Friday, September 11, 2009

Putin: Russia opposes force, sanctions on Iran

NOVO-OGARYOVO, Russia — Russia's prime minister warned Friday against using force or new sanctions against Iran for its defiance over its nuclear program, saying Moscow has no evidence that Tehran is seeking nuclear arms.

Iran has refused to provide the international community with details of its nuclear activities, which the United States and other nations say are aimed at developing weapons.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said, however, that Moscow has "no grounds to doubt" Iran's claim that its nuclear program is purely peaceful, his spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

Putin said, according to Peskov, that "any use of force, delivering any kind of strike, won't help, won't solve the problem. On the contrary, it will hurt the entire region. As for sanctions, they won't bring the desired effect."

Putin was speaking at a meeting of foreign experts on Russia.

According to other meeting participants, Putin also said Russia does not want to see a nuclear-armed Iran, and that Iran needs to answer international concerns about its activities.

Russia, which is building a nuclear power plant in Iran, has made similar comments in the past, and has repeatedly warned against any attack on Iran.

But Putin's remarks Friday could disappoint U.S. and Israeli officials, who have urged the Kremlin to put more pressure on Iran.

Participants in the meeting said Putin dodged a question about media reports that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu secretly visited Moscow this week, including speculation that Netanyahu wanted to warn Russia of an impending strike against Iranian nuclear facilities.

Kremlin spokesman Alexei Pavlov said he had "no information" that Netanyahu was in Moscow, but Russian officials have stopped short of outright denying the visit took place.

The United States and European allies have given Iran until the end of September to take up an offer of nuclear talks with six world powers — including Russia — and trade incentives should it suspend uranium enrichment activities. It has already defied three sets of U.N. Security Council sanctions since 2006 for its refusal to freeze uranium enrichment.

Russia, which holds veto power on the U.N. Security Council, backed those sanctions but used its clout to water down tougher U.S. proposals. Russian officials have said too much pressure would be counterproductive.

This week, Iran offered a counterproposal for new wide-ranging negotiations, but provided no details of its nuclear program, according to a copy published by an investigative group.

U.S. officials have said the Iranian proposal falls short of satisfying international demands, but Russian media have suggested Moscow was less critical. According to Ekho Moskvy radio, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Thursday that Iran's proposal included worthwhile elements and could be worked with.

9/11/2001 (United Airlines 93's tragedy)

United Airlines Flight 93 was a scheduled United States domestic passenger flight from Newark International Airport, in Newark, New Jersey, to San Francisco International Airport, in San Francisco, California that was hijacked by four Islamist terrorists as part of the September 11 attacks in 2001. Over forty minutes into the flight the hijackers breached the cockpit, overpowered the pilots, and took over the control of the aircraft, diverting it toward Washington, D.C. Several passengers and crew members made telephone calls aboard the flight and learned about the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. As a result, the passengers decided to mount an assault against the hijackers and gain control of the aircraft.
Of the four aircraft hijacked that day, American Airlines Flight 11, American Airlines Flight 77 and United Airlines Flight 175 being the others, United Airlines Flight 93 was the only aircraft that failed to reach its intended target due to the actions of its passengers.

The plane crashed in a field in Stonycreek Township, near Shanksville, in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, about 80 miles (130 km) southeast of Pittsburgh and 150 miles (240 km) northwest of Washington, D.C., killing all on board including 40 passengers and crew and four hijackers. Many witnessed the impact from the ground and news agencies began reporting on the event within an hour. The plane fragmented upon impact, leaving a crater, and some debris was blown miles from the crash site. The remains of everyone on board the aircraft were later identified. Subsequent analysis of the flight recorders revealed how the actions taken by the passengers prevented the aircraft from reaching the hijackers' intended target, thought to be either the White House or United States Capitol. A permanent memorial is planned for construction on the crash site. The chosen design has been the subject of criticism, but the memorial is scheduled to be dedicated in 2011.

Scruggs Trounces Lyons in Baptist Election

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (Sept. 10, 2009) — The Rev. Dr. Henry J. Lyons and his supporters vowed to challenge the results, announced a little after 9:30 p.m. Sept. 10, of the run-off for presidency of the National Baptist Convention, USA after a stunning loss.

Out of a possible 5,032 votes (three per church), Lyons garnered a mere 924 or 18 percent while Dr. Julius Scruggs amassed a resounding 4,108 votes. But that outcome was not unexpected, the Lyons camp said.

“We knew that the gentleman who is now the president-elect would indeed win by a serious landslide because this is exactly how the elections went the last time we had an election,” Lyons said in an interview with two reporters. “For two years I’ve gone about the nation preaching this and saying it will happen again if we don’t stop it. And just as I predicted, by a serious landslide, [a] lopsided victory, he won.”

The Lyons campaign filed a lawsuit in a Washington, D.C. federal court earlier this week, questioning the validity of the church’s election process, especially the decrease in the number of delegates who vote from more than 20,000. When the court denied the claim yesterday, Lyons said he knew it was over.

“I cried last night when we didn’t get all we needed from the courts to give us water of salvation or even life,” he said. “So I think that’s why I’m not crying tonight.”
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4 sentenced in NY election night attacks on blacks

NEW YORK — The white instigator of a New York City election night rampage against black people in retaliation for President Barack Obama's victory has been sentenced to prison for nine years.

A federal judge in Brooklyn also on Thursday gave two other white defendants and one Hispanic defendant prison terms ranging from about 4 1/2 years to nearly six years.

In a guilty plea earlier this year, ringleader Michael Nicoletti said he and the other defendants grew angry while monitoring election returns on the Internet at a makeshift clubhouse. He said they decided that if Obama won they would "go after black people" they assumed had voted for the Illinois Democrat.

The 2008 bias attacks on Staten Island left one victim in a coma.

12 picked to review black Harvard scholar's arrest

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Twelve people from across the country have been chosen to serve on an independent panel to review the arrest of a black Harvard scholar at his home by a white police officer, Cambridge officials said Thursday.

Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Washington D.C.-based Police Executive Research Forum, was tapped to lead a committee that will include Yale Law professor Tracey Meares, former FBI assistant director Louis Quijas and Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey.

City leaders created the panel after the arrest of Henry Louis Gates Jr. triggered a national debate over racial profiling.

Cambridge Sgt. James Crowley arrested Gates for disorderly conduct at his home July 16 while investigating a possible burglary. The charge was dropped, and Gates alleged he was a victim of racial profiling.

President Barack Obama invited Crowley and Gates for an informal "beer summit" at the White House two weeks later.

"This is a historic opportunity for the city to emerge as a stronger community," Cambridge City Manager Robert Healy said in a statement.

Healy said panel members were chosen based on their diverse professional backgrounds and their experience with community relations and conflict resolution.

Cambridge Police Commissioner Robert Haas said the newly named panel will give an "independent assessment" of the July 16 arrest.

"Cambridge wants to take away something meaningful from this process that can be helpful for the city and the nation," Haas said.

The committee is scheduled to meet for the first time early next month. It's unclear how long its review will take.

FBI Informant Says U.S. Missed Chance to Stop 9/11 Ringleader Atta

Could we have prevented the 9/11 attacks? That’s the question we continue to ask. At the time, we certainly could have been doing more. FBI counter-terrorism agent John O’Neill kept warning us of an attack while at the FBI. He eventually left the agency and became director of security at the World Trade Center. He died during that attack. But still, even if we had caputured Mohammed Atta, do you think he would have rolled over and confessed about the plot? Brian Ross’s piece aired Thursday night.

Mohammed Att at Airport 9/11-fbi photo
By Brian Ross and Vic Walter
ABC News

On the eve of the eight year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, an FBI informant who infiltrated alleged terrorist cells in the U.S. tells ABC News the FBI missed a chance to stop the al Qaeda plot because they focused more on undercover stings than on the man who would later become known as 9/11 ringleader Mohammed Atta.

In an exclusive interview to be broadcast tonight on ABC World News with Charles Gibson and Nightline, former undercover operative Elie Assaad says he spotted and became suspicious of Atta in early 2001, when he was sent by the FBI to infiltrate a small mosque outside Miami. Atta was there with Adnan Shukrujuman, an al Qaeda fugitive who now has a $5 million U.S. reward on his head.

“There was something wrong with these guys,” Assaad, a 36-year-old Catholic native of Lebanon who pretended to be an Islamic extremist, says.

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8 Years Later: In Remembrance of 9/11

Michael Jackson Tribute Concert Postponed

The planned Michael Jackson tribute concert in Vienna this month has been postponed until 2010. It's amazing what having NO performers will do for a concert.

Citing scheduling conflicts, the event's promoter, Georg Kindel, made the announcement today and said the concert would now take place in London. As for why the delay, Kindel said they "underestimated" the scheduling issues many of the top performers had.

As we first reported, Natalie Cole said she wouldn't be there because she's set to attend an event with the Dalai Lama in Memphis. Chris Brown and Mary J. Blige were promoted as being part of the event -- but denied any involvement.

UPDATE -- Jermaine Jackson, who was helping to put this whole thing together, just posted a long-winded apology/explanation, that reads in part, "Instead of eight weeks we now have eight months to prepare and some of the stars who would not have been able to participate in the Vienna concert, but expressed their wish to participate in this event, will be able to perform live on stage at the renowned Wembley Stadium in London in June 2010."

Read more:

Michael Jordan's Top 23 Moments

MJ is headed into the Basketball Hall of Fame this weekend. ESPN is counting down with the top 23 Michael Jordan moments.

When I was growing up in the Chicago suburbs, I was lucky enough to have a membership one summer to The Multiplex health club. This is where the Bulls used to practice before they built their own practice facility.

And once I had the chance to rebound for MJ after practice. He’d often stay late and just shoot around. Sometimes he’d let the local kids rebound for him. One time I was just there by myself so he motioned to me and I started rebounding. I felt so honored. And the guy didn’t miss.

Sometimes he’d play a little fake one-on-one with you too. He’d never ever let you hit a basket though. He loved rejecting you and talking trash. It was all in great fun, of course.

The thing that always blew me away about watching Jordan, Pippen, Horace Grant, and Oakley up close was just how fast they were. These guys were giants, but they moved faster and reacted faster than any humans I’d ever seen. Light years faster. It was a whole new level.

Anyway, I’ll never forget those moments. Good to reminisce.

Hey, even at 46 he’s still got the fade away:

Whitney Houston spent seven months in her pyjamas getting high on crack cocaine

Whitney Houston made the shocking crack cocaine confession in an interview with talk show host Oprah Winfrey.

Speaking about the explosive segment which will air in the US next week, Oprah said: “It will leave you gasping. She does not blame her ex-husband Bobby Brown and she takes full responsibility for her engagement in drugs.

“At one point she says, ‘I didn’t get out of my pyjamas for seven months’. She talks about doing the drugs and sitting in the house and the two of them going, ‘What are we doing?’ ”

The 46-year-old star also reveals her addiction began shortly after she starred in 1992 film ‘The Bodyguard’.

Oprah said: “She said, ‘I want to tell my story, I want to tell the truth.’ She talks about when it started to go wrong after ‘The Bodyguard’ – that was a long time ago.

“The thing most shocking to me is that Whitney tried to make herself smaller to fit in a marriage so the man could be bigger. How many women have done that? I deeply felt for her. She was trying to be the good wife. She really, truly loved him.”

Whitney has not done a TV interview since 2002, when she denied taking drugs, saying: “I make too much money to smoke crack. Crack is whack.”

The Michael Jackson tribute show stage will feature a giant crown

host of international stars will pay tribute to the late star – who was known as the ‘King of Pop’ – by performing on a specially designed stage dominated by a gold crown at the Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna, Austria, on September 26.

Georg Kindel, who is organiser and chief executive of the concert, said: “The stage will be 50 metres wide with a depth of 25 metres. It has really huge dimensions. It will have a giant glass roof which will be dominated by a giant crown. There will also be a large crown on the stage floor.

“It will have the feel of a baroque theatre with boxes on the side and claret curtains. It will also have a large translucent curtain at the back.”

Michael’s brother, Jermaine Jackson – who is organising the event with Georg – refused to divulge any further details about his planned virtual duet with Michael.

He said: “We are saving it as a surprise. We don’t want to say how it will be done.”

It is believed the ‘Thriller’ star – who died on June 25 of acute Propofol intoxication – will be projected onto the translucent curtain at the back of the stage.

Kindel added: “We are planning to bring Michael back on stage for one last time. It will be the biggest surprise of the evening. Michael will reappear on stage. He will sing a song with his brother Jermaine. It will be a magic moment for millions of fans around the world who loved his music.”

T.O. doesn’t like the no huddle offense

It seems there will never be an end for Terrell Owners and his need for drama. Now, after missing four weeks of practice due to a toe injury new Buffalo Bill Owners says he isn’t the biggest fan of the plan to use the no huddle offense. While it is still unclear if Owners is unhappy with the offense, his limited participation in it, or the fact that this offense is going to make him work hard, an unhappy Owens is something the Bills cannot afford right now.

During a press call with members of the press that cover the New England Patriots Owners made several comments about the offense that are somewhat hard to interpret. Of course the worst fear is this is the opening shot of an offensive by TO against his new team.

To be perfectly honest The Bills pre-season hasn’t exactly gone to plan. They recently fired Offensive Coordinator Turk Schnonert. Who immediately went to the press and accused Head Coach Dick Jauron of wanting a Pop Warner offense. Then the team cut LT Langston Walker as a move to help shake up the offense. In 15 pre-season possessions the starting offensive unit managed only three points.

Now the offense will be led by new OC Alex Van Pelt, who was a career back up QB in the NFL who played a large amount of his career with the Bills. The O line will be anchored by their two rookie draft picks, Eric Wood and Andy Levitre. Demetrius Bell will not start at LT after not playing a game in his rookie season.

This is not a recipe for victories or a recipe to keep a potential cancer like TO happy and content. implicates ACORN in prostitution subterfuge

Fox News is calling for a formal investigation of controversial community organization group ACORN after an undercover investigation of a Baltimore area ACORN office.

ACORN (the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) works on behalf of low and moderate-income families to promote justice and strengthen communities that are struggling., a companion site to Andrew Breitbart’s blog, targeted the organization (as they explain) irritate and embarrass them, and perhaps prevent the organization from reaching out to lower income communities (which traditionally vote Democratic) in future campaigns.

Brietbart blogger James O’Keefe described the prank campaign, designed to give ACORN a “taste of their own medicine,” in response to videos circulating of the group breaking locks on foreclosed homes:

…whether it’s by banning Lucky Charms cereal because it’s racist against Irish people, calling Planned Parenthood saying you want to donate money for black abortions in the name of Margaret Sanger, or making Sen. Snowe sign an oversized bailout check for a billion dollars to Amtrak, in her own office.

In this instance, a man and woman posing as a pimp and a prostitute scheming to import young prostitutes internationally ask ACORN for tax advice. Trafficking in humans is deplorable, but the invented scenario puts ACORN in a tough spot. No one can argue that it’s in any way defensible to advise pimping teenagers, but impoverished communities operate in real, reality-based fear and hatred of “snitching.” If word got out that the organization reports legally questionable behavior, even those in need legitimately seeking assistance may be put off out of fear of deportation or prosecution of poverty-related issues surrounding housing, immigration, or inability to pay fees or fines. Of course, it doesn’t make protecting harmful illegal behavior in any way okay, it just means that the situation was invented to place a public organization in a very precarious spot, for sport.

While admits that the scenario is entrapment, by concocting a situation unlikely to occur in real life, the “investigators” have created much brouhaha about very little actual action. It should also be pointed out that the actions in the video reflect the poor judgment and lack of action on one representative of a large organization. There is no evidence that this is any kind of reflection on ACORN policy- it’s more like a poor reaction on the part of one individual to a surreal and absurd situation.

Below are the videos showing the “pimp” and “prostitute” seeking advice on taxes.

Outrage, worry in SAfrica over report on runner

South Africa — Reports on Friday gender testing on South Africa's running sensation has determined she has male and female sexual organs triggered outrage and dealt a blow to her family, who may have been unaware of the reported condition. And, foremost, there is worry about how the 18-year-old will handle all this.

Newspaper reports from Australia said testing determined Caster Semenya has internal testes, meaning the runner herself, who was raised in a poor village, may have been unaware of such a condition.

And now such intimate details are there for the world to see.

The International Association of Athletics Federations, which ordered the testing, refused to confirm or deny the reports. The IAAF said it is reviewing the test results and will not issue any final decision until November at their meeting in Monaco.

South African Sports Minister Makhenkesi Stofile held a press conference Friday to express his horror at the handling of the whole affair. He insisted Caster, who won gold at the world athletic championships in August, is female and that lack of a womb should not disqualify her from women's competition.

"We think her human rights have been violated and her privacy invaded," Stofile said. "I don't know why she is being subjected to this."

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Morgan Stanley chief executive John Mack to step down

John Mack is to stand down as chief executive of Morgan Stanley. He does so after managing to steer the investment bank through the worst of the financial crisis to become one of Wall Street’s only two remaining independent brokerages.

Mr Mack – a Morgan lifer who left the bank for a brief spell at the start of this decade to return as leader in 2005 - will step aside at the end of the year in favour of co-president James Gorman.

Mr Gorman runs the bank’s sprawling brokerage arm, which is mid-way through a merger with Citigroup’s Smith Barney division.

Mr Mack – known as “Mack the Knife” for his at times ruthless streak – will stay on as chairman, while Mr Gorman’s fellow co-president, London-based Walid Chammah, will become chairman of Morgan Stanley International.

The announcement seals an extraordinary period for the bank, which has seen then co-president Zoe Cruz – who many saw as a potential successor to Mr Mack - ousted in December 2007 after being blamed for early sub-prime losses and a deal to sell a 21pc stake of the bank’s equity to Mitsubishi UFJ for $9bn (£5.4m).

His tenure has also seen the bank apply for bank holding status alongside Goldman Sachs in order to come under the regulatory auspices of the Federal Reserve, calming fears about future liquidity.

Although Mr Mack had managed to outlast many of his Wall Street peers in that time - including Bear Stearns’ Jimmy Cayne and Lehman Brothers’ Dick Fuld – the news will not come as a surprise to those who blame him for increasing leverage at the bank without appreciating the need to rein risk in as the economy began to turn. In its most recent quarter, for the three months to the end of June, the bank lost $1.26bn while rivals were heralding significant returns to profit.

Reaction to the news was mixed, with Holland & Co’s Michael Holland praising Mr Mack for being able to “right the ship in a very difficult time”, while Wedbush Morgan’s Stephen Massocca described the change as “like rearranging deck chairs”.

Robert Kidder, the bank’s lead director, disclosed that Mr Mack had told the rest of the board some 18 months ago that he wanted to retire when he reached the age of 65 this November.

Headhunters Spencer Stuart are understood to have searched for possible external candidates for the role, but it is thought that Mr Gorman was always the board’s choice, especially as Mr Chammah ruled himself out because of his desire to stay in London for family reasons.

Mr Gorman’s appointment signals the growing importance of wealth management to the bank, as a result of its continuing combination of its own brokers with those from Smith Barney, and perhaps a shift away from the traditional perception of it as a pure-play investment bank.

The chief executive-in-waiting joined Morgan Stanley in February 2006, and was promoted to his current role in November 2007,

A lawyer by training, he spent much of his career at management consultancy McKinsey & Co, before joining Merrill Lynch in 2001.

Mr Gorman, who takes over the top job on January 1, 2010, will become what is thought to be the bank’s first non-American chief executive in its 74-year history. He was born in Melbourne, Australia – although he does hold American citizenship.

Earlier this summer, he admitted to the Australian Financial Review that: “people [on Wall Street] have realised a lot of their performance was because of the market environment and not just because of their individual genius”.

Hugo Chavez jokes with Spain's king

MADRID — Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez joked Friday with King Juan Carlos, saying the Spanish monarch's new beard reminded him of Fidel Castro, further cementing a patched-up rapport with a man who once told Chavez to shut up.

"It is to change my look a bit," said the king, who grew the beard over the summer.

Later, Chavez, a lover of the limelight, was jeered by a small group of protesters as he visited a bookstore on one of Madrid's main drags at the conclusion of a brief visit that ended his tour of nine countries. The protesters called Chavez a murderer and a dictator.

During his swing through Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, Russia and former Soviet satellites, Chavez did not avoid controversy. In Tehran, he said he would sell Iran gasoline — a step that would help the country if it is hit with new sanctions over its nuclear program. In Moscow, he gave Russia a boost by recognizing two Russian-backed Georgian regions as independent, becoming only the third country to do so and drawing criticism from the United States.

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