How Obama can end Congo conflict












Conflict in Congo


Conflict in Congo


Conflict in Congo


Conflict in Congo


Conflict in Congo








STORY HIGHLIGHTS


  • President Obama can help end the Congo conflict for good, says Vava Tampa

  • Obama has asked Rwanda to end all support to armed groups in the Congo

  • FDLR militia gang is a threat to stability and must leave Congo

  • Obama must push for change in Congolese government, argues Tampa




Editor's note: Vava Tampa is the founder of Save the Congo, a London-based campaign to tackle "the impunity, insecurity, institutional failure and the international trade of minerals funding the wars in Democratic Republic of the Congo." Follow Vava Tampa on twitter: @VavaTampa


(CNN) -- Now that President Obama has taken a public stand on the warlords and militia gangs tyrannizing DR Congo, there is a sense that the next chapter in the human tragedy that has been raging there over the past decade and half is about to be written -- or so we can hope.


In the DRC -- Africa's largest sub-Saharan country -- invasions, proxy wars and humanitarian crises have senselessly shut down millions of lives, displaced millions more from their homes and left countless women and young girls brutally raped with the world barely raising an eyebrow.


The latest murderous attempt by the M23 militia gang to besiege Goma, the strategic regional capital of Congo's eastern province of North Kivu, seems to have backfired.



Vava Tampa

Vava Tampa



The United Nations says Rwanda has helped to create and militarily supported M23. Although Rwandan President Paul Kagame denies backing M23, the accusation has taken off some of the international gloss he had long enjoyed in the West, and precipitated cuts and suspension of aid money that goes directly to the Kagame regime by the Netherlands, Sweden, Germany, Britain and the European Union.


The United States, which gives no money directly to the Rwandan government, suspended its military aid. In a baffling expression of a refinement of the U.S. position, President Obama made a rare telephone call to Kagame to emphasize "the importance of permanently ending all support to armed groups in the DRC." That set a firm red line on the situation in that region, the first one by President Obama since becoming president in 2008.
















Watch video: Kagame on Congo


This was certainly right and good. Kagame is no fool; the diplomatic but emphatic content of that telephone call, monitored by White House's National Security staff and published thereafter for public consumption, speaks volumes. He clearly understood the implicit threat. But it was not good enough.


Left unsaid is that withholding aid money that goes directly to the Kagame regime has not changed many realities on the ground -- a painful reminder of the limits of what previous half-hearted, ambivalent international attempts to halt the crisis in that country had achieved.


However, the situation is not hopeless. President Obama can help to halt the wars engulfing the Congo. It is both economically and politically affordable.


Here is my suggestion -- a three-point road map, if you like, for President Obama, should he choose to put the weight of the United States squarely on the side of the Congolese and engage much more robustly to help end the world's bloodiest war and human tragedy.


Read more: Why the world is ignoring Congo war


1. Changes in Kinshasa


If we are to be blunt with ourselves, Congo's major problem today -- the chief reason that country remains on its knees -- is its president Joseph Kabila. Paul Kagame is just a symptom, at least in theory.


The crisis of leadership in the capital Kinshasa, the disastrous blend of lack of political legitimacy and moral authority, mixed with poor governance and vision deficiency, then compounded with dilapidated state institutions, has become the common denominator to the ills and wrongs that continues to overwhelm the Congo.


In other words, peace will never be secured in Congo, if the moribund status quo is still strutting around Kinshasa.


Obama's minimum objective in regard to ending the wars and human tragedy engulfing the Congo should be to push for changes in Kinshasa. He must make this one of the "10 Commandments" of the Obama Doctrine.


Circumstances demand it to re-energize Congo's chance of success and to enable the renaissance of a "New Africa." And given the effects of Congo's mounting death toll and the speed at which HIV/AIDS is spreading because of the use of rape as a weapon of war, the sooner the better.


2. Keep Kagame in the naughty corner


The wars and human tragedy engulfing the Congo have many fathers and many layers. Rwanda, and to some extent Uganda -- run by Africa's two dearest autocratic but staunchly pro-American regimes -- are, as they have been many times in the past, despite their denials, continuing to provide support to warlords and militia gangs terrorizing the Congolese people.


This is not an apocryphal claim, it's an open secret in Kinshasa, Kampala and Kigali as much as it is in Washington or White Hall, and as real as Charles Taylor's role in Sierra Leone or Iran's support to Hezbollah.



If President Obama is remotely serious about saving lives in Congo, then fracturing Rwanda's ability to directly or indirectly harbor warlords ... is critical.
Vava Tampa, Save the Congo



Indeed, reporters across Congo and across the region would testify to this. Kigali has been, one can safely argue, the sole shareholder in the M23 militia gang -- and its elder sisters CNDP and RCD-Goma.


It cannot wash its hands in Pontius Pilate fashion of either the ICC-wanted M23 warlord Bosco Ntaganda, also known as The Terminator, or Laurent Nkunda, who is wanted by the Congolese government for war crimes and is under house arrest in Kigali.


Read more: Prosecutor seeks new Congo war crimes warrants


If President Obama is remotely serious about saving lives in Congo, then fracturing Rwanda's ability to directly or indirectly harbor warlords, support militia gangs, militarize or ethnicize the wars in Congo for control of Congo's easily appropriable but highly valuable natural resources is critical, however politically disgruntling it may be to some in the State Department.


It would reduce the scale, scope and intensity of the killing, raping and uprooting of the Congolese, it would crush Kinshasa's ability to use external support to warlords and militia gangs as an alibi for a lack of progress and, above all, decrease the growing unease of the Congolese towards Rwanda over the crimes of FDLR and the role played by their government in Congo.


3. FDLR


The continued existence in Congo of FDLR, a Rwandan militia gang made up largely of Hutus -- whose leadership took part in the 1994 genocide of Tutsi -- remains one of the most persistent and serious threats to stability in Congo and the region.


Addressing this crisis is of significant importance from both a political and humanitarian viewpoint.


Though there are no definitive statistics on the exact numbers of FDLR fighters, the good news is that experts tell us that the vast majority of its rank and file are in their 20s and early 30s, which means they were too young to have taken part in the genocide in 1994.


The United States, together with the U.N., the EU and African Union, should appoint a special envoy for the African Great Lakes region to midwife a conducive political arrangement in Kigali that could see them returning home -- and see their leaders and fundraisers in Europe arrested.


The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Vava Tampa.






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Michael Costigan Lands two-Year, First-Look Deal at Sony Pictures






LOS ANGELES (TheWrap.com) – Sony Pictures Entertainment said Tuesday that it has entered into a two-year, exclusive first-look agreement with producer Michael Costigan and his company COTA Films.


The deal reunites Costigan with Sony Pictures, where he previously worked for nine years and served as a production executive. Costigan then served as president of Ridley and Tony Scott‘s Scott Free Productions from 2005 until 2012.






Doug Belgrad, president of Columbia Pictures, and Hannah Minghella, president of production for the studio, made the announcement jointly.


“We couldn’t be more excited to be back in business with Michael,” they said in a statement. “He has a great eye for material, strong director and talent relationships and has been making interesting, original movies during his years with Scott Free. Of course he remains a great friend and we’re thrilled to be professionally reunited.”


Costigan most recently produced “Stoker,” Park Chan Wook’s English-language debut starring Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman and Matthew Goode, and “The East,” starring Brit Marling, Ellen Page and Alexander Skarsgard, and directed by Spirit Award nominee Zal Batmanglij. Both films premiered last week at Sundance to positive reviews and will be released later this spring.


Costigan also produced “Out of the Furnace,” directed by Scott Cooper (“Crazy Heart”) and starring Christian Bale, Casey Affleck and Woody Harrelson.


As executive vice president of production at Sony, he acquired and developed films including “Charlie’s Angels,” “Gattaca,” “The People Versus Larry Flynt,” “Girl Interrupted” and “Bottle Rocket.”


Under the Scott Free banner, Costigan executive produced “Prometheus,” “The Counselor,” “Robin Hood,” “Body of Lies,” and “American Gangster.” He also produced Mark and Jay Duplass’ “Cyrus” and “Welcome to the Rileys.”


Before joining Scott Free, Costigan executive produced Ang Lee’s “Brokeback Mountain.”


Joining Costigan is Ben Leclair, who most recently produced the “Upstream Color,” directed by Shane Carruth, which premiered at Sundance. He previously worked as VP, production for Mike White at Ripcord, where he was a producer of “Year of the Dog” and oversaw Jared Hess’ “Gentlemen Broncos.”


TV News Headlines – Yahoo! News





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Stocks end higher for sixth straight week, tech leads

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Nasdaq composite stock index closed at a 12-year high and the S&P 500 index at a five-year high, boosted by gains in technology shares and stronger overseas trade figures.


The S&P 500 also posted a sixth straight week of gains for the first time since August.


The technology sector led the day's gains, with the S&P 500 technology index <.splrct> up 1.0 percent. Gains in professional network platform LinkedIn Corp and AOL Inc after they reported quarterly results helped the sector.


Shares of LinkedIn jumped 21.3 percent to $150.48 after the social networking site announced strong quarterly profits and gave a bullish forecast for the year.


AOL Inc shares rose 7.4 percent to $33.72 after the online company reported higher quarterly profit, boosted by a 13 percent rise in advertising sales.


Data showed Chinese exports grew more than expected, a positive sign for the global economy. The U.S. trade deficit narrowed in December, suggesting the U.S. economy likely grew in the fourth quarter instead of contracting slightly as originally reported by the U.S. government.


"That may have sent a ray of optimism," said Fred Dickson, chief market strategist at D.A. Davidson & Co in Lake Oswego, Oregon.


Trading volume on Friday was below average for the week as a blizzard swept into the northeastern United States.


The U.S. stock market has posted strong gains since the start of the year, with the S&P 500 up 6.4 percent since December 31. The advance has slowed in recent days, with fourth-quarter earnings winding down and few incentives to continue the rally on the horizon.


"I think we're in the middle of a trading range and I'd put plus or minus 5.0 percent around it. Fundamental factors are best described as neutral," Dickson said.


The Dow Jones industrial average <.dji> ended up 48.92 points, or 0.35 percent, at 13,992.97. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.spx> was up 8.54 points, or 0.57 percent, at 1,517.93. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.ixic> was up 28.74 points, or 0.91 percent, at 3,193.87, its highest closing level since November 2000.


For the week, the Dow was down 0.1 percent, the S&P 500 was up 0.3 percent and the Nasdaq up 0.5 percent.


Shares of Dell closed at $13.63, up 0.7 percent, after briefly trading above a buyout offering price of $13.65 during the session.


Dell's largest independent shareholder, Southeastern Asset Management, said it plans to oppose the buyout of the personal computer maker, setting up a battle for founder Michael Dell.


Signs of economic strength overseas buoyed sentiment on Wall Street. Chinese exports grew more than expected in January, while imports climbed 28.8 percent, highlighting robust domestic demand. German data showed a 2012 surplus that was the nation's second highest in more than 60 years, an indication of the underlying strength of Europe's biggest economy.


Separately, U.S. economic data showed the trade deficit shrank in December to $38.5 billion, its narrowest in nearly three years, indicating the economy did much better in the fourth quarter than initially estimated.


Earnings have mostly come in stronger than expected since the start of the reporting period. Fourth-quarter earnings for S&P 500 companies now are estimated up 5.2 percent versus a year ago, according to Thomson Reuters data. That contrasts with a 1.9 percent growth forecast at the start of the earnings season.


Molina Healthcare Inc surged 10.4 percent to $31.88 as the biggest boost to the index after posting fourth-quarter earnings.


The CBOE Volatility index <.vix>, Wall Street's so-called fear gauge, was down 3.6 percent at 13.02. The gauge, a key measure of market expectations of short-term volatility, generally moves inversely to the S&P 500.


"I'm watching the 14 level closely" on the CBOE Volatility index, said Bryan Sapp, senior trading analyst at Schaeffer's Investment Research. "The break below it at the beginning of the year signaled the sharp rally in January, and a rally back above it could be a sign to exercise some caution."


Volume was roughly 5.6 billion shares traded on the New York Stock Exchange, the Nasdaq and the NYSE MKT, compared with the 2012 average daily closing volume of about 6.45 billion.


Advancers outpaced decliners on the NYSE by nearly 2 to 1 and on the Nasdaq by almost 5 to 3.


(Additional reporting by Angela Moon; Editing by Bernadette Baum, Nick Zieminski, Kenneth Barry and Andrew Hay)



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Norway's Svindal wins downhill at Alpine worlds


SCHLADMING, Austria (AP) — Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway won the men's downhill title at the Alpine skiing world championships Saturday after a powerful run down the Planai course that no one came close to matching.


Watched by 33,000 spectators, Svindal kept a near-perfect line down the icy and bumpy 3.33-kilometer course despite foggy conditions that caused problems for several other skiers.


The Norwegian finished in 2 minutes, 1.32 seconds to win by nearly half a second and secure his second world downhill title, after also winning the marquee event in 2007. It was his fifth world title overall, to go with an Olympic gold in super-G.


Dominik Paris of Italy, who leads this season's World Cup downhill standings, trailed Svindal by 0.46 in second. David Poisson of France finished third, 0.97 behind.


"I knew I could not have skied better here," said Svindal, who raised both arms in the air and shouted out in celebration immediately after his run. "I took a lot of risks. It was a tough race. Visibility wasn't good and the course was difficult. At the finish, I was exhausted, in my head as well."


The rest of the field, led by Klaus Kroell of Austria in fourth, finished more than a second off Svindal's winning time.


The Norwegian had to settle for bronze in Wednesday's super-G, a discipline he has dominated on the World Cup this season, and said that gave him extra motivation for the downhill.


"Winning bronze was nice but I was also a bit frustrated," Svindal said. "I really pushed hard today and avoided major mistakes."


He was about the only one to do so, as most of his rivals struggled to maintain their racing line on the turning and icy bottom section.


The low final right turn seemed to cause the most problems, as many skiers had to slow down to make the final gate before the finish.


Andreas Romar of Finland, who started seventh, became the first to master that section flawlessly and was in the lead until Poisson came down.


When it was Svindal's turn, the Norwegian stretched his lead at every split time and was also near-perfect in the finish section.


Paris, who won the downhill races in Bormio and Kitzbuehel this season, lost time to the Norwegian toward the end but said he had "a great race."


"I tried to go for a medal but I didn't think I could do it," Paris said. "I saved energy in the upper part because I knew I needed it for that difficult finish section."


Poisson had never been on the podium on the World Cup or at a major championship before earning France a second medal this week, following Gauthier De Tessieres' silver in the super-G.


"This is really perfect. Gauthier started the week well for us," Poisson said. "I am proud of my run, I was fast and I went to my limits."


Kroell's fourth place left the home nation without a gold medal in a speed event of any major championship since the 2003 worlds, when Michael Walchhofer won the downhill and Stephan Eberharter the super-G.


Walchhofer's silver medal at the 2006 Turin Olympics downhill was the last speed medal for Austria.


"I am very disappointed," said Kroell, last season's World Cup downhill champion. "I had a big mistake early on and I didn't find my flow because of all the bumps. I just couldn't keep the line."


The women's downhill is Sunday.


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Why I dread Chinese New Year




Kids see Chinese New Year through rose-tinted glasses.




STORY HIGHLIGHTS


  • Zoe Li: As an adult, Chinese New Year is an annual nightmare

  • It's a time when relatives have the right to be judgmental

  • Superstitious Chinese New Year foods often aren't that tasty




(CNN) -- For me, Chinese New Year used to be fun.


When I was a kid, I was excited during Chinese New Year when I got lai see and I could stay up late. I even had access to candy, a once-a-year treat while living under the roof of my Tiger Mom.


Riding strong on the sugar highs, I always thought to myself, this is what it must feel like to be an adult. I was flush, free and giddy.


Then at some point in my twenties, Chinese New Year became a chore. Not any garden variety chore, but a cold-sweat-inducing family obligation that I try hard to avoid.


As an adult, Chinese New Year is an annual nightmare, for the following reasons:


1. I find it sucks when you are single




Single twenty-something? Smile while you can until the interrogation begins.



Relatives feel that they have a right to judge you because you do share bits of DNA, so, really, it's almost like they're judging themselves.


Typically, the extended family gathers for Chinese New Year and spends an inordinate amount of time together, during which people get bored and focus their restlessness on judging the younger generation, particularly those who are single.


Singledom means a lack of responsibilities and responsibility-free people need to be reined in by the wisdom of elders, or they will be reckless with their directionless lives.


Here are some unavoidable conversations at Chinese New Year. By "conversations" I really mean monologues by one Wise Elder or another, fired away at a particular Single Younger in a trance-like manner:


"Why don't you have a boyfriend? If you have a boyfriend, why don't you get married?"


"Why are you not dieting at least a little bit? Second Cousin Yong Yong will have to start bringing clothes from America for you."


"What happened to your hair? Blue is not such a good color for us Chinese people."






"Are you saving up for an apartment? Why not? The most important thing in life is to have a roof over your head. You don't want to be homeless, do you? What if the economy collapses again? At least you will have an apartment."


"Why don't you get a better paid job? You are wasting your talent. You will regret your life."


2. I am employed


I loved the great Chinese tradition of gifting lai see. Getting HK$20 for no reason other than tradition really rocked my seven-year-old world.


I have an income now, so twenty bucks here and there doesn't make a huge difference, but I still retain that childhood anticipation for the red packets. It's just a bit disappointing when I open up an envelope and it isn't concealing a massive check.


And it's the guilt from feeling disappointed that makes me really hate Chinese New Year for making me hate myself.


It's just like being unable to conceal your letdown expression when unwrapping that pair of socks at Secret Santa parties.


Gifting is a heartwarming tradition. It's the thought that counts. I am not supposed to care. I am a bad person.


There's even worse.


Chinese New Year gambling is just out of hand.


Now that I have a job, I'm expected to bet real money at The Mahjong Table, a no man's land filled with hidden agendas, treacherous scheming and Janus-faced traitors.


If you beat your elder relatives at mahjong one too many times, beware their wrath. It really hurts when you get hit by a mahjong tile.


If you lose on purpose to your elders and are unable to skillfully conceal your purposefulness, you risk looking patronizing.


It will put them in a bad mood and lead to a vengeful "what are you doing with your life" interrogation later. See point number one.


If you're simply crap at the game, you lose a load of money and will probably be judged for being not very intelligent. See point number one again.


3. I like good food




Chinese New Year cake is good only when it's homemade.



When foreigners make jokes about Chinese eating weird foods, I cringe.


When Chinese New Year comes around, I'm the one making the damn jokes.


At this time of year, we do get some incredible festive dishes.


And then there are those odd ones that make you feel like the taste, texture and nutritional content of food have all become irrelevant -- we only eat for superstitions.


Lots of Chinese New Year foods are auspicious in meaning, but atrocious in taste. I propose that we at least get rid of these three that are now out of touch with our lives:


Chinese New Year cake


Called "leen go" in Cantonese ("niangao" in mainland China), the name sounds auspicious and means "to progress more and reach higher every year."


The cake is made from glutionous rice, sugar and flavored with red bean paste or jujubes. Cut into thin slices, dip into beaten eggs and pan fry until it's gooey on the inside and crisp on the outside.


The problem is, no one makes these at home anymore and the store-bought version is bland and stodgy, like eating slices of caulking.


Since glutinous rice is considered difficult to digest for the elderly, us Single Youngers who have nothing to lose are forced to finish the plateful.


Sugared lotus seeds


Back in the day -- before globalization brought us jelly beans and Sugus, before the invention of Coca-Cola, before Christopher Columbus brought cocoa beans to the Old World -- eating sugar-coated lotus seeds during Chinese New Year seemed like a good idea.


Today, we have so many more delicious ways to feed our sweet tooth, so why do people still buy sugared lotus seeds?


They look like mothballs, taste one dimensional and feel like a marble of sand broken upon the tongue.


The name "leen tsi" sounds like "to birth sons each year." No one in the family likes to eat them and most of them already have kids, which means us Single Youngers have to swallow.


Gok tsai


These are deep-fried sweet dumplings. The skin is a thick, lifeless pastry made from lard, the filling is a mind-numbingly sweet blend of sugar and nuts.


Its shape and color makes it, somewhat, resemble a gold ingot. Eating these symbolize prosperity for the new year.


If I had to run a marathon, I might appreciate the fat bomb. But the only thing that I run are scripts on my browser.


That point, like the others in this post, is lost on the Wise Elders, wise as they are.


The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Zoe Li. A former CNN employee, Zoe is a Hong Kong resident and edits the Hong Kong section of BLOUIN ARTINFO.






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NBC’s ‘The Office’ to get send-off on May 16






LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Emmy-winning comedy “The Office” will pack up its pencils and staplers after eight years with a one-hour finale on May 16, U.S. broadcaster NBC said on Thursday.


Producers have promised that the episode will tie up several loose storylines on the workplace mockumentary, which debuted on U.S. television in 2005 as an adaptation of the British series of the same name created by comedian Ricky Gervais.






NBC announced last year that the show, set at the fictional Dunder Mifflin Paper Company in Scranton, Pennsylvania, would end in 2013.


Audiences began to turn away from “The Office” after Steve Carell, who played bumbling manager Michael Scott, left in 2011. Viewership fell to about 4 million last year per episode from a high of about 8 million in 2008.


The U.S. show has won four Emmy Awards.


The show’s American producers said last year that the success of “The Office” actors outside of the program played a role in the decision to wind it down.


Mindy Kaling, who played office magpie Kelly Kapoor, left last year to develop “The Mindy Project,” her own comedy for Fox, which is owned by News Corp.


John Krasinski and Jenna Fischer, who play office couple Jim and Pam, have launched film careers on the back of their performances on the show.


Office sycophant Dwight Schrute, portrayed by Rainn Wilson, also sought to create a spin-off show but it was not picked up for broadcast.


It will be the second big NBC comedy to end its run. “30 Rock” bowed out last week after seven seasons.


NBC is part of Comcast Corp.


(Reporting by Eric Kelsey; Editing by Jill Serjeant and Paul Simao)


TV News Headlines – Yahoo! News





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Wall Street opens modestly higher after data


NEW YORK (Reuters) - Stocks opened slightly higher on Friday after a trio of positive economic data points, and further gains were expected to be modest with the benchmark S&P index near five-year highs.


The Dow Jones industrial average <.dji> was up 18.97 points, or 0.14 percent, at 13,963.02. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.spx> was up 3.05 points, or 0.20 percent, at 1,512.44. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.ixic> was up 13.59 points, or 0.43 percent, at 3,178.72.


(Reporting by Ryan Vlastelica; Editing by Bernadette Baum)



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Utility: Bad device caused Super Bowl blackout


NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A power company says the cause of the Super Bowl blackout was a faulty device that had been installed to prevent a failure of electric cables leading to the Superdome.


Officials of Entergy New Orleans say the device, called a relay, had been installed to protect the stadium from a cable failure between the company's incoming power line and lines that run into the stadium.


Company officials said the device performed without problem during January's Sugar Bowl and other earlier events.


They said the device has been removed and replacement equipment will be installed.


The power failure cut lights to about half of the stadium for 34 minutes, halting play between the Baltimore ravens and San Francisco 49ers.


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Bring drones out of the shadows?






STORY HIGHLIGHTS


  • John Brennan's confirmation hearing is a chance to ask about drone program, author says

  • Sarah Holewinski: Brennan is one of a few officials who knows full story on drones

  • She says senators need to ask about damage drone program does to civilians, U.S. reputation

  • Holewinski: CIA should hand over drone program to Defense Department




Editor's note: Sarah Holewinski is executive director of the Center for Civilians in Conflict, which advocates protections for civilians affected by armed conflict. She was a member of the White House AIDS policy team in President Bill Clinton's second term.


(CNN) -- The president's pick for CIA director -- John Brennan -- is one of a handful of U.S. officials who understands America's covert drone campaign inside and out.


Nearly everyone else is in the dark about the whos, wheres and whys of the program, including most members of Congress. But Brennan is also one of the few U.S. officials who's stood in front of a public audience and tried to explain the targeting of terrorists outside recognized battlefields. And while overseeing a massive use of lethal force, Brennan is also known inside the administration as a moderating voice in the fight against terrorism.



Sarah Holewinski

Sarah Holewinski



The fact is, Brennan's personal views are as opaque as the drone campaign itself. He may assume leadership of the CIA and decide a clandestine agency should not conduct what is an obvious military operation (a stance I and many others would fully support); after all, a veteran of the CIA may believe the agency should get back to gritty intelligence gathering.


Or, maybe Brennan believes that when it comes to the fight against al Qaeda, the public and its Congress should trust the executive office to protect the American people by whatever means it sees fit.


One way or the other, this week's Senate confirmation hearings should be an opportunity to bring Brennan's views out of the shadows, along with the basic attributes and justifications of the covert drone campaign. The man, the machine and the policy are inextricably linked.


Bergen: John Brennan, America's drone warrior



U.S. officials have consistently claimed that offering too many details about the covert drone program could threaten national security. Fair enough; some classification for national security is understandable. But the secrecy surrounding covert drone use is unduly excessive and not in keeping with the transparent government President Barack Obama promised.


Since the bulk of Brennan's hearing will be behind closed doors, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has no reason to shy away from asking tough questions about the drone program. It matters that Congress is there to represent the American people. On their behalf, Congress has a duty to ensure the use of lethal force beyond our borders is being considered and carried out responsibly, with due consideration for the harm it may inflict on civilian populations.


Talk Back: Should U.S. be able to kill American terrorist suspects without trial?


Senators might ask a very basic question to Brennan, one that is seldom clearly answered by the administration: "What impact is the drone campaign against al Qaeda and its associates having?"




John Brennan, President Barack Obama's choice for CIA director, has been deeply involved in the U.S. drone program.



This is a fundamental question of accountability any U.S. official involved in setting or carrying out counterterrorism policy should be able to answer. That answer may describe a dwindling kill list, but it must also put forward facts about what impact drones are having on civilians living under them.


U.S. armed forces in Afghanistan and Iraq learned that the positive or negative impacts of an operation on the local population are an important metric of mission effectiveness. Commanders worked hard to reverse anti-American sentiment caused by a seemingly callous U.S. attitude toward civilian deaths and injuries. In the case of counterterrorism operations, palpable anger toward America would be antithetical to the goal of decreasing the number of terrorists and those who support their cause.


As it stands, it's unclear whether anyone, including Brennan, knows what negative consequences are emerging on the ground because of remote drones.


Rather, claims of low civilian casualties and drone precision capabilities paint a picture of extreme effectiveness in taking out terrorists while sparing civilians. It's true that a drone is precise, meaning it will hit what it is aimed at -- a building, a bunker or a person. But there are valid concerns about whether the target hit is the right one.


Opinion: When are drone killings illegal?


Remote drones likely rely on sources that may be questionable such as video and cell phone intercepts to identify a target. Civilians may be mistakenly targeted as combatants and counted as such because there are no ground troops to conduct a battle damage assessment, interview witnesses or properly identify bodies.


Civilians may also get caught up in so-called "signature strikes" in which operators target individuals based on behavior, not on known identity. This is legally questionable but also has real ramifications for civilians living under drones.


If a civilian in Pakistan doesn't know what behavior makes him a target for U.S. drones, he cannot fully protect himself and his family. If a drone harms his family, even mistakenly, our research shows they won't receive an apology, explanation or any help from the United States. Certainly there will be no love lost for America.


Any deaths and injuries are compounded by psychological trauma, displacement and fear and suspicion among neighbors. One Pakistani told us, "We fear that the drones will strike us again. ... My aged parents are often in a state of fear. We are depressed, anxious and constantly remembering our deceased family members."


Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the former commander of international forces in Afghanistan, recently noted, "What scares me about drone strikes is how they are perceived around the world. ... (T)he resentment created by American use of unmanned strikes ... is much greater than the average American appreciates. They are hated on a visceral level, even by people who've never seen one or seen the effects of one."


The drone program needs to come out of the shadows, with explanations about who is a civilian, who is a target, and how drone operators distinguish between the two.


The CIA should get out of the drone operation business, handing it over to the Defense Department, which has a culture of learning lessons, accountability to Congress and a new openness about civilian protection after 10 years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq.


Drone operators should be trained in civilian protection best practices, and any civilian harmed should receive recognition and help for their losses, in accordance with the values American policymakers have espoused about humanity even during times of war.


The Senate may confirm Brennan as head of the CIA. It should also confirm where he stands on government accountability for lethal force and the CIA's role in the remote drone program.


Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.


Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.


The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Sarah Holewinski.






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The Wanted take music to television with E! reality show






LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – After storming the U.S. pop charts with their infectious dance songs last year, British-Irish boy band The Wanted are set to invade television screens with a new reality show on the E! channel this summer, the network announced on Wednesday.


“The Wanted Life,” co-produced by Ryan Seacrest Productions, will follow the band members as they move into a house in the Hollywood Hills and work on their anticipated album, due for release later this year.






The Wanted – Max George, Siva Kaneswaran, Nathan Sykes, Tom Parker and Jay McGuiness – formed in 2009 in England, and was signed by Justin Bieber‘s manager Scooter Braun for its U.S. endeavors.


The five, aged 19 to 24, are known for their raucous behavior and are often pictured out drinking and partying with girls.


“We’ve always tried to show who we are. We haven’t hid much,” band member George said in an interview with E! Online.


“I don’t think there’s anything off limits to be honest … We’ll let everything be exposed,” Kaneswaran added.


The band have accumulated a strong following of fans on Twitter after hit singles such as “Glad You Came” and “Chasing the Sun” became radio and pop chart staples last year.


The band also opened for Bieber at various tour dates including his sold-out Madison Square Gardens gig in New York last December.


They will be embarking on their own headlining tour in the United States and Britain in the fall, with details to be released in summer.


George has also grabbed headlines for his friendship with troubled actress Lindsay Lohan, who has been traveling to the UK with the band in the last few months.


George did not say whether Lohan would appear on the show, which is set to premiere in June.


(Reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by Eric Kelsey and Eric Walsh)


Music News Headlines – Yahoo! News





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Wall Street opens flat after claims, sales data


NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. stocks opened flat on Thursday after a trend gauge in weekly jobless claims signaled modest economic improvement and retailers posted mixed monthly sales.


The Dow Jones industrial average <.dji> was down 11.06 points, or 0.08 percent, at 13,975.46. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.spx> was down 0.67 point, or 0.04 percent, at 1,511.45. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.ixic> was down 1.68 points, or 0.05 percent, at 3,166.80.


(Reporting by Ryan Vlastelica; Editing by Kenneth Barry)



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Signing Day: Ole Miss muscles in on power programs


Alabama. Ohio State. Michigan. Florida. Notre Dame. Mississippi?


Ole Miss muscled in on the powerhouses that usually dominate national signing day, landing some of the most sought-after prospects in the country on college football's annual first-Wednesday-in-February frenzy.


The Rebels, coming off a promising 7-6 season in their first season under coach Hugh Freeze, had the experts swooning by signing three of the bluest chips still on the board and building a well-rounded class otherwise.


"I do think (this class) has the possibility of being a program changer," Freeze said. "But it's all on paper right now.


The day started with defensive end Robert Nkemdiche from Loganville, Ga., rated the No. 1 recruit in the country by just about everyone who ranks them, deciding to join his brother, Denzel, in Oxford, Miss.


"I feel like it's the right place for me," Nkemdiche said after slipping on a red Ole Miss cap. "I feel like they can do special things and they're on the rise. I feel like going to play with my brother, we can do something special."


Nkemdiche originally committed to Clemson last year, then backed off that and narrowed his picks down to LSU, Florida and Mississippi — and the Rebels beat the big boys.


They weren't done. Coaches in the Ole Miss war room were exchanging hugs and high-fives again a couple hours later when Laremy Tunsil, a top-rated offensive tackle from Lake City, Fla., picked the Rebels over Florida State and Georgia.


"Tunsil to Ole Miss I think was the biggest surprise of the whole (recruiting season)," said JC Shurburtt, national recruiting director for 247Sports.com.


And, as if the Ole Miss needed more good news, highly touted defensive back Antonio Conner from nearby Batesville, Miss., chose the Rebels over national champion Alabama.


Ole Miss also landed Laquon Treadwell from Crete, Ill., one of the best receiver prospects in the country. He made a verbal commitment to the Rebels back in December, and sealed the deal Wednesday, the first day high school players can sign binding letters of intent.


The end result was a class good enough to even catch the attention of LeBron James.


"Ole Miss ain't messing around today! Big time recruits coming in. SEC is crazy," the NBA MVP posted on his Twitter account.


Crazy good. While the Rebels racked up, it's important to remember they still have plenty of ground to gain on the rest of their conference.


Nick Saban reloaded the Crimson Tide with a class that Rivals.com ranked No. 1 in the country.


SEC powers Florida, LSU and Georgia pulled in typically impressive classes. SEC newcomer Texas A&M cracked the top 10 of several rankings. Even Vanderbilt, coming off a nine-win season, broke into the top 25.


It's the cycle of life in the SEC, which has won seven straight BCS championships. Stock up on signing day and scoop up those crystal footballs at season's end.


___


SLIPPING AWAY FROM USC


Signing day didn't do much to soothe the scars left from a difficult season for Southern California.


NCAA sanctions limited the number of scholarships coach Lane Kiffin and the Trojans could hand out this year, and then as signing day approached USC had several players who had given verbal commitments change their minds.


The most notable defection on signing day was five-star defensive back Jalen Ramsey of Brentwood, Tenn., who flipped to Florida State. Defensive end Jason Hatcher from Louisville, Ky., bailed on USC and signed with Kentucky, and defensive end Torrodney Prevot from Houston not only reneged on his USC commitment, but he landed at Pac-12-rival Oregon.


"People expected (Prevot) to flip from USC, but they thought it would be to Texas A&M," Shurburtt said.


USC's class won't be lacking blue chippers. Quarterback Max Browne from Washington is considered the next in a long line of topflight Trojans quarterbacks, and Kenny Bigelow from Maryland is rated among the best defensive linemen in the nation.


Kiffin will be banking on quality to make up for the lack of quantity, but that's a precarious way to play a game as uncertain as recruiting.


____


IF MOMMA'S NOT HAPPY ...


Alex Collins, a top running back prospect out of Plantation, Fla., announced on Monday night that he was going to Arkansas instead of Miami.


It was considered a huge victory for new Razorbacks coach Bret Bielema.


But on Wednesday morning, when it was time to make it official, Collins' letter of intent didn't come spinning through the fax machine in Fayetteville, Ark.


There were some odd reports about Collins' mother not being happy with her son's decision to go so far from home.


College coaches aren't allowed to talk about specific players before they sign, but Bielema did acknowledge during his signing day news conference that Arkansas' class of 22 players could "grow by one."


___


THE BIG TWO


Ohio State and Michigan received two thumbs up from experts on their signing day classes. They all had the Buckeyes and Wolverines around top five in the country.


After that, there was a drop off. Nebraska received solid grades and Penn State, despite NCAA sanctions that limited its class to 17 signees, held up pretty well.


"That's a tribute to the job (Penn State coach) Bill O'Brien and the staff did," Shurburtt said.


But signing day 2013 signaled that Urban Meyer's Buckeyes and Brady Hoke's Wolverines are primed to pull away from most of the Big Ten, and maybe — just maybe — give the league a team or two that can challenge those SEC teams for a national title.


___


BUILT TO LAST


Notre Dame followed up its best season in more than two decades with a recruiting class that coach Brian Kelly hopes can keep the Fighting Irish contending for more national titles.


The class includes a famous name in Torii Hunter Jr., the son of the All-Star outfielder. Hunter Jr. is a top-notch receiver prospect, though he broke his leg during an All-Star game and it could be a while before he's back on the football field.


Linebacker Jaylon Smith from Fort Wayne, Ind., is generally regarded as the jewel of a class that experts have ranked among the best in the country.


"I love agreeing with experts," Kelly said.


___


BASEBALL OR FOOTBALL?


Oklahoma hopes it has found the next Sam Bradford in Cody Thomas, a pocket passer from Colleyville, Texas.


One small problem. Thomas is also a big-time baseball player who could draw interest in the major league draft this summer.


"We wouldn't have pursued him if we didn't feel there was a great chance he'd be playing football," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said.


___


QUOTABLE


South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said recruiting classes "don't always pan out. Of course, they always seem to pan out at Alabama."


___


AP Sports Writer David Brandt in Oxford, Miss., and Associated Press Writer Tom Coyne in South Bend, Ind., contributed.


___


Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphdrussoap


Read More..

What follows N. Korea's nuclear test?






STORY HIGHLIGHTS


  • Lopez: Uranium-based blast would pose new challenge to U.N. Security Council

  • Indicates Pyongyang has advanced centrifuge technologies and related systems

  • North Korea's young leader appears to care little about what U.N. or China think

  • Product-based sanctions may stifle the North's ability to continue nuclear program




Editor's note: George A. Lopez holds the Hesburgh Chair in Peace Studies at the Kroc Institute, University of Notre Dame. He is a former member, U.N. Panel of Experts on North Korea, or the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).


Indiana, U.S. (CNN) -- North Korea will soon test its third nuclear device. Earlier tests in 2006 and 2009 drew worldwide condemnation, Security Council sanctions and led Pyongyang to withdraw from the six-party talks.


In resolution 2087, passed on January 22, the Council imposed new sanctions on North Korea for its December 12 space missile launch and made clear that new violations would be dealt with harshly.


READ: N.Korea: Close to nuclear missile?


In response, North Korea rejected Council legitimacy, asserted their right to nuclear weapons and deterrence and proclaimed it would soon conduct a new nuclear test.


In addition the North engaged in some strong saber-rattling aimed at South Korea.


READ: For South Koreans, a familiar tone from Pyongyang










Because some analysts believe this will be a uranium explosion, it is a game-changer for the region and poses new and unfavorable challenges to the Security Council. A successful uranium test indicates that Pyongyang has advanced centrifuge technologies and related support systems. It means that North Korea, if left unchecked, can both produce and export such material, raising new concerns that Pyongyang and Iran cooperate in such developments.


Politically the test will reveal that the new regime of Kim Jong-Un exceeds the defiance to U.N. dictates of his predecessors in pursuing his nation's nuclear goals. Neither the prospect of stronger sanctions, nor the growing discontent of Russia and China with his behavior, appears to deter North Korea's young leader.


OPINION: Rescind North Korea's license to provoke


These dilemmas confront the permanent five members of the Council with a harsh reality check regarding their unity of action and what message to convey to the north via what particular sanctions. If the Council follows the logic of resolution 2087, it will impose more extensive and punishing sanctions than ever before. Such sanctions will blacklist companies, government agencies and individuals long known for their role in illicit technology procurement and sanctions evasion. They will expand financial sanctions into areas of banking that would require substantial transnational enforcement to bite, and they may call upon countries in the region to inspect almost all North Korean trade. The economic squeeze and further isolation of the DPRK will increase substantially.


READ: Why sticks don't work with North Korea


These sanctions would require China to play an enforcement role against North Korean economic actors it has hitherto resisted. Seizing prohibited goods that pass through Dalian harbor and other trans-shipment points, as well as shutting down various border activities, would also fall to China. These extensive sanctions as punishment operate from the assumption that at some point the north will forego its nuclear program in order to survive as an authoritarian state.


But there may be an alternative to the punishment approach that could bring Beijing on board with effective Council action. China might well accept specialized trade sanctions aimed to degrade the DPRK's ability to sustain the nuclear program for lack of material and due to prohibitive costs of sanctions busting, as a way of conveying to Pyongyang that it must return to the negotiating table.


The logic of extensive new product-focused sanctions is that DPRK can make -- or jerry-rig -- only a small fraction of the advanced technologies and specialty materials that sustain an ongoing uranium enrichment program. To choke off these materials -- and the illicit means of financing them -- provides the Council with a possibility to make it technically impossible for DPRK to have a functioning uranium-based bomb program.


Precise lists of dozens of the materials used in centrifuge operation that should be sanctioned are already recorded for the Council in the reports of their Panel of Experts for the DPRK. Lists of related materials have also been developed by the Nuclear Supplies Group. To date the permanent five have sanctioned only a very few of the materials on either list. The Council also needs member states to strengthen export, customs and financial controls on dual-use items that are "below grade" of those newly sanctioned items. This will stifle the North's ability to upgrade or jerry-rig these hitherto unsanctioned items as a way of maintaining their program.


READ: Five things to know about North Korea's planned nuclear test


Also critical to the success of this choking of supplies would be stricter controls of the illicit financing that supports such trade. Putting strong enforcement behind the 2087 resolution's concern about DPRK cash flows, especially through its embassies, is also in order.


Another, somewhat unprecedented, sanctions option would be a Council-issued travel ban on North Korea placed on all scientists, engineers and others with specialized expertise in centrifuge technologies and uranium enrichment.


Political agreement on these measures will not be easy to attain among the permanent five nations of the Security Council. But a product-focused sanctions approach -- especially leveraged to aim for more direct diplomatic engagement with the DPRK while denying them material to grow their illicit programs -- has the best chance of gaining Council consensus.


The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of George A. Lopez.






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“Game of Thrones” writer George R.R. Martin lands overall deal with HBO






LOS ANGELES (TheWrap.com) – There just might be a lot more dragons and swords in HBO‘s future.


George R.R. Martin, whose “A Song of Fire and Ice” fantasy novel series served as the basis for HBO’s hit drama “Game of Thrones,” has entered an overall deal with the network.






The two-year agreement will retain Martin as a co-executive producer of the series, which begins its third season March 31, but will also have him developing and producing series for the network.


In addition to “Game of Thrones” – which he’s written a few episodes for – Martin served as a producer and writer on the 1980s series “Beauty and the Beast,” and penned a handful of episodes for the 1980s revival of “The Twilight Zone.”


News of Martin’s overall deal with HBO was first reported by Deadline.


TV News Headlines – Yahoo! News




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Wall Street to open lower after Tuesday rally, results eyed

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Stocks were poised to open lower Wednesday, indicating the S&P 500 may retreat as it faces resistance to further gains beyond five-year highs in the wake of a 1-percent rally on Tuesday.


A 6-percent advance this year so far has lifted the S&P 500 index to its highest since December 2007, while the Dow <.dji> briefly climbed above 14,000, making it a challenge for investors to continue pushing the equity market upward amid a dearth of fresh trading incentives.


Walt Disney Co beat estimates for quarterly adjusted earnings and said it expected the next few quarters to be better, with a stronger lineup of movies and rising attendance at its theme parks. Shares advanced 2.8 percent to $55.81 in premarket trading.


"You knew a correction was coming; the question was whether they were going to tease you and get it close and then start selling it off or get it up to 14,000 and then start to make a move to the sell side," said Gordon Charlop, managing director at Rosenblatt Securities in New York.


"We got a quick move and it's really just not healthy for markets to go one way, so the idea that a little bit of a correction is due isn't troublesome to me at all."


According to Thomson Reuters data through Tuesday morning, of 278 companies in the S&P 500 <.spx> that have reported earnings, 68.7 percent have exceeded analysts' expectations, above a 62 percent average since 1994 and 65 percent over the past four quarters. In terms of revenue, 66 percent of companies have topped forecasts.


In another positive sign for profits, fourth-quarter earnings for S&P 500 companies are now expected to grow 4.5 percent, according to the data, above a 1.9 percent forecast at the start of the earnings season.


S&P 500 futures fell 6 points and were below fair value, a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration on the contract. Dow Jones industrial average futures lost 51 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures declined 9.75 points.


The benchmark S&P index rose 1.04 percent Tuesday, its biggest percentage gain since a 2.5-percent advance on January 2, when legislators sidestepped a "fiscal cliff" of spending cuts and tax hikes that could have hurt a fragile U.S. economic recovery.


Visa , the world's largest credit and debit card network, is expected to report earnings per share of $1.79 for its first quarter, up from $1.49 a year earlier. Smaller rival MasterCard recently reported better-than-expected results but said its revenue growth could slow in the first half of the year due to economic uncertainty.


Ralph Lauren Corp climbed 5.5 percent to $174 in premarket trading after the fashion company and retailer reported holiday quarter sales and profits that showed renewed momentum.


Time Warner Inc gained 3.1 percent to $51.49 before the bell after reporting higher fourth-quarter profit that beat Wall Street estimates, as growth in its cable networks offset declines in its film, TV entertainment and publishing units.


(Editing by Bernadette Baum)



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Braun says he used Fla clinic owner as consultant


NEW YORK (AP) — Milwaukee Brewers slugger Ryan Braun said the person who ran the Florida clinic being investigated by Major League Baseball was used only as a consultant on his drug suspension appeal last year.


"I have nothing to hide," Braun said in a statement released by his representatives on Tuesday night.


Earlier in the day, Yahoo Sports reported the 2011 NL MVP's name showed up three times in records of the Biogenesis of America LLC clinic. Yahoo said no specific performance-enhancing drugs were listed next to his name.


The Miami New Times recently released clinic documents that purportedly linked Alex Rodriguez, Gio Gonzalez, Melky Cabrera and other players to purchases of banned drugs from the now-closed anti-aging center.


Rodriguez and Cabrera were on the list with Braun that also included New York Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli and Baltimore Orioles infielder Danny Valencia.


Braun said his name was in the Biogenesis records because of an issue over payment to Anthony Bosch, who ran the clinic near Miami.


"There was a dispute over compensation for Bosch's work, which is why my lawyer and I are listed under 'moneys owed' and not on any other list," Braun said.


"I have nothing to hide and have never had any other relationship with Bosch," he said. "I will fully cooperate with any inquiry into this matter."


On Tuesday, MLB officials asked the Miami New Times for the records the alternative newspaper obtained for its story.


Asked specifically about Braun's name in the documents before the five-time All-Star released his statement, MLB spokesman Pat Courtney said: "Aware of report and are in the midst of an active investigation in South Florida."


Braun tested positive during the 2011 postseason for elevated testosterone levels. He maintained his innocence and his 50-game suspension was overturned during spring training last year when arbitrator Shyam Das ruled in favor of Braun due to chain of custody issues involving the sample.


With that, Braun became the first major leaguer to have a drug suspension overturned.


"During the course of preparing for my successful appeal last year, my attorneys, who were previously familiar with Tony Bosch, used him as a consultant. More specifically, he answered questions about T/E ratio and possibilities of tampering with samples," Braun said.


The T/E ratio is a comparison of the levels of testosterone to epitestosterone.


Braun led the NL in homers (41), runs (108) and slugging percentage (.595) last season while batting .319 with 112 RBIs and 30 stolen bases. He finished second to San Francisco catcher Buster Posey in MVP balloting."


Cervelli, who spent nearly all of last season in Triple-A, posted a statement on Twitter later Tuesday night.


"Following my foot injury in March 2011, I consulted with a number of experts, including BioGenesis Clinic, for (cont)," Cervelli posted, "(cont)legal ways to aid my rehab and recovery. I purchased supplements that I am certain were not prohibited by Major League Baseball."


An email sent to Valencia's agent was not returned.


Read More..

Richard III still the criminal king



















Richard III on stage and screen


Richard III on stage and screen


Richard III on stage and screen


Richard III on stage and screen


Richard III on stage and screen


Richard III on stage and screen


Richard III on stage and screen


Richard III on stage and screen


Richard III on stage and screen


Richard III on stage and screen


Richard III on stage and screen


Richard III on stage and screen





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STORY HIGHLIGHTS


  • Dan Jones: Richard III's remains found; some see chance to redeem his bad reputation

  • Jones says the bones reveal and confirm his appearance, how he died and his injuries

  • Nothing changes his rep as a usurper of the Crown who likely had nephews killed, Jones says

  • Jones: Richard good or bad? Truth likely somewhere in between




Editor's note: Dan Jones is a historian and newspaper columnist based in London. His new book, "The Plantagenets" (Viking) is published in the US this Spring. Follow him on Twitter.


(CNN) -- Richard III is the king we British just can't seem to make our minds up about.


The monarch who reigned from 1483 to 1485 became, a century later, the blackest villain of Shakespeare's history plays. The three most commonly known facts of his life are that he stole the Crown, murdered his nephews and died wailing for a horse at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. His death ushered in the Tudor dynasty, so Richard often suffers the dual ignominy of being named the last "medieval" king of England -- in which medieval is not held to be a good thing.


Like any black legend, much of it is slander.


Richard did indeed usurp the Crown and lose at Bosworth. He probably had his nephews killed too -- it is unknowable but overwhelmingly likely. Yet as his many supporters have been busy telling us since it was announced Monday that Richard's lost skeleton was found in a car park in Leicester, he wasn't all bad. In fact, he was for most of his life loyal and conscientious.



Dan Jones

Dan Jones



To fill you in, a news conference held at the University of Leicester Monday confirmed what archaeologists working there have suspected for months: that a skeleton removed from under a parking lot in the city center last fall was indeed the long-lost remains of Richard III.


His official burial place -- under the floor of a church belonging to the monastic order of the Greyfriars -- had been lost during the dissolution of the monasteries that was carried out in the 1530s under Henry VIII. A legend grew up that the bones had been thrown in a river. Today, we know they were not.


What do the bones tell us?


Well, they show that Richard -- identified by mitochondrial DNA tests against a Canadian descendant of his sister, Anne of York -- was about 5-foot-8, suffered curvature of the spine and had delicate limbs. He had been buried roughly and unceremoniously in a shallow grave too small for him, beneath the choir of the church.


He had died from a slicing blow to the back of the head sustained during battle and had suffered many other "humiliation injuries" after his death, including having a knife or dagger plunged into his hind parts. His hands may have been tied at his burial. A TV show aired Monday night in the UK was expected to show a facial reconstruction from the skull.


Opinion: What will the finding of Richard III mean?



In other words, we have quite a lot of either new or confirmed biographical information about Richard.


He was not a hunchback, but he was spindly and warped. He died unhorsed. He was buried where it was said he was buried. He very likely was, as one source had said, carried roughly across a horse's back from the battlefield where he died to Leicester, stripped naked and abused all the way.


All this is known today thanks to a superb piece of historical teamwork.


The interdisciplinary team at Leicester that worked toward Monday's revelations deserves huge plaudits. From the desk-based research that pinpointed the spot to dig, to the digging itself, to the bone analysis, the DNA work and the genealogy that identified Richard's descendants, all of it is worthy of the highest praise. Hat-tips, too, to the Richard III Society, as well as Leicester's City Council, which pulled together to make the project happen and also to publicize the society and city so effectively.


However, should anyone today tell you that Richard's skeleton somehow vindicates his historical reputation, you may tell them they are talking horsefeathers.


Back from the grave, King Richard III gets rehab






Richard III got a rep for a reason. He usurped the Crown from a 12-year old boy, who later died.


This was his great crime, and there is no point denying it. It is true that before this crime, Richard was a conspicuously loyal lieutenant to the boy's father, his own brother, King Edward IV. It is also true that once he was king, Richard made a great effort to promote justice to the poor and needy, stabilize royal finances and contain public disorder.


But this does not mitigate that he stole the Crown, justifying it after the fact with the claim that his nephews were illegitimate. Likewise, it remains indisputably true that his usurpation threw English politics, painstakingly restored to some order in the 12 years before his crime, into a turmoil from which it did not fully recover for another two decades.


So the discovery of Richard's bones is exciting. But it does not tell us anything to justify changing the current historical view of Richard: that the Tudor historians and propagandists, culminating with Shakespeare, may have exaggerated his physical deformities and the horrors of Richard's character, but he remains a criminal king whose actions wrought havoc on his realm.


Unfortunately, we don't all want to hear that. Richard remains the only king with a society devoted to rehabilitating his name, and it is a trait of some "Ricardians" to refuse to acknowledge any criticism of their hero whatever. So despite today's discovery, we Brits are likely to remain split on Richard down the old lines: murdering, crook-backed, dissembling Shakespearean monster versus misunderstood, loyal, enlightened, slandered hero. Which is the truth?


Somewhere in between. That's a classic historian's answer, isn't it? But it's also the truth.


Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.


Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.


The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dan Jones.






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NBCU’s Bonnie Hammer to run Cable; Joe Uva to run Telemundo






LOS ANGELES (TheWrap.com) – NBC Universal‘s executive lineup underwent a shift of responsibilities on Monday, with Bonnie Hammer, NBCU‘s chairman of cable entertainment and cable studios, taking control of NBC Universal’s full cable portfolio, and executive Lauren Zalaznick being promoted to a new role, and former Univision president and CEO Joe Uva taking over NBCU’s Spanish-language network Telemundo.


Under her new expanded duties, Hammer (pictured) will oversee Bravo, Oxygen, Style, Sprout and TV One adding to her existing duties of overseeing USA Network, SyFy, E!, G4, Cloo, Chiller and other properties. The newly consolidated collection of networks will be renamed Cable Entertainment Group.






Zalaznick, who has been serving as chairman of NBC Universal Entertainment & Digital Networks and Integrated media, has been promoted to the new position of EVP NBCUniversal, where she’ll focus on “innovation, digital, monetization and emerging technology across the company,” NBC Universal CEO Steve Burke told employees in an internal email.


Uva, meanwhile, has been tapped for the newly created position of NBCU’s chairman of Hispanic Enterprises and Content, a position that will include running the company’s Spanish language networks Telemundo and mun2. Uva stepped down as president and CEO of Univsion in June 2011.


Hammer and Zalaznick will assume their new responsibilities immediately, while Uva will come aboard April 3.


Burke, who’s enacted similar restructurings for NBCU’s sports and news divisions, said that the restructuring will help streamline things while allowing for better exploitation of the company’s assets.


“Our business is more dynamic and challenging than at any point in its history,” Burke wrote in a memo to his staff. “Now, more than ever, we need to simplify our organization and take advantage of the breadth of our assets. At the same time, we need to focus more on innovation and emerging technologies. These organization changes are designed to do just that,” Burke wrote.


TV News Headlines – Yahoo! News





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Wall Street rebounds from steep decline


NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. stocks rose on Tuesday, rebounding from their worst daily loss since November in the prior session.


The Dow Jones industrial average <.dji> was up 84.21 points, or 0.61 percent, at 13,964.29. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.spx> was up 9.12 points, or 0.61 percent, at 1,504.83. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.ixic> was up 10.31 points, or 0.33 percent, at 3,141.48.


(Reporting By Angela Moon; Editing by Kenneth Barry)



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Niners have better chance than Ravens to be back


NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The Baltimore Ravens carried off the Lombardi Trophy. Their beaten opponent has a better chance of doing it next season.


San Francisco running back Frank Gore insisted the 49ers were the more talented team even after losing 34-31 to the Ravens in Sunday's Super Bowl. The scoreboard said otherwise, but when the conference champions meet at the Meadowlands next February — yes, outdoors in the dead of winter for the NFL crown — the Niners easily could represent the NFC.


Again.


"I'd say we've got a great group of guys in the locker room, great warriors," Gore said, "and I'm not going to promise anything next year, but we're going to fight to get back here."


The toughest fight might be in their own division with Seattle and rapidly improving St. Louis. The Seahawks were the only team to allow fewer points than the 49ers, and their rivalry — including the semi-feud between coaches Jim Harbaugh and Pete Carroll — adds spice to the NFC West.


But the 49ers have to be the NFC favorite after losing in overtime to the Giants for the conference title last year, then barely falling to the Ravens on Sunday night.


"This is kind of tough, to get this far and let everything slip away through your hands," said Ahmad Brooks, part of the best linebacking corps in the league, along with All-Pros Patrick Willis, Aldon Smith and NaVorro Bowman. "The funny thing about it is, within the next few months, we're going to start trying to get back to the same place that we're at right now."


As will the Ravens, but their challenge is more imposing.


Unlike the 49ers, who figure to lose virtually no important parts — receiver Randy Moss, perhaps, but he was a marginal player in 2012 — the Ravens have bid adieu to their greatest player, linebacker Ray Lewis. Not only will they miss his performances on the field and his presence in the locker room, but he was the emotional engine in Baltimore.


The leadership burden will fall on two players whose contracts have expired but likely will be back with the Ravens: Super Bowl MVP quarterback Joe Flacco and veteran safety Ed Reed.


Flacco almost certainly will get the franchise tag at more than $14 million if he can't agree to a long-term deal. But in the current NFL, winning without a top-level QB is impossible, and there can be no arguing now about Flacco belonging in that class.


Reed wants to return and the Ravens recognize how unwise it would be to let both Lewis and Reed leave at the same time — even after winning their second Super Bowl in 12 seasons.


"I always said when I came into the league and got drafted that I didn't want to be one of those guys jumping from team to team," Reed said during Super Bowl week.


Regardless, the Ravens will be a force — odds makers have placed them behind New England and Denver in the AFC next season — and one of the NFL's most prolific offensive teams.


Flacco throwing to the superb trio of wide receivers Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith and tight end Dennis Pitta, plus the versatility of running back Ray Rice and a stud backup in Bernard Pierce says so. Flacco's protection from the line and All-Pro fullback Vonta Leach was impeccable in the postseason, helping Flacco throw for a record-tying 11 TDs with no interceptions.


The defense, oddly enough considering Baltimore's reputation, needs some work. But linebacker Terrell Suggs will be even healthier — he came back quickly from a torn Achilles tendon — and top cornerback Lardarius Webb returns from a knee injury.


Just like the 49ers, the Ravens have a tough task in their division. Cincinnati is young, but has made the playoffs the last two years. Pittsburgh never remains dormant for long.


Should these two clubs make it to the first outdoor Super Bowl at a cold-weather site, would Baltimore have the edge because it's used to such conditions? And because it's a three-hour drive from MetLife Stadium, will Ravens fans be out in force even more than they were in the Big Easy?


Or would the 49ers' immense talent base be overwhelming?


Food for thought over the next 11 months.


"We've got to look at this as a blessing because we didn't have to be here, but we made it," tight end Vernon Davis said. "We've always got next year; we've got next season. We might as well look forward to next season, keep our hopes high and continue to climb."


___


Online: http://pro32.ap.org/poll and http://twitter.com/AP_NFL


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'Stop whining about right-wing media'




Former vice president Al Gore promotes his new book, "The Future" on January 30, 2013 in New York City.




STORY HIGHLIGHTS


  • Al Gore says right-wing media help account for resistance to Democrats' policies

  • President Barack Obama said media coverage could determine future of bipartisanship

  • Howard Kurtz: Fox News, Rush Limbaugh have influence, but White House has bigger voice

  • He says conservative media gained support because of belief established media leaned left




Editor's note: Howard Kurtz is the host of CNN's "Reliable Sources" and is Newsweek's Washington bureau chief. He is also a contributor to the website Daily Download.


(CNN) -- I never realized that the conservative media were so eye-poppingly powerful.


So mighty, in fact, that liberal politicians can't seem to stop talking about how they are running roughshod over the country.



Howard Kurtz

Howard Kurtz



My response: Can we please stop the whining?


The latest to rant about the right is Al Gore. The former vice president told Charlie Rose that President Barack Obama had been cautious, and when the CBS anchor asked whether there was "a very hostile environment for progressive ideas," Gore had his culprit ready:



"Fox News and right-wing talk radio. In Tennessee there's an old saying if you see a turtle on a fence post you can be pretty sure it didn't get there by itself. And the fact that we have 24/7 propaganda masquerading as news, it does have an impact."


Watch: Why Geraldo Rivera's Senate hopes are an empty vault


OK, Gore doesn't like Fox. So he started what he hoped would be a liberal counterweight in Current TV, spent millions on such stars as Keith Olbermann, and ... the channel flopped. It was such a failure that he just sold it to Al Jazeera for an estimated personal take of $100 million.










Leave aside the obvious contradiction of a climate change crusader selling to a network largely financed by the petrodollar kingdom of Qatar. Whatever you think of Fox, Rupert Murdoch's network has been a financial success and Current TV was anything but. Isn't that the free market at work?


Watch: The media's gushing send-off for Hillary Clinton


Obama often invokes the conservative media, most recently in an interview with The New Republic. Asked about working with Republicans in his second term, the president said: "One of the biggest factors is going to be how the media shapes debates. If a Republican member of Congress is not punished on Fox News or by Rush Limbaugh for working with a Democrat on a bill of common interest, then you'll see more of them doing it."


Now it's true that Fox or Limbaugh can boost or batter any lawmaker, and that they can help drive a controversy into the broader mainstream media. But we're talking here about the president of the United States. He has an army, a navy and a bunch of nuclear weapons, not to mention an ability to command the airwaves at a moment's notice. And he's complaining about a cable channel and a radio talk-show host?


Limbaugh later offered this response: "If Fox News and I are the only thing keeping the Republicans from caving to Barack Obama on every issue, I'm not paid enough."


Watch: Does Sarah Palin have a future after Fox?


I have been through this before. It was on my "Reliable Sources" program, in the fall of 2009, that the White House declared war on Fox News. Anita Dunn, then the White House communications director, called Fox "the communications arm of the Republican Party" and said, "It is not really a news network anymore."


The resulting furor gave Fox months of fodder and was widely judged a tactical misstep that if anything elevated the network's role.


There are times when many Fox programs, including in the nonopinion hours, appear to be on a jihad against the administration. And these days, MSNBC can be counted on to defend the Democrats almost around the clock.


But let's face it: These are cable channels with relatively modest audiences, and their impact is sometimes exaggerated inside the Beltway echo chamber. After all, Obama handily won re-election despite the best efforts of Sean Hannity and Limbaugh.


Watch: New York Times censors company's vulgar name


What liberals sometimes forget is that the conservative media took root because many Americans felt the fourth estate was too left-wing. ABC, NBC, CBS, NPR, The New York Times and The Washington Post all strive for fairness, in my view, but there is little question that they have a social and cultural outlook that leans to the left. Collectively, they have far more weight than Fox, talk radio and The Wall Street Journal editorial page.


Right-wing pundits make a convenient foil, but at times Obama seems to magnify their importance. After all, he's got the biggest bully pulpit of all.


Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.


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The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Howard Kurtz.






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