Friday, September 30, 2011

Medic: Info from Jackson doctor didn't add up

The doctor charged in Michael Jackson's death never revealed that he had given the singer a powerful anesthetic, a paramedic told a jury hearing the physician's involuntary manslaughter case Friday.
Paramedic Richard Senneff said Dr. Conrad Murray told him that he had only given Jackson the sedative lorazepam. He said Murray initially said Jackson wasn't suffering from any condition.
Murray eventually told medics that he was treating the singer for exhaustion and dehydration, he said. The doctor did not mention that he had been giving Jackson the surgical anesthetic propofol to help the singer sleep.
Murray appeared frantic when the paramedic arrived in the bedroom on the day of Jackson's death in June 2009, Senneff said. He had to ask Murray three times about what condition Jackson had before the doctor answered.
"He said, 'Nothing. He has nothing,'" Senneff said.
"Simply, that did not add up to me."
The veteran paramedic said Jackson was cool to the touch, his eyes were open and dry and had an IV in his leg. Senneff was one of four paramedics who worked to try to revive Jackson.
Murray, 58, has pleaded not \ to involuntary manslaughter. If convicted, Murray could face up to four years in prison and lose his medical license.
Prosecutors contend the Houston-based cardiologist repeatedly lied to medics and emergency room doctors about medications he had been giving Jackson in the singer's bedroom.
Authorities contend Murray administered a fatal dose of propofol and other sedatives. Murray's attorneys claim Jackson gave himself the fatal dose after his doctor left the room.
Meanwhile, Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor ordered prosecutors and defense attorneys not to speak publicly about the case. He didn't specify the reason for his decision, but said a violation could result in a contempt of court charge.
Pastor had earlier told attorneys not to comment on his rulings.
Pastor ordered Houston attorney Matt Alford to appear in court Friday afternoon. Alford, who is a partner of defense attorney Ed Chernoff, appeared earlier in the day on NBC's "The Today Show" in which he said the jury was smart enough to know prosecutors haven't proven their case.More...

Fear in Colo. town at heart of Listeria outbreak

Eric Jensen surveys his dusty cantaloupe field and seems equally stunned and puzzled at the fate that has befallen his crop: row upon row of melons rotting on the vine.
Jensen is the co-owner of the Colorado farm where health officials say a national listeria outbreak originated, making his withering fields the epicenter of a food scare that has sickened dozens of people from Wyoming to Maryland and caused as many as 17 deaths.
The farm has recalled more than 300,000 cases of cantaloupes and on Thursday three states — Indiana, Louisiana and Wisconsin — were added to the recall list. Spokeswoman Amy Philpott said that trucking records show that cantaloupes originally intended for other locations ended up in those states but that the buyers were notified as part of the original Sept. 14 recall.
Jensen has no idea how his cantaloupes became infected, and neither do the Food and Drug Administration investigators who have intermittently been in this town of 800 people near the Kansas border since the outbreak started earlier this month.
Regardless of how it happened, the situation has left the town and farm reeling and in fear. Jensen had to quit growing and shipping cantaloupes after the outbreak was discovered — a staggering blow to a region where cantaloupe has always been a proud local tradition.
Until the listeria infections started showing up, Holly's field workers would bring melons into town to share, just as they have for generations. And it wasn't uncommon for Holly residents to stop by Jensen Farms to buy freshly picked cantaloupe. Now, not even the local grocery store has any of the fruit.
No one in Holly has been sickened, but people are frightened by the prospect of contracting listeria. The bacteria can have an incubation period of a month or more, and it principally affects the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.
"I ate that cantaloupe, and I gave some of it to my 97-year-old mother,'" said Wanda Watson, co-owner of the Tasty House Cafe. "I'm watching her real close. It's scary because it could be up to two months before you get sick."
Sherri McGarry, a senior adviser in the FDA's Office of Foods, said the agency is looking at the farm's water supply and the possibility that animals wandered into Jensen Farms' fields, among other things, in trying to figure out how the cantaloupes became contaminated. Listeria bacteria grow in moist, muddy conditions and are often carried by animals.
The water supply for farms in the Holly area comes from wells and irrigation ditches that tap the nearby Arkansas River. There's no shortage of thoughts around town about the potential causes.
"Well water? I doubt it. Ditch water? Well, there's some probability, but it's low," said Jim Cline, a retired construction worker. "Animal intrusion? Well, OK, what kind of animal? Deer? Coons? Coyotes? What kind of animal wants to get into a melon field?"
At Jensen Farms, workers have stopped picking cantaloupes because of a recall of its product. There's no need to irrigate the crop anymore, and the melons are drying up in the rock-hard fields. As Eric Jensen surveyed his lost crop, workers ripped up plastic that's laid down in rows to help the cantaloupe grow.
He could not discuss the outbreak, citing a likely raft of pending litigation.
"There are a lot of things I'd like to say right now, but now is not the time," Jensen said.
It's the latest blow to Holly, a town that has seen its share of hard times.
In late 2006, Holly was pummeled by a blizzard that cut off the town from the outside world so badly that helicopters had to drop feed to stranded cattle. Just as people were digging out of the blizzard, a tornado blasted through Holly, killing three people and destroying and damaging dozens of homes.
The Sept. 10 recall of Jensen Farms' cantaloupes came toward the end of a harvesting season made difficult by a severe drought that has rendered swaths of southeast Colorado, Kansas, Texas and Oklahoma federal disaster areas.
Residents talk about conditions so dry that some corn stalks have no ears of corn on them. Yields in wheat fields — usually between 40 to 50 bushels an acre — have dropped to about 20.
"We just haven't had any luck around here," said Watson.
Holly is about a 90-minute drive from the town of Rocky Ford, home to Colorado's revered cantaloupe growing region. Cantaloupes from the Arkansas River Valley are prized for their sweetness and are such a big deal that farms like Jensen's — 70 miles away — carry the brand name "Rocky Ford Cantaloupe."
The listeria scare has some residents wondering about the future for their Rocky Ford brand of cantaloupe — and cantaloupe farming in Colorado for that matter.More...

Paramedic details frantic scene in Jackson's room

The first paramedic to reach Michael Jackson's bedroom has told a jury that the information he received from the physician charged in the singer's death didn't add up.
Paramedic Richard Senneff says Dr. Conrad Murray told him that Jackson wasn't being treated for any specific condition. The veteran paramedic says that didn't seem right because Jackson appeared to be underweight, had a surgical cap on his head and there was an IV bag and stand nearby.
Prosecutors contend Murray repeatedly concealed from emergency personnel that he had been giving Jackson doses of the anesthetic propofol in the singer's bedroom.
Senneff was one of four paramedics working to try to revive Jackson on June 25, 2009.

US strike kills American al-Qaida cleric in Yemen

The killing of U.S.-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki and another American militant propagandist in a U.S. airstrike Friday wipes out the decisive factor that made al-Qaida's branch in Yemen the most dangerous threat to the United States: its reach into the West.
Issuing English-language sermons on jihad on the Internet from his hideouts in Yemen's mountains, al-Awlaki drew Muslim recruits like the young Nigerian who tried to bring down a U.S. jet on Christmas and the Pakistani-American behind the botched car bombing in New York City's Times Square.
The other American killed in the strike, Samir Khan, published a slick English-language Web magazine, "Inspire," that spouted al-Qaida's ideology of attacks on Westerners and even gave how-to manuals on how to carry one out — like an article titled, "Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom."
Their voices elevated the several hundred al-Qaida fighters hiding out in Yemen into a greater threat than similar affiliates of the terror network in North Africa, Somalia or east Asia.
President Barack Obama heralded the drone strike Friday as a "major blow to al-Qaida's most active operational affiliate," saying the 40-year-old al-Awlaki was the group's "leader of external operations."
"In that role, he took the lead in planning and directing efforts to murder innocent Americans," Obama told reporters in Washington, saying al-Awlaki plotted the Christmas 2009 airplane bombing attempt and a foiled attempt in 2010 to mail explosives to the United States.
Al-Awlaki's death was the biggest success in the Obama administration's intensified campaign to take out al-Qaida's leadership since the May killing of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. The pursuit of al-Awlaki and Friday's strike were directed by the same U.S. special unit that directed the Navy SEALs raid on bin Laden's hideout.
After three weeks of tracking the targets, U.S. armed drones and fighter jets shadowed al-Awlaki's convoy, before drones launched the lethal strike early Friday, U.S. officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss matters of intelligence.
Al-Awlaki and his comrades were moving through a desert region east of Yemen's capital near the village of Khasaf between mountain strongholds in the provinces of Jawf and Marib when the drone struck, U.S. and Yemeni officials said.
A tribal chief in the area told The Associated Press that the brother of one of those killed witnessed the strike. The brother, who had sheltered the group in his home nearby, said the group had stopped for breakfast in the desert and were sitting on the ground eating when they saw the drone approaching. They rushed to their truck to drive off when the missiles hit, incinerating the vehicle, according to the tribal chief, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he did not want to be associated with the incident.
U.S. officials said two other militants were killed in the strike. But the tribal chief, who helped bury the bodies in a Jawf cemetery, said seven people were killed, including al-Awlaki, Khan, two midlevel Yemeni al-Qaida members, two Saudis and another Yemeni. The differing numbers could not immediately be reconciled.
Al-Awlaki, who was born in New Mexico to Yemeni parents. had been in the U.S. cross-hairs since his killing was approved by Obama in April 2010 — making him the first American placed on the CIA "kill or capture" list. At least twice, airstrikes were called in on locations in Yemen where al-Awlaki was suspected of being, but he wasn't harmed.
In July, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said al-Awlaki was a priority target alongside Ayman al-Zawahri, bin Laden's successor as the terror network's leader.

Bruce Riedel, a Brookings senior fellow and former CIA officer, cautioned that while al-Awlaki was the "foremost propagandist," for al-Qaida's Yemen branch, his death "doesn't really significantly change its fortunes."Al-Qaida's branch "is intact and arguably growing faster than ever before because of the chaos in Yemen," he said.
Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, as the terror branch in Yemen is called, has been operating in Yemen for years, led by a Yemeni militant and former bin Laden aide named Nasser al-Wahishi. Its main goal has been the toppling of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh and targeting the monarchy in neighboring Saudi Arabia, and its several hundreds militants have found refuge among tribes in Yemen's mountainous regions, where the Sanaa government has little control.
Amid the past seven months of political turmoil in Yemen, al-Qaida and other Islamic militants have gained even more of a foothold, seizing control of at least three towns and cities in the south and battling with the army.
Al-Wahishi placed major importance on propaganda efforts.
In the latest issue of Inspire, put out earlier this month, Khan — a U.S. citizen of Pakistani heritage — recounted meeting the Yemeni al-Qaida leader. "'Remember,' he said, as other mujahedeen were busy working on their computers in the background. 'The media work is half of the jihad'," Khan wrote.
Al-Awlaki gave the group its international voice.
He was young, fluent in English, well-acquainted with Western culture and with the discontent of young Muslims there. His numerous video sermons, circulated on YouTube and other sites, offered a measured political argument — interspersed with religious lessons — that the United States must be fought for waging wars against Muslims.
Downloads of his sermons were found in the laptops and computers of several groups arrested for plotting attacks in the United States and Britain.
Al-Awlaki exchanged up to 20 emails with U.S. Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, accused of opening fire at the U.S. military base at Fort Hood, Texas, killing 13 people, in a 2009 rampage. Hasan initiated the contacts, drawn by al-Awlaki's Internet sermons.
Al-Awlaki has said he didn't tell Hasan to carry out the shootings, but he later praised Hasan as a "hero" on his website.
In New York, the Pakistani-American who pleaded guilty to the May 2010 Times Square car bombing attempt told interrogators he was "inspired" by al-Awlaki after making contact over the Internet.
But U.S. officials say al-Awlaki moved beyond being just a mouthpiece into a direct operational role in organizing such attacks as he hid alongside al-Qaida militants in the...More.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Study finds fewer gay characters on network TV

The number of gay and bisexual characters on scripted broadcast network TV has dipped slightly this season to 19 out of nearly 650 roles, according to the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.
The 16th annual "Where We Are on TV" report released Wednesday by GLAAD found that 2.9 percent of actors appearing regularly on prime-time network drama and comedy series in the 2011-12 season will portray gay, lesbian or bisexual characters.
That's down from 3 percent in the 2009-10 season and 3.9 percent last season, when there were 23 out of a total of nearly 600 roles.
The 2008-09 season saw an increased representation of 2.6 percent.
Only five of the 19 gay and lesbian characters this season are nonwhite, GLAAD found.
Using information provided by ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC and CW, the group reviewed 91 scripted series announced to air this season.
Among broadcast series with gay and bisexual characters, GLAAD cited CBS' "The Good Wife," the CW's "Ringer" and NBC's "The Playboy Club." Comedies include ABC's "Modern Family" and Fox's "Glee."
Fox leads the networks in gay representation, with eight regular characters out of a total of 117.
The number of gay and bisexual characters on cable networks has also fallen slightly, from 35 last season to 29 in the upcoming season.
As it did last year, HBO has the greatest number of gay and bisexual characters, with 11 regular and recurring characters. Showtime is close behind with 10.
The HBO drama "True Blood" remains among the most inclusive series on television, featuring six characters, tied with the Showtime series "Shameless," the group found.
Some of TV's most popular shows "weave story lines about gay and lesbian characters into the fabric of the show," said GLAAD acting President Mike Thompson. "Americans expect to see the diversity of our country represented in their favorite programs, and that includes gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people."More...

Reports: Russian ballistic missile fails in test

Russia's military says an experimental intercontinental ballistic missile has failed during a test launch.
Russian news agencies quoted the military's Space Forces spokesman Col. Alexei Zolotukhin as saying that Tuesday's launch from the northern Plesetsk launch pad was part of testing of a new series of missiles. They said Wednesday that there was no damage or casualties on the ground.
The Defense Ministry didn't immediately comment.
The news reports didn't name the missile's type, but said that it was a development of the Topol-M and the Yars intercontinental ballistic missiles designed by Moscow's Institute for Thermal Technologies. The same maker has designed the Bulava missile for the navy that has experienced numerous failures during its ongoing test program.

US tells court bin Laden photos must stay secret

Public disclosure of graphic photos and video taken of Osama bin Laden after he was killed in May by U.S. commandos would damage national security and lead to attacks on American property and personnel, the Obama administration contends in a court documents.
In a response late Monday to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog group seeking the imagery, Justice Department attorneys said the CIA has located 52 photographs and video recordings. But they argued the images of the deceased bin Laden are classified and are being withheld from the public to avoid inciting violence against Americans overseas and compromising secret systems and techniques used by the CIA and the military.
The Justice Department has asked the court to dismiss Judicial Watch's lawsuit because the records the group wants are "wholly exempt from disclosure," according to the filing.
Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, accused the Obama administration of making a "political decision" to keep the bin Laden imagery secret. "We shouldn't throw out our transparency laws because complying with them might offend terrorists," Fitton said in a statement. "The historical record of Osama bin Laden's death should be released to the American people as the law requires."
The Associated Press has filed Freedom of Information Act requests to review a range of materials, such as contingency plans for bin Laden's capture, reports on the performance of equipment during the May 1 assault on his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, and copies of DNA tests confirming the al-Qaida leader's identity. The AP also has asked for video and photographs taken from the mission, including photos made of bin Laden after he was killed.
The Obama administration refused AP's request to quickly consider its request for the records. AP appealed the decision, arguing that unnecessary bureaucratic delays harm the public interest and allow anonymous U.S. officials to selectively leak details of the mission. Without expedited processing, requests for sensitive materials can be delayed for months and even years. The AP submitted its request to the Pentagon less than one day after bin Laden's death.
In a declaration included in the documents, John Bennett, director of the CIA's National Clandestine Service, said many of the photos and video recordings are "quite graphic, as they depict the fatal bullet wound to (bin Laden) and other similarly gruesome images of his corpse." Images were taken of bin Laden's body at the Abbottabad compound, where he was killed by a Navy SEAL team, and during his burial at sea from the USS Carl Vinson, Bennett said.
"The public release of the responsive records would provide terrorist groups and other entities hostile to the United States with information to create propaganda which, in turn, could be used to recruit, raise funds, inflame tensions, or rally support for causes and actions that reasonably could be expected to result in exceptionally grave damage to both the national defense and foreign relations of the United States," Bennett wrote.
Navy Adm. William McRaven, the top officer at U.S. Special Operations Command, said in a separate declaration that releasing the imagery could put the special operations team that carried out the assault on bin Laden's compound at risk by making them "more readily identifiable in the future." Before his current assignment, McRaven led the Joint Special Operations Command, the organization in charge of the military specialized counterterrorism units.

Drugs worth $350 million destroyed in Afghanistan

Afghan and U.S.-led coalition troops have destroyed drugs worth more than $350 million and three drug laboratories in southern Afghanistan.
NATO said Wednesday the narcotics seizure may be the largest ever made in Afghanistan.
Acting on intelligence, the troops targeted an area of Baghran district in the southern Helmand province on Monday that was suspected of being a manufacturing site for drugs.
The money from the drugs was believed to be bankrolling attacks on Afghan and coalition forces.
Also destroyed in the sweep was more than 26,000 pounds (12,065 kilograms) of chemicals used to make drugs, 220 pounds (100 kilograms) of heroin and 176 pounds (80 kilograms) of opium. Afghanistan produces about 90 percent of the world's opium.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Eight policemen were killed in an attack early Wednesday near a southern city that is seen as a pioneer in transition from NATO to Afghan control over security, an Afghan police commander said.
Gen. Nabi Jan Mullahkhail, deputy regional commander in the south, said the pre-dawn attack targeted a police checkpoint near Lashkar Gah in Helmand province, where the insurgency has strongholds. Three police were wounded in the attack.
Mullahkhail said another policeman who was part of the group manning the checkpoint was missing, and that authorities were investigating whether he might have been involved in the attack.
On Tuesday, a suicide bomber rammed an explosives-packed vehicle into a police truck in Lashkar Gah, killing two civilians. The Taliban claimed responsibility for that attack.
Lashkar Gah was one of five provincial capitals and two provinces chosen to start the transition from NATO to Afghan control this summer. The international coalition hopes to use the security zone around the provincial capital and the central Helmand River Valley as a foothold to push Afghan governance into outlying areas. NATO plans to withdraw combat forces from Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
Also Wednesday, a New Zealand special forces soldier was killed during a gunbattle with suspected insurgents in a compound near Afghanistan's capital.
Lt. Gen. Rhys Jones, the chief of New Zealand's defense force, said the soldier was shot in the head and died soon after at a medical facility. Jones said the soldier was part of a team of 15 supporting about 50 Afghan police trying to serve arrest and search warrants on a group suspected of planning an attack on Kabul.
Jones said a man and a child in the compound were injured during the battle, which was still ongoing Wednesday morning.

Debt panel eyes dual Medicare/Medicaid patients

Government health benefits for some 9 million of the sickest and poorest U.S. citizens will come under scrutiny from the congressional "super committee" seeking to cut the nation's debt.
These are Americans who qualify for both the Medicare and Medicaid programs for the elderly and the poor, based on their disability, age and low income.
In bureaucratic parlance they are called "dual-eligibles" and both Democrats and Republicans see their care as one major area for potential savings. The super committee panel, with six members from each party, is taking a look at proposals to reduce spending on this group, a congressional aide said.
Medicare and Medicaid spend about $300 billion a year for dual-eligibles, about half of whom are under treatment for five or more chronic conditions like diabetes and hypertension.
While tackling either Medicare or Medicaid has proved politically unpopular, the higher proportion of cost for dual-eligibles, and their status may make them an easier segment for the two parties to agree on.
"If they do anything in the super committee, it seems to me this is ... such an obvious area," said William Hoagland, a former Republican aide for the Senate Budget Committee who is now with the health insurer CIGNA Corp.
These Medicare- and Medicaid-eligible patients represent about 15 percent of enrollees in Medicaid but account for 39 percent of program costs. They also account for 16 percent of Medicare enrollees and 27 percent of program costs.
President Barack Obama is proposing shifting federal drug reimbursements for this group to lower Medicaid rates rather than paying the higher Medicare prices, a move strongly opposed by the pharmaceutical industry.
Insurance companies and states are pressing for policy changes to encourage more use of managed care which would in turn encourage less costly forms of treatment, from closer scrutiny on the need for specific services to incentives for preventive care.
Obama's healthcare overhaul created a new office within the federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services to develop cost-saving models of coordinated care.
Melanie Bella, who heads the new office, told the Senate Finance Committee last week that it would take time before any savings are realized.
Cash-strapped states are pushing for more, particularly the power to put dual-eligibles into managed care plans. They have won support from the National Association of Medicaid Directors and officials within the insurance industry.
Emory University professor Ken Thorpe, in a report sponsored by America's Health Insurance Plans, said up to $125 billion could be saved if all dual-eligibles were placed in managed care.
"Once you get them into an integrated system where everybody's working together, as opposed to a body part by body part style of managing it, then you can improve care and reduce costs," AHIP President Karen Ignagni said in an interview.
Democrats and some healthcare advocacy groups say they are wary of forcing people into managed care plans overseen by a private insurance industry that has reaped billions in profits without necessarily improving care or reducing costs.
They want to protect benefits and choice for people who want to stay in traditional fee-for-service Medicare.
"We need to find ways to reduce the cost of healthcare, not just cut the benefits that seniors paid for," said Democratic super committee member Representative Xavier Becerra.
Because Medicare and Medicaid cover different medical services, care can be fragmented with little checking up on patients to ensure they are following medical advice and taking prescribed medicines. Studies have shown that hospital readmissions among this group are high. Many end up in nursing homes, which are covered by Medicaid.
Doctors are also fighting a move to lower their reimbursement rates according to Medicaid's standards for this group, and warn more patients may just be shut out of physicians' offices.
"Medicaid rates are going so low ... that we sort of live in denial that just because someone is on Medicaid, they are going to be adequately covered," said Ted Okan, executive director of the Community Oncology Alliance.
The complexity of these plans also works against a deep change and it takes time to rewrite federal laws, especially when it comes to healthcare. The super committee has until November 23 to come up with $1.2 trillion in 10-year budget savings.
Ignagni said the super committee could include proposals to reduce Washington's bureaucratic hurdles for states that want to shift more people into managed care plans.
"The super committee could put a wind at the backs of regulators," Ignagni said adding that regulators are already moving into the direction of more coordinated and managed care for this population. Only about 100,000 of the 9 million dual-eligibles currently are in managed care plans, she said.

Egypt convicts Mubarak's information minister

An Egyptian court has convicted Hosni Mubarak's powerful information minister on corruption charges and sentenced him to seven years in prison.
Anas al-Fiqqi's conviction on Wednesday is the latest by an Egyptian court of former regime figures. Those already convicted and sentenced include the former interior and tourism ministers, as well as former ruling party stalwart and steel magnate Ahmed Ezz.
Former state television chief, Osama el-Sheikh, was sentenced to five years in the same case as al-Fiqqi's.
Mubarak himself is on trial on charges that he ordered the use of deadly force against protesters in the 18-day uprising that toppled him in February. His two sons, businessman Alaa and one-time heir apparent Gamal, are also on trial on corruption charges.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.
CAIRO (AP) — Egypt's first parliamentary elections since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak will begin on Nov. 28, the country's military rulers said Tuesday in an announcement greeted with little fanfare by activists who have grown deeply suspicious of the generals' commitment to change.
The military council, which took over from Mubarak as he stepped down in February, promised it would transfer power to civilian rule within six months, but no date was announced for presidential elections that would bring an end to military rule.
The concerns reflect the broader uncertainty over Egypt's post-Mubarak course under a military council led by a man who served as Mubarak's defense minister for many years. Egypt's new revolutionary groups say the council has done little to dismantle Mubarak's legacy and bring figures of the old regime to account for corruption, human rights abuses and other crimes.
"The new parliament won't reflect the real spirit of the revolution and will provide justification for the military council to continue to be present in the background of the political scene," said Mustafa Shawki, a youth group leader.
Even more troubling for the young activists who led the uprising against Mubarak's rule, many believe the law governing the parliamentary election will enable remnants of the former regime to retain power in the post-uprising legislature.
The elections for parliament's two chambers will be staggered over several months, with the vote for the legislative People's Assembly starting Nov. 28 and the less powerful Shura Council, the chamber's upper house, on Jan. 29. The first session for the People's Assembly will be held on March 17. The Shura Council will convene on March 24.
Critics accuse the military of dragging out the process to prolong their time in power and sap the protest movement of its energy.
Youth groups are planning a protest this weekend to push for an amendment to the election law to have voters select party lists only, rather than a mix of party lists and individual candidates. Limiting the voting to party lists, they say, would make it harder for former members of Mubarak's now-outlawed ruling party to run. They say the change would also help make Egypt's politics less about personalities and more about policies.
Without those changes, some are contemplating a boycott.
There are also fears that the vote could widen the rift between Egypt's well-organized Islamist parties and the new youth-driven secular groups, who fear the religious will dominate the parliament.
Islamic groups, kept on a tight leash under Mubarak, are also critical of the new election law. But they are eager to throw their weight around in the elections and are better prepared to win a big share of seats.
Essam el-Erian, the deputy head of the Freedom and Justice party, the newly launched political arm of the country's strongest Islamist group, The Muslim Brotherhood, said the council disregarded discussions with the political groups over the shape of the new law.
But he said: "Egypt entered a new phase with this law. It is a de facto law that we have to deal with."
For him, boycotting the elections is not an option. A boycott, he says, "is a dream and hope of many who want to maintain the current state of confusion."
Without a broad consensus, a boycott of the elections appears highly unlikely.
The military rulers have accusations of their own against the protest movement. They claim some of the youth groups behind the Jan. 25-Feb. 11 uprising received training abroad and unauthorized foreign funding — a claim that discredits the groups in the eyes of many Egyptians.
Adding to the tension was a late-night stroll Monday by the country's military ruler, Field Marshall Hussein Tantawi, dressed in civilian garb in a downtown Cairo street near the epicenter of the protests that forced Mubarak out of office. Tantawi had never before appeared in public out of military uniform.
The surprise walkabout was interpreted by some as a sign that Tantawi may be entertaining ideas to shed his military uniform and present himself as a possible civilian president.
Calls to the military press office were not returned Tuesday.
"I just hope this was not the launch of a new election campaign for him," said Shady el-Ghazali Harb, a protest leader and now a founder of a new party, called al-Waai or Awareness.
The last parliamentary election under Mubarak was held in November and December last year, when the ousted leader's now-dissolved ruling party swept the vote, winning all but a handful of seats in the People's Assembly.
The vote was widely condemned as the most fraudulent under Mubarak's 29-year rule and considered one of the causes behind the 18-day popular uprising that forced him to step down on Feb. 11.
Egyptians went to the polls in March for a nationwide referendum on constitutional amendments. A decent turnout of more than 40 percent and the absence of any serious instances of fraud led many to declare it Egypt's cleanest vote in living memory.

China: Taiwan arms sale will disrupt US exchanges

China's military exchanges with the U.S. will suffer after Washington announced a $5.85 billion arms package for Taiwan, the Defense Ministry said Wednesday, confirming expectations that Beijing would retaliate over the sale.
High-level exchanges, joint drills, and other large-scale activities will be affected "in light of the serious damage" resulting from the sale, ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng said at a news conference open to Chinese reporters only.
That follows the months-long suspension of military contacts last year following the announcement of another arms deal for Taiwan. China views such exchanges as a political bargaining chip, frustrating U.S. officials who say they are important in building confidence and avoiding confrontations as China's military modernizes.
It wasn't clear whether additional retaliation would be taken.
Chinese vice president and future leader Xi Jinping was expected to make an important visit to Washington in coming months but no specific dates have been announced. There have also been calls in the media and among the military for commercial reprisals against companies involved in the upgrades, but China's own fledgling commercial aerospace and other high-tech industries rely heavily on American technical expertise.
China regards self-governing Taiwan, which lies 100 miles (160 kilometers) off the coast of the mainland, as part of its territory. The U.S. is obligated under legislation passed by Congress in 1979 to provide the island with weapons for its self-defense.
The U.S. sparked Chinese anger by agreeing to upgrade Taiwan's fleet of 145 F-16s that the U.S. sold it in the 1990s, although it deferred a request to sell the island a more advanced version of the plane.
U.S. officials said Chinese diplomats had earlier told them China would respond by canceling or postponing some U.S.-China military exchanges.
However, the chief of U.S. forces in the Pacific, Adm. Robert Willard, said Tuesday Beijing was very likely to retain the highest-level exchanges of visits because of their importance to China, allowing the two sides to continue strategic discussions.
The Obama administration has deepened ties with Beijing, and sees the military exchanges as mitigating the risk of U.S. forces tangling with China's in East Asia and the West Pacific. Since May, the U.S. joint chiefs of staff and his Chinese counterparts have both visited each other.

Bahrain upholds life sentences for activists

Bahrain's special security court on Wednesday upheld sentences for 21 activists convicted for their roles in Shiite-led protests for greater rights, including eight prominent political figures given life terms on charges of trying to overthrow the Gulf kingdom's Sunni rulers.
The decision suggests Bahrain's authorities are unwilling to roll back punishments for those considered central to the anti-government uprising, although officials have taken other steps seeking to ease tensions. They include releasing some detainees and reinstating state workers purged for suspected support of the seven-month-old protest movement.
Bahrain's security forces — backed by a Gulf military force led by Saudi Arabia — have crushed large-scale demonstrations by the country's majority Shiites. But near daily clashes have broken out across the strategic island, which is home to the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet.
The initial verdicts in June against the 21-member group — 14 jailed in Bahrain and seven convicted in absentia — touched off intense street battles and brought swift condemnation from international rights groups.
Shiites represent about 70 percent of Bahrain's population, but claim they face systematic discrimination and remain blocked from high-level military or political posts. Sunni rulers say they have offered dialogue on possible reforms but have been snubbed by groups favoring confrontation on the streets.
More than 30 people have died since the unrest began in February, inspired by other Arab revolts. Hundreds of others have been arrested or driven out of jobs or studies.
The appeal group included eight well-known political figures sentenced to life in prison after being charged as coup plotters. They include prominent Shiite political leaders Hassan Mushaima and Abdul Jalil al-Singace and rights activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja. Mushaima returned from self-exile in London earlier this year after Bahrain's leaders promised to erase old charges of opposing the state.
Among those sentenced to life imprisonment, all but one of the defendants are in Bahrain. Thirteen others — including six sentenced in absentia — received shorter prison terms, apparently because they weren't considered leaders.

Yemenis protest again, tribesmen shoot down plane

Tens of thousands of Yemenis protested in Sanaa on Wednesday against President Ali Abdullah Saleh's return from Saudi Arabia, while opposition tribesmen said they had downed a warplane outside the capital and captured its pilot.
Waving flags and making peace signs, protesters fearing renewed stalemate after months of demonstrations seeking Saleh's removal marched out of "Change Square" shouting "Death, death."
"The point is, if we can't live a decent and dignified life, we'd rather die," said Khaled al-Mandi.
Yemeni protesters say they are fed up with grinding poverty, corruption and lawlessness in a country where two in three people have to survive on less than $2 per day.
Saleh's return has infuriated many Yemenis who thought they had seen the last of him when an attempt on his life in June forced him to fly to neighboring Saudi Arabia for medical treatment, but he defied the odds on Friday by landing in Sanaa "carrying the dove of peace and the olive branch."
Before his return, protesters trying to expand their ramshackle camp in Sanaa were caught up in a battle between Saleh's forces and soldiers loyal to a dissident general. At least 100 people, mainly protesters, were killed.
While violence has dipped since Saleh came back, tensions are still high and many fear the lull will eventually give way to an even bloodier confrontation, if not all-out civil war.
Organizers were trying on Tuesday to build up the numbers of demonstrators by planning less risky routes through capital after the violence that had kept some off the streets.
Saudi Arabia and the United States supported Saleh in the past to contain an active al Qaeda wing that has taken root in Yemen, but growing lawlessness is fanning fears of a civil war that could shake one of the world's top oil-producing regions.
Gulf nations seeking to broker a power transition have been exasperated by Saleh's repeated last-minute refusals to sign agreed deals. Saleh is now opposed by former allies such as Ali Mohsen, a powerful general, and the influential al-Ahmar family that heads his own Hashed tribal federation.
"We don't accept any political deals. After all the bloodshed, that option is gone," said Hazim, a 21-year-old protester. "We are struggling to survive, but the Yemeni people are like the ocean and you can't fight the ocean."
Salah Sharfi, a student, said he was ready to die for the sake of future generations. "We don't want to die, but if we must to make the country free, we will not hesitate." He had turned off his phone so his mother wouldn't know where he was.
Outside Sanaa, tribesmen shot down a warplane and captured its pilot in the mountainous region of Naham, where the airforce was bombing armed opposition tribesmen, a tribal source said.
A military official said the plane, a Russian-made Sukhoi fighter, had been downed while conducting a routine mission.
The tribal source said tribesmen had attacked the plane with anti-aircraft weapons and detained the pilot who had survived. Earlier this week an army general and three tribesmen were killed in fighting at a military base in Naham.

Libya's new rulers believe Gadhafi hiding in south

Libya's new rulers believe Moammar Gadhafi may be hiding in the southern desert, possibly in a vast area near the Algerian border, under the protection of ethnic Tuareg fighters, an official said Wednesday.
Abdel-Rahman Busin, a military spokesman in Tripoli, also said revolutionary forces knew Gadhafi's son, Seif al-Islam, was in the regime stronghold of Bani Walid two weeks ago because they held negotiations about his possible surrender. But he said the talks had broken down and it was not known if he was still in the town.
Revolutionary forces gained control of Tripoli and much of the rest of the North African nation late last month, but the longtime leader fled and has been trying to rally supporters from hiding as fighting continues on three fronts. His sons also escaped and there have been several unconfirmed reports about their whereabouts.
Military officials fear Gadhafi may still be able to stoke violence from his hiding place.
Busin said the military has intelligence that Gadhafi is hiding in the vast southern desert with help from Tuareg fighters. Ethnic Tuaregs, whose nomadic community spans the desert border of Niger, Mali, Libya, Algeria and Chad, are among Gadhafi's strongest remaining supporters.
"We do believe that he is somewhere in that region and we do know that Tuaregs are supporting him, probably because he's paying them," Busin said.
He did not offer evidence and acknowledged the military cannot confirm anything.
"It's a very large bit of land to cover. We don't have the people to cover it all and he could move around quite freely," Busin told The Associated Press.
One report suggested Gadhafi was southwest of the desert town of Sabha, Busin said. He also said a recent attack on the border town of Ghadamis raised suspicion that the fugitive leader was hiding in the surrounding region, a vast area near the Algerian frontier. "Possibly they were just creating a diversion," he said.
Pro-Gadhafi gunmen crossed the border from Algeria to attack revolutionary forces in Ghadamis last week, killing at least nine people, local officials said.
Ali al-Mana, the Ghadamis representative on the National Transitional Council, said there was no confirmation that Gadhafi was in the city.
Many Libyans believe Ghadafi's son and other regime members are hiding in Bani Walid, 90 miles (140 kilometers) southeast of Tripoli, where revolutionary fighters have been stalemated with loyalist fighters for weeks.

Chris Christie Delivers an Electrifying Speech, but He's No Conservative Savior

Despite the entreaties of wealthy Republican donors and reporters yearning for a hot new storyline, Chris Christie looks like he's not going to run for President. Speaking at the Reagan library in California on Tuesday night, Christie delivered a crowd-pleasing address complaining that President Obama had failed to meet his promise and that America needs new leadership to restore its greatness. "This is not a leadership style, this is a re-election strategy," he said of the current administration's stewardship. "What happened to State Senator Obama? When did he decide to become one of the 'dividers' he spoke of so eloquently in 2004?"
Christie gave no sign that he actually intends to run. When an audience member posed the question, he declined to issue a straight-forward denial, but referred to an online video montage of the countless ways he's ruled out a White House bid in the past. "Those are the answers," he said. And why would he run? However weak the Republican field may look right now, ChristieMania has always been out of sync with his true prospects as a Republican primary candidate. (See "Chris Christie [EM] The 2011 TIME 100.")
The problem for Christie is that he's a moderate in a party with little taste for moderation. From a distance, that may not be clear. Everyone knows that Christie's blunt and tough, happy to tell off his critics with raw Jersey attitude. He's also taken on public employee unions and slashed his Democratic-leaning state's budget by $3 billion without raising taxes. He's avowedly pro-life and opposes gay marriage. He thinks "The Jersey Shore" is idiotic.
But it wouldn't be long before conservative voters came to learn about candidate Christie's many conservative heresies. On illegal immigration, for instance, Christie has called for "an orderly process... for people to gain citizenship," and groused about "demagoguery" on the issue. He supported the federal assault weapons ban, and in 2009 his campaign called it a "lie" for Democrats say that Christie "stands with" the National Rifle Association. He has praised Obama's education reform agenda, calling Education Secretary Arne Dunan "a great ally" on the issue. Christie has also said he believes human activity "plays a contributing role" in global warming (though he did pull New Jersey out of a regional cap-and-trade system), and that he "couldn't agree more" with President Obama's emphasis on green energy. Christie even bashed his 2009 opponent, Democratic governor John Corzine, for not delivering subsidies to the state's solar power manufacturers - a particularly awkward position given the GOP's fixation with the Solyndra bankruptcy.
Last, and certainly not least, is perhaps the most emotional issue for conservatives: Islam and the war on terror. On this score, Christie sounds practically like a liberal blogger. Last summer he chided opponents of the Ground Zero mosque for "overreacting" to the threat of Islamic terrorism. He appointed a state judge who is a Muslim, and denounced people who worry about creeping Sharia law in America as "crazies." (See pictures of Muslims in America.)
Think about that last comment in the context of conservative anger at Rick Perry for suggesting that anyone who opposes tuition breaks for the children of illegal immigrants doesn't "have a heart." The conservatives activists who seem most interested - apart from Chris Christie's friends, and national political reporters - in finding a substitute candidate are sure to loathe his record. Christie's only real hope would be to draw moderate voters away from Mitt Romney. Most likely, the two men would split the party's relatively small pool of moderates, allowing Perry to gallop to an easy win. A Christie candidacy would be the best thing that could happen to Perry. (Though he did take a swipe at Perry's support for instate-college tuition for some illegal immigrants on Tuesday night.)
No wonder many of the people most eager for Christie to run seem to be wealthy New York-area Republicans with little connection to their party's conservative-populist base. The New York Times identifies two of Christie's most ardent backers as the hedge fund mogul Paul Singer and Home Depot Founder Ken Langone, two billionaires who both supported Rudy Giuliani's 2008 campaign. The group also includes Daniel Loeb, who supported Barack Obama before growing disenchanted with the President's posture on Wall Street.More...

Obama popularity in Israel surges after U.N. speech: poll

President Barack Obama's popularity has risen sharply in Israel after he spoke out forcibly against a Palestinian statehood bid at the United Nations last week, according to a poll published by the Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.
The poll found 54 percent of Jewish Israelis thought Obama's policy was favorable to Israel, while 19 percent said it was pro-Palestinian. A survey in May showed 12 percent thought U.S. policy was pro-Israel and 40 percent saw it as pro-Palestinian.
The surge in popularity followed a September 21 speech by Obama at the United Nations in which he rejected a Palestinian quest for statehood recognition and detailed the persecution of the Jewish people through history.
Obama's U.N. speech was hailed by Israeli politicians of all colors, while Palestinian leaders complained that he had ignored the plight of their people who have been striving for independence for decades.
After taking office in 2009, Obama was criticized by many pro-Israeli groups for being too tough on Israel in his efforts to coerce the two sides back to the negotiating table.
Recent polls in the U.S. media have said his popularity amongst U.S. Jewish voters -- traditionally loyal to the Democratic Party -- has slipped and the Republican party has been swift to brand Obama as anti-Israeli.
Obama won the support of nearly 80 percent of Jewish voters in 2008, and a fall in this support in 2012 could jeopardize his re-election drive in battleground states like Florida and Pennsylvania, where Jewish voters are an important swing bloc.
The Jerusalem Post said its poll surveyed 506 people and had a margin of error of 4.5 percent.

Judge to mull an extension of Loughner's treatment

The man accused of wounding Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in a deadly shooting rampage is scheduled Wednesday to make his first court appearance since an angry outburst got him kicked out of a May competency hearing.
Jared Lee Loughner's mental status is again the order of business, as a judge decides whether it's likely the 23-year-old can be made competent to stand trial.
But this time around, Loughner will be under the effects of psychotropic drugs, which he has been forced to take the past 60 days.
U.S. District Judge Larry Burns will decide whether to grant prosecutors' request to extend Loughner's stay at a Missouri prison facility by another eight months. A psychologist told the court that Loughner remains mentally unfit to stand trial, but that the extended stay would give him time to improve and become competent.
Burns may also discuss whether to hold another hearing on Loughner's forcible medication.
Loughner has been at the Springfield, Mo., facility the past four months after Burns found him mentally unfit for trial.
The judge's decision followed a May 25 hearing in Tucson in which Loughner interrupted the proceedings with a loud rant. "Thank you for the free kill. She died in front of me. Your cheesiness," he said, according to court transcripts.
Federal marshals whisked Loughner from the courtroom, and he watched the rest of the hearing on closed-circuit TV from a separate room.
Experts have concluded Loughner suffers from schizophrenia.
The judge required Loughner's presence at Wednesday's hearing, even though Loughner's lawyers objected and argued traveling would be disruptive for their mentally ill client.
Loughner wanted to attend the hearing so he could see his parents, who live in Tucson.
Dr. Christina Pietz, a psychologist treating Loughner, is expected to testify that she believes Loughner can be made mentally fit for trial during an extended stay at the Missouri facility.
Loughner's attorneys argue prosecutors have failed to prove such an outcome is probable.
Loughner has pleaded not guilty to 49 charges stemming from the Jan. 8 shooting that killed six and injured 13, including Giffords.
If Burns decides to extend Loughner's stay in Missouri, the judge likely will discuss whether to hold another hearing to determine if Loughner should continue to be forcibly medicated in a bid to make him mentally fit for trial.
Prison officials have forcibly medicated Loughner with psychotropic drugs after concluding at an administrative hearing that he posed a danger at the prison.
Loughner's lawyers have been seeking to have the judge, rather than the prison, decide whether Loughner should be medicated.
Loughner was first forcibly medicated between June 21 and July 1, but an appeals court temporarily halted the medications after defense lawyers objected.
The forced medication resumed July 19 after prison officials concluded Loughner's psychological condition was deteriorating, noting he had been pacing in circles near his cell door, screaming and crying for hours at a time.
Defense lawyers have repeatedly asked Burns and a federal appeals court to halt the forced medications.
Loughner's medications include the sedative lorazepam, the antidepressant Wellbutrin and Risperidone, a drug used for people with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and severe behavior problems.
Pietz has said Loughner has recently made progress in making more eye contact with people, improving his personal hygiene and pacing less.More...

Perry immigration strategy may help woo Hispanics

Rick Perry is calling his Republican rivals "heartless" and using ethnically charged language to defend moderate parts of his immigration record. That strategy may endear the Texas governor to Hispanics and their allies even as it angers others the presidential candidate must woo to win the nomination for president.
His in-your-face approach to addressing what many non-Hispanic conservatives consider a black mark on his record underscores the difficult politics at play for Perry. He's a border-state governor who for a decade has taken great care to avoid alienating the nation's fastest-growing minority group. Now he finds himself running for president in a Republican primary whose core supporters are staunchly opposed to illegal immigration, much like George W. Bush did when he ran for the White House.
At issue is a 2001 Texas law he supported that allows undocumented immigrant children to receive in-state tuition at Texas universities if they meet certain requirements and his insistence that a physical border fence is impractical as a way to control the flow of foreigners into the United States. Both issues became flashpoints this month in a series of debates as rivals tried to use Perry's policies to paint him as weak on illegal immigration.
Perry defended himself by using arguments that invoke race, national origin and what it means to be American — issues that resonate strongly with Hispanics, a key voting demographic. He's used the same pitch since the law passed, and standing by it helps insulate him from charges he's backing away from his past positions. The arguments he makes also could easily resonate with moderate conservatives and with independents who aren't Hispanic.
"If you say that we should not educate children who have come into our state for no other reason than they've been brought there by no fault of their own, I don't think you have a heart," Perry said last week in a debate as he countered attacks from Mitt Romney, his chief rival, and from Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann.
In the same situation a week earlier, Perry invoked race and ethnicity to defend the law that's become known as the Texas Dream Act, saying: "The bottom line is, it doesn't make any difference what the sound of your last name is. That is the American way."
In both cases, many Hispanics likely found themselves nodding in agreement.
"Latinos see it as a race issue," said David Hinojosa, the southwest regional counsel for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund. He said Hispanics view opposition to bills like the one Perry signed as anti-Latino stances. "It's very fair for him to portray it as a race issue, because at the end of the day that's what it is."
Or, as Julio Rumbault, a media consultant based in Miami, put it, "The reality is that we have Garcias who are five generations in New Mexico and those that came over the border last week, and they are blending into the society and becoming part of our communities."
"Perry was saying something that makes sense in principle but also makes sense in reality," Rumbault said. "He was pointing to the American tenet of equality as a principle, and whether he meant to or not, he dealt with a reality. Garcias, whether they're five generations or just came over the border, they're here, and they deserve an opportunity for education."
Perry's position could help him attract the support of Democratic-leaning Hispanics in key general election swing states like Florida, Nevada and Colorado. Perry points to his appeal among Hispanics in private meetings with donors when they ask how the plain-spoken conservative is going to win the broad base of voters he'll need to beat President Barack Obama in 2012. He wouldn't need a majority of Hispanic voters to win — just enough to chip away at the overwhelming majority Obama won in 2008.
First, however, Perry must get through the GOP primary and convince an angry Republican base not to reject him outright for immigration positions many view as heresy. Even though the issue takes a backseat nationally to the struggling economy, it consistently pops up in early voting Iowa and South Carolina, as voters press GOP candidates on whether they're staunch enough against illegal immigration.
Romney and Bachmann both frequently castigate the Texas bill as helping "illegal aliens." Romney allies note that he vetoed a similar in-state tuition bill when he served as governor of Massachusetts, and Bachmann often reminds voters that she backs the building of a fence along the U.S.-Mexico border.
If the blowback from Perry's "have a heart" comment is any indication, he has his work cut out for him.
Bachmann used the phrase to slam Perry in an email to supporters, writing, "If you oppose illegal immigration and don't believe illegal immigrants should be given taxpayer subsidized tuition benefits ... according to Rick Perry you don't have a heart."
And a statement from the campaign arm of Americans for Legal Immigration said, "Rick Perry is finished." The group says it backs people who legally immigrate but opposes amnesty, visa expansion or guest worker programs "designed to reward illegal aliens or legalize their presence" in the United States.
Perry aides brush off the criticism.
They say Perry's talking about illegal immigration in the same way he always has and isn't catering to any one constituency or looking to provoke anyone by suggesting his rivals are heartless or invoking ethnicity. They say he is who he is and he says what he thinks. They say he's being consistent in how he talks about illegal immigration and his policies.More...

Destroyed school raises questions for Libyans

Textbooks are strewn across the floor of the computer and math lab. Pages of science homework are stamped with footprints. A cupboard has been smashed. Bullet holes puncture computer screens and frame door locks.
The Tareq Abu Zeyad middle school lies in ruins. Villagers in this isolated, dusty hamlet in Libya's western mountains say revolutionary forces carried out the attack last week to avenge their past support for Moammar Gadhafi.
The assault, part of a series of reported attacks throughout the region, is an example of what can go wrong as Libyans struggle with how to go forward after months of brutal civil war that often pitted tribes and families against one other.
"I don't know why they would take revenge on a classroom, on a school, which should be for the public good," said Mohammed Saleh, vice principal of the middle school in this town about 110 miles (180 kilometers) southwest of Tripoli. He shuffled through the lab room, shaking his head.
Saleh is a member of the al-Meshashya tribe, which pledged its allegiance to the regime at the beginning of the revolution and harbored Gadhafi's loyalists when they fled from cities liberated by the former rebels.
The al-Meshashyas, who populates this and other villages in the area, say the attacks are particularly wrong-headed because many residents silently supported the uprising but feared publicly voicing opposition to Gadhafi. The revolution began in mid-February in the eastern city of Benghazi and then spread across the nation.
Elsewhere in Libya, other tribes that professed loyalty to Gadhafi have come under fire as well. Many members of the Twarga tribe fled Misrata during the battles for the western city. Now dozens of Twarga families live in schools in Tripoli because revolutionary forces do not allow them to return to their homes in Misrata.
A military spokesman for the ruling National Transitional Council, Col. Ahmed Banim, dismissed all these allegations as an attempt to tarnish the image of fighters from the town of Zintan who proved vital in last month's push into Tripoli that forced Gadhafi into hiding.
"There is a focus to make the Zintan and Misrata revolutionaries look bad, but they did the most in the struggle to rid Libya of Gadhafi, and I do not like these accusations," Bani said.
He said that tribal leaders should take the initiative to resolve any problems.
Ibrahim Abu Shala, a leader of the al-Meshashyas, said that Gadhafi commanders visited village elders in March to persuade them to oppose the rebellion.
Abu Shala said he then persuaded the tribe to pledge loyalty to the regime and to harbor Gadhafi loyalists. He said he accomplished this through special envoys and state media propaganda and by playing on Bedouin tribal loyalties and ancient rifts between his tribe and one in Zintan.
"Being one of the biggest tribes in the western mountains, Gadhafi used us to hold back a rebellion in this part of the country," said Abu Shala.
The regime armed families and young men with new weapons, mainly Kalashnikovs and hand-held machine guns.
Abu Shala said that those supporting the revolution were outnumbered and threatened into silence by Gadhafi fighters who used the strategic mountainous terrain as hiding locations.
But once it looked imminent that Tripoli would fall and the entire country would soon come under revolutionary command, the al-Meshashyas said they officially declared allegiance to the revolutionaries on Aug. 8 — nearly two weeks before the rebels entered the capital.
"We heard that the revolutionaries announced that we had to hand over our arms, so we met with them and they gave us two hours to do so," said Amer Ramadan, who attended the meeting between the tribal representatives and the anti-Gadhafi rebels from Zintan.
He said the Aug. 21 meeting was very cordial but that they were given only two hours to hand over all the weapons — even though there had not been a call from the National Transitional Council to collect weapons in the cities.More...

Christie again says he isn't running for president

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has reaffirmed to supporters that he isn't running for president, even as a speech he delivered at the Ronald Regan Presidential Library was likely to stoke fresh speculation about his White House ambitions.
The Republican governor warned that the nation's credibility abroad was being damaged by troubles at home. He charged that an indecisive White House has deepened the nation's economic pain, and he accused President Barack Obama of preparing to divide the country to win re-election next year.
Christie later said in a question-and-answer session that he was flattered by suggestions he run in 2012, but he added, "that reason has to reside inside me."
He urged a capacity audience of about 900 that included former first lady Nancy Reagan to look at the website Politico, which had pieced together a long string of video clips of him saying he's not a candidate for the White House.
"Those are the answers," he told the crowd.
In his speech, Christie didn't spare Congress as he delivered a scathing indictment of Beltway politics. He said the failure to compromise, along with Obama's lack of leadership, had set the country dangerously off course.
In Washington "we drift from conflict to conflict, with little or no resolution. We watch a president who once talked about the courage of his convictions, but still has yet found the courage to lead," Christie said.
"We watch a Congress at war with itself because they are unwilling to leave campaign-style politics at the Capitol's door. The result is a debt-ceiling limitation debate that made our democracy appear as if we could no longer effectively govern ourselves," he said.
Christie's appearance came during a three-day national trip in which the governor is raising money for Republicans and networking with party rainmakers.
With a reputation as a blunt-talking budget-cutter, the Reagan stage gave Christie the opportunity to extend his influence in a party that views him as a rising star.
Christie, the first Republican elected New Jersey governor since 1997, repeatedly contrasted Reagan's leadership skills with the dysfunction in Washington. Obama has positioned himself as a compromiser and deal-maker, but Christie cited his work in Trenton as the successful model, saying "leadership and compromise is the only way you reform New Jersey's pension and health benefits system."
He mocked Obama as "a bystander in the Oval Office" who was preparing to divide the nation along economic lines to win another four years in Washington, apparently alluding to the president's jobs bill, which proposes that wealthy Americans and big corporations pay more in taxes.
Obama is "telling those who are scared and struggling that the only way their lives can get better is to diminish the success of others," Christie said. He's "insisting that we must tax and take and demonize those who have already achieved the American Dream."
After the speech, Christie was asked repeatedly during the question-and-answer session if he would reconsider a presidential run. He declined, as he has many times before.
Lantie Jorandby, a 38-year-old physician from Florida who watched the speech, said she was unhappy with the GOP field and was eager to see Christie in the race. The registered Republican lamented the GOP presidential debates, calling them "a playground."
Mitt "Romney seems like a used car salesman. (Rick) Perry is out of his depth," she said. Christie "kind of has that Reagan-esque vibe."
Also Tuesday, his brother became the latest confidante to tamp down talk of a presidential bid.
"I'm sure that he's not going to run," Todd Christie told The Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J. The newspaper also reported that the governor told wealthy donors in Santa Ana that he was not entering the race, echoing his previous statements.More...

4 Americans get pot from US government

Sometime after midnight on a moonlit rural Oregon highway, a state trooper checking a car he had just pulled over found less than an ounce of pot on one passenger: A chatty 72-year-old woman blind in one eye.
She insisted the weed was legal and was approved by the U.S. government.
The trooper and his supervisor were doubtful. But after a series of calls to the U.S. Attorney's Office, the Drug Enforcement Agency and her physician, the troopers handed her back the card — and her pot.
For the past three decades, Uncle Sam has been providing a handful of patients with some of the highest grade marijuana around. The program grew out of a 1976 court settlement that created the country's first legal pot smoker.
Advocates for legalizing marijuana or treating it as a medicine say the program is a glaring contradiction in the nation's 40-year war on drugs — maintaining the federal ban on pot while at the same time supplying it.
Government officials say there is no contradiction. The program is no longer accepting new patients, and public health authorities have concluded that there was no scientific value to it, Steven Gust of the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse told The Associated Press.
At one point, 14 people were getting government pot. Now, there are four left.
The government has only continued to supply the marijuana "for compassionate reasons," Gust said.
One of the recipients is Elvy Musikka, the chatty Oregon woman. A vocal marijuana advocate, Musikka relies on the pot to keep her glaucoma under control. She entered the program in 1988, and said that her experience with marijuana is proof that it works as a medicine.
They "won't acknowledge the fact that I do not have even one aspirin in this house," she said, leaning back on her couch, glass bong cradled in her hand. "I have no pain."
Marijuana is getting a look from states around the country considering calls to repeal decades-old marijuana prohibition laws. There are 16 states that have medical marijuana programs. In the three West Coast states, advocates are readying tax-and-sell or other legalization programs.
Marijuana was legal for much of U.S. history and was recognized as a medicine in 1850. Opposition to it began to gather and, by 1936, 48 states had passed laws regulating pot, fearing it could lead to addiction.
Anti-marijuana literature and films, like the infamous "Reefer Madness," helped fan those fears. Eventually, pot was classified among the most harmful of drugs, meaning it had no usefulness and a high potential for addiction.
In 1976, a federal judge ruled that the Food and Drug Administration must provide Robert Randall of Washington, D.C. with marijuana because of his glaucoma — no other drug could effectively combat his condition. Randall became the nation's first legal pot smoker since the drug's prohibition.
Eventually, the government created its program as part of a compromise over Randall's care in 1978, long before a single state passed a medical marijuana law. What followed were a series of petitions from people like Musikka to join the program.
President George H.W. Bush's administration, getting tough on crime and drugs, stopped accepting new patients in 1992. Many of the patients who had qualified had AIDS, and they were dying.
The AP asked the agency that administers the program, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, for documents showing how much marijuana has been sent to patients since the first patient in 1976.
The agency supplied full data for 2005-2011, which showed that during that period the federal government distributed more than 100 pounds of high-grade marijuana to patients.
Agency officials said records related to the program before 2005 had been destroyed, but were able to provide scattered records for a couple of years in the early 2000s.
The four patients remaining in the program estimate they have received a total of 584 pounds from the federal government over the years. On the street, that would be worth more than $500,000.
All of the marijuana comes from the University of Mississippi, where it is grown, harvested and stored.
Dr. Mahmoud ElSohly, who directs the operation, said the marijuana was a small part of the crop the university has been growing since 1968 for all cannabis research in the U.S. Among the studies are the pharmaceutical uses for synthetic mimics of pot's psychoactive ingredient, THC.
ElSohly said the four patients are getting pot with about 3 percent THC. He said 3 percent is about the range patients have preferred in blind tests.
The marijuana is then sent from Mississippi to a tightly controlled North Carolina lab, where they are rolled into cigarettes. And every month, steel tins with white labels are sent to Florida and Iowa. Packed inside each is a half-pound of marijuana rolled into 300 perfectly-wrapped joints.
With Musikka living in Oregon, she is entitled to more legal pot than anyone in the nation because she's also enrolled in the state's medical marijuana program. Neither Iowa nor Florida has approved marijuana as a medicine, so the federal pot is the only legal access to the drug for the other three patients.More...