Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Game Of Death Video: France's Shocking Tv Experiment

In a French documentary, contestants on a fake game show are cajoled into'torturing' other participants with electric shocks. Or, as some criticscall it, reality TV taken to the extreme.

Jordan OK'd as Bobcats' owner

The NBA board of governors has unanimously approved Michael Jordan's bid to buy a controlling interest in the Charlotte Bobcats.

NBA commissioner David Stern said Wednesday he was pleased the $275-million US purchase was "closed in such a smooth and expeditious fashion."

Jordan, 47, will take on more than $150 million in debt in the transaction, covering future losses and supplying capital to make improvements.

The franchise is expected to lose about $30 million this season, with the team yet to make the playoffs since entering the league in 2004-05.

"Purchasing the Bobcats is the culmination of my post-playing career goal of becoming the majority owner of an NBA franchise," Jordan said in a statement. "I am especially pleased to have the opportunity to build a winning team in my home state of North Carolina.

"I plan to make this franchise an organization that Charlotte can be proud of, and I am committed to doing all that I can to achieve this goal."

Jordan will become the first former player to own an NBA team and the second black majority owner. He'll replace the first, Bob Johnson, founder of Black Entertainment Television.

Johnson paid $300 million for the expansion franchise, but lost tens of millions annually and saw the value of the team decline as Charlotte fans struggled to warm to the NBA again after the Hornets left for New Orleans in 2002.

Johnson won't completely end his relationship with the team. A spokeswoman for Johnson said he'll be a minority investor in Jordan's ownership group.

"The best decision I made since acquiring the Bobcats was to convince my friend Michael to become an investor in the Bobcats and to appoint him as managing member of basketball operations," Johnson said in a statement. "As the new majority owner of the Bobcats, his dedication will be stronger now more than ever."

Jordan grew up in Wilmington, N.C., and led North Carolina to an NCAA title with a last-second shot before starring with the Chicago Bulls where he was a six-time NBA champion and five-time league most valuable player.

Jordan briefly ran the Wizards basketball operations and returned as a player with Washington before being fired from his management role in 2003.

He has been part-owner of the Bobcats with final say in all basketball decisions since 2006.

The Bobcats (34-32) entered Wednesday's home game against Oklahoma City in sixth place in the Eastern Conference as they eye their first playoff berth. Team officials hope a playoff appearance after Jordan took control would boost interest and ticket sales in the franchise, which plays in a five-year-old downtown arena.

Jordan, who has declined interview requests since striking a deal to buy the team on Feb. 26, is scheduled to hold a news conference on Thursday night.

Arrogant approach to health care

America's robust discussion of health care reform during the past year has been beneficial in many ways, giving the public greater awareness and insight into this complex issue. Unfortunately, the debate has been held pretty much on one-party terms as Democrats, controlling both houses of Congress and the White House, crafted the only plan allowed on the table, and negotiated behind closed doors. Now, despite the deep reservations of a majority of Americans, congressional leaders plan to ram through their proposal this week - bypassing normal congressional procedures.

It is a distressing prospect. We hope that moderate House Democrats - among them Rep. Steve Driehaus of Cincinnati, who says he "will not bend on the principle of federal funding on abortion" but will be stuck in the middle of an elaborate charade to include that funding anyway - will put a stop to this sham.

Real debate has been sidestepped, while Democrats played a childish game of Catch-22 with health care legislation: Congressional leaders wouldn't allow Republican proposals to be formally considered, then turned around and accused them of not having alternatives. Among themselves, Democrats cut a series of backroom deals that in any other context would be considered criminal payoffs and bribery.

Here's how blatant it's become: Last week, President Obama nominated for a federal appeals court the brother of a wavering Democratic House member from Utah.

This disgusting process, which Democrats brazenly wish to bring to conclusion this week, is being done with little regard for the opinions of a clear majority of Americans who, while they may believe health care reform is necessary, think this particular approach will take our nation down the wrong economic path.

Obama, despite all his fine talk of bipartisanship, has proven he has little regard for the ideas - or the constituencies - of those who are not his political allies. The paltry few GOP proposals that he has indicated he is willing to consider - even here, there are no real commitments - are so token as to be laughable.

Meanwhile, an Associated Press poll last week showed that 68 percent of Americans don't want health care reform passed without Republican support.

Supporters of the Democratic plan can spin it any way they wish, but polls have consistently shown that a majority of Americans oppose their heavy-handed approach to reform.

Get full story here.

Do Discrimination Laws Actually Help?

By Josiah Schmidt

“A great bachelor pad for any single man looking to hook up,” is how Stonebridge Apartments, a complex in my hometown of Dayton, Ohio, advertised its studio apartments on CraigsList. For that, they face a lawsuit from the Ohio Civil Rights Commission and the Miami Valley Fair Housing Center. For discrimination.

Still confused? The Dayton Daily News explained in its most recent issue: the Fair Housing Center took offense to the ad because, by advertising specifically to “bachelors,” Stonebridge’s ads were “suggesting families were not welcome.” Now, Stonebridge is being sued for $25,000 and a mandate that the apartment firm’s employees receive mandatory “fair housing law training.”

First off, there are a couple glaring logical fallacies at work here. The first being that just because someone speaks favorably of one thing, doesn’t necessarily mean they’re speaking unfavorably of another thing. To say that encouraging bachelors to live in your apartment complex means discouraging couples from living in your apartment complex, is like saying that to love the color red means to hate the color blue.

Furthermore, if we are to broaden the legal definition of “discrimination” to include everything, then everyone is guilty of all kinds of discrimination.

Get full story here.

Unintended Consequences

The Slaughter House Lies

By Robert Romano

It has been called blatantly unconstitutional. Talk show host Mark Levin has declared it a “brazen and open violation of one of the most fundamental aspects of our Constitution.” House Republican Leader John Boehner on the floor of the House stated, “the Majority plans to force the toxic Senate bill through the House under some controversial trick.”

Which is about the size and shape of the “Slaughter House Rules.”

At controversy is a plan by Congresswoman Louise Slaughter to enact the Senate version of ObamaCare without actually voting upon the bill itself. House Leaders say the procedure is common, and that it has been used before. To be certain, it was used most recently to raise the national debt ceiling by $1.9 trillion to $14.294 trillion.

But bad behavior does not excuse more bad behavior. Because a violation of the Constitution, the law of the land, is repeated ad infinitum would not make it any less unconstitutional.

Writing for the American Spectator, Republican Congressman Thaddeus McCotter stated, “using the ‘Slaughter House Rules’ to skirt a substantive vote and ‘deem as passed’ the Senate's government-run health care bill would violate constitutionally prescribed procedures for duly passing and enacting federal legislation.”

He’s right. Article I, Section 7, Clause 2 states “Every bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a law, be presented to the President of the United States; if he approve he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it, with his objections to that House in which it shall have originated, who shall enter the objections at large on their journal, and proceed to reconsider it… But in all such cases the votes of both Houses shall be determined by yeas and nays, and the names of the persons voting for and against the bill shall be entered on the journal of each House respectively.”

Levin said that “This clause goes to the heart of this Republic… to the heart of how our representative body, Congress, makes laws.” His case, and the case of the rule of law: for a bill to become law, both houses of Congress have to pass it with a recorded vote. Not a rule. Not a statement. A bill.

In this case, the House would vote on a rule providing for consideration of the reconciliation package. The rule shall “deem as passed” the Senate bill. Presumably, Obama would quickly sign the rule — it’s not a bill — so that the consideration of reconciliation on the House floor would bear some resemblance to the intent of reconciliation, which is to make minor budget fixes to existing law.

Only this will be no law. It will be a lie.

Get full story here.

Texas Rangers Manager Tested Positive for Cocaine

Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington tested positive for cocaine during the 2009 season. He has been subject to increased drug testing since his failed test, which was administered by Major League Baseball last July, and he has passed all of his subsequent tests. “I did make a mistake and I regret that I did it,” Washington told by phone on Tuesday night. “I am really embarrassed and I am really sorry.” –

Now it makes sense..that’s why he was so aggressive on the base paths last year….always going for the bump and run..-TO

44 of 172 Detroit schools slated to close in June

Doors are expected to shut on more than a quarter of Detroit's 172 public schools in June as the district fights through steadily declining enrollment and a budget deficit of more than $219 million, an emergency financial manager said Wednesday.

Three aging, traditional and underpopulated high schools would be among the 44 closures. Another six schools are to be closed in June 2011, followed by seven more a year later, emergency financial manager Robert Bobb said. This summer's closings also include a support building.

The closures are part of a $1 billion, five-year plan to downsize a struggling district while improving education, test scores and student safety in a city whose population has declined with each passing decade. The 2010 U.S. Census is expected to show that far fewer than 900,000 people now live in Detroit.

District data shows full-time, pre-kindergarten through 12th grade enrollment has decreased from about 164,500 in 2002-03 to 87,700 for the current school year. Enrollment is projected to dip to 56,500 in 2014-15.

Fewer than half the classroom seats in dozens of buildings are filled.

"This creates a leaner, smarter DPS by taking into account citywide demographic trends," Bobb told reporters, some parents and administrators at King High School. "We're still going to grow the district. We're going to do it realistically."

Other cities face similar woes. The Kansas City, Mo., school district announced plans last week to shut down nearly half its schools by the start of classes in the fall.

Bobb already had ordered 29 Detroit schools closed before the start of classes last fall. The district closed 35 buildings about three years ago.

Several community meetings to get input from parents will be held before final decisions on the schools' fates are made in late April.

Many of the buildings eventually will be demolished, while others may be sold. The plan also calls for renovations to some to accommodate newer programs and more students.

Some new and renovated schools will house grade levels from pre-kindergarten through 8th grade. Others will educate students starting in pre-kindergarten through high school. But new building configurations will ensure younger students don't encounter older students, Bobb said.

Several collegiate-style campuses containing separate buildings for various grade levels also will be created.

Thousands of students will be forced to transfer to open schools, and that's expected to anger parents. But Bobb hopes to convince them that the closures, along with a recently released five-year plan that calls for more rigorous academics, is best for the district.

"Every school should be an excellence school," he said.

The facilities plan will be implemented in two phases. The first is funded by a voter-approved bond sale of $500.5 million. The second calls for voter approval on a second $500 million bond sale "assuming citizens take an active role in a new bond measure in the future," Bobb said.

It's not known if Bobb will be around for the start of the plan's second phase. He was appointed by Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm last March to straighten out the district's finances. His contract ends in March 2011.

Judge rejects request to delay Blagojevich trial

CHICAGO — A federal judge refused Wednesday to postpone the June start of ousted Gov. Rod Blagojevich's corruption trial, brushing aside defense attorneys' claims that they won't have enough time to prepare.

U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel also dismissed defense attorneys' concerns that U.S. Supreme Court decisions expected by the end of June could unfairly complicate the trial.

Zagel said he saw no reason to delay the trial's June 3 start date.

If the date holds, voters will likely hear months of testimony about the former Democratic governor's alleged misdeeds as the party tries to retain his former seat and the U.S. Senate seat once held by President Barack Obama.

Prosecutors say Blagojevich schemed to sell or trade that Senate seat and used his power to illegally pressure political campaign donors.

Blagojevich has pleaded not guilty to racketeering conspiracy and other charges.

Prosecutors estimate the trial will last three to four months.

Defense attorneys had urged Zagel to postpone the start of the trial to Nov. 3 to give them time to wade through the sea of paperwork in the case and because the Supreme Court is expected to rule on the constitutionality of the so-called honest-services fraud law, which is among the laws Blagojevich is accused of breaking.

Blagojevich and his businessman brother Robert are charged, among other things, with illegally denying the taxpayers their honest services. The Supreme Court is considering three cases that challenge the law, which critics say is too vague.

Defense attorneys argued that their opening statements would be ruined if they used them to explain the honest-services law only to have the Supreme Court wipe it off the books.

But Zagel said attorneys should not be talking about the law in their opening statements, and instead should outline for the jury what the evidence would show.

"The issue in this case is simply who did what, when and what was in their state of mind when they did it," Zagel said.

He said he would tell the jury about the law at the end of the trial.

After the hearing, Blagojevich attorney Sheldon Sorosky told reporters that the defense would do the "absolute best" they can, even though they didn't get the extension they had hoped for.

"Judge Zagel is right that the facts are the facts," Sorosky said. "That's certainly a fact of life."

NY Gov.'s press aide quits in scandal; 4th to fall

ALBANY, N.Y. — Gov. David Paterson's press secretary on Wednesday became the fourth top staffer to quit amid dual scandals, resigning just hours after her boss publicly proclaimed for the first time that he did nothing wrong when he talked to a woman who had accused one of his top aides of abuse.

Paterson also said Wednesday on a radio show that Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, whom he appointed to the seat, threw him "under the bus" by suggesting he might have to resign over his role in the abuse allegations.

In a separate scandal that threatens his administration, Paterson's lawyer on Wednesday released a harsh critique of an ethics violation against him for accepting World Series tickets, and the state's former lobbying chief called the ticket investigation "an ethical lynching" of the state's first black governor.

Press secretary Marissa Shorenstein said she resigned after two years because she could no longer do her job because of the abuse scandal. The New York Times had reported that Shorenstein, at Paterson's instruction, called the accuser on the phone.

Shortly after the contact by Shorenstein and others, the woman dropped her complaint. A special counsel is investigating whether the administration, including Paterson and a trooper on his security detail, improperly contacted the woman.

Read More....

Internet Explorer 9 embracing HTML 5, GPU acceleration

Microsoft's upcoming update for its web browser, Internet Explorer 9, puts a lot of focus on support for the HTML 5 standards. IE9 is also expected to beef up performance, offloading tasks within the web browser to the graphics processing unit (GPU), or using separate CPU cores for certain elements of web pages if available.

While still easily the world's most used web browser, Internet Explorer has seen its market share drop along with its reputation as rivals such as Mozilla and Google pump out more and more features, support and speed for their web browsers.

The new IE supports CSS3 features such as rounded corners and opacity, while also now supporting SVG even though Microsoft is pushing its own Silverlight platform for rich graphics. At a conference in Las Vegas where IE6 was demoed, Microsoft showed H.264 video running at 720p in the browser, with the support for the video and audio content built-in.

The new Chakra Javascript engine compiles in the background on a separate CPU core if it is available on the machine. Microsoft is also including hardware acceleration into the browser to speed up web page rendering. The company calls it "GPU-powered-HTML5" which will greatly improve graphics performance within a browser and improve more normal tasks such as scrolling web pages by handing over processing to the graphics card.

New Mexico Congressman Harry Teague Denounced

Group Charges he treats Citizens like “Fools”

March 16th, 2010, Fairfax, VA—New Mexico Congressman Harry Teague was denounced today for what was termed, “his total disrespect and disdain for New Mexico citizens” by Bill Wilson, President of Americans for Limited Government.

“For any elected official to blatantly lie in a futile attempt to keep from stating a position on an issue as controversial and important as the upcoming health care vote is the height of disrespect,” said Wilson. “Harry Teague owes everyone in the State of New Mexico an apology at the very least.”

On Tuesday (March 16, 2010) the Albuquerque Journal reported that Teague was claiming to be undecided on the impending health care vote. Teague was quoted as saying, “I don’t want to say for sure until we see exactly what the Senate sends over, but we’re going to look at it.”

“The problem is the Senate sent the government takeover of healthcare on Christmas Eve, over three months ago. What has Harry Teague been doing? Using this kind of dodge to a crucial question is obscene,” said Wilson.

Get full story here.

Tapp out: Seahawks send end to Philly

TRADE ADDS PICK: Darryl Tapp dealt to Eagles for defensive end Chris Clemons and fourth-round draft choice

Head coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider continued their makeover of the Seattle Seahawks’ roster on Tuesday, trading defensive end Darryl Tapp to Philadelphia a day after they signed the restricted free agent to a one-year tender.

The Seahawks received another defensive end in return, fifth-year pro Chris Clemons, along with a fourth-round draft pick. Tapp is expected to start at defensive end for Philadelphia opposite Pro Bowl defensive end Trent Cole.

The Seahawks added more depth on defense later Tuesday by agreeing to terms with veteran linebacker Matt McCoy. The six-year veteran, who has started just two games during the past four seasons, spent the past two years with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Tapp, who initially was considered by Carroll to be one of the building blocks for Seattle’s revamped defense, said he was surprised by the trade.

“I’m kind of shocked,” Tapp said. “For me, everything that I’ve been hearing was that it was pretty safe to say I was going to be in Seattle, which is where I wanted to be. But things happen in this business, and I’m headed to Philadelphia, which is another great opportunity.

“I’m overjoyed to be going to a team of such high caliber of the Eagles. They’re always in there battling for the NFC East title and in the hunt for a Super Bowl. So it’s a great situation.”

Selected by Seattle in the second round of the 2006 draft, Tapp started 30 games and had 18 sacks, two interceptions and eight forced fumbles in four seasons. He started five games last season and finished with 21/2 sacks.

Clemons was used mostly as a pass-rush specialist in Philadelphia, totaling seven sacks in two seasons for the Eagles, including three last year.

The deal occurred just a day after Tapp signed his one-year, $1.759 million tender as a restricted free agent with Seattle. But it appears that Tapp was destined to be a sign-and-trade all along. And instead of Philadelphia giving up a second-round pick to sign Tapp to an offer sheet, the Eagles parted with a fourth-rounder and Clemons, who is under contract for three more years and will make $1.2 million in 2010.

Tapp already has negotiated a contract extension with Philadelphia. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The Tapp trade follows Seattle releasing defensive captain Deon Grant on Monday. And restricted free agent offensive lineman Rob Sims reportedly could be headed elsewhere as well.

Tapp could have been seen as redundant in Seattle’s defense with the team likely moving Aaron Curry to the “elephant” position as a stand-up defensive end. Clemons becomes depth at that position, along with Nick Reed and free agent pick-up Ricky Foley.

The fourth-round pick the Seahawks received could be used as ammunition in future deals. The team still is pursuing two restricted free agents, wide receiver Brandon Marshall and quarterback Charlie Whitehurst.

WORLD FOREX: Dollar Dips On Profit-Taking After BOJ Easing

By Miho Nakauchi

TOKYO (MarketWatch) -- The dollar fell against the yen in Asia Wednesday as as a widely expected decision by the Bank of Japan to further ease monetary policy prompted Asian speculators to lock in profits by selling the greenback.

But the U.S. currency recovered most of its losses as investors shifted their focus to other dollar-supportive factors such as firm Tokyo shares, and dealers said the greenback is likely to keep rising later in the global day.

In its policy board meeting, the BOJ decided that it will offer another Y10 trillion in three-month cash at a 0.1% fixed rate to financial institutions, on top of the Y10 trillion it offered in December.

As the decision had already been factored into trading, "the dollar was initially driven by 'sell-on-the-fact' forces," said Hiroshi Maeba, a senior dealer at Nomura Securities. The dollar fell to a low of Y90.02 from around Y90.40 before the BOJ announcement.

But the dollar soon recouped most of its losses, climbing to Y90.39 as of 0450 GMT. Meanwhile, the euro changed hands at Y124.59, up from Y124.31 in New York Tuesday.

Dealers said the dollar may continue to rise against the safe-haven yen if European and U.S. share markets follow Tokyo higher.

Market participants are also focused on upcoming U.S. economic data, dealers said, including Thursday's U.S. consumer price index for February. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires expect the index to rise 0.1% compared with a 0.2% gain in January. Any better than expected figures could push the dollar to Y91.00 in the coming days, and the euro to Y125.50, traders said.

Against the dollar, the euro stood at $1.3784 from $1.3776 in New York overnight. The ICE Dollar Index, which tracks the U.S. currency against a trade-weighted basket of currencies, was at 79.668 from 79.661.

Saudi: no change in OPEC output

VIENNA — The Saudi oil minister says OPEC will keep output levels unchanged later today because the market is enjoying "good demand, reliable supply, beautiful prices."

Ali Naimi spoke ahead of a formal decision by oil ministers of The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries Wednesday.

He says that in light of the oil market's current conditions there is no reason to increase or decrease output.

The Saudis are OPEC's greatest oil producers, and its de-facto policy setters. But even Iran and Venezuela, which normally push for higher prices and tight supplies, have said they are pleased with prices now skirting $80 a barrel.

State prison numbers drop for 1st time since 1972

NEW YORK — Spurred by budget crises, California and Michigan together reduced their prison populations by more than 7,500 last year, contributing to what a new report says is the first nationwide decline in the number of state inmates since 1972.

Hold for release 12:01 a.m. EDT, Wednesday; graphic shows percent change in prison population from 2008 to

"The political and policy environment has changed drastically," said Adam Gelb, director of the Pew Center's Public Safety Performance Project.

"There's now a realization on both sides of the aisle that there are research-based strategies to protect public safety and hold offenders accountable without sinking ever more public dollars into prisons," Gelb said.

According to official state data collected by the Pew Center, 1,403,091 people were under the jurisdiction of state prison authorities on Jan. 1, down by 5,739 from a year earlier. The report, being released Wednesday, said this was the first year-to-year drop in the state prison population since 1972, when there were about 174,000 prisoners.

Since then, the nationwide prison population has soared, in part because of stiff sentencing laws, giving the U.S. the world's highest incarceration rate.

With more inmates to handle, state corrections costs quadrupled over the past 20 years, according to the report. Many states are now in fiscal disarray, and legislators are looking afresh at ways to curb prison spending, but the Pew survey revealed a wide variation of responses.

In 23 states, the number of prisoners increased in 2009 — notably in Indiana by 5.3 percent and inPennsylvania by 4.3 percent.

However, 27 states reduced their prison populations — led by California with a drop of 4,257 and Michigan with a drop of 3,260. New York, Maryland, Texas and Mississippi also reduced their prison populations by more than 1,000.

A look at developments in some key states:

— California: A new law, created to ease prison overcrowding and help close the budget deficit, enables inmates to reduce their sentences by up to half through good-behavior credits. The state also has sought to cut the number of low-risk parolees returning to prison for technical violations of parole terms.

— Michigan: Since reaching an all-time high of 51,554 in March 2007, Michigan's prison population has been cut by more than 6,000, according to the Pew report. The state has reduced the number of inmates who serve more than their minimum sentence, decreased parole revocation rates and enhanced supervision of re-entry programs for newly released offenders.

— Rhode Island: In percentage terms, Rhode Island had the biggest drop in prison population last year — 9.2 percent — in large part because of a new law that enables some prisoners to get out early if they commit to rehabilitation programs such as job training and substance abuse treatment.

Although California, Michigan and Rhode Island have fiscal problems that are among the nation's worst, Gelb said the move toward reduced prison populations was not driven solely by the economic downturn. He noted that Texas decided in 2007, before the recession, to strengthen probation and re-entry programs rather than commit to construction of several new prisons.

Michael Thompson, director of the Council of State Governments' Justice Center, urged states to avoid rash, deficit-driven decisions and reinvest funds saved on prisons in other programs that would reduce recidivism.

"You want to make sure policymakers are not just trying to balance their budgets and jeopardize public safety in the process," he said. "You can actually find interesting ways to reduce corrections spending and increase public safety — but not every state is doing that."

Among the 23 states where the prison population increased last year, Indiana led in proportional terms, growing by 5.3 percent, while Pennsylvania added the most prisoners, 2,122.

An Indiana prison spokesman, Doug Garrison, said the legislature had enhanced criminal penalties to add prison time to a number of offenses, and the state has not had to release prisoners out of budget constraints or court orders.

Florida added 1,527 more state prisoners in 2009, the second highest increase — at a time when the state is cutting funding for many non-corrections programs.

"The university's funds were cut," said Florida State University criminologist Dam Mears. "In the face of that, look at our prison system. They keep the funding going."

Despite the slight decrease in state prisoners, the Pew report said the nation's total prison population increased in 2009 because the number of inmates in federal prisons rose by 6,838 to an all-time high of 208,118.

The report did not tally prisoners held in municipal and county jails.


Associated Press writer Ken Kusmer in Indianapolis contributed to this report

Israel lifts West Bank closure

Israel has reopened access to and from the occupied West Bank despite the ongoing threat of unrest between Palestinian protesters and Israeli police in East Jerusalem.

Ehud Barak, the Israeli defence minister, ordered the lockdown to be lifted on Wednesday, five days after imposing the closure, citing security reasons.

Officials also reopened the al-Aqsa mosque compound in East Jerusalem, where dozens of people were injured on Tuesday as Palestinian demonstrators clashed with Israeli security forces.

"Access to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem is now free for both Muslim worshippers and tourists," Micky Rosenfeld, an Israeli police spokesman, said, using the Jewish name for the site.

It had been closed to Muslim men under the age of 50 and all non-Muslims.

Despite the apparent relaxation of controls, Rosenfeld said about 3,000 police remained stationed across East Jerusalem and nearby villages to keep up the state of alert, the AFP news agency reported.

'Day of Rage'

Palestinian groups had called for a "day of rage" on Tuesday to protest against the reopening of the Hurva synagogue, considered by some to be one of Judaism's most sacred sites.

The synagogue is located in the Jewish quarter of Jerusalem's Old City.

The walled Old City was annexed by Israel after the 1967 Middle East war, but is viewed by the Palestinians as a key part of any future independent state.

An Israeli government decision to include two West Bank religious sites in a Jewish national heritage plan had already raised tensions and the announcement of Israeli plans for new settler homesnear East Jerusalem further contributed to the volatile situation.

"This anger on the Palestinian street is all about control," Al Jazeera's Sherine Tadros, reporting from East Jerusalem, said.

"They feel increasing frustration at the fact that Israel can ease, and lift, and put on more restrictions as they please, which is a hallmark of this occupation.

"So, whether we're talking about restrictions on their holy sites, restrictions on where they can move, its all part of the same thing - frustration over Israel's control over the Palestinian people and their territory."

Ahmad Yousuf, a senior Hamas official and former adviser to Ismail Haniya, the deposed Palestinian prime minister, called on Tuesday for a non-violent intifada, or uprising, to protest what he called "Israeli provocations".

"We are not talking about violence. We are talking about people's right to defend themselves," he told Al Jazeera.

"When the Israelis are committing all these crimes against Muslim's holy shrines, the people [are] called to go defend themselves, to defend their holy shrines.

"This can escalate, there will be more bloody clashes if the world community doesn't do anything to stop this craziness."

Khaled Meshaal, Hamas' political chief who is exiled in Syria, has also urged Palestinians to protest, though he stopped short of calling for an intifada in remarks on the demonstrations.

He said Palestinians in Jerusalem should "take serious measures to protect al-Aqsa mosque from destruction and Judaisation".

Settlement dispute
The unrest comes ahead of a meeting of the Middle East diplomatic Quartet, which includes the US, Russia, the EU and the UN, in Moscow on Thursday.

The lead-up to the meeting has been overshadowed by tensions between the US and Israel over the East Jerusalem settlement announcement, made during a visit by Joe Biden, the US vice-president.

However, Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, has brushed aside suggestions that US relations with Israel are in crisisover the settlement announcement, softening the angry rhetoric of previous days.

"We have an absolute commitment to Israel's security. We have a close, unshakeable bond between the United States and Israel," she said in Washington on Tuesday.

She also said that Israel must prove it is committed to the peace process with actions, and she called for a gesture to the Palestinians from Israel.

But Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister, did not mention the issue of settlements in his response to Clinton on Wednesday.

He instead blamed Palestinians for de-railing progress towards peace talks.

"In the past year, the government of Israel has proven its commitment to peace in both word and deed," he said in a statement.

"By contrast, the Palestinians have raised preconditions for the resumption of the diplomatic process, such as they have not done in the past 16 years."