Yemen VP now acting president, forces commander-Jazeera
Sat Jun 4, 2011 8:34pm GMT
DUBAI, June 4(Reuters) - Yemen's Vice President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi has taken over as acting president and supreme commander of the armed forces, Al Jazeera said on Saturday after the country's president suffered injuries in a rocket attack.
Al Jazeera cited unspecified sources. Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh was expected to arrive in Saudi Arabia for treatment for wounds he suffered during an attack on the presidential palace on Friday. [ID:nLDE7530BS] (Reporting by Mahmoud Habboush; Writing by Amran Abocar; Editing by Andrew Roche)
Rich, Famous and Powerful Converge at Bilderberg
CNBC.com | June 09, 2011 | 04:29 AM EDT
Dominique Strauss-Kahn, naturally, isn't attending this year, and his likely successor Christine Lagarde is in China, but the Bilderberg Conference which kicks off in the Swiss resort of St. Moritz on Thursday retains its conspiratorial chic and pulling power.
The attendee list of Bilderberg is still pretty much the only thing that is not a closely guarded secret, as 120 of the world's richest and most powerful people meet behind closed doors, this time at the Suvretta House hotel in Switzerland, a venue which not only boasts a "fairytale castle" design, but also its own "Teddy World."
U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron and Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne are known to have attended in the past, although it seems unlikely that either will attend this week.
A spokesperson at the U.K. Treasury press office said it "didn't know" whether or not Osborne would go this year, but promised to call CNBC.com back. They did not. Given the secretive spirit of Bilderberg, that could well be taken as a confirmation.
The first Bilderberg meeting in 1954 was an attempt to stamp out post-war anti-Americanism in Europe, bringing together senior U.S. and European figures to meet and discuss the international challenges of the day.
Since then, the rich and powerful have continued to meet. The2010 event, in Sitges, Spain, included on its agenda "The Growing Influence of Cyber Technology," "Security in a Proliferated World," "Promises of Medical Science," and "Can We Feed the World." according to its official website.
Its secrecy only serves to add fuel to the innumerate conspiracy theories that circulate around the event, with Internet message boards often channelling Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown and putting the "club" in the same bracket as the Freemasons and "Illuminati."
The 120 participants attend in a private capacity and, officially, they do not forge agreements over global economic policy.
"Bilderberg is a small, flexible, informal and off-the-record international forum in which different viewpoints can be expressed and mutual understanding enhanced. Bilderberg's only activity is its annual conference. At the meetings, no resolutions are proposed, no votes taken, and no policy statements issued," the official Bilderberg website says.
In which case, you might ask, what is the point of Bilderberg?
Andrew Kakabadse is professor of international management development at Cranfield University. For his recent book "Bilderberg People," co-authored with Nada Kakabadse and Ian Richardson, Kakabadse interviewed a number of past attendees in order to understand how the network of global influence works.
"It's a meeting. It's not an organization. It's not an official summit," he told CNBC.com. "It's basically a meeting of friends.
"The Bilderbergs are probably the most influential global network of all time. It's an honor to be invited, it's a tremendous honor. Part of it is recognition for work done and part of it is for contribution to enabling world affairs.
"The people we talked to are quite genuine. Mostly they don't understand the conspiracy bit, because they say when you go there what you find is people of all sorts of varying views. But the fact that they've been invited is indicative of the position that they've reached in life," he said.
Nevertheless, Bilderberg is where ideas are shared and a transatlantic, capitalist consensus view of the world comes together.
"You do get the impression that what is happening is a shaping of ideas and the shaping of a way forward does take place," Kakabadse said.
"The name we'd put to this is smart power or shaping, but it is definitely not doing something definite, like 'we're going to go and make that investment or conspire against them.' It's more about getting a consensus around a position that then infiltrates itself into society."
The networking opportunities are unique, he added.
"Had you not gone to a Bilderberg meeting, you may not be able to ring X and for them to answer the phone directly. Having gone to a Bilderberg meeting, that happens," he said. "It may have taken you six months hard consulting to get into somebody's diary. Having gone to a Bilderberg meeting, it takes two minutes on the phone."
"There's many reasons why people want to go to the Bilderberg meetings, there are many advantages at a personal level, but then I suppose there's the supreme professional advantage of being recognized as a person who has the capability and has achieved a position in life where you can influence thinking on world affairs," Kakabadse said.
That "supreme advantage," however, can come at a price. Different people identify themselves differently with the meetings, Kakabadse said, but the greatest anxiety over acceptance, he noted, is amongst those who are invited once, but not asked again.
Breaking News Alert The New York Times Friday, June 17, 2011 -- 9:05 PM EDT -----
Obama Overruled 2 Top Lawyers on War Power in Libya
President Obama rejected the views of top lawyers at the Pentagon and the Justice Department when he decided that he had the legal authority to continue American military participation in the air war in Libya without Congressional authorization, according to officials familiar with internal administration deliberations.
Legislation to legalize same-sex marriage in New York cleared the last major hurdle with a 33-to-29 vote in the state Senate, sending the bill to the governor's desk for his expected approval.
A vote on the measure, which the state Assembly passed June 15, had been stalled in the Senate. But it turned a corner Friday, according to Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, after lawmakers agreed on an amendment pushed by Republicans to protect religious groups from potential litigation.
Currently, the District of Columbia and five states -- Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont and New Hampshire -- grant same-sex marriage licenses.
Congress passes free-trade bills with Colombia, Panama and South Korea.
President Barack Obama sent the proposed trade deals to Congress last week.
The White House, Republicans and big business groups have said the deals would create jobs in the United States. The deals could spur $13 billion annually in new exports and "support tens of thousands of jobs," a senior administration official has said.
Union groups and some Democrats have opposed the bills, expressing doubt that they would create jobs.
Death of Saudi crown prince puts succession spotlight on critic of reforms
By Abdullah Al-Shihri,Brian Murphy, The Associated Press | The Canadian Press – 9 hours ago
Saudis watch a TV broadcast on the death of Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul-Aziz Al …
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia - Saudi Arabia's ruling monarchy moved into a critical period of realignment Saturday after the death of the heir to the throne opened the way for a new crown prince: most likely a tough-talking interior minister who has led crackdowns on Islamic militants but also has shown favour to ultraconservative traditions such as keeping the ban on women voting.
A state funeral is planned for Tuesday in Riyadh for crown prince Sultan bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud, who died in New York at the age of 80 after an unspecified illness, the official Saudi Press Agency said.
Now, Saudi rulers are expected to move quickly to name the new king-in-waiting — which royal protocol suggests will be Sultan's half brother, Prince Nayef.
Moving Nayef to the top of the succession ladder would not likely pose any risks to Saudi Arabia's pro-Western policies and, in particular, its close alliance with Washington. But Nayef cuts a much more mercurial figure than Saudi's current leader, the ailing King Abdullah, who has nudged ahead with reforms such as promising women voting rights in 2015 despite rumblings from the country's powerful religious establishment.
Nayef, 78, has earned U.S. praise for unleashing the internal security forces against suspected Islamic extremist cells in Saudi Arabia, which was home to 15 of 19 of the Sept. 11 hijackers. Yet he brought blistering rebukes in the West for a 2002 interview that quoted him as saying that "Zionists" — a reference to Jews — benefited from the 9-11 attacks because it turned world opinion against Islam and Arabs.
Nayef also has expressed displeasure at some of Abdullah's moves for more openness, saying in 2009 that he saw no need for women to vote or participate in politics. It's a view shared by many Saudi clerics, who follow a strict brand of Islam known as Wahhabism. Their support gives the Saudi monarchy the legitimacy to rule over a nation holding Islam's holiest sites.
"Nayef is more religious, and is closer to the Saudi groups who are very critical of the king's decisions regarding women and other steps he's taken to balance out the rigid religious practices in society," said Ali Fakhro, a political analyst and commentator in Bahrain.
But it remains doubtful that Nayef — if ever made king — would outright annul Abdullah's reforms, which include the establishment of a coed university where both genders can mix. More likely, Nayef would put any further changes on hold, said Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, a political affairs professor at Emirates University.
"It's not good news for Saudis or for the region," he said. "(Nayef) is the security guy. He is the mukhabarat (secret police) guy. He is the internal affairs guy."
Although it's not certain that Nayef will be selected to succeed Sultan, the signs point clearly in that direction.
After Sultan fell ill two years ago, Nayef was named second deputy prime minister, traditionally the post right behind the crown prince. For the first time, however, the mechanism of picking the next No. 2 in the royal succession is not entirely clear.
Traditionally, the king names his successor. But this time it is possible that Abdullah will put the decision to the Allegiance Council, a 33-member body composed of his brothers and cousins. Abdullah created the council as part of his reforms and gave it a mandate to choose the heir.
Abdullah formed the council in order to modernize the process and give a wider voice. When it was created, it was decided that the council would choose the heir for the first time when Sultan rose to the throne, and his crown prince would need to be named. But it was not specified whether it would be used if Sultan died before the king.
The choice of whether to convene the council now will likely be made by the 87-year-old Abdullah, who is currently recovering from his third operation to treat back problems in less than a year.
"It is with deep sorrow and grief that the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah mourns the loss of his brother and Crown Prince, His Royal Highness Prince Sultan," the palace said in a statement announcing Sultan's death.
The announcement did not elaborate on his illness. According to a leaked U.S. diplomatic cable from January 2010, Sultan had been receiving treatment for colon cancer since 2009.
Sultan was the kingdom's defence minister in 1990 when U.S. forces deployed in Saudi Arabia to defend it against Iraqi forces that had overrun Kuwait. His son, Prince Khaled, served as the top Arab commander in the 1991 operation Desert Storm, in which U.S.-led troops drove the Iraqis out of Kuwait.
As defence minister, Sultan closed multibillion-dollar deals to establish the modern Saudi armed forces, including land, air, naval and air defence forces. On more than one occasion, the deals implicated several of his sons in corruption scandals — charges they have denied.
Sultan is survived by 32 children from multiple wives. They include Bandar, the former ambassador to the United States who now heads the National Security Council, and Khaled, Sultan's assistant in the Defence Ministry.
U.S. President Barack Obama called the prince "a valued friend of the United States" in a statement of condolence. "He was a strong supporter of the deep and enduring partnership between our two countries forged almost seven decades ago."
"He will be missed," said U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during a visit to Tajikistan. "Our relationship with Saudi Arabia is strong and enduring and we will look forward to working with the leadership for many years to come."
Britain's foreign secretary, William Hague, said Sultan served his country with "great dignity and dedication."
Saudi Arabia has been ruled since 1953 by the sons of its founder, King Abdul-Aziz, who had more than 40 sons by multiple wives. Sultan was part of the aging second generation of Abdul-Aziz's sons, including Nayef, the full brother of the late King Fahd, who died in 2005.
While Nayef has taken only minor roles in foreign affairs, he has been outspoken in one of Saudi Arabia's chief regional concerns: ambitions by rival Iran to expand its influence in the Middle East.
Earlier this year, he blamed the Shiite power for encouraging protests among Saudi Arabia's minority Shiites.
Nayef also was involved in the kingdom's decision in March to send military forces into neighbouring Bahrain to help crush pro-reform demonstrations led by tiny island nation's majority Shiites against its Sunni rulers — which Gulf Arab leaders accuse of having ties to Iran.
With Yemen, he has called for Saudi Arabia to take a harder line with embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was treated in Saudi Arabia after surviving a blast in June and later returned to Yemen.
In August, Nayef accepted undisclosed libel damages from Britain's newspaper The Independent over an article which accused him of ordering police chiefs to shoot and kill unarmed demonstrators in Saudi Arabia.
Nayef has chaired Cabinet meetings in place of Abdullah and Sultan. He also draws considerable prestige from being among the sons of Abdul-Aziz's most prominent wife, known as the Sudeiri Seven. Abdullah's predecessor Fahd also was among the seven.
"Nayef's closer links to the Wahhabi establishment may see a reversal of some recent reforms, especially regarding women," said Christopher Davidson, a lecturer at Britain's Durham University and an expert on Gulf affairs. "But more likely business as usual, I think, with no further major reforms."
Murphy reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Associated Press writers Maggie Michael in Cairo and Barbara Surk in Manama, Bahrain, contributed to this report.
TEHRAN (UPI) -- An Iranian actress sentenced to 90 lashes after her arrest for her role in an Australian film banned in Iran has been released, Amnesty International said.
Marzieh Vafamehr, who was arrested in Iran after starring in the Australian film "My Tehran for Sale," was released Monday night after an appeal court reduced her imprisonment to three months and overturned the flogging sentence, the organization, based in Britain, said in a release.
In one scene in the film, which is critical of the government's policies, the actress is shown without the head-covering Iranian women are required to wear. In another, she appears to drink alcohol.
International film industry associations -- including The Directors Guild of America, The Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, The International Documentary Association, the producers Guild of America and the Screen Actors Guild -- released statements recently calling for Vafamehr's release, The Australian newspaper reported Friday.
Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou survives a confidence vote after days of turmoil sparked by his proposal to hold a referendum on a bailout for his country.
Having backed off the referendum plan, Papandreou announced just before the confidence vote he would seek a coalition government.
Political instability in Greece has caused political and financial jitters throughout Europe and beyond, as world leaders met in France for the G-20 economic summit with concerns that Greece's woes could spread to major European economies.
President Barack Obama told the summit that events in Greece underscore the importance of implementing a Greek economic bailout plan fully and quickly.
My local station here in Canada picked up this verdict as soon as it was delivered.
Los Angeles Times | Nov. 7, 2011 1:17 p.m.
Michael Jackson's personal physician has been found guilty of involuntary manslaughter for causing the pop icon's 2009 death with a fatal dose of a powerful surgical anesthetic. The verdict against Dr. Conrad Murray comes after nine hours of deliberations by a jury in Los Angeles.
The 58-year-old cardiologist, who was charged with the lowest possible homicide offense, faces a maximum sentence of four years in state prison and a minimum sentence of probation.
Mississippi voters rejected an amendment to the state constitution that defined life as beginning at the moment of conception, CNN projects based on reported results.
The measure would have made it impossible to get an abortion in the state and hampered the ability to get the morning-after pill or birth control pills that destroy fertilized eggs.
Disposing of unused fertilized eggs could also have become illegal, making in vitro fertilization treatments more difficult. The measure could have led to a nationwide debate about women's rights and abortion while setting up a possible challenge to the landmark Roe v. Wade case, which makes abortion legal.
Also, CNN projects that Mississippi voters will approve a measure to amend the state constitution to require a person to submit government-issued photo ID in order to vote.
Breaking: CNN Lays Off 50 Staffers After Employee Appreciation Week
Published: November 11, 2011 @ 2:59 pm
By Brent Lang
CNN laid off about 50 staff-members on Friday, citing technological advances and "work flow" changes, TheWrap has confirmed.
Photojournalists, technicians and librarians were laid off, though no reporters got the axe, according to individuals with knowledge of the layoffs.
"It was a complete shock. no one had any idea this was going to happen," said one shaken employee. "This is not the friendly company it used to be. And no one really knows why - the economy, the ratings or what."
The cuts come to the cable network's newsrooms in Miami, Washington D.C., New York, Los Angeles and Atlanta.
Another individual said the cuts were more than 50, and closer to 70.
Despite the cuts, a CNN spokeswoman said the network expects the number of positions to remain relatively flat over the next six months with the previous year.
Staffers at CNN told TheWrap that they were shocked at the sudden layoffs, especially given that it was employee appreciation week at the New York office, with gifts like hand cream handed out and appreciative signage decorating the building.
Nearly a dozen photojournalists were given pink slips -- four in New York, five in Washington, one in Miami, and one in Los Angeles -- according to an individual with knowledge.
Two of the laid-off photographers had just finished covering the Conrad Murray trial.
To save money, the network plans to transfer certain departments that can work remotely to Atlanta. CNN's graphic department was moved to Atlanta months ago, foreshadowing things to come.
In a note to staff, Jack Womack, CNN's SVP of domestic news operations, wrote that the layoffs come after a 3-year review of the cable news network's Image + Sound operations. He noted that money the network invested in its newsrooms now allowed for desk-top editing and publishing for broadcast and online, making some positions unnecessary.
"Now that we have completed this three-year review, we believe that we have the right resources in the right places and the proper staffing at Image + Sound, and that the unit is well-positioned to have an even more positive impact on our networks and platforms," Womack wrote.
Here's the full text of the message to staff.
From: Womack, Jack Sent: Friday, November 11, 2011 3:59 PM To: *CNN ALL Cities ImageSound (TBS); *CNN ALL Cities Tech Ops Subject: NOTE TO STAFF
For the past three years, we have been analyzing our work process across Image + Sound, both in the field and in our editing and production areas.
Our goal has been to make sure we have the right resources in the right places to meet the demands of all of our programs. Technology investments in our newsrooms now allow more desk-top editing and publishing for broadcast and online.