Monday, October 31, 2011

Cardinals manager La Russa retires

Tony La Russa announced his retirement Monday, just three days after managing the St. Louis Cardinals to the World Series title.
La Russa, 67, had managed in the major leagues for 33 years, 16 of them with the Cardinals, who defeated the Texas Rangers in seven games for his third World Series crown.
"We went through the season and I felt that this just feels like it's time to end it and I think it's going to be great for the Cardinals to refresh what's going on here," La Russa told a St. Louis news conference.
He said no one factor led to his decision.
"They all just come together telling you your time is over," he said.
La Russa compiled a 2,728-2,365 record, ranking behind only Connie Mack (3,731) and John McGraw (2,763) in Major League wins.
He won World Series titles with the Cardinals in 2006 and 2011 and with the Oakland Athletics in 1989.
La Russa is the only Major League manager to win multiple pennants in both leagues and the second to win a World Series title in each. Sparky Anderson won World Series titles with Cincinnati and Detroit.
"We're grateful for what he's done for the Cardinals all these years," St. Louis chairman and chief executive officer Bill DeWitt Jr. said.
La Russa, a likely Hall of Famer, began his managerial career with the Chicago White Sox in 1979 and moved to the Athletics nine seasons later. He became the Cardinals manager in 1996.

Steve Jobs’ Final Words Shared in Sister’s Eulogy

Steve Jobs’ sister Mona Simpson shared in the eulogy she delivered at the late Apple CEO‘s memorial service that his surprising final words from his deathbed were, “Oh wow, oh wow, oh wow.” In the eulogy, which was printed in The New York Times on Sunday, Simpson describes Jobs’ final days and moments in a Palo Alto hospital, which was spent surrounded by family as his breathing gradually became shorter.
His breath, she said, “indicated an arduous journey, some steep path, altitude.”
Delivered at the October 16 service for Jobs at Stanford Memorial Church, Simpson, an accomplished novelist, began by describing her initial meeting of her brother for the first time when she was in her mid-20s. Simpson was born in 1957, two years after Jobs, who was given up for adoption as an infant.
“Even as a feminist, my whole life I’d been waiting for a man to love, who could love me. For decades, I’d thought that man would be my father. When I was 25, I met that man and he was my brother,” Simpson said.
Simpson went on to describe her strong relationship with the man now know for the revolutionizing computer world, while explaining Jobs’ work ethic and capacity for love — particularly for his wife Laurene and as a doting father to their three children.
“Steve was like a girl in the amount of time he spent talking about love. Love was his supreme virtue, his god of gods. He tracked and worried about the romantic lives of the people working with him,” she said.
In describing his illness from pancreatic cancer, which Jobs was(...)More.

FBI Russian Spy Videos Released

The FBI video is remarkable: Russian spies digging up payoff money in New Jersey, handing off a bag in a New York train station and passing information in furtive meetings and “brush bys.” 
It’s all part of the surveillance video released today of a decade-long FBI undercover operation that brought down Anna Chapman and the Russian spy ring operating in the United States.
The videos were released as part of a Freedom of Information Act request by ABC News and other news outlets .
In conjunction with the release of the videos, the FBI has also released more than 1,000 pages of highly redacted documents from the case that was dubbed Operation Ghost Stories because it was reminiscent of the Cold War’s cloak-and-dagger spy games.
The FBI tracked the spy ring known as the “Illegals” program across the United States with FBI agents and the Justice Department arresting the 10 spies June 27, 2010.
The case captured international attention with Russian bombshell Chapman providing an undercurrent of sex appeal and international intrigue in one of the biggest spy cases since the collapse of the Soviet Union. 
Chapman covertly communicated with Russian government officials from the Russian Mission to the United Nations by using private wireless networks sent from her laptop computer. 
One of the videos shows Chapman days before she was arrested interacting with(...)More.

Palestine wins UNESCO seat


Palestine won full admission into UNESCO, the United Nations science, education and cultural heritage organization, in a closely watched vote in Paris Monday. Global diplomacy hands view the 107-14 vote as a benchmark carrying larger implications for the Palestinians' bid for state recognition before the UN Security Council. Both the United States and Israel have strongly opposed both initiatives.
The United States, Israel, Canada, Germany, Sweden and Australia were among the 14 nations voting against the Palestinians' UNESCO bid, while 107 countries--including France, Spain, Ireland, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, India, Russia, China, South Africa and Indonesia--voted in favor. Fourteen nations--including the United Kingdom and Italy--abstained.
Washington, which called the UNESCO vote "premature" Monday, has threatened to cut off U.S. funding to UNESCO if Palestine is granted membership. The United States currently accounts for about one-fifth of the organization's funds.
Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs also issued a statement after the vote, saying it would harm the peace process.
Palestine's successful UNESCO bid comes as Middle East Quartet envoy Tony Blair is due to meet with U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House Monday.
Blair has been trying to advance the Quartet's efforts to get the Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table, asking each side to lay out their specific terms for resolving the issues of borders and security for a two-state solution. Meanwhile, Israeli officials have been depicting Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas as an unworthy peace partner.
Abbas, in turn, has recently reiterated his periodic threat to dissolve the Palestinian Authority--a move that would presumably leave Israel responsible for administering, funding, and coordinating security for the West Bank's Palestinian population.

Herman Cain Denies Sexual Harassment Allegation: ‘Bring Me The Accuser’

Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain’s campaign is staunchly denying reports that the former chief executive of Godfather’s Pizza was involved in a sexual harassment case, saying the allegations are “questionable.”
Cain’s chief of staff, Mark Block, said on MSNBC today that the GOP candidate “has never sexually harassed anyone. Period. End of story.”
“Every negative word and accusation in the article is sourced to a series of unnamed or anonymous sources. Questionable at best,” Block said of the Politico report, which found that Cain was accused of inappropriate behavior by two women during his tenure as National Restaurant Association head from 1996 to 1999.
Per Politico, “the women complained of sexually suggestive behavior by Cain that made them angry and uncomfortable, the sources said, and they signed agreements with the restaurant group that gave them financial payouts to leave the association. The agreements also included language that bars the women from talking about their departures.”
Block said he is not aware of any cash settlement, and maintained Cain’s innocence.
“Mr. Cain has never sexually harassed anyone,  period,” he said, adding that when he asked his boss of the allegations, he said “the story is not true. Bring me some facts. Bring me the accuser.”
Cain, 65, will address the allegations today, Block said.
When confronted on the trail Sunday about the report, Cain refused to comment, even asking the reporter whether he had ever been accused of sexual harassment. His spokesman dubbed the accusations “garbage” and “a total distraction.”
Cain is in Washington, D.C. today, where he is first speaking about his 9-9-9 tax plan at the conservative American Enterprise Institute and then later at a luncheon at the National Press Club.
At the AEI event this morning, Cain refused to answer a question about the charges, saying that “I will go by the ground rules that my host have set,” which is discussing just his 9-9-9 plan.
According to Politico, the conversations between Cain and the two women who accused him of inappropriate behavior were “filled with innuendo or personal questions of a sexually suggestive nature, taking place at hotels during conferences, at other officially sanctioned restaurant association events and at the association’s offices.
“There were also descriptions of physical gestures that were not overtly sexual but that made women who experienced or witnessed them uncomfortable and that they regarded as improper in a professional relationship,” the article stated.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Man opens fire outside US Embassy in Bosnia

A man opened fire with an automatic weapon outside the U.S. Embassy in Bosnia on Friday, and authorities said he was targeting the building in a terrorist attack.
The man injured at least one police officer guarding the embassy before police surrounded him. After a 30-minute standoff, the sound of a single shot echoed and AP Video showed the shooter — brandishing a Kalyshinkov on a street corner outside of the embassy — slump to the ground.
Police arrested the wounded man and took him away in an ambulance as pedestrians watched from behind buildings and vehicles. Sarajevo police spokesman Irfan Nefic said the man was being treated at a hospital.
Hospital spokeswoman Biljana Jandric told The Associated Press the gunman's leg was slightly injured and he will remain in hospital overnight before being released into police custody.
Sarajevo mayor Alija Behmen said the man had "got off a tram with a Kalashnikov and started shooting at the American embassy."
Witnesses told Bosnian TV the man was urging pedestrians to move away because he did not want to hurt them as his target was the embassy
The U.S. Embassy said in a statement that none of its employees was injured. Ambassador Patrick Moon expressed his gratitude for the swift response by the police.
Bakir Izetbegovic, one of Bosnia's three presidents, issued a statement condemning "the terrorist attack on the embassy of the United States in Bosnia-Herzegovina."
"The United States is a proven friend of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Its government and its people supported us in the most difficult moments in our history and nobody has the right to jeopardize our relations," he said.
Zeljko Komisci, chairman of Bosnia's presidency, said in a video interview with Associated Press that the country will now have to wait to hear if the security services determine if the attack "was the act of an individual, or something organized."
"But whatever it was, it is not just an attack at the U.S. embassy or the U.S., it is also an attack on Bosnia and Herzegovina," he added.
He said in a later statement that Bosnia "is not a terrorist refuge and neither does our country nor its citizens support anything that jeopardizes peace, security or anyone's life."
He added that according to initial information, the attacker was a(...)More.

Gaddafi son eyes safety, talks to Hague

From deep in the Sahara, fearing that he will share his father's bloody fate at the hands of vengeful Libyans and calling in old favors bought with oil from desert tribes and African strongmen, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi may be bartering a future.
The International Criminal Court at The Hague confirmed on Friday that the 39-year-old heir-apparent to Libya's slain former leader had been in touch. It urged him to turn himself in, warning it could order a mid-air interception if he and his mercenary guards tried to flee by plane for safe haven abroad.
Though details remain sketchy of the whereabouts and state of mind of Saif al-Islam, the London-educated would-be reformer now indicted for crimes against humanity, the ICC offered some corroboration of reports from Tripoli's new leaders and African neighbors that he has taken refuge with Tuareg nomads in the borderlands between Libya and Niger, seeking a way to safety.
"Through intermediaries, we have informal contact with Saif," ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said in a statement.
"We have learnt through informal channels that there is a group of mercenaries who are offering to move Saif to an African (state) not party to ... the ICC. The Office of the Prosecutor is also exploring the possibility to intercept any plane within the air space of a state party in order to make an arrest."
Officials with Libya's National Transitional Council told Reuters earlier in the week that monitoring of satellite calls and other intelligence indicated Saif al-Islam was considering turning himself in to The Hague, and trying to arrange an aircraft to get him there and out of reach of NTC fighters, in whose hands Muammar Gaddafi was beaten and killed a week ago.
DESERT FRIENDS
However, surrender is only one option. The Gaddafis made friends with desert tribes in Niger, Mali and other poor former French colonies in West Africa, as well as farther afield in countries like Zimbabwe and Sudan, some of them also recipients of largesse during the 42-year rule of Colonel Gaddafi, a self-styled son of the desert and African "king of kings".
France, a key backer of Febuary's revolt, reminded Africans of obligations to hand over the surviving ICC indictees - former intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi and Saif al-Islam: "We don't care whether he goes on foot, by plane, by boat, by car or on a camel, the only thing that matters is that he belongs in the ICC," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero.
"We don't have many details, but the sooner the better."
Despite reduced circumstances since his father's overthrow in August, the younger Gaddafi, whom some have described as a playboy in his days at the London School of Economics, may have access to portable wealth in the form of bundles of banknotes and gold bars, as well as to secret, unfrozen foreign accounts.
Niger, Mali, Chad and Burkina Faso, a swathe of arid states to the south of Libya, are all signatories to the treaty that set up the ICC, established to give a permanent international tribunal for crimes against humanity after ad hoc bodies set up for Rwanda, the former Yugoslavia and Sierra Leone.
"If we reach agreement, logistical measures for his transfer will be taken," ICC spokesman Fadi El Abdallah said. "There are different scenarios, depending on what country he is in."
Without its own police force, the ICC depends on cooperation from member states -- which do not include world powers the United States, Russia and China. Its focus so far on Sudanese, Congolese and Kenyans has left some Africans disgruntled.
Powers on the continent like South Africa and Nigeria are signatories. But Algeria, which took in Saif al-Islam's mother, sister, brother Hannibal and half-brother Mohammed, is not. Nor are Sudan, Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe and a number of other nations where leaders might see advantage in giving him a haven.
MERCENARIES
As well as enjoying protection from Tuareg allies who traditionally provided close security for the Gaddafis, Saif al-Islam may still be in the company of mercenaries from elsewhere in Africa, including possibly South Africa, NTC officials say.
A South African newspaper, in an unconfirmed report, said South African mercenaries were working to fly him out.
Living conditions in the desert are spartan, though the autumn climate is relatively temperate. Smugglers and others who make a living in the desert travel in 4x4s and trucks, watching fuel gauges closely, as well as by horse and camel, resting in tents as well as simple shacks scattered close to oases.
Communications are provided by satellite phones powered by car engines and generators, but also networks of nomads.
A bodyguard who saw Saif al-Islam as he fled last week from one of the Gaddafi clan's last bastions near the capital told Reuters that Saif al-Islam, eldest son of Gaddafi's second wife Safia, seemed "nervous" and "confused". He escaped even though his motorcade was hit by a NATO air strike as it left Bani Walid on October 19, the day before his father died at Sirte.
Three of Saif al-Islam's brothers were killed in the war. Another, Saadi, has found refuge in Niger.
The arrest or surrender of Saif al-Islam would bring a new prominence for the nine-year-old ICC, whose highest profile suspect to date is Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who remains defiantly in office, defended by many fellow Africans.
INTERNATIONAL COURT
Following the killing of Muammar Gaddafi, most probably at the hands of the fighters who filmed themselves battering and abusing him, Western allies of Libya's new leaders had urged them to impose respect for human rights, even for those accused of scorning the rights of others down the decades.
NTC leaders would like to run their own trials, but acknowledge that their writ barely runs in the deep south.
Their NATO allies, now winding up a mission that backed the revolt, have expressed little enthusiasm for hunting a few individuals across a vast tract of empty continent -- though French troops based in West Africa might be the best placed to step in with transport if Gaddafi did choose to surrender.
Richard Dicker of the New York-based Human Rights Watch said the killing of his father made it all the more important that Saif al-Islam end up on trial in the Netherlands:
"The gruesome killing of Muammar Gaddafi last week underscores the urgency of ensuring that his son, Saif al-Islam, be promptly handed over to the International Criminal Court for fair trial in The Hague," Dicker said.
"This will best ensure that justice is done."
The ICC's Moreno-Ocampo said in his statement: "If he surrenders to the ICC, he has the right to be heard in court, he is innocent until proven guilty. The judges will decide.
"If the judges decide that Saif is innocent, or has served his sentence, he can request the judges to send him to a different country as long as that country accepts him."
Saif al-Islam was once seen as a liberal reformer, architect of a rapprochement with the oil-thirsty Western states on whom his father waged proxy guerrilla wars for decades. But he ran into opposition from hardliners among his brothers and had taken a lower profile before bursting back onto the world's television screens with belligerent win-or-die rhetoric after the revolt.
The ICC accuses him of hiring mercenaries to carry out a plan, worked out with his father and Senussi, to kill unarmed protesters inspired by Arab Spring uprisings elsewhere.
However, even if arrested on charges relating to his role in attacks on protesters in February and March, Saif al-Islam could make defense arguments that might limit any sentence, lawyers said -- possibly a tempting alternative to death in Libya.
WARM WELCOME
For now, some of the few tens of thousands of people who eke out a living in the deepest Sahara, a borderless expanse roamed by smugglers and nomadic herders, say there would be a welcome for the younger Gaddafi, who in better times exhibited paintings he said were inspired by his love for the desert landscapes.
"We are ready to hide him wherever needed," said Mouddour Barka, a resident of Agadez in northern Niger. "We are telling the international community to stay out of this business and our own authorities not to hand him over -- otherwise we are ready to go out onto the streets and they will have us to deal with."
Niger's government in the capital Niamey has vowed to meet its ICC commitments. But 750 km (400 miles) north in a region where cross-border allegiances among Tuareg nomads often outweigh national ties, the picture looks different.
"I am ready to welcome him in. For me his case is(...)More.

Police arrest 29 Occupy Nashville protesters at capitol plaza

Occupy Nashville protesters were returning to the Tennessee Legislative Plaza in front of the state capitol on Friday after being rousted from their campsite by state troopers earlier this morning.
Twenty-nine protesters were taken into custody at shortly after three Friday morning. Some were dragged from the campsite they've occupied for about three weeks.
Those arrested were taken to Davidson County Night Court for booking, but were freed by Night Court Commissioner Thomas Nelson.
"You have no lawful basis to arrest and charge those people," Nelson said to state troopers.
"For three weeks they've sat up there and protested under no admonition whatsoever that they were violating state policy regarding camping out on Legislative Plaza or that they were committing a crime."
He said he understood that the state had changed its policy on Thursday, but "they (the protesters) have to be given the opportunity to comply with those rules."
The action -- a line of 75 troopers swept through the camp after giving a 10-minute warning -- came less than a day after the state's Department of General Services said the plaza and other public areas nearby would be subject to a curfew, with no occupation between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.
Protesters had asked the state on Wednesday for more help with security. There has been some theft from tents as well as reports of marijuana being sold and lewd behavior in the area.
Occupy Nashville protesters blamed those incidents on the homeless population which has joined them on the plaza because of the availability of free blankets and food.
Protesters had vowed they wouldn't leave, but the timing of the raid by state troopers caught them off-guard. After troopers gathered on the plaza at 3:10 a.m., one took a bullhorn and announced "you'll be given 10 minutes (to clear the area). .. Your time starts now."
About two-dozen of the protesters left at that time, according to Dalya Qualls, spokeswoman for the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security.
But many of the protesters didn't leave and, while they chanted the anti-Vietnam War era slogan "the whole world's watching," they were dragged off and put in buses for the short trip to Night Court.
The demonstrators face charges of criminal trespassing November 18 in General Sessions Court, Qualls said. Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner Bill Gibbons defended the sweep, saying troopers took the appropriate action.
"The process was handled by state troopers in a professional manner and without incident," he said in a statement to the press.
"It is our responsibility to keep the protesters safe on state property, along with citizens who work, live and enjoy downtown. We all must work together to ensure a safe environment."
He said the early hour for the raid was chosen because it would be least disruptive for those who work, visit and live downtown. Protesters plan a rally Friday evening.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Bernie Madoff Exclusive: Barbara Walters' Firsthand Account

It is a 90-minute flight from New York to Raleigh, N.C., and then it takes about 40 minutes by car to get to the Butner Federal Correction Complex. As you drive east from Raleigh all you can see for miles is farmland scattered with a few small buildings. Butner is a beautiful, rural community, despite being home to several prisons.
The Butner complex itself has four prisons: two medium security facilities, a hospital and a low-security prison as well. Bernard Madoff is in Medium I. All the buildings are white and low to the ground, and from a distance look like an attractive office complex. The area was quiet and extremely well-kept -- if I was expecting doom and gloom, it wasn't what I found. Only as you drive closer to the actual buildings can you see the barbed wire fence ringing each of the four prisons.
We drove right up to Medium I's entrance and were greeted by the head of security, who walked me into the lobby. It was immaculate, with just one guard at the main desk to check in visitors. My producer and I signed our names in the daily log, and walked through a metal detector similar to what you'd find at an airport -- but this time I was allowed to keep my shoes on.
I had what is called a "media interview" with Madoff, which is different than the regular visits prisoners get with family and friends. For our interview, I was permitted only to bring in pen and pad. I was also allowed to bring in $20 in quarters since there were vending machines near our meeting room, which prisoners and guests are permitted to use during the visit. As it turns out, Madoff didn't want anything, but I did mention it during the meeting in case we were hungry.
After we were checked in, we met the assistant warden and public information officer. I was struck that they were both women -- this at an all-male facility. The two women walked us to through the first locked gate. It was gray steel, and the first indication that we were walking into a prison. The gate swung closed behind us, and then a guard asked me for my left hand, and proceeded to stamp me with an infrared ink that couldn't be seen to the naked eye. The guards wanted to make sure that visitors who walk into the prison are the same individuals who walk out two hours later.
We went through two more gated rooms -- each time a door swung closed behind us, another door swung open in front of us. Finally we were led to a corridor with columns on one side that open to a courtyard in the middle of the complex. The courtyard had beautifully manicured gardens, which we learned were courtesy of the prisoners who maintain the grounds.
We were ushered into the private Assistant Warden's Conference Room. There were two long tables with about 10 chairs at each table. Walls are cinderblock painted white, with Inspirational "TEAM" posters on the wall and a computer in the corner. I was briefed about my visit and the prison rules, and then 10 minutes later Madoff was brought in by the assistant warden.
Madoff was wearing the standard prison uniform. Khaki pants, khaki short-sleeved shirt with white buttons, non-descript black sneakers with Velcro closures. He has gray hair and wears brownish wire-rimmed glasses, with bifocal lenses. He has an occasional tick (blinking of the eyes) which gets worse when he is discussing difficult matters. I was allowed to shake hands with him, then we sat down to talk.
Finally, I sat face to face with inmate #61727-054, the man many consider a monster.
READ what Madoff told me in our interview.

Wall St. climbs 3 percent on Europe deal, financials soar

Stocks surged 3 percent in a broad rally on Thursday as a long-awaited agreement by European leaders to boost the region's bailout fund promised to remove a major headwind for the market.
The agreement also strikes a deal for write-downs on Greek bonds, a source of global equity weakness over the past several months. However, optimism that a deal would be struck that would contain the crisis has led to a recent rebound.
Up more than 13 percent so far in October, the S&P 500 is on pace for its best monthly percentage gain since January 1987. The gain follows five negative months on the index.
Financials were the best performers, with JPMorgan Chase & Co up 7.2 percent to $36.63 and Citigroup Inc jumping 8.6 percent to $33.85. The KBW Bank index shot up 5.5 percent while the S&P financial index soared 6.1 percent.
After more than eight hours of talks, European heads of state, the International Monetary Fund and bankers sealed a deal that also foresees a recapitalization of hard-hit European lenders and a leveraging of the bloc's rescue fund to give it firepower of $1.4 trillion.
"There has been a risk of a very serious issue if the European financial system were to get worse, but now we have a plan in place that I believe will rectify the situation," said David Smith, chief investment officer at Rockland Trust Investment Management Group in Rockland, Mass.
"Between this and some of the good news we've gotten domestically, there's clearly a scenario where strength in equities can continue into 2012, and in that case stocks look cheap."
As an example of positive domestic news, Smith pointed to the government's estimate of third-quarter economic growth, which expanded at the fastest pace in a year.
The Dow Jones industrial average was up 349.47 points, or 2.94 percent, at 12,218.51. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was up 44.05 points, or 3.55 percent, at 1,286.05. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 97.89 points, or 3.69 percent, at 2,748.56.
The gains on the S&P 500 broke the benchmark index out of a trading range between 1,230-1,250 and was just above the 200-day moving average of 1,274, viewed as the next significant technical resistance level.
Analysts see the European developments removing risk to the U.S. economy and tamping down fears of it spilling over into the global financial system.
All 10 S&P sectors rose by more than 1 percent. Materials and energy shares were among the top gainers as the resolution in Europe allayed fears about how weak growth might impact demand. Crude oil rose 4.3 percent.
Exxon Mobil Corp edged up 0.5 percent to $81.47 after the U.S. oil and gas major said profit rose 41 percent in the third quarter, helped by higher crude oil prices and refining margins.
Dow Chemical Co's quarterly profit narrowly missed expectations. Still, the stock rose 8.7 percent to $29.24, along with the broader market.
Of 262 companies in the S&P 500 that have reported quarterly earnings, 72 percent topped Wall Street expectations, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

US government seeks $70M from African official

The son of Equatorial Guinea's president plundered his country's natural resources through corruption, spending more than $70 million in looted profits on a Malibu mansion, a Gulfstream jet and Michael Jackson memorabilia, the U.S. government said.
In what appeared to be a concerted action, France last month seized 11 luxury sports cars belonging to Teodorin Nguema Obiang Mangue, a government minister in the West African country and heir-apparent to the presidency. And a Spanish investigative judge has been asked to seize properties in Madrid and Las Palmas in the Canary Islands owned by President Teodoro Obiang Nguema, his sons and some ministers, acting on a case brought by the Pro-Human Rights Association of Spain.
Teodorin Obiang, who is in his early 40s, used his position to siphon millions of dollars for his own personal use, U.S. authorities said in two civil forfeiture complaints filed in the District Court in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. The complaints say Obiang's assets can be forfeited because he engaged in misappropriation and theft of public funds for his benefit.
The U.S. government is seeking to recover $70 million in stolen funds from Obiang for "the benefit of the people of the country from which it was taken."
"We are sending the message loud and clear: The United States will not be a hiding place for the ill-gotten riches of the world's corrupt leaders," said Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer.
An email message left for Purificacion Angue Ondo, Equatorial Guinea's ambassador to the U.S., was not immediately returned. President Obiang has denied charges of corruption in the past. Teodorin Obiang told a South African court in 2005, in a dispute about two Cape Town mansions valued at $4 million, that he earned $4,000 a month as a minister but that in his country it is legal for companies owned by ministers to bid for government contracts with foreign groups and receive "a percentage of the total contract."
U.S. authorities believe Teodorin Obiang amassed more than $100 million through various schemes while he served as the country's forestry minister. His current government salary is about $6,800 a month, according to court documents.
The U.S. action follows years of investigations including a Justice Department and Immigration and Customs Department probe that showed Obiang transferred about $75 million into U.S. banks between 2005 and 2007, and indicated U.S. banks had not shown due diligence.
This came after the Obiang fortunes helped bring down the once-venerable Riggs Bank in 2004, when a U.S. Senate Committee investigation found the bank had "turned a blind eye" to evidence it was handling proceeds of foreign corruption in deposits of some $700 million deposited by its biggest customers — Equatorial Guinea government entities, senior officials and Obiang family members. One bank official gave evidence that more than a million dollars was brought to the bank in one instance in cash enfolded in plastic wrap.
Some $26.5 million of that was transferred in suspicious transactions to Banco Santander in Spain, and used to buy properties being investigated there.
The U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations last year found that powerful Equatorial Guinea officials and their families used attorneys, real estate agents and lobbyists to circumvent anti-corruption laws.
Human rights groups including the Global Witness and the Open Society Justice Initiative for years have been asking the United States to deny visas to the Obiang family and seize their property under U.S. laws against unjust or illicit enrichment.
It was unclear why the action suddenly was being taken. A spokeswoman for the Department of Justice, Laura Sweeney, declined to comment "at this time" in an email response to questions. Ken Hurwitz, senior legal officer at the New York-based Open Society Justice Initiative, said he had heard reports that the Malibu property was being put up for sale.
Equatorial Guinea was a backwater until American energy company Exxon Mobil discovered oil and gas there in 1994. U.S. companies continue to dominate the industry there but face growing competition. Most oil from the country, which produces billions of dollars in annual revenue, is exported to the United States.
Despite its newfound wealth, life for the vast majority of the country's 680,000 people remains a struggle and the majority live below the poverty line with tens of thousands having no access to electricity or clean water, according to U.N. and World Bank figures.
Earlier this year, Global Witness reported that Teodorin Obiang had commissioned plans to build a superyacht costing $380 million — nearly three times what the country spends on health and education each year.
U.S. authorities said Teodorin Obiang spent $30 million on a Malibu mansion, $38.5 million on a Gulfstream jet and about $3.2 million on Michael Jackson memorabilia, including a crystal-covered glove from the "Bad" tour and a basketball signed by the singer and former Chicago Bulls star Michael Jordan.
Among the other items purchased by Obiang, according to federal officials, was a 2011 Ferrari automobile valued at more than $530,000. Obiang also stored 24 luxury cars worth nearly $10 million at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles and shipped them to France. Among the supercars seized in France last month are Maseratis, two limited edition Bugatti Veyrons, Maseratis, Ferraris, Porsches and Rolls Royces.
Obiang would give various stories to banks that questioned where he had received large sums of cash from, authorities said. When Obiang opened an account at a California bank in 2007, he claimed that he acquired money from a family inheritance and from trading expensive and custom automobiles, court documents show.

AP IMPACT: NYPD shadows Muslims who change names

Muslims who change their names to sound more traditionally American, as immigrants have done for generations, or who adopt Arabic names as a sign of their faith are often investigated and catalogued in secret New York Police Department intelligence files, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.
The NYPD monitors everyone in the city who changes his or her name, according to internal police documents and interviews. For those whose names sound Arabic or might be from Muslim countries, police run comprehensive background checks that include reviewing travel records, criminal histories, business licenses and immigration documents. All this is recorded in police databases for supervisors, who review the names and select a handful of people for police to visit.
The program was conceived as a tripwire for police in the difficult hunt for homegrown terrorists, where there are no widely agreed upon warning signs. Like other NYPD intelligence programs created in the past decade, this one involved monitoring behavior protected by the First Amendment.
Since August, an Associated Press investigation has revealed a vast NYPD intelligence-collecting effort targeting Muslims following the terror attacks of September 2001. Police have conducted surveillance of entire Muslim neighborhoods, chronicling every aspect of daily life, including where people eat, pray and get their hair cut. Police infiltrated dozens of mosques and Muslim student groups and investigated hundreds more.
Monitoring name changes illustrates how the threat of terrorism now casts suspicion over what historically has been part of America's story. For centuries, immigrants have Americanized their names in New York. The Roosevelts were once the van Rosenvelts. Fashion designer Ralph Lauren was born Ralph Lifshitz. Donald Trump's grandfather changed the family name from Drumpf.
David Cohen, the NYPD's intelligence chief, worried that would-be terrorists could use their new names to lie low in New York, current and former officials recalled. Reviewing name changes was intended to identify people who either Americanized their names or took Arabic names for the first time, said the officials, who insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the program.
NYPD spokesman Paul Browne did not respond to messages left over two days asking about the legal justification for the program and whether it had identified any terrorists.
The goal was to find a way to spot terrorists like Daood Gilani and Carlos Bledsoe before they attacked.
Gilani, a Chicago man, changed his name to the unremarkable David Coleman Headley to avoid suspicion as he helped plan the 2008 terrorist shooting spree in Mumbai, India. Bledsoe, of Tennessee, changed his name to Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad in 2007 and, two years later, killed one soldier and wounded another in a shooting at a recruiting station in Little Rock, Ark.
Sometime around 2008, state court officials began sending the NYPD information about new name changes, said Ron Younkins, the court's chief of operations. The court regularly sends updates to police, he said. The information is all public, and he said the court was not aware of how police used it.
The NYPD program began as a purely analytical exercise, according to documents and interviews. Police reviewed the names received from the court and selected some for background checks that included city, state and federal criminal databases as well as federal immigration and Treasury Department databases that identified foreign travel.
Early on, police added people with American names to the list so that if details of the program ever leaked out, the department would not be accused of profiling, according to one person briefed on the program.
On one police document from that period, 2 out of every 3 people who were investigated had changed their names to or from something that could be read as Arabic-sounding.
All the names that were investigated, even those whose background checks came up empty, were cataloged so police could refer to them in the future.
The legal justification for the program is unclear from the documents obtained by the AP. Because of its history of spying on anti-war protesters and political activists, the NYPD has long been required to follow a federal court order when gathering intelligence. That order allows the department to conduct background checks only when police have information about possible criminal activity, and only as part of "prompt and extremely limited" checking of leads.
The NYPD's rules also prohibit opening investigations based solely on activities protected by the First Amendment. Federal courts have held that people have a right to change their names and, in the case of religious conversion, that right is protected by the First Amendment.
The NYPD is not alone in its monitoring of Muslim neighborhoods. The FBI has its own ethnic mapping program that singled out Muslim communities and agents have been criticized for targeting mosques.
The name change program is an example of how, while the NYPD says it operates under the same rules as the FBI, police have at times gone beyond what is allowed by the federal government. The FBI would not be allowed to run a similar program because of First Amendment and privacy concerns and because the goal is too vague and the program too broad, according to FBI rules and interviews with federal officials.
Police expanded their efforts in late 2009, according to documents and interviews. After analysts ran background checks, police began selecting a handful of people to visit and interview.
Internally, some police groused about the program. Many people who were approached didn't want to talk and police couldn't force them to.
A Pakistani cab driver, for instance, told police he did not want to talk to them about why he took Sheikh as a new last name, documents show.
Police also knew that a would-be terrorist who Americanized his name in hopes of lying low was unlikely to confess as much to detectives. In fact, of those who agreed to talk at all, many said they Americanized their names because they were being harassed or were having problems getting a job and thought a new name would help.
But as with other intelligence programs at the NYPD, Cohen hoped it would send a message to would-be bombers that police were watching, current and former officials said.
As it expanded, the program began to target Muslims even more directly, drawing criticism from Stuart Parker, an in-house NYPD lawyer, who said there had to be standards for who was being interviewed, a person involved in the discussions recalled. In response, police interviewed people with Arabic-sounding names but only if their background checks matched specific criteria.
The names of those who were interviewed, even those who chose not to speak with police, were recorded in police reports stored in the department's database, according to documents and interviews, while names of those who received only background checks were kept in a separate file in the Intelligence Division.
Donna Gabaccia, director of the Immigration History Research Center at the University of Minnesota, said that for many families, name changes are important aspects of the American story. Despite the myth that officials at Ellis Island Americanized the names of people arriving in the U.S., most immigrants changed their names themselves to avoid ridicule and discrimination or just to fit in, she said.
The NYPD program, she said, turned that story on its head.
"In the past, you changed your name in response to stigmatization," she said. "And now, you change your name and you are stigmatized. There's just something very sad about this."
As for converts to Islam, the religion does not require them to take Arabic names but many(...)More.

Oakland tense after police, protesters clash

The scene was calm but tense early Wednesday as a crowd of hundreds of protesters dwindled to just a few dozen at the site of several clashes between authorities and supporters of the Occupy Wall Street movement a night earlier.
Police in riot gear stood watch only a few yards away from a group of stalwart demonstrators in the aftermath of skirmishes in front of City Hall that resulted in five volleys of tear gas from police, in blasts that seemed to intensify with each round, over a roughly three-hour stretch of evening scuffles.
The conflict began much earlier in the day when police dismantled an encampment of Occupy Wall Street protesters that had dominated a plaza across the street from the government building for more than two weeks.
Police fired tear gas and beanbag rounds, clearing out the makeshift city in less than an hour.
Hours after nightfall Tuesday evening, protesters had gathered at a downtown library and began marching toward City Hall in an attempt to re-establish a presence in the area of the disbanded camp.
They were met by police officers in riot gear. Several small skirmishes broke out and officers cleared the area by firing tear gas.
The scene repeated itself several times just a few blocks away in front of the plaza, where police set up behind metal barricades, preventing protesters from gaining access to the site.
Tensions would build as protesters edged ever closer to the police line and reach a breaking point with a demonstrator hurling a bottle or rock, prompting police to respond with another round of gas.
The chemical haze hung in the air for hours, new blasts clouding the air before the previous fog could dissipate.
The number of protesters diminished with each round of tear gas. Police estimated that there were roughly 1,000 demonstrators at the first clash following the march. About 200 remained after the final conflict around 11:15 PDT, mostly young adults, some riding bicycles, protecting themselves from the noxious fumes with bandanas and scarves wrapped around their faces.
Police have denied reports that they used flash bang canisters to help break up the crowds, saying the loud noises came from large firecrackers thrown at police by protesters.
Helicopters scanned the area late Tuesday and scores of officers wearing helmets and carrying clubs patrolled the streets. Fire crews put out small blazes in trash containers.
Protesters moved about uneasily even as one used a bull horn to express his resolve.
"This movement is more than just the people versus the police," Mario Fernandez said. "It's about the people trying to have their rights to basic services."
He added, "This crowd isn't going anywhere anytime soon."
Acting Police Chief Howard Jordan told reporters at a late night news conference that authorities had no other choice, saying the protesters were throwing rocks and bottles at officers.
"We had to deploy gas to stop the crowd," he said, according to a KCBS report.
City officials say that two officers were injured. At least five protesters were arrested and several others injured in the evening clashes.
In the morning raid authorities removed about 170 demonstrators who had been staying in the area overnight after repeatedly being warned that such a camp was illegal and they faced arrest by remaining. City officials said 97 people were arrested.
Protesters promised to reconvene Wednesday morning. Police, meanwhile, remained in riot gear standing watch.
The Oakland site was among numerous camps that have sprung up around the country as protesters rally against what they see as corporate greed and a wide range of other economic issues. The protests have attracted a wide range of people, including college students looking for work and the homeless.
In Oakland, tensions between the city and protesters have been escalating since last week as officials complained about what they described as deteriorating safety, sanitation and health issues at the site of the dismantled camp.

Turkish PM faults shoddy construction

Turkey's leader said Wednesday that shoddy construction contributed to the high casualty toll in Turkey's earthquake, and he compared the alleged negligence of some officials and builders to murder.
Three days after the devastating quake in eastern Turkey, a teacher and a university student were rescued from ruined buildings, but searchers said hopes of finding anyone else alive were diminishing. Excavators began clearing debris from some collapsed buildings in Ercis after searchers removed bodies and determined there were no other survivors.
In the capital, Ankara, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey had not learned enough from past earthquakes that toppled poorly constructed buildings, trapping people inside. The 7.2-magnitude quake on Sunday killed at least 460 people.
"When we look at the wreckage, we see how the material used is of bad quality," Erdogan said. "We see that people pay the price for concrete that virtually turned to sand, or for weakened concrete blocks on the ground floors. Municipalities, constructors and supervisors should now see that their negligence amounts to murder."
He said: "Despite all previous disasters, we see that the appeals were not heeded."
Desperate survivors fought over aid and blocked aid shipments while a powerful aftershock on Tuesday ignited widespread panic that triggered a prison riot in a nearby provincial city. Health officials warned of increase in cases of diarrhea, especially among children.
"At the moment, we don't have any other sign of life," said rescuer Riza Birkan. "We are concentrating on recovering bodies."
Gozde Bahar, a 27-year-old English-language teacher was pulled out of a ruined building on Wednesday with injuries nearly three days after the 7.2-magnitude quake. Her mother watched the rescue operation in tears. The state-run Anatolia news agency said her heart stopped at a field hospital but doctors managed to revive her.
Earlier on Wednesday, rescuers also pulled out 18-year old university student Eyup Erdem, using tiny cameras mounted on sticks to locate him. They broke into applause as he emerged from the wreckage.
The two, both rescued in Ercis — the worst hit area in the temblor that also rattled Iran and Armenia — were the last to be pulled alive.
Health Ministry official Seraceddin Com said some 40 people were pulled out alive from collapsed buildings on Tuesday.
They included a 2-week-old baby girl brought out half-naked but alive from the wreckage of an apartment building two days after the quake. Her mother and grandmother were also rescued, but her father was missing.
The pockets of jubilation were however, tempered by many more discoveries of bodies by thousands of aid workers.
Gerald Rockenshaub, disaster response manager at the World Health Organization, said the first 48 to 72 hours are crucial for rescues and the chances of finding survivors decrease significantly after that. People can survive without food for a week or so, but having access to water is critical, especially for the elderly and infants, he said.
On Wednesday, health officials said they had detected an increase in diarrhea cases, especially among the children, and urged survivors to drink bottled water until authorities can determine whether the tap water may be contaminated.
With thousands left homeless or too afraid to return to damaged houses, Turkey said it would accept international aid offers, even from Israel, with which it has had strained relations. The country said it would need prefabricated homes to house survivors during the winter. Israel offered assistance despite a rift between the two countries over last year's Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla that killed nine Turkish activists.
Some 2,000 buildings collapsed and some 1,350 people were injured. The fact that the quake hit in daytime, when many people were out of their homes, averted an even worse disaster. Some 800 students at a school in Ercis — that crumbled, leaving only its near-intact roof flat on the ground — were probably saved because the quake hit on a Sunday.
Close to 500 aftershocks have rattled the area, according to Turkey's Kandilli seismology center. A strong aftershock on Tuesday sent residents rushing into the streets in panic while sparking a riot that lasted several hours by prisoners in the city of Van, 55 miles (90 kilometers) south of Ercis. The U.S. Geological Survey put that temblor at a magnitude of 5.7.
On Wednesday, authorities transferred some 350 of the inmates to jails in other cities after(...)More.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Attacks on Baghdad traffic police kill 5

Iraqi officials say two separate attacks against traffic policemen have left five people dead in Baghdad.
Police said gunmen in a speeding car attacked a traffic police checkpoint in the center of the Iraqi capital early Monday, killing two policemen and two civilians.
A half-hour later, a roadside bomb targeting a traffic police patrol wounded three policemen and four passers-by in western Baghdad. As people rushed to the scene to help, a suicide bomber detonated his explosives belt, killing a civilian.
Two health officials in two hospitals confirmed the casualties.
All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release information.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.
BAGHDAD (AP) — A U.S. State Department program to train Iraqi police lacks focus, could become a "bottomless pit" of American money and may not even be wanted by the Iraqi department it's supposed to help, reports released Monday by a U.S. government watchdog show.
The findings by the U.S. Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction paint what is supposed to be the State Department's flagship program in Iraq in a harsh light.
The report comes at a crucial time for the State Department as it assumes sole responsibility for securing U.S.-Iraqi ties as American forces leave by the end of this year.
On Oct. 1, the State Department took over the job of training Iraqi police from the Defense Department. According to the inspector general's report, the training program faces many problems.
Only a small portion — about 12 percent — of the millions of dollars budgeted will actually go to helping the Iraqi police, the report said. The "vast preponderance of money" will pay for security and other items like living quarters for the people doing the training, the review found.
The audit also said although the State Department has known since 2009 it would be taking over the training program, it failed to develop a comprehensive and detailed plan for the training.
"Without specific goals, objectives and performance measures, the PDP (Police Development Program) could become a 'bottomless pit' for U.S. dollars intended for mentoring, advising and training the Iraqi police forces," the report stated.
The oversight agency also found that budget concerns led to the program being significantly downsized.
In 2009, the State Department agency in charge of the training, the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, estimated it would cost about $721 million to pay for a program with 350 police advisers. That averaged out to about $2.1 million per adviser, said SIGIR.
But in December 2010, the program was downsized to 190 advisers while costs had increased, the report stated. According to SIGIR calculations, the average cost per adviser jumped to $6.2 million per year.
By July of this year, the number of advisers had dropped to 115 for what the State Department described as Phase 1 of the program. If its budget request is approved for fiscal year 2012, the program could be beefed up again to 190 advisers, state department officials told the oversight agency.
Despite the considerable outlay in U.S. taxpayer money, the Iraqi government has yet to sign off on the program and doesn't seem to want it. The official in the Iraqi Ministry of Interior (MOI) responsible for the ministry's day-to-day operations, Adnan al-Asadi, suggested to SIGIR that the U.S. should spend the money on something for the American people instead.
"What tangible benefit will Iraqis see from this police training program? With most of the money spent on lodging, security, support, all the MOI gets is a little expertise, and that is if the program materializes. It has yet to start," al-Asadi said.
The inspector general said the State Department did not fully cooperate with their audit.
"There were delays in gaining access to key officials and in obtaining documents. Moreover, the documents provided were incomplete," the audit read. One meeting in May was canceled an hour before it was to start because State Department officials needed to additional "Department guidance," SIGIR wrote.
The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad did not respond to a request for comment.
In a letter to SIGIR, the State Department said it "generally agrees" with the(...)More.

Demise of Obama long-term care plan leaves gap

The Obama administration's decision to pull the plug on a financially flawed long-term care insurance plan is likely to worsen a dilemma most middle-class families are totally unprepared for.
A nursing home can cost more than $200 a day and a home health aide averages $450 a week, usually part-time. Yet long-term care is one major health expense for which nearly all Americans are uninsured. Only about 3 percent of adults have their own policy, and Medicare doesn't cover it.
Families confront their financial exposure when a frail elder takes a turn for the worse, a teen is calamitously injured in a car crash or a middle-aged worker suffers a debilitating stroke.
The demise of the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports program, or CLASS, means it could take a decade or longer before politicians seriously engage the issue again. By then the retirement of the Baby Boomers will be in full swing.
"Long-term care is a critical issue, and people are in total denial about it," said Bill Novelli, former CEO of AARP. "I am very sorry the administration did what they finally did, although I understand it. It is going to take a long time to get this back — and fixed."
The irony, experts say, is that paying for long-term care is the kind of problem insurance should be able to solve. It has to do with the mathematics of risk.
Most drivers will have some kind of accident during their years behind the wheel, but few will be involved in a catastrophic wreck. And some very careful drivers will not experience any accidents. The risks of long-term care are not all that different, says economist Harriet Komisar of the Georgetown University Public Policy Institute.
"A small percentage of people are going to need a year, two years, five years or more in a nursing home, but for those who do, it's huge," Komisar said. "Insurance makes sense when the odds are small but the financial risk is potentially high and unaffordable."
Komisar and her colleagues estimate that nearly 7 in 10 people will need some level of long-term care after turning 65. That's defined as help with personal tasks such as getting dressed, going to the toilet, eating, or taking a bath.
Many of those who need help will get it from a family member. Only 5 percent will need five years or more in a nursing home. And 3 in 10 will not need any long-term care assistance at all.
For those who do need extended nursing home care, Medicaid has become the default provider, since Medicare only covers short-term stays for rehab. But Medicaid is for low-income people, so the disabled literally have to impoverish themselves to qualify, a wrenching experience for families.
Liberals say the answer is government-sponsored insurance, like the CLASS plan the Obama administration included in the health overhaul law, only to find it wouldn't work financially.
The administration was unable to reconcile twin goals of CLASS: financial solvency and affordable coverage easily accessible to all working adults, regardless of health.
Conservatives have called for private coverage, perhaps with tax credits to make it more affordable.
Some experts say it will take a combination of both approaches.
"It almost has to be," said Robert Yee, a financial actuary hired by the Obama administration to try to make CLASS work.
Lower-income workers probably would never be able to afford private insurance, Yee explained. And a lavish public plan is out of the question.
"Anytime people talk about a social program, you are talking about a basic layer," he said.
Indeed, Yee had proposed to keep CLASS afloat by using some of the techniques of private insurers to attract the healthy and discourage the frail. The administration rejected that hybrid approach as incompatible with the law's intent to cover all regardless of health.
"Despite our best analytical efforts, I do not see a viable path forward for CLASS implementation at this time," Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told congressional leaders.
Although CLASS would have come too late to help his disabled mother, Jacob Bockser of Walnut Creek, Calif., says he is disappointed.
Bockser, 29, is a former emergency medical technician studying to become a respiratory therapist. His mother Elizabeth, 58, is struggling with an aggressive form of multiple sclerosis.
She had moved to lower-cost Washington state to save money, but as her condition worsens her son is trying to find a way to bring her back to California. She can still live in her own home, with help to keep safe.
"She did a lot of good saving. But because she did good, it disqualifies her from some kinds of public assistance," said the son. "When you are only 58 and looking at hopefully living another 20 or 25 years, it's scary to think the money just won't last."
Bockser says he doesn't expect the government to solve everything, but "even if there is the opportunity to try to piece together a couple of different programs that would be a start."
EDITOR'S NOTE _ The latest installment in an AP-APME joint project examining the aging of the baby boomers and the impact _ costs, strains and positive influences _ that this so-called silver tsunami will have on the communities in which they live.

Libya declared free, but Gadhafi death questioned

Libya's interim rulers have declared the country liberated after an 8-month civil war, launching the oil-rich nation on what is meant to be a two-year transition to democracy. But they laid out plans with an Islamist tone that could rattle their Western backers.
The joyful Sunday ceremony formally marking the end of Moammar Gadhafi's 42-year tyranny was also clouded by mounting pressure from the leaders of the NATO campaign that helped secure victory to investigate whether Gadhafi, dragged wounded but alive out of a drainage ditch last week, was then executed by his captors.
The circumstances of Gadhafi's death remain unclear. In separate accounts late Sunday, two Libyan fighters said Gadhafi was hurt after being captured, but was able to stand. One said that when he and others placed Gadhafi in an ambulance, the former Libyan leader had not yet suffered what Libya's chief pathologist said was a fatal gunshot to the head.
Critics said the gruesome spectacle of his blood-streaked body laid out as a trophy for a third day of public viewing in a commercial freezer tests the new leadership's commitment to the rule of law.
Britain's defense secretary, Philip Hammond, said the Libyan revolutionaries' image had been "a little bit stained" by Gadhafi's violent death. Both he and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said a full investigation is necessary.
Gadhafi's capture and the fall of his hometown of Sirte, the last loyalist stronghold, set the stage for the long-awaited declaration of liberation, delivered by the head of the National Transitional Council, Mustafa Abdul-Jalil.
He did not mention the circumstances surrounding Gadhafi's death — mobile phone videos showed the wounded leader being taunted and beaten by a mob after his capture. But he urged his people to avoid hatred.
"You should only embrace honesty, patience, and mercy," Abdul-Jalil told a flag-waving crowd of several thousand at the declaration ceremony in the eastern city of Benghazi, the birthplace of the uprising against Gadhafi.
Abdul-Jalil laid out a vision for a new Libya with an Islamist tint, saying Islamic Sharia law would be the "basic source" of legislation, and that existing laws that contradict the teachings of Islam would be nullified.
He outlined several changes to align with Islamic law, including putting caps on interest for bank loans and lifting restrictions on the number of wives Libyan men can take. The Muslim holy book, the Quran, allows men up to four wives.
Abdul-Jalil thanked those who fought and fell in the war, saying they "are somewhere better than here, with God." Displaying his own piety, he then stepped aside from the podium and knelt to offer a prayer of thanks.
Using Sharia as the main source of legislation is stipulated in the constitution of neighboring Egypt. Still, Egyptian laws remain largely secular as Sharia does not cover all aspects of modern life.
Libya's revolt erupted in February as part of anti-government protests spreading across the Middle East. Islamist groups stand to gain ground in neighboring Tunisia and Egypt, which shook off their dictators several months ago. Tunisia has taken the biggest steps so far on the path to democracy, voting Sunday for a new assembly, while Egypt's parliamentary election is set for next month.
Libya's struggle has been the bloodiest so far in the region. Mass protests turned into a civil war that killed thousands and paralyzed the country. Gadhafi loyalists held out for two more months after the fall of the capital of Tripoli in late August. Gadhafi's hometown of Sirte fell last week, but Gadhafi's son and one-time heir apparent, Seif al-Islam, apparently escaped with some of his supporters.
The anti-Gadhafi forces enjoyed strong Western political and military support during their revolt, especially from the U.S., Britain and France, and NATO airstrikes were key to their victory.
Abdul-Jalil paid tribute to the Gulf Cooperation Council, a six-nation alliance led by Saudi Arabia, the Arab League and the European Union. NATO performed its task with "efficiency and professionalism," he said.
President Barack Obama congratulated Libyans on the declaration.
"After four decades of brutal dictatorship and eight months of deadly conflict, the Libyan people can now celebrate their freedom and the beginning of a new era of promise," he said.
In Brussels, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen welcomed the declaration and said NATO's mission in Libya "is very close to completion," referring to the alliance's decision to end air patrols on Oct. 31.
In Libya, leaders have said a new interim government is to be formed within a month, following by elections for a constitutional assembly within eight months. Elections for a parliament and president would follow in the year after that.
Gadhafi's body remained on display Sunday in a produce locker in the port city of Misrata, which suffered from a weeks-long bloody siege by regime forces in the spring. People have lined up since Friday to view the body, which was laid out on a mattress on the freezer floor. The bodies of Gadhafi's son Muatassim and his ex-defense minister Abu Bakr Younis also were put on display, and people wearing surgical masks filed past, snapping photos of the bodies.
It remains unclear what happened between the time Gadhafi was captured alive in Sirte on Thursday and arrived dead in Misrata. Libyan leaders say he was killed in crossfire during battles for Sirte, but revolutionaries who were present for Gadhafi's capture — and even one who was in the ambulance with him — said nothing about additional fighting in interviews with The Associated Press.
Dr. Othman al-Zintani, Libya's chief forensic pathologist, said he performed an autopsy that confirmed that Gadhafi was killed by a gunshot to the head. That finding did not clear up the circumstances of his death, and al-Zintani said he could not elaborate until a full report has been sent to the attorney general.
Al-Zintani told the AP that Gadhafi's body was removed from the freezer and taken to a secret location for the autopsy. He said he also examined the body of Muatassim.
In new testimony late Sunday, two fighters said revolutionary forces encountered heavy resistance from Gadhafi loyalists near the drainage tunnel where Gadhafi and others were hiding.
Omar al-Shibani, commander of a group of fighters involved in the capture, said one of his men found the wounded Gadhafi in the tunnel, disarmed him, pulled him out and walked him to one of the fighters' vehicles.
Another fighter at the scene, Jibril Othman, said it was difficult for Gadhafi to stand. According to both accounts, the fighters put Gadhafi on the hood of the vehicle,(...)More.

7.2 quake in Turkey kills 217, collapses buildings

Rescue teams on Monday sifted through hills of rubble from flattened multistory buildings trying to reach dozens of people believed trapped after a 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck eastern Turkey. The Interior Minister put the death toll so far at 217.
Hundreds of rescue teams dug through the night in search of survivors among dozens of pancaked buildings. Residents also searched for their missing as aid groups scrambled to set up tents, field hospitals and kitchens to assist thousands left homeless.
Officials said hundreds of mud-brick homes in villages and concrete buildings in cities tumbled down in the earthquake that struck the province of Van, near the border with Iran, on Sunday.
Worst-hit was the city of Ercis, where about 80 multistory buildings collapsed. Interior Minister Idris Naim Sahin said some 40 buildings in Ercis still had people trapped inside, giving rise to fears that the death toll could increase substantially. The minister did not give any estimates.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said "close to all" mud-brick homes in surrounding villages had collapsed.
Sahin said 117 were killed in Ercis, another 100 died in Van while some 740 people were injured in the temblor that also rattled parts of Iran and Armenia.
Ercis, an eastern city of 75,000 close to the Iranian border, is in one of Turkey's most earthquake-prone zones. The bustling, larger city of Van, about 55 miles (90 kilometers) south of Ercis, also sustained substantial damage, and highways in the area caved in.
Some inmates escaped a prison in Van after one of its walls collapsed. TRT television said around 150 inmates had fled, but a prison official said the number was much smaller and many later returned.
The quake also damaged some buildings in the town of Patnos, some 30 miles (50 kilometers) northwest of Ercis, where military and Red Crescent trucks were seen transporting tents and other aid equipment.
U.S. scientists recorded more than 100 aftershocks in eastern Turkey within 10 hours of the quake, including one with a magnitude of 6.0.
Authorities advised people to stay away from damaged homes, warning they could collapse in the aftershocks.
Many residents spent the night outdoors and lit campfires, while the Red Crescent began setting up tents in a stadium. Others sought shelter with relatives in nearby villages.
Around 1,275 rescue teams from 38 provinces were being sent to the region, officials said, and troops were also assisting search-and-rescue efforts.
Several countries offered Turkey humanitarian aid and assistance with search and rescue efforts but Erdogan said Turkey was able to cope for the time being. Azerbaijan, Iran and Bulgaria nevertheless sent assistance, he said.
Among those offering help were Israel and Greece. The offer from Israel came despite a rift in relations following a 2010 Israeli navy raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla that left nine Turks dead. Greece, which has a deep dispute with Turkey over the(...)More.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

APNewsBreak: Banks nowhere near deal on Greece

A top bank lobbyist insisted Saturday that banks and the eurozone are far from reaching a deal to cut Greece's debt, despite claims by eurozone finance ministers that they will ask banks to take steeper losses on their Greek bonds.
Although the ministers did not say how much of a cut they are aiming for, a report from Greece's international debt inspectors suggested that the value of Greece's bonds may have to be slashed as much as 60 percent to get the country solvent enough to repay its debt.
The ministers on Saturday sent their chief negotiator, Vittorio Grilli, to re-start discussions with banks and other private investors on a new deal for Greece.
However, Charles Dallara, the managing director of the Institute of International Finance, who has been leading the negotiations for the banks, said in an interview with The Associated Press that an agreement remained elusive.
"We're nowhere near a deal," he said.
Banks in July agreed to accept losses of about 21 percent on their Greek bonds. However, eurozone leaders have since reopened the deal and Greece's international debt inspectors — the so-called troika of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund — say Greece's economic situation has deteriorated dramatically since the summer.
In a report Friday, the inspectors said that under the July deal, Greece would need an extra euro252 billion ($347 billion) in loans from the eurozone and the IMF — on top of the euro110 billion ($152 billion) it has been relying on to pay bills since May 2010.
But Dallara said new plans to slash Greece debt would still leave the country as "a ward of Europe" for years.
He declined to say how much in losses banks would be willing to accept, saying only "we would be open to an approach that involves additional efforts from everyone."
Dallara was in Brussels, where eurozone finance ministers have been meeting for two days of talks.
The eurozone has been working to reach a voluntary agreement with banks, rather than forcing losses onto the lenders, because that could avoid triggering billions of euros on payout for bond insurance and could destabilize markets even further. However, in recent weeks some officials have no longer insisted that the deal remain voluntary.
Earlier Saturday, a European official said the EU was on track to agree on forcing banks to raise just over euro100 billion ($140 billion) to ensure they have enough cushion to weather further losses on their Greek bonds as well as market turmoil.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the discussions the deal was supposed to be unveiled by EU leaders at their summit Sunday.
"We have made real progress and have come to important decisions on strengthening European banks," George Osborne, Britain's chancellor of the exchequer, said as he left Saturday's meeting. Osborne did not say what the decision was.
Strengthening banks and slashing Greece's debts are critical to solving Europe's crisis, which is now threatening to engulf larger economies like Italy and Spain and is blamed for dampening growth across Europe and even the world.
The euro100 billion figure is likely to disappoint some analysts, although it was above recent press reports. A report by the International Monetary Fund has called for up to euro200 billion ($280 billion) to be poured into banks.
The new rules would force systemically important banks to raise their core capital ratios to 9 percent, compared with just 5 percent to 6 percent they needed to pass EU stress tests this summer. The ratio measures the amount of capital banks hold compared to their risky assets.
Despite that significant progress, agreement on arguably the most important measure has remained elusive to eurozone leaders: boosting the firepower of the currency union's euro440 billion ($600 billion) bailout fund to keep the crisis from spreading.
Increasing the effectiveness of the fund — called the European Financial Stability Facility — is meant to help prevent larger economies like Italy and Spain from being unable to afford to borrow money from markets. That's exactly what happened to Greece, Portugal and Ireland and why those three EU countries needed bailouts.
Germany and France still disagree over how to do that and failed to make much progress on that front Friday night. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy are meeting Saturday evening in the hopes of moving toward a deal.