Archive for July 27th, 2009
WASHINGTON (Reuters) –
Congress will consider steps to curb speculation in the $39 trillion credit default swaps market and could prohibit investors from speculating on a borrower's credit quality, according to a U.S. House of Representatives Committee document obtained by Reuters.
Congress and the Obama administration have been pushing for oversight of the market since insurer American International Group Inc's near-collapse because of its exposure to credit default swaps. The swaps are used to insure against debt defaults and speculate on a borrower's credit quality.
The House Agriculture and Financial Services committees will consider two options to curb speculation including a ban on so-called naked credit default swaps — swaps for which a trader or investor does not hold the underlying asset being insured, such as a bond.
The other option would require derivative dealers and investment advisers that manage in excess of $100 million to report their short interests in credit default swap contracts to the appropriate regulator, according to the document.
The derivatives bill is part of a broad overhaul of U.S. financial regulation sought by the White House and Democratic lawmakers in the House and Senate.
The House is expected to begin debating this week a separate measure that would give shareholders the right to cast nonbinding votes on executive compensation at publicly traded companies.
Policymakers have been broadly pushing for oversight of the $450 trillion over-the-counter derivatives market, which includes the credit swaps.
The bill would give regulators authority to set position limits on dealers in credit default swaps, or CDS. It would also shift oversight of ICE Trust Clearinghouse from the Federal Reserve to the Securities and Exchange Commission, the document said.
The bill also addresses the role of clearinghouses, which act as intermediaries that assess risk from transactions, assign capital or margin requirements, and assure payment if one party defaults.
The Obama administration wants more over-the-counter derivatives — which are not traded on exchanges — to be cleared by clearinghouses. The draft bill takes a stronger line, saying derivatives must be traded on an exchange and cleared by approved clearinghouses unless regulators decide to exempt them.
Waivers could include illiquid derivatives, those that are customized, and those in which a so-called end user of derivatives does not qualify as a “major market participant,” the document said.
The draft bill from Barney Frank's House Financial Services Committee is similar to a description by Agriculture Committee chairman Collin Peterson of an upcoming omnibus reform bill.
“They had come to agreement on the bulk of what Frank would propose,” a House Agriculture Committee spokesman said about the discussions between Peterson and Frank.
The Agriculture Committee passed a bill last winter that would, if enacted into law, require clearing of OTC derivatives in most cases and would allow regulators to temporarily suspend trading in naked CDS.
The bill also would require futures regulators to set position limits on agricultural and energy contracts and require foreign exchanges to adopt reporting and disclosure rules that mirror U.S. standards.
Under the draft bill, a new federal council would help resolve long-standing differences between futures and securities regulators, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the SEC.
The CFTC polices futures markets and the SEC oversees stock markets. The two bodies have long clashed over which has the right to approve new financial products, delaying approvals.
The new council would determine which agency had authority over the new products within 180 days and resolve jurisdictional disputes between the SEC and the CFTC within the same time frame.
The White House is expected to release its proposed legislative language for derivatives as early as Thursday, according to a source familiar with the administration's planning.
A spokeswoman for ICE had no comment on the draft proposal.
(Reporting by Rachelle Younglai and Chuck Abbott; Additional reporting by Jonathan Spicer in New York; Editing by Gerald E. McCormick, Gary Hill)
International Space Station may feel a bit crowded with 13 people aboard, but
the population boost has also given it a multicultural flair, an astronaut said
astronaut Dave Wolf, who once lived aboard Russia's Mir space station for
months, said the space station is an
“As you go through
here, you hear different languages. You hear different music,” Wolf told
reporters in a televised news conference. “It's like going around the world
within a spacecraft that's already going around.”
station is currently home to its first full
six-man crew and seven astronauts from the shuttle Endeavour, which brought
Wolf and his crewmates to the station. That makes 13 in all – the largest single
gathering aboard the station.
really fascinating to be here,” Wolf said.
toilet broke down early in the joint mission, but was swiftly repaired a
day later by the station crew to the relief of all 13 astronauts aboard. The
orbital commode was one of three aboard Endeavour (which has one) and the
station (which has two). But the astronauts were limiting themselves to just
using the two on the station to avoid filling Endeavour's wastewater tank, which
could not be emptied overboard because it could contaminate nearby station
Saturday, a NASA device used to remove carbon dioxide from the station's
atmosphere went offline, but it has also been fixed. A spare air-scrubbing
device was already planned to be delivered to the station during NASA's next
shuttle flight in late August.
Endeavour arrived, the station was a diverse place. The 100 billion laboratory
is the product of cooperation between 16 countries. Its current six-person crew
includes two Russian cosmonauts, two Americans and one astronaut each from
Canada and Belgium.
Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata also served on the station's crew. He will
return home aboard Endeavour after living on the station for 4 1/2 months. But
until he does, all five of the station's major international partners – NASA
and the space agencies of Russia, Europe, Japan and Canada – are represented
together a vehicle that is truly international; brought together a truly international
crew representing the whole world,” Wolf said. “And now we're undertaking perhaps
one of the most spectacular engineering achievements that humans can ever
conduct. It's just fabulous in many dimensions.”
brought 28 new Japanese dishes to add to the increasingly international
cuisine aboard the station, which includes foods from the native countries
of each of the astronauts and cosmonauts.
managed to have dinner a couple of nights with our wonderful hosts here,”
said Endeavour commander Mark Polansky. “I think it's been an extremely
successful mission in spite of a lot of really interesting curve balls that
have been thrown our way.”
six-man, one-woman crew is in the homestretch of a 16-day construction flight
to the space station. The astronauts delivered Wakata's replacement – NASA astronaut
Tim Kopra – as well as a new Japanese
experiment porch and spare parts for the outpost.
astronauts will perform their fifth and last planned spacewalk for the mission
on Monday and leave the space station on Tuesday. Endeavour is due to return to
Earth July 31 and land in Florida.
- An International Smorgasbord in Space
- The Kibo Lab: Japan's Hope in Space – Part 1, Part
Video Show – The ISS: Foothold on Forever
is providing continuous coverage of STS-127 with reporter Clara Moskowitz and
senior editor Tariq Malik in New York. Click here for mission
updates and SPACE.com's live NASA TV video feed.
Original Story: Crowded Space Station Has International Flair, Astronaut Says
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BOGOTA – Swedish-made anti-tank rocket launchers sold to Venezuela years ago were obtained by Colombia’s main rebel group, and Sweden said Monday it was demanding an explanation.
Colombia said its military found the weapons in a captured rebel arms cache and that Sweden had recently confirmed they originally were sold to Venezuela’s military.
The confirmation strengthens Colombian allegations that Hugo Chavez’s government has aided the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, and exacerbated tensions between the neighboring nations over an imminent agreement to expand the U.S. military’s use of Colombian air and naval bases.
The bazooka-like AT-4 single-use launchers, made by Saab Bofors Dynamics, lack the precision and range of surface-to-air weapons and there is no evidence FARC rebels have used any in combat.
President Alvaro Uribe complained over the weekend that if Colombia had kept quiet about the weapons “they’ll fire them and obtain more and no one in the international community will halt their sale.”
Venezuela’s justice minister, Tareck El Aissami, on Monday dismissed the report of the missiles, denying that “our government or institutions have ever collaborated with any type of criminal or terrorist organizations.”
The country’s foreign minister, Nicolas Maduro, called the launcher claim part of a “brutal campaign” with a single objective: “to justify the presence of U.S. bases” in Colombia. He was referring to talks between Washington and Bogota — a hoped-for final round is slated for early August — on a bases accord.
Neither official offered information on whether the launchers might have once belonged to Venezuela’s arsenal.
Three launchers were recovered in October in a FARC arms cache belonging to a rebel commander known as “Jhon 40″ and Colombia only recently asked Sweden to confirm whether they had been sold to Venezuela, a senior Colombian official told The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to discuss the matter.
In Stockholm, a senior Swedish Trade Ministry official, Jens Eriksson, said his government was working with Colombia “to find out how this happened.”
“We have also contacted Venezuelan authorities,” he told the AP. “We are still waiting for an answer.”
The head of the Swedish government agency that supervises weapons exports, Jan-Erik Lovgren, told Swedish Radio that the weapons were sold to Venezuela in the 1980s.
Lovgren said the incident — a clear violation of end-user licenses — could affect future decisions on whether to allow weapons sales to Venezuela.
“Right now we don’t have any ongoing business, but if we were to receive some, we would very likely say no,” he added.
Colombian officials leaked electronic documents last year they said were found on the computer of slain FARC No. 2 commander Raul Reyes in which rebel commanders discussed obtaining bazookas and other arms from Venezuelan officials, including then-military intelligence chief Hugo Carvajal.
Colombia has long maintained that the FARC has been seeking to obtain shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles, whose use would significantly escalate a 45-year-old low-level conflict that has claimed about 3,500 lives annually.
“We know from intelligence that they are now seeking to buy some surface-to-air weapons to try to shoot down our planes,” Uribe told reporters on Monday.
Military analyst Anna Gilmour, deputy editor of Jane’s Intelligence Review, said the AT-4s don’t provide a major boost to the FARC’s capability.
“While SAMs are guided missiles that lock on to fast-moving aerial targets such as helicopters, the AT4 fires unguided rockets that can easily miss their target,” she said.
Jane’s Intelligence Weekly first reported on the launchers last week.
It said batches of AT-4s were sold to Venezuela in the 1980s and 1990s but that Saab ceased sales of military equipment to Venezuela in May 2006 in response to a U.S. arms embargo.
Colombian and U.S. officials accuse Venezuela of giving senior FARC leaders refuge and of allowing the rebels to smuggle tons of cocaine through the country.
Chavez’s government denies the accusations.
Associated Press Writers Karl Ritter in Stockholm and Fabiola Sanchez in Caracas contributed to this report.
LONDON, EnglandFrench President Nicolas Sarkozy’s collapse while jogging and subsequent hospitalization prompted speculation and concern Monday in France over the 54-year-old’s state of health.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy shakes hands with medical staff as he leaves hospital Monday.
Though the hospital which treated Sarkozy said tests had detected nothing abnormal, officials said the president’s fainting had been caused by a nerve condition called vasovagal syncope. What is syncope? Syncope (pronounced “sin-ko-pea”) is the brief loss of consciousness or fainting caused by a temporary decrease in blood flow to the brain. It is a common condition that affects as many as half of all people at least once in their life. Three percent of people develop it more frequently. Syncope may be associated with a sudden fall in blood pressure, a decrease in heart rate or changes in blood volume or distribution. What causes syncope? According to some experts, syncope is often the result of an underlying medical condition that could be related to the heart, nervous system or blood flow to the brain. It is also associated with anxiety, fear, pain or hunger and often happens when a person goes from a sitting position to a standing one. There are several types of syncope. The most common one is vasovagal syncope, which occurs when the blood pressure drops suddenly, reducing blood flow to the brain.
Sarkozy leaves hospital after health scare
When a person stands up, gravity causes blood to settle in the lower part of the body. In most people, the heart and nervous system will react and give out the correct signals to maintain blood flowing everywhere else in the body. But in some cases, the system does not send out the right signals, leading to a lack of blood flowing to the brain. What happens when the condition strikes? Symptoms include dizziness, nausea, sweating, falling and, ultimately, fainting. After “blacking out,” the person usually regains consciousness within minutes, but may experience a period of confusion or feeling weak for up to 24 hours. In 2002, former U.S. President George W. Bush had a fall at the White House after he choked on a pretzel. The pretzel stuck in his throat and caused the vagus nerve to send a signal to his heart. This slowed it down and reduced blood flow so much he passed out. How is syncope treated? Depending on the underlying cause of syncope, treatment is aimed at preventing a syncope recurrence. Treatment may include medication; wearing garments to improve circulation; changing one’s diet; taking precautions when changing positions from sitting to standing and in rare cases, implanting a pacemaker. With appropriate treatment, syncope can be resolved in most patients. Sources: Cleveland Syncope Clinic and London Cardiac Institute, Canada
Nearly two years after he pleaded guilty to a federal charge of bankrolling a dogfighting operation at a home he owned in Virginia, Michael Vick was reinstated to the National Football League on a conditional basis, according to an NFL statement Monday.
Michael Vick will be considered for full reinstatement based on his progress by the sixth week.
Vick “will be considered for full reinstatement and to play in regular-season games by Week 6 based on the progress he makes in his transition plan,” the statement said. Week 6 of the NFL season is in October. Vick may participate in practices, workouts and meetings and may play in his club’s final two preseason games under the conditions of his reinstatement, the league said. Vick, in a statement, thanked the league’s commissioner and former Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy, who has served as his mentor. “I would like to express my sincere gratitude and appreciation to Commissioner [Roger] Goodell for allowing me to be readmitted to the National Football League,” Vick said in a statement. “I fully understand that playing football in the NFL is a privilege, not a right, and I am truly thankful for the opportunity I have been given.” Vick, 29, was freed from federal prison at Leavenworth, Kansas, on May 20 and returned to his home to serve the last two months of his 23-month sentence in home confinement. Vick also said in his statement that he is re-evaluating his life after the “terrible mistakes” he made. “As you can imagine, the last two years have given me time to re-evaluate my life, mature as an individual and fully understand the terrible mistakes I made in the past and what type of life I must lead moving forward,” Vick said in the statement. “Again, I would like to thank the commissioner for the chance to return to the game I love and the opportunity to become an example of positive change.” The former Atlanta Falcons player is a free agent and has not been signed by any team. Goodell said he was not involved in any negotiations between Vick and a team. Dungy has agreed to continue working with Vick as an adviser and mentor, the NFL statement said. Goodell said Vick underwent tests after requests from animal rights groups, including a psychiatric evaluation.
SI.com: Banks: Goodell made right move with Vick
SI.com: King: Decision as fair as Vick could have hoped
SI.com: Storylines that have nothing to do with Vick
“We worked with animal rights activist groups, and we are clear,” he said. “We worked with their medical professionals about the aspects of our evaluations. Michael fully cooperated with all of those tests. Those tests did not indicate there was any reason he couldn’t make a transition forward.” In a letter to Vick, Goodell wrote that his decision regarding full reinstatement “will be based on reports from outside professionals, your probation officer and others charged with supervising your activities, the quality of your work outside football” as well as factors such as the absence of any further law enforcement issues.iReport.com: Should Vick get a second chance? “This step-by-step approach is not meant to be a further punishment and should not be viewed as such,” Goodell wrote, according to the NFL. “Instead, it is intended to maximize the prospect that you can successfully resume your career and your life. I believe that a transitional approach with a strong network of support will give you the best opportunity to manage effectively the various issues and pressures that you will inevitably face in the coming weeks and months and earn your full reinstatement.” Watch Goodell talk about his decision » The league suspended Vick indefinitely in August 2007 after his guilty plea. Although he was released from federal custody July 20, he must serve three years of probation, the league said. In reviewing Vick’s status, Goodell considered court records, submissions from Vick and others, reports from outside professionals and conversations with current and former players, among other items. At a hearing July 22, Goodell spoke to Vick along with his representatives and others including NFL Players’ Association officials. “As I emphasized to you when we met … it is actions that count,” Goodell wrote to Vick. “I accept that you are sincere when you say that you want to, and will, turn your life around and that you intend to be a positive role model for others. I am prepared to offer you that opportunity. Whether you succeed is entirely in your hands.” Vick has also filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. At a hearing in that case, he told the judge that he earned 12 cents an hour as an overnight janitor while in prison. “We take this as a very serious matter,” Goodell said. “We’re dealing with a young man’s life.” He said Vick admitted lying to him about his involvement in dogfighting and apologized. Goodell said he accepts Vick’s apology. He acknowledged that he does not like being lied to but said he intends to move forward. The Humane Society of the United States has said Vick has offered to work with the organization on anti-dogfighting campaigns. Wayne Pacelle, the organization’s president, has said Vick was to work on programs aimed at preventing youths from getting involved in dogfighting and on programs to assist young people who have been involved.
In testimony before the bankruptcy judge, Vick acknowledged committing a “heinous” act and said he should have acted more maturely. “Your margin of error is extremely limited,” Goodell wrote to Vick. “I urge you to take full advantage of the resources available to support you and to dedicate yourself to rebuilding your life and your career. If you do this, the NFL will support you.”
GPs ‘poor at spotting depression’
GPs have difficulty spotting depression among their patients, a review of research suggests.The overview of studies involving more than 50,000 patients found substantial numbers were missed or wrongly identified as having depression. In fact, depression was more commonly misdiagnosed than correctly spotted following an initial consultation. The University of Leicester study, featured in the Lancet, suggests closer patient assessment is essential.
The researchers, who examined a total of 41 trials, found GPs were able to recognise only about half of people who had clinical depression. For a typical GP trying to spot depression in an urban practice and seeing 100 cases over two days, there would be 20 true cases of depression. The GP would correctly diagnose 10 people as depressed but miss about the same number with depression. Of the remaining 80 non-depressed patients, the GP would be likely to over-diagnose 15 people, and correctly reassure the other 65. In a rural setting, false-positive diagnoses of depression would outnumber correct diagnoses by three to one. The researchers calculated that in a typical practice, where 78% of patients see their GP during a 12 month period, about 12% would have clinical depression, and about half would be picked up. Of the remaining 66% of the population who are not depressed and consult their GP, up to 12% would be at risk of being misdiagnosed as depressed if GPs relied upon a single clinical assessment. Not enough timeThe researchers said GPs were better at picking up more severe depression. They said the fact that most consultations lasted only for a short time might be to blame, as patients may be reluctant to discuss their problems fully. The researchers said that if GPs evaluated people who might have depression over two appointments instead of one their diagnostic accuracy rate would rise to 90%. Writing in the journal, the researchers said: “Our results should not be interpreted as a criticism of GPs for failing to diagnose depression but rather a call for better understanding of the problems that non-specialists face.” Professor Peter Tyrer, an expert in depression at Imperial College London, said: “If the diagnosis of depression cannot be agreed satisfactorily by the best minds in psychiatry, why should we expect the general practitioner to be a reliable assessor of the condition?” Dr Andrew McCulloch, chief executive of the Mental Health Foundation, said: “Sadly, these results are not surprising. “GPs have too little time and sometimes too little training to always diagnose mental illness accurately, despite the fact that at least a third of their caseload will be mental-health related. “A proper process of clinical diagnosis will usually need longer than the few minutes available for a GP consultation. “We need to develop better primary mental health care by giving GPs more support and resources to help them in this vital role.” Paul Farmer, chief executive of mental health charity Mind, said: “While a high temperature is recognisable pretty quickly, mental wellbeing and mental distress are much harder to judge in a one-off meeting. “Spending longer with a patient, or seeing them over a number of appointments, could help improve diagnosing common mental health problems.” Mr Farmer said depression could be particularly difficult to spot in men, who often masked their symptoms through anger.
Australia offers swine flu test case
By Nick Bryant
BBC News, Sydney
Australia is currently living through what the northern hemisphere will soon have to confront: a winter with swine flu.Public health officials in countries like the UK and US are therefore looking upon Australia as a global case study, and seeing what lessons they can glean from the country’s handling of the pandemic. Distance offered no protection for this far-flung country, and swine flu reached its shores in early May. Since then, more than 40 people have died and more than 16,000 have been infected. There has been no sense of public panic, despite the fact that Melbourne for a time was dubbed the “swine flu capital of the world”, the city with the highest concentration of cases. With New Zealand hit first, Australia had a few crucial weeks to refine its response. It prepared public information adverts, warning people to be careful to wash their hands and quickly rolled out thermal-imaging cameras at international airports to try to identify air travellers arriving with the virus. If there was a vulnerability, it was at the ports. For a time, cruise passengers set foot in the country without being checked. Although a swimming meet was cancelled in June, sports fixtures have not been disrupted and neither have other public gatherings. People are going around wearing protective masks, and the swine flu outbreak has not even dominated the headlines in recent times, although it has received extensive coverage. Risk to AboriginesSome affected schools have been shut, because Australia has realised that children are the so-called “super-spreaders” of H1N1. Therein lies a lesson for the northern hemisphere, according to Professor Raina MacIntyre, from the University of New South Wales. “Shutting schools is probably the key non-pharmaceuticals intervention and social distancing intervention that can have an impact,” he said. “We’ve had controversy here about things like banning sports fixtures and mass gatherings, and so on. But they have less of an impact than school closures because children are one of the key reservoirs of infection and transmission.”
The vulnerable groups in Australia are similar to those elsewhere, she says: the young, pregnant women and the obese. But indigenous Australians have also been at particular risk, partly because so many Aborigines tend to suffer from underlying medical conditions, and the provision of healthcare is not as good in the Outback communities where many of them live. Then there is the problem of poor living conditions, which can accelerate the spread of the disease. Last week, Alf Lacey, the Mayor of Palm Island, off the Queensland coast, described how 15 residents were living in a three-bedroom house. It is thought 400 Palm Islanders have been infected out of a population of 3,500. Last week, a pregnant woman suffering from swine flu was airlifted off the island. She lost her unborn child. Vaccine trialsElsewhere in Australia, intensive care units have come under a lot of pressure, and there has been a heightened demand for last-resort cardiac bypass machines which oxygenate the blood in cases where the lungs are particularly badly diseased or damaged. One hospital in Sydney reported that it normally treats about five patients a year using these ECMO machines, as they are called. In the past few weeks alone, it has treated double that number. Last week, Australia started human trials of a swine flu vaccine in Melbourne and Adelaide, the first in the world. It is hoped that the vaccine will be available by October, and the Australian government has already ordered 21 million doses. The companies developing the vaccine are also looking to sell it abroad. By then, it will be springtime in Australia. But one of the lessons this country has learnt from the northern hemisphere is that swine flu can spread even at the height of summer.
Dairy for children ‘extends life’
Children who eat plenty of dairy foods such as milk and cheese can expect to live longer, a study suggests.Some 4,374 UK children from a 1930s study were traced 65 years later by researchers in Bristol and Queensland. They found those who had had high dairy and calcium intakes as children had been protected against stroke and other causes of death, journal Heart reports. Despite dairy containing artery furring fat and cholesterol, high consumption did not raise the heart disease risk. The findings appear to back the practice of giving extra milk to schoolchildren. ProtectiveThe study looked at family diets and found higher intakes of both calcium and dairy, predominantly from milk, cut mortality by a quarter. A higher daily intake of calcium, of at least 400mg as found in just over half a pint of milk, cut the chance of dying from stroke by as much as 60%.
These beneficial effects were seen at estimated intake levels similar to those currently recommended by experts. Three servings of dairy foods – for example, a 200ml glass of milk, a pot of yogurt and a small piece of cheese – will provide all the calcium most people need each day. Other factors may play a part – though researchers say they took into account that children with the highest dairy intakes came from wealthier families and ate better diets overall – but there is evidence that high calcium intake is good for blood pressure. BalanceProlonged high blood pressure increases the risk of stroke. Dairy consumption may also influence heart and circulation health through a hormone called insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), say the study authors from the UK’s University of Bristol and Australia’s Queensland Institute of Medical Research. In adults, high circulating levels of IGF-1 are linked with reduced cases of heart failure and heart disease deaths. Joanne Murphy of The Stroke Association said: “This is an interesting study, but we need to take a further look to really assess the benefits of milk in reducing the chances of dying from stroke. “In the meantime, we advise parents to opt for a diet rich in fruit and vegetables and low in saturated fat and salt for the overall health of their children.” June Davison, cardiac nurse for the British Heart Foundation said: “It is important to include dairy as part of a balanced diet from the early years. “However, older children and adults should consume low-fat dairy products such as semi-skimmed, 1% or skimmed milk and low-fat yogurts, which will help keep saturated fat intake low to help protect the heart.” Studies investigating a link between cancer and dairy products have not given clear results. Some research shows an increase in the risk of developing cancer, and some shows a decrease.
When lawmakers return home for recess in August, they can expect to hear tough questions from constituents on the economy, health care and government spending.
But Republicans are preparing for something else: the birthers.
As GOP Rep. Mike Castle learned the hard way back home in Delaware this month, there’s no easy way to deal with the small but vocal crowd of right-wing activists who refuse to believe that President Barack Obama was born in the United States.
At a town hall meeting in Georgetown, a woman demanded to know why Castle and his colleagues were “ignoring” questions about Obama’s birth certificate — questions that have been put to rest repeatedly by state officials in Hawaii, where the birth certificate and all other credible evidence show that Obama was born in Honolulu on Aug. 4, 1961.
When Castle countered that Obama is, in fact, “a citizen of the United States,” the crowd erupted in boos, the woman seized control of the gathering and led a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. The video went viral; by Sunday, it had been viewed on YouTube more than half a million times.
And birthers say members should expect more of the same in the coming weeks.
“Absolutely,” says California resident Orly Taitz, the Russian-born attorney/dentist who has become a kind of ringleader for the movement. “It is a very important issue, one that politicians should have taken up a long time ago.”
Moments after speaking with POLITICO Saturday, Taitz posted a call to arms on her blog:
“I believe it is a serious concern and I hope that each and every decent American comes to town hall meetings with a video camera and demands action,” she wrote.
Having seen his colleague Castle come under attack, Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.) is taking no chances.
“Before I got back to Michigan before the break, we’ll go through it, so that we’re versed in it,” Hoekstra said recently. “Just like anything else, if you see a hot issue … it’s sort of like, ‘Let me go take a look at this and see what the status is.’”
Hoekstra believes there’s no “compelling case” questioning Obama’s origins. But after talking to Castle about his town hall, he knows that he’d better be ready with an answer.
The trick: What do you say?
Of the various approaches a put-on-the-spot pol can take, each carries its own risk of alienating constituents. Pick up a pitchfork in the cause of this conspiracy theory, and you risk damaging your reputation in the mainstream while aligning yourself with a movement some regard as having racist undertones.
Rep. John Campbell (R-Calif.), co-sponsor of legislation that would force candidates to show their birth certificates, was widely mocked after he told MSNBC’s Chris Matthews that Obama is a U.S. citizen — “as far as I know.”
However, members who decide to challenge the conspiracy theory, as Castle did mildly, risk ticking off a shrill minority who can upend their events and then post the video on the Web.
And those who try to split the difference may find themselves getting doubly burned.
At a Wyoming town hall in April, birthers jumped on freshman Republican Rep. Cynthia Lummis.
“I’m not questioning your concern,” Lummis told the crowd, according to the Wyoming Eagle Tribune. “I am questioning whether there is credible evidence.”
The congresswoman ended up asking for anyone who had “evidence” to send it to her.
At a walk-in meeting in Sen. Tom Coburn’s Washington office, birthers gave the Oklahoma Republican’s chief of staff nine pages of documentation in support of their claims. The group later billed the meeting a success on one of Taitz’s blogs.
But when asked about the meeting, Coburn spokesman Don Tatro said that the office was simply trying to be “polite” and that “it is possible to mistake politeness for agreement.”
According to his office, Colorado Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn has received 33 inquiries about Obama’s origins, with 10 coming in over the past week.
So far, Hoekstra hasn’t faced any such questions.
“When you’re in a state with 15.2 percent unemployment,” he said, “most people have other things on their mind than this.”
But as if to illustrate the touchiness of the subject, Hoekstra quickly added: “Not that this isn’t important.”
Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) has also tried to find the elusive middle ground.
“They have a point,” he said of the birthers last week. “I don't discourage it. … But I'm going to pursue defeating [Obama] on things that I think are very destructive to America.”
Inhofe put out a statement Monday clarifying his comment:
“The point that they make is the Constitutional mandate that the U.S. president be a natural born citizen, and the White House has not done a very good job of dispelling the concerns of these citizens,” he said. “My focus is on issues where I can make a difference to stop the liberal agenda being pushed by President Obama.”
Out-party politicians have long had to deal with conspiracy theorists on their side — the people who think that the Clintons killed Vince Foster or that the Bush administration helped orchestrate the Sept. 11 attacks.
“Twenty-five percent of my people believe the Pentagon and Rumsfeld were responsible for taking the twin towers down,” said Rep. Collin Peterson, a Democrat who represents a conservative Republican district in Minnesota. “That’s why I don’t do town meetings.”
But the birther phenomenon may present a bigger challenge — a potent blend of race and politics, fueled by conservative TV and radio pundits, and played out in a day when all that stands between a town hall meeting and Web omnipresence is a 100 flip cam.
Republican pollster Whit Ayers says that a member confronted with birther questions should immediately pivot the conversation back to big issues.
“You simply indicate that in a country where our fiscal policy is driving us toward bankruptcy, where we are wrestling with major issues of health care reform and fighting two wars for our safety, you don’t have time to deal with wild conspiracy theories,” he says.
That’s the approach House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence of Indiana takes.
“On that issue, I’m pretty distinctive that the president is from Hawaii,” he said. “I just don’t know where he’s coming from on health care.”
Such a response might satisfy many, or even most, but Taitz says that until Obama is removed from office, America’s other problems cannot be addressed. The fact that a few members of Congress have taken up her cause, with 10 Republicans signing onto Floria Republican Rep. Bill Posey’s legislation to amend the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, has only encouraged her to buckle down in the fight.
As Taitz sees it, Campbell, who represents her congressional district in Southern California, was moved to co-sponsor the “Birthers’ bill” for fear of people like her.
Campbell spokesperson Muffy Lewis flatly denied that being the case, saying the issue of Obama’s birth certificate is a low priority in the congressman’s district. Plus, Campbell has stressed that the bill would apply only to future candidates — and is really just about avoiding these kinds of controversies in the future.
“It really wasn’t as much about constituents as it was his own principles,” said Lewis. “He thought it was a common-sense bill. Castle had a major issue [in his district], but it hasn’t been much of an issue in ours.”
But Taitz said that lawmakers everywhere should be prepared to “resign or be removed” if they “do not have the guts to stand for the Constitution and this country.”
Asked whether Republican lawmakers should be “afraid” of the birthers, Taitz said: “I wouldn’t say the word ‘afraid.’ I think they should be willing to resign or be removed. That is what they should do. … Resign if you do not have the guts to stand for the Constitution of this country.”
Taitz has made nine trips around the country to rally support for her cause. In March, she traveled to Washington to personally hand out packets of documents to senators in the Hart Senate Office Building. Additionally, she says she has sent documents by certified mail to each of the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, arguing that Obama is “totally illegitimate to be president.”
While the movement could be “politically threatening for particular Republicans,” Taitz says that the GOP as a whole has a chance to gain from it if it takes the right course of action.
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TOMS RIVER, N.J. – A man has been charged with drunken driving following a New Jersey shore car accident that killed an “American Idol” contestant whose angry rejection rant became an Internet sensation.
Daniel Bark appeared Monday in state Superior Court on charges of reckless driving and leaving the scene of an accident. Prosecutors say the charges have been upgraded to aggravated manslaughter and drunken driving.
Defense attorney David Glassman says Bark and his family are distraught over the death of former “Idol” singer Alexis Cohen.
Cohen was struck by a vehicle Saturday in the tiny shore town Seaside Heights. The 24-year-old Allentown, Pa., resident is best known for the Internet viral video of her tirade after being rejected by judges during the top-rated Fox show’s seventh season.
Information from: Asbury Park Press, http://www.app.com
MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (Reuters) –
Muslim rebels on Monday expanded their attack on Nigerian security forces to three northern states, with at least 80 people dead in two days of clashes, security sources said.
Gun battles between police and members of a local Islamic group, which wants a wider adoption of Islamic law across Nigeria, were reported in Yobe, Kano and Borno states.
The attacks came a day after more than 50 people were killed in neighboring Bauchi state. The violence was not connected to unrest in the oil-producing Niger Delta in the south.
The four northern states are among the 12 of Nigeria's 36 states that started a stricter enforcement of sharia in 2000 — a decision that has alienated sizeable Christian minorities and sparked bouts of sectarian violence that killed thousands.
A senior member of the rebel group Boko Haram, which opposes Western education and demands the adoption of sharia law in all of Nigeria, threatened further attacks.
“We do not believe in Western education. It corrupts our ideas and beliefs. That is why we are standing up to defend our religion,” Abdulmuni Ibrahim Mohammed told Reuters after his arrest in Kano state.
“Even if I'm arrested, there are more out there to do the job.”
The government estimates 55 have been killed in the two days of fighting, but estimates from security sources and residents add up to at least 80.
President Umaru Yar'Adua ordered heightened security in the affected regions and directed police to take all necessary action to contain and repel the militants.
More than 200 ethnic groups generally live peacefully side by side in the West African country, although civil war left 1 million people dead between 1967 and 1970 and there have been bouts of religious unrest since then.
Members of the Boko Haram set several churches, a police station and a prison ablaze in Maiduguri, the state capital of Borno, residents said.
A Reuters reporter said he saw at least 20 bodies laid out on the street as his family was evacuating among hundreds of others. Gunshots and explosions could be heard throughout the city.
“The (militants) are right now moving into town. Riot police and soldiers are everywhere, but the boys are not afraid of them,” said Gana Marari, another resident of Maiduguri.
In northern Yobe and Kano states, clashes between rebels and security forces killed at least four and injured 10. A Kano police spokesman said officers had arrested more than 100 gunmen.
Boko Haram, which means “education illegal,” began its string of attacks in the northeastern city of Bauchi on Sunday after the arrest of some of its members.
More than 50 Nigerians were killed and more than 100 arrested in those clashes, prompting the Bauchi state governor to impose a night-time curfew on the state capital city. There were no reports of violence in Bauchi on Monday.
US turns off Havana news ticker
A news ticker which broadcast from the US offices in the Cuban capital, angering authorities, has been turned off, American officials say.The 1.5m-high (five-foot) ticker ran across 25 windows in the US diplomatic mission in Havana, streaming news. Cuban authorities had attempted to block it from view by erecting placards and a forest of flags. The decision to turn off the ticker comes as the US seeks to improve relations with Cuba. ‘Bill-board battle’The ticker was turned on by former US President George W Bush in 2006, prompting what came to be known as “the battle of the billboards”. The ticker so angered Cuba’s Fidel Castro that he accused the US offices of becoming the “headquarters of the counter-revolution”. He also ordered a million people to march around the mission in protest. A US state department spokesman, Ian Kelly, announced on Monday that the ticker had been turned off because it was “really not very effective as a means of delivering information to the Cuban people”. “It was evident that the Cuban people weren’t even able to read the billboard because of some of the obstructions that were put in front of it,” he said. He added that President Barack Obama’s decision to allow US communications companies to do business with Cuba would bolster the flow of information to the island. Earlier in July, US and Cuban officials held their first talks since 2003 on Cuban migration to the US.
HAVANA (Reuters) –
The United States has turned off a news ticker at its diplomatic mission in Havana that long had irritated the Cuban government, the U.S. State Department said on Monday, in another sign of efforts to improve relations with Cuba.
The five-foot-high (1.5-meter) news ticker ran across 25 windows on the outside of the fifth floor of the U.S. diplomatic mission's building on Havana's busy seaside Malecon drive. It streamed news, political statements and messages blaming Cuba's problems on the country's communist system and socialist economy.
The ticker infuriated Cuban President Fidel Castro when it was turned on by former U.S. President George W. Bush's administration in 2006. President Raul Castro took over from ailing elder brother Fidel last year.
After the United States launched the ticker, Cuba erected obstructions so it could not be seen and put up anti-U.S. billboards. Cuba took down those billboards earlier this year.
State Department spokesman Ian Kelly told reporters in Washington that the news ticker was turned off in June.
Kelly said the ticker was “really not effective as a means of delivering information to the Cuban people” and, together with the earlier Cuban billboards, was “not serving the interests of promoting a more productive relationship.”
“It was evident that the Cuban people weren't even able to read the billboard because of some obstructions that were put in front of it,” Kelly said.
The turn-off of the news ticker comes amid moves by U.S. President Barack Obama to ease nearly half a century of enmity between the United States and Cuba following Fidel Castro's 1959 revolution.
“Like other Bush initiatives, (the ticker) caused lots of fanfare in Miami (home to many Cuban-Americans) and very little impact in Cuba, and President Obama is right to bury it,” said Phil Peters, a Cuba expert at the U.S.-based Lexington Institute think tank.
The United States broke diplomatic relations with Cuba in 1961, but since 1977 the two countries have maintained Interests Sections — diplomatic operations that are not full embassies — in each other's capitals.
Earlier this month, U.S. and Cuban officials held their first talks since 2003 on Cuban migration to the United States, a step U.S. officials said showed Washington's desire to engage constructively with the communist-ruled island. They also discussed how to ease restrictions on their diplomats traveling outside Havana and Washington.
The Obama administration this year also lifted restrictions on Cuban-Americans traveling to the Caribbean island and sending remittances to family members.
But Obama has made clear he will keep in place the 47-year-old trade embargo against Cuba until the Cuban leadership moves to improve political and human rights.
Cuba has expressed an interest in broadening the immigration talks to include drug trafficking, human smuggling and disaster preparedness.
The U.S. Interests Section news ticker in Havana often sought to cast blame for everyday problems experienced by Cubans on the communist authorities.
“Some go around in Mercedes, some in Ladas (a Russian car), but the system forces almost everyone to hitch rides,” read one message, playing on a common complaint that there are few buses and that Cubans need government permission to buy a new car.
Furious about the ticker, Fidel Castro accused the U.S. mission of becoming “headquarters of the counterrevolution,” which he said violated diplomatic protocol.
He ordered a parking lot in front of the building to be dug up and 100-foot-high (30.5 meter-high) flags installed to block the ticker from view.
He also marched a million people by the mission in protest, erected billboards around it depicting Bush as allied with anti-Castro terrorists and decreed there would be no more contact with U.S. diplomats in Havana as long as the ticker remained on.
(Additional reporting by Tim Gaynor in Washington; Editing by Pascal Fletcher and Will Dunham)
Sharp jump in US new home sales
The annual rate of US new home sales jumped 11% in June, government figures have shown, a further indication that the housing sector is over the worst.The Commerce Department said sales hit a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 384,000 in June, against an upwardly-adjusted rate of 346,000 in May. June’s sales figure was the strongest pace seen since November 2008. However, the median sale price was 206,200 (125,000), down 5.8% from May and 12% lower than a year ago. Growth hopesNew home sales have now risen for three months in a row. “The data will reinforce the developing thinking that housing market has bottomed and that economy has stabilised and will grow in the third quarter,” Jim Awad, managing director at Zephyr Management in New York, told Reuters. Last week, the National Association of Realtors said that sales of previously-owned US homes had risen for the third month in a row in June, and at a quicker rate than expected. However, it also found that prices remained depressed, with prices still down 15.4% on a year ago with the average sale price at 181,000.
US rules on abusive short selling
US stock market regulators have made permanent a rule aimed at reducing abusive short-selling.The emergency rule on “naked short-selling” was introduced at the height of last year’s market turmoil, and was due to expire on Friday. Short-sellers usually borrow shares, sell them, then buy them back when the stock falls and return them to the lender keeping the difference in price. “Naked” short selling is when sellers do not even borrow the shares. The US the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) acknowledges that short selling can help limit market bubbles in individual shares. But it has been concerned that the practice can also be used to manipulate the market. ‘Abuse’ reducedThe rule now made permanent includes a requirement that brokers must promptly buy or borrow securities to deliver on a short sale. The SEC says this has helped to reduce what it calls “abusive, naked short-selling”, by more than 50% in an eight-month test period. US politicians have put pressure on the SEC to curb trading moves they believe worsened the market downturn. However, some analysts in the securities industry warn that the new regulation on naked short-selling could have negative consequences, such as wilder price swings and market turbulence. In a related move, the SEC says it is working on new approaches to reining in rushes of short-selling that can cause dramatic plunges in stock prices.
Farc camps ‘had Swedish weapons’
Officials in Sweden are investigating reports that Swedish weapons were found in camps of Colombia’s Farc rebels.The Colombian government says it believes the rocket launchers had originally been bought by Venezuela. Defence journal Jane’s Intelligence Weekly reported last week that weapons thought to have been sold by Sweden to Venezuela were found in a Farc camp. Venezuelan officials said the latest reports were a “media show” aimed at harming their country. A political adviser to the Swedish ministry of commerce told AFP news agency that Sweden was calling on Venezuela to explain how the weapons ended up in a Farc camp. “We have asked the officials of the government of Venezuela to give us information on how they believe this material was found in Colombia,” said Jens Eriksson. Jan-Erik Lovgren, of the Swedish Inspectorate for Strategic Products, told Radio Sweden that the country had not exported weapons to Venezuela since 2006. Anti-tank weaponsOn Monday, Colombian Vice President Francisco Santos said the anti-tank rocket launchers seized from the Farc had been purchased by Venezuela in Europe. “In several operations in which we have recovered weapons… we have found powerful ammunition (and) powerful equipment, including anti-tank weapons which a European country sold to Venezuela and which turned up in the hands of the Farc,” he told Colombia’s Caracol radio. In response, the Venezuelan interior minister, Tareck El Aissami, said the allegations that weapons bought by Venezuela had ended up in rebel hands were a “media show”. “It’s part of a campaign against our people, our government and our institutions,” he said. On Sunday, Colombian President Alvaro Uribe criticised nations which sold weapons that ended up in the hands of guerrillas, but he did not name any individual countries. Colombia has fallen out with its neighbours in the past over suspected links to the Farc movement. Colombia and Ecuador broke off diplomatic ties last year after Colombian troops raided a Farc base just over the Ecuadorean border.
Barack Obama did not herald in a “post-racial America.” In fact, the trope betrayed how we confine race to superficial terms. It's the same reason Stephen Colbert has made a standing joke of not being able to “see color.” Color is with us. And we cannot get past race by not directly looking at it.
Obama's presence has empowered us to take that look. Obama has not changed how we experience race. But he is changing how we see and talk about it.
In Depth: 8 Things Americans Believe in 2009
In Pictures: 8 Handshakes That Changed History
We are beginning to value sincerity more than sensitivity. Though not without friction, race seems to be leaving the politically correct era. The emphasis on anesthetic rhetoric dulled raw emotions. And we were left with guarded conversations about race that were skin deep.
Eric Holder seemed to try, in part, to make this point. Earlier this year, the first black attorney general said that the United States is “a nation of cowards” when discussing race. It was a controversial remark and poorly expressed. It was also honest.
But Holder's side of the debate was also a significant bully. Liberals' good fight to sensitize us, and therefore our language, reached exaggerated terms by the 1990s. We came to experience a whistle-prone refereeing of language. The penalties became as prolific as they were pernicious. Many Americans soon decided to avoid full-contact topics, none more than race.
Then Obama happened. With him we've had: the Rev. Jeremiah Wright debate, Holder's words, the Ricci affirmative action case and now the Henry Louis Gates Jr. incident. Americans appear to be talking about race in more honest terms.
The irony of the first black president was always his effort to avoid the subject of race. Obama's hand was forced by Wright's controversial sermons. Obama's acclaimed race speech followed. But soon we saw that while Obama called for a conversation about race, he was as silent on the subject as possible. Obama's circle believed he could not be typecast as a black candidate and also become the first black president.
Last week, Obama ignored that script for the first time. He made his most sincere remark about race since his speech, now more than a year ago. Obama spoke not as a president who happens to be black, but as a president who is also a black man.
Obama was not framing other people's racial prism. He exhibited it. The Vulcan was refreshingly human, and his voice resonates all the more for it.
This latest incident began with an eminent black Harvard scholar of black culture, Henry Louis Gates Jr. Gates was locked out of his own home. A neighbor saw what looked like men breaking into Gates' home. It was Gates. But when cops confronted Gates there was confrontation, and Gates was eventually arrested.
The incident was between a black man and a white policeman. And therefore, many commentators first instinct was to explain the incident in racial terms. And so was the president's.
Obama said the Cambridge officers “acted stupidly” in arresting Gates. He spoke of Gates as a metaphor for the national problem of racial profiling.
But Obama was also racial profiling in the broader sense. Obama presumed that the color of those involved explained the outcome. It fit a common narrative. But then we discovered a black cop was also present. We learned the white officer had taught a racial profiling class for five years and once gave mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to save the life of black basketball star Reggie Lewis.
Obama walked back the comments by week's end. He said the uproar caused by his remarks was “unfortunate” and agreed to the idea to invite the white cop and the scholar for a beer. It was a good recovery for a bad fumble. But we were better for the discussion.
Obama advanced the conversation not by framing both sides of the race-divide, but by personally exhibiting a product of that divide.
Initially, there was an unhealthy Disney narrative to Obama's historic candidacy. Obama was being celebrated for what he said about us–that nearly all white Iowa made him a contender or that a black man could be president.
The Wright debacle first forced us to face the other side of the story. Obama's historic significance evoked the dreams deferred before him. And those scars lingered. The debate over Wright was sometimes was ugly or simplistic. But we were at least having it.
As months went on in the campaign, whites were beginning to feel more unburdened with Obama. They felt the weight of a racist history lifting. Obama is the ultimate icon of black male success, an affirmation of meritocracy. And blacks had more reason to believe in that meritocracy because of Obama. But the converse was also true.
Obama's success has led us to examine potentially racist incidents more closely. Each incident reminds us that racial America did not end with the 43 white men who preceded him.
So we now talk more about race. Sometimes it will be black and white. Sometimes not. Even this president can slip into racial generalizations. But the talk feels more authentic and useful.
Gates was therefore not a reminder that the idea of a “post-racial America” is a myth. It was a reminder that Obama's success has allowed for the myth. And when reality competes with that myth, we are still ultimately left with a more substantial conversation on race in American life.
In Pictures: 8 Handshakes That Changed History
LONDON, EnglandA 23-year-old British student has designed a “super-green superyacht” built using only sustainable materials and which produces virtually no carbon emissions.
600sq/m of solar panels and three giant “wings” mean”Soliloquy” can run on wind energy or solar power.more photos »
“Soliloquy’s” unique eco-luxury design allows the boat to run on two different sources of sustainable energy by incorporating 600 square meters of solar panels on the exterior of the boat and giant rigid “wings” that function like sails. Although the 58-meter boat has yet to be built, it would be able to run either on wind energy via the wings, solar power supplied by the panels or a combination of the two. An equivalent-sized superyacht burns anywhere between 250 and 600 liters of marine diesel per hour, depending on speed and fuel efficiency, and emits three times that in CO2 emissions. Some of the biggest SUVs on the road burn around 20 liters of fuel per hour. Both the panels and wings on the vessel can fold up or completely stretch out depending on which energy source is in use, changing the yacht’s shape. “I wanted to prove that eco-luxury no longer has to be an oxymoron and doesn’t have to make a yacht more expensive,” designer Alastair Callender, a life-long sailing fanatic, told CNN. See more images of super-yacht Soliloquy »
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“My generation is passionate about the planet and we’ve got to do all we can so that the earth can sustain us,” he added. “At the same time, however, I am also passionate about superyachts.” Soliloquy is projected to cost approximately 60 to 65 million to buildsimilar in cost to conventional superyachts of its size. Callender is currently in talks with potential owners to have the vessel built. The wider superyacht community is enthused about the potential of his design and he has also been invited to speak about his ever-evolving, eco-vessel in Abu Dhabi and Monaco. Callender was originally inspired by famed architect David Fishers’ design for a “constantly moving” tower in Dubai. “That’s how the idea of an ever-evolving superyacht startedwith the three wings that can independently rotate through 360 degrees,” Callender explained. Do you like the look of Soliloquy? Tell us in the Sound Off box below
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Callender designed “Soliloquy” during his final year studying at Coventry University in England. He approached a local engineering company, Visioneering, to help construct an intricately detailed scale model. At first, some at Visioneering were taken aback by Callender’s young age. “But the idea was innovative and sometimes younger people can bring on board really fresh, new ideas,” said Adrian Coppin of Visioneering. “He also has a lot of experience in the yachting industry.” Callender says his passion comes from a childhood spent in Portsmouth, England: “I grew up near a harbor, 200 meters away from my sailing club.” After school, Callender went to Greece for six months to teach sailing. He then worked with some of the big yacht design companies, including that of his mentor, Andrew Winch.
He now feels confident that with a good business plan, his project will become reality. “There are hundreds of extremely rich families who invest in green technology and until now have not wanted to buy yachts because they produce too many carbon emissions,” he said. “But with a yacht like Soliloquy, I think they may consider it.”
NEW YORK – Michael Vick was reinstated by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on Monday and could play in regular-season games as early as October.
Vick can immediately participate in preseason practices, workouts and meetings and can play in the final two preseason games — if he can find a team that will sign him. A number of teams have already said they would not.
“Needless to say, your margin for error is extremely limited,” Goodell said in a letter to Vick. “I urge you to take full advantage of the resources available to support you and to dedicate yourself to rebuilding your life and your career. If you do this, the NFL will support you.”
Goodell suspended Vick indefinitely in August 2007 after the former Atlanta Falcons quarterback admitted bankrolling the “Bad Newz Kennels” dogfighting operation. Goodell said then that Vick must show remorse and signs that he has changed before he would consider reinstating him.
“I accept that you are sincere when you say that you want to, and will, turn your life around, and that you intend to be a positive role model for others,” Goodell added. “I am prepared to offer you that opportunity. Whether you succeed is entirely in your hands.”
Once the season begins, Vick may participate in all team activities except games, and Goodell said he would consider Vick for full reinstatement by Week 6 (Oct. 18-19).
Goodell called a news conference for late Monday afternoon.
“I would like to express my sincere gratitude and appreciation to commissioner Goodell for allowing me to be readmitted to the National Football League,” Vick said through agent Joel Segal. “I fully understand that playing football in the NFL is a privilege, not a right, and I am truly thankful for the opportunity I have been given.
“As you can imagine, the last two years have given me time to re-evaluate my life, mature as an individual and fully understand the terrible mistakes I have made in the past and what type of life I must lead moving forward.
“Again, I want to thank the commissioner for the chance to return to the game I love and the opportunity to become an example of positive change.”
The announcement came after a busy first week of freedom for Vick, who met with union leaders and Goodell on consecutive days last week. His 23-month federal sentence ended when an electronic monitor was removed from his ankle early on July 20 at his home in Hampton, Va.
He met with DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the NFL Players Association, last Tuesday and, on Wednesday, he sat down with Goodell at a security firm in Allendale, N.J.
But his issues are far from over. Already, the owners of the New York Giants and New York Jets said they have no interest in the 29-year-old quarterback, who once was the league’s highest-paid player.
Vick needs to find a team so he can get himself out of financial ruin. He filed for bankruptcy protection last July, listing assets of about 16 million and debts of more than 20 million, and has a hearing about his plan to repay his creditors on Friday in Norfolk, Va. That plan is built around his ability to make NFL-type money again.
He’s unlikely to command anything close to the 10-year, 130 million contract he once had with the Falcons, or to get endorsement deals after the grisly details of his involvement in the dogfighting ring.
Vick finally pleaded guilty after his three co-defendants had already done so. They told of how Vick participated in the killing of dogs that didn’t perform well in test fights by shooting, hanging, drowning or slamming them to the ground.
Vick’s appearances at federal court in Richmond, Va., all came with large groups of protestors outside. Many were with PETA and held signs depicting photographs of Pit Bulls ravaged in dogfights and decrying the brutality in the gruesome details that emerged in the case.
A smaller group came to show support for Vick wearing jerseys with his No. 7.
Vick has already taken some steps to begin rebuilding his image and showing remorse.
He met with the president of the Humane Society of the United States while serving the first 18 months of his federal sentence in the prison at Leavenworth, Kan. He plans to work with HSUS in a program designed to steer inner city youth away from dogfighting. He was not permitted to work with the program while in custody.
“It’s been a long process,” Segal said. “He’s thrilled for the opportunity to resume his playing career. He understands he has a lot to prove.”
AP Sports Writer Hank Kurz in Richmond, Va., contributed to this story.
ALEXANDRIA, Va. – A U.S. man who became an al-Qaida terrorist while attending college in Saudi Arabia and plotted to assassinate then-President George W. Bush was defiant Monday as he was sentenced to life in prison.
An appeals court had overturned the original 30-year sentence for Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, 28, who was born in Houston and grew up in the Washington suburb of Falls Church. He was convicted in 2005 of joining al-Qaida while studying in Saudi Arabia in 2002. Abu Ali met with top al-Qaida leaders in Saudi Arabia and discussed establishing a sleeper cell in the United States.
“I would like to remind you that you too will appear before the divine tribunal with me and everyone else,” he said in a brief statement to U.S. District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee. “That day there will be no lawyers … If you are comfortable with that, you can decree what you will.”
Last year, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond ordered a new sentencing hearing, saying Lee’s original sentence was too lenient.
The appeals court ruled Lee was off the mark in comparing Abu Ali’s case to that of “American Taliban” John Walker Lindh, who made a plea deal and was sentenced to 20 years. The appeals court said Abu Ali’s conduct was far worse — he joined al-Qaida after the Sept. 11 attacks, while Lindh joined prior to 9/11, and Abu Ali specifically sought to attack the U.S., while Lindh only sought to fight in Afghanistan.
Lee said Monday the new sentence takes into account that Abu Ali has never renounced al-Qaida or terrorist activities, and that he could be a threat to the American public if released. Abu Ali has been in solitary confinement at a federal prison in Florence, Colo.
“There’s no way to know what his mental state would be after 30 years of solitary confinement,” Lee said.
Abu Ali appeared in court in a prison jumpsuit and with long, slicked-back black hair and a beard. He repeated claims that he was tortured by Saudi authorities into giving a confession.
“This was a case manufactured by the Saudi torture regime and expedited to the United States for trial,” he said.
Lee said he had held a lengthy hearing to decide whether Abu Ali’s videotaped confession should be thrown out and the judge, a jury and an appeals court all concluded it was voluntary.
Abu Ali received training to carry out the assassination plot and other terrorist acts, according to testimony. He was arrested by Saudi authorities during a crackdown on al-Qaida there in 2003.
Abu Ali was valedictorian of a private Islamic high school in Falls Church and he has received significant support from segments of the region’s Muslim community. At Monday’s hearing, Lee pointed to a folder stuffed with letters testifying to Abu Ali’s good character.
Abu Ali’s father, Omar, declined comment after Monday’s resentencing.
Defense lawyer Joshua Dratel said he will appeal the sentence. Dratel said he hoped that Abu Ali’s statement did not persuade the judge to impose a life sentence.
David Laufman, who as an assistant U.S. attorney prosecuted Abu Ali in 2005 and is now in private practice, questioned whether Abu Ali talked himself into a life sentence at the hearing Monday.
“Abu Ali’s utter refusal to express even a scintilla of remorse for his conduct or a repudiation of his association with al-Qaida clearly contributed to the court’s determination,” Laufman said. “What did come out today was that this is a hard-core jihadist.”
Phase 2 has begun. Six weeks after millions took to the streets to protest Iran’s presidential election, their uprising has morphed into a feistier, more imaginative and potentially enduring campaign.
The second phase plays out in a boycott of goods advertised on state-controlled television. Just try buying a certain brand of dairy product, an Iranian human-rights activist told me, and the person behind you in line is likely to whisper, “Don’t buy that. It’s from an advertiser.” It includes calls to switch on every electric appliance in the house just before the evening TV news to trip up Tehran’s grid. It features quickie “blitz” street demonstrations, lasting just long enough to chant “Death to the dictator!” several times but short enough to evade security forces. It involves identifying paramilitary Basij vigilantes linked to the crackdown and putting marks in green – the opposition color – or pictures of protest victims in front of their homes. It is scribbled antiregime slogans on money. And it is defiant drivers honking horns, flashing headlights and waving V signs at security forces. (See pictures of Iran’s presidential election and its turbulent aftermath.)
The tactics are unorganized, largely leaderless and only just beginning. They spread by e-mail, websites and word of mouth. But their variety and scope indicate that Iran’s uprising is not a passing phenomenon like the student protests of 1999, which were quickly quashed. This time, Iranians are rising above their fears. Although embryonic, today’s public resolve is reminiscent of civil disobedience in colonial India before independence or in the American Deep South in the 1960s. Mohandas Gandhi once mused that “even the most powerful cannot rule without the cooperation of the ruled.” That quotation is now popular on Iranian websites.
Its impact varies, but Phase 2 has begun to exact a price from those who ignore the popular will. Fatemeh Haghighatjoo, a former member of parliament, told me that some companies have cut back on TV advertising, and some stores have dropped advertised brands. A new boycott of text messaging could be costing a state company more than 1 million a day. “There is optimism that protests will continue one way or another,” says Farideh Farhi, an Iranian analyst at the University of Hawaii, “because people who are normally not rabblerousers are finding ways to counter the government crackdown.”
The new camaraderie of resistance was visible at the July 17 Friday prayer sermon given by former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani at Tehran University. Nonreligious Iranians turned up for political reasons. The devout showed them how to carry out the rituals, with strangers handing out newspapers as substitute prayer mats for overflow crowds. Men and women prayed together, a regime taboo. When Rafsanjani referred to detainees, the crowd interrupted by roaring, “Political prisoners must be freed!” Calling for support of Iran’s Supreme Leader, who backed the crackdown, another prayer official intoned, “We are all your soldiers, Khamenei! We await your orders!” But supporters of defeated presidential candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi shouted back, “We are your soldiers, Mousavi! We await your orders!” And when told to shout “Down with America!” the crowd instead chanted “Down with Russia!” – whose leaders had congratulated President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on his re-election and hosted him four days later. (See pictures of people around the world protesting Iran’s election.)
The protests tap into a long Iranian tradition. The seeds of the 1905-11 Constitutional Revolution – which produced Iran’s first parliament and constitution – were planted in the Tobacco Protest of the 19th century, when even women in the royal harem stopped smoking their water pipes to protest an exclusive concession given by the Shah to a British company. Protests, strikes and boycotts prevented Iran from becoming a British protectorate in 1920, secured the reappointment of reformist Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh in 1952 and – most significant of all – ended 2,500 years of dynastic rule in 1979 and ushered in the Islamic Republic.
The current uprising is nowhere near as widespread as that of 1979. Yet the activism is creating a new political space in Iran. The public is defining its own agenda, with Rafsanjani, Mousavi and other opposition figures responding to sentiment on the street rather than directing it. After meeting on July 20 with the families of people detained following the election, Mousavi warned the power structure, “You are facing something new: an awakened nation, a nation that has been born again and is here to defend its achievements.”
As Iran’s second phase of protests takes shape, the regime’s future may depend on whether it heeds that warning.
See pictures of health care in Tehran.
See pictures of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s supporters on LIFE.com.
View this article on Time.comRelated articles on Time.com: Beaten Back, Iran’s Opposition Looks to Reform from Within In Iran, New Demonstrations Bring New Violence After a Disputed Election, Tehran’s Streets Become a Battleground On Scene: Among the Protesters in Tehran Don’t Assume Ahmadinejad Really Lost
Tour de France winner Alberto Contador has launched a stinging attack on Astana teammate Lance Armstrong after returning as a hero to his native town of Pinto near Madrid.
Lance Armstrong (right) looks on after Alberto Contador is handed the Tour de France trophy in Paris.
Contador told a news conference that relations between the two riders were tense throughout the race, making the atmosphere very difficult for the team as a whole. “My relationship with Lance Armstrong is non-existent. Even if he is a great champion, I have never had admiration for him and I never will,” the 26-year-old Spaniard admitted. “It was a delicate situation, very tense, the two riders who had most weight on the team did not have an easy relationship and that puts the rest of the technical staff and the riders in an uncomfortable position,” he added. The Spaniard, who also won the Tour in 2007, compared the situation with that of Formula One drivers Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton at McLaren when they were colleagues. “That situation in some way illustrated what I have experienced. But I knew that if we kept a cool head everything would be OK,” he added.
Contador seals second Tour triumph
Contador poised for second Tour win
Schleck wins as Contador goes clear
Armstrong to form new cycling team
Impressive Contador takes yellow
With Armstrong and Astana team chief Johan Bruyneel both leaving the team at the end of the season, Contador’s future also remains unclear. “We will have to see what happens. I do not know where I’ll go, but I am clear that it will be a team that is 100 per cent behind me.”
Contador eventually finished the race over four minutes clear of Luxembourg’s Andy Schleck, with American Armstrongwho was riding in his first Tour since completing the last of his seven wins in 2005a remarkable third. It was Contador’s fourth successive grand tour victory, after he also won last year’s Giro d’Italia and Vuelta Espana following the Tour organizers’ decision not to invite the Astana team to the race.
NEW YORK (Reuters) –
U.S. choreographer and dancer Merce Cunningham, credited by many with revolutionizing visual and performing arts, has died at age 90, his foundation and dance company said on Monday.
Cunningham, whose long-time partner was the late composer John Cage, died peacefully at home on Sunday of natural causes, the Cunningham Dance Foundation and the Merce Cunningham Dance Company said in a statement on Monday.
“In his final years he became almost routinely hailed as the world's greatest choreographer,” a New York Times obituary said. “His choreography showed that dance was principally about itself, not music, while often suggesting that it could also be about many other things as well.”
Born in Centralia, Washington, Cunningham trained in dance and theater at the Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle and from 1939 to 1945 was a soloist dancer with the Martha Graham Dance Company.
He formed the Merce Cunningham Dance Company in 1953 and choreographed nearly 200 works for the company. Cunningham's work has also been performed by Ballet of the Paris Opera, New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theater, and Boston Ballet.
“You have to love dancing to stick to it. It gives you nothing back, no manuscripts to store away, no paintings to show on walls and maybe hang in museums, no poems to be printed and sold, nothing but that single fleeting moment when you feel alive,” Cunningham is quoted on his website www.merce.org.
Among the honors and awards given to Cunningham were the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize, the National Medal of Arts, a Laurence Olivier Award in London and an Officer of the Legion of Honor in France.
He continued performing as a dancer into his 80s and has also worked in film and video, collaborating with filmmakers Charles Atlas and Elliot Caplan.
“With his partner John Cage, he opened up new ways of perceiving and experiencing the world, and his insatiable curiosity, collaborative spirit, and love of the new inspired countless artists across disciplines,” his foundation and company said.
“Merce has left an indelible mark on our collective creativity and culture; his legacy will resonate in the dance world and beyond for generations to come,” they said.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Vicki Allen