Saturday, May 2, 2009

Swine Flu Spreads into Asia

Source: Al Jazeera

South Korea has confirmed the country's first case of the H1N1 flu, making it the second Asian nation to report an outbreak of the potentially fatal virus.

A 51-year-old woman has been in quarantine since returning from Mexico, Lee Jong-koo, chief of the state disease control centre, told a news conference on Saturday.

Seoul's confirmation came as China quarantined hundreds of people in a Hong Kong hotel and cancelled all flights between the city of Shanghai and Mexico.

A traveller who arrived in Hong Kong from Mexico via Shanghai has tested positive for H1N1 strain of the influenza virus.

All of the 176 passengers and 13 crew from the Mexicana airlines flight which brought the traveller to Shanghai will also be placed under "seven-day medical observation", China's health ministry said.

It called on all passengers from that flight and another which took the Mexican patient from Shanghai, to Hong Kong to get in touch with the health authorities "to ensure that all passengers can get timely medical tests".


Health workers in white bodysuits patrolled the lobby of Metropark Hotel in Hong Kong on Saturday as guests picked up bottles of water, chocolate milk and bread before returning to their rooms.

Special report

Police officers wearing masks guarded the building, which was cordoned off with police tape.

A Hong Kong-based infectious diseases specialist criticised the quarantine as an over-reaction and said it served little practical purpose.

"This is only one point in his journey. And it's not the highest risk point in his journey. Flu spreads through coughs or sneezes at close range. People who lived above and below him are nearly not at risk at all," Lo Wing-lok said.

But Donald Tsang, Hong Kong's leader, defended the decision in light of the Sars (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) outbreak in 2003, which killed nearly 300 people in the territory.

"I'd rather err on the side of caution than miss the opportunity to contain the disease," he said.

India fears

India was also monitoring two patients suspected of having contracted H1N1 after arriving from abroad, according to doctors.

"Both of them are under observation in an isolation ward. We have done all the tests, and samples have been sent to the National Institute of Communicable Diseases," NK Chaturvedi, medical superintendent of the state-run Ram Manohar Lohia hospital, said. CONT...

The Boston Globe vs. The New York Times—vs. the internet

The Boston Globe reports on its own stay of execution. The decision about its fate has been postponed till midnight tomorrow.

One of the Globe’s many problems is that it seems to have made an error in calculating the value of the employee benefits it is willing to give up:

In calculating the value of potential concessions, management had mistakenly included 80 Guild [union] employees who have left the Globe through buyouts, layoffs, and resignations since January, according to union officials. Once the wages and benefits of those employees were factored out, it reduced the value of the potential concessions available to the Guild. When negotiations began a month ago, the company provided a menu of possible salary and benefit cuts that it valued at $14 million, but now that same menu is valued at about $10 million. There has been no clear public explanation of how 80 people could have such a dramatic impact.

Globe employees are having trouble believing the paper’s officials are that incompetent:

“Jaws were dropping when news of the ‘mistake’ swept through the newsroom and the rest of the building,” said Sean P. Murphy, a Globe reporter since 1987…Marguerite Courage, who has worked 44 years in advertising, said it was hard to believe the company could make such a mistake.

“It’s a sad commentary,” said Courage. “You kind of hope you’re going in the right direction and then you take a step back.”

It’s easy to be snarky about the Globe, a newspaper that is typical of the worst biases of the MSM. And of course, the specter of a Red Sox vs. Yankees type of confrontation between the Globe and the equally abominable Times, its parent company, is somehow satisfying.

But, as the article points out, the human costs are large. The paper employs 2,100 people, a large number of whom are on the technical end and have nothing to do with the editorial product. Many are long-term employees who know no other jobs, and the newspaper business generally is not doing a whole lot of hiring these days.

The fate of the Globe seems to rest on concessions that management insists need to be made by the unions. The Globe (like the automakers) is a highly unionized operation: there are thirteen separate ones involved in putting out the paper. The pressmen have a union, the mailers another, and the delivery truck drivers still another, while negotiations with the union known as the Boston Newspaper Guild (a group that includes both white-collar and blue-collar workers in its mix) appear to be the main sticking point.

I’m not privy to the details of the benefits provided by the Globe unions, or whether they seem to include unreasonable salaries or perks. It’s a good guess that they might (especially if you consider that the average figure for the concessions in salary and benefits—not the salaries themselves—that the Globe was factoring in for each of those 80 employees would have been 52K per person), but I really don’t know. I’ve read quite a few articles about the paper’s negotiations, but they don’t include those particulars.

At any rate, unions might not be as big a factor as they seem: it’s not just the Globe that’s in trouble; most newspapers are, be they liberal or conservative or in-between, and they’ve been killed by the internet. The old saying about premarital sex—why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?—appears to apply to the newspaper world as well. As this Globe column points out, the paper (like so many others) is following a “self-defeating business model” by “selling the paper with one hand and giving it away on with the other.”

True enough. That, combined with the recession, has caused revenues to plummet. Readership online is good, but that doesn’t generate much money, as most bloggers (and Pajamas Media, which had to get out of the online ad business) could have told you.

Scott Lehigh, the author of the column, wants to know whether Globe readers would pay for web content, a gambit that failed when the Times tried it but seems to be working okay for the Wall Street Journal. Lehigh writes that the problem is not the ultra-liberal stance of the Globe—fewer than 10% of its readers cited problems with content as a reason for dropping their subscriptions. But that’s a pretty hefty group, and there are probably more who felt that way but didn’t see fit to share that information with the Globe on their way out the door.

If you look at the comments on Lehigh’s piece, you’ll find that reactions are many and varied. Some say they would pay for the online version, some say that the paper’s extreme liberalism has turned them off, and some say the quality of the writing itself has declined.

My guess is that to survive, it may be best for newspapers to find a particular and unique niche and then charge for online content. The only thing special right now about the Globe that might make a person willing to pay for it when other papers can be read online for free is the local coverage, especially sports. Who wants to fork over hard-earned cash for AP stories with a Globe URL? Nobody.

Obama, in Reversal of Campaign Pledge, May Use Military Commissions

By William Fisher

Reports circulating in Washington suggest that President Barack Obama may try to revive the military commission system for prosecuting Guantánamo detainees, which Obama himself criticized during the administration of his predecessor, former President George W. Bush.

While some detainees would be tried in federal courts, administration lawyers are reportedly concerned that some terrorism suspects could not be prosecuted in this way because they were subjected to brutal interrogations or because some of the evidence against them is based on hearsay.

So the Obama legal team is said to be developing a plan to amend the Bush administration’s system to provide more legal protections for terrorism suspects.

While Obama himself has said in the past that he was not ruling out prosecutions in the military commission system, senior officials have made it clear that their preference is to prosecute terrorism suspects in existing American courts.

During the presidential campaign, Obama was critical of the commissions. He said, “By any measure our system of trying detainees has been an enormous failure,” and declared that as president he would “reject the Military Commissions Act.”

Court challenges and repeated delays have made the military commissions virtually dysfunctional. The result has been that detainees were denied basic rights of American law.

Only two trials have been completed in the nearly eight years since the Bush administration announced that it would use military tribunals.

The administration is likely to make it more difficult for prosecutors to admit hearsay, while not excluding it entirely, government lawyers reportedly said. The hearsay issue is central to many Guantánamo cases because the hearsay is based on secret intelligence reports and detainees may never be allowed to cross-examine the sources of those reports.

Continuing the military commissions in any form has already drawn sharp criticism from human rights advocates, who say that they would curtail the protections defendants would routinely receive in civilian courts.

Jonathan Hafetz, an ACLU attorney, told us, “Military commissions to try Guantanamo detainees have been a failed experiment in lawlessness. No effort by a new administration to provide ‘window dressing’ will change that. The only reason to perpetuate to military commissions in any form would be to circumvent the protections of the criminal justice system and insulate torture and other abuses from review. The criminal justice system is fully adequate to prosecute terrorism cases while remaining faithful to the Constitution and American values.”

David Cole of Georgetown University, a widely recognized constitutional authority, told us, “The critical issue is that any war crimes trials be meticulously fair. I think what they are called matters less than whether they meet fundamental principles of fairness. But one has to wonder why, if they are planning on fair trials, they cannot use the military justice system we use for our own servicemen.”

An even harsher view came from Prof. Francis A. Boyle of the University of Chicago law school. He told us, “These Kangaroo Courts violate the Geneva Conventions and are thus a war crime, even as determined by the United States Supreme Court itself in the Hamdan decision. There is no way they can be reformed.”

He added that the Geneva Conventions “require the use of regular, organized courts, which in this case would mean prosecution in United States Federal District Courts or else prosecution by means of formal U.S. military court-martial proceedings with all the protections of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. To do otherwise is a war crime.”

Shane Kadidal, an attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights, told us, “One could read some of Eric Holder's statements about the Commissions (from months ago) as not being categorical rejections of the idea of military trials or even of the present system, but instead implying that layering on extra due process protections would allow the currently temporarily-stayed trials to continue. But doing so would be a legal mistake because it would not solve the retroactivity problem -- the fact that the offenses defendants are charged with were created by the military commissions act years after they were arrested.”

He added, “It would also be a policy mistake: trials before any kind of non-civilian court will be viewed by the rest of the world as the sort of thing that military dictatorships have done throughout history; they'll be assumed to be completely lacking in fairness. Moreover, using military courts to try terrorists plays into their hands. It allows them to portray themselves as warriors rather than criminals, and their victims as collateral casualties in a political struggle rather than murder victims.”

Gabor Rona, international legal director of Human Rights First, said, “The administration is making a huge mistake if they believe getting convictions through suspect methods is more valuable than letting justice take its course.”

The four-month suspension of military commission proceedings ordered by Obama is due to end May 20.

At a news conference last week, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. emphasized that if the administration did use military commissions, the rules must give detainees “a maximum amount of due process.”

But, referring to detainees whom American officials have accused of involvement in major terrorist plots, Holder added, “It may be difficult for some of those high-value detainees to be tried in a normal federal court.”

As many as 100 of Guantanamo’s remaining 241 detainees could end up held without trial on American soil, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates suggested last week. He acknowledged that this situation would create widespread opposition in Congress.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates told Congress last week that discussions had started with the Justice Department about determining how many of the Guantánamo detainees could not be sent to other countries or tried in civilian courts because evidence against them was obtained through torture or is hearsay.

“What do we do with the 50 to 100 — probably in that ballpark — who we cannot release and cannot try?” Gates asked in a hearing before the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Lawmakers of both political parties have become increasingly vocal in asserting that the administration announced it would close Guantánamo before it had a plan for housing and prosecuting some detainees and releasing others.

“The question of where the terrorists at Guantánamo will be sent is no joking matter,” according to Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader. “The administration needs to tell the American people how it will keep the terrorists at Guantánamo out of our neighborhoods and off of the battlefield.”

Critics of the administration’s actions have tended to label all Guantanamo detainees as “terrorists,” although many have been cleared for release and there is substantial evidence that other detainees were “sold” to the U.S. military for cash while others were simply “in the wrong place at the wrong time” and should never have been imprisoned in the first place.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration is still trying to decide what to do with detainees who have been cleared for release.

At the hearing, Gates said he had asked for $50 million in supplemental financing in case a facility needed to be built quickly for the detainees. He acknowledged that such a facility would be unpopular in most places.

Members of Congress were already playing the NIMBY (Not in My Backyard) game, pleading with Gates not to send the detainees to their states. “Please not at Leavenworth,” said Senator Sam Brownback, Republican of Kansas. “This is a hot topic in my state.”

In Berlin last week, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said the legal basis for holding any detainees was still under review.

“We have to determine what would be our basis for holding that person that would to the world appear to be fair and that would in fact be fair,” he said. “How could you ensure that due process was being served by the detention of such a person?”

Emi Maclean, an attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights – which has mobilized dozens of lawyers to defend Guantanamo detainees – said, “It is long past time for the prison to close and for these men to have their lives restored. The time for promises is over; the time for real action is now.”

She raised the possibility that some of the detainees would need to be freed to enter the U.S. “The U.S. must open its doors to some of these men who need safe haven from torture, and other countries must as well if Guantanamo is to close,” she said.

Most prominent among this group are 17 Uighurs from China. While these Muslim men have been cleared for release after years of imprisonment at Guantanamo, they remain there because no other countries have come forth to offer them asylum and a U.S. court has ruled that it does not have jurisdiction to release them into the U.S.

Susan Boyle not quitting Britain’s Got Talent

ondon, Apr 29 (ANI): Britain’s Got Talent star Susan Boyle has rubbished rumours that she’s planning to quit the reality show.

The 48-year-old, who turned an overnight celebrity with her jaw-dropping performance of Les Misérables song ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ on the talent show, said she was not “stressed”.

“I’m not on the verge of a breakdown. I’ve never felt more positive,” the Sun quoted her as saying.

She spoke out after her brother Gerard, 54 said that she was exhausted and unhappy, which led to reports wanted to launch her solo bid for success immediately.

“There is no way I am quitting,” said Susan

“The only way I’d leave the show is if Simon Cowell kicked me out.

“All I can promise is to do my best and confirm to everyone that I’m not leaving the show,” she added. (ANI)

Eva Longoria Parker eyes French move

Hollywood actress Eva Longoria Parker has revealed that she and husband Tony Parker are planning to move to France.

Eva and Tony confirmed their plan to move to his native France once he is through with his football and she with ‘Desperate Housewives’.

“Tony and I will be moving to France after Desperate Housewives,” Contactmusic quoted Eva, as telling American TV show Extra.

“Actually after his basketball career,” Eva added.

Amy Winehouse Hospitalized After Fainting Spell

Well, it's been almost three months since Amy Winehouse's last hospitalization, so she was probably about due.

The Associated Foreign Press reports that the 25-year-old "Rehab" singer was admitted to the hospital and kept overnight for observation on Friday after passing out in her home. The incident occurred on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia, where Winehouse has been vacationing for, like, forever.

According to Wine-O's British publicist, Chris Goodman, she collapsed while "running around" with a group of children.

"She fainted at home (in St. Lucia) and they took her in for observation, mainly to do with her medication to check everything was okay," Goodman says. "They told her that she was dehydrated and needed to drink more water."

Winehouse needs to be reminded to drink water, and yet she wants to adopt kids? Perhaps not the best-thought-out plan ever concocted...

A-Rod plays defense for first time since surgery

Alex Rodriguez took another step toward returning to the New York Yankees on Saturday by playing defense for the first time since right hip surgery in early March.

Rodriguez played third base for five innings in an extended spring training game against Pittsburgh minor leaguers. He had one play, cleanly fielding a one-hopper and then throwing out Gemmy Gonzalez at first base.

Rodriguez called it "an important day" to resume playing in the field and that everything felt good.

"It's been awhile since I've been out on the field," said Rodriguez, who was a DH the previous two days. "When you go out and play the field, it definitely makes you feel like you have to do everything in the game. Be on every pitch. I liked it a lot better."

The three-time AL MVP said he feels ahead of the Yankees' target return date of May 15. There is a chance Rodriguez could rejoin the team during a weekend series May 8-10 at Baltimore.

Building stamina is one of the final parts of the rehab program.

"I think I could play right now, but you've got to go out and do that hopefully for the next six months," Rodriguez said. "It's not about just going out there and doing it for a week. My goal is to go out and play nine innings, play back-to-back nine innings, then obviously for a week and play everyday."

Rodriguez went 0-for-6 with two strikeouts Saturday, and has two hits — including a homer — in 18 at-bats with three walks over three extended spring games.

"I'm really looking for balance and good contact," Rodriguez said. "I did that really good (Friday). Today wasn't so good. My body is a little fatigued always on Fridays and Saturdays from the (rehab) workload."

Rodriguez is not scheduled to do any off-field work Sunday, and will play in another extended spring game Monday.

"I think Monday and Tuesday I should be running the bases, and it should be full-go," Rodriguez said. "I have slid here 14 times on the mat. Now it's just matter of going out and doing it on the field."

Dr. Marc Philippon, who operated on the hip on March 9, examined Rodriguez on Wednesday.

"He assured me that nothing (bad) will happen," Rodriguez said.

Pirates minor leaguer Kyle Bloom faced Rodriguez five times and struck him out twice.

After both left the game, Rodriguez autographed and gave his bat to the left-hander.

Also, Chien-Ming Wang, on the 15-day disabled list due to weakness of the abductor muscles in his hips, threw four no-hit innings in the extended spring training game.

Wang missed the final 3 1/2 months last season with a right foot injury, and said a lack of flexibility with the foot impacted his pitching this year.

He is taking part in an off-field program that includes working out in a pool, which is a regular part of Rodriguez's regiment.

"It's a lot better," Wang said. "I can stay back longer. Can throw the ball lower."

Wang struck out three and walked two. The right-hander could make at least two more extended spring starts, with the next one scheduled for Thursday.

"I thought Wang was good," Rodriguez said. "He was throwing the ball downhill. He's getting stronger. We're in the pool getting our work in and already in three or four days his progress has been very good."

Wang threw 33 of 52 pitches for strikes.

Granderson homers as Tigers beat Indians 9-7

Curtis Granderson hit a two-run homer in Detroit's three-run eighth inning and the Tigers beat the Cleveland Indians 9-7 on Saturday.

Detroit blew a 5-0 lead and trailed 7-6 before its big inning against Rafael Betancourt (0-1), rallying to end an eight-game losing streak to Cleveland.

Pinch-hitter Josh Anderson led off the eighth with a single and Granderson followed with his eighth homer. Carlos Guillen tacked on a sacrifice fly later in the inning.

Joel Zumaya (1-0) picked up the win with 1 2-3 shutout innings of relief, and Fernando Rodney finished for his fifth save. Cleveland had runners on the corners with one out in the ninth, but Rodney struck out Mark DeRosa and Jhonny Peralta to end the game.

Adam Everett hit his second career grand slam in the fourth for the Tigers.

Both starters struggled but ended up with no-decisions. Cleveland's Aaron Laffey allowed five runs — as many as in his previous three starts combined — and six hits with five walks in just 3 1-3 innings. Detroit's Zach Miner gave up five runs in five innings.

The Tigers loaded the bases on three singles in the fourth before Laffey forced in the game's first run by walking Ryan Raburn. Everett followed with a liner just inside the left-field foul pole for his first homer with Detroit.

Miner almost got out of his own bases-loaded jam in the fifth, but Raburn slipped and fell while chasing Asdrubal Cabrera's fly to deep left. Raburn got up and nearly made a running catch, but the ball hit off his glove for a three-run double.

After Victor Martinez walked, Shin Soo-Choo tied it at 5 with a triple past a sliding Magglio Ordonez in right.

Everett started a rally in the sixth. He reached on a nice bunt single, took second on a sacrifice and moved to third on a groundout before Magglio Ordonez singled him in.

The Indians tied it again in the seventh on Martinez's broken-bat RBI double off Bobby Seay. Martinez moved up on a wild pitch. After Choo walked, Zumaya came in and gave up a tiebreaking sacrifice fly to DeRosa.

Notes:@ The Tigers announced that C Matt Treanor had surgery Thursday for a bone spur in his hip, a move that is expected to end his season. Treanor has been sidelined since April 24. ... Everett's previous grand slam came in 2003. ... The Indians made three roster moves after Friday's win, putting RHP Joe Smith (rotator cuff) on the 15-day disabled list, optioning OF Trevor Crowe to Triple-A Columbus and designating INF Tony Graffanino for assignment. They recalled INFs Josh Barfield and Luis Valbuena and OF Matt LaPorta from Columbus.

Mayweather Jr. says he's eager to fight

For Floyd Mayweather Jr., it feels like he's never been away.

"I left on top, and I came back on top," Mayweather said. "I'm here to fight and reclaim what's mine."

Mayweather formally announced his return to boxing Saturday, less than a year after he retired and said he was through with the sport. He will fight lightweight champion Juan Manuel Marquez on July 18 in a fight with a 143-pound limit.

The undefeated former five-time champion last fought when he stopped Ricky Hatton in the 10th round of their December 2007 fight. He was expected to fight Oscar De La Hoya in a rematch of the fight he narrowly won earlier that year, but last June said he would not fight again.

Mayweather is unbeaten in 39 fights.

MLB: Philadelphia 6, N.Y. Mets 5 (10 inn.)

PHILADELPHIA, May 2 (UPI) -- Shane Victorino's bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the 10th Saturday gave the Philadelphia Phillies a 6-5 victory against the New York Mets.

Victorino scored twice and was one of three Philadelphia players with two hits.

After New York used a three-run sixth to take a 5-4 lead, Raul Ibanez hit a solo homer in Philadelphia's turn in the bottom half of the inning to create a 5-5 tie and send the game into extra innings.

Ibanez, one of the three with two hits, also hit a first-inning sacrifice fly. Jimmie Rollins and starter Jamie Moyer had one RBI apiece for the Phillies, who had lost two in a row following a season-high five-game winning streak.

The winner was Jack Taschner (1-0).

New York's Daniel Murphy hit a solo homer in the sixth after a second-inning sacrifice fly.

The losing pitcher was Sean Green (0-2).

Mexico swine flu deaths ebb _ but caution urged

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico said a swine flu epidemic appears to be easing, but urged citizens Saturday not to let their guard down against a virus that has killed 17 people and is spreading across Asia and Europe. Experts warned the virus could mutate and come back with a vengeance.

With no suspected swine flu deaths since Wednesday and fewer people turning up at hospitals with virus symptoms, Mexican officials were guardedly optimistic that the worst was over in the outbreak's epicenter. Cases outside Mexico suggested the new swine flu strain is weaker than feared. But governments moved quickly anyway to ban flights and prepare quarantine plans.

In the first known reported case of the new, mutated virus infecting another species, pigs in the province of Alberta have become infected and are under quarantine. They apparently got the virus from a Canadian farm worker who recently visited Mexico and got sick with swine flu, Canadian officials said Saturday.

They told a press conference in Ottawa that the pigs do not pose a food safety risk, adding that the traveler recovered from the swine flu and the pigs are "well on their way to recovery." The outbreak occurred on a single farm, where about 10 percent of 2,200 pigs showed a fever and loss of appetite. No pigs have died from the virus, officials said.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it's too early to declare victory.

The World Health Organization also decided against a full pandemic alert, but that doesn't mean people can relax, said Dr. Mike Ryan, WHO's global alert and response director.

"These viruses mutate, these viruses change, these viruses can further reassort with other genetic material, with other viruses," he said. "So it would be imprudent at this point to take too much reassurance" from the small number of deaths.

"We have seen times where things appear to be getting better and then get worse again," said Dr. Anne Schuchat, the U.S. agency's interim science and public health deputy director. "I think in Mexico we may be holding our breath for some time."

The global caseload was 763 and growing — the vast majority in Mexico, the U.S. and Canada. Costa Rica reported its first confirmed swine flu case — the first in Latin America outside Mexico.

Swine flu cases have been confirmed in 18 countries so far — including Europe, the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific region — and experts believe the actual spread is much wider than the numbers suggest.

U.S. President Barack Obama urged caution Saturday.

"This is a new strain of the flu virus, and because we haven't developed an immunity to it, it has more potential to cause us harm," Obama said. Later, he spoke with Mexican President Felipe Calderon for about 20 minutes to share information.

What started as a swine flu outbreak more than a week ago in Mexico quickly ballooned to a global health threat, with the WHO declaring a pandemic was imminent. Now public health officials are having to carefully calibrate their statements. Push the message too far, and they could lose credibility if the virus fizzles out. But if they back off and it suddenly surges, the consequences could be much more dire.

Some Mexicans have criticized their government for reacting too slowly to the outbreak at first, and now for overreacting in ordering a five-day, nationwide shutdown of all nonessential government and private business. Responding to the attacks, Health Secretary Jose Angel Cordova said: "It's absurd to think that Mexico was putting on a show. I think it's preferable, at a certain moment, to take advanced measures and succeed in containing the problem than to not take them and ask, 'Why didn't we take them?'"

Mexico's last confirmed swine flu death occurred Tuesday, and the last suspected death came Wednesday, said Pablo Kuri, an epidemiologist and adviser to Cordova.

Cordova said hospitals are now handling fewer patients with swine flu symptoms, a sign that the disease is presently not very contagious. Mexican investigators who visited 280 relatives of victims found only four had the virus.

But experts said there is much they don't know about the outbreak in Mexico, where tests confirmed 16 deaths and nearly 450 people sickened. A multinational team of virus sleuths are trying to piece together the epidemiological puzzle.

Kuri said three of the dead were children: a 9-year-old girl, a 12-year-old girl and a 13-year-old boy. Four were older than 60.

The other nine were between 21 and 39 — unusual ages for people to die of the flu because they tend to have stronger immune systems.

Although most of the dead were from Mexico City, they came from different neighborhoods in the metropolis of 20 million people, Kuri said. One common factor may be that they sought treatment too late — an average of seven days before seeing a doctor. For those who recovered, the average wait was three days, said Hugo Lopez-Gatell Ramirez, deputy director of Mexico's Intelligence Unit for Health Emergencies.

Many of the sick around the world were people who had visited Mexico, including 13 of Britain's 15 cases.

South Korea reported Asia's second confirmed case — a woman just back from Mexico — and other governments prepared to quarantine airline passengers, eager to show how they have learned from the deadly SARS epidemic in 2003, when Hong Kong was criticized for imposing quarantines too slowly.

China suspended all direct flights from Mexico and sealed 305 people inside a Hong Kong hotel where an infected Mexican tourist stayed. Health workers in white bodysuits patrolled the lobby where the 25-year-old Mexican stayed before he became Asia's first confirmed case late Friday.

Mexican Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa complained that China had isolated 71 Mexican nationals in six cities, including Beijing, without reason — and urged Mexicans not to travel to China until the situation was resolved.

"These are discriminatory measures," she said.

Romney, Jeb Bush team up for GOP rebranding

The first town hall meeting for the National Council For a New America was held in Washington, D.C. On Saturday.

"Let's not underestimate the people of America," former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney said. "Let's make sure to listen to the people of America."

The group met in the Washington, D.C. Suburbs to present its ideas for taking the GOP in a new, more inclusive direction.

Former governors Romney and Jeb Bush joined Congressman Eric Cantor to talk health care, the economy and national security. But the group steered clear of abortion and same-sex marriage -- wedge issues that have led to the defection of moderates and independents.

"From the conservative side it's time for us to focus, to listen first, to learn a little bit, to upgrade our message a little bit," Bush said.

Some of the party faithful called it time for Republican lawmakers to stop debating among themselves and start listening to the voters.

In the latest sign of trouble for the party, Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter, one of the few prominent GOP moderates, defected to the Democratic party, saying he no longer felt welcome among Republicans.

Sri Lanka - at least 64 dead as 'army shells' hospital

Artillery shells hit a makeshift hospital in Sri Lanka's northern war zone yesterday, killing at least 64 civilians, according to a government doctor and a website linked to the Tamil Tiger separatists, amid growing international pressure to safeguard thousands of civilians trapped in the area.

Military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara denied the accusation, saying soldiers were only using small arms as they pushed forward to seize the remaining territory held by the Tigers along a small coastal strip in the island's northeast.

The government doctor, who refused to be named, said at least 64 patients and bystanders were killed in two artillery attacks, and another 87 people wounded. The hospital is inside rebel-held territory but is run by government doctors.

Report: Cowboys' staffers hurt in storm

IRVING, Texas, May 2 (UPI) -- A dozen people were hurt Saturday when an intense storm collapsed a domed practice bubble at the Dallas Cowboys training facility in Texas, team officials said.

At least two and perhaps three of the victims were in serious condition but Dr. Paul Pepe, head of emergency medical services for Dallas County, said there did not appear to be any life-threatening injuries, The Dallas Morning News reported.

The storm hit on the second day of a rookie minicamp at the team facility in Irving. No players were injured, the newspaper said.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported secondary coach Brett Maxie suffered a leg laceration and special teams coach Joe DeCamillis was taken to the hospital on a stretcher after he was initially spotted walking around and appeared to be OK.

The newspaper said team scout Chris Hall was one of the front-office members trapped underneath the frame, but he was speaking clearly. The names of the others injured weren't available.

Media members were asked to clear out about 15 minutes after the facility collapsed and the four staffers also were hospitalized.

The storm, carrying 60 mph winds, hit about 3:30 p.m. CDT, toppling the air-supported roof of the eight-story facility, the Morning News said.

TV cameraman Paul Riggs said he looked up and saw the roof collapsing.

"I sprinted harder than I have in decades," he said, adding he ducked under a raised platform with several offensive linemen. "It fell around us. Then it was pure chaos."

Recession a backdrop to usual Kentucky Derby glitz

Lewis Grant lost his job nearly a year ago, but that didn't stop him from going to America's most famous horse race. The unemployed auto worker staked out a spot on the Churchill Downs infield Saturday, scraping together enough money to have a good time at the Kentucky Derby.

"You've still got to do little things for yourself," said Grant, 36, of Shelbyville, Ky. "You cut back where you can, but there's just some things that you're not willing to give up."

Money flowed like mint juleps on a cool, overcast day as the massive crowd assembled for the 135th Run for the Roses angled for their own economic stimulus at Churchill's betting windows. Race fans like Debbie Oberle shrugged off the nation's stubborn recession and spent freely while soaking in the festive scene.

"I'm keeping the economy going, said Oberle, 51, of Walton Hills, Ohio, who was betting with "zeal" and had already bought $150 worth of souvenirs. "This is my first time here, and I'm going to enjoy it."

This year's Derby featured its usual glitz as women sported snazzy dresses and brightly plumed hats. Celebrities paraded along a red carpet entrance.

Fans screamed at the arrival of stars like Aretha Franklin, Kid Rock, country singer Travis Tritt and New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning. Among others in attendance were singer Gretchen Wilson with her 8-year-old daughter, Grace; Brooke Shields with her family; chef Bobby Flay and his wife, actress Stephanie March; and actress Doris Roberts.

But the revelry — and a surprise win by Mine That Bird who went off at 50-1 odds — also unfolded against the backdrop of a dramatic U.S. economic slowdown, and the anxiety of a worldwide outbreak of swine flu.

Don Meier, 55, of Louisville, said he was taking "commonsense precautions" against the illness such as washing his hands, but he wasn't going to let publicity about the virus hamper his 35th straight Derby.

"I'm not going to stay in a bunker somewhere," he said, "I'm still going to go out."

Churchill Downs turned somber briefly when eight bells tolled in tribute to the filly Eight Belles, a year after her fatal breakdown following the Run for the Roses.

Owner Rick Porter was presented a U.S. flag along with a portrait of the filly who was runner-up in the 2008 race.

"Down in the paddock you could've heard a pin drop," said race patron Jennifer Butler of Tampa, Fla., who called it a "heartwarming and emotional" tribute.

Attendance was 153,563, the seventh largest in Derby history but down from 157,770 last year and the lowest since 2004.

Mine That Bird's longshot victory followed an unexpected turn Saturday morning when morning-line favorite I Want Revenge was scratched. The colt was knocked out of the Derby after trainer Jeff Mullins discovered a left front ankle injury that was causing inflammation.

The sluggish economy was the big concern for fans like Grant, who was more restrained with his money.

Grant, a Derby regular since 2001, put himself on a tight budget. Last year, when still employed with Ford Motor Co., Grant plunked down $600 on Derby Day wagers and amassed a big beer tab.

This time, with no job prospects on the immediate horizon, he put a strict $150 limit on wagers.

"That's from gifts from people — birthdays and Christmas and just what I scraped and saved," he said.

Grant, draped in festive beads, already had plans for any big winning tickets.

"I would pay off some more bills," he said.

Meier was among fans who packed a cooler with sandwiches, cookies and soft drinks.

"It's kind of a low-budget operation," he said.

Churchill lifted its Derby ban on coolers in the infield. The track had prohibited coolers for its biggest day after reviewing security policies following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Churchill Downs also froze most Derby ticket prices this year as a result of the struggling economy.

Lifelong horse racing fan Charles Pelley, 70, of Myrtle Beach, S.C., was fulfilling a promise made to his father by attending his first Derby. Pelley said the economy was no factor.

"I lost 40 percent of what I've worked for my whole life last year," Pelley said. "That didn't matter to me. It's just less for my kids. You can't take it with you."

Tracy Beebe, a 37-year-old stay-at-home mom from Winston-Salem, N.C., said her family was celebrating her father's 30th trip to the Derby. Beebe said the sour economy had only a minimal effect on their trip.

"We're still betting on every race, but we're not betting as much," she said.

Linda Elliott said her Derby debut wouldn't be inhibited by money concerns. Elliott, attending the race with a group of friends, wagered several hundred dollars the day before at Churchill Downs, and came out slightly ahead. She planned to bet with gusto again Saturday.

The 57-year-old Canton, Ohio, woman was fulfilling a long dream.

"It's awesome," Elliott said. "I think everybody needs to do this, once in their life."

Black Political Pundit 'Affirmation' Action is Working

From CNN to Fox News and beyond, black political thinkers are appearing more in the news. This shows that an affirmative action approach can work, but will it cross over to the community?

Everyone expected a positive change with the nomination of Sen. Barack Obama, as we do now with him as President. Positive change has come to politics as a result, at least in political media.

A recent report noted the uptick in black political pundits and bloggers, which seems to be a result of the presence of President Obama in the last political cycle. This is a good thing, not just for people like me, but for plenty of other Americans who are finding their points of view being voiced in a manner not seen before the 2008 election.

We now regularly see black political representation from both sides of the aisle in the media, giving those Americans following politics a chance to see the diversity of black America. ...

From young bloggers to old-line conservatives (and former elected officials), potential voters have had a chance to see black politicos argue their positions and analyze the policies and actions of our leaders in an inclusive manner that is truly American.

The diversity of image can lead to – and solidify – our political diversity down the road.

Sometimes, the best way to bring out openness in image-driven industries such as the media is to present a different image visually. Putting more diversity in the political media serves that purpose, but it does more as well.

By showing more points of view from the black community at a time when the first black nominee of a major party became the first black president, the media has pushed black America to a point of challenging itself to practice what it preaches with affirmation action – namely, to provide a different political viewpoint to an environment that has been dominated by whites for decades.

Ironically, our political landscape shows that America is diverse enough to have a black president, but black America hasn't shown that it's ready to have viable political diversity. The presence of conservative pundits who can counter their liberal and moderate counterparts on air has not led to more acceptance of black political diversity. Of course, that is not due to a lack of trying.

Groups such as Hip Hop Republicans, the Frederick Douglass Foundation, and the Black Republican Forum will only grow as the Republican Party strengthens post-2008, particularly with the election of Michael Steele as its chair. So far, these efforts have not broken the ice to create new political vision for black America. But just as the Obama presidency is young, so is the new wave of black media presence complete with balanced analysis.

The goal of affirmation action is to open the minds and hearts to allow for new opportunities. We have seen this lead to new realities in politics, both in the White House and on the airwaves. Maybe the continued presence of balanced political viewpoints from African Americans in the media will lead to new political thought for black America.

'Wolverine' claws its way to a massive $35 million Friday

What swine flu?

Hollywood may have been worried that the public's fear of the swine flu pandemic might affect this weekend's box office, but someone forgot to tell that to the millions of "X-Men" fans who hit the multiplex yesterday. Savvily marketed as the fourth "X-Men" sequel, "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" pulled out a massive $35 million dollar Friday in what should amount to a $85-88 million opening. It won't match last year's "Iron Man" stunner of $98 million or the last two openers of the "X-Men" franchise, but after all the negative buzz and concern over the illegal online download, 20th Century Fox will take it. If the picture plays like traditional trends, it should end up between $180-200 million total, which is not too shabby for a spin off and will have done its job: establishing a new franchise for the News Corp. company.

As for this weekend's other major opener, Matthew Mcconaughey and Jennifer Garner's "Ghost of Girlfriends Past" brought in a much less dramatic $6 million for what should amount to $16-17 million for the weekend. That total will bet last years Patrick Dempsy vehicle "Made of Honor" which, similarly slotted against a superhero pic ("Iron Man") made only $14.7 million in its opening weekend before eventually topping out a shrug inducing $46 million. Considering "Ghosts" is a much better movie, Warner Bros. should look for a total between the $50-60 million range for the romantic comedy.

Last week's box office champion, "Obsessed," brought in $4.2 million and is estimated to cume $12 million for its second weekend. For a movie that reportedly cost only $20 million, Sony will be very happy with a two week gross of over $47 million and close to $70 million overall when the thriller's run is done.

(7) Chicago Bulls (3-3) at (2) Boston Celtics (3-3), 8 p.m.

One of the most entertaining NBA playoff series in recent memory will come to a close Saturday when the defending champion Boston Celtics face off with the Chicago Bulls in Game 7 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinals set.

Whether it ends in four quarters is anybody's guess.

In a series that has now featured four overtime contests, including three in a row, and a total of seven extra sessions, the Bulls forced Game 7 on Thursday when the outlasted the C's in triple-overtime.

Joakim Noah came up with the steal and go-ahead three-point play, and the reigning NBA Rookie of the Year Derrick Rose had the crucial block on Rajon Rondo's shot in the waning seconds, helping the Chicago escape with a 128-127 win in Game 6 at the United Center.

"I'm just excited that we're still alive," said Noah. "We were really close to death today and I feel every game is like that. It's such a roller coaster. I'm having so much fun out there."

The Bulls got 35 points from John Salmons and overcame a playoff career-best 51-point effort from Boston's Ray Allen, who tied an NBA postseason record by hitting nine three-pointers.

Rose totaled 28 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, but his lone block of the night came at the most crucial time. Brad Miller ended with 23 points and 10 rebounds for the Bulls. Ben Gordon, who is struggling with a balky hamstring, was limited to 12 points before fouling out.

Paul Pierce had 22 points and nine rebounds for the Celtics, and Glen Davis tallied 23 points, but both players fouled out along with teammate Kendrick Perkins, who had 12 points and 13 boards. Rondo, who is averaging a triple- double in the series, tallied eight points, nine rebounds and equaled a Celtics postseason record with 19 assists.

Noah, who had 15 rebounds, stepped into the passing lane to deflect Pierce's pass, raced the other way and threw down a right-handed jam. Pierce fouled out on the play, and Noah sank the free throw for a 126-123 difference with 35.5 seconds left.

"It was more of a reaction," said Noah. "He drove to my side and I stunted at him, tried to make him pick up his dribble. He threw the pass, got the steal and it felt like it took me forever to get to the basket, but I'm happy I got there."

For Pierce, he admitted the big mistake trying too quick to pass to Brian Scalabrine.

"I should have taken my time with the pass. It was an awful pass that Noah deflected," said Pierce. "At that point you want to save the basket. You want to try to get back as hard as you can and you don't think about fouls."

Eddie House drained a jumper from the left corner seven seconds later for a one-point difference before Miller sank two from the charity stripe. Rondo then tipped in his own miss for a 128-127 margin with 23.7 seconds to go.

Chicago's Kirk Hinrich then missed a wide open layup off an inbounds pass, giving the second-seeded Celtics the ball back with 16.7 seconds left, but Rose snuffed Rondo's fadeaway jumper and came up with the loose ball.

Rose missed both ensuing foul shots with 3.2 seconds left, but Rondo's shot from near half-court hit high off the backboard as time expired.

"The series is a lot of fun for the fans, of the people of Chicago, of the people of Boston, but it's a lot of fun for us too, playing in environments like this, on the big stage and putting on a great performance almost every game," said Noah. "It's special to be a part of this and it's a series I know people will be talking about for a long time."

The Celtics have played the entire series without All-Star power forward Kevin Garnett but any hope of a heroic appearance a la Willis Reed in Game 7 remains unlikely. Celtics general manager Danny Ainge, who is recovering from a mild heart attack, reiterated to the Boston Globe that Garnett is out for the playoffs with his knee injury.

The Bulls stole the opener of the series with a 105-103 overtime win in Boston behind Rose's 36 points and 11 assists.

The Celtics rebounded in Game 2 when Allen won a shootout with fellow former UConn star Ben Gordon as Boston won 118-115 in regulation. The Celtics then took their first lead in the set with a 107-86 Game 3 rout.

The Bulls bounced back with a 121-118 double overtime win in Game 4 before losing an 11-point fourth-quarter lead in a Game 5 106-104 overtime loss.

Chicago is trying to become the first seventh seed to knockout the second seed since New York beat Miami in 1998.

Boston won two Game 7s during last year's postseason en route to their 17th NBA championship. The Celtics were deadlocked 3-3 in their series with Atlanta and Cleveland, before going on to beat both in seven games.

The winner on Saturday will face No. 3 seed Orlando in the conference semifinals. The Magic, minus a suspended Dwight Howard and an injured Courtney Lee, finished off Philadelphia, 114-89, on Thursday in Game 6 of that first- round series.

Hatton-Pacquiao odds: Ricky Hatton vs. Manny Pacquiao fight odds

We are just hours away from witnessing on of the most exiting boxing fights so far this year - Ricky Hatton vs. Manny Pacquiao, time to check the odds on the bout tonight. In Las Vegas Ricky Hatton (45-1) will defend his junior welterweight title against Manny Pacquiao (48-3-2) and the British boxer is far from being favorite this time around. Looking at the Hatton vs. Pacquiao odds at the popular online sportsbook Bookmaker, Manny Pacquiao is way ahead with favorite odds -240, compared to Ricky Hatton, who holds underdog long odds +200 to win the fight at MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas tonight. This could indeed be great news for bettor siding with Ricky Hatton today, considering the double your money return The Hit Man is offering, something we have not seen in a while for a boxing match of such magnitude. Both fighters weight-in last night, with Ricky Hatton coming in spot on 140 pounds, while Manny Pacquiao tipped the scales at 138 pounds.

Checking the odds on the Pacquiao vs. Hatton fight at another high-traffic online sportsbook, Bodog Sports, we find Hatton in even more doubt of winning the bout tonight. At this bookie the odds on Ricky Hatton are +205, while Manny Pacquiao is holding favorite odds -265 to win the face-off in the ring of MGM Grand Arena. The sportsbooks has also made favorite the fight to go over 9.5 rounds with -130 odds, while under will pay out on -110. The Hatton-Pacquiao fight will be on HBO PPV at 9:00pm EST, check your local Pay-Per-View options for pricing and availability.

Obama to Host Talks with Afghan, Pakistani Presidents

The White House says President Barack Obama will host talks with his counterparts from Afghanistan and Pakistan next week in Washington.

Spokesman Robert Gibbs says Mr. Obama will speak jointly and separately with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari starting Wednesday at the White House.

Meantime, The New York Times reports that the Obama administration is considering reaching out to former Pakistani Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif. Mr. Sharif heads the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-N party, and has ties to Pakistani Islamists.

The newspaper report says U.S. officials hope to use these Islamist ties to address the challenges posed by Taliban insurgents.

Mr. Obama has introduced a revised strategy to stabilize Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan. Both governments are fighting Taliban insurgencies in regions of their countries that share a mountainous border.

Insurgents have made a comeback in Afghanistan, causing the highest level of violence since a U.S.-led coalition ousted the Taliban government in 2001.

Pakistan has been hit in recent years by a wave of militant attacks in the tribal areas and also in the capital, Islamabad. The government is under intense pressure from the United States to defeat insurgents who also stage attacks in Afghanistan.

Citigroup may need $10 bln more: report

US bank Citigroup may need to raise up to 10 billion dollars in new capital as President Barack Obama's administration continues talks with banks over the results of its "stress tests," the Wall Street Journal reported.

The money would be in addition to the 45 billion dollars Citigroup has already received from the government since late 2008.

"The bank, like many others, is negotiating with the Federal Reserve and may need less if regulators accept the bank's arguments about its financial health," the Journal reported on its online edition, citing unnamed people familiar with the matter.

"In a best-case scenario, Citigroup could wind up having a roughly 500 million cushion above what the government is requiring," the Journal reported.

US officials will reveal on May 7 results on "stress tests" conducted on the 19 biggest US banks that have received public aid to weather the global financial crisis, a government source told AFP on Friday on condition of anonymity.

The results of the tests of the banks' capacity to withstand a worse-case scenario of the current recession will be published after the stock market closes Thursday, the source said.

The tests are being conducted by the Federal Reserve and other regulators at the request of the US Treasury.

According to the government source, the tests should reveal information about the banks as a group, as well as details on each individual bank.

The US government owns a 36 percent stake in Citi following the latest bailout and conversion of special preferred shares to common stock.

Citi, which has been hammered as a result of the US housing meltdown and subsequent credit crunch, said in mid-April that it had trimmed 13,000 jobs since the fourth quarter and 65,000 since peak levels to leave its total workforce at 309,000.

GOP: Obama's first 100 days all spending, taxing

Republicans say President Barack Obama's first 100 days in office can be summed up in three words: spending, taxing and borrowing.

In the party's weekly radio and Internet address, Rep. Lynn Jenkins chided Obama and Democrats in Congress for pushing through a $787 billion stimulus package and a $3 trillion federal budget for next year that she said will waste taxpayers' dollars and burden future generations.

"The plans they've passed in the first 100 days will add more to our nation's public debt than all previous presidents combined in 200-plus years," said the Kansas Republican, a former state treasurer. "They've taken away President Obama's promised middle-class tax cut and paved the way for a new national energy tax to be paid by every American who dares to flip on a light switch."

Pointing to the stimulus package, Jenkins contended millions of dollars have already needlessly gone for a homeless program in a town which doesn't have such a problem, an artwalk in New York as well as sidewalks and trash cans outside a Michigan casino.

"This bill was supposed to be about jobs, but it's gone off the rails in practically no time at all," she said. "It's quickly turning into a symbol of everything wrong with Washington, D.C. — unchecked spending, no accountability and oversight."

Jenkins said Republicans believe they can help rebuild people's savings, revitalize the housing market and create "twice as many jobs as the Democrats' 'stimulus' at half the cost."

"Middle-class families and small businesses across America are tightening their belts and making sacrifices each and every day during this recession, and Republicans believe that it's time for Washington to do the same," she said.

Anti-abortion activist arrested at Notre Dame

Anti-abortion activist Randall Terry has been arrested while protesting against President Barack Obama's upcoming commencement speech at the University of Notre Dame just hours after he was ordered off school grounds.

University spokesman Dennis Brown says campus police arrested Terry on Friday on a trespassing charge. Terry was released from the St. Joseph County Jail on $250 bond.

The Operation Rescue founder is in South Bend protesting the school's invitation to Obama to speak at the May 17 commencement. The protest Friday involved demonstrators pushing carriages with dolls covered in fake blood.

Brown says the school issued a no-trespassing order after a protest Thursday and that the order is in effect until it's rescinded by Notre Dame.

Teens cleared in killing

wo Shenandoah teenagers were acquitted late Friday night of killing illegal Mexican immigrant Luis Ramirez Zavala.

Brandon J. Piekarsky, 17, of Shenandoah Heights, and Derrick M. Donchak, 19, of Shenandoah, were convicted of simple assault.

The Schuylkill County jury also convicted Donchak on three counts of corruption of minors and three counts of furnishing alcohol to minors.

The defendants hugged each other after the verdicts were read, and friends and family members clapped.

Jurors deliberated for nearly eight hours before reaching their verdict around 10:45 p.m., Friday.

The all-white jury of six men and six women began deliberating about 3 p.m.

The beating occurred about 11:30 p.m. July 12 on West Lloyd Street in Shenandoah, Prosecutors said. Ramirez died two days later at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville.

Jurors returned to the courtroom around 4:10 p.m. asking Schuylkill County President Judge William E. Baldwin to define three of the charges: ethnic intimidation, corruption of minors and recklessly endangering another person. Baldwin took about 10 minutes to do so and returned the jury to the deliberation room.

Baldwin, who had presided over the five-day trial, began instructing the jury at 1:10 p.m. following a lunch recess.

“He was beaten badly. His skull was fractured in two spots,” Assistant District Attorney Robert P. Frantz said in his closing argument Friday.

Lawyers for Piekarsky and Donchak argued the boys did nothing wrong and prosecutors rushed to judgment without fully considering the evidence.

“Is it fair to these kids who are on trial for their lives?” Frederick J. Fanelli, Piekarsky’s lawyer, asked.

Jeffrey M. Markosky, Donchak’s lawyer, said prosecutors had not proved any hatred was involved.

“This was a fight that developed spontaneously,” Markosky said. “There is an absolute lack of evidence that Mr. Donchak’s actions were caused by racial hatred.”

Piekarsky was charged with criminal homicide, ethnic intimidation and other related charges. Donchak was charged with aggravated assault, ethnic intimidation and other related charges.

Markosky said the case came down to witness credibility and that neither Brian Scully nor Colin J. Walsh, two other teenagers charged in connection with the fight, were credible.

Walsh, 17, of Shenandoah Heights, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to federal civil rights charges in connection with the incident. According to Walsh’s testimony, under his sealed plea agreement, he will serve four or nine years, depending upon his cooperation.

Ramirez also was not entirely innocent, continuing to fight voluntarily when the boys started to walk away, according to Fanelli.

“Ramirez was planning for battle,” he said.

All that adds up to reasonable doubt and mandated acquittal of Piekarsky, Fanelli said.

Frantz argued the prosecution did not rush to judgment, but he did not deny some of his witnesses gave inconsistent statements. He attributed that to the desire to protect their friends and teammates in football and other sports at Shenandoah Valley High School.

“Team bonding runs deep,” Frantz said.

In an unusual move, Frantz said the two police officers who testified they heard Garcia say Scully kicked Ramirez, were not telling the truth.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Immigrants push for reforms at rallies nationwide

Thousands of immigrants and their families marched in cities from coast to coast, hoping to channel the political muscle Hispanics flexed last fall as President Barack Obama won election. This time, they hoped to jump-start an old cause: forging a path to citizenship for the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants living in the U.S.

Crowds were dampened in many areas though, as the swine flu scare kept numerous people home Friday. The area hardest hit by the swine flu is Mexico, also the native home of many rally participants.

In Miami, more than 300 minority rights activists joined with union officials in one of the first local immigration rallies to be endorsed by the AFL-CIO. Participants waved signs for immigration reform in Spanish, English and Creole. They also sought temporary protection for the state's large community of Haitian immigrants, whose native island has been devastated in recent years by hurricanes and floods.

They chanted "W-I N-O-U K-A-P-A-B," Creole for "Yes We Can."

In Colorado, a march was planned Saturday in Greeley, a rural town 60 miles north of Denver, and the site of a 2006 federal raid at a meatpacking plant, in which 261 undocumented workers were detained.

"We wanted to make the undocumented workers the protagonists, to give them a voice," said one Greeley organizer, Alonzo Barron Ortiz.

Activists' hopes have been buoyed by Obama's election and a Democratic-controlled Congress, in part because they believe the Hispanic vote, about two-thirds of which went to Obama, helped flip key battleground states such as Colorado and New Mexico. Many Hispanics strongly back comprehensive immigration reform — and believe Obama owes them for their support.

On Friday, thousands attended events in Houston, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Denver, Chicago, New York and other cities. They said a sizable role played by immigrants in the economy merits immigration reform.

"If we don't have the conversation, the economy isn't going to get any better," said Sergio Inocenzio, a 48-year-old juice plant worker who marched in Yakima, Wash., and has lived in the United States his entire life. "We're not here to take anything. We're here to work."

Organizers had hoped crowds would equal or exceed those of last year, which was down from 2006 when a stringent immigration bill poised to pass in Congress drew large-scale protests. But early reports suggested turnout was far lower than in previous years.

In Chicago, organizers had expected about 15,000 participants, but the crowd appeared much smaller.

In Newark, N.J., about 225 marchers paused outside the federal immigration building during a rally. "Say Reform, Not Raids" read signs in the crowd.

Stella Okereke, a Nigerian immigrant, said the marches weren't just about Hispanics. "It is for all of us, for Africans, for Americans for Haitians, for anybody who has felt a pinch of injustice, and that's why we are here, to support that immigration reform be done now," Okereke said.

The rally in New York City drew a diverse crowd that included Chinese, Ecuadoreans, Mexicans, Salvadorans and Pakistanis. Among them stood a smattering of those who oppose immigration reform.

And one of the largest gatherings assembled outside the White House, where more than 2,000 people rallied to call for change in immigration policy.

The White House announced this week that it would refocus its resources on prosecuting employers who hire illegal immigrants. And a Senate Judiciary subcommittee took up immigration this week for the first time in the new Congress.

Associated Press Writers Herbert G. McCann in Chicago, Kamala Lane in Washington, D.C., Adam Goldman in New York, Ivan Moreno in Denver, Amy Taxin in Los Angeles and Samantha Henry in Newark, N.J., contributed to this report.

After his flu warning, Biden takes the train home

One day after saying he wouldn't travel in tight quarters because of the swine flu scare, Vice President Joe Biden rode a train Friday from Washington to Delaware.

Known for speaking freely, Biden told NBC's "Today" show on Thursday that he had urged family members to avoid airplanes and subways for fear of contracting the H1N1 flu virus.

"I wouldn't go anywhere in confined places now," Biden said.

The comments infuriated the travel industry and triggered several revisions from the Obama administration, whose official advice is less severe.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano commented, "If he could say that over again, he would say if they're feeling sick, they should stay off of public transit or confined spaces."

By Friday night, Biden seemed ready for his own do-over. A longtime rider of Amtrak, he took a train from Union Station to his Delaware home, his office said.

Up 4, down 5, Yankees rally to beat Angels 10-9

Brian Fuentes took the mound, and it didn't take long.

Walk. Single. Single. Single.

Game over.

It's been like that a lot for the Los Angeles Angels these days.

"We're certainly sorting through some stuff here in the early going," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said after Los Angeles wasted a five-run, eighth-inning lead and lost to the New York Yankees 10-9 Friday night. "We're just obviously not getting it done right now. We need guys to get the job done and too many of them are having trouble doing that right now."

His bullpen is 1-8 with a major league-worst 7.69 ERA, a big reason the Angels are 9-13.

"I don't think I've seen anything like it, when everyone struggles at the same time," said Fuentes, who fell behind all four batters he faced and blew a save for the second time in seven chances. "Nobody's really happy down there with the way we're throwing the ball. Right now, I just need to get myself right. I need to throw more strikes, get ahead of guys, throw my secondary pitches.

New York took a 4-0 lead in the first inning as Jorge Posada hit a two-run homer — the record-tying 29th at the new Yankee Stadium. But Andy Pettitte couldn't hold it, and the Angels scored six runs in the sixth inning and three more in the seventh.

Melky Cabrera's RBI single, Ramiro Pena's two-run single and Derek Jeter's RBI grounder off Jose Arredondo cut the deficit to 9-8 in the eighth. Then in the ninth, Fuentes (0-2) walked slumping Mark Teixeira on a 3-2 pitch leading off, and Hideki Matsui and Robinson Cano singled to load the bases with no outs.

Posada got ahead 2-0 in the count, then singled to left-center on a 3-2 pitch. New York won for the sixth time in seven games at Yankee Stadium since losing the opener and stretched its winning streak to a season-high four overall.

"This shows that we can come back. We can come back against tough teams, and we do have a lot of weapons on this team that could pitch in and contribute for us," Johnny Damon said.

New York won when trailing by five runs or more at the end of the seventh for the first time since Sept. 14, 2007, when it rebounded from a 7-2 deficit to win 8-7 at Boston, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The Angels hadn't lost when leading by that much after seven since blowing an 8-3 lead at the Chicago White Sox in a 9-8 loss on Sept. 1, 2000.

Jonathan Albaladejo (2-1) pitched a perfect ninth for the win.

Gary Matthews Jr. hit a three-run triple on rookie Mark Melancon's first pitch ever at Yankee Stadium for a 5-4 lead, scored on a wild pitch and drove in four runs for the Angels.

Yankees outfielder Nick Swisher bruised his right elbow when he was hit by a pitch in the first inning and left after two. X-rays were negative. The Angels' Bobby Abreu left after 6 1/2 innings because of a tight lower back.

White Sox 4, Rangers 3

Jim Thome hit a tying three-run double, and Chris Getz added the go-ahead triple for visiting Chicago.

Mark Buehrle (4-0) allowed three runs in six innings to improve to 11-3 against the Rangers. Bobby Jenks pitched the ninth and is perfect in six save chances.

Ian Kinsler hit a leadoff homer, and Michael Young had three hits for Texas.

Rays 6, Red Sox 2

Evan Longoria extended his torrid hitting against Boston pitching with a grand slam and Carlos Pena also homered, helping host Tampa Bay beat the Red Sox.

Andy Sonnanstine (1-3) allowed two runs and eight hits in 5 2-3 innings to get his first regular-season victory since Aug. 18 for the defending AL champions, who improved to 4-1 against Boston.

Longoria homered and drove in four runs for the second straight night, connecting off Justin Masterson (2-1) during Tampa Bay's six-run fifth inning.

Blue Jays 8, Orioles 4

Roy Halladay won his ninth straight decision against visiting Baltimore and Kevin Millar drove in three runs against his former team.

Halladay (5-1) improved to 9-0 with an 2.71 ERA in his past 11 starts against the Orioles, and is 19-4 in 29 career games against them. He gave up four runs_three earned_and 10 hits in eight innings, raising his major league-leading total to 44.

Orioles left-hander Mark Hendrickson (1-4) lost his fourth straight start.

Indians 6, Tigers 5

Carl Pavano pitched 7 1-3 effective innings and Cleveland held off host Detroit.

Pavano (1-3), who made his longest start since a shutout win at Seattle on May 17, 2005, left with Cleveland leading 6-1 in the eighth inning.

Kerry Wood pitched a scoreless ninth for his fifth save and as many chances.

Armando Galarraga (3-1) lasted just five innings.

Twins 7, Royals 5

At Minneapolis, Joe Mauer homered in the first at-bat of his delayed season debut and scored three times, and Justin Morneau's go-ahead two-run shot sent the Twins to the victory.

David DeJesus drove in three runs for the Royals, and Jose Guillen made Kevin Slowey (4-0) sweat his perfect record with a two-run single that tied it at 5 in the fifth inning.

Joe Nathan notched his fourth save in the ninth.

Mariners 8, Athletics 7

Jose Lopez hit an RBI single to right field on the 14th pitch from Russ Springer with two outs in the ninth inning, and host Seattle rallied from five runs down.

It was Lopez's fourth career game-winning hit, and he had to work a little extra for this one. After going to a 2-2 count against Springer (0-1), Lopez fouled off nine consecutive pitches. With the crowd and his entire dugout standing, Lopez lined the final pitch, a fastball, into right-center field to score Chavez.

It was Lopez's third RBI of the game, as Seattle came back after being down 6-1 early on.