IRA campaign of violence is over, says Blair
By Anne Cadwallader 31 minutes ago
BELFAST (Reuters) - The
Irish Republican Army's violent campaign in Northern Ireland is over, British Prime Minister
Tony Blair said on Wednesday, following a report into paramilitary activity that raised hopes of reviving self-rule.
Northern Ireland's ceasefire watchdog, the Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC), said in the report that it believed the IRA, which pledged last year to end violence for good, was no longer engaged in terrorism.
"The IRA's campaign is over," Blair said in a televised speech after its publication.
Northern Ireland's 30-year conflict between mainly Catholic Irish republicans and pro-British Protestants, in which 3,600 people were killed, largely came to an end with the U.S.-brokered Good Friday Agreement in 1998.
However, politicians have struggled to sustain the arrangements for local government established under that deal. The assembly, in which Catholics and Protestants ran the province's affairs, was suspended in 2002.
Continued IRA violence was one of the main barriers to its restoration.
"The door is now open to a final settlement," Blair said.
Wednesday's report intensifies pressure on Northern Ireland's main pro-British grouping, the Democratic Unionist Party, to agree to power-sharing and on the anti-British republicans to formally support a police force they for years rejected as sectarian.
The DUP refuses to govern alongside the IRA's political ally, Sinn Fein, until it is convinced the IRA has given up violence for good.
Its leader Ian Paisley gave the report a cautious welcome.
"The assessment by the IMC that the Provisional IRA is progressively abandoning its terrorist structures shows that the pressure being brought to bear on republicans by the unequivocal policies of the DUP is working," he said in a statement.
However, he said Sinn Fein still needed to show they supported the police and rule of law in the province.
The IMC said the IRA had disbanded "military" structures, including departments responsible for procurement, engineering and training, but noted some individual IRA members were still involved in serious criminal activity for personal gain.
The British and Irish governments, who host talks next week on the assembly, have set a November 24 deadline for devolution. If a deal is not done by then, members' salaries will be stopped and efforts to breathe life into local government halted.
Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern and British counterpart Blair, both of whom have invested huge political capital in Northern Ireland over the past decade, said the report should provide the basis for a deal at next week's talks in Scotland.
"The context for political engagement has never been better," Ahern said.
Blair added: "This will be a unique opportunity. I hope all the parties understand that."
(Additional reporting by Kate Kelland and Deborah Haynes in London and Kevin Smith in Dublin)
Updated: Wednesday, 4 October 2006 11:32 AM CDT
Kinky candidacy stirs up Texas race
Kinky Friedman with Jesse Ventura
Kinky Friedman says he is putting entertainment back into politics
The BBC's James Coomarasamy travels to Texas to meet one of the most colourful candidates standing in the US mid-term elections.
He has a political slogan for just about everything; from his unlikely candidacy for governor of Texas ("why the hell not?") to his ever-present Cuban cigar ("I'm not helping the Cuban economy, I'm burning their fields").
These are slogans which are immortalised in his talking Kinky Friedman action doll.
You may get the impression that the Jewish country singer turned detective novelist - whose main protagonist also goes by the name of "Kinky Friedman" - is causing a bit of a political stir in the lone star state.
"Musicians can run this state better than politicians," he told me. "Hell - so could beauticians."
'Begging for truth'
His independent run for the job once held by President Bush is certainly unconventional - and, increasingly, controversial.
I've written songs like 'They ain't making Jews like Jesus any more', so I bring a little entertainment value into politics
Mid-terms map: Texas
He has faced recent criticism for referring to Hurricane Katrina evacuees as "crack heads and thugs", but his message of cracking down on the crime wave, which seems to have followed them from New Orleans to Houston, is a popular one.
So is his plan to send 10,000 troops to the US-Mexican border, to deal with the problem of illegal immigration.
At a recent fundraising concert in the state capital, Austin, the would-be governor wandered through the crowd, in his distinctive black cowboy hat and black shirt, basking in the applause and speaking of his pride at being politically incorrect.
"I'm not afraid to offend people," he says.
"I've written songs like 'They ain't making Jews like Jesus any more', so I bring a little entertainment value into politics, as well as the truth, and the people are begging for the truth."
If his campaign looks in any way familiar, that's because it is modelled on that of the former professional wrestler, Jesse Ventura, who captured the governor's seat in Minnesota eight years ago.
Carole Keeton Strayhorn
One tough grandma: Carole Keeton Strayhorn
Kinky has been endorsed by Ventura himself, and the pair have been on a joint college speaking tour.
Kinky (real name Richard - the "kinky", apparently, refers to his wavy hair) is not the only independent candidate for the job.
He is joined by the former mayor of Austin, Carole Keeton Strayhorn, who has tried to match Kinky in the nickname stakes by calling herself "one tough grandma".
In fact, she tried, unsuccessfully, to have the "grandma" put on the ballot papers.
She is usually a Republican, with a message of being tough on crime - especially on sex offenders.
But she has decided to challenge the Republican incumbent, Rick Perry, with the help of her four sons; one of whom, Scott McClellan (or - as his mother refers to him, "baby boy Scott") was - until earlier this year - White House spokesman.
An almighty wind up?
What chance do these candidates have?
Texas football fans
Friedman hopes his theatricality will appeal to Texans
Well, Texas is, these days, a largely Republican state and, once you travel to the more conservative suburbs of Austin, you quickly find that governor Perry remains the most likely winner.
Yet - even among those who have made up their minds to vote for Rick Perry, you find support for the Kinky concept, if not the Kinky candidacy.
"I'm eccentric and I believe that somebody different is where it's at, you know," one woman told me.
"I don't know that we can do any worse right now," said another Texan voter.
"We've got experience now and it hasn't got us too far, so maybe we need a change to shake it up a little bit."
With its overt theatricality, there is, of course, the suspicion that the Kinky Friedman campaign is one almighty wind-up, an elaborate marketing exercise by an author who is having his every move video-taped for a documentary.
But the people of Texas, it seems, don't really mind.
Abbas hints at dissolving Hamas-led government
By Mohammed Assadi 2 hours, 30 minutes ago
RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Wednesday he might opt to dissolve the Hamas-led government and that unity talks with the Islamist group had broken down.
"My constitutional powers, granted by the basic law, will be used in (the appropriate) time," he said at a news conference, in a clear reference to a possible presidential edict to dissolve the government.
"The dialogue now does not exist," Abbas, speaking hours before a scheduled meeting with visiting U.S. Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice, said about talks with Hamas.
Rice is on a regional visit partly aimed at bolstering the moderate Abbas in his power struggle with Hamas, an Islamic group dedicated to
"It is very necessary that we increase our efforts to end this crisis, and reach a solution toward forming a new government," Abbas said.
"I hope to reach this end as soon as possible because the people have been suffering for the past seven months and cannot endure further suffering," he said.
Abbas pointedly did not refer to the formation of a unity government, an issue under discussion with Hamas for weeks in talks that have reached a stalemate over policy toward Israel.
Ismail Rudwan, a Hamas spokesman, urged Abbas to continue unity talks. "Hamas warns against any attempt to carry out a coup. The alternatives will be painful," Rudwan said.
Some officials from Abbas's
Fatah faction have urged him to dissolve the Hamas-led government and form a new administration, a move that could lead to civil war.
Israel and Western donor nations cut off funds to the
Palestinian Authority, deepening economic hardship in the
West Bank and Gaza, when Hamas established a government in March after winning election in January.
Hamas has rejected international demands to renounce violence and recognize Israel and existing interim peace deals.
Rice, who has urged an end to Palestinian in-fighting that has killed 12 people in the last week, will meet Israeli leaders after talks with Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
During her regional trip, she also hopes to win Arab support for the embattled governments in
Iraq and Lebanon, where 34 days of fighting between Israel and Hizbollah guerrillas ended in a U.N.-sponsored ceasefire on August 14.
Prospects for renewed peacemaking with the Palestinians and concerns over
Iran were likely to be high on the agenda of Rice's planned talks with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
Referring to Israeli fears that Iran could build a nuclear bomb, a spokeswoman for Olmert told reporters: "The prime minister yesterday said this is the first time he honestly feels ... this is a threat to Israel's existence."
The spokeswoman, Miri Eisin, noted that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, had "stood up and said that the Zionist entity should be annihilated."
"We are the only ones that have been threatened but the (Iranian) problem is one the world has to contend with," she said.
On Tuesday, Arab officials who met Rice in Cairo spoke of the need to address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Eisin reiterated that Olmert planned to meet Abbas, but she said talks between the two leaders were unlikely before an official visit by the prime minister to Russia on October 18.
"The prime minister sees very clearly the Palestinian issue is a core issue," she said.
Olmert has shelved his plan to evacuate dozens of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, while strengthening major enclaves, in the absence of peacemaking with the Palestinians.
He now says he wants to open a dialogue with Abbas on a U.S.-backed peace "road map" that envisages a negotiated agreement leading to the creation of a contiguous Palestinian state alongside a secure Israel.
In the West Bank, three masked men shot and killed a Hamas leader as he left a mosque, witnesses said. Mohammed Odeh, 37, was shot dead a day after a rival Palestinian faction threatened to kill senior Hamas members.
(Additional reporting by Naim Sweilem in Qalqilya, Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza, Arshad Mohammed in Cairo and Jonathan Saul in Jerusalem)
"Every Person in It He Utterly Destroyed."
from: David Plotz
Will the Book of Joshua Make You Stop Believing in God?
Posted Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2006, at 3:12 PM ET
Browse the complete Blogging the Bible series. To learn more about the Blogging the Bible project,
That Joshua could teach Defense Secretary Rumsfeld a thing or two about strategy (and the value of overwhelming force). Joshua returns to Ai with 30,000 soldiers, 10 times as many as for the first battle. The Israelites fake a retreat, drawing the entire army of Ai in pursuit. Ai's army falls right into Joshua's trap. The Israelites close the ambush and kill every enemy soldier. Then, the Israelites return to the defenseless city, slaughter the women and children, hang the king, and burn it to the ground. The enemy had killed 36 Israelites during the first battle of Ai. Joshua pays them back by slaughtering all 12,000 Aians. I guess that execution of Achan really did appease the Lord.
Until Joshua, the Israelites' conflicts have all had the aura of inevitability about them. We knew they were going to rout the enemy because God was leading them, or that they were going to be routed because they had displeased the Lord. In either case, the Bible ignored the human element—the general's strategy, the enemy's tactics, etc.—because the divine will was all that mattered. But what's captivating about Joshua is that the outcome is uncertain, because God is leaving the work up to His people. The result is a thrilling series of stories about strategy, deceit, and intimidation—a lesson in biblical game theory.
Last chapter, for example, Joshua duped Ai with a fake retreat. In this chapter, it's Joshua who's the con victim. The Gideonites—who are Joshua's next target—hear about Jericho and Ai, and they're understandably terrified. How can they save themselves from Joshua's exterminating army? The Gideonites dress up in tattered clothing and appear at the Israelite camp, pretending to be ambassadors from a "very far country." They tell Joshua they've heard about the Israelites' grand victories and want to make a peace treaty. As evidence of their long journey, they display moldy bread, worn-out wineskins, and ragged clothes (the ancient equivalent of distressed jeans). Joshua falls for their deceit and "guarantees their lives" in a treaty. Three days later, the Israelites realize they've been scammed by the neighboring Gideonites. But they can't carry out the usual sack, murder, and obliteration that they perfected in Jericho and Ai, because they swore an oath to God to safeguard the Gideonites. Joshua and the Israelites let the Gideonites live, but they do indenture them as servants, assigning them to gather wood and draw water for their Israelite masters.
The moment when Joshua discovers that the Gideonites have bamboozled him is astonishing, because it suggests Joshua is extraordinarily obtuse. Joshua asks them, apparently in earnest, "Why did you deceive us, saying 'we are very far from you,' while in fact you are living among us?" To which the Gideonites respond, sensibly: Uh, because you exterminate your enemies! Is Joshua serious when he asks this question? Is he so lacking in empathy that he doesn't understand why the Gideonites would try to save their own skins?
A reader wrote me that the Book of Joshua was why he stopped believing in God. I bet this is the chapter that put him over the edge. It's a grim affair. Five Ammonite kings unite against the Gideonites and the Israelites. Joshua catches wind of their plans, marches his army all night, and surprises the Ammonites. The Israelites rout them in the field, and then God finishes them off, sending a brutal hailstorm that kills more Ammonites than the army did.
(This battle includes a baffling incident, much commemorated in song and story. Joshua asks the sun to stand still while Israel takes its revenge on the Ammonites. God holds the sun up in the sky for a whole day. The Bible says, "there has been no day like it before or since, when the Lord heeded a human voice." I must be thick, because I don't see why this is important. First of all, it's clearly not the first time the Lord has heeded a human voice, since He often listened to the pleas of Moses and Abraham. The sun standing still testifies to God's power, but not as vividly or directly as other miracles. So, what's the big theological point I am missing? Astronomers, a question: Is this incident more interesting for scientific than religious reasons? Could it be vestigial documentary evidence of a curious astronomical event of 1400 B.C.—a weird eclipse, or a close approach of a very bright comet?)
Anyway, back to the disturbing part of the chapter. After the battle is won, the Israelites capture the five fleeing Ammonite kings. Joshua drags the monarchs before him and orders his generals to "put your feet on the neck of these kings." As they stand on the kings' throats, Joshua tells his commanders, "Do not be afraid or dismayed: Be strong and courageous; for thus the Lord will do to all the enemies against whom you fight." Then, Joshua himself executes the kings and hangs their bodies in the trees. This episode is so proudly barbaric that it's painful to read. It's clear that we readers are supposed to take the Israelites' side here—they're conquering the Promised Land, they're God's Chosen People, the Ammonites are vile statue-worshippers, etc.—but the unapologetic savagery is hard to bear. This probably reveals a profound weakness in me, but I imagined myself—in the way one always imagines oneself inside a book—not as one of my own ancestors, the victorious Israelite generals, but as a heathen king with a boot on my neck, moments from a brutal death.
Joshua and the Israelites have been doing nothing but killing in this book—killing by the thousands, killing women, killing children, killing animals—but it is the death of these five men, who aren't even innocents, that inspires the most revulsion. There's an obvious reason for this, one Stalin understood: "A single death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic." All the other killings in Joshua are mass killings. This is the only time the book of Joshua gives us death in a tight close-up, and it's appalling.
The rest of the chapter is gruesome, but in the statistical way. Joshua sweeps from city to city across southern Canaan, sacking them one after another:
Joshua took Makkedah on that day, and struck it and its king with the edge of the sword; he utterly destroyed every person in it; he left no one remaining …
Then Joshua passed on … to Libnah … He struck it with the edge of the sword, and every person in it; he left no one remaining in it …
To Lacshish … He took it on the second day, and struck it with the edge of the sword, and every person in it …
Gezer … Joshua struck him and his people, leaving him no survivors …
To Eglon … [They] struck it with the edge of the sword, and every person in it he utterly destroyed that day … etc. etc.
The worst parts of Leviticus seem positively joyful compared with this smug roster of slaughter.
Joshua does the same to the northern part of the country. This is the final line of the chapter, after every living soul in the enemy cities has been killed: "And the land had rest from war."
But that's not enough for the chronicler of Joshua. Chapter 12 lists all 31 kings defeated by Israel.
Chapter 13 through Chapter 19
Believe it or not, though the Israelites seem to have killed everyone around, they actually haven't conquered the entire Promised Land! There's a lot of unannexed territory, particularly in the plains, where the enemy has fearsome metal chariots. But Joshua's getting old, and everyone seems sick of war, so the distribution of land begins. These seven chapters are about as exciting as property records, which is exactly what they are. Joshua apportions the various parcels to the tribes by lot. (Scholars—does this literally mean "by lot"—as in, they rolled the dice and let luck decide who got which tract?) A few dramatic moments leaven the list of places and names. Caleb, Joshua's fellow spy and the only person besides Joshua who survived the Exodus and was allowed into the Promised Land, says that 45 years ago, right after the spy mission, Moses had promised him the hill country of Hebron. This promise was not recorded anywhere, but Joshua doesn't dispute the claim. He blesses his old comrade and gives him that land. In Chapter 17, my favorite quintet, the litigious daughters of Zelophehad, reappear to claim their plot. Joshua gives them their allotment without complaint—the only women who get any Promised-Land land.
Chapter 20 and Chapter 21
Joshua builds refuge cities where people who have committed accidental killings can seek asylum. He also allocates cities to the Levites—the priestly caste descended from that slug Aaron.
The final lines of Chapter 21 are revealing: "Not one of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all had come to pass." This captures the underlying dutifulness in the Book of Joshua: This book resolves all the open questions left by the first five books. In just 24 chapters, it conquers the Promised Land, distributes land to the tribes, affirms the place of the priestly class, and sets the law in place. It takes care of a huge amount of business extremely quickly—particularly in the last half of the book. The effect of this is that Joshua lacks the idiosyncratic weirdness, digressions, and anecdotes that made the first five books so enthralling. Think about what's not in Joshua: There are no laws, almost no stories (except for Achan and the Gideonites), and hardly any God. There's just a lot of work.
Here's a fascinating, tense moment. The Promised Land under control, Joshua allows the tribes of Gad, Reuben, and Manasseh to cross back to the other side of the Jordan, where they will settle. Back on the east side, the three tribes build a huge altar. The tribes in the Promised Land hear about this altar, and because the only permitted altar is the one in the tabernacle, they believe that the three trans-Jordan tribes are starting to worship Baal or some other false god. The tribes in the Promised Land prepare to go to war to crush this idolatry. They dispatch Phineas—the hotheaded priest who murdered the Midianite harlot—to rebuke the altar-building tribes. The leaders of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh tell him there has been a terrible misunderstanding. They didn't build the altar for sacrifices. It's just for show. It's a "witness" for their children, a "copy" of the real altar. Because they're on the far side of the Jordan, away from the ark and tabernacle, they want to make sure that their kids remember the Lord. This stand-in altar will remind their kids to love God. The other tribes accept this explanation and stand down. They even thank the altar builders for their attention to God.
This is a very important moment for Judaism, and perhaps for all religions. It marks the end of Judaism as a faith bounded by place. From now on, it can go anywhere. All religions, I suspect, begin with a central sacred place or object, but can only grow when they accept a stand-in for the holy of holies, when they allow the semisacred to take the place of the sacred. The crucifix in churches is an example of this, and so is the carved Ten Commandments in synagogues. The moment when a religion creates its first copy is, in some sense, when it starts being a religion. Until now, God has literally been with all the Israelites. He travels with them in the tabernacle, and they are together inside the holy ground of the camp. Now that the tribes are scattering across Israel, they face the problem of how to keep God with them everywhere. On the west side of the Jordan, they will abide near the tabernacle and hold on to their direct connection to God. But the trans-Jordan tribes needed to create a substitute for that tabernacle (just as all Jews had to create a substitute after the Temple was destroyed 2,000 years ago). So, the altar by the riverside marks the birth of Judaism as a worldwide religion: From now on, the Israelites can travel and stay away from the tabernacle, because they can create a copy. They can take God wherever they go. And so can we.
Joshua, never much of a wordsmith, gives a pallid farewell address. He mines the same themes Moses did in his deathbed speech—prosperity and joy if you're faithful, unfathomable misery if you're not—but it's very cursory compared with the epic threats of Deuteronomy.
Joshua's farewell speech continues and improves. It contains one of the best lines yet about our debt to God. "I gave you a land on which you had not labored, and towns that you had not built, and you live in them; you eat the fruit of vineyards and oliveyards that you did not plant." This is a very persuasive case. No wonder parents still use exactly the same lines (well, not the "oliveyards" part) when they're hectoring their teenagers to behave. This is my house you're living in. That's my cell phone you're talking on, and as long as I am paying the bills …
Sometimes, the most fascinating parts of the Bible are what's been left out. Remember the story of Dinah, the one that caused me to start blogging the Bible to begin with? The final verses of Joshua are a curious reminder. Joshua dies at age 110 and is buried. The bones of Joseph, which have been carried all the way from Egypt, are buried in the Promised Land, too: "in the portion of ground that Jacob had bought from the children of Hamor, the father of Shechem, for 100 pieces of money." What it doesn't say is that Jacob bought the land from the children of Hamor before Jacob's sons tricked and murdered them.
from: David Plotz
Will the Book of Joshua Make You Stop Believing in God?
Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2006
Can the Amish Ride in Helicopters?Medical evacuation among the Pennsylvania Dutch.
By Daniel Engber
Posted Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2006, at 6:23 PM ET
Download the MP3 audio version of this story here, or sign up for The Explainer's free daily podcast on iTunes.
A gun-toting milk-truck driver attacked a group of Amish girls in their Pennsylvania schoolhouse on Monday, killing five and critically wounding another five. Some of the victims were evacuated by helicopter to nearby hospitals. Meanwhile, police arranged ground transport for the victims' families, who had refused to fly. Which modes of transportation are the Amish allowed to use?
It depends on the community. Some groups are more liberal than others—the Beachy Amish, for example, can drive cars. The most conservative Amish settlements—called the "Old Order Amish"—have sought to limit air and automobile travel, as well as the use of electricity and telephones, since the beginning of the 20th century.
Each Amish community (or "district") develops its own, unwritten rules of conduct, called the Ordnung. Representatives from several dozen families meet twice a year to discuss possible changes to the rules, like whether it would be OK to use a machine to cool milk or whether Amish men can go to work at a local factory. If everyone agrees on a new rule, it becomes one of the customs of the community.
In general, the rules about technology are intended to keep the community close together. Most districts outlawed the ownership and operation of cars years ago because they might promote excessive pride and individualism. But none of the rules are absolute religious strictures. In the settlement of Lancaster County, where Monday's shooting took place, the Amish can ride in cars under certain circumstances, as long as they're not themselves behind the wheel. Taxi and van services exist around Amish communities, and some bus companies cater to Amish customers. (For a while, a bus called the "Sarasota Express" picked up Amish from the Midwest and took them down to Florida.)
The rules against telephones and electricity are similarly flexible. In Lancaster, phones are allowed as long as they're not in the home. A group of families might share a single community phone in a shack behind a barn or at the end of the lane. (The rules on cell phones are still being worked out.) Though the Old Order Amish refuse to hook up with the main power grid, some districts allow the use of 12-volt batteries to power small electric devices. Medical researchers who study the Lancaster Amish bring in their patients via car service and outfit them with devices like blood glucose monitors.
The Old Order Amish are less flexible on air travel since it's not seen as vital to the well-being of the community. In general, you're not allowed to be a passenger in a plane or helicopter under any circumstances. That said, the community isn't likely to object to an airlift if it could save someone's life after an accident. Monday's shooting victims may have gotten even more leeway to ride in helicopters since they were all young children. The Amish are "Anabaptists," which means they believe in the baptism of adults rather than infants. Since children haven't yet been baptized, they're not fully bound by the rules of the Ordnung.
Got a question about today's news? Ask the Explainer.
Explainer thanks Joel Hartman of the University of Missouri, Diane Zimmerman Umble of Millersville University, and Jameson Wetmore of Arizona State University.
Ed: Oh Hell, why couldn't these twits just let Northern Ireland go and tell the Protestants to screw themselves decades ago?! All this stupid, pridefull, needless death...dishonors both Faiths! And when the hell are these imperialist swine going to free Scotland?
Report to say IRA paramilitary activity over: paper
2 hours, 12 minutes ago
LONDON (Reuters) - An independent commission will conclude in a report to be published on Wednesday that the
Irish Republican Army (IRA) has stopped all criminal and paramilitary activity, the Times newspaper reported.
The document by the Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC) will also say that Sinn Fein, the IRA's political wing, is meeting a commitment to achieve its goals by peaceful means, the newspaper reported, without giving a source.
The article appeared just hours before the official publication of the IMC report by the Irish and British governments.
The findings will be used by the British and Irish prime ministers,
Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern, in talks with Northern Ireland's political parties at a summit this month.
That meeting will take place as a deadline for restoring Northern Ireland's power-sharing government looms on November 24.
More than 3,600 people were killed in 30 years of sectarian feuding in Northern Ireland, a conflict that largely ended with the signing of 1998's Good Friday peace deal.
Airlines shudder at new delay for Airbus superjumbo
By Sonali Paul 1 hour, 12 minutes ago
MELBOURNE (Reuters) - The world's airlines were forced to review growth plans on Wednesday after Airbus parent EADS (EAD.PA) again pushed back first delivery of its troubled A380 superjumbo.
Franco-German-led company EADS delayed first delivery of the world's largest jetliner by another year on Tuesday, and said its launch customer, Singapore Airlines (SIAL.SI), would receive its first plane in October 2007, 10 months overdue.
Standard & Poor's said it might cut its rating on EADS on the back of a profit warning and the delay, due mainly to problems installing wiring in the $300 million double-decker planes.
"As the delay will disrupt the expansion strategies of a number of major airlines, the group's competitive position on wide-body aircraft could be adversely affected," the debt rating agency said.
Australia's Qantas Airways Ltd. (QAN.AX) said it would not receive its first A380 until August 2008, two years late. It expects to receive four of the planes by the end of that year and seven by mid-2009.
In the meantime it said it was reviewing its capacity needs.
"How are we going to mount the capacity in the short-term? What does it mean in the long-term? Where do we go from here? It's all part of the review," Qantas executive general manager John Borghetti told Reuters.
Qantas's comments echoed statements from Richard Branson's Virgin Atlantic (VA.UL) and Dubai airline Emirates (EMAIR.UL), the biggest buyer with an order for 43 superjumbos worth $13 billion at list prices.
Singapore Airlines said it was awaiting further news on the delay to the 19 Airbus 380 planes it ordered but said it would receive six new planes from Airbus's U.S. rival, Boeing Co. (NYSE:BA - news), soon.
Qantas did not rule out canceling the A380 order.
"I'm not going to speculate on that. That's just between us and Airbus," Borghetti said.
The Airbus troubles sent shares in Boeing up 2.3 percent to
Airbus has sold 143 passenger versions of the plane to 14 airlines.
JP Morgan analyst Matt Crowe said while Qantas might consider scrapping the superjumbo order, it was unlikely to do so.
"From what they said today, I think they're still committed to these planes. They're very desirable for Qantas's needs."
Qantas shares rose as much as 2.3 percent to a seven-month high of A$4.05 as oil prices fell. The stock last traded up 0.8 percent at A$3.99, in a wider market down 0.2 percent.
Qantas's Borghetti declined to comment on whether the airline would claim further damages from Airbus on top of the A$104 million ($77 million) it already expects to receive.
Singapore Airlines, the world's number-two in terms of market value after U.S.-based Southwest Airlines (NYSE:LUV - news), has not said how much it has sought in damages.
Airbus said that "four or five" of its contracts with airlines were heading for a loss.
Qantas said it was satisfied that the delay was due to production problems and not technical problems with the A380.
Last December Qantas chose Boeing to supply up to 115 Boeing 787 aircraft for its fleet renewal, worth up to A$20 billion.
Singapore Airlines ordered 20 Boeing (BA.N) 787-9 Dreamliners worth $4.52 billion at list prices in June and said it would take rights for another 20 planes.
(Additional reporting by Koh Gui Qing and Geert de Clercq in Singapore)
Baby sitter gets wrong boy from school
By The Associated Press Tue Oct 3, 10:54 PM ET
LONG BEACH, Calif. - A 5-year-old boy spent Monday afternoon at a stranger's house after he was picked up from school by a baby sitter who, on her first day on the job, thought he was the boy she was hired to look after, police said.
Angel Guerrero was taken by mistake when the woman arrived at his elementary school and took him without knowing what the child she was to care for looked like, said Sgt. David Cannan.
The mix-up caused alarm when Angel's grandmother came to the school and was told someone had already picked him up. Police issued a missing child alert, and his name and picture were broadcast live on several TV stations.
Meanwhile, the baby sitter had no idea she picked up the wrong child until her employers returned home and did not recognize Angel.
"The baby sitter said 'This is your son,' and the parents said, 'No, this is not our son,'" Cannan said. When the parents saw Angel's picture plastered on their TV screen, they immediately called police.
School officials didn't notice the mix-up, Cannan said, because Angel willingly left with the woman. Meanwhile, the boy she was supposed to pick up waited for several hours until school staffers called an uncle to pick him up.
"There's a lesson here," Cannan said. "What an opportunity to tell parents to talk to their kids, and communicate with their caregivers. This young child was full of trust, and he sees an older, caring adult and just walked off with that person."
Ed: If your first explanation for an event you cannot explain and you accept it unquestioned, that it is the persona of someone Dead on this side of reality is causing the event, and you don't question that decision on your own part, there is cause for discussion about whether you are adequately testing reality.
Out-of-Body Experience? Your Brain Is to Blame
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By SANDRA BLAKESLEE
Published: October 3, 2006
They are eerie sensations, more common than one might think: A man describes feeling a shadowy figure standing behind him, then turning around to find no one there. A woman feels herself leaving her body and floating in space, looking down on her corporeal self.
Such experiences are often attributed by those who have them to paranormal forces.
But according to recent work by neuroscientists, they can be induced by delivering mild electric current to specific spots in the brain. In one woman, for example, a zap to a brain region called the angular gyrus resulted in a sensation that she was hanging from the ceiling, looking down at her body. In another woman, electrical current delivered to the angular gyrus produced an uncanny feeling that someone was behind her, intent on interfering with her actions.
The two women were being evaluated for epilepsy surgery at University Hospital in Geneva, where doctors implanted dozens of electrodes into their brains to pinpoint the abnormal tissue causing the seizures and to identify adjacent areas involved in language, hearing or other essential functions that should be avoided in the surgery. As each electrode was activated, stimulating a different patch of brain tissue, the patient was asked to say what she was experiencing.
Dr. Olaf Blanke, a neurologist at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne in Switzerland who carried out the procedures, said that the women had normal psychiatric histories and that they were stunned by the bizarre nature of their experiences.
The Sept. 21 issue of Nature magazine includes an account by Dr. Blanke and his colleagues of the woman who sensed a shadow person behind her. They described the out-of-body experiences in the February 2004 issue of the journal Brain.
There is nothing mystical about these ghostly experiences, said Peter Brugger, a neuroscientist at University Hospital in Zurich, who was not involved in the experiments but is an expert on phantom limbs, the sensation of still feeling a limb that has been amputated, and other mind-bending phenomena.
“The research shows that the self can be detached from the body and can live a phantom existence on its own, as in an out-of-body experience, or it can be felt outside of personal space, as in a sense of a presence,” Dr. Brugger said.
Scientists have gained new understanding of these odd bodily sensations as they have learned more about how the brain works, Dr. Blanke said. For example, researchers have discovered that some areas of the brain combine information from several senses. Vision, hearing and touch are initially processed in the primary sensory regions. But then they flow together, like tributaries into a river, to create the wholeness of a person’s perceptions. A dog is visually recognized far more quickly if it is simultaneously accompanied by the sound of its bark.
These multisensory processing regions also build up perceptions of the body as it moves through the world, Dr. Blanke said. Sensors in the skin provide information about pressure, pain, heat, cold and similar sensations. Sensors in the joints, tendons and bones tell the brain where the body is positioned in space. Sensors in the ears track the sense of balance. And sensors in the internal organs, including the heart, liver and intestines, provide a readout of a person’s emotional state.
Real-time information from the body, the space around the body and the subjective feelings from the body are also represented in multisensory regions, Dr. Blanke said. And if these regions are directly simulated by an electric current, as in the cases of the two women he studied, the integrity of the sense of body can be altered.
As an example, Dr. Blanke described the case of a 22-year-old student who had electrodes implanted into the left side of her brain in 2004.
“We were checking language areas,” Dr. Blanke said, when the woman turned her head to the right. That made no sense, he said, because the electrode was nowhere near areas involved in the control of movement. Instead, the current was stimulating a multisensory area called the angular gyrus.
Dr. Blanke applied the current again. Again, the woman turned her head to the right. “Why are you doing this?” he asked.
Ed: Regardless of which Party is in control of Congress after November '07, the market is going to crash and Democrats standing flat footed with a glazed look like Dan Quayle caught in headlights are going to get blamed. And all those same so-called "Patriots" who thought it was loyal and clever to waste their energies trying to hound Clinton out of office are going to clamber on this band wagon, too, in their own simplistic ways!
Dow hits all-time high as oil drops below $59
By Caroline Valetkevitch Tue Oct 3, 6:30 PM ET
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Dow Jones industrial average hit an all-time high on Tuesday, surpassing the previous record set in 2000, as investors bet that sliding crude oil prices will stimulate consumer spending and lift profits.
During the session, the 110-year-old Dow climbed to 11,758.95, topping its previous intraday record of 11,750.28 reached on January 14, 2000, when investors rode the Internet stock mania. It crashed two months later.
The blue-chip Dow average (^DJI - news) also hit a record closing high, rising 56.99 points, or 0.49 percent, to end at 11.727.34 -- above its previous record close at 11,722.98, set on January 14, 2000.
Shares of big manufacturers such as Boeing Co. (NYSE:BA - news) and United Technologies Corp. (NYSE:UTX - news), along with Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE:WMT - news) and bank stocks, including J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. (NYSE:JPM - news), helped lead the Dow's advance. This reflected investors' belief that lower crude oil prices will ripple through the economy and improve companies' profits by cutting their expenses, while giving consumers more money to spend.
The Philadelphia Keefe Bruyette & Woods index of bank stocks (^BKX - news) gained nearly 1 percent.
"Large caps have done well in this recent advance," said Steve Goldman, market strategist at Weeden & Co. in Greenwich, Connecticut. "Lower oil puts a little bit more money in consumers' pockets."
The Standard & Poor's 500 Index (^SPX - news) rose 2.79 points, or 0.21 percent, to finish at 1,334.11. The Nasdaq Composite Index (^IXIC - news) gained 6.05 points, or 0.27 percent, to close at 2,243.65.
DOES IT MATTER?
Traders downplayed the importance of the Dow record.
"It's just a number. It doesn't have the same stocks that it did when it last reached the high and it's not inflation-adjusted," said Bob Millen, a portfolio manager with Jensen Investment Management in Portland, Oregon.
Just a handful of stocks -- mainly Boeing, United Technologies, heavy equipment maker Caterpillar Inc. (NYSE:CAT - news) and Altria Group Inc. (NYSE:MO - news), the parent of the companies that make Oreo cookies and Marlboro cigarettes -- were behind the Dow's latest move.
Shares of Boeing, the aircraft manufacturer and one of the biggest U.S. defense contractors, rose 2.3 percent, or $1.81, to $81.78 on the
New York Stock Exchange. It gave the Dow its biggest boost.
Boeing's European rival Airbus (EAD.PA) announced a third delay in the production of its flagship A380 superjumbo plane. Airline customers Emirates (EMAIR.UL) and Virgin Atlantic (VA.UL) said they were reviewing their options, which could lead to more orders for Boeing's 747 jets. For details,
OIL DOWN 4 PERCENT IN A DAY
U.S. crude oil futures prices ended nearly 4 percent lower, after hitting fresh seven-month lows, dragged down by a U.S. inventory glut and a fading hurricane threat.
Crude for November delivery fell $2.35, or 3.9 percent, to settle at $58.68 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Its session low was $58.60, the lowest front-month crude futures price since February 16.
The price of oil is down 25 percent from its NYMEX record of $78.40 in July, which has given momentum to the stock market's recent rally.
"Now that the barrier was broken, people will once again focus on fundamentals and fundamentals right now -- with lower oil and benign interest rates -- favor stocks over bonds," said Tim Smalls, head of U.S. stock trading at brokerage firm Execution LLC in Greenwich, Connecticut.
Shares of industrial conglomerate United Technologies Corp. (UTX.N) rose 1.4 percent, or 90 cents, to $64.80 on the NYSE and ranked second among the Dow's biggest gainers.
Wal-Mart's stock was up 2.1 percent, or $1.02, at $49.46. Customers of Wal-Mart, the world's biggest retailer, include senior citizens on fixed incomes and other people on modest budgets, who must curb spending when energy prices rise.
Bank stocks rose in anticipation that short-term U.S. Treasury yields may soon drop below those of the benchmark 10-year note.
Shares of JPMorgan Chase added 1.9 percent, or 88 cents, to $47.75. The stock was the third-biggest contributor to the Dow's gain.
Trading was active on the NYSE, with about 1.70 billion shares changing hands, above last year's daily average of 1.61 billion, while on Nasdaq, about 2.02 billion shares traded, above last year's daily average of 1.80 billion.
Advancing stocks outnumbered declining ones by a ratio of about 17 to 16 on the NYSE.
On the Nasdaq, though, decliners outnumber advancers by a ratio of about 8 to 7.
(Additional reporting by Chris Sanders)
Updated: Wednesday, 4 October 2006 1:11 AM CDT
OPEC president calls for oil cuts as prices tumble
By Estelle Shirbon and Janet McBride Tue Oct 3, 12:32 PM ET
ABUJA/LONDON (Reuters) -
OPEC President Nigeria called on its fellow OPEC countries to make deeper output cuts on Tuesday as prices tumbled to an 8-month low below $59 a barrel and the tide showed no sign of turning.
Nigeria and Venezuela have already made voluntary reductions to their production from October 1 but the cuts, representing less than one percent of OPEC supply, have failed to halt the steepest drop in oil prices in 15 years.
Investors are focused on U.S. heating oil stocks at seven-year highs and the conspicuous silence of the world's biggest oil exporter Saudi Arabia. Only when Saudi Arabia says it is making cuts will the market sit up and take notice.
"(Today's drop in the oil price) vindicates what Nigeria is doing and I hope other members will act in the same way," OPEC President Edmund Daukoru told Reuters in Abuja.
"Nigeria wants to show a good example. We are simply doing what we think is right in light of the market," said Daukoru, who is also Nigerian Minister of State for Petroleum.
He was speaking as U.S. oil tumbled to $58.84 a barrel, its lowest level since February 17 and a far cry from its mid-July record high of $78.40. The speed of the descent has alarmed OPEC, the group that pumps a third of the world's oil.
Oil dragged down other commodities.
Gold fell nearly three percent and copper was also down.
Momentum is building for further oil price falls unless OPEC acts to curb supplies to a market focused on slowing demand growth in the world's biggest energy burner the United States.
OPEC's own economists are predicting demand for the group's oil will drop by 800,000 barrels per day next year as new non-OPEC oil starts flowing, mainly in the Caspian.
"At some stage there will have to be a decision on whether a serious surplus of oil is building. That could be quite soon," said London-based energy consultant Geoff Pyne.
ANALYSTS TRIM PRICE FORECASTS
Oil analysts are making the first downward revisions to their 2007 price forecasts, a Reuters poll found on Tuesday.
The deepest cut was by the Center for Global Energy Studies which lowered its U.S. oil price outlook for next year by more than $10 to $54.50 even with the assumption that OPEC would eventually cut output by at least 1 million barrels.
"If they don't cut then it will be even lower in 2007," said Leo Drollas, the group's deputy executive director.
The cuts in Reuters' running poll of 32 analysts put the consensus forecast for benchmark U.S. light crude futures for 2007 at an average of $64.21 a barrel, down 47 cents from the previous update in late September.
Calyon Investment Bank pointed to "the magnitude of the recent price correction, a slowing pace of global
GDP growth next year, and very comfortable OECD middle distillate stocks just two months ahead of heating season."
DROP IN OPEC OUTPUT
OPEC's sixth biggest producer Nigeria and fourth biggest Venezuela are the only two countries to have declared publicly that they are cutting back output.
But other countries may be taking similar steps quietly, a Reuters survey showed on Tuesday.
It found the organization's output last month fell to its lowest level since April, even as ministers decided at a September 11 meeting in Vienna to keep their output ceiling unchanged.
OPEC oil output fell 380,000 barrels per day to 29.47 million barrels per day, the survey of consultants, shippers, industry and OPEC sources concluded.
OPEC's largest exporter Saudi Arabia trimmed its output by 100,000 bpd because of slower demand for its crude.
Analysts say that by publicly trying to shore up prices Nigeria and Venezuela may be playing to a domestic audience -- both countries face elections in the coming months.
Gulf oil producers have long-established ties with the United States, where energy prices are also an election issue.
(Additional reporting by Randy Fabi, Simon Webb, Alex Lawler and Peg Mackey)
In the Jungles of Brooklyn, Nothing Can Stop Them
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By DONALD G. McNEIL Jr.
Published: October 3, 2006
I spent four years in Africa, but I didn’t really understand the law of the jungle until I moved to Brooklyn last fall.
Compared with Manhattan, Brooklyn is Big Sky country, a vast flat plain of buildings mostly only four stories tall. But behind the brownstone facades, each square block is also its own microclimate, an island of backyards. Humans fence in themselves and their dogs, but for free-ranging fauna, it’s a whole biosphere: forests and grasslands, cooling lakes (wading pools, birdbaths, clogged drains) and scorching deserts (the classic Brooklyn all-cement yard).
I live in a brownstone with one such backyard, and on its deck this spring, my fiancee and I undertook to modify our nanoclimate. We created a garden.
Even before we began, I had a bad feeling about some new neighbors.
The first plant we acquired was a Venus fly trap in a tiny plastic pot. Not our idea, but the perfect house-warming gift to a 5-year-old from his grandmother.
His cool new treasure lived only one day. Next morning, we found the pot tipped over and gnawed, its occupant missing. The squirrels had struck.
I’ve seen hyenas and lions confront each other over a kill. I’ve met a ranger who lost a kidney to the tusk of a rogue elephant. But it was the first time I’d ever seen a carnivore devoured by a pack of vegetarians.
More bad omens followed. In midwinter, I spotted a beautiful cardinal on our television cable and ran out to buy a bird feeder. Within an hour, a squirrel had shimmied headfirst down the rope, popped the latch and flipped the seed cake onto the ground, where it was disappearing under the onslaught like a World Food Program truck.
Old hands on the block laughed. That’s not all they eat, I was told. Tulips? Forget it. Irises? Ditto.
Spring arrived. We filled our urns with potting soil. We bought clematis, geraniums, petunias, a climbing rose and a trellis it could mount to heaven. We planted parsley, sage, rosemary and basil. We trained tomatoes.
Our new neighbor, Jeff, outdid us. On his back porch, he built a huge box and poured in hundreds of pounds of soil, anointing a real kitchen garden.
Briefly, it was bliss. Fireflies drifted around us at dinner. A woodpecker quietly echoed the jackhammers in the next block. In someone’s wet backyard, a bullfrog chugged out his lonely-guy aria.
But soon, we had nightly infiltrators. Branches were nibbled off. Root balls were dug into. Soil was scattered wantonly around. One basil plant would be shredded while another would live — the squirrels were sampling and spitting, like oenophiles.
And Jeff was getting it worse; his crops were disappearing wholesale.
At first, they scattered at any movement. But soon they grew bolder. Rapping furiously on the window only made them turn their heads and look mildly at the goofy primate inside. One female even built a nest in our kitchen window. I tossed the leaves away and sprinkled cayenne pepper on the spot. The next day, she built another.
I prayed for predators. Where were the Riverside Park peregrines? Why must red-tail hawks live on Fifth Avenue, when everyone knows the hot restaurants are in Brooklyn?
I realized squirrel-hating had a long history, even its own Web site, deadsquirrel.com. But this was personal.
We met another neighbor who said he had been so overrun the year before that he bought a Havahart trap. Each night, he caught a squirrel, bicycled to a nearby park and let it go. But they just kept coming, he said. It was too much. He gave up.
At the Gowanus Nursery, where we had bought our expensive squirrel food, I asked for ideas.
The owner smiled wickedly, showing teeth. “Blood meal,” she said. Dried cow blood, sold as fertilizer. They hate it.
I found some in a hardware store and leaned over the fire escape to offer Jeff a neighborly cup (first checking to make sure he didn’t keep kosher, because the package, in an age of mad cow disease paranoia, made a point of saying it was 100 percent pig blood.)
It worked for a day or two. Then they were back. If anyone was going to be the block’s top predator, it was beginning to look like it would have to be me.
My fiancee was horrified. “He’s talking about getting a gun,” she told Jeff.
“I’ll go halves,” he said.
The next weekend, in the Catskills, I dropped by a hunting and fishing store.
The owner at first suggested a .410 bore shotgun. I said a Brooklyn backyard would be the wrong venue.
He agreed, but for his own reasons. “Hillary’d be on top of you pretty fast, wouldn’t she?”
As an alternative, he prescribed a trap, but warned me of a friend’s travails.
“He caught a bunch of them on his property, sprayed a dot of red paint on them, took them miles away, and let them go in the woods. The next day, they were right back.”
That explained a lot.
His follow-up suggestions — drowning them in the East River or shooting them in the trap — sounded unsporting.
In the end, I bought a pellet gun. Local experts were skeptical that it could be lethal. In my hands, almost certainly not.
But by the time summer ended, I couldn’t pull the trigger. On a recent weekend, it was pouring rain, and the squirrels were sitting on the branch just above the kitchen window, looking cold and harmless. We didn’t need all that basil anyway, I thought. And I can probably live without tulips.
So Darwin gives way to Disney in this jungle. Let the emotions of higher primates into the mix, and survival of the fittest is trumped. By survival of the cutest.
Google boss warns politicians about Internet power
Tue Oct 3, 8:52 PM ET
LONDON (Reuters) - Imagine being able to check instantly whether or not statements made by politicians were correct. That is the sort of service Google Inc. (Nasdaq:GOOG - news) boss Eric Schmidt believes the Internet will offer within five years.
Politicians have yet to appreciate the impact of the online world, which will also affect the outcome of elections, Schmidt said in an interview with the Financial Times published on Wednesday.
He predicted that "truth predictor" software would, within five years, "hold politicians to account." People would be able to use programs to check seemingly factual statements against historical data to see to see if they were correct.
"One of my messages to them (politicians) is to think about having every one of your voters online all the time, then inputting 'is this true or false.' We (at Google) are not in charge of truth but we might be able to give a probability," he told the newspaper.
The chairman and chief executive of the world's most popular Internet search engine was speaking during a visit to Britain this week, where he met British Prime Minister
Tony Blair and spoke at the opposition Conservative Party's annual conference.
"Many of the politicians don't actually understand the phenomenon of the Internet very well," Schmidt told the Financial Times. "It's partly because of their age ... often what they learn about the Internet they learn from their staffs and their children."
The advent of television taught political leaders the art of the sound bite. The Internet will also force them to adapt.
"The Internet has largely filled a role of funding for politicians ... but it has not yet affected elections. It clearly will," Schmidt said.
Writing in the Sun tabloid, the Google boss said the online world has empowered ordinary people with the ability to challenge governments, the media and business.
"It has broken down the barriers that exist between people and information, effectively democratizing access to human knowledge," Schmidt wrote.
"This has made us much more powerful as individuals."
Brazil seizes passports of U.S. pilots tied to crash
By Andrei Khalip Tue Oct 3, 8:04 PM ET
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (Reuters) - Brazilian authorities confiscated the passports of two American pilots on Tuesday who were flying a business jet that apparently collided with a commercial airliner that crashed last week deep in the Amazon jungle, killing all 155 people on board.
Judge Tiago de Abril in Mato Grosso state, where the plane went down, told Reuters police had seized the passports of U.S. citizens Joe Lepore and Jan Paladino on his orders for the duration of the investigation.
"That's a cautionary measure. If they returned to the United States it would require a lot of time and effort for us to collect their testimony," the judge said, adding that the investigation should not take long.
The two pilots, who were flying a newly built executive jet that authorities believe clipped the Boeing 737-800 in midair, arrived on Tuesday in Rio de Janeiro for medical and psychological tests as part of the investigation.
They face more questioning on Wednesday.
"They are being interviewed by the authorities and are giving their total cooperation with the investigation," said Glauco Paiva, a U.S. consulate official in Rio.
The business jet, a Legacy 600 made by Brazilian manufacturer Embraer, was recently purchased by ExcelAire Service, a charter company based in Ronkonkoma, New York. The pilots were flying it to the United States when it apparently hit the airliner flown by low-cost Brazilian carrier Gol Linhas Aereas Inteligentes.
The business jet was able to land safely at a military base in the jungle. None of the seven people on board were hurt.
DEVIATION FROM FLIGHT PLAN
Air Force commander Luiz Carlos Bueno said on Monday both planes were flying at 37,000 feet, which means that one of them had strayed from its flight plan.
Investigators want to know why modern collision avoidance equipment installed on both planes did not prevent the accident, local aviation authorities said.
Brazilian news reports have offered a range of conflicting theories about the accident's cause, some speculating that the Legacy jet may have deviated from its flight plan.
Christine Negroni, with U.S. law firm Kreindler & Kreindler which is not involved in the investigation, said all planes heading west in Brazil fly at even multiples of 1,000 feet, and those hading east at odd multiples.
"Since the American pilots were flying northwest, they should not have been at 37,000 (feet). That's very odd," she told Reuters.
A message asking for comment left with an ExcelAire official was not immediately returned.
At the crash site in a dense, remote area in the rain forest, salvage crews had recovered the remains of about 50 victims by Tuesday, including the airliner's two pilots.
"Parts of the plane and many bodies are scattered over an area of some 20 square kilometers in the forest and searchers have to scare away wild animals, especially at night, by burning large fires," an air force spokesman said.
A badly damaged black box from the Boeing will probably be taken for analysis to the United States or Canada, after which it will be compared with the data from the business jet, aviation authorities said.
As it often does, the U.S.
National Transportation Safety Board sent investigators to help with the probe in Brazil.
Grieving relatives were asked to provide dental records or descriptions that could help identify the bodies, as well as blood samples for DNA tests.
West, some Muslims share radicalism blame: writers
By Sugita Katyal 17 minutes ago
UBUD, Indonesia (Reuters) - Western foreign policy and a tendency among some Muslims to impose their idea of truth have been key factors in the rise of radical Islam, Muslim writers say.
"Islam is about peace and submission. But there are certain realities that we cannot hide from," said Ziauddin Sardar, a Britain-based writer best known for his book, "Why Do People Hate America."
"There is a certain radicalization of young Muslims not just in Muslim countries but also in the Muslim population in the West," Sardar told a writers' conference in the Balinese resort town of Ubud.
"One reason for it is Western policy, what's happened in
Chechnya. (Millions of) Muslims are very young and they feel very angry and hurt by the perpetual death and destruction in their society."
Muslim writers do not, however, pin the blame for the rise of Islamic radicalism only on Western policy, but say the Muslim world's failure to engage with the Western world is a key reason for the differences and misunderstanding.
Dina Zaman, a young Malaysian Muslim writer, who is compiling her provocative column "I am a Muslim" into a book, said moderate Muslims also need to engage with conservative Muslims to bridge the gap.
"Western policy and prejudice are a reason. But also we've been taught from young, Muslims vs Kafirs, Kafirs vs Muslims. When you have this concept of the other you're opening a whole can of worms," said Zaman, one of about 100 writers at the festival in the cultural capital of Bali.
"If we keep perpetuating these myths, we're walking on a time-bomb," she said. "When you believe that your perception is right and the other is not then how can you discuss?"
Sardar and Zaman were among many Muslim authors seeking to demystify Islam at the Ubud festival which was started three years ago to help the recovery process from the 2002 Bali bombings.
A number of Islamic militants were convicted in connection with the nightclub bombings that killed 220 people, mostly foreigners.
"Literature is a way of healing wounds," said Janet De Neefe, the organizer of the Ubud festival. "Last year we had a session on terrorism. This year we have one on Islam. It's such a misunderstood faith. We're addressing all the issues with gray areas."
Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim nation and most people follow a moderate form of Islam. But a radical minority has become increasingly vocal in recent years in the country, which has seen several major bombing attacks in addition to the 2002 incident.
Indonesian poet Acep Zamzam Noor said the Islam taught in the country's Muslim schools or pesantrans was a moderate form which used different ways such as poetry to teach children about god.
He said if there was a clash it was between the moderate and extreme way of teaching Islam.
Others said one reason for the yawning gap was the fact that a certain section of Muslims was trying to impose its idea of the truth on the rest of the world.
They said violence, especially suicide bombings, was against basic Muslim principles because Islam forbids despair and Allah is always merciful and forgiving.
"We've acquired a particular notion of truth which serves us in a particular way. Trouble is that some Muslims think they own the truth. The idea of owning the truth is the crux of the problem," said Sardar.
"If you believe you have the perfect truth and you believe you have the right to impose it on others, then there's a problem. This notion negates the very essence of Islam."
U.S. soldier to face trial in murder of two officers
By Will Dunham Mon Oct 2, 7:43 PM ET
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. Army National Guard soldier will be tried on murder charges with the death penalty possible in a case in which he is accused of blowing up two superior officers in
Iraq last year, the Army said on Monday.
Army Lt. Gen. John Vines decided that Staff Sgt. Alberto Martinez will face court-martial on two counts of premeditated murder in the June 2005 deaths of company commander Capt. Phillip Esposito and 1st Lt. Louis Allen near Tikrit, Iraq, officials at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, said in a statement.
Martinez also will be tried on three counts relating to wrongful possession of a privately owned firearm, unexploded ordnance and alcohol, and one count relating to giving printers and copiers to an Iraqi national, according to the statement.
Martinez faces arraignment on November 3.
Martinez, Esposito and Allen served in the headquarters company of the 42nd Infantry Division, a reserve unit drawn from the New York Army National Guard.
It is believed to be the first case of a U.S. soldier charged with murdering superior officers in Iraq. Another soldier, Sgt. Hasan Akbar, was convicted of murdering two officers by rolling grenades into their tents in Kuwait before the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Vines, formerly the No. 2 U.S. commander in Iraq, referred the charges against Martinez to trial after hearings to review the allegations.
Martinez is accused of detonating a mine and grenades that killed the two officers. Testimony indicated Esposito had relieved Martinez of his duties as a supply sergeant and that relations between them were sour.
The incident took place in one of deposed President
Saddam Hussein's former palaces at Tikrit.
Online gaming in crisis over U.S. ban
By Pete Harrison 2 hours, 34 minutes ago
LONDON (Reuters) - Online gambling firms faced their biggest-ever crisis on Monday after U.S. Congress passed legislation to end Internet gaming there, threatening jobs and wiping 3.5 billion pounds ($6.5 billion) off company values.
Britain's PartyGaming Plc, operator of leading Internet poker site PartyPoker.com, and rivals Sportingbet and 888 Plc said they would likely pull out of the United States, their biggest source of revenue.
"This development is a significant setback for our company, our shareholders, our players and our industry," PartyGaming Chief Executive Mitch Garber said.
The House of Representatives and Senate unexpectedly approved a bill early on Saturday that would make it illegal for banks and credit-card companies to make payments to online gambling sites.
The measure was sent to
President George W. Bush to sign into law, which most analysts see as a certainty.
"We believe that this will have a very material impact on the long-term prospects of online gambling, and in particular poker," said analyst Julian Easthope at UBS. "This will lead to a rapid decline in the use of online poker sites."
PartyGaming generates about 78 percent of its revenue from the United States, while Sportingbet gets about 62 percent there.
Shares in PartyGaming, which rakes in nearly $4 million a day from its 19 million customers, fell 57 percent by 1155 GMT.
Sportingbet, which owns sportsbook.com and ParadisePoker.com, lost 60 percent, 888 was down 33 percent and Austria's bwin.com fell 24 percent.
Bwin could be pushed to the brink, having paid heavily for Swedish online poker site Ongame earlier this year to gain access to the U.S. market, said Leopold Salcher, an analyst at Austria's RCB. "This could break their neck," he said.
Online gaming exploded in 2005 with a string of high-profile company flotations in London, which has become the industry's corporate center.
The bulk of revenue has always come from U.S. players, but the firms were located in offshore jurisdictions like Costa Rica and Antigua for fear of prosecution in the United States, where the legal status of online gaming and betting was uncertain.
Shares in Sportingbet and BETonSPORTS had already been hammered after recent arrests of senior executives on charges of illegal gambling in individual U.S. states, but investors remained hopeful online betting and gaming would not be completely banned at a federal level.
Meanwhile, big American corporations like Las Vegas-based Harrah's Entertainment Inc. were forced to sit on the sidelines as gaming money streamed out of the country.
PartyGaming said in a statement, "If the President signs the act into law, the company will suspend all real money gaming business with U.S. residents."
"Any such suspension would also result in the group's financial performance falling significantly short of consensus forecasts for 2006 and 2007," it added.
Stephen Whittaker, joint chief investment officer at Britain's New Star Asset Management, said the likely ban could be challenged.
"This represents protectionism, and the WTO have said you can't do that," said Whittaker, whose portfolio includes about 2 percent of online gaming stocks. "Overall, we'll probably remain with most of our holdings."
"We'll probably reduce one, maybe two," he added. "We want to let the dust settle a bit -- it will take a few days."
Sportingbet said a ban would hit trading and it would scrap a planned merger with World Gaming as a result.
888 Plc said the move would hit its results, as did gaming software provider Playtech, whose shares fell 42 percent.
But Paul Leyland at Arbuthnot Securities said Playtech was relatively well positioned. "The only company for which you could categorically say that redeployment is easy is Playtech," he said. "But for the others it's much more difficult."
A ban would also hit payment processors such as Neteller Plc and Optimal Group's FireOne subsidiary.
(Additional reporting by Laurence Fletcher in London and Alexandra Schwarz in Vienna)
Updated: Tuesday, 3 October 2006 12:05 AM CDT
Ed: Thirty years from now, are democratically inclined Pakistanis going to be thankful we upgraded the military forces of this Tyrant?
Pakistan, U.S. sign letter of acceptance for F-16s
2 hours, 9 minutes ago
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistan and United States have signed a letter of acceptance for a multi-billion dollar package to supply the Pakistan Air Force with F-16 warplanes, an air force spokesman said on Monday.
A signing ceremony was held on Saturday in Rawalpindi, the northern Pakistani city were the military is headquartered, he said.
Both sides had expected to wrap up the deal a month earlier, but negotiations dragged on because of strings Washington wanted attached.
A statement issued by the Pakistan Air Force, however, did not mention what conditions were being set by the United States on use and maintenance of the planes.
It said that the United States will supply 18 new F-16 aircraft, as well as an unspecified number of upgraded second-hand F-16s. Previous reports have said the number of second hand aircraft Pakistan was considering buying was 26.
The United States will also sell Pakistan missile weaponry and other support infrastructure, and upgrade Pakistan's present fleet of 34 old-model F-16s.
Lockheed Martin Corp builds the F-16, but Boeing Co., Raytheon Co, Northrop-Gumman Corp and General Electric Co., are other principal contractors involved in the deal.
The Bush administration formally notified Congress on June 28 of plans to sell Pakistan the "Fighting Falcon" warplanes.
But it had also sought unprecedented guarantees to stop the technology of the advanced F-16s, their spare parts and munitions from falling into the hands of third countries -- notably China, which has close military ties to Pakistan.
John Hillen, the Assistant Secretary of State for political-military affairs, told Congress on July 20 the United States had, among other things, proposed that F-16 flights outside Pakistani air space, including for exercises with other countries, must be approved by the U.S. government in advance.
Hillen, in his testimony to the House of Representatives' International Relations Committee, also disclosed that the United States was withholding unspecified technologies "that would usually go with an F-16," including ones that would let it "be used in offensive ways to penetrate air space of another country that was highly defended."
In his testimony, Hillen highlighted that Pakistan's F-16 fleet and its munitions would be segregated from aircraft supplied by other countries, so that unauthorized engineers could not get access to the U.S.-made planes.
He also said U.S. personnel would carry out inventories of the F-16s and their associated systems every six months.
Alleged burglar does laundry, gets pizza
Sat Sep 30, 6:32 AM ET
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. - A burglar who made himself at home after a break-in overstayed his visit, police said.
Larcellus Angelo Scott, 23, had ordered a pizza and was doing a load of laundry Wednesday when Denise Bealessio returned home from work.
Bealessio, 51, arrived just as the pizza did. She turned the delivery driver away and was met inside the door by Scott.
Scott attacked, but Bealessio was able to escape unharmed. A neighbor called police, who found Scott rummaging through Bealessio's purse. He had written one of Bealessio's checks to pay for the pizza.
He was arrested on suspicion of burglary, robbery and forgery and was being held Friday in Kern County Jail in lieu of $85,000 bail.
Scott used to live next door, Bealessio said.
Ed: Show of hands, how many of you are sick to death of hearing about Wal-Mart righteousness while communities and workers do worse under the heel of the Wal-Mart boot?
Wal-Mart to use more part-timers, wage caps: NYT
1 hour, 49 minutes ago
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE:WMT - news) is pushing to create a cheaper, more flexible work force by capping wages, using more part-time workers and scheduling more staff on nights and weekends, The New York Times reported on Monday.
Wal-Mart executives say they embraced the new policies for a large number of their 1.3 million workers to better serve customers, the newspaper said.
But some Wal-Mart workers say the changes are further reducing their modest incomes and putting a strain on personal lives, the newspaper reported.
Investment analysts and store managers say Wal-Mart executives have told them the company wants to transform its work force to 40 percent part-time from 20 percent, the Times reported.
Wal-Mart denies it has a goal of 40 percent part-time workers, although company officials said part-timers now comprise 25 percent to 30 percent of its workers, up from 20 percent last October, according to the newspaper.
Wal-Mart spokeswoman Sarah Clark told Reuters the company had no specific target for part-timers as a percentage of its work force.
Clark added that it is important that Wal-Mart staff are working at times when customers want to shop.