Sunday, June 29, 2014

Israeli Leader Calls for Independent Kurdistan

Israeli Leader Calls for Independent Kurdistan

Israeli Leader Calls for Independent Kurdistan

Posted: 29 Jun 2014 10:39 AM PDT

(TEL AVIV, Israel) — Citing the chaos in Iraq, Israel’s prime minister has called for the establishment of an independent Kurdistan as part of a broader alliance between Israel and moderate forces across the region.

In a policy speech Sunday night, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also said that Israel would have to maintain a long-term military presence throughout the West Bank, even after any future deal with the Palestinians.

The positions put him at odds with the international community, which favors an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank to make way for an independent state. Israel’s key ally, the United States, has also spoken out against carving up Iraq and creating an independent Kurdistan.

Bobby Womack: A Passionate, Reckless Soul Man to the End

Posted: 29 Jun 2014 10:33 AM PDT

Its called soul music for the intensity with which its singers deliver a lyric: hearts on fire, the best seem to testify as they sing, wrenching their body when they perform, bellowing a message, funky and free. Bobby Womack was the quintessential soul man. The superb singer and songwriter, who wrote hit songs later put onto wax by the Rolling Stones, Janis Joplin and Wilson Pickett, and made a string of iconic R&B albums in the Seventies before having a career resurgence in recent years, lived his life with the same passion and, at times, reckless abandon that made him a dynamic musical force. He died last week at age 70.

"The only way you can create is you gotta be free" Womack told TIME a few months before his passing. "That's what you've gotta do to be in this business. You've got to be on fire." His talent was always burning, but Womack, known for his gravelly voice and recurring bouts with cocaine abuse, never reached the commercial heights of his contemporaries like Marvin Gaye, Al Green and Otis Redding.

Born dirt-poor in Cleveland, in 1944, the third of five sons, Womack and his siblings formed the Womack Brothers – later renamed the Valentinos – a gospel-singing kiddie crew, in the Fifties. They found a mentor and champion in Sam Cooke, who inspired them to branch out into secular music; he later employed Womack as a guitarist in his band. "When I first started recording, I was just so loose," Womack said of a fertile songwriting period in the early-Sixties that spawned his first hit in "It's All Over Now," a 1964 chart-riser that got pushed to the side by the Stones' cover. "I would just come up with an idea and Sam Cooke would say, ‘What is that?’ And I'd say, ‘Oh, just something that I've just got.’ It just came to me out of nowhere."

Record deals and solo chart success eluding him, Womack relocated to Memphis and backed up Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Dusty Springfield and Pickett before heading West to indulge in the excess of the budding Laurel Canyon music scene. He forged friendships with Joplin, Keith Richards, Ron Wood, Sly Stone and Frank Zappa. His drug consumption was heavy during this time. "I was really off into the drugs," he told Rolling Stone, in 1984. "Blowing as much coke as I could blow. And drinking. And smoking weed and taking pills. Doing that all day, staying up seven, eight days."

"I was used to basically working by myself, answering to myself," Womack explained, and this independent streak made him both successful and destructive in equal measure. In the early 1970's, Womack had a creative hot streak – the title track to the Womack-penned 1970 blaxploitation movie soundtrack Across 110th Street ranks among his finest work; his slow-grooving crossover hits during this period included "That's The Way I Feel About Cha" and "Woman's Gotta Have It."

His personal life hit the rocks after his first marriage, in March 1965, to Sam Cooke’s widow, Barbara, just month’s after his mentor’s death. The union brought the disapproval of Cooke’s family and friends, but Womack went ahead and created a home with Barbara and her 12-year-old daughter with Cooke, Linda. Just five years later, Barbara discovered that Womack had been having an affair with Linda. She loaded a pistol, told him to get out of the house and took a shot at him; it grazed his scalp. They divorced later in 1970. He later married Regina Banks; they split up and then remarried in 2013.

"When it's coming to you from nowhere for so many years," Womack said of his knack for seeming bursts of creative inspiration, "believe it or not, it do get stale." Aside from a hit single in "If You Think You're Lonely Now," off 1982's acclaimed The Poet, Womack faded from the spotlight during the coming decades, a time most notable for his one-off collaborations and a trip to drug rehab.

Despite being diagnosed with Alzheimer's and cancer in the 2000's, Womack, who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009, reemerged when UK rock singer Damon Albarn recruited him for work on the 2010 Gorillaz album, Plastic Beach. The pair, along with Richard Russell, head of XL Recordings, recorded Womack's critically acclaimed comeback album, 2012's The Bravest Man in the Universe. Its skittering electronic beats provided a fresh template for Womack's still-powerful vocals. "Damon would say 'I just want to get you in the raw,’ " Womack remembered of the sessions in West London. "I would always argue with him: You need a couple instruments. He said, ‘I think your voice is what's important and the message of your songs. Everything else is background.’ "

In addition to a supposed in-the-works album, tentatively tilted The Best Is Yet To Come, with Stevie Wonder, Rod Stewart and Snoop Dogg, Womack said he and Albarn were planning to regroup in the studio at the end of this year to record a gospel album. "He was saying that he got a lot of response from the two gospel songs that was on the last album," Womack said. "I wouldn't have thought of it. He would say "I just want to get you in the raw.""

Womack is survived by Regina Banks and four children: Gina, Bobby Truth, Cory and Jordan. He died two weeks after playing the Bonnaroo festival in Tennessee.

Transformers Dominate Box Office Again with Age of Extinction

Posted: 29 Jun 2014 10:01 AM PDT

Optimus Prime and co. hit the domestic box office this weekend with the force of an extinction level event. Transformers: Age of Extinction, the fourth film in the popular but critically panned series, took in an estimated $100 million on its domestic debut.

Those projections give Age of Extinction the country’s highest-grossing opening weekend of the year so far, according to The Hollywood Reporter, and they’re not too shabby considering director Michael Bay told TIME earlier this year that he didn’t even want to make another Transformers movie at first. There also hasn’t been a $100-million weekend opening in the U.S. since The Hunger Games: Catching Fire last November.

Age of Extinction, which is partially set in Hong Kong, also broke records in China with a $90 million debut, the country’s highest opening of all time. Taking in $201.3 million internationally, Age of Extinction‘s worldwide gross is already over the $300 million mark.

No other major movie openings came close to challenging Transformers at the box office, though the domestic grosses of Maleficent and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 both crossed the $200 million mark this weekend as well.


Cops: Missing Boy Found in Basement Says Father Abused Him

Posted: 29 Jun 2014 09:42 AM PDT

The 12-year-old Detroit boy who was missing for 11 days before he was discovered in the basement belonging to his father and stepmother told authorities that his father abused him, according to documents released Saturday.

Charlie Bothuell told medical examiners that a scar on his body was caused by a PVC pipe that his father, Charles Bothuell, drove into his chest, NBC News reports. He also said that he was barricaded in the basement and told by his stepmother to stay there “no matter what he hears.”

The boy’s grandmother reportedly told the FBI that “he was very skinny, and almost looked like a cancer patient” when she saw him.

His stepmother had no comment. Mark Magidson, the attorney for the boy’s father, Charles Bothuell IV, said Friday that the 12-year-old was not abused and that the bruises were from “just a boy being a boy.” Still, he said he expected the father to face charges. The family had previously said they thought the boy went missing on his own.

The case received widespread attention this week when the elder Bothuell was told on live television that his son had been discovered in his basement.

Charlie Bothuell is now staying with his birth mother, while his step-siblings, a 4-year-old and a 10-month-old, entered the care of Child Protective Services.

[NBC News]

Egypt Moves to Restrict Ramadan Sermons

Posted: 29 Jun 2014 09:42 AM PDT

(CAIRO) — Egypt will restrict sermons during the holy month of Ramadan to topics of faith and morality, the state’s top official in charge of religious affairs said Sunday, in the latest measure by the government to control mosques and limit access of opponents to them.

The announcement is yet another move by authorities to crackdown on supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, and limiting in the process free speech in the deeply polarized country.

Mohammed Mokhtar Gomaa said the decision should ensure that sermons during Islam’s holy month of fasting “unite people, not divide them.” He said the religious speech had been “hijacked” for political purposes, in reference to the previous government, led by Islamist President Mohammed Morsi.

“The religious speech was politically driven, which affected the moral side,” he told reporters at a news conference on the first day of the observance. “Now we’re in a race against time trying to restore morals.”

Morsi was ousted last year following mass protests against him denouncing his group’s attempt to monopolize power. The military removed Morsi, and its chief, Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, was elected president earlier this month.

In his campaign, el-Sissi stressed that religious discourse needs to be restructured, saying a free for all interpretation of religion has helped spread extremism. Islamist groups rely on mosques to recruit new members and also rally for political positions ahead of votes.

Since Morsi’s ouster, religious authorities moved to purge mosques from preachers deemed supportive of Islamists and have set guidelines for Friday sermons.

Gomaa said new regulations will also specify what the sermons will address in Ramadan, when more worshippers than usual spend time in mosques, praying and listening to religious lessons. Ramadan is the time Muslims believe God started to reveal the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad, and for believers, it is a time of reflection and worship, remembering the hardships of others and being charitable.

The ministry has also set new rules to regulate a Ramadan tradition — one where many people spend the last ten days of the month inside mosques, praying, fasting and reading the Quran. The Brotherhood and other Islamist groups often used the retreat for recruitment.

The ministry’s website said that this year, the stay would be allowed only in central mosques under the supervision of a state-authorized cleric. The buildings will only host people who live in the immediate neighborhood.

It was not clear how the government plans to implement the regulations.

Some 12,000 independent preachers have been barred from delivering sermons. In recent months, the ministry’s website had been posting outlines for the weekly sermons delivered each Friday. Anyone who strays from them in Egypt’s more than 100,000 mosques risks removal.

Last Friday’s sermon spoke about “rationalizing consumption,” just after the president mentioned the country needed belt-tightening efforts from all Egyptians.

Gomaa said Sunday 50,000 licensed preachers will be deployed to lead late night Ramadan prayers. The ministry had already restricted preaching in mosques to state-authorized clerics.

He reiterated a ban on holding Friday prayers at thousands of small, unregulated mosques known as “zawaya.”

A number of measures have been used to crack down on the Brotherhood. It has been declared a terrorist organization and some of its members have had their assets frozen. The government has also passed a new law restricting protests.

In a separate development, a Cairo appeal court has set July 22 as the date of a retrial for a prominent Egyptian activist sentenced to 15 years in prison in absentia for organizing an unauthorized protest and assaulting a policeman.

The sentencing of Alaa Abdel-Fattah and 24 others was the latest blow to liberal activists at a time of rapidly eroding freedoms.

The sentence was the toughest against any of the secular activists behind the 18-day uprising that ended the reign of longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak in 2011. It is also the first conviction of a prominent activist since el-Sissi took office.

Obama: Flap Over Hillary’s Wealth Not a Big Deal

Posted: 29 Jun 2014 09:20 AM PDT

President Barack Obama said Sunday that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s recent troubles discussing her wealth shouldn’t “make a big difference” should she decide to run for president in 2016.

Clinton has come under fire in recent weeks for comments about the fortune she and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, have amassed from speaking fees and books since leaving the White House, with Republicans and even some Democrats branding her as out of touch.

Speaking to George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s This Week, Obama said the controversy, which has opened a divide between Clinton and her party’s growing populist wing, would pass.

“I think that Hillary has been to this rodeo a bunch of times,” he said. “She is in public service because she cares about the same folks that I talked to here today. As soon as you jump back into the spotlight in a more explicitly political way, you’re going to be flyspecked like this, and she’s accustomed to it.”

“Over time, I don’t think it’s going to make a big difference,” Obama concluded.

Just last week Vice President Joe Biden drew an implicit contrast with Clinton’s wealth at a White House summit on working families.

White House to Seek $2 Billion to Stem Rise in Kids Crossing Border Illegally

Posted: 29 Jun 2014 09:04 AM PDT

The White House will ask Congress Monday for more than $2 billion to address the increasing number of unaccompanied minors traveling from Central America and illegally crossing the border into the United States, a White House official said.

The Obama administration will urge lawmakers to pass emergency legislation to improve border security, provide additional immigration judges and more quickly remove those who cross the border illegally.

It will also ask Congress’s help in increasing penalties for human traffickers and expanding the Department of Homeland Security’s discretion in processing unauthorized arrivals.

The exact details and dollar amounts are still being finalized, but the official said the request will likely exceed $2 billion as the Obama administration ramps up the federal response to a pattern of unaccompanied minors attempting to cross the border into the U.S.

Over 52,000 unaccompanied children have been apprehended along the southwest border since Oct. 1 last year, up from only 15,700 in 2011. The majority are not from Mexico, but from Central American countries such as Honduras and Guatemala.

The surge has reportedly been prompted by widespread rumors in Central America that the Obama administration permits mothers with young children and young children crossing the border alone to stay in the U.S if they are detained.

Obama attempted to counter those rumors in an interview with ABC News on Sunday. "Do not send your children to the borders," he said. "If they do make it, they’ll get sent back. More importantly, they may not make it."

The Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security are adding extra immigration attorneys and personnel and opening additional facilities in the Southwest to better handle the influx. The government response will involve both detention of immigrants as well as the Alternatives to Detention program.

The two departments are also expanding the personnel investigating the smuggling rings that organize border crossings, and they are collaborating with Mexican and Central American law-enforcement bodies to address causes, issues of border security and immigrants’ re-entry to their home countries from all sides.

On Tuesday, Secretary of State John Kerry will also meet with leaders of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador to discuss the matter.

With reporting by Zeke J. Miller

Police: 9 Injured During Bourbon Street Shooting

Posted: 29 Jun 2014 08:47 AM PDT

(NEW ORLEANS) — Nine people were injured, including one critically, after a shooting on touristy Bourbon Street in New Orleans’ celebrated French Quarter.

One person was in critical condition after the early Sunday shooting, said New Orleans police spokesman Frank Robertson. Seven others were hospitalized in stable condition. The remaining victim’s condition was not available. The victims were shot just two blocks from historic Jackson Square and just around the corner from the popular Pat O’Brien’s piano bar.

An investigation is ongoing.

Sunday morning’s incident is the third major shooting on Bourbon Street in the last three years.

Last February on the Saturday before Mardi Gras, four people were treated at a hospital after a shooting. During Halloween in 2011, one person was killed and seven others were injured after gunmen opened fire on each other.

Bourbon Street is New Orleans’ most famous street, a nightly swirl of bright neon and happy tourists with beverage in hand. A blend of jazz joints, strip clubs, bars and restaurants, Bourbon Street has everything from four-star dining to sex shows.

Built on higher ground than most of the city, the French Quarter was spared the worst of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, mostly suffering scattered wind and water damage.

Watch: NASA Says U.S. Air Pollution Has Plummeted

Posted: 29 Jun 2014 08:31 AM PDT

Striking new images released by NASA this week show significant reductions in air pollution levels across the United States. In particular, at least one pollutant, nitrogen dioxide, has decreased substantially over the past decade.

After ten years in orbit, the Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) on NASA’s Aura satellite showed that the decrease is particularly prominent in the Northeast, the Ohio River Valley, and other major cities. For example, NASA reported a 32% decrease in New York City and a 42% decrease in Atlanta between the periods of 2005-2007 and 2009-2011.

Air pollution decreased even though population and the number of cars on the roads have increased, and the shift can be explained as a result of better regulations, technological improvements and economic shifts, scientists said.

“While our air quality has certainly improved over the last few decades, there is still work to do – ozone and particulate matter are still problems,” said Bryan Duncan, an atmospheric scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.



Mother of Child Who Died in Overheated Car Defends Husband

Posted: 29 Jun 2014 08:13 AM PDT

Leanna Harris, the Georgia mother of a child who died in the extreme heat of their car after her husband mistakenly left the toddler inside, defended her spouse at their son’s funeral on Saturday.

“Am I angry with Ross?” she said at the ceremony in Tuscaloosa, Ala., speaking publicly for the first time since her husband was charged with murder and second-degree child cruelty earlier this month, CNN reports. “Absolutely not. It has never crossed my mind. Ross is and was and will be, if we have more children, a wonderful father. Ross is a wonderful daddy and leader for our household. Cooper meant the world to him.”

Justin Ross Harris, 33, told police he forgot to bring his 22-month-old son Cooper to his day-care facility before heading to work. Cooper died after spending seven hours in the back of the family’s SUV, the second death of a child left in a car that week. Harris has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

He called into the funeral from the Cobb County Jail near Atlanta. “Thank you for everything you’ve done for my boy,” Harris said. “No words to say. Just horrible … I’m just sorry I can’t be there.”

Leanna Harris told her husband she loved him and credited her faith with helping her cope. “Some of you might wonder how I’m even standing here today,” she said. “I wonder that myself, and I asked myself that question over and over the last week. I should be crumpled into a heap of snot and tears into the dirt, but the Lord is holding me up right now. “



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