Monday, November 30, 2009

Surprise! Notre Dame Fires Charlie Weis

Don't feel bad for the guy. He'll walk away with millions and likely step right back in as an offensive coordinator in the NFL. And there's sure to be no shortage of suitors.
Charlie Weis is out as Notre Dame head football coach, a source close to the program told the Daily News.

AD Jack Swarbrick has decided to make a change after Weis finished the season with a 6-6 record and four straight losses to Navy, Pitt, Connecticut and Stanford.

Weis coached Notre Dame for five years and leaves with a 35-27 record. He has told friends in South Bend he has at least six offers from NFL teams to become their offensive coordinator.

This past weekend against Stanford Weis refused to do halftime and postgame media interviews. He reportedly cleaned out his office Thursday before the team left for the West Coast. Weis is not the only one apparently leaving. Junior quarterback Jimmy Clausen was seen giving his football helmet to his familly following a 45-38 loss to Stanford in which he threw five touchdown passes, a strong indication he will declare for the NFL draft.

Worries that Dubai washing its hands of debt woes

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — If global investors were looking for reassurances from Dubai that it would stand behind its massive, debt-swamped investment conglomerate, they got none Monday. Instead, the Gulf city-state seemed to wash its hands of the financial woes that have rattled world markets.

The muddled message from Dubai has fueled worries over a possible default by the conglomerate, which is involved in projects around the world — from Gulf banks and ports in 50 countries to luxury retailer Barneys New York and a grandiose six-tower hotel-entertainment complex in Las Vegas.

Many investors are hoping that the conglomerate, Dubai World, will either openly discuss restructuring of some $60 billion in debt with its creditors, or that Dubai's larger, oil-rich neighbor, Abu Dhabi, will step in to restore confidence by promising to foot any bills.

The two are the most powerful of the seven highly autonomous statelets that make up the United Arab Emirates, but their sharply different styles have long made them rivals. For any help, Abu Dhabi will likely demand a price, possibly including increased say over Dubai's affairs.

Abu Dhabi, the seat of the UAE's federal government, has been the more conservative, religiously and financially, relying on its oil wealth to fuel growth. Meanwhile, smaller Dubai — without any oil resources — has for the past decade been the freewheeling boomtown, racking up debt as it built extravagant skyscrapers, artificial residential islands and malls complete with indoor ski slopes.

Government-owned Dubai World has been the engine for much of that growth at home and abroad. So it was a bombshell last week when Dubai announced that the conglomerate wanted to defer debt payments until at least May.

The United Arab Emirates' two main stock exchanges registered record declines Monday as they opened for the first time since the announcement, after a long Islamic holiday.

The Full Story

Iran enrichment plans largely bluster, experts say

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran's announcement of plans to build 10 more uranium enrichment facilities is largely bluster after a strong rebuke from the U.N.'s nuclear agency, analysts said Monday. Nonetheless, the defiance is fueling calls among Western allies for new punitive sanctions to freeze Iran's nuclear program.

U.S. and European officials were swift to condemn the plans, warning that Iran risked sinking ever deeper into isolation. Iran responded that it felt forced to move forward with the plans after the International Atomic Energy Agency passed a resolution Friday demanding that it halt all enrichment activities.

Iran's bold announcement Sunday appears to be largely impossible to achieve as long as sanctions continue to throw up roadblocks and force Iran to turn to black markets and smuggling for nuclear equipment, said nuclear expert David Albright.

"They can't build those plants. There's no way," he said. "They have sanctions to overcome, they have technical problems. They have to buy things overseas ... and increasingly it's all illegal."

A more worrisome escalation in the standoff would be if Iran reduced its cooperation with the IAEA, as some Iranian officials have threatened to do if the West continues its pressure. The U.N. inspectors and monitoring are the world's only eyes on Tehran's program. The head of Iran's nuclear agency on Monday ruled out an even more drastic move, saying Tehran does not intend to withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Enrichment is at the center of the standoff between Iran and the West because it can be used both to produce material needed for atomic weapons as well as fuel for nuclear power plants. Iran insists it only wants the latter.

The Full Story

Dollar dips as markets recover from Dubai shock

The safe-haven dollar mostly slipped Monday morning, with the euro rising back over $1.50, but managed to hold above 14-year yen lows as investors held their breaths on the Dubai debt crisis.

The 16-nation euro rose to $1.5015 from $1.4954 late Friday, while the British pound dipped to $1.6416 from $1.6479. The dollar fetched 86.26 Japanese yen from 86.70 yen.

On Friday, the dollar briefly fell below 85 yen, its lowest level since July 1995 as debt problems afflicting Dubai shook up the banking sector. Japanese Finance Minister Hirohisa Fujii called the yen's surge "a very serious situation." He added that Tokyo will take action as needed, suggesting that Japan may work with the U.S. and Europe to try to calm foreign exchange markets.

On Monday, Bank of Japan Gov. Masaaki Shirakawa acknowledged Japan is in deflation and said he is carefully monitoring foreign exchange levels. The central bank is ready to take steps as needed to maintain financial market stability, he said, according to the Japanese Kyodo News agency.

Shirakawa and Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama are expected to meet as early as tomorrow to discuss the "situation," according to Brown Brothers Harriman analysts.

Speculation that the Japanese government or central bank might intervene is helping keep the dollar above the yen lows from Friday, said UBS currency analyst Patrick Ley.

Meanwhile, conflicting signals out of the Middle East kept the dollar trading in a tight range. Last week, Dubai World, the main investment arm of Dubai, asked to defer payments on $60 billion of debt for six months. That triggered fears of a massive debt default touching off a crisis, said CMC Markets' Michael Hewson in a note to investors Monday. But a weekend statement from the United Arab Emirates, where Dubai is located, saying it would make extra money available to all banks in the country helped calm investors. Later on Monday, however, a Dubai finance official said the government would not guarantee the company's debts.

In other morning trading, the dollar dropped to 1.0551 Canadian dollars from 1.0623 Canadian dollars late Friday, and fell to 1.0037 Swiss francs from 1.0065 francs.

The greenback was also lower against the New Zealand and Australian dollars.

Report Blasts 2001 Battle to Get Bin Laden

A new Senate report blasts the Bush administration’s December 2001 effort to capture or kill Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in the Afghanistan mountains of Tora Bora.

The report, written by the Senate Foreign Relations, says bin Laden was within reach on Dec. 16, but he and his “entourage of bodyguards walked unmolested out of Tora Bora and disappeared into Pakistan’s unregulated tribal area.” The report says most analysts believe he is still there.

The report, requested by the committee’s chairman, Massachusetts Democrat John Kerry, blames the failure to catch or kill bin Laden on then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s decision to use a force of untrained, mostly Afghani fighters to seal his escape routes.

The report says more than 100 American commandos were on the scene during the battle, but their calls for reinforcements were denied. Bin Laden, according to the report was so shaken by U.S. air strikes that he prepared a will that indicated he thought he was moments from death.

The report also slams then-Afghanistan-theater commander Gen. Tommy Franks for refusing to deviate from a plan to use mostly indigenous forces on the ground to ease the risk of an anti-U.S. backlash in the country.

The report’s release comes two days before the Obama administration is expected to announce the deployment of more troops to Afghanistan.

Obama to address nation about Afghanistan on Tuesday

Let's see if the President can convince the people if escalating the war in Afghanistan is the right move.

President Barack Obama will address the nation on his new strategy for the war in Afghanistan Tuesday night from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

The president is expected to lay out his plans for expanding the Afghan conflict and, ultimately, ending America's military role.
The president and his top military and national security advisers have held 10 meetings to discuss America's future steps in Afghanistan. Though the top general in Afghanistan has asked the president for about 40,000 troops, military officials expect the president will deploy about 35,000, starting next year.

The president says the American people will support his strategy once they understand the perils of losing the war.

UPDATE (via the New York Times):

President Obama plans to lay out a time frame for winding down the American involvement in the war in Afghanistan when he announces his decision this week to send more forces, senior administration officials said Sunday.

Although the speech was still in draft form, the officials said the president wanted to use the address at the United States Military Academy at West Point on Tuesday night not only to announce the immediate order to deploy roughly 30,000 more troops, but also to convey how he intends to turn the fight over to the Kabul government.

“It’s accurate to say that he will be more explicit about both goals and time frame than has been the case before and than has been part of the public discussion,” said a senior official, who requested anonymity to discuss the speech before it is delivered. “He wants to give a clear sense of both the time frame for action and how the war will eventually wind down.”

The officials would not disclose the time frame. But they said it would not be tied to particular conditions on the ground nor would it be as firm as the current schedule for withdrawing troops in Iraq, where Mr. Obama has committed to withdrawing most combat units by August and all forces by the end of 2011.

Tiger Woods Turns Down Florida Highway Patrol Interview (Twice)

Tiger Woods has turned down Florida Highway Patrol interview twice! State Troopers visited Woods’ Windermere home Saturday looking for some answers regarding his very bizarre car accident but never got to see Tiger.

Tiger’s rep told the Florida Highway Patrol that the golf champ and his golf club-swinging wife, Elin Nordegren would not be available for an interview that was previously scheduled for Saturday. Click Here to see photos of Elin

As reports by E! Online: Police were asked to go back to Woods’ home Sunday (today) for a sit-down. The agency is still investigating the incident.
Woods’ silence no doubt raises speculations that he’s hoping for his allegedly facial lacerations to heal. As TMZ reports that they were not caused by the car accident instead by his wife, Elin who went ballistic and scratched his face up. Ouch!

If you have been in a coma or in a cave you could have missed the whole enchilada, the whole thing started with a report surfaced of National Enquirer calling Woods a cheater. The tabloid is saying that the golf pro has been seeing another woman by the name of Rachel Uchitel.
Uchitel has vehemently denied the affair as she tells the New York Post:

“We have never had an affair, and the claims we did are completely false,” “I am really upset about it because I am being portrayed as a homewrecker, when it simply isn’t true.”

Methinks Tiger will have to address the issue because he’s got the responsiblity towards his fans and his HUGE sponsors.

The story developing.

Nine Years After Mike Huckabee Freed Him, Man is Wanted in Cop Killings

Former Arkansas governor/GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee might have made a huge mistake when he commuted Maurice Clemmons' 60-year prison sentence nine years ago: Now, Clemmons is wanted for questioning in the horrific shooting of four Washington State police officers.

This morning, a man walked into a coffee shop in Lakewood, Washington and opened fire, killing four police officers in what officials are calling an "execution-style" shooting. Now police are looking to question 37 year-old Maurice Clemmons, who the Seattle Times reports has had a long criminal history. It started in 1990, when Clemmons was sentenced to 60 years in prison in Arkansas for burglary and theft of property:

When Clemmons received the 60-year sentence, he was already serving 48 years on five felony convictions and facing up to 95 more years on charges of robbery, theft of property and possessing a handgun on school property. Records from Clemmons' sentencing described him as 5-foot-7 and 108 pounds. The crimes were committed when he was 17.

Clemmons served 11 years before being released.

News accounts say Huckabee commuted Clemmons' sentence, citing Clemmons' young age at the time the crimes were committed.

After Huckabee freed Clemmons it was all downhill: According to the Seattle Times report, Clemmons racked up eight felony charges after moving to Washington—the most recent being second-degree rape of a child, for which he had been in jail pending a trial for the past few months. Clemmons was released from jail six days ago after posting his $150,000 bail with help from a company called Jail Sucks Bail Bonds.

Then he might have gunned down four police officers this morning:
Sgt. Mark Renninger, Officers Ronald Owens, Tina Griswold and Greg Richards.

As Arkansas Governor, Huckabee had a long record of pardoning criminals—including murders and rapists: HuffPo reports that "between 1996 and 2004, Huckabee helped to free more Arkansas prisoners than were freed from all of Arkansas' six neighboring states."

After Clemmons—who is still at large—is found and questioned, after the vigils are finished and all the facts are in (probably before that, actually), we can look forward to a long public debate about kids in jail and the limits of mercy.

Williams fined record $82,500 for US Open tirade

Serena Williams was fined a record $82,500 for her U.S. Open tirade and could be suspended from that tournament if she has another "major offense" at any Grand Slam in the next two years.

Grand Slam administrator Bill Babcock's ruling was released Monday, and he said Williams faces a "probationary period" at tennis' four major championships in 2010 and 2011. If she has another "major offense" at a Grand Slam tournament in that time, the fine would increase to $175,000 and she would be barred from the following U.S. Open.

"But if she does not have another offense in the next two years, the suspension is lifted," Babcock said in a telephone interview from London.

He said Williams is handing over $82,500 right now, already nearly double the previous highest fine for a Grand Slam offense — about $48,000 Jeff Tarango was docked in the 1990s.

Williams lashed out at a lineswoman after a foot-fault call at the end of her semifinal loss to eventual champion Kim Clijsters at the U.S. Open in September.

Williams earned $350,000 by reaching the semifinals, part of her more than $6.5 million in prize money in 2009, a single-season record for women's tennis. Her career prize money tops $28 million.

The American is an 11-time Grand Slam singles champion and ended the 2009 season at No. 1 in the WTA rankings.

Williams' profanity-laced, finger-pointing outburst drew a $10,000 fine from the U.S. Tennis Association in September — the maximum onsite penalty a tennis player can face. But because it happened at a Grand Slam tournament, Babcock was charged with investigating whether further punishment was merited.

He concluded that Williams violated the "major offense" rule for "aggravated behavior." The Grand Slam committee — with one representative from each of the sport's four major championships — approved his decision Saturday.

Babcock said Williams has been informed of the ruling. She has been in Barbados for an exhibition tournament, and her agent did not immediately reply to a request for comment Monday.

The USTA said it would comment later Monday.

Babcock said a "major offense" under Grand Slam rules is "any conduct that is determined to be the 'major offense' of 'aggravated behavior' or 'conduct detrimental to the game.'" There is no specific definition of what sort of actions constitute a "major offense."

He said the highest possible fine that Williams could face — $175,000, if she violates her Grand Slam probation — was chosen because it is the difference in winnings between reaching the quarterfinals and semifinals at the U.S. Open. The $10,000 Williams already was docked by the USTA will be counted toward that total; that's why she is paying half of $165,000 now.

During the Sept. 12 match at Flushing Meadows, the foot fault — a call rarely, if ever, made at that stage of such a significant match — resulted in a double-fault for Williams, moving Clijsters one point from victory.

Williams paused, retrieved a ball to serve again and then stopped. She stepped toward the official, screaming, cursing and shaking the ball at her. Williams was penalized a point for that display; because it happened to come on match point, it ended the semifinal with Clijsters ahead 6-4, 7-5.

Friday, November 27, 2009

R&B star Chris Brown to be interviewed on '20/20'

NEW YORK — ABC says Chris Brown will appear on its "20/20" newsmagazine Dec. 11.

In what's billed as an in-depth interview, the singer will discuss his assault of ex-girlfriend and recording superstar Rihanna in February. He is on probation for the beating.

Robin Roberts, anchor of ABC's "Good Morning America," conducts the interview. It was taped last weekend.

ABC spokesman Jeffrey Schneider says clips may also air on "Good Morning America." He says Brown will not perform live.

Brown is scheduled to release his album "Graffiti" on Dec. 8. He has previously spoken about the attack on MTV News and "Larry King Live."

Rihanna was interviewed this month by ABC's Diane Sawyer.

Cross-Examining the Climate Change Scammers

A trial lawyer reading through the hacked emails from the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit (CRU) will immediately, almost unconsciously, begin generating a list of questions he would love to ask the authors if he were able to face them on the witness stand and under oath. The beauty of the adversarial process is how cross-examination tests and challenges the other side’s position – precisely what the emails indisputably show the CRU and its allies in the climate change scam have gone to shocking lengths to avoid.

There are several lines of examination that come immediately to mind. We can rest assured that it will never happen – as the emails show, the last thing they want to do is be in a position where they have to explain themselves. But certainly asking leading climate change cheerleader Phil Jones about his email describing his use of a “trick” to describe the manipulation of observed temperature data to “hide the decline” in order to achieve the desired result would be amusing:

* So, Dr. Jones, when you used the word “trick,” you really meant that it was not a “trick” at all but a valid, scientifically recognized process of data interpretation?
* Can you identify another instance in your experience where a scientist described his valid, scientifically recognized process of data interpretation with a term commonly used to describe a hoax, scam or fraud?
* And when you wrote the words “hide the decline,” is it now your testimony that when you used the word “hiding,” you were not actually “hiding” anything, and moreover, though you used the word “decline,” there was no “decline” in temperatures to be hidden in the first place?
* So, if I understand your explanation, it is that you commonly use language in your communications which means precisely the opposite of the meaning that you are seeking to communicate?
* And if an email from those who disagree with your findings – who you call “deniers” or “skeptics” – were to be made public that described their use of a “trick” to “hide the increase” in temperatures, would you find this to be of no great import because scientists commonly describe their processes as “tricks” and that their act of “hiding the increase” must be purely benign based on the manner of usage you describe?
* So, is it only proponents of man-made global warming that habitually use words and phrases that mean precisely the opposite of their common usage to describe their work?

But, as delightful as it would be to pick at particular instances of the activists’ admissions of fraud and their lame attempts to explain them away, there’s really one question that needs to be asked. In fact, if Al Gore would ever expose himself to the questions of anyone beyond the most credulous climate change sycophants, someone ought to ask it of him:

Mr. Gore, would you be happy if tomorrow you were to see irrefutable scientific evidence that mankind’s activities are not causing the Earth to warm?

A normal person would answer with a resounding, “Yes!” A normal person would be relieved that not only is our planet safe, but that we need not spend trillions of dollars and forfeit our most basic freedoms in pursuit of remedies for the bugbear of climate change.

But do you think for a second Al Gore would say, “Yes”? Do you think any of the global warming suckers would? Get real.

Understand you would not get an express, “No.” He would probably just deny the validity of the question (“We know climate change is real so that will never happen”). But after 15 years of examining witnesses, I have a rule of thumb. Any answer to a question that is not an unambiguous “Yes” is really a “No.”

And to those invested (ideologically, professionally and financially) in man-made climate change, the answer would be “No.” But contrary evidence would make no difference regardless. Al Gore and his ilk would not be shaken in the least by contrary scientific findings because the climate change scam is not driven by science. It is a campaign driven by the end the believers seek – an agenda of political, economic and social control. The science is simply a convenient means to that end. In fact, climate change belief is the opposite of science. It is a faith, a pagan religion complete with infallible doctrines, ritual sacrifices and even heretics who must be burned at the (so far) figurative stake.

A basic concept in the scientific method is falsifiability, the idea that a scientific hypothesis can be disproven through evidence. If a hypothesis cannot ever be falsified, then to believe it requires an act of faith. Therefore, if the climate change hypothesis is truly based upon science, with the production of satisfactory evidence it could be disproven. And this leads to one final question for the climate change believers:

Mr. Gore, if presented with irrefutable scientific evidence that the man-made climate change hypothesis is incorrect, would you accept it?

Of course, believing that Mr. Gore would answer with an unambiguous “Yes” would itself require an enormous leap of faith.

NYC mayor spent a record $102M to win a 3rd term

NEW YORK — Mayor Michael Bloomberg spent at least $102 million to narrowly win a third term, breaking his previous records for the most expensive self-financed political bid in U.S. history, according to a report released Friday by his campaign.

The report shows $18.6 million was spent from Oct. 20 through Thursday, including millions on last-minute television advertising.

Bloomberg, the wealthiest man in New York, has a fortune estimated by Forbes magazine to be $17.5 billion. He did not take donations and was allowed by law to spend whatever he wanted as long as he filed expense reports.

By contrast, his challenger William Thompson Jr. will probably have spent $9 million on his first mayoral bid when all the bills have been paid. Thompson relied on donations and matching funds. His filing is expected Monday.

Bloomberg had been widely predicted to win easily over his Democrat rival. But his push to overturn the city's term limits law so he could run again turned off voters, along with the struggling economy, and Thompson came within 50,000 votes of unseating him. Bloomberg won by about 5 percentage points, which means each point cost roughly $20 million.

"While vastly outspent, Bill Thompson's campaign ran a very close race because it focused on issues that New Yorkers most cared about, mainly that working New Yorkers are struggling to get by and are being squeezed out of the city," a spokesman for Thompson said.

Bloomberg, who made his fortune by founding the media company Bloomberg LP, has said the margin doesn't matter. "Nobody's going to remember two days later how much you won by. They're only going to remember who's going to be mayor for the next four years."

The next report will be out Jan. 15. His overall spending will probably rise even more after he hands out bonuses to his campaign workers. After his 2005 win, he rewarded salaried staffers with checks totaling more than $1 million for his top advisers, and hundreds of thousands more to other workers.

Bloomberg was first elected in 2001 by just a three-point margin, and he spent a record $74 million. In his re-election bid in 2005, he stomped his Democratic opponent by nearly 20 points and outspent himself by about $11 million, shelling out a whopping $85.1 million.

Twenty-two dead, 54 hurt in Russia train crash: reports

At least 22 people were killed and 54 injured Friday when a train travelling between the Russian capital Moscow and Saint Petersburg derailed, possibly as a result of an attack, Russian media reported.

Four wagons of the Nevski Express linking the two cities came off the tracks late on Friday evening in the Novgorod region, a railways official told the Ria-Novosti news agency.

Russia's state-run Itar-Tass news agency quoted the emergencies ministry and a railway official as saying that 22 people were dead and 54 others injured.

A unnamed security official was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying that a one metre-diametre (three feet wide) crater was found near the scene of the disaster.

"Witnesses say they heard a loud bang before the accident. This could be proof of an attack," the source said.

A railways official also told Itar-Tass that "an attack is one of the possibilities" being looked at by the police.

In 2007, a bomb on the same line derailed a train, injuring 60 passengers, with Chechen separatist or ultra-nationalist groups suspected.

Russian media said emergency services had been rushed to the scene of the crash, with most of the injured evacuated to local hospitals.

Snoop Dogg Wants Oprah’s Talk Show

Snoop Dogg wants to step into Oprah Winfrey’s shoes.

The ‘Signs’ rapper claims he is the ideal candidate to take over from the legendary talk show host when she stops making her self-titled programme in 2010.

He said, “I’m trying to proposition the networks right now. If you’re wanting a nice, black, exciting young male who wants to turn the TV world right up – get at me.

“I heard Oprah Winfrey is leaving and there’s nobody who can do what Oprah did but, ahem – hello! Hello!”

Snoop would also make his talk show a family affair.

He added, “I can bring my wife on so we can have the women and the men on there discussing things.”

Snoop’s previous TV experience started in 2002 with his MTV sketch show ‘Doggy Fizzle Televizzle’, and also includes his own reality show ‘Snoop Dogg’s Fatherhood’ and appearances in movies including ‘Old School’ and ‘Starsky and Hutch’.

He has also previously directed two pornographic movies ‘Snoop Dogg’s Doggystyle’ and ‘Snoop Dogg’s Hustlaz: Diary of a Pimp’.

Roethlisberger Expects To Play, But Steelers Need Backup Quarterback Plan

Pittsburgh, PA (AHN) – Ben Roethlisberger is back with the first team unit in practice and expects to play for the Steelers Sunday in Baltimore.

The star quarterback suffered a blow to the head in Sunday’s loss to Kansas City and Thursday was his first full day of practice after the “mild concussion.”

Third-string quarterback Dennis Dixon practiced Wednesday because backup quarterback Charlie Batch had surgery on his broken left wrist.

Batch was injured Sunday as well when he came in for Roethlisberger.

The Steelers looked at veteran quarterbacks Patrick Ramsey and Todd Bouman Thursday. Pittsburgh is preparing for the 5-5 Ravens.

There is no timetable for how long Batch will be out.

Ramsey was released by the Titans last month and Bouman last played last season for the Ravens

Police chief: Woods' wife helped after accident

A local police chief in Florida says Tiger Woods' wife used a golf club to smash out the back window and helped get the golfer out of the car.

Windermere Police Chief Daniel Saylor told The Associated Press on Friday that Elin Nordegren told officers she was in the house when she heard the accident and came outside. Saylor says officers found Woods laying in the street with his wife hovering over him.

Police say Woods hit a fire hydrant and part of a tree early Friday. Saylor says Woods was in and out of consciousness when his officers arrived.

Saylor says Woods had cuts on his lips and blood in his mouth. He says his officers gave him first aid until fire rescue came about 10 minutes later.

Saylor says his officers do not believe alcohol was involved.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

Tiger Woods sustained facial cuts in a minor car accident early Friday when his SUV hit a fire hydrant and a neighbor's tree as he was leaving his mansion in a gated waterfront community near Orlando, Fla.

The Florida Highway Patrol said the 33-year-old PGA Tour star was alone in his 2009 Cadillac when he pulled out of his driveway at 2:25 a.m.

The patrol reported Woods' injuries as serious, although Woods spokesman Glenn Greenspan said the golfer was treated at a hospital and released in good condition. Windermere mayor Gary Bruhn said police from the village were among the first on the scene and saw Woods with cuts on his face.

The patrol said alcohol was not involved, although the accident remains under investigation and charges could be filed.

Left unanswered was where Woods was going at that hour. Greenspan and agent Mark Steinberg said there would be no comment beyond the short statement of the accident on Woods' Web site.

Woods, coming off a two-week trip to China and Australia earlier this month, is host of the Chevron World Challenge in Thousand Oaks, Calif., which starts Thursday. He is scheduled to have his press conference Tuesday afternoon at Sherwood Country Club. Steinberg said he did not know if Woods planned to play next week.

The accident report was not released until nearly 12 hours after Woods was injured. Patrol spokesman Kim Montes said injuries are considered serious if they require more than minor medical attention.

Montes said air bags in the SUV did not deploy.

Investigators still have not had a chance to speak to golf's No. 1 player, but when they do, "we will ask him everything," Montes said. "We just haven't had a chance to do so because he was being medically treated."

Montes said charges could be filed if there was a clear traffic violation, although troopers still do not know what caused Woods' SUV to hit the hydrant and the tree.

Woods' $2.4 million home is part of the exclusive Isleworth subdivision near Orlando, a community set on an Arnold Palmer-designed golf course and a chain of small lakes. The neighborhood, which is fortified with high brick walls and has its own security force, is home to CEOs and other sports stars such as the NBA's Shaquille O'Neal.

The Orlando Sentinel reported that an orange and white barricade sat on top of a hole in front of Woods' home. About 10 feet away, there was a tire track near an oak tree in his neighbor's yard. The tree had a few scuff marks but was largely unscathed.

Woods, who has won 82 times around the world and 14 majors, attended the Stanford-Cal football game, where he tossed the coin at the start of the game and was inducted into Stanford's sports Hall of Fame at halftime.

He won six times this year after missing eight months recovering from reconstructive surgery on his left knee. Even though he failed to win a major, Woods said he considered this a successful year because he did not know how his knee would respond.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Polanski prepares for luxury Alpine house arrest

GSTAAD, Switzerland — After two months in a Swiss jail, Roman Polanski prepared Thursday for the splendid captivity of his $1.6 million chalet in one of world's most luxurious winter resorts.

Polanski will have views of snowcapped Alpine peaks, spacious rooms and the all the amenities of a town with a reputation for catering to the wishes of the rich and famous.

But he won't be able to go out the front door.

In this isolated bastion of wealth — which Elizabeth Taylor once called home and Michael Jackson visited — the 76-year-old director will be placed under house arrest as soon as he posts $4.5 million bail, surrenders his identity documents and is fitted for an electronic bracelet that allows authorities to monitor his whereabouts.

The Justice Ministry declined Thursday to appeal a court decision granting Polanski bail, and said it would release him from jail while it considers whether to extradite him to the United States for having sex in 1977 with a 13-year-old girl.

"He must not leave this house," the ministry said in a statement.

Should he violate the terms of release, the bail will be forfeited to the Swiss government, it added.

Even without stepping outside, Polanski's life will improve from the small detention cell he had in Zurich with a sink, toilet, television and storage compartment.

Gstaad (pronounced guh-SHTAHD) offers a range of quality restaurants and hotels, and "people here can order food to their chalets any time," said Marlene Mueller of the local tourism agency.

From the gourmet shop Pernet Comestibles, fine food such as fresh oysters, Swiss cheeses and a range of whiskies and wine can be delivered.

And, even though Polanski may now be the world's most famous fugitive, most locals are likely to leave him alone.

"You can get almost everything here, provided you've got the money," tourism chief Roger Seifritz told The Associated Press. "Locals tend to go to the big cities to buy things, but our rich guests can get what they want right here."

The village of 3,500 full-time residents has cultivated its image as a haven of luxury since Swiss boarding schools set up their winter campuses here for the children of industrialists and aristocrats a century ago.

The locals' relaxed attitude to celebrities is typical in Switzerland and especially pronounced in Gstaad, where a "don't stare, don't tell" mentality has lured stars such as Roger Moore and Richard Burton away from the limelight at home.

"We prefer discretion," said Mayor Aldo Kropf. "That's why people come here."

Polanski also will get the same treatment from Swiss police, who have vowed to handle his transfer quietly.

"We don't want to show him off like an exotic animal," Justice Ministry spokesman Folco Galli told The Associated Press.

The bail decision was a major win for the director of "Rosemary's Baby," "Chinatown" and "The Pianist" after a series of legal setbacks following his Sept. 26 arrest on a U.S. warrant as he arrived in Zurich to receive a lifetime achievement award at a film festival.

Polanski was accused of raping a 13-year-old girl after plying her with champagne and a Quaalude pill during a modeling shoot in 1977. He was initially indicted on six felony counts, including rape by use of drugs, child molesting and sodomy, but he pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of unlawful sexual intercourse.

In exchange, the judge agreed to drop the remaining charges and sentence him to prison for a 90-day psychiatric evaluation. The evaluator released Polanski after 42 days, but the judge said he was going to send him back to serve out the 90 days.

Polanski then fled the United States on Feb. 1, 1978, the day he was to be sentenced, and has lived in France since. He claims the U.S. judge and prosecutors acted improperly in his case, and his attorneys will argue before a California appeals court next month that the charges should be dismissed.

Despite ordering Polanski's release, the Swiss Criminal Court said it still considered Polanski a high flight risk.

That threat was underscored Thursday by Interpol's secretary general.

"Given Mr. Polanski's history of international travel while defying a judicial order, a $4.5 million bail and an electronic bracelet do not mean that law enforcement lets its global guard down," Ronald K. Noble said.

"Mr. Polanski has given us more than 30 years of proof that he does not feel bound to respect any court decision with which he does not agree," he said. "The world law enforcement community should do all in its power to make sure that the Swiss judicial process is allowed to run its course, and if Mr Polanski defies the conditions of his release, no country should welcome, offer safe haven to, or defend his conduct."

Utah family struggles to make sense of cave death

ALT LAKE CITY — The brother of a man who died early Thursday trapped 700-feet inside a Utah cave said his family is remarkably strong but struggles to make sense of what happened.

John Jones, 26, of Stansbury Park, died nearly 28 hours after he became stuck upside-down in Nutty Putty Cave, a popular spelunking site about 80 miles south of Salt Lake City.

His death is the first known fatality at the cave, according to the Utah County sheriff's office.

"We all were very optimistic and hopeful. But it became increasingly clear last night after he got re-stuck that there weren't very many options left," Jones' brother, Spencer Jones, 30, of San Francisco, told The Associated Press.

Workers at one point had freed John Jones, but a rope and pulley system failed and he became stuck a second time.

"We thought he was in the clear and then when we got the news that he had slipped again. That's when we started to get scared," Spencer Jones said.

The family is expected to issue a statement Thursday afternoon. His funeral is planned for Saturday in Stansbury Park.

He had a wife and 8-month-old daughter and was a second-year medical student at the University of Virginia.

A recovery effort to extract John Jones' body from the cave was on hold Thursday as the Utah County sheriff's office tried to determine how best to proceed, Sgt. Spencer Cannon said.

It's unclear when the effort will resume. Rescue teams had been using drilling equipment to try and free Jones from the cave. Cannon said recovery work can be more aggressive than a rescue because the victim's well-being is considered differently.

John Jones was part of a group of 11 people exploring the cave passages. The 6-foot-tall, 190-pound spelunker got stuck with his head at an angle below his feet about 9 p.m. MST Tuesday. At times more than 50 rescuers were involved in trying to free him.

The crevice was about 150 feet below ground in an L-shaped area of the cave known as "Bob's Push," which is only about 18 inches wide and 10 inches high, said Utah County Sheriff's Department spokesman Sgt. Spencer Cannon.

Jones was freed from the crevice late Wednesday afternoon but fell back several feet into the tight space when an anchor in the cave roof that supported the pulley system failed, Cannon said.

Rescuers were able to get him food and water during that temporary freedom. But in the hours after he became wedged again, Jones' physical condition deteriorated.

"It's a tough," Cannon said. "It's not very often where you come in, you have high hopes and you are going into an operation you have done before with success and then you get into a situation where it doesn't go as you planned."

Search and rescue workers successfully rescued two people from the same spot in the 1,500-foot-long cave during the same week in 2004.

"Caving isn't generally considered to be a dangerous sport," Cannon said. "But I think you can safely say this is a dangerous spot in that cave."

Cannon said the sheriff's office wouldn't give an opinion about whether the cave should remain open for recreation or be closed.

The cave is privately owned by Utah's State Institutional Trust Land Administration. An access pass is required to explore the cave, with usage restricted to about six groups daily.

Spencer Jones said the family of five boys and two girls was close, and his brother was a wonderful person.

"He would have done anything for you, so that's what makes it even harder. It's senseless," he said.

Obama's "Christian" grandmother in Mecca for Hajj

Why the deception? And who was behind it? AP? The Obama camp? Someone else? What was its purpose?

AP, March 5, 2008:

"In the world of today, children have different religions from their parents," she said. She, too, is a Christian.

Is she really?

"Saudi Arabia: Obama's grandmother in Mecca for 'Hajj' ceremony," from AKI, November 25 (thanks to C. Cantoni):

Mecca, 25 Nov. (AKI) - The grandmother of US president Barack Obama has arrived in Saudi Arabia for the 'Hajj' or Islamic pilgrimage to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, a Saudi daily said on Wednesday. Sarah Obama, 87, is being accompanied by a nephew and Obama's cousin, Omran.

On Wednesday Sarah Obama was in the valley of Mina with an African delegation, according to the Saudi daily Okaz.

Obama, the mother of the American president's father, lives in a village in Kenya and is one of the many guests of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud....

Philippines massacre: journalists' death toll rises to 21

It is now reported that 21 journalists were killed in the massacre that took place on Monday in the Philippines' southern province of Maguindanao.

The Manila-based Centre for Media Freedom and Responsibility told the International Press Institute that a total of 34 journalists are believed to have been part of a convoy that was ambushed by over 100 gunmen at a police checkpoint .

The convoy was travelling to file candidacy papers for gubernatorial candidate and local mayor Esmael Mangudadatu. He was not on board the convoy.

Police have found the bodies of 57 people buried in shallow graves close to the checkpoint.

Among the confirmed dead are the following journalists: Ian Subang (Dadiangas Times), Leah Dalmacio (Forum), Gina dela Cruz (Today), Marites Cablitas (Today), Joy Duhay (UNTV), Henry Araneta (DZRH), Andy Teodoro (Mindanao Inquirer), Neneng Montaño (formerly of RGMA), Bong Reblando (Manila Bulletin), Victor Nuñez (UNTV), Macmac Ariola (UNTV), Jimmy Cabillo (UNTV), Bart Maravilla (Bombo Radyo, Koronadal), Rey Merisco (MindaNews), Bienvenido Lagarte (Sierra News).

The Philippine Daily Inquirer reported that police have named Andal Ampatuan Jr, a member of President Gloria Arroyo's ruling coalition, as the leading suspect in the massacre.

Though Arroyo has promised to bring the perpetrators to justice, no arrests have been made.

Ampatuan is the mayor of Datu Unsay in Maguindanao province and a political opponent of Mangudadatu. His father, Andal Ampatuan Sr, is the provincial governor and commands his own private army.

According to an article on the Inquirer's website, "Ampatuan Sr. had been grooming his son to take over as governor of Maguindanao, and the victims' relatives have alleged the Ampatuans organised the murders so that Mangudadatu would not run for governor."

IPI director David Dadge said: "We urge President Arroyo and other Philippines' high ranking officials to ensure the swift arrest of those responsible for this massacre. The democratic process in the Philippines cannot be allowed to be undermined by individuals who act without conscience or respect for life."

In addition to the journalists killed in the Maguindanao massacre, IPI has counted 58 journalists killed in the Philippines in the past 10 years in connection with their profession.

Sexual abuse by Catholic priests in Ireland was covered up for decades, report says

Four Archbishops, including Cardinal Desmond Connell, will be named over their mishandling of hundreds of allegations, including not reporting crimes to the police.

The senior clerics’ motive was to protect the church above defenceless children, the report will find.

The Dublin Archdiocese Commission is the third inquiry in the last four years to rock the Catholic Church in Ireland following independent investigations into abusive priests.

The pattern of senior clerics moving abusers from parish to parish rather than dealing with the problem will also be addressed.

The 700-page report includes 45 potted histories of a sample of priests from 1975 to 2004 who were investigated by the Commission.

It is understood only ten priests will be named, as they are either dead or in jail, with the rest given aliases.

So a report by the Catholic Church that says that abuse was covered up, is actually itself covering up all the abuses but ten.

Why am I not surprised?

NY Judge Gives Couple Thanksgiving Present , Wipes Out $525,000 Mortgage, Blasts Bank

Here's a feel-good story for your Thanksgiving day. Finally, a victory for the little guy:

A Long Island couple is home free after an outraged judge gave them an amazing Thanksgiving present -- canceling their debt to ruthless bankers trying to toss them out on the street.

Suffolk Judge Jeffrey Spinner wiped out $525,000 in mortgage payments demanded by a California bank, blasting its "harsh, repugnant, shocking and repulsive" acts.

The bombshell decision leaves Diane Yano-Horoski and her husband, Greg Horoski, owing absolutely no money on their ranch house in East Patchogue.

Spinner pulled no punches as he smacked down the bankers at OneWest -- who took an $814.2 million federal bailout but have a record of coldbloodedly foreclosing on any homeowner owing money.

The Horoski's probably would have been able to make their mortgage payments, had it not been for our current health care system:

Yano-Horoski, a college professor of English and cognitive reason, and Horoski, who sells collectible dolls online, bought their 3,400-square-foot, one-level house 15 years ago for less than $200,000.

It eventually ended up being either owned or serviced by IndyMac, and the bank sued the couple in July 2005 when they began having trouble making payments because of Horoski's health problems. Read on...

This story really encapsulates the sad state of affairs in America and sets an interesting precedent. Of course, OneWest will appeal the decision, but don't be surprised to see lawyers across the country cite this case. It's about time someone spoke loudly and clearly on behalf of the people!

Report: Former MVP Allen Iverson set to retire

PHILADELPHIA — With no apparent interest from NBA teams, Allen Iverson is set to retire, according to an online report.

Commentator Stephen A. Smith published a statement on his Web site Wednesday attributed to Iverson. It said Iverson plans to retire but also that "I feel strongly that I can still compete at the highest level."

The statement also said Iverson has tremendous love for the game and the desire to play, adding there is "a whole lot left in my tank."

"His legacy would be huge," Cleveland Cavaliers All-Star LeBron James said. "He's one of the best when you talk about guys 6-foot and under in the game of basketball. He played injured and he played hard every single night. I don't think it should end this way, but if it does, he's left a lot of great things behind."

The 10-time All-Star played three games this season with Memphis before taking a leave of absence to attend to personal matters. He was waived after the two sides agreed to part ways.

It was the second straight ugly ending for Iverson, who was unhappy last season playing for the Pistons. He was upset that Detroit coach Michael Curry and Memphis' Lionel Hollins used the former MVP as a reserve.

The New York Knicks considered signing Iverson last week after he cleared waivers, before deciding he would take too much playing time away from younger players they are trying to develop.

The Knicks seemed to be the only team who would consider bringing in Iverson, so there was no guarantee he'd play in the NBA this season, anyway. Still, the announcement Wednesday came as a surprise to George Karl, who coached Iverson in Denver.

"I think he still has something left to give some team out there. If that's his decision, he'll go down in history, I think, as the greatest little guard ever to play the game of basketball," Karl said.

"I was happy to have him for a couple years and hopefully our paths will cross. But I have a sneaky feeling that somewhere along the way an injury or a circumstance with a team will open that window back up."

One of the NBA's great scorers, Iverson entered this season with a career average of 27.1 points that ranked fifth all time. Yet there was almost no interest in him this summer before he went to the Grizzlies on a one-year deal.

Iverson can still score, as he averaged 17.4 points with the Pistons last season. Yet he has made it clear he doesn't view himself as a backup, which has likely hurt his chances of signing with a contending team.

"It's sad man, especially coming from a guy that's close to me and a friend," former Nuggets teammate Carmelo Anthony said. "To see him go out the way he's going out right now, it's not like he wants to go out, he's almost being forced to retire. It's a bad situation right now.

"It was just, he got dealt a bad hand from when he went to Detroit up to right now. Everything kind of spiraled downhill. I never want to see nobody go through nothing like that, especially a guy with his talent, somebody who can still go out there and be productive."

The 6-foot guard thanked former players and coaches in the statement, plus the fans in Memphis and Philadelphia, where he spent his best years. He said stepping away would allow him to spend more time with his wife and kids.

He also said he thought he could still play after 14 seasons.

"I always thought that when I left the game, it would be because I couldn't help my team the way that I was accustomed to," it read. "However, that is not the case."

Messages were left for Iverson's agent, Leon Rose, and his business manager, Gary Moore.

If this is the end for Iverson, he leaves with four scoring titles and a playoff scoring average of 29.7 points that ranks second only to Michael Jordan. He led the 76ers to the 2001 NBA finals but never won a championship.

Or he could choose to wait and see if a team in need of a scorer comes looking for him later this season.

"I don't ever believe anyone retires until they get to the point they have to," Boston coach Doc Rivers said. "He had a great career if it is true, but I still think he has more to offer."

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Griner dunks, No. 8 Baylor routs Jacksonville State

Becomes 7th woman to dunk in a college game

- For Baylor freshman sensation Brittney Griner, it was just another dunk. Something she is used to doing.

Except for an audible "Yes!" when she finally slammed one down for the eighth-ranked Lady Bears, the 6-foot-8 Griner was pretty nonchalant when she became only the seventh woman to dunk in a college game with a one-handed slam Tuesday night in a 104-45 victory over Jacksonville State.

"Sometimes I'll dunk, I get pumped up. Sometimes I really don't feel the dunk. I'm real particular on my dunks," said Griner, who dunked routinely in high school. "If I slammed it two-handed, I probably would have gotten more riled up. ... I got more excited on the blocks."

But this was the first dunk by a collegiate female since Tennessee's Candace Parker on Feb. 3, 2008, against Kentucky. Parker had a record seven dunks in her college career, and is the only woman with two in a game — a mark that Griner appeared to have chances to match though she didn't get a chance to attempt any more.

Griner missed one-handed dunk attempts in each of Baylor's previous two games. This time, she converted on a set play about 5 minutes into the game, getting a lob pass from Kelli Griffin and slamming it home to put the Lady Bears (3-1) ahead 17-3.

Black kids told to pick cotton

Parents, teachers and the NAACP are up in arms after a group of Black Children were told to play the role of slave in front of their White classmates.

Parents, teachers and the NAACP are up in arms after a group of Black Children were told to play the role of slave in front of their White classmates. 

During a field trip to Latta Plantation earlier this month, a historian told Black students from a Rea View Elementary school were made to pick cotton. Ian Campbell, a Black historian who has in the business for more than 15 years, defended his action by saying he wanted to give the kids a hands-on lesson about the Civil War.

“I am very enthusiastic about getting kids to think about how people did things in 1860, 1861 -- even before that period," he told WSOC-TV. "I was trying to be historically correct not politically correct."

One parent said Ian picked three Black children out of a mostly White class and had them put cotton collection bags around their necks during the demonstration. While Ian said he was merely trying to be as realistic in his lesson as possible, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg chapter of the NAACP feels he took it way too far.

"There is a lingering pain, a lingering bitterness, a lingering insecurity and a lingering sense of inhumanity since slavery,” said Chapter President Kojp Nantambu. “Because that's still there, you want to be more sensitive than politically correct or historically correct."

For now it seems that Ian was the only one who learned a lesson from this controversial tour. 

"I'm going to start asking for volunteers instead of calling people from the audience,” he said. “I think that would make it a lot easier that way if someone is afraid of public speaking or getting up in front of peers it wouldn't embarrass them."

However, the Kojo still wants him to strive for equality, suggesting, "Even if the black children had volunteered, I probably would have tried to use all of the children. That would have made all the children feel equal in the experience."

Lambert says he got carried away, but not sorry

NEW YORK — Adam Lambert admits he got carried away with his sexually charged American Music Awards performance, but he's offering no apology.

The glam rocker from "American Idol" said on "The Early Show" that his performance would not have caused as much controversy if he weren't openly gay. He also said there were other "adult" moments on the show that caused no outrage.

"I admit I did get carried away, but I don't see anything wrong with it," he said Wednesday. "I do see how people got offended and that was not my intention. My intention was to interpret the lyrics of my song and have a good time with it."

Lambert kissed a male keyboard player, dragged a female dancer around by the ankles and had a dancer simulate oral sex on him while performing "For Your Entertainment," a song with a sexual edge. ABC received many complaints about the performance and that network's morning show, "Good Morning America," canceled Lambert's scheduled appearance on Wednesday because it said it couldn't trust what he would do.

The Full Story
"The Early Show" on CBS, perennially third in a three-network morning show race, happily gave him a platform and milked it — interviewing him, having him interact with fans and asking him to sing. One of the show's hosts, Harry Smith, tied the flap to rock history, noting that camera operators were only allowed to shoot Elvis Presley from the waist up during a network TV appearance generations ago.

Israel 'to halt settlement growth'

Israel's prime minister is expected to announce a 10-month halt to the construction of new settlement houses in the occupied West Bank.

Binyamin Netanyahu was due to hold a news conference on Wednesday evening, after Israeli officials said that the proposal had been approved by the security cabinet.

However, the proposal excludes areas of the West Bank that Israel has annexed to its Jerusalem municipality since occupying the territory in the 1967 Middle East war and building projects already under way.

Netanyahu reportedly told the cabinet: "It's not a simple step, not easy. But it has far more advantages than disadvantages.

"It allows us to present before the world a simple truth: The Israeli government wants to enter negotiations with the Palestinians, is taking practical steps to enter negotiations and is very serious about its intentions to promote peace."

Limited freeze

Al Jazeera's Jacky Rowland, reporting from Jersualem, said that the freeze would only apply to "new residential permits and new residential starts".

"We are only talking about housing here. This freeze applies to public buildings such as schools or police stations or whatever, and it also means any existing building permits that have been granted they will go ahead," she said.

The Full Story

Roman Polanski Granted Bail

A Swiss court ruled on Wednesday that Roman Polanski can be freed on bail.

The court set bail at $4.5 million, according to the Associated Press, and stipulated that he must wear an electronic monitoring bracelet and stay at his Swiss chalet under house arrest.

The AP reports that the court said in its decision, "The 76-year-old appellant is married and the father of two minors. It can be assumed that as a responsible father he will, especially in view of his advanced age, attach greater importance to the financial security of his family than a younger person."

Polanski has not been released however, pending a possible appeal by the Swiss government, which has 10 days to decide whether it will fight the bail decision.

Polanski was arrested on September 26 in Zurich and the U.S. government is attempting to extradite the Oscar-winning director. Polanski pleaded guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse after having sex with a 13-year-old girl in 1977. He later fled the U.S. and has lived abroad as a fugitive sought by U.S. authorities since.

Bill O’Reilly Has A Twin! (Video)

The Bill O’Reilly Show on Fox News got a lot more interesting yesterday (November 24) when Sesame Street livened things up a bit. Spill O’Reilly is the new guy over on the Pox News Network and he already has a great following!

Bill and company seemed to enjoy the spoof and I think everyone got some good laughs, including me.

Watch the video after the jump,

Hillary 2012: A Vice Presidential Odyssey

The latest rumor coming out of Washington suggests that Hillary Clinton is in running to take the VP slot in the 2012, displacing Joe Biden and setting her up for another Presidential run in 2016.

While it's being billed as a "reward" for her work at the State Department, one wonders if it isn't because moving Hillary Clinton's get-it-done attitude wouldn't be helpful on the Senate floor.

Michael Hirsh, writing obnoxiously for Newsweek, thinks that Obama is going about foreign policy all wrong, and that only Secretary Clinton can fix the problem. Well, she could, if only she could let go of one certain pet issue (emphasis mine):

The one hope for forward movement on all these issues may be to rethink them entirely-not just the strategy but the personnel, too. That's not to say Holbrooke, Mitchell, and Co. should go, but their efforts should be subordinated to higher-level engagement, especially from Clinton. The secretary of state must play a much more active role on a regular basis; only Clinton, apart from Obama himself, has the necessary political star power, acumen, and gravitas to make a difference. It's clear that she can no longer afford to allow herself to remain at a strategic distance or to be sidetracked on women's issues, only occasionally parachuting in for ill-briefed appearances as she did in the Mideast.
Silly ladies! Don't we know that the real work of stabilizing a country by empowering a disenfranchised segment of the population will have to wait until we've sufficiently rattled sabres and swung dicks around?

Of course, Hirsh has a recommendation on exactly how to accomplish said dick-swinging:

For example, with additional troops likely to be deployed to Afghanistan soon, it may be wise to seek to negotiate with the Taliban, which we are not doing. At the same time it may be better policy not to negotiate with Tehran, as we are now doing. The West should consider new ways to isolate the discredited regime in Iran and find fresh methods of encouraging the still-insurgent election dissidents.

On the Mideast, perhaps we should drop all pretense of addressing final-status issues that are clearly irresolvable at present and look instead for a long-term interim arrangement[.]
However, Hillary Clinton will not be so easily dissuaded from looking at a different way to promote international peace ad equality.

"Women are key to our being able to resolve all of those difficult conflicts," Mrs. Clinton said in a speech in August. Since then, she has pursued initiatives to help women gain political power, personal safety and enough money to help their communities and countries improve economically and transition to democracy.

"There is nothing that has been more important to me over the course of my lifetime than advancing the rights of women and girls," she said in a Washington speech Nov. 6. "And it is now a cornerstone of American foreign policy."

By elevating the plight of women so publicly, Mrs. Clinton has breathed new life into women's issues on Capitol Hill. Senator John Kerry and Representative William Delahunt, Massachusetts Democrats, are expected soon to introduce legislation to make permanent the ambassadorship Ms. Verveer now holds.

Their measure would also direct the administration to create a five-year strategy that reduces assaults against women and girls in at least 10 nations and creates ways to judge the effectiveness of U.S. aid in advancing the goal.
Clinton would be an asset in either position, so the question is clear: where does she want to be in 2016?

Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience

Posted by Rev. Robert Sirico

Last week, I joined a group of Christian leaders in Washington to announce the publication of the Manhattan Declaration. This is a landmark document signed by Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant leaders who joined together to “reaffirm fundamental truths about justice and the common good, and to call upon our fellow citizens, believers and non-believers alike, to join us in defending them.” These truths are the sanctity of human life, the definition of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife, and the rights of conscience and religious liberty.

The Manhattan Declaration’s statement on religious liberty is, of course, something that fits perfectly with the core principles of the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion & Liberty. Here is a key passage:

The struggle for religious liberty across the centuries has been long and arduous, but it is not a novel idea or recent development. The nature of religious liberty is grounded in the character of God Himself, the God who is most fully known in the life and work of Jesus Christ. Determined to follow Jesus faithfully in life and death, the early Christians appealed to the manner in which the Incarnation had taken place: “Did God send Christ, as some suppose, as a tyrant brandishing fear and terror? Not so, but in gentleness and meekness…, for compulsion is no attribute of God” (Epistle to Diognetus 7.3-4). Thus the right to religious freedom has its foundation in the example of Christ Himself and in the very dignity of the human person created in the image of God - a dignity, as our founders proclaimed, inherent in every human, and knowable by all in the exercise of right reason.

Christians confess that God alone is Lord of the conscience. Immunity from religious coercion is the cornerstone of an unconstrained conscience. No one should be compelled to embrace any religion against his will, nor should persons of faith be forbidden to worship God according to the dictates of conscience or to express freely and publicly their deeply held religious convictions. What is true for individuals applies to religious communities as well.

The rationale for this statement is simple and powerful. Though historically many Christians have had differences related to doctrine, we feel we must come together, make common cause, to affirm our right — and more importantly to fulfill our obligation — to defend principles of justice and the common good that are now under assault. As the Manhattan Declaration states: “We will fully and ungrudgingly render to Caesar what is Caesar’s, but we will under no circumstances render to Caesar what is God’s.”

The drafting committee for this statement included Robert George, Professor, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence, Princeton University; Timothy George, Professor, Beeson Divinity School, Samford University; and Chuck Colson, Founder, The Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview in Lansdowne, Va. Go here to see a list of the initial signers. When I last checked, some 87,000 people had signed since Friday.

Those of us involved in this important project invite other Christians to advocate for these foundational biblical and rational principles and to stand in solidarity with us by signing the Manhattan Declaration at

Again, the full text of the Manhattan Declaration is available for download here.

New Jersey Senate: Could Dobbs Challenge Menendez?

Former CNN anchor Lou Dobbs is reportedly considering a 2012 Senate run against Robert Menendez (D-NJ). According to the New York Times, a spokesman has confirmed the seriousness of such a consideration.

By Tuesday, Mr. Dobbs had apparently begun screening his calls: the phones rang off the hook at his Florida home. A spokesman played down the idea of a presidential race, but said Mr. Dobbs was taking seriously the idea of running against Mr. Menendez.

“I think Lou is realistically saying, that’s a long way off, but if he did run for office there’d have to be an intermediary step, such as the Menendez seat,” said the spokesman, Robert L. Dilenschneider. He said Mr. Dobbs was impressed by Republican gains in New Jersey in November and by President Obama’s sinking popularity.


Mr. Dobbs’s two biggest assets in a Senate race would be name recognition and his fortune. But it is less evident that he has a political base of support, even in Sussex County, where he lives, and where Republicans dominate every level of politics.

Richard Zeoli, a former Sussex Republican chairman who was just elected a county freeholder, said he did not know whether Mr. Dobbs would energize Republicans on a full range of issues or focus too much on a few subjects. “Beyond immigration, there’s a lot of things that party leaders would want to ask,” he said.

Virginia Littell, a former state Republican chairwoman, said Mr. Dobbs and his wife, Debi, had been only “peripherally involved” in the community. “I don’t even know anything about him politically,” she said. “I know he was a Republican and now he’s an independent. So, say he comes back to be a Republican. Is that really who he is?”

It’s unclear if Mr. Dobbs “would run as an independent or seek the nomination of the Republican Party, which he spurned in 2006, switching his registration to independent.”

(credit image – ny times)

Media Reports: Obama To Send 34,000 More Troops To Afghanistan

General McChrystal gave the President three options on Afghanistan: A low-risk plan requiring 80,000 more troops, a medium-risk plan requiring 40,000 more troops, and a high-risk plan requiring 20,000 more troops.

Obama has apparently, if these reports are accurate, opted to go between the high-risk and medium-risk plans with 34,000 more troops.

President Barack Obama met Monday evening with his national security team to finalize a plan to dispatch some 34,000 additional U.S. troops over the next year to what he’s called “a war of necessity” in Afghanistan, U.S. officials told McClatchy.

Obama is expected to announce his long-awaited decision on Dec. 1, followed by meetings on Capitol Hill aimed at winning congressional support amid opposition by some Democrats who are worried about the strain on the U.S. Treasury and whether Afghanistan has become a quagmire, the officials said.

The U.S. officials all spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the issue publicly and because, one official said, the White House is incensed by leaks on its Afghanistan policy that didn’t originate in the White House.

As much as I believe in the mission in Afghanistan, and as much as I believe it would be a mistake to withdraw, I think I would rather see us pull our troops out and end the war then go forward at this point with Obama’s decision.

If we are going to commit our troops to the battlefield I think we need to be committed to winning. “Go big or go home.” Our commander in Afghanistan offered the President a low-risk solution to the war. Obama opted to undercut that solution for the sake of political expediency.

If that’s how Obama’s going to lead on the war, if he’s going to be more worried about political calculations and keeping up the appearance of standing by his campaign promises on Afghanistan than actually winning the war, then let’s give up. Let’s bring the troops home and stop the charade.

The blood of our soldiers, and to a much lesser degree our tax dollars, are too important to play these sorts of games with.

Obama Copenhagen-bound: Climate talks

by Jim Tankersley

President Barack Obama will attend the international climate negotiations in Copenhagen next month, according to a senior administration official, a sign of the president's increasing confidence that the talks will yield a meaningful agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The White House will also announce today that the United States will commit, in the talks, to reduce its emissions of the heat-trapping gases scientists blame for global warming "in the range of" 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, the official said. That's the target set out in the climate bill the House passed in June.

The president will address negotiators on Dec. 9, just after the opening of the two-week summit, on his way to pick up the Nobel Peace Prize in nearby Sweden. His speech will come ahead of planned visits by prominent heads of state from Europe and around the world, and before the talks are expected to reach their most frenzied pitch.

White House officials said the decision to attend came after productive climate discussions between Obama and the heads of China and India, two developing nations whose participation is seen as critical to any successful effort to avert catastrophic climate change.

Those discussions left the president optimistic that his presence in Copenhagen could seal a meaningful - though not legally binding - climate deal, meeting the standard that Obama previously set for his attendance at the summit, the officials said.

Environmentalists have pushed for Obama's attendance to add heft to the Copenhagen meeting, which was originally intended to produce a new climate deal to succeed the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.

Several nations key to the talks, including the United States and China, have conceded in recent weeks that negotiations have proceeded too slowly to produce a legally binding treaty in Copenhagen. Instead, those nations are now aiming for a sort of executive summary of a future treaty to be completed next year; that summary would nevertheless include critical issues such as emissions reduction pledges for individual nations.

Obama has stressed the importance of the talks. In public speeches and private meetings with world leaders, he has repeatedly pledged U.S. action to curb global warming, in contrast to eight years of reluctance under the Bush Administration.

But he wavered on whether to attend in person, even as leaders such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown committed to go.

Obama's attendance carries political risks at home, where his energy and climate bill has bogged down in the Senate behind health care, and where critics figure to pounce if he fails to lead the world to a climate agreement. Republicans in particular are mindful of Obama's trip to Copenhagen earlier this year, when he lobbied unsuccessfully for Chicago's bid to host the 2016 Summer Olympics.

His absence at the talks could have brought serious repercussions abroad, where many nations are already blaming the dim prospects for a legally binding treaty in Copenhagen on the United States' failure to adopt emissions limits.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Banking sector back to profit, insurance fund in red: FDIC

The US banking industry returned to profit in the third quarter, but the government insurance fund went into deficit for the first time since 1992, regulators announced Tuesday.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. said commercial banks and thrifts earned a collective 2.8 billion dollars in the third quarter.

This came after a collective 4.3 billion dollar loss in the second quarter, and the profit was well above the 879 million dollars the industry earned in the same period in 2008.

But the sector is still feeling the effects of the deep financial crisis triggered by a collapse of the US housing market and global credit crunch.

"Today's report shows that, while bank and thrift earnings have improved, the effects of the recession continue to be reflected in their financial performance," said FDIC chairman Sheila Bair.

More than 26 percent of all insured institutions reported a net loss in the latest quarter, and total loan balances declined by the largest percentage since quarterly reporting began in 1984, the FDIC said.

As projected in September, the FDIC's deposit insurance fund balance fell below zero for the first time since the third quarter of 1992.

The fund balance of negative 8.2 billion dollars reflects a 38.9 billion dollar contingent loss reserve that has been set aside to cover estimated losses over the next year.

The FDCI report showed total loans and leases declined by 210.4 billion dollars, or 2.8 percent, during the quarter.

Loans to commercial and industrial borrowers declined by 6.5 percent, residential mortgage loan balances fell by 4.2 percent, and real estate construction and development loans dropped 8.1 percent.

"There is no question that credit availability is an important issue for the economic recovery," Bair said.

"We need to see banks making more loans to their business customers. This is especially true for small businesses that rely on FDIC-insured institutions to provide over 60 percent of the credit they use."

Philly FBI Busts 5 Men of Lebanese Origin in Sting That Involved Stinger Missiles

The Philly FBI busted five men of Lebanese origin in an international sting in which one man allegedly wanted to buy 100 Stinger missiles designed to shoot down aircraft, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

The paper reported that the central figure in the sting, which was run by the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force, planned to use anti-aircraft weapons and 250 machine guns in the Middle East, “and asked to have them exported to Iran or Syria for use by “the Resistance,” according to an FBI affidavit unsealed today, the Inquirer reported. The “Resistance” group was not identified.

To read more, click here.

FBI Busts NY Man in Theft of Andy Warhol Piece

In the pop art world, the provocative Andy Warhol made a big splash. On Monday, one of his classic works proved his 15 minutes are far from over.

Federal authorities announced Monday they had charged James S. Biear, 49, of Ossining, N.Y., with stealing a Warhol work — a silkscreen on a wooden crate mimicking a Heinz 57 case of ketchup — and selling it to an unwitting New York art collector for about $220,000.

Biear turned himself in to authorities Monday and faces one count of wire fraud and one count of mail fraud, authorities said. If convicted, he could be sentenced to up to 40 years in prison, although sentencing guidelines would recommend a much shorter term.

Cyber-Bully Mom Off the Hook in MySpace Suicide Case

It looks like cyber-bully mom Lori Drew has a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.

The Los Angeles U.S. Attorney’s Office has filed notice in court that it does not plan to pursue an appeal in her case. She was charged with computer fraud and Abuse Act after she created a fake MySpace account to harass a teenage girl who committed suicide, WIRED’s Threat Level website reported.

Drew was convicted in L.A. last November, but a federal judge acquitted her in July.

“We have a notice with the 9th Circuit that we are withdrawing our notice of appeal in the case,” a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s office in Los Angeles wrote in an e-mail to Threat Level.

The case raised all kinds of Constitutional questions. In the end, the law governing the Internet remains murky.

Prosecutors charged Drew under a federal hacking law, but U.S. District Judge George Wu ruled that the government’s interpretation was, in the end, unconstitutional and would have opened up the gates for more questionable prosecutions.

Background on the MySpace Case

Farrakhan: Black America must change to survive

CHICAGO | Mosque Maryam ( - The leader of the Nation of Islam began a major lecture series, “The Time and What Must Be Done,” by using scripture, current events, social conditions and, at times humor, in a poignant warning about the need to change to avoid divine chastisement as an old world goes out and a new reality begins to come into existence.
The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan stressed November 15 that change was mandatory, and no one would be exempt from a universal change on the horizon.

“When you use the definite article ‘the,' it's a particular time, no other time like it, it's ‘The Time.' Today I would like to give you a capsule of the time, which is a period between two events, the beginning of this world is the first event and the end of this world, which is the second event,” he said. “When it says what must be done, there is no other choice. It is an absolute necessity that when you know The Time, you have to make up your mind to act in accord with the time or you will be destroyed from the face of the earth.”

Crowd at Mosque Maryam enjoys Nov. 15 lecture.
Living in the time of God's judgment, actions must be taken to survive the fall of this world and to become a part of what God intends to make new, said the Minister. He spoke to a full mosque, overflow crowds in the gymnasium next door, listeners watching in mosques around the country and others who tuned in via the internet.

The Full Story

Klan Rally Held at Ole Miss-LSU Game: Why We Shouldn't Care

I was intrigued by recent reports that the Ku Klux Klan had a rally on the Ole Miss campus. It may surprise you to know that I am essentially unconcerned by the group's presence on campus. Don't get me wrong, Klansmen are incredibly ignorant, and we cannot deny their historical reign of terror over people of color in America. I can, however, give you a list of reasons why we should stop paying attention to the KKK.

1) It thrives off attention: The KKK has very little power. It doesn't do very much anymore, and even in this rally, it appears that there were only a few members present. The truth is that the Klan only has power because we provide it by paying attention to its actions. The group is like a grease fire: The more water you put on it, the more it grows. If you starve the fire of oxygen, though, it eventually dies out. The Klan must be starved of attention, and then it will go away. It only remains relevant because we allow it to.

2) The KKK distracts us from real racism: While Ole Miss can proudly brag about how it ran the KKK off campus, school administrators haven't dealt with the fact that the university doesn't hire very many African American professors and doesn't graduate black athletes at a high rate. But it is not alone in its campus segregation. According to a survey we conducted on YourBlackWorld, more than one-third of black college students have never had a black professor, and more than 60 percent of them have only had one. That should embarrass our universities and be the source of absolute outrage among African American students. Rather than fighting against Klan members they will probably never see again, Ole Miss students should focus on dealing with their professors. Also, we are allowing the campus to brag about something that is not worth bragging about. For campus administrators to fight against the KKK and simultaneously support systemic racism via the lack of campus diversity is like saying, "I am completely against rape, but I plan to molest you every single day."

3) The KKK has freedom of speech just like everyone else: Whether we like it or not, the KKK has liberties. As long as it is not encouraging people to kill African Americans, it is protected by the Constitution. I want to protect the Klan's right to speak, because that also gives me the right to speak. The last thing we want is to live in a country where the government decides whose opinions should be heard. The Klan has a right to exist.

I don't support the KKK, but I also have major problems with Ole Miss. The university was built on a foundation of racism, and it is not being very progressive in terms of fighting it. In order for us to combat racism in America, we must be intelligent about our targets. The KKK should not be a meaningful part of that dialogue.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Professor at Syracuse University.

Usher's Raymond Vs. Raymond Pushed Back

First it was set for early 2010, then it was bumped up to December 21, and now it's "TBD." The release of Usher's next album, Raymond vs. Raymond, has been delayed because "We believe that the album is so strong that we want to give it the opportunity to have the proper setup before coming out," a rep for the singer told MTV News.

Producer Bryan Michael Cox spoke with MTV News recently about his work on the upcoming album, promising a deeply personal project from Usher.

"I think Usher is in a place where he really wants to express what's going on in his life, as any artist would," Cox said, referring to Usher's divorce from Tameka Foster-Raymond. "All the greats did it. Marvin Gaye did Here, My Dear. All the greats express where they are personally."

Cox said the album will tell the stories everyone wants to hear, especially since Usher is back on the single scene.

"I think [the new album] is where we are going to see Usher as an artist. I'm very curious to hear what the rest of the album is going to sound like," Cox said about Raymond vs. Raymond. "Our records are definitely in that lane of touching on what's going on in his life, so we are going to see what's going to happen. I'm very excited about the album. I think he has a lot to say." It'll just be a little while before he know exactly what.

Hundreds Mourn Teen Allegedly Slain by Father

HIGHLAND PARK, Mich. (AP) — An impromptu memorial of artificial flowers and dozens of stuffed animals remained Monday near strands of yellow crime-scene tape in a vacant lot where relatives say 15-year-old Jamar Pinkney Jr.'s father shot him in the head while he begged for mercy.

The lot is next to the two-story brick home where Jamar lived with his mother in the impoverished Detroit enclave of Highland Park, a once-prosperous city of 16,000, where decay, abandonment, fires and demolition have eaten away at the community.

Around the neighborhood, Jamar was remembered as a humble and generous boy who grew up tossing the football and worried about keep his grades up. Since his death a week ago, friends, family and the community have struggled with making sense of his slaying and his father's arrest.

Relatives say Jamar's father, Jamar Pinkney Sr., was irate over allegations that his son had sexual contact with a 3-year-old girl and made him strip at gunpoint, marched him to the lot and shot him as he begged for his life. Prosecutors have charged him with first-degree murder and jailed him without bond.

Police say the sexual misconduct accusation isn't part of the their investigation, and for many who knew Jamar, that allegation hasn't tempered the grief and outrage that another young life has been cut short.

The Full Story

Blackwater’s Secret War in Pakistan: Jeremy Scahill Reveals Private Military Firm Operating in Pakistan Under Covert Assassination and Kidnapping Prog

In an explosive new article in The Nation magazine, investigative journalist and Democracy Now! correspondent Jeremy Scahill reveals the private military firm Blackwater is part of a covert program in Pakistan that includes planning the assassination and kidnapping of Taliban and Al-Qaeda suspects. Blackwater is also said to be involved in a previously undisclosed U.S. military drone campaign that has killed scores of people inside Pakistan. The article says the program has become so secretive that top Obama administration and military officials have likely been unaware of its existence. In a Democracy Now! exclusive, Scahill joins us for his first interview since the story broke.

For our first segment we turn to an explosive new story about the private military firm Blackwater.

Writing in the the Nation magazine, independent journalist Jeremy Scahill has revealed Blackwater is secretly operating in Pakistan under a covert program that includes planning the assassination and kidnapping of Taliban and Al-Qaeda suspects. Blackwater is also said to be involved in a previously undisclosed U.S. military drone campaign that has killed scores of people inside Pakistan.

Blackwater operatives have been working under a covert program run by the Joint Special Operations Command—the military’s top covert operations force. The previously undisclosed JSOC operations would mark the first known confirmation of U.S. military activity inside Pakistan. A military intelligence source said Blackwater operatives are effectively running the drone bombings for both JSOC and the CIA. The CIA drone program is already public knowledge. But the military source says some of the deadliest drone attacks attributed to the CIA were actually carried out by JSOC.

The article also reveals Blackwater operatives have taken part in ground operations with Pakistani forces under a subcontract with a local security firm. The operations have included house raids and border interdictions in northwest Pakistan and other areas. Blackwater has also been given responsibility for planning JSOC operations in Uzbekistan.

The Nation reports the program has become so secretive that top Obama administration and military officials have likely been unaware of its existence.

Independent journalist and Democracy Now! correspondent Jeremy Scahill broke this story for the Nation magazine. He joins us from New York for his first television interview since the article’s publication last night.

Jeremy Scahill, independent journalist, Democracy Now correspondent, and author of “Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army.” His latest piece for the Nation magazine is “Blackwater’s Secret War in Pakistan.”

Ampatuans on Maguindanao Massacre

What happened last Monday (November 23) with the Mangudadatu clan and some members of the tri-media was really cruel, gruesome and horrible. Tagged as the “Maguindanao Massacre,” this incident maybe consider as the most violent election related crime of all time. What more condemning about this issue are the journalists who became victims of these evil and rude politicians. Their eagerness to stay in power showed their cruelty that they will wipe out those who will come and run against them.

The Ampatuans, one of PGMA allies, are allegedly behind this brutal massacre. Evidences like the backhow seen in the crime scene is said to be under the custody of the provincial government. The conversation between the victims and their relatives relaying the message that they have been abducted plus those who escaped the said massacre are pointing to the Ampatuans.

Are the Ampatuans really untouchables? Reports said that this clan helped PGMA win in the 2004 thru the alleged cheating. Is this the reason why PGMA and her police and military men’s actions are kind of shallow in handling the case? Why this government always portrays the difference of the powerful and powerless? I’m sure if the suspects are ordinary individuals they will order to attack and ransack its houses and hide outs.

With the Ampatuans being alleged as the mastermind of this gruesome” Maguindanao Massacre,” may the Commission on Election (COMELEC) disregard and reject any Certificate of Candidacy that will be filed by any Ampatuan until the case is resolved. That this goes the same with those politicians who will be involved in any election related crime. This procedure will enable the police and military men and even the government to finish the investigation the soonest possible time.

State of Emergency
PGMA to go after the Ampatuans
Death toll rises to 46