Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Following Tiger Into The Woods

By George E. Curry

(April 15, 2009) - I saw very little of Tiger Woods playing Sunday at the Masters tournament and that was enough to know that he was not out of the woods. Literally. One of his shots struck a tree on the 17th hole and another one hit a tree on the 18th. Of course, thousands of African Americans were deeply disappointed that Woods did not collect his second green jacket in Augusta.

The problem with placing so much faith in someone, even an athlete as great as Tiger Woods, is that it places unrealistic expectations on the athlete while simultaneously setting us up for certain heartbreak.

In 1997, we saw Tiger easily win the Masters. His embrace of his father was an emotional one. Tiger Mania exploded and we saw repeated replays of grainy video footage of Tiger playing golf at the age of two. Moreover, there were predictions that thousands of Black kids would follow suit, dominating golf in the same way African Americans dominate the National Basketball Association (NBA).

A recent Associated Press story minds us that change that has taken place in professional golf since Tiger’s victory 12 years ago has not been for the better.

“There were eight black players on tour in 1975, the year Lee Elder was the first black golfer in the Masters and the year Woods was born,” the article stated. “Now there is only Tiger.”

The AP story, written by Paul Newberry and Doug Ferguson, states: “Tiger was the greatest gift ever for the PGA Tour,’ said Orin Starn, who heads the cultural anthropology program at Duke University. ‘With him as its face, the PGA Tour didn’t have to deal with issues of diversity, or worrying about the tour looking like the rest of America. They could say, ‘See, the problem is fixed. We have an African-American who is No. 1 in the world.’ But the intractable problem still exists,” he said. ''If anything, it’s gotten worse.’”

Almost identical language is par for the course when discussing President Obama. Now that we’ve elected a Black president, the argument goes, there is no need to worry about affirmative action or any other race- or gender-sensitive programs designed to take into consideration centuries of blatant discrimination.

Let’s set the record straight. The majority of Whites voted against Obama. It was people of color – along with a White minority – that provided the crucial votes that allowed him to occupy the White House. Second, the election of a Black president does not signal any wholesale changes in political power.

There is still only one African American in the Senate, and he barely made it. Of the 535 members of the U.S. House and Senate, only 41 are Black, including non-voting delegates from Washington, D.C., and the Virgin Islands.

There are only two Black governors, one of whom ascended to office as a result of a scandal involving his predecessor. Only two Blacks have been elected governor in U.S. history, Doug Wilder in Virginia and Deval Patrick, the sitting governor of Massachusetts. So, we should be careful not to read too much into Obama’s victory. We should celebrate it, but not take a flight of fantasy.

Obama and Tiger Woods provide us with a teaching moment. Instead of risking a broken heart when Tiger Woods or any other African American loses a major competition, we should calmly keep our eyes on the larger picture.

As I have reported here before, the National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium has produced research that shows that although White men make up only 48 percent of the college-educated workforce, they hold 85 percent of the tenured college faculty positions, 86 percent of law firm partnerships, more than 90 percent of the top jobs in the news media, and 96 percent of CEO positions.

Obviously, the most important playing field is not the golf course.

Even on the golf course, there is the issue of Tiger Woods’ commitment to developing another generation of Tiger Woods.

The Associated Press story noted, “Woods started his own foundation in 1996. At first, he focused on junior golf to teach character development. It then evolved toward education, and he opened the Tiger

Woods Learning Center in 2006. It has never been his goal to find the next Tiger. ‘You either want it or you don’t. You can’t teach that…’ Woods said. ''His own experience with his father seems to suggest otherwise.

I don’t care if we never develop another Tiger Woods. We need to stop getting caught up in the accomplishments of a single African American and see what we can do for our entire community.

Rod Blagojevich wants to be on 'I'm a Celebrity'

Couple things about the news that former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich is joining NBC's summer reality show "I'm a Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here." First: Rod Blagojevich is a celebrity?

It's hard to argue with the idea that he's well-known. That's what happens when you're removed from office after being indicted on corruption and racketeering charges, among them an accusation that he tried to sell Barack Obama's vacated U.S. Senate seat to the highest bidder. But a celebrity? No, not even by the standards of this show, whose previous U.S. incarnation featured such luminaries as Melissa Rivers and Cris Judd.

Second, if Blagojevich is indicative of the type of celeb who's going to take part in the show, which premieres June 1 and will air several nights each week for four weeks, it might actually make me want to watch even less. I didn't think that was possible.

Before he can take part in the show, which will film in Costa Rica, Blagojevich has to get permission from his trial judge to loosen travel restrictions. He pleaded not guilty to all the charges against him at his arraignment on Tuesday.


NKorea marks late leader's birthday amid tensions

By JAE-SOON CHANG – 39 minutes ago

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Koreans bowed before statues of their late "Great Leader" and danced to honor his birthday as the regime kicked out international nuclear monitors and world leaders decried its decision to restart its atomic program.

Crowds of neatly dressed people and uniformed soldiers swarmed toward ubiquitous statues of the country's founding father with bouquets of flowers to pay homage to Kim Il Sung, who died 15 years ago, state TV showed.

North Koreans danced in unison during a massive state-choreographed performance under colorful beams of light.

"Unending adoration toward President Kim Il Sung is overflowing wherever (you) go in Pyongyang," the North's official Korean Central News Agency said.

Wednesday's celebrations came a day after North Korea declared it will restart its nuclear program, quit disarmament talks, and boot out international inspectors because the U.N. Security Council adopted a statement condemning its April 5 rocket launch.

The North says the rocket carried a satellite into space, and the U.N. censure against its "peaceful" space program is unjust. The U.S., South Korea and Japan say the launch was a test of long-range missile technology.

A diplomat from the International Atomic Energy Agency said Pyongyang expelled U.N. inspectors from its Yongbyon nuclear complex and removed all agency seals and surveillance cameras. The diplomat requested anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information.

U.S. State Department spokesman Robert Wood told reporters Wednesday that American officials who had been helping the North disable the Yongbyon nuclear plant were now making preparations to leave.

Wood said the expulsion was "a step backward" and further isolated the country from the outside world. "The North is going to have to deal with the consequences of such decisions," he said.

On Wednesday, Japan joined Russia and the U.S. in urging North Korea to return to disarmament talks involving the four nations, South Korea and China that yielded a 2007 pact calling for Pyongyang to dismantle its nuclear program in exchange for aid.

"Based on close cooperation with all countries involved, starting with the U.S., we want to demonstrate progress in the six-party talks," Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura said Wednesday in Tokyo.

Russia's chief nuclear envoy, Deputy Foreign Minister Alexei Borodavkin, said the "most important task" now is to restore the nuclear talks — not trying to impose heavier sanctions on Pyongyang for the rocket launch, according to the ITAR-Tass news agency.

There was no official North Korean response to the international criticism Wednesday.

Kim Il Sung's birthday is called the "Day of Sun" in North Korea and is one of the biggest national holidays, along with that of his son and current leader, Kim Jong Il.

The two Kims are the focus of an intense cult of personality in the nation of 24 million people. Their portraits hang in nearly every room, and many North Koreans wear small red lapel pins bearing the elder Kim's picture.

Kim Il Sung ruled North Korea for more than four decades until his death from heart failure in 1994. Known as the "Great Leader," he remains the country's "eternal president" even while his son now leads.

Senior Workers' Party members and military officials visited the Kumsusan Memorial Palace where Kim's embalmed body lies in state, KCNA said.

For weeks, North Korea has been leading up to the anniversary with film and music festivals, athletic competitions, art exhibitions and a flower show featuring the late founder's namesake "kimilsungia" orchid.

In a highly unusual move, two Christian bands from the U.S. — the Nashville, Tennessee-based classical-fusion Annie Moses Band and Grammy Award-winning Casting Crowns — were among musicians performing Wednesday at an international festival showcasing dancers, acrobats and musicians.

"We are there to demonstrate respect for the people and continue to establish relationships," Mark Hall, lead singer for Casting Crowns, said in a statement last week, ahead of a trip to the communist nation, long criticized for not allowing religious freedom.

It is rare for an American band to play in North Korea, one of the world's most isolated nations that puts heavy restrictions on Western pop culture. But the New York Philharmonic performed in Pyongyang last year — a short-lived sign of goodwill between the two countries.

** Christie Scandal Watch ** Christie Scandal Watch ** Christie Scandal Watch **


Philadelphia Inquirer
Christie fund-raiser benefited from prior contractby Angela Delli Santi

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

TRENTON , N.J. - A week after the Republican front-runner in the New Jersey governor's race said he'd reject all future campaign donations from lawyers to whom he gave no-bid contracts as U.S. attorney, he was scheduled to attend a $500-a-plate fundraiser hosted by a lawyer involved in one of the oversight deals.

Christopher Christie's campaign hoped to raise $100,000 during the Tuesday night fundraiser co-hosted by John P. Inglesino, a lawyer with Stern & Kilcullen. The Roseland law firm's principal, Herb Stern, was picked by Christie to settle Medicare fraud claims at the state's medical and dental school, and Inglesino was Stern's chief counsel for the monitoring work in a contract that earned the firm $3 million.

Neither Christie nor Inglesino returned phone messages for comment Tuesday. …

Christie made that pledge after facing repeated questions over donations to his campaign by Stern, Inglesino, another partner and their wives, amounting to $23,800. After 2-to-1 state matching funds were allotted, the gifts turned into $71,400.

Christie said then he would end the campaign ‘distraction’ by refusing future contributions from monitors. However, he said he had no plans to return the gifts he'd already gotten from the six contributors, which amounted to the maximum amount allowed by law.
The refusal to give the money back prompted renewed charges from Democrats that Christie was engaging in pay-to-play, the practice of giving government contracts to political donors. …


Dear Fellow Americans,

It is imperative that we do something concrete regarding our "bleeding borders." Businesses that have an enlightened interest in employing the "cheap labor" of illegal immigrants from Mexico, like corporate farmers in California and elsewhere in our land, are too much blinded by their short-term profit-making objectives to understand the greater long-term dangers we face, such as importation of drugs across our borders and criminal activity by illegal immigrants on a rampage "to make a living." And if "to our shame," we declare to "have a need" for "illegal immigrants" to perform work that Americans themselves, will not, such as picking strawberries and watermelons in California, then let there be appropriate legislation to grant work permits to law-abiding workers, before they, even out of desperation, entertain crossing the border illegally. Are these "illegal immigrants" really performing only "jobs Americans don't want?" How about American workers whose regular jobs went to "illegal immigrants" hired at a lower wage!

THE AMERICAN LANDMASS IS NOT LIMITLESS. Our population is already 300 million and it is not in our place to advocate Malthusian measures of so-called "population control." For, our Declaration of Independence states that we are created equal, that our Creator endowed us with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Therefore, life, is the first inalienable right. These self-evident truths are unquestionably universal. However, our borders are already lawfully delineated. The United States of America is bounded, in the North, by Canada; in the South, by Mexico; in the East, by the Atlantic Ocean; and in the West, by the Pacific Ocean. America cannot hold the world's population within its borders; it's too small for that. Though we are "a nation of immigrants," we cannot continue to absorb illegal immigrants just because they are motivated by the need to improve their economic condition. Let's not flatter ourselves to the point of foolish impracticability! They could prosper in their own nation, were the social conditions there, conducive to lawfully acquired domestic good fortune. We, ourselves, must have appropriate legislation to respectively assist those already working here in remaining law-abiding residents, with options of legal residency, as well as the opportunity to apply for American citizenship in due time. But the borders must be sealed permanently, except for legal activity as necessitated by trade and commerce. Border security personnel have discovered that even vehicles that are allowed to enter the United States legally, from Mexico, carry illicit drugs camouflaged within the legal cargo, for example, bales of marijuana hidden within tomato boxes.

In the mean time, we must continue to attend to the border that separates the United States from Mexico. The wall must be completed, and then must remain guarded. This is not xenophobia; this is a matter of national security and common sense realization that our geographical resources are not unlimited. Land is yearly set aside for residential development, agricultural farming, industrial and business building projects, government or public structures etc... Human beings must have space to carry out their activities of daily national living, be it residential, business, industrial, non-profit, or public space. But land-space is a limited resource confronting every nation. For example, Mexico itself, carefully watches over its Southern border with Central America. We do have legal borders. And each nation has a constructive interest in protecting entry to its land-mass, as well as providing legal means by which non-citizens can access land within its borders. We even devise legal means to protect our air-space above the limited land-mass.

The solution to illegal immigration is four-fold. We must,

1) Lawfully protect our borders from illegal intrusion, illegal assault, illegal invasion and illegal entry, on the South and on the North, on the East and on the West:

a. by finishing erection of the Southern wall between the United States and Mexico that we already began; and

b. by legally guarding its extended expanse, between Mexico and the United States.

c. We must also remain vigilant in overseeing and guarding our borders with Canada, not forgetting the work of the Coast Guard on the Atlantic and Pacific coastlines that are "routes of choice" for maritime drug smugglers.

2) Assist Mexico and other nations in developing elected, representative governments to become democratic republics, so that their citizens will benefit from a lawful and free environment that will allow them to prosper within their own borders, by their own domestic economic activities, and from their own creative capacities for discovery, invention, and productivity.

3) Help nations from which the greater number of illegal immigrants originate, develop legislative approaches to their domestic and social problems, in order to prevent the emergence of "refugees" seeking political asylum, and in order to facilitate the establishment of free market principles regarding production structures, commercial institutions, trade organizations, financial mechanisms, fiscal instruments and monetary policies.

4) Engage these nations in an open, international manner, through constructive policy contributions by the American citizenry, resulting in agreed-upon treaties with the advice and consent of the Senate.

In sum, the federal government of the United States of America cannot continue to "muddle through" the illegal immigration problem. Every administration for the past thirty years, since "the Mariana Boat Lifts," has had ample time to face this issue in a lawful, constructive way that would protect our genuine interests in resolving this problem in a just manner that secures our human and civil rights, as well as the human and civil rights of potentially adversarial parties who would challenge us in this matter to their own disadvantage. For, every nation fiercely guards and protects its own borders as a matter of right. And all nations are expected to unquestionably do so. Therefore, none of their nationals would qualify in imputing blame or guilt to us, for desiring to lawfully do so ourselves. It is a matter of national sovereignty and civil national defense.

For, if we do not reckon with this problem now, it will blow up in our faces as a national crisis, in the same manner that Congressional escape from legislative responsibility regarding slavery resulted in a Civil War that cost thousands of lives, including the life of our beloved President Abraham Lincoln. In addition, we remember that American military forces did have to invade Mexico before, in order to deal with border excursions of "Pancho Villa" and acts of invasive vandalism by his band of mercenaries. God forbid we should wait for a national crisis to react in that manner! Yet Americans have an inalienable constitutional right to act in prevention of a foreboding disaster, due to Congressional dereliction of duty in the face of a real dilemma "crying out" for a proper resolution. For, national crises tend to lead to rash actions rooted in panic. But preparedness tends to lead to legal actions that proceed from reasoned judgment anchored in the spirit and letter of law.

God bless you and God bless the United States of America in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Sincerely, Leo Emmanuel Lochard

Iran 'to propose nuclear package'

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says Iran has prepared proposals aimed at resolving his country's nuclear dispute with the West.

The Iranian leader said his proposals would be revealed soon

Speaking in southern Iran, Mr Ahmadinejad said that the package would ensure "peace and justice" for the world.

It would be offered to the West soon, he said, but gave no further details.

Iran says its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes, but has been accused of seeking nuclear weapons by critics.

Tehran has continued to enrich uranium despite lengthy negotiations in recent years with major powers and despite the imposition of sanctions by the UN Security Council.

Last month US President Barack Obama used a video message to offer "a new beginning" to Iran, triggering some conciliatory signs from Tehran, correspondents say.

Earlier this week it appeared to welcome an offer of talks from the US, Russia, China, France, UK and Germany on its nuclear programme.

'Respects rights'

Mr Ahmadinejad's speech was carried live on television, as he visited Kerman in the south of Iran.

"We have prepared a package that can be the basis to resolve Iran's nuclear problem. It will be offered to the West soon," he said.

"This new package will ensure peace and justice for the world. It respects rights of all nations," he said.

The BBC's John Leyne in Tehran says this might sound like a peace initiative in Iran, responding to the recent overtures from Mr Obama, but it is unlikely to be seen that way in Western capitals.

It is more a case of Iran trying to take the diplomatic initiative in this long-running dispute.

Iran has already made it clear it is not prepared to compromise on its nuclear programme, or bow to Western demands.

So it looks as if Iran is likely to offer a repeat of proposals it put forward last year, our correspondent says.

At that time, Iran's ideas were not taken seriously by Western negotiators, as all Iran seemed to be offering was endless talks, while it continued its nuclear programme unhindered.

What was Quentin Tarantino doing on 'American Idol'?

After a couple mentor-free weeks on "American Idol," the competition gave the contestants another guest coach this week -- Quentin Tarantino.

Wait, what? What's a movie director doing telling people how to sing? (Aside from promoting his upcoming film "Inglourious Basterds," [sic]that is. We got a couple of clips from filming, but the movie's title was never actually mentioned. What up, FOX censors?)
Given the night's theme -- songs from movies -- the care with which he chooses songs for his movies and his own self-professed "Idol" fandom, though, Tarantino was a pretty decent choice. Tuesday, in fact, was his second "Idol" appearance; he previously served as a guest judge during season three. Here's a sample of what he was like as a judge back in 2004:

Tarantino's advice to the top seven wasn't all that technical, but it seemed relatively sound for the most part. We just wish he could have dissuaded Anoop and Matt from singing Bryan Adams songs.

Jamie Foxx makes crude radio rant on Miley Cyrus

Jamie Foxx launched a crude attack on teen sensation Miley Cyrus on his Sirius satellite radio show, saying: "Make a sex tape and grow up!" It's not clear when the comments were made. But the insults began flying after someone brought up the 16-year-old's recent feud with Radiohead after Cyrus wasn't allowed to hang out with the band after the Grammys.

Foxx is heard saying: "Who is Miley Cyrus? The one with all the gums? She need to get a gum transplant!"

He also says: "Make a sex tape and grow up!"

A woman is heard calling Cyrus the b-word.

There's been no comment from representatives for Cyrus or the 41-year-old actor, who is the father of a teenage daughter.

Isiah Thomas takes FIU coaching job

While growing up in Serbia, Florida International forward Nikola Gacesa often heard his father talk about the way Isiah Thomas played basketball.

"He is a big fan," Gacesa said.

Gacesa will soon have his own stories to tell: Thomas is back in coaching, accepting an offer from FIU to revive his career and their program.

Ending a whirlwind courtship, Thomas and FIU agreed on a five-year contract Tuesday — an out-of-nowhere deal that gives the former Knicks coach and president a chance to restore the reputation he built as a Hall of Fame player and tarnished through a series of embarrassments in New York.

"I'm committed to growing something here, and strongly believe that over time, we'll put a team on the floor that everyone at FIU can be proud of," Thomas said.

Thomas helped the Detroit Pistons win two NBA championships as one of the all-time great point guards, then coached the Indiana Pacers before taking over in New York, where an array of problems marred his tenure.

Nonetheless, FIU moved quickly to lock up its top choice for the job.

"I know he is a good person," FIU athletic director Pete Garcia said. "Isiah is going to give our fans and alumni a lot of reasons to be excited."

In New York, Thomas endured legal and personal troubles off the court, and more losses than wins on it. His Knicks were 23-59 last season, prompting a firing many fans had long awaited. The Knicks never won a playoff game in his tenure as president or coach.

Knicks president Donnie Walsh, who fired Thomas, wished him luck at FIU.

"I think it's a great thing for him and it's kind of what I wanted for him from the day I let him go," Walsh said.

It was more than losses that doomed Thomas in New York.

In 2007, a jury ordered Knicks owner Madison Square Garden to pay $11.6 million to a former team executive who alleged she was sexually harassed by Thomas, who continually maintained his innocence and was never found personally liable.

This past October, there was more drama.

Officers responded to Thomas' New York-area home after a 911 call reported someone had overdosed on sleeping pills. According to police reports, officers found a man passed out and gave him oxygen until an ambulance arrived.

Authorities never publicly identified Thomas as the victim, but a person familiar with the case confirmed to the AP that it was Thomas.

Still, Thomas' hiring at FIU quickly became a galvanizing story in South Florida.

"This is bigger than basketball and bigger than athletics," said FIU president Modesto A. Maidique. "Having a nationally recognized coach like Isiah at FIU will have a positive impact on our university as a whole, helping us achieve additional national exposure."

With Thomas — whose career record in the NBA was 187-223 (including three playoff seasons with the Pacers) — on board, national exposure is certain.

"It's a testament to the direction of FIU athletics," Golden Panthers football coach Mario Cristobal said. "It's a great thing. There's tremendous amounts of excitement here."

Thomas will face some immediate challenges: FIU went 13-20 this past season, its third 20-loss campaign in four years, and has not posted a winning record since 1999-2000. He'll need to move quickly on filling some roster slots, since the spring signing period for Division I players starts Wednesday.

"If you really think about it, some of these kids that are coming out of AAU that are going to go to college for one year, that's a pretty good sell," Walsh said. "'Come down to Miami, spend a year with me.' I think he's positioned to do well with recruiting there."

Miami Heat center Jermaine O'Neal, who played for Thomas at Indiana, said the coach deserved a new opportunity.

"He's a motivator and a teacher and he has some skills that really fit the college level," O'Neal said. "He can take people and make them feel like they have a chance to be anything they want in life."

Thomas replaces Sergio Rouco, who was reassigned Monday after posting a losing record in each of his five seasons as coach.

Thomas' hiring brings another coach with strong New York ties to the Sun Belt Conference's schools in South Florida: Former St. John's coach Mike Jarvis just completed his first year at Florida Atlantic, about an hour north of FIU in Boca Raton.

"I think it is a great day for the league, to be very honest with you," Jarvis said. "Anything that will help bring real media attention to the league, it helps. It helps with recruiting, it helps with perceptions that people have."

Wood Selig, the athletic director at Western Kentucky, said he was "shocked."

"It is quite a coup for FIU," Selig said.

Thomas spent his entire NBA playing career with the Pistons, appeared in 11 All-Star games and was the MVP of the 1990 NBA finals, when Detroit won its second straight title.

His new players, Gacesa said, couldn't be more thrilled.

"It's an incredible feeling," Gacesa said. "I think we're still realizing how big this is for us. We still don't realize how big this is, how much knowledge and skills he can offer us and how much he can help us take this school to another level, take this school to where we are supposed to be."

The Beckham of boxing?

By Alex Trickett of the UK

On this side of the Atlantic, I have sometimes heard Oscar de la Hoya referred to as the 'David Beckham of Boxing'. The comparison is never meant to be flattering.

De la Hoya, say his critics, was a triumph of style over substance; a cynical money-making machine (boxing historian Bert Sugar calls him the sport's "ATM"); a great brand, but not a great boxer. Beckham is familiar with such accusations, although the AC Milan midfielder, who's every bit as pretty as the 'Golden Boy', probably dismisses them as envy.

Another charge often laid against Beckham is that he's come up short on the biggest stage: five major tournaments for England and outshone at all of them. De la Hoya, too, was found wanting in many of his biggest engagements.

Pernell Whitaker made him look wretched, he squeaked by Ike Quartey, he threw away the decision against Felix Trinidad, the judges robbed Felix Sturm. He fared well against Floyd Mayweather Jr, but he was demolished by Bernard Hopkins and made to look pathetic by Manny Pacquiao in his last fight last December.

True, De la Hoya won world titles in six different divisions, but it is difficult to make a case for him being all-time top-10 in any of them. Perhaps at welterweight, but with the likes of Ray Robinson, Ray Leonard, Tommy Hearns and Henry Armstrong as competition, he's hardly a shoo-in.

Furthermore, there were some Mexican fans (De la Hoya, although born in Los Angeles, was intensely proud of his Mexican heritage) who considered him slightly effete, an affront to the tradition of blood-and-guts fighters as epitomised by their beloved Julio Cesar Chavez, who De la Hoya beat twice.

But an Olympic and 10-time world champion deserves more than mean-spirited nit-picking, and the fact is De la Hoya was the most popular boxer of his age: 19 pay-per-view broadcasts in the United States, 14.1 million buys, $700m in revenue. That's a lot of people who think he's great, even if some of the beard-strokers disagree.

It should also not be forgotten that while De la Hoya didn't always come out on top in his biggest matches, at least he was always involved in the biggest matches. Quite simply, De la Hoya fought them all.

For much of De la Hoya's career, he acted as boxing's life support machine, providing regular spikes when many assumed the sport had flatlined. As recently as 2007, he and Mayweather set the boxing pay-per-view record with 2.5 million buys.

"As an attraction I don't see any way he could have been bigger," said Bob Arum, who promoted De la Hoya for much of his career. "He was huge. He was the attraction in boxing, certainly after Mike Tyson."

At least De la Hoya, unlike most fighters when they hang 'em up, has something to throw himself into, namely his own company, Golden Boy Promotions, now the most powerful in its field. Ricky Hatton's clash with Pacquiao on 2 May will now benefit from De la Hoya's undivided attention.

De la Hoya may not, like Beckham, have been the greatest. But, like Beckham, he mixed it with the best, achieved great things and was an upstanding ambassador for his sport.

"I am firm on this decision," said De la Hoya on Tuesday. "I'm convinced I'll never, ever come back." Unlike Beckham, guilty of making an ill-judged exit when he still had much to give, De la Hoya's got his timing right. Unlike Beckham, let's hope there'll be no U-turns.

French warship captures pirates

A French warship has captured 11 pirates off the coast of Kenya, amid calls for the international community to deal with the problem of piracy.

The pirates were captured by a warship from an EU piracy patrol, hours after a failed attack on a US ship.

News of the incidents came as the UN special envoy for Somalia said the attacks threatened international peace.

He urged financial backers of the "bandits", as he called them, to be identified and held accountable.

The latest attack involved pirates firing rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons at a US-flagged cargo ship, the Liberty Sun, which was carrying food aid for Africa.

'Mother ship'

The French Defence Ministry said the warship Nivose captured the pirates about 550 miles (900km) east of the Kenyan port of Mombasa.

It had detected a "mother ship", or command vessel, on Tuesday, and observed it overnight before launching an assault early on Wednesday, the ministry said.

An attack on a Liberian-registered vessel was also thwarted, the ministry added.

The Nivose is part of the European Union's operation to protect shipping in the Gulf of Aden.

Despite several anti-piracy patrols, there has been an increase in attacks in the past few days, with four ships seized and others attacked.

The United Nations special envoy for Somalia, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, said the attacks were threatening international peace.

In a BBC interview, he also called for help for poor Somalis themselves, many of whom were being exploited by the pirates.

Lawyer for Mumbai attack suspect dismissed

The state-appointed lawyer for the Pakistani suspect charged in last year's Mumbai terror attacks was barred from representing him Wednesday because of a conflict of interest, a special judge said moments before the trial was to begin.

Trial judge M.L. Tahiliyani said lawyer Anjali Waghmare had failed to disclose that she had also represented a witness injured in the attacks in a compensation claim case.

Tahiliyani said he would appoint a new lawyer for the suspect, Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, but the development would delay the opening of the much-anticipated trial.

"I don't want to appoint a junior or raw lawyer for him," he said.

Police say Kasab was the only gunman captured during the November attacks in Mumbai, which left 164 people dead. He could face the death penalty if he is convicted of 12 criminal counts, including murder and waging war against India.

Kasab stood barefoot in the courtroom, dressed in a gray T-shirt and blue Adidas pants, his hair shaggy and his beard scruffy. In his first public appearance, he chatted and chuckled with his co-defendants, Faheem Ansari and Sabauddin Ahmed, both Indian nationals charged with helping plot the attacks.

Kasab also asked judge Tahiliyani to get him a Pakistani lawyer, to which the judge replied that a similar request from him had already been forwarded to the Pakistani consulate without any reply.

"Please try one more time," Kasab asked Tahiliyani, to which the judge replied, "OK."

The court will meet Thursday morning to decide on Kasab's legal defense, the judge said.

Preparations have been made for the trial to begin in a special bombproof courtroom set up in the central Mumbai jail where Kasab is being held.

A sea of khaki-clad police and special forces wielding assault rifles surrounded the courthouse Wednesday in an unprecedented show of security. Reporters covering the trial were fingerprinted, issued two special passes, searched three times — and offered pens because they were not allowed to bring their own.

The trial has already faced several delays as security arrangements were made.

India has blamed the Mumbai attacks on Lashkar-e-Taiba, an Islamist militant group widely believed to have been created by Pakistani intelligence agencies in the 1980s to fight Indian rule in the divided Kashmir region.

Pakistani officials have acknowledged that the attacks were partly plotted on their soil and announced criminal proceedings against eight suspects. They have also acknowledged that Kasab is a Pakistani national.

Indian police have also filed charges against two Indian citizens suspected of aiding the attackers.

Germany hopes for quick decision on Demjanjuk

Berlin - The German government hoped Wednesday for a swift decision on the fate of alleged Nazi war criminal John Demjanjuk, hours after a last-minute US court ruling temporarily blocked his deportation to Germany.

A spokesman for the German justice ministry said Wednesday they were prepared for an imminent decision, although they had 'no updated information' over the internal US deportation process, which he said Germany was not involved in.

German officials would become involved from the minute Demjanjuk set foot on German soil, the spokesman added.

The US Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, Ohio, granted Demjanjuk's stay Tuesday, hours after federal agents removed the 89-year-old from his home in the Cleveland suburb of Seven Hills in anticipation of sending him to Germany.

Demjanjuk's lawyers argue that he is too ill to stand trial and that his medical condition would worsen in incarceration.

The president of Dachau concentration camp memorial site, Max Mannheimer, expressed disappointment Wednesday at the delay.

'I don't think it's acceptable, because he had no pity with the victims,' Mannheimer said, adding, 'We don't want revenge, but justice.'

German authorities allege that the Ukrainian-born Demjanjuk, then 23, worked from March-September 1943 as a guard in Poland at Sobibor concentration camp, where at least 29,000 Jews died during that time.

Prosecutors in Munich issued an arrest warrant for him three weeks ago.