Monday, November 30, 2009

Surprise! Notre Dame Fires Charlie Weis

Don't feel bad for the guy. He'll walk away with millions and likely step right back in as an offensive coordinator in the NFL. And there's sure to be no shortage of suitors.
Charlie Weis is out as Notre Dame head football coach, a source close to the program told the Daily News.

AD Jack Swarbrick has decided to make a change after Weis finished the season with a 6-6 record and four straight losses to Navy, Pitt, Connecticut and Stanford.

Weis coached Notre Dame for five years and leaves with a 35-27 record. He has told friends in South Bend he has at least six offers from NFL teams to become their offensive coordinator.

This past weekend against Stanford Weis refused to do halftime and postgame media interviews. He reportedly cleaned out his office Thursday before the team left for the West Coast. Weis is not the only one apparently leaving. Junior quarterback Jimmy Clausen was seen giving his football helmet to his familly following a 45-38 loss to Stanford in which he threw five touchdown passes, a strong indication he will declare for the NFL draft.

Worries that Dubai washing its hands of debt woes

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — If global investors were looking for reassurances from Dubai that it would stand behind its massive, debt-swamped investment conglomerate, they got none Monday. Instead, the Gulf city-state seemed to wash its hands of the financial woes that have rattled world markets.

The muddled message from Dubai has fueled worries over a possible default by the conglomerate, which is involved in projects around the world — from Gulf banks and ports in 50 countries to luxury retailer Barneys New York and a grandiose six-tower hotel-entertainment complex in Las Vegas.

Many investors are hoping that the conglomerate, Dubai World, will either openly discuss restructuring of some $60 billion in debt with its creditors, or that Dubai's larger, oil-rich neighbor, Abu Dhabi, will step in to restore confidence by promising to foot any bills.

The two are the most powerful of the seven highly autonomous statelets that make up the United Arab Emirates, but their sharply different styles have long made them rivals. For any help, Abu Dhabi will likely demand a price, possibly including increased say over Dubai's affairs.

Abu Dhabi, the seat of the UAE's federal government, has been the more conservative, religiously and financially, relying on its oil wealth to fuel growth. Meanwhile, smaller Dubai — without any oil resources — has for the past decade been the freewheeling boomtown, racking up debt as it built extravagant skyscrapers, artificial residential islands and malls complete with indoor ski slopes.

Government-owned Dubai World has been the engine for much of that growth at home and abroad. So it was a bombshell last week when Dubai announced that the conglomerate wanted to defer debt payments until at least May.

The United Arab Emirates' two main stock exchanges registered record declines Monday as they opened for the first time since the announcement, after a long Islamic holiday.

The Full Story

Iran enrichment plans largely bluster, experts say

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran's announcement of plans to build 10 more uranium enrichment facilities is largely bluster after a strong rebuke from the U.N.'s nuclear agency, analysts said Monday. Nonetheless, the defiance is fueling calls among Western allies for new punitive sanctions to freeze Iran's nuclear program.

U.S. and European officials were swift to condemn the plans, warning that Iran risked sinking ever deeper into isolation. Iran responded that it felt forced to move forward with the plans after the International Atomic Energy Agency passed a resolution Friday demanding that it halt all enrichment activities.

Iran's bold announcement Sunday appears to be largely impossible to achieve as long as sanctions continue to throw up roadblocks and force Iran to turn to black markets and smuggling for nuclear equipment, said nuclear expert David Albright.

"They can't build those plants. There's no way," he said. "They have sanctions to overcome, they have technical problems. They have to buy things overseas ... and increasingly it's all illegal."

A more worrisome escalation in the standoff would be if Iran reduced its cooperation with the IAEA, as some Iranian officials have threatened to do if the West continues its pressure. The U.N. inspectors and monitoring are the world's only eyes on Tehran's program. The head of Iran's nuclear agency on Monday ruled out an even more drastic move, saying Tehran does not intend to withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Enrichment is at the center of the standoff between Iran and the West because it can be used both to produce material needed for atomic weapons as well as fuel for nuclear power plants. Iran insists it only wants the latter.

The Full Story

Dollar dips as markets recover from Dubai shock

The safe-haven dollar mostly slipped Monday morning, with the euro rising back over $1.50, but managed to hold above 14-year yen lows as investors held their breaths on the Dubai debt crisis.

The 16-nation euro rose to $1.5015 from $1.4954 late Friday, while the British pound dipped to $1.6416 from $1.6479. The dollar fetched 86.26 Japanese yen from 86.70 yen.

On Friday, the dollar briefly fell below 85 yen, its lowest level since July 1995 as debt problems afflicting Dubai shook up the banking sector. Japanese Finance Minister Hirohisa Fujii called the yen's surge "a very serious situation." He added that Tokyo will take action as needed, suggesting that Japan may work with the U.S. and Europe to try to calm foreign exchange markets.

On Monday, Bank of Japan Gov. Masaaki Shirakawa acknowledged Japan is in deflation and said he is carefully monitoring foreign exchange levels. The central bank is ready to take steps as needed to maintain financial market stability, he said, according to the Japanese Kyodo News agency.

Shirakawa and Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama are expected to meet as early as tomorrow to discuss the "situation," according to Brown Brothers Harriman analysts.

Speculation that the Japanese government or central bank might intervene is helping keep the dollar above the yen lows from Friday, said UBS currency analyst Patrick Ley.

Meanwhile, conflicting signals out of the Middle East kept the dollar trading in a tight range. Last week, Dubai World, the main investment arm of Dubai, asked to defer payments on $60 billion of debt for six months. That triggered fears of a massive debt default touching off a crisis, said CMC Markets' Michael Hewson in a note to investors Monday. But a weekend statement from the United Arab Emirates, where Dubai is located, saying it would make extra money available to all banks in the country helped calm investors. Later on Monday, however, a Dubai finance official said the government would not guarantee the company's debts.

In other morning trading, the dollar dropped to 1.0551 Canadian dollars from 1.0623 Canadian dollars late Friday, and fell to 1.0037 Swiss francs from 1.0065 francs.

The greenback was also lower against the New Zealand and Australian dollars.

Report Blasts 2001 Battle to Get Bin Laden

A new Senate report blasts the Bush administration’s December 2001 effort to capture or kill Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in the Afghanistan mountains of Tora Bora.

The report, written by the Senate Foreign Relations, says bin Laden was within reach on Dec. 16, but he and his “entourage of bodyguards walked unmolested out of Tora Bora and disappeared into Pakistan’s unregulated tribal area.” The report says most analysts believe he is still there.

The report, requested by the committee’s chairman, Massachusetts Democrat John Kerry, blames the failure to catch or kill bin Laden on then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s decision to use a force of untrained, mostly Afghani fighters to seal his escape routes.

The report says more than 100 American commandos were on the scene during the battle, but their calls for reinforcements were denied. Bin Laden, according to the report was so shaken by U.S. air strikes that he prepared a will that indicated he thought he was moments from death.

The report also slams then-Afghanistan-theater commander Gen. Tommy Franks for refusing to deviate from a plan to use mostly indigenous forces on the ground to ease the risk of an anti-U.S. backlash in the country.

The report’s release comes two days before the Obama administration is expected to announce the deployment of more troops to Afghanistan.

Obama to address nation about Afghanistan on Tuesday

Let's see if the President can convince the people if escalating the war in Afghanistan is the right move.

President Barack Obama will address the nation on his new strategy for the war in Afghanistan Tuesday night from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

The president is expected to lay out his plans for expanding the Afghan conflict and, ultimately, ending America's military role.
The president and his top military and national security advisers have held 10 meetings to discuss America's future steps in Afghanistan. Though the top general in Afghanistan has asked the president for about 40,000 troops, military officials expect the president will deploy about 35,000, starting next year.

The president says the American people will support his strategy once they understand the perils of losing the war.

UPDATE (via the New York Times):

President Obama plans to lay out a time frame for winding down the American involvement in the war in Afghanistan when he announces his decision this week to send more forces, senior administration officials said Sunday.

Although the speech was still in draft form, the officials said the president wanted to use the address at the United States Military Academy at West Point on Tuesday night not only to announce the immediate order to deploy roughly 30,000 more troops, but also to convey how he intends to turn the fight over to the Kabul government.

“It’s accurate to say that he will be more explicit about both goals and time frame than has been the case before and than has been part of the public discussion,” said a senior official, who requested anonymity to discuss the speech before it is delivered. “He wants to give a clear sense of both the time frame for action and how the war will eventually wind down.”

The officials would not disclose the time frame. But they said it would not be tied to particular conditions on the ground nor would it be as firm as the current schedule for withdrawing troops in Iraq, where Mr. Obama has committed to withdrawing most combat units by August and all forces by the end of 2011.

Tiger Woods Turns Down Florida Highway Patrol Interview (Twice)

Tiger Woods has turned down Florida Highway Patrol interview twice! State Troopers visited Woods’ Windermere home Saturday looking for some answers regarding his very bizarre car accident but never got to see Tiger.

Tiger’s rep told the Florida Highway Patrol that the golf champ and his golf club-swinging wife, Elin Nordegren would not be available for an interview that was previously scheduled for Saturday. Click Here to see photos of Elin

As reports by E! Online: Police were asked to go back to Woods’ home Sunday (today) for a sit-down. The agency is still investigating the incident.
Woods’ silence no doubt raises speculations that he’s hoping for his allegedly facial lacerations to heal. As TMZ reports that they were not caused by the car accident instead by his wife, Elin who went ballistic and scratched his face up. Ouch!

If you have been in a coma or in a cave you could have missed the whole enchilada, the whole thing started with a report surfaced of National Enquirer calling Woods a cheater. The tabloid is saying that the golf pro has been seeing another woman by the name of Rachel Uchitel.
Uchitel has vehemently denied the affair as she tells the New York Post:

“We have never had an affair, and the claims we did are completely false,” “I am really upset about it because I am being portrayed as a homewrecker, when it simply isn’t true.”

Methinks Tiger will have to address the issue because he’s got the responsiblity towards his fans and his HUGE sponsors.

The story developing.

Nine Years After Mike Huckabee Freed Him, Man is Wanted in Cop Killings

Former Arkansas governor/GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee might have made a huge mistake when he commuted Maurice Clemmons' 60-year prison sentence nine years ago: Now, Clemmons is wanted for questioning in the horrific shooting of four Washington State police officers.

This morning, a man walked into a coffee shop in Lakewood, Washington and opened fire, killing four police officers in what officials are calling an "execution-style" shooting. Now police are looking to question 37 year-old Maurice Clemmons, who the Seattle Times reports has had a long criminal history. It started in 1990, when Clemmons was sentenced to 60 years in prison in Arkansas for burglary and theft of property:

When Clemmons received the 60-year sentence, he was already serving 48 years on five felony convictions and facing up to 95 more years on charges of robbery, theft of property and possessing a handgun on school property. Records from Clemmons' sentencing described him as 5-foot-7 and 108 pounds. The crimes were committed when he was 17.

Clemmons served 11 years before being released.

News accounts say Huckabee commuted Clemmons' sentence, citing Clemmons' young age at the time the crimes were committed.

After Huckabee freed Clemmons it was all downhill: According to the Seattle Times report, Clemmons racked up eight felony charges after moving to Washington—the most recent being second-degree rape of a child, for which he had been in jail pending a trial for the past few months. Clemmons was released from jail six days ago after posting his $150,000 bail with help from a company called Jail Sucks Bail Bonds.

Then he might have gunned down four police officers this morning:
Sgt. Mark Renninger, Officers Ronald Owens, Tina Griswold and Greg Richards.

As Arkansas Governor, Huckabee had a long record of pardoning criminals—including murders and rapists: HuffPo reports that "between 1996 and 2004, Huckabee helped to free more Arkansas prisoners than were freed from all of Arkansas' six neighboring states."

After Clemmons—who is still at large—is found and questioned, after the vigils are finished and all the facts are in (probably before that, actually), we can look forward to a long public debate about kids in jail and the limits of mercy.

Williams fined record $82,500 for US Open tirade

Serena Williams was fined a record $82,500 for her U.S. Open tirade and could be suspended from that tournament if she has another "major offense" at any Grand Slam in the next two years.

Grand Slam administrator Bill Babcock's ruling was released Monday, and he said Williams faces a "probationary period" at tennis' four major championships in 2010 and 2011. If she has another "major offense" at a Grand Slam tournament in that time, the fine would increase to $175,000 and she would be barred from the following U.S. Open.

"But if she does not have another offense in the next two years, the suspension is lifted," Babcock said in a telephone interview from London.

He said Williams is handing over $82,500 right now, already nearly double the previous highest fine for a Grand Slam offense — about $48,000 Jeff Tarango was docked in the 1990s.

Williams lashed out at a lineswoman after a foot-fault call at the end of her semifinal loss to eventual champion Kim Clijsters at the U.S. Open in September.

Williams earned $350,000 by reaching the semifinals, part of her more than $6.5 million in prize money in 2009, a single-season record for women's tennis. Her career prize money tops $28 million.

The American is an 11-time Grand Slam singles champion and ended the 2009 season at No. 1 in the WTA rankings.

Williams' profanity-laced, finger-pointing outburst drew a $10,000 fine from the U.S. Tennis Association in September — the maximum onsite penalty a tennis player can face. But because it happened at a Grand Slam tournament, Babcock was charged with investigating whether further punishment was merited.

He concluded that Williams violated the "major offense" rule for "aggravated behavior." The Grand Slam committee — with one representative from each of the sport's four major championships — approved his decision Saturday.

Babcock said Williams has been informed of the ruling. She has been in Barbados for an exhibition tournament, and her agent did not immediately reply to a request for comment Monday.

The USTA said it would comment later Monday.

Babcock said a "major offense" under Grand Slam rules is "any conduct that is determined to be the 'major offense' of 'aggravated behavior' or 'conduct detrimental to the game.'" There is no specific definition of what sort of actions constitute a "major offense."

He said the highest possible fine that Williams could face — $175,000, if she violates her Grand Slam probation — was chosen because it is the difference in winnings between reaching the quarterfinals and semifinals at the U.S. Open. The $10,000 Williams already was docked by the USTA will be counted toward that total; that's why she is paying half of $165,000 now.

During the Sept. 12 match at Flushing Meadows, the foot fault — a call rarely, if ever, made at that stage of such a significant match — resulted in a double-fault for Williams, moving Clijsters one point from victory.

Williams paused, retrieved a ball to serve again and then stopped. She stepped toward the official, screaming, cursing and shaking the ball at her. Williams was penalized a point for that display; because it happened to come on match point, it ended the semifinal with Clijsters ahead 6-4, 7-5.