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Daily Archives: 06/03/2010

‘Golden Girl’ Rue McClanahan dies



June 3, 2010

NEW YORK – Rue McClanahan, the Emmy-winning actress who brought the sexually liberated Southern belle Blanche Devereaux to life on the hit TV series “The Golden Girls,” has died. She was 76.

Her manager Barbara Lawrence said McClanahan died Thursday at 1 a.m. of a stroke.

She had undergone treatment for breast cancer in 1997 and later lectured to cancer support groups on “aging gracefully.” In 2009, she had heart bypass surgery.

McClanahan had an active career in off-Broadway and regional stages in the 1960s before she was tapped for TV in the 1970s for the key best-friend character on the hit series “Maude,” starring Beatrice Arthur. After that series ended in 1978, McClanahan landed the role as Aunt Fran on “Mama’s Family” in 1983.

But her most loved role came in 1985 when she co-starred with Arthur, Betty White and Estelle Getty in “The Golden Girls,” a runaway hit that broke the sitcom mold by focusing on the foibles of four aging — and frequently eccentric — women living together in Miami.

“Golden Girls” aimed to show “that when people mature, they add layers,” she told The New York Times in 1985. “They don’t turn into other creatures. The truth is we all still have our child, our adolescent, and your young woman living in us.”

Blanche, who called her father “Big Daddy,” was a frequent target of roommates Dorothy, Rose and the outspoken Sophia (Getty), who would fire off zingers at Blanche such as, “Your life’s an open blouse.”

McClanahan snagged an Emmy for her work on the show in 1987. In an Associated Press interview that year, McClanahan said Blanche was unlike any other role she had ever played.

“Probably the closest I’ve ever done was Blanche DuBois in ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ at the Pasadena Playhouse,” she said. “I think, too, that’s where the name came from, although my character is not a drinker and not crazy.”

Her Blanche Devereaux, she said, “is in love with life and she loves men. I think she has an attitude toward women that’s competitive. She is friends with Dorothy and Rose, but if she has enough provocation she becomes competitive with them. I think basically she’s insecure. It’s the other side of the Don Juan syndrome.”

After “The Golden Girls” was canceled in 1992, McClanahan, White and Getty reprised their roles in a short-lived spinoff, “Golden Palace.”

McClanahan continued working in television, on stage and in film, appearing in the Jack Lemmon-Walter Matthau vehicle “Out to Sea” and as the biology teacher in “Starship Troopers.”

She stepped in to portray Madame Morrible, the crafty headmistress, for a time in “Wicked,” Broadway’s long-running “Wizard of Oz” prequel.

In 2008, McClanahan appeared in the Logo comedy “Sordid Lives: The Series,” playing the slightly addled, elderly mother of an institutionalized drag queen.

During production, McClanahan was recovering from 2007 surgery on her knee. It didn’t stop her from filming a sex scene in which the bed broke, forcing her to hang on to a windowsill to avoid tumbling off.

McClanahan was born Eddi-Rue McClanahan in Healdton, Okla., to building contractor William McClanahan and his wife, Dreda Rheua-Nell, a beautician. She graduated with honors from the University of Tulsa with a degree in German and theater arts.

McClanahan’s acting career began on the stage. According to a 1985 Los Angeles Times profile, she appeared at the Pasadena (Calif.) Playhouse, studied in New York with Uta Hagen and Harold Clurman, and worked in soaps and on the stage.

She won an Obie — the off-Broadway version of the Tony — in 1970 for “Who’s Happy Now,” playing the “other woman” in a family drama written by Oliver Hailey. She reprised the role in a 1975 television version; in a review, The New York Times described her character as “an irrepressible belle given to frequent bouts of `wooziness’ and occasional bursts of shrewdness.”

She had appeared only sporadically on television until producer Norman Lear tapped her for a guest role on “All in the Family” in 1971.

She went from there to a regular role in the “All in the Family” spinoff “Maude,” playing Vivian, the neighbor and best friend to Arthur in the starring role.

When Arthur died in April 2009, McClanahan recalled that she had felt constrained by “Golden Girls” during the later years of its run. “Bea liked to be the star of the show. She didn’t really like to do that ensemble playing,” McClanahan said.

McClanahan was married six times: Tom Bish, with whom she had a son, Mark Bish; actor Norman Hartweg; Peter D’Maio; Gus Fisher; and Tom Keel. She married husband Morrow Wilson on Christmas Day in 1997.

She called her 2007 memoir “My First Five Husbands … And the Ones Who Got Away.”

Nelson Mandela ‘will attend World Cup opening’


June 3, 2010

(BBC)  Former South African President Nelson Mandela will attend the opening ceremony of the World Cup, the country’s sports minister has said.

Makhenkesi Stofile said the anti-apartheid icon had requested tickets for the opening and closing events.

Previously the Mandela family had said he was too frail to attend the tournament which starts next week.

Mr Mandela, who will be 92 next month, campaigned for the World Cup to come to South Africa.

“Mandela has demanded to attend the World Cup,” Mr Stofile said.

His charity, the Mandela Foundation, has not confirmed his attendance, citing security reasons.

Some 350,000 people are expected to visit South Africa for the World Cup, which is being held in Africa for the first time.

U.N. Investigator Calls for Halt to CIA Drone Killings




June 3, 2010

A United Nations investigator called Wednesday for a halt to CIA-directed drone strikes on suspected Islamic militants, warning that killings ordered far from the battlefield could lead to a “Playstation” mentality.

Philip Alston, U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, said missile strikes could be justified only when it was impossible to capture insurgents alive instead and only if they were carried out by regular U.S. armed forces operating with proper oversight and respect for the rules of war.

The Central Intelligence Agency’s use of unmanned Predator or Reaper drones in Afghanistan and Pakistan against al Qaeda and Taliban suspects had led to the death of “many hundreds,” including innocent civilians, he said in a 29-page report.

“Intelligence agencies, which by definition are determined to remain unaccountable except to their own paymasters, have no place in running programs that kill people in other countries,” Alston said.

The world does not know when and where the CIA is authorized to kill, its criteria for choosing targets, whether they are lawful killings, and how it follows up when civilians are illegally killed, said Alston, an independent expert who will present his report to the U.N. Human Rights Council Thursday.

The CIA disputed the investigator’s conclusion.

“Without discussing or confirming any specific action or program, this agency’s operations unfold within a framework of law and close government oversight. The accountability’s real, and it would be wrong for anyone to suggest otherwise,” a CIA spokesman said.The United States is among the Geneva forum’s 47 members.

Under President Barack Obama, the CIA has stepped up its drone strikes in the tribal zone of Pakistan bordering Afghanistan, targeting not only high-level al Qaeda and Taliban targets but largely unknown foot soldiers as well.

Following a directive first issued by former President George W. Bush and continued by Obama, the CIA has widened the “target set” for drone strikes in Pakistan, Reuters reported last month.

Al Qaeda’s third-in-command, Sheikh Sa’id al-Masri, is believed to have been killed in May in a U.S. missile strike in Pakistan, U.S. officials said earlier this week.

The United States is believed to control the fleet of drones from CIA headquarters in Virginia, coordinating with civilian pilots near hidden airfields in Afghanistan and Pakistan who fly the drones remotely, according to Alston, an Australian who teaches at New York University School of Law.


“Because operators are based thousands of miles away from the battlefield, and undertake operations entirely through computer screens and remote audio-feed, there is a risk of developing a ‘Playstation’ mentality to killing,” he said, referring to the popular Sony video game console.

Under international law, targeted killings are permitted in armed conflicts when used against fighters or civilians who engage directly in combat-like activities, Alston said. “But they are increasingly being used far from any battle zone.”

Israel stands accused of ordering the killing of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a Hamas military commander, in a Dubai hotel room in January. Israel has neither confirmed nor denied a role in the murder.

Alston said Russia was also suspected of conducting targeted killings in Chechnya and beyond the breakaway region as part of its counter-terrorism operations.

The United States is among 40 countries with drone technology, according to Alston. Britain, China, France, India, Iran, Israel, Russia and Turkey are named as having or seeking the capacity to fire missiles from their drones.

But countries should use graduated force and where possible capture suspects rather than kill them, he said.

“Thus, rather than using drone strikes, U.S. forces should, wherever and whenever possible, conduct arrests or use less-than-lethal force to restrain,” he said.

UN Criticizes US Use of Drones in Killing Al Qaeda’s No. 3


June 3, 2010

(Israelnationalnews.com) The United Nations has criticized the United States’ use of armed drones in an attack that killed the Number 3 commander in the international Al Qaeda terrorist organization.

Philip Alston, the U.N. Special Representative on Extrajudicial Executions, called on the United States to limit its use of the technology outside the direct combat theaters in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Sheikh Said Al-Masri was assassinated by a CIA-operated drone in a tribal area of Pakistan near the border of Afghanistan sometime last week.

Alston issued a 29-page report warning that the growing use of the armed drones by the U.S. would result in “competing drone attacks” by dozens of countries against anyone “labeled as terrorists by one group or another.” According to the U.N. official himself, at least 40 other countries already have drone technology.

An introductory statement that accompanied the report said, “The United States seems oblivious to this fact when it asserts an ever-expanding entitlement for itself to target individuals across the globe. But this strongly-asserted but ill-defined license to kill without accountability is not an entitlement which the United States or other states can have without doing grave damage to the rules designed to protect the right to life and prevent extrajudicial executions.”

The report was submitted to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, which the U.S. joined after President Barack Obama took office.

Alston acknowledged Wednesday in an interview with The New York Times that the Al Qaeda terrorist was “a very clearly acceptable target.” He went on to wonder “who the other strikes are against, and what efforts are being made to comply with the rules.”

The United States did not respond directly to the report, although a White House spokesman referred reporters to an earlier speech by State Department legal adviser Harold Koh.

“A state that is engagement in an armed conflict or in legitimate self-defense is not required to provide targets with legal process before the state may use lethal force,” Koh said.

But the United Nations has questioned the State Department’s definition of what a legitimate target might be, and rejected “pre-emptive self-defense” as a justification for killing terrorism suspects away from the direct combat theater.

Israel PM Netanyahu welcomes new UN sanctions against Iran

June 10, 2010

JERUSALEM (CHANNEL NEWS ASIA)  Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed new sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council against the Jewish state’s arch-foe Iran in a statement released by his office on Thursday.

“The resolution passed today (Wednesday) in the Security Council through (US) President (Barack) Obama’s determined efforts is a positive step,” Netanyahu said.

“The resolution makes clear to Iran that the leading powers of the world are opposed to its nuclear weapons programme,” he added.

“We hope that today’s positive step will be followed by strong action on the part of individual countries, including those targeting Iran’s energy sector.”

12 nations on the Security Council voted Wednesday in favour of a fourth set of sanctions on Iran, with Lebanon abstaining, and Brazil and Turkey voting against, after Tehran defied earlier UN demands to suspend uranium enrichment.

“These resolutions are not worth a dime for the Iranian nation,” hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told Iran’s ISNA news agency in Tajikistan, where he is on a two-day visit.

“I gave one of them (the world powers) a message that the resolutions you issue are like a used hanky which should be thrown in the dust bin.”

Israel, which has the Middle East’s sole if undeclared nuclear arsenal, regards Iran as its principal threat after repeated predictions by Ahmadinejad of the Jewish state’s demise.

Israeli leaders have refused to rule out a resort to military action to prevent Iran developing a nuclear weapons capability.

Iran insists that its nuclear programme is aimed solely at power generation and medical research and says that the international community should focus its attention on Israel, which, unlike Iran, is not a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Indonesia Ailing Rebel Leader Dies


June 3, 2010

(Kompas)  Founder of Free Aceh Movement Tengku Hasan Tiro passed away after having a treatment at ICCU Zainal Abidin Hospital. “That’s right, Hasan Tiro passed away,” confirmed the spokesman of Aceh handover committee Lingga Dismsyah  on Thursday.  

Indonesia restored the citizenship of the ailing founder of Aceh’s separatist rebel movement on Wednesday after three decades of exile and a civil war in which thousands died.  Hasan di Tiro, 84, who returned home in 2008, had been hospitalized since last month in the Aceh’s provincial capital with a failing heart and a lung infection.  (*)

Kevin Costner, wife welcome third child, a girl



June 3, 2010

LOS ANGELES – Kevin Costner and his wife have welcomed their third child, a girl, into the world.

Costner’s 36-year-old wife, Christine, gave birth to Grace Avery Costner on Wednesday afternoon in Los Angeles.

The actor’s publicist Arnold Robinson says mother and daughter are doing well.

The couple have two other children, 1-year-old Hayes and 3-year-old Cayden. The 55-year-old actor has three grown children from a previous marriage.

Pope to visit Cyprus on Friday


Vatican City, Jun 2, 2010 / 08:55 pm (CNA).- Pope Benedict’s 16th international journey will take him to Cyprus on Friday. It is hoped that his visit will bring a “wind of peace” to the nation.

The most anticipated event of the three-day tour is Sunday Mass on the occasion of the publication of the Instrumentum laboris for next October’s Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops.

Following his arrival on June 4 to the city of Paphos, there will be an ecumenical celebration at the church of Agia Kiriaki Chrysopolitissa. After the first day, all events will take place in the capital city of Nicosia.

Saturday, June 5, the busiest day of the trip, will see the Pope take part a variety of events: a meeting with the president, civil authorities and diplomats, followed by an encounter with the Cypriot Catholic community and then a courtesy visit to His Beatitude Chrysostomos II, Archbishop of New Justiniana and All Cyprus. The day’s program ends with the celebration of Mass with priests, religious, deacons, catechists and representatives of Cyprian ecclesial movements.

The schedule for the final day of the journey, June 6, includes the Holy Mass on the occasion of the working document’s publication followed by the Angelus. Papal nuncio to Cyprus, Archbishop Antonio Franco, told L’Osservatore Romano (LOR) on Wednesday that 20,000 people are expected to be on hand for the Eucharistic Celebration, a striking figure considering there are only 25,000 registered Catholics on the island.

That afternoon, the Holy Father will visit the Maronite Church of Cyprus before his departure.

Archbishop Franco, who is also nuncio to Israel and apostolic delegate to Jerusalem and Palestine, explained to LOR that the government and the Orthodox and Catholic Churches are “working full time for a dignified welcome” for the Pope on the island.

He described a “lively” expectation for the encounter on the part of Cypriots and said that “everyone hopes that his visit brings a wind of peace and a spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation.”

PM Netanyahu : We regret the loss of life

July 2, 2010

(KATAKAMI / FRANCE24/AFP) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday ruled out any apology from his country for a deadly commando raid on a Turkish Gaza-bound aid ship in May that killed nine Turks.

“Israel cannot apologise because its soldiers had to defend themselves to avoid being lynched by a crowd,” Netanyahu said in an interview broadcast on public television.

“We regret the loss of life,” Netanyahu said.

Asked if Israel would be willing to pay compensation to the families of the victims, he said: “We have not discussed that.”

On May 31, Israeli special forces stormed a flotilla of six ships carrying aid for blockaded Gaza, killing nine Turks on board one of the vessels and sparking international outrage and straining ties with Ankara.

Israel has defended itself saying it had to stop vessels from travelling to Gaza since they could be carrying weapons for Hamas, an Islamist movement committed to the destruction of Israel which controls that Palestinian territory.

Turkey recalled its ambassador from Tel Aviv and cancelled three planned joint military exercises after the raid. It also twice denied permission to Israeli military aircraft to use its air space.

Netanyahu’s remarks come two days after Trade Minister Benjamin Ben Eliezer and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu held secret talks in Brussels, to try and ease the feud sparked by the deadly raid.

The talks sparked tensions in Israel as it emerged that Netanyahu gave the go-ahead for the meeting without informing hardline Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who has said he is opposed to any apology for the raid.

Netanyahu met Lieberman on Friday to mend ties with the firebrand top diplomat.

At the meeting, Lieberman reiterated that he does not want Israel to apologise or pay the compensation Turkey is seeking, saying it would harm Israel’s international standing, an official said.

Netanyahu praised the Brussels talks.

“This meeting was important in itself. It is important for Turkey and for israel that such meetings take place,” he said.

The prime minister also spoke about the commission set up by Israel to probe the raid, saying the Jewish state “has nothing to hide.”

“This commission has asked for widespread prerogatives and we have agreed to its request because we have nothing to hide,” he said.

Netanyahu also said that the commission “meets the demands” of the international community which has called for an investigation into the deadly operation.

Israel has resisted calls for an international probe into the raid, but appointed a commission of inquiry headed by a retired Supreme Court judge with two international observers.

The military has launched its own internal investigation.

Elsewhere Netanyahu said that during a visit to Washington next week for talks with US President Barack Obama he will discuss Iran’s nuclear programme and peace talks with the Palestinians.

“I will do everything possible to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, and to promote the peace process,” with the Palestinians, Netanyahu said of his July 6 talks with Obama.

Netanyahu had to cancel a scheduled meeting with Obama to return home after the deadly May 31 raid.

US State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said on Thursday that he anticipated Netanyahu would give Obama “a report on the early stages of the Israeli investigation into the flotilla tragedy.”

Obama: End dependence on fossil fuels


June 2, 2010

PITTSBURGH (AP)  – Seizing on a disastrous oil spill to advance a cause, President Barack Obama on Wednesday called on Congress to roll back billions of dollars in tax breaks for oil and pass a clean-energy bill that he says would help the nation end its dependence on fossil fuels.

Obama predicted that he would find the political support for legislation that would dramatically alter the way Americans fuel their homes and cars, including placing a price on carbon pollution, even though such legislation is politically divisive and remains bogged in the Senate.

“The votes may not be there right now, but I intend to find them in the coming months,” Obama told an audience at Carnegie Mellon University. “I will continue to make the case for a clean energy future wherever and whenever I can, and I will work with anyone to get this done. And we will get it done.”

Obama said the country’s continuing dependence on fossil fuels “will jeopardize our national security, it will smother our planet and will continue to put our economy and our environment at risk.”

The president spoke as Americans remain deeply frustrated by the worst oil spill in the nation’s history, which is still spewing crude in the Gulf of Mexico more than a month after a BP drilling rig sank. He sought anew to connect to that public angst while promising that “we’re waging this battle every minute of every day” to plug the gushing oil well deep below the sea’s surface.

The proposal to roll back oil company tax breaks is something Obama has discussed in the past, and included in his most recent budget proposal, but it’s not been a talking point of late. Now with the spill casting Big Oil in the worst possible light, calling for the elimination of oil company subsidies is one more way for Obama to show the public he wants to hold the industry accountable.

“The time has come, once and for all, for this nation to fully embrace a clean energy future,” the president said.

That means improving energy efficiency, tapping natural gas reserves, pursuing nuclear power “and it means rolling back billions of dollars in tax breaks to oil companies so we can prioritize investments in clean energy research and development.”

Obama said that the Gulf spill “may prove to be a result of human error — or corporations taking dangerous shortcuts that compromised safety” — but that deepwater drilling is inherently risky and the U.S. cannot rely solely on fossil fuels.

Obama also used the speech to lash out at Republicans with partisan rhetoric, saying they have mostly “sat on the sidelines and shouted from the bleachers” as he’s tried to restore the economy.

The GOP, Obama said, has fought him on tax cuts for small businesses, tax credits for college tuition, new spending on clean energy and more.

The timing comes as Obama, juggling the oil-spill disaster in the Gulf and mounting foreign crises, tried to assure the country that he is also working on the people’s chief concern — the economy. The president’s political speech also underscores the importance of the upcoming midterm elections, in which the outcome of House and Senate races could shape Obama’s ability to enact his agenda for the rest of his term.

The president said that as the election approaches, he expects Republicans to make the same economic argument they have for decades.

He described that as giving tax cut to millionaires “who didn’t need them,” gutting regulations and putting industry insiders in charge of oversight, as well as shortchanging investment in research.

“To be fair, a good deal of the other party’s opposition to our agenda has also been rooted in their sincere and fundamental belief about government,” Obama said. “It’s a belief that government has little or no role to play in helping this nation meet its collective challenges.”