Model tells court: Not clear gift was diamonds


Model tells court: Not clear gift was diamonds

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AP – In this image made from television Naomi Campbell is seen at the U.N.-backed Special Court for Sierra …

By TOBY STERLING, Associated Press Writer Toby Sterling, Associated Press Writer – 6 mins ago

LEIDSCHENDAM, Netherlands – Naomi Campbell testified before a war crimes tribunal Thursday that she had received some “dirty-looking stones” after a 1997 dinner party with former Liberian ruler Charles Taylor. Still, the supermodel said she didn’t know if the stones were actually diamonds or if the gift came from Taylor.

Campbell, an extremely reluctant witness at the Special Court for Sierra Leone, was being questioned in Taylor’s war crimes trial about claims made by actress Mia Farrow. Farrow had said Taylor gave the model an uncut diamond or diamonds after an event hosted by then-South African President Nelson Mandela at his presidential mansion in Pretoria.

Prosecutors had hoped Campbell would provide evidence that Taylor traded guns to neighboring Sierra Leone rebels in exchange for uncut diamonds — sometimes known as “blood diamonds” for their role in financing conflicts — during Sierra Leone’s 1992-2002 civil war.

Prosecutors say from his seat of power in Liberia, Taylor armed, trained and commanded Sierra Leone rebels who murdered and mutilated thousands of civilians across the border. Taylor, 62, says he is innocent of the 11 war crimes charges he faces, including murder, rape, sexual enslavement and recruiting child soldiers.

After fighting for months to avoid testifying, Campbell arrived at the courthouse in Leidschendam surrounded by a police escort. In contrast to her usual edgy fashion style, the British supermodel wore a demure cream two-piece outfit and piled up her straight dark hair into a classic chignon. The look was topped off with a silver “evil-eye” necklace.

Entering the courtroom fashionably late — several minutes after she was first summoned to take the stand — Campbell was calm and composed as she quickly answered questions from prosecutor Brenda Hollis for nearly two hours.

“I didn’t really want to be here,” she said. “I just want to get this over with and get on with my life, this is a big inconvenience for me.”

Campbell had declined to cooperate with prosecutors until judges last month ordered her to appear or face a possible sentence of up to seven years for contempt.

Speaking confidently Thursday, Campbell testified that she was awakened in the middle of the night after the September 1997 dinner party by two black men at her door. She said they offered her a pouch they said was a gift for her with no further explanation.

She said she frequently receives gifts from admirers and didn’t look at it until the following morning.

“I saw a few stones in there. And they were small, dirty-looking stones,” she said.

She said, at breakfast the following day, either Farrow or Campbell’s former agent Carole White had told her the rocks must be diamonds and were probably a gift from Taylor.

Campbell said she gave the stones to a friend, Jeremy Ratcliffe, who was the director of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, intending he use them for charity. She said she had called Ratcliffe a year ago to ask what he had done with the stones, and he told her he still had them.

It was the first time Ratcliffe’s name had appeared at the trial. He is still a trustee of Mandela’s charity but it was not immediately possible to reach him Thursday. There was no response to phone calls to his South African homes in Johannesburg or Plettenberg Bay or to his cell phone.

Hollis asked Campbell why she had been so reluctant to appear before the war crimes tribunal, and the model said she was afraid to be associated with Taylor.

“This is someone that I read up on the Internet that killed thousands of people supposedly and I don’t want my family in any danger in any way,” Campbell said.

Taylor’s defense attorney, Courtenay Griffiths, angrily objected, saying the line of questioning was “totally irrelevant” to Campbell’s testimony.

Campbell had been called to the stand by the prosecution, but she often seemed more comfortable answering questions from Griffiths, the defense attorney. Griffiths got Campbell to testify that some statements about the dinner given to prosecutors by Farrow and White were wrong. He said White has suggested that Campbell was seated next to Taylor at the dinner and flirted with him.

White is enmeshed in a legal dispute with Campbell.

“This is a woman who has a powerful motive to lie about you?” Courtenay asked.

“Correct,” Campbell answered, with a slight smile. She said she sat between Mandela, whom she idolizes, and music producer Quincy Jones at the dinner.

Appearing to take great pains to distance herself from former Liberian president, she repeated several times that she couldn’t verify the stones were diamonds or that they came from Taylor.

“They were kind of dirty looking pebbles … when I’m used to seeing diamonds I’m used to seeing them shiny in a box,” she said, smiling. “If someone hadn’t said they were diamonds I wouldn’t have guessed right away that they were.”

She said Farrow had suggested they came from Taylor, and she merely agreed. She added she has never seen Taylor before or since that dinner.

“I had never heard of Charles Taylor before, never heard of the country Liberia before, had never heard the term ‘blood diamonds’,” she said.

Both White and Farrow are to testify before the war crimes tribunal on Monday.

Frustrated by Campbell’s answers, Hollis said Campbell appeared to be downplaying her friendliness with Taylor, pointing to a photograph in which they were standing next to each other at the dinner.

But Griffiths said it wasn’t right for the prosecution to challenge the credibility of its own witness, and Judge Julia Sebutinde agreed. Hollis then argued Campbell should be considered a court witness, given that she had stonewalled prosecutors ahead of Thursday’s testimony.

“You subpoenaed her and it was a prosecution witness,” Sebutinde retorted.

Taylor, sitting in the defendant’s chair, smiled at the exchange.

International law experts said Thursday’s testimony by Campbell was unlikely to affect the course of the trial. But media turnout was extremely heavy, with more reporters and television crews attending than at any time since the trial began in January 2008.

“This whole episode with Naomi Campbell being called to testify, what’s welcome about that is that it’s thrown the international media attention back on to the issue of blood diamonds,” Global Witness spokesman Oliver Courtney told AP Television News. “This is a problem that hasn’t gone away, as we see continued human rights abuses linked to diamonds in countries like Zimbabwe.”

Taylor has been in custody in the Netherlands since June 2006. He is the first former African head of state to stand trial at an international war crimes court.

Campbell became one of the world’s highest-paid models after being discovered while shopping in London at age 15. Now 40, the hot-tempered supermodel is no stranger to courtrooms, having faced a series of minor lawsuits and criminal cases over the years.

In June 2008 she pleaded guilty in an incident where she cursed, kicked and spat at police at London’s Heathrow airport in a rage over a missing piece of luggage. She was sentenced to 200 hours of community service for that.

Campbell also did a week of community service sweeping floors and scrubbing toilets in a Manhattan garbage-truck garage in 2007 after pleading guilty to misdemeanor assault for hurling a cell phone at her maid because of a vanished pair of jeans.

In 2000, Campbell pleaded guilty in Toronto to an assault charge for beating an assistant who said the model whacked her on the head with a phone.

A few of Campbell’s former aides and maids have sued her, accusing her of violent outbursts; some cases have been settled on undisclosed terms.

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Associated Press Writer Michelle Faul in Johannesburg contributed to this report

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Northern Lights Move South


Northern Lights Move South

A gallery curated by Yahoo! Editorial | 18 photos | 741,333 views | 241 comments

Usually, the Northern Lights can only be seen by folks who live far to the north. But this week, the Aurora Borealis is making an appearance in lower Canada, some of the United States, Norway and other countries around the globe.

The reason has to do with solar storms. On Sunday, an eruption on the sun’s surface blasted plasma toward the Earth. That plasma is helping to give millions of people a peek at something they’d never seen.

Fortunately for us, these lucky ducks are taking pictures and posting them on Flickr. You can check out several of our absolute favorites here. Enjoy!

by Mike Krumboltz of The Buzz Log

Supermodel Naomi Campbell to testify at war crimes trial


Supermodel Naomi Campbell to testify at war crimes trial

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AP – File – In this May 20, 2010 file photo, British model Naomi Campbell arrives for the amfAR Cinema Against …

Wed Aug 4, 9:41 am ET

The Starting Point is a preview of the stories we expect to cover today and a snapshot of the news that occurred overnight.

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Supermodel Naomi Campbell is expected to testify on Aug. 5 at Charles Taylor’s war crimes trial in The Hague, The Associated Press reported.

Campbell allegedly received a diamond from the former Liberian leader after a reception hosted by Nelson Mandela in South Africa in 1997. In a written statement to the court, actress Mia Farrow claimed Campbell told her an “unforgettable story” about being awoken during the night by “two or three men” who presented her with the large, uncut stone and said it was from Taylor.

Taylor is the first former African head of state to face an international war crimes trial. He is accused of instigating murder, rape, mutilation, sexual slavery, conscription of child soldiers and trading in “blood diamonds” during the 10-year civil war in Sierra Leone, which killed over 250,000 people. Blood diamonds, or conflict diamonds, are gems mined in a war zone and used to finance an insurgency. During his testimony, Taylor claimed that he never possessed such stones.

Special security measures have been ordered for Campbell’s court appearance, AFP reported. The press is is barred from shooting pictures of her entering or leaving the courtroom, and videotaping or sketching her in or around the courtroom. While media outlets will have access to her testimony, which will be aired on a live feed, the Special Court for Sierra Leone refused to grant a gag order that was requested by Campbell’s attorney. The court also ruled that Campbell’s lawyer may have a limited right to intervene on whether to allow questions that could incriminate her, Reuters reported.

“Naomi has not done anything wrong. She is a witness and not on trial herself. Whilst she would rather not be involved in this case at all, she will nevertheless attend to assist the court as requested,” Gideon Benaim, Campbell’s lawyer, said.

Taylor’s defense team is seeking to delay Campbell’s testimony, The Telegraph reported, arguing that it has not been given a summary of her evidence and thus cannot prepare a proper response. Farrow and Campbell’s former agent Carole White are expected to testify about the diamond gift next week.

Taylor has been on trial at The Hague since 2008. He has pleaded not guilty to all 11 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
View a slideshow of Naomi Campbell

AFP


 

Overnight news

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was unharmed when his convoy was attacked today by a homemade explosive device, Reuters reported. Ahmadinejad was traveling to the western city of Hamadan when the attack occurred. Some injuries were reported and one person was placed under arrested. According to The AP, Iran’s state-run Press TV reported that “no such attack had happened.”

BP says it has successfully plugged the blow-out well that spewed oil into the Gulf of Mexico for nearly three months, The AP reported. White House energy adviser Carol Browner also said that about 75 percent of the oil has either been captured, burned off, evaporated or broken down in the Gulf.

Lastly, Laura Dekker has set sail in her latest effort to become the youngest person to sail solo around the world, The AP reported. The 14-year-old Dutch sailor plans to make the year-long trip in her 38-foot yacht. To prepare for the journey, she has taken courses in first aid and practiced coping with sleep deprivation.

View a slideshow of Laura Dekker


AP


 

Most read overnight

A knife-wielding man attacked a kindergarten class in eastern China today, killing three children and one teacher, The AP reported. The unidentified assailant was arrested after the attack, which also wounded 20 children and staff members. China has experienced several mass killings in recent months, prompting calls for more attention to diagnosing serious mental illnesses.

Readers were also interested in this AP article about Butch Patrick. The actor, who played boy werewolf Eddie Munster in the 1960s sitcom “The Munsters,” has fallen in love with a woman who wrote him a fan letter 45 years ago. Decades later, Donna McCall wrote him again and a correspondence began. E-mails led to a face-to-face meeting at a horror convention, where sparks flew. Although he has homes in Los Angeles and Florida, Patrick has now moved to Pennsylvania to be with McCall.

After 107 years in Milwaukee, Harley Davidson could leave


After 107 years in Milwaukee, Harley could leave

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AP – FILE – In this July 20, 2010 file photo, motorcycles are reflected in a gas tank at a Harley Davidson …

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By DINESH RAMDE, Associated Press Writer Dinesh Ramde, Associated Press Writer – Wed Aug 4, 2:35 pm ET

MILWAUKEE – It’s the roar that made Milwaukee famous — the distinctive throaty rumble of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. But that much-loved racket could be rumbling away to another state if the company cannot bring down its labor costs.

Harley-Davidson warned employees in April that it will move its Wisconsin manufacturing operations elsewhere if it cannot cut millions of dollars at the factories that build the bikes known as “Milwaukee Iron.”

Harley’s corporate headquarters would remain here, but that’s small consolation to a community that has already endured repeated blows to its civic identity.

“When you think of Milwaukee you think of beer, brats and Harley-Davidson,” said Steve Daily, a researcher at the Milwaukee County Historical Society. “Right or wrong, that’s what it is.”

But that’s been changing. For example, the corporate parent of beer giant Miller parent moved its U.S. headquarters to Chicago in 2008 after joining its domestic operations with Molson Coors Brewing Co. Then there was Schlitz, which billed itself as “the beer that made Milwaukee famous” until financial and labor problems forced it to sell out to a Detroit company in the 1980s.

That leaves Harley-Davidson Inc. as the city’s lone signature brand. It’s also a magnet for tourists, many of whom want to visit the factories where Harley engines are made.

“We get asked frequently where the plants are,” said Paul Upchurch, the president of the VISIT Milwaukee tourism bureau. “A lot of people around the world associate Milwaukee with the home of Harley.”

Harley chief executive Keith Wandell said the company will make its decision on whether to move in the next two months. Harley executives are already scouting out other states, though Wandell will not say which ones.

The company, he said, would also be open to incentives to keep the 1,630 manufacturing jobs in Wisconsin. But the idea that it could move production elsewhere stuns many Harley loyalists.

“You can’t describe it. They’ve got so much history here. They’ve just become the blood of the community,” said Tom Steepy, a lifelong rider and the director of the suburban Milwaukee chapter of the Harley Owners Group, or HOG. “If they moved their manufacturing, it would just create a void you can’t fill.”

Harley has been a local fixture for more than a century. It all started in 1903 when 23-year old William S. Harley and 22-year old Arthur Davidson began selling motorcycles built in a cramped wooden shed.

The company later built motorcycles for the U.S. military in both world wars, which helped introduce the bikes to a global audience that saw them as an American icon.

“They symbolize the classic American values of independence and hard work, freedom, all those values,” said Kanti Prasad, a marketing professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee business school. “Harley-Davidson is a uniquely American phenomenon.”