New Honduran President Warns Former Leader of Arrest

The newly appointed president of Honduras, Roberto Micheletti, is warning that if ousted president Manuel Zelaya attempts to return here, he will be immediately arrested and sent to prison.

“If he comes back to our country, he would have to face our tribunals and our trials and our laws,” Micheletti said in an interview with The Washington Post late Monday night at his residence in the hills overlooking the capital. “He would be sent to jail. For sure, he would go to prison.”

Micheletti was named the new president of Honduras by the National Congress on Sunday, hours after soldiers burst into the presidential palace, detained Zelaya while he was still in his pajamas and then put him on a plane to Costa Rica.

The new Honduran president said he did not see any way to negotiate with the Obama administration and international diplomats seeking a return of Zelaya to power because Micheletti insisted that Zelaya was guilty of crimes against the country.

“No, no compromise, because if he tries to come back or anyone tries to bring him back, he will be arrested,” Micheletti said.

The streets of Tegucigalpa were empty Monday night because of a curfew, but the city is awash in rumors that Venezuela is marshaling its forces for a possible invasion. Micheletti was meeting with Honduran congressional leaders and others at his house, as soldiers stood guard outside.

Micheletti cautioned the world that his army was on alert and prepared to defend the country against any invasion.

“Our army also consists of 7.5 million people prepared to defend freedom and liberty,” said Micheletti, who stressed that Hondurans were a peaceful people.

Media outlets friendly to Zelaya have been shut down, and some reporters are hiding — as are members of Zelaya’s former cabinet. Most Hondurans must rely on state media or on newspapers and television stations that support the coup. Cable news outlets such as CNN en Español have been blacked out, but it is still possible to get outside news via satellite.

Although the United States condemned the coup, the most vocal statements of opposition — along with threats of military intervention — have come from Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, who led a summit of leftist allies in Nicaragua on Monday that demanded Zelaya’s reinstatement.

“We are saying to the coup organizers, we are ready to support a rebellion of the people of Honduras,” Chávez said. “This coup will be defeated.”

Micheletti said, “We have fears because of Mr. Chávez. We don’t know what to expect of him.”

Micheletti and others in his new government say that Zelaya was acting as a strongman who was surrounding himself with leftist allies of Chavez, including the Castro brothers in Cuba and President Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua.

Leaders around the hemisphere, including President Obama, quickly condemned the removal of Zelaya and called it a coup. But Honduran leaders insist that the world does not understand what happened here. They say that Zelaya was found guilty by a Supreme Court tribunal, that his arrest by the military was legal and that Zelaya was attempting to circumvent the Congress and the courts by staging a referendum vote on Sunday. The referendum, they say, could have led to a change in the constitution that would have allowed Zelaya to run for the top office again after his term ended in January 2010.

Micheletti said he was sending a delegation Tuesday to the United States to make the case against Zelaya and for the new government.

The new president said he thought his country could hold out long enough for world opinion to turn its way. Venezuela has already said it would suspend oil shipments, and Honduras’s neighbors — El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua — announced that they would stop overland trade.

“That is why I want to make a call to our allies in the United States, that they should stick with us at this very important moment in the life of the country,” Micheletti said. “The economy of our country is completely destroyed — because of the acts of the former government. If aid [from the United States and Europe] keeps coming, we will show that every little penny that we borrowed will be spent for the people of this country.”

Micheletti promised that Honduras would hold presidential elections in November and that a new president would take office in January 2010. Micheletti, a leader of the Liberal Party, which is also the party of Zelaya, vowed that he would not run for president.

After Zelaya was hustled out of the country to exile in Costa Rica, the leaders of his ouster produced a letter of resignation purportedly signed by Zelaya. It conceded that he had triggered a national crisis by his actions, that his political base had eroded, that he faced insurmountable health problems and that with his irrevocable resignation he hoped to help heal the wounds of the nation.

Zelaya called the letter a fabrication.

Micheletti said he signed it.

Micheletti also said that Zelaya, who had been his political ally for years in the Liberal Party, was a master at bending world opinion his way. Another source in the government here said that Zelaya actually was wearing a crisply ironed dress shirt when he was sent into exile in Costa Rica, but that he changed to a white T-shirt to show how he was hustled out of his official residence at dawn while still in his pajamas.

Senior Obama officials said an overthrow of the Zelaya government had been brewing for days — and they worked behind the scenes to stop the military and its conservative, wealthy backers from pushing Zelaya out. The U.S. failure to stop the coup gave antagonists such as Chávez room to use events in Honduras to push his own vision for the region.

The coup appears to have been well organized. Sunday morning, as Zelaya was being ousted, local television and radio stations went off the air. Cellphone and land-line communications were jammed, and many numbers offered nothing more than a busy signal.

Zelaya, speaking to reporters in Managua, demanded that he be restored to power but said that violence was not an option.

He also said that many Hondurans had no idea about the worldwide condemnation of the coup because private television stations in his country blacked out coverage, playing cartoons and soap operas.

By early Monday night, another meeting of Latin American nations had begun in Managua, with such participants as Mexico and the secretary general of the Organization of American States, José Miguel Insulza, criticizing Zelaya’s opponents.

Across the Americas and Europe, leaders called for Zelaya’s reinstatement. Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, president of Brazil, said his government would not recognize a Honduran administration not headed by Zelaya.

“We in Latin America can no longer accept someone trying to resolve his problem through the means of a coup,” Lula said.

The United Nations also condemned the coup and said Micheletti should make way for Zelaya’s return. Zelaya was invited to address the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday.

The ouster in the poor, agricultural country of 7 million people revived memories of coup-driven turmoil in Latin America. Zelaya, who has spoken frequently with reporters, has been quick to mention the political chaos that military overthrows have traditionally caused.

“Are we going to go back to the military being outside of the control of the civil state?” Zelaya asked. “Everything that is supposed to be an achievement of the 21st century is at risk in Honduras.”


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U.N. Backs Ousted Honduran Leader

Honduras june 30

The deposed president of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, addressed the United Nations on Tuesday.

The United Nations marshaled an unusually broad effort on Tuesday to condemn the military seizure of power in Honduras, turning over the podium of the General Assembly to its ousted president and quickly passing a resolution sponsored by countries often at loggerheads, including the United States and Venezuela.

The deposed president, Manuel Zelaya, said the “brutal” coup, including what he called a threat by soldiers to shoot him dead if he did not stop talking on his cell phone, was a blow against democracy.

“When these threats are issued behind rifles or bayonets, then here, in the 21st century, that means that we have still not progressed enough,” he said.

Mr. Zelaya, greeted by sustained applause when he entered the august chamber and seated in the Honduran seat on the assembly floor, said the resolution supporting him “expresses the indignation of the people of Honduras and of people worldwide.”

The one-page resolution, passed by acclamation in the 192-member body, condemned the removal of Mr. Zelaya as a coup and demanded his “immediate and unconditional restoration” as president.

His ouster on Sunday was the culmination of a battle that had been simmering for weeks over a referendum, which was to have taken place that day, that Mr. Zelaya hoped would lead to a revision of the Constitution. Critics said it was part of an illegal attempt by Mr. Zelaya to defy the Constitution’s limit of a single four-year term for the president.

Soldiers stormed the presidential palace in the capital, Tegucigalpa, early in the morning on Sunday, disarming the presidential guard, waking Mr. Zelaya and putting him on a plane to Costa Rica. Later on Sunday, the Honduran Congress voted him out of office, replacing him with the president of Congress, Roberto Micheletti.

In a news conference after the resolution was passed at the United Nations, Mr. Zelaya insisted that he would fulfill his four-year term, but said he would step down after that. “I am going to return to civilian life, not to political life.”

With the president of the General Assembly, Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann, sitting next to him, Mr. Zelaya vowed to return to his country on Thursday, despite warnings that he could face arrest. But he said that a number of other leaders had offered to escort him, including Mr. d’Escoto, President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner of Argentina, President Rafael Correa of Ecuador and the secretary general of the Organization of American States.

Mr. Zelaya also dispelled suspicions that Western nations like the United States may have instigated or tacitly approved of his ouster, an allegation that has been repeatedly put forward by his close ally, President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela.

“The United States has changed a great deal,” he said at the news conference, noting that President Obama had not only denounced his removal as an illegal coup but had also called for his return to power.

In Washington, the Obama administration continued to stand by Mr. Zelaya. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said that the United States did not see any acceptable solution other than Mr. Zelaya returning to power.

Mr. Zelaya was supposed to meet with Thomas Shannon, an assistant Secretary of State, on Tuesday or Wednesday on the sidelines of an Organization of American States meeting to hash out a response to the crisis in Honduras. White House officials said that there were no plans as of Tuesday afternoon for Mr. Zelaya to meet with Mr. Obama, but that could change, one administration official said.


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Sarkozy Comments on Israeli Minister Make Waves

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel defended his ultra-nationalist foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, on Tuesday after reports emerged that President Nicolas Sarkozy of France urged that he be replaced with the leader of the centrist opposition, Tzipi Livni.

Mr. Sarkozy made the statement in a private meeting last week at the Élysée Palace attended by Mr. Netanyahu and a number of aides to both men, comparing Mr. Lieberman to Jean-Marie Le Pen, the far-right anti-immigrant French politician. Several participants at the meeting confirmed the reported statements.

Mr. Lieberman’s spokesman said that Mr. Sarkozy’s comment amounted to grave and insufferable meddling in the affairs of another democracy. Israeli radio broadcasts were filled with discussion of the episode, with right-wing members of Parliament assailing France and expressing indignation while some on the left said that Mr. Sarkozy was correct.

Yossi Beilin, a former leftist member of Parliament and minister said on Israel Radio that he often heard what Mr. Sarkozy said: “I can tell you a secret. I meet world leaders. There is hardly a conversation in which the subject does not come up. Someone will say, ‘Tell me, what’s this delusional appointment?’ There’s hardly a world leader who does not say this.”

Mr. Netanyahu’s office issued a statement saying he had full confidence in his foreign minister, adding that Mr. Lieberman was “fully committed to peace and security” and “an important member of the elected government of the democratic State of Israel.”

Mr. Lieberman, head of the Yisrael Beiteinu Party and a West Bank settler, was elected on a platform that called for citizenship loyalty oaths at a time of growing discord between Israel’s Jewish majority and Arab minority.

When Mr. Lieberman visited France recently, Mr. Sarkozy declined to meet with him, although he routinely received Ms. Livni, who was foreign minister in the last government.

According to the newspaper Yediot Aharonot, Mr. Sarkozy told Mr. Netanyahu that he should remake his government so that he, Ms. Livni and the defense minister, Ehud Barak, could produce historic breakthroughs for Middle East peace. He was reported to have said, “I’ve always received Israeli foreign ministers. I met with Tzipi Livni in the Élysée Palace, but with that one I simply can’t meet. I’m telling you, you need to get rid of that man. Get him out of the government and bring in Livni. With her and with Barak you can make history.”

The paper said Mr. Netanyahu replied: “No need to exaggerate. Lieberman is a very nice person, and in private conversations he speaks differently.”

Mr. Sarkozy was reported to have replied, “In private conversations, Jean-Marie Le Pen is also a nice person.”

Mr. Sarkozy is said to have added of Mr. Lieberman, “Sometimes when I hear what he says I have the urge to pull out my hair.” He placed his hands on his head and grabbed hold of his hair.


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Iran Moves to Preclude Further Public Defiance

Police officers and militia forces crowded the streets of Tehran on Tuesday, setting up checkpoints and making clear that the government had zero tolerance for any further public expressions of defiance to the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a day after the powerful Guardian Council certified his landslide victory.

The government made a series of official moves to close the book on weeks of protest that represented the strongest challenge to its control since the Islamic Republic was founded in 1979. Parliament issued a statement expressing broad gratitude over the June 12 vote and thanking the police and the Basiji militia for maintaining security. President Ahmadinejad made a surprise visit to the Ministry of Intelligence, where he gave a speech to employees.

The government crushed the vast protests following the vote, dispatching armed police and militia and leaving 17 people dead and hundreds more injured. The authorities continued to detain hundreds of journalists, former government officials, political activists and even independent researchers, in the quest to prevent any further demonstrations.

There seemed little prospect for any chance for organized and sustained action against the government’s version of events, political analysts said, in part because the arrests that have starved the opposition of leadership, foot soldiers, and an effective means to communicate.

One of the most recent arrests, of Bijan Khajehpour, an independent political economist, sent a chill deeper yet into Iran’s civil society because he was not involved in the opposition demonstration, political analysts said.

Mr. Khajehpour had been detained at the airport coming into the country from Britain, and like so many others has disappeared into the notorious Evin prison, raising concerns over the scope of the crackdown and the prospect of a political purge, the analysts said. “Bijan was perhaps the last independent-minded analyst living in Tehran who continued to travel to Europe and the U.S. and give open lectures about Iran,” said Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran expert with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “He always believed that if he was totally transparent the government would understand he was not doing anything wrong, and had nothing to hide.”

The government has also over the past several days fired high ranking officials who had supported Mir Hussein Moussavi, the president’s main challenger, according to Iranian news reports.

Human rights groups said arrests had taken place around the nation, but there were particular fears for those held at Evin were in physical danger.

“Amnesty International is gravely concerned that several opposition leaders detained in the wake of the 12 June elections may be facing torture, possibly to force them to make televised ‘confessions’ as a prelude to unfair trials in which they could face the death penalty,” the human rights watchdog group said in a statement.

Reporters Without Borders, the press-freedom organization, said that the concern extended beyond opposition leaders. “Several witness accounts makes us fear that torture and ill-treatment are being systematically inflicted on prisoners who have demonstrated against the regime,” the group said in a statement. “Several journalists and bloggers were brutally treated by the guards and by men employed by the state prosecutor Saaed Mortazavi.”

A spokesman for the Guardian Council, Abbas-Ali Khadkhodaei, did not shed any new light on Tuesday on the questions raised by opposition candidates about the legitimacy of the vote, the vote count and the review process.

Instead, Mr. Khadkhodaei discussed the one discrepancy which had already been discussed — that in some districts there were more ballots cast than registered voters. He explained that Iranians can vote anywhere they choose, regardless of where they are registered, but did not address those who said areas that reported extra votes were unlikely to have had many people passing through.

“You are born in Tehran or any other town, and you belong to that area based on local statistics, but you are casting your vote outside the country or your town,” he said in comments reported by state run Press TV. “Who can separate these statistics? So, the population moves for various reasons.”

The Guardian Council’s sudden decision on Monday to validate the election followed days of promises that a committee would be formed to review the election and that a partial recount would occur. But the committee was never seated, nor the review process established. The recount effort involved what officials said was a random 10 percent of ballots in Tehran’s 22 electoral districts and in some provinces, and they concluded that in some areas, Mr. Ahmadinejad had won even more votes than initially stated.

With the vote now officially over, the government pressed forward with its efforts to rewrite a narrative of events that had been cast first by the millions who took to the streets, and then through independent and citizen journalism. The government has made reporting inside the country impossible, forcing foreign journalists to leave while arresting and threatening Iranians who challenged the government’s position.

The government maintains that Western agents, primarily Britain, have been responsible for the unrest. On Monday, the government sought to recast blame for the death of about 17 protesters. The commander of Iran’s Basiji militia, Hossein Taeb, said that imposters wearing Basiji uniforms were responsible for infiltrating crowds attacking unarmed citizens. He also suggested that a Basiji imposter was responsible for killing Neda Agha-Soltan, the young woman who became an international symbol when video of her shot and dying in the street went on the internet and was seen around the world.


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Entertainment – June 30

Jackson Wrapped Video Before Death

Two weeks before he died, Michael Jackson wrapped up work on an elaborate production dubbed the ”Dome Project” that could be the final finished video piece overseen by the King of Pop, The Associated Press has learned.

Jackson was apparently preparing to dazzle concert audiences in London with a high-tech show in which 3D images — some inspired by his ”Thriller” era — would flash behind him as he performed on stage.

”It was a groundbreaking effort,” said Vince Pace, whose company provided cameras for the shoot, a 3D system he created with filmmaker James Cameron.

”To think that Michael’s gone now, that’s probably the last documented footage of him to be shot in that manner,” Pace said.

Two people with knowledge of the secretive project confirmed its existence Monday to the AP on condition they not be identified because they signed confidentiality agreements.

They said it was a five-week project filmed at Culver Studios, which 70 years ago was the set for the classic film ”Gone With the Wind.” Four sets were constructed for Jackson’s production, including a cemetery recalling his 1983 ”Thriller” video.

With 3D technology ”the audience would have felt like they were visiting the ‘Thriller’ experience, like they were there,” Pace said.

Shooting for the project lasted from June 1-9, with Jackson on the set most days. The project was in post-production, at the time of Jackson’s death, and had been expected to be completed next month. It was not immediately clear what would be made of the video footage now.

Producer Robb Wagner, founder of music-video company Stimulated Inc., did not immediately return a message seeking comment on the project.

Michael Roth, a spokesman for Jackson’s Los Angeles-based promoter AEG Live, said he hadn’t heard about the production but did not rule that it could be part of the company’s contract with the entertainer.

According to one of the people with knowledge of the project, a willow-thin, pallid Jackson left a memorable impression on the crew, arriving in a caravan of SUVs with hulking security guards in tow. The person said Jackson introduced himself to workers on the set and walked with a spring in his step but at one point needed assistance as he descended steps off a stage.

Besides the cemetery, one set was draped in black with an oversized portrait of Jackson in his ”Thriller” werewolf costume. Another set was designed to simulate a lush jungle, and a fourth was built to replicate a construction site, with a screen in the back to allow projection of different backgrounds.

Taping took place in marathon sessions ending early in the morning. One scene filmed on the construction site set included scantily clad male dancers wearing carpenter’s belts.

According to Stimulated’s Web site, the company was hired to produce screen content for Jackson’s planned comeback concerts in London. Stimulated has worked with Def Leppard and the Pussycat Dolls, and produced content for the Academy Awards and the Emmys.

Last year, U2 released the concert film ”U2 3D,” a film of the band’s 2005-06 Vertigo tour, shot at several shows in South America with 3-D technology.

At the time, guitarist The Edge told The Associated Press the 3-D technology allowed ”the songs to shine through.”


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His Brother’s Keeper

A new movie shows life as it is for our soldiers at war.

brothers june 30

If you are one of those Americans who believe that we are not really at war with terrorists, Jake Rademacher has a message for you. Actually, what he has is a film about an ordinary family from Decatur, Ill., that has two members serving in Iraq. It’s the kind of film that will give you a new appreciation for the men who make Independence Day possible.

The two soldiers here are Capt. Isaac Rademacher and Sgt. Joe Rademacher, a fact that makes this war highly personal for their filmmaker brother. Isaac is a West Pointer who married another West Pointer, and Joe is a sniper who graduated at the top of his class in Army Ranger school. Older brother Jake wants to know why they fight, and so he takes his camera to Iraq “to find my brothers’ war.”

Though “Brothers at War” focuses on the Rademachers, they nowhere pretend to be the model family. While Isaac and Joe are off risking their lives in Iraq, another brother, Thad, loses his life to drugs at home. It all makes for sibling relationships that can be close and distant at the same time.

Of the two in uniform, Joe is more reticent about talking about his experiences for the camera, and more skeptical about what his brother could have learned there — at least during his first, relatively brief embed. As Jake puts it, “Joe needs me to have some confirmed kills, [and] then maybe I can sit next to him at the dinner table.”

Over the course of 110 minutes, the film takes us back and forth from Iraq to the home front. The actual fighting is minimal, and politics is completely absent. In some ways, the flatness provides the emotional punch: Watch Isaac kissing his wife and child goodbye before he boards a plane for his latest deployment to Iraq — and then try telling Mrs. Rademacher that her husband is not so much fighting a war as participating in an “overseas contingency operation.”

The scenes in Iraq have a similar feel, less about capturing the big firefights with the enemy than putting faces on the grunts doing the hard work that needs to be done. However many news accounts you may read about what these men go up against every day, it can’t compare to hearing a National Guardsman sitting atop a roof in the Sunni Triangle speaking with great relief about the time he didn’t squeeze the trigger — the moment he realized that the terrorist with an AK-47 in his sights was a child with a toy.

While many reviewers apparently find Mr. Rademacher’s presence in the film irritating and wonder why there isn’t a visual of a wounded or dead American, the military families who have been flocking to this film have a different reaction. When they see Mr. Rademacher in his Kevlar helmet and vest sweating away in the oven-like interior of a Stryker combat vehicle, they see what life is like for their husband, son, or brother.

When Mr. Rademacher shows soldiers cleaning their guns as they watch videos of the TV series “The OC,” they get a picture of how their loved ones relax. And when they hear that Pennsylvania Guard unit getting the news about a soldier that has been killed by a foreign sniper, they share the frustration — and the desire to get the guy responsible.

Though neither pro-war nor antiwar, this film does offer something that probably explains why one reviewer dismissed it as “achingly patriotic”: It shows our soldiers and Marines as professionals. In short, there are no victims here, just decent men doing a tough job. In New York, Washington and Los Angeles that may not sound like exciting fare. But in places like Oceanside, Ca., Savannah, Ga., Kileen, Texas., Norfolk, Va., etc. — cities that are home to our military families — “Brothers at War” speaks to audiences filled with people who know firsthand what it is like to have a husband or brother in Iraq.

Though it does have its patriotic moments, they are quiet and hard to draw out from men who would rather joke about their cheating girlfriends back home. While spending five days with a reconnaissance unit reporting on foreign terrorists crossing through the Syrian border, Mr. Rademacher asks the men he is with why they fight. A young Army specialist named Christopher MacKay says he’s fighting for a better life for his nieces.

Mr. Rademacher presses him: Would it be worth it if it ends up costing you your life? Spc. MacKay answers matter of factly. “Yeah, I’d give my life for America any day. Wouldn’t think twice.”

That’s not John Wayne speaking. That’s a young man who knows what he signed up for, knows why he signed up, and knows who he’s fighting for. In an America where Michael Jackson’s death gets more press coverage than a Medal of Honor winner, it’s sure nice to see at least one camera filming men who really matter.

William McGurn, Wall Street Journal


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Airline Has Nothing to Hide. Really.

zealand june 30

A screen grab from Air New Zealand’s new in-flight safety video featuring employees clad in nothing but body paint.

The instructions in Air New Zealand’s new in-flight safety video are given by employees who are nude except for body paint and strategically placed seat belts.

Passengers on the video’s maiden flight Monday — the 7 a.m. from Auckland to Wellington, on New Zealand’s North Island — may have never paid more rapt attention to the line “undo the seat belt by lifting the metal flap.”

The video — and a related ad campaign — are rare moments of levity in an industry that has been savaged by drastic drop-offs in passenger travel and air freight. Airlines around the world, including Air New Zealand, have had to cut flights, employees and investment plans.

The point of the three-and-a-half-minute safety video and the 45-second commercial that started running last month is that unlike other airlines, which increasingly add hidden charges to fares in an effort to increase falling revenue, Air New Zealand has nothing to hide.

“Which is why the price you pay includes everything — up front,” reads the ad’s tag line.

The video and commercial are not as revealing as some might think (or perhaps hope, given the toned bodies of the employees). The realistic body paint makes it look as if the employees — flight attendants, baggage handlers and a pilot — are wearing uniforms. The one person not shown doing his actual job is the company’s buff chief executive, Rob Fyfe, who plays a baggage handler.

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An Air New Zealand television commercial features employees whose uniforms are actually body paint. The baggage handler at left in the ad is the airline’s chief executive, Rob Fyfe.

Air New Zealand has suffered as much as some other airliners in the downturn: long-haul travel has fallen sharply and new domestic competitors have arisen, like Jetstar and Pacific Blue, even though the airline still has a market share of more than 80 percent, said Rob Mercer, an analyst at Forsyth Barr in Wellington.

But Mr. Mercer said that unlike other airlines, Air New Zealand has “never stopped being innovative and nimble.”

Last year, the airline paid people to shave their heads and wear temporary tattoos that said, “Need a change? Head down to New Zealand.”

This year’s cheeky ad campaign and the safety video, “Bare Essentials of Safety,” have brought Air New Zealand a lot of attention that it hopes will put lots of bottoms in seats.

The commercial, “Nothing to Hide,” has been viewed nearly two million times on YouTube — the most-viewed clip ever to come out of New Zealand, Steve Bayliss, the airline’s marketing manager, said by telephone Monday.

Each video took a day to shoot and cost about 10 to 15 percent of the cost of a major brand commercial, Mr. Bayliss estimated, since there were no actors to pay. The Air New Zealand staff members did not receive extra pay, just increased exposure.



Bare essentials of safety from Air New Zealand


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Daily sex ‘best for good sperm’


Daily ejaculation may be the best way to improve sperm quality

Having sex every day improves sperm quality and could boost the chances of getting pregnant, research suggests.

In a study of men with fertility problems, daily ejaculation for a week cut the amount of DNA damage seen in sperm samples.

Speaking at a fertility conference, the Australian researcher said general advice for couples had been to have sex every two or three days.

Early results from the trial had already shown promising results.

But 118 men have now been tested and the benefits for sperm have become clearer.

Dr David Greening, from Sydney IVF, told delegates at the European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology meeting that eight in ten men taking part showed a 12% drop in sperm DNA damage after the seven days.

Although there was a big drop in sperm numbers from 180 million to 70 million over the week, men were still within the normal “fertile” range.

Sperm also became more active over the seven days with a small rise in motility, he added.


The theory is that the longer sperm hang around in the testes the more likely they are to accumulate DNA damage and the warm environment could also make them more sluggish after a while.

Sperm come under attack by free radicals – small reactive molecules which can damage DNA and cause cell death – in the tube that stores and carries sperm away from the testes.

Further work is needed to work out if daily sex for men without fertility problems has the same benefits but Dr Greening believes it is likely to be the case.

He warns that having daily sex for too long – say a fortnight – would probably cut sperm numbers too much.

But recommended “lots of sex daily” around the time the woman is ovulating.

He said it was best to “keep the river flowing”.

As men age they may not have as much sex as they did when they were younger, adding to the problem of infertility, Dr Greening told delegates.

“We are designed to breed in our youth.

“Perhaps we have been blaming the women as couples get older but perhaps there’s a contribution from the male because we’re not behaving as we should be.”

The findings may also have implications for couples undergoing IVF as men are commonly told to abstain from sex for a couple of days to try and boost sperm numbers.

Dr Alan Pacey, a fertility expert at the University of Sheffield, said the finding that daily ejaculation improved the chances of conception was interesting, but it would be wrong to apply the results to all men.

“For example, in cases where men have low sperm counts to start with, daily ejaculations may well reduce the sperm count still further and whilst sperm may be more healthy the reduced numbers could impede the chance of natural conception.

“The best general advice is that if couples are attempting to conceive naturally, intercourse every couple of days will make sure the sperm are as healthy as possible on each occasion.

“However, in preparation for IVF or ICSI treatment, this advice may well change in response to medical test results like DNA damage measurements.”


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Most complete Earth map published

The most complete terrain map of the Earth’s surface has been published.

deathvalley june 30

An image of Death Valley – the lowest, driest, and hottest location in North America – composed of a simulated natural color image overlayed with digital topography data from the ASTER Global Digital Elevation Model.

The data, comprising 1.3 million images, come from a collaboration between the US space agency Nasa and the Japanese trade ministry.

The images were taken by Japan’s Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (Aster) aboard the Terra satellite.

The resulting Global Digital Elevation Map covers 99% of the Earth’s surface, and will be free to download and use.

The Terra satellite, dedicated to Earth monitoring missions, has shed light on issues ranging from algal blooms to volcano eruptions.

For the Aster measurements, local elevation was mapped with each point just 30m apart.

“This is the most complete, consistent global digital elevation data yet made available to the world,” said Woody Turner, Nasa programme scientist on the Aster mission.

“This unique global set of data will serve users and researchers from a wide array of disciplines that need elevation and terrain information.”

Previously, the most complete such topographic map was Nasa’s Shuttle Radar Topography Mission, covering 80% of the Earth’s surface. However, the mission’s results were less accurate in steep terrain and in some deserts.

Nasa is now working to combine those data with the new Aster observations to further improve on the global map.


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How Long Is Long Enough?

No one seems to know how old Mohammed Jawad was when he was seized by Afghan forces in Kabul six and a half years ago and turned over to American custody. Some reports say he was 14. Some say 16. The Afghan government believes he was 12.

What is not in dispute is that he was no older than an adolescent, and that since his capture he has been tortured and otherwise put through hell. The evidence against him has been discredited. He has tried to commit suicide. But the U.S. won’t let him go.

The treatment of the young captive was so egregious that the decorated U.S. Army officer assigned to prosecute him — a man gung-ho to secure a conviction against a defendant he believed had committed a serious crime against the American military — ended up removing himself from the case and declaring that he could no longer “in good conscience” participate in the military commissions set up to try accused terrorists.

Jawad was accused of hurling a hand grenade into a vehicle occupied by two American soldiers and their Afghan interpreter in December 2002. All three occupants of the vehicle were seriously injured.

Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld of the U.S. Army Reserve, a recipient of the Bronze Star, among other commendations, was named the lead prosecutor on the case in 2007. By then, Jawad had already been held for nearly five years. Colonel Vandeveld assumed that the case would be uncomplicated and that a conviction could be easily secured.

Jawad had confessed to the attack and, according to the charges against him, had acted as a member of an insurgent group called Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin.

As Colonel Vandeveld began a diligent effort to assemble what he assumed would be the evidence that would convict Jawad, he became increasingly distressed and ultimately dismayed. It turned out, as a military judge would later rule, that Jawad’s Afghan captors had obtained his confession by torturing him. Then the boy was taken by U.S. authorities to Bagram Air Field, the main U.S. military installation in Afghanistan, where he was held before eventually being transferred to Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

Colonel Vandeveld — “by sheer happenstance,” as he put it — came across a written summary of an interview of Jawad by a special agent of the Army Criminal Investigation Division. The summary, which was part of the official record of an entirely different case at Bagram, detailed extensive abuse that Jawad said had been inflicted on him at Bagram.

In a sworn affidavit, Colonel Vandeveld said, “This abuse included the slapping of Mr. Jawad across the face while Mr. Jawad’s head was covered with a hood, as well as Mr. Jawad’s having been shoved down a stairwell while both hooded and shackled.”

Jawad’s account had the ring of truth. As Colonel Vandeveld said in the affidavit, the interviewer “later testified as a defense witness … that Mr. Jawad’s statement was completely consistent with the statements of other prisoners held at Bagram at the time and, more importantly, that dozens of the guards had admitted to abusing the prisoners in exactly the way described by Jawad.”

Jawad also complained about being mistreated at Guantánamo, saying he had been moved with absurd frequency from cell to cell — the idea being to deprive him of sleep. A check of the official prison logs showed that Jawad had in fact been moved 112 times, without explanation, from one cell to another in a two-week period — an average of eight moves a day for 14 days.

As Colonel Vandeveld said in his affidavit: “Upon further investigation, we were able to determine that Mr. Jawad had been subjected to a sleep deprivation program popularly referred to as the ‘frequent flyer’ program.” The colonel said he lacked the words “to express the heartsickness” he felt as he came to fully understand the way Jawad had been treated by American soldiers.

On Dec. 25, 2003, Jawad tried to kill himself by repeatedly banging his head against a wall of his cell.

There is no credible evidence against Jawad, and his torture-induced confession has rightly been ruled inadmissible by a military judge. But the Obama administration does not feel that he has suffered enough. Not only have administration lawyers opposed defense efforts to secure Jawad’s freedom, but they are using, as the primary basis for their opposition, the fruits of the confession that was obtained through torture and has already been deemed inadmissible — without merit, of no value.

Colonel Vandeveld is no longer on active duty and has joined the effort by military defense lawyers and the American Civil Liberties Union to secure Jawad’s freedom. Six years of virtual solitary confinement, he said, is enough for someone who was not much older than a child when he was taken into custody.

Bob Herbert, New York Times


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Vince Lombardi Politics

Freud said we’re forever changed by the traumas of our youth, and so it is with the Democrats and Clintoncare. Even as you watch the leading Democrats today in their moment of glory, you can still see wounds caused by the defeat of the Clinton health care initiative. You see the psychic reactions and the scars and the lessons they have taken away so that sort of debacle never happens again.

The first lesson they have learned is that domestic policy making should never be dictated from the White House. The Clinton health initiative was hatched in the executive branch and unleashed on Congress. So the Obama administration is doing the opposite, handing Congress working control of every major piece of legislation.

Congress wrote the stimulus package. Congress wrote the cap-and-trade bill. Congress is writing the health care bill. The House and Senate chairmen make more decisions on these issues than anybody on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.

Second, Democrats learned never to go to war against the combined forces of corporate America. Today, whether it is on the stimulus, on health care or any other issue, the Obama administration and the Congressional leadership go out of their way to court corporate interests, to win corporate support and to at least divide corporate opposition.

Third, the Clintoncare collapse and the ensuing decade in the wilderness drove home the costs of failure. This has produced a Vince Lombardi attitude toward winning. There are limits, of course, but leaders in Congress and in the administration seem open to nearly any idea so long as it will lead to passing legislation. On health care, the administration would like a strong public plan, but it is evidently open to a weak one. It is on record against taxing health benefits, but it is clearly willing to tax them. It will do what it takes to pass a bill.

All of this has produced a ruthlessly pragmatic victory machine. Last week Democrats were able to pass a politically treacherous cap-and-trade bill out of the House. The Democratic leaders were able to let 44 members vote no and still bribe/bully/cajole enough of their colleagues to get a win. This was an impressive achievement, and a harbinger for health care and other battles to come.

But the new approach comes with its own shortcomings. To understand them, we have to distinguish between two types of pragmatism. There is legislative pragmatism — writing bills that can pass. Then there is policy pragmatism — creating programs that work. These two pragmatisms are in tension, and in their current frame of mind, Democrats often put the former before the latter.

On the stimulus bill, the Democratic committee chairmen wrote a sprawling bill that incorporated the diverse wishes of hundreds of members and interest groups. But as they did so, the bill had less and less to do with stimulus. Only about 40 percent of the money in the bill was truly stimulative, and that money was not designed to be spent quickly. For example, according to the Congressional Budget Office, only 11 percent of the discretionary spending in the stimulus will be disbursed by the end of the fiscal year. The bill passed, but it is not doing much to create jobs this year and it will not do nearly as much as it could to create jobs in 2010.

On cap and trade, the House chairmen took a relatively clean though politically difficult idea — auctioning off pollution permits — and they transformed it into a morass of corporate giveaways that make the stimulus bill look parsimonious. Permits would now be given to well-connected companies. Utilities and agribusiness would be rolling in government-generated profits. Thousands of goodies were thrown into the 1,201-page bill to win votes.

The bill passed the House, but would it actually reduce emissions? It’s impossible to know. It contains so many complex market interventions that only a fantasist could confidently predict its effects. A few years ago the European Union passed a cap-and-trade system, but because it was so shot through with special interest caveats, emissions actually rose.

On health care, too, the complicated job of getting a bill that can pass is taking priority over the complicated task of creating a program that can work. Dozens of different ideas are being added, watered down or merged together in order to cobble together a majority. But will the logrolling produce a sustainable health system that controls costs and actually hangs together?

The great paradox of the age is that Barack Obama, the most riveting of recent presidents, is leading us into an era of Congressional dominance. And Congressional governance is a haven for special interest pleading and venal logrolling.

When the executive branch is dominant you often get coherent proposals that may not pass. When Congress is dominant, as now, you get politically viable mishmashes that don’t necessarily make sense.

David Brooks, New York Times


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Today in History – June 30

Today is Tuesday, June 30, the 181st day of 2009. There are 184 days left in the year.

Today’s Highlight in History

On June 30, 1859, French acrobat Charles Blondin (born Jean Francois Gravelet) walked back and forth on a tightrope above the gorge of Niagara Falls as thousands of spectators watched.

On this date:

In 1864, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Yosemite Valley Grant Act, Senate Bill 203. The legislation gave California the Yosemite Valley and the nearby Mariposa Big Tree Grove “upon the express conditions that the premises shall be held for public use, resort, and recreation.”

In 1868, Mabel Cratty, American social worker and head of the Y.W.C.A., was born.

In 1886, nineteen-year-old Arturo Toscanini makes an acclaimed conducting debut in Brazil as a substitute for the scheduled conductor of the opera “Aïda.”

In 1893, the Excelsior diamond—which, weighing 995 carats, was the largest uncut diamond ever found to that time—was discovered in the De Beers mine at Jagersfontein, Orange Free State.

In 1905, Einstein submitted his first essay on the theory of relativity, “On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies,“ a text which would influence the 20th century as no other had done, to the editorial department of “The Physics Annual.“ The text was published on September 28 that year.

In 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt signed the Pure Food and Drug Act and the Meat Inspection Act.

In 1908, the Tunguska Event took place in Russia as an asteroid exploded above Siberia, leaving 800 square miles of scorched or blown-down trees.

In 1921, President Warren G. Harding nominated former President William Howard Taft to be chief justice of the United States, succeeding the late Edward Douglass White.

In 1934, Adolf Hitler carried out his “blood purge” of political and military rivals in Germany in what came to be known as “The Night of the Long Knives.”

In 1936, the novel “Gone with the Wind” by Margaret Mitchell was published in New York. Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia appeals in vain to the League of Nations to halt the Italian invasion of his country.

In 1952, the radio soap opera “The Guiding Light” made its TV debut on CBS.

In 1958, the U.S. Senate passed the Alaska statehood bill by a vote of 64-20.

In 1960, Zaire, formerly Belgian Congo and now the Democratic Republic of the Congo, declared its independence from Belgium.

In 1963, Pope Paul VI was crowned the 262nd head of the Roman Catholic Church.

In 1971, a Soviet space mission ended in tragedy when three cosmonauts aboard Soyuz 11 were found dead inside their spacecraft after it had returned to Earth. The 26th Amendment to the Constitution, lowering the minimum voting age to 18, was ratified as Ohio became the 38th state to approve it.

In 1974, Soviet dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov defected from the U.S.S.R. while on tour in Canada.

In 1984, John Turner was sworn in as Canada’s 17th prime minister, succeeding Pierre Elliott Trudeau.

In 1985, 39 American hostages from a hijacked TWA jetliner were freed in Beirut after being held 17 days.

In 1986, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that states could outlaw homosexual acts between consenting adults.

In 1994, the U.S. Figure Skating Association stripped Tonya Harding of the national championship and banned her from the organization for life for an attack on rival Nancy Kerrigan.

In 1997, in Hong Kong, the Union Jack was lowered for the last time over Government House as Britain prepared to hand the colony back to China after ruling it for 156 years

In 1999, ten years ago: The Federal Reserve raised interest rates for the first time in two years, boosting the target for the funds rate a quarter-point to five percent. On the day the independent counsel law expired, Kenneth Starr wrapped up the Whitewater phase of his investigation as presidential friend Webster Hubbell pleaded guilty to a felony and a misdemeanor.

In 2001, doctors implanted a dual-purpose pacemaker in Vice President Dick Cheney’s chest. Country musician Chet Atkins died at age 77.

In 2004, five years ago: A federal appeals court approved an antitrust settlement Microsoft had negotiated with the Justice Department. The Iraqis took legal custody of Saddam Hussein and 11 of his top lieutenants, a first step toward the ousted dictator’s expected trial for crimes against humanity. After nearly seven years of travel, the international Cassini spacecraft entered Saturn’s orbit.

In 2005, Spain legalized gay marriage.

In 2008, one year ago: President George W. Bush signed legislation to pay for the war operations in Iraq and Afghanistan for the rest of his presidency and beyond, hailing the $162 billion plan as a rare product of bipartisan cooperation. The United States announced that it was charging Saudi Arabian Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri with “organizing and directing” the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in waters off Yemen — and would seek the death penalty.

Today’s Birthdays

Singer Lena Horne is 92. Actor Tony Musante is 73. Actress Nancy Dussault is 73. Singer Glenn Shorrock is 65. Jazz musician Stanley Clarke is 58. Actor David Garrison is 57. Rock musician Hal Lindes (Dire Straits) is 56. Actor-comedian David Alan Grier is 53. Actor Vincent D’Onofrio is 50. Actress Deirdre Lovejoy is 47. Actor Rupert Graves is 46. Boxer Mike Tyson is 43. Rock musician Tom Drummond (Better Than Ezra) is 40. Actor Brian Bloom is 39. Actor Brian Vincent is 39. Actress Monica Potter is 38. Actor Rick Gonzalez is 30. Actress Lizzy Caplan is 27. Rhythm-and-blues singer Fantasia (“American Idol”) is 25. Olympic gold medal swimmer Michael Phelps is 24.

Historic Birthdays

6/30/1468 – 8/16/1532
German elector of Saxony and supporter of Martin Luther

Dominikus Zimmermann
6/30/1685 – 11/16/1766
Bavarian Baroque architect

Sir Joseph Hooker
6/30/1817 – 12/10/1911
English botanist

Lucile Grahn
6/30/1819 – 4/4/1907
Danish choreographer and ballerina

William Wheeler
6/30/1819 – 6/4/1887
American politician; U.S. vice-president (1877-81)

Mabel Cratty
6/30/1868 – 2/27/1928
American social worker and head of the Y.W.C.A.

Walter Ulbricht
6/30/1893 – 8/1/1973
German Communist leader; led East Germany (1960-73)

Harold Laski
6/30/1893 – 3/24/1950
English political scientist, educator and writer

Willie Sutton
6/30/1901 – 11/2/1980
American bank robber and prison escapee

Czeslaw Miłosz (1911-2004), Polish poet, essayist, novelist, translator, and Nobel laureate, whose works are concerned predominantly with the effect of historical circumstance on human morality.

Harry Blackstone, Jr.
6/30/1934 – 5/14/1997
American magician and illusionist

Thought for Today