Saturday, April 19, 2008

Google First Quarter Profit Climbs 30 Percent

A Google sign at Google headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. is seen Oct. 15, 2007. Google Inc. reports earnings for the first quarter after the market closes on Thursday, April 17, 2008. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)

SAN FRANCISCO — Google Inc. tweaked its online advertising formula and accelerated its growth outside the United States to produce a first-quarter profit that surpassed analysts' predictions, alleviating some of the economic worries battering its stock this year.

The news, released after the stock market closed Thursday, lifted Google's recently drooping shares by more than $76, or 17 percent.

"This is mostly a relief rally," said Stanford Group analyst Clayton Moran. "People are relieved that things aren't as bad as they thought."

Google's global appeal propelled the Mountain View-based company as more than half its revenue came from outside the United States for the first time in its 9 1/2-year history.

The Internet search leader said it earned $1.31 billion, or $4.12 per share, during the first three months of the year. That represented a 30 percent increase from net income of $1 billion, or $3.18 per share, in the first quarter of 2007.

If not for expenses to cover stock given its employees, Google said it would have made $4.84 per share.

That figure outstripped the average projection of $4.52 per share among analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial.

First-quarter revenue totaled $5.19 billion, up 42 percent from $3.66 billion a year ago.

After subtracting the commissions paid to the company's advertising partners, Google's revenue stood at $3.7 billion _ about $100 million above analyst estimates.

"It's clear we are well positioned for 2008 and beyond, regardless of the business environment we are surrounded by," Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt told analysts during a Thursday conference call.

Some analysts and investors, though, remain cautious because so much of Google's ad revenue comes from small and mid-sized businesses, which are more apt to curb their spending if the economy worsens.

"The fact Google hasn't seen a slowdown yet just means that there might be another shoe to drop," said Darren Chervitz, co-manager and research director for the Jacob Internet Fund, which has sold about half of its Google holdings in recent months.

Google's first-quarter showing could be a precursor to a strong earnings report from Yahoo Inc. next week.

If it can meet or exceed analyst expectations like Google did, Yahoo will be in a better position to ward off Microsoft Corp.'s unsolicited takeover bid or at least argue for its suitor to raise the cash-and-stock offer from its current value of about $42 billion.

Google is trying to help Sunnyvale-based Yahoo thwart Microsoft by helping Yahoo place ads on its Web site as part of a test scheduled to conclude next week. Schmidt declined to answer a question about the chances of Google signing a long-term advertising contract with Yahoo _ a deal that would likely face intense scrutiny from antitrust regulators.

"It's nice to be working with Yahoo," Schmidt said. "We like them very much."

Investors had serious doubts about Google's short-term prospects before Thursday.

The financial targets that guide Wall Street's expectations had fallen during the past two months as Web surfing data convinced analysts that Google's advertising links aren't attracting as much consumer interest amid mounting evidence the U.S. economy had tumbled into a recession. Google makes money from the links only when Web surfers click on them.

But management has said the slowdown in ad clicking largely reflected changes that purposefully reduced the volume of commercial in an effort to deliver more compelling messages that lead to purchases.

By making this switch, Google bet that advertisers would be willing to pay more for each ad link and ultimately generate more revenue from fewer clicks.

That appears to be what happened in the first quarter when the company said the number of paid clicks from last year rose by 20 percent, less than half the rate of the first-quarter revenue increase.

Google's performance indicates the Internet's advertising market _ expected to generate $44 billion in worldwide spending this year _ remains robust, especially outside the United States.

International markets accounted for 51 percent of Google's revenue in an expansion that was accentuated by the weak dollar. Google said its revenue would have been about $202 million lower if the dollar's value hadn't declined so dramatically from the first quarter of 2007.

As it was, Google's international revenue surged by about 50 percent from last year's first quarter compared with about 30 percent in the United States.

An unusually low tax rate of 24 percent also bolstered Google's earnings. The company's quarterly tax rate ranged from 25 percent to 27 percent last year. Management attributed this year's lower rate primarily to its widening exposure to markets outside the United States.

The results restored some of the $75 billion in shareholder wealth that had evaporated with the 35 percent drop in Google's stock price this year.

Google shares declined $5.49 during regular trading to finish at $449.54 before the company released its pleasant surprise.

This was the 12th quarter out of the 15 since Google went public that its performance has topped analyst expectations _ a trend that had helped propel its stock to nearly $750 before the recent plunge.

Original here

WaMu: Sorry We Don't Have Your $4200 In Cash, Want A Check?

Maybe we're crazy but $4200 doesn't seem like too much money to withdraw in cash at a branch bank, especially if you give them 24 hours notice. Apparently, that large of a withdrawal leaves WaMu all tapped out. Is WaMu really that short on capital reserves?
I had an interesting time last night at my local Washington Mutual.

I am getting ready to leave on a trip to Las Vegas for a friends wedding so last night I decided that I would actually go into a Washington Mutual branch and withdraw my 'bankroll'. It was about 10 minutes to close but there thankfully no line. I filled out the withdrawal slip for the cash that I wanted, approached the teller, scanned my ATM card, entered my PIN and handed her the slip. She immediately asked if I wanted a check for the amount ($4.2k) and I said no, that I wanted cash. She then yelled to the manager across the bank about the transaction. He asked; how much? She said "$4200". Keep in mind that this was not done in private but across the room at the bank, therefore letting everyone in the room know that I wanted a (fairly) large sum of cash.

It was at this time that the faux hawk sporting manager said 'nope'. He told me (still across the room BTW) that they operated on some automatic withdrawal machines and that he couldn't authorize that much of a withdrawal because other people needed to use it and that the amount of capital wouldn't cover it.

In shock I asked when they (the bank!) would be getting more capital, he said that they got more nightly. So I asked if I could come get the amount I wanted tomorrow. He said 'no' again. Apparently these machines had enough money for me but they didn't want to give it to me because someone else might need it (the bank is open for 10 more minutes).

The manager let me know that I could try a 'traditional' WaMu branch as they have 'more leniencies' with the withdrawal amount. Keep in mind that those are at least 3 miles (over 30 minutes in San Francisco) away.

I then asked the teller very plainly... "Are you saying that I can't have MY money?"

She said "yes".

Beyond mad I ripped up my withdrawal slip and left the bank. I have two out standing checks (IRS and State) with WaMu, when they clear I am OUT. I can't think of anything more ridiculous than not being able to get my money. Aren't there some rules about that?

I guess that the good thing to come of all this is that there can't be a run on the banks because even if everyone tried to get their money... the banks will not give it to you!

Thought this was something that you might find interesting!

Is this normal? We've been snooping around looking for rules as to how much cash you can withdraw from a bank and haven't been able to find much of anything. Cash withdrawals over $10,000 require a something called a Currency Transaction Report, and we've seen some credit unions that ask for notice of one business day for withdrawals over $2,000. One day's notice seems reasonable.

Any bankers want to explain how this works?

Original here

Japan temple rejects torch relay

A Chinese guardian holds the Olympic flame during a relay leg (file image)
Several legs of the relay have been disrupted by human rights protests

A major Buddhist temple has withdrawn from plans to host Japan's opening stage of the Olympic torch relay.

Zenkoji Temple, in the city of Nagano, had been due to serve as the starting point for the parade on 26 April.

An official said the monks were worried about safety but also linked the decision to concern over recent unrest in Tibet.

Meanwhile the torch has arrived in Thailand in preparation for a parade through the capital city, Bangkok.

The relay has been dogged by protests over Tibet, with chaotic scenes in London, Paris and San Francisco.

Security row

In Japan, the torch is to be paraded 18.5km (11.5 miles) through Nagano, which hosted the 1998 Winter Olympic Games.

The decision by the temple to withdraw was announced after talks with city officials.

"We needed to think about security, being a temple with national treasures and many visitors," a temple official told Reuters news agency.

"We also had to take into account the many messages of concern that we, as a Buddhist temple, received from residents all over the country and from our followers after growing international focus on the Tibet issue."

Kunihiko Shinohara, of Nagano's organising committee for the relay, said that the starting point for the parade would be changed.

"We respect the temple's decision," he said.

The city has already cancelled one event planned around the relay because of security concerns.

There is also a row brewing with China about whether or not its security officials will be allowed to run alongside, reports the BBC's Chris Hogg in Tokyo.

Japan says its own security measures will be sufficient, but China has asked Japan to accept that its people should be in place to deter any demonstrators.

On Thursday, the Indian leg of the relay, in the capital, Delhi, took place under tight security. At least 100 pro-Tibet activists were arrested.

Torch lit in Olympia on 24 March and taken on five-day relay around Greece to Athens
After handover ceremony, taken to Beijing on 31 March to begin a journey of 136,800 km (85,000 miles) around the world

Torch arrives in Macau on 3 May. After three-month relay all around China, it arrives in Beijing for opening ceremony on 8 August

Original here

Praying passenger removed from plane at NY airport

NEW YORK - A passenger who left his seat to pray in the back of a plane before it took off, ignoring flight attendants' orders to return, was removed by an airport security guard, a witness and the airline said.

The Orthodox Jewish man, who wore a full beard, a black hat and a long black coat, stood near the lavatories and began saying his prayers while the United Airlines jet was being boarded at John F. Kennedy International Airport on Wednesday night, said Ori Brafman, a fellow passenger who spoke about the incident by phone from San Francisco, where he lives.

When flight attendants urged the man, who was carrying a religious book, to take his seat, he ignored them, Brafman said. Two friends, who were seated, tried to tell the attendants that the man couldn't stop until after he'd finished his prayers in about 2 minutes, he said.

When the man finally stopped praying, he explained that he couldn't interrupt his religious ritual and wasn't trying to be rude. But the attendants summoned a guard to remove him, said Brafman, a writer who had been visiting New York to talk to publishers.

The plane, Flight 9 to San Francisco, took off without the man. It landed at its destination as scheduled, Brafman said.

Robin Urbanski, a spokeswoman for United Airlines, a subsidiary of UAL Corp. with headquarters in Chicago, confirmed the man was taken off the plane and put on another flight Thursday morning.

Urbanski said flights cannot depart if all passengers are not in their seats, which risks a delay, and it is important that passengers listen to the instructions of the flight crew.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs area airports, and the Transportation Security Administration, which handles airport security, said Thursday they weren't involved in the incident.

Original here

China: We're fighting piracy, honest!

If there's one thing China is known for aside from its Internet censorship practices, it's piracy. China insists, though, that it is making an effort to crack down on piracy, especially in anticipation of the Olympic Games this summer. Chinese officials said at a news conference this morning that the state had convicted 4,322 people for piracy in 2007, and that it would make a special effort to ensure that the Olympic trademark would be protected.

"The Chinese government has taken concrete steps and its success is there for all to see," State Intellectual Property Office spokesperson Yi Xintian told the press, according to the AP. "We are extending comprehensive and strict protection to Olympic intellectual property. The Chinese government has the resolve and capability to make sure that during the Olympic Games we create a favorable climate for intellectual property."

It's no secret that China is rife with intellectual property rip-offs—not just of music, movies, and software, but of everything you can possibly think of. Handbags, Beanie Babies (yes, still), shoes, cell phones, other gadgets, home appliances, clothing—anything that has a well-known brand name can be found in knockoff form. This fact is amplified significantly if you actually visit some cities in China; it's near impossible to turn your head and not be greeted with blocks upon blocks of street vendors trying to hawk their ripped-off wares for cheaper than it costs to buy a bottle of pop in the US.

It's no surprise, then, that the International Olympic Committee could be a little concerned over its trademarks being abused when the Olympics touch down in Beijing. For an organization that undoubtedly makes lots of money on official merchandise sales, China can be a very scary place.

China's statements come at a time when the country is still widely criticized for not doing enough to combat piracy. A year ago, US Trade Representative Susan Schwab filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization over China's "inadequate protection of intellectual property rights," and later that month the WTO named China again at the top of its piracy watch list. Although some organizations—such as the Business Software Alliance—say that the piracy situation in China is improving, China has continued to butt heads with government officials and even Hollywood.

Some companies, though, are trying to compete with pirates instead. Twentieth Century Fox, Warner China, and Paramount have all begun selling DVDs in China at a severe discount in hopes of attracting would-be buyers away from illicit copies being sold on the street. These studios have priced their movies at between 10 and 25 yuan (roughly $1.40 to $3.50)—the lower end being roughly the same price at which pirated movies are commonly found.

The studios have apparently found that selling their DVDs for so cheap is still better than not selling any at all. If the IOC is smart, perhaps it should plan to sell official merchandise on the cheap during the Games, too.

Original here

Polygamist sect hearing in Texas descends into farce

SAN ANGELO, Texas (AP) - A court hearing to decide the fate of the 416 children swept up in a raid on a West Texas polygamist sect descended into farce Thursday, with hundreds of lawyers in two packed buildings shouting objections and the judge struggling to maintain order.

The case - clearly one of the biggest, most convoluted child-custody hearings in U.S. history - presented an extraordinary spectacle: big-city lawyers in suits and mothers in 19th-century, pioneer-style dresses, all packed into a courtroom and a nearby auditorium connected by video.

At issue was an attempt by the state of Texas to strip the parents of custody and place the children in foster homes because of evidence they were being physically and sexually abused by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a renegade Mormon splinter group suspected of forcing underage girls into marriage with older men.

As many feared, the proceedings turned into something of a circus - and a painfully slow one.

(AP) Members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, front, walk out of the...
Full Image
By late afternoon only two witnesses had testified, and both only to lay the foundation for documents to be admitted. One witness, a state trooper, was cross-examined by dozens of attorneys, each of them asking the same question on behalf of a child or parent.

As the afternoon dragged on, no decisions had been made on the fate of any of the youngsters.

Additional details on life at the ranch began to emerge as child welfare investigator Angie Voss testified.

She said that if one of the men fell out of favor with the FLDS, his wives and children would be reassigned to other men. The children would then identify the new man as their father. Voss said that contributed to the problem of identifying children's family links and their ages.

Texas District Judge Barbara Walther struggled to keep order as she faced 100 lawyers in her 80-year-old Tom Green County courtroom and several hundred more participating over a grainy video feed from an ornate City Hall auditorium two blocks away.

(AP) Members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints arrive at the Tom Green...
Full Image
The hearing disintegrated quickly into a barrage of shouted objections and attempts to file motions, with lawyers for the children objecting to objections made by the parents' attorneys. When the judge sustained an objection to the prolonged questioning of the state trooper, the lawyers cheered.

Upon another objection about the proper admission of medical records of the children, the judge threw up her hands.

"I assume most of you want to make the same objection. Can I have a universal, 'Yes, Judge'?" she said.

In both buildings, the hundreds of lawyers stood and responded in unison: "Yes, Judge."

But she added to the chaos as well.

(AP) Members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints make their way down a...
Full Image
Walther refused to put medical records and other evidence in electronic form, which could be e-mailed among the lawyers, because it contained personal information. A courier had to run from the courthouse to the auditorium delivering one document at a time.

"We're going to handle this the best we can, one client at a time," Walther said.

Little evidence had been admitted by midafternoon. The first attempt to admit evidence resulted in an hourlong recess while all the lawyers examined it. The rest of the morning was spent in arguments about whether to admit the medical records of three girls, two 17-year-olds and one 18-year-old.

Department of Public Safety Sgt. Danny Crawford testified to DPS's discovery of a church bishop's records taken from a safe at the ranch that listed about 38 families, some of them polygamous and some that included wives 16 or 17 years old. But under repeated cross-examination, Crawford acknowledged the records contained no evidence of sexual abuse.

The sect came to West Texas in 2003, relocating some members from the church's traditional home along the Utah-Arizona state line. Its prophet and spiritual leader, Warren Jeffs, is in prison for forcing an underage girl into marriage in Utah.

(AP) Dan, 24, a member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints walks down a...
Full Image
Voss testified that through their interviews with girls at the ranch, investigators believed there was a pattern of underage girls given in marriage to older men.

Voss said that if the prophet told the girl to marry or to lie the girl would do as instructed.

"If the prophet told her to lie she would because the prophet received all his messages from the Heavenly Father," Voss said.

State officials asked the judge for permission to conduct genetic testing on the children and adults because of difficulty sorting out the sect's tangled family relationships and matching youngsters with their parents. The judge did not immediately rule.

Amid the shouting and chaos among the lawyers, who came from around Texas to represent the children and parents free of charge, dozens of mothers sat timidly in their long cotton dresses, long underwear even in the spring heat, and braided upswept hair.

(AP) Members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints walk along the grounds of...
Full Image
In the satellite courtroom, about 175 people strained to see and hear a large projector set up on the auditorium's stage. But the feed was blurry and barely audible.

"I'm not in a position to advocate for anything," complained Susan Hays, the appointed attorney for a 2-year-old sect member.

Outside, where TV satellite trucks lined the street in front of the courthouse's columned facade, a man who said he was an FLDS father waved a photo of himself surrounded by his four children, ranging from a baby to a child of about 9.

"Look, look, look," the father said. "These children are all smiling, we're happy."

Walther signed an emergency order nearly two weeks ago giving the state custody of the children after a 16-year-old girl called an abuse hot line claiming her husband, a 50-year-old member of the sect, beat and raped her. The girl has yet to be identified.

(AP) A member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints works in the garden on...
Full Image
Authorities raided their compound April 3 in the nearby town of Eldorado - a 1,700-acre ranch with a blindingly white limestone temple and log cabin-style houses - and began collecting documents and disk drives that might provide evidence of underage girls being married to adults.

The children, who are being kept in a domed coliseum in San Angelo, range in age from 6 months to 17 years. Roughly 100 of them are under 4.

FLDS members deny children were abused and say the state is persecuting them for their faith.

The judge must weigh the allegations of abuse and also decide whether it is in the children's best interest to be placed into mainstream society after they have been told all their lives that the outside world is hostile and immoral.

If the judge gives the state permanent custody of the children, the Texas child services agency will face the enormous task of finding suitable homes. It will also have to decipher brother-sister relationships so that it can try to preserve them.

Over the past two weeks, the agency has relied on volunteers to help feed the children, do their laundry and provide crafts and games for them.

Gov. Rick Perry would not say how much the case is costing the state, but said: "Does the state of Texas have the resources? Absolutely we do."


Associated Press writer Jennifer Dobner in San Angelo, Angela K. Brown in Fort Worth, and Linda Stewart Ball in Grapevine, Texas, contributed to this report.

Original here

University calls art project a fiction; Shvarts '08 disputes Yale's claim

According to a statement released by the University today, Aliza Shvarts .08 was never impregnated. She never miscarried. The sweeping outrage on blogs across the country was apparently for naught.

The supposed senior art project of the Davenport College senior was a .creative fiction,. a Yale official said Thursday afternoon as students on campus and bloggers across the country expressed colossal outrage over what Shvarts described as a documentation of a nine-month process during which she claimed to have artificially inseminated herself .as often as possible. while periodically taking .abortifacient drugs. to induce miscarriages.

.The entire project is an art piece, a creative fiction designed to draw attention to the ambiguity surrounding form and function of a woman.s body,. Yale spokeswoman Helaine Klasky said in a written statement e-mailed to the News this afternoon.

But Shvarts stood by her project, calling the University.s statement .ultimately inaccurate..

Klasky said Shvarts informed three senior Yale officials today . including two deans . that she neither impregnated herself nor induced any miscarriages. Rather, the entire episode, including a press release describing the exhibition, was .performance art,. Klasky said.

.She is an artist and has the right to express herself through performance art,. Klasky said. .Had these acts been real, they would have violated basic ethical standards and raised serious mental and physical health concerns..

But Shvarts reiterated Thursday that she repeatedly use a needleless syringe to insert semen into herself. At the end of her menstrual cycle, she took abortifacient herbs to induce bleeding, she said. She said she does not know whether or not she was ever pregnant.

.No one can say with 100-percent certainty that anything in the piece did or did not happen,. Shvarts said, .because the nature of the piece is that it did not consist of certainties..

This afternoon, Shvarts showed the News footage from tapes she plans to play at the exhibit. The tapes depict Shvarts . sometimes naked, sometimes clothed . alone in a shower stall bleeding into a cup.

Pia Lindman, Shvarts.s thesis adviser, and Davenport College Dean Craig Harwood could not be reached for comment Thursday. Art Director of Undergraduate Studies Henk van Assen deferred comment to the Yale Office of Public Affairs.

Yale.s statement comes after a day of widespread outrage all across the country following an article in today.s edition of the News in which Shvarts described her supposed exhibition, which she said would include the video recordings well as a preserved collection of the blood from the process, which she said she is storing in a freezer.

In an interview Wednesday, Shvarts said the goal of her exhibition was to spark conversation and debate about the relationship between art and the human body. She said her endeavor was not conceived with any .shock value. in mind.

.I hope it inspires some sort of discourse,. Shvarts said. .Sure, some people will be upset with the message and will not agree with it, but it.s not the intention of the piece to scandalize anyone..

Shvarts said her project would take the form of a large cube suspended from the ceiling of a room in the gallery of Green Hall. Shvarts said she would wrap hundreds of feet of plastic sheeting around the cube, with blood from her self-induced miscarriages lining the sheeting.

Recorded videos of her experiencing her miscarriages would be projected onto the four sides of the cube, Shvarts said, and similar videos would also be displayed on the walls of the room.

Many students on campus expressed outrage when told of the concept, saying it trivialized abortion and transgressed any reasonable moral boundary. On Thursday, the general public seemed to agree; by early evening Thursday, news outlets from The Washington Post to London.s Daily Telegraph had reported the story, and the blogosphere was ablaze in horrified debate over the supposed exhibition.

The project . at least the way Shvarts presented it in her press release and her interview . was immediately condemned Thursday by national groups on both sides of the abortion debate.

.It.s clearly depraved. I think the poor woman has got some major mental problems,. the president of the National Right to Life Committee, Wanda Franz, was quoted as saying on the Web site of FOX News. .She.s a serial killer. This is just a horrible thought..

The abortion-rights group NARAL Pro-Choice America also condemned the exhibition in a written statement e-mailed to the News on Thursday.

.This .project. is offensive and insensitive to the women who have suffered the heartbreak of miscarriage,. said Ted Miller, a spokesman for the organization.

Original here

Predator kill-machine pilots suffering 'chronic burnout'

A US military report says pilots operating the well-known Predator drone aircraft suffer far higher levels of mental stress than flyboys who are physically present aboard their planes.

Staff Sergeant Lance Nettrouer puts foot to ass for his country

Too much time staring at a screen, controller

in hand, can impair domestic relationships.

According to the report's authors, a group of US officers, "crewmembers in a MQ-1 Predator unmanned aircraft system (UAS) squadron had significantly increased fatigue, emotional exhaustion, and burnout relative to traditional aircrew". The study allowed for the present very high level of demand for Predator flights by comparing the drone operators against similarly hard-worked aircrews aboard AWACS airborne radar planes.

The revelation that safe, remote drone operations seem to tire pilots and sensor-operators out faster than being airborne above warzones comes in the snappily-titled A Resurvey of Shift Work-Related Fatigue in MQ-1 Predator Unmanned Aircraft System Crewmembers (pdf), flagged up at Flight International's DEW Line blog.

The authors say changes to shift patterns worked by the drone jockeys haven't really helped: their work is just extra tiring and stressful compared to flying airborne missions.

According to the report, survey results "indicated a pervasive problem with chronic fatigue... Nearly 50 per cent of surveyed crewmembers met the diagnostic threshold for levels of daily sleepiness which can be expected to adversely impact job performance and safety".

Worrying stuff, when speaking of people handling deadly aerial kill machines packing smart bombs and laser-guided Hellfire missiles. It seemed that the weary remote-control warriors even suffered "impaired domestic relationships".

Of course, there could be other factors in play here. Predator pilots in the US air force have typically been reassigned from normal airborne flight duties, and given the ordinary military flyboy mindset* this probably isn't seen as a step up. The droneboys may be suffering from sleepiness on the job, burnout, failed relationships, etc, because their macho self-image has been destroyed. Conceivably, the real fighter pilots taunt them, snap towels in the locker room, etc.

Alternatively, some might point out the location from which the Predator is handled during missions: Nellis Air Force Base. Which is right next to Las Vegas, a place long known for disrupted sleep patterns, burnout, and impaired domestic relationships. ®

*Perhaps most succinctly expressed by the old saying: "If you don't know who the greatest fighter pilot in the world is ... it isn't you".

Original here

Nearly 1 in 5 troops has mental problems after war service

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Roughly one in every five U.S. troops who have survived the bombs and other dangers of Iraq and Afghanistan now suffers from major depression or post-traumatic stress, an independent study said Thursday. It estimated the toll at 300,000 or more.

As many or more report possible brain injuries from explosions or other head wounds, said the study, the first major survey from outside the government.

Only about half of those with mental health problems have sought treatment. Even fewer of those with head injuries have seen doctors.

Army Surgeon General Eric Schoomaker said the report, from the Rand Corp., was welcome.

"They're helping us to raise the visibility and the attention that's needed by the American public at large," said Schoomaker, a lieutenant general. "They are making this a national debate."

The researchers said 18.5 percent of current and former service members contacted in a recent survey reported symptoms of depression or post-traumatic stress. Based on Pentagon data that more than 1.6 million have deployed to the two wars, the researchers calculated that about 300,000 are suffering mental health problems.

Nineteen percent - or an estimated 320,000 - may have suffered head injuries, the study calculated. Those range from mild concussions to severe, penetrating head wounds.

"There is a major health crisis facing those men and women who have served our nation in Iraq and Afghanistan," said Terri Tanielian, the project's co-leader and a researcher at Rand. "Unless they receive appropriate and effective care for these mental health conditions, there will be long-term consequences for them and for the nation."

The study, the first large-scale, private assessment of its kind, includes a survey of 1,965 service members across the country, from all branches of the armed forces and including those still in the military as well veterans who have completed their service. The Iraq war has been notable for the repeat tours required of many troops, sometimes for longer than a year at a time.

The results of the study appear consistent with mental health reports from within the government, though the Defense Department has not released the number of people it has diagnosed or who are being treated for mental problems.

The Department of Veterans Affairs said this month that its records show about 120,000 who served in the two wars and are no longer in the military have been diagnosed with mental health problems. Of those, about 60,000 are suffering from post-traumatic stress, and depression runs a close second.

Veterans Affairs is responsible for care of service members after they have leave the military. The Defense Department covers active duty and reservist needs.

The lack of numbers from the Pentagon was one motivation for the Rand study, Tanielian said in an interview.

The most prominent and detailed Pentagon study on the military's mental health that is released regularly to the public is the Army's survey of soldiers, taken annually at the battle zones since 2003.

The most recent one, last fall, found 18.2 percent of Army soldiers suffered mental health problems such as depression, anxiety or acute stress in 2007, compared with 20.5 percent the previous year.

Other studies have variously estimated that 10 percent to 20 percent of troops had symptoms of mental health problems.

Col. Loree Sutton, who heads a new Pentagon center on brain injury, said the Rand study will add to the work defense officials are doing. That includes researching best practices used inside the military and out, improving and expanding training and prevention programs, adding mental health staff and trying to change a military culture in which many troops are afraid or embarrassed to get mental health treatment.

"We've got to get the word out that seeking help is a sign of strength," Sutton said.

She said officials have been working to add thousands more mental health professionals to help the uniformed psychiatrists, psychologists and others struggling to meet the wartime demands of troops and their families. Across the services, officials are trying to hire over 1,000 additional staff. Also, companies providing health care by contract to the Pentagon have added over 3,000 in the past year, and the U.S. Public Health Service has provided some 200, she said. Veterans Affairs has added some 3,800 professionals in the past couple of years, officials there said.

In other survey results:

-About 7 percent of those polled reported both a probable brain injury and current post-traumatic stress or major depression.

-Rates of post-traumatic stress and major depression were highest among women and reservists.

-About 53 percent of service members with post-traumatic stress or depression sought help over the past year, and 43 percent reported being evaluated by a physician for their head injuries at some time.

-They gave various reasons for not getting help, including that they worried about the side effects of medication, they believed family and friends could help them with the problem, or they feared seeking care might damage their careers.

The Army's own warfront survey found the stigma associated with getting help has been decreasing slowly but steadily in recent years.

Thursday's report was titled "Invisible Wounds of War: Psychological and Cognitive Injuries, Their Consequences, and Services to Assist Recovery." It was sponsored by a grant from the California Community Foundation and done by researchers from Rand Health and the Rand National Security Research Division. The division also has done work under contracts with the Pentagon and other defense agencies as well as allied foreign governments and foundations.


On the Net:

Rand Corporation:

Army studies:

Original here

Bush and Brown Share Impatience on Iran

Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and President George W. Bush at a news conference on Thursday at the White House.

WASHINGTON — President Bush and Prime Minister Gordon Brown of Britain expressed mounting impatience Thursday with Iran for proceeding with its nuclear enrichment work in defiance of the international community.

Earlier, the prime minister met with the three presidential candidates, but he smilingly side-stepped a question about which he might feel more affinity for.

While Tehran argues that its nuclear program is purely for civilian purposes, Mr. Bush told reporters that it “is, in my judgment, naïve” to think that the know-how that Iranians are developing could not be transferred to military efforts to produce an atomic weapon.

Iranian leaders, he said, standing beside the prime minister with American flags and Union Jacks resplendent in the background, had proved themselves “untrustworthy.”

Mr. Brown, who said he would be talking to other European leaders about further tightening economic sanctions against Iran, said, "I make no apology" for doing so, as long as Tehran defies United Nations demands that it halt its enrichment program.

The president and prime minister also said they were working together to help alleviate a building global food crisis that has produced food riots in several countries. On other topics, from Darfur to trade, the two leaders stood shoulder to shoulder.

During a brief news conference that plowed little new ground but underscored yet again the closeness of the U.S.-British “special relationship,” reporters essayed a few questions that seemed almost guaranteed to be shrugged off: A British journalist asked Mr. Bush whether his relationship to Mr. Brown’s predecessor, Tony Brown, had not been closer (“False,” the president shot back, “we’ve got a great relationship”).

And Mr. Brown politely sidestepped another such question — on whether he had struck up a special rapport with any of the three candidates to be the next president.

Before he could speak, Mr. Bush, who seemed amused by the question, interjected: "One of those three has a good chance of winning!” The prime minister then said that “it is for Americans to decide who their next president is going to be,” adding that he had been “delighted” to meet Senators John McCain, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama during back-to-back interviews earlier at the British ambassador’s residence.

No matter who replaces President Bush, Mr. Brown added, the relationship between the United States and Britain will remain “strong and steadfast.”

Earlier, the candidates’ aides offered only bare-bones descriptions of their meetings, which took place without staff members present.

Mr. Obama, was the first to arrive and the only one of the three not to have met previously with Mr. Brown, said in a statement released later: "Prime Minister Brown and I discussed our commitment to strengthen the historic transatlantic alliance, and to confront common challenges like the ongoing operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, the instability in the global economy and the need to support democracy and prosperity in Africa. The Prime Minister has been a critically important partner for the United States and I look forward to working with him in the months and years ahead.”

A Clinton aide noted that the two leaders knew each other previously and had a “good meeting” that covered Iraq, Afghanistan, China, global climate change, and the international economy. The aide, speaking on grounds of anonymity, described both politicians as “wonky people,” saying they spoke until just minutes before Senator McCain arrived, ignoring assistants’ efforts to wind up the session sooner.

Melissa Shuffield, the Senate spokeswoman for Senator McCain, noted that he and Mr. Brown had talked at length last month in London during the senator’s trip to Europe and the Middle East. “They touched more on those topics this time around — the importance of the special relationship, climate change,” as well as Iran and the events in southern Iraq.

Ms. Shuffield said they had also discussed the senator’s idea of a League of Democracies — an organization that would supplement the United Nations and promote a more cooperative U.S. foreign policy.

The White House endorsed the meetings. "We think it’s probably a wise move by the prime minister to get to know one of the individuals who will be elected president a year from now," said Tony Fratto, a presidential spokesman. "It makes sense."

The president had underscored the durability of the relationship, saying, “Our relationship is very special, and it’s -- I’m confident future presidents will keep it that way.”

David Stout contributed reporting.

Original here