Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Report: Nearly 6,000 deaths connected to driver distraction

Washington -- Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood kicked off a two-day summit on distracted driving this morning, calling it a "menace to society" and a "deadly epidemic."

LaHood wants to crack down on texting behind the wheel and other activities that take drivers' focus from the road as the government issued a report that said 6,000 deaths last year were linked to distracted driving.

"Every single time you take your eyes off the road or talk on the phone while you're driving, even for just a few seconds, you put your life in danger," LaHood said. "We need a combination of strong laws, tough enforcement and ongoing public education to make a difference."

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said nearly 6,000 people died in 2008 in crashes involving distracted drivers, or about 15 percent of all road deaths. But there is no good data on how many of those deaths are linked to texting or using mobile phones. Every day, at least 800,000 vehicles are driven by someone using a hand-held cell phone.

More than 300 people are taking part in the summit of lawmakers, safety experts, agency officials, automakers and representatives of the wireless industry.

Kristin Backstrom, senior manager at the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, said "shame on us" if the summit focuses solely on cell phone and texting, noting there are lots of other distractions that lead to serious crashes. She noted that some teens have said that driving distracts them from other activities.

The relatives of several victims of distracted driving crashes are taking part in the summit, at a Washington hotel. One offered a painful story of the death of a relative because a driver was putting on makeup and not paying attention.

Much of the summit is aimed at the worst drivers -- the youngest ones on the roads.

"The worst offenders are the youngest, least experienced drivers: men and women under 20," LaHood said.

While automakers and LaHood want a ban on hand-held texting while driving, some have noted that it will be difficult for police to enforce prohibitions on texting or other distracted behavior.

"We cannot rely on legal action alone, because in reality, you can't legislative behavior," LaHood said. "There aren't enough police on patrol to catch everyone who's breaking the law."

Texting is growing in popularity, and has soared 500 percent in recent years among teens. Americans with 270 million cellular phones are sending more than 100 billion text messages a month.

In July, a 25-year-old tow truck driver in upstate New York was texting behind the wheel when he crashed through a fence, sideswiped a house and ended up in a swimming pool, injuring his passenger.

Last year, a commuter train engineer in Chatsworth, Calif., was texting and failed to stop at a red signal, hitting another train head on. The crash killed 25 people and injured 135 others.

Bills in Congress would withhold 25 percent of highway funding to states that won't agree to ban hand-held texting behind the wheel.

Eighteen states and the District of Columbia have banned hand-held texting by drivers; six states and the District of Columbia ban cell phone use by all drivers without using a hands-free device.

LaHood plans to unveil an action plan Thursday.

University of Wisconsin professor John Lee said not all technology leads to more distraction. He said a factory installed global positioning system is less distracting than unfolding a map while driving.

Judge tosses Dan Rather's CBS lawsuit

A New York state appeals court has dismissed Dan Rather's $70 million lawsuit against CBS, legal records show.

Rather, 77, alleged in court papers that the network, his workplace for 44 years, violated their contract with him, limited his air time and ruined his reputation by making him take the fall for an erroneous 2004 story about President George W. Bush's Vietnam-era Texas Air National Guard service.

However, the New York Post said a five-judge panel ruled unanimously Tuesday that the veteran broadcast journalist's lawsuit had no merit.

"We believe the decision is incorrect on a number of grounds and, accordingly, we intend to ask the New York Court of Appeals to review it," Rather's attorney, Martin Gold, told the newspaper.

Documents shed little light on Caylee case

-- Forensics released in the case of slain Florida toddler Caylee Anthony include little evidence linking her death to her mother, court documents indicate.

Caylee's mother, Casey Anthony, has been charged with her daughter's 2008 slaying. But WESH-TV, Orlando, said that court documents detailing forensic evidence in the case released Tuesday shed little light on Anthony's possible guilt, the Orlando, Fla., Sentinel reported.

A large stain found in the trunk of Anthony's car, which investigators reportedly believe was caused by Caylee's body being stored there for days, may or may not have been from a body, an FBI photographic supervisor said in the documents, adding "it is too speculative" to draw conclusions about what the stain might be, WESH reported.

The station also reported the documents as saying that a Maitland, Fla., man saw Caylee and her mother together shortly before her July 2008 disappearance, allegedly telling investigators, "To think I was one of the last people to see Caylee alive, it bothers me constantly."

Report: Timberlake and Biel break up

U.S. pop star Justin Timberlake and actress Jessica Biel have ended their three-year courtship, a mutual friend told

The source said Timberlake broke up with Biel on the phone. "It was about a month ago," the friend reported, adding the actress is in "severe denial and won't accept" the relationship is over.

"There's no way of knowing if it's a firm breakup, because with them it's so hot and cold," another source told

Timberlake previously dated singer Britney Spears and actress Cameron Diaz.

Georgia 'started unjustified war'

The war in Georgia last year was started by a Georgian attack that was not justified by international law, an EU-sponsored report has concluded.

However, the attack followed months of provocation, and both sides violated international law, the report said.

Russia said the report delivered an "unequivocal answer" on the question of who started the conflict.

But Georgia said the investigation proved that Russia had been preparing for war all along.

The report said about 850 people were killed in the August 2008 war, and that more than 100,000 fled their homes, about 35,000 of whom are still displaced.

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Iran must restore confidence on nuclear aims at talks: US

GENEVA — Iran must take steps to restore confidence that it has peaceful nuclear intentions during crucial talks with six major powers in Geneva on Thursday, a senior US official said Wednesday.

"We want them to come prepared to focus on the nuclear issue and demonstrate that they are willing to take steps to restore the confidence that's been lost in their peaceful intentions," the official told reporters in Geneva.

"And they will have to be a lot more transparent than they've been and a lot more cooperative with the IAEA than they have been in several years," he said, referring to the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Last week's revelation that Iran was secretly building a second uranium enrichment site in Qom underscored the "collective sense of urgency and impatience" among the six world powers, said another senior US official.

European Union foreign affairs chief Javier Solana will conduct Thursday's talks with Iran's nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, along with senior officials from Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States.

The senior US official said the so-called P5+1 group will have to establish during negotiations Thursday "if the Iranians are willing to engage on the nuclear issue."

"Another urgent task for all of us is to support the IAEA in ensuring that Iran lives up to its obligation to full and unfettered access to the Qom site as well as to people and documents connected to that facility," he added.

The official said there must be concrete results from the negotiations.

"This from the point of view of the United States can't be an open-ended process -- talks just for the sake of talks, especially in light of the revelations about Qom," he said.

"We need to see practical steps and measurable results and we need to see them starting quickly," he stressed.

Singer Andy Williams - Obama a "Marxist"

Classic Artist says Obama defaming Classical Ideals of Nation's Founding

Joining a growing list of Hollywood Performers and Actors harshly critical of the Obama agenda, including Actor Jon Voight and Comedian Jackie Mason, 1960s singing sensation Andy Williams accused the Democrat of "following Marxist theory."

From the UK Telegraph, Sept. 28:

"Don't like him at all," he said, "I think he wants to create a socialist country. The people he associates with are very Left-wing. One is registered as a Communist.

"Obama is following Marxist theory. He's taken over the banks and the car industry. He wants the country to fail."
The 81-year old Williams had a string of easy listening hits in the 1950s and '60s, including "Moon River" (video here), the up-tempo "Watch the Girls Go By," "Born Free" and "Speak Softly Love" the theme song from the movie, The Godfather.

Note - Williams is a self-described "Republican."

Friedman: America in 2009 Is Like Israel Before the Rabin Assassination

by Matt Welch

New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman, fresh off pining openly for a one-party communist United States instead of having to tolerate minority-party Republicans (no really, he said that), now posits that right-wing criticism of Obama is just like domestic criticism of Israel's Yitzhak Rabin before the prime minister was assassinated.

Others have already remarked on this analogy, but I want to add my voice because the parallels to Israel then and America today turn my stomach: I have no problem with any of the substantive criticism of President Obama from the right or left. But something very dangerous is happening. Criticism from the far right has begun tipping over into delegitimation and creating the same kind of climate here that existed in Israel on the eve of the Rabin assassination.

I'm sure those with more Middle East expertise than I can suggest some flaws in this analogy; not least of which is the fact that the United States is not a small, recently minted nation surrounded on all sides by remarkably hostile countries against whom they have fought wars and continue to confront militarily. Still, nobody likes a violently poisonous climate, right? Let's see Friedman's evidence:
What kind of madness is it that someone would create a poll on Facebook asking respondents, "Should Obama be killed?" The choices were: "No, Maybe, Yes, and Yes if he cuts my health care." The Secret Service is now investigating. I hope they put the jerk in jail and throw away the key because this is exactly what was being done to Rabin.

Sick, yes. But exactly what was being done to Rabin? I'm pretty sure the life-and-death currents in Israeli politics were (and are) a little bit more serious, entrenched, and organized than some retard's Facebook prank. Surely there are more indicators of impending violence?
Mr. Obama is now having his legitimacy attacked by a concerted campaign from the right fringe. They are using everything from smears that he is a closet "socialist" to calling him a "liar" in the middle of a joint session of Congress to fabricating doubts about his birth in America and whether he is even a citizen. And these attacks are not just coming from the fringe. Now they come from Lou Dobbs on CNN and from members of the House of Representatives.

1) None of this rises to the level of even rhetorical violence, and 2) you could make a similar list to the one above using George W. Bush, the Florida recount (or the Ohio vote-counting in 2004), "Bush lied," and Cynthia McKinney. Indeed, that's part of Friedman's point: that we've gone "24 years without a legitimate president." But Friedman wasn't writing assassination-anxiety columns in 2007, 2001, or 1998 (as far as I know, anyway). He is saying, without coming close to making the case, that what we are seeing is a widespread problem of "people crossing the line between criticizing the president and tacitly encouraging the unthinkable and the unforgivable." The Paranoid Center rises again.

As always, I'm haunted by the question: What if I'm wrong? Even if the purportedly violent townhall meetings this summer actually weren't, and signs abound of the racial-anxiety hypothesizers drastically overstating their case–my favorite from today is a fundraising e-mail sent out by The Nation claiming, falsely, that the 9/12 protest on Washington, D.C. included "tens of thousands waving Confederate flags, anti-gay hate signs, and shouting 'White Power!'"–it would take only one kook to forever validate the popular thesis that the rednecks are paving the way for racist ultra-violence. For now I can only trust my own (admittedly optimistic) eyes...and I ain't seeing it.

UPDATE: Yes, you can still talk about killing George W. Bush on Facebook. But that's just satire!

Hillary Clinton Fundraiser Norman Hsu Sentenced to 24 Years in Prison on Federal Fraud and Campaign Finance Charges

Norman Hsu, 56, is escorted into a Redwood City, Calif., courtorom, Friday, Sept. 21, 2007. Hsu on Tuesday was charged with fraud and campaign finance violations in a case that prompted Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton to return hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions

Former Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton fundraiser has been sentenced to 24 years in prison today on federal charges – separate from his earlier California convictions.

Former Democratic fundraiser Norman Hsu was sentenced to more than 24 years in prison Tuesday by a judge who accused him of funding his fraud with a “conniving use of the political process.”

U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero sentenced Hsu to 20 years in prison for his guilty plea to fraud charges and another four years and four months in prison for his conviction at trial for breaking campaign finance laws.

The judge said Hsu stole more than $50 million from hundreds of investors in a 10-year fraud by winning their confidence with a pristine reputation, even as he ripped them off in a complex Ponzi scheme, a recipe that the judge noted fits many white collar crimes.

He called Hsu a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.”

He said his “conniving use of the political process to fund his fraud” made his crimes “much more sinister and reprehensible.”

Before he was sentenced, Hsu apologized.

His donations became an embarrassment for Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential campaign. His arrest led Clinton to return more than $800,000 to donors linked to Hsu.

Wonder if his hard-won Democrat friends, like Bill and Hillary will send him a cake while he is sitting in Club Fed?

Norman who?


WZZM - A West Michigan woman says the state is threatening her with fines and possibly jail time for babysitting her neighbors' children. Lisa Snyder of Middleville says her neighborhood school bus stop is right in front of her home. It arrives after her neighbors need to be at work, so she watches three of their children for 15-40 minutes until the bus comes. The Department of Human Services received a complaint that Snyder was operating an illegal child care home. DHS contacted Snyder and told her to get licensed, stop watching her neighbors' kids, or face the consequences. "It's ridiculous." says Snyder. "We are friends helping friends!" She added that she accepts no money for babysitting.

Q Poll: Christie Lead Cut In Half

A new Quinnipiac poll of the New Jersey gubernatorial race seems to show a September surge of sorts for Gov. Jon Corzine (D).

General Election Matchup
Christie 43 (-4 from last poll, 9/1)
Corzine 39 (+2)
Daggett 12 (+3)
Undecided 6 (unch)

The poll brings Chris Christie's (R) lead in the RCP Average down to 5 points, the lowest in our tracking. One potential reason why: a sharp spike in Christie's unfavorable numbers -- from 30 percent earlier this month, to 38 percent in today's survey. His unfavorable rating has nearly doubled since July, while Corzine's has held steady.

Favorable Ratings
Christie 38 / 38
Corzine 34 / 56
Daggett 11 / 3

Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, finds that at this stage, independent Chris Daggett's numbers "do matter," with him now above double digits. Christie leads among independent likely voters by a margin of 45-32, with Daggett getting 16 percent.

Corzine's job approval rating is now at 36 percent, with 58 percent disapproving. President Obama's approval rating improved to 56 percent from 51 percent earlier this month; 39 percent disapprove.

The survey of 1,188 likely voters was conducted September 23–28, with a margin of error of +/- 2.8 percent points.

Sarah Palin Memoir: To Be Released on November 17

Over the last few weeks, Levi Johnston has given the world his original, hilarious take on Sarah Palin.

On November 17, the former governor of Alaska and current cult-like figure will release her own story, as Going Rogue: An American Life hits stores earlier than originally announced.

It will go up against the release of Kris Allen's debut CD that day.

Some Republicans, and ALL Democrats, hope Sarah Palin is a nominee for President in 2012.

The 400-page memoir from HarperCollins was essentially penned by ghostwriter Lynn Vincent.

Palin was likely too busy shooting wolves from helicopters and believing in the unproven premise that abstinence education leads to fewer pregnancies.

Among the topics expected to be covered in the tome are:

•Palin's life as a beauty pageant contestant;
•Her selection as Vice Presidential running mate by Jon McCain;
•Daughter Bristol's pregnancy;
•A passionate defense of Alaska's proximity to Russia;
•The main reasons why Katie Couric is a stupid head;
•An English translation of her Gubernatorial resignation speech.
We may have made a few of those up.

Boxer, Kerry to Unveil Climate Bill Today

By Aaron Wiener
Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and John Kerry (D-Mass.) are set to roll out long-awaited climate legislation this morning. The two senators, who chair the Senate’s Environment and Public Works and Foreign Relations committees, respectively, are releasing their cap-and-trade bill more than three months after its House counterpart passed in June.

All indications are that the bill will be slightly stronger than the House version. Kate Sheppard obtained a leaked draft (PDF) of the Senate bill that would mandate a 20-percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2020, as opposed to the 17-percent target set by the House. The long-term targets of the two bills — including an 83-percent emissions reduction by 2050 — are largely the same. The Senate bill will also address concerns over the cooperation of China and India, a sticking point in the debate thus far.
Today’s rollout will highlight the national security benefits of the legislation, as Kerry and Boxer will be joined by a retired Navy admiral and a U.S. Army Afghan war veteran. Kerry’s very presence as a lead sponsor of the bill marks a shift from the House debate, when the legislation was crafted and debated almost exclusively by members of the Energy and Commerce Committee.

But Kerry also emphasized the environmental and economic advantages of his bill in a column in Politico today. And he didn’t shy away from the game-changing nature of the legislation. “The Clean Jobs and American Power Act is aimed at no less than the reinvention of the way America produces and uses energy,” he wrote.

The Environment and Public Works Committee will now take up debate on the legislation, which will eventually be merged with an energy bill passed by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in June — a bill that left many environmentalists disappointed.

Boxer and Kerry’s draft, on the other hand, is sure to please environmental advocates, with its aggressive targets and retained authority for the Environmental Protection Agency. But given the difficulty of passing progressive health care reform in the Senate — and predictions that climate legislation will be even more contentious — few believe that a bill this strong will be able to clear the Senate floor.

Newsmax: Military Coup Would Take Care Of "Obama Problem"

From John L. Perry at Newsmax:

There is a remote, although gaining, possibility America's military will intervene as a last resort to resolve the Obama problem. Don't dismiss it as unrealistic.

America isn't the Third World. If a military coup does occur here it will be civilized. That it has never happened doesn't mean it wont. Describing what may be afoot is not to advocate it. So, view the following through military eyes:

Did you get that? Perry doesn't advocate a military overthrow of the Obama administration, he's...just sayin'. Does anyone doubt that we'll see "military coup" signs at the next tea party? Mr. Perry believes he has the pulse of our military, but his assumptions go beyond the pale, straining the limits of credulity:

Top military officers can see the Constitution they are sworn to defend being trampled as American institutions and enterprises are nationalized.

They can see that Americans are increasingly alarmed that this nation, under President Barack Obama, may not even be recognizable as America by the 2012 election, in which he will surely seek continuation in office.

They can see that the economy ravaged by deficits, taxes, unemployment, and impending inflation is financially reliant on foreign lender governments. Read on...

There are so many flaws in this clown's logic, I don't know where to begin. What he's actually describing is George Bush's presidency, not Barack Obama's. If you can stand to click through to Perry's article, I would be most interested to hear your thoughts on his assumptions. As Jamie asked -- can you say treason?

Also worth remembering: Rush Limbaugh actually promoted this idea a few months ago.

Samoa tsunami: at least 100 feared dead on Pacific islands

• Tonga and American Samoa expecting death toll to rise
• British toddler among victims thought swept away by waves

Samoa tsunami leaves at least 100 people dead Link to this video At least 100 people are believed to have died and many more been injured in the Pacific island nations of Samoa, Western Samoa and Tonga after the powerful undersea earthquake this week that led to tsunami waves up to six metres high.

Officials in Samoa, the worst-hit location, said 63 people were known to have been killed as the fast-churning waters flattened buildings and swept people and cars out to sea, although this figure was expected to rise significantly with many more remote locations still being searched.

The Foreign Office said one British national had died on Samoa. Reportedly this was a two-year-old child.

At least 30 people died in American Samoa, the governor of the US-administered island said, also warning that more bodies were likely to be found. In the capital, Pago Pago, streets and fields were filled with debris, mud, overturned cars and several boats.

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Chicago designers to outfit Olympic delegation

CHICAGO — Fashion designer Maria Pinto has been a favorite of first lady Michelle Obama. President Barack Obama has worn suits from menswear maker Hart Schaffner Marx.

Both Chicago labels have been chosen to dress members of Chicago's Olympic delegation, along with tiemaker Lee Allison, for outfits debuting at this Friday's International Olympic Committee vote on the 2016 Summer Games.

Chicago is in a tight race for the bid with Madrid, Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo. Chicago 2016 officials say it's customary for members of a city's delegation to wear the official wardrobe "to signify teamwork and cohesion."

Details of the apparel have been scarce — Chicago 2016 officials say the designs are to be unveiled Friday at the vote — but Allison described the clothing as an integrated, sporty but professional look for the men, with a more feminine silhouette for the women.

"The whole goal was to project an air of confidence and competence," Allison said. "In a sense the ties, they're very discreet. They say we're a professional team and we're here to get the job done."

The president and first lady will lead the Chicago delegation along with Oprah Winfrey, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and Mayor Richard Daley. Fourteen Olympic and two Paralympic gold medalists, including Michael Johnson, Nadia Comaneci, Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Nastia Liukin made the trip to Denmark.

Chicago fashion experts say they expect a classic, tailored look.

"The clothes are going to be on the conservative side, which lends itself to some of the philosophy of Chicago," Chicago fashion commentator and image consultant Barbara Glass said. "We're not a flashy city."

Glass said she also expects lots of red, white and blue.

Allison said the fact that all local designers were chosen is a sign the city is ready to host the world. "It's like a coming-out party for the town in all aspects, including its fashion industry," he said. "They can outfit this team and they don't have to leave the hometown."

Kristen Amato, president of the Chicago Fashion Foundation, said the selection demonstrates a certain caliber of work within the city's small-but-strong style community.

"This gives a lot of credibility to Chicago," said Amato, who designs her own jewelry line, K. Amato.

Amato said she expects Pinto to design for many different female body types.

"They've got to be able to speak to masses of people," Amato said. "They'll see a very polished, classic American style. I don't think we're in for any huge fashion surprises or shocks."

Mrs. Obama has worn Maria Pinto designs to important events in her husband's political career, including the day he announced his candidacy in Springfield and the night she spoke at the Democratic National Convention.

Chicago 2016 said in a news release that the designers donated their time and will provide the clothing to the delegation at cost.

"On October 2, Chicago will be on an international stage, and our city's fashion designers will share in the spotlight," Chicago 2016 chairman Patrick Ryan said. "Our bid plan celebrates Chicago and we are proud to showcase the talents of the art and design community that thrives here."

Allison will offer one hint: The ties, he said, contain a hidden message.

"I can't tell you what it is," he said. "But it's an inspirational, aspirational thing there for the delegation."

DJ AM death 'accidental overdose'

Celebrity DJ Adam Goldstein aka DJ AM died of an accidental overdose according to the New York City medical examiner's office.

A toxicology report shows Goldstein had a lethal cocktail of prescription drugs and cocaine in his system.

The cause of death has been given as acute intoxication due to the combined effects the drugs.

The 36-year-old Hollywood DJ, who once dated Nicole Richie, was found dead in his New York apartment on August 28.

Goldstein spoke openly about his previous drug addictions and had recently filmed a reality TV show for MTV which aimed at helping drug users.

The celebrity DJ cheated death last year when he survived a plane crash alongside close friend and DJ partner Travis Barker from Blink 182.

Four of their friends were killed in the accident.

DJ AM played at Hollywood clubs, parties and festivals and was also well known for his private life.

He had often appeared in celebrity magazines as he had dated reality star Nicole Richie, daughter of Lionel Richie, and actress and singer Mandy Moore.

NYC terror suspect pleads not guilty, kept in jail

NEW YORK — An Afghan immigrant pleaded not guilty Tuesday to planning a New York City terrorist attack with bombs made from beauty-supply chemicals — an alleged plot authorities say was helped by at least three accomplices whose whereabouts and level of involvement haven't been revealed.

"The conspiracy here is international in scope," Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Knox told a federal judge in Brooklyn.

Najibullah Zazi, wearing a blue jail smock, never spoke and showed no emotion as his lawyer entered the plea in a packed courtroom. He was ordered held without bail.

"You get the impression he's a nice guy, don't you?" defense attorney Michael Dowling told the reporters afterward.

The 24-year-old Denver airport shuttle driver has been the only alleged terrorist identified so far. But authorities have said three people traveled from New York City to suburban Denver this summer and used stolen credit cards to help Zazi stockpile products containing hydrogen peroxide and acetone — common ingredients for homemade bombs.

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What happened at the Pittsburgh G20?

I didn’t attend the G20 summit in Pittsburgh last week, but I’ve been poring over the communiqué. Here are some initial thoughts on what it all means (numbers in square brackets refer to paragraphs in the original), incorporating analysis and intel from the Oxfam team at the event.

Headline: Pittsburgh formally enshrined the rise of the BRICs and relative decline of the G8: ‘We designated the G-20 to be the premier forum for our international economic cooperation’ [preamble, 19]. The passing of the baton takes place in Canada next June, where the G8 and G20 summits will coincide.

Winners and Losers: Institutions

The World Bank and IMF were once again anointed as the lead agencies on almost everything. ‘The World Bank and other multilateral development banks are critical to our ability to act together to address challenges, such as climate change and food security, which are global in nature and require globally coordinated action…. The World Bank should strengthen.. its focus on food security, … Its focus on human development and security in the poorest and most challenging environments, … support for private-sector led growth and infrastructure… contributions to financing the transition to a green economy through investment in sustainable clean energy generation and use, energy efficiency and climate resilience.’ [24]

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World Bank Head: Dollar will lose its place to the euro and renminbi

Funny that we talked about this just yesterday in regard to a relatively obscure article, and now it is the 2nd leading story on the front page of the NY Times. Get a load of this:

The president of the World Bank said Monday that America’s days as an unchallenged economic superpower might be numbered and that dollar was likely to lose its favored position as the euro and the Chinese renmimbi assume bigger roles.

“The United States would be mistaken to take for granted the dollar’s place as the world’s predominant reserve currency,” the World Bank president, Robert B. Zoellick, said in a speech at the Johns Hopkins School for Advanced International Studies. “Looking forward, there will increasingly be other options to the dollar.”

Mr. Zoellick, who previously served as the United States trade representative and as deputy secretary of state under President George W. Bush, said that the euro provided a “respectable alternative” for financing international transactions and that there was “every reason to believe that the euro’s acceptability could grow.”

Over the next 10 to 20 years, he said, the dollar would face growing competition from China’s currency, the renmimbi. Though Chinese leaders have minimized their currency’s use in international transactions, largely so they could keep greater control over exchange rates, Mr. Zoellick said the renmimbi would “evolve into a force in financial markets.”

Read the article. It is beyond extraordinary that the US-appointed head of the World Bank would be so in-your-face provocative, casting doubt on Obama’s strategy to lead us to financial recovery under the supervision of the Fed (as opposed to the Treasury) and openly questioning whether we can pay our debts without igniting inflation. I personally don’t think so, and it’s clear Zoellick doesn’t, either. All of these points were discussed here yesterday, and it’s clear Zoellick read this site before presenting at Johns Hopkins.

Bank of America Cuts Ties with ACORN

This broke yesterday.

Bank of America Corp. is suspending its work with the housing affiliate of embattled community organizing group ACORN. The decision comes as three Republicans in Congress ask Bank of America and 13 other financial institutions to give Congress a complete accounting of their dealings with the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now or its affiliates.

In a statement, Bank of America said it would not enter into any further agreements with ACORN Housing Corp. until the bank is satisfied all issues have been resolved. ACORN Housing Corp. and Bank of America have worked together for years on mortgage foreclosure issues.

This is important for a number of reasons. First, we've heard about a number of governmental agencies that were cutting ties to ACORN. Then, the Congress voted to cut off all funds to ACORN. Yet, ACORN has downplayed all of these actions because in their assertion, they get most of their money from private sources. Well, Bank of America is private. It's also a major donor of the group. So, this is no small hit to the group.

If this were a boxing match, ACORN would be slowly taken apart by a fighter like Floyd Mayweather Jr. They continue to take blows from every side. None are themselves a knockout but it's clear they are getting their clocks cleaned. From time to time, they counter like when they announced they would sue, James O'Keefe and Hannah Giles, but ultimately they are slowly being taken apart. What we are watching is the slow dismantling of this group and there's really nothing they can do about it.

It's an almost certainty there's more tapes. The media coverage isn't letting up and there's so much corruption to report on the media will be busy for years. Meanwhile, having BofA cut them off is the equivalent of a tough body blow. You can bet there will be more body blows to come. Like all boxing matches, body blows add up until the fighter finally disintegrates under the weight of a constant barrage. That's what's happening to ACORN. They're not ready to fall yet, but it's only a matter of time until they drop and are knocked out entirely.

FDIC expected to ask banks to prepay $36B in fees

Marcy Gordon
Looking to shore up the diminishing fund that insures bank deposits, the FDIC may take the unprecedented step of requiring banks to prepay three years' worth of premiums: about $36 billion.

The insurance fund has been sapped by billions from a rash of bank failures that began in mid-2008. The board of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. likely will call for "prepaid" bank insurance premiums at its public meeting Tuesday to discuss the issue, three industry executives and a government official said. The banking industry prefers that option over a special emergency fee — which would be the second this year.

The executives and the official spoke on condition of anonymity Monday because the decision had yet to be made public.

It would be the first time the FDIC has required prepaid insurance fees. Under the plan, banks would have to pay in advance their insurance premiums for 2010-2012, bringing in about $12 billion for each of the three years, two of the executives said. That is the normal amount of insurance fees, though it could vary somewhat according to growth in total insured deposits — the basis for determining the fees.

Off the table, at least for now, are the options of tapping the agency's $500 billion credit line with the Treasury Department and the agency borrowing billions of dollars from healthy banks by issuing its own debt, the industry executives and the government official said.

A spokesman for the FDIC declined to comment Monday afternoon.

FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair said earlier this month that she was "considering all options, including borrowing from Treasury," to replenish the insurance fund. Yet she is generally perceived as considering that the most unpalatable approach.

Borrowing from the Treasury could create the undesirable impression of another taxpayer-financed bailout, while borrowing from the banks might make the FDIC look as if it were beholden to the banking industry, experts say.

Ninety-five banks have failed so far this year as losses have mounted on commercial real estate and other soured loans amid the most severe financial climate in decades. The insurance fund fell 20 percent to $10.4 billion at the end of June, its lowest point since 1992, at the height of the savings-and-loan crisis. The fund has now slipped to 0.22 percent of insured deposits, below a congressionally mandated minimum of 1.15 percent.

Some analysts expect hundreds more banks to fail in the coming years and the FDIC forecasts the fund will need $70 billion through 2013 to deal with those losses. But the FDIC is fully backed by the government, which means depositors' money is guaranteed up to $250,000 per account.

Besides the prepayment plan, the agency could still later propose an emergency assessment, or a transfer of cash collected in fees from the FDIC's temporary rescue program that guarantees hundreds of billions of dollars of debt that banks issue to each other. The agency has collected about $9 billion in fees from banks issuing debt under the program, and $596.7 million of it already has gone into the deposit insurance fund.

The first emergency fee, which took effect June 30, brought in around $5.6 billion. Another one would allow the healthiest banks to keep more capital for investment, but could drive weaker banks toward failure, further depleting the insurance fund.

"I think they will continue to levy (emergency) assessments on an ad hoc basis," said Bert Ely, a banking industry consultant in Alexandria, Va.

Bair acknowledged earlier this month that the agency did not want to "stress the industry too much at this time, when they're still in the process of recovery." U.S. Comptroller of the Currency John Dugan, who with Bair is a member of the FDIC board, has said another emergency levy "could cause more stressful conditions."

"We're pleased that they're looking at alternatives to another special assessment," said Karen Thomas, executive vice president of government relations at the Independent Community Bankers of America.

In addition to the insurance fund, the FDIC has about $21 billion in cash available in reserve to cover losses at failed banks, down from $25 billion at the end of the first quarter. The independent agency likely wouldn't consider tapping its credit line at the Treasury unless that cash were depleted, FDIC officials have said.

The Associated Press

S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index

The July S&P/Case-Shiller 20 city Home Price Index said prices fell 13.3% y/o/y, less than the expected decline of 14.2%. It is the smallest decline since Feb ‘08 and it takes the index to the highest since Jan ‘09 as it rose 1.61% m/o/m. At 144.23, it is down 30% from the all time high in July ‘06. Seattle and Las Vegas are the only two cities of the 20 that saw a m/o/m drop. Every city still has y/o/y declines led by Las Vegas and Phoenix. This data is not seasonally adjusted and combining the seasonal strong time of the year with the $8,000 first time home tax credit and a moderation in the pace of foreclosures and we have continued stabilization in the home price data. With an expected pick up in foreclosures, continued compression in higher end home prices and the uncertain fate of the tax credit, we’ll see if the improvements in pricing can continue in the face of this. The worst of the financial crisis will end when home prices stop going down and I don’t believe we’ve seen the worst of the price declines in this cycle notwithstanding the recent government induced bounce.

Janet Jackson Encourages People to be ‘Warriors’ Against AIDS

Janet Jackson spoke before an audience filled with celebs at amfAR Milano, an inaugural event to support AIDS research.

amfAR's chief executive Kevin Robert Frost expressed gratitude for having Janet on board to chair the event. He said, "She brings incomparable grace and a history of dedication to the fight against AIDS."

Janet said to her captive audience, "We are so grateful that you are opening your hearts and together we can realize our dream of a world without AIDS…This battle needs all of us to be brave warriors."

The Grammy-winner spoke to an audience that included Dita von Teese, Rachel Bilson, Donatella Versace, and Kanye West with his girlfriend Amber Rose.

amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, is a leading nonprofit organization dedicated to the support of AIDS research and HIV prevention. The event took place in conjunction with Milan Fashion Week in Italy.

BA's transatlantic gamble

TODAY marks the launch of British Airways’ new business-class-only service between London City airport and New York JFK. BA will use Airbus A318s, the largest plane able to cope with London City’s short runways, which will be equipped with 32 lie-flat seats as well as internet and text-messaging capabilities. Westbound planes will have to refuel at Shannon airport in Ireland, but passengers will be able to spend their Irish sojourn clearing US customs.

The flights—two daily in each direction—have taken over Concorde’s old numbers BA001, BA002, BA003, BA004, which BA describes as “prestigious”. Hmm. Well, the prices are certainly prestigious. Return flights start from around £2,000, but for those you’ll be returning on a Sunday or Monday. Business travellers are more likely to be paying around £4,000 for a semi-flexible ticket; a fully flexible option costs over £5,800.

Plane Stupid, an environmental action group, plans to protest at the launch against the emission-intensive use of A318s to carry just 32 people. Given that Willie Walsh, BA's boss, recently pledged that airlines would halve their carbon emissions by 2050, the group appears to have a point.

Environmental considerations aside, how sound is the business case? Eos, MAXjet and Silverjet all tried and failed to master the business-class-only idea. They were partially undone by high fuel prices and inappropriate airports (Stansted, anyone?). BA has neither of these hindrances, and Mr Walsh has spoken of the need to "embrace the future and innovate" in harsh business climes. Indeed not all analysts think the timing is poor for the launch of a premium product. The Guardian quotes one who says:

In March 2008, Silverjet and Eos carried 10,000 passengers a month, BA will have capacity for 3,000 a month, so there is reason to believe there will be more than enough demand for BA to fill the requisite number of seats…. The premium market has shrunk about 20% since then, but even then there should be plenty of demand.

So perhaps BA really does have a viable product? Six months should clarify matters.

Animal Abuse: James Davis Arrested for Duct-Taping Cat in Philly

By Pete Kotz in Animal Cruelty
The duct-taped kitty in Philly

​What's the deal with young men torturing cats? Yesterday, we told you the tale of Acea Schomaker, who was hit with 90 days for stuffing his cat in a homemade bong. Today's weirdness comes from Philadelphia, where 19-year-old James Davis was arrested for duct-taping a cat mummy-style.

Out saga begins when Davis saw a cat in his yard. He apparently wasn't happy about this, so he decided to duct-tape the feline for... well... we couldn't exactly tell you. But the cat wouldn't stop wailing, so three hours later he stuck it in a shopping bag and left it in a neighbor's yard. The neighbor discovered it and called the cops...

James Davis
​A Pennsylvania animal group put out a $2,000 reward to catch the cat taper. So Davis turned himself in.

But there's a little more to the story than meets the eye. Davis' brother and father were both murdered in recent years, and judging from police, the young man may not be right in the head.

"Basically he saw the animal in his yard, didn't like the animal in the yard," animal rescue worker George Bengal told WPVI-TV in Philly. "I think this young fellow has a lot of issues going on in his life. He was very remorseful for what he did. Hopefully he will get the help that he needs."

The upside is that Bengal's received 100 requests to adopt the animal.

Tropical Storm Ketsana Kills More Than 240, Displaces More Than 609,000 in Philippines

Tropical Storm Ketsana, locally referred to as Ondoy, deluged Manila and surrounding areas with 455mm (18 inches) of rain in 24 hours Saturday, killing 240 people and displacing 609,548 according to SitRep 12 (29 September) from the Philippines National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC). Ketsana caused the country’s worst flooding in 42 years, according to the Philippine government and observers on the ground.

The numbers of dead and displaced are expected to rise significantly as floodwaters recede, allowing rescuers to gain access to isolated areas, and health officials have expressed concern about the spread of swine flu, diarrhea, and leptospirosis.

Rainfall from Tropical Storm Ketsana as estimated by NASA’s TRMM satellite, several hours before the heaviest rainfall began in Manila. The small core of rainfall rates off-scale (greater than 1.6 inches/hour) to the east of Manila, and passed directly over the city between 8am and 2pm local time on 25 September. Source: Navy Research Lab, Monterey, California. Click to enlarge.

410.6 mm (16.2 inches) of rain fell in Quézon City in the nine hours immediately after Ketsana made landfall, surpassing the previous 344.5mm record for rainfall in the Philippines in a 24-hour period, recorded 7 June 1967. Images and video distributed through social networking resources such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube (sample YouTube video) showed vehicles floating down city streets, 80% of which were flooded in Manila at the height of the storm.

Nathaniel Cruz, weather services bureau head of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), told GMANews.TV that “This could be again a manifestation of climate change. Due to climate change, we should expect more extreme weather events like extreme rainfall."

Early official blame was placed in part on citizen inaction and refuse-choked drainage systems. In an interview with the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Dr. Prisco Nilo, chief of PAGASA, said that flood warnings had been issued prior to the storm, and that “instead of just watching the soap operas on TV, [people] should also watch the news.”

As the severity of the event became apparent, however, the Marikina River crested its banks, and officials worried that additional rains could weaken dams. Portions of the Malacañang presidential palace in Manila were converted into refugee shelters. Although President Gloria Arroyo has termed Ketsana a “once in a lifetime event”, flooding in Manila has steadily become more frequent and more severe in the latter half of the century, in part due to heavy groundwater extraction, which is causing the land around Manila Bay to sink.

Ketsana has since strengthened into a typhoon, and is expected to intensify further as it approaches Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand, according to a government weather forecaster. A second tropical depression is now forming in the Pacific Ocean, and is heading toward the Philippines.

—Jack Rosebro

Secret Service Investigating Facebook Poll Asking Whether Obama Should Be Killed

The Secret Service is investigating the circumstances surrounding an eye-opening Facebook poll that asked whether Obama should be assassinated, a Secret Service spokesman confirms to us.

“We are taking the appropriate investigative steps,” the spokesman, Ed Donovan, told our reporter, Amanda Erickson. “We are aware of it.”

The poll asked: “Should Obama be killed?” It offered four choices: No, Maybe, Yes, and Yes if he cuts my health care.

The poll, of course, is only the latest example of the sort of viral incitement to violence that flares up when the sparks of anti-Obama hatred are fed oxygen by the bellows of the Internets. While anyone can put up such a poll, this kind of stuff is a sign of the moment — as David Kurtz put it, it’s akin to graffiti on the virtual wall of our times.

According to a source, the Secret Service has contacted Facebook and asked them to take the poll down. And, indeed, it’s already down.

Given that the Secret Service is investigating the circumstances of the poll, it seems clear that they’re looking into who was behind it. More if we learn it.

Update: A lot of folks are Twittering at me that this blogger broke the poll story.

Iran promises inspection 'soon'

Iran has said it will soon inform the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) of a timetable for inspection of its second uranium enrichment plant.

The head of Iran's atomic energy body was quoted as saying that it would resolve the issue with the UN body.

Meanwhile China called for restraint ahead of talks between Iran and the five permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany on 1 October.

Iran revealed the second plant, thought to be near Qom, on 21 September.

The IAEA had requested "specific information and access to the facility as soon as possible" after receiving the letter from Tehran admitting to the existence of the plant.

Iran told the agency that no nuclear material had been introduced into the "new pilot fuel enrichment plant" which it said was still under construction.

We hope relevant countries can make efforts for the relaxation of the situation instead of doing things to the contrary

Jiang Yu
Chinese Foreign Ministry

Tougher sanctions

China's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said she hoped that there would be a "relaxation of the situation".

"We hope relevant countries can make efforts. We support the maintenance of the international non-proliferation regime and uphold the proper handling of the issue through negotiations," she said.

Her comments came amid tensions between Iran and the West that have escalated yet further in the days leading up the talks in Geneva.

Iran has test-fired a series of medium- and longer-range missiles that put Israel, parts of Europe and US bases in the Gulf within potential striking range.

The White House called the move "provocative" but Iran's foreign ministry said the tests were merely part of an annual military drill, and were not a reaction to the nuclear crisis.

Iran insists that all its nuclear facilities are for peaceful energy purposes and refutes accusations from the US and others that it is seeking a nuclear weapon.

President Obama has hinted at pursuing tougher sanctions against Tehran if progress over the crisis is not made.

Russia recently signalled it might be prepared to soften its opposition to further sanctions.

China, which is also a permanent Security Council member, has said such pressure would not be effective.

Film Director Polanski Asks Swiss Court for Release from Custody

Lawyers for Oscar-winning film director Roman Polanski, who faces sentencing in the United States for statutory rape, have asked a Swiss court to release him from custody.

A court in Zurich Tuesday said a decision would be made within weeks. Polanski is expected to remain jailed until a ruling is issued and any appeals are complete.

Swiss police arrested Polanski Saturday, as he arrived in Zurich to receive a film award. Authorities said he was detained on a 2005 international alert, and said they were awaiting an extradition request from the United States.

Polanski, famed for such films as Chinatown and Rosemary's Baby, was arrested in the late 1970s in Los Angeles. He was charged with giving drugs and alcohol to a 13-year-old girl and having unlawful sex with her. He fled the United States in 1978 after pleading guilty.

Polanski won an Academy Award in 2003 for the film The Pianist, but did not return to Hollywood to receive the Oscar.

Since then, the victim, now in her 40s, says she does not want him to be jailed.

Earlier this year, a judge in Los Angeles rejected the fugitive's bid to dismiss the case, despite new evidence showing the original trial judge colluded illegally with prosecutors in 1978.

In his ruling, the new judge said there appeared to be substantial judicial misconduct in the original case. However, he said he could not rule on Polanski's dismissal bid until the director returned from exile.

Monday, September 28, 2009

FBI Releases Soundless Videotapes of OK Bombing Aftermath

By Allan Lengel

The infamous bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995 sent a collective shiver up America’s spine, a moment that will never be forgotten, particularly for those who lost family, were injured or had to run for their lives in the immediate aftermath.

It was a rude awakening that highlighted the hatred of the American government that lurked in the heartland of America among folks like farmers and militia members. The FBI has released some soundless videotapes showing the chaos that errupted after the bombing on April 19, that killed 168 and injured hundreds.

FBI Letting Terror Plots Develop More to Get Offenders on More Serious Charges

The FBI seems to be taking a new approach to terrorism plots. Instead of quickly picking up people, often on lesser charges, they’re letting the plots unfold a little more so they can charge suspected terrorists with more serious offenses. The tactic seems to have worked in recent cases around the country.

Aftermath of the World Trade Center/fbi photo
The Dallas Morning News
DALLAS – After terrorists slammed airliners into the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon, the law-enforcement community had one overriding priority - preventing another attack.

Making criminal arrests or detaining noncitizens on immigration violations was seen as an expedient way to disrupt any nascent terrorist plots after the Sept. 11 attacks. But the majority of those taken into custody were never prosecuted, or they were charged with relatively minor offenses.

“With 3,000 people incinerated, we weren’t going to take the chance that we were sacrificing security for prosecution of the more serious offenses,” said Jeffrey Addicott, director of the Center for Terrorism Law at St. Mary’s University School of Law in San Antonio.

For Full Story

Ex-wife: DC sniper said 'you have become my enemy'

WASHINGTON — As the ex-wife of the notorious D.C. sniper emptied herself during a 30-day fast five years ago, one question tormented her — why did he want to kill her?

Mildred Muhammad wrote about that isolation and torment for years in her journals. She began when her ex-husband, John Allen Muhammad, took their three young children from her nearly a decade ago. She continued when he was convicted of the 2002 sniper attacks in the Washington area, and still jots down her emotions as her ex-husband awaits his scheduled Nov. 10 execution.

"The paper don't talk back," the 49-year-old told The Associated Press in a recent interview. "It just lets you write down your thoughts and you're able to express anger, shame and guilt."

They were all emotions that Muhammad, who is Muslim, had to purge during that 30-day fast in July 2004, just as her ex-husband's second trial was beginning. She had to understand everything she poured into the journals so she could finally move on.

Those journals became the genesis for her new memoir, "Scared Silent: When the One You Love ... Becomes the One You Fear," due out Oct. 13 from Simon & Schuster imprint Strebor Books International, based in Largo, Md.

In her narrative, Muhammad documents her ex-husband's dismissive retorts: "I don't mind because you don't matter," she writes. At one point, he told her: "You have become my enemy and as my enemy, I will kill you."

The Full Story

Report: Rangel Not Happy With Presidential Pressure

Congressman Charles Rangel is reportedly angry over the news that the Obama administration involved itself in the New York governor's race.

Word surfaced last week that the aides to the president were pressuring Governor David Paterson not to seek a full term.

In an interview with the Daily News, Rangel called the move "not presidential."

Rangel tells the paper he's glad he was kept out of the loop and that the local politicians Obama reportedly tapped to deliver the news to Paterson should be embarrassed.

Meanwhile, during an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday, the governor denied claims that his campaign will drag down other Democrats.

Paterson says he's fighting for both his party and New Yorkers. He also blamed his low poll numbers on the tough choices he's had to make in order to deal with the state's growing deficit.

Paterson says while the president has never directly told him not to run, he knows the administration has concerns.

"They certainly sent the message they have concerns and I appreciate that, but let me just tell you at the outset, I am running for governor in 2010," Paterson said. "I don't think that this is an issue other than for the people of the State of New York to decide."

Aides to the president have told NY1 that Obama did point out that Paterson's low approval ratings will make it difficult for him to win and could bring down fellow Democrats.

A recent statewide Marist Poll found six in 10 New Yorkers believe the Obama Administration should not have involved itself in the governor's race.

Madonna Set to Marry Jesus Luz

Madonna wants to marry boyfriend Jesus Luz.

The 51-year-old singer has hinted she is ready to settle down with her 22-year-old lover, even though they have been dating for less than a year.

She is quoted as saying, “It can go either way. But why not? I could definitely see myself marrying him. Yes, it’s definitely on the table.

“He’s so sweet. He checks in with me all the time. I probably should do the same, but you know me. I think he gets it now that I’m a little, shall we say, self-involved.”

Madonna who has been married twice – to actor Sean Penn and British film director Guy Ritchie, is considering a lavish wedding to show the world just how in love she is with the Brazilian model.

A relative of the pop legend said, “She knows that’s what Jesus wants. She has a lot of wonderful memories of both of her weddings. She doesn’t want to slip off and do it quietly. She definitely wants a big and rather fantastic affair.”

Madonna began thinking of walking down the aisle again following the death of her friend Michael Jackson in June.

The loss of the ‘Bad’ singer who died of acute Propofol intoxication made her more determined to live her life to the full.

She is also keen to show the world she is serious about the relationship, especially as she knows some people have been surprised by her decision to date someone almost 30 years her junior.

A friend told this week’s edition Britain’s Hello! magazine, “When Madonna and Jesus were just dating, back when she thought it was a fling, she was OK with it. But when she realized she was starting to have feelings for him, she started to become self-conscious about the relationship. ‘I don’t want my family to think I’m having a mid-life crisis,’ she told me. ‘And my friends, too. I don’t want people to think I have lost my mind.’ ”

With Two Ticks, Favre-Lewis Click On Game-Winner As Vikes Edge Niners

Minneapolis, MN (AHN) – Brett Favre and the Minnesota Vikings have been quite a match this season.

Despite several off-target passes, Favre still completed 24-of-47 throws for 301 yards and two touchdown strikes as the Vikings defeated the San Francisco 49ers 27-24 Sunday.

Favre made up for his uneven play on an 80-yard drive and a 32-yard pass in the decisive fourth quarter.

Greg Lewis hauled in the offering in the end zone with two seconds left in the game to send Vikes fans into a frenzy.

Minnesota picked up its third win of the season.

San Francisco (2-1) quarterback Shaun Hill threw for 195 yards and two scores.

Did Hitler escape from the bunker?


The four-inch skull fragment has a hole where a bullet reportedly passed through Hitler’s left temple when he shot himself and is kept in Russia’s federal archives along with what are said to be his jawbones. Together, they are all that is left of Hitler’s body, the charred remains of which Soviet forces first recovered in 1945. For years, the Russians have held up the artefacts as proof that Soviet troops found Hitler’s body in the ruins of Berlin and that he died on April 30 when he shot himself just after taking cyanide.

But a History Channel documentary programme broadcast in the US called Hitler’s Escape claims the skull fragment belongs to a woman under 40 and not Hitler, who was 56 when he died. It quotes Nick Bellantoni, an archaeologist and bone specialist who took DNA samples from the skull in Moscow and had them tested at the University of Connecticut. He and his colleagues are sceptical that the skull fragment could belong to Eva Braun, Hitler’s long-time companion, since she is thought to have committed suicide by cyanide rather than with a gun.

The findings are likely to revive conspiracy theories suggesting that Hitler did not die in 1945 but survived and fled to South America or elsewhere. Proponents of that theory believe Soviet troops found only his body double.

However, the Russians have never held up the skull as exhibit one, always insisting that the jawbones — said to be in perfect condition – are confirmation. Soviet forces tracked down an assistant to Hitler’s dentist in 1945 who confirmed their authenticity. The contested skull fragment was found later, in 1946, when the Russians began an investigation after rumours that Hitler was still alive. It was found in the same hole outside Hitler’s bunker where his body was first found.

Saudis To Cooperate in Massacre of Iranians?

According to the Brits, one US satellite, Saudi Arabia, will allow another, Israel, to bomb the Iranian nuclear power plants and low-grade enrichment facilities that they ae allowed to maintain, under the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Israel, ehich refuses to sign the treaty or allow international inspections of its huge nuclear bomb sticckpile, is portrayed as the victim as it acts to preserve its WMD monopoly. I agree that Iran should have no nuclear bombs, not that there is any evidence they do, and neither should Israel nor Pakistan nor India nor the US nor anyone else.

Unemployment rate of 52.2% for young Americans

The unemployment rate for Americans 16 to 24 years of age has hit the highest rate since the Great Depression.

The unemployment rate for young Americans has exploded to 52.2 percent -- a post-World War II high, according to the Labor Dept. -- meaning millions of Americans are staring at the likelihood that their lifetime earning potential will be diminished and, combined with the predicted slow economic recovery, their transition into productive members of society could be put on hold for an extended period of time.
And worse, without a clear economic recovery plan aimed at creating entry-level jobs, the odds of many of these young adults -- aged 16 to 24, excluding students -- getting a job and moving out of their parents' houses are long. Young workers have been among the hardest hit during the current recession -- in which a total of 9.5 million jobs have been lost.
During previous recessions, in the early '80s, early '90s and after Sept. 11, 2001, unemployment among 16-to-24 year olds never went above 50 percent. Except after 9/11, jobs growth followed within two years.
A much slower recovery is forecast today. Shierholz believes it could take four or five years to ramp up jobs again.
Many of these kids are coming out of college deeply in debt. A four or five year delay in starting their careers could effect the entire rest of their lives.

Gregory Asks Clinton If 'Vast Right Wing Conspiracy' Now 'Targeting' Obama?

Imagining in 1998 a “vast right wing conspiracy” to impugn and discredit conveyors of accurate information about her husband's activities with an intern was ludicrous enough when Hillary Clinton made up the foil, but eleven-plus years later NBC's David Gregory treated it as a reality, cuing up Bill Clinton in a Meet the Press interview pre-recorded in New York City: “Your wife famously talked about the vast right wing conspiracy targeting you. As you look at this opposition on the right to President Obama, is it still there?” Former President Clinton, naturally, agreed: “Oh, you bet. Sure it is.”

Gregory also pressed Clinton to assess President Obama from a set of liberal presumptions: “Do you think the President has leveled with the American people on this fact, that Americans are going to have to pay higher taxes if they want health care reform?” And, recalling how “in 1996 you declared the era of big government over,” but now “the era of big government being over appears to be over in and of itself, whether it's the stimulus, whether it's bailouts, financial regulation or this issue of health care,” Gregory wondered: “Do you think the President's done a good enough job selling government as the solution?”

From the Sunday, September 27 Meet the Press:

DAVID GREGORY: Let's talk about some of the big challenges back home for President Obama. And on health care, as this debate rolls through, you remember it well, do you think the President has leveled with the American people on this fact, that Americans are going to have to pay higher taxes if they want health care reform?...

But let me ask you a broader question. In 1996 you declared the era of big government over. Well, the era of big government being over appears to be over in and of itself, whether it's the stimulus, whether it's bailouts, financial regulation or this issue of health care. Do you think the President's done a good enough job selling government as the solution?...

Your wife famously talked about the vast right wing conspiracy targeting you. As you look at this opposition on the right to President Obama, is it still there?

BILL CLINTON: Oh, you bet. Sure it is. It's not as strong as it was, because America's changed demographically, but it's as virulent as it was. I mean, they're saying things about him – you know, it's like when they accused me of murder and all that stuff they did. But it's not really good for the Republicans and the country, what's going on now....

Abbott buying Solvay Pharmaceuticals

Abbott Laboratories expects to close early next year on a $6.6 billion deal to buy the pharmaceutical business of Belgian conglomerate Solvay Group.

Abbott Park, Ill.-based Abbott (NYSE:ABT), whose Ross Products division is based in Columbus, said the acquisition of Solvay Pharmaceuticals will add more than $3 billion in annual sales, mostly outside the U.S. The deal also includes Solvay’s vaccine business and global rights to cholesterol drug fenofibrate, the U.S. rights to which Abbott has owned under a royalty deal with Solvay.

Abbott CEO Miles White said in a release the Solvay deal “further diversifies our pharmaceutical portfolio, expands our presence in key high-growth emerging markets, enhances our investment in R&D and accelerates our long-term earnings-per-share growth outlook.”

The Solvay deal, Abbott said, should boost share earnings by about 10 cents next year and potentially more than 20 cents, but that’s excluding one-time costs the company will disclose later. Abbott also could pay more than $400 million from 2011 to 2013 if certain product milestones are met.

The deal is expected to close in the first quarter of 2010.

Abbott has about 69,000 employees, including about 2,000 in Central Ohio, and earned $4.88 billion on $29.5 billion in revenue last year.

US Defense Secretary Defends Review of Afghanistan Strategy

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates denied Sunday that a rift exists between the Obama administration and America's military commanders on how to proceed in Afghanistan. The secretary's remarks came after a report by the U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan calling for additional troops was leaked to the news media last week.

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates
Army General Stanley McChrystal's stark assessment of deteriorating security conditions in Afghanistan has yet to be formally presented to President Barack Obama. But it is already driving debate on the future of America's mission in the strife-torn country where the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States were plotted.

McChrystal's leaked report makes an urgent case for additional U.S. troops in Afghanistan, warning that the mission could fail in a year without more resources. But President Obama is insisting on a new, comprehensive review of American strategy before making any decisions on further deployments to Afghanistan. Mr. Obama already has sent an additional 21,000 U.S. service members to the country.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates says there is no rift between President Obama and U.S. military commanders, and that General McChrystal has voiced support for the strategy review.

"General McChrystal was very explicit in saying he thinks this assessment, this review that is going on right now, is exactly the right thing to do," said Gates. "He obviously does not want it to be open-ended."

Gates spoke on ABC television's This Week program. He added that a strategy review is timely, coming after Afghanistan's contested national election, and that failure to carry out the review would endanger U.S. forces.

"Having the wrong strategy would put even more soldiers at risk," he said. "I think it is important to get the strategy right. And then we can make the resources decisions."

Appearing on another U.S. television program, Gates said that an early U.S. exit from Afghanistan would be a "mistake," and that allowing the Taliban and al-Qaida to emerge victorious in the country would have, in his words, "catastrophic consequences".

But some powerful legislators of President Obama's Democratic Party are arguing against a protracted U.S. military commitment in Afghanistan.

The Chairwoman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Dianne Feinstein of California, spoke on the Fox News Sunday program.

"I think the president is correct to take his time to really examine what the alternatives are at this time," she said. "True, the Afghanistan strategy so far has not gone well. Now the question comes: Is there an alternative to this long-term, comprehensive counter-insurgency strategy? I hope there is, because I do not believe the American people want to be in Afghanistan for the next 10 years."

But the ranking Republican on the committee, Missouri Senator Kit Bond, cautioned that General McChrystal has already mapped a way forward in Afghanistan and that failure to act quickly on his recommendations would invite defeat.

"[President Obama] has the answer to the question he asked of General McChrystal. [The report] is here; it is clear; it is in great detail," he said. "We need troops now."

As a presidential candidate and now as President, Barack Obama has described the U.S. mission in Afghanistan as one of necessity, to prevent terrorist attacks on the United States and its allies.

Can Germany reform its economy?

On the face of it, Germany's general election has delivered a clear mandate for economic reforms: neo-liberal but socially conservative, in favour of free markets and less regulation, hoping to boost the economy by lowering taxes.

This may be a surprise, given Germany's history of maintaining a highly regulated "social market economy," and the fact that its export-focused industry is suffering badly because of the market failure that has devastated industrialised economies the world over.

Pushing hard for reforms will be the junior party in Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition, the liberal, self-proclaimed "pro-business" FDP. Boosted by strong election gains, its leaders say that they will force their business agenda into the pact that will outline the coalition's policies.

In contrast, Mrs Merkel's party, the Christian Democrats (CDU) and its Bavarian sister party CSU, lost votes, slumping to its worst showing at the polls in 60 years.

The liberals' election manifesto, however, is unlikely to survive contact with both Germany's economic situation and the realpolitik of coalition politics.

Unemployment threat

Germany's economy may be growing again - earlier than the US or the UK - but it also saw a sharper contraction than many other countries, and economic growth does not immediately translate into more jobs or higher tax revenues.

Chancellor Angela Merkel has been a cautious reformer
The state of Germany's public finances is dire. Already CDU politicians are warning their liberal partners-to-be that tax cuts are unaffordable right now.

Government spending is the other tough issue. Unemployment has been kept artificially low, with 1.4 million workers put on "Kurzarbeit" - where they work shorter hours while the government makes up some of the lost salary.

However, at many companies the arrangements for this salary subsidy are about to reach their statutory maximum duration. Unless the government is prepared to accept a sharp rise in unemployment, the FDP's neo-liberals will have to swallow their economic principles and accept more market-distorting state intervention.

Furthermore, the realities of German coalition building means that the FDP's political leverage will be fairly limited. FDP leader Guido Westerwelle firmly nailed his party's flag to the CDU mast.

There is no alternative coalition partner for him to fall back on, while the CDU could arguably (albeit reluctantly) continue its grand coalition with the Social Democrats.

Is Angela Merkel a reformer?

So what about Chancellor Merkel's ambitions? Four years ago, when the grand coalition got going, it pursued an ambitious agenda of economic reform. After a few early successes, it quickly got bogged down in squabbles over money and the protection of special interests.

Mrs Merkel, ever the seeker of consensus and campaigning on the promise of staking out the middle ground, did little to push reform.

Now conservative commentators in Germany are wondering whether Mrs Merkel will discover a taste for reform at last or whether she is a consensus-seeking social democrat at heart.

Chances are that she will turn out to be the true heir of the CDU's previous chancellor, Helmut Kohl. He was notorious for "sitting out" conflicts and avoiding bold economic decisions.

It would be politics as usual for Germany. But it is unlikely to be the recipe for leading Germany out of the economic quagmire.

Iran Tests Long-Range Missile Ahead of Nuclear Talks

Iranian state media report the military has successfully test fired its longest-range missile. The test is part of military exercises that coincide with new accusations from the U.S. and others about Tehran's nuclear ambitions.

The Shahab-3 missile is thought to have a range of some 2000 kilometers, enough to put Israel, most Arab states and southern Europe in its sights.

State TV broadcast the countdown and launch.

Tehran, which introduced the missile last year, says it is meant to act as an interceptor to deter any foreign attack.

But some western defense analysts believe the Shahab-3 is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. Earlier this year, Tehran's arch-enemy Israel test fired its own Arrow 2 missile in a simulation of stopping the Shahab-3.

Iran's military exercises, which started Sunday and have included test launches of short- and medium-range missiles as well, come just days after the disclosure that Tehran is building a new uranium enrichment plant.

Iran was apparently forced to reveal its existence after it became aware that western intelligence agencies had known about it for years.

Tehran denies there was any secrecy involved, and that the plant hadn't reached the point where the government needed to disclose its existence.

Major world powers disagree and are expected to drive that point home with the threat of further sanctions in talks with Iranian nuclear representatives in Geneva Thursday.

Iran argues that it has a right to nuclear energy, a point of agreement with Western powers. But the West and the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency want greater access to Iran's nuclear facilities to ensure that energy is all that Tehran is seeking.

Polanski notes leaked on to net

The Associated Press (AP) news agency has accidently published internal notes about the arrest of film director Roman Polanski instead of a story.

The document details an exchange of messages between reporters about Mr Polanski, who was held in Switzerland and faces extradition to the US.

In the note, one reporter asks if his colleague can "do some more probing" and speculates that Switzerland was under pressure from the US.

AP swiftly filed a replacement article.

The mistake came to light on 27 September, with the headline "Swiss arrest Polanski on US request in sex case".

But rather than a conventional news story, the post contained basic information as to when the press conference would start, and then continued, saying the reporter would "push out another writethru [sic] with some more background details before press conference", while a colleague wondered if the Swiss were under "intense pressure" and whether they wanted "to throw the US a bone".

Sent in error, the copy was picked up by the Google News service, as well as being automatically posted to a number of websites, including Forbes.

The Associated Press subsequently sent out the proper news copy, saying that "Director Roman Polanski was arrested by Swiss police for possible extradition to the United States for having sex in 1977 with a 13-year-old girl".


Mr Polanski has lived in France since fleeing the US in 1978 to avoid facing a prison sentence after pleading guilty to having sex with a minor.

Since then, Mr Polanski has been unable to return to the US for fear of arrest, and has even avoided making films in the UK because of the danger of extradition.

However, the film maker was detained in Zurich on Saturday as he travelled from France to collect a lifetime achievement award at the Zurich Film Festival.

He is being held under a 2005 international alert issued by the US.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Russian Tycoon's Bid For NBA's Nets Examined

Russian tycoon Mikhail Prokhorov has agreed to buy a controlling interest in the New Jersey Nets basketball team. Sportswriter Stefan Fatsis says the NBA has to vet Prokhorov's bid, but his 2007 arrest at a French ski resort in connection with ferrying in prostitutes is likely to be the main red flag. Prokhorov was not charged for that incident.

Surprise Surrogate: Ohio Mother Gives Birth To Baby in Mistaken Implanted Embryo Case

Carolyn Savage of Sylvania, Ohio has given birth to a baby boy in a bizarre case of negligence by a fertility clinic. Savage, 40, has agreed that the baby is not hers after the clinic implanted the wrong embryo. The Savages have agreed not only to have the baby but to give up the baby to his biological parents.

She learned the truth ten days after the procedure when the clinic called to say basically “the good news is that you’re pregnant, the bad news is that the baby is not yours.” The baby was shown by DNA tests to actually belong to Paul and Shannon Morell of metro Detroit.

The negligence of the clinic effectively made her a surrogate for another family. Presumably, she can recover not just for negligence and negligent infliction of emotional distress but also possibly battery since she did not consent to this implantation.

The Savages could not be more gracious toward the Morell family, releasing the statement: “We would like to offer our heartfelt congratulations to the Morell family on the birth of their son. We wish Paul, Shannon, their twin girls and their new baby boy the best, as they move forward with their lives together.”

The Penalty for Not Buying Insurance Under ObamaCare? Jail

John Ensign received the confirmation in writing. From the Politico:

This doesn't happen often enough.

Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) received a handwritten note Thursday from Joint Committee on Taxation Chief of Staff Tom Barthold confirming the penalty for failing to pay the up to $1,900 fee for not buying health insurance.

Violators could be charged with a misdemeanor and could face up to a year in jail or a $25,000 penalty, Barthold wrote on JCT letterhead. He signed it "Sincerely, Thomas A. Barthold."

I would expect nothing less from a government run by a president who has won approval from Gadhafi and Chavez.

Now, the question is will the government actually enforce this penalty? What happens if millions of people refuse to buy health care? I don't see how they could prosecute all of them since our court systems can't handle the case loads they have now.

We already know if ObamaCare passes it will cost significantly more money than even the CBO is projecting, just as every government program always costs far more than originally projected. So when this $1 trillion health care program ends up costing the federal government about $5-10 trillion the feds will be so hard up for cash that they won't want to send those who refuse to buy health insurance to jail. Instead they will have to fine them heavily in order to bring in additional money.

Be sure to read the note from Barthold here.

Update: Ed Morrissey is also alarmed at how insidious this is:

This should come as no surprise. Thanks to Baucus, the IRS would enforce the individual mandate, and a failure to comply would impose the fine, which in Baucus' own words is called an "excise tax." Those who refuse to pay their taxes will eventually go to prison for it, unless the person is someone like Tim Geithner, who then gets to run the agency that puts people in prison for failing to pay their taxes.

Debtors' prisons for thee but not for me.

Merkel scraps for votes in final election drive

BERLIN — Chancellor Angela Merkel made an 11th-hour push for votes Saturday, on the eve of an election expected to return her to power but perhaps not in the new coalition she wants.

"We are going to fight to the end because every vote counts," she told a crowd of around 1,000 people waving orange "Angie" placards and chanting "Angie, Angie."

"We are the only party in Germany to govern the economy sensibly," she said, adding: "Voters will decide tomorrow how quickly we get out of this crisis."

"We are fighting for the German jobs of the future."

Merkel, 55, has won plaudits at home and abroad for steady leadership through the crisis that has hit Europe's top economy harder than most, and surveys indicate Germans are in no mood for change at the top.

"This pastor's daughter from the east has governed with such self-confidence in the past four years that many of the 62.2 million voters will choose her even though they do not like her party. They want Merkel," commented the daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

But her conservative party's lead over the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) has shrunk and tension is rising as her hopes of governing with her preferred partners, the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP), hang by a thread.

If Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) and the FDP do not clinch a majority, the most likely outcome is another awkward "grand coalition" between the CDU and the SPD that has governed Germany since the inconclusive 2005 election.

But Merkel insisted: "We can only have stability with a coalition between a strong Union and the FDP," referring to her conservative party.

The SPD candidate, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, judged to be a weak campaigner at first, has gained in confidence and issued a rousing call to some 10,000 supporters late Friday at Berlin's Brandenburg Gate.

"The Union is getting more nervous by the day," Steinmeier told his flag-waving audience.

"The big lead they had has melted like ice in the sunshine. We will keep fighting for every vote until the last second on Sunday at 6:00 pm," when polling stations close.

But the final campaign rallies took place amid heightened security throughout the country following a series of messages from Islamic militants warning Germany over its continued presence in war-torn Afghanistan.

In a statement with German subtitles considered by experts to be a warning of a forthcoming attack, Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden told European countries to withdraw from Afghanistan, where Germany has around 4,200 troops as part of a NATO force.

This was quickly followed by another video threatening Germany with attacks if it did not pull out of Afghanistan, this time from a German-speaking Taliban militant who called himself "Ajjub."

Speaking in German, Ajjub said: "Because of your commitment here against Islam, attacking Germany has become an attractive idea for us, the mujahideen," according to an interior ministry spokesman.

The militant said it was only a matter of time "before jihad destroys German walls" and the video showed photos of some famous German sites such as the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin and Cologne Cathedral.

The unpopular mission in Afghanistan is just one of a host of problems the winner of Sunday's election with have to face, along with a record mountain of debt and Germany's worst slump in output for more than 60 years.

"Whoever receives from the voters the task of governing will need a great deal of strength, courage and optimism to overcome the challenges that lie before him, or her," Hanover's Neue Presse daily said in an editorial on Saturday.

Massive police presence in Pittsburgh takes fight out of protesters

PITTSBURGH - Police in riot gear lined the streets of the Group of 20 host city in an overwhelming show of force Friday as thousands of protesters chanted, waved signs and blew bubbles.

Unlike Thursday, when police tossed tear gas and fired rubber bullets to rout protesters who threw rocks and smashed store windows, Friday's "People's March" through the hilly streets of Pittsburgh produced no serious clashes.

The presence of hundreds of police sparked outrage among the demonstrators, who never got closer than half a mile to the G20 meeting site.

"We don't need the United Police States of America," said Cindy Sheehan, the antiwar advocate who famously protested outside former President George W. Bush's ranch in Texas. "I was telling the cops, 'You're facing the wrong way. Face the banks.'"

The patchwork group of demonstrators voiced their opinions on a myriad of issues, from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to workers' rights to the national debate on health care.

They chanted, "We all live in a fascist bully state" to the tune of the Beatles' "Yellow Submarine."

On Thursday, when demonstrators hit the streets without a permit, sparks flew. About 70 people were arrested and a slew of businesses were damaged.

Mike Nance, 28, a graduate student from Philadelphia, said he had no problem with so-called anarchists vandalizing businesses.

"I don't think property violence is particularly immoral," he said.

US Terror Suspect to Face Charges in New York

Prosecutors say an Afghan-born terror suspect in U.S. federal custody spent more than a year plotting a massive attack on the United States with co-conspirators.

Najibullah Zazi was transferred Friday from the western state of Colorado, where he was detained, to the northeastern city of New York, where he faces charges of conspiring to detonate bombs.

A federal grand jury in New York indicted 24-year-old Zazi on Wednesday, but that was not made public until Thursday.

The U.S. government says Zazi received bomb-making instructions in Pakistan in 2008. It also says he bought components to build improvised explosive devices and traveled to New York City on September 10, 2009, to move forward with his plans.

If convicted, Zazi faces a maximum sentence of life in prison. He has denied any links to terrorism.

He is set to appear in court Tuesday.

Zazi is a legal permanent resident of the United States. He was detained in Colorado September 19 on charges of lying to counter-terrorism investigators.

He was indicted on the terror plot charges four days later.

Zazi was born in Afghanistan and moved to Pakistan as a boy before relocating to the United States with his family about 10 years ago.

Iran defies Obama and vows to switch on 'secret' nuclear facility

A new Iranian nuclear enrichment facility which was revealed to the world this week will soon start work, a Tehran official said on Saturday.

"This new plant, God willing, will soon become operational," said Mohammad Mohammadi-Golpayegani, who heads the office of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, according to the semi-official Fars News Agency.

The facility, buried in a mountain outside the city of Qom, is still under construction. It is designed to enrich uranium and could be used to produce the essential material for a nuclear weapon.

On Friday the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said that Tehran wrote to the agency on September 21, disclosing that it is building a new uranium enrichment facility.

The revelation has heightened fears that Iran is determined to develop the capacity to build an atomic weapon, although Tehran insists that it wants a nuclear programme to generate energy for a rapidly growing population.

The programme presents the West with a thorny challenge. World leaders meeting this week in the United States have been considering a response. Their options include diplomatic pressure, tougher sanctions, and in the last resort military action. One scenario is that Israel, which feels threatened by Iran, could bomb the plants.

Israel said on Saturday that this week's disclosure proved the country was seeking nuclear weapons, and demanded an "unequivocal" Western response.

"The revelations of this second nuclear enrichment site in Iran prove beyond any doubt that this country wants to equip itself with nuclear weapons," Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said.

"We hope that an unequivocal answer is given on October 1," he added, referring to next week's meeting between Iran and six major world powers involved in negotiating over the the nuclear dispute.

Israel, the region's sole if undeclared nuclear-armed state, has long accused Iran of pursuing atomic weapons under the guise of a peaceful energy programme.

Britain, the US and France have insisted that Iran must allow visits to the nuclear site.

"Iran is breaking rules that all nations must follow," said Mr Obama, He added that Iran was endangering the global non-proliferation regime and threatening the stability and security of the world.

Gordon Brown said: "The level of deception by the Iranian government and the scale of what we believe is the breach of international commitments will shock and anger the entire international community." He added that there was "no choice but to draw a line in the sand."

Friday, September 25, 2009

Usher Donates $1 Million to the Launch of 'Powered by Service' - an International Movement to Seed Youth-Led Service Projects

Usher Raymond IV and Partners Launch International Call to Service at the Clinton Global Initiative Involving 5,000,000 Youth Around the World

Download image NEW YORK, Sept. 24 /PRNewswire/ -- Usher's New Look (UNL), a non-profit organization supporting youth to use their talents and become corporate and community leaders, today announced Powered By Service-a bold new initiative to rebrand service and fundamentally change the role of youth in communities. Powered by Service is designed to get young people in the world over-involved in changing the most pressing problems facing them and their communities --whether it be preventing malaria, stopping the spread of HIV/AIDS, ending gang violence or increasing access to clean water. The goal of Powered By Service is to mobilize over 5,000,000 youth in a global call to service that will ultimately touch the lives of 50 million individuals.

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