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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Brazilians elect first woman president

SAO PAULO, Oct. 31 (UPI) -- Brazilians Sunday elected Workers Party candidate Dilma Rousseff their first woman president, election results showed.

Globo News said that with 92.53 percent of the votes counted by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal in the runoff election, Rousseff, 62, had 55.43 percent of the vote to 44.57 percent for Jose Serra, the 68-year-old leader of the Social Democracy Party and former governor of Sao Paulo.

Rousseff had been energy secretary under outgoing President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and was widely seen as his political right hand, groomed to be his successor, The New York Times reported. Polls throughout the week had given Rousseff a minimum 10-point lead over Serra, the Times said.

Before the election's outcome, Rubens Barbosa, Brazil's former ambassador to London and Washington, told the newspaper Rousseff isn't likely to wade into the international arena like her effusive former boss.

"Dilma isn't interested in international prestige; she doesn't care if she is seen as a great world leader," Barbosa said. "In the first few years of her administration she is going to concentrate more on domestic and economic policy, and less on taking the lead in international relations".

UPI

One killed in Philadelphia hotel fire

PHILADELPHIA, Oct. 31 (UPI) -- A fire in a Philadelphia hotel room killed one man and sent several hundred guests into the street, authorities said.

The fire, reported at 10:18 a.m. Saturday at the Omni Hotel just off Independence Mall, was under control in less than 20 minutes, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

One man was found dead in the eighth-floor room where the blaze started. His identity has not been announced pending notification of family, authorities said.

The fire was reportedly confined to a corner of the room and triggered a smoke alarm but was too small to set off the sprinkler system, hotel General Manager A.J. Williams said.

UPI

Train hits, kills three in Montreal

MONTREAL, Oct. 31 (UPI) -- Police in Montreal say three men hit and killed by a train were trespassing on private property in an area they call "very dangerous".

The three were killed early Sunday morning as they walked along the tracks on land owned by the Ministere du Transport Quebec, Postmedia News reported.

"It's a very dangerous area," Montreal police Constable Anie Lemieux said. "It's hard to hear trains coming in. No one is supposed to be there because it is private property".

Two of the men were pronounced dead at the scene and another died in the hospital.

Two other men involved were treated for shock, police said.

Police say they believe the men, reportedly between the ages of 17 and 20, were in the area intending to paint graffiti.

UPI

Nine wounded in Halloween party shooting

OAKLAND, Calif., Oct. 31 (UPI) -- Nine people were shot at an annual Oakland, Calif., Halloween party attended by about 600 people, mostly students and community members, authorities said.

The victims were mostly wounded in the arms and legs in the incident that occurred at about 12:01 a.m. Sunday at the Fright Fest, billed as the "biggest college party in the Bay Area," the Oakland Tribune reported.

Police Lt. Rick Hassna said they are aware of at least one gunman opening fire at a man, wounding him in the back, but most victims, ranging in age from 18 to 29, were hit by stray bullets.

An employee at the venue, Sweet's Ballroom, who did not wish to be identified, referred to the scene as "chaos and pandemonium" with "everybody diving for cover".

Hassna said authorities were unaware of a motive behind the alleged shooting and there have been no arrests, the Tribune reported.

UPI

Arrest made in Utah church arson fires

SALT LAKE CITY, Oct. 31 (UPI) -- Utah police have arrested a man they say has taken responsibility for setting two church fires that caused about $1 million in damage.

South Salt Lake City police detective Gary Keller said Patrick Ehat, 26, of Salt Lake City, was taken into custody Sunday morning, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.

"He did take responsibility for the church fires," Keller said. "We haven't established a motive at this time. It's still under investigation. We're just glad we have this person off the street and people can feel safe in their communities".

Firefighters Saturday were called out to two fires at Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints meetinghouses. The chapel at the first church was destroyed, but damage at the second church was minimal caused mostly by smoke and water, the newspaper said.

Police say when Ehat was booked into the Salt Lake County Jail on suspicion of arson, burglary and criminal mischief he had sustained injuries consistent with climbing through a broken window.

UPI

Writer Harry Mulisch dies at 83


Dutch writer Harry Mulisch, author of The Assault (De Aanslag) and The Discovery of Heaven (De ontdekking van de Hemel), has died at the age of 83.
Mulisch, considered by many a candidate for the Nobel Prize for Literature, died of cancer at his Amsterdam home.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte called his death "a loss for Dutch literature and the Netherlands".
Mulisch wrote more than 30 works, several with a World War II theme.
The Discovery of Heaven (De ontdekking van de Hemel) was named Best Dutch Book Ever in 2007.
The jury was made up of Dutch newspaper readers.
Mulisch was born in Haarlem in the Netherlands. The Assault was his first major best-seller, set during World War II in the occupied Netherlands and looking at the ethical and political questions raised by the conflict.
The book was made into a film of the same name and won an Oscar and a Golden Globe for best foreign movie.
In the story of The Assault, innocent people are killed in retaliation for the death of a collaborator.
In real life, Mulisch's father had collaborated with the Germans.
The Discovery of Heaven was also made into a film in 2001 as The Discovery of Heaven by Jeroen Krabbé and starred Stephen Fry.
Other themes explored in Mulisch's work are the relationship between God and Man, and Greek mythology.
Among the awards Mulisch won for his work, the most important was the lifetime achievement award Prijs der Nederlandse Letteren (Prize of Dutch Literature) in 1995.
BBC News

David Cameron and Angela Merkel meet for talks


David Cameron has held "substantive" talks with the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, about Europe, security and trade, Downing Street says.
A spokesman said "there was absolute agreement between the leaders that restraint needed to be shown in EU spending" at the Chequers talks.
Both leaders want the 2011 EU budget to increase by no more than 2.9%.
Mr Cameron updated Mrs Merkel on the cargo bomb plot; they agreed to continue co-operation over terrorism.
The pair also discussed the state of the global economy in advance of the Seoul G20 summit.
It was also agreed that Britain, Germany, Turkey and Indonesia would set up a working group to look into ways of boosting global trade.
They group has been tasked to report early in the New Year with recommendations on how to liberalise trade.
It will be led by Peter Sutherland, a former head of the World Trade Organisation, and Jagdish Bhagwati, a trade expert and professor at New York's Columbia University.
Mr Cameron and Mrs Merkel also discussed foreign policy and in particular Afghanistan.
The Downing Street spokesman said they were both "steadfast" in their commitment to the Afghan mission.
The two leaders also called on Iran to return to the negotiating table on its nuclear programme and urged Israel and the Palestinians to commit to peace talks.
BBC News

Dozens of bodies found after clash at Afghan military base


Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) -- The bodies of about 80 people were found on the battlefield a day after attackers clashed with NATO and Afghan forces in southeastern Afghanistan, officials said Sunday.
Foreign fighters from Arab countries and Chechnya were among the bodies found, Paktika Province Governor Muhibullah Samim said.
The insurgents attacked a military base, Combat Outpost Margah, in Barmal district, a spokesman for the province's governor said.
All the people killed were insurgents, according to Farid Mukhlis, the governor's spokesman.
Authorities said no NATO or Afghan troops or civilians were killed in the clashes, which began at midnight Friday and continued into Saturday morning.
NATO's International Security Assistance Force said it had confirmed 38 dead, and based on helicopter camera footage estimated that more than 40 additional enemies were killed.
In addition, NATO forces recovered two wounded attackers from the battlefield.
CNN

Saudi king offers to host talks to end political stalemate in Iraq


Baghdad, Iraq (CNN) -- Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah offered Saturday to host talks in his kingdom aimed at ending the nearly eight-month political stalemate in Iraq, the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.
The king, in a statement published by the SPA, called on Iraqi leaders to meet in the Saudi capital of Riyadh after the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, around mid-November. He said the meeting would take place under the umbrella of the Arab League, a 22-member organization of Arab states.
"It is well-known to everyone that you are at a crossroads, a fact that necessitates your uniting the ranks, rising above your wounds, distancing the shadows of differences, and extinguishing the fire of abhorrent sectarianism," said the king, as reported by SPA.
"Our hands are outstretched to you. Let us work together for the security, integrity and stability of the land and brotherly people of Iraq," he said, addressing leaders.
The Iraqi government has been in limbo for months. Elections in March gave the opposition al-Iraqiya bloc two more seats in parliament than Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's National Alliance coalition, but al-Iraqiya has not been able to muster the support required -- 163 seats in the 325-member Parliament -- to form a new government.
The Saudi king's offer received a mixed response from inside Iraq.
CNN

Northern Ireland police defuse 2 bombs


(CNN) -- Police in Northern Ireland found two explosive devices and made them safe this weekend, they said Sunday.
"Both devices had the potential to cause injury and damage. They were left in places used by the public and with no regard for the public. It is thanks to the vigilance of individuals that no serious harm has been done," Assistant Chief Constable Duncan McCausland said Sunday.
No warnings were issued, police said.
The first explosive -- am 88-pound (40 kg) device in a beer keg -- was made safe by explosives officers after a member of the public raised the alarm in Lurgan, County Armagh, on Friday, police said.
The second device was in the long-stay parking lot at Belfast International Airport.
Staff spotted the vehicle, which contained a viable device along with suspected flammable liquid. It was made safe by explosives officers during the early hours of Sunday morning, police said.
The vehicle and its contents have been removed for further forensic examination, police said.
A spokeswoman added: "The suspicious vehicle does not bear any similarity to the security alerts at other airports in England and elsewhere over the past few days".
McCausland blamed "misguided individuals and groups who seek to drag the country back to mayhem and misery".
Northern Ireland suffered decades of violence between pro-Irish republicans and pro-British unionists, which left about 3,000 people dead.
The violence was largely ended by the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, which set up a power-sharing mechanism and led to local government in the province rather than direct rule from London.
CNN

Rousseff wins Brazil's presidential election race


Dilma Rousseff has been elected president of Brazil, succeeding Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, electoral officials have confirmed.
Ms Rousseff, 62, who had never before held elected office, becomes the country's first woman president.
She has enjoyed the full support of President Lula, who is leaving after two terms with record popularity.
Ms Rousseff has promised to continue policies that have fostered years of strong economic growth.
The Superior Electoral Court declared her the winner with 92% of the votes counted.
She has won 55% of those votes, with her main rival Jose Serra taking 46%.
This second round of voting was forced after Ms Rousseff fell short of the 50% needed in the 3 October first round. She won 47% to Mr Serra's 33%. More than 130 million voters were due to take part in the polls.
'New phase'
The career civil servant is expected to broadly continue Mr Lula's left-leaning policies, with an emphasis on raising government efficiency, expanding the role of the state in some sectors such as mining, and upgrading the country's decrepit infrastructure.
A bill aimed at reforming Brazil's Byzantine tax system is likely to be Ms Rousseff's first major legislative effort after taking over from President Lula on 1 January.
She can count on strengthened majorities for the ruling coalition in both houses of Congress to help ease the task of pushing her legislative agenda.
Ms Rousseff flashed a victory sign and gave a big smile to photographers after casting her vote in the southern city of Porto Alegre.
"Tomorrow we begin a new phase in our democracy", she said.
"I will govern for everyone, speak for all Brazilians, without exceptions".
After casting his vote in Sao Paulo, Mr Serra of the Social Democratic Party said that after eight years of government by the Workers Party, Brazil needed change.
But he said he had faced an "uneven battle", in apparent reference to the booming economy that has boosted the popularity of President Lula and his preferred successor.
Jose Serra, 68, is a former governor of Sao Paulo, Brazil's most populous state, and a former health minister.
Mr Lula has been active and highly visible in Ms Rousseff's election campaign. He has to step down after completing the maximum allowed two consecutive terms.
BBC News

Dilma Rousseff set to be Brazil's first female president


Brazil was on the verge of electing its first female president today, with the first exit polls predicting that Dilma Rousseff, a former Marxist rebel, had won after taking 58 percent of the vote.
An estimated 135 million Brazilians were due to choose between Rousseff, the 62-year-old Workers' party (PT) candidate, and Jose Serra, a 68-year-old former health minister from the Social Democracy party (PSDB).
While the exits polls from Brazil's Globo television network indicated that victory was in Rousseff's grasp, electoral officials overseeing the official count said that with 85 percent of the vote counted, she was leading with 54.67 percent to Serra's 45.33 percent.
Rousseff, the chosen successor of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, was forced into a potentially tricky run-off with Serra earlier this month after a surprise showing from the Green party candidate Marina Silva denied her an outright majority.
But recent days have seen the book-loving former chief of staff pull away from her rival, opening up a 10-15% lead by flaunting her relationship with President Lula on the airwaves and vowing to push on with his "social revolution".
In a televised debate on Friday Rousseff, who had plastic surgery to boost her appeal, said: "I promise to create a country filled with opportunities for everyone, where millions of Brazilians are able to enjoy access to the material benefits of civilisation.
"Twenty-eight million Brazilians have been lifted out of poverty and I will remove the remaining 20 million".
Serra, meanwhile, has visited some 120 Brazilian cities in an attempt to rally support and reportedly indulged in daily doses of honey to improve his ability to communicate with voters.
The Guardian

Dilma Rousseff Sent Money to Ailing Bulgarian Brother in 2006

Dilma Rousseff, Brazil's newly elected President, decided on her own to help financially her ailing Bulgarian half-brother in 2006, Novinite.com (Sofia News Agency) learned.
Dilma Rousseff, the first woman to become President of Brazil, is the daughter of Bulgarian immigrant Petar Rousseff (1900-1962), who left Bulgaria in 1929. Dilma's Bulgarian half-brother from Rusev's first marriage was Lyuben-Kamen Rusev (1930-2008).
In 2006, Lyuben Rusev, a successful Bulgarian engineer who by that time was a childless and ailing old man living in Sofia with his wife, received a certain sum of money from his sister in Brazil without having requested it, Bulgarian diplomat Rumen Stoyanov told Novinite.com (Sofia News Agency) in an exclusive interview.
Stoyanov, a long-time Bulgarian diplomat in Brazil and a professor of Latin American studies, helped Lyuben Rusev by translating into Portuguese letters to his sister Dilma, who by that time had become part of the Cabinet of Brazil's President Lula da Silva.
Stoyanov is positive that Lyuben Rusev never asked his sister for any money but that she must have decided on her own to do this generous gesture, i.e. to help out her brother who she really wanted to meet but never managed to.
The former diplomat, who first met Dilma Rousseff's mother in Belo Horizonte in 1973, says this occurred after a few years ago he accompanied Bulgaria's honorary consul in Rio de Janeiro, Joao Vaz, in 2005 to meet Lyuben Rusev.
"One day I got a phone call from a Brazilian man, who told me he was in the Kempinski hotel in Sofia, and that I should go there because he had something for me. I went to pick that thing and it turned out to be a sum in euro sent by Dilma Rousseff to her brother, without the brother ever having requested money from her. I can verify that as a translator of the letter. I don't know if it is appropriate for me to reveal the exact sum but it was a certain amount of euro ending in three zeros. I gave it to her brother. I suppose that the consul told something to Dilma Rousseff, and she decided that it was good idea to help her brother out financially," Stoyanov said.
Novinite

Dilma Rousseff elected Brazilian president

The ruling Workers Party's candidate Dilma Rousseff has been elected Brazil's president, the South American country's Supreme Electoral Court said after processing 93.34% of the vote in Sunday's election runoff.
Rousseff, who enjoys full support of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, gained the backing of 55.49% of voters and became the country's first female president.
Silva was first elected as Brazil's president in 2002 and was re-elected in 2006. Under the Brazilian Constitution, the country's president is elected to a four-year term, with a limit of two terms.
RIA Novosti

Brazil Leader’s Chosen Successor Wins Presidency

By REUTERS
SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Former guerrilla leader Dilma Rousseff won Brazil's presidential election on Sunday after promising to stick to policies that have lifted millions from poverty and made Brazil one of the world's hottest economies.
Brazil's election authorities officially called the vote in Rousseff's favor after she amassed 55.7 percent of valid votes compared to 44.3 percent for opposition candidate Jose Serra, with 95 percent of votes tallied.
The result completed an unlikely journey for Rousseff that took her from jail and brutal torture by her military captors in the 1970s to become the first woman to lead Latin America's largest economy.
An economist and former energy minister who leans left but has become more pragmatic over time, Rousseff had never run for elected office. Yet she received decisive support from Brazil's wildly popular President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who plucked her from relative obscurity to succeed him.
"I think she will continue Lula's work," said Elizabete Gomes da Silva, a factory worker in Sao Paulo. "He governed for the people who needed him most -- the poorest".
During Lula's eight years in office, his stable fiscal policies and social programs helped lift 20 million Brazilians, or more than 10 percent of the population, out of poverty.
The burgeoning middle class is snapping up cars and building houses at a pace never seen in Brazil before, helping make it a rare bright spot in the global economy along with other developing giants such as China and India.
That legacy was simply too much for Serra to overcome.
Serra mustered just enough support in the first round of voting on October 3 to force a runoff, and briefly closed in on Rousseff in subsequent polls. But she pulled away in the final two weeks as the focus shifted away from her views on social issues such as abortion and back to Lula's economic record.
Rousseff is Lula's former chief of staff and vows to build on his successes by upgrading Brazil's woeful roads, schools and other infrastructure as the country prepares to host the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games.
She also seeks to exploit Brazil's newfound offshore oil wealth and expand the state's role in the energy sector while continuing to court private investment.
"Her government will focus primarily on solving Brazil's bottlenecks," Fernando Pimentel, a close adviser to her campaign, said in a recent interview.
Rousseff lacks Lula's charisma, and she has shown limited interest in passing major economic reforms, such as an overhaul of Brazil's onerous tax code, that many investors say are necessary to reduce the high cost of doing business.
Some investors also fear she could expand the state's role too much in some areas while failing to rein in heavy budget spending, which has pressured Brazil's real and helped make it the world's most overvalued currency by some measures.
Still, Brazil's stock market, bonds and currency all posted gains in the run-up to the vote -- a stark contrast to the financial panic that preceded the 2002 election of Lula, a former radical.
FROM JAIL TO PRESIDENTIAL CONFIDANT
Rousseff's road to the presidency of the world's eighth-biggest economy was hardly traditional.
The daughter of a well-to-do Bulgarian immigrant, Rousseff joined a leftist guerrilla group during the 1960s and resisted the military dictatorship of that era. She was then jailed for three years and repeatedly tortured with electric shocks.
Upon her release from prison in 1973, she moderated her views and studied economics. She ascended through a range of mid-level government posts in southern Brazil and never showed much political ambition until Lula made her his energy minister, his chief of staff, and then his chosen successor.
Lula has acknowledged Rousseff lacks political experience but chose her because of her skill as a technocrat and administrator. He says those qualities will be critical over the next four years as Brazil tries to bring its infrastructure in line with its ambitions as an emerging world power.
Lula, 65, was barred by the constitution from running for a third consecutive term, but the election of a close lieutenant without a long-standing base of her own may also allow him to remain involved in policy after he steps down on January 1.
On the eve of the election, Rousseff herself said: "Lula will always be present in my government".
Rousseff survived a bout of moderate cancer last year. More recently, she overcame a last-minute corruption scandal that forced a former top aide to resign.
OPPOSITION WILL TRY TO REGROUP
In coming days, Rousseff will be under scrutiny to see whether she makes difficult economic reforms a priority, and whether she fills top cabinet posts with members of the market-friendly wing of her Workers' Party.
The winner of Brazil's presidential election often holds a news conference the day after the vote.
Rousseff's ruling coalition will enjoy a wide majority in Congress that, in theory, should even give her the 60 percent of votes necessary to pass constitutional amendments.
In practice, though, the fractious nature of Brazilian politics -- there are 10 parties in her coalition -- will challenge Rousseff's relatively unproven skills as a dealmaker. She will also face an emboldened opposition PSDB party, which despite Serra's apparent defeat is already vowing to be tougher on her than they were on Lula.
"We cannot let the executive (branch) impose everything, as if this were a monarchy," said Aecio Neves, a senator-elect from Minas Gerais and the likely new leader of the opposition.
Still, the focus for now is on Rousseff and how she plans to continue Brazil's recent run of prosperity.
"The country has never been as good as it is now," said Milton Carneiro, an engineer who voted for Rousseff at a school in Brasilia. "I hope things will continue this way".
(Additional reporting by Eduardo Simoes and Peter Murphy; Editing by Todd Benson and Kieran Murray)
The New York Times

Theodore Sorensen, JFK's speechwriter, has died


(CNN) -- Theodore C. Sorensen, a close adviser and speechwriter to President John F. Kennedy, has died, the White House said Sunday.
He was 82.
Though he wore a number of hats in his relationship with Kennedy and later in life, he is best known publicly as the wordsmith who helped put Kennedy's ideas to paper in what remain some of the most recognizable speeches in American political history.
The youngest top official in the Kennedy White House, Sorensen was an influential policy adviser and a presidential confidante.
He served as special counsel and speechwriter to Kennedy from 1961 to 1963, and participated in secret White House meetings during the Cuban Missile Crisis, according to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library.
Sorensen was a key aide on Kennedy's 1960 presidential campaign and had earlier served as a speechwriter and assistant to Kennedy during his Senate years.
After Kennedy's 1963 assassination, Sorensen helped to shape the young president's legacy, writing four books on the Kennedy years, including the 1965 volume "Kennedy".
Sorensen also played an important role in helping the future president shape 1956's "Profiles in Courage".
A 2008 memoir, "Counselor: A Life at the Edge of History," was a candid look at his relationship with Kennedy.
Sorensen was often asked whether he wrote the classic line from Kennedy's 1961 inaugural address, "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country".
"Having no satisfactory answer, I long ago started answering the oft-repeated question as to its authorship with the smiling retort: 'Ask not,' " Sorensen wrote in "Counselor".
The lawyer later served as special counsel to President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1963 and 1964.
Sorensen played a major role in completing Sen. Robert F. Kennedy's book "Thirteen Days," based on notes left after the latter's 1968 assassination.
"I got to know Ted after he endorsed my campaign early on," President Barack Obama said in a statement Sunday. "He was just as I hoped he'd be -- just as quick-witted, just as serious of purpose, just as determined to keep America true to our highest ideals".
A native of Lincoln, Nebraska, Sorensen received his law degree in 1951, according to the publication Current Biography. He soon became an administrative assistant to Kennedy, then a newly elected U.S. senator from Massachusetts.
A chief goal was getting Kennedy elected president. Sorensen's efforts included helping Kennedy overcome anti-Catholic prejudice during the successful 1960 campaign.
Sorensen's later career included serving as an attorney in Manhattan, attending Democratic conventions and serving as a presidential and political adviser, according to the JFK Library.
CNN