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Obama battles health care chatter

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Obama battles health care chatter

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. — This is not the August that President Obama had planned.

Obama, who initially demanded that the House and Senate pass health care overhauls by now, was playing defense at a town-hall-style meeting here Tuesday, his signature initiative under increasingly fierce fire.

The session at Portsmouth High School lacked the chanting and catcalls that has disrupted hometown meetings some members of Congress have held, but the president found himself having to deny his proposals would lead to rationing, socialized medicine or government “death panels” to oversee end-of-life care.

“I’ve seen some of those signs,” Obama said, ridiculing accusations from opponents that he wants to create “death panels that will basically pull the plug on grandma because we’ve decided that it’s too expensive to let her live.

“I’m not in favor of that,” he told 1,800 people inside the hall while about 1,000 demonstrators outside shouted at each other across police cordons.

The fact that Obama felt the need to deny plans to “pull the plug on grandma” and that the White House moved to schedule a trio of town-hall meetings — the president will hold one in Bozeman, Mont., on Friday and another in Grand Junction, Colo., on Saturday — reflects growing concern within the administration that the most vociferous critics of his health care plans are now dominating the debate.

The reason the White House had pushed for congressional action before the August recess began was precisely to avoid this scenario: critics filling the summer lull with protests and ads that could raise concerns and rally opposition to Obama’s top legislative priority.

“It’s amplified the stakes,” Republican strategist Kevin Madden says of the demonstrations, saying the White House was “late in responding” to them.

“It wasn’t something (the White House advisers) wanted the president to get involved in right away, but they could see what was happening,” says Democratic consultant Peter Fenn. “You’ve got to answer the crazy charges.”

So Obama was a man on a mission in the Granite State, repeatedly trying to reassure the crowd and his broader national audience that a health-care overhaul would make the system work better for them, not worse.

“For all the chatter and the yelling and the shouting and the noise, what you need to know is this: If you don’t have health insurance, you will finally have quality, affordable options, once we pass reform,” he said. “If you do have health insurance, we will make sure that no insurance company or a government bureaucrat gets between you and the care that you need.”

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Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Conviction

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Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Conviction is the sixth installment in the Splinter Cell video game series. The game was developed by Ubisoft Montreal, developers of Splinter Cell, Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory and the sixth generation versions of Splinter Cell: Double Agent. Key members of the Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Vegas team, such as creative director Maxime Béland, also worked on the game. Gameloft will also be creating a mobile version of the game for the iPhone OS.

Gameplay

Splinter Cell: Conviction introduces a number of new gameplay features to the series, one of which is the “Mark and Execute” feature, which allows the player to mark specific targets, such as enemies or objects, and shoot them when they burst through a door or window. The player can choose to prioritize these targets, so that, for example, he could distract one guard by shooting out a light in his vicinity and then take out another guard. Another new feature is the “Last Known Position”, which occurs when the player breaks the line of sight of an alerted guard. This creates a visual silhouette of where the guard thinks Sam is, allowing the player to strategically flank his enemies. Main target subjects can use the player’s abilities against them. The player can be taken hostage by the subject. If this happens in co-op mode, the hostage’s partner can neutralize the subject by shooting them.

Other new features include the ability to interrogate characters in real-time and use objects in the surrounding environment against them. A crowd mechanic was initially introduced, which would have allowed Sam to disappear from his pursuers, but this element seems to have been dropped out of Conviction during development. The environment is also used to project mission objectives and key plot points onto walls in order to keep the player immersed in the gameplay during the narrative.

Multiplayer

Multiplayer mode in Splinter Cell: Conviction involves split screen, system link (Xbox 360) and online cooperative mode, plus a Deniable Ops mode. Deniable Ops mode involves 4 multiplayer modes that pit the players against AI in game modes such as Hunter, Infiltration, Last Stand, and Face-Off.

According to co-op game director Patrick Redding, the stealth in Splinter Cell: Conviction is designed around the new core elements like “Mark and Execute” and “Last Known Position” that have been shown since E3 2009. These things are designed for players to fool and defeat A.I. opponents but not human opponents.

Single Player

Taking place three years after the events of Splinter Cell: Double Agent, former Navy SEAL Victor Coste is held in a Black Arrow facility interrogation room as he is interviewed by an unidentified group of men, recalling events in the past tense.

After having disappeared, Sam Fisher is remotely located by former Third Echelon colleague Anna Grimsdottir in a marketplace situated Valetta, Malta. He is warned that a group of hitmen have located him. Sam dispatches them and interrogates the leader, learning that drug runner Andriy Kobin was responsible for the death of his daughter, Sarah. Sam learns that Kobin is present in his mansion, a re-purposed museum. Upon infiltrating the mansion, Sam interrogates Kobin and learns that the situation was “bigger than his daughter,” prior to being captured by Third Echelon agents.

Sam is relocated to Price Airfield in Washington D.C., where Grimsdottir reveals that she is working with President Caldwell as a mole for Third Echelon, and that she needs his help with investigating a PMC named Black Arrow. A reluctant Sam refuses to help her, but relents after being told that Sarah is alive, and that she would prove it to him during the course of the investigation. Grimsdottir facilitates Sam’s escape from the airfield by providing him weapons and access to her car. After this point, Sam calls in his former squadmate, Victor Coste, for assistance in the investigation, in part of Victor having rescued him during the events of Operation Desert Storm. Sam meets with Victor at a county fair in the Washington Monument, receives some equipment, and learns that White Box Technologies, a research-and-division company specializing in EMPs, hired Black Arrow for corporate security, which is considered to be out of character as Black Arrow does not provide it.

Sam heads to White Box Technologies and witnesses multiple scientists having been murdered by Third Echelon director Tom Reed and Black Arrow operatives. Fisher saves one of the scientists and learns that Lucius Galliard hired Black Arrow to provide security, and that Robertson has been collecting and disposing of experimental data with EMP countermeasures. Sam reaches Robertson’s office and downloads the data for Grimsdottir’s analysts to study. He later triggers an EMP to prevent Black Arrow’s tracing of the download in order to maintain Grimsdottir’s cover.

Sam is later directed to the Lincoln Memorial under orders from both President Caldwell and Grimsdottir, infiltrating the area to record a conversation between Reed and Galliard. Sam later interrogates Galliard, only for the latter to get assassinated by a gunman. Sam pursues the gunman, only for the gunman to get killed by a car bomb. Sam is later drawn into a confrontation with Third Echelon agents until he is extracted by Secret Service.

Sam infiltrates the Third Echelon headquarters to recover equipment and retrieve information from Reed’s office. Instead of finding Reed, Sam re-encounters Kobin and interrogates him again. Sam learns that Reed was working with Megiddo to smuggle EMP technology into the United States, and use that technology to facilitate Caldwell’s assassination and have the Vice President take over the position since he was “in Megiddo’s pocket.” As a result of facilitating the assassination, Reed would then be promoted within the higher ranks of the government and be considered a hero. Kobin later reveals that he never knew anything about Sarah and only provided a false body to stage her death, urging him to ask Grimsdottir as she knew the whole story. Sam confronts Grimsdottir with the information he learned, and is urged to view a last audio recording of Lambert. Sam learns that Lambert staged Sarah’s death as a car accident out of necessity, having learned that a mole within Third Echelon would use her as leverage against Sam. Lambert later concludes that he wasn’t able to locate the mole, and that his efforts may have been vain.

Grimsdottir later tells an enraged Sam to stop one of three EMP attacks at Michigan Avenue, stating that Sarah’s designated apartment is within Michigan Avenue’s blast radius, while Victor recovers Sarah and later helps Sam with halting the attack. Grimsdottir would accompany Reed to the White House in order to halt the assassination. Sam is extracted by Victor and has a brief reunion with Sarah before the two EMP attacks commence. Shortly after a crashlanding, Sam infiltrates the White House while confronting Black Arrow and Third Echelon operatives in the process. Sam regroups with Grimsdottir and is held captive to get closer to Reed.

Upon entering the Oval Office, Sam and Grimsdottir kill the Third Echelon escorts, with Sam interrogating Reed while the United States Army extracts Caldwell. It is revealed that Caldwell was going to shut down Third Echelon and leave “America vulnerable to future attacks” and that Reed was the mole Lambert was looking for. Depending on the player’s choice, Sam or Grimsdottir execute Reed.

Black Arrow’s interview with Victor has concluded, with Victor stating that Sam would be with Sarah and that Sam loved him like a brother. Shortly after Victor finishes his sentence, an explosion places the building on alert, implying that Sam is assaulting the base.

White House declines to confirm death of Taliban chief in Pakistan

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File photo of Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud in 2004. The United States declined on Friday to confirm reports that Baitullah Mehsud, Taliban chief in Pakistan, has likely been killed along with his wife and bodyguards in a drone strike, Aug. 7, 2009.

White House declines to confirm death of Taliban chief in Pakistan

WASHINGTON, Aug. 7 (Xinhua) — The United States declined on Friday to confirm reports that Baitullah Mehsud, Taliban chief in Pakistan, has likely been killed along with his wife and bodyguards in a drone strike.

“The United States cannot confirm that he has been killed in a drone attack, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters.

However, the spokesman said that “There seems to be a growing consensus among credible observers that he is indeed dead.”


1bFile photo of Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud in 2004. The United States declined on Friday to confirm reports that Baitullah Mehsud, Taliban chief in Pakistan, has likely been killed along with his wife and bodyguards in a drone strike, Aug. 7, 2009.

“Baitullah Mehsud is somebody who has well earned his label as a murderous thug. … He has killed scores of innocent men, women and children and is supposed to have plotted the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. If he is dead, without a doubt, the people of Pakistan will be safer as a result,” Gibbs said.

Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik said in Islamabad on Thursday that the Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mahsud was killed in the missile attack on Wednesday. He said “We have some information, but they don’t have material evidence to confirm it.”

Mehsud has been the leader since 2007 of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, a coalition of Taliban factions loyal to Afghanistan’s Taliban leader, Mohammad Omar. An ally of al-Qaida, Mehsud commands as many as 20,000 fighters in Pakistan’s rugged northwestern frontier region and has directed or supported numerous suicide bombings in Pakistan, including a deadly attack in 2008 on the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad, according to U.S. intelligence officials.

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