Tuesday, April 30, 2013

In changing region, U.S. committed to military ties with Gulf Arabs

By William Maclean and David Alexander

DUBAI/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Washington is signaling its military commitment to its Gulf Arab allies at a time of unfamiliar strain in their decades old partnership.

Syria's civil war and Iran's nuclear program have led to tensions, with Gulf Arab states willing a more assertive U.S. response to bring Iran to heel and force Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from power. Growing U.S. energy independence has further complicated a relationship founded on oil and defense.

Some Gulf Arab oil states had even begun to wonder if the alliance was anything more than the "practical marriage of convenience for a finite period of time" that Henry Kissinger, in a 2007 interview, saw in Washington's ties to Saudi Arabia.

Washington is moving to dismiss such doubts, indicating its military partnership with the ruling dynasties who sit on a third of the world's conventional oil reserves will remain deep-rooted, even if trimmed by budget cuts at home.

"The United States isn't going anywhere. The United States is firmly committed to the security of all our regional partners," said a senior official accompanying U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in the Middle East last week. "We understand in a clear-eyed way what the threats are in the region."

Hagel began his week-long trip days after the Pentagon said it was finalizing a $10 billion arms deal that would strengthen the militaries of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, as well as that of Israel.

The agreement, more than a year in the making, would result in the sale of 25 F-16 Desert Falcon jets worth nearly $5 billion to the UAE. The UAE and Saudi Arabia also would be allowed to purchase weapons with so-called "stand-off" capabilities that enable them to engage the enemy with precision at a distance.

A few days before the trip, President Barack Obama welcomed to the White House Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed of the UAE, the largest U.S. export market in the Middle East.

In a joint statement they reaffirmed a shared commitment to "close defense and security cooperation, including joint training exercises, counterterrorism cooperation and the deployment of interoperable U.S. defense systems".

The deal, and Sheikh Mohammed's warm U.S. welcome, are the latest in a series of signals Washington is sending to the region of its undimmed resolve to support the ruling families, partners in Washington's confrontation with Iran.


The West's energy watchdog, the International Energy Agency, says it expects a continued fall in U.S. oil imports, with North America becoming a net oil exporter by around 2030 and the United States becoming almost self-sufficient in energy by 2035.

Some Gulf Arabs worry that a United States self reliant in oil might show less commitment to safeguarding the Strait of Hormuz, the world's main energy artery through which 40 percent of the world's sea-borne oil exports pass.

Ensuring global energy security is likely to remain an important part of U.S. strategy, said a U.S. official based in the Middle East. While U.S. purchases of Gulf Arab oil may be declining, global dependence is increasing. This fact engages American support, he said.

"Since the health of the U.S. economy is closely tied to the world's, there's every reason for Washington to help protect its allies here," said Les Janka, a former White House and Pentagon official who now heads a business consultancy in Riyadh.

When General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs, told the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank on March 18 that he hoped America would achieve energy independence, he added: "But I can assure you that at least from a military perspective . . . you will find that the future will be a period of greater commitment."

Pressed to elaborate by UAE envoy Yousef Al Otaiba, Dempsey replied that that commitment should not be measured in terms of carrier battle groups but in terms of improved collaboration.

"We just have to figure out how to help you do more, so that we can do less, but that doesn't mean less well."

Energy is far from the only concern. A U.S. pivot to Asia, perceptions of U.S. economic decline and U.S. military withdrawals, first from Iraq and now from Afghanistan, have blurred Gulf Arabs' security landscape.

Fear of Arab Spring contagion, too, means that Gulf Arab authorities see future threats coming as much from internal sources as from the external ones that were the original premise for Western military support.

Shashank Joshi of Britain's Royal United Services Institution said Gulf Arab officials appeared acutely aware the internal threat they now faced "doesn't quite yoke the Americans in the same way" the external threats once did.

On Syria, Iran and Bahrain, arenas for a region-wide tussle for influence between Sunni and Shi'te powers, Washington's preference for dialogue appears weak to some Gulf Arabs.


In Bahrain, home of the U.S. Fifth Fleet and an important Western ally in keeping Hormuz open, a simmering revolt by its Shi'ite Muslim majority has prompted calls by some in Washington for U.S. ships to base elsewhere.

Echoing the view of many Western analysts, Dubai-based Robert Jordan, a former U.S. ambassador to Riyadh, said he was concerned about the message - "we're here today and gone tomorrow" - that a pullout would send. "Perception becomes reality in this part of the world," he said.

Gulf rulers are acutely aware they depend for their security on people who live thousands of miles away, who do not share their religion or lifestyle, and above all who sympathize with the democratic impulse at the origin of the Arab revolts.

In December a summit of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council announced plans to set up a unified military command to tighten defense cooperation.

GCC states are increasingly well-armed. Defense spending by GCC states rose about 9 percent to $74 billion last year, estimated Nicole Loeser, Middle East analyst at Forecast International. She predicts it will hit $86 billion in 2017.

Yet Gulf Arab states have faced a host of obstacles to military integration, including a lack of common equipment and their own reliance on bilateral accords with their U.S. ally.

Abdulkhaleq Abdullah, a political scientist in the United Arab Emirates, said confidence in America had dropped because of disagreements with Washington over Syria and dismay over its security failures in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But America remained indispensable. "We live in a very dangerous region, so ... our ties with America remain strong".

(Additional reporting by Phil Stewart in Washington and Mahmoud Habboush in Dubai; editing by Janet McBride)

Source: http://news.yahoo.com/changing-region-u-committed-military-ties-gulf-arabs-134213071.html

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5 car bombs kill 36 in Shiite areas across Iraq

Civilians gather at the scene of a car bomb attack in the southern Shiite city of Karbala, 50 miles (80 kilometers) south of Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, April. 29, 2013. Five car bombs exploded Monday in predominantly Shiite cities and districts in central and southern Iraq, killing and wounding dozens of people, police said. (AP Photo)

Civilians gather at the scene of a car bomb attack in the southern Shiite city of Karbala, 50 miles (80 kilometers) south of Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, April. 29, 2013. Five car bombs exploded Monday in predominantly Shiite cities and districts in central and southern Iraq, killing and wounding dozens of people, police said. (AP Photo)

(AP) ? Five car bombs struck in predominantly Shiite cities and districts in central and southern Iraq on Monday, killing 36 people and wounding dozens in the latest wave of violence roiling the country, Iraqi officials said.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for Monday's blasts but coordinated bombings in civilian areas are a favorite strategy used by al-Qaida in Iraq.

Since last Tuesday and including the latest deaths, at least 218 people have been killed in attacks and battles between gunmen and security forces that began with clashes at a Sunni protest camp in northern Iraq.

The deadliest attack on Monday was in the southern city of Amarah, where two parked car bombs went off simultaneously in the early morning near a gathering of construction workers and a market, killing 18 people and wounding 42, the police said.

That attack was followed by another parked car bomb explosion near a restaurant in the city of Diwaniyah, which killed nine people and wounded 23. At least three cars were left charred and twisted from the blast outside a two-story building whose facade was damaged in the bombing. Shop owners and cleaners were brushing debris off the bloodstained pavement.

Amarah, some 320 kilometers (200 miles) southeast of Baghdad and Diwaniyah, 130 kilometers (80 miles) south of the capital, are heavily Shiite and usually peaceful.

Hours later, yet another car bomb went off in the Shiite city of Karbala, killing three civilians and wounding 14, police said. Two early Islamic figures revered by Shiites are buried in the city, about 90 kilometers (55 miles) south of Baghdad.

And in the otherwise predominantly Sunni town of Mahmoudiya, about 20 miles (30 kilometers) south of Baghdad, a car bomb ripped through a Shiite neighborhood killing six people and wounding 14, another police said.

Ibrahim Ali, a schoolteacher in Mahmoudiya, said he was with his students in the classroom when he heard a thunderous explosion.

"We asked the students to remain inside the classrooms because we were concerned with their safety," Ali said. "The students were panicking and some of them started to cry," added Ali. He described burnt bodies and cars on fire at the nearby blast site.

The school was closed for the rest of the day and frightened students were told to go home. "We have been expecting this violence against Shiites due to the rising sectarian tension in the country," added Ali, the schoolteacher.

Four medical officials confirmed the casualty figures. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

Sectarian violence has spiked since Tuesday, when security forces tried to make arrests at a Sunni Muslim protest camp in the northern city of Hawija. The move set off a clash that killed 23 people, including three soldiers.

In a sign of mounting worries over the deteriorating security situation, Iraqi authorities on Monday decided to close the country's only border crossing with Jordan, beginning on Tuesday. A brief Interior Ministry statement didn't elaborate on the decision, saying only it is "related to the country's domestic affairs."

Iraq shut the same border crossing in January, not long after anti-government protests erupted, citing unspecified security concerns. The route from Jordan passes through the overwhelmingly Sunni cities of Ramadi and Fallujah, west of Baghdad, which have been hotbeds of Sunni anger at the government. A protest camp straddling the Jordan-Iraq highway in Ramadi is the center of the protest movement.

On Sunday, the government suspended the operating licenses of pan-Arab broadcaster Al-Jazeera and nine Iraqi TV channels after accusing them of escalating sectarian tensions in Iraq.

That move drew a strong criticism from some of the news outlets and a sharp rebuke from Human Rights Watch. Qatar-based Al-Jazeera said it was "astonished" by the move.

Apart from Al-Jazeera, the decision affected eight Sunni channels and a Shiite one. Al-Jazeera was founded with support from the tiny, energy-rich nation of Qatar, which is a leading backer of rebels fighting in neighboring Syria and is accused by many supporters of the Iraqi government of backing protests in Iraq too.


Associated Press writers Adam Schreck and Sameer N. Yacoub contributed to this report.

Associated Press

Source: http://hosted2.ap.org/APDEFAULT/cae69a7523db45408eeb2b3a98c0c9c5/Article_2013-04-29-Iraq/id-f3bcc3d3da5d4e7cbe580743139d45e4

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Monday, April 29, 2013

Mac Miller And Corey Feldman's 'S.D.S.' Beef, Frame By Frame: Watch!

Co-stars (and fictional enemies) break down Miller's latest video for MTV News.
By Rob Markman, with additional reporting by Katie Atkinson

Mac Miller and Corey Feldman in the video for "S.D.S."
Photo: Rostrum

Source: http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1706497/mac-miller-corey-feldman-sds-video.jhtml

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Saturday, April 27, 2013

House seen moving quickly to ease air-traffic delays

By Doug Palmer and Richard Cowan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The House of Representatives is expected to act quickly on Friday to finalize a Senate plan to ease nationwide air-traffic delays caused by last month's automatic federal spending cuts.

The Senate plan, passed unanimously late Thursday, will give the Department of Transportation flexibility to use unspent funds to cover the costs of air traffic controllers and other essential employees at the Federal Aviation Administration who had been furloughed.

Lawmakers were eager to act quickly since many would be scrambling to catch flights home and to other destinations at the start of a weeklong recess.

They also sought to avoid the growing wrath of the traveling public, which had dealt with significant take-off and landing delays since the furloughs started on Sunday.

The legislative action marks a surprising bipartisan effort, especially after many Republicans had blamed the Obama administration for manipulating funds to maximize the impact of the budget cuts, in a perceived bid to damage Republicans.

It does come with the risk, though, of unleashing furious lobbying campaigns to ease other program cuts triggered by the controversial "sequestration" that took effect on March 1, requiring across-the-board spending cuts among most federal agencies.

The White House on Friday welcomed Congress' move, but said it falls short of broader action needed to address sequestration.

"It will be good news for America's traveling public if Congress spares them these unnecessary delays," White House spokesman Jay Carney said in a statement.

Carney said lawmakers need to take additional steps to alleviate the impact felt beyond the airline industry from the cuts, such as among poorer elderly people, defense industry workers and others brought on by sequestration.

"Ultimately, this is no more than a temporary Band-Aid that fails to address the overarching threat to our economy posed by the sequester's mindless across-the-board cuts," he said.

Transportation officials have made other cuts to their budget but furloughs of air traffic controllers began this week, prompting traveler backlash at major hubs like those in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles and Atlanta.

On Friday morning, departing flights at Newark Liberty International Airport were delayed more than an hour and 15 minutes, and Boston's Logan Airport had departure delays of more than 30 minutes, both due to staffing, the FAA said. Teterboro airport in New Jersey, which handles many corporate jets, also was experiencing delays of more than 90 minutes due to staffing.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan, Doug Palmer, Susan Heavey and Alwyn Scott; Writing by Karey Van Hall; Editing by Bill Trott)

Source: http://news.yahoo.com/white-house-calls-effort-end-airport-delays-good-140534158.html

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NATO: 4 service members killed in place crash

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) ? A plane crashed in southern Afghanistan on Saturday, killing four international service members, NATO said.

Initial reporting indicated there was no enemy activity in the area at the time, but coalition personnel secured the site and the cause of the crash was being investigated, NATO said.

The brief statement did not identify the nationalities of the victims, or say where the plane went down.

However, Mohammad Jan Rasoulyar, deputy governor of the southern province of Zabul, said an aircraft belonging to foreign forces crashed Saturday afternoon in Shah Joy district. He said the site had been surrounded by international forces.

Source: http://news.yahoo.com/nato-4-members-killed-place-crash-165245206.html

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Boston marathon bombing: how it connects Tolstoy, David Foster Wallace

Echoes of one of Tolstoy's great works, inspired by the conflict between Russia and Chechnya, can be found in the final novel by David Foster Wallace.

By Nina Martyris,?Contributor / April 26, 2013

Tolstoy's novel 'Hadji Murad' reflects the author's fascination with the East-West struggle between the Europeanized rulers of Russia and the Muslims of Chechnya.


The Boston Marathon bombing brought together two disparate worlds: Cambridge and Chechnya. And at the same time it reasserted a connection between two great writers: Leo Tolstoy and David Foster Wallace.

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In the United States, many people became focused on the strife in Chechnya only last week. Tolstoy beat us by more than century. His 1912 novel "Hadji Murad" (written years earlier) tells a story of violence between Chechens and Russians that was historic even then.?

This slim novel ? a sapling when compared to the oaks of "War and Peace" and "Anna Karenina" but with a theme as weighty ? tells the tragic story of the eponymous Avar warrior, who, after a falling out with a Chechen chief, turns himself over to the Russians, escapes from them, only to find himself trapped like an animal in a ditch between the Russian militia and his own people. Finally, another tribesman cuts off his head. It is a brutal story but softened with touches of great tenderness and empathy, both for the ordinary Chechen as well as the ordinary Russian soldier.

Fast forward to the 20th century. Long before the Boston Marathon bombing, "Hadji Murad" seems to have left its imprint on the troubled and capacious mind of a writer who made Boston his home for three years: David Foster Wallace, author of the peculiarly brilliant novel "Infinite Jest." It is not in "Infinite Jest," however, that we see the striking influence of Tolstoy. Instead, it is found in Wallace's last work, "The Pale King" ? an unfinished novel completed and published in 2011, three years after Wallace's 2008 suicide.

Theme-wise the two novels are completely different. ("The Pale King," set in Illinois in the 1980s, satirizes the Internal Revenue Service.) The similarity is found in the form and style of the first chapter. The opening paragraph of "The Pale King," in which the weeds and wild flowers in an Illinois field are described with a forensic clarity, is an unmistakable bow to the first page of "Hadji Murad," where the flowers and weeds of the Chechen mountains are evoked with the rustic lyricism that Tolstoy did so well.

Consider the opening of Tolstoy?s novel:

Source: http://rss.csmonitor.com/~r/feeds/csm/~3/0G-n8hP7SXg/Boston-marathon-bombing-how-it-connects-Tolstoy-David-Foster-Wallace

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Finance Friday: More resources for writing about kids and money ...

kids finance

Use these ideas to tackle the topic of children and finance.

In our final Finance Friday, an April?round-up of tips and resources for personal finance angles in honor of National Financial Literacy Month, I wanted to offer some additional ideas for writing about children and financial skills.? Many money missteps by adults might be averted if kids and teens had more exposure to personal finance lessons. (Note: Don?t miss last week?s post, which offered an initial round of resources for stories on kids and financial literacy.)

If you want to structure locally-sourced personal finance primers for kids, try seeking out a panel of experts, including perhaps a credit-union budget counselor, a Certified Financial Planner, a representative of a credit-counseling agency (find one certified by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling) and perhaps an academic from a consumer sciences program or your state?s cooperative extension service.? They likely have prepared materials on basics like how savings, checking and charge accounts work, to mortgage basics, to the fundamentals of savings and investing.? I think the key concept in any primer (for kids or adults) is compound interest ? because knowing how it works can inform young people about the ramifications of decisions that range from saving a portion of high-school earnings to buying a car to the consequences of taking out student loans.?

I once, for example, wrote a personal finance story in which a CFP analyzed the finances of a 21-year-old who had reluctantly chosen a full-ride scholarship at a regional school over the chance to attend (and pay for) a more prestigious college.? The young graduate perked up considerably when the adviser told him that this decision alone?likely would make a $600,000-plus difference to his age-60 nest egg, due to the scholarship.? Get your experts to run similar real-life or hypothetical scenarios that reflect the decisions teens and young adults will be making in the near future.?

For other basics, the Jumpstart Coalition is always a good source of links and resources; check out its National Standards in K-12 Personal Finance Education as a benchmark of what kids should be learning at various age ranges.?

And even if you don?t cover personal finance directly, you may be able to find some relationship to kids and money on your beat.? If you cover financial services, for example, you might seek out banks and credit unions that offer special youth accounts.? Wells Fargo, for example, offers a??hands-on banking? course and free savings accounts for young children, while USAA offers similar banking products.? You might compare those that are available in your area to point out fees and other caveats.

If you cover small business, consider a feature on some angle related to Junior Achievement, which last year published a Teens and Personal Finance report, or other service programs that teach young people business and money-management skills.?? Various entrepreneurs have come up with products, such as those offered via the Future Investors Club of America ? and here?s one in Kansas, the MoneySmart Financial Management Camp for middle schoolers, that is sponsored by the state and a credit-union trade group.?

?Here?s?a company that has developed the audaciously named ?Camp Millionaire? for kids and appears to license or market it through credit unions and the like.? And sites like Three Jars tout the concept of divvying allowances and the like into savings, spending and sharing (charitable funds) and offer online trackers so children can keep track of the cash parents are holding for them.? Are any entrepreneurs near you targeting the youth personal finance market with seminars, camps, books, websites?or products?

Source: http://businessjournalism.org/2013/04/26/finance-friday-resources-writing-kids-money/

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Kyocera Elite for Verizon and XTRM for US Cellular both leaked

Kyocera Elite for Verizon and XTRM of US Cellular leaked

Kyocera does a good line in rugged (and often unconventional) smartphones, although this pair of leaked handsets, apparently headed to Verizon (left) and US Cellular (right), both appear to cut a more typical profile. As is often the way with serial leak artist @evleaks, there's no full spec sheet to hand, although the US Cellular-bound XTRM appears to been given some bumper protection around the corners and will likely match that hardy name. Verizon will get the LTE-capable Elite, although we'll have to wait for either the carriers -- or Kyocera itself -- to let us in on all the other details.

Filed under: ,


Via: Phone Arena

Source: @evleaks (Twitter)

Source: http://www.engadget.com/2013/04/26/kyocera-elite-for-verizon-and-xtrm-for-us-cellular-leaked/?utm_medium=feed&utm_source=Feed_Classic&utm_campaign=Engadget

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Thursday, April 11, 2013

Gun control bill clears first hurdle in Senate

Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., right, and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., finish a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, April 10, 2013, announcing that they have reached a compromise on background checks for gun buyers in the aftermath of the horrific Connecticut school shootings in December 2012. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., right, and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., finish a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, April 10, 2013, announcing that they have reached a compromise on background checks for gun buyers in the aftermath of the horrific Connecticut school shootings in December 2012. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

(AP) ? Gun control supporters have won the first Senate showdown over restricting firearms, rejecting an effort by conservatives to derail a package of gun curbs before debate could even begin.

The 68-31 vote gave an initial burst of momentum to efforts by President Barack Obama and lawmakers, mostly Democrats, to impose gun restrictions following the December carnage at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.

Gun control supporters needed 60 votes to block the conservatives.

The legislation would subject more firearms buyers to federal background checks, strengthen laws against illicit gun trafficking and increase school safety aid. Advocates say the measures would make it harder for criminals and the mentally ill to get weapons.

Opponents say the restrictions would violate the Constitution's right to bear arms and would be ignored by criminals.

Associated Press

Source: http://hosted2.ap.org/APDEFAULT/3d281c11a96b4ad082fe88aa0db04305/Article_2013-04-11-Gun%20Control-Congress/id-dce0082f360f49128c759057529d0401

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Deadly end to Georgia hostage standoff

SUWANEE, Ga. (AP) ? An armed man who was having financial problems held four firefighters for hours in a suburban Atlanta home, demanding his cable and power be turned back on, before being shot dead when SWAT members stormed the house, authorities said Wednesday. The hostages had cuts and bruises from explosions that officers set off to distract the gunman before moving in, but they will be fine, a fire official said.

Minutes before the police announcement on the resolution, a huge blast could be heard a quarter-mile away from the home, shuddering through the Suwanee neighborhood, setting off car alarms.

Earlier Wednesday, five firefighters responded to what seemed like a routine medical call and were eventually taken hostage by an unidentified suspect inside the house, police said. The gunman released one of the firefighters to move a fire truck but held the other four.

Dozens of police and rescue vehicles surrounded the home and a negotiator was keeping in touch with the gunman, police said. The situation remained tense until the blast rocked the neighborhood of mostly two-story homes and well-kept lawns. Residents unable to get into their neighborhood because of the police cordon flinched and recoiled as the enormous blast went off.

Soon after the stun blast, officers exchanged gunfire with the suspect and a SWAT member was shot in the hand or arm, but should be fine, said Gwinnett County Police Cpl. Edwin Ritter. Ritter would not saw how the gunman was fatally shot, saying it was being investigated.

"The explosion you heard was used to distract the suspect, to get into the house and take care of business," Ritter said in a news conference minutes after the resolution. He said the situation had gotten to the point where authorities believed the lives of the hostages were in "immediate danger."

The gunman, who has not been identified, demanded several utilities be restored, Ritter said. According to public records, the home is in foreclosure and has been bank-owned since mid-November.

"It's an unfortunate circumstance we did not want to end this way," Ritter said. "But with the decisions this guy was making, this was his demise."

Firefighters were able to use their radios to let the dispatch center know what was going on, said Fire Capt. Tommy Rutledge said, and Ritter said officials decided to "get control of the situation" and do it swiftly.

The incident occurred about 35 miles northeast of Atlanta, in the Interstate 85 corridor, and Rutledge said the initial medical call seemed routine and firefighters did not believe there was any danger. One engine and one ambulance responded. Ritter said authorities didn't yet know if the suspect may have faked a heart attack or some other problem to bring the firefighters to his home.

"Our firefighters responded to a call they respond to hundreds of times, and that's a medical emergency," Rutledge said.

Two ambulances could be seen leaving after the gunfire ended.

Asked what kind of weapon or weapons the suspect had, Ritter said he didn't immediately know. He said investigators were in the house where the suspect's body remained.

A spokeswoman for Gwinnett Medical Center said Wednesday night that five firefighters and a police officer were treated at the hospital and all were in good condition. A couple firefighters had already been released, and it was expected that all of the firefighters would be going home Wednesday night.

"In talking to the firefighters and their families just now, they're relieved," the fire department's Rutledge said Wednesday evening at the same briefing, according to video posted by WSB-TV. "They're simply relieved that the situation is over, that their family members are with them and that they're safe."

This was the second time in recent months that firefighters have been targeted.

On Dec. 24, a man in upstate New York set his house ablaze and shot and killed two firefighters as they arrived, then himself. Two other firefighters and a police officer were wounded.


Lucas reported from Atlanta.

Source: http://news.yahoo.com/gunman-holding-firefighters-killed-4-hostages-ok-000534641.html

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Tampa Bay Times issues funny ?Star Wars? correction

Blair is back!On April 29, when "One Life To Live" starts its new life online (weekdays, via Hulu, Hulu Plus and iTunes), Kassie DePaiva will once again bring to life Blair Cramer -- part sexy single mom and part club-running businesswoman, with a sprinkling of mischief thrown in for good measure.

Source: http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/sideshow/tampa-bay-times-issues-funny-star-wars-correction-212322912.html

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Scientists use islands to gauge rainfall's effect on landscapes

Apr. 10, 2013 ? If you've ever stood on a hill during a rainstorm, you've probably witnessed landscape evolution, at least on a small scale: rivulets of water streaming down a slope, cutting deeper trenches in Earth when the rain turns heavier.

It's a simple phenomenon that scientists have long believed applies to large-scale landforms as well -- that is, rivers cut faster into mountains that receive heavier precipitation. It's thought that if rainfall patterns influence how rivers cut into rock, over time, the cumulative erosion and its effects on rock deformation can ultimately control how entire mountain ranges take shape. However, this seemingly intuitive theory -- that precipitation influences how quickly landscapes erode -- has been difficult to verify, because many other factors, such as rock strength and tectonic-plate motions, can also influence erosion rates.

Now researchers in MIT's Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences (EAPS) have tested this theory by studying the relationship between precipitation and erosion on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, which has one of the world's steepest gradients in annual rainfall. The center of the island receives more than 9 meters (about 350 inches) of rain per year, while its shores remain relatively dry, with as little as half a meter (about 20 inches) of rainfall annually.

The researchers charted the island's precipitation and estimated how much land has eroded over Kauai's 4-million-year history. They found a clear pattern: The more rain a region receives, the more efficiently its rivers cut into rock, forming deep canyons in the wettest areas. The group used these measurements to test a widely used but rarely tested mathematical formula for erosion, and found that when they factored precipitation rates into the equation, they could accurately predict how rivers carved out the island over time.

"We now have empirical support for an idea that has been around for a while," says Ken Ferrier, who led the study while a postdoc at MIT and is now a postdoc at Harvard University. "That idea is that precipitation really should affect how quickly rivers cut through rock, which has many implications for how landscapes evolve."

Ferrier published the results of the study this week in the journal Nature. The study's co-authors are MIT graduate student Kimberly Huppert and Taylor Perron, the Cecil and Ida Green Assistant Professor of Geology in EAPS.

Rain versus the volcano

According to the researchers, Kauai's steep rainfall gradient and uniform volcanic rock make it an "exceptional natural laboratory" for testing the relationship between precipitation and erosion. Wind patterns sweep rain clouds from the ocean toward the peak of the island's volcano, where they rain out most of their moisture before passing over the rest of the island. As a result, annual rainfall is highest in the island's center, with a dramatic drop-off toward the coasts, and is also higher on the side of the island that faces the wind. If rainfall indeed has an effect on erosion, the team reasoned, then the island's erosion rates should exhibit a similarly dramatic pattern.

To test their theory, the researchers first looked at Kauai's current topography, which features large canyons funneling into the middle of the island, with smaller valleys on the outskirts. They then created a map of what the island looked like when it first formed more than 4 million years ago, before erosion altered its surface. To do that, the researchers identified gently sloping, nearly planar surfaces around the island that likely are remnants of the volcano's original terrain. They then used a simple mathematical equation to, in essence, stretch the remnant surfaces together into a roughly conical shape -- what Kauai's topography likely resembled when the island first formed.

Ferrier and his colleagues then measured the difference between the modern topography and this reconstructed topography to estimate the amount of rock eroded over time -- and divided this difference by the age of the uppermost volcanic flows to calculate an erosion rate. The researchers performed this exercise for more than 13,000 locations along 32 rivers throughout the island, measuring the erosion rates along each river. They then plotted these erosion rates against precipitation rates across the island and found that, after correcting for each river's steepness and the size of its drainage basin, rivers that received more rainfall eroded the land faster than those with less rain.

Feeding the flow

The researchers compared their measured erosion rates to a mathematical equation widely used to predict a river's erosion rate. This equation attributes the erosion rate to the river's steepness and the rate of flow through its channel, but the flow rate is typically assumed to depend only on the size of the river's drainage basin, ignoring spatial differences in rainfall. Other factors that might influence erosion rate, but which are not explicitly included in this equation, include the type of rock being eroded and the kinds of vegetation in the area.

Ferrier used measured precipitation rates to calculate the flow rate at every point along each river, and found a strong correlation between the equation's predicted erosion rates and the measured erosion rates -- a result that indicates how much precipitation really matters when it comes to predicting how a landscape will erode.

Sean Willet, a professor of geology at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, says the group's greatest strength was in its choice of experimental setting.

"In earth sciences, we cannot simulate many of these things in the laboratory; we have to go out in the field and find naturally occurring experiments," Willet says. "The study they did in Kauai did this beautifully. They found a place on the Earth where we knew much about what the original landscape looked like, we had a fantastic change in the climate where the rainfall went from half a meter to 9 meters over a few kilometers, and they used that as a naturally occurring experiment in order to quantify these processes. And to me, that's really what made this a valuable contribution."

"This is exciting because it shows that some bold ideas that have been proposed about landscapes are probably right," Perron says. "For example, if it rains more on one side of a mountain range, it might actually make the mountain range asymmetric and change its width. Just by changing atmospheric processes, you can change how the solid Earth is deforming. Now there is some empirical support for these ideas."

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The above story is reprinted from materials provided by Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The original article was written by Jennifer Chu.

Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.

Journal Reference:

  1. Ken L. Ferrier, Kimberly L. Huppert, J. Taylor Perron. Climatic control of bedrock river incision. Nature, 2013; 496 (7444): 206 DOI: 10.1038/nature11982

Note: If no author is given, the source is cited instead.

Disclaimer: Views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of ScienceDaily or its staff.

Source: http://feeds.sciencedaily.com/~r/sciencedaily/top_news/~3/u6yM3fNUGjE/130410154955.htm

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'Sustainable fishing' certification too lenient and discretionary

Apr. 10, 2013 ? The certification of seafood as "sustainable" by the nonprofit Marine Stewardship Council is too lenient and discretionary, a study by a consortium of researchers has found.

"When consumers want sustainable fish there are two options to meet the demand: fisheries can become more sustainable or the definition of sustainable can be watered down to be practically meaningless -- with MSC seafood, the definition has been repeatedly watered down," said Jennifer Jacquet, a clinical assistant professor in New York University's Environmental Studies Program and one of 11 authors of the study, which appears in the journal Biological Conservation.

The expansion of fishing in the oceans -- further offshore, deeper, and for different species -- has led to the depletion of many marine fish populations. In response, market-based efforts aimed at consumers, which include "eco-labeling," have emerged to change demand. Among these was the establishment of the London-based Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) in 1997. A joint project between World Wildlife Fund and Unilever, MSC was created as a conservation tool -- intended to provide ''the best environmental choice in seafood'' to consumers and to create positive incentives that would improve the status and management of fisheries.

However, conservation groups have raised concerns about MSC's certification process, calling into question the organization's claim that its eco-labeling program is "the best environmental choice in seafood." Its certification process is paid for by the fisheries, with rates dependent on the size and complexity of the fishery. MSC estimates that most certifications cost between $15,000 and $120,000. Since its founding, MSC has attached its certified label to more than 170 fisheries, with fishery clients spending between $2.3 and $18.7 million on certification.

To gauge the viability of MSC's labeling program, the researchers examined 19 formal objections -- raised primarily by environmental groups and amounting to one-third, by weight, of all MSC-certified seafood -- to certifications MSC has granted to fisheries for Chilean sea bass, Antarctic krill, and others. Objections are heard by an independent adjudicator appointed by MSC. In all but one of these 19 cases, the certification was upheld.

In the Biological Conservation analysis, the researchers sought to determine whether these fisheries, in fact, met the MSC's principles for certification.

The MSC uses three major principles that third-party certifiers interpret in determining whether a fishery is "sustainable" and may use the MSC label: sustainability of the target fish stock; low impacts on the ecosystem; and effective management. However, the researchers found many of these fisheries -- representing 35 percent of eco-labeled seafood -- did not meet MSC standards.

For instance, the longline fishery for swordfish in Canada appears to violate the "low impacts on the ecosystem" principle. This fishery has high levels of bycatch -- sea life accidentally caught in pursuit of other fish. The targeted catch of 20,000 swordfish per year results in bycatch of approximately 100,000 sharks as well as 1,200 endangered loggerhead and 170 critically endangered leatherback turtles.

"The MSC's narrow definition of sustainability is out of step with the general public perception of what that term means," said Claire Christian, one of the study's co-authors and a policy analyst at the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition. "When the MSC labels a swordfish fishery that catches more sharks than swordfish 'sustainable,' it's time to re-evaluate its standards."

The Alaska pollock fishery, one of the largest fisheries in the US, also received MSC certification even though, the researchers noted, several court rulings had determined that the fishery was not in compliance with national law -- an indication that it didn't meet MSC's "effective management" principle.

The authors believe the MSC needs to enforce the principles it created for certified fisheries. Otherwise, consumers believe they are buying "the best environmental choice" in seafood, when in fact there is a very good chance they are not.

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Story Source:

The above story is reprinted from materials provided by New York University, via Newswise.

Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.

Journal Reference:

  1. Claire Christian, David Ainley, Megan Bailey, Paul Dayton, John Hocevar, Michael LeVine, Jordan Nikoloyuk, Claire Nouvian, Enriqueta Velarde, Rodolfo Werner, Jennifer Jacquet. A review of formal objections to Marine Stewardship Council fisheries certifications. Biological Conservation, 2013; 161: 10 DOI: 10.1016/j.biocon.2013.01.002

Note: If no author is given, the source is cited instead.

Disclaimer: Views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of ScienceDaily or its staff.

Source: http://feeds.sciencedaily.com/~r/sciencedaily/most_popular/~3/Frc1KAWQrqA/130410154902.htm

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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Batanes: A Year After | Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia

Me outside one of the stone houses in Savidug.

Me outside one of the stone houses in Savidug.

It?s Holy Week 2013 here in the Philippines. Since work left ?me with too little time to book an airline ticket and hotel?accommodation?for travel during the long holiday, I decided to stay home and write about my Holy Week travel last year. I have been wanting to go to Batanes (the northernmost part of the Philippines and is also the smallest province in terms of population and land area) for the longest time and it has been in my bucket list since the stone age. And the dream became a reality a year ago. The trip was initially planned for two persons but something came up with my companion and it left me with no choice but to travel alone since nobody wants to go with me. Ha! Ha! Hotel?accommodation?was booked a year earlier and the airline ticket was bought 6 months before I flew to my shangri-la.

Holy Wednesday, 4th of April 2012, the day of my flight to Batanes. I overslept! I arrived at the airport to find the counter closed 30 minutes before the scheduled take off time at 5:15am. I was at a loss. I?didn?t?know what to do. One year of preparation and there I was feeling numb and about to cry. The ground crew of Seair told me to go to their office next door and have my flight?re-booked?the following day. And so, that?s what I did. Luckily, there was still a vacant seat for the flight the following day and they were able to?accommodate?me for no extra charge. I went home, had lunch with a friend and slept the whole afternoon till early evening to make sure I will stay awake hours before my flight. Arrived at the airport at 3am the following day. The flight was slow but it was smooth.

Maundy Thursday, 5th of April 2012. Touchdown Batanes! The airport looks new but it has an old-fashioned attractiveness and charm because of its stone walls, which is peculiar to the island for it is frequented by typhoons. I didn?t know a single soul, but I spotted a few familiar faces in the crowd in the arrival area. They were a group of celebrities from Manila. The moment I went out, I immediately saw my name on a small board being held by a middle-aged man. He?s the driver from Fundacion Pacita, the hotel I was billeted for the?next?three days. The van ride to the hotel was nothing but magnificent. Hills and ocean as far as your eyes can see. There are occasional cows, too. No high rise buildings, no wide roads, no traffic, no pollution. ?This is going to be a very good Holy Week?, I said to myself.

Fundacion Pacita seen from the reception area.

Fundacion Pacita seen from the reception area.

My jaw dropped when I alighted from the van upon arriving at the hotel. The hotel?s exterior is so beautiful. It?s on top of rolling hills and sits at the edge of a cliff almost kissing the ocean below. This used to be the studio of internationally-acclaimed artist Pacita Abad. The hotel is full of her artworks. I was mesmerized! So, I picked up my jaw from the ground only to drop it again when I entered my room. The room I reserved is called the Idawud Room. It is the corner room in the far end of the main building and the private viewing deck is facing the vast ocean. The room has large glass windows that offered a good view of the blue sea. I asked the attendant, ? Is this viewing deck mine alone?? She replied, ?Yes Sir, all yours until you leave on Sunday. By the way Sir, your breakfast is now ready in the main dining hall. But you have a choice if you want your meals served here in your room or in your view deck.? A tear fell on my cheek when she left and closed the door behind her. This is so surreal! My dream is now starting to unfold. I started to unpack my things and started taking pictures of my room. It?s a good thing that I have complimentary bottles of water, coffee and tea complete with a boiling pot. The phone rang and I was informed that my tour guide is now ready and waiting for me outside. Adventure awaits. . . .

Key to the Idawud Room.

Key to the Idawud Room.

We started off by visiting DOST?s PAGASA Station where they used to monitor the weather of the islands. I think this is no longer operational because there were no people inside the building. Not far from the station is the ?Tukon Church which was built by the Abads. The ceiling was painted by local artists. These artists are supported by the hotel?s foundation because art is very close to Pacita?s heart. The Japanese tunnel is next on the list. They said that a lot of Japanese tunnels were constructed in World War II. The one we went to had some type of bunkers where the soldiers slept and they also?kept?their food. When we were navigating the interior of this tunnel, the walls were moist and there was a 90 degree drop. When we emerged from the tunnel, another view of rolling hills greeted us. We then proceeded to the lighthouses of Basco and Mahatao. These lighthouses are open and you can actually go inside and take pictures from its viewdeck. When you?re up there, you can just close your eyes for a moment and thank God for all these wonderful creations. We had to stop for lunch at Ms. Lydia Roberto?s restaurant. It was?sumptuous, complete with uvud balls, calamari, soup and fried fish dish. The rest of the afternoon was devoted to the Chapa?view deck?where there is a small grotto and it offers a great view of the ocean and the hills. The Valugan Boulder beach was mind-blowing. You can?t help but wonder, where did all those boulders come from? They said that the boulders were once spewed by Mt. Iraya when it erupted decades ago. However, the Ivatans started quarrying these stones and boulders to build the walls of their houses. It is now prohibited to quarry these stones. Here now comes the Honesty?Coffee shop. A lot have been said about this store. There is nobody in this store, just the goods. If you need something, by all means, get it and drop your payment in the box. I have read that the owner felt that she would be wasting her time if she would stay in the store the whole day. She might as well do her farming. Batanes, if I am not mistaken, has zero crime rate. Maybe she was banking on this that?s why she trusts all the people coming to her store. Last stop for the day was the House of Dakay. This is the oldest stone house in Batanes and the current occupant is Frestilda Dakay. In other blogs and write ups, she is named as Florestida Estrella or Lola Ida. She?s a bubbly, fine lady who speaks impeccable English. She talked about her growing up years and their life during the war. It was a very nice experience to talk to Lola Ida as the sun was setting on the horizon. I was smiling during the drive back to my hotel. Just a day in this beautiful island and a lot has happened. The sight of my room refreshed me. I took a long bath and got ready for dinner at Lydia Roberto?s again.

Since I knew that I will be travelling alone, I made arrangements before I left Manila with the famous photographer, that I will be joining her photo safari group for two days. And they will be arriving on Good Friday.

Good Friday, 6th of April 2012. Slept for the 8 straight hours. The sound of the waves the night before slowly dozed me to sleep. It?s a new day, new adventure! I was informed that I will picked up at around 9:30am. The photographer?s group will be arriving from Manila early. I heard a soft knock on my door. It was the hotel?s attendant. He?ll be bringing in my breakfast and he suggested that he set it up in my view deck. According to him, nothing beats enjoying an early breakfast in the?view deck?because everything is so serene. His words were true. The brewed coffee was really good as well as the beef tapa. They always include sweet potato in their set breakfast. Somehow the sweet potato in Batanes seem to taste differently, much sweeter. After breakfast, the photo safari group arrived on time. from here on all my meals and transportation has all been paid for from the fee I paid to join the group. We were taught all about photography the whole day while transferring from one spot to another. Fashion photography with the group members as models, portraiture, landscape photography as well. We were also taught how to use ambient light, how to diffuse our lighting and all. This day was a rewarding day for me because I was able to learn a lot from a very accomplished photographer.

Black Saturday, 7th of April 2012. We had to be up early today because we are going to cross the West Philippine Sea going to Sabtang. As I have read, the waves in the ocean can really go crazy. I informed the hotel?s kitchen that I need to have my breakfast very early on this day. I had it set up inside my room because it was still a bit dark outside. The staff were very efficient and well-mannered. Anyway, quick breakfast, quick bath and off we go to Ivana port to ride the falowa boat going to Sabtang island. When we got to the port at 8am, there were already tourists and locals?queuing?for the boat ride to the next island. The waters look calm but we still needed to wait for the approval of the coast guard if we can cross or not. We set sail at around 8:45am. The boat ride was quiet, just a few big waves and it took us 40 minutes to reach Sabtang Island. When we docked, the mayor of Sabtang was there to greet us. After the necessary paper works about registration, we went straight to the Sabtang Church. This church was built by the Dominicans in 1785. It was left behind in 1791 when the people in Sabtang were forced to transfer to Ivana. It was rebuilt in 1844 under the supervision of Fr. Antonio Vicente, O.P. The belfry was reconstructed by Fr. Gumersindo Hernandez, O.P. after it was detroyed by a typhoon in 1956. After talking to the current parish priest, we boarded our jeep and proceeded with our long and bumpy ride to Savidug. Savidug is the town in Sabtang where you can see the old stones houses in Batanes. We also went to Chamantad-Tinyan Sitio where the view is just awesome. Last stop is the Nakabuang Beach where we had a really tummy-filling lunch. ?This beach is the one with a natural arch of stone and moss and has white sand. And now, it?s time to sail back to Batan island. It was already 4pm. The boat ride back to Batan was nowhere near calm. Ha! Ha! For a first time tourist, it was kind of scary. The locals however, can still afford to talk and laugh. We arrived safely after the looooong ride. After dinner, it was already time to pack my things for my flight back to Manila the following day. Batanes is quite expensive. But everything was all worth the money. It was sad that this adventure had to end. Memories were made and these will last a lifetime. But reality is kicking back in. I need to work and save for another adventure in the future.

My view deck at dusk.

My view deck at dusk.

Source: http://blog.travelandleisureasia.com/destination/2013/04/09/batanes-a-year-after/

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Little League returns to Sandy-ravaged town

After Hurricane Sandy destroyed Island Park's field, fences and equipment, a nonprofit stepped in to donate much-needed items lost in the storm. It was a homerun for the kids, who got a chance to return to the sport that they love. NBC's Stephanie Gosk reports.

By Amy Perrette, Producer, NBC News

ISLAND PARK, NY ? In a small town on Long Island, still less than half rebuilt after Superstorm Sandy, Little League is finally getting underway.?

Andrew Barwicki, who?has been coaching Island Park Little League for four years,?choked up while watching his players take the field for the first time on Saturday.

?We have 220 kids that are playing this weekend and those kids are having the times of their lives,? he said.

Click here to learn more about the organization Pitch in for Baseball

Third baseman Hayden Smith, 10, is thrilled to be back on the field after Sandy made their home uninhabitable.?

He missed his fellow players while he and his family stayed in a friend?s basement as repairs were being made on their home.?Finally, on Little League?s opening day, they were able to move back into their house.


Baseball is a reason to spend time together, he says.

?It?s fun because I never got to do this in a long, long time,? Hayden said.

The storm damaged homes and burst sewage pipes, flooding the whole town under four feet of water.

?Two days after the storm, I came here, I looked at all of our equipment, and I realized it was completely lost,? said Barwicki, who serves as the president of both the Island Park Little League and Barwicki Investor Relations. ?That equipment floated away into the ocean.?We lost about $15,000 worth of equipment.?

Island Park Little League has been a mainstay of the community since it began in 1957, so the possible loss of the 2013 season was devastating.?

?People were out of their homes, they were displaced, people lost their jobs. I knew we could not go to the people of Island Park and ask them to pay,? said Barwicki.

That is when Philadelphia-based nonprofit ?Pitch in for Baseball? stepped in, replacing all the ruined equipment with donated gear.?

?Let your equipment play extra innings? is the organization?s motto.

David Rhode, executive director of ?Pitch in For Baseball,? founded the organization in 2005 in the wake of Hurricane Katrina when was coaching his own boys. He noticed that expensive gear was piling up in his garage, unused.?

?There have to be millions of people who have gear in their homes,? he thought at the time.??What if we were able to get that stuff in the hands of kids that really needed it??

Since its inception, the organization has supplied over $3 million of equipment to over 300 communities in the United States and over 75 countries worldwide, including Columbia, Haiti, and Iraq.?

?To give [children] the chance to play, for kids to be kids, for us is a tremendous privilege,? said Rhode.

The nonprofit is delivering nearly $150,000 worth of equipment to communities devastated by Sandy, including Island Park.

?Baseball?s incredibly important,? Rhode said. ?To be able to give something familiar like playing the game of baseball gives kids a sense of comfort, enables them to heal in a really simple way. Kids have been asked to sacrifice a lot.?

Hayden?s mother, Sarah Smith, is especially grateful to ?Pitch in for Baseball? for providing such a joyous moment for her son.?

?There?s been a lot of sadness and a lot of loss, so to see him?I?m over the top happy,? she said. ?I?ve been expressing sadness for so long, so the happiness is a little unfamiliar, but it?s great.?


Source: http://feeds.nbcnews.com/c/35002/f/653381/s/2a8a3008/l/0Ldailynightly0Bnbcnews0N0C0Inews0C20A130C0A40C0A90C176750A670Elittle0Eleague0Ereturns0Eto0Esandy0Eravaged0Etown0Dlite/story01.htm

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Celebrity Tattoos: Guess Who's Inked!

From family names to symbolic designs, see if you can recognize your favorite stars by their body art

Source: http://www.ivillage.com/celebrity-tattoos-guess-whos-inked/1-b-217630?dst=iv%3AiVillage%3Acelebrity-tattoos-guess-whos-inked-217630

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Pentagon struggles with high cost of health care (The Arizona Republic)

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Friday, April 5, 2013

Ala. Legislature votes to pardon Scottsboro Boys

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) ? Opening a final chapter to one of the most important civil rights episodes in American history, Alabama lawmakers voted Thursday to allow posthumous pardons for the "Scottsboro Boys": nine black teens who were wrongly convicted of raping two white women more than 80 years ago.

The bill setting up a procedure to pardon the group must be signed by Gov. Robert Bentley to become law. He plans to study the legislation but has said he favors the pardons.

All but the youngest member of the group, whose ages ranged from 13 to 19, were sent to death row after false accusations from the women and convictions by all-white juries. All were eventually freed without executions. The case became synonymous with racial injustice and set important legal precedents, including a Supreme Court decision that outlawed the practice of systematically excluding black people from juries.

The last of the men died in 1989.

The House approved the legislation Thursday morning in a 103-0 vote. The measure earlier passed the Senate 29-0.

"This is a great for Alabama. It was long overdue," said Democratic Rep. Laura Hall of Huntsville, who sponsored the bill in the House. Democratic Rep. John Robinson of Scottsboro said the pardons "should have happened a long time ago."

House Speaker Mike Hubbard, a Republican, said, "You can't change history, but you can take steps to right the wrongs of the past. The fact that this passed unanimously shows that today's 21st century Alabama is far removed from the one that caused such pain for so many so long ago."

That distance is still being measured.

Benjamin Todd Jealous, president and CEO of the NAACP, applauded the correction of "an historic miscarriage of justice." But he noted that Alabama is involved in a Supreme Court case over the Voting Rights Act and has passed laws called discriminatory against immigrants in the country illegally.

"Like so many communities that have had tried to move beyond their ugliest chapters, Alabama has learned you can only move forward if you are honest about your past," Jealous said. "It's heartening that this was a unanimous vote."

"Unfortunately," he continued, "Alabama still needs to confront its present."

Susan Glisson, executive director of the Institute for Racial Reconciliation at the University of Mississippi, also was gladdened by the measure. "It is an opportunity for us to understand that period, especially the ways in which blacks were deemed inferior and therefore not worthy of equal treatment before the law," she said.

But she found it ironic that it happened while Alabama is challenging its requirements under the Voting Rights Act, and said that the amount of time it took to pass may lead some to consider it an "empty gesture."

"For those of us who care about where our country's headed, I would hope we would take the opportunity to ask difficult questions about what reconciliation really means and also to understand the critical role that education and justice plays in its accomplishment," Glisson said.

The nine teens from Georgia and Tennessee were accused of raping two white women on a freight train in north Alabama in 1931. At this time during the Great Depression, many people would sneak aboard for free rides between cities. There had been a fight between whites and blacks on the train, and the two women made the false rape accusations in hopes of avoiding arrest.

The defendants were convicted in trials where, as typical in such Deep South cases during Jim Crow, guilty verdicts were never in doubt. The Communist Party seized on the case as an opportunity to make inroads among black people and liberals, and its legal arm was named as their attorneys. There were years of appeals ? some successful, as one of the women recanted and said their claim was a lie. All the men were eventually freed.

The case set important legal precedents, including Supreme Court rulings that guaranteed the right to effective counsel and barred the practice of keeping blacks off juror rolls.

It has also retained cultural resonance decades later. A Broadway musical entitled "The Scottsboro Boys" was staged in 2010, the same year a museum dedicated to the case opened in Scottsboro.

The Senate sponsor, Republican Sen. Arthur Orr of Decatur, credited Sheila Washington, founder of the Scottboro Boys Museum, for pursuing the legislation after the governor and parole board said they didn't have the legal authority to issue pardons to the deceased.

If the bill is signed into law, a petition would need to be filed for each of the men for each of them to be pardoned, said Eddie Cook, executive director of the state parole board. The parole board will then decide whether to grant the pardon. Previously, there had not been a procedure for pardoning someone who is dead.

Washington said the pardons would finally shine a light on "this dark injustice."

"I didn't sleep at all last night. I was nervous and teary eyed," she said.

Orr said it was unfortunate that the pardons are coming after all the Scottsboro Boys have died, but the legislation does let the state write a "better final chapter."

"Their lives were ruined by the convictions," he said. "By doing this, it sends a very positive message nationally and internationally that this is a different state than we were many years ago."


Johnson reported from Montgomery. Washington covers race and ethnicity for The Associated Press. He is reachable at www.twitter.com/jessewashington.

Source: http://news.yahoo.com/ala-legislature-votes-pardon-scottsboro-boys-160219720.html

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