Thursday, June 30, 2011

Lupica: Reyes reason Mets are back

Mets continue offensive explosion in Detroit, set franchise record for most runs in four-game span

Carlos Beltran (l.) congratulates Angel Pagan, who goes 4 for 6 with three runs and four RBI as the Mets continue their offensive outburst in a 14-9 win over the Tigers.
Paul Sancya/AP
Carlos Beltran (l.) congratulates Angel Pagan, who goes 4 for 6 with three runs and four RBI as the Mets continue their offensive outburst in a 14-9 win over the Tigers.
DETROIT - This latest Mets outpouring began as usual, with a staging of the Jose Reyes Show. On this night, though, the party lasted nearly four hours, and the entire Mets offense was invited.
In a game that later devolved into an American League-style crisis of pitching in which Detroit outfielder Don Kelly worked one-third of an inning in the ninth, the Reyes-instigated four-run first lit a spark that led to a 16-9 win, and a novel accomplishment: the Mets have scored 52 runs in their past four games, setting a franchise record.
"They are a joy to be around," Terry Collins said of his team, which pounded out 20 hits and got four apiece from cleanup hitter Ronny Paulino and Angel Pagan.
Reyes, the soon-to-be-wealthier shortstop, singled to lead off the game, which is about as newsworthy as the sun rising, or Collins uttering the word "suckin'." Then came a vintage Reyes experience: Advance to second when first baseman Miguel Cabrera misses  pitcher Phil Coke's pickoff throw. Steal third with two outs, which people rarely try. Scamper home on a wild pitch. Just another Met run that would not have happened without his speed.


As Justin Turner marveled to Collins after Reyes' performance, "We don't even have to get a hit, and he scores himself."
But in this game, Reyes merely began another thorough attack in support of Chris Capuano (7-7), who needed the help. His five-plus inning, five-run outing came as the abdominal pain that forced him from his previous start continued to flare; Capuano called it "a little bit sore," but "OK."
His last pitch was a sixth-inning changeup to Cabrera, who had already homered in the game. Cabrera sent his second one 445 feet to left-center for a three-run blast, ending Capuano's outing and bringing Pedro Beato in from the bullpen with an 8-5 lead. Two batters in, Jhonny Peralta mashed the Tigers' fourth homer of the game, and at 8-6, this blowout was a ballgame.
It crept toward blowout again, when second baseman Ryan Raburn bobbled a Daniel Murphy grounder in the seventh for a single that padded the Mets lead by two runs - but it was a 10-8 game after Andy Dirks' two-run shot off Tim Byrdak in the bottom of that frame.
Byrdak's presence in the game was itself a curiosity, as the lefty had been warming the in the sixth, but not when Collins summoned him. Bobby Parnell, who was throwing, came in from the bullpen first to relieve Beato, then retreated when the manager made clear that he wanted Byrdak.
Byrdak entered, allowed the homer on his second pitch, and left after spiking a ball on the ground and grumbling.Read more:

Tsonga praise

Wimbledon 2011: Becker on the future of Federer

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
Tsonga powers to shock win over Federer
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga's stunning quarter-final triumph over six-time champion Roger Federer was the biggest shock of this year's Wimbledon.
Tsonga produced a magnificent display to become the first man to come from two sets down and beat the Swiss star in a Grand Slam match.
Federer's total of 16 Grand Slam titles is a record, but at the age of 29 question marks are being raised about how long he will stay in the game.
Six-time Grand Slam winner Boris Becker gives his opinions on the future of Federer in the men's game.
Boris Becker
By Boris Becker
Three-time Wimbledon champion
Roger Federer's defeat was not so much about Jo-Wilfried Tsonga going up to another level, but Federer not being able to cope and being unable to find a better stroke.
It was a big surprise for me. Roger had cruised into the quarter-finals and cruised through the first two sets of this match with some brilliant tennis.

Click to play
Upbeat Federer promises to return after defeat
But when it hits you, it hits you.
Roger brought about Pete Sampras's demise when he burst onto the scene and shocked the seven-time champion at Wimbledon back in 2001.
Who knows whether this is the end of the Swiss's era at the top of the men's game?
He is going to have a lot of thinking to do over the summer. Reaching the quarter-finals is not good enough for a six-time Wimbledon champion.
Physically he is still fine despite being 29, but mentally his motivation just cannot be the same as it was three or four years ago.
In order for him to play a couple more years successfully he needs to reach the semi-finals and finals of Grand Slams, that is his quality. He can't be satisfied losing like this.
As a fan I really hope he continues at the highest level and finds his mojo again.more

Eye-opener: Is an NFL labor solution near?

NFL Commissioner, NFLPA Executive Director to Speak to Rookies in Florida

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith flew to Florida together Tuesday night to speak to rookies after opening four days of labor talks in Minnesota.
Spokesmen for the league and the players' association confirmed that the two power brokers were on the same plane from Minnesota to address the NFLPA's rookie symposium on Wednesday morning. first reported that both Goodell and Smith were on their way to the joint appearance. Smith asked Goodell to speak to the group at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Sarasota, Fla., and the commissioner agreed.
Both men were planning to leave Florida later Wednesday to fly back to Minneapolis and continue the labor talks. The discussions between Goodell and Smith on Tuesday included no players or owners, according to several people familiar with the situation.
They added that the two sides were planning to meet through Friday. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because details of the negotiations were being kept private.
The traditional start of training camp is just three weeks away and Chicago and St. Louis are scheduled to play the annual Hall of Fame game on Aug. 7. Yet Detroit Lions defensive end Lawrence Jackson said earlier Tuesday he believes there still isn't enough urgency to reach a deal on a new collective bargaining agreement -- not yet.
"From a business perspective, nobody is losing anything right now," Jackson said at a youth sports camp in Walled Lake, Mich. "The owners haven't had to pay offseason bonuses -- so they're making interest on the money they're not spending -- and most of the players aren't used to getting paid until we start training camp in late July. Until then, I don't think we're missing much."Read more:

Tourism promoters hope for boost from Will and Kate's visit

William and Kate's Canada visit will retread old ground

When the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge land in Canada today, they will be aware that they are about to embark on a tour that will be one of the defining moments of their lives as working members of the Royal family.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge  attend the 10th Annual ARK Gala Dinner, Perks Field, Kensington Palace
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will land in Ottawa at 7pm BST Photo: EDDIE MULHOLLAND
But if the prospect is at all daunting, they will at least know that they are following in familiar footsteps, as their first joint engagement on foreign soil will be at the very spot where Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, conducted the original royal “walkabout”.
After their flight touches down in Ottawa at 7pm BST, the royal couple will be taken straight to the National War Memorial in the capital, where they will lay a wreath to honour Canada’s war dead.
In May 1939 the Duke’s great-grandparents King George VI and Queen Elizabeth unveiled the memorial before deciding to stop and chat to some of the 100,000-strong crowd that had turned out to see them.
Ever since then, the royal “walkabout” has been an essential part of any visit, and today will be no different as Prince William and Kate Middleton follow their predecessors’ example with their own walkabout among crowds at the more.

2 Journalists Freed by Taliban Return to France

Herve Ghesquiere, Stephane Taponier
Remy De La Mauviniere  /  AP
FILE - A Dec. 29, 2010 file photo of a banner on Paris city hall showing French TV journalists Herve Ghesquiere, right, and Stephane Taponier, who were kidnapped a year ago east of Kabul, Afghanistan, in front of Paris city hall. The banner in back, reads: "One year! Let us free them and their Afghan fixers". The French government announced Wednesday June 29 2011, that the two hostages have been freed after being held 547 days.

Two journalists held hostage for 18 months in Afghanistan came home to France on Thursday to a presidential welcome and nationwide relief.
Stephane Taponier and Herve Ghesquiere arrived at a military airbase in Villacoublay outside Paris from Kabul, greeted by President Nicolas Sarkozy, first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy and France's defense and foreign ministers.
Smiling and firmly shaking hands with the crowd that met them at the airport, the two appeared in good health for the long-awaited homecoming.
The two journalists and three Afghan associates were kidnapped in December 2009 while working for France-3 television on a story about reconstruction on a road east of Kabul. They had been embedded with French troops in Afghanistan, but decided to take off to report on their own and were captured.

Their plight prompted a nationwide campaign in France for their release, with banners bearing their photos in city halls around the country — banners taken down in joy after their release.
They were freed Wednesday along with their Afghan translator, Reza Din. The two others were freed earlier.
French officials insisted that no ransom was paid for the men's freedom. The circumstances of the release remained unclear.
The Taliban said the insurgency movement was holding them and made a set of demands in exchange for the men's freedom. In April 2010, after posting a video of the hostages on the Internet, the Taliban said they had submitted a list of prisoners to French authorities that they wanted freed in exchange for the more.

Gaza flotilla organizers: Israel sabotaged Irish ship

Flotilla organisers: 2nd ship sabotaged

IOL gaza ship
US and French activists chant slogans as they hold placards after a news conference about an international flotilla to blockaded Gaza, in Athens.
Jerusalem - Organisers of a flotilla of pro-Palestinian activists seeking to break the blockade of Gaza say Israel has sabotaged a second ship.
An activist tells Israel's Army Radio that the engine of an Irish ship was damaged while in port.
Earlier this week, activists said Israel damaged the propeller of a Swedish ship in the Greek port of Piraeus.
Israel has not commented on the allegations.
About 10 ships are due to set sail this week from Greece. It is not clear whether the damage to the boats will hold things up.
Israel imposed a naval blockade after anti-Israel Hamas militants overran the Palestinian territory in 2007.more.

Libyan oppositon leader: Rebels need weapons

Why we cannot simply dismantle Gaddafi’s regime

Replacing the entire architecture of the Libyan state will lead only to further violence and chaos, argues George Grant.

Why we need Gaddafi’s regime in a post-Gaddafi Libya; Libyans celebrate in Benghazi after receiving the news of the ICC warrant; AP
Libyans celebrate in Benghazi after receiving the news of the ICC warrant Photo: AP
For 42 years, the regime of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi terrorised, oppressed and divided the Libyan people. When anti-regime protests flared up on February 17, the reaction was predictable enough: bloody slaughter.
Gaddafi said he wanted to “cleanse Libya house by house”. Using regime security forces, he started doing just that. Whatever the lunatic fringe from Stop the War Coalition would have you believe, it was the international intervention, led by Britain and France, which put a stop to this. Since then, Prime Minister David Cameron and other world leaders have been categorical in their assertions that Colonel Gaddafi must go.
So what to make of yesterday’s comments by our International Development Secretary, Andrew Mitchell, about the importance of incorporating as much of the existing regime architecture as possible into any post-Gaddafi settlement?
“One of the first things that should happen once Tripoli falls is that someone should get on the phone to the former Tripoli chief of police and tell him he’s got a job and he needs to ensure the safety and security of the people of Tripoli,” he said at a news conference on June 28.
Controversial stuff. But the fact is that Mr Mitchell is absolutely spot on, and his comments are to be warmly welcomed. For the success both of the current campaign to protect civilians and remove Gaddafi, and for the security and prosperity of any post-Gaddafi Libya, encouraging regime figures that they can have an important part to play will be absolutely

Review ordered in death that sparked Egypt revolt

Protesters Return to Cairo’s Tahrir Square

An Egyptian blogger's photograph of protesters camping in Cairo's Tahrir Square on Wednesday night.Mosa’ab Elshamy, via TwitPicAn Egyptian blogger’s photograph of protesters camping in Cairo’s Tahrir Square on Wednesday.
Protesters returned to Tahrir Square in Cairo with tents on Wednesday, starting a new sit-in to press their demands for an end to emergency rule and changes to Egypt’s interim government, according to bloggers and activists.
The new protest follows intense clashes in the Egyptian capital, which began on Tuesday when some people were locked out of a memorial service for protesters killed during the first phase of Egypt’s revolution. As my colleague Dina Salah Amer reports, many of those blocked from the memorial “said they were relatives of those who died and fought with the police to gain entry.”
Hossam el-Hamalawy, an Egyptian journalist and activist, posted video on his blog that showed family members — some carrying posters with images of their loved ones — trying to break into the Balloon Theater in Cairo, where the memorial was being more.

Dangers lurk beyond Greek parliament vote

Greek financial woes far from over

Global markets rallied Wednesday after Greece's parliament backed sweeping austerity measures to avoid bankruptcy. But Greece's plan is a stop gap measure at best, eco
The austerity package includes a five-year, $40 billion plan to trim spending through increasing taxes, cutting wages for public sector employees, and raising the country's minimum retirement to 65 from 61.
The parliament's approval, amid another day of violent anti-government protests in Athens, was seen as crucial for $17 billion in bailout loans aimed at staving off default this summer.
While the news propelled European stock exchanges up 1.5% or more and helped the Dow Jones industrial average gain 73 points to 12,261, the austerity plan, which faces another parliament vote today, does little to solve Greece's long-term financial woes.
"Whatever measures Greece enacts, there is no way the country can pay its debts in full, so it comes down to how much of the pain is shared with creditors and banks," says Cornell University economist Eswar Prasad.
Also key: Greece's ability to lower its deficit by selling $71 billion in state-owned interests, IHS Global Insight economist Diego Iscaro says.
He notes that Greece has yet to reap any benefits from privatization and doubts the country will meet its year-end goal to raise $5 billion.
"There are many question marks over how these assets are going to be privatized," Iscaro says. "Given Greece's high debt levels, falling tax revenues and an economy that's still quite weak, this is a country that still faces a lot of challenges.More

Obama, Congress Work Against, And With, The Clock

Senate Panel Backs Mission in Libya Despite Its Dubious Legality

By Conor Friedersdorf
The vote came after the State Department's top lawyer testified that the president is following the law

libya full truck.jpg

Days after the House rejected a measure to approve the war in Libya, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee decided Tuesday that the American effort there warrants its conditional cooperation. "The resolution would limit involvement to one year while calling for a ban of American ground forces except for search and rescue operations or to protect government officials," AP reports. "The full Senate is expected to consider the resolution the week of July 11." 

The vote came hours after an Obama Administration official testified before the committee that the president has so far behaved legally by continuing operations without Congressional approval. Since the top lawyers at the Pentagon and the Office of Legal Counsel believe that the Obama Administration is in fact breaking the law in Libya, it fell to Harold Koh, the State Department's top attorney, to make the White House's ultimately unpersuasive case.

His written testimony is here

"From the start, the Administration made clear its commitment to acting consistently with both the Constitution and the War Powers Resolution," Koh states. "The President submitted a report to Congress, consistent with the War Powers Resolution, within 48 hours of the commencement of operations in Libya."

Here is what the War Powers Resolution says:

The constitutional powers of the President as Commander-in-Chief to introduce United States Armed Forces into hostilities, or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances, are exercised only pursuant to (1) a declaration of war, (2) specific statutory authorization, or (3) a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces.
In other words, informing Congress within 48 hours of bombing Libya was insufficient to meet Obama's commitments under the law, because there was neither a declaration of war nor statutory authorization nor a national emergency created by an attack on the United States or its armed forces.

It is thus established that Obama broke the law. The rest of this post concerns whether he broke more than one of its provisions.

Says Koh:

The legal debate has focused on the Resolution's 60-day clock, which directs the President -- absent express Congressional authorization (or the applicability of other limited exceptions) and following an initial 48-hour reporting period -- to remove United States Armed Forces within 60 days from "hostilities" or "situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances."  But as virtually every lawyer recognizes, the operative term, "hostilities," is an ambiguous standard, which is nowhere defined in the statute.
Lawyers at the Pentagon and Office of Legal Counsel found it sufficiently clear to conclude that Obama is engaged in "hostilities" for the purposes of the act. Perhaps that is because the section of the law that lays out the president's reporting obligations states that they are triggered in the following circumstances: any case in which United States Armed Forces are introduced-- (1) into hostilities or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances; (2) into the territory, airspace or waters of a foreign nation, while equipped for combat, except for deployments which relate solely to supply, replacement, repair, or training of such forces; or (3) in numbers which substantially enlarge United States Armed Forces equipped for combat already located in a foreign nation;
Says Koh:

Because the War Powers Resolution represented a broad compromise between competing views on the proper division of constitutional authorities, the question whether a particular set of facts constitutes "hostilities" for purposes of the Resolution has been determined more by inter-branch practice than by a narrow parsing of dictionary definitions. Both branches have recognized that different situations may call for different responses, and that an overly mechanical reading of the statute could lead to unintended automatic cutoffs of military involvement in cases where more flexibility is required.
Did the War Powers Resolution result from a broad compromise? Insofar as Congress overrode a presidential veto to pass it, the answer is no. And the notion that an "overly mechanical reading" could lead to "unintended automatic cutoffs" is nonsense. So long as Congress wants to affirm the president's policy, the only way for an unintended cutoff would be if the body wasn't able to hold a vote within 60 days due to some extraordinary circumstance. That clearly isn't the case in Libya. And a failure to secure Congressional approval is exactly the circumstance in which the legislators that passed the law intended for a cutoff of military involvement.

Koh then proceeds to list and expound upon four factors that suggest "the current situation does not constitute the kind of 'hostilities' envisioned by the War Powers Resolution's 60-day automatic pullout provision."

Let's run through them in order:

First, the mission is limited:  By Presidential design, U.S. forces are playing a constrained and supporting role in a NATO-led multinational civilian protection operation, which is implementing a U.N. Security Council Resolution tailored to that limited purpose.
In the beginning of the Libya operation, American pilots were fling combat missions over Libya and firing on the country. And after the U.S. handed off operations to NATO in earl April? "American warplanes have struck at Libyan air defenses about 60 times, and remotely operated drones have fired missiles at Libyan forces about 30 times, according to military officials, If the warplanes of any nation entered American airspace, striking our Air Force bases 60 times, and firing missiles at American forces 30 times, would anyone in the White House or Congress deny that nation committed an act of war against us?

Second, the exposure of our armed forces is limited:  To date, our operations have not involved U.S. casualties or a threat of significant U.S. casualties.  Nor do our current operations involve active exchanges of fire with hostile forces, and members of our military have not been involved in significant armed confrontations or sustained confrontations of any kind with hostile forces.
This assertion is complicated, though not necessarily contradicted, by the fact that U.S. forces near Libya are receiving "imminent danger pay". More importantly, nowhere in the War Powers Resolution does it so much as hint that the degree of danger faced by U.S. forces is a relevant factor. Under any conceivable meaning of hostilities, they can be one sided. If we destroyed Havana with cruise missiles, would it be a non-hostile act because no U.S. personnel were endangered?

Koh goes on:

The Congress that adopted the War Powers Resolution was principally concerned with the safety of U.S. forces, and with the risk that the President would entangle them in an overseas conflict from which they could not readily be extricated.  In this instance, the absence of U.S. ground troops, among other features of the Libya operation, significantly reduces both the risk to U.S. forces and the likelihood of a protracted entanglement that Congress may find itself practically powerless to end.
In fact, some members of Congress are already arguing that although launching this war may have been a bad idea, having done so, we've got to stick it out until Moammar Gaddafi is out of more...

US terror fight to focus on "surgical" hits

US unveils strategy to hunt al-Qaeda

IOL news june 30  Brennan Counterterrorism
White House counterterrorism chief John Brennan.
Washington - The United States will push ahead with more targeted drone strikes and special operations raids and fewer costly land battles like Iraq and Afghanistan in the continuing war against al-Qaeda, according to a new national counterterrorism strategy unveiled on Wednesday.
The doctrine, two years in the making, comes in the wake of the successful special operations raid that killed al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in May, and a week after President Barack Obama's announcement that US troops will begin leaving Afghanistan this summer.
The document is a purposeful departure from the Bush administration's global war on terror. The worldwide hunt for terrorists that began after the September 11, 2001, attacks focused first on Afghanistan, and small numbers of al-Qaeda are still active there.
White House counterterrorism chief John Brennan said the reworked doctrine acknowledges the growing threat of terrorism at home, including al-Qaeda attempts to recruit and attack inside the United States.
Brennan told a Washington audience on Wednesday that more resources would be spent on the fight at home to spot would-be militants and their recruiters, and the US would resist al-Qaeda's attempts to bleed it economically by drawing it into costly invasions overseas.
“Our best offense won't always be deploying large armies abroad, but delivering targeted, surgical pressure to the groups that threaten us,” Brennan said at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.
Brennan said the strategy relies on “surgical” action against specific groups to decapitate their leadership and deny them safe havens and rejects costly wars like Iraq and Afghanistan that feed al-Qaeda's narrative that America is out to occupy the Muslim world. He said the US would work whenever possible to help host countries fight al-Qaeda so the US didn't have to, just as it was trying to hand over responsibility to the Afghans.
The operations Brennan describes are almost solely the province of the intelligence and military special operations agencies, especially the CIA and elite forces of the Joint Special Operations Command that worked together to carry out the bin Laden raid, but also including the special operations trainers that work with host nations' militaries.
Brennan, who is a former CIA officer, did not make specific mention of the covert armed drone program that targets militants in Pakistan and, on rare occasions, in countries like Yemen. But he referred to the administration's work to rush what he called “unique capabilities” to the field, an oblique reference to classified programs like the stepped-up construction of a CIA drone-launching base in the Persian Gulf region to use the unmanned aircraft to hunt militants in Yemen.
Bush White House veteran Juan Zarate questioned the wisdom of singling out al-Qaeda as the main American enemy, “inadvertently aggrandising them when they are in decline, by making them the focus of the strategy.”
He also questioned the decision to “focus very mechanically on al-Qaeda,” with less emphasis on the violent Islamic ideology that drives the group. “You might miss a movement that is developing or ... evolving into a global platform” like al-Qaeda, said Zarate, former White House deputy national security adviser for combating terrorism.
Zarate also said out that although the Obama administration may be dropping the world “global” from the war on terror, it still seems to be targeting terror cells on almost every continent.
Retired Brig. General Russ Howard, who was credited with helping inspire the Bush administration's pre-emptive strike doctrine, said the message the strategy sends to allies is that the US does not want to be involved if the going gets too expensive, as in Iraq or Afghanistan.More...

NATO Airstrike Kills Militant Leader Linked to Kabul Hotel Attack

Smoke and flames light up the night from a blaze at the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul, Afghanistan, after an attack on the hotel by Taliban fighters and a response by Afghan security forces backed by NATO helicopters June 29, 2011. - Smoke and flames light up the night from a blaze at the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul, Afghanistan, after an attack on the hotel by Taliban fighters and a response by Afghan security forces backed by NATO helicopters June 29, 2011. | AFP/Getty Images

NATO helicopter ends Kabul hotel siege that leaves seven dead

Seven people were killed in a more than four-hour standoff between militants and police at a Kabul hotel after insurgents armed with grenades and explosives struck one of the capital’s most prominent landmarks late Tuesday.
A rare nighttime assault, the siege was ended by a NATO helicopter firing rockets at gunmen on the rooftop of the besieged Intercontinental Hotel, as Afghan security forces stormed the top of the building. The death toll did not include insurgents.

The high-profile attack on the hilltop Intercontinental came just a week after the United States and several European countries announced they will start withdrawing troops from Afghanistan next month, citing progress in weakening the Taliban insurgency. Canada is shutting down its combat mission with the withdrawal set to be completed by the end of next month..
Eight other people – two policemen and six civilians – were wounded in the attack, which ended early Wednesday, said Daoud Amin, deputy police chief in Kabul.
Six suicide bombers attacked the hotel, which is frequented by Afghan officials and foreign visitors, Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said. He said two were killed by hotel guards and four others either blew themselves up or were killed in the air strike or by Afghan troops.
U.S. Army Major Jason Waggoner, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition fighting in Afghanistan, said the helicopter fired on the roof where militants had taken up positions. He said they killed three gunmen and that Afghan security forces clearing the hotel worked their way up to the roof and engaged the remaining insurgents.
Several provincial officials were believed to be staying at the hotel in advance of a conference called by the government to discuss the coming transition of security in parts of the country to full Afghan control.
Nazar Ali Wahedi, chief of intelligence for Helmand province in the south, called the assailants “the enemy of stability and peace” in Afghanistan.
Mr. Wahedi was in town to attend Wednesday’s transition conference, which was being held at a government building in the capital.
“Our room was hit by several bullets,” he said. “We spent the whole night in our room.”
The attack began around 10:30 p.m. local time Tuesday and ended around 3 a.m. Wednesday.
One survivor, his clothes soaked in blood, said he was in the hotel with a group of people accompanying the provincial council president of Takhar province in the north of Afghanistan.
“I saw three men wearing vests with explosives and they were running around looking for the way to the roof,” said the man, who pushed his way through a crowd of reporters and did not give his name. “Suddenly they opened fire and three of my friends were killed. I was shot too and I expected to die.”
The Taliban have vowed to assassinate people working for the government and foreign agencies, and have been murdering local officials and village elders co-operating with the government at a steady pace for a year.
Another Ministry of Interior official, Samoonyar Mohammad Zaman, told the Associated Press that 60 to 70 people were inside the hotel and its restaurant at the time of the attack. The gunmen, he said, were armed with a grab bag of weapons including machine guns, anti-aircraft weapons, rocket-propelled grenades and hand grenades.
The Intercontinental Hotel, a favourite meeting place for members of the Afghan parliament and visiting foreign dignitaries, sits on a hill overlooking the Kabul Polytechnic University. It was once a part of the Intercontinental hotel chain before the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, but has been taken over by the Afghan government in recent years.
The winding roadway up to the building is usually heavily guarded, but it can be reached by foot up a steep rocky incline.
Police officials said at least one of the suicide bombers detonated his explosives inside the hotel. A few guests were seen stumbling down the hill in panic, and some were reported to have thrown themselves out of windows to escape the raging gun more.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Bank of America nears mortgage suit settlement

Bank of America nears $8.5-billion deal over mortgage-backed securities

The proposed payment by Bank of America would settle claims by large investors including Pimco of Newport Beach and BlackRock Inc. of New York.

Bank of America branch
Bank of America’s pending settlement with large investors would be the first with private mortgage bond investors. Above, a branch in New York. (Robert Caplin, Bloomberg / June 29, 2011)

In the latest blow from its takeover of Countrywide Financial Corp., Bank of America Corp. tentatively agreed to pay $8.5 billion to settle claims by large investors stung by losses on mortgage-related securities that Countrywide issued.

The final details of the agreement were still being worked out, according to a bank executive knowledgeable about the pending settlement but not authorized to discuss it publicly.
The 22 investors, including money-management giants Pacific Investment Management Co. of Newport Beach and BlackRock Inc. of New York, held $56 billion in bonds backed by loans from Countrywide, once the nation's largest home lender and an aggressive supplier of subprime and other high-risk mortgages.

"This transaction essentially takes all Countrywide's private-label mortgage-backed securities off the table," the executive said Tuesday. "It's considered to be a significant step forward in Bank of America putting the Countrywide issues behind us."

The pending settlement covers only mortgage-related securities issued by Countrywide and not those that BofA issued on its own.

BofA shares, which had lost 3 cents on the day, were up 12 cents at $10.94 in after-hours trading after word of the impending deal leaked. Some estimates of the bank's liability had been much higher than $8.5 billion.

"The Street will view this as a good number," said Paul Miller, an analyst with FBR Capital Markets.

Nearly all major mortgage issuers of that era bundled up most of their loans and sold them to private investors as well as to government-sponsored entities such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Fannie, Freddie and a host of institutional investors have demanded that the banks buy back many of the mortgage bonds, contending that the lenders understated the riskiness of the loans and mishandled troubled borrowers after the industry's meltdown beginning in 2007.

Bank of America agreed in January to pay Fannie and Freddie $2.8 billion to settle demands for buybacks of flawed home loans, in addition to some $3.5 billion in such payments it had already made to them.

The pending settlement would be the first with private mortgage bond investors, but it's unlikely to be the last. Among other big lenders with major exposure are Wells Fargo & Co. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. Chase had bought the remains of one of the most aggressive lenders, Washington Mutual Bank, after the Seattle-based thrift became the largest bank failure in history.

BofA, based in Charlotte, N.C., has struggled to put Countrywide's woes behind it since 2008 when it paid $2.5 billion in stock for the Calabasas-based mortgage specialist.

The bank settled securities-fraud accusations by some major Countrywide shareholders in August, but before the deal was finalized 33 plaintiffs — including the California Public Employees' Retirement System — dropped out to seek more money on their more.

8 suicide bombers, 10 others killed in attack at Kabul hotel

NATO helicopters end Kabul hotel siege, at least 7 dead

An Afghan army officer mans a heavy gun mounted to a vehicle at the entrance to the Inter Continental hotel, which came under attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, Wednesday, June 29, 2011. (AP / Gemunu Amarasinghe)
An Afghan army officer mans a heavy gun mounted to a vehicle at the entrance to the Inter Continental hotel, which came under attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, Wednesday, June 29, 2011. (AP / Gemunu Amarasinghe)

The Associated Press
Date: Tue. Jun. 28 2011 11:04 PM ET
KABUL, Afghanistan — vInterior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said six suicide bombers attacked the Inter-Continental hotel frequented by Afghan officials and foreign visitors. He said two were killed by hotel guards at the beginning of the attack and four others either blew themselves up or were killed in the airstrike or by Afghan security forces.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the rare, nighttime attack in the capital -- an apparent attempt to show that they remain potent despite heavy pressure from coalition and Afghan security forces.
The attackers were heavily armed with machine-guns, anti-aircraft weapons, rocket-propelled grenades, hand grenades and grenade launchers, the Afghan officials said. Afghan police rushed to the scene and firefights broke out. They battled for hours with gunmen who took up positions on the roof.
Some Afghan provincial officials were among the 60 to 70 guests staying at the hotel.
Abdul Zahir Faizada, who is head of the local council in Herat province in western Afghanistan, was staying at the hotel. He planned to attend a conference in Kabul on Wednesday to discuss plans for Afghan security forces to take the lead for securing an increasing number of areas of the country between now and 2014 when international forces are expected to move out of combat roles. Afghans across the country were in the city to attend.
"We were locked in a room. Everybody was shooting and firing," said Faizada who was staying at the hotel with the mayor of Herat city and other officials from the province. "I heard a lot of shooting."
Deputy police chief in Kabul, Daoud Amin, said seven people died in the attack and eight other people -- two policemen and six civilians -- were wounded. The attackers are not counted in that death toll.
Nazar Ali Wahedi, chief of intelligence for Helmand province in the south, called the assailants "the enemy of stability and peace" in Afghanistan.
Wahedi, too, was in town to attend Wednesday's transition conference, which was being held at a government building in the capital.
"Our room was hit by several bullets," Wahedi said. "We spent the whole night in our room."
The attack began around 10:30 p.m. local time Tuesday and ended around 3 a.m. Wednesday.
U.S. Army Maj. Jason Waggoner, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition fighting in Afghanistan, said the helicopters fired on the roof where militants had taken up positions. He said they killed three gunmen and that Afghan security forces clearing the hotel worked their way up to the roof and engaged the remaining insurgents.
As the helicopters attacked and Afghan security forces moved in, four massive explosions rocked the hotel. Officials at the scene said the blasts occurred when security forces either fired on suicide bombers or they blew themselves up.
After the gunmen were killed, the hotel lights that had been blacked out during the attack came back on. Afghan security vehicles and ambulances were removing the dead and wounded from the area.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid quickly claimed responsibility for the attack in a telephone call to the AP, then later issued a statement claiming that Taliban attackers killed guards at a gate and entered the hotel.
"One of our fighters called on a mobile phone and said: 'We have gotten onto all the hotel floors and the attack is going according to the plan. We have killed and wounded 50 foreign and local enemies. We are in the corridors of the hotel now taking guests out of their rooms -- mostly foreigners. We broke down the doors and took them out one by one."'
The Taliban often exaggerate casualties from their attacks. The statement did not disclose the number of attackers, but only said one suicide bomber had died.
A few hours into the clashes, an Afghan National Army commando unit arrived at the scene.
Initially, the U.S.-led military coalition said the Afghan Ministry of Interior had not requested any assistance from foreign forces. But later, the NATO helicopters arrived on the scene at the hotel on a hill overlooking the capital.
Guests inside the hotel said they heard gunfire echoing throughout the heavily guarded building.
Jawid, a guest at the hotel, said he jumped out a one-story window to flee the shooting.
"I was running with my family," he said. "There was shooting. The restaurant was full with guests."
The attack occurred nearly a week after President Barack Obama announced he was withdrawing 33,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan and would end the American combat role by the end of 2014.
Before the attack began on Tuesday, officials from the U.S., Pakistan and Afghanistan met in the capital to discuss prospects for making peace with Taliban insurgents to end the nearly decade-long war.
"The fact that we are discussing reconciliation in great detail is success and progress, but challenges remain and we are reminded of that on an almost daily basis by violence," Jawed Ludin, Afghanistan's deputy foreign minister, said at a news conference. "The important thing is that we act and that we act urgently and try to do what we can to put an end to violence."
The Inter-Continental -- known widely as the "Inter-Con" -- opened in the late 1960s, and was the nation's first international luxury hotel. It has at least 200 rooms and was once part of an international chain. But when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in 1979, the hotel was left to fend for itself.
It was used by Western journalists during the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.
On Nov. 23, 2003, a rocket exploded nearby, shattering windows but causing no casualties.
Twenty-two rockets hit the Inter-Con between 1992 and 1996, when factional fighting convulsed Kabul under the government of Burhanuddin Rabbani. All the windows were broken, water mains were damaged and the outside structure pockmarked. Some, but not all, of the damage was repaired during Taliban rule.More

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Prosecutors drop first indictment against Bulger

Prosecutors drop first indictment against Bulger
BOSTON (AP) — Federal prosecutors on Tuesday dismissed a 1994 racketeering indictment against mob boss James "Whitey" Bulger in order to focus on a later indictment that charged the newly captured fugitive with being involved in 19 murders.
Prosecutors in Boston filed an electronic notice notifying U.S. District Judge Mark Wolf that they are dismissing the earlier indictment, which charged Bulger with multiple counts of extortion, loan sharking, witness tampering and conspiracy.
In the filing, U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz said prosecutors consider a 1999 indictment charging Bulger with 19 murders the stronger case. He faces life in prison on those counts.
Bulger, the former leader of the notorious Winter Hill Gang, fled Boston just before the 1994 indictment was handed up in early 1995. He was captured last week in Santa Monica, Calif., after 16 years on the lam.
Ortiz said another reason for dropping the 1994 case is that it could be subject to a legal challenge, namely that because Bulger and pal Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi were FBI informants, they were essentially acting on behalf of the FBI when they committed the crimes in that indictment.
The 1999 indictment would not be subject to that legal challenge, Ortiz said in the court filing.
During hearings before Wolf in the 1990s, Flemmi testified that he and Bulger believed they were authorized by the FBI to commit crimes as long as they provided the agency with information on the Patriarca Mafia crime family. But he said they were never authorized to commit murders, which is the focus of the 1999 indictment prosecutors are moving forward with.
Prosecutors also decided to drop the first indictment to end the long wait the families of the murder victims have had to endure to see Bulger, now 81, held accountable, Ortiz said.
"Given the age of the defendant, there is also a substantial public interest in ensuring that the defendant faces the most serious charges before the end of his natural life," Ortiz said in the court filing.More.

Obama to hold more debt talks with Senate Democrats

White House pushes for progress on debt talks as senators float new Medicare proposal

Sen. Joe Lieberman
Sen. Joe Lieberman (i-Conn.), shown here at a May hearing, introduced
a new proposal along with Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) to try to
move along debt-limit negotiations. (Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)

Senate Democratic leaders are headed to the White House on Wednesday to meet with President Obama as he seeks to break the stalemate with Republicans on debt reduction talks.
Negotiations are at a standstill with just weeks to go to raise the nation’s $14.3-trillion debt limit or risk what financial experts say would be a devastating federal default. Treasury officials say they will be unable to pay the nation’s bills by Aug. 2.
Republicans want to extract steep spending cuts in exchange for their vote to allow more borrowing capacity. Democrats want to reduce tax loopholes on corporations and wealthy Americans to raise new revenue, a proposition the GOP has refused.
On Tuesday, a bipartisan pair of senators introduced a proposal that would cut the costs of Medicare a main driver of budget deficits — by gradually increasing the eligibility age to 67 and requiring wealthier seniors to pay more out of pocket for premiums and more.

Office 365: Microsoft Pitches Cloud, Eyes Profit

Microsoft's Office 365 software hits the cloud

"The biggest name in Office software is very strongly going to the cloud," says Matt Cain, an analyst at technology research firm Gartner. "It presupposes a much larger move to the cloud, assuming things go well."
The worldwide market for cloud computing will grow from $68.3 billion in 2010 to $148.8 billion in 2014, Gartner forecasts.
Microsoft's move takes aim at Google Apps, Directions on Microsoft analyst Wes Miller says. Google's free online service includes Gmail, Calendar, Docs and Talk. Google also offers subscription-based corporate versions of its e-mail and applications. Google Apps popularized the online office.
What's significant about Microsoft's Office 365 is that it will allow people to work both online and offline with Office. That's a key differentiator for consumers and businesses concerned about online-only software, such as Google Apps.
Google last month upped the ante for the online office by unleashing its Chromebooks laptops, which are designed to use Google Apps software online and store information to the cloud. "Microsoft needs to work at keeping Google at bay," Cain more.

'Transformers: Dark Of The Moon': The Reviews Are In

It's not much fun being a Transformer. At least that's what you'll think as you play through "Transformers: Dark of the Moon," a boring and repetitive movie tie-in.
It's not much fun being a Transformer. At least that's what you'll think as you play through "Transformers: Dark of the Moon," a boring and repetitive movie tie-in.
LOVED IT: Good story, and there’s nothing like transforming and instantly shooting an enemy.

HATED IT: Repetitive and unimaginative gameplay, confusing controls, no enemy variety.

GRAB IT IF: You absolutely positively have to know the backstory for this weekend's movie . . . or you see it in the discount rack next month.

It's not much fun being a Transformer. At least that's what you'll think as you play through "Transformers: Dark of the Moon."

Activision's movie tie-in game is as boring and repetitive as they come. Shame, too, because the story – a solid prequel setup for this weekend's anticipated blockbuster – is a good one. But tedious and confusing gameplay causes "Dark of the Moon" to sink into average game territory, and only a diehard fan of the explosions-and-nothing-else movies will love this effort.

Give developer High Moon Studios credit for trying to make gameplay interesting; you just wish they got it right. You play as Optimus Prime and a handful of other Autobots, then also play as the Decepticons, too. Can you say "marketing ploy"? Because that's what this feels like, never letting you get close to the story but tossing lots of nice character models at you. (Yes, the character models look solid, so "Dark of the Moon" has that going for it).

Each Transformer can convert into three modes – robot, vehicle and the new StealthForce mode – and this is another place where "Dark of the Moon" runs into trouble. High Moon struggles to find adequate control schemes for each mode, and in its attempt to make the change from vehicle to StealthForce fluid, it does makes things painfully unintuitive.

You know how your average racing game lets you accelerate with the right trigger and break with the left, while steering with that classic left stick? Makes sense, right? Not in "Dark of the Moon." Here, you'll steer with the right stick, accelerate with the left trigger and fire weapons with the right trigger. Sound confusing? Wait til you play it.

Robot mode isn't nearly as complicated, playing out in classic third-person shooter form, but that only serves to make the incredibly boring levels that much more boring. Really, it’s so much more interesting to fight the StealthForce and vehicle controls as you try – yes, try – to zoom past enemies and whirl about to shoot them with your cannon. Taking them down in robot mode is like downing targets in a shooting gallery.

All these things hold "Dark of the Moon" back and overshadow a handful of good things. Led by Peter Cullen's Optimus, voice acting is spot on, and there's plenty of voice acting in here, too. The story's fantastic, too, priming you for the upcoming movie even as the gameplay causes you to sleep and nearly throw your controller.Read more:

Bachmann comes out swinging at Obama

Bachmann Looks to Carry Iowa Momentum to New Hampshire

Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., greets supporters after her formal announcement to seek the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, Monday, June 27, 2011, in Waterloo, Iowa. Bachmann, who was born in Waterloo, will continue her announcement tour this week with stops in New Hampshire and South Carolina. (AP Photo
Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., greets supporters after her formal announcement to seek the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, in Waterloo, Iowa. Bachmann, who was born in Waterloo, will continue her announcement tour this week with stops in New Hampshire and South Carolina.
On a temporary stage in a Raymond, New Hampshire backyard, Michele Bachmann brought her nascent presidential campaign to the first in the nation primary state Tuesday morning.
In front of a crowd of about 200 people Bachmann led the crowd in a chant of "Live Free or Die," the state motto of New Hampshire, before launching into "Barack Obama is a one term president."
Despite recent bumps in the campaign trail, Bachmann appeared poised and confident under blue skies and a hot summer sun, playfully noting the lack of teleprompters and saying when she's president they'll be banned from the White House - a dig at President Obama who constantly relies on them to deliver speeches.
Playing to her Tea Party roots, she regaled the faithful with tales of runaway spending on Capitol Hill, telling a story about the House of Representatives voting for foreign aid to help cats and dogs and noting other cases of wasteful spending at a time the American economy was collapsing.
The latest polls in Iowa show her in a statistical dead heat with front runner Mitt Romney. But while Bachmann was announcing her campaign in Waterloo, Iowa yesterday Romney was campaigning in New Hampshire where he has a commanding double digit lead.
"I think she's a very strong contender," said Romney, adding "she's an excellent candidate, she's getting her message across and receiving good support. I have nothing but respect for her."
Whether the conservative message driving her poll numbers in the Hawkeye state will translate to support in the Granite State remains to be seen. Today's Boston Herald had a front page banner headline reading 'Move Over Sarah' calling Bachmann the Tea Party's 'new star.'Read more:

NEWSMAKER-France's Lagarde faces policy dilemmas as IMF chief

Christine Lagarde named IMF head

French finance minister, who succeeds Dominique Strauss-Kahn, becomes first woman to hold top IMF job
    Christine Lagarde
    Christine Lagarde said she was 'honoured and delighted' to become the new head of the IMF. Photograph: Georges Gobet/AFP/Getty Images
    French finance minister Christine Lagarde has become the new head of the IMF after the fund's board confirmed her appointment following a meeting in Washington. Lagarde, who takes over from Dominique Strauss-Kahn, is the first woman to hold the post. She will begin her five-year term on 5 July. After the board's announcement, Lagarde tweeted: "The results are in: I am honored & delighted that the Board has entrusted me with the position of MD of the IMF!" Official confirmation came after the US had officially endorsed Lagarde's candidacy. Treasury secretary Tim Geithner said: "Minister Lagarde's exceptional talent and broad experience will provide invaluable leadership for this indispensable institution at a critical time for the global economy. We are encouraged by the broad support she has secured among the fund's membership, including from the emerging economies." French president Nicolas Sarkozy was quick to show his support for his compatriot. He said in a statement: "The French presidency rejoices that a woman is taking on this important international role." Lagarde has the support of most European countries, and is seen as an ideal candidate to handle the IMF's ongoing bailout of weak eurozone countries. Many observers felt the time had come for a non-European to take the post, but despite initial coolness towards her candidacy China and Russia backed Lagarde's appointment. Along with the US, she has the explicit support of nations including Indonesia and Egypt, representing more than half the IMF's 24 voting board members. The executive board represents the 187 members of the IMF. Russian finance minister Alexei Kudrin told the ITAR-TASS news agency: "I think that she has all the necessary qualities and we will support her candidacy. She will be able to make this key international organisation more dynamic, and ensure its future reform." Her closest competitor, Mexican central banker Agustín Carstens, won endorsements from Mexico, Canada and Australia, which together represent 12% of IMF board seats. Geithner commended Carstens "on his strong and very credible candidacy." Lagarde's appointment caps a tumultuous period for the IMF, currently led by Strauss-Kahn's deputy John Lipsky, who was planning to retire before Strauss-Kahn's arrest. "I am well aware that recent events have left open wounds," Lagarde said in a statement to the IMF. "I know that John [Lipsky's] departure, coming as it does at the very worst of times, will leave a big hole. The incoming MD must take pains to show the outside world that this great institution is not only leading in terms of expertise, but also in terms of integrity and work ethics." Emerging market countries initially fought hard to have one of their own claim the top IMF job. The IMF has been headed by a European since is creation at the end of second world war. But with Europe in crisis the French minister emerged as the clear favourite. Lagarde, 55, led the Chicago-based law firm Baker & McKenzie before entering French politics in 2005. She is the first woman to head the more.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Williams sisters, Caroline Wozniacki out

Williams sisters shut down at Wimbledon

France Marion Bartoli celebrates after winning a point against Serena Williams of U.S. at Wimbledon on Monday.
AP France Marion Bartoli celebrates after winning a point against Serena Williams of U.S. at Wimbledon on Monday.
Serena and Venus Williams crashed out in the Wimbledon fourth round within a few hours of each other on Monday as the sister act with nine trophies between them headed for the exits at the start of week two.
Ninth seed Marion Bartoli handed defending champion Serena a tenth Wimbledon defeat as the Frenchwoman held her nerve 6-3, 7-6 (8-6) win into the quarterfinals.
The victory on fifth match point was the worst defeat for four-time champion and holder Williams at the All England Club since 2005 when she lost in the third round.
Bulgarian Tsvetana Pironkova made sure history repeated itself, going past Venus Williams for a second straight year at the event, and even duplicating her 2010 scoreline, 6-2, 6-3.
“I love the grass, I feel so relaxed and the atmosphere makes me feel comfortable,” said Pironkova. “I played and pushed her as far as I could,” said the number 33. “She got shaky and made errors. “But that’s tennis. It was not so difficult to close it out. I just tried to focus and think of the next point.”
Bartoli’s win over Serena was her 40th of the season and sent her into a quarterfinal with German Sabine Lisicki, who defeated Czech Petra Cetkovska 7-6 (7-3), 6-1.
“It is one of my best wins,” said Bartoli. “Beating Serena is almost like a dream come true. She is probably one of the greatest champions. “To come back after having three match points (saved by Williams in the 12th game of the second set) and to still bounce back is huge. I was playing great and had a lot of occasions. “It was not easy to hang on mentally, but I did and I’m happy. Serena is imposing, a huge opponent. If you look too much at her you feel pressure. “I was trying to stay in my own bubble and focus on my own game.”more.

'Stunned' Blagojevich found guilty on 17 counts

Rod Blagojevich Convicted on Corruption Charges

PHOTO: Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich pauses as he talks with reporters at the Federal Court building after the judge handed the case to the jury in his corruption trial in Chicago in this June 9, 2011 file photo.
A "stunned" Rod Blagojevich and wife Patti hugged in the courtroom after a federal jury in Chicago this afternoon convicted the former Illinois governor of attempting to sell the U.S. Senate seat vacated when President Obama was elected in 2008, among the 17 guilty counts against him.
His wife could be heard saying to him, "Let's just go home."
A sentencing date has yet to be set but former federal prosecutors who have experience in federal sentencing guidelines say he's likely to get 7 to 10 years.
Leaving the courthouse, Blagojevich said he was "frankly disappointed" and "stunned." He was met by a small chorus of "boos" outside.
Blagojevich was acquitted of soliciting bribes in the alleged shakedown of a road-building executive, according to the Associated Press. The jury deadlocked on two charges of attempted extortion related to that executive and funding for a school, the AP reported.
The jurors told the judge this morning they had agreed on 18 of 20 counts, of which the most serious charges each carry a 10-year sentence.
The verdict was announced this afternoon as dozens of people lined the streets outside the federal courthouse.
Outside the Dirksen Federal Courthouse in downtown Chicago, a horde of media had been joined by dozens of Illinoisans, many with their cellphone cameras at the ready, according to the AP.
Charles Rex Arbogast/AP Photo
Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich
Blagojevich Retrial: Guilty on Most Charges 
Rod Blagojevich's Retrial Begins 
The Best of Rod Blagojevich 
This is the second trial for the Democrat. A previous trial ended with a jury hung on all but one charge, although he has maintained his innocence. But federal prosecutors elected to bring the case again.
The jury in the new trial -- eleven women and one man -- reached its decision after nearly 10 days of deliberation. Federal prosecutors streamlined their presentation after the first jury complained of an overly complex case. Last year's result was a hung jury on 23 of the original 24 counts, convicting Blagojevich on a single charge of making a false statement to the FBI.
This time, the colorful ex-governor took a huge gamble by testifying in his own defense. Legal analysts called it "a hail Mary pass." Even the judge, James Zagel, told Blagojevich in court that it was probably his best chance to beat the rap.
For seven days, Blagojevich took the stand in an attempt to counter hundreds of FBI wiretaps that, prosecutors argued, demonstrated his maneuvering to peddle the vacated Senate seat of the newly elected Barack Obama. In perhaps the most infamous recording, the then governor is heard saying, "I've got this thing and it's f------ golden. And I, I'm just not giving it up for f------ nothing."
Other wiretaps recorded Blagojevich musing aloud about possible senior jobs in the new administration he might get should he appoint Obama confidante Valerie Jarrett. "How about Health and Human Services, can I get that?" "How about U.N. Ambassador?"read more.