This public domain movie is a classic example of film noir and one of my favorite movies. In it, a guy is poisoned by radiation poisoning put in his drink, and he knows he is going to die, but in with his remaining time he dedicates himself to discovering who killed him, and why.
It wasn't on YouTube yet so I thought I'd put it up. Orchard-L, author of Boundless Ocean, Missing, and who is helping me make Saturated Dreamers, recommended the movie to me.
France plots tax hikes of up to $26 billion: newspaper Sun Sep 9, 2012 8:18am EDT
PARIS (Reuters) - French President Francois Hollande could outline 20 billion euros ($26 billion) in tax hikes and may lower the country's growth forecast for 2013 to a maximum of 1 percent when he speaks on national television on Sunday evening, a French newspaper said.
Weekly newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche said Hollande's government had finalized the "budgetary effort" required as France tries to hit its public deficit target of 3 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) next year or risk losing investors' trust.
The budget will be presented at a September 28 cabinet meeting, pushed back by two days to allow for Hollande's trip to the United Nations' General Assembly in New York and is expected to be the most austere budget in 30 years.
Hollande said last week that by holding state spending steady next year in nominal terms, excluding debt servicing and pension payments, his government would save 10 billion euros in inflation-adjusted terms.
However, that would amount to just one third of the more than 30 billion euros in savings which Hollande says are needed to hit next year's deficit target and stay on course to balance the budget by the end of his five-year mandate.
With his government refusing to cut staffing levels, the bulk of the adjustment will have to come from tax rises.
The increase in taxes would be "between 15 to 20 billion euros," the paper said citing an unidentified source. It added the rises would target firms, wealthy households and savings.
Hollande may also lower the 2013 growth forecast to a maximum of 1 percent if it is finalized ahead of the television interview at 8 p.m. EDT (1800 GMT), the paper said.
The French government is sticking with its 2013 economic growth forecast of 1.2 percent for now but could still trim it in an upcoming budget bill given gloomier estimates by economists, the prime minister's office said on September 5.
"I don't expect much tonight," Marine Le Pen, president of the far-right National Front, told reporters on Sunday. "When the plane crashes on take-off there's little chance of flying. This government crashed on take-off."
Four months into Francois Hollande's presidency, tumbling ratings, cabinet squabbles and talk of inertia have forced him to rethink a soft-touch leadership style that has raised doubts he has the clout to revive France's economy.
Having won the May election with 51.6 percent of the vote, Hollande's ratings have slid below 50 percent in less than half the time it took Sarkozy to fall from favor.
A BVA poll published for Le Parisien on Sunday suggested that almost 60 percent of French people are "relatively unhappy" with the president's start compared with 34 percent on May 31.
In an interview with Le Monde's weekend edition, Hollande defended his style, but admitted the government needed to step up a gear.
"I continue to believe that I was right to push for a period of consultation rather than an accumulation of good or bad decisions," he said. "(But) the urgency is such that it is necessary to accelerate."
(Reporting By John Irish; Editing by Greg Mahlich)
Sean Bean to Star in 'Scorched Earth' for '24' Director Brad Turner Published: September 08, 2012
Sean Bean will star in “Scorched Earth,” a post-apocalyptic action movie from Emmy-winning director Brad Turner.
Bean, the “Lord of the Rings” and “Game of Thrones” star, will play Atticus Gage, a bounty hunter in pursuit of the most wanted criminal around.
Gage lives in a world devastated by environmental collapse, where billions have died and civilization has only stabilized in a primordial form.
Bean last appeared in Maxim Korostyshevsky's "Soldiers of Fortune" and can next be seen in "Silent Hill: Revelation 3D." The British actor has signed on to play Detective Benny Griessel in the "Devil's Peak" trilogy, which must still be adapted from Deno Meyer's popular book series.
Turner, director for shows like “24,” “Homeland” and “Bones,” will direct his first feature film frmo a script by Bobby Mort and Kevin Leeson. He won an Emmy in 2006 as a producer of “24,” which won Best Drama Series.
Leeson is also producing with Jamie Goehring. Shawn Williamson and Daniel Zirilli will executive produce while VMI Worldwide will take care of worldwide sales.
Defense contractors hesitate over layoff notices before election
By Jeremy Herb 09/09/12 06:00 AM ET
The major defense contractors are keeping their cards close to the vest on whether to issue mass layoff notices prior to the November elections.
The threat of sequestration, an issue that has morphed from a pressure campaign on Congress into a political fistfight, has the defense industry and its observers in suspense. But sources close to the industry say that when the chips fall, Lockheed Martin may be the only company that sends out layoff notices en masse before Election Day because of potential cuts to the defense budget under sequestration.
Some other companies may still issue notices to a smaller, more targeted group of employees, while yet others may not send out any, particularly after the Labor Department said it would be “inappropriate” for defense contractors to do so in a guidance in July.
The timing raises the stakes even higher, as companies could be issuing the notices on the Friday before the election, if they tie them to sequestration’s Jan. 2 start date, because the law requires 60 days advanced notice.
“They seem to be looking for reasons not to do it,” said one top defense industry source. “Many will not, and they’ll use that Labor memo as cover so they won’t have to do it.”
Lockheed CEO Bob Stevens first raised the prospect of mass layoff notices in June, when he said the lack of guidance from the Obama administration could compel the company to issue layoff notices to all 123,000 employees because it was unknown where the cuts would fall.
The next month, the Labor Department issued its guidance to defense contractors calling the need for mass layoff notices “inappropriate” under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act.
While the defense industry is united in its opposition to sequestration, there has been some division behind the scenes over just how dangerous the cuts would be, which has played into the layoff-notice debate.
Lockheed is still evaluating the Labor guidance and WARN Act with its legal team and hadn’t made a determination yet, said Chris Kubasik in an interview with The Hill. Kubasik, who will replace Stevens as CEO of Lockheed in January, also made clear that the company wasn’t about to back off.
“Philosophically, we follow the law. My understanding is that sequestration is the law,” Kubasik said. “Until the law is changed I think it would be irresponsible for us to do anything other than comply with it. And that’s what we’re doing.”
Loren Thompson, a defense analyst at the Lexington Institute, an industry consultant, said that Lockheed still appeared to be planning to send the notices based on advice from its legal department. The company learned after the presidential helicopter program was terminated in 2009 that lack of formal notification did not absolve it from issuing the notices, Thompson said.
“However, many of its competitors feel that they lack sufficient understanding of how sequestration will play out, and thus are reluctant to issue large numbers of warning notices,” Thompson told The Hill.
Several contractors, including Lockheed, say they need more guidance from the Obama administration on the cuts, which could come in the form of the report the White House will issue next week on implementing sequestration.
But that will leave just a few weeks before the first deadline hits for the WARN Act notices tied to sequestration, as some states have a 90-day requirement.
Besides Lockheed, BAE Systems has also suggested it might issue mass layoff notices.
Linda Hudson, BAE's top U.S. executive, told Reuters this week that all employees could receive the notices if everything winds up getting cut across the board, as the sequester law is currently written.
BAE spokesman Brian Roehrkasse told The Hill that the company is seeking further guidance about the impact of sequestration on specific programs. He said initial estimates show that up to 10 percent of its workforce in the United States could be lost, which is about 4,000 employees.
“We hope not to issue WARN notices, but may have no choice without further guidance,” Roehrkasse said.
Others are less willing to tip their hands publicly.
A General Dynamics spokesman said the company cannot determine employment levels yet, “given that there is very little information available about how the Defense Dept. will implement sequestration at the program level.”
Boeing said it “will not comment or speculate” on potential WARN Act notices until more guidance is given. Northrop Grumman said it’s making no public comments about the WARN Act, while Pratt & Whitney said it continues to monitor the situation but hasn’t made any decisions.
The way the sequestration law was written, which would eventually reduce the Pentagon’s budget by $492 billion over 9 years, the cuts are across-the-board, hitting every program approximately 10 percent, according to a study from the Center on Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA).
While the CSBA study found that the Pentagon would likely have to renegotiate many contracts under sequestration, it also predicted that the companies would see little impact on Jan. 2 when the law took effect, and that it would take several years before the cuts were fully felt.
While sequestration is already a politically charged issue, as it’s been wrapped up into the fight over taxes in Congress, the Labor Department’s guidance added another layer of politics to the defense cuts.
Republicans accused the White House of trying to hide potential job losses before the election, and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) declared that the defense companies should immediately issue the layoff notices to force Congress to solve the problem.
The industry source said that the political pressure has added to the difficulty for the companies, many of which aren’t eager to “rock the boat.”
“They’re feeling political pressure from both sides. Republicans want those notices out and the Democrats don’t,” said the industry source. “So it really puts them in a quandary.”
Prince Harry was deployed to Afghanistan to atone for naked pictures, claims Taliban
By Ben Farmer in Kabul 3:46PM BST 09 Sep 2012
The Taliban have dismissed Prince Harry's deployment to Afghanistan as a propaganda stunt and taunted that it could allow him to atone for the shame of appearing naked in photographs.
A spokesman for the insurgent movement which British forces have been fighting in Helmand for six years claimed his deployment was an attempt to boost the flagging morale of war-weary soldiers.
Prince Harry will soon begin missions against Taliban fighters after arriving in Afghanistan last week for a four month tour of duty as an Apache attack helicopter pilot.
The 27-year-old's role as co-pilot gunner will see him personally fire on insurgents as he operates the aircraft's weapons, which include Hellfire missiles and a 30mm chain gun.
On Sunday he completed training in first aid and roadside bomb awareness and will now begin preparation for his first missions with 622 Sqn, 3 Regiment Army Air Corps.
The Prince will also be eligible for the £200 a week operational bonus paid to troops in Afghanistan, the Ministry of Defence confirmed.
However a Taliban spokesman claimed that the Prince's arrival was purely symbolic and predicted that he would never leave his base in Camp Bastion.
Zabiullah Mujahid said: "The British Army is under pressure, just like the other forces in Afghanistan, and Britain wants to encourage its soldiers with such actions.
"And also the Prince was seen in naked pictures in England. To cover this shame, maybe he can atone by showing that he is fighting beside their soldiers in Afghanistan."
Photographs of the naked Prince engaging in a game of "strip billiards" at a party during a private holiday in Las Vegas were widely published on the internet and in foreign media last month.
Captain Wales, as he is known in the Army, returned to Afghanistan four and a half years after his last tour, as an infantry officer with the Household Cavalry, was cut short because of a media blackout being broken.
A blackout has not been imposed for this tour because commanders believe he will be safer and less likely to draw insurgent threats to fellow soldiers, now he is a pilot.
"The British haven't been able to do anything here in Afghanistan with all their soldiers. They can't do anything with their Prince here either," Mujahid added.
Yemen says deputy regional head of al Qaeda killed
Mon Sep 10, 2012 10:10am EDT
ADEN (Reuters) - Yemeni armed forces have killed Said al-Shehri, a man seen as the second-in-command of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), a government website said on Monday.
The Ministry of Defense website said Shehri was a Saudi national who was killed, along with six other militants, in any army operation in the remote Hadramout province in eastern Yemen. It gave no more details.
The United States has used unmanned drones to target AQAP, which has planned attacks on international targets including airliners and is described by Washington as the most dangerous wing of al Qaeda.
A Yemeni security source said Shehri was killed in an operation last Wednesday which was thought to have been carried out by a U.S. drone, rather than the Yemeni military. The source said another Saudi and an Iraqi national were among the others killed.
Shehri is a former inmate of the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay who was released to Saudi Arabia in 2007 and put through a Saudi rehabilitation program for militants.
Yemen's government is trying to re-establish order after an uprising pushed out veteran ruler Ali Abdullah Saleh in February, but faces threats from Islamist militants, southern secessionists and a Shi'ite rebel movement in the north.
The protests and factional fighting have allowed al Qaeda's regional wing to seize swathes of south Yemen, and Shi'ite Muslim Houthi rebels to carve out their own domain in the north.
The lawlessness has alarmed the United States and Yemen's much bigger neighbor Saudi Arabia, the top world oil exporter, which view the impoverished state as a new front line in their war on al Qaeda and its affiliates.
Washington, which has pursued a campaign of assassination by drone and missile against suspected al Qaeda members, backed a military offensive in May to recapture areas of Abyan province.
But militants have struck back with a series of bombings and assassinations.
(Reporting by Dhuyazen Mukhashaf; Writing by Andrew Hammond; Editing by Alison Williams)
It’s one thing to recognize, in these days of celebrity Twitter feeds and Reddit interviews, the rapid disappearance of the “fourth wall” that traditionally separated performers from audience members. It’s another to transform a live audience into an electronic symphony, using physical wires to connect individuals and create new music on the fly.
In a warehouse in Providence, Rhode Island, I witnessed such a performance by Lucky Dragons’ Luke Fischbeck. After art kids and scenesters picked up the long, colorful leads snaking out from the stage, they began touching each other, and ultimately writhing about on the ground.
The results of audience members’ movements and interconnections were clearly audible in the music, with nothing so simple as a new tone to represent a physical contact. The piece — titled “Make a Baby” — incorporated new melodic figures and other musically intelligent events as the physical music network formerly known as an “audience” reconfigured itself in real time. It was the perfect musical form for these super-connected times.
“All of these mythologies about ‘crossing the proscenium’ or ‘breaking through the fourth wall’ in performance — it just becomes irrelevant,” says Fischbeck. “A performance or interaction is created equally from all sides at once, you know? Whether it’s technology or interface setting the rules of the engagement, you also have everything that the user — the person participating in it — brings to it. It’s really a cooperation between equals.”
Making a true connection with audience members is something of a holy grail for most musicians, but few take the notion as far as Fischbeck. While smartphone apps and social media make it easier than ever for fans to interact with their musical idols, Fischbeck is effectively turning the concert floor into a hard-wired electronic orchestra.
Fischbeck’s journey toward making music with human social networks began around age 5, when he encountered a now-defunct computing language familiar to many who grew up alongside the internet: Logo, a simple computing language that let anyone move a turtle around the screen rather than balancing corporate spreadsheets.
“It wasn’t so goal-oriented,” recalls Fischbeck, 34, who considers Logo’s “early island of playful computer interaction” a formative influence. But you don’t go from moving an electronic turtle to making symphonies out of writhing audience members just like that.
As a “super-naive and overeager teenager,” Fischbeck sat in with jazz groups at Ortlieb’s Jazzhaus and community centers in his native Philadelphia, where audience members listened with their instruments in their laps, waiting for a gap on the stage.
“I joined in and learned from a lot of people there about not just the technique of music, but the politics of music, and the politics of making music together,” says Fischbeck, who played saxophone and flute. He preferred to organize punk and experimental shows, though, paying for venue space by painting protest banners.
“I didn’t know anything about the culture of the way music is presented,” he says now of his formative years in the music biz. “You have promoters, managers, backlines and stage plots … all of this machine that presents music to people. I didn’t learn about all that until much later, when I’d already had a very firmly developed sense of the way music happens in a very immediate way within a community.”
At Harvard, where Fischbeck studied electronic music with Ivan Tcherepnin, a Russian-American composer whose brother created the Serge modular synthesizer, everything he knew “was broken apart and put it into a different order.”
As a graduate student at Brown in the early 2000s, Fischbeck found himself under pressure to make interactive art that reacted to the user. His key realization: The fourth wall doesn’t exist in the first place — sort of like how there is no spoon in The Matrix.
“It was great to find [The Emancipated Spectator],” he says, referring to the recent book by French philosopher Jacques Rancière. “It was really affirming because being in grad school for music, it was about interactivity and really engaging the user, or having things determined by the user.”
China’s Presumptive New Leader Is Mysteriously Absent
By IAN JOHNSON
BEIJING — Speculation intensified on Monday over the whereabouts of China’s presumptive new president, Xi Jinping, who has been missing from public view in recent days as the country prepares for a crucial leadership change.
Last week, Mr. Xi canceled meetings with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and the prime minister of Singapore, Lee Hsien Loong. On Monday, he did not show up at a meeting with the Danish prime minister.
While Chinese leaders often do not appear in public for long periods, canceling meetings with foreign dignitaries at the last minute is unusual. Adding to the uncertainty is the absence of an official statement of any kind, with observers talking about a bad back or even a mild heart attack.
“There’s every sort of crazy rumor about Xi’s health,” said a senior Chinese journalist, who asked not to be identified because of sensitivity surrounding the case. “But no one is saying anything.”
The speculation adds another wrinkle to the less-than-smooth transition from the departing president, Hu Jintao, to Mr. Xi. Earlier this year, a senior Communist leader, Bo Xilai, vanished from view after his wife was charged with murdering a British businessman. Then, earlier this month, another senior official was unexpectedly demoted after a scandal surrounding his son.
And no date has been set for the 18th Party Congress, when the transition is supposed to take place. The consensus is that it will happen next month, but no announcement has been made. The last congress was also held in October, but its dates had been made public in August.
“These are not signs that everything is going well,” said Bo Zhiyue, a political-science professor at the National University of Singapore.
China’s political system has long been a black box, but its secrecy has begun to seem more anachronistic as the country has become one of the world’s biggest economic, political and military powers.
“Authorities are worried about anything that may tarnish the transition,” said Joseph Y. S. Cheng, a political-science professor at Hong Kong’s City University. “But this concern is working against their interests; they should come out with a clear statement.”
Some of the rumors have it that Mr. Xi hurt his back swimming or playing soccer; these were given credence by reports from foreign diplomats who say they were told that his bad back had caused him to cancel the meetings with Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Lee.
Less reliable was a rumor that he was hurt in an auto accident when a military official associated with Mr. Bo tried to injure or kill Mr. Xi as part of a revenge plot; the report was later retracted.
One well-connected political analyst in Beijing said he was told by party officials that the rumors of skulduggery were wrong. But he said he was told that Mr. Xi, 59, had suffered a mild heart attack.
“They say it won’t affect the party meeting,” the analyst said.
On Monday, the situation grew odder. China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs denied that the meeting between Mr. Xi and the Danish prime minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, had been scheduled. Last week, however, the ministry had invited the foreign press for a photo opportunity with the two leaders.
“We have told everybody everything,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said, according to The Associated Press.
Adding to the conspiracy theories, on Monday a popular microblogging site, Sina Weibo, banned searches for the term “back injury.”
Almost as if to assuage worries about Mr. Xi’s health, a newspaper on Monday ran a picture of Mr. Xi addressing students at opening of the fall semester of the Central Party School. The photo and speech, however, were from Sept. 1.
Jonathan Ansfield contributed reporting. Patrick Zuo contributed research.
Richard III search: archaeologists 'tantalisingly close' to finding king's body
Archaeologists searching for the remains of Richard III say they are 'tantalisingly close' to finding his final resting place.
2:42PM BST 10 Sep 2012
The dig to recover the body of the king, who was defeated at the Battle of Bosworth by Henry Tudor in 1485, has already unearthed the long-lost Franciscan Friary where he was buried.
The church, which is also called Grey Friars, was known to be where Richard III was buried but its exact whereabouts had become lost over time.
Now archaeologists say the dig will move into the third week and say they are getting ‘tantalisingly close’ in their search for the body.
Leicester City Mayor Peter Soulsby has authorised the work to continue for at least another week.
Richard Buckley, co-director of University of Leicester Archaeological Services, said: “We are now tantalisingly close in our search and will investigate the choir where Richard is presumed to be buried. Whether we find Richard or not, this dig has been a huge success in terms of revealing the heritage of Leicester and I am proud that the University of Leicester has played a pivotal role in the telling of that story."
"There was an incredible turnout at the dig and the level of public interest in our work is phenomenal. I would like to thank the public for their generous support and it has provided huge motivation for us to continue our quest."
The search began two weeks ago and involved digging two trenches in a council car park before a third trench was excavated.
Archaeologists have so far discovered:
Over the past two weeks, the team has made major discoveries about the heritage of Leicester including:
• determining the site of the site of the medieval Franciscan friary known as Grey Friars
• finding the eastern cloister walk and chapter house
• locating the site of the church within the friary
• uncovering the lost garden of former Mayor of Leicester, Alderman Robert Herrick
• revealing medieval finds that include inlaid floor tiles from the cloister walk of the friary, paving stones from the Herrick garden, window tracery, elements of the stained glass windows of the church, a medieval silver penny a stone frieze believed to be from the choir stalls amongst others.
There has been widespread interest in the project, which is being filmed for a Channel 4 documentary.
The University of Leicester, with the Richard III Society and Leicester City Council, will open the site to the public on Saturday, September 8 from 11am to 2pm.
September 12, 2012 U.S. Envoy to Libya Is Killed in Attack By DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK, ALAN COWELL and STEVEN LEE MYERS
CAIRO — The United States ambassador to Libya, J. Christopher Stevens, was killed along with three of his staff members in an attack on the American Consulate in Benghazi on Tuesday night by an armed mob angry over a short American-made video mocking Islam’s founding prophet, the White House and Libyan officials said on Wednesday.
In a statement confirming the four fatalities, President Obama said he strongly condemned the killings and had ordered increased security at American diplomatic posts around the world. It was the first death of an American envoy abroad in more than two decades.
The attack at the compound in Benghazi was far more deadly than administration officials first announced on Tuesday night, when Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said one American had been killed and one injured.
Another of those killed was Sean Smith, an information management officer who joined the foreign service 10 years ago, Mrs. Clinton said in a statement. The State Department did not identify the other two, pending notification of their relatives. Mr. Smith, who was a husband and father of two, previously served in Iraq, Canada and the Netherlands.
“All the Americans we lost in yesterday’s attacks made the ultimate sacrifice,” Mrs. Clinton said. “We condemn this vicious and violent attack that took their lives, which they had committed to helping the Libyan people reach for a better future.”
Mr. Obama’s statement did not disclose details of the attack. Mr. Stevens, the ambassador, arrived in Libya in May after serving as an envoy to the Libyan rebels who overthrew Libya’s leader, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, last year. The other three killed were not immediately identified.
“While the United States rejects efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others, we must all unequivocally oppose the kind of senseless violence that took the lives of these public servants,” Mr. Obama said, calling Mr. Stevens “a courageous and exemplary representative of the United States” who had “selflessly served our country and the Libyan people at our mission in Benghazi” and, as ambassador, “supported Libya’s transition to democracy.”
“The brave Americans we lost represent the extraordinary service and sacrifices that our civilians make every day around the globe. As we stand united with their families, let us now redouble our own efforts to carry their work forward,” the statement said.
According to the State Department, five American ambassadors had been killed by terrorists before the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi. The most recent was Adolph Dubs, killed after being kidnapped in Afghanistan in 1979. The others were John Gordon Mein, in Guatemala in 1968, Cleo A. Noel, Jr., in Sudan in 1973, Rodger P. Davies, in Cyprus in 1974 and Francis E. Meloy, Jr., in Lebanon in 1976
The killings threatened to upset Washington’s relations with the new Libyan government that took over after the ouster of Colonel Qaddafi and sour American public opinion about the prospects of the democratic opening of the Arab Spring.
Mr. Stevens, a veteran of American diplomatic missions in Libya, served in Benghazi during the uprising against Colonel Qaddafi, and he was widely admired by the Libyan rebels for his support of their struggle.
The news of his death emerged on Wednesday after violence spilled over the American Consulate in Benghazi and demonstrators stormed the fortified walls of the American Embassy in Cairo.
Few details of the way events unfolded in Benghazi were immediately available, but the killing of the ranking American official in Libya raised questions about the vulnerability of American officials at a time when the profound changes sweeping the Arab world have hardly dispelled the rage against the United States that still smolders in pockets around the region.
Tuesday’s violence came on the 11th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and was inspired by Egyptian media reports about a 14-minute trailer for the video, called “Innocence of Muslims,” that was released on the Web.
Earlier, an unidentified Libyan official in Benghazi told Reuters that the American ambassador in Libya and three other staff members were killed in Benghazi “when gunmen fired rockets at them.” It was not clear where in the city the attack took place. The Libyan official said the ambassador was being driven from the consulate building to a safer location when gunmen opened fire, Reuters said.
In a message on Twitter, Deputy Prime Minister Mustafa Abu Shagur of Libya said on Wednesday that he condemned “the cowardly act of attacking the U.S. consulate and the killing of Mr. Stevens and the other diplomats.”
Agence France-Presse quoted the Libyan Interior Ministry as saying Mr. Stevens and three staff members were killed when a mob attacked the consulate in Benghazi. Al Jazeera’s English-language Web site said Mr. Stevens died of smoke inhalation after a mob set fire to the building.
In Italy, the Corriere della Sera newspaper Web site showed images of what it said was the American Consulate in Benghazi ablaze with men carrying automatic rifles and waving V-for-victory signs, silhouetted against the burning buildings. One photograph showed a man closely resembling Mr. Stevens apparently unconscious, his face seeming to be smudged with smoke and his eyes closed.
Mr. Stevens, conversant in Arabic and French, had worked at the State Department since 1991 after a spell as an international trade lawyer in Washington. He taught English as a Peace Corps volunteers in Morocco from 1983 to 1985, the State Department Web site said.
The trailer of the amateurish, American-made video opens with scenes of Egyptian security forces standing idle as Muslims pillage and burn the homes of Egyptian Christians. Then it cuts to cartoonish scenes depicting the Prophet Muhammad as a child of uncertain parentage, a buffoon, a womanizer, a homosexual, a child molester and a greedy, bloodthirsty thug.
The trailer was uploaded to YouTube by Sam Bacile, whom The Wall Street Journal Web site identified as a 52-year old Israeli-American real estate developer in California. He told the Web site he had raised $5 million from 100 Jewish donors to make the film. “Islam is a cancer,” Mr. Bacile was quoted as saying.
The video gained international attention when a Florida pastor began promoting it along with his own proclamation of Sept. 11 as “International Judge Muhammad Day.”
In a statement on Tuesday, the pastor, Terry Jones of Gainesville, Fla., called the film “an American production, not designed to attack Muslims but to show the destructive ideology of Islam” and said it “further reveals in a satirical fashion the life of Muhammad.”
He said the embassy and consulate attacks illustrated that Muslims “have no tolerance for anything outside of Muhammad” and called Islam “a total deception.”
Mr. Jones inspired deadly riots in Afghanistan in 2010 and 2011 by first threatening to burn copies of the Koran and then burning one in his church. He also once reportedly hanged President Obama in effigy.
In Benghazi on Tuesday, protesters with automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenades attacked the American Consulate and set it on fire, Libyan officials said. Some news reports said American guards inside the consulate had fired their weapons, and a brigade of Libyan security forces arriving on the scene had battled the attackers in the streets as well.
Local Islamist militant groups capitalizing on the security vacuum have claimed responsibility for some attacks, and some reports on Tuesday suggested that one such group, Ansar al-Sharia, had claimed responsibility for that day’s assault.
In Cairo, thousands of unarmed protesters gathered outside the embassy during the day. By nightfall, some had climbed over the wall around the embassy compound and destroyed a flag hanging inside. The vandals replaced it with a black flag favored by ultraconservatives and militants and labeled with the most basic Islamic profession of faith: “There is no god but God, and Muhammad is his prophet." Embassy guards fired guns into the air, but a large contingent of Egyptian riot police officers on hand to protect the embassy evidently did not use their weapons against the crowd, and the protest continued, largely without violence, into the night.
A spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood, the mainstream Islamist group and the sponsor of Egypt’s first elected president, Mohamed Morsi, urged the United States government on Tuesday to prosecute the “madmen” behind the video, according to the English-language Web site of the state newspaper, Al Ahram.
The spokesman asked for a formal apology from the United States government and warned that events like the video were damaging Washington’s relations with the Muslim world. He also emphasized that any protests should remain peaceful and respect property.
There should be “civilized demonstrations of the Egyptian people’s displeasure with this film,” the Brotherhood spokesman said, according to the newspaper Web site. “Any nonpeaceful activity will be exploited by those who hate Islam to defame the image of Egypt and Muslims.”
Bracing for trouble before the start of the protests here and in Libya, the American Embassy released a statement shortly after noon that appeared to refer to Mr. Jones: “The United States Embassy in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims — as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions.” It later denounced the “unjustified breach of our embassy.”
China maintains silence on Xi, rumor mill in overdrive
By Terril Yue Jones Sep 12, 2012 8:12am EDT
BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese authorities and media remained silent on the whereabouts of Vice President Xi Jinping on Wednesday, sparking rumors and raising questions over why Beijing is not being more forthcoming on the health of its president-in-waiting.
Xi has skipped meetings with visiting leaders and senior officials over the past week, including U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, because of what sources told Reuters was a possible back injury suffered while swimming.
Xi has not been seen in public since September 1 but Chinese officials have refused to give any explanation for his absence from the public stage, giving rise to bizarre speculation on the country's Internet rumor mill.
Xi failed to appear on state television's evening broadcast on Wednesday, which featured almost every other member of the nine-man Politburo Standing Committee, China's top political body.
Among various theories being floated, the 59-year-old Xi has had a stroke or heart attack or was the target of an assassination attempt.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei, asked on Wednesday for the third consecutive day about Xi's health, again declined to respond. "I don't have any information about this to announce," he said.
The ministry, for the most part the only government department that regularly takes question from foreign reporters, has repeatedly refused to comment on Xi's status and whereabouts.
"Something serious must have happened, because they would have put him on national TV right away had there been no serious physical problem," said Minxin Pei, professor of government at Claremont McKenna College in California.
"I rule out political foul play, that he is in some kind of serious political trouble. It's simply unimaginable. He gave a speech on September 1, and that's after Beidaihe - if he were in political trouble, he wouldn't have given that speech."
Beidaihe is the seaside summer retreat of senior Communist Party leaders, who meet there every August to hammer out policies for the coming year. This year the talks were likely to have focused on the new party leadership to be unveiled at the party congress expected to be held in October.
With the congress held only once every five years and its top leaders being replaced only every decade, it is China's most important political event. The fact that its timing has not yet been announced has fuelled speculation about discord within the party.
One of the more bizarre rumors - first floated then retracted by overseas Chinese website Boxun -- was that Xi and He Guoqiang, another standing committee member, were targets of separate assassination attempts by staged car crashes.
He Guoqiang made his first public appearance since late August on the evening news on Wednesday, visiting a newspaper publisher in apparent good health.
"HIS OWN CHOICE"
But other observers and newspapers said there was no cause for worry.
Xi is "healthy and in control," the well-regarded Hong Kong-based on-line magazine iSunAffairs reported, citing "direct and indirect contacts including Xi Jinping's relatives".
Xi "is busy preparing for the 18th Party Congress and planning how to push forward reform of the political system," the weekly magazine said. "As to why he has not appeared or met foreign guests for the last few days, it is probably his own personal choice."
Foreign businessmen attending the World Economic Forum meeting in the Chinese port city of Tianjin were not fazed. Victor Chu, chairman of First Eastern Investment Group, said he was not worried, for now.
"If there is no clarity over another few weeks, I think there will be some concern. But from what I understand it is not a serious concern," he told Reuters.
"Hopefully with this experience, the Chinese government officials will understand that China is now a key player in the world and obviously what happens in China arouses much more attention from the rest of the world."
As China has grown into the world's second-largest economy, corporate spokesmen and even some government officials have become more open and PR-savvy.
But such people "encounter strong resistance from the more conservative elements who still think that the general health of the top leaders is a state secret", said Joseph Cheng, professor of political science at City University of Hong Kong.
"They think that this kind of information may affect the leadership succession process or the party congress. They lack a sense of accountability to the domestic population and the international community. Of course, they are concerned that talking about these issues may anger top leaders who don't want their health being discussed."
(Additional reporting by Michael Martina, Sabrina Mao, Lucy Hornby and Melanie Lee; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan and Nick Macfie)