Wildfire makes menacing advance near Los Angeles

Monday, August 31, 2009

LOS ANGELES – A deadly wildfire that has blackened a wide swath of tinder-dry forest around Los Angeles made another menacing advance Monday, surging toward thousands of suburban homes and a vital mountaintop broadcasting complex.

Fire crews battling the blaze in the Angeles National Forest tried desperately to beat back the flames and prayed for weather conditions to ease. The fire was the largest of at least eight burning across California after days of triple-digit temperatures and low humidity.
The flames scorched 134 square miles of brush and threatened 12,000 homes, but the lack of wind kept them from driving explosively into the hearts of the dense suburbs northeast of Los Angeles.
"It's burning everywhere," U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Dianne Cahir said. "When it gets into canyons that haven't burned in numerous years, it takes off. If you have any insight into the good Lord upstairs, put in a request."
Columns of smoke billowed high into the air before dispersing into a gauzy white haze that burned eyes and prompted warnings of unhealthy air throughout the Los Angeles area.
Fire crews set backfires and sprayed fire retardant at Mount Wilson, home to at least 20 television transmission towers, radio and cell phone antennas, and the century-old Mount Wilson Observatory. The observatory also houses two giant telescopes and several multimillion-dollar university programs. It is both a historic landmark and a thriving modern center for astronomy.
The fire about a half-mile away was expected to reach the mountaintop eventually, said Los Angeles County fire Capt. Mark Whaling. If the flames hit the mountain, cell phone service and TV and radio transmissions would be disrupted, but the extent was unclear.
The blaze killed two firefighters, destroyed at least 21 homes and forced thousands of evacuations. The firefighters died when their truck drove off the side of a road with flames all around them.
"It's the worst roller coaster of my life, and I hate roller coasters," said Adi Ellad, who lost his home in Big Tujunga Canyon over the weekend. "One second I'm crying, one second I'm guilty, the next moment I'm angry, and then I just want to drink tequila and forget."
Ellad left behind a family heirloom Persian rug and a photo album he put together after his father died. "I'm going to have to figure out a new philosophy: how to live without loving stuff," he said.
The blaze in the Los Angeles foothills is the biggest but not most destructive of California's wildfires. Northeast of Sacramento, a fire destroyed 60 structures over the weekend, many of them homes in the town of Auburn.
The 275-acre blaze was 50 percent contained Monday morning. It wiped out an entire cul-de-sac, leaving only smoldering ruins, a handful of chimneys and burned cars. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger planned to tour the area Monday morning.
East of Los Angeles, a 900-acre fire threatened 2,000 homes and forced the evacuation of a scenic community of apple orchards in an oak-studded area of San Bernardino County. Brush in the area had not burned for a century, fire officials said. Flames burning like huge candles erupted between rocky slopes of the San Bernardino Mountains and the neat farmhouses below.
With highs expected to hit 90 to 100 degrees and humidity remaining low, the National Weather Service extended a weekend warning of extreme fire conditions in the central and Southern California mountains.
Winds were light, which prevented the flames from roaring at furious speed into towns. In 2003, a wind-whipped blaze tore through neighborhoods in San Diego County, killing 15 people and destroying more than 2,400 homes.
Overall, more than 2,500 firefighters were on the line. More than 20 helicopters and air tankers were preparing to dump water and retardant over the flames. Two Canadian Super Scoopers, giant craft that can pull thousands of gallons of water from lakes and reservoirs, were expected to join the fight later in the day.
In La Crescenta, where the San Gabriel Mountains descend steeply into the bedroom suburb a dozen miles from downtown Los Angeles, 57-year-old Mary Wilson was experiencing her first wildfire after nine years of living in a canyon.
Her family was evacuated twice in the past five days, she said.
"We saw the flames. My daughter got really scared," she said. But she was philosophical: "You have to surrender to the natural forces when you choose to live up here. It's about nature doing its thing."
Also in La Crescenta, dispatchers overnight activated a "reverse 911" system that sent a recorded evacuation warning to people, but it turned out to be a mistake.
Whaling, the L.A. County fire captain, says the message applied to only a small number of residents closest to the fire but instead a large number got the sleep-shattering calls. He said he does not know how many people were involved in the call.
"They pushed the wrong button," he said.
Terry Crews, an actor promoting the new movie "Gamer" on KTLA-TV, talked about being forced to flee two days ago from his home in Altadena, in the foothills above Pasadena. He saw 40-foot flames, grabbed his dog and fled.
"I've never seen anything like it," he said. "I'm from Michigan. I'm used to tornadoes ... but to see this thing, you feel helpless."
"This is like 'The Ten Commandments,'" he said, referring to the movie. "You go, 'holy God, the end of the world.'"
The two Los Angeles County firefighters who were killed Sunday died on the blaze's northwestern front when their truck crashed on Mount Gleason near Acton.
The victims were fire Capt. Tedmund Hall, 47, of San Bernardino County, and firefighter Specialist Arnaldo "Arnie" Quinones, 35, of Palmdale. Hall was a 26-year veteran, and Quinones had been a county firefighter for eight years.
An animal sanctuary called the Roar Foundation Shambala Preserve, six miles east of Acton, was in the mandatory evacuation zone, but fire officials decided removing the animals would be "a logistical nightmare," said Chris Gallucci, vice president of operations.
"We have 64 big cats, leopards, lions, tigers, cougars. ... The animals are just walking around, not being affected by this at all," Gallucci said. "But if we panic, they panic. But we are not in panic mode yet."


US 'needs fresh Afghan strategy'

A top US general in Afghanistan has called for a revised military strategy, suggesting the current one is failing.

In a strategic assessment, Gen Stanley McChrystal said that, while the Afghan situation was serious, success was still achievable.

The report has not yet been published, but sources say Gen McChrystal sees protecting the Afghan people against the Taliban as the top priority.

The report does not carry a direct call for increasing troop numbers.


'Major win' for Japan opposition

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) is set for a massive election victory, exit polls suggest.
The DPJ has won 300 seats in the 480-seat lower house, ending 50 years of almost unbroken rule by the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), NHK TV says.
The DPJ says it will shift the focus of government from supporting corporations to helping consumers and workers.

Prime Minister Taro Aso has said he will resign as head of the LDP, taking responsibility for the defeat.
Japan is suffering record unemployment and its economy is struggling to emerge from a bruising recession.

Analysts say voters blame the conservative LDP for the current economic malaise - and are angry enough to opt for change.
Reform bureaucracy

The exit polls suggest a stunning reversal of fortune for Japan's political parties, reducing the LDP to a rump in parliament, correspondents say.
Mr Aso's party has governed Japan for all but 11 months since 1955.

Official results are expected early on Monday, but a senior LDP official acknowledged that the party was heading for a "historic defeat".
"The predictions by the media were shocking. We had doubts, but now I think they are becoming a reality," Yoshihide Suga, deputy chairman of the LDP's election strategy council, was quoted as saying by Reuters news agency.
The DPJ leader, Yukio Hatoyama, has promised to boost welfare, reform the bureaucracy, and seek a more balanced relationship with the United States.
Mr Hatoyama is the wealthy grandson of the founder of Bridgestone tyres, whose other grandfather was a former LDP prime minister.
'Overwhelming majority'
Turnout in Sunday's election was reportedly just under 50%, slightly down from 2005 when elections saw the charismatic Junichiro Koizumi's LDP elected with a significant majority.

Alastair Leithead, BBC News, Tokyo
It's a massive swing. What the opposition can do now they are coming into power, and untested, is deal with the serious problem revolving around the economy and the recession.
Unemployment is at the highest level it ever has been and by the end of next year Japan will no longer be the second biggest economy in the world - that will be China.
Almost a third of the people here will be pensioners and therefore there will be fewer taxes coming in, more money going out.
It's a very difficult position that Japan is in. People have voted out a party that was in power almost without break for 50 years.
They are now looking to a new and inexperienced government to try and deal with some difficult challenges.
Japanese broadcaster NHK announced its exit polls moments after voting ended at 2000 (1100 GMT), saying they showed a major power shift in Japan.
"Our exit polls show the main opposition Democratic Party will seize more than 300 seats, way more than a majority in the lower house," said the newsreader.
"That signals a defeat for the governing coalition."
The LDP had 303 seats in the outgoing parliament, compared to the DPJ's 112. The projections were based on exit polls of roughly 400,000 voters.
If the DPJ were to gain such a landslide majority, it could establish a new cabinet within the next few weeks.
Voter anger
As voting closed on Sunday night, officials said turnout had been high, despite a combination of typhoon-triggered rainfall around Tokyo and a government warning that a swine flu epidemic was under way.
National broadcaster NHK: DPJ 298-329 seats; LDP 84-131
Private network TV Asahi: DPJ 315 seats
Tokyo Broadcasting System: DPJ 321 seats
Nippon Television: DPJ 324
Outgoing 480-seat lower house of parliament: LDP 303; DPJ 112
The DPJ already controls Japan's upper house with the support of smaller parties including the Social Democrats.
It won control of the house in July 2007, amid voters' anger at a series of scandals and the loss of millions of pension payment records.
Correspondents say voters' desire for change after so many years under the LDP was a crucial factor.
Tokyo University political science professor Takashi Mikuriya told Japanese media the election was "more about emotions than policies".


Police Review Cases for Connections to Kidnap Case

ANTIOCH, Calif. (AP) -- Police on Saturday expanded their search to a property next to the home of a California couple charged with kidnapping a little girl 18 years ago as they looked for evidence linking them to other open cases in the area, including the unsolved murders of prostitutes.

Police from three agencies have been searching the home and large backyard of Nancy and Phillip Garrido since they were arrested Wednesday on suspicion of abducting Jaycee Lee Dugard. On Saturday, police wrapped yellow crime scene tape around the home and property next door.
Neighbors identified the house as belonging to Damon Robinson, who has lived next door to the Garridos for more than three years. Robinson's then-girlfriend in 2006 called police after she saw tents and children in the backyard. The responding officer failed to discover the encampment where authorities say Dugard was kept captive.
Robinson could not be reached after his home was declared a crime scene. He earlier told The Associated Press that Phillip Garrido was the caretaker of the house until Robinson moved there in 2006.
Neighbor Janice Deitrich, 66, also said that Phillip Garrido would visit and help feed an elderly neighbor who lived in the house before Robinson.
Police said the cordoned off property was a crime scene but declined to comment further.
The investigations are ''preliminary,'' said Jimmy Lee, a spokesman for the Contra Costa County Sheriff's Department, east of San Francisco Bay, declining to say what past cases were being reviewed.
Police in Pittsburg are investigating whether Phillip Garrido, whose home is in nearby Antioch, is linked to several unsolved murders of prostitutes in the early 1990s. Antioch police are also looking into unsolved cases but declined further details.
About a dozen agents scoured the modest house and the acre of land it sat on Saturday afternoon as the temperature soared into triple digits.
Police spent most of the day searching the Garridos' backyard, where Dugard is alleged to have lived in tents and shacks with her two daughters fathered by Phillip Garrido. One officer could be seen scanning the backyard with a metal detector while another dug a hole. A third used a chainsaw to clear branches and investigators shuffled in and out of the property all day.
Officers from the Pittsburg Police Department, Antioch Police Department and the Contra Costa County Sheriff's Department were on hand. The agencies say they are reviewing unsolved cases to determine if the Garridos are connected. Pittsburg Police, for instance, said they are looking into whether the Garridos are connected to a string of prostitution murders in that city in the early 1990s. The other agencies declined to discuss what cold cases they were reviewing.
On Saturday, the quiet working class neighborhood where the Garridos lived had transformed into a media circus of television trucks, wandering journalists and the simply curious, who began driving down the Garridos street once a police checkpoint into the neighborhood was removed. Some neighbors said they were growing wary of the constant questions of
Mike Rogers, who owns a storage lot next to the Garridos' back fence said that he occasionally heard loud parties coming from the backyard. Rogers said the parties were a mostly male affair.
Phillip and Nancy Garrido are in jail, suspected of abducting Dugard 18 years ago and subjecting her to nearly a lifetime of torment in a squalid backyard compound. They pleaded not guilty Friday to a total of 29 counts, including forcible abduction, rape and false imprisonment.
Associated Press writers Lin in Sacramento and Terry Collin in San Francisco contributed to this story.


Close up for a car that is being impounded from a home in Antioch, ... - Yahoo! News Photos

Close up for a car that is being impounded from a home in Antioch, ... - Yahoo! News Photos


Kidnapped girl etched in Tahoe community's heart

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – Some knew her, others only knew of her. But they will never forget the day 18 years ago when the blonde, blue-eyed 11-year-old was snatched in broad daylight on her way to a bus stop.
Her scream. A frantic sprint on a mountain bike by her stepfather up the twisted mountain road as he tried to catch up to the Ford Granada and the unknown man and woman who had just ripped his family's lives to shreds before his eyes.
A world renown tourist destination, South Lake Tahoe on the Nevada-California line is dominated in summer by gamblers, boaters and beach goers. In winter, by gamblers, skiers and snowboarders.
But beneath the facade of a tourist town, where workers come and go with each passing season, is a tight-knit community that never forgot Jaycee Lee Dugard, a little girl who loved the color pink.
Her mother, Terry Probyn, and stepfather, Carl, were relative newcomers to the Tahoe community.
"They were brand new to the district," Sue Bush, Jaycee's fifth grade teacher, said Friday. "I met them at parent-teacher conference twice."
But the community shared their nightmare and embraced them, holding fundraisers, putting up fliers and adorning the town in pink ribbons to keep Jaycee in their hearts after she was kidnapped June 10, 1991.
In 2001, 10 years later, more than 100 people marched on U.S. 50, the main `highway through town, in a pink ribbon parade to remember the little girl and raise awareness of child safety and Jaycees' unsolved kidnapping.
Terry Probyn, who left Tahoe in 1998 and moved to Southern California, returned for the anniversary.
"Someone out there knows what happened," she said at the time. "We need peace. Give us that gift."
It arrived, out of the blue, Wednesday night when she received a call from investigators, saying her daughter had been found alive. Nearly two decades of questions, what ifs, and suspicions against Dugard's stepfather, Carl Probyn, were replaced by tears of joy.
Phillip Garrido, 58, and his 54-year-old wife, Nancy, were arrested last week on suspicion of abducting Dugard. They pleaded not guilty Friday to a total of 29 counts, including forcible abduction, rape and false imprisonment.
Investigators said Dugard was taken to a house in Antioch, where she was kept hidden from the world in a secret, leafy backyard, where she lived in a shed compound.
In South Lake Tahoe, the shy girl last seen in a pink jacket and pink stretch pants is in everyone's hearts again, this time as a grown woman, now 29, and the mother of two children fathered by her alleged abductor.
Joy that she was alive was mixed with anxiety about her physical and emotional well-being, and sadness over the loss of youth and innocence.
"I used to drive by that bus stop all the time," Sue Pritchett, a retired South Lake Tahoe middle school teacher, said while talking with a friend in Dugard's old neighborhood.
"I'm absolutely ecstatic that she's been found," Pritchett said. "But I hope she's OK."
On Friday, Sue Bush, Jaycee's fifth-grade teacher at Meyers Elementary School, recalled the nightmare that day when one of her students didn't show up.
"We got the call just before class started," she told The Associated Press. "Some of the kids already knew about it because they had witnessed it at the bus stop. The kids were very agitated and upset.
"We brought in counselors, and during the week we wrote letters to Jaycee and her mom. We kept her chair and desk set up."
The school, now called Lake Tahoe Environmental Science Magnet School, has a memory garden out front, that started as Jaycee's Garden, said former Principal Karen Gillis-Tinlin.
Butterflies painted on the walls symbolize students who have died. There are four; one was for Jaycee.
James Tarwater, school district superintendent, said news of Dugard's reappearance was shocking and disturbing at the same time.
"I think about all the students I've had and watched grow during the last 18 years," he said. "You think of their potential."
Potential denied Jaycee.
Bush, her former teacher, agreed.
"We're all happy she's back. But it's a life ruined," she said sadly.
"I hope in a few weeks, months, whatever it takes, I'll actually be able to talk to Jaycee and Terry," she said. "Terry never gave up hope."
Gillis-Tinlin said Dugard's rescue "is a wonderful ending," but more importantly, "a beginning of the next segment of her life."
South Lake Tahoe, she said, will again bloom in pink bows and ribbons — this time in celebration of a life renewed.


Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Ted Kennedy funeral


Kennedy remembered for 'the dream he kept alive'

BOSTON – Sen. Edward M. Kennedy was celebrated Saturday for "the good he did, the dream he kept alive," his funeral inside a soaring Catholic church a memorial to one man's life and a remarkable political era now ended.
Row upon row of mourners sat facing the casket bearing Kennedy's mortal remains, President Barack Obama as well as previous occupants of the White House, enough senators to make up a quorum and dozens of members of the most famous political family in the land.
One son, Patrick, wept quietly as another son, Teddy Jr., spoke from the pulpit of the day years ago, shortly after losing a leg to cancer, that he slipped walking up an icy driveway as he headed out to go sledding. "I started to cry and I said, `I'll never be able to climb up that hill,'" said Teddy Jr.
"And he lifted me up in his strong, gentle arms and said something I will never forget, he said, `I know you can do it. There is nothing that you can't do.'"
Rain beat down steadily as Kennedy's coffin was borne by a military honor guard into the Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, and again when it was brought back out to the hearse for the trip to his final resting place at Arlington National Cemetery outside Washington.
In life, the senator had visited the burial ground often to mourn his brothers, John and Robert, killed in their 40s, more than a generation ago, by assassins' bullets.
"He was given a gift of time that his brothers were not. And he used that time to touch as many lives and right as many wrongs as the years would allow," Obama said in a eulogy that also gently made mention of Kennedy's "personal failings and setbacks."
As a member of the Senate, Kennedy was a "veritable force of nature," the president said. But more than that, the "baby of the family who became its patriarch, the restless dreamer who became its rock."
Those left behind to mourn "grieve his passing with the memories he gave, the good he did, the dream he kept alive" Obama said inside the packed church.
Hundreds lined nearby sidewalks, ignoring the rain, as the funeral procession passed.
"I said to myself this morning, 'No matter what the weather, I'm going, I don't care if I have to swim," said Lillian Bennett, 59, who added she was a longtime Kennedy supporter and determined to get as close as she could to the invitation-only funeral.
"The Mass of Christian burial weaves together memory and hope," said the Rev. Mark R. Hession, parish priest at the church in a working class neighborhood of Boston.
There was plenty of both in a two-hour service filled with references to Kennedy's political accomplishments and personal recollections of his private life. Cellist Yo-Yo Ma and tenor Placido Domingo provided musical grace notes.
Kennedy's widow, Vicki, his sole surviving sibling, Jean, and Robert Kennedy's widow, Ethel, carefully arranged the cloth funeral pall atop the coffin.
Like others, Teddy Jr., touched on his father's legacy.
"He answered Uncle Joe's call to patriotism, Uncle Jack's call to public service and Bobby's determination to seek a newer world. Unlike them, he lived to be a grandfather," he said.
Joseph Kennedy Jr. died in World War II, John F. Kennedy was the nation's 35th president when he was assassinated in 1963 and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy was killed five years later as he campaigned for the presidency.
Kennedy died Tuesday at 77, more than a year after he was diagnosed with a brain tumor.
Saturday's events marked the end of four days of public and private mourning meant to emphasize Kennedy's 47 years in the Senate from Massachusetts, his standing as the foremost liberal Democrat of the late 20th century yet a legislator who courted compromise with Republicans, a family man and last heir to a dynasty that began in the years after World War II.
Thousands of mourners filed past his flag-draped coffin earlier in the week when Kennedy lay in repose at the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston. Republicans and Democrats alike recalled his political career in a bipartisan evening of laughter-filled speechmaking on Friday.
Even the church had special meaning for the family. Kennedy prayed there daily several years ago during his daughter Kara's successful battle with lung cancer.
David Espo reported from Washington. AP writer Karen Testa contributed from Boston.


Jackson 'had lethal drug levels'

Pop star Michael Jackson had lethal levels of the powerful anaesthetic propofol in his body when he died, coroner's office documents show.
The findings were contained in a previously sealed search warrant which has been made public in Texas.
The singer died in June from a cardiac arrest at his home in Los Angeles. Police have interviewed his doctor, but he has not been named as a suspect.
There are reports that the coroner has concluded Jackson's death was homicide.
The reports, carried by the Associated Press news agency quoting unnamed police sources, have not been confirmed.
But the BBC's Rajesh Mirchandani in Los Angeles says homicide includes manslaughter, and investigators have been trying to establish if there is a case for that charge.
A powerful anaesthetic usually used before and during surgery
Can also be used in small doses to reduce stress or anxiety
Produced as a white, opaque fluid and administered intravenously
Marketed under the trade name Diprivan
Jackson's doctor, Conrad Murray, has denied any wrongdoing.
Dr Murray's lawyer Ed Chernoff said in a statement that various details surrounding the investigation were just "police theory".
"Dr Murray simply never told investigators that he found Michael Jackson at 11am not breathing. He also never said that he waited a mere ten minutes before leaving to make several phone calls.
"In fact, Dr. Murray never said that he left Michael Jackson's room to make phone calls at all."
Mr Chernoff added he would comment on the coroner's report when it is officially released.
Details of the Los Angeles County coroners' findings were revealed when a search warrant affidavit was made public in Houston, Texas, where Dr Murray has offices.
Dr Murray's offices were raided last month as part of the police investigation into the singer's death.
The coroner's office has not published its findings regarding the singer's death.
Addiction fears
According to the affidavit, the LA chief coroner "had reviewed the preliminary toxicology results and his preliminary assessment of Jackson's cause of death was due to lethal levels of propofol".
The documents go on to say that Dr Murray told police he had been giving Jackson propofol as part of his treatment for insomnia.
But, he said he had been concerned Jackson was becoming addicted to the drug and had been trying to wean him off, using alternative drugs.
But, on the morning of the singer's death, Dr Murray is reported to have relented and given Jackson a lower dosage of propofol after a number of other drugs had not worked.
He left the star alone to make some telephone calls and when he returned Jackson was not breathing, the LA Times reports.
Dr Murray is known to have performed CPR on his patient while the paramedics were called, but Jackson was declared dead when he arrived at hospital.
Dr Conrad Murray speaking on 18 August: I told the truth
Bottles of propofol found in Jackson's house show it had been prescribed by several doctors, not just Conrad Murray, but he remains at the centre of the inquiry, our correspondent adds.
Earlier this month, Dr Murray - who was employed as Michael Jackson's personal physician for a series of concerts in London scheduled for July - posted a video message on YouTube to thank his supporters.
"I told the truth and I have faith the truth will prevail," he said in the short one-minute clip.


Jackson death ruled as homicide

Friday, August 28, 2009

The death of Michael Jackson was homicide due to intoxication by anaesthetic, the Los Angeles coroner has formally announced.
The 50-year-old singer died in June from cardiac arrest at his LA mansion.
The powerful anaesthetic Propofol and Lorazepam, a sedative, were the "primary drugs responsible for Mr Jackson's death", the report said.
The coroner's verdict heightens the chances of charges being brought against his doctor.
Police have interviewed Conrad Murray but he has not been named as a suspect. He has strenuously denied any wrongdoing.
"The cause of death was established as acute Propofol intoxication," the coroner's report said.
A powerful anaesthetic usually used before and during surgery
Can also be used in small doses to reduce stress or anxiety
Produced as a white, opaque fluid and administered intravenously
Marketed under the trade name Diprivan
"The manner of death has been ruled: Homicide," it adds. In the US, the crime of homicide includes manslaughter.
A cocktail of drugs - including Midazolam, Diazepam, Lidocaine, Lorazepam and Ephedrine - were detected in his body, the report said.
The full toxicology report remains sealed, at the request of the LA Police Department (LAPD) and the city's district attorney.
The lawyer for Jackson's personal physician, Dr Conrad Murray, has demanded that the coroner's office release the full autopsy report, according to AP.
Edward Chernoff said he needed to know the exact levels of the various drugs in Jackson's system and said the refusal to release the report suggested "gamesmanship".
The LAPD said they were referring the case to prosecutors for possible criminal charges to be filed, according to Reuters.

Conrad Murray insists he has done nothing wrong
An initial affidavit by the city's chief coroner had said that lethal levels of Propofol were judged to be the cause of Jackson's death.
According to those documents, Jackson's doctor told police he had been giving the singer the drug as part of his treatment for insomnia.
But, he said he had been concerned Jackson was becoming addicted to the drug and had been trying to wean him off.
The singer's remains will be buried on 3 September at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, a suburb of Los Angeles, in a private ceremony.
The burial was initially scheduled to take place on 29 August - on what would have been Jackson's 51st birthday.


Couple deny California abduction

Phillip Garrido and his spouse Nancy denied all charges in court in Placerville, El Dorado Country
A man and his wife have denied abducting California woman Jaycee Lee Dugard when she was a child and holding her in their home for 18 years.
Phillip Garrido, 58, and his spouse Nancy, 54, denied 28 charges when they appeared briefly in court in Placerville, El Dorado County.
Ms Dugard was bundled into a car in the county in 1991 on her way to school.
Police are also searching the Garrido home in Antioch for clues to several prostitute murders in the 1990s.
Several bodies in the unsolved murders were dumped near an industrial park where Mr Garrido worked.

No pictures have been released of Ms Dugard as she looks today
Ms Dugard and two children she bore in captivity in Antioch, 200 miles (320km) away from where she was abducted, were freed this week.
They are staying at a motel near San Francisco after being reunited with Ms Dugard's mother.
Police apology
Phillip Garrido, 58, a convicted rapist and kidnapper, is suspected of fathering Ms Dugard's children while he kept her in his backyard.
He and his wife Nancy, 54, are accused of abducting her in the town of South Lake Tahoe, in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
She was forced into a car as her stepfather Carl Probyn looked on. Mr Probyn tried in vain to give chase on a bicycle.
Police have admitted that they missed an opportunity to uncover what was happening at Mr Garrido's home in November 2006, when a neighbour alerted them to suspicious behaviour there.
Sheriff Warren E Rupf: "We missed an opportunity to bring earlier closure"
"The caller said Garrido was psychotic and had a sexual addiction," Sheriff Warren Rupf told reporters.
But the investigating police officer only spoke to Mr Garrido and did not enter his property to carry out a search.
"I'm first in line to offer organisational criticism and to offer my apologies to the victims and accept responsibility for having missed an earlier opportunity," said Sheriff Rupf.
'A disgusting thing'
Fred Kollar, undersheriff in El Dorado County, described finding a makeshift compound in the backyard consisting of sheds, tents and outbuildings.
The true identity of the backyard's inhabitants only emerged after Mr Garrido was called in along with his "family" for a parole office hearing on Wednesday.
Suspicions had been aroused when Mr Garrido, who has a printing business, was seen acting suspiciously towards the children as he tried to enter the University of California, Berkeley, campus to hand out religious literature.
Diane Doty, a neighbour, has said she often heard children playing in the backyard.
"I asked my husband, 'Why is he [Garrido] living in tents?'" she said on Thursday.
"And he said, 'Maybe that is how they like to live.'"
The alleged abductor has himself told a US TV channel that his story was "heart-warming".
"It's a disgusting thing that took place with me at the beginning, but I turned my life completely around," Mr Garrido told KCRA television from El Dorado County jail.
Court records show that Mr Garrido was convicted of kidnapping and raping a 25-year-old woman in South Lake Tahoe in 1976.


Unless Dugard was kept under lock and key for the entire 18 years of her captivity, over the next few days, certainly there will be an abundance of pieces about Stockholm syndrome and wondering why she didn't ask for help before... If Dugard's captors gave her any freedom, locals will start piping up about how she went to the grocery store or to the park, suggesting that she could have fled at any time.
Torie Bosch, blogging at DoubleX, speculates about the reasons why Jaycee Dugard did not escape.
Over the last 18 years I have often thought about what happened to Jaycee. Every time there was a news report about the discovery of bones in California, I would follow up to see if it was the remains of Jaycee. It never was. Over 18 years my mind wandered back to me sitting in Jaycee's bedroom with Terry, how neat and tidy it was, ready for her return. I hadn't thought about Jaycee in a while, until today.
Anthony Batson, former a producer for America's Most Wanted, remembers the day he interviewed Jaycee Dugard's parents.
Though the investigation is now ongoing, perhaps more details will emerge [about Nancy Garrido's] role in this 18-year saga. Was it fear that kept Nancy silent? Or does this just go to show how some women can overlook the monster in their husbands?
YourTango's Julie Leung turns the spotlight on Phillips Garrido's wife.
The fact that various acquaintances thought Garrido was crazy and actually saw Dugard and her daughters reveals how willing we sometimes are to ignore the strange behavior of others, and how this willingness can sometimes allow criminals to operate with impunity for years.
Jezebel's Anna N wonders whether Mr Garrido's neighbours could have been more vigilant.


BBC SPORT | Athletics | Bolt sets searing pace in Zurich

BBC SPORT Athletics Bolt sets searing pace in Zurich


Missing girl 'found 18 years on'

Thursday, August 27, 2009

A US woman found after being abducted as a girl in 1991 gave birth to two children fathered by her alleged kidnapper, police say.
Jaycee Lee Dugard and the children, aged 11 and 15, were kept in a "hidden backyard within a backyard".
Alleged kidnapper Phillip Garrido, 58, and his wife Nancy Garrido, 54, are being held in custody in California.
DNA tests are being done to establish Ms Dugard's identity, but meanwhile she has been reunited with her mother.
Ms Dugard disappeared in 1991, aged 11, from outside her Lake Tahoe home, apparently taken by two people.
El Dorado County Undersheriff Fred Kollar she had lived with the couple, isolated from view at a property in Antioch near San Francisco since the kidnapping.
"The tents and outbuildings in the backyard were placed in a strategic arrangement to inhibit outside viewing and to isolate the victims from outside contact."

Phillip Garrido allegedly fathered two children with Ms Dugard, police say
The three spent "most of their lives" there, he said, adding that they had never been to school or seen a doctor.
Their identities were revealed after Mr Garrido was spotted by police at the University of California Berkeley campus with the two young children.
He raised suspicions because as a registered sex offender he was not allowed to be with young children.
Phillip Garrido has a conviction for rape and was paroled in 1999, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
He was called in by his parole officer for questioning, and brought the two children and a young woman he called Alissa with him.
During questioning he revealed that Alissa was actually Ms Dugard. She also confirmed her identity to police.
At the Antioch property, there was also a vehicle hidden in the backyard which matched the vehicle originally described at the time of the abduction, Mr Kollar said.
"It's a pretty spectacular story just to find someone like that. Someone we assumed was dead," said Bill Clark, a senior prosecutor in El Dorado County.
Jimmie Lee, a local police spokesman, said Mr Garrido was also being held for investigation of rape by force, lewd and lascivious acts with a minor and sexual penetration.
Under suspicion

She sounds like she's okay. I hope she's been well treated this entire 18 years
Carl ProbynStepfather
As news spread of Ms Dugard's apparent re-appearance, her stepfather Carl Probyn told ABC News in the US that her family was now convinced she was coming back to them.
"I had personally given up hope," he said, saying that he just wanted to find the people responsible.
Mr Probyn was watching on 10 June 1991, as the young girl was apparently taken away by two unidentified people.
The incident occurred as she was walking from her home to a school bus stop in the southern Lake Tahoe town of Meyers.
Her stepfather - who initially came under suspicion in her disappearance and is now estranged from Ms Dugard's mother - has described how a stranger drove up and grabbed Ms Dugard, bundling her into a grey car even as she tried to resist by kicking and screaming.
US police give details of Jaycee recovery
Mr Probyn believed a man and woman were in the vehicle. Despite several false reports of sightings in the intervening years, Ms Dugard was never seen again.
"She sounds like she's okay," he said.
"She had a conversation with my wife and she remembers things. I hope she's been well treated this entire 18 years."
"To have this happen where we get her back alive, and where she remembers things from the past, and to have people in custody is a triple win," he told the Sacramento Bee newspaper.



Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Kennedy was at the center of the most important issues facing the nation for decades, and he did much to help shape them. A defender of the poor and politically disadvantaged, he set the standard for his party on health care, education, civil rights, campaign-finance reform and labor law
Joe Holley writes in The Washington Post on Ted Kennedy's political importance
He was a Rabelaisian figure in the Senate and in life, instantly recognizable by his shock of white hair, his florid, oversize face, his booming Boston brogue, his powerful but pained stride. He was a celebrity, sometimes a self-parody, a hearty friend, an implacable foe, a man of large faith and large flaws, a melancholy character who persevered, drank deeply and sang loudly. He was a Kennedy.
New York Times journalist John M Broder describes the Kennedy effect.
Seared in my memory: When I interned at the Heritage Foundation, I would pop into Mass at Saint Joseph's on the Hill. And I would almost always find myself sitting near Ted Kennedy. He's responsible for things that are deeply offensive to my conscience and diametrically opposed to the teachings of the Catholic faith, and he probably led some people astray by his example. But our faith also teaches that we are all sinners and that there is redemption. He had some incredibly good forces in his life, not least among them his sister, Eunice, who just died. I pray for the repose of his soul. R.I.P. Senator Kennedy.
Kathryn Lean Lopez blogs her tribute at the National Review.
Elected first in 1962, the 77-year-old Massachusetts liberal was rooted in the civil rights and Great Society battles of that decade, but his enduring strength was an ability to renew himself through his mastery of issues and the changing personalities of the Senate. Nowhere was this clearer than in Kennedy's early support of Barack Obama in 2008, when the young Illinois Democrat needed to establish himself against more veteran rivals for the White House. Kennedy not only campaigned for Obama but, at risk to his own health, opened the Democratic National Convention a year ago in Denver and returned to Washington repeatedly last winter to cast needed votes to move the new president's economic recovery agenda.
David Rogers in Politico highlights the veteran senator's lasting political importance.
In many ways, he was the last man standing, straddling a mythic family mantle of fame and a vaunted career of political service, all the while wearing the crown of Camelot decades after its heyday...the senator's death brought to a close a storied political era - of assassinations, Jackie O, Palm Beach, Chappaquiddick - and a lifetime of both tragedy and public service.
Andrea Billup writes in the The Washington Times that 'Camelot' fades with Kennedy passing
In losing Kennedy, Obama loses a key Senate dealmaker at a crucial moment in legislative negotiations over the health care bill. Though an icon of Democratic liberalism, Kennedy was known to colleagues as a jovial pragmatist, whose many friendships with colleagues across the political and ideological spectrum made him one of the Senate's most influential players.
Kathy Kiely in USA Today examines the impact of Ted Kennedy's death on healthcare reform.


Obama leads tributes to Kennedy

US President Barack Obama has led tributes to Senator Edward Kennedy, who has died from cancer at the age of 77.
Mr Obama described Sen Kennedy as an extraordinary leader and "one of the most accomplished Americans ever to serve our democracy".
Lawmakers from both main parties praised a man who but for a scandal in 1969 might have become president.
A Democratic senator since 1962, the liberal stalwart championed issues such as education and health-care reform.
He died late on Tuesday at his home in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, his family said in a statement. He was diagnosed with brain cancer in May 2008.
US media reports say he will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, where his brothers President John F Kennedy and Senator Robert Kennedy are also buried.
'Passion and vigour'
In a televised tribute, Barack Obama called Edward Kennedy a colleague, a counsellor and a friend.

He always believed that our best days were still ahead, but it's hard to imagine any of them without him
Kennedy family statement

"In the United States Senate I can think of no-one who engendered greater respect or affection from members of both sides of the aisle," he said.
"His ideas and ideals are stamped on scores of laws and reflected in millions of lives," he said.
Former President George W Bush, who was criticised by Sen Kennedy over Iraq, described him as "a man of passion who advocated fiercely for his convictions".
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, praised his determination to make quality health-care available to all Americans, while Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, also added his voice.
"No one could have known the man without admiring the passion and vigour he poured into a truly momentous life," he said.
The BBC's Richard Lister in Washington said Senator Kennedy, known affectionately as Teddy, would be remembered as one of the most effective legislators in American history.

Daniel Sandford, BBC News, Washington
President Obama was leading the tributes, saying that Senator Kennedy was the greatest US senator of our time.
But the praise was coming from right across the political divide. The Republicans were also praising him, saying that he was the kind of man that you couldn't help but like even if you disagreed with him.
That kind of praise has been echoing across the morning shows - they all broke into special coverage of the kind that is normally reserved for when former presidents die.
But of course all of the coverage has also included the controversies in Edward Kennedy's life, not least of all the death of Mary Jo Kopechne at Chappaquiddick bridge in 1969.
He was skilled at forging alliances across party lines: pushing an education initiative with Mr Bush and immigration reform with Republican John McCain.
But he was a fierce critic of the Bush administration too - particularly on Iraq and when allegations of US military abuses there emerged.
He will also be remembered as a staunch supporter of Irish nationalism - at one time calling for British troops to leave Northern Ireland - although he was later involved in the peace process leading to the Good Friday Agreement, our correspondent adds.
In the UK, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Sen Kennedy would be mourned in every continent. "I am proud to have counted him as a friend," he said.
And UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon praised him as a man who "was a voice for those who would otherwise go unheard".
Obama endorsement
Edward Kennedy was, at his death, the third-longest senator in US history.
1932 Born, youngest of nine children
1962 Becomes country's youngest senator
1963, 1968 Brothers President John F Kennedy and Senator Robert F Kennedy both assassinated
1969 "Chappaquiddick incident" - Kennedy flees scene after road crash in which his young passenger dies
1980 Runs unsuccessfully for Democratic nomination against sitting President Jimmy Carter
He became a Massachusetts senator in 1962, replacing his brother John when he resigned to become president.
He was the only one of four brothers not to die a violent death. His brother Joseph was killed in an air crash in World War II, and both John F Kennedy and presidential hopeful Robert F Kennedy were assassinated in the 1960s.
He was widely expected to be the next Kennedy in the White House, but he was never able to fully overcome a scandal in 1969 when he drove a car off a bridge at Chappaquiddick near his home, killing his female passenger.
The incident helped derail his only presidential bid, more than a decade later.
But he remained active in politics right up until his death, famously endorsing Barack Obama for the Democratic nomination during a tight race with Hillary Clinton last year.


Anger at Lockerbie bomber welcome

Friday, August 21, 2009

Britain and the US have strongly condemned the jubilant welcome given in Libya to the man convicted of the bombing of a US plane over Lockerbie.
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband described the scenes as "deeply distressing".
Crowds greeted Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi off the plane in Tripoli after he was freed from a Scottish prison on compassionate grounds.
Many relatives of the victims of the 1988 bombing are angry at his release.
Most of the 270 people who died when Pan Am Flight 103 blew up over the Scottish town of Lockerbie were Americans.

Miliband attacks Megrahi welcome
US powerless as bomber freed
Bomber release: What now?
US President Barack Obama said Megrahi's release, eight years into his life sentence, was "a mistake".
He said his administration had told the Libyan government that Megrahi, who has terminal cancer, should not receive a hero's welcome and should be placed under house arrest.
Mr Miliband said the sight of Megrahi being welcomed in the Libyan capital was very disturbing for the families of those who died in the bombing.
"Obviously the sight of a mass murderer getting a hero's welcome in Tripoli is deeply upsetting, deeply distressing," he told the BBC.
'Courageous decision'
Hundreds of people turned out to meet Megrahi's plane as it landed in Tripoli, many waving flags. The BBC's Christian Fraser, in Tripoli, described it as a welcome worthy of a returning rock star.

Christian FraserBBC News correspondent, in Libya
Despite the jubilant scenes in the capital, we haven't had any sense of triumphalism from government ministers. And we've still not had a statement from Colonel Gaddafi himself.
I think the last thing the Libyans want in the run up to the 40th anniversary of the revolution, on 1 September, is this international condemnation.
There's no further news of al-Megrahi himself. It's a very quiet day in Tripoli - the first day of Ramadan. The streets are deserted, there's not much news in the media.
We are told he might be taken south to a town in the desert to meet Col Gaddafi - presumably to thank him for all the lobbying he has done on his behalf.
And we now have it on a second source that he is actually a distant relative of Col Gaddafi, which might explain why the colonel has taken such a personal interest.
Megrahi, who had changed from the tracksuit he wore to leave Greenock prison in Scotland into a dark suit, was met by Col Gaddafi's son.
"I would like to thank the Scottish government for its courageous decision and understanding of a special human situation," Seif al-Islam Gaddafi was quoted as saying.
There was a considerable amount of new evidence to show that he was innocent, he is reported to have added.
Megrahi was then taken to his family home where his wife, Aisha, said she was "overjoyed".
"It is a great moment, which we have been waiting for for nine years," she said. "The house is full to bursting, everyone who loves Abdelbaset is with us."
But relatives of those who died voiced growing anger and outrage at the decision to release him.
Stephanie Bernstein, whose husband was killed in the bombing, said the Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill was "naive" in taking the decision to release Megrahi.

In pictures: Bomber's release
'A convenient scapegoat?'
"Thinking that somehow this shows that they are better people for being compassionate? This shows not compassion, it shows weakness," she told the BBC.
But other relatives reacted differently to the news.
British relatives' spokesman Dr Jim Swire, who lost his daughter Flora in the atrocity, reiterated his view that Megrahi had "nothing to do with" the bombing.
"I don't believe for a moment that this man was involved in the way that he was found to have been involved," he said.
Megrahi was convicted of murder in January 2001 at a trial held under Scottish law in the Netherlands but has always denied being behind the bombing.
Oil interests
Mr MacAskill announced the release order on Thursday morning, saying Megrahi probably had about three months to live.
Have Your Say
I am ashamed to be Scottish. Where is the justice for the victims?
Ross MacDonald, Edinburgh
Send us your comment
The fact that Megrahi's victims were shown no compassion was "not a reason for us to deny compassion to him and his family in his final days", he said.
Mr Miliband said the decision to release Megrahi had been a choice for the Scottish justice secretary alone. Libya's response would be closely scrutinised, he added.
"It's very important that Libya knows that how the Libyan government handles itself in the next few days will be very significant in the way the world views Libya's re-entry into the civilised community of nations," Mr Miliband said.
Some major British oil and gas companies, bidding for highly competitive contracts with the country, could benefit from improved relations between Libya and the UK following Megrahi's release, our correspondent says.
However, the British Foreign Office said on Friday it was reviewing whether a royal visit by the Duke of York to Libya, scheduled for September, should now go ahead.
This would be Prince Andrew's third trip to Libya in his role as Britain's special representative for trade and investment.
In a country where movement is carefully restricted, the fact that Libya allowed supporters on to the runway clearly signals the Libyans were determined to salute Megrahi's freedom, our correspondent says.
But Friday saw no sign of that triumphalism from government ministers and Col Gadaffi has still to give his reaction to the release, he says.
However Megrahi is treated in Libya in the short time he is believed to have left to live, he will go to the grave a convicted murderer, our correspondent adds.


Three shot dead by US gym gunman

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

A man has killed at least three women at a gymnasium in the US state of Pennsylvania, before shooting himself.
Another 10 people were injured by gunfire in the town of Bridgeville near Pittsburgh, after the incident at the LA Fitness Center.
An eyewitness told a local TV station that a man entered an all-female dance class, turned off the lights, took two guns out of a bag and began firing.
"People everywhere were screaming. It was horrible," said the witness.
More from BBC World Service
It is not known whether the gunman had any specific reason for targeting anyone at the gym.
"He did not say anything. He walked right into the room where the shootings occurred as if he knew exactly where he was going," said Allegheny County police Superintendent Charles Moffatt.
'Flashes in the dark'
One witness said there were about 30 women in the dance class when the shooting took place.

She said there were "flashes in the dark" as the gunman began firing into the group.
Others said they saw several women bleeding from bullet wounds to the legs, back and shoulder.
Loretta Moss said she tried to help one woman who was shot in the leg.
"She was screaming, 'It's burning, just please call the ambulance'," Ms Moss said.
The gym management said in a statement: "Each of us in the LA Fitness family are shocked and saddened by the senseless acts of violence that took place."


More top stories

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

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Messi in talks over new contract
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Springboks unchanged for Aussies
Hewitt returns to action with win
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US sees consumer spending growth
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North Korea pardons US reporters

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has issued a special pardon to two detained US journalists.
Laura Ling and Euna Lee had been found guilty of entering illegally in March.

The news came hours after former US President Bill Clinton made an unannounced visit to Pyongyang on what was described as a private mission.
Mr Clinton has now flown out of North Korea with the two journalists on a plane bound for Los Angeles, his spokesman says.
Mr Clinton is the highest-profile American to visit since ex-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in 2000.
"Kim Jong-il issued an order... granting a special pardon to the two American journalists who had been sentenced to hard labour," the official North Korean News Agency (KCNA) said in a statement.
The women's pardon and release was a sign of North Korea's "humanitarian and peace-loving policy", KCNA said.
Families 'overjoyed'
The families of the two journalists said they were "overjoyed" by the news.
In a statement posted on a website, they thanked Mr Clinton and also former Vice-President Al Gore for their efforts to get the women released.
Washington had made no announcement of Mr Clinton's trip prior to his arrival on Tuesday, but later stressed it was a private visit.
However, media reports in Washington suggest the White House approved the mission and it had been secretly planned for weeks, our correspondent says.
State media said Bill Clinton and Kim Jong-il had wide-ranging talks
Mr Clinton had landed in Pyongyang in an unmarked plane and was greeted at the airport by North Korean officials.
KCNA said that Mr Clinton met North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, although the White House denied its report that Mr Clinton had conveyed a message from US President Barack Obama.
17 March: Euna Lee, left, and Laura Ling seized by North Korean border guards while reporting for California-based Current TV
8 June: Sentenced to 12 years in jail for "hostile acts" and illegal entry into North Korea
16 June: North Korea says journalists have "admitted and accepted" their guilt
10 July: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appeals for an amnesty for the two
4 August: Former US President Bill Clinton arrives in Pyongyang and North Korea later announces the journalists will be pardoned

Laura Ling, 32, and Euna Lee, 36, had been found guilty of entering North Korea illegally across the Chinese border in March and were sentenced to 12 years' hard labour.
They were arrested by North Korean guards while filming a video about refugees for California-based internet broadcaster Current TV.
The White House has pressed for their release, and Mr Clinton's wife, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, asked last month that they be granted amnesty.
Analysts say that Kim Jong-il is eager to improve relations with Washington as he prepares to name a successor.
President Kim is believed to have suffered a stroke a year ago and also has chronic diabetes and heart disease. Analysts say his third son is being lined up to succeed him.
Nuclear tension
Mr Clinton's visit came at a time of heightened tension between Washington and Pyongyang on North Korea's nuclear programme.
North Korea dropped out of six-party talks after the UN censured along-range missile test in April. The parties include Russia, China, Japan, the US and both Koreas.
An underground nuclear test and further missile tests followed, provoking new UN Security Council sanctions.


Australia detains terror suspects

Australian police arrest four people after uncovering what they say was a terror plot linked to a Somali Islamist group.
As of 2:09 a.m. PDT • Taliban claims responsibility for rocket attack on KabulDiplomats press Iran for word on 3 detained AmericansAmerican on trial for entering Suu Kyi's home hospitalizedSenate to open debate on Sonia Sotomayor for Supreme CourtSEC reportedly seeks $22.6 million from former Kmart CEOAs milk prices decline, more Vermont dairy farms closeCheerleading found to cause most serious sports injuriesMLB · NFL · NASCAR · Golf · Cycling · Soccer
Hewitt returns to action with win
Sharapova eases past Groth in LA
Aston Villa agree fee for Delph
Mido poised for return to Egypt
Sunderland close to Bent capture

Fatah holds key party congress
Rocket attack on Afghan capital
Protests at Sudan woman's trial
Bonus fine for Bank of America
Call for debate on killer robots


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