Rwanda cuts diplomatic ties with France
By Arthur Asiimwe Fri Nov 24, 12:38 PM ET
KIGALI (Reuters) - Rwanda broke off diplomatic ties with France on Friday in protest at a French judge's call for President Paul Kagame to stand trial over the killing of a former leader, the event which unleashed the country's genocide.
Kigali's foreign affairs minister Charles Murigande said the government had given France's ambassador to Rwanda 24 hours to leave the central African country and told other French diplomats to go within 72 hours. A Rwandan statement earlier on Friday had accused France of trying to topple the government.
"We in the cabinet have decided to cut our diplomatic relations with France," he told Reuters. Rwanda has also recalled its ambassador from Paris
France said it regretted Rwanda's decision.
"Rwandan authorities told our ambassador in Kigali verbally today of their decision to break off diplomatic ties, with the decision taking effect on Monday, November 27," the French foreign ministry said in a statement.
"We regret this decision," the ministry said, adding: "We are taking all the necessary measures."
Thousands of Rwandans protested in the capital on Thursday after anti-terrorism judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere issued arrest warrants for nine associates of Kagame over the 1994 shooting down of a plane carrying former President Juvenal Habyarimana.
The accusations have infuriated the Kagame government which calls them a cover-up for France's alleged role in training soldiers who carried out the genocide.
Bruguiere's investigation followed a complaint by the families of the French crew flying Habyarimana's plane and the leader's widow Agathe.
The crash, which Hutu extremists blamed on Tutsis, was used to fan the flames of ethnic hatred and launch a slaughter of 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus over 100 days.
Kagame, a Tutsi, is revered by many genocide survivors because his rebel army, the Rwandan Patriotic Front, defeated the Hutu extremists in a march across the country to Kigali.
Rwanda said France was trying to bring down its government.
"For the last 12 years, France has waging both overt and covert war against the government of Rwanda hoping to overthrow it and re-instate to power allies and perpetrators of the genocide," a foreign ministry statement said.
Rwanda was a Belgian colony until independence in 1962. France maintained close links with the Francophone country from 1975 to 1994, providing financial and military support to Habyarimana's government.
Rwanda last month launched a probe into France's alleged role in the genocide. It accused France of backing Habyarimana's government and training soldiers it knew were plotting to commit the massacres. Paris denies the charges.
Bruguiere said there was evidence Kagame and his military staff devised the operation to shoot down Habyarimana's plane, which was hit by a missile in April 1994. There were three French crew members on the plane.
Kagame has immunity under French law but Bruguiere urged the U.N. tribunal on Rwanda's genocide to try him.
French Foreign Ministry spokesman Jean-Baptiste Mattei said: "Judge Bruguiere has filed international arrest warrants but he did this on his own authority and in total independence."
Last Updated: Friday, 24 November 2006, 16:00 GMT
UN finds mass graves in DR Congo
UN investigators in the Democratic Republic of Congo say they have found mass graves with about 30 bodies in an army camp in the east of the country.
The dead included women and children who appeared to have been murdered, a UN spokesman said. He believed they had disappeared in the last few months.
The authorities have arrested two soldiers in connection with the finding in the town of Bavi in Ituri district.
The army has been deployed in the area to stop fighting between local militia.
The discovery comes amid continued uncertainty in the capital Kinshasa following the re-election of incumbent leader Joseph Kabila in presidential elections.
The finds followed a tip-off from a military witness, military prosecutor John Penza said.
He said two army officers had been arrested in connection with the discovery.
"There are bodies of men, of women, of children, some still not decomposed. It is horrible," he added.
A UN spokesman said witnesses had accused the Congolese army of involvement.
"There are witnesses who directly accuse the First Brigade, which is based there (in Ituri), of being responsible," Kemal Saiki said.
Correspondents say the First Brigade is one of several Congolese army brigades made up of fighters from factions who fought in Congo's 1998 - 2003 war.
Violence continues in the east and north of the country, despite the presence of thousands of UN peacekeeping troops.
Ituri, on the Ugandan border, is one of the most volatile regions because of intense rebel activity.
The Lendu and Hema ethnic groups are at war in the area, where Uganda's influence is strong.
German police get their phoney U.S. Highway Patrolman
Fri Nov 24, 6:25 AM ET
BERLIN (Reuters) - German traffic police were shocked to see a California Highway Patrol car cruising along the motorway, driven by a man dressed as an authentic American cop, authorities said Thursday.
But they recovered sufficiently to book the 35-year-old Goettingen resident, whose uniform badge read "T.J. Lazer," for possessing a replica Smith & Wesson revolver without a licence and having out-of-date registration plates. "He was sitting at the wheel with his elbow on the window like in the best TV crime series," said Osthessen police spokesman Martin Schaefer.
"Because wearing such a uniform in public is also prohibited, he had to exchange it for civilian dress after a shopping trip with 'real' colleagues," he added.
The man told police he had been taking the 30-year-old vehicle to Bavaria to sell it and wanted to impress the buyer.
Moscow out to harm NATO with release of files: Latvia
By Patrick McLoughlin 2 hours, 4 minutes ago
RIGA (Reuters) - Latvia said on Friday Moscow's release of documents stating the United States and Britain gave tacit approval to Soviet occupation of the Baltics was an attempt to sour
NATO relations ahead of next week's summit.
Russia's foreign intelligence service SVR this week released declassified files and said in a statement the West regarded the removal of pro-German influences from the Baltics and occupation by Soviet forces "a necessary and timely step."
Latvia on Friday attacked the timing of the release ahead of the November 28-29 summit of NATO leaders.
The subject of the Soviet occupation of the Baltics, in 1940 and resumed again in 1944 after the Germans were driven out, is an emotionally-charged one in the region.
"First, this is an attempt to indirectly disrupt relations between our countries," Foreign Minister Artis Pabriks told Reuters. "Second, it looks like they are trying to find someone to share the guilt with, which would anyway fall on Russia."
Latvia will welcome 26 heads of state, including
President Bush, and 5,000 guests to its capital Riga for the first meeting of the alliance on ex-Soviet soil.
Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga hailed the summit as a chance to banish the last bitter memories of Soviet dominance.
Lithuania and Estonia had little response on Friday to the SVR statement. Officials in the two nations called it a matter for historians, not politicians.
However, former Lithuanian President and member of the European Parliament, Vytautas Landsbergis, said the move was a calculated one by Moscow.
"It is an attempt to discredit Russia's critics from the new EU and NATO member states, which suffered from the Soviet occupation," he said.
According to the statement, the declassified documents related to events in the Baltic in the pre-war years and during the "Great Patriotic War."
"The removal of pro-German regimes in the Baltics and the arrival of Soviet forces in the region in that military-political situation, when Europe was faced with the question "to be or not to be," was seen in Western democracies as unpleasant, but without doubt a necessary and timely step," the Russian statement said.
The Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia achieved their independence from the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, after decades of often brutal rule by Moscow.
"There was nothing the UK or the U.S. could have done to assist us against the occupation of our country," Latvia's Foreign Minister Pabriks said on Friday.
(Additional reporting by Tom Miles in Moscow)
Carlyle group plans $5.5 bln bid for Taiwan's ASE
By Sinead Carew and Sheena Lee Fri Nov 24, 1:23 PM ET
NEW YORK/TAIPEI (Reuters) - A private equity consortium led by The Carlyle Group (CYL.UL) is planning to make a $5.5 billion bid for the world's biggest microchip packaging firm, Advanced Semiconductor Engineering Inc. (ASE) (2311.TW) (NYSE:ASX - news), the companies said on Friday.
At T$39 a share, the potential Carlyle bid represents a 10 percent premium to Taiwan-based ASE's Friday closing price of T$35.5 a share, and values the firm at about T$179 billion ($5.46 billion), according to Reuters data.
The American depositary shares of ASE, which encases silicon chips in plastic packages so they can be connected to circuit boards, rose nearly 15.2 percent to $6.06 in New York trading on Friday.
The move is the latest sign of private equity interest in the chip industry, after Freescale Semiconductor Inc. (NYSE:FSL - news) agreed in September to a $17.6 billion leveraged buyout to a group that also included Carlyle.
Private equity firms, which look for steady cash flow and long-term growth prospects, are investing in the maturing semiconductor industry as it goes through a phase of slower but steadier growth.
"As a Carlyle affiliated entity, ASE would be in a position to better take advantage of accelerating global outsourcing trends for semiconductor assembly and testing services," Carlyle said in a statement.
The private equity firm said ASE would benefit from being under the same ownership as Carlyle's other microchip properties, which include Toshiba Ceramics, Jazz Semiconductor and AZ Electronics.
ASE said its chief executive, Jason Chang, has agreed to roll his stake in the company into a bid by the consortium, subject to some conditions. Chang and his affiliated holding company, ASE Enterprises Ltd., hold about 18.4 percent of ASE.
The company said it had not yet approved a bid.
"Discussions between ASE and the consortium have not been completed, and there can be no assurance that an offer will ultimately be made by the consortium or what the ultimate terms of such an offer would be," ASE said in a statement.
ASE counts ATI Technologies, Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq:QCOM - news) and Freescale among its major clients. It competes with smaller Taiwan rival Siliconware Precision Industries Ltd. (2325.TW) (Nasdaq:SPIL - news), U.S.-based Amkor Technology Inc. (Nasdaq:AMKR - news) and Singapore's STATS ChipPAC Ltd. (STTS.SI).
Last month ASE said its third-quarter profit more than doubled on recovering chip demand, but it forecast weaker sales and falling profit margins in the fourth quarter.
ASE's 2006 net profit is forecast to increase by a quarter to T$18.28 trillion, according to Reuters Estimates.
Its forecast earnings per share is T$3.93, making the bid about 10 times forecast earnings, similar to Siliconware.
Carlyle also said its planned bid illustrates the firm's confidence in Taiwan, where it has been an active investor since 1999. Its other investments there include Taiwan Broadband Communications and Eastern Multimedia Corp.
Earlier this week, U.S. electronics component maker Jabil Circuit Inc. (NYSE:JBL - news) said it planned to buy Taiwan's Green Point Enterprises Co. (3007.TW) for around $881 million.
(Additional reporting by Megan Davies in New York and Jean Yoon and Ian Geoghegan in Singapore)
Armed cartoonist forces Miami paper to evacuate
By Jim Loney 1 hour, 17 minutes ago
MIAMI (Reuters) - An armed cartoonist with an apparent grudge against his editor entered the headquarters of the Miami Herald on Friday and forced the newspaper to evacuate its bayfront building before surrendering, police said.
The man, who was armed with what police described as an automatic machine pistol and wearing camouflage, was identified by employees as Jose Varela, a free-lance cartoonist who had worked for the Herald's Spanish-language sister publication, El Nuevo Herald.
He surrendered to police without firing a shot after a three-hour standoff, during which he trashed the office of the El Nuevo Herald editor on the otherwise deserted sixth floor, police said.
Miami Police spokesman Delrish Moss said Varela apparently had "a beef with a particular editor there," and Police Chief John Timoney said he carried "some kind of automatic machine pistol" with 30 rounds of ammunition.
Miami Herald Executive Editor Tom Fiedler said the man apparently believed the newspaper was not being properly run.
El Nuevo reporter Rui Ferreira said in an Internet Web log site that he had spoken to the gunman at the start of the siege and was told, "You are speaking to the new director of the newspaper and I am going to unmask all of the true conflicts in the newspaper."
Varela called the newspaper a "pigsty," said it made fun of the Cuban exile community in Miami and that it paid poorly.
"They've been making fun of people long enough and today they will see it end in violence. But someone has to pay and that person is going to be (Humberto) Castello." he said, referring to the Spanish-language paper's executive editor.
Ferreira said Varela had been in the newsroom a week ago and told former colleagues he had bought a sawed-off shotgun and an Uzi submachine gun because he felt unsafe in Jupiter, a Florida town he moved to after his recent divorce.
Acquired by McClatchy Co. last June in its more than $4 billion purchase of Knight Ridder Inc., both the Herald and El Nuevo Herald have seen their share of controversy and drama.
The Spanish language newspaper fired several reporters in September after the English language Herald reported that they also were being paid by the U.S. government-funded Radio and TV Marti to help undermine Cuban President
The revelation touched off a furious debate about journalistic ethics.
Bombarded by criticism from angry Cuban Americans who argued that opposing Castro was the duty of all Cuban exiles, and that there was therefore nothing unethical about receiving U.S. government money for anti-Castro broadcasts, publisher Jesus Diaz Jr. ordered the reporters to be reinstated and himself resigned in October.
Earlier this year El Nuevo Herald was found to have doctored a photo of prostitutes in Havana to make it look like Cuban police were in cahoots with the prostitutes.
Last year, former Miami city commissioner Arthur Teele shot and killed himself in the lobby of the Herald building, days after pleading not guilty to corruption charges.
(Additional reporting by Michael Christie)
Updated: Friday, 24 November 2006 4:20 PM CST
CIA Role Claim in Kennedy Killing
Tuesday 21 November 2006
New video and photographic evidence that puts three senior CIA operatives at the scene of Robert Kennedy's assassination has been brought to light.
The evidence was shown in a report by Shane O'Sullivan, broadcast on BBC Newsnight.
It reveals that the operatives and four unidentified associates were at the Ambassador Hotel, Los Angeles in the moments before and after the shooting on 5 June, 1968.
The CIA had no domestic jurisdiction and some of the officers were based in South-East Asia at the time, with no reason to be in Los Angeles.
Kennedy had just won the California Democratic primary on an anti-War ticket and was set to challenge Nixon for the White House when he was shot in a kitchen pantry.
A 24-year-old Palestinian, Sirhan Sirhan, was arrested as the lone assassin and notebooks at his house seemed to incriminate him.
However, even under hypnosis, he has never been able to remember the shooting and defence psychiatrists concluded he was in a trance at the time.
Witnesses placed Sirhan's gun several feet in front of Kennedy but the autopsy showed the fatal shot came from one inch behind.
Dr Herbert Spiegel, a world authority on hypnosis at Columbia University, believes Sirhan may have been hypnotically programmed to act as a decoy for the real assassin.
The report is the result of a three-year investigation by filmmaker Shane O'Sullivan. He reveals new video and photographs showing three senior CIA operatives at the hotel.
Three of these men have been positively identified as senior officers who worked together in 1963 at JMWAVE, the CIA's Miami base for its Secret War on Castro.
David Morales was Chief of Operations and once told friends:
"I was in Dallas when we got the son of a bitch and I was in Los Angeles when we got the little bastard."
Gordon Campbell was Chief of Maritime Operations and George Joannides was Chief of Psychological Warfare Operations.
Joannides was called out of retirement in 1978 to act as the CIA liaison to the Congressional investigation into the JFK assassination. Now, we see him at the Ambassador Hotel the night a second Kennedy is assassinated.
Monday, 20 November would have been Bobby Kennedy's 81st birthday. In Los Angeles, his son Max has just broken ground on a new high-school project in memory of his father on the old Ambassador Hotel site.
Paul Schrade, a key figure behind the school project, was walking behind Robert Kennedy that night and was shot in the head. He believes this new evidence merits fresh investigation:
"It seems very strange to me that these guys would be at a Kennedy celebration. What were they doing there? And why were they there? It's our obligation as friends of Bob Kennedy to investigate this."
Ed Lopez, a former Congressional investigator who worked with Joannides in 1978, says:
"I think the key people at the CIA need to go back to anybody who might have been around back then, bring them in and interview them, and ask - is this Gordon Campbell? Is this George Joannides?"
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Updated: Friday, 24 November 2006 1:21 AM CST
"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."
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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."