Sarah Palin's inspirational special to air on Fox News Thursday will have to find another rapper to be inspired by, after LL Cool J blasted the net for using a canned interview without his permission.
LL Cool J, who had a hit called "Mamma Said Knock You Out," may be thinking the same about the folks behind Sarah Palin's inspirational new show for the Fox News Channel.
Less than 24 hours after Fox announced the launch of Palin's series "Real American Stories," LL Cool J, now starring in CBS' "NCIS: Los Angeles, " was claiming people were being mislead.
The network's release for the show, included a line reading: "Additionally, rapper and actor, LL Cool J, and the former chairman and CEO of General Electric, Jack Welch, will both speak about their success in this country in a segment entitled, ' In Their Own Words.'"
What wasn't said, however, was that the LL Cool J moment was taken from an interview done with Fox in 2008, where he talks fondly about his grandfather.
"Fox lifted an old interview I gave in 2008 to someone else and are misrepresenting to the public in order to promote Sarah Palin's show. WOW," he wrote on Twitter.
The clip of LL Cool J intended for the show was a minute and eight seconds long. After hearing of his dissatisfaction, Fox programmers pulled the moment from the show.
"‘Real American Stories' features uplifting tales about overcoming adversity and we believe Mr. Smith's interview fit that criteria," FNC head of programming Bill Shine said in a statement. "However, as it appears that Mr. Smith does not want to be associated with a program that could serve as an inspiration to others, we are cutting his interview from the special and wish him the best with his fledgling acting career."
The series, which will air Thursday at 10, includes an interview with a stockbroker who donates much of his money to help kids go to college, and country singer Toby Keith.
The LL Cool J kerfuffle is the latest twist in Palin's rise in the media world. She became a contributor to the Fox News Channel earlier this year and as part of that deal, got an occasional series called "Real American Stories."
Outside of Fox she recently signed a deal with Discovery Networks to be part of "Sarah Palin's Alaska," an eight-part documentary produced by Mark Burnett that will air on TLC.
Discovery paid just under $1 million an episode for the show, which will mean Palin, and Kate Gosselin, two media and blogger lightning rods, will appear on the same cable network.
Of course, the flap over LL Cool J's interview clip will also generate more interest — negative and positive — in Palin's new show launching Thursday.
Bank night deposit angler comes up empty
T&D Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Somewhere, someone is lamenting the one that got away.
A creative angler tried fishing for a bank deposit bag from a night drop slot Friday morning, police say.
“It’s under investigation,” said Capt. Ed Conner of the Orangeburg Department of Public Safety. “We’ll be looking at the evidence to see if we can put a face with the image on video.”
Employees of the First Citizen’s Bank on Columbia Road told investigators that when they retrieved the night deposit bags from Thursday’s drops, they discovered one bag sported a fishing hook. Some fishing line dangled from the hook.
Two more hooks were found in the deposit box along with a putty-like substance that may have been used in lieu of a fishing weight, investigators say.
The bank’s security tape shows an individual outside the bank at about 4:29 a.m. Friday.
Police say they’ve seen about everything else. But fishing in a deposit drop slot is a new one.
“This is my first with fishing hooks, definitely my first,” said lead investigator Lt. Becky Whitman.
Police say it may not be obvious to some, but a night deposit drop slot is not a good place for fishing.
“The security mechanisms at the bank’s night deposit drop ... it’s impossible for someone to retrieve a bag,” Conner said. “In other words, you can’t go fishing for a night deposit bag.”
No bags are believed to have been reeled out.
However, it is still a crime, and a federal one at that, Conner said. Police ask that you call them at 803-534-2812 if you know the identity of the angler.
LINK TO PHOTO
Wed Mar 31, 2010 12:56 pm EDT
Vanity Fair article casts doubt on Tiger's honesty, connections
Last week, Tiger Woods took his first public questions since the Thanksgiving accident that sent his life — and, indeed, the entire golf world — into a tailspin. During his two five-minute interviews with ESPN and The Golf Channel, he repeatedly assumed all blame and indicated that he had no assistance or enabling from his inner circle.
It was an interesting claim, given that Woods was the embodiment of a multimillion-dollar corporation and that dozens, if not hundreds, of people had a vested interest in keeping his image pristine. How could someone as visible as Woods commit all the "transgressions" he did, risking untold millions in sponsor dollars, without some assistance, or at least some people willing to look the other way?
Now, an article in the latest Vanity Fair scheduled to hit newsstands nationwide next Wednesday asks that very question, casting doubt on Woods' honesty and forthrightness.
Writer Mark Seal spoke to several of Woods' mistresses and many current and former insiders, and the picture he paints of Woods is vastly different from the one put forth in his public interviews and Feb. 19 statement to the press.
According to Seal, Bryon Bell, Woods' childhood friend and president of Tiger Woods Design, was instrumental in setting up at least some of Woods' liaisons. Seal quotes mistress Jamie Jungers as saying, "Every time I would fly out to see [Woods] or schedule itineraries or anything, I would always go through Bryon."
Mindy Lawton — she's the Perkins waitress, for those of you keeping track — also had contact with Woods' inner circle, according to Seal. Lawton and Woods carried on an affair that was apparently caught on camera by the National Enquirer. When Lawton told Woods that The National Enquirer was aware of their "interaction," he connected her with his agent, Mark Steinberg. Lawton said Steinberg told her, "We'll take care of it." That "taking care of it" allegedly included Woods suddenly giving an uncharacteristic cover-story interview to the Enquirer's sister publication Men's Fitness. When reached on Thursday by Yahoo! Sports, IMG declined comment on the Vanity Fair story.
Incidentally, Lawton said that Woods was so cheap that he only bought her a chicken wrap from Subway. Take that for what it's worth.
But Vanity Fair indicates that it wasn't just Tiger's inner circle covering up for his behavior. Famous names like Charles Barkley and Michael Jordan brought Woods along for gambling junkets to Vegas. He'd stay at the Mansion at the MGM Grand, in a one-bedroom suite that ran $5,000 a night. And when he'd bet, he'd bet big -- up to $150,000 a hand of cards.
Barkley and Jordan have had well-documented problems with gambling. Barkley has claimed gambling losses of up to $10 million in the past, and in 2008 had to repay a $400,000 debt to the Wynn Casino. Jordan's gambling was the subject of an NBA probe in the '90s.
Not coincidentally, former Woods advisor John Merchant had no regard for Jordan's influence on Woods: "Stay away from that son of a [profane], because he doesn’t have anything to offer to the [profane] world in which he lives except playing basketball," he allegedly told Woods at the time. More recently, he told Seal, "Are they his black role models? You’ve got to be kidding me." (After the accident, Barkley noted that Woods had changed his number and wasn't returning Barkley's calls.)
Certainly, Woods has said all the right things upon his initial return to public life. And we're very close to the point where Woods starts just playing golf again. But if he's still concealing or playing with the public's trust, the public goodwill that's slowly coming back could vanish in a hurry.
Anger rises over bill to father of slain Marine
Support, money sent to help pay court costs in Westboro suit
Baltimore Sun reporter
7:42 AM EDT, March 31, 2010
Outraged that the father of a dead Marine was ordered to pay some court costs incurred by a group he had sued for picketing his son's funeral, people from across the country have launched a grass-roots fundraising effort to help the grieving family.
"I was appalled," said Sally Giannini, a 72-year-old retired bookkeeper from Spokane, Wash., who had called The Baltimore Sun after seeing an article about the court decision against Albert Snyder. "I believe in free speech, but this goes too far."
Living on a fixed income, Giannini said she could send only $10 toward the $16,510.80 that the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered Snyder to pay to Fred Phelps, leader of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan., an anti-gay group that travels the country picketing military funerals. The group says military deaths are God's punishment for America's tolerance of homosexuality.
Snyder sued Westboro because its members waved signs saying "God hates fags" and "God hates the USA" at the 2006 funeral in Westminster of his son, Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, who had been killed in Iraq. A federal jury in Baltimore awarded Snyder $11 million in damages in 2007, saying Phelps' group intentionally inflicted emotional distress on the family. The award was later reduced to $5 million, and eventually overturned on appeal.
As news of the order to pay some of the court costs spread through the news media and online, strangers were moved to send money and set up funds to support Snyder's court battle. Tuesday night, commentator Bill O'Reilly of Fox News Channel offered to pay the court costs owed by Snyder, according to WBAL Radio.
Mark C. Seavey, new-media director for the American Legion, also posted a message Tuesday on his Legion-affiliated blog, The Burn Pit, urging readers to donate to the Albert Snyder Fund. The American Legion's message was picked up by conservative political blogger Michelle Malkin, who called the Westboro protesters "evil miscreants" and urged readers to donate.
"Regardless of how you feel about the merits of the Snyders' suit, the Snyders deserve to know that Americans are forever grateful for their son's heroism and for the family's sacrifice. We shouldn't stand by and watch them bankrupted," Malkin wrote.
Money from donations will go toward covering the money owed to Phelps, and beyond that, toward preparing further appeals, Seavey said.
"As soon as we heard this, we just knew that it was going to go through the roof, and people were going to be upset. We seized on it," Seavey said. "On an issue like this that cuts across political lines, it's relatively easy, and it's the kind of fight we want to wade into because it's not right or left, it's right or wrong. We're going to do the best we can to make sure that Mr. Snyder doesn't have to deal with this. We're going to make sure he doesn't have to pay a red cent."
In a phone interview Tuesday, Snyder said he was "exhausted" by the long legal ordeal but heartened by the outpouring of support. He said he has received about 3,000 e-mail messages from people across the country who planned to contribute.
"It kind of restores your faith in mankind after dealing with this wacko church," Snyder said. "Win or lose, I'll know that I did everything I could for Matt, and for all the soldiers and Marines who are still coming home dying."
From Web sites to Twitter pages, people were galled that the grieving father of a fallen Marine would have to pay a group that uses such inflammatory tactics. A Facebook group called "I support Al Snyder in His fight against Westboro Baptist Church" had drawn nearly 12,000 members by the end of the day Tuesday.
In September, the 4th Circuit Court threw out the Baltimore jury's award to Snyder on free-speech grounds. A month later, Westboro filed a motion to recoup court costs from both the original suit and the appeal, for a total of $96,740.21. Friday's judgment covers only some costs from the appeal.
The U.S. Supreme Court agreed this month to hear a new appeal of the case, which experts say is being closely watched by 1st Amendment advocates. If the Supreme Court sides with Snyder, he won't have to pay Westboro.
"The most alarming part is that [the 4th Circuit] sat on it for months, and only ruled on it after the Supreme Court agreed to hear it," said Sean E. Summers, Snyder's York, Pa.-based lawyer. "The other troubling fact was that we were trying to raise about $20,000 to file a Supreme Court brief. Now we have [to raise] another $16,500. ... There are definitely extenuating circumstances, given that Mr. Snyder doesn't have the resources to pay."
Snyder, who lives in York, does in-house sales for a small electronics firm and, according to court filings, earns $43,000 a year.
Gene Policinski, executive director of the First Amendment Center in Nashville, Tenn., predicted that the Supreme Court will not address issues of where protesters are permitted to demonstrate, as it has in the past in the case of abortion protesters. Instead, he said, the case is important because "it has the potential to define whether we're going to create a new exemption to freedom of speech that is emotionally distressing."
"You can imagine that Martin Luther King and others inflicted emotional distress on people, if they were committed to segregation," he said. "I shudder to think if those people were armed with the weapon of suing him because the issue itself was repugnant to them."
For some supporters, the issue is not so much the right to free speech as the right to a peaceful burial of fallen troops.
Alice M. Johnson, 56, of Lynbrook, N.Y., said she donated $50 to Snyder's cause. Since 2008, Johnson has been a member of the Patriot Guard Riders, a group that sends supporters to troops' funerals to shield their families from protesters.
"I agree that people have the right to free speech," she said, "but that should not be allowed ... where people are laying their children to rest who died for their country."
Wanted: Happiness Boss - And $80,000 Is No Joke
2:27pm UK, Monday March 29, 2010
Sky News Online
The job of bringing joy to the world is up for grabs as a newly-formed charity seeks a director of happiness.
The successful applicant to the Movement for Happiness must have a vision of society in which people are motivated by more than just money - although, to be on the safe side, the job is offering a far from miserable salary of $80,000 a year.
The movement has been formed by Lord Layard, of the London School of Economics, who became known as the Government's "happiness czar" for his work studying income and its effect on our well-being.
The other co-founders are Anthony Seldon, Master of Wellington College; and Geoff Mulgan, former head of policy at 10 Downing Street.
They believe that increases in material wealth in the West have failed to deliver a happier society.
"We hope it will become a mass movement, extending far beyond our borders, with members who are committed to trying to produce more happiness in all spheres of life," Lord Layard told The Times.
In an advertisement for the post of director (who will "need to have proven leadership ability") the founders said: "We hope this movement will help to shift our culture away from selfish materialism towards more rewarding forms of social engagement."
In the meantime, however, there is the prickly question of how much to pay the director.
Lord Layard has previously said bigger salaries do not necessarily lead to greater contentment.
Evidence from the United States, he said, had shown that increases in salary beyond $60,000 do not lead to significantly greater increases in happiness.
"We have got to be able to pay a proper salary," said Lord Layard.
"We would not be ruling out $80,000 for the right person. They would have to believe in the message - to change the culture away from feeling that your main job in life is what you can get, to what you can contribute - and have some sort of imaginative flair as well as organisational ability."
Lord Layard is a founder director of the Centre for Economic Performance at the LSE and runs its Well-Being Project.
He argues there seven influential factors on our wellbeing: family relationships, financial situation, work, community and friends, health, personal freedom and personal values.
LINK TO STORY
Flatfoot Drug Smugglers Nabbed
Inventive shoes worn by Mexican mules did not fool border agents
MARCH 25--Take note Jimmy Choo. Mexican drug smugglers may have come up with the latest trend in shoe design. After U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents on patrol in New Mexico noticed "discrepancies on the sandy desert landscape," they discovered seven men, in possession of 215 pounds of marijuana valued at $172,000, attempting to illegally sneak into the country. The septet, who posed for the below fashion forward photo, were unsuccessful in a bid to cover their tracks and evade detection by gluing pieces of foam to their shoes while shuffling across the border. (2 pages)
GOP fires staffer over $1,946 topless club visit
Associated Press Writer
848 AM EST
WASHINGTON – The Republican National Committee has fired a staffer who helped organize a $1,946 visit last month to a sex-themed Hollywood club, and the GOP says it will recoup the money from a donor who also participated.
The episode is the latest in a string of questionable spending by the RNC as Republicans prepare for a costly election season in which they hope to take dozens of House and Senate seats from Democrats.
An RNC internal memo says the Feb. 4 outing to Voyeur West Hollywood involved several members of the "Young Eagles" GOP group who had been in Los Angeles for a meeting. An unnamed staffer, who had been warned that such activities did not qualify for reimbursement, has been fired, said the memo from RNC lawyer Ken McKay.
The club features topless dancers and bondage outfits.
RNC spokesman Doug Heye said the committee will be reimbursed by Erik Brown of Orange, Calif., the donor-vendor who billed the GOP for the club visit on behalf of the attendees.
Brown did not respond to an e-mail and phone message seeking comment.
Since November, the RNC has paid Brown's company, Dynamic Marketing Inc., about $19,000 for printing and direct-mail services, campaign spending reports show. He has contributed several thousand dollars to the party.
The most recent financial disclosure report said the RNC spent more than $17,000 for private planes in February and nearly $13,000 for car services. Heye said such services are used only when needed.
McKay's memo says the RNC is committed to using donors' funds efficiently and responsibly.
The $1,946 for meals at Voyeur West Hollywood was the most eye-catching item in the monthly report. RNC Chairman Michael Steele, whose spending decisions have angered some donors in this midterm election year, had nothing to do with the nightclub expenditure, Heye said.
The conservative group Concerned Women for America said the RNC should disclose more about the episode.
"Did they really agree to reimburse nearly $2,000 for a bondage-themed night club?" group president Penny Nance asked in a statement. "Why would a staffer believe that this is acceptable, and has this kind of thing been approved in the past?"
Much of the most lavish spending by the major political parties is associated with fundraisers, which often target wealthy people.
The RNC spent $144,549 for rooms at the Four Seasons Resort in Jackson Hole, Wyo., in 2009. On March 19, 2009, it spent $31,980 for catering by the Breakers Palm Beach in Florida.
The RNC paid $18,361 over the past several months to the "Tiny Jewel Box" in Washington for "office supplies," which may have included trinkets or gifts for big donors. It spent $13,622 at Dylan's Candy Bar in New York City.
Some Republican officials and donors have complained about Steele's spending decisions, saying the party should devote every available dollar to trying to win House and Senate races this fall. He held this year's four-day winter meeting at a beachfront hotel in Hawaii, although it often takes place in Washington.
Some donors grumbled when Steele spent more than $18,000 to redecorate his office. Steele, a former Maryland lieutenant governor, also has received substantial fees for making speeches, even though the RNC pays him a full-time salary.
Steele's supporters say he has brought a refreshing frankness and energy to the party's leadership.
Associated Press writer Sharon Theimer contributed to this report.
From left, Senator John Barrasso (R., Wyo.), Senator Tom Coburn (R., Okla.) and Representative Phil Gingry (R., Ga.)
In the wake of their health care defeat, Republicans in Washington would be wise to remember one famous definition of insanity as repeating the same behavior again and again but expecting different results. After all, there's hardly a politico in Washington, Republican or Democrat, who thinks Senator Jim Bunning's one-man filibuster of unemployment benefits last month reflected well on the GOP. So why are Senate Republicans doing it again?
Granted, this time around the agitator is the much more media-friendly Republican Senator from Oklahoma, Tom Coburn, who — unlike Bunning — is not known for flipping off reporters. Before the Senate adjourns for a two-week Easter recess on Friday, Democrats are hoping to pass another one-month extension of benefits — the yearlong extension has been held up as differences are worked out with the House — to tide over the unemployed until lawmakers can pass a more permanent solution. Coburn's objection is the same as Bunning's: that Democrats are not paying for the $10 billion bill. "I think it's unfortunate that potentially we may go home and not deal with it," Coburn said Thursday afternoon in a speech on the Senate floor. "I don't care how we pay for it as long as it's legitimate, as long as we don't add to our kids' debt. And so I'm open and willing to negotiate on any area of waste in the federal government that we could eliminate to pay for it."
Democrats say that they consider this bill along the lines of (and much cheaper than) President George W. Bush's emergency war supplemental bills, which totaled trillions of dollars and were mostly unpaid for. "We really believe that unemployment situation is an emergency economic situation," Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Senate Democrat, told reporters Thursday evening. "The Republicans do not accept that they want to cut off unemployment benefits or pay for it using stimulus funds which are being used to create jobs. It's a very shortsighted approach."
Republican leaders have not totally dug in their heels. They have actually agreed to proceed with a vote on the unfunded bill — but most Republicans are expected to vote against the bill, and Dems will need at least one Republican to reach the magic threshold of 60 to overcome Coburn's filibuster and pass the bill. Even if they managed that, however, it'll take at least until Sunday evening to procedurally bypass the filibuster, and many Senators are impatient to go home or depart on long-planned trips abroad (the security for which is expensive to rearrange).
So, while Reid and Coburn are trying to hash out an agreement — Bunning eventually settled for a vote on an amendment that would have paid for the bill using unused stimulus funds, which failed — other Senators are looking at leaving and then passing legislation when they reconvene April 12. "Whatever we do will be retroactive if we don't get it done now," Senator Debbie Stabenow, a Michigan Democrat, told reporters.
The problem with this solution is that some benefits start to expire April 5. And as the country learned the last time these provisions ran out last month during Bunning's filibuster, that means thousands of Transportation Department workers getting laid off, gaps in unemployment and health coverage for some of the most desperate Americans and bureaucratic nightmares costing millions of dollars for the necessary paperwork to retroactively apply benefits.
Bunning and Coburn both make a valid point: it is hypocritical of Dems to not practice what they preach on the deficit, and this would be the fifth unpaid bill to pass thus far this year. But making the point on the backs of the most needy is probably the wrong way to go about it. Especially when it underscores Democrats' complaints about GOP obstructionism on even the most pressing of issues. "I think Americans — a majority of whom have someone in their orbit out of work — are not very receptive to the idea of cutting off unemployment benefits in the midst of a bad economy," said Norm Ornstein, a congressional scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. "This strategy is not a winner."
Superman comic sells for $1.5M, setting record
AP Entertainment Writer
Mon Mar 29, 3:40 pm ET
NEW YORK – The record price for a comic book, already broken twice this year, has been shattered again.
A copy of the 1938 edition of Action Comics No. 1 sold Monday for $1.5 million on the auction Web site ComicConnect.com. The issue, which features Superman's debut and originally sold for 10 cents, is widely considered the Holy Grail of comic books.
The same issue sold in February for $1 million, though that copy wasn't in as good condition as the issue that sold Monday. That number was bested just days later when a 1939 comic book featuring Batman's debut sold for $75,000 more at an auction in Dallas.
There are about 100 copies of Action Comics No. 1 believed to be in existence, and only a handful in good condition. The issue that sold Monday was rated slightly higher than the one that sold in February; it had been tucked inside an old movie magazine for years before being discovered.
The issue was bought from a private collector and then sold by Stephen Fishler and Vincent Zurzolo, the co-owners of ComicConnect.com. It was bought minutes after being posted Monday at the asking price of $1.5 million by "a hardcore comic book fan," Fishler said.
"There's been a lot of attempts to acquire this book over the last 15 years," he said. "The recent activity, I guess, did the trick."
Fishler speculated that the sudden burst of record-priced sales are due to "pent-up demand." Issues of such prized comic books rarely become available for purchase. Rarer still are issues in such good condition.
"I can't imagine another book coming on the market that exists that would top this," Fishler said. "This may be the final say — at least for the next 10 or 20 years — for a record price of a comic book."
On the Net:
Man Falls Asleep During Robbery
A 19 year-old man is in custody after apparently falling asleep during an attempted robbery.
It happened today at the Talons Square South apartments in Princess Anne.
Police say Jaimie Goodson forced his way into the apartment, and then bagged numerous items.
When officers arrived, they found Goodson asleep in a bed.
He was taken into custody and is being held on bond.
Congressional disapproval ratings hit 72 percent, now at late-1994 levels
TOP OF THE BALLOT: A side effect of the healthcare process is the highest congressional disapproval since October 1994; members ready for town hall craziness; Tea Party meets its resistance
Highest disapproval of Congress since Oct. 31, 1994
The jury is in, and Democrats did indeed get a slight bump from healthcare reform. But will the sausage-making do them in?
Tucked away inside a new Washington Post/ABC News poll is a key figure — 72 percent. That’s the percentage of voters who disapprove of the job Congress is doing, and the number hasn’t been that high since — you guessed it — the week before the 1994 election.
The Cornhusker Kickback and Gator-aid — two controversial provisions in the healthcare bill — are a couple of attractively named and accessible reasons why people don’t like how Congress operates. And at no point in the last 16 years has that picture been so clear to voters.
Other signs in the poll are more positive for Democrats, though. It pegs President Barack Obama’s approval rating at 53 percent (43 percent disapproval). And the bill itself is up a slight two points from last month. Also, of the 46 percent of voters who approve overall, the group that strongly approves of the bill rose by 10 points, to 32 percent.
Town hall fun ahead
If Democratic members of Congress thought August was fun, wait till they find out what recess is like after you pass healthcare reform.
The at-times violent and vulgar reaction to the passage of the bill last week will be front and center as members return home for a two-week recess. Already, members are dealing with protests at their homes, being spat on and being cursed at. And for the members who have the courage to hold public events, it could only be the beginning.
Democratic leaders have sought to put the issue behind them, complaining that it distracts from their momentous legislative victory. Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen (Md.) on Friday said it was appropriate for his party to call attention to what certain conservative activists are subjecting his members to, but he also declined to elaborate on his comments suggesting GOP leaders had fomented the events.
Look for these kinds of stories to continue over the next two weeks.
Tea Party under attack
The Tea Party is an emerging force in the political landscape, but resistance is building.
Remember Scott Ashjian, the third-party Tea Party candidate who threatened to take double digits in Nevada and keep Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) in office? He now faces felony theft charges and is being derided by Tea Party activists locally for being an opportunist.
And over at The Fix, Chris Cillizza has the scoop on Democratic consultant Craig Varoga creating an anti-Tea Party political action committee, called the Patriot Majority PAC. Varoga managed Tom Vilsack’s 2008 presidential campaign.
The group is reportedly looking at getting involved in 12 to 15 races where Tea Party candidates are running.
Sebelius To Insurers: It's Over, You Lost, Stop Looking For Loopholes
First Posted: 03-29-10 05:18 PM | Updated: 03-29-10 05:51 PM
Kathleen Sebelius warned the insurance industry Monday not to look for loopholes in health care legislation and informed it that she will be writing regulations to ensure that the industry covers children with preexisting conditions, which some insurers insist is not a requirement of the law.
"The American people debated and discussed health insurance reform for more than a year. Congress and the President have acted. Now is not the time to search for non-existent loopholes that preserve a broken system," writes Sebelius, the Health and Human Services Secretary. The letter was sent to top insurance lobbyist Karen Ignagni on Monday and provided to HuffPost by a third party.
President Obama made the ban on denying children with preexisting conditions a central part of his argument in the closing weeks of the reform fight, saying that kids would be protected almost immediately after the bill passed. (The rule would activate in six months.)
But insurers argued that what the law really said was that if they choose to cover children, they must cover expenses arising from preexisting conditions. But they claim that doesn't mean they have to offer insurance at all to that child. Without a public insurance plan for children to opt in to, their only choice is the private market.
Sebelius's letter is an attempt to persuade the private industry to follow the spirit of the law. When Congress returns after the two-week recess, progressive Democrats will again be looking at ways to add a public option to the law. By threatening to refuse to insure sick children, insurers only make the case that much more persuasive.
R.N.C. Spends Thousands on Private Jets, Limos and Clubs, Report ShowsJEFF ZELENY AND BERNIE BECKER
The Republican National Committee opened an investigation on Monday into why money from donors was paid to reimburse a $2,000 tab at a risqué California nightclub earlier this year, party officials said.
“It was obviously improper – for more than one reason,” said Doug Heye, a spokesman for the party said. “It was not a sanctioned R.N.C. activity. It was improper because of the venue.”
As Republicans attempt to win back control of the House and Senate in this midterm election year, several party officials and contributors have raised questions about the financial disparities between the Democratic and the Republican parties. Republican officials opened a review of their spending after the nightclub expense was discovered by reporters for The Daily Caller, an online publication in Washington.
The Republican National Committee spent about $30,000 in February on private airplanes and limousines. But those charges were overshadowed by the $1,946.25 charge at Voyeur West Hollywood, which was described by The Los Angeles Times last year as a “high-end nightclub” with an interior “reminiscent of the masked orgy scene” from the movie “Eyes Wide Shut.”
Mr. Heye, the party spokesman, said that the Republican chairman, Michael S. Steele, was not responsible for the charges. He said the reimbursement was made to a “non-committee staffer,” whom he identified as Erik Brown of Orange, Calif., a political consultant. Mr. Heye said the money would be paid back to the Republican National Committee.
“The chairman was never at the location in question, he had no knowledge of the expenditure, nor does he find the use of committee funds at such a location acceptable at all,” Mr. Heye said in a statement.
Meanwhile, the F.E.C. filings show some $17,500 spent on private jets in February, in addition to more than $12,500 on limousines, which could add to the perception that Mr. Steele has expensive tastes. The filings also list several charges of well over $1,000 at hotels in Washington and elsewhere.
The Democratic National Committee seized on the report Monday.
“If limos, chartered aircraft and sex clubs are where they think their donor’s money should be spent – who are we to judge?” asked Brad Woodhouse, a spokesman for the Democratic National Committee. “But, this controversy shouldn’t give voters much confidence in Republicans when they say they want to be put back in charge of federal spending – not that their performance the last time they were in charge would have engendered any confidence in the first place.”
Tucker Carlson responds to RNC complaints about DC’s Michael Steele article
Monday, March 29th, 2010 @ 2:30 PM
The complaints from the RNC about this morning’s Daily Caller article, “High Flyer: RNC Chairman Steele suggested buying private jet with RNC funds while loud, lack substance. Despite claims to the contrary, no one from the committee has ever explained the specific circumstances of any of the expenses listed in its most recent disclosure filings.
Our questions remain: Why did the committee spend more than $17,000 on private jets in the month of February? How and why was RNC business conducted in a bondage-themed nightclub, and how and why were the nearly $2,000 in charges that resulted approved by RNC staff?
To be clear: We did not claim that Michael Steele personally visited Voyeur West Hollywood. In fact, and unfortunately, we still know almost nothing about that trip, including its purpose. If the RNC provides details, we’ll put them on the site immediately.
The Daily Caller requested interviews with Michael Steele on Jan. 14, Jan. 15, Jan. 18, Feb. 10, Feb. 23 and again on March 23. All were denied.
The story we ran today is accurate, as the RNC knows.
LINK TO ORIGINAL ARTICLE
Intruder killed in early morning Perry Hall shooting
9:31 AM EST
March 28, 2010
A suspected burglar was shot and killed in Perry Hall Sunday morning when he was confronted by a homeowner with a gun.
According to Baltimore County Police, officers responded to the shooting at 5:46 a.m. in the 4200 block of Chapel Road in Perry Hall.
Police said the suspected burglar had entered the home and was confronted by its resident, who shot him in the residence. The burglary suspect was taken to Franklin Square Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. No one else was injured. Police have not released the names of the resident or the suspected burglar.
-- Sun staff
President Obama addresses troops at Bagram Air Base.
Dharapak/APPresident Obama meets with Afghan President Hamid Karzai at the presidential palace in Kabul.
WASHINGTON - President Obama flew into Afghanistan under cover of darkness Sunday for a surprise meeting with President Hamid Karzai and a pep talk for GI's.
The two leaders met in Karzai's heavily fortified presidential palace in Kabul, emerging briefly to walk a red carpet so Obama could review an Afghan honor guard standing at attention.
He later thanked U.S. troops for putting their lives on the line.
"One of the main reasons I'm here is to just say thank you for the incredible efforts of our U.S. troops and our coalition partners," Obama said. "I want to make sure they know how proud their commander in chief is of them."
It was the President's first trip to wartorn Afghanistan since he was a senator running for the White House in 2008.
As President, Obama has dramatically escalated the war by adding more than 70,000 U.S. troops to the long fight, which has seen little progress since the post-Sept. 11 invasion.
Karzai said he wanted to "express the gratitude of our people for the help that America has given us for the last eight years."
Obama said Americans "are encouraged by the progress that's been made," but made it clear he also expects Karzai's government "to continue to make progress on the civilian process."
Those were code words for corruption, a topic Obama also raised in a private 30-minute face to face meeting.
Afghanistan has been looted by greedy Karzai cronies - many of whom are widely believed to be heroin traffickers.
Obama flew directly from Andrews Air Force Base in Washington to Bagram Air Base, which is 50 miles north of Kabul, the danger-fraught capital known to many foreign journalists and aid workers as "Kaboom."
He then took a chopper to the palace, touching down in Kabul around 8 p.m. local time, where he emerged with war boss Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal and U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry. National Security Advisor James Jones told reporters aboard Air Force One that the President would press Karzai to clamp down on rampant corruption.
Karzai's own reelection to a new term in office recently, which disappointed the White House, was widely denounced for corruption in the balloting.
Obama will make him understand "that there are certain things he has to do as the president of his country to battle the things that have not been paid attention to almost since day one."
The two allies also will discuss reconciliation with elements of the Taliban, Jones added. The White House also said that Karzai will join Obama in Washington for talks on May 12.
There are now about 100,000 U.S. forces in the Afghan war, along with up to 40,000 NAT troops and tens of thousands of military contractors.
Obama addressed soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who are part of a force that has mounted a major - and so far successful - offensive in Marjah, a Taliban-friendly town in the southern province of Helmand.
Next up, according to Gen. McChrystal, is an offensive in neighboring Kandahar, the seat of power for Mullah Omhrs Taliban.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) predicted Sunday that a wave of state legislatures would fight to resist federal healthcare reform that will add billions in costs to their budgets.
The prediction signals that Republicans plan to take President Barack Obama up on his challenge to “go for it” and attempt to repeal the $938 billion reform measure.
“This fight won’t wind up being just in Washington, it’s going to spread to every statehouse in the nation and we’re going to have referendums on this bill throughout every statehouse in the nation,” Graham said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “Can the states afford what Washington did to them?”
Graham estimated that 16 million additional people would be placed on Medicaid rolls as a result of Democratic healthcare reform.
“My state is going to get killed by having to serve more Medicaid people,” said Graham. “It’s going to hurt state budgets.”
Attorneys general in more than a dozen states have announced plans to sue the federal government over healthcare reform, alleging the new law violates the constitution.
A Washington Post poll published Sunday showed that 50 percent of people oppose the law while 46 percent support it. The poll showed that public support for the reform has not improved much since Obama signed it into law, even though a USA Today poll from earlier in the week showed the proposal gaining favor, with 49 percent describing it as “a good thing” compared to 40 percent who disagreed.
Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell (D) and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) gave a preview of how the fight over healthcare reform may play out in states around the country.
Rendell has called on his state’s Republican attorney general, Tom Corbett, to drop a suit challenging the new law.
In Mississippi, Barbour and the Republican lieutenant governor Phil Bryant have pressed Attorney General Jim Hood, a Democrat, to challenge the law, but so far Hood has resisted.
Barbour has threatened to file a lawsuit himself if Hood, who plans to run for a third term in 2011, doesn’t act.
Rendell said suits challenging the new law are “frivolous” and “a waste of taxpayers' dollars at a time when all the states are fighting to preserve those dollars.”
Rendell defended the federal government’s power to regulate interstate as well as intrastate activity.
“This is not a government takeover; we left the private health insurance companies intact,” Rendell said during an appearance on ABC’s “This Week.”
Barbour, who appeared on the same program, argued that the federal government has never had a recognized power to force citizens to buy products such as health insurance.
“The fact of the matter is this is an issue that under our Constitution, where the powers of the federal government are limited, does the federal government have the power and authority to require, force every citizen to buy a product, in this case health insurance,” Barbour said.
“I do not believe the United States governor has the authority or power to force us to purchase health insurance any more than in the name of homeland security they can force every American to buy a gun,” he added.
In six states, there are clashes between governors and attorney generals over legal challenges to healthcare reform.
In Colorado, Michigan and Washington, Democratic governors have also opposed plans by Republican attorneys general to file suit.
In Georgia, Gov. Sonny Perdue (R) has pushed the Democratic attorney general to challenge the law but the state’s lead solicitor, Thurbert Baker, has said the case lacks legal merit.
From Poverty to Power: Celebrities Who Started With Nothing
Saturday, March 27, 2010
When thinking of the "new breed" of celebrity - from the Kardashians to Paris Hilton to the stars of "The Hills" - fame seems to depend on the fact that they're already fabulously wealthy. Well, despite these new trends, some of the most famous and wealthy people did not come from rich families - many of them were born into poverty. Read on to learn some of their stories and what it took from having nothing to multi-million-dollar empires.
The Phenomenon - Oprah Winfrey
Surely the most well-known rags-to-riches story of our era is the story of Oprah Winfrey. Having been born into abject poverty in rural Mississippi, Winfrey went from being a young girl clothed in potato sacks (literally) to the richest and most powerful female media mogul in the world. Winfrey was able to accomplish this by moving from a disruptive and abusive household in with her stricter father.
Once Winfrey was subject to discipline and was supported at school, she became an honors student and got her big break when she became a newscaster in Nashville after finishing college. Winfrey has come a long way from her poor upbringings, and is worth $2.9 billion as of 2009, according to Forbes.
A Magical Story - J.K. Rowling
Similar to Winfrey's story, J.K. Rowling went from being on the dole to starting a $15 billion industry. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter books series, was estimated to be worth $843.92 million U.S. dollars as of 2008. She began writing the series while she was on welfare and by incorporating some of the darker elements of her own life - the loss of her mother and battle with depression - into the novels, Rowling's books became a success after an initial press of 1,000 sold out, giving way to Potter mania.
Signing the Stars - David Geffen
David Geffen is a name that many of you will have heard, but few will understand the significance. Geffen is responsible for signing Crosby, Stills and Nash, Bob Dylan and Nirvana, starting Geffen Records and was a founding member of Dreamworks studio.
Geffen grew up poor in Brooklyn, living in a one-bedroom apartment with his family and sleeping on the couch. Geffen did poorly in high school and flunked out of college, but his natural gift in spotting and developing musical talent — along with business sense that he learned from his mother - made him a millionaire by the time he was 26.
At 67, renowned art collector and philanthropist Geffen is worth an estimated $4.6 billion - making him one of the richest behind-the-scenes players in showbiz.
Making It With Music - Jay-Z
Another music mogul that made his way from the bottom to the top is Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter. Carter is as much a businessman as he is a performer, but began his life in the Brooklyn's Marcy Housing Projects. Carter was raised by his mother, and was involved in crime when growing up - at 12 he shot his brother in the arm for stealing his jewelry.
Carter began as a rapper and went on to become involved in everything from nightclubs and clothing to being a part owner of the New Jersey Nets. As of 2009, Carter was worth over $150 million according to Forbes, and seems to be broadening his reach in the business world.
Her Cash Will Go On - Celine Dion
Though she's kind of faded from the spotlight since her late '90s ubiquity - Celine Dion is still ranked as one of the highest-grossing female entertainers and in 2007 was listed by Forbes as the fifth richest female entertainer, coming in at $250 million. She also was ranked as the top-earning singer of the decade by U.K.'s The Sun. Not bad for the 14th (!) of 14 children growing up in a poor household in rural Quebec, where her father made $160 per week to support the family of 16.
Like many of these rag-to-riches stories, it seems Celine's success owed as much to luck as talent - she was discovered singing when she was 12 and continued to create more songs and make more money.
Canadian Songstress - Shania Twain
Another Canadian songstress that grew up with nothing in the rugged wilderness was Shania Twain (born Eileen Regina Edwards). The recently separated Twain grew up in Timmins, Ontario in a household that was too poor to pay for heat, and at times couldn't afford to buy food. By the age of eight, Twain was honing her craft in bars in order to provide an extra $20 for her family.
Twain continued her singing career into high school and was soon on her way to becoming the highest-selling female musician of all time. Her net worth is estimated at around $450 million.
The Bottom Line
From inner-city housing projects to rural homesteads without heat, many of the most famous and wealthy celebrities had very humble beginnings. What brought all of these stars from rags to riches was focusing in on their natural talents, dedicating themselves to its development and not stopping until they had a hefty bank account. It just goes to show that you don't have to be born rich to become rich.
Pay day loan break-in suspect arrested
LDN Staff -
Thursday, March 25, 2010
MANISTEE TWP. — An 18-year-old Cadillac native was arrested this morning and charged with breaking into All Star Pay Day Loans on Parkdale Avenue.
Manistee County Sheriff’s Office deputies spotted the man, dressed in dark clothing, walking across the Burger King Restaurant parking lot at 3:43 a.m. today. During their investigation, they found he was carrying about $1,200 in cash and had placed duct tape on the bottoms of his shoes, which they said was in an effort to cover his shoe prints.
Police said the man then admitted breaking into the nearby All Star Pay Day Loans business. Entry was made to that business through the building’s east side door.
The man was arrested without incident, police said, and lodged at the Manistee County Jail for breaking and entering with intent, a 10-year felony.
March 27, 2010
Ex-cop accused of bank heists
Gladwin man arraigned in connection with East Lansing robberies
TAMMY STABLES BATTAGLIA
FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER
Memories of a 1996 bank robbery, high-speed chase and arrest of a Livonia police officer flooded back to Warren Lt. Michael Torey when he learned the former officer had been arrested again in East Lansing and was arraigned Friday.
"It was weird because he was a police officer when he was robbing banks," Torey said Friday about the 1996 saga of former Livonia cop Ronald Nelson, arrested Thursday as a suspect in a series of robberies in the East Lansing area. "It wasn't like he was fired or anything. He was still on the job. It was a weird feeling."
Nelson, who lives in Gladwin, ultimately was convicted of three robberies of what was the Standard Federal Bank on Schoenherr just south of 13 Mile Road.
Nelson served 12 years in prison, but was released within the past year, Torey said.
East Lansing police Capt. Tom Johnstone said area banks have been robbed five times since November. So when tellers at the Bank of America at 1390 W. Lake Lansing Road in East Lansing realized the man walking in at 9:30 a.m. matched photos of the suspect they had behind their counters, they immediately notified police with their panic buttons, Johnson said.
A radio broadcast alerted police jurisdictions in Ingham, Eaton and Clinton counties.
St. John's police Lt. Michael Carey, who has been investigating the case since the first robbery in his city in November, immediately headed for Route 127 driving north out of East Lansing and parked along the side of the road.
Minutes later, the suspect's getaway car drove by. Following the car at posted speeds for more than 20 miles, calling for help from the Michigan State Police and other departments, Carey helped stop and arrest the suspect, Johnstone said.
"It was quite the scene," Johnstone said. "The officers initiated a felony stop with multiple vehicles, and he surrendered without incident."
Investigators for all the East Lansing-area communities that experienced bank robberies in the past few months are expected to meet within the next few days to file additional charges against the suspect, Johnstone said.
|World's biggest man boobs?|
Chinese doctors claim to have discovered the biggest case of man boobs in the world after a dairy farmer turned up at a specialist chest clinic in Beijing.
Doctor Zhang Lilan at the Jinan Chest Hospital said: "The man is in every way male except for his enormous breasts.
"He is a farmer and says they are extremely uncomfortable as he has to do a lot of manual work and they get in the way of everything.
"He said it has also attracted a lot of attention in the village where he comes from with people turning up to point and laugh at him, so much so that he now has to wear a heavy coat to cover up his figure even in the hottest weather."
The man, Guo Feng, 53, said: "About 10 years ago my chest started to get larger but I didn't think much of it as I was putting on weight all over - but in the last few years it's become unbearable and I have been from one hospital to the other with nobody able to help me.
"I have spent all my money on examinations and tests and am still no nearer a solution - in fact my breasts are now bigger than ever.
"I sometimes think the doctors don't want to help me with this because they find me a medical curiosity."
He says if no one can help him he will cut them off himself and has appealed for doctors to do something before that.
But the doctors say they do not want to act until they have identified what the problem is.
Doctor Zhang Lilan added: "In 30 years of working as specialist here at the chest clinic I have never seen anything like it."
Clinic boss Gaoyong Hong added: "We wondered if he had eaten any poisons or contaminants but have found nothing after testing his blood. His genetic material is also normal. We did an Xray. It is not a cancer. It seems to be fatty tissue - at the most the best we can suggest is that it is the biggest case of man boobs ever."
LINK TO PHOTO
Suspected Thief Asks Police For Directions
A suspected phone thief is under arrest after he flagged down an Orem police officer and asked for directions.
Orem police say a man walked into a Maverick gas station and asked the attendant if he could use the phone. The employee gave him a cordless phone, but the man claimed it didn't work. The clerk then gave him his cell phone. When the attendant turned around to help a customer, the man left with both phones, leaving behind a paper with an address on it.
A police officer investigating the theft was sent to the address and on his way there he was flagged down by a motorist who asked for directions. It just so happened that the driver matched the description of the alleged phone-jacker and was trying to get to the same location.
Police identified the man as John White. He was arrested, the phones were found along with a stash of marijuana.
LINK TO PHOTO AND VIDEO
Bin Laden warns US against executing 9/11 mastermind
AFP/File – An undated picture of Osama Bin Laden. Bin Laden has warned Al-Qaeda will kill Americans if the mastermind … by Lynne Nahhas Lynne Nahhas – Thu Mar 25, 3:13 pm ET
DUBAI (AFP) – Osama bin Laden warned that Al-Qaeda will kill Americans if the mastermind of the 2001 attacks on the United States, Khaled Sheikh Mohammed, is executed, in a tape aired on Al-Jazeera on Thursday.
"The White House has declared its wish to execute (Sheikh Mohammed and his co-accused). The day the United States takes such a decision, it would be also taking the decision that any of you falling into our hands will be executed," bin Laden said in the audio message.
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, flying with US President Barack Obama to Iowa on Air Force One, did not directly respond to the comments.
But he said: "We see that Al-Qaeda has nothing to spread but hate and that?s why the administration will keep up the pressure to destroy the Al-Qaeda network."
Bin Laden said Obama was "still walking in the footsteps" of his predecessor, George W. Bush, by escalating the war in Afghanistan.
He also condemned Obama for "oppressing our prisoners that you are holding, beginning with the mujahid (holy warrior) hero Khaled al-Sheikh Mohammed."
US politicians, he added, had "oppressed us and still do, especially by backing Israel, which occupies the land of Palestine."
The US-based IntelCenter monitoring service said the tape "appears to be authentic."
"Bin Laden's specific threat serves as a valid indicator of an increased threat of kidnappings targeting Americans in the immediate period and following through the Khalid Sheikh Mohammed trial in the US," it warned in a statement.
"Attempts to kidnap Americans would not be limited to core Al-Qaeda. The group's regional arms such as Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and Al-Qaeda in the Land of the Islamic Maghreb, which has been aggressively targeting Westerners for kidnapping in North Africa, may follow through on bin Laden's threat."
The Kuwaiti-born Sheikh Mohammed is being held in Guantanamo Bay and was subjected to repeated water-boarding, a now banned interrogation technique that simulates drowning, after his 2003 arrest in Pakistan.
He told a military tribunal in 2008 that he did not "want to waste time" and would plead guilty to the terror charges.
The United States is just weeks away from a landmark decision on whether to try him and four alleged co-conspirators in a civilian federal court or in a military tribunal.
The Obama administration had announced it would try them in a New York courthouse just steps from where the World Trade Center that collapsed in the 2001 attacks had stood.
But the plans have met a backlash from Republican lawmakers who introduced legislation to require a military trial, throwing a challenge to Obama months ahead of mid-term elections in November.
Obama made bringing Sheikh Mohammed to a civilian trial a centrepiece of a broader plan to end what he saw as serious abuses of law under Bush and his powerful vice president Dick Cheney.
Bin Laden's latest statement was his first since he issued two in January, one of them claiming responsibility for the botched Christmas Day bombing of a US airliner and vowing further strikes on American targets.
Bin Laden also referred to US support for Israel in the January message.
"God willing, our attacks against you will continue as long as you maintain your support to Israel," he said.
"America should not dream of security until we enjoy it as a reality in Palestine," added the Saudi-born militant who has a 50-million-dollar bounty on his head.
In the other tape released in January, bin Laden blamed major industrial nations for climate change, a statement the US State Department said showed that the Al-Qaeda chief was struggling to stay relevant.
Congress Passes Final Piece of Healthcare Legislation
Noam N. Levey
Washington DC Bureau
March 25, 2010
After a final surge to overcome Republican opposition, Congressional Democrats Thursday approved the last piece of their health overhaul, sending President Obama a package of changes to the main health bill the president signed Tuesday.
The so-called reconciliation package, which also includes a major reorganization of the federal student loan program, passed the Senate Thursday afternoon 56-43 on a nearly party-line vote after a grueling night and day of roll-call votes during which Republicans sought to derail the bill.
Later Thursday evening, House Democrats approved the same package 220 to 207 and formally concluded Democrats' tortuous 14-month drive to move major healthcare legislation through Congress for the first time in nearly half a century.
"More than 80 years ago, Franklin Roosevelt identified four freedoms: freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom from want and freedom from fear," said Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.), one of the architects of the healthcare overhaul.
"Today in many ways we are fulfilling that last of the great freedoms, the fear that you or your family could suffer a health-care crisis."
The president, who traveled to Iowa Thursday to tout the healthcare overhaul, is expected to the sign the legislation in the next several days.
Paralleling earlier healthcare votes this year, not a single Republican voted for the final package in the House or Senate.
Many GOP lawmakers have criticized the legislation as an unwarranted expansion of federal authority over the healthcare sector. And Thursday, Republicans kept up their call to roll back the legislation, previewing a debate that is expected to only intensify as election day approaches this fall.
"The important thing now … is to replace those who voted for the healthcare bill and to repeal it when we get some new members here," Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) told Fox News Channel's Sean Hannity Thursday.
Three Senate Democrats and 32 House Democrats also voted against the package Thursday, including several facing difficult reelection campaigns in traditionally Republican states such as Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln.
The bill required only a simple majority in the Senate because Democrats used the budget reconciliation process to avoid a filibuster, which requires a 60-vote supermajority to squash.
The 153-page reconciliation package represents a small fraction of the gargantuan healthcare legislation that the House approved over the weekend and the president signed Tuesday.
But it makes several major changes to the main healthcare bill, including expanding subsidies that the federal government will provide to low- and moderate-income Americans starting in 2014 to help them buy health insurance.
The package also scales back a new 40% excise tax on high-end "Cadillac" health plans and delays its implementation until 2018.
It imposes a new tax on couples making more than $250,000, who will pay a 3.8% Medicare tax on capital gains and other investment income for the first time.
The bill boosts federal aid to states to help them expand their Medicaid programs, replacing a provision in the main healthcare bill that singled out Nebraska for special assistance.
And it would gradually close the gap in Medicare drug coverage known as the "doughnut hole," phasing it out completely by 2020.
Together, the healthcare legislation signed by the president and the reconciliation package approved Thursday are expected to cover an additional 32 million Americans by 2019, boosting the percentage of non-elderly Americans with insurance from 83% to 94%, according to estimates by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.
The bill also establishes a broad new framework of government regulation to prevent insurance companies from denying coverage to people who are sick and to require insurers to provide a minimal level of benefits.
The coverage expansion would not be cheap, requiring an estimated $938 billion over the next decade to expand Medicaid, to give tax credits to small businesses to help them cover their employees and to provide insurance subsidies to Americans who do not get benefits at work.
Most Americans will for the first time be required to carry health insurance or pay a penalty.
Because the cost of the expanding coverage is offset by new taxes and cuts in what Medicare will pay insurers, hospitals and other providers over the next decade, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the legislation will actually reduce the deficit slightly by 2019 by an estimated $143 billion.
Republicans have repeatedly criticized the new taxes and Medicare cuts.
And over a day and half of almost continuous voting on amendment, GOP senators tried to get Democrats to remove sections of the bill designed to raise revenue to pay for the legislation.
In the end, however, it was a provision of the bill unrelated to healthcare that almost tripped up the legislation.
The reconciliation bill includes a major change in the way the federal government helps students pay for college, giving the government authority to provide loans directly to students, instead of using private financial institutions as intermediaries. The student loan section of the legislation would use part of the projected savings from this change to expand the federal Pell Grant program for low-income students.
But very early Thursday morning, Republicans successfully objected to a minor provision designed to prevent the Pell Grants from decreasing in periods of deflation. The provision did not reduce the deficit, as required by the budget rules.
That forced Democrats to change the package, which in turn forced the House to take it up Thursday even though the House had approved an earlier version Sunday.
A spokeswoman for the House Education and Labor Committee said Democrats may add the provision to future legislation in the future if there are any signs of deflation.
13-Year-Old Charged In Holdup Attempt On Ice Cream Truck
Lafourche Parish Sheriff's Office ABC26 News
March 25, 2010
Senate's fix to health care law slowed by snag
By ALAN FRAM
Associated Press Writer
9 AM EST
WASHINGTON – After nine straight hours of beating back Republican amendments, Senate Democrats hit a temporary snag Thursday in their drive to rush through a package of fixes to the big health care law signed by President Barack Obama.
Democratic Senate leaders had hoped to complete work on the fix-it bill by midday Thursday and get it quickly to Obama to avoid prolonging what has been a politically painful ordeal for the party.
But Republicans learned early Thursday they will be able to kill some language in the bill that relates to Pell grants for low-income college students. That means the altered bill will have to be returned to the House for final congressional approval before it can be sent to Obama.
Democrats described the situation as a minor glitch, but did not rule out that Republicans might be able to remove additional sections of the bill.
The president, who signed the landmark legislation into law on Tuesday, was flying to Iowa later in the day for the first of many appearances around the country to sell his health care revamp before the fall congressional elections.
Obama was appearing in Iowa City, where as a presidential candidate in 2007 he touted his ideas for health coverage for all. His trip comes as polls show people are divided over the new health law, and Democratic lawmakers from competitive districts hope he can convince more voters by November that it was the right move.
As an exhausted Senate labored past 2 a.m. on a stack of GOP amendments, Jim Manley, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, told reporters that Republicans consulting with the chamber's parliamentarian had found "two minor provisions" that violate Congress' budget rules.
Republicans have been hunting for such violations in hopes of bringing down the legislation. Democrats had also been consulting with the parliamentarian, Alan Frumin, and hoped they had written a measure that would not be vulnerable to such problems.
The two provisions are expected to be formally removed from the bill on Thursday. Manley said he expected the Senate to approve the measure without them and send it to the House. He said Senate leaders, after conversations with top House Democrats, expect the House to approve the revised measure.
The Senate scheduled passage of the health bill for Thursday afternoon. Both chambers are hoping to begin a spring recess by this weekend.
Besides reshaping parts of the landmark health overhaul, the legislation transforms the federal student loan program — in which private banks distribute the money — into one in which the government issues the loans directly. That produces some federal savings, which the bill uses in part to increase Pell grants to needy students.
Democratic aides said the problematic provisions deal with safeguarding students from future cuts in their grants if Congress does not provide enough money for them. The provisions violate budget rules because they do not produce savings, one aide said.
The development came as the Senate completed nine hours of uninterrupted voting on 29 GOP amendments to the legislation. Majority Democrats defeated every amendment.
The legislation would change the new health care law by making drug benefits for Medicare recipients more generous by gradually closing a gap in coverage, increasing tax subsidies to help low-income people afford health care, and boosting federal Medicaid payments to states.
It kills part of the new statute uniquely giving Nebraska extra Medicaid funds — designed to lure support from that state's Sen. Ben Nelson — that had become a glaring embarrassment to Democrats. It also eases a new tax on expensive health coverage bitterly opposed by unions and many House Democrats, while delaying and increasing a new levy on drug makers.
As they began pushing the bill to passage on Wednesday afternoon, Democrats ran into a mountain of GOP amendments. Outnumbered and all but assured of defeat, Republicans forced votes on amendments aimed at reshaping the measure — or at least forcing Democrats to take votes that could be used against them in TV ads in the fall campaigns.
"There's no attempt to improve the bill. There's an attempt to destroy this bill," said an exasperated Reid, D-Nev.
"The majority leader may not think we're serious about changing the bill, but we'd like to change the bill, and with a little help from our friends on the other side we could improve the bill significantly," answered Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
Senators voted on 29 consecutive GOP amendments between 5:30 p.m. Wednesday and 2:30 a.m. Thursday, when they recessed.
By 57-42, Democrats rejected an amendment by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., barring federal purchases of Viagra and other erectile dysfunction drugs for sex offenders. Coburn said it would save millions of dollars, while Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., called it "a crass political stunt."
Democrats also deflected GOP amendments rolling back the health law's Medicare cuts; killing extra Medicaid funds for Tennessee and other state-specific spending; barring tax increases for families earning under $250,000; and requiring the president and other administration officials to purchase health care from exchanges the statute creates.
The landmark legislation that Obama signed Tuesday would provide health care to 32 million uninsured people, and make coverage more affordable to millions of others by expanding the reach of Medicaid and creating new subsidies. Insurance companies would be forbidden to refuse coverage to people with pre-existing illnesses, individuals could buy policies on newly created exchanges and parents could keep children on their family plans until their 26th birthdays.
The $938 billion, 10-year price tag would be financed largely by culling savings from Medicare and imposing new taxes on higher income people and the insurance, pharmaceutical and medical device industries.
Associated Press writer Darlene Superville contributed to this report.
Woman, 'Trapped,' Calls 911 From Police Station
Hurled bricks, threats surround health overhaul
EMILY WAGSTER PETTUS
Associated Press Writer
Unrest over sweeping federal health care legislation has turned to vandalism and threats, with bricks hurled through Democrats' windows, a propane line cut at the home of a congressman's brother and menacing phone messages left for lawmakers who supported the bill.
The FBI is investigating the instances, which include shattered windows at four Democratic offices in New York, Arizona and Kansas. At least 10 members of Congress have reported some sort of threat as of Wednesday, and no arrests have been made.
The brick flung through the window of a county Democratic Party office in Rochester, N.Y., over the weekend had a note attached: "Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice," roughly quoting 1964 Republican presidential nominee Barry Goldwater.
A New York congresswoman whose office window also was smashed with a brick accused the Republican leadership of failing to denounce attacks against lawmakers who supported the legislation. The vandalism was at Democratic Rep. Louise Slaughter's district office in Niagara Falls early Friday, two days before the House passed the health care overhaul bill.
"It's more disturbing to me that Republican leadership has not condemned these attacks and instead appears to be fanning the flames with coded rhetoric," said Slaughter, a key supporter of the bill.
House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio said in a statement that while many Americans are angry over the bill's passage, "violence and threats are unacceptable."
"That's not the American way," Boehner said. "We need to take that anger and channel it into positive change."
The FBI and Capitol Police were briefing Democratic lawmakers on how to handle perceived security threats, said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md. Those who feel they are at risk will be "getting attention from the proper authorities," Hoyer said, declining to say whether any are receiving extra security. Normally only those in leadership positions have personal security guards.
At a news conference in Washington, Hoyer said people have yelled that Democratic lawmakers should be put on firing lines and posters have appeared with the faces of lawmakers in the cross hairs of a target.
While not directly criticizing Republicans, Hoyer said that "any show of appreciation for such actions encourages such action."
Gun imagery was used in a posting on the Facebook page of Sarah Palin urging people to organize against 20 House Democrats who voted for the health care bill and whose districts went for the John McCain-Palin ticket two years ago. Palin's post featured a U.S. map with circles and cross hairs over the 20 districts.
Some of the anger over the bill spilled over in a flood of obscenity and threat-filled phone and fax messages to the office of Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich. His office released some of the messages it has received since the health care bill passed, declining to add further comment.
"I hope you bleed ... (get) cancer and die," one male caller told the congressman between curses.
A fax with the title "Defecating on Stupak" carried a picture of a gallows with "Bart (SS) Stupak" on it and a noose attached. It was captioned, "All Baby Killers come to unseemly ends Either by the hand of man or by the hand of God."
The vandalism and threats surprised a researcher at a think tank that monitors extremist groups.
"I think it is astounding that we are seeing this wave of vigilantism," said Mark Potok of the Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center.
In Virginia, someone cut a propane line leading to a grill at the Charlottesville home of U.S. Rep. Tom Perriello's brother after the address was posted online by activists angry about the health care overhaul. Perriello also said a threatening letter was sent to his brother's house. The FBI and local authorities were investigating.
Tea party activists had posted the brother's address online thinking it was the congressman's home. The post urged opponents to drop by and "express their thanks" for the Democrat's vote in favor of the sweeping health care reform.
Nigel Coleman, chairman of the Danville Tea Party, said he re-posted the comment that originated on another conservative blog, including the address, Monday on his Facebook page. The posts were taken down after the mistake was discovered.
"We've never been associated with any violence or any vandalism," he said. "We're definitely sorry that we posted the incorrect address."
Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who has filed a lawsuit challenging the health care overhaul and is a favorite of the Tea Party, said for activists to post an address of Perriello's family shows that things are going too far.
"That is way over the line," he said. "It's not civil discourse, it's an invitation to intimidation and it's totally unacceptable."
Potok compared the online posting of a public official's address to tactics used by hate groups.
"This is what neo Nazi leaders in America do today," Potok said. "They post personal information about their enemies and sit back and wait for somebody else to act."
Lyndsay Stauble, executive director of the Sedgwick County Democratic Party in Wichita, Kan., said a brick was hurled through the party's storefront plate glass window late Friday or early Saturday, landing in her office and gouging her wooden desk.
She said that written in marker on the brick were the slogans, "No to Obama" and "No Obamycare."
"The tone is not surprising, but the aggressiveness is," Stauble said Wednesday. "I'm not shocked that people are not reacting well to a large piece of legislation passed by a president that they don't like."
In Tucson, Ariz., someone either kicked in or shot out a glass door and a side window at the congressional office of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords early Monday, a few hours after the House health care vote. Giffords voted for the bill.
Giffords' press secretary C.J. Karamargin in Tucson said the vandalism left the local congressional staff shaken and worried.
Atlantic rowing pair crash into reef ONE MILE from finish after racing 2,500 miles
Daily Mail Reporter
9:05 AM on 23rd March 2010
Two British rowers who spent almost three months racing 2,500 miles across the Atlantic had to be rescued after hitting a reef less than a mile from the finish line.
Phil Pring and Ben Cummings, who had been at sea for 76 days, were disqualified from the Canaries to the West Indies race after they ran aground.
The pair, members of Zennor Gig Club, were picked up by authorities after the incident near the Caribbean island of Antigua on Sunday.
Scuppered: Phil Pring, left, and Ben Cummings were disqualified from the race after running aground
The men were taking part in the Atlantic Rowing Race in their boat Vision Of Cornwall and were in 15th place when they hit the reef.
Falmouth Coastguard said that the two friends, who were raising money for the Cornwall Blind Association, were safe and well.
According to organisers Woodvale Challenge, although Mr Cummings, 36, and Mr Pring, 32, from Falmouth, Cornwall, did not complete the race, they did offcially complete a transatlantic crossing as they had passed the eastern tip of Antigua, the landmark used for such events.
A spokesman said: 'The boat passed over a first reef and narrowly avoided capsizing but despite the efforts of the guys to row clear the breaking surf rolled the vessel which became trapped on the reef.
'It's absolutely gutting - to be so close to the finish line must be very hard to take.
'But they did complete a transatlantic crossing and hopefully that achievement will be enough for them.'
Last month the men said there had been a lot of 'niggling problems' during the voyage in their boat, which was built in a barn near Helston, Cornwall.
As well as having to cope with heat and weight-loss, just two weeks after setting off from the Canary Island of La Gomera on January 4, their drinking water maker failed when a charger from their solar panels broke - resulting in them having to be supplied from a support boat.
Robbers called bank for money to go
Sgt. James Perez says the two Bridgeport residents showed up about 10 minutes after making the call and were met by police in the parking lot.
Mar 24, 2010 at 8:21 AM PDT
FAIRFIELD, Conn. (AP) - Police in Connecticut say they had ample warning of a bank robbery because the two suspects called the bank ahead of time and told an employee to get a bag of money ready.
Police arrested 27-year-old Albert Bailey and an unidentified 16-year-old boy on robbery and threatening charges Tuesday afternoon at a People's United Bank branch in Fairfield.
Sgt. James Perez says the two Bridgeport residents showed up about 10 minutes after making the call and were met by police in the parking lot. Perez told the Connecticut Post the suspects were "not too bright."
It's not clear if Bailey and the teen have lawyers.
LINK TO PHOTO OF ROBBER
Mar 23, 2010 9:30 pm US/Central
Flying Baby Puts The Brakes On Dallas Repo Man
DALLAS (CBS 11 / TXA 21)
A southeast Dallas mother is accused of taking extreme measures that endangered her baby in order to keep her SUV from being repossessed.
Dallas Police say 28-year-old Krystal Gardner tossed her one-year-old through an open window seconds before a repo man was about to drive her Ford Expedition away.
Luke Ross was the repo man involved in the bizarre chain of events. Ross says his correct title is recovery agent. "It sounds like it's going to be easy, but none of them are ever easy… when people know their car is up for repo, they will go to any extent to keep it."
It was late in the afternoon when he showed up at a house on Lansdowne Drive in southeast Dallas. The 31-year-old already had the keys to repossess Gardner's Expedition. "I open the door and I don't even have the door closed when I'm in. I put the key in and start it. I look out of the corner of my eye and I see a baby fly through the window."
The Dallas Police report says Gardner tossed her baby through the open window of her SUV. Ross says the one-year-old landed hard on the back seat. "Like a kid bouncing on a bed."
The boy immediately started crying, so Ross put the Expedition in park. State law forbids a car from being repossessed if a person is inside. When Ross stepped out, he was greeted by a 15-year-old with a shot gun. "He shot once in the air and then shot once at me and hit me with a couple of pellets in the leg. It's not worth taking someone's life over a car. We're just guys out here trying to make a living."
But Gardner's family and neighbors say the teenage boy fired just once in the air and no more, but they declined to speak to CBS 11. As for Ross, he chalks it up to another strange chapter in the dangerous profession of recovering cars. "I do something I love, but I'm lucky that I make it home every day."
Gardner was charged with endangering a child. The 15-year-old who lives in Gardner's house and fired the shot gun was also arrested. Meanwhile, Ross successfully repossessed the Expedition after Dallas Police responded to the altercation.
KTVT / KTXA
LINK TO VIDEO
Oregon Middle School Bans Hugging
LINK TO VIDEO
Facebook 'sex encounters' linked to rise in syphilis
Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 10:20 AM on 24th March 2010
Facebook has been linked to a resurgence of the sexually-transmitted disease syphilis.
The virus has increased fourfold in Sunderland, Durham and Teesside, the areas of Britain where the website is most popular.
Medics believe Facebook and other social networking sites make it easier for strangers to meet multiple partners for casual sexual encounters.
Online: Medics say they have found a link between social networking sites and a rise in the number of syphilis cases, particularly among women (posed by model)
Professor Peter Kelly, director of public health in Teesside, said staff had found a link between the websites and the rise in cases, especially among young women.
‘Syphilis is a devastating disease. Anyone who has unprotected sex with casual partners is at high risk,’ he told The Sun.
‘There has been a fourfold increase in the number of syphilis cases detected with more young women being affected.
‘I don't get the names of people affected, just figures, and I saw that several of the people had met sexual partners through these sites.
‘Social networking sites are making it easier for people to meet up for casual sex.
‘There is a rise in syphilis because people are having more sexual partners than 20 years ago and often do not use condoms.’
In Teesside there were 30 recorded cases of syphilis last year, but the true figures are expected to be much higher.
Syphilis cases in Britain fell due to the widespread use of condoms in the 1980s and '90s.
It can cause serious heart, respiratory tract and central nervous system damage. But Health Protection Agency figures revealed there were 4,000 cases nationwide last year.
The highest rates are in women aged 20 to 24 and men aged 25 to 34.
Research has shown that young people in Sunderland, Durham and Teesside were 25 per cent more likely to log onto social networking sites than those in the rest of Britain.
Studies have shown that adults are more likely to indulge in risky sexual behaviour with partners they meet on the internet.
A Facebook spokesman said: users should ‘take precautions’ and be careful when meeting up with anyone they have met online.
Port St. Lucie man gets 90 days' jail for binding woman's hand
March 19, 2010 at 6:12 p.m.
FORT PIERCE — A Port St. Lucie man accused in October 2008 of binding a woman’s hands and taping her mouth shut “so she would listen,” was sentenced Thursday to 90 days in the St. Lucie County Jail, a year of community control and a year of probation.
Kevin John Franco, 34, of the 2800 block of Southwest Rosetta Street, pleaded no contest in February to charges of felony false imprisonment, misdemeanor battery and tampering with a witness. In levying the sentence, Circuit Judge Dan Vaughn gave Franco credit for 31 days he’s already spent in jail.
According to an arrest affidavit, the woman said she was sleeping in her bed when she woke up to find Franco on top of her, binding her hands with heavy-duty plastic ties and putting duct tape on her mouth.
She said she got loose and saw Franco had ripped phones out the wall, but she used her cell phone to call for help, the affidavit states.
“Yes, I tied her hands and I taped her mouth closed,” the report states Franco told officers, “but only so she would listen.”
How Big A Deal? Ask Joe Biden
Biden's Expletive Caught On Video, Audio
POSTED: 1:31 pm EDT March 23, 2010
UPDATED: 2:10 pm EDT March 23, 2010
WASHINGTON -- Leave it to Vice President Joe Biden to add a little, ahem, flair to the signing of a health care bill affecting millions of people.
"This is a big f------ deal," Biden told President Barack Obama after introducing him at Tuesday's ceremony at the White House.
Biden appeared to be offering that perspective to Obama privately, but his remark was captured on audio and video.
The episode quickly got buzz on the Internet.
Biden has a reputation of verbal slips, and he knows it.
The White House response to this one? Embrace it.
"And yes Mr. Vice President, you're right," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said in a post, or "tweet," on Twitter, the social networking site.
LINK TO VIDEO
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Attorneys general from 13 states sued the federal government Tuesday, claiming the landmark health care overhaul is unconstitutional just seven minutes after President Barack Obama signed it into law.
The lawsuit was filed in Pensacola after the Democratic president signed the 10-year, $938 billion bill the House passed Sunday night.
"The Constitution nowhere authorizes the United States to mandate, either directly or under threat of penalty, that all citizens and legal residents have qualifying health care coverage," the lawsuit says.
Legal experts say it has little chance of success.
Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum is taking the lead and is joined by attorneys general from South Carolina, Nebraska, Texas, Michigan, Utah, Pennsylvania, Alabama, South Dakota, Idaho, Washington, Colorado and Louisiana. All are Republicans except James "Buddy" Caldwell of Louisiana, a Democrat.
Some states are considering separate lawsuits — Virginia filed its own Tuesday — and still others may join the multistate suit. In Michigan, the Thomas More Law Center of Ann Arbor, a Christian legal advocacy group, sued on behalf of itself and four people it says don't have private health insurance and object to being told they have to purchase it.
McCollum, who is running for governor, argues the bill will cause "substantial harm and financial burden" to the states.
State Sen. Dan Gelber, a Democrat running for McCollum's job, said the lawsuit is nothing more than a stunt to gain political points as McCollum runs for governor.
"It is rank politics and nothing but," said Gelber, noting that 4 million Floridians don't have health insurance. "He spends no time talking about what he would do as governor about that, but he seems to have an inordinate amount of time to jump up on a soap box and start demagoguing on the issue."
The lawsuit claims the bill violates the 10th Amendment, which says the federal government has no authority beyond the powers granted to it under the Constitution, by forcing the states to carry out its provisions but not reimbursing them for the costs.
"No public policy goal — no matter how important or well-intentioned — can be allowed to trample the protections and rights guaranteed by our Constitution," Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said in a statement.
The lawsuit also says the states can't afford the new law. Using Florida as an example, the lawsuit says the overhaul will add almost 1.3 million people to the state's Medicaid rolls and cost the state an additional $150 million in 2014, growing to $1 billion a year by 2019.
"We simply cannot afford to do the things in this bill that we're mandated to do," McCollum said at a press conference after filing the suit. He said the Medicaid expansion in Florida will cost $1.6 billion.
"That's not possible or practical to do in our state," he said. "It's not realistic, it's not right, and it's very, very wrong."
South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster, who is also running for governor, said the lawsuit was necessary to protect his state's sovereignty.
"A legal challenge by the states appears to be the only hope of protecting the American people from this unprecedented attack on our system of government," he said.
But Lawrence Friedman, a professor who teaches constitutional law at the New England School of Law in Boston, said before the suit was filed that it has little chance of success. He said he can't imagine a scenario where a judge would stop implementation of the health care bill.
Still, McCollum said he expects the U.S. Supreme Court will eventually decide if the overhaul is constitutional.
"This is not lawful," he said. "It may have passed Congress, but there are three branches of government."
Some states are looking at other ways to avoid participating. Virginia and Idaho have passed legislation aimed at blocking requirements in the bill, and the Republican-led Legislature in Florida is trying to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot to ask voters to exempt the state from the federal law's requirements. At least 60 percent of voters would have to approve.
Under the bill, starting in six months, health insurance companies would be required to keep young adults as beneficiaries on their parents' plans until they turn 26, and companies would no longer be allowed to deny coverage to sick children.
Other changes would not kick in until 2014.
That's when most Americans will for the first time be required to carry health insurance — either through an employer or government program or by buying it themselves. Those who refuse will face tax penalties.
"This is the first time in American history where American citizens will be forced to buy a particular good or service," said Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning, who is also president of the National Association of Attorneys General, explaining why his state joined the lawsuit.
Tax credits to help pay for premiums also will start flowing to middle-class working families with incomes up to $88,000 a year, and Medicaid will be expanded to cover more low-income people.
No Republicans in the U.S. House or Senate voted for the bill.
Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum announces at a news conference that he has filed a lawsuit against the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, the U. S. Department of Treasury, and the U. S. Department of Labor, alleging the health care reform bill signed into law by President Obama is unconstitutional, Tuesday, March 23, 2010, in Tallahassee, Fla.
(AP Photo/Phil Coale) Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum announces at a news conference that he has filed a lawsuit against the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, the U. S. Department of Treasury, and the U. S. Department of Labor, alleging the health care reform bill signed into law by President Obama is unconstitutional, Tuesday, March 23, 2010, in Tallahassee, Fla.(AP Photo/Phil Coale)
Obama signs healthcare into law
President Barack Obama signed healthcare reform into law on Tuesday, capping a legislative victory Democrats have sought for decades.
"Today, after almost a century of trying; today, after over a year of debate; today, after all the votes have been tallied, health insurance reform becomes law in the United States of America," Obama said minutes before signing the legislation.
"Here in this country we shape our own destiny," Obama said. "We have now just enshrined, as soon as I sign this bill, the core principle that everyone should have some basic security when it comes to their healthcare."
He later added that he was signing the bill for his mother, who he said had battled with insurance companies.
Obama was surrounded by House and Senate leaders and key committee chairmen who had worked on healthcare reform as he signed the legislation. Vice President Joe Biden, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) were the closest to Obama.
Others in the picture included Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), Acting Ways and Means Committee Chairman Sandy Levin (D-Mich.) and Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), who stepped down from that committee.
The late Sen. Edward Kennedy's (D-Mass.) widow Vicki was nearby, as was Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and White House Office of Health Reform Director Nancy-Ann DeParle.
Scores more House and Senate Democrats were bused to the White House to view the ceremony. Many took pictures to document the moment; before Obama came out for the ceremony, members posed in front of his podium.
When Obama arrived, the audience of Democrats started a "fired up, ready to go" chant that was used during Obama's presidential campaign.
Obama praised Pelosi and Reid, who hugged one another.
Obama thanked Congress for grinding through the process, acknowledging lawmakers for "taking its lumps" on the issue.
"Yes we did!" an unidentified lawmaker shouted, prompting laughter.
Senate Democrats are still working on a package of adjustments to the legislation Obama signed into law on Tuesday. The Senate hopes to vote on that package by the end of the week, when it would then be sent to Obama for his signature.
Once those changes are made, the law would expand healthcare access to an estimated 31 million Americans at a cost of $940 billion over 10 years. Those costs are to be offset by a series of reforms and taxes, and congressional budget examiners estimate it will cut $138 billion from deficit over the next decade.
Republicans have scoffed at those projections, and outside observers have raised questions over whether future Congresses will go along with reforms intended to reduce the budget deficit.
The House demanded the package of changes as a condition for passing the Senate bill. The legislation is to be considered under budget reconciliation rules that prevent a GOP filibuster.
Obama and his congressional allies chose to highlight the passage of the Senate bill with a ceremonial bill-signing after a grueling year of legislating.
Though liberals in his party have criticized the president for not pushing stronger reform, Democrats largely reacted with a mixture of relief and exuberance to the passage of a bill that was pronounced dead on more than one occasion.
At points in the debate, it seemed possible Obama would repeat the failure of President Bill Clinton, whose ambitious plans for healthcare reform collapsed in Congress. Democrats went on to be crushed in the following midterms.
Democrats hope that the controversy surrounding the current legislation will subside by November, alleviating what they fear could be substantial losses in both chambers.
Obama's Health Care Fight Continues: Must Sell The Bill To American People
First Posted: 03-22-10 05:32 PM
Updated: 03-22-10 09:30 PM
WASHINGTON (AP)-- Even with victory in hand, President Barack Obama can't put health care to rest.
He still has to sell skeptical Americans on the benefits he claims for the massive overhaul Congress finally approved – and try to save the political skins of fellow Democrats who put their jobs in jeopardy by voting with him.
The White House's chief goal after the health care debate was to be a change in focus to jobs measures and populist issues – intended to be music to the ears of Americans suffering from high unemployment and a limping economic recovery. That's still the case, but the health overhaul is bound to be a major issue through the November elections and beyond.
Despite the year of caustic debate, Obama emerges with a stronger hand.
He's moved on from Phase One of his presidency – stalled. Now he's on to Phase Two – buoyed.
The cliffhanger House vote that approved the overhaul is one of those presidential achievements with multiple side benefits: fresh clout in a capital that worships winners, bragging rights on a key promise kept, and a history-making, country-changing one at that, praise for presidential perseverance against daunting odds, a respite from talk of a mired presidency.
It was news so good that Obama invited dozens of aides to the Truman Balcony for an after-midnight champagne celebration. Senior adviser David Axelrod said Obama was the happiest he'd seen his boss since Election Night when he won the White House – perhaps even happier. "Elections just give you the chance to do things," Axelrod recalled a jubilant Obama saying. "This is the real thing."
How much it will help during the rest of his term, though, is a bit murky. One clue will be found as the president's campaign-related travel schedule unfolds over the months until this fall's congressional elections.
Standing by his promise to provide political cover for those who helped him on health care is about more than keeping his word. If Obama were to see the Democratic congressional majority ended or severely diminished in November, it could make it much harder to push legislation through Congress.
Most of those who could suffer from their "yes" votes are moderate Democrats in conservative-leaning districts and states. Siding with Obama were 17 Democrats who are seeking re-election in districts that Republican John McCain won in 2008, including top GOP targets such as Tom Perriello in Virginia, Betsey Markey in Colorado, Harry Mitchell in Arizona and Suzanne Kosmas in Florida. One other moderate Democrat running a difficult race for the Senate in a right-tilting state – Brad Ellsworth in Indiana – voted for the measure, too.
One question is how much these in-danger Democrats could benefit from Obama's help.
His fundraising prowess will be welcomed by nearly all, and it can take place in the background, far from the candidates' districts if need be. His history of inspiring grass-roots supporters and bringing new voters to the polls will be helpful, too, in some places, though harder to apply in congressional races than in his own White House bid.
There still will be some Democrats who will not want a direct, in-person appeal to voters from a president with job approval ratings hovering around 50 percent.
Another health care task that won't disappear any time soon for Obama is pushing back against Republicans. GOP leaders have made clear they will use any tactic available – at the polls, in Congress and in the courts – to try to punish Democrats for the legislation and to undo it. Aides say Obama plans to aggressively engage the GOP's universal opposition to the bill and efforts to repeal it.
Where the president probably can make the most headway on both offense and defense is with the public.
Polls show people are split over whether they like the bill. So, Obama will seek to improve those numbers, starting with an appearance Thursday in Iowa City, Iowa, and a series of outside-the-Beltway health care-focused events that White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer said would come "periodically" – not daily or even weekly, but regularly though the end of the year.
White House advisers believe there's plenty of time before November to make the bill's benefits real for voters, especially the few parts that take effect soon, among them rebate checks for seniors affected by the Medicare drug coverage gap, permission for children to stay on their parents' health plans until age 26, and bans on insurers turning away children with medical problems or setting lifetime coverage limits.
They also believe that GOP gripes about legislative procedures used by Democrats will fade to a distant memory.
And, Pfeiffer said, "It is helpful for health care reform to go from the theoretical to something real."
The sales job is hardly a slam dunk.
The gigantic bill remakes the nation's health care system – one-sixth of the economy – in a way feared by some as an overly huge and expensive government intrusion.
The changes will come gradually, with some not fully phased in for a decade. Some of the biggest shifts, for instance, such as mandates for most Americans to carry insurance, new places to buy it and new employer obligations, and a ban on denying coverage to the sick, are four years off.
Explaining what happens when, which hardly fits on a legal pad much less a bumper sticker, will not come easily when the target audience is an angry public with a short attention span.
"He knows that the legislative process has been confusing, that it's taken a long time," White House health reform director Nancy-Ann DeParle said.
Legislatively, Obama's approach for the rest of the year was largely set no matter health care's outcome, starting with a steady diet of jobs- and small business-related votes.
He'll also press for action on populist-leaning measures with broad appeal, such as tougher financial industry regulations and rolling back a recent Supreme Court ruling that allows unions and corporations to funnel unlimited dollars to political campaigns.
Even those measures are tough lifts, though, with potentially large partisan opposition. And with the November elections looming, the window for congressional action on anything, much less something else big and controversial, is fast closing.
Across the street from the Capitol, there's the strong expectation of another Supreme Court vacancy. That would steal the remaining oxygen from any legislative issue.
Love her or hate her, health care reform hero Nancy Pelosi is 'Lyndon Johnson in a skirt'Thomas M. Defrank and Kenneth R. Bazinet
Tuesday, March 23rd 2010, 4:00 AM
Wong/GettyNancy Pelosi gets a big hand from House members after signing the Senate health care reform bill on Monday.
WASHINGTON - Those who know Nancy Pelosi best say without her, President Obama wouldn't have been able to pop open the champagne bottle over his momentous health care win.
Pelosi loves quoting legendary House Speaker Tip O'Neill, and her fans say she's now in the same league as the Democratic lion of the House.
"This has been a remarkable string of victories. Sometimes you look down the field and say, 'How is she going to pull this one off?' And the next thing you know she scores," said Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Brooklyn).
"The real story here is how Nancy Pelosi dragged Harry Reid and Barack Obama over the finish line," he added.
Asked in an ABC interview Monday if she's the "most powerful woman in 100 years," Pelosi paused, then smiled, "That sounds good."
Even fervent Obama boosters concede Pelosi's clear-eyed commitment to liberal reform, steely determination and tenacity in whipping nervous Democrats into line made the difference between ignominious failure and victory.
"She's Lyndon Johnson in a skirt," Democratic political strategist Mark Siegel said of the San Francisco grandmother, who turns 70 Friday. "She was patient, tireless, persistent and cajoling - and she pulled off what no one else could."
Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Queens) thinks her work ethic and strategic vision top all her attributes. "I can't think of a smarter person on policy or politics," he said. "And I've never seen anyone work as hard at it as she does at both."
Long before Obama gave Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) a ride on Air Force One, Pelosi made a strong gesture for his vote by allowing three hours of debate on a resolution to end the war in Afghanistan.
She also waited out pro-life colleague Bart Stupak of Michigan, knowing he had gone too far out on a limb and would cave and ultimately vote yes.
"She said, 'We're not negotiating,' and she let him hang out there alone for a while. She knew he would come around," said a leadership source.
If she feels burned or insulted, beware. Rep. Steve Lynch (D-Mass.) recently made a dismissive comment that angered Pelosi, whose dad was a machine-pol mayor of Baltimore.
"The speaker doesn't tolerate nonsense," said a lawmaker familiar with the exchange. "I wouldn't want to be Steve Lynch right now."
Since becoming the first woman speaker four years ago, Pelosi has been a favorite whipping girl of the GOP, a Democratic version of Newt Gingrich. Republicans sneer at her liberal politics and designer outfits.
Today, she's smiling and they're fuming.
Kieran Nicholson and Tom McGhee
The Denver Post
03/23/2010 01:00:00 AM MDT
Colorado State Patrol Trooper David Dolan. (The Denver Post)
A uniformed Colorado State Patrol trooper in a marked patrol car was pulled over Monday and arrested on suspicion of drinking and driving.
Douglas County sheriff's deputies stopped 21-year veteran David Dolan, 48, about 7:05 a.m., after numerous motorists reported a State Patrol car driving erratically on northbound Interstate 25 near Castle Rock.
Dolan was handcuffed and booked into Douglas County Jail on suspicion of DUI, DUI per se and prohibited use of weapons.
Booking information is a public record typically available from Douglas County, But information on Dolan was not provided, and a jail official referred questions to a Sheriff's Office spokeswoman, who did not return calls.
Col. James Wolfinbarger, chief of the State Patrol, said he is "disturbed and upset" by the incident. "Anything that tarnishes our badge disturbs me greatly."
Dolan has been placed on unpaid leave pending the outcome of the criminal investigation. The State Patrol's Internal Affairs division also is investigating.
Once the investigations are complete, Dolan will have an administrative hearing that could lead to penalties up to and including termination.
A woman who answered the telephone listed in Dolan's name said, "No comment," and hung up Monday afternoon.
Dolan is assigned to a unit in Colorado Springs, and his duties include investigating the backgrounds of candidates for the Colorado State Patrol Academy in Golden, Wolfinbarger said.
Although Dolan doesn't work at the academy, that is where he said he was headed when he was stopped, Wolfinbarger said.
"I don't know why he was going there," Wolfinbarger said. "He was not on routine patrol."
After receiving reports of a weaving patrol car, the State Patrol called sheriff's dispatchers asking for assistance in "locating the vehicle and checking on the welfare of the driver," according to a media release from the sheriff's office.
A Douglas County deputy spotted the cruiser on westbound C-470 near South Santa Fe Drive and pulled it over near South Platte Canyon Road, the release said.
"After contacting the driver, who was confirmed to be a Colorado State Trooper in full uniform, he was taken into custody for investigation of driving under the influence of alcohol," the release said.
Although State Patrol officers have been arrested before, Wolfinbarger said he has never seen a trooper arrested for driving drunk while on duty.
"I have never seen anything like this," he said. "We have a 75-year history of combating impaired and drunken driving and are deeply committed to eradicating this senseless crime on our roads."
Hungry burglar leaves behind cash, dirty dishes
Monday, March 22, 2010
HILLSDALE – A hungry burglar invaded Matsu Sushi Grill to cook up a chicken dinner, leaving behind no fingerprints for police but leaving restaurant staff with a pile of dirty dishes.
The ravenous culprit was apparently uninterested in the $200 that was left in the cash register.
“He just wanted food, that’s it,” said an incredulous Detective Robert Francaviglia. “He went in and pulled out a plate, got some chicken out of the freezer, got a rice box and fried up the chicken and rice in the frying pan. After he ate, he left.”
The burglar entered the Broadway Avenue restaurant early Saturday morning by breaking an exhaust fan at the rear of the store and climbing in through the hole, said officials. Nobody saw him enter and nothing else was taken besides the food to make the chicken and rice dinner.
A similar incident occurred in Hillsdale last year at the Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant in which someone entered, cooked food and left. “It could be related,” said Francaviglia. “It could be a homeless person looking for food.”
Hillsdale officials noted that the borough has a food pantry for needy residents and the borough nurse is on call for those in need of a hot meal.
Mistress told to pay wronged wife $6,000,000: U.S. jury uses 19th-century adultery law to punish lover
Mail Foreign Service
9:02 AM on 22nd March 2010
When Cynthia Shackelford's marriage fell apart, it wasn't her husband she dragged into court.
Using a little-known American law, she sued his mistress for stealing him away.
The lawsuit did not win back her cheating husband, but it did give her a measure of revenge after a jury ordered the mistress to pay her the equivalent of $6million.
Mrs Shackelford, 60, said she gave up her teaching career to raise the couple's two children and support 62-year-old husband Allan's legal career.
Cynthia Shackleford sued Anne Lundquist, left, for stealing her husband, Allan Shackelford, right away from her
And she insisted they were still in love when 49-year-old college administrator Anne Lundquist came along.
'I really loved him and I really thought he loved me,' she said. I had not a clue that Allan would wander. He kept telling me, "Oh, she's just a friend. There's no affair. I love you".'
In her lawsuit, the jilted wife also claimed her husband began having the affair before they separated in 2005.
Following a two-day trial in Greensboro, North Carolina, the jury sided with Mrs Shackelford, making the state's highest award for alienation of affection, criminal conversation - legal jargon for adultery - and intentionally or recklessly causing severe emotional distress.
North Carolina remains one of a handful of states which allow married partners to sue someone they believe is responsible for wrecking a marriage.
Mrs Shackelford said her husband met Miss Lundquist while providing legal services for the local Guildford College private school.
She said: 'We would like for people to respect the sanctity of marriage. We wanted a number high enough that it would keep other people from going after married spouses.'
Miss Lundquist said she planned to appeal against the 'ludicrous' judgment.
She lives with Mr Shackelford in Aurora, New York, but insisted the couple met after his marriage had ended. She said: 'The decision is not based on reality. I certainly don't have that kind of money nor will I ever.'
Miss Lundquist, now dean of students at Wells College in Aurora, said she was not given enough notice to prepare for the hearing and was not represented.
'I'm so caught off guard by everything,' she added, saying that finding that kind of money was 'hysterical'.
Although the Shackelfords separated five years ago, their divorce has not been finalised. More than 200 'alienation of affection' cases are filed in North Carolina each year.
The legislation existed in many U.S. states in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but has been abolished in all but North Carolina, Hawaii, Illinois, Mississippi, New Mexico and Utah.
Although action does not require proof of extramarital sex, the wronged spouse must show that a love in a marriage was alienated and destroyed by the defendant's 'malicious conduct'.
Mrs Shackelford's lawyer, Will Jordan, admitted that securing the full $6million would be difficult.
But he said: 'I'm hoping we'll collect a substantial sum.
'In addition to just collecting the judgment, there's a certain amount of validation or vindication that goes with having a jury acknowledge that you were done wrong.'
LINK TO PHOTOS
Congress clear historic health care bill, sends it to Obama for his signature
AP Special Correspondent
10:13 PM EST, March 21, 2010
WASHINGTON (AP) — Summoned to success by President Barack Obama, the Democratic-controlled Congress approved historic legislation Sunday night extending health care to tens of millions of uninsured Americans and cracking down on insurance company abuses, a climactic chapter in the century-long quest for near universal coverage.
Widely viewed as dead two months ago, the Senate-passed bill cleared the House on a 219-212 vote. Republicans were unanimous in opposition, joined by 34 dissident Democrats.
Obama watched the vote in the White House's Roosevelt Room with Vice President Joe Biden and about 40 staff aides. When the long sought 216th vote came in — the magic number needed for passage — the room burst into applause and hugs. An exultant president exchanged a high-five with his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel.
A second, smaller measure — making changes in the first — was lined up for passage later in the evening. It would then go to the Senate, where Democratic leaders said they had the votes to pass it.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said the legislation awaiting the president's approval would extend coverage to 32 million Americans who lack it, ban insurers from denying coverage on the basis of pre-existing medical conditions and cut deficits by an estimated $138 billion over a decade. If realized, the expansion of coverage would include 95 percent of all eligible individuals under age 65.
For the first time, most Americans would be required to purchase insurance, and face penalties if they refused. Much of the money in the bill would be devoted to subsidies to help families at incomes of up to $88,000 a year pay their premiums.
Far beyond the political ramifications — a concern the president repeatedly insisted he paid no mind — were the sweeping changes the bill held in store for millions of individuals, the insurance companies that would come under tougher control and the health care providers, many of whom would face higher taxes.
Crowds of protesters outside the Capitol shouted "just vote no" in a futile attempt to stop the inevitable taking place inside a House packed with lawmakers and ringed with spectators in the galleries above.
Across hours of debate, House Democrats predicted the larger of the two bills, costing $940 billion over a decade, would rank with other great social legislation of recent decades.
"We will be joining those who established Social Security, Medicare and now, tonight, health care for all Americans, said Speaker Nancy Pelosi, partner to Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., in the grueling campaign to pass the legislation.
"This is the civil rights act of the 21st century," added Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, the top-ranking black member of the House.
Republicans readily agreed the bill would affect everyone in America, but warned repeatedly of the burden imposed by more than $900 billion in tax increases and Medicare cuts combined.
"We have failed to listen to America," said Rep. John Boehner of Ohio, leader of a party that has vowed to carry the fight into the fall's midterm elections for control of Congress.
The measure would also usher in a significant expansion of Medicaid, the federal-state health care program for the poor. Coverage would be required for incomes up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level, $29,327 a year for a family of four. Childless adults would be covered for the first time, starting in 2014.
The insurance industry, which spent millions on advertising trying to block the bill, would come under new federal regulation. They would be forbidden from placing lifetime dollar limits on policies, from denying coverage to children because of pre-existing conditions and from canceling policies when a policyholder becomes ill.
Parents would be able to keep children up to age 26 on their family insurance plans, three years longer than is now the case.
A new high-risk pool would offer coverage to uninsured people with medical problems until 2014, when the coverage expansion would go into high gear.
The final obstacle to passage was cleared a few hours before the vote, when Obama and Democratic leaders reached a compromise with anti-abortion lawmakers whose rebellion had left the outcome in doubt. The president issued an executive order pledging that no federal funds would be used for elective abortion, satisfying Rep. Bart Stupak of Michigan and a handful of like-minded lawmakers.
A spokesman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops expressed skepticism that the presidential order would satisfy the church's objections.
For the president, the events capped an 18-day stretch in which he traveled to four states and lobbied more than 60 wavering lawmakers in person or by phone to secure passage of his signature domestic issue. According to some who met with him, he warned that the bill's demise could cripple his still-young presidency.
After more than a year of political combat, Democrats piled superlative upon superlative across several hours of House debate.
Rep. Louise Slaughter of New York read a message President Franklin Roosevelt sent Congress in 1939 urging lawmakers to address the needs of those without health care, and said Democrat Harry Truman and Republican Richard Nixon had also sought to broaden insurance coverage.
Republicans attacked the bill without let-up, warning it would harm the economy while mandating a government takeover of the health care system.
"The American people know you can't reduce health care costs by spending $1 trillion or raising taxes by more than one-half trillion dollars. The American people know that you cannot cut Medicare by over one-half trillion dollars without hurting seniors," said Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich.
"And, the American people know that you can't create an entirely new government entitlement program without exploding spending and the deficit."
Obama has said often that presidents of both parties have tried without success to achieve national health insurance, beginning with Theodore Roosevelt early in the 20th century.
The 44th president's quest to succeed where others have failed seemed at a dead end two months ago, when Republicans won a special election for a Massachusetts Senate seat, and with it, the votes to prevent a final vote.
But the White House, Pelosi and Reid soon came up with a rescue plan that required the House to approve the Senate-passed measure despite opposition to many of its provisions, then have both houses pass a fix-it measure incorporating numerous changes.
To pay for the changes, the legislation includes more than $400 billion in higher taxes over a decade, roughly half of it from a new Medicare payroll tax on individuals with incomes over $200,000 and couples over $250,000. A new excise tax on high-cost insurance policies was significantly scaled back in deference to complaints from organized labor.
In addition, the bills cut more than $500 billion from planned payments to hospitals, nursing homes, hospices and other providers that treat Medicare patients. An estimated $200 billion would reduce planned subsidies to insurance companies that offer a private alternative to traditional Medicare.
The insurance industry warned that seniors would face sharply higher premiums as a result, and the Congressional Budget Office said many would return to traditional Medicare as a result.
The subsidies are higher than those for seniors on traditional Medicare, a difference that critics complain is wasteful, but insurance industry officials argue goes into expanded benefits.
Pelosi, gavel in hand, leads Democrats to health care vote amid Tea Party heckling
2:01 PM EDT
March 21, 2010
WASHINGTON (AP) — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says Democrats are voting on the historic health care overhaul as a gesture for the American people.
But as Pelosi emerged from the final caucus meeting before the historic vote, protesters chanted her name and shouted to "kill the bill."
Pelosi led her caucus across the street to the Capitol with a gavel in one hand and the other on the arm of Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, who had been harassed by protesters on Saturday.
Even as they headed into the heated atmosphere of the House chamber, Democrats were scrambling to line up the last of 216 votes required to pass the bill. Some of the holdouts remained concerned that the legislation would permit federal money to be use for elective abortions.
Couple buy neighbor's home at tax sale so he can stay
Couple help neighbor stay in home, then get help to fix their house
From the front row of a public auditorium, Debbie Harrell fixed her eyes on a screen that showed the houses up for auction at the Marion County tax sale.
When the list that included the home behind hers flashed onto the screen, her heart began to pound and her stomach tied in knots. She knew this was the moment that could determine whether her neighbor would get to remain in that house.
Harrell called out the house's auction number, held up her bid card and hoped that no one else would offer more than her $6,000 limit. When the bidding closed a few seconds after she offered the $4,274 minimum, she jumped out of her seat, flailed her arms and exclaimed, "I got it! I got it!"
The room filled with applause.
Harrell's winning bid marked a huge step in her effort to save her neighbor, Mark Reeves, from losing his home. His white-sided Southeastside residence with a leaking roof went up for tax sale after his landlord stopped paying property taxes.
The house was one of about 7,200 properties offered as part of a tax sale that started Thursday and resumes Friday. So far, about 1,100 have sold.
Harrell and her husband, Clint, opted to help Reeves despite their own financial struggles. Now, they must wait a year to give the landlord a chance to reclaim the property before it becomes theirs.
But already, their kindness is being reciprocated.
Friday, a woman who read about their charity in The Indianapolis Star and wanted to remain anonymous called with an offer to send the couple $1,000 for their bid to save the home. A nonprofit group, Indianapolis Neighborhood Housing Partnership, offered to fix the floor in the Harrells' home, which is collapsing in places.
"Sometimes your faith in people gets a little low," Harrell said. "But something like this really raises your spirits. I can't believe there are so many nice people out there."
The Harrells' effort also helped restore Reeves' faith. Harrell said he called her in tears after hearing she had won the bid.
"My friends that I've known for over 30 years -- they knew my problem and they never even offered to help me," Reeves said. "It's hard for me to (understand) that there are people out there like the Harrells. They're not in much better shape than I am."
Harrell, 57, took the money out of her husband's 401(k) retirement account to finance the bid. She is on disability, and he lost his job at a steel company in November.
If they secure the property, the Harrells said, they intend to help Reeves set up an account so he can pay property taxes. They don't plan to charge him rent.
Reeves, who can barely read or write, sold the home in 1994 without full understanding of the transaction and has been paying $125 a month to James Chalfant, who purchased the home and recently has stopped paying property taxes.
Chalfant said he intends to work with Reeves' lawyer to help him get the house back. However, Chalfant would not explain how he could do that.
But he thinks government programs could assist Reeves in making the payment.
Typically, about 70 percent of tax-sale properties are reclaimed within a year, said Cindy Land, administrative deputy with the Marion County treasurer's office. After the last sale, in October 2008, about 65 percent of the properties were reclaimed.
Harrell knows Chalfant could take back the house, but that doesn't worry her. For now, she has accomplished her goal: providing some security that her neighbor has a place to live.
"I'm just glad that Mark's not going to have to live in his van," she said. "The house is a pretty run-down shack, but it's home to him."
A sad story: Mark Reeves explains to neighbor Debbie Harrell how his home ended up on the tax sale list. Harrell and her husband, Clint, are trying to buy their neighbor's house to save him from becoming homeless. - Danese Kenon / The Star
First step: Debbie Harrell plunks down $1,000 to get her paddle for the property tax auction so that she'll have a shot at bidding on the house behind hers. - Danese Kenon / The Star
NEW YORK (AP)
Associated Press Writer
Friday, March 19, 2010
President Barack Obama delivers remarks on health insurance reform during his event at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va, Friday, March 19, 2010.
It was a bold response to skyrocketing health insurance premiums. President Barack Obama would give federal authorities the power to block unreasonable rate hikes.
Yet when Democrats unveiled the final, incarnation of their health care bill this week, the proposal was nowhere to be found.
Ditto with several Republican ideas that Obama had said he wanted to include after a televised bipartisan summit last month, including a plan by Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma to send investigators disguised as patients to hospitals in search of waste, fraud and abuse.
And those "special deals" that Obama railed against and said he wanted to eliminate? With the exception of two of the most notorious — extra Medicaid money for Nebraska and a carve-out for Florida seniors faced with losing certain extra Medicare benefits — they are all still there.
For the White House, these were the latest unfulfilled commitments related to Obama's health care proposal, starting with his campaign promise to let C-SPAN cameras film negotiations over the bill. Obama also backed down with little apparent regret on his support for a new government-run insurance plan as part of the legislation, a liberal priority.
But was it all the president's doing?
In the cases of the insurance rate authority, the Republican ideas and the special deals, it came down to Obama making promises that Congress didn't keep. He can propose whatever he wants, but it's up to Congress to enshrine it into law.
Arguably, the president could have foreseen that outcome, and was making a low-risk p.r. move by floating proposals — dismissed by critics as insubstantial anyway — whose demise he couldn't be blamed for.
While the White House worked hard to trumpet Obama's plans for the rate authority, his embrace of bipartisanship and his opposition to special deals, the administration hardly advertised the lack of follow-through. Understandable, certainly, but perhaps not the new way of doing business that Obama promised to bring to Washington.
Removing the special deals ran into opposition from powerful lawmakers including Sens. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., and Max Baucus, D-Mont. The rate-limiting authority and the Republican ideas were left out of the legislation because the bill is going to be considered under special filibuster-proof Senate rules that prohibit provisions that don't have a budgetary impact, and those ideas don't fit in.
"There are a number of proposals that the president wanted to incorporate into the legislation including additional Republican proposals, but the parliamentarian ruled against allowing those proposals to be included," said White House spokesman Reid Cherlin. "We would like to enact those proposals in separate legislation in the coming months. In the meantime, some important Republican measures remain."
Of the four main Republican ideas Obama endorsed, only one made it into the final bill — a proposal embraced by Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa to bump up payments to primary care physicians under Medicaid. A proposal to expand the use of health savings accounts was rejected out of hand by congressional Democrats, while a plan to increase funding for medical malpractice reform projects was also determined to be undoable under fast-track Senate rules.
Coburn's spokesman, John Hart, complained that Democrats "found time to buy votes with earmarks but couldn't include bipartisan ideas endorsed by President Obama." House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, had dismissed the GOP ideas Obama endorsed as "bread crumbs" sprinkled atop the health bill — and now even most of those bread crumbs are blown away.
At the same time, Baucus got to keep a provision to give Medicare benefits to asbestos-sickened residents of Libby, Mont., and Dodd still has one that could result in a new hospital being built at the University of Connecticut. Both senators argue their special deals aren't really special deals, because the Medicare provision could apply to other places where public health emergencies are declared, and other sites outside of Connecticut could be eligible for the hospital.
Most of the provisions of the health care bill don't kick in until 2014, so Obama still has time to make good on everything he promised — or try to get Congress to do so.
"To hold the president accountable for every single provision he advocates for is simply unreasonable," said Alec Vachon, a health policy consultant and former Republican Capitol Hill aide. "Some things aren't in there because the members of Congress who have the votes don't want it. Some things aren't in there because congressional rules which Republicans will be enforcing won't allow it. But Democrats will have three years to tinker with health reform before universal coverage goes live."
It's official: Marriage DOES make you fat... Men and women twice as likely to be clinically obese after tying the knot
Daily Mail Foreign Service
Last updated at 3:23 AM on 20th March 2010
It is often said that marriage makes you contented. Now scientists have discovered the extent to which that happiness translates into extra pounds around the waist.
Married men are three times as likely to suffer from abdominal obesity - or belly fat - as single men, their report shows.
Married women are twice as likely to have those problems as those who remain unmarried.
The Hellenic Medical Association for Obesity concluded that abdominal obesity was the worst health problem among married couples after conducting a survey of 17,341 people aged between 20 and 70.
Tight squeeze: Abdominal obesity - or belly fat - is the worst problem among married couples
Association president Dimitris Kiortsis joked: 'Next time you are wondering what wedding present to buy a friend, perhaps a slimming course might be a good idea.'
The researchers blamed married couples' expanding waistlines on the amount of time they sit together watching TV and eating. And they claimed that dwindling sex lives cut the number of calories that wedded couples lose with exercise.
As the findings were announced at a conference in Athens yesterday, Professor Kiortsis, an obesity expert, said married couples order takeaways and exercise less often than before.
Unmarried people often spend a lot of time keeping fit and making themselves attractive to find a partner.
'But once they get married they let themselves go,' he added. 'The need to hunt for a partner is reduced.'
But it wasn't all bad news for married couples.
Stress and anxiety is reduced in a good marriage,' said Professor Kiortsis. 'There is less smoking and therefore one's appetite increases.'
Last year, a report estimated that 22 per cent of newlywed women put on weight within a year of the ceremony, with the average gain being a stone-and-a-half.
More than half of those who took part in the survey of 3,000 married women, sponsored by yoghurt-maker Yakult, said they no longer worried about their appearance and weight after their wedding day.
Letter: Let Obama do the job we elected him to do
March 12, 2010 05:30 am
— To the editor:
Columnist Thomas Friedman wrote earlier this year that we wouldn't need any financial stimulus if the American people had confidence in Washington. I have to agree.
President Obama has allowed me to survive almost two years of unemployment. I, like millions of others, happened to be working in an industry — home renovations — that vanished when the economy crashed.
I think Obama is a man with more intelligence, integrity and strength than we've seen in decades. Our representatives need to exhibit the same integrity, strength and intelligence, and give him a chance. If they don't go beyond their individual needs to address the needs of our country, we won't have an environment to leave our children, an educational system, health care or a financial system.
Forget leaving a deficit for them. The deficit is critical to our financial stability; but saying no to everything paralyzes us and we're losing credibility as a nation. As Obama pointed out, he inherited the bulk of that deficit, anyway! How do Republicans have the nerve to act as if he created it?
I'm actually more afraid of our politicians than I am terrorists. If that's the Republican strategy, which it appears to be, there are millions of people whose lives are being destroyed by it, and that role model for our children will do more damage than any deficit ever will.
Obama is attempting to bring an intelligent, collaborative approach to a shark tank. Competition and self-interest are valued in the current political arena, and collaboration, kindness and working for the general good are considered signs of weakness.
The president's not playing a game to win, he's trying to tap the "brain trust" we've sent to Washington and get something done. I hope they can start providing some intelligent alternatives, and let him do it.
Walter and Rose Martin's address was plugged in as a computer test in 2002 and police didn't try to wipe it out of their system until 2007.
Mayor Bloomberg apologized Friday morning to the elderly couple in Brooklyn that the NYPD mistakenly visited more than 50 times in search of criminals.
"I apologized to the people. I'm sorry that they were bothered," Bloomberg said on his weekly radio show. "It's a shame it happened."
The Daily News reported this week that the Marine Park home of Walter and Rose Martin was repeatedly visited by detectives because of a computer glitch tied to the address.
The couple's address was plugged in as a computer test in 2002 and police didn't try to wipe it out of their system until 2007 when the Martin's complained about the unwanted door knocking.
But the law enforcement visits continued, leaving 83-year-old Walter and 82-year-old Rose weary and frightened.
After the News highlighted their plight, cops realized not every file bearing their address was purged from computers. Bloomberg said the problem has been fixed.
"You'd think somebody would have caught it before," Bloomberg said. "It got fixed. Sometimes things happen and it's a shame."
He added, "The Police Department certainly didn't do it deliberately. And we are sorry they got bothered. I feel it, you feel it, (Police Commissioner) Kelly feels it, we all feel it. It's a shame it happened."
Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/ny_crime/2010/03/19/2010-03-19_bloomberg_apologizes_to_couple_mistakenly_raided_by_nypd_over_50_times.html#ixzz0igAsJOV1
certainly can still advise her to put her shirt on ... based on other factors, such as children in the area," Huntley said.
Police received at least four calls about the topless gardener. Dispatchers began telling callers there was nothing they could do as long as the woman's thong stayed on, Huntley said.
"We have done what we can within the limits of the law as it stands now," Huntley said.
The Boulder City Council, which is considering expanding its anti-nudity law, recently removed a proposal that would have made showing the female nipple in public a municipal offense.
Huntley said the concerns among neighbors point to the need for such a code.
"These are some of the issues we are attempting to address with the proposal of a nudity ordinance," she said.
Tending to her front lawn, Catharine Pierce declined to answer questions. Her husband, however, said they weren't doing anything wrong.
"You don't see us trying to lure children over here," Robert Pierce said. "We stay within the scope of the law."
Asked why his wife works outside nearly nude, he said that's their way of worshipping.
Boulder Housing Partners, which owns the couple's house, threatened to evict the couple last year, saying they were violating the terms of their lease by creating a nuisance with their nudity.
The appearance drew mixed reactions Wednesday.
Jessica Mulen, a nanny walking three young children along the street, said, "I would assume their parents would have a problem with that" and headed the other direction.
Bill Hanson, a Boulder resident who brought his children to a busy park near the Pierce home, said he first saw the woman with pasties on last year.
"I saw a gal with no top on," he said. "I did a double-take."
Hanson said the scene was a little shocking, but "she seemed kind of casual about it."
Karon Dickinson, who was also visiting the park, said she was OK with the woman's choice.
"I could care less if someone wants to sit out there like that," she said.
She said she didn't know being topless in Boulder is legal, and she might take a cue from the gardener.
"I might do it in my backyard," she said.
Burglar busted after using company's computer
Story Updated: Mar 18, 2010 at 12:43 PM PDT
ENNEWICK, Wash. (AP) - A burglar who spent about five hours on a store's computer after breaking into the business gave police all the clues they needed to track him down.
Investigators say the 17-year-old logged into his MySpace account while at Bella Office Furniture and that made it easy for them to find him.
He also spent time looking at pornography and trying to sell stolen items, all while using the business' computer.
He was arrested Tuesday and charged with first degree burglary. Kennewick police say he helped officers recover a cell phone stolen in the break-in.
Mom of octuplets may lose home to foreclosure
The Associated Press
Updated: 03/19/2010 12:09:08 PM PDT
Nadya Suleman, the mother of octuplets born earlier this year, walks outside her new house for a video crew in La Habra on March 10, 2009. 'Octo-mom' Nadya Suleman will be moving to the larger house to raise her newborns and six other children. She re-enacted the scene three times for the crew.
(ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
LA HABRA — Octuplets mom Nadya Suleman could be kicked out of her Southern California home.
Mortgage holder Amer Haddadin says he is starting foreclosure proceedings on the $565,000 La Habra residence because the family hasn't kept up the payments.
His friend and adviser, Ramsey Masso, said Friday that Haddadin signed over the home to Suleman's father last year.
Ed Suleman, who leased the home to his daughter, was supposed to pay about $4,000 a month and a final balloon payment of $450,000 that was due earlier this month.
Masso says the family was late on recent payments and also missed the balloon payment.
Calls to the Suleman's attorney, Jeff Czech, weren't immediately returned.
Five-Year-Old Takes Mum's 4x4 For Joyride
11:15am UK, Friday March 19, 2010
Sky News Online
A five-year-old boy took his mother's 4x4 on a four-mile joyride that included a dual carriageway, despite being too short to reach the pedals.
Thomas Chatfield could barely see over the dashboard of the automatic Mitsubishi Shogun as he trundled along at 10mph.
Motorists called 999 and some tried to get him to pull over but he still managed to weave along country lanes, hit two parked vehicles and clip a passing motorist before coming to halt when he went into a wall.
Thomas took the keys from mum Jessica's handbag as she slept at the family home in Tangmere, West Sussex.
"He's a clever boy. He's seen his mum drive loads of times and must have tried to copy her," a family friend told the Daily Mirror.
Neighbour Nathan Parkinson, aged 22, told how he and a van driver friend chased after the Shogun: "I was walking down the road and saw this Shogun.
"I heard a woman shouting behind me that a little boy was driving. I could just see a pair of tiny eyes above the dashboard.
Jails across Florida record every inmate phone call.
Inmates know it: There's a warning at the beginning of every call.
Shortly after being busted last week on drug trafficking charges, Franco Mayernik called his mother from the Osceloa County jail -- and talked his way into another set of drug charges.
Mayernik, a 300-pound convicted robber with tattoos of guns and "White Boy" on his tummy, apparently didn't pay attention to the recorded warning, reports the Orlando Sentinel.
"I listened to the phone conversation and heard his mother ask him if he left anything at Spank's house," a detective wrote in his arrest report, mentioning a St. Cloud residence where Mayernik had been arrested. "Franco told his mother he left two ounces of powder in the cushion on the couch."
Deputies arrived at Spank's place and asked the residents for permission to search the house. They agreed, but one of the residents first wanted to remove her dog from a bedroom, the report stated.
A detective looked inside the bedroom and moticed the resident removing two bags of cocaine from a shoe.
The "snowshoes" were holding 57 grams of cocaine and 2 grams of oxycodone.
The recovery of the cocaine added a cocaine trafficking charge to Mayernik's list of 15 felony and misdemeanors charges from last week.
Photo: Franco Mayernik / Florida Department of Corrections
Five-year-old UAE residents to take driving lessons
RIA Novosti. Igor Zarembo |
Five-year-old children in the United Arab Emirates will be able to take driving lessons in a new Traffic City, the National newspaper said.
The police-monitored village will give children and teenagers the opportunity to drive real cars on real roads.
Children from five to 12 will be able to drive cars that run on batteries at a speed of 15km/h. Youngsters aged 13 to 17 will have cars that run on petrol and can travel up to 20km/h.
When a driver commits an offence, he or she will receive a police radio message.
"This will teach drivers to commit to the rules at a young age. They will learn to wear seat belts and listen to police instructions," Major Ahmed al Niyadi, head of media and marketing for the Abu Dhabi traffic police, told the paper.
ABU DHABI, March 17 (RIA Novosti)
Black people must leave, NJ Walmart announcer says
Blacks must leave store, NJ Walmart announcer says, upsetting customers; company investigates
Virginia Tinsley, of Washington Township, N.J., answers a question Wednesday, March 17, 2010, outside a Wal Mart store in Washington Township, N.J., where she and others complained Sunday about comments that came over the store's public address system. Wal-Mart officials are reviewing security tapes after an announcement was made for "all black people" to leave the southern New Jersey store. Shortly before 7 p.m. Sunday, a male voice came over the public-address system at the Route 42 store in Washington Township and calmly announced: "Attention Wal-Mart customers: All black people leave the store now." Management later apologized. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Associated Press Writer
Thursday March 18, 2010, 1:07 am EDT
WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP, N.J. (AP) -- A Walmart store announcement ordering black people to leave brought chagrin and apologies Wednesday from leaders of the company, which has built a fragile trust among minority communities.
A male voice came over the public-address system Sunday evening at a store in Washington Township, in southern New Jersey, and calmly announced: "Attention, Walmart customers: All black people, leave the store now."
Shoppers in the store at the time said a manager quickly got on the public-address system and apologized for the remark. And while it was unclear whether a rogue patron or an employee was responsible for the comment, many customers expressed their anger to store management.
"I want to know why such statements are being made, because it flies in the face of what we teach our children about tolerance for all," said Sheila Ellington, who was in the store at the time with a friend. "If this was meant to be a prank, there's only one person laughing, and it's not either one of us."
Ellington, of Monroe, and her friend Patricia Covington said they plan to boycott the retailer until they're assured the issue has been addressed so it doesn't happen again.
The pair said they were stunned when they heard the announcement and initially believed they had misheard it. But once the words sank in, they grew angry.
"I depended on Walmart for all my needs, because the store has pretty much everything you could want," Covington said. "But until this issue is addressed in a way I'm comfortable with, I can't walk through those doors again."
Officials with Wal-Mart Stores Inc., based in Bentonville, Ark., said that the announcement was "unacceptable" and that they're trying to determine who made it and how it happened.
"We are just as appalled by this incident as our customers," the company said in a statement. "Whoever did this is just wrong and acted in an inappropriate manner. Clearly, this is completely unacceptable to us and to our customers."
This is not the first time the retailer has faced such problems.
There have been several past instances of black customers claiming they were treated unfairly at Walmart stores, and the company faced lawsuits alleging that women were passed over in favor of men for pay raises and promotions.
In February 2009, the retailer paid $17.5 million to settle a class action lawsuit alleging racial discrimination in its hiring of truck drivers.
And the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued the company in May 2009, claiming some Hispanic employees at a Sam's Club subsidiary in California were subjected to a hostile work environment. That suit alleges managers failed to stop repeated verbal harassment, including the use of derogatory words, against employees of Mexican descent.
However, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has said the company has worked hard in recent years to show it cares about diversity.
Bill Mitchell, a former Walmart employee who was shopping Wednesday at the store, said that he was saddened to hear about the announcement but that "as a black man, I've heard worse things."
As customer Sharon Osbourne, of Williamstown, left the store Wednesday, she called the announcement "appalling, stupid and sad."
Drunk, high dad leaves baby in oven overnight, police say
March 16, 2010 9:58 p.m. EDT
(CNN) -- A Kentucky man high on marijuana and drunk on whiskey put his 5-week-old son in the oven Sunday and left him there overnight, police said.
The oven door was slightly ajar, and the oven was not turned on.
After smoking marijuana at the restaurant where he works as a cook, Larry Long, 33, returned home to share a fifth of whiskey with the baby's mother, Brandy Hatton, McCracken County Sheriff Jon Hayden said in a statement.
Hatton had four or five shots and went to bed while Long finished the bottle, Hayden said.
At 5:30 the next morning, Hatton awoke to the sound of the baby's cries coming from the oven. He had been in it for several hours, police said.
Emergency crews responding to the scene transported the infant to a local hospital, where he was found to be unharmed.
The incident was reported to authorities by a psychiatric facility that Long turned to when he learned what he had done, officials said.
"He actually called a mental health crisis line immediately thereafter and told them that he had done this. And they contacted us," Hayden said.
Police arrested Long and charged him with first degree wanton endangerment. He is being held on bail of $10,000.
Long blamed his actions on the marijuana, which he believes was laced with a hallucinatory agent, officials said.
Authorities have removed the baby from its mother's care and awarded emergency custody to members of her family.
Judge marries defendant to alleged victim
Balto. County jurist dismisses case, is reassigned
March 18, 2010
A Baltimore County judge was reassigned Wednesday after he presided over the marriage between a man being prosecuted for domestic violence and the alleged victim - a marriage that led to the man's acquittal.
Baltimore County District Judge G. Darrell Russell Jr. took the unusual step last week of allowing the defendant to leave court to obtain a marriage license and married the couple later in his chambers. About 20 minutes later, his new wife invoked marital privilege so she would not be required to testify against her husband.
The case came to an end with the judge finding the defendant not guilty, saying, "I found you not guilty, so I can't sentence you as a defendant in any crimes, but earlier today, I sentenced you to life married to her."
WBAL-TV was the first to report the judge's actions Tuesday.
Chief Judge Ben C. Clyburn reassigned Russell to work in his chamber reviewing motions for civil cases, said Angelita Plemmer, the court's spokeswoman. Plemmer declined to comment on Russell's actions or on whether Russell, who has been on the bench since 1990, has been disciplined previously.
Michaele Cohen, executive director of the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence, said she was "appalled" by the judge's conduct, but added that she was pleased that Clyburn "took very swift and appropriate action in this case."
"For [Russell] to intervene in this way, and to basically provide, in a sense, a defense for this man ... it's just so unbelievable," Cohen said. "How could this case be fairly prosecuted when the judge is offering the respondent a way to avoid prosecution?"
Carole Alexander, a clinical instructor at the University of Maryland's School of Social Work and a former executive director of the House of Ruth, a domestic violence shelter, said the disciplinary action against Russell should go further.
Alexander also questioned why the judge apparently ignored evidence in the case - the police report detailing the woman's injuries and her initial statement. Although the victim refused to testify against her alleged attacker - a common scenario in domestic violence cases - judges don't necessarily need victim testimony at trial for a conviction, Alexander said.
"[Russell], with intent, behaved in a way to potentially put this victim at far greater risk, and he did that as a member of the bar and an officer of the court," said Alexander. "And it's absolutely inappropriate for him to in any way collaborate with this alleged perpetrator. It's bizarre. It's dangerous. And I think he should be removed from the bench."
The reassignment came after a report on WBAL-TV chronicling the court hearing March 10 in Baltimore County District Court in Essex. According to the report, Frederick D. Wood, 29, of Middle River appeared in court to face a second-degree assault charge stemming from an alleged incident between Wood and his fiancee. Wood pleaded not guilty.
Police were called to Wood's home in the first block of S. Hawthorne Road on Nov. 29, and his fiancee told police that he had hit her in the face, kicked her and banged her head against a wall. The officer noted, according to the news report, that the woman had a bloody nose.In court last week, Wood's lawyer asked Russell for a postponement to allow Wood and the woman to get married, so that the victim could invoke marital privilege.
"He's asking for a postponement so he can go out and get married, come back and resolve the case," said the defense attorney. "His wife will then invoke her privilege."
Russell replied, "Well, why don't I just marry them today in court?"
Wood obtained a marriage license late that morning, and two hours later, the judge married Wood and the woman in his office.
Wood's criminal case then resumed with the judge saying, "I just married them - performed the ceremony - back in my chambers."
Russell, Wood and Wood's attorney, who is identified in online court records as a public defender, could not be reached for comment Wednesday night. Thelma J. Triplin, Baltimore County district public defender, did not respond to a call seeking comment late Wednesday.
A representative from the Maryland Commission on Judicial Disabilities, which investigates allegations of judge misconduct, also could not be reached for comment late Wednesday.
Leo Ryan, deputy Baltimore County state's attorney, said that although he had not read or listened to a transcript of the hearing, the news report "confirms what our prosecutor told us."
Ryan declined to comment specifically on the judge's actions, but he said, "We take instances of domestic violence very, very seriously, and we're very concerned any time we aren't able to fully prosecute."Russell, who has been an associate judge of the District Court in Baltimore County since 1990, was endorsed by the Women's Legislative Caucus for a seat on the Circuit Court bench in 1999. The governor at the time, Parris N. Glendening, appointed someone else.
The next year, Russell was also an unsuccessful candidate for a seat on the Circuit Court.
In 2000, according to an article in The Baltimore Sun, Russell sentenced a Dundalk carpenter to five years in prison for launching into a profanity-laced tirade after the judge ordered him to pay his mother $120 restitution. Triplin, the public defender, filed a petition arguing that Russell's sentence was illegal. A second judge agreed and released the man from jail.
LINK TO PHOTO AND FOLLOW-UP STORY
Who Could Eat All This?
Joseph De Avila
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
The chains with free food prizes and the people (600,000!) who want them.
Next month, Denny's will pick the winners of its "Grand Slam for a Year" promotion. Each can order 52 servings of a Denny's Grand Slam breakfast, or two eggs, two strips of bacon, two sausage links and two pancakes. That's a stack of pancakes four feet high, with 17,680 calories, not counting the syrup.
Denny's Corp. hopes the contest brings more customers through the door, especially since people can't necessarily eat this much themselves and often bring along their friends. "Consumers still respond to free," says John Dillon, the company's vice president of marketing.
Doughnuts, popcorn chicken and foot-long sandwiches are free for the taking, too. Among the chains with giveaway contests and other promotions: Subway, Chick-fil-A Inc., Krispy Kreme Doughnuts Inc. and KFC Corp.
Giveaways are an inexpensive way for companies to stretch their marketing dollars during the recession. Contestants also tend to brag about the sport of entering free food contests, something that's easier than ever with social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. That spreads the restaurants' marketing message even further.
Out of the 600,000 people who entered the Denny's contest, 450,000 opted to join the Denny's Rewards program, which regularly emails updates on new menu items and specials. Denny's bets these emails will draw more loyal customers to its 1,545 restaurants, Mr. Dillon says.
Jesse Martin camped out overnight this month outside a San Marcos, Texas, Chick-fil-A for a chance to win a year's worth of chicken sandwiches. The Atlanta-based fast-food chain gives away free meals for a year to the first 100 customers at new stores' grand openings. So far, Mr. Martin, a 34-year-old college pastor from Austin, Texas, has been to five Chick-fil-A grand openings and won at four of them.
Chicken, More Chicken
What the chain calls a year's supply, or about $300 in store credits, lasts about two or three months in the hands of Mr. Martin. "I eat there sometimes two or three times a week. Sometimes I eat there three times a day and eat free all day," he says. He typically orders the chain's classic chicken sandwich and nuggets. Mr. Martin shares his winnings with friends and with his 9-year-old son Josiah and 6-year-old daughter Kelli.
Even when he doesn't have free gift certificates, he typically eats at Chick-fil-A once or twice a week either by himself or with others. In May, he plans on taking his wife to the next grand opening in a nearby town so she can get her own gift certificates for the family to share. "I'm a raving, craving fan," says Mr. Martin, adding that Chick-fil-A has been his favorite fast-food chain since he was 10.
A Chick-fil-A spokeswoman declined to comment.
The public and governmental pressure on restaurant chains to make their menus healthier and encourage adults to stay in the 2,000-daily-calorie range hasn't appeared to dampen the food giveaways.
Free-food offers first gained in popularity during the 1970s, when America was hit hard economically by the energy crisis, says Burt Flickinger III, managing director of consulting firm Strategic Resource Group. "The worst of times economically are the best of times for establishments offering something free," he adds.
ShopRite grocery stores, which are members of Wakefern Food Corp., a Keasbey, N.J.-based cooperative, began offering buy-one-get-one-free offers in 1979, a spokeswoman says. In the early 1980s, the company started giving away free turkeys for Thanksgiving and free hams for Easter. Later restaurants began offering all-you-can-drink beverages and then all-you-can-eat buffets, Mr. Flickinger says.
Subway in February announced a food giveaway to promote its "Five Dollar Footlong" sandwich. In it, 71 winners will win free sandwiches for a year, amounting to a $260 gift card. Subway was able to add 400,000 customers to its marketing database with the promotion, says Tony Pace, the company's chief marketing officer.
Giving away free food for a year to 100 people at a restaurant opening costs a national fast-food chain at least $30,000 per opening, says Lori Walderich, principal of IdeaStudio, a marketing company specializing in chain-restaurant marketing and promotion. This includes food costs, security, advertising and other expenses. "It's an inexpensive way to build customer loyalty," she says.
Denny's, based in Spartanburg, S.C., says that its Grand-Slam-for-a-year prizes are worth about $311 per customer, and that winners are selected at random by a computer.
Fighting for Stomachs
"Our customers are looking to stretch their dollar as much as it can go," says Mr. Dillon, the marketing executive. The competitive landscape has become more cutthroat during the recession. "We are each fighting for a share of the stomach."
An estimated 30% to 40% of free-food coupons are redeemed, says Mr. Flickinger. By contrast, just 1.5% to 2% of coupons offering discounts are used.
And winners rarely dine alone -- they're likely to bring friends who maybe have never dined at the restaurant or who may pay for their own meal, says Stowe Shoemaker, associate dean of research at the Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management at the University of Houston.
Donna Feild has just $100 remaining of the $1,000 in free meals she won by entering an online contest at KFC Corp. last year. The pharmacist from Brush Prairie, Wash., expects to keep going to KFC after her winnings are up. Her teenage sons have developed a taste for KFC's popcorn chicken and chicken strips. "We've gotten in the habit. Teenagers, they don't tend to change, they want the same thing over and over," Ms. Feild, 49, says.
KFC, a subsidiary of Yum Brands Inc., runs promotions like the one Ms. Feild won, which also included a trip to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., two or three times a year, says Laurie Schalow, a KFC spokeswoman. The chain typically uses a year's worth of free food to bring in customers to promote a new product. Last Mother's Day, the company sponsored a sweepstakes to promote its new grilled chicken, for example.
Last year, Ryan Leer won a video contest sponsored by sandwich-maker Quiznos. For creating a clip that features a fake rocket-launcher shooting the chain's "Toasty Torpedo" sandwiches, Mr. Leer won $10,000 and a year's worth of sandwiches. Quiznos sent customers to its Web site so they could vote on winning videos, giving them valuable exposure in return.
This video contest helped add about 68,000 new customers to Quiznos marketing database. "That's the best way to advertise," says Trey Hall, chief marketing officer for Quiznos.
While Mr. Leer entered the video contest for the cash, the year's supply of sandwiches -- actually $260 worth of gift certificates -- was a nice bonus, he says. The 23-year-old video-production major at the University of Wisconsin-Superior and his friends made about 40 trips to the sandwich shop in six months. "It is supposed to be a year supply, but that went pretty quick," he says. "I have been there a couple times since with my own money, so they did their job."
Joel Levinson, 29, from Los Angeles was a runner-up behind Mr. Leer. For coming in second, he won a year's supply of Quiznos sandwiches. For his video, Mr. Levinson went to New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Atlanta and compared Quiznos sandwiches to the skyscrapers.
Despite making a video about Quiznos and winning a year's worth of free sandwiches, Mr. Levinson has yet to cash in a single gift certificate. "I'm trying to move away from fast food" and eat more organic food at home, he says.
Cold intruder gets into bed with sleeping resident
Wednesday March 17, 2010
A Mount Washington man was sleeping in his apartment early this morning when he felt someone get into bed with him.
Figuring it was his girlfriend, he called out her name.
A deep male voice replied, "No it's not."
The unidentified resident jumped out of bed and called 911 as he held the intruder at bay with an aluminum baseball bat.
Police arriving around 5:30 a.m. found doors to the apartment building and the victim's unit had been forced open.
They took Michael Karanja Kamau, 33, of Cranberry, into custody. The suspect told them he was cold and wanted to get inside to get warm.
Police, in a news release, said Mr. Kamau was intoxicated but not to the point that he didn't understand what was going on.
Woman arrested after texting Drug Task agent
March 16, 2010
Mindy Lynn Neugebauer, 26, of Mangum, was been arrested after a Drug Task agent received a text from her about drugs.
According to reports, agent Chris Counts of the Distirct III Drug Task Force received a text message that said, “if you want a hit of this stuff (reference to illegal narcotics) before it is all gone, you better get over here.” He texted back asking the address and got an answer. Counts checked the utility registration and found it to belong to Neugebauer.
Officers went to the address and told Neugebauer about the text message, and she said she thought she had sent the message to a friend. She said the hits she was talking about were from a blunt marijuana rolled inside a cigar, and that was all she had in the residence.
She allowed officers to search the house where they found a loaded .22 caliber pistol in the bathroom closet, and a small plastic sack containing suspected cocaine uner her mattress. A field test determinied the presence of cocaine from the powder.
The evidence was submitted to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation laboratory for further testing.
A felony warrant was issued for Neugebauer on charges of possession of a controlled substance and unlawful possession of a controlled drug with the intent to distribute. Bond was set at $25,000.
Dallas police mistakenly send 123 bags of illegal drugs to store
7:33 AM CDT on Wednesday, March 17, 2010
The Dallas Morning News
At the Dallas CityStore, customers can find affordable furniture, bikes, electronics and other merchandise from the police property room and other city departments.
But a city employee was recently surprised to stumble upon a different product: 123 bags of illegal drugs mistakenly shipped over in a file cabinet by the Dallas Police Department Property Unit.
"It was a terrible oversight," said Sgt. Warren Mitchell, a department spokesman. "We're going to see where we went wrong and try to fix that problem."
The discovery last week came before the cabinet was moved from a back storage room of the store at 3131 Irving Blvd. Police say the public never came in contact with the heroin, cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine.
"The property room immediately went over there and retrieved a file cabinet of the drugs, and they weighed each bag and each bag weighed the same that was listed on there," Mitchell said.
"Every seal was still sealed. They did not appear to be tampered with and they put them back in the vault" in the property room.
The case was referred to the Police Department's internal affairs division, and the people responsible could face discipline.
The mistake apparently happened in January as employees in the police property room were cleaning out file cabinets used to store drugs from criminal cases.
Officials were making room to build shelves, and the empty cabinets were sent to the CityStore.
The bags were connected to cases dating between 1994 and 2005, and police say it's unlikely any of those cases are still pending.
This is not the first sign of trouble for the Dallas police property room.
A 2008 city audit found that it was disorganized and lacked proper climate control and security.
Department officials largely agreed with those findings.
They said at the time that the division was understaffed, overworked and struggling in an aging facility with flooding and electrical problems.
Jennifer Mercado allegedly swipes fellow juror's credit cards - during trial of credit card thief!BY Brendan Brosh and Kerry Burke
Originally Published:Tuesday, March 16th 2010, 11:47 PM
Florescu for NewsJennifer Mercado of the Bronx hides her face. She used the credit cards of fellow juror John Postrk (inset) for a $500 shopping spree.
Chu for News
Jennifer Mercado is accused of swiping a fellow juror's American Express card and using it at to buy four pairs of shoes, including Nike Air Jordans.
There was more than one criminal in this courtroom.
The Bronx trial of an accused credit card thief was thrown into turmoil when a juror's plastic was stolen and used for a shopping spree - allegedly by another juror!
Jennifer Mercado, 20, went from sitting in judgment to sitting in a cell after she brazenly waltzed in from lunch breaks loaded down with bags.
The prosecutor of the trial - which also involved a stolen credit card - helped nail her by reviewing the store's security video.
Mercado doesn't deny she used fellow juror John Postrk's American Express card to buy more than $500 worth of loot, but she apparently didn't learn much about reasonable doubt while doing her civic duty.
"The guy did give me permission to use his credit card," she told the Daily News.
Asked why Postrk would do that, Mercado came up with an alibi worthy of "Law & Order."
"He came on to me," she said. "It's a he-said, she-said situation. In court, they will find out he's lying."
Postrk, 49, who works for the Children's Aid Society, said prosecutors asked him not to talk about the case.
He and Mercado were sitting on the trial of Warren Stewart, arrested in 2006 for burglary, grand larceny and possessing a stolen credit card.
On March 8, Postrk's American Express cards and MetroCard were swiped from his coat, court documents charge.
That day, and the next two days, his card was used at local stores during jurors' lunch hour.
When Postrk reported the theft to the judge on March 10, he already had a suspect in mind because the charges on his American Express account came from stores where Mercado had been shopping.
"It's the person that came back with the baggage," Postrk told Judge Barbara Newman.
He noted that a court officer commented on Mercado's bags.
"As we were leaving one of the court officers mentioned, 'Oh, that's a really nice bag,' " Postrk said. "And I just happened to look. And she did a double-take back, like I scared her."
Assistant District Attorney Jacob Kaplan, who was prosecuting Stewart, investigated Postrk's claims during a recess.
With another prosecutor and investigator, he went to stores across from the Bronx Hall of Justice and viewed videos of a woman who appeared to be Mercado using Postrk's card, court transcripts say.
Twenty minutes later, Mercado came back to one of the stores and tried to make a purchase. A manager asked her for ID and she apparently got spooked.
"She pulled out what [the manager] believed to be another American Express card in what he believed was John Postrk's name," Kaplan told the judge.
"And when he turned around, she dropped the credit card and walked out of the store."
At the Jeans Plus shop, Mercado made quite an impression, buying four pairs of shoes, including a pair of Nike Air Jordans.
"She was talking nice to me, asking for a discount," manager Jason Ayoub said.
Mercado was arrested March 12 and charged with grand larceny, stolen property, identity theft and unlawful use of a credit card. She faces four years.
Her lawyer declined comment.
Mercado was removed from the Stewart case but Postrk stayed. The jury acquitted Stewart of having a stolen credit card, but convicted him of burglary.
Stewart's lawyer, Soraya Hurtado, asked for a mistrial because of the incident but was denied.
The district attorney's office declined to comment, but word of the case spread quickly.
"You've got to be really stupid to do that in front of a judge, court officers, law enforcement and all the cameras in this building," said one courthouse employee.
Hawaii considering law to ignore Obama 'birthers'
Associated Press Writer
Wed Mar 17, 2:48 am ET
HONOLULU – Birthers beware: Hawaii may start ignoring your repeated requests for proof that President Barack Obama was born here.
As the state continues to receive e-mails seeking Obama's birth certificate, the state House Judiciary Committee heard a bill Tuesday permitting government officials to ignore people who won't give up.
"Sometimes we may be dealing with a cohort of people who believe lack of evidence is evidence of a conspiracy," said Lorrin Kim, chief of the Hawaii Department of Health's Office of Planning, Policy and Program Development.
So-called "birthers" claim Obama is ineligible to be president because, they argue, he was actually born outside the United States, and therefore doesn't meet a constitutional requirement for being president.
Hawaii Health Director Dr. Chiyome Fukino issued statements last year and in October 2008 saying that she's seen vital records that prove Obama is a natural-born American citizen.
But the state still gets between 10 and 20 e-mails seeking verification of Obama's birth each week, most of them from outside Hawaii, Kim said Tuesday.
A few of these requesters continue to pepper the Health Department with the same letters seeking the same information, even after they're told state law bars release of a certified birth certificate to anyone who does not have a tangible interest. Responding wastes time and money, Kim said.
Both Fukino and the state registrar of vital statistics have verified that the Health Department holds Obama's original birth certificate.
The issue coincides with Sunshine Week, when news organizations promote open government and freedom of information.
"Do we really want to be known internationally as the Legislature that blocked any inquiries into where President Obama was born?" asked Rep. Cynthia Thielen, R-Kaneohe-Kailua. "When people want to get more information, the way to fuel that fire is to say, 'We're now going to draw down a veil of secrecy.'"
Nobody at the hearing questioned the fact that the president was born in Hawaii.
Attorney Peter Fritz asked why the state would pass a law punishing repetitive requests for open records. Instead, the state could simply say it would only answer each person's question once.
If the measure passed, the state Office of Information Practices could declare an individual a "vexatious requester" and restrict rights to government records for two years.
The committee will schedule a vote on the measure, said Chairman Jon Riki Karamatsu, D-Waipahu-Waikele.
The measure is SB2937.
On the Net:
Hawaii Legislature, http://capitol.hawaii.gov/
Toyota Doubts Runaway Prius Driver's Story
Tuesday March 16, 2010
Sky News Online
Toyota says it has found no evidence to support a driver's claim that the accelerator pedal on his Prius jammed at 94mph, sparking a dramatic police chase.
The carmaker said its technicians found the car's accelerator pedal and back-up safety system were working correctly on the 2009 gas-electric hybrid vehicle.
A Toyota spokesman said 61-year-old James Sikes' account of racing out of control on a motorway in San Diego, California, did not correspond with a series of tests.
"We have no opinion on his account, what he's been saying, other than that the scenario is not consistent with the technical findings," Mike Michels said.
US safety investigators have also carried out separate tests but have failed to recreate the sudden, unintended acceleration that Mr Sikes said he encountered.
"We would caution people that our work continues and that we may never know exactly what happened with this car," said the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
The highway patrol said the initial findings of Toyota and NHTSA did not constitute sufficient grounds to re-open an inquiry into the incident.
We're not saying Mr Sikes is wrong or that he lied, we're saying that questions have arisen in the investigation.
Kurt Bardella, speaking about the US government's report into the incident
"Up until now, they've presented no physical evidence that's like a smoking gun to disprove Mr Sikes' statement," said spokesman Brian Pennings.
"We have to take Mr Sikes at his word until there's evidence to discount his statement."
Mr Pennings said that observations of the highway patrol officer who came to Mr Sikes' aid supported his claim.
When the state trooper caught up with Mr Sikes' Prius on the motorway, the car was travelling at break-neck speed with the smell of burning brakes in the air.
Mr Pennings added that even when Mr Sikes managed to slow the car by following the officer's instructions to apply the footbrakes and emergency brake, the driver appeared to be "literally standing on the brakes".
But Toyota said it had found no evidence that Mr Sikes had been applying the brake forcefully and said he should have been able to stop the Prius by doing so, or by shifting into neutral or turning off the electronic power switch.
The drama on March 8 added to the headaches for Toyota which has been struggling to reassure the public that it is dealing with safety issues that sparked a recall of 8.5 million vehicles.
Grill ripped from man's teeth at Tenn. jail
Lawyers reach $95,000 settlement deal; sheriff's lieutenant suspended
In an undated handout photo provided by attorney David Raybin, Anthony McCoy shows the damage done to his teeth after a sheriff's lieutenant at the Davidson County, Tenn. Jail allegedly ripped the gold grill off his teeth. (AP Photo/ via David Raybin)
4:55 p.m. ET, 3/16/10
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - When a Tennessee jailer ripped the gold grill from a new inmate's teeth two days before Thanksgiving last year, it left the 31-year-old man in excruciating pain and left taxpayers on the hook for nearly $100,000 in damages.
Anthony McCoy spat out blood and teeth in a trash can and was in agony for more than a week after Davidson County Sheriff's Lt. Tanya Mayhew reached into his mouth and yanked out the grill, along with the cement attached to his teeth, said his lawyer, David Raybin.
The forced extraction pulled the enamel off McCoy's front teeth and left him with a damaged mouth that still isn't fixed, Raybin said.
City lawyers were planning Tuesday night to ask the Nashville Metro Council to approve a $95,000 settlement to avoid a lawsuit over the incident.
It happened Nov. 24, a day after McCoy was admitted to the Metro Jail on charges of contempt of court for failure to pay child support, two counts of violation of an order of protection and harassment.
When a guard asked McCoy to remove his grill while he was being processed in the jail, he said it was permanently cemented to his teeth years earlier.
$10,000 damage to teeth
In a legal analysis, the Metro Council's office acknowledges that Mayhew then reached into McCoy's mouth and ripped off the grill, causing an estimated $10,000 worth of damage to McCoy's teeth.
McCoy made repeated but futile requests for medical treatment," Raybin said.
"There was no urgency at all," Raybin said of the Metro Jail officials and Correct Care Solutions, the company that Nashville contracts with to provide inmate medical care. "This guy was in agony for over a week and a half." The inmate's claim is based on pain and suffering, as well as the dental damage.
|APThe grill ripped from inmate Anthony McCoy's mouth.
CCS has agreed to pay $20,000 because of the "unwarranted delay" in receiving treatment, the Metro Council's legal analysis says. It also says Mayhew broke sheriff's office policy by reaching into the inmate's mouth. The paperwork also acknowledges that McCoy waited 10 days before ever receiving medical treatment beyond Tylenol, in spite of repeated pleas for help.
It's not clear why McCoy had to wait so long to get treatment or how many times he asked for help. It's also not clear whether jail officials ever requested that CCS see him sooner.
A Sheriff's Department spokeswoman said that since the incident, a new policy specifically prohibits jailers from removing inmates' grills. The Sheriff's Department referred other questions about the case to the county Health Department, which oversees the contract with CCS.
A Health Department spokesman said that federal privacy laws barred officials from saying whether McCoy sought medical treatment while in the jail.
City officials have previously been happy with the quality of care CCS has provided to the inmates, but are going to closely monitor the agency, said Health Department spokesman Brian Todd. "We don't ever want to see something like this happen again."
"This appears to be an unusual and pretty reprehensible act," Councilman Ronnie Steine, chairman of the budget and finance committee, told The Tennessean newspaper of Nashville. "My hope is that the employee has had the appropriate disciplinary action for something that seems to be an egregious act."
The lieutenant who pulled out the grill was demoted and received five days suspension.
McCoy was later convicted on the harassment charges and released from jail on Feb. 2.
AG: Dentist Used Paper Clips In Root Canals
Fall River Dentist Accused Of Billing Patients For Steel Posts
POSTED: 12:58 pm EDT March 16, 2010
UPDATED: 6:38 pm EDT March 16, 2010
BOSTON -- A Fall River dentist has been indicted for allegedly using paper clips in dental work and then billing Medicaid for the stainless steel posts he should have used.
Michael Clair, 51, formerly of Fall River and now of Maryland, was also indicted on a charge of submitting additional false claims to the Medicaid program using other dentists’ provider numbers and illegally prescribing prescription drugs.
Clair was indicted on two counts of assault and battery; three counts of larceny over $250; five counts of filing false Medicaid claims; two counts of illegally prescribing a Class B substance; and one count of prescribing a Class C Substance.
Clair is accused of inserting pieces of paper clips into patients’ mouths as a post in root canals instead of utilizing standard posts made of stainless steel, then billed the Medicaid program for the costs of the post using other dentists’ provider numbers, Attorney General Martha Coakley's office said.
Officials said Clair was suspended by Medicaid in 2002. He allegedly hired other dentists for his clinic and filed Medicaid claims using their numbers totaling approximately $130,000 between August 2003 and June 2005.
Clair will be arraigned on April 8
Kids are texting. Parents are texting. Even grandparents are texting. But we'd never heard of the deceased texting - until now.
A new high-tech device that can be implanted into a headstone will allow the deceased to speak from the grave through text messages sent to other people's cell phones. The company claims the headstone can send messages for up to 3,200 years.
Personal RosettaStones, launched by Objects LLC last month, are small stone tablets embedded with Radio Frequency Identification tags that can store up to 1,000 words and a picture, ABCNews.com reports.
Before he/she passes away, the consumer will write a message on the Personal RosettaStone. The message then can be transmitted to anyone who has a web-enabled cell phone. The information is stored on a microchip and is beamed via text message when the tag recognizes compatible technology on a visitors phone.
But that's not all the Personal RosettaStone can do. The front face of the RosettaStone is engraved with hieroglyphic-style symbols known as Life Symbols that are selected during the ordering process. Life Symbols are chosen from a list of options, and are intended to convey the purchasers "key life associations" or "milestones."
According to the RosettaStone Web site, the tablets are intended for mature adults who have reached a stage in life with identifiable milestones and associations so that they can adequately identify the Life Symbols that will best represent their earthly experience.
So how can the Personal RosettaStone send messages for a whopping 3,200 years? Rather than use a battery, which might die, the devices uses internal microchips that utilize the magnetic fields of a passerby's phone to power up just long enough to communicate the preprogrammed message before returning to a sleep state.
Although some may shudder at the thought of a texting gravestone, since the RosettaStone concept went public, Objects tells ABCNews.com, the company has been flooded with inquires. As technology continues to play a more integral role in the funeral industry with such advances as funeral webcasts and memorial Web sites, the RosettaStone could appeal to families looking for a novel way to remember their dearly departed.
Nude NYC Art Exhibit Aims For Uncomfortable
Artist Marina Abramovic Known For Her Thought-Provoking Works
POSTED: 3:43 am EDT March 16, 2010
UPDATED: 6:47 am EDT March 16, 2010
NEW YORK --
Laurence Lallier slipped carefully between two naked women facing each other in a narrow doorway at the Museum of Modern Art.
"I didn't want to step on their feet," said Lallier, a student from Montreal. "We feel shy and they don't, and they're the ones that are naked."
When the artist Marina Abramovic and her then-companion Ulay first performed the piece, called "Imponderabilia," in Bologna, Italy in 1977, the police showed up. New York's finest are unlikely to interfere with the version that opened at MoMA on Sunday, though some museum-goers may choose not to do the sideways limbo between bare bodies.
Elsewhere in the exhibit two clothed people touch fingertips, two others sit back to back with their hair entwined and a naked woman reclines with a skeleton (not a real one) lying on top of her. The performers, re-enacting pieces originated by Abramovic alone or with Ulay, are statue-still.
"It's neat seeing someone naked but not in a sexual way," said Steven Crossot of Philadelphia, watching the skeleton rise and fall with the woman's breathing. "It doesn't even feel voyeuristic. It feels like you're looking at a Renaissance piece, but live."
The Yugoslavian-born Abramovic, 63, is a performance art grande dame who has pushed the limits of physical endurance since the late 1960s.
In front of audiences, she has taken medication that made her lose consciousness, and stabbed herself repeatedly in the left hand.
Videos screens at MoMA show other pieces that could not be re-enacted, such as 1988's "The Great Wall," in which Abramovic and Ulay started at opposite ends of the Great Wall of China and walked for three months until they met each other. The couple then ended their artistic and personal collaboration.
New York Times critic Holland Carter called the exhibit uneven but rarely uninteresting; he was skeptical about re-creating ephemeral performance art.
The show is called "Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present," and she is. Abramovic sits on silent display while the museum is open. Members of the public are invited to join her, silently, across a small table.
"It's an act of extreme generosity," said curator Klaus Biesenbach. "You are completing the piece together with the artist on an equal basis."
On Monday, Abramovic wore a long blue dress as she sat opposite a young man. Both were motionless; Abramovic's face was expressionless.
"It's a great opportunity to contemplate two people just looking at each other," said spectator Vanessa Lodigiani.
Lodigiani, herself an artist, had attended a preview for MoMA members. She was amused that even some museum members wouldn't pass between the naked people of "Imponderabilia."
"It's quite shocking to me that people are shocked by nudity," she said.
The exhibit continues through May 31.
LINK TO SLIDE SHOW:
Syringe used in Michael Jackson’s death may be auctioned for $5M
March 16, 2010 • 9:00 am
The syringe that allegedly administered the fatal dose of drugs to Michael Jackson is set to be auctioned for as much as $5 million.
The syringe that was obtained secretly is being touted around Las Vegas auction houses to go under the hammer on the first anniversary of Jackson’s death June 25, the Mirror reports.
One source claimed the syringe is no longer needed in the inquest or trial of Jackson’s personal doctor, Conrad Murray, who has been charged with involuntary manslaughter. Murray has pleaded not guilty.
The Jackson family is said to be furious that someone is yet again trying to profit from the pop star’s death.
The man in possession of the needle has been in meetings with his legal team to make sure it is legitimate and his to sell. He may have to sell it in a country that does not have reciprocal legal agreements with the U.S. such as Brazil or Libya.
He’s bad, he’s bad
9th March, 2010
Man marries pillow
True love can take many forms. In this case, it has taken the form of a Korean man falling in love with, and eventually marrying, a large pillow with a picture of a woman on it.
Lee Jin-gyu kisses his new bride, a pillow with a picture of anime character Fate Testarossa on it
Lee Jin-gyu fell for his 'dakimakura' - a kind of large, huggable pillow from Japan, often with a picture of a popular anime character printed on the side.
In Lee's case, his beloved pillow has an image of Fate Testarossa, from the 'magical girl' anime series Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha.
Now the 28-year-old otaku (a Japanese term that roughly translates to somewhere between 'obsessive' and 'nerd') has wed the pillow in a special ceremony, after fitting it out with a wedding dress for the service in front of a local priest. Their nuptials were eagerly chronicled by the local media.
'He is completely obsessed with this pillow and takes it everywhere,' said one friend.
'They go out to the park or the funfair where it will go on all the rides with him. Then when he goes out to eat he takes it with him and it gets its own seat and its own meal,' they added.
The pillow marriage is not the first similarly-themed unusual marriage in recent times - it comes after a Japanese otaku married his virtual girlfriend Nene Anegasaki, a character who only exists in the Nintendo DS game Love Plus, last November.
World's Shortest Man Dead: He Pingping Dies At 21
First Posted: 03-15-10 03:16 PM | Updated: 03-15-10 04:16 PM
Pingping was filming a TV program called "The Record Show" in Italy when he developed chest problems, according to reports.
Born in China with a form of primordial dwarfism, Pingping was recognized as the world's shortest man in 2008.
"For such a small man, he made a huge impact around the world," Guinness World Records editor-in-chief Craig Glenday said, according to the BBC.
LINK TO VIDEOS
At end of life, new ways to offer a personal touch
More funeral homes create custom send-offs
PITTSFIELD — Above a flower-framed urn holding the ashes of Paul Winters, a super-sized tapestry of rock legend Frank Zappa greeted mourners at the Devanny-Condron Funeral Home. A gauzy print of John Lennon also faced the gathering, as did iconic pictures of Marilyn Monroe and Jimi Hendrix.
The friends of the deceased, eyes trained on the urn, sat quietly in neat rows of folding chairs as the driving chords of “Help!’’ and other Beatles songs provided background music. A video tribute to Winters, smiling and happy in life, played on a large screen.
Welcome to a growing trend in the long-sedate world of funeral directors, where hushed tones, heavy drapes, and calculated ritual are giving way to a customized send-off that is more party than predictable.
“My rule is this: I’ll do anything as long as it’s legal,’’ said Terry Probst, who manages the Devanny-Condron home with the passion of a promoter. Since he arrived in Pittsfield in September after a stint with the Navy, Probst has sponsored a chili cook-off, delivered birthday cakes to senior centers, offered free limousine rides to couples married 50 years or more, and scheduled a funeral home appearance by the Easter Bunny for an all-comers photo op.
“I want to set us apart from everyone around us,’’ Probst said.
Probst’s approach seems to be catching. Emilee High, spokeswoman for the National Funeral Directors Association, said personalized services are becoming increasingly popular as a new generation passes on.
“Baby boomers have had an impact on every aspect of society — and funeral service is no exception,’’ High said. “Families are seeking experiences that are different from those they perceive as part of a traditional funeral or memorial service.’’
A 2007 national survey commissioned by the association found that 23 percent of respondents wanted a “very personalized funeral.’’ And that figure, High said, appears to be rising at a time when the US death rate is static and per-funeral profits have plummeted since the 1980s.
Marc Gaudreau, an owner of the Beers & Story funeral homes in central Massachusetts, said the business must evolve. His services take shape during what he calls a “life interview’’ with the family of the deceased that usually lasts at least three hours.
The result can be a video of family photographs, watched in a separate room from the remains of the deceased. Other options are graveside music, burial with biodegradable urns, and funeral home displays of the favorite furniture of the deceased.
“I like to say there’s really no tradition anymore,’’ Gaudreau said. “You’ve always got to think about how you can get better.’’
Ellen McBrayer, a third-generation funeral director at the Jones-Wynn Funeral Home outside Atlanta, has seen the trend advance and evolve. In the 1950s, she said, all funerals seemed to be the same. But since the introduction of memorial DVDs at the beginning of this decade, she said, the move toward personal remembrances has taken hold and accelerated.
Her funeral home has distributed guitar picks to friends and family of a musician and provided butterscotch ice cream at the grave of a man who craved the sweet.
For the family of Paul Winters, who died at age 58, the upbeat service in Pittsfield hit all the right notes.
“He wasn’t a cookie-cutter kind of person, and he didn’t want to have a cookie-cutter kind of funeral,’’ Carri Winters said of her father.
Probst, a former Navy mortician, had never been to Massachusetts before he noticed an ad last year to manage the corporate-owned business. Now, he lives with his wife and three children in the funeral home that he wants to make synonymous with community service.
Veterans ride in his limousines in Memorial Day and Fourth of July parades; he works with the city’s veterans agent to welcome returning troops; and senior center birthday cakes are not offered solely to attract future customers, Probst said.
“I’ve been brought up that you should be giving back to the community,’’ said Probst, a native of Oregon. “With the Easter Bunny, for example, I don’t think we’ll have many seniors sitting on his lap.’’
Probst has also redecorated the funeral home, which opened for business in 1915, to lighten the ambience. Ponderous drapes have been replaced by shear material, dated wallpaper has given way to light-tan paint, and natural light is the preference.
Probst also has ordered a 75-gallon fish tank, which he believes will help mourners relax.
Although society is constantly changing, Probst said, “what is not changing is people’s fear of funeral homes and their fear of dying. Why can’t we lower that fear and lower that anxiety?’’
To Debbie Schilling, that approach helped make the December funeral for her 98-year-old uncle memorable. Bill Mahon, a Pittsfield native and lifelong baseball fan who attended the 1918 World Series in Boston, was buried in a casket adorned with the Red Sox logo. A 2004 World Series cap was on his head, and a bottle of his favorite Samuel Adams beer lay beside him.
“You couldn’t have celebrated his life any better, because that’s who my Uncle Bill was,’’ Schilling said. “I couldn’t have asked for a service or a send-off to be as magical or wonderful as that was.’’
Probst said he is conscious of what is appropriate and what is disrespectful.
So although he is considering sponsoring a murder-mystery dinner, Probst said, he will hold the event at another location.
“You’ll never see me do a haunted house or a circus here,’’ he said.
The end of the road for Barack Obama?
Barack Obama seems unable to face up to America's problems, writes Simon Heffer in New York.
Published: 8:16AM GMT 08 Mar 2010
The once mighty Detroit seems on the verge of being abandoned Photo: Jeffrey Sauger
It is a universal political truth that administrations do not begin to fragment when things are going well: it only happens when they go badly, and those who think they know better begin to attack those who manifestly do not.
The descent of Barack Obama's regime, characterised now by factionalism in the Democratic Party and talk of his being set to emulate Jimmy Carter as a one-term president, has been swift and precipitate.
It was just 16 months ago that weeping men and women celebrated his victory over John McCain in the American presidential election. If they weep now, a year and six weeks into his rule, it is for different reasons.
Despite the efforts of some sections of opinion to talk the place up, America is mired in unhappiness, all the worse for the height from which Obamania has fallen.
The economy remains troublesome. There is growth – a good last quarter suggested an annual rate of as high as six per cent, but that figure is probably not reliable – and the latest unemployment figures, last Friday, showed a levelling off. Yet 15 million Americans, or 9.7 per cent of the workforce, have no job. Many millions more are reduced to working part-time. Whole areas of the country, notably in the north and on the eastern seaboard, are industrial wastelands.
The once mighty motor city of Detroit appears slowly to be being abandoned, becoming a Jurassic Park of the mid-20th century; unemployment among black people in Mr Obama's own city of Chicago is estimated at between 20 and 25 per cent.
One senior black politician – a Democrat and a supporter of the President – told me of the wrath in his community that a black president appeared to be unable to solve the economic problem among his own people. Cities in the east such as Newark and Baltimore now have drug-dealing as their principal commercial activity: The Wire is only just fictional.
Last Thursday the House of Representatives passed a jobs Bill, costing $15 billion, which would give tax breaks to firms hiring new staff and, through state sponsorship of construction projects, create thousands of jobs too. The Senate is trying to approve a Bill that would provide a further $150 billion of tax incentives to employers. Yet there is a sense of desperation in the Administration, a sense that nothing can be as efficacious at the moment as a sticking plaster.
Edward B Montgomery, deputy labour secretary in the Clinton administration, now spends his time on day trips to decaying towns that used to have a car industry, not so much advising them on how to do something else as facilitating those communities' access to federal funds. For a land without a welfare state, America starts to do an effective impersonation of a country with one. This massive state spending gives rise to accusations by Republicans, and people too angry even to be Republicans, that America is now controlled by "Leftists" and being turned into a socialist state.
"Obama's big problem," a senior Democrat told me, "is that four times as many people watch Fox News as watch CNN." The Fox network is a remarkable cultural phenomenon which almost shocks those of us from a country where a technical rule of impartiality is applied in the broadcast media. With little rest, it pours out rage 24 hours a day: its message is of the construction of the socialist state, the hijacking of America by "progressives" who now dominate institutions, the indoctrination of children, the undermining of religion and the expropriation of public money for these nefarious projects. The public loves it, and it is manifestly stirring up political activism against Mr Obama, and also against those in the Republican Party who are not deemed conservatives. However, it is arguable whether the now-reorganising Right is half as effective in its assault on the President as some of Mr Obama's own party are.
Mr Obama benefited in his campaign from an idiotic level of idolatry, in which most of the media participated with an astonishing suspension of cynicism. The sound of the squealing of brakes is now audible all over the American press; but the attack is being directed not at the leader himself, but at those around him.
There was much unconditional love a year or so ago of Rahm Emanuel, Mr Obama's Chief of Staff; oleaginous profiles of this Chicago political hack, a veteran of that unlovely team that polluted the Clinton White House, appeared in otherwise respectable journals, praising the combination of his religious devotion, his family-man image, his ruthless operating technique and his command of the vocabulary of profanity. Now, supporters of the President are blaming Mr Emanuel for the failure of the Obama project, not least for his inability to construct a deal on health care.
This went down badly with friends of Mr Emanuel, notably with Mr Emanuel himself. His partisans, apparently taking dictation from him, have filled newspaper columns and blogs with uplifting accounts of the Wonder of Rahm: as one of them put it, "Emanuel is the only person preventing Obama from becoming Jimmy Carter".
They attack other Obama "sycophants", such as David Axelrod, his campaign guru, and Valerie Jarret, a long-time friend of Mrs Obama and a fixer from the office of Mayor Daley of Chicago who now manages – or tries to manage – the President's image. These "sycophants" have, they argue, tried to keep the President above politics, letting Congress run away with the agenda, and gainsaying Mr Emanuel's advice to Mr Obama to get tough with his internal opponents. This naïve act of manipulation has brought its own counter-counterattack, with an anti-Emanuel pundit drawing a comparison with our own Prime Minister and ridiculing the idea that Mr Obama should start bullying people too.
The root of the problem seems to be the management of expectations. The magnificent campaign created the notion that Mr Obama could walk on water. Oddly enough, he can't. That was more Mr Axelrod's fault than Mr Emanuel's. And, to be fair to Mr Emanuel, any advice he has been giving the President to impose his will on Congress is probably well founded.
The $783 billion stimulus package of a year ago was used to further the re-election prospects of many congressmen, not to do good for the country. America's politics remain corrupt, populated by nonentities whose main concern once elected is to stay elected; it seems to be the same the whole world over. Even this self-interested use of the stimulus package appears to have failed, however.
Every day, it seems, another Democrat congressman announces that he will not be fighting the mid-term elections scheduled for November 2. The health care Bill, apparently so humane in intent, is being "scrubbed" (to use the terminology of one Republican) by its opponents, to the joy of millions of middle Americans who see it as a means to waste more public money and entrench socialism. For the moment, this is a country vibrant with anger.
A thrashing of the Democrats in the mid-terms would not necessarily be the beginning of the end for Mr Obama: Bill Clinton was re-elected two years after the Republicans swept the House and the Senate in November 1994. But Mr Clinton was an operator in a way Mr Obama patently is not. His lack of experience, his dependence on rhetoric rather than action, his disconnection from the lives of many millions of Americans all handicap him heavily.
It is not about whose advice he is taking: it is about him grasping what is wrong with America, and finding the will to put it right. That wasted first year, however, is another boulder hanging from his neck: what is wrong needs time to put right. The country's multi-trillion dollar debt is barely being addressed; and a country engaged in costly foreign wars has a President who seems obsessed with anything but foreign policy – as a disregarded Britain is beginning to realise.
There are lessons from the stumbling of Mr Obama for our own country as we approach a general election. Vacuous promises of change are hostages to fortune if they cannot be delivered upon to improve the living conditions of a people.
The slickness of campaigning that comes from a combination of heavy funding and public relations expertise does not inevitably translate into an ability to govern. There is no point a nation's having the audacity of hope unless it also has the sophistication and the will to turn it into action. As things stand, Barack Obama and America under his leadership do not.
Boy, 6, has eye glued shut after nurse bungles treatment to cut head
Last updated at 3:48 PM on 15th March 2010
A six-year-old boy was left blind in one eye for almost a week after a surgical glue applied by a nurse to close a head wound dripped into his eye.
Lewis Farrell screamed in agony as the glue closed his eye shut during treatment at a hospital casualty unit for a cut forehead sustained in a playground fall.
Today his mother, Becky Lewis, told how she fears the child may suffer permanent damage to his sight after the hospital blunder.
Lewis Farrell was left in agony after surgical glue applied to a head wound trickled into his eye, leaving him unable to see out of it for almost a week
She accused staff at Selly Oak Hospital in Birmingham of being more interested in covering up for what they had done than apologising for the error.
Mrs Lewis said: 'The nurse asked Lewis to sit upright before squirting glue on to his head. She made no effort to stop the glue dripping down.
'Then as she turned around, it dripped into his eye. They should have realised something like this could have happened.
Since the incident, Lewis has woken up most nights suffering from nightmares.
'He is only six and it was terrifying for him and for me to see him like that.
'He was crying and shouting, "Mummy, I can't open my eyes" - he was hysterical.
'The nursing sister kept saying, "I've never seen this before in my life", but no one apologised for what they had done to Lewis.
'The staff were trying to make excuses and cover up their error for each other and that made me so angry.'
Medics spent almost six hours trying to drip fluid into the eye to ease it open before eventually discharging Lewis home to his mother and father, Martin Farrell, a 26-year-old car parts engineer, with the patch and advice to keep bathing his right eye.
He has had to wear an eye patch since the incident last Tuesday and has been unable to return to school because the eye is still sore, with 'clumps' of glue still in and around it.
Doctors called the glue's manufacturer who assured them that the product was water-based and posed no risk of permanent eyesight damage.
But the couple, from Northfield, Birmingham, who have three other children, are planning to get a second medical opinion.
Mrs Lewis, a housewife, added: 'My concern is that if they say this hasn't happened before, how can they be sure about that?
'I will be getting a second opinion. There should be a standard practice in place to ensure that glue doesn't trickle into someone's eye.
'Lewis has been left mentally traumatised by the ordeal - he hasn't slept properly because he is suffering nightmares about what happened and not being able to see.'
Hospitals are increasingly using medical adhesives to close wounds instead of butterfly strips or stitches to avoid the uncomfortable and painful process of sewing and later removing stitches, particularly when children are involved.
The glue is chemically similar to that used in factories but has been sterilised and modified for medical use.
Gareth Duggan, a spokesman for University Hospitals Birmingham Foundation Trust, which runs Selly Oak Hospital, said new procedures had been put in place to prevent it happening again.
He said: 'Due to issues of patient confidentiality, we cannot comment on this case.
'But the Trust has reviewed its procedure and upon advice from consultant staff, an eye patch will be applied prior to application of tissue glue in any future closure of this nature.
'The adhesive used poses no risk to health or vision and loses its adhesive power over a period of one or four days, after which the eye opens normally.'
LINK TO PHOTOS OF BOY
Edwards mistress: Still in love, living 'truth'
RALEIGH, N.C. The mistress of former presidential candidate John Edwards says she is helping him live "a life of truth" and the two remain in love even after their affair helped trigger his downfall from the pinnacle of U.S. politics.
"Everyone talks about how Johnny has fallen from grace," Rielle Hunter told GQ magazine in an interview released Monday. "In reality, he's fallen to grace."
In her first public comments since she became known as Edwards' other woman in 2008, Hunter didn't provide any details of their current status but said Edwards is a great father who wants to be there full-time for their daughter, now 2.
"I know he loves me. I have never had any doubt at all about that," Hunter said. "We love each other very much. And that hasn't changed, and I believe that will be till death do us part."
Hunter also posed for photos for GQ that show her on a bed, barelegged in a man's white dress shirt and a pearl necklace. In another shot, she's laying on her back holding her daughter in her arms.
She said she and Edwards had an immediate connection when they met at a New York City hotel in 2006, and she said she knew then that she was a special person to him.
"He in fact did say to me the first night, 'Falling in love with you could really (expletive) up my plans for becoming president,'" she said.
Hunter said she told him he shouldn't run for the White House and suggested he at least wait until April 2007 because her intuition and astrology suggested he would have a difficult first three months of the year. Elizabeth Edwards' cancer returned in March of that year. Hunter said John Edwards wanted to exit the race but that Elizabeth Edwards wanted him to stay in.
"And my surprise was that they stayed in the race," Hunter said. "I was shocked. I really viewed it as reckless."
Hunter said Edwards' marriage was already in shambles before their romance, declaring, "I was not the home wrecker." She said people were wrong to believe Edwards had fallen because of the affair and its revelation.
Instead, "I think that he thinks that he is a much wiser and a much better and a more truthful and a more integrated human being," she said.
John and Elizabeth Edwards are now separated. Hunter said the affair ended in July 2008 and that the relationship is now something "different."
Edwards hired Hunter to work as a campaign videographer in 2006 as he plotted his second run for president. The former North Carolina senator's political action committee paid her video production firm more than $100,000.
Federal investigators have been looking into Edwards' campaign finances, with former aide Andrew Young saying a grand jury questioned him for hours about the large sums of money that changed hands during the period that he helped cover up the affair.
Hunter said the grand jury questioned her about Young and about her relationship with Edwards.
"They asked a lot of questions about the sex tape," she said. Hunter has sued Young for invasion of privacy, seeking the return of a videotape that he describes as Edwards and Hunter in a sexual encounter.
Young said in a statement Monday that he has a lot of empathy for what Hunter is going through.
"I hope she and Johnny and Elizabeth and their families can find happiness so that we all can move on with our lives," he said.
An attorney for Hunter declined to comment, and a spokeswoman for John Edwards said he would not comment. An attorney for Elizabeth Edwards did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
LINK TO VIDEO
8 a.m. March 15, 2010
Party store customer swipes masked man's gun, kills him
TAMMY STABLES BATTAGLIA
FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER
A Romulus party store customer wrestled a gun away from a masked man, shooting and killing the man Saturday night.
The robber and two other men were robbing the Super Y party store at the corner of Middlebelt and Ecorse roads when the customer walked in with a woman at 9:30 p.m., Romulus Police Sgt. Corey Sadler said today.
"The male customer and the gunman began fighting each other for control of the weapon," Sadler said. "Pretty crazy, but it worked out for him. He was able to get control of the gun, and was able to shoot two rounds, fatally wounding the gunman."
Two other robbers who were forcing a store employee to empty the safe at gunpoint escaped out a back door. Police are still searching for them and the driver of the getaway car, a black, four-door 2004 Pontiac Grand Prix with license plate CCR0052, Sadler said. They were last seen driving north on Middlebelt.
Jaxon Van Derbeken
Chronicle Staff Writer
Monday, March 15, 2010
Suzuki, Lea / The Chronicle
Suspicions of stolen cocaine and shoddy work have led police to shut down the crime lab.
It took San Francisco police two months to launch a criminal probe into a drug lab technician suspected of stealing cocaine evidence, even though her sister had told the lab she feared the woman had taken home a vial full of the drug, The Chronicle has learned.
The delay may have doomed scores of narcotics prosecutions in San Francisco, because drugs were tested at the lab after suspicions arose about the technician and the Police Department's ability to ensure the integrity of seized evidence.
"It's like peeling an onion," said Public Defender Jeff Adachi, whose attorneys represent most of the drug defendants in San Francisco. "Every time you pull off a layer, there's more problems."
The lab technician, Deborah Madden, 60, has not been charged with a crime associated with any theft of evidence at the lab, where she worked for 29 years until she retired Dec. 8. But suspicions that she stole and used cocaine - and her accusations that others in the lab were "sloppy" in their work - prompted police to shut down the drug lab Tuesday.
By the end of the week, prosecutors had been forced to drop more than 90 drug cases, and police were trying to line up enough outside labs to test the drugs that officers seize in dozens of arrests every day.
Sister found cocaine
According to law enforcement officials with knowledge of the case, Madden's sister found cocaine in what appeared to be a lab vial at Madden's San Mateo home in December. Madden was away in an alcohol rehabilitation program at the time, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the criminal investigation is continuing.
The sister contacted the police lab with her concerns Dec. 16, the officials said. However, before police could examine the vial, the sister turned it over to Madden's rehabilitation counselor, who destroyed it, sources said.
The sister's account was detailed in a memo Dec. 17 by Madden's boss, Lois Woodworth, that was routed to the risk management section of the department, which deals with legal matters. The memo was not sent to the chief's office, for reasons that are unclear.
Woodworth started to check evidence that Madden had worked on and discovered that a previously sealed package of powdered cocaine appeared to have been reopened, officials said.
Later in December, Woodworth began an internal audit, reviewing 25 randomly selected evidence samples of cocaine. She discovered shortages of powdered cocaine in seven samples, including a 2-gram discrepancy in one.
Police probe delay
Woodworth reported her findings sometime in late December or early January to her supervisors at the lab. But it wasn't until Feb. 22 that the Police Department's special investigations division opened a criminal probe into Madden, the department said.
Chief George Gascón said he first learned about the lab problem that day. He said last week that he has ordered an internal investigation into how the matter was handled.
So far, he says, he does not know why there was a delay. "That's why there's an investigation," he said.
Police investigators met with prosecutors in District Attorney Kamala Harris' office Feb. 23, the day after the probe began, according to a timeline the Police Department issued last week. Prosecutors told the investigators, who were seeking charges against Madden, that there wasn't enough to build a case, said district attorney spokesman Brian Buckelew.
On Feb. 26, Madden gave a two-hour statement to police in which she accused fellow lab technicians of "sloppy work," saying they consistently lost or mishandled evidence, law enforcement officials say.
She also admitted to consuming what she called "spillage" from cocaine seized in five samples of evidence, but did not specify which evidence packages the drug had come from, the sources say. That is a problem for prosecutors hoping to build a case, because they don't know which evidence samples to examine to prove that a crime happened.
Madden told the police investigators that she started using cocaine in October and took only residue that was left over on the wax paper that technicians use when weighing samples, officials said.
Then, on March 3, San Francisco police officers and San Mateo County sheriff's deputies searched Madden's San Mateo home. They allegedly found a gun and a small amount of cocaine.
They arrested Madden, who is not allowed to have a weapon because she is on probation from a 2008 misdemeanor conviction for domestic violence.
Neither Madden nor her attorney, Paul DeMeester, has commented on the suspicions about the lab thefts. DeMeester said only that results of tests Madden performed "should not be affected by any personal use."
The Police Department's handling of Madden's case has come under scrutiny in other areas.
Gascón admitted last week that police had failed to notify the district attorney about Madden's conviction, which prosecutors in turn would have been obliged to tell defense attorneys. A defendant's lawyer could use the information in court to call Madden's work into question.
Gascón called it a breakdown in communication; Adachi believes it was intentional.
The public defender said the most serious question in the lab scandal is whether the department failed to secure its evidence, maintaining a "chain of custody."
"If the chain of custody was in fact broken, it could jeopardize hundreds of cases," Adachi said. "Not only in cases where she allegedly tampered with evidence, but all of them."
LINK TO PHOTOS OF TECHNICIAN AND LAB
March 14, 2010
Bigger people weigh on city budgets
Communities have to buy pricey stretchers
FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER
The growing waistlines of patients have prompted some metro Detroit communities and an ambulance service to buy or look into motorized stretchers for firefighters and medics.
If the Madison Heights City Council adopts its proposed 2010-11 budget, the Fire Department will get two battery-powered stretchers at a cost of about $24,000.
Superior Ambulance Service -- which serves several metro Detroit cities, including Riverview, Detroit and Roseville -- is in the process of replacing all of its stretchers with motorized ones.
The Royal Oak Fire Department bought one of the stretchers about 18 months ago. And Southfield -- which was used as a model by Madison Heights when officials started considering the switch -- has used them for five years.
"There are so many obese people now, that it is not rare for us to go out and pick up a 300-pound person or a 400-pound person," Southfield Fire Chief Peter Healy said.
Officials say the stretchers, which typically can carry up to about 700 pounds, reduce knee, shoulder and back injuries. Cities such as Royal Oak and Madison Heights hope they also will reduce worker compensation costs.
"We put a lot of money into training these people, and we want to have them here full-term," Healy said.
He said that when the city started transporting patients in 2005, workers' comp cost Southfield about $75,000. The city, which also has implemented a morning stretching program for firefighters, saw that number drop to $58,000 by 2008.
Ken Sink, general manager of Superior Ambulance, said that runs for overweight patients account for only about 3% of all calls, but cause 30% of the injuries and workers' comp claims.
Madison Heights Fire Chief Kevin Scheid said firefighters have been injured from repeatedly lifting people.
The city also plans to spend $2,600 on two power chairs that help get patients down stairs.
Chris Way, director of marketing for EMS at Stryker -- the Kalamazoo-based manufacturer of medical devices that has sold many cities their equipment -- said two-thirds of the stretchers the company now sells are powered.
Way, who co-founded the company, said the trend is up. The motorized equipment, he said, reduces injuries and increases safety for patients.
"Anything we can do to reduce the stress on their bodies, I think will be beneficial," Scheid said. "You just hate to see the guys hurting themselves."
Principal signed Filipino teachers to buy, sell makeup
March 14, 2010
The principal at the Institute of Business and Entrepreneurship High School recruited teachers to sell cosmetics. (Gene Sweeney Jr., Baltimore Sun / March 10, 2010)
Vulnerable to exploitationAcross the nation, Filipino teachers have become victims of both the recruiters who brought them here and the failure of school systems to protect them, according to the American Federation of Teachers, which has begun a national campaign to expose some of the injustices.
'Right will prevail'Japzon told Alonso that he had assured the teachers that though principals in the Philippines probably would not have been disciplined, in the United States "right will prevail over stature and economic class."
White House Stands Ground On High Court Criticism
Obama Administration Not Backing Away From Comments
POSTED: 11:59 am EDT March 14, 2010
UPDATED: 2:02 pm EDT March 14, 2010
WASHINGTON -- The White House on Sunday defended President Barack Obama's scathing criticism of a Supreme Court decision that allows unions and corporations to funnel unlimited dollars to political campaigns.
Senior adviser David Axelrod and press secretary Robert Gibbs refused to retreat from criticism Obama leveled during his State of the Union address, with six of the nine members of the court sitting a few feet in front of him. The two White House officials defended Obama's statement that the ruling was seriously flawed.
"Under the ruling of the Supreme Court, any lobbyist could go in to any legislator and say, 'If you don't vote our way on this bill, we're going to run a million-dollar campaign against you in your district.' And that is a threat to our democracy," Axelrod said. "It's going to further reduce the voice of the American people, and it's something we have to push back vigorously on."
Chief Justice John Roberts said this week that Obama's unusually open criticism was "very troubling" and questioned whether justices should attend the annual address.
"To the extent the State of the Union has degenerated into a political pep rally, I'm not sure why we're there," said Roberts, a nominee of Republican President George W. Bush who joined the court in 2005.
Roberts said anyone is free to criticize the court and that some have an obligation to do so because of their positions.
"So I have no problems with that," he said. "On the other hand, there is the issue of the setting, the circumstances and the decorum. The image of having the members of one branch of government standing up, literally surrounding the Supreme Court, cheering and hollering while the court, according the requirements of protocol, has to sit there expressionless, I think is very troubling."
Breaking from tradition, Obama used his January speech to criticize the court's recent decision allowing corporations and unions to freely spend money on political ads for or against specific candidates.
"With all due deference to the separation of powers, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests -- including foreign corporations -- to spend without limit in our elections," Obama said.
Justice Samuel Alito was the only justice to respond at the time, shaking his head and appearing to say, "not true," as Obama continued.
Gibbs defended Obama's remarks, as he has already.
"What's important is that, in the coming elections, the Supreme Court has basically ruled that anonymous political contributions can be given, and those contributions can be used to weigh in specifically for the election or defeat of a member of Congress or a senator," he said.
Axelrod spoke on ABC's "This Week," and Gibbs appeared to "Fox News Sunday."
Chronicle Staff Writer
Friday, March 12, 2010
"To be a real American, you believe in God, and the judiciary unfortunately sometimes can't be trusted to uphold our constitutional rights when you're a disenfranchised minority." -- Michael Newdow, a Sacramento atheist who filed suit, on the messages sent by the ruling.
Photo: Rich Pedroncelli, File / AP
(03-11) 17:32 PST SAN FRANCISCO -- The federal court that touched off a furor in 2002 by declaring the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance to be an unconstitutional endorsement of religion took another look at the issue Thursday and said the phrase invokes patriotism, not religious faith.
The daily schoolroom ritual is not a prayer, but instead "a recognition of our founders' political philosophy that a power greater than the government gives the people their inalienable rights," said the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco in a 2-1 ruling.
"Thus, the pledge is an endorsement of our form of government, not of religion or any particular sect."
The dissenting judge, Stephen Reinhardt, said statements by members of Congress who added "under God" to the pledge in 1954 show conclusively that it was intended to "indoctrinate our nation's children with a state-held religious belief."
In a separate ruling, the same panel upheld the use of the national motto, "In God We Trust," on coins and currency. The language is patriotic and ceremonial, not religious, the court said. Reinhardt reluctantly joined the 3-0 decision, saying he was bound by the court's newly established precedent in the pledge case.
Both suits were filed by Michael Newdow, a Sacramento atheist who has brought numerous challenges to government-sponsored religious invocations. He said he would appeal the rulings to the full appellate court and the U.S. Supreme Court, but was not optimistic.
The rulings sent two messages, Newdow said: "To be a real American, you believe in God, and the judiciary unfortunately sometimes can't be trusted to uphold our constitutional rights when you're a disenfranchised minority."
Former Justice Department lawyer Gregory Katsas, who represented the Bush administration in the pledge case when the court heard it in 2007, heard a different message: that "one nation, under God" suggests a government that "is limited and bound to respect individual rights."
Newdow first challenged the Pledge of Allegiance in 2000 on behalf of his daughter, a student in a Sacramento-area elementary school. The appeals court ruled in June 2002 that the addition of "under God" was religiously motivated and sent "a message to nonbelievers that they are outsiders," in violation of the constitutional separation of church and state.
Congress reacted furiously, passing a resolution with virtually no dissenting votes that denounced the decision. The court put its ruling on hold until the case reached the Supreme Court, which sidestepped the constitutional issue and ruled that Newdow could not represent his daughter's interests because her mother had legal custody.
Newdow then refiled the suit on behalf of the parent of a kindergartner in the Sacramento suburb of Rio Linda. He won the first round before a federal judge in 2005, but a new appeals court panel issued a 193-page ruling Thursday upholding the pledge.
Pledge isn't prayer
In the majority opinion, Judge Carlos Bea acknowledged that "the words 'under God' have religious significance," but said they do not "convert the pledge into a prayer." Reinhardt, a member of the 2002 panel that found the language unconstitutional, said Thursday's majority ignored overwhelming evidence of religious motivation by the 1954 Congress.
He cited statements by numerous lawmakers denouncing atheistic communism and declaring a belief in God to be part of the American way of life. Reinhardt also pointed to President Dwight Eisenhower's signing statement that millions of schoolchildren would now proclaim "the dedication of our nation and its people to the Almighty."
During the same period, Reinhardt said, Congress adopted "In God We Trust" as the national motto, ordered it inscribed on paper money and established an annual National Prayer Breakfast.
By inserting religious language into the pledge, Reinhardt said, "we abandoned our historic principle that secular matters were for the state and matters of faith were for the church."
Woman, 92, charged with murder
Sydney Morning Herald
March 14, 2010
A 92-YEAR-OLD woman has been charged with murdering her 98-year-old husband in their Sydney home.
Clara Tang, of Surry Hills, was assisted by a Mandarin interpreter when she faced Parramatta Local Court yesterday via video link.
Police had found her husband in the lounge room of their home in Connaught Apartments, on Liverpool Street, about 9.40pm on Friday.
He had head injuries. A relative had contacted police and expressed concerns for his welfare.
Mrs Tang, who did not apply for bail, showed no recollection of what had transpired in the apartment when she appeared in court.
Magistrate Kevin Flack agreed that MrsTang was apparently suffering from severe dementia. She was taken to a psychiatric facility.
Mrs Tang will appear in Central Local Court tomorrow.
March 12, 2010 06:44 PM
New Rule: Let's Not Fire the Teachers When Students Don't Learn -- Let's Fire the Parents
Bill MaherHost ofHBO's "Real Time with BillMaher"
New Rule: Let's not fire the teachers when students don't learn - let's fire the parents. Last week President Obama defended the firing of every single teacher in a struggling high school in a poor Rhode Island neighborhood. And the kids were outraged. They said, "Why blame our teachers?" and "Who's President Obama?" I think it was Whitney Houston who said, "I believe that children are our future - teach them well and let them lead the way." And that's the last sound piece of educational advice this country has gotten - from a crack head in the '80's.
Yes, America has found its new boogeyman to blame for our crumbling educational system. It's just too easy to blame the teachers, what with their cushy teachers' lounges, their fat-cat salaries, and their absolute authority in deciding who gets a hall pass. We all remember high school - canning the entire faculty is a nationwide revenge fantasy. Take that, Mrs. Crabtree! And guess what? We're chewing gum and no, we didn't bring enough for everybody.
But isn't it convenient that once again it turns out that the problem isn't us, and the fix is something that doesn't require us to change our behavior or spend any money. It's so simple: Fire the bad teachers, hire good ones from some undisclosed location, and hey, while we're at it let's cut taxes more. It's the kind of comprehensive educational solution that could only come from a completely ignorant people.
Firing all the teachers may feel good - we're Americans, kicking people when they're down is what we do - but it's not really their fault. Now, undeniably, there are some bad teachers out there. They don't know the material, they don't make things interesting, they have sex with the same kid every day instead of spreading the love around... But every school has crappy teachers. Yale has crappy teachers - they must, they gave us George Bush.
According to all the studies, it doesn't matter what teachers do. Although everyone appreciates foreplay. What matters is what parents do. The number one predictor of a child's academic success is parental involvement. It doesn't even matter if your kid goes to private or public school. So save the twenty grand a year and treat yourself to a nice vacation away from the little s.
It's also been proven that just having books in the house makes a huge difference in a child's development. If your home is adorned with nothing but Hummel dolls, DVD's, and bleeding Jesuses, congratulations, you've just given your children the gift of Duh. Sarah Palin said recently she wrote on her hand because her father used to do it. I rest my case.
When there are no books in the house, and there are no parents in the house, you know who raises the kids? That's right, the television. Kids aren't keeping up with their studies; they're keeping up with the Kardashians. We're allowing the television, as babysitter, to turn us into a nation of slutty idiots. By the way, one sign your 9-year-old may be watching too much One Tree Hill: if she has an imaginary friend with benefits.
Clinton Slams Israel's Settlement Plans: 'Deeply Negative Signal'
MATTHEW LEE | 03/12/10 09:26 PM |
WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Friday delivered a stinging rebuke to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for his government's announcement this week of new Jewish housing in east Jerusalem, calling it "a deeply negative signal" for the Mideast peace process and ties with the U.S.
The State Department said Clinton spoke to Netanyahu by phone for 43 minutes to vent U.S. frustration with Tuesday's announcement that cast a pall over a visit to Israel by Vice President Joe Biden and endangered indirect peace talks with the Palestinians that the Obama administration had announced just a day earlier.
The length and unusually blunt tone of Clinton's call underscored the administration's concern about prospects for the negotiations it has been trying to organize for more than a year and its anger over Israel's refusal to heed U.S. appeals not to make provocative gestures.
"The announcement of the settlements on the very day that the vice president was there was insulting," Clinton said in an interview with CNN Friday. "It was just really a very unfortunate and difficult moment for everyone, the U.S., our vice president who had gone to reassert America's strong support for Israeli security, and I regret deeply that that occurred and made that view known."
Clinton called "to make clear that the United States considered the announcement to be a deeply negative signal about Israel's approach to the bilateral relationship and counter to the spirit of the vice president's trip," State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters.
"The secretary said she could not understand how this happened, particularly in light of the United States' strong commitment to Israel's security and she made clear that the Israeli government needed to demonstrate not just through words but through specific actions that they are committed to this relationship and to the peace process," he said.
The harsh criticism of America's closest Mideast ally and questions about its commitment to the U.S.-Israeli relationship followed equally blunt condemnation of the housing announcement from the White House and Biden himself.
It also comes ahead of a trip to the region by U.S. Mideast peace envoy George Mitchell and a meeting in Moscow next week of the Quartet of Mideast peacemakers that Clinton will attend.
Hours after the call to Netanyahu, the Quartet – the U.S., European Union, United Nations and Russia – denounced the Israeli announcement in a statement from the world body's headquarters in New York where Clinton was addressing a commission on the status of women and meeting with U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon.
"The Quartet has agreed to closely monitor developments in Jerusalem and to keep under consideration additional steps that may be required to address the situation on the ground," the statement said.
It did not elaborate on what steps it would consider but said the Quartet members "would take full stock of the situation" when they meet in the Russian capital next Friday.
The Quartet has long urged both Israel and the Palestinians not to take any steps that could hinder peace talks. Crowley stressed that the United States objected to both the content and timing of the announcement and said Clinton had "reinforced that this action had undermined trust and confidence in the peace process and in America's interests."
Netanyahu has apologized for the timing, though not the substance, of the announcement to approve 1,600 new homes for Jews in east Jerusalem. The international community does not recognize Israel's annexation of east Jerusalem – captured in the 1967 Mideast war – and the Palestinians see that part of the city as their own future capital.
Earlier Friday, an Israeli cabinet minister said the government is moving to amend the country's planning procedures on sensitive political decisions because of the embarrassing diplomatic flap. Netanyahu has said he was not aware the announcement was going to be made during Biden's visit.
The Israeli announcement enraged the Palestinians and Arab states, jeopardizing the proximity talks Mitchell is to mediate. An Arab League advisory committee has already withdrawn its endorsement of the discussions.
In a bid to salvage those negotiations, Mitchell and the top U.S. diplomat for the Middle East, Jeffrey Feltman, called Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Arab League chief Amr Moussa and the foreign ministers of Egypt, Jordan, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates over the past two days, Crowley said.
A funeral van carrying a body was towed from Redden's Funeral Home on West 14th Street.
Smith for NewsFuneral director Paul DeNigris said the minivan had a windshield placard (below), but admitted it had fallen flat and was hard to detect.
Smith for News
On the road to eternal peace, a body left inside a funeral home minivan wound up at hell on earth: the city tow pound.
The unscheduled stop came after a police tow truck hooked the illegally parked vehicle outside Redden's Funeral Home on W. 14th St.
The dearly departed was soon heading for a lot off the West Side Highway, with the truck driver handling the last rights - and a few lefts - on the ride through Chelsea.
Funeral director Paul DeNigris said he nearly died after walking outside the business Monday afternoon to find his client no longer resting in peace.
"I was just a wreck," DeNigris told the Daily News. "I was frantic. When something like that happens, you go into panic mode."
The corpse was finally rescued after 90 undignified minutes in Manhattan's most miserable locale, trapped amid scofflaws and irate out-of-towners.
DeNigris had parked his silver 2002 Dodge in a "No Parking Anytime" zone outside the funeral home. The body, in a white cardboard box, was headed for Newark Airport and a flight to Miami for cremation.
DeNigris said he stepped inside to pick up some paperwork, took a phone call, and returned to find ... nothing.
"The car was just gone," he said yesterday.
The NYPD said the van was ticketed at 9:22 a.m. - and then towed nearly three hours later, at 12:07 p.m.
"There was nothing to indicate it was more than just an illegally parked car," said NYPD Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne.
The terrified DeNigris was at the pound within minutes, explaining his improbable plight and showing his funeral home paperwork.
"I tried not to be too loud," he recounted. "I didn't want to scream, 'I'm the guy from the funeral home with the car with the person in the back.'
"We try to be discreet."
The car and its human cargo were returned at 1:40 p.m., with Redden driving to Newark in time to put the body on the Florida flight.
He declined to provide any information about the victim.
DeNigris said the minivan had a windshield placard reading "Funeral Director on Official Business," but acknowledged it had fallen flat and was hard to detect.
The van's tinted windows helped obscure the box packed in its rear, he said.
Redden's will start putting signs identifying its vehicles in the rear and side windows to prevent a repeat.
The tow pound, in a show of respect despite the bizarre circumstances, waived the $185 fee when returning the minivan.
DeNigris said he planned to fight the $115 parking ticket, claiming a funeral business vehicle transporting a body is immune to parking regulations.
If he loses, DeNigris said, that's the cost of doing business in the city.
"It's frustrating," he said. "It's aggravating. But this is New York City. Things like this are not uncommon."
Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/2010/03/12/2010-03-12_tow_no_thats_my_corpse_he_undertakes_mission_to_get_back_body_from_the_city_poun.html#ixzz0i0tvytVw
Cops: Man hit kids at store for thrill
68-year-old arrested Wednesday in Ohio
Updated: Friday, 12 Mar 2010, 1:47 PM EST
Published : Friday, 12 Mar 2010, 1:38 PM EST
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Police in Ohio say a man in a Walmart store punched children with a key protruding from his fist and told investigators it was a thrill.
Sixty-eight-year-old Ralph Conone was arrested at a Columbus Walmart Wednesday after a mother told the store her 6-year-old son said Conone hit him.
The boy was treated for a minor cut on the head. Police say a brother also had been struck.
Sgt. John Hurst says Conone told police it was exciting to hit children with their parents nearby.
LINK TO VIDEO:
When Conone was in court Friday on two counts of assault, a judge set bond at $150,000 and told him to keep out of Walmarts. His public defender said Conone is manic depressive.
Police say they're looking for two other children seen getting struck on store video.
Japanese woman graduates from school at age of 91
A 91-year-old woman has graduated from evening school in southern Japan, the daily Mainichi Simbun paper reported on Wednesday.
The Kobe evening school is for people who failed to receive a secondary education because of difficult circumstances.
"I had to sacrifice a lot and give up a lot," Sidzue Hirai said.
Hirai was orphaned in early childhood and had to start to work at the age of twelve. She married at the age of 18 but her husband was killed in World War Two. After marrying again, her house was destroyed by an earthquake in 2007.
"This school has returned my youth to me. I've received back everything I lost. I would like to continue my education further and I believe this day is to be a start of a new path in my life", she said at a graduation ceremony.
TOKYO, March 10 (RIA Novosti)
Seven costly pro athlete screw-ups
By Mark Riddix
Mar 10, 1:58 pm EST
Almost 80 percent of National Football League players are flirting with bankruptcy two years after they retire, according to Sports Illustrated. NBA players aren’t faring much better. 60 percent of former National Basketball Association players end up broke within five years of retirement. Athletes squander millions of dollars due to bad decisions, lavish spending and poor financial planning. Here is a list of athletes that have lost their fortunes through some of the biggest financial blunders of all time.
Known more for his on court defense than his off court business sense, former Chicago Bulls star Scottie Pippen lost $120 million in career earnings due to poor financial planning and bad business ideas. Air Jordan’s sidekick blew $27 million on bad investments and spent $4.3 million on a Gulfstream II corporate jet.
Four-time boxing champ Evander “The Real Deal” Holyfield reportedly made over $250 million in cash during his boxing career, but despite this he reportedly is flat broke. Holyfield lost all his money by making “smart” business decisions look really foolish. You thought buying a house was a smart move? It normally is, but not when you buy a house the size of Rhode Island. Holyfield bought a $20 million house with over 54,000 square feet and 109 rooms. The house has 11 bedrooms, 17 bathrooms, a movie theater, a bowling alley and an Olympic-size swimming pool. Imagine how much it must cost to cut the grass on all 235 acres! You could buy a Range Rover with the electric bill payment alone.
Former New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies star Lenny “Nails” Dykstra was a success on the baseball diamond, but in the business field Dykstra has struck out. Dykstra’s failed businesses include car washes, a magazine company, real estate investing and a stock trading website. According to Dykstra’s July 2009 bankruptcy filing, he owed more than $30 million to creditors, including his $18.5 million purchase of Wayne Gretzky’s home. The amazing part is that after two foreclosed homes and numerous failed businesses Dykstra is offering the investment advice that led him into bankruptcy for a mere $899 a year! In the investment world, it is often said that past history does not dictate future performance. Nevertheless, it’s pretty clear Dykstra isn’t the guy to go to for advice.
Look up the word “shortsighted” in the dictionary and you will see a picture of Latrell Sprewell. He famously turned down a $21 million contract because he said it wasn’t enough money to feed his family. Sprewell, who made over $96 million during his career, lost his $1.5 million dollar Italian yacht, named “Milwaukee’s Best”, in 2007. According to MSNBC, a U.S. marshal seized the yacht after Sprewell defaulted on his mortgage. His $5.4 million house went into foreclosure in May 2008. Don’t blame Sprewell for turning down the three-year, $21 million contract though. I mean really, who could live off a measly $7 million a year?
Two-time PGA major champ John Daly gambled away between $50 and $60 million in career earnings, according to his 2006 autobiography. Daly once lost $1.65 million in five hours playing the slot machines at a casino. If you think that’s impressive, there’s more. Daly blew $1.2 million in a mere two hours and 30 minutes at a casino in Las Vegas. He just had his $1.6 million house foreclosed on. Did Daly quit gambling after blowing so much cash at the casino tables? Not by a long shot. Instead, he decided to downgrade from the $5,000 slot machines to the $100 and $500 machines. It looks in John Daly’s world, that is considered sound financial planning.
Former professional baseball slugger Jack Clark was driven into bankruptcy in 1992 by his appetite for luxury cars. According to his bankruptcy filing, he owned 18 luxury automobiles, including a $700,000 Ferrari and a Rolls Royce. Clark was trying to pay 17 car notes simultaneously, and whenever he got bored with a car he would get rid of it and just buy another one. He ended up losing million-dollar homes and his drag-racing business because of his extravagant spending habits, but despite one of the most publicized bankruptcies in baseball, Clark reportedly got back on his feet in the late ’90s.
The king of them all is boxer Mike Tyson, who squandered a $350 million to $400 million dollar fortune. So what did “Iron” Mike spend his fortune on? Everything. He dropped half a million dollars on a 420-horsepower Bentley Continental SC with lamb’s wool rugs, a phone and a removable glass roof. It is one of only 73 Bentley Continental SCs ever built. The sad part is that’s not even the only Bentley that Tyson owned! He spent over $4.5 million dollars on cars alone. Throw in a $2 million dollar bathtub and $140,000 for two Bengal tigers and you can see why Tyson’s fortune is down for the count. He filed for bankruptcy in 2003.
Updated Mar 10, 1:58 pm EST
The price you pay for being romantic...
updated 4:23 p.m. ET, Thurs., March. 11, 2010
BERLIN - A German woman, fearful that a burglar was trying to break into her second storey apartment, called police after she heard someone climbing up to her balcony shortly after midnight, police said Thursday.
Police discovered the "burglar" was a man carrying flowers and a bottle of wine who turned out to be the woman's boyfriend, but then arrested him on an outstanding warrant.
"He was trying to surprise her with the flowers and a bottle of wine but it all went wrong," said Korbach police spokesman Volker Koenig. He said the man jumped down from the balcony and tried to escape but was quickly tackled by police.
"He nevertheless gave the police who were taking him to jail the bottle of wine as a gesture of thanks for the friendly treatment after the arrest," Koenig said.
U.S. blacks, Hispanics losing more sleep over worries
Mon Mar 8, 2010 1:24pm EST
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Black and Hispanic Americans are more likely than whites and Asians to lose sleep over job and money worries, a sleep survey released on Monday found.
The National Sleep Foundation telephone poll of more than 1,000 people from the four ethnic groups also showed that more black Americans are likely to do job related work before bed.
Black Americans have long suffered from higher jobless rates than white Americans, a phenomenon that in recent years spread to Hispanics.
"So many people are suffering because of economic uncertainty," said Martica Hall, associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh.
"If you find yourself lying awake worrying, write a note to yourself to work on these issues the next day," she said.
Black Americans are also more likely to pray and have sex before going to bed and need the least amount of sleep to function, the survey found.
"The hour before bed is an important time to relax and wind-down before going to sleep," says Thomas Balkin, chairman of the National Sleep Foundation.
"For those who are having problems sleeping, it's a good idea to consider whether your bedtime routines may be too alerting," he said.
Asians report getting the best sleep, having the least amount of sleep problems and the most infrequent use of sleep aids, the poll showed, while whites are more likely to sleep with their pet or partner.
Three quarters of each group associated poor sleep with health problems, while one fifth reported missing events at least one day in the past month because they were too sleepy or had a sleep problem.
One in five from each group said sleepiness had affected their relationships.
Whites and Asians were more likely than blacks and Hispanics to blame a lack of sleep for harming their job performance, hindering their ability to carry out household duties and care for their family.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Patricia Reaney)
Cops: School bus driver drunk while taking kids from school
March 10, 2010
A Mount Prospect school bus driver was nearly three times over the legal limit for alcohol after she dropped off about 50 children from an elementary school, police say.
Betty Burden, 54, of the 1440 block of Park Drive, was arrested late Tuesday afternoon after police got a call from Vincente Ramirez, the transportation supervisor with Mount Prospect School District 57 around 3:45 p.m. Tuesday.
Another bus driver had smelled alcohol on Burden's breath at 2:30 p.m., before she took off from Lions Elementary School. But school officials said state law prevented either her or Ramirez from confronting Burden.
Instead, Ramirez followed the bus and eventually called police. By the time officers pulled her over around 4 p.m., Burden had dropped off all the children, officials said.
Supt. Elaine Aumiller said state law barred school officials from intervening.
"It's a tough administrative call," Aumiller said. "There were children on the bus during the time she was under the influence. Thank God nothing happened."
Assistant Cook County State's Atty. Mark Javier said in court today that Ramirez followed Burden as she dropped off children and called police when Burden's driving appeared erratic.
But the superintendent disputed that, saying the bus was not weaving.
When police pulled Burden over on River Road, just north of Euclid Avenue, officers "immediately smelled the odor of an alcoholic beverage on Burden's breath" and also noticed other physical signs of "alchohol impairment," police said.
She failed "all field sobriety tests administered to her," and was taken to the Mount Prospect police station, police said. The woman consented to a breath test, which registered her blood alcohol level at .226. The legal limit is .08, officials said.
Burden admitted to police she had been drinking vodka and orange juice before driving. She's been a driver for the system for 10 years, authorities said.
The superintendent said Ramirez could not smell alcohol on Burden, though officers said they noticed the smell immediately. He did not question or confront her about drinking, but instead followed her.
"He called police right away," she said. "We didn't catch that smell. .. We couldn't even confront her. This is not a District 57 procedure. It is based on Illinois School Code. It spells out very clearly what you can and can't do. Our person followed it to the letter. When we couldn't verify it on their own, he called police."
Contradicting prosecutors, the superintendent said there was no sign of erratic driving. She said it is possible officials waited "so they (the children) don't become witness to an arrest."
Burden's husband Michael, contacted by phone, said she was not available. He declined comment.
She was charged with aggravated driving under the influence of alcohol for being under the influence while transporting passengers under the age of 18, officials said. She was ordered held today on $10,000 bail by Circuit Court Judge Joseph Urso who ordered her not to drive any school buses while the case is pending.
Her next court date was scheduled for April 1.
LINK TO PHOTO:
Police say man broke into Ames church to watch porn
Tuesday, March 9, 2010 10:40 AM CST
Wichita man pays crack dealer with Monopoly money
NBC -- Police in Wichita, Kansas are investigating an odd crime that involves drugs, assault and Monopoly money.
It started as a routine traffic stop in a Wichita neighborhood Thursday evening.
When police pulled over the car they found a 33-year-old man bleeding from the head and telling an unusual story.
The victim said a couple of weeks ago he bought several hundred dollars of crack-cocaine with Monopoly money and now the dealer was ready for pay back.
"The man from whom he had bought the drugs was upset and invited him over to his house and upon arrival struck him in the head several times with a handgun and other people jumped into the fray," said Gordon Bassham with the Wichita Police Department.
The victim was able to get away and escape serious injury.
At this point police say he's being uncooperative.
Despite the unusual circumstances, officers still want to arrest the attacker.
"That was not a get out-of-jail-free card," Bassham said.
The victim's injuries were not life threatening.
LINK TO VIDEO
Pelosi says House has votes for healthcare if vote were held today
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) suggested Tuesday evening that Democrats would have the votes to pass healthcare legislation if it were taken up today.
Pelosi, in an interview with Bloomberg and PBS host Charlie Rose, hinted that she could pass Democrats' healthcare plans through the House if they were brought up this week.
"Yes," Pelosi said when asked if she believed the House would end up having the votes to approve healthcare.
"If we took it up today, yes," the Speaker quickly added.
Pelosi still cautioned, though, that the timing and actual vote count on the bill couldn't be entirely set in stone until the final legislative language was finalized and until the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) delivers its score of the bill's impact.
Pelosi's words come as Democrats move toward acting on the long-stalled health reform efforts. The White House had set a March 18 deadline by which they had hoped to see the House pass the healthcare bill approved by the Senate in December, setting in motion an endgame on healthcare.
The Speaker said she wouldn't start worrying about timing until the CBO released its estimates of the reform plan's costs.
"My clock doesn't start ticking until the CBO numbers come," she said.
One of Pelosi's key confidants, House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller (D-Calif.), suggested Wednesday those numbers could come as soon as Wednesday or Thursday.
Kyl: GOP has votes to stop some health fixes in the Senate
Miller also hedged on the question of whether Democrats would have the votes to pass the bill.
"I think we can see the votes from here," Miller said during an appearance Wednesday morning on CNBC. "As the Speaker says, we'll have the votes when we take up the bill."
Pelosi had previously been obstinate in saying she did not have the votes for the Senate's healthcare bill in the House until an agreement could be struck to make changes to the Senate's healthcare bill.
Tuesday March 9, 2010
Lawyer in client-beating case arrested after failing to post bond
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Charleston attorney Joshua Robinson, who is charged with beating a client with a baseball bat, had to be arrested after failing to either post bond or report to jail on Monday.
Earlier in the day, Robinson had been placed on home confinement until his trial next month. Bond was set at $25,000 with a 10 percent cash option and a requirement of home confinement.
But Robinson failed to post bond by 4 p.m. Monday -- and also did not report to jail in lieu of that. There was a warrant issued for his arrest, and police apprehended him at his Lee Street home.
He is now in South Central Regional Jail.
Earlier Monday,Robinson, 38, was arraigned before Judge Duke Bloom. Last week, he asked for a continuance, saying he hadn't had time to hire a lawyer. On Monday, he again came to court without a lawyer and asked Bloom to postpone his hearing.
The judge refused, and Robinson entered a not guilty plea.
His trial date is set for April 19
Robinson was charged with malicious assault, embezzlement, and obstructing justice after an incident at his East End home.
The incident occurred Dec. 3 when a client, David Lee Gump, came to confront him about cashing a $1,100 check made out to his grandfather. Gump had hired Robinson to help with his grandfather's estate.
Witnesses have testified that Robinson pursued Gump into the street and struck him multiple times in the head with a baseball bat. Gump had to receive medical treatment for his injuries.
Police initially arrested Gump at the scene when Robinson told them Gump had broken into his home, but after hearing testimony, Magistrate Paris Workman found no probable cause for charges and dismissed them.
Assistant Prosecutor Fred Giggenbach asked Bloom to place Robinson on home confinement, pointing out that the attorney had other charges and convictions in Kentucky.
"He has had two charges of wanton endangerment," Giggenbach told the judge. "He took a propane tank and threw it into the back window of a car with his wife in it. And there was a child in the car."
Giggenbach said the charges were felonies, but were pleaded down to misdemeanors. He said Robinson also has an aggravated assault conviction in Kentucky and twice failed to appear in court.
"He's taking that out of context," Robinson responded. "I was sentenced to unsupervised probation. I do not plan to fail to appear for court dates. I look forward to clearing my name."
Robinson said media attention surrounding recent charges has caused concern among his clients.
"This is ridiculous," Robinson said. "It seems that I can not get away from these issues. My wife has an ex-husband who has caused us problems, and that's why we moved here."
Giggenbach also requested that Robinson be drug tested, but Bloom did not order the screen.
Robinson told Bloom there were some financial concerns that prevented him from hiring an attorney.
Bloom said an attorney would be appointed to represent him if he files file financial documents showing he cannot afford one.
Man Asks Police For Directions While In Stolen Car
POSTED: 4:22 pm CST March 8, 2010
UPDATED: 5:14 pm CST March 8, 2010
NEW ORLEANS -- Officer Theresa Lubrano said she was in the drive thru line at McDonalds when she gave directions to a man driving what turned out later to be a stolen vehicle.
Friday around 10:30 p.m. a SUV pulled along side Lubrano's vehicle and the driver asked for directions to the interstate. Lubrano gave the driver the directions, but said she had to repeat them several times as the driver was having trouble understanding them.
Officer Lubrano said when the SUV drove off, she ran the license plate and found the vehicle had been reported stolen out of Kenner on March 5.
Lubrano said she notified other officers about the stolen vehicle. A short time later, the vehicle was spotted crossing the Highway 11 overpass.
LINK TO PHOTO:
Couple arrested at parade after putting daiquiri in baby's bottle
Posted on March 8, 2010 at 7:32 PM
Updated today at 10:56 AM
CHALMETTE, La. – A St. Bernard Parish couple is in hot water after allegedly filling a 1-year-old's bottle with a chocolate-flavored daiquiri during a parade Sunday.
Deputies arrested the father of the child, 19-year-old Nicholas Lee, and his girlfriend, 19-year-old Jaelin Manuel, who is not the baby’s mother, after a witness saw them pouring the daiquiri into the baby’s bottle at the Irish, Italian and Islenos Community Parade.
According to the witness the baby drank from the bottle, said St. Bernard Parish Chief Deputy Sheriff James Pohlmann.
Pohlmann said after the witnesses notified police, a detective went to the couple and found the bottle. It’s not known how much the baby consumed. He said the detective found a brownish liquid in the bottle and noticed a brown stain on the child’s shirt.
Pohlmann said the couple wouldn’t confess to feeding the baby the daiquiri, but he said they did admit to putting some daiquiri into the bottle.
An EMS worker checked out the baby but it was decided he didn’t need to be hospitalized. Police called the baby’s mother to pick her son up.
Manuel was released from prison on a $5,000 bond, while the baby’s father is being held under a probation hold.
Two others were arrested at the parade in unrelated incidents:
- Violet resident Ray Miller Jr., 22, was removed from Float 35 and booked with obscenity and disturbing the peace after “allegedly exposing himself to the crowd,” Pohlmann said.
- Metairie resident Danielle McDevitt, 22, was also removed from her float during the parade and booked with obscenity and disturbing the peace. Pohlmann said according to reports from witnesses, she had been dancing on Float 28 “in exotic fashion” and had pulled out one breast from a bikini top.
Both Miller and McDevitt were released on bond, but the sheriff’s office said the amounts were available.
LINK TO PHOTOS:
MAY BE OFFENSIVE
BUT IT'S WEIRD
9 Things American Women Take For Granted
8:30AM, Tuesday March 2nd 2010
Women have never had it easy, but we have more opportunities and freedom than we did even a century ago. Keep reading for nine rights you should take advantage of.
Mary Jo Ray departs peacefully, at age 114
New Hampshire Union Leader
March 8, 2010
Mary Josephine Ray hadn't been feeling well for the past couple of weeks, frequently staying in bed in her room at the Maplewood County Nursing Home in Westmoreland for much of the day. But the woman known for her longevity perked up one day recently when a reporter came around for an interview.
Barbara Ray said her mother-in-law got dressed, hopped into her wheelchair and did the interview, even singing a few of songs.
"She loved all the attention," Barbara Ray said.
Mary Josephine, born on May 17, 1895, passed away just after midnight yesterday at the age of 114. She was recognized by the Gerontology Research Group, which certifies claims of extreme old age, as the second oldest living person in the world at the time.
Hooper/APMary Josephine Ray, certified as the country's oldest woman, has died. She was 114 years old.
Barbara Ray, who lives in Westmoreland with her husband, said she received a call from the nursing home just past midnight to tell her of Mary Josephine's passing.
She was told the lady known at Mary Jo died peacefully in her sleep.
"I think we're going to miss her; she was a big part of our day," said Trisha Moore, a licensed nursing assistant who worked on the floor where Mary Josephine lived.
A funeral will be held Thursday in Madison, Maine (See Obituary on Page B4). Mary Josephine was a native of Prince Edward island, Canada, but lived in Maine for nearly 60 years.
She will be buried in Forest Hill Cemetery in Madison, joining her husband Walter Ray, who died in 1967.
Mary Josephine moved into Maplewood at the age of 102 to live close to her son, daughter-in-law and a granddaughter, Katherine Ray.
"She had been with us so long," Barbara Ray said. "I always said God knows best, and He would know when to take her. I think everything just gave out."
The Cheshiremen Chorus, an a cappella group that sings in barbershop style, would visit the home every year on Mary Josephine's birthday to sing to her.
Mary Josephine was recognized as the second oldest person in the world in November when a woman in upstate New York died at the age of 114. The oldest person in the world is believed to be a woman in Japan, Kama Chinen, who was born one week before Mary Josephine.
"When she got mail from fans, she got really excited," Moore said, adding Mary Josephine was particularly pleased recently when one girl wrote asking for her autograph.
Neva Morris, 114, of Ames, Iowa, is now considered the oldest person in the United States.
Shocked witness Maureen Quinn, pictured talking immediately after the shooting, was close by as the drama unfolded.
NYPDThe silver imitation handgun that was held by a 23-year-old man before being shot by cops
Cops in Brooklyn shot dead a man who pointed an imitation pistol at them in a Monday afternoon confrontation outside an elementary school.
Students at Public School 194, in Sheepshead Bay, had been dismissed a half-hour earlier, but some were in a fenced-off area nearby, witnesses said.
Police were called to the scene, on Knapp Street, after getting a 911 call about a man with a gun.
When uniformed officers from the 61st Precinct arrived at about 3:10 p.m., the 22-year-old suspect pointed the silver gun - inscribed with Zebra-II - at them and refused orders to drop it, police sources said.
"We fired three times," the source said.
Maureen Quinn, who lives nearby, said she ran out of her house and "saw a body laying down on the street."
"I heard a cop tell another 'He pulled a gun on me,'" she said. "He was not moving. It was scary."
Another witness said the shooting officer holstered his gun when he realized the suspect wasn't moving.
"It's a shame,'' said another nearby resident, Joe Vigilant. "It really is. He looked young too."
The suspect was rushed to Coney Island Hospital, where he died at 4:11 p.m.
Department of Education spokeswoman Margie Feinberg said no children were outside at the time of the shooting.
Kerima Amer, who had had just picked up her two daughters at the school, said there were students in a fenced-in patio area just up the block.
"I can't imagine if it had happened two minutes earlier," she said.
Police sources said it appears the shots were fired by one officer, who has been on the force less than two years.
Kathy Griffin Takes Aim At Sarah Palin
Comedian Skewers Former Governor In Alaska
Associated Press Writer
POSTED: 2:41 am EST March 6, 2010
UPDATED: 12:51 pm EST March 6, 2010
ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- Comedian Kathy Griffin has brought her "Life on the D-List" show to Sarah Palin's home state, skewering the former Alaska governor at a raucous show in Anchorage.
Griffin was escorted on stage on Friday by Playgirl model Levi Johnston, who fathered a child with Palin's oldest daughter and is involved in a child support battle with Bristol Palin.
Griffin said she spent a day ice fishing with Johnston in Wasilla, and was surprised when 19-year-old Levi's friend brought along a camera -- but only to photograph the fish they caught.
Griffin helped Johnston's celebrity star to rise, taking the aspiring actor to an awards show last year as her date. While in Wasilla, Griffin said she also went to Palin's home. There she left a note, inviting Palin to Friday's performance.
She asked the crowd to look around and see if anyone was doing a pageant wave.
Griffin said John McCain picked Palin to be his running mate on the Republican ticket after "talking to her for 10 minutes."
Of Palin's monologue this week on "The Tonight Show," Griffin only promised the audience she would never try to be a mayor.
Griffin also claimed Palin is a "gift that keeps on giving."
Griffin welcomed news that Palin is trying to shop a reality show or docudrama about Alaska. She called that a "gift from God."
Griffin is in Anchorage to coincide with Saturday's start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. She was to have attended several events leading up to the race, including the musher's banquet and made many jokes about the annual Trappers and Miners Ball.
An emailed "joke" from an Tennesee CEO comparing the First Lady to a famous movie chimp ended up being no laughing matter.
The CEO of the Tennessee Hospitality Association issued an apology this weekend for an offensive e-mail he recently sent to several people, including members of the press and a public official, comparing Michelle Obama to Cheetah from the Tarzan movies.
"I deeply apologize to anyone who is offended by this action," Walt Baker said in a statement.
"I hope that those who know me realize that the message was not intended to be malicious or hurtful in any way and can find it in their hearts to forgive me."
However, Baker is apparently confused on why someone would find it offensive, describing the joke as "political humor."
"I did not think or consider its implications, other than that it was political humor," he wrote. "I am saddened that anyone misinterpreted the sentiments behind the e-mail."
Baker's e-mail, which someone had sent him and he forwarded, contained a photo of Michelle Obama along side a photo of Tarzan's chimpanzee sidekick.
"I have never considered myself bigoted, or racially insensitive, or a racist," Baker told News Channel 5.
The president of Nashville's Convention & Visitors Bureau, Butch Spyridon, was one of the people to receive the e-mail, and said he was "embarrassed" by the gag.
"The content is deeply hurtful to all in our city and beyond," he wrote in a statement. "The attitudes expressed in the email are both appalling and unacceptable, and are not shared or condoned in anyway by the NCVB or by me personally."
Spyridon said Baker's marketing firm, Mercatus Communications, has since lost its contract to help promote the city's new convention center.
"The e-mail was extremely offensive," Nashville's Mayor Karl Dean said in a statement. "It does not reflect who we are as a city and our values."
According to WSMV Channel 4 News in Nashville, this isn't the first time an e-mail with racist content has caused a controversy in the southern city.
Back in October, several hundred state workers received an e-mail proclaiming "white pride," and shortly after that, 20 Senate staffers were sent an e-mail from a legislative aide with President Obama seen on a black background as just a pair of eyes.
"I regret having done it," Baker said on News Channel 5. "I wished I had not pushed that button."
LINK TO VIDEO
Scratch-off ticket theft suspect caught
Published: Friday, March 5, 2010 at 8:27 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, March 5, 2010 at 8:27 a.m.
BARTOW - A Circle K store clerk helped Polk County Sheriff's Office detectives in their investigation of a scratch-off ticket theft suspect, when she told the man she needed his driver's license in order to give him the cash prize he came to claim Monday.
According to an arrest affidavit, Allen Nguyen, 22, of 1859 Emily Drive, Winter Haven, is accused of stealing $70 worth of scratch-off lottery tickets from the store Sunday. When he scratched off one of the tickets, it revealed he had won $50.
According to the affidavit, Nguyen went back to the store the next day to claim his money. The clerk, who was aware of the crime, asked for the man's driver's license and made note of his name and information. She then passed that information on to Sheriff's Office detectives.
Nguyen was placed under arrest and charged with one count of retail theft, the Sheriff's Office reported. He was booked into the Polk County Jail in Bartow.
WARNING GRAPHIC VIDE0
9oz Miracle: World's Smallest Ever Baby Boy
3:23pm UK, Friday March 05, 2010
Sky News Online
Meet the world's smallest ever surviving baby boy - weighing just nine ounces.
The tiny child - smaller than a can of coke - was born after just 25 weeks.
He was so little at birth that a tape measure laid next to his body was wider than his limbs.
Doctors in Germany were convinced he would not survive but refused to give up hope.
Now - eight months after the birth - medics have finally released a picture of the mite, confident he is strong enough to make it through.
The child weighed just 275g and is the smallest baby boy ever to survive. There have been three girls who have been lighter.
Doctors are confident the boy - now eight-months-old - will pull through
The most premature baby to survive is believed to have been born after 21 weeks, a girl born in Miami in America in 2004.
Experts on medical ethics advise doctors not to resuscitate babies born before 23 weeks in the womb.
More than 80,000 babies are born prematurely in Britain every year and half need to be treated in intensive care.
Doctors expect babies weighing less than 12oz not to survive.
The baby in Germany was delivered by Caeserean section at the University of Medicine at Goettingen in June 2009.
A spokesman for the university told Sky News Online that doctors were "extremely proud" of the boy and the parents were overjoyed.
"This was an incredible fight for life," the spokesman said.
LINK TO VIDEO AND PHOTOS:
A man uses a body scanner at Schiphol airport in the Netherlands. Ten more U.S. airports will be equipped with the scanners. Photo: AP
Ten more U.S. airports are getting new scanners capable of detecting explosives like those carried by the alleged Christmas Day bomber, an administration official said Friday.
The new machines at airports including Boston’s Logan, Chicago’s O’Hare and Charlotte’s Douglas will take full body scans of airline passengers and can detect explosives hidden under clothing. LAX airport in Los Angeles, which already has one of the advanced scanners operating in its international terminal, will receive eight additional scanners, a Democratic member of Congress said.
The Transportation Security Administration bought 150 of the advanced imaging technology machines in September with $25 million in stimulus cash. POLITICO reported last month that it took the Department of Homeland Security seven months just to place the order — and it still hasn’t released a list or developed a complete plan for where to send them. Major airports still without the scanners, even after this new deployment, include all three of New York City’s hubs — Newark, LaGuardia and JFK.
The Obama administration announced a push to get up to 1,000 of the scanners into 75 percent of the country’s largest airports in the wake of the Christmas Day bombing attempt. The 2011 budget request includes nearly $215 million to build more of the scanners and $218 million to pay some 5,300 TSA staff to operate the machines.
Installing the scanners is complicated because they are much larger than traditional metal detectors. Airports also have to build separate, windowless rooms where TSA agents can look at the scans without seeing passengers — the scans are so detailed that it is easy to determine a person’s gender, raising privacy concerns. The addition of the new machines brings the total number of U.S. airports operating them up to 29, including 17 of the country’s largest.
Republicans have questioned the dramatic increase in funding, particularly because the money for the machines had to come out of other areas of the DHS budget.
“I am apprehensive because it is unclear whether such a costly and manpower-intensive approach is the absolute best course of action, especially when the initial deployment of whole-body imagers appears to be an interim step towards the use of even more advanced technology,” Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) said Thursday. “Far too often, government overreacts in the wake of a crisis.” Rogers serves on the Appropriations subcommittee that authorizes the DHS budget.
New York Rep. Peter King, the top Republican on the Homeland Security Committee, has blasted the DHS budget because it cuts five of the Coast Guard’s maritime counterterrorism teams, including the one charged with protecting New York City.
A full list of the airports that will get new scanners, according to an administration official:
Charlotte Douglas, N.C.
Port Columbus, Ohio
Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
San Jose, Calif.
Kansas City, Mo.
IMAGES SEEN WITH FULL BODY SCANNER:
Loaded handgun found in backpack of student, 8, who threatened classmate
March 6, 2010
Authorities were trying to determine Friday how an 8-year-old boy obtained a loaded handgun that was found in his backpack by school police after he made threats toward a classmate.
The third-grader at Sharp-Leadenhall Elementary School, a small Baltimore City school for special-needs children, was arrested Thursday afternoon and charged as a juvenile with handgun possession. School officials said the boy was "acting suspiciously" and staff began closely monitoring his behavior, which led to a search of his backpack and the discovery of a .380-caliber handgun.
A law enforcement source with knowledge of the incident said the boy was overheard making a threat to another student and walked over to his locker. A staff member followed him and saw the boy take out his backpack, at which point the employee observed the loaded gun, the source said.
The boy denied knowledge of the weapon, according to two sources.
He was arrested that day and placed on community detention with the Department of Juvenile Services, according to school officials and three sources with knowledge of the case. At a juvenile court hearing Friday, a judge ordered that he remain on community detention, the sources said.
School officials said school and city police were conducting an investigation to determine the gun's owner and where the gun came from originally. They said charges could be filed against others who might have contributed to the student coming into possession of the gun.
"Our focus continues to be maintaining safe and supportive environments for our students," said Jonathan T. Brice, director of student support for Baltimore City's public schools. "But the broader issue is really an adult issue, about children having access to weapons."
The Department of Social Services has begun an inquiry, and sources said the agency had an "extensive" history with the family.
Sources said the boy lives in North Baltimore and was bused to Sharp-Leadenhall in South Baltimore, between Federal Hill and M&T Bank Stadium. The school is located along a small strip of industrial space and offices, adjacent to a shelter for men who are homeless or have substance abuse problems.
In the 2008-2009 school year, the school had an enrollment of only 66 students.
Brice said the school is not equipped with metal detectors. Edie House, a school spokeswoman, said 43 schools have metal detectors and 64 schools have hand wands to scan students for weapons, which are placed in schools at the request of the principal and the school community.
House said Friday was "as normal as it could be, under the circumstances."
Brice said the school's principal, James Linde, met with faculty members before classes started, and a letter was sent out to all students' homes to inform them of the situation.
The incident was first reported by the Investigative Voice Web site, and school officials did not release a statement until midday Friday. Parents interviewed by television stations said they had not heard about the discovery of the gun and the student's arrest, and some said they were reconsidering whether the school was a safe place for their children.
"I think it's very important to allow the process to work, and that we're able to determine the appropriate consequence and support for this young person, so that this incident does not become the sum total of their experience in school," Brice said. "Hopefully, this is merely one incident in what will become a very successful academic career."
At the nearby Solo Gibbs Recreation Center, volunteer Ashley M. Cichowicz, 31, watched as children played and joked. She said the center averages about 30 kids per day, offering arts, crafts and the ability to explore on a computer.
Last year, the center had a retired police officer talk to the children about gun safety. He told them not to pick up a gun, and to alert an adult if they see one. One little girl said her father had been killed in gun violence.
"It's really unbelievable, but these kids have access to handguns," said Cichowicz, a Sykesville native who now lives in the neighborhood. "I think it's tragic that this city is so violent and guns are so prevalent that a child could get their hands on one. Thankfully, tragedy was averted, this time."
LINK TO VIDEO
2:50 pm EST March 5, 2010
UPDATED: 11:22 pm EST March 5, 2010
Richmond police said Officer Gregory Simmons, 42, was arrested on Thursday night.
Simmons was in Richmond attending the Department of Criminal Justice Training. He's been an officer with Newport police since 1996.
Police said Simmons was eating at a restaurant and then drinking at the restaurant's bar before he got into his cruiser to leave.
Officers said Simmons got the cruiser stuck on a curb, and his attempts to free the cruiser attracted enough attention that someone in the restaurant called 911.
Richmond police said Simmons got the cruiser off the curb with some help, but bystanders gave officers the cruiser's city and number and said it appeared Simmons had been drinking.
Simmons was pulled over a short time later. He refused a Breathalyzer test and was charged with DUI, police said.
"You can't get much more disappointed," Newport Chief Robbie Hall said. "It's really embarrassing to have an officer do something like this."
Hall told News 5's Eric Flack that Simmons is suspended without pay pending a disciplinary hearing that can't begin until his case is done in court.
WH considering military trials for 9/11 suspects
WASHINGTON -- In a potential reversal, White House advisers are close to recommending that President Barack Obama opt for military tribunals for self-professed Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed and four of his alleged henchman, senior officials said.
The review of where and how to hold a Sept. 11 trial is not over, so no recommendation is yet before the president and Obama has not made a determination of his own, officials said. The review is not likely to be finished this week.
Officials spoke Thursday on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to discuss private deliberations.
Attorney General Eric Holder decided in November to transfer Mohammed and the four other accused terrorists from theU.S. naval base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, to New York City for civilian trials. That was initially supported by city officials, but was later opposed because of costs, security and logistical concerns.
President George W. Bush ordered Mohammed and his four alleged co-conspirators moved to the U.S. Navy base from secret CIA custody in 2006, for trials by military commissions that were beset by a series of challenges. They have been held at Guantánamo in a secret facility called Camp 7.
But opposition to a civilian Obama era trial ballooned further into Congress and an attempted Christmas airline bombing brought massive scrutiny to Obama's terrorism policies, the administration said it would review Holder's trial decision and consider all options for a new location.
In addition to local opposition to a trial, the administration faces pressure on its goal of closing Guantanamo on another front. Republicans in Congress have proposed barring prosecutions of terrorism defendants in federal courts or in reformed military commissions located in the United States.
Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., has proposed legislation that would prevent the Obama administration from putting Mohammed and other terrorists on trial in any American community. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., joined by about half the Senate's Republicans and a few Democrats, has made a similar proposal.
Separate from the internal trial review, the White House is in still-ongoing negotiations with lawmakers over those proposals, including how to secure funding from Congress to hold terrorism trials and to close the Guantánamo prison and replace it with another facility in the United States.
The Obama administration views civilian trials for terrorists as an important demonstration of the U.S. commitment to rule of law. Officials also have cited the numerous terrorism trials already held successfully in U.S. criminal courts.
Further, the administration argues that prosecutorial decisions are for the executive branch to make, not lawmakers.
The Washington Post first reported that a recommendation for a military trial is almost ready.
"If this stunning reversal comes to pass, President Obama will deal a death blow to his own Justice Department, not to mention American values," said American Civil Liberties Union Anthony D. Romero. "Even with recent improvements, the military commissions system is incapable of handling complicated terrorism cases and achieving reliable results. President Obama must not cave in to political pressure and fear-mongering. He should hold firm and keep these prosecutions in federal court, where they belong."
PHOTOS: Jay-Z and Beyonce Knowles strike presidential pose in the White House situation roomLauren Johnston
Friday, March 5th 2010, 5:43 PM
The White House got an Upgrade this week when Jay-Z and Beyonce Knowles dropped by the situation room.
It looks like the first couple of hip hop is rubbing shoulders with the first couple of the nation.
Photos ripping through the Twitterverse show Jay-Z and Beyoncé Knowles in the White House Situation Room.
The pair is seated with a group around a long, polished table with an official presidential seal clearly visible on the wall.
The rapper had casually mentioned a visit to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. during a concert Wednesday at the Verizon Center.
"I just came from the White House," he said on stage.
A White House official later confirmed that the Brooklyn-born rapper had toured the White House before the show and briefly met President Obama.
Sarah Palin addresses attendees at the National Tea Party Convention in Nashville, Tenn., Feb. 6, 2010. The politician is currently shopping a reality series.
No one ever doubted that Sarah Palin was a survivor, but she's taking that a step further by pitching a reality show with "Survivor" producer Mark Burnett.
Palin and the master of reality television have been shopping a docudrama about Alaska to all the major broadcasters, multiple sources told EntertainmentWeekly.com. She and Burnett have taken meetings at ABC and CBS, with plans to stop by NBC.
They also confabbed with reality chief Mike Darnell at Fox, where the Palin family seized the opportunity to visit "American Idol," though the former vice-presidential candidate stayed in the green room.
One executive joked that "she's pitching a sequel to 'Commander in Chief,' " a defunct show that starred Geena Davis as the first female president.
The former governor of Alaska and her family would appear on the show, which was described by an insider as "'Planet Earth' meets Alaska meets her family." "Planet Earth" is the Discovery channel's high-definition nature series hit.
"There's an awful lot of interest in her," said an executive. "As a short-order series, it might work. It would depend on what kind of footage you get."
Palin started her week in Los Angeles appearing on "The Tonight Show," where she joked with Jay Leno that the difference between Alaska and L.A. is that "Here when people have a frozen look on their face, I find out it's Botox."
She also swept through the Oscar week gift suites.
Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/tv/2010/03/04/2010-03-04_sarah_palin_shopping_reality_show_about_alaska_with_survivor_producer_mark_burne.html#ixzz0hGjUoyfM
Could L.A. throne be fit for a King?
As unlikely as it probably is, Lakers franchise has been quite fortunate when it comes to landing elite talent
03/04/2010 12:02:55 AM PST
Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James (23) and Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe... ((AP Photo/Tony Dejak))
LeBron James playing for the Lakers next year is such a far-fetched, preposterous, outlandish fantasy we have no other choice but to completely and utterly embrace it.
And we have every right to, every reason to, because this is Hollywood. Crazy, whimsical dreams like this come true all the time for the Lakers.
Just look at their history.
They acquired Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the greatest player in the game at the time, from Milwaukee for four players in 1975. They lucked into Magic Johnson and James Worthy after acquiring draft picks (which turned out to be No. 1s overall) from lowly Utah and Cleveland.
The Lakers have always been fortunate like that, and probably always will be. It's part of their charm, and the main reason they've been the most glamorous team in the NBA since arriving here in 1960.
Players want to come here, star here. They understand they'll perform on one of sports' biggest stages, and they'll contend for championships every year.
So when the opportunity to come here presents itself, they do whatever it takes to make it happen.
Remember when there was no chance the Orlando Magic would allow Shaquille O'Neal to leave as a free agent at the height of his game in 1996?
Yet that is exactly what happened.
These are the Lakers, and this is where the biggest stars in the game come to play.
O'Neal went on to lead the Lakers to three consecutive championships from 2000-03.
While we're on the subject of the summer of 1996, keep in mind that was the same offseason the Lakers shipped Vlade Divac to Charlotte for the draft rights to a 17-year-old kid from Lower Merion High outside Philadelphia.
That's how the Lakers ended up with Kobe Bryant.
Yeah, dreams come true for the Lakers.
Crazy, impossible dreams that have no business even being talked about; yet somehow, someway, always seem to come to fruition.
You think the Pau Gasol trade just happened? Do you think someone just acquires a spectacular talent like Gasol for Kwame Brown and Javaris Crittenton?
Unless you're the Lakers, who always seem to bask in good fortune.
This brings us to James, and the crazy notion of him joining forces next year with Bryant and Gasol in Los Angeles.
For any other team, obtaining the greatest young player in the game is a fantasy too outrageous to even consider, and that includes the clubs currently jockeying for cap space to make a run at James when he becomes a free agent this summer.
But there is no dream too big for the Lakers, as they have proved throughout their charismatic existence.
The rumor has been out there for a few months now, with longtime NBA reporter Sam Smith floating it out of Chicago back in November. It picked up steam this week when a source close to Phil Jackson told Hoopshype.com that James had expressed interest in playing for the Lakers next year.
Within hours, talk radio and Internet message boards were buzzing with the possibility.
Some people dismissed it as far-fetched. The Lakers are too far over the salary cap, they argued, and there is no way James and Bryant can possibly coexist on the same team.
Details, I say, details.
Not only can it happen, if James really wants it to, it will happen.
Stay with me here.
First, the Cavaliers will do everything in their power to make sure he stays.
But if James wants to leave, he will. And it just so happens his desire to play for the Lakers also gives the Cavaliers a decent fallback plan should he go.
First, the Lakers have enough young talent to work out a sign-
and-trade deal with the Cavaliers. Instead of letting James walk away for nothing, Cleveland can reap something in return.
For the Cavs, getting Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom or Ron Artest, plus a couple of first-round picks, looks a whole lot better than the nothing they'll get if James signs with New York or New Jersey.
Second, it keeps James out of the Eastern Conference.
If you're the Cavaliers, losing James is easier to digest if you have to play him only twice a year compared with the handful of times they'd see him if he stayed in the same conference.
As far as James and Bryant not being able to coexist, that is nonsense.
Bryant coexisted with O'Neal well enough to win three championships with him, and James and Bryant played brilliantly together in the 2008 Olympics, leading Team USA to the gold medal.
It's the perfect situation for both.
Bryant has only a few more years left, and the opportunity to add to his championship collection is immediately enhanced with the addition of James.
By the time Bryant gets fazed out, King James will be entering his prime, ready to take over the franchise. Kareem once passed the torch to Magic, and Bryant took over for Shaq.
That's the way the Lakers do it. One great player turns over control to the next one. It's how they've managed to hang 10 championship banners over the past 40 years and become the NBA's flagship franchise.
So how does this all come about?
That's the easy part.
James goes to the Cavaliers and gives them an ultimatum. Trade me to the Lakers, or I will sign with the New York Knicks or Chicago Bulls - with you getting nothing in return - and I will haunt you five or six times every year for the next decade.
If you are the Cavaliers, what choice do you really have but to comply? If you're going to lose James, wouldn't you want something valuable in return, and don't you want him as far away from Cleveland as possible?
If you're the Lakers, you gladly deal Bynum and either Odom or Artest and a couple of first-round picks to ensure your dynasty continues for the foreseeable future.
An entertainment website is reporting that Sarah Palin and her entourage descended like 'locusts' onto an Oscar swag suite.
Sarah Palin and her entourage descended "like locusts" on the Oscar swag suite, scarfing up freebies in a binge that "practically cleaned the place out," celebrity gossips reported Thursday.
The former Alaska Gov's Wednesday pigout included jewels from Pascal Mouawad, watches by Skagen and a fancy new hairdo for her daughter Willow. The new coiffure came courtesy of Erick Orellana, Jennifer Aniston's longtime hairstylist, witnesses said.
The Los Angeles Times reported Palin was supposed to donate all of her gift items back to the Silver Spoon Oscar Suite for auction, as well as $1,700 of her own cash, in support of Red Cross efforts in Haiti and Chile.
But E! Online insisted, "we can assure you she did not give up any of her swag."
The entertainment news outlet quoted an unnamed vendor who said that as many as 20 people from the Palin camp swarmed the event.
"They were like locusts," he said.
News of Palin's grabfest ignited the blogosphere.
"She insisted every person in her huge entourage get something, and there were assistants, nannies, security - insanity!," an unnamed HollywoodLife.com source said.
HollywoodLife.com also reported that Palin picked up a blue Kenya robe from designer Jenna Leigh, facewash and a pair of foam Bandal sandals.
"She kind of cleaned the place out," Ben Russo of EMC/Bowery told AOL's Pop Eater. The website said swag-grabs included 40 pairs of AIAIAI earphones.
One witness said security swept the venue and would not allow photos.
Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/2010/03/04/2010-03-04_sarah_palin_and_entourage_descend_like_locusts_on_oscar_swag_suite.html#ixzz0hEejAq9S
Obama Health Care Speech: It's Time To Act
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama urged Congress Wednesday to vote "up or down" on sweeping health care legislation in the next few weeks, endorsing a plan that denies Senate Republicans the right to kill the bill by stalling with a filibuster.
"I don't see how another year of negotiations would help. Moreover, the insurance companies aren't starting over," Obama said, rejecting Republican calls to begin anew on an effort to remake the health care system.
The president made his appeal as Democratic leaders in Congress surveyed their rank and file for the votes needed to pass legislation by majority vote – invoking rules that deny Senate Republicans the right to block it through endless stalling debate. Obama specifically endorsed that approach.
The outcome will affect nearly every American, either making major changes in the ways they receive and pay for health care or leaving current systems in place. There is still no certainty about the final result in Congress – or even that Democrats will agree to the series of changes that Obama said he was including as Republican contributions.
GOP leaders were unmoved.
The Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, said a decision by Democrats to invoke rules that bar filibusters would be "met with outrage" by the public, and he said Obama was pushing a sweeping bill that voters don't want.
"They've had enough of this yearlong effort to get a win for the Democratic Party at any price to the American people," McConnell said on the Senate floor.
At its core, Obama's proposal would extend health care to tens of millions of uninsured Americans while cracking down on insurance company practices such as denying coverage on the basis of a pre-existing medical condition.
With his remarks, delivered at the White House, Obama took the lead in a bid by congressional Democrats to mount a party-line rescue mission for the health care legislation that appeared on the cusp of passage late last year, only to be derailed when Republicans won a Massachusetts Senate seat that gave them the ability to block it.
Story continues below
Obama's remarks were replete with criticism of the insurance industry as well as dismissive asides about GOP critics.
Insurers are "continuing to raise premiums and deny coverage. For us to start over now could simply lead to delay that could last for another decade or more," he said.
As for calls for additional debate, he said that in the year since he inaugurated his campaign for health care changes, "every idea has been put on the table. Every argument has been made."
"Everything there is to say about health care has been said, and just about everyone has said it," Obama said as murmurs of laughter swept through his receptive audience of invited guests in the White House East Room.
The president's appearance appeared part of an endgame strategy put in motion last week, when Obama presided over a bipartisan summit meeting with leaders of both parties and both houses. After seven hours of discussion, he said he had heard ideas for changes from sides, and he signaled that the time may have come for Democrats to proceed on their own if GOP critics were not ready to join them.
While his spokesmen and Democratic congressional leaders joined in calls for an up-or-down vote – a simple majority, no filibusters allowed – the White House announced with fanfare on Tuesday he was asking lawmakers to incorporate four GOP suggestions.
Obama said he was exploring GOP proposals for cracking down on fraudulent medical charges, revamping ways to resolve malpractice disputes, boosting doctors' Medicaid reimbursements and offering tax incentives to curb unnecessary patient visits to doctors.
The ideas included an experiment that would establish special courts in which judges with medical expertise would decide malpractice allegations. The idea has been criticized by the Center for Justice & Democracy, a consumer group that prefers the current system of awarding damages. It said health courts would be "anti-patient."
In a speech that reprised many of the points he has made in the past year, Obama cast the battle over health care as something more.
"At stake right now is not just our ability to solve this problem, but our ability to solve any problem. The American people want to know it is still possible for Washington to look out for their interests and their future. They are waiting for us to act."
"They are waiting for us to lead. And as long as I hold this office, I intend to provide that leadership."
Immediately after Obama finished speaking, the White House made good on his promise to "do everything in my power to make the case for reform," saying he would travel to Pennsylvania on Monday and to Missouri next Wednesday to press the issue.
LINK TO STORY AND AUDIO TAPE OF BOY:
March 02, 2010
Oh, baby! Surprise guest joins wedding party
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Invitation or not, Tova Phillips wanted to be at his parents' wedding reception.
He didn't quite make it, though.
By the time he arrived on Saturday, the wedding party had moved to Flower Hospital in Sylvania, where his mother gave birth to the precocious party-crasher.
"I don't think anybody expected it," Jamie Phillips said as she held her tiny son in her arms yesterday, her wedding veil still lying next to the sink in her hospital room. "It was a running joke, but when it actually happened everybody was like, 'You've got to be kidding!'•"
Tova's surprise arrival was a possibility the newly married Mr. and Mrs. Phillips of South Toledo hadn't taken too seriously when they planned their wedding two weeks ago. Both said they wanted to "do the right thing" and get married before the baby was born. The little boy was due March 7, so the couple thought they had a few days to spare. Still, Mr. Phillips had packed two hospital bags in the car, just in case.
Mrs. Phillips said she started feeling contractions as she walked down the aisle with her father at Calvary Assembly of God. She dismissed them as Braxton Hicks contractions, the type that are felt throughout pregnancy but do not signal labor.
Even when her water broke while she sat down to eat at the reception table, Mrs. Phillip imagined she might have a bladder problem. "I didn't have any pain, so I thought: Did my water just break, or am I having trouble controlling my bladder today?" Mrs. Phillips said, laughing.
As discreetly as she could, Mrs. Phillips described how she got the attention of her best friend and maid of honor, Mary Anthony, who, by pretending to fix the bride's shoe, confirmed that the baby was indeed on the way.
The news took even Mrs. Phillips by surprise. "Try to pretend nothing's going on when you've got 100-plus people in front of you!" she said. "All I could think was, 'How can I get out of here?'•"
It didn't take long for the word to get out, though. A few minutes later, Ms. Anthony announced the impending birth to the guests.
Mrs. Phillips' sister, Jessica Meyers, said she couldn't believe what was happening. "I really thought they were kidding," Ms. Meyers said. "Everybody had been joking about it since before the wedding. I thought it was a joke."
When Mrs. Phillips arrived at the Flower Hospital maternity ward in her wedding dress and veil, the nurses were surprised too.
"We'd never seen anything like it," nurse Meghan Junga recalled. "We were excited. It was very fun. She made my day."
Clinical Manager Cindy Ziemkiewicz, who has worked at Flower Hospital since 1975, said she'd never seen anyone arrive at the ward in a wedding dress before.
"I thought I'd seen all the firsts," Ms. Ziemkiewicz said. "This shows you just never know."
Yet despite the unexpected end to their wedding, the new Mr. and Mrs. Phillips said they wouldn't have wanted it any other way.
"I'm absolutely thrilled, I'm still floating," said a beaming Mr. Phillips, as he cradled his son. "I've got my wife and my son and I couldn't be happier. It's all I need."
LINK TO PHOTO:
Cape Cod on Line
March 02, 2010
HYANNIS — A newlywed couple's honeymoon got off to a rocky start Monday when they were forced to spend their first night as husband and wife in separate jail cells.
The bride, Marissa Ann Putignano-Keene, 22, of 77 Winter St., Hyannis, was charged with assault and battery with a dangerous weapon — a car — after she allegedly tried to run over another woman and that woman's son. The other woman later told police that she had previously been in an intermittent intimate relationship with the groom. The groom, Timothy Keene, 37, also of 77 Winter St., was charged with disorderly conduct and taken into protective custody. Keene is a Level 2 registered sex offender and was convicted of lewd and lascivious behavior in 2000.
Putignano-Keene was also charged with disorderly conduct and injury to property — a fence — and taken into protective custody.
Police said the couple was intoxicated.
According to the Barnstable police, the incident took place Monday evening in the parking lot near the intersection of North Street and Barnstable Road. Patrol Officer David Foley was driving in the area when he spotted what appeared to be a disturbance in the parking lot with a crowd starting to gather and traffic slowing as drivers and passengers turned to watch.
Patrolmen John Pass and Jason Sturgis arrived and the three officers separated the people involved. According to the police report, Putignano-Keene and Keene told police they were married at Barnstable Town Hall and afterward split a bottle of champagne.
Later as Putignano-Keene drove through the North Street parking lot she spotted a woman familiar to her husband.
That woman told police she had just left work and was cutting through the parking lot, accompanied by her son, when the newlywed couple drove by. The woman told police Putignano-Keene rolled down the driver's side window and began swearing and using sexually-charged language.
The woman said she and her son were walking away when she heard the car engine roar and saw the car heading directly towards them, causing them to jump out of the way. She said Putignano-Keene then backed the car up, turned and in the process crashed into a fence behind Alberto's Ristorante, which backs onto the parking lot.
Police charged Putignano-Keene and took her and her new husband into protective custody. They spent the night in separate cells at the Barnstable police station and were released Tuesday.
9:07 pm CST March 1, 2010
UPDATED: 12:43 pm CST March 2, 2010
Authorities said it took five people to restrain the girl from beating up Tina Swayze at Purcell Intermediate School.
A police report said the girl had "Swayze's head and was slamming it into the door frame and door."
The report also said the girl attacked teacher Deann Newman by "ripping her necklace from her throat, slapping, punching and kicking her."
According to investigators, the girl calmed down briefly after being restrained but then "attacked again, pulling hair and trying to bite both Newman and Swayze."
Purcell residents said they find the incident hard to believe.
"I'm not attacking the parents, but what kind of home life does she have? Something is bothering the child, and they need to find the problem," said Debra Miller.
The incident started after the teen got into trouble for pouring a glass of tea onto Swayze's desk, police said.
The girl allegedly asked to be taken to a mental health facility, and that is why she attacked the principal, police said.
She faces charges of assault and battery on a school employee.
LINK TO VIDEO:
Cops are hunting for Naomi Campbell after she assaulted her limo driver in Midtown on Tuesday afternoon, police sources said.
Wanted: Supermodel with a short fuse.
Cops are hunting for Naomi Campbell after she assaulted her limo driver in Midtown on Tuesday afternoon, police sources said.
Campbell slapped and slugged the 27-year-old driver, then bolted from the black Cadillac Escalade at E. 58th St. and Second Ave. just after 3 p.m.
She was last seen running away from the scene.
"There has been a criminal complaint made out against her. She's obviously aware of it," a police source said. "She will either turn herself in or we'll go out and get her like anybody else."
The driver reported the incident to police, who were canvassing the area.
Campbell's spokesman, Jeff Raymond, cautioned against "a rush to judgment."
"Naomi will cooperate voluntarily, and there is more to the story than meets the eye," Raymond said without elaborating.
It was just the latest tantrum thrown by the temperamental beauty.
In 2008, she pleaded guilty to assaulting a pair of police officers during a fit at Heathrow Airport.
The previous year, she pleaded guilty to tossing a cell phone at her maid in Manhattan and was sentenced to anger management classes and community service.
Drug gangs taking over U.S. public lands
The Associated Press
March 1, 2010
SEQUOIA NATIONAL FOREST, Calif. - Not far from Yosemite's waterfalls and in the middle of California's redwood forests, Mexican drug gangs are quietly commandeering U.S. public land to grow millions of marijuana plants and using smuggled immigrants to cultivate them.
Pot has been grown on public lands for decades, but Mexican traffickers have taken it to a whole new level: using armed guards and trip wires to safeguard sprawling plots that in some cases contain tens of thousands of plants offering a potential yield of more than 30 tons of pot a year.
"Just like the Mexicans took over the methamphetamine trade, they've gone to mega, monster gardens," said Brent Wood, a supervisor for the California Department of Justice's Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement. He said Mexican traffickers have "supersized" the marijuana trade.
Interviews conducted by The Associated Press with law enforcement officials across the country showed that Mexican gangs are largely responsible for a spike in large-scale marijuana farms over the last several years.
Local, state and federal agents found about a million more pot plants each year between 2004 and 2008, and authorities say an estimated 75 percent to 90 percent of the new marijuana farms can be linked to Mexican gangs.
In 2008 alone, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration, police across the country confiscated or destroyed 7.6 million plants from about 20,000 outdoor plots.
Growing marijuana in the U.S. saves traffickers the risk and expense of smuggling their product across the border and allows gangs to produce their crops closer to local markets.
Distribution also becomes less risky. Once the marijuana is harvested and dried on the hidden farms, drug gangs can drive it to major cities, where it is distributed to street dealers and sold along with pot that was grown in Mexico.
About the only risk to the Mexican growers, experts say, is that a stray hiker or hunter could stumble onto a hidden field.
The remote plots are nestled under the cover of thick forest canopies in places such as Sequoia National Park, or hidden high in the rugged-yet-fertile Sierra Nevada Mountains. Others are secretly planted on remote stretches of Texas ranch land.
All of the sites are far from the eyes of law enforcement, where growers can take the time needed to grow far more potent marijuana. Farmers of these fields use illegal fertilizers to help the plants along, and use cloned female plants to reduce the amount of seed in the bud that is dried and eventually sold.
Mexican gang plots can often be distinguished from those of domestic-based growers, who usually cultivate much smaller fields with perhaps 100 plants and no security measures.
Some of the fields tied to the drug gangs have as many as 75,000 plants, each of which can yield at least a pound of pot annually, according to federal data reviewed by the AP.
The Sequoia National Forest in central California is covered in a patchwork of pot fields, most of which are hidden along mountain creeks and streams, far from hiking trails. It's the same situation in the nearby Yosemite, Sequoia and Redwood national parks.
Even if they had the manpower to police the vast wilderness, authorities say terrain and weather conditions often keep them from finding the farms, except accidentally.
Many of the plots are encircled with crude explosives and are patrolled by guards armed with AK-47s who survey the perimeter from the ground and from perches high in the trees.
The farms are growing in sophistication and are increasingly cultivated by illegal immigrants, many of whom have been brought to the U.S. from Michoacan.
Growers once slept among their plants, but many of them now have campsites up to a mile away equipped with separate living and cooking areas.
"It's amazing how they have changed the way they do business," Wood said. "It's their domain."
Drug gangs have also imported marijuana experts and unskilled labor to help find the best land or build irrigation systems, Wood said.
Moyses Mesa Barajas had just arrived in eastern Washington state from the Mexican state of Michoacan when he was approached to work in a pot field. He was taken almost immediately to a massive crop hidden in the Wenatchee National Forest, where he managed the watering of the plants.
He was arrested in 2008 in a raid and sentenced to more than six years in federal prison. Several other men wearing camouflage fled before police could stop them.
"I thought it would be easy," he told the AP in a jailhouse interview. "I didn't think it would be a big crime."
Stewart said recruiters look for people who still have family in Mexico, so they can use them as leverage to keep the farmers working - and to keep them quiet.
"If they send Jose from the hometown and Jose rips them off, they are going to go after Jose's family," Stewart said. "It's big money."
When the harvest is complete, investigators say, pot farm workers haul the product in garbage bags to dropoff points that are usually the same places where they get resupplied with food and fuel.
Agents routinely find the discarded remnants of camp life when they discover marijuana fields. It's not uncommon to discover pots and pans, playing cards and books, half-eaten bags of food, and empty beer cans and liquor bottles.
But the growers leave more than litter to worry about. They often use animal poisons that can pollute mountain streams and groundwater meant for legitimate farmers and ranchers.
Because of the tree cover, armed pot farmers can often take aim at law enforcement before agents ever see them.
"They know the terrain better than we do," said Lt. Rick Ko, a drug investigator with the sheriff's office in Fresno, Calif. "Before we even see them, they can shoot us."
In Wisconsin, the number of confiscated plants grew sixfold between 2003 and 2008, to more than 32,000 found in 2008.
Wisconsin agents used to find a few dozen marijuana plants on national forest land. Now they discover hundreds or even thousands.
"If we are getting 40 to 50 percent (of fields), I think we are doing well," said Michigan State Police 1st Lt. Dave Peltomaa. "I really don't think we are close to 50 percent. We don't have the resources."
Vast amounts of pot are still smuggled into the U.S. from Mexico. Federal officials report nearly daily hauls of several hundred to several thousand pounds seized along the border. But drug agents say the boom in domestic growing is a sign of diversification by traffickers.
Officials say arrests of farmers are rare, though the sheriff's office in Fresno did nab more than 100 suspects during two weeks of raids last summer. But when field hands are arrested, most only tell authorities about their specific job.
When asked who hired him, Mesa repeatedly told an AP reporter, "I can't tell you."
Washington State Patrol Lt. Richard Wiley said hired hands either do not know who the boss is or are too frightened to give details.
"They are fearful of what may happen to them if they were to snitch on these coyote people," Wiley said of the recruiters and smugglers who bring marijuana farmers into the U.S. "That's organized crime of a different fashion. There's nothing to gain from (talking), but there's a lot to lose."
Scam touted bogus bridal show at Hynes, police sayMarch 1, 2010 02:44 PM
Jonathan Saltzman and John R. Ellement
Boston police said today they feared thousands of people will descend on the Hynes Convention Center later this week for a bridal show – only to discover the "show" was an Internet scam.
"What we found out is that there is no show,'' Detective Steve Blair said at police headquarters this afternoon. "It was a scam.''
According to police, someone set up a bogus website and created accounts on Twitter and Facebook, all to promote "The Boston 411 Bridal & Home Show 2010.'' The promotions claimed it would be held at the convention center March 5-7.
Blair said today an estimated 5,000 people paid at least $15 a person and that about 200 businesses also paid fees, ranging from $350 to $4,000. The payments were made through PayPal, police said.
Police said they began their investigation last week, but decided to hold a press conference today to alert the victims about the scam so they could cancel any travel plans they had for coming to Boston.
Police set up a special e-mail account they want victims to use so they can gather evidence in the case. The address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
The scammer or scammers have not yet been identified, but on the website announcing the bridal show, a woman by the name of Jamie Edwards of Boston appears to be the contact person for the fake event. The site includes a Boston-area telephone number.
Jimmy Jay was at police headquarters today listening as Blair briefed the press on the scam. Jay, 60 and of Weymouth, said he lost time and money to the scammer.
After a series of conversations with Jamie Edwards, Jay produced radio ads for the show in return for getting the cut-rate price of $335 for booth rental, he said.
"I am shocked,'' he said. "It amazes me that this would happen, that I'd get caught up in this sort of thing because I am pretty sharp.''
Jay said he personally knew 55 vendors who fell prey to the scam.
"I'm in disbelief,'' he said.
The scam included the Twitter account of theboston411. Today, the account indicated that it had been active since last fall and that it was used to 'tweet' announcements of the bridal show beginning Sept. 23.
5,200 strip for nude photo shoot at Sydney Opera House by photographer Spencer Tunick
| EDS NOTE: NUDITY Members of the public begin to gather to watch as nude people gather on the steps of the Sydney Opera House to pose for a photo by Spencer Tunick of the U.S. , Monday, March 1, 2010. Some 5,200 people stripped down for the commissioned photo that is title "Mardis Gras: The Base." (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft) (Rick Rycroft, AP / March 1, 2010)
Home seized for dental bill -- fight goes on
The Salt Lake Tribune
02/25/2010 06:30:06 PM MST
A Salt Lake City woman who could lose her house over an unpaid dental bill has been granted another round in her fight to keep it.
The Utah Court of Appeals on Thursday said Capri Ramos can ask a trial court judge to void the sale of her house at a county auction in 1996.
Ramos bought the Glendale home for $51,000 in 1994 with a low-income homeowners loan from Salt Lake City. She has continued living there and making payments on the home during the fight over ownership.
In 1995, Ramos was charged $68 for dental treatment for her daughter and failed to pay the bill. Collection agency North American Recovery sued her and Ramos did not contest the action.
The Salt Lake County sheriff's department then was ordered to sell Ramos' real estate to pay off the debt, which had reached $958 with interest and added fees. The house was sold at auction for $1,550 and transferred to Salt Lake City-based Jarmaccc Properties LLC.
Court records indicate Ramos was served with notices of the sale, but she has claimed she knew nothing of it until 1998.
Ramos paid $1,200 to Jarmaccc through a bankruptcy and sued in 3rd District Court for return of the house. She claims the title should be returned under her bankruptcy plan and that there were inaccuracies that voided the 1996 sale documents.
Ramos won the case, but the Utah Court of Appeals returned the home to Jarmaccc in 2008 after ruling Ramos should have filed her lawsuit by 2002
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The Utah Supreme Court overturned that ruling last year and sent the case back to the Court of Appeals to consider Ramos' arguments that the sale should be voided.
On Thursday, that court said it needs more information and sent the matter to 3rd District Court for a hearing on whether Ramos had notice of the sheriff's sale and whether the sale price was "grossly inadequate," among other factors.
LINK TO ORGINAL STORY:
Flight Attendants' Fight Cancels Trip
A Delta Connection Flight was Canceled After the Crew Got Into a Fight
Feb. 26, 2010
Flights are routinely canceled because of weather delays or mechanical problems, but passengers trying to fly from Rochester, N.Y., to Atlanta Thursday found their trip canceled for another reason: the flight attendants reportedly got into a fistfight.
Passengers told local news channel YNN Rochester that the flight, a Delta Connection flight from Rochester, N.Y., to Atlanta, was canceled after the two female flight attendants started fighting.
"Apparently they got into a fistfight on the plane," passenger Steve Mazur told local news YNN. "The pilot decided to kick everyone off the plane."
"They told us we had to get off the plane because stewardesses were fighting," passenger Corey Minton, also told YNN Rochester.
The regional flight was operated by Memphis-based Pinnacle Airlines. A company spokesman acknowledged that the flight was canceled and that two flight attendants had a disagreement, but disputed the fact that the there was a physical altercation.
Pinnacle Airlines spokesman Joe Williams told the Associated Press that the fight started just as Delta flight 887 returned to the gate after a passenger became ill.
Williams said that despite what passengers said there was no physical contact between the two women. He said he did not know the reason for the fight, which he called a "verbal disagreement."
The two Pinnacle Airlines flight attendants were removed from duty pending an airline investigation. Williams said the airline found alternate travel plans for passengers.
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