Thursday, December 16, 2010

Reuters: Cyber-Snitching Is Its Own Reward; Assange Out on Bail

Julian Assange, the founder of the controversial cyber-snitching organization WikiLeaks, celebrates his bail on the steps of London's High Court 16 December 2010: Stefan Wermuth/Reuters

(Story by Isabel Coles and Avril Ormsby)

(Reuters) - WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, fighting extradition to Sweden over alleged sex crimes, walked free on bail from a British jail on Thursday protesting his innocence and pledging to continue exposing official secrets.

A weary-looking Assange spoke to a crowd of journalists and supporters waiting in the snow outside Britain's High Court five hours after a judge said he could be released on 200,000 pounds ($312,000) bail under stringent conditions.

"It's great to smell fresh air of London again," Assange, illuminated by a blizzard of photographers' flashes, said.

"I hope to continue my work and continue to protest my innocence in this matter," said the 39-year-old Australian, flanked by his lawyers.

WikiLeaks has angered U.S. authorities by publishing hundreds of a trove of 250,000 U.S. diplomatic cables, including details of overseas installations that Washington regards as vital to its security.

Assange thanked "all the people around the world who have had faith in me," and the British justice system "where if justice is not always an outcome, at least it is not dead yet."

Assange, wearing a dark suit and open-necked white shirt, brandished court papers titled "Swedish Judicial Authority vs Julian Paul Assange." He was then driven away in a four-wheel-drive vehicle.

Assange has spent nine days in a London jail after Sweden issued an arrest warrant for him over allegations of sexual misconduct made by two female WikiLeaks volunteers. Assange denies the accusations.

(Click here to read the full story on the Reuters website.)

LA Times-Legendary Director Blake Edwards Dead at 88

Blake Edwards, one of the most versatile directors in the Hollywood pantheon and wife, actress Julie Andrews, in 2004: Fred Prouser/Reuters
(Story reported by Dennis McLellan for the Los Angeles Times)

Blake Edwards, a writer-director whose "Pink Panther" comedies with Peter Sellers earned him a reputation as a master of sophisticated slapstick comedy and whose legendary disputes with studio chiefs inspired his scathing Hollywood satire "S.O.B.," has died. He was 88.

Edwards, whose collaborations with his wife, Julie Andrews, included the 1982 comedy "Victor/Victoria," died of complications of pneumonia Wednesday evening at St. John's Health Center in Santa Monica, said Gene Schwam, Edwards' longtime publicist. Andrews and members of the immediate family were at his bedside.

A onetime minor movie actor who began writing for films and radio in the late 1940s and a decade later created the TV series "Peter Gunn" and "Mr. Lucky," Edwards launched his big-screen directing career in 1955.

He scored his first box-office hit with "Operation Petticoat," a 1959 comedy about a World War II submarine crew starring Cary Grant and Tony Curtis. But a turning point in Edwards' film career came in 1961 with "Breakfast at Tiffany's."

The light, sophisticated romantic comedy based on the Truman Capote novella earned Audrey Hepburn an Academy Award nomination for best actress. Composer Henry Mancini also won an Oscar for his score, and he and Johnny Mercer won Oscars for their memorable song "Moon River."

(Click here to read the full story on the LA Times website. May GOD Rest the soul of the great director Blake Edwards, and may HE bring HIS Comfort and Peace to Blake Edwards' family in their time of grief and need.)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Reuters-Sunni Suicide Bombers Attack Mosque In Iran; 39 Dead

photo credit: Reuters
(Story reported by Ramin Mostafavi and Hossein Jaseb for Reuters)

(Reuters) - Two suicide bomb attacks killed 39 people outside a mosque during a Shi'ite religious ceremony in southeastern Iran on Wednesday, a strike Jundollah rebels said was retaliation for the execution of their leader in June.

In a statement on its website, the Sunni Muslim group said it was responsible for the bombings outside the Imam Hussein Mosque in Chabahar, which also wounded more than 100 people.

"At least 39 people were martyred after two suicide bombings targeted Shi'ite mourners in front of a mosque in the town of Chabahar," Fariborz Ayati Firouzabadi, head of the Coroner's office in the province.

The bombings killed many children and women, who attended a Shi'ite religious ceremony to commemorate the death of Prophet Mohammad's grandson Hussein, state television reported, adding that the death toll was expected to increase.

The poor province of Sistan-Baluchistan, near Iran's border with Pakistan and Afghanistan, has been the scene of unrest with the mainly Sunni population claiming discrimination by the Shi'ite authorities.

Iran's Interior Minister Mostafa Mohammad-Najjar told state television that the attackers had links to neighbouring Pakistan and that an investigation was underway.

(Click here to read the full story on the Reuters website.)

NY Times-The GOP; The Crosswinds Of Strife At The Top

photo credit:
(Story reported by Michael D. Shear for the NY Times)

What do Republicans stand for?

As the first half of President Obama’s term comes to a close, three political realities are forcing Republicans to confront that question more directly, and producing interesting conflicts along the way.

The first reality is the assumption of power by Republicans in the House next year. After two years of being a political minority in Congress, the party’s lawmakers are showing signs of the disagreement that comes with the responsibility to lead.

The second reality is the presidential campaign that begins in earnest for Republicans as soon as Washington returns from the holidays next month. The search for a challenger to Mr. Obama is designed to highlight the differences among Republicans, and it’s already beginning to do so.

Tea Party lawmakers are the third political reality. The arrival in Washington of a significant number of lawmakers born out of that movement is already beginning to reshape the conversation in congress and on the campaign trail as Republicans adapt their rhetoric to a new political power at the grassroots.

All three have been on display as lawmakers have debated the tax compromise worked out by Mr. Obama and congressional Republicans. What began as an story about divisions inside the Democratic party has quickly become a vehicle for revealing the differences in political philosophy inside the Republican party.

On the floor of the Senate Tuesday, Republican Senator John Thune of South Dakota, a possible candidate for president, used the tax deal to take a not-so-subtle shot at one of his potential rivals.

“It’s easy to stand on the sidelines and criticize this proposal,” Mr. Thune said in remarks first reported by ABC News. “And it’s perhaps even politically expedient to stand on the sidelines and criticize this proposal.

But let me make one thing very clear Mr. President, advocating against this tax proposal is to advocate for a tax increase.”

Mr. Thune might have been referring to Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor, who opposes the tax compromise. But he may also have been sending a message to Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts and a likely candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. Mr. Romney had staked out his opposition to the tax deal in an article in USA Today on Tuesday.

(Click here to read the full story on the NY Times website.)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Reuters-Stick-Up Kid On Motorcycle Ganks The Bellagio For 1.5 Mil

Suspect believed to be the motorcycle bandit who robbed the Bellagio Casino in Las Vegas for 1.5 million dollars on 14 December 2010: Reuters/Las Vegas Police Department/Handout
(Story reported by Deena Beasley for Reuters)

(Reuters) - An armed man robbed a craps table at the Bellagio casino of about $1.5 million in chips on Tuesday before escaping on a motorcycle, Las Vegas police said.
A police spokeswoman said the unidentified suspect entered the casino at about 3:50 a.m. local time, wearing a full-face motorcycle helmet, and walked directly to a craps table.

"He pulled a gun, told everyone not to move and took approximately $1.5 million worth of casino chips. The suspect then ran back out to the motorcycle and exited westbound on Flamingo Boulevard," the spokeswoman said.

Police believe the same suspect may have robbed the Las Vegas Suncoast Casino poker room cashier last week.

In that incident, a suspect wearing a similar helmet got away with about $20,000 in chips.

MGM Resorts, which owns the Bellagio, confirmed the robbery occurred but declined to give further details.
Tuesday's incident was the 10th Las Vegas casino robbery this year, but it was unusual for its brazenness and the size of the haul.

(Click here to read the full story on the Reuters website.)

BBC News-U.S. Sources Say N.Korea Has Additional Uranium Site

The Yongbyon atomic site in North Korea: DigitalGlobe
(Story reported by BBC News)

North Korea has "at least one other" uranium enrichment site in addition to the one shown to US experts last month, the US State Department has said.

The country's enrichment programme "reflects work being done at at least one other site", a spokesman said.

A New York Times report quoted unnamed intelligence officials, saying North Korea was using "significantly more advanced" nuclear technology than Iran.

Enriched uranium can be used for nuclear fuel or made into weapons.

North Korea revealed what appeared to be a fully operational uranium enrichment plant at its Yongbyon atomic complex to US nuclear expert Siegfried Hecker on 12 November.

Officials in the US and South Korea have said in recent days the facility shown to the expert last month could not have been constructed so quickly if other secret sites or another completed uranium enrichment plant did not already exist in the country.

"We're very conscious of the fact that, in the recent revelations to American delegations, what they saw did not come out of thin air," US state department spokesman Philip Crowley said.

(Click here to read the full report on the BBC News website.) 

NY Tmes-Bail Delayed For Wiki-Leaker/Cyber-Snitcher Assange

Cyber-snitcher and Wiki Leaks founder Julian Assange: Oli Scarff/Getty Images
(Story reported by Ravi Somaiya and Alan Cowell)

LONDON — After a week in detention facing possible extradition, Julian Assange, the founder of the WikiLeaks antisecrecy group, was ordered released on $310,000 bail by a court on Tuesday as he challenges a Swedish prosecutor’s demand that he return to Stockholm for questioning about alleged sex offenses.

However, Mr. Assange remained in custody pending a hearing on an appeal by the prosecutor, which would take place within the next 48 hours.

In granting bail, Judge Howard Riddle ordered that Mr. Assange appear again in court on Jan. 11. He also said that between then and now he must reside at Ellingham Hall, a Georgian mansion in Bungay, in eastern England, owned by Vaughan Smith, the founder of a club for journalists. Mr. Assange must spend every night at the mansion and will be electronically tagged so the police can track his movements, the judge said.

Additionally, Mr. Assange will be under curfew every day from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and will be required to report daily to the police from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. His passport is already with the police and, under the terms of his bail, he is not permitted to travel abroad.

Judge Riddle said he granted bail on Tuesday, after denying it a week ago, because Mr. Assange was now able to provide an address where he would be staying. The judge described his earlier decision as “marginal” and said that Mr. Assange had now met that condition of his bail “handsomely.”

(Click here to read the full story on the NY Times website.)

Chicago Sun Times-Mayor of Springfield, Ill. Found Dead

Tom Davlin, mayor of Springfield, Ill. was found dead in his home on Tuesday, 14 December 2010: AP
(Story reported by The Associated Press)

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Illinois State Police are investigating the death of Springfield’s mayor, whose body was found in his home.

Police Chief Robert Williams says officers responded to a 911 call shortly before 9 a.m. Tuesday at Timothy Davlin’s home and found the Democratic mayor dead.

Williams declines to offer details about how Davlin died, saying the investigation is in its infancy.

Williams says Springfield police have turned over the matter to Illinois State Police, which declined to give details.

In October, the State Journal-Register in Springfield reported that Davlin owed the federal government nearly $90,000 in unpaid income taxes and liens had been filed against his home. The mayor then blamed the problem on a dispute with the IRS over taxes owed on investments he cashed in to buy the home.

(Click here to read the full story on the Chicago Sun Times website. May GOD Rest his soul and Comfort the mayor's family, friends, and constituency in their time of grief and need.)

Wash Po-U.S. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke Dies

U.S. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke:
(Story reported by Rajiv Chandrasekaran for the Washington Post)

Longtime U.S. diplomat Richard C. Holbrooke, whose relentless prodding and deft maneuvering yielded the 1995 Dayton peace accords that ended the war in Bosnia - a success he hoped to repeat as President Obama's chief envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan - died Monday in Washington of complications from surgery to repair a torn aorta. He was 69.

A foreign policy adviser to four Democratic presidents, Mr. Holbrooke was a towering, one-of-a-kind presence who helped define American national security strategy over 40 years and three wars by connecting Washington politicians with New York elites and influential figures in capitals worldwide. He seemed to live on airplanes and move with equal confidence through Upper East Side cocktail parties, the halls of the White House and the slums of Pakistan.

Obama praised him as "a true giant of American foreign policy who has made America stronger, safer and more respected. He was a truly unique figure who will be remembered for his tireless diplomacy, love of country, and pursuit of peace."

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in a statement that the United States "has lost one of its fiercest champions and most dedicated public servants."

(Click here to read the full story on the Washington Post website. May GOD Rest the soul of Ambassador Holbrooke, not only a dedicated diplomat and humanitarian, but a truly great human being. May GOD Bless Ambassador Holbrooke's family, friends, and associates with HIS Peace and Grace in their time of grief and need.)

Baltimore Sun-Six People Die in Ferocious House Fire In East Baltimore

Three adults and two children died in a devastating two-alarm fire on Homewood Avenue in East Baltimore: Baltimore Sun
(Story repoted by Liz F. Kay and Nick Madigan for the Baltimore Sun)

Three adults and three children are dead after a two-alarm fire in East Baltimore early Tuesday, according to fire officials.

Fire Department spokesman Kevin Cartwright said a blaze was reported at 4:45 a.m. in the 2300 block of Homewood Avenue, and units arrived just before 5 a.m. Firefighters entered the building but conditions deteriorated due to wind, he said, so the incident commanders ordered them to evacuate and fight the fire from outside.

"Wind intensified conditions," Cartwright said.

Once the fire was under control, firefighters performed search-and-rescue operations and discovered the bodies of six people, the spokesman said.

According to a relative, Elnor and Richard Satterfield died in the blaze, along with their granddaughter Tiara Gholston, 26, and her three children, Amari, 9, Darryon, 3, and Daelyn, 1.

Property records list Richard Satterfield and his wife as owners of the house. City schools spokeswoman said that a crisis team went to Cecil Elementary School this morning because one of the children was a student there.

The fire caused heavy damage to the Satterfields' house and another at the end of the block, in the East Baltimore Midway neighborhood just east of Greenmount Avenue and south of 25th Street. Two other houses next door were also damaged in the blaze.

Investigators are working to determine the cause of the fire and where it began, Cartwright said.

(Click here to read the full story on the Baltimore Sun. May GOD Rest the souls of the three adults and three children who passed away, and may HE Bless the mourning family members and loved ones with peace and comfort in their time of grief and need.)

Friday, December 10, 2010

NY Times-Pres.Obama and Clinton; Michael Seeks Vito's Advice...

President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton speak to the media at the White House on Friday, 10 December 2010: Drew Angerer/The NY Times
(Story reported by Michael D. Shear for the NY Times)

Former President Bill Clinton held a remarkable, spur-of-the-moment news conference at a White House podium on Friday to announce his backing for the tax compromise President Obama reached with Republicans this week.

Mr. Clinton and Mr. Obama turned up in the White House briefing room after meeting privately together in the Oval Office. Mr. Obama introduced the 42nd president and then stood by as the one-time occupant of the White House offered his thoughts.

“I have reviewed this agreement that the president reached with the Republican leaders,” Mr. Clinton told reporters who assembled quickly for the hastily called remarks. “The agreement taken as a whole is, I believe, the best bipartisan agreement we can reach to help the most Americans.”

The president stood by Mr. Clinton’s side for several minutes as Mr. Clinton held court in front of the White House logo that often hovered behind him a decade ago.

But after Mr. Clinton began taking questions, the current president excused himself, saying that his wife, Michelle, expected Mr. Obama’s presence at one of the many holiday parties that presidents host during the month of December.

“I’ve been keeping the first lady waiting,” Mr. Obama said, excusing himself.

“I don’t want to make her mad,” Mr. Clinton said. “Please go.”

And with that, Mr. Obama departed, leaving Mr. Clinton to continue his extended conversation with the media. The image on the television screen – of Mr. Clinton at the White House, behind the official podium – had a time-warp quality to it.

(Click here to read the full story on the NY Times website.)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Roll Call-Lawmaker In Dem. Caucus Meeting; "F--- The President"(?!!)

photo credit:
(Story reported by Annna Palmer for Roll

The frustration with President Barack Obama over his tax cut compromise was palpable and even profane at Thursday’s House Democratic Caucus meeting.

One unidentified lawmaker went so far as to mutter “f--- the president” while Rep. Shelley Berkley was defending the package the president negotiated with Republicans. Berkley confirmed the incident, although she declined to name the specific lawmaker.

“It wasn’t loud,” the Nevada Democrat said. “It was just expressing frustration from a very frustrated Member.”

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.) was also overheard saying that “we can’t trust him” not to cave to Republicans and extend the tax cuts again in two years, according to a Democratic source.

The anger aimed at the bill was widespread. As Democrats moved to block the bill from coming up on the floor, chants of “Just say no!” could be heard by reporters outside the room.

(Click here to read the full story on the Roll website.)

ABC News-Nixon; The Tricky Dick Monologues

Vice-President Richard M. Nixon sweating through his 1960 presidential debate with then Democratic candidate John F. Kennedy: NY Times/Associated Press

(Story reported by Sherisse Pham for ABC News)

The long slow release of audio tapes from the Nixon administration continued Thursday, with hundreds of new hours and thousands of pages of new documents.

“The North Vietnamese put us in an impossible situation,” Nixon said, in a taped Oval Office conversation, referring to the publicly unpopular Christmas bombings – the sweeping air strikes that took place over North Vietnam in mid-December of 1972.

“I think it was important to just whack ‘em, and say nothing, and that silence spoke louder than words,” he added.

The conversation took place on February 13, 1973, just months before the Senate Watergate committee would even learn of the existence of the White House recordings. The December air strikes had already become a cause célèbre for North Vietnam and American peace activists, sending Nixon hunting for support elsewhere.

“We need heroes Bob, the country needs heroes,” the president told entertainer Bob Hope in a phone call on March 15, 1973. Hope had flown to Vietnam to entertain troops on several occasions.

“The flag is flying high, let’s say that, ok?” Nixon continued. “For everybody, not just the POWs, the guys who died, the guys who served, and the United States served a good cause, and our, everybody in the world, our enemies respect us, our allies now trust us.”

The Nixon Library, run by the National Archives, posted 265 hours of White House tape recordings online Thursday and opened 2,500 pages of documents in its latest release of material from his administration.

Relative to Wikleaks’ instant unveiling of secret U.S state department cables, the release of Nixon’s tapes and documents are moving at a snail’s pace. It is now more than 40 years after the fact, and less than half of the reported 3,700 hours of White House conversations have been made public.

(Click here to read the full story on the ABC News website.)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Wash Po-President Obama To Critics; Fall Back

President Obama: AP
(Story reported by Scott Wilson, Felicia Sonmez, and David A. Farenthold for the Washington Post)

A defensive President Obama cast himself Tuesday as the guardian of middle-class Americans and the unemployed, saying sharply that he had to strike a deal with Senate Republicans over the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy in order to protect the fragile economic recovery.

Facing broad frustration from his party's liberal base and many Democrats on the Hill, Obama emphasized the portions of the compromise he reached the previous day that benefit middle class families and the jobless, whose government insurance would have expired without the deal.

Obama said he had little choice but to compromise because he has been unable to persuade Senate Republicans to maintain middle-class tax cuts without also extending the top-tier tax rates for another two years - even though a majority of Americans agree tax cuts on high incomes should end.

"A long political fight that carried over into next year might have been good politics, but it would be a bad deal for the economy and it would be a bad deal for the American people," Obama said during an afternoon news conference.

(Click here to read the full story on the Washington Post website.)

NY Times-Elizabeth Edwards; A Profile In Courage

Elizabeth Edwards: Jodi Hilton/NY Times
(Story reported by Robert D. McFadden for the NY Times)

Elizabeth Edwards, who as the wife of former Senator John Edwards gave America an intimate look at a candidate’s marriage by sharing his quest for the 2008 presidential nomination as she struggled with incurable cancer and, secretly, with his infidelity, died Tuesday morning at her home in Chapel Hill, N.C. She was 61.

Her family confirmed the death, saying Mrs. Edwards was surrounded by relatives when she died. A family friend said Mr. Edwards was present. On Monday, two family friends said that Mrs. Edwards’s cancer had spread to her liver and that doctors had advised against further medical treatment.

Mrs. Edwards posted a Facebook message to friends on Monday, saying, “I have been sustained throughout my life by three saving graces — my family, my friends, and a faith in the power of resilience and hope.” She added: “The days of our lives, for all of us, are numbered. We know that.”

(Click here to read the full story on the NY Times website. May GOD Rest the soul of this brave, beautiful, and truly courageous woman, Elizabeth Edwards, and may GOD Bless her family with HIS Grace, Peace, and Comfort, in their time of grief and need.)