said. “I hope that’s the case. I mean, ironically three great people, three great human beings, too. Not a good few months.”
Forrest’s trainer, Buddy McGirt, also worked with Gatti. McGirt said Forrest planned to start training Aug. 1 for his next fight.
“I just feel so bad. He has a son you know,” McGirt said. “Someone is going to be raised without a father because somebody wanted to rob someone.”
AP Sports Writer Dave Skretta contributed to this report.
ROME – Michael Phelps had an off night. His new windmill stroke just slowed him down. He left his teammates with some catching-up to do. Heck, he didn’t even get a world record when about all you had to do was squeeze into one of those newfangled suits and dive in at the Foro Italico.
Yet, when it was done, Phelps found himself in that same ol’ place — top of the medal stand.
At his first major meet since a historic Olympics, Phelps got off to a winning start at the world championships as part of the 400-meter freestyle relay Sunday. He was actually the slowest member of the team, but the guys picked him up and beat the French again, just as they did in that memorable race last summer in Beijing.
“The best thing about this relay was they carried Michael,” said Bob Bowman, Phelps’ coach and also in charge of the U.S. men’s team. “We need the other people to step up.”
They sure did — especially Nathan Adrian on the anchor leg. His blistering down and back was reminiscent of Jason Lezak’s amazing swim at the Olympics, when he somehow chased down Alain Bernard, touched first by eight-hundredths of a second and kept Phelps on course to win a record eight golds.
“Relays are raced as a team,” Phelps said, “and I think all four guys swam a great race.”
Phelps was third when he passed off to Ryan Lochte, who hung tough against the hulking Bernard while surprising Russia surged into contention. Matt Grevers did his part on the third leg, and Adrian finished it off with fastest split of anyone to touch in 3 minutes, 9.21 seconds.
Phelps pumped his fists on the pool deck, then leaned over to congratulate Adrian. Call him Lezak Jr.
“Coming in to this relay, to be honest, I felt like a child among men,” said Adrian, whose 100 was timed in 46.79 — nearly a full second faster than Phelps’ 47.78 opener. “All of these guys have made a great name for themselves, they’ve won individual medals at the Olympics, and they threw me on the last leg, so I had a little bit of pressure on myself.”
The French were the ones who cracked. The Russians touched second in 3:09.52, while France — which sent out four of the world’s fastest sprinters, at least on paper — were relegated to the bronze at 3:09.89.
“They’ve got the relay in their blood,” French coach Lionel Horter said. “Even when they have a little problem, like for example, Phelps didn’t swim really well tonight, they still swam better than us.”
Amazingly on this warm summer evening, the Americans managed to keep their relay title without setting a world record. A half-dozen marks were set on the first night of swimming — two of them in semifinal heats, two more in one race, a staggering figure that shows just about every record is in danger over this eight-day meet.
Looks like those high-tech bodysuits are going to have quite a going-out party. The sport’s governing body banned such attire beginning in 2010, believing they’ve crossed the line by increasing buoyancy and improving stamina, allowing swimmers to literally glide along the top of the water.
“Even if it was me breaking a world record, I wouldn’t be jumping for joy,” said American Dara Torres, still competing at 42. “Because you know it’s the suit.”
Among the records going down: an iconic mark in the men’s 400 freestyle held for seven years by Australian great Ian Thorpe. Germany’s Paul Biedermann shot down the “Thorpedo” with a time of 3:40.07, breaking his long-standing mark by a hundredth of a second.
“I hope that we don’t forget Ian Thorpe now that he’s not on the record board,” Bowman said. “I thought it was the best record. Now it’s gone.”
In perhaps the greatest evidence of the suit’s impact, Biedermann beat his qualifying time from a month ago by a staggering 6 1/2 seconds, wearing an Arena X-Glide, one of the polyurethane suits that surpassed Speedo’s LZR Racer but will soon join it on the scrap heap.
“I expected someone to break the world record. I didn’t expect it to be me,” Biedermann said. “This suit makes me really fast. Honestly, I think it (cuts off) two seconds in the 400.”
An even older world record by Inge de Bruijn, which had stood the test of time since the 2000 Sydney Olympics, also went down. Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom got that one in the semifinals of the 100 butterfly, her time of 56.44 erasing the mark of 56.61.
The Italian fans had plenty to cheer about when Federico Pellegrini became the first woman to break the 4-minute barrier in the 400 free. She patted her heart and waved to the near-sellout crowd as she walked off the deck with a time of 3:59.15, breaking her own month-old record.
“Usually, once swimmers dive in the water you don’t hear the crowd cheering,” Pellegrini said. “But this time it was completely different. I could hear the crowd cheering.”
American Ariana Kukors, who didn’t even qualify for the 200 individual medley at the U.S. trials but got in when a teammate scratched, now holds the fastest time ever in that event.
She, too, did it in a semifinal heat — wearing another of the new-age suits, the Jaked, when she went 2:07.03 to easily beat Stephanie Rice’s record of 2:08.53 that won gold in Beijing.
The record book was so worthless that two marks fell in a single race. Germany’s Britta Steffen was credited with a world record of 52.22 in the 100 free for her opening leg of the 400 free relay, but the Netherlands came back to win the race — with a record-breaking time, of course: 3:31.72.
In fact, runner-up Germany and third-place Australia also broke the previous mark of 3:33.62.
Torres swam the relay for the Americans, but she was already more than 2 seconds behind by the time she dove in the water on the second leg. The U.S. wound up a distant fourth.
“That hurt,” said Torres, who has focused on the 50 free. “I hadn’t been training for the 100. My start was not very strong and my turns were not very strong.”
By the end of the night, there was a familiar sight: Phelps climbing to the top of the stand, leaning over and having a gold medal draped around his neck.
He’s endured quite a journey since his great haul of China — hosting “Saturday Night Live,” appearing on countless television shows and raising the profile of a sport that had been a once-every-four-year phenomenon.
That was all part of his plan. What he didn’t count on was having his picture snapped as he inhaled from a marijuana pipe, and having that photo show up in a British tabloid. He received a three-month suspension from USA Swimming and didn’t get back into competition until May.
Through it all, Phelps recaptured the motivation that took him to unprecedented heights, coming back to set another world record at the U.S. nationals this month. And he’s off to a winning start at Rome, where he’ll be competing in six events.
But that’s it for his new straight-arm stroke. Phelps never looked real comfortable trying to do it. Just slowed him down.
“We’re going back to the old stroke,” Bowman said. “That’s the last time he’s doing that.”
GENEVA (Reuters) –
U.S. authorities are targeting client visits by Swiss-based bankers from UBS in their efforts to identify U.S. citizens with accounts at the bank who may have evaded tax, a Swiss newspaper said on Sunday.
U.S. tax authorities want to force UBS to disclose the identity of an estimated 52,000 U.S. holders of secret Swiss accounts suspected of dodging taxes, even though this breaches Swiss bank secrecy laws.
A possible compromise involving the names of account-holders visited by Swiss bankers would identify about 10,000 people, Swiss weekly Sonntags-Zeitung said.
A UBS spokesman declined to comment, noting the negotiations were a matter for the two governments. A Swiss Justice Department spokesman said the two sides had agreed not to comment while negotiations continued.
A trial against UBS had been scheduled to start in Miami on July 13, but presiding judge Alan Gold agreed to delay it until August 3 to allow time for a settlement.
On Friday a source familiar with the situation said talks between Switzerland and the United States to end the tax row could stretch beyond the August 3 deadline.
A status call between Gold and lawyers from UBS and the U.S. Internal Revenue Service on July 29 could be an opportunity for an announcement of a delay. A meeting between Swiss Finance Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is also scheduled on July 31.
NAMING NAMES, PROTECTING SECRETS
The challenge for the two sides is to find a way for Switzerland to hand over enough information to satisfy the U.S. tax authorities without infringing Switzerland's strict laws protecting banking secrecy.
Sonntags-Zeitung, citing a U.S. source familiar with the negotiations, said one solution would be to draw on the existing double taxation agreement between Switzerland and the U.S., which allows Swiss authorities to provide official assistance to Washington to help in a criminal investigation.
It said the U.S. justice department would seek the names of all U.S. customers of UBS visited by bankers from Switzerland between 2001 and 2007.
UBS's U.S. offshore business employed around 60 customer advisers in Switzerland, the paper said.
According to a U.S. Senate committee report last year, each of these advisers visited the U.S. up to three times a year, meeting about four customers a day on a trip lasting up to three weeks, resulting in about 10,000 customer contacts a year.
Since UBS has already admitted that its efforts to solicit offshore business broke U.S. law, the U.S. authorities could demand this information without infringing Swiss banking secrecy, which would not be the case if they simply asked for the names of account-holders without any justified suspicion.
UBS settled related tax-fraud criminal charges when it agreed in February to pay $780 million and to exit its U.S. offshore banking business.
The settlement was seen as a serious blow to Swiss bank secrecy as the bank agreed to hand over around 250 names of American clients.
Another Swiss paper, Sonntag, said Andreas Rued, a lawyer representing eight clients, would sue for compensation if Switzerland's top court found the Swiss government acted illegally in ordering UBS to hand over those names.
Rued could not be reached for comment.
The Swiss bank, which has already said it will report another quarterly loss on August 4, needs to put the tax litigation behind it to focus on restructuring and regain client confidence.
(Reporting by Jonathan Lynn, editing by Will Waterman)