"Road Home" too long for some New Orleanians
By Jeffrey Jones Thu Nov 23, 5:24 PM ET
NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - Roy Montague stood outside the government-supplied trailer in front of his New Orleans house and pointed across the street to a line of rotting homes virtually untouched since Hurricane Katrina 15 months ago.
The 60-year-old transit supervisor listed names of the mostly elderly homeowners on his Gentilly-district street and said nearly every one is waiting for thousands of dollars from a much-publicized state relief program to start repairs.
But as of this week, checks from the $7.5 billion Road Home program -- centerpiece of Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco's recovery plans -- had been issued to just 39 residents statewide, the Louisiana Recovery Authority said. That is nearly three months after the first payouts.
The wait is a big reason why the formerly leafy suburb remains in suspended animation, with many homes still bearing brown rings showing where Katrina's deadly floodwaters settled for weeks in 2005 and weeds choking lawns, Montague said.
His neighbor, Reginald Johnson, chimed in: "You've got raccoons running wild, you've got rats -- the rats are unbelievable. That's why these houses are the way they are -- people are waiting on the Road Home."
Hurricanes Katrina and Rita damaged about 200,000 Louisiana homes, 123,000 severely enough to warrant eligibility for aid.
The relief program is designed to provide homeowners up to $150,000 to repair their houses or take a buyout and move. As part of a complex meeting and evaluation process, insurance settlements and other grants are deducted from the total.
Some homeowners and community activists complain delays and complexity only add to painful decisions about whether to rebuild in a city where the population is still at half pre-storm levels of 450,000.
That's especially true for low-income residents without financial wherewithal to fund rebuilding on their own, said Johnson, 41. His and Montague's Road Home meetings are not scheduled until early next year. Both have used other means to start rebuilding.
WEIGHING BIG DECISIONS
State figures show more than 80,000 homeowners have applied for funds and of those, over 7,200 benefits have been calculated for an average award of $63,741.17.
The puny payout so far is partly due to applicants agonizing over whether to stay or go after learning the amount of their awards, Road Home spokeswoman Gentry Brann said.
"They have to send us back a letter that essentially says, 'Here's what my family has decided to do,"' Brann said. "There are a lot of people who don't know yet what they're going to do and are taking their time -- as they rightly should, it's a big decision -- and will then notify us when they're ready."
The program is on track to meet a goal of calculating 10,000 benefits by the end of the month, and authorities opened the first out-of-state assistance center earlier last week in Houston to streamline the process for evacuees, she said.
The Road Home has already been fraught with bumps. Last spring, the program, which also includes benefits for owners of rental housing, was held up in Washington as Congress debated whether to include all of Louisiana's request for recovery money in a $94 billion supplementary spending bill.
President George W. Bush signed the bill in June, and by late August, state officials predicted 42 homeowners would get compensation in the ensuing few weeks.
Midnight Zamboni run prompts firings
By JOHN MILLER, Associated Press Writer Wed Nov 22, 11:35 PM ET
BOISE, Idaho - Two employees of the city's ice skating rink have been fired for making a midnight fast-food run in a pair of Zambonis. An anonymous tipster reported seeing the two big ice-resurfacing machines chug through a Burger King drive-through and return to the rink around 12:30 a.m. on Nov. 10. The squat, rubber-tired vehicles, which have a top speed of about 5 mph, drove 1 1/2 miles in all.
The Zamboni operators, both temporary city employees whose names and ages were not released by Parks and Recreation Department, had to negotiate at least one intersection with a traffic light on their late-night creep from Idaho Ice World.
"They were fired immediately," said Parks Department Director Jim Hall. "We're pretty sure it was just the one time. When we interviewed them, they didn't seem to be too concerned about it. I don't think they understood the seriousness of it."
Hall said neither the $75,000 Zambonis nor their $10,000 blades appeared damaged, but the city could charge the employees with operating an unlicensed motor vehicle on a public street.
Buddhist monk cuts off penis and renounces refix
Wed Nov 22, 6:23 AM ET
BANGKOK (Reuters) - A Thai Buddhist monk cut off his penis with a machete because he had an erection during meditation and declined to have it reattached, saying he had renounced all earthly cares, a doctor and a newspaper said on Wednesday.
The 35-year-old monk, whose name was withheld for privacy reasons, allowed medical staff at Maharaj hospital, 780 km (480 miles) south of Bangkok to dress his wound, but refused reattachment, hospital chief Prawing Euanontouch said.
"We cleaned up the wound, gave him some stitches, but he declined to have it reattached because he said had abandoned everything," Prawing told Reuters by telephone.
Prawing declined to comment on the monk's erection, which Bangkok-based Kom Chad Luk tabloid reported on its Web site.
U.S. shoppers hopping mad over frog dissection kit
Wed Nov 22, 9:33 AM ET
NEW YORK (Reuters) - On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me ... a frog dissection kit?
Shoppers at upscale U.S. menswear and accessory store Jack Spade in Manhattan's trendy SoHo district were hopping mad to see frog dissection kits selling alongside $775 leather file cases and $145 Italian calfskin passport holders.
The $40 kit came in a cloth bag complete with a vacuum-sealed formaldehyde-treated frog, scissors, magnifying glass, forceps, probing sticks, ruler, instruction booklet on how to explore the animal's innards, and a moist towelette.
After a barrage of complaints from shoppers and animal activists, the store said Tuesday that it had cleared its shelves of the kits and would no longer offer them.
"We're going to issue an apology," said company spokesman Mordechai Rubinstein.
"The intent was to celebrate science and biology, present something educational for children and adults," he said. "Jack Spade doesn't support the unethical treatment of animals."
Animal campaign group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said it wrote to the company last week after receiving complaints about the product.
"We were shocked to discover that the dissection kit contains the carcass of a real frog," said spokesman Michael McGraw.
The Jack Spade store said it only sold a handful of the kits before ditching the idea.
Jim Webb ponders the class system in America; Keith Olbermann gives Bush a history lesson, comparing Vietnam with Iraq; David Bacon writes about the problems of globalization for workers; Lebanese Christian leader assassinated; Syria and Iraq resume diplomatic relations; Pentagon considers strategies for troop deployment in Iraq; Der Spiegel interviews CIA expert Ron Suskind; Republican Vern Buchanan is declared winner of House race in Florida amid claims of election irregularities; and more ... Browse our continually updating front page at http://www.truthout.org
t r u t h o u t | 11.21
Jim Webb | Class Struggle
"Incestuous corporate boards regularly approve compensation packages for chief executives and others that are out of logic's range." writes Jim Webb, Democratic senator-elect from Virginia. "... the average CEO of a sizeable corporation makes more than $10 million a year, while the minimum wage for workers amounts to about $10,000 a year, and has not been raised in nearly a decade."
Keith Olbermann | Lessons From the Vietnam War
Keith Olbermann says, "It is a shame and it is embarrassing to us all when President Bush travels 8,000 miles only to wind up avoiding reality again."
David Bacon | The Other Face of Globalization
David Bacon writes: "In the US, unions don't have to be registered with the government, and anyone can form one. But there's no real legal protection for unions, and we have few rights. A company can legally break a strike."
Lebanese Christian Leader Killed
Prominent anti-Syrian Christian politician Pierre Gemayel was assassinated in a suburb of Beirut on Tuesday. The shooting will certainly heighten the political tension in Lebanon, where the leading Muslim Shiite party, Hezbollah, has threatened to topple the government if it does not get a bigger say in Cabinet decision-making.
Iraq to Restore Long-Severed Relations With Neighbor Syria
Iraq said Monday that it would restore diplomatic ties with neighboring Syria after a break of nearly a quarter-century, in an effort to solidify links with a neighbor seen as a conduit for insurgents fueling the violence in Iraq.
US Considers Large, Temporary Troop Increase in Iraq
Pentagon officials conducting a review of Iraq strategy are considering a substantial but temporary increase in American troop levels and the addition of several thousand more trainers to work with Iraqi forces.
Ron Suskind | "The President Knows More Than He Lets On"
One hundred suspected terrorists from all over the world are still being held in secret American prisons. In an interview with Der Spiegel, CIA expert Ron Suskind accuses Washington of "running like a headless chicken" in its war against al-Qaeda. He reserves special criticism for the CIA's torture methods, which he argues are unproductive.
VIDEO | Project Censored: Media Accountability Conference
For the past 27 years, Project Censored, a program based at Sonoma State University, in Rohnert Park, California, has compiled a list of the top 25 underreported stories from around the country. This year's list, arranged and reviewed by approximately 200 students and faculty, again contains stories that, for whatever reason, were deemed unfit for American eyes by the mainstream media. We disagree.
Navajos' desert cleanup no more than a mirage
Through a federal program, decontamination seemed possible. But delays and disputes thwarted the effort.
By Judy Pasternak, Times Staff Writer
November 21, 2006
Church Rock Mine, N.M. -- Most of the mining companies that drilled, dug and blasted for uranium on the Navajo reservation during the Cold War did nothing to repair the environmental damage they left behind. For a time, tribal leaders staked their hopes for a cleanup on Superfund, the landmark legislation that forces polluters to pay for remediation of toxic sites.
More than 1,000 abandoned mines are scattered across the Navajo homeland, which covers 27,000 square miles in Arizona, Utah and New Mexico.
Such a comprehensive cleanup is "exactly what Superfund was designed for," said Paul Connor, a lawyer who once directed Superfund enforcement policy for the Environmental Protection Agency.
It hasn't happened. Bureaucratic delays and misunderstandings between the tribe and the EPA have prevented the Navajos from tapping Superfund's deep pockets and broad legal authority.
Instead, the tribe reluctantly settled for a partial cleanup under a separate program. That effort left many hazards untouched.
One of them is in Church Rock Mine, a Navajo community named for an abandoned uranium site. A 30-foot-high heap of grit and dynamited stone from the mine looms over a cluster of 15 homes. The wind roars for hours at a time, scattering radioactive dust throughout the settlement.
For years, residents appealed to tribal leaders and the U.S. government for help. In 2003, tired of waiting, they joined forces with Navajo activists who were using a foundation grant to conduct radiation testing.
In a dry wash where generations of children had played catch and tag, they discovered elevated radiation levels.
As word spread of the citizen effort, authorities stirred at last. Under pressure from the tribe, the EPA opened negotiations with the mine's operator, United Nuclear Corp., and its parent, General Electric Co., to clean up the mess.
If the companies eventually foot the bill, it would mark the first time a polluter has been held to account under Superfund for contaminating the reservation.
But like the Church Rock families, members of other Navajo communities are done waiting for the government to act. They have reached out to environmental groups or university scientists, hoping to fashion their own solutions.
"The Navajos need a champion," said Glynn R. Alsup, a retired Army Corps of Engineers official who served as a liaison to the Navajos. "The EPA and the tribe should be knocking on doors in Congress every year if they need money. I don't see that happening."
The Navajos allowed intensive uranium mining by private companies starting in the 1940s. The lone buyer of the uranium was the federal government. The nuclear arms race with the Soviet Union was just beginning, and U.S. officials were desperate for material to make atomic bombs.
In contracts typed on onion-skin paper, the companies promised to leave the land "in as good condition as received." The federal Bureau of Indian Affairs approved all leases and was supposed to enforce their terms.
When demand for uranium eased in the late 1950s, mines and processing mills began to close. The operators often left behind open tunnels and shafts and piles of radioactive tailings. Rarely did they fence off the sites or post warning signs. Federal inspectors knew of the hazards but seldom intervened.
Decades passed. As former miners were dying of lung cancer and respiratory disease in the 1970s, their widows started to wonder whether they and their children were endangered by the detritus of the uranium boom.
In 1982, the tribal government demanded $6.7 million from a federal claims court to seal and clean about 300 mines. The tribe argued that federal inspectors had failed to enforce safety standards in order to keep down the price of bomb material.
A judge rejected the claim in 1985, calling the allegations "entirely speculative."
1 2 3 4 5 6 >>
Updated: Tuesday, 21 November 2006 12:03 PM CST
Jackson says he won't be making `Hobbit'
Tue Nov 21, 9:15 AM ET
WELLINGTON, New Zealand -
Peter Jackson says he will not be directing a movie based on J.R.R. Tolkien's novel "The Hobbit" or a planned prequel to "The Lord of the Rings."
In a letter posted Tuesday on Theonering.com., Jackson and partner Fran Walsh said an executive from New Line Cinema had called to tell them the studio was moving ahead with "The Hobbit" without him.
"Last week, Mark Ordesky called Ken (Kamins, Jackson's manager) and told him that New Line would no longer be requiring our services on `The Hobbit' and the LOTR `prequel,'" the 45year-old New Zealand director wrote.
"This was a courtesy call to let us know that the studio was now actively looking to hire another filmmaker for both projects," he said.
New Line Cinema holds the rights to produce "The Hobbit" and Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer has the rights to distribute it.
Jackson, who shepherded Tolkien's Middle-earth saga to the screen in a series of three films, won a best-director Oscar for 2003's "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King." The trilogy also includes 2002's "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers" and 2001's "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring."
A spokesman for Wingnut Films, Jackson's production company in Wellington, who spoke on his standard condition that he not be named, confirmed Wednesday the letter was genuine.
The announcement came amid an ongoing dispute between Wingnut Films and New Line Cinema over the amount Jackson was paid for "The Fellowship of the Ring," including DVD payments.
While Jackson hasn't said how much he believes he was underpaid, The New York Times last year quoted his lawyers as saying it was as much as $100 million. He is suing New Line Cinema over the shortfall.
The Dominion Post newspaper quoted Jackson as saying that because he and Walsh didn't want to discuss upcoming movies "until the lawsuit is resolved, the studio is going to have to hire another director."
"We are very sorry our involvement with `The Hobbit' has ended this way," the pair added.
Plans for Jackson to make a $128 million movie version of the sci-fi video game "Halo" were also scrapped this month after backers 20th Century Fox and Universal Pictures pulled out.
Jackson's "Lord of the Rings" trilogy grossed nearly $3 billion at box offices worldwide.
New Line is a unit of Time Warner Inc; 20th Century Fox is owned by News Corp.; Universal Pictures is owned by NBC Universal, a joint venture of General Electric Co. and Vivendi Universal; MGM is owned by a consortium of Providence Equity Partners, Texas Pacific Group, Sony Corp (NYSE:SNE - news)., Comcast Corp., DLJ Merchant Banking Partners and Quadrangle Group.
On the Net:
Peter Jackson: http://tbhl.theonering.net/
"Seinfeld" star Richards apologizes for race slurs
By Steve Gorman Mon Nov 20, 8:54 PM ET
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Comedian
Michael Richards, famed for playing the quirky character Kramer on the hit show "Seinfeld," apologized on national television on Monday for spewing a torrent of racial slurs at hecklers during a stand-up act in Hollywood.
The incident, captured in digital-camera video footage obtained by the celebrity Web site TMZ.com and circulated over the Internet on Monday, took place during Richards' live performance on Friday night at the Laugh Factory comedy club.
Eyewitnesses interviewed by TMZ and cable news network CNN said Richards' act took an ugly turn when some members of the audience who were black were heckling him.
In the video, the performer appears to lose his cool, shouts "Shut up!" and makes a racially offensive statement.
As nervous laughter gives way to groans and boos from the audience, Richards lets loose a barrage of racial slurs and epithets and points to someone in the crowd.
Richards continues to rant as people in the audience are heard shouting back at him, "That was uncalled for," and the comic yells: "Well, you interrupted me pal, that's what happens when you interrupt the white man."
'HE OFFENDED EVERYONE'
After several minutes, during which many members of the audience can be seen leaving their seats, Richards abruptly drops the microphone and steps down from the stage.
Richards' outburst drew expressions of bewilderment from a number of fellow performers including his former TV co-star,
Jerry Seinfeld, on whose eponymous NBC hit sitcom Richards gained fame playing wacky sidekick Kramer.
On Monday, a somber Richards, 57, issued a public apology during an appearance by satellite from Los Angeles on the CBS "Late Show with David Letterman," insisting: "I am not a racist. That is what is so insane about this."
"I lost my temper on stage," Richards said. "I was at the comedy club trying to do my act and I got heckled and I took it badly and went into a rage. For me to be at a comedy club and flip out and say this crap, you know, I am deeply, deeply sorry."
Richards' appearance came during an in-studio guest spot on Letterman's show by Seinfeld, who told Letterman he had spoken to Richards earlier in the day and asked him to come on the show to "explain what happened."
"He deserves a chance to apologize, and that's all he wanted, and I thank you for having him on," Seinfeld said to applause after Richards spoke.
Seinfeld earlier released a statement calling Richards' tirade "extremely offensive."
"I am sick over this," Seinfeld said. "I'm sure Michael is also sick over this horrible, horrible mistake. ... I feel terrible for all the people who have been hurt."
Richards' idiosyncratic Kramer persona was a favorite on "Seinfeld" during its nine-year run on NBC until May 1998, but his first stab at a sitcom of his own in 2000 was short-lived.
"The Michael Richards Show," in which he starred as bumbling private detective Vic Nardozza, was canceled due to low ratings after several episodes. The series was widely panned by critics.
Israel stole private land for settlements: report
1 hour, 8 minutes ago
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Almost 40 percent of land held by Jewish settlements in the occupied
West Bank is privately owned by Palestinians, a left-wing Israeli group that monitors and opposes settlement-building said in a new report on Tuesday.
Peace Now said it based its findings on the database of
Israel's military-run Civil Administration in the West Bank. The Civil Administration declined comment on the apparent leak, pending its examination of the report.
Israel has long maintained that Jewish settlements, which are illegal under international law, were built on "state lands," or areas not registered in anyone's name, and that no private property were being seized for settlement building.
"This report is a harsh indictment against the whole settlements enterprise and the role all Israeli governments played in it," Peace Now said on its Web site.
"The report shows that Israel has effectively stolen privately-owned Palestinian land for the purpose of constructing settlements and in violation of Israel's own laws regarding activities in the West Bank," the movement said.
The Palestinians, who want all the West Bank along with the
Gaza Strip for a future state, and human rights groups have long accused Israel of illegally expropriating "state land" for the purpose of building settlements.
According to the report, Palestinians privately own nearly 40 percent of the land on which settlements have been built, and 3,400 buildings have been constructed on those properties.
In addition, more than 50 percent of the land on which settlements have been constructed has been designated "state," or unregistered, land by Israel, Peace Now said.
About 2.4 million Palestinians and 260,000 Jewish settlers live in the West Bank, which Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war but stopped short of annexing.
The YESHA settler council, responding to the Peace Now report, said in a statement Israel halted authorizing construction on privately-owned land in the West Bank after a 1979 Israeli court ruling on the issue.
Peace Now said that in spite of court restrictions, Israel continued to build settlement homes on lands it knew to be owned by Palestinians.
Some of the settlement blocs Israeli leaders have said they intend to keep in any final peace deal with the Palestinians have been built in part on private Palestinian land, the report said.
They include the settlements of Maale Adumim, on the outskirts of Jerusalem, and Ariel in the central West Bank.
The World Court says settlements Israel has built on occupied territory are illegal. Israel disputes this.
Updated: Tuesday, 21 November 2006 11:11 AM CST
Last Updated: Monday, 20 November 2006, 21:24
Murdoch cancels OJ Simpson plans
Former American football player and actor OJ Simpson was found not guilty of murder after a sensational trial
Rupert Murdoch's media companies have cancelled plans for a controversial book by OJ Simpson and televised interview with him.
The book and programme If I Did It, in which Mr Simpson describes how he would have killed his ex-wife and her friend, had caused public outrage.
Mr Murdoch said he was "sorry for any pain this has caused".
Mr Simpson was acquitted of murdering ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman on 12 June 1994.
Judith Regan, publisher of ReganBooks, owned by Mr Murdoch's News Corp, had said she considered the book Mr Simpson's confession.
Several affiliates of Mr Murdoch's Fox TV had refused to screen the interview on the grounds of bad taste.
Mr Murdoch said: "I and senior management agree with the American public that this was an ill-considered project.
It's an insult to my family, it's an insult to Nicole's family, it's an insult to every right-thinking human being
Ronald Goldman's father, Fred
"We are sorry for any pain that this has caused the families of Ron Goldman and Nicole Brown Simpson."
The TV programme was intended to promote the ex-American footballer's book, which was planned for publication on 30 November.
The deal with Mr Murdoch's broadcasting and publishing companies was worth $3.5m (#1.85m).
During the interview, Mr Simpson describes how he would have carried out the murders at his ex-wife's home in Los Angeles "if he were the one responsible".
Fox TV had scheduled the Simpson interview to air on 27 and 29 November. There are about 200 Fox affiliates across the US.
'Insult to injury'
Ronald Goldman's father, Fred, and sister Kim have left Americans in no doubt about their view of the programme.
Johnnie Cochran at OJ Simpson's trial
Mr Simpson's lawyer portrayed the case as a conspiracy
"It's one more added insult to injury. I can't stand to see him around - he makes my skin crawl.
"It's an insult to my family; it's an insult to Nicole's family; it's an insult to every right-thinking human being," Mr Goldman said.
Ms Goldman said: "The fact that he is going to breathe Ron's name or the Goldman name or Nicole's name in some kind of correlation with how he would have done it - there's nothing that's OK about this whole thing to me."
The 1995 verdict divided US opinion along racial lines, with most white people feeling that justice had not been done.
Mr Simpson was later found liable for the deaths in a civil trial and ordered to pay $33.5m in damages - money that has never been collected.
The BBC's Justin Webb in Washington says the civil trial result and America's constitutional freedom of speech rights have enabled people to openly say they believe Mr Simpson is a murderer.
Legal analyst Stan Goldman - no relation to the murdered man - says Mr Simpson was trying to get his revenge.
"Even if you view this as a confession, since Simpson can't be tried again, he's basically just thumbing his nose at the authorities and thumbing his nose at the Goldman family who he grew to hate during the course of the trial," he said.
Mr Simpson would have faced no further penalty as a result of the book or interview.
Updated: Monday, 20 November 2006 6:08 PM CST
Slippery serpent scares suburbanites
Mon Nov 20, 8:57 AM ET
SINGAPORE, Nov 19 (Reuters Life!) - Police wielding a golf club failed to save Bella the terrier from the crushing grip of a 10-foot python, which killed the pooch in an upmarket Singapore apartment complex and then slithered away.
A resident had been walking two dogs on Wednesday evening when the slippery serpent struck, coiling itself around Bella, a 7-year-old Jack Russell, the Straits Times reported on Sunday.
Police soon arrived but lacked appropriate tools to battle snakes. Using a golf club, they tried for 20 minutes to loosen the python's embrace before it abandoned Bella's body and gave them the slip.
"My head is filled with the image of the snake around my yelping dog and I can't sleep," the paper quoted Bella's owner, Glenda Liu, as saying.
Liu and her partner were so distraught they were moving out of the condo for good on Sunday. They said they feared the snake could also attack children.
Pest control teams had failed to locate the serpent, the paper said.
Tropical Singapore, widely referred to as the "Garden City," often has problems with snakes.
Pythons in the city and neighboring Malaysia can grow to more than 23 feet, and feed on small creatures, such as birds or rats.
White House brushes off CIA draft on Iran: report
Mon Nov 20, 11:56 AM ET
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House dismissed a classified
CIA draft assessment that found no conclusive evidence of a secret Iranian nuclear weapons program, The New Yorker magazine reported.
The article by investigative journalist Seymour Hersh said the CIA's analysis was based on technical intelligence collected by satellites and on other evidence like measurements of the radioactivity of water samples.
"The CIA found no conclusive evidence, as yet, of a secret Iranian nuclear weapons program running parallel to the civilian operations that
Iran has declared to the
International Atomic Energy Agency," according to the article.
"A current senior intelligence official confirmed the existence of the CIA analysis, and told me that the White House had been hostile to it," it said.
The United States has accused Iran of pursuing nuclear weapons under the guise of a civilian energy program.
White House spokeswoman Dana Perino did not respond directly to Hersh's assertions, but said the article was another "error-filled piece" in a "series of inaccuracy-riddled articles about the Bush administration."
"The White House is not going to dignify the work of an author who has viciously degraded our troops, and whose articles consistently rely on outright falsehoods to justify his own radical views," she said on Monday.
The article, in the current issue of the magazine, discussed how Vice President
Dick Cheney believed the Bush administration would deal with Iran if the Republicans lost control of Congress -- as they did in the November 7 election.
"If the Democrats won on November 7th, the vice president said, that victory would not stop the administration from pursuing a military option with Iran," Hersh wrote, citing an unidentified source familiar with the discussion.
Mac fans buzzing about expected Apple "iPhone"
By Duncan Martell 53 minutes ago
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - The long-rumored arrival of a hybrid mobile phone and iPod music player from Apple Computer Inc. (Nasdaq:AAPL - news) has morphed from a question of "If" to "When" among fans and analysts.
Since Apple's introduction of the iPod five years ago, the company has sold more than 67 million of the devices and more than 1.5 billion songs from its iTunes online music store.
Now, Chief Executive
Steve Jobs and Apple are poised to roll out what has been dubbed the "iPhone," perhaps as soon as January next year at the Macworld conference that kicks off every new year, analysts say.
"From a technical standpoint, the phone is pretty much done," said American Technology Research analyst Shaw Wu. "It's a big endeavor and we believe it's beyond speculation."
Speculation has simmered since even before the introduction of the ROKR phone from Motorola Inc. (NYSE:MOT - news) that uses a slimmed-down version of the iTunes digital music jukebox to play 100 songs. But sales were lackluster as users complained the phone did not hold more songs.
In recent weeks, blogs that cater to Apple fans have been buzzing insistently that the iPhone is coming. Just this week, the Taiwanese financial daily, Commercial Times, reported that Taiwan-based Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. Ltd. (2317.TW) is building the iPhone.
"There is a lot of buzz," said Gartner analyst Mike McGuire. "But there are also a lot of things in the way that make it difficult. Which carrier and the like they use are not trivial challenges."
An Apple spokesman said the company does not comment on rumors or speculation.
Jobs and Apple are famously tight-lipped about unannounced products. But company Chief Financial Officer Peter Oppenheimer did hint about a possible mobile phone with iPod-like functions during a conference call with analysts in July to discuss third-quarter financial results.
'NOT SITTING AROUND DOING NOTHING'
Asked to comment on how Apple would compete with offerings such as Sony Corp.'s (6758.T)(NYSE:SNE - news) popular Walkman phone, Oppenheimer said he believed Apple would do just fine.
"We don't think that the phones that are available today make the best music players," he said. "We think the iPod is. But over time, that is likely to change. And we're not sitting around doing nothing."
Analyst Wu believes the iPhone would be a candy-bar-shaped phone, rather than a flip phone like Motorola's huge hit, the RAZR mobile phone.
And he believes the iPhone would not be too bogged down with all the bells and whistles often crammed into today's smart phones.
"I think it'll be pretty simple with functionality probably similar to an iPod Nano," Wu said. "It's going to be very similar to the Sony Walkman phone, which is very media-centric and that's Apple's strength."
The now-widely-expected iPhone is also a way for Apple to add yet another line of revenue to its business. Sales of the iPod, still far and away the No. 1 digital music player, have moderated somewhat recently and sales of Mac computers, now powered by Intel Corp. chips, have set records.
But with about a billion cell phones expected to be sold next year, if Apple can break into that market and be half as well received as its iPod was, it adds up to serious dollars.
Wu estimates that a 1 percent share of a billion unit market, with the iPhone carrying an average price tag of $200, could mean about $2 billion a year more for the Cupertino, California-based company.
But Apple needs to learn from the ROKR and introduce a real phone, not just a music player with a phone jammed in almost as an afterthought, analysts said.
"The key challenge here is if they were doing it, it has to be a very good phone and a good extension or subset of the iPod and iTunes software," McGuire said. "It's not just music. It would have to be a good media device."
One other not inconsiderable decision is what cell phone standard --
CDMA or GSM, for example -- the phone would use and whether Apple would link up with one mobile phone company to provide the service.
Some Mac watchers, such as site ThinkSecret, have mentioned Cingular as an early, exclusive winner. Still others say the phone will be sold with an Apple-branded MVNO, or mobile virtual network operator, in which Apple effectively leases excess capacity from other mobile service providers and resells it to customers.
"The other thing is finding a set of carriers or an ecosystem where they wouldn't need to be dependent on the carriers," McGuire said. "But they've won over tough audiences before, like the music labels."
Mexico leftist to swear in as "legitimate president"
By Kieran Murray 1 hour, 35 minutes ago
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico's leftist opposition leader was to swear in as "legitimate president" on Monday to revive his flagging campaign against a July election he says was rigged and to prevent his conservative rival from running the country.
Tens of thousands of supporters were expected to cram into Mexico City's vast Zocalo square to see Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador take an oath of office in a ceremony that has no legal weight but could mark the start of new street protests.
Ruling party conservative Felipe Calderon won the July 2 election by a razor-thin margin and Mexico's top election court threw out Lopez Obrador's claims of massive fraud,
The leftist crippled central Mexico City for several weeks after the election by setting up protests camps, but his campaign has since faded.
At his swearing-in ceremony on the anniversary of the start of the Mexican Revolution in 1910, Lopez Obrador will detail his plans to run a parallel government and may call for new protests against Calderon.
Lawmakers from his Party of the Democratic Revolution have vowed to prevent Calderon from taking office in the Chamber of Deputies on December 1, and Lopez Obrador says his rival cannot rest easy.
"He knows that he didn't win, that he is the product of an electoral fraud. That can not give him peace of mind. No matter how cynical he is, he can not feel secure," Lopez Obrador said in an interview in the La Jornada newspaper on Monday. "Calderon is the lowly servant of the white-collar criminals."
Federal police have already set up barricades around the Chamber of Deputies to prevent Lopez Obrador's supporters from setting up new protest camps there in coming days.
The election highlighted a deep class divide in Mexico.
Lopez Obrador campaigned for president on promises to attack poverty, end two decades of free-market reforms and create jobs with ambitious public works programs.
While he drew strong support from the poor, many business leaders and middle-class Mexicans feared he would put the country in debt and scare off investment.
Washington was concerned Lopez Obrador would put Mexico in an anti-U.S. group of Latin American nations led by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Cuban leader
In contrast, Calderon plans to continue the pro-business policies of outgoing President
Vicente Fox and is likely to be a firm ally of the United States.
In the weeks after the July election, about a third of Mexicans believed Lopez Obrador was robbed of victory, but that number has apparently declined in recent months.
A poll in the Reforma newspaper on Monday showed that 56 percent of those questioned oppose his decision to name himself "legitimate president" while just 19 percent back him.
"He is a clown. He lost and it's time he recognized it," office worker Veronica Bernal said as she ate breakfast at a cafe in an affluent Mexico City neighborhood.
Lopez Obrador's backers insist they will not give up.
"He was a hope for a lot of people. That's why they committed fraud," said Victor Saavedra, a construction worker who planned to attend Lopez Obrador's swearing-in ceremony even though he believes Calderon will be able to take office. "I don't think it will change, but what they did is not right."
New York Times
Tyler Hicks/The New York Times
By MANNY FERNANDEZ
Published: November 20, 2006
The seismic station is overseen by Benjamin C. Crooker, associate professor of physics.
There, in an underground vault at Fordham University, a small steel cylinder picked up the tremor. This little device and generations of its predecessors have been recording the rumblings of the earth for nearly 100 years at the Jesuit university. Since 1910, when a chemistry instructor, the Rev. Edward P. Tivnan, installed a seismograph in the basement of the administration building, Fordham has been the site of the oldest seismic station in New York City.
It is an unlikely place to measure the earth’s vibrations: inside a musty room 28 feet below the comings and goings of a borough of 1.3 million known for many things, but not tectonic activity. Yet over the years the university’s William Spain Seismic Observatory has become a respected if little-known registrar of the world’s natural and unnatural trembling, including earthquakes, China’s first atomic explosion in 1964 and the more local seismic occurrences, Grand Central-bound trains.
In Father Tivnan’s time, quakes were recorded on a Wiechert seismograph, a pendulum contraption with levers, kerosene-smoked paper and a 180-pound weight balanced on a rod.
The Wiechert was succeeded by more advanced machines, the latest being a CMG-3TD, a computerized seismometer made by Guralp Systems that resembles a giant coffee thermos.
The station opened in 1924 and sits at the edge of a wide lawn in the center of campus, next to Freeman Hall, home of the department of physics. That Gothic stone building looks more like a country chapel than a seismic station.
There is no need to walk softly around it, though long ago the instruments were deemed so sensitive that the grass outside the observatory was trimmed not by machine, but by horse.
The tall wooden door of Freeman Hall bears a gift from Pope Pius XI, a bronze plaque emblazoned with an image of St. Emidio, the divine protector against earthquakes.
Inside, down a steep flight of steps, rests the CMG-3TD, on a block of concrete poured onto the bedrock below, when the station was first built. The only sound in the dimly lighted room comes from the whir of a dehumidifier in a corner.
The cylinder is about a foot tall. The black handle on top sends a mixed message: Touching is strictly prohibited. Its steel panels prevent anyone from peeking inside. It makes no noise, not even when it detects a quake that has split roads and walls on another continent.
This is the irony of the machine in an earthquake. As the world shifts, the parts of its sensors that are suspended remain still, and the part of its sensors attached to the outer frame move. It is stillness and movement, together.
“It’s a beautifully engineered thing — not that I’ve ever seen the inside of it,” said Benjamin C. Crooker, an associate professor of physics.
Professor Crooker supervises the seismometer and looks after the observatory, which is named in honor of William Spain, a physics student who died in 1922 and whose father donated the money to build the station.
For more than 60 years, the observatory’s keeper was the Rev. J. Joseph Lynch, an earthquake expert whom students, city officials and reporters frequently consulted for seismic instruction and information. “Earthquakes are like snakes,” he told a reporter for The New York Times in 1952. “They avoid people more than is generally realized.”
In 1960, a typical year, Father Lynch recorded about 250 large earthquakes. A beam of light traced the quakes’ signatures onto rolls of photographic paper.
Over the years, the Fordham machines picked up construction blasts, Bronx traffic, a 6 a.m. milk train rushing past the nearby Fordham train station and the curious lines left on the photographic paper by unwelcome visitors — spiders — that had crawled onto the instruments.
Jesuits, known for centuries for their interest in the natural sciences, were instrumental in the development of seismology, and Father Lynch was one in a long line of Jesuit seismologists whose faith in God infused his work. In the early 1950s, he conducted seismic tests in Rome to help the Vatican search for the tomb of St. Peter.
Some of Father Lynch’s old seismometers, now out of service, are on display in the station, on concrete blocks near the more modern device.
Updated: Monday, 20 November 2006 9:22 AM CST
Peruvians fret over erotic theme park
By CARLA SALAZAR, Associated Press Writer Sat Nov 18, 10:17 PM ET
HUAYRE, Peru - When Peruvian officials set out to spread the wealth, they probably didn't mean mayors should build extravagant town halls and heated swimming pools.
And they almost certainly didn't expect this wind-swept hamlet high on the Andean plateau to spend its windfall on an erotic sculpture park.
The sexually explicit creations in this isolated village 100 miles northeast of the capital have become the focus of a furor over public spending that is dominating Sunday's nationwide local elections and posing a political headache for President Alan Garcia just four months after he was elected in a stunning comeback.
The original idea was to increase revenue-sharing from surging prices for gold, copper, zinc and other minerals, and indeed, municipalities in the mountains and jungles have seen their income from taxes on mining rise more than 1,000 percent in recent years, to nearly $1 billion this year.
But the extravagances prompted by the cash bonanza have raised fears of a voter backlash that will elect a more radical brand of leadership from outside the established political system.
People in Huayre are bemused by the uproar. National rulers, they figure, have been squandering their riches for centuries, so what's the big deal if Mayor Wenceslao Alderete hoped to attract tourists by gracing the village's central plaza with outsized images of genitalia and of the maca root, a tuber traditionally consumed as an aphrodisiac?
The federal government had hoped for more attention to priorities in communities like Huayre, which still lacks paved streets or a sewage system — typical among Andean towns in a country where half the population lives on less than $2 a day.
Alderete, an independent who is not running for re-election, said he is aware that his $158,000 park is being skewered in the media as typical of towns that are misspending their money.
But he says it's the job of the regional government, not the mayor's office, to build infrastructure such as sewer systems so that people don't have to rely on outdoor toilets.
"It pains me to watch my fellow villagers having to take care of their bodily needs that way," he said.
Long governed by strong central regimes, Peru moved to create autonomous regional governments and give them more revenue following the 2001 ouster of
Alberto Fujimori's corruption-ridden administration.
But many local officials have yet to learn how to handle the newfound power and cash, said Eduardo Ballon, a senior analyst at Peru's Desco think tank.
"There is a wealth of deep-seated problems that cannot be hidden, one of which has to do with the lack of training at the local government level and the limitations for fulfilling functions and duties," he said.
Garcia's center-left Aprista party was the big winner in 2002 regional elections, taking about half of the 24 regional governments. But analysts predict his party will lose much of that ground Sunday, particularly in the isolated, often lawless, southern and central Andean highlands.
Garcia himself triumphed in June, shaking off the legacy of his chaotic, inflation-racked first administration in 1985-90 to win a second term as president.
Now he stands to lose ground in the provinces because independents with no direct ties to any national party are expected to become the new caudillos, or strongmen.
"Without a doubt that poses an even greater danger," said Juan Carlos Cortes, director of Citizens Up to Date, a watchdog group in Lima that has tracked spending by local governments.
"New caudillos are appearing," Cortes said. "The principal issue is, how do we provide sufficient information to the citizens themselves so they can demand certain standards from these new mayors or new regional presidents?"
In Huayre, meanwhile, the citizenry seems to be taking its unusual park in stride, still dreaming of a tourist influx pouring down the Central Highway past the village.
"To me, this is the best park in the zone along the highway," said Jesus Rupay, 38. "There was even an American couple who came riding through on a bicycle."
Updated: Monday, 20 November 2006 9:24 AM CST
Calif. couple calls for orgasm for peace
By MARCUS WOHLSEN, Associated Press Writer Sun Nov 19, 9:05 PM ET
SAN FRANCISCO - Two peace activists have planned a massive anti-war demonstration for the first day of winter.
But they don't want you marching in the streets. They'd much rather you just stay home.
The Global Orgasm for Peace was conceived by Donna Sheehan, 76, and Paul Reffell, 55, whose immodest goal is for everyone in the world to have an orgasm Dec. 22 while focusing on world peace.
"The orgasm gives out an incredible feeling of peace during it and after it," Reffell said Sunday. "Your mind is like a blank. It's like a meditative state. And mass meditations have been shown to make a change."
The couple are no strangers to sex and social activism. Sheehan, no relation to anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan, brought together nearly 50 women in 2002 who stripped naked and spelled out the word "Peace."
The stunt spawned a mini-movement called Baring Witness that led to similar unclothed demonstrations worldwide.
The couple have studied evolutionary psychology and believe that war is mainly an outgrowth of men trying to impress potential mates, a case of "my missile is bigger than your missile," as Reffell put it.
By promoting what they hope to be a synchronized global orgasm, they hope to get people to channel their sexual energy into something more positive.
The couple said interest appears strong, with 26,000 hits a day to their Web site, http://www.globalorgasm.org.
"The dream is to have everyone in the world (take part)," Reffell said. "And if that means laying down your gun for a few minutes, then hey, all the better."
Bush glimpses Vietnam war's unfinished business
By Matt Spetalnick Sat Nov 18, 1:58 AM ET
HANOI (Reuters) - For all the talk of laying to rest the ghosts of a wartime past,
President George W. Bush had a grim reminder on Saturday of some of America's unfinished business from the Vietnam war.
Taking a break from diplomacy on the second day of his trip to Vietnam, Bush visited the joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, where U.S. experts are working to find and identify the remains of American war dead.
It was only a brief stop for Bush, the second post-war U.S. president to visit Vietnam. Bush has made clear that rather than dwelling on old animosities, he wants to focus on Vietnam as an emerging trade partner and economic success story.
In keeping with that approach, Bush asked few questions of his military briefers as he moved briskly and almost without expression from one display to another in the courtyard of a two-storey colonial-style building housing the U.S. mission.
But the nature of their work was clear. Laid out before him was a rusted helmet, a dilapidated machinegun, a rotted combat boot and even plaster replicas of human bones investigators have unearthed at sights across Southeast Asia.
One officer told Bush how the Vietnamese military, once a deadly foe, now transports U.S. teams on giant Russian-made transport helicopters when they need to excavate remote sites.
Bush brought up the issue of MIAs, the official term for the more than 1,500 service members still listed as missing in action in Vietnam, with the country's Communist leaders in talks on Friday dominated by talk of trade and economics.
"He thanked the Vietnamese for strong cooperation," White House spokesman Tony Snow said.
Accounting for America's missing from the war, in which some 58,000 Americans and three million Vietnamese died, has been a top priority of U.S. veterans' groups who have pressured successive post-war administrations.
Bill Clinton, who in 2000 became the first U.S. president to visit Vietnam, made Vietnamese help in the search a key condition for normalizing relations in 1995.
Bush's visit stood in sharp contrast to the trip by Clinton, a fellow baby boomer who never fought in Vietnam and focused his tour on healing old wounds.
Clinton was taken to a field near Hanoi where workers searched for a pilot shot down in 1967. Then he attended the ceremonial repatriation of the remains of several servicemen. He also met Vietnamese children maimed by some of the millions of land mines left over from decades of war.
Confronted with his own unpopular war in
Iraq, Bush has tried to avoided such imagery in Vietnam.
But wherever he goes, Bush is shadowed by the ubiquitous image of revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh, who for many years to Americans was the face of the enemy, and as he left the MIA center his motorcade passed by Ho's temple-like tomb.
In a city like Hanoi, the old North Vietnamese capital struck regularly by U.S. bombers, the reminders of what is known in Vietnam as the American War are hard to avoid.
Updated: Saturday, 18 November 2006 10:56 AM CST
People with vicious dogs may be vicious too -study
Thu Nov 16, 7:29 PM ET
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - People who own vicious dogs such as pit bulls have significantly more criminal convictions -- including crimes against children -- than owners of licensed, gentler dogs such as beagles, researchers reported on Thursday.
A study of 355 dog owners in Ohio showed that every owner of a high-risk breed known for aggression had at least one brush with the law, from traffic citations to serious criminal convictions.
And 30 percent of people who owned an aggressive breed of dog and who also had been cited at least once for failure to register it had at least five criminal convictions or traffic citations.
This compared to 1 percent of owners of low-risk, licensed dogs such as poodles, beagles or collies, the researchers reported in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence.
"Owners of vicious dogs who have been cited for failing to register a dog (or) failing to keep a dog confined on the premises ... are more than nine times more likely to have been convicted for a crime involving children, three times more likely to have been convicted of domestic violence ... and nearly eight times more likely to be charged with drug (crimes) than owners of low-risk licensed dogs," said Jaclyn Barnes of Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.
Barnes and colleagues used public records to check on the criminal pasts of dog owners.
They used agreed definitions of vicious dogs used in writing local ordinances. "A 'vicious dog" means a dog that, without provocation, has killed or caused serious injury to any person, has killed another dog, or belongs to a breed that is commonly known as a pit bull dog," they wrote in their report.
The definition excludes dogs used in law enforcement or dogs protecting an owner or property.
Aggressive breeds identified by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and some insurance companies include pit bulls, rottweilers, akitas and chows.
The most frequent low-risk breeds seen in the study included terriers, beagles, collies and poodles.
"One can argue that choosing to own a vicious dog is a marker of social deviance because a vicious dog is, by definition, a socially deviant animal," said Barbara Boat, director of The Childhood Trust at the University of Cincinnati, who worked on the study.
The researchers said their findings could be useful for social and law enforcement workers.
"We suggest, regardless of dog breed, that failure to license a dog is a potential warning sign of other deviant behaviour," they wrote.
Annan Faults ‘Frightening Lack of Leadership’ for Global Warming
By JEFFREY GETTLEMAN
Published: November 16, 2006
NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov. 15 — Secretary General Kofi Annan on Wednesday put the blame for global warming on “a frightening lack of leadership,” saying the poorest people in the world, who do not even create much pollution, bear the brunt of rising temperatures.
“The impact of climate change will fall disproportionately on the world’s poorest countries, many of them here in Africa,” Mr. Annan said in a speech to a major climate conference here. “Poor people already live on the front lines of pollution, disaster and the degradation of resources and land.
“For them,” the United Nations leader said, “adaptation is a matter of sheer survival.”
When pressed at a news conference afterward about his comments on poor leadership, Mr. Annan denied that he was singling out the United States, the world’s biggest source of the smokestack and tailpipe gases that are linked by most scientists to rising temperatures. The United States is also one of the few countries that has not ratified the Kyoto Protocol, the first treaty setting limits on the heat-trapping pollutants.
“My speech was not directed at a particular individual or leader,” Mr. Annan said. “I just want leaders around the world to show courage, because this is one of the greatest challenges of our time.”
Among other issues, negotiators at the climate conference are exploring how to set new emissions limits for the period after 2012, when Kyoto’s terms expire. Bush administration officials have said the United States has no plans to accept any binding limits.
The delegation from the United States, meanwhile, denied that it was part of the leadership failure that Mr. Annan spoke about.
Paula J. Dobriansky, the under secretary of state for democracy and global affairs, said Wednesday that “we think the United States has been leading in its groundbreaking initiatives.” She listed several measures, including financial incentives for businesses to reduce pollution and strict domestic rules that she said had helped in the fight against global warming.
Each year thousands of environmental experts, government officials and activist groups gather for a nearly two-week-long conference on how to battle global warming.
This year’s conference in Nairobi, partly because it has drawn so many Africans, has focused on the possibility that those least responsible for pollution-induced climate change may suffer the most from it. Africa, one of the least industrialized areas in the world, is a case in point.
The herders of Kenya’s grassy plains, for example, whose total pollution basically boils down to their cooking fires and the few cigarettes they smoke, are being displaced by increasingly frequent droughts, which many scientists blame at least partly on global warming.
Malaria, one of Africa’s leading killers, is spreading to higher altitudes because of rising temperatures. The Sahara is expanding, turning farmland into desert and contributing to conflicts like the one in the Darfur region of Sudan. And the list goes on.
“Africa faces some of the fiercest effects of climate change,” Kenya’s president, Mwai Kibaki, said in a speech on Wednesday at the climate conference. He said warmer temperatures could destroy agriculture and tourism, two of Kenya’s brightest hopes for a way out of poverty.
The emphasis on poor countries has led to another running theme at this year’s climate caucus: adaptation. Experts and politicians concede that so much carbon dioxide, one of the dominant heat-trapping gases, has already accumulated in the atmosphere that the world must accept global warming and figure out how to adapt to it.
“For too long the international community focused almost exclusively on mitigation,” said Kivutha Kibwana, Kenya’s environmental minister, who is president of the conference. “Let Nairobi be the starting point whereby adaptation and mitigation efforts go hand in hand.”
The conference has succeeded in establishing the broad outlines of an adaptation fund that calls for industrialized countries to help poor countries deal with the adverse effects of climate change through measures like relocating coastal people displaced by floods.
Though the fund is still tiny, around $3 million, United Nations officials say that it will grow rapidly and that there is now a plan for how to manage it. Each country will get one vote, which will give the developing world a larger voice than that of industrialized nations.
Still, much work remains, and the conference ends Friday. One bogged-down proposal is the effort to limit the average global temperature increase to 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit or so, which may not sound like much but would significantly change the environment. In the past century, average global temperatures have risen about 1 degree.
Even moderate projections of warming under current emissions trends foresee four or five times that temperature increase by 2100, accompanied by a substantial rise in sea levels and disruption of climate patterns and water supplies.
Earlier this week, a group of island nations objected to the 3.5-degree ceiling, saying that even that would be too high for them to bear, because of all the flooding.
Participants were also divided over the idea of a carbon dioxide tax. On Wednesday the president of Switzerland, Moritz Leuenberger, proposed using such a tax to finance adaptation programs. The tax would serve the dual purpose of discouraging rich countries from polluting and helping poor countries deal with the consequences of pollution.
“This is not a fight against nature,” Mr. Leuenberger said. “It is a battle against shortsighted egoism.”
Andrew C. Revkin contributed reporting from New York.