Roy L. Harbin:The DANG-DInGIE American

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re:next stage to osamas plan kicks in

~Muslim extremists are expanding their control of northern Pakistan, challenging the U.S.-backed government of President Gen. Pervez Musharraf and adding to the lands where terrorists allied with Osama bin Laden find refuge.

Once restricted to pockets in the mountains along the Afghanistan border, radical mullahs and their followers now wield power in vast areas of northwest Pakistan. They have moved in the past few months beyond the tribal regions and into northern Pakistan cities and the Swat Valley.

The increased influence of the Islamic radicals was highlighted this week by intense fighting between local gunmen and government troops. The government said about 180 people have been killed, mostly militants, in violence including bombings, abductions and shootouts.

"I can tell you there is money coming from al-Qaida and if al-Qaida did not lead these things we couldn't fight," said Abdul Samad, a stocky militant from Afghanistan's eastern Nangarhar province who serves as a liaison between Taliban groups on both sides of the border. Even during the fighting, radicals have made themselves available to speak with visiting journalists.

The growing instability in northwest Pakistan has shaken Musharraf's authority at a time when he's also being upstaged by the return of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto - a jubiliant homecoming shattered by a terrorist bombing that killed more than 140 people.

Taliban and al-Qaida were pushed back after the U.S. and its Afghan allies toppled the Taliban regime in Afghanistan in late 2001. Today, residents say Arabs, Uzbeks and Tajiks have rejoined the ranks of the local radicals, mostly Pashtuns, the same ethnic group as the Taliban across the border in Afghanistan.~

~Pro-Taliban cleric Maulana Fazlullah has set up a virtual mini-state in Swat, a province of 4,000 square miles. He uses an FM radio station to help spread fundamentalist Islam in an area once known to tourists as the "Switzerland of Asia" for its stunning, snow-covered mountains.

Militias following Fazlullah's teachings, identified by their shoulder-length hair and camouflage vests over traditional shalwar kameez clothing, have bombed girls schools and blown up video and CD shops. They drilled holes into the face of a 20-foot- tall stone Buddha, obliterating the features of the 1,300-year-old sculpture.

Sher Mohammed, a lawyer in Swat and a human rights activist, said the enforcers - including Afghans and Arabs - "are roaming freely, checking barber shops in the small villages.""They come out at midnight. They are not local people," he said.~

~Fazlullah has called for a ban on polio vaccinations because he said it was a ploy by the West to sterilize Muslim babies. He demands women wear the all-encompassing burqa and frowns on barbers who give haircuts in styles deemed un-Islamic.~

~"For three years no one did anything. Two years ago you could have arrested Fazlullah with two police constables. Today you need a division," Mohammed said.

A police official, who asked for anonymity fearing reprisals from militants and from his superiors, said sympathizers within the government, police and intelligence service have allowed Fazlullah to gain stature in the region.

A confidential memo circulated to Pakistan's National Security Council in July and made public soon afterward warned that radicals from the border region were exerting wide influence.

It spoke of a "nexus" between radical clerics behind the bloody siege of the Red Mosque in Islamabad, which resulted in more than 100 deaths, and the clerics in northwest Pakistan. Besides Fazlullah, those include Baitullah Mehsud, who allegedly threatened to meet Bhutto's return to Pakistan with suicide attacks.

"When I was following the Red Mosque, one thing was very clear - that they had strong sympathizers within the establishment and within the military," said Hasan Askari Rizvi, a leading independent Pakistani defense analyst. Rizvi said Pakistan's powerful armed forces remain ambivalent about religious extremists, whom the military supported during the Afghan war with the Soviets in the 1980s.~


re:tamil leader killed

~COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) - A Sri Lankan airstrike pounded a meeting of top rebel leaders early Friday, killing the head of the Tamil Tigers' political wing and five others in an attack seen as a major victory for the government in its long fight with the guerrillas.

The killing of S.P. Tamilselvan, assumed by some to be the secretive group's second in command, was certain to badly damage the rebels' morale nearly two weeks after they stunned the government with a devastating attack on an air base.

"This is a message that we know their leaders' location," Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa told The Associated Press. "This confirms that our information is very accurate."~



~It was the latest in a series of claims that U.S. airstrikes have killed innocent Iraqis. The American military says it takes several measures to prevent civilian casualties while insisting that it will strike back when attacked.

Iraqi police forces also have been accused of being infiltrated by extremists, a major obstacle in the U.S. strategy to develop the national security apparatus so American troops can go home.

But U.S. commanders have also cautiously welcomed signs of progress among the Iraqi police.

Police in Iskandariyah, 30 miles south of Baghdad, turned in 26 Iranian mortar rounds on Tuesday, the military said in a statement.

The police discovered the mortar rounds as well as other weapons during a raid on a cemetery in the city and gave them to U.S. paratroopers from the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne) 25th Infantry Division. The cache included 19 82mm Iranian mortar rounds made in 2000, and seven 60mm Iranian mortar rounds made in 2006.

The military has accused Iran of funding and arming Shiite extremists fighting U.S. forces in Iraq. Tehran denies the allegations. ~

re:mosul dam collapse possible

~The Iraqi government on Wednesday rejected the findings of a U.S. oversight panel that a dam near the northern city of Mosul is on the verge of a collapse that could cause flooding along the Tigris River "all the way to Baghdad."

The dam, Iraq's largest, has several problems, including that it was built in the 1980s in an area with sinkholes.

Twenty-one contracts have been awarded, totaling $27 million for repair and reinforcement efforts.

But the latest quarterly report from Stuart W. Bowen Jr., the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, found the U.S. effort "has yet to yield significant improvements."~

~That review called the Mosul Dam "the most dangerous dam in the world" because of erosion problems.

Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh rejected this conclusion.

"The Mosul Dam is in good condition and it is not in danger," he said in a statement. "This dam is under constant observation by the Iraqi government and all precautionary measures and needed maintenance are being taken."

He said teams of specialists and experts were "working around the clock" to strengthen the dam by bolstering areas suffering from erosion with cement.

"The reports of any possible collapse for the dam are inaccurate and are untrue," al-Dabbagh said.

The dam was completed in 1984 atop soluble soils that erode with exposure to water, leaving cavities beneath the structure. The Iraqi government has worked to shore up the foundation since the 1980s.

But the latest U.S. report found that the dam does not appear to meet "international standards for risk and reliability," even with the U.S. investment as part of reconstruction efforts after the 2003 fall of Saddam Hussein.

The U.S. officials urged the Iraqi government to make improvements a priority, recommending that officials maintain lower-than-normal reservoir levels and develop evacuation plans in case the dam breaks.~



US Official Warns Iran on Nuke Program

Published: 11/1/07, 10:05 PM EDT


VIENNA, Austria (AP) - A senior U.S. official challenged Iran's hard-line president Thursday over his claim that Iranians are immune from further U.N. sanctions, saying such action is in the works unless Tehran meets demands to curb its nuclear program.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad delivered his own warning in Tehran, saying his government would make unspecified economic retaliation against any European country that followed the U.S. lead in imposing sanctions on some Iranian banks and businesses.

A Saudi Arabian official, meanwhile, said Arab states in the Persian Gulf had proposed to Tehran that they set up a consortium to provide Iran with enriched uranium as way to defuse the nuclear fight.

U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns made his comment after a meeting with the head of the United Nations' nuclear watchdog agency that was meant to demonstrate unity following recent strains on how best to deal with Iran's defiance.

Burns stopped to talk with Mohamed ElBaradei at the International Atomic Energy Agency's headquarters before heading to London, where he was to discuss the Iran standoff with his counterparts from Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany.

He planned to press them for agreement on a third set of U.N. sanctions to be threatened unless Tehran changes its position and obeys U.N. Security Council demands that it suspend uranium enrichment and related programs.

France and Britain back new sanctions if Tehran remains defiant, but Russia and China - the two other veto-holding permanent members of the Security Council - are skeptical.

Washington and its allies say Iran is using the program to secretly develop nuclear weapons, while the Islamic republic insists it needs enrichment technology to produce fuel for atomic reactors that will generate electricity.

Ahmadinejad has been adamant that Iran will not curtail its nuclear program and has ridiculed previous sanctions as ineffective.

On Thursday, he said Europeans would suffer if they matched the latest U.S. sanctions that bar American companies from dealing with businesses and banks linked to Iran's Revolutionary Guards, a military force that has holdings in oil, construction and other sectors.

"If they plan to cooperate with the enemy of the Iranian nation, we cannot interpret this as a friendly behavior. We will show reaction," Iranian state radio quoted Ahmadinejad as saying. "You, Europeans, know well what will happen in the economic sphere if Iran takes a serious move in this matter."

According to Iranian statistics, Europe is Iran's largest trading partner.

ElBaradei angered Washington by suggesting it was too late to insist on a full Iranian enrichment freeze and then reaching an agreement with Tehran that commits Iran to answer questions it has been dodging about its nuclear program.

While Washington has since swung its support behind that approach, U.S. officials worry Iran will use the deal to try to weaken Security Council attempts to force an enrichment halt. Ahmadinejad and other Iranian officials have said that if Iran meets its commitment to tell all to the IAEA, the matter before the Security Council will be "closed."

Burns took pains to rebut that view after his hour-long meeting with ElBaradei.

Ahmadinejad "said in September the Security Council case is closed," Burns told reporters. "I am sorry to tell him it's not closed. There are sanctions being implemented ... and there will be a third Security Council sanctions resolution" if Iran continues to defy the council.

Burns said he and ElBaradei agreed that "it's important that Iran finally tell the truth about its activities in the past ... but we also agreed that all of us" back a third round of sanctions if necessary.

Saudi Arabia's foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, suggested a way out of the crisis is a proposal by the Arab nations around the Persian Gulf to form a consortium that would build a uranium enrichment plant to supply the region's states, including Iran, with reactor fuel.

Speaking with the Middle East Economic Digest in London, he said the plant should be sited in a neutral country outside the region.

"The U.S. is not involved, but I don't think it (would be) hostile to this, and it would resolve a main area of tension between the West and Iran," the magazine quoted Prince Saud as saying.

He said the idea had been proposed to Iran's government, which said it would consider the plan. The Iranians previously ignored a similar proposal from Russia - to host Iran's uranium enrichment facilities on its territory to allay Western concerns about monitoring.

The agreement between the IAEA and Iran commits Tehran to clear up by December all questions about its program - much of which the Iranians had kept secret until discovered four years ago.

In Tehran, Iranian officials and IAEA representatives wrapped up four days of talks on some of those questions Thursday, state media reported. The Iranian side expressed satisfaction with the discussions, but there was no comment from the U.N. agency.


Associated Press writers Veronika Oleksyn in Vienna and Nasser Karimi in Tehran, Iran, contributed to this report.


re:somalii pirates capture a floating benzene bomb

~NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) - The U.S. Navy on Friday kept its eye on a Japanese tanker taken over by pirates off Somalia's coast, while a top U.S. official said that piracy remains a "very serious security problem" in the region.

Earlier this week, a North Korean tanker overrun by pirates was taken back after crew members overpowered the hijackers in a bloody fight. The hijackers were being held aboard the ship until they can be handed over for prosecution at a port.

After the clash, Navy personnel boarded the North Korean boat to treat the wounded. The U.S. efforts came despite its hostile relations with the communist country over its nuclear program.

"You'll always find our Navy prepared to help any ship in distress and certainly any ship that is confronting pirates," said Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, the top American envoy to six-nation talks on North Korea's nuclear disarmament.~

~The Golden Nori was carrying a load of benzene when the guided missile destroyer USS Porter fired on two pirate boats tied to the chemical tanker Sunday, sinking both. Benzene, an industrial solvent, is both highly flammable and can be fatal if too much is inhaled. The U.S. military said it was aware of what was onboard when it fired at the skiffs.

Somali pirates are trained fighters, in some cases linked to powerful Somali clans, outfitted with sophisticated arms and equipment, including GPS satellite instruments. They have seized merchant ships, ships carrying aid, and once even a cruise ship.

The United States also has supported efforts to quell an Islamic insurgency in Somalia.

Somalia has been without a functioning government since warlords overthrew dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991, then turned on each other. The current government was formed in 2004, but has struggled to assert any real control.~


re:venezuelan protesters routed

~Troops Clash With Venezuelan Protesters

Published: 11/1/07, 10:25 PM EDT


CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) - Soldiers used tear gas, plastic bullets and water cannons to scatter tens of thousands who massed Thursday to protest constitutional reforms that would permit Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to run for re-election indefinitely.

Led by university students, protesters chanted "Freedom! Freedom!" and warned that 69 amendments drafted by the Chavista-dominated National Assembly would violate civil liberties and derail democracy.

It was the biggest turnout against Chavez in months, and appeared to revive Venezuela's languid opposition at a time when the president seems as strong as ever. Students promised more street demonstrations over the weekend, but no opposition-led protests were planned for Friday.

"This is a dictatorship masked as democracy," said Jorge Rivas, an 18-year-old student. "Chavez wants our country to be like Cuba, and we're not going to allow that to occur."

Authorities broke up the protest outside the headquarters of the country's electoral council, reporting that six police officers and one student were injured. But students said dozens of protesters were hurt during the melee. The local Globovision television network broadcast footage of several police beating an unarmed protester with billy clubs.

Student leader Freddy Guevara said it was not immediately clear how many students were arrested, and he urged local human rights groups to help verify the number of detained protesters.

Students hurled rocks and bottles, and a few lifted up sections of metal barricades and thrust them against police holding riot shields. Students retreated later when police fired plastic bullets.

Rock-throwing clashes between students and Chavez supporters continued at a nearby university campus.

"Chavez wants to remain in power his entire life, and that's not democracy," said Gonzalo Rommer, a 20-year-old student who joined protesters marching to the National Elections Council.

Deputy Justice Minister Tarek El Aissami blamed students for the violence, saying they forced their way through police barricades.

But Vicente Diaz, one of the National Election Council's five directors, accused National Guardsmen and police of using excessive force to disperse protesters. "We absolutely condemn the behavior of the authorities," Diaz said.

The amendments would give the government control over the Central Bank, create new types of cooperative property, allow authorities to detain citizens without charge during a state of emergency and extend presidential terms from six to seven years while allowing Chavez to run again in 2012.

To take effect, the reforms must be approved by voters in a Dec. 2 referendum. Lawmakers are expected to give final approval to the amendments on Friday during a special congressional session.

Opposition parties, human rights groups and representatives of the Roman Catholic Church fear civil liberties would be severely weakened under the constitutional changes.

Chavez, a close ally of Cuban leader Fidel Castro, denies the reforms threaten civil liberties.

He and his supporters say the changes will help move the country toward socialism, while giving neighborhood-based assemblies more decision-making power in using government funds for local projects like paving streets and building public housing.~

re:his assembly approves his move

~CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) - Venezuela's pro-government National Assembly overwhelmingly approved constitutional reforms on Friday that would greatly expand the power of President Hugo Chavez and permit him to run for re-election indefinitely.

The 69 changes to Venezuela's Constitution now go to citizens for a Dec. 2 vote.

The proposed changes, Chavez's most radical move yet in his push to transform Venezuela into a socialist state, threaten to spur a new wave of political upheaval in this oil-rich South American country already deeply divided over Chavez's rule.

The amendments would allow the government to expropriate private property prior to a court ruling and take total control over the Central Bank, create new types of property managed by cooperatives, and extend presidential terms from six to seven years while allowing Chavez to run again in 2012.

All but seven of the assembly's 167 lawmakers voted for the changes by a show of hands.~


re:castro still at it

~Cuban police rounded up a group of young people wearing white rubber wristbands stenciled with the word "cambio," or "change," and held them for hours before releasing them without filing charges, a human rights activist said Thursday.

The detentions, which took place Monday, went little-noticed on the island but sparked an outcry three days later in Washington, where top officials and critics of Cuba's communist government said at least 70 youths had been arrested.

Elizardo Sanchez, head of the Havana-based Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation, said an unknown number of young people were wearing the bracelets when they were detained and taken to a police station in central Havana.

He said no formal charges were filed and that most of the group was released after a short time, but that a few may have been held until early Tuesday. The youths, however, had to relinquish their bracelets, Sanchez said.

In Washington, Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez on Thursday said 70 Cubans were arrested. Gutierrez added that he himself wears the "change" wristband to support Cubans who want democracy.

"Their unjustified detainment is exactly why Cuba needs change now," Gutierrez, a Cuban-American and co-chair of the White House Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba, said in a statement. "The Cuban people deserve an end to these tragedies."~


re:rat tunnels plugged up

~The tunnels vary in length from 100 yards to half a mile. To avoid detection by Israeli and Egyptian forces, smugglers conceal entrance and exit points under the floor tiles of kitchens, inside bedroom closets and in abandoned buildings.

Israel has complained that Egypt does not do enough to stop the flow of arms into Gaza. Egypt has rejected the allegations, but recently said it would make a greater effort to crack down on trafficking.

In October, Egyptian police announced that they captured three members of an al-Qaida-inspired group in a cross-border tunnel, one of them wearing a bomb belt meant for use in a suicide attack in Israel. Egypt also said it uncovered two tunnels in October, seizing a cache of weapons and ammunition, along with five kilograms of heroin. ~

re:hezbollah 'gloats' and 'crows'

~Hezbollah Says It Has Grown Stronger

Published: 11/1/07, 6:46 PM EDT


BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) - The leader of the militant Hezbollah group said Thursday that his organization has grown stronger as Israel has weakened.

Sheik Hassan Nasrallah's comments came a day after U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a new report that said Israel claims that Hezbollah has rearmed with new long-range rockets capable of hitting Tel Aviv.

"The resistance today is stronger than before and Israel is weaker," Nasrallah said during the opening of an agricultural fair in Beirut's southern suburb of Rweis organized by Hezbollah's construction arm, Jihad al-Bina. Nasrallah was not present but spoke to hundreds of supporters using a giant screen.

"We don't want war with anyone, but at the same time, we will not allow anyone to attack our villages, people and country," Nasrallah said. Hezbollah's Al-Manar television aired excerpts of his speech during the station's evening broadcast.

His comments came ahead of a military exercise Israel has scheduled this week in the north near the Lebanese border. The exercise is slated to be the largest Israeli military maneuver since the monthlong war between Israel and Hezbollah last year.

On Wednesday, the U.N. secretary-general's report said Israel claims Hezbollah has tripled its shore-to-sea C-802 missiles and has established an air defense unit armed with ground-to-air missiles.

"Israel has stated that the nature and number of weapons in Hezbollah's control constitutes a strategic threat to its security and the safety of its citizens," Ban said.

Ban said he believed the reports of Hezbollah's rearming are a cause of great concern for the stability of Lebanon.

Nasrallah did not comment on Ban's report or provide details on how Hezbollah has strengthened. Last year after the war ended, he said his group had been rearming since Israel withdrew from south Lebanon in 2000 and possessed more than 33,000 rockets.

Nasrallah warned that no one will be allowed "to stain Lebanon's lands, which will not be a land for Israeli occupation or American military bases." He was referring to a report by Lebanon's daily As-Safir newspaper last month that said Washington was proposing a treaty with Lebanon that would make it a strategic partner and lead to the creation of American bases in the country.

The Western-backed Lebanese government and the U.S. embassy denied the report.~

re:muslims who helped israelis during holoaust honored

~Tears welling in his eyes, an elderly Holocaust survivor on Thursday embraced the son of the Albanian man who saved him from the Nazi death camps, highlighting the little-known role played by European Muslims in helping Jews during World War II.

The two met for the first time at a photography exhibition at Yad Vashem, Israel's official Holocaust memorial, honoring Albanians who sheltered Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi persecution. Albania, a tiny European country with a Muslim majority, sheltered about 1,000 Jews who, except for one family, survived Nazi occupation, according to officials.

"This is a very unique story," said Yehudit Shendar, the exhibition's curator. Though Islam has an anti-Jewish image, these were "Muslims who endangered their own lives to save Jews," she said. Six million Jews were killed by the Nazis during World War II.

Albanians sheltered between 600 and 1,800 Jewish refugees, risking death or imprisonment, officials said. At the end of the war, Albania was the only European country with a larger Jewish population than before the war.

Yoshua Baruchowic, 84, wore a grim smile as he retold the harrowing story of his rescue. He stood next to Enver Alia Sheqer, the Albanian whose father saved him.~



re:bernstein on media

~"The problems we have in news and journalism are about us not doing our job well enough," Bernstein said. "The ideal of providing the best available version of the truth is being affected by the dominance of a journalistic culture that has less and less to do with reality and context."~

~Bernstein, 63, said he believes an "idiot culture" is partly to blame for the dysfunction of political life in the United States.

"You can't separate the appetites and demands of the people themselves and what they are given," he said. "The blame simply can't all be put at the feet of those who present news."~


re:pedos in amsterdam


re:how they duboys in dubai

~According to court documents, the alleged attack began when the juvenile defendant offered the two French boys, one of whom he knew slightly, a ride home from a Dubai mall. The two boys got in the car and were later joined by the two adult defendants.

The group drove to the edge of the Dubai desert, where the three defendants allegedly threatened the boys and took turns sexually assaulting Robert's son in the car, while the other boy was told to stay behind a sand dune, according to the court documents.

The 15-year-old told police that one defendant threatened him, saying he would "burn down your house and burn your parents after I've had sex with your mother."~


re:drew careys documentary series

~LOS ANGELES (AP) - Bob Barker famously closed each episode of "The Price Is Right" with a pitch to spay and neuter pets. His successor is taking a stand on a more controversial subject: marijuana. Drew Carey won't tout toking up on "Price," but he defends the use of medical marijuana in a video posted online Thursday on

"Smell that smell," the 49-year-old comedian says as he walks into a Los Angeles medical marijuana dispensary. "That's the smell of freedom."

The video is one of 20 Carey will host for the Reason Foundation, a nonprofit educational group whose ideas "some people call libertarian" and whose mission is to "advance freedom," said president David Nott.

Carey offered to produce brief documentaries on topics ranging from traffic congestion to immigration for the foundation's Web site, Nott said.~


re:alledged anti-racists deem museums governing board inadequate,,based on race

~The National Civil Rights Museum, built around the motel where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968, is drawing criticism that its governing board is too white and too closely tied to big business to watch over such an important piece of black history.~

~"The board should more nearly approximate the soldiers of the civil rights movement that it celebrates, and they were overwhelmingly African-American," said D'Army Bailey, a black Tennessee judge who played a major role in the museum's founding but resigned from the board in 1991 when it refused to make him chairman.

The museum opened 16 years ago at the old Lorraine Motel and is run by a foundation under a lease from the state. A citizens group largely inspired by Bailey opposes renewal of the foundation's lease and argues that the museum should instead be run by the government, whether local, state or federal.

Of its 32 board members, the Lorraine Civil Rights Museum Foundation lists 12 as representatives of large corporations, including FedEx, AutoZone and International Paper. Fifteen board members are black, 15 are white, one is Hispanic and one is of East Indian heritage.~

~The museum "shouldn't be in the hands of powerbrokers," said Joe Brown, a black city councilman.~

~"We want our museum to remain public," said state Rep. Barbara Cooper, a Memphis Democrat who is chairwoman of the Legislative Black Caucus.

But Hooks asked: "Is the city prepared to spend millions of dollars a year to keep it up? Some people do not realize that it's easier to say than to do."~

~Similarly, Michael Fitts, chief of staff for the State Building Commission, said the state lacks the expertise and money to take over the museum.

An earlier citizens group led by Bailey and a few colleagues raised $144,000 to buy the dilapidated Lorraine Motel at foreclosure auction in 1982 and lobbied for years to get public financing for the museum.

Bailey is now one of the board's harshest critics, accusing its members of letting the museum fall into disrepair while worrying more about their own public image than the civil rights movement.

"What better public relations instrument do they have in the city were Dr. King died?" Bailey said. "They have hijacked King."

The museum has an operating budget of more than $4 million a year, with about $1 million coming from donations and most of the rest from admissions and special events. The foundation raised $11 million for an expansion five years ago that added two buildings to the museum and doubled its size.

James Earl Ray a small-time crook and escaped convict, pleaded guilty to killing King and died in prison in 1998.~


re:even if it's oj,,an obvious setup like this don't seem right

~Federal agents learned three weeks in advance that O.J. Simpson and a memorabilia dealer planned an operation to retrieve personal items Simpson said were stolen from him, according to FBI reports obtained Friday by The Associated Press.

Dealer Thomas Riccio said he reported to the FBI on Aug. 21 that a collector claimed to have belongings taken from Simpson, and that Simpson wanted to videotape the confrontation with the person peddling thousands of pieces of his memorabilia.

Riccio told AP that he raised the subject while talking with the FBI about an unrelated subject: a video of Anna Nicole Smith. But he said agents dismissed his report, telling him "they didn't want to be involved in another weird celebrity case."

"The guy flat-out told me he had items stolen from O.J.'s house," Riccio told the AP. "I have a legitimate business."~

~Las Vegas police said the FBI did not alert them before the confrontation between Simpson and collectors Alfred Beardsley and Bruce Fromong.

"They contacted us afterward and provided us with the documentation," said Las Vegas Police Detective Andy Caldwell, the investigator handling the case.

Caldwell said he had no information about any FBI investigation into the incident.~

~After they expressed little interest, Riccio said he contacted the Los Angeles Police Department, where he said he was switched from department to department before finally being told to file a civil complaint.

"No one seemed to be concerned about it," Riccio said.~

~The FBI reports, written Aug. 21 and Sept. 19, said Riccio told agents he had been approached by Beardsley, who wanted to sell thousands of Simpson items.

The documents said Riccio described Beardsley as a fanatic and said Riccio contacted Simpson about the items. Simpson said his belongings were stolen from his Florida house by his former agent, Mike Gilbert, and others who had worked for him.~

~"Riccio and Simpson want to do a television broadcast confronting Beardsley regarding the items that were stolen," one report said. "Simpson wanted Riccio's assistance in setting up the operation and helping obtain interviews for Simpson through various media outlets after the fact."~

~Riccio has released a tape recording he made of the incident and been granted immunity by prosecutors.~


re:I gotta say,,this crew gives folks a reason to smile,,even those that don't like em

~The joke's on Vice President Dick Cheney. Apparently, around the White House, they're OK with that. As he launched into a health-care speech Wednesday, President Bush warmed up his audience with a nod to Halloween, at Cheney's expense.

"This morning I was with the vice president," Bush told a gathering of grocery manufacturers. "I was asking him what costume he was planning. He said, 'Well, I'm already wearing it.' Then he mumbled something about the dark side of the force."

Ah yes, that old Darth Vader line. Used to be that only Cheney's critics called him that, not his boss. Or his wife. Or Cheney himself.

"Most of you knew me long before anyone called me Darth Vader," Cheney said in a speech at The Washington Institute last week. "I've been asked if that nickname bothers me, and the answer is, no. After all, Darth Vader is one of the nicer things I've been called recently."

Darth Vader is the heavy-breathing villain of the Star Wars movies - a reference to Cheney's terse manner and sometimes gloomy view of world affairs.

Cheney's wife, Lynne, went even further in her appearance on "The Daily Show" earlier in October. She showed up with a Darth Vader doll.

"It's a special present for you," she told the show's host, Jon Stewart, who has been known to skewer the vice president. "It's an old family heirloom."~

~It is also hunting season, another time when Cheney takes a ribbing. He made headlines this week just for going hunting at a secluded Hudson Valley gun club in New York. The outing inevitably evoked memories of 2006, when Cheney accidentally shot his friend while quail hunting.

Asked why Cheney seems fine with the Darth Vader tag, McBride said: "If it brings some levity to politics, he's fine being the target."

Clearly.At the vice president's home at the Naval Observatory, his staff put both of the Cheneys' dogs in Halloween costumes on Wednesday, just for fun and family photos. The yellow lab got to be Superman. The black lab? Darth Vader.~


re:allright,,this is just cool

~When Debbie Parkhurst choked on a piece of apple at her Maryland home, her dog jumped in, landing hard on her chest and forcing the morsel to pop out of her throat. When the Keesling family of Indiana was about to be overcome by carbon monoxide, their cat clawed at wife Cathy's hair until she woke up and called for help.

For their nick-of-time acts, Toby, a 2 1/2-year-old golden retriever, and Winnie, a gray-eyed American shorthair, were named Dog and Cat of the Year by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

In addition, five humans were honored Thursday for their actions toward animals in the past year, including a Bronx firefighter who saved a dog and cat from a burning building.

Neither Parkhurst nor Keesling could explain their pets' timely heroics, though Parkhurst suggested her pooch's Heimlich maneuver might have been guided by divine intervention.

"That's what our veterinarian said," she said. "He wasn't making a joke; he's very spiritual, and now I have to agree with him."

Both pets were themselves rescued in infancy - Toby as a 4-week-old puppy tossed into a garbage bin to die, and Winnie as a week-old orphan hiding under a barn, so helpless that Keesling's husband, Eric, had to feed her milk with an eyedropper.

As the Keeslings recalled it, a gas-driven pump being used to remove flood waters from their basement in New Castle, Ind., last March malfunctioned, spreading carbon monoxide through the house. By the time Winnie moved into rescue mode, the couple's 14-year-old son, Michael, was already unconscious.

"Winnie jumped on the bed and was clawing at me, with a kind of angry meow," Cathy Keesling said. "When I woke up I felt like a T-bar had hit me across the head."

State police and sheriff's officers responding to her 911 call said the family was only minutes from death, judging by the amount of poisonous gas in the house.

Debbie Parkhurst's husband, Kevin, was at his job at a Wilmington, Del., chemical firm when she took a midday break from making jewelery and bit into an apple.

"Normally I peel them, but I read in Good Housekeeping magazine that the skin has all the nutrients, so I ate the skin, and that's what caused me to choke," she recalled.

"I couldn't breathe and I was in panic when Toby jumped on me. He never does that, but he did, and saved my life."

Both Toby and Winnie accompanied their owners to the awards luncheon at Manhattan's posh Rainbow Room atop Rockefeller Center. ~


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