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    Thursday, March 20, 2008

    Reuters - U.S. denies entry to British sex, drugs memoir writer

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    U.S. denies entry to British sex, drugs memoir writer

    Thursday, Mar 20, 2008 8:9PM UTC

    LONDON (Reuters) - U.S. immigration officials denied British author Sebastian Horsley entrance to the United States on Wednesday on the grounds of "moral turpitude", Horsley told Reuters on Thursday.

    Tired from his return trip to London and eight hours of detention with U.S. customs officials, the 45-year-old artist and author of the lurid autobiography of drug addiction and sex "Dandy in the Underworld", admitted that his flamboyant dress and top hat may have caught the attention of U.S. officials.

    "I was wearing my dandy uniform, but the customs officials were wearing uniforms too and I didn't object to them," he said.

    Horsley was stopped by immigration officials at New York's Newark airport after flying in from London to promote his book, which the author calls a "moral book".

    "They said I was suffering from moral turpitude," Horsley said. "I was very surprised. I'm feeling quite well. I've never drunk turpentine in my life."

    Horsley claims to have slept with more than 1,000 prostitutes, worked as a male escort, been in and out of rehab to treat drug addiction and staged a self-crucifixion in the Philippines in 2000.

    "He is very honest about his life. That is who Sebastian is," said Seale Ballenger, spokesman for HarperCollins Publishers.

    Ballenger said a party in New York that was meant to be the U.S. launch for the book, ended up being a rally for support to bring the author back to the United States.

    Horsley said that after several hours of questioning in which customs officials asked him whether he used drugs, had solicited prostitutes or been convicted of any crimes, he was put on a plane back to London.

    "God bless America, land of the free, but sadly not the home of the depraved," he said.

    No one from the New York office of United States Customs and Border Protection was immediately available to comment.

    The New York Times quoted a customs spokeswoman, Lucille Cirillo, as saying she could not comment on individual cases.

    But in an e-mail to the newspaper she explained that under a waiver program that allows British citizens to enter the United States without a visa, "travelers who have been convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude (which includes controlled-substance violations) or admit to previously having a drug addiction are not admissible."

    Publisher Carrie Kania, from the HarperCollins' unit Harper Perennial that published the book in the United States, said she found it hard to understand why Horsley would be denied entrance into the United States for "his notoriety."

    "It is unfortunate that his voice, in person, is being stifled," she said in a statement.

    "Sebastian has written a cautionary tale of a life lived vividly ... an unapologetic, honest, funny and torturous book. Sebastian's memoir is about choice, some conventional, some unconventional."

    Horsley's memoir was published last September in Britain with reviewers calling it both amusing and revolting.

    (Writing by Belinda Goldsmith and Paul Casciato)

    Sen. Barack. Obama

    You should know better!

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    CNN - State Department: Someone snooped in Obama's passport file

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    State Department: Someone snooped in Obama's passport file

    The State Department has confirmed a breach on Sen. Barack Obama's passport file.

    Obama's campaign is asking for a complete investigation to find out who looked at Obama's passport file and why.

    "This is an outrageous breach of security and privacy, even from an administration that has shown little regard for either over the last eight years," said Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton in a statement.

    "Our government's duty is to protect the private information of the American people, not use it for political purposes."

    CNN - Clinton faces an uphill struggle

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    Clinton faces an uphill struggle

    With both Florida and Michigan primary revote plans stalled, the road ahead for Sen. Hillary Clinton appears to be a rocky one.

    Sen. Barack Obama leads Clinton in both pledged delegates and popular votes. The question now: Can Clinton overtake Obama's lead in pledged delegates?

    For that to happen, she would need to win about two-thirds of the pledged delegates in the remaining contests, which will be tough.

    CNN estimates that Obama has 1,413 pledged delegates and 208 superdelegates for a total of 1,621. Clinton has 1,242 pledged delegates and 237 superdelegates, a total of 1,479. A candidate must have 2,024 delegates to win the Democratic nomination.

    Another question that arises: Can she overtake Obama's lead in popular votes?

    In the primaries and caucuses to date, Obama has garnered about 700,000 more popular votes than Clinton.

    CNN estimates that about 6 million more people are likely to vote. To overcome Obama's lead, Clinton would have to get 56 percent of those votes.

    So how tough will that be? In the 28 primaries in February and March, when the Democratic contest became a two-candidate race, Clinton averaged 46 percent.

    She's received 56 percent or more in only four states: Massachusetts, Rhode Island and her current and former home states, New York and Arkansas.

    The next state to vote is Pennsylvania on April 22, where CNN's poll of polls shows Clinton leading Obama by 13 percentage points. If you look only at decided voters, Clinton gets just over 56 percent.

    West Virginia and Kentucky are heavily rural states with many lower-income voters, which could be good for Clinton, who has done well with similar voters in Ohio and Texas.

    Indiana appears to be more of a battleground. Many Indiana voters get their information from media out of Chicago, in Obama's home state of Illinois. The state holds its primary May 6.

    North Carolina, with its large African-American population and swath of upscale voters, is Obama's most promising state. Its primary is May 8.

    Obama may also do well in Oregon's May 20 primary. The Illinois senator has generally done well in Western states where the traditional Democratic base is small.

    If Michigan and Florida were to redo their primaries, Clinton would need to carry 53 percent of the remaining voters.

    But even that won't be easy. She's gotten at least 53 percent of the vote in only eight of the 28 primaries since Super Tuesday.

    The Clinton campaign has pushed for the votes in Florida and Michigan to count, which could help her catch up in pledged delegates. But Obama wasn't on the ballot in Michigan, and both sides agreed not to campaign in the two states.

    On Thursday, Michigan's Senate adjourned without reaching an agreement to schedule a new Democratic primary for June 3.

    The Legislature is on recess for two weeks, and by the time lawmakers return, it will probably be too late to approve and organize a new vote.

    Clinton and Obama also would have to sign off on the plan. Obama's camp had expressed concern with the proposal, and Clinton blamed him for holding up the revote.

    Michigan and Florida held primaries in January, but the Democratic National Committee stripped them of their delegates for scheduling their contests too early.

    The ultimate decision now could very well rest with the superdelegates: the 800 or so Democratic elected officials, party leaders and other officials.

    But the superdelegates are likely to pay a lot of attention to who's ahead in the popular vote and in pledged delegates, a fact that could ultimately help Obama surge to winning the party's nomination.

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    Reuters - McCain campaign suspends staffer for race video

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    McCain campaign suspends staffer for race video

    Thursday, Mar 20, 2008 9:23PM UTC

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republican John McCain's presidential campaign on Thursday suspended a staffer for sending a racially charged video involving Democrat Barack Obama and his controversial preacher.

    The campaign said Soren Dayton was disciplined after it was learned that he had been sending out the video, which the Internet site said used the controversial words of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright to portray Obama as unpatriotic.

    "We have been very clear on the type of campaign we intend to run and this staffer acted in violation of our policy. He has been reprimanded by campaign leadership and suspended from the campaign," said McCain spokeswoman Jill Hazelbaker.

    Dayton had no role in the McCain communications office and was described as a low-level staffer who sent out the video via a device used for online social networking.

    Obama, who would be America's first black president, was forced to distance himself from Wright, who has expressed anger over what he called racist America, charged that the September 11 attacks were retribution for U.S. foreign policy and claimed the U.S. government was the source of the AIDS virus.

    Wright was Obama's pastor in Chicago for two decades. He recently retired.

    McCain has repeatedly said he would run a respectful campaign against either Obama or New York Democratic Sen. Hillary Clinton and that the public is tired of negative campaigning.

    "A lot of the stuff you don't like you won't see in this campaign," he said at a campaign event last week. said the video Dayton sent included images of Malcolm X, black Olympians raising their hands in the black power salute and the rap song "Fight the Power."

    (Reporting by Steve Holland, editing by Alan Elsner)

    Reuters - Clinton unveils new stimulus package

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    Clinton unveils new stimulus package

    Thursday, Mar 20, 2008 11:59PM UTC

    By Jeff Mason

    TERRE HAUTE, Indiana (Reuters) - Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton unveiled a second economic stimulus package on Thursday as a new poll showed her maintaining her lead over Barack Obama among Democrats.

    With surveys showing the economy the top issue on voters' minds, Clinton called for new steps to address a deepening housing crisis, including a $30 billion emergency fund to help states buy foreclosed properties and provide mortgage restructuring.

    Clinton overtook Obama in a daily Gallup tracking poll earlier this week and the latest survey showed her leading the Illinois senator 49 percent to 42 percent in the contest to select the Democratic nominee to face Republican Sen. John McCain in November.

    The poll was a snapshot of current popular feeling, but Clinton trails Obama in the state-by-state contest for delegates that began in January. The nominees are formally chosen by delegates at the parties' conventions in the summer.

    Clinton had hoped to try to chip away at Obama's delegate lead with a rerun of Michigan's contested Democratic presidential primary. But a Clinton-backed "do-over" proposal effectively died in the Michigan Legislature when lawmakers adjourned without considering the plan.

    Obama opposed rerunning the Michigan primary. The Michigan and Florida Democratic primaries were invalidated because both states ignored party directives and held their balloting earlier than allowed.

    Obama, who would be America's first black president, is trying to rebound after a rocky patch. He delivered a major speech this week on race relations in an effort to explain his relationship with his longtime Chicago pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

    Obama condemned some of Wright's statements, such as his assertion the September 11 attacks were retribution for U.S. foreign policy and that the U.S. government intentionally infected blacks with the AIDS virus. But he refused to dissociate himself from the preacher, who he said had done great things for his Chicago community.

    Much of the skirmishing on the campaign trail on Thursday surrounded the North American Free Trade Agreement. Campaigning in Indiana, Clinton, a New York senator, said she was never enthusiastic about NAFTA despite records that showed she helped her husband's drive to gain its passage.

    The accord is deeply unpopular among Democrats in "Rust Belt" states like Ohio and Pennsylvania, which holds the next nominating contest on April 22, because it led to the loss of manufacturing jobs.

    Both Clinton and Obama have vowed to renegotiate the deal if elected to the White House.


    While Clinton has talked of long being skeptical of NAFTA, daily schedules of her time as first lady showed on Wednesday that she spoke at an event in 1993 aimed at rallying support for the accord.

    "I have spoken consistently against NAFTA and the way it's been implemented. At the time ... I spoke out about the concerns that I had about NAFTA," Clinton said.

    The Obama camp was skeptical. "Misrepresenting your position and carefully parsing your words when you don't think you'll get caught are the hallmarks of the kind of politics that Barack Obama is running to change," his campaign said.

    In Charleston, West Virginia, Obama said the $500 billion cost of the Iraq war was a drag on the U.S. economy and attempted to lay some of the blame for it on McCain.

    He used a large portion of his speech to try to connect McCain to President George W. Bush, accusing McCain of wanting a "permanent occupation in Iraq."

    "No matter what the costs, no matter what the consequences, John McCain seems determined to carry out a third Bush term," Obama said.

    McCain communications director Jill Hazelbaker said Obama's statements showed he was wrong on both the economy and U.S. national security.

    Obama was offering "the tired tax and spend ideas of the past" while promoting "an irresponsible policy of withdrawing our troops from Iraq without regard for the conditions on the ground," she said.

    (Additional reporting by Matthew Bigg in Charleston, Adrian Croft in London, David Morgan in Washington and Kevin Krolicki in Detroit; Writing by Steve Holland; Editing by Alan Elsner and Peter Cooney)

    (To read more about the U.S. political campaign, visit Reuters "Tales from the Trail: 2008" online at

    CNN - Woman dies after ray strikes her

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    Woman dies after ray strikes her

    A woman on a boat died after a spotted eagle ray leaped from the water off the Florida Keys Thursday and struck her, officials said.

    The force of the blow pushed the woman backward and she died when she hit her head on the boat deck, officials said.

    "It's just as freakish of an accident as I have heard," said Jorge Pino of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. "The chances of this occurring are so remote that most of us are completely astonished that this happened."

    The commission identified the woman as Judy Kay Zagorski, 57, of Pigeon, Michigan.

    The woman was seated or standing in the front of the boat as her husband piloted the vessel at about 25 mph out of a channel, Pino said. "The ray just actually popped up in front of the vessel," he said. "The father had not even a second to react. It was too late. It happened instantly and the woman fell backwards and, unfortunately, died as a result of the collision."

    The accident happened off the coast of Marathon, about an hour's drive south of Miami. The woman, who was with her husband and children, was taken to the Mariner Hospital in Tavernier, where she was pronounced dead. Watch marine officers work around dead ray on boat

    Pino said he had seen rays leap into the air, but added, "it's very rare for them to collide with objects." Watch experts explain why eagle rays leap

    The spotted-eagle ray weighed about 75 to 80 pounds and had a six-foot wingspan, said Pino. Watch officials investigate eagle ray collision

    Florida Fish and Wildlife said eagle rays "are not an aggressive species, but they do tend to leap from the water." Spotted eagle rays can have a wingspan of up to 10 feet and can weigh 500 pounds, it said. Learn more about eagle rays

    Television personality Steve Irwin was killed when a ray's barb pierced his heart in September 2006.

    A month later, an 81-year-old Florida man, James Bertakis, survived after a ray leapt from the water and stung him in the heart, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

    He spent five weeks on a ventilator and his recovery took several months, his sons told the Detroit Free Press in his former home state of Michigan.

    USA TODAY - Oil ends week down 9%, at times falling below $100

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    By John Wilen, AP Business Writer

    Oil futures extended their declines Thursday as concerns about the economy and demand for oil grew and the dollar strengthened.

    Retail gas prices, meanwhile, fell further below their recent records, while diesel rose to a record above $4 a gallon.

    For a second day, the oil market appeared focused on the economy and oil's underlying supply and demand fundamentals factors it ignored in recent weeks while rocketing to a series of records. However, some analysts said oil's price swoon may not last for long; most investors expect the Federal Reserve to cut interest rates several more times this year, moves that are sure to put pressure on the dollar.

    Lower interest rates tend to weaken the dollar, driving investors to commodities such as oil, which they view as a hedge against inflation. A lower dollar also makes oil less expensive to overseas investors a trend that reverses when the dollar strengthens, as it did Thursday.

    But there are signs the market may be divorcing itself from its focus on the dollar. Prices were pressured Thursday when the Labor Department said the number of people filing for unemployment benefits jumped by 22,000 last week, much more than expected. A sharp slowdown in the economy could reduce demand for oil and gasoline. On Wednesday, the Energy Department said gasoline demand dropped 1% last week.

    Light, sweet crude for May delivery fell 70 cents to settle at $101.84 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange on Thursday after sliding to as low as $98.65 earlier. It was the first dip by a front-month oil contract under $100 since March 5. On Wednesday, the expiring April contract fell $4.94 a barrel to settle at $104.48.

    Most financial markets in the USA. and many other countries will be closed for Good Friday.

    Oil has fallen sharply this week, dropping about 9%, since setting a trading record of $111.80 on Monday.

    "(Investors) seem to be coming round to the notion that the deterioration in the U.S. (economic) picture cannot be ignored on the pretext that commodities are a 'weak dollar play' or an 'inflation hedge', and thus immune from downward pressure," said Edward Meir, an analyst at MF Global U.K., in a research note.

    Word of an unexpected outage at a 100,000 barrel a day LyondellBasell Industries refinery in Houston, according to Dow Jones Newswires, sent gasoline futures higher Thursday, pulling oil off its earlier lows. April gasoline futures rose 4.48 cents to settle at $2.6051 a gallon on the Nymex. The stock market also helped oil come back from a steeper loss; Wall Street advanced after the Philadelphia Federal Reserve said manufacturing activity in its region is falling by less this month than it did in February.

    At the pump, meanwhile, the national average price of a gallon of gas slipped by 0.4 cents overnight to $3.275, according to AAA and the Oil Price Information Service. Gas prices followed oil to a number of recent records, but have retreated slightly over the past several days as oil has wavered.

    Diesel prices, however, rose 0.8 cents to a record of $4.033 a gallon Thursday. Diesel followed oil's recent surge, but also faces a different demand dynamic. While U.S. demand for oil and gasoline are tepid, diesel is more tied to the global economy, where demand is growing. Diesel is used to transport the vast majority of the world's goods via rail, truck and ship.

    High gas prices are adding to the burdens of American families already facing higher food prices and falling home values. High diesel prices are hurting shipping firms, and pushing up prices of everything else.

    If oil prices fall, some of those pressures on U.S. consumers and businesses could ease. But not everyone believes oil prices have begun a long-expected decline.

    "We think this is just a correction in the market," said James Cordier, founder of, a Tampa, trading firm.

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    Killer stingray

    Stingrays don't kill people...yeah right

    USA TODAY - Stingray kills woman boating in Fla.

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    MARATHON, Fla.

    A 75-pound stingray killed a Michigan woman Thursday when it flew out of the water and struck her in the face as she rode in a boat in the Florida Keys, officials said.

    Judy Kay Zagorski, of Pigeon, Mich., was sitting in a boat going 25 mph when the spotted eagle ray, with a wingspan of 5 to 6 feet, leaped out of the water, said Jorge Pino, spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

    The 57-year-old woman's father was driving the boat on the Atlantic Ocean side of Vaca Key, Pino said.

    "He had absolutely no warning. It just happened instantaneously," Pino said.

    The impact likely killed the woman, but it was not immediately clear if she had any puncture wounds from the ray's barb, Pino said. An autopsy will determine an official cause of death, Pino said.

    Spotted eagle rays can weigh up to 500 pounds and have a wingspan of up to 10 feet. They are known to occasionally jump out of the water but are not aggressive and use the venomous barb at the end of their tail as a defense mechanism.

    The rays are protected in Florida waters and are typically seen swimming on the water's surface.

    "Rays jump to escape a predator, give birth and shake off parasites," said Lynn Gear, supervisor of fishes and reptiles at Theater of the Sea in Islamorada. "They do not attack people."

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    CNN - Florida airport tests hydrogen engines

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    Florida airport tests hydrogen engines

    Some Florida amusement park visitors may enjoy space-themed roller-coasters, but the first vehicle they board at Orlando International Airport may be the most futuristic ride of their vacation.

    The airport is testing four Ford shuttle vans equipped with internal combustion engines modified to run on hydrogen instead of gasoline.

    "It's quiet, it doesn't shake like diesel, it doesn't have that diesel smell," said Rafael Sanchez, who has been driving the vans for a year. The quieter engine makes conversation inside the bus easier than in conventional vehicles.

    "Hydrogen is one of the many technologies we are exploring, trying to become more of a green airport," said Ronald Lewis, director of airport operations. Watch the hydrogen-powered buses in action

    Vehicles powered with hydrogen engines are different from the many vehicles across the nation that run with the help of hydrogen fuel cells -- which are the gold standard of green machines.

    The use of hydrogen in internal combustion engines is far less efficient than in the fuel cells.

    The modified engines aboard the Ford E-450 shuttle buses are 6.8 liter V-10s. The airport's fleet also includes three gas-electric hybrid vehicles and 24 biodiesel buses. The facility also powers its maintenance equipment -- such as lawnmowers and tractors -- with biodiesel.

    But like many experiments with alternative fuels, the price is very high and the long-term outcome is unknown. Proponents of hydrogen technology have long had a chicken-and-egg dilemma over whether to build million-dollar fueling facilities or to wait until more vehicles are in use.

    Energy companies are reluctant to pour money into expensive fueling stations without a lot of hydrogen vehicles around, but consumers are not likely to buy a vehicle without adequate places to fill up.

    "It is clear nothing is going to displace gasoline or diesel for 20, 30, maybe 40 years," said John Lapetz, who has been working on alternative fuels at Ford for more than 20 years.

    The Orlando project has several goals: To get average consumers acquainted with hydrogen and to acquire data on the buses' performance in a setting where they are in use almost nonstop.

    Lapetz said it's an effort to use a technology that customers take for granted (the internal combustion engine), while preparing for the day when drivers can complete the divorce from fossil fuels.

    At the Boggy Creek Hydrogen Fueling Station in Orlando, the hydrogen is produced on-site. "We are doing a process called steam methane re-forming, which is natural gas to hydrogen," said Puneet Verma, manager of biofuels and hydrogen at Chevron Technology Ventures, one of the players involved in the project.

    During a careful fueling process, technicians check for leaks of the highly flammable hydrogen -- leaks both in the bus and the fuel pump.

    Because a fossil fuel, methane, is used to make the hydrogen, the buses are about 12 percent cleaner than gasoline or diesel when their entire carbon footprint is measured.

    "We view the hydrogen efforts as a technical success," said Verma. "This is the first time we have been able to demonstrate actual production of hydrogen at the station. It's not necessarily an economic success yet."

    "The ultimate goal is hydrogen fuel cell cars," Verma said. "The hydrogen internal combustion engine buses are much less expensive to manufacture, but they consume a lot more hydrogen."

    Verma said the buses are "valid transition technology" aimed at quickly building significant demand for hydrogen, which would then justify an expensive infrastructure.

    The hydrogen test project also includes the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, Ford Motor Company, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Progress Energy and SeaWorld.

    Hydrogen buses began shuttling SeaWorld employees in February from the park's outer parking lots to their workplaces.

    "The environment is really an important part of SeaWorld's culture here," said Kelly Bernish, director of environmental health and safety at Busch theme parks SeaWorld, Discovery Cove and Aquatica.

    Bernish described the venture as another opportunity for "employees to feel like they can impact the environment by using this kind of vehicle, that will lessen our footprint on the world."

    SeaWorld's Discovery Cove animal training supervisor Jay Tacey said "somebody has to get the ball rolling. Until somebody takes that first step, there's always going to be the 'what if?' "

    Airport Operations Director Lewis said being in on the hydrogen experiment early could pay off in the long run.

    "We are hopeful that since they built the facility here, the only one in the southeast United States, that there will be a long-term usage for it."

    CNN - Verizon, AT&T win wireless airwave auction

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    Verizon, AT&T win wireless airwave auction

    The nation's cell phone companies won big in a record-setting government airways auction, the Federal Communications Commission announced Thursday.

    AT&T Inc. and Verizon Wireless, the nation's two biggest cell phone carriers, were some of the top bidders, dampening hopes that the auction would dramatically increase competition for wireless services.

    Google Inc. was not among the winners, meaning the search engine giant will not be entering the cellular telephone business.

    The auction, overseen by the FCC, attracted a record $19.6 billion in bids. Bidders were anonymous, but the agency released the names Thursday.

    Verizon Wireless, a joint venture between Verizon Communications Inc. and British telecom giant Vodaphone Group, won nearly every license in the consumer-friendly "C block."

    The spectrum, which encompasses about a third of the spectrum at auction, is subject to "open access" provisions pushed by FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, meaning users of the network will be able to use whatever phones or software they wish.

    Verizon won the regional licenses in the blocks that cover every state with the exception of Alaska.

    Google posted a package bid for the C block licenses early in the auction, assuring that the open-access provision would be put in place, but it was not enough to win.

    Green card soldier

    Us marine lance cpl. Mario ramos-villalta

    CNN - 'Green-card Marine' prepares for 3rd deployment

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    'Green-card Marine' prepares for 3rd deployment

    U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Mario Ramos-Villalta flashes a broad smile from beneath his camouflage cap as he talks about the country he loves and why he became a Marine.

    He's fought twice in Iraq and survived an attack on his Humvee in October 2005. Now, he's preparing for deployment to Afghanistan.

    Yet he's not even an American. He's a citizen of El Salvador serving in the U.S. military.

    "A lot of the papers I get [say], 'You're a great American,'" the 22-year-old Purple Heart recipient says. "I am not an American citizen yet, but I still fight for it."

    He adds, "Sometimes, I do get depressed about still not being a U.S. citizen and going over there."

    Ramos-Villalta isn't alone. He is one of an estimated 20,500 "non-U.S. citizens" -- dubbed "green-card warriors" -- serving in the military. See photos of sacrifice and his Purple Heart

    In fact, the first U.S. service member killed in the Iraq war, on March 21, 2003, was Marine Lance Cpl. Jose Gutierrez, a resident of Guatemala who came to the United States when he was just 14. Ramos-Villalta says it fills him with pride that Gutierrez was an immigrant just like him.

    "It shows that even though he wasn't an American, he stands on our side and he goes over there and he dies for that reason."

    Platoon commander, 2nd Lt. Benjamin Brewster, offers similar praise about Ramos-Villalta, saying he's a dedicated Marine who has put his life on the line for his comrades and for America. He says those sacrifices should not go unnoticed by the U.S. government.

    "He understands the freedoms that he enjoys in this country -- and I would say at a level that lots of Americans don't," Brewster says. Watch Ramos-Villalta describe getting attacked in Iraq

    The United States has tried to make it easier for foreigners serving in the military to become citizens. In the wake of the September 11, 2001, terror attacks, President Bush signed into law a measure allowing active-duty non-citizens who have served honorably in war on or after September 11, 2001, "to file for immediate citizenship," according to the Defense Department.

    Nearly 37,000 non-citizens of the U.S. Armed Forces have been granted citizenship since the war on terror began in October 2001; 109 have been granted posthumously, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which works closely with the Pentagon.

    Another 7,300 still have their requests for citizenship pending, says Chris Rhatigan, a spokeswoman for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. It takes about 7-10 months to process an application, she says.

    "These service members have made extraordinary sacrifices for our nation and we're going to do everything possible to ensure that qualified immigrants who serve in our military and who wish to receive U.S. citizenship receive that at the absolute earliest opportunity," Rhatigan says.

    She adds, "We have had immigrant members of the military going back to the Revolutionary War."

    Mark Krikorian, the executive director for the Center for Immigration Studies, says Americans should keep watch on the Pentagon to make sure it doesn't go beyond the current program.

    "My concern is not that the current situation is a problem, but that it could grow into a problem if the Pentagon gives into the temptation of using citizenship -- or even an offer of a green card -- as a way of enticing non-citizens to enlist," says Krikorian. His Washington think-tank advocates less immigration, but better treatment for those who are admitted.

    In the case of Ramos-Villalta, he says it's been a painstaking process because he's been deployed to war; he was wounded in action; and is now training for a third combat deployment, leaving him little time to deal with the paperwork and lawyers needed to file for citizenship.

    "It's frustrating and sometimes I get real sad about it," he says. "There is nothing I can do about it. I mean it's not up to the military. It's up to Immigration Services."

    Rhatigan says her agency is doing the best it can to make sure military members know where they can turn to get help. They've established a hotline (1-877-247-4645) and set up a Web site at to help better inform these immigrants.

    "We're there for them," she says.

    Ramos-Villalta fled El Salvador's civil war in 1989 with his family as a young boy and lived in the States for a time. He returned to El Salvador with his mother, while his father stayed in California to work. He eventually made it back to Southern California and got his green card when he was 13.

    He graduated from Santa Ana High School in 2004, becoming the first in his family to graduate from high school.

    His 17-year-old sister, Ivette Ramos-Villalta, beams when she talks about her brother's military service. "He's fighting for a country that is not even his, but because he grew up here he keeps fighting because it's the country he actually loves," she says.

    What would it mean to Ramos-Villalta if he gets U.S. citizenship?

    "It would make me feel great about myself. I think I do deserve to be a U.S. citizen, and I would actually fight for my country knowing I'm an American fighting for my country."

    Rainbow six

    Get low mf

    Reuters - New "Rainbow Six" game refines formula

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    New "Rainbow Six" game refines formula

    Thursday, Mar 20, 2008 2:45PM UTC

    By Kemp Powers

    LOS ANGELES, March 20 (Reuters) - Fans of anti-terrorism tactics can lock and load this week with the return of the popular "Rainbow Six" franchise, which returns to Las Vegas promising fine-tuning of its realistic, fast-paced formula.

    Released for Microsoft's Xbox 360 and Sony's Playstation 3 consoles, "Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Vegas 2" follow the success of "Rainbow Six Vegas", which sold more than 1.6 million units in the United States alone after its 2006 release.

    "People really love military games, and Ubisoft really knows what it's doing with these games," said IDC analyst Billy Pidgeon. "They've refined team-based combat to the point that they've set the bar."

    Tom Clancy-branded games -- "Rainbow Six", "Ghost Recon" and "Splinter Cell" -- have accounted for about a third of annual revenue at Ubisoft Entertainment, Europe's largest video game publisher.

    Since 2000, when UbiSoft acquired the North Carolina studio that had been making the games for computers for two years, it has published 18 Clancy-themed titles that have sold a combined 50 million copies.

    "Rainbow Six Vegas 2" is the seventh installment of the series since 2000, an extremely prolific pace for a "triple-A" franchise and one that rivals annual updates of sports titles such as "Madden" football from Electronic Arts.

    Too frequent sequels can take the shine off of many popular game franchises as quality slips in the rush to meet deadlines, but Rainbow's developers don't see a cause for concern.

    "No brand will stay fresh forever unless real innovation occurs as it moves along its life cycle," said Tony Key, Ubisoft's senior vice president of sales and marketing. "It's a testament to us not treating (the brand) as a cash cow, but as the family jewels."

    Ubisoft's strategy is to introduce simple, yet compelling, features in each new installment.

    "Rainbow Six Vegas" added a useful cover mechanic that allowed players to fire their weapons from behind walls. "Vegas 2" grants the ability to sprint for short distances to avoid grenades or enemy fire.

    "We chose not to reinvent the wheel," said Jean Pascal Cambiotti, a game designer for Ubisoft's Montreal studio, which developed "Vegas 2".

    "First and foremost, we're gamers," he added.

    But the multiplayer component has always been the defining characteristic of "Rainbow Six."

    Earlier games buoyed Microsoft's fledgling Xbox Live online service. Key boasted that a Clancy game has been among the top five most-played games on Xbox Live since the service started in 2002.

    "Vegas 2" adds more features to the multiplayer experience, including several new game modes as well as the ability for players to highly customize in-game characters.

    Tom Clancy, the best-selling author of military novels such as "The Hunt for Red October", remains heavily involved in all the games and personally approves all the stories and weapons, according to Key.

    "He's all about near-term plausibility," Key said of Clancy. "He asks, is this something that could really happen?"

    Pidgeon believes that gameplay and storyline consistency has combined to contribute to the series' continued success, and he expects "Vegas 2" to be another huge hit for Ubisoft, though no longer necessarily because of Clancy's influence.

    "I think now the games are doing more for Tom Clancy than he is doing for the games," Pidgeon said.

    Reuters - U.S. watchdog groups query part of wireless auction

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    U.S. watchdog groups query part of wireless auction

    Thursday, Mar 20, 2008 5:47PM UTC

    By Peter Kaplan

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. consumer groups are asking regulators to investigate why a major auction of airwaves failed to draw enough bids to kick-start plans for a new private wireless network to be shared with public safety agencies.

    A coalition of nine watchdog groups sent a letter to the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission asking the agency to look into allegations that the auction of the "D" block portion of the spectrum had been thwarted by demands made on behalf of public safety agencies.

    The groups, including the Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union and the Media Access Project, said they also had asked the FCC to study whether plans for a shared public-private network were still workable.

    A spokesman for FCC Chairman Kevin Martin said the chairman has asked the agency's inspector general to look into complaints about the D block auction, but declined to be more specific.

    Bidding in the landmark 700-megahertz auction ended on Tuesday with the auction raising a record $19.59 billion, but investors were unwilling to meet the government's minimum price for the D block spectrum.

    The lone bid on the D block spectrum was a fraction of the $1.3 billion minimum price set by the FCC.

    The 700-MHz signals are considered valuable because they can go long distances and penetrate thick walls. The airwaves are being returned by television broadcasters as they move to digital from analog signals in early 2009.

    Under rules set by the FCC, the winning bidder for the D block spectrum was required to enter a partnership with police, firefighters and other public safety groups.

    The winner would have to negotiate an agreement with the public safety groups' representative, a company called Cyren Call, giving public safety priority use during an emergency.

    Plans for the public-safety network ran into trouble early. Even before the auction started, potential bidder Frontline Wireless closed its operations for unspecified reasons.

    The auction failure has raised questions about whether the minimum price for the spectrum was too high, whether rules for negotiations with emergency responders were too onerous, and if penalties for failing to reach a pact were too severe.

    In their letter to the FCC, the public advocacy groups singled out a meeting between Frontline and the chairman of Cyren Call. They asked whether discussions during the meeting "may have had the effect of preventing Frontline from attracting needed capital and discouraging other bidders."

    The FCC should find out "whether concerns over the possible financial exposure of the D Block winner and/or the role of Cyren Call as an intermediary played a role in the failure of D Block to attract bidders," the groups said.

    Cyren Call has declined to comment on the meeting and the allegations, citing FCC anti-collusion rules.

    FCC Chairman Martin has said the agency will have to re-examine the rules governing the D block auction. But he has also stressed that the needs of police and firefighters should be kept at the forefront as the FCC considers what to do next about the D Block auction.

    (Reporting by Peter Kaplan; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)

    Reuters - Canadian university faces off with digital generation

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    Canadian university faces off with digital generation

    Thursday, Mar 20, 2008 6:25PM UTC

    By Natasha Elkington

    TORONTO (Reuters) - A Canadian university has instilled a culture of fear by threatening to expel a student for cheating because he set up an online study group on Facebook, critics said this week.

    Toronto's Ryerson University threatened to expel first-year computer engineering student Chris Avenir last week, arguing that his study group on the Facebook networking site might encourage cheating.

    Ryerson decided to lift the expulsion threat on Tuesday, but Avenir will get zero credits for the course work discussed on the Facebook forum last autumn, and the university has put a disciplinary notice on his record.

    Canadian media analyst Jesse Hirsh said Ryerson's actions send the wrong message to students, most of whom spend a lot of their time on the Internet.

    "It sends a clear signal to all the kids that innovation is not only frowned upon but will be punished and that if you use emerging technologies in innovative ways, you risk being expelled from the school," he said.

    But James Norrie, director of the School of Information Technology Management at Ryerson, said on Thursday the issue was one of accountability, whether online or offline.

    "This is nothing to with technology, how can it possibility create a climate of fear?" he said.

    Members of the Facebook study group -- Dungeons/Mastering Chemistry Solutions -- said the group was set up to help each other with homework assignments and to understand class lectures and had nothing to do with cheating.

    Ryerson, however, said the group offered the potential for cheating on a large scale.

    In an interview, University of Toronto philosophy and media studies professor Megan Boler said that all universities encourage collegiality and discussion and that meeting online is actually very transparent because there are traces and records of everything discussed.

    "Of course we want to ensure academic integrity, but I think academic freedom and civil rights are equally important, unless we expect students to study in total isolation," she said.

    (Reporting by Natasha Elkington; Editing by Peter Galloway)


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    Reuters - China publishes "blacklist" of video Web sites

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    China publishes "blacklist" of video Web sites

    Thursday, Mar 20, 2008 4:41PM UTC

    By Sophie Taylor

    SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Chinese authorities ordered 25 video-sharing Web sites to halt operations and issued warnings to dozens of others on Thursday, tightening their grip on online content in a move which could scare away future investment in the sector.

    Among the Web sites to be warned was, which is backed by a unit of venture capital heavyweight IDG and received an official warning under new rules to curb pornographic, violent and political content.

    Venture capital firms such as Sequoia, IDG and Steamboat Ventures have poured into the Internet sector in China -- by some estimates now the world's biggest Web market -- in search of the next YouTube, which was acquired by Google.

    But Beijing said late last year that only state-owned or state-controlled companies can apply for licenses to broadcast or stream video online.

    A lack of clarity over those definitions and uncertainty over how strictly they would be enforced has left the industry confused.

    Tudou, one of China's most popular video sites whose service was temporarily suspended last week, said it had received an official warning before the statement came out on Thursday.

    "We're working hard to upgrade our systems to catch everything that needs to be caught," Vice President Dan Brody said by phone from Taiwan.

    Tudou's investors include Granite Global Ventures, IDG China and JAFCO, and its users publish more than 40,000 new videos each day, according to its Web site .

    "This is just a reminder that everyone has to stay on their toes and keep their content clean," added Brody, a former Google executive.


    Several of China's popular video Web sites, which include and, have won backing by foreign venture capital heavyweights.

    But some industry players warned that foreign investors may become wary of throwing money into the country's fast-growing Internet sector.

    "This would certainly make the investment community nervous, until the current situation clears up for companies on the blacklist," said Victor Koo, chief executive of video site and former president of portal Inc.

    Among three lists released on China's government Web site on Thursday, Tudou figured on the top of a list of companies which had received an official warning.

    A second list ordered some lesser-known Web sites to cease operation and a third listed companies operating without a content license.

    In China, an administrative punishment typically starts with a verbal warning, followed by a written warning, and eventually suspension of operations.

    China's government, keen to avoid stoking social discontent, keeps a tight watch over the media and often blocks or censors popular Web sites and forums where dissent may brew.

    This latest sweep of the Internet by Beijing echoes its previous campaign to force Web sites to apply for Internet content licenses, and may be a prelude to putting in place a system for standardizing video content, industry watchers said.

    Some add they also expect a "whitelist" of officially sanctioned Web sites to come out, which foreign investors may see as safer investment targets.

    "We are certainly very concerned about this matter and are keeping a close eye on developments," said one executive at a prominent foreign venture capital firm who asked not to be identified.

    China, which had 210 million Web users at the end of last year, has since overtaken the United States as the world's biggest Internet market by number of users, according to Beijing-based research firm BDA.

    (Editing by David Cowell)

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    Reuters - Obama eyes active role in oil markets

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    Obama eyes active role in oil markets

    Thursday, Mar 20, 2008 3:17PM UTC

    By Jeff Mason

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democrat Barack Obama would take an active role in U.S. oil markets as president, tackling concerns about the dominance of large oil companies and eyeing the Strategic Petroleum Reserve as a potential weapon to combat high prices, his top energy adviser said.

    The presidential hopeful's adviser, Jason Grumet, told Reuters that an Obama administration would crack down on any competition lapses in the sector that have resulted from big corporate mergers.

    Fleshing out the Illinois senator's energy and environmental policy goals, Grumet also said Obama would seek to link a future U.S. carbon emissions trading system with the European Union's scheme as soon as possible while focusing attention on China and India in forging a global warming pact.

    Obama is locked in a tight contest with fellow Democrat New York Sen. Hillary Clinton for the chance to take on presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain in the November election.

    Grumet, head of the Washington-based Bipartisan Policy Center in addition to advising the Obama campaign, said the oil industry had "concentrated incredible market power in a small number of companies" in a way that caused alarm.

    "Senator Obama has a deep concern that the consolidation of the industry -- these national mergers, you know, that were allowed under both Clinton and Bush administrations -- are a cause for some concern," he said.

    He said an Obama administration would examine "whether these mergers and consolidations have decreased competition in a way, concentrated market power in a way, that is undermining to consumers."

    Grumet declined to identify specific companies and would not comment on whether Obama would seek to break up dominant players. Leading U.S. oil firms include ExxonMobil Corp., Chevron Corp., and ConocoPhillips.

    "It is premature to try to articulate what the remedy is," Grumet said. "There are indications that there could be some problems there and ... the (Bush) administration has been a bit asleep at the switch, so we would be digging into those questions aggressively."


    With oil prices at record highs, Grumet said Obama would seek to tax the "windfall" profits that oil companies are making - a threat that rival Hillary Clinton has also made.

    The average U.S. price for gasoline hit a record $3.28 a gallon this week. The Energy Department is predicting that pump prices in some regions of the country could hit $4 a gallon this spring.

    Obama would also consider tapping the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to bring down prices while recognizing that such a move is normally meant to aid in the case of an acute supply disruption, Grumet said.

    "It would be on the table," he said of a potential reserve release. "He would certainly see it as an option that he would consider but recognize that ... it's no silver bullet in any circumstance."

    The reserve, which was created by Congress in 1975 after the Arab oil embargo, holds emergency supplies of crude at four underground storage sites in Texas and Lousiana.

    Obama would also stop filling the SPR while prices remained so high. "If oil were at these kind of record prices, (he would) basically stop pumping it underground," Grumet said. "It's at an acceptable level now."

    Grumet said Obama was extremely concerned about high oil prices as well as speculation in the markets. But he rejected claims that environmental restrictions were to blame for insufficient oil refining capacity.

    "There's a pretty strong paper record indicating that the reason there is such a thin margin in refining is that the companies recognize that that was the only way they could make refining a profitable industry," Grumet said.


    Obama has said a key factor in bringing oil prices down will be tackling the transport sector and increasing the fuel economy of cars.

    That ties in with another key goal: reducing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming.

    Grumet said Obama supported a global carbon market and would seek to link a U.S. emissions trading system with the established European one "as soon as possible", though he would make establishing a U.S. program to fight warming and agreeing an international climate change treaty his top priorities.

    Grumet said Obama would push the biofuel industry to move into second-generation fuels made from waste and advance beyond ethanol produced by corn to avoid the "food or fuel" debate.

    "For this to really be a significant contribution to increasing our energy security, we're going to have to move beyond corn," he said.

    (To read more about the U.S. political campaign, visit Reuters "Tales from the Trail: 2008" online at

    (Editing by Lori Santos and Vicki Allen)

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    Reuters - Clinton takes lead over Obama in Gallup poll

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    Clinton takes lead over Obama in Gallup poll

    Thursday, Mar 20, 2008 2:49PM UTC

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has moved into a significant lead over Barack Obama among Democratic voters, according to a new Gallup poll.

    The March 14-18 national survey of 1,209 Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters gave Clinton, a New York senator, a 49 percent to 42 percent edge over Obama, an Illinois senator. The poll has an error margin of 3 percentage points.

    The poll was a snapshot of current popular feeling, but Clinton trails Obama in the state-by-state contest which began in January to select a nominee to face presumptive Republican nominee John McCain in the November election to succeed President George W. Bush.

    The nominees are formally chosen by delegates at the parties' conventions in the summer.

    Gallup said the poll lead was the first statistically significant one for Clinton since a tracking poll conducted February 7-9, just after the Super Tuesday primaries. The two candidates had largely been locked in a statistical tie since then, with Obama last holding a lead over Clinton in a March 11-13 poll.

    Gallup said polling data also showed McCain leading Obama 47 percent to 43 percent in 4,367 registered voters' preferences for the general election. The general election survey has an error margin of 2 percentage points.

    The Arizona senator also edged Clinton 48 percent to 45 percent but Gallup said the lead was not statistically significant.

    (Reporting by David Morgan, editing by Vicki Allen)

    Storms move eastward

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    CNN - Killer storms push east, leaving mess in Midwest

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    Killer storms push east, leaving mess in Midwest

    Storms that dumped as much of a foot of rain on the Midwest took aim at the Ohio Valley and Northeast on Thursday, leaving behind submerged roads, swamped homes and more than a dozen deaths.

    Flooding was reported Wednesday in parts of Arkansas, southern Illinois, southern Indiana and southwestern Ohio, and schools were closed in western Kentucky because of flooded roads.

    The rain stopped falling late Wednesday as the storms moved east, targeting the Ohio Valley and spreading snow over northern New England. A parallel band of heavy rain stretched from Alabama and Georgia to the Mid-Atlantic.

    Days of rain turned the Midwest into a soggy mess, flooding roads, stranding motorists and displacing residents -- with a cleanup bill likely to run in the millions. Watch flood survivor tell how her friends died

    President Bush declared a major disaster in Missouri on Wednesday night and ordered federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts in areas affected by flooding. Seventy counties and the city of St. Louis also are eligible for federal funding for emergency protective measures.

    Much of Ohio was under a flood warning Thursday, with some areas cautioned to watch for flash floods. Most of southwest Ohio had received more than 4 inches of rain, and officials in Butler County declared a state of emergency because of the rising waters.

    Flooding along the Scioto River in Pickaway, Ross and Pike counties was expected to be the worst since January 2005. The river near Circleville was expected to remain over the 14-foot flood stage through Sunday, and Pickaway County authorities asked the Red Cross to prepare shelters for possible flood victims.

    In Findlay in northwest Ohio, authorities closed off streets Wednesday after the Blanchard River had once again gone over the 11-foot flood level -- the 10th time it has done so in the last 15 months. The National Weather Service predicted the river would crest Thursday afternoon at 12.3 feet.

    "It is going to take some time to dry out with this type of rain put down on saturated ground," said Beverly Poole, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Paducah, Kentucky. "It's going to take a few days for the rivers and the creeks to recover."

    The Ohio River at Cincinnati was expected to rise about 2 feet above flood stage by Friday. In nearby Whitewater Township, rescue workers with boats helped 16 people to safety and urged 40 to 45 more families to leave their homes.

    Judy Booth, who's lived in a low-lying area of the township for 11 years, said Wednesday was the first time she's had to flee from flooding.

    "You don't have no choice, you've got to go," said Booth, who was helped by fire-rescue squads who brought an inflatable boat to her water-surrounded home. Read tips on how to survive in a flood

    Retired truck driver George Slayton, 65, said he just wasn't sure how much water from the Black River flowed into his home in Piedmont, Missouri. He only had time to grab some medication and a change of clothes.

    "I believe in God and everything, but he does things sometimes that make you wonder," said Slayton, who found shelter at a church and slept on a padded pew.

    Crews rescued a man clinging to a tree in the Ohio River after his truck was swept away at a boat ramp near Evansville, Indiana. He showed signs of hypothermia and could not speak clearly.

    "It's hard for anybody to say how long he could have survived there," Knight Township Fire Chief Chris Wathen said. "But I do think it was fair to say he was within minutes of losing his life."

    At least 13 deaths have been linked to the weather over the past few days, and three people were missing.

    Five deaths were blamed to the flooding in Missouri, five people were killed in a highway wreck in heavy rain in Kentucky and a 65-year-old Ohio woman appeared to have drowned while checking on a sump pump in her home. In southern Illinois, two bodies were found hours after floodwaters swept a pickup truck off a rural road. See what's going on in some hardhit areas

    Searches were under way in Texas for a teenager washed down a drainage pipe, and two people were missing in Arkansas after their vehicles were swept away by rushing water.

    In the northern Cincinnati suburb of Sharonville, water as high as 4 feet stood outside some businesses, and police contacted owners and warned them not to open for the day.

    "The biggest problem has been people driving into floodwater," said Frank Young, emergency management director in Warren County, Ohio. "There are a lot of stupid people. When that sign says, `Road closed, high water,' that's what it means."

    The town of Fenton, Missouri, put out a call asking volunteers to help put down sandbags against the floodwaters Thursday. Gov. Matt Blunt said state workers was checking on nursing homes and hospitals, mobilizing rescues, opening shelters, closing highways and working to ensure safe drinking water.

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    Bin Laden Slams EU Over Prophet Cartoons
    Mar 19 10:07 PM US/Eastern
    Associated Press Writer
    CAIRO, Egypt (AP) - Osama bin Laden, in a new audio message posted Wednesday, condemned the publication of drawings that he said insulted the Prophet Muhammad and warned Europeans of a "severe" reaction to come.

    The message, which appeared on a militant Web site that has carried al-Qaida statements in the past and bore the logo of the extremist group's media wing al-Sahab, showed a still image of bin Laden aiming with an assault rifle.

    "The response will be what you see and not what you hear and let our mothers bereave us if we do not make victorious our messenger of God," said a voice believed to be bin Laden's, without specifying what action would be taken.

    The five-minute message, bin Laden's first this year, made no mention of the fifth anniversary Wednesday of the U.S.-led invasion in Iraq.

    It came as the Muslim world marks the Prophet Muhammad's birthday Thursday and amid the reigniting of a two-year-old controversy over some Danish cartoons deemed by Muslims to be insulting. Islamic law generally opposes any depiction of the prophet, even favorable, for fear it could lead to idolatry.

    Bin Laden described the drawings as taking place in the framework of a "new Crusade" against Islam, in which he said the pope has played a "large and lengthy role."

    On Feb. 13, Danish newspapers republished a cartoon showing Muhammad wearing a bomb-shaped turban to show their commitment to freedom of speech after police said they had uncovered a plot to kill the artist.

    Danish intelligence service said the reprinting of the cartoon had brought "negative attention" to Denmark and may have increased the risk to Danes at home and abroad.

    The original 12 cartoons first published in a Danish newspaper triggered major protests in Muslim countries in 2006. There have been renewed protests in the last month.

    Ben Venzke, the head of IntelCenter, a U.S. group that monitors militant messages, called Wednesday's message a "clear threat against EU member countries and an indicator of a possible upcoming significant attack."

    Wednesday's message, which featured English subtitles, follows up an hour-long, audio missive from Dec. 29 in which he warned Iraq's Sunni Arabs against fighting Al-Qaida in Iraq and vowed new attacks on Israel.

    "You went overboard in your unbelief and freed yourselves of the etiquettes of dispute and fighting and went to the extent of publishing these insulting drawings," he said, according to a transcript released by the SITE Institute, another U.S. group that monitors terror messages. "This is the greater and more serious tragedy, and reckoning for it will be more severe."

    Adam Raisman, senior analyst at the SITE Institute, said that the message's release coincides with an increased buzz in online jihadi forums calling for revenge against Europe over the cartoons.

    But Raisman noted that bin Laden's message did not specifically mention the republishing of the cartoons, only the publishing, and it did not give any other time landmarks to prove it had been recorded since then.

    Raisman also noted bin Laden's silence on Wednesday's fifth anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

    "The tape doesn't give any specific evidence that would allow us to determine when it was recorded," Raisman said.

    In the message addressed to "the intelligent ones in the European Union," bin Laden also criticized the "aggressive policies" of President Bush.

    "How it saddens us that you target our villages with your bombing: those modest mud villages which have collapsed onto our women and children. You do that intentionally, and I am witness to that," he said, according to SITE. "All of this (you do) without right and in conformity with your oppressive ally who—along with his aggressive policies—is about to depart the White House."

    On Wednesday, Bush praised Sunni tribal leaders for rising up against al-Qaida in Iraq and said that has led to similar uprising across the country. All that, combined with a strategic influx of U.S. troops last year, has "opened the door to a major victory in the broader war on terror," Bush said.

    "Iraq was supposed to be the place where al-Qaida rallied Arab masses to drive America out," Bush said. "Instead, Iraq has become the place where Arabs joined with Americans to drive al-Qaida out. In Iraq, we are witnessing the first large-scale Arab uprising against Osama bin Laden, his grim ideology."

    In Wednesday's message, bin Laden also attacked his long-time nemesis, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, whom he described as the "crownless king in Riyadh" and said he could have ended the entire dispute over the cartoons if he had wanted because of his influence with European governments.

    Bin Laden, who hails from a powerful Saudi family, was stripped of his citizenship in 1994 after criticizing Saudi Arabia for allowing U.S. troops on its soil.


    Associated Press writers Maamoun Youssef in Cairo, Egypt and Lily Hindy in New York contributed to this report.

    Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

    USA TODAY - Revote donors linked to Clinton

    This story has been sent from the mobile device of For real-time mobile news, go to

    By Fredreka Schouten, USA TODAY

    Ten wealthy Democrats have offered to pay for a new presidential primary in Michigan all with ties to Hillary Rodham Clinton, who showed up in the state Wednesday seeking a revote.

    Five of the donors are listed on Clinton's campaign website as among her major fundraisers. All 10 have contributed to Clinton's presidential or Senate campaigns or the races run by former president Bill Clinton, according to federal data compiled by the non-profit Center for Responsive Politics.

    The Michigan revote donors including New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine, Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos and financier Roger Altman have offered to put up $12 million to pay for a new election in June.

    Corzine and Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, both Clinton backers, released the donors' names in a letter to Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm. The letter was aimed at demonstrating support for a do-over, so the state's voters could have a say in the hotly contested nomination battle. Barack Obama's supporters in the state have raised questions about logistics and costs.

    Michigan Democrats held a primary Jan. 15, but no convention delegates were awarded because the date violated national party rules. Clinton won that vote. Obama took his name off the ballot in deference to the national party and other states that did not schedule early primaries.

    Clinton changed her schedule to fly to Detroit Wednesday and challenged Obama to support a do-over. He "speaks passionately on the campaign trail about empowering the American people," Clinton said. "I'm urging him to match those words with actions."

    Clinton spokesman Phil Singer said any notion that potential Michigan donors sought to help Clinton was "absurd."

    MICHIGAN: Democratic rivals duel over do-over

    "Of course, only Clinton people have come forward to say they are willing to finance it because Obama is opposing it," he said. "We would be thrilled if Sen. Obama would direct some of his supporters" to help.

    Obama, who leads Clinton in delegates, has not said whether he will back a new Michigan primary.

    Wealthy individuals can legally contribute unlimited sums to state political efforts but can't give more than $4,600 to federal candidates for primary and general elections. Obama spokesman Bill Burton said the donor list is "even more evidence that Clinton is willing to do absolutely anything to get elected."

    Billionaire financier George Soros, an Obama supporter, declined Rendell's request to help foot the bill for a Michigan revote.

    Soros "does not support holding another primary in Michigan," spokesman Michael Vachon said.

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    Reuters - Intel cheap laptops expanding to U.S., Europe

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    Intel cheap laptops expanding to U.S., Europe

    Thursday, Mar 20, 2008 12:13AM UTC

    By Jim Finkle and Duncan Martell

    BOSTON/SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Intel Corp <INTC.O> said on Wednesday sub-$300 laptops initially designed for poor children will soon be available to U.S. and European consumers in a move that could further push down computer prices.

    PC makers in the United States and in Europe will sell a yet-to-be-unveiled, second-generation version of the Intel-designed Classmate PC for $250 to $350, said Lila Ibrahim, general manager of Intel's emerging market platform's group, in an interview with Reuters.

    "This is a very big deal," said Laura Didio, an analyst with Yankee Group who follows the personal computer industry.

    While the machines are intended for children, analysts said the launch will add momentum to the low-cost computing movement -- and will likely mean this year's bargain-basement laptops will have more power than in previous years.

    "Particularly in a recession year, quality low-cost products are going to move well," said Rob Enderle, an analyst with the Enderle Group. "But the key is for them to be quality."

    He said while he hasn't yet seen the machines that will be on sale this Christmas, he suspects consumers will be able to get "a pretty decent" laptop for less than $600 and perhaps for less than $500.

    Didio said retailers might throw in another $50 to $100 in rebates or other incentives.

    Laptop prices have been under extra pressure since last year, when Taiwan's Asustek Computer Inc <2357.TW> introduced the $399 Eee PC, which has flown off store shelves from Asia to North America.

    The machine runs on the Linux operating system, and people used to Microsoft's <MSFT.O> Windows and Apple's <AAPL.O> Mac OS X operating systems have had trouble adapting to the system, Enderle said.

    The new, cheap laptops being developed from Intel's technology will likely run on Windows, he added.

    The movement toward low-cost computing was also spurred by the XO laptop, the brainchild of Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Nicholas Negroponte and his One Laptop Per Child Foundation.

    The foundation began producing a laptop running on Linux at a cost of $188 in November. They sold them in the United States and in Canada for $400 through a charity drive that also provided one machine to a poor child overseas.

    The chipmaker has conducted pilot tests of the Classmate PC at schools in Texas, Oregon and California, along with some schools in Australia, said Intel spokeswoman Agnes Kwan.

    Intel said manufacturers in India, Mexico and Indonesia already have begun selling Classmate PC laptops on the retail market.

    To date, Intel has sold fewer than 100,000 of the Classmate PCs, but plans to ramp up production in 2008.

    Intel declined to identify the PC makers or discuss the features of the second-generation machine, which has not yet been released in developing markets, at the request of the companies.

    It has already begun work on a third model, the Classmate 3, said Ibrahim.

    The second- and third-generation models of the Classmate PC design give manufacturers flexibility to build a range of laptops with different memory configurations, screen sizes and peripheral devices including cameras, Ibrahim said.

    Inventor Mary Lou Jepsen, a scientist who developed the XO Laptop, resigned from the One Laptop Per Child Foundation at the end of last year and started her own company Pixel Qi with the goal of building a $75 laptop by 2010.

    (Reporting by Jim Finkle in Boston and Duncan Martell in San Francisco; editing by Carol Bishopric/Jeffrey Benkoe)

    Free itunes?

    Article:Apple in talks on free iTunes, paper says:/c/a/2008/03/19/BU8TVMMS4.DTL
    Article:Apple in talks on free iTunes, paper says:/c/a/2008/03/19/BU8TVMMS4.DTL
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    Apple in talks on free iTunes, paper says

    Ellen Lee, Chronicle Staff Writer

    Thursday, March 20, 2008

    Apple Inc. is reportedly in talks to offer free access to its iTunes music library to customers who pay extra for an iPod or iPhone.

    The Cupertino technology company is discussing a deal with the major record labels, but the negotiations hinge on how Apple and the music companies would share the revenue, the Financial Times reported.

    Representatives for Apple, EMI, Sony BMG and Warner Music declined to comment Wednesday. A spokesman for Universal Music Group did not return phone calls.

    If the plan is realized, Apple could charge a premium for iPods and iPhones in return for permission to download unlimited songs for free from iTunes.

    Apple also is studying a plan, according to the paper, that would allow iPhone owners, who already are billed monthly for their cell phone services, to pay a regular subscription in exchange for unlimited access to its library, an arrangement that Apple CEO Steve Jobs has scoffed at in the past.

    Apple's iTunes Store is the No. 2 music retailer in the United States behind Wal-Mart, according to the market research firm NPD, selling more tracks than Target, Best Buy and The iPod also remains the most popular digital media player on the market, and the iPhone has quickly captured market share since its introduction last year.

    At the same time, the number of iPods sold during the most recent quarter was flat, and Wall Street has expressed concern that the iPod may be beginning to saturate the market, something that Apple executives have denied.

    The rumored deal could be a move to encourage consumers to continue purchasing iPods, now that some of the music sold on iTunes can be played on any MP3 player, not just the iPod, said James McQuivey, an analyst with Forrester Research. and other online retailers also have started selling music not protected by copyright restrictions.

    "The big shift in music right now is to MP3 files that are not connected to a particular device," McQuivey said. "That means any MP3 player is as good as any other MP3 player."

    Apple does not make much of a profit from its iTunes music sales, Jobs has said. But it draws millions of dollars in revenues from iPod sales.

    David Pakman, CEO of eMusic, a rival online music retailer, said he worries that Apple could take advantage of its monopoly in the digital music player market - the iPod commands about 85 percent of the market - and take over the online music retail market.

    "If they were to bundle iTunes digital music downloads with every iPod, that would be anti-competitive behavior," he said.

    Apple's rumored proposal is modeled after a deal that Nokia struck with Universal last year for its upcoming "comes with music" offer.

    Nokia plans to sell "comes with music" cell phones later this year that will be accompanied by a one-year pass to its music library. Customers will be able to download as many tunes as they want and keep them after the year is up, said Bill Plummer, a Nokia vice president.

    The songs, however, will be copyright-protected and will only play on the cell phone and a registered computer.

    E-mail Ellen Lee at

    This article appeared on page C - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle
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    Bill reed

    Reuters - Hurricane flood threat coming soon to Google

    This article was sent to you from, who uses Reuters Mobile Site to get news and information on the go. To access Reuters on your mobile phone, go to:

    Hurricane flood threat coming soon to Google

    Wednesday, Mar 19, 2008 9:59PM UTC

    By Jim Loney

    MIAMI (Reuters) - Americans in the hurricane danger zone may soon be able to use Google to find out if their own home is threatened by a dangerous storm surge, the director of the National Hurricane Center said on Wednesday.

    Storm surge, the massive wall of water carried onto land by a hurricane, is considered perhaps its most destructive element and greatest threat to the lives of people who ignore evacuation orders in vulnerable coastal areas.

    Bill Read, who was appointed head of the Miami-based U.S. forecasting center in January, said a planned program will couple a Google application with storm surge data that meteorologists have used for years to determine the flooding threat from any category of storm.

    "People can plug in their address and see at what level they are at risk," Read told Reuters in an interview.

    He said he hoped the program would be available during the coming Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to November 30.

    Data gathered during Hurricane Katrina, which killed 1,500 people and caused $80 billion damage on the U.S. Gulf Coast in 2005, found the storm surge reached up to 22 feet above normal sea level in eastern Mississippi.

    Hurricane Andrew, the destructive Category 5 storm that hit the Miami area in 1992, pushed at least 16 feet of water ashore south of the city.

    The damage a storm can cause is largely dependent on its storm surge, and whether it hits a city or a sparsely populated area. Despite the catastrophic damage of Katrina, New Orleans was spared the worst of the surge.

    "With Katrina, 30 miles to the west and everything that happened in New Orleans in two days would have happened in a matter of hours because the surge would have been much worse and it would have overtopped the levees," Read said.

    Hurricane forecasters use a computerized model called SLOSH (Sea, Lake and Overland Surges from Hurricanes) that estimates storm surge heights by taking into account the size, internal pressure, forward speed, track and wind strength of a hurricane.

    The idea to make it available to the public evolved from calls that inundate local emergency managers and weather forecast offices every time a hurricane threatens. Read said people ask what flooding will be like at their house.

    "We're not going to know that off the top of our heads," he said. "So we can say 'go to our Web site, go to such and such, and it's there."

    Hurricane forecasters will also offer a new color-coded graphic on the NHC Web site this year that will indicate storm surge probabilities for threatened areas, similar to forecasts they now offer on wind-speed probabilities.

    The graphic will indicate the probability of the surge reaching or exceeding five feet within a given number of hours, Read said.

    The graphic promises to help local emergency managers with key decisions such as when to lock down bridges and which roads could be washed out or need to be cleared.

    Omar khadr

    It all happened so quickly

    Reuters - Canadian says U.S. interrogators threatened rape

    This article was sent to you from, who uses Reuters Mobile Site to get news and information on the go. To access Reuters on your mobile phone, go to:

    Canadian says U.S. interrogators threatened rape

    Wednesday, Mar 19, 2008 11:26PM UTC

    By Jane Sutton

    MIAMI (Reuters) - A young Canadian prisoner held at Guantanamo said in legal documents that U.S. interrogators repeatedly threatened to rape him and Canadian government visitors told him they were powerless to do anything.

    The claims were part of an affidavit sworn by Omar Khadr, 21, who is charged in the Guantanamo war court with murdering a U.S. soldier with a grenade during a firefight in Afghanistan when Khadr was 15.

    Khadr has long claimed he was abused by American interrogators in Bagram, Afghanistan, after his capture in July 2002 and at the Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval base in Cuba, where he was taken a few months later.

    The previously undisclosed allegations of the rape threats were part of a nine-page affidavit released by the U.S. military on Wednesday, with some of the names and details blacked out.

    "On several occasions at Bagram, interrogators threatened to have me raped, or sent to other countries like Egypt, Syria, Jordan or Israel to be raped," Khadr said in the document.

    He said interrogators told him at one point that the Egyptians wound send "Soldier No. 9" to rape him.

    Khadr was shot twice in the back and suffered shrapnel wounds in the eye during the battle that led to his capture at a suspected al Qaeda compound. After treatment at a field hospital, he was taken to a prison in Bagram, where he was hooded, threatened him with barking dogs and had water thrown on him, he said in the document.

    Khadr said he was often shackled for hours during interrogations and denied use of a bathroom, forcing him to urinate on himself.


    "While my wounds were still healing, interrogators made me clean the floors on my hands and knees. They woke me up in the middle of the night after midnight and made me clean the floor with a brush and dry it with towels until dawn, carry heavy buckets of water," he said.

    Later at Guantanamo, Khadr said an Afghan with a U.S. flag on his pants threatened to send him back to Afghanistan unless he cooperated, telling him: "They like small boys in Afghanistan."

    Khadr said he gave "answers that made interrogators happy" to protect himself from further harm, but the information was untrue.

    The U.S. military has said captives at Guantanamo are treated humanely and that claims of abuse are an al Qaeda tactic. They have confirmed that Canadian government representatives visited Khadr at Guantanamo.

    During one such visit in 2003, Khadr said, he complained about his treatment and a man claiming to be a Canadian government representative told him:

    "'The U.S. and Canada are like an elephant and an ant sleeping in the same bed' and there was nothing the Canadian government could do against the power of the U.S."

    Khadr is charged with murdering U.S. Army Sgt. Christopher Speer and injuring other American soldiers with a grenade during the firefight. He is also charged with attempted murder, providing material support for terrorism and conspiring with al Qaeda. He could face life in prison if convicted.

    He was scheduled to go to trial in May in the Guantanamo tribunal created by the Bush administration to try suspected terrorists. But a judge last week postponed the trial indefinitely to allow military defense lawyers more time to receive and review evidence they accused prosecutors of withholding.

    (Editing by Chris Wilson)

    Iraq war protests

    Bow your heads

    CNN - Protesters march on Iraq anniversary

    Sent from's mobile device from

    Protesters march on Iraq anniversary

    Several hundred anti-war protesters marched through Washington on Wednesday's fifth anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, splattering red paint on government offices and scuffling with police.

    Protesters, including many veterans, demanded the arrests of President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as war criminals. Others hurled balloons full of paint at a military recruiting station and smeared it on buildings housing defense contractors Bechtel and Lockheed Martin.

    Colby Dillard, who held a sign reading, "We support our brave military and their just mission," pointed to some red paint that one of the war protesters had splattered on the sidewalk.

    "The same blood was spilled to give you the right to do what you're doing," Dillard, who said he served in Iraq in 2003, told The Associated Press.

    "This has happened throughout the downtown area throughout the day," Metropolitan Police Capt. Jeffrey Herold said.

    At least 31 people were arrested after crossing police lines outside the Internal Revenue Service building on Pennsylvania Avenue, protest organizer Freida Berrigan said. Several were released Wednesday afternoon.

    Organizers of Washington's protests said that about 500 demonstrators had registered to attend but that "hundreds and hundreds more showed up," said Leslie Cagan, national director of the anti-war group United for Peace and Justice.

    Protests also took place in San Francisco, where 115 people were arrested and released after being cited for misdemeanors such as trespassing, resisting arrest and blocking an intersection, said Sgt. Steve Mannina, a police spokesman. Watch protesters in the Bay Area

    Demonstrators split up into several groups under overcast Washington skies throughout the day, though the weather forced two events to be canceled, organizers said.

    About 50 protesters of an estimated 250 engaged in shoving matches with police at McPherson Square, about two blocks from the White House, as officers tried to push them out of K Street traffic. About 20 others blocked traffic around K Street and Connecticut Avenue by chaining their hands together inside school desks, demanding more money for education and less spending on the war.

    They dispersed after police didn't move in to arrest them, declaring victory by shutting down the street.

    But most participants were peaceful, and some had a comic bent. The activist group Code Pink pushed a pink bed on wheels down the street, urging Americans to "wake up," and one demonstration featured a trailer with an effigy of Bush riding a cartoon bomb.

    More serious, members of the "Granny Peace Brigade" delivered boxes of hand-knitted "stump socks" -- meant to keep the ends of amputated limbs warm -- to the Department of Veterans Affairs. Workers there suggested that they donate the boxes to the USO instead.

    Laurie Wolberton of Louisville, Kentucky, whose son just finished an Army tour of duty in Iraq, told The Associated Press she fears that the worsening U.S. economy has caused Americans to forget about the war.

    "We're not paying attention anymore," she said. "My son has buried his friends. He's given eulogies; he's had to go through things no one should have to go through, and over here, they've forgotten. They just go shopping instead."

    Bush ordered U.S. troops into Iraq on March 19, 2003, after months of warnings that then-Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was concealing stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons and efforts to build a nuclear bomb. U.N. weapons inspectors found no sign of banned weapons before the invasion, and the CIA concluded that Iraq had dismantled its weapons programs in the 1990s.

    Nearly 4,000 Americans have died in Iraq since then, and estimates of the Iraqi toll range from about 80,000 to 150,000 or more. Nearly 160,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq, and the war has cost U.S. taxpayers about $600 billion, according to the House Budget Committee.

    Speaking on the war's anniversary, Bush said Hussein's removal has left the world better off and the United States safer. He said that last year's buildup of American troops has helped quell the sectarian warfare that brought Iraq to the brink of civil war in 2006 but that "there is still a lot of hard work to be done."

    But the conflict is now widely unpopular at home: A CNN-Opinion Research Corp. poll released Wednesday found that only 32 percent of Americans support the conflict. And 61 percent said they want the next president to remove most U.S. troops within a few months of taking office.

    Outside the National Archives, anti-war protesters laid a large cloth on the ground with the preamble to the U.S. Constitution drawn on it. The placement forced people to walk over the text in order to enter the building. Watch war protests in the nations's capital

    Also in front of the Archives was a masked man dressed in orange prison clothing, kneeling with his hands tied behind his back. A sign in front of him read, "no torture, no secret prisons, no detention without legal process," referring to several contentious issues tied to the war.

    And about 70 people marched from Arlington Cemetery in Virginia to the Vietnam War Memorial, where they read the names of victims from that conflict. The group also visited the State Department, where many of them played dead by "freezing" themselves in various poses.

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