Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Mexico's Carlos Slim overtakes Gates in world rich list

Carlos Slim ended America's 16-year reign on the Rich List

Mexican telecom giant Carlos Slim has topped Forbes magazine's billionaire's list - the first time since 1994 that an American has not led the rankings.

Mr Slim's fortune rose by $18.5bn (£12.4bn) last year to $53.5bn.

That beat Microsoft founder Bill Gates ($53bn) into second place, with US investor Warren Buffet ($43bn) third.

In 2009 332 names left the list after a tough year, but the total number of billionaires on this year's list rose from 793 to 10,111, Forbes said.

The year's biggest gainer, Brazilian mining tycoon Eike Batista, broke into the top 10 for the first time.

He came in at number seven, having boosting his wealth by $19.5bn to $27bn.

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Female teacher in teen sex case appears in court

BURBANK, Calif. — A California middle school teacher who's reportedly wracked with guilt over an affair with a 14-year-old boy has been returned to jail following a brief court appearance.

Amy Victoria Beck had arrived in court with her lawyer on Wednesday for her arraignment, but it was postponed until March 25.

She is jailed in lieu of $175,000 bail. Her lawyer, Michael Williamson, says she wants to stay there for the time being to avoid the media.

Authorities say Beck arrived at Burbank police headquarters on Monday and said she was tormented with guilt.

Police say she confessed to having sex with one of her male students last year.

Prosecutors charged Beck with five counts, and she faces up to seven years in prison if convicted.

Ex-official admits guilt in NY pension probe

NEW YORK — A former New York state investment officer has admitted helping channel hundreds of millions of dollars in public pension fund money to politically connected investment firms in a "pay-to-play" scheme.

David Loglisci (loh-GLEE'-see) pleaded guilty in a Manhattan court Wednesday to a securities fraud charge.

Loglisci had authority to recommend how to invest the pension money. Loglisci says he let political adviser Hank Morris steer the money to firms that contributed to then-Comptroller Alan Hevesi's campaign or paid "placement" fees to Morris and his associates.

Morris has pleaded not guilty in the pension probe. Hevesi has not been charged.

Defense lawyer Kevin Keating says Loglisci "found himself in a nearly impossible situation" at the pension fund.

Robert De Niro set to play Vince Lombardi in movie

BRISTOL, Conn. — Robert De Niro is set to play Vince Lombardi in an upcoming movie.

ESPN announced Tuesday that the Academy Award-winning actor has agreed to play the Hall of Fame coach in the film it is developing with Andell Entertainment and the NFL.

"Lombardi" will chronicle the years in which he transformed the Green Bay Packers from the NFL's worst team to league champions. It is tentatively scheduled to be released in 2012 during the weekend between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl.

Screenwriter Eric Roth, who won an Oscar for "Forrest Gump," has also signed on to the project. De Niro's Tribeca Productions will join the producing group. A director has yet to be chosen.

US-Iran tension plays out in Afghanistan

KABUL — Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad used a brief visit to Afghanistan on Wednesday to lob insults at the United States and argue that international forces won't stop terrorism and will only lead to more civilian deaths.

Ahmadinejad said the United States was playing a "double game" in Afghanistan, fighting militants it once supported.

His comments were a retort to U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates who earlier in the week accused Tehran of "playing a double game" by nurturing relations with the Afghan government while supporting insurgents to undermine U.S. and NATO troops. Tehran denies the allegation.

Ahmadinejad threw back the phrase Wednesday.

"I believe that they themselves," who are now fighting militants in Afghanistan, "are playing a double game," said Ahmadinejad, who has made several visits to the country. "They themselves created terrorists and now they're saying that they are fighting terrorists."

During the 10 years that the Soviet Union fought in Afghanistan, the U.S. supplied rebels with everything from mules to advanced weaponry, including Stinger anti-aircraft missiles that helped neutralize Soviet air power. After the U.S. money evaporated, the world watched Afghanistan plunge into chaos and eventually harbor the al-Qaida terrorist network responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks.

While the United States has long-running suspicions about Iran's nuclear program, the two nations view the Taliban as a common enemy. Iran believes that the Taliban warped the Islam religion to suit its ideology. Taliban forces killed eight Iranian diplomats in the late 1990s, and the militant group makes money from drug-smuggling operations across Iran's border with Afghanistan.

But while Iran supported efforts to oust the repressive Taliban regime from power in Afghanistan, it opposed the U.S.-led offensive to topple the Taliban after the 2001 terrorist attacks. Iran is wary of a long-term U.S. military presence in the region.

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Ed Gordon Back to BET

*Richard Prince’s “Journal-isms” online column reported Monday that nearly two decades after his career took national notice, news anchor Ed Gordon is back, covering news and real issues that matters to African Americans on Black Entertainment Television.

Gordon is best known for in depth interviews with international icons like Nelson Mandela, Oprah Winfrey, the late Michael Jackson, and R. Kelly. After interviewing former Heisman Trophy winner O.J. Simpson, who was acquitted on double murder charges, Gordon was named one of People Magazine’s “50 Most Beautiful People in the World.”

In 2002 Gordon’s popular interview program “BET Tonight with Ed Gordon,” was canceled. The headlining reporter was reassigned to host unsuccessful shows “Lead Story,” and “Teen Summit.” Post BET has landed Gordon in various short term media spots including MSNBC AND CBS-TV’s “60 Minutes II,” National Public Radio, and “Our World with Black Enterprise.”

On Monday, CEO of BET Debra L. Lee, announced Gordon’s long awaited return to the network.

“As BET celebrates its 30th anniversary, it brings me great joy to welcome back one of America’s most prominent news personalities. Ed has always remained part of the BET family and I am sure viewers will share in our excitement to have him back,” Lee said.

Gordon revealed to Journal-isms that his show will cover top headlines and “serious issues will be covered and covered well.”

After a noticeable transition to a pop culture entertainment network and the inauguration of President Barack Obama, BET decided it was time to take the network to a different level.

Lee said that it was “time to sit back with my management team and say, ‘where are we going. What do I want my legacy to be? After 30 years, what do we want to stand for?”

BET has been through some tough criticism, including a “thumbs down” rating from the National Association of Black Journalists when the network refused to broadcast the funerals of civil rights activists Rosa Parks in 2005 and Coretta Scott King in 2006.

With the return of Gordon, BET is seeking to walk steady in its commitment to bringing news that matters to African Americans.

Marion Jones signes for WNBA team Tulsa Shock

The 34 year-old won three Olympic titles in 2000 but was later stripped of her medals after admitting she used performance-enhancing drugs.

She announced last autumn that she planned to join the WNBA and has trained with several teams. She was previously drafted by Phoenix Mercury in 2003, but never made an appearance.

Franchise president Steve Swetoha insists Jones deserves a shot at redemption, and said: "She made some ill-advised decisions in the past, but everyone deserves a second chance to excel at something they love.

"The city of Tulsa gave a struggling franchise from Detroit a second chance, and I'm confident it will do the same for Marion. We couldn't be happier to have her on board."

Jones added: "I may not be your typical rookie in this league, but I'll still bring that rookie energy. I'm looking forward to competing against the best female athletes in the world."

Boyfriend: Terror suspect never practiced religion

QUAKERTOWN, Pa. — A boyfriend of the American woman charged in a foreign terrorism plot says she never showed any Muslim or other religious leanings.

Kurt Gorman of suburban Philadelphia says Colleen LaRose mostly spent her days at their Pennsburg apartment.

Federal officials charge that she met up with violent jihadists online under the name "JihadJane." An indictment issued Tuesday says she used the Internet to conspire with them to kill a Swedish artist.

Authorities say she also stole Gorman's U.S. passport to give it to a male co-conspirator.

Gorman says he spent five years with LaRose and saw no violent tendencies. He says he came home one day last summer and found her gone.

Gorman says he's still shocked by her arrest.

Are peace talks doomed to fail before they start?

There is a deep reason the majority of Israelis and Palestinians can't move toward the two-state solution.

After more than a year in which both Obama and Netanyahu have been in office, the truly minuscule movement of resuming indirect peace talks is currently the only achievement on the peace front. Whose fault is this? The Middle East has been prone to an endless blame game. The Palestinians accuse Israel of not wanting peace, and justifiably point to the proliferation of settlements in the West Bank. Israeli commentators point out that the Palestinians have opted out every time Israel proposes something that they should accept, as in the Taba Summit of 2001 and during Olmert's talks with Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas).

This discussion does not only take place between Palestinians and Israelis, but also inside Israel. There are the commentators like Akiva Eldar and Gideon Levy who consistently argue that Israel has misrepresented its offers; that Ehud Barak's 'There is no Partner' line from the year 2000 covers up the truth that Israel never made viable offers. Then again there are commentators like Nachum Barnea and Ehud Yaari, who, in his recent article in Foreign Affairs, argue that the Palestinians don't really want a state, and that they are actually waiting for the moment where they can, as he puts it, 'fall into Israel's arms,' dismantle the Palestinian Authority and force a binational state on Israel, thus ending the possibility of Israel's being a Jewish and democratic state.


TNN NewsBreak: German diocese to examine choir abuse

BERLIN — A spokesman for the Regensburg Catholic diocese in Germany says the diocese will investigate allegations of physical and sexual abuse that have swirled around a famed choir once led by Pope Benedict XVI's brother.

Spokesman Jacob Schoetz told The Associated Press that the investigation will be led by an independent lawyer who will be named later Wednesday.

He says the claims that have engulfed the prestigious Domspatzen boys choir that was led by the Rev. Georg Ratzinger from 1964 until 1994 will be investigated thoroughly.

The decision comes after the German Bishop's Conference said it would look into all abuse allegations across the country. More than 170 students at Catholic schools have said they were sexually abused decades ago.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

REGENSBURG, Germany (AP) — The German Bishops Conference will lead an investigation into all allegations of the sexual and physical abuse of students in Germany, a top prelate announced Wednesday.

That investigation will include examining allegations of sexual abuse at a choir once led by the pope's brother and looking into what, if anything, Pope Benedict XVI himself knew in his previous position as the archbishop of Munich, prelate Karl Juesten told the Associated Press.

Juesten, the liaison between Roman Catholic bishops and the German government, also praised the pope's brother, the Rev. Georg Ratzinger, for apologizing to victims on Tuesday for doing nothing decades ago to stop the beating of students.

More than 170 students at Catholic schools across Germany have said they were sexually abused years ago and others have made allegations of severe beatings.

The German abuse allegations are particularly sensitive because Germany is the pope's homeland and because the scandals involve the prestigious Domspatzen boys choir that was led by his brother from 1964 till 1994.


Lightning Round: When, Precisely, Does "Government" Become "Big Government?"

Providing a Benchmark.

States may soon adopt national core standards for education that were designed by state governors and state school leaders, the Washington Post reports. It's part of President Obama's efforts to improve academics across the country.

When the No Child Left Behind Act tried to make schools accountable for educating their students, perhaps the biggest misstep was penalizing schools that failed and relying on school choice and competition as the mechanisms for school improvement. That led to some states lowering their standards, since easier tests would be easier for students to pass, thus preventing a school from being labeled as failing.

Part of the backlash against No Child Left Behind has been criticism that teachers can best determine what and how their students can learn, and some are now trumpeting the idea that a sense of community might matter more than providing school choice. But those can still be valued while recognizing there are national standards toward which every school should strive.

Denying that there should be any standards on a national level at all ignores the fact that some students are at a great disadvantage simply because of geography. Wealthy suburban schools simply have access as a whole to better teachers and better school administrators than those in extremely poor rural or urban areas. It just might be that some teachers need guidance on what the next generation needs to know to compete with their peers. The difference will be in how schools are required to reach the benchmarks.

-- Monica Potts

Actor Corey Haim Dead Of Overdose

Former teen idol and actor Corey Haim has been found dead of a drug overdose at the age of 38.
Haim died at 3:30 a.m. Wednesday of an apparent accidental overdose, according to the LAPD's North Hollywood Division. He was found unresponsive inside an Oakwood apartment, between Burbank and the Hollywood Hills, police said. His mother was at the home at the time. The actor, who has struggled with drug addiction, was pronounced dead Providence St. Joseph's Medical Center in Burbank, police said. Haim was a teen heartthrob in the 80s and appeared in several movies, including "The Lost Boys" along with fellow teen idol Corey Feldman. Both actors appeared together on the A&E show "The Two Coreys," which aired from 2007 to 2008.

Haim had publicly struggled with drug abuse his entire adult life. Below is a clip from 2005 show tracking his attempt to get sober.

Gates: Some troops could leave Afghanistan early

PUL-E-CHARKHI, Afghanistan — U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates raised the possibility Wednesday that some of the U.S. forces involved in the Afghanistan surge could leave the country before President Barack Obama's announced July 2011 date to begin withdrawal.

Without giving specifics, Gates said, "It would have to be conditions-based."

Gates made the remarks during a visit to a dust-blown training ground in Kabul province where Afghan soldiers come for weeks of training under U.S. and British instruction. British Brigadier Simon Levy told Gates that if NATO countries contribute more trainers, the project to expand the Afghan army will keep pace.

The goal is to reach 134,000 trained forces this fall. The Pentagon hopes the Afghans will soon ease the load on U.S. forces.

In a press conference with Gates, Afghan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak said his troops are eager to take on the responsibility for defending the country, but gave no indication of when that might be possible.

Gates said, "We will begin that transition no later than July of 2011, but the pace will depend also on conditions on the ground."

Still, the Pentagon chief said, "We should not be too impatient."

Gates watched as Afghan troops dealt with a simulated roadside bomb explosion. He stood on an embankment above the road as Afghan soldiers leapt out of a convoy, tended to casualties and contained the explosive.

He said he was very impressed by what he saw.

"Although attention may be focused on operations in the south today, the training that is going on in this facility is even more important," he said. "At the end of the day, only Afghans will be able to provide long-term security for Afghanistan."

U.S. forces are engaged in a major offensive against Taliban fighters in southern Afghanistan. Gates visited some of those troops Tuesday.

Reporters also asked Gates about Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's visit to Afghanistan on Wednesday.

"It's certainly bothersome," he said. "We think Afghanistan should have good relations with all its neighbors, but we want all of Afghanistan's neighbors" to deal fairly with President Hamid Karzai's government.

Gates has accused Tehran of "playing a double game" in Afghanistan by trying to woo the Afghan government while undermining U.S. and NATO efforts by helping the Taliban.

In a press conference with Karzai in Kabul on Wednesday, Ahmadinejad responded that the United States was playing a "double game."

"They themselves created terrorists and now they're saying that they are fighting terrorists," Ahmadinejad said.

"Your country is located on the other side of the world, so what are you doing here?" he asked.

American woman is the new face of terrorism

It's a sign terror-fighters have been fearing for some time now, a middle aged woman from the Philadelphia suburbs now charged as being a "Jihad Jane."

Colleen LaRose has been in custody since the fall, but now her case is being made public. According to authorities, the new face of international terrorism is Colleen LaRose of Pennsylvania.

Brad Garrett, a former FBI special agent, says "I think we now are seeing the successful recruitment in the United States of non-Muslim people initially to get involved in Jihad."

U.S. Officials say 46 year-old LaRose was born in San Angelo, Texas. Using the aliases "Fatima La Rose and "Jihad Jane," she moved to Pennsylvania. Officials say she "and five other individuals scattered across the globe are alleged to have been using the Internet" to recruit jihaddists to commit acts of terrorism in Europe and south Asia.

Neighbors in suburban Pennsylvania suspected nothing.

The indictment says Muslim militants ordered LaRose to kill Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks after he drew Muhammad with the body of a dog. LaRose said she would make killing Vilks "my goal till I achieve it or die trying".

Authorities believe she was valued for her ability to blend in among Europeans. Garrett says, "The terrorists figured out that they can't all look like middle eastern people, whether they be male or female. And so they've put a lot of time and energy, particularly into the Internet, of recruiting people."

As part of the same investigation seven Muslim immigrants were arrested in Ireland this week, also charged with trying to kill the Swedish cartoonist.

Online Reporter: Jill Courtney

Seven Muslims Arrested in Ireland over plot to assassinate cartoonist Lars Vilks

Of course, expect the media and political elites to portray Vilks, the artist, as the bad guy, a provocateur, as they shred our most basic freedoms in submission to Islamic law, like the father who gives away his daughter in a sharia marriage. Urbane savages negotiating the terms of our surrender, is what is.

What's it going to take?

Seven held in Ireland over plot to assassinate cartoonist Lars Vilks The Independent hat tip KGS

Seven Muslims were arrested in the Irish Republic today over an alleged plot to assassinate a Swedish cartoonist who depicted the Prophet Mohammed with the body of a dog, police said.

Al-Qa'ida [translation -Islamic centcom or HQ] put a $100,000 bounty on the head of cartoonist Lars Vilks after a newspaper published his cartoon.

The four men and three women were detained after an investigation involving European security agencies and the United States' CIA and FBI.

Mr Vilks, who lives in an isolated area of Sweden, was put under police protection after threats were made against his life.

When al-Qa'ida put the bounty on the cartoonist's head in 2007 it offered a 50 per cent bonus if Mr Vilks was "slaughtered like a lamb" by having his throat cut, while another $50,000 was put on the life of Ulf Johansson, editor-in-chief of Nerikes Allehanda, the local newspaper which printed the cartoon.

However those arrested are not believed to be members of the terrorist group.

It understood some have converted to the Muslim faith.

And then there's the $150,000 bounty.

Glenn Beck vs. Michelle Malkin over Eric Massa

Michelle Malkin was on Glenn Beck’s radio show today and the two had a disagreement over the value of Eric Massa. I can see both sides of the argument. I don’t think we should wrap our arms around Eric Massa and proclaim him a conservative hero as being suggested by Politico. Malkin did a fine job reminding all of us just whom we are dealing with when it comes to Eric Massa. On the other hand, giving Massa airtime to expose the true motives behind health care reform is a good thing and should his claims prove true will only help to stop this awful bill from passing.

Listen to the exchange and let me know what you think.

Kobe Hits Game-winning Basket, Lakers Edge Raptors 109-107

You can probably count on both of your hands the number of times that Kobe Bryant has scored the game-winning basket and saved the Los Angeles Lakers from the jaws of defeat.

As it would turn out, Bryant would help the Lakers rally from a deficit and drain the game-winning basket with 1.9 seconds left, snapping Los Angeles 3-game losing streak and nipping the Toronto Raptors 109-107 at Staples Center.

The Raptors took a 58-50 lead going into the intermission with 15 points from Andrea Bargnani, who hit a pair of three-pointers and played his usual up-tempo game. They would maintained their lead in the third quarter with 13 points from Jarrett Jack and Pau Gasol got whistled for a technical foul on a non-call right after the end of the period.

Bryant put Los Angeles ahead on two free throws with 3:54 remaining in the game, and Derek Fisher stole Hedo Turkoglu’s pass and hit a pair of free throws with 30 seconds left to put the Lakers up by four. Lamar Odom missed a free throw moments later to allow the Raptors a chance to tie the game, and Chris Bosh nailed a three-pointer. But as happened on more than one occasion, Bryant would hit a baseline jumper, this one with 1.9 seconds left, to seal the win for Los Angeles.

Bryant led the Lakers with 32 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists and a steal while Andrew Bynum poured in 22 with 6 rebounds and 2 blocks; Gasol added 17 with 9 rebounds, an assist and a block.

The Raptors were led by Bosh with 22 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists and a block while Bargnani added 21 with 8 rebounds and 2 blocks; Jack chipped in 18 with 7 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 steals and a block.

Los Angeles (47-18) plays again on Friday when they visit Phoenix to take on the Suns while Toronto (32-30) flies north to Sacramento to face the Kings Wednesday night.

Posted by Stephen Rhodes

Tight security on Tibet anniversary

China has stepped up security in Tibet as the Himalayan region marks the sensitive anniversaries of the failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959 and bloody riots two years ago.

In the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, on Wednesday residents reported an upsurge in armed police guarding intersections and checking ID cards, with uniformed and plainclothes security out in force.

The failure of the 1959 uprising led the Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader, to flee across the Himalayas into exile in India.

In 2008 protests marking the anniversary of that uprising spread into deadly rioting in Lhasa and in Tibetan areas elsewhere in China, in what was the most serious anti-Chinese unrest seen in decades.

China has said 21 people were killed by "rioters", with one other "insurgent" killed by security forces.

But the Tibetan government-in-exile says more than 200 people were killed in the 2008 protests, with at least 1,000 others injured in the unrest and subsequent crackdown.

Security has been tight in Tibet ever since, although residents say that in the run-up to Wednesday's anniversary it has been stepped up even more.

Foreign reporters are barred from travelling to the region except for on occasional tours organised by the Chinese government.