Tag Archive: Germany


http://movies.yahoo.com/news/jk-rowling-uk-press-left-feeling-under-siege-160752017.html

LONDON (AP) — Writer J.K. Rowling and actress Sienna Miller gave a London courtroom a vivid picture on Thursday of the anxiety, anger and fear produced by living in the glare of Britain’s tabloid media, describing how press intrusion made them feel like prisoners in their own homes.

The creator of boy wizard Harry Potter told Britain’s media ethics inquiry that having journalists camped on her doorstep was “like being under siege and like being a hostage.” Miller said years of car chases, midnight pursuits and intimate revelations had left her feeling violated, paranoid and anxious.

“The attitude seems to be absolutely cavalier,” Rowling said. “You’re famous, you’re asking for it.”

The pair were among a diverse cast of witnesses — Hollywood star Hugh Grant, a former soccer player, a former aide to supermodel Elle Macpherson and the parents of missing and murdered children — who have described how becoming the focus of Britain’s tabloid press wreaked havoc on their lives.

Rowling said she was completely unprepared for the media attention she began to receive when her first book, “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone,” became a sensation. The seven Potter books have sold more than 450 million copies, spawned a hit movie series and propelled Rowling from struggling single mother to one of Britain’s richest people.

“When you become well-known … no one gives you a guidebook,” she said.

Prime Minister David Cameron set up the inquiry amid a still-unfolding scandal over illegal eavesdropping by the News of the World tabloid. Owner Rupert Murdoch closed down the newspaper in July after evidence emerged that it had illegally accessed the mobile phone voice mails of celebrities, politicians and even crime victims in its search of scoops.

More than a dozen News of the World journalists and editors have been arrested, and the scandal has also claimed the jobs of two top London police officers, Cameron’s media adviser and several senior Murdoch executives.

It has also set off national soul-searching about the balance between press freedom and individual privacy.

Rowling, 46, said media interest in her began shortly after the publication of her first novel in 1997 and soon escalated, with photographers and reporters frequently stationed outside her home. She eventually moved after stories and photographs revealed the location of her house.

“I can’t put an invisibility cloaking device over myself or my house, nor would I want to,” Rowling said. But, she added, “it feels threatening to have people watching you.”

Rowling said she had always tried to keep her three children out of the media glare, and was outraged when her eldest daughter came home from primary school with a letter from a journalist in her backpack.

“I felt such a sense of invasion,” Rowling said. “It’s very difficult to say how angry I felt that my 5-year-old daughter’s school was no longer a place of complete security from journalists.”

By the time her younger children were born in 2003 and 2005, Rowling said, the scrutiny was “like being under siege and like being a hostage.”

She also described how, early on in their relationship, her now-husband Neil Murray gave personal details over the phone to a reporter who was pretending to be a tax official. An article about him duly appeared in a tabloid paper.

“That was a not-very-nice introduction to being involved with someone famous,” Rowling said.

Rowling told the inquiry she had gone to court or to Britain’s press watchdog more than 50 times over pictures of her children or false stories, which included a claim by the Daily Express that unpleasant fictional wizard Gilderoy Lockhart had been based on her first husband.

Before the final Potter book appeared in 2007, a reporter even phoned the head teacher of her daughter’s school, falsely claiming the child had revealed that Harry Potter died at the end, in an apparent bid to learn secrets of the plot.

Miller, who became a tabloid staple when she dated fellow actor Jude Law, said the constant scrutiny left her feeling “very violated and very paranoid and anxious, constantly.”

“I felt like I was living in some sort of video game,” she said.

“For a number of years I was relentlessly pursued by 10 to 15 men, almost daily,” she said. “Spat at, verbally abused.

“I would often find myself, at the age of 21, at midnight, running down a dark street on my own with 10 men chasing me. And the fact they had cameras in their hands made that legal.”

The 29-year-old actress told the inquiry that a stream of personal stories about her in the tabloids led her to accuse friends and family of leaking information to the media. In fact, her cell phone voice mails had been hacked by the News of the World.

Miller, the star of “Layer Cake” and “Alfie,” was one of the first celebrities to take the Murdoch tabloid to court over illegal eavesdropping. In May, the newspaper agreed to pay her 100,000 pounds ($160,000) to settle claims her phone had been hacked.

The newspaper’s parent company now faces dozens of lawsuits from alleged hacking victims.

Also testifying Thursday was former Formula One boss Max Mosley, who has campaigned for a privacy law since his interest in sadomasochistic sex was exposed in the News of the World.

Mosley successfully sued the News of the World over a 2008 story headlined “Formula One boss has sick Nazi orgy with five hookers.” Mosley has acknowledged the orgy, but argued that the story — obtained with a hidden camera — was an “outrageous” invasion of privacy. He said the Nazi allegation was damaging and “completely untrue.”

Mosley said he has had stories about the incident removed from 193 websites around the world, and is currently taking legal action “in 22 or 23 different countries,” including proceedings against search engine Google in France and Germany.

“Invasion of privacy is worse than burglary,” Mosley said. “Because if somebody burgles your house … you can replace the things that have been taken.”

High-profile witnesses still to come include CNN celebrity interviewer Piers Morgan, who has denied using phone hacking while he was editor of the Daily Mirror newspaper.

The inquiry, led by Judge Brian Leveson, plans to issue a report next year and could recommend major changes to Britain’s system of media self regulation.

Rowling said that she supported freedom the press, but that a new body was needed to replace the “toothless” Press Complaints Commission.

“I can’t pretend that I have a magical answer,” she said. “No Harry Potter joke intended.”

___

Leveson Inquiry: http://www.levesoninquiry.org.uk/

Jill Lawless can be reached at: http://twitter.com/JillLawless

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Palestine wins UNESCO seat

http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/envoy/palestine-wins-unesco-seat-143002573.html

 

Palestine won full admission into UNESCO, the United Nations science, education and cultural heritage organization, in a closely watched vote in Paris Monday. Global diplomacy hands view the 107-14 vote as a benchmark carrying larger implications for the Palestinians’ bid for state recognition before the UN Security Council. Both the United States and Israel have strongly opposed both initiatives.

 

The United States, Israel, Canada, Germany, Sweden and Australia were among the 14 nations voting against the Palestinians’ UNESCO bid, while 107 countries–including France, Spain, Ireland, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, India, Russia, China, South Africa and Indonesia–voted in favor. Fourteen nations–including the United Kingdom and Italy–abstained.

Washington, which called the UNESCO vote “premature” Monday, has threatened to cut off funding to UNESCO if Palestine is granted membership. The United States currently accounts for about one-fifth of the organization’s budget.

Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs also rejected the UNESCO vote, and warned it would set back peace process.

“This is a unilateral Palestinian maneuver which will bring no change on the ground but further removes the possibility for a peace agreement,” the Israeli ministry said in a statement.  “This decision will not turn the Palestinian Authority into an actual state yet places unnecessary burdens on the route to renewing negotiations.”

Palestine’s successful UNESCO bid comes as Middle East Quartet envoy Tony Blair is due to meet with U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House Monday.

Blair has been trying to advance the Quartet’s efforts to get the Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table, asking each side to lay out their specific terms for resolving the issues of borders and security for a two-state solution. Meanwhile, Israeli officials have been depicting Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas as an unworthy peace partner.

Abbas, in turn, has recently reiterated his periodic threat to dissolve the Palestinian Authority–a move that if carried out would presumably give Israel the burden of administering, funding, and coordinating security for the West Bank’s Palestinian population.

A demonstrator carries a banner during a protest against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad at the courtyard of Fatih mosque in IstanbulDemonstrators march through the streets after Friday prayers in the Hajar Al Asswad in Damascushttp://beta.news.yahoo.com/syria-activists-meet-call-change-avert-crisis-123229039.html

AMMAN (Reuters) – Syrian activists called on Monday for sweeping political changes that could end 41 years of Assad family rule in a rare meeting in Damascus allowed by the authorities under pressure from a three-month popular uprising.

“The solution to this crisis has to address its root causes. This regime must be toppled and replaced with a democratic system,” said leading Syrian writer Michel Kilo, who spent three years as a political prisoner.

The meeting at a Damascus hotel includes noted critics of President Bashar al-Assad who are respected in opposition circles, as well as some supporters of Assad.

Organizers said the gathering had approval from a senior aide to Assad, who has sent troops to crush protests across the country while promising dialogue in an effort to contain an uprising for political freedoms that has posed the gravest threat to his rule since he succeeded his father 11 years ago.

Other speakers in the conference, attended by 150 people in a Damascus hotel, adopted a softer tone but said demands of street protesters after decades of autocratic rule must be met.

Syrian writer Louay Hussein, who was also a political prisoner, said repression in the last four decades have undermined Syria as a whole while emphasizing that peaceful means must be found to meet popular demands.

Hussein said the meeting would try to explore “ending the state of dictatorship, and a peaceful and safe transition into a desired country, one of freedom, justice and equality.”

Monther Khaddam, an academic from the coastal city of Latakia, said a wider national dialogue is needed but that intellectuals were “behind street demands until the end.”

Organizers of Monday’s conference described it as a platform for independent figures searching for a way out of the violence

Main opposition figures had said the meeting could give political cover to Assad, with human rights groups saying that security forces have killed over 1,300 civilians and imprisoned 12,000 since the uprising began in southern Syria.

Economist Aref Dalila, a major figure behind the gathering, pulled out at the last minute, saying that he did not want to participate in a conference that could be used by the authorities while mass killing and arrests continue.

(Reporting by Khaled Yacoub Oweis)

Judge Sanji Mmasenono Monageng is seen in the courtroom in The Hague, Netherlands, Monday June 27, 2011. The International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued arrest warrants for Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, his son and his intelligence chief for crimes against humanity in the early days of their struggle to cling to power. (AP Photo/Robert Vos, Pool)

Libyan chant slogans against Moammar Gadhafi during a demonstration in the rebel-held capital Benghazi, Libya, Saturday, June 25, 2011. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)http://beta.news.yahoo.com/judges-order-arrest-gadhafi-son-slayings-122452359.html

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — The International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants Monday for Moammar Gadhafi, his son Seif, and his intelligence chief for crimes against humanity in the Libyan leader’s four-month battle to cling to power. 

Judges announced that the three men are wanted for orchestrating the killing, injuring, arrest and imprisonment of hundreds of civilians during the first 12 days of an uprising to topple Gadhafi from power, and for trying to cover up the alleged crimes.

The warrants turn Gadhafi, his son Seif al-Islam Gadhafi and intelligence chief Abdullah al-Sanoussi into internationally wanted suspects, potentially complicating efforts to mediate an end to more than four months of intense fighting in the North African nation.

Presiding judge Sanji Monageng of Botswana said Monday there were “reasonable grounds to believe” that Gadhafi and his son are both “criminally responsible as indirect co-perpetrators” for the murder and persecution of civilians.

She called Gadhafi the “undisputed leader of Libya” who had “absolute, ultimate and unquestioned control” over his country’s military and security forces.

Libyan officials rejected the court’s authority even before the decision was read in a Hague courtroom, claiming the court had unfairly targeted Africans while ignoring what they called crimes committed by NATO in Afghanistan, Iraq “and in Libya now.”

“The ICC has no legitimacy whatsoever. We will deal with it. … All of its activities are directed at African leaders,” government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim told reporters Sunday.

Monageng said evidence presented by prosecutors showed that following popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, Gadhafi and his inner circle plotted a “state policy … aimed at deterring and quelling by any means — including by the use of lethal force — the demonstrations by civilians against the regime.”

She said it was impossible to put an exact number on the casualties, but said Gadhafi’s security forces likely “killed and injured as well as arrested and imprisoned hundreds of civilians.”

Prosecutors at the court said the three suspects should be arrested quickly “to prevent them covering up ongoing crimes and committing new crimes.”

“This is the only way to protect civilians in Libya,” said the statement from the office of Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo.

Shortly before the court announced the warrants, French President Nicolas Sarkozy reiterated his call for Gadhafi to step down.

“After 41 years of dictatorship, it is perhaps time to stop, for him to leave power,” he told a news conference in Paris. “Mr. Gadhafi knows perfectly well what he must do for peace to return. It only depends on him.”

In Tripoli, two loud explosions shook the area near Gadhafi’s compound Monday. NATO jets were heard over the Libyan capital minutes after the blasts as sirens from emergency vehicles blared in the streets.

The thunderous late-morning blasts were felt at a hotel where foreign journalists stay in Tripoli.

Smoke rose from the area near Gadhafi’s Bab al-Aziziya complex, where Libyans hold daily rallies in support of the government. Gadhafi is not believed to be staying in the compound.

It wasn’t immediately clear what was hit or if there were civilian casualties.

A coalition including France, Britain and the United States began striking Gadhafi’s forces under a United Nations resolution to protect civilians on March 19. NATO assumed control of the air campaign over Libya on March 31 and is joined by a number of Arab allies.

___

Adam Schreck in Tripoli, Libya contributed to this report

NATO targets Tripoli with daytime raid

http://beta.news.yahoo.com/nato-targets-tripoli-daytime-raid-103459345.html

TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) — NATO warplanes dashed into the Libyan capital Tripoli at midday Friday, pounding a target in the south of the city and sending a thick cloud of black smoke rising high into the air.

A series of explosions rumbled across other parts of the city as fighter jets could by heard flying overhead. Fire engines raced through the streets, sirens blaring.

It wasn’t clear what was hit or whether there were casualties. Friday is the main day of rest in Libya, with many people off work.

NATO has been ramping up the pressure on Moammar Gadhafi’s regime. Though most airstrikes happen under cover of darkness, daytime raids have grown more frequent.

Friday’s raids follow a barrage that struck multiple targets late Thursday night.

The fresh strikes blasted the capital as renewed diplomatic efforts to halt Libya’s civil war appeared to be gaining momentum, though there are no signs a breakthrough is imminent.

On Thursday, Russia’s envoy to Libya met with senior government leaders in Tripoli, but not Gadhafi himself, in an effort to stop the fighting.

Last week, the envoy Mikhail Margelov visited the Libyan rebel stronghold of Benghazi and said that Gadhafi has lost his legitimacy. However, the envoy also said NATO airstrikes are not a solution to Libya’s violent stalemate.

Libyan Prime Minister al-Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi said the Libyan government has held a number of “preliminary meetings” with officials based in the eastern rebel-held city of Benghazi. He said the talks took place abroad, including in Egypt, Tunisia and Norway, but he did not provide specifics.

A coalition including France, Britain and the United States launched the first strikes against Gadhafi’s forces under a United Nations resolution to protect civilians on March 19. NATO assumed control of the air campaign over Libya on March 31. It’s joined by a number of Arab allies.

Speaking by video link from Naples, NATO Wing Commander Mike Bracken said Gadhafi’s future at the helm of Libya was a what he called a “political decision.” Bracken was speaking to reporters in Brussels, NATO headquarters.

Later, NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said there were no indications Gadhafi would stop attacking the opposition.

“It is hard to imagine the end to attacks on civilians while the pro-Gadhafi regime is still in power,” Lungescu said in Brussels. “It is unfortunately still the case that pro-Gadhafi forces continue to show shocking determination to harm the Libyan people.”

What started as a peaceful uprising inside Libya against Gadhafi has grown into a civil war, with rebels now holding a third of the country in the east and pockets in the west.

Libya’s rebels mark Feb. 17 — four months ago Friday — as the start of their revolution against Gadhafi’s more than four-decade rule.

It was on that date that protesters emboldened by Arab uprisings in neighboring Tunisia and Egypt took to the streets in a number of Libyan cities. At least 20 people were reported killed in a crackdown by state security forces.

Fighting between government forces and the rebels had reached a stalemate until last week when NATO launched the heaviest bombardment of Gadhafi forces since the alliance took control of the skies over Libya.

___

AP writer Don Melvin contributed from Brussels.

 

Libyan rebels claim breakout from Misrata

In this image taken from TV, showing rebel forces on the front line as they repel government troops, Sunday June 12, 2011, in Dafniya, Libya. as fighthttp://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110613/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_libya

By HADEEL AL-SHALCHI and MAGGIE MICHAEL, Associated Press        Hadeel Al-shalchi And Maggie Michael, Associated Press–    53 mins ago

MISRATA, Libya – Government artillery rained down on rebel forces Monday but failed to stop their advance into key ground west of their stronghold at Libya’s major port. As fighting raged for a fourth day, Germany’s foreign minister paid a surprise visit to the rebel’s de facto capital.

Guido Westerwelle met with officials of the Transitional National Council, telling members of the nascent rebel government that Germany recognized the council as “the legitimate representative of the Libyan people”

That position is similar to that of the United States, which has stopped short of outright diplomatic recognition of the council. The move was, nevertheless, another big diplomatic boost for the rebels and their four-month uprising to end Moammar Gadhafi’s 40-year rule in the oil-rich North African country. Germany refused to participate in the NATO air mission over Libya and withheld support for the no-fly zone.

The rebels control roughly the eastern one-third of Libya as well as Misrata, the country’s major port. The also claim to have taken parts of coastal oil center of Zawiya in the far west. That port city is 18 miles (30 kilometers) west of Tripoli and a prize that would put them in striking distance of the capital. Control of the city also would cut one of Moammar Gadhafi’s last supply routes from Tunisia.

Despite rebel claims, government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim said late Sunday that Gadhafi forces had driven off the attackers, and reporters taken to Zawiya saw secure streets and the green national flag flying over a central square. The insurgents, for their part, claimed a high-ranking Gadhafi commander was badly wounded in the fighting.

“The wishful reporting of some journalists that the rebels are gaining more power and more control of some areas is not correct,” he said.

In the major fighting near Misrata on Monday, an Associated Press photographer at the rebel front lines said they had pushed along the Mediterranean Sea to within 6 miles (10 kilometers) of Zlitan, the next city to the west of Misrata. A rebel commander said his forces, using arms seized from government weapons depots and fresh armaments being shipped in from Benghazi, planned to have moved into Zlitan, by Tuesday.

Ali Terbelo, the rebel commander, said other opposition forces already were in Zlitan, trying to encircle Gadhafi troops. If the rebels take the city they would be within 85 miles (135 kilometers) of the eastern outskirts of Gadhafi’s capital, Tripoli.

An AP reporter with rebel forces said shelling was intense Monday morning with rockets and artillery and mortar shells slamming into rebel lines west of Dafniya at a rate of about 7 each minute. Dafniya is about 20 miles (30 kilometers) west of Misrata

Officials at Hikma Hospital in Misrata said government shelling killed seven and wounded 49 on Sunday. New casualty figures were not available but ambulances were rushing from the Dafniya line back into Misrata.

The rebel thrust at Zawiya and movements farther east — near Misrata and Brega — suggested the stalemated uprising had been reinvigorated, and that Gadhafi’s defenders may become stretched thin.

“Over the past three days, we set fire under the feet of Gadhafi forces everywhere,” Col. Hamid al-Hasi, a rebel battalion commander, told AP. He said the rebels attacked “in very good coordination with NATO” to avoid friendly-fire incidents. “We don’t move unless we have very clear instructions from NATO.”

Rebels encountered a major setback, however, near the eastern oil town of Brega on Monday. Suleiman Rafathi, a doctor at the hospital in the town of Ajdabiya where the casualties were taken, said 23 rebels were killed and 26 wounded in a government ambush about 22 miles (35 kilometers) east of Brega.

The front lines between Brega and Ajdabiya have been relatively quiet in recent weeks, while fighting has raged in western Libya.

Rebel fighters appear to be rebounding with help from the NATO blockade of ports still under government control and alliance control of Libyan airspace. Both have severely crimped the North African dictator’s ability to resupply his forces. And his control has been hard hit by defections from his military and government inner circle.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke again against the Libyan regime, telling the nations of Africa on Monday to sever links Gadhafi despite his long support and patronage for many African leaders.

In a speech on Monday to diplomats at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, Clinton said Africa should join most of the rest of the world in abandoning Gadhafi. She said the Libyan leader has lost all legitimacy to rule because of attacks on his own citizens.

She’s urged all African leaders to demand that Gadhafi accept a ceasefire and then leave Libya. She also said they should expel pro-Gadhafi Libyan diplomats from their countries, suspend the operations of Libyan embassies and work with the Libyan opposition.

The rebel council also won recognition from the United Arab Emirates, adding a wealthy, influential Arab state to the handful of nations thus far accepting the insurgents as Libyans’ sole legitimate representatives.

In a lighter moment, the Libyan leader was shown playing chess with the visiting Russian head of the World Chess Federation. The federation is headed by the eccentric Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, who until last year was the leader of Russia’s predominantly Buddhist republic of Kalmykia. He once claimed to have visited an alien spaceship.

Libyan state television showed Gadhafi, dressed all in black and wearing dark sunglasses, playing chess Sunday evening with his Russian guest.

Russia’s Interfax news agency quoted Ilyumzhinov as saying Gadhafi told him he has no intention of leaving Libya despite international pressure.

It was unclear where the chess game took place. Gadhafi’s compound in the center of Tripoli has been under NATO bombardment and was hit again Sunday.

Gadhafi had not been seen in public since mid-May, and Ilyumzhinov told him how pleased he was to find him healthy and well.

 

http://new.music.yahoo.com/blogs/realityrocks/422572/why-lauren-alaina-will-outsell-scotty-mccreery/

Scotty McCreery was just declared the 10th “American Idol” winner, but as the past two seasons’ Crystal Bowersox and Adam Lambert can tell you, winning isn’t everything. Both of those runners-up have sold more albums than the respective contestants who beat them, and I have a feeling this season’s runner-up, Lauren Alaina, will continue that pattern when she and Scotty release their albums later this year.

Why, do you ask? Read on.

1) Lauren May Get More Airplay – “Idol” fans loved Scotty, yes, but country radio staffers don’t seem to be quite as enthusiastic. Stark Radio recently reported that country radio broadcasters are already resistant to Scotty; WFRE’s Jess Wright even said, “If Scotty McCreery gets signed, I’m gonna need to change my phone number,” and KUZZ’s Toni-Marie quipped, “I’m calling in sick the day they bring Scotty by on the radio tour.” These same programmers also seemed to think Lauren has a good shot, with the right material and proper handling.

2) Lauren May Get Better Material – For her first single, Universal Records honcho Jimmy Iovine gave her “Like My Mother Does,” a catchy, heartstring-plucking ballad about a young girl’s admiration for her mom. Aw. Scotty, on the other hand, got the grammatically awkward “I Love You This Big,” with a silly chorus a boy might sing to his mom at age 5, not age 17. Were the “Idol” powers-that-be, who clearly wanted a girl winner this year, trying to sabotage him by giving him the weaker song? I don’t know–but I don’t think “I Love You This Big” did him any favors, and if he gets material like that for his first album, those above-mentioned radio programmers aren’t going to change their minds about him.

3) Lauren May Get More Label & Management Support – It’s been proven that if the “Idol” powers-that-be don’t get the winner they wanted, they’ll proceed with their original plans anyway. For instance, Taylor Hicks won Season 5, but all the 19 Entertainment marketing efforts that year went into making Chris Daughtry a star. Way more support was given to Adam Lambert than Kris Allen, and we all see how much effort the “Idol” machine put into launching Lee DeWyze’s career. On this week’s final showdown it was obvious how hard Lauren was pimped over Scotty, and while that attempt failed, that doesn’t mean Lauren won’t get a bigger marketing budget and bigger push later on.

4) Lauren Has More Crossover Potential – Let’s face it, most modern country music nowadays doesn’t sound very country at all, save for a bit of steel guitar buried in the mix and the teeniest hint of twang in the singer’s Pro-Tooled voice. I personally like the fact that Scotty doesn’t try to mix too much pop in his country, and keeps it old-school, hearkening back to the classic hat acts of yore. But Lauren’s poppier style does seem more in tune with today’s country scene. Those radio programmers’ comments cannot be discounted, nor can the fact that two of “Idol’s” most successful alums ever are Carrie Underwood and Kellie Pickler. (Lauren has also been compared to that other mega-selling “Idol” lady, Kelly Clarkson.) Carrie and Lauren’s finale night duet almost seemed like a staged symbolic torch-passing, and Lauren later told reporters backstage that Carrie told her, “Wow, that was incredible. We should take that on the road!” So Lauren has the potential to become Underwood 2.0.

5) Girls Dominate The Charts – The biggest sellers right now are Adele, Lady Gaga, Nicki Minaj, Katy Perry, Beyonce, Rihanna, and the like, and ladies rule the country charts, too (Taylor Swift, Miranda Lambert, the female-fronted Lady Antebellum, and of course, Carrie Underwood). Girls don’t tend to do too well on “Idol” anymore–we’ve had four male winners in a row now–but they sure do well in the real world.

Of course, this is no diss on Scotty; he is the superior performer of the two, a real showman, so he may pick up even more diehard (read: record-buying) fans as he headlines the Idols Live Tour this summer. But hopefully getting all the way to “Idol” finale gave Lauren a confidence boost, and the sassy girl we saw back in Nashville, the one who had the guts to challenge Steven Tyler to a “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing” duet, will soon reemerge onstage and on record. On “Idol” Lauren sometimes seemed like a butterfly turning back into a caterpillar, as the pressure of competing got to her, but now it’s time for her to her to break out of her cocoon. So don’t rule out Lauren just yet.

Triple bombing kills 27 at Iraqi police station

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110519/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_iraq

By YAHYA BARZANJI and LARA JAKES, Associated Press Yahya Barzanji And Lara Jakes, Associated Press 1 hr 34 mins ago

KIRKUK, Iraq – A triple bombing killed 27 people and wounded scores outside a police station Thursday, heightening tensions in a northern Iraqi city already on edge after a string of kidnappings and attacks against security officers.

The new violence adds to strain that already besets Kirkuk, a city that has long been plagued by ethnic squabbles over land and oil fields. Iraqi and U.S. officials long have feared Kirkuk and the disputed lands surrounding it — sandwiched between Arab villages and an autonomous Kurdish region — could destabilize the country if American forces leave at the end of this year on schedule.

“This shows there is no government in this country,” railed Ahmed Salih, 55, sitting next to a hospital bed where his 30-year-old son, Omar Ahmed, lay with bandages around his head and legs. “How such an incident can take place at the police station, where there is security, is nonsense.”

The first blast, a bomb stuck to a car in a parking lot in central Kirkuk, lured policemen out of their fortified headquarters to investigate around 9 a.m., said police Capt. Abdul Salam Zangana. Three minutes later, a second blast rocked the lot when a car packed with explosives blew up in the crowd of police.

“The boots of police officers were scattered at the scene,” said one a police officer, Ahmed Hamid, who survived the strike. “I saw a severed hand on the ground.”

The third bomb, planted on a road leading to a hospital, set cars and trucks ablaze when it exploded about 550 yards (500 meters) away less than an hour later. Zangana said it targeted a police patrol near a mosque.

In all, the blasts killed 27 — most of them police officers — and wounded at least 60 people, said provincial health director Siddiq Omar. Eyewitness Adnan Karim described the scene as “a chaos of terror and fear.”

Located 180 miles (290 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Kirkuk has been an ethnic flashpoint for years among Kurds, Arabs and Turkomen, who each claim the oil-rich city as their own. Kirkuk’s two largest ethnic groups have their own competing security forces — the Arab national police and the predominantly Kurdish peshmerga forces — and that division has stoked tensions.

Within the last 10 days alone, police patrols in Kirkuk have been targeted in five roadside bombings and an Iraqi army base has been hit by two Kaytusha rockets, said city police Col. Sherzad Mofari.

In Mosul, another major city within the disputed territories, four Iraqi army soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb Thursday afternoon, a policeman said.

Also, Kirkuk kidnappers also killed a policeman and a Christian construction worker. The latter was dismembered after his attackers gave up on collecting the $100,000 random they had demanded.

Mofari blamed the violent upsurge on al-Qaida and its allies in Iraq, which seek to stir up Kirkuk’s tensions. “They are trying to keep this instability of security in the city for a long time,” he said.

American military commanders have long worried that the simmering fight over Kirkuk could provoke violence that could spread to the rest of the country. For the last several years, U.S. troops have worked to build partnerships between Iraqi army forces and the Kurdish security forces, known as peshmerga, to secure the swath of disputed lands that stretches over three northern Iraqi provinces — and over some of the world’s most lucrative oil reserves.

But as the U.S. troops withdraw, there is little indication the Kurdish-Arab partnerships will hold, and officials gloomily predict they could return to violence if the Americans leave as scheduled on Dec. 31.

In February, for example, the Kurdish government sent thousands of peshmerga around Kirkuk, claiming to be protecting the city from planned demonstrations that might turn violent. But the incursion scared Arab and Turkomen residents, who called it a thinly veiled attempt to surround Kirkuk with Kurdish forces. The peshmerga pulled back a few weeks later and the crisis passed without bloodshed.

In Baghdad, lawmakers are still haggling over rules for taking a national census that that would determine Kirkuk’s residency — and therefore which ethnic group can rightfully claim power — trying to shape the eligibility requirements to best suit their constituents.

Hours after the bombings, the U.N. envoy to Iraq, Ad Melkert, called on all sides to quickly settle the disputes to prove that Iraqi leaders want to ensure security and stability across the country. The U.N. has been working with Kirkuk’s leaders for years to settle the dispute over the territory and get the census taken, but few believe it will be resolved any time soon.

At one hospital where victims were taken, some said they were close to giving up hope.

“This is because of carelessness of security,” said Awaz Kamal, 45, crying as she watched her son, policeman Saman Salih, being prepared for an operation to remove shrapnel from his stomach.

Around them, bloodied and bandaged victims lay on the floor, because the beds were already filled with patients.

Then a police truck pulled into the hospital driveway with four bodies lying motionless in the truck bed. It was not clear whether they were alive or dead.

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Jakes reported from Baghdad. Associated Press writers Hamid Ahmed and Rebecca Santana also contributed.

Afghan rally over NATO raid turns violent; 11 die

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110518/ap_on_re_as/as_afghanistan

By RAHIM FAIEZ and HEIDI VOGT, Associated Press Rahim Faiez And Heidi Vogt, Associated Press 41 mins ago

KABUL, Afghanistan – Hundreds of protesters, angered by an overnight NATO raid that they believed had killed four civilians, clashed on Wednesday with security forces on the streets of a northern Afghan city. Eleven people died in the fighting, government officials said.

The demonstrators fought with police and tried to assault a German military outpost in the city of Taloqan, the capital of Takhar province, the officials said, adding that some 50 were injured.

The protest was triggered by an overnight NATO raid on the outskirts of the city. The coalition said four insurgents died in the operation and that two others were detained.

Night raids targeting insurgents regularly stir up controversy in Afghanistan, where angry residents often charge the next day that international forces go after the wrong people or mistreat civilians as they search compounds. Success by NATO in reducing civilian casualties and agreements to conduct night raids alongside Afghan forces have not managed to stem the tide of accusations.

Adding to the confusion, it is often difficult to know who is a militant in insurgent-heavy areas, where entire villages are often allied with the Taliban or other groups.

On Wednesday, hundreds of people gathered on the road from Gawmal to Taloqan and carried the four bodies — two men and two women — on platforms as they marched into the city. They shouted insults at Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the United States as they pumped their fists in the air.

“Death to Karzai! Death to America!” they yelled. Officials estimated there were about 1,500 demonstrators.

The crowd started looting shops and throwing stones at a small German base in the city. Police were out throughout the city trying to calm the crowd, Taqwa said. Gunfire could be heard in a number of neighborhoods and troops at the German outpost shot off rounds in an attempt to disperse the crowd outside their walls.

The German military said in a statement that the demonstrators threw hand grenades and Molotov cocktails into the base, injuring two German soldiers and four Afghan guards. The German soldiers, one of whom was lightly injured and one somewhat more seriously, were both in stable condition, the military said.

At least 11 protesters were killed in the fighting, and 50 people were wounded — some of them police officers, said Faiz Mohammad Tawhedi, a spokesman for the Takhar government.

The raid late Tuesday killed two men and two women who were inside a home in an area known as Gawmal, provincial Gov. Abdual Jabar Taqwa said. He said that no one in his government was informed about the raid and that NATO acted unilaterally.

Provincial police chief Gen. Shah Jahan Noori said he had not been informed of the operation and said none of his officers were involved. Army officials could not be reached immediately for comment.

NATO confirmed it killed four people, two of them women, but said all were armed and tried to fire on its troops.

One of the women was armed with an assault rifle and tried to fire on the troops, NATO said. The other woman was armed with a pistol and pointed her gun at the security force as she was trying to escape the compound.

It is rare for women to be part of an insurgent fighting force in Afghanistan, but not unheard of. There have been cases in the past of women fighting with the insurgency, including as suicide bombers.

NATO said the raid was conducted by a “combined Afghan and coalition security force” and an alliance spokesman said that the governor was contacted ahead of the raid.

“It is standard practice in Takhar province to contact the Afghan provincial leadership prior to an operation. In this case, calls were placed to the provincial governor six times prior to the operation,” Maj. Michael Johnson said.

“We are aware of the claims of civilian casualties, and are looking into them,” Johnson added.

President Hamid Karzai sided with the Afghan officials. He issued a statement condemning the night raid as having killed four members of a family, and said it was not coordinated with Afghan forces.

“Despite repeated warnings that have been issued by President Karzai to top these uncoordinated NATO operations, it seems these types of operations still have not stopped,” Karzai’s office said in a statement.

He said the Afghan people should protest without turning to violence, but also said that the blame for the protest lies with NATO.

NATO said that the raid targeted a man working with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan — an insurgent group that is powerful in the north. The man was involved in arms trafficking and building explosives, NATO said. The alliance did not say if he was killed or captured.

In the south, meanwhile, a NATO service member died Wednesday in an insurgent attack, the military coalition said. NATO did not provide further details or the service member’s nationality.

Report: Syrian troops shelling residential areas

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110511/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_syria

By ZEINA KARAM, Associated Press Zeina Karam, Associated Press 22 mins ago

BEIRUT – The Syrian army shelled residential areas in the country’s third-largest city Wednesday, sending people fleeing for cover in a sharp escalation in the government’s attempts to crush a popular revolt against President Bashar Assad’s autocratic rule, according to activists and witnesses.

Heavy tank- and gunfire rocked at least three residential neighborhoods in the besieged city of Homs, which has seen some of the largest anti-government demonstrations during the seven-week-long uprising.

“There were loud explosions and gunfire from automatic rifles throughout the night and until this morning,” a resident told The Associated Press by telephone, asking that his name not be used for fear of government reprisals. “The area is totally besieged. We are being shelled.”

More than 750 people have been killed in a crackdown on the unrest and thousands of Syrians have been detained, with about 9,000 still in custody, said Ammar Qurabi, who heads the National Organization for Human Rights in Syria.

Syrian authorities are determined to crush the uprising, despite rising international pressure against it. Assad has dispatched army troops backed by tanks to Homs and other communities across the country, saying soldiers and security forces are rooting out “armed terrorist groups” and thugs he says are behind the violence.

Assad has announced a series of reforms, widely viewed as symbolic overtures to appease protesters since the movement began in the southern city of Daraa in mid-March and quickly spread nationwide.

On Wednesday, he was quoted by Syria’s private Al-Watan newspaper urging Syrians to cooperate with the government so that the reform process may continue. He also pledged a swift solution to the issue of detainees who were jailed during the unrest.

Wednesday’s shelling targeted the Bab Sbaa, Bab Amr and Jouret el Aris neighborhoods, according to activists in Damascus who were in touch with residents in Homs. The city also is home to one of Syria’s two oil refineries.

Syrian television quoted a military official as saying that soldiers and security forces were pursuing “armed terrorist groups” and arrested tens of fugitives and seized large quantities of weapons.

The official, who was not identified, said two soldiers were killed and five wounded during confrontations Wednesday.

Germany, meanwhile, said several European countries were summoning Syrian ambassadors and threatening new sanctions targeting the country’s leadership if it doesn’t halt the repression of protesters.

The European Union already has decided to impose sanctions on 13 Syrian officials, prohibiting them from traveling anywhere in the 27-nation bloc. But the first round of sanctions doesn’t target Assad himself.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Andreas Peschke said European officials will make clear that “a second package that also includes the Syrian leadership” will follow if Syria does not immediately change course.

U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon also urged Syria Wednesday to allow an international aid assessment team to enter Daraa. He told reporters in Geneva he is disappointed the assessment team “has not yet been given the access it needs.”

Ban added he had been assured by Assad that the team would be allowed into the city.

Despite the government crackdown, small demonstrations and candlelight vigils were reported in several areas in the past few days.

Activists said three protesters were killed late Tuesday when government forces fired on demonstrations in Jassem, one of a cluster of villages near Daraa.

In the coastal city of Banias, where the army has also sent soldiers and tanks and arrested hundreds as part of military operation, rights activists said electricity, water and communications have been restored.

Rami Abdul-Rahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said authorities also released some 300 people Tuesday after making them sign a pledge not to state protests. But he said an army tank was still deployed in the city’s main square were protests were held in past weeks.

Abdul-Rahman said at least seven civilians, including four women, were killed during military operations in the city.

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Associated Press writer Geir Moulson in Berlin contributed to this report.

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