Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Our life sentence as husband and father is brain-damaged for life but the yob who kicked him in the head is already free

Marion Ingrouille was making spaghetti carbonara for her family that sunny summer evening in July 2002. Within the hour, her life changed for ever.

Her husband Christopher and two young sons had just returned from a cycle ride in the park near their house in Essex, when Christopher said he was popping out again but would be back shortly so they could eat together.

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Brutal attack: Christopher Ingrouille with sons Robert and Philip before he was assaulted

Yet he never returned. Even as Marion stirred the sauce and set the table, just around the corner Christopher was being savagely beaten by three drunken youths.

Two of the trio had sworn at him and his sons when the family had passed them a few minutes earlier.

Now, coming across the yobs again Christopher perfectly politely told them they should not have used foul language to his children.

Their response, after being joined by another lad, was to launch an attack which culminated in Christopher's head being kicked over and over again - 32 times, in fact - until his brain was, to all intents and purposes, destroyed.

Today, nearly six years on, and nearing 50, Christopher is little more than a human vegetable, cared for in a nursing home - just another victim of a horrifying, mindless drunken attack.

In the past couple of weeks, a series of similarly savage drunken assaults have sparked a national debate on binge drinking, and exactly how and why these attacks have become so common.

There was Joe Dinsdale, the 17-year-old stabbed to death on a crime-ridden housing estate, and law graduate David Burns, fighting for his life after being beaten by a teenage gang in the street.

Just over a week ago, Gareth Avery was kicked and left for dead after politely asking a young passer-by to stop urinating in his garden, and last month three teenagers were found guilty of murder after punching and kicking to death father-of-three Garry Newlove when he had remonstrated with them over the vandalism of cars in his road.

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Christopher is looked after by his wife Marion since he attack

The story of Christopher Ingrouille, however, is a chilling illustration of just how much a family continues to suffer years after the story has been forgotten and the media caravan has moved on.

Today, he cannot even recognise Marion as his wife when she visits regularly to cut his hair or put up a new family picture in his room.

He is fed raspberry-coloured medicine, with liquid nourishment and water through a plastic stomach tube.

Doubly incontinent, every morning his rag-doll body is lifted from bed to wheelchair by nurses using a large hoist.

Occasionally, he screams out in pain as if the feeding tubes are hurting his stomach.

He cannot speak or communicate, and when he becomes agitated he spits at visitors, including his own sons.

By any standards he is enduring a life sentence. Such is the sophistication of modern medicine and the quality of his 24-hour nursing that he will probably live like this for many years to come.

He cannot swallow. The only limb he can make work is his left hand, which he lifts very slowly to scratch his head.

And what of his teenage attackers - does the severity of their punishment go some way to alleviate the tragedy of the family they so clinically destroyed?

Garry Newlove

Garry Newlove was kicked and punched to death by three teenagers, who were last month, found guilty jailed of his murder

In fact, the Mail has learned, one of the three, Paul Ashman, is already out of jail.

He was freed last year, after serving a little more than half of the original seven-year sentence he was given for grievous bodily harm with intent.

Even before then, in 2006, just three years after the 18-year-old was found guilty at London's Old Bailey, he was allowed to leave prison for weekend outings, attending family birthday parties near his home in Silvertown, East London.

The other two attackers, Chad Patterson and Kevin Wakeling, also 18 at the time of sentencing, are likely to be paroled from jail within the next two years.

Disturbingly, they attacked Christopher while out of prison under licence following a vicious mugging, when a man's face was burned, and a robbery.

They were given 14 and 11 years respectively for the attempted murder of Christopher at the 2003 trial, an attack which the judge described as "savage".

It was nothing more than mischance that Christopher, an electrician who married Marion 23 years ago, crossed their path that day, but it was an encounter which has derailed his future, and that of his wife and sons, for ever.

Ashman and Wakeling first confronted him and his sons in an alleyway as they neared home on their way back from the park, just before tea time.

Christopher, known for his politeness, told the children to dismount from their bikes to avoid some broken glass in the alley and to get safely past the pair.

As they did so, Ashman and Wakeling hurled foul-mouthed insults. Christopher made no mention to his wife of the incident when he brought Robert and Philip back to the family's semi-detached house in a quiet suburban street nearby.

But shortly afterwards, he said he was popping out "for five minutes".

He was carrying a blue plastic bag to pick up the glass from the alley, which is beside an arcade of shops a few yards from their home.

The Old Bailey heard how Christopher once more encountered Ashman and Wakeling, and this time told them off for the way they had sworn in front of his sons.

An argument followed, but the youths appeared to calm down when Christopher offered to shake their hands.

He walked away but, at that moment, their friend Chad Patterson turned up. At the command of one of the other two, he hit Christopher, and the appalling beating began.

Back home, Marion was preparing supper.

"By the time dinner was ready, there was still no sign of Chris," she says.

"I began to eat my meal and then I saw a policeman through the net curtains coming to our door."

The officer told Marion there had been a vicious assault just around the corner. Had she seen anything suspicious?

"I said there were often youths over by the pub," she says.

"I asked if it was my husband, but the policeman said the victim was in his late 20s or early 30s.

"Christopher was 43, so I thought it couldn't possibly be him. I finished my meal.

"When the police officer came back a few minutes later, my heart completely failed me.

"He asked me what Chris had been wearing, and I said jeans and a black sports top. The policeman immediately said it was him."

For Marion, it was the moment normality ended. From July to September 2002, Christopher was in a deep coma.

"When I arrived at the hospital, I couldn't recognise Chris," she says.

"His head was the size of a big balloon. Both ears were black. His eyeballs were red jelly.

"I had to identify him by his chest hair and his key ring that was a memento of a holiday in San Francisco."

In October of that year Christopher started to have epileptic fits, and in December, as the swelling subsided, doctors discovered part of his brain was so badly damaged it had withered away.

"During the first days, I kept thinking: 'Perhaps he will wake tomorrow'," Marion recalls.

"But when the boys went back to school in the autumn - two months after the attack - Christopher still hadn't come out of the coma.

"I kept an album of the children's sports day in late July, a diary of his visitors and all his Christmas cards to show him when he woke up.

"Now I know they're useless, he will never be able to understand," she says.

"At first, the hospital staff said he might never walk again, then that Chris might never come home again.

"I said: 'Basically, you are telling me that these yobs have killed him?' The consultant, the whole medical team, had to agree the answer to that was yes.

"I have always told the boys as much as I knew," says Marion, 40.

"Philip kept asking: 'Why can't Daddy talk?' I told him that these teenagers had really, really hurt Chris.

"After nearly a year I had to say that Daddy would never take them on a bike ride again.

"The tragedy for Chris is that he could exist, and I use that word deliberately, for a very long time.

"Philip, our younger son, has said that when he learns to drive in six years' time he will be able to visit his Dad in hospital on his own. How terribly sad is that?"

The boys, now 16 and 11, can still remember that afternoon. Robert, who starts college this autumn, will not talk about it.

Philip blames himself for asking his father to take him out cycling.

"At first, Philip would not even look at Chris - he could not bear it," says Marion.

"He would just cuddle into me. Now Robert won't kiss Chris, he just says hello and goodbye and sometimes cannot bear to go into the hospital.

"One of the most heartbreaking aspects of all this is that all their memories will be of their Dad in hospital, unable to talk properly and dribbling."

In contrast, Paul Ashman - known as Dinky by friends on the shabby estate near London's City Airport where he was brought up - is now free after only a few years in jail, and looking forward to a fresh start.

His mother Carol refused to comment to the Mail about her son's quick release or the original attack, but a neighbour said: "Paul's been out for several months now and we see him at his Mum's.

"He just wants to be left alone and get on with his life."

If only the Ingrouille family could do the same.

No wonder that Marion believes she is witnessing a travesty of justice. This week, she spoke for the first time about the "cruel and lopsided" system which appeases young thugs and ignores their innocent victims.

It is hard for her to talk about it. She tries not to read the newspaper stories or watch the television news items that report the rising toll of deaths from drunken teenage street attacks in Britain.

It is, she says, too painful to read the details, which remind her of Christopher's tragedy.

"The do-gooders - many encouraged by today's politicians - are doing nothing to frighten off the sort of thugs who left Christopher with his heart beating, but not really alive.

"Even ten years ago it was different. We still believed that out in the streets you wouldn't get mugged by gangs of youngsters who you didn't know from Adam.

"Now, the teenagers who strut about with a drink in one hand and a cigarette in the other are afraid of no one. I see them every day outside the pubs wherever I go.

"Helen Newlove, the widow of Garry Newlove, who was beaten to death outside his home in Warrington, has called for a return to capital punishment in this country.

"I agree with her, and so do thousands of other ordinary people who are sick and frightened of what is happening."

Marion is not a political animal. But she has a reason to be angry.

She says: "I sat there, day after day, at the Old Bailey trial. It was all about the rights of Ashman, Wakeling and Patterson.

"The excuses given by the three teenagers and their legal team for why they had attacked Christopher, leaving him almost dead, were astonishing.

"One said he had eczema; another had been brought up by his grandmother. Yet the court took them seriously.

"Meanwhile, their friends in the public gallery were waving at them in the dock, and one of the gang's relatives was told to leave by the judge for swearing continually

"Wakeling, Patterson and Ashman even laughed and joked in court, just as they did after they left Chris all but dying in the street.

"I think they deliberately went for his head. I hate them for what they did and I am so angry that they are not being properly punished for their crime.

"It's so distressing to think that they were so unconcerned about what they had done that afterwards they went to the local tube and chatted up girls, talking on mobile phones they had stolen earlier that day and boasting about the blood - Chris's blood - on their clothes. They just didn't care."

The three were brought to trial after the arrest of Ashman and Wakeling on the evening of the attack. A neighbour of Marion's identified the pair as the culprits.

Patterson had run away, went into hiding and was found by police ten days later.

Marion was given a police liaison officer with whom she has kept in touch. He has kept her informed about the likely release dates of the two who remain behind bars, and how all three were treated in prison.

"I know that very soon after they went to jail, Paul Ashman asked permission to be let out for his sister's birthday.

"It was in the summer two years ago, and the birthday was on the same date as he and the others kicked my husband's head to a pulp.

"How dare he? If Ashman had any conscience at all, surely he would have remembered that particular anniversary.

"Soon after, he was allowed to leave the prison on weekend breaks.

"Before his release, last year, he was even able to go out to work from the prison, travelling alone and by bus."

It is too much for Marion. Upset about Ashman and what she believes is the lenient treatment of the other two, she has told the police that she does not want to hear any more about her husband's attackers.

"I cannot even bear to think about them when Chris is suffering and in pain. I told the police that I only want to be told when, and if, they die."

She admires Christopher for remonstrating with the yobs and not just walking on by.

But it has left her with no real husband, her children with no real father.

Meanwhile, she knows that the thugs who struck him down so mercilessly have the rest of their lives to enjoy.

On a shelf overlooking the sitting room of Marion's home is a picture of Christopher, the father everyone called a gentle man who hated an argument.

Tucked in the corner is a card written by his wife, which says: "Keep me in your heart."

The catastrophe for Marion is that her husband will never, ever walk through the door, kiss his family and read it.

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Journalist Who Exposes U.N. Corruption Disappears From Google

NEW YORK — How big do you have to be to earn the wrath of the United Nations and Internet giant Google?

If you're journalist Matthew Lee, all it takes are some critical articles and a scrappy little Web site.

Lee is the editor-in-chief, Webmaster and pretty much the only reporter for Inner City Press, a pint-sized Internet news operation that's taken on Goliath-sized entities like Citigroup since 1987.

Click here to view the Inner City Press Web site.

Since 2005, he's been focusing almost entirely on stories that deal with internal corruption inside the U.N., posting several stories online almost daily.

He's been especially interested in the inner workings of what could be called the practical-applications arm of the international organization, the United Nations Development Programme.

Many of Lee's stories were featured prominently whenever Web users looked for news about the U.N. using the powerful Google News search engine, a vital way for media outlets both large and small to get their articles read.

But beginning Feb. 13, Google News users could no longer find new stories from the Inner City Press.

"I think they said, 'If we can't get this guy out of the U.N., let's disappear him from the Internet,'" Lee said.

It began with an innocuous-sounding yet chilling form letter from Google to Lee, e-mailed on Feb. 8:

"We periodically review news sources, particularly following user complaints, to ensure Google News offers a high quality experience for our users," it said. "When we reviewed your site we've found that we can no longer include it in Google News."

As soon as he read it, Lee immediately suspected one thing: That someone at the UNDP had pressured Google into "de-listing" him from Google News — essentially preventing Inner City Press from being classified on Google News as a legitimate news source and from having its stories pop up when someone conducts a Google News search.

Over the last couple of years, Lee has proved to be a constant — and controversial — thorn in the U.N.'s side.

Though his writing is clunky, his methods unorthodox (and often highly annoying) and his news judgment sometimes more than a little off the mark, Lee has hit his share of bull's-eyes and became an outlet for whistleblowers inside the U.N.

In 2006, for example, he drew attention to human-rights abuses by the Ugandan People's Defense Force during a U.N. disarmament program, including incidents in which four people were killed and over 100 homes destroyed.

In November 2007, during a press conference in which Google announced its partnership with the UNDP to achieve anti-poverty goals, Lee earned a less-than-friendly response when he asked why the Internet company hadn't signed a global human-rights and anti-censorship compact —elements in the U.N.'s Millennium Development Goals.

[Google spokesman Gabriel Stricker told FOXNews.com that "Google generally does not sign petitions or join coalitions but prefers to support public-engagement and advocacy efforts through the work of Google.org and by leveraging our products, such as Google Earth."]

It was this incident, Lee said, that put him in the crosshairs. Lee said he felt certain that the Internet company and the international agency had now joined forces to make his work less accessible to the public.

"I've been covering ... U.N. stories, three to four a day, for two years, and for the last two years there's been no problem at all," Lee said. "Then that Friday, I received the e-mail. There's something a little skeezy here. I think that Google got involved with the U.N. on these Millennium goals and thought, this is the United Nations, if they tell you some small Web site is a thorn in their side and there's a credible reason you could remove them from your news service, you do it."

According to Stricker, on Feb. 1 someone e-mailed Google a complaint about Lee's Web site, alleging that Inner City Press was a one-man operation, thus violating the Google News ground rule that news organizations it lists must have two or more employees.

Lee is vague about how many people work for the Inner City Press, but said there's at least one woman who works for the organization full-time, as well as "about half a dozen" volunteers.

"If people work for us as volunteers, why does it not count?" he said. "Is it their business?"

Stricker said it is the only complaint that Google has ever received about Inner City Press and doesn't publish the qualifications it requires for being included, to thwart those who want to abuse the system.

But on Feb. 8 Google notified Lee about his new "de-listing" status.

When Lee received the e-mail from Google, he responded immediately, noting that Inner City Press had been accredited by the U.N. and was mentioned frequently in other media as an important U.N. watchdog.

A Google representative answered that Inner City Press would be restored to the Google News service as usual, but that the process might take "a couple weeks," according to Lee. Still, from Feb. 13 on, Inner City Press stories stopped showing up on Google News, something Google attributes to a technical error.

"We acknowledged our misunderstanding ... but it takes time for the restoration to occur," Stricker said. "The glitch will be resolved as soon as possible. We're working on it."

The reaction to the de-listing, however temporary, has been furious. The non-profit Government Accountability Project lambasted the company, calling Inner City Press "the most effective and important media organization for UN whistleblowers."

"We're alarmed," said Bea Edwards, GAP's international-program director. "The question is, is what user sent the complaint? And it's probably not too hard to guess. We would guess the complaints came from the UNDP."

Tuyet Nguyen, president of the U.N. Correspondents Association, said he was fully behind Lee, who was elected first vice president of the association in December 2006.

"The sad story about Google is that they're shutting people up and not doing a good thing for society by only defending their business interests," he said. "They have a responsibility to society in letting people speak out. And I'm not surprised that those U.N. agencies are trying to hide."

But UNDP spokesman David Morrison called allegations of the agency's involvement preposterous.

"It wasn't us," he said. "We did not contact Google."

Google refuses to reveal who sent the complaint against Inner City Press, citing privacy concerns.

Lee, who hasn't stopped writing his U.N. exposes despite the temporary de-listing, said that he's taken aback by the lengths to which, according to him, an international organization ostensibly dedicated to world peace will go to silence a critic as obscure to the general public as himself.

"It's a little weird," he said. "I guess they're just so unused to being covered like a public organization."

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Fired black worker claims white boss put noose on him

COLUMBIA, South Carolina (AP) -- A black former hotel worker who claims his white supervisor put a noose around his neck at an event on one of the country's oldest plantations said he was fired when he complained about it.

John Green, 62, said he was scared and embarrassed by his boss's actions at the Charleston Place Hotel function at Boone Hall Plantation in October.

Green and his attorney, Ed Brown, said a complaint was filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's office in Savannah, Georgia. However, Mason Barrett, director of that office, said he would not confirm whether his office had received a complaint.

The hotel's general manager said in a statement he had not seen a complaint from the commission and that Green was fired for violating company rules. Those rules were not specified.

Green, a former event supervisor at the hotel, said his boss laughed about the incident and "he thought it was funny."

"He was actually showing another guy from another country how to make a hangman's noose," Green said. "He sneaked up from behind me and slipped the noose over my neck and began tightening the noose."

Green said he was fired about a month later when he complained to hotel managers.

He said he recorded a meeting with hotel managers after he was fired, and when he told them about the recording, Green's boss was fired.

Pippa Isbell, vice president of corporate communications for Orient-Express Hotels, which owns Charleston Place, confirmed that the supervisor was fired "as a direct result of the incident with the noose."

Hotel general manager Paul Stracey said in a statement the company has a strong policy against discrimination.

"When any employee or former employee makes a complaint claiming unlawful discrimination, that complaint is thoroughly investigated and appropriate action is taken based upon the results of that investigation," Stracey said.

Green said he hasn't been able to find another job since being fired. He worked at the hotel about 10 years, he said. Before that, he owned a seafood market on Johns Island near Charleston.

Boone Hall Plantation offers guided tours of what life was like in the 1800s and is the site of wedding receptions and other events. It is about 10 miles from Charleston.

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Castro steps down as Cuban leader

Fidel Castro has not been seen in public since his operation in July

Cuba's ailing leader Fidel Castro has announced he will not accept another term as president, ending the communist revolutionary's 49 years in power.

The 81-year-old handed over power temporarily to his brother Raul in July 2006 when he underwent surgery and has not been seen in public since then.

Cuba's new parliament will meet on Sunday to elect a new president.

Washington has called for Cuba to hold free elections, and said its decades-long embargo would remain.

This should be a period of democratic transition for the people of Cuba
US President George W Bush

President George W Bush said the US was ready to help the "people of Cuba realise the blessings of liberty".

A senior US state department official, John Negroponte, added that the 1962 embargo would probably not be lifted "any time soon".

The European Union said it hoped to relaunch ties with Cuba that were almost completely frozen under Mr Castro, while China described Mr Castro as an old friend and said it would maintain co-operation with Cuba.

Mr Castro has ruled Cuba since leading a revolution in 1959.

The BBC's Michael Voss reports from Havana that most Cubans will be saddened by news of their leader's retirement, but many hope the political transition will bring economic improvements.

Soldiering on

Mr Castro made his announcement in a letter published on the website of the Cuban Communist Party's newspaper Granma in the middle of the night, Cuban time.

A Cuban reads the letter from Fidel Castro in Granma (19 February 2008)
I just want to carry on fighting like a soldier of ideas
Fidel Castro
Letter published in Granma

He said he would not accept another five-year term as president when the National Assembly met on Sunday.

"It would betray my conscience to take up a responsibility that requires mobility and total devotion, that I am not in a physical condition to offer," he wrote.

Mr Castro said he had not stepped down after undergoing emergency intestinal surgery in 2006 because he had had a duty to the Cuban people to prepare them for his absence.

But retirement, he added, would not stop him from carrying "on fighting like a soldier of ideas", and he promised to continue writing essays entitled Reflections of Comrade Fidel.

"I will be one more weapon in the arsenal that you can count on," he said.

Search for new leader

The National Assembly is widely expected to elect Raul Castro, 76, as Fidel's successor.

Fidel Castro photographed in New York City in 1959
Born in 1926 to a wealthy, landowning family
Took up arms in 1953, six years before coming to power
Brother Raul was deputy and Che Guevara third in command
Has outlasted nine American presidents
Target of many CIA assassination plots
Daughter is a dissident exile in Miami

He has mooted major economic reforms and "structural changes".

But some analysts see a possible generational jump, with Vice-President Carlos Lage Davila, 56, a leading contender.

Anyone hoping that Fidel Castro's departure from the political scene would bring about the end of the communist regime was disappointed, the BBC's Nick Miles reports.

Whilst Cuban exiles celebrated in Miami, Florida, there were no protests on the streets of Havana calling for political change.

In part, our reporter says, this is because the regime does not tolerate dissent - but it is also because many in Cuba are wary of what change will probably mean: a mass influx of exiles returning from Miami.

Raul Castro has worked to ensure a smooth political transition, keeping the army loyal to the regime and strengthening the Communist Party's hold by introducing reforms and weeding out corrupt officials.

He has also had the advantage of continued economic support from Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in the form of millions of barrels of cheap oil, our reporter adds.

Mixed legacy

It is not clear whether Mr Castro's retirement was prompted by a further decline in his health - the state of which is an official secret.

Though Fidel Castro has not been seen in public for 19 months, the government occasionally releases photographs and pre-edited video of him meeting visiting leaders from around the world.

The retiring leader will be remembered as one of the most distinctive and enduring icons from the second half of the 20th Century, the BBC's Paul Keller writes.

With his olive green fatigues, beard and Cuban cigars, Fidel Castro was the original Cold Warrior.

Under his leadership Cuba established the first Marxist-Leninist state in the Western hemisphere, almost within sight of the US coastline.

Embracing communism and the patronage of the Soviet Union, Fidel Castro transformed Cuba economically and socially but had to struggle when it collapsed.

He leaves his country with universal free healthcare and a much-admired education system, which has produced doctors for the developing world, but also a failing economy.

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Iran Opens Its 1st Oil Products Bourse

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran established its first oil products bourse Sunday in a free trade zone on the Persian Gulf Island of Kish, the country's oil ministry said.

A statement posted on the ministry's Web site said 100 tons of polyethylene consignment was traded at the market's opening on the island, which houses the offices of about 100 Iranian and foreign oil companies.

Oil and petrochemical products will be traded in Iranian Rials, as well as all other hard currencies, the statement quoted Iranian Oil Minister Gholam Hossein Nozari as saying. About 20 brokers are already active in the market, it said.

"The bourse provides an economic opportunity for Iranians, other countries and foreign customers," Nozari was quoted as saying.

Iran produces more than 20 million tons of petrochemical products per year.

Iran has already registered for another oil bourse, in which it has said it hopes to trade oil in Euros instead of dollars, to reduce any American influence over the Islamic Republic's economy.

A bourse official, Mahdi Karbasian, told the IRNA official news agency that such an oil market would begin operating within the next year.

While most oil markets are traded in U.S. dollars, Iran first floated the idea of trading oil in Euros in the early 2000s during the tenure of reformist president Mohammad Khatami. It gained new life after the nationalist Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was elected in 2005.

As the fourth-largest oil producer in the world, Iran has a measure of influence over international oil markets. The country ranks second for output among OPEC Countries, and controls about 5 percent of the global oil supply.

Tehran also partially controls the Persian Gulf's Strait of Hormuz, through which much of the world's oil supply must pass.

Iran has sought to wield its oil resources as a bargaining tool in its ongoing standoff with the West over its nuclear program.

The U.N. Security Council is considering imposing a third set of sanctions on Iran for defying a request to halt uranium enrichment. But Tehran has expressed doubt that the world body would impose sanctions on the country's oil sector, because such a move would likely drive global oil prices higher.

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McCain Says Bernanke Should Have Reduced Interest Rates Faster

Feb. 17 (Bloomberg) -- Republican presidential candidate John McCain said Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke should have been quicker to cut interest rates to try to avert a recession.

``I personally would have liked to have seen those rate cuts earlier,'' McCain said today on ABC's ``This Week with George Stephanopoulos.'' ``That doesn't mean I want him fired, it doesn't mean I've lost confidence,'' McCain said.

McCain, the Republican front-runner for the party's nomination, said that if elected, he would consider Bernanke's reappointment when his term is up in 2010.

Traders anticipate the Fed will cut rates a further half- point by March 18, after 2.25 percentage points of reductions since September. Fed officials lowered the overnight lending rate between banks by a half-point to 3 percent Jan. 30, after an emergency 75 basis-point reduction Jan. 22.

McCain, an Arizona senator, said the U.S. economy is ``very close'' to a recession.

Asked how his administration would differ from President George W. Bush's, McCain said he would do more to eliminate earmarks proposed by Congress, and he supports mandatory limits on greenhouse gas emissions through a cap-and-trade system, which Bush opposes.

$35 Billion

He said Bush allowed $35 billion in funding for pet projects, called earmarks, to be included in the budget over the last two year, money McCain said he would have cut.

McCain also pledged not to raise taxes if elected.

``No new taxes,'' McCain said. ``I could see an argument, if our economy continues to deteriorate, for lower interest rates, lower tax rates, and certainly decreasing corporate tax rates, which are the second-highest in the world.''

McCain said he also supports reducing government spending.

``Spending restraint is why our base is not energized,'' he said. ``Spending restraint is why we are having to borrow money from China.''

McCain said that as president he would seek congressional approval for any long-term accord to keep U.S. troops in Iraq. He also promised to consult with Congress before launching an attack on Iran, except in a ``dire emergency'' that would require immediate action.

``We have to have more of a partnership with the Congress. We have to have more consultation,'' McCain said.

Bush is negotiating a long-term military peacekeeping agreement with Iraq. The White House has said such status-of- forces agreements do not require congressional approval.

``It wouldn't bother me to bring it to the Congress,'' McCain said, taking aim at Democrats' efforts to set a timetable for withdrawal of troops. ``The issue takes care of itself when we succeed. I still say setting a date for withdrawal is chaos, genocide, and we'll be back, because al-Qaeda will then succeed.''

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Building a Life on $25 and a Gym Bag

College Graduate Leaves Comfortable Life for Poverty Experiment

Alone on a dark gritty street, Adam Shepard searched for a homeless shelter. He had a gym bag, $25, and little else. A former college athlete with a bachelor's degree, Mr. Shepard had left a comfortable life with supportive parents in Raleigh, N.C. Now he was an outsider on the wrong side of the tracks in Charles¬ton, S.C.

But Shepard's descent into poverty in the summer of 2006 was no accident. Shortly after graduating from Merrimack College in North Andover, Mass., he intentionally left his parents' home to test the vivacity of the American Dream. His goal: to have a furnished apartment, a car, and $2,500 in savings within a year.

To make his quest even more challenging, he decided not to use any of his previous contacts or mention his education.

During his first 70 days in Charleston, Shepard lived in a shelter and received food stamps. He also made new friends, finding work as a day laborer, which led to a steady job with a moving company.

Ten months into the experiment, he decided to quit after learning of an illness in his family. But by then he had moved into an apartment, bought a pickup truck, and had saved close to $5,000.

The effort, he says, was inspired after reading "Nickel and Dimed," in which author Barbara Ehrenreich takes on a series of low-paying jobs. Unlike Ms. Ehrenreich, who chronicled the difficulty of advancing beyond the ranks of the working poor, Shepard found he was able to successfully climb out of his self-imposed poverty.

He tells his story in "Scratch Beginnings: Me, $25, and the Search for the American Dream." The book, he says, is a testament to what ordinary Americans can achieve. On a recent trip to the Boston, he spoke about his experience:

Becoming a mover and living in a homeless shelter – that hadn't been part of your life before. How much did your lifestyle actually change?

Shepard: It changed dramatically. There were simple luxuries that I didn't afford myself. I had to make sacrifices to achieve the goals that I set out. One of those was eating out. I didn't have a cellphone. Especially in this day and age, that was a dramatic change for me.... I was getting by on chicken and Rice-A-Roni dinner and was happy. That's what I learned ... we lived [simply], but still we were happy.

But surely your background – you're privileged; you have an education and a family – made it much easier for you to achieve.

I didn't use my college education, credit history, or contacts [while in South Carolina]. But in real life, I had these lessons that I had learned. I don't think that played to my advantage. How much of a college education do you need to budget your money to a point that you're not spending frivolously, but you're instead putting your money in the bank?

Do you need a college education?

I don't think so. To be honest with you, I think I was disadvantaged, because my thinking was inside of a box. I have the way that I lived [in North Carolina] – and to enter into this totally new world and acclimate to a different lifestyle, that was the challenge for me.

Still, there was that safety net. Were you ever tempted to tap your past work, education, or family networks?

I was never tempted. I had a credit card in my back pocket in case of an emergency. The rule was if I used the credit card then, "The project's over, I'm going home."

So what did you tell people when they asked what you were doing?

That was the only touchy part of my story. I had this great back story on how I was escaping my druggy mom and going to live with my alcoholic dad. Things just fell apart, and there I was at the homeless shelter. I really embellished this fabricated story and told it to anyone who would listen.

The interesting thing is that nobody really cared.... It wasn't so much as where we were coming from, it was where we were going.

Would your project have changed if you'd had child-care payments or been required to report to a probation officer? Wouldn't that have made it much harder?

The question isn't whether I would have been able to succeed. I think it's the attitude that I take in: "I've got child care. I've got a probation officer. I've got all these bills. Now what am I going to do? Am I going to continue to go out to eat and put rims on my Cadillac? Or am I going to make some things happen in my life...?" One guy, who arrived [at the shelter] on a Tuesday had been hit by a car on [the previous] Friday by a drunk driver. He was in a wheelchair. He was totally out of it. He was at the shelter. And I said, "Dude, your life is completely changed." And he said, "Yeah, you're right, but I'm getting the heck out of here." Then there was this other guy who could walk and everything was good in his life, but he was just kind of bumming around, begging on the street corner. To see the attitudes along the way, that is what my story is about.

You made it out of the shelter, got a job, and opened a bank account. Did you meet other people who had similar experiences?

Oh, absolutely. We don't need "Scratch Beginnings" to know that millions of Americans are creating a life for themselves from nothing.... Just as millions of Americans are not getting by. There are both ends of the spectrum.

To meet that guy [in the wheelchair] at the shelter, [makes you wonder] 'Can he get out and go to college and become a doctor?' Maybe, maybe not. I think he can set goals..... You can use your talents. That's why, from the beginning, I set very realistic goals: $2,500, a job, car. This isn't a "rags-to-riches million-dollar" story. This is very realistic. I truly believe, based on what I saw at the shelter ...that anyone can do that.

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Pictures that Changed the World

Photography — Slorker on June 19, 2007 at 4:35 pm

berlin wall

BERLIN—A young man bridges the wall between East and West Berlin, 1989. © Raymond Depardon

Slate magazine has a collection of Magnum photos which changed the world. Mostly doused in black and white gradients, these pictures feature significant historical incidents. Some of them, like the picture of the girl who grew up in a concentration camp are remarkably powerful reflections on our actions.

Here are some of my favorites:

Spanish Civil War

CERRO MURIANO, Spain—Federico Borrell Garcia, Spanish loyalist militiaman, collapses into death, 1936.

This is a classic photo and I like it because the Spanish soldier looks totally peaceful and dare I say it, graceful even when falling to his death. Some have said it was faked but I don’t care. It’s beautiful.

Teresa David Seymour

POLAND—Teresa, a child in a residence for disturbed children, grew up in a concentration camp. She has drawn a picture of “home” on the blackboard, 1948. © David Seymour

This picture is just mind blowing. The kid is out of whack and severely traumatized by growing up in a concentration camp. Chalk lines that go nowhere and stay nowhere.

NORTH CAROLINA—A black man drinks at segregated water fountains, 1950. © Elliott Erwitt

White’s man burden. The difference is stark and very direct. It just hits you right in the face. White Americans even believed that they deserved better drinking fountains. Absurd.

sharpeville massacre

SHARPEVILLE, South Africa—Police open fire on a crowd, killing more than 70 and injuring hundreds of others during what came to be known as the Sharpeville massacre, 1960. © Ian Berry

I love the shot of the clouds in the picture. Ominous. Apocalyptic. Bearing weight upon everyone beneath it.

Martin Luther King

WASHINGTON, D.C.—At the climax of his “I Have A Dream” speech, Martin Luther King Jr. raises his arm on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and calls out for deliverance with the electrifying words of an old Negro spiritual hymn, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”, 1963. © Bob Adelman

Walking in the shadow of the valley of death, King does his thing and the audio for this speech is electrifying.

Jan Rose Kasmir

ARLINGTON, Va.—Jan Rose Kasmir confronts the National Guard outside the Pentagon during the 1967 anti-Vietnam War march, 1967. © Marc Riboud

This is a very iconic picture for many reasons as it totally symbolized the hippy creed of love overcoming all adversity and conflict.

The key to the appeal of Riboud’s seminal image may be Kasmir’s empathy for her adversary. “All of a sudden, I realized ‘them’ was that soldier in front of me—a human being I could just as easily have been going out on a date with,” Kasmir says. “It wasn’t a war machine, it was just a bunch of guys with orders. Right then, it went from being a fun, hip trip to a painful reality.” (Source)


SAIGON, Vietnam—The Saigon fire department, which has the job of collecting the dead from city streets, has just placed a girl, killed by U.S. helicopter fire, in the back of their truck, where her brother finds her, 1968. © Philip Jones Griffiths

Grief has been a main subject for many photographers and the little boy’s despair is heartbreaking.

Paris Riot

PARIS—Students hurl projectiles during the May 1968 student protest. © Bruno Barbey

The student protest in Paris was no Tiananmen but was a remarkably fun period for many students because of the massive energy on the streets. Protests, films, arts, secret meetings, marches, songs.. .the id unleashed in full glory. Barbey’s picture makes them look like they were dancing.


MEXICO—Mexicans are arrested while trying to cross the U.S. border, 1979. © Alex Webb

I love the color in this one. The maroon and browns of the shirts with the yellow daffodils. The helicopter becomes a misplaced contraption within the natural environment.

Afghan girl

PESHAWAR, Pakistan—An Afghan girl at Nasir Bagh refugee camp, 1984. © Steve McCurry

No worthy collection of seminal photography would ignore this iconic picture by McCurry. National Geographic made it big and this is really just a beautiful picture. Her eyes are incredible.

New Brighton

NEW BRIGHTON, United Kingdom—1985. © Martin Parr

I would love to know the context of this slightly surrealistic picture. Is he sunbathing or protesting with his body? The placement of the body just in front of the demolishing tractor just makes it so ambiguous. Love the little kid in pink.

Iran women

TEHRAN, Iran—Veiled women learn how to shoot in the outskirts of the city, 1986. © Jean Gaumy

Powerful picture. Women in Iran are generally treated like crap and heavily controlled by many fundamentalist rules. This picture is empowering and shows the strength of Iranian women.

Tiananmen square

BEIJING, China—Tiananmen Square, 1989. © Stuart Franklin

I can see why this picture was such a big hit when it was published. One person can make a change. Just one is usually enough to derail a movement or at least force it to reflect upon itself.

Tank Man, or the Unknown Rebel, is the nickname of an anonymous man who became internationally famous when he was videotaped and photographed during the Tiananmen Square protests on 5 June 1989. Several photographs were taken of the man, who stood in front of a column of Chinese Type 59 tanks, preventing their advance. (Wikipedia)

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US Court shuts down whistleblower site Wikileaks

Wikileaks, the Web site that has revealed countless government secrets, has been forced offline by a California judge.

The site, which allows whistleblowers to post documents anonymously, is being sued by a Swiss banking group implicated in money laundering in documents obtained by Wikileaks. The BBC reports:

However, the main site was taken offline after the court ordered that Dynadot, which controls the site's domain name, should remove all traces of wikileaks from its servers. The court also ordered that Dynadot should "prevent the domain name from resolving to the wikileaks.org website or any other website or server other than a blank park page, until further order of this Court." Other orders included that the domain name be locked "to prevent transfer of the domain name to a different domain registrar" to prevent changes being made to the site.

Versions of Wikileaks from Great Britain and other countries are still accessible.

In taking Wikileaks offline, the US joins China and Thailand in censoring the watchdog site.

In its report on the injunction, Wikileaks compares the case to the New York Times being ordered not to publish the Pentagon Papers.

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Liquid vests to repel bullets

After China Ships Out iPhones, Smugglers Make It a Return Trip

A store manager with an iPhone in Shanghai, where the iPhone costs about $555, more than the $400 in the United States.

SHANGHAI — Factories here churn out iPhones that are exported to the United States and Europe. Then thousands of them are smuggled right back into China.

The strange journey of Apple’s popular iPhone, to nearly every corner of the world, shows what happens when the world’s hottest consumer product defies a company’s attempt to slowly introduce it in new markets.

The iPhone has been swept up in a frenzy of global smuggling and word-of-mouth marketing that leads friends to ask friends, “While you’re in the U.S., would you mind picking up an iPhone for me?”

These unofficial distribution networks help explain a mystery that analysts who follow Apple have been pondering: why is there a large gap between the number of iPhones that Apple says it sold last year, about 3.7 million, and the 2.3 million that are actually registered on the networks of its wireless partners in the United States and Europe?

The answer now seems clear. For months, tourists, small entrepreneurs and smugglers of electronic goods have been buying iPhones in the United States and then shipping them overseas.

There the phones’ digital locks are broken so they can work on local cellular networks, and they are outfitted with localized software, essentially undermining Apple’s effort to introduce the phone with exclusive partnership deals, similar to its primary partnership agreement with AT&T in the United States.

“There’s no question many of them are ending up abroad,” said Charles R. Wolf, an analyst who follows Apple for Needham & Company.

For Apple, the booming overseas market for iPhones is both a sign of its marketing prowess and a blow to a business model that could be coming undone, costing the company as much as $1 billion over the next three years, according to some analysts.

But those economic realities do not play into the mind of Daniel Pan, a 22-year-old Web site designer in Shanghai who says a friend recently bought an iPhone for him in the United States.

He and other people here often pay $450 to $600 to get a phone that sells for $400 in the United States. But they are happy.

“This is even better than I thought it would be,” he said, toying with his iPhone at an upscale coffee shop. “This is definitely one of the great inventions of this century.”

Mr. Pan is among the new breed of young professionals in China who can afford to buy the latest gadgets and the coolest Western brands. IPhones are widely available at electronic stores in big cities, and many stores offer unlocking services for imported phones.

Chinese sellers of iPhones say they typically get the phones from suppliers who buy them in the United States, then have them shipped or brought to China by airline passengers.

Often, they say, the phones are given to members of Chinese tourist groups or Chinese airline flight attendants, who are typically paid a commission of about $30 for every phone they deliver.

Although unlocking the phone violates Apple’s purchase agreement, it does not appear to violate any laws here, though many stores may be avoiding import duties.

Considering China’s penchant for smuggling and counterfeiting high-quality goods, the huge number of iPhones being sold here is not surprising, particularly given the popularity of the Apple brand in China.

Indeed, within months of the release of the iPhone in the United States last June, iPhone knockoffs, or iClones as some have called them, were selling here for as little as $125. But most people opt for the real thing.

“A lot of people here want to get an iPhone,” says Conlyn Chan, 31, a lawyer who was born in Taiwan and now lives in Shanghai. “I know a guy who went back to the States and bought 20 iPhones. He even gave one to his driver.”

Negotiations between Apple and China Mobile, the world’s biggest mobile-phone service operator with more than 350 million subscribers, broke down last month, stalling the official release of the iPhone in China. Long before that, however, there was a thriving gray market.

“I love all of Apple’s products,” said a 27-year-old Beijing engineer named Chen Chen who found his iPhone through a bulletin board Web site. “I bought mine for $625 last October, and the seller helped me unlock it. Reading and sending Chinese messages is no problem.”

An iPhone purchased in Shanghai or Beijing typically costs about $555. To unlock the phone and add Chinese language software costs an additional $25.

For Apple, the sale of iPhones to people who ship them to China is a source of revenue. But the company is still losing out, because its exclusive deals with phone service providers bring in revenue after the phone is sold. If the phones were activated in the United States, Apple would receive as much as $120 a year per user from AT&T, analysts say.

But there are forces working against that. Programmers around the world collaborate on and share programs that unlock the iPhone, racing to put out new versions when Apple updates its defenses.

While Apple has not strongly condemned unlocking, it has warned consumers that this violates the purchase agreement and can cause problems with software updates.

Some analysts say abandoning the locked phone system and allowing buyers to sign up with any carrier they choose, in any country, could spur sales.

“The model is threatened,” Mr. Wolf, the analyst, said. But “if they sold the phone unlocked with no exclusive carrier, demand could be much higher.”

An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment on the proliferation of iPhones in China. When asked about the number of unlocked iPhones during a conference call with analysts last month, Timothy D. Cook, Apple’s chief operating officer, said it was “significant in the quarter, but we’re unsure how to reliably estimate the number.”

The copycat models are another possible threat to Apple. Not long after the iPhone was released, research and development teams in China were taking it apart, trying to copy or steal the design and software for use in knockoffs.

Some people who have used the clones say they are sophisticated and have many functions that mimic the iPhone.

In Shanghai, television advertisements market the Ai Feng, a phone with a name that sounds like iPhone but in Chinese translates roughly as the Crazy Love. That phone sells for about $125.

Some of the sellers of the copycats admit the phones are a scam.

“It’s a fake iPhone, but it looks nearly the same,” said a man who answered the phone last week at the Shenzhen Sunshine Trade Company, in southern China’s biggest electronics manufacturing area. “We manufacture it by ourselves. We have our own R. &D. group and manufacturing plant. Most of our products are for export.”

Most people here seem to want the glory that comes with showing off a real iPhone to friends.

“My friends envy me a lot,” says Mr. Pan, the Web designer. “They say, “Wow, you can get an iPhone.’ ”

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Belgrade Clashes Over Kosovo’s Independence

17 February 2008 Belgrade _ Hundreds of protesters clashed with Serbian police on Sunday evening, hours after Kosovo’s leaders unilaterally declared the province’s independence from Serbia.

At least 12 protesters, mainly fans of local soccer clubs and skinheads, were injured and arrested in several skirmishes in the Serbian capital.

The crowd damaged the Slovenian embassy, a McDonald’s restaurant and about a dozen shop windows.

“We hate the West, we hate Western values and civilization,” said a club-wielding protestor who identified himself as Nikola.

They chanted «Kosovo is Serbia» and slogans against Kosovo Albanians, Serbian President Boris Tadic and pro-Western opposition leaders, but also against conservative Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica.

Masked thugs chanted the name of the Bosnian Serb military leader Ratko Mladic, accused of genocide in the Bosnian 1992-95 war, who is still at large.

Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets in a skirmish at the downtown Terazije square, forcing the crowd to disperse, leaving overturned garbage containers, broken glass, stone fragments and other debris behind.

Eyewitnesses said that protesters stoned the Belgrade headquarters of the opposition Liberal Democratic Party, the only Serbian political party that has supported the possibility of Kosovo’s independence, and a nearby café.

B92 television reported that at 9 pm several groups were still in the streets, regrouping and returning to places from which police had earlier chased them away. The station reported that at least 11 policemen had been injured in clashes.

The protesters also smashed windows at the embassies of France and Brazil, according to local media and eyewitnesses, where later re-reinforced police protected and restore order.

«Then police started fighting back at demonstrators,» said a journalist from a Belgrade daily «Alo» who himself got beaten by police but was not seriously hurt.

He said that protesters were smashing everything they came across before police stepped in

Although officials have publicly called for calm, B92 also reported that journalists had seen officials of Democratic Party of Serbia, the party of Vojislav Kostunica, the current prime minister, among protesters in the northern city of Novi Sad.

Also spotted, according to the report, were representatives from the Socialist Party of Serbia, the party previously led by Slobodan Milosevic, the late wartime president.

Protesters in Novi Sad threw stones at two bakeries and a local McDonald’s restaurant.

A strong police presence was expected to remain in place in downtown Belgrade through Sunday night, guarding government buildings and embassies

Earlier in the evening, protesters had blocked the United States embassy in downtown Belgrade, pelting the embassy building and police with stones and signal torches. At least one policeman was carried away in an ambulance.

Serbian police in full riot gear had cordoned off the embassy and managed to push protestors away from the embassy.

“We want to show we hate Yanks and Shiptars,” said a young protester who identified himself only as Dejan. “Shiptar” is a derogatory Serbian term for Kosovo Albanians.

The protest was staged despite repeated warnings from top officials, including Serbia’s president, prime minister and parliamentary speaker, who urged people to remain calm while promising that they would employ peaceful means to annul Kosovo’s declaration of independence.

“Serbia will not turn to violence. This is the only approach that will allow us to fulfill our legitimate goal aimed at preserving integrity of the country,” Boris Tadic, the president, said in a statement .

In an emotional address to the nation, Vojislav Kostunica, the prime minister, said that the United States had “humiliated and forced Europe Union to discard its basic principles.”

“Europe bowed before America and it will be held responsible for all the consequences that will arise from Kosovo’s independence,” Kostunica said.

Meanwhile, Tadic’s office announced he would travel to New York to take part in an emergency session of the United Nations Security Council, called by Russia.

Serbia and Russia staunchly oppose Kosovo’s independence, which has been backed by the US and most EU member states.

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Disappearing bees threaten ice cream sellers

Premium maker Haagen-Dazs says vanishing bee colonies in the U.S. could mean fewer flavors and high prices.

Bees are responsible for 40% of Haagen-Dazs' flavors currently sold in the market.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Haagen-Dazs is warning that a creature as small as a honeybee could become a big problem for the premium ice cream maker's business.

At issue is the disappearing bee colonies in the United States, a situation that continue to mystify scientists and frighten foodmakers.

That's because, according to Haagen-Dazs, one-third of the U.S. food supply - including a variety of fruits, vegetables and even nuts - depends on pollination from bees.

Haagen-Dazs, which is owned by Nestle, said bees are actually responsible for 40% of its 60 flavors - such as strawberry, toasted pecan and banana split.

"These are among consumers' favorite flavors," said Katty Pien, brand director with Haagen-Dazs.

"We use 100% all natural ingredients like strawberries, raspberries and almonds which we get from California. The bee problem could badly hurt supply from the Pacific Northwest," Pien said

Pien said Haagen-Dazs is hoping scientists get a breakthrough in this mystery soon. Otherwise, she said, the company may have to "re-examine the flavors that we currently offers our customers."

"We have to ensure that we have enough supply to maintain our variety," she said.

Additionally, a supply shortage of key ingredients could push up retail prices for its products, she said.

Pien said the company is donating $250,000 to both Pennsylvania State University and the University of California, Davis to fund research into the bee colony collapse disorder (CCD).

She said Haagen-Dazs is also rushing to raise consumer awareness about the problem by launching a new flavor this spring called Vanilla Honey Bee.

"We'll use part of the sales from this flavor help the honeybees," she said.

"This is the first time that Haagen-Dazs has adopted a cause like this," said Pien. "We are taking this very, very seriously because it impacts not just our brand but the entire food industry."

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A Penny Saved, Is $10.7M Earned

LONG BEACH, Calif. (AP) ― A penny saved is not necessarily just a penny earned: One man's collection of rare American cents has turned into a $10.7 million auction windfall.

The collection of 301 cents featured some of the rarest and earliest examples of the American penny, including a cent that was minted for two weeks in 1793 but was abandoned because Congress thought Lady Liberty looked frightened.

That coin and a 1794 cent with tiny stars added to prevent counterfeiters each raised hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to the Dallas-based auction house Heritage Auction Galleries, which held the sale in Long Beach on Friday night.

Heritage Auction president Greg Rohan said the auction was the biggest ever for a penny collection, with hundreds of bidders vying for the coins. Presale estimates valued the collection at about $7 million.

"It was a fabulous night," Rohan said. "Every major coin collector of American cents was either there in person, bidding online or on the telephone."

The coins came from the collection of Burbank resident Walter J. Husak, the owner of an aerospace-part manufacturing company. Husak became interested in collecting at age 13, while visiting his grandparents who paid him in old coins for helping with chores.

There were 168 successful bidders, and the auction gallery got 15 percent of the total.

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