Monday, May 18, 2009

No marriage of the minds

Black clergy who oppose same-sex unions take issue when the fight for legalization is compared to the civil rights movement

The Rev. William Gillison of Mount Olive Baptist Church in Buffalo says the terminology of the civil rights movement has been hijacked.

Black clergy have long opposed the march toward legal same-sex marriages.

Now, they’re also challenging the growing efforts of gay-marriage supporters to frame the issue as a civil rights cause.

The Rev. William Gillison, pastor of Mount Olive Baptist Church, a large African-American congregation on East Delevan Avenue, said he is insulted by the comparison.

“We know what we have gone through as an ethnic group. We feel the terminology, the definition itself, has really been hijacked,” he said. “Unfortunately, it’s just another ploy to garner more support from people who may not understand what the civil rights struggle was all about.”

Bishop Michael A. Badger, pastor of Bethesda World Harvest International Church on Main Street, said that he doesn’t doubt there is discrimination against gay people but that it is hardly on the order of what African-Americans have encountered and still face.

“As an African-American, I don’t have a choice in the color of my skin. I have a choice in whether I’m abstinent or not,” Badger said. “I don’t think you can compare the two.”

Pastor Jeffery Bowens, who leads Love Alive Christian Fellowship on Genesee Street, also disagrees with the comparison.

“It doesn’t add up to me,” Bowens said. “It’s really attempting to get empathy more than anything else.”

In April, Gov. David A. Paterson, who is black, compared the fight to eliminate slavery in the 1800s to the current effort to legalize gay marriage. He later chided religious lead-

ers for not having spoken out against discrimination of gays.

Most black pastors, here and elsewhere, remain overwhelmingly opposed to gay marriage on religious grounds and objected to Paterson’s characterizations.

Among the region’s black clergy, the Rev. Gerard Williams stands largely alone.

Williams, who leads Unity Fellowship of Christ, a small, fledgling congregation, echoed Paterson’s remarks, saying, “Oppression is oppression.”

“If Dr. [Martin Luther] King had to weigh in on it, he’d come down on the side of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community,” said Williams.

Clergy who oppose gay marriage don’t want to hear that argument, he added, because they have “become the very thing that oppressed them.”

If same-sex marriage becomes legal in New York, Williams anticipates he will field quite a few more telephone calls from couples hoping to tie the knot. And he would be happy to perform the ceremony.

“It was not Christ’s intent that anybody be left out. It was not Christ’s intent that anybody be judged and condemned,” he said.

Sylvia Ruhe, director of religious affairs for the National Black Justice Coalition, hailed Paterson as an “old school civil rights leader” for his strong stance in favor of gay marriage.

“Confronting and challenging homophobia is some of the unfinished business of the civil rights movement,” said Ruhe, whose organization is based in Washington, D. C. “The United States of America has never lost a civil rights battle. We’re not going to lose this one.”

Five states — Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont and, most recently, Iowa and Maine — already have legalized same-sex marriage, and Tuesday, New York’s Assembly, which is controlled by Democrats, passed a bill by a margin of 89 to 52 that would make gay marriages legal.

The measure is expected to go to the State Senate, which also is controlled by Democrats. If a bill is approved there, Paterson has said he would sign it into law.

The most recent poll, conducted by Quinnipiac University last week, found New Yorkers split 46 percent to 46 percent on whether same-sex couples should be allowed to marry. An earlier poll by Siena College found 53 percent of state residents in favor of making gay marriages legal.

African-Americans were the only ethnic group in both polls to say they did not approve of gay marriage, by a margin of 57 percent to 35 percent in the Quinnipiac survey and by 49 percent to 44 percent in the Siena study.

Black ministers — along with the state’s Catholic bishops — remain among the most vehement opponents of the measure.

“My opposition to this is very simple. It’s not my biblical understanding of what marriage is,” Gillison said. “We believe when you’re talking marriage, it’s between a man and a woman. We don’t even believe marriage is man’s idea. It’s God’s idea. This has always been for us an issue that is one in the spiritual realm, not the political realm.”

The Catholic bishops note that their stance is “not simply a matter of theology, and religious values are not the sole source of opposition to this plan.”

Encouraging marriage between a man and woman, the bishops said in a statement, serves the state’s interests because children raised in homes with a mother and father are more likely to become good citizens, creating wealth, stability and security for society.

Marriage between one man and one woman historically “has made our society strong,” added Bowens, who expressed concern about whether approval of gay marriage would open the door for practices such as bigamy or polygamy.

“Is it going to cause society to deteriorate?” he said. “Where do we end up if we keep discarding the things that have kept us together? . . . It’s confusing. It’s disorienting.”

Some local black clergy said they oppose same-sex marriage but they were uncomfortable elaborating because they didn’t want to upset gay and lesbian members of their churches. They said they consider any sexual activity outside of traditional marriage between a man and woman to be sinful. But they also did not want to dwell on negative behavior or judge parishioners who are gay, they said.

The Rev. John Young, pastor of Fellowship Christian Center, maintains an informal “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy with members of his congregation.

“My position has always been, ‘I don’t want to know.’ Church is not the place to talk about sex,” he said.

Young said he wouldn’t perform a gay marriage in his church even if it were legal to do so.

But, he added, he doesn’t turn anyone away for worship in his church, because “our job is to preach the love of Christ so that they can be set free.”

And he is less concerned about the impact of the marriage legislation.

“It’s going to come to a vote, and at the end of the day, it doesn’t affect the church at all,” he said. “There’s no mandate that the church has to perform one of these weddings, and they won’t.”

Dancing with the Stars: Preview of Week 11

From ABC's official press release:

Three contenders remain...but only one star will outshine the rest, on the final two nights of ABC's Dancing with the Stars.

After ten weeks of entertaining drama, surprises and dazzling performances, Shawn Johnson, Gilles Marini and Melissa Rycroft have broken away from the pack and earned the right for a chance to be crowned champion of Dancing with the Stars. The three finalists will have their last opportunity to impress the judges and viewers on two nights of final competition, beginning Monday, May 18 (8:00-9:02 pm, ET), and concluding on the Season Finale, Tuesday May 19 (9:00-11:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network.

n the final performance show on Monday, the couples will face off against one another in a "Paso Punch Out" in which they each dance the paso doble to an extended version of the same song. Each couple will take a turn in a section of the song before stepping aside for the next team to showcase their routine -- giving judges and viewers a chance to compare the couples alongside each other. In addition, Shawn, Gilles and Melissa will show us what they've got in the ever popular Freestyle routine - a fan favorite.

Source: ABC

Lambert-Allen matchup may be a wacky 'Idol' finale

The final "American Idol" performance episode could be the weirdest concert ever televised.

In one corner, there's over-the-top Adam Lambert, the dominating presence who transformed Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire" into a sitar-infused spectacle and tackled "Whole Lotta Love," the first-ever Led Zeppelin tune performed on Fox's "Idol." From the outset, he's been the ambiguous rocker next door, most comfortable — but not scary — in eyeliner and studded leather.

Then, there's Kris Allen, always at home in jeans with his guitar. The only fashion risk he's taken is that smidge of blue nail polish spotted on his thumb during a visit home to Conway, Ark. Allen garnered the most praise with his daring song choices, like singing "Falling Slowing" from indie musical "Once" and reinventing Kanye West's robotic "Heartless" as a wistful singer-songwriter joint.

"Kris' appeal is that he has an honesty and a sincerity when he performs, and that he has never tried to change who he is," said judge Kara DioGuardi. "He's like a steady ship in the night. He never changes his clothes because everybody else around him is. He never does a song in a way that is sort of overcooked because everyone else around him is."

The mixture of Allen's subtly and Lambert's showiness — only to be broken up with a performance by fourth-season champ Carrie Underwood — will likely make for a kookier-than-usual show Tuesday, especially considering that Allen's slot in the final two has been perceived as a come-from-behind victory for the 23-year-old college student.

"It's going to be a strange and interesting juxtaposition on Tuesday night," said Michael Slezak, who blogs about "Idol" for Entertainment Weekly magazine's Web site. "Kris and Adam are so different. Calling them apples and oranges doesn't go far enough. They're almost from different planets. It's like comparing a root vegetable to a sea creature."

If there's anything they have in common, it's consistency.

The only time the men were in the show's dreaded group of bottom-three vote-getters was after their Rat Pack-themed performances, yet Lambert has long been considered the front-runner. After host Ryan Seacrest revealed last week that only 1 million votes separated Allen from the 27-year-old theater actor, the competition could be closer than expected.

"These guys have been doing a great job already, so I don't have much to tell them except to be true to themselves and really engage the home viewers through the cameras," advises sixth season runner-up Blake Lewis. "As far as finale week goes, they just need to stay focused and try to balance themselves through the chaos. It's really stressful."

The winner's fate may lie in the dialing fingers of the fans who had been supporting Milwaukee church music director Danny Gokey — and keeping him out of the bottom three until his dismissal last week. DioGuardi believes that Tuesday's episode "will be about forming a connection with the audience, and it's really about who's gonna get those Danny votes."

Still, most imagine the "Idol" title is Lambert's for the taking.

"I think this is going to be a walk in the park for Adam," said Rickey Yaneza, who blogs about "Idol" at "Judging from the traffic on my site, everyone is more interested in Adam. Kris simply can't compete with Adam's vocal calisthenics. Kris just has to be himself. Wow. That sounds like something Paula Abdul would say, doesn't it?"

Hong Kong shoppers injured in second acid attack

Thirty people were injured in one of Hong Kong's busiest shopping districts when two bottles of acid were hurled down a street, a police spokesman said.

The bottles were tossed into a crowd Saturday in the city's Mongkok district in Sai Yeung Choi street -- the same street where 46 people were injured in a similar attack in December.

The injured -- mostly young people who suffered burns to their faces, limbs and shoulders -- were admitted to hospital. All had been released by Sunday except a 16-year-old girl, a government spokeswoman said.

Police said they had not ruled out the possibility that the same person or people carried out both attacks.

"We are now investigating the two cases together as the nature of the two attacks is very similar," the spokesman said.

Chief Executive Donald Tsang said after inspecting the Mongkok street with officers Sunday that the crime must be solved as soon as possible.

"(The attack) is an extremely serious crime. We must catch the culprit as soon as possible," he said.

Tsang said a 100,000 Hong Kong dollars (12,800 US) reward offered in December for information leading to the arrests of those involved has been raised to 300,000 dollars.

The police spokesman said anyone prosecuted for the attacks could be charged with intent to do grievous bodily harm, with a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

Porsche board meets to discuss VW plans

Volkswagen's CEO said the company "will not be pushed" to hurry talks over a possible merger with majority shareholder Porsche AG.

In a letter to VW employees obtained Monday by The Associated Press, VW head Martin Winterkorn said more analysis was needed to avoid risking Volkswagen's finances in any combination with sports car maker Porsche, now facing deep debts.

Volkswagen on Sunday announced that it was postponing talks over the combination, agreed to last week by the two companies. Porsche insisted, however, that only one meeting had been canceled and the deal talks were ongoing.

"For any association between Volkswagen and Porsche, we have to systematically analyze the position of Porsche in order to get a clear picture of the real situation," Winterkorn said in the letter.

"We need full transparency of the current situation. It is in the interest of all involved, our workers, shareholders and customers, that we do not risk Volkswagen's financial stability and sovereignty."

"For that reason, we will not be pushed to rushed negotiations by anyone ...we need a constructive atmosphere for the necessary constructive talks. That has not been the case lately. We are not under pressure. All the options and circumstances have to be thoroughly investigated, in order to be able to decide on the basis of facts," the letter read.

Porsche built a 51 percent stake in Volkswagen, and appeared to be in the driver's seat, but ran up debt as it did so. As auto markets turned down and credit tightened, Porsche moved instead to merge operations with Volkswagen and forge an integrated company in which Porsche's sports-car operations would be one of the brands.

Porsche employee representatives walked off the job Monday in protest at the proposed combination at the company's development center in Weissach near Stuttgart. Porsche's employee council chief Uwe Hueck demanded that the independence of Porsche continue.

"Porsche stays Porsche. VW stays VW. That's the message," Hueck said.

Nearby, Porsche's supervisory board — much like a U.S. board of directors — convened but without leader Ferdinand Piech, also VW's board chairman, whose absence was not expected or explained. Other board members, including those from the Porsche family — controlling shareholders of Porsche Automobil Holding SE — were to discuss the integration plan, agreed to earlier this month, with particular focus on Porsche's debts.

At the heart of the dispute is some euro9 billion ($12.22 billion) in net debt that Porsche — at the time Germany's most successful car maker — racked up in its attempt last year to take over the much larger VW.

Piech, a grandson of company founder Ferdinand Porsche, angered Porsche by openly discussing the debt with reporters last week.

VW also has accused Porsche of withholding information regarding the true size of its debts and what it expects to see happen if the two companies merge, amid speculation that Porsche is seeking some euro4 to euro5 million ($5.4 to $6.7 million) in fresh capital.

Melissa Eddy contributed to this report from Berlin and George Frey from Frankfurt.

Primary Care Physicians - A Medical Emergency

Editor’s Note: An aging population and a state in financial crisis are aggravating a severe shortage of primary care physicians and medical technologists. As more doctors seek to become specialists to pay off medical school debts and the government cuts health and human services programs the shortages are becoming more difficult to fill. NAM Health editor Viji Sundaram reports.

BERKELEY, Calif. – Marty Lynch has been trying unsuccessfully to hire primary care physicians and nurses to his clinic to linguistically and culturally match his patient population, who are primarily Latino and African American.

It doesn’t matter which ethnicity you are looking for but “it’s very difficult to find primary care providers,” said Lynch, executive director of LifeLong Medical Care, a not-for-profit primary health care facility that operates nine health centers in Berkeley, Oakland and Marin County.

Primary care providers, in short supply nationwide, are the main source of health care for most Americans.

Why the shortage?

Students graduating from medical school typically owe about $140,000 in loans. They are looking to quickly pay off their debt.

“The pay differentials between primary care physicians and specialty care physicians is wide,” noted Dr. Mark Doescher of the University of Washington School of Medicine, at a recent Association for Health Care Journalists conference in Seattle.

How wide? “In specialty care, physicians can make two to three times as much as primary care physicians,” said Serena Kirk, senior policy advocate of the California Primary Care Association (CPCA), a membership organization of over 700 not-for-profit community clinics and health centers in the state.

Historically, reimbursement rates for procedures performed by specialists have increased, while reimbursement rates for primary care physicians have not even kept up with inflation.

According to a new survey of community clinics, there is not only a shortage of primary care physicians in community clinics, many vacancies in the allied health care sector -- which represents over 200 types of positions -- are becoming increasingly difficult to fill. Allied health professionals are health care practitioners like medical technicians with formal education and clinical training who are credentialed through certification, registration and/or licensure.

“Community clinics represent the front lines of our health care system,” observed Carmela Castellano-Garcia, president and chief executive officer of CPCA. “The economic situation is putting a further strain on our collective safety net.”

The survey, conducted online by Goodwin Simon Victoria Research, focused on 108 community clinics, between Nov. 25 and Dec. 8, 2008. It was funded by a grant to Fenton Communication from The California Wellness Foundation.

According to the most recent employment numbers available from the California Labor Market Information Division and the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, California, for example, only has 73 percent of the pharmacists of the national average per 100,000 people.

At LifeLong, which serves around 20,000 patients a year, 40 percent of them being either uninsured or underinsured, Marty Lynch said he is also experiencing difficulty in finding nurses and social workers to fill vacancies.

Unless drastic steps are taken to find a solution, the situation is only going to worsen in the years ahead, say health care providers. In 2030, it is projected that there will be around 70 million people over the age of 65 nationwide.

“Their demand for health care services is going to go up,” said Jane Garcia, chief executive officer of La Clinica de la Raza, which for 38 years has been dispensing health and dental care to the largely uninsured population in the Bay Area through its 27 satellite clinics.

Concerned that the aging population will put more strain on an already economically beleaguered health care industry, the Obama administration is looking for ways to increase primary care physicians and other health care providers.

Federal officials are considering a plethora of proposals, including one that would increase enrollment in medical schools and residency training programs. Another would encourage greater use of nurse practitioners and physician assistants.

Susan Chapman of the Center for the Health Professions at UC San Francisco said allied health workers will become even more crucial as the state’s population ages.

"You can't run a hospital or a clinic without these positions," she is quoted as saying. "Not having enough people to fill these jobs compromises our overall ability to maintain the system in California."

In California, there will be more than one million people over the age of 85 by 2030, according to the U.S. Census. And with more and more health care workers retiring, the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency believes there is a need to educate over 206,000 additional health care professionals by 2014.

The scarcity of workers is driving community clinics to find innovative ways to find solutions. Some are striking partnerships with their neighbors. La Clinica de la Raza, for instance, is partnering with neighboring community colleges to train medical assistants, with the colleges providing the teachers and education materials and la Raza providing clinical training sites.

“We’re training our own community members,” Garcia said of the project the clinic started two years ago.

On May 14, California Governor Schwarzenegger presented a budget plan that would direct the state to seek a federal waiver to permit $750 million in cuts to Medi-Cal, California’s Medicaid program. The waiver is needed to avoid violating provisions of the federal economic stimulus package that would make the state ineligible for some funds.

Other programs that would be affected under the governor’s budget plan include cutting Medi-Cal reimbursements to private hospitals by 10 percent.

The cuts are meant to help the state deal with a $15.4 billion budget deficit that is likely to occur if voters approve some of the propositions in the May 19 special election.

If voters reject those propositions, the governor outlined $800 million in cuts to health and human services programs, including one that will eliminate Healthy Families coverage for some 225,000 children. Healthy Families is California’s version of the federal Children’s Health Insurance Program.

Garcia said that bad though the recession is, there is a “silver lining” in it. “Health care is one of the few sectors that more people will be choosing careers in,” she said.

Netanyahu, Obama to confront policy differences

The leaders of the United States and Israel sit down Monday to discuss an array of Mideast issues on which they disagree: peacemaking with the Palestinians and U.S. efforts to promote dialogue with the once-shunned Iran and Syria.

Before his Feb. 10 election, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu derided the latest round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, which stalled late last year, as a waste of time. But senior White House officials said Saturday that President Barack Obama's meeting with Netanyahu is part of his commitment to pursue a comprehensive peace that includes a two-state solution.

While not opposing the Obama administration's efforts to promote dialogue with Iran and Syria, Israeli officials dismiss Tehran's claims that its nuclear program is peaceful and fear the U.S. outreach could lead to greater tolerance for Iran's nuclear ambitions. Finally, the Israelis are worried by the recent diplomatic shuttles to Syria for fear they reward Damascus even as it maintains close ties to Tehran and harbors Iranian proxies that have warred with Israel, Lebanon's Hezbollah and Gaza's Hamas.

Netanyahu has tried to persuade the Americans that Iran, with its nuclear ambitions, arsenal of ballistic missiles and militant proxies, must be reined in before peacemaking with the Palestinians can progress.

"Both countries' goal of blocking Iran from achieving (nuclear) capability definitely will be at the heart of the talks, and I imagine there will be a detailed discussion of the most effective means to achieve this aim," Israel's national security adviser, Uzi Arad, said.

Netanyahu confidant Zalman Shoval, a former ambassador to the U.S., recently said the Israeli leader would ask the U.S. to give Iran a deadline of "a very few months" to comply with international demands to halt its enrichment of uranium — a process that can be used to build nuclear bombs.

"If by then we have not reached an agreement with you, all other options are still on the table," Shoval added in a clear allusion to a military strike.

Obama said he understood Israel's concerns over Tehran, according to a Newsweek magazine interview published Saturday.

"I understand very clearly that Israel considers Iran an existential threat and given some of the statements that have been made by President Ahmadinejad, you can understand why," he said. "I don't think it's my place to determine for the Israelis what their security needs are."

The Americans think serious progress on Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking is imperative so moderate Arab states won't have a reason to shun an international alliance meant to curtail Iran.

Before Monday's meeting, the Netanyahu government was not speaking with one voice on the Palestinian issue. While Arad focused on the obstacles that any accord would face, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Israel and the Palestinians could nail down a deal within three years.

Clock strikes 12 for Rockets

Houston sees season end with loss to Lakers

LOS ANGELES — The Rockets pushed that boulder as far up the mountain as it would go, somehow shoving it past numerous injury obstacles and even on a few occasions rolling it over the Los Angeles Lakers.

Finally, having gone farther than often seemed possible, they gave out as soon as Game 7 began Sunday, and their improbable run in the Western Conference semifinals ended with an 89-70 Lakers rout that sent the Rockets home with a reminder of how difficult it had been just to get this far.

“Good Lord, we were ecstatic to be here, pushing the Lakers to Game 7 short-handed, so I have nothing but pride,” Rockets forward Shane Battier said. “It would have been better if we played better and had a better showing, but we were running on fumes.”

Having stunned the Lakers by taking the series to a seventh game, the Rockets virtually had nothing left. They missed their first 12 shots, trailed by 25 in the first half, and did not surpass 67 points — their all-time low in a playoff game — until the final two minutes, during which they scored their last 10 points.

“They got us on our heels the first two quarters, much like we did them at our place, and we just never recovered,” Rockets coach Rick Adelman said.

“I’m really proud or our team. I mean everybody — the way they responded. Losing Yao (Ming), we won two games after that. I’m very proud of these guys. They busted their tails. Some of those young guys really improved during the series. They had their ups and downs, like you’d expect. Today, more downs than ups. But overall, I’m really pleased with them.”

After Yao’s season ended with a hairline fracture suffered in Game 3, the Rockets blasted the Lakers early in Game 4 and then again in Game 6 to send the series back to Los Angeles. This time, the Lakers dominated from the start. But instead of blowing out the Rockets offensively, as had been done to them in the last two games at Toyota Center, the Lakers shut Houston down with defense.

Poor shooting contagious

The Rockets missed some of the shots they had knocked down at home, but more often they were unable to maneuver through the Lakers’ aggressive double teams or to hit 3-pointers over them.

“They played more aggressive,” Adelman said. “That wasn’t a big surprise to us — that they were going to extend their defense — but I thought we did some uncharacteristic things. We had a couple shots blocked when the shots weren’t even there. We passed into their hands a couple times. That’s on us.

“We didn’t respond like we needed to when we got down, and it’s hard to come back when you get down on the road, just like they found out.”

Aaron Brooks, who had driven the Rockets through their wins in Games 4 and 6, made just four of 13 shots, scoring 13 points.

Ron Artest was 3-of-10 from the field Sunday and made just 28 percent of his shots in the final three games of the series. Battier, whose long-range shooting was a key in the Game 4 win, made just one of six shots. Carl Landry, whose inside scoring was vital in Game 6, was 2-of-10.

“These guys wanted to win it so bad, I think we just didn’t want to mess up,” Artest said. “We were trying to do everything the right way instead of being relaxed and playing.”

When the benches were cleared with 2:40 left in the fourth consecutive blowout in the series, the Lakers led 89-58 and the Rockets had made just 32.9 percent of their shots.

Though Kobe Bryant never seemed to find his offensive game, making just four of 12 shots for 14 points, the Lakers dominated inside. Pau Gasol had 21 points and 18 rebounds, and Andrew Bynum made six of seven shots en route to a career playoff-high 14 points.

No shortage of heart

“If it was a nine-game series or an 11-game series, then we would have had a chance,” Landry said. “We took this team to seven games. This is a great team. Everybody has them winning the championship, and everybody wants to see L.A. and the Cavs in the (Finals), but not us. Everybody in this locker room has heart.”

In the end, that got the Rockets relatively far but not far enough.

“We gave ourselves an opportunity to win Game 7,” Chuck Hayes said. “We gave it the best shot we could.”

Magic beats Celtics 101-82, advance to East finals

The visitors' locker room at the new Boston Garden was nearly empty, cleared of any sign of a celebration after the Orlando Magic beat the Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

All that remained on the white board was a simple message: "32-1."

The Magic dethroned the defending NBA champions on Sunday, beating Boston 101-82 in Game 7 for their second straight victory and earning the right to play the Cleveland Cavaliers for a spot in the NBA finals. It was the first time the NBA's most-decorated franchise, which won its record 17th title last year, had lost a series after holding a 3-2 lead.

"I would like to say we played the game exactly the way we wanted. We actually played it better," Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. "When you look at a team that's 32-0 when leading a series 3-2 and then you win by 19 points, that's a big win. I can't say that I've ever had one that I've ever been happier with."

Dwight Howard scored 12 points with 16 rebounds and five blocked shots, and Hedo Turkoglu had 25 points with 12 assists for Orlando, which trailed for just 36 seconds after the opening basket.

Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals is Wednesday in Cleveland.

"I believe we can win a championship. We're not going to stop going after one until we get it," Howard said. "We have the right team. We have the talent. We have the coaches. It's just on us to go out there and play hard. I have a long way to go, but I'm still hungry."

Ray Allen scored 23 points for Boston, and Paul Pierce had 16 before they were taken out of the game for a courtesy cheer with 2:30 left and the Magic up 99-78. The other member of the new Big three, Kevin Garnett, awaited them on the bench, where he watched the whole series in street clothes with a right knee strain.

Garnett's absence derailed the Celtics' title defense before it started, forcing them to fight through a seven-overtime, seven-game series against Chicago in the first round and leaving them perpetually playing from behind in the second.

"We still felt like this was a team that could have gone to the championship and won it, regardless of the injuries," Pierce said. "It felt like we ran out of gas."

Celtics coach Doc Rivers said Garnett had been holding off on having surgery on the chance he could come back if the team prolonged its season.

Orlando beat Cleveland 2-1 in the season series, but the Cavaliers swept both of their postseason matchups and have been waiting for their next opponent since last Monday.

"Cleveland is playing at a much higher level than anybody else in the playoffs. We're going to have to take it up another notch," Van Gundy said. "But that's for us to worry about tomorrow. I am going to enjoy this one until I get on the plane tonight and start watching film."

The Magic nearly blew a 28-point lead in Game 1, then wasted a 14-point lead in Game 5 to give the Celtics a 3-2 advantage in the best-of-seven series.

But Orlando came back from a 10-point deficit on Thursday night to force Game 7.

And there was no panic on Sunday. Just a lot of Magic.

"We learned a lot, coming in here and beating the world champs on their own floor," Howard said. "Everybody was talking about experience. The biggest thing was effort and energy. The team that played the hardest was going to win."

Orlando led by 14 in the second quarter before Boston cut it to 45-42 in the third. Rajon Rondo's long 2-pointer at the buzzer to end the quarter made it a 66-61 game, but Orlando scored the first eight points of the fourth to open a double-digit lead.

Orlando led 81-64 with 8:04 left when Howard picked up his fifth foul and went to the bench, then Boston cut the deficit to 90-78 on Allen's 3-pointer with 4:12 to play. But Turkoglu sank a 3-pointer, Kendrick Perkins was called for a charge and Turkoglu made a fadeaway jumper to extend the lead to 17 points.

Turkoglu was 9 for 12 from the field, scoring 10 points in the fourth quarter alone.

Lakers 89, Rockets 70

Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and the Lakers emphatically silenced the doubters and the Rockets, winning at home in Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals.

With Gasol scoring 21 points and grabbing 18 rebounds, the Lakers looked like the conference's top-seeded team, not the maddeningly inconsistent one pushed to the decisive final game by the undermanned Rockets.

The Lakers dominated the paint on both ends, forcing the Rockets into turnovers and bad shots, and owning the backboards. They had an 8-0 lead a few minutes in and widened it to 25 points on Gasol's jump hook shortly before halftime.

The Lakers, trying to reach the NBA finals for the second straight year, host the opener of the conference finals against the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday night.

Congress plots new path after Indian election win

India's Congress party began putting together a new Cabinet on Monday amid euphoria over a definitive electoral victory that will give the government a free hand to pursue economic reforms.

The country's stock market surged over 17 percent when it opened Monday for the first time since the election results were announced. The rise was so dramatic it forced an end to the day's trading.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh chaired the last meeting of his outgoing Cabinet on Monday as party leaders surveyed the new political landscape. The near-collapse of India's once-powerful communist parties will allow Singh, who will return for a second term, to pursue key reforms in insurance, pension funds, banking and retail.

The Congress-led coalition captured 261 seats in India's 543-seat Parliament, far more than most analysts predicted, but still 11 short of a majority. Congress leaders were expected to gather support from several smaller parties to put them over the edge.

Singh met with President Pratibha Patil on Monday afternoon and handed over his Cabinet's resignation, a formality before his new government can be sworn in, said Patil spokesman Nitin Wakakankar.

"The president accepted the resignation but asked him and his council of ministers to continue in office till alternative arrangements are made," Wakakankar told The Associated Press.

The newly elected Congress lawmakers are scheduled to formally choose Singh as their leader on Tuesday, and then Patil will invite Singh to form the new government.

An economist and technocrat, Singh shifted the country away from decades of socialist-style policies and toward a more open economy when he was finance minister in the early 1990s.

But over the past five years, many additional market reforms that Congress backed were blocked by the communists, which remained a strong force in Parliament. In the election results, announced Saturday, the communists lost more than half their seats.

With a free hand, Singh is likely to open India's insurance, retail and banking sectors to greater foreign investment. The nation's pension regulator could also get proper legal standing, which would encourage greater investment. And some steps might be taken to loosen hidebound labor laws, like allowing contract labor.

The Congress Party, however, is keenly aware that a third of India's 1.1 billion people live in extreme poverty and more than 90 percent work in the informal, unorganized sector.

In his last term, Singh oversaw a costly initiative to guarantee employment to the poor in rural India and alleviate farmer debt. But those programs have added to the nation's already onerous fiscal deficit and antagonized factory owners who say workers have grown lazy on government aid.

India's total deficit this fiscal year could hit 11.4 percent of GDP, up from 5.7 percent last year, according to ratings agency Standard & Poor's, which has threatened to downgrade India's country rating to junk.

Moderate quake rocks Los Angeles area

A moderate earthquake jolted the Los Angeles region late Sunday, shattering glass, setting off alarms and fraying nerves. There were no reports of any major injuries or damage.

The magnitude-4.7 quake hit at 8:39 p.m. about 10 miles southwest of downtown Los Angeles and three miles east of Los Angeles International Airport, according to a preliminary report by the U.S. Geological Survey. The quake was followed minutes later by at least three smaller aftershocks, with the largest registering at magnitude-3.1.

The quake jiggled the greater Los Angeles region for about 10 to 15 seconds and was felt as far south as San Diego, said USGS seismologist Susan Hough.

"This was a serious jolt. It was probably felt within 100 miles," Hough said.

The shaking was most intense in the coastal communities south of LAX. Some residents said books and other items were knocked off the shelves. Television images showed a Long Beach drapery business that had its storefront window knocked out.

"It was pretty strong," owner John Sousa told KABC-TV as he stood on the sidewalk outside Blue Ribbon Drapery. Sousa said he's owned the store for about 35 years and the windows were likely just as old.

"It's a little strange, but I expected it was going to happen sometime," he said.

Tiles fell from a movie theater ceiling at the South Bay Galleria in Redondo Beach and firefighters were called to repair a damaged light pole in Hawthorne, the Los Angeles Times said. No injuries were reported in either incident.

There were no reports of any damage at LAX, and people who live north of downtown Los Angeles either felt a light shake or nothing at all.

The Los Angeles Fire Department received plenty of calls, but none to report any major injuries, said spokesman Brian Humphrey.

Tom Oswalt, 46, said he was packing clothes for a business trip at his home in Long Beach when the shaking started.

"First thing I thought was 'Is this the big one?' It was pretty powerful," he said. "My first thought was to get out of the building, get my dog and get out of the building. Now we're just waiting for aftershocks."

Hough said there will likely be more aftershocks, but only a 5 percent chance of a larger quake.

"People should be on their toes," she said.

Seismologists had pegged the quake initially at a magnitude-4.7, then revised it to a magnitude-5.0, but updated it about an hour after the temblor struck back to 4.7.

The last damaging earthquake in Southern California was the 1994 magnitude-6.7 Northridge quake that toppled bridges and buildings.