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    The Black Rider

    authentic since 1981 'welcome to my bomboclot mind'

    Tuesday, March 25, 2008

    Could there a flying eye in our sky?

    Spy-in-the-sky drone sets sights on Miami

    By Tom BrownTue Mar 25, 8:08 PM ET

    Miami police could soon be the first in the United States to use cutting-edge, spy-in-the-sky technology to beef up their fight against crime.

    A small pilotless drone manufactured by Honeywell International (HON.N), capable of hovering and "staring" using electro-optic or infrared sensors, is expected to make its debut soon in the skies over the Florida Everglades.

    If use of the drone wins Federal Aviation Administration approval after tests, the Miami-Dade Police Department will start flying the 14-pound (6.3 kg) drone over urban areas with an eye toward full-fledged employment in crime fighting.

    "Our intentions are to use it only in tactical situations as an extra set of eyes," said police department spokesman Juan Villalba.

    "We intend to use this to benefit us in carrying out our mission," he added, saying the wingless Honeywell aircraft, which fits into a backpack and is capable of vertical takeoff and landing, seems ideally suited for use by SWAT teams in hostage situations or dealing with "barricaded subjects."

    Miami-Dade police are not alone, however.

    Taking their lead from the U.S. military, which has used drones in Iraq and Afghanistan for years, law enforcement agencies across the country have voiced a growing interest in using drones for domestic crime-fighting missions.

    Known in the aerospace industry as UAVs, for unmanned aerial vehicles, drones have been under development for decades in the United States.

    The CIA acknowledges that it developed a dragonfly-sized UAV known as the "Insectohopter" for laser-guided spy operations as long ago as the 1970s.

    And other advanced work on robotic flyers has clearly been under way for quite some time.

    "The FBI is experimenting with a variety of unmanned aerial vehicles," said Marcus Thomas, an assistant director of the bureau's Operational Technology Division.

    "At this point they have been used mainly for search and rescue missions," he added. "It certainly is an up-and-coming technology and the FBI is researching additional uses for UAVs."

    SAFETY, PRIVACY CONCERNS

    U.S. Customs and Border Protection has been flying drones over the Arizona desert and southwest border with Mexico since 2006 and will soon deploy one in North Dakota to patrol the Canadian border as well.

    This month, Customs and Border Protection spokesman Juan Munoz Torres said the agency would also begin test flights of a modified version of its large Predator B drones, built by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, over the Gulf of Mexico.

    Citing numerous safety concerns, the FAA -- the government agency responsible for regulating civil aviation -- has been slow in developing procedures for the use of UAVs by police departments.

    "You don't want one of these coming down on grandma's windshield when she's on her way to the grocery store," said Doug Davis, the FAA's program manager for unmanned aerial systems.

    He acknowledged strong interest from law enforcement agencies in getting UAVs up and running, however, and said the smaller aircraft particularly were likely to have a "huge economic impact" over the next 10 years.

    Getting clearance for police and other civilian agencies to fly can't come soon enough for Billy Robinson, chief executive of Cyber Defense Systems Inc, a small start-up company in St. Petersburg, Florida. His company makes an 8-pound (3.6 kg) kite-sized UAV that was flown for a time by police in Palm Bay, Florida, and in other towns, before the FAA stepped in.

    "We've had interest from dozens of law enforcement agencies," said Robinson. "They (the FAA) are preventing a bunch of small companies such as ours from becoming profitable," he said.

    Some privacy advocates, however, say rules and ordinances need to be drafted to protect civil liberties during surveillance operations.

    "There's been controversies all around about putting up surveillance cameras in public areas," said Howard Simon, Florida director of the American Civil Liberties Union.

    "Technological developments can be used by law enforcement in a way that enhances public safety," he said. "But every enhanced technology also contains a threat of further erosion of privacy."

    (Reporting by Tom Brown; Editing by Michael Christie and Eddie Evans)

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    The Black Rider

    comic fan.

    This blog is going to take on a more personal tone. Tonight I hope to blog about three issues of Moon Knight from MARVEL comics. There will be more posts in abundance about comics, albums, magazines and novels, etc, as I share my view on the views of others. I'll also offer my view on film, new and old, and parties I go to, and places that I go. I've also been capchaed by blogger again, so If I don't post mobile news tomorrow, that's why. That might force me to make the switch from blogger to wordpress that their algorithm sees me as a false positive. And while I;m at ranting, what's with adwords? I love google and all, but can they make those ads look better. They look like the trash of the web.
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    The Black Rider

    Time not Enough Part 2

    I often find that there is time, not enough, to do all that there is to be done. I can write a list after work and by the time I get home and finish my dinner and watch some TV, my list of 10 or 13 feasible thing shrink to about 2 or 3 and I become the chief editor of my tasks and choose the more prudent ones to do. I want to blog a lot tonight, about comics and magazine articles and colors and so on. And I want to places and blog about them too. It's also been a while since I kept a private journal. I will be doing that again. I'm beginning to feel creative again. You can you cannot change the past or excise the demons thereof. But you can become wise of the, and wiser by them. That is a lesson of life I guess. That I can look my death in the eye, and not be afraid of it, allows me to live now.

    by Dony V 'the Black Rider'
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    The Black Rider

    The guard of 'Chelsea Clinton'


    Link: sevenload.com
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    The Black Rider

    Reuters - Chavez says U.S. relations could worsen with McCain

    This article was sent to you from Bombastic4000@gmail.com, who uses Reuters Mobile Site to get news and information on the go. To access Reuters on your mobile phone, go to:
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    Chavez says U.S. relations could worsen with McCain

    Tuesday, Mar 25, 2008 10:22PM UTC

    CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a socialist and fierce U.S. critic, warned on Tuesday that relations with Washington could worsen if Republican candidate John McCain wins this year's presidential election.

    Chavez said he hopes the United States and Venezuela can work better together when his ideological foe, U.S. President George W. Bush, leaves the White House next year, but he said McCain seemed "warlike."

    "Sometimes one says, 'worse than Bush is impossible,' but we don't know," Chavez told foreign correspondents. "McCain also seems to be a man of war."

    Chavez -- who has called Bush "the devil", "a donkey" and 'Mr Danger" -- accuses the United States of having imperial designs in Latin America and says the White House has plotted his overthrow.

    McCain calls Chavez a dictator who wants to emulate retired Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

    Although Venezuela remains a key supplier of oil to the United States, relations have steadily deteriorated since Bush took office in 2001.

    Chavez is an outspoken critic of the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and has accused Washington of stirring unrest in Tibet to destabilize China.

    He said on Tuesday that he had better communication with the administration of former U.S. President Bill Clinton.

    "Independently of who wins the elections, we are hopeful and it is within our plans to enter an era of better relations with the U.S. government," he said. "At the least one would hope for the level of relations we had with ex-President Clinton."

    He did not mention Democratic hopefuls Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton. Both are cautious about Chavez, although Obama has said he could meet him.

    Chavez, who holds office until 2013, aims to unite Latin America through socialism and promotes trade plans opposed to U.S. dominance in the region.

    (Reporting by Saul Hudson; Writing by Frank Jack Daniel)

    Mass Murder in Iowa

    Iowa man killed wife, 4 kids, then self
    IOWA CITY (AP) — An embattled former bank executive committed suicide by crashing his van after killing his wife and making failed attempts to asphyxiate their four children in a garage, then slaying them individually, authorities said Tuesday.

    Steven Sueppel, who had been charged with embezzlement, was missing after his family's bodies were discovered Monday morning. His van was found wrecked and ablaze on Interstate 80 about nine miles away, and police said they used dental records to identify the burned body inside as Sueppel's.

    MORE: Officials begin autopsies in 5 Iowa deaths

    In a news conference Tuesday, investigators said they believe he killed his wife, then tried to kill himself and his children by asphyxiating them with carbon monoxide in the garage. When that failed, he killed the children one by one in the house.

    Investigators think the children died by "blunt force trauma," Lt. Jim Steffen said. Two baseball bats might have been used and were being examined, he said.

    After the children died, Sueppel tried to drown himself in the Iowa River without success. He then made a 911 call directing officers to his home and a few minutes later crashed into a freeway abutment.

    Sueppel left a long note in the family's kitchen addressed to no one in particular. He also left voice mail messages at the family's home, at the bank where he once worked and at the law office of his father and brother.

    One of the messages indicated Sueppel believed his family was in heaven, Steffen said.

    Police identified the children as Ethan, 10; Seth, 8; Mira, 5; and Eleanor, 3.

    Their bodies were found throughout the home. Two were in upstairs bedrooms, one in a basement bedroom and another in a basement toy room. Sheryl Sueppel's body was found in the master bedroom.

    The 911 call made early Monday alerting police to the family's home at the edge of Iowa City was made from Sueppel's cellphone, police said.

    About six minutes after Sueppel's call, more 911 calls poured in to dispatchers, reporting that a minivan had crashed into a concrete abutment in the median of Interstate 80 east of town.

    One caller sobbed as she described seeing the burning minivan, which had crashed head-on into the abutment.

    "Oh, my God, the car's on fire," the woman sobs. "I was going to stop and help but the car's on fire."

    Court records show that Steven Sueppel, 42, was indicted last month on charges of stealing about $560,000 from Hills Bank and Trust in Johnson County, where he was vice president and controller.

    Sueppel pleaded not guilty to embezzlement and money laundering in U.S. District Court and was released on a $250,000 personal bond. The government was also seeking the forfeiture of the money he was accused of stealing.

    His trial was scheduled for April 21.
    Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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    The Black Rider

    Sen. Clinton

    Like my husband, I too can tell a lie.

    Reuters - Hillary Clinton calls Bosnia sniper story a mistake

    This article was sent to you from Bombastic4000@gmail.com, who uses Reuters Mobile Site to get news and information on the go. To access Reuters on your mobile phone, go to:
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    Hillary Clinton calls Bosnia sniper story a mistake

    Wednesday, Mar 26, 2008 12:1AM UTC

    By Jeff Mason

    GREENSBURG, Pennsylvania (Reuters) - Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said on Tuesday she made a mistake when she claimed she had come under sniper fire during a trip to Bosnia in 1996 while she was first lady.

    In a speech in Washington and in several interviews last week Clinton described how she and her daughter, Chelsea, ran for cover under hostile fire shortly after her plane landed in Tuzla, Bosnia.

    Several news outlets disputed the claim and a video of the trip, showed Clinton walking from the plane, accompanied by her daughter. They were greeted by a young girl in a small ceremony on the tarmac and there was no sign of tension or any danger.

    "I did make a mistake in talking about it, you know, the last time and recently," Clinton told reporters in Pennsylvania where she was campaigning before the state's April 22 primary. She said she had a "different memory" about the landing.

    "So I made a mistake. That happens. It proves I'm human, which, you know, for some people, is a revelation."

    "This is really about what policy experience we have and who's ready to be commander in chief. And I'm happy to put my experience up against Senator Obama's any day."

    Democratic rival Barack Obama's campaign accused Clinton, a New York senator, of mischaracterizing the Bosnia trip and overstating her foreign policy experience, particularly during the eight years when her husband, Bill Clinton, was president.

    In a speech in Washington on March 17 Clinton said of the Bosnia trip: "I remember landing under sniper fire. There was supposed to be some kind of greeting ceremony at the airport, but instead we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base."

    She also told CNN last week: "There was no greeting ceremony and we were basically told to run to our cars. Now that is what happened."

    Turning to a subject that has dogged Obama, Clinton said she would not have remained a member of his Chicago church where the pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, made inflammatory comments about racism and the September 11, 2001 attacks.

    "We don't have a choice when it comes to our relatives. We have a choice when it comes to our pastors and the churches we attend," she said. "Given all we have heard and seen, he would not have been my pastor."

    Clinton had previously deflected questions about the topic, saying they should be posed to Obama, who gave an emotional speech last week rejecting Wright's remarks and urging Americans to move past their "racial stalemate."

    A spokesman for Obama, a senator from Illinois, said Clinton was simply trying to change the subject from the Bosnia story.

    "After originally refusing to play politics with this issue, it's disappointing to see Hillary Clinton's campaign sink to this low in a transparent effort to distract attention away from the story she made up about dodging sniper fire in Bosnia," spokesman Bill Burton said in a statement.

    "The truth is, Barack Obama has already spoken out against his pastor's offensive comments and addressed the issue of race in America with a deeply personal and uncommonly honest speech."

    Wright, who retired recently, has railed that the September 11 attacks were retribution for aggressive U.S. foreign policy, called the government the source of the AIDS virus and expressed anger over what he called racist America.

    (Editing by Chris Wilson)

    The. Icecaps are. Melting

    I'm falling appart

    CNN - Massive ice shelf on verge of breakup

    Sent from Bombastic4000@gmail.com's mobile device from http://www.cnn.com.

    Massive ice shelf on verge of breakup


    An ice shelf about the size of Connecticut is breaking up and "hanging by a thread" from the Antarctic Peninsula because of global warming, the British Antarctic Survey said Tuesday.

    "We are in for a lot more events like this," said professor Ted Scambos, a glaciologist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

    Scambos alerted the British Antarctic Survey after he noticed part of the Wilkins ice shelf disintegrating on February 28, when he was looking at NASA satellite images.

    Late February marks the end of summer at the South Pole and is the time when such events are most likely, he said.

    "The amazing thing was, we saw it within hours of it beginning, in between the morning and the afternoon pictures of that day," Scambos said of the large chunk that broke away on February 28.

    The Wilkins ice shelf lost about 6 percent of its surface a decade ago, the British Antarctic Survey said in a statement on its Web site

    Another 220 square miles -- including the chunk that Scambos spotted -- had splintered from the ice shelf as of March 8, the group said.

    "As of mid-March, only a narrow strip of shelf ice was protecting several thousand kilometers of potential further breakup," the group said.

    It put the size of the threatened shelf at about 5,571 square miles, comparable to the state of Connecticut, or about half the area of Scotland.

    Once Scambos called the British Antarctic Survey, the group sent an aircraft on a reconnaissance mission to examine the extent of the breakout.

    "We flew along the main crack and observed the sheer scale of movement from the breakage," said Jim Eliott, according to the group's Web site.

    "Big hefty chunks of ice, the size of small houses, look as though they've been thrown around like rubble -- it's like an explosion," he said.

    "Wilkins is the largest ice shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula yet to be threatened," David Vaughan of the British Antarctic Survey said, according to the Web site.

    "I didn't expect to see things happen this quickly. The ice shelf is hanging by a thread -- we'll know in the next few days or weeks what its fate will be."

    Ice shelves are floating ice sheets attached to the coast. Because they are already floating, their collapse does not have any effect on sea levels, according to the Cambridge-based British Antarctic Survey.

    Scambos said the ice shelf is not currently on the path of the increasingly popular tourist ships that travel from South America to Antarctica. But some plants and animals may have to adapt to the collapse.

    "Wildlife will be impacted, but they are pretty adept at dealing with a topsy-turvy world," he said. "The ecosystem is pretty resilient."

    Several ice shelves -- Prince Gustav Channel, Larsen Inlet, Larsen A, Larsen B, Wordie, Muller and Jones -- have collapsed in the past three decades, the British Antarctic Survey said.

    Larsen B, a 1,254-square-mile ice shelf, comparable in size to the U.S. state of Rhode Island, collapsed in 2002, the group said.

    Scientists say the western Antarctic peninsula -- the piece of the continent that stretches toward South America -- has warmed more than any other place on Earth over the past 50 years, rising by 0.9 degrees Fahrenheit each decade.

    Scambos said the poles will be the leading edge of what's happening in the rest of the world as global warming continues.

    "Even though they seem far away, changes in the polar regions could have an impact on both hemispheres, with sea level rise and changes in climate patterns," he said.

    News of the Wilkins ice shelf's impending break-up came less than two weeks after the United Nation's Environment Program reported that the world's glaciers are melting away and that they show "record" losses.

    "Data from close to 30 reference glaciers in nine mountain ranges indicate that between the years 2004-2005 and 2005-2006 the average rate of melting and thinning more than doubled," the UNEP said on March 16.

    The most severe glacial shrinking occurred in Europe, with Norway's Breidalblikkbrea glacier, the UNEP said. That glacier thinned by about 10 feet in 2006, compared with less than a foot the year before, it said.

    What it means

    Cellphone: a dictionary with batteries.

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    The meaning of it all

    Tell me why my cdr drive plays cd's better than my dvdr drive?

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    Iraq protest lead to casualties

    I do not want to die

    What it means

    Nothing works when you need it to

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    CNN - Peaceful Iraq protests spark clashes; 50 reported dead

    Sent from Bombastic4000@gmail.com's mobile device from http://www.cnn.com.

    Peaceful Iraq protests spark clashes; 50 reported dead


    Fighting between Iraqi security forces and supporters of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr left 50 dead in the southern city of Basra and spread to several Baghdad districts Tuesday, Iraqi officials said.

    The fighting erupted as al-Sadr's political organization launched a nationwide civil disobedience movement to protest recent arrests of its members.

    The discord threatens to unravel a much-praised cease-fire by the cleric's militia, the Mehdi Army, which U.S. commanders have credited with helping ease the sectarian warfare that gripped Iraq in 2006.

    An official with Basra's Provincial Council, speaking on condition of anonymity, told CNN that at least 50 people were killed and 120 wounded Tuesday.

    The dead included Iraqi troops, police, civilians and militiamen, the official said.

    In addition, at least 30 Iraqi security force members were kidnapped by militia fighters in Basra, he said.

    Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is personally overseeing efforts to restore order in Basra, said Ali Hadi, an official in the prime minister's office.

    He said al-Maliki met with high-ranking Iraqi security officers ahead of a push against militia fighters, which was launched early Tuesday.

    The provincial government official said the prime minister arrived without advance notice, and provincial officials were unaware of plans for Tuesday's operation. He said explosions could still be heard late Tuesday, but an Interior Ministry official in Baghdad said security forces were in control of most of the city by Tuesday evening.

    Residents of Basra, Iraq's second-largest city and its major oil port, held demonstrations earlier this month to demand better security. Kidnappings, murders and thefts have risen since British troops handed over responsibility for the province to Iraqi soldiers and police in December and withdrew to a base at the city's airport.

    In addition, violent rivalries among Shiite factions have spread throughout southern Iraq, with Mehdi Army fighters tangling frequently with the Badr Brigade, the militia of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq -- which has a strong presence in Iraqi security forces. Al-Sadr's movement, the ISCI and the Fadhila party all wield influence in Basra.

    Nassar al-Rubaie, an official in al-Sadr's political movement, linked Tuesday's attacks to provincial elections slated to take place October 1.

    "The police and army forces are used for political reasons," al-Rubaie said.

    Al-Sadr announced a six-month cease-fire in August, after fighting between his followers and Badr forces in the Shiite holy city of Karbala left more than 50 dead. He extended it for another six months in February, but the Americans and the Iraqi Army have continued to target Mehdi Army followers they accuse of ignoring the agreement.

    The Mehdi Army launched two uprisings against U.S. troops in 2004. Leaders of his political movement say the recent raids by U.S. and Iraqi forces have unfairly targeted militia members, and al-Rubaie said government security forces comprise rival militias that have killed, tortured and arrested innocents.

    A Basra city council official said that the fighting erupted when security forces entered Mehdi Army strongholds, where militiamen were armed with machine guns, grenades, rockets and mortars. Iraqi security forces picked up 40 suspect militiamen involved in planting bombs Tuesday, the Interior Ministry official said.

    Militiamen used roadside bombs to bring down part of a bridge in northern Basra on Tuesday, witnesses and police reported, hindering the movement of security forces.

    In Baghdad, meanwhile, Mehdi Army fighters battled Iraqi national police units in eastern and southwestern Baghdad, the Interior Ministry official told CNN. At least six people were wounded, including two police officers, the official said.

    Clashes occurred in al-Hamza Square at the edge of Sadr City, the cleric's power base in eastern Baghdad, and spread to more than half a dozen other neighborhoods.

    Attackers wielding small arms in the western neighborhood of Tobchi attacked the office of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq's top Shiite cleric, the official said. Iraqi security forces have gained control of the area, and the office is under their protection.

    In addition, rockets and mortar shells rained down on U.S. troops around Baghdad, killing one American soldier, a U.S. military spokesman said. A dozen attacks targeted four U.S. bases and the International Zone, the fortified enclave in the heart of Baghdad that houses American and Iraqi government offices, Lt. Col. Steven Stover said.

    "In our assessment, rogue Shia elements who are violating al-Sadr's cease-fire announcement are responsible for the attacks today," Stover said.

    Despite the violence, al-Sadr's followers held peaceful demonstrations in several Baghdad neighborhoods on Tuesday after Iraqi authorities refused to halt raids targeting the cleric's movement, release prisoners arrested in earlier raids and apologize for the actions, al-Rubaie said.

    "We call all citizens to join the civil disobedience," al-Rubaie said. Watch al-Sadr's call for civil disobedience

    The Interior Ministry said civil disobedience tactics were seen in five Baghdad neighborhoods.

    In the southern Baghdad neighborhood of Abu Disher, news footage showed empty streets, closed stores and empty schools, and a few dozen protesters were seen taking to the streets. Signs reading "Yes yes Iraq" and "No no America" were tacked up on walls, as was a sign saying "no" to government militias, a reference to the Badr Brigade.

    Col. Steve Boylan, a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad, said American commanders don't frown on such a civil disobedience campaign "as long as it's peaceful."

    "We have no problem with that," Boylan said. "Shouting is OK. Shooting is not."

    Mehdi Army members also appeared on the streets of Mahmoudiya and Yusufiya, towns south of Baghdad, in a show of force. And in Kut, local authorities imposed a curfew in light of the fighting in Baghdad and Basra.

    Other developments

    ? The U.S. soldier who died Tuesday was on patrol in the largely Sunni district of Adhamiyah when a mortar attack struck, Stover said. The fatality brings the number of U.S. dead in the five-year-old war to 4,001, including eight Defense Department civilians.

    ? Earlier clashes occurred in al-Hamza Square at the edge of Sadr City, the cleric's power base in eastern Baghdad. In Maamel, also in eastern Baghdad, gunmen attacked an Iraqi police checkpoint and kidnapped six police officers, an Interior Ministry official told CNN.

    ? At least four al Qaeda in Iraq members were killed in volatile Diyala province on Sunday in two military raids, the U.S. military said Tuesday.

    ? The military also reported a roadside bombing on Sunday that killed two children and wounded two civilians. It occurred in Khatoon, north of the Diyala provincial capital of Baquba.

    Diyala is an ethnically and religiously mixed province that stretches north and east of Baghdad and borders Iran.

    ? The U.S. military also said it had determined that six people killed and two people wounded in an American helicopter strike near Samarra on Saturday were prospective pro-U.S. militia members -- not "terrorists" as previously suspected.

    LA Daily News - Audit says L.A. 'under-policed'

    Audit says L.A. 'under-policed'
    By Rick Orlov, Staff Writer
    Mar 24, 2008

    Even as homicides have spiked this year in Los Angeles, more than 400 police officers are unable to fight crime on the streets because they are filling in on a backlog of administrative and other tasks that should instead be performed by civilians, according to an audit released Monday.

    Renewing a call to hire more civilians for the LAPD, City Controller Laura Chick said that amid funding cuts and attrition, the department has more than 600 vacant civilian posts - from clerks and typists to analysts - and that many of the jobs are now being performed by sworn officers.

    "There is no question that Los Angeles is one of the most under-policed big cities in America," Chick said in releasing the audit with LAPD Chief William Bratton.

    "I have watched three mayors try to find a way to hire and retain increased numbers of police officers. But all of them have overlooked what to me is an obvious way to get more officers on the street.

    "This is a way to immediately get more officers on the street without having to wait to recruit and train them."

    The audit comes even as city officials have boosted residents' trash fees to pay for recruiting and hiring more officers, and earlier this month said they were halfway to their goal of hiring 1,000 new cops by 2010.

    Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has said the police force will surpass 9,852 officers by the end of this year - the most in Los Angeles Police Department history - and is on track for 10,000 cops by next year.

    The hiring of more civilians could more quickly put officers back on the streets, and Villaraigosa - who agreed with Bratton in calling for the report - welcomed the suggestion.

    "The mayor agrees that civilianization is necessary to maximize the number of police officers assigned to crime-fighting duties, but growing the Police Department by 1,000 officers remains his top budgetary priority," spokesman Matt Szabo said.

    But Bratton immediately embraced the proposal as a way to help him get officers on the streets at a time gang violence has been raging.

    So far this year, homicides have increased in the city - with 86 in the first few months compared with 67 in the same period last year.

    "There's this impression out there that the LAPD gets all it wants," Bratton said. "It's not true. We are hiring officers, but we also need civilian support to keep officers out there.

    "We have not been able to hire all the civilians we need because of various budget crunches the city has had."

    Bratton said the department has taken to "harvesting" officers from patrol duties to perform work that should be performed by civilians - everything from staffing front desks at stations to processing reports.

    Deputy Chief Sharon Papa, who oversees the department's civilian work force of 2,400, said the shortages impact the public.

    "We were getting to the point where we were able to get copies of police reports to victims within a month," Papa said. "Now, we're back up to it taking four months. That's a direct impact on the public."

    Bratton said the department's civilianization program long has suffered because of few promotional opportunities.

    "Unfortunately, we have people who are forced to leave when they want to advance," Bratton said. "We don't want to lose them and they don't want to leave, but they feel they have no choice."

    In her audit, Chick found that in the current fiscal year, the LAPD is projected to hire 308 civilians - but after attrition new hires will only total 74.

    Chick recommended a three-year, $53 million effort that would include training and hiring incentives to boost the department's civilian work force and free up officers who are now tied to those desk jobs.

    "We do not need hundreds of police officers, at a cost of $30,000 a year more than a properly trained civilian, performing administrative functions that do not require carrying a firearm," she said.

    Bratton said he wants to use Chick's report as a blueprint for the City Council when budget hearings begin next month.

    "This city needs many more officers," Bratton said. "I would like to see us at 12,500 officers."

    Chick said her audit found that more than 560 jobs that could be filled by civilians were being filled by officers, although 150 of those officers had been assigned to light duty because of injuries.

    "Over and over again, we hear the sound bite, `Let's get officers out from behind desks and out on our streets.' Yet we continue to impose hiring freezes for civilian positions. Who do we think is performing this essential backup work?"

    The Los Angeles Police Protective League gave cautious backing to the proposal.

    "We agree with Controller Chick that the dedicated officers of the LAPD need experienced and trained civilians to back up the work they are doing in our streets and neighborhoods," League President Tim Sands said.

    "While the city is meeting hiring goals of new officers, it has been cutting the guts out of essential backup support. It is clear that we need personnel to fill many of these critical positions."

    While the recommendations come amid a tight city budget outlook, Chick and Bratton said hiring civilians is a less expensive way to free up officers.

    Councilman Bernard Parks, who served as police chief prior to Bratton, agreed with the need to hire more civilians but said the department also needs to be cautious.

    "There was a recommendation to bring in civilians to serve as adjutants, but it didn't work out," Parks said. "There are some jobs (in which) an officer is needed because of their experience.

    "What was happening was captains were just bringing sergeants in to serve as their adjutants in the field."

    Parks said there also are some costs that are not being considered.

    "When we bring these people in, they want to get on a career ladder and, for some jobs, it just isn't there so we end up losing them," Parks said. "It's a problem, because in some jobs there is no place to move up."

    Reuters - Steve McQueen's estate sues over clothing line

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    Steve McQueen's estate sues over clothing line

    Tuesday, Mar 25, 2008 10:6PM UTC

    NEW YORK (Reuters) - Steve McQueen's estate sued a clothing
    company on Tuesday, alleging the unauthorized use of the late
    film star's image and name as part of its "Steve McQueen
    Celebration" line of fashion and accessories.

    The McQueen heirs accuse Clothing Company S.P.A. and parent
    company Belstaff USA and Belstaff International LTD of "willful
    and brazen unauthorized use of the name, image, signature and
    likeness" of the actor known as the King of Cool for his roles
    in films in the 1960s and 1970s.

    British-born Belstaff, whose trademark biker jackets were a
    favorite of soldier and writer T.E. Lawrence, is owned by
    Italy's Malenotti family. A company representative was not
    immediately available for comment.

    The suit alleges a representative of Belstaff contacted the
    estate in 2007 requesting a license for use of McQueen's image
    on a clothing and accessories line which was denied after
    negotiations broke down.

    In August 2007, the company began producing the line
    anyway, the lawsuit said.

    Belstaff's actions jeopardize "the goodwill and value" of
    the McQueen trademark.

    The actor, who died at age 50 in 1980, starred in such
    films as "Bullitt," "Papillon" and "The Towering Inferno."

    (Reporting by Edith Honan; Editing by Daniel Trotta)

    Reagan to endorse. Mccain

    We make happy campaign

    USA TODAY - Nancy Reagan to endorse McCain

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    SANTA ANA, Calif.

    Former first lady Nancy Reagan planned to endorse John McCain for president on Tuesday, as the Arizona senator continued to collect the backing of leading Republicans who might help him win over critical conservative voters.

    Now certain to win the GOP nomination, McCain is on the west coast this week to raise money. He was to stop by the Southern California home of former President Ronald Reagan's widow to accept her endorsement.

    In a statement before the event, Reagan said she typically waits until after the GOP convention to announce her support but she decided to do so now because it is clear the Republican Party has chosen its nominee.

    "John McCain has been a good friend for over thirty years," Reagan said. "My husband and I first came to know him as a returning Vietnam War POW, and were impressed by the courage he had shown through his terrible ordeal. I believe John's record and experience have prepared him well to be our next president."

    Reagan's eventual support was expected, and she will become the latest Republican heavyweight to fall in line behind McCain. She and McCain have long been close, and it was only a matter of time before she spoke up for her friend.

    Her endorsement could help McCain shore up the backing of conservatives in Republican base that long has viewed him skeptically for his record of breaking with the party on some issues they hold dear. At the same time, Reagan's nod also could help further align him with the former president who attracted Democratic as well as Republican voters.

    Website address: http://www.usatoday.com/news/politics/election2008/2008-03-25-reagan-mccain_N.htm

    USA TODAY - Court spurns Bush in immigrant ruling

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    WASHINGTON
    By Joan Biskupic, USA TODAY

    Rebuffing President Bush's assertion of his power over foreign affairs, the Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that Texas and other states need not provide new hearings to Mexican citizens on death row who were not told they could obtain consular help when arrested.

    The court spurned an appeal by Jose Medellin, who was sentenced to die for the 1993 rape and strangling of two teenage girls who stumbled into a gang initiation in Texas as they walked home from a friend's house.

    READ THE OPINION: Medellin v. Texas

    By a 6-3 vote, the court said that neither a 2004 decision by the International Court of Justice nor a memorandum by President Bush overrides Texas authority to deny Medellin another hearing. The International Court of Justice had ruled in 2004 that Medellin and 50 other Mexican nationals on state death rows deserved review of their cases because they had not been advised of their consular rights under the Vienna Convention.

    Bush had issued a memorandum declaring that states had to abide by the decision.

    In Tuesday's decision written by Chief Justice John Roberts, the high court sternly rejected Bush's view that U.S. compliance with IJC decisions rests with the executive branch. The court said the president may not "pre-empt" state law.

    Roberts said ICJ's decision interpreting the United States' obligation under the Vienna Convention constitutes an international law obligation. But he stressed, "Not all international law obligations automatically constitute binding federal law enforceable in United States courts."

    The court said the president could not, without action by Congress, enforce the IJC judgment on the states.

    Donald Francis Donovan, a lawyer for Medellin, said in a statement that he was disappointed with the high court's ruling but noted that the justices said Congress could act to ensure enforcement of the ICJ decision. There was no immediate reaction from the Bush administration.

    Because of the international implications and because the case pit Bush against his home state of Texas, the dispute of Medellin v. Texas had been closely watched. Nine states that use capital punishment have Mexican nationals on the death rows; Texas has the most: 15 Mexican nationals.

    Medellin did not raise his claim related to his Vienna Convention rights until after his conviction and sentence had become final. Texas judges said he was barred from raising it in later appeals. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals had ruled most recently that neither the 2004 ICJ decision nor Bush's memo was binding federal law that could override state rules.

    After Medellin appealed to the Supreme Court, supported by Bush's memo interpreting the ICJ ruling, Texas officials said Bush's directive infringed on state power. They said if the president wanted the states to comply with the ruling he should have gone to Congress for legislation.

    Joining Roberts in siding with Texas were Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito. Justice John Paul Stevens concurred in the bottom-line judgment against Medellin. Disenting were Justices Stephen Breyer, David Souter and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

    Website address: http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2008-03-25-scotus-mexican_N.htm

    USA TODAY - 2 killed, 5 injured in Miami crane collapse

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    MIAMI

    Part of a construction crane plummeted 30 floors at the site of a high-rise condominium Tuesday, smashing into a home that the contractor used for storage and killing two workers, police said.

    Five workers were injured, including one in critical condition, officials said. The other four had injuries not considered life-threatening.

    One of those killed died inside the house, and the other died at a hospital, police spokesman Delrish Moss said.

    The crane's main vertical section was intact, but the part that fell was a 20-foot section that workers had been raising to extend the equipment's reach, Miami fire spokesman Ignatius Carroll said. It fell 30 floors and smashed through the home's Spanish-tiled roof.

    Authorities were checking employee logs to make sure no workers were missing. But an initial survey by rescue workers and dogs found no evidence of victims trapped at the site of the 40-plus-story luxury condo tower on Biscayne Bay, Moss said.

    Fire officials said rescue efforts were hampered because the crane remained unstable.

    David Martinez, 31, a pipe fitter, was on the fourth floor of the condo tower eating lunch when the crash occurred.

    "It was like a small earthquake," he said. "We looked outside, and we couldn't even see." It took several minutes for the dust to clear, Martinez said.

    The two-story house that was damaged was used in the movie "There's Something About Mary," Carroll said.

    Mary Costello, a senior vice president for Bovis Lend Lease Holdings Inc., which was managing the construction, said the accident occurred when a subcontractor tried to raise the crane section and it came loose. The company is cooperating with investigators, she said.

    "Our hearts are heavy at this moment for the two deceased individuals, including one of our own employees and the additional injured workers," she said in a statement.

    The subcontractor and the tower developer, Royal Palms Communities, did not return phone messages seeking comment.

    The U.S. Office of Safety and Health Administration had two investigators at the site. Darlene Fossum, an area director for the agency, said Bovis Lend Lease had partnered with OSHA in the past and was considered a company that went "above and beyond" in terms of safety and health.

    "We have worked closely with them on their safety programs and feel very confident that this was one of the premier contractors on this job site," she said.

    Tower cranes and crane operators are not licensed or regulated by the state of Florida, but bills moving through both houses of the Legislature would change that.

    The accident came 10 days after a 20-story crane collapsed at a New York construction site, killing seven people.

    New York City officials said Tuesday they have told contractors they can't raise or lower large cranes at construction sites unless a buildings inspector is there.

    Website address: http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2008-03-25-crane-accident_N.htm

    USA TODAY - Report: Sony BMG developing music service

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    BERLIN
    By Matt Moore, Associated Press

    The CEO of Sony BMG Music Entertainment says that the company is developing an online music subscription service that would give users unlimited access to its music and be compatible with a host of digital music players.

    Sony BMG's artist roster includes newcomers like Leona Lewis, along with stalwarts like Alicia Keys and Celine Dion, as well as country singer Carrie Underwood among others.

    In an interview with the newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung published Monday, chief executive Rolf Schmidt-Holtz did not offer a timeline for unveiling the service.

    As for costs to subscribers, the newspaper quoted him as saying that the "simplest option would be a flat rate" fee per month of around 6 to 8 euros ($9 to $12) for unlimited access to Sony BMG's entire music catalog and that the downloads would be compatible with all players, including Apple's ubiquitous iPod.

    He said that it was "even possible that clients could keep some songs indefinitely, that they would own them even after the subscription expired."

    A Bertelsmann spokesman confirmed that the interview was accurate but declined to provide further details.

    Schmidt-Holtz was quoted as saying the unit was in talks with other major music distributors but did not disclose with whom and added that it was possible mobile phone operators could be brought on board, with the aim of letting users download their songs to their cellphones.

    Besides the book publisher Random House, Bertelsmann's interests include music business BMG, which is comprised of its 50% holding in the Sony BMG Music Entertainment joint venture with Japan's Sony Corp., and radio and television including broadcaster RTL, magazines and media services.

    Bertelsmann is headquartered in Guetersloh, Germany, but most of its 97,000 employees are scattered over its divisions. The company is controlled by the Mohn family, directly and through a foundation.

    Website address: http://www.usatoday.com/tech/products/2008-03-25-sony-music-service_N.htm

    Pitt and Jolie related to Pres. Candies

    We've got cousins in high places.

    USA TODAY - Obama related to Pitt, Clinton to Jolie

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    BOSTON
    By Denise Lavoie, Associated Press Writer

    This could make for one odd family reunion: Barack Obama is a distant cousin of actor Brad Pitt, and Hillary Rodham Clinton is related to Pitt's girlfriend, Angelina Jolie.

    Researchers at the New England Historic Genealogical Society found some remarkable family connections for the three presidential candidates Democratic rivals Obama and Clinton, and Republican John McCain.

    Clinton, who is of French-Canadian descent on her mother's side, is also a distant cousin of singers Madonna, Celine Dion and Alanis Morissette. Obama, the son of a white woman from Kansas and a black man from Kenya, can call six U.S. presidents, including George W. Bush, his cousins. McCain is a sixth cousin of first lady Laura Bush.

    Genealogist Christopher Child said that while the candidates often focus on pointing out differences between them, their ancestry shows they are more alike than they think.

    "It shows that lots of different people can be related, people you wouldn't necessarily expect," Child said.

    Obama has a prolific presidential lineage that features Democrats and Republicans. His distant cousins include President George W. Bush and his father, George H.W. Bush, Gerald Ford, Lyndon Johnson, Harry S. Truman and James Madison. Other Obama cousins include Vice President Dick Cheney, British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill and Civil War General Robert E. Lee.

    "His kinships are across the political spectrum," Child said.

    Child has spent the last three years tracing the candidates' genealogy, along with senior research scholar Gary Boyd Roberts, author of the 1989 book, "Ancestors of American Presidents."

    Clinton's distant cousins include beatnik author Jack Kerouac and Camilla Parker-Bowles, wife of Prince Charles of England.

    McCain's ancestry was more difficult to trace because records on his relatives were not as complete as records for the families of Obama and Clinton, Child said.

    Obama and President Bush are 10th cousins, once removed, linked by Samuel Hinkley of Cape Cod, who died in 1662.

    Pitt and Obama are ninth cousins, linked by Edwin Hickman, who died in Virginia in 1769. Ben LaBolt, a spokesman for the Obama campaign, declined to comment on the senator's ancestry.

    Clinton and Jolie are ninth cousins, twice removed, both related to Jean Cusson who died in St. Sulpice, Quebec, in 1718.

    The New England Historic Genealogical Society, founded in 1845, is the oldest and largest non-profit genealogical organization in the country.

    Website address: http://www.usatoday.com/life/people/2008-03-25-obama-clinton-brangelina_N.htm

    USA TODAY - Congress releases new Clemens report

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    By Howard Fendrich And Ronald Blum, AP Sports Writers

    The top Republican on the congressional committee investigating whether Roger Clemens used performance-enhancing drugs has released a report questioning whether the seven-time Cy Young Award winner lied in his testimony before the panel last month.

    The 109-page report, obtained by The Associated Press, contains details Rep. Tom Davis believes could challenge the credibility of Brian McNamee, the personal trainer who testified under oath he injected Clemens with steroids and human growth hormone from 1998 to 2001.

    Republican staff from the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform say they will pass along additional information to the Justice Department. The FBI is investigating whether Clemens lied to Congress.

    "Did Roger Clemens lie to us?" Davis said in a release accompanying the report.

    "Some of the evidence seems to say he did; other information suggests he told the truth," the Virginia Republican said. "It's a far more complicated picture than some may want to believe. Memories fade and recollections differ. That's human nature, not criminal conduct. My concern is the integrity of sworn statements made to Congress. At this point, the Justice Department is best equipped to investigate that central question and reach a fair conclusion."

    The report includes interviews with new witnesses and addresses issues such as whether Clemens attended a party at then-teammate Jose Canseco's house in 1998; information about injections of vitamin B-12; and whether Clemens developed an abscess on his buttocks.

    Website address: http://www.usatoday.com/sports/baseball/2008-03-25-congress-clemens_N.htm

    Reuters - Google holders seek human rights, censorship review

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    http://mobile.reuters.com

    Google holders seek human rights, censorship review

    Tuesday, Mar 25, 2008 8:1PM UTC

    NEW YORK (Reuters) - Shareholders of Google Inc will propose that the Web search company take steps to ensure freedom of Internet access and establish a review of its operations' effect on human rights, according to a regulatory filing on Tuesday.

    In one proposal expected to be submitted at the company's 2008 annual meeting on May 8, shareholders will ask Google to commit to certain standards, including a pledge not to engage in proactive censorship or host user data in countries that restrict political speech.

    The proposal will be raised by the New York City comptroller's office, which oversees the New York City Employees Retirement System as well as retirement funds for city teachers, police and firefighters, Google said in its proxy filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

    A second proposal put forward by Harrington Investments requests that the company create a board committee on human rights to review the implications of its policies on a worldwide basis.

    Google said its board recommends that investors vote against both proposals.

    The Web search leader will ask investors to keep its slate of 10 directors in office for another year.

    (Reporting by Michele Gershberg, editing by Richard Chang)

    Reuters - Ford agrees to sell Euro brands for $2 bln: source

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    Ford agrees to sell Euro brands for $2 bln: source

    Tuesday, Mar 25, 2008 5:48PM UTC

    LONDON (Reuters) - Ford <F.N> has agreed to sell its UK-based Jaguar and Land Rover brands to India's Tata Motors <TAMO.BO> for more than $2 billion, said a source familiar with the matter on Tuesday.

    Ford, which signed the deal on Tuesday, plans to publicly announce the transaction, which will also see it pay about 300 million pounds ($597.7 million) into the European units' pension fund, on Wednesday, said the source.

    Ford declined to comment on the deal, adding "our first responsibility is to communicate with our employees."

    (Reporting by Mathieu Robbins; Editing by David Holmes)

    Stock index rise

    See, it's not so bad.

    Reuters - S&P, Nasdaq inch up on miners, oil

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    S&P, Nasdaq inch up on miners, oil

    Tuesday, Mar 25, 2008 8:35PM UTC

    By Ellis Mnyandu

    NEW YORK (Reuters) - The S&P 500 and Nasdaq rose on Tuesday as rebounding metal and oil prices lifted mining and energy shares, offsetting news of the biggest drop in consumer confidence in five years.

    The Dow ended slightly lower, held back by a 3.5 percent drop in Bank of America Corp <BAC.N> after a brokerage advised investors to sell the stock, citing the No. 2 U.S. bank's exposure to the bursting housing bubble.

    Stocks weakened early after a Conference Board report showed consumer confidence fell sharply in March, raising the specter of Americans tightening their purse strings.

    The data also hurt the dollar, which in turn fueled a rebound in commodity prices after last week's sell-off. That benefited companies such as aluminum producer Alcoa Inc <AA.N>, up 2 percent, and Freeport-McMoran Copper & Gold Inc <FCX.N> which jumped 4.1 percent.

    Standouts included shares of independent oil and gas producer Devon Energy <DVN.N>, up 3.8 percent, and oil services company Schlumberger Ltd <SLB.N>, which jumped 1.7 percent. Both stocks were among the Dow's biggest gainers.

    "The catalyst for commodities is the weaker dollar and it's allowing other groups to rally," said Steve Goldman, market strategist at Weeden & Co., based in Greenwich, Connecticut. "Global growth, at least from a commodities standpoint, will probably stay intact."

    The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> slipped 16.04 points, or 0.13 percent, to close at 12,532.60. But the Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> inched up 3.11 points, or 0.23 percent, to 1,352.99. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> rose 14.30 points, or 0.61 percent, to close at 2,341.05.

    And as the market had rallied on Monday to book its strongest 2-day advance in nearly four months, some investors opted to take profits, particularly in the financials, which had rallied on news of a revised buyout offer for beleaguered Wall Street investment bank Bear Stearns Cos <BSC.N> from JPMorgan Chase & Co <JPM.N>.

    Shares of Bank of America dropped to $40.97 on the New York Stock Exchange, where shares of JPMorgan, the No. 3 U.S. bank by assets, slid to $46.06. Both stocks were among the top drags on the Dow and the S&P 500.

    But shares of Alcoa led the Dow's advancers, finishing up 2 percent, or 70 cents, at $35.74, followed by shares of chemical maker DuPont <DD.N> , which gained 1.4 percent, or 64 cents, to $47.30.

    Shares of Caterpillar Inc <CAT.N>, the maker of bulldozers and excavating equipment, which is an exporter that benefits from a declining dollar, rose almost 1 percent to finish at $76.64 on the NYSE. Its customers include miners.

    Monsanto Co <MON.N> was another bright spot on the commodities front after the U.S. agricultural biotechnology company raised its profit forecasts. Its shares jumped 9.9 percent to $114.54 on the NYSE.

    "Outside of financial companies, earnings remain pretty strong," said Cleveland Rueckert, market analyst with Birinyi Associates Inc in Stamford, Connecticut.

    Investors also snapped up technology shares following positive broker comments on the sector's bellwether stocks, including Qualcomm Inc <QCOM.O>.

    The wireless chipmaker's stock, which gained 2.3 percent to close at $40.80 on the Nasdaq, was raised to a "buy" from "neutral" at Merrill Lynch, according to theflyonthewall.com, a financial Web site.

    Shares of Yahoo Inc <YHOO.O> jumped 4.4 percent to close at $28.73 on Nasdaq after Citigroup said it is likely that Microsoft Corp <MSFT.O> will raise its takeover offer for the Internet media firm. Shares of BlackBerry maker Research In Motion Ltd <RIMM.O> ended at $115.95, up 3.7 percent.

    (Reporting by Ellis Mnyandu; Editing by Jan Paschal)

    Reuters - Clear Channel talks in trouble: source

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    Clear Channel talks in trouble: source

    Tuesday, Mar 25, 2008 8:56PM UTC

    NEW YORK (Reuters) - Talks over the $20 billion leveraged buyout of U.S. radio operator Clear Channel Communications Inc. <CCU.N> are in trouble, with the banks financing the deal unwilling to take a mark-to-market loss, a source familiar with the situation said on Tuesday.

    But the final resolution is unclear, with the buyers still wanting to do a deal, the source said.

    Clear Channel last year struck a deal to be bought by private equity firms Thomas H. Lee Partners and Bain Capital Partners LLC for $39.20 a share. The stock has traded significantly lower than that in recent months on fears the deal could also be in jeopardy.

    (Reporting by Megan Davies; Editing by Gary Hill)

    Reuters - Goldman sees $1.2 trillion global credit loss

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    Goldman sees $1.2 trillion global credit loss

    Tuesday, Mar 25, 2008 5:30PM UTC

    NEW YORK (Reuters) - Goldman Sachs forecasts global credit losses stemming from the current market turmoil will reach $1.2 trillion, with Wall Street accounting for nearly 40 percent of the losses.

    U.S. leveraged institutions, which include banks, brokers-dealers, hedge funds and government-sponsored enterprises, will suffer roughly $460 billion in credit losses after loan loss provisions, Goldman Sachs economists wrote in a research note released late on Monday.

    Losses from this group of players are crucial because they have led to a dramatic pullback in credit availability as they have pared lending to shore up their capital and preserve their capital requirements, they said.

    Goldman estimated $120 billion in write-offs have been reported by these leveraged institutions since the credit crunch began last summer.

    "U.S. leveraged institutions have written off less than half of the losses associated with the bursting of the credit bubble," they said. "There is light at the end of the tunnel, but it is still rather dim."

    Of the cumulative losses expected by these leveraged players, bad residential home loans will represent about half, while poor-performing commercial mortgages will represent 15 percent to 20 percent.

    The rest of the losses will come from credit card loans, car loans, commercial and industrial lending and non-financial corporate bonds, Goldman economists said.

    Facing more credit losses, leveraged institutions have raised about $100 billion in new capital from domestic and foreign investors and reduced dividend payouts. This amount is more than three-quarters of the write-offs to date, the report said.

    (Reporting by Richard Leong)

    Bear Stearns fall affects Office Market

    Rent me

    Reuters - Bear fire sale rattles Manhattan office market

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    Bear fire sale rattles Manhattan office market

    Tuesday, Mar 25, 2008 8:0PM UTC

    By Ilaina Jonas - Analysis

    NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Manhattan office market can withstand the fire sale of Bear Stearns Cos Inc, but if other financial firms disintegrate, flat rents and lower values already expected could turn into a sharp decline.

    "The real test is how big are the ripples from this and how far are they going to extend," John Houck, senior managing director of Weiser Realty Advisors LLC, said.

    "I feel a little like we're tipping at the edge of the roller coaster," he said. "For the moment, I hope it will be just a small ride down and it will tip back up again."

    Last week, Bear Stearns nearly collapsed under the weight of the credit crisis. JPMorgan Chase & Co has agreed to buy the firm, on Monday ratcheting up its initial offer to $2.1 billion from $236 million.

    While JPMorgan said it intends to hire some Bear employees, Peter Hennessy, president of tenant representation brokerage firm Staubach Co's New York office, estimated that about half the 14,000 jobs at Bear would disappear, sharply reducing office space needs.

    The health of the Manhattan office market rests on the financial sector, which occupies about 35.6 percent of the roughly 391 million square feet of New York office space, according to real estate brokerage Cushman & Wakefield.

    At the end of February, Manhattan's vacancy rate stood at 5.8 percent in Manhattan and 6.1 for high quality Midtown buildings that financial tenants prefer, according to Cushman & Wakefield. The average asking rent for a Class A midtown building was $84.65 per square foot.

    "If 2 million or 3 million square feet hits the market, it adds a point or two points to the vacancy rate," Hennessy said. "We could end up at even 8 or 9 percent. That's kind of equilibrium -- a good balance between supply and demand."

    Houck and Hennessy said they expect rental rates to be flat. Effective rents -- the rent after sweeteners -- could decline as much as 5 percent, Hennessy said. "This 5 percent could turn into 10 percent if the momentum builds."

    If Bear's meltdown becomes the first in a series of collapses, some experts said the market could be badly battered, leading to a surge in the vacancy rate.

    JOB CUTS

    New York-based commercial finance company CIT Group Inc is struggling not to follow Bear's path, and Citigroup Inc is cutting about 2,000 more investment banking jobs on top of the 4,200 cuts announced in January. Fewer workers reduce the demand for office space, weakening market rent and ultimately prices.

    New York City's Independent Budget Office said on Monday the city risks losing more than 20,000 financial sector jobs over the next two years, and that's before the effect of Bear Stearns.

    Recently, many financial tenants have considered putting space back on the market through subleasing. But they have been reluctant to give up space, fearing they would be forced to pay even more should the credit markets recover.

    Bear Stearns' situation may be starting to change that, Hennessy said.

    Included in the deal with JPMorgan is the 1.1 million square-foot Bear Stearns World Headquarters at 383 Madison Ave. The agreement gives JPMorgan the right to purchase the building for $1.1 billion, less any debt the building carries, even if the deal falls apart.

    JPMorgan intends to move its investment bankers from its building across the street, and still plans to construct another building at No. 5 World Trade Center, Spokesman Joe Evangelisti said.

    JPMorgan occupies 5.63 million square feet throughout Manhattan, according to real estate brokerage firm CB Richard Ellis Group Inc. Bear Stearns occupies 1.61 million square feet in Manhattan.

    "Now you got others saying we probably need to start unloading," Hennessy said. "That effectively is the first piece of the dam to break, meaning that while others had been playing with it, nobody pushed forward with it."

    Until the turbulence settles and the rental market becomes more measurable, Hennessy is advising his clients not to make any deals unless their lease is expiring within the next nine months.

    "Most people want to know that they're either close to the bottom or at the bottom before they make a decision like that," he said.

    (Additional reporting by Joan Gralla; Editing by Brian Moss)

    Sen. Obama releases tax returns

    I know everytìng

    Reuters - Obama releases tax returns, says Clinton should too

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    Obama releases tax returns, says Clinton should too

    Tuesday, Mar 25, 2008 8:14PM UTC

    By John Whitesides, Political Correspondent

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democrat Barack Obama released seven years of tax returns on Tuesday, cranking up the pressure on presidential rival Hillary Clinton to make public her recent filings and renewing a battle between the two camps over transparency.

    Obama's tax returns from 2000 to 2006 were posted on his Web site as his campaign extended its effort to portray Clinton, the New York senator and former first lady, as secretive and unwilling to be open with voters.

    Obama, an Illinois senator, has repeatedly asked Clinton to release tax returns for the years since she and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, left the White House in 2001. Clinton aides say they will make them public at least three days prior to the Pennsylvania primary on April 22.

    "Releasing tax returns is a matter of routine. We believe the Clinton campaign should meet that routine standard and meet that routine standard now," Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters.

    Clinton spokesman Phil Singer said she will release her tax returns by the middle of next month and already had released more than 20 years of tax returns and hundreds of thousands of pages of documents from the White House.

    He said Obama has failed to release records from his days in the Illinois legislature and his tax returns from before 2000.

    "Let's not pretend Senator Obama is some kind of beacon of transparency," Singer said.

    Presidential candidates often release their tax returns, although they are not required to do so, but Clinton's failure to release her returns since 2001 had become a target of increased criticism from Obama's camp.

    As senators, Obama and Clinton are both required only to file disclosure statements that give a wide range of income and provide few details on finances and holdings.

    The newly released tax returns show Obama's income with wife Michelle jumped in 2005 with the re-release of his first book "Dreams from My Father," which brought him $1.2 million, and in 2006 when his second book "The Audacity of Hope" earned more than $500,000.

    Their income rose dramatically with the book sales. From 2000 to 2004 their income ranged from just more than $207,000 to more than $275,000. In 2005 their joint income was more than $1.6 million and in 2006 it was nearly $1 million.

    Obama's campaign said Clinton's tax records were important because of questions about her $5 million loan in January to her campaign and about Bill Clinton's income from an investment company -- headed by donor Ron Burkle -- that invests in tax shelters.

    "Senator Clinton can't claim to be vetted until she allows the public the opportunity to see her finances -- particularly with respect to any investment in tax shelters," Gibb said in a statement.

    (Editing by David Wiessler)

    (To read more about the U.S. political campaign, visit Reuters "Tales from the Trail: 2008" online at http:blogs.reuters.com/trail08/)

    Drama in Detroit

    CNN - Not guilty pleas for Detroit mayor, ex-aide

    Sent from Bombastic4000@gmail.com's mobile device from http://www.cnn.com.

    Not guilty pleas for Detroit mayor, ex-aide


    Not guilty pleas were entered Tuesday for Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and his former chief of staff in a scandal in which they are accused of lying under oath about an affair.

    Kilpatrick and his former chief of staff, Christine Beatty, face felony charges of perjury, obstruction of justice and misconduct in office.

    Kilpatrick has been at the center of a scandal since January when the Detroit Free Press reported he exchanged romantic text messages with Beatty, contradicting testimony the pair had given in a whistle-blower trial.

    Both Kilpatrick and Beatty declined to enter pleas Tuesday before 36th District Court Magistrate Steven Lockhart. The magistrate entered the pleas on their behalf.

    Lockhart set a $75,000 personal bond for both defendants. If convicted on all charges, Kilpatrick could face 80 years in prison and/or $40,000 in fines. Beatty could face 75 years and/or $30,000.

    Both are free to leave Michigan but are due back in court June 9.

    "This is a historic moment, a sad moment. No sitting mayor of Detroit has ever been charged with a crime," Detroit Free Press reporter Jim Schaefer told CNN on Tuesday

    The case is about much more than sexually explicit text messages, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said earlier Tuesday.

    "Text messages are just part of the case," Worthy said on CNN's "American Morning." "We have much more evidence than that.

    "It is not just about the sexual affair. It is about lying under oath. It is about betraying the public trust. It is about using $8.4 million of the taxpayers' money to cover up that information from coming out."Watch Worthy explain why she brought charges

    The Detroit City Council and Free Press have called for Kilpatrick's resignation. But at a press conference Monday, the mayor defiantly said that he would stay on the job and fight the charges.

    "This has been a very flawed process from the beginning," he said. "I look forward to complete exoneration." Watch Kilpatrick defend himself

    Kilpatrick's attorney, Dan Webb, has said the thousands of text messages that might be used as evidence against the mayor were obtained illegally.

    Worthy denied that allegation.

    "I can't speak to how anybody else obtained those messages," she said Tuesday. "But I know that we obtained them lawfully."

    Webb also contended Monday that Kilpatrick may be the only person ever charged by the Wayne County prosecutor's office with perjury based on statements made in a civil case.

    "It is always reserved for criminal cases," Webb said. "But out of all the allegations over the years, they have only decided to bring charges against one person. That brings up an issue called selective prosecution, an issue I intend to bring up with the trial judge."

    Last week, the City Council voted 7-1 to ask Kilpatrick to resign, a city clerk said. The vote was nonbinding, and Kilpatrick has continued on the job amid the fallout from the scandal.

    In January, the Free Press reported that in an analysis of nearly 14,000 text messages on Beatty's city-issued pager it found some from 2002 and 2003 that indicated she and the mayor were having an affair.

    Allegations of an affair arose last summer during the whistle-blower trial in which two officers sued Kilpatrick and the city. The officers alleged Kilpatrick had retaliated against them for their roles in an internal investigation involving possible misconduct in Kilpatrick's security unit, according to court documents.

    In testimony in August, Kilpatrick and Beatty both denied having a romantic relationship.

    The lawsuit, brought by Deputy Chief Gary Brown and Officer Harold Nelthrope, ended with the jury awarding judgment against the city for $7.9 million, including interest, according to the officers' attorney, Michael L. Stefani. The city then agreed to a settlement involving Brown, Nelthrope and another related case for about $8 million.

    Kilpatrick and Beatty were not personally liable for the settlement amount because the suit was related to their roles as city officials.

    Bear. Stearns blobcbuster sale

    Can afford me?

    Reuters - Sold! Bear Stearns T-shirt gone for $151.76

    This article was sent to you from Bombastic4000@gmail.com, who uses Reuters Mobile Site to get news and information on the go. To access Reuters on your mobile phone, go to:
    http://mobile.reuters.com

    Sold! Bear Stearns T-shirt gone for $151.76

    Tuesday, Mar 25, 2008 5:6PM UTC

    By Jennifer Ablan

    NEW YORK (Reuters) - A used T-shirt bearing the Bear Stearns logo has sold for $151.76 online, worth about 14 or 15 shares in the once venerable Wall Street investment bank.

    Bear Stearns shirts and other trinkets have been snatched up in recent days on eBay's Internet auction site.

    This particular extra-large men's T-shirt, blue, with a white Bear Stearns logo, attracted over 1,600 visitors and sold for $151.76 on Monday night, a price no doubt prompted by the sudden fall of the fifth-largest U.S. investment bank.

    The Bear Stearns takeover by JPMorgan Chase & Co has generated public interest reminiscent of Enron's demise. Other auction items include umbrellas, coffee mugs, cafeteria cards, hard hats and a pewter reproduction of Bear Stearns' midtown Manhattan office building, which was included in the fire sale.

    "Be the first to get your paws on classic Bear Stearns memorabilia," read one post auctioning a miniature plastic toy bear that was going for $28 on Tuesday morning.

    Another Bear Stearns bear wearing a business tie attracted over 1,400 visits and a high bid of about $150.

    The T-shirt seller, Jennifer Cseplo of Dublin, Ohio, said her husband got the shirt as a gift four years ago and wore it to work out in.

    "I thought I would get $20 for it and be happy. This is pretty crazy," Cseplo said.

    On March 16, JPMorgan Chase said it would acquire its rival the Bear Stearns Co Inc. for only $2 per share, in a deal brokered by the Federal Reserve aimed at heading off a bankruptcy and a spreading crisis of confidence in the global financial system.

    On Monday, JPMorgan raised its offer to about $10 a share to appease angry stockholders who vowed to fight the original deal. Bear Stearns traded at $10.80 a share near midday on Tuesday.

    (Editing by Alan Elsner and Daniel Trotta)

    Goog's. Open. Socail supported by. Yahoo

    Work on me

    Reuters - Yahoo supports Google social network applications

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    Yahoo supports Google social network applications

    Tuesday, Mar 25, 2008 2:51PM UTC

    NEW YORK (Reuters) - Yahoo Inc said on Tuesday that it supports a program by archrival Google Inc to develop applications for social networks and will help create a joint foundation to keep it alive.

    Google launched its OpenSocial network in November to lure developers already creating popular Web applications on social networks like Facebook.

    Yahoo, Google and News Corp-owned MySpace said on Tuesday they will create the OpenSocial Foundation to maintain a neutral, community-governed forum for developing applications. It will be set up as a non-profit entity, with assets to be assigned to the new organization by July 1.

    (Reporting by Michele Gershberg, editing by Dave Zimmerman)

    More for. Yahoo says. Citigroup

    Buy me

    Reuters - Citigroup says Microsoft likely to raise Yahoo offer

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    Citigroup says Microsoft likely to raise Yahoo offer

    Tuesday, Mar 25, 2008 2:3PM UTC

    (Reuters) - Citigroup said it is likely Microsoft Corp <MSFT.O> will raise its $31-per-share offer for Yahoo Inc <YHOO.O> and upgraded Yahoo shares to "buy" from "hold."

    The brokerage also raised its price target on Yahoo's stock to $34 from $31, saying it believed Microsoft remained committed to its offer and "is capable of and willing to" increase that bid to conclude the deal.

    "While we continue to see no other competing bidders, we believe Yahoo is aggressively pursuing strategic alternatives," analyst Mark Mahaney said in a note to clients.

    One possibility is a tie-up with Time Warner <TWX.N>, whereby Time Warner would contribute its online content assets to Yahoo in exchange for a stake, the analyst said.

    "We believe this could serve as a forcing function to a higher Microsoft bid."

    Citigroup said it continues to view a Microsoft-Yahoo deal as the most likely outcome.

    Yahoo shares closed at $27.52 Monday on Nasdaq.

    (Reporting by Jennifer Robin Raj in Bangalore; Editing by Vinu Pilakkott)

    U.S.A. security breach

    Can someone around here get a clue?

    Reuters - U.S. mistakenly sent nuclear missile fuses to Taiwan

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    U.S. mistakenly sent nuclear missile fuses to Taiwan

    Tuesday, Mar 25, 2008 3:56PM UTC

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. military mistakenly shipped four fuses for nuclear missiles to Taiwan in 2006, the Pentagon said on Tuesday, adding that the parts have been returned to U.S. custody.

    The military was supposed to ship helicopter batteries to Taiwan but instead sent fuses used as part of the trigger mechanism on missiles.

    No nuclear material was shipped to Taiwan, Pentagon officials said.

    The United States has notified China, which maintains a state of war with Taiwan and is modernizing its military to close the technology gap with Taiwan's mainly U.S. weapons.

    The fuse shipment marks the second embarrassing misplacement of nuclear or nuclear-related equipment announced by the Pentagon in the past year. An Air Force bomber last year mistakenly flew over the United States with nuclear warheads.

    The Defense Department has ordered the Navy and Air Force to take inventory of all nuclear and nuclear-associated equipment and material and U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has ordered an investigation into the fuse incident, said Ryan Henry, principle deputy undersecretary of defense for policy.

    "It was not crystal clear exactly what happened," he said.

    (Reporting by Kristin Roberts, Editing by Patricia Zengerle)

    In state prt 2

    More unrest in. Tibet.

    Do what. I say.

    Reuters - Tibet deaths, arrests and protests shadow Olympics

    This article was sent to you from Bombastic4000@gmail.com, who uses Reuters Mobile Site to get news and information on the go. To access Reuters on your mobile phone, go to:
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    Tibet deaths, arrests and protests shadow Olympics

    Tuesday, Mar 25, 2008 1:39PM UTC

    By Chris Buckley and Lindsay Beck

    BEIJING (Reuters) - At least two people have died in fresh protests in a Tibetan part of western China, reports said on Tuesday, as authorities made arrests in Tibet's capital Lhasa in an effort to reassert control over the restive region.

    State media said one police officer was killed and the exiled Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy reported one Tibetan protester shot dead and another critically hurt after unrest in Sichuan's Ganzi (Garze) Tibetan Prefecture.

    "The police were forced to fire warning shots, and dispersed the lawless mobsters," the brief Xinhua news agency report said, without mentioning any deaths of protesters, who it said attacked with rocks and knives.

    The latest news of unrest and arrests comes after protesters seeking to put pressure on China tried to disrupt the Beijing Olympic Games torch lighting ceremony in Greece, an act that Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang called "disgraceful".

    Beijing had hoped the torch's journey around the world and through China would be a symbol of confident national unity ahead of the Games, which open on August 8.

    Instead, it is caught in a war of words with the Dalai Lama, Tibetan Buddhism's spiritual leader, and his supporters.

    Beijing has accused the Nobel Peace Prize-winning monk of masterminding monk-led marches in Lhasa and then an anti-Chinese riot there in mid-March, which authorities say killed 19.

    Since then, Tibetan parts of western China have seen ongoing protests, despite a massive influx of police and troops.

    The 72-year-old Dalai Lama denies that he is behind the unrest and his government-in-exile says 140 people have died in the violence.

    China's Communist authorities, which entered Tibet in 1950, have barred foreign journalists from the remote, mountain region, making the competing claims difficult to independently check.

    SNOW LION

    In Lhasa, 13 people were arrested for a March 10 protest, the Tibet Daily reported, the first announcement of consequences for those involved in that largely peaceful march.

    Monks yelled "reactionary slogans" and held up a banner of snow-mountain lions, the Tibet Daily said.

    The snow lion is a widely used symbol of demands for Tibetan independence from China and the march came on the anniversary of a failed 1959 uprising against Chinese rule.

    Nicholas Bequelin of Human Rights Watch said the arrests of apparently peaceful protesters marked a turn in the security crackdown in Tibet towards political targets.

    "This official account gives credence to the fact that the protests in Lhasa started peacefully, and only in subsequent days, after repeated police suppression, did they become violent," said Bequelin.

    China's Minister for Public Security, Meng Jianzhu, made an inspection tour of Lhasa and vowed stricter management of Tibetan Buddhist monasteries, the Tibet Daily reported.

    The riot "not only violated the law, it also seriously violated the fundamental teachings of Tibetan Buddhism", the newspaper quoted Meng as saying, adding the Dalai Lama had long been disqualified as a true Buddhist.

    "We must continue to deepen patriotic education in the monasteries," Meng said.

    Buddhist monks were involved in protests leading to the March 14 riot, and threw rocks and hot water at police, the Tibet paper said, calling them "loyal running dogs of the Dalai clique".

    But China's assertion that protests outside of Lhasa have faded after a massive influx of troops across Tibet and nearby areas was shaken when state media announced the Ganzi unrest.

    TORCH TURMOIL

    The ongoing unrest -- and China's response to it -- heightens the government's prospects of facing worldwide protests as the Olympic torch circles the globe.

    Protesters sought to disrupt the torch-lighting ceremony in Greece on Monday despite a tight police cordon, a moment that went unmentioned in the Chinese press which instead described the day as "a perfect start on the road to gold".

    Press freedom group Reporters Without Borders said three of its members had tried to stage Monday's protest, and exiled Tibetans have pledged to demonstrate against the torch.

    Human Rights Watch said the torch should not go through Tibet unless China agrees to an independent investigation into the unrest there.

    French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner also called for an end to "repression" in Tibet and said he had requested his Chinese counterpart, Yang Jiechi, allow journalists into the region.

    (Additional reporting by Emma Graham-Harrison in Beijing and Krittivas Mukherjee in New Delhi; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)

    ("Countdown to Beijing Olympics" blog at

    http://blogs.reuters.com/china)

    Gov. Paterson

    From luv guv to drug guv

    About Me

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    If you know me then you know my name. I am The Black Rider and the world is my Flame. The rider writes, observes, creates, produces, and learns the world around him. Ride on. Ride on!

    The Remnants