Saturday, March 11, 2006

Ex-Yugoslav Leader Milosevic Dies in Cell

Ex-Yugoslav Leader Milosevic Dies in Cell

By ANTHONY DEUTSCH and DUSAN STOJANOVIC, Associated Press Writers
52 minutes ago

THE HAGUE, Netherlands - Former Serb leader Slobodan Milosevic was found dead in his prison cell Saturday, abruptly ending his four-year U.N. war crimes trial for orchestrating a decade of conflict that killed 250,000 people and tore the Yugoslav federation asunder. He was 64.

A leader of beguiling charm and cunning ruthlessness, the man reviled by the United States as "the butcher of the Balkans" was a hero to many Serbs despite losing four wars and impoverishing his people in the 1990s while trying to create a "Greater Serbia" linking Serbia with Serb-dominated areas of Croatia and Bosnia.

Milosevic apparently died of natural causes, according to the U.N. tribunal that was trying him on 66 counts of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. His chronic heart ailments and high blood pressure had caused numerous long recesses.

His death came nearly five years after he was arrested by Serb authorities and extradited to The Hague as the first sitting head of state ever to be indicted for war crimes.

It meant there would be no judicial verdict for the leader accused of ethnic massacres and other atrocities in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo and was sure to increase criticism of the tribunal for what has been a long, expensive and ultimately wasted proceeding.

The trial, which began in February 2002, will be terminated, tribunal spokeswoman Alexandra Milenov said.

The chief U.N. war crimes prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte, expressed regret, saying she believed she would have won a conviction.

"I also regret it for the victims, the thousands of victims, who have been waiting for justice," Del Ponte told Swiss Television DRS while visiting her native Switzerland.

Former President Clinton, whose administration confronted Milosevic's regime, also lamented that no verdict would be reached.

"I am sorry that his trial will not be completed, and that he did not acknowledge and apologize for his crimes before his death. Nevertheless, his capture and trial will serve as a reminder that egregious crimes against humanity will not be tolerated," Clinton said in a statement released by his office in New York.

Milosevic was accused of being behind a brutal campaign of ethnic cleansing against non-Serbs during the wars that erupted as the Yugoslav federation began breaking apart in 1991, and his death was cheered by many in the Balkans.

"Finally, we have some reason to smile. God is fair," said Hajra Catic, who heads an association of women who lost loved ones when ethnic Serb troops slaughtered 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the eastern enclave of Srebrenica in 1995.

In Serbia, where many people praised Milosevic for trying to preserve Serb dominance, supporters declared his death a "huge loss."

The tribunal said a guard at the U.N. jail in suburban Scheveningen found Milosevic's body between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. Saturday. The timing of his death was not released. An autopsy will be conducted Sunday by Dutch officials — with a pathologist from Serbia-Montenegro in attendance.

Milosevic's older brother, Borislav, said the family did not trust the tribunal to carry out an impartial autopsy.

He also blamed the tribunal for his brother's death because it rejected his request to get medical treatment in Russia, which offered assurances that Milosevic would be returned to finish his trial.

"All responsibility for this lies on the shoulders of the international tribunal. He asked for treatment several months ago, they knew this," Borislav Milosevic told The Associated Press in Moscow, where he lives. "They drove him to this as they didn't want to let him out alive."

Zdenko Tomanovic, the defendant's legal adviser, told Serbia's independent B-92 radio from The Hague that Slobodan Milosevic had complained that "someone wants to poison" him. Tomanovic later told state Serbian TV that Russian experts would be permitted to attend Sunday's autopsy.

The White House said it was waiting for more information.

"We have seen the news that Slobodan Milosevic has died in his prison in The Hague," spokesman Blair Jones said. "We do not have all the details yet."

There was no comment from Milosevic's wife, Mirjana, who often was characterized as a power behind the scenes during her husband's autocratic rule and has been in self-imposed exile in Russia since 2003. Their son, Marko, also lives in Russia, and their daughter, Marija, lives in Montenegro.

Milosevic's trial and Saddam Hussein's war crimes proceeding in Iraq were widely seen as together constituting the most important legal test for the international community since German and Japanese leaders were tried after World War II.

Both trials drew stiff criticism over frequent interruptions and the ability of the defendants to use the courtroom as a stage to launch vitriolic anti-Western diatribes. Reveling in the spotlight, Milosevic insisted on being his own defense lawyer.

He was able to stay as the Serbs' leader for 13 years despite a crumbling economy and increasing international isolation. He once described himself as the "Ayatollah Khomeini of Serbia," assuring his prime minister, Milan Panic, that "the Serbs will follow me no matter what."

Ivica Dacic, a ranking Socialist Party official, said in Belgrade that Milosevic's death was a "great loss for Serbia, for the entire Serb nation and for the Socialist party."

"Milosevic was carrying out not only his own defense but also the defense of Serb honor," Dacic said. "The entire country must thank him for this."

But in the end, his people abandoned him: first in October 2000, when he was unable to convince most Yugoslavs that he had staved off electoral defeat by Vojislav Kostunica, and again on April 1, 2001, when he surrendered after a 26-hour standoff to face criminal charges.

"It is a pity he didn't live to the end of the trial to get the sentence he deserved," Croatian President Stipe Mesic said.

Milosevic was born in Pozarevac, a factory town in central Serbia best known as the home of one of the country's most notorious prisons.

His father was a defrocked Orthodox priest and sometime teacher of Russian. His mother also was a teacher. Both committed suicide.

In high school, he met his future wife, the daughter of a wartime communist partisan hero. She also was the niece of Davorjanka Paunovic, private secretary and mistress of Josip Broz Tito, the communist guerrilla leader who seized power in Yugoslavia at the end of World War II.

Milosevic graduated from law school in 1964 and joined the Communist Party. The party put him in various business positions, and in 1983 he was appointed director of a major state-run bank. He became friends with several Western figures, including former U.S. Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger and banker David Rockefeller.

He also befriended Ivan Stambolic, who became leader of the Communist Party in Serbia in 1984. Stambolic picked Milosevic for the powerful post of party leader in the capital, Belgrade.

When Stambolic was elevated to Serbia's presidency in 1986, Milosevic succeeded him as Serbian communist boss.

A year later, Stambolic sent Milosevic to Kosovo, where ethnic Serbs were demanding protection from the province's ethnic Albanian majority. During a meeting of local Serb leaders, hundreds of angry Serbs gathered outside and demanded the leadership hear their grievances.

Milosevic faced the crowd and delivered a fiery speech, telling them: "Nobody has the right to beat you."

Those words shattered the myth of ethnic "brotherhood and unity" that had been the slogan of Tito's communist regime — and transformed Milosevic into a Serb hero.

Months later, in September 1987, he publicly accused his old friend Stambolic and others of anti-communist and anti-Serbian policies during a party meeting televised nationally. All were forced to resign in a de facto coup.

In 1989, Milosevic became president of Serbia in an election widely considered rigged. His rise alarmed the other peoples of the Yugoslav federation — Slovenes, Croats, Macedonians, Albanians and others.

In 1991, Croatia and Slovenia declared independence from Yugoslavia. Milosevic sent tanks to Slovenian borders, triggering a brief war that ended in Slovenia's secession.

But ethnic Serbs in Croatia, encouraged by Milosevic, took up arms. Milosevic responded by sending the Serb-led Yugoslav army to intervene, triggering a conflict that killed at least 10,000 people.

Three months later, Bosnia-Herzegovina declared its independence. Milosevic bankrolled a Bosnian Serb rebellion, triggering a war that killed an estimated 200,000 people before a U.S.-brokered peace agreement was reached at Dayton, Ohio, in 1995.

Milosevic's term as Serbian president ended in 1997 and the constitution prevented him from running again. However, he exploited legal loopholes to have parliament name him president of Yugoslavia, which then included only the republics of Serbia and Montenegro.

But it was Kosovo, his springboard to power, that finally set the stage for his downfall.

In February 1998, Milosevic sent troops to crush an ethnic Albanian uprising there, drawing sanctions from the United States and its allies. In 1999, after Milosevic refused to sign a Western-dictated peace accord, NATO conducted 78 days of airstrikes on Yugoslavia.

Before Milosevic gave in and handed over the province's administration to the United Nations in June 1999, the U.N. tribunal charged him and four top aides with war crimes and crimes against humanity in Kosovo. It later broadened the charges to include genocide.

Milosevic sought to hold on to power by pushing through a constitutional change in July 2000 to permit the election of president by popular vote rather than parliament. But he misjudged his popularity, and Yugoslavs exhausted by years of war and upheaval backed Kostunica in the election.

The Milosevic-controlled election commission tried to force a runoff, but hundreds of thousands of people converged on Belgrade, setting off a daylong riot on Oct. 5, 2000. The police and army refused to intervene, and Milosevic conceded defeat the following day.

He remained sequestered in an opulent villa in Belgrade until his arrest in April 2001. He was extradited to The Hague that June.

Proceedings are continuing against 72 war crimes suspects. Tribunal figures show 47 of them are at the detention unit where Milosevic died, and the rest have been freed until their trial begins.

The most prominent suspects — former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and his top military officer, Ratko Mladic — remain at large.

___

Associated Press reporter Dusan Stojanovic contributed to this report from Belgrade, Serbia-Montenegro.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Did you hear: Mary Hart in running to fill Today show co-host opening?



Rumor has it that Entertainment Tonight's Mary Hart is a shoo-in to be the new co-host on the Today show after soon-to-be departing host Katie Couric switches networks to CBS after her contract with NBC expires in May. Hart, 55, who is also currently finishing up a five-year contract signed in 2001 with Entertainment Tonight that will expire this year would bring with her respectable reputation a huge following, professionalism, and her famous liveliness to morning television.

Hart, who has anchored the show for two decades, signed a new long-term deal, giving her more than $5 million annually, said Joel Berman, president of Paramount Domestic Television, whose company produces the program.

Prior to the five-year contract that was renewed, Hart's deal with Paramount gave her an option to anchor the show for life. Upon sealing her last deal, the two parties agreed to renew on a five-year basis.

The contract also allows Hart to take a more creative role in possible "ET" spin-offs, including a children-oriented project and a celebrity homes show.

Hart joined the 25-year-old newsmagazine program in 1982 during its second season. She was the co-host of the canceled daytime talk show, The Regis Philbin Show.

Entertainment Tonight has ranked among the top five syndicated shows in ratings, and tied "Oprah" as the highest-rated syndicated program among women 25 to 54 in 2000.

Jann Carl would likely succeed Hart at the anchor desk at Entertainment Tonight.


The Couric Countdown

By J. Max Robins -- Broadcasting & Cable, 11/28/2005
http://www.broadcastingcable.com/article/CA6286862.html?display=Breaking+News&referral=supp


The drumbeat is getting louder and louder in the halls of CBS, signaling that Katie Couric is going to leap over to the network this spring when her NBC contract runs out. For the past year, CBS Chairman Leslie Moonves has been quietly wooing Couric to be Dan Rather's replacement as anchor of CBS Evening News. But now the talks are being conducted with a new urgency.

Until recently, the job had been a tough sell, even for a salesman's salesman like Moonves. The news division was in disarray in the aftermath of Rather's discredited 60 Minutes report last year about President Bush's National Guard service, and it couldn't have strengthened Moonves' hand with Couric that Andrew Heyward remained in his job as CBS News president for months, even as rumors of his impending departure swirled.

With Heyward's recent exit and the naming of network sports-division chief Sean McManus to replace him, CBS becomes a much more attractive home for Couric.

The Today star has said in recent interviews that she plans to make a decision by the end of the year whether to stay at NBC or pursue other options, which means Moonves and McManus know they have a limited window to lure Couric into their camp. (And they know that leaving temporary Evening News anchor Bob Schieffer in place much longer is soon going to look like the result of sheer indecisiveness.)

Word inside CBS News is that Viacom is committed from the very top to spend the money needed to reinvigorate a franchise that has become a threadbare operation in recent years, particularly in comparison with the news outfits at NBC and ABC.

Obviously, NBC has been trying to persuade Couric to renew her deal well before it expires—but without success. That only feeds the chatter that she still hasn't made up her mind. According to sources inside CBS, Moonves and McManus are working hard to quickly put a new face on the beleaguered news division and make it look like a place with growth potential. Nothing would send that message more clearly than landing A-list talent like Couric.

Still, Couric's dance with CBS could simply be a negotiating tactic to get NBC to sweeten her estimated $15 million annual salary. After all, she has deep roots at the network: Couric has been at NBC News for 16 years and has a long history with NBC Universal Television Group President Jeff Zucker, going back to their time together at Today in the early '90s.

Meanwhile, since new Today executive producer Jim Bell was installed last April, the show has stabilized—ratings are down 2% in total viewers compared with last fall, but the long push by arch-rival ABC's Good Morning America to supplant Today as the dominant wake-up show seems to have stalled.

Ironically, the fact that Today has seemingly righted itself may provide a rationale for Couric to take flight. Better to leave when you're still on top, this thinking goes, than when it looks like you're jumping before being pushed.

Since her pal Zucker left in 2000, Couric has lived through three executive producers and has taken more than her fair share of media abuse, culminating in a particularly vicious Alessandra Stanley piece last April in The New York Times that charged “America's girl next door has morphed into the mercurial diva down the hall.”

Couric pals say the public pummeling took its toll, and the lure of helming a nightly newscast that would let her exercise more-serious journalistic chops might be too enticing to resist.

Last August, talking about a possible move, Couric, who turns a young 49 in January, told the New Yorker that, when things are going well at Today, she has “one of the best jobs in television.” But she added, “At the same time, everybody needs recharging.” My educated guess? Come summer, don't be surprised to see Couric charged-up about her new job.

E-mail comments to bcrobins@reedbusiness.com

This story is still developing.


Joyce Comments: I think NBC may just be calling Couric on her bluff by tempting Mary Hart to replace her as her contract also runs out at the same time. Couric has been a drag on Today since she last re-signed and is replaceable with Hart who would be a breathe of fresh air to the show.