Saturday, May 16, 2009

Pakistani Troops Close in on Militants, Over Million Displaced

Pakistan's military says troops are closing in on a key Taliban-held town in the northwest, as the United Nations confirmed more than a million people have been displaced in two weeks of fighting.

Army spokesman Major General Athar Abbas said Saturday that security forces were approaching Mingora, the main town in Swat Valley, in an effort to intercept militants trying to flee the area.

The U.N. refugee agency says more than a million people have fled the area, since the military launched its offensive to stop Taliban militants who violated a peace deal and advanced to within 100 kilometers from the capital.

U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres on Saturday called for massive support, including millions of dollars, to help the displaced.

Elsewhere in Pakistan's northwest, a car bomb exploded in the city of Peshawar, killing at least 11 people, including children.

Several others were injured in Saturday's blast that also hit a passing school bus.

Angels' Lackey ejected after 2 pitches

Angels starter John Lackey was ejected after throwing only two pitches in his season debut Saturday.

The first pitch thrown by Lackey, activated from the disabled list to start the game, went behind the head of Texas Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler, who homered twice Friday night. The next pitch hit Kinsler in the side of his upper body. Home plate umpire Bob Davidson immediately ejected Lackey.

Manager Mike Scioscia argued at length with Davidson and crew chief Tim Tschida to no avail. Lackey, who had been sidelined because of a forearm strain, raised his arms on the mound with a look of disbelief on his face.

Lackey is the first starter in the majors to throw only two pitches in a game since Colorado's Zach Day on Sept. 16, 2005. Day was knocked out of that game at Arizona when a line drive broke his right thumb.

Shane Loux replaced Lackey on the mound. Loux also pitched Friday night, when he gave up a 460-foot two-run homer to Josh Hamilton in the eighth inning. That was the third-longest homer ever hit at Rangers Ballpark and proved to be the difference in the Rangers' 10-8 victory.

US declines to disclose Middle East peace plan

The United States on Saturday declined to elaborate on its Middle East strategy, after King Abdullah II of Jordan told AFP in an interview that Washington was preparing a major new peace plan.

But senior aides to President Barack Obama hinted that any new US plan could involve an expansion of a 2002 Saudi-inspired peace initiative which the King has been advancing as a possible way forward.

The king and Obama met at the White House last month, and a senior Obama administration official said they had discussed possible ways forward.

"One of the things they discussed was the possibility of taking this Arab peace initiative ... and building on it and making it an even stronger contributor to moving forward," the official said on condition of anonymity.

"What will come out of all of these discussions is a determination of what is the best way to move forward," the official said, briefing reporters on Obama's talks on Monday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

"At this point were not going to describe if there is a specific plan on the table authored by us or anybody else."

The king said earlier in the interview that he expected an "announcement from the US administration ... of its plan to restart negotiations to achieve a comprehensive solution," in the Middle East.

"A resolution to the conflict is an American strategic interest," he said.

"And we hope that it (Washington) will announce this plan as soon as possible, because lost time undermines the chances for peace. There is a tremendous need to move quickly, seriously and effectively," he added.

The king, a key US ally, gave no details on the expected plan.

But he warned that "the possibilities of a new round of violence, a new war, will increase and the region and the world will pay the price," in the absence of any resolution.

Some observers expect Obama to unveil a new US peace plan during his major address to the Muslim world in Egypt on June 4, after talks later this month with Netanyahu, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas.

Michelle Obama urges graduates to give back

MERCED, Calif. (Map, News) -
First lady Michelle Obama praised graduates at California's smallest, youngest public university for their struggle to succeed, urging the jubilant group to give back to their communities in her debut as a commencement speaker on Saturday.

Before a crowd of 12,000 wilting in the afternoon sun, Obama evoked the struggles of California's founders - settlers and former slaves, trailblazers and truck drivers - to admonish the 493 members of the school's first full graduating class to use their newfound skills to lift up those around them.

"Many of you may be considering leaving town with your diploma in hand, and it wouldn't be unreasonable," Mrs. Obama said. "By using what you've learnt here you can shorten the path perhaps for kids who may not see a path at all. I was once one of those kids."

Mrs. Obama spoke of her own determination to get ahead despite tough odds, recounting the struggles of her working-class family on Chicago's South Side.

Rachel Alexandra Beats Boys in Preakness

Favored filly Rachel Alexandra, winner of this year's Kentucky Oaks, beat Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird by a length to take the Preakness Stakes, the second jewel in Thoroughbred Racing's Triple Crown. Musket Man was third, another 1 1/2 length back. This is the first time the filly that won the Kentucky Oaks ran in the Preakness.

Michael Steele, gay marriage and 'bling'

by Mark Silva

Credit Michael Steele, the Republican National Committee chairman, with nothing, if not creativity.

The GOP chairman today is offering a new way of looking at the debate over same-sex marriage:

It'll cost small businesses money.

Georgia GOP convention.jpg

With a number of states legalizing same-sex marriage - much of New England and also Iowa, so far - the debate over gay and lesbian unions that leaders of both parties have been content to leave to the states could escalate to the national stage if the movement for a marriage amendment is revived.

And Steele suggests that his party could forge a broader consensus on the question by recasting gay marriage as an issue that threatens the pocketbooks of small businesses forced to pay more for health care and other benefits for employees' partners.

(And, here we thought the problem with health insurance is that a lot of small businesses aren't providing it to anybody.)

Steele, in the Savannah, Ga., area today following an appearance at the NRA convention in Phoenix yesterday, where he warned that Democrats threaten the gun-owning right of Americans, said he had tried out this argument about gay marriage and small business budgets on an airline flight with a college student who had described herself as fiscally conservative, but socially liberal on issues such as gay marriage -- (did she ask for this conversation?)

"Now all of a sudden I've got someone who wasn't a spouse before, that I had no responsibility for, who is now getting claimed as a spouse that I now have financial responsibility for," Steele told Georgia Republicans at their state convention. "So how do I pay for that? Who pays for that? You just cost me money."

As Steele spoke of strategies for repositioning the party, he also poked some fun at his earlier pledge to give the GOP a "hip-hop makeover."

""You don't have to wear your pants cut down here or the big bling," the chairman advised the party's faithful in Georgia.

Swine flu is extending U.S. flu season

WASHINGTON, May 16, 2009 (UPI via COMTEX) -- The new swine flu virus is helping to extend this year's flu season at a time when it would normally be winding down, U.S. health officials say.

Daniel Jernigan of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told Saturday's Washington Post that normally by mid-May the winter flu season is nearly over, but not this year, as the new swine flu virus has been found in about half the tested U.S. cases.

"We would be expecting to see the season to be slowing down or almost completely stopped," Jernigan said. "But what we're seeing is there are some areas that actually have reports of the amounts of respiratory disease รข?¦ that are equivalent to peak influenza season."

Two more U.S. deaths were reported from swine flu, bringing the total in the country to five. The CDC said a 33-year-old Corpus Christi, Tex., man died May 6, while a woman in her late 40s died last week in Arizona, while at least 173 infected people have been hospitalized across the country, the newspaper said.

"We know the outbreak is not localized but is spreading and appears to be expanding throughout the United States," Jernigan told the Post.

Madonna not to marry toy boy lover Jesus Luz

Queen of Pop' Madonna has trashed reports claiming that she was set to marry her 22-year-old Brazilian boyfriend Jesus Luz in a lavish Kabbalah ceremony.

Earlier, Luz's father was quoted by a Brazilian magazine 'Quem' in a report stating that the 50-year-old was all set to tie the knot with her toy boy lover in New York, brewing a storm of speculations and rumours, reported Contactmusic.

However, pop diva has denied planning any such thing, questioning the authenticity of the claims made by Luz's father. "This is completely and totally not true. Jesus' father didn't make any statement on this subject," a representative of the popstar told In Touch magazine.

"The ceremony (that) will link up my son Jesus Luz and Madonna only confirms that he is extremely happy," the Brazilian magazine had said quoting Luis.

But the singer insists that the reports of a lavish Kabbalah wedding to her lover are false.

The Material Girl started dating Jesus Luz soon after divorcing British director Guy Ritchie late last year.

Michael Jackson News: Skin cancer update

op legend Michael Jackson has been diagnosed recently with skin cancer. But according to The Sun, the 50 year old singer is determined that he is going to recover and is looking forward to his sellout comeback gigs. Fans of Michael Jackson are hoping that he will recover quickly.

The Beat It singer has been told that the disease is treatable, after experts found spots of skin cancer on Michael’s upper body and pre-cancerous cells on his face. The star has insisted that any treatment he receives has to fit around his concerts, and that the show must go on. Michael doesn’t want to disappoint fans.

Jackson has promised that he will be fit enough to perform at his eagerly-anticipated O2 gigs. His closest aides say that Jacko is in good health and currently involved in intense rehearsals in LA. Michael is very excited about his shows and claim they are going to be more spectacular than ever.

Goodbye Wayman Tisdale

As I'm sure many of you now know, Wayman Tisdale a gifted jazz musician and former NBA player has passed away at the age of 44. This hits us here at SFSI especially hard as Wayman was drafted second overall in 1985 by our Indiana Pacers.

Wayman was a brilliant college basketball player. A three time Big Eight Conference player of the year and also a three time All-American at Oklahoma. Wayman had a solid, if unspectacular NBA career. After he retired, Wayman became an extremely accomplished jazz bassist.

Wayman's love for life and kindness to others was not dampened when he was diagnosed with cancer. He continued to live life to the fullest and to inspire all those that he met. Yesterday on May 15,2009, the world lost one of its truly unique talents. Rest in peace Wayman, you will be missed.

The Phony Notre Dame Controversy as Seen by an Alumnus

never wanted to go to school anywhere but Notre Dame, and I was thrilled to be accepted in 1964. I vividly remember my Freshman Theology class in the Administration Building (under the Golden Dome), which was devoted to the documents of Vatican II. I still have my copy. I specifically remember working through the implications of the idea that priests, including the Pope, were Servants of the Servants of God. This idea provided a completely new perspective on the role of the laity in the Church, and I loved it.

A couple of weeks ago, I got a letter from Randall Terry, as did all alumni, telling me his “battle over President Obama speaking at Notre Dame is one of the most critical battles for the pro-life cause that we have had in many years.” Then a few days later Chuck Lennon, head of the Notre Dame Alumni Association, sent a blast e-mail to alumni, explaining that he didn’t give Terry the mailing list. I wonder who did.

I wrote back to Lennon, explaining that I don’t really care about Randall Terry. Terry isn’t the problem. The problem I see is that Notre Dame has turned away from Vatican II, and now places papal hierarchy at the center of Catholicism. In the process of reversion, it has created in its students a mindset that makes it seem plausible that only those in perfect agreement with the entire body of Church doctrine are to speak to at commencement.

Wednesday, I got another blast fax, this one from Father Jenkins, the President of the school, which was directed to graduating seniors. He apparently thinks he has to explain why he invited the President of the United States to speak at commencement:

I am saddened that many friends of Notre Dame have suggested that our invitation to President Obama indicates ambiguity in our position on matters of Catholic teaching. The University and I are unequivocally committed to the sanctity of human life and to its protection from conception to natural death.

Father Jenkins can’t see that this saddening “suggestion” took root in the minds of friends of Notre Dame as the direct result of the Catholicism taught there. It wasn’t necessary. It has driven a least one alum away from the University he loved.

NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race Odds

NASCAR's annual All-Star event will take place this evening at Lowe's Motor Speedway in Charlotte, North Carolina. Online bookmaker has defending Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson listed as a +300 moneyline favorite in tonight's race. NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race Odds

Jimmie Johnson, a two time winner of the NASCAR all-star race, will have the pole in tonight's 21 driver challenge. The three time champion should feel right at home at Lowe's Motor Speedway, not only because his Rick Hendrick Chevrolet is sponsored by the home improvement company, but also because of his track record at Charlotte.

Johnson has competed in 15 races at the historic speedway and has seven win, eight top five runs, and 12 top ten conclusions.

Despite his previous success in the Sprint All-Star Race, Johnson had never taken the pole for the event prior to this weekend. He indicated that his crew made it a priority to earn the top spot.

"I think with track position as important as it's going to be in the race, to be where we are is a great situation," Johnson said. "We focused on it hard [yesterday] and everybody did their jobs."

Tonight's race will consist of 100 laps on the 1.5 mile quad-oval. The event is divided up into four racing segments, the first segment consists of 50 laps, the second and third segments are 20 laps each, and the final segment is a 10 lap dash-for-the-cash free for all. There are no points at stake in this evening's race, but the winner of the last 10 laps walks away with $1 million.

There will be 21 driver's participating in tonight's all-star festivities, eight of them are previous all-star race winners. Three drivers making the run this evening are two time winners in the event (Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin).

The NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race can be seen live tonight on the SPEED Channel starting at 8:30pm ET. NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race Odds:

Jimmie Johnson
Kyle Busch +600
Kurt Busch +700
Jeff Gordon +800
Mark Martin +800
Carl Edwards +1000
Greg Biffle +1000
Dale Earnhardt Jr. +1200
Matt Kenseth +1200
Ryan Newman +1500

A-Rod gives Yanks win with game-ending homer

Alex Rodriguez's first hit at the new Yankee Stadium was a doozy.

Rodriguez belted a game-ending, two-run homer in the 11th inning to give New York a 6-4 win over the Minnesota Twins on Saturday.

Rodriguez hit a long drive off Craig Breslow (1-2) into the seats in left after Mark Teixeira led off with a walk. A jubilant Rodriguez threw his arms up as he rounded first, then discarded his batting helmet as he made it to the plate and was mobbed by teammates.

It was just the second game at the Yankees' $1.5 billion palace for Rodriguez, who missed the first part of the season with a hip injury after admitting in spring training to using steroids when he played with the Texas Rangers.

Teixeira tied a career high with four hits and also had four RBIs for New York, which has won four straight. Alfredo Aceves (1-0) pitched a scoreless inning to earn the victory.

Justin Morneau hit his third homer in two games and Joe Mauer also connected for the second straight day for Minnesota, which absorbed its second consecutive difficult loss. The Yankees scored three times off All-Star closer Joe Nathan in the ninth inning of a 5-4 win Friday night.

The Twins pushed across two runs in the eighth to take a 4-3 lead. Morneau started the rally with a one-out drive off Phil Coke into the second deck in right. Michael Cuddyer walked with two outs and came around to score when Brian Buscher dumped a double into the right-field corner. Melky Cabrera missed the cutoff man with his relay throw as Cuddyer slid in safely.

New York responded in the bottom half. Teixeira, showing signs of breaking out of his usual slow start, singled in pinch-runner Ramiro Pena with two out to tie it at 4. Pena came in after Hideki Matsui led off with a ground-rule double off Nick Blackburn.

Blackburn went a season-high 7 2-3 innings, allowing four runs and six hits.

Teixeira's three-run drive after Blackburn issued a pair of two-out walks in the third gave the Yankees a 3-2 lead.

Mariano Rivera pitched two scoreless innings to help set up A-Rod's second homer of the season. Minnesota put the first two batters on in the 10th but Rivera retired the next three to keep it tied.

It was Rivera's longest outing since he pitched two innings against Kansas City on Aug. 16.

The four homers — all no doubters — brought the season total to 56 in the first 15 games at the Yankees' swanky ballpark, quickly developing a reputation as a launching pad. The major league record for most homers in the first 15 games at a new park is 59 at Puerto Rico's Hiram Bithorn Stadium from 2001-03, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Puzzled by Joba Chamberlain's lack of velocity in the first inning, the Yankees tried a new routine before his start against the Twins. The right-hander set aside part of his pregame bullpen session for a simulated inning against three batters.

The move seemed to work.

Chamberlain breezed through the first, and allowed two runs and three hits. He's 2-1 with a 3.65 ERA in his last four starts.

Opponents were batting .481 in the first inning against Chamberlain before the game against the Twins. Each of the seven runs he gave up in his previous two starts came in the first.

Notes:@ Twins 3B Joe Crede rested after leaving Friday night's game with tightness in his back and hamstrings. Buscher got the start at third. ... Yankees RHPs Chien-Ming Wang (hip) and Brian Bruney (elbow) are scheduled to make rehab appearances with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Sunday.

Angry electorate left to make Calif. budget calls

California residents will get the chance to decide what happens to their tax dollars in a special election next week, but whether the electorate registers their approval — or even show up to vote — it won't make much of an improvement in the state's gaping budget hole.

Lawmakers and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger arranged Tuesday's special election on six ballot measures in February, when they agreed to a budget package that was intended to close a $42 billion deficit through the middle of next year. But even after cutting $15 billion in spending, raising taxes by $12.8 billion and borrowing more than $11 billion, the budget deficit has reappeared amid a global economic recession.

Analysts say the six ballot measures are a recipe for electoral disaster because of their complexity and the lack of support from a unified state Legislature. The election also comes at a time of rising unemployment rates, plunging home values and deep distrust of state politicians, leaving voters in a foul mood.

Analysts have questioned whether it's smart for lawmakers to place so much of the state's annual budgeting process in the hands of the electorate.

"It's not particularly wise to put to voters these decisions," said Jessica Levinson, director of political reform for Center for Governmental Studies in Los Angeles. "It not only causes the expense of having elections, it causes voter fatigue, it causes voter disgust with the system."

The propositions on the ballot range from measures that directly affect next year's budget to those that deal with the state's fiscal future. One would create a state spending cap, but it doesn't say anything about what else it would do if passed: Extend unpopular hikes in sales, personal income and vehicle taxes through 2013.

Two measures ask voters to tinker with initiatives they approved previously, redirecting nearly $900 million from childhood development programs and mental health services to the state general fund.

Another proposition wants voters to authorize higher jackpot payouts for the state lottery, which Schwarzenegger and lawmakers say would attract enough additional lottery revenue to enable the state to borrow $5 billion now and pay it back with the additional proceeds. But the measure doesn't say how investors would be repaid if the revenue doesn't increase as promised.

Even if voters approve all the measures, the state still would face a deficit of $15.4 billion in the fiscal year beginning in July. But Schwarzenegger and lawmakers who support the ballot propositions say voters do have a choice Tuesday: approve the measures and face a $15.4 billion deficit, or reject them and stuck with a $21.3 billion deficit and deeper cuts.

"It's ridiculous," said Natalie Head, a 34-year-old registered Sacramento Democrat. "Whether they win or loose: A, the deficit is so much bigger now than when it was when they built this plan. And B, you can't budget on proposals."

Campaign messages for the initiatives have been mixed, uniting some historically opposing groups such as conservative anti-tax groups and state employee unions while dividing opinion between the state's two teachers unions.

As a result, voters like Charles Morris, a 46-year-old registered Republican from Sacramento, have tuned out.

"I don't know anything about it because I don't pay any attention to them," Morris said, adding that he didn't plan to vote because he was unfamiliar with the state budgeting process.

Schwarzenegger has pleaded with state officials for action, saying this week that they "are in deep, deep trouble unlike the state has ever faced." His personnel office has begun sending layoff notices to 5,000 state workers, and the governor has said thousands of teachers would lose their jobs, the school year would be shortened and tens of thousands of children from low-income families would lose health care.

Even so, the governor hasn't had much luck with pleading for support from voters: All eight ballot propositions were rejected in the last special election called by Schwarzenegger in 2005.

Schwarzenegger's critics called the pronouncements scare tactics and noted that the deficit will be monstrous even if voters approve the ballot propositions.

But if it's action that the governor wants, recent polls showed that one of the six propositions appeared to have wide voter support. It would prohibit lawmakers and other state elected officials from receiving pay raises during deficit years.

Obama cites progress on energy, health care

President Barack Obama says agreement on an energy bill and a promise by interest groups to squeeze trillions of dollars in savings from the health care system show that change has come to Washington.

Some of those most opposed to past attempts at health care overhaul pledged this week to reduce the annual rate of growth in such spending by 1.5 percentage points, for a promised savings of $2 trillion in the next decade.

Weeks of negotiations have led to the introduction in the House of an energy proposal that, for the first time, would mandate reductions in the heat-trapping gases blamed for global warming and shift the country toward cleaner sources of energy.

Obama campaigned for president on a promise to change the way Washington works.

He said Saturday in his weekly radio and Internet address that he was heartened by the "willingness of those with different points of view and disparate interests to come together around common goals, to embrace a shared sense of responsibility and make historic progress."

Obama singled out utility companies and health insurers, doctors and hospitals for coming to the table.

"I have always believed that it is better to talk than not to talk, that it is far more productive to reach over a divide than to shake your fist across it," he said. "This has been an alien notion in Washington for far too long, but we are seeing that the ways of Washington are beginning to change."

Both agreements, in the long term, will strengthen an economy experiencing its worst days since the Great Depression, Obama said.

The climate bill will help create millions of jobs producing wind turbines and solar panels, and developing alternative fuels with the goal of reducing U.S. reliance on foreign energy sources, he said. Controlling health care costs will make businesses more competitive and give families more money to save or spend.

Republicans said they agree with Obama that the health care system needs an overhaul.

But they warned against offering consumers an option for health insurance that would be run by the government and replace employer-based coverage, saying it could have "devastating consequences" that include limits on care and higher taxes.

"A government takeover of health care will put bureaucrats in charge of health care decisions that should be made by families and doctors," Rep. Charles Boustany of Louisiana said in the Republican radio and Internet message.

"It will limit treatment options and lead to rationed care. And to pay for government health care your taxes will be raised," said Boustany, a cardiovascular surgeon and member of the House Republican Health Care Solutions Group. "That is something we cannot support, and frankly, it would clearly violate some of the principles the president himself has endorsed."

Obama said during an appearance in New Mexico this week that his goal is to improve the existing system, not replace it.

Inter Milan champion as AC Milan loses

Inter Milan became the first club in more than 50 years to win four straight Serie A titles when AC Milan lost to Udinese 2-1 on Saturday.

Milan had to win to keep the title race alive, but the loss left it with 71 points, an insurmountable seven behind its city rival with two matches to play. Inter, with a game in hand, hosts Siena on Sunday.

Inter captured its 17th Serie A title, becoming only the third club in the 111-year history of the competition to win four straight.

Seventh-place Udinese opened the scoring in the 31st minute when Milan captain Paolo Maldini brought down Antonio Floro Flores. Gaetano D'Agostino scored on a penalty kick for his 10th goal of the season.

In the 49th minute, Cristian Zapata put Udinese in control, sliding the ball home after being set up by D'Agostino. Massimo Ambrosini scored for AC Milan in the 90th minute.

Milan still needs three points to guarantee a Champions League spot next season.

Shanna Moakler: No Longer a Pageant Co-director

Written by: Amanda Bolden-Weaver

The former Miss USA has resigned, saying she “no longer believes“ in the organization.

Miss California Carrie Prejean gets to keep her crown, much to the dismay of state pageant co-director Shanna Moakler. She was so upset, in fact, that she resigned from her co-directing position, according to

“I cannot with a clear conscious move forward supporting and promoting the Miss Universe Organization when I no longer believe in it, or the contracts I signed committing myself as a youth,” Moakler said.

This comes after the much publicized drama surrounding Prejean, Perez Hilton, and the question heard around the world. Hilton questioned Prejean about her views regarding same sex marriage, and Prejean responded by saying she believes marriage is between a man and a woman.

It was then that Moakler and co-director Keith Lewis began to criticize Prejean, saying they were “disappointed” by her response and the nude photos that have recently been made public. When they found that she was joining the National Organization for Marriage, the pair felt Prejean should relinquish her crown. Shortly after, Moakler and Lewis promoted Prejean’s runner up, Tami Farrell to be a “Beauty of California Ambassador,” to fulfill any duties Prejean could not. According to, Moakler insisted the girl lied her way to the Miss California title.

“She entered the contest under false pretense,” the co-director said. “Accepting the title comes with the responsibility to represent everyone in her state, not just those who share her opinion.”

Moakler cites her children as part of the reason she is resigning, stating she wants to be a role model for them.

Astronaut does delicate camera repair

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., May 16 (UPI) -- A U.S. astronaut successfully repaired a camera on the Hubble Space Telescope during a spacewalk Saturday, NASA said.

John Grunsfeld, the lead spacewalker in the shuttle Atlantis crew, opened up the Advanced Camera for Surveys and replaced four failed computer cards, Florida Today reported.

"The fourth card is out. Woo-hoo, " Grunsfeld announced.

"Somehow I don't think brain surgeons go 'woo-hoo' when they pull something out," a teammate inside the shuttle responded.

Grunsfeld was joined on the difficult spacewalk by Drew Feustel. On Friday, the two replaced gyroscopes in the National Aeronautics and Space Administration telescope.

The camera repair was difficult because the instrument was not designed to be repaired in space. Grunsfeld had to remove 36 tiny screws before replacing the boards.

The task was originally planned for two days but was compressed into one to allow the crew to do more work during what is to be the last mission to visit the Hubble.

Obama reaches across political divide for envoy

With a reach across the political divide for Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman as ambassador to China, President Barack Obama may have sidelined for now a potentially formidable Republican moderate and possible White House challenger in 2012.

Yet Huntsman, who has upset the GOP's conservative base by supporting gay civil unions, may gain, too. The appointment, which requires Senate approval, gives him a chance to burnish his credentials and position himself as a viable presidential contender in 2016, if Obama appears to be a strong candidate for a second term in 2012.

John Weaver, a one-time senior strategist for John McCain's presidential campaign who now advises Huntsman, said the governor put country ahead of personal partisan interest. Huntsman was national co-chairman of McCain's failed bid against Obama.

"It's no more complicated than that, though it is so unusual in Washington everyone has to take a magnifying glass to it," Weaver said after Obama introduced Huntsman in the White House Diplomatic Reception Room.

"He was asked by the president to serve in a major diplomatic post, in a mission with a country most important to our economy, in dealing with Iran, Pakistan and North Korea. Jon is uniquely qualified and thus you don't turn your nation down," Weaver said.

Obama said he knew Huntsman's nomination "wouldn't be the easiest decision to explain to some members of his party." But Obama said Huntsman was "the kind of leader who always puts country ahead of party and is always willing to sacrifice on behalf of our nation."

Elected to his second term in November, Huntsman said he wasn't looking for a new job and didn't expect "to be called into action" by McCain's winning rival.

"But I grew up understanding that the most basic responsibility one has is service to country," he said, standing with Obama as his family looked on. "When the president of the United States asks you to step up and serve in a capacity like this, that to me is the end of the conversation and the beginning of the obligation to rise to the challenge."

Huntsman will be 56 in 2016, young enough to handle the rigors of a national political campaign. Republican strategists say serving as U.S. envoy to China — which Obama says will be critical to solving many world problems — will only improve Huntsman's reputation.

LaVarr Webb, a Republican strategist in Utah, said the appointment is a plus for Huntsman. He said Huntsman became a long shot for 2012 after his headline-making call for the GOP to moderate its tone if it wants to rebound from 2008 election losses.

"Clearly Gov. Huntsman does have major political ambitions and serving as ambassador to China certainly gives him foreign policy credentials," Webb said.

Eric Hyer, a China expert and political scientist at Brigham Young University, said the decision surprised him because no one seeks the presidency from an ambassador's post.

"So he might serve for four years and then come back and run for president. But can you run against the guy who hired you?" Hyer said.

Obama said he made the appointment "mindful of its extraordinary significance" and the breadth of issues at stake in U.S.-China relations, including the global economic crisis, the environment, public health, human rights and North Korea and Pakistan.

Huntsman, 49, is fluent in Mandarin Chinese from his days as a Mormon missionary in Taiwan. He previously served as U.S. ambassador to Singapore and as a deputy U.S. trade ambassador.

He made a name for himself in Utah by advocating a moderate agenda in one of the most conservative states. He drew the most attention for supporting civil unions, despite backing a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage that passed in 2004.

Obama's 2008 campaign manager, David Plouffe, has described Huntsman as a Republican who "seems to understand the party has to adjust — not stubbornly believe that everything is OK and it is the country that has to change."

As ambassador, Huntsman could play a critical role in getting China to sign onto a new international agreement to curb the emissions blamed for global warming. The Obama administration has said it is willing to enter into a treaty, but that participation by China — the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases — could influence the success of any global pact and whether U.S. lawmakers will ratify the agreement.

As governor, he signed an initiative establishing a regional effort to reduce global warming. In a 2006 speech at Shanghai Normal University, Huntsman spoke of the need for China and the U.S. to collaborate on environmental issues.

Before becoming governor in 2005, Huntsman made millions as chairman and chief executive of his family business, Huntsman Corp., a global chemical manufacturer with more than 12,000 employees worldwide. Revenues last year exceeded $10 billion.

Huntsman and his wife, Mary Kaye, have seven children, including adopted daughters from China and India. He dropped out of high school to play in a rock band, and spends his spare time playing in a band and mountain biking. He also rides a motorcycle and is a fan of motocross.

Jeff Bader, Obama's senior adviser on Asia, knew Huntsman from when they both worked in the U.S. Trade Representative's office, and he contacted Huntsman about a month ago to discuss becoming ambassador to China, according to the White House.

Obama's chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, followed up two weeks ago. Obama made an offer on May 5, and Huntsman accepted. The two then met last Saturday in the Oval Office when Huntsman was in town for the White House Correspondents' Association dinner.

Utah Lt. Gov. Gary Herbert, also a Republican, would become governor until a special election in 2010.

Fear of Taliban influx in largest Pakistani city

Taliban fighters seeking money, rest and refuge from U.S. missile strikes are turning up in increasing numbers in Pakistan's largest city and economic hub, Karachi, according to militants, police officials and an intelligence memo.

The Taliban presence in this southern port city, hundreds of miles away from the Islamist extremists' strongholds in the northwest, shows how quickly their influence is spreading throughout the nuclear-armed nation.

Karachi is especially important because it is the main entryway for supplies headed to U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, as well as the city most critical to Pakistani commerce. Few believe the Taliban could actually take over this diverse metropolis of more than 16 million, but there is fear that they could destabilize it through violence and rock the already shaky national economy.

Karachi is a place where plenty of Western-dressed young men and women mingle in swanky malls, listen to Britney Spears and cruise through neighborhoods that feel like wealthy U.S. suburbs.

But it is also where U.S. journalist Daniel Pearl was kidnapped and found beheaded in 2002. Al-Qaida operatives including suspected Sept. 11, 2001, attack plotter Ramzi Binalshibh have been found here. And the city is believed to have been a launching pad for militants who killed 164 people in India's commercial capital of Mumbai last year.

As the Pakistan military intensifies its attacks in the northwest and the U.S. keeps launching missiles there, more insurgents are seeking safety in Karachi and other urban areas, militants said.

"We come in different batches to Karachi to rest and if needed, get medical treatment, and stay with many of our brothers who are living here in large numbers," 32-year-old militant Omar Gul Mehsud told The Associated Press while strolling along the beach, astonished at the vastness of the sea, which he'd never seen before.

Shah Jahan, a 35-year-old who said he commands about 24 Taliban fighters in the South Waziristan tribal region, told the AP that militants are scattering throughout Pakistan to avoid the U.S. missile strikes. He said groups of 20 to 25 fighters would fight for a few months, then take leaves of up to one month in cities including Karachi.

"We are more alert and cautious following the drone attacks, and we understand that it is not a wise approach to concentrate in a large number in the war-torn areas," he said.

On the outskirts of Karachi, large settlements of Afghan and Pakistani refugees have swelled over the past year by as many as 200,000 people. These refugees are mostly Pashtun, the ethnic group that dominates the militancy. An intelligence report obtained by the AP warns that such neighborhoods have become favored hideouts for militants linked to Baitullah Mehsud, Pakistan's top Taliban commander.

The report from the police's Special Branch says Mehsud-linked militants are arriving in batches of 20 to 25 every 30 to 35 days "for rest as well as for generating funds." It adds that the militants make money "through criminal activities like kidnapping for ransom, bank robbery, street robbery and other heinous crimes."

The various settlements — dilapidated, poor, crime-ridden and wary of outsiders — sit along major entry and exit points to the city from east to west.

"That's a very alarming formation," a senior official at the Intelligence Bureau, another spy agency, told AP on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the record.

The Sohrab Goth neighborhood, for instance, is next to Super Highway, a major thoroughfare for materials heading to Afghan-based U.S. and NATO forces. Past ethnic violence in the area, including as recently as December, has led to shutdowns of the highway.

Senior police officer Raja Omar Khatab told AP that investigations showed earth-excavation companies owned by members of the Mehsud tribe were helping fund the Taliban.

"Forcibly or voluntarily, they are bound to pay 40 percent of their earnings to Baitullah because they belong to that tribe and they are concerned about their survival and their links to their tribe," said Khatab, who has twice been a target of militant attacks.

A.D. Khowaja, another senior police official, said up to a third of Karachi bank robberies in the past two or three years were believed to help fund militant groups including the Taliban. Police statistics show in 2008, 29 robberies of banks or their cash-carrying vehicles were reported in Karachi, with losses of nearly a million dollars.

In general, analysts, political leaders and security officials agree the Taliban has a network in Karachi, but differ on the number of militants and the immediacy of the threat.

Khowaja estimated hundreds of Taliban fighters were in the city. Leaders of the city's main party, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, say the local Taliban presence is in the thousands, and warn that the militants could find support among the countless students who attend Karachi's 3,000 Islamic schools.

The party's top leader, Altaf Hussain, has urged Karachi residents to buy licensed weapons to protect themselves in case of a Taliban attack. Many in the city already have weapons.

Rivals accuse the MQM of exaggerating the threat of the Taliban because of its history of bias against Pashtuns, an estimated two to four million of whom live in Karachi. The MQM has traditionally been the party of Urdu-speaking descendants of migrants who left India when Pakistan was carved off in 1947.

Amin Khattak, a local leader of the Awami National Party, a secular Pashtun party whose members have been targeted by the Taliban, said the MQM was trying to marginalize his community.

"Where is the Taliban in Karachi?" Khattak exclaimed. "If the Taliban are here, we are more exposed to that threat. Our leadership has been attacked. But I don't feel threatened. We are not afraid of Karachi."

However, party leaders insist they are not crying wolf when it comes to the Taliban.

"Their mere presence in the city is a threat," said Faisal Ali Subzwari, a provincial minister.

A Taliban fighter from South Waziristan, Samiullah Wazir, said the Taliban had no imminent plans to stage attacks in Karachi. While the AP has no way of verifying the names or claims of militants, their descriptions and accounts generally matched and were in line with police and intelligence reports.

For Karachi residents, all the talk of the Taliban has brought confusion and nervousness. Some said they thought twice about what they wore or where they went, but that they still felt generally safe.

Hadia Khan, a human resources consultant, said she joined a letter-writing campaign against the Taliban after seeing a video that apparently showed militants flogging a young woman in the Swat Valley, the focus of the renewed military offensive.

"The thought that went through my mind was that this could be me, this could be my daughter, or people that I know of if it is brought into my part of the world," Khan said. "I guess to a great extent ... nobody wants to take a chance. Even if there is a .001 percent chance of that happening, people like myself will raise their voices against it."

Protesters arrested ahead of Obama Notre Dame trip

Graduation festivities got under way at the University of Notre Dame on Saturday — as well as another day of demonstrations over President Barack Obama's appearance Sunday.

University spokesman Dennis Brown said there were no reports of protests on campus at any of the ceremonies held by various schools, centers and institutes. For the most part, the only difference on campus was the heightened security for Obama's visit, he said.

Students with their gowns on walked along happily Saturday afternoon with their parents apparently oblivious to the protest just a few hundred feet away.

But at the school's front gate at intersection of Angela and Notre Dame Avenue, more than 100 people gathered to protest the decision to invite Obama to speak at commencement and receive an honorary degree. They said he shouldn't be allowed to speak at the Roman Catholic university because of his support of abortion rights and embryonic stem-cell research.

Shortly after noon, 23 protesters marched on to campus. Nineteen were arrested on trespassing charges and four also faced a charge of resisting law enforcement, said Sgt. Bill Redman, St. Joseph County Police Department spokesman. They were being held on $250 bond.

Among those arrested was the Rev. Norman Weslin, a Catholic priest and founder of the Lambs of Christ abortion protest group. He also was among 21 people arrested during a similar protest Friday.

None of those arrested Saturday were students, Brown said.

Former Republican presidential candidate Alan Keyes and five others were arrested Friday and held overnight with no bond — a change in procedure for their second arrests. They had their bonds set Saturday at $1,000 by St. Joseph Superior Judge Jerome Frese.

Also protesting Saturday was Norma McCorvey, the plaintiff identified as "Roe" in the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion. She now opposes abortion.

She said she had planned to be arrested on Saturday, but changed her mind when a security officer ushered her to the side and gave her a chance to walk away.

"I didn't know why he just kind of gently moved me away. So I'm like, maybe this isn't the right time," McCorvey said.

Some driving past the protesters on Saturday waved in support. Others yelled at them. One man honked his horn in protest and held up a handful of hangers, a symbol of the gruesome procedures some pregnant women resorted to before Roe v. Wade.

Later, about 10 pro-Obama demonstrators assembled across the street holding up placards with slogans such as "Honk if you support Obama" and "Pro-Jenkins/Notre Dame." The Rev. John Jenkins, Notre Dame's president, has been criticized by many, including dozens of bishops, for the school's decision to invite Obama.

On campus, though, there were no signs of protest. Students generally favored Obama giving the graduation speech. The graduating class voted to name Jenkins their Senior Class Fellow.

A full page advertisement in the South Bend Tribune on Saturday had the headline: "Catholic Leaders and Theologians Welcome President Obama to Notre Dame." The ad, signed by university professors around the country, many of them at Catholic schools, said that as Catholics committed to civil dialogue, they were proud Obama was giving the commencement address.

There were some students, though, who opposed Obama giving the speech. ND Response, a coalition of university groups, has received permission from Notre Dame to hold a protest on the west end of the South Quad on Sunday. Spokesman John Daly said he expected 20 to 30 graduating seniors to skip commencement and attend the prayer vigil.

Some students who planned to attend the commencement said they would show their displeasure at the Obama invitation by putting a yellow cross with yellow baby's feet atop their mortarboards.