Saturday, July 28, 2012

24/7 News

Danny Boyle's Opening Ceremony starts London Games in the most perfect (and most British) way

 LONDON – The Queen made her acting debut (in a James Bond scene, no less), Mary Poppins outdueled Lord Voldemort’s evil magic, the flame was lit in truly unique fashion – by seven unknowns, no less – and the 2012 Olympic Games were open.

Even the rain stayed away except for the briefest of showers as London, the first city to host an Olympics on three occasions, set off 17 days of sporting celebration Friday on what can only be described as a resounding victory.  It wasn't Beijing and it didn't try to be. Four yours ago we saw one of history's biggest displays of national pride, but London beat its own chest in a more pleasantly understated way. (Reuters)(Reuters) There was a peculiar sweetness about being a British person in this place and on this night. The United Kingdom can no longer fool itself that it is not one of the world's most important nations but could take comfort in still being able to welcome the world to its doorstep and put on one heck of a show in the process.
Producer Danny Boyle, he of "Slumdog Millionaire" directorial fame, pieced together a lavish, epic and masterful show that blended humor with history, music with majesty, and was met with almost universal approval. Boyle wanted to portray a graceful boast, showing off the best of Britain with pride but without a trace of stuffiness or arrogance.
The iconic moment when the cauldron burst into flame may not have been to everyone’s taste – it was lit by the hands of a group of young athletes nominated by sporting legends rather than a member of athletic royalty – but if that was the serious stuff, earlier there had been no shortage of fun. That said, of everything that happened in Stratford on this evening, the sight of Bond actor Daniel Craig and his sketch and then fake parachute jump from a helicopter with the Queen took some beating.

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Boxer mourns trainer's death on Olympics eve

Updated July 28, 2012 21:51:45
Australian Olympic boxer Johan Linde is mourning the death of his trainer and mentor Colin "The Rock" Betty, who died on the eve of the London Games.
It is understood that the 77-year-old died in Adelaide on Friday, just weeks after he had undergone surgery.
Linde, 29, who is due to start his London 2012 super-heavyweight boxing campaign on Wednesday (London time), has released a statement praising Betty as a boxing legend.
"He's a great loss to the sport because he has trained dozens of Australian champs, both amateurs and pros, and he was top boxer himself," he said.
The Olympic debutant says he clicked with Betty when they first met in 1999.
Linde credits Betty with getting him to London.
"He was the first guy I met in boxing and he really got me into the sport. When I first walked into the ASG boxing club in Adelaide he looked after me," he said.
"He was a mentor since I was 16 years old."
Linde is due to fight China's Zhilei Zhang on Aug 1.
http://www.abc.net.au

Obama signs Israel military aid bill on eve of Romney visit

President Barack Obama signs the United States-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act. From left: Richard Stone, …
On the eve of Mitt Romney's visit to Israel, President Barack Obama signed into law a military aid bill for that staunch American ally at a much-publicized White House ceremony that highlighted the political advantages of incumbency.
"What this legislation does is bring together all the outstanding cooperation that we have seen, really, at an unprecedented level between our two countries that underscore our unshakable commitment to Israel security," Obama said as he signed the measure at his desk in the Oval Office.
The president also announced he would speed another $70 million to Israel to advance the so-called "Iron Dome" short-range missile defense system, a response to sustained rocket fire from Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
"This is a program that has been critical in terms of providing security and safety for the Israeli families," he said. "We are standing by our friends in Israel when it comes to these kinds of attacks."
The signing ceremony, a relatively uncommon event in the Obama White House, fit a pattern this week of the administration trumpeting relations with Britain, Israel and Poland—the three countries on Romney's trip overseas to polish his diplomatic credentials.
"I hope that, as I sign as this bill, once again everybody understands how committed all of us are—Republicans and Democrats—as Americans to our friends in making sure that Israel is safe and secure," said Obama.
The president also deplored the "tragic" attack on Israelis in Bulgaria and said Defense Secretary Leon Panetta would shortly travel to Israel to "find additional ways that we can ensure such cooperation at a time when, frankly, the region is experiencing heightened tensions." That was a reference to escalating worries over Iran's nuclear program—and Israel's repeated warnings that it cannot tolerate a nuclear-armed Tehran and may resort to military force.
While abroad, Romney has muted his usually sharp criticisms of Obama's handling of U.S.-Israel relations. A spokeswoman for his campaign welcomed the new law, but hit out at White House press secretary Jay Carney over an awkward, cringe-inducing exchange during his daily briefing on Thursday in which he declined to say what Israel's capital is.
"Gov. Romney has long called for enhancing security cooperation with Israel and is happy to see that steps are being taken in that direction," said the spokeswoman, Amanda Henneberg. "Unfortunately this bill does nothing to address yesterday's evasiveness from the White House on whether President Obama recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, which raised doubt about the president's commitment to our closest ally in the region."
(Longstanding U.S. policy is to regard the status of Jerusalem, which Israel has long declared its capital, as something to be resolved in so-called "final status" negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Henneberg's comments highlighted one of the political advantages of being the challenger. In 2008, then-candidate Obama said Jerusalem was Israel's capital. But since taking office, he has lined up behind every president before him in delaying the transfer of the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.)
Recent public opinion polls show Obama with a commanding lead over Romney among Jewish voters—but less than his advantage over John McCain in 2008. And with both sides predicting a hard-fought election, neither candidate is writing off any potential gains.
In a "fact sheet" on the signing, the White House underlined Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's May 2012 praise for Obama's "ironclad commitment to Israel's security." "He rightly said that our security cooperation is unprecedented," the prime minister told the American Israel Political Affairs Committee. "And he has backed those words with deeds."
Netanyahu, who was to play host to Romney on Saturday, has had a frequently tense relationship with the American president. In November 2011, Obama told French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who branded Netanyahu "a liar," that "you've had enough of him, but I have to deal with him every day."
Obama's more conciliatory message got a boost from Israel's veteran ambassador to Washington, Michael Oren, who expressed "profound gratitude" to the president for signing the bill. Oren dubbed the legislation "the most comprehensive commitment on the part of the United States to the short- and long-term security of its unshakable ally, Israel."
"The Enhanced Security Cooperation Act sends an unequivocal message of support to the people of Israel at a time of great uncertainty throughout the entire Middle East, and reminds the region of the unbreakable bond between our two nations," Oren said in a statement.
The military aid bill sailed through Congress—just two "no" votes in the House of Representatives in May, a voice vote to clear the Senate last week.
White House press secretary Jay Carney denied politics played a role in the bill signing. "The timing of the passage and signing of this legislation was not up to us, but up to Congress," he said.

Australian media laud London opening gala

The London Olympics opening ceremony was lauded as a "whimsical, riotous and very British" spectacle and an "obvious retort" to the tight discipline seen in Beijing by Australia's press Saturday.
Though the glittering showpiece was broadcast too late for the nation's newspapers, starting at 5.30am Saturday local time, effusive online coverage declared Danny Boyle's tribute to Britain a stunning success.
"Boyle's vivid and vibrant pageant set the tone for these Games and perhaps even a new direction for the Olympic movement. Rio has a hard act to follow," said the Sydney Morning Herald, describing it as "artistic genius" and "both unexpected and better than expected".
"His show did not take itself too seriously, but was never trivial. It was irreverent, but never disrespectful. It was clever, but did not outsmart itself. It was at once subversive and sublime."
Sydney hosted the Olympics 12 years ago and The Australian newspaper said Boyle had sought to match the city for creativity and "deploy the wit and the self-awareness that the Chinese lacked" at the 2008 Beijing games.
"Celebrating everything from punk music to social media and the internet, the ceremony deliberately revelled in the chaos of Britain's free society and popular culture in an obvious retort to the breath-taking order and intimidating precision and scale of Beijing's open ceremony in 2008," The Australian said.
"The result was not quite as charming as Sydney's ceremony, on which it was modelled, nor as overwhelming and grandiose as Beijing's but it was vibrant, stimulating and eclectic, just like London itself."
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation described it as a "whimsical, riotous and very British spectacle", while News Limited said it had ensured London would always be remembered as "the Olympics when the Queen and James Bond jumped out of a helicopter".
"It could well have been the most astonishing moment in modern Olympic history," News Limited said.
"Records will always be broken, athletes will come and go, but we'll never see anything like that again."
The ceremony "was like a party you never wanted to end, a book you didn't want to finish", it added.
"Boyle's vision was extraordinary in its scope; audacious in its imagination and at times its cheeky humour made Sydney seem positively stodgy in comparison."

Israelis arrest militant in West Bank: Palestinians

Israeli troops on Saturday arrested a member of the Islamic Jihad militant group at his home in the West Bank city of Nablus, his relatives said.
Relatives of Abdallah Harouf, 24, said that troops seized him at his home near the Old City during the early hours of Saturday.
During the raid, Harouf's family said, troops fired tear gas and five people suffered effects of inhalation.
Local residents said that four other people were also arrested but their details were not immediately known.
The Israeli military had no immediate comment.

Image of the Day

Friday, July 27, 2012
A Cuban police officer scrambles to cover graffiti on a wall reading "Down With Fidel."


Apple 'considering investment' in Twitter

Computer and smartphone maker Apple has been discussing with social media company Twitter the possibility of making a significant investment in it, The New York Times reported.
Citing unnamed "people briefed on the matter", the newspaper late Friday said Apple was considering investing into Twitter hundreds of millions of dollars, which could increase Twitter's valuation from $8.4 billion to more than $10 billion.
The contacts between the two companies' executives were not formal negotiations, and there were no assurances the two sides will come to an agreement, the report said.
Apple has already incorporated Twitter features into its software for phones, tablets and computers, The Times said.
Meanwhile, Twitter has assigned more resources into managing its relationship with Apple, the paper noted.
Apple's share of the US smartphone market was expected to inch up one percentage point to 31 percent this year, while the share for handsets powered by Google-backed Android software was expected to hit 41 percent, according to eMarketer.
On Tuesday, the company reported a rise in its quarterly profit to $8.8 billion on hot iPad sales but the results came up short of lofty Wall Street expectations, prompting its shares to dive.
The profit in the fiscal quarter to June was up 20.5 percent from a year earlier and amounted to $9.32 dollars a share, well below the consensus forecast of $10.36 dollars.
Revenues rose 22.5 percent to $35 billion, also below expectations of more than $37 billion.
Twitter, which allows its members to post brief comments, links or pictures, claims to have more than 140 million active users, with the largest number being in the United States.
A recent survey found one in seven Americans who go online use Twitter and eight percent do so every day.

Paya crash 'no accident'


HAVANA. Mourners say the car crash that killed Cuban dissident Oswaldo Paya, was no accident.
Paya, 60, was the second key dissident to die in a year.
Cuban officials say he died in a car accident near the city of Bayamo, but close supporters - foes of the Americas' only Communist regime - say that Paya long feared for his life, and now they fear for theirs.
''He had said they were going to kill him. And this was the third accident he had this year,'' Martha Beatriz Roque, a well-known dissident economist.
Paya, an engineer, founded the Christian Liberation Movement, a group pressing for political change in Cuba.
Oswaldo Paya, pictured in 2003. Oswaldo Paya, pictured in 2003. Photo: Reuters
http://www.smh.com.au