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Giuliani, Edwards quit White House race

SIMI VALLEY, Calif. - Republican Rudy Giuliani and Democrat John Edwards abandoned their failing U.S. presidential bids on Wednesday, narrowing the race to two main candidates on each side before next week's nomination voting in more than 20 states.
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani speaks at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California January 30, 2008 where he formally withdrew from the Republican presidential nomination race and endorsed US Republican presidential candidate John McCain. (REUTERS/Robert Galbraith)

Giuliani, the one-time front-runner who finished a distant third in Florida's Republican primary on Tuesday, traveled to California to endorse Arizona Sen. John McCain in a Republican battle against former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

"Today I am officially announcing my withdrawal as a candidate for president of the United States," Giuliani said at the Ronald Reagan presidential library in Simi Valley before a televised Republican presidential debate.

"John McCain is the most qualified candidate to be the next commander in chief of the United States."

McCain, standing beside his longtime friend, said all Americans recalled the former New York mayor's leadership after the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001 and he predicted Giuliani would be his "strong right arm" in the campaign.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will endorse McCain on Thursday in Los Angeles, campaign aides said.

The backing of the moderate Republican governor could be an important boost for McCain in California, adding to his momentum before the heavyweight state holds its crucial primary as part of next week's coast-to-coast voting.

The candidates are in the early stages of a state-by-state battle to pick Republican and Democratic presidential nominees. The winners from the two parties will face off in the Nov. 4 election to succeed President George W. Bush.


The withdrawal of Edwards means Democrats will field a history-making ticket.

Regardless of whether Illinois Sen. Barack Obama or former first lady Hillary Clinton wins the nomination, it will be the first time a black or a woman has headed a major U.S. party's presidential slate.

Edwards, a former North Carolina senator, traveled to New Orleans, where he launched his campaign more than a year ago, to make the surprise announcement he was pulling out.

He had vowed last week to stay in the race until Tuesday, when almost half the U.S. states vote to pick candidates for the November election.

"It is time for me to step aside so that history can blaze its path," said Edwards, who campaigned as the champion of low- and middle-income families.

Edwards did not immediately endorse either of his rivals.

Giuliani's withdrawal leaves McCain facing a strong challenge from Romney.

At the debate in California, Romney and McCain accused each other of pursuing liberal policies out of step with mainstream Republicans.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is still formally in the Republican race but his lack of campaign money and limited appeal beyond Christian conservatives has left him trailing.

"This isn't a two-man race," Huckabee, a Baptist preacher, said at the debate as McCain and Romney challenged each other's claims to the conservative high ground. "You want to talk conservative credentials, let me get in on that."

In the liveliest exchange of the debate, Romney accused McCain of "dirty tricks" for what he said was misrepresentation of his views on the Iraq war. McCain said Romney's negative "attack ads" had set the tone for the campaign.

Giuliani did little campaigning in the early voting states, focusing his efforts on a strong showing in Florida, the fourth most-populous state with a large number of retirees from the Northeast. But he finished a disappointing third, barely above Huckabee.

Admitting to some bitterness, Giuliani said that was tempered by satisfaction at endorsing McCain, whom he called "a man of honor and integrity" who could be trusted in a crisis.

McCain and Romney split the previous four Republican nominating contests. McCain won in South Carolina and New Hampshire and Romney carried Michigan and Nevada, the latter a state scarcely contested by other Republicans.

Huckabee won the opening contest in Iowa.

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Republican Giuliani ends U.S. presidential campaign

SIMI VALLEY, Calif. - Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani ended his White House campaign on Wednesday and endorsed Arizona Sen. John McCain's Republican presidential bid.

Giuliani, the one-time Republican front-runner known for his leadership after the Sept. 11 attacks, finished a distant third behind McCain and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney on Tuesday in Florida's Republican presidential primary.

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani addresses supporters during a campaign rally in Clearwater, Florida in this January 28, 2008 file photo. (REUTERS/Steve Nesius)

"Today I am officially announcing my withdrawal as a candidate for president of the United States," Giuliani said at the Ronald Reagan presidential library in Simi Valley, California, before a Republican presidential debate.

"John McCain is the most qualified candidate to be the next commander-in-chief of the United States."

Giuliani had bypassed the other early voting states in the Republican race to concentrate on Florida, but saw his support fade steadily as his rivals commanded the spotlight over the last month.

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Edwards quits White House race, Giuliani next

WASHINGTON - Democrat John Edwards abandoned his U.S. presidential bid on Wednesday and Republican Rudy Giuliani was expected to do the same, narrowing the field in both parties to two main candidates ahead of next week's big multi-state nominating contest.
Former Senator John Edwards (D-NC) gestures to supporters at his South Carolina primary night rally in Columbia, South Carolina in this January 26, 2008 file photo. (REUTERS/Chris Keane)

Giuliani's decision was widely predicted after his loss on Tuesday in the Florida Republican primary, but Edwards' move came as a surprise. He had vowed just last week to stay in the race until Tuesday, when almost half the U.S. states vote on candidates for the November election.

The withdrawal of Edwards, who campaigned as the champion of low- and middle-income families, left former first lady Hillary Clinton facing Illinois Sen. Barack Obama for the Democratic nomination in what seemed likely to be a long, bruising struggle.

"It is time for me to step aside so that history can blaze its path," Edwards, a former North Carolina senator, told supporters in a New Orleans neighborhood devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the same place where he launched his campaign.

Regardless of whether Obama or Clinton wins, Democrats will field a history-making ticket, the first time a major U.S. political party has had a black or a woman as a presidential candidate.

"We do not know who will take the final steps to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, but what we do know is that our Democratic Party will make history ... and with our convictions and a little backbone we will take back the White House in November," Edwards said.

Edwards did not immediately endorse either of his rivals.

Obama and Clinton, a New York senator, both surveyed the new political landscape and began angling for an edge. Both echoed Edwards' theme of ending poverty. Obama cast himself as the best candidate to take on John McCain, the clear Republican front-runner after his victory on Tuesday in Florida.

"We need to offer the American people a clear contrast on national security, and when I am the nominee of the Democratic Party, that's exactly what I will do," Obama told a crowd of 18,000 in Denver, saying Clinton had voted with McCain to authorize the Iraq war.

The candidates are in the early stages of a state-by-state battle to pick Republican and Democratic presidential nominees. The winners from the two parties will face off in the November election to succeed President George W. Bush.

Edwards' withdrawal coincided with media reports that former New York Mayor Giuliani would abandon his own presidential bid and endorse McCain, the Arizona senator.

That would leave McCain facing a strong challenge by former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is still formally in the race but his lack of campaign money and limited appeal beyond Christian conservatives has left him trailing far behind.

Giuliani, in a strategic move, did little campaigning in the early voting states, focusing his efforts on producing a strong showing in Florida, the fourth most-populous state with its large number of retirees from the Northeast. But he finished a disappointing third place, barely above Huckabee.

McCain and Romney split the previous four of the state-by-state nominating contests. McCain won in South Carolina and New Hampshire and Romney carried Michigan and Nevada, the latter a state scarcely contested by other Republicans. Huckabee won the kick-off contest in Iowa.

Clinton on Tuesday won a Florida Democratic race that featured no active campaigning because of a dispute between the national and state parties. She and Obama split the first four nominating contests, with Clinton taking New Hampshire and Nevada and Obama winning Iowa and South Carolina.

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MAS targets RM1bil profit every year

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia Airlines plans to make RM1bil in profit annually for the next five years under its new business transformation plan (BTP2).

The national carrier is also aiming to increase its profit by 50% to RM1.5bil after 2012.

These lofty targets are contained in the BTP2 which will be launched tomorrow. Details were released to Bursa Malaysia in a statement last evening.

“The philosophy behind the BTP2 is aiming and planning for the best, assuming the worst.

“On aiming and planning for the best, MAS will go for the seemingly impossible target, that is, record profits.

“On assuming the worst, MAS must transform to become a Five-Star Value Carrier (FSVC). MAS has to build a ship that can weather the storm, in its case, the imminent liberalisation and overcapacity in Asia,” the airline said in its statement to Bursa.

The BTP2 replaces the Business Turnaround Plan, which was launched two years ago. The original plan was only set to be completed by the end of this year, and MAS planned to make a profit of RM500mil.

But the turnaround was so successful that the target was reached last year when it made over RM610mil in profits in the first nine months of the year.

It is widely speculated that MAS will breach the RM1bil mark when the fourth quarter profits are totalled. The 2007 performance is expected to be announced on Feb 25.

The national carrier explained that an FSVC could withstand the competition it faced from other full service carriers and low-cost airlines by providing quality services at competitive prices.

MAS also stated that its target for the next five years was based on the scorecard set for government-linked companies by Khazanah Holdings but was confident that it would reach the highest level of the requirements.

Under the GLC goals for this year, a profit of RM400mil to RM550mil was considered on target, RM551mil to RM650mil profit exceeding and RM651mil to RM1bil outstanding.

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Daycare centre to help working parents

PETALING JAYA: The Johor State Assemblymen's Wives Association (Juita) is planning to set up a daycare centre that operates after school hours to assist working parents.

The daycare centre would provide a safe and comfortable environment for children, Juita said in a statement Thursday.

Juita president Datin Paduka Prof Dr Jamilah Ariffin said that this was vital, especially in the light of the increasing number of child abductions.

"The centre will begin operations once the project site has been confirmed," she said, adding that this would be Juita's 13th project in the state of Johor.

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McCain wins tight battle in Florida

MIAMI - John McCain scored a hard-fought win in Florida's presidential primary on Tuesday, seizing the front-runner's role in a heated Republican race and apparently ending one-time favorite Rudy Giuliani's White House bid.

McCain, an Arizona senator, defeated former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in a tight Florida battle that gives him critical momentum heading into critical Feb. 5 "Super Tuesday" voting in 21 states with Republican contests.

Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain acknowledges supporters at his Florida primary election night rally in Miami, Florida, January 29, 2008. (REUTERS/Hans Deryk)

With about three-quarters of the vote counted, McCain led Romney by 36 percent to 31 percent.

"Our victory might not have reached landslide proportions, but it is sweet nonetheless," McCain told supporters chanting "Mac is back" in Miami.

"In one week we will have as close to a national primary as we have ever had in this country. I intend to win it, and be the nominee of our party," McCain said. "We have a ways to go, but we're getting close."

Giuliani, a former New York mayor who staked his campaign on a strong showing in Florida, was leading former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee for a distant third-place finish after being ahead in national polls for much of the past year.

Giuliani planned to drop out and endorse McCain, a friend and political ally before the presidential race began, on Wednesday, according to media reports.

McCain thanked Giuliani "for all you have added to this race," and Giuliani talked about his campaign in the past tense during a speech to supporters in Orlando, Florida.

"We ran a campaign that was uplifting," Giuliani said. "You don't always win, but you can always try to do it right."


McCain's win puts him at the front of the pack in a seesawing Republican race to pick the party's candidate in November's presidential election. He picks up all of Florida's 57 delegates to the national nominating convention.

New York Sen. Hillary Clinton easily won a Florida Democratic race that featured no active campaigning because of a dispute between the national and state parties.

The national party stripped the state of its delegates to the national convention and Democratic candidates pledged to stay away.

Clinton, who lost to rival Barack Obama in a landslide in South Carolina on Saturday, visited Florida after polls closed in a bid to claim at least a symbolic victory.

"Thank you Florida. I could not come here to ask in person for your votes but I am here to thank you for your votes," she told supporters in Davie, outside Fort Lauderdale.

Exit polls showed the economy was the top issue among Republican voters in Florida, with about half listing it as their most important topic. About six in 10 voters described themselves as conservatives.

McCain and Romney had dominated the headlines in Florida with a heated battle over who was best prepared to rescue a struggling economy and lead a country at war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

McCain had gained in polls in recent days after endorsements by Florida Gov. Charlie Crist and U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez of Florida.

McCain and Romney split the last four of the state-by-state nominating contests. McCain won in South Carolina and New Hampshire and Romney carried Michigan and Nevada, the latter a state scarcely contested by other Republicans. Huckabee won the kick-off contest in Iowa.

Romney aides said the result made the Republican race for the nomination a two-man battle between Romney and McCain and he would press ahead to Feb. 5.

"I think it's time for the politicians to leave Washington and for the citizens to take over," Romney, a wealthy venture capitalist who has touted his real-world business experience, told supporters in St. Petersburg, Florida.

"At a time like this, America needs a president in the White House who has actually had a job in the real economy," he said.

Huckabee also said he planned to go on to compete in the Feb. 5 contests, which include several Southern states like his home state of Arkansas, and Alabama, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Georgia.

"We're a long way from quittin'," he said on Fox News Channel.

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McCain emerges as Republican front-runner

WASHINGTON - Republican John McCain emerged on Tuesday as the front-runner for his party's presidential nomination with a victory in Florida, six months after he was resurrected from the political scrap heap.

McCain, who at 71 would be the oldest person elected to a first presidential term, scored a narrow victory over rival Mitt Romney in Florida despite being outspent on advertising by an estimated three-to-one margin.

US Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain greets his supporters at his Florida primary election night rally in Miami, January 29, 2008. McCain emerged on Tuesday as the front-runner for his party's presidential nomination with a victory in Florida, six months after he was resurrected from the political scrap heap. (REUTERS/Hans Deryk)

"Our victory might not have reached landslide proportions, but it was sweet nonetheless," McCain told a victory rally in Miami.

With Republicans increasingly rallying around McCain as the most electable candidate in the party's field, the Arizona senator goes into the campaign for the 21 states holding Republican contests on "Super Tuesday" on Feb. 5 with the wind at his back.

That surge would be boosted even more with an expected endorsement by former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who finished a distant third in Florida after staking his candidacy on the state.

McCain already is in a strong position in many of the Super Tuesday states like delegate-rich California, New York and New Jersey.

"McCain now has the momentum to sweep Super Tuesday," said Republican strategist Scott Reed. "He's proven to doubters that he can put together a right-of-center winning coalition and he's now the front-runner for the Republican nomination."


McCain said of his chances on Feb. 5: "I intend to win it and be the nominee of our party."

The Florida victory meant McCain has won the three most important contests so far of the race to determine which Republican will face the Democrats' choice in the November election: New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida.

He is winning based on solid support from moderate Republicans and conservatives most interested in national security matters. Independents have been lining up behind him as well.

"He's showing the capacity to appeal beyond the traditional base of the Republican Party," said Merle Black, a political science professor at Emory University in Atlanta.

All this came about despite McCain's near-death experience last summer when his campaign ran out of money and had to get rid of staff. Back then, he was registering in single digits in national opinion polls.

Now he is the man to beat in the Republican field, after a Florida campaign that turned bitter as he and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney traded insults over who was best suited to lead the country.

The tenor of their campaign -- McCain accusing Romney of supporting a U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq and Romney declaring McCain is a liberal -- could make for an acrimonious debate on Wednesday night at the Ronald Reagan presidential library in Simi Valley, California.

Romney, who has put millions of his personal wealth into helping bankroll his campaign, has the ability to keep pumping money into his effort, lengthening the Republican contest.

"He's got money, but the pressure will really be on Romney now to have some victories," Black said.

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Pentagon to seek more war funds before Bush goes

WASHINGTON - The Pentagon will seek more money for 2009 operations in Iraq and Afghanistan before the end of the Bush administration, it said on Tuesday, giving the next president some breathing room on the issue.

The administration will ask Congress next week for $70 billion to pay for the wars and related operations for part of the 2009 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, 2008.

That would be about a third of the typical annual cost of the wars.

An aerial view of the Pentagon building in Washington in this June 15, 2005 file photo, with the Potomac river in the foreground. The Pentagon will seek more money for 2009 operations in Iraq and Afghanistan before the end of the Bush administration, it said on Tuesday, giving the next president some breathing room on the issue. (REUTERS/Jason Reed)

The Pentagon had said on Monday the $70 billion would probably be the last funding request for the wars before the end of the Bush administration in January, leaving war funding as one of the first issues facing the next president.

But Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said on Tuesday more money would be sought before the end of Bush's term.

"We are submitting the $70 billion request with the anticipation that at some point we will go back to the Congress and ask for what else is needed in fiscal year '09," he said.

Fiscal 2009 begins on Oct. 1, 2008, during the Bush presidency, and stretches into the next president's first year in office.

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Obama says Clinton's celebrity an advantage

EL DORADO, Kan. - Democrat Barack Obama, who is famous as the most viable black presidential candidate in U.S. history, said on Tuesday rival Hillary Clinton's celebrity gave her an advantage in the crucial, multi-state nominating contests next week.

Obama campaigned in Kansas in the town where his maternal grandfather was born, reaching out to voters in a traditionally Republican state and seeking to build broad-based support after a resounding win over the former first lady in South Carolina.

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama speaks to supporters during a rally in El Dorado, Kansas, January 29, 2008. (REUTERS/Jason Reed)

But the Illinois senator told reporters it was Clinton's own fame as a former first lady and New York senator that gave her an edge in the more than 20 states that on Tuesday vote to determine the presidential nominee in November's election.

"There's no doubt that Senator Clinton has a big advantage going into the February 5th states," he said as he flew from Washington to Kansas.

"She's much better known and, you know, I am still being introduced to a lot of casual voters in the other states," he said.

Candidates Obama, Clinton and former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina all campaigned heavily in the early voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire, but the unusually tight nominating schedule has forced them to scramble in the slew of states voting next Tuesday. Kansas is one of those states.

Obama campaign manager David Plouffe said the senator was well placed financially to compete in each of the contests and the campaign was running radio or television advertising in each of those states except Illinois, Obama's home, which he is expected to win handily.

In Kansas Obama sought to connect with voters through his family ties to the state, and he picked up the endorsement of popular Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, who delivered the nationally televised Democratic response to President George W. Bush's State of the Union address on Monday.

"We're family," Obama said to loud cheers in a packed gymnasium in El Dorado, visiting his deceased grandfather's birth city for the first time. Obama is the son of a Kenyan father and a white American mother.

On the issue that has become the focal point of the campaign -- the economy -- Obama said voters could trust him over Clinton, who has portrayed herself as the best qualified candidate to steer the country out of a looming recession.

"I think they can trust me because I have spent my life trying to bring about economic justice and equity to our economy," Obama told reporters.

"We all have access to the same experts ... Even those who are supporting Hillary, like Bob Rubin, are friends of mine. Warren Buffet supports both of us." Robert Rubin was secretary of the Treasury under President Bill Clinton. Warren Buffet is a billionaire investor.

Obama shrugged off reports that he had snubbed the New York senator ahead of Bush's speech Monday night.

"Senator Clinton and I have had very cordial relations off the floor (of the Senate) and on the floor," he said. "I waved at her ... as I was coming into the Senate chamber before we walked over last night."

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At faith-based event, Bush recalls drinking problem

BALTIMORE - President George W. Bush reflected on his battle with alcohol abuse on Tuesday, acknowledging that he once drank too much, as he sought to showcase the religious-based programs that have been one of the controversial initiatives of his presidency.

Bush, who gave up alcohol at age 40, made the comment during a visit to the Jericho program, run by the Episcopal Community Services of Maryland, which helps recently released prisoners re-enter the workforce.

US President George W. Bush speaks during the signing of the Executive Order protecting American Taxpayers from Government Spending on Wasteful Earmarks in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington January 29, 2008. (REUTERS/Jim Young)

The visit was part of an effort to highlight one of his domestic priorities -- providing government funding for religious-based organizations to help their communities.

"Addiction is hard to overcome. As you might remember, I drank too much at one time in my life," said Bush, who has often stated that religion became a greater part of his life after he gave up alcohol.

"I understand faith-based programs. I understand that sometimes you can find the inspiration from a higher power to solve an addiction problem," he said.

Faith-based programs like Jericho should not be forced to give up their spiritual underpinning to receive federal funding, Bush said.

Critics of the initiative oppose the use of taxpayers' money by faith-based groups because it blurs the line separating religion and government.

Some supporters of the program have also voiced concerns that Bush has not provided as much money to these organizations as he promised. A study by the Rockefeller Institute found the number of faith-based organizations that received federal funding rose to 762 in 2004 from 665 in 2002.

In his State of the Union address on Monday night, Bush asked Congress to guarantee funding permanently for faith-based groups

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U.S. attorney general says CIA interrogations legal

WASHINGTON - The CIA's current techniques for interrogating terrorism suspects are legal and do not include a widely condemned method known as waterboarding, U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey told Congress on Tuesday.

Mukasey declined, however, in a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy on the eve of testimony before the panel, to say whether he considered waterboarding, a form of simulated drowning, to be illegal.

A demonstrator is held down during a simulation of waterboarding outside the Justice Departement in Washington in this November 5, 2007 file photo. (REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/Files)

A U.S. official confirmed last week that waterboarding was used in the past but had not been used for several years.

"The interrogation techniques currently authorized in the CIA program comply with the law," Mukasey wrote Leahy. "A limited set of methods is currently authorized for use in that program. ... Waterboarding is not, and may not be, used in the current program."

Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont, and other lawmakers repeatedly pressed Mukasey in his confirmation hearings last year and afterward to say whether he considered waterboarding an illegal form of torture, as do many human rights groups and other critics.

If Mukasey agreed, it could open the door to prosecution of officials involved in CIA's interrogation program launched after the Sept. 11 attacks. Mukasey, who had said in a letter to the committee before his confirmation that waterboarding is "repugnant to me," said he would review the interrogation program.

But Mukasey told Leahy on Tuesday that since waterboarding was not now in use, he did not feel it appropriate to give an opinion.

"As a general matter, I do not believe that it is advisable to address difficult legal questions, about which responsible minds can and do differ, in the absence of concrete facts and circumstances," he said.

"There are some circumstances where current law would appear clearly to prohibit the use of waterboarding. Other circumstances would present a far closer question," he said.


Leahy rejected Mukasey's position.

"This last-minute response from the attorney general echoes what other administration officials have said about the use of waterboarding," he said. "It does not, however, answer the critical questions we have been asking about its legality. Attorney General Mukasey knows that this will not end the matter and expects to be asked serious questions at the hearing tomorrow."

John Negroponte, the first U.S. director of national intelligence, who served from 2005 to 2007, confirmed in a magazine interview published last week that waterboarding had been used in the interrogation program. But Negroponte, now deputy secretary of state, said it was not used during his term as spy chief "nor even a few years before that."

Although the Bush administration has been reluctant to discuss waterboarding publicly, Negroponte's remarks were in line with earlier reports that the CIA discontinued waterboarding in 2003, after using it on three "high-value" detainees.

Mukasey on Jan. 2 ordered the Justice Department to investigate the CIA's destruction of videotapes depicting the harsh interrogations of two terrorism suspects in 2002. At least one of the subjects, Abu Zubaydah, was believed to have been subjected to waterboarding.

Mukasey has rejected calls to appoint an independent counsel for the investigation. He has indicated investigators would be free to pursue evidence of illegal interrogation techniques in their probe, but department officials have said the focus remains on the tapes' destruction.

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Annan launches Kenyan mediation, violence spreads

NAIROBI - Former U.N. chief Kofi Annan brought together Kenya's political rivals on Tuesday in a push to end a post-election crisis and deepening tribal bloodshed.

About a dozen people were killed in the east African country on Tuesday, bringing the toll to more than 850 since President Mwai Kibaki's disputed Dec. 27 election triggered turmoil that has grown from riots into waves of ethnic revenge attacks.

An opposition supporter runs with empty canisters to bring water to extinguish a burning house in Nairobi's Kibera slum January 29, 2008. (REUTERS/Anne Holmes)

Annan, bringing together Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga to launch formal mediation, said he was confident the "immediate political issues" could be resolved within four weeks and the broader issues underlying the crisis within a year.

"To the leaders gathered here today I say that the people want you to take charge of the situation and do whatever possible to halt the downward spiral that is threatening this beautiful and prosperous country," Annan said.

The crisis has cost Kenya its reputation as a bastion of peace in a turbulent region and dented its previously flourishing economy, east Africa's largest.

"We stand here during a defining moment, when we must all make the decision that we must regain the dignity of our nation and restore the stability we have enjoyed since independence," Kibaki said.

Odinga, who says Kibaki stole the vote, said the most urgent issue was addressing "the deeply flawed results of the presidential elections".

"This mediation process must show our people that peace, justice and security are around the corner," he said, stressing that the talks were between his Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party and Kibaki's party, not his government.

Later, Kibaki, Odinga and Annan chatted cordially over a cup of tea while negotiating teams met behind closed doors. Kibaki and Odinga met last Thursday for the first time since the vote.


Their teams, a mix of both hardliners and moderates, were due to meet again on Wednesday and the stakes are high.

"If they do not come together, this country is going up in flames and I don't think either want to be judged by history as responsible," said Yusuf Hassan, a legislative candidate from a government-allied party whose election is due to be re-run.

Western donors have urged both sides -- who appear far apart -- to take the talks seriously or risk losing development aid.

"We are certainly asking everyone to maintain calm. It's deeply concerning," U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in Washington. "The election was not one that inspired confidence in the Kenyan people and therefore there needs to be a political arrangement."

Post-election protests have degenerated into cycles of killing between tribes who have never reconciled divisions over land, wealth and power left by British colonial rule, stoked by politicians at election time over 44 years of independence.

The killing of an opposition legislator stoked the violence on Tuesday. Kibaki appealed for peace and promised a swift investigation into the "heinous" murder of Melitus Were, who was shot dead while driving up to the gate of his home.

Local media reported three people had been arrested, but police spokesman Eric Kiraithe declined to comment.

Noting that two bullets went into Were's eyes, Odinga called it "a planned political assassination". He also said that Kenya was "drifting into a state of anarchy".

The European Union condemned Were's murder and urged the government and opposition to "engage fully" with Annan.

"We condemn the massive human rights abuses and systematic violence being perpetrated in Kenya," EU High Representative Javier Solana and Development, Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Louis Michel said in a statement.

After meeting in London, leaders of Britain, France, Italy, Germany and the European Commission issued a statement welcoming Annan's achievement in bringing the two sides together.

"We call on Kenya's leaders to pursue this dialogue urgently," it said. "We urge all leaders to act urgently to ensure the cycle of violence is quickly brought to an end."

Reuters reporters in the lakeside city of Naivasha said military helicopters dive-bombed armed mobs, firing what police said were rubber bullets at about 600 Kikuyus -- Kibaki's ethnic group -- brandishing machetes and clubs at Luos, Odinga's tribe.

Nine more bodies arrived at the Naivasha morgue on Tuesday, bringing the total death toll from violence there and in nearby Nakuru since Thursday to more than 100.

Kenya's Red Cross said 8,000 people were taking refuge at a Naivasha police post, joining the 250,000 forced out of their homes by ethnic violence mostly in the rest of the Rift Valley.

At Were's house in a middle-class suburb near Nairobi's Kibera slum, riot police fired tear gas to disperse mourners and supporters, some of whom had taunted officers. Ethnic fighting broke out in Kibera within hours, and later in Dandora slum.

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Indonesian dies of bird flu, doves might be source

JAKARTA - A 32-year-old Indonesian man who had tested positive for bird flu has died, a health ministry official said on Wednesday, adding the victim might have picked up the virus from doves in his neighbourhood.

The man, from Tangerang west of Jakarta, died on Tuesday at Jakarta's Persahabatan hospital, said Toto Haryanto from the ministry's bird flu centre.

His death takes the country's toll from the H5N1 bird flu virus to 101.

Chickens are seen at a market in Jakarta in this January 13, 2007 file photo. A 32-year-old Indonesian man who had tested positive for bird flu has died, a health ministry official said on Wednesday, adding the victim might have picked up the virus from doves in his neighbourhood. (REUTERS/Supri/Files)

"He lived only 500 metres away from a flock of doves his neighbour kept as pets. We believe that's where he got the virus," Haryanto told Reuters by telephone.

Contact with sick birds is the most common way of contracting the virus, which is endemic in poultry populations in most of Indonesia.

The country's death toll hit 100 on Monday when two separate laboratory tests confirmed a 23-year-old woman from East Jakarta had died of bird flu.

Although H5N1 remains an animal disease, experts fear the virus could mutate into a form easily passed from human to human. Millions of people could die because they would have no immunity against the new strain.

Not including the latest death, bird flu has killed 223 people in a dozen countries since the virus reappeared in Asia in late 2003, according to World Heatlh Organisation data.

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Somalia is worst humanitarian crisis - U.N. official

LONDON - High levels of malnutrition and the difficulties of delivering aid make Somalia the world's most pressing humanitarian crisis, the U.N. refugee agency's representative there said on Tuesday.

More than 1 million people have fled their homes in Somalia, which is convulsed by fighting between Ethiopian-backed government forces, Islamist insurgents and an assortment of warlords.

"I've never seen anything like Somalia before," Guillermo Bettocchi, representative of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, said during a visit to London.

Malnourished child Zara Mahmoud, 2, whose younger brother died, is being comforted by her mother at Hartesheik camp for internally displaced persons in the Somali Region of Ethiopia April 29, 2005. (REUTERS/Handout/Files)

"The situation is very severe. It is the most pressing humanitarian emergency in the world today -- even worse than Darfur," he told reporters, referring to the war in western Sudan, which has driven 2.5 million from their homes.

A bomb attack which killed three foreign aid workers in Somalia on Monday underlined the difficulty in delivering aid in the anarchic country that has been wracked by clan violence for 17 years, he said.

Fifteen percent of the population suffer acute malnutrition while health services are very limited and sanitation, water and shelters are extremely poor, Bettocchi said.

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Boxing legend Tyson shows his soft side in Africa

JOHANNESBURG - Former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson, once nicknamed "The Baddest Man on the Planet", isn't about to set foot in any hotspots on his first trip to Africa.

Tyson, whose career has been marred by controversy, including a prison term for rape and the infamous ear biting incident in a title fight with Evander Holyfield, says he has mellowed.

Former world heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson attends a news conference in Johannesburg January 29, 2008. (REUTERS/Mike Hutchings)

"I would like to go wherever they're not having any war," he told Reuters in an interview. "I would love to go to Kenya but right now they are having a civil war there."

Kenya has been in turmoil since a disputed Dec. 27 election which triggered widespread tribal and ethnic bloodshed, not a civil war. About a dozen people were killed in there on Tuesday, bringing the toll to more than 850 since the vote.

Tyson is in South Africa to help raise funds for a children's charity at a gala banquet, where one of South Africa's most controversial figures, Jacob Zuma, will be keynote speaker.

Zuma, leader of South Africa's ruling ANC party, has also had brushes with the law. He was acquitted of rape charges in 2006 but is due to go on trial in August for racketeering, money-laundering and other charges tied to an arms deal.

News that Zuma would welcome Tyson angered some South Africans.

But Tyson says he's no longer a bad boy and is not interested in boxing despite earning the fearsome title "Iron Mike" in the ring.

But he is still fighting demons.

"I am my own worst enemy in anything I ever did," he told a press conference before the interview.

Tyson served three years in an Indiana prison following his 1992 rape conviction. In 1999 he was sentenced to jail for assaulting two people following a traffic accident and in 2006 he was arrested for possession of drugs.

"I feel so old," said the 43-year-old Tyson. "I'm just happy to be remembered."

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Hindraf adviser petitions against decision

KUALA LUMPUR: Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) legal adviser P. Uthayakumar has filed a petition to appeal against the Sessions Court’s decision to reject his preliminary objection that his sedition charge was defective.

He stated in the petition yesterday that he was not satisfied with the decision given by judge Sabariah Othman on Dec 11 last year.

The judge had ruled that the absence of his signature in an alleged seditious letter did not make the charge defective and rejected the objection raised by his counsel under Section 173 (g) of the Criminal Procedure Code.

In the petition, Uthayakumar said the judge had erred when she dismissed the objection.

He said the judge made a mistake when she decided that the letter did not have to be signed merely because it was posted from a website.

Among others, he contended that the judge was wrong when she decided that it would not make the charge unclear to enable the accused to understand and answer to the charge.

He filed the petition at the Sessions Court (criminal) registry through his lawyers.

On Dec 11, Uthayakumar was produced in a Sessions Court here to face a charge of publishing a seditious letter on a website at Menara Mutiara Bangsar between Nov 15 and Dec 8.

The lawyer, however, pleaded not guilty to publishing the alleged letter.

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VIP’s firm may be behind protection racket

SEREMBAN: A company allegedly helmed by a Tan Sri is said to be behind a scam selling costly “privilege cards” to illegal immigrants.

The cards, purported to provide immunity from action by the Immigration Department, were sold for between RM250 and RM700 each.

Over to you: Prisons Department superintendent Ahmad Saidi Hamzah (left) handing over documents to Immigration Department deputy assistant director Anuar Abdul Malik in Lenggeng as Ishak (second from left) looks on.

Immigration enforcement director Datuk Ishak Mohammad said several Singaporean and Indonesian nationals were believed to be working in the company.

“The Tan Sri may be holding an important position in the company but he may not be aware that his name is being misused.

“Those who set up the company have also used the names of other prominent people to deceive illegal foreign workers,” he told reporters at the handing-over of the Lenggeng detention centre for illegals by the Prisons Department to the Immigration.

Ishak said his officers seized 40 such “privilege cards” and hundreds of application forms during a raid at the company’s premises in Kuala Lumpur on Monday.

Most of the applicants were illegal workers from Indonesia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, China and Nepal.

“We believe some 4,000 cards have been distributed so far. No one is above the law, with or without the card,” he added.

Ishak said a Singaporean man, believed to be the founder and adviser of the company, and an Indonesian, who abused his social visit pass here, had been detained.

“Preliminary investigations revealed that the company claimed it had the support of the Deputy Human Resources Minister.

“Upon checking, we were told that the ministry only endorsed a survey to be done by the company,” he said.

Ishak said a letter initialled by the Inspector-General of Police and his deputy to all police contingents supporting the survey had been abused by the company.

“There was another letter purportedly from the Internal Security Ministry appointing the company as an organisation appointed to assist in foreign workers’ affairs but upon verifying, we found the letter to be false,” he said.

Ishak said the Immigration Department had requested the Companies Commission to suspend the company pending investigations.

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Launch of corridor heralds new era for Sabah

KOTA KINABALU: A total of RM105bil in investments, 900,000 jobs, a waterfront city, tourism projects and a RM600mil new Sabah Railway terminal – these are among the things Sabahans will get when the Sabah Development Corridor (SDC) is completed in 18 years.

In addition, Gross Domestic Product will be up to RM63bil and an annual per capita income will hit RM14,800.

Ambitious plans: Abdullah and his wife Jeanne taking a closer look at models of buildings planned for the waterfront city project during the SDC launch in Kota Kinabalu yesterday.

As an immediate measure, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi announced an extra RM5bil allocation under the Ninth Malaysia Plan to improve infrastructure and to reduce the cost of doing business in the state.

And minutes after Abdullah launched the SDC, 13 MoUs were signed involving international companies from China, the United States and Japan for various projects worth RM16bil.

These developments include housing, condominiums, hotels, the waterfront city, ports, tourism projects and the railway terminal at Tanjung Aru.

The Prime Minister said the SDC was to transform Sabah into an environmentally conscious and modern state and gave an assurance that every aspect of the corridor development would benefit all Sabahans.

“Today we see the Land Below the Wind take a quantum leap to be developed and be prosperous,” he said to applause from the crowd at Sapangar Container Port here yesterday.

He outlined five key thrusts of the SDC, which will be to:

> make Sabah the gateway for trade, investment and tourism in the region.

> transform the state into a harmonious and prosperous state regardless of race or religion.

> make the state more technology-savvy to ensure a better quality of life.

> provide job opportunities in the state.

> make Sabah a comfortable state to live in with good quality of life accentuated with diverse cultures, heritage and environment.

Abdullah said that with the realisation of the five key aspects, the face of Sabah would be totally changed under the plans which would not leave out any group or region in the state.

“This is not a daydream. We are not making an empty promise. There is no doubt there is a lot of challenges but we will ensure that the Sabah corridor will be a success,” he said.

Under the SDC, the state’s west coast would see an industrial sub-corridor and agro-food industry for small and medium enterprises. For the central and northern zones, there will be an agripolitan zone, tourism, highland agriculture and agro-forestry.

The east coast will have industries, marine tourism, integrated agro food industry, agro-biotechnology, and palm oil-based industry zones.

Abdullah said that the overall focus of the SDC was to promote Sabah’s inherent strengths that included its location, rich natural resources as well as cultural and biological diversity that can become high potential economic activity.

The sectors being promoted would be agriculture, tourism and logistics, services and manufacturing, he said.

He said they also hoped to bring in more tourists to the state by developing eco-tourism destinations like Sipadan, Danum Valley and Darvel Bay.

Abdullah said the federal government would liberalise the open skies policy for air travel to Sabah.

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50,000 villagers trapped by flash floods

IPOH: About 50,000 villagers were trapped in their homes for almost two hours when flash floods turned the flood-prone Gugusan Manjoi area here into an island yesterday.

In what was described as the worst flood here in the past five years, muddy floodwaters rose to chest level following a downpour that began at about 5pm.

Sign of trouble: Residents of Gugusan Manjoi looking at the overflowing riverbanks of the Kinta River after the downpour yesterday.

All access roads leading to the village were severed when Sungai Pari, Sungai Tapah and Sungai Kati burst their banks and overflowed onto five bridges.

According to villagers, barely 10 minutes after the rain began, the Datuk Md Said, Tengku Hussein, Sg Tapah, Jalan Menteri and Jalan Raja bridges were flooded in 1m of water.

The worst affected was the Jalan Raja bridge, one of the main access links to the village, which caused panic among villagers when cracks were seen along its guardrails.

About 500 villagers from homes located mostly along the riverbanks were badly affected by the floodwaters that only receded at 8pm.

Grandmother Esah Abdullah Sani, 67, who lives alone in a house along Sungai Pari just outside Gugusan Manjoi, said she was lying on her bed when the floodwaters started rising.

Esah almost became hysterical when the waters reached chest level.

“I just stood until help came,” said Esah who was later rescued by Fire and Rescue Department personnel on a boat.

Manjoi assemblyman Datuk Nadzri Ismail proposed that the bridges be rebuilt with curved spans to prevent more floods.

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Suhakam: Don't jail them, send them home

TAIPING: The Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) has proposed that foreigners nabbed for immigration offences be sent home rather than undergo due process of law, saying this could help alleviate overcrowding in prisons.

Suhakam Commissioner Datuk Khalid Ibrahim said from the visits made by Suhakam to 48 prisons and detention centres last year, it was found that about 40% of the detainees were illegal foreigners.

Citing an example, he said the Sungai Buloh prison in Selangor was meant to house only 2,000 prisoners but now had about 5,000.

“This inevitably caused stress on prison warders and at the same time affected the welfare of both the prisoners and prison warders too,” he told reporters after holding a Suhakam roadshow at the Taiping Resort Golf and Country Club here on Monday.

Also present was Suhakam Commissioner Datuk N. Siva Subramaniam.

Khalid said plans to construct new prisons and introduce a parole system would not be effective in alleviating the situation as more foreigners were expected to arrive in the country.

This was made worse by the move to encourage more foreign tourists to visit the country.

“Those coming from Asean countries automatically get a three-month visa on arrival at the airport,” he said, adding that many were later caught for over-staying.

He said some remand prisoners who were charged with offences, which normally get less than a year’s jail term, had instead been confined to more than two years in prison.

He said under the current system, a foreigner caught for overstaying would be detained about six months before being produced in court. Once their cases had been decided, the foreigners would have to be sent back to prison to serve their sentences for another six months before they were repatriated.

Khalid said their presence in detention centres and prisons was also a financial strain.

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Poster war: Up to local councils to take action

BUKIT MERTAJAM: It is up to the local authorities and not the police to take action against overzealous candidates who have started putting up posters before nominations, Deputy Internal Security Minister Datuk Mohd Johari Baharum said.

Based on the Election Commission guidelines, posters, billboards and structures of political parties could only be put up after nominations, he said.

``If the local authorities want to take action, they can do so. It is up to them to enforce.

``But after the elections and the votes are counted, all parties must take down the posters. If they do not, their deposit would be used to clear all the flags, posters and structures hung,'' he told newsmen Tuesday at the Central Seberang Prai police headquarters here.

In the press conference, Johari reiterated that all gatherings, talks and events would need a permit from the police.

``I hope all parties would abide by the rule and get the necessary permits,'' he said, adding that the police were prepared and ready for the general election.

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Bush urges Iran to stop enriching uranium

WASHINGTON - U.S. President George W. Bush on Monday renewed his call for Iran to stop enriching uranium that could be used for nuclear weapons and said the United States would "confront those who threaten our troops."

"Our message to the leaders of Iran is also clear: verifiably suspend your nuclear enrichment, so negotiations can begin," Bush said in excerpts of his State of the Union address to Congress.

The United States has refused to enter into direct talks with Tehran over its nuclear program until Iran proves that it has stopped enriching uranium, a key component for nuclear weapons. Iran has denied it is seeking nuclear weapons and instead says is pursuing civilian nuclear energy.

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Kennedy endorses Obama's bid for U.S. president

WASHINGTON - U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy, a Democratic icon and a leading liberal voice, endorsed Barack Obama on Monday for the party's presidential nomination and called the young lawmaker an inspirational uniter.

"He is tough-minded, but he also has an uncommon capacity to appeal to 'the better angels of our nature,'" Kennedy, flanked by Obama, said at a packed rally of several thousand people at American University.

Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) (L) smiles beside Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) at a rally at American University in Washington January 28, 2008. (REUTERS/Mike Theiler)

"Every time I've been asked over the past year who I would support in the Democratic primary, my answer has always been the same: I'll support the candidate who inspires me, who inspires all of us," said Kennedy, who invoked the memory of his brother, the slain President John Kennedy.

Kennedy was joined by his son, U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy, and niece, Caroline, daughter of the assassinated president. They also backed the 46-year-old, first-term senator from Illinois, who would be the nation's first black president.

Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York, Obama's chief rival, brushed off the Kennedy endorsements while aides noted other members of the famous political family have backed her to be the party's presidential nominee in the November election.

"At the end of the day this is not about anyone else other than the candidates," Clinton told reporters in a conference call from Connecticut. "I have the experience we need to make the changes we want in America."

Former Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend on Sunday threw her support behind Clinton, who would be the first woman president. The daughter of former U.S. Sen. Robert Kennedy said her brother, Bobby, and sister, Kerry, also supported the former first lady.

Republican presidential contenders, meanwhile, crisscrossed Florida where a new Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby poll showed Sen. John McCain of Arizona opening a narrow lead -- 33 percent to 30 percent -- over former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney ahead of the state's primary on Tuesday.

McCain picked up 3 percentage points after obtaining the endorsement of Florida Gov. Charlie Crist. The poll had a margin of error of 3.4 percentage points.

McCain and Romney split the last three nominating contests as Republicans and Democrats battle to represent their parties in November's presidential election. The winner will succeed Bush, whose second term ends in next January.


The winner in Florida will gain valuable momentum heading into the Feb. 5 "Super Tuesday" voting, when more than 20 states will have nominating contests.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani are battling for a distant third.

"We're making our stand here in Florida, and we're going to win," Giuliani, polling just 14 percent, told CBS's "Early Show."

Giuliani discounted polls show him trailing in his home state. "I win the primary in Florida, we'll be right back on top in a lot of these polls," he said.

Sen. Kennedy, 75, first elected to the Senate in 1962, is a favorite of organized labor and other liberal advocacy groups that helped fellow Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts win the Democratic 2004 presidential nomination.

"With Barack Obama, we will turn the page on the old politics of misrepresentation and distortion," Kennedy said.

In Florida, Romney continued to criticize McCain's ability to handle fiscal matters and charged that an energy bill proposed by McCain and Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman was "a liberal Democratic course" that would hurt the economy by raising gas prices.

"One thing we should really give Governor Romney for is he is consistent. He has consistently taken both sides on any major issue," McCain countered at a shipyard in Jacksonville.

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U.S. satellite unlikely to pose danger to humans

WASHINGTON - A disabled U.S. spy satellite is likely to break into small pieces when it falls to Earth within weeks, posing little danger to humans, U.S. government officials and space experts said on Monday.

Most, if any, debris that survives the intense heat of re-entry would likely fall into the oceans, which cover more than 70 percent of the Earth, White House National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said.

But he said the U.S. government was monitoring the satellite's descent from orbit and examining different options to "mitigate any damage."

The U.S. military could potentially use a missile to destroy the minivan-sized satellite in space, but one senior U.S. defense official said that was unlikely for several reasons, including concern about creating space debris as China did when it shot down one of its satellites last year.

"Given that 75 percent of the Earth is covered in water and much of the land is uninhabited, the likely percentage of this satellite or any debris falling into a populated area is very small," Johndroe said.

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said more than 17,000 man-made objects re-entered the Earth's atmosphere over the past 50 years without major incident.

"We are monitoring it ... we take our obligations seriously with respect to the use of space," Whitman said, noting the satellite was expected to return to earth "over the next several weeks ... late February, early March."


The satellite is a classified National Reconnaissance Office spacecraft launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California in 2006, according to four senior U.S. officials, who asked not to be named.

The satellite, known as L-21, has been out of touch since shortly after reaching its low-Earth orbit. Built by Lockheed Martin Corp at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars, the satellite has fallen more than 70 km (43 miles) to an orbit at around 280 km (174 miles) above the Earth. U.S. and European astronomers estimate it is dropping at an accelerating rate of some 8 km (5 miles) a day.

Because the satellite never became operational, it has toxic rocket fuel on board that would have been used to maneuver the satellite in space. It could pose a danger if the fuel tank does not explode upon re-entry.

Thousands of space objects fall to Earth each year, but they generally scatter over a huge area and there have never been any reported injuries, two U.S. officials said.

Occasionally, bigger objects survive, including a 563-pound (255-kg) stainless steel fuel tank from a Delta II rocket that landed 50 yards from a farmer's home in Texas in 1997.

This L-21 satellite is much smaller, and more likely to burn up as it enters the atmosphere, scientists said.

The U.S. military has no weapon designed to shoot down a satellite, but it demonstrated the ability to do that in the mid-1980s, and could cobble together a plan to do so again fairly quickly, said the senior defense official.

Such a move appears unlikely, given global dismay about China's use of a missile to destroy a much bigger satellite at a higher orbit, which scattered nearly 1,000 pieces of debris throughout space, the official said.

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Kennedys, roaring crowds give Obama rally '60s feel

WASHINGTON - With Kennedys on the stage and Beatlemania-like screams from the crowd, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's campaign stop on Monday took on the aura of the early 1960s.

As members of the prominent political family took turns endorsing the Illinois senator, their words were often swallowed up by ear-piercing screams from the crowd of several thousand gathered in a gymnasium at American University.

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama (R) speaks as Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) listens during a rally at American University in Washington January 28, 2008. (REUTERS/Jason Reed)

Like the ecstatic throngs that welcomed the Beatles when they first visited America, the cheers of thousands of young supporters often outmatched the voices of those holding the microphone.

They emptied their lungs at every mention of Obama's name, drowning out Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy, his son U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island and Caroline Kennedy, daughter of the slain President John Kennedy.

After the rally, Sen. Kennedy and Obama gave a second speech to hundreds who had waited for hours outside in the cold, shut out of the packed arena.

"We love you Obama!" young women screamed from nearby dormitory windows.

Obama, who would be the first black president, hopes America's best-known political dynasty will help him fend off rival Hillary Clinton, who would establish a dynasty of her own if she took the White House eight years after her husband Bill left it.

Several in the crowd said they were turned off by the Clintons' attempts to paint Obama as "the black candidate" over the past two weeks.

"You didn't need to bring that into the equation," said retiree Carol Belkin, 62, who said she had planned to support Clinton until last week. "I want to see this country brought together. I think the pair of them are divisive."

"I thought it was really below the belt," said Howard University graduate student Anita Wheeler, 24.

Obama's charisma and youth have drawn comparisons to the late President Kennedy, who in 1963 delivered a famous speech at the same school calling for a ban on nuclear weapons testing.

Obama offered no new policy proposals as he devoted much of his 15-minute speech to praise of the Kennedys.

But he also made sure to ask for the votes of those in the crowd -- an unusual event for a national politician in the capital city, which has no representation in Congress and rarely plays a crucial role in presidential races.

This year could be different. Along with neighboring states Virginia and Maryland, Washington's primary is scheduled for Feb. 12 and many observers expect the race will still be competitive at that point.

"My vote's going to matter for a change," said chef and Washington resident Karen Hayes, 42.

For others, seeing Obama in person seemed to be enough.

"You know how close I was to him?" gushed one young woman as she showed off her digital photos to a friend. "I was, like, right there!"

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Diana thought al-Fayed was bugging yacht - sister

LONDON - Princess Diana thought luxury store owner Mohamed al-Fayed was spying on her during her last voyage on his yacht before she died in a Paris car crash, her sister told the inquest into Diana's death on Monday.

Diana and Mohamed al-Fayed's son Dodi were killed in a high-speed crash in a Paris road tunnel in August 1997 while being chased by paparazzi desperate to capture a shot of the world's most photographed woman.

A woman looks at images of the late Diana Princess of Wales by photographer Mario Testino, on exhibition at Kensington Palace, London in this November 22, 2005 file photo. (REUTERS/Stringer)

Just days before she was killed, Diana rang her sister Sarah from the yacht Jonikal while on holiday in the Mediterranean.

When asked by lawyer Ian Burnett if Diana had talked about being bugged, Sarah McCorquodale said "She thought the boat was being bugged by Mr al-Fayed Senior."

Mohamed al-Fayed alleges that Dodi and Diana were killed by British security services on the orders of Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth's husband and Diana's former father-in-law.

Fayed believes her killing was ordered because the royal family did not want the mother of the future king having a child with his son. He alleges that Diana's body was embalmed to cover up evidence she was expecting a baby.

But McCorquodale said she got the impression that Diana's summer romance with Dodi al-Fayed was on its last legs.

"I just did not think the relationship had much longer to go," she told the court. No mention was ever made of Diana being pregnant or getting engaged to Dodi.

Instead, she thought her sister might have wed heart surgeon Hasnat Khan.

"I believe there was a strong possibility that they might have married," she said.

"I don't think she believed the relationship was ended or she hoped it wasn't," McCorquodale added.

After Diana's death, McCorquodale and her mother Frances Shand Kydd spent several days shredding confidential documents at her Kensington Palace home in London.

"Nothing historical was ever shredded," according to McCorquodale who said she never saw any letters from Prince Philip to Diana.

She said she agreed with her mother to destroy anything that might in future distress Diana's sons, Princess William and Harry.

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FACTBOX - Key facts about the U.S. State of the Union

When U.S. President George W. Bush gives his State of the Union speech on Monday, he will continue a constitutionally mandated tradition begun over 200 years ago by George Washington.

Following are some key facts about presidential State of the Union messages:


* State of the Union messages to Congress by the president are required by Article II, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution which says, "He shall from time to time give to the Congress information of the state of the union, and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient."

* The State of the Union has become an annual speech given before a joint session of Congress in the House of Representatives chamber at the U.S. Capitol.

* George Washington gave the first State of the Union speech on Jan. 8, 1790 in New York City, then the provisional U.S. capital.

* Starting with Thomas Jefferson's first State of the Union in 1801 until William Howard Taft's last message in 1912, the State of the Union was a written report sent to Congress. Woodrow Wilson resumed the tradition of giving the State of the Union message in a speech to Congress.

* The phrase "State of the Union" did not become widely used until after 1935, when Franklin Roosevelt started using the term.


- "We look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms. The first is freedom of speech and expression -- everywhere in the world. The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way -- everywhere in the world. The third is freedom from want -- which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants -- everywhere in the world. The fourth is freedom from fear." -- Franklin Roosevelt, Jan. 6, 1941.

- "As you know, I have provided to the special prosecutor voluntarily a great deal of material. I believe that I have provided all the material that he needs to conclude his investigations ... I believe the time has come to bring that investigation and the other investigations of this matter to an end. One year of Watergate is enough." -- Richard Nixon, Jan. 30, 1974.

- "Yes, we will have our differences. But let us always remember -- what unites us far outweighs whatever divides us. Those who sent us here to serve them -- the millions of Americans watching and listening tonight -- expect this of us. Let's prove to them and to ourselves that democracy works even in an election year." -- Ronald Reagan, Jan. 25, 1988.

- "Some time in the next 10 to 20 years, the major security threat this country will face will come from the enemies of the nation state: the narco-traffickers and the terrorists and the organized criminals, who will be organized together, working together, with increasing access to ever-more sophisticated chemical and biological weapons." -- Bill Clinton, Jan. 27, 2000.

- "States like these, (Iran, Iraq and North Korea) and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world. By seeking weapons of mass destruction, these regimes pose a grave and growing danger. They could provide these arms to terrorists, giving them the means to match their hatred. They could attack our allies or attempt to blackmail the United States. In any of these cases, the price of indifference would be catastrophic." -- George W. Bush, Jan 29, 2002

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U.S. electorate tunes in to wide-open 2008 race

LOS ANGELES- The U.S. electorate appears to be more engaged in presidential politics than it has been in many years, stirred by the drama of a wide-open campaign, anger at the Iraq war and anxiety over the economy, political observers say.

The trend is especially true among Democrats, galvanized by what they see as an opportunity to retake the White House after eight years on the outside, according to pollsters, academics and media analysts.

U.S. Republican presidential candidate and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani speaks to supporters at a rally at the Ron Jon Surf Shop in Cocoa Beach, Florida, January 27, 2008. (REUTERS/Joe Skipper)

Democratic interest has been heightened by the star power and historic campaigns of New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, who would be the first woman president, and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, who would be the first black president and has been compared to charismatic former President John Kennedy.

Republicans have their own stories -- Sen. John McCain, the maverick war hero and Vietnam prisoner of war, making a comeback; Rudy Giuliani, dubbed "America's mayor" in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, staking his bid on the upcoming Florida primary; former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney who would be the first Mormon president; and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a Baptist minister running as a populist while trying to appeal to evangelical Christians.

The lack of a presumptive nominee in either party -- marking the first time in more than 50 years that both are without an incumbent president or vice president in the race -- only adds to the drama, observers say.

"It's an incredible election, like none we've ever seen before, and we're all working around the clock to cover it," said Sam Feist, political director of CNN. "Clearly, the public is fascinated."


The high interest level was evidenced by robust voter turnouts, particularly among young people, during the first state-by-state contests to pick nominees who will compete in the November presidential election to succeed President George W. Bush. Participation in the Iowa caucuses hit a record, with Democrats doubling their turnout from four years earlier.

Enthusiasm is also reflected in the media's months-long coverage of the campaign, including an unprecedented 28 presidential debates televised since last April.

Far from showing signs of election fatigue, viewers are watching in greater numbers, with cable news channels and major network news programs posting ratings bumps this month in the run-up to the Feb. 5 "Super Tuesday" primaries in two dozen states.

Opposition to the war in Iraq and a sagging U.S. economy are two major factors, pollster John Zogby said.

"There's a lot of anger this year, and anger generates a lot of voter interest," he said.

Young people are more engaged than they have been in many years, spurred in part by growing campaign coverage -- and campaign outreach -- over the Internet.

"Any one of those factors would be enough to increase voter turnout, but when you have all of these factors combined, there's a lot more interest," Zogby said.

Michael Delli Carpini, dean of the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, said turning points like Obama's surprise victory in Iowa, followed by Clinton's comeback in New Hampshire, have helped keep the public's attention.

"I would have thought six months ago there's no way this level of momentum could have sustained itself," he said.

CNN's latest Democratic debate on Jan. 21, featuring a testy Clinton-Obama confrontation, averaged nearly 5 million viewers, making it the highest-rated such event in cable TV history.

That tally amounts to just half the audience tuning in to "American Gladiators" on NBC the same night, but Feist called the debate viewership impressive nonetheless.

"When five million people on a Monday night turn to watch CNN cover a presidential debate, that's extraordinary," he said.

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Rice backs concept of Abbas forces on Gaza border

WASHINGTON - U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Monday signaled U.S. support for the forces of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas taking charge of the Gaza Strip's breached border with Egypt.

Rice said a Palestinian Authority presence might help bring "some order" to the Rafah border crossing between the two since hundreds of thousands of Palestinians flooded across after Hamas militants blew up part of the border last week.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice speaks during a news conference at a military airport base in Rionegro near Medellin in this January 25, 2008 file photo. (REUTERS/Jose Miguel Gomez)

"There would be many details that would have to be worked out and I can't comment on any specific detail because this is obviously a very complex -- would be a very complex operation in itself," Rice told reporters when asked whether Washington supported Abbas' forces taking charge of the border.

"But we have said that in concept it should be supported and that the parties should look to see if that might be one way to handle the situation," she said at a news conference after meeting Australia's foreign minister.

U.S.-backed Abbas' Fatah movement and Hamas are in a power struggle for control of the Palestinian Territory. Abbas runs just the West Bank. The Islamist group Hamas, which won elections against Fatah two years ago, took control of Gaza in June.

The fall of the Rafah wall is seen as making U.S. efforts even more difficult to curb the influence of Hamas and bolster Abbas.

Hamas has rejected Abbas' proposal to deploy his own, Western-trained forces at the crossing along with European Union monitors. Officials from both sides are expected in Cairo on Wednesday to discuss the issue.

Rice said she had discussed the issue with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit on Sunday night.

Egypt is playing a delicate role in the conflict, trying to balance U.S. demands to crack down on Hamas but also not wanting to be seen as aiding an Israeli blockade of Gaza.

The top U.S. diplomat helped broker a Rafah crossing deal between the Israelis and Palestinians in November 2005, but that deal crumbled almost as soon as it was signed.

Last week Palestinians poured into Egypt from Gaza to stock up on food that has been in short supply due to a blockade, which Israel said was tightened in response to cross border rocket attacks.

Rice said Hamas, which the United States views as a terrorist group and has isolated economically and politically, should do everything it could to stop the firing of rockets from Gaza into Israel.

The United States has asked Israel to avert a humanitarian disaster in Gaza but has squarely blamed Hamas for the current border crisis.

"We have been very clear that there should be no humanitarian cost to the innocent people of Gaza who simply have the bad fortune to be in Gaza after Hamas launched its illegal coup against the legitimate institutions of the Palestinian Authority," said Rice, referring to Hamas' takeover of Gaza last year.

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Under-the-tongue vaccine may be best to lick flu - study

HONG KONG - Administering flu vaccines under the tongue may be more effective and offer more protection than injecting or inhaling the drug, a study with mice in South Korea has found.

"It (the base of the mouth) is a very good absorbent and competent tissue ... in taking vaccine and presenting it to the immune system ... to initiate an immune response," Cecil Czerkinsky, biological sciences professor at the Seoul National University, said in a telephone interview.

There is currently no vaccine that is administered under the tongue, or what is known as the sublingual area.

But there have been recent studies testing its effectiveness in inducing immune responses in mucosal tissues in the respiratory system, gut and inside of the cheek, and blood.

In an article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers described how they administered both live and killed flu vaccines under the tongues of mice and then exposed the rodents a few weeks later to lethal doses of influenza viruses.

"All the mice were protected ... they (vaccines) also gave cross-protection to other flu viruses," Czerkinsky said.

Unlike injected vaccines, which induce antibody production mainly in the blood, the sublingual method "induced antibodies in both lungs (mucosal lining) and the blood," he said.

"Influenza is a mucosal disease. That (sublingual method) is better because then you tackle the infection at the very early stage before the infection (goes to the blood)."

Such a method is different from the oral route, often seen as subjecting drugs to the erosive effects of digestive fluids.

The correct way to do it would be for the person to hold the vaccine in the base of the mouth for about 30 seconds.

"In 30 seconds, the sublingual area absorbs the vaccine and immediately the vaccine is taken up and processed by the immune system and it initiates very rapid stimulation of antibodies, within days," Czerkinsky said.

The study also suggested that this method may be safer than administering vaccines intranasally, or through inhaling.

There are nerve fibres in the nose, which opens up the possibility, however rare, that viruses in vaccines could enter the central nervous system, the researchers said.

Control groups of mice were given vaccines intranasally. The scientists later detected virus in the olfactory nerves of mice that were given vaccines containing killed viruses, which raised safety questions.

Mice that were given vaccines containing live, attenuated virus intranasally all died very quickly.

The scientists plan to conduct a clinical study later this year.

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Black Death did not kill indiscriminately - study

WASHINGTON - The Black Death that decimated populations in Europe and elsewhere during the middle of the 14th century may not have been a blindly indiscriminate killer, as some experts have believed.

An analysis of 490 skeletons from a London for Black Death victims demonstrated that the infection did not affect everyone equally, two U.S. scientists said on Monday.

While many perfectly healthy people certainly were cut down, those already in poor health prior to the arrival of the plague were more likely to have perished, they found.

"A lot of people have assumed that the Black Death killed indiscriminately, just because it had such massive mortality," anthropologist Sharon DeWitte of the University at Albany in New York, said in a telephone interview.

People already in poor health often are more vulnerable in epidemics. "But there's been a tradition of thinking that the Black Death was this unique case where no one was safe and if you were exposed to the disease that was it. You had three to five days, and then you were dead," DeWitte said.

The plague epidemic of 1347 to 1351 was one of the deadliest recorded in human history, killing about 75 million people, according to some estimates, including more than a third of Europe's population.

DeWitte analyzed skeletons unearthed from the East Smithfield cemetery in London, dug especially for plague victims and excavated in the 1980s, for bone and teeth abnormalities that would show that people had health problems before they died of plague.

She found such abnormalities in many skeletons, suggesting these people had experienced malnutrition, iron deficiencies and infections well before succumbing to the Black Death.

The proportion of people with such signs of frailty in the cemetery, compared to those who appeared to have been of robust health before the epidemic, indicated that the infection was somewhat selective in who it killed, DeWitte and Pennsylvania State University anthropologist James Wood reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Some experts have thought the Black Death -- named after the black spots the bubonic form of the plague caused on the skin -- killed indiscriminately regardless of age, sex or level of health because it was so virulent and the European population so immunologically unprepared, DeWitte and Wood wrote.

"The Black Death was highly virulent and undoubtedly killed many otherwise healthy people who would have been unlikely to die under normal-mortality conditions," they wrote. But people already in poor health were more likely to die, they wrote.

Many scientists think the plague was caused by Yersinia pestis, a bacterial disease spread by fleas from rats. It still kills between 100 and 200 people a year.

The Black Death pandemic thought to have begun in Asia, then spread into the Middle East, Africa and Europe.

"On average, it killed between 30 to 50 percent of affected populations. But we know that there were some areas where mortality was even higher. So there would have been villages that were completely wiped out," DeWitte said.

Other experts now think the Black Death may have been caused not by bubonic plague but by a viral hemorrhagic fever, similar to the disease caused by the Ebola or dengue viruses.

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Snoring can lead to bronchitis - study

CHICAGO - People who snore are more likely to develop chronic bronchitis, the hacking cough most often associated with cigarette smoking or breathing polluted air, Korean researchers reported on Monday.

Why snoring might lead to bronchitis is not clear, said a team led by Inkyung Baik of Korea University Ansan Hospital in South Korea.

The report, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, covered 4,270 men and women between 2001 and 2006. Of the group, 314 came down with chronic bronchitis.

"We collected information on snoring at baseline and identified incident cases of chronic bronchitis during a four-year follow-up period," Baik's team wrote.

After taking into account whether those in the study smoked or were otherwise at risk for bronchitis, the investigators concluded that people who snored five nights a week or less were 25 percent more likely to develop bronchitis than those who never snored.

The risk was 68 percent higher for those who snored six to seven times a week.

"Our findings provide support for the hypothesis that snoring is associated with chronic bronchitis," the researchers wrote.

It could be that snoring vibrates the upper airways, stressing them and leading to inflammation, the researchers said.

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Anti-abortion slogan OK'd on Ariz. license plates

SAN FRANCISCO - An Arizona agency wrongly denied an anti-abortion group permission to print their message "Choose Life" on license plates, a federal appeals court ruled on Monday.

The Arizona License Plate Commission allows nonprofit groups to highlight their cause on license plates, but the commission in 2002 and 2003 denied the Arizona Life Coalition permission for a specialty plate with the "Choose Life" slogan.

The Arizona Life Coalition alleged that the denial violated their First Amendment rights to free speech and a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed.

"Nowhere does the statute create objective criteria for limiting 'controversial' material, and nowhere does the statute prohibit speech related to abortion," Judge Richard Tallman wrote. "The commission ignored its statutory mandate and acted unreasonably in violation of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution."

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Rates of diabetes among U.S. elderly rose - study

CHICAGO - More elderly Americans are contracting diabetes and the majority develop complications such as heart disease that might be prevented if they properly monitored their health, a researcher said on Monday.

The study of Medicare beneficiaries found 2.7 percent of a group of 1.5 million enrollees in the government-funded insurance program for the elderly were diagnosed with diabetes in 2003, compared to 2.2 percent diagnosed in 1994.

Overall, one-quarter of those 65 or older had type-2 diabetes in 2003, up from 15 percent in 1994, the report said. The 1.5 million people studied represented a group of 5 percent of Medicare enrollees whose health is being tracked by the program.

"The prevalence of diabetes mellitus is increasing, in part because of population aging, but also in younger persons," Frank Sloan of Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina, and colleagues wrote in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Making matters worse, nine out of 10 of those diagnosed with diabetes in 1994 and 1999 developed some other ailment within six years of diagnosis, against seven out of 10 of elderly without diabetes who were studied for comparison purposes.

Diabetes damages blood circulation and is known to increase the risks of heart disease, blindness and skin ulcers, among other ailments.

"What we're concerned about is the rate of complications," Sloan said in a telephone interview.

"Our overall conclusion is they're not getting any better" over time, he said, citing increasing cases of kidney function deterioration and lower extremity problems, which can result in foot amputations.

"It shouldn't be happening if you're monitoring your blood pressure, your cholesterol, keeping your blood glucose in line, getting your eyes checked, getting your feet checked, so the complications can be caught and monitored," he said.

Rates of congestive heart failure, heart attack and stroke remained fairly stable at about three out of 10 people diagnosed with diabetes in 1994, 1999, and 2003.

Roughly one-third of diabetics diagnosed in 1994 and 1999 died within six years, compared to one-fourth of non-diabetics. For those surviving with the disease, the accumulation of other ailments places heavy burdens on the health care system, the report said.

"The message is how can we encourage people to adhere to recommended care and reduce these complications," Sloan said. "It's not an issue of uninsured people. (The elderly) frequently go to the doctor but we're not making inroads in terms of postponing these complications the way we should be."

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Rabies outbreak discovered in Toronto area

TORONTO - A rabies alert has been sent across Canada after a puppy sold at a Toronto-area flea market tested positive for the fatal disease, health officials said on Monday.

They said it was the first outbreak of rabies in the Toronto area in more than 20 years.

Toronto health officials said the eight-week-old border collie, which has died, was from a group of 12 puppies at the market. The other 11 dogs are under quarantine.

The mother of the border collie, from a farm in Eastern Ontario, has also died after contacting the virus from a rabid skunk.

"I think the situation is relatively well contained and it's not something that is easily transmissible," said Howard Shapiro, associate medical officer of health at Toronto Public Health.

"Obviously we are taking this matter very seriously. We are really trying our best to make sure that anybody who has been in contact with those dogs call their local health departments."

Shapiro said at least 80 Toronto-area people, who came in contact with the animals, have had to get rabies shots. More than 900 people have contacted a hotline set up since the disease was found in one of the animals.

The virus is found in the saliva of a rabid animal and can lie undetected for up to 10 days. It can be spread through a bite, cut or scratch, or if the saliva comes in contact with the mouth, nose or eyes.

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Indonesia's Suharto has state funeral in royal city

GIRIBANGUN, Indonesia - Former Indonesian President Suharto, whose 32 years in power were marred by graft and rights abuses, was buried near the royal city of Solo in a state funeral with full military honours on Monday.

Tens of thousands of people lined the roads in Jakarta and around Solo in Central Java, hoping to catch a last glimpse of the man who came from a humble background but ruled his subjects like a Javanese king.

Soldiers carry the coffin of former Indonesian president Suharto as they leave his residence in Jakarta January 28, 2008. (REUTERS/Resmi Malau)

The body was flown from the capital to Solo, then driven to the family mausoleum at Giribangun, 35 km northeast of the city, close to the burial grounds of Solo's kings.

Ousted in 1998 in a student-led protest amid social and economic chaos, Suharto died in hospital on Sunday aged 86 after suffering multiple organ failure.

Praised by many as a visionary who helped modernise his country, he was also heavily criticised for widespread corruption and human rights abuses.

"Father is only human, who has weaknesses and strengths and is not exempted from mistakes. If he has done good, may Allah multiply the goodness. If he has made mistakes, may Allah forgive," Suharto's eldest daughter, Siti Hadijanti Rukmana, also known as Tutut, said at the funeral.

"Ladies and gentlemen, if father has made any mistakes, please forgive him. Farewell father," she said, tears running down her face.


Suharto's coffin was lowered into his grave, next to that of his wife, who died in 1996, and one salvo was fired at the funeral ceremony, led by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

"I on behalf of the nation and the Indonesian military, surrender the body and soul of Haji Muhammad Suharto to the soil of the motherland," said Yudhoyono.

Tens of thousands of people, many with handheld TV cameras and cellphone cameras in their hands, turned out to see the funeral procession.

Some waved as the hearse went by, others threw flowers. In the cemetery, the air was heavy with the scent of jasmine.

"We feel a great loss because he has brought progress to this nation. In terms of his wrongdoings, well, every human makes mistakes," said Sukiman, who came to watch with his wife.

At the family mausoleum, police and soldiers lined the streets, and flags flew at half-mast.

Suharto, the son of a minor official from a small village in central Java, married Siti Hartinah, a member of one of Solo's royal families.

The Suharto family mausoleum at Giribangun, built on a hilltop surrounded by trees, is only a few hundred feet from the Mangkunegaran royal family's tomb where the first, second, and third Mangkunegaran kings were buried.

National television broadcast the funeral live, accompanied by a famous Indonesian song mourning the loss of a war hero.


Suharto's admission to hospital in a critical condition earlier this month sparked a national debate over his legacy.

Some Indonesians argued his errors should be forgiven, while others urged the state to press ahead with a civil suit against him for graft, and to consider legal proceedings for rights abuses. Suharto and his family had denied any wrongdoing.

Human Rights Watch urged the Indonesian government to hold accountable those responsible for the Suharto regime's human rights abuses.

"Suharto has gotten away with murder -- another dictator who's lived out his life in luxury and escaped justice," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

"But many of Suharto's cronies are still around, so the Indonesian government should take the chance to put his many partners in human rights abuse on trial."

Suharto rose to power after he led the military in 1965 against what was officially called an attempted communist coup. Up to 500,000 people were killed in an anti-communist purge in the months that followed.

Over the next three decades, Suharto's armed forces committed numerous human rights abuses, killing student activists, criminals, and opponents to the regime in the rebellious provinces of Aceh and Papua, as well as in East Timor, which Indonesia invaded in 1975.

An Indonesian NGO, the Commission for Disappeared Persons and Victims of Violence, or Kontras, expressed its condolences at Suharto's death but also called on Indonesians not to forget the past.

"The death of Suharto should create momentum for the government to work harder to uncover the truth and try the perpetrators" of human rights abuses and corruption, Kontras said in a statement.

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