Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Charlie Rose Show: A review of President Obama's trip to Europe with Zbigniew Brzezinski & Henry Kissinger

A review of President Obama's trip to Europe with Zbigniew Brzezinski, United States National Security Advisor to President Jimmy Carter and Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of State

Body of missing US girl found in suitcase

TRACY, Calif. -- The body of a missing 8-year-old girl has been found in a suitcase dumped in an irrigation pond a few miles from her northern California home.

Sandra Cantu was found Monday after a 10-day search, authorities announced.

Undated photo shows Sandra Cantu. Body of the eight-year-old girl was found in a suitcase a few miles from her northern California home. [Agencies]

Authorities would not comment on their investigation, but they roped off the mobile home park where Sandra lived. They had previously searched several homes and towed several cars from the park.

No suspects had been identified.

"Our heartfelt sympathies go to Sandra's family and friends," said Tracy Police Chief Janet Thiessen. "We will determine the person or persons responsible for this reprehensible act, and we will bring them to justice."

Authorities planned an autopsy to determine the cause of death.

Thiessen said Sandra was found wearing the same clothes she had on when she was last seen on March 27: a pink "Hello Kitty" T-shirt and black leggings.

Sandra's disappearance sparked a widespread search that included hundreds of volunteers and law enforcement officials, including the FBI, and drew more than 1,000 tips.

Pictures of the girl with dark brown eyes and light brown hair were posted all over town, on business fronts, car windows and fire hydrants in this city of 78,000 about 60 miles east of San Francisco.

Investigators said they spoke last week to the girl's father, Daniel Cantu, who lives in Mexico and works in southern California. Authorities would not give any details of the discussion, but the father told the Tracy Press newspaper he had not seen his daughter for a year.

Police said the suitcase was found by farmworkers who were draining the irrigation pond to water fields.

Investigators cordoned off the area for hours while they searched the area for clues. The suitcase was eventually opened at the coroner's office, where Sandra's body was positively identified.

More than 100 mourners -- some holding candles, others wiping away tears -- gathered outside the mobile home park Monday night while police blocked the entrance.

"I am still in shock," said Brandy Robles, 27, who held her 2-year-old son. "You see this in the movies. I never thought it would be real life, real to me."

With Michael Jordan in the house, UCF basketball will be in rarified air

How good of a week has it been for Coach Kirk Speraw and his UCF basketball program?

First, they find out Memphis coach John Calipari is leaving for Kentucky and likely will be taking the Tigers' stranglehold on Conference USA with him. And then yesterday Speraw got commitments from two top recruits, including Marcus Jordan, the son of NBA icon Michael Jordan.

Jordan is considered one of the top 150 high school players in the country by both ESPN and Rivals.com. I don't get into ranking recruits, but what I do know about Marcus is this: If his father Michael shows up for UCF home games, there will be an extra thousand fans who show up just to watch M.J. watch M.Jr.

You heard me: UCF Arena is about to become a cool place to be seen. Seriously, who doesn't want to be in the same arena, watching the same game as the biggest American sports legend of the modern era?

This is an exciting time for UCF basketball. With Memphis almost certainly coming back to the pack in Conference USA and Speraw hauling in UCF's most decorated recruiting class ever in Jordan (a 6-3 guard from Chicago), Nik Garcia (6-5 guard from Chicago), R.J. Scott (6-3 guard from New Orleans) and Orlando Christian Prep's 6-8 forward Keith Clanton, there's no reason UCF cannot challenge for the league title in the next year or two.

Speraw has always been considered an excellent X's and O's bench coach who took mediocre talent and turned it into a good team. Now we'll see if he can get the Knights to that next level -- that level where really good talent is turned into a great team.

GM, Segway partner on two-wheel city vehicle

General Motors and Segway plan to take a two-wheel concept vehicle for a spin around New York City on Tuesday.

The prototype vehicle, called Project PUMA (Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility), is designed to ease congestion and pollution problems in cities. It is based on the Segway Personal Transporter but holds two people, instead of one, and lets them sit, instead of stand.

A PUMA runs on lithium ion batteries, can reach 35 miles per hour, and can travel up to 35 miles between charges.

It includes some high-tech touches, including GM's wireless OnStar communications technology that lets a passenger locate other drivers in a city.

The two-wheeler is meant to address the mounting problems of urban car transportation, according to the two companies that plan to unveil the vehicle at an auto show in New York.

GM is touting other features as well.

"Imagine small, nimble electric vehicles that know where other moving objects are and avoid running into them. Now, connect those vehicles in an Internet-like web and you can greatly enhance the ability of people to move through cities, find places to park and connect to their social and business networks," Larry Burns, GM's vice president of R&D and strategic planning, said in a statement.

GM is looking to drum up excitement for its vehicles as it undergoes a massive restructuring in an effort to become financially viable and more competitive with other automakers.

The Segway Personal Transporter, a two-wheel vehicle that allows people to stand and move around at slow speeds, was released with great fanfare several years ago, but it remains a niche form of transportation.

Photos: GM, Segway purr about PUMA

Jordan Leads 2009 Hall-of-Fame Class

Michael Jordan making the basketball Hall of Fame was right up there with death and taxes. The five-time NBA MVP and ten-time league scoring champ highlighted an impressive class of 2009. Joining Jordan for induction in Springfield, Mass., in September will be fellow NBA greats David Robinson and John Stockton, longtime Utah Jazz coach Jerry Sloan and Rutgers women's coach C. Vivien Stringer.

Anti-communist protesters storm Moldova parliament after election

Violent protests in Chisinau after ruling communists return to power in Moldova

A man kicks into the shields of security forces during a protest in Chisinau denouncing a communist election victory in Moldova

Protesters in Moldova stormed the country's parliament today, smashing windows and hurling tables and chairs out onto the street, in a violent protest against Sunday's elections which saw the ruling communists returned to power.

Anti-communist demonstrators poured into the building and heaped whatever they found onto the street. They set fire to paper, computers, and furniture. A small group also broke into the president's office - as police using tear gas and water canons tried to drive them back.

At least 10,000 protesters gathered outside the parliament building in the capital, Chisinau. The young crowd carried EU, Moldovan and Romanian flags and shouted slogans including: "Down with communism!" "Freedom!" and "We want Europe!" Others demanded the unification of Moldova and Romania.

Today's protests came two days after an election commission confirmed that the Communist party under president Vladimir Voronin had comfortably won the elections. According to official results, the party won about 49.9 per cent. Opposition leaders in Moldova have dismissed the poll as fraudulent and are demanding a new vote.

"The protests are justified because people did not vote for the communists in such large numbers," Chisinau's mayor Dorin Chirtoaca told Realitatea TV. He added: "The elections were fraudulent, there was multiple voting ... These are people who don't know what democracy is."

"The election was controlled by the communists, they bought everyone off," Alexei, a student, told Reuters. "We will have no future under the communists because they just think of themselves." At least 30 people were hurt in today's clashes, which also saw students hijack fire engines and drive them away.

Today's demonstrations come amid growing tensions inside Moldova, a tiny post-Soviet micro-state wedged between Ukraine and Romania. Despite some economic progress under the communists who have been in power since 2001, Moldova remains the poorest country in Europe.

Some 600,000 Moldovans have left to find work in the EU. The country's provinces largely support the pro-Russian communists. But the Chisinau strongly favours the more western-orientated opposition, who want free market polices and closer ties with the EU and Nato.

Today one analyst said the uprising in Moldova was similar to the 2004 pro-western Orange Revolution in next-door Ukraine. He added, however, that the protests were unjustified since western observers had confirmed the communists as legitimate winners of Sunday's election, and had certified the poll as fair.

"This is an active attempt by a small minority to take power," Vladimir Zharikhin, deputy director of the Moscow Institute for the Study of Post-Soviet Countries said. "The result was in line with exit polls and preliminary studies."

He added: "The majority of Moldovans don't see any alternative to the communists. In reality the communists are not believers in Marxism-Leninism but are right-wing social democrats. We now have a meeting of forces in Moldova."

President Vladimir Voronin's office said the president would make a statement later this evening, the Associated Press reported. It was not clear whether he was inside the presidential office when students burst in, pelting his workplace with eggs, stones and bottles.

Voronin is due to step down this month after serving the legal maximum of two terms in power. But he has indicated he intends to play an influential role in politics and will take another government job, possibly as parliamentary speaker. The opposition want him to leave the country.

The only foreign leader to congratulate Moldova after the elections was Russia's president, Dmitry Medvedev. The communists have enjoyed close relations with Russia and say they want to strengthen relations with the European Union.

Gates takes a scalpel to the US defense budget (1)

NEW YORK (MarketWatch) — Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced sweeping changes to the Pentagon budget on Monday, reflecting a higher priority toward cyber security and the type of irregular wars U.S. forces are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

At a news conference, Gates said the defense department would buy no more than 187 of the advanced fighter, the F-22 Raptor, and would stop purchasing the C-17 Globemaster transport plane at year’s end. He also said he would terminate a high-bandwidth military satellite communications program and shut down the development of the Air Force’s new search and rescue helicopter. A plan to replace presidential helicopters was also put on hold indefinitely.

Furthermore, the Pentagon wants to reduce the number of contractors as a percentage of total staff to 26% from the current 39%, to where it ballooned after 2001.

“Our goal is to hire as many as 13,000 new civil servants in fiscal 2010 to replace contractors and up to 30,000 new civil servants in place of contractors over the next five years,” Gates said.

The Pentagon seeks to raise its budget for the F-35 joint-strike fighter to $11.2 billion from $6.8 billion to purchase 30 jets in fiscal 2010, up from 14 this past year. Over the next five years, the agency would like to buy 513 F-35s, and ultimately have a fleet of 2,443.


Ok. So this time Lindsay Lohan and Samantha Ronson (seen here arguing on Valentine's Day) are broken up for reals and it looks like Sam is taking it very seriously.

US Weekly is reporting that Sam's mother and sister asked Beverly Hills police how they could obtain a retraining order three days after Lindsay was blocked from a family party.

"They were directed to the court to get a restraining order," Beverly Hills Sgt. Nutall tells the mag.

At a party honoring Samantha's twin sister, clothes designer Charlotte Ronson, at Bar Marmont on Friday security were told not to let Lindsay in if she showed.

Since then Lindsay has been Tweeting her little heart out and finally admitted to E! News that she and Sam have in fact split.

Sam means business though and has reportedly changed the locks on the house that LiLo has been crashing at for the last 6 months.

Yikes! So let's make a bet, does LiLo go back to Sam or back to men first?!

Chris Brown Pleads Not Guilty, Rihanna Wants Case to Move 'Quickly'

Rapper Chris Brown, as expected, pleaded not guilty on Monday to his alleged attack of pop singer girlfriend Rihanna

As expected, Chris Brown pleaded not guilty Monday evening in a Los Angeles court to beating his pop singer girlfriend Rihanna in February.

Brown faces two felony charges — "assault by means likely to produce great bodily injury" and making "criminal threats."

Rihanna reportedly laid low yesterday in her native Barbados, though her lawyer said she will testify if required by the court. The lawyer, Donald Etra, insisted that his client wants the case to move "quickly."

Brown is expected back in court on April 29.

Arabs Cheer Obama’s Speech To Muslim World

Protesters in Turkey

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Syria’s foreign minister praised President Barack Obama’s address to the Arab and Islamic world in Turkey, and many Arabs were cheered by the American leader’s promises to push for a Palestinian state.

On his first visit as president to a predominantly Islamic nation, Obama reached out to Arabs and Muslims in his Ankara address, saying the United States “is not and never will be at war with Islam.” He also spoke of the Arab-Israeli peace process, saying he will “actively pursue” the goal of creating a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

In an interview published Tuesday, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said Obama’s speech “reflects a clear attention toward the two-state solution.”

Obama and his teleprompter

Al-Moallem said Obama’s words were “important” and “positive.” But he hinted that Arabs expect Washington to pressure the new hard-line Israeli government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to accept the creation of a Palestinian state.

“We need to see how the United States will deal with an Israeli government representing the extreme right, and continues to reject the two-state solution,” al-Moallem told Lebanon’s As-Safir newspaper.

Netanyahu’s office on Monday issued a statement saying Israel would “work closely” with the U.S. on peace, but it avoided any mention of a two-state solution.

Syria is one of the big tests of the Obama administration’s attempts to strike a new tone in relations with Mideast nations. Obama’s predecessor George W. Bush sought to isolate Syria to force it to stop its support of militant groups like Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Palestinian Hamas and do more to prevent militants from entering Iraq.

The Obama administration has said it seeks a dialogue with Syria — as well as with Syria’s ally and Washington’s biggest regional rival, Iran. Damascus has appeared eager for better ties, hoping for an economic boost and U.S. mediation of peace talks with Israel, though it has shown little sign of being ready to cut its backing for militants.

More broadly, Obama’s visit to Turkey aimed to overcome widespread resentment in the region for what many saw as the Bush administration’s aggressive policies against Muslims and Arabs.

Top Arab satellite news networks Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya carried his speech to Turkey’s parliament Monday live, as well as a town hall meeting Obama held with Turkish students on Tuesday in which he said he wants to work with Muslims.

Lebanese columnist Rajeh Khoury said Obama’s visit to Turkey draws a “road map for the relationship between the West and Islam.”

Tareq Masarwah, a columnist in Jordan’s Al-Rai newspaper, pointed to the significance of Obama’s choosing Turkey — a mainly Muslim nation but with a strong secular tradition — as a nod to “moderate Islam.”

“Moderation is what we need to confront the extremism and the violence which has dominated Muslims the past three decades,” Masarwah said.

But, he said, “the sole bridge toward reconciliation is a Palestinian state.”

Though many Arabs were angered by the U.S. invasion of Iraq and other American policies in the region, the biggest dispute they most often cite is the Palestinian issue, and what they see as Washington’s bias toward Israel.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat welcomed Obama’s endorsement of a Palestinian state. “We hope that the Israeli government will understand that this is the only path to peace,” he told The Associated Press.

But Yehia Moussa, a lawmaker with the Hamas militant group, said “What’s important is not that he talks nicely, but what he does on the ground.”

“Until now we haven’t seen any positive actions on the Palestinian issue. He is repeating the same positions as Bush,” Moussa said.

Can Non-Profit Status Save the Newspaper Industry?

By Richard A. Lee

As the tough times for newspapers in New Jersey and across the nation continue so does the search for a new model that can resuscitate the industry.

Conventional wisdom says that newspapers need to find a way to make money now that their content is available for free on the internet. But what if the conventional wisdom is wrong?

“The crisis in journalism right now is primarily a crisis in for-profit journalism, because the sources of that profit have dried up,” Monika Bauerlein, a co-editor of the non-profit magazine Mother Jones, said in a New York Times article last month.

Bauerlein makes a good point. It is the business side of journalism that is suffering. Although the impact of this downturn has been devastating, good reporters and editors are still doing what they always have done best. Albeit under extremely trying conditions, today’s journalists are providing people with the news and information they need and they continue to serve as watchdogs over government and other powerful institutions.

But how can newspapers continue to provide quality journalism when the business side of the industry no longer is producing the revenue necessary to support the type of reporting the public needs? The answer may be to separate the business side of the industry from the journalism side and move to a non-profit model.

At first, the concept of news organizations operating as non-profits seems odd. And indeed it is. But the non-profit model is starting to attract attention.

Much of the attention has focused on ProPublica a non-profit corporation based in Manhattan that has been successfully producing investigative journalism pieces, which it then offers – at no cost -- to traditional news organizations for publication or broadcast.

On Capitol Hill, U.S. Senator Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.) has introduced a bill called the Newspaper Revitalization Act, which would allow newspapers to operate as non-profits, under the same 501(c)(3) status now granted to charitable organizations. Under the proposal, advertising and subscription revenue would be tax exempt and contributions to support coverage or operations could be tax deductible.

“As long as newspapers remain for-profit enterprises, they will find no refuge from their financial problems,” David Swensen, the chief investment officer at Yale University, wrote in a New York Times op-ed in January. “The advertising revenues that newspaper web sites generate are not enough to sustain robust news coverage.”

The concept has its skeptics, most of whom worry about newspapers losing their independence since non-profit status would place new restrictions on their operations, such as a prohibition on endorsing political candidates. There also are concerns about the likelihood of obtaining the large endowments that would be needed to fund news operations, especially in today’s economic climate. In addition, there is fear that even if large endowments are forthcoming, they will come with conditions and restrictions.

Nevertheless, could a switch to non-profit status rejuvenate any of New Jersey’s struggling newspapers?

That is a question best answered by the men and women who run our state’s newspapers. But New Jersey does have a track record of sorts in this area with New Jersey Network television, which features nightly newscasts about the Garden State. NJN is a part of state government and receives state funds every year, but it also relies on contributions to support its operations. The fact that NJN is funded by the same state government that its reporters cover has raised questions similar to those now being asked about non-profit news operations that would be funded by large endowments: Does the financial support come with any strings attached?

In NJN’s case, I have observed the station and its news operations for some 25 years – initially as fellow reporter and later as a staffer for the State Assembly and the Governor – and I do not believe its coverage has been swayed by the fact that it is part of state government. The truth of the matter is even privately owned news entities such as The Star-Ledger and The Asbury Park Press have corporate owners with wide varieties of business interests and priorities that have the potential to influence the content of their news pages.

It takes the commitment of good journalists to keep the potential of undue influence from becoming a reality. Their track record is not perfect, but it still is a pretty good one – perhaps good enough to take a chance on a non-profit model somewhere in New Jersey.

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Richard A. Lee is Communications Director of the Hall Institute of Public Policy – New Jersey. A former journalist and Deputy Communications Director for the Governor, he also teaches courses in media and government at Rutgers University, where he is completing work on a Ph.D. in media studies.