Hero Pilot praised for ‘masterful’ landing

Passengers on the US Airways flight that crash-landed into the Hudson River Thursday afternoon praised the actions and courage of the pilot, a safety consultant with 40 years of experience in the aviation industry.

Sources tell CNN that Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger was piloting US Airways flight 1549 from New York’s LaGuardia airport to Charlotte, North Carolina, when at least one of the plane’s engines failed…

Sullenberger’s wife told CNN that she was stunned to hear the news from her husband after it was all over.

“When he called me he said, ‘There’s been an accident.’ At first I thought it was something minor, but then he told me the circumstances and my body started shaking and I rushed to get our daughters out of school…”

The crash-landing has…earned the former fighter pilot and private safety consultant accolades from state and government officials.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg commended the pilot for not leaving the plane without checking to make sure every passenger had been evacuated.

He has been a pilot with US Airways since 1980, following seven years in the U.S. Air Force.

Continue reading

Pope improves upon “offensive and gauche”. Practices on Italian Jews.

Daylife/AFP/Getty Images

The Vatican played down strains in Catholic-Jewish relations on Wednesday after a leading Italian rabbi accused Pope Benedict of wiping out 50 years of dialogue and canceled attending a key Church event.

Elia Enrico Richetti, chief rabbi of Venice, said Italian Jews would boycott an annual Church celebration of Judaism, set for January 17, partly because of the reintroduction last year of a prayer for the conversion of the Jews.

“If (to the prayer) we add the pope’s recent statements on dialogue being useless because the Christian faith is superior, it is clear that we are moving toward the cancellation of 50 years of Church history,” he wrote in the Jesuit journal Popoli.

Cardinal Walter Kasper, the Vatican official in charge of relations with Jews, said he was surprised by Richetti’s remarks and defended the pope’s record of pursuing dialogue.

He suggested troubles with Jews appeared to be mostly limited to Italy. “Unfortunately, here in Italy we have a few problems, a special susceptibility that we don’t find either in France or in Germany or in North America,” Kasper told La Stampa newspaper.

Only Italian Jews are pissed off, eh?

Father arrested for impersonating son

A 54-year-old Japanese father was arrested after he tried to help his son pass an exam by impersonating the young man and taking the test for him, police said Thursday.

The father, who was not named, put on glasses and straightened his hair to look more like the picture on his son’s identity card, said Masaaki Nakamori, a police official in the Nara prefecture in western Japan.

But as he took the test while trying to make sure the examiners didn’t get a good look at him, one official noticed that the man looked much older than the picture on the card.

The father then apologized and confessed. Police said the man runs a company that distributes medicine and had passed an exam in August to earn a license to handle drugs

Sounds like he’s already handling enough drugs. Har!

Scoring points for freedom on the football pitch

Daylife/Reuters Pictures

It was an understated gesture, but one that reverberated around the footballing world.

When Frederic Kanoute scored for Seville against Deportivo La Coruna last week in the Copa del Rey he slowly lifted his jersey and revealed a black shirt embossed with the word ‘Palestine’ in various languages.

Within a few seconds it was gone but by then Kanoute, a French-born Muslim who plays for Mali, had made his political point.

It earned him a booking for lifting his shirt and, later, a €3,000 fine for breaking article 120 of the Spanish FA’s rule book which states that “revealing messages of a religious or political nature on the pitch is strictly prohibited during the time of play.”

High profile players like Thierry Henry and Samuel Eto’o also lined up to praise Kanoute’s actions.

Good for you. There’s never a shortage of nay-sayers who wish that opposition to the politics of death and destruction was somehow more discrete. I’d hope the next time Freddy Kanoute steps on the pitch, the Seville crowd will applaud a little bit louder.

Airbus to offer Obama an A380 for Air Force One

Airbus is preparing to offer incoming US president Barack Obama a special A380 superjumbo to replace the ageing Air Force One Boeing 747 jumbo jet.

Tom Enders, chief executive, said the US was already thinking about new aircraft for the presidential fleet and it was “not completely absurd” to consider the superjumbo as an alternative. It can carry as many as 840 passengers and is the European plane-maker’s flagship, with one sold to a Gulf sheikh.

But Enders said it was “much too early to speculate” and Airbus was concentrating on winning the re-run $40bn (£27bn) Pentagon contract for 179 air-to-air refuelling (tanker) aircraft against Boeing.

Airbus won the contract last year after one of the fiercest lobbying battles ever witnessed on Capitol Hill, but the Pentagon later revised the tender under congressional pressure. Enders said Airbus had won that contest fairly and intended to win again – provided it was on a level playing field…

The A380, which has won 198 orders from 16 customers, is the world’s biggest plane, but Airbus claims it is at least 25% more fuel-efficient than the venerable 747 and emits far fewer greenhouse gases – a key Obama preoccupation.

Enders really is a ballbuster with style.

New tactic, new commitment by Rio police in slum communities

Santa Marta
Daylife/Reuters Pictures

Bouncing a small boy on her knee and listening attentively to residents’ complaints, Capt. Pricilla de Oliveira Azevedo is the new face of policing in Rio de Janeiro…

In their long, bloody battle to take back control of hundreds of slums from drug gangs, Rio’s police are trying a new tactic — staying in place and talking to people.

After invading this community of about 10,000 people in November and driving out the Red Command drug gang, the police surprised residents by staying, starting an experiment they plan to expand to other slums scarred by gang warfare and the usual police tactic of “invade, shoot, and leave.”

Santa Marta, a steep maze of shacks under the gaze of Rio’s Christ the Redeemer statue, now has three police posts staffed by 120 mostly young officers trained in “community policing.” New recruits, they are relatively unmarked by the brutality and corruption elsewhere in the force. Paid about $220 more a month than their peers, they also have different orders — to get to know residents rather than just arresting them.

The new policy combined with an influx of public works is being backed by President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, in an attempt after six years in power to tackle the chronic problem of violent slums in Rio and other big Brazilian cities.

“We don’t want police anymore who enter from time to time without knowing who is good and who is bad, treating everyone as if they were the enemy,” Lula told residents last month at German, a much bigger slum complex that is also due for new police posts.

RTFA. Fair amount of detail. Could be encouraging.

I’ve had a small amount of experience with the effects of community policing. Put in place by rote, I’ve seen it flop. OTOH, back in the day, it was a pretty normal part of policing.

More than anything else, it requires the support and commitment of the police force in question.

Enough. It’s time for a boycott against Israel.

Daylife/Reuters Pictures

It’s time. Long past time. The best strategy to end the increasingly bloody occupation is for Israel to become the target of the kind of global movement that put an end to apartheid in South Africa. In July 2005 a huge coalition of Palestinian groups laid out plans to do just that. They called on “people of conscience all over the world to impose broad boycotts and implement divestment initiatives against Israel similar to those applied to South Africa in the apartheid era”. The campaign Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions was born.

Every day that Israel pounds Gaza brings more converts to the BDS cause – even among Israeli Jews. In the midst of the assault roughly 500 Israelis, dozens of them well-known artists and scholars, sent a letter to foreign ambassadors in Israel. It calls for “the adoption of immediate restrictive measures and sanctions” and draws a clear parallel with the anti-apartheid struggle. “The boycott on South Africa was effective, but Israel is handled with kid gloves … This international backing must stop.”

Yet even in the face of these clear calls, many of us still can’t go there. The reasons are complex, emotional and understandable. But they simply aren’t good enough. Economic sanctions are the most effective tool in the non-violent arsenal: surrendering them verges on active complicity…

Continue reading

U.S. Courts still figuring out what to do with Manuel Noriega

What to do with an aging, all-but-forgotten former military strongman who has served his time but is also a prisoner of war?

The controversy over the next step for former Panamanian Gen. Manuel Noriega is winding its way through the federal courts. Arguments were heard Wednesday by an appeals court in Miami, Florida.

Noriega, who was captured in Panama by U.S. military forces, completed his prison sentence for drug trafficking and money laundering in September 2007 but remains imprisoned until the courts can decide where he should go.

Noriega attorney Jon May told the court that his client wants to return to Panama and that the United States is obligated to return him under the Geneva Conventions.

Noriega is 74. He was treated in prison for prostate cancer and suffered a stroke. He also claims to have found God.

The Justice Department and the US military are still laboring under the distorted legal illogic of Bush and Cheney. I don’t see why or how anyone expects to see legitimate resolution of questions like this until the Dangerous Duo is shipped off to the lecture circuit for short-term demagogues.

For the Honda brand, a cinematic stroke

With the automotive industry battling an economic downturn, is it the right time for a carmaker to introduce another installment in a corporate image campaign that carries the theme, “The power of dreams”?

The American Honda Motor Company believes so, bringing out this week three short films — a k a long commercials — to be watched online. The so-called webisodes, each about seven minutes, will be available…at a Honda Web site under the rubric of the “Dream the Impossible documentary series…”

One webisode is scheduled be shown at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, where American Honda Motor is the automotive sponsor. Plans call for the short to run before “Mary and Max,” which is to be the first movie screened at the festival…

The Honda ads are particularly interesting because campaigns like it — seeking to burnish a longstanding corporate image, rather than sell products in the short run — are often the first casualties when consumers slow or stop spending.

“It’s not advertising optimism,” Carey said. “It’s authentic documentary-film optimism.”

I often get chuckles over people writing about the advertising game. You can’t help sounding like the people you’re writing about. It’s infectious. Like some kind of communications virus,

The Honda ploy? Well, it’s worked before for BMW. Ritchie ended up with Madonna and BMW ended up with a broader, younger customer base.

Do we need an iTunes for news?

Last Tuesday, iTunes, Apple’s ubiquitous online music store that sold more than 2.4 billion tracks last year alone, changed its own tune, announcing that songs would no longer be sold with copying restrictions and that they would be available at various prices.

The digerati crowed over the collapse of the hated digital rights management (which Apple never liked, either) and record companies kicked up their heels at the thought of leaving behind the tyranny of the 99-cent price point.

But lost in the hubbub was the fact that Steve Jobs and Apple had been able to charge for content in the first place. Remember that when iTunes began, the music industry was being decimated by file sharing. By coming up with an easy user interface and obtaining the cooperation of a broad swath of music companies, Jobs helped pull the business off the brink. He has been accused of running roughshod over the music labels, which are a fraction of their former size. But they are still in business.

Those of us who are in the U.S. newspaper business could not be blamed for hoping that someone like him comes along and ruins our business as well by pulling the same trick: convincing the millions of interested readers who get their news every day free on newspapers sites that it’s time to pay up.

For a long time, newspapers assumed that as their print advertising declined, it would be intersected by a surging line of online advertising revenue. But that revenue is no longer growing at many newspaper sites, so if the lines cross, it will be because the print revenue is saying hello on its way to the basement.

Continue reading