Arizona Ethnic Studies Classes Banned, Teachers With Accents Can No Longer Teach English
First Posted: 04-30-10 12:38 PM | Updated: 04-30-10 01:45 PM
Arizona's new immigration law is just about crime, its supporters say, but given that the state's new education policy equates ethnic studies programs with high treason, they may not be using the commonly accepted definition of "crime."
Under the ban, sent to Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer by the state legislature Thursday, schools will lose state funding if they offer any courses that "promote the overthrow of the U.S. government, promote resentment of a particular race or class of people, are designed primarily for students of a particular ethnic group or advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals."
As ThinkProgress notes, the Tucson Unified School District's popular Mexican-American studies department is the target here. The state superintendent charges that the program exhibits "ethnic chauvinism."
Meanwhile, in a move that was more covert until the Wall Street Journal uncovered it, the Arizona Department of Education has told schools that teachers with "heavy" or "ungrammatical" accents are no longer allowed to teach English classes.
As outlined by the Journal, Arizona's recent pattern of discriminatory education policies is ironic -- and is likely a function of No Child Left Behind funding requirements -- given that the state spent a decade recruiting teachers for whom English was a second language.
In the 1990s, Arizona hired hundreds of teachers whose first language was Spanish as part of a broad bilingual-education program. Many were recruited from Latin America.
Then in 2000, voters passed a ballot measure stipulating that instruction be offered only in English. Bilingual teachers who had been instructing in Spanish switched to English.
Teachers who don't meet the new fluency standards have the option of taking classes to improve their English, the Journal reports, but if they fail to reach the state's targets would be fired or reassigned.
Memphis man arrested for allegedly stealing pills from his mother's bra
Posted April 29, 2010 at 1:07 p.m.
updated April 29, 2010 at 11:32 p.m.
A woman said she woke up before sunrise Wednesday to find her son stealing her prescription medication, which she said she keeps in her bra to keep it away from him.
She tried to restrain her son, but he allegedly took the Xanax, according to a police affidavit. She called the police to her home on Victor in the Kingsbury neighborhood. Officers said they found the son hiding under a neighbor's SUV.
Officers searched the son's bedroom and reported finding crack pipes, some pills, a needle, a spoon with methamphetamine on it and other drug paraphernalia.
When officers searched the son, Charlie Boyd, 28, they found 22 generic Xanax pills on him, including 15 wrapped in toilet paper stuck in his sock.
Boyd was charged with possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell and possession of drug paraphernalia. He was in jail Thursday with bond set at $40,000.
HermèsKnown for the classic Birkin bag, Hermès took second place on the list.
Gucci/handoutGucci rounds out the top three of most powerful luxury brands.
We’ve heard it all about the recession. Consumers are employing new tactics for saving money in tough economic times. They’re also cutting back on excessive spending and looking for more deals when making purchases.
But where does that leave the luxury brands – Prada, Gucci and Louis Vuitton, to name a few? Can people still justify those expensive purses and designer footwear when the economy is in a state of turmoil?
In short, yes. Though the luxury industry has fallen by 3% as a whole, some brands have rallied by adopting unique strategies to make sure they stay on top. Some turned to online advertising, others chose to concentrate on investment pieces that people could use to supplement their wardrobe, and still others tried more innovative approaches for their brands.
Global brand strategy and financial consultancy firm Millward Brown Optimor ranked the world’s most powerful luxury brands from an economic angle, taking into consideration both their current value and demand which will lead to future profit.
1. Louis Vuitton – Taking the No. 1 spot again, Vuitton’s value rose 2% to $19.78 billion. The company focused on heritage travel pieces last year, appealing to those already committed to the brand.
2. Hermès – Hermès stayed at No. 2 from last year and rose 8% in 2009 to $8.46 billion. It's 71% family-owned, which means there is strong control over the brand and it’s only sold in the company’s own stores.
3. Gucci – Rounding out the top three and keeping its spot from last year, Gucci’s value rose to $7.59 billion, a gain of 2%. In a bid to get a hold of the secondhand market, it entered a partnership with Christie’s to have the auction house appraise vintage products.
4. Chanel – Chanel also kept its spot from last year, despite an 11% drop in value to $5.55 billion. Though people still bought bags and fragrances, the loss could be attributed to a drop in sales of ready-to-wear items.
5. Hennessy – Hennessy rose one spot on the list, losing only 1% of value and coming in at $5.37 billion. The cognac company is popular in countries such as China.
6. Rolex – As people bought less expensive jewelry, the luxury watch company suffered last year. It only dropped one spot on the list, but is now valued at $4.74 billion, a 14% loss.
7. Moët & Chandon – Moët & Chandon went down 12% in value to $4.28 billion, but rose a spot on the list and is still the best-selling champagne brand.
8. Cartier – Another jewelry retailer to suffer, Cartier dropped a list spot and 19% of its value. Now estimated at $3.96 billion, the company lost money both in its own stores and at third-party shops.
9. Fendi – Fendi lost 8% of value to $3.20 billion, but kept its ninth-ranked position. The company looked to the worldwide market to increase sales. In the U.S., Fendi is known for its purses, but the ready-to-wear line is superpopular in Asia.
10. Tiffany and Co. – The only new entry on the list, Tiffany and Co. managed to rise to $2.38 billion, a 6% gain. It looked more toward the world market, but the company’s success is also down to not offering discount prices.
Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/money/2010/04/29/2010-04-29_vuitton_herms_gucci_the_top_ten_luxury_brands.html#ixzz0mXloy7qp
National ID Card Included In Democratic Immigration Bill
First Posted: 04-29-10 06:12 PM
Updated: 04-29-10 07:05 PM
Democrats pushed forward on an immigration overhaul on Thursday evening with no Republican support, as Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) continues to hold out, arguing that the divisive issue will make progress on climate change legislation impossible.
The Senate is also in the middle of debating Wall Street reform, which is expected to take up the next few weeks of floor time. Reid, however, said that the chamber would be able to handle the task. "We can do more than one thing at once," he said.
The Democratic proposal includes increased money for border patrol and drug war agents, equipment, helicopters and unmanned drones. It would create a national ID -- which is dubbed a "biometric social security card." Though Democrats insist that it is not an ID card and can only be used for employment purposes.
The proposal would also include a crackdown on employers who hire undocumented workers. It works to deport some immigrants who are not in the country legally and creates a limited pathway to citizenship for others.
Democrats brought out their heavy hitters for the announcement: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.); Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.); Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who's been leading the push for immigration reform; Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.); Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) and Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).
The crackdown on employers relies on the creation of national identity cards. "These cards will be fraud-resistant, tamper-resistant, wear resistant, and machine-readable social security cards containing a photograph and an electronically coded micro-processing chip which possesses a unique biometric identifier for the authorized card-bearer," reads the bill summary.
Broadly, the proposal includes:
1. More Border Patrol officers
2. More Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents, worksite inspectors, document fraud investigators and drug-war agents
3. The "installation of high-tech ground sensors throughout the southern border and for equipping all border patrol officers with the technological capability to respond to activation of the ground sensors in the area they are patrolling."
4. More prosecution of drug smuggling, human trafficking and unauthorized border crossing
5. "[I]ncreases in the number of sport utility vehicles, helicopters, power boats, river boats, portable computers to track illegal immigrants and drug smugglers while inside of a border patrol vehicle, night vision equipment, Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), Remote Video Surveillance Systems (RVSS), scope trucks, and Mobile Surveillance Systems (MSS)."
6. All prisoners will be checked for immigration status and deported if found to lack documentation.
7. DHS will "identify, investigate, and initiate removal proceedings" against folks who came here legally but didn't leave.
8. The bill would create "a broad-based registration program that requires all illegal immigrants living in the U.S. to come forward to register, be screened, and, if eligible, complete other requirements to earn legal status, including paying taxes."
Couple told son was dead find out he's alive
New York Post1:58 PM, April 29, 2010
MASTIC BEACH, N.Y. — It was a 90-minute nightmare.
Alfred and Geri Esposito of Mastic Beach were told Saturday morning that their son Freddy and another passenger had been killed in a collision with a tractor-trailer on a Pennsylvania highway.
It turns out Freddy wasn’t dead. He was asleep on a couch in an apartment he rents with his brother. The dead man was one of his former fraternity brothers — a revelation that both relieved and upset the Espositos.
“Ninety minutes of my life I’ll never get back,” Geri Esposito said Thursday. “My husband, who is a very strong man, was reduced to a puddle.”
The mix-up began when Pennsylvania troopers found Freddy Esposito’s driver’s license in the hands of one of the men killed in the wreck — 18-year-old Paul Richards of Santa Cruz, Calif.
Geri Esposito said her son and Richards may have shared a fraternity house as students at Stony Brook University. She suspects Freddy, 26, may have lost his ID and never realized it. Freddy Esposito was not available to comment; his mother said he is still upset at the deaths of his friends.
After police left the Esposito home, calls were made to relatives, and someone was sent to tell Freddy’s grandmother.
“It didn’t make sense to me, but I was numb,” Geri Esposito said of the report that her son had been driving. “Freddy doesn’t drive anywhere. He had a car accident once. It was bad. He drives like a little old lady now. You know, he makes sure he follows the letter of the law. It didn’t make sense that he was driving, but that’s what they said.
Older brother Chris Esposito was just starting his shift in Brooklyn as a New York Police Department officer when he got the call that his brother was dead. He left work and raced to the Bay Shore home he shared with his brother.
“He goes downstairs into his brother’s apartment and he saw something on the couch,” Geri Esposito recalled. After poking the lump a couple of times, his brother awoke from under the blanket.
“He screamed, ‘You’re dead, you’re dead!’” Geri Esposito said of Chris.
And Freddy counters: “I’m sleeping.”
The relieved mother said when she finally got to see her son, “I touched him all over and looked at his face,” she said. “I said, Thank you for being responsible for being home.’”
Capt. James Murtin, commanding officer of Pennsylvania State Police’s Troop N, acknowledged the mistaken identification and expressed regret for the error, according to Newsday, which first reported the story Thursday.
Murtin said the notification was based on Esposito’s license as well as a “general match” with the deceased.
Mayor Bloomberg slams Arizona's anti-immigrant law: 'We are committing national suicide'William Sherman and Adam Lisberg
Thursday, April 29th 2010, 3:38 AM
Smith for News
Mayor Bloomberg calls on President Obama to fight against the nation's immigration rules.
A fired-up Mayor Bloomberg warned the U.S. "is committing national suicide" by passing the buck on implementing comprehensive immigration reform.
Hizzoner delivered the blunt message Wednesday as he criticized Arizona's harsh new anti-immigrant law.
"This is not good for the country. I don't agree with it," he said. "We love immigrants here."
Bloomberg said that because federal lawmakers have failed to tackle the thorny issue, lawmakers in states like Arizona have taken matters into their own hands.
"This country is committing national suicide," Bloomberg said.
The Arizona law allows cops to stop anyone they think is in the country illegally and arrest folks who can't prove their immigration status or citizenship.
Bloomberg deemed it an invitation to harassment.
"We have to get real about the 12 million undocumented here," the mayor said. "We're not going to deport them. Give them permanent status. Don't make them citizens unless they can qualify, but give them permanent status and let's get on with this."
Bloomberg spoke as he thanked volunteers at the "Citizenship Now!" hotline sponsored by the Daily News and City University of New York, which helps callers who want to know how to become citizens.
He called on President Obama to lead the fight to overhaul the nation's immigration rules. "I will be there behind him supporting him 100%," he said.
Bloomberg long has been a supporter of immigration reform, saying current law deters international companies from sending employees through border hassles to work in the U.S. - and freezes out the highly skilled immigrants America needs.
"We don't have doctors, and we're not allowing people who want to come here and be doctors to come here," the mayor said. "This is just craziness."
"People are developing new drugs in India, rather than here. They're going to win the next Nobel Prize in China or in Europe, not here. If we want to have a future, we need to have more immigrants here."
Dems raffle dinner with Obama, Pelosi
04/28/10 12:33 PM ET
Democrats are raffling off the opportunity to dinner privately with President Barack Obama and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
Pelosi announced the opportunity in a fundraising letter for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC).
"Since America's progress would not be possible without grassroots Democrats like you, I wanted to give you and a guest the opportunity to have dinner with myself and President Obama the evening of May 13th in New York City," Pelosi wrote.
Supporters are asked to donate to the DCCC to automatically qualify for the drawing, but the fine print makes clear that no donation is required.
The winner will be allowed to bring one guest. No word on where the dinner will take place.
Opponents of Arizona's new anti-immigrant law are calling for a boycott of the state's products - including the popular Arizona Iced Tea.
The problem: Arizona Iced Tea is actually brewed in New York.
Online, misguided tea fans vowed to switch to Lipton or Snapple.
"Dear Arizona: If you don't change your immigration policy, I will have to stop drinking your enjoyable brand of iced tea," Twittered Jody Beth in Los Angeles.
"It is the drink of fascists," wrote Travis Nichols in Chicago.
The company did not return messages asking if they planned to set the public straight.
Founded in Brooklyn in 1992, the firm was based in Queens before moving into a new $35 million headquarters in Nassau County last year.
The new state law allows cops to demand citizenship papers from anyone they think looks illegal.
Actual Arizona firms facing a boycott: Cold Stone Creamery, U-Haul and Best Western.
Why were there no tea parties with Bush’s record deficits?
2:49 PM EDT, April 23, 2010
Let's see: The Bush administration inherits a budget surplus, racks up record deficits, and more than doubles the national debt. No tea partiers. Through lax regulations, our economic house of cards comes tumbling down and Wall St., GM, and Chrysler are bailed out by the Bush administration. No tea partiers. President Obama enters office on Jan. 20, 2009. Within about a month we get the Tea Partiers. Perhaps Ron Smith is correct. Perhaps there is no racism involved. Perhaps it's only stupidity.
F. Mark Walters, Grasonvile
ARTICLE BY RON SMITH
Legitimate grievance, not racist anger
Tea party people and other dissenters feel government is working against them, and there’s plenty of evidence to support them
April 23, 2010
It's understandable that the disquiet rampant in Middle America and expressed so vividly by the so-called tea partiers should prompt such angst amongst the Guardians of Correct Thought. To Frank Rich, former theater critic turned political pundit for The New York Times, it's a matter of racism. His latest rant on that theme is titled "Welcome to Confederate History Month." In this 1,400-word column, he manages to interpret the anger of Americans opposed to Obamacare, infuriated by the continuing bailout of the fat cats on Wall Street, concerned about joblessness and underemployment, and worried about the countless trillions of dollars being amassed in our collective debt, as being a sure sign of their persistent, vile racism, as expressed, for example, in Virginia's Republican Gov. Robert McDonnell's issuing a state proclamation celebrating April as Confederate History Month.
It's surely a blessing for Mr. Rich and his kind that the current occupant of the White House is a black man. That happy fact allows commentators on the political left to assume the high ground and unleash volleys of invective at the great unwashed milling about below. If the president were a white person of the hard left, presumably the matters referred to above would take place without such a tempest. The millions of the formerly employed would acquiesce to shouldering whatever burdens were placed on them without complaint. The tea partiers would presumably stay home and not express their outrage over the causes of the Great Recession and the threat it represents to their retirements, the future prospects of their children and grandchildren, and to the future of the republic itself. They would be accepting of the greatly increased taxes they'll be paying in the years to come if only the president wasn't so doggone dark complexioned.
Joe Klein of Time magazine went so far as to insinuate that Sarah Palin and Glen Beck could well be guilty of sedition (incitement of discontent or rebellion against a government) for their comments at gatherings of the discontented. Forget the First Amendment. That only applies when lefties express their anger, such as when George W. Bush was portrayed as Hitler or with a bullet hole in his forehead. The president himself seems to regard the opposition to his policies as somewhat of a joke. He said most of the tea partiers ought to thank him for tax breaks they enjoy because of his stimulus plan. He apparently thinks there's nothing much to worry about with this public discontent. If so, he's not on the same page with his defenders, who seem a tad hysterical about the whole thing.
Then there is former president Bill Clinton, under whose name a column appeared in The New York Times on Monday, the 15 anniversary of the bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City. It was titled "Violence Is Unacceptable in a Democracy," and echoes his response to the incident when it happened. In short, that people who distrust government help fuel the fire in people like Timothy McVeigh, who was executed for the Oklahoma City bombing, which killed 149 people. That expressing opposition to government is kind of, sort of, being complicit in mass murder.
Journalist James Bovard calls this "A Lethal Hypocrisy." "Casting a net of collective guilt over much of the contiguous 48 states," says Mr. Bovard, "Clinton announced that the 1995 bombing was the fault of people who believed ‘that the greatest threat to American freedom is our government, and that public servants do not protect our freedoms, but abuse them.' People who distrusted government helped echo ideas that somehow persuaded ‘deeply alienated and disconnected' Americans to carry out the attack.
"Clinton declared that ‘we do not have the right to resort to violence — or the threat of violence — when we don't get our way.' Unless you're the government, that is." Bovard goes on to elaborate on the violent actions initiated by the federal government during the Clinton years, including the bombing of Serbia, which killed hundreds or perhaps thousands of Serbian civilians, and the enforcement of sanctions against Iraq, which resulted in hundreds of thousands of Iraqi deaths.
Mr. Clinton's op/ed does mention, but only in passing, that the OKC bombing took place on the second anniversary of the final assault on the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas. There is no mention that it was the killing of 80 American men, women and children as FBI tanks leveled the Davidian home that triggered the subsequent actions of Gulf War veteran McVeigh, not the exhortations of radio hosts or militia members.
They may not be your cup of tea, but the tea partiers are not violent. They exist as a political force, the ultimate effect of which remains undetermined. They make the rulers nervous, and I'm all for that.
Ron Smith can be heard weekdays, 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., on 1090 WBAL-AM and WBAL .com. His column appears Fridays in The Baltimore Sun
Mexican President Felipe Calderon speaks about Arizona's new immigration law on Monday.
Mexican President Felipe Calderon slammed Arizona's tough new immigration law, saying it "opens the door to intolerance, hate, discrimination and abuse in law enforcement."
Calderon vowed to help protect the rights of Mexicans living in the United States, offering lawyers and immigration experts."
"Nobody can sit around with their arms crossed in the face of decisions that so clearly affect our countrymen," he said.
The new state law, which makes it a crime to be an illegal immigrant, is set to take effect this summer.
Tensions are already simmering along the border.
For the first time in 40 years, the Mexican state of Sonora, which borders Arizona, canceled a joint meeting of the Sonora-Arizona Commission in Phoenix.
"This is not about a breaking of relations with Arizona, but rather a way to protest the approval of the law," government officials said.
Some Mexican legislators have urged a trade boycott against Arizona.
"In Congress, we support any trade and transport boycott necessary to reverse this law," said Oscar Martin Arce, a lawmaker from the president's National Action Party.
Mexico is Arizona's largest foreign market, with $4.5 billion in exports last year alone, according to the U.S. International Trade Administration.
The controversial law requires Arizona police to question people about their immigration status if they suspect they are there illegally. Day laborers can be arrested for soliciting work if they are in the U.S. illegally, and police departments can be sued if they don't carry out the law.
Arizona is home to an estimated 460,000 illegal immigrants.
President Obama has asked the Justice Department to review the law and see if it's legal.
Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/world/2010/04/27/2010-04-27_mexican_president_felipe_calderon_condemns_arizonas_immigration_law.html#ixzz0mLDddFpr
Can 200,000 women cause a Boobquake?
Purdue student rebuts Iranian cleric's claim
Updated: Monday, 26 Apr 2010, 4:48 PM EDT
Published : Monday, 26 Apr 2010, 4:02 PM EDT
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) - Women gathered on Purdue campus this afternoon as part of "Boobquake," an event which boasts over 200,000 participants across the world.
Purdue Senior Jennifer McCreight is the mind behind Boobquake. She heard that Iranian cleric Kazem Sedighi had suggested that immodestly dressed women caused earthquakes by angering God.
McCreight, a Genetics and Evolution major at Purdue, had an idea for a lighthearted rebuttal: why not treat this religious assertion as a serious scientific hypothesis and test it?
Thus, Boobquake was born.
McCreight created a Facebook event and invited 30 friends to dress immodestly for a day and see if there was a significantly higher number of earthquakes. She was stunned when she checked the event later to see that tens of thousands had signed up.
McCreight said last week that she isn't imposing a specific dress code, just asking people to dress as immodestly as they feel comfortable with.
"Even showing an ankle to some people would be immodest, so you can interpret that however you wish,” said McCreight.
McCreight said she will study today's seismic activity to see if there were a greater number of earthquakes or more severe earthquakes during the event. A 6.5-magnitude earthquake hit Taiwan earlier today, and a minor 2.7-magnitude quake hit Ohio, a little closer to McCreight's home in Indiana.
On her blog , McCreight said that the quakes so far are likely not statistically significant. She said that several other high-magnitude quakes would be required today to indicate that immodest women were the driving force.
LINK TO VIDEO:
More sex helps high-blood pressure, official says
Apr. 26, 2010 12:04 PM
RIO DE JANEIRO - Brazil's health minister has a remedy for the nation's high-blood- pressure problem: More sex.
Minister Jose Temporao says adults should be exercising more to help keep their blood pressure down - and he says a good cardiovascular workout includes sex, "always with protection, obviously."
Temporao also recommends dancing, a healthy diet and regular blood-pressure checks.
The minister made the comments Monday while launching a national campaign against high blood pressure in the Brazilian capital of Brasilia.
The Health Ministry says that 21.5 percent of Brazilians had high blood pressure in 2006. That jumped to 24.4 percent in 2009.
Anne Arundel Community College to offer midnight class
Late-night offering in psychology is response to booming demand
The Baltimore Sun
6:37 p.m. EDT, April 26, 2010
It would be a disaster, Paul Vinette figures, to read from PowerPoint slides when he teaches his introduction to psychology class this fall at Anne Arundel Community College.
Students might tolerate a droning lecture at 2 p.m. But at 2 a.m.?
No, that's not a typo. Vinette will teach a psychology class from midnight to 3 a.m. Thursdays this fall. It's the latest, and perhaps most drastic, example of the steps community colleges are taking to deal with rapid increases in demand.
"We're trying to be as innovative as possible," Vinette said. "This is honestly one of the most unique applications I've seen at a brick-and-mortar institution."
Anne Arundel is not the first two-year school to offer late-night classes in response to booming demand. Bunker Hill Community College in Boston started such classes last year and others in Indiana, Missouri and Oregon have joined in.
Two-year colleges across the country have tried every method imaginable to keep up with a 17 percent increase in enrollment this year, said Norma Kent, spokeswoman for the American Association of Community Colleges.
"It really fits into the notion of access, which is what we do," she said. "We're known for being agile in our attempts to meet demand, and this is just an extreme example. We don't turn students away. It's not in our DNA."
The class, informally labeled "Midnight Madness," is the brainchild of psychology department chair Matt Yeazel. He had watched introductory courses fill and then overflow in recent semesters and turned his attention to less familiar time slots in the quest to reach more students.
"We're basically casting a wider net," he said. "We think this can become the kind of thing that people talk about on campus. You know, ‘Are you in that crazy Midnight Madness class?' "
Whether they're seeking bargain classes or more marketable job skills, students have flooded community colleges across the Baltimore area during the nation's economic downturn. Enrollment was up 10 percent at Anne Arundel Community College last fall and is expected to rise again this summer and fall. The extra students have forced two-year schools to transform basements and locker rooms into teaching spaces and to add courses in the early morning, late afternoon and on Sundays. Community colleges have also beefed up online offerings to serve students who can't attend class at traditional times.
Kent said a community college in Texas went as far as bribing faculty members with donuts so they would leave precious parking spaces available to students.
But the midnight class is a new frontier in the effort to reach more students. Some people who work 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. might not want to take online classes. Other students might simply be attracted to the novelty of class in the wee hours.
Bunker Hill started with two midnight classes last fall, added a third this spring and will offer five in the fall, said President Mary L. Fifield. The classes have been particularly popular among those who work unusual schedules — police officers, baggage handlers from the airport, single mothers who have put their children to bed.
"I think a hallmark of community colleges is our flexibility," Fifield said. "We'll try any new, creative idea as long as it serves some group of students. The basic belief is that everyone should have an opportunity to go to college, and we'll do everything necessary to make that possible."
Wick Sloane, who has taught midnight writing classes at Bunker Hill in the fall and spring, said, "What pleasantly surprised us is that the students have as much energy as they do at any other time of day. I'll look at my watch, and it's 2:30 a.m. and we're still talking."
Sloane finds it somewhat troubling that students feel forced to take classes under such unusual circumstances. "But these are people of tremendous motivation," he said. "And as long as they show up, we'll show up."
To help the midnight learners, Bunker Hill offers unlimited free coffee, donuts and taxi vouchers for those who might struggle to get home in the wee hours. Sen. John Kerry sent a letter to each student last semester, praising them for going above and beyond normal measures to get educated.
"They feel special," Fifield said.
Whatever draws students to the class at Anne Arundel, Vinette and Yeazel are determined to make it a fun, attention-grabbing experience. For example, they're working on cross-promotions with local eateries so students will get free pizza, Chinese food or coffee at least once a month.
In fact, Yeazel said, Vinette was his first choice to teach the class because the adjunct professor has a reputation for engaging students and getting them excited to talk about psychology. Though some professors might have balked at the request, Vinette said, "I was all gung-ho about it. I'm a night owl anyway."
It's unclear whether students will be equally gung-ho. The psychology department has begun publicizing "Midnight Madness" in its spring classes and will make another push during orientation this summer. But Yeazel won't know if his idea is a hit until students enroll in late August.
"The vibe I've gotten is that people are surprised and intrigued," he said. "There's definitely a novelty to it."
Republican operatives have started duplicating the political fundraising and organizational structure that catapulted state Democrats to power in 2004 and has helped keep them there since.
A PowerPoint presentation obtained by The Denver Post details the formation for Republicans of an outside-the- party umbrella organization called Common Sense Colorado, which hopes to direct $10 million to loosely affiliated conservative political groups.
A network of at least a half-dozen entities has taken shape in the past 16 months. And while there are no records with the secretary of state's office showing what they've raised so far, the presentation puts that total at $702,000 from a handful of corporate and industry donors, with prospects for $8.8 million.
The documents describe a "formal structure that controls all soft money efforts in Colorado" that's overseen by "political managers, business executives and attorneys to ensure full compliance."
But the lawyer who's helping establish the mass of nonprofit corporations and 527 political advocacy groups said the entities tied to Common Sense Colorado are just the tip of the conservative, soft-money iceberg.
"This is just one set of entities. This is 10 percent overall of what people are doing out there," said Jon Anderson, a lawyer with Holland and Hart and former chief legal counsel to Gov. Bill Owens. "There are a ton doing this sort of thing. There are so many entities out there that are being formed because of people's general dissatisfaction with government right now."
What works for Democrats . . .
The "Colorado Model" is widely credited as the source of the Democrats' recent success in the state and has been exported to liberal groups across the country.
Common Sense Colorado's presentation points out the control Republicans have lost since 2002: two U.S. Senate seats, two U.S. House seats, the governorship, the state treasurer's office, the secretary of state's office, and the state House and Senate.
Republicans were stunned in 2004 — a banner year for the GOP in the presidential election and elsewhere — when Colorado Democrats took back control of the state House and Senate for the first time in more than four decades.
Two years later, Democrat Bill Ritter reclaimed the governor's mansion for his party, giving the Democrats control of the governorship and both houses of the legislature for the first time in nearly half a century.
Then, just before the 2008 election, the liberals' model came to light, revealing a scheme where a high-powered board directed millions to a network of advocacy, get-out-the-vote, outreach and media groups. In 2006, the Democratic alliance marshaled at least $16 million to a web of 37 diffuse organizations, records show.
The organized effort with a decentralized structure allowed for control by key politicos without providing an obvious target for political opponents and their lawsuits.
It was completely new, said author and former Republican state Rep. Rob Witwer.
"It was a better political mousetrap, and it was perfectly allowed under the rules," said Witwer, who co-authored the book "The Blueprint: How the Democrats Won Colorado (and Why Republicans Everywhere Should Care)" with journalist Adam Schrager. "Now that the model is well-known, I think people are impressed with the simplicity and the innovation of the model."
"The poor voters"
Informed of the Common Sense Colorado model outlined in the presentation, Mark Grueskin, an attorney at Isaacson Rosenbaum PC who represents Democratic causes, said: "If this is their way to organize, so be it. There are still constraints, and they still have to operate within the law."
Republican political analyst Katy Atkinson said her side would be crazy not to borrow a page from the Democrats' playbook. She pointed out that with both sides funneling money through soft-money back channels, voters have a less clear view of who is influencing elections.
"You really feel for the poor voters. Every time they get a chance, they vote for campaign finance reform thinking they're going to get big money out of politics," Atkinson said. "They end up with more big money in politics — you just don't know where it is."
It's unclear who sits on the board of Common Sense Colorado. Anderson declined to give details.
The group's overall goal is $10 million, with half going to the gubernatorial race and $4 million headed to the statehouse races, according to the presentation.
Targeting legislature control
In Common Sense Colorado's crosshairs are six state House seats and four state Senate seats, enough to flip control in the chambers. And the biggest target in terms of proposed spending — a planned $800,000 — is sitting Senate Majority Leader John Morse, D-Colorado Springs.
The largest donor as of April 14 — the most recent date listed in the presentation — is the oil and gas industry, weighing in at $500,000. The industry is targeted for $5 million of the group's fundraising prospects.
Since January 2009, Anderson has established a series of mostly c4 nonprofit corporations, named after their tax-exempt status with the Internal Revenue Service. Four of the six have formed since December. In at least two cases, the entities' objectives appear to align with oil and gas interests.
Nonprofit corporations The Centennial Project and Colorado First both have as their goals "promoting public policy that strengthens affordable and reliable energy sources," according to secretary of state files. Other entities seek to "promot(e) public policy that strengthens strong business and a growing economy."
Obama Cigarette Portrait To Be Replaced With Official Portrait At Nebraska's Adams County Courthouse
First Posted: 04-26-10 04:07 PM
Updated: 04-26-10 08:38 PM
HASTINGS, Neb. -- The Adams County Courthouse meeting room will soon be getting an official portrait of President Barack Obama nearly 18 months after Obama was elected.
The portrait will hang in a spot that had held a framed black-and-white image depicting the President with a cigarette hanging from his mouth. That photo -- a notorious fake -- drew a complaint from a county official who found it disrespectful.
County Supervisor Eldon Orthmann, a Republican, told the Hastings Tribune that he had the smoking photo matted and framed at his own expense. Orthmann said he had hung it next to an official photo of Gov. Dave Heineman as a joke.
County Supervisor Lee Saathoff, the board's lone Democrat, said Monday that U.S. Sen. Ben Nelson's office is sending the county an official presidential portrait.
Census says women equal to men in advanced degrees
The Associated Press
7:59 p.m. EDT
April 22, 2010
Women are now just as likely as men to have completed college and to hold an advanced degree, part of an accelerating trend of educational gains that have shielded women from recent job losses. Yet they continue to lag behind men in pay.
Among adults 25 and older, 29 percent of women in the U.S. have at least a bachelor's degree, compared with 30 percent of men, according to 2009 census figures released Tuesday. Measured by raw numbers, women already surpass men in undergraduate degrees by roughly 1.2 million.
Women also have drawn even with men in holding advanced degrees. Women represented roughly half of those in the U.S. with a master's degree or higher, due largely to years of steady increases in women opting to pursue a medical or law degree.
At current rates, women could pass men in total advanced degrees this year, even though they still trail significantly in several categories such as business, science and engineering.
"It won't be long before women dominate higher education and every degree level up to Ph.D.," said Mark Perry, an economics professor at the University of Michigan-Flint who is a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think-tank. "They are getting the skills that will protect them from future downturns."
While young women have been exceeding men in college enrollment since the early 1980s, the educational gains have now progressively spread upward to older age groups. That could have wide ramifications in the workplace: more working mothers, increased child-care needs and a greater focus on pay disparities among them.
Women with full-time jobs now have weekly earnings equal to 80.2 percent of what men earn, up slightly from 2008 but lower than a high of 81 percent in 2005.
"I don't know if we can be heartened by the educational gains, because it is persistent wage discrimination that is driving women to get a higher education," said Terry O'Neill, president of the National Organization for Women. "As more women enter the workplace, I think they will realize the unfairness of the situation they're experiencing and demand change."
Women outnumber men in the U.S. -- among adults 25 and older, 103 million are women, 96 million are men.
And women now represent a majority in the nation's work force. They have consistently outpaced men in employment rates in the current economic downturn that some researchers are now dubbing a "man-cession." The main reason is that the male-dominated construction and manufacturing industries, which require less schooling, shed millions of jobs after the housing bust.
Still, despite recent gains, women's advantage in the work force is expected to be temporary as job losses spread to other sectors, such as state and local government, where women are more highly represented. Some men are also returning to school for degrees in female-dominated industries such as nursing and teaching, which tend to fare better during recessions.
Unemployment for men now stands at 10.7 percent compared with 8.6 percent for women. That 2.1 percentage point gap is down from a record of 2.7 in August but remains far higher than in the previous three recessions, when women were almost as likely as men to be out of work.
The findings are the latest to highlight a shift of traditional roles of the sexes, caused partly by massive job losses in the Great Recession. The effects have included a growing number of working moms who are the sole breadwinners in their families, declining births and small increases in stay-at-home dads.
Many women returning to the work force say they are now realizing how critical it is to get good training and a higher education. Linda Lorde, 62, of York, S.C., retired as a U.S. postmaster three years ago, but began looking for a new job after her husband was laid off as a newspaper distribution manager and their 401(k) accounts shriveled in the recession.
Aiming for a fresh career in hotel management, Lorde is now taking college-level business finance courses and in the meantime is the family's sole wage-earner in customer service for local companies. "In this tough economy, you have to know how to compete," she said.
Other census findings:
--The share of women who hold an advanced degree has doubled to 10.1 percent from 5 percent in 1980. In 1960, the share was 1.7 percent.
--Eighty-seven percent of adults have a high school diploma or more. A higher proportion of women (87 percent) than men (86 percent) have at least a high school education, a reversal that first appeared in 2000.
--Broken down by race, more than half, or 53 percent, of Asians have a bachelor's degree or higher. That's compared with 33 percent for non-Hispanic whites, 19 percent for blacks and 13 percent for Hispanics.
The shifts come as Congress considers legislation that would make it easier for women to file wage discrimination lawsuits and empower the government to collect payroll data from private corporations. The bill passed the House last year, but has stalled in the Senate.
Jane Henrici, a study director at the Institute for Women's Policy Research, said continued efforts are needed to ensure that women can compete for jobs on an equal footing, such as flexible work policies involving sick-day and onsite child-care as well as training for future green jobs.
The Revolution Will Be Commercialized
Sarah Palin is already president of right-wing America—and it’s a position with a very big salary.
Apr 25, 2010
|The graphic reference to Ford, that excellent car company—as well as to the fine cheese of Kraft, delicious Pepsi beverages, Visa's very useful credit cards, and Chevron's powerful gasoline—on the following pages is a visual shorthand for brand. It does not imply any connection to, or endorsement of, Sarah Palin. (Photo: Brian Snyder/Reuters/Landov; Logo illustration by Felix Sockwell)|
On the morning of July 3, 2009, a national holiday, Sarah Palin placed a call to her communications director and told her that she wanted to hold a press conference at her Wasilla, Alaska, home. She wouldn’t disclose the topic. For Palin, the months since Election Day had been a letdown even bigger than the loss to Barack Obama and Joe Biden. Being governor was drudgery. “Her life was terrible,” one adviser says. “She was never home, her [Juneau] office was four hours from her house. You gotta drive an hour from Wasilla to Anchorage. And she was going broke.” Her sky-high approval ratings in Alaska—which had topped 80 percent before John McCain picked her—had withered to the low fifties. She faced a hostile legislature, a barrage of ethics complaints, and frothing local bloggers who reveled in her misfortune. All this for a salary of only $125,000? The worst was that she had racked up $500,000 in legal bills to fend off the trooper scandal and other investigations. She needed money and worried about it constantly. “You have to keep in mind,” Bill McAllister, her then–press secretary, told me, “she and Todd were middle class. They’re rich now, but not then.”
And, whatever one thinks of her intelligence, she was more than shrewd enough to see that there was money to be made on her newfound national profile, and she hadn’t been the one making it—this was her particular American resentment. The tabloid-media culture began cashing in on the Palin-family drama ever since her pregnant 17-year-old daughter, Bristol, and boyfriend Levi Johnston stepped on the Xcel Energy Center stage at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul. On multiple occasions, Palin complained to campaign aides about Kaylene Johnson, an Alaska journalist, who had just published a book about her. “I can’t believe that woman is making so much money off my name,” Palin said.
From the time of her infamous wardrobe selection, money had been an issue in Palin’s politics. Her relationship with the McCain campaign had been plagued by financial misunderstanding. In her book Going Rogue, she claimed that the McCain campaign had left her on the hook for her Troopergate bills. Palin was furious. “Deep down, she wanted to make money,” a McCain adviser says. “There was always financial stress. They’re not wealthy people.”
Palin knew there were ways to solve her money problems, and then some. Planning quickly got under way for a book. And just weeks after the campaign ended, reality-show producer Mark Burnett called Palin personally and pitched her on starring in her own show. Then, in May 2009, she signed a $7 million book deal with HarperCollins. Two former Palin-campaign aides—Jason Recher and Doug McMarlin—were hired to plan a book tour with all the trappings of a national political campaign. But there was a hitch: With Alaska’s strict ethics rules, Palin worried that her day job would get in the way. In March, she petitioned the Alaska attorney general’s office, which responded with a lengthy list of conditions. “There was no way she could go on a book tour while being governor” is how one member of her Alaska staff put it.
On Friday morning, July 3, Palin called her cameraman to her house in Wasilla and asked him to be on hand to record a prepared speech. Around noon, in front of a throng of national reporters, she announced that she was stepping down as governor. To many, it seemed a mysterious move, defying the logic of a potential presidential candidate, and possibly reflecting some hidden scandal—but in fact the choice may have been as easy as balancing a checkbook
Less than a year later, Sarah Palin is a singular national industry. She didn’t invent her new role out of whole cloth. Other politicians have cashed out, used the revolving door, doing well in business after doing good in public service. Entertainment figures like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jesse Ventura, and even Ronald Reagan have worked the opposite angle, leveraging their celebrity to make their way in politics. And family dramas have been a staple of politics from the Kennedys—or the Tudors—on down. But no one else has rolled politics and entertainment into the same scintillating, infuriating, spectacularly lucrative package the way Palin has or marketed herself over multiple platforms with the sophistication and sheer ambitiousness that Palin has shown, all while maintaining a viable presence as a prospective presidential candidate in 2012.
The numbers are staggering. Over the past year, Palin has amassed a $12 million fortune and shows no sign of slowing down. Her memoir has so far sold more than 2.2 million copies, and Palin is planning a second book with HarperCollins. This January, she signed a three-year contributor deal with Fox News worth $1 million a year, according to people familiar with the deal. In March, Palin and Burnett sold her cable show to TLC for a reported $1 million per episode, of which Palin is said to take in about $250,000 for each of the eight installments.
Joseph McVey, Armed Man, Arrested At Airport Where Obama Was Leaving
04/25/10 11:53 PM
ASHEVILLE, N.C. — An armed man spotted at a North Carolina airport parking lot just after Air Force One departed Sunday told an officer he wanted to see the president and had a car equipped with police gear, including a siren and flashing lights, authorities said.
Joseph Sean McVey, 23, of Coshocton, Ohio, is charged with going armed in terror of the public, a misdemeanor, said Asheville Regional Airport Police Capt. Kevan Smith.
Security was heightened at the airport because President Barack Obama was leaving after spending the weekend vacationing in Asheville. He was headed to a memorial service for 29 West Virginia coal miners killed in an explosion.
At about 2 p.m., airport police saw McVey get out of a maroon car with Ohio plates and that he had a sidearm, Smith said. Both airport police and the Secret Service questioned him and he was taken into custody. The suspect was nowhere near the president's plane, which had just departed, and was in a rental car return lot that is open to the public, Smith said.
His car was equipped with clear LED law enforcement-style strobe lights in the front and rear dash, Smith said. The car also had a mounted digital camera in the front window, four large antennas on the trunk lid, and under the steering wheel was a working siren box. Smith said McVey was not in law enforcement.
When McVey got out of the car, he was listening to a handheld scanner and radio that had a remote earpiece, Smith said. Police said he was monitoring local agencies and had formulas for rifle scopes on a note in his cup holder. Police did not immediately elaborate on what the formulas might mean and Smith was not available to comment late Sunday.
McVey gave authorities an Ohio driver's license, but a computer check failed to show the number was valid, police said. His hometown of Coshocton is about halfway between Pittsburgh and Columbus, Ohio.
When Officer Kaleb Rice asked him what he was doing, McVey told him he heard the president was in town and wanted to see him.
Rice removed the firearm and took McVey into custody. He was being held at the Buncombe County jail on $100,000 bond.
The investigation into what McVey was doing with a gun, with formulas for rifle scopes and why his car was equipped with police gear was continuing, Smith said. The Secret Service had no comment on the arrest, deferring to airport police.
A jail officer said it didn't appear McVey had an attorney.
The Rev. Al Sharpton says he will challenge Arizona's new immigration bill in court and on the streets.
Sharpton is joining Lillian Rodriguez Lopez from the Hispanic Federation to announce a legal challenge to the bill. They say activists are also prepared to commit civil disobedience to fight the Arizona immigration bill.
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed the bill Friday. It requires police to question people about their immigration status — including asking for identification — if they suspect someone is in the country illegally.
The law will take effect in late July or early August.
Rev. Al Sharpton said he'll fight the Arizona immigration bill, by civil disobedience if necessary.
President Barack Obama has called the new law "misguided" and has instructed the Justice Department to examine it to see if it's legal.
April 25, 2010
The new fight club: Teens bashing teens
FREE PRESS COLUMNIST
They are all over the Internet, short video clips with titles out of a boxing poster. "Raul vs. Pedro." "Red vs. Robert." "Twinkie vs. Saylor."
But these are not professional fighters. These are kids. High school kids, middle school kids. They punch each other, pound each other, slap, yank, pull, tackle, rip, scratch and kick each other.
And all the time, someone is filming.
Ten Seconds is what some call it, a macho exercise in which children inflict as much pain as they can for 10 seconds. Perhaps the thinking is "you can't get killed in 10 seconds" -- but you sure can do damage.
Recently, a Troy middle school student was taken to a hospital after he and two classmates staged their own 10 Seconds routine. They were suspended from school -- because they conducted this violence in the school restroom.
The school restroom?
Yep. And if you go to YouTube you'll see many more. Filmed on cell phones. Shot in bathrooms. Or in parking lots. Or out in fields.
On one video, a big kid chases a smaller kid, spins him, grabs him, lifts him from around the neck and slams him to the ground -- all while another kid tags behind.
Not stopping it.
Fighting just for the cameras
Now, fighting as kids is nothing new. I did it. Maybe you did, too. But this is not one of those generation gap issues. There are serious and disturbing differences between the eras.
For one thing, when we fought, there was a reason. Kids didn't just say, "Hey, let's pound the crap out of each other after school today."
And secondly, no one recorded it. The sickest part of this phenomenon is that anger is not igniting these fights -- fame is. These kids see this as their piece of the Internet pie. YouTube has flattened the Earth into a single stage on which anyone can perform. That is too tempting for kids who are growing up in a "fame is everything" world. They may not be able to act. They may not be able to sing or dance. But anyone can punch.
Or try to. The thing is, once you start hitting someone, anger may not be the catalyst, but it quickly can become the gasoline. And a staged routine can turn to serious violence.
In less than 10 seconds.
The obvious response to this is, "Why don't parents teach their kids that this is wrong?" My guess is many do. My guess is even more are totally unaware of what's going on. Ask yourself this, Mom and Dad: How many YouTube fights have you watched lately?
Well, go online and type "10 seconds" and "fight" and see what comes up. Then, after you watch two teens claw and yank as their shirts ride up and their arms flail wildly, see how many other sometimes longer clips come up. They appear endless. "Toker vs. Daniel." "Alejandro vs. Jonathon and William." There's one labeled "10 Seconds" that shows a bunch of kids in a school band room pounding each other between the instruments and the music stands.
New lessons of the fight game
How can this go on, you ask? Well, remember, these kids live in a world of mixed martial arts fighting. MMA was created as a way of using anything and everything in a fight -- boxing, karate, jiujitsu, you name it. And while it has been cleaned up lately and its practitioners are well-trained, it began with an almost fight-to-the-death mentality.
And that is the approach being mimicked by the 10 Seconds kids who, for the most part, aren't trained or accomplished, or even aware of the consequences.
They are hyped-up kids in a hyped-up world, where doing things for the camera is the only reason to do anything at all. To some of these kids, seeing their name on the side of a YouTube page is a narcotic hit that is addicting.
And so maybe our conversations need to change. Not long ago, a father took his son outside and taught him to hold up his fists, but also said, "Don't hit anyone unprovoked."
Today, we need to say, "Son, YouTube is not worth getting your face bashed in."
You might also remind him that Andy Warhol predicted everyone, one day, would be famous for 15 minutes.
And he was off by 14 minutes and 50 seconds.
Conn. cops to woman: 911 isn't a taxi service
Sunday, April 25, 2010
NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — If you're going out to a nightclub, New Haven police have a word of warning: Don't call 911 for a ride home.
Officers say 28-year-old Quandria Bailey did just that, calling the emergency line six times to request a ride from a New Haven nightclub back to her Meriden home.
New Haven police charged Bailey with six counts of misuse of the 911 system early Sunday. She was released on a $1,000 bond and is scheduled to appear in court May 5.
A telephone number for Bailey could not immediately be located Sunday and it was unclear whether she had an attorney.
Church Launches Commercials To Stop Summer Violence
Pastor hopes campaign gets parents attention
11:50 AM CDT, April 25, 2010
The woof, the woof, the woof is on fire.
Manhattan mutts will soon have a place to shake their tails on a Friday night -- the Fetch Club.
The 3,000-foot indoor dog park/canine club slated to open next month in the heart of the Financial District will be tricked out with sybaritic amenities synonymous with Wall Street: special spa baths, holistic mud masks and facials, homemade meals, manicures -- and even a doggie disco.
"If an owner wants to go out one night, they can drop their dog off at our nightclub," said owner Peter Balestrieri, who hopes to even outfit the doggie dance club with a disco ball.
DISCO PUP: DJ in da' doggy club.
"We're serious about the well-being of animals, but we also want them to have fun," said co-owner Jenna Lee, a former finance worker now taking veterinary courses.
The more sedate canines can swing by Fetch Club during the day for playtime (chasing tennis balls), movie hour (classics like "101 Dalmatians" and "Lassie"), trot on a tiny treadmill (that has a TV), or just play on the 3,000-foot dog run in the back of the massive space -- for $35 a day.
Inside the renovated space at 85 John St. -- a 200-year-old former tobacco factory -- will be a high-end boutique with doggie clothes and toys, plus a "human lounge" where owners can grab a coffee, use an iPad to check e-mail, and watch their pampered pooches play.
"The dogs are our clients, so all our services are geared to them," said Lee, who plans to offer daily homemade entrées to owners who don't want their dogs eating commercial pet food.
But the downtown entrepreneurs nearly got muzzled last month when concerned residents went barking to the local community board.
"We heard about it from neighbors who were concerned that overnight boarding would create noise, sanitation and health issues," said Community Board 1 director Julie Menin.
That got the Department of Buildings involved, and a stop-work order was issued in early April. According to Menin, the DOB reviewed Fetch Club's permits and ruled the building wasn't zoned for kennels -- meaning Fetch Club can't board dogs overnight.
Building resident Sean Daly told The Post his main concern was noise. "The space between our floors is really thin -- we hear everything from neighboring apartments," he said.
Balestrieri invested $50,000 in additional noise insulation for Fetch Club -- adding about 8 inches of padding to his walls and ceiling.
Read more: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/manhattan/lift_ya_legs_in_the_air_IezB8oOiKNpjPPF2AtJa5K#ixzz0m9UAkp41
Baltimore will gain residents in prison count shift
New Maryland law, first of its kind, tallies inmates as residents of last permanent address, not location of prison
By Erica L. Green, The Baltimore Sun
10:28 PM EDT, April 24, 2010
For more than two decades, Rico Marzano called prison cells in Jessup and Cumberland his home.
But this year, the convicted murderer serving four consecutive life sentences will be recorded as a Baltimore resident, even though he won't step foot in his Frankford neighborhood any time soon.
Marzano and thousands of other Maryland inmates are being reclassified under a contentious law approved this month by Gov. Martin O'Malley that alters how prison populations are counted during the once-a-decade census.
Maryland became the first state to decide that inmates should be considered residents of the jurisdiction of their last permanent address, and not of the prisons where they are housed. The change came after the Census Bureau announced it would be providing states with detailed data about institutionalized groups such as the military and college students in time for redistricting efforts.
The decision has significant implications for Baltimore, which has been losing population for decades, and which produces as many as 6 in 10 of the state's 21,000 inmates.
Baltimore's official population could grow by 12,000 because of the new law, an increase that could help preserve the city's political clout when congressional and state legislative district lines are redrawn to reflect the 2010 census.
Urban-area lawmakers and civil rights activists lauded the move, calling it a proper solution to a history of inflated population in prison towns.
"There's enough people moved around to break how democracy works," said Peter Wagner, executive director of the Prison Policy Initiative, a nonprofit organization based in Massachusetts, who testified in favor of the Maryland law.
State Sen. Catherine Pugh, a Baltimore Democrat and lead sponsor of her chamber's version of the legislation, emphasized that the plan does not affect how much money the city and other jurisdictions will receive based on census counts. It only applies to the drawing of election district lines.
But the new program is being lambasted by officials in rural parts of the state that contain large prisons. They see a bald effort by Baltimore City and Prince George's County in particular to maintain and build power, at the expense of their communities.
"Baltimore City is trying to pad their numbers in the census, because they're scared they're going to lose representation," said Del. Kevin Kelly, a Democrat who represents Allegany County. "I don't see where the fairness is."
Kelly said the 4,500 state and federal inmates kept in Cumberland will cost the county money for years. The prisoners in his county are doing enough time to make them more a part of his communities than their hometowns, he said.
"When they have to be hospitalized, they're going to be treated in our hospitals," Kelly said. "My phones ring when the correctional officers are injured or worse, and I deal with the community concerns."
With Allegany losing residents, Kelly anticipates that the lines of his legislative district will shift when prisoners are excluded.
Many Baltimore leaders make no apologies for the gains they'll see in population count and argue that many areas of the city are unfairly losing leverage.
"I don't think fairness and political power are mutually exclusive," said Sen. Verna L. Jones, a Baltimore Democrat, adding that the neighborhoods she represents in the city's central and southwest areas have lost enough population to jeopardize the interests of those remaining.
"It is about fairness, because you have these individuals who have families living in these communities, and because the lines are going to be redrawn, Baltimore might have been in danger of losing representation that we could not afford to lose," she said.
Opponents scoffed at the argument that prisoners' displacement from Baltimore is often temporary.
"To close your eyes and tap your shoes three times and pretend that they're going to be returning and that they are not in our jurisdiction is just disingenuous," said Del. Christopher Shank, a Republican who represents Washington County. The county is home to three correctional facilities in Hagerstown, with 6,000 inmates.
"It is a blatant power grab…and Baltimore City is looking at losing seats in the General Assembly because of its declining population," Shank added.
Baltimore's leaders have long sought ways to preserve the city's influence in Annapolis and Washington as its population declined.
The number of city residents peaked at nearly 950,000 in 1950 and has dropped every decade since, even as the population of the state has grown.
Recent figures show that the city lost about 14,000 residents between 2000 and 2008 and had a population of about 637,000.
Since 1974, each statewide reapportionment has cost the city at least one Senate district.
As recently as 2002, 10 of Maryland's 47 state senators represented all or part of Baltimore. In that year, Maryland's highest court threw out a plan that included Senate districts that crossed the city-county line, a redistricting plan created by then-Gov. Parris N. Glendening to preserve Baltimore's influence. That costs the city four of its senators.
Currently, six state senators represent Baltimore, and the inclusion of inmates could provide a buffer against a further loss. A state Senate district will contain about 120,000 residents after the next redistricting, up from about 112,000 now.
Other states are considering population rules similar to the one approved in Maryland.
In New York, some local lawmakers are pushing a plan to exclude prisoners from reapportionment drawings entirely.
"They play no part in our community," said Edward P. Welsh, a Republican county legislator from Utica. "They can't vote, they can't take part in the community, and I'm assuming they don't want to be here — so why are they being counted here?"
Some states are using the new census information differently. Kansas officials want to remove college students and military personnel from redistricting calculations.
Diversity on the Shore
In Somerset County on Maryland's Eastern Shore, officials hope the new rule leads to the election of the county's first-ever black county commissioner.
A prison built in the 1980s, they said, disrupted a settlement of a Voting Rights Act lawsuit intended to create a majority-minority county legislative district.
Though the county is 40 percent black, no black representative has ever been elected to office.
"It's been a long time coming. I believe that people in the county, both black and white, are ready for change," said Clarence Bell, who was the county's first black police chief.
Lawmakers said they were pleased that the new law could bring diversity to places like Somerset.
"I am so proud that Maryland did this, I think that it speaks highly of us," said Del. Joseline Pena-Melnyk, a Prince George's County Democrat who was a lead sponsor of the House legislation.
"It's really a civil rights issue, a fairness issue and an equality issue — plain and simple."
Friday, April 23, 2010
EDITORIAL: Public-sector unions bankrupting America
State and local governments face looming pension crisis
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Usually it takes a national government to spend itself into a debt measured in the trillions. Yet it comes as little surprise that the same profligacy that pervades the corridors of federal power infects this country's 87,000 state, county and municipal governments and school districts. By 2013, the amount of retirement money promised to employees of these public entities will exceed cash on hand by more than a trillion dollars.
That's according to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, which earlier this month released a troubling analysis of 126 state and local pension plans. The center's researchers found in the wake of the stock market collapse that measures of pension program solvency hit a 15-year low with no signs of improvement on the horizon. This means taxpayers will be left picking up the tab.
The reason pension plans are headed toward financial disaster is simple. Ever-expanding public-sector unions have flexed their political muscle and larded up with lavish benefits to be be paid out decades from now. In a properly run,private-sector business, future retirement benefits are paid for using present-day contributions. This is not the case when lawmakers have the power to boost public-employee benefit packages while using accounting gimmicks to conceal and pass on the debt to future generations.
California's public-employee retirement system stands in the most perilous condition, facing a half-trillion in unfunded liabilities. That's not surprising when you consider a California highway patrol officer can retire at age 50 and collect up to 90 percent of his salary for the rest of his life. According to the agency's website, a typical officer's pay will reach $109,147 after just five years on duty - an amount that can rise significantly with overtime benefits. That means a fit and healthy 50-year-old "retiree" who began work at age 20 would receive $98,232 a year from taxpayers for the rest of his life, and nothing prevents him from taking another government job to collect two paychecks. This form of double-dipping is rampant.
While most private-sector firms have trimmed their work force during the recession to achieve more efficient and profitable operations, public agencies have expanded. State and local governments employ about 15 million individuals, a figure that has jumped up 40 percent from 1992. By 2016, the number of state and local bureaucrats is projected to reach 20 million. Too many of these people are being promised far too much money, leaving state and local systems as bankrupt as Social Security, Medicare and other multitrillion-dollar federal entitlements.
To his credit, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger considers addressing his state's "pension bubble" to be one of his top priorities. On Wednesday, he introduced legislation that would raise the full retirement age for new police hires to 57 and reduce the benefit paid in our example to $88,409. It also would reclassify billboard and milk inspectors as "miscellaneous" employees, instead of "safety" workers entitled to bigger handouts.
Despite the modest nature of the proposed changes, it's unclear whether California lawmakers have the backbone needed to pass the measure over the objection of the all-powerful union voting bloc. The rest of voters across the nation, the ones who will be paying for this mess, need to wake up and encourage legislators to reform public pensions before it's too late.
Don’t Call It ‘Pot’ in This Circle; It’s a Profession
Jim Wilson/The New York TimesJeremy Ramsay checked marijuana to be sold at the Harborside Health Center in Oakland, Calif.
April 23, 2010
OAKLAND, Calif. — Like hip-hop, health food and snowboarding, marijuana is going corporate.
Steve DeAngelo, the chief executive officer of the Harborside center, in the clinic’s dispensary.
The New York Times
Varieties of medical marijuana were on view in a glass-covered display case at the Harborside Health Center.
As more and more states allow medical use of the drug, and California considers outright legalization, marijuana’s supporters are pushing hard to burnish the image of pot by franchising dispensaries and building brands; establishing consulting, lobbying and law firms; setting up trade shows and a seminar circuit; and constructing a range of other marijuana-related businesses.
Boosters say it is all part of a concerted effort to trade the drug’s trippy, hippie counterculture past for what they believe will inevitably be a more buttoned-up future.
“I don’t possess a Nehru jacket, I’ve never grown a goatee, I’ve never grown my hair past the nape of my neck,” Allen St. Pierre, the executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws said. “And I don’t like patchouli.”
Steve DeAngelo, the president of CannBe — a marketing, lobbying and consulting firm here — will not even use the word “marijuana.” Calling it pejorative, he prefers the scientific term “cannabis.”
“We want to make it safe, seemly and responsible,” Mr. DeAngelo said of marijuana.
That extends to his main dispensary and headquarters, the Harborside Health Center in Oakland, with its bright fluorescent lights, a clean, spare design, and a raft of other services including chiropractic care and yoga classes. On a recent Friday, the center was packed, with a line of about 50 people waiting as the workers behind the counter walked other customers through the various buds, brownies and baked goods that were for sale.
“If we can’t demonstrate professionalism and legitimacy, we’re never going to gain the trust of our citizens,” Mr. DeAngelo said. “And without that trust, we’re never going to get where we need to go.”
The ultimate destination, for many supporters, is legalization. Californians will decide in November if that is where they want to go, when they vote on a ballot measure that would legalize, tax and regulate marijuana.
Regardless of the outcome, CannBe says it expects to expand its business model nationwide to become what admirers say will be “the McDonald’s of marijuana.”
The for-profit company is made up of four proprietors of nonprofit dispensaries and their lawyer. Mr. DeAngelo calls them an “A-team of cannabis professionals.”
In late March, it helped lobby the City Council in San Jose, the nation’s 10th-largest city, to pass ordinances regulating dispensaries, a crucial step toward a legitimate industry. And last week at a cannabis conference in Rhode Island, Mr. DeAngelo was diversifying his product line, introducing a kind of “pot lite” with less psychoactive agents than regular marijuana and thus popular with what he calls “cannabis-naïve patients.”
John Lovell, a California lobbyist who represents two major police groups that oppose legalization, scoffed at the notion that marijuana proponents were cleaning up their act or gaining traction with the public, citing a recent decision by the Los Angeles City Council to sharply curtail the number of medical marijuana dispensaries there.
“They are a neighborhood blight,” he said. “Here you have dispensaries that have cash and dope. So, duh? Is it any surprise that they’ve been magnets for crime?”
But advocates call that characterization unfair and outdated.
“This is an emerging business opportunity, as it would be in any other area,” said Ethan Nadelmann, the founder and executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, which favors legalization.
In California, dispensaries already employ all manner of business gimmicks to survive in an increasingly competitive market. West Coast Cannabis, a trade magazine, has dozens of advertisements for daily specials, free samples, home delivery, gift certificates, scientific testimonials, yoga classes, hypnotherapy, Reiki sessions, coupons, recipes and, of course — being California — free parking.
There are also new schools and seminars that can be used as credit for required continuing education classes for doctors and lawyers.
That includes the Cannabis Law Institute, which was certified last month by the California state bar. It was co-founded by Omar Figueroa, a graduate of Yale University and Stanford law school, who is hosting a seminar in Sonoma County in June that promises to teach attendees about “this fascinating area of the law.”
Mr. Figueroa, who said he was voted “most likely to fail a Senate confirmation hearing” at Stanford, said he was earning a good living in marijuana law, but was in it for the experience. “My passion has always been cannabis,” he said. “It’s the world’s most interesting law job.”
But it is not just California. Business is also booming in Colorado, which has seen an explosion in the number of dispensaries in the last year. That rapid expansion has alarmed some authorities and sent legislators scrambling to pass new regulations, but has been a boon for law firms like Kumin Sommers L.L.P. in San Francisco, which has merged with Warren C. Edson, a lawyer in Denver representing about 300 Colorado dispensaries. Mr. Edson said many of his clients were curious about decidedly staid fields like workers’ compensation, tax withholding and occupational safety.
“There’s this real Al Capone fear that they’re going to get our guys, not on marijuana, but on something else,” Mr. Edson said, referring to how Capone was eventually charged with tax evasion rather than criminal activity.
The federal government continues to oppose any decriminalization of the drug. And while the Obama administration has signaled some leeway when it comes to medical marijuana, raids on dispensaries and growers by law enforcement agencies are still common — even in California, where the industry effectively began in 1996, with the passage of the landmark Proposition 215, which legalized medical marijuana.
Today, rules vary widely in the 14 states that allow medical marijuana, and a final vote on legalization is pending in the District of Columbia. Some states require sellers to prove nonprofit status — often as a collective or cooperative — and all states require that patients have a recommendation from a physician. But even those in favor of medical marijuana believe that the system is ripe for abuse or even unintentional lawbreaking.
“Almost all the dispensaries in California are illegal,” said William Panzer, an Oakland lawyer who helped draft Proposition 215. “They’re sole proprietorships, not collectives”
Mr. Nadelmann’s organization, the Drug Policy Alliance, says it does not take a position on whether those who sell the drug should be nonprofit or not. But he added, “The key people involved are not becoming personally wealthy.”
Vet fakes paralysis to avoid Iraq
Jim Shur - Apr. 23, 2010 03:19 PM
EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. - A military veteran who claimed a rollover wreck left him paralyzed collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer benefits and was kept stateside when his Army unit shipped off to Iraq.
Doctors could never pinpoint why Jeffrey Rush was a paraplegic, but Kansas prosecutors had an explanation Friday: the 27-year-old was a habitual liar.
While his unit was off to war, Rush snorkeled in Florida and schmoozed at an inaugural ball in Washington in a wheelchair, this time insisting that serving in Iraq cost him his ability to walk. Yet, his legs stayed muscular and he fathered a child with his wife.
Five months after pleading guilty to conspiracy and fraud, Rush stood fully upright before U.S. District Judge William Stiehl on Friday as he was sentenced to more than six years in prison for a scam that he said simply spiraled out of control.
Rush also tearfully asked for lenience for his ex-wife, Amy Rush, who awaits sentencing Monday.
The judge, an 84-year-old Navy veteran of World War II and the Korean War, listened to Rush's sometimes rambling plea for leniency, but sided with prosecutors and ordered him to pay back $314,806.11.
"It's clear to me, Mr. Rush, you do have a problem - your principal problem is telling the truth," the longtime federal judge said.
Rush, who now lives in Nashville, Tenn., insisted he could make things right, claiming he had the inside track on a possible multimillion-dollar real estate deal. Stiehl wasn't convinced, and prosecutor Suzanne Garrison called Rush a "habitual liar."
After the hearing, Stiehl said his own military past had no bearing on the sentence. He allowed Rush to remain free on bond until he reports to prison. A date has not been set.
Authorities said the Rushes stuck to his bogus story that he had lost the use of his legs after a 2004 rollover crash, just weeks before his Army unit from Kansas was deployed to Iraq.
The deception ultimately unraveled after the couple sued Ford Motor Co. in 2005, along with the maker of the seat belts in the 2002 Explorer Sport Trac he wrecked. The suit blamed both companies for his supposed paralysis and his wife's resulting "loss of consortium and conjugal relations." The Rushes had a son in July 2006.
Rush wrongly got $107,857 in benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs and scammed $28,730 from the Social Security Administration, according to court records. Stiehl also ordered Rush to pay tens of thousands of dollars to hospitals where he was treated, the Army, Ford and the attorney who helped the Rushes' sue the auto maker, Bruce Cook, who has said he was duped by the couple and apologized to Ford.
Rush has insisted that he told doctors at a VA hospital in St. Louis that he could walk, sometimes by using a cane, and over time grew less reliant on assistance.
"I was trying to get out of this mess that I was in," Rush told the judge Friday in his bid for lenience, at one point attributing his scam to growing up with an inattentive parent. "My ex-wife and I felt so stuck in this situation, we didn't know how to get out because we were so deep in this lie."
"This defendant's lifestyle is indicative of a lack of self-discipline," Garrison said, casting Rush as an unemployed aspiring songwriter who has drifted between sales and truck-loading jobs.
"He needs to come to the understanding that working 40 hours a week is a lot better than to be in prison," the prosecutor said, arguing that Rush had a "certain moral deficit."
The new strain of Cryptoccus gatti
A mysterious new strain of airborne fungus that has mystified scientists is rolling through the Northwestern U.S. and Canada, leaving at least six people dead in its wake.
A study found that the new strain of Cryptoccus gatti, previously native to tropical and subtropical regions like Australia and South America, is spreading through Washington and Oregon and heading towards Northern California, National Geographic reported.
"The alarming thing is that it's occurring in this region, it's affecting healthy people, and geographically it's been expanding," study co-author Edmond Byrnes, a graduate student at Duke University, told the magazine.
Experts are baffled as to how the fungus reached North American and how it could survive in a colder climate.
Even more worrisome for health experts are reports that the victims had relatively healthy immune systems, according to National Geographic. Twenty one known cases have been recorded in humans, and six have been fatal.
A 1999 outbreak of a similar strain of the fungus in British Columbia, Canada, had a much lower mortality rate, killing 19 out of 218 recorded victims.
There is currently no vaccine for the fungus strain, which causes an infection which may not display symptoms -- including a bad cough and shortness of breath - until months after exposure.
"The enhanced virulence of isolates from the outbreak region, when compared with those from other regions, suggests that the genotypes circulating in the Pacific North West are inherently increased in their predilection to cause disease in mammalian hosts," the study authors wrote in the April 22 issue of the scientific journal, PLOS Pathogens.
Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/lifestyle/health/2010/04/23/2010-04-23_deadly_new_fungus_strain_rolling_across_northwestern_us.html#ixzz0lynLUVZj
Suffolk police: Man caught urinating behind business he robbed
Sean P. Almond, 43, of Windsor, is charged with one count of armed robbery.
Police say a man accused of robbing a convenience store last night was caught minutes later relieving himself behind the business.
A man came into the Kangaroo Mart on Wilroy Road about 11:30 p.m., threatened the clerk, threw her on the ground and robbed the place, according to a city news release. The clerk called the cops, who were already nearby, and pointed them toward the back of the building -- the direction she saw him flee.
Police immediately arrested the man and took him to headquarters. He was carrying the stolen cash, police said.
Sean P. Almond, 43, of Windsor, is charged with one count of armed robbery. Charges of assault and urinating in public are also pending, police said. Almond is being held at Western Tidewater Regional Jail without bond.
Who watches the watchmen? SEC senior staffers used government computers to browse for booty, according to a memo.
At the SEC, all they thought about was SEX.
The country's top financial watchdogs turned out to be horndogs who spent hours gawking at porn Web sites as the economy teetered on the brink, according to a memo released Thursday night.
The shocking findings include Securities and Exchange Commission senior staffers using government computers to browse for booty and an accountant who tried to access the raunchy sites 16,000 times in one month.
Their titillating pastime was discovered during 33 probes of employees looking at explicit images in the past five years, said the memo obtained by The Associated Press.
It says 31 of those probes occurred in the 2-1/2 years since the country's financial system nearly crashed.
The report was written by SEC Inspector General David Kotz in response to a request from Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa).
Among the startling findings:
- A senior attorney at the SEC's Washington headquarters spent up to eight hours a day looking at and downloading pornography. When his government computer ran out of hard drive space, he burned the files to CDs or DVDs. He later agreed to resign.
- An accountant was blocked more than 16,000 times in a single month from visiting "sex" or "pornography" sites, but still managed to amass a collection of "very graphic" material by using Google to bypass the SEC's internal filter. He wound up with a 2-week suspension.
- Seventeen of the randy employees were "at a senior level" earning salaries of up to $222,418.
- The number of cases jumped from two in 2007 to 16 in 2008. The cracks in the financial system emerged in mid-2007 and spread into full-blown panic by the fall of 2008.
California Rep. Darrell Issa, the top Republican on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said it was "disturbing that high-ranking officials within the SEC were spending more time looking at porn than taking action to help stave off the events that put our nation's economy on the brink of collapse." An SEC spokesman declined to comment last night.
Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/money/2010/04/23/2010-04-23_porn_among_daily_duties_of_top_sec_honchos_sez_report.html#ixzz0lxj369jt
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly hailed the success of 'Operation Phoenix' in which a lone undercover cop busted up a gun ring and took 153 guns off the street.
According to police, Terence Williams was involved in 31 of the illegal sales.
He's a task force of one.
A brave undercover cop single-handedly took more than 150 illegal guns off Brooklyn's streets in a risky yearlong probe that also busted a brigade of dealers.
The unidentified cop was so talented at playing his role that traffickers often fought each other for his business, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said Thursday.
"This undercover officer was particularly skillful and he appeared to have money. And other people tried to undercut the original seller [and] cut their own deals," Kelly said.
"There's no honor among thieves. The undercover officer did an amazing job."
During "Operation Phoenix," the lone officer, who cannot be identified for safety reasons, broke up a virtual pipeline of arms into Brooklyn - buying 153 weapons in 105 transactions at an average cost of $900 each.
Two of those guns were linked to murders in the borough, including the senseless slaying of a teenage Rollerblading phenom.
"It goes to show the magnitude of the problem we have with guns on the streets of the city," Kelly said.
Seventeen people were arrested in the investigation - which was run jointly by the NYPD and the Brooklyn district attorney's office. Three more suspects are being sought, officials said.
The investigation began last May and initially focused on Stevenson [Teeth] Alexis, 25, who was selling guns in East New York, officials said.
After the undercover cop earned Alexis' trust, he was introduced to a loose-knit group of weapons dealers throughout Brooklyn - and ended up buying guns in 11 of the borough's precincts.
Alexis, who sold the cop 53 guns, was tracked down through his probation officer and busted this week. He is being held on $1 million bail, Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes said.
Another dealer, Terence [Fire] Williams, sold the undercover cop 31 guns, officials said. None of the suspects arrested will be offered a plea bargain, Hynes vowed.
The majority of seized weapons were reported stolen from the same places, states known as "hot spots" for illicit guns, including Virginia, Pennsylvania and North and South Carolina.
Kelly revealed that two of the firearms were used in murders in Brooklyn last year.
One gun was used to kill Brian (Cozmik) Scott, 18, who was shot in a fried chicken restaurant in Flatbush on Oct. 12. Scott, who had dreams of becoming a professional Rollerblader, was hit twice in the chest and once in the back and died a short time later.
One of the other handguns was used to shoot 18-year-old Isiah Davis, found dead on a Brownsville streetcorner on Nov. 4.
The sweeping takedown comes less than a week after 104 gang members were busted in Far Rockaway, resulting in the seizure of 60 handgun.
Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/ny_crime/2010/04/23/2010-04-23_1_cop_makes_a_difference_kelly_hails_work_of_officer_who_got_153_illegal_guns_of.html#ixzz0lvlGNOV2
Hillary Clinton worn out
Hillary Clinton says in a new profile that the constant travel and demands of being secretary of state are beginning to take a toll. AP
Hillary Clinton says in a new profile that the constant travel and demands of being secretary of state are beginning to take a toll.
"It wears you out," Clinton told Esquire in a story for the May issue of the magazine. "The jet lag, the dry air on planes, the whole 'If it's Tuesday, I must be in...' kind of thing."
Clinton has said before that she only intends to serve one term as secretary of state, citing the travel, and told the magazine that she hopes she has enough gas in the tank to keep up the pace.
"Knock on wood," she said. "I do have good stamina and resilience. But you would think, in the world in which we live today, that with instantaneous communications, that you wouldn't need to travel as much."
"But, in fact," Clinton explained, "you almost have to travel more, both because everybody knows you can get on an airplane and get to where they're expecting you, but also because it's almost as if the virtual reality cries out for the real relationships need to be affirmed."
"It's ironic," she said.
Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0410/36202.html#ixzz0lstU2dWp
Welcome, Obama - to city you want to ruinMICHAEL GOODWIN
Last Updated: 5:20 AM, April 21, 2010
3:29 AM, April 21, 2010
Welcome to New York, Mr. President. Now go home and leave us alone. Please.
When he brings his war against Wall Street here tomorrow, Barack Obama isn't coming to praise Gotham. He's coming to bury us.
We're not dead yet, but no thanks to him and his policies. His assaults on New York ought to be counted in the NYPD crime stats. They're doing more damage than a year's worth of stickups, and still the hits keep coming.
Under his initial plan, cops and the feds already would be locking down the Foley Square courthouse area to give the precious Khalid Sheik Mohammed his constitutional rights. Nary a New Yorker wants the 9/11 trial here, but Attorney General Eric Holder insists the city "is not off the table."
Think about that. Would you buy an apartment or open a business anywhere near the courthouse if you thought the area would be turned into an armed camp, possibly for years?
Or this. How dare Obama and Holder continue to even consider bringing the horror show here after Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said it would make New York more of a target for Islamic radicals?
Oops. The White House doesn't say "Islamic" radicals anymore. Or "jihad." Or "war on terror." See, 19 humans carried out the man-caused disaster on 9/11.
Speaking of man-caused disasters, the health-care monstrosity certainly qualifies. New Yorkers will pay an additional $6.5 billion a year in federal tax hikes once the law is fully implemented, Mayor Bloomberg's office says, depriving the city of money that could be spent on housing, entertainment and hiring other New Yorkers.
Instead, the cash will go to Washington to subsidize the federal bureaucracy and other cities and states.
It's worth repeating that Obama couldn't have pulled off the heist without inside help. Only one of the 13 members of the House who allegedly represent the city voted against the health measure.
All 13 are Democrats, as are the state's two senators, but only Mike McMahon of Staten Island voted no. For his courage, he got berated by the White House and threats from labor groups that, politically, he's a dead man.
Now it's Wall Street's turn in the cross hairs. With Dems moving their sweeping package of financial restrictions to the Senate floor, it takes a fool to believe the timing of the Securities and Exchange Commission's charge of fraud against Goldman Sachs was a coincidence.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid added to the suspicions with his initial reaction. "I'm pleased that the Obama administration is using all of the tools in its arsenal to bring accountability to Wall Street," he said of the charges.
On Monday, when Obama announced he was coming to Cooper Union, Reid again railed against Wall Street, getting so carried away, he went after "excess greed." I guess that's worse than ordinary greed.
But greed comes in many guises. A president who rakes in millions of dollars in contributions from New York banks, then goes after them like they are witches in Salem, has no respect for decency or capitalism.
Then again, those Masters of the Universe deserve what they get. Executives from Goldman, Morgan Stanley, Citi, JPMorgan Chase and UBS didn't just back the president who now aims to turn them into political piñatas for the midterm elections.
Their contributions bought the rope he's using for their hanging. Maybe they're not so smart after all.
ALL THE NEWS THAT SPITZ IS A WHITEWASH
Eliot Spitzer -- what would we do without him? He's a newsmaking machine.
One day, it's about how he's plotting to run for this or that office. The next day, we learn more about his hooker habit.
Just yesterday, The Albany Times Union published the original banking document that led to the investigation that brought him down. The document shows how he sought to hide his money transfers to pay for hookers, telling the bank a $5,000 transfer and another one for $10,000 were for a "personal expense," but wouldn't say more.
The bank couldn't figure out the nature of the business he was sending the money to and wasn't satisfied with his answer. From there, it was all downhill.
Or it should have been, but Spitzer is baaaack, looking for a political landing spot. He's the subject of a second book detailing his downfall and hopes to rise again.
The fact he harbors such hopes before we know the full extent of his sordid behavior illustrates a larger truth. The US Attorney's Office did New York no favors in deciding not to prosecute the john it dubbed Client 9. He's been out of office for more than two years, yet many details of his potentially criminal conduct remain unknown.
I also believe Spitzer himself would have been better off if he had been forced to face the legal music. To judge from his y behavior lately, the lack of clear punishment feeds his grandiose illusions about his character and standing.
It also allows the liberal media to keep trotting out its preferred narrative, which is that he was Mr. Clean who inexplicably lost his way. In truth, Spitzer's first political campaign in 1994 was corrupt, improperly financed by his father. Spitzer lied to cover up the fact and, when he got away with it, assumed he was invincible.
Further contradicting the Mr. Clean image, he was using hookers while crusading against Wall Street and prostitution. The sheriff was in bed with criminals.
By all means, let's have more news about the Love Gov. But let's not make the mistake of thinking he's a tragic figure worthy of sympathy. He earned his banishment the old fashioned way: by disgracing his office and betraying the public.
Bigots don't fit to a Tea
I received many passionate responses to my column detailing the anti-Semitic rants directed my way. Some Jewish writers offered heartfelt apologies that I was getting attacks aimed at them! Some bigots responded with, naturally, more bigotry.
But in political terms, the most telling response came from Robert Dao of Staten Island. "It's funny how us people in the Tea Parties are painted as haters, racists etc.," he wrote. "I nor anyone I associate with would never write letters like that to the people we disagree with."
Remember his words the next time somebody in Washington tries to demonize the Tea Party. The Tea Partiers deserve respect, not smears.
'Crook' fit for DC
"Make no little plans," the philosopher said, and Pedro Espada listened. The claim that the slimy state senator ripped off $14 million kills the idea that Al bany is a refuge for small-time crooks. If the charges are true, Espada aimed high. He deserves to be in Washington, and Washington deserves him!
Qaeda has no spiritual leader
Reports on the killing of three al Qaeda in Iraq leaders referred to one of them as the terror group's "spiritual leader."
It's a strange term for a man whose followers, according to The Wall Street Journal, killed more American soldiers in 2007 than any other group. "Homicidal maniac" is more like it.
Apr, 20, 2010
Ferndale man punches Cost Cutter employee after complaints about body odor
THE BELLINGHAM HERALD
BELLINGHAM - A Ferndale man was arrested Monday, April 19, after allegedly punching a Cost Cutter employee who told him customers complained about his body odor.
At about 11:40 a.m., Bellingham police responded to the Cost Cutter at 1275 E. Sunset Drive for a report of a fight between an employee and Christopher T. Boehringer, 31, said police spokesman Mark Young.
Officers found employees holding Boehringer down in the second aisle of the store.
Boehringer apparently was in the store for about four hours Sunday when the complaints were made by other customers. When he returned to the store Monday, the employee decided to discuss the problem.
"It doesn't appear (the employee) was going to ask him to leave the store. He was just sharing the complaints, but the conversation didn't get far," Young said.
Boehringer "snapped," Young said, throwing down a package of batteries and punching the employee in the mouth. The employee suffered a minor injury that didn't require treatment.
Boehringer was booked into Whatcom County Jail for investigation of fourth-degree assault.
Postal Worker Accused Of Stealing Hundreds Of Gift Cards
About 450 Cards Recovered At Time Of Arrest
POSTED: 3:22 pm EDT April 21, 2010
UPDATED: 3:30 pm EDT April 21, 2010
BALTIMORE -- A U.S. Postal Service worker has been charged with theft after authorities said hundreds of gift cards were stolen.
Andrew C. Walsh, 51, of <snip>eysville, faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison for theft of mail by a postal employee.
U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein and Joanne Yarbrough, of the U.S. Postal Service Office of Investigations, announced the arrest Wednesday.
According to an affidavit, greeting cards at a processing and distribution center on East Fayette Street had been opened, with their contents removed, numerous times since January.
"The recovered mail fluctuated between approximately 20 to 100 rifled greeting cards each night, totaling approximately 1,200 victims to date," according to a statement from the U.S. Department of Justice.
Walsh was arrested Tuesday night, and authorities said about 450 stolen gift cards were recovered from his vehicle.
Officials said Walsh was an acting supervisor at the processing center and worked night shifts.
Investigators worked with victims whose mail had been rifled and identified Walsh as the suspect.
Walsh had his first court appearance Wednesday afternoon.
Clinton: Republicans unlikely to win back either house of Congress
Despite the parallels with the current political environment and that of 1994, Bill Clinton said the outcome of November’s election “is likely to be far less dramatic.”
“I don't think [the GOP] will win either house,” he said on ABC’s “This Week” Sunday. “If history is any guide, they should make a few gains. But I don't expect them to win in either house, no.”
The former president expanded on the remarks he made earlier to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer and the New York Times about how anti-government rhetoric could incite violence as was the case in the 1990s.
Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh seized on the statements and said they were an attempt to discredit the Tea Party movement.
“The only point I tried to make was that we ought to have a lot of political dissent, a lot of political argument,” Clinton said. “But we also have to take responsibility for the possible consequences of what we say. And we shouldn't demonize the government or its public employees or its elected officials.”
Clinton said he was concerned about the threats being made against President Barack Obama, members of Congress and even New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R). “I just think we all have to be careful. We ought to remember after Oklahoma City. We learned something about the difference in disagreement and demonization,” he said.
Clinton ruled himself or his wife, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, out of accepting an appointment to the Supreme Court but he offered some advice to Obama about a prospective nominee.
“My advice to him would be to, first of all, see what the court's missing. Does it matter if he puts a Catholic or a Jewish person or someone of another faith on a court, there might -- there would be no Protestants on the Supreme Court. … Does there need to be another woman on the court?”
Clinton encouraged Obama to look beyond the tradition template of experienced judges. “You know, I tried to persuade both Senator Mitchell and Governor Cuomo to accept appointments to the court, and for different reasons, neither one wanted to do it,” he said. “I think they would have been fabulous justices. And -- now, George Mitchell had been a judge, but he was also a senator. I think that -- I hope he'll take a look at somebody who hasn't been a judge.”
He added, “I'd like to see him put someone in their late 40s or early 50s on the court and someone, you know, with a lot of energy for the job.”
Clinton said he thought it would be “very difficult” for the GOP to block Obama’s eventual nominee. “I don't expect him to intentionally pick a fight with the Senate,” Clinton said before urging Obama not to back down if he finds the “best person” for the job. “The most important thing is he needs to be really proud of the people he puts on the court,” he said.
10:41 a.m. April 21, 2010 | Updated: 11:18 a.m. today
Poll: Americans say U.S. cars top Asian autos
WASHINGTON — After a long romance with foreign rivals, America’s love affair with the automobile is returning to its roots with a revived affection for U.S.-made cars.
Slightly more Americans now say the United States makes better-quality vehicles than Asia does, with 38% saying U.S. cars are best and 33% preferring autos made by Asian companies, according to an Associated Press-GfK Poll.
The survey suggests those numbers are largely fueled by a plunge in Toyota’s reputation and an upsurge in Ford’s. The poll was conducted in March, as Toyota was being roiled by nightmarish publicity over its recall of more than 8 million vehicles around the globe and allegations that it responded sluggishly to safety concerns.
Though the U.S. advantage is modest, it marks a significant turnabout for American automakers battered by recession and relentless competition from foreign manufacturers. When the same question was asked in a December 2006 AP-AOL poll, 46% said Asian countries made superior cars, while just 29% preferred American vehicles, reflecting a perception of U.S. automotive inferiority that began taking hold about three decades ago.
“Toyota’s problems are not to be minimized here,” David Williams, dean of the business administration school at Wayne State University in Detroit, said in explaining the attitude shift.
In both AP polls, Japan — home to brands like Toyota, Honda and Nissan — was by far the dominant Asian nation volunteered as producing the best cars. European autos — which include BMW, Mercedes Benz and Volkswagen — were called top quality by 15% last month, about the same as the 17% who said so four years ago.
Williams and others also cited a fresh look Americans are giving U.S. automakers, especially Ford and General Motors. Though GM and Chrysler went through bankruptcy last year and the federal government invested $80 billion to keep them afloat, GM has revamped its lineup with more fuel-efficient and crossover vehicles. Analysts say Ford revived its reputation by not accepting the taxpayer bailout and improving its vehicles’ gasoline mileage.
Highlighting the changing attitudes, 15% in the March poll said Toyota makes the best cars, down from 25% who said so in 2006. Moving in the opposite direction was Ford, cited as tops by just 9% in 2006 but by 18% last month.
Eighteen percent said GM cars were best, little changed from 2006. Chrysler — which continues to struggle — remained mired at 3%.
“They last,” Charlotte Flentge, 60, of Chester, Ill., a Chevrolet Cavalier owner, said of American autos. “You get a good American car, you know you have a quality car you can be safe in and not be afraid to put your family in.”
Those likeliest to say Asian-made autos are superior included men, the better educated and residents of Western states. U.S. cars were a strong preference for those age 50 and up and rural residents.
Overall, though, only 51% in last month’s poll expressed strong confidence that cars sold in the U.S. are safe, with owners of domestic and foreign cars giving similar responses. The 2006 survey did not ask that question.
“Toyota is leading the parade in reducing confidence in the safety of automobiles,” said Gerald C. Meyers, a former auto executive with American Motors and now a University of Michigan business professor. “I suspect that’s holding the number down a lot.”
Despite consumers’ altered views, the poll showed that allegiance remains strong to many makes. Well over nine in 10 owners of Fords, GMs, Hondas and Toyotas expressed satisfaction with their cars, with the figure slightly lower for Chryslers.
Among the brand loyalists is Vernon Harmon, 44, a police officer from Rock Hill, S.C., proud owner of a Toyota and a Mazda.
“I know people are going to say, ’That guy, is he not watching the news?’” he said. “I know what’s going on. I still think Japan makes the best cars in the world. Period.”
With the U.S. trying to claw out of a recession, the poll showed that Americans’ taste for alternative-fuel cars is being tempered by economic realities. Such cars often cost more than similarly sized vehicles that run on gasoline.
By 61% to 37%, most said last month they would consider buying an alternative-fuel auto. That was a narrower margin than the 70% to 29% who said so in 2006.
Tellingly, people cited the environment and a desire to save money about equally last month when asked which would prevail in making their decision. Four years ago, with a strong economy, protecting the environment outweighed saving money, 47% to 34%.
“I’m concerned about the environment, but I don’t want to kill myself, I don’t want to go into bankruptcy,” said Kathryn Mershon, 47, of Henderson, Nev.
The poll also found that:
• Fifty-six percent own vehicles made by U.S. automakers, about the same as in 2006.
• Eight in 10 live in households with autos, including about two-thirds who have two or more cars.
• Six in 10 autos were bought used.
• About four in 10 say their dream car would be a foreign brand, compared with three in 10 wishing for a domestic car.
Flentge, the Chevrolet owner, picked the German-made BMW as her dream car, saying, “I don’t know, it just sounds prestigious.”
The AP-GfK Poll was conducted March 3-8 by GfK Roper Public Affairs and Media. It involved interviews with 1,002 adults conducted by landline and cellular telephones. The margin of sampling error was plus or minus 4.2 percentage points.
Associated Press Polling Director Trevor Tompson, AP News Survey Specialist Dennis Junius and AP writer Ken Thomas contributed to this report.
Steelers QB Roethlisberger suspended six games by NFL
The Associated Press
1:55 p.m. EDT, April 21, 2010
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was suspended for six games without pay Wednesday for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy and ordered to undergo behavioral evaluation.
Commissioner Roger Goodell made the announcement a week after prosecutors decided not to charge Roethlisberger after a 20-year-old college student accused him of sexually assaulting her in a Georgia nightclub in March.
Goodell said the league's conduct policy gave him the right to impose discipline.
"I recognize that the allegations in Georgia were disputed and that they did not result in criminal charges being filed against you," he said in his letter to the two-time Super Bowl winner, a six-year veteran.
"My decision today is not based on a finding that you violated Georgia law, or on a conclusion that differs from that of the local prosecutor. That said, you are held to a higher standard as an NFL player, and there is nothing about your conduct in Milledgeville that can remotely be described as admirable, responsible, or consistent with either the values of the league or the expectations of our fans."
Roethlisberger must undergo a "comprehensive behavioral evaluation by medical professionals" and may not attend any team offseason activities until that evaluation is completed.
The suspension could be reduced to four games for good behavior. Sitting out all six games would cost him an estimated $2.8 million.
White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel said the media are partially responsible for the nasty rhetoric that is dominating political discourse. AP
White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel on Monday night said the media are partially responsible for the nasty rhetoric that is dominating political discourse.
Emanuel said during an interview with PBS’s Charlie Rose that “everybody’s accountable … including the media” for the overheated language that was used during the health care debate and beyond.
“They play a role in exacerbating the sense that America's pulled apart, and it's not as pulled apart as being reported,” he said.
Emanuel conceded that anger in the country is running “deep” but suggested that economic factors drive the grass-roots resentment toward Washington as much as anything.
“There's a lot of factors that go into that,” he said, “principally on the areas of the economic anxiety that's out there and the — we're in the middle of a severe economic transition.”
Emanuel also responded to speculation that has come from former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer and others that the White House knew ahead of time that the SEC was planning to file fraud charges against Goldman Sachs.
“Everybody at the White House found out like everybody else, when it hit the news,” he said. “Nobody at the White House knew anything ahead of anybody else.
Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0410/36079.html#ixzz0ll7t7hgZ
Inexpensive cans and packs of Game Day Ice and Game Day Light are being sold at 7-Elevens in 17 states.
Game on, Slurpee.
7-Eleven is launching its own brand of beer called Game Day that's aimed at penny-pinching sports fans.
Game Day "Light" and "Ice" will compete with the Budweisers, Millers and Coors of the world. After debuting in New York in two weeks, the brew will sell for a mere $8.99 per 12-pack, and $1.49 for a 24-ounce can.
The lager is slated to be sold in 4,200 stores in 17 states. It's already up for grabs in Oregon and Washington State.
"I'm a big fan of 7-Eleven and I like buying in bulk," said Nathan Vernon, 26, of Harlem. "I can see myself inviting some friends over and passing around the Game Day beer and playing Wii."
Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/lifestyle/2010/04/21/2010-04-21_cheers_for_7elevens_cheap_beer.html#ixzz0ljN6Sepm
BURGLARY ARREST: A Des Moines man is in the Polk County Jail after police say he broke into an elderly woman's home Tuesday morning
WHO Staff Writer
12:14 PM CDT, April 20, 2010
Feds start seizing homes of child pornographers
Revenue to be put in fund for victims
The Baltimore Sun
April 21, 2010
The brick rancher at the end of the cul-de-sac in Kingsville has three bedrooms, two baths, 1,827 square feet of living space and 1.42 acres of land. It's assessed for tax purposes at $472,830.
It's for sale, and it would seem a steal at the $289,500 asking price. The house has been on the market for 94 days.
The owner is the U.S. Marshals Service, which seized the Harford County house in October and has been trying to sell it for the past three months. Its previous owner, George K. Hayward, was sentenced Monday to 20 years in federal prison for taking pictures of naked children, some as young as 5 years old, inside the house.
Hayward is 72, and his prison term is, as Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein said in an interview, "effectively a life sentence."
As is common practice, police seized Hayward's computers in which he stored his pictures. But under a new Rosenstein initiative, federal authorities in Maryand also took his house.
Most commonly, police seize assets of the drug dealers, gang members and organized crime figures. Rosenstein said he's extending that practice to send a message to pedophiles, who typically repeat their crimes.
House seizures are made in cases where the pedophiles don't just view pornography inside the house but produce it there, Rosenstein said. Proceeds from the sales will go to a victims' compensation fund.
Federal authorities say Hayward downloaded pictures of children engaged in sexual activity, and he admitted in his guilty plea "that he would have actual children replicate the sexually explicit images shown on the child pornography he received over the Internet."
The investigation of Hayward began in November 2008, Rosenstein said, when a 5-year-old girl and her parents sought help from the Harford County Child Advocacy Center in Bel Air. The girl called Hayward "Mr. Ben," and according to the plea agreement filed in court, she described numerous sex acts.
Police raided the Monica Circle house in 2008 and found 499,000 images on the suspect's computer, according to court documents. Agents said they reviewed 50,000 of the images and found 1,024 pictures and 192 videos of child pornography.
Haywood's house is not the only one being seized. Last week, a Prince George's County man lost his Fruitland home after he pleaded guilty to taking sexually explicit pictures of a neighbor's child. Owners can fight the seizures, but in both these recent cases they agreed to surrender their property as part of their guilty pleas.
The job of selling the Kingsville house fell to Robert Steele, who owns Passport Realty in Mount Vernon. He said that the county had "way over-assessed the property" at nearly a half-million dollars and that even the asking price of $289,500 "was too high."
Rather than wait for a sale, Steele is pulling the house off the market for auction.
In an interview, he said he knew federal law enforcement seized the property — he handles lots of transactions for the Marshals Service — but did not realize a child sex offender had lived there.
Rosenstein said he hopes this new tool will send a message that child pornography remains a priority for his office. Now, pedophiles can go to prison, lose their computers and, as Rosentein said, "they could lose all their property."
Woman who escaped Florida prison 34 years ago is recaptured
Paula Eileen Carroll had been living under the name ‘Sharon Brown.’
Anika Myers Palm
6:07 PM EDT, April 20, 2010
It's a script straight out of "Law & Order": A woman escapes the prison system, vanishes without a trace and gets captured more than three decades later — on her birthday.
But this was no television episode. This was Paula Eileen Carroll's life today.
Carroll and another inmate were discovered missing from what is now Lowell Correctional Institution in Ocala on Sept. 3, 1975. Although the other inmate was recaptured, Carroll had been at large since her escape.
This morning, Carroll was arrested at her home on Albert Drive in Melbourne.
She told the Brevard County Sheriff's fugitive unit officers who arrested her that she had "been thinking about this day for a long time" and was "glad it's over." Today is Carroll's 56th birthday.
Carroll had been living under the name Sharon Brown, which was associated with the social security number of a West Virginia woman, according to Paula Bryant, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Corrections.
She had been sentenced to five years in prison on July 18, 1975, on charges of buying, receiving or concealing stolen property before making her escape less than two months later.
Authorities learned yesterday that Carroll was in Melbourne from a tipster who contacted the Florida Department of Corrections, which in turn worked with the Brevard County Sheriff's Office fugitive unit to arrest Carroll at 8:55 a.m. today.
She is being held without bond at the Brevard County Jail.
National Weed Day
Potential Medical Uses
Potential Health Risks
BIN LADEN FACEBOOK PAGE
April 19, 2010
The Facebook page for mass murderer Osama Bin Laden has been shut down.
After attracting more than 1,000 "fans" and posting clips of his threatening videos and speeches produced by al Qaeda-affiliated Al-Sahab Media Group has been sent packing by the social networking site.
"People often attempt to register fake accounts under the name of famous or infamous people," a Facebook spokesman told ABC News.
"There is no evidence to suggest that the account in question or the other dozens of people who have tried to present themselves as Osama bin Laden have any relation to the terrorist," he said.
"As is our standard practice, we have disabled the account."
Facebook has access to emails and IP address associated with profiles or groups, assisting local and federal law enforcement if warranted.
Facebook declined to say if there would be any follow up by anti-terrorist agencies of the of followers who signed up as Bin Laden's "fans."
LINK TO STORY AND PHOTO ON FACEBOOK:
Bill Jordan talks with CBS4's Tom Mustin
A brazen theft in the Cherry Creek Mall left the victim with a permanent injury to his hand. He had just bought an iPad as a favor for a friend.
Bill Jordan told CBS4 he moved his family to Colorado from New Jersey 15 years ago to get away from a crime there. Now after the iPad theft, he said his life and the life of his family will never be the same.
"I saw just a bone, all the skin and tendons and everything were off," Jordan said, describing the violent robbery that tore off part of his finger.
"It's like a bad dream," he said.
Last Thursday afternoon the 59-year-old Aurora man walked into the Apple store to pick up an iPad for a co-worker.
"I had been asked by one of my colleagues in Canada to pick up an iPad for someone who is being promoted."
Jordan left the store with his iPad bag tied around his hand. Unreleased surveillance film shows two young men following him.
"The film shows them walking right behind me down the stairs as I was going out the store."
A few feet from the doors to the parking garage Jordan felt a violent tugging at his arm. He looked down and saw a young man trying to grab his bag.
"He was almost sitting on the ground he was pulling so hard and it was still tied around my fingers; and it wouldn't come off and then finally he gave it one big jerk; and that's when he stripped the skin off my pinky and it went right down to the bone."
The robber grabbed the iPad and ran out of the mall.
Jordan said he went into shock and used napkins from a food vendor to try and stop the bleeding. Paramedics rushed him to a hand surgeon who told him part of his left pinky would have to be amputated.
Now with his hand covered in bandages and his life changed forever, Jordan has a message for the brazen criminals who changed his life forever.
"I hope you understand what you've done to my life and my family's life for a simple piece of apparatus that'll be junk in a couple of years."
Legalize Pot? Poll Shows Most Americans Against Legal Weed, Except Medical Marijuana
04/20/10 12:02 AM
LOS ANGELES — Most Americans still oppose legalizing marijuana but larger majorities believe pot has medical benefits and the government should allow its use for that purpose, according to an Associated Press-CNBC poll released Tuesday.
Respondents were skeptical that crime would spike if marijuana is decriminalized or that it would lead more people to harder drugs like heroin or cocaine. There also was a nearly even split on whether government spends too much or the right amount enforcing marijuana laws. Almost no one thinks too little is spent.
Marijuana use – medically and recreationally – is getting more attention in the political arena. California voters will decide in November whether to legalize the drug, and South Dakota will vote this fall on whether to allow medical uses. California and 13 other states already permit such use.
The balloting comes against the backdrop of the Obama administration saying it won't target marijuana dispensaries if they comply with state laws, a departure from the policy of the Bush administration, which sought to more stringently enforce the federal ban on marijuana use for any purpose.
In the poll, only 33 percent favor legalization while 55 percent oppose it. People under 30 were the only age group favoring legalization (54 percent) and opposition increased with age, topping out at 73 percent of those 65 and older. Opposition also was prevalent among women, Republicans and those in rural and suburban areas.
Some opponents worried legalization would lead to reefer madness.
"I think it would be chaos if it was legalized," said Shirley Williams, a 75-year-old retired English teacher from Quincy, Ill. "People would get in trouble and use marijuana as an excuse."
Those like Jeff Boggs, 25, of Visalia, Calif., who support legalization said the dangers associated with the drug have been overstated.
"People are scared about things they don't know about," said Boggs, who is married and works for an auto damage appraisal company.
Americans are more accepting of medical marijuana. Sixty percent support the idea and 74 percent believe the drug has a real medical benefit for some people. Two-thirds of Democrats favor medical marijuana as do a slim majority of Republicans, 53 percent.
Peoples' views on legalizing marijuana or on allowing its use for medicinal purposes were largely uniform across different regions of the country, despite the fact that legal medical marijuana use is concentrated in the West.
Bill Hankins, 77, of Mason, Mich., opposes legalizing marijuana but strongly favors using the drug medicinally. Michigan is among the states that allow medical pot.
"It has been shown through tests to alleviate pain in certain medical conditions," said Hankins, who said he experimented with pot when he was younger. If Hankins fell gravely ill and "my doctor said I should have it to control the pain, I would use it," he said.
California was the first state to approve medical marijuana, in 1996, and has been the hub of the so-called "Green Rush" to legalize marijuana. But a patchwork of local laws in the state has created confusion about the law and lax oversight led to an explosion of medical marijuana dispensaries in some places.
In Los Angeles, the number of dispensaries exploded from four to upward of 1,000 in the past five years. Police believe some were nothing but fronts for drug dealers to sell marijuana to people who have no medical need, and the city recently adopted an ordinance to reduce that number to 70 in coming months.
Among those surveyed, 45 percent said the cost of enforcing existing laws is too high and 48 percent said it's about right. Democrats, men and young people were most apt to say the cost is exorbitant.
With state and local governments desperate for cash, some legalization proponents are pushing marijuana as a potential revenue stream. But only 14 percent of those surveyed who oppose legalization would change their mind if states were to tax the drug.
John Lovell, a spokesman with the California Narcotics Officers' Association, said he wasn't surprised by the poll results because people already are aware of widespread abuse of legal prescription drugs and alcohol.
"Given that reality, we don't need to add another mind-altering substance that compromises people's five senses," Lovell said.
Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said that, since the organization was formed in 1970, there's been a slow but steady erosion of opposition to marijuana.
"Every single metric is pushing toward a zeitgeist in marijuana reform," he said.
Ann Broadus, 58, of Petros, Tenn., strongly opposes legalization and medicinal use, but even she sees the day when the laws will change.
"Probably somewhere down the road it will be legalized, but I hope not," she said. "I think if it becomes legal, these druggies would be worse off."
The AP-CNBC Poll was conducted April 7-12, 2010, by GfK Roper Public Affairs and Media. It involved interviews with 1,001 adults nationwide on landline and cellular telephones. It had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4.3 percentage points.
On the Net:
White House chief of staff says he’d like the post if Daley doesn’t run for re-election
Andrew L. Wang and Katherine Skiba
9:17 PM CDT, April 19, 2010
He has been equivocal on the subject in the past, but on Monday night White House chief of staff and native Chicagoan Rahm Emanuel made no bones about it: He wants to be the mayor of Chicago.
"I hope Mayor [Richard] Daley seeks re-election. I will work and support him if he seeks re-election," Emanuel told Charlie Rose on the host's PBS talk show, in an interview broadcast Monday night. "But if Mayor Daley doesn't, one day I would like to run for mayor of the city of Chicago. That's always been an aspiration of mine, even when I was in the House of Representatives."
In January, after The Washington Post reported that Emanuel, a one-time Daley aide and longtime supporter of the mayor, was mulling a mayoral run, Emanuel did not deny the report. He instead said in statement that he was "100 percent focused on the job at hand: serving President Obama as his chief of staff."
At the time, Daley himself dismissed the report as gossip.
But on Monday night, Emanuel said he missed the regular contact he had with constituents as a representative of Illinois 5th District. "You learned a lot," he told Rose, according to a transcript of the interview.
Emanuel has long been rumored to covet the job of speaker of the House, but he said in the interview that aspiration was "over."
Emanuel was a chief fundraiser for Daley in the mayor's first election campaign in 1989 and later served as an aide to Daley. He was a White House staffer during the Clinton administration and, after a brief career in investment banking, was elected to Congress in 2002
LINK TO PHOTO AND STORY:
Female deputy tackles, 'embarrasses' escapee
April 19, 2010 7:42 PM
An Ohio man tried to flee a Cook County courtroom this morning, but was stymied by a female courtroom deputy who tackled him before he could escape.
Robert Biggs, 31, later "did admit to some embarrassment that he was taken down by a female deputy," said Steve Patterson, spokesman for the Cook County sheriff's office.
Biggs, of Dublin, Ohio, had been arrested by Chicago police last week and charged with armed robbery, among other crimes, Patterson said. He was attending an extradition hearing today at about 11:30 a.m. in the Cook County Criminal Courthouse.
In the middle of the hearing, Biggs suddenly broke for the door, Patterson said. The courtroom was separated from the hallway by heavy double-doors, one of which was unlocked, the other of which was not.
"He hit the one that was locked and when he hit it, he did do some damage to it," Patterson said. Biggs bounced back momentarily and just as he tried to get through the other door, the courtroom deputy, who was coming from outside the courtroom, tackled him.
Ohio records show Biggs served four years in prison there on charges including receiving stolen property and escape. He was released on supervision in November 2009.
Chicago police arrested him Wednesday in a motel near 100th and Halsted Streets after he barricaded himself in a room, police said.
Earlier in the day, officers had stopped a car in the 8600 block of South Halsted Street and the driver -- identified as Eric Rawson, 20, of Columbus, Ohio -- ran.
After officers arrested him, they found he had a handgun with him that authorities believe was stolen in a carjacking in Ohio, police said. Under questioning, Rawson told investigators that two accomplices who robbed a hair salon earlier in the day were staying at a motel nearby.
When officers arrived, they arrested one of the accomplices, Kristina Hickman, 20, of Dublin, Ohio. Hickman has been charged with armed robbery, drug possession, possession of ammunition without a FOID card and criminal trespass, police said.
Biggs barricaded himself in a motel room, and after several hours of negotiations, police forced their way in and arrested him. He was later charged with armed robbery, resisting a police officer, possession of a replica firearm, criminal damage to property and criminal trespass, police said.
Rawson was charged with armed robbery, unlawful use of a weapon, failure to register a firearm, possession of a gun without a FOID card and possession of ammunition without a FOID card.
After he was captured, Biggs reportedly asked if he would be charged with escape or attempted escape, "because I've been through this before," Patterson said.
When told the charge would likely be attempted escape because the deputy foiled his flight, Biggs expressed his embarrassment.
LINK TO PHOTOS AND STORY:
"She hits really hard," Biggs reportedly said.
Apr 19, 10:23 AM EDT
Poll: 4 out of 5 Americans don't trust Washington
AP National Political Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) -- America's "Great Compromiser" Henry Clay called government "the great trust," but most Americans today have little faith in Washington's ability to deal with the nation's problems.
Public confidence in government is at one of the lowest points in a half century, according to a survey from the Pew Research Center. Nearly 8 in 10 Americans say they don't trust the federal government and have little faith it can solve America's ills, the survey found.
The findings illustrate the ominous situation President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party face as they struggle to maintain their comfortable congressional majorities in this fall's elections. Midterm prospects are typically tough for the party in power. Add a toxic environment like this and lots of incumbent Democrats could be out of work.
Released Sunday, the survey found that just 22 percent of those questioned say they can trust Washington almost always or most of the time and just 19 percent say they are basically content with it. Nearly half say the government negatively affects their daily lives, a sentiment that's grown over the past dozen years.
This anti-government feeling has driven the tea party movement, reflected in fierce protests this past week.
"The government's been lying to people for years. Politicians make promises to get elected, and when they get elected, they don't follow through," says Cindy Wanto, 57, a registered Democrat from Nemacolin, Pa., who joined several thousand for a rally in Washington on April 15 - the tax filing deadline. "There's too much government in my business. It was a problem before Obama, but he's certainly not helping fix it."
Majorities in the survey call Washington too big and too powerful, and say it's interfering too much in state and local matters. The public is split over whether the government should be responsible for dealing with critical problems or scaled back to reduce its power, presumably in favor of personal responsibility.
About half say they want a smaller government with fewer services, compared with roughly 40 percent who want a bigger government providing more. The public was evenly divided on those questions long before Obama was elected. Still, a majority supported the Obama administration exerting greater control over the economy during the recession.
Only twice since the 1950s has public skepticism dipped this deeply - from 1992 to 1995 during which time it hit 17 percent, and 1978 to 1980, bottoming out at 25 percent. The nation was going through economic struggles during both of those periods.
"Trust in government rarely gets this low," said Andrew Kohut, director of the nonpartisan center that conducted the survey. "Some of it's backlash against Obama. But there are a lot of other things going on."
And, he added: "Politics has poisoned the well."
The survey found that Obama's policies were partly to blame for a rise in distrustful, anti-government views. In his first year in office, the president orchestrated a government takeover of Detroit automakers, secured a $787 billion stimulus package and pushed to overhaul the health care system.
But the poll also identified a combination of factors that contributed to the electorate's hostility: the recession that Obama inherited from President George W. Bush; a dispirited public; and anger with Congress and politicians of all political leanings.
"I want an honest government. This isn't an honest government. It hasn't been for some time," said self-described independent David Willms, 54, of Sarasota, Fla. He faulted the White House and Congress under both parties.
The poll was based on four surveys done from March 11 to April 11 on landline and cell phones. The largest survey, of 2,500 adults, has a margin of sampling error of 2.5 percentage points; the others, of about 1,000 adults each, has a margin of sampling error of 4 percentage points.
In the short term, the deepening distrust is politically troubling for Obama and Democrats. Analysts say out-of-power Republicans could well benefit from the bitterness toward Washington come November, even though voters blame them, too, for partisan gridlock that hinders progress.
In a democracy built on the notion that citizens have a voice and a right to exercise it, the long-term consequences could prove to be simply unhealthy - or truly debilitating. Distrust could lead people to refuse to vote or get involved in their own communities. Apathy could set in, or worse - violence.
Democrats and Republicans both accept responsibility and fault the other party for the electorate's lack of confidence.
"This should be a wake-up call. Both sides are guilty," said Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo. She pointed to "nonsense" that goes on during campaigns that leads to "promises made but not promises kept." Still, she added: "Distrust of government is an all-American activity. It's something we do as Americans and there's nothing wrong with it."
Sen. Scott Brown, a Republican who won a long-held Democratic Senate seat in Massachusetts in January by seizing on public antagonism toward Washington, said: "It's clear Washington is broken. There's too much partisan bickering to be able to solve the problems people want us to solve."
And, he added: "It's going to be reflected in the elections this fall."
But Matthew Dowd, a top strategist on Bush's re-election campaign who now shuns the GOP label, says both Republicans and Democrats are missing the mark.
"What the country wants is a community solution to the problems but not necessarily a federal government solution," Dowd said. Democrats are emphasizing the federal government, while Republicans are saying it's about the individual; neither is emphasizing the right combination to satisfy Americans, he said.
On the Net:
Pew Research Center: http://people-press.or
Romney beats Palin, Huckabee in 2012 poll
Mitt Romney continues to look like the early front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination in 2012.
A Public Policy Polling (D) survey shows Romney leading former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee in every region except the South, where Huckabee uses his home-field advantage to lead the field.
In the national poll, Romney leads Huckabee 33-27, while Palin trails in third place at 23 percent.
Palin lags behind despite having better favorability numbers than the two leading candidates. While 66 percent of voters like her, 55 percent like Huckabee and 54 percent like Romney. Romney's unfavorables are also the highest of the three, at 24 percent.
Huckabee leads Palin 37-25 in the South, where Romney languishes in third place. That's the same showing Romney had in the crucial South Carolina GOP primary in 2008.
The poll included only those three candidates and not other hopefuls, like Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty.
National presidential polls are instructive, but they mean little when it comes to the actual race. The real polls that count are those in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada, as those early states tend to shape the race for the rest of the country.
April 18, 2010
Barack Obama's Missing Girlfriends
The blogosphere abhors a vacuum. So when the mainstream media (MSM) leave holes in a given narrative -- in this case, the biography of the president -- bloggers individually, incrementally, and indefatigably strive to fill in the blanks -- sometimes successfully, sometimes less so.
Page Printed from: http://www.americanthinker.com/2010/04/barack_obamas_missing_girlfrie.html at April 19, 2010 - 09:09:58 AM CDT
3:06 p.m. April 18, 2010
GM offers Detroit church members a Sunday drive
FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER
It was a day of praise, prayer and, well, test driving General Motors' new lineup of cars, crossovers and SUVs.
In what organizers said was the first event of its kind in the area, Hartford Memorial Baptist Church in Detroit today teamed up with GM and GM Minority Suppliers and Dealers to offer church-goers a chance to test drive more than a dozen cars.
As congregants shuffled out of the northwest-side church at 1 p.m., Pastor Charles G. Adams said the idea was to demonstrate GM's commitment to minority causes, its employment of thousands of local African Americans and to encourage church-goers to buy a new GM car.
"Americans now must support American-made products," Adams said outside the large church with Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, who is a long-time member. "We are encouraging our church members to take care of their community by buying locally. This is an ethical purpose that is beyond profit."
After a short cruise in a shiny maroon 2010 Chevy Camaro, Indira Murray, 38, was all smiles.
"It's a beautiful car," the 38-year-old Detroit resident said. "I love it. When I get a job, I might get one."
Her 8-year-old son, Aaron Mahone, Jr., offered his endorsement.
"It was radical," he said. "It was so cool. I want one."
Bing said he saw no problems with GM marketing outside of the church.
"The minority community buys a lot of cars from the Big 3," he said. "This was an out-side-of-the-box idea that I really support."
Why no Chryslers or Ford?
Organizers said it was GM's idea.
Clinton: Rush Limbaugh Comment “Doesn’t Make Any Sense”
April 17, 2010 5:02 PM
In my EXCLUSIVE “This Week” interview, former President Bill Clinton told me Rush Limbaugh’s assertion that Clinton had “set the stage for violence in this country” and that “any acts of future violence” would be on Clinton’s shoulders, “doesn’t make any sense”.
Clinton marked the upcoming 15th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing on Friday with a major speech to the Center for American Progress, in which he warned that “the words we use really do matter, because there's this vast echo chamber, and they go across space and they fall on the serious and the delirious alike. They fall on the connected and the unhinged alike.”
Conservative talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh took to the air, Friday, after the speech and said that Clinton’s remarks, which drew parallels between the anti-government sentiment in the mid-90s and present-day anti-government expressions, “just gave the kooks out there an excuse to be violent.”
Responding directly to Limbaugh, Clinton told me, “The only point I tried to make was that we ought to have a lot of political dissent -- a lot of political argument. Nobody is right all the time. But we also have to take responsibility for the possible consequences of what we say. “
One of those consequences, Clinton said, was threats against public officials. “We shouldn't demonize the government or its public employees or its elected officials. We can disagree with them. We can harshly criticize them. But when we turn them into an object of demonization, you know, you -- you increase the number of threats.”
Clinton added, “I worry about these threats against the president and the Congress. And I worry about more careless language even against -- some of which we've seen against the Republican governor in New Jersey, Governor Christie.” A recently leaked memo from a New Jersey teachers union contained a joke suggesting that Governor Christie should die.
“I just think we all have to be careful. We ought to remember after Oklahoma City, we learned something about the difference in disagreement and demonization,” Clinton said.
Tune in to “This Week” on Sunday to watch the complete interview, in which I ask the former President about his Clinton Global Initiative University, whether there ought to be a Clinton on the Supreme Court, the mistakes he made as President on financial regulation and his advice on the Middle East peace process. Former President Bill Clinton – only on “This Week”.
WATCH VIDEO HERE:
TAPPER: You gave a speech on Friday talking about -- on the 15th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing that's coming up. How public officials have a responsibility to be careful with their words. This prompted a response from -- from Rush Limbaugh:
"You have just set the stage for violence in this country. Any future acts of violence are on your shoulders, Mr. Clinton."
Do you have any response?
CLINTON: Doesn't make any sense. The only point I tried to make was that we ought to have a lot of political dissent -- a lot of political argument. Nobody is right all the time. But we also have to take responsibility for the possible consequences of what we say.
And we shouldn't demonize the government or its public employees or its elected officials. We can disagree with them. We can harshly criticize them. But when we turn them into an object of demonization, you know, you -- you increase the number of threats.
I worry about these threats against the president and the Congress. And I worry about more careless language even against -- some of which we've seen against the Republican governor in New Jersey, Governor Christie. I just think we all have to be careful. We ought to remember after Oklahoma City, we learned something about the difference in disagreement and demonization.
Bill Clinton says that President Obama should consider someone younger to fill the recently vacated Supreme Court post -- not his wife, Hillary Clinton.
Bill and Hillary Clinton have both held big jobs in their lives, but the ex-president said Sunday that Supreme Court justice shouldn't be among them - they're too old.
"I'd like to see him put someone in there, late 40s, early 50s, on the court, and someone with a lot of energy for the job," the 63-year-old Clinton told ABC's "This Week" when asked about President Obama's upcoming replacement of Justice John Paul Stevens.
Since Stevens, 90, announced his retirement, both Clintons have been mentioned as possible - albeit long-shot - nominees to the high court.
The former president predicted that no matter whom Obama nominates, he should expect a fight from Senate Republicans.
But the ex-president said he and his wife, Secretary of State Clinton - who met at Yale Law School in the early 1970s - would counsel the president against picking either of them.
"She would be good at it," Clinton said of his wife, 62, adding that at "one point in her life, she might [have] been interested."
"But she's like me, you know, we're kind of doers," Clinton said. "I think if she were asked, she would advise the President to appoint some 10, 15 years younger."
As for himself, "I'm already 63-years-old," said Clinton, who neglected to mention that his law license was suspended for five years after he left office as part of a settlement over the Monica Lewinsky affair.
"I hope I live to be 90," he said. "I hope I'm just as healthy as Justice Stevens is. But it's not predictable."
Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/2010/04/18/2010-04-18_bill_clinton_hillary_and_i_are_too_old_to_be_appointed_to_the_supreme_court.html#ixzz0lUV8sOoI
Pelosi: Two 'pillars' down, one more to go in passing Obama 'blueprint'
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) said the Democrats are one bill away from completing President Barack Obama’s “blueprint for American prosperity.”
“We have passed two of the three pillars in the historic healthcare and education reform and are working towards a clean energy and climate agenda in Congress,” Pelosi said in her remarks to the California Democratic Party state convention in Los Angeles on Saturday. “And essential to prosperity for middle-income Americans is reining in Wall Street.”
“The House has passed Wall Street reform, and working with our colleagues in the Senate, we will ensure that never again will those who are reckless on Wall Street make people jobless on Main Street,” she said.
During her speech, Pelosi singled out several members of the California delegation who were in attendance. “We must reelect and retain the extraordinary leadership of my colleagues in Congress who are here today,” she said.
After returning from the spring recess, House Dems moved into a light schedule with short weeks and relatively easy votes over the next seven weeks to smooth the way for campaign season.
And just hours before completing work for 2009, Pelosi summoned reporters to her office and declared that she was "in campaign mode."
On Saturday, she encouraged those at her state's Democratic convention to help Rep. Loretta Sanchez’s (D-Calif.) reelection campaign, according to the Orange County Register. Sanchez is expected to face a strong challenge from well-funded state Assemblyman Van Tran (R).
Pelosi also praised Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) for being “fabulous.”
Boxer is a “champion for creating jobs, protecting our environment, and educating our children, someone whom it is our top priority to re-elect this year,” Pelosi said.
The three-term senator is expected to face a tough campaign this cycle. President Barack Obama will be in Los Angeles on Monday for a star-studded fundraiser to boost Boxer's campaign.
Pedophile, 100, gets more prison time
NEWS STAFF REPORTER
Updated: April 16, 2010, 12:24 pm
Published: April 16, 2010, 2:28 pm
Theodore A. Sypnier, the convicted 100-year-old pedophile, has been sentenced to two more years in prison for violating his parole, state parole officials announced today.
Sypnier will be almost 103 years old by the time he completes his latest incarceration for refusing to attend sex offender classes.
Sypnier was released last fall to an East Side halfway house after serving 18 months in prison for the same type of parole violation.
A parole revocation specialist recommend to a judge in March that Sypnier finish out most of his parole behind bars.
"I don't want to go back. I'd rather die," a weeping Sypnier told The Buffalo News at that time.
The state Parole Board has now unanimously decided to impose the maximum punishment recommended at the hearing, according to Carole Claren-Weaver, a state parole spokeswoman.
"I am very happy that the authorities are becoming more enlightened about how sex offenders are incorrigible and will never change, regardless of their age," said Martha Juchnowski, the 58-year-old daughter of Sypnier, who says her father molested her and other neighborhood girls when they lived in Riverside.
Sypnier, whom authorities say sexually molested children for decades in Buffalo and later in the Town of Tonawanda, was released from prison in 2008, after he was arrested in 1999 and convicted of sexually inappropriate behavior with two young sisters.
The parole portion of Sypnier's sentence will not be completed until May 16, 2012. So after completing his 24 months in prison, parole officials still will have additional time to supervise him upon his release.
But Sypnier's victims and state lawmakers have said that he should be recommended for civil confinement prior to the completion of his latest prison sentence. In order for that to happen, the state's Office of Mental Health would have to determine he has a mental abnormality through a review by psychiatric professionals.
If that proved to be the case, the Office of Mental Health would then forward the findings to the state Attorney General's Office, which has the power to file a civil lawsuit seeking confinement.
A trial would eventually be held to determine if Sypnier required confinement.
At 100, Theodore Sypnier is New York state's oldest registered sex offender
LINK TO PREVIOUS STORY
Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/2009/12/10/2009-12-10_100yearold_sex_offender_to_be_released_.html#ixzz0lPHxgwfW
It's been 15 years since the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building was bombed by extremist Timothy McVeigh in Oklahoma City on April 19, 2005...
Edmonds/AP...but former President Clinton warns a similar attack could be sparked by fringe groups angry at the current administration.
WASHINGTON - Former President Bill Clinton warned Friday that the anti-government fringe could provoke the kind of political extremism that preceded the Oklahoma City bombing.
"Before the bombing occurred, there was a sort of fever" in the political dialogue that was in ways similar in content to the anger currently boiling up on talk radio and on the Internet, Clinton said at a forum on the 15th anniversary of the attack by Timothy McVeigh that killed 168.
"The fabric of American life had been unraveling" in 1995 amid high unemployment, Clinton said.
"The structure of the Cold War -- the clear bipolar world -- was coming to an end," Clinton said. "There were more and more people having trouble figuring out where they fit in. It is true that we see some of that today."
Clinton said people have the right "to advocate whatever the livin' Sam Hill they want to advocate" but they must observe "the basic line dividing criticism from violence or its advocacy."
The enthusiasm for the current Tea Party movement was essentially within bounds, Clinton said.
"This Tea Party movement can be a healthy thing if they are making us justify every dollar of taxes we raise and every dollar of money we've spent," Clinton said.
"But when you get mad, sometimes you end up producing the exact opposite result of what you say you are for."
Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/2010/04/16/2010-04-16_former_president_clinton_warns_tea_party_could_feed_same_extremism_that_led_to_o.html#ixzz0lJh8YAMT
Maple Shade school ends project after complaints about cross-dressing request
April 15, 2010, 5:27AM
MAPLE SHADE -- A teacher's explanation to parents of a women's history project planned for her third-graders contained these words: "If your child is a young man, he does not have to wear a dress or skirt."
That didn't stop a parent and a blogger from complaining that little boys were being asked to cross-dress as part of the "gay agenda." From there, the Maude Wilkins School's project about the evolution of women's clothing quickly took on a life of its own — and now it's been called off completely.
"In hindsight," Superintendent Michael Livengood said Wednesday, "maybe a different activity could have been chosen that was a little bit more relevant to history."
It's the second time in six months that a New Jersey school program has attracted wide attention for something officials say was planned innocently. About 70 protesters visited a Burlington County school in October, upset about a song in which students praised President Obama.
In both cases, administrators said, the ensuing uproar was due to blogs that spread the word but got the intent wrong.
The latest saga began this month when teacher Tonya Uibel sent a letter home with her pupils announcing that all third-graders at Maude Wilkins were required to participate in a Women's History Month project examining how women's fashion has changed over time.
The letter said, in part: "If your child is a young man, he does not have to wear a dress or skirt, as there are many time periods where women wore jeans, pants and trousers. However, each child must be able to express what time period their outfit is from. Most of all, your child should have fun creating their outfit and learning about how women's clothing has changed!"
Janine Giandomenico, a mother of a boy in the class and a frequent user of online social networks, posted a complaint on Facebook. By Monday, her concerns had worked their way to Warner Todd Huston, an opinion writer and editor of the Publius' Forum site.
He skewered the school and suggested that the timing of the event, scheduled for Friday, was designed to coincide with a national "Day of Silence" to protest harassment of gays.
"Pushing the gay agenda while feminizing our young boys through a cross-dressing day? This isn't your parent's grade school celebration, for sure," he wrote.
On Monday, as the Web traffic swelled and national media outlets picked up on the story, principal Beth Norcia decided to cancel the fashion show. She wrote in a new letter to parents that instead, students would draw how women's fashion had evolved.
One third-grader, Elizabeth Heisler, said as school let out Wednesday that none of her classmates had seemed confused about whether boys were supposed to wear dresses. The cancellation of the fashion show means she doesn't get to wear her red and black "can-can" dress to school on Friday.
The episode confounded her mother, Andrea Heisler.
"I would never think my son was going to come to school in an 1800s dress and petticoat," she said.
Livengood, who leads the Maple Shade Township school district, acknowledged that the initial letter could be misunderstood.
But he said the school wasn't trying to make anyone uncomfortable — and wasn't even aware of the gay rights protests scheduled the same day.
"It's unbelievable to me that the wording of a letter to a group of third-graders has caused this," he said. "Do they really think that our little group of third-grade teachers has conspired to try to get boys to cross-dress?"
The district hasn't heard complaints from any parents besides Giandomenico, Livengood said.
She told The Associated Press via Facebook message that she would be available for an interview, but has not responded to subsequent requests. On her Twitter account, she had this to say: "WE WON-CANCELLED! THANKS 4 YR SUPPORT!"
Still, Livengood said, he's learned a lesson — to make sure communications from teachers to parents are reviewed before they go out.
Burglary suspect found dangling from ventilation system says he was playing hide-and-seek
9:02 p.m. EDT
April 15, 2010
NORTH EAST, Md. (AP) — A burglary suspect came up with a creative explanation after he was found dangling from the ventilation system of a Maryland convenience store. He told police he was playing hide-and-seek.
Cecil County sheriff's deputies said the owner of a BP convenience store in North East was opening up Wednesday morning when he spotted a pair of feet dangling from a duct. Deputies responded and freed a 20-year-old man.
Deputies said the man removed a ventilation cover and crawled through the vent before getting stuck and setting off a fire extinguisher that sprayed powder all over the store.
The man told deputies he was playing hide-and-seek on the roof with other adults and decided to hide in the ventilation system. He said the other players couldn't figure out where he was and stopped looking for him.
Will the Steelers entertain trade offers for Ben Roethlisberger?
APRIL 15, 2010
Steelers leave door open to trading Roethlisberger.
The most telling nugget from Thursday’s press conference by Steelers president Art Rooney came not from anything he said in his prepared remarks, but in response to a question regarding whether there’s any truth to the notion that the team is willing to trade quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
"We don’t talk about trades in advance," Rooney said. "That’s been a consistent policy, and I think that’s the way we’ll proceed. The only thing I’ll add is at this point we have not discussed a trade with any other club."
The Steelers, based on Rooney’s remarks, are occupying the position that Pennsylvania’s other NFL franchise assumed after the 2010 season. They will not say that their starting quarterback is on the block, they will not say that he isn’t, and they will wait for the phone to ring.
It makes sense. Last week’s Santonio Holmes fire sale, which arose when the Steelers called around the league in an effort to find an immediate trade partner, occurred when the team initiated the process. This time around, the Steelers will sit back and see whether anyone makes an offer between now and the draft, which launches a week from today.
And an offer could be coming. Earlier today, a non-Steelers team source told me that potentially interested teams already are comparing notes in an effort to determine whether Roethlisberger can be had.
Some say that the Steelers would trade Roethlisberger only if they receive an offer that "blows them away." That’s the same thing, however, that many were saying about the Eagles and Donovan McNabb, before the Eagles shipped McNabb within the division for something far less than a Herschel Walker-style bounty.
Given that the draft launches in seven days—and Rooney has said that discipline won’t be imposed against Roethlisberger until the week after the draft at the earliest—it’s hardly a stretch to conclude that the one of the true purposes of today’s press conference was to open the bidding without sacrificing any leverage. Though at a certain level it seems like a silly proposition, a sophisticated negotiator recognizes the power of not being the party to make the first move.
The lack of a salary cap makes it easy for the Steelers to make a move. No bonus acceleration would apply, and the new team would have no obligation to write a large bonus check in exchange for a six-year commitment that includes, according to NFLPA records, base salaries of $8.05 million in 2010, $11.6 million in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014, and $12.1 million in 2015.
Then there’s the question of discipline. For now, it appears that the Steelers will, in coordination with the league, levy a suspension for conduct detrimental at some point after the draft. But if he’s traded prior to or during the draft, the Steelers would no longer have jurisdiction over him. If Roethlisberger is traded, the league would then be acting alon
Though it’s possible that the Steelers don’t feel the same sense of urgency to move Roethlisberger that they experienced over the weekend with Holmes, it’s clear that he’s available. If he wasn’t, Rooney would have said so with the kind of plain, blunt manner in which many Pittsburghers prefer to communicate. Rooney said nothing to dispel the suggestion that Roethlisberger might not be back, so it’s fair to wonder whether Roethlisberger will end up heading to a new NFL city in the not-too-distant future.
So who would be interested? The Bills, Jaguars, Broncos, Raiders, Panthers and every team in the NFC West should be studying tape and deciding whether to get in the bidding. Given that he’s five years younger than McNabb, under contract for six years, and sufficiently scared to swear off barhopping and VIP rooms for at least seven years, it would be easy to justify giving up a first-round pick for a very good player who has been thoroughly humiliated and humbled.
Unless the Steelers want substantially more, it’s not all that crazy to conclude that, for a first-round pick, a deal could be done.
ACLU: Foster mother rejected for not serving pork
Complaint filed with city agency over incident, officials say
The Baltimore Sun
9:25 p.m. EDT, April 14, 2010
The city and the teachers union have reached an agreement to shut down the so-called "rubber rooms" - a limbo for educators accused of wrongdoing - by the end of the year.
About 550 teachers and 630 school employees report to reassignment centers after being accused of serious violations ranging from incompetence to sexual misconduct.
At a cost of more than $30 million a year, the teachers sit for weeks or months in the centers in each borough - reading the paper, playing board games or napping - while waiting for their cases to wind through the system.
"The rubber rooms are a thing of the past," said Mayor Bloomberg at a ceremony to sign the surprise agreement Thursday .
"To say this is a big deal is probably an understatement. It goes to show that when you work together, when you cooperate, you can do things."
The agreement would bar any new teachers accused of violations from being put in the rubber rooms starting in September.
Instead, they would be assigned to administrative duties outside the school or, if the cases are relatively minor, they may be reassigned to non-teaching duties in the school.
Educators accused of serious sexual or financial misconduct would be suspended with pay, or, in the most serious cases, they would be suspended without pay.
"This agreement is designed to get teachers out of the rubber rooms and to ensure that they do not have to wait for months or years to have their cases heard," UFT President Mulgrew said.
In order to speed up the process and work through the back log of educators exiled to the rubber rooms, the number of arbitrators who hear cases would expand from 23 to 39. And they could hear seven incompetence cases a month, instead of five.
And while it now takes months for a teacher to be charged, the agreement limits that time to 60 days.
After that time period, a teacher could return to a school.
Then once the hearings began, the case could not drag on past 60 days. A previous agreement between the city and the union to fix the problems of the rubber room failed - and the number of staffers waiting to be formally charged increased to 152 in April 2009 from 99 in January 2008.
That agreement had called for increasing the number of arbitrators, but only three additional ones were hired because of budget problems.
Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/education/2010/04/15/2010-04-15_city_to_close_rubber_rooms_reassignment_centers_for_teachers_accused_of_major_vi.html#ixzz0lE4yhNFr
LINK TO VIDEO
LINK TO STORY
Henry K. Lee
Chronicle Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
San Jose Polce Department
(04-14) 11:12 PDT SAN JOSE -- Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Kim Komenich has seen his share of crime and violence while capturing breaking news from behind his camera.
Komenich, a former Chronicle photojournalist who now teaches new media at San Jose State University, can now add crime fighter to his list of accomplishments.
On Monday, as Komenich was at a Wells Fargo Bank in downtown San Jose, he saw a teller being robbed and the suspect reaching for his pockets. Komenich walked up behind the suspect and held him in a bear hug until police arrived.
"Between classes, I go out there and do what I can do to make the world a little better for people," Komenich, 53, of Mill Valley quipped this morning.
It all started about 3:30 p.m. Monday when Komenich was in line at the bank on South Market Street. He saw a man, whom police later identified as Victor Anthony Fernandes, 45, walk in with two other people.
Fernandes got in line while the others sat down in chairs in the lobby. "They appeared to be a little down on their luck and, possibly, they had a bit to drink," Komenich said.
Fernandes began talking to a teller, and they appeared to be having a normal conversation, Komenich said. But then the suspect began raising his voice and told the teller, "Give me your money," Komenich said. The teller complied.
When Fernandes reached into his pocket, Komenich said he thought to himself, "If anything bad is going to happen, it's going to happen next."
So Komenich walked over to the suspect. "I clamped him down in a bear hug," said Komenich, who stands 6 feet 2 inches tall and weighs 260 pounds. Fernandes is about 5-foot-10 "and maybe 180," Komenich said.
Komenich said he wasn't sure, but that he may have lifted the suspect off the ground for a moment. "That sort of established that I had him," he said. Fernandes didn't resist, he said.
Komenich held on for five minutes until police arrived. They found no weapon on Fernandes, whom they arrested along with his two companions, Johnnie Dale Gray, 39, and Tamara Leeann Rennert, 40. All three are being held at Santa Clara County Jail on suspicion of robbery.
"We're applauding the heroic acts of this professor, by all means, but we're not necessarily encouraging this kind of activity," Sgt. Ronnie Lopez, a San Jose police spokesman, said today.
Even though the suspect wasn't armed, the potential was there, Lopez said.
"But more importantly, the two other suspects lingering in the background could have had a gun," he said. "Sometimes, taking matters into your own hands could lead to a deadly confrontation."
Komenich said, "My main reason for doing it was that it seemed like the guy was down on his luck. I just didn't want things to escalate. It was sort of a half-baked attempt at a bank robbery."
He added, "All my life, I've been a witness. I haven't really intervened because it was my job to watch."
Komenich has covered stories in Vietnam, the former Soviet Union, El Salvador, Iraq and Guyana.
In 1987, while working for the San Francisco Examiner, Komenich won the Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the People Power Revolution that forced President Ferdinand Marcos from office.
Komenich worked at The Chronicle from 200o to 2009. This afternoon, he will be back in class at San Jose State, where he is an assistant professor of new media.
LINK TO PHOTOS
Tea Party 'Crashers' Plan To Prank Conservative Activists
First Posted: 04-14-10 12:16 PM | Updated: 04-14-10 12:34 PM
The Tea Party movement: Everybody talks about them, but nobody tries to infiltrate their ranks in an effort to make them look even more crazy than they already are. Until now?
At the nexus of funemployment and superfluous political hackery comes the Crash The Tea Party movement, fronted by Jason Levin, who has been organizing a cadre of infiltrators to attend Tea Party rallies in order to "push them farther from the mainstream." Apparently, the Tea Partiers themselves haven't sufficiently made their distance from mainstream politics abundantly clear to everyone.
"Every time we have someone on camera saying that Barack Obama isn't an American citizen, we want someone sitting next to him saying, 'That's right, he's an alien from outer space!'" Levin said.
Uhm... okay! Yeah. That sounds like a devilishly effective tactic, doesn't it?
Levin believes that by scattering operatives throughout the Tea Party movement, the odds increase that his pranksters will draw a share of the media attention. And, if they manage to present themselves as out-and-out insane, public approval of the Tea Party movement will fade and the media will move on from covering them. You know, because of the media's well-known aversion to political freakshows.
TPM's Evan McMorris-Santoro reports that there are lines that Levin's army of sneaks will not cross:
He emphasized that his group is non-violent, and not interested in "perpetuating racism, homophobia or misogyny." Levin said that "members are free to do as they wish," but if violence breaks out at a tea party rally on Thursday, or more epithets like the ones thrown around during the health care debate are heard, it won't be because of his group.
He explained the distinction to me this way: If you see someone wearing a Nazi uniform at a tea party, it could be one of his members. If you see some one wearing a Nazi uniform throwing a rock, it's definitely not one of his members.
Well, thanks for not braining me with a handful of raw gravel, Tea Party prankster, but I'm going to have to suggest that anybody who dresses up in a Nazi uniform for fun is being pretty offensive, maybe?
Of course, these tactics may have an effect that is opposite from their stated intentions: namely, insulating the Tea Party movement from criticism by allowing them to claim that any off-putting activity is the work of dedicated moles. (Many in the Tea Party movement already contend that the worst behavior on display at rallies is the work of agents-provocateurs.) This is probably why it's best to not publicly disclose your super-secret plan to infiltrate the Tea Parties!
Anyway, it's going to be pretty hilarious when the day finally comes that "Tea Party rallies" are entirely populated by satiric infiltrators, all of whom are completely unaware of each other's existence.
Poll: 46 percent want Bush back
Almost half of Americans prefer George W. Bush to President Barack Obama, according to a new Public Policy Polling (PPP) survey.
Forty-six percent of respondents said they'd like to have Bush back in the White House, while 48 percent prefer Obama.
Bush had atrocious approval ratings for his final few years in office, particularly because he lost a lot of support from Republicans and conservative leaning independents. Those folks may not have liked him but they now say they would rather have him back than Obama. 87% of GOP voters now say they would prefer Bush, a number a good deal higher than Bush's approval rating within his party toward the tail end of his Presidency. Democrats predictably go for Obama by an 86/10 margin, and independents lean toward him as well by a 49/37 spread.
These numbers suggest some peril for Democrats in making Bush a focus of their messaging this fall. A lot of folks who contributed to the former President's low level of popularity now like Obama even less. Figuring out a way to make voters change their minds about the current President would be a much more effective strategy for Democrats than continuing to try to score points off the former one.
LINK TO POLL:
Dad Arrested For Leaving Baby In Car While Visiting STRIP CLUB
| 04/14/10 02:28 AM |
WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Police arrested a man for leaving his 1-year-old baby in a car unattended during the early hours while he watched strippers at a nightclub in New Zealand's capital, and have placed the boy in welfare agency care.
A passer-by called police after seeing the sleeping baby in a car parked near the Mermaid Strip Club in Wellington about 3 a.m. Tuesday.
Police took the baby to hospital and arrested the father, 42, after he was located in the club, Inspector Simon Perry said. The man faces a charge of leaving a child under 14 without reasonable supervision, Perry said.
The Child, Youth and Family agency has custody of the baby for five days while it works with the baby's relatives to decide on his future, agency deputy chief executive Ray Smith said.
New Zealand's commissioner for children, John Angus, said leaving a child alone in a car at night was an "extreme form of neglect."
"I would commend the member of the public who saw this poor child in the car and took some action to make it safe" by alerting police, Angus told National Radio.
Authorities declined to confirm details of the baby's family situation, but Angus said he expected relatives to step in and warn the father that "it's not good enough for our child to be looked after this way."
Eric Holder Denounces Liz Cheney's Ad Campaign As 'Reprehensible'
04-14-10 11:15 AM
Attorney General Eric Holder offered a passionate and sharp denunciation on Wednesday of the attacks leveled by Liz Cheney and others accusing his department of aiding al Qaeda sympathizers.
Appearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee for an oversight hearing on Justice Department activities, Holder called the ads run against those Justice Department lawyers who have defended Gitmo detainees -- calling them the "al Qaeda 7 " "reprehensible."
"There has been an attempt to take the names of the people who represent Guantanamo detainees and to drag their reputations through the mud," he said, when pressed to disclose more information about these lawyers by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). "There were reprehensible ads in essence to question their patriotism. I'm not going to allow these kids... I'm not going to be a part of this effort."
Holder continued: "Their names are out there now. I'm simply not going to be a part of that effort. I would not allow good, decent lawyers who have followed the best traditions of American jurisprudence... I will not allow their reputations to be besmirched. I will not be a part of that."
Following Grassley on the dais was Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois), who applauded the Attorney General for defending the Justice Department lawyers. The Illinois Democrat noted that the legal work done was not to secure a detainee's innocence, but to ensure that they were granted habeas corpus rights.
"I think you are standing up for a very fundamental principle and rule of law here that does go back to John Adams," Durbin said.
Judge: Dad can take daughter to Catholic church
April 13, 2010 6:06 PM
A Cook County judge has ruled that a father can take his 3-year-old daughter to Mass at a Roman Catholic church, even though her mother is raising her Jewish.
Judge Renee Goldfarb said Tuesday that Joseph Reyes can take his daughter to "church services during his visitation time if he so chooses. This court also ordered that Joseph have visitation with [their daughter] every year on Christmas and Easter."
Likewise, the order stipulated that Rebecca Reyes always have their daughter on Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Passover.
"I have to be very, very happy that I got additional time with my daughter and got to expose [her] to all of who I am," Joseph Reyes said.
Goldfarb declined to keep Reyes from taking his daughter to church as long as no evidence exists that it would harm the child. Though Rebecca Reyes testified that contrary religious teachings could confuse the pre-schooler, Goldfarb avoided doctrinal questions, saying it was not the court's place "to focus on or attempt to interpret or judge official religious doctrines."
"She is three years old and, according to Joseph, while at church, she waves at the other children, looks around and giggles," Goldfarb wrote. "This court found that testimony credible."
The ruling in the divorce proceeding between Joseph and Rebecca Reyes lifts restrictions placed on Joseph Reyes last year that barred him from exposing his daughter to any "non-Jewish" religious activity.
The injunction was imposed after Reyes sent photographs of his daughter's baptism to his estranged wife, who had not known about the baptism.
A judge will rule later this month whether Reyes should stand trial for contempt after allegedly defying the order and asking television news crews to film him in December taking his daughter to Mass at Holy Name Cathedral in downtown Chicago. Reyes, a student at John Marshall Law School, said he defied the order because it was unconstitutional.
"Joseph compared himself to Rosa Parks," Goldfarb said. "Joseph Reyes is no Rosa Parks."
Joseph and Rebecca Reyes were married in October 2004, but they split four years later. Rebecca Reyes was granted sole custody of their daughter last year.
Arizona passes strict illegal immigration act
The bill directs police to determine the immigration status of noncriminals if there is a 'reasonable suspicion' they are undocumented. Immigrant rights groups say it amounts to a police state.
6:33 PM PDT, April 13, 2010
Arizona lawmakers on Tuesday approved what foes and supporters agree is the toughest measure in the country against illegal immigrants, directing local police to determine whether people are in the country legally.
The measure, long sought by opponents of illegal immigration, passed 35 to 21 in the state House of Representatives.
The state Senate passed a similar measure earlier this year, and Republican Gov. Jan Brewer is expected to sign the bill.
The bill's author, State Sen. Russell Pearce, said it simply "takes the handcuffs off of law enforcement and lets them do their job."
But police were deeply divided on the matter, with police unions backing it but the state police chief's association opposing the bill, contending it could erode trust with immigrants who could be potential witnesses.
Immigrant rights groups were horrified, and contended that Arizona would be transformed into a police state.
"It's beyond the pale," said Chris Newman, legal director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network. "It appears to mandate racial profiling."
The bill, known as SB 1070, makes it a misdemeanor to lack proper immigration paperwork in Arizona. It also requires police officers, if they form a "reasonable suspicion" that someone is an illegal immigrant, to determine the person's immigration status.
Currently, officers can inquire about someone's immigration status only if the person is a suspect in another crime. The bill allows officers to avoid the immigration issue if it would be impractical or hinder another investigation.
Citizens can sue to compel police agencies to comply with the law, and no city or agency can formulate a policy directing its workers to ignore the law -- a provision that advocates say prevents so-called sanctuary orders that police not inquire about people's immigration status.
The bill cements the position of Arizona, whose border with Mexico is the most popular point of entry for illegal immigrants into this country, as the state most aggressively using its own laws to fight illegal immigration. In 2006 the state passed a law that would dissolve companies with a pattern of hiring illegal immigrants. Last year it made it a crime for a government worker to give improper benefits to an illegal immigrant.
Mark Krikorian at the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington, D.C., think tank that advocates tougher immigration enforcement, said the legislation was a logical extension of the state's previous enforcement efforts.
"It makes sense that they would be the first to do it since they're ground zero for illegal immigration," he said.
Krikorian added that he doubted the law would be used much. "Obviously, their prosecutors aren't going to go out and prosecute every illegal alien," he said. "It gives police and prosecutors another tool should they need it."
Opponents, however, raised the specter of officers untrained in immigration law being required to determine who is in the country legally. They noted that though the bill says race cannot solely be used to form a suspicion about a person's legality, it implicitly allows it to be a factor.
"A lot of U.S. citizens are going to be swept up in the application of this law for something as simple as having an accent and leaving their wallet at home," said Alessandra Soler Meetze, president of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona.
The ACLU and other groups have vowed to sue to block the bill from taking effect should Brewer sign it. They note that a federal court struck down a New Hampshire law in 2005 that said illegal immigrants were trespassing, declaring that only the federal government has the authority to enforce immigration. Another provision of the Arizona law, which makes day laborers illegal, violates the 1st Amendment, critics contend.
The issue of local enforcement of immigration laws has been especially heated in Arizona, where Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has taken an aggressive stance, conducting sweeps in immigrant-heavy neighborhoods to round up illegal immigrants.
His actions have drawn a civil rights investigation from the Department of Justice but strong praise from Arizonans. Other agencies have argued against Arpaio's stance, saying that they need illegal immigrants to trust them enough to report crimes.
Brewer, a Republican, has not taken a public stance on the bill. She replaced Janet Napolitano, a Democrat who became President Obama's Homeland Security chief last year. Napolitano had vetoed similar bills in the past. Brewer faces a primary challenge next month; most observers expect her to sign the measure.
Some Republicans have privately complained about the bill, which Pearce has been pushing for several years, but were loath to vote against it in an election year. The House was scheduled to approve it last week but the vote was delayed until Tuesday to give sponsors a chance to round up enough votes. It picked up steam after the killing late last month of a rancher on the Arizona side of the Mexican border. Footprints from the crime scene led back to Mexico.
In an impassioned debate Tuesday, both sides relied on legal and moral arguments.
"Illegal immigration brings crime, kidnapping, drugs -- drains our government services," said Rep. John Kavanagh, a Republican. "Nobody can stand on the sidelines and not take part in this battle."
Democrats were just as passionate. "This bill, whether we intend it or not, terrorizes the people we profit from," said Rep. Tom Chabin.
The city plans to start charging rent to homeless shelter residents with jobs later this year.
Homeless to pay rent?
Nothing's free in New York - not even a stint in a city shelter.
Homeless people with jobs are going to have to start paying the city rent to stay in shelters, officials said Tuesday.
"Open-ended handouts, we know, don't work," Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs said. "This is not a moneymaker. We're not doing this to close budget gaps. It's really the principles that are involved."
Shelter residents would have to pay as much as 44% of their income in their first year in the program.
After that, it would be that amount or half the cost of their housing - whichever is higher.
Critics say the plan penalizes people who are already struggling.
"It makes far more sense to allow those families to save their meager funds in order to be able to get out of the shelter system sooner," said Steven Banks, chief attorney of the Legal Aid Society, which may sue to block the plan.
"This is an extreme policy that has no discernible benefit, that will end up hurting the families and costing the taxpayers money," Banks said. "If necessary, we'll certainly go to court."
The first bills would likely be sent in September, Gibbs said, raising an estimated $2 million to $3 million a year.
The city first tried charging rent last year but dropped the effort after Legal Aid threatened to sue.
State law requires New York to charge rent to the homeless who can afford it. The city never did, but has been pressed to do it since a state audit last year.
Only about 15% of shelter residents make enough money to have to pay rent, which is calculated on a sliding scale, Gibbs said. A family of three making $10,000 a year would pay $36 a month, while the same family making $25,000 a year would pay $926 a month.
Gibbs said the city tried to set up an alternative system to make rent less steep at higher incomes, while also setting up mandatory savings programs.
She said the state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance turned that plan down, saying it did not comply with the law.
"The city is working to come into compliance with budgeting income for all public assistance recipients," said OTDA spokesman Anthony Farmer. "It would be premature to discuss that as we're continuing to work with the City on it."
"You can't get blood from a stone," said Patrick Markee, senior policy analyst at the Coalition for the Homeless. "You don't balance budgets in the middle of the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depressionon the backs of homeless families and children."
Lawmakers in Albany are pushing to bar the state from charging the homeless rent at all.
Assemblyman Keith Wright (D-Harlem) and Sen. Daniel Squadron (D-Brooklyn) said they had both heard recent discussions about the city's plan to charge rent again, and believed they had the votes to cut it off at the state level.
Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/2010/04/13/2010-04-13_city_to_charge_homeless_people_with_jobs_rent_to_stay_in_shelters.html#ixzz0l1jFgyxb
Michelle Obama Makes Unannounced Visit to Haiti
Brennan Linsley/Associated PressMichelle Obama, with President René Préval of Haiti, his wife, Elisabeth Debrosse, and Jill Biden, the wife of Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., in Port-au-Prince on Tuesday.
April 13, 2010
MEXICO CITY — In her first solo trip overseas as first lady, Michelle Obama made an unannounced visit to Haiti on Tuesday, flying over the earthquake-damaged capital in an Army helicopter, meeting with Haiti’s president and first lady in the ravaged National Palace and dancing with young children whose homes were destroyed.
Choosing to Stay, Fighting to Rebuild
AUDIO AND PHOTOS
Michelle Obama, with President René Préval of Haiti, and his wife, Elisabeth Debrosse, at the presidential palace in Port-au-Prince on Tuesday.
“It’s powerful,” Mrs. Obama said after surveying the wreckage left by the Jan. 12 earthquake from above. “The devastation is definitely powerful.”
Accompanied by Jill Biden, the wife of Vice President Joe Biden, Mrs. Obama entered a play area set aside to provide therapy to children now living in a giant squatter camp on the Champs de Mars.
“We are glad to see you,” the children sang out in Creole. The Haitian first lady, Elisabeth Préval, who attended school in the United States, served as Mrs. Obama’s translator.
Mrs. Obama was due to arrive in Mexico City on Tuesday night to kick off a trip that aides said will open her efforts to inspire and engage children around the world.
Presidential aides said security concerns prompted the stopover in Haiti to be kept secret until she landed. The visit, a White House statement said, was meant “to underscore to the Haitian people and the Haitian government the enduring U.S. commitment to help Haiti recover and rebuild, especially as we enter the rainy and hurricane seasons.”
Mrs. Obama was also scheduled to offer thanks to the many aid workers from around the world who have helped rebuild Haiti over the last three months.
Mrs. Obama is one of many high-profile visitors to Haiti in recent days. Others include Shakira, Demi Moore, Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn. Numerous world leaders have also visited since the earthquake, prompting some Haitians to openly wonder when President Obama, who is extremely popular in their country, will visit.
About 10 on high court short list
White House seeks to dispel idea that just 3 names remain
Anne E. Kornblut and Robert Barnes
The Washington Post
7:18 AM EDT, April 13, 2010
The White House is pushing back against the notion that President Barack Obama has narrowed his search to a trio of front-runners to fill a seat on the Supreme Court, with several officials saying on Monday that about 10 candidates remain under serious consideration.
In the three days since Justice John Paul Stevens announced his retirement from the court, speculation has centered on three contenders from the last round, including Solicitor General Elena Kagan, U.S. Appeals Court Judge Merrick Garland of Washington, D.C., and U.S. Appeals Court Judge Diane Wood of Chicago.
But administration officials say Obama is still in the early stages of deciding what kind of candidate he prefers, as opposed to a year ago, when Sonia Sotomayor became the early presumptive front-runner to replace outgoing Justice David Souter.
This time, Obama is reviewing a larger number of options, including several who were not part of the process last year, aides said. They added that the president had remained consumed with the health care debate until shortly before Stevens' announcement, making the Supreme Court less of an immediate focus.
As was the case with Sotomayor's nomination, the selection process is expected to take several weeks. The White House is looking for confirmation hearings to take place no later than July, allowing for a vote before the Senate recess in August.
Advisers confirmed on Monday that at least one new name has been added to the president's short list. Judge Sidney Thomas of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, a relative unknown but a favorite of liberal groups, is being looked at, a White House official said.
And at least one name has been ruled out. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, whose name had been rumored as a possibility, is not among the possible candidates. "The president is going to keep her as his secretary of state," press secretary Robert Gibbs said.
But the White House declined to comment on the prospects for other Obama administration officials, including Kagan and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.
If recent history is any guide, Obama might well return to the runners-up from the 2009 vacancy. When the openings on the court come in consecutive years, said David Yalof, a political scientist at the University of Connecticut, the nominee is almost always drawn from the previous pool.
President Ronald Reagan knew he would pick Robert Bork (although the nomination was unsuccessful) in 1987 after he chose Antonin Scalia the year before.
Clarence Thomas was on the shortlist for President George H.W. Bush after he nominated David Souter, and Stephen Breyer had to wait only a year after President Bill Clinton made Ruth Bader Ginsburg his first choice.
"Especially when the president otherwise has a full agenda, they're going to rely on the research done the previous year, for better or worse," Yalof said.
But White House officials said they are looking beyond the shortlist from last time, as well as trying to think creatively about the kind of person Obama would want to nominate — both in terms of ideology and identity.
To date, Obama's judicial nominees, with a few notable exceptions, have been more middle-of-the-road than the left would like. Liberals have also criticized the pace of his nominations, although that appears to be picking up.
But a common theme has been diversity and experience. As opposed to the nominees of his predecessor, George W. Bush, Obama's picks "include proportionately fewer white men, slightly more Hispanics, substantially more African-Americans and Asian-Americans, and more sitting judges," the Brookings Institution's Russell Wheeler said in a report that compares Obama to Bush at the 14-month point of their presidencies. Nearly 70 percent of Bush's appointees during that period were white men; they account for 30 percent of Obama's judicial nominees.
As for timing, administration officials said they expect it to closely track the timetable for Sotomayor, who went almost seven weeks from the moment Obama introduced her as his nominee to the moment she delivered her nationally televised opening statement before the Senate Judiciary Committee on July 13. She was confirmed on Aug. 6.
That was slightly faster than the pace of events in the summer of 2005, when John G. Roberts Jr. had hearings seven weeks after being introduced and was confirmed as chief justice in late September.
By making his announcement so early, Stevens has given the Obama administration and Senate Democrats several choices to make in their selection timeline.
If they want to hold hearings in July, as administration officials would like, Obama is not likely to make public his announcement until the end of May. That would leave many weeks of media speculation about the selection, but it would establish a timeline similar to Sotomayor's, with the goal of hearings in mid-July and a confirmation vote on the one-year anniversary of her confirmation. That is also the day the Senate is slated to adjourn its summer session for a five-week break.
Oprah Winfrey -- who built a billion-dollar empire persuading everyone from celebs to average Joes to reveal the truth about themselves -- is a big phony when it comes to her own past, an explosive new book charges.
Winfrey's relationship with longtime "love" Stedman Graham, her reputed dirt-poor upbringing in rural Mississippi, her rumored lesbian crushes on women such as Diane Sawyer -- all are stories she has manipulated for decades in the name of sensational ratings, according to writer Kitty Kelley's latest unauthorized biography "Oprah."
CROCK-SHOW HOSTESS: Oprah Winfrey with her stepfather, Vernon (left), who, according to a salacious new unauthorized biography, claims the talk-show queen has no love for so-called boyfriend Stedman Graham and her BFF, Gayle King, whom the dad calls a "dirt hog".
The much-anticipated book details how:
* Winfrey concocted stories about sexual abuse she suffered as a child -- and grossly exaggerated the poverty she was brought up in.
* She went to great lengths to conceal her "lesbian affairs" -- including hefty payoffs -- and publicly attached herself to Graham to appear more normal to her audience of housewives.
* She lavished romantic gifts -- including a diamond toe ring -- on ABC talking head Diane Sawyer.
* Winfrey sold her body to earn extra money and has even described herself as a teen "prostitute."
* She doesn't know the true identity of her biological father.
* Her relationship with her own mother is so cold that Winfrey won't even let the older woman have her phone number.
Winfrey was born in Kosciusko, Miss., in 1954, and, the way she likes to tell it, she was so impoverished that she never had any new dresses or dolls and had to adopt two <snip>roaches as pets, naming them Melinda and Sandy.
But her family says that's nonsense.
She may not have been well off, but Oprah was relatively "spoiled" as a little girl, her cousin said.
"Where Oprah got that nonsense about growing up in filth and roaches I have no idea," said the relative, Katherine Carr Esters. "I've confronted her and asked, 'Why do you tell such lies?' Oprah told me, 'That's what people want to hear. The truth is boring.' "
A friend of Esters added that the manipulation of her past is a key to her success.
"Every move is calculated to further her brand and lift her image, which is why she does good works," Jewette Battles said.
As a teen, Winfrey was a wild child, promiscuous to the point of prostitution, her relatives said.
The future star would steal from her mother's purse, pawn her jewelry and even turn tricks. She was eventually sent to live in Nashville with Vernon Winfrey, who was her mother's former lover and who is listed on her birth certificate as her father. He has been described as the domineering disciplinarian who set her straight.
Still, she quotes sources describing how, in 1989, Winfrey was insistent on paying Tim Watts, an ex-boyfriend, $50,000 to keep quiet about her lesbian affairs and the fact that her brother, who died of AIDS, was gay.
"He said she did not want him to talk about her brother being gay," said Judy Lee Colteryahn, who also dated Watts.
"It's no big deal to have a brother who is homosexual, but apparently it was to Oprah. Tim also said he knew about some lesbian affairs."
As for Winfrey's very public relationship with Graham, the pair do not even share a bedroom, according to the book.
Landscape architect James van Sweden of Oehme, who spent years working for the couple, said he planned to design a space for a wedding in front of their new estate but knew immediately after watching them together that there would never be a wedding.
"Oprah keeps Stedman around because she wants her audience to accept her as a normal woman with a man in her life, but from what I saw during those four years, I can tell you there's nothing there with Stedman. Nothing at all," he said.
"He's simply a fixture in her life," van Sweden added. "Window-dressing."
According to her father, Vernon, Oprah admitted that she was not in love with Stedman.
"I'm in like . . . not in love," she told him, according to the book.
She did reportedly have one affair with a man -- "Entertainment Tonight's" John Tesh, while the two were working in Nashville.
According to Tesh's ex, he broke things off because he couldn't deal with the stigma of being an interracial couple.
"He said one night he looked down and saw his white body next to her black body and couldn't take it any more," the ex said. "He walked out in the middle of the night."
Winfrey has played coy on Tesh.
Vernon Winfrey says he's been dismayed by how Oprah plays fast and loose with the truth.
"She may be admired by the world, but I know the truth," he says. "So does God and so does Oprah. Two of us remain ashamed."
Vernon reserves his harshest words for Winfrey's best friend, Gayle King, who put the kibosh on a biography he was working on.
Calling her a "dirt hog" and "street heifer," he blames King for a rift in his relationship with Oprah.
"She's become too close to that woman Gayle," he says.
King and others in Oprah's entourage worked hard to keep a tight grip on employees in order to keep her out of the tabloids.
"I thought I would be working for the warm and fuzzy person I saw on television," a former employee at Winfrey's Harpo production company said. "But, God, I was conned. It's a cult at Harpo. So oppressive it's frightening."
Perhaps the biggest secret of the book is left a secret.
Oprah allegedly does not know the true identity of her father.
Esters told Kelley who he is, on the condition she not publish the information until Winfrey's mother comes clean to her daughter.
"And you'll know when that happens because Oprah will probably have a show on finding your real father," Esters said. "As I said, the girl wastes nothing."
Animal lovers seek to KO Thailand orangutan kick boxing matches
Pornchai/GettyOrangutan kick boxing in Thailand safari park has drawn the wrath of animal activists.
It's a fight club for orangutans.
A safari theme park in Thailand has become a macabre tourist attraction for its orangutan kick boxing matches - complete with simian "round card girls."
Safari World, on the outside of Bangkok, has been drawing huge crowds that cheer orangutans forced to wear boxing gloves and trained to trade punches and spin kicks.
As the heavyweights of the jungle duke it out, female orangutans parade around in bikinis displaying the round number.
After the 30-minute shows, the orangutans are returned to their dark, dingy charges, according to an investigative report.
"It's sad that people would find this entertaining," said Debbie Leahy, director of captive animals for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
"When you see these animals performing what are completely unnatural tricks...they're not doing it because they want to, they're doing it because they're afraid not to," Leahy said.
The Daily Mail of London obtained video exposing the barbaric matches at Safari World and showing tourists cheering wildly as apes pummel each other.
While organizers insists the orangutans have been trained to pretend as if they've been knocked out, disgusted animal rights activists warned of the abuse the 250-pound animals endure while being trained.
Orangutans previously rescued from other entertainment parks showed signs of abuse upon arriving at an animal refuge in Indonesian Borneo, they said.
"It is heartbreaking that such practices still go on," Grainne McEntee of the wildlife rescue group Borneo Orangutan Survival told the Daily Mail. The Thai government shut down the Safari World monkey matches in 2004 - and seized 48 orangutans that had been illegally smuggled from Indonesia.
It's unclear why the bizarre show is once more allowed to go on.
LINK TO VIDEO
Hillary Clinton, Supreme Court Nominee? Orin Hatch Spreads Obama Nomination Rumor
04/12/10 07:29 AM
WASHINGTON — Sen. Orrin Hatch says he's heard Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's name mentioned in connection with the Supreme Court vacancy brought about by the retirement of Justice John Paul Stevens.
Hatch didn't elaborate in an interview Monday. Appearing with Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy on NBC's "Today" show, the Utah Republican said only, "I heard Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's name today and that would be an interesting person in the mix."
Hatch wouldn't say whether he'd support Clinton. But he did say "I like Hillary Rodham Clinton" and said he thinks she's done a good job for Democrats. Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, retorted: "I think she's done a good job for the country, not just for Democrats."
Sat Apr 10, 2010 1:05 pm EDT
Derrick Coleman is almost $5 million in debt
It's not a good time to be a hyper-skilled forward who never really made the most of their considerable talent. First, it was Antoine Walker(notes), his casino debts, and a short stint in Puerto Rico. Now, it's Derrick Coleman, failed business investments, and fur coats.
According to the Wall Street Journal's Bankruptcy Beat, Coleman has filed for bankruptcy and owes creditors $4.7 million, most of which he lost in failed attempts to stimulate Detroit's struggling local economy. His lawyer Mark B. Berke explained the reasons for Coleman's financial struggles.
"Mr. Coleman was focused on investing in various communities throughout the city of Detroit by developing real estate, creating jobs and revitalizing business opportunities," Berke said. "Due to the state of the economy, including the decline in the real estate market, Mr. Coleman's investments could not be sustained."
According to Basketball Reference, Coleman made more than $87 million during his 15 year career with the Nets, 76ers, Hornets, and Pistons. But now he has only about $1 million in assets, including a 1997 Bentley convertible, five fur coats, and $3,000 in jewelry. Not exactly appreciating assets.
Coleman's biggest debt comes from a $1.3 million lawsuit brought against him by Comerica Bank and a $1 million real estate loan from Thornburg Mortgage Home Loans. He also owes $50,000 to NBA Hall of Famer, and current Detroit mayor, Dave Bing.
Despite the filing, Coleman will be trying to keep both his Beverly Hills home, and the home that he bought for his mother, also located in Beverly Hills. Berke says that Coleman is "just hoping to get rid of that debt and make a fresh start."
They say that two is a coincidence, and three is a trend — someone needs to check on Billy Owens to make sure he's doing OK.
Littleton fires judge who issued warrant for overdue DVD
The Denver Post
04/07/2010 01:00:00 AM MDT
LITTLETON — The City Council fired longtime Municipal Judge James Kimmel on Tuesday night after he issued an arrest warrant for a teenager who had an overdue $30 DVD from a local library.
Council members had offered Kimmel a chance to resign and receive a severance package. But when he refused, they said they had little choice but to let him go.
"I'm disappointed and saddened the situation has reached this stage," Councilman Bruce Stahlman said.
Kimmel, a municipal judge for almost 30 years, was not at Tuesday's meeting. He refused a request for comment from The Denver Post on Monday about his possible removal.
Aaron Henson, 19, checked out the DVD, "House of Flying Daggers," from the Bemis Public Library last year. He failed to return it in proper time after it got mixed in with boxes as he moved from Littleton to Lakewood.
On Dec. 23, Kimmel ordered that Henson appear in court Jan. 14 regarding the DVD. The summons was returned as undeliverable because Henson had moved, and he was never properly served.
When he failed to show, Kimmel issued a bench warrant for Henson's arrest.
On Jan. 25, Henson was pulled over in Jefferson County for speeding, and when the outstanding warrant came up, he was hauled off to jail, where he spent almost eight hours before his dad bailed him out.
Turns out, he returned the DVD to the library Jan. 7 — a week before Kimmel issued the warrant. The library sent a letter to the judge that same day notifying him that it had been returned.
That point concerned council members, as did the fact that Kimmel issued the warrant without Henson having been officially served with a summons to appear in court.
When city officials looked into prior cases, they found 71 similar incidents in which a warrant had been issued but had not been properly served.
Earlier Tuesday, Henson took blame for not returning the DVD and hoped his actions would not cost Kimmel his job.
"He's a great judge," Henson said. "I heard a lot of good things about him. I honestly don't want them to fire him over this."
In a joint statement read at Tuesday's meeting, the council said Kimmel's "lack of good judgment" in the Henson case and the other cases caused it to lose confidence in his ability to serve as municipal judge.
LINK TO ORIGINAL STORY
Man Torches Neighbor's Cars And Home
9:15 PM CDT, April 9, 2010
Memphis Police Bust Drug Dealing Granny
Woman had crack in her pocket, big cash and guns
5:45 AM CDT, April 11, 2010
Michael Steele To Republicans: 'I've Made Mistakes'
LIZ SIDOTI | 04/10/10 07:09 PM |
NEW ORLEANS — In damage control mode, GOP national chairman Michael Steele on Saturday sought to quell the furor over his management of the Republican National Committee by acknowledging errors and vowing to learn from them.
"I'm the first here to admit that I've made mistakes, and it's been incumbent on me to take responsibility to shoulder that burden, make the necessary changes and move on," Steele told GOP activists and party leaders, drawing a standing ovation.
"The one mistake we cannot make this November is to lose," he added, and the crowd cheered in agreement.
Saturday's speech to the Southern Republican Leadership Conference was Steele's first public appearance since the disclosure of questionable spending – including a $2,000 tab at a sex-themed California night club – resulted in top advisers cutting ties with him and North Carolina's state party chief calling for his resignation.
Normally a bombastic showman, Steele struck a contrite tone before the supportive audience in the half-full hotel ballroom. He did not address the specific complaints. And even though he acknowledged his errors, he also blamed others.
"We can't coast into the majority, nor can we assume it's a sure thing. The liberal media are looking for any possible alternative narrative to tell," Steele said. "They are looking for those distractions, and Lord knows I've provided a few." He added: "The Democrats also know that they have some explaining to do, and they'd love nothing more than for us to keep pointing fingers."
Outspoken and brassy, Steele is not a traditional buttoned-down GOP chairman and he's been a target of criticism since he was elected last year. The complaints reached a fever pitch over the past week, causing both embarrassment and distraction for a GOP looking to take advantage of a troubling political environment for Democrats ahead of this fall's midterm elections.
Still, for all the angst in the GOP over Steele, it's unlikely he will be fired. Ousting a chairman is a complicated, messy process that requires votes of two-thirds of the 168-member RNC. And, while there are both hard-core Steele opponents and fierce Steele allies, several Republican officials at the New Orleans conference said that most committee members and party chairman simply seem to want to move on from the controversy so Republicans can focus on November.
Attended by roughly 3,000 GOP activists and party leaders, the three-day conference wrapped up Saturday with speeches by prominent Republicans considering running for president in 2012 against President Barack Obama.
Story continues below
Conference attendees voted in a "straw poll" for their top 2012 choice; the results were hardly predictive and meant little. Many Republicans considering a bid were left off the list while others like Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour asked that their names not be included. Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney didn't attend the conference but won by a single vote over Texas Rep. Ron Paul, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
Those who gave speeches downplayed talk of the next presidential election.
"We have got to stay focused on the election of 2010. Don't worry about 2012 ... We can't wait until 2012 to start taking our country back," Barbour told the crowd. Despite that message, he sounded every bit the presidential candidate and spoke after running a slick video that promoted his role as the chairman of the Republican Governors Association.
Barbour also urged unity as the GOP wrestles with what to do about Steele and as the tea party's emergence highlights divisions among Republicans.
"The wind is at our back. How are we going to make sure it continues to fill up our sails?" Barbour said. "We stick together." He said Republicans should focus on the 80 percent of issues that unite them, not the 20 percent that may divide them. "We've got to let the things that unite us be the things that guide us," he said. "We cannot let ourselves by torn apart by the idea of purity."
Earlier, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who is looking for a political comeback, took on the Republican Party, saying that when Republicans controlled Congress and the White House before Democrats won control: "We let America down."
"Conservatism didn't fail America, conservatives failed conservatism," Santorum said, prompting huge cheers. "Let's be honest: we were guilty of more government when we were there."
Seeking to raise his national profile, Indiana Rep. Mike Pence – a darling of the party's right flank – introduced himself as "a Christian, a conservative and a Republican." And, eying another run after his 2008 failed bid, Paul told activists that "the American people have awoken" because Washington won't address the nation's fiscal crisis.
Still, for all the appearances by likely 2012 candidates and excitement over the midterms, the RNC's woes hovered over event.
"In life, you realize very quickly that you can't please everyone. But you can certainly make them all made at you at the same time," Steele said. "And that is a lesson well-learned. It is an opportunity as well. Because folks have been mad at us in the past and we have learned from that past, and we are now ready to move on to a brighter future."
The car of the future: no driver necessary
Autonomous technology faces Pikes Peak test
Graduate student Mick Kritayakirana shows the computer system inside a driverless car at Stanford University. (Paul Sakuma, Associated Press / April 1, 2010)
It can traverse rough terrain, accelerate quickly and negotiate sharp turns like other high-performance sports cars, but there's one thing that sets this Audi coupe apart: It doesn't need a driver.
The car, named Shelley, is the latest creation by Stanford University researchers who are developing technology that could help make driving safer and one day allow ordinary vehicles to drive on their own.
The self-driving car will face its biggest test this fall at Colorado's Pikes Peak, home of the world-famous International Hill Climb that has bedeviled professional drivers with its steep grades and treacherous switchbacks since 1916.
Automotive researchers have designed experimental vehicles that can drive long distances or navigate city streets without a driver. With Shelley - named after Michelle Mouton, the first woman to win the Pikes Peak race - the Stanford team is developing a car that can drive at high speeds under extreme conditions.
"What we're trying to do is create an autonomous race car, an autonomous rally car, so a car that can drive itself up to the very limits of handling," said Christian Gerdes, a Stanford engineering professor who directs the university's Center for Automotive Research.
It might be years before someone can send the minivan out to pick up the kids from soccer practice, but autonomous car technology has already led to features such as automatic parallel parking and adaptive cruise control, which lets a car handle stop-and-go traffic on its own.
The U.S. Department of Defense has been developing driverless technology that allows unmanned vehicles to perform military missions without endangering soldiers. Its research arm, the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency, has been sponsoring autonomous vehicle contests since 2004 with the goal of making one-third of the military's ground combat vehicles driverless by 2015.
Volkswagen AG, which makes Audi vehicles and is working with Stanford on the Shelley project, has set a goal of creating fully autonomous vehicles by 2028, said Marcial Hernandez, a senior engineer at Volkswagen's electronics research lab in Palo Alto.
"You're tired at the end of the day. You just want to relax on your way home. Push the button, and the car gets you home," Hernandez said.
Shelley is an Audi TTS that has been equipped with GPS receivers and can be programmed to follow any route using a digital map. The research team has developed computer algorithms that let the car make real-time adjustments to the terrain and calculate how fast it can go without spinning out of control.
That technology could one day be used to create smarter cars that help motorists avoid accidents when they're driving fast, said Stanford's Gerdes.
"We hope this will be inspiration for future safety systems, for cars that will help a driver drive up to the capabilities of the car," Gerdes said. "So if you're suddenly on a slippery road, the car should be able to react and keep you safely in the lane, pointed in the direction you want to go."
At Pikes Peak, Shelley will climb 4,721 feet up the 14,110-foot mountain on paved and gravel roads as it covers the 12.4-mile race course and its 156 turns at high speeds. The feat has never attempted by an autonomous vehicle.
Nearly 200 cars, trucks and motorcycles are expected to take part in the 88th annual "Race to the Clouds" on June 27, but Shelley will have the road to itself when it attempts the course in September. Once the team hits the start button, Shelley will make all the driving decisions on its own.
"This really represents the ultimate challenge," Gerdes said.
Shelley is the latest autonomous car designed by Stanford's automotive research center, which is working with major automakers and Silicon Valley tech firms to develop car technology.
Sat Apr 10, 2010 4:36 pm EDT
Tiger Woods' profanity aired live on CBS
In his February public apology, Tiger Woods vowed he would show more respect to the game of golf. No more fist pumping, no more club tossing and no more profanity-laden outbursts after bad shots.
He made it about 42 holes.
During Saturday's third round of The Masters, Woods repeatedly cursed at himself loudly enough for television microphones to pick it up and air it live on CBS. The mini-temper tantrums came during a stretch on the front nine when Woods made three bogeys in four holes.
After a poorly-struck tee shot on the par-3 6th hole, Tiger closed his eyes in disgust and loudly said, "Tiger Woods, you suck." He followed that with a Commandment-breaking expletive and a shake of the head.
With impeccable timing, CBS announcer Verne Lundquist chimed in, "I don't think he's pleased."
Woods' shot failed to stay on the top slope of the green and trickled 70 feet away from the pin. He ran his birdie putt nearly 20 feet past the hole and ended up with a bogey four. On the next hole, Woods cursed again after a wayward approach shot. He would go on to card another bogey.
It seems that Tiger still can't control his emotions on the golf course, which isn't too big of a deal. It was silly that he ever thought he would be able to instantly change years of reflexive golf habits or that doing so would have any bearing on his other issues.
It's also silly that television networks continue to put live microphones on athletes and expect them to speak like choirboys. To their credit, Jim Nantz and Nick Faldo of CBS Sports later addressed Tiger's outburst during a sit down in Butler Cabin. Nantz, in particular, seemed embarrassed, while Faldo attributed the salty language to Tiger's usual on-course temper.
Analysis: Is GOP a party of yes, no or maybe so?
April 10, 2010
NEW ORLEANS – Socialist. Secularist. Liar. National security naif. Republican leaders are calling President Barack Obama all that and more as they jockey early for the party's 2012 nomination. But name-calling alone won't beat the Democratic incumbent.
Even a firebrand like Newt Gingrich concedes that the GOP must be more than naysayers to reclaim control of Congress in November and to seize the White House two years later.
"What the left wants to do is say we're the party of 'no,'" Gingrich told the Southern Republican Leadership Conference, a conservative convention that gave several Republican presidential leaders a chance to audition for the 2012 nomination fight. "I think we should decide we're going to be the party of 'yes.'"
"Republicans can say yes to a balanced budget," he said — and yes to more jobs through tax cuts and yes to getting tough on terrorists.
But, it turns out, saying yes is no easy task. The former House speaker and his fellow GOP presidential aspirants struggled at the conference to articulate a winning vision. Theirs is a delicate balance: Offer voters a positive, concrete agenda while defining Obama in a negative light — something conservative voters expect, or even demand, of their candidates.
Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a former lobbyist and strategist who may seek the presidency, said it will take some time for the Republican Party to iron out its two-sided message.
"It is important to give people something to vote for. I believe that very sincerely," Barbour told state party chairmen and GOP activists Saturday, the conference's closing day. "There are some people who act like that means we've got to have something like that today."
For now, Republican leaders can't even agree on whether the GOP is the party of yes or no.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry voted no, insisting that Republican congressional candidates must be against Obama and government itself to win in November.
"It's going to take men and women going to Washington, D.C., and saying no," he said, urging GOP candidates to say to voters, "Elect me and I'm going to Washington, D.C, and will try to make it as inconsequential on your life as I can make it."
Despite speculation to the contrary, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal told the crowd he's not interested in a 2012 bid. Still, he took a side in the yes-versus-no debate.
When it comes to bad ideas, Jindal said, "shame on us for not saying so" and for not saying no.
On that, Gingrich agreed, and he spelled out what he considers the bad ideas offered by Obama, particularly the health care overhaul bill. An hour or so before his conference address, Gingrich unloaded on Obama.
Calling him a terrible president, Gingrich accused Obama of running a "socialist, secularist machine." Speaking of Democrats, he quickly added, "They lie about" the so-called machine.
As is often the case with political hyperbole from the left and right, Gingrich didn't support his accusation.
He also called Obama "the most radical president in American history."
The crowd favorite, former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, delivered a speech filled with sound bites and invectives. Whatever passing stabs she made outlining fresh policies or vision may have gotten lost in the chorus of negativity.
"There is no shame in being the party of no," she said to loud applause. "When they're proposing an idea that violates our values, violates our Constitution, what's wrong with being the party of no? We're the party of hell no!"
And so she mocked Obama's national security credentials, pointing dismissively to the "vast nuclear experience that he acquired as a community organizer."
Some in the crowd responded with a "Run, Sarah, Run" chant. She didn't say whether she would seek the presidency, but Palin left little doubt where she stands on the definitive issue of yes or no.
EDITOR'S NOTE — Ron Fournier is Washington bureau chief for The Associated Press.
Sudbury man nabbed for driving drunk to prison
A Sudbury, Mass. man is facing another drunk driving charge after he allegedly drove under the influence to a Vermont prison to serve a two-day sentence for an earlier drunk driving offense.
Timothy Carney, 42, appeared Tuesday between 4 and 5:30 p.m. in the Windsor District Court, where a judge imposed the sentence and ordered him to report to the Southern State Correctional Facility in Springfield by 5:30 p.m., said Deputy State Attorney David Cahill.
“Mr. Carney came to court knowing that he was going to jail that day,” Cahill said.
Authorities said Carney drove himself to the jail and arrived intoxicated at the facility, where prison staff called the Vermont State Police. The jail is located about 30 miles away from the court, Cahill said.
Carney is due back in court later this month.
He was initially charged with drunk driving on Sept. 4 after he was stopped at a sobriety checkpoint in Weathersfield, Cahill said.
On March 31, a judge suspended his right to drive in Vermont. The suspension, however, had not gone into effect when Carney drove to the prison on Tuesday, Cahill said.
Associated Press material was used in this report.
OUI rap for man on way to jail
A Sudbury an with a seven-page driving record is facing another drunken driving charge after allegedly being legally stewed as he dutifully drove himself to a Vermont prison to serve a two-day drunken driving sentence.
Timothy Carney, 42, appeared Tuesday afternoon in Vermont’s Windsor District Court, where a judge sentenced him for failing a checkpoint sobriety test Sept. 4, and ordered him to report to the Southern State Correctional Facility 30 miles away in Springfield, Vt., by 5:30 p.m., a prosecutor said.
Authorities said Carney arrived inebriated, and prison staff called the Vermont State Police.
Carney is due back in court in Vermont later this month. His Bay State driving record includes a 2004 charge for drunken driving and 14 citations for speeding.
Elena Kagan Emerging As Supreme Court Front-Runner
First Posted: 04- 9-10 03:48 PM | Updated: 04- 9-10 04:25 PM
Elena Kagan, President Obama's solicitor general, is rapidly emerging as a frontrunner to replace retiring Chief Associate Justice John Paul Stevens. Kagan is widely praised as an accomplished and intelligent attorney, but is far more conservative than Stevens and could shift the political dynamic of the high court.
Conservatives are responding favorably to the potential of a Justice Elena Kagan while liberals worry that, by choosing her, the administration would miss the opportunity to elevate a genuine progressive.
John Manning, a conservative professor at Harvard Law School, where Kagan served as dean, told HuffPost that he would firmly support a Kagan nomination. Professor Charles Fried, a Reagan administration solicitor general, also said that he'd support a Kagan pick.
"She is a supremely intelligent person, really one of the most intelligent people I have encountered, and I have met a lot of them, as one does in this business. She is very adroit politically," said Fried. "She has quite a strong personality and a winning personality. I think she's an effective, powerful person and a very, very intelligent person, and a very hardworking and serious person."
Fried served on the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts from 1995-1999 and is now at Harvard Law School. He said that Republicans would be well-advised to get behind her, but may decide to oppose just for the sake of opposition.
"Let's put it this way: she should be [backed by Republicans]. But it depends on the politics," he said. "Republicans may just decide that: 'We're going to say no to what Obama comes up with the first time and we'll come up with a reason why after we've decided that we're going to say no.' I can't predict that that's what they'll do or not. But she should be, she should be."
Fried has known Kagan for years and said he may even have had her as a student. He first met her when she was a visiting professor at Harvard. He was on the board that approved her for tenure and also on the selection committee that tapped her to be dean.
Stevens is known as a sharp political tactician and a persuasive jurist, the leader of the court's "liberal wing." Fried doesn't expect Kagan to be an ideological warrior, but, he points out, neither was Stevens when he came to the court.
"I don't think she's a heavily ideological person," says Fried. "But, you know, when John Paul Stevens was put on the court neither was he. And, in fact, though he never admits it, because he never admits anything, Stevens switched his position on a number of very important things as time went on and he became kind of the replacement for Bill Brennan. So, you know, you can't tell. But she is not an ideological person."
That kind of post-ideological posture certainly appeals to Obama, who presents himself as someone who wants to "move beyond" disputes between competing interests. Obama has recently moved beyond such disputes by making major concessions to his opponents, as he recently did with offshore drilling and nuclear energy.
Kagan, who knew Obama as a Harvard student and also went to Chicago after graduating, had a similar approach at Harvard, hiring a number of conservative professors.
"The faculty had been divided politically on left-right grounds and had difficulty making [faculty] appointments," said Harvard Professor Mark Tushnet. "But she was able to break the logjam by explaining to people that the law school was stagnating and that it could move forward only if it overcame these issues."
Fried was on that board. "I was on her appointments committee when we were choosing large numbers of people to bulk up the faculty. And she was fabulous in that position. And not ideological. Not ideological," he said.
The praise from conservatives may sound <snip>ing to those who worry that the court is too close to corporate interests and too willing to accommodate the radical expansion of executive power. Kagan has been criticized by civil libertarians for her expansive stance on detainee policy.
Glenn Greenwald wrote Friday that "replacing Stevens with Kagan... would shift the Court substantially to the Right on a litany of key issues (at least as much as the shift accomplished by George Bush's selection of the right-wing ideologue Sam Alito to replace the more moderate Sandra Day O'Connor)."
The 5-4 majority that has attempted to keep the executive branch in check could be in jeopardy. "Over the past decade, the Court has issued numerous 5-4 decisions which placed at least some minimal constraints on executive power. Stevens was not merely in the majority in those cases, but was the intellectual leader justifying those limits," Greenwald wrote.
Her writing on detainee policy and executive authority is perhaps her most controversial work.
"Kagan is unique in that, like Justice John Roberts, she's universally respected but hasn't written on divisive topics that could make confirmation difficult," says University of Pennsylvania Law Professor Theodore Ruger.
Kagan's adoration from conservatives could give her what one Supreme Court watcher described as "the easiest and more logical path forward." Her current position as solicitor general rebuts the critique that, unlike the other sitting justices on the court, she has never held a bench seat. And at 49 -- though, by the end of the month, 50 -- her age is tempting for a president looking to leave a stamp on the court. The fact that she was confirmed by the Senate for her current post just one year ago, by a 61 to 31 vote, adds to the thinking that Republicans will have a difficult task mounting a serious campaign against her now.
There has been some superficial concern over Kagan's religion -- not because she's Jewish but because without Stevens there will be no Protestants on the court. And chatter long ago surfaced about her sexual orientation, which some conservative figures have already floated as a potential issue.
But these are distractions not speed bumps, strategists predict, if Obama chooses to go with Kagan. When her name was floated as a nominee following the retirement of Justice David Souter, Republicans in the Senate couldn't deny how impressed they were with her potential.
"You have to admit Elena Kagan is a brilliant woman," Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah.) said during an interview on conservative North Dakota radio last May. "She is a brilliant lawyer. If he picks her, it is a real dilemma for people. And she will undoubtedly say that she will abide by the rule of law."
For Obama, perhaps the most alluring element of a Kagan selection is that the work for the president would be minimal. The White House did an extensive vetting of her record during the last court opening. The president even met privately with her to discuss the opening. Since then, she's served in his administration. Were she to be nominated, the surprises in her confirmation process should be minimal.
Shriram Harid contributed reporting
Robber Of Elderly Women Arrested in California
10:06 PM CDT, April 8, 2010
Gingrich: Obama is 'most radical president ever'
Associated Press Writer – Thu Apr 8, 10:47 pm ET
NEW ORLEANS – Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a potential presidential candidate in 2012, called Barack Obama on Thursday "the most radical president in American history" who oversees a "secular, socialist machine."
Gingrich reminded conservative activists why he was one of the nation's most polarizing leaders in the 1990s, opening the Southern Republican Leadership Conference with a biting assessment of Obama's policies.
"The most radical president in American history has now thrown down the gauntlet to the American people: 'I run a machine. I own Washington and there's nothing you can do about it,'" Gingrich said. He urged his fellow Republicans to stop what he called Obama's "secular, socialist machine."
Highly charged words, for sure. But that's standard fare at the three-day GOP gathering that is drawing several presidential hopefuls. Friday's headliner is former Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin.
Gingrich has not declared his intentions for 2012, but his appearances in New Orleans had all the trappings of a fledging presidential campaign, from an intimate meeting with tea party activists — his staff photographer took grip-and-grin pictures of Gingrich posing with every activist — to his wade-through-the-crowd entrance at the GOP conference, with the thumping beat of Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger" drawing the crowd to its feet.
He said Obama's policies — particularly health care and economic stimulus legislation — have put the United States on the road to socialism. The former speaker did not specifically explain why he thought Obama is a secularist, though he did say the GOP wasn't afraid of recognizing faith's role in American society.
Gingrich offered Republicans an antidote to Democratic accusations that GOP leaders do little more than oppose policies — the so-called party of no. He said Republicans should underscore the policies they favor — yes on tax cuts, a lower deficit, fewer regulations and a sensible energy plan.
"The point is there are many things we can say yes to," Gingrich said.
Will he say yes to a presidential campaign?
"That will be up to God," he said, "and the American people."
From Outrage To Yawns: How War Has Dropped Off The Political Landscape
First Posted: 04- 8-10 06:05 PM | Updated: 04- 8-10 07:35 PM
Over the past few weeks, a slew of dispiriting news has accompanied U.S. efforts in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Abstruse and bizarre comments from Afghan President Hamid Karzai has troubled America's diplomatic community; violence has followed the election of Iraqi president Iyad Allawi; and a leaked, two-year old video showing the killing of civilians in New Baghdad has raised fundamental questions about U.S. military policy.
It's the type of story sequence that two years ago would have produced howls in Congress and, perhaps, forms of demonstration outside the Beltway. Today, they've had a negligible fallout.
America's military campaign in Afghanistan and its drawdown in Iraq are hardly resonating on the political landscape. Lawmakers who came to office in recent years largely on an anti-war wave aren't touching the topic. Progressive groups -- who rallied feverishly against the Iraq War and opposed to further escalation in Afghanistan -- have ceded that debate is now static. Even those in charge of getting Democrats elected to Congress argue that there will be little friction within the party over the course the wars are taking.
"I think that people will understand what the stakes are going into November even if there may be disagreement with the president, whether it is on Afghanistan or some other foreign policy," said Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Mary.) who chairs the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. "[T]here are clearly going to be Democrats who disagree with president's polices on Afghanistan. I still believe that they will be moved and motivated to come out to the polls for all the other issues that are at stake."
It's a remarkable reversal from where the state of play stood just a few years ago. Back in October 2007, 62 percent of respondents in a Gallup survey labeled the Iraq war as their top priority (more than double the next issue: health care). This past March, only five percent of respondents in a Bloomberg poll said that the war in Afghanistan was the most important issue facing the nation right now, trailing, among other items, spending and the deficit.
Not all polling numbers echo Bloomberg's. And the differences between Iraq in 2007 and Afghanistan in 2009-2010 are vast. But the fundamental message sent by the digits is shared among foreign policy and public opinion experts: war abroad is spurring yawns at home.
"It is out of the minds of voters because it is not on the news," said Mark Blumenthal, editor and publisher of Pollster.com. "It is not on the news they watch on television or the news they read in the papers or online. Couple that with the fact that the economy is a big deal and people are paying much less attention."
How this development took place is owed to a confluence of contemporaneous events. As Blumenthal notes, a lagging recession has consumed the attention of much of the American public. A health care battle that lasted longer than a year has sucked the oxygen out of Congress. Finally, the country is suffering from a collective bit of war fatigue having watched the operation in Afghanistan progress for more than nine years; and that in Iraq, seven-plus.
And yet, the fact that Karzai's threats to join the Taliban haven't resonated further on the political stage -- or that a leaked 2007 video showing U.S. military personnel shooting a group of journalists and onlookers in Baghdad hasn't triggered larger howls of outrage -- can't, for some, be explained by these factors alone.
As it stands now, the groups that would traditionally express the loudest concern with such developments are choosing, instead, to stay largely muted. John Isaacs, the Executive Director of the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, said his organization remains frustrated with the situation in Afghanistan. But rather than work actively against the Obama administration in an effort to get troops out, they have instead invested their energies towards policy they actually think they can affect: nuclear weapons proliferation.
"We have a possibility of achieving positive things as opposed to working against negative events. We are trying to work for nuclear treaties and get weapons removed," Isaacs said. "It is more satisfying to get a positive accomplishment then to work against something we don't like."
Having a Democratic president in office has, indeed, changed the dynamics in fundamental and sometimes difficult ways for the progressive community. And it's not just simply because it presents more opportunity for collaboration than existed under George W. Bush. While a variety of organizations and lawmakers have come out against the surge of troops in Afghanistan, it's not clear if the message has disseminated to their constituencies or memberships. It certainly hasn't been picked up by the broader public. Stan Greenberg, a prominent pollster within the party, noted that Obama enjoys his highest approval ratings on Iraq and Afghanistan. Some of the messaging he's tested, meanwhile show that "voters are very responsive where Democrats talked boldly about our foreign policy of taking it to the terrorists."
For a group like MoveOn.org this presents a bit of a depressing dilemma. The organization, which cut its teeth opposing the war in Iraq, came out publicly against Obama's plans to send more troops to Afghanistan in early December. Since then, little has been done to push their members on this front. While MoveOn's electoral roundups from 2006 and 2008 both tout the fact that they siphoned a strong anti-war sentiment into an electoral force, currently the group doesn't list Afghanistan on its website's home page.
"Our members still have a watchful eye on the events unfolding in Afghanistan and Iraq, but the combination of trust in President Obama's promise of diplomacy and withdrawal and an economy that means they are struggling to make ends meet at home has kept the wars from being a flash point for sustained political activism this past year," said Ilyse Hogue, the organization's communications director.
If having a Democratic president in power has created a kind of political paralysis for Democratic voters opposed to the Afghan surge, the situation on the ground has created legislative lethargy for lawmakers. House liberals, led by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), were able to force a vote this past month to cut off the funding for continued operations. It failed. Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), meanwhile, is set to introduce legislation calling for a "flexible timetable" for a troop withdrawal. Beyond that and the occasional hearing the cupboard has been bare. And the main reason why, experts say, is because the options (at least right now) are limited.
"There isn't another leader we can turn to. I think that was apparent from the election," said Teresita Schaffer, director of the South Asia Program at the Center for Strategic International Studies. "I suppose in principle the U.S has the option of providing less support to Karzai but at the moment that would be a perverse option because a strategy that includes increasing military strength rests on three legs: economic, military and political. And the latter two rest on having a government in place that can exercise leadership."
Of course, Feingold, Kucinich, and a whole host of other voices would disagree with such a premise. Why America has invested so much in Karzai -- or for that matter Afghanistan -- in the first place remains a mystery. Any further involvement, likewise, is money, time and lives wasted. But the voice that matters, in the end, is Obama's. And to this point he has neither been pushed, nor shown much willingness, to alter his plans.
"I think it is true that progressives do not want to take on this war partly because they think it will hurt their specific domestic causes, partly because they think it will be disloyal to Obama," said Robert Greenwald, the activist filmmaker who has spearheaded anti-war efforts. "In the end, not pushing Obama on this is one will be one of the greatest single mistakes progressive will make and will continue to make."
Oil drilling prompts Al Gore's first public split with President Obama
President Barack Obama’s decision to allow expanded offshore oil drilling prompted the first public criticism of his administration from Al Gore’s environmental advocacy group, the Alliance for Climate Protection.
The organization, which the former vice president founded and chairs, put out a statement last week opposing the new policy.
The statement is significant because it marks Gore’s first break with Obama on his signature policy issue, nearly two years after Gore’s enthusiastic endorsement gave the Illinois senator a jolt of momentum following the divisive Democratic presidential primary.
Gore and the Alliance have appeared to avoid direct criticism of the president in the past when they’ve had disagreements, and have often cheered on the administration.
When Obama announced a plan to back construction of new nuclear power plants, another move denounced by environmental groups, Gore’s group remained silent.
On the oil drilling announcement, however, the Alliance made its opposition clear.
“This plan continues our reliance on dirty fossil fuels — we cannot simply drill our way to energy security,” the Alliance’s CEO, Maggie Fox, said in the statement. “What we need now is presidential leadership that drives comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation that caps harmful carbon pollution, puts America back to work, ends our reliance on foreign oil and keeps us safe.”
Asked if the Alliance statement represented the former vice president’s views, Gore spokeswoman Kalee Kreider replied: “Former Vice President Gore did not release a statement, but the philanthropy he chairs did.”
But Gore made his own views explicit on Wednesday when he sent a Twitter message hailing a “great post” from Fox on a blog reiterating her earlier statement.
Obama’s announcement last week was seen as an olive branch to the oil industry and to fence-sitting senators whose votes are needed to pass sweeping climate and energy legislation that includes a cap on carbon emissions.
While other environmental groups have not been shy about criticizing compromises that they view as overly generous to industry interests, Gore and the Alliance have played the role of cheerleaders for Obama’s yearlong push for a comprehensive bill. Their public statements have promoted positive developments in the process and lauded Obama’s use of the presidential bully pulpit.
Where Gore has voiced frustration with the slow pace of U.S. action on climate change, he has directed his ire at the Senate, where a House-passed energy bill has languished for more than nine months. The Nobel laureate was disappointed with the outcome of the Copenhagen global climate talks last year, but in a New York Times op-ed in February, he said the failure came “in spite of President Obama’s efforts.” Instead, he blamed Senate inaction, saying it had “guaranteed that the outcome would fall far short of even the minimum needed to build momentum toward a meaningful solution.”
The oil drilling announcement has divided some environmental advocates. While there is widespread opposition to the move on policy grounds, some have said it’s an acceptable compromise if it helps to win support for the broader climate and energy bill.
The head of Clean Air Watch, Frank O’Donnell, said the Alliance has “by and large tried to promote an upbeat and positive message” about the climate legislation. “It’s not in their interest to slam Obama,” he said.
But the drilling expansion may have been a bridge too far, O’Donnell said. The policy, he said, “has absolutely nothing to do with climate.”
“It’s vote-buying, pure and simple,” he said.
Other advocates were more surprised by the Alliance statement.
“They could have been looking for a way to demonstrate their independence,” said Green Strategies President Roger Ballentine, who headed the White House Climate Change Task Force during the Clinton administration. He cautioned that he was speculating and did not know the reason for the Alliance’s criticism.
Ballentine said he thought Gore would continue to play “an enormously constructive role” in the congressional debate. “I fully expect the former vice president to be supportive of a reasonable compromise,” he said.
Ex-Giants superstar Tiki Barber has dumped his 8-months-pregnant wife, Ginny, for sexy former NBC intern Traci Lynn Johnson, sources told The Post last night.
The football star-turned-"Today" show-correspondent left his wife of 11 years, Ginny, for the 23-year-old blonde, who also worked at 30 Rock, the sources said.
Ginny, who is expecting twins, found out about the relationship late last year, after the run-around running back moved out of their Upper East Side home.
Johnson, a model-thin bombshell, was photographed sitting next to Tiki last month at a Washington, DC, screening of a documentary on Senegal that he hosted for the Travel Channel. Sources believe Johnson also accompanied Tiki to Senegal for the filming late last year, when Ginny was three months pregnant.
Traci Johnson wears the jersey of her Giant stud
NY Post: Charles Wenzelberg
Tiki Barber -- here with the wife he's walking out on, Ginny.
The affair is particularly stunning in light of Barber's long-standing disdain for his philandering father.
"I don't give a [bleep] that the relationship didn't work," he said of his parents' split in a 2004 Post interview. "Not only did he abandon her, I felt like he abandoned us for a lot of our lives. I have a hard time forgiving that."
Barber's confidants were shocked.
"He was always the nice guy with a million-dollar smile," a Barber family friend told The Post.
"We were shocked to find out that he could walk out on his wife of 11 years while she's pregnant with twins. He was with this girl in Senegal while Ginny was three months pregnant.
"And we believe she was also with him in Vancouver while he was blogging about the Winter Olympics for Yahoo.com."
Barber, who is believed to have to have relocated to an Upper West Side bachelor paid, released a statement yesterday in response to a Page Six item announcing the split.
"After 11 years of marriage, Ginny and I have decided to separate," Barber said. "This decision was a painful one, but we are moving forward amicably and will continue to work together to raise our children with the love and dedication they have always known."
A Tiki Barber spokesman declined to comment.
Ginny is a former fashion publicist and full-time mom to the couple's two sons, A.J., 7, and Chason, 6. She, too, declined to comment.
But she's been known to tout her caretaking role for Tiki.
"I'm sort of a traditionalist where I don't mind taking care of him," she said in a 2006 interview.
Johnson can be seen posing with a smiling gal pal in a pic on her MySpace page. The two are wearing red short shorts and Giants jerseys emblazoned with Barber's No. 21.
Tiki and Ginny began dating 16 years ago when both were students at the University of Virginia.
Barber, who turns 35 today, was hired by NBC just after he retired in 2007 -- when sources say he first met Johnson, who was working there as an intern.
In his 10-year NFL career, Barber set nearly every career offensive record for the Giants, and made three Pro Bowls.
His end run on Ginny with the much younger Johnson runs counter to the all-American Barber persona that fans and TV viewers know.
During Giants games, Tiki used to blow a kiss to Ginny in the stands every time he scored.
In his 2007 memoir, "Tiki: My Life in the Game and Beyond," Barber described the example he wanted to set for his kids.
"I want to be an honorable man, because that's what I want them both to be," he wrote, noting, "My family is everything to me."
Read more: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/timing_tiki_plays_field_TMZxMDNXxvBbNgVBToZL8O#ixzz0kVp437hM
Stanley Greenberg and James Carville claim that the Republican Party has peaked too soon.
Stanley Greenberg and James Carville claim that the Republican Party has peaked too soon. Incredibly, Greenberg says that “when we look back on this, we’re going to say Massachusetts is when 1994 happened.” Stan’s only claim to expertise in the 1994 elections, of course, is that he’s the guy who blew it for the Democrats. Right after that, President Clinton fired both of the flawed consultants and never brought them back again.
Their latest pitch is that the highpoint of the GOP advance was the Scott Brown election and that, from here on, things will “improve slightly” for the Democrats.
Once again, Carville and Greenberg are totally misreading the public mood. Each time the Republican activists battle, they become stronger. Their cyber and grass roots grow deeper. The negatives that attach to so-called “moderate” Democratic incumbents increase. And each time Obama, Reid and Pelosi defy public opinion and use their majorities to ram through unpopular legislation, frustration and anger rise.
Were Obama’s ambitions to slacken, perhaps a cooling-off might eventuate. But soon the socialist financial takeover bill will come on the agenda, followed by amnesty for illegal immigrants, cap-and-trade and card-check unionization. Each bill will trigger its own mobilization of public opposition and add to the swelling coalition of opposition to Obama and his radical agenda.
And, all the while, the deficit will increase, interest rates will rise and unemployment will remain high.
Meanwhile, the political process will generate more and more strong Republican challengers. We have yet to see if former Gov. Tommy Thompson of Wisconsin or Dino Rossi of Washington state will emerge to challenge Sens. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.). Better House candidates will decide to capitalize on the momentum and will jump into the race and Republican donors will come out of hiding, their efforts catalyzed by the growing optimism about GOP chances.
Presaging the looming Republican sweep is the shift in the party ratings on various issues. Rasmussen has the Republicans ahead by 49-37 on the economy and 53-37 on healthcare. His likely-voter poll shows GOP leads on every major issue area: national security (49-37), Iraq (47-39), education (43-30), immigration (47-34), Social Security (48-36) and taxes (52-34).
When Republicans are winning issues like education, healthcare and Social Security — normally solidly Democratic issues — a sweep of unimaginable proportions is in the offing.
Will the rise in economic growth and job creation — if they continue — offset the Republican gains? Not very likely. Remember Bill Clinton’s 1994 experience. Even though the recession had officially ended in the quarter before he took office and he proudly pointed to the 5 million new jobs that had been created during the first two years of his presidency, Clinton got no bounce from the jobs issue or the economy. Even in the election of 1996, the economy was only marginally a source of strength for the Democratic president. It wasn’t until impeachment that the job growth that had been ongoing since he took office began to work heavily in his favor with the public. The hangover from a recession, and certainly from one as violent as this, lasts a long time. A very long time.
And all this assumes that things will, indeed, improve. Worries about inflation loom large and concerns that higher taxes and interest rates will trigger a new downturn also abound. As long as the deficit is as high as it is, there is no solid foundation for a sustained period of economic growth.
Finally, Obama is now responsible for healthcare in America. When premiums rise, it will be his fault. When coverage is denied, it will be on his watch.
When Medicare cuts kick in, it will be Obama who gets the blame.
Carville’s last book touted “40 more years of Democrats.” Now he dreams of a loss of “only” 25 seats in the House and “six or seven” senators. But these are pipe dreams. Republicans will gain more than 50 House seats and at least 10 in the Senate, enough to take control in both chambers. That’s reality.
Murdoch: Palin not on Fox as journalist
Sarah Palin’s role on Fox News is as a commentator, not a journalist, according to media mogul and Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch.
Murdoch also said ratings leap whenever the former Alaska governor is on, and “we’re not adverse to high ratings.”
“I do believe the public wants good, ethical journalism — but they also want to be entertained,” Murdoch said.
The Fox News chief made the comments at the National Press Club on Tuesday night for a taping of the "Kalb Report."
Murdoch said that he is not a Republican nor a conservative, but “maybe a radical.”
He also said he believes in change, and that “sometimes strong change can be good.”
Murdoch also took on suggestions that Fox is a biased news source.
“There’s no conscious angling of the news,” Murdoch said.
Asked to name a Democrat on his news network, Murdoch paused for a bit before naming Greta Van Susteren.
“Greta Van Susteren is certainly close to the Democratic Party,” he said.
And when it comes to Fox’s rival networks, Fox sets the centrist example, according to Murdoch. Rival networks “tend to be Democrats. Let’s be honest about it,” Murdoch said.
Murdoch claims The New York Times “clearly has an agenda.” When asked to clarify that agenda, Murdoch replied, “Anything Mr. Obama wants.”
Murdoch maintains, however, that if Obama were to go through with the education reforms he has talked about so often, Murdoch would definitely support him.
Firefighter arrested on suspicion of pulling fire alarm at Port St. Lucie lounge
April 6, 2010 at 10:11 a.m. , updated April 6, 2010 at 1:08 p.m.
PORT ST. LUCIE — A firefighter in Riviera Beach was arrested after activating the fire alarm at a lounge while drunk in February at a supervisor’s birthday celebration, according to recently-released records.
Charles Robert Sunser, 31, was arrested Saturday on a misdemeanor making false report charge following the early February incident at The Element lounge in the 2000 block of Northwest Courtyard Circle, records show.
“I did something stupid, I’m very drunk and didn’t mean to cause trouble,” Sunser is quoted as saying in a Port St. Lucie police report. “We are here for my boss’s birthday, I’m sorry.”
Sunser, of Palm Beach Gardens, told police he works in Riviera Beach for “their” fire department. He said he and some co-workers came to the lounge for a supervisor’s birthday celebration. He said he “got really drunk and made a mistake.”
A phone message left Tuesday morning with the Riviera Beach Fire Department wasn’t immediately returned.
Two Element employees saw Sunser activate the fire alarm at the front door, according to the report.
A man identified as Element’s owner told police he wished to pursue charges, noting the “malicious nature” of the incident and the lost revenue caused by the “disruption and evacuation.”
Jobless Numbers Show Minorities Crushed by Team Obama Policies
The Obama Administration is putting the best face on the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) recent March 2010 jobless numbers report, touting the steady nationwide jobless number of 9.7%. But for minorities, the news is bad and getting worse.
The really bad news is buried in the middle of the 38 page report. The BLS data reveals an alarming and growing divergence between the number of white and the number of minorities that are unemployed. Worse yet, it is clear that minorities, especially African Americans, are falling further behind. If unchecked, the long term implications of that imbalance are nightmarish for the nation.
Larry Summers and others in the Administration have not yet shown much interest in the appalling unemployment rates for minorities and, instead, exude childlike enthusiasm at the nation’s overall jobless rate that held steady for the 2nd consecutive month.
While the unemployment for white Americans averaged 9.3%, African Americans averaged 16.6%, just a little less than double the rate of white unemployment. Hispanic Americans reported 13.3% unemployment, while recent, young veterans are averaging 14.7%. Black men, over 20 years old, are showing 20.2% unemployment and teenaged, African Americans, ages 16-19, of both sexes, show a mind-boggling 39.3% unemployed. Hispanic teens also report a staggering 30.3% unemployment. The long-term repercussions of these unemployment numbers are troubling, yet the Administration is curiously silent.
Team Obama has spent trillions of dollars and enormous political capital advancing stimulus plans and other empty calorie policies that have failed to spark employment, especially among minorities. Instead, Obama’s policies have only further eroded American competitiveness, hindered job creation. African Americans, Hispanics and other minorities, are finding themselves out of work, for longer and longer periods of time.
Soon, Congress and the President are going to have to face the growing realization that unemployment rates have been so elevated for so long among minorities that minorities in the U.S. are now on the precipice of permanent unemployment.
We need to start asking ourselves: when do the temporary wards of the state, the unemployed, become permanent wards? Is the presence in the United States of a permanent, non-working class, comprised predominantly of minorities, the change that Obama promised? What does this shift mean to us as a nation, where there is a strong likelihood that a growing majority of white citizens will be working and a growing majority of minority citizens, such as African Americans, will not?
It seems rather clear that without a job, and with little hope of finding one, the end result is that those minorities may become increasingly dependent on government entitlements.
What is especially troubling about Team Obama, is that they do not yet seem to be thinking about solutions to these problems. Instead, they exhibit a keen desire to maintain the fantasy that recovery is just around the corner, and the nation will soon return to a period of full employment. But, most likely, those days are gone.
What Congress and Obama have yet to fully grasp is that they have expanded the social safety net and further extended entitlements but at a cost of diminished entrepreneurial energies, less job creation, and potentially, permanently higher unemployment rates.
Young men and women with no job, and little hope of finding a job, represent a strain on the social fabric of the nation as they become angry and resentful over the lack of employment opportunities. They will need, and demand, additional aid and support from the government, so social spending is likely to only grow.
These new social costs will require even higher taxes to pay for all of the new programs, so our nation can probably expect rising social tensions from the mostly white Americans that will be asked to pay higher taxes to support the many new forms of government spending and more expansive entitlements and social spending.
The consequences of a growing and prolonged unemployment within the minority community, combined with preferential legislation, create a dangerous racial <snip>tail of time, idleness and increased expectation of entitlements. As a result, the things that divide us as a nation will likely grow.
How sad that a likely result of Obama administration policies may be that the steady improvement of race issues over the past 60 years could come to an end.
There is a growing likelihood that, with significantly more white Americans having jobs and paying taxes than African Americans or Hispanic Americans, anger over bearing an unduly heavy tax burden may be perceived as racism when it’s nothing of the sort.
Racial tensions may grow and resentments may fester, as a large group of young minorities become permanently underemployed. George W. Bush, several years ago, kicked off a heated debate with his notion of the “soft bigotry of low expectations.” Who could have foreseen that the unintended consequences of President Obama’s “audacity of change” would be a different sort of bigotry that could increase national racial tensions based upon no expectations and a permanent dependency upon the federal government?
Iran ridicules Obama's "cowboy" nuclear strategy
Ali Akbar Dareini
Associated Press Writer – Wed Apr 7, 8:32 am ET
TEHRAN, Iran – Iran's hard-line president on Wednesday ridiculed President Barack Obama's new nuclear strategy, which turns the U.S. focus away from the Cold War threats and instead aims to stop the spread of atomic weapons to rogue states or terrorists.
Obama on Tuesday announced the new strategy, including a vow not to use nuclear weapons against countries that do not have them. Iran, however, was pointedly excepted from that pledge, along with North Korea, because Washington accuses them of not cooperating with the international community on nonproliferation standards.
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the focus would now be on terror groups such as al-Qaida as well as North Korea's nuclear buildup and Iran's nuclear ambitions.
Pressuring Iran in its standoff with the West is a particular focus of the new strategy. The exception from the non-use pledge represents a warning to Tehran. But also, the new guidelines aim to show Washington is serious about reducing its own arsenal and about gathering world support for stricter safeguards against nuclear proliferation — a move aimed at further isolating Iran diplomatically.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad derided Obama on Wednesday, depicting him as an ineffective leader influenced by Israel to target Iran more aggressively.
"American materialist politicians, whenever they are beaten by logic, immediately resort to their weapons like cowboys," Ahmadinejad said in a speech before a crowd of several thousand in northwestern Iran.
"Mr. Obama, you are a newcomer (to politics). Wait until your sweat dries and get some experience. Be careful not to read just any paper put in front of you or repeat any statement recommended," Ahmadinejad said in the speech, aired live on state TV.
Ahmadinejad said Obama "is under the pressure of capitalists and the Zionists" and vowed Iran would not be pushed around. "(American officials) bigger than you, more bullying than you, couldn't do a <snip> thing, let alone you," he said, addressing Obama.
The United States and its allies accuse Tehran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons, a charge denied by Iran, which says its nuclear program is intended only to generate electricity.
Washington is heading a push for the United Nations to impose new sanction on Iran over its refusal to suspect uranium enrichment, a process that can produce either fuel for a reactor or the material for a warhead. Iran says it has a right to enrichment under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
The United States has been trying to win Iranian acceptance of a U.N.-backed proposal to swap enriched uranium in hopes of getting enough of the material out of Iran's hands that it would be unable to produce a warhead. Under the U.N. plan, put forward last year, Iran was to send 2,420 pounds (1,100 kilograms) of low-enriched uranium abroad, where it would be further enriched to 20 percent and converted into fuel rods. They would then be returned to Iran to use in a research reactor.
Iran has balked on some terms of the deal, which has seemed all but dead.
But Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki contended on Wednesday that Iran had reached an understanding with the West on a compromise over the deal.
Mottaki said Iran proposed that it put a quantity of its low-enriched uranium under U.N. supervision inside Iran during the months it would take for the West to generate the equivalent amount of 20 percent-enriched uranium. Then the material would be swapped simultaneously.
"We want to make sure that nuclear fuel will be delivered. If there is a political will, Iran's flexibility will facilitate a deal," he told a press conference.
He also said Iran would determine how much would be swapped. "During talks, they agreed that Iran will determine the amount it needs," he said.
There was no immediate comment from U.S. or European officials or from the U.N. nuclear watchdog over Mottaki's comments.
Uranium enriched to a low level, around 3.5 percent, can be used to fuel a reactor. If enriched to around 95 percent, however, it can be used in building a nuclear bomb.
Iran began enriching uranium to around 20 percent in February over objections from the U.S. and its allies. Iran says it needs it for the research reactor, which produces radio isotopes used in cancer treatment. It says more than 850,000 people need the isotopes and radiography materials produced by the Tehran reactor for their illnesses.
Democrats feel they have grabbed political momentum, but the party still faces several dangers that could wipe it out in November.
Democratic strategists and independent political experts identify roughly five stumbling blocks that the party must overcome to avert big losses: history, jobs and the economy, an apathetic base, ethics and anti-Washington sentiment.
Almost every Democratic strategist acknowledges the party will lose seats in Congress this fall. The question is whether the loss will be moderate or severe, or even enough to give Republicans control of the House.
Since 1932, the president’s party has gained seats in the Senate and House only twice in midterm elections: in 1934, during Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first term, when Democrats picked up nine Senate seats and nine House seats; and 2002, during George W. Bush’s first term, when Republicans captured two Senate seats and eight House seats.
In 1998, at the height of impeachment proceedings against President Bill Clinton, Democrats picked up five House seats and the Senate ratios didn’t change.
The president’s party has seen some spectacular wipeouts in the first midterm election of a new administration. Clinton saw Democrats lose 52 House seats and eight Senate seats in 1994.
President Ronald Reagan’s (R) party lost 26 House seats in 1982, although it picked up a seat in the Senate.
Over the past 19 midterm elections, the president’s party has lost an average of 25.8 seats in the House and 3.4 seats in the Senate.
Obama’s job approval is not significantly higher than his predecessors’. A recent Gallup poll showed the president with a 48 percent approval rating.
Clinton had a 48 percent rating and Reagan had a 42 percent rating shortly before the first midterm elections of their presidencies.
Jobs and the economy
“Jobs, jobs, jobs and jobs,” said Democratic strategist Chris Lehane when asked about the five biggest political dangers facing Democrats this year. “You could say jobs five times and that’s really it.”
Lehane, who worked for Al Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign, said Democrats need to convince voters they are fighting as hard as possible to create jobs and show results.
“There has to be a singular focus and a plan to deal with job growth,” he said. “There’s enormous anxiety in the country and it all comes back to concern about our economy and jobs.”
Lehane said that the economy doesn’t need to show “significant job growth” but that people “need to think we’re on the right track.”
The economy added 162,000 jobs in March, of which 48,000 were temporary workers hired by the Census Bureau. Private economists such as Mark Zandi predict job growth could slow later this year when the bureau terminates those positions.
Tad Devine, a Democratic strategist who worked on Sen. John Kerry’s (D-Mass.) 2004 presidential campaign, said the economy would need to create about 125,000 a month in the run-up to the election.
Other Democratic strategists have said any positive growth would be enough to show progress to voters. They say candidates can make a strong case by comparing even modest growth to the months in late 2008 and early 2009, when the economy was losing more than 650,000 jobs a month.
The apathetic liberal base
Ross K. Baker, a professor of political science at Rutgers University, notes that many liberal Democrats are disillusioned by Obama’s policy positions.
“There’s a question of how fired up the base is,” said Baker. “A lot of people of the Democratic base have issues with the president on a number of things.”
Environmentalists, such as leaders of the Sierra Club, are not happy with Obama’s proposal to open millions of acres off the mid- and south-Atlantic coasts to oil and gas drilling.
Hispanic voters have pushed for action on immigration reform, but there has been little progress made.
Gay-rights advocates have clashed with the administration over the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that prohibits gays from serving openly in the military.
Liberal pacifists have expressed dismay over Obama’s decision to boost troop levels in Afghanistan.
“The one part of the base that is solidly in his corner is African-Americans,” Baker said. But he noted that African-American turnout would likely be reduced in a non-presidential election year.
Democratic strategists, however, note that passage of healthcare reform has started to coalesce the base, even though the new law lacks the government-run insurance plan that many liberals wanted.
Democrats captured Congress in 2006 by claiming that a “culture of corruption” had flourished under Republicans. They pledged to “drain the swamp” of Washington politics and were helped by the late-breaking sex scandal involving former Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.) and House pages.
Republicans will try to play the ethics card against Democrats this year, and Exhibit A will be Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.). Rangel stepped down as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee last month after the ethics committee admonished him for taking corporate-sponsored trips to the Caribbean.
Republicans will also attack Democratic leaders’ handling of sexual harassment allegations against Rep. Eric Massa (D-N.Y.), who resigned last month.
Republicans may also highlight ethics allegations against the late Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), the former chairman of the Appropriations Defense subcommittee, who was accused of steering earmarks to campaign contributors.
To pre-empt allegations of corruption in the appropriations process, House Democrats last month decided to ban earmarks to private corporations. Senate Democrats have shown little inclination to follow suit, which Craig Holman, legislative representative for Public Citizen, a left-leaning public interest group, said could turn out to be a mistake.
“That’s a big mistake,” said Holman. “Money and politics will be a big issue in 2010.”
Democrats have a powerful counterargument to make by raising the alleged misconduct of lawmakers such as Sens. John Ensign (R-Nev.) and David Vitter (R-La.).
Ensign admitted to an affair with a former aide who was married to his chief of staff. Ensign later found a job for the chief of staff and his parents paid the couple $96,000. Vitter, who is up for reelection, was connected to a prostitution ring in 2007.
When he accepted the Democratic nomination in August 2008, Obama pledged to fix the “broken politics of Washington.”
Nearly two years later, Washington has become, by most accounts, more partisan. Routine legislative measures, such as an extension of unemployment benefits and a freeze in cuts to doctors’ Medicare reimbursements, have become heavy lifts.
An estimated 200,000 Americans are expected to lose unemployment insurance this week because of failure to reach compromise on a one-week extension.
Democratic strategists note that Republicans aren’t faring any better than Democrats in generic public opinion surveys. But they admit the national mood is more of a problem for Democrats because they control more seats in Congress.
“It’s an anti-incumbent year and we have more incumbents than [Republicans] do,” said Erik Smith, who served as a senior aide to former House Democratic Leader Dick Gephardt (Mo.).
Smith contrasted this year to 2006, which he called an anti-Republican year, and 1994, which he called an anti-Democratic year — two election years when control of Congress flipped.
Smith said a lot of “marginal” Democrats survived in 2006 and 2008 because those were good years for the election cycle. He said the environment is significantly different and vulnerable lawmakers’ toughest job will be convincing voters that the economy is improving.
“It will be a hard sell to folks who don’t have jobs that the economy is getting better,” he said.
Rielle Hunter (l.) will open her doors to Oprah Winfrey for a sit-down interview slated to air in May.
John Edward's gal pal Rielle Hunter is heading into the arms of the same woman who provided a shoulder to Edwards' wife - Oprah Winfrey.
Winfrey's camp confirmed Tuesday that the videographer turned Edwards' baby mama will spill her secrets - or what's left of them - on the popular daytime show.
"'The Oprah Winfrey Show' will have the exclusive, first TV interview with Rielle Hunter," a spokeswoman said.
A specific air date for the show has not been confirmed, however the National Enquirer, which broke the news, reported it will air in May and be done at Hunter's Charlotte home.
Winfrey's spokeswoman revealed no other details.
It was just last May that Winfrey visited the Edwards' home and interviewed Elizabeth Edwards about her book, the couple's troubled marriage and her husband's affair.
Since then, former Sen. John Edwards, after long-denying that he fathered Hunter's child, has admitted the kid is his offspring.
The Winfrey chat follows on Hunter's blockbuster interview with GQ magazine, where she spilled juicy details about their relationship. She also appeared in photos wearing a white shirt, pearls and a smile.
A source told the Enquirer that John Edwards encouraged Hunter to do the Winfrey interview.
"John wants the world to see Rielle in a different light, not like the home wrecker she's been portrayed," the insider told the Enquirer.
"She's excited about giving her account of how she met John, how the affair began and what's in store for her future," the source told the Enquirer. "Rielle also wants to clear the air about the GQ photos - she's basically doing it to get the truth out and tell her side of the story."
May is a sweeps month when TV shows like Winfrey's stock up on high-profile interviews as a way to boost ratings, which are then used by local stations around the country to set future advertising rates.
Winfrey has also had a front-row seat of sorts for the Edwards' family drama. Besides Elizabeth Edwards, and now Hunter, she had former Edwards' right-hand-man Andrew Young and his wife, Cheri, on the show in February to talk about his book, the scandal and the existence of an Edwards-Hunter sex tape.
Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/gossip/2010/04/06/2010-04-06_oprah_winfrey_lands_first_tv_interview_with_john_edwards_mistress_rielle_hunter.html#ixzz0kLKtvVPT
Disabled mother forced to sell home to pay compensation after mobility scooter injures supermarket worker's knee
Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 11:39 AM on 06th April 2010
A disabled mother whose mobility scooter injured the knee of a supermarket worker has been forced to sell her house after she was sued for damages.
Gloria Brown, 61, has been ordered to pay nearly $6,000 in damages and $10,000 in court costs after the scooter collided with the woman who was stacking shelves.
But Mrs Brown, who lives with her husband, Norman, 73, and daughter Susan, 42, said she hasn't got the money, so has been forced to put the family home on the market.
Mrs Brown, from Rhyl, North Wales, said: 'How else could I find the cash? It wasn't even my fault, I was hit from behind by another mobility scooter and there was a shunt.
'I'd gone to the milk counter when someone hit me. Then I ran into a flatbed trolley which hit the assistant's leg.
'I was badly shaken and couldn't go on with my shopping because the scooter was so badly damaged. I paid for my goods then reported the accident to customer services and asked if she was OK.'
Denise Bird, 42, who had been stacking shelves at the milk counter, injured her knee in the incident at the Morrisons supermarket in Rhyl, in December 2005.
Miss Bird asked her union to sue and the costs under the 'no win no fee' basis came to $7,169 - far more than the compensation.
Mrs Brown filed a counter claim that the accident was caused by a shunt after a woman on one of Morrison's own mobility scooters had bumped into her. But it was rejected and solicitors acting for the supermarket were awarded costs of $2,960.
Mrs Brown now has to pay costs totalling $10,129 - in addition to £5,628 in damages for negligence.
Miss Bird had alleged that Mrs Brown's scooter was being driven too fast and that she had failed to keep a proper lookout while moving it.
But Mrs Brown said that was not the case and that she would have called an eye-witness to back up her claim, but believed he had died.
Witness Kenneth Rigby, 76, of Rhyl, said: 'I definitely saw another scooter hit this woman, whom I know by sight, and she was sent forward.
'The accident wasn't her fault and it's wrong she has to pay all this money. I'd have gone along to the court case had I been asked.'
Miss Bird is now working in the petrol station at Morrisons.
Her mother Valerie, 62, said: 'Denise is entitled to something because she was off work for several weeks and still has a problem with her leg.
'She didn't feel safe working on the shop floor any more and so moved to the petrol station.'
Mrs Bird said she hadn't known that Mrs Brown was selling her home to find the cash.
She said: 'No one likes to hear that someone is losing their home. Perhaps it would have been better if she could have paid in weekly installments.'
Mrs Brown's support worker Geraldine Griffiths, 62, said : 'In my opinion there has been a miscarriage of justice. People are very angry that a disabled woman should lose her home because of an accident we say wasn't her fault. Gloria has been terribly depressed.
'The other parties at the hearing in January had barristers but Gloria couldn't afford a solicitor.'
Morrisons denied during the case that there was a shunt, or that one of their own mobility scooters was involved, and this was upheld.
There will be another hearing at Rhyl County Court next month to discuss Mrs Brown's bill.
A spokeswoman for the company said : 'As the legal process is ongoing, it would be inappropriate for us to comment any further at this time.'
DUBAI: Court upholds one-month jail sentence for couple smooching in public
April 4, 2010 | 7:32 am
A kiss on the cheek is one thing. But don't get caught smooching in public in Dubai, or you might end up serving time behind bars.
A court in the United Arab Emirates city-state upheld the one-month prison sentence Sunday of a British couple accused of locking lips and touching each other at a restaurant, in violation of public decency laws, the daily paper Gulf News reported.
Dubai resident Ayman Najafi, 24, and visitor Charlotte Adams, 25, both British nationals, were arrested in November and charged with indecent behavior and public drunkenness after they were accused by an Emirati woman of locking lips at a restaurant in front of her kids.
The high-profile case is the latest in which the loose lifestyles of the United Arab Emirates' large expatriate community have run up against the prim and puritanical values of the Arabian Peninsula.
It began when the Emirati woman was dining at the 1950s-America-themed Bob's Easy Diner franchise in the upscale Jumeirah Beach Residence section of Dubai, home to many Westerners living in the city-state.
One of her kids became upset.
"My daughter told me that the accused were kissing on the mouth," the Emirati women told the court, according to a March 14 ABC News report.
"Then I spotted them doing so myself," she said. "I also saw them touching each other, as they were seated two to three meters away from our table. A number of customers witnessed the scene as well."
To hear her tell it, the two were practically on top of each other.
But ABC News cited an employee at the restaurant saying there was nothing inappropriate going on.
"They were just sitting, laughing like everyone else," the employee told ABC News. "The managers wouldn't let it happen. We know the culture of the country, and we would not allow this at all."
On second thought, maybe even that peck on the cheek is a bad idea.
Borzou Daragahi in Beirut
Photo: Charlotte Adams and Ayman Najafi.
Arpaio gets inmates moving on electricity-generating cycles
| PHOENIX -- Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is implementing a new inmate program at Tent City Jail called “Pedal Vision.”
The program uses inmate-powered cycles to generate electricity for televisions.
Reports say Arpaio’s recent visit to Tent City inspired the idea, when he saw that many of the inmates were overweight.
The stationary bikes are customized so that as an inmate pedals, a connected television is powered once the cycle generates 12 volts of electricity.
One hour of pedaling equals one hour of television viewing for the inmates, according to Arpaio.
Arpaio said the inmates will only be able to watch television in the television room if they choose to pedal.
"I started with the females because they seemed more receptive to the idea," Arpaio said. "The only exercise the females get right now is speed-walking around the tents yard and few are doing that. This gives them a reason to get moving and a way to burn up to 500 calories an hour. They won't be charged a monthly gym fee but they will have to sign a contract."
Sheriff Arpaio debuted the pilot program on April 1.
Special Report: Holy bubble! Churches struck down by foreclosures
Thu Apr 1, 9:10 am ET
FORT WASHINGTON, Md (Reuters) – By the time thousands of parishioners stream into the 3,000-seat Ebenezer AME Church on Easter Sunday, church leaders hope to have something else to celebrate: financial revival.
The congregation, one of America's largest, has been scrambling to raise funds to save the arena-sized sanctuary from potential foreclosure. To that end, it has enlisted national leaders, such as the Reverend Jesse Jackson and Harvard Law School's Charles Ogletree, who was President Barack Obama's law professor.
Thanks to its 10,000-member congregation and connections with business and civic leaders, Ebenezer expects to avoid the fate of a growing number of U.S. churches, which are defaulting on loans, facing foreclosure and even declaring bankruptcy at an unprecedented pace.
"It's happening to virtually every church," said the Rev. Grainger Browning, senior pastor of Ebenezer. "At a recent meeting with the 100 top pastors in the country, it was amazing how all of us were facing some sort of challenge with the banks."
Supercheap, few-questions-asked loans were a temptation even churches could not resist, but now they are paying for their sins as the debt crisis enters the house of God.
Long considered among the safest of borrowers, churches gambled on real estate at a time when credit copiously flowed and lenders were startlingly lax.
But places of worship have since been battered by the economic downturn. Donations have dipped, investment returns have plunged and bank credit is still hard to come by.
"You build it and they will come. It really was true through the years," said Brad Hampton, executive pastor at the Faith Center of Rockford, Illinois. "They like newness," he says of younger churchgoers.
Hampton's megachurch was erecting a new sanctuary that could seat almost 2,000 when his lender refused further credit beyond an initial $4.2 million. The Faith Center, which also has a 48,000-square-foot "life center" that operates various ministries, is being foreclosed upon.
"People call and say 'You're not alone'," Hampton said.
FORECLOSURE FILINGS TRIPLE
Getting a complete picture of the financial health of churches across the country is difficult. But a review of filings in the Thomson Reuters Westlaw legal database shows foreclosure proceedings against U.S. churches have nearly tripled since December 2007, when the recession began, compared with the previous seven years, which included the dot.com bust and economic downturn.
Court records also reveal more than 100 churches have declared bankruptcy in the last year, often in a last-ditch attempt to halt a sheriff's sale. That number could rise fast.
An investigation by a Memphis television station found hundreds of churches in the city fighting foreclosure. Jackson estimates thousands of African-American churches nationwide are in danger of foreclosure, with 200 in Atlanta alone.
Ebenezer AME got into trouble when its cash reserves fell below $750,000, tripping a covenant on its loan.
Its lender, Bank of America, initially insisted that the church hire a consultant, at a cost of $5,000 a day, to keep a watch on its finances, and required cuts to pastoral benefits such as a car allowance. The bank eventually dropped those demands, along with a plan to raise the interest rate on the church's $8.5 million mortgage, so long as Ebenezer AME found another lender to take over the loan.
Other lenders have been somewhat less forgiving. Court records show that JPMorgan Chase & Co relied on a private investigator to compile evidence against Hopewell Baptist Church, which operates out of the former B'nai Jeshurun synagogue in Newark, New Jersey, and is the home of "kosher gospel" music.
The private investigator, according to the court documents, photographed the license plates of everyone who drove up, in an apparent attempt to determine if the church was operating and likely to be collecting rent.
The court ended the church's bankruptcy protection and it is slated for sheriff's sale in April.
Of course, things are not uniformly bleak. In the case of Ebenezer, the Maryland megachurch, its prayers may be answered. The church hopes to finalize a deal with a new lender, Industrial Bank of Washington, DC, to take over the loan this week.
NEW LENDING FUELED BUILDING BOOM
Churches emerged from previous economic downturns relatively unscathed, lenders noted. But the recent recession was preceded by an unusual boom in church building.
Spending on construction of religious buildings rose sharply in the late 1990s, climbing 70 percent from 1995 to 1999 to an annual rate of $7.3 billion. New building continued to tick up, eventually reaching an annual rate of nearly $9 billion in 2003 before leveling off, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
As was the case in the residential housing market, the church property boom was accompanied by the rise of more specialized lending. Church lending was historically done by community banks, which sometimes have ties through a member of a congregation. Loans were often set at a fixed rate and for a set term.
The emergence of larger congregations and the rush to build venues to accommodate them encouraged specialized lending that grew more aggressive.
Evangelical Christian Credit Union, America's Christian Credit Union and Strongtower Financial began to expand rapidly and compete for new business. Some regional and community banks that were nudged out of residential lending by Wall Street banks also discovered lending to churches as a relatively fragmented and inviting business with a history of low defaults.
"They entered the business with an absolute vengeance," said Phil Myers, president of the American Church Mortgage Co. "Five or six years ago there may have been two or three lenders competing on a deal. Now there were five. Those loans are coming home to roost."
Traditional church lenders such as American Church Mortgage Co and Bank of the West found themselves struggling to compete as competitors stretched lending guidelines and dangled ever larger loans in front of church administrators and pastors.
"We often lost business when offering $8 million and someone else would come in and offer $10 million," said Dan Mikes, who heads church lending for Bank of the West.
Bank of the West has zero nonperforming loans to churches, which the bank attributes to its prudent lending guidelines.
Many of the loans made in recent years contained many of the same features that exacerbated the residential real estate crash, such as low-interest teaser rates, securitized loans and balloon payments.
As a result, bad loans are rising rapidly for those lenders that pushed aggressively into church finance. Delinquent loans at the Evangelical Christian Credit Union, which expanded its loan portfolio from about $225 million to more than $1 billion over the last decade, have risen to 7.4 percent of their loans from 3.6 percent a year ago. Until 2007, the lender did not have a loan in foreclosure.
Ministry Investment Partners Co, which finances evangelical churches and purchases loans from the Evangelical Christian Credit Union, reported 13.3 percent of its loans were nonperforming, up from 1.9 percent a year ago.
And in 2008, the Church Mortgage and Loan Co filed for bankruptcy after a third of its outstanding loans were in foreclosure.
As these lenders struggle or disappear, many churches are finding their lifeline of credit has dried up. What is more, the value of many of the buildings and properties owned by churches has fallen sharply, sometimes even below the mortgage used to finance a project, making refinancing almost impossible.
"It's an unprecedented time," Mikes said.
CUTTING STAFF AND REDUCING PROGRAMS
Even the richest, most established churches have not been immune to this economic downturn. A study by the researcher Barna Group found more than half of U.S. churches said they have been hurt by the recession, with one church in six cutting staff.
The Episcopal Church in the United States, one of the wealthiest U.S. denominations, is feeling the pinch from a $1 billion loss in the combined investment portfolio for 2008, according to Kirk Hadaway, the head of congregational research for the Episcopal Church.
Yet the financial woes appear to be the most severe among nondenominational churches which were also among the fastest growing over the past decade. Many churches attracted younger members and families by offering an array of activities and events, and began building centers with health clubs, meeting rooms, cafes and sports fields.
The new-look houses of worship were often located along busy commercial strips on major thoroughfares, and bear little resemblance to the steepled churches that dot rural New England.
"Churches were trying to fill many roles," said Faith Center's Hampton. "They were trying to fill cultural gaps."
Without the support of a large national organization, some churches felt the need to take on debt to support their growth and building. Now, many are cutting staff, reducing programs and reining in expenses. "Churches have downsized staff, moved from full-time to part-time clergy, because the revenues are not coming in," said Scott Thumma, a sociology of religion professor with the Hartford Institute for Religion Research.
One-time emergency giving campaigns can also fill a short-term gap. Rick Warren, who delivered a prayer at President Barack Obama's inauguration, recently raised more than $2 million during a one-weekend emergency appeal for funding.
And churches have given up immediate plans for building. "They've decided to rent movie theaters or contract with local hotels to have multiple services," rather than build a new building, Thumma said. "They might have a worship service with a live band but the main sermon is from a live feed. That's becoming more common because of the economy."
African American churches in particular appear hard hit. Their congregations have suffered higher unemployment, and often the churches provide more services.
"It's devastating," Reverend Jackson said. "They are closing down services to seniors. They are closing down feeding programs. Demand for services are on the rise and the ability to provide services is decreasing," he said.
Jackson is organizing a campaign against church foreclosures. "It's our largest single institution," he said, "the greatest cash-flow institution."
MIT Professor and co-author of 13 Bankers
There are two kinds of bankers to fear. The first is incompetent and runs a big bank. This includes such people as Chuck Prince (formerly of Citigroup) and Ken Lewis (Bank of America). These people run their banks onto the rocks -- and end up costing the taxpayer a great deal of money. But, on the other hand, you can see them coming and, if we ever get the politics of bank regulation straightened out again, work hard to contain the problems they present.
The second type of banker is much more dangerous. This person understands how to control risk within a massive organization, manage political relationships across the political spectrum, and generate the right kind of public relations. When all is said and done, this banker runs a big bank and -- here's the danger -- makes it even bigger.
Jamie Dimon is by far the most dangerous American banker of this or any other recent generation.
Not only did Mr. Dimon keep JP Morgan Chase from taking on as much risk as its competitors, he also navigated through the shoals of 2008-09 with acuity, ending up with the ultimate accolade of "savvy businessman" from the president himself. His letter to shareholders, which appeared this week, is a tour de force - if Machiavelli were a banker alive today, he could not have done better. (You can access the full letter through the link at the end of the fourth paragraph in this WSJ blog post; for another assessment, see Zach Carter's piece.)
Dimon fully understands -- although he can't concede in public -- the private advantages (i.e., to him and his colleagues) of a big bank getting bigger. Being too big to fail - and having cheaper access to funding as a result -- may seem unfair, unreasonable, and dangerous to you and me. But to Jamie Dimon, it's a business model -- and he is only doing his job, which is to make money for his shareholders (and for himself and his colleagues).
Dimon represents the heavy political firepower and intellectual heft of the banking system. He runs some of the most effective -- and tough -- lobbyists on Capitol Hill. He has the very best relationships with Treasury and the White House. And he is determined to scale up.
The only problem he faces is that there is no case at all for banking of the size and form he proposes. Consider the logic he presents on p.36 of his letter.
He starts with a reasonable point: Large global nonfinancial companies are an integral and sensible part of the American economic landscape. But then he adds three more steps:
1. Big companies need big banks, operating across borders, with large balance sheets and the ability to execute a wide variety of transactions. This is simply not true - if we are discussing banking at the current and future proposed scale of JP Morgan Chase. We go through this in detail in 13 Bankers - in fact, refuting this point in detail, with all the evidence on the table, was a major motivation for writing the book. There is simply no evidence - and I mean absolutely none - that society gains from banks having a balance sheet larger than $100 billion. (JP Morgan Chase is roughly a $2 trillion bank, on its way to $3 trillion.)
2. The US banking system is not particularly concentrated relative to other OECD countries. This is true - although the degree of concentration in the US has increased dramatically over the past 15 years (again, details in 13 Bankers) and in key products, such as credit cards and mortgages, it is now high. But in any case, the comparison with other countries doesn't help Mr. Dimon at all - because most other countries are struggling with the consequences of banks that became too large relative to their economies (e.g., in Europe; see Ireland as just one illustrative example).
3. Canada did fine during 2008-09 despite having a relatively concentrated financial system. Mr. Dimon would obviously like to move in the Canadian direction - and top people in the White House are also very much tempted. This is frightening. Not only does it represent a complete misunderstanding of the government guarantees behind banking in Canada (which we have clarified here recently), but this proposal - at its heart - would allow, in the US context, even more complete state capture than what we have observed under the stewardship of Hank Paulson and Tim Geithner. Place this question in the context of American history (as we do in Chapter 1 of 13 Bankers): If the US had just five banks left standing, would their political power and ideological sway be greater or less than it is today?
For a long time, our leading bankers hid behind their lobbyists and political friends. It is most encouraging to see Mr. Dimon come out from behind those layers of protection, to engage in the intellectual fray.
It is entirely appropriate -- and most welcome -- to see him make the strongest case possible for keeping banks at their current size and, in fact, for making them bigger. We should encourage such engagement in public discourse, but we should also examine carefully the substance of his arguments.
As we point out in the Washington Post Outlook section this week, Theodore Roosevelt carefully weighed the views of J.P. Morgan and other leading financiers in the early twentieth century - when they pushed back against his attempts to rein in their massive railroad and industrial trusts. Roosevelt was not at that time against big business per se, but he insisted that big was not necessarily beautiful and that we also need to weigh the negative social impact of monopoly power in all its economic and political forms.
If we don't find our way to a modern version of Teddy Roosevelt, Jamie Dimon -- and his successors -- will lead us into great harm. It's true that, after another crash or in the midst of a Second Great Depression, we can reasonably hope to find another Roosevelt -- FDR -- approach. But why should we wait when such a disaster is completely preventable?
Errant text message leads to heroin bust
April 3, 2010
PINE PLAINS — Dialing a wrong number could mean felony convictions for three people accused of dealing heroin.
The three are due Wednesday in town court after authorities said they texted a potential buyer to set up a transaction — only to learn the customer was an agent with the Dutchess County Drug Task Force.
Authorities said the agent received a text message around 7:30 p.m. Wednesday from someone who had mistaken the agent's number for that of a drug customer.
The agent assumed the role of a buyer and, after several texts back and forth, set up a meeting at a business on South Main Street.
Around 9 p.m., authorities said, the suspects approached the agent to complete the deal and were arrested. The task force recovered 20 bags of heroin.
Agents also went to an apartment on Church Street and arrested another suspect. Authorities said they recovered 40 bags of heroin there.
Arrested on South Main were Pine Plains resident Crystal Mazzella, 23, and Bronx resident Quamian R. Hardy, 20. They were each charged with felony criminal possession of a controlled substance.
Arrested in the Church Street apartment was City of Poughkeepsie resident Leo R. Thompson, 37. He was also charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance.
Task force Sgt. Brett Orlich said authorities were happy to get the text message.
"Their bad luck is our good luck," Orlich said.
GOP, Democrats in close race for lavish spending
Hotels, caterers raking it in; high-flying on Moby Dick
April 4, 2010
For days last week, Democrats gleefully hammered away at the Republican National Committee's payment of $1,946 for "meals" at a West Hollywood strip club, which led to the firing of a committee staffer and continues to focus unwanted attention on National Chairman Michael Steele's management of the RNC.
One jab, in the form of an MSNBC YouTube clip being circulated by the Democratic National Committee, highlights criticism of Steele by Tony Perkins, a leading social conservative. Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, is advising members to stop donating to the RNC until the national party gets its financial act together.
"We're simply telling folks, 'Look, don't give your money there,' " said Perkins, whose appearance on the liberal network was interspersed with file footage of Steele and a private jet coming in for a landing.
After suffering perhaps the worst publicity of Steele's 14-month tenure as chairman, RNC officials responded by pointing out that Democrats haven't been exactly pinching pennies under their national chairman, Tim Kaine.
"The DNC spent at least $2,204,000 for luxury hotels and caterers," Doug Heye, the RNC's top spokesman, wrote in an e-mail.
The nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington watchdog on money in politics, attempted to sort out the facts, concluding that the national committees of both major parties "sometimes spend lavishly on travel, catering, resorts and hotel accommodations."
On its informative Open Secrets Web site, it invited any interested parties to dig into the fine print and do their own investigating. The same information can also be accessed (in the form of searchable PDF files) from the original source, the Federal Election Commission.
As presented by the Center for Responsive Politics, Democrats indulged their taste for the good life at the Mandarin Oriental in Washington, the Westin St. Francis in San Francisco and the Beverly Hills Hilton, three of the tonier hostelries in America.
Steele got whacked last week for spending RNC money at the Beverly Hills Hotel. A room there will set you back a minimum of $390 (taxes not included) for a randomly selected night in April. The same night at the Beverly Hills Hilton, the DNC's hotel choice, goes for $345, though you can get a nonrefundable rate of $231.
The No. 2 vendor in the country on the RNC's spending list was the Gaylord National Resort in Maryland. The RNC dropped $172,494 at the National Harbor hotel, located on Steele's Prince George's home turf and personally chosen by the chairman for a special national committee meeting last year. No doubt the county's Democratic establishment would have nothing but praise for Steele's decision to stimulate the local economy and bring many national media and political figures to the Potomac River resort for the first time.
No. 3 on the RNC spending list: the Four Seasons Resort in Jackson Hole, Wyo., (in the heart of Cheney country and a favorite of deep-pocketed financiers) at $148,128. No. 6 on the RNC spending list was $206,541 for Moby Dick Airways, which arranges private charter flights.
The top recipient of spending by either national committee was $298,989 by the DNC to Avalon Caterers, which buys a lot of boiled shrimp. The caterer's satisfied clients, according to Avalon's Web site, include such blue-collar favorites as ExxonMobil Corp., Air Bus Industrie of North America and mega-defense contractor SAIC, as well as The Washington Post and CBS.
The Baltimore Sun
More Evidence Emerges That Pope Benedict Helped Shield Pedophiles Before He Became Pope
04/ 3/10 10:21 AM
The abuse cases of two priests in Arizona have cast further doubt on the Catholic church's insistence that Pope Benedict XVI played no role in shielding pedophiles before he became pope.
Documents reviewed by The Associated Press show that as a Vatican cardinal, the future pope took over the abuse case of the Rev. Michael Teta of Tucson, Ariz., then let it languish at the Vatican for years despite repeated pleas from the bishop for the man to be removed from the priesthood.
In another Tucson case, that of Msgr. Robert Trupia, the bishop wrote to then-Cardinal Ratzinger, who would become pope in 2005. Bishop Manuel Moreno called Trupia "a major risk factor to the children, adolescents and adults that he many have contact with." There is no indication in the case files that Ratzinger responded.
The details of the two cases come as other allegations emerge that Benedict – as a Vatican cardinal – was part of a culture of cover-up and confidentiality.
"There's no doubt that Ratzinger delayed the defrocking process of dangerous priests who were deemed 'satanic' by their own bishop," Lynne Cadigan, an attorney who represented two of Teta's victims, said Friday.
The Rev. Federico Lombardi, a Vatican spokesman, called the accusations "absolutely groundless" and said the facts were being misrepresented.
He said the delay in defrocking Teta was caused by a hold on appeals while the Vatican changed regulations over its handling of sex abuse cases. In the meantime, he said, cautionary measures were in place; Teta had been suspended since 1990.
"The documents show clearly and positively that those in charge at the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith ... have repeatedly intervened actively over the course of the 90s so that the canonic trial under way in the Tucson diocese could dutifully reach its conclusion," Lombardi said in a statement.
In the 1990s, a church tribunal found that Teta had molested children as far back as the 1970s, and the panel determined "there is almost a satanic quality in his mode of acting toward young men and boys."
The tribunal referred Teta's case, which included allegations that he abused boys in a confessional, to Ratzinger. The church considers cases of abuse in confessionals more serious than other molestations because they also defile the sacrament of penance.
It took 12 years from the time Ratzinger assumed control of the case in a signed letter until Teta was formally removed from ministry, a step only the Vatican can take.
Teta was accused of engaging in abuse not long after his arrival to the Diocese of Tucson in 1978. Among the eventual allegations: that he molested two boys, ages 7 and 9, in the confessional as they prepared for their First Communion.
Teta was removed from ministry by the bishop, but because the church's most severe punishment – laicization – can only be handed down from Rome, he remained on the church payroll and was working with young people outside the church.
In a signed letter dated June 8, 1992, Ratzinger advised Moreno he was taking control of the case, according to a copy provided to the AP from Cadigan, the victims' attorney. Five years later, no action had been taken.
"This case has already gone on for seven years," Moreno wrote Ratzinger on April 28, 1997, adding, "I make this plea to you to assist me in every way you can to expedite this case."
It would be another seven years before Teta was laicized.
Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said Teta was ordered defrocked in 1997. But Teta appealed, and the appeal remained on hold until the new regulations took effect in 2001.
"Starting in 2001, all the appeals that were pending were promptly taken up, and Teta's case was one of the first to be discussed," Lombardi said.
But this still took time, he said, because the documentation that had been presented was "especially voluminous." The sentence was upheld and in 2004 Teta was laicized.
The case of Trupia shows the fragmented nature of how Rome handled such allegations before 2001, when Ratzinger dictated that all abuse cases must go through his Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith.
Before then, files were sent to varied Vatican departments, as they were in the case of Trupia. Moreno suspended Trupia in 1992, but again faced delays from the Vatican in having him formally removed from the church.
Documents show at least two Vatican offices – the Congregation for the Clergy and the Apostolic Signatura, the highest judicial authority of the Catholic Church – were involved in the case at least as early as 1995.
Moreno pleaded with the Congregation for the Clergy to do something, writing, "We have proofs of civil crimes against people who were under his priestly care" and warning Trupia could "be the source of greater scandal in the future."
Ultimately, the case landed in Ratzinger's office.
On Feb. 10, 2003, a day after the Arizona Daily Star reported that Trupia was living in a condo near Baltimore, driving a leather-seated Mercedes-Benz with a rosary hanging from the rearview mirror, Moreno wrote to Ratzinger again.
Sick with prostate cancer and the beginning stages of Parkinson's disease, Moreno was approved for early retirement by Pope John Paul II.
Before he was replaced, the bishop wrote Ratzinger yet again. Moreno's replacement, Bishop Gerald Kicanas, sent similar requests to Ratzinger and his subordinates.
"My experience – and as I've looked at the records in our serious cases – the Vatican actually was prodding, through the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith and Cardinal Ratzinger, to try to get this case going," Kicanas said.
Finally, in August 2004, Trupia was laicized.
"The tragedy is that the bishops have only two choices: Follow the Vatican's code of secrecy and delay, or leave the church," Cadigan, the victims' lawyer, said Friday. "It's unfortunate that their faith demands that they sacrifice children to follow the Vatican's directions."
Trupia's former attorney, Stephen A. Shechtel of Rockville, Md., said Friday that he never dealt with the church on his client's behalf and that Trupia was aware he would be defrocked and didn't fight it.
Bishop Gerald Kicanas, Moreno's replacement, defended the Vatican's handling of the Arizona cases, citing the prolonged process of internal church trials that he acknowledged could be "frustratingly slow because of the seriousness of the concerns."
Kicanas said suggestions that Ratzinger resisted addressing the issues of sexual abuse in the church were "grossly unfair."
"Cardinal Ratzinger, as the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, was always receptive, ready to listen, to hear people's concerns," Kicanas said. "Pope Benedict is the same man."
Couple's fight leads to crash with ambulance, police say
April 4, 2010
A Middle Smithfield Township couple's domestic dispute escalated to a wild ride with the husband clinging to the hood of his wife's car and ended when the car collided head-on with an ambulance.
Ricardo Amman, 48, was flown to Lehigh Valley Hospital-Cedar Crest, where he was listed in critical condition Saturday.
State police at Swiftwater said Amman and his wife, Judith, 52, had an argument at their home. Police said Judith Amman tried to drive away and her husband jumped on the hood of her car.
Judith Amman drove south on Edward Smith Boulevard and turned onto busy Route 209, which is also Milford Road, for roughly a half-mile while her husband hung on, police said.
The car was heading south on Route 209 while a Bushkill Township ambulance was traveling north on Route 209 with its emergency lights and siren on.
Police said Judith Amman hit the front bumper of the ambulance, sending Ricardo Amman into the hood of the ambulance.
Judith Amman was taken to Pocono Medical Center-East Stroudsburg. The ambulance driver, Ryan Felmy, 26, of Bushkill Township, and passenger, Joseph Bolger, 21, East Stroudsburg, were also taken to Pocono Medical Center. No information on their conditions was available.
The Morning Call
Doctor tells Obama supporters: Go elsewhere for health care
A Mount Dora doctor posted a sign telling Obama health care supporters to go elsewhere.
Dr. Jack Cassell
Sign at the office door of Dr. Jack Cassell, a Mount Dora urologist. (Photo courtesy of Deirdre Lewis via Rep. Alan Grayson / April 1, 2010)
4:50 p.m. EDT, April 2, 2010
Police are on the lookout for the man who assaulted a woman in a bunny costume.
FISHKILL, N.Y. -- Police said a woman dressed as the Easter Bunny to promote a Hudson Valley candy shop was slammed to the ground by a man who then ran away.
The 46-year-old woman, who was dressed in a white bunny costume, was not seriously hurt in the attack around 5 p.m. Wednesday outside the Alps Sweet Shoppe on Main Street in the village of Fishkill.
State police Investigator George Mohl said the attacker has not been caught.
The man was described as about 17 years old with blonde hair, wearing blue jeans, a white T-shirt and a green zippered sweat shirt.
Quayle to GOP: Be wary of Tea Party revolt
Former Vice President Dan Quayle is urging Republican leadership to reach out to to Tea Party voters, fearing a failure to do so could result in a 1992-redux.
In an op-ed to appear in Sunday's edition of the Washington Post, Quayle compares the Tea Party movement to the support for independent candidate Ross Perot in 1992. Bill Clinton defeated incumbent George H. W. Bush in that election, with Perot earning 19 percent of the vote.
Quayle asserts that most of those voters would have gone for his ticket in the absence of a third-party candidate. He writes, "to this day we firmly believe that Perot cost the Republican Party the White House."
Conversely, Quayle argues that the Republican's embrace of the a tax revolt movement that began in the late 1970s allowed Ronald Reagan to reach the Presidency.
Quayle writes, "As Reagan did 30 years ago, Republican leaders between now and 2012 should reach out, as Sarah Palin has done, to an independent grassroots movement whose energy and conviction the party badly needs."
Arguing that Tea Party demonstrators side with the GOP on issues of fiscal spending and national security, Quayle writes, "Whether they count themselves as Republicans, independents, libertarians or conservative Democrats, these are our folks -- the natural allies of the party of Reagan."
Obama stiff-arms Limbaugh and Beck
President Barack Obama pushed back against criticism from two of his most strident opponents, conservative talk hosts Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, in an interview aired Friday.
Asked by CBS's "Early Show" about the strong critiques of his time in the White House, Obama volunteered Beck and Limbaugh and said they have spewed "vitriol" against him.
"When you listen to Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck, it's pretty apparent, but keep in mind that there have been periods in American history where this kind of vitriol comes out," Obama said. "It happens often when you've got an economy that is making people more anxious, and people are feeling that there's a lot of change that needs to take place. But that's not the vast majority of Americans. But that's not the vast majority of Americans."
Obama has faced tough opposition from the right, especially during the healthcare debate, which some Democrats have said has translated into acts of hate and violence against some lawmakers.
Some liberals and Democratic lawmakers have blamed Republicans and right-wing media, such as Limbaugh, Beck and Fox News, which hosts Beck show, of fueling such anger.
But Obama and other Democrats have called on Democrats to not place partisan blame for threats to lawmakers.
Obama also took a jab at former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) in an effort to push back against comments that his healthcare plan is "socialist."
Romney created a healthcare law in his state several years ago that Obama has compared to his own. While making the comparison on Friday, Obama slipped and called the presumed GOP presidential candidate "current Republican nominee Mitt Romney."
Obama added, "This notion that 'Obama's a Socialist,' for example. Nobody can really give you a good answer."
Romney has said he opposes the Democrats' healthcare bill and has called for it to be repealed. He has acknowledged that there are some similarities between his universal healthcare law and the national law, but said that the differences outweigh the similarities.
Limbaugh responds to Obama
04/02/10 12:15 PM ET
Conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh responded to President Barack Obama's jab at him Friday.
During an interview that aired on CBS' "Early Show," Obama said:
When you listen to Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck, it's pretty apparent, but keep in mind that there have been periods in American history where this kind of vitriol comes out...It happens often when you've got an economy that is making people more anxious, and people are feeling that there's a lot of change that needs to take place. But that's not the vast majority of Americans. But that's not the vast majority of Americans.
In an e-mail to conservative columnist Byron York and linked on the talker's website, Limbaugh said that voters are more worried about Obama's agenda than the economy:
I have yet to have a down year at the EIB Network... and most Americans do not believe President Obama is trying to do what's best for the country. Never in my life have I seen a regime like this, governing against the will of the people, purposely. I have never seen the media so supportive of a regime amassing so much power. And I have never known as many people who literally fear for the future of the country
After 11 DUI convictions, man finally gets jail time
Dwight Benson has racked up 18 reckless driving and alcohol-related convictions in the past 25 years. But he has been able to avoid jail time until Thursday.
Story Updated: Apr 2, 2010 at 2:56 PM PDT
SEATTLE -- He could be one of the state's most chronic DUI offenders.
Dwight Benson has racked up 18 reckless driving and alcohol-related convictions in the past 25 years.
And on Thursday, he was sentenced to a total of 39 months for his latest convictions stemming from a hit-and-run crash while driving under the influence.
The courtroom is a place Benson knows all too well. Since 1984, Benson has been convicted of 11 DUIs, five reckless driving charges amended from DUIs and two other reckless driving charges. Benson has also been convicted of driving with a suspended license nine times, and driving without a valid license 11 times.
But he has been able to avoid jail time until Thursday as all of his previous DUI convictions were misdemeanors since no one else was hurt in the incidents.
Before he received his sentence for his 11th DUI, Benson pleaded his case on Thursday, citing his status as a war veteran and claiming he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.
"I want and need treatment for this disease, and I declare that I will never drink and drive again," he said.
But prosecutors argued Benson was given too many second chances over the years, and the judge agreed.
"I can't be assured that you won't go out and do those things you have consistently done over the past 25 years," said Seattle Municipal Court Judge Ron Mamiya.
Benson's latest crash occurred just a few yards from his house on on Sept. 13, 2009. A neighbor who heard the crash told investigators she looked out her window and saw that Benson had crashed into the driver's side mirror of another neighbor's car.
The woman said she watched as Benson, who looked intoxicated, sat behind the wheel for several minutes before pulling into his own driveway, detectives said.
The woman notified the owner of the damaged car, Sheryl Raqueno, who went to confront Benson. Raqueno said she found him sitting in the driver's seat of his car, apparently drunk.
"He couldn't talk to me straightly. He couldn't look at me. He was wobbly. He was stuttering. He just wasn't very cooperative," she said.
Raqueno called police, who arrived to find Benson "unsteady on his feet,' according to the sentencing memo. Benson admitted he'd been drinking, but denied having been in an accident, prosecutors said. He refused to take a breathalyzer test and as a result, his license became ineligible for reinstatement, the document said.
Citing Benson's lengthy criminal record, Seattle City Attorney Peter Holmes asked the judge for the maximum sentence allowed under the guideline.
"Mr. Benson does not have a valid driver's license and is not supposed to be driving. Not only does he ignore the fact that he does not have a license, but he also continues to drive after drinking," Holmes wrote in his memo. "He likely has the most convictions for alcohol-related driving offenses that this court will ever see."
The judge sentenced Benson to 365 days for the DUI, 365 days for driving with a suspended license and 90 days for hit and run. The three sentences were to be served consecutively.
LINK TO PHOTO
Pet shop owner fined $1,000 for selling goldfish to teenager
Woman put under home curfew after undercover 'sting', court told
Shop owners suspected of selling alcohol and cigarettes to underage customers have long been the target of "stings" by trading standards officials. But now a pet shop business has fallen foul of animal welfare laws by selling a goldfish to a 14-year-old boy.
He was sent in to make a test purchase by council staff investigating a complaint that the shop had previously sold a gerbil to a girl with learning difficulties who put it in a cup of coffee. The rodent subsequently died.
The teenage undercover agent bought the fish in Major Pets in Sale, Greater Manchester, without being questioned or given any information about its care. An animal welfare officer also found a <snip>atiel in the shop that was in such distress it had to be put down.
The shop owner Joan Higgins and her son Mark yesterday pleaded guilty at Trafford magistrates court to causing unnecessary suffering to the <snip>atiel and selling an animal to a person under 16 who was not accompanied by an adult. Higgins was fined $1,000 and put under home curfew between 6pm and 7am for the next seven weeks because she was unfit for community work. Her son, who manages the shop, was fined $750 and ordered to carry out 120 hours of community work.
Iain Veitch, head of public protection at Trafford council, said: "The evidence presented for this conviction clearly demonstrates that it is irresponsible to sell animals to those who are not old enough to look after them. We have many responsible pet shops in the borough. However, let this conviction send out a message that we will not tolerate those who cause unnecessary suffering to animals."
Vatican Lashes Out At The New York Times Over Sex Abuse Coverage
VICTOR L. SIMPSON | 04/ 1/10 04:08 PM |
VATICAN CITY — Cardinals across Europe used their Holy Thursday sermons to defend Pope Benedict XVI from accusations he played a role in covering up sex abuse scandals, and an increasingly angry Vatican sought to deflect any criticism in the Western media.
The relationship between the church and the media has become increasingly bitter as the scandal buffeting the 1 billion-member church has touched the pontiff himself. On Wednesday, the church singled out The New York Times for criticism in an unusually harsh attack.
Western news organizations, including The Associated Press, have reported extensively on the burgeoning scandal, and new details have emerged on an almost daily basis.
On Holy Thursday, Benedict first celebrated a Mass in St. Peter's Basilica dedicated to the union between the pope and the world's priests. In the late afternoon, he washed the feet of 12 priests in a ceremony symbolizing humility and commemorating Christ's Last Supper with his 12 apostles on the evening before his Good Friday crucifixion.
Although there were expectations by some that the pope would address the crisis, Benedict made no reference to the scandal at either ceremony.
Venice's Cardinal Angelo Scola expressed solidarity with Benedict in his Holy Thursday homily in the lagoon city, describing him as a victim of "deceitful accusations." He praised the pope as seeking to remove all "dirt" from the priesthood.
Warsaw Archbishop Kazimierz Nycz said the church should take notice of individual tragedies and treat sex abuse cases very seriously, but at the same time, he criticized the media for "targeting the whole church, targeting the pope, and to that we must say `no' in the name of truth and in the name of justice."
And Vienna's Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, speaking of Benedict's long years as head of a Vatican office that investigates abuse, said the future pope "had a very clear line of not covering up but clearing up."
He had also reflected on the issue at a Wednesday evening service:
"I admit that I often feel a sense of injustice these days. Why is the church being excoriated? Isn't there also abuse elsewhere? ... And then I'm tempted to say: 'Yes, the media just don't like the church! Maybe there's even a conspiracy against the church?' But then I feel in my heart that no, that's not it."
The church on Wednesday presented its highest-level official response yet to one of the most explosive recent revelations regarding sex abuse – a story in the Times on the church's decision in the 1990s not to defrock a Wisconsin priest accused of molesting deaf boys.
It was the latest in a series of attacks on the press. Last week, L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican's daily newspaperdenounced what it said was a "clear and despicable intention" by the media to strike at Benedict "at any cost."
On Thursday, the newspaper carried a story on its front page on German Chancellor Angela Merkel welcoming efforts to stem sex abuse, headlining "German chancellor praises the Catholic church."
In the article posted Wednesday on the Vatican's Web site, Cardinal William Levada, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, wrote: "I am not proud of America's newspaper of record, The New York Times, as a paragon of fairness."
Levada, an American, said the newspaper wrongly used the case of the Rev. Lawrence Murphy to find fault in Benedict's handling of abuse cases.
A Times spokeswoman defended the articles and said no one has cast doubt on the reported facts.
"The allegations of abuse within the Catholic church are a serious subject, as the Vatican has acknowledged on many occasions," said Diane McNulty. "Any role the current pope may have played in responding to those allegations over the years is a significant aspect of this story."
The Vatican newspaper also carried a front-page commentary to mark the fifth anniversary of the death of Benedict's predecessor, the much beloved Pope John Paul II.
The article said John Paul wanted Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger to work by his side from the early years of his papacy. John Paul brought the archbishop of Munich to Rome to head the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the powerful office that among other things investigates clerical sex abuse.
Planned Sarah Palin CSU speech stirs California protest
Daniel B. Wood Wed
Los Angeles – A controversy is erupting over Sarah Palin's June speaking engagement at a campus of California State University.
A student protest group and other critics want the university to reveal how much they're paying her, which they suspect might be more than $100,000. A professor has started a Facebook gripe group. And a state senator is pressuring university officials to disclose Ms. Palin’s compensation or be prosecuted under state law.
The CSU speech, held at the Stanislaus campus in Turlock, will celebrate the university’s 50th year. CSU officials have publicly stated they cannot release Palin’s compensation due to a confidentiality term in her contract. But Sen. Leland Yee (D) of San Francisco, who chairs of the committee on public records and open meeting laws, says the public – including students – have a legal right to the information.
The incident has ignited debate over the role of university speakers and free speech.
Controversial speakers stir the pot“Most sensible people understand that colleges should give a forum to controversial speakers in order to make students and others think and react,” says Larry Sabato, a political scientist at the University of Virginia. “We have a ‘stirring-the-pot’ role to play in society. But that doesn’t mean you have to pay big bucks in tough times to give controversial speakers a platform. Expenses are one thing; a big fat speaking fee isn’t free speech.”
On campus, the vitriol erupted almost as soon as Palin’s engagement was announced.
“We are demanding that the CSU Foundation disclose the full amount paid for Mrs. Palin's speaking fee and all other expenses associated with the contract that both parties have entered,” said Alicia Lewis, CSU Stanislaus student leader, in a statement.
Zoology professor Patrick Kelly, who started the anti-Palin Facebook page, says, “The Foundation’s board of directors are not only dismissive of the need to involve faculty, staff and students in the selection of the keynote speaker for the 50th anniversary gala, they apparently are also tone deaf to the mission and purpose of our university.”
“Do they understand how disrespectful and damaging this secretly-conducted pursuit of celebrity and controversy is to the faculty, staff, students, graduates and legacy of CSU Stanislaus?” asked Professor Kelly in a statement.
State politics involvedThe controversy has found its way to the state capitol.
“CSU Stanislaus officials sought out Sarah Palin, negotiated her contract behind closed doors, and are now welcoming her to our public university, yet they think they are above the law in disclosing to the public the cost of her appearance,” said Senator Yee, in a statement. A law authored by Yee in 2008 states that regardless of any contract term to the contrary, a contract between a private entity and a state or local agency is subject to the same disclosure requirements as other public records.
Yee says if the university’s administration has documentation of the Palin contract – which he claims “would be logical” considering the foundation is fully staffed by public employees within the administration – then state law would require the release of such information at the request of a member of the public. “State law is explicitly clear that such confidentiality clauses hold no legal bearing,” he says. “If the CSU administration has documentation of this compensation contract, then they need to immediately disclose it. Students and members of the public deserve and have a right to view this contract.”
Add another speaker for balance?Others say the speaker should be broadly acceptable to avoid spoiling the day for some grads and their families. Still others say an opposing speaker could balance the festivities.
"The Palin invite is good," says Robert Langran, political science professor at Villanova University. "It would also be good for the school to bring in another speaker with the opposite point of view to try to achieve a balance."
Whatever the objections, many say they are exacerbated by tough economic times. A national day of action saw student rallies that began in California spread nationwide in protest of cuts in education. There were campus strikes and sit-ins.
“Our students are being slammed by enormous fee hikes while cuts mean they can’t get the classes they need,” says Lillian Taiz, president of the California Faculty Association. “This resistance to transparency is another slap in the face. CSU executives are at the top of these so-called auxiliaries, and they need to show more respect for the people they supposedly serve.”
CSU Stanislaus President Hamid Shirvani has declined to comment about Palin's appearance, referring questions to Matt Swanson, president of the university foundation which invited Palin. "I am thrilled that we're in a country where we can exercise our free speech," Swanson told the Sacramento Bee.
Russian official charged with selling MiG jets for $5
RIA Novosti. Sergei Subbotin
A former Russian state official has been charged with illegally selling MiG-31 Foxhound aircraft hulls at a price of 153 rubles ($5) each instead of $3.7 million in 2007, investigators said.
"In March 2010, while probing the criminal case on fraudulent activities performed at the time when four state-owned MiG-31 planes were sold, a former employee of [state reserves agency] Rosrezerv was charged with large-scale fraud," investigators said.
The criminal case was launched in summer 2009. The sale came to light after an anti-corruption check was carried out to see whether regulations were followed during the sale of items from the Sokol Aircraft Construction plant located in the Russian Volga city of Nizhny Novgorod.
The employee, who has not admitted his guilt, faces five to ten years in jail if found guilty.
According to prosecutors, in October 2006 - July 2007, unidentified officials from the local department of the Agency for State Reserves unlawfully included four MiG-31 hulls (without engines and weapons) into a list of sale items.
As a result, long-range supersonic interceptor aircraft that were not for sale were purchased by a dummy firm, Metalsnab, which was not entitled to trade in arms and military hardware.
The asking price of the MiG-31 hulls was significantly undervalued by a local valuation company.
According to the valuation report one hull was valued at 153 rubles ($5) - this initial price was accepted during bidding and the MiGs were sold at this price. However, one hull actually costs around 116 million rubles ($3.9 million at current rates).
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