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Clintons emerge in NY on eve of Chelsea’s wedding

In Uncategorized on July 31, 2010 at 7:18 am

Bill Clinton made a long-anticipated appearance in the upstate New York village where his daughter is getting married, drawing crowds of onlookers Friday afternoon as preparations continued largely out of sight for the grand and secretive occasion.

In the evening, hundreds of people gathered outside the hotel where many of the guests are staying to catch a glimpse of the former president with his wife, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Shortly before 11 p.m., the Clintons exited a van arm-in-arm outside the Beekman Arms Hotel. The former first lady, in a long, green dress, waved to the cheering crowd waiting behind metal barricades outside and quickly went into the hotel. They left about a half-hour later.

Earlier in the day, Bill Clinton, looking fit and relaxed in blue jeans and a black knit shirt, walked with security a few blocks north from the picturesque village’s main intersection to the restaurant Gigi Trattoria.

Bill and Hillary Clinton leave a party in honor of Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky Friday, July 30, 2010 in Rhinebeck, N.Y

To questions blurted from the huge crowd he attracted, Clinton rattled off easy answers.

How are you?

“We’re all fine.”

“We love it here,” he said. “Chelsea loves the area as well.”

Chelsea Clinton is expected to marry her longtime boyfriend, investment banker Marc Mezvinsky, at a ceremony Saturday evening attended by 400 to 500 people at the grand Astor Courts, an estate on the scenic east bank of the Hudson River. Rumors had abounded for weeks leading up to Friday, including one that Rhinebeck was an elaborate decoy planned by the media-shy Chelsea and that the wedding would be elsewhere.

The appearance of the former president put all the conspiracy talk to rest.

And what does he think of his soon-to-be son-in-law?

“I like him very much,” the popular Democrat said, picking up more people with each passing step. “I really do. I admire him. Hillary feels the same way.”

The sight of an ex-president captivated many in the crowd. For the record, Dutchess County, which contains Rhinebeck, voted for Clinton and Al Gore in 1996.

“We thought it was great that he walked down here,” said Carol Chestney, of Rhinebeck. “He could have parked right outside. He looks great.”

Marybeth Cale, also of Rhinebeck, said: “It’s amazing, all this excitement. We’re thrilled that he’s here.”

After lunch, Clinton slowly wound his way out of a restaurant, taking time to shake hands with the kitchen staff and customers, who took pictures of him with their cell phones. The restaurant’s owner said it would be impolite to reveal what he had for lunch.

He emerged to an enthusiastic crowd of hundreds of people who shouted, “We love you!” and “Congratulations!” He took a moment to comfort a little girl who got jostled by the huge crowd but broke into a huge grin after the former president asked her name and whether she was all right.

There are still mysteries.

The VIP guest list is said to include such A-listers as Oprah Winfrey, Steven Spielberg and some of the Clintons’ powerful political allies, and the village was filling up with the curious hoping to catch a glimpse of an honored guest. Madeleine Albright, who was secretary of state during Clinton’s second term as president, was seen at the Beekman Arms Hotel.

“Maybe I’ll see someone, maybe I won’t,” said Rhinebeck resident Linda Gray, as she sat on a sidewalk bench and watched the hubbub. “I think the fun of the whole thing outweighs the traffic problems.”

Meanwhile, a longtime Clinton family friend adamantly denied that the cost of the wedding would be more than $1 million. The friend, who spoke on condition of anonymity in keeping with the family’s desire for privacy, said the cost of the wedding will not exceed six figures. Wedding experts told The Associated Press the wedding could cost $2 million to $3 million, while some media reports put the cost as high as $5 million.

State troopers directed the growing number of cars driving through the village and security guards were posted outside a private estate, just south of town, that is reportedly the site of the rehearsal dinner Friday night. Around 7 p.m., a stream of vehicles, including a shuttle full of young women, pulled past the security checkpoint into the estate. SUVs with dark glass silently guarded long driveways to other secluded estates along the winding rural roads outside the village.

Andrea Alvin, who lives on the same road as Astor Courts, told The Associated Press that state police notified her three or four days ago that the road would be closed from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and gave her a sticker so she could get in and out. She came home Thursday to find a bottle of wine from the nearby Clinton Vineyards, courtesy of the wedding planner. It came with a note apologizing for any inconvenience and included a phone number to call if there were any problems.

“I think it’s great. It’s a happy occasion,” she said. “It’s good publicity for the town. It’s just a weekend. What’s losing a weekend in the summer?”

Chelsea and Mezvinsky were friends as teenagers in Washington, and both attended Stanford University. They now live in New York, where Mezvinsky works at G3 Capital, a Manhattan hedge fund. Mezvinsky worked previously at Goldman Sachs as an investment banker.

Clinton completed her master’s degree in public health this spring at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University.

Mezvinsky is a son of former U.S. Reps. Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky of Pennsylvania and Ed Mezvinsky of Iowa, longtime friends of the Clintons. His parents are divorced.

Ed Mezvinsky was released from federal prison last year after serving a nearly five-year sentence for wire and bank fraud. Margolies-Mezvinsky served just one term in Congress before losing her seat in 1994 after voting in favor of President Clinton’s 1993 budget, which was controversial at the time.

Source: SGGP

NY bomber charged with terrorism, Pakistan links

In Uncategorized on May 5, 2010 at 8:37 am

NEW YORK (AFP) – A Pakistani-American man was charged with international terrorism in the attempted car bombing of New York’s Times Square after he was captured aboard a plane about to leave the country.

Faisal Shahzad, 30, is alleged to be the man who drove a Nissan SUV crammed with a large, but malfunctioning bomb into Manhattan’s busiest neighborhood last Saturday, as thousands flocked to theaters and other tourist attractions.

An image of terror suspect Faisal Shahzad is seen on a TV screen (AFP photo)

He was arrested in a dramatic scene at John F. Kennedy Airport just before midnight Monday when his Emirates Airline flight was preparing to take off for Dubai.

The arrest came 53 hours after police found the homemade bomb literally smoldering in the SUV parked outside a theater staging “The Lion King” musical. The teeming Times Square district was evacuated and a huge manhunt got underway.

On Tuesday, Shahzad underwent interrogation about alleged links in the plot to Pakistan. The criminal charges allege that he attended “bomb-making training” in Pakistan’s Wazirstan region prior to the attack.

Attorney General Eric Holder said Shahzad, a naturalized US citizen, admitted involvement in the bomb attempt.

FBI Deputy Director John Pistole said the suspect, seen in photographs as a fresh-faced, lightly bearded man, was cooperating and had “provided valuable intelligence and evidence.”

However Shahzad, born in Pakistan and made a US citizen only last year, did not appear before a judge Tuesday as expected. He has not yet entered a plea.

Officials gave no reason for the delay.

The 10-page criminal complaint filed Tuesday accuses the Connecticut resident of attempting “to use a weapon of mass destruction” to kill people in the crowded center of New York on Saturday.

He also faced four other charges — attempting to kill people in the United States through international terrorism, carrying a destructive device, transporting explosives and attempting to destroy a building.

If convicted, he could be sentenced to life in prison.

One of the most serious aspects of the case, according to officials, are possible ties between Shahzad’s alleged plot and Islamist militants in his family homeland of Pakistan.

In Karachi, security officials said they had detained two people who had been called from Shahzad’s telephone.

A Pakistani official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the pair were relatives of the New York suspect, although they themselves were not being accused of having direct links to the car bomb attempt.

According to the US criminal complaint, Shahzad admitted “after his arrest that he had received bomb-making traiing in Waziristan, Pakistan.”

The alleged visit to the Al-Qaeda and Taliban stronghold presumably occurred during a five-month trip the complaint says Shahzad made to Pakistan, returning February 3 without his wife.

He told immigration officials on return to United States that he’d been visiting his parents, the complaint said.

President Barack Obama praised police for their swift work.

“This incident is another sobering reminder of the times in which we live,” Obama said, adding: “We will not be terrorized, we will not cower in fear.”

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg vowed that militants would fail to intimidate “the greatest city in the world” and also warned he would not tolerate any backlash against local Muslims or Pakistanis.

All night after Shahzad’s arrest, the FBI searched his home in Bridgeport, Connecticut, hauling belongings into the street and marking evidence with yellow tags.

Officials said Tuesday he was talking. Initially they used a little-known law to delay reading him his Miranda rights, which permit a suspect to remain silent and not incriminate himself.

According to security officials, the bomb would have created a “fireball” and “mayhem” had it gone off.

But it was also so poorly constructed that it failed to go off, gifting detectives a mass of evidence, ranging from the car itself, the bomb, and even house keys left in the vehicle.

What remains unclear is how Shahzad, by then one of the most wanted men in America, managed to buy a ticket, clear passport control and board an airplane at JFK on Monday.

Officials on Tuesday denied he could have got away.

“I was never in any fear that we were in danger of losing him,” Holder said.

Janet Napolitano, secretary of homeland security, told journalists that Shahzad was on a no-fly list and that even if the plane had taken off there were powers “to order the plane to turn around and come back.”

New York has been on constant watch since the September 11, 2001 attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center, killing almost 3,000 people.

So far, the only group to claim responsibility for the would-be bombing is the Pakistani militant group Tehreek-e-Taliban. US officials quickly dismissed the credibility of the claim.

Source: SGGP

Man arrested over NY bomb attempt: reports

In Uncategorized on May 4, 2010 at 8:40 am

A man identified as a US citizen of Pakistani origin was arrested in connection with an attempted car bombing in New York’s Times Square, news media reported Tuesday.

A police car is seen in Times Square, New York May 3, 2010.

MSNBC television identified the man as Shahad Faisal, a Pakistani-American, and said he was arrested on Long Island, New York.

The New York Times said the suspect lived in the US state of Connecticut.

Authorities had launched a massive manhunt with the FBI’s terrorism task force and local New York police to try to catch the would-be bomber.


Source: SGGP

Pakistani-American arrested over NY bomb plot

In Uncategorized on May 4, 2010 at 8:36 am

Police arrested a Pakistan-born suspect trying to flee aboard a plane to Dubai after the failed Times Square bomb plot that officials said Tuesday was designed “to kill Americans”.

US Attorney General Eric Holder identified the suspect as Faisal Shahzad, a US citizen who the FBI said was born in Pakistan. Holder said the probe was focusing on “overseas” terrorist groups.

News reports said the suspect, aged 30, lived in Connecticut and had recently returned from a five-month trip to Pakistan and the city of Peshawar, a known jumping off point for Al-Qaeda and Taliban recruits.

“Mr. Shahzad, an American citizen, was taken into custody at JFK Airport in New York as he attempted to board a flight to Dubai,” Holder told a hastily called news conference in Washington after midnight.

Police officers stand guard in Times Square May 3, 2010 in New York City. A suspect in the attempted Times Square bomb attack in New York was arrested trying to board a plane for Dubai, US Attorney General Eric Holder said Tuesday

Authorities offered few other details but said the investigation into the attempted attack late Saturday was being pursued on several fronts.

“This investigation is ongoing, it is multi-faceted, and it is aggressive,” Holder said.

“As we move forward, we will focus on not just holding those responsible for it accountable, but also on obtaining any intelligence about terrorist organizations overseas.”

Holder said of the attempted attack that it was “clear that the intent behind this terrorist act was to kill Americans.”

A separate statement from the FBI and other law enforcement agencies said Shahzad was taken into custody after “he was identified by the Department of Homeland Security’s US Customs and Border Protection while attempting to take a flight to Dubai.”

The main was to appear later Tuesday to face “formal charges,” which were not specified.

News reports said the man was a 30-year-old Pakistani-American living in the state of Connecticut.

ABC News reported that Shahzad, a naturalized American citizen, had recently returned from a five-month trip to Pakistan.

ABC said officials tracked Shahzad over two days using evidence found in the Nissan Pathfinder left at the scene and the unexploded bomb components.

According to authorities, Shahzad bought the vehicle one week before the bombing attempt, paying 1,300 dollars in cash for the vehicle in 100 bills, the network said.

Part of the probe centered on two people captured on film leaving the scene late Saturday, New York Police Department (NYPD) Commissioner Raymond Kelly said Monday.

One was caught on security camera walking away from the green Nissan Pathfinder that had been left in the teeming tourist area with a large but misfiring bomb inside.

The man looked about in a “furtive” manner, Kelly said, and removed one layer of upper clothing.

Police were also combing the Nissan sport utility vehicle and its rudimentary bomb consisting of timers, wires, fireworks, gasoline, propane tanks and fertilizer.

New York has been on constant watch for potential attacks since the September 11, 2001, airliner attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center, killing almost 3,000 people.

So far, the only group to claim responsibility for the would-be bombing is the Pakistani militant group Tehreek-e-Taliban.

This was quickly dismissed by Bloomberg and Kelly. However, a video emerged showing Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud — reported to have been killed months ago — vowing to attack major US cities.

Another possible indication of jihadist links is the similarity of the botched bombing to a failed double car bomb attempt in London’s entertainment districts in 2007.

In Washington, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the attack clearly qualified as terrorism. “I would say that was intended to terrorize,” he said. “Whoever did that would be categorized as a terrorist.”

Source: SGGP

NY car bomb threatened ‘very deadly event’: officials

In Uncategorized on May 3, 2010 at 8:37 am

A car bomb that threatened a “very deadly event” failed to go off Saturday in the heart of New York‘s Times Square, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Sunday.

“We are very lucky… (to) avoid what could have been a very deadly event,” Bloomberg said at an impromptu press conference. “The bomb squad confirmed that the suspicious vehicle indeed did contain an explosive device.”

Bloomberg also said the bomb was homemade and “looked amateurish” but “certainly could have exploded.”

New York Police Department (NYPD) Commissioner Raymond Kelly said the device consisted of three propane tanks, consumer-grade fireworks, two gasoline containers, wires and two clocks.

Times Square, one of the busiest areas of New York, remained under police lock down hours after the incident as security forces entered a huge manhunt for the driver of the dark green Nissan Pathfinder.

“We do not know who drove the car,” Bloomberg said. “We have no idea who did this or why.”

Police seal off Times Square. A car bomb that threatened a very deadly event failed to go off Saturday in the heart of New York’s Times Square, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Sunday

Kelly said that the Nissan with tinted windows had license plates belonging to a different vehicle and had been caught driving in the area just before the incident.

Police began “observing white smoke inside and coming out of the rear of the vehicle,” Kelly said, and “began to clear pedestrians.” Fire fighters, then bomb squad staff were called in.

No detail was given on how the components were meant to have fitted together and whether the clocks were used as timers.

The bomb scare raised tensions across the United States where security forces have been on edge since a Christmas Day alleged attempt by a Nigerian man to set off a bomb on a US airliner.

The White House said President Barack Obama was briefed “on the excellent work by the NYPD in relation to the incident in Times Square” at about 10:45 pm Saturday (0245 GMT Sunday).

“The president commended the quick action by the NYPD and asked John Brennan to communicate to NYPD that the federal government is prepared to provide support,” White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said in a statement.

New York City police are on constant alert after a string of terrorist plots and alleged plots in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Source: SGGP

Gowns and helmets at first NY Philharmonic show in Vietnam

In Social life on October 18, 2009 at 3:00 am

Gowns and helmets at first NY Philharmonic show in Vietnam

QĐND – Saturday, October 17, 2009, 19:24 (GMT+7)

Evening gowns and motorcycle helmets were the contrasting attire as the New York Philharmonic played its first concert in Vietnam after a historic visit to North Korea last year.

Inside the cosy French colonial-era Hanoi Opera House, a mixed crowd of Vietnamese and Westerners, some in evening dress, filled almost every seat beneath a large chandelier.

Except for the occasional click of a camera shutter, they watched in mesmerized silence as the black-clad orchestra performed Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 conducted by Alan Gilbert, with Emanuel Ax on the piano.

Outside, dozens of Vietnamese, many of them young, pulled up on their motor scooters to watch the performance free on two giant screens that flanked the concert hall.

A never-ending stream of constantly honking traffic flowed past them but could not drown out the towering banks of loudspeakers and the melodies which lingered in the night air.

Do Van Son, 50, a motorcycle taxi driver, parked his bike in front of the screen, not caring that he would give up much of the 100,000 dong (5.5 dollars) he usually earns in a night.

“What I have is music, and a loss of income today does not mean anything,” Son said, admitting there are not many classical music fans in his country.

“This is a special case, when a world-famous orchestra comes to Vietnam.”

Mai Suong, a fourth-year violin student, also watched outside with several other students from the local music conservatory.

“The performance was great,” she said. “I dream to become one of them of course, but I don’t think I’m good enough.”

Gilbert, who became the orchestra’s music director last month, said before the concert that, for him, coming to Vietnam was the “realization of a dream come true.”

On Friday night the audience shouted its approval and applauded for about three minutes at the conclusion of the concerto, prompting Ax to return for an encore piano solo.

Officials from Vietnam and the United States said the Friday and Saturday concerts will help to further cement ties that have grown diplomatically, economically and culturally since the two countries normalized relations in 1995 two decades after their war ended.

But US ambassador Michael Michalak said it was not fair to compare the Philharmonic’s visit to Vietnam with its trip to Pyongyang in February 2008, when the orchestra was the largest US delegation in years to visit North Korea.

Fast-modernizing Vietnam has a booming market economy and is increasingly courting international exposure.

“It’s putting Hanoi on the world map,” Michael O’Brien, 66, a visiting American, said of the concerts before taking his seat inside.

Leo Dyar, 60, an Irishman working in Hanoi as a schoolteacher, said the music is something that everyone can enjoy.

“Anything like this, any cultural exchange, has to improve relations,” he said during the interval.

More than a third of tickets for the two concerts went to sponsors and government officials, with the rest sold to the general public, an organizer said.

The cheapest tickets were around two million dong (115 US dollars).

“Two million dong a ticket is my whole month’s salary,” said Nguyen Lam, 31, a freelance laborer who lives in a shared room with no television.

“I don’t know what symphony is,” he said. “I’m waiting for these two big screens to be on because I don’t have much chance to watch TV.”

A few foreigners who also stood among the motorcycles to watch the performance proved tempting targets for street vendors selling English-language books and souvenirs of Vietnam.

“Buy from me please,” a young girl urged in English over Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7.

Did she like the music?

“Yes, I very like.”

Source: AFP

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NY Times defends mission of kidnapped reporter

In World on September 11, 2009 at 7:37 am

The editor of The New York Times hit back at “simplistic” criticism that a reckless pursuit of news had caused the capture of one of its journalists in Afghanistan.

Times executive editor Bill Keller said on Thursday he had seen “no evidence” that reporter Stephen Farrell‘s visit to the site of a NATO air strike in northern Kunduz province was “reckless or irresponsible.”

Farrell and his Afghan colleague Sultan Munadi were snatched by Taliban rebels on Saturday as they were interviewing locals about the strike, which Afghan officials say killed dozens of civilians.

Farrell, who has dual British-Irish nationality, was freed Wednesday in a dramatic raid by British special forces. But four others — Munadi, a British soldier and two Afghan civilians — were killed.

“That Sultan and the soldier lost their lives in this episode is heartbreaking, and it’s human nature to look for someone to blame, but to blame the journalist is simplistic at best,” Keller said in an email to AFP.

“Steve consulted with American and Afghan colleagues and, like other journalists who made the same trip, concluded that it could be done safely,” he said.

“It was an important story — a report of scores of dead innocents at a very sensitive period in the politics of Afghanistan — that could not be verified by phone calls or the Afghan rumor mill.

A man holds a photograph of Afghan journalist Sultan Munadi at his grave in Kabul on September 10

“It called out for on-the-scene reporting if possible.”

Farrell and Munadi were the second team from The New York Times to be kidnapped in Afghanistan in less than a year. Their abduction highlighted growing insecurity in the once relatively peaceful north of the country.

The Times editor said the paper had begun a review of its security policies.

“We have, of course, begun a new round of internal discussion about whether our security protocols need improvement, given the increasing danger in Afghanistan in particular,” Keller said.

Farrell, writing about his captivity and the rescue operation in The New York Times blog, said he was “comfortable” with his decision to go to the riverbank where the NATO air strike hit two Taliban-hijacked fuel trucks.

But he said the team may have lingered at the site for too long.

Criticism has been mounting both of Farrell’s conduct and of the British government’s decision to launch the commando raid, with sources saying that negotiators were deep in talks with the Taliban to free the captives.

Source: SGGP

Corporate director Pamela Flaherty talks about NY Citi

In Uncategorized on August 27, 2008 at 4:16 pm

What is the Citi Foundation and what does it do?

The Citi Foundation is based in New York and it is the philanthropic arm of Citi, the leading global financial services company. The Citi Foundation is committed to enhancing economic opportunities for under-served individuals and families in the communities where we work so that these groups can improve their standard of living.

Globally, the Citi Foundation focuses its grant giving on microfinance and microentrepreneurship, which helps individuals become economically self-sufficient; small and growing businesses lead to economic expansion and job creation; education, which prepares young people for personal and professional success; financial education, which helps individuals make informed financial decisions; and the environment, with a focus on sustainable enterprises that generate jobs and stimulate economic growth while preserving the environment.

In 2007, the Citi Foundation gave US$95.6 million, of which 44 per cent was given outside the United States.

How does Citi support microfinance programmes globally?

Over the past decade, the Citi Foundation has contributed more than $60 million to 250 microfinance institutions, microfinance networks and microenterprise programmes in 55 countries.

Since 1997, in Asia alone, the Citi Foundation has committed more than $18 million in funding for microfinance-related programmes.

More importantly, in addition to our funding, we support the microfinance sector through many other activities such as facilitating engagement with Citi business managers, promoting the exchange of information and best practices, making introductions to other players in the industry and sponsoring and participating in symposiums.

Recently, we announced the Citi Network Strengthening Program, a three-year, $11.2 million global initiative launched in 2008 in collaboration with the Small Enterprise Education and Promotion (SEEP) Network. An example of how this project benefits microfinance networks is the Asia Network Summit, organised by the region’s Banking With The Poor Network and SEEP in Ha Noi earlier this week. This was the first Asia-wide gathering of microfinance networks, including the Vietnam Microfinance Working Group, and has already contributed to improving dialogue between networks across the region.

Citi has also established a microfinance business group that works across the Citi businesses, product groups and with employees to establish commercial relationships with the microfinance sector to build scale, lower costs and introduce new products. Since it started in 2005, Citi Microfinance has established commercial relationships with more than 70 MFIs in over 35 countries in Latin America, Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe and the Middle East, as well as global microfinance networks, specialised fund managers and investors.

How has Citi supported the development of microfinance in Viet Nam?

Since 2001, through Citi Foundation grants, Citi Vietnam has given VND3.3 billion ($168,000) to Save the Children US to support its microfinance programme in Thanh Hoa and enable more than 10,000 women from low-income households to start their own microenterprises. Today, it is one of the few examples of microfinance programmes in Viet Nam that has become financially sustainable.

In 2007, in partnership with the Vietnam Microfinance Working Group and its secretariat, the Microfinance and Development Centre, we launched the Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards to promote microentrepreneurship and increase awareness of microfinance in Viet Nam. In its inaugural year, 60 exceptional microfinance clients and 30 credit officers from rural and remote areas of Viet Nam received awards.

In 2007, Citi Vietnam gave a Citi Foundation grant to another microfinance provider, the Binh Minh Community Development Company, to initiate a financial literacy project in Dong Anh District. Based on a Citi Foundation-funded global financial education curriculum for the poor, this programme is developing customised Vietnamese-language financial education materials for microfinance clients and aims to improve the financial literacy of 15,000 microfinance clients by 2010. —


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