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Saturday, September 30, 2006

Space Adventures' Client, Anousheh Ansari, Returns to Earth After Visiting the International Space Station

Payvand's Iran News 9/29/06

World’s first female private space explorer completes historic spaceflight

Space Adventures, Ltd., the world's leading space experiences company, announced today (September 28) that Anousheh Ansari successfully landed in the Kazakhstan steppes after an eight-day visit to the International Space Station (ISS). Mrs. Ansari returned to Earth aboard Soyuz TMA-8 with members of the Expedition 13 crew Jeff Williams and Pavel Vinogradov, who were relieved after their six-month assignment aboard the ISS.

"The experience was more than I had ever imagined; it has exceeded every expectation. Seeing the Earth from space will be forever etched into my mind. I have enjoyed each day to the fullest. I would like to thank Space Adventures for providing the flight opportunity, the crews of Expedition 13 and 14 who made me feel very welcomed during my time spent aboard the ISS and all those in who helped me prepare for this adventure," said Mrs. Ansari, chairman and co-founder of Prodea Systems, Inc., a revolutionary digital home technology company. "I hope those around the world who followed my mission consider what their own dreams are and pursue them, as I have done with mine."

"We, at Space Adventures, are excited to welcome Anousheh back to Earth and congratulate her on this historic spaceflight. She is a true space visionary and it is our hope that her dedication to the development of commercial human spaceflight will be an inspiration to the rest of the world," said Eric Anderson, president and CEO of Space Adventures.

Earlier in the month, on September 18, Mrs. Ansari launched aboard Soyuz TMA-9 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. She joined Expedition 14 commander Michael Lopez-Alegria and flight engineer Mikhail Tyurin for the flight. They arrived at the space station on Sept. 20 and were greeted by the Expedition 13 crew.
In preparation for her spaceflight, Mrs. Ansari completed a cosmonaut training program at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center located in Star City, Russia. Space Adventures has previously sent three private explorers to space. In 2001, American Dennis Tito fulfilled his dream of space travel, and in 2002, the 'First African in Space' Mark Shuttleworth launched and, last October, American Greg Olsen took flight.

Mrs. Ansari is a successful entrepreneur. She is chairman and co-founder of Prodea Systems, Inc. and a member of the X Prize Foundation's Vision Circle, as well as its Board of Trustees. She was also the title sponsor for the Ansari X Prize, a $10 million (USD) cash prize for the first non-governmental organization to launch a reusable manned spacecraft into space twice within two weeks. Prior to co-founding Prodea Systems, in 2006, Mrs. Ansari co-founded Telecom Technologies, Inc., where she served as the company's co-founder, chief executive officer and chairman. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in electronics and computer engineering from George Mason University and a Master of Science degree in electrical engineering from The George Washington University. She is currently working toward a Master of Science degree in astronomy from Swinburne University.

Space Adventures, the only company to have successfully launched private explorers to space, is headquartered in Vienna, Va. with offices in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Moscow and Tokyo. It offers a variety of programs such as the availability today for spaceflight missions to the International Space Station and around the moon, Zero-Gravity and jet flights, cosmonaut training, spaceflight qualification programs and reservations on future suborbital spacecrafts. The company's advisory board includes Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin, Shuttle astronauts Sam Durrance, Robert Gibson, Tom Jones, Byron Lichtenberg, Norm Thagard, Kathy Thornton, Pierre Thuot, Charles Walker, Skylab astronaut Owen Garriott and Russian cosmonaut Yuri Usachev.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Clinton kicks off appeal to fight global problems.

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Former U.S. President Bill Clinton called together some of the world's richest and most influential people on Wednesday in hopes of coming up with more than $2.5 billion and ideas on how to stop conflict, health woes, poverty and climate change.

Among 1,000 people attending the second annual Clinton Global Initiative, or CGI -- many paying $15,000 each -- were billionaire businessmen Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and Richard Branson, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan and 50 current and former heads of state.

"CGI was designed to tackle big global challenges in bite size pieces with the conviction that regardless of size or scope our problems will yield to concerted action and innovative partnerships," Clinton told the summit.

He said five commitments worth $350 million had already been made to the 2006 Clinton Global Initiative.

The New York-based initiative grew out of Clinton's frustration while president of the United States, between 1993 and 2001, at attending conferences on important world issues that were simply all talk and no action.

"While we certainly like commitments with lots of zeros behind them, when you consider the hundreds that were made and kept over this past year, some of those with smaller budgets had very large impacts indeed," Clinton said.

"I hope each of us can do even more this year than last."

The inaugural Clinton summit in 2005 attracted more than 300 pledges worth $2.5 billion to fight poverty, global health problems, religious and ethnic conflict and climate change.

Clinton said that about 15 people -- of the more than 500 -- who attended last year and didn't make or didn't keep a commitment were not allowed to return this year.

The 2006 initiative was opened by Clinton and U.S. first lady Laura Bush and a discussion between Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana.

The first lady announced the first commitment of the initiative -- $10 million from the U.S. government to kickstart a $60 million public/private project to build children's merry-go-rounds in Africa, which pump clean drinking water into a storage tank.

"Play pumps are fueled by a limitless energy source -- children at play," said Bush, adding that the project aimed to provide clean drinking water to 10 million Sub-Saharan Africans by 2010.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Anousheh Ansari Space Blog

First blog post from space!

"... I was finally able to take a look outside and saw the Earth for the first time… Tears started rolling down my face. I could not catch my breath… Even thinking about it now still brings tears to my eyes. Here it was this beautiful planet turning graciously about itself, under the warm rays of the Sun… so peaceful…so full of life… no signs of war, no signs of borders, no signs of trouble, just pure beauty…

How I wished everyone could experience this feeling in their heart, specially those who are at the head of the governments in the world. may be this experience would give them a new perspective and help bring peace to the world."

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Wallops should embrace space tourism idea

Virginia-educated millionairess, Anousheh Ansari, is set to make history by being lofted into orbit to the International Space Station by a Russian Soyuz rocket to become the first woman commercial tourist astronaut. She will be wearing a spaceflight patch with the motto: "Imagine, Inspire, Be the Change."

Space Adventures Ltd., a Virginia-based commercial space firm, negotiated the contract with the Russian Space Agency. Anasari is a major investor in the commercial space tourism entity, having completed hundreds of millions of dollars of space tourism business around the globe.

Space Adventures has partnered with Ansari's investment firm, Prodea Systems Inc., to contract with the Russian Space Agency to build a fleet of suborbital spacecraft. The spacecraft would enable humans around the world to fly over 100 kilometers into space as tourists beginning in late 2008 at the cost of less than $200,000 with ticket prices expected to fall to $50,000 in the years ahead.

Eric Anderson, president and CEO of Space Adventures and a University of Virginia engineering graduate, has executed agreements to start construction on commercial tourist spaceports in the United Arab Emirates and Singapore in partnership with those foreign governments.

Commercial human tourist spaceports have been or are in process of bring licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration in Mojave, Calif., Burns Flat, Ok., Upham, N.M., and Sheboygan, Wis. Three spaceport locations are in various stages of development in Texas along with another being developed in Nova Scotia, Canada.

Futon Corp., a Bethesda, Md.-based credentialed aerospace research firm, recently found that the human suborbital space tourism business is expected to be a $1 billion industry by 2020.

Virginia is host to the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at Wallops. Unlike nearly all the commercial tourist spaceports being touted, it has the launch runways, tracking and telemetry facilities needed to be a part of the human suborbital space tourist business.

Moreover, it is geographically positioned along the East Coast population of the United States. The Accomack County spaceport does need, however, a new and innovative penchant for human suborbital space tourism's entrepreneurial culture.

To get a major piece of the anticipated billion-dollar space tourism business, Virginia government executives and legislators need to focus on incentives to attract Virginia's own Space Adventures to base its East Coast human suborbital launches near Chincoteague. Editors and journalists may elect to ask officials why one of America's oldest spaceports is not yet a significant part of the coming human suborbital space-tourism commercialization.

Double-time effort to correct the benign neglect of Virginia's spaceport should be made. The economic impact and spinoffs in tourist dollars, new business and infrastructure development, high technology workforce recruitment and rekindled interest by K-12 and university students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics may be all that is at stake in the Alternative Space industry.

Jack Kennedy


American millionairess boards space station

KOROLEV, Russia AFP 20/09/2006 18:11

The first ever female space tourist Anousheh Ansari of the United States has settled into the International Space Station (ISS) for a multi-million dollar cosmic holiday.

Ansari, whose Soyuz spacecraft safely docked with the ISS Wednesday after completing its journey from Earth, will spend the next eight days on board with five professional astronauts.

Ground control at Korolev, outside Moscow, showed live footage of Ansari and two astronauts travelling with her entering the station and embracing the current occupants.

Ansari, wearing a black baseball cap and a yellow shirt, smiled broadly as she entered the station. On Earth, space officials and Ansari's relatives applauded.

"She made history. She's very lucky to have a great crew and she had great training," Hamid Ansari, her husband, told АFР when the Soyuz vessel docked with the ISS.

An Iranian-born US citizen and telecoms tycoon, Ansari is the world's fourth space tourist. She accompanied NASA's Michael Lopez-Alegria and Russia's Mikhail Tyurin to the ISS.

The three blasted off Monday from Russia's Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Their Soyuz craft docked at 0521 GMT, space flight officials said at the Korolev centre outside Moscow.

"We'll look after her," Tyurin told her relatives on Earth in a video link-up with the crew. Hamid Ansari congratulated her, as relatives expressed pride and joy.

On Monday, a possible chemical leak aboard the ISS gave a brief scare when the ventilation system was shut down. The three ISS occupants put on surgical masks and gloves after a bad odour alerted them to a possible leak.

Ansari's sister Atousa Raissyan said her determined sibling's childhood dream of entering space was always bound to come true. "I knew she would do it sooner or later."

Ansari, 40, will return to Earth on September 28 with two of the station's current occupants, Russia's Pavel Vinogradov and American Jeffrey Williams. Thomas Reiter from Germany will stay on board.

Ansari is thought to have paid about 25 million dollars (20 million euros) for the flight, which she has said is the realisation of her childhood dreams.

Born in 1966 in Iran, Ansari left the country for the United States with her parents at the age of 16 shortly after the Islamic revolution and launched herself into the study of electronics and data processing.

She made millions in telecoms and her family has gone on to invest in technology and space exploration, contributing 10 million dollars to the X Foundation, set up to encourage advances in human space flight.

"She is a very determined, resolute woman," Eric Anderson, chairman of Space Adventures, the company behind her flight to the ISS, said earlier in a telephone interview with АFР.

Before setting off, Ansari said: "I hope that not only my flights, but the life I have lived so far, become an inspiration for all youth all over the world, especially women and girls around the world to pursue their dreams."


Anousheh Ansari Space Blog
First blog post from space?

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

by Ursula Hyzy
Mon Sep 18, 12:21 PM ET

BAIKONUR, Kazakhstan (AFP) - The world's first female space tourist has launched her multi-million dollar adventure, blasting off with two professional astronauts from the Baikonur cosmodrome bound for the International Space Station (ISS).

The Russian-made Soyuz rocket left the Russian base in Kazakhstan Monday at 0408 GMT carrying a Soyuz TMA-9 capsule and its three passengers: Iranian-born US citizen and millionaire tourist Anousheh Ansari, NASA's Michael Lopez-Alegria and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin.

The capsule successfully separated minutes later and entered orbit, with docking at the ISS expected Wednesday.

"The flight is on course," ground control announced as the Soyuz, powered by 270 tonnes of low-temperature oxygen and kerosene fuel, left Earth.

Meanwhile, space officials at NASA and in Russia announced an emergency ventilation shutdown aboard the ISS after an alarm signalled a possible chemical leak.

Astronauts on the station temporarily donned surgical gloves and masks as a precaution.

"The situation has stabilized and it has been reported back down by the crew that there was never any smoke in the cabin. However there was a smell associated with KOH (potassium hydroxide)," American ISS manager Mike Suffredini told reporters at Cape Canaveral.

Ansari, 40, will spend about eight days aboard the ISS before returning to Earth on September 28 with two of the station's current occupants, Russia's Pavel Vinogradov and American Jeffrey Williams.

Lopez-Alegria and engineer Tyurin will then man the ISS along with Germany's Thomas Reiter, who has been in space since early July.

Ansari's family shed tears of joy as her Soyuz rocket shot above the Kazakh steppe.

Then came the champagne.

"Pure joy! I'm just so happy for her -- beyond words," Ansari's sister Atousa Raissyan said.

Ansari's mother, Fakhri Shahidi, watched the craft surge skyward in amazement. "It's hard to believe my daughter is going to space," she said. "I pray with all my heart she's coming back soon".

Ansari, who came to the United States with her parents from Iran when she was 16, made a fortune in the US telecoms market and had dreamt for years of going into orbit. Her X PRIZE Foundation promotes making space more accessible to the wider public.

She is believed to have paid some 25 million dollars (20 million euros) and trained for six months in Russia's Star City facility in order to become the fourth space tourist in history.

"I feel relieved she's up there," her husband Hamid Ansari said after the blast-off. "The anticipation is over. It's the beginning of a new chapter in her life. I can't wait to see her come back."

Iranian media sung Ansari's praises. "The trip into space of Anousheh Ansari is a source of pride for all Iranians," the Hambasteghi newspaper added.

The Kayhan daily also reported on Ansari's trip, quoting her as saying she "wanted to look at Iran from space".

Even before lift-off, Ansari was able to savour the good-luck rituals at Russia's Baikonur site in Kazakhstan, some of them dating back to the 1960s and the glory years of Soviet space exploration.

On their last evening before entering space, Ansari and her two professional crewmates watched the classic Soviet movie "White Sun of the Desert," something every crew has done since the film gained a reputation for bringing luck in the wake of the June 1971 Soyuz 11 accident that killed three cosmomnauts.

Since then, there have been no fatal accidents.

Before departing, the three space travelers also took a moment to autograph the doors of their room -- echoing the last-minute gesture of Yuri Gagarin, who in 1961 took off from Baikonur to become the first man in space.


Anousheh Ansari Space Blog
First blog post from space?

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Iranian-born woman to be space tourist
Updated Sat. Sep. 16 2006 11:24 PM ET

Associated Press

DALLAS -- Since long before leaving her native Iran as a teenager in 1984, Anousheh Ansari stared at the stars and dreamed of traveling closer to them. Now at age 40, after an improbable journey that's included learning a new language, earning an engineering degree and starting a telecommunications company that made her rich, this Dallas businesswoman will become the first female space tourist on a Soyuz spacecraft that lifts off Monday.

"I've always been fascinated with space and always wondered about the mysteries of space and wanted to be able to experience it firsthand," the Texas woman said in a telephone interview from the launch site at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

She says she is eager to see Iran from space -- she hasn't been back since emigrating to the United States -- and hopes to inspire girls in her homeland to study science. Ansari says she's received e-mail messages from many of them, although her flight has received scant attention in Iran. She is, after all, an American citizen.

Ansari and her family left Iran a few years after the Islamic revolution, in part because the opportunities for a young girl to study science were becoming limited there.

Her space ride will cost about $20 million. Ansari can afford it because she and her husband sold their company in 2000 for about $550 million in stock from the acquiring company.

The extent of the couple's wealth is not entirely clear, because the stock fell in value. That led shareholders of the takeover company to sue Anousheh Ansari and several others for alleged insider trading. The case is pending in a Massachusetts federal court.

This isn't the first time she has dipped into her personal fortune to spend on space.

In 2002, she helped pay a $10 million award for the first successful privately financed manned trip into space. SpaceShipOne, backed by Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen, claimed the Ansari X Prize by making two flights to the edge of space more than 60 miles above California's Mojave Desert.

Ansari hopes both the X Prize and her trip to the international space station will foster more interest in space travel -- and lower prices if she helps spur more private companies to join the space-tourism race.

Her husband, Hamid, said she believes space travel will be critical one day, when humans deplete Earth's resources and need to colonize space.

In March, she and Hamid and a space-travel broker who works with the Russian space agency went to Kazakhstan. From the VIP section, they watched the launch of a Soyuz rocket and capsule with a crew of three, including Russian Pavel Vinogradov and American Jeff Williams.

"Watching that million-pound ball of fire lifting into space, we grabbed each other's arms," said the broker, Eric Anderson of Space Adventures Ltd. "Seeing the emotion on her face, I could tell she was going to go."

That month, Ansari began cosmonaut training in Russia and at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. But until late August, she was just a backup to a Japanese businessman. Then unspecified health problems forced him off the mission, and Ansari jumped into his place.

Ansari is scheduled to ride in a Soyuz capsule to the space station with Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin and Spanish-born U.S. astronaut Miguel Lopez-Alegria. She will return to Earth with Vinogradov and Williams.

Those who know Ansari describe a woman who is equal parts dreamer and doer.

Speaking no English when she arrived as a teenager with her family in Virginia, she went on to earn bachelor's and master's degrees in engineering within a few years. She was still in graduate school at George Washington University when she began working at phone company MCI in Washington.

"She was very impressive, very bright, and definitely had the drive," said Thanos Voreas, who hired her. "She set a goal and did it. I'm not surprised with what she has accomplished with her life."

Hamid Ansari, who had left Iran a few years before Anousheh (pronounced Ah-NOO-sheh), was already working as an engineer at MCI. The couple married in 1991.

Two years later, she convinced Hamid to cash in their MCI stock options, max out their credit cards, move to Texas and start a company that made signal-switching software for phone networks.

Anousheh Ansari was chairwoman and chief executive of the company, telecom technologies inc. Unable to attract venture capital, the business was touch-and-go for several years before revenue grew into the tens of millions, Hamid Ansari said.

In 2000, at the height of the telecommunications boom, the Ansaris sold their suburban Dallas company to Massachusetts-based Sonus Networks Inc. for $550 million in Sonus stock.

The value of those shares slid from $40 to under $5 as the telecom industry collapsed. But, Hamid Ansari said, "We had enough opportunity to sell enough shares to earn financial independence."

The timing of some stock sales led to shareholder suits against Sonus and nine people, including Anousheh Ansari, by then a Sonus vice president. The plaintiffs accused her of illegal insider trading in the sale of $26.3 million in Sonus stock.

The Ansaris declined to comment on the lawsuit, other than to note that she is no longer a Sonus officer. A spokeswoman for the couple said the Securities and Exchange Commission never accused Mrs. Ansari of insider trading.

The Ansaris have moved on, starting a venture-capital and home-networking-technology firm, Prodea Systems Inc. The company plans a combination grand opening and launch-watching party Sunday night at its headquarters in suburban Plano. (The launch is scheduled for shortly after 11 p.m. CDT.)

Ansari will test some of its new technology during the space trip and also plans to write a blog from the space station. Her parents and other U.S. relatives are in Kazakhstan to watch the launch.

Hamid Ansari said he tested his wife's resolve for the risky trip months ago by talking of the rigors of training, the cramped conditions and the dangers.

"The more negative I got, the more determined she got," he said. "She is so calm, confident and excited that I felt bad about being nervous."

Space-travel enthusiasts hope the Dallas entrepreneur will be an inspiration to a new generation of young women.

"We have a lot of white male astronauts," said George Whitesides of the National Space Society, a nonprofit group that advocates space travel. "To have someone different is great. It enables girls and women to identify more with space and talk about being a space explorer someday."

Bio of Anousheh Ansari:

Age: 40, born Sept. 12, 1966, in Mashhad, a city in northern Iran.

Education: Bachelor's degree in electronics and computer engineering from George Mason University in Virginia; master's degree in electrical engineering from George Washington University.

Career: Co-founder and chief executive of telecom technologies inc., a maker of software for switching signals on phone networks in the Dallas suburb of Richardson, Texas. Company was sold in 2000 to Sonus Networks Inc., which says it paid $552.6 million in Sonus stock. Was a vice president at Sonus. Co-founded venture-capital and home-networking-technology firm Prodea Systems Inc. in Plano, Texas. Helped finance the Ansari X Prize in 2002, which paid $10 million to the operators of SpaceShipOne for being first to make two successful privately financed manned trips into space.

Family: Lives in Plano with husband, Hamid, who co-founded the Ansari companies. No children.

Quote: "People think they reach the height of their life at age 40. I'm hoping this is just the beginning of another hill that I will be climbing."

Pope sorry for reaction to his remarks By PIER PAOLO CITO, Associated Press Writer

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy - Pope Benedict XVI said Sunday that he was "deeply sorry" about the angry reaction to his recent remarks about Islam, which he said came from a text that didn't reflect his personal opinion.

"These (words) were in fact a quotation from a Medieval text which do not in any way express my personal thought," Benedict told pilgrims at his summer palace outside Rome.

The pope sparked the controversy when, in a speech Tuesday to university professors during a pilgrimage to his native Germany, he cited the words of a Byzantine emperor who characterized some of the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad, Islam's founder, as "evil and inhuman."

"At this time I wish also to add that I am deeply sorry for the reactions in some countries to a few passages of my address at the University of Regensburg, which were considered offensive to the sensibility of Muslims," the pope said Sunday.

Benedict noted that the Vatican's secretary of state had issued a statement Saturday trying to explain the pope's speech.

"I hope that this serves to appease hearts and to clarify the true meaning of my address, which in its totality was and is an invitation to frank and sincere dialogue, with great mutual respect," Benedict said.

Security was high at the summer palace before Benedict spoke to the crowd. Police patted down many of the faithful, confiscating umbrellas with metal tips and bottles of liquids.

Sharpshooters kept watch from a balcony and other officers, dressed like tourists, monitored the crowd with video cameras.

Still, Benedict looked relaxed when he greeted pilgrims standing in pouring rain in the palace courtyard. He smiled and said he hoped it would be better weather on Wednesday for his general audience, when he planned to recount more of his pilgrimage to the faithful.

The Vatican statement Saturday afternoon said that the pope "sincerely regrets" that Muslims were offended, but stopped short of the apology demanded by many Muslim leaders in the Middle East and Asia.

Mahmoud Ashour, the former deputy of Cairo's Al-Azhar Mosque, the Sunni Arab world's most powerful institution, told Al-Arabiya TV immediately after the pope's speech that, "It is not enough. He should apologize because he insulted the beliefs of Islam. He must apologize in a frank way and say he made a mistake."

But the leader of Egypt's largest Islamic political group, the Muslim Brotherhood, told The Associated Press Sunday that "while anger over the Pope's remarks is necessary, it shouldn't last for long."

"While he is the head of the Catholic Church in the world, many Europeans are not following (the church) so what he said won't influence them. Our relations with Christians should remain good, civilized and cooperative," Mohammed Mahdi Akef said.

The Muslim Brotherhood is formally banned in Egypt.

In the West Bank, two churches were set afire as anger over the pope's comments grew throughout the Palestinian areas.

In the town of Tulkarem, a 170-year-old stone church built 170 years ago was torched before dawn and its interior was destroyed, local Christian officials said. In the village of Tubas, a small church was attacked with firebombs and partially burned, Christians said. Neither church is Catholic, the officials said.

Palestinian Muslims hurled firebombs and opened fire at five churches in the West Bank and Gaza Strip Saturday to protest the Pope's comments, sparking concerns of a rift between Palestinian Muslims and Christians.

Italy's interior minister said Sunday that the tensions over Benedict's remarks wouldn't result in any further heightening of security concerns.

"I don't believe that for Italy the concern will rise," Giuliano Amato told Italian state radio.

Amato noted that suspected terrorist cells under surveillance inside the country were considered to be focused on targets "outside of Italy."

The interior ministry includes state police and civilian intelligence services.

Some Muslims have accepted the pope's statement of regret. Senior Indian Muslim clerics said it will "help in building good relations between Muslims and Christians" and asked their supporters to call off planned protests.

Turkey's foreign minister said Sunday that the pope was still expected to visit in November in what would be his first trip to a Muslim nation.

"From our point of view, there is no change," Abdullah Gul told reporters before departing for a trip to the United States.

Morocco recalled its ambassador to the Holy See to protest the "offensive" remarks, and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono described the pope's reference as "unwise and inappropriate," the Kompas daily reported.


Associated Press correspondent Victor L. Simpson at the Vatican and Nadia Abou el-Magd in Cairo, Egypt contributed to this report.

US rate of childhood obesity to hit one in five by 2010 Fri Sep 15, 4:55 PM ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Unless public health takes urgent measures, one in five children in the United States will be obese by the year 2010, the Institute of Medicine warned in a report.

Currently, one third of American children are obese or at risk of becoming so. The rate of childhood obesity has jumped from 16 percent in 2002, to 17.1 percent in 2004 and will reach 20 percent in four years, the report said.

"The good news is that Americans have begun to recognize that childhood obesity is a serious public health problem, and initiatives to address it are under way," said Jeffrey Koplan, who heads an institute committee on preventing childhood obesity.

The committee has held meetings around the United States, including Kansas, Georgia and California, to review public health actions on the matter and has estimated that progress will be slow and in need of systematic monitoring.

"Positive changes in the health outcomes of children and youth, as measured by body mass index, will require years of sustained efforts, systematic evaluation, and adequate resources," the committee said.

Actions that have begun and that need evaluation include improved food and beverage programs at school.

From the food industry to the advertising sector, the report said, there have been constructive initiatives to deal with the obesity problem, including playground equipment for parks and shopping malls that encourage children to exercise.

Entertainment companies have begun granting licenses to fruit and vegetable distributors to promote their good-eating habits to children through cartoon characters.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

CANBERRA (Reuters) - Hundreds queued for tickets to a farewell for "Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin in the "Crocoseum" of his Australian Zoo, with scores turned away on Friday after all-night vigils when tickets ran out.

With only 3,000 places available for the public memorial next Wednesday, people lined up for more than a day outside ticket boxes at the Zoo on the Sunshine Coast of tropical Queensland state, as well as the nearby city of Maroochydore and the capital Brisbane.

"It's indescribable, it's joy, it's elation," Melissa Power told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio after a 25-hour wait to secure tickets for her family to Irwin's service.

"I'm sleep-deprived, but I'm joyous and happy and it's just everything."

Irwin, whose "Crocodile Hunter" documentaries were watched by more than 200 million people around the world, died when the serrated barb from the tail of a stingray pierced his heart while he was diving off northeast Australia on September 4.

A Brisbane football stadium had at one stage been considered as a venue for his memorial, but Irwin's wife Terri said the zoo's central Crocoseum was the only suitable place.

Irwin used the arena to feed live crocodiles while surrounded by snakes, birds and the other native Australian wildlife.

Zoo marketing manager Peter Lang said the free tickets had been given away in only 15 minutes for what would be a celebration of Irwin's life.

Terri Irwin has asked mourners to make a donation to Irwin's Wildlife Warriors conservation fund.

The memorial will be broadcast live around Australia, as well as in the United States and throughout Asia.

Irwin's family and friends held a private funeral service, which included stories told around a campfire at the zoo last weekend.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Aniston voted 'best-dressed' woman
Friday Sep 15 11:03 AEST
Even in Hollywood - land of breast implants and botox - natural counts for something.

So says People magazine, which has put Jennifer Aniston at the top of its list of best-dressed women of 2006 for her natural fashion sense.

The magazine's annual best - and worst-dressed issue features numerous Hollywood stars all given a moniker to describe their taste in couture.

Oscar winner Halle Berry, dubbed "The Classic", is No. 2 behind Aniston, and No. 3 was "The Newcomer" Jessica Alba, 25, star of movies like Fantastic Four.