Articles of Interest, August 12, 2008

Oil falls to $113 in Asia on stronger dollar

Oil falls to $113 in Asia on stronger dollar, concerns over weakening demand from China

SINGAPORE (AP) — Oil prices fell Tuesday in Asia to a 3-month low as a stronger dollar and weakening crude demand from China weighed on investor sentiment.

Light, sweet crude for September delivery fell $1.45 to $113 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange by late afternoon in Singapore. The contract lost 75 cents overnight to settle at $114.45, the lowest close for a floor session since May 1.

A report from China on Monday that the country’s crude oil imports in July were down 7 percent from last year fueled expectations that the economic slowdown affecting the U.S. and Europe may be spreading to Asia and cutting demand for oil.

A stronger dollar is also pushing prices down. The euro fell Tuesday to $1.4894, while the dollar was holding near 110 yen.

A weak dollar helped boost oil prices earlier this year, because dollar-denominated commodities are often used as hedges against inflation and a falling U.S. currency. But gains in the currency are reversing that trend.

In London, Brent crude for September delivery fell $1.21 to $111.46 a barrel.

Prices fell despite concerns that the widening conflict between Russia and Georgia over the breakaway province of South Ossetia could disrupt supplies in the region.

Bush warns Russia; Medvedev orders halt to action

WASHINGTON (AP) – With a crisis of Cold War proportions brewing, President Bush demanded that Russia withdraw its troops from the former Soviet republic of Georgia.

Hours later, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev ordered a halt to the military action, saying it had brought security for civilians and Russian peacekeepers in the breakaway South Ossetia region.

“The aggressor has been punished and suffered very significant losses. Its military has been disorganized,” Medvedev said Tuesday in a nationally televised statement.

On Monday, in his strongest comments since the fighting erupted, Bush told Russia to end a “dramatic and brutal escalation” of violence in Georgia and accept international mediation to end the crisis.

Russia’s Medvedev halts military action in Georgia

MOSCOW (AP) – Russian President Dmitry Medvedev ordered a halt to military action in Georgia on Tuesday, after five days of air and land attacks that took Russian forces deep into its small U.S.-allied neighbor in the Caucasus.

Medvedev said on national television that the military had punished Georgia enough for its attack on South Ossetia. Georgia launched an offensive late Thursday to regain control over the separatist Georgian province, which has close ties to Russia.

“The security of our peacekeepers and civilians has been restored,” Medvedev said. “The aggressor has been punished and suffered very significant losses. Its military has been disorganized.”

U.S. ship heads for Arctic to define territory

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A U.S. Coast Guard cutter will embark on an Arctic voyage this week to determine the extent of the continental shelf north of Alaska and map the ocean floor, data that could be used for oil and natural gas exploration.

U.S. and University of New Hampshire scientists on the Coast Guard Cutter Healy will leave Barrow, Alaska, on Thursday on a three-week journey. They will create a three-dimensional map of the Arctic Ocean floor in a relatively unexplored area known as the Chukchi borderland.

The Healy will launch again on September 6, when it will be joined by Canadian scientists aboard an icebreaker, who will help collect data to determine the thickness of sediment in the region. That is one factor a country can use to define its extended continental shelf.

With oil at $114 a barrel, after hitting a record $147 in July, and sea ice melting fast, countries like Russia and the United States are looking north for possible energy riches.

“These are places nobody’s gone before, in essence, so this is a first step,” said Margaret Hays, the director of the oceanic affairs office at the U.S. State Department. She said the data collected may provide information to the public about future oil and natural gas sources for the United States.

Obama’s ‘no income taxes on seniors’ draws critics

WASHINGTON (AP) – If you’re a senior citizen and earn less than $50,000 a year, Barack Obama has a deal for you: a life free of federal income tax.

Sounds appealing, right? Maybe to many seniors. But tax policy experts in Washington are giving it bad reviews. They see it as another subsidy for senior citizens, who already get federal help through Social Security and Medicare and often have economic advantages over other demographic groups.

Seniors typically have paid off their mortgages, many have investments and usually don’t pay taxes on their Social Security benefits. The kids are usually grown, so they’re not saddled with day care or college costs.

“The odds are the retired folks – they’re getting pensions, they’re getting Social Security, they have investment assets, they own a house – so … they’re better off than somebody who is 30 or 40 years younger who’s trying to buy a house (and) trying to start saving,” said Clint Stretch, managing principal of tax policy for Deloitte Tax.

The Obama campaign says the idea would give tax cuts averaging about $1,400 to 7 million seniors who are battling inflation with mostly fixed incomes. The campaign also says the plan would relieve millions of older people from having to file complicated tax returns.

Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick sits in court during an emergency bond appeal hearing in front of Judge Thomas Jackson at the Wayne County Third Circuit Court, Friday, August 8, 2008 in Detroit. Judge Jackson ruled that Kilpatrick could go free after spending Thursday night in jail but must post a $50,000 cash bond. After the judge ruled he violated terms of his release on bond, he  is barred from any travel outside the state, and must wear an electronic tether.(AP Photo/Bryan Mitchell)

Mich. AG: Detroit mayor violated bail terms again

DETROIT – A prosecutor on Monday accused Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick of violating his bond in an assault case by spending time over the weekend with his sister, one of 11 witnesses listed by authorities.

Kilpatrick and Ayanna Kilpatrick were together at their mother’s house Saturday, a day after he was released from jail for violating bond in a separate perjury case, said Doug Baker of the Michigan attorney general’s office.

The mayor is charged with assaulting two investigators who were trying to deliver a subpoena at his sister’s house in July in the perjury case.

In a court filing, Baker said the mayor had been ordered to have no contact with witnesses.

At-home attempt to neuter dog leads to charges

An amateur veterinarian’s failed attempt to neuter a friend’s schnauzer became a police matter when the owner took the dog in for emergency treatment.

Hung Doc Vu, 49, of Des Moines, was issued a misdemeanor citation Monday for improper care and treatment of animals. The charge carries a fine of up to $500.

Police said Vu attempted the sterilization procedure Aug. 2 on Shelly Shannon’s dog “Pooper.” It was reported to police two days later and animal control officers were brought in. They said one testicle had been removed with a razor blade during the home procedure but the other could not.

Shannon, 7907 S.W. 10th St., determined that the dog needed professional help, so she took him to the Animal Emergency and Referral Center of Iowa, 6110 Creston Ave., where Pooper was treated and later released.

Lin Miaoke who lip-synched at the opening ceremony over the voice of Yang Peiyi [right], who was considered unsuited to the lead role because of her buck teeth

Beijing Olympics: Faking scandal over girl who ‘sang’ in opening ceremony

The girl in the red dress with the pigtails, called Lin Miaoke, 9, and from a Beijing primary school, has become a national sensation since Friday night, giving interviews to all the most popular newspapers.

But the show’s musical designer felt forced to set the record straight. He gave an interview to Beijing radio saying the real singer was a seven-year-old girl who had won a gruelling competition to perform the anthem, a patriotic song called “Hymn to the Motherland”.

At the last moment a member of the Chinese politburo who was watching a rehearsal pronounced that the winner, a girl called Yang Peiyi, might have a perfect voice but was unsuited to the lead role because of her buck teeth.

So, on the night, while a pre-recording of Yang Peiyi singing was played, Lin Miaoke, who has already featured in television advertisements, was seen but not heard.

“This was a last-minute question, a choice we had to make,” the ceremony’s musical designer, Chen Qigang, said. “Our rehearsals had already been vetted several times – they were all very strict. When we had the dress rehearsals, there were spectators from various divisions, including above all a member of the politburo who gave us his verdict: we had to make the swap.”

US Navy Airforce Major John McCain lying on a bed in a Hanoi hospital

New York Times publishes correction… 48 years late

No one can accuse The New York Times of papering over its mistakes. America’s most famous newspaper today issued a formal correction to a review of a Broadway production of West Side Story published no less than 48 years ago.

In a further sign of just how seriously the newspaper takes its role as a newspaper of record, the “Gray Lady” also confessed that it had wrongly described John McCain, the Republican presidential candidate, as a “former fighter pilot” in numerous stories over the past decade.

West Side Story, a musical love story set among the gangs of Manhattan, first opened at Broadway’s Winter Garden theatre in September 1957 and ran for 732 performances.

It returned to the Winter Garden in 1960, when it was reviewed again for The New York Times, but one of the cast member’s names was listed wrongly.

The paper’s regular corrections column reported today: “A listing of credits on April 28, 1960, with a theater review of ‘West Side Story; on its return to the Winter Garden theater, misstated the surname of the actor who played Action. He is George Liker, not Johnson. (Mr. Liker, who hopes to audition for a role in a Broadway revival of the show planned for February, brought the error to The Times’s attention last month.)”

Also today, The Times came clean on having referred to Senator McCain as a Vietnam-era “fighter pilot” when in fact he was shot down while at the controls of an A-4 Skyhawk – technically an attack aircraft rather than a fighter.

Pelosi indicates openness to offshore drilling vote

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Monday night dropped her staunch opposition to a vote on offshore oil drilling in the House.

Republicans, reacting to high gas prices, have demanded a vote on additional oil exploration in the Outer Continental Shelf, where drilling is currently blocked by a moratorium. Until now, Pelosi (D-Calif.) has resisted the idea as a “hoax.” But in an interview on CNN’s Larry King Live, she indicated that she was open to a vote.“They have this thing that says drill offshore in the protected areas,” Pelosi said. “We can do that. We can have a vote on that.”

She indicated such a vote would have to be part of a larger package that included other policies, like releasing oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which she said could bring down prices in a matter of days.

“But it has to be part of something that says we want to bring immediate relief to the public and is not just a hoax on them,” Pelosi continued.

She even indicated that she might support a package that includes drilling. She said her decision on whether to support such legislation would depend on how the policies are packaged.

“It’s not excluded, let’s put it that way,” Pelosi said.

Obama

How Clooney offers good friend Obama advice on issues from body language to Iraq

George Clooney once famously declared he could never run for public office because he’d ‘slept with too many women, done too many drugs and been to too many parties’.

But now the Hollywood heart-throb has entered the political arena at
the highest level – by becoming an unofficial adviser to US Presidential front-runner Barack Obama.

Oscar-winner Clooney, 47, is said to be helping the Democratic candidate to polish his image at home and abroad.

But he is also sharing with Obama his strong opinions on Iraq and the Middle East.

Sources say the actor has tried to hide the pair’s friendship for fear his Left-wing views and playboy image would hurt the Presidential hopeful’s bid for the White House.

But Democratic Party insiders have revealed that Clooney and Obama regularly send texts and emails to each other and speak by phone at least twice a week.

One said last night: ‘They are extremely close. A number of members of the Hollywood community, including Brad Pitt, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, offered to help raise funds for Barack but it was with George that he struck up this amazing affinity.

‘George has been giving him advice on things such as presentation, public speaking and body language and he also emails him constantly about policy, especially the Middle East.

‘George is pushing him to be more “balanced” on issues such as US relations with Israel.

‘George is pro-Palestinian. And he is also urging Barack to withdraw unconditionally from Iraq if he wins.

Video shows Burger King employee bathing in sink

XENIA, Ohio (WDTN) – Some workers at a Greene County restaurant are in hot water with the health department, after an employee took a bubble bath in a store sink.

It happened at the Burger King on Orange Street in Xenia.

A four-minute video posted on MySpace captured the employee, self-described as Mr. Unstable, bathing nude in a large stainless steel sink as several other employees and a store manager looked on.

The video began making its rounds on the Internet Monday morning. One of the recipients was Greene County Health Commissioner, Mark McDonnell.

“My first thought was oh my god,” said McDonnell.

McDonnell immediately sent staff to restaurant to investigate the numerous health code violations.

He said the restaurant was aware of the incident and had already taken steps to clean up, including disposing of all the utensils and sanitizing the sink twice.

All of the employees involved were fired.

“You can’t account for everyone’s stupid actions but when things do happen if you respond to it and take the appropriate action that’s reassuring,” McDonnell said.

Some Burger King patrons don’t agree.

“That’s just, it’s wrong it’s a place where families come to eat and them taking a bath in the sink that’s just not work ethic,” said Crystal Dodge, who said she used to eat at Burger King all the time.

2News reporter Megan O’Rourke went to the Xenia Burger King Monday afternoon looking for comment, but was met at the door by an employee who asked her to leave and referred comment to Burger King’s corporate office.

Burger King spokesperson Denise Wilson emailed the following statement to 2News Monday afternoon:

Burger King Corp. was just notified of this incident and is cooperating fully with the health department. We have sanitized the sink and have disposed of all other kitchen tools and utensils that were used during the incident.

We have also taken appropriate corrective action on the employees that were involved in this video. Additionally, the remaining staff at this restaurant is being retrained in health and sanitation procedures.

Saudi King Abdullah.

Saudi nuclear plan gets green light

The Saudi Arabian cabinet has decided to approve the country’s agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on the protocols and application of safeguards under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Saudi newspaper Arab News reported.

The Saudis established their Atomic Energy Research Institute, based outside the capital Riyadh, in 1988 to conduct research for peaceful purposes. While Saudi Arabia’s northern neighbor Iran has been accused of using its nuclear program to manufacture weapons grade uranium, which can be used to produce nuclear weapons, no such allegation has been raised against the Saudis, who also lack the missiles to launch a nuclear bomb.

In December 2006 Saudi Arabia, together with the five other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) – Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, the UAE and Oman – announced that they were setting up a commission to study the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. For technical expertise most of GCC countries turned to France and not their traditional ally, the US.

While it might seem strange that the world’s largest producer of oil and the one believed to have the largest oil reserve would need nuclear power to supply the county with electricity, many analysts say that with crude oil prices at record levels it makes economic sense to sell the oil abroad and use nuclear power at home.

Actor Robert Downey Jr. (R) is shown wearing blackface in a scene with co-star Ben Stiller from the upcoming film 'Tropic Thunder' in this undated publicity photo released to Reuters August 11, 2008. Downey portrays an Australian actor named Kirk Lazarus who is playing a black army sergeant in a war movie being filmed in the jungle, venturing into the racially charged territory of blackface, an old showbiz convention that is no laughing matter. (Merie Weismiller Wallace/Dreamworks LLC/Handout/Reuters)

Robert Downey Jr.’s risky role in “Tropic Thunder”

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – When Robert Downey Jr. put on dark make-up for film comedy “Tropic Thunder,” the actor ventured into the racially charged territory of blackface, an old showbiz convention that is no laughing matter.

Downey said he initially worried that his portrayal of a white actor playing a black man could hurt his career, and he bristled at being given what he thought would be the most controversial role in the film directed by Ben Stiller.

But so far, “Tropic Thunder,” which opens on Wednesday, has generated no backlash against the 43-year-old star of “Iron Man.”

Hollywood’s history with blackface, a style of wearing wigs and makeup to caricature slaves or ex-slaves in the 19th and early 20th centuries, dates to the start of the movie industry but has largely stopped except in cases of satire and comedy.

Downey told reporters in recent interviews that his role was a satirical send-up of actor narcissism, and different from older uses of blackface that reinforced harmful stereotypes.

“It’s entertainment that’s set up by people who are high-minded enough to not be racist or offensive,” he said.

“The whole film is based on the idea that what we (actors) do at some level is offensive and who we are, at some level, is despicable and pathetic, which is the truth and not the truth. But the part of it that is the truth, is entertaining.”

Jessica McGowan/AJC
Ben Johnson is a former minister who retired in 2000 after nearly 20 years as professor of Christian spirituality at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur.

Christian Minister bridging the gap with Islam

During lunch 18 months ago, Dr. Ben Johnson had an epiphany as Dr. Aisha Jumaan, a Muslim, spoke to him about her faith and her experience of God.

“It came to me that this woman loves and worships the same God I do,” says Johnson, a Christian. “I had this sharpened awareness that in that moment she was in touch with God, just as I was. It was a dawning and an awakening, and it was liberating because it liberates you from standing on a pedestal and looking down on someone else.”

It also inspired Johnson to take on a life-changing mission.

At a time when many Christians, including some in his own church, were openly hostile towards a religion they believed advocated terrorism and was at war with the United States, Johnson initiated a dialog aimed at bringing Christians and Muslims together.

He has conducted a series of lectures and small-group gatherings at which more than 500 Muslims and Christians have shared their faith with each other. Not, Johnson hastens to point out, to convert anyone: “Just to understand each other.”

“The dream,” he says, “is that we can find a way to bridge the chasm between Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus and Buddhists and make Atlanta a model city. That over the next year or two, we can develop an interfaith immersion program.”

Johnson is a former minister who retired in 2000 after nearly 20 years as professor of Christian spirituality at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur. A towering man from southern Alabama, he calls himself “a soft evangelical. I ask questions and listen rather than telling people what they ought to do or believe.”

He adds, “I’m the most unlikely candidate for becoming a spokesperson about Islam.”

But after several months of retirement, Johnson realized he was depressed. “Life had a dull edge,” he says. “I wondered who I was now that I wasn’t a teacher, preacher, traveler or speaker.”

The depression was about dying. “I had started life well,” he says. “Now I wanted to finish it well.”

Contemplative prayer and the works of Trappist monk Thomas Merton revived him. “When you listen to God,” Johnson says, “you get beneath the dogma and creeds to the essence of what religion is about. It’s about God in human beings in human consciousness.”

Among his insights was that the 21st century would be a religious century, and the key would be relationships between two-thirds of the world’s population: 2.5 billion Christians and 1.5 billion Muslims.

“A voice in my head said, ‘And you don’t know anything about Islam.’ Which was true. I have five degrees, four of them theological, and other religions had never been taught seriously to me.”

He began reading Islamic texts and works on comparative religion, and he asked to meet a Muslim. A church friend introduced him to Dr. Jumaan, an epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control who is from Yemen.

While there are differences in their faiths – Muslims regard Jesus as a prophet, for example, but not divine – Johnson found that they nevertheless arrived at the same conclusions: God is compassionate, omniscient and ubiquitous.

“Everything about my faith is rooted in the stories my two grandmothers told me,” Jumaan says. “No one formally taught me to pray. As a child, I had the question, ‘What is God like?’ My grandmother answered, ‘That is like a drop in the ocean trying to understand what the ocean is like.’ This is something I feel with my heart – God is present in everything. God is all around us.”

In March of 2007, Johnson gave four lectures on Islam at Shallowford Presbyterian Church, expecting 30 to 40 people to attend. The room overflowed with humanity Ð 176 in all, and nearly one-third of them Muslims.

“My mouth was very dry,” Johnson says. “There were a couple of imams (Muslim clerics), and I’m thinking they know all this stuff and I’m stumbling around in it.”

Attendees met in small groups after each lecture to discuss their faiths, and the series concluded with a potluck dinner that attracted 250 people.

“We had a pastor and an imam describe how they came to the faith that gives their lives meaning,” Johnson says, “And we asked people to talk at their tables about how their faith came to them.”

Last September, Johnson gave three more lectures at Wieuca Baptist Church in Buckhead which led to the creation of 20 small groups with Muslim and Christian co-coordinators. They meet at least once a quarter to share faith experiences and visions for the future.

“I don’t think just knowledge about [another] faith is any good,” Johnson says. “You’ve gotta meet someone who is of the faith, who is speaking out of conviction and out of experience to really feel what Islam is like.”

Plemon T. El-Amin, imam of the Masjid of Al-Islam in East Atlanta, says Johnson “puts Muslims at ease, because he’s mastered the broad, historical perspective of Islam, but also some of the nuanced details.”

As for a Christian speaking about Islam, El-Amin says, “People are more open to learning a new perspective from someone they respect. Ben is not trying to convert anyone, but to inform people and build understanding.”

“When I heard him talk about Islam, I thought, ‘We need him!'” says Jan Swanson, coordinator of the interfaith group World Pilgrims. “Many Christians are fearful of Islam, so they put up barriers. They trust Ben, so they are willing to take the first step and listen for understanding.”

Johnson says Dr. Jumaan is “like a daughter” now, and he and his wife, Nan, visited her this summer in Yemen. He also participates in a contemplative prayer group that includes a Muslim, a Hindu, a Buddhist and a Jew.

“If you sit in silence, you can get deep enough into your faith that it touches another person,” he says. “The reality is that at the core we’re all the same.”

What surprises him most, he says, is that “in my 76th year I would be passionate about getting Christians, Jews, Muslims and Hindus together. Nothing in my history would point me in this direction. This is not my dream. I think it’s the spirit of God.”

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Melissa Aberle-Grasse contributed to this article.

Ramadan – In pursuance of Taqwa

Mending habits and developing character

Ramadan is the month of heightened Allah-consciousness, of attaining unto taqwa (piety), of training ourselves to be the best we can be; a month to initiate improvement of reputation, character and cultivating good habits.

People who try their best to live by the highest values are surely people of integrity and indeed people of moral conscience. What is morality though? Morality describes the principles that govern our behavior and relates to our behavior at three levels …

how we as individuals ensure that we are honest, just and compassionate

how we interact with and contribute to society, as asset or liability

how conscious we are of our accountability to our Creator

Taqwa in an amoral world

In a world, increasingly amoral, perception is considered reality. How one appears to the world has overtaken the substance of who we really are. Impressions, whether real or fake, are given more credence than they deserve. Though name, image and reputation are what we perceive of people, character is the essence of the “real self”. Taqwa is in reality character development coupled with God-consciousness.

Character and Reputation

Character is not only the face in the mirror, but the real person behind the face. Character evolves from conscience; is sustained by conscience and is developed, piece by piece, with every thought, with every choice, and maintained with consistency and determination. The pursuance of piety begins by making our reputation a reflection of our character. In many people, reputation precedes the character and there is a distinction to be made …

Reputation is what you lead others to believe you are, character is what you really are

Reputation may be reflected in the combination of your name and your image, character is the essence of your being

Reputation is the wrapping, character the content

Reputation is the outer reflection, character the inner reality

Reputation is made in a moment, character is built in a life time

Reputation may be reflected in what people write about you on your tombstone, character is what angels report about you to Allah

Changing bad habits

The renowned philosopher, Aristotle, once said; “You are what you repeatedly do “. Habits are conditioned responses, formed through repetition, until the actions or reactions become second nature; they end up as unconscious behavior, automatic reactions in a particular situation; (eg. The way you sign your name, cigarette smoking after a meal…) It was the English writer, Shakespeare, who said: ” First we make our habits, then our habits make us “. Thinking in a particular pattern creates a mental path, the mental path affects our attitude and our behavior, and these reflect our personality and character. In other words, our thoughts affect our attitudes, which affect our actions, which determine our habits, which reflect our character, which could determine our destiny. The Roman poet Naso Ovid rightly said, ” habits eventually become character”.

According to Islam, habits are classified as virtues or vices, as repeated actions that are in conformity with or contrary to the rules of morality. Virtuous character emanates from good habits and good habits emanate from resisting negative temptations. Good habits, unfortunately, seem so much easier to give up than bad habits.

Bad habits are like a comfortable bed; easy to get into but difficult to get out of. The chain of bad habits are generally too light to be felt until they are too strong to be broken. Remember though, that every habit; whether good or bad, is acquired and can be developed or disowned. Habits decrease or disappear by abstaining from exercising them and then replacing them. In the words of Roman orator, Cicero, ” consuetudo consuetudine vincitur = habit is overcome/ conquered by habit”. Ramadan is an ideal training period for filtering out bad habits and developing virtuous character. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is reported to have said: “There comes to you the blessed month of Ramadan, a month in which Allah has made fasting obligatory on those who are able; whosoever denies himself of the benefits of that month denies himself many virtues.”

As we undertake the physical and spiritual responsibility of fasting in the blessed month of Ramadan, we reflect on the words of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) who said: “Your practice of faith will not be correct unless your actions are correct, and your actions will not be considered correct unless your heart is correct.”

Sa’dullah Khan is the Director of Islamic Center of Irvine. He has presented lectures on Islamic Civilization at California State University at Dominguez Hills. He is a frequent lecturer for the Academy of Judaic, Christian and Islamic Studies at UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles). He is also an advisor to the Chancellor’s Committee on Religion Ethics and Values at UCLA and serves as Director of Muslim Affairs at USC (University of Southern California).

Corrections Corporation of America Announces Second Quarter 2008 Financial Results

Q2 Earnings per Diluted Share Up 15.4%; Updates Earnings Guidance for 2008; Now Expects Earnings per Diluted Share of $1.21 to $1.24 Compared With Previous Range of $1.21 to $1.28

Corrections Corporation of America (NYSE: CXW) (the “Company” or “CCA”), the nation’s largest provider of corrections management services to government agencies, today announced its financial results for the three- and six-month periods ended June 30, 2008.

Financial Review

Second Quarter of 2008 Compared with Second Quarter of 2007

--  Net income increased 15.0% to $37.5 million from $32.6 million
--  Net income per diluted share increased 15.4% to $0.30 from $0.26
--  EBITDA increased 14.0% to $96.7 million from $84.8 million
--  Adjusted Free Cash Flow increased 33.0% to $56.4 million from $42.4
    million
--  1,706 expansion beds placed into service during the second quarter of
    2008

Financial results for the second quarter of 2008 were positively impacted by an increase in average daily inmate populations facilitated by the placement of 6,750 new beds placed into service since the end of the first quarter 2007, combined with rate increases achieved since the second quarter of 2007. Financial results for the second quarter of 2008 included $2.9 million of start-up expenses incurred at our La Palma Correctional Center, compared with $1.9 million of start-up expenses incurred at our Saguaro Correctional Facility during the second quarter of 2007.

Management revenue from federal customers increased 4.5% to $156.7 million during the second quarter of 2008 from $150.0 million during the second quarter of 2007. The increase in federal revenue from the second quarter of 2007 resulted primarily from rate increases achieved since the second quarter of 2007 on certain federal management contracts.

Management revenue from state customers increased 18.4% to $203.3 million during the second quarter of 2008 from $171.7 million for the same period in 2007. The increase in state revenue from the prior year quarter resulted from a 9.9% increase in average daily inmate populations to 49,411 during the second quarter of 2008 from 44,963 during the prior year period, combined with per diem increases achieved since the second quarter of 2007. Higher inmate populations came primarily from the state of California as well as from the state of Arizona as result of a new management contract received in May of 2007. State revenue also increased from the state of Florida as a result of the expansions completed during the third quarter of 2007 at Gadsden Correctional Institution and Bay Correctional Facility.

Our total average daily compensated population increased 5.8% to 76,936 during the second quarter of 2008 from 72,715 during the second quarter of 2007. However, total portfolio occupancy decreased to 97.0% during the second quarter of 2008 from 99.0% during the second quarter of 2007 as a result of a 7.9% increase in the average number of beds available from the second quarter of 2007 due to placing over 4,800 new expansion beds into service since the end of the second quarter of 2007.

Crime triggering Incest!

Walled in by crime and violence in some of Jamaica’s violent inner cities, men and women answering nature’s call for sex and companionship have turned to blood relatives – in some cases fathers to daughters, brothers to sisters and even mothers to their sons, the Sunday Observer has learnt.

While the scale of the incest was not immediately ascertained, local officials say they have seen this worrying behaviour in at least four violent communities.

“It is heart-breaking,” chairman of the Trench Town-based Caribbean Applied Technology Centre, Dr Henley Morgan, told the Sunday Observer. “There were areas in the inner cities where violence has forced individuals within a 30 square feet radius to remain there for years. They cannot go up the lane, down the lane or anywhere else because of violence. The end result is this heart-breaking situation.”

Explaining further, Dr Morgan said, “The males have never left it (their communities) to find a girl. So they prey on each other. It is an unending web, and sometimes we read about this happening elsewhere and think it cannot happen here…”

Renowned social anthropologist specialising in social violence, Dr Herbert Gayle, corroborated Dr Morgan’s story and said the practice wasn’t only among fathers and daughters, or brothers and sisters.

“There are cases where mothers have turned to their sons, because their husbands or spouses are in prison and they go to her sons to fulfil her sexual needs…” Dr Gayle disclosed in an interview with Sunday Observer.

He said mothers have often expressed concerns for their girls, especially when there are sustained curfews in the inner cities.

“I am aware of it. We have never had a case to deal with it at Fathers Inc, but there are at least four communities where there are just too many instances of this happening,” Dr Gayle said.

In at least one instance, he said, a man is still in prison for impregnating his underaged daughter.

Morgan’s and Gayle’s accounts were confirmed by a senior crime fighter who has worked the inner cities for more than a quarter century.

For him, the situation is nauseating.

“I have come across situations where during the investigation of a crime, you find everybody with the same surname. In one instance I interviewed 30 persons and they all have the same surnames,” the cop said in an earlier interview with Sunday Observer. “They were brothers, sisters, cousins and friends. It got to a point where you say ‘wait a minute, what is happening here?’ Only to retrace your steps to find that they are all family in the sickest kind of ways…

“It is just sickening…” he said, clearly uncomfortable discussing the issue.

According to the cop, who asked for anonymity, when he stumbled on the situation, it had a chilling effect on him.

“They are the product of the same lineage, and this cannot be good for any country and any community. Can you just imagine the maladjustments of this generation of young people?” he asked.

In some communities, according to a social worker, there are real and imaginary lines across which residents can go, but still remain safe. However, there are sections referred to as “no man’s land” and individuals caught in these areas are at the mercy of gunmen.

It is situations such as this that have barred residents from one end of a street, sections of communities or areas within close proximity from interfacing with each other.

“This is well known. We know this already. I work in an inner-city community and this is something I know very well.” Dr Morgan said.

The veteran cop also pointed to another deeply troubling practice in these inner-city communities.

Criminal dons, claiming to be community benefactors, have, for years, demanded sexual favours from young inner city girls, some of whom they have assisted in going to school. In some instances, as soon as the girls reach puberty the dons ‘send’ for them for their sexual initiation.

The little girls are sometimes gone for days and are sexually assaulted. According to the cop, it is not just anecdotal, there are enough stories. His disappointment, however, and that of his colleagues, is fuelled by the failure of relatives of the abused girls to file complaints and force official investigations.

The Obama campaign is seeking to top the two million donor mark.

Obama camp says their donors portrayed as ‘mindless fans’

(CNN) — Barack Obama’s campaign manager said Monday John McCain’s now-famous Paris Hilton/Britney Spears television ad wasn’t just insulting to the Illinois senator, but to his campaign’s legion of supporters as well.

And in an e-mail to those supporters Monday, campaign manager David Plouffe is hoping a backlash from that television spot will push Obama over the two million individual donor mark by the party’s convention at the end of August — only six months after the campaign topped one million donors.

“While supporters like you are out knocking on doors, registering new voters, and organizing in your local communities, our opponents are not even trying to match your efforts. Instead, they’re spending millions to spread the smear that Barack is just a ‘celebrity’ and that our grassroots movement is just a bunch of mindless fans,” Plouffe wrote in the e-mail in what is one of his harshest assessments to date of McCain’s ‘Celebrity’ ad.

“Two million donors is an incredible number — a number that was previously unimaginable for presidential campaigns,” he also wrote. “And it’s a number this campaign never dreamed we could reach before the convention.”

Obama surpassed one million donors in late February, a number the campaign said then was one “no one ever thought would be possible.” As of the end of June, the most recent fundraising figures available, Obama had raised nearly $340 million for his presidential bid.

A steady fundraising clip is especially important for Obama, who earlier this summer backed off his onetime pledge to enter into public financing — and the spending caps that come with it — in the general election campaign.

Justifying his reversal on that pledge, Obama cited his vast donor list and said his campaign was fueled mainly by small contributions. Though the New York Times reported last week close to a third of the Obama campaign’s fundraising receipts has come from donors who gave $1,000 or more.

Boy in suitcase was cult victim, police say

BALTIMORE, Maryland (AP) — A toddler whose remains were found inside a suitcase in Philadelphia in the spring was starved to death by members of a religious cult, including his mother, in part because he refused to say “amen” after meals, police said.

Ria Ramkissoon, the mother of Javon Thompson, was charged Sunday with first-degree murder in the boy’s death, and Baltimore police said Monday that three other members of a group called 1 Mind Ministries have also been charged with first-degree murder. Police and Ramkissoon’s family said the group is a cult.

Members did not seek medical care for Javon when he stopped breathing, and the boy died in his mother’s arms, according to court documents that described police interviews with a confidential informant and two children. He would have been about 19 months old when police say adults stopped feeding him in December 2006.

Ramkissoon, 21, was being held Monday in the psychiatric ward of Baltimore’s Central Booking and Intake Center, and a bail review was postponed until Tuesday. Her public defender declined comment.

The three other people charged in Javon’s death — Queen Antoinette, 40, also known as Toni Ellsberry or Toni Sloan; Marcus Cobbs, 21; and Trevia Williams, who turns 21 Tuesday — were already in custody. They were arrested in May in New York City on warrants charging them with failure to appear in court in Baltimore. Those charges stemmed from a scuffle with police in a child custody dispute.

No one answered the phone Monday afternoon in the office of a public defender assigned to Antoinette, Cobbs and Williams.

A fifth alleged cult member, Steven Bynum, has been charged in a warrant with first-degree murder and remains at large, police said Monday. He was believed to be in New York.

Ramkissoon’s family said she should not be held responsible for her son’s death.

“She had no control over that situation at all,” her stepfather, Craig Newton, said Monday.

Ramkissoon’s mother, Seeta Khadan-Newton, told The (Baltimore) Sun on Sunday that it wasn’t her daughter’s decision not to feed the boy.

“My daughter was a victim, just like my grandson,” Khadan-Newton said. “Somebody made that decision to not feed that child, and my daughter had to follow instructions.”

Members of 1 Mind Ministries wore all white, swore off medical care and referred to some members with titles including queen and princess, according to court documents. The group was also accused of insisting that a pregnant woman give birth without access to doctors.

Ramkissoon joined 1 Mind Ministries after Javon was born. Ramkissoon’s mother last saw her in April 2006; she later sued for custody of her grandson, writing in a letter to a judge that “the cult leaders” were preventing her from contacting her daughter.

The documents show police interviewed two school-age children who had been part of the group but were taken away from members by Philadelphia police. The children told investigators that members stopped feeding Javon in December 2006, in part because the boy refused to say “amen” after dinner. Members also viewed Javon as “a demon.”

Another unnamed informant told police that after Javon died, Antoinette left the boy’s body in a room for more than a week, claiming “God was going to raise Javon from the dead,” the documents show.

Afterward, Antoinette burned the boy’s clothing and a mattress and placed his body in a green suitcase, which she would periodically open and spray with disinfectant to mask the odor, police said in the court documents.

In early 2007, the group members left Baltimore for Philadelphia. They left the green suitcase and other luggage inside a shed belonging to a man they befriended while there, police said, and then relocated to Brooklyn, New York.

Police recovered the suitcase in April after they got a tip from the confidential informant. The remains of a small child were inside. DNA tests are pending to confirm the boy’s identity.

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