Saturday, July 21, 2007


Children's art imitates horrors of Darfur
Human Rights Watch researcher: Drawings verify Sudan's role
From CNN's Marissa Muller

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Children's drawings depicting the horrors of the Sudan conflict are on exhibit at New York University, and a Human Rights Watch researcher says several show human rights violations.
The exhibit is titled "The Smallest Witnesses: The Conflict in Darfur Through Children's Eyes."
The drawings were made by children age 8 to 17 in Darfur and were organized by Human Rights Watch.

"For the first time we have graphic representation of the crimes," said Olivier Bercault, a Human Rights Watch researcher.

The crayon-and-pencil images are graphic. They depict planes bombing villages, huts engulfed in flames, soldiers gunning down civilians, women being raped.

The works were collected in February 2005 by Bercault and Dr. Annie Sparrow from Human Rights Watch.

Bercault and Sparrow gave children in nine Darfur refugee camps crayons and paper to keep them occupied as they interviewed their parents about alleged human rights violations in their villages.

Without any direction, the children drew images of war: bombs, guns and death, Bercault said.

Bercault recalled asking one of the artists -- a young girl -- about her drawing.

"Why is her face painted red?" Bercault said he asked the girl. "She said, 'Because she has been shot in the face.' "

Exhibit-goer and student Joel Nay called the drawings "very real."

"I personally feel children are often the most perceptive people. ... It is not biased. It is their day-to-day observation, and we can learn a lot from these pictures."

Bercault believes the artwork is evidence of the Sudanese government's involvement in human rights violations.

"The government of Sudan has always been denying being involved in this war, (saying) it is a tribal conflict between the Africans, who are the victims, and the Arab militias," Bercault said.

"The tribes have no planes. ... That is evidence of the involvement of the government of Sudan with its armed planes bombing civilians and villages around Darfur."

The exhibit of 27 drawings is on display through September 6.

It then will travel to Chicago, Illinois; San Francisco, California; Toronto, Ontario; and Hamburg and Munich, Germany.


X-Prize founder announces formation of the "Rocket Racing League"
From CNN's Marissa Muller

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Call it a different kind of space race.
On Monday, a private group of space entrepreneurs unveiled the RocketRacing League (RRL), an aerospace entertainment concept that they say combines"NASCAR excitement and spaceflight."
RRL is designed much like an auto race except that the track will be inthe sky and the vehicles will be rocket planes called X-Racers, PeterDiamandis, chairman and cofounder of RRL, said in a written statement.
Diamandis was also the founder of the Ansari X-Prize, a privately fundedcompetition designed to spur entrepreneurs to develop and fly sub-orbitalspacecraft. The $20 million prize was awarded last year to Microsoft co-founderPaul Allen and aviation pioneer Burt Rutan whose company, Scaled Composites,designed, built and flew the SpaceShipOne spacecraft. Diamandis hopes the RRLwill continue to engage the private sector to invest in aerospace technology.
"The Rocket Racing League will inspire people of all ages to once againlook up into the sky and find inspiration and excitement," Diamandis said inthe statement.
"One of the things I blame NASA with is that we have made space flightboring" Diamandis said at a Monday morning press conference in New York.
Spectators will have a chance to watch races, averaging an hour inlength, in which at least 10 competitors will fly at up to 300 miles per hourthrough a course that is expected to be two miles long, one mile wide and about 5,000 feet high.
"Take the NASCAR roadcar race track and tilt it vertical and you willrace these rocket planes in a vertical three-dimensional course," said GrangerWhitelaw, co-founder and two-time Indianapolis 500 champion team partner.
Upon lift-off, the rocket planes will blast 20-foot rocket plumes andonlookers will follow the race through hand-held GPS tracking devices and watchrefueling pit stops, the RRL backers said.
Former astronaut Rick Searfoss, chief pilot and spokesman of RRL,explained that the rocket planes will have a liquid oxygen/kerosene fuel mix,calculated to have a burn time of four minutes, requiring pilots to repeatedlyshut down their engines and glide, then restart to pass opponents.
"For me it is a remembrance of sort of Star Wars pod racing" said Diamandis.
Whitelaw added, "Given the millions of fans who enjoy race car driving,and the wider audience enthralled with humanity's next step into space, we areconfident rocket racing will become a mainstream event in the decades to come.
So far, only one prototype plane, called the EZ-Rocket, has been built.The league is actively seeking teams and sponsors. Diamandis did not give anestimate as to start-up costs for the league.
The X-Racer rocket planes are expected to cost under $1 million each.
Diamandis hopes to stage an exhibition race next October, with fourX-Racer planes competing. He also hopes to have 10 X-Racers flying in leaguecompetition by 2007. He said the semi-finals will be held each September at theReno Air Races in Reno, Nevada, and the finals will be held each October at theX-Prize Cup in New Mexico.
The FAA must license the planes before any league racing begins, butPatricia Smith, associate administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration,sounded enthusiastic at the press conference. "The FAA salutes the RocketRacing League on its mission to usher in a new era in aerospace entertainment,"she said.


Obama: 'Quiet riot' could erupt like L.A. riots
From CNN Political Assignment Editor Marissa Muller

ATLANTA (CNN) — Sen. Barack Obama said Tuesday that there is a “quiet riot” happening every day across America which could erupt like the riots in Los Angeles 15 years ago.

Speaking to several thousand people at Hampton University in Virginia, Obama said: “Those ‘quiet riots’ are born from the same place as the fires and the destruction and the police decked out in riot gear and the deaths. They happen when a sense of disconnect settles in and hope dissipates.

“Despair takes hold and young people all across the country look at the way the world is and believe that things are never going to get better.”

The largely African-American audience of clergy interrupted Obama’s speech with several ovations.

Obama criticized the Bush administration for neglecting New Orleans before, during and long after Hurricane Katrina.

“This administration was colorblind in its incompetence” responding to the disaster, Obama said. But the poverty was there long before.

“All the hurricane did was make bare what we ignore each and every day,” Obama said. “All the hurricane did was pull back the screen.”

Obama again condemned the Iraq war and also spoke about the need to raise the minimum wage and teachers’ pay.


Edwards slams Giuiliani in New York
From CNN's Marissa Muller and Lauren Kornreich
WASHINGTON (CNN) — Criticizing the current administration's policies on handling terrorism and the war in Iraq in a speech in New York City Thursday, former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards said former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani can't win the presidency if he stays too close to Bush ideologically.

"If Mayor Giuliani believes that what President Bush has done is good and wants to embrace it and run a campaign for the presidency, saying I will give you four more years of what this president has given you, then he's allowed to do that," Edwards said. "He'll never be elected president of the United States, but he's allowed to do that."

Edwards has received a lot of attention recently for calling Bush's war on terror a "bumper sticker slogan." He stood by that and said America is less safe than it was before Bush took office.

"We have more terrorists," Edwards said. "So that combination, less allies, less people to work with us and more terrorist operations around the world, makes America less safe."

Edwards also took a jab at the Republican presidential candidates and their attempt to “one up each other to try to be a bigger, badder George Bush. I think they want to become George Bush on steroids.”

Edwards explained his plan, one different from the Bush Administration, to have a direct line of communication between the president and military leadership as well as setting up a “10,000 person marshal core who would be responsible for providing the expertise and leadership” to undercut terrorism.

And as capper on security, a reporter asked Edwards his thought on Paris Hilton’s early prison release. Edwards chuckled that he was going to stay away from the dominant news story.

In a statement responding to the speech, Giuliani's Communications Director Katie Levinson said, "We are glad to see Rudy's criticism of the Democrats not understanding the terrorists' war on us is starting to register with them."

"John Edwards' track record of predicting election outcomes speaks for itself."


Obama takes a page from Arnold
From CNN Political Assignment Editor Marissa Muller

ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) – While campaigning in Los Angeles, California Tuesday, Senator Barack Obama, D-Illinois, stopped at a gas station that offered alternative fuel to address his bill calling for a National Low-Carbon Fuel Standard.

The White House contender showed up at the gas station – the second in California in the process of offering E85, ethanol-based fuel – in a government car without a flexible fuel tank that can run on ethanol, but he stressed that if president, he would make sure things change, including the type of cars federal employees drive.

“The debate about whether or not climate change is a man-made disaster is over. The question now is what we do about it,” said Obama. “We know that transportation fuels account for a third of America’s global warming pollution. And we know there are fuels available that emit less carbon-dioxide into the atmosphere – fuels like biodiesel and ethanol.”

Modeled in part after California’s proposed Low-Carbon Fuel Standard, Senator Obama introduced the legislation last month with Senator Tom Harkin, D-Iowa. The federal proposal would require that all transportation fuels sold in the U.S. contain 5 percent less carbon by 2015 and 10 percent less carbon by 2020. He also asked that automakers more than double the fuel efficiency of U.S.

Obama added the importance of California as a “trend setting state. Demographically [California] reflects where America is moving. We need to speak to the issues that are so important to California.”

Last January, by executive order, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger established a Low-Carbon Fuel Standard statewide with the intent of sparking research in alternatives to oil and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.


Richardson: Frank conversation needed with Mexico
From CNN Assignment Editor Marissa Muller

(CNN) – New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a Democratic presidential candidate, joked Thursday at a town hall meeting in Phoenix, Arizona that Mexico should stop offering a map to its citizens of the easiest way to cross the U.S.-Mexico border.

Richardson, who’s mother was Hispanic, says he wants to have a conversation with Mexico and be frank with them on the immigration problem.

“Hey Mexico, why don’t you help your people and do something to give them jobs. Maybe we will do something with you to help create jobs at the border. Maybe joint projects, but at the very least don’t give people maps in the easiest areas to cross,” said Richardson as he acted out the conversation.

As governor of a border state, Richardson said he is well aware of the effects of legal and illegal immigration.

He reiterated in his speech that the U.S. needs to enforce the borders with more border patrol and doubling the national guards. Richardson also said “those that hire illegal immigrants should be punished.”


McCain: "Anti-Americanism" is rising in Latin America
From CNN Political Desk Assignment Editor Marissa Muller

Atlanta, GEORGIA (CNN) — Presidential candidate Sen. John McCain thinks that the current “anti-Americanism” felt in Latin America exists because the U.S. has been ignoring the region, the Arizona Republican said Wednesday.

In a speech in Palm Beach, Florida, McCain also said that he “will not passively await the long overdue demise of the Castro dictatorship.”

McCain believes U.S. leaders and media have focused most of their attention on the Middle East and in the meantime “dangerous forces” have slipped into Latin America. With Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez following Fidel Castro’s lead of “embracing authoritarianism” McCain says we are creating a “recipe for disaster.”

“Hugo Chavez has used the cloak of electoral legitimacy to establish a one party dictatorship in Venezuela, breathed new oxygen into the decaying Castro regime in Cuba, allied with Iran and other American enemies, and supported populist, anti-American forces throughout the hemisphere,” said McCain in a speech to the Florida Association of Broadcast.

McCain has big plans for Latin America. He called for more U.S. assistance to Latin American governments to increase security over land, sea, and air and also to bolster the electoral process and trade.

“Our security priority in this hemisphere is to ensure that terrorists, their enablers and their business partners, including narcotraffickers, have nowhere to hide,” he said.

McCain drove it home that we need to create a “democratic hemisphere” and change how we have treated Latin America in the past, which was as a “junior partner rather than as a neighbor, like a little brother rather than an equal. Latin America is not our backyard; Central and South America are not ‘beneath’ the United States.”


Gingrich: Candidates look like 'game show contestants'
From CNN Political Desk Assignment Editor Marissa Muller
ATLANTA (CNN) -- Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich still hasn't decided on a bid for the White House, but if the Georgia Republican does throw his hat in the ring, don't expect to see him on many of the televised debates.

Gingrich made it clear that he is not a fan of the recent debates, calling them "game show" like and a "pathetic dance," in remarks Thursday at a luncheon in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Gingrich said it is "fundamentally wrong" for 10 people to look like "game show contestants," each eagerly awaiting for a television celebrity to give them a chance to answer in 30 seconds a question which by definition you can't answer in 30seconds."

Gingrich then took off to sign copies of his newest book, "Pearl Harbor: A Novel of December 8th."


Hot dogs, hamburgers and flip flops
From CNN Political Desk Assignment Editor Marissa Muller
(CNN) — It wasn’t just hot dogs and hamburgers Sunday at presidential hopeful Mitt Romney's Fenway Park fundraiser.

Outside the historic ballpark, opponents lined the street handing out flip-flops in an effort to highlight what they consider the former Massachusetts governor's shifting position on key issues.

While contributors headed inside Fenway, home of the Red Sox, opponents walked the street dressed in huge pink cardboard flip flop’s reading — "Flip Flopper from Mass" and other such slogans directed at Romney.

"Flip-flops, Mitt Romney style. They flip real quick," chanted his opponents as they handed out leaflets as well as pairs of the summer sandals to emphasize their point.

Romney sticks to the sports theme Monday as the candidates make the mad dash for fundraising dollars before the second quarter closes Saturday night. Hundreds of Romney supporters will attend the National Call Day at the TD Banknorth Garden, home of two other fabled Boston sports franchise: the Bruins and Celtics.


Richardson aims for bleachers, hits photographer
From CNN Political Assignment Editor Marissa Muller
(CNN) – Presidential candidate Bill Richardson fulfilled a “childhood dream” Wednesday. He took a different type of campaign swing in Dyersville, Iowa at the site of the 1989 film “Field of Dreams.”

The Democratic New Mexico governor and avid baseball fan stepped into the batter’s box and accidentally took a crack at a photographer while swinging at a few pitches.

“I hit a photographer. I am a pull hitter. He should have gotten out of the way,” said Richardson, a former left-handed pitcher for Tufts University, to a group of supporters at a stop in Waterloo, Iowa.

A casual Richardson sporting tennis shoes and blue jeans said that as a result of his visit to the “Field of Dreams” earlier in the day, “I am seriously considering pardoning Shoeless Joe Jackson.”

“Field of Dreams” centered on an Iowa farmer who hears a voice and interprets the message to plow through a corn field and build a baseball diamond.

Shoeless Joe Jackson appears as a ghost, along with seven other members of the so-called "Black Sox," who were banned from baseball for throwing the 1919 World Series. Some baseball historians believe Shoeless Joe Jackson was innocent.