Monday, September 28, 2009

FBI Releases Soundless Videotapes of OK Bombing Aftermath

By Allan Lengel

The infamous bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995 sent a collective shiver up America’s spine, a moment that will never be forgotten, particularly for those who lost family, were injured or had to run for their lives in the immediate aftermath.

It was a rude awakening that highlighted the hatred of the American government that lurked in the heartland of America among folks like farmers and militia members. The FBI has released some soundless videotapes showing the chaos that errupted after the bombing on April 19, that killed 168 and injured hundreds.

FBI Letting Terror Plots Develop More to Get Offenders on More Serious Charges

The FBI seems to be taking a new approach to terrorism plots. Instead of quickly picking up people, often on lesser charges, they’re letting the plots unfold a little more so they can charge suspected terrorists with more serious offenses. The tactic seems to have worked in recent cases around the country.

Aftermath of the World Trade Center/fbi photo
The Dallas Morning News
DALLAS – After terrorists slammed airliners into the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon, the law-enforcement community had one overriding priority - preventing another attack.

Making criminal arrests or detaining noncitizens on immigration violations was seen as an expedient way to disrupt any nascent terrorist plots after the Sept. 11 attacks. But the majority of those taken into custody were never prosecuted, or they were charged with relatively minor offenses.

“With 3,000 people incinerated, we weren’t going to take the chance that we were sacrificing security for prosecution of the more serious offenses,” said Jeffrey Addicott, director of the Center for Terrorism Law at St. Mary’s University School of Law in San Antonio.

For Full Story

Ex-wife: DC sniper said 'you have become my enemy'

WASHINGTON — As the ex-wife of the notorious D.C. sniper emptied herself during a 30-day fast five years ago, one question tormented her — why did he want to kill her?

Mildred Muhammad wrote about that isolation and torment for years in her journals. She began when her ex-husband, John Allen Muhammad, took their three young children from her nearly a decade ago. She continued when he was convicted of the 2002 sniper attacks in the Washington area, and still jots down her emotions as her ex-husband awaits his scheduled Nov. 10 execution.

"The paper don't talk back," the 49-year-old told The Associated Press in a recent interview. "It just lets you write down your thoughts and you're able to express anger, shame and guilt."

They were all emotions that Muhammad, who is Muslim, had to purge during that 30-day fast in July 2004, just as her ex-husband's second trial was beginning. She had to understand everything she poured into the journals so she could finally move on.

Those journals became the genesis for her new memoir, "Scared Silent: When the One You Love ... Becomes the One You Fear," due out Oct. 13 from Simon & Schuster imprint Strebor Books International, based in Largo, Md.

In her narrative, Muhammad documents her ex-husband's dismissive retorts: "I don't mind because you don't matter," she writes. At one point, he told her: "You have become my enemy and as my enemy, I will kill you."

The Full Story

Report: Rangel Not Happy With Presidential Pressure

Congressman Charles Rangel is reportedly angry over the news that the Obama administration involved itself in the New York governor's race.

Word surfaced last week that the aides to the president were pressuring Governor David Paterson not to seek a full term.

In an interview with the Daily News, Rangel called the move "not presidential."

Rangel tells the paper he's glad he was kept out of the loop and that the local politicians Obama reportedly tapped to deliver the news to Paterson should be embarrassed.

Meanwhile, during an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday, the governor denied claims that his campaign will drag down other Democrats.

Paterson says he's fighting for both his party and New Yorkers. He also blamed his low poll numbers on the tough choices he's had to make in order to deal with the state's growing deficit.

Paterson says while the president has never directly told him not to run, he knows the administration has concerns.

"They certainly sent the message they have concerns and I appreciate that, but let me just tell you at the outset, I am running for governor in 2010," Paterson said. "I don't think that this is an issue other than for the people of the State of New York to decide."

Aides to the president have told NY1 that Obama did point out that Paterson's low approval ratings will make it difficult for him to win and could bring down fellow Democrats.

A recent statewide Marist Poll found six in 10 New Yorkers believe the Obama Administration should not have involved itself in the governor's race.

Madonna Set to Marry Jesus Luz

Madonna wants to marry boyfriend Jesus Luz.

The 51-year-old singer has hinted she is ready to settle down with her 22-year-old lover, even though they have been dating for less than a year.

She is quoted as saying, “It can go either way. But why not? I could definitely see myself marrying him. Yes, it’s definitely on the table.

“He’s so sweet. He checks in with me all the time. I probably should do the same, but you know me. I think he gets it now that I’m a little, shall we say, self-involved.”

Madonna who has been married twice – to actor Sean Penn and British film director Guy Ritchie, is considering a lavish wedding to show the world just how in love she is with the Brazilian model.

A relative of the pop legend said, “She knows that’s what Jesus wants. She has a lot of wonderful memories of both of her weddings. She doesn’t want to slip off and do it quietly. She definitely wants a big and rather fantastic affair.”

Madonna began thinking of walking down the aisle again following the death of her friend Michael Jackson in June.

The loss of the ‘Bad’ singer who died of acute Propofol intoxication made her more determined to live her life to the full.

She is also keen to show the world she is serious about the relationship, especially as she knows some people have been surprised by her decision to date someone almost 30 years her junior.

A friend told this week’s edition Britain’s Hello! magazine, “When Madonna and Jesus were just dating, back when she thought it was a fling, she was OK with it. But when she realized she was starting to have feelings for him, she started to become self-conscious about the relationship. ‘I don’t want my family to think I’m having a mid-life crisis,’ she told me. ‘And my friends, too. I don’t want people to think I have lost my mind.’ ”

With Two Ticks, Favre-Lewis Click On Game-Winner As Vikes Edge Niners

Minneapolis, MN (AHN) – Brett Favre and the Minnesota Vikings have been quite a match this season.

Despite several off-target passes, Favre still completed 24-of-47 throws for 301 yards and two touchdown strikes as the Vikings defeated the San Francisco 49ers 27-24 Sunday.

Favre made up for his uneven play on an 80-yard drive and a 32-yard pass in the decisive fourth quarter.

Greg Lewis hauled in the offering in the end zone with two seconds left in the game to send Vikes fans into a frenzy.

Minnesota picked up its third win of the season.

San Francisco (2-1) quarterback Shaun Hill threw for 195 yards and two scores.

Did Hitler escape from the bunker?


The four-inch skull fragment has a hole where a bullet reportedly passed through Hitler’s left temple when he shot himself and is kept in Russia’s federal archives along with what are said to be his jawbones. Together, they are all that is left of Hitler’s body, the charred remains of which Soviet forces first recovered in 1945. For years, the Russians have held up the artefacts as proof that Soviet troops found Hitler’s body in the ruins of Berlin and that he died on April 30 when he shot himself just after taking cyanide.

But a History Channel documentary programme broadcast in the US called Hitler’s Escape claims the skull fragment belongs to a woman under 40 and not Hitler, who was 56 when he died. It quotes Nick Bellantoni, an archaeologist and bone specialist who took DNA samples from the skull in Moscow and had them tested at the University of Connecticut. He and his colleagues are sceptical that the skull fragment could belong to Eva Braun, Hitler’s long-time companion, since she is thought to have committed suicide by cyanide rather than with a gun.

The findings are likely to revive conspiracy theories suggesting that Hitler did not die in 1945 but survived and fled to South America or elsewhere. Proponents of that theory believe Soviet troops found only his body double.

However, the Russians have never held up the skull as exhibit one, always insisting that the jawbones — said to be in perfect condition – are confirmation. Soviet forces tracked down an assistant to Hitler’s dentist in 1945 who confirmed their authenticity. The contested skull fragment was found later, in 1946, when the Russians began an investigation after rumours that Hitler was still alive. It was found in the same hole outside Hitler’s bunker where his body was first found.

Saudis To Cooperate in Massacre of Iranians?

According to the Brits, one US satellite, Saudi Arabia, will allow another, Israel, to bomb the Iranian nuclear power plants and low-grade enrichment facilities that they ae allowed to maintain, under the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Israel, ehich refuses to sign the treaty or allow international inspections of its huge nuclear bomb sticckpile, is portrayed as the victim as it acts to preserve its WMD monopoly. I agree that Iran should have no nuclear bombs, not that there is any evidence they do, and neither should Israel nor Pakistan nor India nor the US nor anyone else.

Unemployment rate of 52.2% for young Americans

The unemployment rate for Americans 16 to 24 years of age has hit the highest rate since the Great Depression.

The unemployment rate for young Americans has exploded to 52.2 percent -- a post-World War II high, according to the Labor Dept. -- meaning millions of Americans are staring at the likelihood that their lifetime earning potential will be diminished and, combined with the predicted slow economic recovery, their transition into productive members of society could be put on hold for an extended period of time.
And worse, without a clear economic recovery plan aimed at creating entry-level jobs, the odds of many of these young adults -- aged 16 to 24, excluding students -- getting a job and moving out of their parents' houses are long. Young workers have been among the hardest hit during the current recession -- in which a total of 9.5 million jobs have been lost.
During previous recessions, in the early '80s, early '90s and after Sept. 11, 2001, unemployment among 16-to-24 year olds never went above 50 percent. Except after 9/11, jobs growth followed within two years.
A much slower recovery is forecast today. Shierholz believes it could take four or five years to ramp up jobs again.
Many of these kids are coming out of college deeply in debt. A four or five year delay in starting their careers could effect the entire rest of their lives.

Gregory Asks Clinton If 'Vast Right Wing Conspiracy' Now 'Targeting' Obama?

Imagining in 1998 a “vast right wing conspiracy” to impugn and discredit conveyors of accurate information about her husband's activities with an intern was ludicrous enough when Hillary Clinton made up the foil, but eleven-plus years later NBC's David Gregory treated it as a reality, cuing up Bill Clinton in a Meet the Press interview pre-recorded in New York City: “Your wife famously talked about the vast right wing conspiracy targeting you. As you look at this opposition on the right to President Obama, is it still there?” Former President Clinton, naturally, agreed: “Oh, you bet. Sure it is.”

Gregory also pressed Clinton to assess President Obama from a set of liberal presumptions: “Do you think the President has leveled with the American people on this fact, that Americans are going to have to pay higher taxes if they want health care reform?” And, recalling how “in 1996 you declared the era of big government over,” but now “the era of big government being over appears to be over in and of itself, whether it's the stimulus, whether it's bailouts, financial regulation or this issue of health care,” Gregory wondered: “Do you think the President's done a good enough job selling government as the solution?”

From the Sunday, September 27 Meet the Press:

DAVID GREGORY: Let's talk about some of the big challenges back home for President Obama. And on health care, as this debate rolls through, you remember it well, do you think the President has leveled with the American people on this fact, that Americans are going to have to pay higher taxes if they want health care reform?...

But let me ask you a broader question. In 1996 you declared the era of big government over. Well, the era of big government being over appears to be over in and of itself, whether it's the stimulus, whether it's bailouts, financial regulation or this issue of health care. Do you think the President's done a good enough job selling government as the solution?...

Your wife famously talked about the vast right wing conspiracy targeting you. As you look at this opposition on the right to President Obama, is it still there?

BILL CLINTON: Oh, you bet. Sure it is. It's not as strong as it was, because America's changed demographically, but it's as virulent as it was. I mean, they're saying things about him – you know, it's like when they accused me of murder and all that stuff they did. But it's not really good for the Republicans and the country, what's going on now....

Abbott buying Solvay Pharmaceuticals

Abbott Laboratories expects to close early next year on a $6.6 billion deal to buy the pharmaceutical business of Belgian conglomerate Solvay Group.

Abbott Park, Ill.-based Abbott (NYSE:ABT), whose Ross Products division is based in Columbus, said the acquisition of Solvay Pharmaceuticals will add more than $3 billion in annual sales, mostly outside the U.S. The deal also includes Solvay’s vaccine business and global rights to cholesterol drug fenofibrate, the U.S. rights to which Abbott has owned under a royalty deal with Solvay.

Abbott CEO Miles White said in a release the Solvay deal “further diversifies our pharmaceutical portfolio, expands our presence in key high-growth emerging markets, enhances our investment in R&D and accelerates our long-term earnings-per-share growth outlook.”

The Solvay deal, Abbott said, should boost share earnings by about 10 cents next year and potentially more than 20 cents, but that’s excluding one-time costs the company will disclose later. Abbott also could pay more than $400 million from 2011 to 2013 if certain product milestones are met.

The deal is expected to close in the first quarter of 2010.

Abbott has about 69,000 employees, including about 2,000 in Central Ohio, and earned $4.88 billion on $29.5 billion in revenue last year.

US Defense Secretary Defends Review of Afghanistan Strategy

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates denied Sunday that a rift exists between the Obama administration and America's military commanders on how to proceed in Afghanistan. The secretary's remarks came after a report by the U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan calling for additional troops was leaked to the news media last week.

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates
Army General Stanley McChrystal's stark assessment of deteriorating security conditions in Afghanistan has yet to be formally presented to President Barack Obama. But it is already driving debate on the future of America's mission in the strife-torn country where the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States were plotted.

McChrystal's leaked report makes an urgent case for additional U.S. troops in Afghanistan, warning that the mission could fail in a year without more resources. But President Obama is insisting on a new, comprehensive review of American strategy before making any decisions on further deployments to Afghanistan. Mr. Obama already has sent an additional 21,000 U.S. service members to the country.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates says there is no rift between President Obama and U.S. military commanders, and that General McChrystal has voiced support for the strategy review.

"General McChrystal was very explicit in saying he thinks this assessment, this review that is going on right now, is exactly the right thing to do," said Gates. "He obviously does not want it to be open-ended."

Gates spoke on ABC television's This Week program. He added that a strategy review is timely, coming after Afghanistan's contested national election, and that failure to carry out the review would endanger U.S. forces.

"Having the wrong strategy would put even more soldiers at risk," he said. "I think it is important to get the strategy right. And then we can make the resources decisions."

Appearing on another U.S. television program, Gates said that an early U.S. exit from Afghanistan would be a "mistake," and that allowing the Taliban and al-Qaida to emerge victorious in the country would have, in his words, "catastrophic consequences".

But some powerful legislators of President Obama's Democratic Party are arguing against a protracted U.S. military commitment in Afghanistan.

The Chairwoman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Dianne Feinstein of California, spoke on the Fox News Sunday program.

"I think the president is correct to take his time to really examine what the alternatives are at this time," she said. "True, the Afghanistan strategy so far has not gone well. Now the question comes: Is there an alternative to this long-term, comprehensive counter-insurgency strategy? I hope there is, because I do not believe the American people want to be in Afghanistan for the next 10 years."

But the ranking Republican on the committee, Missouri Senator Kit Bond, cautioned that General McChrystal has already mapped a way forward in Afghanistan and that failure to act quickly on his recommendations would invite defeat.

"[President Obama] has the answer to the question he asked of General McChrystal. [The report] is here; it is clear; it is in great detail," he said. "We need troops now."

As a presidential candidate and now as President, Barack Obama has described the U.S. mission in Afghanistan as one of necessity, to prevent terrorist attacks on the United States and its allies.

Can Germany reform its economy?

On the face of it, Germany's general election has delivered a clear mandate for economic reforms: neo-liberal but socially conservative, in favour of free markets and less regulation, hoping to boost the economy by lowering taxes.

This may be a surprise, given Germany's history of maintaining a highly regulated "social market economy," and the fact that its export-focused industry is suffering badly because of the market failure that has devastated industrialised economies the world over.

Pushing hard for reforms will be the junior party in Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition, the liberal, self-proclaimed "pro-business" FDP. Boosted by strong election gains, its leaders say that they will force their business agenda into the pact that will outline the coalition's policies.

In contrast, Mrs Merkel's party, the Christian Democrats (CDU) and its Bavarian sister party CSU, lost votes, slumping to its worst showing at the polls in 60 years.

The liberals' election manifesto, however, is unlikely to survive contact with both Germany's economic situation and the realpolitik of coalition politics.

Unemployment threat

Germany's economy may be growing again - earlier than the US or the UK - but it also saw a sharper contraction than many other countries, and economic growth does not immediately translate into more jobs or higher tax revenues.

Chancellor Angela Merkel has been a cautious reformer
The state of Germany's public finances is dire. Already CDU politicians are warning their liberal partners-to-be that tax cuts are unaffordable right now.

Government spending is the other tough issue. Unemployment has been kept artificially low, with 1.4 million workers put on "Kurzarbeit" - where they work shorter hours while the government makes up some of the lost salary.

However, at many companies the arrangements for this salary subsidy are about to reach their statutory maximum duration. Unless the government is prepared to accept a sharp rise in unemployment, the FDP's neo-liberals will have to swallow their economic principles and accept more market-distorting state intervention.

Furthermore, the realities of German coalition building means that the FDP's political leverage will be fairly limited. FDP leader Guido Westerwelle firmly nailed his party's flag to the CDU mast.

There is no alternative coalition partner for him to fall back on, while the CDU could arguably (albeit reluctantly) continue its grand coalition with the Social Democrats.

Is Angela Merkel a reformer?

So what about Chancellor Merkel's ambitions? Four years ago, when the grand coalition got going, it pursued an ambitious agenda of economic reform. After a few early successes, it quickly got bogged down in squabbles over money and the protection of special interests.

Mrs Merkel, ever the seeker of consensus and campaigning on the promise of staking out the middle ground, did little to push reform.

Now conservative commentators in Germany are wondering whether Mrs Merkel will discover a taste for reform at last or whether she is a consensus-seeking social democrat at heart.

Chances are that she will turn out to be the true heir of the CDU's previous chancellor, Helmut Kohl. He was notorious for "sitting out" conflicts and avoiding bold economic decisions.

It would be politics as usual for Germany. But it is unlikely to be the recipe for leading Germany out of the economic quagmire.

Iran Tests Long-Range Missile Ahead of Nuclear Talks

Iranian state media report the military has successfully test fired its longest-range missile. The test is part of military exercises that coincide with new accusations from the U.S. and others about Tehran's nuclear ambitions.

The Shahab-3 missile is thought to have a range of some 2000 kilometers, enough to put Israel, most Arab states and southern Europe in its sights.

State TV broadcast the countdown and launch.

Tehran, which introduced the missile last year, says it is meant to act as an interceptor to deter any foreign attack.

But some western defense analysts believe the Shahab-3 is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. Earlier this year, Tehran's arch-enemy Israel test fired its own Arrow 2 missile in a simulation of stopping the Shahab-3.

Iran's military exercises, which started Sunday and have included test launches of short- and medium-range missiles as well, come just days after the disclosure that Tehran is building a new uranium enrichment plant.

Iran was apparently forced to reveal its existence after it became aware that western intelligence agencies had known about it for years.

Tehran denies there was any secrecy involved, and that the plant hadn't reached the point where the government needed to disclose its existence.

Major world powers disagree and are expected to drive that point home with the threat of further sanctions in talks with Iranian nuclear representatives in Geneva Thursday.

Iran argues that it has a right to nuclear energy, a point of agreement with Western powers. But the West and the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency want greater access to Iran's nuclear facilities to ensure that energy is all that Tehran is seeking.

Polanski notes leaked on to net

The Associated Press (AP) news agency has accidently published internal notes about the arrest of film director Roman Polanski instead of a story.

The document details an exchange of messages between reporters about Mr Polanski, who was held in Switzerland and faces extradition to the US.

In the note, one reporter asks if his colleague can "do some more probing" and speculates that Switzerland was under pressure from the US.

AP swiftly filed a replacement article.

The mistake came to light on 27 September, with the headline "Swiss arrest Polanski on US request in sex case".

But rather than a conventional news story, the post contained basic information as to when the press conference would start, and then continued, saying the reporter would "push out another writethru [sic] with some more background details before press conference", while a colleague wondered if the Swiss were under "intense pressure" and whether they wanted "to throw the US a bone".

Sent in error, the copy was picked up by the Google News service, as well as being automatically posted to a number of websites, including Forbes.

The Associated Press subsequently sent out the proper news copy, saying that "Director Roman Polanski was arrested by Swiss police for possible extradition to the United States for having sex in 1977 with a 13-year-old girl".


Mr Polanski has lived in France since fleeing the US in 1978 to avoid facing a prison sentence after pleading guilty to having sex with a minor.

Since then, Mr Polanski has been unable to return to the US for fear of arrest, and has even avoided making films in the UK because of the danger of extradition.

However, the film maker was detained in Zurich on Saturday as he travelled from France to collect a lifetime achievement award at the Zurich Film Festival.

He is being held under a 2005 international alert issued by the US.