Archive for September, 2008

Debate One: No clear-cut winner

September 27, 2008

Michael Calderone

CNN’s Anderson Cooper, shortly after the first presidential debate said, “there was not a sense the world had changed.”
That’s a pretty high bar to set for a debate. But at the same time, with this week’s headlines of impending financial collapse and a suspended presidential campaign—not to mention doubts that the debate would actually take place — perhaps only a world-changing showdown could have lived up to the hype.

For hours beforehand, pundits tried to get inside John McCain’s head. There were questions about his “temperament,” his “risk-taking”, and — as the Obama campaign might say — his “erratic” ways.

But when the “two prizefighters,” as NBCs David Gregory called them, exited the stage, the attention shifted away from the chaotic past 48 hours and toward the previous 90 minutes.

Fox’s Brit Hume called it a “spirited debate,” but like other commentators, agreed that there was no standout moment that will be replayed on an endless loop.

“There was not in this debate, it didn’t seem to this observer anyway, one of the moment — that will be the sound bite of the night, that you know when you hear it — oh boy, that’s going to be the one on the morning programs, that’s going to be the one everybody’s talking about,” Hume said.

Moderator Jim Lehrer didn’t grandstand like other high-profile journalists during the primaries, and engaged the candidates, courteously pushing them to provide more specifics on what they would actually do in office. There weren’t any ‘gotcha’ questions to trip anyone up, or cause a major gaffe.

As expected, both campaigns claimed victory, and spin room surrogates appeared on screen to make their candidates’ case. Joe Biden appeared on all three cable networks, while Sarah Palin didn’t — leading CNN’s Wolf Blitzer to bring up her absence several times.

Of course, some partisans were quick to offer conclusive opinions. MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann said that there was no doubt Obama won, while Fox’s Bill Kristol contended McCain won. No surprises there.

“There will be a deal this weekend, and he will be vindicated,” Kristol said.

But for the most part, there was no knockout punch to easily give the victory to either Obama or McCain.

“I would have a hard time saying one person won this one,” said CNN’s David Gergen.

So without picking a clear-cut winner, many pundits analyzed….

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US destroyer watching hijacked ship off Somalia

September 27, 2008

By MOHAMED OLAD HASSAN, Associated Press

MOGADISHU, Somalia – A U.S. destroyer off the coast of Somalia closed in Saturday on a hijacked Ukrainian ship loaded with tanks and ammunition, watching it to ensure the pirates who seized it do not try to remove any cargo or crew.
In this May 28, 2008 file photo, the U.S. Navy destroyer, USS ... 
In this May 28, 2008 file photo, the U.S. Navy destroyer, USS Howard, sails off the coast of Hawaii during sonar exercises, on Wednesday, May 28, 2008. The Howard, off the coast of Somalia closed in Saturday, Sept. 27, 2008, on a hijacked Ukrainian ship loaded with tanks and ammunition, watching it to ensure the pirates who seized it do not try to remove any cargo or crew. (AP Photo/Hugh E. Gentry, File)
As Russian and American ships pursued the hijackers of the Ukrainian-operated vessel, pirates seized another ship off Somalia’s coast, an international anti-piracy group said.

The Greek tanker with a crew of 19 is carrying refined petroleum from Europe to the Middle East. It was ambushed Friday in the Gulf of Aden, said Noel Choong, who heads the International Maritime Bureau’s piracy reporting center based in Malaysia. He said pirates chased and fired at the ship before boarding it.

In Somalia, a man claiming to be spokesman of the pirates holding the Ukrainian ship said the hijackers want $35 million to release the vessel. But there was no way to immediately verify his claim that he represented the pirates.

On Thursday, pirates seized the Ukrainian ship Faina en route to Kenya with 33 Russian-built T-72 tanks and a substantial quantity of ammunition and spare parts. Russia’s navy said Friday it had dispatched a warship to the area, and the United States said American naval ships were tracking the Ukrainian ship with special concern because of the weaponry on board.

The hijackings were the latest in a series of audacious maritime attacks off the coast of Somalia, a war-torn country that has been without a functioning government since 1991.

A U.S. defense official said the destroyer USS Howard is pursuing the hijacked Ukrainian vessel and is now within a few thousand yards of it. The hijacked ship is anchored a few miles off the Somalia coast, said the official who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the situation.

The destroyer is watching to make sure the pirates do not try to remove anything, the official added.

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Medvedev calls for Russian missile shield

September 27, 2008

ORENBURG, Russia, Sept. 27 (UPI) — Russian President Dmitry Medvedev says his country needs to create its own anti-missile nuclear defense shield and is calling for “permanent readiness.”


Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (R) awards an officer during ... 
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (R) awards an officer during military exercises at the Donguz testing range near Orenburg, some 1300 kilometers (807 miles) southeast of Moscow September 26, 2008. Russia said on Friday it would build a space defence system and a new fleet of nuclear submarines by 2020, beefing up its nuclear deterrent at a time of heightened tensions with Washington. Picture taken September 26, 2008.REUTERS/Pool (RUSSIA)

Medvedev, responding to U.S. moves to establish an anti-missile shield in Eastern Europe, said Friday during military exercises in the southern Urals region of Orenburg that “a guaranteed nuclear deterrent system for various military and political circumstances must be provided by 2020,” The Times of London reported.

Medvedev also called for Russia to reorganize its military, saying “all combat formations must be upgraded to the permanent readiness category” by 2020, an effort that would include “mass production of warships, primarily nuclear cruisers carrying cruise missiles and multi-purpose submarines,” The Times said.

Also attending the Orenburg exercises was Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, whose country conducted joint naval exercises in the Caribbean Sea this week with Russian warships.

The Kremlin issued a statement calling the maneuvers a “counterweight to U.S. influence,” and adding that Chavez was seeking “a widening of our presence in the region.”

Chinese astronaut makes nation’s first spacewalk

September 27, 2008

BEIJING – A Chinese astronaut on Saturday performed the nation’s first-ever spacewalk, the latest milestone in an ambitious program that is increasingly rivaling the United States and Russia in its rapid expansion.

The Long-March II-F rocket carrying the Shenzhou VII manned ... 
The Long-March II-F rocket carrying the Shenzhou VII manned spacecraft blasts off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, Gansu province September 25, 2008.(Xinhua/Li Gang/Reuters)

Mission commander Zhai Zhigang floated out of the orbiter module’s hatch in the spacewalk, shown live on state broadcaster CCTV. Tethered to handles attached to the Shenzhou 7 ship’s orbital module’s exterior, Zhai remained outside for about 13 minutes before climbing back inside and closing the hatch behind him.

“Shenzhou 7 has left the module, physically feel very good. Greetings to all the people of the nation and all the people of the world,” Zhai said.

Fellow astronaut Liu Boming also emerged briefly from the capsule to hand Zhai a Chinese flag that he waved for an exterior camera filming the event. The third crew member, Jing Haipeng, monitored the ship from inside the re-entry module.

Top Communist Party officials including President Hu Jintao watched the spacewalk from a Beijing command center, breaking into applause with the successful completion of each stage of the maneuver.

The successful spacewalk paves the way for assembling a space station from two Shenzhou orbital modules, the next major goal of China’s manned spaceflight program. China is also pursuing lunar exploration and may attempt to land a man on the moon in the next decade — possibly ahead of NASA‘s 2020 target date for returning to the moon.

China launched its first manned mission, Shenzhou 5, in 2003, becoming only the third country after Russia and the United States to launch a man into space. That was followed by a two-man mission in 2005.

In step with its growing list of achievements, the military-backed program has grown progressively less secretive and officials have hinted in recent days at a desire for greater cooperation with other nations. China plans to mass produce the next version of the Shenzhou ship to service a future space station and says it may make such missions available to other countries.

Space cooperation between China and other nations has so far been limited and the U.S. has refused Chinese involvement in the international space station for fear it could gain technical secrets applicable to its arms industry.

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Paul Newman, actor who personified cool, dies

September 27, 2008

By JOHN CHRISTOFERSON, Associated Press Writer

WESTPORT, Conn. – Paul Newman, the Oscar-winning superstar who personified cool as the anti-hero of such films as “Hud,” “Cool Hand Luke” and “The Color of Money” — followed by a second act as an activist, race car driver and popcorn impresario — has died. He was 83.

Newman died Friday at his farmhouse near Westport following a long battle with cancer, publicist Jeff Sanderson said. He was surrounded by his family and close friends.

File photo shows Actor Paul Newman is on 'The Tonight Show,' in Burbank, California April 8, 2005. (Jim Ruymen REUTERS/Reuters)

Reuters Photo: File photo shows Actor Paul Newman is on ‘The Tonight Show,’ in Burbank, California

In May, Newman dropped plans to direct a fall production of “Of Mice and Men” at Connecticut’s Westport Country Playhouse, citing unspecified health issues. The following month, a friend disclosed that he was being treated for cancer and Martha Stewart, also a friend, posted photos on her Web site of Newman looking gaunt at a charity luncheon.

But true to his fiercely private nature, Newman remained cagey about his condition, reacting to reports that he had lung cancer with a statement saying only that he was “doing nicely.”

As an actor, Newman got his start in theater and on television during the 1950s, and went on to become one of the world’s most enduring and popular film stars, a legend held in awe by his peers. He was nominated for Academy Awards 10 times, winning one Oscar and two honorary ones, and had major roles in more than 50 motion pictures, including “Exodus,” “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” “The Verdict,” “The Sting” and “Absence of Malice.”

Newman worked with some of the greatest directors of the past half century, from Alfred Hitchcock and John Huston to Robert Altman, Martin Scorsese and the Coen brothers. His co-stars included Elizabeth Taylor, Lauren Bacall, Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks and, most famously, Robert Redford, his sidekick in “Butch Cassidy” and “The Sting.”

He sometimes teamed with his wife and fellow Oscar winner, Joanne Woodward, with whom he had one of Hollywood‘s rare long-term marriages. “I have steak at home, why go out for hamburger?” Newman told Playboy magazine when asked if he was tempted to stray. They wed in 1958, around the same time they both appeared in “The Long Hot Summer.” Newman also directed her in several films, including “Rachel, Rachel” and “The Glass Menagerie.”

With his strong, classically handsome face and piercing blue eyes, Newman was a heartthrob just as likely to play against his looks, becoming a favorite with critics for his convincing portrayals of rebels, tough guys and losers. “I was always a character actor,” he once said. “I just looked like Little Red Riding Hood.”

Newman had a soft spot for underdogs in real life, giving tens of millions to charities through his food company and setting up camps for severely ill children. Passionately opposed to the Vietnam War, and in favor of civil rights, he was so famously liberal that he ended up on President Nixon’s “enemies list,” one of the actor’s proudest achievements, he liked to say.


A screen legend by his mid-40s, he waited a long time for his first competitive Oscar, winning in 1987 for “The Color of Money,” a reprise of the role of pool shark “Fast Eddie” Felson, whom Newman portrayed in the 1961 film “The Hustler.”

In that film, Newman delivered a magnetic performance as the smooth-talking, whiskey-chugging pool shark who takes on Minnesota Fats — played by Jackie Gleason — and becomes entangled with a gambler played by George C. Scott. In the sequel — directed by Scorsese — “Fast Eddie” is no longer the high-stakes hustler he once was, but an aging liquor salesman who takes a young pool player (Cruise) under his wing before making a comeback.

He won an honorary Oscar in 1986 “in recognition of his many and memorable compelling screen performances and for his personal integrity and dedication to his craft.” In 1994, he won a third Oscar, the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, for his charitable work.

His most recent academy nod was a supporting actor nomination for the 2002 film “Road to Perdition.” One of Newman’s nominations was as a producer; the other nine were in acting categories. (Jack Nicholson holds the record among actors for Oscar nominations, with 12; actress Meryl Streep has had 14.)

As he passed his 80th birthday, he remained in demand, winning an Emmy and a Golden Globe for the 2005 HBO drama “Empire Falls” and providing the voice of a crusty 1951 car in the 2006 Disney-Pixar hit, “Cars.”

But in May 2007, he told ABC’s “Good Morning America” he had given up acting, though he intended to remain active in charity projects. “I’m not able to work anymore as an actor at the level I would want to,” he said. “You start to lose your memory, your confidence, your invention. So that’s pretty much a closed book for me.”

Newman also turned to producing and directing. In 1968, he directed “Rachel, Rachel,” a film about a lonely spinster’s rebirth. The movie received four Oscar nominations, including Newman, for producer of a best motion picture, and Woodward, for best actress. The film earned Newman the best director award from the New York Film Critics Circle.

In the 1970s, Newman, admittedly bored with acting, became fascinated with auto racing, a sport he studied when he starred in the 1969 film, “Winning.” After turning professional in 1977, Newman and his driving team made strong showings in several major races, including fifth place in Daytona in 1977 and second place in the Le Mans in 1979.

“Racing is the best way I know to get away from all the rubbish of Hollywood,” he told People magazine in 1979.

Newman later became a car owner and formed a partnership with Carl Haas, starting Newman/Haas Racing in 1983 and joining the CART series. Hiring Mario Andretti as its first driver, the team was an instant success, and throughout the last 26 years, the team — now known as Newman/Haas/Lanigan and part of the IndyCar Series — has won 107 races and eight series championships.

Despite his love of race cars, Newman continued to make movies and continued to pile up Oscar nominations, his looks remarkably intact, his acting becoming more subtle, nothing like the mannered method performances of his early years, when he was sometimes dismissed as a Brando imitator.

In 1995, he was nominated for an Oscar for his slyest, most understated work yet, the town curmudgeon and deadbeat in “Nobody’s Fool.” New York Times critic Caryn James found his acting “without cheap sentiment and self-pity,” and observed, “It says everything about Mr. Newman’s performance, the single best of this year and among the finest he has ever given, that you never stop to wonder how a guy as good-looking as Paul Newman ended up this way.”

Newman, who shunned Hollywood life, was reluctant to give interviews and usually refused to sign autographs because he found the majesty of the act offensive, according to one friend. He also claimed that he never read reviews of his movies.

“If they’re good you get a fat head and if they’re bad you’re depressed for three weeks,” he said.

Off the screen, Newman had a taste for beer and was known for his practical jokes. He once had a Porsche installed in Redford’s hallway — crushed and covered with ribbons.

“I think that my sense of humor is the only thing that keeps me sane,” he told Newsweek magazine in a 1994 interview.

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CBS Says Obama Won First Debate

September 27, 2008

UPDATED WITH FINAL NUMBERS CBS News and Knowledge Networks conducted a nationally representative poll of approximately 500 uncommitted voters reacting to the debate in the minutes after it happened.

Thirty-nine percent of uncommitted voters who watched the debate tonight thought Barack Obama was the winner. Twenty-four percent thought John McCain won. Thirty-seven percent saw it as a draw.

Section Front

Forty-six percent of uncommitted voters said their opinion of Obama got better tonight. Thirty-two percent said their opinion of McCain got better.

Sixty-six percent of uncommitted voters think Obama would make the right decisions about the economy. Forty-two percent think McCain would.

Forty-eight percent of these voters think Obama would make the right decisions about Iraq. Fifty-six percent think McCain would.

We will have a full report on the poll later on. Uncommitted voters are those who don’t yet know who they will vote for, or who have chosen a candidate but may still change their minds.

The margin of sampling error could be plus or minus 4 percentage points for results based on the entire sample.

President Bush, Obama, McCain, Leaders All In White House: What Happened?

September 27, 2008

By Marc Ambinder
The Atlantic

Though Sen. Chris Dodd implied that Sen. McCain sandbagged the rest of the negotiators by bringing up alternative proposals, McCain himself did not bring up those proposals, according to four independent sources briefed by four different principals inside the meeting, including two Republicans and two Democrats.

“McCain has not attacked the Paulson deal,” said a third Republican who was briefed by McCain direclty. “Unlike the [Democrats] in the [White House] meeting, he didn’t raise his voice or cause a ruckus. He is urging all sides to come together.

U.S. President George W. Bush (C) meets with Bicameral and Bipartisan ...
U.S. President George W. Bush (C) meets with Bicameral and Bipartisan Members of Congress to discuss a Wall Street bailout plan in the Cabinet Room at the White House in Washington, September 25, 2008. Bush is joined by (L-R) Republican presidential nominee Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Minority House leader John Boehner (R-OH), House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Senate Majority leader Senator Harry Reid (D-NV), Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Democratic presidential nominee Senator Barack Obama (D-IL).REUTERS/Jim Young

Republicans like John Boehner brought up the concerns of House GOPers and McCain acknowledged hearing about their concerns.  And McCain, and staffers, did seek to gauge the level of support of the GOP working group’s white paper. The Democrats were left with the impression that McCain endorsed the GOP efforts, but they concede that he did not raise them directly.

The fact is that Boehner doesn’t have 100 votes from his conference — 100 votes that Nancy Pelosi really wants. And that’s not McCain’s fault.


But Boehner and the White House — and McCain — if they want to get something passed — do have the responsibility to persuade these Republicans to support the bailout .

After all, if not to get these recalcitrant Republicans on board, why did McCain go to Washington in the first place?



To Torpedo McCain, Letterman, CBS Engineered Video “Coup” With Couric

September 27, 2008

By Don Kaplan
The New York Post

CBS News executives were red-faced yesterday trying to explain how David Letterman used unaired news footage of Sen. John McCain with Katie Couric to embarrass the Republican presidential candidate.

McCain canceled his appearance on Letterman’s show late Wednesday, several hours before he was due to appear – claiming he had to return to Washington to deal with the financial crisis.

But when Letterman discovered the Senator sitting down with Couric at the same time he was supposed to be taping “Late Night,” he unloaded on McCain.

“I’m more than a little disappointed by this behavior,” Letterman told viewers. “This doesn’t smell right.”

“This is not the way a tested hero behaves. Somebody’s putting something in his Metamucil,” he said.

Later in the show, Letterman showed an internal, live video of McCain being tended to by a make-up artist before the Couric interview. Both Couric and Letterman are on CBS.

Letterman said on the air that McCain had called him personally to apologize and said he was racing to the airport.

“He doesn’t seem to be racing to the airport, does he?” Letterman told viewers.

“I feel like we’ve caught him getting a manicure,” Letterman quipped, as a make-up woman dabbed at McCain’s face.

Asked if CBS officials had a problem with Letterman using the internal news feed, a spokeswoman for “The Evening News” refused to address the issue.

But several CBS News executives – who asked not to be identified – said that the stunt did not go down well within the news division.

“If we had done something like that to him, someone around here would end up getting fired,” one said.

News officials found out Letterman was using the internal feed shortly after it showed up on an internal CBS feed carrying the “Late Show” taping.

“They were pretty aggravated,” a CBS News source told The Post.

“But they were not about to start a fight with Letterman,” the source said. “We’re in the middle of a heavy, heavy news cycle and Letterman is Letterman.

“He does whatever he wants and always has.”

McCain spokeswoman Nicole Wallace said that the campaign canceled on Letterman because it “felt this wasn’t a night for comedy.”

Why Obama Won The First Debate

September 27, 2008

By Toby Harnden
The Telegraph (UK)

It was a very close run thing but the night goes to Barack Obama on points. John McCain came out swinging and landed some good punches but Obama never got rattled and jabbed back consistently. Although Obama is the front runner overall he was the underdog in this debate because the main subject was foreign policy.

After a bad week, McCain needed a game changer and this wasn’t it. Obama, on the other hand, needed to hold his own on McCain’s subject turf and he achieved that. The biggest worry about Obama is his readiness to lead and be commander-in-chief. Tonight, he may well have edged over that threshold.

McCain performed very well indeed and put Obama on the defensive several times – but he was unlucky in that Obama was on form too (he had some off days against Hillary Clinton) and ….

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Floods kill 25 in Vietnam

September 27, 2008

HANOI (AFP) – The death toll from floods in northern Vietnam triggered by Typhoon Hagupit has risen to at least 25 while four others are missing, disaster officials said Saturday.

Flood-affected people in northern Vietnam, where the death toll ... 
Flood-affected people in northern Vietnam, where the death toll from floods triggered by Typhoon Hagupit has risen to at least 25 while four others are missing(AFP)

The victims came from five different provinces, 10 of them from mountainous Son La, said an online report from the national flood and storm control department. State media had reported 16 dead on Friday.

Another three bodies have been recovered in Lang Son province which borders China, bringing the death toll there to seven, said Bui Thanh, a provincial disaster official.

“These people were swept away during floods,” he told AFP, adding that little rain had been reported since Saturday morning.

In Bac Giang province, two boys aged four and 10 and a mobile phone company technician were among the latest victims of the floods.

“The man, from Viettel company, fell into the strong currents while he was trying to prevent flood water from entering a telecom station,” said Bui Lien Son, deputy head of the province’s flood and storm office.

A total of 27 people have been reported injured. Thousands of houses were inundated or destroyed while more than 97,700 hectares (241,000 acres) of crops had been damaged since floods and heavy rains ravaged the region on Wednesday night.

State-run television VTV showed people in Bac Giang and Quang Ninh provinces taking refuge on the roofs of houses flooded to the eaves or on hills.

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