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Friday, December 31, 2010

Top ’10 Stories Include Laptop Spying, Record Snow

Top ’10 Stories Include Laptop Spying, Record Snow

Snow

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The wealth of natural gas buried in the Marcellus Shale region became an explosive issue in Pennsylvania over the past year, with companies, landowners, lawmakers and environmentalists clashing fiercely over drilling.

For full story go to: http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/

Villanova Wins Classic Over Temple, 78-74

Villanova Wins Classic Over Temple, 78-74

Jay Wright2

VILLANOVA (CBS)—Philadelphia lives in that rarefied air of college basketball where six quality Division I teams play within miles of each other. There is no other special bond like it in the country. And every so often, area hoops fans are treated to something special—when two of the area powerhouses are nationally ranked and there isn’t much of a difference between them.

Thursday night presented one of those rare times, when Villanova, rated No. 8 nationally by the Associated Press, hosted Temple, rated No. 25, at the Villanova Pavilion.

What resulted was a classic—with Villanova staving off a furious Temple push to outlast the Owls, 78-74, before a packed and raucous crowd of 6,500.

For full story go to: http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/

Happy Holiday, Sixers Beat Suns 123-110

Happy Holiday, Sixers Beat Suns 123-110

Guard Jrue Holiday led the Sixers with 25 points (credit: AP)

Guard Jrue Holiday led the Sixers with 25 points

PHOENIX (CBS) - The 76ers did something last night they very rarely do. They won in Phoenix for the just the second time in their last nine trips.

Jrue Holiday scored 25 and Even Turner added 23 points off the bench as the Sixers took care of Phoenix 123-110. Andres Nocioni also had one of his biggest games as a Sixer, he finished with 22 points and 12 rebounds.

The Sixers had been just 3-20 in their previous 23 games on the Suns’ home floor, but they picked up this win with an age-old formula: They hit shots.

The Sixers shot 55 percent from the field and 86 percent from the line (30-35) in improving to 13-19 on the season. They also did all this damage without Andre Igoudala. The swingman missed his second straight game with tendonitis in his right Achilles’ tendon.

Steve Nash had 23 points and 15 assists in defeat for 13-17 Phoenix.

The Sixers are now 3-3 on this eight-game road trip which continues Friday night in Los Angeles with a game against the Lakers.

For full story go to: http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/

Cabrini Women’s Hoops Pumped About Game At Madison Square Garden

Cabrini Women’s Hoops Pumped About Game At Madison Square Garden

CabriniWomensHoops

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – On Monday night, January 3rd, the women’s basketball team of Division III Cabrini College will take on Albright.

At first glance, this appears to be your average midseason college hoops match-up. However, when you consider that the game will take place at Madison Square Garden, safe to say it will be anything but an average experience for the two teams.

For full story go to: http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/

Philadelphia Tribune Names Vick ‘Top Sports Story’ Of 2010

Philadelphia Tribune Names Vick ‘Top Sports Story’ Of 2010

(credit: Getty Images)

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - The Philadelphia Tribune has chosen Michael Vick as its ‘Top Sports Story’ for 2010.

Donald Hunt, sportswriter for the Tribune, says, “Vick has been the most compelling story in sports today. He’s put together an outstanding season — being named to the Pro Bowl and leading the Eagles to the NFC Eastern Division Title. And he’s a man who is making the best of his opportunity after paying a heavy price for his involvement with dogfighting. Michael Vick is basically rewriting his story, not only on the field, but off the field and for that he should be recognized for those efforts.”

For full story go to: http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/

Newspaper Written By Homeless To Make Del. Debut

Newspaper Written By Homeless To Make Del. Debut

one_step_away_newspaper_byEF_DL

WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) — A newspaper written by the homeless is coming to Delaware.

One Step Away, a monthly tabloid, will make its Delaware debut on Monday in Wilmington. The newspaper is published by Resources for Human Development, a national nonprofit human services organization, and may eventually feature stories generated by residents of Wilmington homeless shelters.

Initially, however, the stories will be by homeless shelter residents from Philadelphia, where One Step Away was launched almost a year ago. Homeless people write, illustrate and take photos for the paper as well as sell it.

For full story go to : http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/

Sequins Shining, Feathers Fluffed. Fancy Brigades Ready To Strut

Sequins Shining, Feathers Fluffed. Fancy Brigades Ready To Strut

The Fancy Brigades are known for their over-the-top costumes and sets. (credit: Getty Images)

The Fancy Brigades are known for their over-the-top costumes and sets.

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Final preparations are under way for Philadelphia’s most colorful celebration — the 111th annual Mummers Parade.

The parade gets its official start ten hours into the New Year at Broad and Washington. Comics, Fancies and String Bands will march up Broad to City Hall, while Fancy Brigades will take a shorter walk. Their musical and visual extravaganzas will be staged at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, with shows at Noon and 5 o’clock.

For full story go to: http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/

Kids Celebrate The New Year With A Noontime Countdown

Kids Celebrate The New Year With A Noontime Countdown

(credit: Hadas Kuznits)

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Thousands of kids celebrated the new year here at the Please Touch Museum at the museum’s annual “Countdown to Noon.”

So, what did kids think of celebrating the new year during the day?

“That way you’re not all tired and you can be more energetic.”

“There was a lot of confetti. I started trying to catch it and I was dancing to the music and counting down with everybody else.”

For full story go to: http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/

Top ’10 Stories Include Laptop Spying, Record Snow

Top ’10 Stories Include Laptop Spying, Record Snow

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The wealth of natural gas buried in the Marcellus Shale region became an explosive issue in Pennsylvania over the past year, with companies, landowners, lawmakers and environmentalists clashing fiercely over drilling.

For full story go to:

http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/

NM governor: No pardon for outlaw Billy the Kid

NM governor: No pardon for outlaw Billy the Kid

AP Photo
FILE - This undated file ferrotype picture provided by the Lincoln County, N.M., Heritage Trust Archive is believed to depict William Bonney, also known as Billy the Kid, circa 1880. Billy the Kid, the Old West outlaw who killed at least three lawmen and tried to cut a deal from jail with territorial authorities, won't be pardoned, Gov. Bill Richardson said Friday, Dec. 31, 2010, nearly 130 years after the gunslinger's death. The prospect of a pardon for the notorious frontier figure drew international attention to New Mexico, centering on whether Billy the Kid had been promised a pardon from New Mexico's territorial governor in return for testimony in killings he had witnessed.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) -- The rehabilitation of Billy the Kid lies dead in the dust.

In one of his last official acts - or non-acts - before leaving office, New Mexico's governor refused to pardon the Old West outlaw Friday for one of the many murders he committed before he was gunned down in 1881.

Gov. Bill Richardson cited ambiguity surrounding the pledge of a pardon 130 years ago as the reason.

"I felt I could not rewrite history," Richardson told The Associated Press, hours after announcing his decision on ABC's "Good Morning America" on his last day in office.

The prospect of a pardon for the notorious frontier figure drew international attention to New Mexico, centering on whether New Mexico territorial governor Lew Wallace promised Billy the Kid a pardon in return for testifying about killings he witnessed.

Richardson concluded Wallace did make a deal, "but it's uncertain why he did not keep his promise," said the former U.N. ambassador and Democratic presidential candidate.

He said he could not pardon Billy the Kid given that ambiguity and the fact he killed two deputies when he escaped in April 1881 from the Lincoln County jail, where he was awaiting hanging for the 1878 killing of Sheriff William Brady.

A pardon document was even drafted, "but in the end, I didn't use it," said Richardson, adding that he didn't decide until Thursday night.

The proposed pardon covered only the killing of Brady, and not the deaths of the deputies or any other killings. According to legend, Billy the Kid killed 21 people, although the New Mexico Tourism Department puts the total closer to nine.

He was shot to death by Sheriff Pat Garrett in July 1881.

Albuquerque attorney Randi McGinn, who petitioned for a pardon after studying the issue, said she won the battle in proving there was a promise but lost the war over the pardon. She said, however, she didn't regret "one iota being Billy the Kid's lawyer."

Garrett's grandson, J.P. Garrett, of Albuquerque, sent an e-mail to The Associated Press: "Yea!!! No pardon! Looks like it will be a great new year!!!!"

Wallace's great-grandson, William Wallace, of Westport, Conn., said Richardson "followed the correct, rational track in forgoing a pardon for a convicted murderer."

Both men had expressed outrage Richardson would even consider a pardon, arguing there was no proof one was ever offered.

The historical record is unclear, Richardson said. His staff told him in August there are no written documents "pertaining in any way" to a pardon in the papers of the territorial governor, who served from 1878 to 1881.

Richardson's successor, Gov. Susana Martinez, who takes office Saturday, has said she won't even consider a pardon because state issues were more pressing.

"There's an awful lot of work to be taken care of for us to be wasting so much time on such a consideration," the Republican said Tuesday.

Richardson's office set up a website in mid-December for public comments following McGinn's petition. The survey that ended Sunday brought in 809 e-mails and letters from all over the world - 430 favoring a pardon and 379 opposed.

McGinn argued Lew Wallace promised to pardon the Kid, also known as William Bonney. She said the Kid kept his end of the bargain, but the territorial governor did not.

McGinn said Friday she was disappointed by Richardson's decision but thrilled the pardon question sparked interest. She said she hoped people would come to New Mexico, see letters Billy the Kid wrote to Wallace, walk Lincoln's single street and decide for themselves whether Billy the Kid was "the Robin Hood of the West or a notorious killer."

Richardson, who said he's read countless books and seen numerous movies about the Kid, said the issue gave the state great exposure and prompted discussion over "one of those historical issues that deserves debate and hadn't been tackled before."

Robert Utley, author of "Billy the Kid: A Short and Violent Life," said he was glad Richardson decided against a pardon.

"Governor Wallace was a romantic, and the few press interviews he granted, at the time and 20 years later, cloud the issue. He exaggerated for literary effect, and the reporters probably took it from there to more exaggeration. I don't believe a pardon was promised, only an effort to exempt him from prosecution - a promise he couldn't deliver," Utley wrote in an e-mail to the AP on Friday.

"If Billy deserves a pardon, it will be granted by history, not the governor of New Mexico."

Stocks mixed on last day of strong year for market

Stocks mixed on last day of strong year for market

AP Photo
FILE - This file photo taken March 8, 2010, shows the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

NEW YORK (AP) -- Stock indexes were mixed Friday in quiet New Year's Eve trading.

The last day of the year contrasted with a sometimes gut-wrenching 2010. Despite investors' concerns about the U.S. economy, the possibility of European countries defaulting on debt, the Standard & Poor's 500 index and the Dow Jones industrial average are both up about 14 percent for the year, including dividends. The Nasdaq composite index, meanwhile, is up about 18 percent for the year after dividends.

In midday trading trading Friday, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 3 points, or less than 0.1 percent, to 11,573. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose less than a point to 1,258. The Nasdaq composite index dipped 9, or 0.3 percent, to 2,654.

The Dow is poised to end the year at its highest level since August 2008, before the height of the financial crisis. The S&P might rise to its best December in 20 years.

The numbers hide the fact that it was a rocky year. Stocks plunged in the spring after Greece required an emergency bailout to deal with its debt crisis. That raised concerns about debt issues in other European countries, including Ireland, which needed a bailout later in the year.

The May 6 "flash crash," which sent the Dow down to a loss of nearly 1,000 points in less than a half-hour, also rattled investors. The Dow fell 14 percent from a high of 11,205.03 on April 26 to its low of 9,686.48 on July 2.

But stocks came back in the last part of the year after the Federal Reserve announced a $600 billion bond-buying program to lower interest rates and stimulate the economy. Bond yields fell to levels down not seen since the 1950s.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to a yearly high of just under 4 percent in April and then plunged as low as 2.38 percent in October. That contributed to a historic drop in mortgage rates that brought 30-year fixed-rate loans to a low of 4.17 percent early in November.

"It was a market that needed stimulus and responded miraculously," said Quincy Krosby, the chief market strategist at Prudential. "Corporate fundamentals were clearly excellent, but to get the push that the market needed to keep it going it needed more buyers."

Investors were also encouraged by an extension of Bush-era tax cuts and improving economic reports on unemployment, retail sales and consumer confidence, which suggested that Americans were beginning to spend again. By the end of December, investors began moving money back into U.S. stock funds after selling for every week since May.

Whether the gains will continue into 2011 will depend on a better jobs market, consumers who are more confident and the ability of corporations to earn more money from higher revenue rather than cost cutting.

Many on Wall Street are optimistic that the bull market will not end next year.

"All of the economic indicators are pointing to stronger growth next year," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at New York-based brokerage firm Avalon Partners Inc.

Consumer discretionary stocks in the S&P 500 have risen 26 percent this year, making them the best performers of the 10 industry groups in the index. Health care and utility stocks have been the worst performers, rising less than 1 percent for the year.

The Russell 2000 index, made up of small-cap stocks, had the best overall performance of domestic stock indexes. It returned 27.8 percent in 2010, including dividends.

Haiti suffers year of crisis with nobody in charge

Haiti suffers year of crisis with nobody in charge

AP Photo
FILE - In this Nov. 10, 2010 file photo, a medic ties with gauze the legs of two-year-old Clercilia Regis who according to doctors died of cholera a few minutes earlier at the hospital in Cite Soleil, Port-au-Prince, Haiti. In 2010 crisis has piled upon crisis in Haiti. More than 230,000 are believed to have died in the quake, and more than a million remain homeless. A cholera epidemic broke out in the fall, and in its midst a dysfunctional election was held, its results still unclear.

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) -- The silhouetted bodies moved in waves through the night, climbing out of crumbled homes and across mounds of rubble. Hundreds of thousands of people made their way to the center of the shattered city by the thin light of a waning crescent moon. There was hardly a sound.

It took a few moments to recognize the great white dome bowing forward into the night. Another had fallen onto itself, its peak barely visible over the iron gate. The white walls of the 90-year-old mansion were crushed, the portico collapsed. Haiti's national palace was destroyed.

It was clear from the first, terrible moments after the quake, when I ran out of my broken house to find the neighborhood behind it gone, that Haiti had suffered a catastrophe unique even in its long history of tragedy.

But it was not until reaching the Champ de Mars plaza at the center of the capital, more than six hours later, that I understood what it meant. Not just homes and churches had succumbed. Haiti's most important institutions, the symbols and substance of the nation itself, had collapsed atop the shuddering earth.

The people came to the palace in droves seeking strength and support. Some wondered if President Rene Preval might emerge - or his body. They were looking for a leader, a plan, some secret store of wealth and aid.

But there was no news, no plan, no help that night. The president was not there. Nobody was in charge.

In the year since, crisis has piled upon crisis. More than 230,000 are believed to have died in the quake, and more than a million remain homeless. A cholera epidemic broke out in the fall, and in its midst a dysfunctional election was held, its results still unclear.

There was hope that the quake would bring an opportunity to break the country's fatal cycle of struggle, catastrophe and indifference. But promises were not kept, and no leader emerged, within Haiti or outside.

What little center there had been simply disappeared, and the void was never filled.

---

Among those gazing at the collapsed palace that night was Aliodor Pierre, a 28-year-old church guitarist and father of two. Until that moment, he had lived in the slum of Martissant. His friends called him "Ti-Lunet," little glasses, for the wire-rimmed pair he wore.

He was drinking beer at a corner store when the earth began to move. He tried to walk into the street but the force knocked him down. A roar filled the air, like a thousand trucks crashing through a mountain forest. A friend tried to bolt but Aliodor shouted "No!" and held him back. They lay together on the ground until it stopped.

Aliodor picked up his head. His apartment, a five-story building, was flat. Everything he owned was buried inside. He didn't know where his wife and children were.

Then the screaming began all around him.

Aliodor ran to his parent's house a few blocks away. It had fallen. He shouted and an answer came from inside. He smashed a window and pulled out his mother, hurt but alive. Neighbors rushed to help rescue other relatives. Still his wife and children were missing.

His heart raced. He and a friend ran through the neighborhood, pushing off concrete and slicing through barbed wire with pliers. In one doorway, they found a young girl who had nearly escaped before the house fell forward onto her lower leg. "Save me!" she screamed. Aliodor looked for a hacksaw to cut her free, but she died in front of him.

Dazed, he followed the crowd through the falling light to the central plaza. People were shouting: The national palace, Roman Catholic cathedral and Episcopal cathedral - where Aliodor sometimes played guitar - were gone. He looked for the white domes, but couldn't see them.

He sat down near a statue of Jean-Jacques Dessalines, the liberator and first president of Haiti.

----

Hours later Aliodor had still not found his wife, Manette Etienne, their 7-year-old daughter, Sama, or their 3-year-old son, Safa. Pain wrenched his stomach as he pictured them dead. He didn't know what had happened to the nursing school his wife attended.

He started walking toward his neighborhood. As he reached a gas station, suddenly there was Manette, walking toward him. The children had been saved by a teacher who ran them out of school when the shaking began. They had thought he was dead, too. They held each other and for a moment the broken city disappeared.

"It was like the earthquake never happened," he said.

By morning, people began carving up the lawns and plazas, marking space with blankets, umbrellas and bits of cardboard to sleep on. Some thought being near the government might mean being closer to the aid. But there was no government there. When Preval came out of hiding, he set up shop at a police station that backed directly onto the airport runway. Maybe he was leaving, people mused.

They wanted to leave. The Champ de Mars plaza reeked. Stagnant fountains became toilets, washing pits for clothes and wells for bath water. Bodies trapped under the rubble started to smell. Those survivors who could got surgical masks. Others painted toothpaste mustaches under their noses.

Two days after the quake, roaring gray helicopters dropped onto the rubble-strewn lawn outside the palace. American soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division jumped out with their rifles, packs and armor - the vanguard of what President Barack Obama called one of the largest relief efforts in U.S. history.

The soldiers took over the airport and stood guard as U.N. peacekeepers handed out rice, beans and water to a desperate crowd. Fights broke out and pepper spray filled the air. Aliodor lined up once for food, then swore never to do it again.

He asked the soldiers why they had come with guns. A young private told him they had been on their way to Iraq when they were told to go to Haiti instead. Aliodor asked why he wasn't carrying food, water or something to help people build houses.

"He said to me, 'I'm just a sharpshooter. I'm very good at shooting,'" Aliodor recalled. "But I said, 'Haiti's not at a war.'"

----

On the last day of March, donors at a United Nations conference pledged nearly $10 billion for the reconstruction of Haiti, with its almost 10 million people. The United States alone promised $1.15 billion for 2010, the largest one-year pledge.

Days later, word spread that the national palace would be torn down. Radio reports said the government of France had agreed to help build a new one. On April 8, people came to see the demolition begin.

The palace was the backdrop for the famous statue of the Neg Mawon, the escaped slave blowing a conch shell to call others to fight for freedom. But the palace's history, like Haiti's, was never simple.

The Beaux Arts mansion, designed in 1915, was torched while still under construction by a mob bent on assassinating the president, Vilbrun Guillaume Sam. It was completed under the U.S. occupation that followed his death, and was the scene of successive coups and ousters. Eventually, it became a symbol of terror under the father-son dictatorship of Francois and Jean-Claude Duvalier.

Presidents ceased living in the palace after Jean-Claude's 1986 overthrow, but it continued to host world leaders in its salons - and protests and coup attempts on the lawn.

The people of the Champ de Mars watched as the backhoes tore down what was left of the portico and, for the first time in most of their lives, they got a glimpse of the grand salon and the crystal chandeliers inside.

Then the machines stopped. A Preval aide said there were disagreements over how reconstruction should proceed. Demolition came to a halt.

On the plaza, aid groups had handed out plastic tarps and put in portable latrines. Shacks went up across every open space. Someone tied a tarp to the side of the Neg Mawon.

Aliodor scraped together most of the money he had - about $51 - to buy wood, sheets and tarps to put up a little shack, a few feet (meters) from where he had sat down the first night.

The bonhomie and spirit of sharing that had prevailed in the days after the quake cracked, and then broke. Mugging, robbery and rape became facts of life. Aliodor sent his children to his quiet hometown in the rural south to live with relatives.

Without a government to organize them, the people began organizing themselves. In settlements all over the capital, camps set up organizing committees in an intricate bureaucracy. Aliodor's Place Dessalines was the largest. He was named spokesman for its central committee.

"I'm one of those guys who has little money but I have a lot of strength," he explained.

---

There was, at one point, a plan.

As the homemade camps swelled beyond 1.5 million people, the government said it would relocate 400,000 to the capital's outskirts. Officials set up card tables around the Champ de Mars to register people who talked excitedly about getting new homes, better than the slums where they had lived before.

In April the first camp was ready in the open desert north of the capital, designed by U.S. military, U.N. engineers and aid groups. About 7,500 people living on a golf course were chosen to move, encouraged by their camp's manager, actor Sean Penn.

It was a disaster. There were no trees and the site was too remote. Also, it turned out that the parcel belonged to Nabatec Development - whose president was head of the relocation commission. And so the company stood to gain government compensation for its land.

Over the summer, a storm ripped through a quarter of the camp's tents. People screamed and cried as, again, they lost their homes.

Only one more relocation camp was built. The rest of the project was abandoned.

In May, an old smell returned to the Champ de Mars: Tear gas. Parliament dissolved because an election could not be held to replace expiring seats. Its last act was to grant emergency powers to Preval and create a reconstruction commission co-chaired by Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive and former U.S. President Bill Clinton.

Clinton was already the U.N. Special Envoy for Haiti. Aliodor and others wondered if he was now their governor.

When Preval announced that he might extend his term beyond February 2011, opponents marched to the palace. Police and U.N. peacekeepers fired rubber bullets and tear gas at rock-throwing demonstrators and into the camp.

Then Haiti settled in for a summer break. The World Cup was on.

In July, exactly six months after the quake, big cars pulled up to the palace. The government was moving back in. News conferences, once held under a mango tree at a police station, would now be in a new wooden gazebo. A defiant Preval said the lack of massive disease outbreaks and violence was proof that the quake response had gone better than people were saying.

Then came the medals. Twenty-three honorees - including Penn and Clinton - received certificates deeming them Knights of the National Order of Honor and Merit. There was no mention of the dead, or the giant shantytown a few hundred feet (meters) away.

The officials then announced that the previous six months of grinding inaction had merely been the emergency-recovery phase. Now, they said, reconstruction would begin.

---

Aliodor and Manette were losing weight. Food was scarce and there was no work. The shack boiled in the summer heat.

Every day Aliodor woke up in their cramped bed and walked out to the sight of a big rubber bladder, wider than his shack, that aid groups sometimes filled with treated water. Above it stood the statue of Dessalines on a horse, waving to his left.

The sun beat down until it gave Aliodor a headache. He had an eye infection. He was starting to get angry.

"The government, the ones who are responsible for us, don't really want us to go because while we are in misery they are enjoying themselves," he said. "Every day they are making money on top of our heads."

The aid groups promised they would do this and that, fix a toilet, bring more food. Sometimes they did, sometimes they didn't. The committee squabbled. People stole what they needed.

Behind Aliodor's shack, the backhoes and bulldozers at the national palace had been sitting idle for months.

"The country needs to have a national palace. But if it's under these guys who are in power now, the palace will never be built," Aliodor said.

He looked at Dessalines again, waving on his horse. Maybe he was trying to leave, too.

---

Rumors had been spreading for weeks. A strange disease was killing people in the countryside: like diarrhea, but it could kill you in hours.

In mid-November, it arrived on the Champ de Mars. A woman everyone said was crazy walked into her tent one day and did not leave. In two days, the tent gave off a nauseating smell. A brave soul opened the tarp and found her lying dead in her own filth. A fight broke out between neighbors and police about who would clear her out.

The next day a young man was found dead in a toilet. Word came in from the Cite Soleil slum that dozens of children were dropping dead. The foreigners called it cholera.

Then the news spread that U.N. peacekeepers might have brought the disease to Haiti.

"I'm not supposed to be here, waiting for cholera to kill me in a public park," Aliodor said, jutting out his lower teeth.

As the year drew to a close, the international community pushed for a presidential election. Donor countries provided $29 million, including $14 million from the United States. Black-and-white pictures of the 19 candidates were hung on the palace gates.

The Nov. 28 election was, by most measures, a failure. Hundreds of thousands who had died in the earthquake were still on the rolls, and untold thousands of survivors were turned away because of disorganization or alleged fraud. There was violence and voter intimidation. Nearly all the major candidates called for the vote to be canceled.

When results were announced days later, the city was shut down with flaming barricades. Gunmen wearing shirts of the ruling-party candidate called for people on the Champ de Mars to come out and celebrate. Then they opened fire. Up to three people were killed and several injured. Aliodor and others took turns keeping lookout at night.

Nearly 3,000 people died of cholera and more than 100,000 were infected.

Clinton's commission had approved billions of dollars in projects, but many remained unfunded. Less than $900 million of the donors' conference pledges was delivered.

The United States delayed the bulk of its $1 billion pledge of reconstruction money until 2011. So far, it has sent $120 million to a reconstruction fund and provided about $200 million in debt relief.

---

The guys hanging in front of Aliodor's house still call him Ti-Lunet, but his glasses are long gone. His hair has receded.

The afternoons are still baking hot, and tire fires from a daily protest burn black, acrid smoke nearby. Aliodor has criticism for everyone. He asks me to deliver a message to my country:

"I blame this on the United States, because the United States is the world power," he says. "Why would you accept for us to be living in poverty?"

If Dessalines were alive today, Aliodor says, he would lead the people in a revolution against the government, foreign soldiers and other foreigners who aren't helping. He hopes the spirits of the ancestors will come back and teach Haitians to be independent again.

"God is the only one we have hope in," he adds.

Aliodor pulls out a photo album from under the bed and flips through pictures taken before the quake. There is Manette, in a nursing uniform. And there he is, fit and muscular, a gold cross hanging from his neck and nearly brushing the guitar in his confident hands.

He looks down at his stringy arms. They look like someone else's.

Afternoon shadows come upon the tens of thousands of tents in the central plaza. Soon the people will be shrouded in darkness, just as they were on that night almost a year ago.

Beside them, the national palace lies cracked upon the lawn. There's a gaping hole in the middle.

Ouattara ally: Ivory Coast now in 'war situation'

Ouattara ally: Ivory Coast now in 'war situation'

AP Photo
Alassane Ouattara, centre, opposition leader acknowledges supporters in Abidjan, Ivory Coast Thursday, Dec. 30, 2010. Ouattara is widely regarded as being the rightful winner of recent presidential elections, although incumbent leader Laurent Gbagbo refuses to relinquish power. The United Nations accused Gbagbo's security forces of blocking access to sites thought to hide the bodies of up to 80 victims amidst reports that political opponents were abducted by security forces loyal to Gbagbo after the disputed election.

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast (AP) -- A top ally of Ivory Coast's internationally recognized leader said Friday that the country is already in a "civil war situation," while the incumbent leader who refuses to step down after the disputed election accused world leaders of launching a coup to oust him.

The United Nations has said that the volatile West African nation, once divided in two, faces a real risk of return to civil war, but Prime Minister Guillaume Soro told reporters that the country is already at this point - "indeed in a civil war situation."

"This is what's at stake: Either we assist in the installation of democracy in Ivory Coast or we stand by indifferent and allow democracy to be assassinated," Soro said at a news conference, adding that more than 200 people already have been killed and 1,000 others wounded by gunfire.

Human rights groups accuse incumbent Laurent Gbagbo's security forces of abducting and killing political opponents, though Gbagbo allies deny the allegations and say some of the victims were security forces killed by protesters. The U.N. has confirmed at least 173 deaths.

Gbagbo gave an address late Friday on state television in which he accused the international community of mounting a coup d'etat to oust him and said Ivorians were being subjected to international hostility.

"No one has the right to call on foreign armies to invade his country," Gbagbo said. "Our greatest duty to our country is to defend it from foreign attack."

The United Nations had been invited by all parties to certify the results of the Nov. 28 presidential runoff vote. The U.N. declared Alassane Ouattara the winner, endorsing the announcement by the country's electoral commission. But Gbagbo has refused to step aside now for more than a month, defying international condemnation and growing calls for his ouster.

The European Union said late Friday that it had approved sanctions on 59 more people, in addition to 19 already sanctioned last week including Gbagbo and his wife. Gbagbo and about 30 of his allies also face U.S. travel sanctions, though such measures have typically failed to reverse illegal power grabs in Africa in the past.

West African leaders have said they are prepared to use military force to push Gbagbo out, but are giving negotiations more time for now. For many, the credibility of the international community is at stake if it is unable to ensure that Ouattara takes power.

Gbagbo points to Ivory Coast's constitutional council, which declared him president after throwing out more than half a million votes from Ouattara strongholds. The council invalidated election results in those areas, citing violence and intimidation directed at Gbagbo supporters. The top U.N. envoy in Ivory Coast has disputed that assessment.

"All dictators are alike and all dictators will not negotiate their departure - they are made to leave," Soro said. "For the time being we are letting diplomacy do its work but when the time comes, each of us will assume our responsibilities."

Soro was appointed prime minister under Ouattara's government, which has been holed up in the Golf Hotel under U.N. protection despite its widespread international recognition. Soro, a former rebel leader from the north, served in a coalition government with Gbagbo but is now aligned with Ouattara.

Meanwhile, a pro-Gbagbo youth leader has encouraged his supporters to seize the Golf Hotel, saying that Ouattara and Soro have until Saturday to "pack up their bags" and leave. The building is being guarded by some 800 U.N. peacekeepers and hundreds of rebels loyal to Ouattara.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said he is "deeply alarmed" by the youth leader's comments, and he has called on Gbagbo supporters to "refrain from such dangerous irresponsible action," a U.N. spokesman said.

The youth leader, Charles Ble Goude, is known as the "street general" for organizing a violent anti-French and anti-U.N. gang that terrorized the foreign population in Ivory Coast in 2004-2005.

Human rights groups have warned that security forces loyal to Gbagbo have been abducting political opponents in recent weeks. The United Nations, citing witness reports, believes up to 80 bodies may be inside one building nestled among shacks in a pro-Gbagbo neighborhood on the outskirts of Abidjan.

Investigators have tried to go there several times, and even made it as far as the building's front door before truckloads of men with guns showed up and forced them to leave. A second mass burial site is believed to be located near Gagnoa in the interior of the country, the U.N. said. Gbagbo's government has repeatedly denied the existence of mass graves.

"Denying access to alleged mass grave sites and places where the victims' mortal remains are allegedly deposited constitutes a clear violation of international human rights and humanitarian law," U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said.

Pillay also warned that those committing human rights violations at the direction of others could also be held accountable.

"They, too, have a direct individual criminal responsibility for their actions and omissions," she said. "It is no excuse that they may have been merely carrying out orders, directions or instructions from above."

Ivory Coast was divided into a rebel-controlled north and a loyalist south by a 2002-2003 civil war, and the long-delayed presidential election was intended to help reunify the nation. However, tensions over the outcome have sparked violence including several attacks on U.N. peacekeepers.

Ivory Coast, the world's top cocoa producer, was officially reunited in a 2007 peace deal. However, Ouattara still draws his support from the northern half of the country, where residents feel they are often treated as foreigners within their own country by southerners.

A high-level West African delegation is expected to return to Abidjan on Monday.

Col. Mohammed Yerima, director of defense information for the Nigerian military, said that defense chiefs from the 15-nation regional bloc ECOWAS met Friday to begin strategizing what sort of assault they'd use if those talks fail. But his comments appeared to suggest no such attack was imminent, as he said the plans would only be presented to ECOWAS leaders in Mali in mid-January.

"The most important thing is - the political option is the best," he said.

Millions gather worldwide to ring in new year

Millions gather worldwide to ring in new year

AP Photo
The sky above Sydney Harbour lights up at midnight during the fireworks display to celebrate the New Year's Day in Sydney, Australia, Saturday, Jan. 1, 2011.

MADRID (AP) -- Dazzling fireworks lit up Australia's Sydney Harbor, communist Vietnam held a rare, Western-style countdown to the new year, and Japanese revelers released balloons carrying notes with people's hopes and dreams as the world ushered in 2011.

In Europe, Greeks, Irish and Spaniards planned to party through the night to help put a year of economic woe behind them. And in New York, nearly a million New Year's Eve revelers were expected to cram into Times Square to watch the midnight ball drop, just days after the city got clobbered by a blizzard.

As rainclouds cleared, thousands of people, many sporting large, brightly colored wigs, gathered in Madrid's central Puerta del Sol square to take part in "Las Uvas," or "The Grapes," a tradition in which people eat a grape for each of the 12 chimes of midnight.

Chewing and swallowing the grapes to each tolling of the bell is supposed to bring good luck, while cheating is frowned on and revelers believe it brings misfortune.

"I'm here to make my wishes for the new year. If you eat the grapes your wishes will come true," said beautician Anita Vargas, 22.

2010 was a grim year for the European Union, with Greece and Ireland needing bailouts and countries such as Spain and Portugal finding themselves in financial trouble as well. Athens, Paris and London have all seen unrest in the streets.

"Before, we used to go out, celebrate in a restaurant, but the last two years we have had to stay at home," said Madrid florist Ernestina Blasco, 48. She said her husband, a construction worker, is out of work.

In Greece, thousands spent the last day of 2010 standing in line at tax offices to pay their road tax or sign up for tax amnesty. "We can see that the quality of life is being degraded every day. What can I say? I don't see the light at the end of the tunnel," said Giorgos Karantzos of Athens.

New Zealanders and South Pacific island nations were among the first to celebrate at midnight. In New Zealand's Auckland, explosions of red, gold and white burst over the Sky Tower, while tens of thousands danced and sang in the streets below. In Christchurch, partyers shrugged off a minor 3.3 earthquake that struck just before 10 p.m.

Multicolored starbusts and gigantic sparklers lit the midnight sky over Sydney Harbor in a pyrotechnics show witnessed by 1.5 million spectators. "This has got to be the best place to be in the world tonight," said Marc Wilson, 41.

Hundreds of thousands of people gathered along Hong Kong's Victoria Harbor to watch fireworks explode from the roofs of 10 of the city's most famous buildings.

In Vietnam's capital, Hanoi, an estimated 55,000 people packed a square in front of the city's elegant French colonial-style opera house for their first New Year's countdown blowout, complete with dizzying strobe lights and thumping techno music spun by international DJs.

Vietnamese typically save their biggest celebrations for Tet, the lunar new year that begins on Feb. 3. But in recent years, Western influence has started seeping into Vietnamese culture among teens, who have no memory of war or poverty and are eager to find a new reason to party in the communist country.

At Japan's Zojoji temple in Tokyo, monks chanted and revelers marked the arrival of the new year by releasing silver balloons with notes inside. The temple's giant 15-ton bell rang in the background.

In Dubai, the world's tallest building was awash in fireworks from the base to its needle-like spire nearly a half-mile high. Sparkling silver rays shot out from the Burj Khalifa in a 10-minute display.

In France, police were on alert for terror attacks and for celebrations getting out of hand. Rampaging youths typically set fire to scores of vehicles on New Year's Eve. Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux said 53,820 police were mobilized - 6,000 more than usual.

France has been extra vigilant following threats from al-Qaida and the kidnapping of five French citizens in Niger.

Italians planned to ring in the new year with illegal fireworks, shot off in squares and alleys - a tradition that usually results in numerous hand and eye injuries. Naples Police Chief Santi Giuffre appealed to citizens to "give up or at least cut back on this" practice.

In London, higher temperatures after weeks of frigid weather were expected to draw about 250,000 onto the streets. Many planned to line the River Thames to watch fireworks and hear Big Ben toll at the stroke of midnight.

In Scotland, the four-day Hogmanay festival began Thursday night with a torch-lit procession through the streets of Edinburgh. Around 25,000 people took part, marching to the top of a hill to watch the burning of a model Viking ship. Hogmanay is derived from the winter solstice festival celebrated by the Vikings.

The Dutch celebrate by eating deep-fried dough balls covered in powdered sugar and washed down with champagne. The Danes jump off chairs to "leap into the new year." And the Austrians twirl in the new year with a waltz, carrying radios so they can dance to Strauss' "Blue Danube" as the clock strikes midnight.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Outrage over Michael Jackson autopsy reenactment

Outrage over Michael Jackson autopsy reenactmen


AFP/File – Michael Jackson
performing in 1993. The executors
of Jackson's estate are expressing
outrage over
over an "insensitive"
television special.

LOS ANGELES (AFP) – The executors of Michael Jackson's estate are expressing outrage over an "insensitive" television special "in shockingly bad taste" that plans to reenact the King of Pop's autopsy.

In a letter to Discovery Communications on Wednesday, John Branca and John McClain deplored in the strongest terms the Discovery Channel's "blind desire to exploit Michael's death, while cynically attempting to dupe the public into believing this show will have serious medical value."

The pair were especially angered by a European promotional advertisement for the program that shows Jackson's trademark sequined glove emerging from beneath a coroner's white draping sheet.

"Discovery obviously views this as clever advertising and creative 'branding' for the program... In fact, the ad is debased, sick and insensitive," said the letter addressed to Discovery Communications president and CEO David Zaslav.

"On behalf of Michael's family, fans, common sense and decency, we urge you to reconsider and cancel this program."

Discovery has not yet responded to this letter about the advertised program, which does not yet have a specific air date for Europe.

Jackson died on June 25, 2009 at age 50 from drug-induced respiratory arrest at his Beverly Hills mansion after his personal doctor, Conrad Murray, injected him with a powerful cocktail of sedatives and painkillers, including Propofol, to help him sleep.

Murray was charged with involuntary manslaughter in February this year. A judge has set a deadline of early January for prosecutors to gather evidence in that case.

Harmon Killebrew says he has esophageal cancer

Harmon Killebrew says he has esophageal cancer

AP Photo
FILE - This April 2, 2010 file photo shows former Minnesota Twins player and Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew in Minneapolis. Killebrew has been diagnosed with esophageal cancer. Killebrew released a statement through the Minnesota Twins on Thursday, Dec. 30, 2010 saying he expects to make a full recovery from the "very serious" condition.

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Hall of Fame slugger Harmon Killebrew has been diagnosed with esophageal cancer. The 74-year-old Killebrew released a statement through the Minnesota Twins on Thursday, saying he expects to make a full recovery from the "very serious" condition.

"With my wife, Nita, by my side, I have begun preparing for what is perhaps the most difficult battle of my life," Killebrew said.

Killebrew hit 573 home runs and made 11 All-Star appearances during his 22-year career spent mostly with the Washington Senators and Twins. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1984 and was fifth on the career home run list when he retired in 1975 after one season with the Kansas City Royals.

Killebrew currently ranks 11th on the homer list, and his eight seasons with 40 or more homers still is tied for second in league history to Babe Ruth.

Killebrew has maintained a regular presence with the Twins for years. He now lives in the Phoenix area and said he is receiving treatment at the Mayo Clinic nearby. He was optimistic about his chances for recovery.

"The Mayo Clinic is one of the largest and most experienced medical centers treating esophageal cancer in the world. In the past decade, they have made tremendous advances in the treatment of this disease," he said. "Nita and I feel blessed to have access to the best doctors and medical care."

The congenial heavy hitter is one of the most beloved players in Twins history, as much for his gentle and approachable nature off the field as for the towering home runs he hit during his playing days.

Twins designated hitter Jim Thome passed Killebrew on the career home run list in August, belting two at brand new Target Field. After the feat, Killebrew issued a gracious congratulatory message to Thome.

"I speak very highly of Jim Thome," Killebrew said in September. "Not only is he a great player, but he's a great individual. I think he was a little apprehensive about passing me up. I said, 'Jim, I passed a lot of guys up myself along the way. I hope you hit 100 more.'"

Killebrew's No. 3 jersey is retired, and he made several appearances at the Twins' new outdoor ballpark last season, including during their playoff series against the Yankees.

He is one of the biggest draws at the team's annual Twins Fest, a fan festival in January that serves as a buildup to spring training.

"I thank everyone for their outpouring of prayers, compassion and concern," he said. "Nita and I ask for privacy during this difficult journey."

Daughter, wife of AZ official accused in sex case

Daughter, wife of AZ official accused in sex case

AP Photo
This undated photo released by the Chandler Police Department in Arizona shows Rachel Katherine Brock. Chandler police say they have arrested Brock, 21, the daughter of a Maricopa County Supervisor, on suspicion of sexual conduct with the same minor her mother is accused of sexually abusing. Police arrested Brock on Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2010, as part of an ongoing investigation surrounding her mother, 48-year-old Susan Brock.

PHOENIX (AP) -- The daughter of a county supervisor has been arrested on suspicion of sexual misconduct with the same teenage boy that her mother is accused of sexually abusing over a three-year period, police said Thursday.

Rachel Katherine Brock, 21, was arrested Wednesday on three counts of sexual conduct with a minor and one count of transmitting obscene material as part of an ongoing investigation surrounding her mother, 48-year-old Susan Brock.

Both women were being held without bond at the Maricopa County jail.

In Rachel Brock's initial court appearance, acting attorney John Rock argued that the judge should free her on bond because there appeared to be no physical evidence to support any of the charges. Rock also said the teen would have been asked if he had been a victim of any other sexual abuse when Susan Brock was arrested in October.

"It appears that he's given contradictory information," Rock said. But the judge wasn't persuaded.

It was unclear whether Rachel Brock had a permanent attorney. Susan Brock's attorney, Pheron Hall III, did not immediately return a call seeking comment Thursday.

Rachel Brock is the daughter of Maricopa County Supervisor Fulton Brock, and Susan Brock is his wife of 28 years. The family lived together in the Phoenix suburb of Chandler but Fulton Brock filed for divorce after his wife's arrest.

Rachel Brock is accused of committing numerous sex acts with the teenage boy between February 2007 and August 2008, and sending him nude photos and a video of herself masturbating; none of the acts involved intercourse. The boy was 14 at the time, and Rachel Brock was 18, classifying the crimes as dangerous crimes against children.

Police said that between August 2007 and October of this year, the teen met Susan Brock for sexual trysts. Susan Brock reportedly provided the boy with cell phones, and police seized text messages reportedly recording sexual exchanges between the two.

Chandler police Sgt. Joe Favazzo said it appears that Susan and Rachel Brock didn't know about each other's relationship with the teen.

"You have a situation where you have a mother who's abusing a juvenile victim, seemingly unknowingly to the daughter, or vice versa, and the daughter is also abusing the same victim," Favazzo said. "I just can't imagine a mother and daughter having this conversation, and the investigators say they don't have anything indicating the two of them knew about it."

The boy, now 17, told police that Rachel Brock began abusing him in 2007 by inappropriately touching him during a trip to California, and it escalated to other sexual contact in a vehicle about a month later, according to a court document released Thursday. The boy also told police there was sexual contact with Rachel Brock at the Brocks' home and at a property owned by the Brock family.

Susan Brock was arrested in October on two counts of child molestation and two counts of sexual contact with a minor involving the same boy.

The teen told police Susan Brock would pick him up at school or home and drive him to secluded areas where they would have sexual contact in her car, although there was no intercourse, according to a court document. Authorities say Susan Brock also helped the boy meet his girlfriend and provide places where the young couple could have sex.

In a statement Thursday, Fulton Brock said "'shocked and devastated' are not sufficient words to describe the news this day or what has transpired over the last two months."

"I have filed to divorce my wife. I cannot divorce my daughter," Fulton Brock said. "She is my blood. I will always be her dad. And she needs me now more than ever."

A third woman, Christian Hart Weems, 37, was arrested in the case Tuesday on suspicion of obstructing a criminal investigation and conspiracy to commit computer tampering. She's accused of deleting potentially incriminating e-mails between the boy and Susan Brock. Police say Weems is a friend of Susan Brock.

What you pay for Medicare won't cover your costs

What you pay for Medicare won't cover your costs

AP Photo
Fred Wemer stands outside his home in Seattle, in this photo taken Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2010. Wermer is a retired dentist and says Medicare pays his medical bills well enough, but he thinks there's a lot of waste in the program and doubts it will be there for his grandchildren. He opposes turning Medicare into a voucher plan for the purchase of private insurance because he doesn't trust the insurance companies.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- You paid your Medicare taxes all those years and want your money's worth: full benefits after you retire. Nearly three out of five people say in a recent Associated Press-GfK poll that they paid into the system so they deserve their full benefits - no cuts.

But a newly updated financial analysis shows that what people paid into the system doesn't come close to covering the full value of the medical care they can expect to receive as retirees.

Consider an average-wage, two-earner couple together earning $89,000 a year. Upon retiring in 2011, they would have paid $114,000 in Medicare payroll taxes during their careers.

But they can expect to receive medical services - from prescriptions to hospital care - worth $355,000, or about three times what they put in.

The estimates by economists Eugene Steuerle and Stephanie Rennane of the Urban Institute think tank illustrate the huge disconnect between widely-held perceptions and the numbers behind Medicare's shaky financing. Although Americans are worried about Medicare's long-term solvency, few realize the size of the gap.

"The fact that you put money into the system doesn't mean it's there waiting for you to collect," said Steuerle.

By comparison, Social Security taxes and expected benefits come closer to balancing out.

The same hypothetical couple retiring in 2011 will have paid $614,000 in Social Security taxes, and can expect to collect $555,000 in benefits. They will have paid about 10 percent more into the system than they're likely to get back.

Updated periodically, the Urban Institute estimates are part of an effort that Steuerle and others began several years ago to try to illustrate the complicated finances of Medicare and Social Security in a format the average taxpayer could grasp. The Washington-based institute is a public policy center that focuses heavily on budget and economic issues. Its analysis is accepted among other policy experts in Washington, including economists in government.

Many workers may believe their Medicare payroll taxes are going for their own insurance after they retiree, but the money is actually used to pay the bills of seniors currently on the program.

That mistaken impression complicates the job for policymakers trying to build political support in coming months for dealing with deficits that could drag the economy back down.

Health care costs are a major and unpredictable part of the government's budget problems, and Medicare is in the middle. Recent debt reduction proposals have called for big changes to Medicare, making the belt-tightening in President Barack Obama's health care law seem modest. Some plans call for phasing out the program, replacing it with a fixed payment to help future retirees buy a private plan of their choice.

Peel back the layers, and there are several reasons why Medicare benefits and taxes are so out of line. First, the rapid rise in health care costs.

A single woman who retired in 1980, after earning average wages throughout her career, could expect to receive medical care worth about $74,800 over the rest of her lifetime. A comparable woman retiring in 2010 can expect services worth $181,000. Those numbers are in 2010 dollars, adjusted for inflation so they can be compared directly.

Another reason is that payroll taxes cover most, but not all, of Medicare's costs. They are earmarked for the giant trust fund that pays for inpatient care.

Outpatient doctor visits and prescription drugs are paid for with a mix of premiums collected from beneficiaries and money from the government's general fund. Seniors pay only one-fourth of the costs of those benefits through their premiums.

The system has worked for 45 years, with occasional fine tuning. But the retirement of the baby boomers, the first of whom become eligible for Medicare in 2011, threatens to push it over the edge.

Medicare covers 46 millions seniors and disabled people now. When the last of the boomers reaches age 65 in about 20 years, Medicare will be covering more than 80 million people. At the same time, the ratio of workers paying taxes to support the program will have plunged from 3.5 for each person receiving benefits currently, to 2.3.

"With Medicare, we are all still making out like bandits, shoving all those costs to future generations," said Steuerle. "At another level, we know that this system is totally unsustainable."

Disgraced ex-Israeli president convicted of rape

Disgraced ex-Israeli president convicted of rape

AP Photo
Former Israeli President Moshe Katsav gestures at the court in Tel Aviv, Thursday, Dec. 30, 2010. Katsav was convicted Thursday of raping an employee when he was a Cabinet minister, the most serious criminal charges ever brought against a high-ranking Israeli official and a case that stunned the nation.

JERUSALEM (AP) -- Former Israeli President Moshe Katsav was convicted of rape Thursday, a dramatic fall from grace for a man who rose from humble beginnings to become a symbol of achievement for Jews of Middle Eastern origin.

The disgraced politician, who had rejected a plea bargain that would have kept him out of jail, will likely be sentenced to four to 16 years in prison. The verdict was seen as a victory for the Israeli legal system and for women's rights in a decades-long struggle to chip away at the nation's macho culture, which once permitted political and military leaders great liberties.

"The court sent two clear and sharp messages: that everyone is equal and every woman has the full right to her body," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement. But he added that it was "a sad day for Israel and its citizens."

The Tel Aviv District Court found Katsav, 65, guilty of two counts of raping an employee in 1998, when he was Israel's tourism minister. It also convicted him of lesser counts of indecent acts; sexual harassment involving two other women who worked for him when he was president, from 2000 to 2007; and obstruction of justice.

Katsav denied all allegations, claiming he was a victim of a political witch hunt and suggesting he was targeted because he is a Sephardic Jew - a Jew of Middle Eastern origin. But in Thursday's ruling, the three-judge panel said his version of events was "strewn with lies."

A somber Katsav left the courtroom without commenting, surrounded by his legal team, security guards and family members. His wife, Gila, didn't appear in court.

He was ordered to surrender his passport while awaiting sentencing on a date that was not immediately set. Late Thursday, he was holed up in his home with his family.

Israel's presidency is a largely ceremonial post, traditionally given to elder statesmen as a reward for a lifetime of public service. Winning the office capped a career in which Katsav became a model of success for Sephardic Jews, who for decades were a Jewish underclass in Israel relative to the well-off, European-rooted establishment.

Katsav's world began to crumble late in his presidency when he complained that a female employee was trying to extort him. The woman went to police with her side of the story, detailing a series of sexual assaults. Other women came forward with similar complaints.

According to the indictment, Katsav forced one woman to the floor of his office at the Tourism Ministry in 1998 and raped her. Later that year, he summoned her to a Jerusalem hotel to go over paperwork and raped her on the bed in his room. The indictment alleged that Katsav tried to calm his victim by saying: "Relax, you'll enjoy it."

The indictment alleged that he harassed two women while he was president, embracing them against their will and making unwanted sexual comments. He also was charged with obstruction of justice: The indictment said Katsav tried to persuade one of the women to change her testimony.

Under heavy public pressure, Katsav resigned in 2007, two weeks before his term expired, under a plea bargain that would have required him to admit to lesser charges of sexual misconduct. But in a dramatic reversal, Katsav subsequently rejected the deal and vowed to clear his name in court.

Around that time, he held a bizarre news conference in which he lashed out at prosecutors and the media and denied any wrongdoing. His erratic behavior, in which he shook in anger, waved a computer disc that he said proved his innocence and screamed at reporters, raised questions about his state of mind.

The Israeli public has closely followed the case's twists and salacious details.

The conviction of a former president on rape charges - virtually unheard of anywhere in the developed world - was the latest victory for women's rights groups against the male-dominated military and political establishment.

In the early years of the state, some male leaders were known for womanizing and freewheeling ways, though that culture has gradually changed.

Women's rights groups had rallied against Katsav. On Thursday, hundreds of women stood outside the courtroom holding signs against him and chanting: "The whole nation knows Katsav is a criminal."

Emmanuel Gross, a law professor at Haifa University, said the verdict was a testament to the independence of Israel's legal system. "Our judiciary is not afraid of anyone," he said. "It is one of our greatest strengths."

In recent years, a former finance minister was sent to prison for embezzling funds, a justice minister was convicted of forcibly kissing a female soldier, and former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was forced to resign to face corruption charges. His trial is still in court.

Katsav was born in Iran and immigrated to Israel as a child, growing up in immigrant tent encampments and then in Kiryat Malachi, one of the failed "development" towns that Israel's earliest governments built to populate the desert. Katsav, who is married and has five grown children, still resides in Kiryat Malachi, a hardscrabble town in southern Israel.

Katsav was elected mayor of Kiryat Malachi at the age of 24 - becoming the youngest mayor in Israel's history. He rose through the ranks of the rightist Likud Party to hold a series of Cabinet posts before parliament selected him to be president in 2000. He engineered the upset victory over Nobel peace laureate Shimon Peres by rallying ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties behind him.

Katsav's presidency was largely uneventful. In one of his moments of glory, he shook hands and chatted briefly with the president of archenemy Iran at the funeral of Pope John Paul II in 2005. He also appealed for calm and unity during Israel's traumatic withdrawal from the Gaza Strip a few months later.

On Thursday, Katsav's son Boaz vowed his father would clear his name.

"We will continue to walk with our heads high and all the nation ... with God's help, will know that (my) father, the eighth president of the state of Israel, is innocent," he said.

But one of Katsav's lawyers, Avigdor Feldman, said his client had not yet decided whether to appeal.

Any appeal would likely focus on witness credibility - an area that Israel Radio legal analyst Moshe Negbi said Israel's Supreme Court rarely reverses.

"He has nothing to lose. He will probably appeal, but he doesn't have much of a chance," Negbi said.

A presidential pardon also appears unlikely because of the severity of the offenses. The office of Peres, who became president when Katsav resigned, declined to comment.

O'Donnell: Spending accusations are 'thug' tactics

O'Donnell: Spending accusations are 'thug' tactics

AP Photo
FILE - In this Sept. 17, 2010 file photo, Delaware Republican Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell delivers remarks at Values Voter Summit in Washington. Federal authorities have opened a criminal investigation of O'Donnell to determine if she broke the law by using campaign money to pay personal expenses, according to a person with knowledge of the investigation.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Failed U.S. Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell said Thursday that accusations she misspent campaign funds are politically motivated and stoked by disgruntled former campaign workers.

The Delaware Republican appeared on several network morning shows to defend herself a day after The Associated Press reported federal authorities have launched a criminal probe to determine whether she broke the law by using campaign money to pay personal expenses.

"There's been no impermissible use of campaign funds whatsoever," O'Donnell told ABC's "Good Morning America."

O'Donnell, the tea party favorite who scored a surprise primary victory before losing in the general election, suggested the accusations are driven by political establishments on the right and left, including Joe Biden. He represented Delaware in the Senate for decades before he became vice president.

"You have to look at this whole thug-politic tactic for what it is," she said Thursday.

O'Donnell said she found it suspicious that she, her campaign staff and her lawyer have not been informed of a federal investigation.

A person familiar with the investigation confirmed it to The AP, speaking on condition of anonymity to protect the identity of a client who has been questioned as part of the probe. The case, which has been assigned to two federal prosecutors and two FBI agents in Delaware, has not been brought before a grand jury.

O'Donnell, who set a state record by raising more than $7.3 million in a tea party-fueled campaign this year, has been dogged by questions about her personal and campaign finances.

At least two former campaign workers have alleged that she routinely used political contributions to pay personal expenses including her rent as she ran for the Senate. She has run three consecutive times, starting in 2006.

O'Donnell has acknowledged paying part of her rent with campaign money, arguing that her house doubled as a campaign headquarters.

On Thursday, she told NBC's "Today Show" that people making the spending allegations include a fired former staff member and a former volunteer, both of whom she described as disgruntled. She says many other workers who spent longer with her campaigns have defended her.

Her contention that the accusations were politically motivated echoed a written statement she released the day before, which singled out Biden.

"Given that the king of the Delaware political establishment just so happens to be the vice president of the most liberal presidential administration in U.S. history, it is no surprise that misuse and abuse of the FBI would not be off the table," she said.

The vice president's office declined to comment.

O'Donnell's campaign also has criticized the nonpartisan watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which filed a complaint about O'Donnell's campaign spending this fall and asked Delaware's federal prosecutor to investigate.

O'Donnell says the group is part of a liberal effort to kill her career, noting that the organization is run by Washington attorney Melanie Sloan, who worked under Biden as a lawyer for the Senate Judiciary Committee in the early 1990s.

Sloan dismissed the criticism Thursday, emphasizing that the allegations originated with conservatives who worked for O'Donnell.

"I don't see how anybody can say that those people are part of the liberal machine," Sloan said. "What CREW did was look at what they were saying and say, 'Wait a minute, that's against the law.'"

The U.S. Attorney's office in Delaware has confirmed it is reviewing CREW's complaint. But officials in the office and the FBI declined to say whether a criminal investigation was under way.

Federal law prohibits candidates from spending campaign money for personal benefit. FEC rules state that this prohibition applies to the use of campaign money for a candidate's mortgage or rent "even if part of the residence is being used by the campaign," although O'Donnell's campaign has maintained that it was told otherwise by someone at the agency.

O'Donnell drew national attention in September when she upset U.S. Rep. Mike Castle for the GOP Senate nomination. She was handily defeated in November by Democrat Chris Coons following a campaign that focused largely on past controversial statements, including that she'd "dabbled into witchcraft" when she was young.

One former O'Donnell staffer, Kristin Murray, recorded an automated phone call for the Delaware Republican Party just before the primary, accusing O'Donnell of "living on campaign donations - using them for rent and personal expenses, while leaving her workers unpaid and piling up thousands in debt."

O'Donnell told NBC that Murray was fired from her 2008 campaign after less than two weeks because of incompetence.

Another former aide, David Keegan, said he became concerned about O'Donnell's 2008 campaign finances as she fell behind on bills and had no apparent source of income besides political contributions. He submitted an affidavit to CREW alleging that she used campaign money to cover meals, gas, a bowling outing and rent.

In a message sent last week to AP, Keegan said he had not been questioned as part of a criminal investigation, and that he considers himself only a "catalyst" in a case in which several people must be questioned to scrutinize O'Donnell's accounting practices and alleged misuse of campaign funds.

O'Donnell has run through numerous treasurers over her three campaigns, many of whom left abruptly after brief stints. At one point O'Donnell was acting as her own treasurer, and her current treasurer is former campaign manager Matt Moran.

O'Donnell, who announced just after Election Day that she had signed a book deal, hasn't held a full-time job in years and has struggled to explain how she makes a living.

Murkowski certified winner of Alaska Senate race

Murkowski certified winner of Alaska Senate race

AP Photo
Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell, center, signs the certificate of election for U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski,R-Alaska, as the Director of the Division of Elections Gail Fenumiai, left, and Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell watch, in Juneau, Alaska, Thursday, Dec. 30, 2010. The certificate will be hand delivered by Mrs. Fenumiai to the President of the Senate.

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) -- Sen. Lisa Murkowski was officially named the winner of Alaska's U.S. Senate race Thursday, following a period of legal fights and limbo that lasted longer than the write-in campaign she waged to keep her job. Gov. Sean Parnell and Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, who oversees elections, signed the paperwork certifying her win in the hotly contested race.

"It's done," Treadwell said after penning his last signature in front of cameras in Parnell's office.

The paperwork was expected to be hand-delivered to Washington, D.C., by state Division of Elections Director Gail Fenumiai to guard against delays that could keep Murkowski from being sworn in with her colleagues on Wednesday.

With certification, Murkowski becomes the first U.S. Senate candidate since Strom Thurmond in 1954 to win a write-in campaign.

The official vote tally certified Thursday showed her margin of victory over her nearest opponent, Republican rival Joe Miller, was 10,252 votes.

"The voters have spoken. The courts have confirmed their voice," Parnell said. "We have certified and attested to Sen. Murkowski's election, and I would look forward to her being sworn in in the week ahead here."

Murkowski waged her longshot write-in bid after losing the August GOP primary to Miller, a Sarah Palin-backed tea party favorite making his first statewide run for public office.

She announced her write-in campaign Sept. 17 - an unprecedented effort in this state that lasted 46 days. Certification came 58 days after the election.

Miller was expected to announce Friday whether he'll continue his challenge to the state's handling of the election and its counting of write-in votes for Murkowski.

Miller sued in federal court shortly after the hand-count of ballots ended. He argued that the state should have strictly adhered to a law calling for write-in ballots to have the ovals filled and either the candidate's last name or name as it appears on the declaration of candidacy written. Spelling, his attorneys insisted, mattered.

The state allowed for ballots with misspellings to be counted toward Murkowski's total, with the director of the state Division of Elections, in consultation with state attorneys, using discretion to determine voter intent.

The federal judge, Ralph Beistline, determined the state courts were in a better position to decide the winner initially but blocked the state from certifying the results of the race until the "serious" legal issues raised by Miller were resolved.

Last week, the state Supreme Court, in an at-times strongly worded 4-0 opinion, called voter intent "paramount" and upheld a lower court decision that refused to overturn election results favoring Murkowski.

Miller then took his case back to the federal court, but Beistline refused to second-guess the state's high court, tossing Miller's claims of constitutional violations and lifting his hold on certification.

Miller could appeal Beistline's decision, lodge a formal contest of the election results in state court or give up.

Murkowski campaign manager Kevin Sweeney called certification "anticlimatic."

Murkowski declared victory last month after the last votes had been counted, and she has called on Miller to concede, saying a drawn out legal fight only makes him look desperate.

No one from her camp was on hand to witness the signing. Murkowski was out of state on vacation, a trip she was leaving for when Beistline's decision came down Tuesday.

Countless Juarez residents flee 'dying city'

Countless Juarez residents flee 'dying city'


AFP – Passengers aboard an
airliner outbound for Veracruz,
in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.
There have been more than


CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico – The mother of four raised a finger, pointing out abandoned and stripped concrete homes and counting how many families have fled the Western Hemisphere's deadliest city on her street alone.

"One, two, three, four, here, and two more back there on the next block," said Laura Longoria.

The 36-year-old ran a convenience store in her working-class neighborhood in south Juarez until the owners closed shop, fed up with the tribute they were forced to pay to drug gangsters to stay in business.

Her family vowed to stick it out. But then came the kidnapping of a teen from a stationery shop across the street. After that, Longoria's husband, Enrique Mondragon, requested a transfer from the bus company where he works.

"They asked, `where to,'" he recalled. "I said, `Anywhere.'"

No one knows how many residents have left the city of 1.4 million since a turf battle over border drug corridors unleashed an unprecedented wave of cartel murders and mayhem. Business leaders, citing government tax information, say the exodus could number 110,000, while a municipal group and local university say it's closer to 230,000 and estimates by social organizations are even higher.

The tally is especially hard to track because Juarez is by nature transitory, attracting thousands of workers to high-turnover jobs in manufacturing, or who use the city across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas, as a waystation before they slip north illegally.

But its toll is everywhere you look. Barely a week goes by when Longoria and her husband don't watch a neighbor move away. Then the vandals arrive, carrying off window panes, pipes, even light fixtures, until there's nothing but a graffiti-covered shell, surrounded by yards strewn with rotting food or shredded tires. That could be what's in store for Longoria's three-room home of poured concrete if her husband's transfer comes through.

Long controlled by the Juarez Cartel, the city descended into a horrifying cycle of violence after Mexico's most-wanted kingpin, Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, and his Sinaloa Cartel tried to shoot their way to power here beginning in 2008. President Felipe Calderon sent nearly 10,000 troops to restore order. Now, the Mexican army and federal authorities are going door-to-door, conducting an emergency census to determine just how many residents have fled.

Many people, however, refuse to answer their questions for fear authorities are simply collecting information about neighborhoods so they can begin extorting residents — just like the drug gangs. "Soon," Longoria said, "there won't be many people left to count."

While many Juarez residents fleeing the violence seek out more peaceful points in Mexico, others have streamed across the border into El Paso, population 740,000, where apartment vacancies are down and requests for new utility services in recently purchased or rented houses have spiked, according to Mayor John Cook.

Massacres, beheadings, YouTube videos featuring cartel torture sessions and even car bombs are becoming commonplace in Juarez, where more than 3,000 people have been killed this year, according to the federal government, making it among the most dangerous places on earth.

El Paso, by contrast, has had three violent deaths — and one was a murder-suicide.

Juarez Chamber of Commerce President Daniel Murguia said at least 6,000 city businesses have closed so far this year, according to Mexican Interior Ministry figures. There is no data available on those shuttered amid last year's and 2008 violence, however, or on scores of businesses targeted by arsonists.

Kathy Dodson, El Paso's economic director, said the number of fees paid for new city business permits there have not increased dramatically, but Jose Luis Mauricio, president of a group for new Mexican business owners in El Paso known as "La Red," or The Net, said membership has grown from nine in February to about 280 today.

"Maybe it's a bit sad for Juarez, but these are business owners who are moving here because they have no choice," said Mauricio, who leads weekly breakfasts for Mexican expatriates looking to set up businesses in El Paso.

One club member is a Mexican-American who owns a factory in Juarez but moved to El Paso with his family after he was kidnapped last year. The 50-year-old, who asked that his name not be published to avoid further repercussions, was held in a Juarez safe house — but managed to untie his hands and cry for help loud enough that neighbors called the Mexican army to rescue him.

"There's a lot of people afraid. I don't blame them. Even if they haven't had a bad experience, they don't want to be the next one to have one, so they run away," said the factory owner. He said he will never move back to Juarez but hopes the violence will one day calm enough for him to visit.

"It's a city that's dying," he said. "It's out of control."

Many of those who have not left want to, including Marta Elena Ramirez. She owns Restaurant Dona Chole, specializing in menudo, a clear soup made with beef stomach. Her cafeteria-style eatery is on the second floor of an indoor market of Mexican handicrafts.

Ramirez said sales are down 50 percent since 2007, when Americans used to head south for drinking and clubbing, or to stock up on Mexican knicknacks. Now they are too afraid to come.

Though she has held U.S. residency for 18 years, Ramirez lives in Juarez and had never considered moving — until now. She's stopped paying rent on her restaurant and is looking for investors to help her start a street food cart in El Paso.

"I've always been a fighter, and this is my Juarez. I've always said, `No matter what happens, Juarez is mine,'" said the 65-year-old. "But too much has happened."

As commerce in the city dries up, even Juarez residents who do not move north cross into El Paso more frequently for services no longer available in their neighborhoods and spend $220 million a year in El Paso, said Murguia.

"Here it's a problem of opportunity, not just violence," he said. "There are no jobs, and that means there are more people who are becoming hit men and criminals."

Even for those not tied to drug trafficking, staying in Juarez means paying off extortionists — like a 43-year-old food wholesaler near the city's center who provides everything from bulk dog food to beer that smaller stores use to stock their shelves.

In September 2009, associates from "La Linea," enforcers for the Juarez Cartel comprised of hit men and corrupt police and soldiers, visited his store and said he would be required to pay 4,000 pesos — about $330 — a week "for protection."

"They came to see me in a very friendly way," said the business owner, who asked that his name and key details be omitted so he could not be identified. "Everyone is paying. Those who aren't paying are out of business, even dead."

As recently as 2008, he had 500 wholesale customers; now it's down to 200. Two storeowners who used to do business with him have been gunned down in their stores over the last year, and a third shot dead in his kitchen. Business got so slow that his extortionists recently reduced his weekly payment to 2,500 pesos, about $205, but warned him never to miss a week.

Every week, the wholesaler receives a call in which a distorted voice provides a bank account number where money can be deposited but not withdrawn. He takes cash to indicated bank branches and makes deposits.

The wholesaler's son-in-law was kidnapped early last year — the family put $230,000 on a debit card and exchanged it for his safe return. His store had also been burglarized previously. Since he began paying for protection, however, all crime around him has ceased and his customers have even stopped getting harassed by police for illegally parking in front of his business.

"At first, I used to say `this will pass,' but now I'm resigned that there's no solution," said the wholesaler, who has applied for U.S. residency to move to El Paso.

Murguia said extortion payments are now so common that they've become known as "cobras del piso" or "floor charges" for doing business in Juarez — but that there's no measure of how much payoffs cost business citywide per year because few admit to paying them.

Many familiar Juarez restaurants have shut down only to pop up anew on the U.S. side. The high-end Mexican eatery Maria Chuhchena closed its original location in Juarez and resurfaced in El Paso, though the restaurant maintains a branch in Juarez's spiffy Campestre district. Another Juarez favorite, Aroma, was one of three eateries set ablaze by arsonists on a single night in June 2008 and now operates in El Paso.

Now parts of Juarez after sundown are all but deserted — even in the heart of downtown. Closed used car dealerships, taco and hamburger stands, pharmacies, ice cream parlors and muffler shops give way to a block of abandoned doctors' and dentists' offices, which stand forlornly next to a closed stereo outlet and across from an empty office supply store.

"Se renta" and "se vende," signs offering retail space for rent or sale are everywhere, plastered to the shuttered pizzeria, the closed and looted furniture store, the defunct locksmith and the empty facade of "Jersey Mechanic."

Other abandoned properties are tagged with a simple phrase in black spray paint: "How many more?"

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