Monday, April 27, 2009

California on alert as swine flu death toll increases in Mexico

LOS ANGELES, April 27 — Public health officials in California on Sunday warned of the potential for a swine flu pandemic as the death toll of the disease increased in Mexico and cases cropped up in the United States.

A total of seven cases have been reported so far in California, with four in San Diego County and three in Imperial County, officials said.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has opened an emergency operations center, where public health officials are monitoring the progress of the virus and coordinating their response with CDC officials.

The latest victim in California, a 35-year-old woman diagnosed April 4, has since fully recovered, reports said.

Meanwhile, two other cases have been reported in Kansas and three in Texas. Scientists believe what makes the outbreak different is that the disease spreads this time through human-to- human contact, rather than human-to-pig contact.

No swine-flu-related deaths have been reported in the United States, but the outbreak has been much worse in Mexico, where more than 1,300 people are believed to have been infected, and 81 related deaths reported.

Mexico City, capital of the country, has been reportedly virtually shut down in an attempt to stop the flu's spread, and many of the city's 20 million people have taken to wearing surgical masks.

Health officials said containing the outbreak is unlikely as an effective vaccine has not been developed so far for the swine flu virus.

The World Health Organization declared the outbreak a "public health emergency of international concern," but said it was too early to predict whether a pandemic would occur. (PNA/Xinhua)

Gavin Hood on X-Men Origins: Wolverine

If you downloaded the pirated copy of X-Men Origins: Wolverine online, you really hurt Gavin Hood’s feelings. The director worked really hard on the movie and now you’re judging the work before it’s even done. For those of you waiting to see the finished film in theaters, Gavin Hood gives you a high five.

Gavin Hood on X-Men Origins: Wolverine
“The reaction seems to be positive,” Hood said. “It was a huge shock, for all of us, when someone stole the movie. It would be like me reaching out to you guys and grabbing your notebooks right now and saying, ‘You know, I’m just going to publish whatever you’ve written, right now. I know you’re not done yet, but we’ll just shove it out there and see what people think of your work.’ Any piece of work is molded and shaped and, finally, you feel ready to offer it to the public, knowing that you will be judged on that piece of work. So, I’m thrilled that it’s finally out there in the form that we wanted it to be, on a big screen, and thank you for coming to see it on a big screen.”

Origins is the first devoted Wolverine film, but Hood had to follow three hugely successful X-Men. “Coming into a franchise that’s done as well as this franchise has done is obviously, at some level, a little intimidating. I think I was lucky that this is a prequel and not a sequel because, in that sense, if you’ve never seen any of the other X-Men movies, you can still go to this movie and enjoy it because this is the beginning and, hopefully, then you’ll go and see the others. At the same time, I don’t think a director consciously says, ‘I want to do something stylistically different.’ By and large, directors don’t really know how to do something other than the way it comes to us.”

Hood’s way was twofold. “It seemed to me that there was an opportunity here to do two things. There was the opportunity to deliver the expected spectacle: the action, the energy and all of that wonderful eye-candy, great stuff. But also, there was an opportunity to do something that was really character driven and work with, ironically, very human emotion, in what is an otherwise great big, mythic, comic book story. Really, what I wanted to be sure we did, and Hugh very much wanted this too, when he first spoke to me, was to make sure that people really attached to the character. I think it would be very easy, and there certainly was a moment for me, to be caught up in the visual effects and the action and let that overwhelm you, and forget that the most important thing, at the end of the day, for me, when making a film, is still that moment when I’ve got a long lens on an actor’s close-up, with any one of the actors. That’s when I’m at my most focused because, if you don’t crack that moment behind the eyes, where those reactions are just not melodramatic or goofy, and they just somehow attack that moment perfectly, all of the special effects in the world aren’t going to save you. So, I’m very proud of the performances by the actors, and I thank Hugh for getting me involved in this. I had a great time.”

Jackman didn’t need much direction in his fourth go-round as Wolverine, but one scene did require special signals. “For me, it was trying to figure out how to direct Hugh Jackman when he couldn’t listen to a single thing I said. Hugh was submerged in that tank and he goes through a range of emotions. He enters the tank fairly nervous, but calm. He sees spinning needles coming down into his body and he goes through this period of escalation where his heart rate goes crazy and he freaks out. Then, he dies. There was a lot he had to remember, as we were going along. Then, he hears someone saying he might erase his memory, and he starts to come around and then he snaps out of the tank, roars up and he is the Wolverine that everybody has been wanting to see. It’s the best shot in the movie. So, I had to figure out how we were going to do it because he couldn’t hear a thing I was saying. We experimented with this underwater speaker that they assured me was going to work, but Hugh was hearing nothing. It was a total disaster. He couldn’t just do it by himself, unfortunately, even though we’d figured out these steps, because the cameras were moving. So, we had a very advance technique for that particular scene, where I rolled up my sleeves, stuck my hand in the tank, held onto his big toe and explained to him that one grab of the toe is the moment when the procedure begins. By the time I get down to the baby toe, I’m going to yank that thing and that’s when you come roaring out of the tank. We had this whole system worked out and then he screwed it up. I’d be on toe three and he’d think it was toe two, and he’d come roaring out. I’d be like, ‘How long do you want to stay under the water for?’”

X-Men Origins: Wolverine opens to theaters on April 29th.

Holy Land preparing for Pope Benedict XVI’s apostolic visit

Jerusalem, Israel, Apr 27, 2009 / 01:19 pm (CNA).- Painters, workers and archeologists are among those making the final preparations for Pope Benedict XVI’s first visit to the Holy Land, which will take place May 8-15.

According to the EFE news agency, workers are busy painting the door frames and checking the drywall at the Upper Room. The Church of the Holy Sepulcher will also be closed in the coming days for preparations. At Mount Precipice, workers are building the platform from which the Pope will address thousands outside Nazareth.

There will be “three local choirs, one Maronite, one Melchite and one Latin, and at least one reading will be sung according to the Eastern Rite” during the May 14 Mass at Mount Precipice, said Fr. Ricardo Bustos of the Shrine of the Annunciation.

Rafi Ben Hur, the General Director of the Israeli Ministry of Tourism, said, “We estimate that between 15 and 20 thousand pilgrims will come during the Pope’s visit, and that his visit will boost the number of pilgrims who visit the rest of the year to 200,000.”

John Seligman, an archeologist with the Israel Antiquities Authority, who is charged with renovating the Upper Room, said the arrival of Benedict XVI “is a great opportunity to show the most important places of Christianity. We have cleaned the walls, repaired the bricks and patched the drywall, which was falling apart, so that the place will be presentable for the Pope’s visit.”

Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Custodian of the Holy Land, said the Pope’s visit shows that “despite the misunderstandings, the relationship with the Jewish world and the Muslim world are very important both for the Catholic Church and for the Pope personally.”

Israel will invest more than nine million dollars in renovating the places that will be visited by Pope Benedict XVI.

Verizon, Apple May Be Close To iPhone Deal

AT&T would likely be aggressive in retaining the exclusive deal with Apple, however, because it has successfully poached numerous subscribers from rivals before.

Apple and Verizon (NYSE: VZ) Wireless are in "high-level" talks about breaking AT&T (NYSE: T)'s exclusivity regarding the popular iPhone, according to a report by USA Today.

Citing people familiar with the situation, the report said the iPhone could potentially find its way onto Verizon's networks as early as next year. The move would give Apple access to about 80 million new Verizon customers, and it would enable Verizon to stem the tide of subscribers defecting to AT&T to nab Apple's touch-screen smartphone.

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A prototype of a consumer EEG system maps brain activity to control applications or avatars. AT&T reportedly has a five-year agreement to be the sole U.S. provider of Apple's touch-screen smartphone; many industry insiders say that agreement is set to expire in 2010. The mobile operator wants to extend that deal because the iPhone has been a boon for AT&T, and it has successfully poached numerous customers from Verizon, Sprint Nextel, and T-Mobile. These iPhone customers also bring in higher average revenue per user because they have to sign a long-term contract with a mobile data package.
Forrester Research analyst Charles Golvin said AT&T would likely be aggressive in retaining the exclusive deal with Apple.

"It looked like half of AT&T's net new subscribers last quarter were iPhone customers, and that's really significant," said Golvin. "It speaks to the power of the device, and I think they'd be willing to invest in it. Of course, there's always a point where the numbers no longer work."

There are some technological issues to overcome if a deal takes place, though, as Verizon's network uses CDMA technology and Apple has only created phones capable of using GSM technology. While changing to CDMA may not be that challenging on its own, a CDMA device essentially only has a market in the United States because the majority of carriers around the globe use GSM.

It's possible the talks are about creating an iPhone that utilizes the next generation of mobile broadband. Verizon plans to roll out its 4G network based on Long Term Evolution technology next year, and the 4G technology will be the standard for the majority of carriers around the world.

There could be some philosophical differences between the two companies as well, as both like to have a lot of control over the experience of their products. Apple reportedly peddled the original iPhone to Verizon years ago, but the carrier bristled at not being able to put its stamp on the device with Verizon branding and Verizon-specific software. In contrast, AT&T has almost no interaction with iPhone customers beyond the billing.

"The companies will definitely have differences, but I would have said the same about Apple and AT&T," Golvin said. "Like any deal, it's going to come down to money."

Apple has a lot more leverage than it did three years ago when it only had the ill-fated Motorola Rokr on its mobile resume. The iPhone has sold about 20 million units worldwide since its release, and its App Store has brought mobile applications to the forefront.

5 in Congress arrested at Darfur protest

Five members of Congress were arrested outside the Sudanese Embassy in Washington Monday as they demonstrated against the situation in Darfur.

Hundreds of thousands of people have died in Darfur in western Sudan in what the U.S. State Department has described as genocide.

The protesters spoke out against the general situation in Darfur and Sudan's expulsion of outside relief agencies.

A spokesman for Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Md., told The Hill that the five and organizers of the protest from the Save Darfur Coalition crossed a Secret Service perimeter around the embassy and ignored three warnings to leave the property. They were expected to be fined for a misdemeanor and released.

Members of Congress arrested were Edwards; Jim McGovern, D-Mass.; John Lewis, D-Ga., a veteran of the civil rights movement in the 1960s; Keith Ellison, D-Minn., the only Muslim member of Congress, and Lynn Woolsey, D-Calif.

Also arrested were Jerry Fowler, coalition president; John Prendergast, co-founder of the Enough Project, and Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.

Anticipating arrest, Edwards and her colleagues hired a defense lawyer, Laura Rhodes, before the protest, the Edwards spokesman said.

Clinton tells nations US acting on climate change

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told representatives from 16 major world economies Monday that the United States is moving quickly to address global warming.

At an international forum on energy and climate change organized by President Barack Obama, Clinton said the U.S. no longer doubts the urgency or magnitude of the problem.

"The United States is fully engaged and ready to lead and determined to make up for lost time both at home and abroad," Clinton said at the start of the two-day meeting. "The United States is no longer absent without leave."

The Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate Change was announced in March by Obama and includes the countries responsible for 75 percent of the global emissions of heat-trapping gases. Its goal is to lay the groundwork for an international agreement to curb climate-changing pollution by December.

That's when delegates from 175 countries will meet in Copenhagen, Denmark, to forge a new treaty to replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012. The Kyoto Protocol required 37 countries to cut emissions by a total of 5 percent by 2012.

During President George W. Bush's tenure, the United States refused to take part in the Kyoto regime, calling it unfair since it made no demands on rapidly developing economies like China and India.

Outside the State Department on Monday, police shut down a street and arrested seven Greenpeace activists for unlawful entry. Two of the environmentalists had climbed a construction crane and hung a 600-square-foot banner with an image of Earth that read: "Too big to fail. Stop global warming, rescue the planet."

Clinton referred to the fragile planet when she told leaders that the U.S. was "working tirelessly" to ensure that this time there would be a successful outcome. But she acknowledged that there is no sense in negotiating an agreement if it will not have a practical impact in reducing emissions, meaning developing countries such as India and China will have to be included.

"Of course each economy represented here is different. And some, like mine, is responsible for past emissions, some for quickly growing present emissions," she said. "But people everywhere have a legitimate aspiration for a higher standard of living. We want people to have a higher standard of living. We just hope we can work together in a way to avoid the mistakes that we made that have created a large part of the problem that we face today."

As evidence that the U.S. was taking action, Clinton cited the recent finding by the Environmental Protection Agency that six greenhouse gases pose threats to human health and welfare.

Calling it "a decisive break with past policy," Clinton said the ruling opened the door to tighter regulations on tailpipe emissions from cars and trucks. But those regulations will take time.

Another Obama initiative — new legislation setting mandatory limits on greenhouse gases — is meeting stiff resistance in Congress, where House Republicans and moderate Democrats are concerned about the cost. That bill will be the primary mechanism for the U.S. to reduce emissions and will set the targets necessary to negotiate and follow through on an agreement.

At the last major meeting on a new climate treaty in Bonn earlier this month, little progress was made on two key issues: the carbon emissions targets to be adopted by rich countries and how to raise an estimated $100 billion a year to help poor countries adapt to climate change.

Developing countries want industrial nations to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases by at least 40 percent from 1990 levels by 2020. The Obama administration has called for a 14 percent reduction from 2005 levels by 2020. Legislation being considered by Congress would reduce greenhouse gases by 20 percent by 2020, but opponents are already pushing for a more modest reduction.

Cops Taser 'Suicidal' Former Basketball Star

Former New Jersey Nets' star Jayson Williams is now under psychological evaluation after cops say he was acting "suicidal" and "violent" in a NY hotel room this morning.

According to the NY Post, cops were forced to remove Williams from his Manhattan hotel room at around 4 AM after he allegedly went ballistic and barricaded himself inside -- trashing the room in the process.

Cops were forced to use "an electrical device" on Williams -- aka a taser -- and then shipped him off to the St. Vincent's Hospital for evaluation.

Williams was acquitted of aggravated manslaughter after the 2002 accidental shooting death of his limo driver, 55-year-old Costas "Gus" Christofi. Williams currently faces a retrial for reckless manslaughter.

UPDATE: Sources say the original 911 call was made by a female friend of Williams at 4:28 AM, who said prescription drugs or alcohol were a factor.

Good Press For White House Photographers

With the press getting ready to mark President Barack Obama's first 100 days in office, White House photographers are getting some big-time press exposure. Three examples below (including two videos):

1. CNN's John King interviewed Pete Souza, the official White House photographer, this weekend. Souza also provided an exclusive photo of the Obamas for a CNN blog. CNN video:

2. Time devotes its cover this week to a behind-the-scenes photo essay by Callie Shell.

3. NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams ran a human-interest piece about longtime Associated Press White House photographer Ron Edmonds photographing a robin's nest outside the White House. NBC Nightly News video:

Govt. plane exercise causes scare in Manhattan

A government exercise involving low-flying planes has created a panic in New York City.

Two fighter jets escorted a low-flying Boeing 747 over lower Manhattan on Monday as part of a federal government photo opportunity.

That's the same part of town where hijacked passenger jets crashed into the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.

John Leitner, a trader at the New York Mercantile Exchange building, says people began running outside when they saw the planes around 10 a.m.

About 1,000 workers gathered along the Hudson River until a security officer told them it was a planned exercise.

Leitner says workers got no official advance notice. But the FAA says it notified city law enforcers.

Ahmadinejad: Iran is Not Ready to Talk With Obama Without Preconditions...Yes, Again....

Fist fully clenched.....

Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad said his country was not ready to talk to the United States without preconditions, in a television interview broadcast Sunday.

"No, no," Ahmadinejad said on ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" program when asked if he was ready to talk to the United States without preconditions.

"We should just have a clear-cut framework for talks," he added. "The agenda should be clear."

After three decades of severed diplomatic ties, the administration of President Barack Obama has called for dialogue with Tehran over its controversial nuclear drive, which Western powers fear could be a cover for efforts to build an atomic bomb.

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WASHINGTON (AFP) - - Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad said his country was not ready to talk to the United States without preconditions, in a television interview broadcast Sunday.

"No, no," Ahmadinejad said on ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" program when asked if he was ready to talk to the United States without preconditions.

"We should just have a clear-cut framework for talks," he added. "The agenda should be clear."

After three decades of severed diplomatic ties, the administration of President Barack Obama has called for dialogue with Tehran over its controversial nuclear drive, which Western powers fear could be a cover for efforts to build an atomic bomb.

Obama sent an unprecedented video appeal last month to Iranians for their New Year holiday, hoping to turn a new page in relations.

Earlier this month, Ahmadinejad said Tehran would offer a new package to world powers for negotiations aimed at resolving the nuclear standoff.

"Last year we proposed a package of proposals for talks, everyone knows that in this year many changes, developments have unfolded on the international stage," the Iranian president explained in the ABC News interview. "Many new issues have been added to the agenda, so to speak."

"And we are reconsidering our proposed package," he continued. "We are adding new issues to the realm, if you will, of the talks. And we are going to make that public as soon as possible. We are always ready to talk."

He pointed out that the Iranian government believed "in talking, in negotiating, based on sincerity and respect and justice." He did not elaborate.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told US lawmakers last week that the United States was preparing for "very tough sanctions" against Iran if the new US approach to Tehran failed.

Ahmadinejad has said he will present a new package for negotiations aimed at resolving the nuclear standoff, after the so-called P5+1 group of world powers called for dialogue with Iran.

He said Iran's package of proposals would be presented to the group, consisting of UN Security Council permanent members Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States plus Germany.

He said the package was a new version of proposals offered by Iran in May 2008, which it described as an all-embracing attempt to solve the problems of the world, and suggested setting up consortiums to enrich uranium and manufacture nuclear fuel, including one in Iran.

Clinton said participating in the P5+1 group "gives us more leverage with other nations."

Jay Needs To Drink More Water!

It’s been 24 hours since Jay Leno was hospitalized and we are all dying to know what on gawd’s green Earth is wrong with the man? Well what we DO know is he is back at home after checking into a Los Angeles hospital.

While many are speculating that Leno may have gotten a bout of food poisoning, Jay’s reps aren’t revealing very much.

Jay will be returning to the Tonight Show on Monday his rep tells “Jay Leno is feeling much better and has been released from the hospital. He’s anxious to return to work on Monday. They had him overnight. It was for observation. It was symptomatic of nothing serious. I think it was dehydration.”

Well whatever he was hospitalized for, we hope he is feeling better!

That Won't Do, Pig: Comandante Napolitano and the Swine Flu Pandemic

Lay down with pigs, America, and you'll come up with flu

By Rick Saunders

OK, kids, let’s get this straight. First, the World Health Organization (or "WHO," but not to be confused with Doctor Who) and the Centers for Disease Control ("CDC") have declared a health emergency in reaction to the outbreak of a virulent and contagious strain of swine flu that has originated in Mexico. That country has now sustained nearly 100 deaths confirmed as caused by swine flu, and some 1,600 more have been sickened and are suspected to have been exposed and infected.

Second, nations such as Israel, New Zealand, Spain, France and Canada, have reported suspected isolated cases after citizens from those countries returned home from Mexico. Reports have also surfaced that the twenty-some cases reported here in this country included several New York City students who got ill on spring break trips to Mexico. Russia has stopped all meat imports from Mexico, as well as from the states of California, Texas and Kansas, as well as pork imports from Mexico and a number of Central American nations and, additionally, the states of Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Kansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Florida. With no confirmed cases yet appearing in Japan, Tokyo’s Narita airport has nonetheless taken the preemptive precaution of installing a device to test the temperatures of passengers arriving from Mexico, as one good indicator of the flu is a fever.

Anyone yet see a pattern here?

Even though reports have also surfaced that the twenty-some sickened New York City students included many who became ill while on spring break trips to Mexico, Department of Homeland Security Comandante Janet Napolitano assures everyone that all is fine at the airports where people arriving from Mexico land in this country, and so there is no cause for alarm.

"Right now," Napolitano stated at a White House press conference yesterday, "we don't think the facts warrant more active testing or screening of passengers coming in from Mexico."

Great. Let’s wait until the problem is out of control before doing anything . . . anything, that is, other than blaming the Republicans and the problems Obama "inherited" from Bush. And don’t worry about linkage between swine flu and Republicans -- Napolitano & Co. will concoct all the linkage they need, but on their timetable. Think of the potential . . . pork-barrel spending . . . swine flu . . . the connection sure doesn't seem that difficult to make.

Let's keep this in perspective, though. Because of Mexico's drug cartel violence, we now have bomb-sniffing dogs, high-tech x-ray machines and neutrol scattering devices on our side of the border, in order to check cars and trucks traveling SOUTH from the United States into Mexico for contraband explosives, weapons and ammunition. We also have a Justice Department considering abridging Americans' constitutional rights in order to supposedly keep weapons out of the hands of cartels in Mexico. But we currently have no plans to impose travel restrictions or temperature scans on people traveling NORTH from Mexico into the United States in the face of what the CDC grimly refers to as a "potential worldwide pandemic."

And, of course, DHS certainly has no travel restrictions being enforced on illegal aliens streaming across the border at places other than airports. They have a bring-your-swine-flu-in-free card as, according to Napolitano, illegal immigration is not a crime.

To enforce travel restrictions or to even mimic the Japanese by utilizing technology to scan the temperatures of passengers arriving from Mexico is, well, just unthinkable. After all, what would the ACLU think? And what would be the reaction of MSNBC, the New York Times, or the Congressional Hispanic Caucus? Worse, what would George Soros think?

No, such a course of action would make far too much sense to the average American, and thus be deemed "rightwing extremism" by Comandante Napolitano. In effect, Napolitano and her politically mindset is willing to gamble on the safety of the American people by coughing up--no pun intended--the excuse that it’s still not "bad" enough to warrant precautions which even the Japanese see as prudent. Let’s see how long that charade goes on.

So, PC dogma once again trumps reason. Only in Obamerica . . . and we’re not even 100 days into it.

(NOTE: For the life of me, I cannot understand why this woman still has her job as Director of Homeland Security. At this point, she's gone from being an embarrassment to a disgrace . . . to a threat. It's time President Obama calls for her resignation -- though, admittedly, it will be difficult to find a replacement, as left-wing sympathizers with both a functioning cerebrum and a clean tax history are few and far between. I don't care, though. Get this woman out of there before innocent Americans get killed. -- Jeff)

Caps wipe out lifeless Rangers, force Game Seven

By Derek Felix

I’m finally back from the Garden after that wondering why we went. Was that uninspired performance really the best the Rangers could offer? Token resistance against a much better and hungrier opponent who looks to have worn our team down mentally and physically.

The scoreboard said Caps 5, Rangers 3 but may as well have read Caps 12, Rangers 3 because that would be a more accurate reflection of what took place at a deflated Garden. With their routine Game Six win, Washington has erased a 3-1 deficit outscoring our team by a scary 9-2 margin. Their three wins in this series have been identical 4-0 scores and 5-2 today meaning they’ve hammered us 13-2. The goal differential has a similar feel that the 2001 World Series did which the Yankees eventually lost to a better Diamondback team in dramatic fashion.

Should we expect the Rangers to even show up for Tuesday’s do-or-die Game Seven at hostile Verizon Center? It will be the first deciding game this franchise has played since the 1993-94 team got it done against the Canucks to win the Stanley Cup. Unfortunately, there aren’t any Messiers, Leetchs, Graves, Richters or Beukebooms on this roster. Instead, we’re stuck with a handful of players who barely competed with Jim Schoenfeld basically calling them out afterwards during a very revealing postgame on ESPN 1050.

So, instead of doing a traditional recap, I’ll give this game exactly what it deserves. A player by player assessment of who showed up and who didn’t even bother.

Antropov-was one of the few to finish his checks but there were shifts where he floated around doing little. Is that worth re-signing?

Avery-back from the doldrums, yes he did try but also steered clear of anything reduced to an unaggressive waste which the NHL wanted. They must’ve loved that.

Betts-played only two shifts due to a blatant cheapshot from thug Donald Brashear whose disgusting elbow was conveniently ignored. I ran into Adam Graves and he said it should’be been a major penalty and game misconduct. How sad. And you can bet other blogs won’t even mention or show video evidence of how bad the late blow was probably concussing our best penalty killer. The game was over right there. It figures that goon would pull those antics with Colton Orr a healthy scratch. He wanted nothing to do with Orr last game but picked on Dubinsky. That kinda player shouldn’t even be allowed on the ice.

Callahan-the glue of the team of course competed scoring a goal and letting Ovechkin know he was there. You can always count on Cally to show.

Drury-our captain who’s playing with a broken finger tried as hard as he can getting three shots and even managing to go 10-7 on draws. If only other overpaid teammates had his desire.

Dubinsky-another young kid who will be part of our nucleus that doesn’t dog it. The boarding call they got right. Even if he also got an extra rough and 10 minute misconduct. That of course they wouldn’t miss.

Girardi-gave solid effort though partner Staal struggled. Notice that most of the players who played like they cared are younger. Coincidence?

Gomez-managed to tie game on nice PP redirect but otherwise was too much on the perimeter as he’s been most of this series. It’s awfully hard to justify keeping him but who’s taking that contract?

Korpikoski-really played hard and got rewarded with more ice-time. I really like this kid’s spunk. He needs to have a bigger role.

Mara-gives his all every game but the writing is on the wall that his time is up here with more promising blueliners like Gilroy on the cusp.

Morris-had horrific giveaway which allowed the Caps eventually to score. He’s been alright but today was his worst game. UFA who will probably leave.

Naslund-has competed harder this series with some early good results but hasn’t been noticeable last two.

Redden-has been a predictable bust but actually gave a decent effort today assisting on Gomez goal and blocking four shots. So, I can’t kill him.

Rozsival-the other half of the worst expensive pairing in NHL history also competed throwing the body around more than his Ranger career even getting a good cruncher on Ovechkin. Imagine if he’d hustled back on Bradley’s shorthanded goal last game. Needs a change of scenery.

Staal-always gives solid effort but had a rough day including getting victimized by Kozlov on the Caps’ fourth goal. It’s a learning process.

Sjostrom-is one of our most competitive players and part of the No.1 PK. Somehow, he wound up plus-one with a helper. Amazing what a strong work ethic can do.

Voros-in place of Orr, he showed up and took the body. Give him credit. He could’ve sulked after basically becoming the odd man out but he’s worked hard in his three games.

Zherdev-just pathetic effort from a lazy Russian who is afraid of physical play. Has immense skill but just dogs it. His miss of an open net that could’ve made it 3-2 led to the Caps scoring the other way dashing any hopes of a comeback. Symbolic. No points in this series and deserves a one-way ticket to Siberia.

Lundqvist-if it’s true he was the story early in the series, then what’s happened the last two? Goals like Bradley’s second the other night never should happen and shows that as talented as he is, he still lacks total focus. Today, he gave up identical unscreened shots high glove side to Jurcina and Green. Alright. Let’s excuse the latter cause he has a laser and was due. But allowing that goal to Jurcina was awfully deflating. If he wants to be considered one of the best, he needs to stop those sorts and steal a game. He’s got one game left to make a statement.

Valiquette-let’s see. Perfect in two relief outings against a juggernaut even if the Caps turned off the switch.

There ya have it. A summary of what’s wrong with our roster. My Dad said it best when we were coming back home about how it’s always the same guys who put out maximum effort. And that’s a big problem for this franchise moving forward no matter what takes place two nights from now. How does that get fixed? Does anyone truly believe this poorly constructed team was better than the Panthers? Our goalie covered a lot up to get us the 3-1 lead. Now, they’re on the verge of making the wrong kind of franchise history.

Is it a surprise? No. Because the Capitals are the superior team and were just not finishing early in the series. The fact this is even going seven is a miracle of epic proportions. When former MSG target Tom Poti morphs into Bobby Orr scoring a goal and three assists, it speaks to the general nature of what’s so wrong. Funny but he would be our No.3 here. How could you not chuckle?

A lot’s been made of the Rangers being physical with Ovechkin, who basically is the hockey version of Drago with players just bouncing off him. And yes. They have done a good job against Green, who until today had done nothing. But what about laying the body on Backstrom, Semin or Poti? How come not one Ranger went after Brashear? What about sending a message? Should it just be centered around the Caps’ two biggest stars? Of course not.

Watch the Devils and Canes later tonight. Neither team backs down and both finish every check. That is what is severely lacking with our team. Moving forward, they do got some nice pieces but being able to surround them with players who give a damn will go a long way to where this franchise is down the road.

Kudos to the Caps for forcing the dreaded Game Seven. But they weren’t even forced to work that hard. At this time of the season, that should never be the case.

Rogue Warrior Preview (Xbox 360)

The shadowy world of special military operations is well explored territory for video games. A ton of titles have centered around the highly trained commandoes and ninja-like warriors that execute operations that the public usually never even knows happened. It’s well-traveled ground.

But rarely do games focus on one specific real-life character. Rogue Warrior, from publisher Bethesda and developer Rebellion (probably best known for the Aliens vs. Predator games), centers around the exploits of one Richard Marcinko, a former Navy SEAL who has most definitely been there and done that.

Known as “Demo Dick” to his friends—and probably his enemies as well—Marcinko is a legendary figure in the special-forces community. Former Navy SEAL, security expert, soldier, assassin and all around bad-ass, Marcinko has written a number of books about his exploits, some of which are truthful, other ones that stretch it a bit. Whether the story told in Rogue Warrior is true or not doesn’t matter—the tactics and techniques employed definitely are.

In Demo Dick’s line of work, it’s all about getting in to a well-secured place undetected to complete a necessary job such as blowing up a bridge or taking out a high-value target. It follows that one big component of the gameplay in Rogue Warrior is, naturally, stealth. Splinter Cell this is not, but infiltrating a guarded military base doesn’t have to mean complex sneaking skills and tranq guns. Sometimes you gotta kill people.

One of the pillars of Rogue Warrior is its take-down system. When you’re in infiltrate mode, you can sneak up on enemy guards and perform incredibly brutal kill moves: Stab dudes in the throat, break their necks, slash their throats, stab them in the sac (ahem, if you know what I mean), grab their guns and shoot them in the face, toss them over a railing…there are 25 different kill animations to try and get grossed out by. I’m still trying to figure out how stabbing a guy directly in the forehead works exactly, but according to Demo Dick, who has worked directly with the developers on the game to maintain authenticity, he’s done that before.

With all that excitement in place, there is still a lot of standard shooter action as well. Ducking behind cover and engaging in some gunfire is a cornerstone of shooters—that’s why they call them “shooters” after all—and you’ll do a lot of it here. In the level demoed for us, Demo Dick’s character did a lot of shooting as he broke into a facility on the North Korean border of the Soviet Union to sabotage a train full of missiles making their way to Moscow.

That’s right, I said the Soviet Union. Rogue Warrior takes place in the ’80s when the U.S. and U.S.S.R were at the height of their Cold War with each other. The setting is reinforced by an awesomely cheesy soundtrack, as well as the voiceover work of Mr. Mickey Rourke as Demo Dick. He’s appropriately gruff and foul-mouthed for the role. “April fools, mother***ers” is my personal favorite line so far.

Right now, Rogue Warrior looks like your pretty standard shooter, but we still haven’t played the game for ourselves or seen any levels outside the one demoed. But the voice work of Rourke adds a fun dimension, and 16-player online multiplayer will be in the mix, too, so the final product could find a way to rise above the genre. If it doesn’t, I predict someone is getting stabbed in the cojones.

Ellsbury steals home as Red Sox sweep away Yankees

Jacoby Ellsbury felt like he was running in slow motion when he stole home.

It wasn't slow enough for Andy Pettitte and the New York Yankees.

Boston's fleet leadoff man slid safely under Jorge Posada's swipe during a three-run fifth inning that gave the Red Sox a 4-1 win Sunday night, a sweep of the three-game series and a 10-game winning streak.

"It was pretty exciting for me. When I was running down the line from third to home, everything felt like it was happening in slow motion," Ellsbury said. "That's probably another reason I tripped up a little bit."

He stumbled near home, deciding to slide head first rather than feet first when he saw lefty hitter J.D. Drew wouldn't swing and smack him in the helmet.

"The biggest thing is getting the courage to go, I guess. In that situation, bases loaded, you've got to make it," Ellsbury said. "I was pretty confident that I could get in there."

Posada had warned the left-handed Pettitte (2-1) to keep an eye on Ellsbury. But with the bases loaded and Boston leading 2-1, he went into a windup rather than pitching from the stretch. So when he rocked back in his delivery, Ellsbury made his move.

"I saw him in the corner of my eye and tried to speed up my windup," Pettitte said. "I couldn't speed up my windup fast enough to get him out."

In 2007, Toronto's Aaron Hill stole home against Pettitte on a pitch from the stretch.

"Sometimes I just get in the zone against the hitter," Pettitte said.

Ellsbury's first steal of home since before college was the majors' first since Torii Hunter of the Los Angeles Angels on Sept. 18.

"What we have is a really fast player with some guts," Boston manager Terry Francona said. "It certainly ignited the ballpark and we weren't knocking Andy around very much. It was a great play."

Justin Masterson (2-0) pitched 5 1-3 innings and Takashi Saito pitched the ninth for his second save for the Red Sox, who came from behind in all three games, went 9-0 on the homestand and are 12-6 after starting at 2-6.

"I don't want to get carried away with what happened in this homestand," Francona said, "but it was a good homestand."

Blue Jays 4, White Sox 3

At Chicago, Scott Rolen hit a go-ahead RBI single in the eighth inning and the Blue Jays won their sixth straight series.

Rod Barajas had three hits for the Blue Jays, who have won eight of 11.

Vernon Wells led off the eighth with a double off White Sox reliever Scott Linebrink (0-1).

After a shaky start, Toronto ace Roy Halladay (4-1) settled down and retired 12 of the last 14 batters he faced.

Orioles 8, Rangers 5

At Baltimore, Adam Jones hit a three-run homer in the sixth inning to rally the Orioles.

Jones hit an 0-1 slider from reliever Jason Jennings (0-1) into the seats in left-center to give Baltimore a 7-5 lead.

Chris Davis, David Murphy and Hank Blalock connected for the Rangers, who lead the major leagues with 38 home runs and have hit two or more in a game 14 times this season, also most in the majors.

Danys Baez (1-1) got the victory with three hitless innings. George Sherrill worked the ninth for his fourth save.

Indians 4, Twins 2

At Cleveland, Aaron Laffey pitched into the seventh inning and the Indians avoided a three-game sweep.

Laffey (2-0) allowed two runs and five hits in 6 1-3 innings.

The Indians were held to one run in each of the first two games of the series, but Ryan.

It was the shortest outing of the year for Glen Perkins (1-2), who allowed four runs in five innings.

Tigers 3, Royals 2

At Kansas City, Mo., Brandon Inge hit a two-run homer and Armando Galarraga pitched six solid innings for Detroit.

Inge connected in the second, driving a 1-1 pitch from Sidney Ponson (0-3) out to left with Jeff Larish aboard.

Galarraga (3-0) allowed one run and three hits, struck out seven and walked five.

Jose Guillen had an RBI single in the third but the Royals left the bases loaded when Alberto Callaspo grounded out. Kansas City is 2-for-17 with the bases loaded this season.

Athletics 7, Rays 1

At Oakland, Calif., Kurt Suzuki drove in three runs, and Dana Eveland pitched into the sixth inning for the A's.

Every Oakland starter got at least one hit and seven different players scored for the A's, who won their second straight after a season-high five-game skid.

Eveland (1-1) allowed one run and four hits in 5 2-3 innings.

Andy Sonnanstine (0-3), who has gone 11 consecutive regular-season starts without a win, gave up 10 hits.

Angels 8, Mariners 0

At Anaheim, Calif., Howie Kendrick homered and had a career-high four RBIs, Jered Weaver combined with two relievers on a five-hitter, and the Angels avoided a three-game sweep.

Weaver (2-1) allowed three hits over seven innings.

Kendrick had a pair of RBI singles in addition to his two-run homer in the second inning against former Angels left-hander Jarrod Washburn (3-1). Washburn was charged with six runs and eight hits over 5 1-3 innings

Juan Rivera hit his first home run of the season and Torii Hunter had three hits, including an RBI single, to raise his average to .338.

Obama vs. Bush at 100 days

About 100 days into his presidency, which of the following statements about President Obama is true?

1. Mr. Obama is a more divisive figure than President George W. Bush was at 100 days.

2. Obama is more popular with moderate swing voters than Mr. Bush was.

3. Obama does better with his base of support than Bush did with his at this point of his presidency.

Arguably, all three are true – at least that’s what a breakdown of the two men’s approval rating at 100 days suggests.

Using our 11 community types, Patchwork Nation broke down the two presidents’ 100-day approval surveys from the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press and found ammunition for both Obama supporters and opponents.

On the whole, the new president has a deep well of support at 63 percent approval. That’s deeper than the approval Mr. Bush had at this point, which did not tip 60 percent. But when you sort through those numbers with Patchwork Nation’s community types, the picture is a bit more complicated.

No one is dead set against the Oval Office’s new occupant, but Obama’s level of support varies sharply from place to place.

More divisive?

While much has been made of Obama’s high levels of support in recent weeks, most new presidents still have some reserve of good will at the 100-day mark. Bush, for instance, did not score below 59 percent approval in any of our communities in early 2001. Even in our very Democratic, big-city “Industrial Metropolis” counties, which voted against him by large margins, he did well.

Obama, on the other hand, is below 50 percent in our heavily Latino “Immigration Nation” communities and at just 50 percent in our “Military Bastions” located near military bases. He’s also at just 51 percent in our culturally conservative “Evangelical Epicenters.”

Our 11 communities are made up of a variety of people, of course, but there are larger consistencies within them. The three community types in which Obama’s support hovers around 50 percent – “Immigration Nation,” “Military Bastions,” and “Evangelical Epicenters” – tend to be fairly conservative and on the whole voted against Obama in November. (The numbers in our fourth conservative community type – agricultural “Tractor Country” – are based on a sample that is too small to be reliable.)

These numbers indicate Obama has made little headway with them. The comments we hear from some of these places tend to be the most critical.

“The people I talk to are feeling less and less positive about him,” writes Gay Nell Rittenberry, a Realtor in Hopkinsville, Ky., our “Military Bastion,” in an e-mail. “In fact, Democrats who I know voted for him are telling me what a mistake they made.” The high point in the Obama presidency was the rescue of the American ship captain from pirates off Somalia, Ms. Rittenberry says. But she believes Obama was “was more a hindrance to the military than a help.”

The middle’s president

The Pew numbers also reveal Obama’s biggest strength, however. He is doing very well with voters in the wealthy, educated “Monied ’Burb” counties and in the growing and diversifying “Boom Towns.” He is at 70 percent and 69 percent approval in those places, respectively – better than Bush’s numbers in them at this point in his presidency.

That’s a critical point. The “Monied ’Burbs” and the “Boom Towns” are key politically in several ways. They are populous, wealthy, and the people in them are more likely to be swing voters.

Those communities, which might be thought of as the middle of American politics, are very important when it comes to passing legislation and getting elected, and both have received some help from the Obama team.

Obama’s plan to aid struggling homeowners may have had the biggest impact in the “Boom Towns,” many of which are struggling with high numbers of foreclosures. Meanwhile, the “Monied ’Burbs” tend to have the most stock owners and may be the most sympathetic to plans to aid banks and the stock markets.

There is solid support for Obama in those community types, and he will likely lean on them heavily as he presses forward with his agenda.

Perhaps just as important, his support there has not caused erosion in his political base. The president has an 82 percent approval rating in what might be thought of as his base, the nation’s “Industrial Metropolis” counties.

A different world

The biggest caveats to the comparisons, however, may be related to the different situations that faced the two presidents during their first 100 days. When Bush came into office, the country was at peace, and the tech bubble had not yet burst on Wall Street. Times were good and his biggest agenda item was a tax cut.

Obama is dealing with a country engaged in two armed conflicts, and he is wading through the longest economic downturn since the Great Depression. He has pushed and passed economic plans – from administering the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) to supporting the auto bailout – that are controversial.

Taking that into consideration, Obama was probably never going to do well in the communities where his approval is sagging. But his level of support in the others is impressive.

GM to cut 21,000 US factory jobs, shed Pontiac

General Motors Corp. said it will cut 21,000 U.S. factory jobs by next year, phase out its storied Pontiac brand and ask the government to take more than half its stock in exchange for half of GM's government debt as part of a major restructuring that would leave current shareholders holding just 1 percent of the company.

The struggling automaker said it will offer 225 shares of common stock for every $1,000 in notes held by bondholders as part of a debt-for-equity swap that aims to retire most of GM's $27 billion in unsecured debt.

The announcements came in a filing Monday with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

GM is living on $15.4 billion in government loans and faces a June 1 deadline to restructure and get more government money. If the restructuring doesn't satisfy the government, the company could go into bankruptcy protection.

GM said in a news release that it will ask the government to take 50 percent of its common stock in exchange for canceling half the government loans to the company as of June 1.

In addition, GM is offering the United Auto Workers stock for at least 50 percent of the $20 billion the company must pay into a union run trust that will take over retiree health care expenses starting next year.

If both are successful, the government and UAW health care trust would own 89 percent of the company's stock, with the government holding over a 50 percent stake, Henderson said.

Deals with the UAW and the Treasury have yet to be finalized, he said.

CEO Fritz Henderson said the objective of the bond exchange is to reduce GM's $27 billion of outstanding debt by about $24 billion. The company estimates that after the exchange, bondholders would own 10 percent of the company.

That would leave current common stockholders with only 1 percent of the company under the deals, GM said.

The debt-for-equity swaps GM wants would reduce its debt by $44 billion from the present figure of about $62.4 billion.

"We would be substantially less levered as a company," said Henderson, who answered questions sitting in a chair on a stage with a gray curtain behind him. At times, he drank from a glass of water on a small table nearby.

Henderson also said if the exchange isn't successful, he would expect to file for bankruptcy protection somewhere around June 1, but such a filing would be unlikely very long before the deadline.

GM shares rose 34 cents, or 20.7 percent, to $2.03 in morning trading.

GM said it would speed up six additional factory closings that were announced in February, although it did not identify them in its news release. Additional salaried jobs cuts also are coming, beyond the 3,400 in the U.S. completed last week.

Including previously announced plant closures, the restructuring will leave GM with 34 factories at the end of next year, down from 47 at the end of 2008.

The company also said it plans to reduce its dealership ranks by 42 percent from 2008 to 2010, cutting them from 6,246 to 3,605.

"The Viability Plan reflects the direction of President Obama and the U.S. Treasury that GM should go further and faster on our restructuring," Henderson said in a statement. "This stronger, leaner business model will enable GM to keep doing what it does best — provide great new cars, trucks and crossovers to our customers, and continue to develop new advanced propulsion technologies that are vital for our country's economy and environment."

The new plan lowers GM's break-even point in North America to an annual U.S. sales volume of 10 million vehicles, the company said. That's slightly more than the current sales rate, and most economists expect an uptick in the second half of the year.

"This lower break-even point better positions GM to generate positive cash flow and earn an adequate return on capital over the course of a normal business cycle, a requirement set forth by the U.S. Treasury," the statement said.

The company said it would phase out its storied Pontiac brand no later than next year, and the futures of its Hummer, Saturn and Saab brands will be resolved by the end of this year by either selling them or phasing them out.

For Pontiac, the decision means the death of a brand known for its muscle cars including the Trans Am made famous in movies and the GTO, the subject of a nostalgic song by the Beach Boys.

Henderson said in a news conference that the company was spread too thin to make Pontiac work.

"We didn't think we had the resources to get this done from a product perspective," or marketing, he said Monday at a news conference.

He said the decision was very tough for many at GM because of the brand's heritage.

Henderson said GM wants to develop a plan that doesn't have to be repeated.

"We only want to do this once," he told reporters.

Henderson said talks continue with potential parties to buy a stake in Opel and are expected to continue through the end of May. He said the company would continue to have a presence in Europe as a stakeholder.

"I don't expect we would be absent from the European market," he said, adding that it would be under a different structure than current ownership of Opel.

One of the conditions to get aid from Germany is to have a private investor in Opel. Henderson said discussions on Opel continue. Chevrolet is one of the fast-growing car segments in Eastern Europe and Russia, he said.

Stocks decline on swine flu concerns

Wall Street retreated Monday, unsettled by the possibility of a major swine flu outbreak.

The flu is not yet a global pandemic. The virus is suspected to be responsible for more than 100 deaths in Mexico, but cases in the United States and Canada have been mild.

Still, investors are nervous that the flu could spread and thwart economic recovery, particularly in areas that rely on travel and tourism. Spain became the first European country to confirm a case of swine flu, and the European Union health commissioner advised Europeans to avoid nonessential travel to Mexico and the United States.

The major stock indexes fell by less than 1 percent, but the stocks of hotels, airlines and other travel-related companies posted steeper losses.

The virus is striking at a vulnerable time for the stock market and the economy. The Dow Jones industrial average has jumped 23.4 percent from its nearly 12-year low on March 9, but stalled last week as investors plodded through a deluge of mixed earnings reports.

Craig Peckham, market strategist at Jefferies & Co., called the swine flu an "easy excuse" for investors to cash in any profits they may have made in recent weeks. Underlying the selloff, he said, is the worry that the global economy will take a long time to recover despite recent positive signals.

The rally over the last several weeks "has been about the world getting less bad," Peckham said. "At a certain point, further gains have to be predicated on things getting fundamentally better, as opposed to less bad."

Wall Street is also anxious as it waits for the results of the government's stress tests of the 19 largest U.S. banks. Regulators briefed bank officials on Friday about the tests, which will determine which banks may need further help from the government, but the results will not be publicly released until May 4.

In midmorning trading, the Dow fell 38.71, or 0.5 percent, to 8,037.58. The index's decline was mitigated by General Motors Corp., whose stock jumped 32 percent on job cuts and a request for a stock-for-debt exchange with the government.

Broader stock indicators also lost ground. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 6.42, or 0.7 percent, to 859.81, and the Nasdaq composite index fell 8.30, or 0.5 percent, to 1,685.99.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies fell 7.56, or 1.6 percent, to 471.18.

Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide Inc. fell 8.7 percent; Carnival Corp. fell 8.8 percent; and AMR Corp., the parent company of American Airlines, fell 14.4 percent.

Overseas, Japan's Nikkei stock average rose 0.2 percent, but Britain's FTSE 100 fell 0.8 percent in afternoon trading. Germany's DAX index fell 1.2 percent, and France's CAC-40 fell 1.2 percent.

U.S. government bond prices rose. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.93 percent from 3.00 percent late Friday. Bond prices move opposite to yields.

The dollar was mostly higher against other major currencies, while gold prices fell.

Light, sweet crude fell $2.66 to $48.89 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Four Days of Crunch Time for Chrysler

Negotiations among Cerberus Capital, the White House, and banks heat up as the automaker reaches an agreement with the United Auto Workers

As the days dwindle down to Chrysler's Apr. 30 deadline to show the federal government it has a new plan for financial viability—or face bankruptcy re-organization—the automaker made great strides over the weekend by striking deals with the Canadian Auto Workers and United Auto Workers that will satisfy the White House auto industry task force.

But there has been less movement between Chrysler and its banks that hold $6.9 billion of the automaker's debt. The White House is looking for the lenders to take between $1 billion and $1.5 billion, write down the rest, and perhaps accept between a 5% and 10% equity stake. The banks have been looking for more like $4.5 billion and a 40% stake.

That gap led one executive briefed on Chrysler's negotiations to speculate there was still a 50% likelihood the automaker would face reorganization under Chapter 11 bankruptcy after the White House's deadline passes. If Chrysler can't make a deal with its banks by then, the White House has said it will not lend the automaker any more money. It has already lent Chrysler $4.5 billion since December to continue operating. Without additional government loans, Chrysler will be out of working capital and would be forced to file for bankruptcy.

White House senior economic adviser Larry Summers said on Fox News Sunday that the Obama administration was still hopeful that the parties could come to agreements before the deadline and avert bankruptcy, which could seriously impair consumer confidence in Chrysler's products. "There are some issues that have been worked out and some issues that remain to be worked out," Summers said.

The deal with the UAW—which shaves $100 per car in labor costs and gives the union an equity stake in Chrysler in exchange for cutting in half the $8 billion Chrysler owes the UAW for future health-care benefits—is significant. The union and secured lenders had been holding out on reaching an agreement because neither wanted to let the other get a better deal. Bankers in particular had complained that the union was being offered 50% of what they are owed, while the lenders were expected to take 30 cents on the dollar or less.
Fiat's $10 billion in technology

Sitting on the sidelines is Italian automaker Fiat (FIA.MI), which is ready to infuse Chrysler with roughly $10 billion in technology—vehicles and engines that Chrysler can adapt to sell as Chryslers, Jeeps, and Dodges—but no cash. If the White House signs off on whatever agreement the automaker can reach with the banks and unions this week, it promises to lend Chrysler $6 billion more, and the alliance with Fiat, which expects to get 20% equity, would kick in.

But because the banks are so far from agreeing, and the White House is loath to see Chrysler slip into an abyss of liquidation, sources close to the negotiations say to watch for the Obama Administration to find a third solution: providing Chrysler with some capital to emerge from bankruptcy, rather than liquidate the company.

The wild card in that plan is how a judge would treat the banks whose loans are secured by hard assets. Traditionally, those debt holders get the best treatment in a Chapter 11 proceeding. But a judge has a lot of discretion.
Offers and counteroffers are flying

If assets such as Jeep are auctioned off to settle the banks' debts, there may not be much of a company left for Fiat to partner with unless it shapes a new Chrysler out of the scraps and rubble of the company in a liquidation process.

Offers and counteroffers between the White House and the banks to save Chrysler in some form will be flying back and forth over the next four days.

The White House is determined to save jobs at Chrysler and at auto supplier companies that could fall into bankruptcy should Chrysler go under. Unless they are propped up, failure for those suppliers could seriously impact General Motors (GM), as well as Ford (F) and several foreign automakers that manufacture in the U.S.

The last thing the White House wants to see is a Chrysler bankruptcy trigger a domino effect that could put Ford—which hasn't taken any government loans and is poised to prosper in the next few years—into bankruptcy. GM faces its own deadline at the end of May to cut enough costs to qualify for more taxpayer loans or face bankruptcy.

Efficacy of CIA methods never questioned: report

The Central Intelligence Agency used tough interrogation techniques on suspected Al-Qaeda prisoners for nearly seven years without ever seeking a serious assessment of the effectiveness of its methods, The Los Angeles Times reported.

Citing current and former US officials familiar with the matter, the newspaper said on its website late on Saturday that the failure to conduct a comprehensive examination occurred despite calls to do so as early as 2003.

That year, the CIA inspector general circulated drafts of a report that raised deep concerns about waterboarding and other methods, the paper said.

According to The Times, the report described in general terms the volume of intelligence the interrogation program was producing.

But neither this nor other audits examined the effectiveness of interrogation techniques in detail, or sought to scrutinize assertions by CIA counter-terrorism officials that enhanced interrogation methods were essential to the program's results, the paper noted.

One report by a former government official, who was not an interrogation expert, was about 10 pages long and amounted to a glowing review of interrogation efforts, The Times said.

"Nobody with expertise or experience in interrogation ever took a rigorous, systematic review of the various techniques -- enhanced or otherwise -- to see what resulted in the best information," the paper quoted one unnamed senior US intelligence official as saying.

Tourists warned off flu areas

UK tourists have been warned against travel to areas with swine flu by the EU Health Commissioner.

The advice comes after an emergency meeting of European health ministers in response to the outbreak in Mexico.

The Department of Health (DoH) has said surveillance arrangements are being "stepped up" in the UK ready for a possible outbreak.

About 103 people in Mexico are thought to have died after contracting it, but there have been no deaths elsewhere.

EU Health Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou said: "I'd try to avoid non-essential travel to the areas which are reported to be in the centre of the cluster in order to minimise the personal risk and to reduce the potential risk to spread the infection to other people."

Officials said the UK should expect to see an outbreak of the virus.


There have also been 20 cases of swine flu reported in the US and six in Canada, and suspected cases in New Zealand, France, Spain, Israel and Australia.

However, no-one outside of Mexico has yet died, leading to suggestions that the severity of the cases there may be due to the strain mixing with a second unrelated virus circulating in the community.

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Professor Pennington: "The UK is better prepared than ever before"

Swine flu is usually found in pigs and contracted only by people in contact with the animals.

The DoH said they could not yet give details of what the "stepped up" surveillance arrangements were and that meetings were ongoing.

Professor Hugh Pennington, a microbiologist who has advised the government on other public health issues, said the country was well-prepared.

He told the BBC that all civil contingency plans were in place, health authorities were ready and well-stocked with Tamiflu anti-flu medicine.

He said: "We are better-prepared than we have ever been before, so I think that's some reassurance for the public."

Professor Steve Field is the chairman of the Royal College of GPs, which heads up research into flu in the UK.

He says the coming days will be crucial in assessing the scale of the threat to the UK if people do contract swine flu.

He said: "We'll know a lot more... tomorrow and by the end of the week.

Swine flu is a respiratory disease thought to spread through coughing and sneezing
Symptoms mimic those of normal flu - but in Mexico people are beginning to die
Good hygiene like using a tissue and washing hands thoroughly can help reduce transmission

"What we've got to try and do is stop people who've come in from Mexico, places where this is prevalent, going to their GPs and spreading it amongst vulnerable people. That's what's really important this week."

Britons arriving back in the UK from Mexico said they were questioned by a doctor at Gatwick airport about possible flu symptoms before leaving the aircraft.

But travellers returning to Manchester Airport said they had not been questioned.

Meanwhile, a man from Northamptonshire who was told to stay in his home after returning from Mexico with flu-like symptoms, has been given the all-clear by the Health Protection Agency.

Scottish Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said two patients in Airdrie who visited Mexico had both displayed mild flu-like symptoms but there was no cause for concern.

In trading on the London stock market, shares in British Airways were down 7.4% and Thomas Cook fell 4.3% on fears over the economic impact of the swine flu outbreak.

A Department of Health spokeswoman said the outbreak was "unusual and of concern".

But she added: "It is too early to make a complete assessment of the health implications of this new virus or if it could represent the appearance of a potential pandemic strain of influenza virus."