Saturday, April 4, 2009

Watch video of Taliban flogging girl

Q 24:2 (As for) the fornicatress and the fornicator, flog each of them, (giving) a hundred stripes, and let not pity for them detain you in the matter of obedience to Allah, if you believe in Allah and the last day, and let a party of believers witness their chastisement.

Julius Erving Says Good Bye to the Spectrum

Julius Erving spends one final night in the Philadelphia Spectrum as he reflects on his time with the 76ers.

Why Did the Giants Wait to Release Burress?

It's been less than a day since the New York Giants released troubled wide receiver Plaxico Burress, and the theories are still spreading like wildfire. One of the most frequently asked questions hasn't been why was Burress released, but why was Burress released now?
That's a question I sought to answer since the announcement of his release.

I contacted every person I know who is even remotely familiar with the Giants thinking, whether they were beat writers or other personnel and asked them all the same exact questions. Why now? Why not in December? Did the Giants really plan to keep Plax if he turned a corner? And what do you expect to come of his battle with New York over the money they've withheld.

Surprisingly, many of them had different answers. However, the answer to one question remained consistent: Jerry Reese and the New York Giants did want Burress to return.

"I think a fair amount of people in the front office were hoping that Burress would change his attitude and want to remain with the team. I got the impression that the thinking was, ‘Ok, he came pretty close to losing everything so maybe moving forward he exercises better judgment,' " said Pat Traina of Inside Football.

And Pat wasn't the only one who felt that way.

"I really believe the Giants were holding out hope his attitude would change. Maybe they were being naive, but if they didn't think he could grow up they probably wouldn't have waited this long to cut him," Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News said.

They did have their doubts, however ... and how could they not? Following his self-inflicted gunshot wound, stories of the wide receivers troubles began to rain down like fire. Whether it was past run-ins with the law or blatant violations of team rules, it was more than evident that Burress had a serious attitude problem.

"His attitude from the moment he shot himself had been very poor. The Giants were hoping he would turn it around, but it had become clear that wasn't going to happen," a person familiar with the situation said.

The Giants did seem to plan ahead, however.

"They probably did have some doubt that he could do it, but I think that's why they did take action with that December bonus. My understanding is it wasn't a roster bonus; it was the final payment of his signing bonus. And they withheld it. That's why they're in arbitration now," Vacchiano added.

Still, up until the very end, it appears the Giants did everything they could to keep Plax in blue ... going as far as offering him a new contract, allowing him to earn all of the money that was written into his previous deal.

So now, rather than working to clear up his legal troubles and getting back to the team, the Super Bowl XLII hero will be looking for work ... and I hear the Eagles are hiring.

For the Giants, they'll now look toward arbitration and attempt to keep every penny they can from Burress' remaining signing bonus (not a roster bonus, as we heard previously) and the prorated portion of his four week suspension (more than $200,000).

But what are the chances the Giants can actually win this case? Well ...

"The chances he gets his money back? Probably good. The language of his contract is pretty tight, but the rules of the CBA give some leeway for the arbitrator to potentially rule in his favor. My guess is that there will eventually be a settlement. Neither side is so sure of their argument that they think they're lock to win. So it's in Burress' best interest to accept something less, and it's in the Giants' best interest to offer to pay something less, rather than either of them taking a full hit," Vacchiano explains.

And since Burress was so reluctant to take a new deal, and has had the attitude that "New York owes me, I don't owe them," it's not much a leap to suggest he'll deny any potential settlement.

While his side may not feel their case is very strong, it's rare that the player is ruled against in arbitration. And even if they are, they always end up with something in their pockets. So it's more than a safe bet that Burress gambles and walks away with everything the Giants withheld, or at least a good portion of it.

However, as Pat Traina explains, there is a chance Big Blue may have saved themselves when they gave him a new contract last year.

"I think it comes down to the Giants being able to prove that the money that was docked/withheld was tied into specific terms of the contract which Burress failed to fulfill. Having not seen the contract, I really can't answer the question as it's all in how it was written. What I do know is that when they drafted the new contract last year, the Giants took extra pains to put language in there to protect themselves from any mishaps, so based on that knowledge, I'd say the Giants have a pretty good chance at winning this one," Traina said.

Given all this information - some new and some old - I felt compelled to ask one more time. Why now? If Burress was really this much trouble, why didn't the Giants release him in prior to December? Why did they allow this to go on ... was there another reason besides "they hoped he's turn a corner."

For the first time, I was finally given a different answer.

"I don't think they could release him back in December. For starters, the legal process had just begun to unfold, and the man was recovering from an assortment of injuries, most notably a shot to his thigh. Had the Giants released him in December, I think that would have been a huge PR gaffe on their part," Pat Traina explained.

Pat explained that she still believed the Giants were hoping beyond hope that he'd turn a corner, but Public Relations may have also aided in their decision to not release Burress back in November when he Cheddar Bobed himself.

So here we are with new answers in hand. We get an idea of why the Giants waited to release Burress, what they were hoping for and what they were trying to accomplish. We also have some insight into the battle over the money Burress feels he's owed and different perspective on how it will play out.

All is right with the world ... no?

Sadly, all these answers do is raise more questions. Why didn't the Giants wait until after the NFL Draft to release Burress? Does this decision mean they have a potential trade in place? And even if they saved a few pennies by releasing him, do they have enough cap room to add an experienced and talented wide receiver?

NYC fried chicken joints under fire for Obama name.

NEW YORK (AP) — Two New York City fried chicken restaurants in predominantly black neighborhoods are under fire for putting President Barack Obama's name on their signs.

City Councilman Charles Barron said Friday that he will organize a demonstration next week outside Obama Fried Chicken in his Brooklyn district. Organizers said they also may target Obama Fried Chicken & Pizza in Harlem.

"People from the community were calling me and saying they were outraged by this racist connection to Barack Obama and fried chicken," Barron said. "If you think that free speech gives you the right to insult and degrade us and stereotype us, then you've got a battle on your hands."

At Obama Fried Chicken & Pizza in Harlem on Friday, the "O" and the "A" had been filled in so that the awning sign read "Bam" instead of the president's name.

The person working the counter said the owner was not available and would not say when the sign had been changed. Employees, however, still were answering the phone by saying "Obama's."

At Obama Fried Chicken in Brooklyn, the person who answered the phone said the owner could not be reached.

Kevin McCall, a community activist who has been working with Barron to organize the protest, said he had spoken with the owner of Obama Fried Chicken, which was Royal Fried Chicken until recently.

McCall said the owner promised the sign would change on Sunday. If it doesn't, McCall and Barron say they will rally on Monday.

The White House did not comment directly on the issue of racial overtones in the New York restaurant names, but spokesman Ben LaBolt said the administration disapproves of using "the president's name and likeness for commercial purposes."

The restaurant controversy is not the first dispute about the first black president's name being linked to a chicken product.

A German food maker was criticized recently for naming a line of frozen fried chicken snacks "Obama Fingers." The product was available only in Germany and was pulled after the company said it became aware of the racial connotation.

Also, Germany's N24 television broadcaster reported this week that one Baden-Baden bakery was celebrating the U.S. president's arrival there with a dark-chocolate "Obama cake." The cake was decorated with miniature NATO flags.

Obama traveled to the German spa town Friday with his wife, Michelle, where he met German Chancellor Angela Merkel on the sidelines of the NATO summit.

New York Times Co. CEO Pockets Millions While Demanding Steep Union Concessions


The New York Times Company, owner of The New York Times and The Boston Globe, has taken the gloves off (and put on a pair of brass knuckles) in hard-line negotiations with its unions. The company is threatening to close The Boston Globe unless the newspaper's unions quickly agree to $20 million in concessions, the Globe reported on Friday, quoting union leaders.

But while The New York Times Company is demanding that its employees make steep sacrifices, its CEO is raking in millions. reports that The New York Times Company CEO Janet L. Robinson raked in $5,578,451 in compensation for 2008. This includes $1,552,603 in restricted stock awards, as well as a salary of $1 million.

Once again, America's CEOs pull down huge pay packages, even as they demand brutal sacrifices from their workforces across America.

You know, I expect this sort of thing from a hard-line, right-wing company like the Coors Brewing Company. But this is the "liberal" New York Times for Chrissakes. So much for the now-quaint notion that "The business of a newspaper is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable."

Reducing Youth Violence Mental health care is critical

(April 1, 2009) - WASHINGTON — It is a staple on the six o’clock news: A man shot. A girl raped. A boy stabbed. A woman abused.

Violence is everywhere. But increasingly, experts said, the faces of these chilling tales—both victims and perpetrators, usually from minority communities—belong to the young.

“Every two days we lose a classroom full of children from gun violence,” said U.S. Rep. Edolphus Towns.

Yet, the powers-that-be seem not to care, said Kenneth Barnes Sr., founder and director of Reaching Out to Others Together (R.O.O.T.), a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group.

“Gun violence is at epidemic proportions,” he said. “It’s the leading cause of death among African-American males in the United States of America, today. Yet, it’s not even on the radar screen, even for our president.”

Barnes had his own brush with violence in 2001 when his eldest son, a storeowner, was gunned down by a 17-year-old robber, who—it was later found—had killed two others.

The personal loss taught him two things, said Barnes, who has a master’s degree in clinical psychology. One, the effect of violence is “perpetual” and two, addressing the mental and emotional health needs of young people is critical to reducing violence and enhancing public safety.

“He was just as much a victim as my son [because] if you have a violent child, and you do nothing to help that violent child, you can’t expect him to change,” Barnes said of his son’s murderer.

Barnes and other community, government and academic experts comprised a panel at a March 26 congressional briefing on the correlation between mental illness and violence. The meeting was convened by Congressman Towns.

“We cannot sit back and allow our young people’s lives to be wasted. We must do something about it,” the New York Democrat said of his reason for the meeting. “[But] we have a lot to learn because people don’t quite know why some of these things take place.”

One explanation is mental illness.

According to panelist, Darcy Gruttadaro, director of the Child and Adolescent Action Center at the National Alliance on Mental Illness, research shows that 70 percent of youth involved in state and local juvenile justice systems have a serious mental illness.

Yet, “too many kids are being labeled as bad, lazy and dumb,” she said.

In terms of behavioral problems, Dr. Westley Clark, director of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, said adolescents are already given to impulse behaviors such as violence and drug abuse due to their level of development.

But Clark and others agreed that when children are steeped in a culture and environment of violence—as they tend to be in urban communities—those behaviors can become endemic.

“Violence is a disease,” said Ronald Moten of the District-based advocacy group, Peaceaholics. “What we see every day in our urban communities is countless youth who have been subject to violence; [or] have siblings who were victims of violence—often homicide—more often become violent, deal with depression, become drug addicts or are bipolar [and] do not receive treatment until they perpetrate a violent crime themselves.”

Referring to the well-publicized accounts of violence at Colombine High School and Virginia Tech, Moten pointed out the counseling and other services they received.

“Now visualize that the high-risk youth we see who witness these vicious and heinous crimes, their loved ones and family maimed on a daily basis yet, they have virtually nothing to help them heal from such trauma…. So what you have is a community that is desensitized and violence continues to be perpetrated,” Moten said.

Given those markers, Barnes said, violence is both “predictable and preventable” but politicians tend to “react to” rather than “prevent” violence.

“None of these people just got up one day and said, ’I’m going to kill somebody.’ There were signs all along. And what do we do? We sit back and let them do it,” he said. “…Most politicians want sound-bite and photo op opportunities; they really don’t want to deal with this issue because it takes time and effort.”

And the easy way out for many officials, Dr. Clark said, and especially in cases involving African-American and Latino youth, is to lock them up.

“Diversion programs are going to Whites and incarceration programs are going to minorities,” he said.

According to testimony submitted by NAMI’s Gruttadaro, youth of color represent two-thirds of the juvenile justice population. And, while many of them have untreated mental illness, “youth with mental illness in African-American and Latino communities receive less mental health care.”

Many children of color are also misdiagnosed and placed on drugs like Ritalin when counseling would have worked just as well.

“How many children are labeled as [having a] learning disability and ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) when it’s not a learning disability at all but post traumatic stress disorder?” Barnes said. “In fact…instead of calling it post traumatic stress disorder, we should call it chronic traumatic stress disorder because ‘post’ means it’s over when these children have to deal with (trauma) on a daily basis.”

All the panelists agreed solving youth violence must involve a comprehensive approach that involves community and government agencies and addresses both mental/ emotional problems and social ills like poor education, little access to health care, lack of family planning and life skills development, slow community progress and more.

That’s the approach offered by HR 1303, the CAN DO Act (Communities in Action Neighborhood Defense and Opportunity Act of 2009), which was introduced this year by Congressman Bobby Rush of Illinois.

To get legislation like that passed, however, we need to “convince our colleagues that if we invest money now, it will save us later,” said Towns, a co-sponsor of the measure. “But trying to make the case for that is not easy.”

Having more briefings like this one, however, where youths like Maurice Benton can share his story is important, the lawmaker said.

Benton, who lived in the infamous Barry Farms projects, saw tragedy after tragedy: in 2004, one brother was incarcerated for murder; later, another brother killed and then, after Benton was shot in the stomach, he almost died four times.

“I had to learn to walk, eat and talk all over again,” he said of the main incident that led him to eschew a life of violence and pursue a degree at the University of the District of Columbia.
Said Towns, “I was sitting there in the room thinking, ‘I wish we had all the appropriators here to hear this story. Because, if they heard this young man’s story, they’d give the resources to turn this around….’ If you’re not close enough to hear the stories, they think there’s not a serious problem out here.”

Madonna to Malawi Officials: Let's Party!

Madonna is throwing a party in Malawi which is the oddest response to being told you're unfit to adopt, or it's a brilliant last ditch ditch effort to influence the appeal process.

Government officials and staff members of Raising Malawi charity are on the guest list for the event, along with traditional dancers. No word if the judge who denied Madge will attend.

Madonna's lawyer said she will appeal Friday's judgment that she could not adopt a 3-year-old girl because she had not been a resident in Malawi.

This massive party looks like the start of her appeal, at least socially.

False Alarm Sounded Saturday in Japan over North Korean Missile Launch

A false alarm was sounded in Japan Saturday when the government announced North Korea had carried out an expected rocket launch. Japan quickly rescinded the announcement but not before the report had been widely disseminated both in the country and internationally.

A jittery Japan went on high alert after Pyongyang announced that an anticipated launch from North Korea was imminent.

But the Japanese government's emergency network, headquartered at the Prime Minister's office, acted prematurely. It announced at 12:16 p.m. local time Saturday North Korea had fired the rocket. The report was immediately aired on national broadcast networks and local authorities activated their emergency responses in areas where it was feared debris from stages of the missile could fall.

International news agencies also disseminated the announcement.

Five minutes later an embarrassed Japanese government retracted the alert.

At a regional government emergency center in Niigata, officials repeatedly utter "mistake, mistake" to spread the word.

Later in the day, Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada apologized.

Hamada says he wants to make a heartfelt apology to the people of Japan for causing tremendous trouble to them. The defense minister says it is the fault of the Defense Ministry and Self Defense Forces due to a mistake in the transmission of information.

Government officials pinpointed the error as originating at an Air Self-Defense Force radar station, in Chiba Prefecture, which had detected a "flying object" over the Sea of Japan.

Japanese media report, however, there was no indication of a launch from a U.S. early warning satellite system, which is to be used by Japan to verify such an event.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura, the top government spokesman, also faced reporters to explain what happened.

Kawamura says he also wants to apologize for the confusion caused by the government's mistaken announcement of a missile launch. He adds that all alert systems remain in place for the anticipated launch - now not expected to occur before Sunday - and the government will strive to be accurate with further announcements.

North Korea, on Saturday, through its official media, announced all preparations had been completed at the launch site in Musudan-ri, in the north-eastern part of the country.

A television news announcer in Pyongyang says North Korea's launch of what it terms an experimental communications satellite would be sent into space "soon."

North Korea previously informed international aviation and shipping agencies that the launch would take place between April 4 and the 8.

DigitalGlobe satellite image thought to show missile launch pad at Musudan-ni, northeast coastal region of North Korea, 27 Mar 2009
The impending launch has caused anxiety for Japan, which along with the United States and South Korea, have called on North Korea not to proceed. Those governments say such a launch - which they believe will be a ballistic missile test - would violate a United Nations Security Council resolution.

The 2006 U.N. action demanded Pyongyang drop all development related to ballistic missiles.

In an unprecedented defensive posture, Japan has deployed Aegis-class destroyers to its northern coast and repositioned Patriot missile batteries in case it needs to shoot down any debris that threatens Japan. Some of the Patriot PAC-3 land-to-air missile systems have been placed in and around Tokyo, the capital. Others are in two northern prefectures expected to be below the flight path of the North Korean missile.

Japan says the launch endangers its security but has backed away from earlier threats to try to shoot down the missile. North Korea said any such action by Japan would mean war.

Three police killed, two hurt in Pittsburgh shootout

WASHINGTON (AFP) — Three police officers were shot dead and two more wounded Saturday as they responded to a domestic disturbance call at a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, home where a man wearing a bullet-proof vest opened fire, police said.

The officers had been called out to the house following reports of a disturbance, but came under fire from a man inside, triggering an hours-long standoff.

"Our hearts and our prayers go out to the officers who paid the ultimate sacrifice," Police Chief Nathan Harper said in a televised press conference.

"It's a very sad day for the city of Pittsburgh."

Harper said the shooter was a 23-year-old man who fired at officers several dozen times using a high-powered assault rifle before he was finally wounded and then surrendered.

"He had one assault rifle and one long-arm rifle as well as one pistol and a lot of ammo," Harper had said earlier.

The first officers where shot immediately upon entering the house, leading Harper to say he believed they were victims of a trap set by the gunman.

"As soon as the officer stepped through the doorway he was immediately met with gunfire," Harper said. He and a second officer who came through the doorway were both shot in the head.

The burst of violence comes just a day after a jobless immigrant stormed an immigrant services center where he had been learning English in Binghamton, New York and went on a murderous rampage, killing 13 people before shooting himself to death.

MLK rejects Communism and Capitalism

Analysis: Obama's trip: Big cheers, some results

France (AP) — Stop after stop, crowds are thronging, leaders gushing, headlines blaring. Even a roomful of foreign reporters applauded after President Barack Obama's London news conference.

They love him over here. But are they giving him anything else to take home?

It's a mixed bag: some success, several failures and much still to be determined.

The president hit the halfway point Saturday on a European trip that, by the end, will have him charming and listening (not lecturing) his way through five countries, three international summits, one-on-one meetings with at least 17 leaders, a Buckingham Palace audience, at least seven news conferences, three speeches, two question-and-answer sessions with regular-folk foreigners and three official dinners.

The locals have chased his motorcade, strained across rope lines to shake his hand and gawped at Michelle Obama's sleek, multihued travel wardrobe. Leaders as reserved as German Chancellor Angela Merkel and as competitive — potentially even hostile — as Russian President Dmitry Medvedev have raved about his leadership style. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, trying to stave off his own political demise, was delighted to stand beaming at his charismatic guest's side, burbling about "exchanging ideas."

"Your first 70 days in office have changed America, and you've changed America's relationship with the world," Brown said enthusiastically.

It turns out Obama even engineered a solution to a dispute over the final communique at the London summit on the global financial crisis, conducting shuttle diplomacy between French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Chinese President Hu Jintao. He came up with a compromise between the two leaders' opposing positions on offshore tax havens and shepherded each one's signoff. Deal done.

Nearly every day has brought requests for Obama to grace the world with more of his presence.

Almost like dropping rose petals as he goes, the president has been saying yes. With Medvedev, Obama announced he would go to Moscow in July. With Hu, he promised a trip to the Asian powerhouse in the latter half of the year. And Sarkozy finally secured what he wanted — a walk on the beach in Normandy with Obama to mark the June 6 D-Day anniversary.

Europe was oh so ready for a change.

"Anyone else but Bush is better," said Lene Gade, a 43-year-old teacher in Copenhagen. "Obama is bringing the United States back on the friendlyhood track, approaching the rest of the world with a much more open mind."

But what actual achievements does all this admiration put in the new American president's hands to take back home?

For one, he and Medvedev launched talks to further reduce the two biggest nuclear arsenals on the planet.

Those talks — if successful, and this is a big if — could have an even bigger payoff by actually pushing the "reset button" everyone talks about in U.S.-Russia relations and laying the groundwork for cooperation in important areas of disagreement, such as Iran's suspected nuclear weapons program.

The 20-nation global economic summit in London didn't yield what Obama most wanted, big new outlays of stimulus spending by other nations.

European wariness toward rising debt is one reason. There's also a reservoir of anger here toward America that euphoria about the election of the first black man to the U.S. presidency can't erase — as expressed by huge protests in London. Many Europeans blame the recession that's enveloping them on the U.S. — its reckless ways and global dominance.

This resentment and the recession's weakening of the U.S. had Obama confronting multiple and previously unheard-of questions about America's global standing, particularly after Brown declared that "the old Washington consensus is over."

However, Obama managed to keep out of the final communique some potentially problematic items, most notably a global superregulator with authority inside individual nations' financial systems. And on a range of smaller priorities, the agreement among wealthy and developing nations tracked Obama's goals, providing significant boosts to less-well-off countries and tightening regulation over risky financial products and institutions.

While praising the final agreement, Obama delivered a noncommittal bottom-line verdict: "We've got to wait and see."

Here in Strasbourg, the main agenda item was Afghanistan, in Obama's conversations with the French and German leaders and, even more prominently, at Saturday's NATO summit.

And what the U.S. wanted was something much more robust than the vast majority of the 28 nations of the trans-Atlantic alliance, many populated with voters deeply opposed to war engagement, were willing to give.

Time and again, Obama said Europe is in as much danger from al-Qaida extremists developing footholds in Afghanistan and Pakistan as is the United States, and so must contribute to uprooting them. "Europe should not simply expect the United States to shoulder that burden alone," Obama declared.

But only the U.S. and a handful of other countries are engaged in the dangerous fighting in Afghanistan's southern and eastern provinces — and, in a rebuke to Obama's plea, that won't change with the summit.

Still, he declared the meeting a success, with its commitments from allies to send a total of about 5,000 troops to help train the Afghan National Police and Army and to provide short-term election security, even though many will not see combat and none will go to the heavy fighting. "The trainers that we're sending in are no less important than those who are in the south in direct combat with the Taliban," the president said at a NATO-closing news conference. "Keep in mind, that this is not a ceiling for what we're achieving."

Many NATO nations prefer to focus on repairing relations with Russia.

And in fact, Obama's approach to Medvedev on this trip seemed philosophically sympathetic to Europe's.

He tamped down U.S. enthusiasm for a proposed new missile shield on Russia's doorstep in Eastern Europe, a major irritant to Moscow. And he agreed to joint language with Medvedev paying homage to the good that Moscow and Washington could do together in the world, the kind of recognition craved in the prestige-starved Kremlin.

Conservatives back home call this a soft touch that Moscow will only exploit, not honor. But Obama is gambling a new approach, while not "papering over" the many remaining differences, will yield more down the road than the acrimony of recent years.

Obama said everywhere he went that he was in Europe to freshen U.S. diplomacy — to choose pragmatism over ideology and collaboration over giving orders. He gave himself a pretty good grade when asked in London for a performance rating so far on that front. "International polls seem to indicate that you're seeing people more hopeful about America's leadership," he said.

That doesn't necessarily translate to nations bending to U.S. will.

Obama seemed to be saying that his new brand of foreign relations means that's OK, a message that may or may not play so well at home. "All parties have to compromise, and that includes us," he said.

Neither U.S. foreign policy nor that of other nations tends to change all that much when a government shifts to a different party.

And, as, Robert Kagan, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, put it, the Obama that came to Europe wasn't exactly what Europeans expected. Instead, he was still in many ways the kind of risk-taking American they thought his election had left behind.

So Obama brought an agenda to Europe, Kagan wrote in a Washington Post op-ed, "with what Europeans regard as some radical and frightening plans for the economy; with a new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan that is far more aggressive, militaristic and success-oriented than they would prefer; with ideas about Iran that are welcome (the promise to talk) but also unnerving (the threat to impose more sanctions)." Kagan said a French journalist had told him, "We have all been surprised. He is so ... American!"

Charles Kupchan, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and a professor of international affairs at Georgetown University, said Obama couldn't go home empty-handed — and won't.

"It was better to get perhaps a little less but demonstrate solidarity in trans-Atlantic unity than get a little more at the risk of political discord at a time in which international solidarity is extremely important and in which the U.S. is bending over backward to be perceived around the world as again being a team player," he said.

Still to come, Obama is to outline his nonproliferation strategy, including how he will make good on a campaign promise to rid the world of nuclear weapons, in Prague.

Over two days in Turkey, he'll court the Muslim world that grew to dislike the United States so much over former President George W. Bush's anti-terror policies and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Using proven campaign tactics, he'll hold a wide-ranging discussion with Turkish students as well as young people piped in via video from across Europe and Asia.

"I feel like he needs to do something amazing to be called amazing," said 17-year-old Christian Uwayo of London, pivoting to a key Obama campaign line. "Maybe like 'Yes We Can, beat the recession.' ... Then he'd be my hero."

Associated Press writers Vladimir Isachenkov and Steve Gutterman in Moscow, Greg Katz and Dean Carson in London, Michael Fischer in Berlin, Angela Charlton in Strasbourg, Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen, and Darlene Superville in Washington contributed to this story.

Fed indictment alleges new heights of corruption

(AP) — Rod Blagojevich's schemes and corruption stretch back beyond trying to sell a Senate seat, beyond handing out jobs to political donors and even beyond his first day in the Illinois governor's office, federal prosecutors say.

While he campaigned on a promise to clean up after the scandals of the previous governor, Blagojevich and a handful of political pals already were planning to line their pockets and split the money after Blagojevich left office, according to a 19-count indictment.

If true, the allegations show Blagojevich blew past the actions that put ex-Gov. George Ryan in prison and took corruption to new levels in Illinois.

Ryan pressured state employees to contribute $50 and $100 to his campaigns, while Blagojevich demanded $50,000 and $100,000 from companies simply wanting a chance to do business with the state, according to the indictment.

Ryan steered government money to friends who gave him gifts and vacations. Blagojevich tried to block money for sick children and students unless he got big political contributions, the indictment says.

"If the allegations are true, it is the epitome of hypocrisy. It's very sad," said Brad McMillan, a member of the Illinois Reform Commission appointed by the state's new governor.

"He ran on a platform to clean up Illinois government, and at the time he's making those speeches he's engaging in the same kind of unethical behavior he was condemning," said McMillan, head of Bradley University's Institute for Principled Leadership in Public Service.

Blagojevich, 52, was arrested in December on a host of charges, including the allegation he schemed to auction off the appointment to Barack Obama's U.S. Senate seat. He was impeached and booted out of office in January, a first in the long history of Illinois corruption.

By one count, Illinois has seen 1,000 public-corruption convictions since 1970. Five former Illinois governors have been prosecuted during the past 44 years.

Blagojevich, a Chicago Democrat, flatly denies the allegations, insisting he always behaved ethically and did his best to fight government corruption.

"I am innocent. I now will fight in the courts to clear my name," Blagojevich said in a statement Thursday after prosecutors released the indictment that named him, his brother and four other aides and political allies.

But U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald says he has Blagojevich on tape discussing the criminal activity in secretly recorded telephone conversations.

The 75-page indictment outlines sharp differences between the Ryan and Blagojevich cases. In trying Ryan, prosecutors struggled to present jurors with examples of cash payoffs directly to the Republican governor. Such allegations are all over Blagojevich's case.

According to the indictment, Blagojevich and his former chief of staff, Alonzo Monk, agreed to hand huge power to fixer Tony Rezko to name members of powerful boards and commissions. Rezko has been convicted of using that power as part of a scheme to raise $7 million in kickbacks from companies seeking state business.

In return, Rezko provided Blagojevich's wife, Patti, with $54,396 in real estate commissions she did nothing to earn, according to the indictment. It says Rezko also gave her a $12,000-a-month job, "purportedly for real estate brokerage services."

Blagojevich also allegedly ordered co-defendant John Harris, another chief of staff, to shut off state business for two financial institutions that did not respond satisfactorily to his demands for a well-paying job for his wife.

"My first reaction when I read the Ryan indictment was 'where's the beef?'" said DePaul University law Professor Leonard Cavise. "There wasn't much to show Ryan took money and put it in his pocket. In the Blagojevich indictment it's all over the place. This isn't the kind of prosecution where you have to connect the dots."

In framing the Blagojevich indictment, prosecutors engaged in a technical maneuver that effectively sent the case to a judge known for his skill in keeping order in the courtroom and preventing trials from turning into circuses.

That could be important, given Blagojevich's behavior since his initial arrest in December.

He appeared on nearly every talk show and news program in the country to proclaim his innocence and declare himself the victim of a conspiracy by his political enemies. He signed a book deal and hosted a Chicago talk-radio show. He held a news conference with sick people and claimed he was being persecuted because he had championed health care programs to help them.

His lead attorney dropped the case, saying Blagojevich wouldn't even listen to his advice.

Some of the action in Ryan's trial took place outside the courtroom. Ryan exploded on television against one of the witnesses — former Texas Sen. Phil Gramm — and his wife went on TV in what prosecutors saw as a play for sympathy. Ryan also spotlighted his stand against the death penalty.

Patrick M. Collins, who headed the government team that sent Ryan to prison, urges the current team of prosecutors not to let Blagojevich distract them with similar tactics.

"I'll give the prosecutors the same advice I got," Collins said. "Keep your eyes on the prize and remember that the important part is in the courtroom."

New Gov. Pat Quinn and Illinois lawmakers are studying ways to clean up the state's "culture of corruption," but the Blagojevich allegations highlight the difficulty of stopping someone bent on misconduct.

Blagojevich didn't stumble into a gray area or cut some corners after years in office, according to the indictment — he set out from day one to abuse his authority.

Doug Alexander, who owns a book store in Quincy, said he doubts anything will change in Illinois until voters make it clear they demand honest government.

"I don't think it's something you can legislate," Alexander said. "I think it's something that has to come from the people themselves."

Associated Press Writer Christopher Wills reported from Springfield. Writer David Mercer contributed to this report from Champaign.

Police: Binghamton victims had multiple gunshots

The police chief of Binghamton, N.Y., says most of the 13 victims at an immigrant center had multiple gunshot wounds.

Police Chief Joseph Zikuski said Saturday that people who knew Jiverly Wong were not surprised by his actions at the American Civic Association.

He says that until last month Wong was taking classes at the center, which helps immigrants assimilate.

He says the gunman felt people were making fun of him for his poor English language skills.

The chief says Wong wore body armor during the attack, indicating he was prepared for a confrontation with police.

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

BINGHAMTON, N.Y. (AP) — The police chief of Binghamton, N.Y., says the gunman who killed 13 people at an immigrant community center wore body armor during the attack.

Police Chief Joseph Zikuski said Saturday that the gunman's name was Jiverly Wong and used the name Jiverly Voong as an alias.

Zikuski says the man had a permit for two handguns and wore body armor, indicating he was prepared for a confrontation with police.

Zikuski says that instead he committed suicide at the end of his attack on the American Civic Association.

NATO allies commit 3,000 more troops to Afghanistan

President Barack Obama on Saturday said he is “pleased that our NATO allies pledged their strong and unanimous support” for the new U.S. strategy toward fighting militants in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Obama spoke at the end of a two-day NATO summit in Strasbourg, France. One of the main topics of discussion was the war against the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

America’s NATO allies in Afghanistan are committing 3,000 combat troops and 400 more paramilitary trainers to the fight against the Taliban, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs announced earlier Saturday.

The combat forces from allied and partner nations will provide security leading up to Afghan elections later this year. Of the 3,000, the major contributors will be Britain, with 900, and Germany and Spain, 600 each.

NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said Saturday that “when it comes to Afghanistan, this summit and this alliance has delivered.”

April 4, 1968 - Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.: The Last Day

In the book At Canaan’s Edge, Taylor Branch provides a detailed picture of King’s last day. It is a wonderful and poignant account in which King vibrates with life and love and humanity.

After a day of meetings, phone calls, and a get together with his brother, King and his close friend Ralph Abernathy made plans for the evening. Branch writes:

“[King] reminded Abernathy that Bill Kyles expected them at five o’clock for an early supper before the mass meeting. They certainly would arrive late, with extra guests such as Eskridge and the Kentucky group, but King claimed to worry most about the menu. He wanted to make sure they would get real soul food rather than some dainty starvation of asparagus and greens. ‘Call her,’ he prodded Abernathy with an insistent undercurrent of mirth, until the exasperated sidekick called Gwen Kyles. She said there was plenty of food and the dinner was at six o’clock, not five. (By disclosing the actual time, she inadvertently spoiled her husband’s trick to combat King’s chronic tardiness.) As for the puzzling question about the menu, she mentioned a few dishes hesitantly until excitement spread through her household that Abernathy was repeating each item to King – roast beef, sweetbreads, chitterlings, pork chops, neck bones, fried chicken, and ham in the meat line, plus six kinds of salad, featured turnip greens and candied sweet potatoes, a bread table of hot rolls, corn bread, corn muffins, biscuits, and corn pones, and pretty much the works for dessert. Kyles had recruited the best cooks from her church, along with many helpers, favored daughters, and hostesses in finest clothes to spread forth a feast. (‘They were really laying for that dinner,’ she recalled.) Her menu, greatly embellished in Abernathy’s relayed account, more than satisfied King….”

Close to 6 p.m., Rev. Billy Kyles went up to King’s room to hurry him along. King teased Kyles about his new house and said “Now Billy, if you’ve bought this big new house and can’t afford to feed us, I’m gonna tell everybody in the country.” They joked a little more, and King went out on the balcony, to see who had arrived from the rest of their group. He bantered over the handrail with some of the men. Jesse Jackson called up to King to ask if he remembered Ben Branch, a saxophonist and song leader. “Oh yes, he’s my man,” said King. “How are you, Ben?” Branch waved. King recalled his signature number from Chicago and called down, “Ben, make sure you play ‘Precious Lord, Take My Hand,’ in the meeting tonight. Play it real pretty.” Branch called back, “Okay, Doc, I will.’” Taylor Branch writes what happened next:

“Solomon Jones, the volunteer chauffeur, called up to bring coats for a chilly night. There was no reply. Time on the balcony had turned lethal, which left hanging the last words fixed on a gospel song of refuge. King stood still for once, and his sojourn on earth went blank.”

King was only 39 years old.