KABUL – Thousands of Afghans turned out to hear President Hamid Karzai speak at an election rally in northern Afghanistan. His top rival spoke to mostly empty seats in a cavernous tent in the capital.
The two events this past weekend reinforce the dominant story line of Afghanistan’s second-ever presidential election: Despite all the complaints about Karzai’s performance, the race is his to lose.
His main challenger among the three dozen candidates, former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, has pulled in surprisingly large crowds at some events outside the capital, raising hopes among his followers that he can find a way to beat the incumbent — possibly in a runoff if Karzai fails to win a majority in the Aug. 20 vote.
Still, Abdullah’s showing in Kabul, the largest city, doesn’t indicate the groundswell of support needed to topple Karzai. Although no recent polls are available, the incumbent is widely assumed to be the front-runner.
Turnout could be crucial in this ethnically divided, largely illiterate country, one-third of which is plagued by a thriving insurgency.
Hundreds of Afghanistan’s 7,000 polling centers may not open in the violent south and east, closures that could cost Karzai large numbers of votes among his fellow ethnic Pashtuns. The Taliban have condemned the vote as a U.S.-orchestrated sham and may try to disrupt the balloting.
Elsewhere, more than 3,000 donkeys will deliver ballots to remote polling sites, ballots that identify candidates by a symbol to aid the 70 percent of Afghans who can’t read.
“The odds still favor Karzai, but there is plenty of room for uncertainty,” said Ronald Neumann, the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan from 2005 to 2007 who now serves as the president of the American Academy of Diplomacy.
“This is only the second presidential election in Afghanistan,” Neumann said. “We have very little understanding of whether Afghans will vote outside the lines of ethnic and tribal groups.”
A lot is riding on the election. U.S. officials hope a strong central government can better deal with the country’s deteriorating security and help governance in far-off provinces. Although President Barack Obama has sent an additional 21,000 troops to Afghanistan this year, the conflict is almost eight years old and support for an indefinite military commitment is waning.
Karzai, who was once highly popular inside and outside Afghanistan, has lost luster in recent years because of endemic government corruption, unyielding violence and a huge narcotics industry. But his major challengers lack a broad base of support.
If he wins a second term, Karzai, 51, has promised to open negotiations with the Taliban to end the war and focus on building roads, improving education, boosting the economy and shoring up agriculture. Many of those goals are shared by other candidates. Abdullah, a 48-year-old English-speaking former ophthalmologist, has called for constitutional changes to bolster the role of parliament.
The president has done minimal campaigning, and even skipped a televised debate last month between Abdullah and the third top contender, former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani, a former finance minister and World Bank executive being advised by Democratic Party strategist James Carville.
Karzai has drawn enthusiastic crowds at the few events he has attended, including one in Baghlan province Saturday that drew thousands of Ismaili Shiites, some of whom traveled for hours on foot to hear the president.
His fellow Pashtuns make up 40 percent of the country — the largest voting bloc. Many analysts feel the bloc gives Karzai an insurmountable advantage, though militant violence could close polling stations and suppress turnout.
The Taliban last week urged Afghans to stay away from the polls and mocked the elections as an American “failed strategy.” The statement urged Taliban fighters to prevent people from voting but didn’t say specifically that militants would use violence.
Neumann said he did not expect many attacks, noting that the Taliban tried to stop the 2004 presidential vote but failed.
“There will obviously be some danger if the Taliban really try to stop the voting, but in my experience if people really want to vote they will do so,” Neumann said.
Tajiks make up about 25 percent of the country. Though Abdullah’s father was Pashtun, his mother was Tajik, and Abdullah was a former top official in the Northern Alliance — a Tajik-dominated political party and militia. Hazaras and Uzbeks each comprise about 10 percent of the population.
Abdullah last week courted ethnic Hazaras at two campaign events in Kabul, where his former Northern Alliance allies have had had considerable influence since the Taliban fled in 2001.
Some 3,000 Hazaras sat under bright orange sheets and listened to Abdullah rail Thursday against Karzai’s administration and the country’s insurgent violence, high unemployment and weak rule of law. The crowd applauded lightly and seemed lukewarm to the candidate.
On Sunday, Abdullah addressed about 500 Hazaras in a large tent configured to seat 1,500, meaning row upon row of the plush blue chairs were empty. The top Hazara leaders have already backed Karzai, making it difficult for the challenger to make deep inroads.
A key question is whether the loser and his supporters will accept the results.
Abdullah’s campaign manager last week predicted street violence if Abdullah doesn’t win, contending that Karzai can’t prevail unless he steals the vote. Abdullah distanced himself from the comments, saying it wasn’t his view or that of his supporters.
Threats of campaign violence — combined with several deadly attacks on candidates’ campaign teams in recent days — are partial indicators that Afghans are not likely to view the election process as “credible and legitimate,” said Candace Rondeaux, an Afghanistan expert for the International Crisis Group.
On the Net:
Karzai’s campaign site: http://www.hamidkarzai.af
Abdullah’s campaign site: http://www.drabdullah.af
Ghani’s campaign site: http://www.ashrafghani.af
Archive for August 3rd, 2009
KABUL – Thousands of Afghans turned out to hear President Hamid Karzai speak at an election rally in northern Afghanistan. His top rival spoke to mostly empty seats in a cavernous tent in the capital.
The Standard & Poor’s 500 index, a benchmark for many mutual funds, broke above 1,000 on Monday for the first time since November as reports on manufacturing, housing and banking sent investors more signals that the economy is gathering strength. The Nasdaq composite index logged its first close above 2,000 since October.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 114.95, or 1.3 percent, to 9,286.56.
The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 15.15, or 1.5 percent, to 1,002.63.
The Nasdaq composite index rose 30.11, or 1.5 percent, to 2,008.61.
For the year:
The Dow is up 510.17, or 5.8 percent.
The S&P is up 99.38, or 11 percent.
The Nasdaq is up 431.58, or 27.4 percent.
WASHINGTON – Republican Sen. John McCain, his party’s failed 2008 presidential contender, announced Monday he’d join the vast majority of the GOP to vote against Judge Sonia Sotomayor, who’s on track to be confirmed this week as the first Hispanic justice.
McCain’s decision, the day before the Senate debates President Barack Obama’s first high court nominee, underscored the degree to which Republicans — even those who, like the Arizonan, represent large Hispanic populations — have turned against Sotomayor. Conservatives argue she’d bring her own biases to the bench.
At the same time, Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska — who had been publicly on the fence on Sotomayor and under pressure from gun rights activists to oppose her — announced he’d side with Democrats and vote “yes.”
Just six Republicans have announced they’ll break with their party to vote for Sotomayor, while nearly three-quarters of GOP senators say they’ll oppose her. No Democrat has said she or he will oppose Sotomayor.
Some in the GOP have faced a tough call about how to vote on Obama’s nominee, torn between an impulse to please their conservative base by opposing her and a fear that doing so could alienate Hispanic voters. The vast majority are lining up with their core supporters against Sotomayor, despite her near certainty of confirmation.
Sotomayor, 55, the daughter of Puerto Rican parents, was raised in a South Bronx housing project and educated in the Ivy League before her success in the legal profession and 17 years on the federal bench. Obama chose her to replace retiring Justice David Souter, a liberal named by a Republican president, and she’s not expected to alter the court’s ideological balance.
McCain called her background “inspiring and compelling,” but added that, “an excellent resume and an inspiring life story are not enough to qualify one for a lifetime of service on the Supreme Court.”
“She is a judge who has foresworn judicial activism in her confirmation hearings, but who has a long record of it,” McCain said.
Nelson, on the other hand, said Sotomayor’s rulings show she’s no activist, and won’t bring bias to the bench. He told his home state Lincoln Journal Star that he believes the judge has “a great respect for the law,” and that he’s convinced despite staunch opposition to her among gun rights activists that she recognizes “an individual’s Second Amendment right to bear arms.”
The Nebraskan has a perfect rating from the National Rifle Association, which has threatened to downgrade senators who support Sotomayor in its annual candidate ratings.
McCain has a spottier record with the NRA, garnering him just a “C” grade, but the group endorsed his presidential bid.
ALEXANDRIA, Virginia Jurors in the corruption trial of former U.S. Rep. William Jefferson of Louisiana ended their second day of deliberations without a verdict Friday, said a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Alexandria, Virginia.
Ex-U.S. Rep. William Jefferson and his wife, Andrea, arrive at court last month in Alexandria, Virginia.
A federal grand jury indicted Jefferson on on corruption charges June 4, 2007, about two years after federal agents said they found 90,000 in his freezer. Authorities said the cash was part of a payment in marked bills from an FBI informant in a transaction captured on video. Closing arguments by defense and prosecution attorneys ended Wednesday. The jury of eight women and four men deliberated for about 3½ hours Thursday and 5½ hours Friday, said Peter Carr, spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office. The trial began June 16. The jury will resume deliberations Monday morning. Jefferson, 62, was indicted on charges of using his congressional clout between 2001 and 2005 to solicit and receive hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes for himself and his family in exchange for promoting products and services in Africa, especially Nigeria, and elsewhere. The Democrat pleaded not guilty to 16 counts of racketeering, money laundering, wire fraud, obstruction of justice and violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Carr said Jefferson could face a maximum sentence of up to 235 years in prison if convicted. The information on the refrigerated cash, discovered in Jefferson’s Washington home in August 2005, was revealed in an affidavit used to obtain a warrant to search Jefferson’s office in May 2006. Descriptions from the heavily redacted affidavit and pictures of the open freezer show bills wrapped in foil and tucked into frozen food containers, including a box for pie crusts and another for veggie burgers. FBI agents told a judge that the money was part of a 100,000 payment that had been delivered by an informant in the bribery investigation, which led to guilty pleas by a Kentucky businessman and a former Jefferson aide. Jefferson contested the office search before the Supreme Court, contending that he should have been afforded a chance “to segregate privileged legislative materials and shield them from review” before the search warrant was executed. The court refused to settle the dispute. Jefferson, who graduated from Harvard Law School, represented Louisiana’s 2nd Congressional District, which includes most of the New Orleans area. He held office for 18 years, or nine terms, before he lost his House seat in a December election. As representative, he served on the House Ways and Means Committee’s subcommittee on trade and on the Budget Committee, and he co-chaired the caucus on Africa Trade and Investment as well as the caucus on Nigeria.
Pakistan adjourns ‘militant’ case
Pakistan’s Supreme Court has adjourned a hearing that sought the re-arrest of the head of an Islamic charity in connection with the Mumbai attacks. A lawyer acting for Hafiz Saeed said the court had adjourned the hearing indefinitely because the prosecution was not prepared for the case. Mr Saeed heads Jamaat-ud-Dawa, a charity accused of being a front for the Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group. He denies any involvement in the Mumbai (Bombay) attacks of November 2008. More than 170 people were killed, nine of them gunmen. India blames Lashkar-e-Taiba for the attacks. The government wants Mr Saeed returned to custody. He was released in June by a Lahore court which found insufficient evidence for his continued detention.
DYERSBURG, Tenn. – A northwest Tennessee man accused of abusing his teenage daughter shot her to death, police said Monday, and killed her foster father before turning the gun on himself.
Christopher Milburn, 34, also shot his 15-year-old daughter’s foster mother during the Sunday rampage just down the street from where he lived. His daughter, whose name was not released, had been staying with the couple while the state Department of Children’s Services investigated the abuse claim, authorities said.
Child services agency spokesman Rob Johnson described the couple as family friends of the teenager, but didn’t elaborate on the abuse allegation. The investigation began last week.
The girl had been staying with her father before the allegations and her mother was living out of state, police Capt. Steve Isbell said.
Police found the teenager and 46-year-old Todd Randolph dead at the Randolph home. Milburn was found about a block away, dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot.
Charles Wootton, 71, who lives across the street from the Randolphs, said he heard five pops and thought it was firecrackers. He looked out the window and saw Randolph on the ground by the mailbox.
Wootton said he called 911, and a neighbor who is a nurse performed CPR on Randolph, who had been shot through the neck.
Randolph’s wife, Susan, was sitting on the front porch with her head on her chest. Wootton said at first thought he thought she had been killed, too. “She told me who did it,” Wootton said.
Susan Randolph, 45, was released Monday from a Memphis hospital.
The Randolphs have two young children who were at their grandparents’ house during the shootings, Wootton said.
Wootton had moved to the neighborhood recently, and Todd Randolph had been mowing his yard.
“The people around here are just about the friendliest you’ve ever met,” said Wootton. “I don’t know what happened to that guy.”
A prayer service for the Randolph family was planned for Monday night at their church, St. Mary’s Episcopal.
Isbell said Milburn had no criminal record in Dyersburg, a city of approximately 18,000 people about 70 miles northeast of Memphis.
The shootings marked the second domestic killing rampage in Tennessee in just over two weeks.
Jacob Levi Shaffer of Fayetteville, a small town near the Alabama border about 70 miles west of Chattanooga, is accused of fatally stabbing five people and beating another to death July 18.
The victims were Shaffer’s estranged wife, her teenage son, a boy who was visiting and the wife’s father and brother. An acquaintance of Shaffer’s was found beaten to death at a business in Huntsville, Ala.
Scientists halt epilepsy in mice
Scientists have prevented epilepsy caused by a faulty gene from being passed down the generations in mice.The key gene, Atp1a3, regulates levels of chemicals such as sodium and potassium in brain cells. It has long been suspected that an imbalance of these chemicals may cause some cases of epilepsy. The University of Leeds study, which appears in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, raises hopes of new treatments for the condition. Lead researcher Dr Steve Clapcote said: “An imbalance of sodium and potassium levels has long been suspected to lead to epileptic seizures, but our study is the first to show beyond any doubt that a defect in this gene is responsible.”
Much work is needed to determine whether the same mechanism is in play in humans. But the human ATP1a3 gene is more than 99% the same as the mouse version. Epilepsy is a common neurological condition that affects almost one in every 200 people. However, the causes are unknown in the majority of cases. Current drug treatments are ineffective in around one third of epilepsy patients. The Leeds team worked on Myshkin mice, which have a tendency to develop seizures.
They showed that those animals who did develop seizures carried a specific defective version of Atp1a3. These mice responded when treated with the common anti-epileptic medication valproic acid – proving that they did indeed have a form of epilepsy. To try to counter this, the researchers bred the epileptic mice with animals that carried an extra copy of the normal Atp1a3 gene. The addition of the normal gene counteracted the faulty gene in the resulting offspring – which were completely free from epilepsy. Very promisingDr Clapcote said: “Our study has identified a new way in which epilepsy can be caused and prevented in mice, and therefore it may provide clues to potential causes, therapies and preventive measures in human epilepsy.” “Our results are very promising, but there’s a long way to go before this research could yield new antiepileptic therapies.” Dr Clapcote said his team had started to screen DNA samples from epilepsy patients to investigate whether Atp13a gene defects were involved in the human condition. Delphine van der Pauw, of the charity Epilepsy Research UK, said: “These results are promising. “If the findings can be repeated in human studies, new avenues for the prevention and treatment of inherited epilepsy will be opened.” Simon Wigglesworth, of Epilepsy Action, stressed the research was at an early stage – but agreed that it was encouraging. He said: “At the moment there is no treatment to cure epilepsy, other than surgery, which is only effective for small numbers.”
UK Afghan helicopters ‘not safe’
Helicopters to be sent to Afghanistan may not be able to take part in combat because they lack adequate protection, the Daily Telegraph has reported.Pilots are angry that six Merlins – due to go to Helmand in December – do not have Kevlar armour, the paper says. It quotes senior RAF sources who warn this could prevent the craft taking part in missions against the Taliban. Defence chiefs say the Merlins are fitted with ballistic protection and are being modified for operational use. Pilots told the paper they had called for the Merlin Mk3 helicopters, which will be used to move troops and kit around Helmand, to be upgraded at a cost of around 100,000 each. ‘Range of modifications’However, they claimed their requests had been ignored and said they feared the lack of protection could risk lives. “I don’t want people to come back strapped into their seats with bullet holes in them,” a Merlin fleet source told the Telegraph.
“We are going to send aircraft out to Afghanistan that are lacking in the required protection. It will be the same as driving a Snatch Land Rover along a road full of mines.” However, a Ministry of Defence (MoD) spokesman insisted that the helicopters would be ready for deployment later this year. “Our Merlin Mk3 helicopters have ballistic protection as standard, and are being fitted with a range of modifications to make them fit for operational use,” he said. “For reasons of operational security, we do not discuss specific defensive capabilities of our aircraft. To do so would potentially offer enemy forces a tactical advantage. “Nevertheless, we will continue to provide the greatest level of force protection for both crew and passengers while maintaining performance in Afghanistan’s particularly arduous environment.” ‘Busting a gut’BBC diplomatic correspondent James Robbins said he understood the problem was not primarily a question of the cost, but instead that factories could not fit all the required protection in time. The MoD considered it better to get extra helicopters to Afghanistan quickly and then allow commanders to decide on the balance of risk of how to use them, he added. Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth said last week he was “busting a gut” to get more helicopters out to Afghanistan following suggestions by some military leaders and politicians that there were not enough out there to support British troops. The chief of the defence staff, Sir Jock Stirrup, said deploying more of the craft would prevent casualties and Foreign Office minister Lord Malloch Brown said there “definitely” were not enough helicopters, before rowing back on his comments.
Bonus fine for Bank of America
Bank of America has agreed to pay a 33m (19m) fine to settle charges that it misled investors about bonuses when it acquired Merrill Lynch in January.Bank of America saved Merrill from collapse after telling its shareholders no bonuses would be paid to its executives without their approval. However, Bank of America later authorised Merrill to pay up to 5.8bn in bonuses. The bank has neither admitted nor denied the SEC allegations. However, the SEC said its investigation was continuing. ‘Constructive conclusion’Bank of America was bailed out by the US taxpayer in 2008. It needed 25bn in capital injections from the bail-out fund during the height of the financial crisis. On Monday, Bank of America agreed to pay the fine to settle the charges made by the US Securities and Exchange Commission. “Bank of America believes that the settlement… represents a constructive conclusion to this issue,” company spokesman Scott Silvestri said in a statement. The SEC said Merrill ended up paying 3.6bn in bonuses in 2008, even though it incurred heavy losses that year. The settlement comes soon after the US House of Representatives voted in favour of legislation to stop banks paying bonuses that encourage excessive risk taking. And a report last week, by the office of New York Attorney Andrew Cuomo, said there was “no clear rhyme or reason” for bankers’ pay. The findings suggested Wall Street banks that were bailed out by the government gave executives bonuses regardless of performance.
RALEIGH, N.C. – A 20-year-old U.S. citizen who traveled to Pakistan in 2008 “to engage in violent jihad” has been named as the eighth suspect in a North Carolina terrorism case, according to court documents released Monday.
Jude Kenan Mohammad is charged with conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists and conspiracy to murder, kidnap, maim and injure persons in a foreign country, according to a newly unsealed indictment. The indictment specifically mentions Mohammad’s trip to Pakistan in October 2008. Authorities have said he is not in custody and is believed to be in Pakistan.
Mohammad’s uncle, Evan Risueno, scoffed at the accusations.
“I think it’s ridiculous,” said Risueno, who helped raise Mohammad. “He’s not that kind of kid.”
The indictment alleges that Daniel Boyd, 39, bought guns and led the group of men — all but one of them U.S. citizens — who were planning to kidnap, kill and maim people in other countries. The indictment also names two of Boyd’s sons — Zakariya, 20, and Dylan, 22.
The rest of the men were arrested last week and are scheduled to appear Tuesday in federal court for a detention hearing. Their family members have said the accusations are unfounded.
Mohammad was officially identified as the eighth suspect after federal prosecutors requested that the full indictment be made public. His name had been redacted from court papers made public last week, although law enforcement sources had told The Associated Press that he was the suspect.
Prosecutors haven’t said whether the terror suspects had any specific timelines or targets, although the indictment said some of them took trips over the past three years to Jordan, Kosovo, Pakistan and Israel “to engage in violent jihad.”
The indictment said the elder Boyd received terrorist training in Pakistan and Afghanistan two decades ago and, more recently, recruited followers in North Carolina. It also said he began stockpiling weapons and conducted military-style training at a rural site.
Risueno said Mohammad went to Pakistan to visit his father, who lives there. He hasn’t talked with Mohammad and didn’t know how long his nephew planned to stay overseas.
Mohammad was initially arrested in October when he tried to enter the Pakistan’s Mohmand tribal region, an area considered a haven of al-Qaida and Taliban militants, police there said at the time. Mohammad made an appearance in court with a beard and dressed in the long shirt and baggy trousers worn by many Pakistani men.
On Monday, FBI spokeswoman Amy Thoreson said Mohammad was at large.
Earle Purser, a Raleigh attorney who represented Mohammad after he was charged in 2008 with driving 105 mph in a 55-mph zone, said he remembered a conversation with Mohammad about religion.
“He said that Muslims were peaceful people, they didn’t believe in war unless they had to and didn’t believe in killing anybody,” Purser said. “He impressed me a whole lot.”
Mohammad didn’t show up for a court appearance last fall in that case, Purser said.
Also Monday, prosecutors said the terror case may involve classified material that will raise national security issues if given to their defense attorneys. They requested time to review classified material and a hearing to discuss it, according to court documents.
The government filed a motion under the Classified Information Procedures Act, which sets guidelines for the disclosure of sensitive information.
NEW YORK A recent college graduate is suing her alma mater for 72,000the full cost of her tuition and then somebecause she cannot find a job.
Trina Thompson has sued her alma mater, Monroe College of New York.
Trina Thompson, 27, of the Bronx, graduated from New York’s Monroe College in April with a bachelor of business administration degree in information technology. On July 24, she filed suit against the college in Bronx Supreme Court, alleging that Monroe’s “Office of Career Advancement did not help me with a full-time job placement. I am also suing them because of the stress I have been going through.” The college responded that it offers job-search support to all its students. In her complaint, Thompson says she seeks 70,000 in reimbursement for her tuition and 2,000 to compensate for the stress of her three-month job search. As Thompson sees it, any reasonable employer would pounce on an applicant with her academic credentials, which include a 2.7 grade-point average and a solid attendance record. But Monroe’s career-services department has put forth insufficient effort to help her secure employment, she claims. “They’re supposed to say, ‘I got this student, her attendance is good, her GPA is all rightcan you interview this person?’ They’re not doing that,” she said.
Read the court filing (pdf)
Thompson said she has fulfilled her end of the job-search bargain, peppering companies listed on Monroe’s e-recruiting site with cover letters, résumés and phone calls. But no more than two employers have responded to her outreach, and those leads have borne no fruit. Her complaint adds, “The office of career advancement information technology counselor did not make sure their Monroe e-recruiting clients call their graduates that recently finished college for an interview to get a job placement. They have not tried hard enough to help me.” She suggested that Monroe’s Office of Career Advancement shows preferential treatment to students with excellent grades. “They favor more toward students that got a 4.0. They help them more out with the job placement,” she said. Monroe College released a statement saying that “while it is clear that no college, especially in this economy, can guarantee employment, Monroe College remains committed to working with all its students, including Ms. Thompson, who graduated only three months ago, to prepare them for careers and to support them during their job search.” Thompson says she has not hired an attorney to represent her because she cannot afford one. When she filed her complaint, she also filed a “poor person order,” which exempts her from filing fees associated with the lawsuit. Asked whether she would advise other college graduates facing job woes to sue their alma maters, Thompson said yes. “It doesn’t make any sense: They went to school for four years, and then they come out working at McDonald’s and Payless. That’s not what they planned.”
Dog domestication idea challenged
By Judith Burns
Science reporter, BBC News
The suggestion that the domestic dog originated in East Asia has been challenged.The huge genetic diversity of dogs found in East Asia had led many scientists to conclude that domestication began there. But new research published in the journal PNAS shows the DNA of dogs in African villages is just as varied. An international group of researchers analysed blood samples from dogs in Egypt, Uganda and Namibia. Today’s dogs are descended from Eurasian grey wolves, domesticated between 15,000 and 40,0000 years ago.
The authors say the process by which humans domesticated the dog is poorly understood. Lead scientist, Dr Adam Boyko of the Department of Biological Statistics and Computational Biology at Cornell University, says he decided to look at village dogs because they are so much more genetically diverse than bred dogs that they may hold the key to the origins of dog domestication. The team analysed DNA from 318 dogs from villages in Egypt, Uganda and Namibia and measured their genetic diversity. They also analysed the genetic make up of dog breeds thought to be of African origin, for example The Saluki, The Rhodesian Ridgeback, and The Pharoah Hound and compared all the resulting data with results for non African dogs such as Puerto Rican street dogs and non-pedigree dogs in the US. The emphasis on African village dogs came about because Adam Boyko’s co-authors, his brother and sister in law, were travelling in Africa on honeymoon. They collected all the blood samples from the African dogs. Genetically diverseThe team found genetic diversity among African village dogs is just as diverse as that of East Asian dogs, leading them to question the hypothesis of an East Asian origin for dog domestication. Dr Boyko told BBC News: “I think it means that the conclusion that was drawn before might have been premature. It’s a consequence of having a lot of street dogs from East Asia that were sampled, compared to elsewhere. “The reason that East Asia looked more diverse than elsewhere was not because East Asia as a continent had more diverse dogs than elsewhere but because non breed street and village dogs are more diverse than breed dogs.” He said he was not ruling out East Asia as a possible location for the origin of the domestic dog – but it could equally have been anywhere else on the Eurasian landmass where there were both grey wolves and humans. Co-author Paul Jones of The Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition, UK, said: “It’s interesting to know the answer to the question of where dogs were first domesticated and this paper goes someway to giving us an answer.” The team are now in the process of sampling street and village dogs across Europe and Asia from Portugal to Papua New Guinea to pinpoint the areas of greatest genetic diversity. Dr Boyko said that all the dogs sampled in the study have grey wolf DNA so he is not questioning the hypothesis that dogs descended from Eurasian wolves. The results led the team to conclude that today’s African village dogs are a mosaic of indigenous dogs descended from early migrants to Africa. They also went some way to proving the origins of some species of pedigree dogs purported to be of African origin. For example the Saluki breed shares DNA with modern day village dogs from Egypt – as does the Afghan Hound, despite its name. Likewise, the Basinji breed is genetically very similar to some Namibian and Ugandan village dogs. However the Pharaoh Hound and Rhodesian Ridgeback have little in common with any African indigenous dogs which suggests that these two breeds have non African origins.
HONG KONG (Reuters) –
One of the most aggressive forms of breast cancer may originate in the cells lining the mammary ducts, which can be targeted in the fight against the disease, experts in Australia say.
Basal breast cancers account for 20 percent of all breast cancers and are among the most aggressive. They occur in women carrying mutations of the tumor-suppressing gene BRCA1 and have long been thought to originate in breast stem cells.
However, a research team led by Jane Visvader and Geoff Lindeman from The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Australia has found that the real culprits may instead be pre-cancerous cells lining the mammary ducts.
The finding opens the way for developing new drugs or therapies to treat this form of breast cancer, Lindeman said.
“BRCA1 women have approximately a 65 percent lifetime chance of developing breast cancer. Following surgery, treatment options available to these women are often limited to chemotherapy and radiotherapy, so identifying new treatment and prevention strategies is a priority for us,” he said in a statement.
Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer among women and one of the leading causes of their premature death.
In the study, the researchers compared normal, non-cancerous breast tissues taken from BRCA1 mutation carriers, women not carrying the mutant gene, and women without the mutant gene but who had a positive family history of the disease.
Tissues from women with the mutant gene had high numbers of pre-cancerous cells lining the mammary ducts, they found.
These pre-cancerous cells were also genetically more similar to basal breast tumor cells, they wrote in their paper, which was published in Nature Medicine.
“They are clearly abnormal cells as they have aberrant growth properties and the population is enlarged in BRCA1 mutation carriers,” said Visvader in an email to Reuters.
One way to prevent this cancer was to target these pre-cancerous mammary duct cells, she added.
“Our gene profiling studies have revealed genes that could serve as possible tumor markers that can be used in breast cancer diagnosis — and has helped to identify possible therapeutic targets to treat (and possibly prevent) basal breast tumors,” Visvader said.
Future work in this area is likely to help the next generation of women.”
(Editing by Sugita Katyal)
NEW YORK – Former New York Giants star Plaxico Burress was indicted by a grand jury on weapons charges for shooting himself in the thigh at a Manhattan nightclub and faces a minimum prison sentence of 3 1/2 years if convicted, prosecutors announced Monday.
The indictment charged the 31-year-old Burress with two counts of criminal possession of a weapon and one count of reckless endangerment, Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau said.
“The grand jury applied the law to the facts of this case,” Morgenthau said. He said the accidental shooting at the Latin Quarter nightclub on Nov. 29 was treated “like any similar case against any other defendant.”
Burress’ lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, said he was disappointed but not surprised by the indictment, which came after Burress testified before the grand jury and expressed remorse.
“When you have the mayor and the district attorney both publicly demanding a maximum prison sentence, it was perhaps too much to hope for the grand jury to conduct a sympathetic review of the unique facts of this sad case,” Brafman said in a statement.
Burress’ former teammate Antonio Pierce, who was with Burress in the club and drove him to the hospital, was not indicted.
The panel also did not indict the nightclub security guard who carried the gun to Pierce’s car or the hospital staff members who failed to notify police that Burress had been shot.
Morgenthau said hospital personnel were guilty of “a screw-up rather than a cover-up” and the security guard exhibited “bad judgment in the first degree” but did not commit a crime.
Pierce, who also testified before the grand jury last week, was practicing with the Giants in Albany when he learned of the panel’s decision.
Giants President John Mara said the team was pleased that the linebacker was not indicted.
“We said last week we felt strongly that Antonio’s actions did not warrant criminal charges, and obviously the grand jury, having heard all of the testimony, felt the same way,” he said.
Pierce’s lawyer, Michael Bachner, said, “By appearing before the grand jury for almost three hours and answering the grand jury’s very direct and very considered questions, it was clear to us that they understood that Mr. Pierce acted as any citizen under extraordinary circumstances would have acted.”
Burress was at the Latin Quarter nightclub Nov. 29 when a gun tucked into his waistband slipped down his leg and fired, shooting him in the right thigh.
Prosecutors said Monday that after taking Burress to the hospital, Pierce drove the gun to his own home in New Jersey — not to Burress’ home, as was originally reported. They said he later arranged for it to be taken to Burress’ home.
Assistant District Attorney John Wolfstaetter said the bullet that hit Burress narrowly missed a nightclub security guard who was standing inches away.
The bullet lodged in the floor and was recovered by a bartender, Morgenthau said.
“He wanted it as a souvenir but we told him he had to turn it over,” he said.
The gun was not licensed in New York or in New Jersey, where Burress lived, prosecutors said. Burress’ license to carry a concealed weapon in the state of Florida had expired in May 2008.
The charges Burress was indicted on carry a mandatory minimum sentence of 3 1/2 years in prison. He pleaded not guilty to weapons charges earlier this year and is free on 100,000 bail.
The grand jury indictment comes after plea bargain negotiations broke down, apparently because Morgenthau was insisting that Burress serve at least two years in prison under any plea agreement.
Assistant District Attorney Mark Dwyer said it is standard policy to request a two-year sentence as part of a plea bargain on such serious charges.
Burress, who caught the winning touchdown for the Giants over the New England Patriots in the final minute of the 2008 Super Bowl, also could face disciplinary action by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. Goodell’s office announced in June that the league already had started its examination of the shooting, and NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said Monday’s indictment “will be considered as part of that review.”
The Giants released Burress in April and he has yet to sign with another team.
AP Sports Writer Tom Canavan in Albany, N.Y., contributed to this report.
LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) –
You feel hunger pangs all the way through “Julie & Julia.” Platters of boeuf bourguignon, sole meuniere, fresh oysters, trussed chickens and calves' livers served with crusty baguettes and desserts of fromage blanc move tantalizingly before your eyes. But there is another hunger: As enjoyable as this foodie movie is, you wish it would take a deeper, more nuanced measure of the women who, in two different eras, star in the movie's kitchens.
Writer-director Nora Ephron tells of two real-life people, newly wed and restless with ill-defined ambitions, and how they discover their true selves in gourmet cooking. They are America's first food star, the late cookbook author and TV personality Julia Child, and an otherwise unknown 30-year-old wife in Queens, N.Y., Julie Powell, who blogged about her attempt to cook all 524 recipes in Child's legendary “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” in a single year.
The film, which Columbia releases Friday (August 7), is primed to do extremely well with female audiences in many markets, an attraction only enhanced by stars Meryl Streep and Amy Adams.
Ephron, who certainly delights in parallel story lines — “Sleepless in Seattle,” “You've Got Mail,” “When Harry Met Sally …” — has merged two recent memoirs, “My Life in France,” which Child wrote with her grandnephew Alex Prud'homme, and “Julie & Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously,” by Powell.
Probably this merger makes commercial sense: Neither memoir is the stuff of popular moviemaking, though Child's reminiscences of her life-changing experiences in postwar France — where she fell in love with French culture, cuisine, local markets and her classes at the Cordon Bleu — might have been worth a try.
Powell's story about her single-minded engagement with Child's cookbook has an almost unpleasant taste of self-absorption. And by sharing that story with Child's, Ephron throws the wrong emphasis on Child's delightful memoir of the early years in her ideal marriage to Paul Child.
True, the movie shows that Paul — played with modest self-effacement by Stanley Tucci against Streep's larger-than-life Julia — encourages his beloved wife's every experiment in the kitchen and the writing of her seminal book. But by contrasting that memoir with Powell's, the movie somewhat distorts the life the Childs share as they revel in their love for la belle France and each other.
Streep delivers yet another uncanny impersonation, getting every shade of the famously hearty voice and extravagant, life-loving personality that was Julia. The evocation of late-'40s Paris encourages a terrific sense of nostalgia, whether or not one was alive or even in France then. After “Julie & Julia,” you feel like you were.
The details of the couple's life and their meals, Julia's Kismet-like meeting with Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle, with whom she wrote her first cookbook, and all mood swings as publishers reject — and Knopf enthusiastically accepts — the monumental work fill the screen with joie de vivre.
Adams' Julie is more of a lost soul. She lives with a “saint,” as she often calls her husband, Eric (Chris Messina), in an iffy apartment above a pizza parlor. She works in a federal government office overlooking the World Trade Center crater and laments that she has never finished anything in her life. Thus her determination to complete the cookbook marathon.
She suffers for her blog. She drags herself to that cramped kitchen whether sick or well. She refuses to quit because it has become her identity. Without the “Julie/Julia Project,” she'd revert to a frustrated wife with a dead-end job and another unfinished project. No joie de vivre here.
Possibly the Powell sequences might have worked better as a framing device. Sharing equal time with Julia's discovery of la cuisine bourgeoisie, it turns the banquet that was Julia's French experiences into short-order dishes. And even in the Julia sequences, Ephron dwells far too long on the conflicts among the cookbook's three authors.
Consequently, the movie misses the point of “My Life in France.” That country liberated Julia, a 6-foot-2 woman — tall girls “don't fit in,” her equally tall sister remarks — from a conservative Republican household in Pasadena. France released her from middle-class values and indifferent attitudes toward food. She in turn introduced the modern American woman to the glories of cooking and how she could express artistry in her kitchen.
So “Julie & Julia” is a mixed blessing. You enjoy vicariously many dishes, sample the good life in France and get treated to another Streep marvel. Stephen Goldblatt's lush cinematography and Alexandre Desplat's whimsical score make the film's two worlds inviting. Both female protagonists even enjoy a final triumph, but one indulges far too much in Bridget Jones-like self-obsession.
(please visit our entertainment blog via www.reuters.com or on http://blogs.reuters.com/fanfare/)
WASHINGTON – Facing staggering financial losses, the Postal Service is looking at closing nearly 1,000 offices across the country.
The post office has been struggling with a sharp decline in mail volume as people and businesses switch to e-mail both for personal contact and bill paying. The agency is facing a nearly 7 billion potential loss this fiscal year despite a 2-cent increase in the price of stamps in May, cuts in staff and removal of collection boxes.
Post officials sent a list of nearly 700 potential closing candidates to the independent Postal Regulatory Commission for review. More may be added, but the current list of candidates can be viewed at the commission’s Web site, http://www.prc.gov.
Postal Vice President Jordan Small told a congressional subcommittee that local managers will study activities of approximately 3,200 stations and branches across the country considering factors such as customer access, service standards, cost savings, impact on employees, environmental impact, real estate values and long-term Postal Service needs.
No changes are expected before the end of the current fiscal year on Sept. 30.
There are 32,741 post offices across the county. Of those, the service launched a review of 3,200 for potential candidates for closing.
“We anticipate that out of these 3,200 stations and branches, under 1,000 offices could be considered as viable candidates to study further” for closing, Small said.
Just last week the General Accountability Office added the Postal Service to its list of troubled agencies, saying there are serious and significant structural financial challenges currently facing the agency.
“Every major postal policy, from employee pay, to days of delivery, to the closing of postal facilities must be on the table. Without major change, the day will soon come when the Postal Service will be unable to pay its bills,” GAO said.
Congress is considering a bill to change the way the post office funds its retiree health benefits over the next two years that could save it 2 billion annually.
The post office also filed a petition with the independent Postal Regulatory Commission indicating that managers are looking at closing many post offices to save money.
In addition, Postmaster General John Potter has asked Congress for permission to reduce mail deliveries from six days a week to five.
Last year, mail volume fell by 9.5 billion pieces to a total of 203 billion pieces. It is expected to fall by 28 billion pieces this year to a total of 175 billion pieces.
On the Net:
U.S. Postal Service: http://www.usps.com
PRC list of candidates for closure:
JERUSALEMIsrael moved to defend itself in the face of international criticism Monday over its eviction of dozens of Palestinian families from a neighborhood of Jerusalem they have lived in for generations.
Left-wing Israeli activists protest against the eviction of Palestinians from their homes in east Jerusalem.
“I think a lot of the criticism is simply not fair,” said Mark Regev, a government spokesman, who described the dispute as a legal one between two private parties over who had title to a property in East Jerusalem. In the court action, a settler group sued claiming the Palestinians had violated an agreement under which they were allowed to live in the houses. “As you know, the Israeli court system is independent and professional,” Regev said, referring to the Supreme Court’s decision that paved the way for the evictions. “Many times it goes on the Palestinian side if they think that’s where the justice is and, in this case, they ruled in favor of the Jewish side.” Watch Regev defend Israel’s actions » After the Palestinians were moved out, two Jewish families moved in. Regev’s comments came a day after the evictions drew widespread condemnation. “Israel, the occupying power, once again has shown its commitment to the settler organizations by evicting more than 50 Palestinians, many of them children, from the houses where they have lived for more than 50 years,” chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat said in a statement. “Tonight, while these new settlers from abroad will be accommodating themselves and their belongings in these Palestinian houses, 19 newly homeless children will have nowhere to sleep.” Regev said he understood the plight of those Palestinian families who slept Sunday night on the streets, but suggested they should have made other plans. “They chose for this political statement,” he said. “Really, they should have known this was coming and made correct preparations.” And he denied the suggestion that the evictions were part of any systematic effort to move Palestinians out of East Jerusalem and move in Jewish families. “There is no such government policy,” he said. “On the contrary, here you see a situation where private people bought private property and that’s what it is, and the court dealt with a land dispute between two private groups of people.” The United States, the United Nations and the European Union condemned the move. “We are all, in the international community, very upset,” U.N. Special Envoy Robert Serry said as he surveyed the scene. None of the new Jewish residents wanted to talk with CNN. In the United States, a State Department spokesman urged Israel to refrain from “provocative actions.” “As Secretary [of State Hillary] Clinton has stated previously, the eviction of families and demolition of homes in East Jerusalem is not in keeping with Israeli obligations under the Roadmap,” said Robert Wood, referring to the 2003 “Roadmap for peace” plan. “We urge that the government of Israel and municipal officials refrain from provocative actions in East Jerusalem, including home demolitions and evictions. Unilateral actions taken by either party cannot prejudge the outcome of negotiations and will not be recognized by the international community.” Senior State Department officials told CNN that Acting Assistant Secretary Jeffrey Feltman had conveyed the United States’ concern to the Israeli ambassador in Washington. Israel has claimed East Jerusalem as part of its sovereign capital since taking the eastern part of the city from Jordan during the Six-Day War in 1967. Also condemning the evictions were British diplomats. “We are appalled by the eviction in East Jerusalem this morning,” the British Consulate said. “These actions are incompatible with the Israeli professed desire for peace. We urge Israel not to allow the extremists to set the agenda.” The evictions happened as Israel and the United States have been increasingly at odds over U.S. President Barack Obama’s insistence that Israel’s government freeze all settlement activity as a necessary step toward advancing negotiations with Palestinians.
Last month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took strong public exception to American requests that an Israeli building project in the disputed and mostly Arab East Jerusalem be stopped. The Bush administration had no problem with such projects as long as Israel built within the construction lines of existing settlements in the occupied West Bank.
Al Qaeda’s second-in-command has accused President Obama of supporting a Palestinian state that would do the bidding of Israel.
Ayman al-Zawahiri says on a recent tape, “Israel is a crime that needs to be wiped out.”
“Obama wants a Palestinian state that works as a branch for the Israeli government,” Ayman al-Zawahiri said in a nearly 90-minute video called, “The Realities of Jihad and the Fallacies of Hypocrisy.” The latest in a series of such videos was posted Monday on radical Islamist Web sites by al Qaeda’s production company, As-Sahab Media. “Israel is a crime that needs to be wiped out,” said al-Zawahiri, who likened Obama’s policies to those of President Bush. “The promises of the two states and ending the settlements were made by Bush, so what’s new? This is the continuation of the same Zionist crusader crime against Muslims since the end of World War II,” he said. “Obama can come with all the eloquent words he has, but it is nothing but illusions.” Al-Zawahiri referred to a conditional truce offer he said had been made by al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
Al-Zawahiri urges Pakistanis to back militants
“The mujahedeen opened the doors to start a new relationship, but [the Americans] insist that their relationships with the Muslim world must be based on hurting us and oppressing us,” he said. He had nothing but scorn for Obama’s work. “What new did Obama bring us,” he asked. “He brought us the bombing of Gaza where 1,000 martyrs died. He brought us the destruction in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan. What else? He expanded the American prisons so they can absorb more innocent Muslims.” Al-Zawahiri referred to U.S. anti-terrorism efforts since the September 11 attacks on Washington and New York as a series of failures. “After seven and a half years, their campaign failed in Iraq and in Afghanistan just like it failed in Somalia and will fail in Pakistan,” he said. “The only reason the American administration changed its policy from Bush’s motto that you are either with them or against them to Obama’s saying that he wants to deal with the Islamic world based on a new policy [is] because of the heavy losses that they suffered from by the hands of the mujahedeen.” Al-Zawahiri vowed that the mujahedeen will not be deterred. “They will face that campaign no matter how long it will last, even till Judgment Day. No surrender, no defeat, no submission, no retreat when it comes to the right of the Muslims and their pride.” He praised insurgents in Afghanistan and Taliban leader Mullah Omar for daring to challenge the world’s biggest superpower, saying, “This is an achievement by itself because it stood for its pride, dignity and lands.” Iran, too, was an object of criticism for the al Qaeda leader, who said Iranian leaders “never supported the Palestinians in Gaza, they didn’t launch any rocket to aid them as they promised to do if Israel attacks Lebanonor is it that the Palestinians are second-class citizens?” He added, “Iran is ready to sell out the Muslims anytime and aid the crusaders in their campaign against them.”
Woman rower conquers Indian Ocean
A biologist from Rutland has become the first woman to row solo across the Indian Ocean.Sarah Outen, 24, set off from the west coast of Australia in April and arrived at the island of Mauritius on Monday evening. Crowds lined up to welcome her as a local boat guided her to the island after 124 days at sea. Ms Outen said it was “an astonishing experience” and she had seen the elements “in all their states”. After arriving on Mauritius, Ms Outen said: “It’s beautiful out there and it’s been really exciting seeing the elements in their good and bad states. “In the last days I’ve have whales surfing past the boat and albatrosses flying overhead.”
DETROIT/PARIS (Reuters) –
U.S. auto sales jumped to their highest level of 2009 in July as Americans rushed to take advantage of a government incentive to trade in old cars and trucks, raising hopes the battered sector is poised for a recovery.
Ford Motor Co posted a 2 percent sales increase, its first gain since late 2007 and the first for any of the major automakers since the financial crisis exploded after the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers.
Shares of the No. 2 automaker rose almost 7 percent and stoked gains for shares in auto suppliers.
Automakers credited the U.S. government's runaway success of the U.S. government's $1 billion “Cash for Clunkers” program with lifting industry-wide sales back above 11 million units on an annualized basis tracked by analysts.
The program, modeled on similar efforts by European governments, had offered consumers taxpayer-funded rebates of up to $4,500 to swap out of older, less fuel-efficient cars.
The incentive pushed U.S. sales in the final week of July back to levels last seen in 2007 and exhausted the full $1 billion first allocated for the program.
The sudden boom in the last week of July also encouraged investor expectations that major automakers will be forced to restart production in the coming months.
“I think this is the greatest one-week stimulus program ever to come out of Washington or anywhere else,” said Ford's chief sales analyst George Pipas.
Government measures in Europe to boost demand also bolstered car sales in that region for July. French sales were up 3 percent, Italian sales gained 6 percent but sales in Spain posted a slower decline.
Nearly half the vehicles sold under the U.S. government's clunker incentive program in July were made by General Motors Co, Ford and Chrysler, according to data released on Monday.
On a year-over-year basis Chrysler posted a 9-percent sales decline for July. On that basis, GM sales were down 19 percent.
Among major Japanese automakers, sales for Toyota Motor Co were down 11 percent; Honda Motor Co was off 16 percent and Nissan Motor Co sales fell 25 percent.
GM chief sales analyst Mike DiGiovanni said the automaker, now majority owned by the U.S. government, expected the broad economy would get a lift if the Senate approves another $2 billion in funding for the clunkers incentive.
GM estimated that boost to the economy at a contribution of 0.5 percentage points in growth to third-quarter GDP.
Some analysts have questioned whether the U.S. government program could leave the industry facing a painful payback in lost sales once it expires, but others said it could give the market needed breathing room as the economy stabilizes.
“We still need this even if there is pull-ahead to give time to the industry and the economy,” GM's DiGiovanni said.
Erich Merkle, forecaster at Autoconomy.com, said he expected auto sales would end 2009 at just over 10 million units but rise by as much as 30 percent in 2010.
“It is our belief that the traditional new car buyer will start to make their presence know later this year, backfilling when 'Cash for Clunkers' is over,” he said in a note.
Inventory levels across the U.S. market dipped lower than major automakers' targets at the end of July as popular models began to run short on dealer lots.
Ford declined to say whether it would increase output but said its inventory fell to 50 days supply. For Nissan, the comparable measure of inventory fell to 45 days.
Expectations that production will have to gear up as automakers build more vehicles in the months ahead contributed to sharp gains for shares in auto parts suppliers on Monday.
Shares of American Axle jumped 27 percent. Shares of Dana Holding Corp, a major Ford supplier, gained 21 percent.
Governments in all major European markets have also stepped in to help carmakers with their own scrappage schemes.
Italian car sales rose 6.16 percent year-on-year in July, the transport ministry said.
In Spain, in July, car sales fell 10.9 percent compared with July 2008, carmakers' association ANFAC said.
In France, passenger car sales were up 3.1 percent in July. And in Belgium, new car registrations fell 8.5 percent.
German sales figures are due to be released on Tuesday.
(Additional reporting by David Bailey, Soyoung Kim, Jo Winterbottom, Paul Day, David Bailey, Antonia van de Velde and Anne Jolis; Editing by Rupert Winchester, Bernard Orr)
ASPEN, Colo. – Looking for a late summer destination? Consider visiting some of the resort towns best-known for winter skiing.
Many of the West’s most popular ski destinations offer lots of warm-weather activities, with lodging up to 40 percent off what you’d pay in the winter. Things to do include fishing, golf, horseback riding, kayaking and whitewater rafting. Ski resorts also often use their equipment and slopes to offer scenic gondola rides, alpine slides and other adventures.
Some ski towns host summer concerts, competitions and festivals as well. The Aspen Music Festival and School in Colorado is staging “Don Giovanni” Aug. 18, 20 and 22 among its 400 summer events, while Jackson Hole, Wyo., hosts a series of mountain bike races in August.
The travel-booking Web site Ski.com offers summer packages at a number of resorts in the West, including Lake Tahoe, Vail and Whistler. Some of the deals are available through September or October, and Ski.com can also help find discount airfare. Details at http://SummerMountainTravel.com or call 800-556-7547.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee state senator said he was opposed to sex outside marriage, but his private life told a different story: He was having an affair with his 22-year-old intern.
When an extortion plot exposed married Republican Sen. Paul Stanley’s illicit relationship, he said he would be “clearing up” misimpressions later. He’s now clearing out his office, the latest politician caught in a sex scandal, this one made worse by not coming clean.
“If you can’t explain what you’ve done to your constituents in 30 seconds or less in a way they would accept, then don’t do it,” said Bruce Oppenheimer, a political science professor at Vanderbilt University. “It’s amazing how many elected officials violate that very important conventional wisdom.”
As news of the affair broke last month, the 47-year-old Stanley dodged reporters and issued a statement calling himself a victim. The suburban Memphis lawmaker, a married father of two who taught Sunday school, said he wanted to set the record straight. But, he insisted, prosecutors had told him not to talk.
The details that emerged, however, did nothing to vindicate him. Court documents showed he had admitted the affair to investigators and acknowledged taking explicit photos of intern McKensie Morrison in his Nashville apartment. Prosecutors issued a statement saying he was not restricted from discussing the case. After a week of mounting pressure, he reluctantly resigned.
Even as he quit, he tried to blame Morrison, suggesting in a radio interview that the intern might face charges in the extortion case.
Her boyfriend, Joel Watts, is the only person charged in the matter, accused of trying to extort 10,000 from Stanley in April. Authorities have said they do not plan to file more charges.
Investigators say Watts demanded the money in exchange for not selling Stanley’s explicit photos of Morrison to the media. Morrison and Watts have said Stanley was the first to offer to pay.
Stanley kept constituents and colleagues — even the Republican speaker of the Senate — in the dark until the first court hearing in the case on July 20.
Tennessee Democratic operative Mark Brown, who blasted Republicans’ handling of the incident on his blog, said Stanley’s biggest mistake was appearing dishonest.
“First and foremost, tell the truth,” he said. “Crisis management does not mean that you alter facts. Tell the truth, and then shut up.”
Moments after submitting his resignation letter, Stanley went on a talk radio show in Memphis to say that his actions did not shake his moral ideals.
In nearly a decade in the Legislature, he repeatedly cited his belief in abstinence outside marriage as he opposed gay marriage, adoption by gay couples and family planning funding for Planned Parenthood.
“Whatever I stood for and advocated, I still believe to be true,” he said last week. “And just because I fell far short of what God’s standard was for me and my wife it doesn’t mean that that standard is reduced in the least bit.”
Voters were outraged, posting hundreds of comments on newspaper Web sites and writing letters to the editor.
“He wants others to stay out of his business while he jumps blindly into theirs,” Dot Truitt Walk of Memphis said in a letter to The Commercial Appeal. “All of those sanctimonious hypocrites should remember this.”
Though Stanley’s resignation is unhelpful to the GOP, it is not expected to affect his district’s solid Republican voting pattern. The GOP already controls the state Senate, though the governor is a Democrat. A special election will be held to fill Stanley’s seat.
Oppenheimer said the timing of the scandal may actually be better for Tennessee Republicans than if the affair had surfaced closer to the election.
“The Republicans are far better off that this happened in July 2009 than if it were July 2010,” he said.
Some Tennessee Republicans even made light of the situation. State Rep. Stacey Campfield of Knoxville wrote on his blog that another lawmaker told him the Stanley affair was “just more proof, Republicans are clearly irresistible to females.”
Other Republicans across the country have recently been caught in extramarital affairs, among them U.S. Sens. John Ensign of Nevada and David Vitter of Louisiana. Then there’s South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, who on his return from a secret visit to his mistress in Argentina confessed his affair at a tearful, rambling press conference.
But Tom Ingram, a longtime Republican consultant in Tennessee, said all public officials risk the same scorn if they advocate one set of standards while acting under others.
“Every public official espouses morality, just like every preacher does,” Ingram said. “And the higher standards you set for yourself and others, if you violate those along the way, you’re going to pay a higher price because you got caught in your own web.”
WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama remains committed to not raising taxes on U.S. families earning less than 250,000 despite some conflicting statements from senior members of his economic team, the president’s spokesman said Monday.
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs restated the assurance after Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and National Economic Council Director Larry Summers appeared to leave open the possibility Obama would tap middle-class Americans’ income.
“I’m going to deal with this and I’ll do this one more time,” Gibbs said after repeated questions from reporters about the differences between the economists and Obama. “The president was clear. He made a commitment in the campaign. That commitment stands.”
Geithner and Summers sidestepped questions on Obama’s intentions about taxes. Geithner said the White House was not ready to rule out a tax hike to reduce the federal deficit; Summers said Obama’s proposed health care overhaul needs funding from somewhere.
“There is a lot that can happen over time,” Summers said, adding that the administration believes “it is never a good idea to absolutely rule things out, no matter what.”
During his presidential campaign, Obama pledged “you will not see any of your taxes increase one single dime” and repeatedly said middle-class families would not be effected.
But the simple reality remains that his ambitious overhaul of how Americans receive health care — promised without increasing the federal deficit — must be paid for.
“If we want an economy that’s going to grow in the future, people have to understand we have to bring those deficits down. And it’s going to be difficult, hard for us to do. And the path to that is through health care reform,” Geithner said. “We’re not at the point yet where we’re going to make a judgment about what it’s going to take.”
Those comments dominated Gibbs’ daily meeting with reporters.
“The president was clear during the campaign about his commitment on not raising taxes on middle-class families,” Gibbs said. “And I don’t think any economist would believe that in the environment that we’re in raising taxes on middle-class families would make any sense, and the president agrees.”
Geithner appeared on ABC’s “This Week.” Summers appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press” and CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
SHANGHAI (Reuters) –
No scars, no history of serious illness in the last three generations of your family, and no tooth cavities.
These are amongst the 100 health requirements for would-be astronauts vying to be part of China's next space team, the Yangtse Evening Paper reported Saturday.
The selection process, which the paper said is for the second batch of Chinese astronauts, will disqualify those who have runny noses, ringworm, drug allergies or bad breath.
“The bad smell would affect their fellow colleagues in a narrow space,” said Shi Bing Bing, an official with the 454th hospital of People's Liberation Army air force based in Nanjing, one of the six astronaut health screening hospitals.
Aside from the physical requirements of the job, the candidate must also possess a pleasant and adaptable disposition, the paper said.
“These astronauts could be regarded as super human beings,” Shi said.
China sent its first man to walk in space in September last year. Zhai Zhigang, the son of a snack-seller, unveiled a small Chinese flag in space, helped by colleague Liu Boming, who also briefly popped his head out of the capsule.
The space walk was a step toward China's longer-term goal of assembling a space lab and then a larger space station.
(Writing by Melanie Lee; Editing by Sugita Katyal)