Howdy folks-Clem Lane here. President Obama heads to Italy tomorrow for the G-8. Full report on tomorrow's WORLD NEWS. Here's tonight's note….
MICHAEL JACKSON MEMORIAL: Family and thousands of fans turned out at the Staples Center to remember pop singer Michael Jackson in an extravagant memorial service broadcast live worldwide; quite fitting for someone who’s every move was scrutinized. “Michael Jackson's family, friends and fans remembered him in death today, in much the same way he lived his life: with flamboyance and flair,” Charles Gibson reported on WORLD NEWS. “It's not everyone, after all, who has a gold casket, covered in a blanket of red roses, at center stage of a star-studded ceremony with almost 20 thousand in attendance. The biggest surprise was the public appearance of his three children – on stage at the end of the service. Their father had gone to extreme lengths to shield them from the public. His daughter Paris even spoke – in tears – at the end.” Following the ceremony, Jackson’s family and friends attended a luncheon at the Beverly Wilshire hotel. Jackson’s final resting place has not been revealed. (thanks to Marisa Bramwell for this entry)
OBAMA IN RUSSIA/DAY TWO-President Obama’s second day in Moscow highlighted the difficulties the U.S. may have in “re-setting” their relationship with Russia. President Obama had a breakfast meeting with Russian Prime Minister Putin, asking the de facto Russian leader “How did we get here”? Jake Tapper, filing for WORLD NEWS, reports that “what followed was a nearly hour-long discourse by Putin on the history of the US-Russian relations since the Cold War…later today President Obama told former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, ‘I thought it was important to listen’.” Tapper, filing for ABC NEWS DIGITAL MEDIA, said that “Putin was apparently appreciative, saying before their meeting that he was looking forward to moving past ‘periods of, shall we say, grayish mood between our two countries and of stagnation.’ ‘We may not end up agreeing on everything,’ (President Obama) said, ‘but I think that we can have a tone of mutual respect and consultation that will serve both the American people and the Russian people well.’
In much the same way that the President reached out to Muslim audiences last month, President Obama spoke to a group of graduates from one of Moscow’s leading universities, as well as meeting with opposition figures in a Moscow hotel later in the day. Tapper noted that “the President was mindful (in his speech) that Russians complain the U.S. has talked down to them for too long and in an interview with ABC NEWS he called this new tone vital for national security.” No hype here-Russian cooperation is critical in helping the U.S. with countries like North Korea and Iran. Obama told Tapper in his interview “On North Korea what we saw was very strong unanimity around very strong sanctions that even two or three years ago might not have been imposed by either China or Russia. We’re going to have to see whether a country like Russia for example is willing to work with us to apply pressure on Iran.”
President Obama was mindful of the event happening some 6100 miles from Moscow-the Michael Jackson Memorial. Tapper notes that Obama said “that Michael Jackson, like Elvis, was somebody who captivated the imagination of the country. ‘I assume at some point’, he told me, ‘people will start focusing again on things like nuclear weapons?”
The President heads to Italy for the start of the G-8 summit tomorrow.
CHINA/ETHNIC UNREST: There was new violence today in the capital of China’s Xinjiang Province. Hundreds of young Han Chinese men rampaged through the streets of Urumqi carrying any weapon they could find – meat cleavers, shovels, steel pipes, wooden poles – smashing the windows of Muslim restaurants and neighborhoods. But riot police were also there and got the upper hand, with volleys of tear gas and a massive show of force. Eventually the crowd thinned out and a 9pm to 8am curfew was imposed. This is the latest in a lengthy dispute between the Han Chinese and the Muslim Uighurs. The Uighurs say the latest chapter began a couple of weeks ago when some Uighur factory workers were killed in a brawl in the southern Chinese City of Shaoguan. Accounts and photos of the incident turned up on the internet. Then on Sunday there was what began as a peaceful protest in Urumqi – peaceful until rioting broke out and 156 people were killed. Today, Secretary of State Clinton put in her two cents worth, “calling on all sides to exercise restraint.” And there’s word tonight that Chinese President Hu Jintao, in Italy for the G-8 summit, has decided to return to China because of the violence in western China. (thanks to Ed Bailey for this entry)
HONDURAS-Secretary of State Hilary Clinton met with deposed Honduran leader Jose Manuel Zelaya today and announced afterwards that Costa Rican president Oscar Arias has agreed to mediate talks between Zelaya and the “new” Honduran President Roberto Micheletti’s government. They will begin in Costa Rica on Thursday.
SARAH PALIN- Sarah Palin has returned to work as Alaska governor following the abrupt announcement that she's resigning. Palin appeared at a bill-signing ceremony in the remote western
Alaska coastal community of Kotzebue. She said afterward that she's absolutely sure Alaska will be better off with Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell at the head of Alaska government. In an interview with Kate Snow conducted late last night, Palin wanted to make sure people knew why she was leaving her post. Snow, filing for WORLD NEWS earlier this evening, said that “what (Palin) wanted to make clear…that ethics complaints forced her staff to waste time and money defending her.” Palin was coy when Snow asked her if she would be running for President in 2012 saying only “Don’t know what the future holds. I’m not gonna shut any door.”
FOOD SAFETY- A food safety working group established by President Barack Obama said Tuesday that the government will try and boost the safety of some of the nation's most popular foods, announcing stricter rules for the production of eggs, poultry, beef, leafy greens, melons and tomatoes. The new standards are an effort to reduce instances of salmonella and E. coli contamination. The group, headed by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, is also directing the Food and Drug Administration to help the food industry establish better tracing systems in the event of an outbreak, so the origins of a disease can be quickly found, and is creating a new network so the many agencies that regulate food safety can better communicate.
FEDERAL BUILDINGS/SECURITY-Pierre Thomas will have an exclusive look at a GAO undercover investigation into security (or lack thereof) in federal buildings on GOOD MORNING AMERICA tomorrow.
–SENATOR FRANKEN– With the visitors galleries packed and a few dozen Senators in attendance, Vice President Biden just administered the oath of office to Senator Al Franken. Immediately afterward, the chamber erupted into a applause that lasted for several minutes. Senator Amy Klobuchar and former Vice President Walter Mondale – also a former Minnesota Senator – escorted Franken on the Senate floor. (Jon Karl)
–RUTH MADOFF-Federal prosecutors allowed Ruth Madoff to get her passport back today, in what people involved in the case said was "a clear sign" she will not be prosecuted as an accomplice in her husband's $65 billion Ponzi scheme. She had surrendered the passport as part of her husband's bail condition, and Judge Denny Chin authorized the court's pre-trial services division to return it to her, in an order entered yesterday. (Brian Ross/Kate McCarthy)
–SONIA SOTOMAYOR-The Senate Judiciary Committee is set to begin hearings Monday on Sotomayor’s nomination to replace Justice David Souter on the Supreme Court. Today a letter from an influential PAC putting Ms. Sotomayor on notice about the importance of maintaining the 2nd amendment. The NRA – influential with Republicans and some conservative Democrats – said senators should question Sotomayor on her views on the Second Amendment and curbs on the right to bear arms, and threatened to oppose her if her answers were "hostile or evasive." In a letter to senators, Chris W. Cox, the group's executive director, said Sotomayor had been "dismissive" of the Second Amendment, particularly in an appeals court ruling that held it only limits the federal government – not states. Compare that to the American Bar Association’s take on Ms. Sotomayor. The national lawyers’ group rated her "well-qualified" to be a justice after its members conducted scores of confidential interviews with her colleagues and pored through her record and writings to assess her integrity, qualifications and temperament.
–PAINKILLER WARNING- The government is letting the painkillers Darvocet, Darvon and their generic cousins stay on the market but ordered stronger warnings against deadly overdoses on Tuesday. The FDA ordered that a stern boxed warning be placed on the drug's label, and that patients soon start receiving a special pamphlet with every bottle that stresses the risk of taking too much. Public Citizen had petitioned the FDA for a phased withdrawal of propoxyphene, saying that the drug had been associated with more than 2000 accidental deaths in this country since 1981. The FDA’s decision contrasts with Britain, which banned the drugs several years ago, citing a trail of suicides and accidental overdoses. Europe’s drug regulators just recommended that European Union countries do the same. Joanna Schaffhausen says that “Drug safety experts agree with Public Citizen that the FDA black box warnings on propoxyphene (Darvon, Darvocet) do not go far enough; they feel the drugs should be removed from the US market.”
–LANCE ARMSTRONG-After 3 and ½ years of retirement, you’d think Lance Armstrong might be a bit rusty. Wrong! The seven-time champion surged from third place to second at the
Tour de France on Tuesday after his Astana squad won a team time trial in a dramatic finish. Armstrong erased all but a sliver of his 40-second deficit to leader Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland in the fourth stage. The only thing separating him from the yellow jersey now is a fraction of a second.
–OIL PRICES- Oil prices fell for the fifth straight day today, with a barrel costing $10 less than it did just one week ago when crude hit a new high for the year. Benchmark crude for August delivery settled at $62.93 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, down $1.12.