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Showing posts from June 11, 2014

On iconic U.S. Route 66, German and Italian POWs lie in Oklahoma graves

Along America's most fabled road, Route 66, lie the almost forgotten graves of German and Italian prisoners of war brought to Oklahoma some 70 years ago and who now rest in the red soil of a former Wild West pioneer outpost. All but ignored by the thousands who travel Route 66 each year on nostalgic tours in search of bygone America, there are few signs and little fanfare surrounding the cemetery housing the remains of 62 German and eight Italian soldiers. As many as 20,000 German POWs were brought to Oklahoma during World War Two and held at eight main camps and about two dozen branch camps chosen for their remoteness from urban areas for security reasons. Germans made up the bulk of the POWs, who were put to work at tasks such as picking cotton and clearing fields. Most had been captured in fighting in North Africa but never made it home when the war was over after dying of pneumonia, appendicitis, accidents and, in one case, murder. In the Fort Reno cemetery, separated by

U.S. D-Day paratrooper, 93, to jump again for anniversary

Seventy years ago, Jim "Pee Wee" Martin parachuted into class="mandelbrot_refrag"> France , behind German enemy lines, ahead of the D-Day invasion. This week, at the age of 93, the Ohio World War Two veteran is jumping into Normandy again to mark the anniversary of the June 6, 1944, sea-borne landings by Allied troops, although this time he will not be making the leap alone. "They are making me do a tandem," Martin said in a telephone interview. "They are worried about me getting hurt. I said, 'Don't worry about it. If I get hurt or I get killed, what is the difference? I've lived 93 years. I've had a good life.'" Martin said he was jumping now because he may be the last man from his unit of the 101st Airborne Division to ever do it again. Martin, who lives near Dayton, said he will use a round canopy parachute like those in World War Two, which drop more quickly than modern parachutes. He is also taking one of his j

Brazil's Catholic church gives World Cup organizers a 'red card'

Pope Francis may be a die-hard soccer fan, but the Catholic church has given Brazil's World Cup organizers a "red card" for spending billions of dollars on stadiums while failing to improve the country's notoriously poor public services. In a red card-shaped brochure distributed this week in churches and parishes across the world's biggest Roman Catholic country, Brazil's Bishops Conference urged the Brazilian government to respect people's right to demonstrate against the month-long tournament that kicks off next Thursday. "The Church wants to contribute to the public debate and class="mandelbrot_refrag"> express its concern with ... the inversion of priorities in the use of public money that should go to health, education, basic sanitation, transportation and security," it said. That view is shared by many Brazilians who have taken to the streets sporadically over the past year to protest against spending on World Cup stadiu

Pope fires entire board of Vatican financial watchdog

Pope Francis sacked the five-man board of the Vatican's financial watchdog on Thursday - all Italians - in the latest move to break with an old guard associated with a murky past under his predecessor. The Vatican said the pope named four experts from Switzerland, Singapore, the United States and class="mandelbrot_refrag"> Italy to replace them on the board of the Financial Information Authority (AIF), the Holy See's internal regulatory office. The new board includes a woman for the first time. All five outgoing members were Italians who had been expected to serve five-year terms ending in 2016 and were laymen associated with the Vatican's discredited financial old guard. Reformers inside the Vatican had been pushing for the pope, who already has taken a series of steps to clean up Vatican finances, to appoint professionals with an international background to work with Rene Bruelhart, a Swiss lawyer who heads the AIF and who has been pushing for change.

Who won the war? Russians take a different view on D-Day

Sitting in the shade on a bench in the center of Moscow, 77-year-old Galina Makarenko pauses for several seconds before delivering her blunt opinion on the Allied D-Day landings of June 6, 1944. "It helped us a little. But only a little," says the sprightly physicist, who was evacuated from Moscow to Kazakhstan to escape the conflict that Westerners call World War Two and Russians refer to as the Great Patriotic War. President Vladimir Putin joins the leaders of class="mandelbrot_refrag"> France , Britain, the United States and class="mandelbrot_refrag"> Germany to mark the 70th anniversary on Friday of the Normandy landings that opened the western front against Hitler's forces, catching them in a giant pincer movement as Stalin's Red Army pushed them back in the east.   true       But while many in the West see D-Day as the decisive turning point in the conflict, conversations in the Russian capital on Thursday reflected a widely hel

Skull of Civil War soldier found at Gettysburg to be auctioned

(This June 2 story was refiled to show last find of Civil War dead at Gettysburg, not nationally, in 1996 in the sixth paragraph.) The skull of a Civil War soldier and military relics found near the Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, battlefield are scheduled to be sold at auction on Tuesday, to the dismay of some historians. Estate Auction Company is hoping to sell the skull at a price of $50,000 to $250,000 to a private collector or museum, said auctioneer Thomas Taylor. The skull was found in 1949 on private land near Benner’s Farm, site of a Confederate field hospital, by someone tilling a garden, he said. A breastplate found nearby came from a Louisiana unit of the Confederate Army, he said.   true       The seller, who made the find, is remaining anonymous, Taylor said. He said the skull was deemed authentic because of where it was found and the relics discovered around it. The Battle of Gettysburg, which lasted three days in 1863, is often described as the turning point of the Civ

Auction of skull of Civil War soldier found at Gettysburg canceled

(This June 2 story was refiled to show last find of Civil War dead at Gettysburg, not nationally, in 1996 in the sixth paragraph.) Facing wide criticism, including from the National Parks Service, an auction house has canceled plans to sell the skull of a Civil War soldier and military relics found near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Estate Auction Company had hoped the auction, by an anonymous seller, would raise between $50,000 to $250,000 from a private collector or museum. But late on Monday, auctioneer Thomas Taylor of the Hagerstown, Maryland-based company said the skull would be handed over to the National Park Service at the Gettysburg National Military Park.   true       The park service had earlier called for the skull to be donated for burial in the Soldiers National Cemetery at Gettysburg, alongside the bones of other unknown soldiers. The Battle of Gettysburg, which lasted three days in 1863, is often described as the turning point of the Civil War. Some 164,000 troops f

New York drops surgery rule for changing sex on birth certificate

Transgender people born in New York state, with the exception of New York City, will no longer have to prove that they have had sex-reassignment surgery to change the sex marked on their birth certificate, Governor Andrew Cuomo's office said on Thursday. About 100 people a year seek to change the sex on their birth certificate in New York state, according to the office of the governor, who is a Democrat. New York City has a separate records system from the rest of the state and still requires proof of surgery for such a change. Under the policy, a transgender person will still need to provide a notarized affidavit from the doctor treating them for what the American Psychiatric Association calls gender dysphoria, previously known as gender identity disorder, in order to get their birth certificate modified. But under the policy the doctor will no longer need to affirm that their patient has had surgery, only that they are receiving "appropriate treatment." Transgende

Stay-at-home American dads rose along with joblessness

The number of U.S. fathers staying at home nearly doubled since the late 1980s, led by a sharp rise in child care by dads, a report on Thursday showed. High joblessness during the 2007-2009 recession helped boost the number of stay-at-home dads to 2 million in 2012, up from 1.1 million in 1989, the report by the Pew Research Center said. Almost a quarter of those fathers said they were at home because they could find a job. But 21 percent were mainly staying home to care for family, a fourfold increase from 1989, the Pew report showed. Senior researcher Gretchen Livingston said the findings underscored experts' belief that gender roles between men and women were converging, with men taking on more caregiving tasks and women increasingly breadwinners. "This increase in the number and share of stay-at-home dads would certainly fit with that," she said.One sign of convergence is that the amount of time that fathers are spending with their children has tripled since the

Lawyer on Supreme Court hunger strike against social media firings

Reclining on a beach chair outside the U.S. Supreme Court, Delaware lawyer Brian Zulberti doesn't look like a man on a do-or-die mission to transform Internet privacy. But even as he chats with passersby and taps a laptop, Zulberti, 31, is deep into a hunger strike aimed at keeping people from getting fired for what they post on social media. Zulberti, who has not eaten since Sunday, said on Thursday he would go without food until he got 90 primetime seconds on a major television network to lay out his case for wide-open social media. "Nothing less than (CNN anchors) Anderson Cooper or Wolf Blitzer, nothing less. Until I get 90 seconds of that, I die right here. This isn't a game, you know," he said.. Zulberti contends privacy is on its way out and employers need to get used to knowing everything about their workers, the good and bad. He said people should not be discriminated against because of what they post on social media, such as being fired for putting

Architect promises better design for Washington Eisenhower memorial

An architect for the proposed Eisenhower Memorial in Washington pledged on Thursday to deliver a new design to District of Columbia planners at their next meeting in July after the original plan was rejected two months ago. The design turned down by the National Capital Planning Commission on April 3 was criticized as being too big and inappropriate for a site near the U.S. Capitol building. The architectural design team - headed by famed architect Frank Gehry - is working on new ideas to respond to criticisms from the planning commission, said Dan Feil, executive architect of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission. "They have not yet reached a consensus," he told a hearing of the planning commission. "It's a difficult thing to try to figure out." The original design for the memorial to the 34th president and World War Two general included bas relief sculptures of Eisenhower working on legislation and speaking to troops on D-Day. Between the sculptur

World leaders gather for D-Day tribute, hope for thaw on Ukraine

World leaders and veterans gather by the beaches of Normandy on Friday to mark the 70th anniversary of the Allied D-Day landings that helped turn the tables in World War Two, with host France hoping the event will bring a thaw in the class="mandelbrot_refrag"> Ukraine crisis. Wreaths, parades, parachute-landings and fireworks will be staged in honor of history's largest amphibian assault on June 6, 1944 when 160,000 U.S., British and Canadian troops waded ashore to confront Nazi Germany's forces, hastening its defeat. French President Francois Hollande will be joined at the commemorations by 17 leaders including U.S. President class="mandelbrot_refrag"> Barack Obama , Britain's David Cameron, Canada's Stephen Harper, Germany's Angela Merkel and Vladimir Putin of Russia.   true       But while the unity of allies and their bloody sacrifices will be the big theme of the D-Day remembrance, the government leaders will be sounding each o

Trip Tips: Rio's beaches and bars are key to its bohemian ways

Sao Paulo is bigger and the capital moved to Brasília 54 years ago, but Rio de Janeiro, with its white beaches, blue ocean and jungle-covered mountains, is still the place that comes to mind when people think of class="mandelbrot_refrag"> Brazil . Home to samba and Carnival, bossa nova and modern architecture, imperial palaces and shantytowns, notorious drug gangs and world-renowned telenovellas, the 448-year-old harbor city is a microcosm of Latin America's largest country. Soccer fans coming to Rio for the World Cup will be too late for the city's famed Carnival bash, but they'll also miss the energy-sapping Southern Hemisphere summer heat. Rio's legendary Maracana stadium will host seven World Cup games: class="mandelbrot_refrag"> Argentina vs Bosnia and Herzegovina; defending champion class="mandelbrot_refrag"> Spain vs Chile; Belgium vs Russia; Ecuador vs class="mandelbrot_refrag"> France , a round of

California plant lovers get chance to see once-in-a-century bloom

Visitors to a California university garden now have the chance to see a large, exotic plant showing off its once-in-a-century blossoming, garden officials said. The plant, a Puya raimondii also known as the Queen of the Andes, is blooming at the University of California Botanical Garden in Berkeley, California. The rare bloom usually happens only once every 80-100 years in the wild, but the university's plant is flowering just 24 years after it was planted. This will mark the second Puya blooming at the Berkeley gardens. The first, which occurred in the late 1980s, attracted thousands of visitors, a garden spokeswoman said in a statement on Tuesday. At its base, the tall, green plant looks like the head of a palm tree. At its center, a large cactus-like stalk shoots out from the fronds and is about the size and shape of a surfboard. The plant is pollinated by a variety of birds at the gardens and is expected to grow up to 30 feet (9.1 meters) tall and produce up to 30,000

California residents support soda tax to fight obesity, health study shows

Fighting obesity by taxing sugary drinks and restricting junk food advertisements aimed at children has support from a wide majority of residents surveyed in a Southern California public health study released on Thursday.     The findings from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health come as friction mounts between the beverage industry and health advocates over the best way to fight obesity and diabetes, tied by studies to over-consumption of soda, sweets and junk food. “There have been a lot of arguments against this sort of policy," including claims it will cost the poor more to buy food, said Paul Simon, head of chronic disease prevention for the county and lead author of the study. But Simon said nearly two-thirds of those surveyed by the county in a broad 2011 assessment of public attitudes toward health issues, said they supported a soda tax, and three-quarters favored limiting junk food class="mandelbrot_refrag"> advertising . Public health ad

Stay-at-home American dads rose along with joblessness

The number of U.S. fathers staying at home nearly doubled since the late 1980s, led by a sharp rise in child care by dads, a report on Thursday showed. High joblessness during the 2007-2009 recession helped boost the number of stay-at-home dads to 2 million in 2012, up from 1.1 million in 1989, the report by the Pew Research Center said. Almost a quarter of those fathers said they were at home because they could not find a job. But 21 percent were mainly staying home to care for family, a fourfold increase from 1989, the Pew report showed. Senior researcher Gretchen Livingston said the findings underscored experts' belief that gender roles between men and women were converging, with men taking on more caregiving tasks and women increasingly becoming breadwinners. "This increase in the number and share of stay-at-home dads would certainly fit with that," she said.One sign of convergence is that the amount of time that fathers are spending with their children has trip

Hollywood's longtime power lunch hub to cook up final script

The din of voices haggling over movies and pitching TV series, as familiar as the trademark meatloaf and grilled salmon, will soon disappear from Kate Mantilini, the Beverly Hills restaurant whose booths have long been a mainstay of Hollywood's power lunch crowd. Situated on Wilshire Boulevard in the heart of Beverly Hills, Kate Mantilini - a favorite of comedian Mel Brooks and late director Billy Wilder - will close its doors and pack up its wood-backed booths on June 14 after 27 years. "Many, many deals were made in those booths," said Adam Lewis, the restaurant's chief executive who made the decision to close after a rent increase. An outpost in Woodland Hills in Los Angeles' San Fernando Valley will remain open. "There's a semblance of privacy in there, but you can hear everything everybody is saying," added Lewis, 59, whose older brother David is the executive chef. "I've listened to pitches go down; some were really good, some I c

Russian FSB men stole priceless bible, offered bargain sale

A colonel in Russia's FSB security service has been jailed for stealing a rare bible by 15th century German printer Johannes Gutenberg and trying to sell it for about $1.15 million, a fraction of its true value, a court spokeswoman said on Friday. Sergei Vedishchev was sentenced on Thursday to 3-1/2 years in a penal colony, and two other FSB officers received lesser terms for helping him seek a buyer for the two-volume bible, spokeswoman Irina Zhirnova said. She said Vedishchev had stolen the bible from a safe at Moscow University, where he was responsible for security.   true       He and his two accomplices arranged to sell the two volumes to a collector for 40 million roubles ($1.15 million), but were arrested in May 2013 after arranging to meet him in a restaurant near Moscow, in a sting operation arranged by the FSB. Zhirnova said the rare bible was 'priceless', and experts judged it would fetch at least 15 million euros ($20.4 million), and maybe significantly m

Trip Tips: Rio's beaches and bars are key to its bohemian ways

Sao Paulo is bigger and the capital moved to Brasília 54 years ago, but Rio de Janeiro, with its white beaches, blue ocean and jungle-covered mountains, is still the place that comes to mind when people think of class="mandelbrot_refrag"> Brazil . Home to samba and Carnival, bossa nova and modern architecture, imperial palaces and shantytowns, notorious drug gangs and world-renowned telenovellas, the 448-year-old harbor city is a microcosm of Latin America's largest country. Soccer fans coming to Rio for the World Cup will be too late for the city's famed Carnival bash, but they'll also miss the energy-sapping Southern Hemisphere summer heat.   true       Rio's legendary Maracana stadium will host seven World Cup games: class="mandelbrot_refrag"> Argentina vs Bosnia and Herzegovina; defending champion class="mandelbrot_refrag"> Spain vs Chile; Belgium vs Russia; Ecuador vs class="mandelbrot_refrag"> France

D-Day Dispatch: The first reporter on the beach

Seventy years ago, Reuters correspondent Doon Campbell was the first reporter to set foot on the Normandy beaches with the sea-borne forces seeking to liberate Europe from Nazi class="mandelbrot_refrag"> Germany . _0"> Campbell was 24 at the time, the youngest British war correspondent covering the invasion. He stayed with Reuters for 30 years, covering other events including the assassination of Gandhi. He died in 2003, aged 83. The following is taken from his book ‘Magic Mistress – A 30 year affair with Reuters’, published in 2000: "A smudge, brown on black in the far distance, marked our landing-area. The craft zigzagged the last mile or two, dodging the shells now coming out to meet us. There were ships everywhere, one or two smoking or even sinking, some fouling uncleared obstacles, but most of them swinging massively towards the hazy coastline that was Normandy. "For the final lap, the skipper opened the throttle, and at 09.06 we rammed Swor

Black taxis challenge U.S. car service Uber for streets of London

They have been the kings of the British capital's roads for over a century but now the often opinionated drivers of London's iconic black taxi cabs are battling a high-technology rival that threatens their dominance. In their sights is Uber Technologies Inc., a San Francisco-based company whose application lets people summon rides at the touch of a smartphone button and uses satellite navigation to calculate the distance for fares. The drivers of black taxis say Uber, backed by investors such as Goldman Sachs and class="mandelbrot_refrag"> Google , is being used as a taximeter and thus contravenes a 1998 British law reserving the right to use a meter for licensed black taxis.   true       Uber says the application used by their drivers complies with all local regulations and that they are being targeted because of their success in winning customers. A variety of apps are available for summoning both black cabs - bulbous, purpose-built vehicles which offer a

Days before World Cup, much of Brazil just not in the mood

The upcoming soccer World Cup in class="mandelbrot_refrag"> Brazil was supposed to be the party to end all parties. What more could a fan want? The home of Carnival and "the beautiful game," as Pelé once famously called it, finally had the economic, political and social stability to host the tournament for the first time since 1950 and any of Brazil's subsequent five World Cup titles, more than for any other nation.   true       After a half-century in which its soccer prowess outdribbled its development, Latin America's biggest country could at last flout its success both on and off the pitch. But less than a week before kickoff on June 12, class="mandelbrot_refrag"> Brazil feels anything but festive. An economic boom that catapulted 40 million people out of poverty in the last decade, and motivated Brazil to host the world's most popular sports event, has waned. With rising inflation, urban gridlock and soaring crime as a bac

D-Day memories still fresh 70 years later for U.S. veterans

Seventy years after D-Day, Carl Proffitt Jr. can still remember the bodies of soldiers washing up on France's Omaha Beach in the Allied invasion that helped turn the tide against Nazi class="mandelbrot_refrag"> Germany in World War Two. One of the dwindling band of World War Two veterans who gathered on Friday at the National D-Day Memorial to mark the anniversary, Proffitt was in the first wave of infantry put ashore on Normandy's Omaha Beach in the teeth of German gunfire. "If there was such a thing as hell on earth, that was it," Proffitt, 95, of Charlottesville, Virginia, told Reuters. He still carries German mortar shrapnel in a leg.   true       The day after the landing, "the tide had come in and washed all the dead bodies up against the sea wall. I couldn't believe it," said Proffitt, second in command of a boatload of soldiers in Company K, 116th Regiment of the 29th Infantry Division. "Blown to pieces, human bodies, a