Tuesday, June 23, 2009

3 Adults, 1 Toddler Found Dead at Kansas Home

Police say three adults and a toddler have been found dead at a Kansas City, Kansas, home and authorities are conducting a homicide investigation. (June 23)

It's all hush-hush at Apple Inc.

News that Apple's chief executive officer had a liver transplant two months ago mirrors the U.S. company's culture of secrecy, company analysts said.

At Apple Inc., "they make everyone super, super paranoid about security," former employee Mark Hamblin told The New York Times Tuesday.

In some meetings, executives have given out incorrect information in order to help them track leaks to the press, the Times said.

Some employees developing products work in areas requiring multiple security checks. Video cameras watch them at work. On some projects, employees are required to cover their work with black cloaks and turn on a red warning light when the cloaks are removed.

"They don't communicate. It's a total black box," said company analyst Gene Munster at Piper Jaffray.

Apple uses its secrecy "to keep the surprise aspect to product launches, which can have a lot of power," said Silicon Valley marketer Regis McKenna.

Lack of disclosure of Jobs' health issues may have violated the law, but he was already on an extended leave and had transferred responsibilities to Chief Operating Officer Timothy Cook before the operation.

Apple has said Jobs would return to work at the end of the month.

Obama says Juneteenth a ‘chance to reflect’

(June 21, 2009) - President Obama and other leaders asked the nation to reflect on Juneteenth, one of the nation’s unofficial holidays that started in Texas but is now observed throughout the nation.

Juneteenth is considered by many as the “Black Fourth of July.” On June 19, 1865, Blacks in the Lone Star State learned that they were no longer enslaved.

Since then, June 19th is marked with festivities such as picnics, carnivals, concerts and literary reflection. Texas became the first state to recognize Juneteenth as a paid holiday for state workers in 1980 and it is recognized today as a holiday of sorts in 31 states and the District of Columbia.

Obama said that Juneteenth provides a chance to reflect, appreciate and trace family lineage.

“African-Americans helped to build our nation brick by brick and have contributed to her growth in every way, even when rights and liberties were denied to them,” Obama said in a statement. “In light of the historic unanimous vote in the United States Senate this week supporting the call for an apology for slavery and segregation, the occasion carries even more significance.”

U.S. House of Representatives Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) said that the holiday “should not just be celebrated by African Americans, but by all Americans.”

”June 19th has become a day where all Americans can stand together and embrace our history, celebrate the present, and look forward to our future and all it beholds," Clyburn said in a statement. “This day is about bringing people together to commemorate the massive strides that have been made not only in the African-American community, but within our country as a whole. Though we have come far, we also have to recognize that we have a far way to go.”

The Rev. Ronald Myers of the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation is working to get the U.S. Congress to get the holiday recognized as a national observance. Myers’ efforts have long been endorsed by the NAACP and the Congressional Black Caucus.

9 Dead in DC Metro Crash

At least nine people have died and dozens injured in a crash of two Red Line trains on Washington, DC’s Metro subway, by far the deadliest in the system’s history. The investigation is still ongoing but operator error is suspected.

“This is a tragedy beyond belief,” Metro General Manager John Catoe said on WTOP. “My heart is heavy with the weight of this grief.”

An inbound Metro train smashed into the back of another at the height of the Monday evening rush hour, killing at least nine people and injuring dozens on the Red Line.

“We are still removing remains from the train,” Catoe says. “This is still a recovery effort.” “Our teams have been working through the night, and we’re trying to make sure we document and collect all of the perishable evidence,” National Transportation Safety Board member Debbie Hersman tells WTOP

Experts familiar with Metro’s operations focused last night on a failure of the signal system and operator error as likely causes of yesterday’s fatal Red Line crash.

These systems were supposed to make yesterday’s crash impossible. Metro was designed with a fail-safe computerized signal system that is supposed to prevent trains from colliding. The agency’s trains are run by onboard computers that control speed and braking. Another electronic system detects the position of trains to maintain a safe distance between them. If they get too close, the computers automatically apply the brakes, stopping the trains.

A system failure occurred in June 2005 but alert train operators averted disaster. “It was unclear last night whether they ever found a cause” for that incident.

In yesterday’s crash, it appeared that the operator of the train that crashed did not apply the emergency brakes, also known as the “mushroom.” Experts said the train appeared to be traveling fast before impact because the force pushed the first car of the train on top of the train ahead. Witnesses on the train that crashed also reported that the train did not brake before impact.

There was no reason to think that the operator did not spot the train ahead of her yesterday. The weather was clear, and the trains were not in a tunnel.

“It doesn’t look like she hit the brakes,” said a train safety expert, who asked not to be identified because the crash is under investigation. “That’s why you have an operator in the cab. She should have been able to take action. That’s what they’re there for.”

Other possible factors in the crash include a medical emergency that incapacitated the operator or a catastrophic failure of the braking system.

The operator was killed in the accident.

I found out about the accident shortly after it happened via Twitter; a lot of those whose feeds I follow live in DC. I don’t know yet whether anyone I know was on board the trains involved.

Venus Williams beats Voegele at Wimbledon

Five points into her opening match at Wimbledon, Venus Williams slipped and went sprawling on the grass she loves.

The five-time champion recovered from her stumble at the start Tuesday and defeated Stefanie Voegele 6-3, 6-2.

It was Williams' first appearance on Centre Court since the 2008 final, when she beat sister Serena for her second Wimbledon title in a row.

"I really enjoyed being out there," Venus said. "It's a special moment when you walk back as defending champion on that court."

Williams' tumble was one of several wobbly moments as she began her bid for a three-peat. She double-faulted in the opening game and had to erase two break points. She was passed the first two times she reached the net. She slipped and nearly fell a second time.

"It's grass," she said. "You're going to slip sometimes."

Williams found her footing, winning 14 consecutive points to help take a 5-1 lead. She had another spurt in the second set after losing serve for 2-all, and swept the final four games.

"Having won this title multiple times, you get that sense of what it takes to win," she said. "And I definitely have a good grip on that — what it takes to win this title."

The new retractable roof again worked well, keeping rain away for a second successive day. Play began on a cloudless afternoon, prompting an official on the club's public-address system to urge that fans use sun block.

"It looks really nice, the roof," Williams said. "We haven't had to use it yet. It's kind of ironic. But I'm very sure it will get some use."

Kimiko Date Krumm, a 38-year-old wild card who came out of retirement last year, lost in her first Wimbledon match since 1996 to No. 9-seeded Caroline Wozniacki, 5-7, 6-3, 6-1. Former No. 1-ranked Jelena Jankovic beat Julia Goerges 6-4, 7-6 (0).

In men's play, No. 5-seeded Juan Martin del Potro never faced a break point and swept Arnaud Clement 6-3, 6-1, 6-2. No. 12 Nikolay Davydenko beat Daniel Evans 6-2, 6-3, 6-3.

As usual, Williams prepared for Wimbledon on hard courts back home in Florida, and didn't play a grass-court warmup tournament. But after her slow start she looked at home on the lawn.

In one game she smacked a backhand return up the line for a winner, then did the same thing from the other wing. Her second serve was unsteady, but she lost only six points on her first serve while hitting 29 winners and committing only 11 unforced errors.

"On the grass, I think you have the opportunity to make fantastic shots that are very entertaining and great plays," Williams said. "I think the game is more fast-paced. In a lot of ways, it makes it a lot more exciting."

Williams is only 5-5 since early April, but Wimbledon always brings her out of the doldrums. She's 51-4 at the All England Club since 2000, when she won the title for the first time. She's seeded third but the tournament favorite with London bookmakers.

Serena Williams won her opening match Monday against qualifier Neuza Silva, 6-1, 7-5. Serena is seeded second and considered the biggest threat to Venus.

Serena said she draws confidence from projections she'll be playing in the final a week from Saturday.

"I always feel like if people can believe in me, then I should, too," she said. "I always think about how I feel when other people that are top seeded are playing. I'm like, 'OK, they'll win.' So I feel like I should feel that way about myself as well."

Against the No. 154-ranked Silva, Serena lost only nine points on her serve, but converted only one of five break-point chances in the second set and struggled to close out the win.

"I could have played a ton better, especially on key points," Williams said. "That's a usual feeling for me from first round to the finals. I'm really insatiable. I always want more."

Serena's second-round opponent Wednesday will be Jarmila Groth, who is ranked 69th. Williams won when they met at the Australian Open in 2008 but had to search her memory when asked about Groth, who recently changed her last name.

Williams conceded it's difficult to remember who's who on the women's tour.

"I just know the standard: Everyone is from Russia," Williams said jokingly. "Sometimes I think I'm from Russia, too. I feel like, you know, OK, all these new 'ovas ... I think my name must be Williamsova."

Groth is actually from Australia, but five of the 10 highest-ranked women are Russians. Two others are named Williams.

Iranian Film Director says Election Was 'Coup D'Etat

Iranian filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf speaks during press conference at Foreign Press Club in Rome, 23 Jun 2009

Iranian film director Mohsen Makhmalbaf describes the declared victory of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Iran's recent presidential elections as a "coup d'Etat."

Makhmalbaf says the present situation in Iran is not the result of voting irregularities, but a true and proper "coup d'Etat."

Addressing the foreign media in Rome, the man who has become the official spokesman abroad for Mir Hossein Mousavi, spoke out strongly about the situation in Iran following the presidential election.

No peace

Makhmalbaf says opposition candidate Mousavi was preparing his victory speech when military commanders came to tell him he could not be the winner. He adds that the people of Iran do not want to be ruled by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for the next four years and there will be no peace in Iran if he is the leader.

Makhmalbaf spoke of the slogans called out by the people in Iran, saying they do not want the atomic bomb, but democracy. The people, he says, feel they have been robbed of their vote and that Mr. Ahmadinejad is not their president. He says they shout out that they do not want a dictatorship, but a free society.

Loss of freedom
Makhmalbaf says the Iranian people do not want Mr. Ahmadinejad because he has used oil revenues to finance Hezbollah and its war in Lebanon, and nuclear weapons. He says Iranians feel they have lost their freedom and Iran's image has been ruined in the world.

Meanwhile, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini says he considers Iran's invitation to the Group of Eight foreign ministers meeting later this week in Trieste to have been declined because no answer was received by Monday.

Italy's top diplomat also strongly condemned the violence and aggression against peaceful demonstrators and called for a serious review of the presidential vote.

The Italian government has instructed its embassy in Iran to provide humanitarian assistance to protesters wounded during the clashes, pending an EU vote on a proposal to coordinate assistance.