Subscribe to updates

Sunday, July 19, 2009

China says police killed 12 in Uyghur riots


(CNN) -- China acknowledged Sunday that security forces shot dead 12 people during ethnic riots in the northwest earlier this month.

Officials also said Sunday that the death toll from the violence in the Xinjiang region had risen to 197. The government had previously said the fighting killed at least 184 people and wounded more than 1,000.

Nur Bekri, chairman of the Xianjiang regional government, said police officers in the capital Urumqi shot 12 "mobsters" after failing to deter them by firing into the air, state-run media said.

Three of them died on the spot, while nine died later, the Xinhua news agency said.

He did not say whether the "mobsters" were Uyghurs, who are predominantly Muslim, or Han, who are the majority in China.

The rioting stemmed from an incident in June when a brawl broke out between Uyghur and Han workers at a toy factory in Guangdong province in southern China. Two Uyghurs reportedly died.

To protest the deaths, Uyghurs took to the streets in Urumqi -- and fighting erupted.

"But we could never imagine that the mobsters were so extremely vicious and inhumane," Bekri said, adding that the "thugs" used iron rods, stones and bricks to kill innocent residents.

The Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region is home to about 20 million people and 13 major ethnic groups -- of which the Uyghur is the largest.

Some Uyghurs resent the presence of Han in Xinjiang, many of whom came looking for work.

A militant leader whose group has links to al Qaeda has denounced Chinese treatment of Uyghur Muslims and threatened to seek "revenge."

The leader of the Turkistan Islamic Party, in a video that appeared on Islamic Web sites, blames the Chinese for "genocide" against people in East Turkistan -- what some Uyghurs calls the region of Xinjiang province in western China where they live.

The remarks were delivered by Seyfullah, commander of the Turkistan Islamic Party and dated July 8. They came after the violence erupted between Uyghur Muslims and Han Chinese.

The speaker urged his people to "kill the Chinese Communists where you find them, take them and besiege them and ambush them wherever you can."

"Let them know that these Muslim people have men who will seek their revenge and they are about to do that very soon, before the horses of God will reach you, God willing, so be prepared for that moment because we are too getting prepared."

Afghan Taliban Releases Video of Captured American Soldier

Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan have released a video that shows an American soldier who went missing from his base on June 30.U.S. officials confirmed Sunday that the man in the video is the captured soldier. They identified him as 23-year-old Private Bowe Bergdahl from the state of Idaho and say the U.S. military is doing everything in its power to return him to safety.

Bergdahl speaks English to his captors and the camera in the 28-minute video, posted to a Taliban Web site Saturday. He tells Americans with loved ones fighting in Afghanistan - in his words - "to make our government bring them home."

U.S. military officials in Afghanistion denounced the video's release, saying the use of a captive soldier for propaganda purposes is "against international law."

In the video, Bergdahl says the date is July 14. The date cannot be verified.

A Taliban commander in southeastern Afghanistan said Thursday he will kill Bergdahl, unless the U.S. military stops operations in Paktika and Ghazni provinces.

Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Zamary Bashari said efforts are ongoing to secure the release of Bergdahl. But he would not say whether officials believe the captive soldier is still in Afghanistan or if militants have shifted him to hideouts in Pakistan.

U.S. officials say the soldier was captured last month after he left his base camp in Paktika with three Afghans.

Jakarta Hotel Bombers Linked to Jemaah Islamiyah, Police Say

July 20 (Bloomberg) -- The suicide bombers who attacked the Jakarta JW Marriott and Ritz Carlton hotels, killing nine people including themselves, are linked to the Jemaah Islamiyah terrorist group, Indonesian police said.

The attackers on July 17 used the same bomb schematic, materials and method as those employed in past strikes blamed on the al-Qaeda-linked Southeast Asian group, police spokesman Nanan Soekarna told reporters in Jakarta yesterday. Officers found and defused a bomb in a guest room in the Marriott after bombers detonated two such devices in restaurants at the hotels.

“There’re similarities, the schematic is the same, and that identifies that the perpetrators are from the same network, Soekarna said. “If they are identical then that must become the objective of the direction to investigate” who is behind the attack, he said.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono kept Southeast Asia’s biggest economy free of attacks for four years by among other things capturing militants and giving tuition aid for the children of reformed terrorists. Jemaah Islamiyah has been blamed for a six-year bombing campaign that left about 280 people dead.

The attacks bear the hallmark of tactics and explosive devices used by Malaysian terrorist Noordin Mohammad Top, said Ansyaad Mbai, who coordinates Indonesian counter-terrorism efforts. Top, a suspected former leader of Jemaah Islamiyah, was probably looking for the right moment to strike, such as the presidential election and a planned trip by the Manchester United Football Club, said Mbai.

‘Strong Message’

“They wanted to send a strong message to show that their capability and spirit remain strong,” Mbai, who isn’t directly involved in the investigation, said July 18 in an interview in Jakarta. “Using the Manchester United event, they wanted to attract international attention.”

The British soccer team scrapped its first trip to Indonesia because of the attacks, which came nine days after the presidential election. Yudhoyono, a 59-year-old former general, was re-elected with 62 percent of the votes, according to the latest tally by the election commission.

President Barack Obama offered U.S. support in the investigation during a telephone conversation with Yudhoyono the day after the attacks, the White House said in a statement.

The Jakarta city government may ban people from bringing in luggage to hotel restaurants, Governor Fauzi Bowo said at a briefing July 18. Marriott, the biggest U.S. hotel chain, is studying the use of X-ray machines, “sniffer” dogs and entry barriers, said Alan Orlob, Marriott’s global head of security.

Hotel Guests

Obama in his telephone call congratulated Yudhoyono on his re-election and said the July 8 poll in the world’s largest Muslim-majority country “reminds the world that Islam, democracy and diversity can co-exist and thrive,” the White House statement said.

Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith, during a visit to Jakarta July 18, also offered to help Indonesia with the investigations.

Among the four foreigners killed in the bombings, three were from Australia and one from New Zealand, officials said. The dead included three people who were yet to be identified and the two bombers.

Among the 50 wounded, 16 were foreigners, including eight Americans and citizens of Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, India, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, South Korea and Britain, officials said.

The attack “more than anything, points to an extremist Islamic group that may be one associated with Top,” said Sidney Jones, a senior adviser at the International Crisis Group in Jakarta. “Any of these attacks needs a lot of planning.”

In August 2003, 12 people died when a truck bomb exploded outside the Marriott lobby in Jakarta. Indonesia blamed that attack and the Bali bombing the previous year on Jemaah Islamiyah.

Stratfor, a Texas-based national security consulting firm, called Jemaah Islamiyah the likely suspect for the July 17 attack.

Apollo 11 crew: Aldrin likes spotlight, 2 shun it

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — In the 40 years since Apollo 11, some of the key players, most notably Neil Armstrong, have steered clear of the increasingly bright glare of the moonlight cast by the historic lunar landing. Others have embraced it. Almost all have written books detailing not only themselves but the glory days of space.

On this anniversary of his "one small step" on July 20, 1969, Armstrong, the commander, remains an enigma, steadfastly declining almost all interviews. He did not chronicle his own life, but agreed to a biography, "First Man," written by a historian and published in 2005.

Command module pilot Michael Collins, who circled the moon on while Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin explored its dusty surface, is just as elusive. He's not sure "recluse," though, is the right word.

"I think of the Brown Recluse, the deadliest of spiders, and I have a suntan, so perhaps," Collins wrote in a statement for NASA to get journalists and others off his case. "Anyway, it's true I've never enjoyed the spotlight, don't know why."

Aldrin, on the other hand, seems to be everywhere, plugging everything from radios to designer handbags, and signing copies of his new book.

A brief look at eight of Apollo 11's key players:

___

Neil Armstrong, Apollo 11's commander, keeps a low profile in his home state of Ohio.

He shuns the spotlight but when he does address crowds, he is a thoughtful speaker and exceedingly modest.

"I recognize that I'm portrayed as staying out of the public eye, but from my perspective it doesn't seem that way," Armstrong said in a 2001 interview for NASA's oral history project. "But I recognize that from another perspective, outside, I'm only able to accept less than 1 percent of all the requests that come in, so to them it seems like I'm not doing anything. But I can't change that."

He added: "Looking back, we were really very privileged to live in that thin slice of history where we changed how man looks at himself and what he might become and where he might go. So I'm very thankful that we got to see that and be part of it."

He will turn 79 on Aug. 5. He left NASA in 1971 and returned to Ohio, where he continues to live near Cincinnati. He taught engineering at the University of Cincinnati, then ventured into business.

___

Buzz Aldrin, the omnipresent lunar module pilot, has a new book out, "Magnificent Desolation." That was his description of the moonscape after he followed Armstrong down the ladder.

The book focuses on his post-lunar life, and his battle with depression and alcoholism.

He says it has been a challenge, since landing on the moon, to "carry on with the rest of your life." There is "this uneasiness and this uncertainty as to what I really ought to be doing."

Now 79, Aldrin lives in the Los Angeles area but is often on the road with wife Lois.

He still looks remarkably fit. In 2002, he punched, right in the face, a much bigger and younger man who was hounding him and trying to get him to swear on a Bible, on camera, that he walked on the moon. That's what he thinks of those who claim the Apollo moon landings were staged in a studio in the Nevada desert. His astronaut buddies still chuckle over it.

Aldrin, the only one on the crew with a doctorate, left NASA and returned to Air Force active duty in 1971. He's written several books, including space fiction, and is the apparent namesake of Buzz Lightyear of "Toy Story" fame.

___

Michael Collins, the command module pilot who circled the moon, has written several books about space, most notably 1974's "Carrying the Fire." It's considered one of the best insider space books ever, little surprise given Collins' eloquence and wit.

Like Armstrong, Collins, 78, avoided the anniversary limelight. He did, however, release a list of the questions he's frequently asked — along with his answers — to mark the occasion.

"Did you have the best seat on Apollo 11?" he wrote. "No."

"Were you happy with the seat you had?" he continued. "Yes, absolutely. It was an honor."

He considers himself neither a hero nor a celebrity, and more than a little grumpy as he ages.

"Heroes abound and should be revered as such, but don't count astronauts among them," he wrote. "We work very hard; we did our jobs to near perfection, but that was what we had hired on to do."

Luck played a big part in his life, Collins noted.

"Usually, you find yourself either too young or too old to do what you really want, but consider: Neil Armstrong was born in 1930, Buzz Aldrin 1930, and Mike Collins 1930. We came along at exactly the right time. We survived hazardous careers and were successful in them. But in my own case at least, it was 10 percent shrewd planning and 90 percent blind luck. Put LUCKY on my tombstone."

As for "any keen insights?" His response: "Oh yeah, a whole bunch, but I'm saving them for the 50th."

Collins left NASA in 1970 and became the first director of the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum in Washington. He now splits his time between Boston and Florida's Gulf Coast.

___

It was Charlie Duke's voice that was heard by Armstrong and Aldrin after they landed on the moon.

Duke was the capcom, or capsule communicator, in Mission Control for the big event. As soon as Armstrong reported from Tranquility Base that their lunar module, Eagle, had landed, Duke radioed: "You got a bunch of guys about to turn blue. We're breathing again. Thanks a lot."

Duke flew to the moon on Apollo 16 and became the 10th man to step onto the lunar surface. He left NASA in 1975 and went into business. He regrets not having stuck around NASA longer and flown the shuttle.

"I look back now and I wish I had stayed," he said in a 1999 interview for NASA's oral history project. "The shuttle turned out to be a tremendous flying machine. Not as cheap as we expected it to be, but certainly a good machine."

Now 73 and living in New Braunfels, Texas, Duke is a motivational and inspirational speaker. He has his own Web site, http://www.charlieduke.net, where he is selling autographed copies of his 1990 book, "Moonwalker."

___

Christopher Kraft was director of flight operations at the Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston. Like his colleagues, he celebrated with cigars and U.S. flags following Apollo 11's safe splashdown at mission's end.

He left NASA in 1982 and served as a consultant to various companies.

Kraft, 85, detailed his life as NASA's original flight director in his 2001 book, "Flight: My Life in Mission Control." He created Mission Control, directed the Mercury and Gemini flights, and helped put men on the moon. He went on to serve as director of Johnson Space Center from 1972 to 1982.

"There's only one flight director. From the moment the mission starts until the moment the crew is safe on board a recovery ship, I'm in charge," he wrote in his book. "No one can overrule me. Not my immediate boss ... Not his boss ... Not even Jack Kennedy, the president of the United States ... They can fire me after it's over. But while the mission is under way, I'm Flight. And Flight is God."

He still lives in Houston, and is as outspoken and opinionated as ever.

___

Gene Kranz was the flight director on duty at Mission Control in Houston when Armstrong and Aldrin landed on the moon.

Kranz went on to serve as lead flight director for Apollo 13 and, decades later, was portrayed by actor Ed Harris in the film "Apollo 13." For the record, he never uttered "failure is not an option" during Apollo 13; the phrase came from Hollywood. He liked it so much, though, he made that the title of his 2000 book.

"The words I used: 'OK, we've never lost an American in space, we sure as hell aren't going to lose one now. This crew is coming home,' " Kranz said in an Associated Press interview in 2000.

Kranz retired from NASA in 1994.

Now 75, he still lives in Houston. He gives motivational speeches and occasionally addresses NASA's work force.

___

As launch commentator, Jack King was the voice of Apollo.

The NASA public affairs official counted down the historic launch of Apollo 11, after doing the same for hundreds of previous rocket launches, including Gemini and the earlier Apollo flights.

"Twelve, 11, 10, 9, ignition sequence start. Six, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, zero, all engine running. Liftoff! We have a liftoff, 32 minutes past the hour. Liftoff on Apollo 11."

King, a former newsman, was so excited, he said "engine" instead of "engines." He had no script and stuck to the bare facts.

All these years later, King said he would not change his commentary. He still enjoys hearing it.

"I wish I had a penny for every time it was used," he observed Wednesday, the eve of the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11's launch. He was at the Kennedy Space Center for shuttle Endeavour's liftoff.

King, who left NASA in 1975, still works in the space business, in internal communications for United Space Alliance, NASA's shuttle contractor. He lives in Cocoa Beach, Fla., and declined to give his age.

Officials: Health care proposal a work in progress

WASHINGTON — Administration officials defended President Barack Obama's broad health care proposals on Sunday and urged a skeptical public not to judge the Democrats' overhaul until Congress writes a final version.

Facing independent budget predictions that contradict the White House's rhetoric, officials sought to refute Republican objections to massive changes in how Americans receive health care. They emphasized that Congress has not yet settled on an outline for health care legislation and reiterated Obama's desire for a bipartisan approach.

"This is a work in progress," Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said, trying to calm nervous lawmakers whose re-elections could hinge on the legislation. "More will be done. The House and the Senate are committed to working with the president to get this done."

The United States is the only developed nation that does not have a comprehensive national health care plan for all its citizens, and Obama campaigned on a promise to offer affordable health care to all Americans. However, the recession and a deepening budget deficit have made it difficult to win support for costly new programs.

"The House has one approach. We put forward a different approach. The Senate is considering yet more options," White House budget director Peter Orszag said. "The key thing is we need to get there in a way that is deficit neutral."

Paying for the health care plan remains the major challenge, underscored by a nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office report that emerging House legislation would increase deficits by $239 billion over a decade.

"I don't follow why we've got to spend another $1.5 trillion to $2 trillion, most people estimate, on top of the $2.5 trillion we're already spending in this country and yet still have, under one estimate, at least 33 million people without health insurance," said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. "I mean, these are things that are real serious problems."

Democrats insisted the budget analysis ignores savings and Obama's pledge not to add red ink to the federal ledger.

"It's clear that they're working with different assumptions than the White House and the Congress is," said Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., the chairman of the House tax-writing committee.

Even so, the politics of adding to the deficit or raising taxes is tricky. Obama officials have refused to rule out a tax on the wealthiest Americans and oppose a tax on employer-provided health care benefits. They also want the Senate and the House to pass separate bills before an August recess, leaving reconciliation of their differences for September or later. White House officials grudgingly accept that such a timetable might force them into policy compromises.

"What we have said is this bill has to be deficit neutral," said Orszag, a former top budget chief for Congress. "We think there are better ways of obtaining additional revenue, and we have to let this legislative process play out."

But it won't come cheap. That means increased taxes and political opposition.

Republicans paint Obama's proposals as a massive tax that would leave small businesses wounded, employers shifting away from private plans toward a government-based system, and workers without coverage. Some GOP members have also cautioned that the legislation could fund abortions, a fear crucial to the social conservatives who hold sway inside the Republican Party and a proposition Orszag would not rule out.

A key Republican, however, warned his party not to scuttle health care legislation over abortion.

"No matter what your views are on abortion, you shouldn't ask people to use their tax dollars if they think that abortion is taking a life," said Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H. "I would hate to see the health care debate go down over that issue. ... Hopefully we won't get ourselves wrapped around the wheel of abortion in this debate."

Obama's advisers have argued that overhauling health care is vital to the nation's long-term economic recovery.

About 50 million of America's 300 million people are without health insurance. The government provides coverage for the poor and elderly, but most Americans rely on private insurance, usually received through their employers. However, not all employers provide insurance and not everyone can afford to buy it. With unemployment rising, many Americans are losing their health insurance when they lose their jobs.

Seeking to prod colleagues, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy wrote an essay for Newsweek magazine about the policy that has guided his decades in the Senate.

"Unless we act now, within a few years, 55 million Americans could be left without coverage even as the economy recovers," wrote the Massachusetts Democrat, who is being treated for brain cancer. "All Americans should be required to have insurance. For those who can't afford the premiums, we can provide subsidies."

US names soldier in Taliban video

The US military has identified a man shown on a Taliban video as an American soldier captured in Afghanistan.

He was named as Pte Bowe Bergdahl, 23, from Ketchum, Idaho. He went missing from his base in a Taleban stronghold near the Pakistani border last month.

In the video, released on the internet, the shaven-headed soldier says being a prisoner is "unnerving".

He also says US troops are suffering from low morale and should be brought home "where we belong".

The Pentagon said Pte Bergdahl was serving with an Alaska-based infantry regiment when he walked off his base in Paktika province, eastern Afghanistan.

Pte Bergdahl is believed to be the first soldier seized in either Iraq or Afghanistan for at least two years.

'Against international law'

In the 28-minute video, he says the date is 14 July and that he was captured as he lagged behind while on a patrol.

It is not possible to verify the time and date the video was made.

Pte Bergdahl, interviewed in English, says he has "a very, very good family" in America.

"I miss them and I'm afraid that I might never see them again, and that I'll never be able to tell them that I love them again, and I'll never be able to hug them," he says.

When asked about his condition he replies: "Well I'm scared, scared I won't be able to go home. It is very unnerving to be a prisoner."

A voice off camera asks if he has a message for his "people".

"To my fellow Americans who have loved ones over here, who know what it's like to miss them, you have the power to make our government bring them home," he says.

Map

"Please, please bring us home so that we can be back where we belong and not over here, wasting our time and our lives and our precious life that we could be using back in our own country.

"Please bring us home. It is America and American people who have that power."

Bob Bergdahl, the soldier's father, told the Associated Press news agency: "We hope and pray for our son's safe return to his comrades."

US military spokesman in Kabul, Capt Jon Stock, condemned the use of the video.

He told Reuters news agency: "The use of the soldier for propaganda purposes we view as against international law.

"We are continuing to do whatever possible to recover the soldier safe and unharmed."

Leaflets have been distributed and a reward offered for his safe return.

Study Reports Anal Sex on Rise Among Teens

Carry -- a Colorado college student who had been in a steady relationship for months -- was recently cajoled by her boyfriend into some sexual experimentation.

He wanted to try anal sex, and even though the 20-year-old said she was "OK with the idea," she nervously downed several drinks before their lovemaking began.

Within 15 seconds, Carry -- not her real name -- said she was "crying and asking him to stop."

They never did it again. But experts say that as social mores ease, more young heterosexuals are engaging in anal sex, a behavior once rarely mentioned in polite circles. And the experimentation, they worry, may be linked to the current increase in sexually transmitted diseases.

Recently, researchers at the Bradley Hasbro Children's Research Center in Rhode Island suggested that anal sex is on the rise among teens and young adults, particularly those who have unprotected vaginal sex.

Experts say girls and young women like Carry are often persuaded to try such sexual behavior for the wrong reasons -- to please a partner, to have sex without the risk of pregnancy or to preserve their virginity. But many don't understand the health consequences.

"It really is shocking how many myths young people have about anal sex," said Judy Kuriansky, a Columbia University professor and author of "Sexuality Education: Past Present and Future."

"They don't think you can get a disease from it because you're not having intercourse," she told ABCNews.com. "They can actually recite by rote how you get AIDS, but it doesn't transfer to their personal behavior."

The study included a comprehensive questionnaire about adolescent sexual and other risk behaviors. The participants self-reported their answers, which scientists say can skew the results in this type of study. To compensate, researchers used audio computer-assisted self -interview technology, allowing participants to enter their responses directly into a computer, rather than having to report to an interviewer.

"Given the subject matter, it is likely that the numbers reported may actually be an underestimate of the prevalence of these behaviors," said Celia Lescano of Brown University, the Bradley Hasbro study's lead author.

More than one-third of new HIV infections in the United States occur among people between the ages of 13 and 29 and can be attributed to the mind-set among youth that they are not at risk of contracting the virus, according to the Kaiser Foundation.

Young Women at Risk

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also report that young women, especially those of minority races or ethnicities, are increasingly at risk for HIV infection through heterosexual contact. They are biologically vulnerable, don't recognize their partners' risk factors and are often unequal in relationships.

And when women engage in anal sex, tissue may tear, more readily causing direct blood exposure to infected fluids.

"There is no doubt that teens lack information about STDs and the safety of different behaviors and they they are engaging in more sexual experimentation," Lescano told ABCNews.com.

"That is why studies like these are so important to conduct," she said. "We need to know what teens do and do not know, what behaviors they are engaging in, and what information we need to provide to them so that they can make decisions that will help protect their sexual health."

Even though the topic of anal sex is often considered taboo, Lescano urges "open discussion" of its consequences in doctor's offices, within sexual relationships and with parents.

Anecdotally, young adults confirm the reports of a rise in anal sex, including the perception that it is safe.

"I know some teens who did it just to try, and some who didn't have a condom available," said one 18-year-old Californian who did not want her name used.

"I think that it's less taboo simply because people are more open to trying new things," said her 23-year-old sister. "The younger crowd might be scared by the idea of getting pregnant, so they assume it's safer."

"It takes a great amount of trust to try something new with somebody that you may or may not like," she said. "I'd consider it if there was a ring on my finger. Otherwise, I feel I'd be losing some of my dignity as a woman."

One recent graduate of a New England college said one of her classmates was a "hard-core" Catholic who was rumored to have engaged in risky behavior.

"She only had anal sex with her boyfriend until they were married because that technically kept her a virgin," said the 25-year-old who wanted to remain anonymous.

Indeed, another well-publicized 2005 study using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health found that teenagers who take "virginity pledges" were more likely to engage in oral or anal sex than nonpledging teens and less likely to use condoms once they became sexually active.

STDs Same for Pledgers, Nonpledgers

Conducted by researchers at Yale and Columbia universities, the study found that although teens who made the pledges had sex later than those who had not pledged and had fewer partners overall, both groups had similar rates of sexually transmitted diseases.

In the Hasbro study, females who had anal sex were more likely to be living with their partners, to have two or more sexual partners and to have previously experienced coerced intercourse. Males who engaged in this behavior were more likely to identify themselves as being homosexual, bisexual or undecided.

"These findings suggest that the factors associated with anal intercourse among females in the study relate to the context and power balance of sexual relationships," Lescano said. "We must teach teen girls and young women how to be assertive in sexual relationships, such as refusing unwanted sexual acts and negotiating for safer sex, whether it's anal or vaginal."

Megan Carpentier, who writes about politics and women for Jezebel.com, said girls negotiating with boys for their attention is as old as time.

"Young women are concerned as much about being liked and loved as getting pleasure out of sex," Carpentier, 31, told ABCNews.com. "It certainly was going on when I was in high school: 'Do this if you love me.'"

"Putting it out there -- either oral or anal -- is not a consolation prize," she said. "You are giving up something."

Carpentier said the dismantling of comprehensive sex education programs in the public schools is to blame for teen ignorance about the hazards of anal sex. And it is unrealistic to expect doctors to talk to teens about this touchy topic.

"How many times do teens go to a pediatrician, not a gynecologist?" she said. "And when I was 18, my mother was still in the room."

According to the Journal of Adolescent Health, rising rates of anal sex among teens is reflected in the general adult population where anal sex rates have doubled since 1995.

"Somewhere around 2004-2005 an overused, initially funny and hard-to-attribute quote proclaimed that 'anal sex is the new black,'" wrote sexuality educator Cory Silverberg on About.com.

Pornography Fuels Sexual Interest

Anal sex statistics indicate that a generational change has occurred, where people born in the 1980s and later may be more comfortable admitting to or showing interest in anal sex. Silverberg attributes interest in the behavior among heterosexuals, in part, to the proliferation of pornography in the 1990s.

"I have been having sex for only 12 years, so I don't know if it was just something I didn't talk about when younger," said Tracie Egan, 29, who writes about sex and pop culture for Jezebel.com.

As with other sex trends, girls are more open to experimentation because pornography has become so easily accessible on Web sites like XTube and YouPorn, she said.

"Porn makes people more adventurous with their sex acts," Egan said. "Anal sex is sort of always considered the last frontier, pushing the envelope."

Raised in the 1990s, Egan was exposed to sex-laden MTV, documentaries on gay lifestyles and television shows like "Sex and the City."

"We were raised in a different way," she said. Girls of her generation, the so-called third wave of feminism, she said, were able to have sex with multiple partners and could detach themselves "socially and emotionally."

Still, Egan said that when she had anal sex with a boyfriend for the first time at 26, she was drunk, used no condom -- they were monogamous -- and didn't even know how to clean herself.

"Lack of sex education in school is really bothersome to me," she said. "Even I don't know about a lot of the biological issues."

Columbia's Kuriansky, author of "Generation Sex," has been hearing questions about anal sex from her college students for at least a decade. "Is anything wrong with having anal sex?" is the most common one.

"No," she tells them. "Except if you're forced into it or can't enjoy sex any other way."

Another question she often hears is: "If I want it, or like it, does it mean I'm gay?"

"Not necessarily," she answers.

Girls Now Express Interest in Anal Sex

What's changed in this decade is girls are now expressing an interest. "On college campuses it's escalated," Kuriansky said. "There's more talk, more books, more videos."

One speaker on the college circuit -- Tristan Taormino, author of "The Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Women" -- is gaining new ground with young women.

But, Kuriansky said, with fewer educational media outlets and less sex education, young girls are clueless about hygiene, possible bladder or vaginal infections and life-threatening diseases like AIDS.

"We are more open, but there's less information," Kuriansky said. "There are real myths and real efforts to be cool and people running around saying how great it is."

"But it's not just rubbing elbows," she said. "Anal sex is a serious public problem."

Pregnancy, STDs on the Rise Again Among U.S. Teens

Birth rates among U.S. teens increased in 2006 and 2007, following large declines from 1991 to 2005, according to a new U.S. government study.

It found that previously improving trends in teens' and young adults' sexual and reproductive health have flattened or may be worsening in some cases.

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researchers analyzed national data from 2002-2007. Among their findings:

  • About one-third of adolescents hadn't received instruction on methods of birth control before age 18.
  • In 2004, there were about 745,000 pregnancies among females younger than age 20. This included an estimated 16,000 pregnancies among girls aged 10 to 14.
  • Syphilis cases among young people aged 15 to 24 have increased in both males and females in recent years.
  • In 2006, about one million young people aged 10 to 24 were reported to have chlamydia, gonorrhea or syphilis. Nearly one-quarter of females aged 15 to 19, and 45 percent of females aged 20 to 24 had a human papillomavirus (HPV) infection during 2003-2004.
  • From 1997 to 2006, rates of AIDS cases among males aged 15 to 24 increased.
  • In 2006, the majority of new diagnoses of HIV infection among young people occurred among males and those aged 20 to 24.
  • From 2004 to 2006, about 100,000 females aged 10 to 24 visited a hospital emergency department for nonfatal sexual assault, including 30,000 females aged 10 to 14.

"This report identifies a number of concerns regarding the sexual and reproductive health of our nation's young people," Janet Collins, director of CDC's National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, said in a news release.

"It is disheartening that after years of improvement with respect to teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, we now see signs that progress is stalling and many of these trends are going in the wrong direction," she said.

The study also identified a number of racial/ethnic disparities in the sexual and reproductive health of young Americans. For example, Hispanic teens aged 15 to 19 are much more likely to become pregnant (132.8 births per 1,000 females) than non-Hispanic blacks (128 per 1,000) and non-Hispanic whites (45.2 per 1,000). The study also found that non-Hispanic black youth in all age groups have the highest rates of new HIV and AIDS diagnoses.

Swine flu pregnancy tips reissued

The Department of Health has attempted to clarify its guidelines to expectant mothers and parents with children under five on how best to avoid swine flu.

Its advice to practise good hygiene by washing hands and surfaces regularly has been re-issued after a woman with the virus died soon after giving birth.

The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) says all expectant mothers should avoid crowded places and unnecessary travel.

But the DoH says only the "particularly concerned" should consider the advice.

Concern over the effects of swine flu on new and expectant mothers has heightened since the death of Ruptara Miah, 39, in London's Whipps Cross Hospital on 13 July. Her baby is said to be very ill in intensive care.

Good hygiene

Another child under six months old, who died in London, is also among the latest victims of the virus.

The refreshed DoH advice has been given greater prominence on its website.

Health experts say expectant mothers could suffer possible complications if they contract swine flu, such as pneumonia, breathing difficulties and dehydration, because they have suppressed immune systems. Young children are also vulnerable.

Most mothers-to-be with swine flu are being prescribed Relenza, an inhaled antiviral drug which treats the virus without reaching the foetus. However, where it is particularly severe, doctors can offer Tamiflu instead.

The NHS website stresses that most expectant mothers who contract swine flu will only have mild symptoms and recover within a week.

Belinda Phipps, chief executive of the National Childbirth Trust (NCT), said that while the risks for expectant mothers were low, women needed information to make an informed decision.

"If you are pregnant, you are slightly more susceptible to all infections. One of them is swine flu.

"It is important that pregnant women know that - and particularly other members of the population know that - so that they behave responsibly and if they are sick they don't go and put themselves close to a pregnant woman."

The Department of Health said it advised women to plan their pregnancy carefully, but was not advising against trying to conceive.

"Mums-to-be are more vulnerable to any type of flu. It is particularly important that anyone who has existing health problems and is thinking about starting a family should talk to their GP first, as they normally would," a DoH spokesman said.

Louise Silverton, deputy general secretary of the RCM, said women could not be expected to wait for the first wave of the pandemic to end before trying for a baby.

Speaking on BBC One's Andrew Marr Show, Alan Johnson, the new home secretary, said an unexpected aspect of the virus was that it was attacking the young, not the elderly as with seasonal flu.

He called on parents to keep using their common sense, saying the "vast majority" had been following public health advice.

Rates of flu-like illness

Twenty-nine people have now died in the UK after contracting swine flu - 26 in England and three in Scotland.

The government has warned that the number of deaths from the virus this winter in the UK could reach between 19,000 and 65,000.

However, during the 1999 to 2000 winter, seasonal flu deaths reached 21,000 and even during average winters there are normally anywhere between 6,000 to 8,000 deaths.

We asked you whether you were concerned about the effects swine flu might have on expectant mothers. Here is a selection of your comments.

I am in the third trimester of pregnancy, and I am asthmatic. I am concerned that neither Tamiflu or Relenza will be suitable for me if I contract swine flu.
Louise, Nottingham

This is such stupid advice. I am pregnant and travel to work every day on a packed Tube. How am I supposed to avoid crowded places and unnecessary travel? It's impossible. I can't just stop going to work can I?
Laura, Hertfordshire

My daughter has a 4yr old son who has swine flu, she is 4 months pregnant and worried in case she catches it and it harms the baby, we are also worried about the treatments used in pregnant women. There is to much contradiction going around to know what to believe.
Tina, Essex

I am currently 24 weeks pregnant and have been ill and at home for 5 days now with bad cold symptoms. After consulting the doctor by phone I was told it could possibly be swine flu but how am I to know? I am usually very level headed in these situations but not sure that not swabbing pregnant women with symptoms is wise - at least if we know if we have it we can be better informed!
Anonymous, Wales

I am 36 weeks pregnant and came into contact with Swine flu last week. I experienced a slight sore throat spoke with a nurse at NHS direct and my GP and was completely reassured that I was fine and not displaying any symptoms. There is definitely some scaremongering going on but if you seek appropriate medical advice your fears can be eased.
Jo, Romford, Essex

I have got a 14 month old child and am currently pregnant. I'm very worried we could all catch the virus as a lot of people where we live are getting it. Also it is going round schools where my niece goes. I believe there should be vaccinations soon as possible for young children and those who it could endanger more than others
Nikki, Chelmsford, Essex

Clinton, India's Ramesh Clash on Climate Change

GURGAON, India, July 19 -- The stage was set for a demonstration of how India and the United States could work together to reduce the impact of climate change: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton touring an environmentally-friendly "green" office building on the outskirts of the sprawling capital of New Delhi.

But the clash between developed and developing countries over climate change intruded on the high-profile photo opportunity midway through Clinton's three-day tour of India. Indian Environmental Minister Jairam Ramesh complained about U.S. pressure to cut a worldwide deal and Clinton countered that the Obama administration's push for a binding agreement would not sacrifice India's economic growth.

As dozens of cameras recorded the scene, Ramesh declared that India would not commit to a deal that would require it to meet targets to reduce emissions. "It is not true that India is running away from mitigation," he said. But "India's position, let me be clear, is that we are simply not in the position to take legally binding emissions targets."

"No one wants to in any way stall or undermine the economic growth that is necessary to lift millions more out of poverty," Clinton countered. "We also believe that there is a way to eradicate poverty and develop sustainability that will lower significantly the carbon footprint."

Both sides appearing to be playing to the Indian audience, with Ramesh taking the opportunity to reinforce India's bottom line.

Before the visit, U.S. officials were acutely aware that the Indian government has faced criticism at home for making what they considered relatively modest concessions on reducing greenhouse emissions earlier this month at a meeting of major economies. A leaked e-mail from former Indian negotiator Surya Sethi to other negotiators -- in which he asserted the decision would make India poorer -- generated a firestorm here.

Clinton was prepared to argue that countering climate change could actually lift India's economy, not undermine it. U.S. officials also believe, as one put it, that "developing countries are willing to do more than they are willing to agree to."

Todd Stern, the administration's special envoy for climate change, has accompanied Clinton on her tour of India. Though U.S. officials said that Stern's visit had been coordinated with Indian officials, the nervousness of the Indian establishment was reflected in one newspaper's headline on Saturday: "Climate Man's Visit Shocks India."

The visit to the "green" building -- the brick and sandstone headquarters of the hotel division of Indian tobacco giant ITC Ltd. -- began amicably. The building appears undistinguished from the outside, but Alwyn Noronha, an ITC executive vice president, explained to Clinton that the building has a 30 percent smaller carbon footprint than a similar-sized building, cutting energy use in half though innovations such as an L-shaped design that allows a maximum use of natural light.

Clinton likened the squat, plain-looking building -- which was constructed with U.S. assistance -- to a new version of the Taj Mahal, grandly declaring it was "a monument to the future."

After the tour was over, the American and Indian delegations settled into a conference room for a closed-door chat. Ramesh opened with a blunt statement that took four minutes to read.

"There is simply no case for the pressure that we, who have among the lowest emissions per capita, face to actually reduce emissions," Ramesh told Clinton. He asserted that "detailed modeling" showed "unambiguous" results -- that developing country emissions would remain well below the averages of developed countries even with high growth rates.

At the meeting, Clinton responded that she "completely" understood India's argument about per capita emissions, according to the notes of a U.S. reporter permitted to observe the discussion. "On one level, it's a fair argument," she said, but she argued the per capita argument "loses force" as developing countries rapidly become the biggest emitters.

Ramesh replied that India's position on per capita emissions is "not a debating strategy" because it is enshrined in international agreements. "We look upon you suspiciously because you have not fulfilled what [developed countries] pledged to fulfill," he jabbed, calling it a "crisis of credibility."

The tone of the nearly one-hour meeting appeared to become less strained as Clinton acknowledged some of Ramesh's points and repeatedly stressed the United States was not trying to limit India's growth.

'We want an international agreement," Ramesh said, but whether one can be reached at a major climate summit scheduled for December in Copenhagen will depend on being creative, leveraging international technology and especially "international capital is going to be key."

Clinton emerged from the session to declare the discussion was "very fruitful" and she saw the potential for narrowing differences between the two countries on the contentious issue. "We have many more areas of agreement than perhaps had been appreciated," she told reporters.

Life Lessons Should Count on Top Court

WASHINGTON — Senator Lindsey Graham, the engaging South Carolina Republican, lectured the Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor last week that if he had made a comment like hers that a “wise Latina woman” often reaches better conclusions, it would have a been a career-ender.

The cable-news commentators concurred and the nominee, playing the create-no-waves confirmation game, expressed regret. Actually, her remark was rational and Mr. Graham’s analysis flawed.

Suppose, for example, he had said: “I would hope that a wise, white Southern male with the richness of growing up in South Carolina would more often than not be more sensitive on the issue of race relations than a white Northerner who hasn’t lived that life.” While some might have disagreed, most of his constituents would have agreed, and his future would be as bright as ever.

The Sotomayor hearings followed the now-predictable pattern of partisan-edged questions with evasive answers, where little is learned about either the jurist or the law. Almost none of the questions were unfair or even that tough; compared with earlier confirmation sessions, it was tame stuff.

What endures, however, is the spectacle of middle-aged, white Republicans lecturing the first Latin female nominee about the irrelevance of race, gender and life experiences for a judge. Even Mr. Graham, one of the more enlightened lawmakers — a strong immigration advocate and a thoroughly modern Republican — didn’t get it.

Others, especially the committee’s top-ranking Republican, Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, were fixated not on Judge Sotomayor’s 17-year record on the federal bench — she would have the most extensive judicial background of any justice in the past 100 years — but on a few of her speeches suggesting she has been shaped by her experiences and ethnic heritage.

Instead of raising doubts about the nomination, the Sessions obsession only reinforced the picture of a narrow Republican Party uncomfortable with differences and resisting diversity.

The political context is that only four of the 17 female senators are Republicans and white males make up almost 90 percent of the party in that chamber.

It isn’t much better in the House of Representatives, where 59 of the 256 Democrats, or almost one-quarter, are women and only 18 of the 178 Republicans are women. Of the 43 blacks in Congress, all are Democrats. Of the 26 Hispanic members, 22 are Democrats.

With Hispanics the fastest-growing slice of the American electorate, the hectoring of Judge Sotomayor seems politically inexplicable. All judges are influenced by how they were raised; the law and the Constitution aren’t mechanical templates, unaffected by perspectives and even prejudices. Why was segregation the law of the land for so long?

Imagine in 1967 criticizing Thurgood Marshall, the great civil rights lawyer who became the first African-American on the high court, for believing that his background would have an impact on his role. Of course it did.

Republicans have recognized that reality in the past. Justice Samuel Alito cited his own family’s immigrant past: “I have to think about people in my own family who suffered discrimination because of their ethnic background or because of religion or because of gender.”

The poster person for identity politics was Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who took the bench in 1991. Mr. Thomas’s origins as a struggling young black man from Pin Point, Georgia, became the Republican narrative in his contentious confirmation fight: “I can walk in the shoes of the people who are affected by what the court does.” In short, his life’s experiences.

When in this past term the Supreme Court ruled against a strip search of a 13-year-old girl, is there any doubt that Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the only woman on the court, brought a perspective unfamiliar to the other eight? Personal stories have long been championed as a requisite for the judiciary by conservatives and liberals alike. In the 1960s, those unhappy with the criminal-rights decisions by Chief Justice Earl Warren’s court would argue that it would be different if any of the justices ever got mugged. Experiences were a virtue, they argued.

The court ought to reflect diversity of background, profession, perspective. A shortcoming in recent years has been the absence of anyone with an extensive record in elected office — Sandra Day O’Connor served for a time as a state legislator — who might better appreciate the effects of decisions on real-life politics.

An example: In 1997, the court unanimously decided that a civil suit for sexual misconduct against President Bill Clinton could continue, rejecting the president’s argument that such actions should be delayed until his term of office was over.

In Clinton v. Jones, Justice John Paul Stevens deemed it “highly unlikely” that such a lawsuit would “occupy any substantial amount of petitioner’s time.” A few nights later, the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a political historian of unsurpassed wisdom, said this decision was na├»ve, reflecting the lack of anyone familiar with the way politics works.

Of course, the ruling led to further hearings, which led to the Monica Lewinsky scandal, which occupied more than a “substantial amount” of the petitioner’s time. A judge with a more seasoned understanding of the real world of politics might have understood this.

The Supreme Court is well served with intellectual opposites like Antonin Scalia and Stephen Breyer, both of whom reflect where they come from.

Judge Sotomayor may not achieve that intellectual pinnacle, but with the bright mind and ready charm she demonstrated last week and with her unique perspectives and personal biography, she will add to the richness of the court’s deliberations.

She is expected to be confirmed with support from close to half the Senate’s Republicans, mirroring the backing Chief Justice John Roberts received from Democrats four years ago.

Instead, unfortunately for Republicans, the dominant memory of those sessions will be of white guys lecturing a Latin woman about ethnicity.

Helicopter crash in Afghanistan kills 16 civilian contractors

The victims were working for Western forces, but military officials rule out hostile fire as a cause. It is the second deadly crash in less than a week involving a Russian-made civilian helicopter.

Reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan -- Sixteen civilians working under contract to Western forces were killed today when their helicopter plunged to the ground just after takeoff from NATO's main base in southern Afghanistan, military officials said. It was the second deadly crash in less than a week involving a Russian-made helicopter operated by a civilian contractor. It also came a day after an American F-15E jet fighter crashed in eastern Afghanistan, killing the two-member crew.
Military officials said they had ruled out hostile fire as a cause of today's helicopter crash, which took place at Kandahar airfield, a sprawling installation that is the hub of coalition operations in the south.

The crash, believed to be the most lethal to date involving civilian contractors, raised urgent new questions about the safety of the often aging fleet of helicopters operated by contractors from former Soviet republics.

Six Ukrainian contractors were killed when their helicopter went down Tuesday in Helmand province, adjacent to Kandahar province. The Moldovan contractor operating that craft, supported by Moldovan civil aviation authorities, said the Mi-26 helicopter was shot down by insurgents.

But military officials said the cause of that crash had not been established, and an investigation was continuing.

Tens of thousands of civilians from around the world work under contract to the Western forces in Afghanistan. Their jobs range from mundane support tasks such as construction and kitchen work to quasi-military roles that have caused Afghan authorities to call for tighter restrictions on their use of firearms.

Lt. Col. Paul Kolken, a Dutch spokesman for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's regional command in the south, said no military personnel were among the dead or injured in today's crash. He identified the helicopter as a Mi-8 transporter, which can carry as many as 24 people.

Russia's Interfax news agency said the craft was carrying 17 passengers and three crew members.

Civilian contractors and the Western military alike are heavily reliant on helicopters for ferrying supplies and personnel around Afghanistan. That is because ground travel is unsafe in much of the country, distances are great, and the terrain is extremely rough in many areas.

laura.king@latimes.com

Watson part of three-way tie for lead during at British Open


TURNBERRY, Scotland — Tom Watson, trying to become the oldest major champion in golf history, was in a three-way tie for the British Open lead with six holes remaining.

The 59-year-old Watson struggled to a 37 on the front side, giving away the one-shot lead he had after 54 holes. England's Lee Westwood led by two at the turn over Watson and his playing partner, Mathew Goggin of Australia.

But Westwood bogeyed the 10th and Watson made his longest putt of the day at No. 11, rolling in a 25-footer for birdie. That created a deadlock at 3 under that also included Goggin, a 35-year-old journeyman on the PGA Tour who hasn't won in 10 years — and that was when he played on the minor-league Nationwide Tour.

If Watson held on, he would be the golf's oldest major winner by more than a decade. Julius Boros was 48 when he captured the PGA Championship in 1968.

Watson could also ensure that he gets to keep playing the Open for another decade. Past champions are generally allowed to play only until they're 60 — a rule that Watson adamantly opposes.

But there's an overriding provision that grants playing rights to anyone who's won over the previous decade, so Watson could hang around until he's 69 if he gets his name on the claret jug for a sixth time.

Also, Watson was trying to tie the Harry Vardon's record for most Open titles.

There were plenty of guys in position to stop Watson's inspiring run. At the start of play, a dozen players were within five strokes of the lead.

But Watson was clearly the star of the show.

Even cyclist Lance Armstrong, who came out off retirement to pursue his eighth Tour de France title, was keeping an eye on Turnberry.

"How about Tom Watson?" Armstrong wrote on Twitter. "Incredible."