Saturday, October 6, 2012

NKorean soldier defects to SKorea across border

A North Korean soldier killed two of his superiors Saturday and defected to South Korea across the countries' heavily armed border in a rare crossing that prompted South Korean troops to immediately beef up their border patrol, officials said. The soldier shot his platoon and squad leaders before crossing the western side of the Demilitarized Zone at around noon, a Defense Ministry official said, citing the soldier's statement after he was taken into custody by South Korean border guards. The official, who declined to be named because questioning by authorities was ongoing, had earlier said one of the killed North Korean troops was a company commander but later corrected it, saying the information was mishandled in the first couple of hours of the development. He said South Korean guards heard six gunshots before the North Korean soldier crossed the border. He also said the soldier used a loudspeaker to let South Korean guards know his intention to defect after the killings. The official said the motive behind the defection was unclear. No unusual military movement was detected from the North Korean side of the border after the crossing, but South Korea immediately instructed its border troops to step up their guard, a South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff official said. He also declined to be named, citing office rules. There was no immediate comment from communist North Korea's state-run media. Defections across the land border are rare, though North Koreans occasionally come to the South by boat. Last year, a North Korean civilian defected to the South across the land border. The last defection across the Demilitarized Zone by a North Korean soldier occurred in 2010, officials said. Another soldier and an officer also defected to the South across the border in two separate crossings in 2008. The vast majority of North Koreans fleeing their homeland travel through China and Southeast Asia before arriving in the South. More than 24,000 North Koreans have arrived in the South since the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a cease-fire, not a peace treaty. The area where Saturday's defection took place is along the route to a South Korean-financed industrial complex in the North Korean border town of Kaesong, officials said. Border security has been tighter than usual along the border in the past few years as military and political tensions between the rival Koreas soared. In 2010, a South Korean naval ship sank and 46 of its sailors died in an incident blamed on North Korea, though Pyongyang denies involvement. Later that year, North Korea bombarded a South Korean front-line island, killing two marines and two civilians.

Steroid-related meningitis cases rise to 47


As the tally from a deadly meningitis outbreak rose Friday, health officials identified the medical clinics across the country that received steroid shots for back pain now linked to the illnesses. Authorities took the step to help identify everyone who may have gotten sick — or may still get sick — in the outbreak. "All patients who may have received these medications need to be tracked down immediately," said Dr. Benjamin Park of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "It is possible that if patients with infection are identified soon and put on appropriate antifungal therapy, lives may be saved," he said in a statement. The CDC said the number of cases of the rare fungal meningitis reached nearly 50 cases, and spread to a seventh state Friday. The number of deaths in the outbreak remained at five. Investigators have focused on a steroid medication made by a specialty pharmacy in Massachusetts. All the outbreak patients had gotten shots of the steroid for back pain, a common treatment, and inspectors found at least one sealed vial contaminated with fungus. On Friday, officials said they have found fungal infections in nine sick patients. They weren't able to identify what types of fungus in every one of those patients, but did distinguish at least two types — Aspergillus and Exserohilum. In all, 47 people have contracted fungal meningitis, the CDC said. Michigan became the seventh state to report cases, with four. Tennessee's cases now total 29; Virginia, six; Indiana, 3; two each in Maryland and Florida and one in North Carolina. Three people have died in Tennessee and one in Virginia and Maryland. The first known case in the meningitis outbreak was diagnosed about two weeks ago in Tennessee, and the steroid was recalled last week by the pharmacy, New England Compounding Center in Framingham, Mass. About 17,700 single-dose vials of the steroid were covered in the recall. On Friday, the government released the names of about 75 facilities in 23 states that got recalled doses between July and September. It's not clear how many were sent to clinics, how many were used, or even whether everyone who got one will get sick. Once infected, it can take as long as a month for symptoms to appear. At the prompting of government officials, clinics are notifying all the patients who got shots from the recalled lots. "There's a massive effort to contact all the patients," said Marsha Thiel, the chief executive officer of MAPS, a company that owns surgery center clinics in Minnesota. She added, "If there's any question at all, they're being directed to go to their physician." As a precaution, the Food and Drug Administration urged doctors not to use any of the company's products, and released a list Friday that included other steroids, anesthetics and a blood pressure medicine. The company, which is now closed, said in a statement Thursday that despite the FDA warning, "there is no indication of any potential issues with other products." The steroid is known as preservative-free methylprednisolone acetate, which the compounding pharmacy creates by combining a powder with a liquid. There are FDA-approved versions of the drug, sold by the brand name Depo-Medrol, in good supply. So patients who need the medicine should not encounter a shortage, the FDA said Friday. Most of the anxiety now involves patients who got steroid shots for back pain and are worried about becoming seriously ill. "Our phone is ringing off the hook this morning. Patients are calling. Of course, they're concerned,"(...)More.

1 dead, 10 arrested in anti-terror sweep in France



Police carried out raids across France on Saturday after DNA on a grenade that exploded at a kosher grocery story led them to a suspected jihadist cell of young Frenchmen recently converted to Islam.
The man whose DNA was identified, named by police as Jeremy Sydney, was killed by police after he opened fire on them, wounding three officers in the eastern city of Strasbourg. Their injuries weren't believed to be serious.
Ten other people, aged between 19 and 25, were arrested across the country. One man was carrying a loaded gun.
Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said all the arrested suspects were French. Four of the men involved in the raid had written wills. He added that police were still looking for one or two suspects.
A statement from President Francois Hollande praised the police for the raids and said the state would continue to "protect the French against all terrorist threats."
Last month's firebombing of the grocery, in a Jewish neighborhood outside Paris, happened on the same day that a French satirical paper published crude caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, and while anti-Western protests were growing against an anti-Islam film. One person was slightly injured, but the attack came after a summer of what residents described as growing anti-Semitic threats.

Turkey and Syria trade artillery fire for 4th day


Turkish and Syria traded artillery fire for the fourth day in a row Saturday as rebels clashed with President Bashar Assad's forces near the border, heightening fears that the crisis could erupt into a regional conflict. Also Saturday, Syrian Defense Minister Gen. Fahd Jassem al-Freij vowed to crush the rebellion and bring the violence that has engulfed the country to an end. The diplomatic crisis began on Wednesday, when a Syrian shell killed five civilians in a Turkish border town and triggered unprecedented artillery strikes by Turkey. Ankara has deployed more troops to its southern border with Syria, and has responded to each shell that has struck Turkish soil with its own artillery barrage. On Friday, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan cautioned Damascus not to test Turkey's "limits and determination" and said Ankara was not bluffing in saying it won't tolerate such acts. Saturday's cross-border exchange began when two mortar shells fired from Syria landed in rural areas near the Turkish village of Guvecci, prompting Turkish return fire, Turkey's media reported. Later Saturday, a third shell hit near another village in Turkey's Hatay province and Turkish troops fired back, the office of the provincial governor said. No casualties were reported. The first exchange happened shortly after intense fighting broke out across the border in Syria's Idlib province between Syrian rebels and regime forces, the private Dogan news agency reported. A Turkish army unit based near Guvecci fired four 81 mm mortar shells in the first instance and two shells in the second, it said. No casualties were reported. The Hatay governor's office indicated that the Syrian mortar had landed in Turkey accidentally, saying it was believed "to be have been fired by the forces of the Syrian Arab Republic at Syrian rebel groups on the Syrian side of the border." The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said rebels had attacked army positions in the Syrian villages of Khirbet al-Jouz and Darkoush about 16 kilometers (10 miles) from Guvecci. Observatory director Rami Abdul-Rahman said both sides were exchanging mortar fire. The Observatory added that rebels later took over Khirbet el-Jouz and were advancing toward army positions in nearby areas. It said dozens of soldiers were either killed or wounded while three rebels died in the fighting. Relations between Turkey and Syria, once strong allies, deteriorated sharply after the uprising against Assad began in March last year. Turkey became one of the harshest critics of Assad's crackdown while Syria accused Ankara of aiding rebels. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told Turkey's state television TRT that "from now on whenever there is an attack on Turkey, it will be silenced." Also Saturday, Assad made a rare public appearance when he laid a wreath at the country's Unknown Soldier statue in Damascus to mark the anniversary of the 1973 war with Israel, also known in Syria as the October War. Syrian state television broadcast the ceremony and likened the current crisis to the war with Israel. Damascus denies it is facing a popular uprising, instead blaming the violence on a foreign conspiracy linked to its support for anti-Israeli groups such as Lebanon's Hezbollah. Syria's defense minister said Saturday that the government is ready to give amnesty to rebels who repent and those who don't "will be crushed under the feet of our soldiers." Al-Freij, who became defense minister in July after his predecessor was assassinated, also claimed that the regime was getting the upper hand. "The most dangerous parts of the conspiracy have been passed and the killing is on its way to decline," he said. The defense minister, who rarely makes public comments, spoke as Syrian troops launched a major offensive to retake rebel-held areas in the northern city of Aleppo, the central city of Homs and towns near the border with Lebanon. Despite his claims of government troops being on the brink of restoring stability, the violence across the country shows no signs of abating. Activists say that at least 30,000 people have been killed since the anti-Assad uprising began. Lebanese security officials said Syrian troops backed by warplanes and helicopter gunships began a major attack against rebel-held areas near the Syrian town of Quseir adjoining Lebanon's Bekaa(...)More.

Bus from Canada overturns on NJ exit ramp; 12 hurt


A tour bus from Canada carrying about 60 people bound for a New York City church event overturned on a highway exit ramp in northern New Jersey, slid down an embankment and landed on its side early Saturday, injuring about a dozen who were aboard, authorities said.
Some windows burst during the crash and their frames pinned three people, but they were quickly freed and taken to hospitals with the other victims. None of the injuries were considered life-threatening, according to state police, and most of the victims were being treated for cuts, bruises and soreness. The driver told authorities he had a gash in his arm.
Passengers told the Star-Ledger of Newark that they were Seventh-day Adventists headed to an event in Brooklyn.
It was not immediately clear what caused the crash around 7:45 a.m. on Interstate 80 in Wayne. Those aboard included several children and an infant, authorities said.
Witnesses said injured passengers waited along the side of the exit ramp as emergency crews treated them, and several people with neck braces were soon loaded into ambulances. Passengers who were unhurt were put on another bus and continued their journey, authorities said.
The coach bus was from Toronto-based AVM Max 2000 Charter Services Inc., The Record of Woodland Park reported. A woman who answered the phone at the company's office told the newspaper the bus was full but declined to give more information. The phone there rang busy Saturday.
The accident backed up traffic in the area for hours while law enforcement officials and emergency services vehicles attended to the scene. Several highways connect there, and the area is known locally as the "spaghetti bowl," according to The Record newspaper.

"Critical mass" key to affirmative action case

Walking across the South Mall, or scanning the football stadium's 100,000 seats on game day, University of Texas admissions director Kedra Ishop sees how much has changed since the 1990s, when she was a black student at what was an inordinately white school. This giant flagship campus — once so slow to integrate — is now awash in color, among the most diverse in the country if not the world. The student body, like Texas, is majority-minority. At the dining hall, minority students no longer cluster together. Actually, it's more a high-end food court now, and many tables are racial mosaics — white, black, Hispanic, Asian. So is this the "critical mass" of minority students that U.S. Supreme Court narrowly endorsed in 2003 as an educational goal important enough to allow colleges to factor the race of applicants into admissions decisions? That question will be front and center Wednesday when a more conservative Supreme Court revisits affirmative action for the first time since that landmark case nine years ago involving the University of Michigan. This time, it's Texas defending the use of race in admissions, fighting a discrimination lawsuit from Abigail Fisher, a rejected white applicant. As it happens, the court's decision will affect relatively few students at Texas, which admits most students through a system that doesn't factor in race. But a broad ruling rolling back affirmative action could be an earthquake at other campuses across the country that make more use of race, potentially changing the educational trajectories of millions of students. For all the wrenching debates about opportunity and fairness the affirmative action debate evokes, the outcome will likely come down to how the current justices fill out the answer to questions they began to answer in 2003: What is critical mass, and how far can a university go to achieve it? Generally, it's the point where there's enough diversity on campus to provide a rich educational environment. But beyond that, it's a concept critics call maddeningly vague and supporters necessarily so. Is it enough for the student body to be diverse overall, or must all groups be well represented? What if there's diversity in the student body, but not in most individual classrooms? Texas will swallow its pride and argue that for all its progress, it's still short of critical mass. Under state law, most UT students are admitted automatically based on their high school GPA, with race playing no role. But for the smaller remainder of its class where it enjoys more leeway, Texas argues it should be able to use race as a factor. The reason: Some groups, especially blacks, remain underrepresented compared to Texas' population. And minority students clump together academically, leaving most classes with no more than a single black or Hispanic voice. But the university won't give a target number, something the court would likely call an unconstitutional quota. "There's never been a discussion of 'this is the target, this is what it looks like, this is where we're trying to go,'" Ishop said. "We know what it doesn't look like. And we know without the ability to examine students in their completeness that we can get back there very quickly." Such arguments sound mushy to UT's opponents, who call the school's goals for critical mass a quota in disguise. They say the university has gone too far using race in admissions, abusing the discretion the court granted colleges to define critical mass for themselves. "It is a squishy concept that's being manipulated," said Terence Pell, president of the Center for Individual Rights, which argued against affirmative action in the Michigan case and has filed a brief against Texas in the current one. "It's just sort of diversity for its own sake," he added, "with no end and no limit." ___ History isn't central to the legal issues in the affirmative action debate, but it's an issue at UT-Austin. The football team didn't integrate until 1970, and even as minority enrollment expanded, UT little resembled increasingly diverse Texas, leaving minority students feeling isolated. "It was very seldom three or more were gathered," said Machree Gibson, who arrived on campus in 1978, earned two degrees and later became the first black female president of the Texas Exes, the university's powerful alumni group. "We used to joke, 'Three in a room, we're a gang.'" Today, even a short drive through campus leaves Gibson amazed how things have changed. But UT still doesn't look like Texas. Of its 52,000 students, 5 percent are black (compared to 12 percent of the state population). Hispanics are 18 percent at UT (38 percent statewide) and Asians 15 percent (4 percent statewide). Greek life and off-campus housing for upperclassmen remain mostly segregated — the West Campus neighborhood is mostly white, Riverside more black and Hispanic, and the Far West neighborhood Asian, limiting interactions. Academically, many departments have few non-white faces. Senior Kristin Thompson says she's one of just two black female civil engineers in her class, despite aggressive recruiting. She's found her community outside class, but her academic experience has been lonely. "At UT we talk about what starts here changes the world, but I think we're doing a disservice to students by not preparing them for a world that doesn't have these demographics," she said. In the Michigan case nine years ago, psychologists, educators and most influentially the military(...)More.

Pope's butler convicted in leaks, given 18 months


The pope's butler was convicted Saturday of stealing the pontiff's private documents and leaking them to a journalist in the gravest Vatican security breach in recent memory. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison, but the Vatican said a papal pardon was likely. Judge Giuseppe Dalla Torre read the verdict aloud two hours after the three-judge Vatican panel began deliberating Paolo Gabriele's fate. Gabriele stood impassively as it was read out in the tiny wood-paneled tribunal tucked behind St. Peter's Basilica. The sentence was reduced in half to 18 months from three years because of a series of mitigating circumstances, including that Gabriele had no previous record, had acknowledged that he had betrayed the pope and was convinced, "albeit erroneously" that he was doing the right thing, Dalla Torre said. For now, he is serving his sentence under house arrest. Gabriele was accused of stealing the pope's private correspondence and passing it on to journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi, whose book revealed the intrigue, petty infighting and allegations of corruption and homosexual liaisons that plague the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church. He has said he leaked the documents because he felt the pope wasn't being informed of the "evil and corruption" in the Vatican, and that exposing the problems publicly would put the church back on the right track. In his final appeal to the court Saturday morning, Gabriele insisted he was no thief. "The thing I feel strongly in me is the conviction that I acted out of exclusive love, I would say visceral love, for the church of Christ and its visible head," Gabriele told the court in a steady voice. "I do not feel like a thief." Gabriele's attorney, Cristiana Arru, said the sentence was "good, balanced" and said she was awaiting the judges' written reasoning before deciding whether to appeal. Nuzzi's book, "His Holiness: Pope Benedict XVI's Secret Papers" convulsed the Vatican for months and prompted an unprecedented response, with the pope naming a commission of cardinals to investigate the origin of the leaks alongside Vatican magistrates. Arru said Gabriele would return to his Vatican City apartment to begin serving his sentence. He has been held on house arrest there since July after spending his first two months in a Vatican detention room. Gabriele was also ordered to pay court costs. Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said the possibility of a papal pardon was "concrete, likely" and that the pope would now study the court file and decide. He said there was no way to know when a papal pardon might be announced. In something of a novelty in jurisprudence, the pope was both victim and supreme judge in this case. As an absolute monarch of the tiny Vatican City state, Benedict wields full executive, legislative and judicial power. He delegates that power, though, and Lombardi said the trial showed the complete independence of the Vatican judiciary. In reading the sentence, however, in a courtroom decorated with a photograph of Benedict on the wall opposite Gabriele, Dalla Torre began: "In the name of His Holiness Benedict XVI, gloriously(...)More.

5 terrorism suspects extradited from UK to US

An ailing extremist Egyptian-born preacher and four other terrorism suspects arrived in the United States from England early Saturday under tight security to face trial, and two appeared within hours in a Connecticut court.
The preacher, Abu Hamza al-Masri, was taken to a lockup next to the federal courthouse in lower Manhattan to face charges that he conspired with Seattle men to set up a terrorist training camp in Oregon and that he helped abduct 16 hostages, two of them American tourists, in Yemen in 1998.
Just hours after their arrival in America, Syed Talha Ahsan, 33, and Babar Ahmad, 38, pleaded not guilty in federal court in New Haven, Conn., to charges that they provided terrorists in Afghanistan and Chechnya with cash, recruits and equipment.
Ahmad made efforts to secure GPS devices, Kevlar helmets, night vision goggles, ballistic vests and camouflage uniforms, prosecutors said.
They were kept detained while they await trial in Connecticut, where an Internet service provider was allegedly used to host a website. Their lawyers declined to comment.
Al-Masri, a one-time nightclub bouncer, will be housed in Manhattan along with Khaled al-Fawwaz, 50, a citizen of Saudi Arabia, and Adel Abdul Bary, 52, an Egyptian citizen, who will face trial on charges that they participated in the bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998. The attacks killed 224 people, including 12 Americans. They were indicted in a case that also charged Osama bin Laden.
Al-Masri, al-Fawwaz and Bary were scheduled to make an initial appearance Saturday in federal court in Manhattan.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara called the extraditions "a watershed moment in our nation's efforts to eradicate terrorism."
He added: "As is charged, these are men who were at the nerve centers of Al Qaeda's acts of terror, and they caused blood to be shed, lives to be lost, and families to be shattered."
In the 1990s, al-Masri turned London's Finsbury Park Mosque into a training ground for extremist Islamists, attracting men including Sept. 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui and "shoe bomber" Richard Reid.
Al-Masri is not the first ailing Egyptian-born preacher to be brought to Manhattan for trial. A blind sheik, Omar Abdel-Rahman, is serving a life sentence after he was convicted in 1995 in a plot to assassinate then-Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and in another to blow up New York landmarks, including the United Nations and two tunnels and a bridge linking New Jersey to Manhattan. Abdel-Rahman has numerous health issues, including heart trouble.
In England, lawyers for the 54-year-old al-Masri, who has one eye and hooks in place of hands he claims to have lost fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan, said he suffers from depression, chronic sleep deprivation, diabetes and other ailments.
The overnight trip to the United States came after a multi-year extradition fight that ended Friday, when Britain's High Court ruled that the men had no more grounds for appeal and could be sent to the U.S. immediately. The men have been battling extradition for between eight and 14 years.
"I'm absolutely delighted that Abu Hamza is now out of this country," British Prime Minister David Cameron said. "Like the rest of the public I'm sick to the back teeth of people who come here,(...)More.

Obama raises $181 million in September

President Barack Obama and the Democrats raised $181 million in September — their largest monthly haul since he launched his reelection bid, his campaign announced Saturday. "Some amazing news this morning: 1,825,813 people came together to raise $181 million for this campaign in September," the campaign said on Twitter. "If you gave $5, it helped. 98% of September's contributions were $250 or less, with an average contribution of $53," it said. The figures combine the Obama campaign's fund raising with Democratic National Committee efforts. The amount fell short of the Obama and DNC's single-month record, set in September 08, of $193 million. Romney has yet to make public his fund-raising haul. Obama campaign manager, Jim Messina, emailed supporters with the "huge news." Messina emphasized that the campaign and DNC had pulled in more than 10 million donations in 2012, a record. "Day in and day out, what gives the President confidence and inspiration is knowing that you have his back -- that matters," said Messina. "We're all going to do the best we can over next 31 days to honor that support."

Thursday, October 4, 2012

In the debate spin room, Team Romney takes a victory lap

Even before Mitt Romney concluded his final statement at Wednesday's debate, his senior staff and top surrogates began streaming into the spin room, all with big smiles on their faces.
Eric Fehrnstrom, a senior Romney adviser who has worked for the Republican nominee longer than almost anyone on his staff, could barely get his talking points out fast enough.
"If this debate had been a boxing match, it would have been called in the first hour," Fehrnstrom gleefully told reporters. "I would imagine the heels on the president's shoes are worn down after having leaned back on them for 90 minutes."
They were lines Fehrnstrom would use again and again throughout the night, as reporters mobbed around him to get the campaign's review on a debate that, by all accounts, went extremely well for the Republican presidential nominee.
A CNN poll released after the debate found 67 percent of registered voters polled believed Romney was the debate's winner, compared to just 25 percent who thought President Barack Obama won.
A CBS News poll also found positive numbers for Romney. One key finding: 63 percent of those surveyed said Romney cared about their needs—up from just 30 percent before the debate.
But Romney aides, as cheerful as they were about their candidate's performance in tonight's debate, were quick to caution that this is just "the beginning of a conversation with voters," as Romney strategist Stuart Stevens put it.
"We came into this tied, and we have more debates to come," Stevens said.
But aides still couldn't quite resist rejoicing a little. At least 15 surrogates packed into the spin room within the first 15 minutes after the debate—identified with giant red signs that identified their last names.By comparison, Obama aides were initially nowhere to be seen.
And Team Romney lingered among reporters longer than their opponents, with Stevens spotted on the floor more than an hour after his candidate had left the building.
One favorite talking point of Romney's advisers: They repeatedly accused the president of speaking in "empty platitudes"—a criticism, perhaps not coincidentally, that was leveled at Romney last month by Team Obama, which has criticized the Republican candidate for not getting specific enough about what he would do as president.

Turkey strikes back at Syria, says will protect borders


Turkish artillery hit targets near Syria's Tel Abyad border town for a second day on Thursday, killing several Syrian soldiers according to activists and security sources, after a mortar bomb fired from the area killed five Turkish civilians.
Turkey's government said "aggressive action" against its territory by Syria's military had become a serious threat to its national security and sought parliamentary approval for the deployment of Turkish troops beyond its borders.
"Turkey has no interest in a war with Syria. But Turkey is capable of protecting its borders and will retaliate when necessary," Ibrahim Kalin, a senior adviser to Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, said on his Twitter account.
"Political, diplomatic initiatives will continue," he said.
In the most serious cross-border escalation of the 18-month uprising in Syria, Turkey hit back after what it called "the last straw" when a mortar hit a residential neighborhood of the southern border town of Akcakale on Wednesday.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said several Syrian soldiers were killed in the Turkish bombardment of a military post near the Syrian town of Tel Abyad, a few miles across the frontier from Akcakale. It did not say how many soldiers died.
"We know that they have suffered losses," a Turkish security source told Reuters, without giving further details.
NATO said it stood by member-nation Turkey and urged Syria to put an end to "flagrant violations of international law."
The U.S.-led Western military alliance held an urgent late night meeting in Brussels to discuss the matter and in New York, Turkey asked the U.N. Security Council to take the "necessary action" to stop Syrian aggression.
In a letter to the president of the 15-nation Security Council, Turkish U.N. Ambassador Ertugrul Apakan called the firing of the mortar bomb "a breach of international peace and security.
U.N. diplomats said Security Council members hoped it would issue a non-binding statement on Thursday that would condemn the mortar attack "in the strongest terms" and demand an end to violations of Turkey's territorial sovereignty.
Members had hoped to issue the statement on Wednesday, but Russia - a staunch ally of Syria's, which along with China has vetoed three U.N. resolutions condemning President Bashar al-Assad's government - asked for a delay, diplomats said.
AGGRESSIVE ACTION
Turkey's parliament had already been due to vote on Thursday on extending a five-year-old authorization for foreign military operations, an agreement originally intended to allow strikes on Kurdish militant bases in northern Iraq.
But the memorandum signed by Erdogan and sent to parliament overnight said that despite repeated warnings and diplomatic initiatives, the Syrian military had launched aggressive action against Turkish territory, presenting "additional risks".
"This situation has reached a level of creating a serious threat and risks to our national security. At this point the need has emerged to take the necessary measures to act promptly and swiftly against additional risks and threats," it said.
It was not clear who fired the mortar into Turkey, but security sources said it had come from near Tel Abyad and that Turkey was increasing the number of troops along its border.
"Our armed forces in the border region responded immediately to this abominable attack in line with their rules of engagement; targets were struck through artillery fire against places in Syria identified by radar," Erdogan's office said in a statement late on Wednesday.
"Turkey will never leave unanswered such kinds of provocation by the Syrian regime against our national security."
Syria said it was investigating the source of the mortar bomb and urged restraint. Information Minister Omran Zoabi conveyed his condolences to(...)More.

How Big Bird won the first presidential debate of 2012

To the list of "unlikely subjects of political discussion, 2012," please add one beloved "Sesame Street" character. The 8'2" bird entered the conversation at Monday's first presidential debate in Denver, Colorado, when Republican candidate Mitt Romney answered a question about what he would cut from federal spending. He included the federal subsidy to PBS, which broadcasts "Sesame Street."
"I love Big Bird," Romney added as a caveat, addressing moderator Jim Lehrer. "I actually like you, too." Lehrer is the former anchor of PBS's NewsHour.
The moment immediately went viral. Twitter reported that mentions of "Big Bird" hit a peak of 17,000 tweets per minute--not bad when you consider that Mitt Romney only managed slightly more than 14,000 tweets per minute during his address at the Republican National Convention.
Big Bird spawned a faux Twitter account, @firedbigbird (Bio: Just got fired by Mitt Romney), which by the end of the debate had around 12,000 followers. Big Bird for President's newly drawn up Facebook page had more than 5,000 likes by the end of the evening. It also spawned user-generated art, like the Capit created by an IntoNow user, pictured above, as well as gifs. Check out this one from microblogging site Tumblr's effort to gif-blog the entire debate:

Romney goes on offense against subdued Obama in first debate

President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney squared off in their first face-to-face presidential debate Wednesday, battling for more than an hour over the future of the economy, the federal budget, tax cuts, education, health care and even the future of Big Bird.
Faced with several recent polls showing Romney falling behind, the GOP candidate may have bought himself some added time after Wednesday's debate, where he appeared on the offensive against Obama. Romney's answers to questions from the moderator, Jim Lehrer of PBS Newshour, who played a subdued role over the course of the evening, were crisp and appeared well-rehearsed. His responses included as many specifics as the limited time would allow, and Romney seemed to hit his marks in a way Obama was not able to.
The "zingers" promised for the debate were scarce, and both instead used their time to carefully outline ideas for how they would govern. Romney and Obama used personal examples to supplement their points.
In perhaps the most anticipated moment of the debate, Romney survived the session on health care reform, which could have been a major liability for the Republican nominee. As governor of Massachusetts, Romney championed a state health care law that later became the partial blueprint for Obama's national health care overhaul that Romney now says he wants to repeal. During the debate, Romney worked to show the difference between the two laws, while Obama aimed to tie them together. Obama scored points in noting that many of the ideas that made it into the final health care law originated with with Republicans, but Romney escaped the exchange with only minor wounds.

"There's a reason why Governor Romney set up the plan that he did in Massachusetts," Obama said. "It wasn't a government takeover of health care. It was the largest expansion of private insurance."
Although the debate began awkwardly with both candidates discussing the president's 20th wedding anniversary, the contest quickly moved into what at times became a tense conversation that showed the difference between their competing visions for the future of the country and the role of government. But for much of the first part of the contest, both Obama and Romney spent a lot of time working to fact check the other.

Obama launched an early attack on Romney for proposing a tax plan that cuts federal government programs but does not include tax increases on the wealthy. He knocked the former governor for not providing specifics about his own plan for tax reform and said his initiative would raise taxes on middle-income families by $2,000 and lower them for millionaires.
"Virtually everything he just said about my tax plan is inaccurate," Romney shot back, adding that he doesn't intend to raise taxes under his plan.
Obama pressed that there was no way to achieve sound deficit reduction without what he called a "balanced approach" that includes tax increases and spending cuts, forcing Romney to double down on a policy against raising taxes under any circumstances.
The debate, which lacked the contentious moments of the Republican primary contests, marked nearly five years since Obama and Romney have seen each other in person. Both men, however, have studied the other from afar through campaign ads, briefing books and tapes of old debates during preparations for the big night.
For some voters, Wednesday's debate was Romney's first real opportunity to make an impression. As the challenger, Romney was tasked with showing voters what distinguished him from the president and his policies, and how his own ideas would make the country better off. The debate also offered the Republican nominee an opportunity to display his personality, which at times can appear stiff or halted when portrayed in news coverage.
In a way, Obama faced an even deeper challenge. After four years under his watch, the unemployment rate remains above 8 percent and the national debt now tops over $16 trillion. Indeed, the president inherited a post over a nation facing one of the deepest recessions in recent history, but Obama had to make the case that his policies were the right ones without merely saying "it could have been worse." If the end of his first term is a performance review and the debates are his time to make a defense, it's crucial for him to hit his marks.
In a race in which more than 90 percent of the electorate has already made up their minds, both of the candidates' remarks over the course of the debate were intended for the ears of the few, albeit powerful, undecided voters living in swing states. Each in their own way made pitches to these prospective supporters, while still giving confidence to their respective bases that they would not veer from their principles.
National polls show the race for the popular vote is at a near dead-heat just a month before the election, but an examination of surveys conducted in battleground states suggest Romney could face a deficit of support in areas he must win to best the president.
Wednesday night Romney made a solid first step.
The candidates will face each other twice more before Election Day, for a townhall-style debate in New York on Oct. 16 and a final contest over foreign policy in Florida on Oct. 22.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Labidou: Strange timing for New York Red Bulls to replace Erik Soler as GM

Shock waves spread across Major League Soccer on Tuesday evening when the New York Red Bulls announced their decision to replace Erik Soler as general manager.

The consensus reaction: Why now?

After all, the Red Bulls currently sit five points away from Eastern Conference leader Sporting Kansas City and still have a reasonable chance of finishing at the summit with three games remaining.

While Soler has definitely made some questionable moves in the past (Rafa Marquez, the decision to trade for and then trade away Dewayne De Rosario during a three month period), his decisions this year were primarily solid. After two years of having a threadbare bench, the Red Bulls featured MLS's most potent attack in Thierry Henry, Tim Cahill, Kenny Cooper and Sebastien Le Toux.

Now, instead of focusing on trying to secure as many points as possible heading into the playoffs, most Red Bulls players will be contemplating their future at the club, unless their name is Thierry Henry or Tim Cahill. The arrival of former AS Monaco President Jérôme de Bontin‏ as new GM might not necessarily mean a major upheaval but it could have significant implications for Marquez.

The Mexican international revealed to Goal.com last week that he wanted to extend his contract at New York and was looking for an additional year to his current deal which ends in 2013.

"My ultimate dream is to play in the 2014 World Cup," Marquez told Goal.com through a translator. "I would like to extend my contract for one more year to stay playing at this level, though I have options in Mexico [should the Red Bulls choose not to extend]."

Yaya Toure: We must beat Dortmund

Manchester City midfielder Yaya Toure has declared that Wednesday night's tie against Borussia Dortmund is a "massive” must-win game for the club after losing its opening Champions League group game 3-2 to Real Madrid.

The energetic Ivorian revealed that last year's campaign - in which the Premier League champion failed to qualify from the group stages - was a "disaster" for the club.

Despite disappointment in the opening game this year, the 29-year-old former Barcelona player believes his side can follow in the footsteps of rivals Manchester United and Chelsea and win the European crown this season.

"Hopefully it is going to be a massive game for us. Borussia Dortmund are a fantastic team. They work very hard in attack and defense and we know it is going to be tough and we have to deliver," he told reporters. "Our last campaign was a disaster. We want to change that. Look at our rivals, Chelsea and Manchester United. They have appeared in a final and this year I hope we can go far and even win it.
"The first year was quite hard. This can be massive for us to get to the second round. We know we are in a tough group and we have to get a good result."
City finds itself in Group G against a trio of domestic champions in Jose Mourinho's Madrid, Ajax and Borussia Dortmund. However, Toure is eager to please the home fans by beating the Germans on Wednesday evening.
"In our life we know what we have to do but we understand the position we are in because we lost in Madrid," he said. "Now we are playing the first game in the Champions League at home and we want to show our fans what we can do and produce a good result. With a team like this we can go very far in the competition."
Italian boss Roberto Mancini queried the seeding process, as City has yet to pick up enough coefficient points to be included in the first pot of the seeding process despite winning the Premier League title last season.
"Arsenal are seeded above you and you find yourself with three champions. This is the Champions League and for this reason, it is difficult," Mancini said. "We have won our championship and we are facing the best teams in Germany, Spain and Holland. Sometimes when you play in the Champions League you should also be lucky with the draw.
"It is important to get into the second stage because after that anything can happen because we are a good team."

Suarez pledges to help Liverpool youngsters

Luis Suarez has backed Liverpool's youngsters to continue their rapid improvement and vowed to offer any assistance that they require.

The Uruguayan has been impressed by the likes of Raheem Sterling and Suso, among others, and understands that his role as a senior player is to support them.

"We've got a lot of quality youngsters here, such as Raheem; Suso showed what he could do the other day," Suarez told the club’s official website.

"[Adam] Morgan has to keep taking his chance to feature more and more and [Jerome] Sinclair made his debut."

But the Liverpool striker has urged the younger members of the Merseyside club not to rest on their laurels, instead to continue to work hard to impress and improve.

"They are all really good players and they are at Liverpool for a reason. The form that Raheem has been showing and Suso the other day, they are showing us that they want to help the team," he continued.

"And we so-called experienced players are always there to help them so let's hope that they continue to develop and don't just stand still but continue to prove exactly why they are at Liverpool."

Suarez believes that it is the role of the senior players in the side to educate, encourage and aid Liverpool's youngsters.

"I think it should be us who are offering advice to them, telling what they are doing well, and not so well," he declared, "but I think they do realize that they have to learn things from the older players."

Brazil comedy mocks ‘own goal' over World Cup preparation

A Brazilian theatre company is touring the country with a new comedy playing on the public's growing fears that hosting the 2014 World Cup will be a disaster with unfinished stadiums and overwhelmed airports.
"The Cup is Ours" by Brasilia slapstick comedians "De 4 e melhor", portrays a chaotic tournament which starts late while finishing touches are put on stadiums and an opening ceremony botched by corrupt officials who have stolen the cash to pay for it.
"We are making these criticisms because it's obvious that there are a lot of things to deal with urgently. But if this Cup is to be a success, it will take a lot more than criticism," the play's director Flavio Nardelli told Reuters backstage.
FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke caused a diplomatic storm in March when he said Brazil needed a "kick up the backside" to speed up preparations. Brazil refused to work with him before FIFA eventually patched up relations.
Despite earlier concerns about progress on new stadiums, most are now roughly on schedule, though costs are soaring. But transportation infrastructure, from airports to public transport and hotels, still look woefully inadequate for an expected 600,000 visitors.
The comedy group hopes to take the play to all 12 cities which will host games from the tournament.
In one sketch, soccer fans learn from the airport announcer after a half dozen gate changes, that their overbooked flight has been cancelled and they will be bussed to a game in Sao Paulo, a two-day journey, "for a rebooking fee of only 213 reais", about $100.
"A lot of people are telling us they can identify with these scenes. People are saying it's the comment you hear most at the airports today: ‘Imagine when it's the World Cup'," Nardelli said.
In other sketches, a fan from Brazil's soccer nemesis Argentina, is conned out of cash by a quick-thinking beggar and an American woman runs for safety from a flirt with broken English who misunderstands her words as welcoming his advances.
At the final in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil faces Argentina. A shot fired from one of the dozens of shanty towns that sprawl across its hillsides, hits three-time World Player of the Year, Argentina's Lionel Messi, securing victory for the hosts.
A handful of audience members interviewed were confident preparations would fall into place and that Brazilians would resort to the culturally instilled 'jeitinho', or 'little way' to creatively dribble around difficulties.
"I think it will happen because it just has to. We will have to do something, I don't know what but we will have to do it," said Gustavo Tosto, an employee of the public airport operator as the audience shuffled out of the theater.

UPDATE 2-Soccer-Barcelona sink Benfica but Puyol injury mars win

* Alexis Sanchez and Fabregas secure 2-0 win in Lisbon
* Puyol to miss Sunday's 'Clasico' after dislocating elbow
* Barcelona's Busquets shown late red card (adds quotes)
Barcelona's Lionel Messi set up goals for Alexis Sanchez and Cesc Fabregas in their 2-0 Champions League Group G victory over Benfica on Tuesday but the success was marred when captain Carles Puyol suffered a dislocated elbow.
Sanchez fired Barca ahead early on and Fabregas added a second 10 minutes into the second half but the damage to Puyol means he will miss the La Liga 'Clasico' against Real Madrid at the Nou Camp on Sunday.
The Catalans had Sergio Busquets dismissed two minutes from time but will be more concerned about Puyol, who landed awkwardly after leaping for a ball and was carried off on a stretcher in obvious pain after 78 minutes.
The Spain international was playing his first match since recovering from a knee problem.
"We are waiting for more information but he will certainly miss the 'Clasico'," Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova told reporters.
Barca defender Dani Alves, who was visibly shaken by Puyol's injury during the match, said his team mates were concerned.
"We are really saddened by the (Puyol) situation," he said.
Barca have six points from two games and although their confidence is high heading into 'El Clasico', they now have problems at the back with Puyol's defensive partner Gerard Pique also sidelined by injury.
ARCHITECT MESSI
Messi was once again the architect of Barcelona's win in Lisbon.
The Argentine sprinted down the left and crossed for Chilean Sanchez to tap home after six minutes.
Benfica also looked dangerous going forward and Brazilian striker Lima could have levelled five minutes later but Victor Valdez saved at his feet when the striker was through on goal.
With centre back Luisao suspended, the home side's defence looked wobbly with Artur denying Messi with a reflex save and then the lively Sanchez blasted over the bar with only the keeper to beat.
"There is only one ball and when they have the ball for three quarters of the match it is very hard," said Benfica playmaker Pablo Aimar, who Messi has said was his childhood idol.
Barca doubled their lead after the break when Messi cut in from the right and with a trademark dash left several defenders trailing. He then slid a perfect ball through to Fabregas who coolly slotted in.
"They are, in my opinion, the best in the world, always get more than 70 percent of possession and boss around every opponent," said Benfica coach Jorge Jesus
Celtic beat Spartak Moscow 3-2 in the earlier kickoff in Russia and are second in Group G, with four points after two matches.

Robin Van Persie has found a home in Man U

If his national team coach is to be believed, Robin Van Persie moved from Arsenal to Manchester United because he wanted people to be mean to him. If that indeed was the Dutchman's true motivation behind a switch that cost United a transfer fee of $38 million, he is going the wrong way about it.
In Champions League play Tuesday, Van Persie scored both goals as United survived a tricky away clash to beat Romanian champions CFR Cluj, a result that set the club on course to a likely spot in the knockout stage, even after only two of six group games.
While some have speculated on where Van Persie's mind was at when he chose to leave Arsenal, his soccer home of the previous six years, and join one of its English Premier League rivals, Netherlands head coach Louis Van Gaal revealed some of the 29-year-old's thought processes.
"Robin had several options of course, to stay, to go to Manchester or to go somewhere else," Van Gaal told Dutch television. "To me it seemed that his priority was to go somewhere where he would be pushed. All of his options were great clubs and it was important to him that wherever it was people would not just agree with him, but they would be mean to him, if necessary, and push him to improve and to be his best."
United has had mixed results in the early part of the EPL season, losing at home to Tottenham last weekend and slipping four points behind leaders Chelsea. Van Persie has already shown glimpses that he can bring the kind of scoring productivity that boss Sir Alex Ferguson craves though, and Tuesday's double will help the settling-in process no end.
Cluj, situated in the Transylvania region that literary mythology claimed was home to Count Dracula, might be relatively unknown outside Romania but had served notice of their ability by winning their opening group match at Portuguese side Brada. The hosts made a confident start against United and deserved their opening goal, when Pantelis Kapetanos produced a calm finish after 14 minutes.
At that point United's critics were busy whetting their knives once more, and the theory that this is far from being Ferguson's best crop of players in his long career, especially defensively, seemed to carry some weight. That argument will be settled over several months and not 90 minutes, yet this was still a comeback to give Ferguson some level of satisfaction.
If Van Persie's equalizer on 29 minutes was scrappy – with the ball glancing off his shoulder and flying into the net – his second was outstanding, a skillful flick of his left boot just after halftime that beat goalkeeper Mario Felgueiras.
Van Persie was the player Ferguson urgently wanted over the summer, making him the focal point of his transfer activity, and it seems that the team's fortunes may hinge on his productivity. It was a carefully researched move on Van Persie's part, who is at a point in his career where he has the potential to elevate himself into the discussion of the world's very finest players.
He spoke at length to experienced mentors such as Van Gaal and former United players such as goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar before eventually taking the plunge in choosing United over Italian giants Juventus.
"He wanted to hear my thought about [United and Juventus]," Van Der Sar told the Daily Telegraph. "We spoke for five minutes about Juventus and 55 minutes about United."
Van Persie, then, has perhaps found his natural home, as these sixth and seventh goals since his move would indicate. If this kind of scoring rate continues, he may have difficulty in finding the hard time he seems to want.

Your Finger Swipe Could Become Your Password

To log into the new iPad app she made, computer science student Napa Sae-Bae held her hand open, touched her fingertips to the tablet's surface, then drew her fingers together until they met in the center. Her app analyzed the way she performed the gesture — the speed of her swipe, the angles between each fingertip — to decide whether to let her in. A moment later, a yellow smiley face popped up, indicating that she could access the app.
She then offered the iPad to me. On-screen, the app showed green tracks so I could drag my fingers along the same lines Sae-Bae did. Our hands are similar in size, so her hand-spread matched mine. Yet while I moved along the tracks, I noticed their paths felt uncomfortable and unnatural to me. Once I finished the gesture, I got a green frowning face to show I was locked out. 
In two recent studies, Sae-Bae, who is studying for her doctorate at the Polytechnic Institute of New York University, has found that apps such as these could be secure, more memorable and more fun alternatives to passcodes and passwords. Sae-Bae's work is in its early stages, but she and her adviser, Nasir Memon, hope that in the future, gestures and swipes will prove to be a better alternative to passwords, crafted especially for the touch screen age. 
"I think we are at a window of opportunity where the interface is changing," Memon said. He and Sae-Bae recently published a paper that discussed not only the proliferation of smartphones and tablets, but also research into making fabric and paper into touch-sensitive technology. Passwords are especially difficult to type into touch-screen devices, Memon added.
"They have some encouraging results," Kevin Bowyer, a computer scientist at the University of Notre Dame, wrote to TechNewsDaily in an email. (Bowyer studies biology-based password alternatives, called biometrics, but was not involved in Memon's work.) Bowyer added that Sae-Bae and Memon haven't tested swipes in enough people to prove they are able to distinguish individuals in a large population, such as all the people who use an email service. But it does look like gestures are enough to keep a handful of intruders out of your tablet.
"If there was an application where you only wanted to distinguish between, say, 10 different people who are potential users of some device, then these results seem really encouraging," Bowyer said.
How it works
Even when someone tries to copy another person's gesture, there are differences in how individuals pinch, swipe and turn, Sae-Bae explained. People have different fingertip distances, tracks along which they pinch and speed of swiping.
In her latest paper, which she presented Sept. 26 at a biometrics conference hosted by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Sae-Bae worked on ensuring her app was lenient enough to allow for the slightly different ways the same individual may perform a gesture, while still locking out imposters who try to copy someone's sign-in gesture. "You need to find a good balance," Memon said. [SEE ALSO: Computer IDs Culprits with Tattoo Recognition]
Sae-Bae tested 22 different gestures, including the five-finger pinch that I tried to copy from her. After gathering data from 34 study volunteers, she found that on average, gestures had about a 4 percent equal error rate, a standard measure of error in biometrics that takes into account false lockouts as well as false sign-ins. Smaller equal error rates are better. 
Previously, in a paper Sae-Bae presented at an Association for Computing Machinery conference in May, she described another interesting finding. For that study, she asked volunteers to make 22 gestures on an iPad and rank which one was most fun to make. The more fun ones happened to be the most secure ones, she found. This is the polar opposite of what happens with text passwords, she said. 
An uncertain future
There are still many tests ahead for Sae-Bae's app before it shows up in commercial devices. "It's still far from something grandpa and grandma will use," Memon said.
Sae-Bae will need to check if people easily remember the gestures they choose to replace their passcode, Memon said. One of the problems the researchers are trying to solve is the difficulty of remembering secure passwords

Photos of youngest Aurora shooting victim stolen in burglary of grandfather’s home

The home of the grandfather of Veronica Moser-Sullivan—the youngest Aurora, Colo., movie theater shooting victim—was burglarized on Tuesday, Denver police say. Among the items stolen were four cameras, including a digital camera with a memory card that the grandfather says had some of the last photos ever taken of the 6-year-old, who was among 12 people slain during the July 20 shooting.
"The pictures hold special significance," Robert Sullivan, Veronica's grandfather, told the Denver Post. "She was a beautiful, special little 6-year-old girl, so angelic, and just a terrible loss."
One of them, taken in May and later published in People magazine, showed Veronica enjoying an ice cream cone with her grandparents on the last day of school.

Ashley Moser, Veronica's 25-year-old mother, was shot in the neck and stomach and survived. But her family said she later suffered a miscarriage as a result of her injuries.
According to police, the burglary occurred Tuesday morning. Sullivan and his wife were not home at the time, and the thieves entered through a window.
Sullivan said he did not think the burglars intended to steal the photos of his granddaughter—just the cameras—and is asking that they return the memory card.
"I look at what happened here today, and it's just another spike in the heart," he said. "And my heart has been torn apart."
Twelve people were killed and 58 others were wounded in the shooting at a screening of "The Dark Knight Rises." The alleged shooter, James Holmes, was charged with 24 counts of first-degree murder—two for each victim.

Akin in 2008: ‘Terrorist’ doctors give ‘abortions to women who are not actually pregnant’

who sparked a firestorm of criticism with his comments about "legitimate rape" in August--gave a speech on the House floor in 2008 in which he called those who perform abortions "terrorists" and claimed some do so on "women who are not actually pregnant."
"It is no big surprise that we fight the terrorists because they are fundamentally un-American, and yet we have terrorists in our own culture called abortionists," Akin said in the Jan. 22, 2008 speech. "One of the good pieces of news why we are winning this war is because there are not enough heartless doctors being graduated from medical schools. There is a real shortage of abortionists.
"Who wants to be at the very bottom of the food chain of medical profession?" Akin continued. "And what sort of places do these bottom-of-the-food-chain doctors work in? Places that are really a pit. You find that along with the culture of death go all kinds of other law-breaking: not following good sanitary procedure, giving abortions to women who are not actually pregnant, cheating on taxes, all these kinds of things, misuse of anesthetics so that people die or almost die."
[Related: Akin (still) staying in Missouri Senate race]
"Akin's allegation of doctors performing abortions on non-pregnant women is particularly puzzling," Mollie Reilly wrote on the Huffington Post, "since, by definition, an abortion cannot be performed if there is no pregnancy to terminate."
The embattled Republican has fought a flurry of calls from GOP leaders to abandon his Senate campaign against incumbent Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill after suggesting that victims of "legitimate rape" could not become pregnant.
Akin apologized, saying he misspoke, but has continually refused to drop out of the race. And a recent poll shows him narrowly leading McCaskill.

Italian man protests on St. Peter's dome

An Italian man has eluded Vatican security and scaled the 130-meter-high (142-feet-high) dome of St. Peter's Basilica to protest Italian government and European Union policies.
Officials said Wednesday that the man, who identified himself as the owner of a beach resort, refused appeals from government ministers offering to meet with him if he would come down. He scaled the dome on Tuesday night.
He put up a banner saying "Help! Enough Monti!" referring to Italian Premier Mario Monti, who has been implementing tough austerity measures and economic reforms to bring down Italy's debt and deficit and spur growth.

The un-defining debate moments: Overlooked instances that deserve notice

Richard Nixon had bad makeup; Gerald Ford prematurely liberated Poland from Soviet domination; Ronald Reagan said “there you go again” and asked if you were better off than you were four years ago; then four years later, he promised not to use Walter Mondale’s “youth and inexperience against him”; Michael Dukakis was insufficiently upset about his wife’s hypothetical rape and murder; Dan Quayle equated himself with John F. Kennedy and was then KO’ed when Senator Lloyd Bentson told him he was “no Jack Kennedy”; George H. W. Bush looked at his watch; Al Gore sighed.

The obsessive hunt for such moments explains why countless thousands of analysts, commentators, Tweeters, and bloggers will watch tonight’s encounter with fingers poised over keyboards, looking for that one parry, stumble, quip, metaphor or spontaneous outburst of eloquence that will ascend into the Pantheon of Defining Moments, thus sparing them the need to pronounce that “there were no knockdowns.”

For me, reducing the half-century of presidential debates into a handful of moments comes at a great price: It pushes into obscurity those un-defining moments that deserve recognition—and in some cases may have changed the public’s sense of who prevailed.  I’ve compiled a list of a few of my favorite under-the-radar retorts:

1) An Eddie Haskell Moment: In their third 1960 encounter, John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon were asked to weigh in on President Harry Truman’s use of language—he had more or less said that Nixon and the Republican Party could go to hell. Looking somewhat amused, Kennedy said, “... I really don't think there's anything that I could say to President Truman that's going to cause him, at the age of seventy-six, to change his particular speaking manner. Perhaps Mrs. Truman can, but I don't think I can.”

Nixon would have none of it: “ I can only say that I'm very proud that President Eisenhower restored dignity and decency and, frankly, good language to the conduct of the presidency of the United States,” he said. “And I only hope that, should I win this election, that I could approach President Eisenhower in maintaining the dignity of the office.”

Eisenhower, of course, was a career soldier, whose language could sometimes curl ion in the Oval Office wallpaper; on the White House tapes, Nixon made “expletive deleted” a catch phrase. More importantly, those debate words reaffirmed Nixon’s status as the Eddie Haskell of his time. Like that sycophant from Leave it to Beaver, Nixon was prone to pious hypocrisies that made your teeth hurt. I’ve often wondered whether they drove just enough voters to say, “come off it!” altering the outcome.

2) The Warm-Up: The shorthand debate histories will note that in 1980, there was only one debate, on October 28, just a week before the election. Actually, another debate occurred more than a month earlier. But because the League of Women Voters (then the sponsor of these contests) had invited third-party candidate John Anderson to participate, President Carter refused to attend. While not a memorable clash of ideas, this overlooked debate did give Reagan a chance to demonstrate an amiable, reasonable approach to issues, a sharp contrast to the bomb-throwing, reckless image that the Carter campaign was painting of him.

When asked by Fortune Magazine’s Carol Loomis what specific policies he had that might prove unpopular, Reagan replied: “I believe that the only unpopular measures, actually, that could be, or would be applied, would be unpopular with the government, and with those, perhaps, some special interest groups who are tied closely to government.” While not an intellectually rigorous answer, it was reassuring to those worried that Reagan’s conservatism threatened their federal benefits.

3) Political Judo: The first and only time an independent candidate participated in the same debates as the incumbent president and his major party opponent happened in 1992. In the first debate, Ross Perot demonstrated a keen sense of “political judo”— the ability to turn a weakness into a strength.

When asked the predictable question about his lack of political experience, Perot eagerly agreed. Yes, he said, “I don’t have any experience in running up a $4 trillion debt.” By some accounts (including mine at the time), he actually won that debate. It’s one reason—along with his limitlessly deep pockets—that Perot was able to win 19% of the popular vote, despite his sometimes attenuated connection to reality.

4) I Feel Your Pain: During the 1992 Town Hall debate, a citizen asked the candidates, “How has the national debt personally affected each of your lives, and if it hasn’t how can you honestly find a cure for the economic problems of the common people if you have no experience in what’s ailing them?” President George W. Bush struggled to understand the question: “I think the national debt affects everybody,” he said. The debt drives up interest rates, he said, and continued with a wobbly answer that didn’t answer the question. Then he asked the questioner “are you suggesting that if someone has means then the national debt doesn’t affect them?” Moderator Carole Simpson finally said to Bush, “I think she means more the recession.”

When it was Bill Clinton’s turn, he walked right up to the questioner.  In tones that suggested a sympathetic social worker, he said, “Tell me how it has affected you again? You know people who have lost their jobs, lost their homes? Well, I’ve been governor of a small state for 12 years. I’ll tell you how it’s affected me...I have seen what’s happened in these last four years. When people lose their jobs, there’s a good chance I’ll know them by their names.” The then-governor launched into a broader indictment of the “12-years of trickle-down economics” of the Reagan-Bush years. You’ll find no sharper contrast of the right and wrong way to handle a citizen-questioner than this one.

5) Beltway-Speak:  During a 2000 debate, Vice President Gore was trying to show that Governor Bush’s support for a “Patient’s Bill of Rights” was empty rhetoric. He repeatedly cited “the Dingell-Norwood bill” pending in Congress. “I specifically would like to know,” he said, “whether Governor Bush will support the Dingle-Norwood bill, which is the main one pending.” Bush said that the difference between him and Gore was “I can get it [a patients’ bill of rights] done.”

“What about the Dingell-Norwood bill?” Gore interjected. On the merits, he scored. On the atmospherics, he seemed incapable of going beyond the world of “Washington-speak.” Just imagine how Bill Clinton would have dealt with the same issue.

These are a few of my favorite “un-defining” debate moments. Had space allowed, I would have shared another personal favorite: The dispute between Kennedy and Nixon about whether the U.S. should help protect the Nationalist Chinese islands of Quemoy and Matsu from mainland China’s attacks.

In Libya, the man who would avenge Amb. Stevens

The camera captured a clamor of voices, a crush of bodies in a corridor, and then the blond hair and white T-shirt of a man lying on the floor.
Amateur videographer Fahed Bakoush didn’t know it then, but the blond man, Christopher Stevens, was about to become the first US ambassador killed while on duty in more than three decades.
The attack on the US consulate in Benghazi last month was, for Bakoush, a call to action. Part of a young generation of activists who cut their teeth in last year’s revolution, he was spurred to redouble his efforts to help build a stable country.
Ambassador Stevens’s death, a result of the consulate attack, has left Washington focused on the fear that militant Islamists are gaining a foothold in post-Qaddafi Libya. Bakoush says armed groups of all stripes are holding Libya back. In the wake of the attack, he helped organize demonstrations that gave new voice to Libyans’ growing weariness of guns and instability.
At one such demonstration, the anger directed toward a local militia was so fierce that the group withdrew from its compound without a fight.
“I want to see political parties, not militias with guns,” says Bakoush, 21.
It’s still unclear how a protest at the consulate over an anti-Islam film made in the US became the occasion for the attack that killed Stevens. But for many Libyans, it highlighted a fundamental problem: War has flooded the country with weapons, while the fledgling government has struggled to absorb militias into national security forces.
A PERSONAL REVOLUTION
Bakoush’s own revolution started small: following exiled dissidents via the Internet and an instance of modest civil disobedience in December 2010, when he was an engineering student.
When the director of the engineering institute asked the class if anyone had the then-national anthem on his mobile phone, Bakoush saw a chance for dissidence. He went to the intercom, and the director told him to press play. Seconds later, the pre-Qaddafi anthem resounded through the classrooms.
“What are you doing?” the director cried. “Get out!”
Bakoush was expelled the next day. But two months later, he had a new occupation as revolt erupted. He joined a militia and went to the front. Later, he traveled the region as an activist to promote Libya’s revolution.
On Sept. 11 of this year, a friend called with urgent news: A mob was burning the US consulate. Bakoush rushed to the scene.
“I heard them crying ‘We have entered!’,” he says. “Some were looting the buildings, others seemed afraid. It was chaos.”
Clutching his mobile phone with its video camera feature running, he followed young men into the depths of the consulate, where they discovered the prone body of a blond-haired man.
“We didn’t know who he was, just that he was foreign,” says Bakoush. “They wanted to protect him. He was alive, still breathing.”
The video clip he uploaded afterwards to YouTube shows the young men carrying Stevens toward an exit. The ambassador was brought to a hospital, where he was found to have died of smoke inhalation
'THE LAST STRAW'
For Bakoush – as for many Libyans – the attack was a last straw. The following week, he and other activists had one of Libya’s two mobile phone operators send a mass SMS urging customers to demonstrate that Friday against violence and “militias not integrated into the army.”
Details of the attack remain murky, but it underscored the persistence of armed groups despite the end of revolution.
On Sept. 21, thousands marched in Benghazi to call for peace. Among them was the engineering institute director.
“You’re like a son to me!” he said when he saw Bakoush. “I only expelled you because we were under pressure."
The Benghazi marchers proceeded to a compound occupied by Ansar al Sharia, a hardline Islamist militia accused of involvement in the consulate attack. Perhaps swayed, or at least awed, by the show of people power, the group peacefully left the compound. Today it stands empty.
However, some marchers later clashed with members of the Rafallah al Sahati brigade, an officially pro-government militia that was apparently targeted by mistake. Eleven people were killed when members of the brigade opened fire.
Bakoush has not rejoined his old militia since war ended last year. He is planning to take an engineering exam to complete his studies, and in July run unsuccessfully in congressional elections.