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Saturday, 12-Dec-2009 01:56 Email | Share | | Bookmark
Where Peaks Are High, and Prices Low

Ski resorts were caught flat-footed by the recession last year, as many skiers and snowboaders stayed home. And if they dusted off their skis, many opted for the modest mountain in their backyard, instead of jetting off to the glittering peaks out West.

The forecast this year is sunnier. Not only is the economy looking up, but ski resorts have had all year to prepare, with special pearl earrings deals, cheaper flights and other enticements to lure skiers back.

Before you hit the slopes, check out our Affordable Ski guide, which highlights 10 North American ski resorts this winter. Find money-saving tips on where to stay, cheaper flights and lift tickets for tin cup pearl necklace under $50.
(Related: 2009 Ski Guides)

South Lake Tahoe
The southern end of the lake, with an abundance of casino-hotels, family-run inns and motels for every budget, tends to be easier on the wallet.
Sunday River

This behemoth of a ski resort in western Maine freshwater pearl jewelry boasts 132 trails across eight connected peaks.

A blizzard of ski-and-stay packages, starting as low as 113 Canadian dollars a night, is being unleashed at this resort in British Columbia.
Winter Park

Family-friendly, unpretentious and affordable are just a few of the characteristics of this Denver favorite.
Wolf Creek

Colorado skiers know this humble, family-run gem gets some of the heaviest snowfall in the state.

Saturday, 12-Dec-2009 01:54 Email | Share | | Bookmark
Sanford’s Wife Files for Divorce

Jenny Sanford filed for divorce on Friday from her husband, Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina, who confessed in June to an affair with a woman in Argentina.

“As so many of us know, the dissolution of any marriage is a sad and painful process,” Ms. Sanford said in a statement. “Because Mark and I are public figures, we have naturally had less privacy with which to deal with our difficulties than do other couples. Indeed, I know it will soon become known, so I choose to release this brief notice that I am now filing for divorce.”

The Sanfords have been separated since shortly after he admitted the affair in a teary-eyed news conference. Although Ms. Sanford has been living at the family’s beach house on Sullivan’s Island, S.C., with her four sons, the Sanfords have said publicly that they hoped to salvage the marriage. As recently as Thursday, Mr. Sanford told reporters that he wanted to remain married.

But that proved untenable, Ms. Sanford said in the statement. “This came after many unsuccessful efforts at reconciliation,” she said, “yet I am still dedicated to keeping the process that lies ahead peaceful for our family.”

She thanked supporters across the twisted pearl necklace country for their “words of encouragement and prayers during this difficult time.”

In her court filing, Ms. Sanford cited adultery as the grounds for divorce, according to the document, which was posted by The State, a newspaper in Columbia, S.C.

“The defendant has engaged in a sexual relationship with a woman other than the plaintiff,” the filing says. “The plaintiff has not condoned that relationship and is informed and believes that she is entitled to a divorce” from Mr. Sanford “on ground of adultery.” The filing said other matters, presumably including custody arrangements and money, would be resolved by agreement.

Governor Sanford issued a statement after her announcement saying that while divorce was not the course he would have hoped for or chosen, he nonetheless accepted full responsibility for the “moral failure” that led to it.

“Jenny is a great person,” he said, “and has been a remarkable wife, mother and first lady. She has been more than gracious these last six months and gone above and beyond in her patience akoya pearl jewelry and commitment to put the needs of others in front of her own. While our family structure may change, I know that we will both work earnestly to be the best mom and dad we can be to four of the finest boys on earth.”

In recent months, Ms. Sanford has remained in the spotlight, though seldom with her husband at her side. She is writing a memoir, “Staying True,” to be released in April by Ballantine Books, about coping with his infidelity. She has endorsed a successor to him as governor, State Representative Nikki Haley, a Republican and the only woman in the race.

Ms. Sanford, 47, appeared on Wednesday on a Barbara Walters special on ABC, in which she said that she would not have stood by her husband at his televised confession, even if he had asked her to be there.

“It’s been a crazy year,” she told Ms. Walters. “Certainly his actions hurt me, and they caused consequences for me, but they don’t in any way take away my own self-esteem. They reflect poorly on him.”

In the wake of the scandal, Mr. Sanford, 49, has faced a series of ethics violation charges, calls for resignation and efforts at wholesale pearl jewelry impeachment.

On Wednesday, a subcommittee of the State Legislature voted not to recommend impeachment, but did recommend censuring Mr. Sanford for bringing “ridicule, dishonor, disgrace and shame” on South Carolina.

Saturday, 12-Dec-2009 01:51 Email | Share | | Bookmark
India Faces Backlash Over a New State

NEW DELHI — India’s governing Congress Party faced an angry backlash on Friday against the possibility of dividing one of the country’s largest states, Andhra Pradesh, with opponents staging protests in southern India even as advocates for creating other new states began agitating elsewhere in the country.

The political crisis has dominated the news in India this week, as Congress Party leaders in New Delhi agreed late Wednesday night to start the process of creating a new state out of the Telangana region of Andhra Pradesh. National leaders made the decision in response to a 10-day “fast unto death” by an advocate for Telangana statehood that had evolved into a national melodrama.

But even as Telangana supporters were rejoicing, the crisis quickly shifted in the opposite direction, as opponents of the proposed partition protested in other regions of Andhra Pradesh. Meanwhile, 130 members of the 294-member State Assembly tendered their resignations. In much of the southern and coastal regions of Andhra Pradesh, daily life came to a standstill on Friday as general strikes were called to protest dividing the state.

“All the leaders and others are sitting in the town’s main square to oppose the division of the state,” said a journalist in the Anantapur district of the southern part of the state.

The situation presented the Congress Party with a dilemma of its own making. The party’s high command in New Delhi had agreed to start the process of creating the new state as a concession to end the hunger strike by K.Chandrasekhar Rao, a regional political figure. Mr. Rao’s fast had led to student demonstrations in Hyderabad, the capital of Andhra Pradesh, and a two-day general strike that almost completely shut the city down.

But the late-night concession by leaders in New Delhi apparently caught Congress Party lawmakers in Andhra Pradesh unawares. The state is divided into three distinct regions, and many lawmakers from the two regions outside Telangana found themselves pinned between a decision made in New Delhi and angry constituents at home.

“I am sandwiched between my supporters and my high command,” said J. C. Diwakar Reddy, a six-term Congress Party assemblyman from the Anantapur district. “In that situation, I just submitted my resignation. My main grievance is that we were not consulted before they made this decision.”

Nallari Kiran Kumar Reddy, speaker of the State Assembly, confirmed that 130 members had resigned, including 76 from the Congress Party, though none of the resignations had been accepted. “I am rope pearl necklace consulting constitutional experts on the issue,” the speaker said. “I will also call them one by one. There is no time limit for me to accept these resignations.”

In New Delhi, Congress leaders seemed to backpedal slightly. The Indian news media quoted unidentified officials as saying that a “broad consensus” would be necessary for the statehood movement to proceed.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told a delegation of Congress Party lawmakers from Andhra Pradesh cultured pearl on Friday that “nothing would be done in haste,” according to one person who attended the meeting.

In Andhra Pradesh, Konijeti Rosaiah, the state’s chief minister and a member of the Congress Party, tried to play down the situation by telling local journalists that no oral or written commitment had been made. He also beseeched all political parties to demand that their supporters abjure from any violence on the streets.

“We have to be peaceful,” Mr. Rosaiah said during an appearance before the State Assembly. “Political parties should take responsibility that protests are peaceful.”

The architecture of India’s political system has been evolving since the country became independent in 1947. Initially, leaders used linguistic turquoise necklace divisions to carve out large states, but as the country has continued to grow, new states have been gradually added in response to different claims. Three new states were added in 2000, bringing the total to 28 states and 7 territories controlled by the national government. Even now, some Indian states — notably Uttar Pradesh, with more than 160 million people — are larger than most countries.

Andhra Pradesh itself has more than 77 million people and stretches over a huge swath of land along the country’s southeastern coast. It was born from a political shotgun marriage in 1956, as leaders in New Delhi merged the coastal regions with the interior region of Telangana, which also included the city of Hyderabad. The arrangement was conditional to ease the fears of discrimination or exploitation by people from the Telangana region, who were outnumbered in the new state.

But in the decades that followed, Telangana advocates say the promises of equitable treatment were never fulfilled. Riots broke out over the issue in 1969, and a statehood movement simmered for decades until it finally exploded this week during Mr. Rao’s hunger strike.

Indian news media reported that advocates for statehood in other regions also had started agitating. The reports included accounts of some people beginning new hunger strikes.

Creating a state can be a lengthy undertaking here. In Andhra Pradesh, the State Assembly must begin the process by voting on a resolution calling for the separate Telangana state. However, the central government can also introduce a bill in the national Parliament. It would require passage by both houses with a two-thirds majority. India’s president can solicit opinion on the bill from the affected state. But, ultimately, the president must sign the bill, which is then incorporated into the Constitution.

Saturday, 12-Dec-2009 01:48 Email | Share | | Bookmark
U.N. Afghan Mission Chief to Resign

KABUL, Afghanistan — The top United Nations official in Afghanistan, Kai Eide, said Friday that he would leave when his contract expired early next year, as the organization was already looking for a replacement.

Mr. Eide, a 60-year-old Norwegian diplomat who came under criticism for his handling of the fraud-ridden Afghan presidential election in August, said that he had never planned to renew his contract, which expires in March, and that his departure had nothing to do with the tumultuous aftermath of the national ballot.

In September, Mr. Eide’s deputy at the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, the American diplomat Peter W. Galbraith, accused Mr. Eide of concealing electoral fraud that benefited the president, Hamid Karzai. Mr. Eide sharply disputed the assertions, saying he never sought to cover up fraud and had always adhered to Afghan law. The United Nations dismissed Mr. Galbraith in late September.

Ultimately, an international audit stripped Mr. Karzai of nearly one-third of his votes, prompting a runoff against the second-place finisher, Abdullah Abdullah. But Mr. Karzai was declared the winner last month after Mr. Abdullah withdrew from the runoff, saying he did not believe that the vote would be fair.

One influential research organization, the International Crisis Group, called for Mr. Eide’s resignation several weeks ago, saying he had “lost the confidence of many on his staff and the necessary trust of many parts of the Afghan polity.”

Mr. Eide, who oversees about 1,000 international staff members in Afghanistan, was prompted to acknowledge his decision publicly after Reuters and some European newspapers reported that the United Nations and Western governments were already searching for a replacement.

“I had said already at the outset that I would stay for two years,” Mr. Eide said in an e-mailed statement to pearl wholesale The New York Times. He was appointed in March 2008.

“I have now reconfirmed that position and that I do not intend to renew my contract when it comes to an end,” he said. “It is therefore not a question of resignation, but of sticking to the decision I made two years ago. My predecessors stayed for the same period of time.”

In an interview with the Norwegian news agency N.T.B. on Friday, Mr. Eide also said that “there is no drama attached to this” and denied that the conflict with Mr. Galbraith had played any part in his decision.

“I am aware that many people would make a connection between these two events,” Mr. Eide said, according to the NTB reporter who gemstone necklace interviewed him on Friday. But “this disagreement has been blown out of proportion.”

Possible successors for the job include Jean-Marie Guéhenno, a Frenchman who was the United Nations under secretary general for peacekeeping operations from 2001 to 2008, and Staffan de Mistura of Sweden, head of the United Nations mission in Iraq from 2007 to 2009.

In recent weeks, according to some Western and Afghan officials, Mr. Eide had been leading efforts to delay the Afghan parliamentary elections scheduled for May. Some Western diplomats fear that having elections so soon could prove a disastrous replay of the August vote.

Salih Muhammed Registani, a top aide to Mr. Abdullah during the presidential campaign, said in an interview that Mr. Eide was “the initiator” of the move to delay the parliamentary ballot.

A Western official also said Mr. Eide believed that May would be too soon to hold the elections, and that he had received support from a number of Western governments. “Kai is not alone in this,” the official said.

Separately on Friday, the German defense minister, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, made a surprise visit to Afghanistan amid a growing controversy over the killing of more than 142 people, many of them civilians, in a NATO airstrike in September.

Mr. Guttenberg, who is coming under increasing criticism from opposition parties in Germany for failing to explain the circumstances behind the airstrike on Sept. 4, said he wanted to hear from German soldiers based in Kunduz, in northern Afghanistan, how the orders were given to call in the strike after two fuel tankers were hijacked by the Taliban. Mr. Guttenberg, who was freshwater pearl jewelry appointed defense minister after German elections in September, also intends to explain the government’s position, his ministry said in a statement.

The episode has already cost the jobs of senior military officials. Last month, Mr. Guttenberg dismissed Germany’s top military officer, Gen. Wolfgang Schneiderhan, and a state secretary in the Defense Ministry, Peter Wichert. He said they had withheld information about the number of deaths and how the attack was carried out. When more details emerged, Franz Josef Jung, who was defense minister at the time of the airstrike, was forced to resign as labor minister.

Initial Defense Ministry reports said about 30 people had been killed. They did not mention civilian casualties.

The German government’s position on the episode has changed significantly in the past two weeks after the American-led NATO coalition published an internal report on what happened.

Mr. Guttenberg had said the attack on the two tankers was “definitely militarily appropriate.” But then last week, he said the attack had been “militarily inappropriate.” He explained this turnabout by saying he now had documents that had not been available to him earlier.

Walter Gibbs contributed reporting from Oslo, Judy Dempsey from Berlin, and Abdul Waheed Wafa from Kabul.

Saturday, 12-Dec-2009 01:43 Email | Share | | Bookmark
C.I.A. Said to End Blackwater Contract

WASHINGTON (AP) -- CIA Director Leon Panetta has canceled a contract with the former Blackwater security firm that allowed the company's operatives to load missiles on Predator drones in Pakistan.

Panetta canceled the contract earlier this year and the work is being shifted to government personnel, a person familiar with the contract said Friday. The person spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the classified program.

Blackwater is now known as Xe Services. A spokesman was not immediately available for comment on the contract cancellation. The New York Times first reported the contract's existence in August.

The CIA's Predator program targets senior al-Qaida operatives and Taliban in Pakistan's tribal area along the border with Afghanistan, but the agency has never publicly confirmed its role in the operation.

Since Jan. 28, 2008, there have been at least 67 suspected U.S. missile strikes into Pakistan, according to Pakistani intelligence officials and witnesses interviewed by The Associated Press after each strike.

There was a fresh strike Tuesday, according to Pakistani officials. The target of that attack was identified Friday by a U.S government official as Saleh al-Somali, a senior al-Qaida operations planner.

Al-Somali was responsible for the terror group's operations outside the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, reaching into activities in Africa, the official said, adding that al-Somali has likely been involved in plotting attacks against the United States and Europe. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss covert operations.

News of the cancellation of the contract came on the heels of published reports late Thursday that Blackwater security operatives joined CIA agents in ''snatch and grab'' raids that took place regularly between 2004 and 2006, when violence from the insurgency in Iraq was escalating.

A U.S. official confirmed to AP on Thursday that Blackwater provided security and traveled with CIA teams on missions in war zones, but emphasized they were not hired to directly participate in sensitive CIA missions.

CIA Director Leon Panetta ordered a review several months ago of the company's contracts to be sure its guards only perform freshwater pearl security-related work, the official said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment publicly.

Separately, CIA spokesman George Little said Friday that ''at this time, Blackwater is not involved in any CIA operations other than in a security or support role.''

Xe Services said Friday that Blackwater was not under contract for involvement in the secret raids.

''Blackwater USA was never under contract to participate in covert raids with CIA or Special Operations personnel in Iraq, Afghanistan or anywhere else. Any allegation to the contrary by any news organization would be false,'' Xe spokesman Mark Corallo said in an e-mailed statement.

The firm, based in Moyock, N.C., changed its corporate name this year after a series of use-of-force biwa pearl controversies, including a September 2007 shooting in Baghdad by five company security guards that left 17 civilians dead.

The CIA's paramilitary forces are small, and often borrow from U.S. military special forces to fill out their ranks. They rely on companies like Blackwater to provide drivers, convoy security, and perimeter protection on sensitive CIA operations.

The central question, according to the reports in The New York Times and The Washington Post, was whether private security guards crossed the line into direct participation in the CIA operations. Blackwater's role in providing security to CIA missions in war zones is already known on Capitol Hill.

''As is customary when intelligence community-related issues arise in the press, committee staff has contacted the CIA for additional details and clarification of these recent news stories,'' said Courtney Littig, a spokeswoman for the House Intelligence Committee.

If true, the company's involvement would point to a much deeper connection between the company and the spy agency than has been previously disclosed. And it would raise concerns over the legalities of involving contractors in the most sensitive intelligence operations conducted by the U.S. government.

One former CIA officer stationed in Baghdad in 2004 said that during his tenure in Iraq, Blackwater employees did not accompany CIA officials when they conducted insurgent raids, which were led by Delta Force or the akoya pearl Navy Seals. The former officer confirmed that during that period Blackwater protected the agency's office and chief of station.

The former intelligence officer said special operations forces carried out the captures, with CIA officers gathering intelligence at the scene afterward. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss Blackwater's role.

The House Intelligence Committee is still probing at least five incidents in which Congress believes it may have been deliberately misled or kept in the dark about significant intelligence programs.

One of those included a contract with Blackwater founder Erik Prince to target al-Qaida figures, a program the CIA says never became operational. Panetta informed Congress about the program in June, a day after terminating the eight-year on-again, off-again effort.

Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., an outspoken critic of Blackwater, is heading one part of the committee's probe.

''I have long opposed the outsourcing of inherently governmental responsibilities to for-profit companies who are outside the official chain of command, especially Blackwater (Xe),'' she said. ''What appears to be a deep relationship between Blackwater and the CIA should cause all Americans to take pause. It is extremely dangerous for the U.S. to become dependent on private contractors for military or intelligence operations.''

As of August 2008, more than a quarter of the U.S. intelligence agencies' employees were outside contractors, hired to fill in gaps in the military and civilian work force.


Associated Press writer Lolita C. Baldor contributed to this report. Goldman reported from New York.


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