Edison Chen breaks silence on sex scandal

Edison Chen

Edison Chen

HONG KONG : He has retreated from showbiz, dealt with death threats and now disgraced pop idol Edison Chen who has been embroiled in Asia’s biggest sex scandal, is ready to reveal his side of the story.

The star who reportedly returned to Hong Kong about two weeks ago to settle some business matters – his father had recently declared bankruptcy – revealed in an interview with CNN’s Talk Asia that like the other female celebrities involved in the scandal, he too was a victim.

“I believed I was a victim. I believed that I was hurt by this a lot,” he told CNN. “I knew that I had nothing to do with the spreading of these photos.”

Cecilia Cheung

Cecilia Cheung

The lewd pictures which he said were taken with women’s full consent, showed Chen in compromising positions with at least half a dozen women, including Canto-pop star Gillian Chung, actress Cecilia Cheung and former actress Bobo Chan.

Chen told CNN he was terrified when the scandal broke in February last year. “I was afraid to go anywhere. I was traveling around when I was still in Hong Kong in trunks of taxis, literally, just to get to places,” he said.

Gillian Chung

Gillian Chung

“I had to be in the trunk for 15 minutes. I didn’t even know if I had enough oxygen to be honest with you.”

“Even when I had left Asia and I had went to Canada and America, it took me three months to really get out of the shell that I had put myself in. I mean, I was in darkness for five days,” he added.

“I had my drapes closed and I didn’t even want to go anywhere.”

The photos became an Internet sensation when they were stolen from Chen’s laptop when he sent it in for repairs in 2006 and circulated online, forcing the 29-year-old into early retirement and sending him fleeing to his childhood home of Canada.

Like Chen, some of the starlets have endured similar public disgrace and their careers have been ruined.

Bobo Chan and Edison Chen

Bobo Chan and Edison Chen

While Chen has apologized for any hurt or embarrassment caused soon after the photos surfaced last year, he has not spoken to any of the girls identified in the photos since the scandal broke.

“Initially it was because I couldn’t find them. Secondly, it was because I didn’t really know how to approach and really what to say to be honest with you,” Chen told CNN.

Cheung, wife of Hong Kong star Nicholas Tse, has publicly lashed out at the actor and accused him of being a hypocrite, saying the apology was all an act to “win the public’s forgiveness”.

In an interview with iCable in February 2009, Cheung said, “He has never apologized to us personally. He should at least have called us to say sorry if he genuinely admitted his mistake.”

“The photos are still circulating online. How can we live a healthy and happy life? How can we put ourselves back on our feet?” she added.

Responding to the accusations, Chen said, “I’m not trying to say that that justifies any wrong doing that she thinks I’ve done to her, but I hope that she can understand and I hope that she can forgive me either today or one day, and she’ll understand that I had my difficulties and I really, really never wished this to happen upon anyone and I still respect her.”

Hong Kong computer technician Sze Ho Chun who was found guilty of stealing, copying and distributing about 1,300 photos, has been sentenced to eight and a half months’ jail.

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Bubonic Plague kills 1 in New Mexico, USA

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. —  An 8-year-old New Mexico boy has died and his 10-year-old sister was hospitalized after both contracted bubonic plague, the first recorded human plague cases in the nation so far this year.

A child being infected by bubonic plague

A child being infected by bubonic plague

New Mexico health officials did not immediately say Thursday how the brother and sister contracted the infectious disease, but they are conducting an investigation at the family’s residence to determine if there is any risk to other people.

Plague is generally transmitted to humans through the bites of infected fleas, but also can be transmitted by direct contact with infected animals, including rodents, rabbits and pets.

Symptoms of the bubonic form of the plague in humans include fever, chills, headaches, vomiting, diarrhea and swollen lymph nodes in the groin, armpit or neck areas. Pneumonic plague, which is an infection of the lungs, can include severe cough, difficulty breathing and bloody sputum.

The Health Department, citing privacy concerns, would not release the name of the siblings or give a location for their home, other than saying it was in Santa Fe County. Spokeswoman Deborah Busemeyer said the boy died in the last couple of days but she declined to be more specific.

Fleas collected from the area are being sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for testing. Health workers also canvassed the neighborhood to tell other residents that plague had been confirmed in the area.

The CDC says an average of 10 to 15 persons contract the plague each year in the United States. Modern antibiotics are an effective treatment.

What is the BUBONIC PLAGUE?

The bacteria

The bacteria

Bubonic plague is the best known manifestation of the bacterial disease plague, caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis (formerly known as Pasteurella pestis). The term “bubonic plague” was often used synonymously for plague, but it does in fact refer specifically to an infection that enters through the skin and travels through the lymphatics, as is often seen in flea-borne infections. Bubonic plague kills about 50% of infected patients in 3–7 days without treatment, and is believed by many to be the Black Death that swept through Europe in the 1340s, killing millions.

Pathology and transmission

Bubonic plage bacteria under the microscope

Bubonic plage bacteria under the microscope

The bubonic plague is an infection of the lymphatic system, usually resulting from the bite of an infected flea. The fleas are often found on rodents, such as rats and mice, and seek out other prey when their rodent hosts die. Once established, bacteria rapidly spread to the lymph nodes and multiply. Yersinia pestis Bacilli can resist phagocytosis and even reproduce inside phagocytes and kill them. As the disease progresses, the lymph nodes can hemorrhage and become swollen and necrotic. Bubonic plague can progress to lethal septicemic plague in some cases. The plague is also known to spread to the lungs and become the disease known as the pneumonic plague.

Symptoms

The most famous symptom of bubonic plague is swollen lymph glands, called buboes. These are commonly found in the armpits, groin or neck. The bubonic plague was the first step of the ongoing plague. Two other forms of the plague, pneumonic and septicemic, resulted after a patient with the bubonic plague developed pneumonia or blood poisoning.

Other symptoms include spots on the skin that are red at first and then turn black, heavy breathing, continuous blood vomiting, aching limbs, coughing and terrible pain. The pain is usually caused by the actual decaying, or decomposing of the skin while the infected person is still alive.

History

The deadly disease has claimed nearly 200 million lives (although there is some debate as to whether all of the plagues attributed to it are in fact the same disease). There is mention of the plague in I Samuel 5 and 6, with the Philistines trying to remove it with an offering of gold tumors and gold mice to the Israelites. The first recorded epidemic ravaged the Byzantine Empire during the sixth century, and was named the Plague of Justinian after emperor Justinian I, who was infected but survived. The most infamous and devastating instance of the plague was the black death, which killed a quarter to half of the population of Europe. The Black Death is thought to have originated in the Gobi Desert. Carried by the fleas on rats, it spread along trade routes and reached the Crimea in 1346. In 1347 it spread to Constantinople and then Alexandria, killing thousands every day, and soon arrived in Western Europe.

Person infected by the plague

Person infected by the plague

The next few centuries were marked by several local outbreaks of lesser severity. The Great Plague of London, 1665–1666, was the last major outbreak of the bubonic plague in Europe. The plague resurfaced in the mid-18th century; like the Black Death, the Third Pandemic began in Central Asia. It spread worldwide, killing millions, into the early 20th century.

During the Second Sino-Japanese War, plague was used as a bacteriological weapon by the Imperial Japanese Army. These weapons were provided by Shirō Ishii‘s units and used in experiments on humans before being used on the field. For example, in 1940, the Imperial Japanese Army Air Service bombed Ningbo with fleas carrying the bubonic plague. During the Khabarovsk War Crime Trials the accused, such as Major General Kiyashi Kawashima, testified that, in 1941, some 40 members of Unit 731 air-dropped plague-contaminated fleas on Changde. These operations caused epidemic plague outbreaks.

Treatment

In modern times, several classes of antibiotics are effective in treating bubonic plague. These include the aminoglycosides streptomycin and gentamicin, the tetracyclines tetracycline and doxycycline and the fluoroquinolone ciprofloxacin. Patients with plague in the modern era usually recover completely with prompt diagnosis and treatment.

Don’t lecture us: Arabs tell Obama

by Jailan Zayan Jailan Zayan

CAIRO (AFP) – “Obama is just a prettier face. I’m sure his intentions are in the right place but I don’t expect much from the man,” a Cairo electrician said on Wednesday as US President Barack Obama began his much-anticipated Middle East trip.

Newspapers, analysts and ordinary Arabs warned Obama — whose election was hailed across the region — against emulating the policies of Bush by lecturing Muslims on democracy, and also urged him to be tough with Israel.

Obama began his tour in Saudi Arabia and will deliver a speech in Cairo on Thursday to the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims, after eight years of fraught ties under his predecessor George W. Bush.

“Don’t be biased towards Israel, don’t interfere in countries’ internal affairs and don’t give lessons in democracy,” said an editorial in Egypt‘s state-owned Rose El-Youssef newspaper.

The chief editor of Egypt’s state-owned Al-Ahram, Ossama Saraya, said Obama faced demands from his team to “put pressure on the Muslim world under the pretext of democratisation and respect for human rights.

“There’s nothing more absurd than putting more pressure on the Arab-Muslim world,” Saraya said.

Washington’s key Arab allies Egypt and Saudi Arabia have repeatedly come under criticism from international rights organisations for their poor human rights records.

“He can’t help the Palestinians because of the closeness of ties between Israel and America. He can’t improve the situation here (Egypt) because he’ll never convince the regime to change,” said taxi drive Mohammed Abdullah.”

Hamas, the Islamist rulers of the Gaza Strip boycotted by the West as a terrorist group, urged Obama to put “real pressure” on Israel.

“We will judge this visit on the basis of what he will say and concrete measures that he will take,” spokesman Fawzi Barhum said.

In Amman, the Jordan Times hoped that Obama — whose electoral promise of change has grabbed hearts in the troubled Middle East — should deliver on his pledge.

“If Obama fails in his mission of peace, the parties, and the world, might just as well prepare for more suffering and turmoil.”

In Lebanon, where Sunday’s parliamentary election will be monitored closely by Washington as it pits a Western-backed majority against a Hezbollah-led alliance backed by Syria and Iran, reactions were divided.

The Americans are testing the waters,” said travel agent Moufeed Shbeir. “Obama is trying to take a different route than Bush, but we’ll have to wait and see the results: are they going to bomb Iran?”

In non-Arab Iran, the head of North American Studies at Tehran University said Obama should have gone to the largest Muslim nation in the world — Indonesia — to address Muslims.

“I personally think Obama has made a mistake by choosing Saudi Arabia and Egypt. I don’t think this is going to go down well in the Muslim and Arab world,” Sayed Mohammad Marandi told AFP.

“Symbolically speaking, he could have gone somewhere like Indonesia,” he said.

Saudi Arabia’s Al-Riyadh newspaper warned Muslims against having high expectations. “The Islamic world should not think that Obama is coming to be an ally or a supporter,” an editorial said.

United Arab Emirates Vice President Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum warned Obama that the worsening economic situation would strengthen extremism in the Islamic world.

“Those young men, who are increasingly bored (due to growing unemployment), will be easy prey for those promoting extremism and hostility, mainly against the United States,” he wrote in Al-Khaleej.

Beirut-based analyst Paul Salem, who heads the Carnegie Middle East Centre, said he expected Arabs to be disappointed by Obama’s speech.

“What they want him to say is more than what he’s going to say,” he said.

“They want him to say that he’s going to come down hard on the Israelis, that he’s going to confront the settlement policy and that he’s going to push the Israelis to withdraw from the West Bank.

“Of course that is what every Arab would like to hear.”

On the streets of Cairo, which were getting a facelift ahead of Obama’s speech, citizens were more concerned about traffic jams than regional diplomacy on Wednesday.

“What’s he going to do for us? Lower the price of bread? If he does, then he’s welcome here,” said 38-year-old cafe worker Ahmed Abdel Salam.

New Legal Battle in Guantanamo

By MIKE MELIA, Associated Press Writer Mike Melia, Associated Press Writer

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba – A session of the Guantanamo war crimes court that began Sunday will likely show the difficulties President Barack Obama faces in changing the system and closing the prison by January.

The case in question, of a Canadian charged with killing an American soldier, is stalled by infighting among lawyers.

Other defendants have even more complex legal issues, and officials say the U.S. may have to choose between delaying Guantanamo’s closure or quickly finding somewhere else to hold the trials.

“I don’t think they’ll get a single trial done by January,” said Michael Berrigan, the deputy chief defense counsel for the Guantanamo tribunals. “I don’t think there’s any way.”

The Guantanamo war court sessions are held in the $12 million Expeditionary Legal Complex, a windowless courthouse of corrugated metal and a network of dozens of tents overlooking the Caribbean that the military says can be picked up and moved if necessary.

But the Obama administration has not found a replacement for Guantanamo. So when the judge in the trial of Omar Khadr decided a pretrial hearing was necessary, the military had no choice but to hastily arrange a charter flight to bring attorneys, court personnel and a dozen journalists to the U.S. base in Cuba.

The brief war court session, a closed hearing on Sunday and an open one on Monday, is the first since Obama asked military judges to suspend all proceedings while his administration reviews strategies for prosecuting terrorists.

The main issue before the tribunal is just who has the right to dismiss an attorney. It’s a straightforward question in traditional civilian or military courts but there are not yet many legal precedents at the Guantanamo Military Commissions and still disagreement over the rules.

The chief defense counsel, Air Force Col. Peter Masciola, has been trying since April to fire the lead attorney for Toronto-born Khadr, Navy Lt. Cmdr. William Kuebler, whose aggressive defense and impromptu news conferences have riled military superiors.

Kuebler insists Masciola can’t dismiss him without the trial judge’s permission.

It is nothing new for procedural issues to bog down efforts to prosecute terrorism suspects at Guantanamo. Obama’s pledge to revive the trials with more legal protections for detainees is expected to result in further legal challenges and delays.

“One thing I think we can all agree on is whatever time period you think it will take to complete something at Guantanamo, multiply it by X,” said Charles “Cully” Stimson, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs under President George W. Bush. He said there is no chance of trials wrapping up at Guantanamo by January, although Obama could be planning to move them to the United States.

Obama has not specified where he will hold commissions.

The prospect of moving detainees to the United States, however, appears to be growing more difficult politically as communities across the U.S. come out against holding terror suspects. Relocating the commissions to the U.S. could also threaten the system by making terror suspects eligible for more legal rights.

The chief prosecutor for the Guantanamo trials, Navy Capt. John Murphy, said his office is advising the administration on what a move to the United States would mean for the commissions.

“There are a lot of complicated legal questions that are being analyzed, and that is one of them,” Murphy said.

The U.S. intends to prosecute about 65 of the 240 detainees remaining at Guantanamo, according to Murphy, who said an administration task force is still deciding whether to try them in the commissions or U.S. federal courts. Eleven prisoners are currently facing charges at Guantanamo including five accused of orchestrating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington.

Khadr, the son of a slain al-Qaida financier, is charged with killing U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Speer of Albuquerque, New Mexico, with a grenade during a 2002 battle at an al-Qaida stronghold in Afghanistan. Kuebler has said there is evidence to suggest that Khadr didn’t throw the grenade that killed Speer. He also says the Canadian should be treated as a child soldier since he was 15 at the time of the battle.

Kuebler says Masciola wants to dismiss him over strategy disagreements. Masciola won’t discuss the dispute in detail but has called Kuebler’s leadership of the defense team “dysfunctional.”

Once the judge resolves who represents Khadr, he can address a request from Obama for a new 120-day suspension, issued in all pending commissions cases, that would keep them on hold until mid-September.

Obama could still roll back his self-imposed January deadline to close the prison, and there are at least some signs that the military expects Guantanamo to stay open.

A military defense lawyer, Air Force Maj. David Frakt, said his expired security badges for the prison and the commissions were recently renewed until May 2010.

White House: General Motors to file for bankruptcy

By JIM KUHNHENN and KEN THOMAS, Associated Press Writers Jim Kuhnhenn And Ken Thomas, Associated Press Writers

WASHINGTON – General Motors, the humbled auto giant that has been part of American life for more than 100 years, will file for bankruptcy protection on Monday in a deal that will give taxpayers a 60 percent ownership stake and expand the government’s reach into big business.

It would be the largest industrial bankruptcy in U.S. history, and the fourth-largest overall. In addition, a GM bankruptcy would be unprecedented as the federal government would pump billions more into the company.

Underscoring the government’s extraordinary role, President Barack Obama planned to announce his support for GM’s restructuring strategy at a midday appearance at the White House, much as he did in April when Chrysler sought court protection.

GM president and CEO Fritz Henderson planned to hold a press conference in New York immediately following Obama’s announcement.

Administration officials said late Sunday the federal government would pump $30 billion dollars into GM as it makes its way through bankruptcy court. That’s besides the $20 billion in taxpayers’ money that the Treasury already lent to the automaker.

The money would come from what remains of the $700 billion rescue fund for the financial sector.

The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity in advance of Obama’s public remarks, said the administration expects the court process to last 60 to 90 days. If successful, GM will emerge as a leaner company with a smaller work force, fewer plants and a trimmed dealership force. The company will stick with its four core brands — Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick and GMC.

“There is still plenty of pain to go around, but I’m confident this is far better than the alternative,” Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., said Sunday after being briefed about the developments by the president. “It’s a new beginning, it’s a rebirth, it’s a new General Motors.”

The government’s ownership stake and huge financial injection represents yet another remarkable intervention into the American private sector. The Treasury has stepped in to help banks, it has taken majority ownership in insurance conglomerate American International Group and it has guided Chrysler through bankruptcy protection proceedings.

Despite its sizable ownership, administration officials said the government intends to stay out of day-to-day management decisions. It says it intends to shed its ownership stakes “as soon as practicable.”

“Our goal is to promote strong and viable companies that can quickly be profitable and contribute to economic growth and jobs without government involvement,” a fact sheet issued by the White House and the Treasury Department said.

Still, it was the Obama administration that instructed GM to trim itself to a point that it could break even by selling 10 million cars a year. It’s current break even point is 16 million cars.

GM plans to name turnaround executive Al Koch to serve as its chief restructuring officer to help the company through bankruptcy protection, said a person familiar with the matter. The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity, was not authorized to speak about the appointment publicly.

Koch, a managing director with AlixPartners LLP, is a veteran turnaround specialist who helped Kmart Corp. through its Chapter 11 reorganization. He will lead the separation of the automaker’s assets into a “New GM” and the remaining parts of the company that will form “Old GM.” Koch will lead the management team that winds down the “Old GM” company once the automaker emerges from bankruptcy.

A majority of the Detroit automaker’s unsecured bondholders have accepted a deal viewed as crucial to reorganization, and Germany agreed to loan $2 billion to GM’s German unit, Opel, as part of its acquisition by a Canadian auto parts supplier.

The moves don’t change much for GM, but better prepare it for a bankruptcy protection filing, said Rebecca Lindland, an auto analyst for the consulting firm IHS Global Insight.

“The more agreements GM has with its interests, the better the bankruptcy is going to go,” she said. “It’s not a game changer at all.”

It would be the largest industrial bankruptcy in U.S. history, and the fourth-largest overall. In addition, a GM bankruptcy would be unprecedented as the federal government would pump billions more into the company, and take a 72.5 percent interest in the automaker.

On Sunday a group of large, institutional bondholders, representing 54 percent of GM bondholders, agreed to exchange their unsecured bonds for a 10 percent stake in a newly restructured company, plus warrants to purchase a greater share later. They had balked at an earlier offer, that gave them 10 percent of the company without the warrants.

Beyond the bankruptcy announcement Monday, GM is expected to reveal 14 plants it intends to close and name the buyer of its Hummer division. One of those plants, however, will reopen as a new small car factory. The decision to build the new car in the United States appears to address previous labor and congressional concerns that GM was considering importing a small car from its plants in China.

By building the car in the U.S., the share of U.S. produced cars for U.S. sale will increase from 66 percent to more than 70 percent.

In Germany on Sunday, the government agreed to loan GM’s Opel unit $2.1 billion, a move necessary for Magna International Inc. to acquire the company.

The Canadian auto parts supplier Magna will take a 20 percent stake in Opel and Russian-owned Sberbank will take a 35 percent, giving the two businesses a majority. GM retains 35 percent of Opel, with the remaining 10 percent going to employees.

The German funds are available to Opel immediately, as it attempts to shield itself from cuts if GM files for bankruptcy protection. Opel employs 25,000 people in Germany, nearly half of GM Europe’s work force. Under the deal, four factories in Germany would stay open saving jobs.

But jobs in other European countries may not be safe, Lindland said.

“As those (German) jobs are becoming protected, other jobs in other parts of Europe are put at risk,” she said.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who was traveling to China, followed the developments closely. The Treasury on Thursday offered bondholders 10 percent of a newly formed GM’s stock, plus warrants to buy 15 percent more to erase the debt. Last week, GM withdrew an offer of 10 percent equity after only 15 percent of the thousands of bondholders signed up.

The current 54 percent acceptance represents only $14.6 billion, but by lining up support in advance of a bankruptcy protection filing, GM is likely to find it easier to persuade a judge to apply terms of the sweetened offer to the rest of its unsecured debt.

It could also help the automaker get through the court process more quickly, said Robert Gordon, head of the corporate restructuring and bankruptcy group at Clark Hill PLC in Detroit.

“The more consensus you have, the more likely it is you’ll be able to move through the bankruptcy process in an expeditious fashion with less resistance,” Gordon said.

The company made a huge stride toward restructuring Friday when the United Auto Workers union agreed to a cost-cutting deal.

GM’s fate and the federal government’s intervention was scrutinized on several Sunday morning talk shows.

“I think the government auto bailout was a big mistake,” said Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on CNN’s “State of the Union” program. “We could have let these companies go through the bankruptcy process much earlier…without all of the additional government money, and ended up in the same place.”

In a typical Chapter 11 bankruptcy case, the company files a plan of reorganization that must be voted on by creditors. In each class of creditors, the plan would have to be approved by holders of two-thirds of the claims and a majority of the number of individual creditors who vote.

But the GM case is anything but ordinary, and it appears the company will sell some or all of its assets to a new entity that would become the new GM, rather than submit a plan to reorganize the old company.

GM’s stock tumbled to the lowest price in the company’s 100-year history on Friday, closing at just 75 cents after trading as low as 74 cents. In a Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization, the shares would become virtually worthless.

___

AP Auto Writers Kimberly S. Johnson and Tom Krisher in Detroit and AP Business Writer Harry Weber in Atlanta contributed to this report.