Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Flying car takes off on first test flight


Flying car takes off on first test flight

Maiden flight: Prototype of the Transition 'roadable aircraft' gets off the ground

Logging 37 seconds in the air, a prototype of a flying car completed its first test flight earlier this month in upstate New York.

Woburn, Mass.-based Terrafugia Inc., founded four years ago by MIT graduates, reported today that its Transition "roadable" aircraft completed its first flight at Plattsburgh International Airport in Plattsburgh, N.Y. on March 5 with retired U.S. Air Force Col. Phil Meteer at the controls. The short flight was confined to the expanse of the runway, but it was enough to allow the company to test the Transition's stability and controllability.

The flight comes after six months of ground testing -- the flying car has been driven under its own power in on-road test drives and in tests of its taxiing capability.

"This flight is a symbol of a new freedom in aviation. It's what enthusiasts have been striving for since 1918," said Terrafugia CEO Carl Dietrich in a statement.

The two-seater vehicle fits into the light sport aircraft category and has an anticipated price tag of $148,000. Richard Gersh, a vice president at Woburn, Mass.-based Terrafugia, told Computerworld in January that the company already has received more than 40 orders for the Transition. He hopes the first one will be in a customer's hands by next year.

"We're not going to have a flying car, as people think of it, for a while," said Anna Dietrich, Terrafugia's chief operating officer, in an earlier interview. "I would never say it's not going to happen, but today the infrastructure is not there, nor is the training, nor are the avionics that would make the training unnecessary. What makes sense right now is a 'roadable' aircraft."

Dietrich said the idea of a such a vehicle is what fired up the imaginations of Terrafugia's founders and pushed them to launch the company. The problem, however, is that the U.S. doesn't have the infrastructure to support vehicles that both fly in the air and travel on surface roads regularly. Unlike runways, roads pass in front of houses, grocery stores and office buildings. And a sky filled with small planes piloted by people who don't have pilot's licenses could be problematic, to say the least.

Dietrich noted that there are about 6,000 public airports in the U.S., and most people are, on average, within 20 miles of one. The idea, she said, is to take advantage of this underutilized infrastructure. With a drivable aircraft, a pilot could fly into a small airport and, instead of getting a rental car or waiting for a taxi, simply fold up the plane's wings and drive off.

source : http://www.computerworld.com/action/article.do?command=viewArticleBasic&articleId=9129931&intsrc=news_ts_head

Natasha Richardson dies after ski fall


Natasha Richardson dies after ski fall

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Natasha Richardson, a film star, Tony-winning stage actress and member of the famed Redgrave acting family, died Wednesday after suffering injuries in a ski accident, according to a family statement. She was 45.

Richardson, wife of actor Liam Neeson, was injured Monday in a fall on a ski slope at a Quebec resort about 80 miles northwest of Montreal.

Richardson's family released a statement saying, "Liam Neeson, his sons, and the entire family are shocked and devastated by the tragic death of their beloved Natasha. They are profoundly grateful for the support, love and prayers of everyone, and ask for privacy during this very difficult time."

According to a statement from Mont Tremblant Ski Resort, Richardson fell during a lesson on a beginners' trail.

"She did not show any visible sign of injury, but the ski patrol followed strict procedures and brought her back to the bottom of the slope and insisted she should see a doctor," the statement said.

Richardson, accompanied by her instructor, returned to her hotel, but about an hour after the fall was "not feeling good," the statement said. An ambulance was called, and Richardson was taken to a local hospital before being transferred to Hopital du Sacre-Coeur in Montreal. From there she was transferred to Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

Richardson was practically born to perform. Her grandfather, Sir Michael Redgrave, was a famed British actor. Her mother, Vanessa Redgrave, is an Oscar-winning actress, and her father, the late director Tony Richardson, helmed such films as "Look Back in Anger," "The Entertainer" and the Oscar-winning "Tom Jones."

Natasha Richardson's uncle Corin Redgrave, aunt Lynn Redgrave, and sister Joely Richardson are also noted performers.

But being part of a family of actors wasn't always easy for Richardson. Her parents divorced when she was 4 and her mother, involved in controversial political causes, gave away a lot of money, putting the family in financial straits, according to the BBC.

Then there was the family heritage, of which Richardson once said, "Though my name opened doors it didn't get me work, and a lot of pressure comes from having a mother who is considered one of the greatest actresses of her generation," the BBC reported.

Richardson's first film role was a bit part in her father's "The Charge of the Light Brigade" (1968), made when she was 4. After a handful of roles through her teens and early 20s, she broke through as Mary Shelley in Ken Russell's film "Gothic," and followed that up as Patty Hearst in Paul Schrader's 1988 film of the same name.

Richardson's other notable films included "The Handmaid's Tale" (1990); the TV movie "Zelda" (1993); "Nell" (1994), alongside Neeson, whom she married in 1994; the 1998 remake of "The Parent Trap"; and "Wild Child" (2008).

But some of Richardson's greatest successes were on the stage. At 22, she played opposite her mother and Jonathan Pryce in a London production of Anton Chekhov's "The Seagull"; the performance earned her the London Drama Critics' most promising newcomer award.

She won a Tony for her performance as Sally Bowles in the 1998 revival of "Cabaret" and earned raves for her Blanche DuBois in a 2005 production of "A Streetcar Named Desire." She was scheduled to perform in a revival of Stephen Sondheim's "A Little Night Music" this year, following a January benefit performance of the show.

source : http://www.cnn.com/2009/SHOWBIZ/Movies/03/18/obit.richardson/?iref=mpstoryview

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Natasha Richardson Flown to New York With Ski Injuries


Natasha Richardson Flown to New York With Ski Injuries
Natasha Richardson Accident
By PATRICK HEALY and IAN AUSTEN

The Tony-award winning actress Natasha Richardson was flown from Canada to New York City on Tuesday afternoon in serious condition with head injuries suffered the day before in a skiing accident north of Montreal, according to two people close to her family.

The people, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to reporters, declined to describe Ms. Richardson’s condition before or during the flight, other than to say it was very serious and that her family was highly distressed. They said the plane had arrived in New York by Tuesday evening, but declined to say where Ms. Richardson was being treated.

Ms. Richardson, 45, is married to the actor Liam Neeson and is the daughter of Vanessa Redgrave and the director Tony Richardson, who died in 1991. Mr. Neeson was seen crouched inside an ambulance beside his wife on Tuesday afternoon at Hôpital du Sacré-Coeur de Montréal, as she lay heavily wrapped in blankets with tubes around her face.

Throughout the day on Tuesday, there were conflicting reports about Ms. Richardson’s medical condition, and by evening, the precise nature and gravity of Ms. Richardson’s condition could not be officially confirmed.

At 8:40 p.m. Tuesday, Ms. Redgrave was seen walking into Lenox Hill Hospital wearing a scarf and looking somber; representatives of Ms. Richardson would not confirm that she was a patient there.

Her business representatives and a spokesman for the family said they did not have any information to make public. Officials of the Hôpital du Sacré-Coeur de Montréal declined to discuss her condition, citing privacy rules.

Lyne Lortie, a spokeswoman for the Mont Tremblant ski resort in the Laurentian Hills north of Montreal, said Ms. Richardson had fallen during a beginner’s lesson. She was not wearing a helmet at the time, she said.

“It was a normal fall; she didn’t hit anyone or anything,” Ms. Lortie said. “She didn’t show any signs of injury; she was talking and she seemed all right.”

As a precaution, when she left the slopes, Ms. Richardson was accompanied by a member of the resort’s ski patrol and her instructor, who then remained with her at a hotel.

When she started having headaches about an hour later, she was taken by ambulance to a hospital in Ste. Agathe, Quebec, about 20 minutes from the resort. Ms. Lortie said that Ms. Richardson was transferred to the Hôpital du Sacré-Coeur de Montréal later in the afternoon.

Ms. Richardson won a Tony in 1998 for her performance in “Cabaret.” Her film performances include roles in “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “The Parent Trap.” She and Mr. Neeson married in 1994 and have two children.

Mathew R. Warren contributed reporting.

source :http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/18/theater/18richardson.html?ref=nyregion

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Madoff sent to jail as furious victims applaud


Madoff sent to jail as furious victims applaud

NEW YORK (AP) — Careful to blame only himself, a "deeply sorry and ashamed" Bernard Madoff pleaded guilty Thursday to pulling off what could be the biggest, most spectacular swindle Wall Street has even seen, and was sent off to jail in handcuffs to the applause of his furious victims.

"I realized that my arrest and this day would inevitably come," Madoff said in a courtroom crammed with many of the investors he cheated out of billions of dollars.

The 70-year-old financier could get up to 150 years in prison at sentencing June 16 on 11 counts, including securities fraud and perjury. He could also be fined and ordered to pay restitution to his victims and forfeit any ill-gotten gains.

In a long, detailed statement delivered in a soft but steady voice, Madoff implicated no one but himself in the vast Ponzi scheme. He said he started it as a short-term way to weather the early-1990s recession and was unable to extricate himself as the years went by.

"I am actually grateful for this opportunity to publicly comment about my crimes, for which I am deeply sorry and ashamed," Madoff said in his first public comments about his crimes since the $65 billion scandal broke in early December.

The scandal turned a well-respected investment professional — Madoff was once chairman of the Nasdaq exchange — into a symbol of Wall Street greed amid the economic meltdown. The public fury toward him was so great that he was known to wear a bulletproof vest to court.

U.S. District Judge Denny Chin promptly revoked the $10 million bail that had allowed Madoff to remain free since he confessed to his sons three months ago. In ordering him jailed, the judge said Madoff had the means to flee and an incentive to do so because of his age.

The court appearance came as a disappointment to many of Madoff's investors, who hoped to hear him say who might have helped him pull off the scam, and where the money went.

Because Madoff pleaded guilty as charged, without any kind of deal with prosecutors, he is under no obligation to cooperate with them. As a result, some legal experts and others have speculated that he is sacrificing himself to protect his wife, his family and friends.

"He's trying to save the rest of his family," said investor Judith Welling. "We need to find out who else was involved, and we need, obviously, to freeze the assets of all those people involved to help the victims."

There was a smattering of applause after the judge announced Madoff would go directly to jail — the drab, windowless high-rise Metropolitan Correctional Center next door to the courthouse to await sentencing. But that did not lessen his victims' anger or satisfy their desire for retribution.

"So he spends the rest of his life in jail — is that justice? People's lives are ruined," said Adriane Biondo of Los Angeles, one of five members of her family who lost money with Madoff. "He's sitting in jail? That's awesome," she said sarcastically. "Where's the money, Bernie?"

DeWitt Baker, an investor who attended the hearing and said he lost more than $1 million with Madoff, said: "I'd stone him to death."

Prosecutors gave assurances they are investigating Madoff's wife and other family members and employees to determine what role, if any, they played in the scam.

"A lot of resources and effort are being expended, both to find assets and to find anyone else who may be responsible for this fraud," federal prosecutor Marc Litt said.

In court documents, prosecutors put the amount of the fraud at $64.8 billion. However, experts said that the actual loss was probably much less and that the higher number reflects the false profits Madoff told investors they were making. So far, authorities have located only about $1 billion for investors.

Prosecutors have already said low-level employees in Madoff's New York offices participated by mailing out tens of thousands of phony monthly statements and trading confirmations to make it look as if customers were making money in the market.

Some investors suspect their money ended up in the hands of Madoff's wife, Ruth. She was not in court. But the mere mention of her name drew jeers and laughter.

In one instance, defense lawyer Ira Sorkin was describing how Madoff had, "at his wife's own expense," paid for security at his $7 million penthouse in Manhattan. Loud laughter erupted among some of the more than 100 spectators crammed into the courtroom on the 24th floor of the federal courthouse in lower Manhattan. There was more snickering when Sorkin mentioned Mrs. Madoff's "small residence in France."

Madoff's thousands of victims included individuals, trusts, pension funds, hedge funds and nonprofit organizations. The scheme wiped out people's life savings, ruined charities and foundations, and apparently pushed at least two investors to commit suicide.

Investors big and small were swindled, from Florida retirees to celebrities such as Steven Spielberg, actor Kevin Bacon and Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax. Many of Madoff's victims were Jews and Jewish charities, which trusted him because he is Jewish. Those cheated included Nobel Peace Prize winner and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel.

In court Thursday, Madoff — a dapper figure, dressed in a charcoal-gray suit, with swept-back, wavy gray hair — said he began the scheme during the last recession, when "I felt compelled to satisfy my clients' expectations, at any cost." He did not put his investors' money into the market, as he claimed. Instead, it was a Ponzi scheme, or a pyramid, in which early investors are paid off with money taken in from later ones.

"When I began the Ponzi scheme I believed it would end shortly and I would be able to extricate myself and my clients from the scheme," he said. "However, this proved difficult, and ultimately impossible, and as the years went by I realized that my arrest and this day would inevitably come."

In Washington, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said: "The president is glad that swift justice will happen."

Gibbs said the Obama administration will do everything possible to ensure strict enforcement of securities regulations "and hope that through those actions that that kind of greed and irresponsibility and that kind of criminal activity never happens again."

Before the court hearing, helicopters circled above the courthouse, and federal officers with automatic weapons stood outside. Investors signed in before entering the courtroom.

"I wanted him to see some of the faces of the people he lied to and destroyed," said Cynthia Friedman, 59, of Jericho, N.Y. She and her husband, Richard, said Madoff defrauded them of their life savings of $3 million. They learned it was gone months before Richard Friedman was supposed to retire — a plan now on hold.

Madoff did not look at any of the three investors who spoke at the hearing, even when one of them turned in his direction and tried to address him. At the hint of a confrontation, a marshal sitting behind Madoff stood up, and the judge directed the investor to speak directly to the bench.

Madoff told the court that he falsely told investors he was employing a "split strike conversion strategy": He claimed he invested their money in a batch of stocks from the Standard & Poor's 100 that closely tracked the price movements of the index. He also told investors that he would periodically pull their money out of the market and put it in Treasury bills. And he claimed he bought stock options to hedge against losses. All of that was false.

Madoff also said that to fool his clients into thinking he was buying and selling stocks, he transferred money from his fraudulent operations into his wholesale stock-trading firm, which he otherwise described as an honest, legitimate business.

Afterward, Burt Ross, a lawyer from Englewood, N.J., who lost $5 million in Madoff's swindle, said: "It's a little bit like seeing the devil."

Associated Press writers Jennifer Peltz and David B. Caruso contributed to this report.

source : http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5hnkPe640MG8WMCAvAwv5GqtqxsOAD96SOT5O1?index=0

Obama to states: Spend stimulus wisely _ or else


Obama to states: Spend stimulus wisely _ or else

By DARLENE SUPERVILLE –

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama on Thursday rallied the people he is counting on to help turn around the economy and warned anew that he will not tolerate wasteful spending of his $787 billion economic stimulus package. "If we see money being misspent, we're going to put a stop to it," Obama told a gathering of state officials.

Vice President Joe Biden, who is coordinating oversight of stimulus spending, opened the conference with an equally stern warning.

"Six months from now, if the verdict on this effort is that we've wasted the money, we built things that were unnecessary or we've done things that are legal but make no sense, then, folks, don't look for any help from the federal government for a long while," he said.

State officials who are working on stimulus spending were invited for a day of schooling on how to make the massive spending program work, to hear from and question Cabinet secretaries and other administration officials, and to propose and discuss ideas.

About 125 people from 49 states filled an auditorium with theater-style seating in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next to the White House. Idaho was unable to send a representative.

Obama mixed stern language with a pep talk for the state officials he is depending on to help implement the stimulus, which he says will save or create 3.5 million jobs this year and next through investment in infrastructure, energy, schools and other spending.

"All of you are at the front lines of what is probably the most important task that we have in this country over the next couple of years, and that's getting the economy started again," Obama said during his brief appearance. The audience gasped when he entered the room.

At the same time, Obama stressed the need to "make sure that every single dollar is well spent."

If wasteful spending is found, "We will call it out and we will publicize it," he said, reiterating what he has already told governors and mayors.

Biden said regulations would be announced Friday outlining what stimulus money cannot be spent on.

"A little hint," he said. "No swimming pools in this money."

Biden and Energy Secretary Steven Chu also announced $8 billion in stimulus money for state and local programs to help make homes more energy efficient, with an initial installment of about $780 million to be released in the coming days.

Conference participants heard from officials from the Office of Management and Budget and many of the Cabinet departments. Some of their questions dealt with how states should count the number of jobs created, when they will receive schedules telling them what they should apply for, and about spotty communication with the governors.

Rob Nabors, deputy director of the budget office, said officials were still getting up to speed on the reporting deadlines Congress set, as well as on improving communication with the states.

Wayne Turnage, chief of staff to Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, told reporters during a break in the conference that the state officials will work with the administration to get answers in the next month or so.

"It's a sweeping piece of legislation. There are some complex issues we have to deal with," Turnage said.

Toney Anaya, a former New Mexico governor appointed by Bill Richardson, the current governor, to oversee stimulus spending in the state, said the officials are grappling with lots of details but that he expected the process would be streamlined.

The officials also said the president's and vice president's warnings about spending the money wisely and keeping the public informed were appropriate.

Said Don Winstead, an adviser to Florida Gov. Charlie Crist: "We already have a lot of swimming pools in Florida. We don't need this money for swimming pools. We need this money to help create jobs in our state."

Separately Thursday, Texas Gov. Rick Perry rejected $555 million in stimulus money to expand state unemployment benefits. An outspoken critic of the stimulus, Perry accepted most of the roughly $17 billion slated for Texas in the plan.
On the Net:

* Stimulus Web site: http://www.recovery.gov

Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5itBENNErYRQKT05EtyY6woQTQb1wD96SN5HG0

Google turns voicemail into email - google voice

Google turns voicemail into email - google voice

By Alexei Oreskovic

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Google Inc is seeking to blur the line between the telephone and the computer even further with the introduction of Google Voice on Thursday.

The new service weaves traditional phone features with Google's Gmail email product, allowing a person to store transcripts of voicemail phone messages in their email inbox and to find a specific nugget of information within a phone message as if trawling through a sea of emails.

The move comes as Google increasingly branches out from its stronghold in Internet search, as it seeks to carve out a role in everything from cell phones to personal productivity software.

And it demonstrates the company's ability to fuse various technologies -- home-grown and acquired -- into new products, even as the economic recession puts the future of certain Google projects in question.

Google Voice is based on the technology of Grand Central Communications, a company that Google acquired in July 2007. After Grand Central remained silent for nearly two years under the Google flag, some observers wondered whether it had met the same fate as Dodgeball, a Google acquisition that was formally shut down this year.

Google Voice represents the first major update to Grand Central since the acquisition. Like the original Grand Central product, Google Voice offers consumers a single phone number that can route incoming calls to home, office and cell phones.

The new version uses speech-recognition technology that Google developed for its Goog-411 telephone directory service, automatically transcribing voicemails into text. The transcribed messages can be forwarded as an email or SMS text message to a person's email inbox.

It is unclear how Google Voice will fit into Google's business model, which relies on advertisers to provide 97 percent of the company's revenue. The company has also ventured into the mobile software market, launching last year the Android mobile operating system.

Other than a feature that bills Google Voice users when they make long-distance phone calls, the product has no immediate means of generating revenue, said Craig Walker, group product manager for Real Time Communications at Google.

He said that Google Voice, which will be available to existing Grand Central users on Thursday and to the general public in the following weeks, provides another reason for people to spend more time on Google's various online properties, which benefits the company.

Google also makes money from selling enterprise versions of its applications to corporations. But Walker said the current priority is to make Google Voice a success as a free consumer product.

"There's all sorts of things we can do down the road," Walker said. "But right now we're just totally focused on getting the consumer product out."

(Reporting by Alexei Oreskovic, editing by Matthew Lewis)

source : http://www.reuters.com/article/technologyNews/idUSTRE52B0U720090312

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Ala. gunman left list of those who wronged him


Ala. gunman left list of those who wronged him

By JESSICA GRESKO and DESIREE HUNTER

SAMSON, Ala. (AP) — The gunman who killed 10 people and committed suicide in a rampage across the Alabama countryside had struggled to keep a job and left behind lists of employers and co-workers he believed had wronged him, authorities said Wednesday.

The lists found in Michael McLendon's home included a metals plant that had forced him to resign years ago and where he ended up killing himself Tuesday to end the rampage, District Attorney Gary McAliley said. Also on the list were a sausage factory from which he suddenly quit last week and a poultry plant that suspended his mother, McAliley said.

The pages torn from a spiral notebook included names of co-workers who he felt had wronged him, including one who reported him for not wearing ear plugs, another who made him clean a meat grinder and a supervisor who didn't like the way he cut pork chops, McAliley said.

"We found a list of people he worked with, people who had done him wrong," said McAliley in an interview outside the charred house where the rampage began.

Investigators offered no immediate explanation for why McLendon targeted relatives and others who weren't on the list as he fired more than 200 rounds in a roughly 20-mile trail of carnage across two counties near the Florida state line.

The district attorney said a piece of paper found in the house he shared with his mother also included the names of nine lawyers in the area. He said McLendon apparently wanted to hire a lawyer in a dispute with members of his family over getting a family Bible returned to him, but details weren't clear.

McLendon began his killing spree across three southern Alabama communities by burning down his home, and ended it by taking his own life at Reliable Metals, where he worked until 2003. McAliley said he believes McLendon had planned more violence at the Pilgrim Pride plant in Enterprise, where his mother worked, and the place he recently quit, Kelly Foods in Elba.

McLendon's complete work history wasn't immediately known, but he left the metals plant in Geneva in 2003 and apparently worked at Pilgrim's Pride before joining the sausage factory in 2007.

Lt. Barry Tucker of Alabama Bureau of Investigations said at a news conference that McLendon was "somewhat depressed about job issues" but that investigators don't believe the shootings were job-related.

"There's no specific indication of 'This is why I did it,'" said Tucker who wouldn't release a motive.

Federal court records show McLendon and his mother are among Pilgrim Pride employees who filed a lawsuit in 2006 against the Pittsburg, Texas-based poultry firm over claims of unfair compensation. A company spokesman did not immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

The district attorney said records found in the home indicate Lisa McLendon was accused of misstating her hours but was due to resume work March 17. The company wouldn't comment on the reason she was suspended.

In the span of about an hour, McLendon, 28, set his home on fire, killed five relatives and five bystanders and committed suicide in a standoff at the plant.

"The community's just in disbelief, just how this could happen in our small town," said state Sen. Harri Anne Smith, from the nearby town of Slocomb. "This was 20-something miles of terror."

At a prayer service at First Baptist Church of Samson, Rev. Steve Sellers made no attempt to explain what would drive someone to commit such an act.

"Father, there are times in life when we don't have answers to the question why," Sellers said to several hundred people in the church, where sobs could be heard. "I don't know what set a young man off like that, but I too want to pray for his family."

It was not clear how long McLendon had been planning the attack, but authorities said he armed himself with four guns — two assault rifles with high-capacity magazines taped together, a shotgun and a .38-caliber pistol — and may have planned a bigger massacre than he had time to carry out.

"I'm convinced he went over there to kill more people," said Sheriff Dave Sutton.

The shooting was the deadliest attack by a single gunman in Alabama history, and plunged Samson, a community of about 2,000 where McLendon grew up and where most of his victims lived, into mourning.

The town is so close-knit that the mayor coached McLendon in T-ball when he was a boy, and the dead included the wife and daughter of one of the sheriff's deputies who was sent to chase McLendon.

As word about the killings spread, graduates of the local high school scrambled to find their yearbooks, and many realized they knew the gunman.

"Something had to snap," said Jerry Hysmith, 35, who worked with McLendon at the metals plant in 2001.

Among the dead were some of the very people who might have helped explain what set off McLendon — his grandmother, his mother, an uncle and two cousins.

This much is clear: McLendon had a hard time keeping a job over the years, and had been forced to resign from his position at a local Reliable Metals plant in 2003, authorities said. Investigators would not say why.

That year, he tried to join the police academy, but lasted only a week before flunking out, authorities said. His next known job came in 2007, at a nearby sausage plant operated by Kelley Foods.

The company said he quit last week but was considered a team leader and was well-liked by employees.

The rampage started around 3:30 p.m., when McLendon put his mother on an L-shaped couch, piled stuff on top of her and set her ablaze, authorities said. Before he left, he also shot four dogs. Investigators did not immediately say whether the woman was dead or alive when the fire was set.

Inside the charred home, a gun safe was left with its door ajar, and military gear, including a camouflage jacket and green military-style backpack, was found about the home. In another room, remnants of his baseball career, including a 1995 All-Star trophy, were prominently displayed.

McLendon then drove a dozen miles and gunned down three other relatives and the deputy's wife and daughter on a porch and shot his grandmother at a house next door, sending panicked bystanders fleeing and ducking behind cars. His uncle's wife, Phyllis White, sought refuge in the house of neighbor Archie Mock.

"She was just saying, `I think my family is dead. I think my family is dead,'" Mock said.

McLendon went inside the house and chased his aunt out before driving off, said Tom Knowles, who was at his son's house nearby and saw the shooting. Knowles said McLendon returned moments later in his car as if looking for the aunt, then turned and looked at Knowles.

"He had cold eyes. There was nothing. I hollered at him. I said, 'Look, boy, I ain't done nothing to you,'" Knowles said. McLendon then left for good.

Then, McLendon shot three more people at random as he drove toward the metals plant, firing from his car.

At the metals plant, McLendon got out of his car and fired at police with his assault rifle, wounding Geneva Police Chief Frankie Lindsey, authorities said. Then he walked inside and killed himself.

The victims included the wife and 18-month-old daughter of sheriff's Deputy Josh Myers, who was sent to chase McLendon. Myers did not know then that his wife and daughter were among the dead. His 4-month-old daughter was wounded in the attack.

"I cried so much yesterday, I don't have a tear left in me," said Myers, who did not know McLendon. "I feel like I should be able to walk in the house and my wife would be there, my baby girl climbing on me."

Associated Press Writers Jay Reeves in Samson, Gary Mitchell in Mobile and Bob Johnson and Kate Brumback in Montgomery contributed to this report.

source : http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5i8CbzUeIBWcQ-VUtTTdTnlgX_oqAD96S6VR80?index=0

Asian markets extend global rally on Citi news

 
 
Asian markets extend global rally on Citi news
HONG KONG (AP) — Asian stock markets surged Tuesday, with Japan's key index jumping nearly 5 percent, after Wall Street staged a massive rally as news that Citigroup is turning a profit buoyed hopes the stricken financial sector can recover.
The region's lurch higher, led partly by financial shares, was a welcome reprieve from the depressing declines in global equities over the last few weeks.
But analysts said the relief was likely to be temporary as stocks, in the throes of the worst bear market in years, continue to grind toward a new bottom in the coming months amid the worsening outlook for the world economy. Another sharp drop in Chinese exports last month was just the latest grim reminder of how severe the global downturn is.
"What you've seen today is mostly a technical bounce in markets after falling steeply recently, and I don't think this rally can be sustained," said Arjuna Mahendran, the Singapore-based head of Asian investment strategy for HSBC Private Bank, which manages some $494 billion in assets. "It's still far too early to predict that the global recession is over ... The fundamentals are simply not in place."
The catalyst for the rally on Wall Street was a letter from Citigroup Chief Executive Vikram Pandit to employees saying the bank had operated at a profit for the first two months of this year, logging its best performance since the third quarter of 2007, the last time it booked a quarterly profit.
Investors, desperate for any positive signs about the ailing financial system, cheered the news about the banking giant, which has lost so much money the federal government has been forced to extend billions in aid and take a 36 percent stake.
Japan's Nikkei 225 stock average shot up 321.14 points, or 4.6 percent, to 7,376.12, rebounding from a 26-year closing low hit this week. Hong Kong's Hang Seng leaped 332.56 points, or 2.8 percent, to 12,026.61.
Elsewhere, South Korea's Kospi rose 35.31, or 3.2 percent, to 1,127.51. Benchmarks in Australia, Singapore and Taiwan were up 1.9 percent.
Banking shares were especially strong, with leading Japanese bank Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc. gaining 4 percent. HSBC, which like Citi gave reassurances this week that it was performing better than expected so far this year, advanced 6 percent in Hong Kong, continuing its recovery form a 24 percent plunge on Monday.
The upbeat mood, though, belied more evidence that Asian countries were still suffering from the drought in Western demand that drives their export-reliant economies.
In China, exports plunged 25.7 percent last month as overseas appetites for goods made in the world's third-largest economy continued to deteriorate. Imports also fell. A string of monthly export declines is undermining hopes among many investors that China can boost its economy, at least in the near term, with a 4 trillion ($586 billion) stimulus package.
Also in Asia, Japanese machinery orders, an indicator of how much the country's companies are spending, fell 3.2 percent in January, though were still better than expected.
In the U.S., Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke warned the U.S. recession wouldn't end this year unless the government bailout of banks succeeded and financial markets were restored to working order.
On Tuesday, Wall Street posted its best performance of the year, with the Dow Jones industrials surging 379 points, or about 5.8 percent, to 6,926.49. The broader Standard & Poor's 500 index advanced 43.07 points, 6.4 percent, to 719.6.
Stock futures pointed to modest gains on Wall Street Wednesday. Dow futures rose 46, or 0.7 percent, to 6,933 and S&P 500 futures advanced 4.5, or 0.6 percent, to 720.50.
Oil prices were steady in Asian trade, with light, sweet crude for April delivery up 5 cents at $45.76 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell $1.36 to settle at $45.71 a barrel overnight.
The dollar weakened to 98.54 yen from 98.80 yen late Tuesday. The euro dropped to $1.2629 from $1.2702.
source : http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5h3kgMAkbLwyfxBdjzw8Pc4KZ7DhQD96RM1RO0

Museum reveals engraving hidden in Lincoln watch



Museum reveals engraving hidden in Lincoln watch
By BRETT ZONGKER

WASHINGTON (AP) — For nearly 150 years, a story has circulated about a hidden Civil War message engraved inside Abraham Lincoln's pocket watch. On Tuesday, museum curators confirmed it was true. A watchmaker used tiny tools to carefully pry open the antique watch at the National Museum of American History, and a descendant of the engraver read aloud the message from a metal plate underneath the watch face.
"Jonathan Dillon April 13 - 1861," part of the inscription reads, "Fort Sumpter (sic) was attacked by the rebels on the above date." Another part reads, "Thank God we have a government."
The words were etched in tiny cursive handwriting and filled the the space between tiny screws and gears that jutted through the metal plate. A magnifying glass was required to read them.
Jonathan Dillon, then a watchmaker on Pennsylvania Avenue, had Lincoln's watch in his hands when he heard the first shots of the Civil War had been fired in South Carolina. The Irish immigrant later recalled being the only Union sympathizer working at the shop in a divided Washington.
Dillon's story was passed down among his family and friends, eventually reaching a New York Times reporter. In a 1906 article in the paper, an 84-year-old Dillon said no one, including Lincoln, ever saw the inscription as far as he knew.
Dillon had a fuzzy recollection of what he had engraved. He told the newspaper he had written: "The first gun is fired. Slavery is dead. Thank God we have a president who at least will try."
For years the story went unconfirmed.
The watchmaker's great-great grandson, Doug Stiles, first heard the tale of the engraving from his great uncle decades ago. He said the story had reached extended family as far away as Ireland.
A few months ago, he used Google to find the New York Times story, and last month he passed the information along to Smithsonian curators, who knew nothing about the engraving.
On Tuesday, watchmaker George Thomas, who volunteers at the museum, spent several minutes carefully opening the watch as an audience of reporters and museum workers watched on a video monitor.
"The moment of truth has come. Is there or is there not an inscription?" Thomas said, teasing the audience, which gasped when he confirmed it was there. He called Stiles up to read his ancestor's words, drawing smiles and a few sighs of relief.
"Like Pearl Harbor or 9/11, this was the reaction he had (to the Civil War,)" Stiles said of the inscription.
Later, Stiles said he felt closer to the 16th president.
"My gosh, that was Lincoln's watch," he said, "and my ancestor put graffiti on it!"
Lincoln's family kept the watch until it was donated to the museum in 1958. It was Lincoln's everyday pocket watch, one of the president's only valuable possessions he brought with him to the White House from Springfield, Ill., said Harry Rubenstein, curator of the museum's politics and reform division.
"I think it just captures a bit of history that can transform you to another time and place," he said. "It captures the excitement, the hope of a watchmaker in Washington."
The watch will go back on display at the museum by Wednesday as part of the exhibit, "Abraham Lincoln: An Extraordinary Life." It will have a new label to tell Dillon's story and a photo of the inscription.
source : http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5i9j7gMrhQzwmNnpNEqIABXoTR5mwD96RFLNG0?index=0

Sri Lanka suicide blast kills 14, wounds minister

Sri Lanka suicide blast kills 14, wounds minister
By BHARATHA MALLAWARACHI
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — A suicide bomber attacked government ministers leading a procession to mark a Muslim festival in southern Sri Lanka on Tuesday, killing 14 people and severely wounding one of the officials.
The government blamed Tamil Tiger separatists for the blast, which wounded 45 other people, saying the rebels had grown desperate in the face of an army offensive that has driven them close to defeat after more than 25 years of civil war.
If the work of the Tigers, the assault shows the guerrillas can still launch strikes far from their traditional strongholds in the north and east even as they face battlefield defeat.
As the military has pushed the rebels into an ever-shrinking sliver of territory in the north, human rights and aid groups have voiced concern for the fate of the tens of thousands of civilians trapped in the pocket. Heavy artillery attacks Tuesday killed at least 49 ethnic Tamil civilians and wounded hundreds of others, the top government health official in the war zone said.
While fighting rages in the north, the suicide attacker struck in the southern town of Akuressa as six ministers led a procession toward a mosque for a ceremony to commemorate the prophet Mohammed's birthday.
Television footage showed men in white robes and caps slowly parading down the street before the blast sent them running in all directions. Afterward, charred bodies lay scattered among their torn clothes and severed limbs just outside the mosque compound's gates.
"I heard a huge sound, and then I saw people had fallen everywhere. They were covered with blood and flesh, and the wounded people were screaming," Ahamed Nafri, 29, said by telephone from the hospital in the nearby town of Matara.
Police and bystanders hauled the badly bleeding Minister of Posts and Telecommunications Mahinda Wijesekara into a van. He was later flown to the capital for treatment to a head wound.
Dr. Hector Weerasinghe, the director of Colombo National Hospital, said the minister underwent three hours of surgery and was still in serious condition late Tuesday.
The government said the attack killed 14 people and wounded 45 more.
The attack came as government forces stood poised to rout the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam from their last stronghold in northeastern Sri Lanka after a 20-month offensive.
The rebels have fought since 1983 for an independent state for the Tamil minority, which suffered decades of marginalization at the hands of governments dominated by the Sinhalese majority. More than 70,000 people have been killed.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa's office said selecting a mosque on an Islamic festival for the attack showed the rebels "hatred" of Muslims and strengthened the government's resolve to defeat them.
There was no indication Muslims were specifically targeted on Tuesday. However, the Tamil Tigers used violence to drive many Muslims and ethnic Sinhalese from Tamil-dominated areas. In one of the bloodiest incidents, suspected rebels attacked a mosque in an eastern town in 1990 with guns, grenades and machetes, killing 140 worshippers.
Muslims, many of them descendants of Arab or Indian traders, make up about 7 percent of Sri Lanka's population. Many speak Tamil but the community has largely stayed out of the war.
With most communication to the north severed, rebel spokesmen could not be reached for comment.
In the northern war zone, Dr. Thurairaja Varatharajah, the top government health official there, said shell fire continued to hit a government designated civilian refuge Tuesday as heavy rains flooded trenches and forced families out into the open.
By the afternoon, 279 wounded civilians were brought to the makeshift hospital he runs in the area, and 43 of them died because of lack of adequate care, he said. Many of the wounded were being treated under trees in the rain. Another six bodies were brought to the hospital's morgue, he said.
Since the beginning of March, 1,205 wounded civilians were brought to the hospital and 218 people either died at the facility or were brought to the morgue by relatives, he said. However, many families have stopped bringing their dead to the hospital because of the shelling, health officials say.
The army denies shelling the area.
The top U.N. official in Sri Lanka reiterated the world body's call for a pause in the fighting to let the civilians flee.
"There are too many people too near heavy fighting. It's wrong," U.N. resident coordinator Neil Buhne said.

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