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Monday, 25 June 2012

0 Kris Humphries told ex that Kim Kardashian's sex tape was dramatic by her own mother, information says

Kris Humphries trashed Kim Kardashian and her family in conversations and text messages to his former girlfriend, Myla Sinanaj, telling Sinanaj that Kris Jenner not only directed her daughter to shoot her infamous sex tape with Ray J, but to re-shoot it, because Jenner didn't think the first one was pretty enough, TMZ reports.

Kardashian has subpoenaed Sinanaj in her divorce case with Humphries, and TMZ reports Sinanaj has a lot to say about what Humphries told her about his relationship with his famous estranged wife.

Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries' Courtship and 72-Day Marriage

In addition to the sex tape claim, sources tell us Sinanaj has numerous text messages in which Humphries says Sinanaj is the love of his life, and he wants to get the divorce over with quickly so they can spend the rest of their time on earth together.

In several of the messages, TMZ was told Humphries says specifically that he's "moved on" from Kim.

The information is extremely damaging to Humphries, because he's alleging in his divorce that Kim has destroyed him emotionally by allegedly defrauding him into believing it was a real marriage, TMZ reports. It turns out Humphries has been seeing Sinanaj since mid-January, so his devastation argument may be hard to swallow.

Sources close to the Kardashians tell TMZ that Humphries is lying about the sex tape. They say Kim made it clear at the beginning of their relationship she would not discuss the tape because she didn't want to be judged by it.

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0 Disney Pixar's Brave heights US box office table

Brave, the latest animated feature from Disney Pixar, has made its debut at number one in the US box office chart, according to early estimates.

The film made $66.7m (£42.8m) in its opening weekend, knocking Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted off the top spot.

Brave, about a princess in medieval Scotland, is the first Disney Pixar animation with a female protagonist.

Action thriller Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter was the second highest new entry at number three.

Disney Pixar's Brave tops US box office chart

The film, whose cast includes the British actors Dominic Cooper and Rufus Sewell, took a total of $16.5m (£10.6m) over the weekend.

Brave, which will close the Edinburgh International Film Festival later this week, is the the 13th consecutive Pixar release to open at number one.

"Their track record is just unbelievable," said Paul Dergarabedian, analyst for box-office tracker

"The Pixar brand just carries so much weight with the audience. It doesn't matter almost what the story is about if it has the Pixar name."

Brave's heroine, who rebels against her family's plans for her to marry, is voiced by Kelly Macdonald, of Trainspotting and Boardwalk Empire fame.

Keira Knightley's latest film, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, made its debut at number 10.

It's three-day takings of $3.8m (£2.4m) reflected the fact it had a more limited release than the rest of the titles in this week's Top 10.

Woody Allen's Italian romance, To Rome With Love, opened in five cinemas and made $379,371 (£243,905).

That gave the film an average of $75,874 (£48,780) per screen, compared to the $16,028 (£10,307) screen average for Brave.


Brave is a 2012 American 3D computer-animated fantasy adventure film produced by Pixar Animation Studios and distributed by Walt Disney Pictures. It was written by Mark Andrews, Steve Purcell, Brenda Chapman and Irene Mecchi, directed by Andrews and Chapman and co-directed by Purcell. The film's voice cast features Kelly Macdonald, Julie Walters, Billy Connolly, Emma Thompson, Kevin McKidd, Craig Ferguson, Robbie Coltrane and John Ratzenberger. To make the most complex visuals possible, Pixar completely rewrote their animation system for the first time in 25 years. It is also the first movie ever to use the Dolby Atmos sound format.

In Brave, set in the highlands of 10th century Scotland, a skilled archer named Merida defies an age-old custom, causing chaos in her kingdom. After consulting a witch for help, her family becomes cursed and Merida is forced to undo the spell herself before it is too late. Brave premiered on June 10, 2012, at the Seattle International Film Festival, and was released in North America on June 22, 2012, to positive reviews.

Preceding the film is a short film entitled La Luna, directed by Enrico Casarosa.

In the Scottish kingdom of DunBroch, King Fergus presents his young daughter, Merida, with a bow and arrow for her birthday, to the discomfort of Merida's mother, Queen Elinor. During their outing, a giant bear named Mor'du, attacks the family with Fergus fighting off the bear while Elinor and Merida escape, at the cost of his left leg.

Years later, Elinor, who has since given birth to identical triplet boys, teaches Merida in the ways of the court, such as playing an instrument and proper manners. The princess is determined to practice her archery and explore the kingdom on her horse, Angus. The Lords Macintosh, MacGuffin, and Dingwall present their first-born sons to compete for Merida's hand. Merida chooses an archery challenge to determine her suitor, as she knows she is the first born of a great leader, enabling her to compete and she can defeat the others easily. Lord Dingwall's son wins by accident, but Merida enters herself as first-born of DunBroch and shoots the targets over Elinor's objections. The two have a falling out, resulting in Merida destroying a sewn tapestry depicting the family and Elinor throwing her daughter's bow into the fireplace. Only after Merida leaves in tears does Elinor realize her mistake; she tries to save the bow, but it is already damaged, leaving her to cry over it.

Fleeing to the forest, Merida encounters a trail of will-o'-the-wisps that lead her to an elderly witch's hut. The witch disguises herself as a simple whittler of wood, but as Merida notices her broom and talking crow, she sees through her ruse, and bargains with the witch for a spell that will change Elinor, thus changing Merida's fate. The witch conjures a small cake for Merida to give to her mother. In DunBroch, Elinor eats the cake and later transforms into a bear. With the help of the triplets, Merida and Elinor sneak out of the castle past Fergus and the celebrating clans. The pair return to the witch's cottage, where after tripping a Rube Goldberg booby trap they find a potion-controlled automated message left for Merida: the spell will be permanent unless undone by the second sunrise. The witch leaves Merida a riddle, mentioning that a bond must be repaired.

Merida teaches Elinor how to catch fish with her bow, and the two begin to reconcile; however, Elinor, for a brief period, forgets who she is and acts like a real bear, nearly mauling Merida. They are led by more wisps to the ruins of an old castle. In the throne room, Merida finds a damaged stone engraving with three brothers; a fourth brother had been cut off, just like how Merida had cut her mother off of the tapestry. Merida realizes that the curse had happened before, that the wayward brother was transformed into Mor'du, and Elinor will lose all traces of her humanity like Mor'du if they do not break the spell. They travel back to DunBroch to sew the family tapestry back together. To distract Fergus and the lords, who are on the verge of war after impatiently waiting to know which suitor Merida has chosen, Merida brings the four factions back together and with some direction from Elinor, declares that the sons should choose their own brides. Fergus goes to their bedroom and finds Elinor's ripped clothes and broken bed, mistaking his wife for dead. He bursts into the tapestry room where he finds Merida and Elinor as a bear. Elinor, once again reverting to a normal bear, attacks Fergus, and after realizing she has harmed both Merida and Fergus, flees.

Merida tries to convince her father that the bear is Elinor, but Fergus locks her in the room and sets off with the lords to capture and kill the bear. Merida is freed with the help of her brothers who retrieve the key from the maid. They were turned into cubs after eating the same cake, and the four follow wisps to where Fergus has captured Elinor. Merida defends Elinor by confronting Fergus, but he throws her aside and she is restrained by Lord Macintosh. She escapes, but Mor'du attacks the party. When the bear lunges for Merida, Elinor intervenes to protect her daughter and battles Mor'du. Elinor tricks Mor'du into attacking a weakened stone pillar, which eventually collapses onto and kills the demon bear. The group sees a wisp emerge from Mor'du's body, which reveals the human form of the fourth brother, whose spirit is now freed from the curse. He then flies away to join the other wisps. Merida puts the repaired tapestry on top of her wounded mother. But when the sun starts to rise, Elinor begins to permanently become a bear. Merida then bursts into treats and admits that it was all her fault and that she wants her mother back. As she sobs "I love you," the rift is mended, and Elinor and the boys return to human form. The kingdoms, having rekindled their own bonds, go their separate ways, except for young Dingwall who has apparently fallen in love with Merida, as the ships leave, though it is revealed Merida's brothers have stowed away on Macintosh's ship, causing Fergus to go after them and the ship. Merida and Elinor ride their horses through Scotland, both having changed for the better.

In a post-credits scene, one of the guards in front of the castle is awakened by the witch's pet crow asking him to sign for delivery of a large collection of wooden sculptures, which Merida had bought from the witch earlier in the film.
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Sunday, 24 June 2012

0 Will China surpass America in space?

China's space plans are ambitious, incremental and extensive. Should Americans be worried that China will overtake us in both space exploration and military capability in space?

No, not yet.

This week, China successfully achieved its first manned space docking with the launch of the Shenzhou 9 spacecraft that carried two men and China's first female astronaut. Part one of China's Project 921, a 30-year plan for space exploration that was approved in 1992, is complete. This is progress, indeed.

Will China surpass America in space?

Project 921 is the result of China's fear of being left behind in the development of space technology. Part one was about attaining human spaceflight. Part two -- which is where China is now -- focuses on testing advanced technologies, like maneuvering and docking. Part three envisions a large (about 20 tons, the size of Skylab) space station.

A manned mission to the moon was never included in the plan and has only recently become a topic of discussion in China. When talks do come up of putting a Chinese on the moon as early as 2016, they can rile U.S. officials and engender international prestige for China, especially as the U.S. space program appears to be floundering.

But China is not overtaking the United States in space. It is, however, advancing. The execution of China's space program has led to "tortoise and hare" comparisons with the United States.

During the Apollo phase, the United States advanced very quickly, launching many missions which culminated in reaching the moon by a decade's end. In contrast, China launches a mission about every two years, but takes large steps with each one and has a much longer timeline for achieving its goals. What China has that the United States lacks -- and what may give the Chinese an advantage over the long run -- is patience.

China's path to space is not without obstacles, though. Launching their large space station will require a new heavy lift vehicle, the Long March 5, which is still in development and behind schedule. And China's ambitions do not come with an unlimited budget, even though it has already spent billions.

In response, the U.S. needs to keep moving forward.

The Obama administration's decision to redirect the civilian space program to a private-public partnership is smart. A space exploration program fully funded by the government is unsustainable. The recent use of the privately developed Flacon-9/Dragon duo to resupply the International Space Station indicates that if the private sector can handle low-Earth orbit needs, then over time NASA can focus its limited budget on new, more distant exploration goals.

But Americans are not known for patience. The real danger for the United States is in ceding space exploration and leadership to China because it lacks the political will to proceed at a steady, supportable pace. This will have broad strategic implications.

Complicating the issue is the largely dual-use nature of space technology, which can be used for both civilian and military purposes. And it is difficult to discern whether military space assets are intended for offense or defense. The difference between a rocket and a missile is considerable in political considerations, but nominal in terms of technology. A country that possesses missile defense could also use it as a weapon.

So what can be done if we need to protect our space assets? One thing is clear -- weapons are not the answer.

China's irresponsible 2007 anti-satellite weapon test exponentially increased the amount of space debris in orbit, which is dangerous to operating satellites. Space debris is now recognized by all countries (and militaries) as a threat to space assets.

An International Space Code of Conduct is being discussed in the United Nations. It would state what responsible spacefaring nations consider acceptable behaviors in space. Though legally nonbinding, it would be a first step toward maintaining the sustainability of the space environment for use by all.

The United States largely knows what space technology China possesses, but it doesn't know what China's intentions are. The United States should try to better understand China's space goals.

However, NASA is prohibited by law from working with China. This makes no sense. If one believes that China and the United States are not inherently enemies, then working together on space projects -- with technology transfer controls -- will benefit both countries. If one believes that China is inherently a threat to the United States, then the adage "keep your friends close and your enemies closer" comes to mind.

The script for U.S.-China relations -- and space relations in particular -- is constantly evolving. The United States can influence the direction, but only if we engage and persuade the Chinese to engage with us. It's one way of preventing a scenario of a galactic Wild West in which China has become the world's leader in space.


0 Romney too timid on emigration

Now that President Obama has put the immigration issue front and center, Mitt Romney can't avoid the subject any longer.

Romney needs to answer two simple questions: "What specifically are you going to do about the estimated 800,000 "DREAM'ers" at the center of President Obama's announcement last week - those young illegal immigrants under age 31 who, because they've graduated from high school or served in the military, are being told they'll be spared deportation? Would you deport them or let them stay in the United States?"

Romney too timid on emigration

And during his speech Thursday to the annual conference of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, here is the closest that Romney came to an answer:

"Some people have asked if I will let stand the president's executive action," he told the organization. "The answer is that I will put in place my own long-term solution that will replace and supersede the president's temporary measure. As president, I won't settle for a stop-gap measure. I will work with Republicans and Democrats to find a long-term solution."

Surely, Romney must have an idea of what he thinks the proper solution should be. Why not share it?


0 Prince William moves 30, succeed to half of Diana's estate

The Duke of Cambridge celebrated his first anniversary with Catherine Middleton and toasted Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee. And on Thursday, he adds another milestone to his list: his 30th birthday.

Prince William turns 30

He's now also legally entitled to half of his mother's inheritance, which was left to him after Princess Diana was killed in a car crash in 1997. His half of the inheritance, according to The Daily Telegraph, would likely be around $15.5 million, with the current currency exchange rate.

William has been in the spotlight as the eventual heir to the British throne since early childhood. He's endured his parents' breakup, his mother's death and his own big royal wedding all while the world watched along with him.

The Duke of Cambridge has recently said he and his wife are excited about the prospect of bringing a child into the world.

“I’m just very keen to have a family, and both Catherine and I, you know, are looking forward to having a family in the future," he told ABC's Katie Couric before the Diamond Jubilee.

To celebrate William's big day, we wanted to take a look back at his life. After all, many people would say that he and Catherine have helped the royal family become popular again by making the monarchy more accessible to the public.

Click through the gallery above to see William's evolution from Diana and Charles' lovable young son to the Duke of Cambridge.


Thursday, 21 June 2012

0 Check out Emma Stone's 'Amazing' red carpet looks

This is a message for Emma Stone: Maybe Jim Carrey, in all his creepy, close-up goodness, was onto something when he called her "all-the-way beautiful" in his YouTube love letter.

The actress has been casting her web of attraction around the world as she helps roll out the much-anticipated "The Amazing Spider-Man." Alongside her onscreen superhero and real life boyfriend Andrew Garfield, we've seen Stone walk the red carpet for premieres in Tokyo, Seoul, Moscow, London, Paris and Berlin so far.

Emma Stone's 'Amazing' red carpet looks

Stone, a natural blonde who sometimes goes red, is the cover subject of the latest New York magazine. Her "Spidey sense is tingling," says a promo for the article, "she knows you're watching her." Great, now we really feel creepy. But the 23-year-old actress says of that Carrey video, "I was so flattered I can’t even tell you. Honest!"

That doesn't mean she's buying all the attention she gets for her looks. "The pretty thing ... It was never a value to me growing up," Stone told New York mag. "I always thought I was like the goofy, wonky one.

"I don’t actually recognize the person that’s out there," she says of her red-carpet persona. "It's like there’s this outside person, and there’s me."

Thanks: This is a message for Emma Stone: Maybe Jim Carrey, in all his creepy, close-up goodness, was onto something when he called her "all-the-way beautiful" in his YouTube love letter.

The actress has been casting her web of attraction around the world as she helps roll out the much-anticipated "The Amazing Spider-Man." Alongside her onscreen superhero and real life boyfriend Andrew Garfield, we've seen Stone walk the red carpet for premieres in Tokyo, Seoul, Moscow, London, Paris and Berlin so far.

Stone, a natural blonde who sometimes goes red, is the cover subject of the latest New York magazine. Her "Spidey sense is tingling," says a promo for the article, "she knows you're watching her." Great, now we really feel creepy. But the 23-year-old actress says of that Carrey video, "I was so flattered I can’t even tell you. Honest!"

That doesn't mean she's buying all the attention she gets for her looks. "The pretty thing ... It was never a value to me growing up," Stone told New York mag. "I always thought I was like the goofy, wonky one.

"I don’t actually recognize the person that’s out there," she says of her red-carpet persona. "It's like there’s this outside person, and there’s me."


0 Loved-up Frank Lampard and Christine Bleakley share kiss at Royal Ascot

Loved-up Frank Lampard and Christine Bleakley share kiss at Royal Ascot

Frank Lampard and Christine Bleakley at Royal Ascot 2012

 Frank Lampard and Christine Bleakley share kiss

Frank Lampard and Christine Bleakley horse around in a VIP box at Royal Ascot on 20 June 2012.


0 Fergie: I don’t want to be ‘upsetting about sucking in my stomach’

There's no denying Black Eyed Peas singer Fergie (born Stacy Ferguson) has one of the best bodies in pop music — but even she has her insecurities. "I've learned to be more accepting of myself," she reveals in the July issue of Self magazine. "I'm 37, not 18, and I've got the lines to prove it." Fortunately, Fergie's got the body of an 18-year-old, but admits she has to work out a lot in order to keep her body toned and trim. "I want to be able to run around without worrying about sucking in my stomach!"

Fergie: I don’t want to be ‘worrying about sucking in my stomach’

It helps that her husband, "Transformers" actor Josh Duhamel, is also a gym rat. The two love to exercise together as much as their busy schedules allow. "Working out with Josh inspires me, but he is competitive," says Fergie. "And loud! Men scream and go crazy in the gym. I'm a silent workout partner, but when my adrenaline gets up, I talk trash. I'll wait, and when Josh does something embarrassing, I'll throw a jab! I used to yell and curse in the gym, but now I'm looking for a more healthy, positive feeling." See pics of Fergie and Josh working out at X17Online!

On balancing her career and her personal life:
"I needed to take a break from performing, and from the Peas, to be happy. I craved female time, and time with my husband to feed my soul. My life now is about being balanced. I'm passionate about work and working out, seeing friends and family, and letting my hair down once in a while."

On her special date nights with her husband:
"On Saturday nights, we like going to mass, then dinner. It feeds our spiritual side, and it's great to hear Josh sing in church — he's a great singer. Then we go out and have a really nice wine, like all good Catholics."

On starting a family:
"I'm excited to have a child with Josh. He'll be an amazing dad."

On how she gets an extra boost of energy: "Josh turned me on to juicing, and now I do it when I wake up and between meals. The energy it gives me is amazing — I hardly need caffeine anymore. We blend kale, spinach, broccoli, and celery with a banana, an apple, and a pear. We have two Vitamixes going at once! But I'm only really strict about what I eat when I know I have to be in a bathing suit."

On her private at-home oasis: "I call the fifth floor of my house Fergieland. It's where I go to refresh myself and be inspired. It's a total boudoir, decorated in black, white, and red. The rest of our home is very earthy."


0 Hollywood fetch out big guns for a superhero this summer

Comic book fans aren't the only ones expected to assemble in theaters Friday.

Judging by its early international box office take, "The Avengers" -- the superhero equivalent of a musical supergroup -- should blow away the competition, kicking off the summer movie season as a hit with a wide spectrum of moviegoers. Early tracking estimates see it as possibly beating "The Dark Knight's" then-record opening weekend from 2008, which "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2" overtook last summer.

Hollywood fetch out big guns for a superhero this summer

Not to be outdone, the final chapter in the Batman trilogy, "The Dark Knight Rises," also has high expectations of its own to meet on July 20. ("Rises" is from Warner Bros. Pictures, and the Batman character is part of DC Comics. They are both owned by Time Warner, also CNN's parent company.)

Compared with these two superheroes, "Spider-Man 3" is practically ancient history. It too set a box-office record in 2007 for biggest opening weekend. Sony Pictures hopes to recapture some of that magic with the release of "The Amazing Spider-Man" reboot on July 3, a holiday weekend.

The upcoming trio of films is a far cry from recent years when movies such as "Iron Man" and "Green Lantern" took a chance by introducing lesser-known superheroes on the big screen with very different results.

This summer the question is not, "Will superhero movies be big," but "How big will they be?" You can hardly ask for safer bets than Spidey, Batman and a powerhouse superhero team.

So will this be the moment that superhero movies reach their peak of popularity?

"This summer will blow 2008 (the year of 'Iron Man' and 'The Dark Knight') out of the water," predicted Bill Ramey of "It might have it beat, (even) if only 'Rises' was being released."

Author and professor Van Plexico, speaking from the viewpoint of the fan of "The Avengers" (he runs, agrees.

"There's no doubt that with so many epic franchises all rolling out this year, guys in capes -- and webs -- will be hauling in a lot of loot at the box office. It's just inevitable. No wonder Superman wisely held off till next year."

At the same time, each of these movies faces the challenge of potentially not living up to expectations.

"At this point, my only fear is that the hype (around 'The Avengers') will prove to be too much, and people's expectations will rise too far for the movie to possibly meet them, no matter how good it is," Plexico said.

Gitesh Pandya of said: "' The Avengers' has that challenge of going beyond the superhero crowd and to a more mainstream action crowd, but it seems to me that they have successfully done that. Excitement seems to be there among all groups and around the world. I see 'The Avengers' breaking the $1 billion mark at the worldwide box office."

As for "Rises," Ramey voiced one simple fact of life when it comes to movie franchises: "How many third films in a series have been good?" (Even so, he said he thinks the new Batman movie has the potential to be better than the last one, which is often credited for the expansion of the Academy Awards' best picture category to 10 films.)

" 'The Dark Knight Rises' will have to enter the marketplace without the Heath Ledger factor," Pandaya said, referring to the star's death before the release of "The Dark Knight." "However, the last film was so well-loved that the new film will benefit from those coattails."

If anything, the "Spider-Man" reboot, with its new cast and creative team, including Andrew Garfield in the title role, seems to have the most challenges of them all.

"It's only been five years since the previous trilogy ended, but if they make a solid film, then people will come and the movie could last," Pandya said.

Plexico added, " 'The Amazing Spider-Man' must hit a home run, to justify the series reboot so very soon after the previous trio of Spidey films."

Not that Sony is sweating it too much: It has already hired hotshot screenwriters Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman to pen a new Spidey sequel.

One doesn't have to be a genius to guess that not only will there be many more superhero films in the future, but also this summer won't be the last moviegoers see of the Avengers and Batman on the big screen (not to mention the individual Avengers -- "Thor 2," "Iron Man 3" and "Captain America 2" -- which are already in the works.)

"The genre has been popular for decades and is here to stay," Pandya said. "The main factor will be for studios to release the right number of comic films each year and to not overdo it as any genre can be hurt by an overabundance of product. I think the marketplace can handle three to four superhero films per year."

Share your "Avengers" review

But can Hollywood live on a few main superhero characters alone? The chances of a "Green Lantern" sequel look slimmer with each passing day, "Wonder Woman" plans fell through several years ago, and it's anyone's guess as to how next year's Superman reboot, "Man of Steel," will be received. What about that DC Comics' "Justice League of America" film (which, if not for a 2008 writers' strike, might well have beaten Marvel's "The Avengers" to the screen by a good many years)?

One person who had something to say about that possibility was "The Avengers" writer/director Joss Whedon (who once tried his hand at "Wonder Woman"), at a recent press conference.

"DC has a harder time of it than Marvel because their characters are (from) an old, a bygone era, where characters were bigger than we were," he said. "And ... they've amended that, but Marvel really cracked the code in terms of 'they're just like us.' So a dose of that sort of veracity that Marvel really started with 'Iron Man,' I think you should use that as your base."

Whedon pointed to 2002's "Spider-Man" as a model of a successful superhero film by staying true to the comic while also being entertaining as a movie.


0 Hamas declare cease-fire with Israel

The Palestinian group Hamas says its military wing has agreed to an Egyptian-brokered cease-fire with Israel following a sharp increase in violence between the two sides.

In a statement posted early Wednesday, Hamas -- which controls the Palestinian territory of Gaza -- says it will observe the cease-fire as long as Israel remains committed to the agreement.

Hamas declare cease-fire with Israel

There was no immediate response to the cease-fire announcement from Israel, which said more than 75 rockets had been fired into its territory from Gaza in the past three days. Six Palestinians and one Israeli died between Sunday and Tuesday in a spate of rocket attacks and Israeli airstrikes, officials on both sides reported; Israel also said a Palestinian child was killed when a rocket launch attempt by militants backfired.

Israeli warplanes struck two targets in Gaza on Tuesday in response to the rocket fire, the Israel Defense Forces said. Hamas security sources told CNN the strikes targeted a site used to train Palestinian militants to launch rockets and another training facility run by the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the military arm of Hamas, with two people injured.

"We stress that our confrontation with the Zionist enemy in this round was in its minimum in fire and counterattacks," the brigades said in a statement announcing the deal. It said the agreement includes "all other resistance factions" operating from Gaza, which has been under Hamas control since 2007.

Israel says nearly 300 rockets have been fired into its territory from Gaza since the beginning of 2012.


0 Biden: Romney out of contact with ‘common’ people

Vice President Joe Biden tells a gathering of black journalists that Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney's economic platform shows he is out of touch with the nation's middle class.

Biden said during his speech Wednesday night at a National Association of Black Journalists convention in New Orleans that Romney wants to grow the nation's economy "from the top down" by deregulating Wall Street and cutting taxes for the wealthy.

Biden: Romney out of contact with ‘common’ people

The vice president calls Romney "an honorable man" with a "beautiful family" but says that the former venture capitalist doesn't understand what's happening to ordinary Americans.

Biden also touts the Obama administration's record on job growth, saying that he and the president believe the economy cannot be truly health until the "profound erosion" of middle-class jobs and income is reversed.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

0 Workers who lightening strike face advantage restrictions

Workers claiming benefit will lose top-up if they are responsible for a reduction in their income as a result of strike action

The government is to limit the amount of benefit paid to workers if they take part in a strike, the work and pensions secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, has announced.

Workers who lightening strike face advantage restrictions

Under changes to be introduced with the new universal credit from next year, workers claiming benefit will lose any top-up if they are responsible for a reduction in their pay as a result of joining a strike.

The worker on strike would continue to receive a basic benefit if they are in receipt of the universal credit. But if their income drops as a result of joining a strike, their universal credit will not increase.

Duncan Smith said: "It is totally wrong that the current benefit system compensates workers and tops up their income when they go on strike. This is unfair to taxpayers and creates perverse incentives. Striking is a choice, and in future benefit claimants will have to pay the price for that choice, as under universal credit, we no longer will."

Under the system, recipients of working tax credits are allowed to retain their full entitlement for the first 10 days of a strike. Ministers believe this is unfair and outdated because it is based on a system first introduced as part of the National Assistance Act in 1948.

Duncan Smith believes it is right to act after nearly 1.4m days were lost to strike action involving more than one million workers in 2011.(Google)

Brendan Barber, the general secretary of the TUC, said: "This is petty and vindictive. Workers are always reluctant to strike, depriving their families of benefits will leave low-paid workers even more vulnerable to bad treatment."

The universal credit will wrap most tax credits and benefits into a single payment. It is designed to ensure that claimants are not better off on benefits than in work.

0 Mitt Romney Outpacing Reagan at This position in the Presidential battle

Mitt Romney's strategists say history is on their side, at least in one sense.

They say Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, is ahead of where challenger Ronald Reagan was against President Jimmy Carter in June 1980, a campaign Reagan eventually won handily. That June, Carter had 39 percent support, Reagan 32, and independent John Anderson 21, according to the Gallup Poll. Reagan went on to defeat Carter in the November election, 51 to 41, with Anderson at 7.

Mitt Romney Outpacing Reagan at This position in the Presidential battle

A recent analysis by University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato buttresses the point.

"Remember that this [Reagan-Carter] race appeared close until the very end, with some polling even indicating that Carter might actually win just a few days before the election," Sabato says. "But Reagan proved his mettle in a late debate, and Carter's attempt to negotiate freedom for the American hostages in Iran failed. Those late developments helped turn a close election into a blowout."

All this adds to the optimism in the Romney camp. "We're very pleased" with the state of the campaign today, says a senior Romney adviser.

Many pundits and political professionals had expected Romney to emerge from the GOP primaries "bloodied, bruised, and battered," the aide told U.S. News, but instead Romney is in a strong posiition, statistically tied with President Obama in the polls. And this is happening before Romney begins "prosecution of our basic case against the president," the aide says.

Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.S. News. He writes the daily blog, "Ken Walsh's Washington," on, and is the author of "The Presidency" column for the U.S. News Weekly. He can be reached at and on Facebook and Twitter

Thursday, 14 June 2012

3 Prometheus Review

Prometheus is a 2012 American science fiction film directed by Ridley Scott and written by Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof. The film stars Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Guy Pearce, Idris Elba, Logan Marshall-Green, and Charlize Theron. Set in the late 21st century, the story centers on the crew of the spaceship Prometheus as they follow a star map discovered among the remnants of several ancient Earth cultures. Led to a distant world and an advanced civilization, the crew seeks the origins of humanity, but instead discovers a threat that could cause the extinction of the human race.

The film began development in the early 2000s as a fifth entry in the Alien franchise, with both Scott and director James Cameron developing ideas for a film that would serve as a prequel to Scott's 1979 science fiction horror film Alien. By 2003, the project was sidelined by the development of Alien vs. Predator, and remained dormant until 2009 when Scott again showed interest. A script by Spaihts acted as a prequel to the events of the Alien films, but Scott opted for a different direction to avoid repeating cues from those films. In late 2010, he brought Lindelof onto the project to rewrite Spaihts' script, and together they developed a separate story that precedes the story of Alien but is not directly connected to that franchise. According to Scott, though the film shares "strands of Alien's DNA, so to speak", and takes place in the same universe, Prometheus explores its own mythology and ideas.

The film entered production in April 2010, with extensive design phases developing the technology and creatures the film required. Principal photography began in March 2011, on an estimated $120–130 million budget, with filming taking place almost entirely on practical sets and on location in England, Iceland, Spain, and Scotland. The film was shot entirely using 3D cameras.

Prometheus was supported by a marketing campaign that included viral activities on the web. The campaign released three videos that featured stars from the film, in character, which expanded on elements of the fictional universe and received a generally positive reception. Prometheus was released on June 1, 2012 in the United Kingdom and was released on June 8, 2012 in North America.

Prometheus Review


As a hovering spacecraft departs, a humanoid alien drinks a dark bubbling liquid, and then starts to disintegrate. As its bodily remains cascade into a waterfall, the alien's DNA triggers a biogenetic reaction.

In 2089, archaeologists Elizabeth Shaw and Charlie Holloway discover a star map among several unconnected ancient cultures. They interpret this as an invitation from humanity’s forerunners, or "Engineers". Peter Weyland, the elderly CEO of Weyland Corporation, funds the creation of the scientific vessel Prometheus to follow the map to the distant moon LV-223. The ship's crew travels in stasis while the android David monitors their voyage and studies linguistics such as Schleicher's fable. Arriving in 2093, they are informed of their mission to find the Engineers. Mission director Meredith Vickers orders them to avoid making contact without her permission. The Prometheus lands near a large artificial structure, which a team explores.

Inside they find numerous stone cylinders, a monolithic statue of a humanoid head, and the corpse of a large alien, thought to be an Engineer. They find other bodies and presume the species is extinct. David secretly takes a cylinder, while the remaining cylinders begin leaking dark liquid. A rapidly approaching storm forces the crew to return to Prometheus, leaving crew members Millburn and Fifield stranded in the structure. In the ship, the Engineer’s DNA is found to match that of humans. Meanwhile, David investigates the cylinder and discovers a dark liquid. He intentionally infects Holloway with the substance. Shaw and the unknowingly infected Holloway later have sex.

Inside the structure, a snake-like creature kills Millburn, and it sprays a corrosive fluid that melts Fifield’s helmet, exposing him to the leaking dark liquid. The crew later returns to the structure and finds Millburn’s corpse. David separately discovers a control room containing a surviving Engineer in stasis, and a star map highlighting Earth. Holloway’s infection rapidly ravages his body, and he is rushed back to Prometheus. Vickers refuses to let him aboard, and burns him to death with a flamethrower with his consent. Later, a medical scan reveals that Shaw, despite being sterile, is pregnant with an alien offspring. Shaw uses an automated surgery table to cut it out. Weyland is revealed to have been in stasis aboard Prometheus, and explains to Shaw he wants to ask the Engineers to prevent his death from old age. As Weyland prepares to leave for the structure, Vickers calls him "Father".

A mutated Fifield attacks the hangar bay and kills several crew members before being killed himself. The Prometheus' captain, Janek, speculates that the structure was part of an Engineer military base that lost control of its biological weapon, the dark liquid. Janek also determines that the underground structure is in fact a spaceship. Weyland and a team return to the structure and awaken the Engineer. David speaks to the Engineer, who responds by decapitating him and killing Weyland and his team. Shaw escapes the spaceship as the Engineer activates it. David's still-active head reveals the Engineer is going to release the liquid on Earth. Shaw convinces Janek to stop the Engineer's spaceship. Vickers and her lifeboat are ejected before Janek crashes Prometheus into the Engineer's spaceship. The Engineer's disabled spaceship crashes onto the planet, killing Vickers. Shaw goes to Vickers' lifeboat and finds her alien offspring, which has grown to gigantic size. David warns Shaw over the intercom that the Engineer survived the crash. The Engineer bursts into the lifeboat and attacks Shaw. She releases her alien offspring onto the Engineer; it thrusts a tentacle down the Engineer's throat, subduing it. Shaw recovers David's remains, and with his help, they launch another Engineer spaceship. She intends to reach the Engineers' homeworld in an attempt to understand why they created humanity and later wanted to destroy it.

In the lifeboat, an alien creature bursts out of the Engineer's chest.


0 Domain name rush takes it to .church, the high-tech megachurch out of Oklahoma, entered the domain-name competition Wednesday, ponying up the $185,000 application fee in an effort to lay claim to .church as the Web faces a massive expansion of domains.

But executive pastor Bobby Gruenewald, whose LifeChurch title is innovation leader, says the goal is not to profit from controlling the domain with fees for listing rights but to make Internet outreach easier and more accessible.

Domain name rush takes it to .church broadcasts Web worship services online to 15 locations in Oklahoma, Texas, Tennessee, Florida and New York. It also has set up a free Bible app for mobil devices and offers resources to 100,000 pastors -- "our target market for"

Still, Gruenewald says, the domain would be open to all. The application defines "church" as "anyone of similar religious beliefs."

All? As in the church of I-faithful-play-basketball-on-Sunday-mornings. Or maybe the Church of Scientology?

"Wide open," Gruenewald reiterated. "We're not trying to define beliefs or doctrine that people would have to agree upon. This is not an effort to make it exclusive to any type of belief," he says, just as .com and .org are wide open.

But LifeChurch has competition. Another private group has also applied for .church -- along with dozens of other generic names. So they may have to do some dealing in the coming year as the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICAN) sorts through nearly 2,000 applications.

Meanwhile, LifeChurch is hoping to drive up support, asking folks to let ICAN know they want this domain. Undoubtedly, prayer would also be welcome.

0 Obama and Romney stub in Ohio

In a set of dueling speeches Thursday in Ohio, President Obama and Mitt Romney highlighted the state's ongoing role as a political kingmakerand center of this year's election fight over the condition of the economy.

Romney opened up in Cincinnati, telling a crowd inside an equipment manufacturer that Obama's economic policies have made it harder for businesses to hire and made the economy worse. The president, Romney said at Seilkop Industries, was "going to be delivering a speech on the economy … because he hasn't delivered a recovery for the economy."

Obama and Romney stub in Ohio

"He's going to be a person of eloquence as he describes his plans for making the economy better, but don't forget, he's been president for 3½ years," Romney said. "And talk is cheap."

In Cleveland, Obama used his 54-minute speech to cast the upcoming presidential election as a choice between his defense of the middle class and Romney's plans to put the wealthy and businesses first.

"In this election, you have two very different visions to choose from," Obama told about 1,500 supporters at Cuyahoga Community College.

"This isn't some abstract debate. This isn't another trivial Washington argument," Obama said. "This is a make-or-break moment for our middle class."

Obama's re-election campaign chose Cleveland for the speech because Ohio has benefited from administration policies, such as the bailout of the Big Three automakers.

Obama visited Ohio for official policy in his first 2½ years in office more than any place other than the Washington, D.C., area. He also added numerous trips there in 2010 to campaign for then-governor Ted Strickland, a Democrat who lost to Republican John Kasich.

Obama and Romney poll neck and neck in Ohio, where the unemployment rate was 7.4% in April, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Both campaigns, as well as PACs and interest groups that support them, have flooded the airwaves in the Buckeye State. Of the $11.3 million spent nationwide the week of May 28-June 3, more than $2 million was in Ohio media markets, according to data from The Washington Post and Campaign Media Analysis Group.

Republicans conducted a conference call Wednesday afternoon to criticize Obama's policies and launched a TV ad Thursday morning that targeted Obama's comment last week that the private sector was "doing fine" in comparison to state and local governments.

Obama fired back at the criticism during his speech and acknowledged a series of frequent GOP attacks on his presidency.

"The other side will spend over a billion dollars on ads that tell you the economy is bad, that it's all my fault … because I think everything and everybody is doing just fine," he said. "Well, you know, that may be their plan to win the election, but it's not a plan to create jobs."

Although the candidates did not cross paths, the relatively close proximity of the speeches gave way to mischief on the part of the Romney campaign.

In the hours before the president's speech, a Romney campaign bus was seen circling the venue and honking at Obama supporters as they waited in line to hear the president speak.


Wednesday, 13 June 2012

0 Russell Brand jinks Katy Perry lookalike

Russell Brand is dating Katy Perry lookalike Emily Hartridge.

The 'Rock Of Ages' actor reportedly hit it off with the MSN TV host during an interview at London's Dorchester Hotel.

Russell Brand dating Katy Perry

Now the 28-year-old beauty and Russell, 37, have been texting back and forth after he licked cake he had thrown off her arm.

A friend told The Sun: 'Russell is definitely winning her over.

'Emily joked they had a love-hate relationship because he hurled food at her. Only Russell could get away with covering someone in cake then licking it off.'

Following the incident, Russell asked an aide to retrieve her telephone number and the pair has been in contact.

Emily tweeted: 'Got to be a good day when @rustyrockets licks your elbow mid interview.'

The comedian will officially dissolve his 14-month marriage to 'I Kissed A Girl' singer Katy, 27, next month.

Speaking on ITV1's 'Lorraine' show yesterday (13.06.12), he said he still loved her but added: 'This is a new time.'

He told television host Lorraine Kelly that the divorce had also been difficult 'because there's a lot of admin'.


8 Church of England admonish Against Gay wedlock

The Church of England warned a potential change in British law that would allow same sex civil marriages would strike a wedge between church and state of almost biblical proportions, certainly the biggest since its inception some 500 years ago.

Church of England Warn Against Gay Marriage

The Church of England bishops delivered a submission to the government warning against pressing ahead with its controversial proposals of legally allowing same sex couples form civil marriage. The church believes that introducing same sex marriage would lead to the church being forced out of its role of conducting weddings on behalf of the state. In the 13-page submission, the Church claim ’Such a move would alter the intrinsic nature of marriage as a union of a man and a woman, as enshrined in human institutions throughout history.’ The document also includes, ’Marriage benefits society in many ways, not only by promoting mutuality and fidelity, but also by acknowledging an underlying biological complimentarily which for many includes the possibility of procreation.’

The UK Government defended the plans to effectively change the status of civil marriage ceremonies to allow gay and lesbian couples in England and Wales to marry. On Tuesday afternoon they advised their confidence in certain safeguards which would prevent certain religious organisations being forced to take part or officiate at same sex marriages. They also confirmed they were fully behind the change of law, vowing to put a vote to parliament and the law be changed before the end of 2015.

The deeply homophobic rooted Coalition for Marriage, that seeks to deny equal rights for gay and lesbian people, handed in a petition to the Government with over 500,000 signatures (the majority electronic) opposing same sex marriage.

A recent poll conducted by YouGov for Stonewall found that between 80 and 85 percent of the population under 50 years of age supported marriage equality, thus allowing same sex couples to marry.

“The Church of England has been loosing its place in a modern society over recent, thanks in part to their stand against equality, against women and now against gays.” A leading gay writer told me today, adding, “They are running the risk of completely detaching themselves from the bulk of British society with this sudden melodramatic outburst and blatant attempt to hijack the truth and foster an sense of false fear. All over the country they are alienating themselves from the vast majority of the population that see themselves as Christians, yet rarely go to church. If they carry on in this fashion, it wont be long before the Church of England will be an obsolete historical institution.”


0 Hillary Clinton admonitory Russia over Syria strategy

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has warned Russia that its support for the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will have negative consequences.

Hillary Clinton warns Russia over Syria policy

"The situation is spiralling towards civil war, and it's now time for everyone in the international community, including Russia and all Security Council members, to speak to Assad with a unified voice and insist that the violence stop, and come together with Kofi Annan to plan a political transition going forward," Hillary said on Wednesday at a joint press conference with Indian Foreign Minister SM Krishna.

"It is something that we believe is in everyone's interests, most particularly the Syrian people. And Russia says it wants peace and stability restored. It says it has no particular love lost for Assad. And it also claims to have vital interests in the region and relationships that it wants to continue to keep. They put all of that at risk if they do not move more constructively right now," she said.

According to UN estimates, over 10,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in Syria and thousands displaced since the uprising against Assad began about 15 months ago.

Russia - along with China - has twice vetoed UN resolutions against Damascus over what it says is a pro-rebel bias. Moscow has, however, fully backed UN and Arab League special envoy Kofi Annan's peace plan for Syria.

Hillary also urged Russia to stop arms deliveries to Syria.

"We have repeatedly urged the Russian government to cut these military ties completely and to suspend all further support and deliveries," she said.

Hillary earlier said Russia was supplying attack helicopters to Syria, but Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov dismissed the claims, saying Russia was "completing the implementation of contracts that were signed and paid for a long time ago".

Hillary Clinton warns Russia over Syria policy
He said the contracts "concern exclusively anti-aircraft defence".

Syria is one of Russia's major weapons clients, and Moscow has opposed proposals for an arms embargo on Damascus, saying this would give rebel forces an unfair advantage in the conflict.

Lavrov said Russia does not supply to Syria or other countries any special equipment that may be used against peaceful demonstrators, adding that the US, on the contrary, "delivers riot control equipment to the region".

Hillary has dismissed claims that the US has armed the Syrian opposition.

"I would emphasise that the US has provided no military support to the Syrian opposition, none. All of our support has been medical and humanitarian to help relieve the suffering of the Syrian people, a total of USD 52 million so far. We have also provided non-lethal support to the opposition, including things like communications gear," she said.

Monday, 11 June 2012

0 Apple trenches Google Maps software in latest iOS

Apple has unveiled its latest mobile operating system, iOS6, at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference.

The operating system, which runs on its iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch devices, will no longer include Google Maps software.

Apple will instead run its own mapping app, which has a high-quality 3D mode, on the platform.

Apple trenches Google Maps software in latest iOS

Google announced its own 3D mapping software last week on its competing mobile platform, Android.

Both companies have used fleets of planes to capture the imagery, drawing concerns from some privacy campaigners.

Apple's updated iOS software is being released in beta on Tuesday, and will be available for general consumers by the autumn, chief executive Tim Cook said.

It will be a free update for owners of either an iPhone 4S, iPhone 4 or iPhone 3GS - as well as users of the latest iPad, the iPad 2 and fourth generation iPod touch.

'Biggest cheer'

Additional features include "eyes free", a feature on which Apple said it had worked with car manufacturers to integrate a "Siri button" to activate the iPhone's voice-operated assistant.

For the first time on Apple's devices, video calls will be able to be made over a cellular connection, rather than relying on wi-fi.

The switch to its own mapping platform will provide Apple with even more opportunities to monetise its users, said Carolina Milanesi, an analyst for Gartner, who attended the event in San Francisco

"The opportunity that controlling maps gives to Apple for learning more about what their users are doing, keeping that information, and then being able to leverage that for advertising purposes is huge."

Ms Milanesi said the announcements appeared to be warmly received by the developers in attendance.

"iOS6 is a continued evolution," she told the BBC.

"I think the whole operating system is getting more clever. It's learning from what consumers are doing and improving the experience."
Macbook revamp

The company also announced revamped models in its Macbook Pro and Macbook Air ranges.

Its new Macbook Pro is 0.71 inches thick, with a high-resolution Retina display. It utilises Intel's Ivy Bridge processor.

Its slimline Macbook Air range has also been upgraded with enhanced graphics and processing capabilities.

Both will offer a free upgrade to OS X Mountain Lion, the latest version of the Mac operating system which is set for release in July.

Among its features is enhanced synchronisation between desktop, laptop and mobile, thanks to iCloud, the company's cloud-based storage service.

0 Obama arrive at Hispanic voters with new advertisements

One of the nation's largest unions and a Democratic super PAC supporting President Barack Obama launched a joint $4 million Spanish-language advertising campaign on Monday, targeting Hispanic voters.

The ads, sponsored by the Service Employees International Union and Priorities USA Action, argue that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's policies would benefit the wealthiest Americans at the expense of Hispanics and other working families.

Obama arrive at Hispanic voters with new advertisements

Priorities USA Action, founded by two former Obama White House aides, has struggled in fundraising compared with Republican-leaning super PACs like American Crossroads and its nonprofit arm, Crossroads GPS. But the super PAC's partnerships with SEIU and other organizations, including the League of Conservation Voters and the United Auto Workers, help the group compete with the better funded GOP-leaning political action committees.

The political wing of SEIU has given a combined $1 million to Priorities USA Action during the current election cycle.

The Priorities USA advertising partnerships with SEIU have focused primary on Hispanic voters, a key election-year constituency for Obama. The ads released Monday use past statements made by Romney, including his assertion that the very poor were not his focus, to try to make the case that the presumptive GOP nominee would be harmful to Hispanics.

The ads will run on television and radio stations in Colorado, Nevada and Florida — all battleground states with sizeable Hispanic populations — throughout the summer.(Google)

Meanwhile, the Obama campaign on Monday also released a new online video today on what it says is a Romney plan to eliminate police officer, firefighter and teacher positions.

The video asserts that "this approach is nothing new to Mitt Romney -- it's the same one he pursued in Massachusetts."

The video charges that as governor of Massachusetts, Romney cut funding for education and first responders and says that lead to layoffs, even though he expanded the size of state government overall.

The new web video features interviews with Massachusetts elected officials who served during Romney's tenure --and highlights the local impact of the cuts he made at the state level to teachers, firefighters and police.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

0 GOP mood in the direction of Romney's fall forecasts brighten

Republicans riding high from a string of breaks in their favor are increasingly optimistic about Mitt Romney’s chances to claim the White House in November, even among conservatives who had qualms about making him the party’s nominee.

The bullish take is reflected in interviews with party strategists and activists, including people who supported Romney rivals during the primary season. Mood matters because it can fuel fundraising and volunteer hustle. But some of those GOP players stress that Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, has little room for error if he expects to topple an incumbent president.

The chest-thumping follows a GOP victory in last week’s Wisconsin recall election that saved Gov. Scott Walker’s job.

GOP mood in the direction of Romney's fall forecasts brighten

The race galvanized Republicans who saw it as an early 2012 referendum on conservative fiscal principles in an election that was likely to hinge on the shape of the economy.

Even Rick Santorum, who spent a primary season casting doubt on Romney’s ability to succeed in a general election, says things are looking up for Romney.

“I can tell you, I feel a little bit better about that election since what happened on Tuesday up in Wisconsin,” Santorum said Friday at a Conservative Political Action Conference in Chicago.

Some Republican voters concede they aren’t as passionate about electing Romney as they are about booting Democratic President Barack Obama from the Oval Office.

“He’s obviously it, and he’s what is left,” FBI agent David Hirtz, an active member of his central Illinois tea party, said of Romney. “Anybody is better than Obama.”

In mid-May, a USA Today/Gallup poll found 81 percent of Democrats and 58 percent of independents predicting an Obama victory. Among Republicans, 68 percent thought Romney will win — about the same percentage of faith GOP voters placed in 2008 nominee John McCain at this point in his campaign.

But that was before the closely watched Wisconsin recall, the release of key campaign finance figures and the latest figures on job growth raised concerns about a slowing economic recovery, which gave Romney more fodder to pound Obama’s stewardship.

Romney and his Republican allies pulled down more money than Obama and aligned Democratic Party committees in May, a notable shift in the money chase. The $76 million haul was a big jump up from what Romney and the GOP had raised the month before, and it was comfortably above the $60 million gathered by the combined Obama team.

A conservative base that was deeply splintered during the Republican primaries has coalesced around Romney even faster than some in the party were expecting.

That’s the case with Bobbi Jo Rohrberg, a 36-year-old teacher and conservative blogger from southwestern Iowa who backed Santorum at the state’s leadoff caucuses in January. She was worried a Romney nomination would look too much like McCain’s fateful run.

Rohrberg said Romney initially struck her as someone who was “not going to have a lot of bite, not going to show the teeth, going to be very likeable and agreeable to go along and get along, which isn’t going to get you anywhere if you are going to win.”

But she said those concerns faded after Romney blasted Obama outside failed California solar energy company Solyndra, which received federal stimulus loans, and his recent efforts to brand the president as incapable of guiding the economy.

Virginia Procuniar, who plans to contribute money to Romney after initially holding back, said her confidence in his chances comes from seeing Obama have to play defense more regularly.

“Obama is his (own) worst enemy. As he gets more in a corner and more on the defensive, he’s making gaffes that are ticking people off,” said Procuniar, who at 65 recently retired from the insurance company in Chicago.

On Friday, Obama exposed himself to GOP ridicule for an ill-cast appraisal that the “the private sector is doing fine.” He later clarified that he meant there was “good momentum” lately, but the earlier remark had already become GOP ad material. Romney released a Web ad Sunday slamming Obama for the remark by contrasting it with eight people who tell how they’ve struggled despite the recovering economy.

For the GOP, the climb to victory remains steep. Several states that Obama won four years ago would have to flip for Romney to reach the required 270 electoral votes.

“Let’s be honest about it, at the presidential level, the Democrats took the Republicans out behind the woodshed a little bit in 2008. By the sheer number of electoral votes Barack Obama won last time, clearly we have our work cut out for us,” said Gregg Keller, executive director of the American Conservative Union. “It’s a tough map for us and no one should think this is going to be a walk in the park. It’s going to be a tough race. But Republicans and conservatives believe this is an eminently winnable race.”

The conservative gathering just outside Chicago — where Obama’s political operation is based — focused attention on a Midwest region that could prove pivotal.

To the west, Iowa will be one of the most hotly contested states


Thursday, 7 June 2012

0 Conservatives assault Romney’s Choice to guide Transition

Mitt Romney’s choice of Michael O. Leavitt as his transition chief has spurred loud opposition from some conservatives over Mr. Leavitt’s support of a crucial part of President Obama’s health care plan.

Mr. Leavitt, a former governor of Utah who was secretary of health and human services in George W. Bush’s cabinet, is now a health care consultant who advises states on how to implement Mr. Obama’s health law.

Conservatives assault

In an speech to the National Governors Association last year, Mr. Leavitt said that the health care “exchanges” at the heart of what conservatives call “Obamacare” were a good idea and should be implemented by state officials.

The exchanges, he told the governors, are “a very practical solution to a problem that needs to be solved.”

Those comments have some conservatives seeing red in the wake of Mr. Romney’s decision to tap Mr. Leavitt to oversee a transition process if Mr. Romney wins the election this November.

Ben Domenech, a conservative blogger, wrote on RedState Monday morning that Mr. Leavitt’s support for parts of the president’s health care law was “a matter of significant concern for those on the right” and said it raised questions about Mr. Romney’s promise to repeal the law if he gets into office.

“Today, there is little question that opponents of ‘Obamacare’ exchange implementation have won the battle,” Mr. Domenech wrote. “But it is concerning that this was a battle won over the heavy opposition of someone who may end up determining Obamacare’s replacement.”

The hand-wringing has spread to other conservative outlets.

Dean Clancy, a health care expert who works for the Tea Party group FreedomWorks, told Talking Points Memo that Mr. Leavitt’s appointment raised concerns about Mr. Romney’s commitment to conservative causes.

“The Tea Party grass-roots have always feared that Governor Romney would be a weak standard-bearer because of RomneyCare,” Mr. Clancy said. “This choice only reinforces those doubts. Tapping a high-profile ObamaCare profiteer is disturbing, there’s no way around it. … The Tea Party has been fighting exchanges in state after state.”

The Cato Institute, a libertarian research group, posted an item on its blog with the headline: “Romney Etch-a-Sketches His Opposition to ObamaCare with Leavitt Pick.” In the post, Michael F. Cannon wrote that “ObamaCare opponents should be outraged.”

“Romney’s appointment of Leavitt is a first step toward flip-flopping — or Etch-a-Sketching, or Romneying(TM), or whatever — on ObamaCare repeal,” he wrote. “But it’s hard to blame Romney for thinking Republicans won’t care. These are, after all, people who picked Mitt Romney as their presidential nominee.”

The Weekly Standard, a conservative magazine, wrote on Sunday that “Leavitt, in short, was exactly the type of Republican the Tea Party was founded to oppose, and he’s playing a key role in planning a potential Romney presidency.”

Andrea Saul, a spokeswoman for Mr. Romney’s campaign, said Mr. Leavitt’s views will not have any bearing on Mr. Romney’s promise to repeal the health care law.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

0 Obama increases Cash as Romney Endeavour Lift From Wisconsin

President Barack Obama pressed donors for contributions during his third visit to California in a month as Republican Mitt Romney looked to Wisconsin election results for signs his presidential bid is gaining ground.

Obama increases Cash

Raising campaign cash at events yesterday in San Francisco and Los Angeles, Obama told supporters that he needs more time to right the economy, seeking to counter criticism from Romney on the election’s central issue that the president’s policies have failed to spur growth and lower unemployment.(Google)

“This is going to be a tough race precisely because the economy’s not where it needs to be yet,” Obama told donors in public remarks at the Julia Morgan Ballroom in San Francisco, the second of four fundraisers in California. “We’ve got to finish what we started.”

Obama dropped his recent rhetoric blaming the economy’s vulnerability on Europe. He also made no mention of Republican Governor Scott Walker surviving a June 5 recall election in Wisconsin -- a win that prompted Democratic and Republican strategists to reassess whether the state will be a battleground in the presidential race.

Romney, 65, who has clinched enough delegates for the Republican nomination, said yesterday the Wisconsin results may boost his chances nationally as well as in a Midwestern state that has voted Democratic in the past six presidential elections, albeit narrowly at times.
‘Conservative Principles’

“Yesterday was won by the people of Wisconsin doing the right thing and voting for conservative principles,” Romney said at a fundraiser in San Antonio, Texas. “I think people recognize we just can’t keep going down the same path that we’re on. It ends up in calamity.”

Until earlier this week, target states listed by Obama’s campaign didn’t include Wisconsin.

In a campaign video released on June 4 -- the day before the recall vote -- Obama campaign manager Jim Messina listed Wisconsin as “undecided,” along with Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Ohio, North Carolina, New Hampshire and Virginia.

If Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, were able to make Wisconsin competitive, it could make a major difference in the election. Winning a Midwest industrial state such as Wisconsin or Michigan, which both backed Obama in 2008, would provide him an easier path to the 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House.

Wisconsin Poll

Obama, 50, in the 2008 election beat Republican John McCain in Wisconsin 56 percent to 42 percent. An exit poll of recall election voters conducted June 5 showed Obama beating Romney 51 percent to 44 percent.

“I certainly wouldn’t read much into yesterday’s results,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said.

Obama’s Wisconsin win four years ago was boosted by a surge in support among younger voters, a demographic that remains more supportive of him than Romney and yet, polls show, is less energetic about his campaign than it was four years ago.

Romney said during a telephone town hall meeting with members of the National Federation of Independent Business that Wisconsin voters “said we’ve seen a conservative governor; he cut back on the scale of government and has held down taxes and stood up to the public sector unions and we want more of that, not less of it.” Romney added: “I think you’re going to find that in the decisions being made in November.”
California Swing

Obama’s latest California swing follows his May 10 dinner at the Los Angeles home of actor George Clooney, where he collected an estimated $15 million, and a May 23 visit with events at the home of philanthropists Lisa and Douglas Goldman of Atherton and at Redwood City’s Fox Theatre.

Yesterday’s fundraisers took in at least $4.6 million for the president’s re-election bid. The San Francisco events included a roundtable with tickets at $35,800 apiece for 25 guests, and a luncheon for 250 donors with tickets priced at $5,000, according to the campaign.

In Los Angeles, Obama attended a gay-rights gala at the Beverly Wilshire hotel featuring television personality Ellen DeGeneres, followed by a dinner at the home of Ryan Murphy, creator of the television series “Glee,” and Murphy’s fiancĂ© David Miller. The gala was for 600 donors, with tickets starting at $1,250. Another 70 donors were invited to attend the dinner at Murphy’s home, with tickets at $25,000.

Obama’s campaign had raised $19 million in California, compared with $10.6 million raised by the Romney campaign, according to Federal Election Commission data released May 21 and compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington-based campaign research group.
‘Broader Fight’

During the California events, the president touted his signature initiatives, including the auto industry bailout, health-care overhaul and the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” -- the ban on gay people serving openly in the military. Obama said his administration’s support for gays, including hospital visitation rights, is “just part of a broader fight on behalf of all Americans.”

“There were those who said we should let Detroit go bankrupt,” Obama said. He said because of his administration’s intervention in an auto industry bailout, General Motors Co. is “back on top.”

The president’s prospects for a second term suffered a blow with a U.S. Labor Department report on June 1 showing payrolls expanded by 69,000 jobs last month, fewer than the most pessimistic forecast in a Bloomberg News survey of private economists, while the unemployment rate rose to 8.2 percent from 8.1 percent.
Blaming Europe

Obama called German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti from Air Force One during his flight to California from Washington to discuss the euro zone debt crisis. In yesterday’s public remarks, he refrained from the rhetoric he and former President Bill Clinton used in recent days: blaming Europe for threatening the U.S. economic recovery and suggesting that Romney and Republicans would take the U.S. down the same road as Europe.

At last night’s gala, Obama said Americans are “anxious” about the economy and “that anxiety can be tapped into.” He criticized Romney’s calls for tax cuts for the wealthy, less regulation and more spending reductions.

“I don’t think that’s how you grow an economy,” Obama said. “The other side’s not offering anything new.”

The president is to hold a fifth California fundraiser today, a breakfast at the home of real estate developer Charles Quarles, before heading to the University of Nevada in Las Vegas to talk about extending a freeze on student-loan interest rates.

Monday, 4 June 2012

0 US drone assault 'targeted al-Qaeda deputy'

A US drone strike on Monday in Pakistan targeted al-Qaeda's second-in-command Abu Yahya al-Libi, US officials say.

They say it is still unclear whether he was among those killed in the strike on a suspected militant compound in North Waziristan, near the Afghan border.

US drone assault

Two missiles by the unmanned aircraft killed 15 people, Pakistani officials say.

Pakistan's foreign ministry strongly condemned the strike, calling it "illegal", Reuters news agency reports.
'Major blow'

A senior US official told the BBC that Libi was the target of Monday's morning strike in Hesokhel, to the east of Miranshah, the capital of North Waziristan.

The first missile struck the compound, killing three militants, Pakistani security officials said.

A second missile then killed 12 more militants who had arrived at the scene, they added.

If Libi's death is confirmed, it would be a "major blow to core of al-Qaeda", the US official told the BBC.

Washington believes that following Osama Bin Laden's death last year, Libi, an Islamic scholar from Libya, became al-Qaeda's second-in-command after Egyptian born Ayman al-Zawahiri.

Libi is reportedly in charge of day-to-day operations in Pakistan's tribal areas.

Libi was reported killed in a drone strike in Pakistan in 2009, but it turned out to be a case of mistaken identity.

Pakistan's frontier tribal region is considered a hub of activity by al-Qaeda and Taliban militants.

There have been eight US drone strikes in the past two weeks despite Pakistani demands for them to be stopped.

It was the eighth and deadliest attack since 23 March, marking a considerable upsurge in the use of the controversial US drone programme, reports the BBC's Aleem Maqbool in Islamabad.

It has come about since a deal to reopen Nato supply routes through Pakistan fell through.

The Pakistani government closed the routes six months ago in protest at a US air strike along the Afghan border in which 24 Pakistani soldiers were killed, an episode which contributed to the current crisis in relations between Washington and Islamabad, our correspondent adds.

Pakistan says the drone attacks fuel anti-US sentiment and claim civilian casualties along with militants. The US insists the strikes are effective.

The strike comes days after more details of the Obama administration's drone policy emerged in the US.


0 Germany sells Israel Nuclear-equipped submarines

Der Spiegel has just published an important article about the Dolphin submarines Germany has been selling to Israel over the past fifteen years.  Israel now has three, with a fouth and fifth on the way and sixth in the pipeline by 2017.  Sale of up to nine submarines is contemplated by both sides.  The ostensibly big news in this story is that both the Israelis and Germans knew the subs were nuclear weapons-capable, but the Germans had denied it.  In fact, they contain a special secret hydraulic launching system designed for nuclear cruise missiles.

Germany sells Israel Nuclear-equipped submarines

But this isn’t the real news since any reasonably intelligent person would know that any submarine Israel would buy would carry nuclear weapons.  There are two truly newsworthy aspects of this story: one reported and the other not.  The reported one is that German chancellor Angela Merkel officially denied the subs would carry nukes all the while knowing they would.  That is a big story, no doubt, in Germany.  In Israel it’s pretty much a yawn, given that Israelis are used to their leaders lying through their teeth on national security and military matters.

But what has not been reported and is probably the most important aspect of this story is the major upheaval it will introduce in the Middle East balance of power.  Der Spiegel notes that the nukes on board the Dolphins will offer Israel a “second strike” capacity against any enemy who thinks to level a crippling pre-emptive blow against it.  Ostensibly, this will make a power like Iran, after it would get nuclear weapons (if it would), think twice about using the nukes since Israel’s cruise missiles will level entire Iranian cities.

But the question must be asked: who in the Middle East has the power to mount such an attack against Israel?  No one.  Iran doesn’t even have nukes and certainly can’t attack Israel without them.  There simply is no other country that could do so.  Perhaps in one’s wildest dreams one could imagine Israel and Turkey tussling with the Turks thinking of striking a crippling blow against Israel.  But essentially, no one in the Middle East could mount a first strike.  So in effect Israel is getting a weapon for a purpose that doesn’t exist.  Why should it need second strike capacity when there is no first strike possible?  It’s a little like running for president even before you’ve been elected to the school board.

From this flows an even more important development.  I recently posted about a conversation I had with noted Israeli nuclear weapons analyst Avner Cohen about the hidden impact of Israel’s nuclear arsenal on strategic military and policy matters that one would never think could be influenced by nuclear weapons.  Namely, that a nuclear-weapons-enabled Israel has no reason to compromise either with its neighbors or with its allies on any major issues like ending Occupation, returning to 1967 borders, etc.  Just as North Korea’s nukes have enabled it to maintain a surprisingly belligerent posture towards its enemies and even its Chinese friends, Israel too can thumb its nose at anyone asking it to make concessions it isn’t prepared to make.

An Israel with nukes can even tell a U.S. president that he can take his settlement freeze and shove it.  That’s precisely what Bibi Netanyahu did and Pres. Obama didn’t have the guts to pursue the matter.  After all, what leverage did Obama have unless he was willing to go to the mat and invest everything in winning?

There is another macabre irony in Germany’s sale of these weapons to Israel.  The state which inflicted the Holocaust on the Jewish people and incinerated 6 million of them in the ovens of Poland, has now dealt Israel the ability to incinerate any Arab country so bold as to stand in the way of Israeli hegemony over its little slice of the Middle East.  If an Israeli missile is ever fired at an Arab state and inflicts major damage upon it, this will be one of the first things the media will mention.  And Germany will then, too late, have some soul-searching to do about giving Israel the power to inflict its own Holocaust on the Mideast.

Ah yes, the right-wing naysayers will protest at references to an Israeli-inflicted Holocaust because it can’t and won’t happen here (or I should say, there).  Israel would never deliberately kill more than say the ten or fifteen thousand Arabs its killed since 1948.  It would never kill, say a hundred thousand or a million.  Unfortunately, history has offered up the American example of two atom bombs used against Japan within a week.  Though no one has used a nuclear weapon since, we let the bomb out of Pandora’s Box and Israel would clearly be willing to use it if it had to.  Can anyone say that they’d trust Israel’s judgment in using such a weapon as an absolute last resort to stave off national catastrophe?

Germany has offered the subs to Israel on terms that what can only be called a sweetheart deal: the seller finances one-third of the purchase price ($168-million), but Israel doesn’t make its first payment till 2015.  Is Germany that desperate for customers that it had to practically pay the Israelis to buy weapons that can incinerate half the Middle East?

It seems to me that right about this time some German moral thinkers (aside from Gunter Grass, whose criticism of the sub deal was right on the mark) and peace activists should be doing some very deep soul-searching about why their country has offered a weapon of such enormous power to a country which has done nothing but resist making peace in the region over the past 45 years or more.

It’s worthwhile noting Ehud Barak’s hearty congratulations offered to the German people:

Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak told SPIEGEL that Germans should be “proud” that they have secured the existence of the state of Israel “for many years.”

These weapons have done much more than secure Israel’s existence.  They’ve secured Israel’s ongoing intransigence in any matters pertaining to peace negotiations.  This in turn makes the Middle East a much more unstable place, which doesn’t render Israel more secure, but rather less.