Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Did Cheetah from 1930s Tarzan flicks die?

PALM HARBOR, Fla. (AP) — A Florida animal sanctuary says Cheetah, the chimpanzee sidekick in the Tarzan movies of the early 1930s, has died at 80. But other accounts call that claim into question.
Debbie Cobb, outreach director at the Suncoast Primate Sanctuary in Palm Harbor, said Wednesday that her grandparents acquired Cheetah around 1960 from "Tarzan" star Johnny Weissmuller and that the chimp appeared in Tarzan films between 1932 and 1934. During that period, Weissmuller made "Tarzan the Ape Man" and "Tarzan and His Mate."
But Cobb offered no documentation, saying it was destroyed in a 1995 fire.
Also, some Hollywood accounts indicate a chimpanzee by the name of Jiggs or Mr. Jiggs played Cheetah alongside Weissmuller early on and died in 1938.
In addition, an 80-year-old chimpanzee would be extraordinarily old, perhaps the oldest ever known. According to many experts and Save the Chimps, another Florida sanctuary, chimpanzees in captivity generally live to between 40 and 60, though Lion Country Safari in Loxahatchee, Fla., says it has one that is around 73.
A similar claim about another chimpanzee that supposedly played second banana to Weissmuller was debunked in 2008 in a Washington Post story.
Writer R.D. Rosen discovered that the primate, which lived in Palm Springs, Calif., was born around 1960, meaning it wasn't oldest enough to have been in the Tarzan movies of Hollywood's Golden Age that starred Olympic swimming star Weissmuller as the vine-swinging, loincloth-wearing Ape Man and Maureen O'Sullivan as Jane.
While a number of chimpanzees played the sidekick role in the Tarzan movies of the 1930s and '40s, Rosen said in an email Wednesday that this latest purported Cheetah looks like a "business-boosting impostor as well."
"I'm afraid any chimp who actually shared a soundstage with Weissmuller and O'Sullivan is long gone," Rosen said.
Cobb said Cheetah died Dec. 24 of kidney failure and was cremated.
"Unfortunately, there was a fire in '95 in which a lot of that documentation burned up," Cobb said. "I'm 51 and I've known him for 51 years. My first remembrance of him coming here was when I was actually 5, and I've known him since then, and he was a full-grown chimp then."
Film historian and Turner Classic Movies host Robert Osbourne said the Cheetah character "was one of the things people loved about the Tarzan movies because he made people laugh. He was always a regular fun part of the movies."
In his time, the Cheetah character was as popular as Rin Tin Tin or Asta, the dog from the "Thin Man" movies, Osbourne said.
"He was a major star," he said.
At the animal sanctuary, Cheetah was outgoing, loved finger painting and liked to see people laugh, Cobb said. But he could also be ill-tempered. Cobb said that when the chimp didn't like what was going on, he would fling feces and other objects.
Associated Press writers Ben Nuckols in Washington and Jennifer Kay in Miami contributed to this report.
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Cuba making good on pledge to free prisoners

HAVANA (AP) — Cuba appeared to be making quick progress in meeting a pledge to free 2,900 pardoned prisoners, most of them convicted of minor crimes, even as a top human rights official on the island criticized the year-end amnesty as a "media show."
Human rights official Elizardo Sanchez and dissidents on the Communist-run island said Wednesday that authorities had released more than 2,500 inmates. The government has published a list of names of those pardoned in the Official Gazette, but has not said how the liberations announced by President Raul Castro on Friday are going. Castro said he was granting the pardons in connection with an upcoming visit by Pope Benedict XVI.
One freed prisoner, Jose Menendez, told The Associated Press that it was a complete and welcome surprise when he heard his name over a prison loudspeaker and was told he was on the list.
"If I could talk to President Raul and the Pope, I would shake their hand and say that I am immensely grateful for this opportunity for life that they have given me," an emotional Menendez said from his small Havana apartment, his wife at his side.
Menendez, 46, was imprisoned in the late 1980s on gun charges, and subsequently convicted of other crimes committed while behind bars. He was not due to be released until 2029.
Castro announced the amnesty in a speech to lawmakers on Friday, and noted that most of those pardoned were first-time offenders, youths, women, inmates over 60 or those suffering from illness.
Sanchez, the head of the independent Havana-based Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation, said only five prisoners convicted of political crimes appeared to be among those pardoned, including a doctor convicted of revealing state secrets, and another prisoner sentenced in connection with a hijacking. He said the overall number of inmates freed was dwarfed by Cuba's prison population.
"It's evident that this is a media show," Sanchez said. "When there are 70,000 prisoners, releasing 3,000 of them is a very small thing."
The government has not said how many people it holds in its jails. While it tolerates Sanchez's activities, it considers all dissidents to be mercenaries sent by Washington to undermine the revolution.
Among those freed in Castro's amnesty were 86 foreigners, many convicted of drug trafficking or prostitution.
One high-profile inmate left off the list was American subcontractor Alan Gross, who is serving a 15-year jail term for crimes against the state. Gross' supporters acknowledge he was on a USAID-funded democracy-building program when he was arrested in 2009, but insist the 62-year-old Maryland native was simply trying to improve Internet connections for Cuba's small Jewish community. Havana says the programs are aimed at regime change.
The case has shredded any hope of improved ties between Washington and Havana, which had briefly been on the upswing after the election of President Barack Obama. U.S. officials have said repeatedly no progress can be made while Gross remains jailed.
Earlier this year, Cuba freed the last of 75 intellectuals, activists and social commentators jailed since a notorious 2003 sweep. While others convicted of politically motivated crimes remain jailed on the island, most were found guilty of violent acts such as hijacking or armed assault.
The human rights group Amnesty International no longer includes any Cuban inmates on its global list of "prisoners of conscience," though it stresses that the harassment and brief detention of dissidents continues.
Paul Haven can be reached at

US warns Iran against closing key oil passage

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — The U.S. strongly warned Iran on Wednesday against closing a vital Persian Gulf waterway that carries one-sixth of the world's oil supply, after Iran threatened to choke off traffic through the Strait of Hormuz if Washington imposes sanctions targeting the country's crude exports.
The increasingly heated exchange raises new tensions in a standoff that has the potential to spark military reprisals and spike oil prices to levels that could batter an already fragile global economy.
Iran's navy chief said Wednesday that it would be "very easy" for his country's forces to close the strategic Strait of Hormuz, the passage at the mouth of the Persian Gulf through which about 15 million barrels of oil pass daily. It was the second such warning by Iran in two days, reflecting Tehran's concern that the West is about to impose new sanctions that could hit the country's biggest source of revenue, oil.
"Iran has comprehensive control over the strategic waterway," Adm. Habibollah Sayyari told state-run Press TV, as the country was in the midst of a 10-day military drill near the strategic waterway.
The comments drew a quick response from the U.S.
"This is not just an important issue for security and stability in the region, but is an economic lifeline for countries in the Gulf, to include Iran," Pentagon press secretary George Little said. "Interference with the transit or passage of vessels through the Strait of Hormuz will not be tolerated."
Separately, Bahrain-based U.S. Navy 5th Fleet spokeswoman Lt. Rebecca Rebarich said the Navy is "always ready to counter malevolent actions to ensure freedom of navigation."
Rebarich declined to say whether the U.S. force had adjusted its presence or readiness in the Gulf in response to Iran's comments, but said the Navy "maintains a robust presence in the region to deter or counter destabilizing activities, while safeguarding the region's vital links to the international community."
Iran's threat to seal off the Gulf, surrounded by oil-rich Gulf states, reflect its concerns over the prospect that the Obama administration will impose sanctions over its nuclear program that would severely hit its biggest revenue source. Iran is the world's fourth-largest oil producer, pumping about 4 million barrels a day.
Gulf Arab nations appeared ready to at least ease market tensions. A senior Saudi Arabian oil official told The Associated Press that Gulf Arab nations are ready to step in to offset any potential loss of exports from Iran. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment on the issue.
Saudi Arabia, which has been producing about 10 million barrels per day, has an overall production capacity of over 12 million barrels per day and is widely seen as the only OPEC member with sufficient spare capacity to offset major shortages.
What remains unclear is what routes the Gulf nations could take to move the oil to markets if Iran goes through with its threat.
About 15 million barrels per day pass through the Hormuz Strait, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
There are some pipelines that could be tapped, but Gulf oil leaders, who met in Cairo on Dec. 24, declined to say whether they had discussed alternate routes or what they may be.
The Saudi official's comment, however, appeared to allay some concerns. The U.S. benchmark crude futures contract fell $1.98 by the close of trading Wednesday on the New York Mercantile Exchange, but still hovered just below $100 per barrel.
U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner played down the Iranian threats as "rhetoric," saying, "we've seen these kinds of comments before."
While many analysts believe that Iran's warnings are little more than posturing, they still highlight both the delicate nature of the oil market, which moves as much on rhetoric as supply and demand fundamentals.
Iran relies on crude sales for about 80 percent of its public revenues, and sanctions or even a pre-emptive measure by Tehran to withhold its crude from the market would already batter its flailing economy.
IHS Global Insight analyst Richard Cochrane said in a report Wednesday that markets are "jittery over the possibility" of Iran's blockading the strait. But "such action would also damage Iran's economy, and risk retaliation from the U.S. and allies that could further escalate instability in the region."
"Accordingly, it is not likely to be a decision that the Iranian leadership will take lightly," he said.
Earlier sanctions targeting the oil and financial sector added new pressures to the country's already struggling economy. Government cuts in subsidies on key goods like food and energy have angered Iranians, stoking inflation while the country's currency steadily depreciates.
The impetus behind the subsidies cut plan, pushed through parliament by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was to reduce budget costs and would pass money directly to the poor. But critics have pointed to it as another in a series of bad policy moves by the hardline president.
So far, Western nations have been unable to agree on sanctions targeting oil exports, even as they argue that Iran is trying to develop a nuclear weapon. Tehran maintains its nuclear program — already the subject of several rounds of sanctions — is purely peaceful.
The U.S. Congress has passed a bill that penalizes foreign firms that do business with the Iran Central Bank, a move that would heavily hurt Iran's ability to export crude. European and Asian nations use the bank for transactions to import Iranian oil.
President Barack Obama has said he will sign the bill despite his misgivings. China and Russia have opposed such measures.
Sanctions specifically targeting Iran's oil exports would likely temporarily spike oil prices to levels that could weigh heavily on the world economy.
Closing the Strait of Hormuz would hit even harder. Energy consultant and trader The Schork Group estimated crude would jump to above $140 per barrel. Conservatives in Iran claim global oil prices will jump to $250 a barrel should the waterway be closed.
By closing the strait, Iran may aim to send the message that its pain from sanctions will also be felt by others. But it has equally compelling reasons not to try.
The move would put the country's hardline regime straight in the cross-hairs of the world, including nations that have so far been relative allies. Much of Iran's crude goes to Europe and to Asia.
"Shutting down the strait ... is the last bullet that Iran has and therefore we have to express some doubt that they would do this and at the same time lose their support from China and Russia," said analyst Olivier Jakob of Petromatrix in Switzerland.
Iran has adopted an aggressive military posture in recent months in response to increasing threats from the U.S. and Israel of possible military action to stop Iran's nuclear program.
The Iranian navy's exercises, which began on Saturday, involve submarines, missile drills, torpedoes and drones. A senior Iranian commander said Wednesday that the country's navy is also planning to test advanced missiles and "smart" torpedoes during the maneuvers.
The war games cover a 1,250-mile (2,000-kilometer) stretch off the Strait of Hormuz, northern parts of the Indian Ocean and into the Gulf of Aden near the entrance to the Red Sea and could bring Iranian ships into proximity with U.S. Navy vessels in the area.
The moderate news website,, says the show of strength is intended to send a message to the West that Iran is capable of sealing off the waterway.
"The war games ... are a warning to the West that should oil and central bank sanctions be stepped up, (Iran) is able to cut the lifeblood of the West and Arabs," it said, adding that the West "should regard the maneuvers as a direct message."
El-Tablawy reported from Cairo. Associated Press writers Adam Schreck in Dubai and Abdullah Shihri in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, contributed.

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Chavez suggested that the U.S. is behind cancer of Latin American leaders

dpa | Caracas
Updated Wednesday 28/12/2011 16:51 hours
Controversial and some crazy new address by the Venezuelan president. Hugo Chavez suggested on Wednesday that several leading cancer diagnosed  American could have been induced by the U.S. and its advanced medical technologies. "This is America. Is it strange that they had developed a technology to induce cancer and  anyone knows so far and it is discovered within 50 years or  know how? I do not know, just let the thought, but this is very strange, " said.

In a speech to the Armed Forces years, Chávez emphasized it is "very strange" that cancer has given to the president of Paraguay, Fernando Lugo, To the president of Brazil, Rousseff, As a candidate, former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da SilvaTo him and now the Argentina president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. However, stated that he was not accusing anyone about it.
Chavez said that the president of Guatemala, Alvaro Colom, will recently commented that the United States conducted 50 years ago biological experiments in the country which affected hundreds of citizens.
"50 years later showed that the U.S. government, the CIA and not know how many organisms Guatemala launched on a biological operation, chemical and radiological contaminated and do not know I do not know how many diseases to many Guatemalans, including venereal disease, to do some tests, "he said.
Regarding the episodes of cancerSaid that he would detected a tumor before the election year in which a asegunda seek re-election, a few days happens to Lula and now Fernandez.

'Watch what you eat'

"Well, it's a bit hard to explain, reasonable, even using the law of probabilities. Fidel (Castro) I always said, 'Chavez because you watch people you throw up. Beware, these people have developed technologies, you are very careless. Watch what you eat, so they feed you with a small needle and inject you do not know what '. Well one walks in the hands of god " said.
Chavez emphasized that in any case not accusing anyone, but is making use of their freedom to think and make comments before "Made very, very strange and difficult to explain."
He also sent a message of solidarity to Fernandez, after news that you have thyroid cancer, and said it should be "Guard" the president of Bolivia, Evo Morales and Ecuador's Rafael Correa.
"We must take into account how much countries have developed more powerful. How Yasser Arafat died, the great Palestinian leader? The only diagnosis that is known of his doctor said were 'foreign blood disorders' and there was no way to save his life, "he said.