Archive for August 12th, 2009
A Mexican man who was allegedly killed on orders from his own cartel believed they were hunting for him after he began working as an informant and was fearful for his life, according to court documents.
Police say soldier Michael Jackson Apodaca, 18, acted as the gunman.
Jose Daniel Gonzalez Galeana began to worry after he began working as an informant for immigration officials in the United States. “The victim was concerned for his own well-being and the safety of his family,” the documents said, referencing statements the victim made to a witness. When Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials gave Gonzalez a visa so he could live in El Paso, Texas, his fellow Juarez cartel members began to get suspicious, El Paso Police Chief Greg Allen said at a press conference. Allen said Gonzalez’s exit from Mexico, combined with a raid on a cartel warehouse and the arrest of cartel lieutenant Pedro “El Tigre” Aranas Sanchez led cartel members to believe he might be working as an informant, Allen said. Then, a Mexican newspaper named Gonzalez as an informant in the arrest of the high-ranking cartel member, according to court documents. Police say Gonzales quickly became the target of his own cartel. Police said Gonzalez knew if his fellow cartel members found him, he would likely be killed, police said. On May 15, the cartel found him. He was shot eight times outside his home in El Paso, Texas, police said. Pfc. Michael Jackson Apodaca, 18, Ruben Rodriguez Dorado, 30, and Christopher Andrew Duran, 17, were each named as suspects Monday and each are facing one count of capital murder. The three men are being held on 1 million bond. Police said Apodaca was the shooter, Duran was the getaway car driver, and Rodriguez was the one who coordinated the murder. On Wednesday, police also arrested a 16-year-old who they said was involved in the surveillance and reconnaissance of the victim. The juvenile also faces one count of capital murder. Rodriguez and the victim were in the Juarez cartel, based across the border from El Paso, police spokesman Chris Mears said. He said police believe Apodaca and Duran were not cartel members. Apodaca joined the Army a year ago and worked as a crew member on a Patriot missile launcher, officials at Fort Bliss in El Paso said.
Drug cartel allegedly plotted to kill Mexican leader
Obama talks drugs, trade, immigration on Mexico visit
At least 14 killed in Mexico attacks
Soldier accused of being hit man for cartel
“He was in the top of his class,” said Dave Jackson, his grandfather. “You talk to all his sergeants. He’s a good soldier. Now, before he went in [and joined the Army], he was in, he was in with a bad crowd.” Investigators said at the press conference they think the three suspects met through a relative of Rodriguez. “He [Rodriguez] was the older guy, he provided the alcohol, the party locations,” police Lt. Alfred Lowe said. “And he recruited these people to do his bidding.” Once the three men were allegedly hired, they were “told to find the victim in the United States,” Allen said. Rodriguez paid the victim’s cell phone bill hoping he would be able to learn where he lived, federal officials learned, according to court documents. Federal law enforcement was apparently concerned enough about the incident that officers told local law enforcement to signal Gonzalez’s home could be at risk. Hours before the slaying, police said Rodriguez called a tactical supply store that exclusively sells the same brand of ammunition found at the scene. The suspects found Gonzalez at a relative’s home in Canutillo, Texas, and followed him back to his home before shooting him, police said. The three arrested men’s phone records showed their approximate locations on the night of the killing and corroborated that the suspects were tracking the victim, according to court documents. During an interrogation, Rodriguez told investigators he ordered Gonzalez’s execution, police said. But Allen also said during the press conference that Rodriguez planned the killing and hired the other suspects after he was given the order by cartel lieutenant Jesus Aguayo Salas. Police said there was also a warrant out for his arrest. Rodriguez told police he paid the participants for their role in the killing, the affidavit said. It said he also noted that he was a midlevel member of the cartel, which he called the “Compania,” and said he was in charge of coordinating surveillance for the cartel, “following intended victims up until their execution.” Duran and Rodriguez told police that Apodaca was paid to be the shooter and Duran to drive the getaway car, according to the affidavit. Allen said both men were each paid “quite a robust amount of money … under 10,000, in that area.” Police said more arrests could still come in the case.
NEW YORK – Boston star Kevin Youkilis and Detroit pitcher Rick Porcello were suspended for five games each Wednesday and fined by Major League Baseball, a day after their brawl at Fenway Park.
Youkilis will begin his suspension during Wednesday night’s game against Detroit. Porcello appealed, and no penalty will take effect until the process is complete.
“Basically, I left everything in the hands of the front office,” Youkilis said. “Whatever they thought was best for the team was good for me.”
Youkilis leads the Red Sox in getting hit by pitches this season with 10 and was tied for fourth in the AL entering Wednesday.
“I don’t have any regrets,” he said. “There comes a point in your life when you can only take so much. When people don’t do things in the right manner, you get kind of fed up with it and you have to do what you have to do in life to protect yourself. I take one ball off the eye, my career could be over.”
MLB vice president Bob Watson cited Youkilis for charging the mound, throwing his helmet at Porcello and inciting Tuesday night’s bench-clearing tussle. Porcello was penalized for intentionally throwing pitches at Victor Martinez in the first inning and Youkilis in the second.
In addition, Detroit pitched Edwin Jackson was fined for what Watson said were aggressive actions.
Players from benches and bullpens went onto the field and Youkilis tackled Porcello, but no punches were thrown. Youkilis and Porcello were ejected.
Tempers had been escalating since Monday night, when Miguel Cabrera was hit in the top of the fourth and Youkilis was plunked in the bottom half; Detroit’s Brandon Inge was hit in the eighth.
On Tuesday, Cabrera was hit in the left hand in the top of the first by Junichi Tazawa. When Porcello threw an inside pitch to Martinez in the bottom, he took a few menacing steps toward the mound before returning to the batter’s box.
After the game, Porcello made a brief statement after emerging from a meeting with manager Jim Leyland and general manager Dave Dombrowski.
“The only thing I have to say about that is I was not intentionally trying to hit Kevin Youkilis. It was unintentional,” he said, refusing to further answer questions.
Youkilis led off the second inning and was hit in the back with the first pitch. He dropped his bat and ran toward Porcello, missing the pitcher with his batting helmet before wrapping him up and bringing him to the ground.
Boston, trailing 3-0 at the time, tied the score later in the inning on Jason Bay’s three-run homer off Chris Lambert and went on to win 7-5.
NEW YORK – A jury can decide whether the author of a best-selling book about the death of ex-Playboy playmate Anna Nicole Smith defamed her lawyer by making allegations that may be too outlandish to be true, including that he pimped her to up to 50 men a year, a judge concluded Wednesday.
U.S. District Judge Denny Chin found plenty of reasons to let a jury hear the facts behind a 60 million libel lawsuit brought by lawyer Howard K. Stern against “Blonde Ambition” author Rita Cosby, a veteran television news anchor and “Inside Edition” correspondent. The lawsuit was filed less than a month after the book was published in September 2007.
The judge said the book’s claim that Stern had a sexual relationship with Larry Birkhead, the father of Smith’s child, was “nothing short of explosive. Perhaps too explosive.”
“In other words,” he said, “printing a claim that Birkhead and Stern had sex would be a way to make it to the top of the bestseller list, and a reasonable jury could find that Cosby ignored the inherently improbable nature of the statement in her zeal to write a blockbuster book.”
Stern and Birkhead have denied any sexual relationship between them.
The judge said there was “substantial evidence” to let a reasonable jury find Cosby acted with malice in stating in the book that Smith obtained a copy of a videotape of Birkhead and Stern having sex and regularly watched it in front of her nannies.
He noted that Cosby traveled to the Bahamas after Stern filed the lawsuit to try to meet with the nannies and in a conversation with one of their representatives proposed paying the nannies to sign an affidavit supporting the statements attributed to them in the book, which was published by Hachette Book Group USA Inc.
The judge, who dropped the publisher as a defendant, called Cosby’s actions “extremely troubling” and said they “suggest that she was attempting to obstruct justice by tampering with witnesses.”
He said a reasonable jury could conclude that Cosby knew she had fabricated the information about Smith watching videotape and “was desperate to come up with an after-the-fact verification of one of the more salacious and explosive allegations in the book.”
He also said a jury can decide whether there was malice in the book’s statements that Smith thought Stern was involved in the death of her son and that many people in Smith’s inner circle thought Stern was involved in her death. He tossed out eight of 19 other claims.
Cosby lawyer Elizabeth A. McNamara said she was gratified the judge had dismissed some of the statements at issue in the case and was “fully confident” the jury would dismiss the others once it hears the evidence surrounding Stern’s life with Smith.
The judge also wrote that there was evidence that Cosby made up quotes. He said a jury could conclude that statements in the book that Smith knowingly acted as a prostitute with Stern as her pimp or that Stern drugged her and pimped her to as many as 50 men a year “are so inherently improbable that Cosby was reckless in including them in the book.”
“It will be up to a jury to determine whether this statement is as inherently improbable as it sounds,” he said.
Smith, the 1993 Playmate of the Year, had a successful career as a clothing model before landing her own reality TV show, “The Anna Nicole Show.” The Texas native was found unconscious in a Florida hotel room in 2007 and was declared dead of an accidental overdose of prescription drugs. She was 39.
Stern, who began doing legal work for Smith in 1997, became romantically involved with her in 2000 but kept the relationship secret until 2006, according to evidence in the case.
Smith’s son, Daniel, who was born in 1986, died of an apparent prescription drug overdose in the Bahamas just a few days after Smith gave birth to her daughter, Dannielynn, in 2006.
LAKEWOOD, Wash. – Police said a mysterious woman known as Senora Monica offered to spiritually “cleanse” money for at least seven Hispanic families, but it was the families who got cleaned out. The woman vanished with 140,000.
The victims told police they met Senora Monica at a swap meet or heard her advertisements on Spanish-language radio. She advertised that she could help with anything from palm reading to infertility.
The families turned over their money for “cleansing” and were supposed to get it back Sunday night at the woman’s storefront. She never showed, and police say much of the information on the business license for the store is false.
They’re trying to figure out who she is. She’s described as Hispanic, 30 to 40 years old, 5 feet tall and 130 pounds, with long black hair.
Information from: The News Tribune, http://www.thenewstribune.com
MADRID (AFP) –
What is paradise? For “Desperate Housewives” star Eva Longoria it is being in love — but for Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas it is relaxing at home in front of the TV with a beer.
These were among the answers which Grammy-winning Spanish singer Alejandro Sanz has received in videos posted on his YouTube channel to the question “what is your ideal paradise?” which he posed to his celebrity friends and fans.
The 40-year-old will use the 30 best replies in a video clip for a new song which he plans to release over the Internet later this year.
Longoria, who plays former runway model Gabrielle Solis on the popular US television series about life in suburbia, said heaven for her was love.
“Whether it is being in love or feeling love or giving love or receiving love, but to be in this constant environment of intimacy and ecstasy. To me that is paradise,” the 34-year-old said as she stood in a garden.
Casillas, a member of the Spanish national football squad who is from working-class Madrid suburb of Mostoles, said: “Paradise for me is relaxing at home watching television with a bowl of patato chips and a beer.”
Love and the pleasures of eating at home were both mentioned in the reply given by hip-swiveling Colombian singer Shakira.
“For me paradise is having a doctor as a neighbour, a chocolate cake in the fridge and love at home,” said the 32-year-old, known for smash hits like “Hips Don't Lie” and “Whenever, Wherever”.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The woman accused of trying to extort Louisville men’s basketball coach Rick Pitino approached him in a restaurant six years ago, and the two had sex at a table after closing time, the coach told police.
Two weeks later, the married father of five gave Karen Sypher 3,000 after she said she needed an abortion and didn’t have health insurance, according to a summary of Pitino’s July 12 statement to police. His attorney said Wednesday that the money was to help her get medical coverage, not specifically to pay for an abortion.
Pitino said Wednesday apologized to his family, players, school and fans for what happened six years ago and said he would continuing coaching the Cardinals for as long as “they will have me.”
“I do want to say that the past seven months have been very difficult on the people I love,” Pitino said. “I am here today because I personally apologize to my family every single day. I let them down with my indiscretion six years ago and I’m sorry for that and I tell them that every day.”
He said he would “be quiet” about the extortion case, but that he is cooperating with authorities and has consistently told them, his family and friends the truth. He did not take questions.
University of Louisville President James Ramsey expressed surprise at the new details in the scandal surrounding the coach, a staunch Roman Catholic whose contract includes dishonesty and “moral depravity” as grounds for firing.
“Several months ago, Coach Pitino informed me about the alleged extortion attempt. I’ve now been informed that there may be other details which, if true, I find surprising,” Ramsey said in a statement, adding that his thoughts were with the Pitino family.
Pitino told police he had been drinking at an upscale Louisville restaurant called Porcini in August 2003 when Sypher approached him and asked the coach to call her sons with words of encouragement. The coach obliged, he said.
Later that night, after the restaurant cleared out, the owner left Pitino his keys and they had sex at a table near the bar, according to statements by both Pitino and Sypher.
She said Pitino forced himself on her. But the 56-year-old coach denied Sypher’s allegations that he raped her that night, and again several weeks later, saying she came on to him.
The two apparently weren’t alone in the restaurant: The police documents, first reported by The Courier-Journal of Louisville, say a Pitino assistant was there during the encounter. The former executive assistant, Vinnie Tatum, said he heard “only the sounds of two people that seemed to be enjoying themselves during a sexual encounter,” according to a statement he gave the FBI that was included in the police report.
Sypher reported the rape allegations to police last month, but Kentucky authorities said there wasn’t enough evidence to prosecute. Sypher, 49, has pleaded not guilty to federal charges of lying to the FBI and trying to extort 10 million from Pitino.
Sypher’s attorney, James Earhart, said Wednesday morning that he hadn’t yet talked to Sypher about the release of the police documents.
Pitino told police that about two weeks after he met Sypher — then named Karen Cunagin — she called to say she was pregnant and that he had to be the father.
According to the report by Sgt. Andy Abbott, commander of the Metro Louisville Police sex-offense unit, Pitino later suggested that the two meet at the condo of the team’s equipment manager, Tim Sypher. She alleges the second assault took place at the condo. Pitino told police the two met at the condo but denied that there was a second sexual encounter.
Karen Sypher first met the manager that day and later married him.
Pitino said she told him she was going to have an abortion but didn’t have health insurance, so he gave her 3,000, according to the report. She told police the procedure was done in Cincinnati.
Pitino’s lawyer, Steve Pence, told The Associated Press that the coach believed the money was for insurance, not an abortion. Pence said Pitino asked Sypher how much the insurance would cost and she told him 3,000.
“The way this has been reported in the media is not accurate,” Pence said. “The coach has not done anything illegal.”
Despite Ramsey’s surprise at the new details, the school’s athletic director, Tom Jurich, said in a statement that “Coach Pitino has been truthful with us about this matter all along and we stand by him and his family during this process.”
If Pitino wasn’t forthcoming with his employer, the consequences could be more severe than negative headlines.
His contract, which runs through 2013, lists as possible causes for termination: “Employee’s dishonesty with Employer or University; or acts of moral depravity,” as well as “disparaging media publicity of a material nature that damages the good name and reputation of Employer or University.”
Pitino is a dedicated Roman Catholic who has brought a priest who’s a close friend and spiritual adviser on team trips.
Abbott asked Sypher during one interview why she waited until after she was indicted to report the rape allegations.
She gave varying answers, according to transcripts, saying she wanted to forget about it, that Pitino threatened her and finally that “they kept throwing crumbs to keep me happy.”
Abbott asked Sypher why she was coming forward only after she was charged.
“Because … where we are, it seems like retaliation,” Abbott said.
“I know it does,” Sypher responded.
Tatum, the former executive assistant to Pitino, told the FBI he was in the restaurant during the first encounter but he didn’t see anything. A message Wednesday for Tatum at his office in the university’s basketball practice facility was not immediately returned.
The case became public in April when Pitino announced that someone had tried to extort him. Pitino said he reported it to the FBI, and Sypher surrendered to authorities a few days later when she was named in a criminal complaint.
University sports information director Kenny Klein directed all inquiries to Pence. Pitino finished his eighth season with the Cardinals, leading them to a 31-6 record and the Big East regular-season and tournament titles. The Cardinals lost to Michigan State in the regional finals of the NCAA tournament.
Pitino said Wednesday he wants to celebrate the team’s success and move forward.
“I don’t believe in anything as much as I believe in this university and this state,” Pitino said. “So as long as they will have me, as long as they’ll have me, I’m going to coach here.”
Tim Sypher was Pitino’s personal assistant with the Boston Celtics from 1997-2001, then followed the coach to Louisville in 2001. He and Karen Sypher are currently going through a divorce.
Tim Sypher’s divorce attorney declined comment through his secretary.
The criminal complaint said Tim Sypher brought Pitino a written list of demands from his wife, including college tuition for her children, two cars, money to pay off her house and 3,000 per month. The demands later escalated, the complaint said. Tim Sypher has not been charged.
Besides Louisville and the Celtics, Pitino coached the New York Knicks from 1987 to 1989 and the University of Kentucky from 1989 to 1997.
Associated Press Writer Malcolm C. Knox contributed to this report.
Breast cancer survivors have been getting bum advice. For decades, many doctors warned that lifting weights or even heavy groceries could cause painful arm swelling. New research shows that weight training actually helps prevent this problem.
“How many generations of women have been told to avoid lifting heavy objects?” Dr. Eric Winer, breast cancer chief at the Dana-Farber Cancer Center in Boston, lamented after seeing the surprising results of the new study. “Women who were doing the lifting actually had fewer arm problems because they had better muscle tone.”
The study was led by Kathryn Schmitz, an exercise scientist at the University of Pennsylvania, and funded by the federal government. Results are in Thursday’s New England Journal of Medicine.
More than 2.4 million Americans are breast cancer survivors, and the study could mean a big difference in their quality of life. Cancer treatment-related arm swelling now appears to be one of many ailments made better by exercise — not worse, Schmitz said.
“Fifty years ago we told people who had a heart attack not to exercise anymore,” and people with sore backs to heal with bed rest, Schmitz said. “It was well-meaning advice but it was polar opposite of the truth.”
Women who have had radiation to the armpit, or lymph nodes removed to check for cancer, can suffer lymphedema — a buildup of fluids that causes painful and unsightly swelling of the arms or hands.
To avoid it, doctors have advised women to avoid using the affected arm to lift toddlers, carry a heavy purse or scrub floors. Even activities like golf and tennis raised concern.
Women think, “Oh, my God, I need to baby the arm,” Schmitz said.
Lifting weights — which boosts mood, muscle mass, bone strength and weight control — was thought to be a bad idea for women prone to lymphedema.
Schmitz challenged that notion with a small study several years ago, finding that weight training did not make lymphedema worse. Her new study is the first one large and long enough to give clear proof that this is so, and even suggests that weightlifting can help.
It involved 141 breast cancer survivors who had suffered lymphedema. Half were told not to change their exercise habits. The rest were given 90-minute weightlifting classes twice a week for 13 weeks at community gyms, mostly YMCAs.
They wore a custom-fitted compression garment on the affected arm and gradually worked up to more challenging weights and repetitions. For the next 39 weeks, they continued these exercises on their own.
The women’s arms were measured monthly. After one year, fewer weightlifters had suffered lymphedema flare-ups — 14 percent versus 29 percent of the others. Weightlifters reported fewer symptoms and greater strength. Rates of change in arm size due to swelling were similar in both groups.
“I found it was really very effective. It not only gave me strength and mobility but it improved my balance and coordination,” said one participant, Clare Faber, 66, of suburban Philadelphia. “It really does offer women hope.”
Another participant, Gay McArthur, 56, of Smithfield, N.J., has continued weightlifting on her own since the study ended.
“When I first got diagnosed with lymphedema, they said I couldn’t lift more than five pounds,” she said. But weight training caused no problems and has made her feel better, she said.
It also should save money, though the study did not measure this, Wendy Demark-Wahnefried, of the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, wrote in an editorial in the medical journal. In the study, the group of weightlifters made only 77 visits to doctors or physical therapists for lymphedema flare-ups versus 195 visits for the others, she noted.
Another part of the study is evaluating whether weight training can prevent a first case of lymphedema in breast cancer survivors; results are expected soon, Schmitz said.
Breast cancer survivors should not rush into weight training — that could trigger problems. Schmitz suggests:
_Have a certified fitness professional teach you how to do the exercises properly.
_Start slow, with a program that gradually progresses.
_Wear a well-fitting compression garment during workouts.
On the Net:
New England Journal: http://www.nejm.org
Lymphedema advice: http://tinyurl.com/l9lgga
WASHINGTON (AFP) –
The White House said Wednesday that the unknown vandal who daubed a swastika on a sign belonging to a Democratic lawmaker amid a raging healthcare debate should be “ashamed.”
The incident in the southern state of Georgia, reflected the raging temperature of debate over plans by President Barack Obama to enact groundbreaking health reform.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said that it was highly inappropriate for anyone involved in the healthcare showdown to invoke the Nazi Holocaust, as some observers worried the healthcare debate was taking on racial tones.
“I think, whenever that's offered up into a public debate, it is a sign that things have gotten … completely out of hand,” he said.
“The notion that we're having a public policy debate at the end of a spray paint can on somebody's sign, I think, is ridiculous.
“I think anybody, who offers up that sort of analogy ought to be ashamed of themselves because they could not be more in the wrong.”
Georgia congressman David Scott, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, was involved in an outspoken debate exchange with a constituent over health care in a town hall meeting that attracted widespread media coverage.
A few days later, he found a swastika painted on a sign outside one of his district offices.
Call for quango cull in education
By Angela Harrison
Education Reporter, BBC News
Two thirds of England’s education quangos should be scrapped, a report from a think tank suggests.Cuts to the government-funded bodies would save 633m and free schools from bureaucracy, the report from the Centre for Policy Studies says. The bodies responsible for developing the curriculum, regulating exams and training teachers all come under fire. Ministers say the bodies are publicly accountable to them and the taxpayer, and are “doing a valuable job”. The authors of the report say politicians from all parties have called for cuts in the numbers and influence of quangos, but they have continued to flourish. Quangos are bodies which are charged by the government, and paid by it, to perform a certain role. They vary greatly in the way they are set up and in roles they perform but have two key aspects – they are not under direct control from ministers and the people who work for them are not civil servants. They have been criticised by politicians from all sides at various times because of their cost, their number, or for an alleged lack of accountability. But the squeeze on public finances caused by the recession is now putting them under even closer scrutiny. The government has already said they will be included in public sector “savings”. The Conservative leader David Cameron recently criticised what he called the “growth of the quango state” and pledged to cut the number of such bodies, saying this would save money and increase accountability. Powers to schoolsReport authors Tom Burkard and Sam Talbot Rice from the Centre for Policy Studies (CPS) say seven of the main 11 education quangos in England should be abolished, with the remaining ones being reformed or turned over to the voluntary or private sectors. In some cases, they say, the powers the bodies have should be devolved down to schools. The report relates only to England, although the quangos listed have sister organisations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the authors say. The research looked at 11 education quangos which received public funding of 1.2 billion in 2007/08.
Sam Talbot Rice, CPS research director, said: “The basic argument is that there’s a big concern of school standards, literacy and numeracy, particularly in primary schools. “For all the increased money going into these quangos, it is not obvious what’s been achieved for the money that’s been spent. “There is a need to save money now, and also a need to free schools up from centralised directives.” Among those which should be abolished according to the report are the Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency (QCDA), responsible for developing the school curriculum and exam system, the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA), which is responsible for teacher training and teachers’ professional development and the government’s technology agency, Becta. The National College for School Leadership, which trains head teachers and deputies, is also targeted for abolition.
Those which should be passed to the voluntary sector, according to the report, were the School Food Trust, brought in to improve the quality of school meals, the General Teaching Council, which is the professional body teachers in the state sector have to belong to, and the STRB, the body which advises government on the statutory employment conditions of teachers in England and Wales. Schools Minister Vernon Coaker said: “This report ignores the fact that these bodies are doing a valuable job, are publicly accountable to ministers and to the taxpayer, and are transparently and independently audited. “This report would leave schools with additional responsibilities, including handling all staff training and development and pay negotiations. “The jobs these bodies do would still have to be done, and these proposals would mean that burden would be placed on schools and teachers, taking them away from their core function of teaching.” A spokesman for the qualifications and curriculum body the QCDA said: “The QCDA is an important part of the education policy landscape; its areas of expertise and the work it carries out support ministers to meet their challenges for education. “QCDA is a statutory body and it carries out the functions set out in legislation in the most cost-effective and efficient way possible.” ‘Burdens’Other organisations criticised the report, saying it was inaccurate. A spokesman for the TDA said: “The CPS report seriously misrepresents the role of the TDA and is full of factual errors. “The agency succeeded in addressing the teacher recruitment crisis of the late 90s. Schools now have sufficient teachers. We help to recruit almost 40,000 new trainee teachers each year, and have supported increased standards in teacher training by making funding dependent on the quality of provision.” The report suggests that schools should take on responsibility for training staff, but this would increase burdens on schools, the TDA said. Stephen Crowne, chief executive of the schools technology agency Becta, said: “We have seen great improvements in the use of technology in schools in recent years, but technology is far from being a ‘mainstay of schools’. “Currently, less than a quarter of schools use technology really effectively to improve standards. “Becta’s continuing leadership, support services and guidance are needed to ensure that all learners benefit from technology.” A spokeswoman for the GTC said the report’s authors appeared to have “misunderstood the GTC’s legal remit and the purpose of having an independent regulatory body”. She said: “Registration with the GTC provides parents with the assurance that publicly-funded schools are employing fully qualified teachers of good standing. It is therefore completely illogical to suggest that membership should be voluntary.” Co-author Sam Talbot Rice says part of the problem with quangos is that they are set up to tackle a certain problem, but then things move on and they are not needed in the same way but are difficult to dismantle because this sometimes requires legislation. “It’s easy to reach for a quango when there is a problem,” he said. “They are easy to set up and hard to get rid of. There might have been an initial reason for them and they have grown, drawing in taxpayers’ money.”
Substitute Jermain Defoe scored two second half goals as England came from two down to draw 2-2 against the Netherlands in a friendly international on Wednesday.
Defoe celebrates his opening goal for England in Amsterdam.
Sorry first half defending left Fabio Capello’s men facing defeat in the Amsterdam arena, but by the finish they were pushing for victory after an impressive comeback. The Dutch were the first team from Europe to qualify for the World Cup finals and showed their quality in the early exchanges as the visitors struggled to settle. But their opener in the 10th minute was gifted by slack defending by England as Dirk Kuyt cut out Rio Ferdinand’s weak pass and rounded goalkeeper Robert Green before sending a right foot shot past captain John Terry on the line. Frank Lampard had two chances to level for England, but they fell further behind in the 38th minute as Gareth Barry sent back a wayward pass which was intercepted by Arjen Robben. The Real Madrid forward saw his shot saved by Green, but Rafael van der Vaart was on hand to score the second. Capello made four changes for the second half and Tottenham striker Defoe made an immediate impression as he latched on to Lampard’s through ball to fire home in fine style.
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Capello ignores Owen for Dutch clash
Brazil march on as Argentina crash
Italy crash out of Confed Cup after heavy defeat
With other substitutes Carlton Cole and James Milner also impressing, England were on top and it came as no surprise when Villa’s Milner played in Defoe for a 76th minute equalizer. World champions Italy continued their goalless run with a 0-0 draw with Switzerland in their friendly in Basel. It was the third successive match in which the Italians had failed to score after their below-par displays in the Confederations Cup. Italy captain Fabio Cannavaro broke Paolo Maldini’s record for international appearances as he earned his 127th cap in the draw. In Moscow, Diego Maradona’ s Argentina scored a morale-boosting 3-2 win over Russia, despite missing the injured Lionel Messi. Argentina have slipped to fourth in the South American World Cup qualifying group and fell behind early to a goal by Igor Semshov in the 17th minute. Atletico Madrid’s Sergio Aguero equalized in the final minute of the first half with a powerful shot. In the first minute of the second half Lisandro Lopez gave Argentina a 2-1 lead, with Jesus Datolo adding a third just before the hour mark. Tottenham striker Roman Pavlyuchenko cut the deficit to 3-2 with a deflected free kick in the 78th, but Maradona’s team hung on for victory.
Germany took a decisive step nearer the 2010 World Cup finals with a 2-0 win in Azerbaijan to open up a four-point gap at the top of European qualifying group four.
Germany celebrate Klose’s goal in Baku which confirmed their victory.
Goals early in each half from Bastian Schweinsteiger and Miroslav Klose sealed victory for Joachim Loew’s side, who have played a game more than closest rivals Russia. Germany’s trip to face Russia in Moscow on October 10 is likely to decide who tops the group, but Wednesday’s win gives the Germans breathing space as they retained their unbeaten record in qualifying. Loew was able to call on the services of captain Michael Ballack, who had been an injury doubt, and his team took just 12 minutes to get on the scoresheet. Bayern Munich star Schweinsteiger picked up the ball just outside the penalty area and blasted home a long-range shot. Minnows Azerbaijan could create little threat and Germany doubled their lead when Bayern’s new striker Mario Gomez saw his shot saved and teammate Klose headed home the rebound. Meanwhile, France secured a much-needed three points in group seven with a scarcely convincing 1-0 win in the Faroe Islands. Andre-Pierre Gignac scored the only goal of the match in the 42nd minute after an assist from Chelsea’s Florent Malouda. France could not capitalize on their domination to score more goals against the minnows, but the three points see them move to within five points of group leaders Serbia, who have played a game more. Raymond Domenech’s men next host Romania at the Stade de France on September. 5 and play Serbia in Belgrade four days later in crucial qualifying matches.
Le Guen named new coach of Cameroon
Germany slump to surprise Norway defeat
Nigeria win puts pressure on Domenech
In group nine, Norway revived their qualification hopes with a 4-0 thumping of Scotland in Oslo. With the Netherlands already qualified as group winners, the four other teams are battling for a likely playoff spot for second place and Norway’s win was much-needed. The turning point came late in the second half as Scotland’s Gary Caldwell was sent off for two yellow cards inside a minute. Goals from John Arne Riise and Blackburn’s Morten Gamst Pedersen quickly followed. In the second half Erik Husekleep’s first international goal and Pedersen’s last minute free-kick completed the rout. The home side, with Egil Olsen back in charge, had started the match bottom of the group, but their win puts them just one point behind second-placed Macedonia and Scotland, who have a vastly inferior goal difference.
ABUJA, NigeriaU.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Wednesday visited Nigeria, warning it could be a target for al Qaeda.
Nigeria is the fifth stop in Hillary Clinton’s visit to Africa, to be followed by Liberia and Cape Verde.
The country has been racked by violence between Christians and Muslims, with hundreds having died in riots over the past several years. “Al Qaeda has a presence in Northern Africa,” Clinton said. “There is no doubt in our mind that al Qaeda and like organizations that are part of the syndicate of terror would seek a foothold anywhere they could find one, and whether that is the case here or whether this is a homegrown example of fundamentalist extremismthat’s up to the Nigerians to determine.” Clinton met President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and other leading politicians in the capital Abuja, the latest stage on an 11-day African tour designed to show U.S. commitment to the continent. In a town hall meeting she talked about the importance of democracy, making a reference to her own unsuccessful run for president last year. “I have won some elections and I have lost some elections. And in a democracy there have to be winners and losers,” she said, before looking ahead to Nigeria’s next elections. “Part of creating a strong democratic system is that the losers, despite how badly we might feel, accept the outcome, because it is for the good of the country we love,” she said. “And of course in my country the man that I was running against, and spent a lot of time and effort to defeat, asked me to join his government. So there is a way to begin to make this transition that will lead to free and fair elections in 2011,” Nigeria is “the most important country in sub-Saharan Africa” and one of the most corrupt, according to a senior official on the trip. It is a major oil and gas producer, one of the largest suppliers to the American market, said Johnnie Carson, assistant secretary at the State Department’s Bureau of African Affairs. “You know the raw numbers, 300 billion, 2 million barrels of oil,” Clinton said. “They’re staggering. But they don’t tell you how many hospitals and roads could have been built. They don’t tell you how many schools could have been opened or how many Nigerians could have attended college or how many mothers might have survived childbirth if that money had been spent differently.” Clinton opened her Africa trip in Nairobi, Kenya, then went to South Africa, Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo. She will travel next to Liberia and Cape Verde. The Obama administration is also using Clinton’s tour to promote development and good governance. Clinton brought an offer of help Tuesday for victimsespecially victims of sexual violencein Africa’s longest war, a regional conflict that’s dragged on for more than a decade.
Al Qaeda group said to claim Jakarta hotel bombings
Toasting opportunity in Nigeria
“We want to banish the problems of sexual violence into the dark past where it belongs,” she said during her visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo. In a meeting with leaders of nongovernmental organizations, Clinton said the United States will provide “more than 17 million in new funds to prevent and respond to gender and sexual violence.” On Monday, Clinton had delivered a blunt message to Prime Minister Adolphe Muzito when he hosted a dinner in her honor. “There must be an end to widespread financial corruption and abuses of human rights and women’s rights,” she said. “There must be an improvement in governance and the respect for the rule of law.” The United Nations estimates 200,000 women and girls have been raped in Congo since war broke out 12 years ago.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) –
The Federal Reserve said on Wednesday the U.S. economy was showing signs of leveling out two years after the onset of the deepest financial crisis in decades and it moved to phase out one emergency measure.
The U.S. central bank also kept its benchmark short-term interest rate steady near zero and said it would likely stay there for an extended period to guide the way to recovery.
The Fed made its clearest statement to date that it sees the recession nearing an end and that shattered financial markets are healing.
“Information since the Federal Open Market Committee met in June suggests economic activity is leveling out,” the Fed said, referring to its policy-setting panel. “Conditions in financial markets have improved in recent weeks.”
It is the first time since August 2008 that the committee's statement has not characterized the economy as contracting, weakening, or slowing.
Many peg the onset of the crisis to French bank BNP Paribas' move in August 2007 to freeze funds because of problems with U.S. subprime mortgages. In the months that followed, the U.S. economy toppled into the most damaging financial crisis and painful recession in decades, and the economic malaise spread around the world.
“They see the worst with the economy is behind us but they don't want to jump the gun and pull back quickly,” said Craig Thomas, a senior economist at PNC Financial Services in Pittsburgh.
The Fed cautioned that the economy remains fragile as employers continue to cut jobs and businesses trim investment.
U.S. Treasury prices fell after the Fed statement in apparent disappointment that the Fed did not increase the amount of debt that it plans to buy but subsequently regained some ground.
However, major U.S. stock indexes flirted with 10-month highs and the U.S. dollar rose against the yen.
The Fed cut interest rates to a range of between zero and 0.25 percent in December and pumped hundreds of billions of dollars into financial markets to stimulate economic activity in aggressive efforts to thwart the recession.
President Barack Obama's ability to implement his health care and environmental reforms partly depend on his administration's ability to turn the economy around with a controversial $787-billion economic stimulus package.
The recession has seen tax revenues fall and spending rise, leading to a record federal budget deficit expected to top $1.84 trillion in the current fiscal year.
Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke's own renomination hopes for a second term have a lot riding on his ability to restore growth and jobs after the Fed's role in controversial financial rescues and after questions about why the Fed did not spot the gathering storm earlier and take steps to prevent it.
Recent reports imply that the economy may be coming out of its swoon and that job losses, which have topped 6 million since the recession began in December 2007, may be moderating.
Still, the Fed renewed its warning that economic activity is likely to stay soft for “a time.” Household spending, while stabilizing, is still weak as a result of the grim labor market and tight credit, the Fed said.
To quell worries the Fed's bloated balance sheet may sow the seeds of dangerous inflation once the recovery gains traction, Bernanke has taken pains to explain the Fed has tools to pull money out of the financial system to prevent price pressures from building.
Some analysts also worry the Fed's easy money policies are setting the stage for another asset bubble, just as an extended period of low rates in the early part of the decade encouraged the housing boom that triggered the crisis.
The central bank cautiously moved to pull back some of that help for the economy on Wednesday, signaling it would slowly phase out a program to buy $300 billion in longer-term Treasuries by the end of October.
“To promote a smooth transition in markets as these purchases of Treasury securities are completed, the committee has decided to gradually slow the pace of these transactions
and anticipates that the full amount will be purchased by the end of October,” the Fed said.
The Fed launched the debt-buying program in March when it had already chopped interest rates to zero but wanted to open the money taps even wider to support the struggling economy. Treasury purchases were scheduled to expire in September.
The Fed's decision to refrain from expanding its bond buying while standing pat on rates contrasts with approaches taken by other central banks around the world faced different stages of economic and financial stabilization.
The Bank of England stunned markets last week by expanding its program of bond purchases by a much larger amount than expected, saying the recession deeper than it had forecast.
(Editing by Neil Stempleman)
WASHINGTON – Seven companies on government life support — bailout recipients like General Motors and Citigroup — face a deadline Thursday to propose compensation packages for their highest-paid employees, which will have to get the thumbs-up from the Obama administration’s “pay czar.”
It’s the first time a federal official will have veto power over the how much private-sector executives are compensated. Some fear this new power encroaches on the free market, but Congress decided the government should have a say when it comes to the companies relying most heavily on taxpayer money.
How will the pay restrictions work? Here are some questions and answers.
Q: Who’s running the show?
A: The administration’s pay czar — technically called the Special Master for TARP Executive Compensation — is Kenneth Feinberg, 64, a high-profile lawyer and mediator. Feinberg is best known for running the government’s fund for families of 9/11 victims.
Q: How did that go?
A: That job got off to a bumpy start. Initially, some 9/11 victims’ relatives accused Feinberg of being arrogant and distant.
As the program continued, Feinberg won over many of his critics and garnered praise as a pragmatic mediator. He personally heard appeals from families who felt the original payment offered was too small. He earned the respect of some families simply by sitting in a room and listening for hours as they described their lost loved ones.
Q: What has Feinberg done so far?
A: Feinberg has been consulting with the seven companies that have received “exceptional assistance” from the government. They are: American International Group Inc., Bank of America Corp., Citigroup Inc., General Motors, GMAC, Chrysler and Chrysler Financial.
Q: So what happens Thursday?
A: Thursday is the last day the companies can submit proposed pay packages for the 25 highest earners at each one. At least one company, General Motors, said Tuesday it already had submitted its plan.
Q: What’s next?
A: Feinberg has 60 days to review the proposals, then accept or reject them. He is expected to meet and negotiate with the companies during this period. He also will approve broader compensation formulas that will apply to the 75 next-highest-paid workers at each company.
Q: Why can’t he just set a very low cap on all the executives’ salaries, to protect taxpayer money?
A: The companies argue that if they can’t pay competitive wages to their best employees, they will lose them to other employers.
A bank’s best-paid employees are compensated based on the revenue they produce, and many make millions for their companies. If banks lose their best people, that could put a major dent in their profits, making it harder for them to recover and repay the government’s money.
Q: Why are they so worried about losing employees to competitors? Aren’t there thousands of bankers out there already looking for work?
A: It’s true that the financial services industry has seen massive layoffs. But an employee valuable enough to rank in the top 25 probably makes a lot of money for the company. That’s an employee any bank would be happy to have — including healthier competitors and foreign banks not subject to the government rules.
Q: Then why not just let the companies set their own compensation packages?
A: Outsize bonuses at AIG and other firms with government money have sparked public and congressional outrage. Feinberg has to walk a careful line — being tough enough to satisfy Congress and the public but not so tough that he undermines the companies’ competitiveness.
House Financial Services Committee chairman Barney Frank, D-Mass., said “the public has a right to be angry” about the huge pay packages at companies that depend on taxpayer dollars, and that it is a “legitimate part of the function of government to respond to that anger.”
Q: So what is Congress’s role?
A: Feinberg’s was appointed to carry out rules Congress passed as part of the 787 billion stimulus package. The House passed legislation last month that would apply the same pay standards to all financial businesses, which Frank said would address the concern about burdening only the most troubled companies.
Q: Are there any limits to Feinberg’s power over the pay packages?
A: He can’t tear up pay contracts or retroactively claw back compensation already paid out. But he has a very strong voice in how much elite employees will make in 2009.
Q: What sorts of things might he insist on?
A: Compensation experts expect Feinberg to push for changes that would align pay packages with executives’ performance. These could include disbursing their pay over years so that the long-term results of their decisions become clear, allowing banks to revoke some of that pay if the bankers’ bets go bad, or having them pay more compensation in restricted stock — which can rise and fall in value based on a company’s performance — and less in cash.
Q: How much will Feinberg make to tell others how much they can earn?
A: As with his work on the 9/11 fund, Feinberg is serving as pay czar pro bono.
Associated Press Writers Stevenson Jacobs and Devlin Barrett contributed to this report.
LONDON (Reuters) –
The unique wildlife of the Galapagos Islandsis under threat from disease-carrying mosquitoes arriving on board growing numbers of aircraft and tourist boats, researchers said on Wednesday.
Experts fear the spread of the southern house mosquito, or Culex quinquefasciatus, could have the same devastating effect in the Galapagos as in Hawaii during the late 19th century, when disease wiped out many indigenous birds.
The mosquito was first spotted in the Galapagos in the mid-1980s, but its presence then was considered a one-off.
Now research by British and Ecuadorean scientists has found the insects are, in fact, transported regularly by plane and are island-hopping on boats, spreading throughout the archipelago.
Genetic tests also confirm they are able to survive and breed once they arrive at their new home.
“More ships and more aircraft are coming to the Galapagos every year and the risk of something being introduced is growing all the time,” said Leeds University researcher Simon Goodman.
“That we haven't already seen serious disease impacts in Galapagos is probably just a matter of luck.” The southern house mosquito is a carrier of diseases including avian malaria, avian pox and West Nile fever.
It was brought to Hawaii in water barrels on whaling ships, leading to diseases that are blamed for wiping out many bird species. Only 19 out of 42 species and subspecies of honeycreeper now remain in Hawaii.
Goodman and colleagues, who published their findings in the Proceedings of the Royal Society, fear everything is in place for a similar wipe-out in the Galapagos, given the rapid growth in transport links with the mainland.
Tourism is a major source of income for the Galapagos and is growing by around 14 percent a year.
The government of Ecuador recently introduced a requirement for insecticide spraying on aircraft flying to the Galapagos, but the scientists said the scheme's effectiveness was not being monitored and the rules did not apply to cargo ships.
Mosquitoes are the latest in a string of invaders — including rats, wild pigs, flies and invasive plants — that have colonized the Pacific islands, located about 600 miles off South America's coast along the equator.
British naturalist Charles Darwin developed his theory of evolution in the 19th century after studying the islands' unique animal population.
COLUMBIA, S.C. – Death row inmate Chadrick Fulks insists he wants to help a slain West Virginia college student’s family find solace by leading investigators to her body.
It wouldn’t be the first time he’s made that claim. State and federal authorities spent six years on wild goose chases prompted by tips from Fulks before one of his clues actually led searchers to another victim of his 2,300-mile crime spree, which left two women dead and several people injured in 2002.
“I will fight until my last breath to make sure that Samantha is recovered as well,” Fulks, 32, wrote in a recent letter to The Associated Press from the federal death row in Terre Haute, Ind.
But now, the same volunteer who successfully unearthed one of Fulks’ victims says she’s not so sure the condemned man really wants anyone to find the other, 19-year-old Marshall University student Samantha Burns.
The volunteer, Monica Caison, is the founder of Community United Effort – Center for Missing Persons. She led the team that found the remains of Alice Donovan, a 44-year-old South Carolina woman, earlier this year, but is frustrated by the search for Burns.
“I’ve found people missing for 15 years or more, more easily than this,” said Caison, whose recent searches of rural, wooded parts of West Virginia based on tips from Fulks have turned up nothing. “I try not to let my frustration show. … Everybody expects to get out there and find her and have the same success that we had with Alice.”
After Fulks sent her a map and photos earlier this year, claiming they were Donovan’s final resting place, Caison drove directly from Wilmington, N.C., to South Carolina, where in January she found bones in thick brush near the North Carolina line. Last month, DNA tests confirmed the remains belonged to Donovan, information that left Fulks feeling somewhat vindicated.
“I’m thankful that her family can now have a proper burial for her,” Fulks wrote, “and I can only pray that in some way this will help them to begin to heal.”
That chance came only after years of fruitless searching. Right after Fulks was arrested in November 2002, information he gave agents prompted them to spend their Thanksgiving looking through another patch of woods, but they found nothing. In the six years after that, Fulks repeatedly urged state and federal authorities to search several different areas.
It has never been clear if he was intentionally misleading them or simply forgot where the bodies had been discarded.
Donovan’s daughters are planning to bury their mother Nov. 14, the seventh anniversary of her death. Fulks, who says his own brother recently committed suicide in jail and was buried the same day Donovan’s remains were identified, wrote to the AP that he now understands the anguish felt by both victims’ families.
“Seeing his pain made me constantly think about Alice and Samanthas familys pain and it has drove me to not give up until they both were found,” he wrote.
Earlier this year, Fulks wrote to Caison again, sending a map and photos of the rural area where he says Burns’ body was dumped. He and co-defendant Brandon Basham pleaded guilty to killing her during their spree, which authorities said also included carjacking a Kentucky man and leaving him for dead, shooting a South Carolina man who refused to give them his vehicle, and attacking police officers in Kentucky and Ohio. The spree started when they broke out of a Kentucky jail.
Both men are on federal death row in Terre Haute, Ind. Fulks has consistently blamed Basham for the women’s deaths but insists he also knows where the bodies are.
In March, Caison led a group through a wooded area in southwestern West Virginia at Fulks’ direction, her spirits renewed by the success in identifying Donovan’s remains.
For 16 days, Caison’s team logged hundreds of hours combing the earth for Burns’ remains. Cadaver dogs picked up scents. Searchers crawled on hands and knees, hoping to uncover some clue that would verify Fulks’ information.
But in the more than six years since Burns’ death, the area’s terrain has changed, making it difficult to rely on Fulks’ maps and memories. As time stretched on, Caison says, she began to doubt his veracity.
“I feel like there is something, that one thing you could tell me, and you know I’d be right on top of her, and you’re holding it back,” she told Fulks during a telephone conversation from the search site. “I said, I’m not effective here, right now. … It just shouldn’t be this hard. If she’s here, these dogs will find her.”
Caison says she’s taken the last few months to regroup, going back over the maps and letters she’s received from Fulks — and telling Burns’ family it’s not time to give up. Next month, she will return to the same search area with dogs, excavation machinery and dozens of people from the nation’s top search teams.
“If we don’t find her after I bring this crew in … then Chad Fulks is a liar, because I will believe the dogs,” Caison said. “If she’s there, we’re going to find her.”
Fulks’ attorneys have filed documents asking a judge to grant their client a new trial. But from his spot on federal death row — he was sentenced to death for killing Donovan and life in prison for killing Burns — he insists he’s resigned himself to his fate and is focused on finding peace for his victims’ families.
“I know no one believes me and I cant blame them,” Fulks wrote. “All I want to do is help these familys have there loved ones back and I want to be clear about this. This has nothing to do with wanting to help myself. … I’m in no way doing this to save my life but rather to help these familys find some kind of closure ‘if’ that is even possible.”
WASHINGTONA pioneer, a preacher, an activist and an athlete were among 16 people who President Obama honored Wednesday with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.
Joe Medicine Crow-High Bird, the last living Plains Indian war chief, receives his medal from President Obama.more photos »
“This is a chance for me and for the United States of America to say thank you to some of the finest citizens of this country and of all countries,” Obama told the audience assembled for the ceremony at the White House. “At a moment when cynicism and doubt too often prevail, when our obligations to one another are too often forgotten, when the road ahead can seem too long or hard to tread, these extraordinary men and women, these agents of change, remind us that excellence is not beyond our abilities, that hope lies around the corner and that justice can still be won in the forgotten corners of this world,” the president said. “They remind us that we each have it within our powers to fulfill dreams, to advance the dreams of others and to remake the world for our children,” he said. The Presidential Medal of Freedom, an annual award, was created after World War II when President Truman wanted to honor civilian service during the war. The 16 honored at the ceremony Wednesday afternoon were: • Nancy Goodman Brinker: The death of her sister from breast cancer prompted Brinker to found Susan G. Komen for the Cure, which has grown to become the world’s leading breast cancer grass-roots organization. • Pedro José Greer Jr.: Among the many hats Greer wears, he is the founder of Camillus Health Concern, an agency that provides medical care to more than 10,000 homeless patients every year in Miami, Florida. • Stephen Hawking: The internationally recognized theoretical physicist has spent his career making complex scientific concepts accessible to the layman, including penning the best-selling book “A Brief History of Time” and its updated version, “A Briefer History of Time.” • Jack Kemp: The quarterback-turned-politician was honored posthumously for the years he spent, leading up to his death in May, raising awareness of and encouraging development in underserved communities. See photos of this year’s winners » • Sen. Edward Kennedy: During his 46 years as a lawmaker, Kennedy has called health care reform the “cause of his life,” championing nearly every health care bill enacted by Congress in the past five decades. However, Kennedy missed Wednesday’s ceremony because of his ongoing battle with brain cancer, the White House said. His sister Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who died Tuesday, received the Medal of Freedom in 1984 from President Reagan. • Billie Jean King: With her victory over Bobby Riggs in the “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match in 1973, and in the years since, King has champion gender equality not only in sports but in all areas of public life. • The Rev. Joseph Lowery: With the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., the civil rights icon co-founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, a leading civil rights organization, and has continued to highlight the cause worldwide, including speaking out forcefully against apartheid in South Africa until its end in 1994. • Joe Medicine Crow-High Bird: The last living Plains Indian war chief and author of seminal works in Native American history is also the last person alive to have received direct oral testimony from a participant in the Battle of the Little Bighorn: his grandfather, a scout for Gen. George Custer. • Harvey Milk: The first openly gay person elected into office in a major U.S. city, Milk is revered as a pioneer of the lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender civil rights movement. He was honored posthumously. • Sandra Day O’Connor: At a time when women rarely entered the legal profession, O’Connor graduated Stanford Law School third in her class and went on to become the first woman ever to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court. • Sidney Poitier: The first African-American to win a Best Actor Academy Award, Poitier also broke ground by insisting that the crew in one of his films be at least 50 percent African-American and by starring in the first mainstream movie portraying interracial marriage as acceptable. • Chita Rivera: The winner of two Tony Awards, Rivera was also the first Hispanic to receive the Kennedy Center Honor, awarded annually for exemplary lifetime achievement in the performing arts. • Mary Robinson: Since ending her term as the first female president of Ireland, Robinson has headed Realizing Rights, an initiative that ensures that human rights is not forgotten as nations chart a course toward globalization. • Janet Davison Rowley: Her work on chromosome abnormalities in human leukemia and lymphoma has led to dramatically improved survival rates for previously incurable cancers.
• Desmond Tutu: An Anglican archbishop and a leading anti-apartheid activist, Tutu is widely regarded as “South Africa’s moral conscience” and chaired the country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission when it was created in 1995 to discover and reveal past wrongdoing. • Muhammad Yunus: A Bangladeshi economist and winner of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize, Yunus pioneered the use of micro-loans to provide credit to the poor without collateral, a successful model that has been emulated worldwide.
Ousted Honduras leader presses US
Deposed Honduran President Manuel Zelaya has called on the United States to take tougher action to help restore him to power.Speaking in Brazil, Mr Zelaya acknowledged that Washington had firmly opposed his removal from office. But he said the US was the biggest trading partner of Honduras and could place more economic pressure on the coup leaders who deposed him in June. The Obama government has suspended 18m (11m) in development aid to Honduras. Police in Honduras say at least 40 people demonstrating in support of Mr Zelaya on Tuesday were detained for public order offences in the capital, Tegucigalpa. Mr Zelaya was sent into exile on 28 June, amid a power struggle over his plans for constitutional change. His critics said the move was aimed at removing the current one-term limit on serving as president, and paving the way for his re-election. Following the army-led coup, the speaker of Congress, Roberto Micheletti – constitutionally second in line to the presidency – was sworn in as interim leader.
New planet displays exotic orbit
By Paul Rincon
Science reporter, BBC News
Astronomers have discovered the first planet that orbits in the opposite direction to the spin of its star.Planets form out of the same swirling gas cloud that creates a star, so they are expected to orbit in the same direction that the star rotates. The new planet is thought to have been flung into its “retrograde” orbit by a close encounter with either another planet or with a passing star. The work has been submitted to the Astrophysical Journal for publication. Co-author Coel Hellier, from Keele University in Staffordshire, UK, said planets with retrograde orbits were thought to be rare. “With everything [in the star system] swirling around the same way and the star spinning the same way, you have to do quite a lot to it to make it go in the opposite direction,” he told BBC News. The direction of orbit is known for roughly a dozen exoplanets (planets outside our solar system). This is the only example with a retrograde orbit. All others are prograde; they orbit in the same direction as the spin of their star. Close encountersProfessor Hellier said a near-collision was probably responsible for this planet’s unusual orbit. “If you have a near-collision, then you’ll have a large gravitational slingshot from that interaction,” he explained. “This is the likeliest explanation. But it might be possible you can do it by gradually perturbing the orbit through the influence of a second planet. So far, we haven’t found any evidence of a second planet there.” The new object has been named WASP-17b. It is the 17th exoplanet to have been discovered by the Wide Area Search for Planets (WASP) consortium of UK universities. The gas giant is about twice the size of Jupiter, but has about half the mass. WASP-17b was detected using an array of cameras set up to monitor hundreds of thousands of stars. Astronomers were searching for small dips in light from these stars that occur when a planet passes in front of them. When this happens, the planets are said to transit their parent star. A team from Geneva Observatory in Switzerland then looked for spectral signs that the star was wobbling due to gravitational tugs from an orbiting planet. “If you look at how the spectrum of the star changes when the planet transits across it, you can work out which way the planet is travelling,” Professor Hellier added. “That allows you to prove that it’s in a retrograde orbit.” The size of the dip in light from the star during the transit allowed astronomers to work out the planet’s radius. To work out how massive it was, they recorded the motion of the star as it was tugged on by the orbiting planet. Paul.Rincon-INTERNET
Lockerbie bomber release imminent
The man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing is expected to be released next week, the BBC understands.Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi, who is suffering from terminal prostate cancer, has been serving his jail sentence at Greenock Prison. It is believed UK and Lybian officials have held talks this week. The Libyan had launched an appeal against his conviction for the murder of 270 people when Pan Am Flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie in 1988. The speed of Megrahi’s transfer is believed to be influenced by consensus among all parties that Megrahi be back on Libyan soil in time for Ramadan next week. ‘Request deadline’The news came after Scottish justice secretary Kenny MacAskill visited Megrahi in prison, amid speculation he might be moved to Libya. A prisoner transfer request was made by Libya to the UK government last May, less than a week after a treaty allowing prisoners to be transferred between the two countries was ratified. Under the agreement, the country holding a prisoner should give its answer within 90 days. Decisions about prisoners are the responsibility of the Scottish Government, in effect giving Mr MacAskill the final say. Mr MacAskill said last week he would miss the 90-day deadline, which expired on 3 August, because he was waiting for more information. No transfer can take place if criminal proceedings are active, meaning Megrahi would have to drop his latest appeal against his conviction in order to be sent home. He was ordered to remain in prison for a minimum of 27 years, having been found guilty of the bombing – which is still the UK’s worst terrorist atrocity. Megrahi’s legal team had also made a request for him to released from prison on compassionate grounds. An earlier request, made in October 2008, was rejected by Appeal Court judges after they heard medical evidence that with adequate palliative care, Megrahi could live for several years. The court heard that such requests are normally only granted where a prisoner has less than three months to live.
Bloggers debate British healthcare
As the US healthcare debate hots up during Congress’s summer recess, anti-reform campaigners have been directing criticisms across the Atlantic at the UK healthcare system.The most recent row erupted after
as a warning against what could happen if the US adopted such a model. “The controlling of medical costs in countries such as Britain through rationing, and the health consequences thereof are legendary,” the article said. “The stories of people dying on a waiting list or being denied altogether read like a horror movie script.” The article’s author went on to assert that “people such as scientist Stephen Hawking wouldn’t have a chance in the UK, where the National Health Service would say the life of this brilliant man, because of his physical handicaps, is essentially worthless.” As
Prof Hawking was born in the UK, and has lived and worked there for his entire life. Basic stupidity
said the IBD article was an example of conservatives “lying” about healthcare. “It’s not just that they didn’t know that Stephen Hawking was born in England. It’s that the underlying point was wrong, as you’ll note from the continued existence of Stephen Hawking. They didn’t choose an unfortunate example for an accurate point. They simply lied.” The New Republic’s Jason Zengerle – while endorsing Mr Klein’s objections to the IBD’s article – was
not convinced that the article’s author should be given the credit for a conscious lie.
“The point the IBD writer was trying to make would have at least been theoretically plausible if, as the writer believed, Hawking was not British.,” Mr Zengerle wrote.
“I’m just reluctant to credit the IBD writer with the sufficient smarts to concoct such a lie. Seems like basic stupidity is the easier explanation here.” The IBD’s fundamental charge was that President Obama’s healthcare plans would lead to the rationing of healthcare, and that rationing is a feature of the British system. This point was echoed by
conservative blogger Michelle Malkin
, who warned that “the effects of socialised medicine in Britain – engineered by government-run cost-cutting panels on which Obamacare would be modelled – continue to wreak havoc on the elderly and infirm.” In making this point, Ms Malkin was explicitly re-affirming
the assertion made by former Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin,
that Mr Obama wanted to create a “death panel” to decide whether the elderly or disabled are “worthy of health care”. Top topicLiberal bloggers in the US have rejected the accusations made by these prominent conservatives. Washington Monthly’s Steve Benen argued that
the healthcare plans put forward by Mr Obama and his fellow Democrats bore no resemblance to the UK system.
“It’s worth emphasizing, for those who remain confused and misled, that Democratic reform proposals would not create a British system. The comparison doesn’t even make sense in any substantive way, and the very premise of the IBD attack, which has been widely parroted by the far-right, reflects a fundamental lack of intellectual honesty and seriousness.” Matthew Yglesias, blogger for the liberal Centre for American Progress,
lamented the fact that Mr Obama was not planning to follow the British example.
“The NHS is a pretty great model and the British are on to something… if you were actually able to get British levels of care for British price levels [in the US] you could redirect [the savings] to trying to improve the social circumstances of the poor, trying to reduce exposure to health hazards, and building infrastructure (trains, sidewalks, bike paths, even the dread parks) suited to less sedentary lifestyles. We’d be much better off that way.” The American conservatives’ criticisms of the NHS, and
an appearance by British Conservative MEP Dan Hannan on Fox News, in which he bemoaned the state of healthcare in the UK,
has prompted thousands of British Twitter users to rush to its defence. By early Wednesday evening UK time, the
hashtag had become one of the top trending topics on the global site. Some Twitter users, like Luke Richards,
offered general words of support.
“I’m proud of our health service. It’s one of this country’s best achievements of the past century,” he wrote. Others, like Claire Thompson of Reading,
highlighted the life-saving treatment that they or their friends and relatives have received.
“My father had heart surgery last year, and my husband’s life was saved after a fall – not perfect, but great when it matters,” she tweeted. Most seemed to reflect the feeling that despite its shortcomings, the British remain defiantly pound of the health service in the face of transatlantic criticism.
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – Nancy Snyder says she kept quiet when abortion was legalized and prayer in schools was eliminated. Not this time.
“They did it for prayer, they did it for abortion, and they’re not going to do it for our health care,” the 70-year-old nurse from Philipsburg, Pa., said Wednesday as she and her husband Robert, 74, a retired coal miner, waited in a long, snaking line for Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter’s town hall meeting.
“We’re not standing back this time,” Snyder said.
Instead, the Snyders and many Americans like them are adding their voices to a populist backlash evident in the taunts, jeers and rants at lawmakers’ health care forums around the country in the past week and a half. The contentious sessions highlight the difficulty for President Barack Obama and the Democrats as they push for a comprehensive remaking of the nation’s health care system.
Many of those raising their voices and fists at the town halls have never been politically active. Their frustration was born earlier this year with government bailouts and big spending bills, then found an outlet in the anti-tax Tea Parties in April and has simmered in the punishing recession.
In some cases, it’s been nurtured by talk radio and Glenn Beck’s 9-12 Project, which seeks to unify Americans around nine values such as honesty, hope and sincerity and 12 principles, including, “I work hard for what I have and I will share it with who I want to. Government cannot force me to be charitable.”
There is an element of organized opposition, just as on the other side unions and Obama’s political organization are trying to turn out supporters to town halls and other events. The insurance industry lobby, America’s Health Insurance Plans, is encouraging workers to attend town hall events to make their views known. So is the group Conservatives for Patients’ Rights.
Still another group, Americans for Prosperity, has two buses emblazoned with the slogan “Hands off our Health Care!” that are traveling around the country to rallies and town halls, including Specter’s. At the town halls, small groups of volunteers circulate petitions opposing any legislation allowing greater government involvement.
But it’s not just about organization.
“I don’t want someone else to select and say this is what you can and can’t have,” Nancy Snyder said.
“Nobody told us to come,” she added. “I float my own boat.”
The protesters have several concerns, but a unifying emotion is distrust of the government and federal intrusion into individual liberties or personal choices.
The emerging movement is almost the mirror image of the grass-roots campaign that helped sweep Obama into office by pulling in people who’d never been politically active. This time Obama is seeing the other side of what can happen when people are motivated, connect over the Internet and seemingly reach a tipping point that turns them from onlookers into activists.
“You have awakened a sleeping giant,” one woman told Specter at a town hall meeting he held Tuesday in Lebanon, Pa.
Protesters interviewed at Specter’s town hall events in central Pennsylvania this week were almost exclusively white, conservative and working class. But they ranged in age and their concerns went beyond health care to deficit spending, taxes, government growth and other issues. Many contradicted claims from Democratic leaders that their protest was manufactured by lobbyists or that they represented an orchestrated opposition led by Republicans or national conservative groups.
“I had it on my calendar before town halls became the big thing,” said Jennifer Moeny, 32, a stay-at-home mom who attended Specter’s town hall in State College on Wednesday. “I just came to voice my opposition. … They should be open and honest instead of ramming it through.”
For many opponents the health care overhaul amounts to the final straw. After seeing Obama bail out banks and car dealers, push a major energy bill and pass a 787 billion economic stimulus package that hasn’t driven down unemployment, overhauling the 2.5 trillion U.S. health care system is a step too far.
“This is all being pushed way too fast. It’s just being rammed down our throat,” said Bette Jackson, a retiree from State College. “I agree we need health care reform, but I don’t want the government taking over.”
Nick Sidorick, 38, who said he owns a sports bar in Clearfield, Pa., drove an hour to attend his first town hall Wednesday after staying up until 2 a.m. the night before making signs to protest government intrusion. “I work 14 hours a day and I can’t get ahead because of what the government takes from me.”
“It’s just exhaustion, I guess,” Sidorick said of his motivation to attend.
A volunteer for Americans for Prosperity, Ron Rutigliano, 41, a high school teacher from Long Island, N.Y., said his parents grew up in Italy and he’s seen firsthand the government-run system there, which he said provides poor care.
Democrats’ plan would “just take away from the person that has a full-time job, that’s been doing the right thing,” Rutigliano said.