Tag Archive: United States


“She’s still the same person to me,” Malgorzata Saniewska said about Stefani Germanotta, better known today as Lady Gaga.

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Malgorzata Saniewska worked at the same restaurant where Stefani Germanotta worked
  • “I offered her the photo shoot, and she said yes right away,” Saniewska said
  • Saniewska kept those early photos to herself “out of respect,” she said
  • Saniewska hopes that those viewing the photos will get to see another side of Gaga

(CNN) — We’ve come to know her as Lady Gaga, but before the world tours, “The Fame” or even the dress made of meat, photographer Malgorzata Saniewska knew her simply as her restaurant co-worker, Stefani Germanotta.

In the summer of 2005, Saniewska, who goes by Maggie, happened to be tending bar at the same West Village restaurant where the 19-year-old soon-to-be star worked as a waitress.

Just 24 at the time, Saniewska had moved from her native Poland to the United States two years prior with dreams of becoming a photographer.

But to support herself, “I started working as a bartender,” she recalled. “It was definitely a money thing. I did want to go to school, but I didn’t do research on photography, my focus was to make better money.”

Keeping an eye on her bank account is what drove Saniewska to study accounting, leaving photography to become an amateur pursuit for a while.

She went from taking landscape photos of New York City to setting up her own shoots, with Gaga being among some of her first ones.

“We were colleagues, we didn’t hang out really heavily, but she’s the nicest girl ever. … She’s down-to-earth,” Saniewska said. “At that time, she gave me a CD of her first single, and I listened to it and I was really impressed. And she’s a beautiful girl. Based on her looks and her personality I thought (a photo shoot) would be great fun.”

CNN Photos: See Malgorzata Saniewska’s exclusive and unseen photos of Lady Gaga

Back then, Gaga “played piano and sang. This 19-year-old girl, she was really talented. She didn’t talk about it a lot, (but) she did say that she studied music. … I cannot even explain to you what she sounds like with just a piano, then or now,” Saniewska said. “I offered her the photo shoot, and she said yes right away.”

Gaga had the perfect location in mind: Her parents’ place on the Upper East Side. (CNN has reached out to Lady Gaga’s rep for comment.)

The two young women hopped on a train and headed over there, and set to work creating what Saniewska says became Lady Gaga’s first photo shoot, although Saniewska didn’t know that at the time.

“The house was empty, it was just the two of us,” Saniewska said. “I knew she was a singer, so our focus was her and her very first piano. We just hung out in her parents’ living room, and the piano was right by the window.”

“She’s a good model, obviously,” Saniewska added with a laugh.

Armed with just her first point-and-shoot camera, Saniewska let the intimate shoot unfold organically.

“We had no plan.”

“We basically walked into her house, she did hair and makeup, picked out the clothes and we started,” she recalled. The lighting was natural: “No strobe lights, nothing special, no tripods,” she said. “It was hand-held.”

Saniewska, who’s never been formally trained, said she shot around 200 photos that day. After culling through the resulting images, choosing the photos with the best natural lighting, she presented Gaga with a CD of the pictures. The burgeoning singer was happy with them, and used some of the art for her own promotional materials.

Of course, there’s no way Saniewska could have known that the young woman she photographed on a summer day in 2005 would become the international superstar she is today. As a matter of fact, Saniewska says that at first, when she saw her as Lady Gaga, she didn’t recognize her, having been accustomed to her as a long-haired brunette waitress.

Even as Gaga’s fame continued to grow, Saniewska kept those early photos to herself “out of respect,” she said, particularly because she wasn’t in touch with her.

And then, she just so happened to bump into her old colleague in 2010.

“I actually ran into her in the East Village, and she came up to me. She was already Lady Gaga, and we spoke a little, and she leaned on me, and she said in my ear, ‘Did you know that this was my first photo shoot?’ I had no idea,” Saniewska said. “She was really excited. From that moment on I figured I could do something about it. And she’s OK with it.”

Saniewska hopes that those viewing the photos will get to see another side of Gaga, a peek at who the star was before the world knew her name.

But even with all the fame, to Saniewska, she’s “still the same girl. The fact that we ran into each other and she came up to me – she didn’t say ‘Hi’ and run off. She stood there for 15 minutes, just chatting. She remembered my name, she remembered who I was, and she had so much to say. She’s still the same person to me.”

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One crimefighter confronted another in this video of a traffic incident.

A man was pulled over dressed as the caped crusader in Montgomery County, Maryland, because his car had invalid numberplates.

He was told to put real numberplates on the Lamborghini, rather than a Batman sign.

He said he was on his way to cheer up children on the cancer ward of a local hospital.

The driver was not charged.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Mexican President Felipe Calderon and US President Barack Obama meet for a North America summit in Guadalajara, Mexico 10 August 2009.

The three leaders are to discuss energy issues amid a backdrop of high gas prices and unemployment

US President Barack Obama is hosting three-way talks at the White House with the leaders of Canada and Mexico.

Talks usually centre on border issues and the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta).

This year the summit could also touch on a disputed US-Canada oil pipeline.

President Obama, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Mexican President Felipe Calderon are meeting weeks before a broader regional summit to be held in Colombia.

The Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia, is to be held in two weeks’ time.

No major agreements are expected to be signed at Monday’s summit, which will see the three leaders hold a joint news conference.

The meeting was originally planned to take place in Hawaii in November, but had to be rescheduled after a top Mexican official was killed in a helicopter crash.

Thorny issues

The three leaders are expected to address ways in which to boost the economic recovery, as well as energy – with Mexico a major oil exporter and Canada unhappy over the fate of the stalled Keystone XL pipeline.

The pipeline would transport crude oil from the tar sands of western Alberta to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast.

The White House refused to approve the project, amid concerns that the route passed through the environmentally sensitive Sandhills region of the US state of Nebraska.

Mr Harper has previously said he was disappointed by the White House decision, and indicated that Canada would consider selling oil to China, as an alternative.

Mr Obama has said exports would be a key component of the US recovery. Canada represents the biggest market for US exports, followed by Mexico. The US, though, is the biggest consumer of both Canadian and Mexican goods.

But trade between the US and Mexico has been overshadowed by violence from drug cartels struggling to control smuggling routes into the US market, and Mexico’s complaints of weapons bought in the US moving south.

The leaders also face differing political climates at home. Mexico is holding elections on 1 July, and Mr Calderon is not eligible for re-election; meanwhile, Mr Obama faces re-election in November.

Mr Harper, who has been in office since 2006, won a new term in office in May 2011.

Rival demonstrators at the Supreme Court made their voices heard as the arguments began.

The US Supreme Court has finished the first day of a landmark hearing on the constitutionality of President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare reform.

Twenty-six US states are challenging the 2010 law, which greatly expands access to health insurance but is called unconstitutional by critics.

They say the requirement to buy insurance intrudes on civil liberties.

The court will hear three days of argument, with a ruling expected during June – in the thick of election season.

Monday’s hearing focused on whether the judges actually had the power to rule on the case.

The justices spent 90 minutes actively questioning lawyers about an obscure 19th-century piece of legislation – the 1867 Anti-Injunction Act – which bars legal challenges to any tax that has not yet been collected.

Continue reading the main story

Supreme Court schedule

  • Monday: Can the court legally hear the case?
  • Tuesday: Is the requirement to purchase health insurance legal?
  • Wednesday: Could the rest of the law survive with the requirement struck down?
  • Wednesday: Is the expansion of Medicaid constitutional?

The healthcare act requires most people to buy health insurance or pay a penalty. If the justices define that penalty as a tax, they could rule that the Anti-Injunction Act prevents the Supreme Court from making a ruling on the matter at this point in time.

The Washington DC court, which holds about 400 people, was packed with lawmakers, senior Obama administration officials and members of the public on Monday.

People had been camping outside the white marble building since Friday.

Controversial mandate

The nine Supreme Court justices, five of them appointed by Republican presidents and four by Democrats, have allotted six hours of argument – the longest in decades – for the case.

The court’s proceedings are not televised, but daily audio recordingsand transcripts are being made available.

Continue reading the main story

Analysis

image of Paul AdamsPaul AdamsBBC News, Washington

It’s been almost exactly two years since President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law. But if anyone thought the titanic struggle that accompanied its passage through Congress would end with a stroke of the president’s pen, they were sorely mistaken.

Even as the law’s early provisions have come into effect – to general approbation – the overall law remains profoundly contentious. It’s become a poster child for everything Republicans say is wrong about Barack Obama’s style of government.

Opponents of the act have managed to frame the debate over “Obamacare” (they also changed its name) into one about constitutional fidelity, religious freedom and the size of government.

The law’s actual purpose – to extend insurance coverage and put an end to discrimination based on pre-existing conditions or ability to pay – sometimes seem to have been forgotten.

From the start, it was almost inevitable that the bill – and specifically the individual mandate – would end up being litigated before the Supreme Court. What the nine justices conclude, a few months before a presidential election in which healthcare remains a hot topic, could have an enormous impact.

It is one of the most politically explosive cases since the 2000 election wrangle that saw the White House awarded to Republican George W Bush over Democrat Al Gore, or the hearings on the 1974 Watergate tapes that led to President Richard Nixon’s resignation.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, passed in March 2010, has been the divisive centrepiece of President Obama’s term in office.

If upheld, the law would forbid insurance companies from denying coverage because of pre-existing medical conditions. It would also limit how much they can charge older people.

But the most controversial aspect of the law is its core requirement that most people buy health insurance or pay a tax penalty.

The healthcare law’s insurance mandate does not begin until 2014, and those who flout the requirement to have insurance would not face a penalty until the following year.

Monday’s hearing focused on whether the terms of the Anti-Injunction Act could mean the Supreme Court is currently barred from ruling on it.

Neither the government nor the challengers believe the 1896 law is applicable in this case, and the court appointed another lawyer to argue that case on Monday.

Several judges cast doubt on whether such a fine would constitute a tax – which correspondents saw as an indication that the court would not postpone the case.

Justice Stephen Breyer said that the fact the penalty would be “collected in the same manner of a tax doesn’t automatically mean it’s a tax, particularly since the purpose of the Anti-Injunction Act is to prevent interference with the revenue stream”.

Justice Antonin Scalia seemed to agree, saying the court should rule on the matter unless there was a clear argument not to. “I find it hard to think this is clear, whatever else it is,” he said.

The broccoli question

The most eagerly anticipated day is Tuesday, when the judges will hear arguments on the constitutionality of the individual insurance requirement.

Republican Rick Santorum: “This is the most important issue in this election”

The 26 states led by Florida say the federal government has no power to force individuals to buy health insurance.

Critics say that if Congress can require citizens to buy health insurance, it could also force consumers to eat broccoli, purchase gym membership or buy American-made cars.

However, the Obama administration says Americans who have no healthcare simply push their unpaid health bills upon taxpayers, who are forced to subsidise emergency room visits.

On Wednesday, two questions will be heard.

The first is whether, if the individual mandate is declared unconstitutional, the rest of the law can stand or must be struck down in its entirety.

The other is whether Congress unfairly burdened states when it expanded eligibility under Medicaid, the medical care programme for poor people.

A ruling on the intensely partisan issue is expected only several months before November’s general election.

The US was the only major developed country without a national healthcare system until President Obama’s reform.

An opinion poll published on Monday found that 47% of voters disapproved of the healthcare law and 36% were in favour.

Republicans seeking to foil President Obama’s bid for a second term have vowed to repeal it if elected.

Mitt Romney, who is the front-runner to be this year’s Republican presidential candidate, called the law an “unfolding disaster for the American economy”.

His rival, Rick Santorum, appeared outside the court after Monday’s hearing to say that “Obamacare” should be the central issue of the forthcoming election campaign.

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Davy Jones of The Monkees dies aged 66

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DJ Dave Lee Travis pays tribute to Davy Jones

Davy Jones, Manchester-born lead singer with 60s band The Monkees, has died aged 66, his publicist has confirmed.

He died in his sleep at his home in Florida. His publicist, Deborah Robicheau, said he had had a massive heart attack.

Brought together for a US TV series in 1966, Jones, Micky Dolenz, Michael Nesmith and Peter Tork hits included Daydream Believer and I’m a Believer.

Jones was married three times and had four daughters.

The Monkees’ TV show was popular in both the US and the UK, and the band had four number one albums in a 13-month period

They were famous for their clean-cut image and were marketed as the American answer to The Beatles, notching up nine top 40 hits.

Acting career

Three of the band’s original members – Jones, Dolenz and Tork – reunited together last year to play a series of gigs.

He appeared aged 11 on ITV soap Coronation Street, as Ena Sharples’s grandson. He also appeared in the television series Z Cars before leaving showbusiness to train as a jockey.

Davy Jones Davy Jones was the only British member of The Monkees

He came back to acting with a role in a stage production of Oliver! He appeared in the West End and followed the show to Broadway where he built up a career as an actor and singer before auditioning for The Monkees.

Music journalist Paul Gambaccini described Jones as having “phenomenal” charisma and said that in 2008, he was voted the top teen idol of all time by Yahoo! Music.

“The pop world at that time loved The Beatles and that north-western English sound was something that America wanted, when they put together the so-called Pre-Fab Four,” he said, referring to the nickname given to the Monkees.

Developing talent

Mr Gambaccini said The Monkees had been put together by the music industry, something which was unheard of at that time.

“There had been individual teen idols who had been literally picked up off the street and groomed to be popstar, but there had never been a band that was put together, and they were assembled because the two producers had liked A Hard Day’s Night, the Beatles’ movie.”

Radio presenter Dave Lee Travis said: “One of the things that people will probably be thinking about Davy Jones is, the fact that he was 66. He always looked like a little kid. I think even in his latter years he looked very, very young.”

He described the Monkees as “a lot of fun” and as a band which overcame its critics.

“Everybody, even at the time, was going that this is so un-cool. It’s a made-up group and they’re not really very talented.

“But they became talented, which was the good thing. They started with a modicum of talent and that was developed over a period of time. And basically, they had fun with the TV shows. I think people look back and think it is crazy, it is cartoon stuff. But that is why it was good.”

A former apprentice jockey in Newmarket, Jones remained a keen horseman all his life, winning his first race in England as a jockey in 1996. He also trained horses.Continue reading the main story

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Grab from North Korean TV on 28 December 2011 shows Kim Jong-Un saluting during his father Kim Jong-Il's funeral at Kumsusan Memorial Palace in Pyongyang The move comes only two months after the succession of Kim Jong-un as leader

North Korea has agreed to suspend uranium enrichment, as well as nuclear and long-range missile tests, following talks with the US.

The US State Department said Pyongyang had also agreed to allow UN inspectors to monitor its reactor in Yongbyon to verify compliance with the measures.

In return, the US is finalising 240,000 tonnes of food aid for the North.

The move comes two months after Kim Jong-un came to power following the death of his father, Kim Jong-il.

Correspondents say the move could pave the way for the resumption of six-party disarmament negotiations with Pyongyang, which last broke down in 2009.

‘First step’

Continue reading the main story

“Start Quote

Both the DPRK [North Korea] and the US affirmed that it is in mutual interest to… push ahead with the denuclearisation through dialogue and negotiations”

Statement North Korean Foreign Ministry

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the US still had “profound concerns” over North Korea, but welcomed the move as a “first step”.

“On the occasion of Kim Jong-il’s death, I said that it is our hope that the new leadership will choose to guide their nation onto the path of peace by living up to its obligations.

“Today’s announcement represents a modest first step in the right direction.”

North Korea confirmed the move in a foreign ministry statement released in Pyongyang.

The statement, carried by the KCNA news agency, said the measures were “aimed at building confidence for the improvement of relations” between the two countries, and said talks would continue.

“Both the DPRK [North Korea] and the US affirmed that it is in mutual interest to ensure peace and stability on the Korean peninsula, improve the relations between the DPRK and the US, and push ahead with the denuclearisation through dialogue and negotiations,” it said.

Continue reading the main story

Analysis

image of Lucy Williamson Lucy Williamson BBC News, Seoul

This deal is the first major international act of the new North Korean leader. But how much the agreement bears his personal stamp is unclear.

The air in Seoul was thick with rumours at the end of last year, about a deal which offered concessions on North Korea’s nuclear programme in return for American food aid.

That was just before the former leader, Kim Jong-il, died – and contacts were disrupted.

But whether this deal is his doing, or that of his young son and heir, the speed with which it happened following the transition is striking.

Some will read that as a sign of political softening by the regime; others as a sign of North Korea’s increasingly desperate need for food aid.

Either way, if agreement is implemented (and many have failed), it will mark the first small step towards peace in more than three years.

Yukiya Amano, director general of the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said the announcement was “an important step forward” and that inspectors stood ready to return to North Korea, Reuters reports.

Earlier, a senior US military official said the issue of food aid for North Korea was now linked to political progress – contradicting earlier policy.

The North has suffered persistent food shortages since a famine in the 1990s, and relies on foreign aid to feed its people.

North Korea agreed in 2005 to give up its nuclear ambitions in return for aid and political concessions, as part of a six-nation dialogue process involving the two Koreas, the US, China, Russia and Japan.

But progress on the deal was stop-start, and the agreement broke down in 2009.

Contact between the US and North Korea aimed at restarting the talks began in July 2011.

A meeting last week between US and North Korean officials in Beijing was the third round of talks aimed at exploring how to bring North Korea back to the negotiating table.

Continue reading the main story

Kim Jong-il dead

Chief IAEA inspector Herman Nackaerts talks to reporters at Vienna airport on 20 February 2012
Chief IAEA inspector Herman Nackaerts said he hoped for “some concrete results” from the trip

UN nuclear inspectors have arrived in Tehran for the second time in a month to discuss Iran’s nuclear programme.

Chief inspector Herman Nackaerts said his team’s “highest priority” was to clarify the “possible military dimensions” of the nuclear programme.

But he cautioned that progress “may take a while”.

Iran insists its uranium enrichment work is peaceful in purpose, but Western nations believe the programme is geared towards making weapons.

Tensions have risen over speculation that Israel may carry out a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

US National Security Adviser Tom Donilon arrived in Israel at the weekend for talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other senior officials.

But the head of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, warned on Sunday that it was still unclear whether Iran was at a stage to assemble a nuclear bomb.

“On that basis, I think it would be premature to exclusively decide that the time for a military option was upon us,” Gen Dempsey said.

‘New developments’

Last week Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took part in an elaborate ceremony to unveil new developments in his country’s nuclear programme.

Tehran said it had used domestically-made nuclear fuel in a reactor for the first time, as well as developing faster, more efficient uranium enrichment centrifuges.

State TV showed the president inspecting the fuel rods as they were loaded into a reactor.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (R) during a tour of Tehran's research reactor (February 15, 2012)Iranian media showed President Ahmadinejad (at right) at a ceremony to unveil “new developments” in Tehran’s nuclear programme

The IAEA inspectors described their last visit, in January, as positive, and said Iran was “committed” to “resolving all outstanding issues”.

Mr Nackaerts said on Sunday that he hoped to have a “couple of good and constructive days in Tehran”.

“Importantly we hope for some concrete results from the trip. The highest priority remains of course the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear programme, but we want to tackle all outstanding issues,” he said.

“This is of course a very complex issue that may take a while. But we hope it can be constructive”.

The inspectors’ evaluation of their visits may form part of the next written report on Iran’s nuclear programme, expected later in February.

Tehran says its nuclear activities are simply for electricity generation.

But last November, the IAEA said it had information suggesting Iran had carried out tests “relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device”.

That information led to a decision by the US and the European Union to tighten sanctions against Iran, including measures targeting the country’s lucrative oil industry.

Iran said on Sunday it had halted oil sales to British and French companies, ahead of a European Union oil embargo set to begin on 1 July. Analysts say this gesture of retaliation is largely symbolic, as neither the UK nor France import a large proportion of their oil from Iran.

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Ten days after the United States went to war in the Persian Gulf, Whitney Houston performed the greatest rendition of the Star Spangled Banner in sports history.

On Jan. 27, 1991, Houston took the field at Tampa Stadium prior to Super Bowl XXV to sing the national anthem. The US was at war in Iraq and the game between the New York Giants and Buffalo Bills was serving as a welcome respite from the televised reports of scud bombs and cease fires.

The pop star had recorded the vocal weeks before in a Los Angeles studio and lip-synched the song at the Super Bowl, but few in the crowd of 73,000 or the 110 million watching at home seemed to notice. Houston’s gospel-infused performance and her soaring vocals, all set to the patriotic backdrop of flags and flyovers, are the standard against which all anthems are compared. It’s as close to perfect as a human voice can get.

The beauty of Houston’s version is in her restraint. Other vocalists try to make “The Star-Spangled Banner” their own with unnecessary flourishes and self-indulgent arrangements. Whitney let the song stand on its own. She just sang the heck out of it.

Houston had agreed to sing the song a year earlier, long before most Americans had heard of Kuwait. She arranged the song with her musical director Ricky Minor, who later became well known for his same role on “American Idol.” It went on to become the fastest-selling single in her record label’s history and raised over $500,000 for the American Red Cross.

[ Obituary: Whitney Houston dies at the age of 48 ]

 

“I think it was a time when Americans needed to believe in our country.” Houston said later that year. “I remember standing there and looking at all those people, and it was like I could see in their faces the hopes and prayers and fears of the entire country.”

The famed singer died Saturday at a Beverly Hills hotel. She was 48.

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