-> White House: Obama to meet with Karzai, Zardari <-

obama with hamid karzaiThe White House says President Barack Obama will meet Wednesday with Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari to discuss their troubled region.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Friday that Obama would meet jointly and separately with the two at the White House. He said Obama looks forward to discussing with them “how we can work together to enhance our cooperation in this important part of the world.”

The Karzai and Zardari governments are dealing with Taliban insurgencies in regions of their countries which share a mountainous border.



-> Hollywood delays summer film releases in Mexico <-

Swine FluMovie theaters in Mexico shut down to contain the spread of swine flu, Hollywood studios have delayed plans to kick off the summer movie season there. The country is regularly among the top 12 foreign markets for U.S. movies.

Actors who had plans to promote films in the country, such as Hugh Jackman and Miley Cyrus , are also staying away for now.

Sony Corp . moved the Mexico release of ” Terminator Salvation ” to July 31 from June 5 and ” Angels & Demons ” to June 12 from May 15. ” Star Trek ” is set for worldwide release May 8, but Viacom Inc.’s Paramount Pictures said its opening in Mexico is being delayed indefinitely.

Time Warner Inc.’s Warner Bros . pushed the release of the romantic comedy “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past” to June 12 from May 8 in Mexico. It was released Friday in the U.S.

News Corp. ‘s 20th Century Fox delayed ” X-Men Origins: Wolverine ” to a tentative May 14 start in Mexico, although the film opens in the rest of the world this weekend. Fox said it expected theaters in Mexico , most of which closed last weekend, to reopen May 10, but is watching the situation closely.

For now “Wolverine” star Jackman is scheduled to go to Mexico on May 12 or 13, making up for an appearance he canceled this week. Cyrus, the star of ” Hannah Montana: The Movie ,” also recently canceled an appearance in Puebla, 65 miles southeast of the capital.

One of the big challenges for the studios in reshuffling the release dates is avoiding having their summer blockbusters go head-to-head on the same weekend.

If the crisis continues, Warner Bros . might also delay the Mexico release of ” Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince ,” which is slated for July 15.

“This is obviously a very fluid situation,” said Warner Bros.’ president of international distribution, Veronika Kwan-Rubinek. “Dates could continue to change based on current events as well as how competitive dates line up.”


-> Miss California appears in anti-gay marriage ad <-

Miss california After failing to stop recent gay marriage approvals in several states, opponents have found an attractive, telegenic poster woman in Miss California, a move reminiscent of beauty queen Anita Bryant’s 1970s crusade against gay rights.
Miss California, a Christian college student named Carrie Prejean, joined in a television ad campaign against gay marriage this week, upsetting homosexual rights advocates, including a head of the Miss California pageant.

In the commercial from the National Organization for Marriage, Prejean is shown at the Miss USA competition last month where she answered a question about same-sex marriage by saying she opposed it, drawing both boos and cheers and setting off a raucous debate.
After providing that answer, Prejean was named runner-up to Miss USA. She later said her view on marriage cost her crown.
As gay marriage opponents have rallied around Miss California, they have also lost key battles in recent weeks.

On Wednesday, New Hampshire’s Senate passed a bill to legalize same-sex marriage and if the governor signs it, the state could become the fifth to legalize gay weddings.
Last month, Iowa became the first Midwest state to allow gay marriage, and Vermont became the first to legalize it through legislative action.
Craig Rimmerman, co-editor of “The Politics of Same-Sex Marriage,” said Prejean’s rise to prominence comes as gay marriage opponents are on the defensive.
“The conservative right is wondering if same-sex marriage is as potent an issue politically as it was in the past,” he said. “So for them to have a different spokeswoman who comes at this from a different background, they probably see this as a really positive development.”

California is often characterized as a liberal state for politics in Los Angeles and San Francisco, but Prejean comes from a small town, Vista, in conservative San Diego County.
The 21-year-old is not a permanent spokeswoman for the National Organization for Marriage, but in recent weeks she has appeared on TV shows reaffirming her views on gay marriage, and on Thursday she joined the group to launch the TV ad.
“I think that Carrie’s story is resonating incredibly,” said Maggie Gallagher, the group’s president. “Because she comes across as what she is, she’s just a genuine, decent, honest person who stood up for truth and gave up the tiara.”

In the 1970s, another beauty queen named Anita Bryant, a former Miss Oklahoma, became a voice against homosexuality after leading a campaign to repeal a Miami-area gay rights ordinance. She was famously quoted as saying, “If gays are granted rights, next we’ll have to give rights to prostitutes and to people who sleep with St. Bernards and to nail-biters.”
In contrast to Bryant’s bluntness, Prejean has said she means “no offense,” a phrase she used at the Miss USA pageant while answering a question from gay celebrity blogger Perez Hilton by stating, “in my country and in my family, I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman.”
Keith Lewis, the co-executive director of the Miss California pageant, said Prejean was attended to by gay beauty experts before the Miss USA contest, and that he always knew her to be friendly to gays like himself.
But Lewis said he was disappointed with her stance against same-sex weddings, and that while she keeps her crown as Miss California, she is speaking for herself on gay marriage.

-> Driver Attacks Royal Parade in the Netherlands <-

Four people were killed and more than a dozen wounded on Thursday when a driver hurtled his car into a crowd at a parade in the town of Apeldoorn, the Netherlands, narrowly missing an open bus carrying Queen Beatrix and members of her family.

Dutch officials said the man had “acted deliberately” but they ruled out links with a terrorist group. “The driver is suspected of trying to attack the royal family,” a spokesperson for the Dutch police said, not giving additional details as to a possible motive.

The police immediately arrested the driver, who was trapped in his car as it crashed into a monument. Authorities declined to provide the driver’s name, but said he was a 38-year-old Dutchman who apparently acted alone and carried no weapons or explosives. The investigation into the attack was proceeding.

People lay injured after a car careened into a holiday parade that included Queen Beatrix and the royal family in the Dutch city of Apeldoorn on Thursday

People lay injured after a car careened into a holiday parade that included Queen Beatrix and the royal family in the Dutch city of Apeldoorn on Thursday

Television images of the parade showed police officers rushing toward wounded onlookers lying on the ground and members of the royal household atop an open bus looking stunned and raising their hands in horror. The police said that four people were killed and 13 wounded, five of them seriously.

Queen Beatrix, looking tense and shaken, later appeared on national television. “What began as a beautiful day has ended in a terrible drama which has shocked all of us,” she said. “We are speechless that such a terrible event could have happened.”

The attack raised a host of questions on how the driver could have broken through several police barricades before he drove into the large crowd and swerved toward the bus carrying the royal family, missing it by about ten yards, witnesses said.

Security, which used to be lax in the Netherlands, has become stricter in recent years since several public figures were killed on the streets. In Apeldoorn, where the Queen has her favorite palace and where the street festivities to celebrate Queen’s Day were taking place, numerous roads had been blocked off before the parade.

The sudden appearance of the small black car seemed the work of a prankster, witnesses said, until they saw people scooped up and being hurtled into the air.

Fred de Graaf, the mayor of Apeldoorn, said that eight of the wounded were in serious condition. All further Queen’s Day festivities were being canceled, he said. Holiday programs also were called off in Rotterdam, and more were likely to be canceled around the country, The Associated Press reported.


-> Dollar mixed before Fed call <-


The dollar fell versus the euro but rose against the yen on Wednesday as dealers awaited the conclusion of a US Federal Reserve monetary policy meeting and American economic growth data. In London morning trade, the euro advanced to 1.3221 dollars from 1.3147 dollars late on Tuesday in New York. Against the Japanese currency, the dollar climbed to 96.77 yen from 96.43 yen late Tuesday. Investors were awaiting Wednesday’s outcome of a two-day meeting at the Fed where monetary policymakers were expected to keep boosting the supply of cheap credit to the US economy since slashing the base interest rate to near zero. Citi analyst Todd Elmer said he “expects no major innovations or policy adjustments” and for market focus to concentrate on what is contained in the US central bank’s statement. Elmer said there was an “outside chance that the Fed may go beyond its general commitment to keeping rates low for an extended period of time and set a specific target date, along the lines of recent statements by the Bank of Canada.”


-> Baghdad car bombings over 4 hours kill 48



Six car bombings in four hours killed 48 people and wounded 81 in various Baghdad neighborhoods Wednesday, according to Iraq’s Interior Ministry.

In a separate incident, five people were killed and three wounded by a roadside bomb south of Baghdad, a ministry official said.

Most of the deaths came when three car bombs parked at separate but nearby marketplaces exploded in quick succession in the eastern Baghdad Shiite neighborhood of Sadr City, killing at least 45 people and injuring at least 68, the ministry official said.

Three other car bombings followed. Two of those, outside a Shiite mosque in the Hurriya district of northern Baghdad, killed three people and wounded eight. The bombs exploded in close succession shortly before 9 p.m. (2 p.m. ET). A third a few hours earlier injured at least five civilians in a predominantly Shiite area of southwestern Baghdad, according to the ministry.

Wednesday’s series of bombings echoed an incident earlier this month, when seven car bombs detonated within about four hours. The U.S. military blamed al Qaeda in Iraq for what it called coordinated attacks.

Sadr City is a heavily populated Shiite area, with an estimated 2.5 million people packed into a 25-square-kilometer area. The district was a stronghold of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mehdi Army, but most of the fighters went underground after fierce fighting in April 2008.

In a seventh bombing Wednesday night, at least five people died and three were wounded south of Baghdad, a ministry official said. A roadside bomb struck a minibus in Hor Rajab, a predominantly Sunni area on the southern outskirts of Baghdad. The casualties were all civilians, the official said.

There has been an uptick in bombings and attacks in recent weeks, mainly targeting Shiites and Shiite areas. Last Thursday and Friday, five suicide bombings, as well as other attacks in Baghdad and Diyala province, left almost 160 people dead and 275 wounded.

Earlier Wednesday, U.S. and Iraqi troops were ambushed in northern Iraq, according to Maj. Derrick Cheng, spokesman for the U.S. military’s Multi-National Division-North. The troops were on a joint mission in Riyadh, southwest of Kirkuk, where coalition forces are working with local police to provide micro-grants to small businesses, Cheng said. Several individuals attacked the troops using at least one grenade and small arms fire, he said.

Cheng said two of the attackers reportedly were killed and another two were wounded. A woman reportedly was injured by shrapnel from the grenade, but was treated and released, he said. A soldier was reported wounded but was in good condition, Cheng said.

So far this month, 15 U.S. soldiers have died in Iraq, compared to nine in March — most of those in non-combat-related incidents. March’s death toll was the lowest monthly toll for the U.S. military since the war began 2003.

The Riyadh incident comes at a time of heightened tension between the U.S. military and the Iraqi government, after two Iraqis were killed during a military raid south of Baghdad on Sunday. Iraqi state TV reported that Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki accused U.S. troops of violating the security agreement between the two countries with the raid in Wasit province.


-> Over-40s may benefit from aspirin




Taking aspirin in your 40s could cut the risk of cancer later in life, a review of research suggests.

Experts said taking the drug at an age before cancer usually develops, and for ten years would maximize its potential to prevent the disease.

Aspirin has been linked to a reduced risk of some cancers, and heart disease, but also to a raised risk of ulcers and internal bleeding.

The Cancer Research UK study features in the journal Lancet Oncology.

Aspirin blocks the effects of proteins which can trigger inflammation, and which are found at unusually high levels in several types of cancer.

Previous research suggests people who take the drug are less likely to develop bowel, breast and possibly some other types of cancer.

However, regular use of aspirin specifically for cancer prevention is not currently recommended because of the risk of side effects.

Common cancers, such as prostate, breast, lung and bowel, tend to develop after the age of 60 – when the risk of aspirin causing internal bleeding is at its highest.

Lead researcher Professor Jack Cuzick, from the Cancer Research UK Centre for Epidemiology at Queen Mary, University of London, said pre-cancerous lesions tended to start developing in the mid-40s.

Thus, taking aspirin around that time may be the best strategy for preventing that damage progressing to the full-blown disease.

It would also carry a much lower risk of side effects than beginning to take aspirin 15-20 years later.


Work needed

However, Professor Cuzick said: “Many questions need to be answered before we would advise regular use of aspirin for cancer prevention.

“Future research and more clinical trials are needed to better identify those people who are at high risk of developing cancers and at low risk of side effects, who will benefit most from aspirin treatment.”

Professor Cuzick said it was not clear a lower dose “baby aspirin” could achieve the same anti-cancer effect as the standard dose of 300mg/day.

The researchers also found that taking aspirin in combination with other drugs known as proton pump inhibitors could help to lower the risk of stomach bleeding.

Dr Lesley Walker, Cancer Research UK’s director of cancer information, said: “It’s too soon to recommend that people take aspirin to try and stop cancer developing because of the side effects.

“It’s important that any decision to take aspirin regularly is only made in consultation with a GP.”

Ellen Mason, of the British Heart Foundation (BHF), also stressed it was too early for researchers to recommend taking aspirin to reduce the risk of cancer.

“Currently the risk of bleeding outweighs the benefit,” she said.

“Many thousands of people in the UK are prescribed aspirin because they have heart disease.

“This research does not prove that they will also get protection from cancer at a low dose, but as they already need to take aspirin it would be reassuring if further research eventually shows an anti-cancer benefit.”