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Friday, March 17, 2006

NPR : O'Connor's Low-Key Last Days on High Court

NPR : O'Connor's Low-Key Last Days on High CourtO'Connor's Low-Key Last Days on High Court

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Talk of the Nation, February 1, 2006 · USA Today reporter and author Joan Biskupic talks about the Supreme Court after Sandra Day O'Connor.

Joan Biskupic, legal affairs correspondent for USA Today; author of the book Sandra Day O'Connor: How the First Woman on the Supreme Court Became Its Most Influential Justice

HoustonChronicle.com - Judicious temperament: Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor speaks up against political attacks on courts.

HoustonChronicle.com - Judicious temperament: Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor speaks up against political attacks on courts.March 16, 2006, 8:33PM

Judicious temperament
Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor speaks up against political attacks on courts.
Copyright 2006 Houston Chronicle

ON or off the bench, Supreme Court justices tend to be discreet about the court's relationship to politics. So when a former justice breaks her dignified silence — as Sandra Day O'Connor did in a startling speech last week — the comments carry gravitas. Her words bore even more weight because she cited specific acts by politicians and warningly employed the word "dictatorship."
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O'Connor, who resigned last month, spoke March 9 at Georgetown University. No tapes or transcripts were released, and the lone reporter present was Nina Totenberg of National Public Radio. Totenberg reported that in her speech O'Connor, a Republican, savaged Republican threats to punish the court for its interpretations of the law.

The courts, O'Connor reportedly said, expect at times to make lawmakers and the president angry, but the courts' effectiveness "is premised on the notion that we won't be subject to retaliation for our judicial acts."

O'Connor then singled out by deed, though not by name, two Texas politicians for their verbal attacks upon the court for doing its job. Last year, criticizing federal and state court rulings that allowed Terry Schiavo's vegetative state to end in death, then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay said, "The time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior."

In a similar vein, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, himself a former justice on the Texas Supreme Court, publicly mused that political or ideological decisions by unaccountable judges might be to blame for episodes of courthouse violence. His comments followed the murders of a Georgia judge and the family of a federal judge in Illinois.

These comments were deemed reprehensible at the time. When a former U.S. Supreme Court justice with exquisite political sense cites them as part of a national trend, the public should pay attention.

If additional motivation for public concern were needed, the Associated Press reported Thursday that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, in a speech last month in South Africa, said she and O'Connor had received death threats alluding to Republican criticism of the high court.

O'Connor, a former Arizona state senator, is accustomed to political jostling. But, as she rightly said last week, democracy itself is jeopardized when critiques metastasize into threats over specific rulings. Such judicial bullying, O'Connor pointed out, is how dictators thrive in former Communist and Third World countries. She reportedly added, "It takes a lot of degeneration before a country falls into dictatorship, but we should avoid these ends by avoiding these beginnings."

Lawmakers have a duty to speak out if they perceive wrongdoing. But it's imperative that they avoid threatening the courts with political retaliation, or seeming to justify or excuse violent attacks against judges.

Congress has the power to impeach federal jurists and abolish lower courts or limit their jurisdiction. Legislators' hard-worded threats against jurists cannot be disregarded as empty.

Unchecked by vigilant citizens, "naked partisan reasoning," to use O'Connor's phrase, could disastrously alter the federal courts' equipoise with Congress and the White House.

O'Connor did the country a service by lending her stature to a warning against reckless threats upon the judiciary. As a private citizen with unique credibility, she owes something more. She should make public a transcript of her comments and detail her concerns so more Americans can hear them. The time for discreet silence has passed.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

WXIA 11Alive.com - Woman Killed in Stolen Car Dispute

WXIA 11Alive.com - Woman Killed in Stolen Car DisputeWoman Killed in Stolen Car Dispute


Atlanta police found close to two dozen shell casings, one of them from a semi-automatic weapon, at the scene of a shootout that left a 26-year-old woman dead in Southwest Atlanta.

The victim, her brothers, and a cousin apparently tried to stop some men who they suspected of stealing their family's 2003 black Chevy Impala earlier in the day. The Impala was being followed by a blue Crown Victoria. The relatives approached the people in both cars and, police said, a shootout started.

"They forced the vehicle to stop so the two vehicles stopped. A male then exited the Crown Vic, walked toward the vehicle that you see here, the Pontiac that the two males were in, and opened fire on the car. The Pontiac driver sped off, two of the shots struck a female who was inside the car," said Sgt. Bob Creasy.

The woman, her brothers, and cousin sped from the scene to get away from the gunshots and ended up on James P. Brawley Drive. There, the siblings realized their sister had suffered a gunshot wound to the chest. She later died at Grady Memorial Hospital. The relatives who were inside the car with the woman are being interviewed.

"They might have thought, no one maybe think it's gonna end it this way but it turns into a gunfight," said Sgt. Creasy. "It's certainly not worth getting killed over."

A man who goes by the street name "Basher" is being sought by Atlanta police. He is 18 to 20 years old and believed to be driving the blue Crown Victoria. Basher was wearing an orange skull cap and has a burn mark on his face.

WSBTV.com - News - Car Thieves Kill Woman Who Tracked Them Down

WSBTV.com - News - Car Thieves Kill Woman Who Tracked Them DownCar Thieves Kill Woman Who Tracked Them Down

POSTED: 6:00 am EST March 16, 2006

ATLANTA -- A woman who helped her brother find his stolen car was killed Wednesday night for her trouble.

Police say the car thieves gunned down the woman when she confronted them in southwest Atlanta.

Investigators tell Channel 2 Action News that the 26-year old victim and her brother were driving around looking for his stolen car. It was taken earlier from a gas station. When they spotted it they called police and began to follow the car.

Witnesses told police the victim and her brother cut off the stolen car and stopped it. That's when the thieves jumped out and opened fire.

The victim was hit at least two times. Her car was riddled with gun shots.

Police are searching for the gunmen.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Independent Online Edition > Business News

Independent Online Edition > Business News Arab central banks move assets out of dollar
By Philip Thornton, Economics Correspondent

Published: 14 March 2006

Middle Eastern anger over the decision by the US to block a Dubai company from buying five of its ports hit the dollar yesterday as a number of central banks said they were considering switching reserves into euros.

The United Arab Emirates, which includes Dubai, said it was looking to move one-tenth of its dollar reserves into euros, while the governor of the Saudi Arabian central bank condemned the US move as "discrimination".

Separately, Syria responded to US sanctions against two of its banks by confirming plans to use euros instead of dollars for its external transactions.

The remarks combined to knock the dollar, which fell against the euro, pound and yen yesterday as analysts warned other central banks might follow suit.

Last week the US caused dismay after political opposition to the takeover of P&O by Dubai Ports World forced DPW to agree to transfer P&O's US port management business to a "US entity" .

The governor of the UAE central bank, Sultan Nasser al-Suweidi, said the bank was looking to convert 10 per cent of its reserves, which stand at $23bn (£13.5bn), from dollars to euros. "They are contravening their own principles," he said. "Investors are going to take this into consideration [and] will look at investment opportunities through new binoculars."

Hamad Saud al-Sayyari, the governor of the Saudi Arabian monetary authority, said: "Is it protection or discrimination? Is it okay for US companies to buy everywhere but it is not okay for other companies to buy the US?"

Syria has switched the state's foreign currency transactions to euros from dollars, the head of the state-owned Commercial Bank of Syria, Duraid Durgham, said.

Last week the White House told US financial institutions to terminate all correspondent accounts involving the Commercial Bank of Syria because of money-laundering concerns. Mohammad al-Hussein, Syria's finance minister, said: "Syria affirms that this decision and its timing are fundamentally political."

The euro rose a quarter of one percentage point against the dollar to a one-week high of $1.1945, although it retreated in later trading.

Monica Fan, at RBC Capital Markets, said: "The issue is whether we will see similar attitudes taken by other Middle Eastern banks. It is a question of momentum."

Middle Eastern anger over the decision by the US to block a Dubai company from buying five of its ports hit the dollar yesterday as a number of central banks said they were considering switching reserves into euros.

The United Arab Emirates, which includes Dubai, said it was looking to move one-tenth of its dollar reserves into euros, while the governor of the Saudi Arabian central bank condemned the US move as "discrimination".

Separately, Syria responded to US sanctions against two of its banks by confirming plans to use euros instead of dollars for its external transactions.

The remarks combined to knock the dollar, which fell against the euro, pound and yen yesterday as analysts warned other central banks might follow suit.

Last week the US caused dismay after political opposition to the takeover of P&O by Dubai Ports World forced DPW to agree to transfer P&O's US port management business to a "US entity" .

The governor of the UAE central bank, Sultan Nasser al-Suweidi, said the bank was looking to convert 10 per cent of its reserves, which stand at $23bn (£13.5bn), from dollars to euros. "They are contravening their own principles," he said. "Investors are going to take this into consideration [and] will look at investment opportunities through new binoculars."

Hamad Saud al-Sayyari, the governor of the Saudi Arabian monetary authority, said: "Is it protection or discrimination? Is it okay for US companies to buy everywhere but it is not okay for other companies to buy the US?"

Syria has switched the state's foreign currency transactions to euros from dollars, the head of the state-owned Commercial Bank of Syria, Duraid Durgham, said.

Last week the White House told US financial institutions to terminate all correspondent accounts involving the Commercial Bank of Syria because of money-laundering concerns. Mohammad al-Hussein, Syria's finance minister, said: "Syria affirms that this decision and its timing are fundamentally political."

The euro rose a quarter of one percentage point against the dollar to a one-week high of $1.1945, although it retreated in later trading.

Monica Fan, at RBC Capital Markets, said: "The issue is whether we will see similar attitudes taken by other Middle Eastern banks. It is a question of momentum."

Sunday, March 12, 2006

TheStar.com - The end of the Sopranos finally begins

TheStar.com - The end of the Sopranos finally beginsThe end of the Sopranos finally begins
Mar. 12, 2006. 07:07 AM
ROB SALEM
PASADENA

Just when I thought that I was out, they pull me back in.

— Michael Corleone, The Godfather: Part III

Some of us have been waiting almost two years for this — the return of The Sopranos, the critically acclaimed, audience adored, industry honoured cable drama, starting its sixth and final season tonight at 10 on The Movie Network.

It's been a long wait — but then, it'll be a long season, with a dozen regular episodes running through the end of May, and then an additional eight "bonus" shows, which should start shooting about a month after that, to air next January.

But if you think you've had it tough waiting for The Sopranos, imagine what it must be like to be one.

The scrutiny. The secrecy. The uncertainty. The endless heaping plates of pasta. Months of intense 16-hour shooting days ... followed by many more months of enforced inactivity.

"It's terrible," acknowledges Vince Curatola, better known in Soprano circles as the family's New York liaison, Johnny "Sack" Sacrimoni.

"We finished production of the fifth season in December of 2003. It came on the air March '04, and came off the air early June '04. Then we did not go back to work until April 29, '05.

"It's tough. You're home a lot. You're washing your car a lot. It's like, `Gee, am I really on television? Because I don't feel it.' The cheques are there, but that's it. You still want to work."

And, in between Sopranos seasons, there is only so much work you can do.

"We're all under contract," Curatola says, "so we can only do little bits of television — we can't be series regulars or anything else during that. You can maybe do a movie, if one comes your way. But that's about it."

And even then, when you do come back to work, on The Sopranos you never can quite be sure of what you're coming back to. Or for how long. The show has an unusually high mortality rate.

"You just don't feel you're in the groove," the actor allows. "You never know what you're going to be doing. Anything can come at you from out of left field."

But, even in a worst-case scenario, you at least get a good meal out of the deal — invariably at Il Cortile, a small, family-owned restaurant in New York's Little Italy, traditional site of what Sopranos insiders morbidly refer to as "the whacking party."

It is a longstanding cast tradition when someone's character is scheduled to die.

"We take them to dinner," confirms Michael Imperioli, the actor (and occasional screenwriter, on and off screen) who plays the newly minted Soprano captain, Christopher Moltisanti.

"Lots of rituals (on the show) revolve around food. But when you're asked to dinner, it's not such a good thing. You gotta remember that."

"Actually," muses his erstwhile mob boss, series star James Gandolfini, "I think we may owe a couple ..."

Nobody laughs.

At this level, among the regular, less at-risk actors (not coincidentally, the ones who tend to get the movie work), there is an understanding that these inordinately long lay-offs are essential to their visionary creator/producer, David Chase.

A notorious hands-on micro-manager, Chase insists on — and is happily given — ample time to map out and plot the entire season himself before work even starts on the scripts.

"He's never taken a hiatus," Gandolfini marvels. "Maybe once ... but even then, I'm sure that somewhere, some part of his brain is thinking about it 24/7."

"I know that everybody was always not very happy with us with our long hiatuses," concedes co-star Lorraine Bracco, a.k.a. Soprano therapist Dr. Jennifer Melfi.

"But I also think that it's also been extremely healthy for everyone. Besides, you know, the writing process, which David needs, because he edits and writes ...

"But I think it's been good for all of us, too. I mean, it's not like, you know, 11 months out of the year we're on the dole."

Still, 21 months is an awfully long time to wait for anything — within the same elapsed period, a woman could produce two entire children and have another one well on its way.

Is it too long to wait for a mere TV series? Particularly one now only 20 episodes away from saying "Ciao" forever?

"I have no idea," shrugs Chase. "I really don't know. When I talk to people, they seem to want it to come back. But if somebody wants to watch another show, that's great."

"Yeah," agrees Edie Falco, a standout once again this season as the long-suffering Mob wife, Carmela Soprano.

"Nobody signed anything committing to watch this for as long as it's on the air. If they find something else, then God bless 'em."

But really, what are the chances of that? We're already all emotionally invested. We're not about to give up on The Sopranos — especially not this close to the end.

The end. Needless to say, a closely guarded secret. No one but Chase knows where this is all leading — not even the Sopranos themselves.

Nor do they wish to.

"I don't know what he's got planned for the ending ... and I don't want to know," Gandolfini insists.

"I would never want to know," agrees Falco. "I wish I didn't even know that we were ending when we're ending, because now I have this sort of gravity about the time I'm spending with these people I love that I wish I didn't have. But it's inevitable."

And no one is quite ready to consciously confront how that is going to finally feel.

"Right now, it's just about being with these people one more year," echoes Gandolfini. "This is the year we have, and let's enjoy it and really look at it and remember it."

"There's still a lot of work to be done," says Chase. "I'm just sort of still in the middle of it. So I'm not really there yet with any kind of emotional reaction.

"I think we're all going to be really sad when it's ended. I mean, everybody, I'm sure, will feel relieved and, to a certain extent, hopefully feel that we've done good work. There won't be that huge amount of responsibility and work to do anymore. But I'm sure we're all going to be very sad."

At least they'll have each other.

"We're a very close cast," Curatola affirms. "I don't think two weeks go by where we don't each see three or four of the others. We're on the phone constantly. We do a lot of travelling together. We do appearances. We all hang out together in Manhattan. That will continue. We're like an extended family."

The show, then, would be their family legacy.

"That in and of itself is a great calling card," acknowledges Curatola. "It's made every one of us famous."

None more so than James Gandolfini. "A lot of us, when we started out — well, except for Lorraine (Bracco) — but a lot us were reasonably unknown," Gandolfini says. "You learn so much from all the stuff that happened through this ... about success and money and celebrity, all kinds of stuff. It's been an incredible life lesson that none of us, I don't think, would have ever had if we hadn't had this opportunity."

Drudge Retort: Rumsfeld Makes a Killing on Bird Flu

Drudge Retort: Rumsfeld Makes a Killing on Bird FluRumsfeld Makes a Killing on Bird Flu

Donald Rumsfeld has made a killing out of bird flu. The US Defence Secretary has made more than $5m (2.9m) in capital gains from selling shares in the biotechnology firm that discovered and developed Tamiflu, the drug being bought in massive amounts by Governments to treat a possible human pandemic of the disease.

BBC NEWS | Africa | Progress at Horn of Africa talks

BBC NEWS | Africa | Progress at Horn of Africa talks Progress at Horn of Africa talks
By Martin Plaut
BBC Africa editor

Talks to end a border dispute between Ethiopia and Eritrea have ended with what diplomats are describing as a measure of progress.

The conflict sparked a war that ended six years ago after some 76,000 deaths.

An international tribunal ruled on the border in 2002 but Ethiopia refused to let it be demarcated without further discussion and Eritrea objected.

Now a meeting has taken place in London between the two states along with US and United Nations representatives.

The talks, chaired by the international tribunal that decided where the border should run, brought together legal representatives from Ethiopia and Eritrea.

They were held with the blessing of the UN Security Council, which had urged the countries to resume a dialogue.

This impetus from the international community appears to have helped break the deadlock.

'Small step forward'

Ethiopia indicated that it now accepts the tribunal's ruling without reservations.


TENSE BORDER
Dec 2000: Peace agreement
Apr 2002: Border ruling
Mar 2003: Ethiopian complaint over Badme rejected
Sep 2003: Ethiopia asks for new ruling
Feb 2005: UN concern at military build-up
Oct 2005: Eritrea restricts peacekeepers' activities
Nov 2005: UN sanctions threat if no compliance with 2000 deal

Eritrea for its part accepted the appointment of a technical expert to assist in the demarcation of the border.

Both countries will allow the demarcation process to resume where it left off some years ago.

Field offices will be opened, liaison officers appointed and security arrangements put in place.

And further talks are scheduled to be held in London in April.

But there is still much to do.

Both sides now want to consult with their respective capitals.

The UN asked Eritrea to lift restrictions on the operations of its 7,000 peacekeepers strung out along the border but Eritrea has not yet reacted. A small step forward, was how one diplomat described the process.

But even this is a major achievement in a dispute that the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, has repeatedly warned has the potential to provoke a renewal of hostilities at any time.

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