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CNN: Flight attendant downplays role in helping land airliner

A flight attendant with a pilot's license who stepped in for a sick co-pilot said the experience was "not your ordinary workday," but downplayed her role in the safe landing of an American Airlines flight in Chicago, Illinois.

"This was not heroic by any means. I was just trying to be part of a team," flight attendant Patti DeLuna, 61, told CNN on Wednesday.

The first officer became ill Monday with flulike symptoms an hour or so into flight 1612 from San Francisco, California, to Chicago, DeLuna said. When Captain Jim Hunter deemed the first officer too ill to fly, the flight's purser looked at the passenger list for off-duty pilots, but none were onboard.

DeLuna and the purser both had piloting experience, but DeLuna had slightly more and a commercial license, she said, so Captain Hunter tapped her to assist.

WORLD

BBC: Sudan: Darfur rebel leaders surrender to Hague court

Two Darfur rebel leaders have surrendered to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

The men, Abdallah Banda Abakaer Nourain and Saleh Mohammed Jerbo Jamus, were secretly indicted last year.

They are wanted for war crimes in connection with the deaths of 12 African Union peacekeepers in 2007.

Earlier this year, charges against another rebel leader to do with the same attack were dropped because of lack of evidence.

CNN: More aid arrives for those fleeing Kyrgyzstan

The first U.N. aid plane arrived Wednesday in Uzbekistan to help the thousands of people who have fled ethnic clashes in neighboring Kyrgyzstan, officials with a U.N. Refugee agency said Wednesday.

The cargo plane carrying about 800 lightweight tents will add to a growing effort to try and aid the estimated 100,000 people who have fled fighting in Kyrgyzstan for refugee camps in Uzbekistan. Several countries, including the United States, Germany and Russia, also have sent aid.

The International Committee of the Red Cross has said tens of thousands more people are displaced within Kyrgyzstan and the scope of the humanitarian crisis is "immense."

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov from London on Wednesday, thanking Karimov for his help with the humanitarian situation, according to a statement from Ban's office. The secretary-general promised assistance to affected people in southern Kyrgystan and those seeking refuge in Uzbekistan, and said he intended to consult with key members of the U.N. Security Council upon his return to New York later Wednesday.

BBC: Dozens of Pakistani troops 'captured by the Taliban'

The Afghan Taliban says it has captured dozens of Pakistani soldiers after attacking their checkpoint in a cross-border raid.

Pakistani security sources confirm some troops are missing.

The Taliban says it is holding up to 40 Pakistani troops after its raid in the Mohmand tribal area on Monday.

Afghan officials said eight soldiers had been handed over to the Pakistani consulate in Jalalabad, but Pakistan's army said it had no knowledge of this.

CNN: Human rights group urges Kurds to ban female circumcision

A human rights group issued a new report detailing the widespread practice of female circumcisions in Iraqi Kurdistan, calling on Kurdish authorities to outlaw it.

The 73-page report, released Wednesday by the group Human Rights Watch, cites previous studies estimating the circumcision rate for young women to range from 41 percent in a smaller sample of women up to 80 percent in larger studies. The Kurdish government does not keep statistics on female circumcisions or post-operative medial consequences.

Human Rights Watch refers to the circumcisions as "female genital mutilation." The procedure involves partial or total removal of the clitoris, and is also known as clitoridectomy.

The report describes the pain, fear, and physical and emotional distress that girls experience as they undergo the procedure.

Reuters: France and Spain move on reforms before EU summit

Spain and France announced politically unpopular labor and pension reforms on Wednesday in the face of financial market pressure on euro zone states to clean up their finances.

Pressure grew for European regulators to publish results of stress tests on individual banks to restore market confidence and overcome a partial freeze in inter-bank lending. Such tests show banks' ability to withstand liquidity problems.

On the eve of a European Union summit in Brussels that was expected to approve tougher fiscal rules to prevent a repetition of the Greek debt crisis, the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund denied Spain was about to seek financial help.

The risk premium demanded by investors to hold Spanish debt rather than benchmark German bonds rose to a euro lifetime high of 223 basis points because of bailout rumors before a closely watched Spanish bond auction on Thursday.

BBC: Syria warns of backlash on Israel over Gaza flotilla

Israel's attack on the Gaza aid ship has increased the chances of war in the Middle East, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has told the BBC.

He said Syria was working to prevent a regional war, but there was no chance of a peace deal with the current Israeli administration, which he called a "pyromaniac government".

Mr Assad also rejected claims he was arming Hezbollah in Lebanon.

He said that Middle East was going through a period of momentous change.

Guardian: Ernst & Young faces inquiry over Lehman audit

Britain's accountancy regulator will today launch an investigation into Ernst & Young's role as auditor of the European arm of Lehman Brothers.

The investigation follows an allegation in March by a US court-appointed examiner that E&Y – one of the world's "big four" accountancy firms – approved accountancy tactics that allowed the failed investment bank to hide $50bn (£33.7bn) of debt off its books.

"The accountancy and actuarial discipline board (AADB) has begun an investigation under its accountancy scheme into the conduct of E&Y as auditors to Lehman Brothers International Europe," said the Financial Reporting Council (FRC).

One industry expert described the inquiry as the "tip of the iceberg" and said it opened up the prospect of a flood of legal claims against the firm.

BBC: Deadly flash floods hit southern France

At least 19 people have been killed by flash floods in south-eastern France, officials say.

Several others have been reported missing after torrential rain hit the mountains above the Cote D'Azur region on Tuesday.

A number of towns in the department of Var were affected, with hundreds of homes flooded.

Meteo France, the national weather service, said up to 40cm (15.7in) of rain had fallen since Tuesday.

Reuters: Mexico to hire PR firms to scrub drug war image

Mexican President Felipe Calderon is launching a global public relations campaign to try to improve his country's image and neutralize coverage of the violent drug war scaring away tourists and foreign investors.

Calderon declared all-out war on drug cartels on taking office in late 2006, sending thousands of troops and federal police across Mexico to take on the heavily armed gangs running a multibillion dollar business.

The strategy has so far failed to curb violence and more than 23,000 people have died in drug violence over the past 3-1/2 years. Daily images of gruesome decapitations, charred and tortured bodies hung from bridges and brazen daytime shootouts are commonplace on the front pages of newspapers and evening news broadcasts.

UNITED STATES

New York Times: BP Agrees to Set Aside About $20 Billion for Spill Claims

BP tentatively agreed on Wednesday to create a $20 billion fund to pay claims for the worst oil spill in American history. The fund will be independently run by Kenneth Feinberg, the mediator who oversaw the 9/11 victims compensation fund, according to two people familiar with the deliberations.

Tony Hayward, BP’s chief executive, left, and the chairman of BP’s board, Carl-Henric Svanberg, center, walked with a White House staff member as they arrived for a meeting with President Obama on Wednesday.
The agreement was not final and was still being negotiated when President Obama and his top advisers met Wednesday morning with BP’s top executives and lawyers. Its preliminary terms would give BP several years to deposit the full amount into the fund so it could better manage cash flow, maintain its financial viability and not scare off investors.

NOLA.com: BP engineer's testimony contradicted by e-mail released by congressional investigators

Last month, Mark Hafle, BP's senior drilling engineer for the oil well that's now spewing millions of gallons of crude into the Gulf of Mexico, testified in Kenner that he and his team believed they had worked in concert with a contractor to come up with the safest possible design for encasing the well with cement and steel tubing so that "all the concerns had been addressed."

But now, e-mail messages released by congressional investigators paint a different picture of Hafle's confidence in the troubled well.

Reuters: BP cuts dividend and capex to pay for oil spill

Oil giant BP said it would not pay three quarters of dividends, significantly reduce its investment program and sell $10 billion of assets to fund a planned $20 billion fund to pay for its Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

The commitments, outlined in a statement on Wednesday, are harsher penalties than most investors had expected and follow BP chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg's meeting with President Obama on Wednesday.

BP said it would cancel the previously declared first-quarter dividend scheduled for payment on June 21, and said no interim dividends will be declared for the second and third quarters of 2010. The payouts had been expected to be about $2.6 billion per quarter, in line with recent quarters.

CNN: BP documents highlight PR strategy after deadly Texas blast

In the hours after a 2005 refinery explosion that left 15 people dead, a BP executive suggested a holiday weekend and the national furor over a Florida woman's last days would eclipse the tragedy.

With the oil company now battling to save an image tarnished by the worst oil spill in U.S. history, the lawyer who found that e-mail among a mountain of BP documents says nothing appears to have changed.

"Their strategy is the same every time ... And it's always, first, damage control," Brent Coon told CNN. "And with damage control, they accentuate the positive, downplay the negative, tell everybody they're sorry, they're gonna fix it, they're gonna do better, and not to worry."

Coon represented many of the victims of the March 2005 explosion at BP's refinery in Texas City, near Houston. The blast killed 15 workers and injured 180, with many of the survivors suffering severe burns, amputations and broken bones.

CBS: Petraeus Defends Withdrawal Plan for Afghanistan

Gen. David Petraeus said setting the July date was meant partly to pressure the Afghan government to work harder to provide services and reduce corruption, crucial to the military effort to defeat the insurgents.

Seated next to Petraeus, U.S. Department of Defense under secretary Michele Flournoy said Mr. Obama hasn't set a timeline for exactly how many troops will come home at any given point because the president believes that will depend on progress in the war.

Flournoy said the expectation is that the there will, indeed, be enough progress against the insurgency by next July to begin "a responsible drawdown," but that the actual numbers and pace will be determined by how it's going.

Later, Defense Secretary Robert Gates challenged what he said was an overly negative "narrative" that has circulated among officials and the media in Washington in the last week, insisting at a Senate budget hearing that progress is being made in Afghanistan.

KCRA (Sacramento): City Council Votes For Ariz. Boycott

The Sacramento City Council voted Tuesday to boycott the state of Arizona over its immigration laws.

The proposal would restrict city employee travel to Arizona and ban future contracts with the state.

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson said he hopes the actions by Sacramento and other cities will lead to a better immigration policy.

New York Times: Watchdog Group Files Complaints Over South Carolina Primary

The unemployed South Carolina man whose surprise victory in last week’s Democratic primary race for a Senate seat has drawn intense scrutiny now faces another obstacle. A watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, on Tuesday filed formal complaints with federal and state election officials asserting that he and three other candidates violated election law.

The group questioned whether Alvin Michael Greene, an unknown who with little apparent funding beyond his unemployment checks had managed to pay a $10,440 filing fee, might have been "induced" by an unknown party to run. He defeated a much better-known opponent, Vic Rawl, and is slated to face Senator Jim DeMint, a Republican, in the fall.

"Paying candidates to run for office and concealing the sources of campaign funds undermines the integrity of the electoral process and threatens our democracy," Melanie Sloan, the executive director of the watchdog group, said in a statement.

In a telephone interview, Ms. Sloan said that she had no evidence pointing to anyone having paid Mr. Greene to run for office. But, she added, it seemed highly curious that someone in the candidate’s financial position would have spent more than $10,000 to file, then failed to hire a staff, stage any campaign events or spend anything on campaigning.

MSNBC: Man pleads guilty in Mass. black church arson

One of three white men charged with burning down a predominantly black church hours after Barack Obama was elected president pleaded guilty to civil rights charges Wednesday in a plea deal that calls for him to spend nine years in prison.

Benjamin Haskell, 23, pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to violate civil rights and damaging religious property because of race, color or ethnic characteristics. Sentencing was scheduled for Sept. 29.

The fire destroyed the Macedonia Church of God in Christ in Springfield in the early morning hours of Nov. 5, 2008, the day after Obama was elected the nation's first black president.

CBS: Explosives Found in Vehicle at Georgia Army Base

A former national guardsman pretending to be a U.S. Army soldier convinced an officer to give him a sophisticated laser sight for military rifles before he was caught hours later on the base with a land mine, several grenades and night vision devices, prosecutors said Wednesday.

Federal prosecutors said in a criminal complaint that Anthony Todd Saxon, 34, falsely pretended to be an Army master sergeant on Tuesday and sought to steal the infrared laser targeting sight. He was expected to appear in federal court later Wednesday.

Saxon was wearing a full combat uniform, including rank and insignia, when he was stopped at Fort Gordon by military police and questioned about his activities, according to the complaint. After Saxon gave them consent to search his vehicle, authorities said they found several grenades and the land mine, among other equipment.

MSNBC: Spirit Airlines, pilots make a deal to end strike

Spirit Airlines made a deal with its pilots on Wednesday that will end their five-day-old walkout, the union said.

The airline said it will resume flights on Friday. Pilots were working out a back-to-work agreement and technically remain on strike until that is done, said Andy Nelson, the vice chairman of the council for the Spirit branch of the Air Line Pilots Association.

"Our intention is to help get the airline back up and running as quickly and efficiently as possible," he said. Spirit had already canceled its Thursday flights before the agreement was reached.

New York Times: Apple Gets More Than 600,000 Orders for iPhone 4

Apple said on Wednesday that it and its partners took more than 600,000 orders on Tuesday for its new iPhone 4, which will be released next week. AT&T, its wireless partner in the United States, said it was suspending preorders for the phone.

"It was the largest number of preorders Apple has ever taken in a single day and was far higher than we anticipated, resulting in many order and approval system malfunctions," Apple said in a statement. "Many customers were turned away or abandoned the process in frustration. We apologize to everyone who encountered difficulties and hope that they will try again or visit an Apple or carrier store once the iPhone 4 is in stock."

The Web sites of both Apple and AT&T were overwhelmed by the demand on Tuesday, and AT&T could not process electronic orders at its stores for much of the day. Although Apple is still accepting preorders online, its Web site no longer promises delivery on the phone’s release date, June 24. Customers who place an order online on Wednesday may receive their phones on July 2.

Originally posted to Live from Kentwood, It's... ScottyUrb! on Wed Jun 16, 2010 at 08:35 PM PDT.

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