Monday, March 14, 2011

Armed Yemeni security forces raided an apartment shared by four Western journalists Monday and deported them because of their coverage of a growing uprising against the country's longtime ruler, one of the reporters said.

The journalists, two Americans and two Britons in their 20s, contribute to publications including the Wall Street Journal, Time Magazine, the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post.

"They came into our apartment this morning and they told us all to come to the immigration office," said Oliver Holmes, 24, a Briton. "They sat us down and said, 'You're being deported.'"

In the car on the way to immigration, the journalists were allowed to make phone calls. But their phones and passports were confiscated for hours while they were held at the immigration office and then as they packed up their apartment under the gaze of armed agents.

One of the agents told Holmes they were being kicked out because of their coverage of the uprising, which was inspired by the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said it was alarmed by the expulsion of foreign journalists, saying it may be a prelude to intensified repression of journalists seeking to cover the protests.

"We call on the authorities to revoke these explusions and allow all journalists to work freely," said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney.

A CPJ statement also quoted two local journalists as saying that a group of 20 people believed to be government supporters went to the Journalists Syndidcate in Sanaa Monday and threatened to burn it down.
Funeral services will be held Friday for a New York police officer who was shot to death by a second officer.

Nassau County police Officer Geoffrey Breitkopf (BRYT'-kahf) was killed Saturday night by an officer from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Police Department.

The officers had been responding to the Massapequa (mas-uh-PEEK'-wuh) Park home of a knife-wielding man. The suspect was killed when he charged police.

Minutes later, Breitkopf was shot. His shooting remained under investigation Monday.

It was the second line-of-duty death of a Nassau County officer this year.

Breitkopf's funeral will be held Friday at St. Margaret's of Scotland Church in Selden. His wake will be Wednesday and Thursday at the Selden Fire Department headquarters.
Danish Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen assured President Barack Obama Monday that Denmark has an unwavering commitment to help the U.S. in Afghanistan.

"We are in this with the long-term perspective," Loekke Rasmussen told Obama at the White House.

He said he visited Danish troops in Helmand province two weeks ago and became convinced more needed to be done to wean the region from its dependence on the narcotics trade. As a result, he said, Denmark has increased assistance for alternative crops in Afghanistan, where the cultivation of opium-producing poppies is a significant part of the economy.

Denmark has more than 700 troops in Afghanistan as well as police and army training teams in Helmand province.

Obama commended Loekke Rasmussen for Denmark's assistance in Afghanistan.

Federal regulators finalized a settlement Monday with Twitter related to data security lapses in 2009 that gave hackers access to users' accounts.

The Federal Trade Commission said the settlement resolves charges that Twitter deceived its customers and put their privacy at risk by failing to keep their personal information safe as promised by the company's policies.

The settlement bars Twitter from misleading consumers about its security and privacy practices for 20 years. The startup, which lets people publish short messages called tweets, must also establish a comprehensive information security program that will be audited every other year for 10 years.

No monetary damages were assessed.

The FTC complaint said that hackers were able to gain administrative control of Twitter twice between January and May 2009, and that weak employee passwords and other poor security practices on the part of staffers were to blame. About 55 accounts were accessed by the hackers.

Twitter has said that it quickly closed the security holes after the breaches were discovered.

On a road that curves around a swath of vegetation at the far north of this commercial capital, cars leave territory controlled by strongman Laurent Gbagbo at a checkpoint consisting of a pile of logs. Beyond it is the first barricade manned by gunmen loyal to the country's internationally recognized president.

The line of control is slowly creeping south, toward the presidential palace Gbagbo refuses to let go.

It's been over 100 days since Gbagbo was declared the loser of this African country's presidential election, and for most of that time the residents of the neighborhood called PK-18 waited for the international community to remove the defiant leader, who first grabbed power a decade ago. That didn't happen and two weeks ago, the face of the neighborhood began to change. Families streamed out, pulling suitcases on rollers behind them.

In their place arrived scruffy men. Some wore amulets around their necks and woolen head coverings, the traditional dress of the country's northern rebels allied with Ouattara.

A team of Associated Press journalists was the first to enter PK-18 this month days after the insurgents had pushed out the army, crossing 11 checkpoints to get inside, some no further than 100 feet apart.

Reality TV star Richard Hatch presented himself to U.S. marshals in Rhode Island on Monday to begin a nine-month prison sentence for failing to pay taxes on the $1 million he won on first season of the CBS show "Survivor."

Hatch arrived at U.S. District Court in Providence just after noon, wearing a blue sweatsuit. He told reporters outside the courthouse that he is innocent. He has appealed his case to the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston.

"I hope I'm released soon," Hatch said. "But this system is not effective in dealing with the truth. As always, I'll comply with whatever I'm asked to do and continue my pursuit of exoneration."

Hatch lives in Newport and currently is appearing on NBC's "The Celebrity Apprentice." He spent three years in prison for tax evasion before being released in 2009 and was serving a three-year term of supervised release. During that period, he was supposed to refile his 2000 and 2001 taxes and pay what he owed, but he never did.

U.S. District Court Judge William Smith ordered Hatch back to prison last week. During that hearing, Hatch said he was working with an accountant to determine from the IRS what he still owed.

On Monday morning, Smith denied Hatch's request for more time before beginning his sentence.

Hatch now owes an estimated $2 million to the IRS, a figure that includes taxes on his "Survivor" winnings and penalties.

For all you college basketball fans who've moaned over the years that you could do a better job of switching among NCAA tournament games than CBS - here's your chance.

If a team leads by 30 points Thursday afternoon while another game is tied in the final seconds, CBS won't budge. Viewers will hold all the power in their remote controls.

The NCAA tournament's new 14-year, $10.8 billion TV deal with two media companies radically changes how a nation of bracket-fillers will watch March Madness. Every game will be broadcast nationally in its entirety, spread across four networks - old standby CBS, plus three Turner cable channels in TNT, TBS and truTV.
A Saudi-led military force crossed into Bahrain Monday to prop up the monarchy against widening demonstrations that have sent waves of fear through Gulf states over the potential for enemy Iran to take new footholds on their doorsteps.

The Bahrain conflict is sectarian as much as pro-democracy, as the strategic Gulf island nation's majority Shiite Muslims see an opportunity to rid themselves of two centuries of rule by a Sunni monarchy.

But Gulf Sunni leaders worry that might give Shiite Iran a stepping stone to its arch-rival Saudi Arabia, connected to Bahrain by a wide causeway.

Instead, the Saudis and the other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council sent forces the other way, deploying about 1,000 troops by land and air and cementing the entire six-nation alliance to the fate of Bahrain's rulers, key U.S. allies as hosts of the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet.

The first cross-border offensive against one of the rebellions sweeping the Mideast was not greeted with celebrations.

Shortly after word of the foreign military reinforcements began to spread through the island nation, protesters blocked roads in the capital Manama. Thousands of others swarmed into Pearl Square, the symbolic center of the monthlong revolt.

Shiite-led opposition groups denounced the Gulf military task force as an occupation that pushes the tiny island kingdom dangerously close to a state of "undeclared war."

"No to occupation," demonstrators cried in Manama's packed Pearl Square.

Gulf leaders see it completely differently.

Time Warner Cable Inc. is launching an iPad application that plays live TV, becoming the first cable or satellite company to do so.

The app will be free to download on Tuesday morning, but it will only work for people who subscribe to both video and Internet service from the New York-based cable company. Even then, it only works in the home, when the iPad is connected to the company's cable modem via a Wi-Fi router.

Rob Marcus, the company's chief operating officer and president, said the app will play 30 basic cable channels in high definition to start, but that number should expand soon.

"For all intents and purposes ... this enables you to convert any room in a house into a TV room," Marcus said.

Other major cable companies have iPad apps that play video on demand or act like big remotes. Comcast Corp., the largest, has promised that its app will play live TV before the end of the year.

Time Warner Cable's app doesn't work as a remote control, nor does it give access to video on demand or shows stored on a digital video recorder in the home. Marcus said these features will be added later. He also said laptops, smart phones and smart TVs could all eventually get apps, too.

Investigators are looking at surveillance video from a Connecticut casino, trying to establish the activities of a driver whose tour bus crashed in New York City, killing 15 people.

New York State Police Investigator Joseph Becerra said Monday the video was from inside and outside the Mohegan Sun casino.

He said police want to "recreate the whereabouts" of driver Ophadell Williams from his bus' arrival Friday night to its departure early Saturday.

A 70-year-old man died Monday, becoming the 15th fatality from the gruesome crash.

Williams told police that his bus was clipped by a tractor trailer. But witnesses have told investigators that Williams swerved at times before the accident.

Becerra said police do not yet have results from drug and alcohol tests on Williams.

Call it Palin Noir.

Joe McGinniss' upcoming biography of Sarah Palin has a cover design more fitting for a detective novel. It has a bold red, black and white color scheme and features a dark, defiant silhouette of the former Alaska governor, her hands on her hips.

The image was released Monday by Broadway Books, which this fall is releasing "The Rogue: Searching for the Real Sarah Palin." McGinniss, known for the classic "The Selling of the President 1968," enraged Palin by moving next door to her in Alaska while researching his new book.

Water levels dropped precipitously Monday inside a Japanese nuclear reactor, twice leaving the uranium fuel rods completely exposed and raising the threat of a meltdown, hours after a hydrogen explosion tore through the building housing a different reactor.

Water levels were restored after the first decrease, but the rods remained partially exposed late Monday night, increasing the risk of the spread of radiation and the potential for an eventual meltdown.

The cascading troubles in the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant compounded the immense challenges faced by the Tokyo government, already struggling to send relief to hundreds of thousands of people along the country's quake- and tsunami-ravaged coast where at least 10,000 people are believed to have died.

Later, a top Japanese official said the fuel rods in all three of the most troubled nuclear reactors appeared to be melting.

Of all these troubles, the drop in water levels at Unit 2 had officials the most worried.

"Units 1 and 3 are at least somewhat stabilized for the time being," said Nuclear and Industrial Agency official Ryohei Shiomi "Unit 2 now requires all our effort and attention."

Switzerland freezes plans to build new nuclear plants, Germany raises questions about its nuclear future, and opposition to atomic reactor construction mounts from Turkey to South Africa.

Will explosions at a tsunami-stricken Japanese nuclear plant halt what has come to be known as the nuclear renaissance?

Fears about nuclear safety that took a generation to overcome after the accidents at Chernobyl and Three-Mile Island are resurfacing around the globe. They are casting new doubt on a controversial energy source that has seen a resurgence in recent years, amid worries over volatile oil prices and global warming.

"Europe has to wake up from its Sleeping Beauty slumber" about nuclear safety, Austria's Environment Minister Nikolaus Berlakovich told reporters in Brussels. He suggested an EU-wide stress test for nuclear plants, much like European banks have been tested for their ability to cope with financial shocks.

Yet some experts and officials say those fears are overblown, given the exceptional nature of Japan's earthquake and ensuing tsunami. The Japanese blasts may slow the push for more nuclear plants, but appear unlikely to stop it, given the world's fast-growing energy needs.

The governments of Russia, China, Poland and even earthquake-prone Chile say they are sticking to their plans to build more reactors. Spain warned against hasty decisions.

There are just too many bodies.

Hundreds of dead have washed ashore on Japan's devastated northeast coast since last week's earthquake and tsunami. Others were dug out of the debris Monday by firefighters using pickaxes and chain saws.

Funeral homes and crematoriums are overwhelmed, and officials have run out of body bags and coffins.

Compounding the disaster, water levels dropped precipitously inside a Japanese nuclear reactor, twice leaving the uranium fuel rods completely exposed and raising the threat of a meltdown, hours after a hydrogen explosion tore through the building housing a different reactor.

On the economic front, Japan's stock market plunged over the likelihood of huge losses by Japanese industries including big names such as Toyota and Honda.

Moammar Gadhafi's warplanes, artillery and mortar shells can control huge swaths of territory by day, including oil ports, rebel supply routes and even hostile towns. Rebels say anti-government forces can still return in darkness to take advantage of Gadhafi's own thin supply lines and overstretched ground troops.

The eastern port city of Brega has gone back and forth with the setting of the sun and is key to the battle for Libya's oil centers. The regime offensive appears to be hampered by a lack of manpower: They can drive out rebels with barrages, but not necessarily hold the territory.

Rebels, on the other hand, didn't dare come out in the open on Monday in Brega, taking cover instead in the industrial oil area where they believed Gadhafi forces wouldn't fire.

Brega and the city of Ajdabiya about 35 miles (70 kilometers) away again came under government bombardment on Monday, freshly exposing their importance as key crossroads for rebel supply lines, a main weakness in the Libyan region that contains most of its oil wealth. To get ammunition, reinforcements and arms to the front, they must drive along open desert highways, exposed to airstrikes. Gadhafi warplanes struck at least three targets Monday morning in Ajdabiya, missing a weapons storage site but hitting rebel fighters at a checkpoint in an attempt to stop supplies, rebels said.

School boards and local governments across Wisconsin are rushing to reach agreements with unions before a new law takes effect that will remove their ability to collectively bargain over nearly all issues other than minimal salary increases.

Secretary of State Doug La Follette said Monday he decided to delay publication of the law until the latest day possible, March 25, to give those local governments as much time as possible to reach agreements. The law doesn't take effect until the day after La Follette publishes it.

Gov. Scott Walker had asked La Follette to publish the law on Monday, but the Democratic secretary of state, who called the new law the biggest change in labor management history in 50 years, said he didn't see any emergency that warranted him doing that.

La Follette said he heard from many schools, cities and counties urging him to delay enactment of the law as long as possible. Waiting the full 10 days afforded under the law is the usual practice of his office anyhow, La Follette said.

The law is also being challenged in court. A hearing on that lawsuit, brought by the Democratic Dane County executive, was scheduled for Wednesday. A request for an emergency injunction to block the law was rejected on Friday.

The new law would not affect collective bargaining agreements that are already in place, which is fueling the decision by unions to reach deals as quickly as possible.

The law ends collective bargaining for public workers over everything except salary increases no greater than inflation. It also forces state workers to make benefit concessions that amount to an 8 percent pay cut on average.

Walker is proposing a nearly $1 billion cut in aid to schools in his two-year budget plan that would take effect in July. He argued that because of that, districts needed to get more money from their employees to help mitigate the loss in aid.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Monday that farmers shouldn't be overly concerned that new federal air regulations will hurt their livelihoods.

Farms frequently produce dust clouds during harvests, and farmers are waiting nervously to hear whether the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency plans to clamp down on dust and dirt.

The American Lung Association and others have called for tougher dust controls when the EPA revises air pollution standards.

But members of Congress from rural areas have asked the EPA not to tighten rural limits on the so-called coarse particulate matter. Tighter controls could require farmers to pave more gravel roads or use costlier no-till farming practices.

Vilsack tried to ease the worries of farmers.

"I don't think that farmers should presuppose that there's going to be a significant amount of regulation" about farm dust, Vilsack told reporters after he spoke to the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce.

Vilsack said he was confident the revised air-quality standards won't burden farmers.

"I'm reasonably certain that the EPA understands - by virtue of my conversations with Lisa Jackson, the administrator - that they have to make them reasonable," Vilsack said.

A farming group that sued over farm dust rules five years ago reacted cautiously to Vilsack's assurances.

"We've learned not to take anything for granted from any agency and not to believe what any agency says until it happens," said Richard Krause, senior director of congressional affairs for the Washington-based American Farm Bureau Federation.

The group sued the EPA in 2006 during its previous review of airborne pollutant standards. The lawsuit was unsuccessful, but the environmental agency ended up not changing rural standards.

Krause hopes the agency makes the same decision this time. Draft rules are expected later this year.

"We want to make sure they understand the concerns of rural America," Krause said.

Vilsack told the business group that the nation would set a record this year with $136 billion in agricultural exports. He also repeated his plea for Congress to ratify a free trade agreement with South Korea to boost exports by an additional $1.8 billion a year.

Members of Congress have indicated they would hold off on the South Korea agreement until they see similar accords with Colombia and Panama.

Senior Democrat John Conyers of Michigan criticized Barack Obama Monday, hoping, Conyers said, to "make him a better president."

Citing the troubled job market, rising energy costs, and turmoil in the Middle East, Conyers told reporters at the National Press Club: "We keep getting a longer and longer list of things he wanted to do, wished he could do more about, and is of course having a big problem."

"The only thing that saves him, of course, is that there doesn't seem to be anybody to run against him next year," Conyers said.

After naming prospective challengers Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich, among others, Conyers said he still supports Obama because "the alternative is unthinkable. I just want to make him a better president."

American foreign policy was among the areas the Michigan congressman criticized for what he consider an emphasis on military might over other ways to achieve U.S. goals.

Conyers said, "It is kind of amazing to me that there is still adopted, even in this administration, the attitude that military prowess will settle things down. And they rarely, if ever, do."

He also responded to a question about the recent departure of a ranking State Department official who was critical of how the Pentagon is reportedly treating U.S. Army Pvt. Bradley Manning, a soldier suspected of a role in the WikiLeaks scandal.

"I was not in agreement again with the president saying that he's told Manning's been treated -- his confinement is okay, that he's told everything is alright. I don't think it's all right."

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley resigned in recent days after remarks indicating he agreed with criticism over Manning's conditions of confinement.

Conyers Monday suggested Crowley's concerns might have a basis. "They may well be accurate, and probably are, but I think he was prepared for what happened."