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Rochat scores as Whitecaps end record losing streak with 1-0 win over Philly

VANCOUVER – Alain Rochat helped the Vancouver Whitecaps and their win-starved fans breathe a huge sigh of relief.

Rochat’s goal in the 12th minute gave the Whitecaps a 1-0 victory over the Philadelphia Union on Saturday.

The win, the first since the Whitecaps’ season opener on March 19, ended the Vancouver expansion side’s Major League Soccer losing streak at a record 14 games.

“For me, personally, it’s a great feeling,” said Rochat. “But, for the team, I think it’s even more important. We can build on this.”

New coach Tom Soehn picked up his first win since replacing the fired Teitur Thordarson at the end of May. The Whitecaps had gone 0-2-1 under Soehn in three road games.

Soehn and the rest of Whitecaps were happy to give the some inspiration after Wednesday’s riot following the Vancouver Canucks’ loss to Boston in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals.

“It’s been a tough week for the city of Vancouver with the Canucks having such a great year and what happened thereafter,” said Soehn. “It’s something I felt the city needed.”

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The win at Empire was also much needed for the team after the Caps went winless in six home games. Thordarson’s firing was based largely on the club’s inability to win at home before raucous, passionate fans.

“We talked about it at the beginning of the season, that we were going to make Empire a fortress and a difficult place to come and I thought we achieved that today,” said midfielder Terry Dunfield. “Everyone worked real hard for one another and everyone bought into Tommy’s system and philosophy (of staying compact). All that hard work on the training ground paid off.”

After the game, the Empire Field crowd gave the Whitecaps a standing ovation in tribute to only their second home win. The players repaid the gesture by running around the field and waving at their supporters.

“It’s a weight off our shoulders, for sure, but we’ll stay humble by this,” said Dunfield, who returned after missing the previous three games because of national team duty. “We won’t get carried away, maybe, like we did on opening day. We’re still bottom of our conference and only we can do something about it.”

The Whitecaps improved to 2-6-8 while the Union saw its record drop to 6-4-4. Philadelphia missed out on a chance to gain sole possession of first place in the Eastern Conference ahead of the idle New York Red Bulls.

“We’re dropping points – we’re like a charity right now,” said Union coach Peter Nowak, vowing to “shuffle the deck.”

The goal was the second of the season for Rochat, a 28-year-old native of Saint-Jean-sur-Richeliu, Que. He scored after taking a pass from Davide Chiumiento, who made a fine run into the middle and then passed it to the defender near the corner of the 18-yard box. The ball curled into the opposite corner of the net while striker Eric Hassli tried to get his head on it.

Rochat said he and Chiumiento practised the move during the week and he told the Swiss midfielder to look for him on the left side if had a chance to take the ball from the right flank into the middle as he did.

“He gave me a great pass and it’s in – perfect,” said Rochat.

“(Rochat) was great – what a goal,” said Dunfield. “The entire back four were good. If you look at the 11 and even the subs, I don’t think there was a poor game out there. Everyone worked hard for one another. It’s great to hear the laughing and joking and singing in the change room. You need that. You need to enjoy your football. It gets you down when you don’t win every win.”

Rochat’s goal came two minutes after Vancouver captain Jay DeMerit blocked a Justin Mapp shot after he took a through ball from recently-signed striker Veljko Paunovic and raced toward the Vancouver goal.

Paunovic, a veteran of Spain’s LaLiga, played his first game since 2008, when he quit playing for family reasons but did not officially retire. He replaced Carlos Ruiz, who scored the Union’s lone goal in its 1-0 victory over Vancouver on March 26 and was away with Guatemala’s national side at the Gold Cup.

“We had good first pressure in the first 10 minutes from the left line and they’d just find a way to get from one side to the other and they crossed a great goal,” said Paunovic, who did little afterwards and subbed out in the 59th minute. “We had to change our way to play. The Whitecaps played a very good game, but we didn’t deserve to lose.”

Vancouver survived a late scare in the 81st minute as Sebastien Le Toux’s flick-on during a scramble rolled just wide of the post.

Vancouver goalkeeper Joe Cannon picked up his first shutout and win as a Whitecap. He was rarely tested but made a nice save on Brian Carroll’s straight-on shot from about 25 yards out in the 23rd minute.

Cannon said the Whitecaps can still be tougher mentally after almost letting the Union back in the game, but he could not fault the effort, which made his night “comfortable.”

The 36-year-old recorded his first clean sheet in almost a year. The last one came while he was with San Jose, shortly before he broke his leg in practice.

Cannon, the former MLS goalkeeper of the year, had been used primarily as a backup before Soehn sought to make a change four games ago and replaced Jay Nolly, who subsequently injured his foot in a workout.

“For me, it was huge, especially here,” said Cannon in his first home appearance. “I’ve been waiting since last November, since I was told I was going to play in Vancouver, to win in front of these fans. You could just a feel collective sigh of relief after the final whistle. . . . It’s been a long time.”

Notes: Real Salt Lake holds the record for a losing streak spanning more than one season. RSL set the mark of 18 between Aug. 10, 2005 and May 6, 2006. … Vancouver coach Soehn and Philadelphia counterpart Peter Nowak were teammates with the Chicago Fire and coached together at D.C. United. … Vancouver midfielder Nizar Khalfan returned after leaving to play for Tanzania in a June 5 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier. He subbed on in the 76th minute for Brazilian Camilo, who is usually a striker but played more of a midfield role under a new-look offensive scheme.

NATO struggles to wrest away Taliban stronghold, poppy profit centre in southern Afghanistan

NAWZAD, Afghanistan – There is little left of this once-violent town centre that the U.S. Marines recently pacified: a couple of dusty roads, closed shops with bare mud brick stalls, small boys herding goats through a jigsaw puzzle of ruined houses and dry irrigation canals.

Just outside the town, fields of poppy flourish, and fleets of turbaned Taliban throttle gutty motorcycles.

Nawzad’s town centre is quiet, but its desert outskirts are still contested. Separate roadside bomb attacks wrecked three armoured U.S. Marine personnel carriers in one day on one road. The Marines were unharmed, but such incidents make movement and commerce in the district risky.

“They told us, you can go if you want, but if you die, don’t blame us because we told you the Taliban hid bombs in the road,” recounted a man who identified himself as Masoud, one of the few merchants left in Nawzad’s once-bustling bazaar.

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The southwest province of Helmand, where Nawzad sits, is where the Afghan war is being fought the hardest. With a population of about 1.4 million, the majority Pashtun province is both a homeland and a thoroughfare for the insurgency. It also houses its economic base, opium. Another sign of Helmand’s strategic importance: More NATO service members, upward of 700, have died in this province than any other.

With so much at stake, Helmand is caught between the competing war strategies of the coalition and the Taliban.

The Associated Press obtained a preliminary draft of The Helmand Plan, a joint coalition and Afghan guide for the next three years. The plan makes clear that the alliance wants to follow an inkblot approach by securing population centres, especially along the fertile Helmand River Valley, and then spreading outward.

Infrastructure development would follow, along with international mentors for nascent Afghan governmental institutions, in the hope that they can then stand on their own. Licit agriculture would blossom, according to the plan, and the Taliban’s poppy industry would wilt under government eradication programs.

Speed also is part of NATO’s strategy. Much of the coalition’s limited progress in Helmand has been achieved during an 18-month military surge that increased NATO forces in the province by 11,000 troops to 30,000. But some troops probably will leave the province in the coming months, the beginning of President Barack Obama’s promised withdrawal from Afghanistan of all combat troops by the end of 2014. By then the country is expected to transition from NATO to Afghan control.

The insurgency also has a plan: resist and delay. And unlike NATO, the Taliban intend to be here long after 2014.

While the Taliban has ceded ground inside cities like Lashkar Gah, the provincial capital, it also guards opium fields and ambushes convoys in suburbs and hinterlands. It stymies provincial communication networks by forcing phone companies to shut down cellular service for most of the day. And it keeps Helmandis dependent on the poppy trade, and the insurgency, by seeding insecurity and retarding development.

Like Nawzad, the northern town of Kajaki, home of a 33-megawatt two-turbine hydroelectric dam, is an archipelago of relative security surrounded by kill zones.

“You go up to the dam, you’ll be fine because you have Bravo Battery, 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, who have secured the dam,” said U.S. Marine Col. Norman Cooling, the operations chief for Regional Command Southwest, in charge of security of Helmand and Nimroz to the west. “But if you go patrolling outside the dam, you’re going to get shot at.”

NATO officials say the dam is essential to modernize Afghanistan’s agriculture. It would electrify large swaths of Helmand and Kandahar, making it possible to refrigerate goods and increase their shelf life on their way to markets. (Opium keeps for months without refrigeration.)

In 2008, a 100-vehicle convoy and thousands of British troops were required to haul a third turbine and other equipment to Kajaki. Once installed, the third generator would increase the dam’s output to more than 50 megawatts and provide more consistent electricity to Helmand and much of neighbouring Kandahar province.

The Taliban and affiliated tribes are resisting attempts to clear supply routes or install upgraded power lines between Kajaki and other towns along the Helmand River Valley. One of the most infamous towns along the way to Kajaki is Sangin, a Taliban redoubt where one-third of all British losses in the Afghan war have taken place. Firefights still break out there daily.

Nearly three years after arriving at the dam, the third generator still has not been installed, and the grid has not been upgraded.

Still, after 10 years of war, there also are fragile signs of progress in Helmand.

Governance advisers have been deployed to 10 out of Helmand’s 14 districts. District elections were held this year in Marjah, formerly a Taliban bastion. And President Hamid Karzai identified Lashkar Gah as one of seven cities and provinces ready to transition from NATO to Afghan authority, a milestone intended to set the stage for greater autonomy throughout the volatile province.

However, NATO’s commander in Helmand, U.S. Marine Maj. Gen. John Toolan, worried that the nascent provincial administration will not be up to the challenge. Only a third of Helmand’s districts have active governing councils, and links between the national and provincial agencies are weak, he said.

Due to the Taliban’s assassination campaign against perceived NATO collaborators, many local Afghan leaders cannot live in their own communities without NATO’s protection. Coalition teams are also struggling to advise provincial institutions suffering from illiteracy, inexperience, and rampant corruption, much of it fueled by the poppy trade.

“I wish I could have more time to develop the district and community level pieces of governance, because I’m forcing a face – I’m forcing something on these communities and villages that they really don’t trust right now,” Toolan said.

Provincial Chief Judge Said Hosain Najibi estimated Helmand has only a third of the 4,000 prosecutorial judges required to establish law and order. Of 13 primary court districts in Helmand, Najibi said only four were active. The weakness of the legal system in Helmand means that many residents rely on tribal dispute resolution or Taliban courts, Najibi said.

“Security conditions in Helmand are such that police cannot collect evidence,” Najibi said. “Even in Lashkar Gah the police are not able to carry out their duties because of security.”

U.S. Marines stationed at Camp Leatherneck, a massive diesel-powered regional headquarters base in Helmand, have trained about 2,400 Afghan police and soldiers. But Toolan, the NATO commander, acknowledged that most of the Afghan recruits have come from outside the province rather than Helmand’s majority Pashtun tribes.

“The Pashtuns are contributing to the insurgency and they’re probably making a good buck,” said Toolan. “So they’re saying, why join the army? It’s hard. I can make money a little bit easier by laying a couple of IEDs and spraying a patrol with a couple of rounds and drawing them into an IED attack.”

The Taliban has undermined the training process with infiltration attacks by Afghan recruits against international forces on NATO bases, including two attacks in Helmand since 2009 by renegade Afghan troops, which killed eight British soldiers. Toolan said the attacks threaten to create “an internal conflict” between NATO mentors and their trainees.

“The relationship that we had between each other – they’re eating away at it,” he said.

The Taliban also are eating away at the gossamer telecommunications networks that bind communities and struggling markets in Helmand.

For nearly all Helmandis, cellular phone service is the only service available. But coalition and Afghan officials said the insurgency threatens to shut service down in other provinces unless service is shut down in Helmand, according to Afghan and coalition officials. The phone companies oblige, and the Taliban demands payment for the limited service the companies are allowed to provide.

U.S. Marine Col. Dave Burton, NATO’s military intelligence chief in Helmand, said the practice is meant to shield insurgents from eavesdropping and from their fighters being tracked. It is also sabotage.

“We did not anticipate the negative effect that it would have on the government of Afghanistan’s ability to command and control, because really there is no infrastructure,” said Burton. “We don’t have landlines.”

One reason the Taliban fight so hard in Helmand is because they are from here. Southern Afghanistan is the homeland of the Pashtuns, who dominate the Taliban.

Another reason is because Helmand province produces more poppy than any region on earth. The United Nations says Helmand’s poppy fields alone comprise about 160,618 acres (6500 hectares) – about half Afghanistan’s opium production – and that is after a rash of poppy blight caused a 40 per cent decline since 2008.

The Helmand Plan calls for licit agriculture to sustain the economy and hobble the insurgency. But coalition-funded poppy eradication programs will affect only about three per cent of Afghanistan’s harvest this year, say drug control officials. And record high dry opium prices – ($125 a pound ($275 a kilogram) in March – are working against the plan, as are Helmand’s arid climate and dismal irrigation. Food crops like wheat and corn require far more water than poppy and yield a fraction of opium profits.

The Taliban make poppy easy. Taliban henchmen stake struggling poppy farmers, finance irrigation wells and smuggle in Iranian gasoline to power water pumps. The coalition’s goal of modernizing Helmand’s food crop distribution systems is years away, but narcotics networks are deeply rooted. The Taliban sets poppy futures markets, runs opium processing facilities, and links farmers to narco-distribution networks through Pakistan and Iran into Europe and North America.

Poppy produces profits for Helmand’s corrupt elite, but also livelihoods for many of the province’s poorest people.

The Taliban “are competing with the government for the provision of services,” said Cooling, the U.S. Marine combat operations chief in Helmand. “So they have to provide their (services) while preventing the government of Afghanistan from providing a legal replacement.”

Jamieson drives Up The Credit to victory in Pepsi North America Cup

CAMPBELLVILLE, Ont. – Jody Jamieson came through for his father Saturday night.

Jamieson drove Up The Credit to a one-length victory in the $1.5-million Pepsi North America Cup at Mohawk Racetrack. The win was the second in this event for Jamieson – he was first in ’07 with Tell All – but more importantly, he earned his father, Carl, Up The Credit’s trainer and a part-owner of the horse, his first career win in the world’s richest pacing event.

“It’s unbelievable,” an emotional Jody Jamieson said afterwards. “All I can say is, ‘Happy Father’s Day,’ dad.

“You did such a great job. It’s just unbelievable how much he has worked. I just want to show all the fans here . . . this is the 2011 Pepsi North America Up champion right here. Take a good look.”

The victory was a crowning achievement for Carl Jamieson, 60, himself a very accomplished horseman.

He recorded over 1,360 career wins and $6.3 million in earnings as a driver. As a trainer, the native of Pugwash, N.S., who now calls Princeton, Ont., home, has amassed over 900 career victories and over $20 million in prize money.

But the elder Jamieson left little doubt that Saturday’s win was the biggest of his illustrious career.

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“This means everything,” he said. “This is a new career moment for me.

“It’s surreal to win a race like this . . . it’s just great to have a special moment like this with the family. I thought we had an ace in the hold to have Jody driving him.

“But nothing bothers this horse, he just loves being here. He loves his job . . . and he can go fast.”

Jody Jamieson has successfully followed in his father’s footsteps. The 34-year-old has registered over 5,800 career victories and $79 million in earnings and twice has been named Canada’s top driver.

Up The Credit, a $72,000 yearling purchase, earned his fourth straight win and fifth in six starts this year to boost his season earnings past $880,000. Overall, the son of Western Terror has seven victories in 11 career starts and won over $920,000.

Heady stuff, indeed, for a horse that had issues with lameness last year.

“He is just an amazing horse,” Jody Jamieson said. “I said at the draw I thought my horse could go any way.

“He could go on the lead, first over, second over, it didn’t matter. I just needed to have a little bit of luck and make sure he was good. Dad had him great all week and the horse was fabulous.”

Added Carl Jamieson: “I honestly thought I was the horse to beat. I thought he was the best horse in the race.”

Up The Credit claimed the $750,000 winner’s share in 1:49.3 on a fast track. Roll With Joe was second in the 10-horse field, followed by Big Jim.

Randy Waples, the driver for Roll With Joe, was content with the second-place finish.

“Everytime you finish second you think there is something you could have done to win,” Waples said. “I was hoping at some point I could get my horse back on the front because I thought he was ready to go a big mile on the front right now.

“At the end of the day, I couldn’t be happier.”

Up The Credit, the 2/1 second choice, paid $6.60, $4.20 and $3.20 while Roll With Joe returned $9.60 and $6.80. Big Jim, a 5/1 pick, paid $4.40.

Big Jim, last year’s champion two-year-old colt pacer in both Canada and the U.S., finished out of the winner’s circle for the third straight start. But the first two of those losses were at 1-9 odds.

The remainder of the field, in order of finish, include: Foreclosure N; Big Bad John, the 9/5 favourite; Powerful Mist; Eighteen; Shadyshark Hanover; Rockabillie; and Dutch Richman.

Shadyshark Hanover came into the race as the field’s second-leading money and was a second-place finisher to Big Jim last year in both the Breeders Crown and Governor’s Cup. But trainer Erv Miller couldn’t hide his disappointment with Saturday’s result.

“I was very disappointed with him tonight,” Miller said. “Sometime has got to be wrong with him.

“There is no way he should put in an effort like that.”

On the undercard, Crys Dream captured the $519,000 Elegantimage Stakes for three-year-old filly trotters in a stakes record time of 1:53.2.

Crys Dream, the 1-5 favourite, returned $2.70, $2.10 and $2.10 while second-place finisher Beatgoeson Hanover was 2 1/2 lengths behind, paying $3.50 and $2.60. Lady Rainbow paid $3.90 in third.

Blue Porsche, the 3/5 favourite, captured the $347,000 Goodtimes Stakes for three-year-old colt trotters in 1:54.2, returning $3.20, $2.50 and $2.50.

Sim Brown, an 11-1 pick, paid $6.60 and $5.20 in second while Onrique, a 60-1 longshot, returned $14.40 in third.

Won The West raised eyebrows in the $100,000 Mohawk Cup, winning in a stunning 1:47.2, tying the fastest mile ever paced in Canada and an all-age track record.

As expected, See You At Peelers continued her winning ways in the $601,000 Fan Hanover Stakes for three-year-old filly pacers. See You At Peelers registered her 18th straight victory to remain unbeaten.

Muslim Brotherhood above ground at last but beset by rifts as Egypt seeks the democratic path

CAIRO – The night breeze blew foul wafts from a nearby canal black with garbage and pollution. The streets jammed with trucks and motorized rickshaws were so shattered that they hardly seemed paved at all.

It was to Cairo’s slum of Munib on a recent evening that the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s biggest Islamic group, brought its election campaign message: The country must turn to Islam to rebuild.

“Muslims around the world expect great things from you,” Essam el-Erian, deputy head of the Brotherhood’s new political party, told supporters crowded into a tent, with men across the aisle from women, who wore headscarves or black veils. “We have to build a nation of freedom and equality, a nation of the true Islam.”

The scene, like many in Egypt now, was inconceivable before president Hosni Mubarak’s Feb. 11 removal from power. Under Mubarak’s autocratic regime, the Brotherhood was banned. Tens of thousands of its members were arrested, many tortured, and its gatherings were held largely in secret.

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Now, with Mubarak gone, the Brotherhood is storming into the open, appealing to religious voters and trying to win over Egypt’s poor. It is likely to be part of Egypt’s next government, with a hand not only in ruling but also in writing a new constitution. Its strength has fueled fears among many Egyptians that it will turn what began as a pro-democracy uprising in the most populous Arab nation into Islamic rule.

The Brotherhood’s own identity is on the line as well, and there is pressure from inside and out for it not to go down a sharp-right Islamic road. Internally, Brotherhood moderates – many from a younger generation – are resisting control from hard-line leaders, in a struggle that could fragment the group. From the outside, a budding democracy is pushing the Brotherhood, at least in public, to present a more liberal face.

How the Brotherhood deals with its new status will be a major test of whether Islamic purists and democracy can be compatible in the aftermath of the Middle East’s wave of revolutions. With the Brotherhood involved in protests in Syria, Yemen, Libya and Jordan, the answer here could be a model across the region.

“We’re not ready for power, we don’t have the flexibility,” said Mohammed Osman, a 29-year-old pharmacist who counts himself among the Brotherhood’s new generation. “To go from prison to power, that could be extremely dangerous.”

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In one of Cairo’s most prominent mosques, the Brotherhood’s top leader, Mohammed Badie, paused in the combination sermon-campaign speech he was delivering from an ornate niche marking the direction of Islam’s holy city of Mecca. A child next to him, with a green Brotherhood sash across his chest, took the cue to break in with a chant.

“God is great!” the boy piped up. The crowd of more than 1,000 men, seated on the carpets of the Amr ibn al-As Mosque, echoed back, “God is great, God is great!”

“Egypt’s revolution was produced by none other than God Almighty,” Badie resumed. “The days of ‘no religion in politics and no politics in religion’ ended long ago.”

The image recalls the nightmares Mubarak’s regime often evoked. Without Mubarak’s iron grip, his officials warned, the Brotherhood would seize power through the mosque. Women would be forced to wear the headscarf, clerics would hand out punishments like amputations for thieves and whippings for adulterers, and Egypt’s large Christian minority would be consigned to second-class status.

It is an image the Brotherhood is trying to shed as it adapts to the demands of a democratic system.

As Egypt races toward its first free and open parliamentary elections, planned for September, the Brotherhood’s power in the new Egypt comes down to a raw count: How many seats it wins. In this country of 80 million, Egyptians are expected to vote in unprecedented numbers. Their preferences have never been measured before.

The 90-year-old Brotherhood, with its hundreds of thousands of activists, has a leg up on more secular activists scrambling to form parties from scratch. For the first time, it has formed a political party, holding rallies nationwide, from rural towns to urban slums.

It has revved up social services that long helped build its following. In the city of Alexandria, young Brothers clean streets and fill potholes. In Kafr Mit Fatek, a tiny Nile Delta farming village, a travelling clinic of Brotherhood doctors gives families free dental work, checkups and gynecological exams.

In a sign of confidence, the group has opened a prominent new Cairo headquarters in a luxury office building proudly emblazoned with its emblem, crossed swords under a Qur’an with the word “Prepare.”

Brotherhood leaders say the new Freedom and Justice Party will run for only half of parliament’s seats so it cannot gain a majority; they predict 30-40 per cent. Nor will it field a candidate in November’s presidential election. It also is trying to form coalitions with other parties, including liberals.

El-Erian, the party’s deputy head, says parties must work together for several years to entrench a democratic system.

“Maybe after that, everyone can compete without any problems,” he told The Associated Press.

Many Brothers style their party in the mould of Turkey’s Islamic-based Justice and Development Party, which has held power for nearly a decade by improving the economy without aggressively pushing a religious agenda.

The vision they have for Egypt: a “civil state with an Islamic basis.”

It is a vague formula, and the Brotherhood is under pressure to make clear what it means. Decades of oppression provided the group an odd luxury: Barred from state-dominated media, it rarely had to sell positions to the public. It could promote broad slogans, like “Islam is the solution,” and draw support from resentment of Mubarak.

Now Brotherhood officials on Television talk shows are questioned whether they will ban alcohol or implement Islamic punishments. Their answer: It is not the time. The time may never come, they say, and if it does it will only be with voters’ consent.

In a draft, the party’s vision for a new constitution mirrors that of most liberals, a parliamentary system with limited powers for the president and guarantees of personal freedoms, a radical change to ensure that no irremovable “pharaoh” like Mubarak can rule.

Absent are past Brotherhood ideas, such as a panel of clerics to advise the government.

“We are for freedom of expression for all, even if it’s a communist, a leftist or a secularist,” says Aly Khafagy, a 29-year-old party organizer. “Ultimately, the street is the one that rules. If the street is the one that can put us in, it can also put us out.”

And “the Islamic basis?” Khafagy depicts it as a democracy that “respects Islamic values,” in the vein of U.S. conservatives who talk of America’s “Judeo-Christian heritage.” But from others it sounds far stronger.

“The Brotherhood won’t stop and won’t be silent and won’t accept anything but the complete implementation of Islamic Shariah law,” Sobhi Saleh, a former parliament member and now one of the Brotherhood’s most active campaigners, told a crowd at a rally in Cairo’s Matariya district.

At another rally weeks later, he proclaimed that the Brotherhood “doesn’t recognize liberal Muslims or secular Muslims” and vowed that the next government, “God willing, will be Islamist.”

The comments raised an uproar. Even some Brotherhood leaders distanced themselves. Opponents warned this was the true Brotherhood – intolerant, convinced it alone represents Islam and determined to rule.

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For Mohammad Osman, the pharmacist, Tahrir Square during the days of the anti-Mubarak uprising was a “Utopia.”

He and other young Brothers were in the square alongside liberal and secular protesters, in what he calls the spirit of openness of the new Brotherhood generation.

It is in contrast to the older Brotherhood leaders, bred on secrecy and tight control. Their attitude is typified in the group’s central tenet, “Listen and obey”: Once leaders make a decision, members have a near-religious duty to follow.

The rifts within the Brotherhood point to troubles in keeping together a movement that covers a range of Islamic ideologies, from the moderate to the deeply conservative. The tighter the leaders try to control, the more moderates filter away. That could make the movement more hard-line, hurting its broader public support.

Under Mubarak, unity was considered necessary for a movement under constant threat. As a result, the Brotherhood has been like a tribe.

“These are your colleagues, you study with them, you work with them, you get arrested with them. You marry from among them,” says Osman, a Brother since high school.

It cannot work that way in politics.

Osman worries election victory could bring out the worst in the Brotherhood: a domineering side, willing to go it alone. Already, he says, the group’s leadership is trying overly to control its own party.

“It’s as if they are pushing us to leave the Brotherhood,” Osman says. “But I can’t do that. I want to remain a voice of conscience within the movement.”

Despite pledges of independence, the Brotherhood has appointed the three top officers of its Freedom and Justice Party from within its own echelons. The group also prohibits Brothers from taking part in any other political party.

For Osman and some in the new generation, it felt too much like the old ways. They have decided not to participate actively in the party. A few have broken to join competing parties, or are trying to influence the party from within.

In a Nile-side social club, party members from Cairo’s sister city Giza gathered to elect their local chair. The candidates making their way to the microphone reflected the movement’s professional roots: engineers, a surgeon, a urologist, a factory owner, a woman lawyer. Several candidates were in their late 30s.

As they spoke of their goals, few mentioned Islam. Instead, they spoke of “bringing the youth into the leadership,” ”building a modern Egypt” and “working with other parties on national goals.”

Osman’s ultimate concern is that the Brotherhood’s old mindset could wreck chances for a broad-based government Egypt needs. Some Brotherhood leaders have spoken of an alliance with Egypt’s most ultraconservative movement, the Salafis, who reject anything they feel contradicts Islamic law.

The worry was palpable at the first gathering of four new secular-leaning parties. Among the crowd of more than 2,000 at a luxury hotel ballroom, the top question was whether the parties can compete with the Brotherhood.

“The time frame is frightening,” admitted Naguib Sawiris, a Christian businessman and chief founder of the Free Egyptians Party. “How do we start up a party in 90 days? I don’t sleep at night.”

The only guide to the Brotherhood’s polling strength is from 2005, when it won 20 per cent of parliament despite ruling party rigging. The assumption is it would do better in a fair race.

But after the revolution, that is far from certain, argues columnist Wael Abdel-Fattah. The Brotherhood has lost “the glamor of oppression and the protest vote,” he says. More Egyptians are politically engaged, including Christians, large parts of the middle class and business interests who worry about economic damage from a Brotherhood win.

It will likely come down to Egypt’s silent majority.

“The vast majority of the population, say 70 per cent, have nothing to do with Islamists and nothing to do with secularists,” Osman says. “Whoever wins them will be the ones who rule Egypt.”

Toronto FC surrenders late goal in losing 1-0 to ten-man Seattle Sounders

TORONTO – Conceding late goals has been a staple of Toronto FC in its brief history, and another late collapse had coach Aron Winter fuming Saturday.

Fredy Montero fired home a free kick in the 90th minute as the ten-man Seattle Sounders defeated Toronto FC 1-0 in Major League Soccer action.

The Seattle striker cleanly beat Toronto goalkeeper Stefan Frei into the top right corner after Reds defender Doniel Henry committed a foul just outside the penalty area.

“It’s incredible we lost the game. We deserved to win. We played very well and in the end we have given it away,” a stone-faced Winter said afterwards. “At that moment it’s not clever for us to foul in front of the box.”

With Toronto up a man and pressing, Henry fouled Seattle’s Mauro Rosales on a Sounders counterattack to set up Montero’s winner.

“Very frustrating. I feel like we got robbed of a pretty decent performance,” Frei said. “I don’t like the way we gave away that foul. I don’t even know if it was a foul. It’s the 90th minute, the guy goes down extremely soft. Down a man they’re looking for that.

“I think the referee falls for it.”

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Toronto (2-6-9) couldn’t take advantage of Jhon Kennedy Hurtado’s second yellow card and is now winless in eight (0-3-5). The Reds haven’t won in MLS play since a 2-1 defeat of Houston on May 7th. Seattle improved to 6-4-7.

“That goal was amazing,” Montero said. “I was looking to score in the past four or five games and I just want to keep working hard.”

The Reds came closest in the 81st minute when second-half substitute Javier Martina hammered a shot off the post before Joao Plata sent the rebound over a yawning Seattle cage.

Hurtado was harshly sent off in the 49th minute for a second yellow card after the Seattle defender clattered into Toronto FC forward Alen Stevanovic from behind.

Sounders goalkeeper Kasey Keller said his team played well after going down a man.

“I thought we played smart,” said the former U.S. international. “We rode our luck at times. They hit the post and had some other balls bounce around our box but the guys worked hard.”

The pint-sized Plata used some fancy footwork to get by a Seattle defender in the 56th minute but he couldn’t find a teammate in front of goal.

Mikael Yourassowsky was shown a yellow in the 65th but Seattle couldn’t make Toronto pay on the ensuing free kick and Frei did well to collect off the foot of an onrushing Rosales in the 75th.

Maicon Santos got on the end of a Martina cross in the 78th, but he could only head it weakly over the Seattle goal.

“It’s a tough result because we deserved the win. Not just a tie, but we deserved to win,” Frei said. “It’s going to be tough to bounce back from this. Today would have been a perfect opportunity to maybe get something going offensively.”

A spirited first half saw some decent chances on both sides but only one shot on target.

Seattle striker Mike Fucito nearly stunned the crowd of 21,839 at BMO Field in the second minute when his quick shot off a throw in beat Frei but struck the outside of the far post.

Toronto FC defender Ty Harden was cautioned in the 18th minute when he clattered into Keller off a corner. After a Santos header forced a save from Keller in the 22nd, Borman was also shown a yellow for a challenge on Rosales in the 26th.

Hurtado was cautioned in the 34th for his tackle on Yourassowsky in a dangerous area, but Stevanovic could only hit the ensuing free kick straight into the Sounders’ wall.

The Reds’ best chance of the half came in the 43rd when Nathan Sturgis’ free kick got up and over the Seattle wall but could only clip the top of Keller’s goal.

Winter’s squad is hurting with a number of injuries and the Dutchman is hoping to bring in reinforcements when the transfer window opens.

“Every week we are making improvements,” Winter said. “Right now we don’t have enough quality. We’re missing a leader on the pitch.”

Notes: Striker Alan Gordon, who scored twice in last weekend’s 2-2 draw with the L.A. Galaxy in his return from injury and was Toronto’s most dangerous player in Wednesday’s 0-0 tie at New England, didn’t even make the bench for the Reds because of an abdominal strain. … Julian de Guzman is back with Toronto FC after Canada lost out in the group stage of the Gold Cup. The Toronto-born midfielder didn’t see action Saturday. … Midfielder Tony Tchani (ankle contusion), midfielder Jacob Peterson (hamstring strain), defender Nana Attakora (quadriceps strain), defender Adrian Cann (knee sprain), midfielder Elbekay Bouchiba (knee surgery) and Gianluca Zavarise (suspended) all missed out for Toronto because of injury. Defender Dicoy Williams is on international duty with Jamaica. … Former Toronto FC striker O’Brian White (leg surgery), midfielder Steve Zakuani (leg fracture), defender Taylor Graham (calf strain), midfielder Servano Carrasco (knee contusion) and midfielder Alvaro Fernandez (hamstring strain) were out for Seattle. … Toronto’s next game is June 25 at Real Salt Lake. … Seattle next sees action Thursday at home against New York. … Coming into Saturday’s action, Toronto FC had allowed a league-high 25 goals.

Myanmar democracy icon Suu Kyi marks 66th birthday in freedom, first time in nearly a decade

YANGON, Myanmar – For the first time in nearly a decade, Myanmar democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi celebrated her birthday in freedom on Sunday, with supporters freeing symbolic caged birds as more than 50 state security agents watched from across the street.

The Nobel Peace Prize laureate turned 66, and received one gift at Yangon’s international airport: the arrival of her youngest son, Kim Aris, who lives in Britain and kissed his mother on arrival.

“If I were asked what I would wish on my birthday, I wish for peace, stability and prosperity in the country,” Suu Kyi said in a brief address to supporters at her opposition party’s headquarters in Yangon.

Suu Kyi said there are “sparks of war flying” in the country, apparently referring to recent fighting between government troops and ethnic Kachin rebels in the north which displaced thousands.

The celebration was attended by around 500 party members and supporters, who held candles in their hands as they wished Suu Kyi well. They then released balloons into the air and freed dozens of sparrows and doves from cages in her honour.

Across the street, more than 50 plainclothes police and intelligence agents took photos and videotaped those who came and went.

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Suu Kyi has celebrated 15 birthdays in detention or house arrest over the past 22 years, and this was the first in nine years that she was able to mark freely with friends, family and supporters.

Ruled by the military since 1962, Myanmar held its first elections in 20 years in November. Suu Kyi was released from seven years of house arrest just days after the poll, which her party boycotted. The junta handed power to a civilian government in March, but critics say it’s merely a front for continued army rule.

Last year, Suu Kyi marked her birthday alone, locked in her dilapidated lakeside compound while world leaders called for her release and supporters held sombre ceremonies elsewhere in Yangon in her honour.

Born June 19, 1945, in Rangoon, as Yangon was then known, Suu Kyi won the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize for her determined nonviolent struggle for democracy.

She was last detained in May 2003 after her motorcade was attacked in northwestern Myanmar by a pro-junta mob while she was on a political tour. This month, she is planning her first trip across the countryside since that ill-fated tour.

Since her release last year, Suu Kyi has continued to be outspoken, but little has changed in the repressive nation, which still holds more than 2,000 political prisoners and deploys security agents to monitor Suu Kyi closely.

Overconfident or over-stereotyped? Study on young people fuels continuing generational debate

CHICAGO – Among academics who track the behaviour of young adults and teens, there is a touchy debate: Should the word “entitled” be used when talking about today’s younger Americans? Are they overconfident in themselves?

Jean Twenge, author of the book “Generation Me,” is in the middle of the discussion. The San Diego State University psychology professor has made a career out of finding data that she says shows that college students and others their age are more self-centred, narcissistic even, than past generations. Now she has turned up data showing that they also feel more superior about themselves than their elders did when they were young.

“There are some advantages and some disadvantages to self-esteem, so having some degree of confidence is often a good thing,” says Twenge. But as she sees it, there is a growing disconnect between self-perception and reality.

“It’s not just confidence. It’s overconfidence.”

And that, she says, can pose problems, in relationships and the workplace.

Others argue that it is not so easy to generalize.

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“If you actually look at the data, you can’t just condense it into a sound bite. It’s more nuanced than that,” says John Pryor, director of UCLA’s Cooperative Institutional Research program, which produces an annual national survey of hundreds of thousands of college freshmen, on which Twenge and her colleagues based their latest study.

That study was recently published online in the British journal Self and Identity.

Among other things, Twenge and her colleagues found that a growing percentage of incoming college freshmen rated themselves as “above average” in several categories, compared with college freshmen who were surveyed in the 1960s.

When it came to social self-confidence, about half of freshmen questioned in 2009 said they were above average, compared to fewer than a third in 1966. Meanwhile, 60 per cent in 2009 rated their intellectual self-confidence as above average, compared with 39 per cent in 1966, the first year the survey was taken.

In the study, the authors also argue that intellectual confidence may have been bolstered by grade inflation, noting that, in 1966, only 19 per cent of college students who were surveyed earned an “A” or “A-minus” average in high school, compared with 48 per cent in 2009.

“So students might be more likely to think they’re superior because they’ve been given better grades,” Twenge says.

Statements like that can set off the generational firestorm.

Young people are quick to feel picked on, and rightly so, says Kali Trzesniewski, an associate professor of human development at the University of California, Davis.

“People have been saying for generations that the next generation is crumbling the world,” Trzesniewski says. “There are quotes going back to Socrates that say that kids are terrible.”

But in her own research, she says she has been hard-pressed to find many differences when comparing one generation to the next, and little evidence that even an increase in confidence has had a negative effect.

Many bosses and others in the workplace have long argued that recent college students often arrive with unreasonably high expectations for salary and an unwillingness to take criticism or to pay their dues.

“But a lot of them have a confidence that we wished we had,” says psychologist Jeffrey Arnett, a research professor in the psychology department at Clark University in Massachusetts. He studies “emerging adulthood,” a term that has been coined to describe the period from age 18 to 29 when many young adults are finding their footing.

Arnett does not object to Twenge’s findings. But he adds: “I disagree with using those findings as a way to promote these negative stereotypes of young people, which I spend a lot of my time battling against.”

He says those stereotypes also overshadow positive trends related to young people, in the last decade or so.

“If you look at the patterns in young people’s behaviour, all the news is good, pretty much. Crime is down and rates of substance abuse are down, way down. Rates of all kinds of sexual risk-taking, from abortion to sexually transmitted diseases, are down.”

You also can’t look at factors such as self-confidence and feelings of superiority without considering other findings that balance out those traits, says Pryor from UCLA. Look, for instance, at community service, he says.

In 1990, when the question was first asked in the survey, about 17 per cent of college freshmen said there was a very good chance that they would participate in public service in college. In 2010, nearly a third of freshman said the same.

In addition, in 1989, two-thirds of college freshman said they had volunteered in high school, compared with nearly 87 per cent surveyed last year.

Cynics like Twenge have argued that they only do so because many high schools require it or because they know it looks good on a college or job application.

It also should be noted that there has been relatively no change in the percentage of students who said it was important for them to help others in difficult circumstances – 69.7 per cent in 1966, compared with 69.1 per cent in 2010.

But Deborah Tippett, a professor at Meredith College in North Carolina, says she has definitely noticed that this generation of students is more likely to act on that wish to help – and she thinks it’s that confidence that has led many of her students to do big things.

One of them, she notes, is spending her third summer in Africa this year running a program that’s building an orphanage for children with AIDS.

That said, she also agrees that the confidence, or overconfidence, has a down side.

“They really do believe they can do it all,” says Tippett, who heads the human environmental sciences department at Meredith. “It makes them wonderful, but it also makes for some hard lessons.

“I see it now when I tell students that they aren’t doing work that’s above average or even average. It’s really hard for them to take.”

A lot of students say they have seen that dynamic, too.

Janelle Mills, who will be a junior this fall at Stetson University in Florida, says she and her peers get tired of their elders “ragging” on them about being entitled or lazy, or just labeling them in general. But she also thinks there is something to this study about overconfidence.

“Kids are being encouraged to be the best that they can be. I think that this can create a superiority complex for those who begin to think that their best is better than everyone else’s,” she says. “Modesty and humility are no longer common and are becoming harder to find.”

Twenge has argued that the self-esteem movement – “where every kid is special” – has contributed to this. Others wonder if overconfidence is a byproduct of the super-pushy “tiger parent” syndrome, where even average parents set up music classes and sports and outside tutoring so their children can get ahead.

Tippett, at Meredith College, says we would do our children a favour if we also prepared them better for failure and the realization that they are not perfect, especially when they hit the real world.

“I think that’s the real challenge with this generation: How do you help them so that they will be productive people in the workplace?” she says.

Arnett, at Clark University, says he worries about that, too, and how this generation handles disappointment, entry-level assignments, low pay and criticism at work. “But what I see is that they don’t run screaming from the workplace and lay in the corner in the fetal position,” he says. “They adjust.”

To him, it is all part of an emerging adult’s journey.

Twenge does not at all disagree with Arnett on that point. “He’s right. As they get older, their self-beliefs will adjust with reality,” she says.

But she believes it still is worth looking at the generational differences and to keep overconfidence in check.

Brittany Vickers, who will be a junior at Ohio Wesleyan University in the fall, says older generations can help with that.

“The best teachers and coaches I’ve ever had never said I was good enough. They always told me what I could improve on,” she says. “You hate them at first, because you actually have to work hard to be successful. But, when the praise comes, it really means something.

“Sadly, they’ve been few and far between.”

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Online:

Twenge’s site: 杭州桑拿按摩论坛杭州夜生活jeantwenge杭州龙凤/

UCLA freshman survey: 杭州桑拿按摩论坛杭州夜生活heri.ucla.edu/cirpoverview.php

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Martha Irvine is an AP national writer. She can be reached at mirvine(at)ap杭州龙凤 or 杭州桑拿按摩论坛twitter杭州龙凤/irvineap

AP sources: US officials watch as Pakistani militants flee 2 more bomb-building sites

WASHINGTON – In another blow to Washington’s relationship with Islamabad, U.S. officials say Pakistan failed another test to prove it could be trusted to go after American enemies on its soil by intentionally or inadvertently tipping off militants at two more bomb-building factories in its tribal areas, giving the suspected terrorists time to flee.

The two sites’ locations in the tribal areas had been shared with the Pakistani government this past week, the officials said Saturday. The Americans monitored the area with satellite and unmanned drones to see what would happen.

In each case, within a day or so after sharing the information, they watched the militants depart, taking any weapons or bomb-making materials with them, just as militants had done in two previous cases. Only then, did they watch the Pakistani military visit each site, when the terror suspects and their wares were long gone, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss matters of intelligence.

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The Americans suspect that either lower-level Pakistani officials are directly tipping the militants off to the imminent raids, or the tips are coming through the local tribal elders that Pakistan insists on informing of the raids. U.S. officials have pushed for Pakistan to keep the location of such targets secret prior to the operations, but the Pakistanis say their troops cannot enter the lawless regions without giving the locals notice.

The latest incidents bring to a total of four bomb-making sites that the U.S. has shared with Pakistan only to have the terrorist suspects flee before Pakistani troops arrive. Both sides are attempting to mend relations and rebuild trust after the U.S. raid on May 2 that killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, a Pakistani army town only 35 miles (56 kilometres) from the capital Islamabad.

The Pakistanis believe the Americans violated their sovereignty by keeping them in the dark about the raid. American officials believe bin Laden’s location proves some elements of the Pakistani army or intelligence service helped hide the al-Qaida mastermind.

Pakistan’s army on Friday disputed reports that its security forces had tipped off insurgents at bomb-making factories after getting intelligence about the sites from the United States. The army called the assertions of collusion with militants “totally false and malicious.”

Pakistani army officials claimed they had successfully raided two more sites, after finding nothing at the first two, but a Pakistani official reached Friday offered no details of what they found.

That official admitted that in each raid, however, the Pakistani security services notified the local elders who hold sway in the tribal regions. The official said they would investigate U.S. charges that the militants had been tipped off.

Two U.S. officials said they were asking the Pakistanis to withhold such sensitive information from the elders, and even their lower ranks, to carry out their raids in secret, to prove they could be trusted to go after U.S. enemies.

At least two of the sites were run by the Haqqani network, which is part of the Taliban, closely allied with al-Qaida, and blamed for some of the deadliest attacks against U.S. troops and civilians in neighbouring Afghanistan. Pakistan has long resisted attacking the Haqqani network, saying the group has never attacked the state of Pakistan.

The intelligence sharing was intended as a precursor to building a new joint intelligence team of CIA officers together with Pakistani intelligence agents. But U.S. officials say Pakistan has failed to quickly approve the visas needed, despite agreeing to form the team in May.

U.S. officials have also accused Pakistan of holding up to five Pakistani nationals accused of helping the CIA spy on the Abbottabad compound in advance of the bin Laden raid.

Pakistan’s ambassador to the U.S., Husain Haqqani, confirmed Sunday that Pakistan had rounded up more than 30 people as part of the investigation. He said they were being questioned for information, not punished, but did not say what would happen to them if charged and found guilty of spying.

Speaking on ABC television’s “This Week,” Haqqani said if any among them were informants who worked for the CIA, “we will deal with them as we would deal with an offending intelligence service and we will resolve this to the satisfaction of our friends, as well as to our own laws.”

The Pakistani government, according to the official reached earlier, views any citizen who worked with the U.S. to spy on the compound as having betrayed his or her country by failing to tip off the government that someone the Americans wanted was hiding there. The government’s position, the official said, is that such a tip could have saved the Pakistani government the embarrassment of being surprised by the bin Laden raid.

Ohio doctor goes walking with patients to encourage exercise, improve his accessibility

CLEVELAND – Doctors around the world are taking note of an Ohio physician’s idea to walk with groups of his patients to encourage exercise and make himself more accessible.

Dr. David Sabgir came up with the Walk With a Doc program in 2005, two years after going into private practice in Columbus, and the idea has been adopted in 35 communities and is expected to spread to many more, The Plain Dealer in Cleveland reported Saturday.

It caught the attention of physicians in Jamaica and a heart specialist in Italy, and doctors are hoping to get the program up and running in more than 250 other places as far away as China, Portugal and South Africa.

The program started with a 2.2-mile (3.5-kilometre) hike on a spring day in suburban Columbus. Sabgir, a graduate of Miami University in Oxford and the Medical College of Ohio in Toledo, had grown tired of spending so much time urging patients to exercise and seeing so few of them follow his recommendation. He decided if he invited them to walk with him, maybe more would get involved. It would be a win-win with no major expense: The walking could help people lose weight or fight the effects of disease and age, and it would give him time to provide quick answers to their health questions.

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“Our goal is simple – to transform medicine,” the Worthington native told the newspaper. “We want everyone in the world to have access to this.”

His nurse made fliers to build interest in that first walk, and 101 people showed up.

“We were seeing a lot of these people who were intimidated to go to health clubs or really do anything without the supervision of a doctor,” Sabgir said. “They didn’t want to be seen on a treadmill next to someone running an 8-minute mile when all they were doing was walking. And I think they liked that immediate, unconditional accessibility to a physician.”

He briefly stopped the program in 2006 because he was concerned that its expansion was taking too much time from his practice but resumed walks the following year. He also met with a Cleveland Clinic official who became a supporter of the program, and the Clinic eventually developed Walk With A Doc chapters in seven northeast Ohio communities.

Participants praise the benefits of the hikes, including the chance to enjoy the beauty of the outdoors and the access to a physician in an informal setting.

“How often do you get to meet a doctor one-on-one and just talk for 45 minutes?” said one regular, Helen Gillispie, 60. “You can ask them anything on the walk.”

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Information from: The Plain Dealer, 杭州桑拿按摩论坛杭州夜生活cleveland杭州龙凤

Veteran of foster care, young man suddenly has custody of his nephew and niece

TROTWOOD, Ohio – Growing up, Adrian McLemore was a troubled little soul who spent much of his time exploding in confusion and rage.

At 6, he nearly set the house on fire.

At 7, his mother, – raising him and his two sisters alone in the southern state of Georgia – told social workers to place him in a foster home.

McLemore would spend 11 years in foster care, and he would learn many things: how to control his anger, how to channel it into programs that helped children like himself, how to survive in homes where families had completely different rules and expectations.

He learned that foster kids are largely invisible to the lawmakers who craft the rules that govern their lives. And he became determined to change that, joining youth organizations, becoming a dynamic young leader who lobbied fiercely for the rights of foster children to a better childhood and a better preparation for adulthood.

And then, at 22, McLemore, who had devoted so much time to thinking, speaking and writing about the lessons of his own childhood, would be given a chance to put those lessons into practice.

Overnight, he became a “father.”

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The call came shortly after midnight on Dec. 20, 2009. There had been a bad situation at his sister’s house, the sheriff told him on the phone (McLemore won’t discuss the details). Her children – 3-year-old A’Rayiah and 1-year-old Tyiaun – had been taken into custody.

Driving to the police station, McLemore knew exactly how things would unfold. The children would be separated and placed in different foster homes. There would be tense weekly visits with their mother in a small room at the Montgomery County Department of Job and Family Services. His sister would vent at the case workers. A’Rayiah would cry.

It would be like watching his own wounded childhood repeating itself.

McLemore was a full-time student at Wright State University studying political science. His days were packed with classes and studies, as well as a grueling schedule of speeches, presentations, committee meetings. And he had a job at a video store.

But he did not hesitate.

“I will take care of my niece and nephew,” he told the authorities. “I will feed them and take them to day care. I will give them a stable home. I know them. And I love them like no one else can.”

And so he bundled up the children and drove them to his two-bedroom apartment on Culzean Drive.

McLemore is well known as one of the success stories of the Ohio Foster care community. Some of the people closest to him are social workers who have seen him blossom over the years.

Word spread quickly. Friends threw a baby shower – collecting clothes and toys.

They helped with babysitting. They coached him on diaper-changing and offered advice on nighttime crying.

But for all the outpouring of support and good will, there were some who felt he had made a huge mistake. You don’t know what you are getting into, they warned. Your studies will suffer. How are you going to provide for two small children who need everything?

McLemore had just one response.

“I refuse to allow another generation of McLemores to be raised in foster care.”

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One of McLemore’s prized possessions is a large painting in his living room. It depicts McLemore shoulder to shoulder with a thin, serious looking man in military uniform.

McLemore worships the memory of his father, who died of cancer in 2004. The two years he lived with his Dad, he says, were the happiest of his life.

He was 9 at the time, and his beloved grandmother Essie, his father’s mother, had decided to take him out of foster care and raise him herself. And then, the unimaginable happened. She was killed in a car accident on her way to pick him up.

McLemore was so bereft he tried to drown himself in the bathtub.

His father, Air Force Staff Sgt. Ernest McLemore, had long been divorced from McLemore’s mother and had been stationed overseas. He returned for the funeral and told McLemore and his two sisters that he was taking them to Las Vegas to begin a new life.

McLemore’s face glows as he talks of those years, of being with his sisters, of having his own room, of having a father who took them to soccer and karate and theme parks.

But that blissful time ended as abruptly as it had begun. His father was being shipped overseas. The children were going back to their mother, who had moved to Ohio.

There, McLemore said, things spiraled out of control. Their mother drank. She went missing. There was often no food or clean clothes. He would run away.

Social worker Carla Merritt remembers an intense, unruly young teen seething with anger and bitterness. But she also saw a determination and focus rare for such a child.

“Adrian,” she told him, “you have such great potential. You could do anything, be anything. But you have to learn to close your mouth and listen.”

But nothing could contain McLemore’s anger the day he went to middle school in clothes that smelled like fish.

He stormed home, took out his Sunday suit and wore it to school the next morning. From that day, Adrian McLemore would always be the best dressed person in the room.

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“The biggest thing children need, in addition to unconditional love, is a comfortable, safe environment, a sense of stability and permanence,” McLemore says, with all the clarity of someone who did not have these things. “Children need to know their siblings and spend time with them, not just in weekly visits with a case worker, but at picnics and in parks and with family members like aunts and uncles and grandparents.”

McLemore is sitting in his living room, but he speaks with the same conviction and intensity he has brought to speeches before countless state and congressional committees and study groups. Determined to run for political office someday, he addresses lawmakers as “my future colleagues” as he urges them to increase, not reduce, funding for foster care programs.

Impeccably dressed, with a deep voice and imposing presence, McLemore makes a striking impression. He also gets things done.

He successfully advocated to have Medicaid coverage extended to age 21 for former foster children. He was a founding member and first president of the Ohio Youth Advisory Board, which has become a powerful advocacy group for foster youth. He worked with the administration at Wright State to let former foster students live in dorms during school breaks, so they would not end up homeless.

McLemore is not sure what prompted him to get so involved. Perhaps he wanted to escape the loneliness of an uncertain home life by becoming part of a larger community, creating a “family” of his own.

For although McLemore has nothing but respect and admiration for the families who cared for him, their homes never felt like the loving, permanent home he has created for A’Rayiah and Tyiaun.

“You simply never know when you might be told to pack your things and leave,” he says. “In foster care, families can always say, ‘Take him back.’ Real parents don’t have that option.”

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He calls them “my precious cargo”

A’Rayiah, 4, has eyes that turn from pale green to grey, and a mop of pink-beaded braids. Sweet and soft-spoken, she dreams of playing basketball, of living with her mom, of having her uncle buy a van big enough to hold their entire extended family of cousins and aunts and grandparents.

Her 2-year-old brother Tyiaun is a cherubic-faced tornado of energy, tottering and tumbling, smiling when he is not pouting, asking never-ending questions in a language all his own.

McLemore posts notes about them on Facebook, proudly describing the daily joys and tribulations of parenting.

“I just submitted the last form for A’Rayiah’s ‘big girl’ school. This is a proud moment for this young African American ‘father’!”

“My boy and I are headed to the barber shop. I savour these moments of fatherhood; I mean unclehood!”

As a parent (though he prefers the term “protector”), McLemore describes himself as a “gentle dictator.” There are strict rules at home: no juice in the living room, toys must be put back in their place, time-outs for whining.

Still, he loves having fun when the chores are done – pillow fights, letting the kids jump on his bed, and, their favourite, throwing a rollicking rock concert in the living room. They grab their toy guitars and mics, put on a concert tape of Elton John or Bon Jovi on the big-screen television and belt out the songs with all their might.

McLemore is filled with awe watching them develop, conscious of how much his influence is shaping them.

“Uncle, I love you,” A’Rayiah calls out as she sits in her pyjamas, munching frosted flakes and watching “The Lion King.”

“I love you too, sweetie,” McLemore replies. “Now finish up and get dressed.”

She trots to her room. He starts changing Tyiaun’s diaper, a job he hates.

“I can’t WAIT for this stage to be over,” he says, so vehemently it startles Tyiaun, who gives him a puzzled look.

They pile into the car, turn Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” up full blast, and happily sing along all the way to the day care centre.

McLemore kisses them goodbye and heads off to a full day of classes at Wright, a few hours of after-school tutoring at a local high school, and then back to the day care centre to pick them up at 6.

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Parenthood has changed everything about McLemore’s life, except his long-term goals. Gone are the days of living on chili cheese fries and root beer. Now his shopping list includes Lunchables, fruit cups and diapers.

His social life is practically nonexistent, except during football season when he spends every possible moment watching the Denver Broncos. Weekends, when the children visit their mother, are devoted to sleeping, cleaning and catching up on studies.

McLemore believes fatherhood has humbled him, made him feel less self-important.

“I come home at the end of the day, and it’s all about them,” he says.

And yet, there are times it seems overwhelming.

He talks to his father all the time, writes anguished letters about how much he misses him, how he wishes he was there to guide him.

“Daddy, I get up every day and put on so many hats that sometimes I forget which one I’m wearing,” McLemore wrote in one letter. “I am a father, student, a worker, a friend, a protector, a leader, a brother and whatever anyone asks me to be. But most of all, when I step out of the hallway where our painting hangs, I am a grieving son.”

In the absence of his father, McLemore says, he believes that foster care turned him into the leader he is today, nurturing his ambition and drive. Social workers boast he is their star: There is a McLemore “wall of fame” in the Montgomery County Youth and Family Services centre, with pictures of him and the children.

But McLemore knows that most children reared in foster care do not make it onto a wall of fame. Many do not make it to college. And the loneliness and instability he felt growing up makes him determined that A’Rayiah and Tyiaun will not experience the same.

The children probably will go back to their mother in a few months, although McLemore expects to see them every weekend. He does not know how he will feel when they go: relieved, and happy to resume a social life; or sad.

He believes they should be with their mother. But, he says, they will always have a place with him.

“I will always be their uncle, their protector,” he says. “And whenever they need me to be, I will step into the role of father.”

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Helen O’Neill, a New York-based national writer for The Associated Press, can be reached at features(at)ap杭州龙凤.