Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Chris Brown trashed his dressing room at "Good Morning America" and broke a window with a chair Tuesday after co-host Robin Roberts asked him about his attack on Rihanna, according to a person familiar with the show.

The person was not authorized to discuss the matter and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. Security was called, but not police.

Brown was on the ABC morning show Tuesday to promote his new album, "F.A.M.E.," released the same day. During his interview with Roberts, she asked him about the 2009 attack on his then-girlfriend - preceding her questions by noting he had been "very good" about talking about the attack.

"It was very serious what you went through and what happened," she said. "How have you been able to ..."

A clearly agitated Brown tried to deflect the line of questioning, saying he was past that and wanted to focus on his new CD.

"This album is what I want them to talk about and not what happened two years ago," he said.

Roberts laughed and thanked Brown for letting her discuss that matter with him, and after the interview, Brown performed.

Even as British RAF Typhoons took to the skies from this southern Italian air base, there was mounting tension between allies about who should command the mission to protect civilians and enforce a no-fly zone in Libya.

After heated exchanges between NATO ambassadors in Brussels, the alliance announced Tuesday an operation to enforce the arms embargo against Libya. But it went no further on deciding if or when NATO would take command of the mission already under way, in which several allies are participating.

In a statement, NATO only said that it had plans on the table to enforce the no-fly zone "if needed."

The backdrop was a simmering feud between France and Italy that turned more cynical by the hour. Italy is demanding that NATO take a lead role in the military and political decision-making during the remainder of the Libyan mission.

But resistance within the alliance mounted even as the United States expressed its desire to take a back seat in the operation and hand over any command role to European allies. France seemed most reluctant to submit to NATO command, but Germany and Turkey also voiced objections.

These countries also argue that Arab League nations would be shut out of any decision-making if NATO took control.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said he continues to believe it was right not to participate in the United Nations-sanctioned mission. He noted that Germany is not alone in its skeptical view of military action, pointing to the fact that other European nations are not taking part either.

Westerwelle also refused to comment on whether NATO should take a leading role in enforcing U.N. resolution 1973.

"That is for the coalition of the willing to debate," Westerwelle said.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe told French media that NATO would play a role in the mission in coming days but that France, Britain and a council of other coalition partners would make political decisions. One NATO official described this to CNN as putting the alliance's assets at the disposal of the coalition, but NATO would have no formal political role.

Syrian authorities arrested a prominent rights leader Tuesday as hundreds of anti-government demonstrators marched in southern parts of the country.

Loay Hussein -- a political prisoner from 1984 to 1991 -- was taken from his home in the Sehnaya district near the Syrian capital of Damascus, according to the country's Observatory for Human Rights.

Hussein had been supporting protesters who marched for a sixth straight day, chanting, "The people want to bring down the regime," a spokesman to the organizers told CNN from the southern city of Daraa.

The organizers are planning a day of mass protests Friday, he added.

Tuesday's protesters paraded through the Syrian towns of Sanamain and Jassem.

On Monday, protesters marched in Daraa after they buried the body of a protester who was killed Sunday in clashes between anti-government demonstrators and security forces, an eyewitness told CNN.

Sunday's protests came the same day a delegation from President Bashar al-Assad offered "condolences to the families of the two martyrs who died during the unfortunate events which took place in Daraa on Friday," according to SANA, the Syrian news agency.
R&B singer Chris Brown stormed off the set of ABC's "Good Morning America" show after he was interviewed about a 2009 altercation with ex-girlfriend Rihanna, the network said.

Following a Tuesday interview with GMA co-anchor Robin Roberts, who mentioned a restraining order that resulted from the incident, Brown left the set and "stared down the producer" responsible for the segment, according to ABC.

The show's hair and makeup staff allegedly called security moments later after hearing "loud noises coming from Brown's dressing room," according to an ABC report.

The show producer later discovered that the thick glass from Brown's dressing room window had been smashed, ABC said.
Chris Brown's angry outburst?

A shattered window was visible from outside of the ABC building in Manhattan. The window was replaced later Tuesday.

"As always, we asked questions that are relevant and newsworthy, and that's what we did in this interview with Mr. Brown," ABC News said in a written statement.

Following the interview, pegged to the release of his album F.A.M.E., Brown responded on Twitter saying, "This album is for you and only you!!! I'm so tired of everyone else."

Last month, a Los Angeles County judge lifted the "stay away" order imposed on Brown after he was charged with assaulting Rihanna on the eve of the 2009 Grammy Awards.

Brown was sentenced in August 2009 to serve five years probation and to spend more than 1,400 hours in "labor-oriented service" for the assault conviction.
Six countries have put in bids to replace Japan as host of the world figure skating championships following the earthquake and tsunami that killed an estimated 18,000 people.

International Skating Union president Ottavio Cinquanta told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the bids are from Russia (Moscow), Canada (Vancouver, British Columbia), the United States (Colorado Springs, Colo., or Lake Placid, N.Y.), Finland (Turku), Croatia and Austria.

The Croatia offer is likely Zagreb, while Cinquanta believes Graz is Austria's offer.

Russia appears to be the leading candidate, with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin having spoken in favor of the bid Tuesday, saying "this is not a very expensive event and we are capable of taking care of all the expenses."

The ISU council will vote Wednesday or Thursday on the site and determine the dates in late April or early May. There are 11 members of the council but Cinquanta will only vote if there's a tie.

"Russia is a big country for skating," Cinquanta said. "Russia's is a strong bid, just like the others."

Russia held the worlds in 2005 at the Luzhniki sports complex in central Moscow. But the ITAR-Tass news agency cited Russian figure skating federation president Alexander Gorshkov as saying that the most likely venue for the championships would be the Megasport arena, which is newer but far from the center.

Skate Canada offered the Pacific Coliseum, the figure skating venue at last year's Vancouver Olympics, and said it could host April 18-24 or May 16-22.

Skate Canada CEO William Thompson said Vancouver's bid is probably a long shot because Canada is already scheduled to host next year's Grand Prix final as well as the 2013 world championships. But the federation is willing to help out in any way it can, whether it's chosen or not.

The New York Times says Libyan soldiers physically abused its team of journalists and threatened to kill them during the six days they were held in captivity.

Libya released the four journalists on Monday. Turkey helped negotiate their release.

The journalists say they were captured when they mistakenly drove into a checkpoint manned by Libyan forces. Their driver is still missing.

The soldiers tied them up with wire, an electrical cord, a scarf and shoelaces.

Photographer Lynsey Addario says soldiers punched her in the face and groped her. One soldier stroked her head and told her she was going to die.

The Times says soldiers threatened to decapitate photographer Tyler Hicks. Hicks says they temporarily put handcuffs on reporter Anthony Shadid so tightly that he lost feeling in his hands.

Airlines, cruise ship companies and other businesses that buy a lot of fuel say the sharp rise in oil prices will be a major drag on revenue this year. Here's a look at how some are responding.

-Airlines: Delta Air Lines President Ed Bastian said Tuesday that fuel costs will rise by about $600 million in March alone. The nation's No. 2 airline hasn't been able to raise fares fast enough to keep up with the surge in jet fuel, which will cost between $3.13 and $3.18 per gallon in the second half of the year. Bastian said Delta plans to deal with higher fuel costs by cutting flights and taking older, gas-guzzling planes out of its fleet.

-Cruise lines: Cruise ship operator Carnival Corp. cut its earnings forecast for this year from previous estimates it made in December, in part because of higher fuel costs. Vice Chairman and Chief Operating Officer Howard Frank said fuel prices hurt the company's revised 2011 outlook by 45 cents per share.

-Drivers: Americans are buying less fuel than they did last year, according to a MasterCard SpendingPulse report. The SpendingPulse report said that gasoline consumption fell 1 percent last week and has dropped on a year-over-year basis for the third straight week. Motorists are pulling back as pump prices follow oil sharply higher. Retail gasoline prices increased 37.9 cents per gallon in the past month, forcing U.S. motorists to spend roughly $143 million more per day at the pump, according to the Oil Price Information Service.
Heavy anti-aircraft fire is lighting up the skies over Tripoli and the sound of loud explosions is echoing through the Libyan capital after nightfall.

The source of the explosions was not immediately clear, but the gunfire appeared to signal a fourth night of U.S. and European air operations over Libya on Tuesday to enforce a no-fly zone.

In the previous night's operations, the coalition air campaign suffered its first loss with the crash of an American fighter jet in the rebel-held east. Both crew ejected safely as the aircraft spun from the sky.

The no-fly zone is intended to protect civilians from attack by forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi in their battles with rebel fighters. The uprising against Gadhafi's four-decade rule began Feb. 15.

President Barack Obama opened the final leg of his Latin American tour Tuesday in El Salvador, a critical partner on immigration and narcotics wars, issues of increasing concern to the United States.

Obama, along with wife Michelle Obama and their two daughters, arrived in the capital San Salvador Tuesday afternoon following stops in Brazil and Chile. The Obamas were greeted by two children in traditional dress who presented the family with candy, and San Salvador's mayor, who gave Obama a key to the city.

Much of Obama's five-day tour of Latin America has been overshadowed by events in Libya, where the U.S. and international partners are launching military strikes to protect civilians from attacks by Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. The White House said Obama was briefed on developments there by his national security team Tuesday during a conference call from Air Force One. He also spoke with British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Nicholas Sarkozy while en route to El Salvador to discuss NATO's roll in the Libya offensive.

Obama was to hold meetings Tuesday afternoon with El Salvador's President Mauricio Funes, followed by a joint news conference. Among the issues on his agenda is the rising crime south of the U.S. border, from which El Salvador is hardly immune. It has seen murder rates rise amid an influx of drugs and displaced traffickers from crackdowns in Colombia and Mexico.

El Salvador also has one of Central America's highest rates of emigration, especially to the United States. About 2.8 million Salvadoran immigrants living in the United States sent home $3.5 billion last year, so laws that crack down on immigrants can significantly affect the Salvadoran economy.

Obama can offer little to fix El Salvador's devastating crime and fragile economy. Fiscal pressures have limited the amount of money the federal government can provide as part of its drug-fighting efforts, and congressional politics have made it difficult to restart talks about overhauling the nation's immigration laws.

The Roman Catholic Church said Tuesday that the Cuban government will release the last two political prisoners held since a 2003 crackdown on dissent, a landmark announcement that came the same day Fidel Castro said he had stepped down as head of the island's Communist Party.

The decision will clear Cuban jails of the last of 75 prominent intellectuals, opposition leaders and activists whose imprisonment on charges including treason has long soured relations with the outside world.

The last two men to be released are Felix Navarro and Jose Daniel Ferrer, activists who had each been sentenced to 25 years in jail.

"I am very content and nervous at the same time," said Bertha Soler, a leader of the Ladies in White opposition group and the wife of recently freed prisoner Angel Moya. The Ladies - wives and mothers of the 2003 prisoners - have been marching peacefully each Sunday since the arrests.

Soler said the women would continue to protest, despite the fact that their loved ones are now out of jail.

"It is very important that we fight, not only for the freedom of the 75, but also for other prisoners," she said.

Cuba has been releasing the men gradually under an agreement President Raul Castro and Havana Cardinal Jaime Ortega reached in July. Officials here complain the government has received little credit in Washington and European capitals for the releases, which come as President Raul Castro has overhauled the economy and legalized a limited amount of private enterprise.

A woman who was an international fugitive for nearly a month after a fire at her Houston home day care center killed four children returned to Texas on Tuesday ahead of her first court appearance.

Jessica Tata is being held without bond in a Houston jail, said agency spokesman Alfredo Perez.

"We're very glad that it worked out as smoothly as it did," Perez said of Tata's return to the U.S.

Tata was set to be arraigned Wednesday afternoon in state district court on 14 charges, including manslaughter. The Feb. 24 blaze also injured three other children in her care.

Court records did not show Tata had an attorney. Her brother, Ron Tata, did not immediately return a telephone call on Tuesday.

Investigators say Tata went shopping and left the seven children alone. When she returned, a stove-top burner had ignited the blaze.

The 22-year-old day care operator, who has U.S. and Nigerian citizenship, fled to the West Africa country two days after the fire.

The U.S. Marshals Service, which headed the search for Tata, said a series of tips and other information helped Interpol agents to capture her on Saturday

Her family says she turned herself in.

Tata was returned to the U.S. early Monday morning.

France proposed on Tuesday a new political steering committee outside NATO to be responsible for overseeing military operations over Libya.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said the new body will bring together foreign ministers of participating states - such as Britain, France and the United States - as well as the Arab League. It is expected to meet in the coming days, either in Brussels, London or Paris, Juppe said.

Juppe said not all members of the military coalition are members of NATO but the coalition would use the military alliance's planning and intervention capabilities.

"For us, the intervention is firstly an operation wanted by the United Nations. It is run by a coalition of member-states, all of whom are not members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization," Juppe said. "This is, therefore, not a NATO operation, even if it must be able to rely on military planning and intervention capacities of the Alliance."

Not all NATO members are in favor of the no-fly zone and airstrikes against Libya.

President Nicolas Sarkozy proposed the new body and Britain agreed to it, Juppe said.

Air tankers and helicopters dropped fire retardant and water on a wildfire in the tinder-dry foothills west of Denver on Tuesday while 17 homes remained under evacuation orders.

Residents of hundreds more homes were told to be ready to evacuate if the fire came their way.

The fire, burning through grass, brush and trees in two rugged canyons outside Golden, started Sunday and had blackened about 1,200 acres or 2 square miles by Tuesday. It was 15 percent contained. Officials say they suspect it was human-caused.

High winds spread the fire Monday, and crews were bracing for more wind Tuesday, with gusts as high as 75 mph expected, the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department said.

No injuries have been reported and no structures have burned. Sheriff's spokesman Mark Techmeyer said the flames moved past two homes overnight but firefighters were able to save both.

About 200 firefighters were on the lines Tuesday.

"I don't care how many firefighters they have, they can't control a fire that's raging in wind like that," said Keith Lowden, who was watching the fire with binoculars from a bedroom window at his home in a nearby subdivision. "That's the scariest part."

Months of dry weather have left much of Colorado vulnerable to wildfires, leaving what Techmeyer called "the perfect recipe for a fire disaster."

Tim Mathewson, a fire meteorologist for the Rocky Mountain Area Coordination Center, which coordinates, federal, state and local firefighting, said much of eastern Colorado and the lower foothills have been drier than usual since August.

"It hasn't been just the last couple weeks. This is part of an extended dry period," he said.

He said fire danger could remain high until mid-April.

The U.S. Drought Monitor says most of Colorado east of the Rocky Mountains is in a severe drought. All of eastern Colorado, along with a broad swath of Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas, were under a National Weather Service red flag warning Tuesday, meaning fire danger is high because humidity is 15 percent or less and winds are at least 25 mph.

A smaller, 10-acre fire southwest of Golden was contained Monday, allowing the residents of 25 evacuated homes to return. A third fire in the mountains of Jefferson County burned at least one structure before it was contained.

A wind-driven blaze scorched 622 acres west of Boulder on March 11. More than 200 homes were evacuated for a few hours, but none was damaged.

Delta Air Lines Inc. won't fly as much as originally planned in the second half of this year because of the crisis in Japan and rising fuel costs.

That includes suspending flights to Tokyo and less flying this year in the U.S. and across the Atlantic. The nation's No. 2 airline said Tuesday that 2011 profit will be reduced by $250 million to $400 million because of a sharp drop in demand for flights to Tokyo.

Delta posted a profit of $593 million last year, its first since 2007. Analysts polled by FactSet expect the airline to nearly triple that this year to about $1.58 billion.

For Delta, as well as American, United and Continental, the disruption to Japan service comes as high fuel costs have forced them to raise ticket prices and rein in spending. The airlines have implemented eight across-the-board fare increases so far this year; Delta led four of those. Fuel costs have tracked a 38 percent increase in the price of oil since Labor Day.

Delta President Ed Bastian, speaking at the JPMorgan Aviation, Transportation and Defense conference in New York, said fare increases alone won't be enough to cover rising costs. The airline also needs to save money through service reductions and taking old, gas-guzzling planes out of its fleet.

This is the second time this year that Delta, which is based in Atlanta, has cut back on its scheduled amount of flying. United Continental Holdings Inc., the parent of United and Continental, has also scaled back its plans.

Kate Middleton will be swept off to her April 29 wedding at Westminster Abbey in a distinctive 1997 Rolls-Royce Phantom VI, and will return to Buckingham Palace in a 1902 horse-drawn carriage.

The distinctive claret and black Rolls-Royce, which was damaged in December when Prince Charles and his wife Camilla were attacked by student protesters, will have its paintwork and windows repaired by the royal wedding day, officials said Tuesday.

The car was damaged Dec. 9 when a mob protesting student fee hikes hit the car with sticks and bottles.

"There was paint damage and damage to the glass," said Alex Garty, transport manager at Buckingham Palace. "The repairs are ongoing. We're using that opportunity to give her a 60-minute makeover, so she will look her best for the wedding."

A former Intel executive who has pleaded guilty to leaking company secrets has begun testifying in New York City at a hedge fund manager's insider trading trial.

Prosecutors say Rajiv Goel and the defendant, Raj Rajaratnam (rah-juh-RUHT'-nuhm), were caught on a wiretap discussing a closed-door meeting in 2008 of the Intel board of directors. Goel revealed that the board agreed to invest up to $1 billion in a joint wireless venture by Sprint and Clearwire.

Goel said early in his testimony Tuesday that he violated his obligation to keep secrets by sharing information with Rajaratnam.

The 53-year-old Rajaratnam has pleaded not guilty to charges he made millions trading illegally on secrets.

Nineteen defendants charged in a federal crackdown on insider trading have pleaded guilty. Some are cooperating, including Goel.

Wealthy Los Angeles residents are banding together to fight plans for a mega-mansion that would create a compound roughly the size of the famed Hearst Castle in the coveted 90210 ZIP code.

Members of the Bel Air/Beverly Crest Neighborhood Council and the Benedict Canyon Association are holding a news conference Tuesday to protest the plans.

They also are planning to go door-to-door and launch a website opposing the construction.

The neighborhood is already home to many mansions, but residents say the planned 42,681-square-foot house and its associated buildings are too much.

Blueprints also call for a 27,000-square-foot villa, a guest house, staff quarters and a gatehouse.

Residents of the area include Bruce Springsteen, Jay Leno and David Beckham.

The mysterious land owner created a special business to handle the deal.

For years, Trey Parker and Matt Stone have lampooned everything, from Scientology to Tiger Woods, Prius drivers to Islam, Britney Spears to the great state of New Jersey.

They've even had the boldness to make fun of George Clooney.

Is nothing sacred?

"That is sacred," says Parker, looking suitably chastised during an interview in a Times Square restaurant after being reminded that he and Stone once dared to call Clooney smug. "We crossed the line there."

Now the twisted minds behind "South Park" are daring to cross another line: They're goofing on the Mormon church in a big, brassy Broadway musical that opens Thursday.

Together with "Avenue Q" writer Robert Lopez, the duo have left behind their foul-mouthed elementary students to tell a story about two young missionaries whose faith is rocked when they come face-to-face with famine, war and AIDS in Africa.

"The Book of Mormon," which stars Josh Gad and Andrew Rannells, has foul language, some brilliantly sarcastic songs, references to genital mutilation, plenty of suppressed homosexuality, tap-dancing Mormons, war crimes threatened on an infant, Darth Vader and a character who repeatedly complains about having maggots in his scrotum.

While the show makes fun of several Broadway shows including "Fela!" and "The Lion King," audience members at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre may be surprised that Parker and Stone have maintained the structure and feel of a traditional musical.

"We thought from the very beginning that the biggest challenge was to write a real Broadway musical," says Stone. "With unconventional material, sure. But to do unconventional material conventionally."

They've largely succeeded: There's certainly more than a nod in the Mormon musical to Rodgers and Hammerstein, the great musical team - and a Parker childhood favorite - that also dealt with fresh-faced Americans confronting other cultures in shows such as "South Pacific" or "The King and I." Parker and Stone also say a show about Mormons isn't that strange when you consider other religious-themed musicals such as "Fiddler on the Roof" and "Jesus Christ Superstar."

It's clear the team is banking on more than rabid "South Park" fans to keep the musical afloat.

Former football star Lawrence Taylor was sentenced Tuesday to six years on probation for an encounter with an underage prostitute.

The New York Giants ex-linebacker pleaded guilty in January to sexual misconduct and having sex with the underage prostitute.

The girl, now 17, appeared in court with well-known attorney Gloria Allred and said afterward that Taylor should have gone to jail. The girl has been identified in court and by Allred only by her initials, C.F.

The teen denied she is a prostitute and said another man forced her to go to Taylor's hotel room in May 2010. She believes Taylor could tell that she had been beaten and that she was underage. She said Taylor took "something precious" from her and should be behind bars.

Allred said the girl had wanted to read a victim-impact statement in court. The judge, however, said victims are entitled to speak only at felony sentencings. Taylor had pleaded guilty to misdemeanors.

Taylor was arrested May 6 at a Holiday Inn in Montebello, N.Y., after the girl's uncle contacted New York City police. The ex-athlete was charged with third-degree rape because she was underage.

When he pleaded guilty to the lesser charges, Taylor admitting having intercourse with the girl, who turned out to be a Bronx runaway. He said she told him she was 19, but he added that he now knows the girl was 16 and legally incapable of consent. He said he paid her $300.

Taylor led the New York Giants to Super Bowl titles in 1987 and 1991. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the NFL's 75th Anniversary All-Time Team.

In 2009, he competed in ABC's "Dancing With the Stars." He had also been a spokesman for the weight-loss company NutriSystem, but he was dropped after his arrest.

Taylor also will have to abide by the conditions of a sex offender. But the judge postponed until April 12 a hearing to determine what level of sex offender will be assigned to him.