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    Wednesday, December 30, 2009

    CNN - 8 U.S. deaths at military base in Afghanistan

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    8 U.S. deaths at military base in Afghanistan


    Eight Americans were killed in a suicide bombing Wednesday at a military base in eastern Afghanistan, according to a U.S. military official and a U.S. Embassy official.

    A suicide bomber wearing an explosive vest attacked Forward Operating Base Chapman near the district of Khost in Khost province, said a third official, who asked not to be named.

    The military official said the eight people were not from the military.

    There were conflicting reports as to whether the bomber walked into the dining facility or the gym at the base.

    Monday, December 28, 2009

    Reuters - Advocacy groups urge FTC to bar Google-AdMob deal

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    Advocacy groups urge FTC to bar Google-AdMob deal

    Monday, Dec 28, 2009 8:17PM UTC

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Two advocacy groups asked U.S. antitrust regulators on Monday to block Google's purchase of AdMob, a provider of advertising services for mobile phones, on antitrust grounds and to address privacy issues raised by the deal.

    Consumer Watchdog, a consumer advocacy organization, and the Center for Digital Democracy, an advocate of open access to the Internet, said in a letter to the Federal Trade Commission that the proposed deal would "substantially lessen competition in the increasingly important mobile advertising market."

    The groups also said the deal created privacy concerns, which are not normally considered in antitrust analyses.

    "Google amasses a gold mine of data by tracking consumers' behavior as they use its search engine and other online services. Combining this information with information collected by AdMob would give Google a massive amount of consumer data to exploit for its benefit," said the emailed letter, which was addressed to FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz.

    Google, the No. 1 online search engine, has said that the FTC requested additional information about the $750 million deal last week. In the absence of a second request, U.S. antitrust regulators normally approve deals within 30 days.

    If approved, Google's purchase of privately held AdMob would be its third most expensive purchase behind the $3.1 billion acquisition of DoubleClick and the $1.65 billion purchase of YouTube.

    Google said in an e-mail statement that it was certain that mobile advertising would remain competitive despite the deal.

    "Google has a track record of providing strong privacy protections and tools, like the new Dashboard, for users to take control or opt out of data collection, and it will apply the same approach to privacy following this acquisition," it said in the statement.

    Google generates the majority of its revenue, which totaled roughly $22 billion in 2008, by selling ads that appear alongside its Internet search results.

    The FTC could not immediately confirm receipt of the letter.

    Google has experienced increasing regulatory scrutiny as it has grown. The U.S. Department of Justice in September asked a New York court to reject Google's settlement with book publishers and authors groups that would allow the company to sell digital copies of some books.

    (Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

    Reuters - Nigeria bomber's home town blames foreign schooling

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    Nigeria bomber's home town blames foreign schooling

    Sunday, Dec 27, 2009 9:26PM UTC

    By Sahabi Yahaya

    FUNTUA, Nigeria (Reuters) - For residents in his home town, it was Umar Abdulmutallab's foreign education, not his roots in Muslim northern Nigeria, that radicalized him and led him to try to blow up a U.S. passenger plane.

    The 23-year-old London-educated Nigerian was charged on Saturday in the United States with trying to blow up Northwest Airlines flight 253 as it approached Detroit from Amsterdam on Christmas Day with almost 300 people on board.

    The son of a highly respected banker, Abdulmutallab's actions shocked Nigeria's wealthy elite and residents in his family's predominantly Muslim northern hometown of Funtua.

    "Everyone knew the Mutallabs and the father is honest, generous, helpful and above all a prominent banker. I cannot see why his son should be involved in this act," Funtua resident Ibrahim Bello, 65, said, close to the Mutallab family home.

    Like other elders from the community, Bello said Abdulmutallab's schooling abroad meant he had been brought up outside the customs of northern Nigeria, a region with a history of moderate Sufi Islam.

    "My only advice to the elite is to allow their children to mingle with the children of the masses so that he will have some of the traditional morals and values that (the elder) Mutallab himself enjoyed," Bello told Reuters.

    Behind him, a group of elderly men were listening to the local Hausa language services of the BBC and Voice of America radio stations, eager to hear the latest developments.

    FOREIGN SCHOOLING

    Abdulmutallab is from a privileged background in Africa's most populous nation, where most of an estimated 140 million people live on under $2 a day.

    His father, Umaru Mutallab, retired earlier this month as chairman of First Bank, the country's oldest, after a distinguished career in finance.

    Like many children from rich Nigerian homes, Abdulmutallab spent his formative years abroad. Information Minister Dora Akunyili said he had been living outside Nigeria "for a while" and only returned on the eve of the attack.

    "We were shocked when we heard a report from one of the international radio stations that the son of Mutallab is involved in an act of terrorism in the United States," said Ahmed Ibrahim, one of Abdulmutallab's contemporaries.

    "But many of us did not know the children of the Mutallabs because they did not grow up here in Funtua," he said, sipping Coca-Cola under the shade of a tree.

    The Mutallab home in Funtua, more than 250 km (155 miles) north of the capital Abuja, is a single-story brown and white building behind big gates, larger than surrounding houses but not ostentatious.

    Abdulmutallab was educated at the British School in Lome, Togo -- a boarding school mostly serving expatriates and students from around West Africa -- before studying engineering at University College London (UCL), where he is believed to have lived in a multi-million dollar city-center apartment.

    One friend who knew him in London said he kept himself to himself and always wore a skullcap, rare among young Nigerian Muslims who usually wear such caps only on religious occasions.

    Nigeria's This Day newspaper said he had been given the nickname "Alfa" -- a local term for an Islamic scholar -- while at school in Togo, for his preaching to other students.

    He also made two trips to Yemen during his student days for short Arabic and Islamic courses, according to a family friend.

    PRECEDENTS

    If Abdulmutallab was radicalized outside Nigeria as many of his compatriots believe, his case would have precedents.

    Ahmed Saeed Omar Sheikh, or Sheikh Omar, who was sentenced to death in Pakistan in 2002 for the killing of U.S. journalist Daniel Pearl and suspected of links to the September 11, 2001 attacks, came from a similarly privileged background.

    Born in Britain in the early 1970s, Omar was the son of a wholesale clothes merchant from Wanstead in northeast London who went to an expensive school but dropped out of one of Britain's top universities, the London School of Economics.

    Nigeria's predominantly Muslim north has seen bouts of religious unrest. But while some Western diplomats have expressed concern that its huge population and widespread poverty could attract foreign Islamic extremists, there has been no conclusive evidence of such a presence in the country.

    Clashes between security forces and a radical Islamic sect called Boko Haram -- which wanted a wider adoption of sharia (Islamic law) -- killed hundreds of people in the northern Nigerian city of Maiduguri in July.

    But Islamic jurisprudence in Nigeria is based on the moderate Maliki school of Sunni Islam and Boko Haram's ideology is dismissed by the country's Muslim leaders and most believers.

    Young Muslims who grew up in Funtua insist it was Abdulmutallab's life overseas, which they view as alien, not Nigerian Islam that gave rise to his extremist views.

    "We the children of the masses in this country, we don't know anything about terrorism because our parents are poor. They don't have the money to take us abroad," said 25-year old student and Funtua resident Usman Mati.

    (Writing by Nick Tattersall; editing by Robin Pomeroy)

    CNN - Al Qaeda claims responsibility for failed terror attack

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    Al Qaeda claims responsibility for failed terror attack


    Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula claimed responsibility for the attempted Christmas Day terrorist attack on a plane about to land in the United States, saying it was in retaliation for alleged U.S. strikes on Yemeni soil.

    In the statement, published on radical Islamist Web sites, the group hailed the "brother" who carried out the "heroic attack." The group said it tested a "new kind of explosives" in the attack, and hailed the fact that the explosives "passed through security."

    The group threatened further attacks, saying, "since Americans support their leaders they should expect more from us."

    "We have prepared men who love to die," the statement dated Saturday said.

    In his first public comment since the Christmas Day incident, President Obama said he directed his national security team to "keep up the pressure on those who would attack our country."

    "We will continue to use every element of our national power to disrupt, to dismantle and defeat the violent extremists who threaten us, whether they are from Afghanistan or Pakistan, Yemen or Somalia, or anywhere where they are plotting attacks against the U.S. homeland."

    A suspect, Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab, is being held for allegedly trying to blow up the flight carrying 300 passengers.

    Part of the explosive device was sewn into AbdulMutallab's underwear, a law enforcement official told CNN Monday.

    A preliminary FBI analysis found that the device AbdulMutallab allegedly carried aboard the flight from Amsterdam, Netherlands, to Detroit, Michigan, contained the explosive pentaerythritol tetranitrate, known as PETN. The source could provide no details on the device.

    The amount of explosive involved was sufficient to blow a hole in the aircraft, a source with knowledge of the investigation told CNN Sunday.

    Authorities have focused their investigation on how AbdulMutallab, 23, allegedly smuggled the explosives aboard the flight and who might have helped him.

    "We're ascertaining why it was that he was not flagged in a more specific way when he purchased his ticket, given the information that we think was available, allegedly was available," Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told CNN's "American Morning" Monday.

    AbdulMutallab, a Nigerian who had a multiple-entry visa to the United States, had been added to a watch list of 550,000 potential terrorist threats after the information provided by his father was forwarded to the National Counter-Terrorism Center, a senior administration official said. But "the info on him was not deemed specific enough to pull his visa or put him on a no-fly list," the official said.

    "Now, we are going to be looking at that process and how those lists are created, maintained, updated, exchanged and the like, because clearly this individual should not have been able to board this plane carrying that material," Napolitano said.

    Napolitano told CNN on Sunday there was no indication that the failed attack was part of any larger international terrorist plot.

    Tighter security measures in the wake of the incident triggered long lines at security checkpoints at airports in the United States and abroad. Obama has ordered a review of security procedures. Both the House and Senate plan to hold hearings on the incident.

    Do you feel safe in the skies?

    AbdulMutallab's family said Monday it had told authorities about his "out of character" behavior and hoped that authorities would intervene.

    The 23-year-old suspect was studying abroad when he "disappeared" and stopped communicating with his family members, they said Monday in a statement. His father, Umaru AbdulMutallab, contacted Nigerian security agencies two months ago and foreign security agencies six weeks ago, the statement said.

    "We were hopeful that they would find and return him home," the family said. "It was while we were waiting for the outcome of their investigation that we arose to the shocking news of that day."

    The suspect's family said his behavior prompted it to seek help.

    "The disappearance and cessation of communication which got his mother and father concerned to report to the security agencies are completely out of character and a very recent development, as before then, from very early childhood, Farouk, to the best of parental monitoring, had never shown any attitude, conduct or association that would give concern," his family said.

    The father of the suspect contacted the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria with concerns his son had "become radicalized" and was planning something, a senior U.S. administration official said.

    "After his father contacted the embassy recently, we coded his visa file so that, had he attempted to renew his visa months from now, it would have triggered an in-depth review of his application," a U.S. official said.

    The embassy -- which has law enforcement, security and intelligence representatives on staff -- reported the father's concern to other agencies, the official said.

    Passengers on the Christmas Day flight described a chaotic scene that began with a popping sound as the plane was making its final approach, followed by flames erupting at AbdulMutallab's seat.

    The suspect was moved Sunday from a hospital where he was treated for his burns to an undisclosed location in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service.

    He is charged with attempting to destroy the plane and placing a destructive device on the aircraft.

    AbdulMutallab's trip originated in Lagos, Nigeria. There, he did not check in a bag as he flew on a KLM flight to Amsterdam, said Harold Demuren, director-general of Nigeria's Civil Aviation Authority.

    Demuren said the suspect underwent regular screening -- walking through a metal detector and having his shoulder bag scanned through an X-ray machine.

    He then underwent "secondary screening" at the boarding gate for the KLM flight, according to officials of the Dutch airline.

    In Amsterdam, AbdulMutallab boarded the Northwest Airlines flight to the United States.

    The Netherlands' national coordinator for counterterrorism told CNN that AbdulMutallab had gone through "normal security procedures" in Amsterdam before boarding the flight to Detroit.

    Over the weekend in Britain, where the suspect studied engineering at a London university, police searched AbdulMutallab's last known address.

    Scotland Yard detectives on Sunday interviewed Michael Rimmer, a former high-school teacher who described AbdulMutallab as a "very devout" Muslim who had once expressed sympathy for Afghanistan's Taliban insurgency during a classroom discussion.

    But Rimmer, who taught AbdulMutallab at a school in the west African nation of Togo, said it was not clear whether the then-teenager was simply playing devil's advocate during the class.

    A federal security bulletin obtained by CNN said AbdulMutallab claimed the explosive device used Friday "was acquired in Yemen along with instructions as to when it should be used."

    Yemeni authorities said they will take immediate action once the attempted bombing suspect's alleged link to the country is officially identified.

    Thursday, December 24, 2009

    Reuters - The secret comic-book origin of "Sherlock Holmes"

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    The secret comic-book origin of "Sherlock Holmes"

    Thursday, Dec 24, 2009 7:23AM UTC

    By Borys Kit

    LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Before "Sherlock Holmes" was a movie opening on Christmas Day, it was a comic.

    Sort of.

    Lionel Wigram, one of the film's producers, wanted to do a modern retelling of the classic detective created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. "I wanted to present Sherlock Holmes not as fuddy duddy, 'Masterpiece Theatre' guy," said the British native.

    Wigram came up with a story treatment but "realized that wasn't going to be enough." He decided to give his story some comic book pizazz to convey the atmosphere and the attitude. It's one thing to write that the new Holmes has a Bohemian or rock-and-roll attitude, as Wigram was going for, but it's another to show a piece of art that embodies it.

    Wigram called DC Comics executive Gregory Noveck and asked him for assistance in finding an artist, and Noveck pointed him to John Watkiss, another Brit. Watkiss is a comic artist who's drawn for "Sandman," "Deadman" and "Savage Sword of Conan." He also worked on Disney's "Tarzan" and "Treasure Planet" movies.

    Wigram used his own money, $5,000 of it, to have Watkiss draw up scenes. Wigram then bound them in a comic-book form and published a small number to pitch his take.

    The final product is not exactly a comic book. There are no sequential panels or word balloons but rather beautiful, moody splash pages with occasional story notes along the borders.

    Wigram showed the book to Warners exec Dan Lin (who later became a producer on the movie) and then to Warners' president Jeff Robinov, who ultimately gave the movie the go-ahead.

    "What he drew was what I imagined, but better," said Wigram, who is surprised that more Hollywood types don't prepare these style of pamphlets when pitching ideas. "And if you compare Guy Ritchie's screen version to the images, there's a direct connection. Watkiss deserves a lot of credit and recognition for this."

    There was talk of DC making a "Holmes" comic, maybe using the images, maybe not, but the movie project found itself fast-tracked and swept away once Ritchie and then Robert Downey Jr. came on board, and Wigram never had a chance to revisit the idea.

    Tuesday, December 22, 2009

    Reuters - "Avatar" could get nine Oscar nominations

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    "Avatar" could get nine Oscar nominations

    Tuesday, Dec 22, 2009 5:22AM UTC

    By Gregg Kilday

    LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Since June, when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences opened the best picture race to 10 nominees, Oscar has been waiting for a knight in shining box office armor -- preferably a "Dark Knight": a commercial powerhouse with strong critical credentials.

    A large part of the rationale for opting for an Oscar Top 10 was the hope that Academy voters would embrace mainstream hits, thereby expanding the potential audience for the broadcast while avoiding the cries of protest from jilted fanboys who felt robbed when "The Dark Knight" failed to earn a best picture nomination last time around.

    But then another "Dark Knight" failed to materialize immediately. Consider: Pixar's "Up," released in May and now the No. 3 domestic grosser of 2009, is regarded as a possible contender -- if it isn't relegated to the animated feature category. "The Hangover," the year's biggest comedy at No. 4, with $277 million, would have to overcome the hurdle that it is the year's biggest comedy. "Star Trek" might have attracted appreciative reviews and a No. 6 rank at the box office, but it doesn't seem to have inspired much Oscar buzz in the top categories.

    In fact, you have to move all the way down the list of the year's top grossers to No. 22, "Inglourious Basterds," before finding another movie that appears to be in line for a best picture nomination.

    But just when it appeared that a whole host of smaller, specialty films were lining up to fill the available slots -- in the process, undermining the Academy's attempt to reach out to a wider audience -- Fox's "Avatar," with a veritable flourish of trumpets, has ridden to the rescue.

    There were plenty of skeptics awaiting the years-in-the-making film with a show-me attitude. But once it began screening two weeks ago, and in the wake of its opening Friday, James Cameron's space odyssey has redefined the awards-season contests.

    Critically, the movie's collective reviews stand at 83 out of 100 on the Metacritic Web site. At RottenTomatoes.com, 83% of the movie's notices were positive, and among the site's sampling of top critics, the approval rate rose to 94%. Even the Los Angeles Times' Kenneth Turan, one of the loudest voices torpedoing Cameron's "Titanic" in 1997, hailed the filmmaker's new movie, praising it for restoring "a sense of wonder to the moviegoing experience" and testifying "the film's romantic protagonists paradoxically end up feeling like creatures whose fates we care more about than we did Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet's on the boat."

    Commercially, "Avatar" appears on track as well. Its first-weekend domestic gross clocked in at $77 million, which was several million dollars higher than the studio's Sunday estimate. It remains to be seen whether it will attract the repeat business that floated "Titanic's" boat week to week. It's worth noting, though, that moviegoers showed a preference for seeing the movie in 3D -- 72% of the opening-weekend take came from 3D screens, 13% from Imax 3D screens. Since there's still a relatively limited number of 3D and Imax screens in play, that suggests the movie will play like an old-fashioned, leggy blockbuster, rather than the one- or two-weekend wonders of the standard superwide release, with moviegoers lining up for the available screens.

    All of which brings us back to the Academy, where the movie officially screened at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater on Sunday evening. The audience was packed, and the response was huge, with waves of applause greeting individual names during the end credits.

    Hollywood insiders, recognizing the technical leaps involved, already have begun applauding. None other than Steven Spielberg has called "Avatar" "the most evocative and amazing science-fiction movie since 'Star Wars.'"

    But it's not just about technique. Thematically, the movie also might strike a nerve with the Academy. "Honestly, it's the most liberal, old-fashioned Hollywood movie in years," said one member of Sunday's audience. "It's eco-friendly, and it's a diatribe against George Bush's America, raping and pillaging sovereign nations for their resources."

    So how big could "Avatar's" footprint be when the Academy noms are announced February 2?

    Right now, the number that's being bandied about is nine -- drawn from a menu that includes best picture, director, visual effects, editing, art direction, sound, sound editing, score and song. (Cinematography, costumes and makeup are more of a stretch, given how much of that work was done digitally.)

    Unlike "Titanic," which earned acting nods for Kate Winslet and Gloria Stuart, "Avatar" will have a tougher time winning over the actors branch unless it's feeling generous and rewards Sigourney Weaver with a supporting actress nomination for her feisty scientist.

    By rights, Zoe Saldana also should be part of the conversation for her warrior princess Neytiri. But while the actress might have displayed her versatility with her equally high-profile appearance this summer as Uhura in "Star Trek," she's not seen in the flesh in "Avatar."

    Even though the studio hopes to get out the message that the actors involved delivered full-blown performances that Cameron captured digitally, that's still a tough sell. Witness the fact that the Screen Actors Guild ignored "Avatar" when it handed out its noms last week. (One added factor: Most of the 2,300-member SAG nominating committee probably hadn't seen the movie by the time its nominating ballots were due December 14.)

    But even though "Avatar" isn't expected to pick up the 14 noms that "Titanic" commanded, if it makes it into best picture contention, that will be an achievement in itself since the Academy -- at least under its old five-pic rule poise -- has been fairly resistant to fantasy and sci-fi movies in its top category.

    Since 1977's "Star Wars," only 1982's "E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial" and the three "Lord of the Rings" movies at the beginning of this decade have made that select list of nominees. A movie like 1993's "Jurassic Park" -- groundbreaking in its day -- had to settle for visual effects and two sound noms, all of which it won.

    "Avatar" is looking like it will join that club -- and potentially attract lots of self-proclaimed Avartards to the March 7 Oscar broadcast as well.

    Adam Shankman, who's producing the show with Bill Mechanic, certainly was jazzed when he tweeted early Monday: "'Avatar' is not only brilliant but has the most powerful environmental message of the year. Amazing. Game-changer." Cue the dancing Na'vi.

    Monday, December 21, 2009

    CNN - Centenarian honored by Obama dies

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    Centenarian honored by Obama dies


    Ann Nixon Cooper, the Atlanta centenarian whose name Barack Obama invoked in his post-election speech as a symbol of America's struggles and progress, died Monday. She was 107.

    In his victory speech in Chicago, Obama said of Cooper, who was African-American: "She was born just a generation past slavery ... when someone like her couldn't vote for two reasons -- because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin.

    "At a time when women's voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, she lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach for the ballot."

    When Obama was sworn in as president, Cooper called it one of the greatest days of her life.

    "There was a time when they thought they could just kick us around," she said on Inauguration Day. "Now, it has changed."

    Cooper, who was just 19 days shy of her 108th birthday, died at her home surrounded by loved ones, friend Sally Warner told CNN.

    Cooper was born in Shelbyville, Tennessee, in 1902 and grew up in Nashville with uncles and an aunt who worked as domestic help for wealthy whites.

    She married Albert Cooper, a prominent dentist, in Nashville in 1922, and the couple moved to Atlanta, where they raised four children and were members of black society.

    She co-founded a Girls Club for African-American youths and taught community residents how to read in a tutoring program at Ebenezer Baptist Church, where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. preached.

    "Our days and nights were just social affairs," she recalled to CNN in 2008. Celebrities, including the late singer Nat King Cole, dropped in to visit.

    Three of Cooper's four children have died; her surviving daughter, who was by her mother's side Monday, is 84.

    When asked about the secret to her longevity, Cooper told CNN, "I don't know how it happened, but being cheerful had a lot to do with it. I've always been a happy person, a giggling person -- a wide-mouthed person!"

    To young people, Cooper offered this advice: "Keep smiling. No matter what, you get out and vote. Vote your choice."

    Saturday, December 19, 2009

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    Thursday, December 17, 2009

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    Links to doctor could deepen Tiger Woods' travails

    The headlines and stories about Tiger Woods are still rolling in on a daily basis, but they have taken a decidedly different turn over the past couple of days. These new dispatches have nothing to do with mistresses, tabloids and text messages. They are all about the FBI, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, a doctor and his performance-enhancing drugs.

    There is no evidence at all, not a known shred, that Woods used an illegal substance or cheated on the golf course in any way.

    We do know this from a New York Times story this week: A Canadian doctor who says he went to Woods' Windermere, Fla., home four or five times in February and March of this year to treat Woods' left knee with a legal, cutting-edge technique known as platelet-rich plasma therapy is under criminal investigation in the United States.

    MORE ON CASE: Doctor charged in CanadaRON ARTEST: Coverage of Tiger's troubles unfair

    And on Wednesday, we learned this: The doctor, Anthony Galea, was charged by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police after his Oct. 15 arrest in Toronto with selling an illegal drug known as Actovegin, and also with conspiracy to import an unapproved drug, conspiracy to export a drug and smuggling goods into Canada.

    The arrest was precipitated by an investigation that began when Galea's assistant was stopped at the Canadian-U.S. border. Human growth hormone and Actovegin were found in Galea's medical bag, which was in the car, according to the Times. HGH is a banned substance in sports under World Anti-Doping Agency guidelines, although it is not widely tested for because it requires a blood test. Since July 2008, the PGA Tour has had a drug policy in place that bans HGH but does not use a blood test. Woods was an early and outspoken advocate for drug testing on the Tour.

    The authorities also seized Galea's laptop, which the Times reported includes medical information relating to several professional athletes he treated.

    Tiger isn't talking publicly about any of this, but in an e-mail to the Associated Press, his agent, Mark Steinberg, said: "The treatment Tiger received is a widely accepted therapy and to suggest some connection with illegality is recklessly irresponsible."

    The day before, Steinberg wrote to the Times: "I would really ask that you guys don't write this? If Tiger is NOT implicated, and won't be, let's please give the kid a break."

    It was foolhardy of Steinberg to believe any news organization would not report on an association between someone like Woods and someone like Galea. Since 1988, when the Ben Johnson scandal broke at the Summer Olympic Games in Seoul, the enormously important topic of performance-enhancing drug use has been the biggest worldwide issue in sports.

    Associations between doctors and athletes, or sports medicine/nutrition gurus and athletes, have led to some of the most crucial performance-enhancing drug stories in sports, including those involving Johnson, Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi and Marion Jones. We are better as a society for having found out about them.

    For all the conversation about Tiger's titillating tabloid lifestyle, that by itself will not sink his golf career. But were he to have cheated in sports by using performance-enhancing drugs, his golf career likely would be over. Golf isn't baseball, where A-Rod can acknowledge cheating in spring training and be feted with a ticker-tape parade by autumn. Golf is a game of honor, where the athletes call penalties on themselves. Performance-enhancing drug use by such a high-profile person probably would kill a career in that sport.

    Understandably, the PGA Tour is monitoring the situation. "From what I read in the New York Times article, there is nothing that would suggest a violation of our anti-doping policy," Ty Votaw, the PGA Tour's executive vice president of communications and international affairs, said in a phone interview Wednesday morning. "We're taking what we read at face value. If there's more, we'll go from there."

    Otherwise, he said, "We don't talk about ongoing legal investigations."

    So this side of the Tiger Woods story moves along, fascinating in its own right, but so different from the other.

    Wednesday, December 2, 2009

    Reuters - FACTBOX: Sponsors stand by Tiger Woods after apology

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    FACTBOX: Sponsors stand by Tiger Woods after apology

    Wednesday, Dec 02, 2009 6:53PM UTC

    (Reuters) - Golfer Tiger Woods, engulfed in media speculation over his private life after a car accident in the middle of the night, apologized on Wednesday for "transgressions" in a statement that apparently addressed allegations he had extra-marital relationships.

    Several sponsors, who collectively pay Woods about $100 million a year to tout their products and services, said later on Wednesday their relationships would not change with one of the most recognized athletes in the world.

    ELECTRONIC ARTS INC:

    "Our strong relationship with Tiger for more than a decade remains unchanged. We respect Tiger's privacy, we wish him a fast recovery and we look forward to seeing him back on the golf course," the company said in a statement.

    TLC VISION CORP:

    "Tiger Woods is important to TLC Vision. Our relationship with him continues without change. This is a private matter and we have no further comment," the company said in a statement.

    DAVID SOKOL, CEO, BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY'S NETJETS INC UNIT:

    "Tiger Woods is one of the premiere athletes in the world and we are proud to have him involved with NetJets."

    PEPSICO INC'S GATORADE UNIT:

    "Tiger and his family have our support as they work through this private matter. Our partnership continues," the company said in a statement.

    PROCTER & GAMBLE'S GILLETTE UNIT:

    "At this time, we are not making any changes to our existing marketing programs. As a matter of policy, we don't comment on future marketing plans," the company said in a statement.

    NIKE INC:

    "Nike supports Tiger and his family. Our relationship remains unchanged," the company said in a statement.

    Officials with AT&T Inc, Accenture, Tag Heuer, and Upper Deck could not be reached for comment.

    (Reporting by Ben Klayman in New York; Editing by Frances Kerry)

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    Statement issued: Tiger Woods admits to 'transgressions'

    Tiger Woods says he has let his family down and regrets those "transgressions."

    His comments came after Us Weekly magazine published a cover story alleging that a Los Angeles cocktail waitress had a 31-month affair with the world's No. 1 golfer.

    Jaimee Grubbs told the magazine she met Woods at a Las Vegas nightclub the week after the 2007 Masters two months before Woods' wife, Elin Nordegren, gave birth to their first child. Grubbs claims to have proof in 300 text messages.

    Wednesday morning, the magazine published what it said was a voicemail provided by Grubbs that she said was left by Woods on Nov. 24, three days before his early morning car crash outside his home near Orlando.

    Woods issued the following statement on his website tigerwoods.com:

    "I have let my family down and I regret those transgressions with all of my heart. I have not been true to my values and the behavior my family deserves. I am not without faults and I am far short of perfect. I am dealing with my behavior and personal failings behind closed doors with my family. Those feelings should be shared by us alone.

    Although I am a well-known person and have made my career as a professional athlete, I have been dismayed to realize the full extent of what tabloid scrutiny really means. For the last week, my family and I have been hounded to expose intimate details of our personal lives. The stories in particular that physical violence played any role in the car accident were utterly false and malicious. Elin has always done more to support our family and shown more grace than anyone could possibly expect.

    But no matter how intense curiosity about public figures can be, there is an important and deep principle at stake which is the right to some simple, human measure of privacy. I realize there are some who don't share my view on that. But for me, the virtue of privacy is one that must be protected in matters that are intimate and within one's own family. Personal sins should not require press releases and problems within a family shouldn't have to mean public confessions.

    Whatever regrets I have about letting my family down have been shared with and felt by us alone. I have given this a lot of reflection and thought and I believe that there is a point at which I must stick to that principle even though it's difficult.

    I will strive to be a better person and the husband and father that my family deserves. For all of those who have supported me over the years, I offer my profound apology."

    ***

    Contributing: The Associated Press

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