SAVANNAH, Ga. – Police on Thursday searched the home of a 53-year-old man jailed on charges he attempted to stalk Miley Cyrus during filming of her new movie on the Georgia coast.
Capt. Steve Morris of the Columbia County Sheriff’s Department did not say what investigators were looking for at the Appling home of Mark McLeod, who told police he’s secretly engaged to marry the 16-year-old “Hannah Montana” star. The search warrant was sealed by a judge.
McLeod told a Tybee Island police officer who arrested him in June that he had “thousands of pictures and letters to Miley on his computer,” according to a police report.
McLeod was arrested Tuesday on a charge of attempted stalking, a misdemeanor, after security guards for Walt Disney Pictures reported McLeod had returned to the filming location on Tybee Island asking where he could find Cyrus.
Police say McLeod had been warned to stay away from the island, 12 miles east of Savannah, after he was charged June 22 with disorderly conduct and obstruction of a police officer for trying to cross a security perimeter at the movie set. McLeod told police he wanted to see Cyrus, claiming she was his fiancee and sent him secret messages through her TV show.
Tybee Island Police Chief Jim Price would not comment on the search of McLeod’s home, 180 miles from where Cyrus is filming the movie “The Last Song.”
McLeod remained jailed in Chatham County on a 55,200 bond. McLeod told a judge Wednesday he did not have an attorney. He has requested a court-appointed lawyer.
Archive for August 6th, 2009
SAVANNAH, Ga. – Police on Thursday searched the home of a 53-year-old man jailed on charges he attempted to stalk Miley Cyrus during filming of her new movie on the Georgia coast.
CHICAGO – Authorities said a 86-year-old woman charged with shoplifting wrinkle cream and other items from a Chicago grocery store has been arrested 61 times since 1956. Ella Orko was arrested Sunday afternoon on the North Side after she allegedly stuffed 252 worth of groceries into her pants, including cosmetics, salmon, batteries and instant coffee.
She was charged with felony shoplifting.
Police said Orko has gone by as many as 20 aliases in the past.
Court records indicate that she has now been arrested 61 times and has 13 convictions for shoplifting.
She was arrested the first time in 1956 in Chicago for petty larceny and again in 1958 for grand larceny.
She’s being held on 10,000 bail. It wasn’t immediately clear who her lawyer is.
NEW YORK – Michael Douglas’ son traveled coast to coast dealing large quantities of methamphetamine before his arrest last month, according to a criminal complaint made public Thursday.
The complaint in federal court in Manhattan alleges that Cameron Douglas was paid tens of thousands of dollars trafficking the drug — referred to in transactions by the code words “pastry” or “bath salts” — since 2006. Cash and drugs were routinely exchanged through shippers like FedEx, the court papers said.
The 30-year-old son of the Oscar-winning actor was arrested July 28 at the trendy Hotel Gansevoort in Manhattan. His attorney, Nicholas DeFeis, declined to comment Thursday.
Federal authorities have refused to discuss whether Cameron Douglas remains behind bars or any other aspect of the case.
The complaint drawn up by a Drug Enforcement Administration agent details allegations based on information provided by three unnamed crystal meth users and dealers. The users — including someone who once worked for Cameron Douglas — have pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with the investigation.
The complaint said that in one deal in 2006, a cooperator shipped cash under a fake name to Douglas at a California hotel. A few days later, it said, Douglas delivered a pound of methamphetamine to the cooperator at a Manhattan hotel.
In 2007, according to another cooperator, Douglas was paid 48,000 at a Manhattan apartment. The cooperator later received a pound of crystal meth through FedEx from Santa Barbara, Calif., the complaint said.
In June and July, negotiations for more drugs were secretly recorded on wiretaps of cell phones and a cooperator’s hotel room in Manhattan, the complaint said.
Cameron Douglas, in one recording at the hotel, “acknowledged his prior history selling crystal meth” and “indicated that he continued to sell crystal meth.”
In a seperate recorded phone conversation, investigators said he spoke of “sending out a pastry” to a cooperator, and also asked, “Did you get a chance to … smell any of the salts or anything like that?”
Cameron Douglas has acted in movies including 2003′s “It Runs in the Family,” starring his father and grandfather Kirk Douglas.
He also was arrested in California in 2007 on cocaine possession charges. His attorney then said the arresting officer didn’t do his job properly.
NEW YORK – It seemed too horrendous even to imagine. But the case of the mother who caused a deadly wrong-way crash while drunk and stoned is part of a disturbing trend: Women in the U.S. are drinking more, and drunken-driving arrests among women are rising rapidly while falling among men.
And some of those women, as in the New York case, are getting behind the wheel with kids in the back.
Men still drink more than women and are responsible for more drunken-driving cases. But the gap is narrowing, and among the reasons cited are that women are feeling greater pressures at work and home, they are driving more, and they are behaving more recklessly.
“Younger women feel more empowered, more equal to men, and have been beginning to exhibit the same uninhibited behaviors as men,” said Chris Cochran of the California Office of Traffic Safety.
Another possible reason cited for the rising arrests: Police are less likely to let women off the hook these days.
Nationwide, the number of women arrested for driving under the influence or alcohol or drugs was 28.8 percent higher in 2007 than it was in 1998, while the number of men arrested was 7.5 percent lower, according to FBI figures that cover about 56 percent of the country. (Despite the incomplete sample, Alfred Blumstein, a Carnegie Mellon University criminologist, said the trend probably holds true for the country as a whole.)
“Women are picking up some of the dangerously bad habits of men,” said Chuck Hurley, CEO of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
In New York’s Westchester County, where Diane Schuler’s crash killed her and seven other people last month, the number of women arrested for drunken driving is up 2 percent this year, and officers said they are noticing more women with children in the back seat.
“We realized for the last two to three years, the pattern of more female drivers, particularly mothers with kids in their cars, getting arrested for drunk driving,” said Tom Meier, director of Drug Prevention and Stop DWI for the county.
In one case there, a woman out clubbing with her teenage daughter was sent to prison for causing a wrong-way crash that killed her daughter’s friend.
Another woman was charged with driving drunk after witnesses said she had been drinking all day before going to pick up her children at school. Authorities said the children were scared during the ride, and once they got home, they jumped out of the car, ran to a neighbor’s house and told an adult, who called police. The mother lay passed out in the car, and police said her blood alcohol level was 0.27 percent — more than three times the legal limit.
In California, based on the same FBI figures, women accounted for 18.8 percent of all DUI arrests in 2007, up from 13.5 percent in 1998, according to the California Office of Traffic Safety.
Nearly 250 youngsters were killed in alcohol-related crashes in the U.S. in 2007, and most of them were passengers in the car with the impaired driver, according to the National Highway Safety Administration.
“Drunk drivers often carry their kids with them,” said MADD’s Hurley. “It’s the ultimate form of child abuse.”
Arrests of drunken mothers with children in the car remain rare, but police officers can generally list a few.
In the Chicago suburb of Wheaton, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s daughter was stopped by police after she pulled away from a McDonald’s with three of her kids in the car. She pleaded guilty to drunken driving and was sentenced to 18 months of court supervision.
Sgt. Glen Williams of the Creve Coeur, Mo., police department recalls stopping a suspected drunken driver on her way to pick up two preschoolers.
Sometime later, “she told me it actually changed her life, getting arrested,” he said. “She was forced to get help and realized she’d had a problem.”
The increase in arrests comes as women are drinking excessively more than in the past.
One federal study found that the number of women who reported abusing alcohol (having at least four drinks in a day) rose from 1.5 percent to 2.6 percent over the 10-year period that ended in 2002. For women ages 30 to 44, Schuler’s age group, the number more than doubled, from 1.5 percent to 3.3 percent.
The problem has caught the attention of the federal government. The Transportation Department’s annual crackdown on drunken driving, which begins later this month, will focus on women.
“There’s the impression out there that drunk driving is strictly a male issue, and it is certainly not the case,” said Rae Tyson, spokesman for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. “There are a number of parts of the country where, in fact, the majority of impaired drivers involved in fatal crashes are female.”
Schuler’s relatives have denied she was an alcoholic and said they were shocked to learn of her drug and alcohol use before the July 26 crash. The wreck, about 35 miles north of New York City, killed Schuler, her 2-year-old daughter, her three nieces and three men in an oncoming SUV she hit with her minivan. Schuler’s 5-year-old son survived his injuries.
Schuler, a cable company executive, could have had a drinking problem that her family didn’t know about, said Elaine Ducharme, a psychologist in Connecticut who has seen more excessive drinking, overeating, smoking and drug abuse during the recession.
Unlike men, women tend to drink at home and alone, which allows them to conceal a problem more easily.
Because of this, they seek treatment less often than men, and when they do, it is at a later stage, often when something catastrophic has already happened, said Dr. Petros Levounis, director of the Addiction Institute of New York at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center.
“Our society has taught us that women have an extra burden to be the perfect mothers and perfect wives and perfect daughters and perfect everything,” Levounis said. “They tend to go to great lengths to keep everything intact from an external viewpoint while internally, they are in ruins.”
In the current recession, women’s incomes have become more important because so many men have lost their jobs, experts say. Men are helping out more at home, but working mothers still have the bulk of the child rearing responsibilities.
“Because of that, they have a bigger burden then most men do,” said clinical psychologist Carol Goldman. “We have to look at the pressures on women these days. They have to be the supermom.”
And just becoming a parent doesn’t mean people will stop using drugs or alcohol, Ducharme said: “If you have a real addictive personality, just having a child isn’t going to make the difference.”
Associated Press writers Solvej Schou in Los Angeles, Mark Tarm in Chicago and Betsy Taylor in St. Louis contributed to this report.
ATLANTA – Get ready to roll up your sleeve three times for flu shots this fall. That’s right, three times. This year’s flu season is shaping up to be a very different one. Most people will need one shot for the regular seasonal flu and probably two others to protect against the new swine flu.
Experts suggest you get that first shot as early as this month — if you can find it.
“We’d like to get to Job 1 and get most of it done,” said Dr. William Schaffner, a Vanderbilt University flu expert, referring to seasonal flu vaccinations.
“Get it done before we start to tackle Job 2,” the more complex task of swine flu vaccinations, he added.
The five vaccine manufacturers that supply the United States are finishing up production of seasonal flu vaccine earlier than usual. Health officials say they expect about half of the more than 120 million doses of seasonal vaccine to be available by the end of this month. Most of the rest are due out by the end of September. Some manufacturers report that distributors are quickly buying up supplies.
Those five companies — including one that makes a nasal spray version of flu vaccine — are the same ones making the new swine flu vaccine. They are on track to start delivering the first batches of that in September, but the bulk of it isn’t expected until late October or November, health officials say.
That’s sparked questions about how all this is going to work.
Officials want to get as many people as possible vaccinated against both forms of flu, but a lot of that depends on consumers and how many trips they’ll be willing to make to get shots.
Why can’t you get one shot for all — or maybe just two?
The reasons have to do with logistics and caution.
Scientists believe the swine flu vaccine will be most effective if given in two doses, about three weeks apart, although testing is still under way to check that.
Combining swine flu and seasonal flu in one shot is theoretically possible, but it was too late to try it this year. Decisions were made last winter about what flu strains to use in this year’s seasonal vaccine, and production was too far along by the time swine flu hit in April to alter the formula.
So seasonal flu and swine flu will have to be given as separate doses, even if it’s during the same appointment.
But it’s not a matter of just giving both to whoever comes in. Supplies are expected to be limited, so the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has two different lists for who should be first to get the seasonal flu shot and who should be first to get the swine flu shot.
For the regular flu vaccine, elderly people, health care workers and pregnant women are among the priority groups. For the swine flu vaccine, health care workers and pregnant women are on the list but not older people, who seem to have some immunity to swine flu.
If all the flu shots were given at about the same time, it could mean a mash of people, some of whom should be among the first to get one shot and not the other.
“I think it’s safe to say we expect some confusion,” said Kristine Sheedy, a CDC communications specialist.
Then, there are safety questions.
Health officials are haunted by the swine flu vaccine campaign in 1976, which was stopped after unexpectedly high numbers of patients suffered a paralyzing condition called Guillain-Barre Syndrome. While it’s not clear the vaccine was to blame, health officials want to carefully monitor people who get the new swine flu vaccine for any problems.
Scientists are just beginning to test the safety and effectiveness of the new swine flu vaccine, work that is expected to take months. If the seasonal flu and swine flu vaccines were given at the same sitting and some people developed health problems, it would be hard to single out which vaccine caused the problem, or whether it was the combination of them.
“How you’re going to separate that out — that’s a doozer,” said Dr. Samuel Katz, a Duke University vaccines expert, who was a developer of the measles vaccine.
So the government is looking at three shots, preferably over three visits.
That’s daunting. Over the years, the public hasn’t been great about getting even one flu shot: Just one in three U.S. adults got flu shots last year, CDC data indicate.
“To come two or three times? That’s expecting a lot, of public response,” said Katz.
Health officials traditionally kick off an autumn vaccine campaign against seasonal flu in late September or October with a news conference in Washington D.C. But this year, the news conference — which features the CDC director — has been moved up to Sept. 10.
Unofficially, the push for seasonal vaccinations begins even sooner, some health officials said.
“As soon as it becomes available, we’ll be encouraging people to get it,” said Carol Schriber, a spokeswoman for the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.
How many bake sales does it take to save a teacher’s job? For decades, public-school parents have organized such fundraising events to cover the costs of field trips, sports equipment and other frills that enrich their children’s education. Yet now, as recession clouds hang ever lower and state budgets tighten, schools and districts are increasingly asking adults to help pay for essentials. Parents are under pressure to bring in big bucks for supplies, technology and even, in some cases, staff salaries. That’s a lot of sugar cookies.
Parent-teacher associations (PTAs), school foundations, independent community groups – the methods may vary, but the goal remains the same: to prevent public schools from losing more staff and services. In New York City, some public-school parents recently came under fire for paying school aides out of their own pockets. The local teachers union filed a complaint, alleging that the positions were taking away jobs from higher-paid unionized aides. It’s all a new twist on an old story. “School spending has been augmented by private sources for a long time,” says Andy Rotherham, a co-founder of Education Sector, a Washington think tank. “But this money is now being looked at as a way to restore more core services that are being cut, rather than just to provide extra things.” (See pictures of a public boarding school.)
For many parents, the PTA – with its name recognition and history of reliable annual fundraisers – is the natural first line of defense. In Castro Valley, Calif., for example, Proctor Elementary’s PTA raised 17,000 during the 2008-09 school year through a walkathon, an auction and a 60-per-child suggested contribution to the PTA. The group was able to put that money toward the salary of a paraprofessional whose job was endangered. “The state is supposed to provide the black-and-white essentials of a good education, and the PTA fills in the color,” says California state PTA president Jo Loss, whose schools have had to deal with a round of budget cuts that might leave more than 17,000 teachers out of work this fall. “But our state has increasingly fallen far short of providing even the essentials. So PTAs are having to step in.”
Still, many parent-teacher organizations are uncomfortable with the idea of getting so heavily involved with such vital financial issues. The National PTA, which claims 26,000 chapters, discourages its members from going too far. “Parents should not have to raise money to underwrite staff salaries,” says Charles J. Saylors, president of the National PTA. “That’s the responsibility of the local government. They should not be balancing their budgets on the backs of parents.” (See pictures of the college dorm’s evolution.)
Sure, but try telling that to a parent who fears that her child’s teacher is going to get downsized. Suny Bruun, a mother of two in Winner, S.D., this summer bypassed the PTA and formed an independent parent fundraising group, Keeping Intelligent Determined Students (KIDS). Its goal is not only to raise money for the local school district but also to lower the amount of a 500,000 tax hike the town proposed to cover teacher and aide salaries. In early July, a radiothon raised 42,066 through donations ranging from 10 to 2,000, and the group has planned both an online sale and a concession stand for later in the summer. Bruun has even made overtures to a local man who in May became the winner of the ninth-largest Powerball jackpot ever: 232 million. “I sent him a letter,” says Bruun. “It has gone unanswered.”
The nation’s average teacher salary, as of the 2006-07 school year, was 51,000 – and that’s not including benefits – so most parents are not under the illusion that they will be able to bake-sale their way into saving multiple jobs. Which is why some communities establish educational foundations. These nonprofits, typically staffed by volunteers, alumni and retired staff, take the university approach to fundraising: direct calls, mailings and appeals to former students, local businesses and even current staff. “This approach is different from relying on the PTA booster-club mentality,” says Jim Collogan, president of the National School Foundation Association. “This says, We’re going to get serious, find our alumni and talk to them about how to give back.” (See 10 ways your job will change in the coming decade.)
So far this year, a foundation supporting Oregon’s Lake Oswego school district has raised 1.6 million solely to fund teachers. The bulk of the fundraising was done through direct appeals – phone calls, e-mails, snail mail – and all money is spread out equally over the area’s 13 schools through an agreement between the foundation and the district. Lake Oswego, an affluent bedroom community outside Portland, is able to leverage the wealth of its parents to help its 13 schools. “Our parents are willing to step up and provide money,” says Bill Korach, Lake Oswego district superintendent. “But we are just trying to survive here. We’re not doing any school maintenance. We’re not buying any additional textbooks.” And this, he says, comes after the district had to cut 20 teaching positions.
Yet even Korach will admit that the one major issue with relying on parents to help pay for school essentials is that itexacerbates inequities that already exist between well-off school districtsand those with lesser means. “We’re not naive,” he says. “You couldn’t do what we do in other communities.”
Randi Weingarten, longtime head of the New York City teachers union and now president of the American Federation of Teachers, has long seen schools beg parents for additional help, handing out lists of classroom supplies that need to be purchased. To ramp that up would only “punctuate the haves and have-nots,” says Weingarten. “It leaves the nagging feeling of, What does that mean for kids whose parents aren’t able to fundraise like that?”
See 10 things to buy during the recession.
See nine kid foods to avoid.
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Ticket sales up as Fringe begins
Advanced ticket sales for this year’s Edinburgh Fringe are up more than 20% when compared to 2007.Last year’s box office fiasco led to a slump in sales for the three-week festival and unreliable statistics. However, a combination of “staycation” holidaymakers and people wanting to make sure they get tickets early have led to sales being ahead of 2007. The Fringe, which begins officially later, includes 34,265 performances of 2,098 shows in 265 venues. Latest figures show 395,000 tickets have been sold before the three week event begins compared to about 320,000 two years ago. By the end of the 2007 Fringe, a record 1.7 million tickets had been sold. Organisers hope on the door ticket sales throughout the festival can take this year beyond that figure. The programme for the 63rd Edinburgh Festival Fringe features almost 19,000 performers, with shows from 60 countries including comedy, music, theatre, musicals, opera and dance. It runs from 7-31 August and includes famous names such as Clive James, Julian Clary, Christopher Biggins and cricketing legend Henry Blofeld.
Steve Cardownie, Edinburgh City Council festivals champion, said: “Year on year people predict the Fringe has peaked, but this is the evidence that it’s not the case. “And given the past problems with the ticket system last year, to have bounced back in such a fashion lays testament to the resilience to what is the world’s biggest arts extravaganza. “Everyone keeps saying the Fringe will go in a downward spiral so this trend is fantastic news for the city. “There is evidence that more people are staying in the UK for their holidays and there is no better place than Edinburgh in August, no other city can compete.” Neil MacKinnon, Edinburgh Fringe Society’s head of external affairs, said: “All the indications in terms of ticket sales and numbers look very positive and we are cautiously optimistic that this years Fringe will be one of the best and one of the biggest.” Meanwhile, the Edinburgh Festivals’ Cavalcade, which runs on Sunday, is being moved to Holyrood Park to avoid tram works in the city centre. The capital’s annual parade is being amalgamated with Fringe Sunday, in a one-off temporary move. Traditionally the parade travelled through Princes Street.
Shoppers ‘need more protection’
A watchdog has called for more protection for shoppers who pay for goods in advance but lose their money when a business collapses.One in 10 consumers who paid upfront during the last two years have not received their order, a poll of 16,010 people for Consumer Focus found. Just under half of those did not get any money back, losing an average of 242 each, the group said. In the UK, 24.5 million prepayment transactions are made each year. InvestigationThe watchdog decided to research pre-payments after the high-profile collapse of businesses such as Christmas hamper firm Farepak and wedding gift list operator Wrapit.
Newlyweds without their presents were told they would receive little or no refund after Wrapit collapsed in August 2008. Consumer Focus said that retailers and suppliers going bust was the main reason for consumers missing out on goods and refunds. Top of the list of goods failing to arrive were electrical goods, books, music, clothing, furniture and non-package holidays. “Consumers are losing out in the fight to reclaim money from bankrupt businesses,” said Steve Brooker of Consumer Focus. “The problem looks to worsen, given the dramatic rise in companies going under this year. As with many things during a recession, it is the poorest that will be hit hardest.” Card protectionDebit cards were used in 45% of pre-payment transactions and Mr Brooker said the protection for these people should be stepped up.
He called for the law to be changed, so those using debit cards were offered the same chance of compensation as those using a credit card. People who pay between 100 and 30,000 in advance for goods can make a claim to their credit card provider if the shop or supplier goes bust. Visa also offers some voluntary protection for its debit cards. The watchdog also wants customers to be placed higher on the list of creditors to be refunded after a business folds and the administrators sell its assets. It claimed that they received an average of 3p for every pound spent.
Taliban head Mehsud ‘may be dead’
US and Pakistani officials have said they are checking reports that the leader of the Taliban in Pakistan, Baitullah Mehsud, has been killed.He is said to have died in a missile attack on the home of a relative. A US official said there was “reason to believe reports of his death may be true, but it cannot be confirmed”. Family members have already confirmed that one of Mehsud’s wives was killed when a US drone attacked her father’s home in South Waziristan on Wednesday. The area is a stronghold of Mehsud, who has been blamed by Pakistan for a series of suicide bomb attacks in the country. About 2,000 people have died in such attacks across the country since July 2007, when government forces besieged and captured a radical mosque in Islamabad from Mehsud’s loyalists. Since then the Taliban in Pakistan have claimed responsibility for some of the worst attacks, but have always denied any role in the murder of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in Rawalpindi in December 2007.
WASHINGTON (AFP) –
Hurricane Felicia has strengthened to become a powerful Category Four storm in the Pacific, the US National Hurricane Center said Thursday.
Packing winds of up to 220 km (140 m/h), the strengthening storm's center was about 2,430 kilometers (1,510 miles) west-southwest of the southern tip of Mexico's Baja California and about 2,490 kilometers (1,545 miles) east of Hilo, Hawaii, the NHC said in its 1500 GMT advisory.
The storm is moving towards the northwest at around 17 kilometers (10 miles) per hour “and a gradual turn to the west-northwest is expected over the next 48 hours,” the NHC said.
“Slow weakening is forecast during the next couple of days as Felicia moves over cooler waters,” the Miami-based NHC said.
Baja California's beaches and ports are popular tourist destinations.
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) –
There is a strong likelihood that Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud was killed along with his wife and bodyguards in a missile attack two days ago, Pakistan's Interior Minister Rehman Malik told Reuters.
“We suspect he was killed in the missile strike,” Malik said on Friday. “We have some information, but we don't have material evidence to confirm it.”
A U.S. official also said there was reason to believe Mehsud was dead.
“There is reason to believe that reports of his death may be true, but it can't be confirmed at this time,” said the official, providing the information on condition of anonymity.
The official would not comment on the circumstances surrounding Mehsud's possible death.
The United States has placed a $5 million reward on the head of Mehsud, an ally of al Qaeda widely regarded in Pakistan as Public Enemy No. 1.
The attack in a tribal region of northwest Pakistan was believed to have been carried out by a pilotless U.S. drone aircraft at around 1:00 a.m. on Wednesday.
Neither the Pakistani nor U.S. governments confirm such attacks because of sensitivities over violation of Pakistan's territorial sovereignty.
Intelligence officials and relatives had confirmed earlier that Mehsud's second wife had been killed in the missile strike that targeted her father's home in an outlying settlement close to Makeen village in the South Waziristan tribal region.
A relative of Mehsud's dead wife had initially said the Taliban leader wasn't present when the missiles struck, but rumors that he had either been wounded or killed refused to die down.
The stricken house is some two hours' walk from Makeen, and Taliban fighters had cordoned off the area, refusing to let people enter, according to villagers.
A senior Pakistani security official said that aside from Mehsud's wife, one of Mehsud's brothers and seven of his bodyguards perished in the attack.
The official said intelligence services were trying to discover the identity of another victim, and there was a good chance it was Mehsud.
Intelligence agents had also picked up signs that leaders of various Taliban factions planned to gather for a shura, or council meeting, somewhere in Waziristan later on Friday.
Sometimes in the past, militant leaders presumed to have been killed have resurfaced later.
Mehsud declared himself leader of the Pakistan Taliban, grouping around 13 factions in the northwest, in late 2007, and his fighters have been behind a wave of suicide attacks inside Pakistan and on Western forces across the border in Afghanistan.
He is accused of being behind the assassination of Benazir Bhutto in December 2007, a charge he has denied. Conspiracy theories abound over who killed the former prime minister.
U.S. missile attacks on Mehsud territory in South Waziristan became more frequent after the Pakistan government ordered a military offensive against him in June.
Pakistan forces have also bombarded Mehsud's stronghold with air raids and artillery.
Mehsud is estimated to have between 10,000 and over 20,000 battle-hardened fighters with him in the mountains.
The army has sealed roads around Mehsud's territory and villagers have fled the area, but as the days have dragged on there was growing speculation that the strategy might be to isolate him by stealth rather than launch a full-blown assault.
(Additional reporting by Adam Entous in Washington; writing by Simon Cameron-Moore; editing by Robin Pomeroy and Todd Eastham)
MIAMI (Reuters) –
The U.S. government climate agency cut its 2009 Atlantic hurricane season forecast on Thursday, predicting between seven and 11 tropical storms, with three to six becoming hurricanes.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted one to two of those would be “major” hurricanes of Category 3 or higher, with sustained winds of more than 110 miles per hour (177 km per hour).
The agency had predicted in May that there would be nine to 14 tropical storms, with four to seven becoming hurricanes, and one to three strengthening into major hurricanes.
Hurricanes can disrupt U.S. energy production in the Gulf of Mexico and ravage crops in the southeastern United States and Caribbean, sending prices soaring for fuel, orange juice, sugar, coffee and cotton.
Seasonal forecasts are sometimes good at predicting broad, general trends. But NOAA said such long-range forecasts cannot predict whether or when a specific location might be endangered, or the potential financial impact, because those things depend on conditions that change often.
The change in the seasonal forecast was based mainly on the arrival of El Nino, a periodic warming of sea waters in the eastern Pacific. El Nino can suppress Atlantic hurricane activity by increasing wind shear, a difference in wind speeds at different altitudes that can tear apart nascent cyclones.
“El Nino is here,” said Gerry Bell, the agency's lead seasonal hurricane forecaster.
“El Nino developed very rapidly in June and it very quickly started having very significant impacts on the wind patterns throughout the tropics.”
In May, NOAA had calculated there was a 50 percent chance El Nino would develop.
NOAA now expects a normal to below-normal season, Bell said. An average season brings 11 tropical storms, with six strengthening into hurricanes and two becoming major hurricanes.
Bell warned against complacency, adding, “By no means do we expect the season to be dead.”
The Atlantic-Caribbean hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to November 30, has not generated any tropical storms so far. But the busiest part of the season is usually from late August to mid-October.
“The calm start to this hurricane season is not a reliable indicator of the overall activity for the entire season,” NOAA warned in the forecast.
(Editing by Jim Loney and Eric Beech)
Men with angina ‘at greater risk’
Men with angina are much more likely than women to develop further serious heart problems, a study suggests.Researchers found male patients were twice as likely to have a heart attack and almost three times as likely to suffer a heart disease-related death. Angina, a type of chest pain, is common and can be the first sign of heart disease – but the risks are unclear. The study of UK patients, led by the National University of Ireland, appears in the British Medical Journal. Angina is caused by insufficient supply of blood to the heart muscle. Recent estimates suggest that 4.8% of men and 3.4% of women aged over 16 in England have angina. In Scotland, the figures are higher: 6.6% of men and 5.6% of women. The Irish team identified 1,785 patients in Scotland who were diagnosed with angina between January 1998 and December 2001, and tracked their progress for five years. They found being male, older and a smoker was associated with an increased risk of having a heart attack. The same factors – along with obesity – were also associated with a higher risk of dying from heart disease. Men were also more likely than women to undergo angioplasty to open up blocked arteries, or to have coronary artery bypass surgery. Lead researcher Dr Brian Buckley, based in Galway, said the reasons why men appeared more at risk were unclear. Some believe the problem could be that men are less likely to follow medical advice following diagnosis. Others suspect that men do not go to their doctor until their condition is more advanced. Women are also thought to receive some protection from the sex hormone oestrogen. Dr Buckley said: “We need to look at what the hell is happening here rather more closely than we have in the past. “Hopefully, our study has demonstrated that men are at more risk -so indisputably, that more research will take place looking at why.” He said the main message from the study was that people with angina should take steps to improve their lifestyle to minimise risk of more serious disease. He said: “If you are diagnosed with angina, you should not panic – it won’t necessarily end up in a heart attack – but you ought to take what the doctor says to you seriously, both in terms of taking medication and adopting a healthier lifestyle.” Dr Mike Knapton, associate medical director of the British Heart Foundation, said the study was important because it was based on large numbers of people living in the community, rather than in a hospital setting. He said: “It confirms that smoking and being obese greatly up your risk of dying from heart disease. “This is good news for people living with angina, as it shows that it’s never too late for them to change their lifestyles, or to stop smoking.” The research was carried out in collaboration with the University of Aberdeen.
Who won epic South Korean factory battle?
By John Sudworth
BBC News, Seoul
Picking his way past the ranks of riot police and the barricaded factory gates, it was Ssangyong’s chief financial officer who came out to break the news to the waiting journalists.”The 77-day strike is over,” he said. “Are you relieved?” I asked. “It may have come a bit late,” he replied, “but we’re glad it has ended peacefully.” Medieval battleAt times over the past few weeks, the Ssangyong Motor plant has looked less like the venue of a labour dispute and more like the scene of medieval battle.
And a peaceful outcome was far from assured. Hundreds of workers had holed themselves up in the company paint shop, a building packed with flammable material. They were defending their position using giant homemade catapults, firebombs and, if needed, sticks and fists in hand-to-hand combat with the riot police. The police, in turn, were quite literally trying to flush the strikers out with tear gas, dropping it by the gallon from helicopters hovering above the building. So just how did it come to this and what does it tell us about the state of South Korea’s labour relations? In one sense Ssangyong’s troubles are unique. It is the smallest of South Korea’s car makers, and it specialises in making gas-guzzling sports-utility vehicles, including a car often cruelly championed by reviewers for its ugliness, the Rodius. Its niche did not make it best-placed to ride out the global recession. Earlier this year Ssangyong’s Chinese backer, the Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp, gave up management control and it went into receivership. Union militancyThe court-appointed managers insisted that for the company to survive they needed to lay off more than 2,500 staff, a third of the total workforce.
And that is when the real trouble began. Many workers did choose temporary redundancy, but 600 of those earmarked for the sack took to the barricades. I spoke to one of them by telephone just before the strike ended. “It is bad management and their bad decisions that have caused the problems, but only the workers who are facing the consequences,” he said. The management had attempted to reach a compromise, promising to guarantee 40% of the strikers’ jobs in return for their surrender, but the union stuck to its demand for all jobs to be saved. In the end, the deal they are reported to have accepted does not look all that different to the one on offer earlier. Does South Korea have more militant unions than other developed economies? National bargainSurveys have shown that, among foreign investors, the country does have a reputation for union militancy which sometimes puts them off.
Nearly 100 people were injured in the clashes
The umbrella labour group involved in the Ssangyong dispute, the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), is often singled out for blame. “Parts of the labour movement really do need to change,” Professor Park Young-bum, of Korea’s Hansung University says. “Too often they try to solve problems by using their physical strength, but the government also needs to be more open, they need a better dialogue with the unions.” Perhaps things are changing. A “national bargain” of sorts was struck earlier this year as state-run firms and a number of large conglomerates agreed to sign up to a government-backed scheme to save jobs. Managers took pay cuts and workers began job-sharing, or agreed to cuts in hours, in an effort to keep everyone on the payroll. And a number of unions have severed their affiliation with the KCTU, saying it is too focused on political battles, including the union at the giant telecoms company, KT. ‘Simple truth’
But some observers point out that South Korea’s trade union movement needs to be so strong because the welfare system is so weak compared with other wealthy economies. Jobs, the argument goes, are worth fighting for. But few people believe the scenes at Ssangyong over the past few weeks have been in anyone’s interest, least of all the thousands of workers who were not facing the sack and wanted to get the production lines running again. The dispute, the company says, has cost it more than 250m (150m), and its future was already far from assured. “There will be no jobs or unions unless there are companies,” the Federation of Korean Industries said in a statement this week. “Labour unions need to understand this simple truth.”
Living with the aftermath of war
The war between Georgia and Russia a year ago may have been short, but for the people of the region it did not end with the ceasefire. They are still suffering the consequences.Below, the BBC’s Richard Galpin reports from Tskhinvali, South Ossetia, on how the war has affected people’s lives. Tom Esslemont is on
, where Georgians and South Ossetians are separated by Russian troops. And Jennifer Abrahamson, of Oxfam, explains how the war has left thousands of people
SOUTH OSSETIA, ONE YEAR ON
The road heading north from the South Ossetian capital Tskhinvali became notorious during last year’s war.Along both sides of the highway were many villages populated by ethnic Georgians. It was here that Ossetian militias went on the rampage – shooting, burning and looting until the entire Georgian population had fled into Georgia proper. The Council of Europe described what happened in this and many other Georgian enclaves as ethnic cleansing that has left 25,000 people homeless. Today the burnt-out villages still stand as monuments to the horror of last summer’s conflict. But in one of the villages a new sign has gone up symbolising what has happened to South Ossetia since the war. It advertises a new housing complex called the “Moscow district” and it is being built courtesy of the Mayor of the Russian capital, Yuri Luzhkov, as a present to the South Ossetian people. The land previously used by the Georgian villagers to grow vines and other plants has been cleared by bulldozers. From the ground now emerge clusters of large detached houses, apartment blocks and schools. “Thank God Luzhkov is doing this,” said one of the Russian builders working on the site. “We are helping our brothers.” He added he did not expect any of the local Georgians would be able to return to live in the new houses, but said this “was the fault of the Georgian government”. Russian investmentThe upmarket housing estate is due to be completed by the end of the year with the large school opening in time for the start of the new school year in September. In a sign of how Russia now runs South Ossetia as an extension of its own territory, it has pledged to finance the entire reconstruction and development programme following the war. It has reported to have promised more than 300m (179m) in aid. But there is little sign of that in Tskhinvali itself. The local government says 70% of buildings in the capital were damaged in the fighting, which erupted with Georgia’s assault on the city last August. While some public buildings have been repaired or rebuilt, many private homes still lie in ruins.
According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, some 2,000 people are still homeless. Sultan Kuzayev and his family are among those finding shelter wherever they can. Their house happened to lie on the only road that Georgian tanks were able to use to enter Tskhinvali. It was hit by a shell and caught fire. Sultan, who had been sheltering in the basement, was able to save just a handful of their possessions. Now one year later he, his wife, two children and elderly father are living in a tent and cow-shed in the back garden. But he refuses to give up hope. “The Russian President Dmitri Medvedev came here and told people everything would be OK,” he says. “We were told reconstruction of our houses would begin at the end of September and I am confident it will happen because South Ossetia is already part of Russia.” Military basesThat view that South Ossetia is now united with Russia has been reinforced by last year’s war. The region long ago declared its independence from Georgia and Moscow had already given the majority of the population Russian passports while also providing financial backing. But over the past year, Russia has officially recognised South Ossetia as an independent state and has fully taken control of the region’s security. It has built permanent military bases and has almost 4,000 troops on the ground equipped with tanks, artillery, rocket-launchers and other hardware. Russian border-guards, who are part of the FSB intelligence agency, control the South Ossetian side of the de-facto border with Georgia. And this week the South Ossetian leader, Eduard Kokoity, even appointed a Russian national as prime minister. He admitted to the BBC that all the candidates had been provided by the Russian authorities. Moscow may not want to officially incorporate South Ossetia into the Russian Federation, but unofficially it has already happened.
CRISIS FOR GEORGIA’S DISPLACED
The year since war broke out in South Ossetia has been a hard one for thousands of ethnic Georgians who were forced to flee the region, as Jennifer Abrahamson, of the aid agency Oxfam, explains.Spiridon, a 55-year-old farmer from South Ossetia, knows he will probably never step foot in the pastoral villages of his rugged homeland ever again. “I lost everything in Qsuisi, my village,” he says. “[I lost] my house, my cattle. We were all born in those villages, our grandfathers were born there too. Now nothing is left, everything has been burned. There are only two families living there now.” On 14 August 2008 Spiridon fled his village as South Ossetian militia and, he says, Russian troops, burned it to the ground. Along with tens of thousands of others, he and his family took shelter in a state school in Tbilisi until he was moved to Khurvaleti settlement in late November. It is now home to some 450 internally displaced Georgians from South Ossetia. Khurvaleti is just 35km (22 miles) away from cosmopolitan Tbilisi, with its bohemian cafes, trendy taverns and art galleries. But it seems a world away. Spiridon’s new home is one of the concrete blocks, laid out in incongruously neat rows, built late last autumn. Psychological battleAbout 130,000 Georgians fled their homes in or near South Ossetia last summer as Russian troops and Ossetian militia moved in. While most of those whose homes remain in Georgian-controlled territory have gone back, that has not been possible for many who, like Spiridon, lived in South Ossetia. Some 22,000 of them are still living in a state of limbo. They are unable to return to their villages in South Ossetia, but are equally unable to foresee a future for themselves here.
Most settlement residents have received small plots of land on which to farm. Spiridon has planted potatoes on a thin strip next to his concrete block. Other internally displaced people (IDPs) have been allotted plots of land several kilometres away from their new homes. This week, Oxfam has launched a new programme that will help thousands of IDPs lobby the Georgian government to provide them with social benefits and provide them with opportunities to become economically self-sufficient once again. The government currently gives the settlement residents 25 laris (9; 15), cooking oil, pasta and wheat for baking bread every month. Others still living in creaky abandoned buildings, or “collective centres”, in and around Tbilisi, are worse off. They receive food rations, but no money. Families live in single rooms with patchy electricity. Water and sanitation services installed by NGOs such as Oxfam are shared by several families. Many IDPs are struggling to cope both financially and psychologically. Standing just opposite one collective centre on Tbilisi’s periphery is an ominous sign: a towering, ragged apartment block still occupied by IDPs from Georgia’s civil war with another breakaway republic, Abkhazia, more than 15 years ago. One year on, handouts of food and pocket money are no longer enough. What Spiridon needs most is a job, government benefits and a good piece of accessible land so he can get on with his life. “Hope dies last. We hope that we might have the chance to go back,” Spiridon says. “If you could only see what our villages were like. This is all just like a bad dream.”
Movement between South Ossetia and the rest of Georgia is now strictly curtailed by Russian forces, making life difficult for local people, as the BBC’s Tom Esslemont finds.At the Odzisi checkpoint two Russian border guards stand watch in the narrow strip of shade; their only respite from the repressive 40C heat.
Even EU monitors are barred from entering South Ossetia
In the near deafening hum of cicadas in the long grass they carefully watch the steady flow of traffic between Georgia proper and the district of Akhalgori, a valley which was once under Georgian control. It still has a Georgian population of around 2,000-3,000 people, down from 8,000 before the war. No-one is allowed to cross the makeshift concrete border unless they hold a special resident’s permit. Bar one other village, it is the only place where Georgians and South Ossetians living in the disputed region are allowed to gain access to Georgia proper. Many do so to go to the local market. “I went to buy more supplies. Soon it will be the wine harvest, and selling grapes is my only source of income,” says a Georgian man calling himself Simon. He is returning to Akhalgori with a car full of empty plastic containers. He is one of an increasing number of Georgians displaced by the war who have decided to return to farm their land in South Ossetian-controlled territory. It is unclear how many plan to return permanently. Picture unclearThe situation appears calm, in spite of reports of at least three cross-border shootings in other nearby villages within the last eight days. I ask Simon what life is like in Akhalgori, a place cut off from the rest of Georgia. “It’s fine. It is like before,” he says. “Why should it be any different? We all believe in one God.” He sounds optimistic but his face is drawn; he looks weary. Since the war Akhalgori has been patrolled by Russian soldiers and Russian-backed South Ossetian militia. Now the soldiers have handed control to guards from the Russian security agency, the FSB. Without access, it is hard for foreign journalists to get a clear picture of life in Akhalgori. The only way is by listening to the testimony of those who cross the border. Access is impossible, too, for the 225-strong European Union monitoring mission, which patrols this border area. The mission is made up of police and civilian monitors.
Local people must have a permit to cross into Akhalgori
Part of their job is to gather information from soldiers and civilians about security at the border – the Administrative Boundary Line (ABL) – as it is known. Since Georgia and Russia started accusing each other of further shootings this week, the EU monitors have concentrated their efforts in observing activity at the border, including at Akhalgori. A British EU monitor, Charlie Place, says his role has been made more important by the recent withdrawal of OSCE monitors and United Nations observers in June. They were forced to withdraw after Russia vetoed an extension to their mandates. “I think the critical point for the EU mission is that we are the only mission observing the situation here, so therefore it will be more difficult for the mission to withdraw. Our presence is more important.” But the lack of access to South Ossetia – and the other disputed region of Abkhazia – means they are not able to fulfil the full extent of their original mandate – to monitor the whole of Georgia, which the EU interprets as including the disputed territories.
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) –
Prolific film writer and director John Hughes, whose credits include the '80s teen films “The Breakfast Club” and “Ferris Bueller's Day Off,” died of a heart attack while walking in Manhattan on Thursday, his spokesman said. He was 59.
Hughes also made Macaulay Culkin a star, writing and producing the three “Home Alone” movies. His spokesman said Hughes was visiting friends in New York when he died.
In the last decade, Hughes had largely turned his back on Hollywood to run a farm in northern Illinois. He is survived by his wife of 39 years, Nancy, two sons and four grandchildren.
(Reporting by Bob Tourtellotte, editing by Todd Eastham)
WASHINGTON (Reuters) –
For the first time, more than 34 million Americans received food stamps in May, the government said on Thursday, another symptom of the longest and one of the deepest recessions since the Great Depression.
Enrollment surged by 2 percent to reach a record 34.4 million people, or one in nine Americans, in the latest month for which figures are available.
It was the sixth month in a row that enrollment set a record. Every state recorded a gain, and Florida had the largest increase at 4.2 percent.
Enrollment for food stamps, which help people buy groceries, is highest during times of economic stress. The U.S. unemployment rate of 9.5 percent is the highest in 26 years.
“Food stamp enrollment is rising because the economy is having a devastating impact on low-income families and they need this program to eat,” said Stacy Dean of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a think tank. “Every single state has been affected.”
The average benefit in May was $133.65 per person. The economic stimulus package enacted earlier this year included a temporary increase in food stamp benefits of $80 a month for a family of four.
The federal stimulus legislation will block a potential $5 a month decline in benefits in fiscal 2010 which would have been triggered by moderating food prices, the Agriculture Department said.
Food stamp enrollment
May 34.409 million
April 33.758 million
March 33.157 million
February 32.556 million
January 32.205 million
December 2008 31.784 million
November 2008 31.097 million
October 2008 31.050 million
September 2008 31.586 million
(Reporting by Charles Abbott; editing by Jim Marshall)
Flintoff doubtful for fourth Test
Fourth Ashes Test, Headingley: England v AustraliaDates: Friday, 7 August – Tuesday, 11 August Start time: 1100 BSTCoverage: Live Test Match Special commentary (from 1025 BST on day one, 1045 BST on remaining days) on BBC Radio 4 LW, 5 Live sports extra, the Red Button and BBC Sport website. Live text commentary on BBC Sport website and mobile phones. Also live on Sky Sports.
England captain Andrew Strauss says that talismanic all-rounder Andrew Flintoff is a doubt for the fourth Ashes Test at Headingley on Friday.Flintoff managed only 35 minutes of bowling in the nets on Thursday as he tries to overcome a knee injury. England plan to wait until as late as possible before deciding whether the 31-year-old is fit to play. “He has to be fit enough to bowl his overs. If he’s unable to, then we have to think about replacing him,” he said. “We need to see how he reacts to the bowling he’s done and assess on how close to fitness he is.” Wearing a brace around his troubled right knee, Flintoff – who will retire from Test cricket at the end of the series – did not bowl at full pace during Thursday’s morning net session.
Flintoff has been receiving intense ice treatment since the drawn third Test at Edgbaston finished on Monday, and Strauss intimated that the issue had disrupted England’s preparations for the potentially decisive Test against Australia. “It’s not ideal,” he said. “You would want to clearer in your mind as to what direction we want to go.” Strauss insisted that England had to think of Flintoff’s long-term wellbeing, rather than the short-term goal of winning the fourth Test and claiming the Ashes. “You can kind of live with that [Flintoff playing at less than 100% fitness] as long as he’s able to bowl his overs and he’s not doing further damage to himself,” said Strauss. “That’s an important part of it as well because we’ve got a responsibility to the rest of his career. “Andrew is desperate to play but he also recognises that he has a responsibility to the team so he won’t put it in jeopardy.
“He’ll be honest with us, I’m absolutely confident of that.” The all-rounder was England’s match-winner in the 115-run second-Test victory at Lord’s, giving the hosts a valuable 1-0 lead in the five-match series. He followed that man-of-the-match display with an impressive knock of 74 in the drawn third Test at Edgbaston, although was wicket-less from 30 overs across Australia’s two innings. Flintoff’s absence, should he fail to recover in time, will force England’s selectors to rethink their strategy for Headingley. Seamers Steve Harmison and Ryan Sidebottom would come into contention, along with Warwickshire batsman Jonathan Trott, who was added to the 14-man squad on Tuesday.
The 28-year-old averages 99.75 in the County Championship this season and could make his Test debut batting at six, with wicketkeeper Matt Prior dropping to seven. Fast bowler Stuart Broad, who has struggled with six wickets at an average of 57.5 in the three previous Tests, could make way to accommodate Trott. However, Strauss said England will wait until the final moments on Friday morning before deciding their starting XI. “We have a 14-man squad and any of those 14 are capable of doing a very good job,” added Strauss.
“We need to look at what the weather conditions are going to be like and the best attack to take 20 wickets.” Australia captain Ricky Ponting said earlier this week that he could tell Flintoff was struggling with injury during the third Test at Edgbaston. “Visibly you could see he went downhill pretty quickly through the course of this game, so his injury is probably starting to take a bit more effect than we actually realised,” he said. “But we will prepare as if he is going to play and see what happens on the morning of the game.” England (from): Andrew Strauss (capt), Alastair Cook, Ravi Bopara, Ian Bell, Paul Collingwood, Matthew Prior (wk), Andrew Flintoff, Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann, James Anderson, Graham Onions, Stephen Harmison, Ryan Sidebottom, Jonathan Trott Australia (from): Ricky Ponting (capt), Shane Watson, Simon Katich, Mike Hussey, Michael Clarke, Marcus North, Graham Manou (wk), Mitchell Johnson, Nathan Hauritz, Peter Siddle, Ben Hilfenhaus, Phillip Hughes, Brad Haddin (wk), Andrew McDonald, Brett Lee, Stuart Clark
VERACRUZ, MexicoThe dead always tell a story. And in Mexico that story is the fight for the right to meet U.S. demand for illegal drugsa war becoming more violent and ruthless, mostly because of one group.
Suspected members of Los Zetas drug cartel are presented to reporters in Mexico City in April.
Its name is Los Zetas. Imagine a band of U.S. Green Berets going rogue and offering their services and firepower to drug cartels. That’s what happened in Mexico in the 1990s. Commandos from the Mexican army deserted and set up a cartel, known as Los Zetas. The U.S. government says Los Zetas is “the most technologically advanced, sophisticated and dangerous cartel operating in Mexico.” Los Zetas are blamed for last week’s brutal killings of the police chief in the southern Mexican city of Veracruz, his wife and four children. The way in which the killers carried out their crime sent a message. At 5 a.m. on July 29, two cars pulled up in front of the police chief’s house, and eight or nine gunmen got out, armed with assault rifles and 40 mm grenade launchers. They blasted their way into the house, and it took them less than five minutes to execute Jesus Antonio Romero, his wife, also a police officer, and their son. The gunmen then set the house on fire, killing the remaining three children, all girls. Watch scenes of the escalating drug war in Veracruz » With their fierce weaponry and military expertise, Los Zetas are considered the most formidable enemy in the drug war.
AC360: The war next door
This week on “Anderson Cooper 360,” Michael Ware reports from Mexico on the gruesome tactics used by drug cartels. Thursday: Ware tracks “El Chapo,” one of Forbes’ wealthiest people in the world and also the most wanted man in North America.
Thursday, 10 p.m. ET
see full schedule »
“The Zetas have obviously assumed the role of being the No. 1 organization responsible for the majority of the homicides, the narcotic-related homicides, the beheadings, the kidnappings, the extortions that take place in Mexico,” said Ralph Reyes, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency’s chief for Mexico and Central America. The fight against Los Zetas will take years, Reyes said. “They continue to train new recruits through several campaigns. One of them is the very open and public narco banners that they post around the country of Mexico, specifically tailored to the military and [saying] that they will offer better pay and better benefits if they join the ranks of the Zetas,” Reyes said from his Washington office, where he directs the U.S. battle against Los Zetas. With its mastery of combat, Reyes said, the organized crime network operates more like a U.S. infantry company patrolling the streets of Falluja, Iraq, than a street gang. Newspapers in Veracruz have headlines almost every day about drug cartels’ bloody violence, more often than not linked to Los Zetas. The DEA said that although the group originally was based on military lines, the cartel has been built into a business structure, with quarterly meetings, business ledgers, even votes on key assassinations.
All are targets in Mexico’s drug war
U.S. delays counternarcotics aid to Mexico
Drug Wars: The next generation
Mexican police arrest 34 drug cartel suspects
And now Los Zetas are taxing businesses beyond their drug reachfrom human trafficking across the U.S. border to, as one recent scandal showed, imposing a kind of tax on the Mexican government. The state oil company has been bleeding billions to corrupt officials linked to Los Zetas. And, as a DEA agent recently said, the American border makes no difference to Los Zetas. It doesn’t matter if violence is perpetrated on the Mexican or U.S. side of the border. Inside the United States, one of the instruments of assassination Los Zetas unleashed was teenager Rosalio Reta. Given six months of military training in Mexico, he was sent across the border to target rival drug gangs. He was 13 years old when he committed his first killing.
“I loved doing it,” Reta says in a police interrogation tape. “Killing that first person, I loved it. I thought I was Superman.” U.S. officials have said there are many more like him.
John Hughes, the producer, writer and director whose 1980s films such as “Sixteen Candles,” “The Breakfast Club” and “Some Kind of Wonderful” offered a sharp-eyed look at teenagers and their social habits, has died, according to a statement from his representative. He was 59.
John Hughes was behind some of the most beloved films of the 1980s.
Hughes died of a heart attack while taking a morning walk in Manhattan, according to the statement. Hughes, who was also a prolific screenwriter and producer, was at his peak in the 1980s, when his filmswhich starred young actors such as Molly Ringwald, Judd Nelson, Anthony Michael Hall and Jon Cryerdominated the box office and were hailed by critics for their thoughtful teen protagonists, rarely portrayed with such sympathy in comedies at the time. Ringwald, in particular, became a star, thanks to her performances as the lead in “Sixteen Candles,” “Breakfast Club” and “Pretty in Pink.” For a time during the decade, the writer and director was behind two or three films a year. Among his other credits were “National Lampoon’s Vacation” (1983), “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” (1986), the Thanksgiving classic “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” (1987) and “Home Alone” (1990). Appreciation: Mourning John Hughes “I am truly shocked and saddened by the news about my old friend John Hughes,” said actor Matthew Broderick, who starred in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” in a statement. “He was a wonderful, very talented guy and my heart goes out to his family.” John Hughes was born February 18, 1950, in Michigan. He started his career as an advertising copywriter in Chicago, and by the end of the 1970s was a frequent contributor to National Lampoon magazine. His first screenwriting credit, according to the Internet Movie Database, was as a writer for the “Animal House” TV spinoff, “Delta House.” But Hughes quickly moved over to the big screen, writing 1982′s “National Lampoon’s Class Reunion,” followed the next year by “National Lampoon’s Vacation,” based on a story he had written for the magazine. Though critical reception to Hughes’ films could be mixedsuch works as “She’s Having a Baby” (1988) and “Curly Sue” (1991) were slammed by reviewersHughes had a knack for classic movie lines and images. Such scenes as Anthony Michael Hall holding Ringwald’s panties up high to the stunned appreciation of his friends in “Candles”; Steve Martin’s harangue of a rent-a-car clerk in “Planes”; and Ben Stein’s economics teacher asking, monotonously, “Bueller? … Bueller?” in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” have become pop culture touchstones. Film critic Roger Ebert praised Hughes’ empathy in a “Great Movies” appreciation of “Planes, Trains and Automobiles.” “What can be said for [Hughes] is that he usually produces a real story about people he has clear ideas about,” Ebert wrote, observing that “Planes” “is the only movie our family watches as a custom, most every Thanksgiving.” In recent years, Hughes had stepped back from the movie business to spend more time with his family, as well as “maintain a functioning farm in northern Illinois and support independent arts,” the statement said. Hughes is survived by his wife of 39 years, Nancy; two sons and four grandchildren.
New opposition protest in Tehran
Supporters of the Iranian opposition leader, Mir Hossein Mousavi, have taken to the streets of Tehran shouting “Death to the dictator”, reports say.Witnesses told the Reuters news agency the protesters were at Vanak Square, where riot police were deployed. Others were repeatedly hooting their car horns on nearby roads, they said. On Wednesday, clashes broke out between police and opposition supporters after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was sworn in for a second term in office. The opposition disputes the official result of the presidential election on 12 June, which gave Mr Ahmadinejad an overwhelming victory. After the poll, thousands of people took to the streets in the largest mass demonstrations in Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Continuing ‘fight’Nearly eight weeks after the election, hundreds of supporters of Mr Mousavi, who came second in June, again converged on Vanak Square in northern Tehran on Thursday for an anti-government demonstration.
“Hundreds of people are in Vanak Square, chanting ‘Death to the dictator’. Others are also honking car horns,” one witness said, reports Reuters. “Hundreds of riot police are there as well. They are telling protesters to leave the area or face being arrested.” Mr Mousavi and the other defeated reformist candidate, Mehdi Karoubi, have said Mr Ahmadinejad’s government will be illegitimate. On his website on Wednesday, Mr Karoubi criticised the authorities for “suppressing street protests” and promised to continue the “fight”. Mr Ahmadinejad has received the backing of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who says he was the rightful winner and that Iranians had “voted in favour of a fight against arrogance, to confront destitution and spread justice”. After taking his oath of office, Mr Ahmadinejad defended the official results and criticised Western powers’ response to the disputed poll.
“[Foreign governments] just want democracy at the service of their own interests – they do not respect the rights of other nations,” he said. “They see themselves as the yardstick of democracy – our people oppose this, that’s what our people are resisting,” he said. Several states which have criticised the elections chose not to send customary letters of congratulations to Mr Ahmadinejad to mark his reappointment, including the US, Germany, France and the UK. “Nobody in Iran is waiting for anyone’s congratulations,” Mr Ahmadinejad said. Outside, hundreds of demonstrators gathered. There were reports of clashes with riot police and at least one arrest. More than 100 people, including some members of the opposition, went on trial in on Saturday for their alleged involvement in the post-election violence. Foreign media, including the BBC, have been restricted in their coverage of Iran since the election protests turned into confrontations with the authorities in which at least 30 people died.
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) –
In elderly men and women, certain medications can increase the risk of falling, new research shows.
Findings from a 4-year study conducted in France suggest the risk of falling is 1.4 times greater among elderly men and women taking a long-acting benzodiazepine, compared with age-matched men and women not using this type of anti-anxiety medication.
Dr. Annick Alperovitch, at INSERM in Paris, and colleagues also found a moderately increased risk of falling among elderly men and women who regularly used mood- and behavior-altering “psychotropic” medications.
Their findings, reported in the journal BMC Geriatrics, identified similar risk among elderly individuals reporting regular use of tranquilizers, muscle relaxants and anti-spasmodics, and some antihistamines that block nerve responses (so-called “anticholinergics”).
The researchers assessed the association between the use of potentially inappropriate medications and the risk of falls in 6343 community-living men and women who were nearly 74 years old on average.
They defined “inappropriate medication” as drugs likely to have a greater effect on elderly individuals than on their younger counterparts, as well as medications (taken singly or with other drugs) with side effects (dizziness and drowsiness) potentially associated with increased risk for falling.
Overall, about 30 percent of study patients reported use of drugs with these qualities and during the course of the study, 22 percent of them had fallen 2 or more times.
“Use of inappropriate medications increased the risk of falls,” they report, and use of long-acting benzodiazepines “was responsible for the main part of this increase.”
Unlike regular and occasional users of long-acting benzodiazepines, men and women using short- or intermediate-acting benzodiazepines did not have an increased occurrence of falls.
Therefore, the investigators say the use of short- or intermediate-acting benzodiazepines, over long-acting anti-anxiety medications, are preferable in elderly patients.
SOURCE: BMC Geriatrics, July 23, 2009.
GENEVA – Villagers from deeply Roman Catholic south Switzerland have for centuries offered a sacred vow to God to protect them from the advancing ice mass of the Great Aletsch glacier.
Global warming is making them want to reverse their prayers, and the Alpine faithful are seeking the permission of the pope.
Since the vow was established in 1678, the deal was simple: the citizens of the isolated mountain hamlets of Fiesch and Fieschertal would pledge to lead virtuous lives. In exchange, God would spare their homes and livelihoods from being swallowed by Europe’s largest glacier as it expanded toward the valley with heavy winter snows.
Times have changed, and the once-fearsome Aletsch is melting amid temperatures that are 0.7 degrees Celsius (1.3 Fahrenheit) warmer than in the 19th century. The pastor at the Ernerwald Chapel has warned his flock that a new danger threatens.
“We all know — and the Holy Father reminded us in his Easter message — that an unprecedented change in the climate is taking place,” Rev. Pascal Venetz said in his sermon to 100 people at the chapel, where until modern times pious women were prohibited from wearing colored underwear for fear of provoking the glacier.
“Glacier is ice, ice is water and water is life,” Venetz said to the villagers from the Valais region, which has sent its sons to protect the Vatican as Swiss Guards since the 16th century. “Without the glacier the springs run dry and the brooks evaporate. Men and women face great danger. Alps and pastures vanish and towns die out.”
The Aletsch was once seen as a threat because it could encroach on inhabited areas. These days, the glacier is more of a threat because of its melting ice, which risks worsening floods in the valley and, eventually, a loss of water supply. Experts say the glacier will continue to shrink — even if temperatures stay at current levels — because the warming of the last few decades has yet to take full effect.
In a telephone interview with The Associated Press, Venetz said many townsfolk have begun questioning the ancient vow that has been commemorated every year since 1862 in a procession to the chapel on July 31, St. Ignatius’ feast day.
The idea to alter the vow came from Fiesch Mayor Herbert Volken, but the concern was not driven by worldly or secular impulses. Instead, the villages “were seeing nature change all around them,” and realized the glacier might soon need saving, Venetz said.
Conservation body Pro Natura says the glacier base is receding up the mountain by about 100 feet (30 meters) a year. University of Zurich geographer Hanspeter Holzhauser estimates the river of ice has retreated 2.1 miles (3.4 kilometers) since peaking in 1860 at a length of 14 miles (23 kilometers). Nearly half of the shrinkage has happened since 1950.
Venetz said there were “countless, horrible natural catastrophes” in his parish from the 17th to the 19th centuries as the glacier expanded. “These led to the big volumes of water with floods that brought great damage and calamity in our villages,” he said.
Villagers should continue with the vow, but the request for divine assistance should be adjusted to conform with the changing reality of nature, the pastor said.
“Praying should of course continue, because our villages should be spared from natural catastrophes,” Venetz said in his sermon. “We should at the same time pray that our glacier does not melt any further, but instead grows, and that the most important thing in life — water — remains well preserved.”
He said he would ask the local bishop to seek Pope Benedict XVI’s permission to change the vow, and a statement from the cantonal (state) government of Valais said a papal audience was planned for September or October.
“At our next procession, we might just be able to pray against climate change, global warming and the receding of the glacier,” Venetz said.
NEW YORK – Writer-director John Hughes, Hollywood’s youth impresario of the 1980s and ’90s who captured and cornered the teen and preteen market with such favorites as “Home Alone,” “The Breakfast Club” and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” died Thursday, a spokeswoman said. He was 59.
Hughes died of a heart attack during a morning walk in Manhattan, Michelle Bega said. He was in New York to visit family.
A native of Lansing, Mich., who later moved to suburban Chicago and set much of his work there, Hughes rose from ad writer to comedy writer to silver screen champ with his affectionate and idealized portraits of teens, whether the romantic and sexual insecurity of “Sixteen Candles,” or the J.D. Salinger-esque rebellion against conformity in “The Breakfast Club.”
Hughes’ ensemble comedies helped make stars out of Molly Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall, Ally Sheedy and many other young performers. He also scripted the phenomenally popular “Home Alone,” which made little-known Macaulay Culkin a sensation as the 8-year-old accidentally abandoned by his vacationing family, and wrote or directed such hits as “National Lampoon’s Vacation,” “Pretty in Pink,” “Planes, Trains & Automobiles” and “Uncle Buck.”
Other actors who got early breaks from Hughes included John Cusack (“Sixteen Candles”), Judd Nelson (“The Breakfast Club”), Steve Carell (“Curly Sue”) and Lili Taylor (“She’s Having a Baby”).
As Hughes advanced into middle age, his commercial touch faded and, in Salinger style, he increasingly withdrew from public life. His last directing credit was in 1991, for “Curly Sue,” and he wrote just a handful of scripts over the past decade. He was rarely interviewed or photographed.
Associated Press writer Amy Westfeldt contributed to this report.