Man gets 30 days jail for 'vampire' bite to child's neck
10:33 AM, Mar. 31, 2011
Mark R. Adams Jr.
A Sheboygan man who bit a 3-year-old boy's neck while "playing vampire" was sentenced this week to 30 days in jail.
Mark R. Adams Jr., 43, was sentenced Tuesday on a count of felony child abuse, accepting a plea agreement that dismissed a misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge, as well as two misdemeanor counts of encouraging a probation violation from an unrelated case, according to court records released today. Judge Timothy Van Akkeren imposed the jail as a condition of three years probation.
Adams, who was charged in January, told police he was watching HBO's vampire-themed miniseries "True Blood" before he bit the neck of a boy he was babysitting three times, a criminal complaint said. Adams said he was "playing vampire," adding it was possible he said something about wanting to suck the boy's blood.
The child's mother told police she returned after three hours away to find the boy crying on the kitchen floor. The boy immediately said Adams bit him on the neck, and three bite marks were clearly visible.
When confronted, Adams said, "I'm not a pedophile," then attacked the woman as she tried to leave, punching her in the face.
Adams, of 517-A N. 15th St., was charged with the probation-related offenses earlier this month for allowing a man convicted of a sex-related crime against a child to spend time in his home with his three young children. The charges were read-in for consideration at sentencing.
The complaint said Adams allowed Christopher L. Bardwell, 40, to visit him in his apartment almost every morning while his children � ages 4, 7 and 10 � were there. Bardwell is not a registered sex offender but being with the children violated the terms of his probation.
Bardwell said he often told Adams he shouldn't be there but Adams told him, "Don't worry about it, no one will find out." He said the two often smoked marijuana together.
Bardwell was convicted in April 2008 of causing mental harm to a child, which was amended from an initial charge of first-degree sexual assault of a child. Bardwell told Adams he showed pornography to a child using a video game console, the complaint said.
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12-Year-Old Dutch Girl Gives Birth on School Trip
March 30, 2011
GRONINGEN, The Netherlands -- A 12-year-old Dutch girl gave birth while on a school trip, sparking a police search Wednesday for the father of the child.
The girl, from Groningen, 114 miles northeast of Amsterdam, complained of stomach pains March 22, during a day out with classmates.
Teachers realized the girl was in labor and called an ambulance. Medics rushed to the scene, and the 12 year old delivered a healthy baby girl in a nearby building. The young mother was then taken to the hospital but has refused to name the father.
Family members said that the schoolgirl's father previously sexually abused another older daughter and served two years in jail for the sex crime, according to the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf.
The girl was living with her father and brother after he won custody following a divorce from their mother, who was originally from Suriname, a former Dutch colony in South America.
The girl's stepsister, 30, told the newspaper, "I warned him. I am shocked about what happened."
Dutch police said in a statement Wednesday, "The girl got pregnant when she was 11, which in itself means there has been a criminal offense. Article 244 of the Penal Code, sex with a minor under 12, is punishable. In addition, there are now [circumstances] reported by the Child Protection Board. Taking these two circumstances, the police is now investigating who the father [of this baby] is."
The girl was due to go into foster care once she was released from the hospital.
'Holiday Bandit' Marat Mikhaylich was on way to bank heist No. 10 when he was nabbed: sources
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Thursday, March 31st 2011, 4:00 AM
The "Holiday Bandit" was on his way to pull bank heist No. 10 when he was nabbed in Queens, sources told the Daily News on Wednesday.
Inside the stolen cab he was driving, Marat Mikhaylich had a computer printout of directions from his apartment in Jamaica to a Sovereign Bank he'd robbed once before, sources said.
The directions were printed out shortly before he was busted at a red light in Forest Hills on Tuesday.
Mikhaylich also had a printed demand for money he planned to show the teller, and a loaded 9-mm. handgun he had purchased in Virginia last December, sources said.
"He was going back to rob the bank a second time," a source said.
A heroin addict, he was apparently desperate for his next fix.
He told investigators he had shot up dope that morning and was out of cash because the loot from Monday's stickup in New Jersey was stained by the exploding dye pack.
He claimed to have only $5 in his bank account, court records say.
Mikhaylich, who got his nickname because he started his spree during the holiday season, is suspected in nine heists that netted about $80,000.
Assistant Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Darren LaVerne said the Ukrainian-born suspect "poses an extreme risk of flight" if released on bail.
Magistrate Marilyn Go ordered him back to detox treatment at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan.
Defense lawyer Michelle Gelernt declined to comment.
Charles A. Zingo
Millville man charged in liquor store break-in
Gannett/The (Salisbury, Md.) Daily Times
A 48-year-old man has been charged with burglary of the Banks Wine and Spirits liquor store in Millville, believed to have occurred between Monday at 9 p.m. and Tuesday at 1 a.m., state police reported today.
Police said surveillance footage of Charles A. Zingo of Millville showed him smashing a large window at the business with a rock. Zingo then allegedly reached through the window and removed an undisclosed number of liquor bottles.
The Ocean View Police Department responded Tuesday afternoon to a man reported to be unconscious on Atlantic Avenue next to the Verizon building. When police arrived they found Zingo — the unconscious man — and he allegedly began to resist arrest.
Zingo was taken into custody and linked to the burglary, according to police, who said the suspect possessed a black duffel bag containing bottles allegedly stolen from the liquor store.
Zingo was charged and remanded to Sussex Correctional Institution in lieu of $6,300 cash bond.
Police: Man had to be Freed From Own Home After 2 Years
Posted Monday, March 28, 2011 ; 12:50 PM
Updated Wednesday, March 30, 2011; 12:06 AM
BELLAIRE, Ohio -- Police said a Bellaire man had to be removed from his home on Washington Street Sunday.
Police said the man's skin had become attached to the fabric of the chair after he sat in it for two years
Authorities said he was sitting in his own feces and urine and maggots were visible.
Police were called in to help transfer the man to the hospital.
Authorities said they had to cut a hole in the wall to get the man out of his home.
Shockingly, two other able-bodied people lived there---another man, who had a separate bedroom, and the girlfriend of the man who was stuck in the chair. Officials say the girlfriend served food to him, since he never got up.
Bellaire Code Enforcer Jim Chase says now the tennants have been given orders to clean it or leave it.
One officer said it was the worst thing he ever responded to. And most said the worst part of all was the smell. Ironically the landlord says the man in the chair rented from her before and used to be a vital active person.
She says she checked on them periodically but lately he always sat with a blanket over him. She says she had no idea it had come to this.
Sunday morning his housemates called officials when he was unresponsive.
The 43-year-old man is currently in the hospital.
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Low, low prices: Target beats Wal-Mart
Recent price comparisons between Wal-Mart and Target show Target is beating its rival's prices on popular items.
Parija Kavilanz, senior writer
March 8, 2011: 5:39 PM ET
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Wal-Mart's slogan may be "Save Money. Live Better," but rival Target is challenging it by offering even lower prices on everyday products.
Two recent price comparisons of grocery and household goods revealed that Target's prices are lower than at No. 1 retailer Wal-Mar
Craig Johnson, president of retail consulting firm Customer Growth Partners,compared 35 brand-name items sold at Wal-Mart (WMT, Fortune 500) and Target (TGT, Fortune 500) stores in New York, Indiana and North Carolina. They consisted of 22 common grocery goods such as milk, cereal and rice; 10 general merchandise products such as clothing and home furnishings; and three health and beauty items.
Target's shopping cart rang in at $269.13 (pre-tax), a hair lower than the $271.07 charged at Wal-Mart.
"For the first time in four years, our price comparisons between the two has shown that Target has a slight edge over Wal-Mart," said Johnson. A smaller study by Kantar Retail found similar results.
Wal-Mart typically maintains a 2% to 4% price advantage over Target. But in January, Johnson noticed that some products were cheaper at Target.
That has continued into February, he said.
If you factor in additional discounts offered to Target's Redcard customers, the savings gap widens more considerably between the two discounters.
Said Johnson, "When you add the Redcard's 5% discount, the price gap widens to 5.7%."
Not all Target customers are Redcard holders. Target declined to say how many customers are members. However, 7.4% of Target's total sales in the fourth quarter were Redcard transactions, said Target spokeswoman Molly Koenst.
Wal-Mart does not offer a similar program.
"This is a real win for consumers given the huge increase in gas prices lately," said Johnson. "Consumers have little control over gas prices but they do have control over what they buy and where they shop."
Targeting Wal-Mart:Target's undercutting of Wal-Mart's prices didn't happen overnight, said Johnson.
"Target stepped up its game during the recession," he said. "The company caught up with Wal-Mart on making its supply chain more efficient so it could bring down prices on items people frequently buy."
Groceries are big traffic generators, and Wal-Mart still dominates Target there. About half the items that Wal-Mart sells are groceries.
Johnson estimates that 15% to 20% of Target's merchandise are groceries. Koenst declined to confirm those numbers but said 16% of Target's sales in 2009 were food and pet supply purchases.
Chewing over the numbers:Kantar surveys just one Wal-Mart and one Target store in Massachusetts and found Target's prices in January were about 2.8% lower than Wal-Mart's.
Among the goods that Kantar compared, cheaper health and beauty items, and particularly smoking cessation gum, helped Target beat Wal-Mart.
But in groceries and household goods such as light bulbs, trash bags and detergent, Kantar found Wal-Mart still boasted better prices than its rival.
Wal-Mart spokesman David Tovar said, "We are absolutely committed to offering our customers low prices every day. If customers find a lower advertised price, we'll match it every time."
"I think Target can maintain its edge in the near term," said Johnson at Customer Growth. "But remember, Target isn't beating Wal-Mart on all items but it is on those that really matter to consumers."
Three top-tier GOP presidential hopefuls are likely to emerge, and neither Sarah Palin nor Donald Trump are among them.
March 29, 2011 at 2:49 pm EDT
Flip through any list of Republicans running for president or probably running or maybe thinking of running, and you'll find at least a couple dozen names. From Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty to Michele Bachmann, Rudy Giuliani, and Donald Trump, it's a potentially vast field peppered with outsize personalities and also folks who make you say, "who?"
Why so many?
"Because people perceive vulnerability in President Obama," says Darrell West, a political analyst at the Brookings Institution. "We have high unemployment, we have 2-1/2 wars, and there's a lot of contentiousness surrounding health care. So nobody's afraid to take on a sitting president."
By the time the Iowa caucuses roll around early next year, the GOP could easily field 10 to 12 candidates. The latest to say “I’m in” is Congresswoman Bachmann of Minnesota, a tea party firebrand and born-again Christian who could shake up the race by doing well in her native Iowa. She stole the show at last weekend’s Conservative Principles Conference in Iowa.
But it’s easy to see how a Bachmann candidacy fades in early states that are less friendly to evangelicals, such as New Hampshire, Nevada, and Florida. When all is said and done, the race for the 2012 GOP nomination may boil down to just three serious contenders: former Governor Romney of Massachusetts, former Governor Pawlenty of Minnesota, and Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi. Pawlenty announced his exploratory committee on March 20; Romney and Governor Barbour are expected to do so within the next several weeks.
The rest of the crowd
And what of all the other possible candidates? Many begin as long shots, and are likely to stay there – people like Herman Cain, the former CEO of Godfather's Pizza and the only African-American in the GOP field, and Buddy Roemer, the former Democratic governor of Louisiana who became a Republican in 1991. Both have launched exploratory committees but are not generating buzz. Gary Johnson, the libertarian-leaning former governor of New Mexico, is reportedly set to bypass an exploratory committee and announce his presidential candidacy in late April. Former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania also looks to be running, but it's hard to see how he breaks out of the pack.
Three others could enter the top tier if they run, but for now, the signs point to their sitting this one out:
• Mitch Daniels. As Indiana governor, he has made a name for himself as a budget cutter and gave a highly regarded keynote speech on fiscal responsibility at the Conservative Political Action Conference in February. He has said he's thinking of running, and just inked a deal to write a book on limited government due out in September, but compromises with Democrats in the Indiana legislature could hurt Daniels’s chances with GOP primary voters.
•Sarah Palin. Perhaps more than anyone else, the former Alaska governor has the star power and fundraising skill to stir up the field. Recent trips to India and Israel boost her foreign-policy portfolio. But, like Gingrich, she has organizational problems and has shown little evidence that she's serious about running. Plus, now that Bachmann is “in,” Palin would face competition for the same pool of voters.
• Mike Huckabee. The former Arkansas governor has stellar communication skills but admits he's bad at fundraising. After a respectable run four years ago, it's not clear he has the fire in the belly to try again. And recent remarks about Mr. Obama's "childhood in Kenya," which he then disavowed, raise questions about his ability to appeal to a broad electorate.
Among the top three guys who are running, each has pluses and minuses. Romney is the only one to have run before, and that experience will be invaluable in a tough race. He can also draw upon personal wealth, which eases the fundraising pressure. But he has to answer for his Massachusetts health-care reform, the model for Obama's reform. And his Mormon faith still turns off many conservative evangelicals, a key part of the GOP base.
The ultimate insider
Barbour is the ultimate insider in the race, from his days as a respected national GOP chair and more recently chairman of the Republican Governors Association. Last fall he helped elect numerous Republican governors – many in critical battleground states – and they will owe him.
But his background as a lobbyist and as a born and bred Mississippian, with a syrup-thick accent, could hurt him. Recent statements on race have forced him into damage-control mode, an unfortunate place to be for one who aims to unseat the first black president. And in the end,Barbour’s candidacy could be a rerun of Phil Gramm’s in 1996, when the then-Texas senator spent $20 million in pursuit of the GOP nomination but did not even make it to the New Hampshire primary.
Pawlenty could wind up on top by default as the least objectionable. But that's hardly an endorsement for the grueling task of defeating an incumbent president. He is touting his fiscally conservative record as governor and his blue-collar background, but his demeanor is more "Minnesota nice" than Mr. Excitement.
Still, having governed a Democratic-leaning state for two terms, "he can argue that he can have some blue-state appeal – unlike, say, Haley Barbour," says Steven Schier, a political scientist at Carleton College in Northfield, Minn.
And a member of his inner circle, former Rep. Vin Weber (R) of Minnesota, insists that Pawlenty's newness to presidential politics won't hurt him, despite the GOP history of nominating people who have run before.
"I think the results of the last election convinced Republicans that they need to have fresh blood and new faces," says Mr. Weber.
And the list goes on
There are other new faces talking about jumping in, from former UN Ambassador John Bolton to soon-to-be former US Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman and even newly minted Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, a tea party favorite. Senator Paul took office only in January – though he says he won't run if his dad, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, does.
Even if the GOP nomination race comes down to just Romney, Pawlenty, and Barbour, "it will still be a long, drawn-out process" when caucuses and primaries start early next year, says Ford O'Connell, chairman of the conservative CivicForumPAC. "Iowa could go Pawlenty, Bachmann, Barbour, 1, 2, 3. New Hampshire is Romney. South Carolina is Barbour."
But the field has hardly taken final shape. Mr. O'Connell suggests that those on the fence have until the Iowa Straw Poll on Aug. 13 to jump in. After that, it gets hard for candidates to find top-tier political talent available for hire. Former Governor Palin, in particular, can afford to wait, because of her fundraising skill. But she is polarizing, and even among conservatives, her appeal is waning.
A real game-changer would be New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, whose blunt talk on fiscal matters has brought national notice. Governor Christie has been in office just over a year and insists he doesn't want to run for president, but in politics, never say never.
Police: Dallas Doctor Fumes, Tries to Run Over Smoker
Mar 29, 2011 – 2:43 PM .
DALLAS -- Medical professionals have explored many ways to get people to stop smoking, but running over them with a car has never been an industry-sanctioned approach.
But according to police, that apparently didn't stop a prominent Dallas doctor from trying.
Police say Dr. Jeffrey Reed Thompson, a Dallas physician who has received recognition for being one of the city's "best doctors" from D magazine, tried to run over a man who was smoking by his car.
Thompson, 54, faces a felony charge of aggravated assault with a vehicle following a confrontation with Donald Zuelly, 48, of Rowlett, according to the Dallas Morning News. Thompson was booked into the Dallas County Jail on Friday and released on Saturday morning after posting $5,000 bond. Thompson could not be reached for comment on Tuesday afternoon.
The confrontation began Friday morning when Thompson saw Zuelly smoking by the doctor's 1994 Mercedes coupe, which was parked in Thompson's office parking garage.
Thompson approached Zuelly and said, "You can't smoke here, " according to police. Then he reportedly snatched the cigarette from Zuelly's mouth, threw it on the ground and stepped on it.
Zuelly reportedly told Thompson, "Are you (expletive) crazy? If you put another finger on me I will put you on the ground."
During the confrontation, Zuelly threw down a can of Coke, and some of the liquid splattered on Thompson's pants.
Zuelly told police that as he walked away, he heard the squeal of tires and turned to see Thompson speeding toward him. Zuelly said he ran to seek cover behind a concrete post, scraping his right elbow along the way. Thompson reportedly then put the car in reverse, pulled up next to Zuelly and motioned for him to come out and step in front of the car. Zuelly left and called 911.
One witness told police that she saw Thompson grab the cigarette from Zuelly's mouth. Other witnesses said they saw him speeding and driving erratically in the parking garage.
San Rafael woman arrested for allegedly holding drunken teenage party
Marin Independent Journal
Posted: 03/28/2011 05:02:21 PM PDT
A San Rafael mother was in custody Monday after authorities arrested her for allegedly hosting a drunken party attended by teenagers.
A taxi driver called the Marin County Sheriff's Office about 10:15 p.m. Friday and reported that parked cars were blocking the 200 block of Margarita Drive in unincorporated San Rafael, Lt. Barry Heying said.
Deputies discovered a raucous party with about 60 teenage guests, he said.
"The home was trashed with overturned tables and garbage on the floor," Heying said. A 14-year-old girl was so intoxicated that she required medical treatment, he said.
It took six deputies and five firefighters to break up the party and provide medical evaluations.
Deputies found Carolyn Hedrich, 57, the homeowner and mother of the 15-year-old boy who was hosting the gathering, inside the house and under the influence of drugs and possibly alcohol, Heying said. Hedrich was arrested on suspicion of child endangerment, being under the influence of a controlled substance and violation of probation.
The sheriff's office also served Hedrich with a civil summons for allegedly violating Marin County's "social host" ordinance. She remained in custody Monday in lieu of $55,000 bail.
Approved in late 2006, the social host law imposes stiff fines on adult hosts of teenage drinking parties. It was approved by the county after two Novato teenagers died in an alcohol-fueled car crash a year earlier. Municipalities around Marin have since followed suit by passing similar laws.
About 30 people have been subject to $750 fines or community service so far under the county's ordinance, with the vast majority of those cases taking place in 2007, 2008 and 2009, said Jack Govi, assistant county counsel.
There were only about three cases in 2010, he said.
"Wishful thinking would have it that maybe word was getting out and people were getting more educated, but I have to temper that by also saying that teenagers in the community tell me there are just as many parties as there used to be," Govi said. The reduction in 2010 may have been partly due to highly publicized teenage drunken driving accidents, he noted.
Mar. 28, 2011
Woman in court for sentencing allegedly presents forged doctor's note, then collapses
A 41-year-old woman who was in court this morning to be sentenced for prescription drug forgery allegedly presented a forged doctor's note in an attempt to delay the proceedings, and then collapsed when the judge ordered her back into custody, according to a prosecutor.
Michelle Elaine Astumian, who had been out of jail after posting $45,000 bail, was scheduled to be sentenced today by Judge Barry LaBarbera to four years and eight months in state prison. She had pleaded no contest in January to two counts of forging a drug prescription and one count of using a fraudulent check. Each count is a felony.
But before the sentencing Deputy District Attorney Dave Pomeroy said that Astumian presented a doctor's note stating that her sentencing should be postponed.
Pomeroy called the doctor whose name was signed on the note, and the doctor told him that the note was forged.
Pomeroy said that he reported the alleged forgery to LaBarbera, who ordered Astumian into custody. She then fell to the floor, prompting the judge to clear the courtroom for about 30 minutes.
An ambulance arrived and took Astumian to a local hospital.
It's very unusual for a defendant to react in the manner that Astumian did, Pomeroy said.
"I'm trying to approach her reaction with understandable skepticism," Pomeroy said.
Pomeroy said that Astumian will need to be brought back to court to be sentenced, but he wasn't sure exactly when that might happen.
More than a dozen city workers arrested, charged with drinking, gambling on duty
Tip to city officials led police to city office
Peter Hermann, The Baltimore Sun
10:14 PM EDT, March 26, 2011
Baltimore authorities broke up what they described as a regular "payday" gambling game involving more than a dozen city transportation workers who police said were arrested Friday after being caught drinking champagne and playing dice in a city office.
The roundup occurred in a Department of Transportation building on East Madison Street and was sparked by a tip to city officials who contacted the inspector general's office, which investigates corruption, fraud and waste in city offices.
Agents from the inspector general's office went unannounced to the building Friday afternoon and called police when it became apparent that there was criminal activity. A city police spokesman said several workers scattered when agents arrived and one was charged with assaulting an investigator.
"Although these are not violent crimes, it's particularly egregious because it's a violation of the public trust," said the Baltimore Police Department's chief spokesman, Anthony Guglielmi. "These are city employees who are paid by the taxpayers, and they are expected to work. They shouldn't be gambling and drinking on the city's dime."
The 13 workers involved were described as relatively low-level employees assigned to the transportation department's Special Events unit. Their duties include setting up and working at area festivals. They were handcuffed and taken to the Central Booking and Intake Center.
Police said they charged each with misdemeanor gambling offenses and most were released on low bails or were still being processed Saturday. One worker, Michael Flowers, 68, was also charged with one count of assault.
A review of electronic court records shows that six of the employees have been convicted of serious criminal offenses, and one person is on probation in a gun possession case. Six workers have clean records, and a seventh has been arrested twice on assault charges but not convicted.
Three workers have extensive records, including one who has been convicted seven times between 1995 and 2009 on drug possession or drug distribution charges. He has served prison or jail time ranging from one day to four years, the records show.
Another worker has been convicted six times of drug offenses and twice of possessing a handgun, all between 2002 and 2009, according to the records. That worker served between two years and four years in prison. Yet another employee has been convicted five times of drug offenses between 1997 and 2004, serving between one year and five years in prison.
One employee has one conviction and was sentenced to eight years in prison in 2001 for drug distribution.
Adrienne Barnes, a spokeswoman for the city transportation department, said officials will review the backgrounds of the employees starting Monday. Records of when the workers were hired or whether any were convicted while employed by the city were not available over the weekend.
Many of the workers who were arrested appear to be seasonal help, earning no more than $15,000 a year, according to a database of city employee salaries for 2010. The two highest paid, according to the database, were two drivers who last year earned, with overtime, $37,000 and $49,000.
In Friday's case, Guglielmi said that the tipster had notified the transportation department, which in turned reported the allegation to the inspector general's office that workers were gambling each Friday, which is payday. The office sent agents to investigate, and "sure enough there was a gambling operation," the spokesman said.
Authorities said that the agents "observed several employees on duty throwing dice and consuming alcohol." They said the agents found a bottle of Remy champagne and cash in the middle of the office floor. They said $6,300 was seized.
The agents with the inspector's office do not have arrest powers. Guglielmi said that "a couple employees became unruly and a couple ran in different directions." The agents called city police, and officers from the Eastern District responded.
Barnes said the workers have been suspended without pay pending the results of an investigation. In a statement, she said that "any activity that undermines the integrity of the transportation department will not be tolerated."
Both Barnes and Guglielmi said this case demonstrates the city's ability "to police itself."
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To the brain, getting burned, getting dumped feel the same
(Health.com) -- Science has finally confirmed what anyone who's ever been in love already knows: Heartbreak really does hurt.
In a new study using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), researchers have found that the same brain networks that are activated when you're burned by hot coffee also light up when you think about a lover who has spurned you.
In other words, the brain doesn't appear to firmly distinguish between physical pain and intense emotional pain. Heartache and painful breakups are "more than just metaphors," says Ethan Kross, Ph.D., the lead researcher and an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor.
The study, which was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, illuminates the role that feelings of rejection and other emotional trauma can play in the development of chronic pain disorders such as fibromyalgia, Kross says. And, he adds, it raises interesting questions about whether treating physical pain can help to relieve emotional pain, and vice versa.
"What's exciting about these findings," he says, "is that they outline the direct way in which emotional experiences can be linked to the body."
Kross and his colleagues recruited 21 women and 19 men who had no history of chronic pain or mental illness but who had all been dumped by a romantic partner within the previous six months. The volunteers underwent fMRI scans -- which measure brain activity by tracking changes in blood flow -- during two painful tasks.
In the first, a heat source strapped to each subject's left arm created physical pain akin to "holding a hot cup of coffee without the sleeve," Kross says. In the second, the volunteers were asked to look at photos of their lost loves and were prompted to remember specific experiences they shared with that person.
Other fMRI research has examined how social rejection manifests in the brain, but this study was the first to show that rejection can elicit a response in two brain areas associated with physical pain: the secondary somatosensory cortex and the dorsal posterior insula. Those brain regions may have lit up in this study but not others because the rejection his volunteers experienced was unusually intense, Kross says.
Although Kross stresses that the study is "very much a first step" in understanding the connection between physical and emotional pain, the findings may help chronic pain patients grasp that emotions can affect their physical condition, says psychologist Judith Scheman, Ph.D., director of the chronic pain rehabilitation program at the Cleveland Clinic.
Past traumas can make people more sensitive to pain and thus more susceptible to disorders like fibromyalgia, which causes both chronic pain and fatigue, Scheman says. She and her staff encourage pain patients to "explore their emotional trauma and baggage," but many are reluctant to do so.
"As a clinician, I like studies like this because patients often don't understand why they have to do painful emotional work," Scheman continues. "Showing them something like this helps them understand that there is science behind what I am asking them to do."
Sun, Mar. 27, 2011
Strong corporate profits amid weak economy - What's up with that?
Kevin G. Hall | McClatchy Newspapers
last updated: March 28, 2011 12:17:21 PM
WASHINGTON — U.S. corporations continue to post strong profits quarter after quarter, even as the unemployment rate remains high and the U.S. economic recovery plods along in fits and starts. What gives?
Corporate profits grew 36.8 percent in 2010, the biggest gain since 1950, according to Friday's latest report from the Bureau of Economic Analysis. No sign could be more clear that U.S. companies see the so-called Great Recession in the rearview mirror.
The strong profits, however, mask the continued difficult terrain for businesses. Yes, profits are high, but that doesn't mean business is strong.
"It's not that they're fake, it's that they're generated through a bunch of economic anomalies that are not the normal course or normal factors that generate profits," said Martin Regalia, chief economist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, America's premier business lobby.
Regalia and other analysts think several factors are behind the strong profits, which seem to contradict other indicators of an underperforming economy, especially the 8.9 percent unemployment rate. These factors include record low interest rates since late 2008, muted demand for borrowing by companies and a surge in productivity that has allowed companies to do more with the same number of workers or fewer.
Profits aren't rising solely because companies are making and selling more widgets to keep up with customer demand, which would be the case in a healthy, booming economy. Instead, they're more profitable because it now costs less to make the same widget, often because there are far fewer workers needed to make it.
"We've been able to generate record profits on very, very low volume and very weak economic growth," Regalia said.
That's not to say things aren't improving. Over the past six months, the economy has gathered steam, and demand is picking up — from factory orders for parts needed in assembly, to a rebound in automotive manufacturing, to consumer purchases rising.
That's a healthy growth trend, but the bigger part of the story remains workforce reductions, technological advances, low lending costs and minimal borrowing. All have combined to give companies unusual control over their balance sheets, and thus their profits.
"If you are looking at where profits are coming from ... cost control, strong capital discipline, strong control over the balance sheet, that's why you've seen this extraordinary recovery in profits, even though top-line growth hasn't been spectacular," said Aaron Smith, a senior economist at forecaster Moody's Analytics.
Another factor in today's strong corporate profits also might mask how sluggish the U.S. recovery has been — the growing percentage of profits from foreign sales by U.S. corporations.
That number climbed steadily over the past decade and peaked at 45.3 percent in 2008. That underscores how globalization has made it harder to define winners and losers. Americans are wrestling with high unemployment, but overseas sales have boosted U.S. corporate profits. That, in turn, lifts the stock market, which lifts the wealth of workers with 401(k) retirement plans and company shareholders alike.
"Earnings from abroad have become more important to U.S. companies. That trend has been in place for a couple of decades now, but really in the past decade we've seen the share of earnings coming from abroad as a share of the total increase rather dramatically," said Smith.
Whatever the reasons, there's no getting around the fact that profits are super-sized.
"The profits recovery during the past two years is among the best, if not the best, ever. Profitable companies expand. They hire workers, buy equipment, and build more plants and offices. Capital spending on equipment has been recovering along with profits. It is up 18.6 percent over the past six quarters. Employment gains have been lackluster, but are picking up," Ed Yardeni, a veteran market analyst, wrote in a recent upbeat note to investors.
For now, the question on the minds of most Americans remains — when do increases in corporate profits actually translate into hiring? Traditionally, profits lead hiring in an economic recovery.
"Normally, profits lead by a couple of quarters both job creation and capital spending. They've been leading this time. We've had job growth, but it just hasn't been as much as we might like," said Richard Rippe, an economist with ISI Group Inc., who added that employment and capital spending are both up. "It looks like the normal dynamics are working, but it would be good if they were working a little more decisively."
Another explanation for strong corporate profits has been growth in productivity, or hourly output per worker. The Labor Department reported on March 3 that annual average productivity rose by 3.9 percent in 2010. Aside from that strong productivity growth, unit labor costs fell during the same period by 1.5 percent. That reflects that worker compensation didn't keep pace with rising output. Put another way, businesses produced more than compensation rose.
Normally, companies can squeeze only so much out of workers before they must hire more of them or fall behind competitors. Many economists thought hiring would have picked up by now as productivity rose, yet job creation continues to lag.
There's plenty of anecdotal evidence from surveys that consumers and businesses remain cautious, especially given concerns about Europe's debt crisis, conflict in the oil-rich Middle East and the crippling disaster in Japan, the world's third-largest economy.
The recent climb in oil and gasoline prices, now approaching $4 a gallon in some areas, is holding back consumer spending on other goods and renewed business activity. Fresh evidence of falling consumer confidence came Friday when the ThomsonReuters/University of Michigan survey of consumer sentiment for March dropped to its lowest level in five months. Coupled with the protracted slide in home prices, Americans aren't ready to loosen the purse strings.
The Federal Reserve on Thursday released results of an unusual follow-up survey on family finances. Given the economic shock from the Great Recession, Fed researchers wanted a better read of the impact on family balance sheets from 2007 to 2009. Its conclusions weren't surprising — those with more financial assets saw a larger hit to their wealth. But survey respondents across all income levels expressed a need for more precautionary savings.
"The data show signs that families' behavior may act in some ways as a brake on reviving the economy in the short run," the Fed report concluded.
Cautious customers don't bode well for business activity. That helps underscore how other factors explain how corporations are so profitable amid today's sluggish growth.
"Part of this is business being much more lean and mean. It's hard for me to imagine that this is going to work in reverse," Smith said.
Villa Park man allegedly threatens to kill judge who made him ‘cry’
DAN ROZEK Staff Reporter
Sun Times Mar 26, 2011 06:00PM
Claiming a DuPage County judge’s scolding made him cry, Jonovan Brown allegedly threatened to get even — by killing the judge.
“The judge made me cry. I’m going to make him cry — I’m going to kill him,” prosecutor Diane Michalak quoted Brown as saying after he was taken from Judge Robert Kleeman’s courtroom recently.
Brown, 20, was in court for an animal cruelty charge and threatening a man and a woman who had witnessed that alleged abuse.
The Villa Park man now is facing something else that could make him shed tears — he’s been charged with threatening a public official, a felony that could send him to prison for up to five years.
A grand jury indicted Brown this week for allegedly making the threat against Kleeman after a March 12 bond hearing.
During that hearing, Kleeman warned Brown he would find him in contempt of court if Brown continued to disrupt the proceedings with verbal outbursts.
A tearful Brown allegedly made the threat to officers who had taken him out of the courtroom following the hearing, Michalak said
LINK TO PHOTO OF BROWN:
Hamilton Radio Shack offers free gun with new Dish Network service
WHITNEY BERMES - Ravalli Republic Friday, March 25, 2011 9:45 pm
When driving down U.S. Highway 93 through Hamilton, there's no need to do a double-take when you see the sign hanging above the Radio Shack Super Store.
You read it right. Customers who buy Dish Network will be rewarded with a firearm.
"I think it really, really fits the Bitterroot Valley," said Steve Strand, who has owned Hamilton's Radio Shack for about seven years.
Strand, along with store manager Fabian Levy, wanted to generate more foot traffic at their location. So far, the gun giveaway has worked like a charm.
"It's been really successful," Levy said.
According to Strand, it has tripled his business since the promotion started last October. And, he said, easily hundreds of people have stopped in to see what the sign is all about. "Protect yourself with Dish Network. Sign up now, get free gun," the sign reads.
"We have people literally stop in to take pictures of the sign," Levy said.
Qualifying customers have the choice between a Hi Point 380 pistol or a 20-gauge shotgun.
The deal is only good for new Dish Network customers and they must buy a certain amount of equipment to qualify for the free gun.
After the customer signs a service contract and sets up an install date, they are given a gift certificate for their gun. They can also opt for a $50 gift card from Pizza Hut if they prefer, Strand said. And customers who purchase new Dish Network service that don't qualify for a firearm are still given the Pizza Hut gift card.
The gift certificate is good at Frontier Guns & Ammo, located north of Hamilton on Sheafman Creek Road. They are then put through a background check, also free with the promotion, before receiving their gun.
"We're not just giving guns to felons," Levy said.
The idea for the promotion wasn't anything scientific. A friend of Strand's made the suggestion and, "I thought, ‘Why don't we?' " Strand said.
With all the interest his promotion has garnered, there was one trend.
"You'd be surprised how many women are interested in guns," Strand said, noting he has had many women in their 60s and 70s drop in to learn about the promotion.
"I was quite surprised,"Strand said.
Strand said since starting the promotion, he has gotten good feedback.
"We've received a tremendous amount of positive reactions," Strand said.
He said of the hundreds of people who have stopped by because of the sign, only one person reacted negatively.
"They didn't understand how it works," he said.
Strand also said that other Radio Shack owners he has talked to across the state, in places like Havre and Malta, are too scared to try similar promotions.
"There is a risk involved," Strand said.
Dish Network allots advertising dollars to the store to promote Dish, but the gun promotion has made them skittish.
"They've never had a gun promotion before, so they're a little nervous about it," Strand said. "It's been an uphill battle with Dish."
After a few months of volleying with the company, however, Strand was given the go-ahead to start advertising.
"If we can get that promotion out there, things could go crazy," Strand said.
They aren't sure how much longer they will continue the promotion, but they will be doing the same deal next month with Direct TV packages.
"I kind of thought this promotion was a joke at first, but as things picked up, I realized it was working," Levy said.
9 books Bill Gates thinks you should read
1. Collapse, by Jared Diamond
In "Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed" Pulitzer Prize-winner Jared Diamond explains why some societies – from the Anasazi of the American Southwest to the Viking colonies of Greenland to present-day Rwanda – have collapsed
2. Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! by Richard P. Feynman
Nobel Prize winning physicist Richard P. Feynman offers up chunks of personal wisdom in this unorthodoxly structured autobiography. Like Gates himself, Feynman is an original and out-of-the-box thinker.
3. Smallpox, by D.A. Henderson
"Smallpox: The Death of a Disease" by D.A. Henderson tells the story of the eradication of a disease that, Henderson says, between 1879-1979, killed more people than "all the wars on the planet during that time."
4. Physics for Dummies, by Steve Holzner
This addition to the popular "for dummies" franchise covers everything from vectors to relativity to atomic structures in language that laymen can follow.
5. Sustainable Energy, by David J.C. MacKay
In "Sustainable Energy: Opportunities and Limitations," Cambridge University academic and British government adviser David J.C. MacKay examines energy alternatives and the challenges involved in making significant global changes.
6. Work Hard. Be Nice. by Jay Mathews
Washington Post reporter Jay Mathews provides an inspiring profile of Mike Feinberg and Dave Levin, the young Teach for America teachers who went on to found the the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP) schools, dedicated to proving that children in low-income neighborhoods can excel when offered the right school environment.
7. Physics for Future Presidents, by Richard A. Muller
In "Physics for Future Presidents: The Science Behind the Headlines," physicist Richard A. Muller lays out the basics of science that the chief executive officer of the United States would most need to know, dealing with everything from the risks of nuclear power to the viability of alternative fuels.
8. Polio, by David M. Oshinsky
In "Polio: An American Story" historian David M. Oshinsky tells the story of the race for a vaccine against polio, including the consuming rivalry between Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin.
9. Energy: Myths and Realities by Vaclav Smil
In "Energy: Myths and Realities: Bringing Science to the Energy Policy Debate," Canadian academic Vaclav Smil works to cut through the leading misconceptions that he believes are preventing governments and the public from charting clear solutions to the global energy crisis.
As budget cuts loom, state's largest teachers union has burned through millions of dollars
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Sunday, March 27th 2011, 4:00 AM
As Gov. Cuomo moves to slash $1.5 billion in school aid, the state's largest teachers union has burned through millions of dollars on junkets, feasts and parties at resorts across New York.
New York State United Teachers hosts more than 150 conferences a year at some 50 rustic retreats, lakefront lodges and oceanfront hotels - even though it has a conference center near its Albany headquarters.
That means union members and brass average three powwows a week as they wine and dine from Montauk to Niagara Falls, a Daily News review of union spending found.
Funded by its 575,000 members' dues, the teachers union dropped $3.8 million on conferences last year - plus $225,000 more for catering and $231,000 for 14 photographers who snapped pictures of the parleys, documents show.
All told, the union has shelled out nearly $17 million since 2005, with their two favorite spots being Gurney's Inn Resort & Spa in Montauk ($2.1 million) and the Otesaga Resort Hotel near the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown ($2.4 million).
For entertainment, it paid $9,500 for the Capitol Steps comedy troupe and $25,505 for the Okie Dokie Nightclub, both in Washington.
To get to upstate hot spots, union employees can take advantage of the union's $1.8 million fleet of more than 155 vehicles. Rank-and-file members can bill their locals for tolls and mileage.
Extravagant union spending has continued even as Mayor Bloomberg threatens to ax 4,700 city teachers and union lobbyists fight to salvage "last in, first out," which bases firing on seniority.
Last month The News revealed how the city's United Federation of Teachers, the state union's largest local affiliate, blew $1.4 million on a 50th anniversary gala.
"NYSUT talks about shared sacrifice, but the taxpayer makes the sacrifice and foots the bills for its frivolous spending," said Jason Brooks of the Foundation for Education Reform & Accountability, a charter school advocacy group and union critic.
"School taxes pay the salaries of teachers, who are required to pay union dues, which go to fund junkets at five-star resorts."
Dick Iannuzzi, NYSUT's $294,313-a-year president, declined comment, but spokesman Carl Korn insisted the trips were training sessions, not junkets.
Conferences offer invaluable training on standards, testing, teacher evaluation and all aspects of the job, he said.
"It's absolutely essential," said Korn. "It provides the skills they need to advocate for members and fight for what students and schools need to succeed."
Korn said the union has 16 regional offices and each holds a summer, fall and winter conference, as well as policy and health conferences and others.
He noted that the union's conference center in upstate Latham hosts hundreds of meetings a year, but its 150-seat auditorium is too small for many workshops.
With few upstate union facilities able to handle some 300 people, NYSUT seeks venues near its members and books off-season to get big discounts, Korn said.
"Our financial operations are transparent - and our members get every penny's worth in the representation they receive from NYSUT," he said
About $86,000 worth of those pennies paid for a "summer leadership conference" at Skytop Lodge in the Poconos, which offers archery and lawn bowling. The conference featured workshops on benefits, bargaining - and investment tips.
Union dissidents also provided The News with some locals' newsletters openly boasting of the perks at conferences:
"The accommodations were top shelf," wrote Al Cotoia, vice president of NYSUT Local 15-175, after a $268,732 conference at the Wyndham Princeton Forrestal Hotel in New Jersey. "There was unlimited access to refreshments and food."
Until it closed in 2009, the storied Rainbow Room was a union hangout and scene of a $118,875 party held after a "presidents conference" at the New York Hilton.
NYSUT Local 3882, which represents staffers at NYU, recounted a postconference party like this: "After a day packed with workshops, local presidents were treated to an evening of dining and dancing at New York's legendary Rainbow Room. Your president had a wonderful time."
NYSUT's reports to the U.S. Labor Department also show the parent union splurging at:
Pentagon spends billions to fight roadside bombs, with little success
Peter Cary and Nancy A. Youssef | Center for Public Integrity and McClatchy Newspapers
March 27, 2011 12:53:30 AM
WASHINGTON — In February 2006, with roadside bombs killing more and more American soldiers in Iraq, the Pentagon created an agency to defeat the deadly threat and tasked a retired four-star general to run it.
Five years later, the agency has ballooned into a 1,900-employee behemoth and has spent nearly $17 billion on hundreds of initiatives. Yet the technologies it's developed have failed to significantly improve U.S. soldiers' ability to detect unexploded roadside bombs and have never been able to find them at long distances. Indeed, the best detectors remain the low-tech methods: trained dogs, local handlers and soldiers themselves.
A review by the Center for Public Integrity and McClatchy of government reports and interviews with auditors, investigators and congressional staffers show that the agency — the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization — also violated its own accounting rules and hasn't properly evaluated its initiatives to keep mistakes from being repeated.
Meanwhile, roadside bombs remain the single worst killer of soldiers as more U.S. forces have been transferred out of Iraq and into Afghanistan. Known in military parlance as improvised explosive devices, the crude, often-homemade bombs killed 368 coalition troops in Afghanistan last year, by far the highest annual total since 2001, when the U.S.-led war there began, according to icasualties.org, which tracks military casualties in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.
Among the serious questions about how well JIEDDO has spent its billions:
Rep. Duncan D. Hunter, R-Calif., a former Marine and an Iraq and Afghanistan veteran, said the Pentagon and its anti-IED agencies, including JIEDDO, could do far better in preventing casualties from roadside bombs.
"So as long as the IED metric keeps going up, and as long as we keep taking the majority of our KIA (killed in action) casualties from IEDs, then they've all been unsuccessful. Period," he said.
One U.S. soldier who was based in Baghdad in 2008 said: "We were out there every day. We studied our destroyed vehicles, and (the enemy's IED tactics) kept changing. So we kept trying new ideas, anything, to stop them. JIEDDO didn't help us." The soldier declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter.
Lt. Gen. Michael Oates, who recently stepped down as the agency's director, its third in five years, acknowledged missteps but said they were inevitable because the agency was tasked with producing devices quickly.
"We fund things," Oates said. "Sometimes we fund things that don't work. Some call that waste; I call it risk."
One of the things that apparently didn't work was the Joint IED Neutralizer, created in 2002 by an Arizona start-up called Ionatron. Looking like a pair of boxy golf carts, the JIN fired ultra-short pulse lasers followed by a half-million-volt lightning bolt of electricity, and its makers said it could detonate the blasting caps that triggered IEDs from well outside blast range.
In 2005, then-Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz authorized $30 million for the JIN despite skepticism from scientists, who said damp ground or dust would render the device useless. During test runs in Afghanistan in 2006, the JIN was disappointing: It had trouble climbing steep mountain terrain and experienced safety problems, continuing to shoot lightning bolts after its switch was turned off.
After the JIN received some publicity, an insurgent website published ways to defeat it. The test vehicles were shipped back to the United States.
In mid-2006, shareholders filed two class-action suits against the JIN's makers, alleging that the firm had concealed the fact that the vehicle wasn't capable of meeting government specifications. The company, which had changed its name to Applied Energetics Inc., denied the claims but settled the suit in September 2009 by paying $5.3 million in cash and another $1.2 million in stock to the complaining shareholders. The firm didn't respond to repeated requests for comment.
Still, the project wouldn't die. With a $400,000 earmark from Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., and $1.5 million more from JIEDDO, the Marine Corps hung the JIN on the front of a mine roller. A slide from a May 2009 Marine Corps briefing shows a device attached to mine rollers shooting a bolt of electricity into the ground.
"People have been trying to use a Tesla coil" — a transformer that can produce very high-voltage discharges — "for years to defeat mines. It has never worked," said Dan Goure, a former defense official who's a vice president at the Lexington Institute, a Washington-area research center.
The devices JIEDDO designed to detect roadside bombs at a distance didn't work out, Goure said. They included airplane- or drone-based radars, long-range radars to sniff out buried control wires, and detectors to sense explosive ingredients such as ammonium nitrate fertilizer.
Other projects that were started but abandoned include: Alexis and Electra-C, which emitted waves to detonate IEDs but interfered with jammers; an unmanned Humvee called Forerunner that soldiers said "induced operator vertigo" and was hard to control, according to a JIEDDO report; and a high-powered microwave emitter called BlowTorch that was designed to defeat heat-triggered IEDs but which insurgents figured out how to overcome.
"We were throwing new technologies into this like fast-food orders at a diner," Goure said.
JIEDDO officials said the agency quickly terminated programs that weren't promising. But the GAO and some congressional staffers countered that the agency has never been good at choosing or steering its projects.
"It's been a weakness from the beginning. They don't have good controls over start-ups," said Bill Solis, the director of defense capabilities and management at the GAO, which has authored several studies on the agency.
JIEDDO spent more than $3 billion on jammers to thwart radio-controlled IEDs, which most say was a good idea. It bought mine rollers to attach to the fronts of vehicles. However, critics note that what many consider the most successful anti-roadside bomb program was only marginally funded by JIEDDO: the Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, now operating mainly in Afghanistan. While JIEDDO purchased the first 250 MRAPs, designed to withstand roadside bombs, it was a separate MRAP task force that bought more than 22,000 of them for $36 billion.
Oates, the agency's former director, has said the "greatest return on the dollar" has been training soldiers to detect and respond to roadside bomb attacks.
The GAO noted that the agency spent $70.7 million from 2007 to 2009 on "role-players in an effort to simulate Iraqi social, political and religious groups" at Pentagon training centers.
At one training site, the agency spent $24.1 million to make steel shipping containers resemble Iraqi buildings.
"I just couldn't believe it," said a former congressional staffer, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity because of a lack of authority to speak publicly.
The agency's new director, Lt. Gen Michael Barbero, took over earlier this month fresh off a tour in Iraq. Among his tasks will be collecting data on what works and what doesn't, and improving relations with Congress, which had complained in the past about a lack of information to evaluate the agency's performance.
In debate over the 2010 Pentagon budget, for instance, the House Armed Services Committee threatened to withhold half the agency's money "until the committee is provided JIEDDO's detailed budget and program information."
Few in Congress wanted to be seen giving short shrift to the fight against roadside bombs, however. Year after year, the agency has received the federal funding it requested, to the tune of $20.8 billion over six years.
Roadside bomb attacks continue to increase in Afghanistan, averaging roughly 1,500 per month at the end of last year. The number of U.S. troops wounded by IEDs skyrocketed to 3,366 in 2010, compared with 2,386 during the previous nine years combined, according to data JIEDDO collected.
Despite years of effort, soldiers have long had only a 50-50 success rate in detecting bombs before they explode. That ticked up to 60 percent in Afghanistan in recent months, Oates said — thanks largely to better local intelligence and aerial surveillance as well as on-the-ground technology — but it's too soon to tell whether this marks a long-term trend.
The agency's future is unclear. While some of Oates' predecessors argued that the agency should be a permanent part of the Pentagon because the fight against roadside bombs is global and ongoing, some in Congress have argued that it should be terminated at the end of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Oates, for his part, said that JIEDDO "is not a permanent organization, and we do not seek to be one."
(This article was reported and written by Peter Cary of the Center for Public Integrity and Nancy A. Youssef of McClatchy. Shashank Bengali of McClatchy contributed. The center is a nonprofit investigative journalism organization based in Washington. Cary is a freelance writer who formerly headed the investigative reporting team at U.S. News & World Report.)
Saturday, 26 March 2011 10:30AM
Jefferson Parish jury sentences man to death
First female VP candidate Ferraro dies at 75
|FILE - This Tuesday, Aug. 21, 1984 file picture shows Geraldine Ferraro at a news conference in New York. A spokesperson said Saturday, March 26, 2011 that Ferraro, the first woman to run for vice president, has died at 75. (AP Photo/Suzanne Vlamis, File)|
Ferraro died at Massachusetts General Hospital, where she was being treated for blood cancer. She died just before 10 a.m., said Amanda Fuchs Miller, a family friend who worked for Ferraro in her 1998 Senate bid and was acting as a spokeswoman for the family.
An obscure Queens congresswoman, Ferraro catapulted to national prominence at the 1984 Democratic convention when she was chosen by presidential nominee Walter Mondale to join his ticket against incumbents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush.
Delegates in San Francisco erupted in cheers at the first line of her speech accepting the vice-presidential nomination.
"My name is Geraldine Ferraro," she declared. "I stand before you to proclaim tonight: America is the land where dreams can come true for all of us."
Her acceptance speech launched eight minutes of cheers, foot-stamping and tears.
Ferraro sometimes overshadowed Mondale on the campaign trail, often drawing larger crowds and more media attention than the presidential candidate.
"No one asks anymore if women can raise the money, if women can take the heat, if women have the stamina for the toughest political campaigns in this country," Judy Goldsmith, then-president of the National Organization for Women told People Magazine in December, 1984. "Geraldine Ferraro did them all."
But controversy accompanied her acclaim. Frequent, vociferous protests of her favorable view of abortion rights marked the campaign.
Ferraro's run also was beset by ethical questions, first about her campaign finances and tax returns, then about the business dealings of her husband, John Zaccaro. Ferraro attributed much of the controversy to bias against Italian-Americans.
Mondale said he selected Ferraro as a bold stroke to counter his poor showing in polls against President Reagan and because he felt America lagged far behind other democracies in elevating women to top leadership roles.
"The time had come to eliminate the barriers to women of America and to reap the benefits of drawing talents from all Americans, including women," Mondale said.
In the end, Reagan won 49 of the 50 states, the largest landslide since Franklin D. Roosevelt's first re-election, in 1936 over Alf Landon.
In the years after the race, Ferraro told interviewers that she would have not have accepted the nomination had she known how it would focus criticism on her family.
"You don't deliberately submit people you love to something like that," she told presidential historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. in an interview in Ladies Home Journal. "I don't think I'd run again for vice-president," she said, then paused, laughed and said, "Next time I'd run for president."
Zaccaro pleaded guilty in 1985 to a misdemeanor charge of scheming to defraud in connection with obtaining financing for the purchase of five apartment buildings. Two years later he was acquitted of trying to extort a bribe from a cable television company.
Ferraro's son, John Zaccaro Jr., was convicted in 1988 of selling cocaine to an undercover Vermont state trooper and served three months under house arrest.
Some observers said the legal troubles were a drag on Ferraro's later political ambitions, which included her unsuccessful bids for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate in New York in 1992 and 1998.
Ferraro, a supporter of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, was back in the news in March 2008 when she stirred up a controversy by appearing to suggest that Sen. Barack Obama achieved his status in the presidential race only because he's black.
She later stepped down from an honorary post in the Clinton campaign, but insisted she meant no slight against Obama.
Ferraro received a law degree from Fordham University in 1960, the same year she married Zaccaro and became a full-time homemaker and mother. She said she kept her maiden name to honor her mother, a widow who had worked long hours as a seamstress.
After years in a private law practice, she took a job as an assistant Queens district attorney in 1974. She headed the office's special victims' bureau, which prosecuted sex crimes and the abuse of children and the elderly. In 1978, she won the first of three terms in Congress representing a blue-collar district of Queens.
After losing in 1984, she became a fellow of the Institute of Politics at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University until an unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Senate nomination in 1992.
She returned to the law after her 1992 Senate run, acting as an advocate for women raped during ethnic conflict in the former Yugoslavia.
Her advocacy work and support of President Bill Clinton won her the position of ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Commission, where she served in 1994 and 1995.
She co-hosted CNN's "Crossfire," in 1996 and 1997 but left to take on Chuck Schumer, then a little-known Brooklyn congressman, in the 1998 Democratic Senate primary. She placed a distant second, declaring her political career finished after she took 26 percent of the vote to Schumer's 51 percent.
In June 1999, she announced that she was joining a Washington, D.C., area public relations firm to head a group advising clients on women's issues.
Ferraro revealed two years later that she had been diagnosed with blood cancer. She discussed blood cancer research before a Senate panel that month and said she hoped to live long enough "to attend the inauguration of the first woman president of the United States."
Mother accused of training 11-year-old Bronx boy to be pickpocket worried about son's reputation
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Friday, March 25th 2011, 4:12 PM
She allegedly turned her 11-year-old son into a thief - and now she's worried about his reputation.
A Bronx woman went nuts Friday when photographers took her picture, suggesting it would look bad for the boy at school.
Carolyn Taylor, 35, is charged with making the child filch a wallet from a baby stroller at a Gap Kids on the upper West Side.
Wearing tight jeans a high-heeled suede boots, Taylor yelled at members of the media who were photographing her as she left a Manhattan court.
"You can't do this," she ranted.
"All you gotta do is my kid's school see this.
"Next time I'm coming back here with a thousand Muslims and kick your ass," she continued.
Throwing a beige scarf over her shoulder, she stormed down a hallway - her two male companions keeping their distance.
Taylor's lawyer, Henry Weil, said he wasn't sure what she meant by the last statement.
He said charges against the boy are being dropped, but prosecutors plans to present their case against Taylor to a grand jury Wednesday.
Taylor, who is out on $5,000 bail, was charged with possessing stolen property and endangering the welfare of a child for orchestrating the Jan. 15 theft, officials said.
Taylor's rap sheet has 11 arrests since 1993 on charges ranging from petty larceny to stolen property.
The Gap swipe was caught on videotape, and Taylor and her son were also taped using the victim's credit card at a drug store - where they also shoplifted.
In the drugstore video, Taylor appears to be directing her boy on what to steal and stuffing stolen merchandise in her bag.
ID swap doesn't save sister from jail
Tashena Begay, 27, in an effort to evade arrest during a November 2010 traffic stop, provided the traffic officer with her sister's information, including her date of birth. The woman had an April 2009 active warrant out for a failure to appear in court.
But her plan backfired.
Little did Begay know that her sister, Brittany Kee, also had a warrant out for her arrest for a failure to appear.
"I was trying to avoid going to jail," Begay said in court Thursday of why she used her sister's identity.
Kee, on the night Begay was stopped by Sheriff's Deputy Jeremy Yazzie, had an active warrant because she failed to appear in court for several traffic citations.
"The joke was on you," Magistrate Judge Carla Vescovi-Dial said in court Thursday.
Yazzie arrested Begay on the warrant and also charged her with child restraints, driving on a suspended license and concealing identity. Begay initially gave the deputy the wrong social security number when she was pretending to be Kee and she had three children in the car who were not properly restrained, according to court records.
Three months later, in February, Kee was surprised when she was arrested for failing to appear in court to deal with the November citations, which were actually issued to Begay.
Kee reported the incident to deputies, who investigated the case.
Deputies contacted Begay, who told police the night she was stopped by Yazzie, she contacted her sister by phone and Kee gave her permission to use her name, according to court records.
Records from the San Juan County Adult Detention Center indicated Begay had signed Kee's name six times, according to court records.
The charges against Kee were dismissed and a new warrant was issued in Begay's name.
Begay pleaded guilty Thursday to attempted forgery and driving while on a suspended or revoked license, for which she received two years of supervised probation.
Free Suave Professional Shampoo
70-year-old bank robber caught holding up bank day after his release from jail heads back to prison
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Thursday, March 24th 2011, 6:10 PM
John Stolarz, 70, who has spent the better part of his adult life behind bars, will likely spend the better part of his golden years there as well.
Stolarz pleaded guilty to the top count of bank robbery, according to court papers made public yesterday.
The career criminal was shot in the leg just after his brazen attempt to hold up a Chase branch near Madison Square Garden on Oct. 14 - a day after finishing a 22-year-stint in a federal prison.
Banks were the favorite target of Stolarz, known as "Johnny Shades" for the slick tinted sunglasses he donned for a heist.
He once admitted to the FBI he had robbed so many in one three-month stretch he lost count.
On Wednesday, Stolarz pleaded guilty before Federal Magistrate James Francis.
He is slated to be sentenced in June
Calif principal sells shoe collection to save jobs
The Associated Press
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Worried about possible layoffs, school principal Michele Miller spotted a potential solution in her own home.
She is selling 285 pairs — which fill a room in her apartment — to help close a district budget gap of up to $2.2 million. She's asking for a donation of $1,000 a pair to help save the jobs of 17 teachers, three vice principals, library technicians and others.
Miller felt the urge to act after leaving a late-night school board meeting March 8, when she learned the district faces a budget deficit of no less than $1.4 million, and possibly much higher.
"I came out of that meeting in a state of shock," Miller told The Associated Press. "I kept thinking, 'What do I have that I can sell?'"
She stayed up until 1 a.m. working out logistics to sell most of her 350 pairs of shoes.
Volunteers are uploading photos of the size 7-7½ high-tops, cowboy boots, leopard-print rain boots, sandals, platforms and high heels to a website, www.shoestotherescue.com, which went live earlier this week. For some of the shoes, Miller will post stories on her website about the memories she attaches to them.
The site also contains two videos in which Miller appeals to viewers to "adopt" her shoes.
"They're my art form, but they're functional art," she told the AP.
Miller described her shoes to The Sacramento Bee as gently used and relatively inexpensive.
"They're not Jimmy Choos or Prada or Gucci or something like that," she said.
Miller said she has not received any orders for her shoes yet but is taking donations from those who want to help but don't need additional footwear.
The website accepts tax-deductible donations through PayPal, which funnels the money to a district account set up for the eight-week fundraiser. Any money collected is designated specifically to help preserve at-risk jobs in the Rescue Union School District.
Miller said she will pay for shipping herself, but might ask a local mail center to pitch in if orders take off.
LINK TO VIDEO:
Altercation at council meeting sends mayor of Central Florida's Windermere to hospital
Updated: 9:06 a.m. Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Posted: 9:03 a.m. Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Windermere Mayor Gary Bruhn was taken to a hospital Tuesday night after a confrontation with the husband of the town manager that ended with the mayor crashing into a table and falling to the floor, where he lay apparently unconscious.
Bruhn had just finished lambasting Town Manager Cecilia Bernier’s management abilities during a Town Council meeting. He blamed her for a police scandal that has rocked the town.
After Bruhn called for Bernier to be fired, her husband, Roland Bernier, came to the podium and made accusations about Bruhn’s private life. The mayor then walked over to where Roland Bernier had taken a seat.
The next thing most of the audience saw was Bruhn lying on the floor motionless on his back. Someone screamed. An ambulance arrived quickly and took him to Health Central in Ocoee. It was not clear whether Bruhn fell or was pushed.
The new police chief, Mike McCoy, later said Bruhn was awake and able to speak to paramedics.
“I think tempers got out of control,” McCoy said. “The push, of course, was out of control.”
Officers escorted Roland Bernier from Town Hall. McCoy said that police would take statements from Bernier and witnesses and forward the information to the Orange-Osceola State Attorney’s Office for possible prosecution.
Bernier was not arrested.
McCoy was sitting at the table but was facing another direction when the altercation began. One witness told McCoy that Bruhn crouched in front of Bernier and got “in his face.” Another said Bernier attacked the mayor.
The Town Council meeting was terminated abruptly, and dozens of residents waited outside, peering through the windows. More people than usual were present, presumably to hear a presentation on the ongoing Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation of former police Chief Daniel Saylor and the Windermere Police Department. The council never got to that item.
McCoy spoke to residents afterward, assuring them that Bruhn was conscious and that Bernier would be held accountable.
Windermere Mayor Gary Bruhn is loaded into an ambulance.
Westboro Baptist Church plans to protest Elizabeth Taylor's funeral
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Thursday, March 24th 2011, 10:15 AM
In another in a series of increasingly nasty posts, Phelps - daughter of church pastor Fred Phelps - described the late Hollywood icon as a "serial-adulterous f-- hag."
It's unclear how the group plans to target the funeral, since it was expected to be a private family affair.
Westboro Baptist made headlines by protesting at the funeral of a Marine killed in Iraq, waving signs that read "God Hates F---" and "America Is Doomed."
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled earlier this month that the demonstrations were free speech protected by the First Amendment.
Jarrett Barrios, president of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, quickly denounced the announcement.
"Fred Phelps and his vitriolic anti-gay followers are simply trying to exploit their so-called 'faith' by spreading messages of hate at a time when Americans are grieving the loss of an extraordinary woman, actress and advocate," Barrios told E! News
LINK TO VIDEO OF ELIZABETH TAYLOR:
Pole Dancing for Jesus
Updated: Wednesday, 16 Mar 2011, 10:25 PM CDT
Published : Wednesday, 16 Mar 2011, 10:25 PM CDT
HOUSTON - Pole dancing as a workout is nothing new. Over the past few years, independent studios have popped up all over the country, but there is a very unique type of pole dancing class here in our area.
It’s called Pole Fitness for Jesus.
You’re probably thinking: “How on Earth can you mix pole dancing with Jesus?”
According to one studio in Spring, you can definitely mix the two.
“I was actually a dancer for 3 years, probably 7 years ago or so. I did it for awhile, it’s not something I felt very rewarded with, but to each his own and it was just something I decided I didn’t want to do anymore so I decided to take the part that I liked about that and bring it here but it’s so much fitness, I don’t teach women to be strippers,” said owner/instructor of Best Shape of Your Life Crystal Deans.
Every 2md Sunday of the month, Crystal Deans invites female church-goers into her pole dancing studio.
“On Sundays, we do pole fitness for Jesus. We do the upbeat contemporary Christian music because people have to bring their church program to get into the class, so we basically are just continuing the whole worship thing here.”
Don't let the name of the class fool you though. There's no prayer beforehand and there's no crosses hanging in her studio,
“Just to get past the whole stigma of the whole thing, I’m very Christian. I go to church every Sunday and I pray. I talk to God things like that I think there’s nothing wrong with what I do. I teach women to feel good about themselves, to feel empowered and we get in really good shape. God is the only person that judges so anybody who wants to judge me, feel free to but I’m good with God, so that’s what’s important to me and I really don’t care what people think.”
And neither does newcomer, Tiffany Booth.
“I think it’s a fabulous thing. I was raised around religion. My parents were very religious and it’s a great way you get the stigma off. It’s not just dancing on a pole. You have music and you have girls together working out and it’s a different kind of workout. There’s tons of different kinds of workouts, this just happens to be one,” said Tiffany.
“I mean it does the legs. That’s why we wear the shoes. The shoes are good for the legs and the glutes, but it’s a lot of upper body and a lot of core,” said Crystal.
LINK TO VIDEO:
DC incident spurs look at airport tower staffing
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Air traffic safety is under increased scrutiny by federal authorities following an incident in which two passenger jets landed without controller assistance at Reagan National Airport because no one could be reached in the airport tower.
Peter Knudson, a spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board said Wednesday that the pilots of the two planes were in contact with controllers at a regional Federal Aviation Administration facility about 40 miles away in Warrenton, Va.
He said that after pilots were unable to raise the airport tower at Reagan by radio, they asked controllers in Warrenton to call the tower. Repeated calls from the regional facility to the tower went unanswered, Knudson added.
Responding to the incident, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement that he has directed FAA to put two air traffic controllers on the midnight shift at Reagan National.
"It is not acceptable to have just one controller in the tower managing air traffic in this critical air space," LaHood said. Reagan National is located in Northern Virginia just across the Potomac River from Washington.
LaHood also said he has directed FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt to study tower staffing at other airports around the country.
NTSB is gathering information on the occurrence to decide whether to open a formal investigation, Knudson said.
Regional air traffic facilities handle aircraft within roughly a 50 mile radius of an airport, but landings, takeoffs and planes within about three miles of an airport are handled by controllers in the airport tower.
The planes involved were American Airlines flight 1012, a Boeing 737 with 91 passengers and 6 crew members on board, and United Airlines flight 628T, an Airbus A320 with 63 passengers and five crew members.
"The NTSB is conducting an investigation and we are doing our own review," United spokesman Charles Hobart said in an email.
FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown said the agency "is looking into staffing issues and whether existing procedures were followed appropriately."
It's unlikely the safety of the planes was at risk since the pilots would have used a radio frequency for the airport tower to advise nearby aircraft of their intention to land and to make sure that no other planes also intended to land at that time, aviation safety experts said. At that time of night, air traffic would have been light, they said.
Also, controllers at the regional facility, using radar, would have been able to advise the pilots of other nearby planes, experts said.
The primary risk would have been if there was equipment on the runway when the planes landed, they said.
But the incident raises serious questions about controller fatigue, a longstanding safety concern, said John Goglia, a former NTSB board member.
"You have to watch your schedules to make sure (controllers) have adequate rest," Goglia said. "It's worse when nothing is going on. When it's busy, you have to stay engaged. When it's quiet, all they have to be is a little bit tired and they'll fall asleep."
Cops: Man Robbed Store, Mom Was Getaway Driver
Posted: 3:29 pm EDT March 23, 2011 Updated: 3:53 pm EDT March 23, 2011
Police said that 20-year-old Angelo Palmieri walked into the store on 13th Street Tuesday, implied he had a gun and demanded money from the clerk. The clerk handed over the cash and Palmieri ran out of the store and got into his mother's car, said police.
The clerk called 911 and shortly afterward, Palmieri and his mother, 47-year-old Cindy Willson, were caught and arrested, investigators said.
NASA still ordered to waste $1.4 million a day
Mark K. Matthews
6:47 PM EDT, March 23, 2011
WASHINGTON — Congress has again failed to rid a temporary spending bill of language forcing NASA to waste $1.4 million a day on its defunct Constellation moon program.
Though Congress passed a new stopgap spending bill last week, the measure retained a leftover provision from the 2010 budget that bars the agency from shutting down Constellation, which Congress and the White House agreed to cancel last October.
This so-called "Shelby provision" — named for U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, who inserted it into the 2010 budget — is expected to cost NASA roughly $29 million during the three-week budget extension through April 8. It has already cost the agency nearly $250 million since Oct. 1.
Equally galling to budget hawks is that Congress has known about the mistake for months and has done nothing to correct it.
"It's like a dripping faucet, eventually it will fill up the sink," said Steve Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, a non-partisan spending watchdog. "This is just a case of congressional inertia failing to take care of the problem — at a cost to taxpayers."
It all started last summer, when Congress failed to pass a budget for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1. Instead, it approved a continuation of the 2010 budget — and has kept extending it while struggling to reach agreement on a spending plan for the rest of this fiscal year.
In January, NASA Inspector General Paul Martin urged "immediate action" to stop the spending on Constellation, much of which goes to Utah-based solid-rocket manufacturer ATK. Martin said it would cost an estimated $215 million through the end of February.
Since then, though, Congress has passed two "continuing resolutions" — each with the Shelby language.
More than two months ago, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., vowed to cut the language: "Given that every dime counts in our space program right now, we can't afford to be wasting money," Nelson said Jan. 13. He repeated the promise during a NASA hearing last week.
But the language is still there. Asked why, a Nelson spokesman blamed "partisan politics."
"There's no reason for the spending provision that's putting NASA in a jam, other than partisan politics over a broader government spending measure," said Bryan Gulley. "And there's no real opposition to Sen. Nelson's proposal to remove the language in question, except that lawmakers aren't able to agree on longer-term budget cuts. Still, Sen. Nelson is convinced the problem will be fixed, and soon."
Industry and congressional sources attributed the failure to the fact that the amount of money involved simply wasn't enough to attract the attention of congressional leaders.
"Maybe $1 million a day isn't a big deal when you have a $1.6 trillion [federal] deficit," said Thomas Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste, a non-partisan budgetary watchdog. But, he added, that's "not the kind of decision any normal organization would make."
At recent congressional hearings, NASA officials have said they were doing their best to steer the Constellation money toward the agency's next big project: a heavy-lift rocket that one day could take astronauts to the moon and beyond.
When pressed, however, Doug Cooke, the agency's head of exploration systems, said NASA "would be happy and less constrained without the restrictions."
Denied a kiss, woman, 92, charged with shooting neighbor's house
Dwight Bettner said he wished his 92-year-old neighbor would leave him alone long before she fired four shots at his Fort McCoy home on Monday.
Helen B. Staudinger said her relationship with the 53-year-old man soured because of his "lies" and that he was not "paying his way" when they dined out.
On Tuesday morning, in a room at the Marion County Jail where inmates appear before a judge via video, Judge Sarah Ritteroff Williams told Staudinger that even if she posts the $15,000 bail for charges of aggravated assault with a firearm and shooting into an occupied dwelling and gets out of jail, she still is forbidden to have any contact with Bettner.
The judge also warned Staudinger that if Bettner's residence is within 500 feet of her home, she is not allowed to return home. And, the judge added, she is not allowed to possess any firearms or ammunition.
"I feel pretty good," Bettner said upon hearing the news of the restrictions placed on his neighbor.
Before facing the judge during first appearance, a handcuffed Staudinger, dressed in a red and white jail outfit, told a Star-Banner reporter that Bettner is a smooth talker. She said she liked him and had told him many times about her fondness for him.
Staudinger said she is a widow and that her husband died in 1982, and that is the year she moved to Fort McCoy. She said they had five children, four girls and a boy, and that she was a housewife but also once worked as a supervisor for a chain of cleaners.
She said she used to cook for Bettner when he first moved into her Fort McCoy neighborhood. She said they used to go out and eat and sometimes he would kiss her on the cheek and other times would give her a peck on the lips when she cooked for him.
Staudinger said Bettner told lies and was not paying his way when they dined out.
She also said he had a number of girlfriends coming and going from his residence.
Bettner said he moved to the neighborhood about six months ago and that a couple of months after moving in, Staudinger needed a part for her stove so he drove her to Ocala to purchase the item. On their way back, he said, they stopped to grab a bite to eat and she offered to pay for the meal. He said that was the only time they ever went out to eat.
He said Staudinger once cooked dinner or breakfast for him and he gave her a kiss on the cheek just "trying to be nice to her."
"I've got a girlfriend of my own," said Bettner, adding that he has repeatedly ignored the woman's advances.
When sheriff's deputies arrived shortly before 1 p.m. Monday, Bettner told them he had been hit by flying glass when his neighbor fired shots into his residence.
"I was standing in the bedroom talking on the phone when one of the bullets came into the bedroom," he said. "The other three bullets hit the side of the house."
Bettner said Staudinger has cursed at him and once attempted to strangle a woman she thought was having an affair with him.
While standing in Staudinger's front yard, Deputy Kimberly Minton asked for the gun and Staudinger told her it was inside.
The deputy found the .380 semi-automatic handgun on an end table in the living room. She emptied the weapon and noted a round was in the chamber.
Staudinger told the deputy she had gone next door to talk with her friend, but he wanted her to leave. She said although Bettner had a girlfriend, she was not going to leave the house until he gave her a kiss. They argued, Staudinger said, and she left his home in anger, grabbed the gun and went back to the house and fired several shots.
Staudinger told the Star-Banner reporter, however, that the reason she went to Bettner's home was because he owed her money from the times they went out to eat.
"The more I thought about it, the madder I got," she said.
She denied asking for a kiss before leaving.
She did say the weapon belonged to her.
Staudinger's friend Penny Powell said she heard shots and went to her friend's home to check on her.
"I think she was upset at him," Powell said.
Staudinger was appointed a public defender. Her next court date is April 2.
LINK TO PHOTO:
U.S. citizen gets deported: L.I. tot, 4, sent to Guatemala after grandfather's detained
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Wednesday, March 23rd 2011, 4:00 AM
"I'm just shocked," the family's lawyer, David Sperling, said Tuesday.
"I think it's an outrage that Customs and Border Protection didn't do anything to reunite her with her parents....She is a U.S. citizen and she has every right to come to the U.S."
Emily Samantha Ruiz and her grandfather, who had a work visa allowing him to travel, were returning from seeing relatives March 11 when their New York-bound plane was diverted to Washington.
Officials at Dulles Airport noticed an illegal entry from the 1990s on grandpa's record and took him into custody, Sperling said.
He suffered what Sperling believes was a panic attack and was sent to the hospital. The lawyer declined to name the grandfather.
Emily was in federal custody for nearly a day in the airport while her parents in Brentwood wondered why the pair hadn't arrived home as planned.
When her father figured out what happened and spoke to a border control agent, the lawyer says, he was told he had two choices: Emily could be held at a juvenile facility in Virginia or return to Guatemala with her grandfather.
Worried she would be put up for adoption, he chose the latter option and has been trying to get her back ever since.
A Customs and Border Protection spokesman confirmed Emily was sent back but would not comment on her case further.
He said agents are instructed to tell parents in similar cases they can pick up their child, have the child turned over to child protective services or have the kid sent back to the country they left.
"We take every effort to reunite minors with their parents," said Steve Sapp. "The parents need to make the decision."
But he conceded undocumented parents like Emily's risk being detained if they show up. "They do have to face consequences," he said.
Rep. Steve Israel (D-L.I.) is asking Homeland Security to conduct a review.
"This bureaucratic overreach and utter failure of common sense has left a little girl - a U.S. citizen no less - stranded thousands of miles from her parents," he said.
Meanwhile, Sperling plans to have a staffer go to Guatemala and retrieve Emily.
"We hope there's a happy ending to this story," he said.
Raleigh woman jailed in hair extension holdup
A 21-year-old Raleigh woman was arrested over the weekend after police said she used a gun to rob someone of hair extensions.
Bridgette Leighanna Brown, of 3205 Mango Drive, is accused of threatening to use a firearm to steal two packages of Crazy Hair extensions from Ji Sung Mi, according to arrest warrants filed in the Wake County Magistrate's Office.
Police said they believe the holdup occurred in Raleigh on March 7.
Brown is in custody in the Wake County jail on a $100,000 bond.
Cops: Swan Lake man drunk, toting beer at DWI hearing
MONTICELLO — A Swan Lake man facing a felony driving-while -intoxicated charge showed up at Sullivan County Court on Monday with a bag full of beer — and was promptly thrown in jail without bail, officials said.
Keith Gruber, 49, had a scheduled 10:30 a.m. pretrial hearing.
Gruber came to court about an hour and a half late carrying a black bag that contained four cans of Busch beer, authorities said. He also was carrying an open can and was obviously drunk, officials said.
He tried to throw away the can, but officers stopped him.
The bag was confiscated by court officers at the security check and was presented to Judge Frank LaBuda. Before Gruber arrived in court, LaBuda relieved Gruber's attorney from the case.
Gruber had been represented by the Greenwald law firm but hadn't cooperated with them.
LaBuda asked Gruber if he enjoyed his "liquid lunch." Gruber indicated he did and said he was sorry.
"It was obvious he was intoxicated," LaBuda said.
Gruber, who has prior DWI convictions, was arrested Dec. 27 in the town of Liberty and was out on $30,000 cash bail.
LINK TO PHOTO:
Search on for new voice of Aflac duck
Mar 22, 2011 02:36PM
NEW YORK (AP) — Want to take a quack at doing the new voice of the ever-abrasive Aflac duck? Now’s your chance.
Aflac Inc. will begin accepting submissions on Wednesday in its search for a unique voice to replace Gilbert Gottfried’s signature squawk. Gottfried was ousted last week after voicing the duck for more than 10 years because he made insensitive remarks on Twitter about the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
Anyone interested can submit a 30-second audio or video file belting their best version of the “Aflac” squawk at www.quackaflac.com. A 2006 ad featuring the Aflac duck in a silent movie — with no dialogue at all — was re-edited to promote the search and will begin airing Wednesday.
The submission deadline is midnight on April Fool’s Day.
Girl gets to play basketball game before losing leg
The Grand Rapids Press
Mar 22, 2011 02:01PM
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Too many of our dreams are rooted in a desire for wealth or fame.
Then there is the dream of Alyssia Crook, a girl who craved to play just one basketball game with her teammates, for her school, in a real uniform.
Before the surgeons take her leg.
This is the story of a young sprite from Ottawa County’s Georgetown Township who made an adult decision on faith — and it is tied to the kids she hopes to have in another 10 or 12 years.
It includes a coach from Hudsonville’s Baldwin Middle School who put doing the right thing ahead of winning and a school community sharing what you can’t discover in books.
Alyssia, 12, was born with defects to her legs that affect her nerves, arteries, veins and cartilage. When her parents, Chad and Karen Crook, adopted her from a Russian orphanage, she was 5 and walked on the balls of her feet. To feel the long, taut braid that runs behind her left knee is to grip a knotty cord.
But she was the little girl they chose to adopt, a girl whose eyes Chad saw even before they met. Rounding a corner in the orphanage, he turned to his left, and there in the first crib were the brown eyes he had imagined.
The legs didn’t matter.
“That’s her,” he turned and said to Karen, and they flew her home.
Alyssia has had “dozens of surgeries” in an effort to relieve pain and improve circulation and mobility. For too long, she and her parents have endured trips to specialists in Chicago, where every three months Alyssia would submit to painful straightening of her limbs, followed by trips home in yet another cast.
On Feb. 28, Alyssia’s parents were told by doctors that they were reduced to two choices: Either shorten Alyssia’s legs and live in fear of ever incurring an injury to the limbs, or undergo an amputation of the left leg, which was more severely affected.
They went home to cry, deliberate.
It was on an impromptu walk that the answer was delivered. Alyssia was humming a song when she says God whispered to her, “You have fought long and hard enough. It’s time to let go.”
She recoiled in wonder and remembers yelling, “What?!”
Then she saw a vision of a boy and girl playing soccer, then basketball, then softball, then playing catch with a Frisbee. Eventually, she saw herself in the vision, a young mother with a prosthetic leg, and the kids were her own.
She shared the vision with her parents, and they started to speak, but she held her hand out.
“This is my body, my leg, my life, and I know God told me it’s my decision,” she said. “I choose to be a mom that can play with her children.”
And then the seventh-grader implored her mother to call the doctors and tell them she wouldn’t be hobbling around on legs half their size, “because (the doctors are) going to be cutting off my leg.”
The surgery likely will occur in days or weeks, not months from now.
For years, Alyssia had been competing on a Special Olympics girls’ basketball team. She qualifies because she has mild cognitive impairment that manifests itself in a learning disability and trouble reading.
But her dream, since entering middle school last fall, was to play on the team with her classmates at Baldwin Middle.
She tried out but was one of seven girls cut by coach Steve Roth from 20 who tried. She took it like a champ and reinvented herself as a cheerleader and booster for the team.
“She kept the scorebook for our away games,” Roth said. “I told her, ‘Maybe next year. Come out and prove me wrong.’”
But then he found out the latest news.
And he acted.
On March 9, in a game against Rockford, the team exited the locker room with a new player. It was No. 32, Alyssia Crook. Her parents had no idea it was coming and, when the tough little waif with brown eyes streamed out with the others, they wept.
She dressed again last week. That time she scored a point.
Last Thursday was to be her last game on two legs.
She started, had two steals and made a layup for two solid points in the win.
The little crowd roared.
“What a story,” said Baldwin Principal Dave Powers. “I don’t know how many of our own kids know what she has going on yet.”
On Thursday, he read to his staff an update of what Alyssia faced, complete with her version of the vision. “There wasn’t a dry eye in the room.”
Alyssia allowed the tears to flow from her 4-foot-8, 71-pound frame in a hallway after the game.
“I wanted to play with the real team,” she said. “I wanted to be part of something. And when I grow up, I want to be playing with my kids, not a spectator.”
Inside the gymnasium at Baldwin Middle, Alyssia’s grandfather, Dave Bundick, was pocketing his video camera. Alyssia had asked him to chronicle her last time.
“Someday,” she told him, “I want to be able to show my kids that I played basketball with both legs.”
LINK TO PHOTO GALLERY:
'Dropout factories,' schools that graduate 60 percent or less of their students, fell to 1,634 in 2009, down from 2,007 in 2002, says a new report. Attention on the dropout problem has led to improvement, analysts say.
March 22, 2011 at 9:24 am EDT
The number of “dropout factories” is dropping.
A report released Tuesday has good news for those working at improving the graduation rate in America's schools – an effort that has received significant attention only for the past decade or so.
The number of “dropout factory” high schools – those graduating 60 percent or less of their students – was 1,634 in 2009, according to the report, released by America’s Promise Alliance, Civic Enterprises, and Johns Hopkins University’s Everyone Graduates Center. This is down from 1,746 in 2008, and from a high of 2,007 in 2002.
The report, “Building a Grad Nation,” is an annual update on an effort launched a year ago by America’s Promise Alliance, founded by former Secretary of State Colin Powell and his wife, Alma. The resulting plan to end the dropout crisis by 2020, dubbed the Civic Marshall Plan, has established benchmarks to hit along the way – from improving attendance and establishing early-warning and intervention systems to increasing the number of mentors and the number of students reading on grade level by the beginning of fifth grade. It’s working in concert with even more pointed efforts to target the worst schools, like the federal government’s $4 billion school improvement fund.
Still, he and others note that many challenges remain, given the deep and complex roots of the dropout problem.
Some 2.1 million high school students still attend dropout factories, according to the report. While research shows that one of the most effective tools for dropout prevention is an early-warning system to identify the 10 to 15 percent of students most at risk of dropping out – based on factors such as attendance, grades, and performance – coupled with interventions for those students, relatively few states have implemented such systems. Those that have, says Bridgeland, often don’t start until students are in ninth grade – which he considers too late to do much.
Similarly, while more states are beginning to collect useful data showing how students progress over time, few have figured out the best ways to use it to improve instruction and prevent dropping out.
The news in the report also varies from state to state, with some showing impressive improvement while others are moving in the wrong direction.
Six states – California, South Carolina, Illinois, North Carolina, Connecticut, and Tennessee – managed to reduce their number of dropout factories by 10 or more schools. Connecticut all but eliminated them, going from 14 such schools in 2008 to one in 2009. And Tennessee continued to shine: The previous report from the project, looking at data from 2002 to 2008, had also highlighted the state as making “breakthrough gains.”
Meanwhile, three states – Georgia, New York, and Ohio – moved in the opposite direction, adding at least five new dropout factory high schools.
The report highlights a number of districts – including Baltimore, Cincinnati, and Canton, Ohio – that have made gains by boring in on the dropout program. It also emphasizes the importance of community partners – like City Year, United Way, and Jobs for the Future – working with the schools and particularly with at-risk students.
“Schools can’t do it alone,” Bridgeland says.
It makes sense that all the efforts to target the dropout problem are starting to pay off, says Daniel Losen, senior education law and policy associate with the Civil Rights Project at the University of California, Los Angeles. A lot of progress was made, he suggests, by just shining a light on the problem and by getting schools to stop doing some of the things that contributed to it: suspending students too often, pushing kids toward GED programs, or disenrolling problem kids.
Professor Losen says some of the apparent gains may be artificial – the result of districts “gaming the system” now that policymakers are starting to hold them accountable. But he believes that good progress is being made in many places.
Losen worries, though, that just as districts are discovering what works, many of the most successful programs may be cut as a result of strained federal and state budgets.
“The impact of the economy is not going to show up in this year’s graduation rates, but a few years down the line,” says Losen. “It’s frightening that at the point when we might be figuring out some things that are effective, we’re cutting the funds we need.”
NOTE: "YOUTUBE HAS REMOVED THIS VIDEO BUT I FOUND AN ALTERNATIVE SOURCE!!!"
Charlie Sheen offered Two and A Half Men job back?
Charlie Sheen: sources close to Charlie Sheen say the actor has been offered his job back, but will fans ever see Sheen on Two and A Half Men after all that has happened?
Charlie Sheen may be out of a job, for now. But according to reports swirling on Monday the actor may be back on television sooner rather than later.
NBC News quoted sources close to Sheen as saying that CBS had offered the actor back his job on the hit comedy "Two and A Half Men", but no deal had been struck and discussions were ongoing.
Elsewhere, The Hollywood Reporter said Sheen met with senior executives at rival network Fox last week for talks. The actor sent a cryptic Tweet over the weekend reading "perhaps a new lair...? A Fox and a Warlock? epic" accompanied by a picture of a Fox television logo.
Earlier, the actor had been the subject of numerous media reports about his wild partying, and he spent time in drug and alcohol rehab, leading Warner Bros. Television, which makes "Two and A Half Men," to call Sheen's conduct "dangerously self-destructive."
Celebrity website Radaronline.com on Monday also reported unnamed sources as saying that CBS chief executive Les Moonves wanted to get Sheen and "Two and A Half Men" back on the air, and had spoken with the producer and co-creator Lorre -- the target of much of Sheen's ire.
Sheen's spokesman said he had no comment on the various reports. CBS and Warner Bros. Television declined to comment.
It was unclear whether Sheen would want to go back to his role as a womanizing bachelor on "Two and A Half Men" despite filing a $100 million lawsuit claiming he was unfairly dismissed.
The show is a cash cow for CBS and Warner Bros. Last week, Forbes.com estimated that it made an estimated $2.89 million in advertising revenue per half-hour show.
Sheen's public profile has soared since his March 7 firing. He has accumulated more than three million followers on Twitter, invented popular catch-phrases such as "winning" and "tiger blood", and organized a series of one-man stage shows that swiftly sold out in several U.S. cities.
CBS and Warner Bros Television have about six weeks to decide whether to bring back "Two and A Half Men" for a ninth season, with or without Sheen.
The TV network presents its annual fall TV schedule to advertisers in New York on May 18 at the so-called "upfronts", where broadcasters hope to sell the majority of the upcoming TV season's commercial slots.
Michael Clare, Bronx pastor charged with raping, impregnating 12-year-old girl, rejects plea deal
DAILY NEWS WRITER
Monday, March 21st 2011, 2:04 PM
A Bronx pastor charged with raping a 12-year-old girl from his flock turned down a "sweetheart" plea deal that came with three years in prison.
Michael Clare, 38, refused the offer from prosecutors, despite "almost irrefutable proof" he impregnated the child, said Bronx Supreme Court Justice Megan Tallmer.
"He wasn't interested," Tallmer said in court Monday.
Clare's lawyer, Paul Brenner, asked the judge to consider probation instead of prison.
"I would never do that," she snapped, citing a DNA match between Clare and the victim's aborted fetus.
Clare - the married leader of the Harvest Worship Center and principal of the associated Harvest Prep school, declined comment outside court.
Authorities learned of the alleged crimes in June, when the girl, who now 15, told her parents and police that Clare had sexually preyed on her for three years.
Clare, who is free on $50,000 bond, faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted of first-degree rape at trial.
Prosecutors believe he may have victimized other young churchgoers as well.
The judge said his preaching days are probably over, though, since his name would likely be added to the state sex offender registry following any plea deal.
"I don't see how he could continue his work as a pastor," Tallmer said.
Clare's lawyer said the clergyman will be vindicated at trial.
"He turned down the plea deal because he's innocent," Brenner said.
One prosecutor said that was a mistake.
"This was a sweetheart offer considering the evidence against him," the prosecutor said. "It won't get any better from here."
The Beefy Crunch Burrito incident
Man upset by price gets in shootout with police; no one hurt.
Updated 06:27 p.m., Monday, March 21, 2011
Members of the SAPD SWAT team work the scene of a standoff at the Rodeway Inn.Photo: EDWARD A. ORNELA SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS NFS
Members of the SAPD SWAT team work the scene of a standoff at...
Members of the SAPD SWAT team work the scene of a standoff at the Rodeway Inn.Photo: EDWARD A. ORNELAS SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS NFS
Members of the SAPD SWAT team work the scene of a standoff at...
Members of the SAPD SWAT team work the scene of a standoff at the Rodeway Inn.Photo: EDWARD A. ORNELAS SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS NFS
Members of the SAPD SWAT team work the scene of a standoff at...
Members of the SAPD SWAT team work the scene of a standoff at the Rodeway Inn.Photo: EDWARD A. ORNELAS SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS NFS
Members of the SAPD SWAT team work the scene of a standoff at...
The price of the Beefy Crunch Burrito had gone up from 99 cents to $1.49 and the man at the Rigsby Road Taco Bell drive-thru had just ordered seven.
The fast food customer was so disgruntled by the price hike he shot an air gun at the manager, displayed an assault rifle and pistol while in the restaurant's parking lot, fled as police were called, and pointed one of his weapons at three officers who pulled him over. Fleeing when they opened fire, he barricaded himself in his hotel room — all over $3.50 plus additional tax.
All three of his weapons were found to be air-powered and not firearms.
The final incident in the burrito-triggered spree happened Sunday afternoon at the Rodeway Inn on North W.W. White Road, engaging SWAT negotiators in a more than three-hour standoff, according to officials and witnesses.
Police initially said Ricardo Jones, 37, was charged with two felony counts of aggravated assault against a public servant.
Jones was in the Bexar County Jail on bail totaling $50,000. No one was injured in the incident.
Jones was taken into custody about 6:45 p.m. Sunday after officials used tear gas to get him out of the motel room where he was staying. Police recovered the rifle and two handguns, Benavides said.
It all began about four hours earlier when the man put in his order at the Taco Bell/KFC two-for-one restaurant in the 5300 block of Rigsby Road on the city's East Side.
Restaurant manager Brian Tillerson, 41, said his employees told him a customer was upset about the price of the Beefy Crunch Burrito.
“They did use to be 99 cents, but that was just a promotion,” Tillerson said. “He pointed a gun at me, and he fired it. I leaned to the side and there was a pop but nothing happened.”
Tillerson said the police later found a BB, but the following five minutes “were pretty crazy,” he said.
Looking out the windows, he said he saw the man put an assault rifle and a handgun on the roof of his Mitsubishi Endeavor. Customers dove under their tables, the employees scrambled to the back and Tillerson ran to the front to lock the doors as he called police.
The man then jumped into his vehicle and took off, Tillerson said.
Fewer than two miles away, at W.W. White Road and Hershey Drive, officers spotted the suspect and two patrol units pulled over the car, Benavides said. As the officers got out of their cars, the man got out of his car carrying the assault rifle in his hands and pointing it at the officers.
Police initially reported Jones exchanged fire with the officers. But on Monday, an SAPD spokesman said investigators could not be sure about that because his rifle was also a BB gun and they could find no spent BBs. It was unclear who shot out the windshield of a police patrol car during the shooting.
From there, the man sped off to the Rodeway Inn in the 200 block of North W.W. White Road just a few blocks away from Interstate 10.
It was about 3 p.m., and the man refused to come out.
Sharpshooters climbed up on the roof of the Sky Line Food Mart next to the motel. Police blocked off W.W. White in both directions. They evacuated some nearby businesses and some of the rooms in the motel.
Through a megaphone the negotiator could be heard telling the man to pick up the phone.
“No one needs to get hurt,” the negotiator said.
Around 6:30 p.m., and without a reply from the man inside, SWAT used tear gas to clear the room, Benavides said. The man came out without incident.
Tillerson, calm and back at work after giving a statement to police, said after hearing that the customer shot at officers he was even more relieved he didn't get into his restaurant.
“The weird thing is,” Tillerson said, “He was here a week ago around the same time last Sunday. He yelled at me then too.”
DALLAS WIENS AT HOME:
WIENS LOSES FACE IN ACCIDENT VIDEO LINK:
Police: Drunk Dad Made 14-Year Old Son Designated Driver
10:47 a.m. CDT, March 18, 2011
If you're drinking alcohol, designated drivers are supposed to be good to have but Memphis Police say William Smith's designated driver was his 14-year old son.
Lola Brown was at the intersection of Lamar and American Way when the car her brother was in was
"It was like the car wouldn't stop turning and it rammed him," said Brown.
To Brown's surprise a 14-year-old got out the driver's seat and she says his father was out of it.
"There was no doubt he was intoxicated," Brown explains.
According to the arrest report, 33-year old William Smith smelled like alcohol, had blood shot eyes and slurred speech.
His blood alcohol content was .251, three times the legal limit.
Brown says Smith tried to tell officers he was driving but his younger son, who was also in the car, confessed it was his 14-year old brother.
"He said my dad made him drive. He told him he was going to get in trouble if he didn't drive."
Smith faces a long list of charges including Driving Under the Influence, Child Endangerment and Reckless Driving.
"It really could have cost somebody their life. At that moment everything could have changed for everybody in both of those cars only because your dad was intoxicated," said Brown.
The police also say Smith's license was revoked in 2003, his tags expired in May of 2010 and he had no proof of insurance.
His 14-year old son ended up getting a juvenile summons.
No one was seriously injured
LINK TO VIDEO:
Experts: Court-Prone Lindsay Lohan Costing Taxpayers Millions
March 21, 2011
May 24: Lindsay Lohan sits in the courtroom during her hearing in Beverly Hills.
Lindsay Lohan has been in more courtrooms the past four years than she has been in movies.
The troubled actress was first arrested in May 2007 on a misdemeanor drunk driving charge in Beverly Hills, then in July was arrested again in Santa Monica and charged with drunk driving, cocaine possession and driving with a suspended license, for which she pleaded guilty the following month.
In November, Lohan surrendered to a Los Angeles County Jail, and then in 2009 her probation was extended another year because she failed to complete a mandatory alcohol counseling program.
Cut to 2010 and Lohan’s legal jeopardy deepened as she violated the terms of her probation by failing to appear in court and missing the alcohol counseling classes, which then resulted in her serving time at Lynwood Correctional Facility in July. A few weeks later, the “Mean Girls” star failed a drug test and was handcuffed and taken to the slammer before posting bail that night, and during her court-enforced rehab stay at Betty Ford the 24-year-old was accused of allegedly tussling with a staffer at the clinic.
Then earlier this year, drama-prone Lohan was charged with felony grand theft by the Los Angeles County District Attorney for allegedly stealing a necklace from a Venice jewelry store.
Factoring in all the court dates, court postponements (like when she was partying in Cannes and couldn’t get back to the U.S for a hearing), arraignments, judge and prosecutor fees, jail visits (she has had three stints in the slammer – 84 minutes, two weeks and one evening before posting bail, mug shots (four and counting), probation officers, random drug testing resources, SCRAM bracelets (these generally cost over $100 to install and have a daily fee of about $18) and LAPD security to and from court, how much is Lohan costing the taxpayer?
“It has been four years, and we’re talking about quite a few county law enforcement professionals, so it is probably safe to say several million dollars,” California-based civil law trial attorney David Wohl told FOX411’s Pop Tarts.
And given that Lohan has thus far refused to enter into a plea deal regarding the theft incident, her current theft case could potentially go to trial, costing Californians much more.
“Each court hearing can take hours of prosecutorial time, judicial time and judicial staff such as a court clerk, stenographer and bailiffs in the courtroom protecting Lindsay. If only 100 hours total was spent on her first DUI case out of the Beverly Hills Courthouse, you’re talking about a minimum of $10,000 just in prosecutorial/attorney time alone. Multiply that by the number of cases she has and you'll see that the Lohan case is costing this state tens of thousands of dollars," explained Criminal Defense Attorney RJ Manuelian. "The irony is, that the further Ms. Lohan is prosecuted ‘in the interest of justice,’ injustice is done to our state economy."
"What makes matters worse is that Ms. Lohan is still facing a possible probation violation from Judge Fox's court in Beverly Hills," Manuelian said. "If she goes to jail, that adds more financial burden to our state's financial crisesandit burdens our already overcrowded jails. In the end – more money we don't have. Scott Peterson's trial cost the state over $3 million, and Lohan’s latest case certainly has the potential to reach hundreds of thousands of dollars should it go to trial.”
Hollywood publicist Michael Sands, who has worked on a number of celebrity-related legal cases, also said Lohan has cost Los Angeles county well over one million dollars to date.
“If the stolen necklace case goes to trial, it will cost anywhere from $500,000 and up. In just one day with one court appearance, Lindsay could blow over $100,000 and we all have to foot the bill,” Sands said. “The legal fees for the prosecutors are totally exorbitant, and then to have to have police dignitary forces take her to court and guard her costs hundreds and hundreds of dollars per hour. She is a real tax burden to the state.”
Wohl did the raise the point that those involved in Lohan’s sentencing are only doing their jobs – and if it isn’t her they’re dealing with, it is someone else.
“Most of the people involved are just doing their jobs – whether they're dealing with Lilo or any other criminal, so they don't cost the taxpayers any extra, with the exception of overtime pay for the countless cops who have to provide courthouse security for her court appearances,” Wohl said. “The real inconvenience to taxpayers could come if her cases go to trial. Hundreds – perhaps more – will be dragged from their jobs to the courthouse to try and find 12 jurors who haven't been exposed to the details of Lohan's alleged ‘one woman crime wave.’ While the current Judge has all but sentenced her to jail, the reality is that no one has heard the evidence in her case. If she decides to have a trial, the reality is that LA could become host to the biggest three ring legal circus since OJ.”
- Deidre Behar contributed to this report.
Mon Mar 21 11:14am EDT
Sumo wrestler becomes heaviest man to ever finish marathon
The heaviest person to ever complete a marathon weighed 275 pounds. Add that weight plus the total weight of a great long-distance runner (about 120 pounds) and you'll get Kelly Gneiting.
Gneiting, a three-time U.S. sumo champion, tipped the scales at 400 pounds when he began this weekend's Los Angeles Marathon. Nine hours, 48 minutes, 52 seconds later he crossed the finish line and set the Guinness World Record for being the heaviest person to ever complete the 26.2-mile race.
The 400-pound American jogged the first eight miles of the race and walked the last 18, often stopping at intersections and stoplights because he was well behind the 13-minute-per-mile pace set by race organizers. He says he became delirious after mile 10 and only realized he hit the 15-mile mark when a friend gave him a clean pair of socks.
"I was really struggling in the last five miles," he said to the Los Angeles Times, "but I said to myself, 'If I have to crawl, I will.'"
When he finally finished, he had set the weight world record and a personal best by over two hours. "I'd like to see the Kenyan improve his marathon time by two hours," he joked.
Gneiting weighed 200 pounds in college but says he packed on the weight after getting married. He became a sumo wrestler 11 years ago and won his first national title four years later. Despite his weight, Gneiting says he's still fit and wants to prove it by competing in other competitions. Next up? Swimming the English Channel.
Sun, Mar. 20, 2011
Woman arrested on grand larceny charge
Police said a patron of the Imperial Palace Casino, whom police did not identify, reported she had dropped the cash.
Police said Mitzi Bright Poteet, 55, of McHenry, saw the other patron drop the money and look for it, but failed to return it to her. Poteet was arrested about 6:30 p.m. Saturday and taken to the Harrison County Adult Detention Center.
Mother hopes others will opt out of standardized testing
State College, Pennsylvania (CNN)-- A Pennsylvania mother has decided she does not want her two children to take the two-week-long standardized tests given by her state as part of the federal No Child Left Behind law. And she hopes other parents will do the same.
Michele Gray's sons -- Ted Rosenblum, 11, and John Michael Rosenblum, 9 -- did independent study the week of March 14 while their classmates were filling in hundreds of bubbles in classrooms with doors marked, "Quiet. Testing in Progress."
Gray says the only legal exemption that would allow her kids to sit out the tests was a religious objection. So that's what she did.
But Gray says her concerns go well beyond religion. "The more I look at standardized tests, the more I realize that we have, as parents, been kind of sold a bill of goods."
She says the tests are not accurate measures of accomplishment, create undue anxiety for students and are used to punish schools.
She gives the example of her sons' award-winning school, Park Forest Elementary, which last year was put on "warning" status after the school's special education students fell below the level of progress the state expects on their exams.
"The more I looked at it, the more outraged I became," Gray said, "This is not something I want to be contributing to (or) something I want my children participating in."
Dr. Timothy Slekar, an associate professor of education at Penn State Altoona, agrees. It was his op-ed piece on the Huffington Post website that inspired Gray to take action.
Slekar is also a father and this year chose not to allow his 11-year-old son Luke to take the tests. He says schools are narrowing their curricula in an effort to boost test scores and wasting too much time preparing for, and then taking, the tests.
He says the tests aren't an accurate indicator of a child's -- or a school's -- performance. "I'm a father and an educator who's finally said, 'This is it. I'm done.' Something has to give. Something has to change," Slekar said.
Another education professor, Dana Mitra, also isn't happy with the tests, but decided to allow her third-grader daughter to take them this year because she's afraid that holding her daughter out could harm the school's test results.
"Given that we're interested in wanting our schools to be the best that they can, we feel pressure as parents to want to help our school," she said. She's not sure what she'll do with her daughter next year.
Testing proponents, such as United Negro College Fund President and CEO Michael Lomax, say parents who opt out "are doing their own children a disservice." He added, "Testing is a parent's ally" and that in order to compete with countries such as China and India, U.S. schools need to be held to a higher standard. And testing, he says, is the way to do it.
"The testing isn't the reason the schools are failing. The instruction is the reason the schools are failing," Lomax insisted.
But "opt-out" parents like Gray and Slekar are undeterred.
Gray has a Facebook page aimed at helping other parents learn that they are able to opt out of testing and how to do it.
Parents in Colorado have created a similar website.
Despite these efforts, opting out of standardized tests is rare nationwide. The U.S. Department of Education says it doesn't track the numbers.
At Park Forest Elementary, where Gray's children go, nine out of 500 were held out of standardized tests this year, including Gray's. Last year, all the students there took the test.
President Barack Obama, at a March speech at a Virginia school, acknowledged testing reform is needed. But he says testing isn't going away.
"There will be testing," he said. "We can have accountability without rigidity -- accountability that still encourages creativity inside the classroom, and empowers teachers and students and administrators."
His administration recently announced a $300 million grant aimed at revamping standardized tests.
Meantime, Ted and John Michael won't be participating. Their mother thinks if enough parents follow her lead, high-stakes testing may go away altogether.
Michael Lomax thinks parents like Gray are hurting education. "I'm sure they love their kids," he said, "but I think they are wrong."
DeSmet eighth-graders eat marijuana cookies; teen faces felony drug charge
GWEN FLORIO of the Missoulian
Friday, March 18, 2011 6:15 am
An eighth-grader has been expelled and an 18-year-old medical marijuana patient - whose mom is his caregiver - faces a felony charge as a result of marijuana cookies allegedly being passed out to some middle-school students at DeSmet School last week.
Tyler Andre Pyle, 18, a student at Willard Alternative High School, appeared Thursday afternoon in Missoula County Justice Court on a charge of criminal distribution of dangerous drugs.
In addition to the DeSmet student who was expelled, four other students were suspended for three days, DeSmet principal Joe Halligan said.
"It's been very shocking for me," Halligan said Thursday.
The allegations against Pyle began to unfold on March 8, when Halligan - who was at a conference in Helena - got a call from a DeSmet teacher who had "caught wind of somebody in the lunchroom distributing ‘special cookies,' " Halligan said. He immediately called the Missoula County Sheriff's Office.
The teacher said several students had eaten the cookies, according to an affidavit filed by Deputy Missoula County Attorney Andrew Paul. The teacher "observed the group of students acting ‘spaced out,' " the affidavit said.
More cookies were found in a 14-year-old student's locker; a test of the cookies indicated marijuana, according to the affidavit.
Halligan gave credit to the students who sounded the alert.
"We have great students. They told their friends, ‘Not in our school,' " he said.
On March 14, a Missoula County sheriff's deputy met with four DeSmet students who'd eaten the cookies and whose parents gave them permission to speak with him, according to the affidavit.
All told him they'd gotten the cookies from one student, who in turn told him that she'd gotten the marijuana-laced butter for the cookies from Tyler Pyle.
The girl "admitted she obtained the marijuana butter for the purpose of making the cookies and taking them to school ... (and) admitted that she had texted (Pyle) and requested the marijuana butter and that he delivered it to her, as requested."
A sheriff's deputy interviewed Pyle at Willard School Wednesday. After waiving his Miranda rights, Pyle told the deputy he gave the girl a jar with a little less than two sticks of marijuana butter.
The Montana Department of Health and Human Services, which maintains a registry of medical marijuana caregivers and cardholders, confirmed that Pyle is a patient.
His mother, according to the affidavit, is listed as his caregiver.
DeSmet's Halligan said he met with all of the school's sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders about the incident.
"I didn't want to try and beat around the bush and sugar-coat things," he said. "I had a very real conversation with students and teachers about the seriousness of what's going on."
An emergency recommendation to expel the student who baked the cookies was sent immediately, he said, and on Wednesday night the school board voted to back it.
"There have been a number of situations I've had to deal with this year that caused me to lose sleep, and this is one," Halligan said. "It's going to have an impact on this child's life. But I'm not willing to compromise my own values that I have for this school."
Although he said the situation was unnerving, "I wasn't ever waffling back and forth. I knew in my gut what we needed to do."
Either way, his actions would set a precedent, he said, and he wasn't going to let that precedent be lenience.
Pyle faces far more severe consequences. Criminal distribution of dangerous drugs - in this case, selling marijuana to a minor - carries a maximum penalty of life in prison and a $50,000 fine. Bail for Pyle was set Thursday at $2,500. He immediately bonded out of jail.
Grand Rapids polygamist suspect claims 'Love got in the way' as reason for two marriages
Friday, March 18, 2011, 7:58 PM Updated: Friday, March 18, 2011, 8:49 PM
GRAND RAPIDS -- A Grand Rapids man who took a bride while still married to another woman in Rhode Island - and is now charged with polygamy - today said he "made a mistake."
Richard Barton Jr., 34, spoke briefly outside a Walker home where he is staying with friends. He is free from jail on a personal recognizance bond after being arrested Wednesday.
"I let love get in the way," Barton said before declining further comment.
His first wife, Adina Quarto, figures it was more about unabated negligence than anything else.
"He told me he just wanted to ignore the situation and pretend I didn't exist," she said Thursday.
In fact, state police said Barton told his new wife, a woman he married in July, that he was divorced.
Barton and Quarto had been estranged for more than six years after he was arrested in Rhode Island for being a parole absconder and returned to Michigan to serve more prison time. They were married in 2004 after they met online and have a 6-year-old son together.
Barton was paroled in October 2009.
She got back in touch with him about a year ago on Facebook, mostly to tell him that their son had autism. It was at that point she learned he was engaged. They talked about getting a divorce, but no action was ever taken.
In the weeks that followed, she discovered that Barton had "defriended" her on Facebook. Her suspicions raised, she managed to still access part of his Facebook page because he had not restricted all access.
She found photos taken at Kruse Park in Muskegon, showing what appeared to be a wedding on the beach in July.
"I put two and two together. They were definitely his wedding photos," she said. "I was shocked. I didn't think he would be so stupid as to get married without first getting a divorce."
She then managed to get back in touch with Barton and he promised to divorce her, but he never did.
"He told me I would receive papers in the mail and he just didn't do it," said Quarto, who gave Barton several months after the marriage to act and eventually confronted him. She claimed he told her he planned to ignore her.
She then called police in Michigan.
"I didn't think he deserved to get away with it," Quarto said. "I'm not a bitter person and I'm not trying to destroy the guy. If he wants to start a new life, more power to him, but he got married when he shouldn't have gotten married."
Quarto and Barton's new wife have since spoken and are on good terms.
"I feel very sorry for her. She is a wonderful person. This is the here and now for her. He is my past, so it's not tearing my heart apart. You can just hear that she is heartbroken," she said.
Barton is charged in Muskegon County District Court with polygamy, a four-year felony. He has previous convictions for home invasion in 2000 and uttering and publishing in 2001.
Barton has claimed that he thought he signed divorce papers in 2007 while still in prison, but Quarto said that was not true.
For a change, the U.S. isn't the first in line to save the world
Sunday, March 20th 2011, 4:00 AM
To them, it's the end of American preeminence in the world. The irony is rich.
Just a few years ago, conservatives bemoaned the fact that European countries weren't meeting their international security commitments ("Americans are from Mars, Europeans are from Venus," said one) and routinely mocked the U.N. for failing to act.
Now, many seem miffed that the Security Council got its act together, and France is the first country to send planes into Libya.
They apparently would have preferred instant, unilateral military action. American war in a third Muslim country? Just another day at the Oval Office.
The way things have unfolded is cause for celebration, even if it comes a few days later than would have been ideal. The unified front - which includes not only western countries but also the Arab League - is worth the delay.
Yes, the Obama administration had mixed feelings, with its most conservative, military-minded cabinet member, Robert Gates, expressing deep reservations about the risks of cavalier action.
So what? Sometimes ambivalence is healthy. These kinds of interventions are politically and militarily complex, and the mission is still not clearly defined: Are we taking out Khadafy or just boxing him in?
While U.S. involvement is indispensable, it's not paramount we always be at the head of the line. Every now and then it's better that we're not.
Remember - unlike Afghanistan, this is not linked to the terrorist attacks on America. Unlike Iraq, there are no claims about weapons of mass destruction.
It's hard to make the case we're defending vital American interests.
And though we know Khadafy is awful, we don't know exactly who these rebels are and what they might bring.
Finally, there's this: We've got a stretched military and massive budget deficits at home (as Republicans correctly remind us at every turn). Military intervention costs blood and treasure.
So don't be bitter or sad that for once, America wasn't the first one flexing its muscle. Learn to take yes for an answer. Watch the French planes soaring over Libya and say: merci beaucoup, mon ami.
Arizona State's Anthony Robles, a one-legged wrestler, defeats defending champion for Div. I title
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Sunday, March 20th 2011, 2:55 PM
For Anthony Robles, it was the perfect ending to the perfect season.
The Arizona State wrestler born with one leg ended his undefeated season with the crown on Saturday, defeating the defending champ Matt McDonough of Iowa, 7-1.
"My coaches prepared me well," Robles said after taking the 125-pound weight class title. "We've been working all year and the past few years on quick draws, quick stick... I couldn't have done it without him. I felt super confident out there and it was a team effort. I want to thank my training partners and my family for supporting me and it wasn't just me out there. I was doing it for all them, too. It feels great to be a national champion."
Robles, who took up wrestling during his freshman year of high school, told USA Today that being born without a leg actually gave him an advantage over his opponent.
Because he uses crutches, he said he's got a much stronger grip, which can help him on takedowns and turns.
"I have such a strong grip," he told the newspaper.
Robles, who once told ESPN that he doesn't consider himself disabled, got the only takedown in the first period of the match before securing five back points with a pair of tilts.
"I had a lot of butterflies going out there," he said. "This year I think that was the biggest difference in my wrestling, was my mental game. Going into every match I was real relaxed, real calm. But before that, before this match, it was nothing but butterflies. I felt like I was going to throw up, I was so scared I almost started crying.
"But it's just the atmosphere. It's the true athletes that are able to just overcome that."
Robles, a senior, finished his career with a 122-23 record - which ranks in the top 10 in school history.
While he is the first champion to wrestle with only one leg, he's not the first Division I wrestler to do it. Rohan Murphy, a wrestler who lost both of his legs at birth and wrestled for Penn State before going onto international powerlifting competitions, said he knew that Robles had it in him to be a champion since he saw him win titles in high school.
"To be honest I wasn't surprised," Murphy told the News of Robles' success. I knew he was going to be a great Division I wrestler."
Why Libya 2011 is not Iraq 2003
(CNN)-- A critique of the U.S. involvement in the military intervention in Libya that will no doubt be common in coming days is that the Obama administration is making a large error by embarking on a war with a third Muslim country, as if reversing Moammar Gadhafi's momentum against the rebels will be a rerun of the debacle of the war against Saddam Hussein.
A further element of this view is that -- whatever the outcome of the Libyan intervention -- the United States' standing in the Islamic world will once again be severely damaged by an attack on a Muslim nation.
There are, of course, some real similarities between Hussein and Gadhafi -- both ruthless and erratic dictators of oil-rich regimes who fought bloody wars with their neighbors, brutalized their own populations, sought weapons of mass destruction, and sired some equally unattractive sons and heirs.
The déjà vu quality of the Libyan situation may help account for recent polls taken before the intervention which found that while Americans were either split or slightly in favor of imposing a no-fly zone over Libya, most were opposed to stronger U.S. military action.
Beyond the obvious difference that Obama has not authorized the use of U.S. ground forces in Libya, there are several other differences to consider:
First, the Obama administration was handed a gift by the Arab League, which in its more than six-decade history has garnered a well-earned reputation as a feckless talking shop, but unusually took a stand one week ago by endorsing a no-fly zone over Libya.
That endorsement put the Arab League way out in front of the Obama administration, which was then dithering about whether to do anything of substance to help the rebels fighting Gadhafi.
The unexpected action by the Arab League gave the administration the impetus and diplomatic cover to then go to the United Nations Security Council to secure a broad resolution endorsing not only a no-fly zone, but also allowing member states to "take all necessary measures" to protect civilians in Libya.
This U.N. resolution is reminiscent of the one that President George H.W. Bush secured in November 1990, which gave Iraq six weeks to withdraw from Kuwait following Hussein's invasion of that country. The U.N. resolution in 1990 similarly empowered states to use "all necessary means" to force Iraq out of Kuwait if Hussein ignored the deadline.
The similarities do not end there. The coalition that massed to drive Hussein out of Kuwait involved significant forces from major Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. So too the Libyan no-fly zone will be enforced by the United Arab Emirates and Jordan, along with western powers such as France and the U.K.
This is all quite in contrast to George W. Bush's ineffectual attempts to gather international support for the invasion of Iraq in 2003. There was no U.N. resolution explicitly authorizing the use of military force against Hussein, and no Muslim countries participated in the American invasion and occupation of Iraq.
Indeed, before the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, the Turkish parliament voted against allowing American troops passage across Turkey to invade northern Iraq, which put a wrench in U.S. military planning.
Underlining the fact that the Iraq War was widely viewed as illegitimate by Muslim countries, the same year that Turkey voted against allowing American soldiers to use its soil to attack Iraq, Turkish soldiers were also leading the International Security Assistance Force helping to keep the peace in post-Taliban Afghanistan, a military operation that was also authorized by the United Nations and was not seen as illegitimate by much of the Muslim world.
The Bush administration's largely unilateral decision to go to war in Iraq (the U.K. and a few other nations provided troops) undermined America's standing in Islamic countries. A poll taken a few months after the 2003 invasion found that Indonesians, Jordanians, Turks, and Moroccans all expressed more "confidence" that Osama bin Laden would "do the right thing" than that Bush would.
According to a poll four years later, America's favorability rating stood at 9% in Turkey (down from 52% before September 11, 2001) and 29% in Indonesia (down from 75% before September 11).
The high level of anti-Americanism in the Muslim world that was generated by the Iraq War is unlikely to be replicated by U.S. military action against Libya, because Gadhafi is widely reviled in the Arab world. His antics on the world stage have earned him the enmity of even his fellow autocrats -- who will not be welcoming him if he chooses to "retire" to Saudi Arabia as other murderous dictators of his ilk have in the past (think Idi Amin).
And the fact that both the Arab League and the United Nations have endorsed a military action against Gadhafi strongly suggests that the Libyan intervention will not generate a renewed wave of anti-Americanism in the Muslim world.
Instead, it underlines a striking feature of the protests that have roiled the Middle East in the past several weeks: Strikingly absent from those protests has been the ritualized burning of American flags, something that hitherto was largely pro forma in that part of the world. That's because Arabs have finally been able to express publicly that their biggest enemy is not the United States, but their own rulers.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Peter Bergen.
ACTION TAKEN TO STOP GADHAFI:
GADHAFI CALLS ON ISLAMIC NATIAIONS:
TRIPOLI RESIDENT DESCRIBES EXPERIENCE:
Libya hit with 112 cruise missiles in first phase of allied assault
ASSOCIATED PRESS Mar 19, 2011 10:59PM
WASHINGTON — U.S. and British ships and submarines launched the first phase of a missile assault on Libyan air defenses Saturday and a senior American defense official said it was believed substantial damage was inflicted.
In the strikes, 112 Tomahawk cruise missiles were fired at more than 20 coastal targets to clear the way for air patrols to ground Libya’s air force.
While U.S. defense officials cautioned that it was too early to fully gauge the impact of the onslaught, the official said that given the precision targeting of the Navy’s cruise missiles, they felt that Libya’s air defenses suffered a good deal of damage.
Explosions continued to rock the coastal cities, including Tripoli. Navy Vice Adm. Wiliam E. Gortney, director of the Pentagon’s Joint Staff, would not discuss future operations But defense officials said military action was likely to continue.
The official spoke on grounds of anonymity because the ongoing mission.
In announcing the mission during a visit to Brazil, President Barack Obama said he was reluctant to resort to force but was convinced it was necessary to save the lives of civilians. He reiterated that he would not send American ground troops to Libya.
“We cannot stand idly by when a tyrant tells his people there will be no mercy,” he said in Brasilia.
While U.S. defense officials said it was too early to gauge the impact of the onslaught, one senior official said that given the precision targeting of the Navy’s cruise missiles, they believe Libya’s air defenses suffered a good deal of damage.
It was clear the U.S. intended to limit its role in the Libya intervention, focusing first on disabling or otherwise silencing Libyan air defenses, and then leaving it to European and perhaps Arab countries to enforce a no-fly zone over the North African nation.
Gortney told reporters the cruise missile assault was the “leading edge” of a coalition campaign dubbed Operation Odyssey Dawn. Its aim: prevent Moammar Gadhafi’s forces from inflicting more violence on civilians -- particularly in and around the rebel stronghold of Benghazi -- and degrading the Libyan military’s ability to contest a no-fly zone.
“This is not an outcome the U.S. or any of our partners sought,” Obama said from Brazil, where he is starting a five-day visit to Latin America. “Our consensus was strong, and our resolve is clear. The people of Libya must be protected, and in the absence of an immediate end to the violence against civilians our coalition is prepared to act, and to act with urgency.”
A chief target of Saturday’s cruise missile attack was Libya’s SA-5 surface-to-air missiles, which are considered a moderate threat to some allied aircraft. Libya’s overall air defenses are based on older Soviet technology but Gortney called them capable and a potential threat to allied aircraft.
Also targeted: early warning radars and unspecified communications facilities, Gortney said. The U.S. military has extensive recent experience in such combat missions; U.S. Air Force and Navy aircraft repeatedly attacked Iraq’s air defenses during the 1990s while enforcing a no-fly zone over Iraq’s Kurdish north.
Cruise missiles are the weapon of first choice in such campaigns; they do not put pilots at risk, and they use navigational technologies that provide good precision.
The first Tomahawk cruise missiles struck at 3 p.m. EDT, Gortney said, after a one-hour flight from the U.S. and British vessels on station in the Mediterranean.
They were fired from five U.S. ships — the guided-missile destroyers USS Stout and USS Barry, and three submarines, USS Providence, USS Scranton and USS Florida.
The U.S. has at least 11 naval vessels in the Mediterranean, including three submarines, two destroyers, two amphibious warfare ships and the USS Mount Whitney, a command-and-control vessel that is the flagship of the Navy’s 6th Fleet. Also in the area are Navy P-3 and EP-3 surveillance aircraft, officials said.
Gortney initially had said that it could take as long as 12 hours to assess the effectiveness of Saturday’s strikes. Then a high-altitude Global Hawk unmanned surveillance plane would overfly the target areas to get a more precise view, the admiral said. He would not say how long the attacks on Libyan air defenses would last, but he stressed that Saturday’s assault with cruise missiles was the first phase of a multi-stage mission.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, in a statement late Saturday, said, “I support the actions taken today by our allies, with the support of several Arab countries, to prevent the tyrant Moammar Qaddafi from perpetrating further atrocities on the people of Libya.”
“And I support the president’s decision to deploy U.S. assets to help those allies to enforce a no-fly zone to protect Libyan civilians as laid out in the United Nations resolution,” the Nevada Democrat said. “This U.S. military action was not taken lightly, and it was done in concert with a broad international coalition.”
Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who was scheduled to fly to Russia on Saturday afternoon to begin a week-long overseas trip, postponed his departure for 24 hours. Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said Gates decided he should remain in Washington to monitor developments in Libya at the outset of U.S. strikes.
Gates had been skeptical of getting involved in Libya’s civil war, telling Congress earlier this month that taking out Libya’s air defenses was tantamount to war. Others have worried that the mission could put the U.S. on a slippery slope to deeper involvement in yet another Muslim country — on top of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Hours after Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton attended an international conference in Paris that endorsed military action against Gadhafi, the U.S. and Britain kicked off their attacks.
At a news conference in Paris, Clinton said Gadhafi had left the world no choice but to intervene urgently and forcefully to protect further loss of civilian life.
“We have every reason to fear that, left unchecked, Gadhafi would commit unspeakable atrocities,” she told reporters.
Clinton said there was no evidence that Gadhafi’s forces were respecting an alleged cease-fire they proclaimed and the time for action was now.
“Our assessment is that the aggressive action by Gadhafi’s forces continues in many parts of the country,” she said. “We have seen no real effort on the part of the Gadhafi forces to abide by a cease-fire.”
In addition to the three submarines and two destroyers, the U.S. Navy ships in the Mediterranean include two amphibious warships, the USS Kearsarge and USS Ponce, and a command-and-control ship, the USS Mount Whitney.
President Obama lands in Brazil while conservatives blast trip during chaos in Japan, Libya
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Saturday, March 19th 2011, 11:15 AM
The administration says the main goal of Obama's trip is to strengthen economic partnerships and foster job creation in the U.S.
"As we respond to these immediate crises abroad, we also will not let up in our efforts to tackle the pressing, ongoing challenges facing our country, including accelerating economic growth. That's why, over the weekend, I'll be in Latin America," Obama said in his weekly address.
Obama had his family in tow in Brasilia. First lady Michelle Obama,daughters Malia and Sasha, and the girls' grandmother and godmother went through the receiving line of Brazilian and American officials.
Fox & Friends' Steve Doocy ripped Obama's trip on Friday as a 'vacation," saying it's inappropriate for a president to go on such a jaunt while officials in Japan race to prevent a total nuclear meltdown, and Libyan dictator Moammar Khadafy continues his assault on rebels, in spite of UN threats and his own promise of a ceasefire.
"What is happening with the president while all of this is going on in the United States and around the world?" Doocy said. "He's going on vacation. He's going to Rio. You've got to be kidding. Taking his family. It sounds like a vacation to me. Rio? Hello?"
The Washington Times ran an editorial this week titled 'Obama Couldn't Care Less," declaring 'the president parties while the world burns."
And conservative television commentator Monica Crowley told Fox Business Channel that 'Perception is reality. He's always shooting hoops, he's having Terry Bradshaw nights at the White House, he's in Rio. The world is aflame! Go to work!"
In Brazil, Obama will meet with President Dilma Rousseff and Brazilian business executives to discuss trade. He'll also head to Chile and El Salvador.
Brazil is the world's seventh largest economy, while Chile is the 24th largest trading partner with the U.S. El Salvador's economy is expected to grow 5.3% this year.
"Today, Brazil imports more goods from the United States than from any other nation. And I'll be meeting with business leaders from both countries to talk about how we can create even more jobs by deepening these economic ties," said the President.
The Obama Administration says there are over 300,000 jobs in the U.S. as a direct result of trade with the three countries.
LINK TO VIDEO:
March 18, 2011 5:27 PM
Texas toddler found drunk on Four Loko, mother charged
Police were called to Lashawnda Allen's apartment around 2 p.m. on Feb. 21 by Allen's roommate, who came home that afternoon to find Allen in the parking lot, talking to a neighbor while her children were inside their apartment unsupervised, reported CBS affiliate KHOU.
Allen told the roommate that the two kids were in the apartment and that her toddler was drunk. When the roommate rushed inside to check on the kids, she found Allen's 4-month-old baby hanging off the bed with the sheets tangled around her waist, turning blue. But, the 20-month-old was nowhere to be found, the station reported.
A neighbor told police she had found the toddler in the parking lot and the toddler appeared to be intoxicated. The roommate then called an ambulance, reports the station.
Allen admitted she'd been drinking Four Loko that day and had fallen asleep. When she woke up she said she saw the toddler on the floor with an empty Four Loko can, the station reports.
Allen told police she was afraid to call an ambulance because she didn't want to lose her kids, KHOU reports.
When the ambulance finally did arrive at Allen's home that day, the 20-month-old was taken to LBJ Hospital, where her blood alcohol level was found to be 0.09, court documents said.
Allen was being held Thursday in the Harris County Jail on $2,000 bond.
Attorney Damon Chase: Arrested a dozen times, now he's a prominent lawyer
His clients include ousted GOP Chairman Jim Greer
11:38 PM EDT, March 18, 2011
Damon Chase, right, helped bail former Florida Republican Chairman Jim Greer, center, out of jail. Greer's wife, Lisa, is at left. (GEORGE SKENE, ORLANDO SENTINEL / June 2, 2010)
Damon Chase is one of the most prominent attorneys in Seminole County. His clients include Jim Greer, ousted chairman of the Florida GOP, and Rep. Chris Dorworth, the man slated to become Florida's House speaker in 2014.
But before Damon Chase became a lawyer with an office overlooking a golf course and 37-foot yacht, docked on the coast, he was a man with a different name and a long history of arrests — including armed robbery and fraud — that began when he was only 7.
When he was 24, he was arrested in Orlando for hitting his girlfriend. At 31, he beat up a man in a Gainesville bar during a fight over a World Series game.
His life story, said longtime friend Circuit Judge Nancy Alley, is one of redemption and hope.
"I'm quite ashamed of where I came from," said Chase, 44, of Winter Springs. "However, I am extremely proud of where I am."
For the first 31 years of his life, he was Floyd Lee Downs. He legally changed that in 1997, swearing to a Gainesville judge that he was not trying to hide his criminal past.
"I hated my name," Chase explained. He chose Damon Chase because it was unique and easy to spell.
By then, he had cleaned up his life, mostly. He was a full-time student at the University of Florida, working toward degrees in recreation and business and — his real goal — law school.
He disclosed to the UF college of law and the Florida Board of Bar Examiners — the group that decides whether one gets to be a lawyer — his whole life story.
For the bar examiners, it was not an easy sell. They treated him, for a time, like a criminal who could not be reformed. That's largely because of two criminal cases: Chase was arrested in Fort Lauderdale when he was 28, accused of using another man's Social Security card to try to get a fake drivers license.
And there was that Gainesville bar fight that left the other guy with a broken rib and a tooth knocked out.
In both instances, prosecutors decided there had been no crime.
Bar examiners reviewed copies of his arrest and court records, including those that showed he owed $20,000 in back child support and that during one six-year stretch, he hadn't filed federal tax returns.
Chase paid off the child support, filed his back taxes and, because the board demanded it, underwent a psychological evaluation and treatment. In 2003, one year after he passed the Bar exam, he was admitted to The Florida Bar at age 37.
He has not been arrested since nor disciplined by the Bar.
Rough early life
As a boy, he bounced between Louisville, Ky., where his mother lived, and South Florida, his father's home.He and his older brother had little adult supervision, he said.
He was first arrested at age 7, he says, for burglary, sneaking into and trashing a school on a Saturday.
He was arrested again at age 11, this time for armed robbery. He had tucked a crowbar inside his jacket and gone into a Louisville gas station with two older boys, according to Bar-examiner records. He demanded money from the clerk and then snatched more than $200 from the cash drawer.
His arrests sent him to foster homes, a juvenile-detention center, group homes and a work camp. At age 19, he married a woman who was expecting his child. They had a girl but separated a few months later. He was an ironworker at the time, drifting from job to job, state to state.
"I spent a lot of time in my early 20s just being homeless," he said.
He held a variety of jobs, mostly ironwork and bartender, he said, but he also tried to make it as lead guitarist in a heavy-metal band.
That last gig didn't work out, he joked,because although he had long, flowing hair — great heavy-metal hair — and looked really good dancing with a guitar, he has a lousy sense of rhythm.
He had scrapes with the law but was never convicted of a felony. One of his arrests came in Orange County in 1990, when he went to jail for hitting his girlfriend. He pleaded no contest and served a year of probation.
At age 29, living in a pay-by-the-week hotel in South Florida, he decided to turn his life around.
"I wanted to make money. I wanted to be a white-collar guy," he said.
His big break came from his grandmother, with whom he was not close, and Santa Fe Community College – now Santa Fe College -both in Gainesville.
She needed someone to take care of household chores and offered him a bedroom and an $8,500 college loan. The community college agreed to admit him, an eighth-grade dropout who had a GED.
His next big break came on the first day of law school, Jan. 3, 2000. That's the day he met and fell for another midlife law-school student, Melanie Freeman Carter, daughter of then-Circuit Judge Thomas G. Freeman, a politically powerful judge in Sanford.
"She's absolutely the best reward for changing my life," he said.
The following December, just after finals, they wed in a tiny ceremony at her family church, St. Mark's Presbyterian in Altamonte Springs.
Melanie Freeman Chase, 40, is his partner at the family firm, Chase Freeman in Lake Mary, which specializes in business law.
She has been his biggest advocate.
"In January, I watched him, in the pouring rain and wearing a suit and tie, stop to change a tire for an elderly couple on I-95," she wrote in a letter in 2003, urging the board to admit him to the Bar. "The truth is, the board would be hard pressed to find someone who has worked harder to overcome the mistakes of his or her youth. … He is an incredible success story."
Chase has two children, both now adults, from previous relationships.
'I was so proud of him'
To Martha Faircloth, a 76-year-old widow, Chase is a hero. One day six years ago she was pacing in her yard, upset because Seminole County wanted to condemn a 50-foot swath of land to widen a ditch that runs alongside her property west of Sanford. Bulldozers were going to destroy a dozen stately oak trees on her 4-acre lot, including one scientists said was 400 years old.
"This big black car pulled up in my yard, and a man stepped out in a black suit and white shirt," she said. It was Chase. He asked whether she had an attorney. "I said, 'No sir. I can't afford one.' He said, 'How'd you like to have a free one?' "
Chase then did something that's nearly unheard-of: He beat the government in an eminent-domain case. He saved her trees.
She breaks into tears as she tells the story.
"I was so proud of him," she said. "I had raked leaves and taken care of old people and cleaned their yards and things like that to pay for my corner lot. … He's a wonderful man."
Seminole County, which had sued her over the dispute, paid Chase's legal fees in her case.
Chase's most prominent client is Greer, the ousted chairman of the Florida GOP who awaits trial on grand-theft and conspiracy charges. On June 2, the day Greer was arrested, Chase was the lawyer who ran the gantlet of reporters and TV cameras outside the Seminole County Jail, helped post bail and then loaded Greer and his wife into his Range Rover and drove them away.
Two months earlier, Chase had sued the state party on Greer's behalf, accusing it of cheating Greer out of a $123,000 severance package. The suit has since been dismissed. Both men say they will refile once the criminal case is over.
"He's very aggressive, very meticulous," said Greer — and, most importantly, not afraid to take on an enormously powerful opponent: the state GOP.
Chase has a reputation for being generous and doing community work. He is president of the Seminole County Bar Association and a board member of an affiliated group, the Seminole County Legal Aid Society. In December, the society honored him for his pro bono work.
At that ceremony, he talked about having lived on the wrong side of the law. He did not go into detail.
Said friend and Altamonte Springs lawyer James DeKleva, "I don't know what he went through, but I can tell you, it's a remarkable change."
DeKleva called Chase a good lawyer, a good guy — a man who has transformed himself "like the phoenix rising from the ashes."
After a long, cold winter, Rita’s Italian Ice is predicting a “cool-ossal spring Ice storm.” On Sunday, the first day of spring, Rita’s Italian Ice will offer each customer one free, regular-sized (10 oz.) cup of Italian Ice in the available flavor of their choice. The deal will run from 12 p.m. to 9 p.m.
“For 19 years we’ve planned this annual, free event as a way to generate excitement for the season and to say ‘thank you’ to our loyal Rita’s Italian Ice lovers and the communities that support us year in and year out,” said Chief Executive Officer Jim Rudolph.
Nationwide, the company predicts it will scoop up more than 1.4 million cups of Ice. Last year, the number of people who visited a Rita’s Italian Ice location on the first day of spring totaled more than 30 times the average number of visitors to Disney World that the same day.
To find the location nearest you click the link below
Is YouTube Sensation Rebecca Black's "Friday" The Worst Song Ever?
Hey kids! Guess what? Apparently awful is the new great. In an age when the music business is suffering dearly--when even vocal dynamos like Christina Aguilera can't sell albums or concert tickets anymore, and thousands of unsigned, undiscovered artists have to sell records out of their car trunks--a mind-meltingly horrific song called "Friday," by a previously unknown, marginally talented teen-pop singer named Rebecca Black, managed to rack up more than 2.2 million views on YouTube (yes, that's right, TWO-MILLION, TWO-HUNDRED-THOUSAND) just over this past weekend. (NOW HAS OVER 21 MILLION HITS)
It must be seen, and heard, to be believe:
The video got its first big promotion, perhaps not coincidentally, last Friday, when Comedy Central's Tosh.0 blog posted it under the headline "Songwriting Isn't For Everyone." And that was all it took. By the weekend's end, "Friday" had been Tumblr'd, Facebooked, blogged, and tweeted by countless baffled viewers--and dozens of covers and parodies had popped up on YouTube as well, including an amusingly Dylanesque one.
The virality of "Friday," a wannabe weekend-party anthem for the new generation, had nothing to with the song being any good, Rebecca being particularly attractive or gifted, or even with the fact that it was, well, the weekend. It's simply because it was so unbelievably BAD. ("A whole new level of bad," according to none other than Time magazine.) And it's because the song and video raised so many fascinating questions...such as:
Who the heck is this girl? How did she get a record deal? Why is she sitting at a bus stop, if her friends are picking her up in their car? Why is she so indecisive about whether to sit in the front or back seat? If the girl standing to her right is her friend, then is that girl on her left her frenemy? Did the general public REALLY need to be informed that Thursday comes before Friday, or that Sunday comes after Saturday? And, most importantly: Is this a real thing? Or is this an SNL Digital Short for which the Lonely Island are responsible?
Honestly, we're not sure if these questions will ever be properly answered. But we do know that "Friday" is the churned-out product of a Los Angeles-based company called the Ark Music Factory, which sends out casting calls looking for singers between the ages of 13 and 17 to record its songs and, if all goes well, become overnight YouTube stars (a la Justin Bieber). Rebecca Black's "Friday" is Ark's first major hit--and after this, we sincerely hope it's the company's last.
UPDATE: LINK TO BLACK'S RESPONSE TO CYBER BULLYING
Subway riders brawl over passenger eating spaghetti on the train
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Originally Published:Friday, March 18th 2011, 2:41 PM
Updated: Friday, March 18th 2011, 5:13 PM
The YouTube clip begins with a woman chowing down on spaghetti while trading barbs with another woman sitting across from her on a subway car.
The feud escalates a few minutes in when the middle-aged passenger asks the woman, "What kind of animals eat on the train?"
The diner responds, "What kind of fat ---- looks like you?"
After several more tense exchanges, the diner - with plate of food in hand - and her friend go face to face with the other woman, leading to the all-out brawl.
As onlookers try to calm the parties, the two women push each other, then start swinging - sending the spaghetti flying.
Multiple passengers eventually break up the fight, including a man who is scratched in the face as a result of his efforts.
"Y'all need to chill out!" he yells at one point.
"We the child, she grown," the passenger with the pasta responds.
"She need to chill out," she or her friend adds.
The clip was first reported Friday by NYC the Blog.
According to the user who uploaded the video, the incident took place on a Brooklyn train. No information was given on when it happened or whether anyone was arrested over the fight.
See the fight below (Warning: video contains offensive language)
Burlesque-Performing Professor Gets Fired
Weekend full moon the biggest in about 20 years
(CNN)-- If the moon looks a little bit bigger and brighter this weekend, there's a reason for that. It is.
Saturday's full moon will be a super "perigee moon" -- the biggest in almost 20 years. This celestial event is far rarer than the famed blue moon, which happens once about every two-and-a-half years.
"The last full moon so big and close to Earth occurred in March of 1993," said Geoff Chester with the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington. "I'd say it's worth a look."
Full moons look different because of the elliptical shape of the moon's orbit. When it's at perigee, the moon is about 31,000 miles (50,000 km) closer to Earth than when it's at the farthest point of its orbit, also known as apogee.
"Nearby perigee moons are about 14% bigger and 30% brighter than lesser moons that occur on the apogee side of the moon's orbit," the NASA website says.
This full moon will rise in the east at sunset and should look especially big at that time because of what's known as the "moon illusion."
"For reasons not fully understood by astronomers or psychologists, low-hanging moons look unnaturally large when they beam through trees, buildings and other foreground objects," according to NASA.
Even though it may look close enough to touch, Saturday's full moon will still be at a healthy distance -- some 211,600 miles (356,577 km) away.
As rare as it is, it may be worth a look. Miss it and you'll have to wait until 2029 to see it again.
President Obama slammed for March Madness bracket during budget, Japan, Libya turmoil
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITERS
Originally Published:Thursday, March 17th 2011, 2:20 PM
Updated: Thursday, March 17th 2011, 4:14 PM
Shortly after he announced his picks for the 2011 NCAA championship on ESPN Wednesday, critics took to the blogs, airwaves and social networking sites to denounce the President.
"The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down nearly 300 right now," Rush Limbaugh said. "My guess is that the street really doesn't like Obama's NCAA bracket."
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich tweeted Thursday that America needs "a commander in chief not a spectator in chief," insisting Obama was "hiding from his job behind NCAA picks."
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus tweeted, "How can @BarackObama say he is leading when he puts his NCAA bracket over the budget & other pressing issues?"
And Fox News ripped the President in an editorial on the Web titled "March Madness -- Obama Fills Out NCAA Bracket But Is Missing In Action on Japan, Libya and the Budget."
For the third year in a row, the President filled out an NCAA Tournament bracket for ESPN. He predicted Duke, Kansas, Ohio State and Pittsburgh would make it to the Final Four. He picked the Kansas Jayhawks over the Ohio State Buckeyes for the championship.
White House spokesman Jay Carney defended the President after a reporter asked whether it was appropriate for the President to spend time making tournament picks.
"There are crises all the time, and for every President," Carney said. "And again, this one is happening halfway around the world, and it is severe, and it is important, and it is the focus of a great deal of the President's attention, as are the events in the Middle East, as are the agenda items that he is pursuing to grow the economy and increase jobs in America and make sure we outinnovate, outbuild and outeducate the competition in the 21st century."
He noted that the ESPN interview was very brief and the President asked viewers to donate to Japanese relief efforts.
"So, yes, I do think it was appropriate," Carney said
LINK TO VIDEO:
The Palin Implosion
Call off the coronation—the media’s caught on to the slow motion implosion of Sarah Palin’s popularity, and with it her prospective presidential campaign.
A new Washington Post/ABC News poll found that Palin’s approval ratings among Republicans had declined by double digits since October, while her “strongly unfavorable” rating reached 17 percent among the GOP and 28 percent among Republican-leaning independents. This shift in the conservative populist tide provoked a series of memorable (and frankly enviable) headlines like “The Incredible Shrinking Sarah Palin” from Politico and other outlets.
Sarah Palin pauses during a speech at a campaign rally for U.S. Senator John McCain at Dobson High School in Mesa, Arizona on March 27, 2010. (Joshua Lott, Reuters / Landov)
But the real story is the continued erosion of support for Sarah Palin. By the end of her three-month stint as John McCain’s VP nominee, 59 percent of American voters believed that Sarah Palin was not ready for the job, and 47 percent of self-described centrists said they were actually less likely to vote for McCain because of Palin’s presence on the ticket.
There was no doubt that she was beloved by the conservative base, but one year after the election, with Palin acting as voice of the opposition, 63 percent of Americans already said that they would “not seriously consider” her for president.
By April 2010, even 47 percent of Tea Party supporters said that Sarah Palin would not “have the ability to be an effective president”—while only 40 percent believed she would. At the height of Tea Party enthusiasm, Palin’s conservative populist base was saying “thanks, but no thanks” to a prospective presidential campaign. It was a judgment call by the people who knew her best.
Sarah Palin runs the risk of being little more than the thinking man’s Michele Bachmann.
But media fascination with Palin helped prop her up by keeping her in the public eye and in the 2012 consideration set. Her Tweets and Facebook posts made news, aiding her promotions for books and a reality TV show. Her undeserved omnipresence prompted comedian, Sirius radio host and fellow CNN contributor Pete Dominick to propose the “Sarah Palin Sneeze Rule”—a protest against shoe-horning her into political segments virtually every time she sneezed.
Beneath the enabled self-promotion was a startling lack of preparation for a serious presidential campaign. Quitting her job as the governor of Alaska after 32-months, certainly gave Palin the opportunity to cash in on her notoriety but it also gave her the opportunity to begin studying for the presidency. But she has so far declined to build the defined outlines of a campaign apparatus or participate in the usual conservative cattle calls like CPAC. One year’s absence could be seen as strategic, three years starts to look like a snub.
A revealing Des Moines Register poll from late last month found that likely Iowa Republican caucus-goers who had a “very favorable” opinion of Palin declined from 27 percent to 18 percent since November ‘09—while her “very unfavorable” numbers doubled from 5 to 10 percent. This trend is not her friend.
In the next primary stop, New Hampshire, Palin fares even less well. Fully 50 percent of likely New Hampshire Republican primary voters view her unfavorably, according to a Granite State poll this February while only 33 percent view her favorably.
Any hope of avoiding a negative narrative tidal wave at this stage would have to come from a victory in conservative South Carolina or delegate-rich Florida. But Palin’s overall numbers are upside down in both states, with disapproval ratings in the high-fifties and approval ratings in the mid-thirties.
Even in John McCain’s home state of Arizona, Sarah Palin is trailing President Obama in a hypothetical 2012 general election match-up, 49 percent to 41 percent.
The clear portrait that emerges is of a conservative populist icon who has chosen celebrity over statesmanship, and is being judged accordingly. Palin has gone from being the most polarizing figure in American politics to an increasingly polarizing figure within the Republican Party. She was never likely to win a general election, but now there are statistical reasons to seriously doubt her ability to win the presidential nomination.
“She went from being a political figure to being a celebrity—all of which kept her popular. But in the course of those two years she added no substance,” says Ed Rollins, the legendary Republican campaign manager who traces his career from Reagan ‘84 to Huckabee ‘08. “People now judge her against other players in the next campaign—they might like her personally but think that she’s less serious, less ready to be president. Is that irreversible? Maybe not. But her books aren’t selling—the last one bombed.”
"Sarah Palin's numbers may be falling due to overexposure,” concurred nationally syndicated columnist and National Review Contributing Editor Deroy Murdock. “Also, and more important, she unfortunately seems to spend more time in the great outdoors with cable-TV cameras than in the great indoors with books and research papers on the serious issues that face this country and our world. Rather than well-reasoned policy addresses, she gives us breathless 'tweets.' Palin is charismatic and easily draws a crowd. She would have a lot more to offer, however, if it were not for her unbearable lightness of being."
It’s tempting to say that if Sarah Palin planned to side-step a 2012 presidential campaign all along, she has played her hand well. But the truth is that she has emerged from the past two and a half years considerably diminished. Palin is not taken seriously as presidential material, even by her fellow populist conservatives. In part, her support seems to have been eaten up by a more seasoned social conservative, Mike Huckabee, who won Iowa last time around. Palin’s schtick has spawned a legion of imitators who now compete to claim her mantle as the person most likely to inflame the base with calculated irresponsibility. Some of these pretenders may even be considering a run for president themselves. It’s a sobering prospect when you consider the full Republican field. Sarah Palin runs the risk of being little more than the thinking man’s Michele Bachmann.
John Avlon's new book Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe Is Hijacking America is available now by Beast Books both on the Web and in paperback. He is also the author of Independent Nation: How Centrists Can Change American Politics and a CNN contributor. Previously, he served as chief speechwriter for New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and was a columnist and associate editor for The New York Sun.
Police: Woman Escapes From Police Car, Calls Cab
K-9 Unit Helps Track Wanted Woman
POSTED: 11:22 pm EDT March 16, 2011
UPDATED: 8:12 am EDT March 17, 2011
Man stopped for speeding leaves behind son, $80K and 7 pounds of pot
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
11:38 a.m. Thursday, March 17, 2011
A man pulled over for speeding in Milton ran from police, leaving his crying 6-year-old son, seven pounds of marijuana and $80,000 in vacuum-sealed packages in his Dodge Charger, police said.
The suspect, Monroe LeBeau, 28, then tried unsuccessfully to carjack two residents of the Morris Lake subdivision, police said. Officers used tracking dogs to catch LeBeau in the subdivision. He was bitten twice by a K-9 unit but declined medical attention.
The wild incident began Tuesday night on Deerfield Parkway when an officer clocked LeBeau driving 49 miles per hour, 14 over the speed limit. The officer "could smell a strong odor of marijuana coming from inside the vehicle," the police report states, and asked LeBeau to step to the back of the car while it was searched. That's when LeBeau took off down Morris Road toward Morris Lake, the report says.
"When Mr. LeBeau ran from his vehicle towards Morris Lake, he left his six-year-old son in the back seat of the car unattended," the report states. "The child was not wearing a seatbelt and the door to the vehicle was left open toward traffic. The child was visibly upset and crying."
LeBeau, of Norcross, also left behind a backpack containing several vacuum-sealed bags of marijuana, another backpack with loose bags of marijuana and a third bag with two vacuum-sealed packages, police said.
Those packages each held $40,000 in cash, a Dodge Charger vehicle guide and a Marijuana Grower's Bible, according to the report.
LeBeau was charged with obstruction, two counts of attempted robbery, reckless conduct, possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, seatbelt violation, speeding and failure to maintain lane.
LeBeau was booked into the Fulton County Jail, and his son was placed with a relative, AM 750 andnow95.5 FM News/Talk WSB reported.
Consider this dispute between neighbors at a Lake Highlands condo complex.
Peter and Abbey Ure live in an upstairs unit at Woodlands II on the Creek with their tow headed 20-month-old son Sawyer — who, like most toddlers, seems to have Pavarotti-strength pipes and energy to burn.
Downstairs, an adult couple says the smashing and bashing is enough to make their recessed lights rattle.
This week — after months of phone calls, tense negotiations and a hearing before their homeowners association — the Ures received a letter from their association and a $1,650 fine for 33 alleged incidents.
The letter stated that Woodlands II was built as an adult community without play areas. Later, the letter stated the fine would be reduced to $250. But next time, if the noise continues, the Ures will be charged the full $50 per incident.
“They are making it unaffordable for us to live in our home because of our child and it’s going to force us to leave,” said Abbey Ure.
The young couple decided not to go quietly. This week, they made their case to reporters and refused to pay the fine.
“It got to the point where I was freaking out trying to stop Sawyer every time he ran across the floor,” she said. “I hated that because I feel like children need to move — not that they need to be crazy or rambunctious and disturb people. But I feel like it’s an important part of their development.”
The Ures purchased their two-story condo at the 104-unit complex about seven months ago. After the noise complaints, they moved Sawyer’s toys to the top floor of their home and attempted to pad their downstairs floor from noise.
The Ures, who have complained about cigarette smoke permeating their home from their neighbor’s condo below, suggested a structural problem may be responsible for the noise.
Bob Blend, an attorney for the Garland-based HOA, Alternative Management Group Inc., said the Ures will be sent a letter that offers to suspend the fine and hold another hearing. But he said that doesn’t mean the decision will be reversed.
“Everybody’s got to follow the rules and the question is, ‘Are the rules reasonable and are they fair and are they fair to both sides?’” he said. “That’s what the board has to decide.”
This is not the first time the HOA has produced headlines.
In 2009, the association sent a letter to Vietnam veteran Frank Larison, threatening to tow his car if he didn’t remove or cover up its Marine Corps decals. A letter from the management group described the bumper stickers as “advertisements.”
After Larison enlisted an attorney — and after a barrage of critical media reports — the HOA backed down.
The Ures’ downstairs neighbors said this case illustrates the opposite end of the spectrum: an association enforcing commonly agreed-on covenants.
They released a written statement but asked that their names not be used.
“We tried to resolve this in a neighborly fashion but all we ever received from the Ures was empty promises about controlling the noise level,” the e-mail read. “When moving into an HOA, everyone accepts the fact that certain concessions and sacrifices need to be made by everyone. …
“This is simply a case in which the Ures feel like they don’t have to abide by the same rules that everyone else does.”
Abbey Ure said the noise coming from their condo is reasonable. She called the association’s rules arbitrary and capricious.
“It basically states that you can be fined for anything annoying or disturbing or objectionable or harmful, which can basically be defined as anything they say,” she said.
Blend said the HOA is hoping for de-escalation.
“Everybody has to take the step of putting themselves in the other person’s shoes,” he said.
Sandusky man calls 911 from jail cell, said being held against will
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
SANDUSKY — A 26-year-old Sandusky man talked himself into an extra charge when he called 911 on a cell phone from inside a holding cell at the Sandusky Police Department.
Joseph Walsh used his cell phone on Sunday to call 911 and told the dispatcher he was being held against his will, according to a Sandusky police report.
Walsh was in jail on accusations he tried to start a fight with patrons at the Water Street Bar, 101 E. Water St. Officers went to the bar around 3:18 a.m. where they saw Walsh arguing with other patrons. He was warned to calm down and several people escorted him across the street to a vehicle.
Officers heard Walsh continue to argue with his friends, who also asked him to calm down and when he shoved another man away from him, he was arrested, according to the report.
Before putting him into a cruiser, an officer searched Walsh and found a bag of cocaine and a rolled up $20 bill. On the way to the police station, Walsh was “belligerent and turbulent with officers,” the report stated. After being placed into a cell, Walsh screamed and pounded on the cell door. When he refused to stop he was handcuffed to the cell door in the back of the holding facility.
After officer left him, Walsh used his cell phone to call 911 and complained he was being held against his will. A disoriented Walsh said he was unsure where he was being held.
An officer went into the holding cell and took the cell phone from Walsh. An additional charge of misuse of 911 was added to the charges of possession of cocaine and persistent disorderly conduct while intoxicated and he was taken to Erie County Jail.
LINK TO PHOTO AND AUDIO TAPE:
Has Sarah Palin peaked? Poll numbers sag, and she's taking GOP friendly fire.
It has been a tough couple of days for former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. Her favorability ratings among GOP voters have slipped, a new poll shows, and fellow Republicans are taking pot shots.
Staff writer / March 16, 2011
It has been a tough couple of days for former Alaska governor and Fox News commentator Sarah Palin.
A new ABC News/Washington Post poll, released Wednesday, found that Ms. Palin’s favorability ratings among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents have dropped to a new low. Fifty-eight percent of those voters still view her favorably – not exactly shabby, by most standards. But compared with the 88 percent favorable rating she enjoyed right after Sen. John McCain picked her as his running mate in 2008 – and even the 70 percent positive rating she enjoyed as recently as October – Palin is definitely on a downward slide.
Even more troubling for Palin, especially if she harbors presidential ambitions, is that her negative ratings among Republicans are higher than those for other possible GOP presidential contenders. Thirty-seven percent of Republicans and Republican-leaners see Palin unfavorably, the ABC News survey said. That exceeds former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s unfavorable ratings by 11 percentage points, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s by 16 points, and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s by 19 points.
Support among Republicans is especially crucial for Palin given her standing with the general public. An ABC News/Post poll in December found that 59 percent of all likely voters would not consider voting for her for president.
“The results indicate continued challenges for Palin in public opinion,” Gary Langer wrote on the ABC News blog The Numbers. Mr. Langer provides public opinion polling and analysis to ABC News.
The poll slippage comes at a time when Palin's fellow conservatives are taking political pot shots at her. On Monday, former New Hampshire Sen. Judd Gregg wrote in The Hill newspaper that a presidential primary season in which there is no clear front-runner could help Palin. He added, “Although she is not viewed by most as strong enough to win, she is viewed by many as a person worth voting for to make a statement.”
In addition, several well-known conservatives criticized Palin in an article published Monday on the website Politico. Weekly Standard magazine writer Matt Labash told the website that Palin is "becoming Al Sharpton, Alaska edition" due to her "appeals to victimhood and group grievance." The same article quoted veteran conservative columnist George Will on Palin’s potential effect on an idea-driven conservative movement. Could the GOP remain the party of ideas if Palin were the presidential nominee? “The answer is emphatically no,” Mr. Will told Politico.
Woman injured after toilet breaks in South Side McDonald’s: lawsuit
Sun-Times Media Wire
Mar 16, 2011 02:30PM
A woman filed a negligence suit Tuesday claiming she was injured when a toilet broke in a bathroom stall of a South Side McDonald’s restaurant.
Cherry Hardie claims that on March 12, 2010, she was seated on a toilet in a McDonald’s restaurant, 7601 S. Vincennes Ave., according to a lawsuit filed in Cook County Court
The suit claims that seat fell off the toilet while she was seated and she reached for the bathroom wall to try to catch herself while she was falling. She suffered a severe injury to her left arm and shoulder, which came into contact with the bathroom wall.
The suit claims that Phideb Management Services, the owner of the McDonald’s restaurant, carelessly and negligently failed to manage and inspect the restrooms to determine dangerous conditions.
Phideb also failed to place railings or barricades around the perimeter of the bathroom stall with the broken toilet seat because Phideb should have known that the toilet seat would cause injury, according to the suit.
Hardie claims that she was injured, suffered a severe shock to her nervous system and became disabled.
The one-count negligence suit seeks more than $30,000 in damages.
A spokesperson for Phideb was not immediately available for comment Tuesday evening.
Tibetan mastiff pup sells for $1.6M making it the world's most expensive dog
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Wednesday, March 16th 2011, 11:24 AM
An 11-month-old red Tibetan mastiff has become the world's most expensive dog after a Chinese coal baron bought the young pooch for a jaw-dropping $1.6 million.
The seller says the canine is named Big Splash, or Hong Dong in Chinese. The identity of the multimillionaire owner and when the sale took place remains under wraps.
Red Tibetan mastiffs are rarely found outside of Tibet and have become something of a status symbol for the nouveau riche.
The breeder, Lu Lian, described Big Splash as a "perfect specimen" and said the extravagant price tag was "completely justified."
"We have spent a lot of money raising this dog, and we have the salaries of plenty of staff to pay," Lian told London's The Telegraph, adding that the new owner could charge $16,000 each time Big Splash breeds with another dog.
Previously, the world's most expensive dog was another Tibetan mastiff named Yangtze River Number Two. That pup sold for roughly $600,000
Pepsi bottles introduced Tuesday are made from 100 percent plant material. Company plans to market test plant-based Pepsi bottles next year.
March 15, 2011 at 10:21 pm EDT
PepsiCo Inc. unveiled a new bottle Tuesday made entirely of plant material that it says bests the technology of competitor Coca-Cola and reduces bottles' carbon footprint.
The bottle is made from switch grass, pine bark, corn husks and other materials. Ultimately, Pepsi plans to also use orange peels, oat hulls, potato scraps and other leftovers from its food business.
The new bottle looks, feels and protects the drink inside exactly the same as its current bottles, said Rocco Papalia, senior vice president of advanced research at PepsiCo.
"It's a beautiful thing to behold," he said. "It's indistinguishable."
PepsiCo says it is the world's first bottle of a common type of plastic called PET made entirely of plant materials. Coca-Cola Co. currently produces a bottle using 30 percent plant-based materials and recently estimated it would be several years before it has a 100 percent plant bottle that's commercially viable.
"We've cracked the code," Papalia said.
PepsiCo announced the discovery Tuesday and said it plans to test the product in 2012 in a few hundred thousand bottles. Once the company is sure it can successfully produce the bottle at that scale, it will begin converting all its products over.
That could mean a switch of billions of bottles sold each year. Of Pepsi's 19 biggest brands, those that generate more than $1 billion in revenue, 11 are beverage brands that use PET.
Scientists said the technology is important innovation in packaging.
"This is the beginning of the end of petroleum-based plastics," said Allen Hershkowitz, a senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council and director of its waste management project. "When you have a company of this size making a commitment to a plant-based plastic, the market is going to respond."
Coca-Cola said it welcomed other advances in packaging, but noted that it has scaled up use of its own plant-based bottle since introducing it in 2009. It also says it has demonstrated a 100 percent plant bottle in the lab and is still working to ensure it is commercially viable.
There are other plant-based plastics available or in development, but Herskowitz said these are not environmentally preferred because they typically use plants grown solely for that purpose rather than using the estimated 2 billion tons of agricultural waste produced each year. And these alternative plastics cannot be recycled.
PET plastic is a go-to material for packaging because it's lightweight and shatter-resistant, its safety is well-researched and it doesn't affect flavors. It is not biodegradable or compostable but it is recyclable.
A completely plant-based PET could change the industry standard for plastic packaging. PET is used in beverage bottles, food pouches, coatings and other common products.
Traditional PET plastic is made using fossil fuels, including petroleum, a limited resource that's rising in price. By using plant material instead, companies reduce their environmental impact.
Pepsi, based in Purchase, N.Y., said it has had dozens of people working on the process for years. While PepsiCo wouldn't specify the cost to research and design the new bottle, Papalia said it is in the millions of dollars.
This product image shows the new Pepsi bottle made entirely of plant material. The bottle is made from switch grass, pine bark, corn husks and other materials. Ultimately, Pepsi plans to also use orange peels, oat hulls, potato scraps and other leftovers from its food business. The new Pepsi bottles are scheduled to begin appearing in 2012.
Ex-prostitute awarded $200,000 in damages
Filed suit against Hub police officer
The judgment, handed down by Judge Douglas P. Woodlock in US District Court in Boston, follows the 2007 conviction of Michael LoPriore, 41, a 12-year veteran of the Boston police, who admitted to using his position as a police officer to force a 19-year-old prostitute to perform sex on him on several occasions in 2004. The Globe is not naming the woman, because it does not identify victims of sexual assault.
According to court documents, the assaults began after LoPriore followed the prostitute and a regular client from Chinatown to Quincy. After scaring the client off, LoPriore flashed his badge and demanded that the prostitute perform a sexual act or he would have her arrested.
Court documents show that LoPriore tracked down the woman in Chinatown on at least two more occasions and again forced her to perform sexual acts. During one encounter, she managed to steal LoPriore’s badge and later gave it to her lawyer, John Swomley, who turned it over to the FBI.
LoPriore later pleaded guilty in federal court to depriving the woman of her civil rights and served one year in jail.
Yesterday, Swomley said his client was pleased with the outcome, but added that given LoPriore’s current lack of employment, the prospects of collecting the money were dim.
“She’s quite happy to be given the opportunity to at least try to collect some money from LoPriore,’’ Swomley said. He said his client has turned her life around and is no longer working as a prostitute.
“She’s doing well,’’ he said.
Swomley’s client had tried to have the City of Boston held accountable for failure to supervise and adequately discipline LoPriore, who had a history of disciplinary actions against him and was on restricted administrative duty at the time of the 2004 assaults.
However, Woodlock rejected her argument, Swomley said, and found that the city could not have reasonably foreseen LoPriore engaging in the illicit activity.
LoPriore did not contest the judgment, Swomley said.
Atlanta grandmother wins lottery by accident
Kristi E. Swartz
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Bobbie Ware didn't intend to play the $300,000 Taxes Paid game, but that was what she selected while standing in front of the Georgia Lottery vending machine at an Atlanta Kroger.
"I can't believe this," she said. "It still hasn't sunk in."
Ware, a mother of four and grandmother of 10, said she will share her winnings of $300,000 after taxes with her family. She is a former social worker who retired after spending 35 years with the state's human resources department.
Ware bought her ticket at the Kroger on Caroline Street, in the Edgewood Retail District.
March 15, 2011 12:00 A.M.
Blacks and Republicans
The GOP needs to make its case to win blacks’ votes.
San Francisco’s irrepressible former mayor, Willie Brown, was walking along one of the city’s streets when he happened to run into another former city official that he knew, James McCray.
But none of this matters so long as Republicans who want the black vote think they have to devise earmarked benefits for blacks, instead of explaining how Republicans’ general principles, applied to all Americans, can do more for blacks than the Democrats’ welfare-state approach.
— Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution.
Dereliction of Duty: Obama AWOL While Crises Pile Up
Obama Urged to Seize Reins as Crises Pile Up
A conflict approaching civil war in Libya. An end-times tsunami in Japan. A Congress that can't reach a budget.
And ... gender inequality?
The topic of President Obama's weekend radio address has raised some eyebrows, as Obama has met mounting crises with the same restraint and cool that characterized his slow-and-steady campaign for president. To some critics, the tone set by the White House in light of recent upheaval may hurt the president's public image.
Amid chaos around the world and on Capitol Hill, Obama's Saturday radio address was devoted to Women's History Month and a call to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, a proposal meant to address the income gap between men and women. Then, the president went golfing at Andrews Air Force Base. Read more at foxnews.com.
Obama Lies Low in Deficit Debate
When President Barack Obama opened the first meeting of his fiscal commission last April, he promised to be “standing with them” as they produced recommendations for curbing the nation’s escalating debt.
Republicans and Democrats say they are still waiting.
While Obama has said he’s committed to deficit reduction, he has also has made clear it is secondary, at least for now, to his “winning the future” agenda. And that reflects a strategy driven by what his senior aides believe voters care about most — jobs, not deficits. Read more at politico.com.
Obama Talks Much, Does Little as He Begins to Focus on 2012 Re-election
The White House is still a busy place, but priorities and attention are increasingly being sucked away to Chicago, home of President Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign.
Congressional negotiations on budget disagreements are adrift, Libya’s anti-American dictator is brutally retaking control of the country, organized Islamists are using the democratic openings in Arab countries to push their way towards power, gas-price increases are draining dollars from the stalled American economy, and nervous American employers are trying to avoid hiring expensive U.S. workers. Read more at dailycaller.com.
HEAT OF THE MOMENT
'Green' price tag: $700 trillion to drop Earth's temp 1 degree
Even EPA admits cost of regulating greenhouse gases 'absurd'
March 14, 2011
8:19 pm Eastern
New calculations applied to a U.S. Senate report reveal the Environmental Protection Agency's plan to combat global warming through regulation of greenhouse gases would theoretically take over $700 trillion, seven times the world's gross production, to drop the earth's temperature only 1 degree Celsius.
The report released last year by Sen. James Ihnofe, R-Okla., then-ranking minority member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, quotes the EPA's own stats and experts to break down the numbers, including one researcher who called the Obama administration's plan "absurd."
Citing a study by the EPA's Dr. Linda M. Chappell and various other sources, the Senate report asserts, "EPA has called the consequences of regulating greenhouse gases under the [Clean Air Act] 'absurd,' affecting 6.1 million sources, introducing $78 billion in annual costs, causing 'at least a decade or longer' of permit delays, 'slowing' construction nationwide for years, 'introducing burdens that are administratively 'infeasible,' 'overwhelming,' that will 'adversely affect national economic development,' while impacting sources 'not appropriate at this point to even consider regulating.'"
You've suspected it, now here's the proof: A top meteorologist documents how "global warming" is just a cynical, Marx-inspired wealth-grab.
And the net effect of the greenhouse gas regulations that the Republican senators are decrying?
The EPA calculates in 75 Federal Register 25,495: "Global mean temperature is estimated to be reduced by 0.006 to 0.015 degrees Celsius by 2100."
So in effect, by the year 2100, 90 years worth of $78 billion per year in spending – a total of over $7 trillion dollars – would have lowered the earth's temperature by about one-hundredth of a degree Celsius.
In other words, the U.S. would be paying for a global warming elixir that reduces temperatures at the net rate of $700 trillion per degree. Numbers-crunchers estimate that would amount to roughly 700 warehouses filled with $100 bills, or a stack of the bills nearly 70 miles high.
"[A critic] indicated that the projected changes in climate impacts resulting from this action are small and therefore not meaningful," the EPA admits in the Federal Register. "EPA disagrees with this view, as the reductions may be small in overall magnitude, but in the global climate change context, they are quantifiable, showing a clear directional signal."
Republicans on the EPW Committee, however, have joined the critics.
"I have great personal respect for EPA Administrator [Lisa] Jackson, but we disagree fundamentally on EPA's policies and the economic and financial harm they pose," Inhofe said in a statement upon release of his committee's report. "The irony of EPA's agenda is that, along with higher costs, it will fail to provide the American people with meaningful environmental benefits."
"With few exceptions," the Senate report asserts even more strongly, "EPA's regulations are unrivaled in the harm they pose to America's economy."
The EPA's new regulations, which began earlier this year, are part of a "tailoring" plan that begins with requiring some of the largest emitters of carbon dioxide – such as power plants, refineries and large industrial plants – to obtain operating permits based on their greenhouse gas emissions.
Later this year, and continuing through 2016, the emissions standards will be scaled down, requiring more and more emissions sources to obtain operating permits.
"After extensive study, debate and hundreds of thousands of public comments, EPA has set common-sense thresholds for greenhouse gases that will spark clean technology innovation and protect small businesses and farms," EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said in a statement. "There is no denying our responsibility to protect the planet for our children and grandchildren. It's long past time we unleashed our American ingenuity and started building the efficient, prosperous clean energy economy of the future."
The Senate Republicans, however, fear small businesses and farms ultimately won't be protected from the regulations.
"The [Clean Air Act] was not intended to regulate [greenhouse gasses]. Attempting to do so leads to, as EPA itself has conceded, 'absurd results,'" the report states. "A recent study by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce gives a glimpse of what EPA's 'absurd results' would [look] like. EPA could be forced to regulate:
"So EPA will make energy less affordable, less secure, destroy thousands of jobs, restrict and slow down construction of schools, hospitals, commercial buildings and much else, with rules that achieve environmental benefits that are barely discernible," the report concludes. "EPA should rescind the endangerment finding and dismantle its greenhouse gas regulatory regime."
White House Tells Supreme Court to Stay Away from Obamacare
Senator Schumer is pretty sure that the Supreme Court is not one of the equal but separate branches of government, so as such it’s possible that Chuck’s advised the White House that they have the power to tell the Supreme Court what to do:
The Obama administration told the Supreme Court on Monday night it should stay away from a high-profile challenge to the 2010 health care law until after a lower court has had a chance to review the case.
Acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal wrote, “there is no basis for short-circuiting the normal course of appellate review.” Katyal also says Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s case is problematic because he may lack sufficient standing to challenge the health care law.
In his filing last month, Cuccinelli said there’s a “palpable consensus” that the high court will ultimately have to pass judgment on the merits of President Obama’s health care law and should do so without delay. Furthermore, Cuccinelli argues that his case involves “pure issues of constitutional law” that appellate judges on the Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals will be unable to definitively resolve.
Team Obama has said they’re absolutely convinced of the health care law’s constitutionality, so with that in mind wouldn’t you think they’d welcome a fast-track opinion on the law and ultimate thumbs-up from the Supreme Court?
Lake Orion pastor to plead guilty to seeking to be sex coach for minors
William Bendert / U.S. Marshals Service
DETROIT FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER
A Lutheran pastor who allegedly offered to be a sex coach for minor girls over the Internet is scheduled to plead guilty March 24 to his role in an online sex scheme, according to a filing today in U.S. District Court.
William Bendert, 51, the head pastor of King of Kings Lutheran Church in Lake Orion, is charged with using the Internet to entice an 11-year-old girl for sex. If convicted, he faces 10 years in prison.
According to court documents, Bendert used the screen name “Billthebear99” to contact who he thought were mothers of young daughters online, and asked them if they were interested in having him sexually train the girls. The mothers were really undercover FBI agents, records show.
In one chat room, Bendert typed: "I have taught girls before … always together with their moms … you would have to be present with us, " according to an FBI affidavit.
Federal agents arrested Bendert in September as he walked to a room at a Red Roof Inn near I-75 and Rochester Road, where he had arranged to meet who he thought was an 11-year-old girl, according to court records.
Federal agents seized two condoms and sex toys from the trunk of his car, including handcuffs and a rope, and sex-related books, including the Kama Sutra, from his church, court records show. After his arrest, records show, Bendert admitted to being Billthebear; to paying for the hotel room and that “what he was doing was wrong.”
“He had thoughts in (his) head that he did not want someone to do this to his daughter, and denied that he had ever trained any other girls,” U.S. Magistrate Virginia Morgan wrote in her order requiring that Bendert be detained. “ … given nature of the offense, there is concern about safety of children with whom he may have contact.”
According to court documents, Bendert is on administrative leave from the church as a result of the criminal complaint. He has no prior criminal record. His wife is supporting him, records show.
At his detention hearing in September, Bendert's lawyer, David Burgess, stressed that Bendert has no prior criminal record, no history of drug abuse, and that he is a college-educated family man whose wife is standing by him. He also noted that, so far, no evidence of child pornography has been found on any of Bendert's computers.
"He's never been in any trouble, and he's never shown any kind of this behavior before, " Burgess said at a court hearing in September.
Man On Breathing Machine Sets House On Fire While Smoking
Melissa Moon 1:28 p.m. CDT, March 14, 2011
Snake bites model Orit Fox's breast during photo shoot, reportedly dies of silicone poisoningJaime Uribarri
Monday, March 14th 2011, 1:26 PM
Orit Fox screams in pain as a snake bites her left breast during a photo shoot.
A busty model and an angry snake together for a photo shoot – what could possibly go wrong?
Orit Fox's attempt at seductive posing with a massive boa took a bizarre turn when the snake bit one of the Israeli B-Lister's surgically enhanced breasts in the middle of a shoot for a Tel Aviv radio station, ABC of Spain reported.
All was going well for the silicone-addicted Fox until she tried to ramp up the sex factor by licking the snake. The move proved costly as she loosened her grip on the reptile, which went straight for the model's left breast implant and latched onto it for several seconds before being pulled off by an assistant.
Fox was rushed to a local hospital, where she was given a tetanus shot.
According to several media sources, the snake wasn't so lucky and died of silicone poisoning.
With News Wire Services
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Bar's open 24/7 as startup culture revives
March 13, 2011 04:00 AM
At Yelp Inc.'s San Francisco headquarters, a keg refrigerator provides a never-ending supply of beer to employees, letting them drink as much as they like.
They just have to be comfortable with full disclosure: Workers badge in to an iPad application attached to the keg that records every ounce they drink.
"If you're at the top of the leaderboard consistently, I don't know if that's a place that you'd want to be," said Eric Singley, director of Yelp consumer and mobile products. "Luckily, that hasn't really even been an issue."
Call it the 2011 version of "Mad Men." As a rebound in technology funding revives startup culture, many dot-coms are embracing the idea of drinking at work. That means keeping bars stocked at all hours, installing kegerators and letting programmers tip back a few while they code. It also raises questions about the effect of alcohol on productivity and the safety of employees.
"Alcohol is sort of a slippery slope, because obviously you'd think it might impair their performance," said Dalton Conley, social sciences dean and professor at New York University. "Many people can work after one beer, but I doubt many people can do serious knowledge work very productively after four or five."
While office parties and Friday night beer busts are nothing new, the all-hours nature of startups means more employees blend their nightlife with work time. Drinking is an extension of that, said Joe Beninato, chief executive officer of Tello Inc., an app developer in Palo Alto.
"When you're working at a startup, you're working 24/7 and it takes over your life," he said. "It's not like it's a wild fraternity party or something like that - we're all adults."
A morning toast
When Tello's iPhone app for rating customer service made it into Apple Inc.'s online store in February, the five-person company decided to celebrate. No matter that it was before noon.
"We got out the whiskey, and everybody had a shot," Beninato said.
Workers have a similar outlook at CrowdFlower, said Lukas Biewald, CEO of the San Francisco-based employment company.
"We do have a fridge full of beer; people do work late and drink out of it," Biewald said. "When we first started, our office was like our home - we had leftovers in the fridge - and I think it's an extension of that."
It's typical to see employees with a beer on a Friday afternoon, when the company lets workers demonstrate new projects, he said. CrowdFlower also occasionally gets kegs for gatherings it hosts for its community of developers and users.
"We had a customer from a bank come, around 11 a.m., and I was really embarrassed by the fact that we had a keg up," Biewald said. "But he actually poured himself a drink."
Twitter Inc., also based in San Francisco, has wine and beer in its fridge, along with nonalcoholic drinks.
"We treat employees as adults, and they act accordingly," said Jodi Olson, a spokeswoman for the company.
Even so, the age-old problems of workplace drinking haven't disappeared, said Robert Sutton, a professor in Stanford University's management science and engineering department. Some employees can't drink in moderation or control themselves after imbibing, he said.
"I've been involved in workplaces that can be pretty dysfunctional, where people will start drinking a little too much at lunch," Sutton said. "There's like a bazillion studies that show when people drink, their performance is impaired, and there's problems with absenteeism."
Another danger: Women are at greater risk of sexual harassment at offices where heavy drinking is the norm, according to a 2004 Cornell University study. The report, sponsored by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, found harassment incidents increased more than twofold for each additional alcoholic beverage consumed by male co-workers.
The long hours may be what sets technology workers apart from the boozing executives on "Mad Men," a show set in the 1960s, said New York University's Conley.
"The folks drank a lot more alcohol back then and had three-martini lunches, but they weren't staying until midnight finishing projects," he said.
At Yelp, an online reviews site, the keg is meant as an after-hours activity, said Singley, who has worked for the startup more than three years.
"That's when it gets the most use," he said. Still, the definition of a workday can depend on the employee.
"Engineers in particular are night owls," he said. "A little ramen noodles at 9 p.m., and then after that, winding down your day, you might stop by the keg. People work here really late."
Manhattan mom sues $19K/yr. preschool for damaging 4-year-old daughter's Ivy League chancesJose Martinez
Monday, March 14th 2011, 1:13 PM
Did a Manhattan preschool fail to adequately prepare a four-year-old girl for Harvard? The girl's mom charges that the York Avenue Preschool hurt her child's chances in a lawsuit filed Monday.
A Manhattan mom is suing a $19,000-a-year preschool, claiming it jeopardized her daughter's chances of getting into an elite private school because she had to slum with younger kids.
Court papers filed by Nicole Imprescia suggest the York Avenue Preschool may have doomed 4-year-old Lucia's chances of getting into an Ivy League college.
"At age four, [York Avenue Preschool] was still teaching [Imprescia's] daughter about shapes and colors - a two year old's learning environment," the suit says.
"Like many parents living in Manhattan, [Imprescia] places a priority on her child's preschool education," the papers add.
The suit quotes from an article that identifies elite preschools as the first step for getting children into the best schools "and on to the Ivy League."
An impressive sales pitch from the York Ave. school in the fall of 2009 convinced Imprescia to enroll Lucia - and pay $19,000 up front.
The goal, the suit says, was to prepare Lucia for the ERB standardized test - which the top private elementary schools use in making admission decisions.
"[York Avenue Preschool] boasted to [Imprescia] that it had a high success rate in getting its students into high caliber schools, both public and private," the suit says.
Those claims are "a complete fraud," the mom charges, going on to blast the York Avenue's educational environment and lack of age-specific classrooms.
"Indeed, the school proved not to be a school at all, but just one big playroom," the suit says.
The school's owner, Michael Branciforte, did not return a call seeking comment.
On its website, York Avenue Preschool touts its music and physical education programs, weekly library trips and French classes for four-year-olds.
"Our goal is to reach each child and work with them towards their 'next steps,'" the site says.
Imprescia is seeking a $19,000 tuition refund and wants to launch a class-action case on behalf of similarly wronged toddlers.
Imprescia and her lawyer declined comment.
Prayer service at city school called improper
Prayers sought success on statewide tests
|Prayer service flier|
Erica L. Green, The Baltimore Sun 9:20 p.m. EDT, March 13, 2011
March 11, 2011 12:00 A.M.
Obama’s Social Security Hoax
National Review Online
The president will demagogue Social Security as his ticket to reelection.
Everyone knows that the U.S. budget is being devoured by entitlements. Everyone also knows that of the Big Three — Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security — Social Security is the most solvable.
Back-of-an-envelope solvable: Raise the retirement age, tweak the indexing formula (from wage inflation to price inflation), and means-test so that Warren Buffett’s check gets redirected to a senior in need.The relative ease of the fix is what makes the Obama administration’s Social Security strategy so shocking. The new line from the White House is: no need to fix it because there is no problem. As Office of Management and Budget (OMB) director Jack Lew wrote in USA Today just a few weeks ago, the trust fund is solvent until 2037. Therefore, Social Security is now off the table in debt-reduction talks.
This claim is a breathtaking fraud.
The pretense is that a flush trust fund will pay retirees for the next 26 years. Lovely, except for one thing: The Social Security trust fund is a fiction.
If you don’t believe me, listen to the OMB’s own explanation (in the Clinton administration budget for fiscal year 2000 under then-director Jack Lew, the very same). The OMB explained that these trust-fund “balances” are nothing more than a “bookkeeping” device. “They do not consist of real economic assets that can be drawn down in the future to fund benefits.”
In other words, the Social Security trust fund contains — nothing.
Here’s why. When your FICA tax is taken out of your paycheck, it does not get squirreled away in some lockbox in West Virginia where it’s kept until you and your contemporaries retire. Most goes out immediately to pay current retirees, and the rest (say, $100) goes to the U.S. Treasury — and is spent. On roads, bridges, national defense, public television, whatever — spent, gone.
In return for that $100, the Treasury sends the Social Security Administration a piece of paper that says: IOU $100. There are countless such pieces of paper in the lockbox. They are called “special issue” bonds.
Special they are: They are worthless. As the OMB explained, they are nothing more than “claims on the Treasury [i.e., promises] that, when redeemed [when you retire and are awaiting your check], will have to be financed by raising taxes, borrowing from the public, or reducing benefits or other expenditures.” That’s what it means to have a so-called trust fund with no “real economic assets.” When you retire, the “trust fund” will have to go to the Treasury for the money for your Social Security check.
Bottom line? The OMB again: “The existence of large trust fund balances, therefore, does not, by itself, have any impact on the government’s ability to pay benefits.” No impact: The lockbox, the balances, the little pieces of paper, amount to nothing.
So when Jack Lew tells you that there are trillions in this lockbox that keep the system solvent until 2037, he is perpetrating a fiction certified as such by his own OMB. What happens when you retire? Your Social Security will come out of the taxes and borrowing of that fiscal year.
Why is this a problem? Because as of 2010, the pay-as-you-go Social Security system is in the red. For decades it had been in the black, taking in more in FICA taxes than it sent out in Social Security benefits. The surplus, scooped up by the Treasury, reduced the federal debt by tens of billions. But demography is destiny. The ratio of workers to retirees is shrinking year by year. Instead of Social Security producing annual surpluses that reduce the federal deficit, it is now producing shortfalls that increase the federal deficit — $37 billion in 2010. It will only get worse as the baby boomers retire.
That’s what makes this administration’s claim that Social Security is solvent so cynical. The Republicans have said that their April budget will contain real entitlement reform. President Obama is preparing the ground to demagogue Social Security right through the 2012 elections. The ad writes itself: Those heartless Republicans don’t just want to throw granny in the snow, they want to throw granny in the snow to solve a problem that doesn’t even exist! Vote Obama.
On Tuesday, Democratic senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia denounced Obama for lack of leadership on the debt. It’s worse than that. Obama is showing leadership. With Lew’s preposterous claim that Social Security is solvent for 26 years, Obama is preparing to lead the charge against entitlement reform as his ticket to reelection.
— Charles Krauthammer is a nationally syndicated columnist.
How the highly effective habits of millionaires could help you
March 12, 2011
Millionaires are more optimistic about the economy but unlike the rest of us, they don't blow their whole paycheck on videogames and Little Debbie snack cakes.
Instead, they keep their eye on the prize: Keeping their money — and making more.A recent survey of wealthy Americans revealed what millionaires plan to do with their money this year.
Their priorities are still to pay down debt and save money: The average millionaire household saved over $39,000 last year, and plans to save the same or more this year, according to a recent survey by Spectrem Group. But they're also ready to increase their bets on the recovery: Forty-five percent plan on increasing the amount they have invested in the stock market, the survey showed. The biggest area they plan to invest in is technology (58 percent), followed by the pharmaceutical industry (48 percent) and health care (47 percent).And the gold rush isn't over: Forty-one percent said they plan to invest in gold and 24% were considering other precious metals.
They may be poising themselves to cash in as the economy grows but they maintain the discipline of monks: Eight-one percent said they don't believe the recession is over and just two percent consider themselves "aggressive" investors. That discipline not only applies to how they spend their money but how they live their life and how they navigate business.
Millionaires only have 24 hours in a day, just like the rest of us. What separates them from us is time management. While the rest of us go home and flop on the couch in front of the TV, the wealthy are reading and doing things that contribute to their success.
As a teenager in Seattle, Bill Gates used to sneak out of his house at night and on the weekends to go down to the computer lab. He was doing real-time computer programming by eighth grade. He didn't spend his high school years watching television and dreaming of studying computer science in college, he spent it actually working on computers. Knowing that, it makes more sense that he dropped out of Harvard to start Microsoft— he was just a guy ahead of schedule!
Apple founder Steve Jobs, in his commencement address to Stanford University in 2005, explained his daily ritual to make sure there isn't any grass growing under his feet: "When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: 'If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right.' It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: 'If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?' And whenever the answer has been 'No' for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.
Another highly effective habit of the wealthy is that they are decisive. One of Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett's business tenets is "Never Suck Your Thumb." That means that, at a certain point, you've got to stop thinking — and start acting. In his 1989 annual report, Buffett explained how he learned the thumb-sucking lesson the hard way: "It's no sin to miss a great opportunity outside one's area of competence. But I have passed on a couple of really big purchases that were served up to me on a platter and that I was fully capable of understanding. For Berkshire's shareholders, myself included, the cost of this thumb-sucking has been huge."At a certain point, you just have to ask yourself: How's that couch working out for you?
LINK TO STORY:
Middle School Teacher Arrested For Public Indecency
6:46 p.m. EDT, March 13, 2011
Police arrested a man on Saturday who they say exposed himself to a passing woman while performing a sexual act on himself earlier that day.
Police said that the man, Daniel Mer, 31, of 117 Delmont St., Manchester, is a teacher at Roosevelt Middle School in New Britain. He is also listed in the school staff directory.
New Britain schools spokesperson Helen Yung said that at this time, the school has no comment.
Mer was charged with public indecency and breach of peace. Police say the woman was walking on Lake Street, near the Lake Street School, when Mer passed her in a car and then pulled onto Rosewood Drive, where he stopped. He parked in such a way that the woman was forced to walk around his car and as she did so he opened the driver's door and stuck his left leg out of the car. As the woman passed, she saw he was naked from the waist down and performing a sexual act on himself as he looked at her, police said.
Mer then drove up Rosewood Drive, which is a dead end, and the female was able to get the license plate number and a description of the vehicle. Police followed up on this information and spoke with Mer. He was released after posting a $2,500 bond and is due in court on March 22.
Burger King boss insults British women and food
The chief executive of Burger King has described British women as ugly and English food as “terrible”, in a gaffe likely to enrage his customers in this country.
Bernardo Hees, 40, told a group of students in Chicago that “here the food is good and you are known for your good-looking women”.
Comparing the city to his student days at the University of Warwick, where he studied for an MBA, he recalled of his time in England: “The food is terrible and the women are not very attractive."
His gaffe came only six months after taking the helm at the chain, which has 11,500 outlets worldwide, and unsurprisingly were not welcomed in Coventry, where Warwick University is based.
Charli Fritzner, women’s campaigns officer at the University’s student union, said: “If he views women as potential distractions in academia, I wonder how he views them in the workplace?
“It doesn’t make Burger King an attractive employer for women.”
Marcus Wareing, a Michelin-starred chef at London’s Berkeley Hotel, who specialises in English produce, said his comments were an “insult to British gastronomy”, especially given what the Burger King menu contains.
After Mr Hees’ comments, which were made in an unguarded moment, were picked up and reported in America, a spokesman for the company said he regretted them, adding: “Mr Hees apologises if his comment has offended anyone. It …. was intended as a humorous anecdote to connect with his audience.”
One way for British women to make themselves more attractive might be to avoid a visit to one of Mr Hees’ fast food outlets.
Boasting 950 calories, a Burger King Double Whopper with cheese accounts for half of a woman’s recommended daily calorie intake of 1940 calories.
The burger has twice the calorie count and, with 22g of saturated fat, more than double the saturated fat count than its comparable rival, the McDonald’s Big Mac.
Charges against hairdressers mount
Saturday, March 12, 2011
The number of charges against two Elberton hairdressers accused of stealing gold and jewelry from their clients has continued to rise in the month since their arrest - and the prosecutor says he expects it will keep growing.
A judge denied bond Friday on the two dozen charges the women already face.
Nikki M. Coker, 35, faces 29 counts of burglary, and Whitney Hope Mooney, 26, faces 28 counts, plus two drug violations, Northern Circuit District Attorney Bob Lavender said.
More charges are on the way, according to Lavender and Investigator David Cleveland of the Elbert County Sheriff's Office.
Investigators are uncovering more victims, sometimes by tracing recovered jewelry with initials or children's names engraved on the pieces, Cleveland said.
Lavender is considering a special session of the Elbert County grand jury to hear the women's case.
"We'll probably have to call the grand jury back early because the grand jury just met not long ago and it wouldn't meet again for about six months," he said.
Theft victims range from salon customers to relatives and friends, according to the Elbert County Sheriff's Office.
Most of the burglaries happened on Sunday mornings when the victims were in church or on Mondays, a day most hairdressers in Elbert County take a day off.
Investigators found three pawn shops where the women sold the jewelry and coins in Athens, Crawford and Anderson, S.C.
Deputies recovered some of the jewelry after people saw news reports about the thefts, Cleveland said.
"A lot of people became aware of the fact they had been given some of this jewelry by the defendants or had purchased some of the jewelry from these two," he said. "They have done the right thing and come forward and brought it back to us."
"We've received a lot of cooperation from the public," he said.
Both women and their attorneys attended a bond hearing Friday in Elbert County Superior Court, where Judge John Bailey denied bond. In his ruling, the judge cited the number of charges against the women and the possibility they could flee if released, Lavender said.
LINK TO ORIGINAL STORY:
Mom Kills Son for Potty Training Accident, Then Eats Pizza
Potty trainingis one of the most frustrating parenting experiences I've faced, but I still can't muster even a fraction of an ounce of empathy for Robin Greinke, 26, an Illinois woman, who along with her boyfriend beat her 3-year-old son to death because he wet his pants. Once they were finished, and he lay nearby dying, they ate a pizza and watched a movie.
Greinke and Steven Neil, 33, admitted that they took turns beating the boy for more than an hour after he had an accident February 8 while they were visiting Florida. "They were upset with him and they tossed him and spanked him and punched him," a homicide investigator told Central Florida News 13.
After enjoying themselves with the pizza and movie, Greinke finally called 911 around 5 a.m. to say her son, Noah Fake, was wheezing, and she couldn't sleep. She couldn't sleep. No one with even a hint of a conscience possibly could, but apparently she has none.
If it was a rash incident, it wouldn't make it any better, but at least there would be a tiny hint of understanding of how someone can snap. Potty training can be brutal, but this? This is truly one of the most horrific, unconscionable acts against a child by his own mother I've come across. It makes me physically ache to think about what this child endured.
I just can't imagine what cold, callous people these individuals must be, and what an awful life this boy must have led during the years he was alive. With a mother like that, I can't imagine they were anything but awful. I don't want to believe he's better off dead, but he would likely be better off anywhere than in the care of a woman who could not only kill, but sit by and chow down on dinner afterwards. Monster is the only word for someone like that, and no alcohol or drugs or anything else can provide even a hint of an excuse for these actions.
The couple has been charged with aggravated child abuse, child neglect, and first-degree murder. Greinke was denied bail on Saturday and remains in jail and on suicide watch. I hope they watch her closely, because she doesn't deserve such an easy escape from her actions.
While I don't support the death penalty, it's cases like this that make me question that stance. I hope whatever punishment they face is as severe as the law allows and that they never get to enjoy a piece of pizza or view a movie ever again.
LINK TO PHOTO OF MOTHER:
Monday's Pi Day -- the celebration of a number
10:10 AM CDT, March 13, 2011
Monday is Pi Day — a day to celebrate a number with desserts, numerical recitations and hot-dog throwing.
Pi, the number that expresses the ratio of a circle's circumference over its diameter, was first calculated in ancient times, and sometimes is called Archimedes' Constant, for an ancient Greek mathematician who calculated an approximate value for the number. It's believed to be a number with no endpoint, although its digits start with 3.14159. Thus, March 14, or 3/14, for Pi Day.
The first Pi Day was celebrated in 1989 at the San Francisco Exploratorium, whose staff celebrates most years by walking in a circle around a "Pi shrine" a little more than 3 times.
And these days, the celebration has spread around the world, and math teachers, students and other self-proclaimed math fans amused or intrigued by Pi celebrate the number.
At Morgan Park Academy, a pre-K through 12th grade school on the Southwest Side, every one of the six math teachers, along with teachers in the lower grades, will focus on Pi in class, said the math team leader, James Kowalsky. In his geometry class, Kowalsky in the past has had students cut cardboard circles multiple times to fit them into squares, which allows students to calculate the area of the circles without using Pi.
In an after-school Pi event at Walter Payton High School, students will throw hot dogs on a floor marked with evenly spaced parallel lines. Why? Because the proportion of hot dogs that cross the lines when they fall works out to be approximately 1 over Pi, said Payton mathematics chair Paul J. Karafiol.One highlight of many Pi Day events is a competitive recitation of the numerous digits of Pi, which modern computers have calculated to a trillion deciminal places. At Morgan Park Academy, the record is 312 digits. The DuPage Science Fiction Society has had someone recite more than 100 digits, and a Payton student who's now at Yale University remembered a mind-blowing 500 digits.But those unacquainted with Pi might be more drawn to what's usually a big feature of the number's celebration: pie.The DuPage group was holding its Pi Day at a Bakers Square pie house on Sunday. Morgan Park Academy students bring in pies to share at lunchtime. And at Payton, with each digit of Pi that a student's able to recite beyond the first few, their piece of pie gets a little bigger — by one degree, measured with a protractor, Karafiol said.
Democratic senators return to Madison to tell crowd fight isn't over
Protesters flood the streets of Madison around the Capitol to welcome the 14 Democratic senators and protest the passage of the budget-repair bill.Bill Glauber and Tom Held of the Journal Sentinel
March 12, 2011
Madison — Unbowed and unrepentant, 14 Democratic state senators returned to the Capitol on Saturday and received a tumultuous welcome from tens of thousands of pro-labor demonstrators.
Despite last week's passage of Gov. Scott Walker's budget-repair bill, the senators said they did the right thing by fleeing to Illinois last month in an unsuccessful bid to block the legislation.
And they vowed to fight the law in the courts and at the ballot box in a longer struggle to restore the collective bargaining that was eliminated for most public employees.
As they made their way up the steps of the Capitol, they heard the roars of a crowd that clogged Capitol Square, and listened as chants of "thank you, thank you" rained down.
But not everyone was happy to see the 14 Democratic senators back in Madison.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) issued a withering statement ahead of their return.
He called the senators "the most shameful 14 people in the state of Wisconsin" and said it was "an absolute insult" to hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites that the senators ran away to Illinois to block Walker's budget-repair bill.
Fitzgerald wrote: "To the Senate Democrats: when you smile for the cameras today and pretend you're heroes, I hope you look at that beautiful Capitol building you insulted. And I hope you're embarrassed to call yourselves senators."
The senators showed no such shame as they took the stage, one by one, and addressed the audience that fanned out on muddy ground and spilled out into State St. Other demonstrators kept up a continuous march in the square, the scene all playing out beneath cloudy skies and a brisk late-winter wind.
State Sen. Spencer Coggs (D-Milwaukee) told the demonstrators, "Thank you for being our voice while we were gone. Thank you for being Wisconsin's voice while we were gone. Thank you for being America's voice."
Coggs said it was time for the "fabulous 14" to "come back and unite with you."
"We want to unite, we want to fight, we want to get back workers' rights," he said. "The people united will never be defeated."
"This is not the end. This is the beginning of phase two," said Sen. Fred Risser (D-Madison).
In a news conference earlier Saturday, the Democrats talked about their future plans. They have returned to a Capitol that has been transformed by a bitter political battle. They had been held in contempt by their Republican colleagues in the Senate while they were away.
"They won the battle; we're going to win the war," said Sen. Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay).
Some in organized labor are seething over the actions taken by Walker and the Republicans to curtail collective bargaining for public employee unions. Several signs carried by protesters suggested the launching of a general strike.
Sen. Kathleen Vinehout (D-Alma) said consumer actions may be a better option in continuing the fight against the Republican budget proposals.
"People we're up against care about money and are very greedy," Vinehout said. "Look at the companies and products these people manufacture. When I buy something, I make my vote known."
Sen. Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee) said the thousands rallying in Madison have another alternative to continue their opposition: recalls.
"A lot of the people shut out of the process in the last two weeks will be heard," Larson said. "They'll be trading in those rally signs for clipboards as the recall efforts heat up."
Sen. Julie Lassa (D-Stevens Point) said she would use the Republicans' action to gain support back in her district, focusing on the coming fight over the budget.
Sen. Tim Cullen (D-Janesville), who spearheaded negotiations to try to come to a deal over the bill, admitted that damage was done to the institution of the Senate. He said both sides were responsible.
He also lamented the likelihood that recall elections will soon be held.
"We've gone from a 24/7 news cycle to 24/7 elections," Cullen said.
The crowd that gathered in Madison was the biggest yet during four weeks of protests. It was filled with teachers, police, firefighters, nurses, students and farmers. Those moving for a look at the likes of the Rev. Jesse Jackson and actor Tony Shalhoub pressed shoulder-to-shoulder, from curbside to the storefronts.
Labor groups and supporters gathered signatures to start recall petitions against eight Republican senators, and others collected names and e-mail addresses for a database in the event a recall is started next year against Walker. Eight Democrats also face recall efforts.
Farmers join protest
A "tractorcade" rolled around the Capitol Square; the parade of vehicles included farmers and labor supporters and, in some cases, the people at the wheel had a hand in both.
Dairy farmer Tod Pulvermacher of Bear Valley pulled a manure spreader with a John Deere tractor. Over the manure spreader was a sign: "Walker's Bill Belongs Here."
"I support all of Wisconsin workers," the 33-year-old said, while the diesel idled. "There are many horrible things in this bill: worker rights, health care, selling the rights of middle-class Americans."
Sam Anderson grew up on a dairy farm, but spent most of his working life as a Teamster.
"If the unions lose out, everybody will lose out," Anderson said from the seat of a tractor. "Gov. Walker is out to destroy municipal unions."
Charley Weeth of La Crosse led the "tractorcade" in the 1953 Ford firetruck he drove to Madison.
Weeth said farmers had reason to join with labor in protesting the budget-repair bill, even though the most inflammatory item was the elimination of most collective bargaining.
Many farmers have benefited from the expansion of BadgerCare and would lose out on health insurance in the changes pursued by Walker, he said.
"A lot of them are on the edge, especially with fuel prices being up," Weeth said. "And a lot of them are just disgusted with the process. This is not the Wisconsin they knew and grew up with."
Weeth collected money to help pay for the fuel used by the 60 tractors, and found the protesters to be generous.
There were a few counterdemonstrators, such as Mike Foht.
The small-business owner from Monroe carried a sign that read: "No More Free Rides. Thank you Republicans. Please Strike. I Could Use Your Job."
Foht said he had been defending Walker and the Republican legislators throughout the rallies in recent weeks.
"Obviously, the majority here are opposed to what Walker did," Foht said. "I support what Walker did."
He was outnumbered, but not alone. Another sign in the crowd read: "Democrats are sore losers."
Cullen Werwie, a spokesman for Walker, said those protesting Walker's budget moves "certainly have a right to have their voices heard, but we are not going to let them drown out the voices of millions of taxpayers all across Wisconsin."
John Fauber of the Journal Sentinel staff in Milwaukee contributed to this report.
Don't forget to set your clocks ahead an hour -- Daylight Saving time begins Sunday.
Technically the switchover doesn't happen until 2 a.m. Sunday. Time will fall back when DST ends at 2 a.m. Nov. 6.
Daylight saving time for many years began in April, but since 2007, it has started on the second Sunday in March and ended on the first Sunday of November, according to the U.S. Naval Observatory.
If you want to read more about Daylight Saving Time:
4:42 PM CST, March 11, 2011
LINK TO VIDEO:
Friday, Mar. 11, 2011
Merced County prosecutor in legal trouble quits
Attorney with D.A.'s office worked with a warrant out for his arrest.
VICTOR A. PATTON
A prosecutor with the Merced County district attorney's office resigned from his position this month after his supervisors learned he had been working at the office with a nearly year-old warrant for his arrest.
In addition, a Sun-Star investigation into former Deputy District Attorney Matthew Poage Shelton's activities revealed he may have broken state law by making court appearances as a prosecutor while suspended by the State Bar of California in 2008.
Shelton, 43, was cited March 2 for an outstanding warrant for failing to appear in court for speeding and driving on a suspended license, according to court documents. A district attorney's office investigator presented Shelton with the citation.
Court records reveal Shelton had several traffic citations dating to 2006, including speeding and driving without a valid license. As a result of Shelton's poor driving record, his license was suspended.
Shelton failed to make court appearances to address the citations. As a result, on April 15, a Merced County judge issued a bench warrant for Shelton's arrest.
For nearly a year, Shelton showed up at work without addressing the warrant. Although his caseload mainly was misdemeanors, during that time he also handled felony cases, including a homicide.
Shelton was contacted by the Sun-Star on Thursday, and made a 3:30 p.m. appointment to give his side of the story. Fifteen minutes before that appointment, however, he called and said he couldn't attend, based on advice from an attorney.
"For reasons that will become clear shortly, I cannot come to the Merced Star-Star," Shelton said.
Shelton said he couldn't elaborate on his resignation or his pending legal issues.
"Because of the charges ongoing, I really can't say a lot more about that," he said.
Merced County District Attorney Larry Morse II and Chief Deputy District Attorney John Goold said they learned of Shelton's arrest warrant a few days after his car was towed from in front of the district attorney's 20th Street office on Feb. 25. A Merced police officer on March 2 arrived at the district attorney's office and told Morse about the outstanding warrant.
Goold said he confronted Shelton, who confirmed the existance of the arrest warrant. Shortly thereafter, Shelton resigned from his position.
But there are issues other than Shelton's driving record that may land him in hot water. The State Bar of California suspended him from practicing law from July 1, 2008, until Aug. 3, 2008, because of noncompliance with the state's Minimum Continuing Legal Education requirements. Every three years in California, active attorneys are required to complete a certain amount of Minimum Continuing Legal Education hours to stay abreast of legal issues.
Apparently, Shelton didn't report completion of the hours by the deadline or fulfill the requirement, resulting in his suspension.
Although Shelton's suspension was brief, he continued to practice law during that period with the district attorney's office. Goold confirmed that Shelton was assigned cases, and that his office is reviewing whether any of those cases reached a disposition during that time.
Under California's Business and Professions Code, practicing law without being an active member of the state bar is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in a county jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000.
The code states that practicing law during a state bar suspension is a crime, punishable by possible jail time or prison.
Goold and Morse both said they weren't aware of Shelton's suspension from the state bar until after they had been notified of his outstanding arrest warrant.
Morse said his office is reserving judgment on whether Shelton committed a crime until its review of his cases during his five-week suspension is complete. If evidence of a crime is found, Morse said, the state's office of the attorney general would be asked to step in.
The Sun-Star searched for cases Shelton handled during his suspension and found documentation that he acted as a prosecutor while suspended.
According to court records, Shelton appeared in court July 2 and July 23, 2008, well before the end of his suspension.
On those dates he appeared as prosecutor in court hearings for Hector David Chavez, who had been accused of committing a shooting at a March 22, 2008, quinceañera party.
On Aug. 20, 2008, Shelton negotiated a plea agreement with Chavez's attorney, Deputy Public Defender Mishya Rimpel Singh.
Chavez pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor assault charge. He was released from jail after serving four months.
Singh said she recalls seeing Shelton in court for the Chavez case.
"Now that you mention it, yeah, I do remember that," Singh told the Sun-Star.
Singh said she's concerned about whether cases Shelton handled during the time he was suspended will have to be brought back to court.
"Of course I am a bit concerned. He was handling serious cases," Singh said.
The Sun-Star showed a court minute order to Goold, dated July 2, 2008, that shows Shelton's name. If Shelton did appear in court, as the minute order indicates, Goold said, it could be a violation of state law.
"We're going to pull the minute orders of everything that he touched during that period," Goold said.
Shelton was asked by the Sun-Star whether he appeared in court as an attorney during his suspension period. "I might have," he said.
Shelton said the only reason he was suspended was because he didn't file Minimum Continuing Legal Education paperwork by a certain deadline.
"I forgot to fill out that form. That is the only reason my license was suspended," Shelton said.
Morse said his office does background checks on its attorneys before they're hired. Afterward, the attorneys are expected to report any issues or arrests involving law enforcement to their supervisors, he said.
Morse said Shelton never brought up his outstanding arrest warrant or his state bar suspension.
"It's a little embarrassing, but I don't know of any way we could have avoided it," said Morse, when asked why his office wasn't aware of Shelton's issues.
"In all candor, we are probably going to do more background work in the future," Morse added.
As for whether he's disappointed in Shelton, Morse replied he's "honestly concerned" for his former employee. "This is such inexplicable behavior, it really makes me worry," Morse said. "It caught all of us by surprise."
Morse insisted that "no one in the office, outside of Mr. Shelton, did anything wrong."
Shelton was hired by the Merced County district attorney's office April 30, 2007. According to the state bar's website, Shelton received his law degree from Golden Gate University and his undergraduate degree from Penn State.
Before resigning from his position, Shelton had been assigned to the case of Jericho Wright, a 29-year-old Dos Palos man accused of killing his 3-year-old daughter. That case is ongoing.
Shelton is scheduled to appear in court March 23.
His annual compensation as a deputy district attorney was $102,336 plus benefits.
Scott Marshall/Amherst New Era-Progress
This seven-week-old marmoset was brought into the Amherst County Courthouse by a woman on Thursday.
Authorities said a woman entered the Amherst County Courthouse on Thursday morning with a tiny monkey tucked into her bra, dressed in diapers and a pink and white dress.
The unusual event occurred when the woman arrived for a hearing in Juvenile and Domestic Relations court.
Officials said they had no idea the woman had the monkey until the she went into an office for a routine procedure to fill out court-related paperwork.
When the woman referred to a daughter, a puzzled official asked where the daughter was and the woman pulled the monkey out of her bra.
Officials confirmed the incident, from the commonwealth’s attorney, Stephanie Maddox, to deputies who were working in the courthouse. They did not identify the woman.
“You couldn’t make up something like this,” Maddox said.
But it was no big deal, the woman said later, because her tiny marmoset turns seven weeks old today and is, in the parlance of monkeys, an infant who needs constant attention.
“I can’t understand why the deputy didn’t see her — she was peeking out” from the cleavage of her blouse, she said.
The woman contacted The News & Advance late Thursday afternoon after seeing a story about the monkey online. She wanted to explain why she took the creature, named Cara, into the courthouse. The woman’s identity is being withheld for family reasons.
Showing off the little marmoset monkey at her Amherst County home, she referred to Cara as “her daughter” and said she had found her on eBay. She went to Lexington to buy it and has the animal’s clothes –– diapers and dresses — specially made in West Virginia.
“We call our cats and dogs babies all the time,” said the woman, who is disabled and cares not only for her new baby, but also for three Chihuahuas, a Pomeranian, a crocodile gecko and a garter snake.
“She despises rap music –– it tickles me, she likes the oldies,” she said, feeding Cara marmoset formula.
Cara is only inches tall; she eventually will grow to a foot tall and weigh a pound.
“When you first get them, they’re just like a preemie,” she said. “She’s just like a baby, she’s starting to teethe. I mean, caring for them is just like caring for a human.”
Her new mom picked her up last month. Marmosets cost anywhere from $1,800 to $2,600, she said.
“They’re not a cheap pet.”
Cara caused quite a sensation in the courthouse when she moved her tiny head around and began gnawing on her dress.
One official asked why she had the monkey in her bra and quoted the woman as saying, “Well, would you leave your child at home? She has to be close to me.”
The woman was not asked to leave the courthouse and deputies there did not say whether there was anything unlawful about the animal in the building.
Asked who let the monkey through the metal detector, deputies quipped: “It wasn’t armed.”
High Energy Prices Are Obama’s ‘Explicit Policy Goal,’ Inhofe Says
Thursday, March 10, 2011
(CNSNews.com) – A prominent GOP senator on energy issues accused President Barack Obama Thursday morning of having set an “explicit policy goal” of making energy prices more costly for Americans.
“My message today is simply this: higher gas prices - indeed, higher prices for the energy we use - are an explicit policy goal of the Obama administration,” said Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla), ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. “Let me put it another way: the Obama administration is attacking affordable energy.”
Inhofe’s comments come as crude oil futures traded up on anxiety over unrest in the Middle East and broke the triple-digit mark in recent weeks. As of Thursday, light crude was trading at over $101 per barrel.
“We have, in fact, 163 billion barrels of recoverable oil - nearly six times higher than what President Obama and the Democrats like to claim,” Inhofe continued. “Let's think about 163 billion barrels for a moment: that is enough to maintain our current levels of production and replace our imports from the Persian Gulf for more than 50 years.”
The senator, who regularly rails against the Obama administration’s support of so-called “cap-and-trade” legislation, said such policies are about starving the country of energy supply.
“You see, the cap-and-trade agenda is also about energy austerity,” Inhofe said on the Senate floor. “The hope is that if we restrict enough supply, the price will increase, and we can then simply shift to less costly alternatives. Yet this is wishful thinking.”
“If you think $4.00 is too much for a gallon of regular, fasten your seat belts.”
Inhofe made the speech in support of the Energy Tax Prevention Act, legislation designed to bar the Environmental Protection Agency from moving to regulate carbon dioxide emissions under the Clean Air Act, which Republicans claim is outside the agency’s purview. After he introduced the bill last week, it quickly picked up 42 more co-sponsors, including Democrat Joe Manchin (W.Va.).
Police: Man upset over waiting for slow food at Denny's fires gun
Frederick Louis Sims (Orange County Jail / March 11, 2011)
Henry Pierson Curtis, Orlando Sentinel 7:52 a.m. EST, March 11, 2011
3:10 p.m. Friday, March 11, 2011
Ex-judge Camp sentenced to 30 days in prison
Senior U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan said he could not give a sentence of only probation because Camp had breached his oath of office.
"He has disgraced his office," Hogan said. "He has denigrated the federal judiciary. He has encouraged disrespect for the rule of law."
Before being sentenced, Camp apologized for what he had done and thanked his family and friends, many of whom filled the courtroom.
"I have embarrassed and humiliated my family as well as myself," Camp said. "I have embarrassed the court I have served on and I am deeply sorry for that. When I look back at the circumstances which brought me here and look at what I did, it makes me sick."
Camp said that at the end of the day, "the only thing I can say is that I'm so very sorry."
Camp pleaded for leniency from Hogan, asking to be allowed to remain in his home and community to repair his marriage, receive psychiatric treatment and rebuild his name.
But Hogan, a Washington judge with 29 years on the bench, said he could not hand out a sentence of probation for crimes committed by a high-ranking government official. He then read aloud the oath of office Camp took 22 years ago in the ceremonial courtroom across the hallway and noted Camp had sworn to uphold the law.
"Instead, for whatever reasons, the demons he had made him go another way," Hogan said as Camp, stone-faced, looked on.
Hogan acknowledged Camp had disgraced himself and humiliated his family. Because of his conduct, Camp had essentially "chiseled a scarlet letter into his forehead for the rest of his life."
As a judge, Camp often meted out harsh sentences and rarely gave breaks to defendants who presented mitigating circumstances to explain their conduct. On Friday, Hogan was asked by Camp's lawyers to grant leniency because of the ex-judge's decades-long battle with a bipolar disorder and brain damage caused by a 2000 biking accident.
In court motion filed Thursday, Elizabeth Camp, the ex-judge's wife, asked Hogan for mercy and a sentence of probation, saying her husband is a changed man. Thanks to proper medical treatment, the couple has begun to repair the damage to their marriage, she said.
The mania associated with bipolar disorder "has often been described as depression's evil twin, the insidious instigator that spurs one on to do all manner of lewd and immoral acts," Elizabeth Camp wrote. "Mania handcuffs and gags the conscience."
In late 2009, her husband was prescribed the wrong medication, she wrote. "I never knew which Jack Camp would walk through the door at the end of the day -- the humble, sincere, modest, frugal and unassuming man I married, or the over-confident, brash, forgetful, self-absorbed spendthrift who now saddened me with frequent visits to our nightly dinner table."
But now, she added, the man she married 35 years ago has returned. "What a delight to see the evil twin of mania defeated through a combination of modern medicine and Jack's solemn commitment to treatment," she wrote, telling Hogan a term of imprisonment would disrupt her husband's progress and his quest to rebuild his family and reputation.
Atlanta criminal defense attorney Paul Kish said Thursday that Camp rarely granted breaks to defendants when they presented mitigation arguments to explain their behavior.
"One school of thought is that he should be punished the same way he punished everyone else," Kish said. "The other is that he probably would not be punished for this in federal court, but for his position. It's all very sad."
Camp, 67, resigned from the U.S. District Court bench shortly before he pleaded guilty in November to federal charges -- giving the stripper, who he knew was a convicted felon, $160 to buy drugs.
Camp was a senior judge at the time of his arrest. He will continue to receive a $174,000-a-year salary, as do all federal judges who retire and have the requisite years of service.
Camp began paying the exotic dancer for sex and drugs after he met her last May at the Goldrush Showbar in Atlanta. By Oct. 1, the dancer had turned informant and Camp, who was armed, was arrested by FBI agents in an undercover drug sting.
After the drug deal was consummated, Camp told the undercover agent who was posing as the dealer, "We'll be calling you again," federal prosecutors said.
According to recent court filings, the U.S. probation office has determined that Camp faces a mandatory minimum term of 15 days in prison and up to 6 months imprisonment.
Camp's lawyers recently filed motions asking Hogan, a judge from Washington, D.C., to impose a sentence of probation, a fine and community service.
In response, federal prosecutors said Camp should serve at least 15 days in custody, but they did not recommend a specific term of confinement.
"Beginning in May 2010 this defendant, by his conduct, dishonored his community, his family and our system of justice and violated the very laws he swore to uphold," the Justice Department filing said. Camp's actions "cast dark aspersions on the criminal justice system and put the very integrity of the federal courts at issue."
LINK TO PHOTO OF JUDGE:
Brooklyn high school acid attack: Zhanna Smsaria charged with trying to burn classmate's 'eyes out'Oren Yaniv, Kerry Burke AND Larry Mcshane
Originally Published:Thursday, March 10th 2011, 2:38 PM
Updated: Friday, March 11th 2011, 2:29 AM
Ward for NewsZhanna Smsarian, 16, leaves Brooklyn Criminal Court after her arraignment for allegedly throwing acid on her classmate during chemistry class.
Victim Eshimbaeva Albina told the News, 'I knew something bad was coming.'
A simmering feud between two Brooklyn high schoolers exploded when one of the girls tried to blind her helpless frenemy with acid, authorities said Thursday.
Zhanna Smsarian, 16, admitted she wanted "to burn the eyes out" of honor student Albina Eshimbaeva when she slipped up from behind with a bottle of acid in their Wednesday morning chemistry class, cops said.
Albina, 15, told the Daily News Thursday night that she had a feeling Smsarian was gunning for her the day of the attack in Fort Hamilton High School.
Smsarian "was standing against a wall staring at me in an evil way," Albina said. "She was smiling, but it was evil.
"I knew something bad was coming, but didn't know what it was. Two seconds later, I felt the liquid falling down my bangs."
Smsarian was in her ROTC uniform and wearing a pair of goggles as she swore in Russian and splashed the acid.
"My whole face was burning," recalled Albina, an immigrant from Kyrgyzstan. "I thought I was blind. I couldn't see anything."
Doctors who treated Albina said the teen only avoided losing her sight because the diluted solution was just 10% acid, sources said.
The two girls were once close, with the victim even attending Smsarian's Sweet 16 party.
Albina, who also participates in the school's ROTC program, said she broke off their friendship after tiring of Smsarian's lies and rumor-mongering.
The victim's mother, Syrga Eshimbaeva, said the older girl resented her daughter's success in the school's gifted and talented students program.
"It's all over nothing," said the 42-year-old mom of three girls. "Just for being jealous of my daughter."
A sobbing Smsarian - still in the military outfit she wore to school Wednesday - was freed yesterday on $7,500 bail and left the Brooklyn courthouse in her father's waiting SUV. A judge issued an order of protection blocking Smsarian from contacting Albina.
"She's never been in any problems before," defense lawyer Igor Vaysberg told the judge. "She's an honor roll student with excellent grades."
Classmates said the teens also had a feud over a 22-year-old graduate of their high school, but police sources said there was much more to it than that.
"They have had a beef with each other for awhile," one source indicated. "It boiled over [Wednesday]. This dispute has nothing to do with a guy. It's a lot more complicated than that."
The Eshimbaevas also denied there was any man involved.
Still, a young man who said he came between the girls told The News that he had complained to Smsarian that Albina had become too clingy.
"Zhanna said she was going to take care of it," said the man, who gave his name only as Mohammed. "I told her to do what she had to do, but I didn't expect her to throw acid."
Magnitude 8.9 earthquake rocks Japan
The quake strikes off the northeast coast, triggering a tsunami that sweeps away cars, boats and even buildings. In Tokyo, all trains are halted and black plumes of smoke rise over the skyline.
Barbara Demick, David Pierson and Kenji Hall
Los Angeles Times
2:02 AM PST, March 11, 2011
Reporting from Beijing and Tokyo
A massive earthquake struck off the northeast coast of Japan on Friday, setting off a devastating tsunami that swallowed swaths of coastal territory and fanned out across the Pacific Ocean, threatening everything in its path.
The 8.9-magnitude earthquake -- the world's fifth largest since 1900, according to the U.S. Geological Survey -- struck at 2:46 p.m. local time, shaking buildings violently in Tokyo for several minutes and sending millions fleeing for higher ground.
Initial reports said eight people had died, though that number is expected to rise dramatically as more aftershocks and tsunami waves batter the region.
Japanese television showed aerial footage of an ominous 13-foot muddy wave washing across the northeastern coast near the epicenter, consuming farms and small rural communities.
Sendai, a city of 1 million in Miyagi prefecture, was struck by a wave 20 feet high and then another 33 feet high. Large ships in port were seen lying on their sides.
The city's airport was flooded and people could be seen on the roof of the terminal to avoid the waters. In other locations, live TV coverage showed massive damage from the waves with dozens of cars, boats and even buildings carried along by waters. A large ship swept away by the tsunami rammed into a breakwater in Kesennuma city in Miyagi prefecture. Waves could be seen splashing into city streets and over bridges.
Further south in Chiba prefecture, firefighters battled an out-of-control oil refinery blaze that spewed fireballs into the sky.
Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan in a press conference called for people to remain calm and reported that the nation's nuclear power plants showed no signs of damage. However, "The government will make its utmost efforts to secure people's safety and limit any damages to the minimum," Kan said.
All trains in Tokyo were stopped, and black plumes of smoke rose over the skyline. Office workers rushed out of their buildings. Subways were halted, trapping commuters underground. In the nation with the world's third largest economy, all airports were closed.
"The train was rocking sharply back and forth," said Anthony Weiss, a 29-year-old from Florida studying Japanese in Tokyo who was on a train when the quake hit. "People covered their heads with their bags as dust and small debris fell. Something sprung a leak, as there was a lot of water on the platform."
Many riders evacuated the train and headed for the archways, but not Weiss. "I stayed on because I was concerned about the roof and hanging lights and ventilation systems," he said. "Lights went on and off in the train. It felt a lot like the earthquake attraction at Universal, to be honest, but it wasn't stopping.
"It was pretty scary," Weiss said in an e-mail to a friend. "It felt pretty strong. People were scrambling for the doorways. The aftershocks are continuing even now."
"It felt like a jet had come too close to the window and everything started shaking and rocking, and there was a huge rumbling noise," said David Pierson, a 32-year-old U.S. Army helicopter pilot who was at Tokyo's Narita International Airport. "All the signs started swaying and fixtures started popping out. When I saw the panic on people's faces, I made a move for the exit."
The epicenter of the quake was 81 miles off the coast of Sendai, and it struck at a depth of 15 miles. The combination of how close it was to the coast and how shallow it was made it a "perfect storm for the tsunami generation," said Susan Hough of the U.S. Geological Survey in Pasadena.
Japan has a lengthy history of large earthquakes, and its buildings are well-girded to withstand damage. Observers said this could help minimize the number of casualties.
LINK TO VIDEO:
Times staff writers Demick and Pierson reported from Beijing and special correspondent Hall from Tokyo. Staff writer David Pierson in Beijing and Times wire services contributed to this story. Times staff writers Thomas H. Maugh II and Ron-Gong Lin II contributed to this report from Los Angeles.
Women who post lots of photos of themselves on Facebook value appearance, need attention, study finds
Putting more photos of yourself on Facebook translates to valuing physical appearance.
(Dan Kitwood / Getty Images)
Shari Roan, Los Angeles Times
March 10, 2011, 6:45 a.m.
EDITORIAL: Is Obama a war criminal yet?
Liberal double-standard is in full view over Gitmo
The Washington Times6:15 p.m., Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Al Qaeda and Taliban detainees in orange jumpsuits sit in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Americans have faith that the U.S. justice system will handle the five accused Sept. 11 terror plotters in federal court in New York City, Rep. Chris Van Hollen said. (Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)
President Obama quietly signed an executive order on Monday instituting a system for indefinitely holding terrorist detainees at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay (Gitmo), Cuba. The administration also announced that terrorist trials by military commission would recommence. This is a win for U.S. security, but the country has paid a heavy price for Mr. Obama's on-the-job training in counterterrorism.
The low-key announcements stand in marked contrast with the bombast with which Mr. Obama approached this issue just a few years ago. During the 2008 presidential campaign, then-Sen. Barack Obama harshly criticized President George W. Bush's detainee policies. When he took office, Mr. Obama theatrically announced that he would close Gitmo in a year and find a way to give the terror detainees the full due-process rights enjoyed by American citizens. In so doing, he legitimized the complaints of the worst critics of American counterterrorism policies, including the terrorists themselves.
Two years later, some learning appears to have occurred at the White House. The president's hasty "close Gitmo" pledge foundered on practical and political grounds. Contrary to the story line peddled by anti-war alarmists, the Bush administration already had released most of the detainees that had been held there, and those who remained were the hard cases who truly threatened U.S. national security. Trying the detainees in civilian courts raised a multitude of nettlesome questions about public evidence, speedy trials, Miranda warnings and the other aspects of due process that didn't support the Bush administration's warfighting approach.
With civilian trials, the prospect loomed of repeated government defeats in court, or the necessity of simply releasing detainees when no prosecution was possible without fatally compromising intelligence sources and methods. Likewise, Mr. Obama discovered that releasing detainees to their home countries was problematic because in many cases the terrorists would be freed almost immediately upon their return. Of course, members of the Bush administration consistently raised these points, but the Obama team simply brushed them off.
The big losers in this decision are members of Mr. Obama's hardline anti-war base. It is the latest in a string of disappointments to the Code Pinkers, Moveon-ers and other formerly Obama-loving peaceniks. The surge in Afghanistan and the ever-lengthening timetable for withdrawal provided them with one regret. The widening and intensifying use of drone aircraft as a counterterrorism tool was another. Now the Gitmo detainees are back in their cages for good. The distraught workers in the peace movement have to be asking themselves how much more they can stand before they begin to mutter the words "Obama" and "war criminal" in the same breath.
The White House detainee policy volte-face vindicates the policies of President George W. Bush. At the very least, Mr. Obama should apologize to his predecessor for smearing his reputation so thoroughly during the 2008 campaign. Our novice commander in chief has learned the valuable lesson that talking about being president, at which Mr. Obama was so adept, is a far cry from actually being president, at which he clearly is not.
Today, former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich announced that he is taking steps to consider becoming the GOP nominee for president in 2012.
As Gingrich begins the long process of possibly running for President, he is likely to take every effort to mold his image to make himself palatable to American voters. Yet the public deserves to know every important detail about the history of the man who may seek to be their leader. ThinkProgress has assembled a list of ten things Gingrich probably doesn’t want you to know about him:
1. DESPITE BATTLING THE “SECULAR SOCIALIST” AGENDA, GINGRICH CHEATED ON HIS WIVES SEVERAL TIMES:
One of Gingrich’s main themes in his columns and speeches over the past few years has been the need to stop the “secular socialist” takeover of America, which he blames for the demise of the family. Yet he had several of these affairs while attacking President Bill Clinton for his own. He justified his hypocrisy to his second wife once, telling her, “It doesn’t matter what I do.”
2. WHILE DEMONIZING GOVERNMENT LARGESS, GINGRICH POURED MORE FEDERAL MONEY INTO HIS DISTRICT THAN ALMOST ANY OTHER:
The politics of the mid-1990′s was marked by the right’s attempt to decimate the social safety net. As Gingrich waged his campaign to destroy unemployment insurance and aid for needy families, he made his own district the recipient of huge amounts of federal aid. Under Gingrich, his district in Cobb County, GA received more “federal subsidies than any suburban county in the country, with two exceptions: Arlington Virginia, effectively part of the Federal Government, and Brevard County Florida, the home of the Kennedy Space Center.”
3. IN 2007, GINGRICH BACKED CAP-AND-TRADE, THEN FLIP-FLOPPED TWO YEARS LATER:
Talking to PBS just four years ago, Gingrich said, “I think if you have mandatory caps combined with a trading system, much like we did with sulfur, and if you have a tax-incentive program for investing in the solutions, then there’s a package that’s very, very good. And frankly, it’s something I would strongly support.” He even cut an ad with House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) warning of the dangers of climate change. Just two years later, Gingrich ended all of his green advocacy in favor pandering to far-right views on the environment. “Imposing stunningly high taxes on an economy in the middle of a recession is fundamentally wrong. … [A]rtificially capping their economy is the wrong approach,” he said in testimony before Congress.
4. GINGRICH BLAMED THE MASSACRES AT COLUMBINE AND VIRGINIA TECH ON “LIBERALISM”:
Showing that his cynicism knows no bounds, Gingrich blamed “the liberal academic elite, the liberal political elite” for the Columbine shootings in Littleton, CO. He followed the same script after the massacre at Virginia Tech, saying liberalism is responsible for the “dehumanization” that led to the killings.
5. GINGRICH WANTED THE RICH TO DECIDE WHEN THEIR OWN TAX CUTS WOULD END:
During last winter’s debate over extending the Bush tax cuts, Gingrich said that we should “have the business leadership of the country describe the number” of months that the cuts for the wealthiest should last.
6. DESPITE RAILING AGAINST THE “PARTY OF FOOD STAMPS,” GINGRICH PROPOSED EXPANDING THEM:
One of the memes Gingrich has pushed over the past year is that Democrats are the “party of food stamps” because they believe in federal food assistance for the indigent. Yet in 2002, when President George W. Bush proposed expanding some food stamp programs, Gingrich backed him, saying that the “welfare reform” law he helped author in the 1990s went too far in cutting food assistance.
7. FOR THE PAST FEW YEARS, GINGRICH HAS FRONTED FOR THE HEALTH INDUSTRY:
Gingrich helped found a number of major businesses, including a for-profit health care firm called the “Center for Health Transformation” (CHT) and a communications firm called the “Gingrich Group.” CHT serves approximately 94 health industry corporations and lobby groups. Despite many meetings with Republican lawmakers to shape health care legislation, Gingrich refuses to register as a lobbyist.
8. GINGRICH REFERRED TO JUSTICE SOTOMAYOR AS A “LATINA WOMAN RACIST”:
During the debate over the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Sonya Sotomayor, Gingrich took to his Twitter account to say that Sotomayor, who is a “latina woman racist” should withdraw from the nomination.
9. GINGRICH FLIP-FLOPPED ON THE INDIVIDUAL MANDATE:
In 2008, Gingrich suggested “insurance mandates for people who earn more than $75,000 a year.” Yet by 2010, he was blasting the mandate as unconstitutional.
10. GINGRICH SAID WE SHOULD ALLOW SOME TERRORIST ATTACKS TO REMIND US OF THE DANGER:
During a book tour, Gingrich told an audience in a speech that was televised on C-SPAN that the Bush administration had been very successful at intercepting terrorists, but had not gotten credit for it, explaining that maybe we should’ve “allowed an attack to get through to remind” Americans about the danger of terrorism.
Throughout his career, Gingrich has devoted himself to constantly changing his views on a whim and trying to position himself relative to the political climate of the moment . While he claims to have changed, the facts haven’t, and ThinkProgress will keep you informed about his latest flip flops and turnarounds in the coming months.
Gingrich: Love of country contributed to affair
Wed Mar 9, 6:18 pm ET
ATLANTA – Newt Gingrich says his passion for his country contributed to his marital infidelity. In an interview posted Wednesday by The Christian Broadcasting Network, Gingrich — who recently converted to Catholicism — said he had sought God's forgiveness for mistakes in his past.
"There's no question at times of my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked far too hard and things happened in my life that were not appropriate," Gingrich said.
"What I can tell you is that when I did things that were wrong, I wasn't trapped in situation ethics, I was doing things that were wrong, and yet, I was doing them," he said. "I found that I felt compelled to seek God's forgiveness. Not God's understanding, but God's forgiveness."
Gingrich went on to say that he and his third wife, Callista, now have a great marriage.
"Forget about all this political stuff. As a person, I've had the opportunity to have a wonderful life, to find myself now, truly enjoying the depths of my life in ways that I never dreamed it was possible to have a life that was that nice," he said.
The twice-divorced former U.S. House speaker has admitted he had an affair with Callista, a former congressional aide, while married to his second wife. It happened at the same time he was attacking President Bill Clinton for his relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.
The interview with the Christian broadcaster comes as Gingrich gears up for a likely presidential run. He has been courting religious and social conservatives who would be critical in a GOP primary.
Gingrich said Wednesday if he runs for president he will likely announce in early May outside Independence Hall in Philadelphia.
The former House speaker outlined his plans on a conference call with former aides, according to people who were on the call.
The participants declined to be identified because they were not authorized to speak for Gingrich.
Gingrich said he has not made a final decision on whether he will seek the White House, but said he is clearly leaning toward running.
At an appearance last week in Atlanta, Gingrich said he's exploring a presidential bid but stopped short of forming an exploratory committee.
He conceded Wednesday that the announcement was mishandled and said he expects to open a campaign office soon in his old home state of Georgia.
He also said former Georgia Gov. Zell Miller, a Democrat who has backed many Republicans in recent years, will serve as a co-chairman of his national campaign effort.
Newly released photos of Hitler's wife
Eva Braun poses behind an umbrella in 1940. Braun was a model as a teenager. March 10th, 201110:34 AM ET
Life.com has obtained a set of newly released photos from the personal albums of Eva Braun, Adolf Hitler's longtime girlfriend and, in their final hours, wife.
The photos "reveal new dimensions" of the woman who married Hitler as the Russian army closed in on his Berlin bunker and then committed suicide with him a day later. He was 56. She was 33.
The 30 photos cover almost all of Braun's life, from images of her as a toddler and schoolgirl to her spending time with Hitler at his mountaintop retreat in the Alps.
Among the most interesting images are those of Braun posing seemingly naked behind an umbrella and her made up as American actor Al Jolson in his role in "The Jazz Singer."
The photos come from "a cache of images confiscated by the U.S. Army in 1945 and brought to light by collector and curator Reinhard Schulz," Life.com reports
LINK TO MORE PRIVATE PHOTOS OF EVA BRAUN:
Top of the Ticket
Oh, no! Obama job approval starts down again: Gallup
March 9, 2011 | 5:24 am
No White House ever pays any attention to public opinion polls because that could imply the president shapes his actions to be approved, which would be a preposterous thing to believe.
But if Barack Obama did pay attention to his polls numbers, which of course he doesn't for the aforementioned reason, he'd have to be a little disappointed this morning. Or at least somewhat puzzled. Now that we're less than 20 months from the 2012 E-Day.
Obama's job approval numbers are down again, even without a viable announced Republican opponent. Even with the unemployment rate down a smidge to 8.9% (it was 6.9% when Obama was elected). Even with 192,000 jobs created last month. Even with Joe Biden out of the country.
According to the latest Gallup numbers, Obama's weekly job approval number was 46% through Sunday.
That's the lowest it's been since mid-December, when Republican "hostage-takers" forced the Democrat to accept an extension of the Bush tax cuts that Obama now sees as a positive sign of bipartisan cooperation, not to mention job growth.
The current approval is even lower than the 47% Obama had after his murky State of the Union address that atypically provided no noticeable poll bounce.
He had been up at the 50% level into January, his first time up there since May. But then slid again to hover around 48% until the newest decline.
If the White House watched these figures, which as we said it doesn't, it might be distressed that the latest decline came among fellow Democrats, who still like the ex-state senator a lot but less of a lot than they used to:
79% of Democrats approve of Obama's job now. However, that's down from 84% in late January. His approval among independents dipped from 47% to 43%.
The Democrat's approval among Republicans, which couldn't conceivably get any worse, did anyway: Down another notch from 15% to 14%.
There's still plenty of time for a miraculous Obama recovery. An incumbent president's reelection chances are usually tied closely to voters' economic perceptions, centering on unemployment and gas prices. A separate Gallup survey finds Americans' economic optimism dipping again in recent weeks, at the same time that gas prices began increasing significantly.
The good news for the Obama White House is that the 2010 approval averages show he remains wildly popular in the District of Columbia (84.4% approval) and in his home state of Hawaii (65.9%). That's seven of the 270 electoral votes he needs to keep living in the White House with his mother-in-law.
The bad news is that last year Obama's job approval went down in all 50 states.
-- Andrew Malcolm
Wed, Mar. 09, 2011
Miami Lakes councilmen in bathroom squabble
BY Laura Isensee
The Miami Herald
Peter Andrew Bosch
Miami Lakes Councilman Richard Pulido.
Dropping the F-bomb and threats to “take it outside” may sound like the start of a schoolyard brawl.
But this squabble involved two Miami Lakes politicians and happened in the bathroom during a break in the Tuesday night council meeting.
Both elected officials — Councilman Richard Pulido and Vice Mayor Nick Perdomo — claim the other made physical threats laced with cuss words.
Pulido said Perdomo threatened to beat him up while he was washing his hands. Perdomo also claims Pulido threatened him with a thrashing in the men’s room.
According to Pulido, his colleague on the dais lost his cool because he felt Pulido had slighted him during the Tuesday meeting to discuss a development deal on Northwest 87th Avenue.
After the meeting, the councilmen were still taking verbal swipes.
“We’re not thugs. We should act like public officials. We’re not conducting business like we’re in a third-world country,” Pulido told the Herald.
Perdomo — who runs a family cigar business with operations in Nicaragua — said Pulido started it.
“I’m way too successful to get into it with a two-bit school teacher who makes $20,000,” said Perdomo. “To me, this stuff doesn’t get under my skin.” Pulido is an adjunct professor at St. Thomas University and a high school administrator at a private Broward school.
The meeting took place at a community center in the tree-lined northwest Miami-Dade municipality.
A few dozen residents, in addition to the developer and his attorneys, had turned out to the 6:30 p.m. meeting.
During a break, Perdomo and Pulido both apparently headed to the restroom.
According to his police statement, Pulido said Perdomo said he’d “knock my f---ing head off.”
On Wednesday, Perdomo filed his own statement, reporting Pulido bragged he was “old school,” dropped the F-bomb and threatened to “kick my ass” in the men’s room.
At least one resident, Claudia Luces, heard Perdomo outside the bathroom tell Pulido “let’s take it oustide.”
“I realized there was some tension and I should get out of the way just in case,” Luces said.
The bathroom row didn’t come to blows. Nor did it disrupt the council meeting. (After the break, the officials discussed business signs, a town Facebook page and summer programs for kids.)
Miami-Dade police are treating the matter as a “verbal dispute” and were taking statements on Wednesday, said police spokesman Robert Williams. Williams said the full police report was not available Wednesday.
What started the latest fight isn’t clear.
Pulido said he made a comment on the dais about town employees going to officials’ business office to review town matters, which Perdomo took as a dig.
But the fight may be far from over.
Perdomo said he planned to file a lawsuit and considered what happened “an assault.”
Meanwhile, Pulido said his complaint would go to the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office.
LINK TO PHOTO OF COUNCILMAN:
A wife flew to Chicago and cut the crotches out of the pants of a woman who was vacationing with her Wilmette husband, police said.
The man and his female companion returned from a week-long vacation together in St. Lucia on March 5. Police say they found a suitcase in the driveway of his home in the 400 block of Highcrest Drive — and inside it, her clothing was riddled with scissor cuts.
“All of the damage to the pants was in the area of the … crotch,” a police report said.
About 10 pieces of clothing, valued at between $1,500 and $2,000, were damaged, according to the report.
The man told police the woman was just a friend and was visiting him from Turkey. She declined to press charges over the damage. The man also told police that he was separated, though not divorced, from his wife, who lives out of state.
Reached later by telephone, the man’s wife allegedly acknowledged to Wilmette police that she had damaged the clothing — and that the two are still married, talk on the telephone several times per day, and have lived separately because of their work situations.
The woman said her husband told her he was traveling to a business conference, but she became enraged when she discovered he was vacationing in the Caribbean with another woman, the report states.
She told investigators she flew from the East Coast to O’Hare Airport on March 4, took a cab to the Wilmette home she still co-owns with her husband, and was shocked to find that her husband “had hidden everything that would reveal he was married.”
She found the other woman’s clothes in a closet, cut various items with a pair of scissors, put them in a suitcase and left it in the home’s driveway, she told investigators.
She then spent the night with a nearby friend before flying home on March 5.
Since the woman whose clothes were destroyed refused to sign a criminal complaint, no charges were filed and the case is considered closed.
Link To Vivian Schiller, NPR chief, resigns amid uproar over 'sting video:'
Transgendered couple gets OK to marry after 14-month gender discrimination battle
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
After protracted dispute over gender discrimination, a transgendered couple is OK to marry.
A transgendered Bronx couple was given the go ahead to wed this week by the city clerk's office, ending a 14-month battle for their right to marry.
The couple - initially questioned over their appearance - was cleared to get hitched in a two-page directive sent out Monday by the city clerk.
"This is the first time it's been written down in this form, to ensure this type of discrimination doesn't happen again," said Michael Silverman of the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund.
The case involved a Bronx couple in a relationship for more than a decade. One of the two was a female to male transgender, while the other was a male to female, Silverman said.
The anonymous couple - identified only as John and Jane - went to get a marriage license in December 2009. Both showed proper ID, but a worker in the City Clerk's Bronx office asked to see their birth certificates - a move that is "illegal and unconstitutional," according to Silverman.
The clerk made the request because the pair didn't look like the sexes listed on their ID cards.
"It's a very common situation for the transgendered," Silverman said. "They may not have updated their identification."
The letter instructed all employees of the clerk's office to treat applicants "with dignity and respect" and stressed that transgendered applicants need only produce the same ID as any other person.
"Gender stereotypes or preconceived notions related to gender expression - including an applicant's physical appearance, dress behavior or name - may not be considered when deciding whether to issue a marriage license," wrote City Clerk Michael McSweeney.
The couple has yet to pick up their marriage license, but plans to do so and get married in a private ceremony in the near future, Silverman said.
Man's Remains Stolen From Church Before Memorial
An Alameda family remained in shock Monday night, two days after a thief entered a church and stole a backpack...
9:40 pm PST March 7, 2011
Updated: 10:56 am PST March 8, 2011
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- An Alameda family remained in shock Monday night, two days after a thief entered a church and stole a backpack containing urns with the ashes of a recently deceased man less than 30 minutes before the start his funeral.
The family told KTVU the theft took place at Christ Episcopal Church located on Santa Clara Avenue in Alameda shortly before the Saturday memorial service was set to start for 74-year-old Kent Hockabout.
The sanctity of a church proved to be no deterrent for a thief who walked up to the altar during the ten minutes when the family and church staff were out of the room to prepare for the ceremony.
"So here laying on this side was Kent Hockabout's backpack and inside that were his ashes inside an urn," explained Rev. Kathy Crary.
Hockabout's widow Eleonore told KTVU her husband’s ashes were divided into three urns and placed into a backpack he used for his travels to Europe, Africa and the Middle East as a diplomatic courier for the State Department.
The backpack was supposed to be on display during the memorial service next to a photo.
"Shock. Horror. Terror. It took a moment," said Mrs. Hockabout when describing her immediate reaction to the theft. "We can't do anything about it."
Relatives and friends went outside to search, but turned up empty handed. The family decided to go ahead with the memorial service.
"Whether it's the body or the ashes, it was not the person," said Hockabout. "It was a symbol."
Still, Hockabout wants her husband's remains back so she can go on what she described as a "pilgrimage" to spread his ashes among his favorite places.
"I'd rather be interested in what went through their head. Going into a church? Secondarily the backpack, but going into church and thinking they can take things from there?" asked Hockabout.
The family is asking that the urns be returned either to the church or to the police station, no questions asked.
Eleonore Hockabout said she doesn't want the person responsible for the theft to be prosecuted.
LINK TO VIDEO:
Tera Myers, ex-porn star, loses teaching gig in St. Louis, after student discovers her X-rated pastAliyah Shahid
Tuesday, March 8th 2011, 2:55 PM
Teacher Tera Myers decided to call it quits after students discovered her X-rated past.
A St. Louis high school student is getting an "A" from authorities after discovering a teacher's X-rated past.
Tera Myers, 38, was put on administrative leave at Parkway North High School this week after a student inquired about pornographic films Myers starred in during the 1990s.
The science teacher decided to leave the school "out of respect for her privacy and that of her family," Paul Tandy, spokesman for the school district told the Daily News. "She was concerned about the impact it would have in the building."
Officials didn't know about Myers' past, which included a suspension five years ago from a Paducah, Ky., school for her role in the adult films.
While in Kentucky, Myers taught under a different name, Tericka Dye.
In 2006, the former porn star spoke to several media outlets and even made an appearance on "Dr. Phil," arguing she deserved to get her job back and that she had made the biggest mistake of her life.
Tera Myers, aka Rikki Andersin, a former pornstar in a scene from an adult film. (Amazing Pictures)
"Anybody who has been in my classroom could tell you how much I love teaching and how much I love these students, and that should be what matters more than anything in my past," she said in May 2006.
Myers, whose stage name is Rikki Andersin, said she made the movies when she was living in California, working as an exotic dancer to earn desperately needed cash.
Because Myers' role in the adult films wasn't illegal, her pornographic past didn't show up during a background check.
The teacher, who has been at the school for four years, will be paid through the end of the school year but will not be returning in the fall.
"We're surprised, very surprised," said Tandy. "At the same time we feel for her and her family. We do believe she has tried to move on with her life... Unfortunately, even though it happened 15 years ago, [the video] is still there."
Man taped crying student into chair, turned him upside down, cops say
The 5-year-old boy was wrapped with packing tape so he couldn't move from his wooden chair, cops say.
Compiled by Orlando Sentinel
12:53 PM EST, March 8, 2011
A 21-year-old man who worked as a "group leader'' at a Brevard County after-school program taped a crying boy to a chair and turned him upside down "as a form of discipline,'' Titusville police said today.
Police arrested Russell Evan Rochon today and charged him with aggravated child abuse for the alleged abuse of the 5-year-old boy at South Lake Elementary School's after-school program late last year.
Police said Rochon of Titusville no longer works for the Brevard County School District.
"The packing tape was wrapped around the child's chest and lap, with his arms to his side so he had minimal movement,'' police said in a report. "The defendant then picked the child up and turned him upside down, telling him he would not release the child from the chair until he stopped crying."
Rochon removed the tape after a different child said a teacher was heading to the classroom. Rochon does not have a teaching certificate in Florida, records show..
The boy who was taped "was extremely distraught during the incident and was crying, kicking and screaming to be let go,'' the report said.
At some point, another student put the victim into a large trash can, and Rochon allegedly pushed the boy down so he couldn't get out of the trash can, the report said.
Rochon was arrested this morning at his home in 4900 block of Cambridge Drive
'We are not aware of any physical injuries to the child other than mental anguish,'' Lt. Todd Hutchinson of the Titusville Police Department said in a statement.
The police investigation began after authorities were contacted by the Florida Department of Children and Families.
Queens woman Claire Abdeldaim caught with nearly $170,000 hidden in her underwear at JFKJohn Marzulli
Originally Published:Tuesday, March 8th 2011, 4:00 AM
Updated: Tuesday, March 8th 2011, 8:54 AM
Ward for News
Claire Abdeldaim leaves Brooklyn Federal Court, where she's on trial for trying to slip nearly $170,000 hidden in her underwear past federal agents at JFK.
A Queens woman nabbed at Kennedy Airport with nearly $170,000 hidden in her underwear was trying to avoid paying taxes on the sale of property in Sudan, the feds said Monday.
Claire Abdeldaim's real estate booty consisted of 1,699 $100 bills, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officer George Wolynski testified Monday in Brooklyn Federal Court.
"We got a big one," Wolynski told his supervisor after seizing the cash last June.
Abdeldaim, 64, had sewn the bills into her bloomers to get the money out of Sudan, where she had sold a tract of land owned by her late husband.
During a layover in Amsterdam on a flight from Khartoum, she removed the underwear in a bathroom and stashed it in her purse. When Abdeldaim arrived in New York, she claimed she had only $17,000 in her purse.
But Wolynski noticed the fabric stuffed in the purse and became suspicious. "I was quite shocked at the amount of currency," he said.
Abdeldaim is free on $100,000 bail and faces up to 21 months in prison if convicted of the smuggling charge.
On cross-examination, defense lawyer John Carman suggested Wolynski wouldn't allow the defendant to amend the declaration form because the officer stood to receive a salary bonus for the huge seizure.
He also argued that Abdeldaim - who is from Haiti and speaks with a heavy accent - innocently left a zero off the money total she declared on her customs form due to a language barrier.
But the contention that her English was shaky was undercut by testimony that she supervises social workers at a Bronx nursing home.
Wolynski said he gave Abdeldaim numerous chances to say how much money she was carrying, and she stuck to her story. When confronted with the evidence, she finally confessed.
"She said she was told by a friend not to declare all the money," Wolynski said.
Police say Gastonia woman shot city worker with BB gun
A Gastonia woman faces multiple charges after she fired a pellet gun Monday at a utility worker who was removing an electricity meter from the house where she lives, police say.
Andrea Griffa, 43, was arrested after the incident, which happened about 10 a.m. at a residence on North Boyce Street in Gastonia.
Police say Billy Wayne Messer, a city utility employee, reported he was shot in the back of the head. It is unclear if he needed medical treatment.
According to police, Griffa was charged with aggravated assault, discharging a firearm within city limits, and possession of marijuana. No court date has been set for her case.
Palin: Kathy Griffin ‘a 50-year-old adult bully’
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin stood up to comedian Kathy Griffin, who has repeatedly criticized her family in stand-up acts, during a Saturday interview with Fox News.
When asked her opinion of the rumor that Griffin is set to play a Palin-inspired character on “Glee,” Palin said, “You know Kathy Griffin can do anything to me or say anything about me because you know she’s…she’s a 50-year-old adult bully, really is what she is, kind of a has-been comedienne, and she can do those things to me.”
Last year, Griffin made fun of Bristol Palin for being overweight and “gain[ing] like 30 pounds a week [during Dancing with the Stars].” At the beginning of this year, Griffin said she’d spend 2011 targeting 16-year-old Willow Palin in an effort to find a new Palin family member to harass. In 2009, Griffin received flak for calling Palin’s baby Trig, who has Down’s Syndrome, a “retarded baby.”
Mama Grizzly Palin made it clear during her Fox interview that Griffin should poke fun at her rather than her kin.
“I would just ask, you know, for respect to my children, as she had stated on CNN that her New Years Resolution was to destroy my 16-year-old daughter, that takes it a little bit too far,” Palin said. “Kathy, pick on me, come up to Alaska and pick on me, but leave my kids alone.”
Link to Video of Palin challenging Griffin to venture to Alaska:
Read more: http://dailycaller.com/2011/03/07/palin-kathy-griffin-a-50-year-old-adult-bully/#ixzz1G0HDhfvG
83-year-old Wal-Mart greeter charged in robbery
Police in Statesville say an 83-year-old man who worked at a Wal-Mart store as a greeter is in jail, charged with donning a disguise and robbing the store at gunpoint Sunday night.
George Plane Jr., of Mooresville, was charged with robbery with a dangerous weapon and discharging a firearm inside the city limits, police say.
According to police, Plane was working Sunday evening in his normal job at the Wal-Mart store in the Crossroads Shopping Center, off Interstate 40 a short distance west of Interstate 77. Sometime shortly before 7 p.m., police say, Plane went out to his car.
Minutes later, a man wearing a disguise returned to the garden center area of the store and allegedly pointed a gun at an employee, demanding money from the cash register. Shortly after taking money, police say, the gunman fired at least one shot into the air. Police say the man escaped with money, got in his car, and drove off.
Witnesses called police, and the N.C. Highway Patrol and Iredell County Sheriff's Office joined Statesville police in spotting the vehicle a short distance away. The man in the car surrendered after a brief standoff.
Statesville police Capt. T.C. Souther told WCNC-TV, the Observer's news partner, he was surprised when he saw the age on Plane's driver's license, saying the man didn't look his age.
"He appeared to be in good shape," Souther told NewsChannel 36.
Woman Charged with Scam Directed at Nuns
NBC San Diego
A Tustin businesswoman indicted for allegedly conning a group of nuns out of more than $250,000 on a real estate deal surrendered to federal authorities Monday.
Linda Rose Gagnon, 57, was indicted Wednesday on three counts of wire fraud stemming from the alleged scheme to defraud the U.S. Province of the Religious of Jesus and Mary Inc., a congregation of Roman Catholic nuns.
Gagnon is the chief executive of Tustin-based Rose Enterprise Inc., which is billed as a company that helps clients handle delinquent mortgages and other real estate deals, according to the indictment. Gagnon has never had a real estate broker or agent license, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Gagnon, who once was enrolled in the religious order's boarding school, visited a Rhode Island convent where the alleged victims lived in November 2008, according to the indictment.
When Gagnon heard the nuns were trying to buy property on Pequena Street in San Diego to be used as a residence for the order's sisters, she told them she could help them with the deal, according to court papers.
Gagnon sent the nuns a letter with bogus letterhead from an attorney to convince them to send $285,000 from their retirement account that she would use to acquire the property, the indictment alleges.
Instead of buying the property, Gagnon spent the money on herself from Dec. 5, 2008, through February 2009, including $2,450 for pet-sitting services, $217 at a nail salon, $448 for lingerie, $32,575 for mortgage payments, $5,400 for rent and $1,523 on her car loan, according to the indictment.
The indictment also alleges Gagnon lied to the nuns about what she did with the money and refused repeated requests to return the funds.
In March 2009, Gagnon told the nuns she was attempting to close the real estate deal, but the money was tied up in "double" and "triple" escrow, so she needed more cash, the indictment alleges.
Subway Passes McDonald's
It's official: the Subway sandwich chain has surpassed McDonald's Corp. (NYSE: MCD - News) as the world's largest restaurant chain, in terms of units.
At the end of last year, Subway had 33,749 restaurants worldwide, compared to McDonald's 32,737. The burger giant disclosed its year-end store count in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing late last month.
The race for global dominance is an important one for an industry that's mostly saturated in the U.S. High unemployment and economic uncertainty have battered the restaurant industry in the U.S., and chains are increasingly looking overseas for growth, particularly in Asia.
Starbucks Corp. Honda (Nasdaq: SBUX - News) recently said it plans to triple its number of outlets in China, for example. Dunkin' Brands Inc., parent of Dunkin' Donuts and Baskin-Robbins, plans to open thousands of new outlets in China in coming years as well as its first stores in Vietnam in the next 18 months. Subway just opened its 1,000th location in Asia, including its first in Vietnam.
Subway, which opened its first international restaurant in 1984, in Bahrain, expects its number of international restaurants to exceed its domestic ones by 2020, says Don Fertman, Subway's Chief Development Officer. The chain currently has just over 24,000 restaurants in the U.S., where it generated $10.5 billion of its $15.2 billion in revenue last year.
The closely held company, owned by Doctor's Associates Inc., does not disclose its profits.
McDonald's is still the leader when it comes to sales. The burger chain reported $24 billion in revenue last year. "We remain focused on listening to and serving our customers, and are committed to being better, not just bigger," a McDonald's spokeswoman says.
Subway, which surpassed the number of McDonald's in the U.S. about nine years ago, expects China to eventually become one of its largest markets. The sandwich shop only has 199 restaurants in China now, but expects to have more than 500 by 2015.
Subway has achieved its rapid growth, in part, by opening outlets in non-traditional locations such as an automobile showroom in California, an appliance store in Brazil, a ferry terminal in Seattle, a riverboat in Germany, a zoo in Taiwan, a Goodwill store in South Carolina, a high school in Detroit and a church in Buffalo, New York.
"We're continually looking at just about any opportunity for someone to buy a sandwich, wherever that might be. The closer we can get to the customer, the better," Mr. Fertman says, explaining that it now has almost 8,000 Subways in unusual locations. "The non-traditional is becoming traditional."
The company has some concerns about the economies of certain international markets, such as Germany and the United Kingdom. The company is trying to develop more affordable offerings in those countries, similar to the $5 foot-long sandwiches that have been successful in the U.S.
"Finding that kind of value proposition in those countries is essential," Mr. Fertman says.
Exclusive: Limbaugh’s parent company still using actors to fake radio call-ins, exec tells Raw
March 7, 2011 @ 12:18 pm
The company responsible for syndicating big conservative radio names like Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity has been using paid actors to call in to their radio shows.
According to a recent report in Tablet Magazine, Premiere Radio Networks, a subsidiary of Clear Channel Communications, hired actors to call in as guests.
A website for the Premiere On Call service was taken offline before the report was published, but a cached version of the website is still available.
However, when Raw Story contacted Premiere's entertainment division, one individual who spoke off the record claimed that the service was still being offered.
"Premiere On Call is our new custom caller service," the website said. "We supply voice talent to take/make your on-air calls, improvise your scenes or deliver your scripts. Using our simple online booking tool, specify the kind of voice you need, and we’ll get your the right person fast. Unless you request it, you won’t hear that same voice again for at least two months, ensuring the authenticity of your programming for avid listeners."
An audition request form asked actors to sign a confidentiality agreement promising not to divulge details of their work.
"By requesting an audition you are also agreeing to keep the details of the audition and the type of work that you may perform confidential. This applies to information acquired while working for Premiere or any of its affiliates," the agreement said. "Disclosure to any third party, sharing project information or publicizing what you do (including via social media) may be considered grounds for dismissal or further action."
The audition form indicated that Premiere was looking for distinct voice types that included gruff, light, clean, crisp, high, deep and textured voices.
On actor told Tablet that for his audition, he called in to a fake radio show claiming he had been to a bachelor party that was ruined by a girlfriend that tagged along.
"Thank you for auditioning for Premiere On Call," a follow-up e-mail told him. "Your audition was great! We'd like to invite you to join our official roster of 'ready-to-work' actors."
The pay rate was $40/hour with at least one hour a day guaranteed.
The job was explained to him this way: "If he passed the audition, he would be invited periodically to call in to various talk shows and recite various scenarios that made for interesting radio. He would never be identified as an actor, and his scenarios would never be identified as fabricated -- which they always were."
Premiere Radio Networks spokesperson Rachel Nelson defended the service by saying that the radio shows that use the service were responsible for how it was used.
"Premiere provides a wide variety of audio services for radio stations across the country, one of which is connecting local stations in major markets with great voice talent to supplement their programming needs," Nelson told Tablet in an e-mail. "Voice actors know this service as Premiere On Call. Premiere, like many other content providers, facilitates casting -- while character and script development, and how the talent's contribution is integrated into programs, are handled by the varied stations."
While it's unclear which syndicated shows used the service, Op Ed News' Gustav Wynn speculated that Sean Hannity would be a prime candidate.
"Hannity's record of being caught manipulating public opinion, deceptively editing video, suppressing opposing views, and lopsided call ratios through the decades speaks for itself," Wynn wrote.
A call to Rush Limbaugh's spokesman was not returned at the time of publication.
Man Gets Shot for Eating Popcorn Too Loudly During 'Black Swan' (UPDATED)
Posted Feb 21st 2011 1:30PM
UPDATE: The original article at The Telegraph had its facts a little muddled. It turns out that it may have been the 27-year-old who was the shooter and the loud food muncher, meaning that the victim was just a poor guy standing up to a noisy moviegoer. (It's still a crazy -- and sad -- story.) The Register has the update. Thanks to the reader who pointed this out to us.
At the famed Alamo Drafthouse theater in Austin, Texas, there is a strict policy regarding disruptive moviegoers. If someone alerts a manager to your talking, cell phone using or in-any-way noisy activity, you are given one warning. There is no second warning. After that, you're kicked out of the building without a refund. It's a harsh but reliable system that ensures the quality of your film-watching experience.
But they have nothing on one disgruntled movie lover, who decided that a fellow audience member at a screening of 'Black Swan' was eating his popcorn far too loudly and shot him to death, therefore teaching him a valuable lesson about being respectful in a movie theater.
The incident occurred in Latvia -- which is surprising, since this whole thing is one bottle of Jack away from being a quintessential American experience -- where gun crime is a rarity. The exact details of this fundamental disagreement in theater etiquette are unknown at this time, but the violent exchange between the armed-and-angry 27-year- old and the 42-year-old popcorn muncher occurred when the film was over and the credits were rolling. The assailant, like 'Black Swan's Nina Sayers, had evidently been driven to the edge of his sanity.
LINK TO VIDEO:
Although movie theaters aren't typically seen as a place to go when you want to get shot to death, they're not completely free of the occasional act of violence. Most of it -- fist fights, minor riots, flashes of gang violence -- remains unreported, but ask any theater employee to regale you with tales and they'll gladly give you an earful. Sometimes, though, the story will explode onto the national scene. In 2008, a Philadelphia man quickly tired of the talkative family sitting in front of him during a screening of 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button', so he pulled a gun and shot the father in the arm to shut them up -- a method that ensured their silence but also his incarceration.
Were these people in the right for shooting their fellow moviegoers? No, of course not -- this is a classic case of overkill (pardon the pun). However, if you're one of those jerks who likes to get chatty or whip out your cell phone during a movie, you should take immediate note: someone may very well shoot you for it. You have been warned.
Romanian woman who became a granny at 23 claims to be world's youngestLauren Johnston
Monday, March 7th 2011, 12:52 PM
EuroPicsRifca Stanescu is now 25 and grandmother to a little boy aged two-and-a-half. She was married when she was 11.
A 25-year-old Romanian woman could be the world's youngest grandmother.
Rifca Stanescu gave birth to her first child, Maria, at age 12, a British tabloid, The Sun, reported Monday. She urged her daughter not to follow in her footsteps, but the girl also gave birth to a child before reaching her teen years.
Maria reportedly gave birth to her son, Ion, two years ago - when she was just 11 - making mother Stanescu a grandmother at 23.
"I am happy to be a grandmother but wished more for Maria," Stanescu told The Sun.
Stanescu, who lives in the village Investi, married when she was 11 and her husband, Ionel, was 13. The pair eloped so Rifca could escape an arranged marriage planned by her father.
Stanescu (center), her husband Ionel and grandson Ion. (EuroPics)
"My dad was really annoyed at being cheated out of the right to decide who would be my husband and the dowry," she said. "But then I got pregnant when I was 12 - a year later - and that meant that my husband's family paid my father a dowry and then there was peace."
The family lives in a gypsy community, and Stanescu says it is common in their culture to become engaged and marry at a young age. Women are expected to be virgins when they marry, and many are betrothed while they are toddlers.
"Ion [her grandson] is a good boy and he is already engaged to a girl aged 8," Stanescu told the Daily Mail.
Stanescu's mother - also named Maria - became a great-grandmother at age 40 when Ion was born.
Stanescu says she encouraged her daughter to stay in school, but the girl dropped out when she was 10 to get married and had her first child six months later.
There is no listing in the Guiness World Records for the world's youngest grandmother.
The Sun reports Britain's youngest grandmother was a 26-year-old woman whose daughter gave birth at age 12 in 1999.
"I did not try to stop my daughter getting married because this is the tradition," she told The Daily Mail. "It's what happens."
Posted on Sun, Mar. 06, 2011
Mother gets prison for living with kids under playground equipment on beachTonya Alanez
CANDACE WEST / MIAMI HERALDBroward sheriff's deputies escort Tammy Kongkham after her arrest in December 2008. Kongkham was sentended Friday, March 4, 2011, to four years in prison on three felony counts of neglect and desertion of her two children.
Desperation drove a mother to live with her two daughters in an ant-infested dugout under a Fort Lauderdale beach playground, the tearful woman told a Broward judge.
Facing a maximum penalty of 17 years in prison, Tammy Kongkham placed her fate Friday in Broward Circuit Judge Ilona Holmes’ hands as she pleaded no contest to two felony counts of child neglect, one felony count of desertion and two misdemeanor counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
“I’m a desperate mother. I love my children so very much, and I miss my children so very much,” said Kongkham, 37, fighting back sobs as she read from a handwritten letter, a Vietnamese- language interpreter by her side. “Your honor, I am asking you to have mercy on my poor, poor soul.”
Holmes sentenced Kongkham to four years in prison. After receiving credit for 804 days served, Kongkham will spend about two years in prison.
Authorities say Kongkham fled from Philadelphia to Broward County with her daughters in October 2008, two weeks after Pennsylvania child-welfare officials placed the girls in foster care.
Kongkham and the girls, then 8 and 10, stayed at a Broward motel until money ran out. They found temporary housing with local acquaintances, but that ended, too. Kongkham used the playground as a last resort while she searched for work, Kongkham’s attorney, assistant public defender Dione Trawick, told the judge.
Authorities say Kongkham and her daughters spent weeks living in the hole she and her daughters dug under a playground near State Road A1A and Sebastian Street. They ate, slept and went to the bathroom in the pit, unnoticed by playing children and passersby.
Kongkham’s older daughter was found by a Fort Lauderdale police officer on Dec. 4, 2008, at the Galleria mall, begging for food. The girl, who was covered with bug bites, told authorities her mother had abandoned her.
Kongkham and her other daughter were found two weeks later in a cardboard box outside a Tamarac strip shopping center.
In court, Kongkham said her actions stemmed from desperation, not lawlessness: “I did not know American law. I did not know the words ‘neglect’ and ‘desertion’ until now.”
Prosecutor Adriana Alcalde said Kongkham’s selfish, neglectful behavior deserved punishment of 10 years in prison.
“What this woman made these kids live through was a nightmare,” Alcalde said. “She didn’t keep these children from harm’s way. She put them in harm’s way.”
Kongkham asked to be sentenced to time served so she could return to Pennsylvania to face pending kidnapping charges related to leaving the state with her daughters. The two girls have been reunited with their father. and live in Pennsylvania.
In pronouncing sentence, Holmes said she struggled to balance a mother’s love for her children with the peril she put them in.
“Ms. Kongkham’s children love her, she loves her children to the point she put them in jeopardy,” Holmes said. “She did what most mothers would do, albeit she didn’t go about it in the right way.”
Dentist in town for son's baseball tournament arrested for theft, forgery
Richard Ludwig, a Michigan dentist, is accused of stealing a military veteran's credit card to buy pizza while in town for his son's baseball game. (Polk County Sheriffs Office, Polk County Sheriffs Office / March 6, 2011)
A Michigan dentist in town for his son's baseball game was arrested late Saturday on credit-card theft and forgery charges after Polk County deputy sheriffs said he stole a college student's credit card and used it to buy pizza.
Richard Lewis Ludwig, 54, of Okemos, Mich., also faces charges of impersonating and attempting to use the ID of another person without consent.
The Polk County Sheriff's Office gave this account:
The victim, Harrun Majeed of Davenport, dropped his credit card in the parking lot of a Publix at 2424 Sand Mine Road in Davenport on Saturday evening. Majeed, a military veteran studying at a community college, realized the card was gone when he got home and called to cancel it.
While on the phone with the credit-card company, a representative told Majeed someone had used the card to make a purchase at Mia Pizza Pasta Kitchen, in the same plaza as the Publix where Majeed lost his card. Majeed immediately called the Polk County Sheriff's Office.
Polk County deputy sheriffs arrested Ludwig after finding him at the restaurant waiting for his order. They said Ludwig admitted to finding Majeed's credit card in the parking lot, ordering two large pizzas with extra olives and using Majeed's card to pay the $40.64 bill. Ludwig had $250 in cash in his wallet at the time of his arrest, deputies said.
When asked if he was having financial problems, the sheriff's office said, Ludwig laughed and said "absolutely not." He told deputies his net worth was between $3 million and $4 million.
Ludwig told deputies he was visiting Polk County because his son is playing in a baseball tournament in Winter Haven.
Sarah Palin: Obama 'Inexperienced' In Private Sector & Government
03/ 5/11 06:13 PM
Sarah Palin said President Barack Obama lacks experience in the public and private sectors in discussing his role in ongoing debate over unions, collective bargaining and the recent protests in Wisconsin.
During an appearance on "America's Nightly Scoreboard" on Fox Business on Friday night, she said, "See because our president is so inexperienced in the private sector and in government and in actually running anything and making any kind of budget that inexperience has really made manifest in some of the statements he makes."
Palin went on to take issue with the president's handling of the economy and said he should be "engaging in free-market principles that work" such as reducing taxes. The Fox News contributor added, "His naive and destructive and terrifying anti-oil agenda is going to bring our nation to our knees and his agenda must be stopped."
At the end of the appearance, Palin was asked when she could be expected to reveal whether or not she plans to run for president in the next election cycle.
"I still think it's months away before people need to be lining up and making announcements as to what to do," she said. "In the meantime, I'm going to keep chiming in on the issues that are important in this day."
LINK TO VIDEO:
Jailer accused of having sex with an inmate
Investigators allege sergeant slept with murder suspect
Credit: Jennifer Frew | The News Herald
March 04, 2011
A Burke County jailer is behind bars on allegations he slept with an accused killer in local lockup.
Sgt. Thomas Edward Pearson, 58, of 109 Red Bud Drive, Morganton was arrested Friday at his place of work — the Burke-Catawba District Confinement Facility — on one count of sexual activity by a custodian, according to a Burke County Sheriff’s Office press release.
The 58-year-old supervisor resigned Friday.
Pearson is accused of sleeping with Alicia Camille Goode, 32, a BCDCF inmate awaiting trial for murder, according to Lt. Becky Weatherman, BCSO.
The investigator said that Pearson is believed to have had sex with Goode at least eight times from January 2010 through last month and could face up to seven additional counts.
Goode told investigators that Pearson gave her more freedoms than other inmates in exchange for sex, Weatherman said, after other inmates came forward with allegations about the relationship.
Interim Jail Administrator Steve Whisenant said Pearson worked at night, when the sergeant on shift runs the facility.
“There are opportunities for the sergeant at night to do some things that others would not have,” he said.
New measures will be put in place, including additional security cameras, to prevent future incidents.
The administrator added that Pearson was a holdover from the past administration, and that the 58-year-old was on leave when he started.
The two have only worked together for about three months, according to Whisenant.
Whisenant took over the facility on Aug. 2 when his predecessor, Mike Metcalf, was placed on administrative leave. Metcalf was later fired after concerns were raised about the conditions within the jail.
Whisenant says he has hired more than 40 percent of the detention officers at BCDCF since becoming top jailer, noting that the facility is still in transition.
“We’ve made quite a few changes,” he said. “We’re still in the process of making changes… The taxpayers of Burke and Catawba counties are entitled to a good detention facility.”
A top priority for the administrator is having a top-notch staff.
“One of the things I have emphasized to the staff is we must have a professional organization,” he said.
He added that most jailers adhere to the law.
“It shouldn’t be a reflection on the overall facility.”
Weatherman also was critical of the sergeant’s actions.
“He crossed the line, and he doesn’t belong in this profession,” Weatherman said.
Pearson is jailed in Caldwell County under a $50,000 secured bond. His first appearance will be Monday.
Whisenant said the 58-year-old would not be housed in Burke County to prevent a conflict of interest.
Weatherman said Pearson, who is married, has a clean criminal record.
Goode is accused of killing 18-year-old Pedro Arnol Ramirez in a botched home invasion on Aug. 24, 2007, along with three other defendants. She also is charged with two counts of assault with a deadly weapon with the intent to kill inflicting serious injury and one count each of first-degree burglary and attempted armed robbery.
Her next court date is May 2.
Man Drinks Beer During DUI Arrest
FOX8.com Reporter 1:49 p.m. EST, March 3, 2011
This undated photo released by the Elyria Police Department on Thursday, March 3, 2011, shows Stephen Supers. Supers was pulled over early Wednesday, March 2, 2011, because a police officer had observed him speeding. According to police, when asked during the traffic stop if he'd been drinking, Supers allegedly took a swig from an open can of
During a traffic stop early Wednesday morning, Elyria police say a man was very honest when asked if he had been drinking, too honest.
According to the arrest report filed on the incident, Stephen Supers, 25, was arrested on March 2nd at 2:14 am after an officer saw Supers speeding on Broad Street.
When the officer pulled over Supers, according to the report, he asked if he had been drinking. Supers replied that he had been and then picked up an open can of beer and took a drink in front of the officer and said, "Yes".
The arresting officer performed a series of field sobriety test on Supers, all of which he failed according to the report. He was placed under arrest.
In searching Supers' car police found a glass pipe with white residue and a small bag of marijuana. According to the report Supers told police he had been smoking crack cocaine.
Supers refused a breath test and a search of his driving record showed his license was suspended on February 11, 2011.
He was charged with driving under the influence, driving under suspension, possession of marijuana and possession of a drug abuse instrument.
He was released to the care of a sober individual the following morning and is currently awaiting his initial court appearance on the charges.
Do We Still Need Unions? Yes
Why they’re worth fighting for.
February 27, 2011
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s effort two weeks ago to end collective bargaining for public employees in his state was the worst thing to happen to the union movement in recent memory—until it unexpectedly became the best thing to happen to the union movement in recent memory. Give the man some credit: in seven days, Walker did what unions have been trying and failing to do for decades. He united the famously fractious movement, reknit its emotional connection with allies ranging from students to national Democratic leaders, and brought the decline of organized labor to the forefront of the national agenda. The question is: will it matter?
At this point, it’s a safe bet that the proposal Walker is pushing in Wisconsin won’t spread far. Ambitious Republican governors in Indiana and Florida have backed away as unions have made it clear that trying to yank away collective-bargaining rights is a lot of pain for modest gain. But therein lies the problem: a “win” for unions here is no win at all, but, at best, the avoidance of a loss. It doesn’t end their seemingly decades-long slide into irrelevance—fewer than 7 percent of private workers are unionized, down from about 25 percent in the 1970s. It doesn’t earn them new members, or make it easier to organize Walmart, or create a new model for labor relations that’s better suited to the modern economy. But it does give them a fleeting instant in which America is willing to ask questions that have been ignored for years: Do we need unions? And, if so, how can we get them back? What we’re about to find out is whether the unions have answers. In recent years they haven’t. “They seem like a legacy institution and not an institution of the future,” says Andy Stern, the former president of the Service Employees International Union.
But unions still have a crucial role to play in America. First, they give workers a voice within—and, when necessary, leverage against—their employer. That means higher wages, but it also means that workers can go to their managers with safety concerns or ideas to improve efficiency and know that they’ll not only get a hearing, they’ll be protected from possible reprisals. Second, unions are a powerful, sophisticated player concerned with more than just the next quarter’s profit reports—what economist John Kenneth Galbraith called a “countervailing power” in an economy dominated by large corporations. They participate in shareholder meetings, where they’re focused on things like job quality and resisting outsourcing. They push back on business models that they don’t consider sustainable for their workers or, increasingly, for the environment. In an economy with a tendency toward bigness—where big producers are negotiating with big retailers and big distributors—workers need a big advocate of their own. Finally, unions bring some semblance of balance to the political system. A lot of what happens in politics is, unfortunately, the result of moneyed, organized interests who lobby strategically and patiently to get their way. Most of that money is coming from various business interests. One of the few lobbies pushing for the other side is organized labor—and it plays a strikingly broad role. The Civil Rights Act, the weekend, and the Affordable Care Act are all examples of organized labor fighting for laws that benefited not just the unionized. That’s money and political capital it could’ve spent on reforming the nation’s labor laws.
Of course, organized labor is not always at its best. It can be myopic and hidebound. It can fight for rigid work rules that make workplaces less efficient and workers less happy. It can argue for pension and health-care benefits that, in the long run, are simply not sustainable.
But to paraphrase Tolstoy’s insight about families, all institutions are broken in their own unique ways. Corporations and governments have their flaws, too. Like labor, they’re necessary participants in a balanced economy. A world without organized labor is a world where workers have less voice and corporations are even more dominant and unchecked across both the economy and the political system. That isn’t healthy—not for workers and, in the long run, not even for corporations. But to change it, labor has to do more than cheat death. It has to find a new lease on life nationally.
Do We Still Need Unions? No.
Let’s end a privileged class.
February 27, 2011
The manufactured Madison, Wis., mob is not the movement the White House was hoping for. Both may find themselves at the wrong end of the populist pitchfork. While I generally defend collective bargaining and private-sector unions (lots of airline pilots in my family), it is the abuse by public unions and their bosses that pushes centrists like me to the GOP. It is the right and duty of citizens to petition their government. The Tea Party and Republicans seek to limit government growth to protect their pocketbooks. Public-union bosses want to increase the cost of government to protect their racket.
1. Public unions are big money.
Public unions are big money. Paul Krugman is correct: we do need “some counterweight to the political power of big money.” But in the Alice in Wonderland world where what’s up is down and what’s down is up, Krugman believes public unions do not represent big money. Of the top 20 biggest givers in federal-level politics over the past 20 years, 10 are unions; just four are corporations. The three biggest public unions gave $171.5 million for the 2010 elections alone, according to The Wall Street Journal. That’s big money.
2. Public unions redistribute wealth.
Public employees contribute real value for the benefit of all citizens. Public-union bosses collect real money from all taxpayers for the benefit of a few. Unlike private-sector jobs, which are more than fully funded through revenues created in a voluntary exchange of money for goods or serv-ices, public-sector jobs are funded by taxpayer dollars, forcibly collected by the government (union dues are often deducted from public employees’ paychecks). In 28 states, state and local employees must pay full union dues or be fired. A sizable portion of those dues is then donated by the public unions almost exclusively to Democratic candidates. Michael Barone sums it up: “public-employee unions are a mechanism by which every taxpayer is forced to fund the Democratic Party.”
3. Public unions silence the voters’ voice.
Big money from public unions, collected through mandatory dues, and funded entirely by the taxpayer, is then redistributed as campaign cash to help elect the politicians who are then supposed to represent taxpayers in negotiations with those same unions. In effect, the unions sit on both sides of the table and collectively bargain to raise taxes while the voters’ voice is silenced. But the noisy mob in Madison is amplified beyond its numbers. Wisconsin faces a $137 million deficit this year, and a $3.6 billion shortfall in the next two-year budget. The proposals offered by Gov. Scott Walker would avert 5,500 layoffs of public employees and save $300 million. The public unions, representing just 300,000 government employees in the Badger State, are trying to trump the will of the voters. Though voters don’t get to sit at the bargaining table, they do speak collectively at the ballot box.
4. Public unions are unnecessary.
The primary purpose of private-sector unions today is to get workers a larger share of the profits they helped create. But with a power greater than their numbers, these unions have destroyed the manufacturing sector, forcing jobs overseas by driving labor costs above the price consumers here will pay. The government is a monopoly and it earns no profits to be shared. Public employees are already protected by statutes that preclude arbitrary hiring and firing decisions.
The primary purpose of public unions today, as ugly as it sounds, is to work against the financial interests of taxpayers: the more public employees are paid in wages and uncapped benefits, the less taxpayers keep of the money they earn. It’s time to call an end to the privileged class. And the White House makes a mistake if it thinks it can grow a manufactured and uncivil unrest into a popular movement. Voters will not follow those who flee.
Huckabee and Gingrich: Not a great week for GOP presidential candidates
Conservative columnist George Will takes off on Mike Huckabee and Newt Gingrich for their comments about President Obama's upbringing, railing against "careless, delusional, egomaniacal, spotlight-chasing" presidential candidates.
March 5, 2011 at 4:53 pm EST
It hasn’t been a great week for Republicans yearning to be the next president.
Mike Huckabee put his foot in his mouth – twice – and had to reel in controversial (and in one case hilariously wrong) comments he’d made.
Newt Gingrich, giving all indications that he’d announce the obligatory “exploratory committee” – the first official step in running – instead merely unveiled a new web site, then was uncharacteristically indecisive in telling Fox News it might be another six or seven weeks before he made up his mind.
Former New Hampshire governor and chief of staff to President George H. W. Bush John Sununu had critical things to say about Gingrich and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman.
Questions have been raised about Haley Barbour’s days as a lobbyist for the energy industry.
Maybe it’s the late winter season when many street corners are still filled with piles of dirty snow and the atmosphere is grumbly.
Could that explain conservative columnist George Will’s diatribe against the “vibrations of weirdness emanating from people associated with the party?”
In his Washington Post column to be published Sunday, Will takes after Huckabee and Gingrich, suggesting that they are “careless, delusional, egomaniacal, [and] spotlight-chasing.” (Which sounds more like comedian Mort Sahl than the sober Mr. Will in his bow tie.)
Specifically, Will is talking about comments both men have made about President Obama’s upbringing and family background.
During a radio interview Tuesday on the Steve Malzberg Show, Huckabee went on at some length about how Obama had “grown up” in Kenya. This might have influenced Obama’s view of Great Britain as a colonial power because of the Mau Mau uprising in Kenya, the former Arkansas governor explained at some length.
When it was pointed out that Obama was born in the United States (Huckabee is not an ardent “birther,” by the way) and never lived in Kenya, a Huckabee spokesman said that his boss “simply misspoke” and had meant to say “Indonesia.” Which doesn’t explain the bit about the Mau Mau’s, who never made it to Indonesia. Or the fact that most of Obama’s growing up – 13 of his first 18 years – was in Hawaii.
(George Will did not mention Huckabee’s other flap this week – the one where he took after actor Natalie Portman for having a child out of wedlock with her fiancé, from which Huckabee had to back-pedal. It was fun being reminded of Dan Quayle and Murphy Brown, however.)
Gingrich has not claimed that Obama was born anywhere but in the United States. But like Huckabee, he has tried to make a big deal out of the Kenya link.
Obama’s “Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior," Gingrich observes, is “the most accurate, predictive model for his behavior."
“I think Obama gets up every morning with a worldview that is fundamentally wrong about reality,” Gingrich told the National Review Online. “If you look at the continuous denial of reality, there has got to be a point where someone stands up and says that this is just factually insane.”
But it’s dwelling on such things, George Will finds, which is a little nutty – not to mention harmful to the GOP’s chances to take back the White House.
“Let us not mince words,” he writes. “There are at most five plausible Republican presidents on the horizon – Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, former Utah governor and departing ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, former Massachusetts governor Romney, and former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty.”
“So the Republican winnowing process is far advanced,” Will writes. “But the nominee may emerge much diminished by involvement in a process cluttered with careless, delusional, egomaniacal, spotlight-chasing candidates to whom the sensible American majority would never entrust a lemonade stand, much less nuclear weapons.”
“Implausible” candidates such as Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachman, Ron Paul, Rick Santorum, Herman “The Herminator” Cain, and Jimmy (Rent Is Too <snip> High) McMillan can only be grateful to have escaped Will’s laser.
Lana Rosas punched in the face, sent into a coma in spat over a parking spot
Melissa Grace, Shane Dixon Kavanaugh and Rocco Parascandola
Saturday, March 5th 2011, 4:00 AM
Hagen for NewsParamedics attend to Lana Rosas after she was punched in the face in a dispute over a parking spot. Rosas is currently in a coma.
Dramatic photos show the immediate aftermath of a violent clash over a parking spot in the East Village that left a 25-year-old woman in a coma.
The photos, obtained exclusively by the Daily News, paint a disturbing picture. In one photo, Lana Rosas lies on her back on E. 14th St. with her eyes closed and face bloodied.
In another, paramedics try to stabilize her head, carefully affixing a neck brace. They put her on a back board and then into an ambulance before taking her to Bellevue Hospital after the attack Feb. 25.
Rosas was still hospitalized Friday, as her boyfriend Joseph Oliver and her family prayed for her recovery.
The spat over the parking spot near Stuyvesant Town popped off about 11:40 p.m. Police said Oscar Fuller flew into a rage because Rosas wouldn't let him park in a spot she was holding for her boyfriend. There was an argument, police said, and Fuller punched the 4-foot-11 Rosas in the face.
Manhattan prosecutors said in court papers that Fuller hit Rosas "with so much force that the woman flew off of her feet, was knocked unconscious and hit her head on the ground."
Lana Rosas was knocked unconscious and fell to the ground (Hagen for News).
Fuller has been charged with felony assault after being busted Tuesday night at his Queens home. Through his lawyer, the suspect said the young woman was in his prayers. Then the lawyer, Thomas Kenniff, pinned the blame on Rosas.
Fuller, he said, was polite, asking the woman from the seat of his Plymouth Voyager to step out of the spot on E. 14th St. She refused, and when Fuller got out of his vehicle, she socked him in the eye, then hit him several more times.
When Oliver, across the street and preparing to make a U-turn, jumped out of his car and ran toward Fuller, the suspect punched Rosas in the face, Kenniff said.
"My client acted on instinct," the lawyer said. "He didn't act on intent. We punish intent and foreseeable acts."
Fuller sped off, but witnesses gave his license plate number to cops. That led to the arrest. An electrician and father of two, Fuller was scrambling last night to post $100,000 bail. His previous arrests include busts for assault, drug possession and marijuana possession.
Rosas, who lives in the Bronx, and Oliver, 26, who lives on Long Island, had gone to the East Village for dinner. Fuller was in the area to attend a birthday party.
Fennville basketball player Wes Leonard dies after hitting winning shot, collapsing on court
Fennville basketball player Wes Leonard
The Holland Sentinel
Mar 04, 2011 @ 08:28 AMLast update Mar 04, 2011 @ 04:30 PM
Fennville, MI —
A moment of jubilation for hundreds of Fennville basketball fans turned to horror Thursday night as junior Wes Leonard collapsed on the court after celebrating his team’s dramatic victory and clinching of a perfect season.
About two hours later, the 16-year-old Leonard died at 10:40 p.m. at Holland Hospital, said Tim Breed, the hospital’s spokesperson.
Leonard, the undefeated Blackhawks’ star player, scored the game-winning layup in a 57-55 win over Bridgman in overtime at Fennville High School. He fell to the ground amid teammates and fans who stormed the court.
“Wes arrived at Holland Hospital in cardiac arrest,” Breed said. “All efforts were made after he arrived to help restart his heart, but unfortunately, those efforts were not successful.”
Moments before he collapsed, his teammates had given him a celebratory hoist into the air before a team huddle.
Leonard is the second Fennville athlete to die in 14 months. Wrestler Nathaniel Hernandez passed away in January of 2010 after suffering a seizure at home following his participation in a high school wrestling match. He was 14.
Leonard was recovering from the flu, Fennville coach Ryan Klingler told The Sentinel Saturday night after Leonard played helped the Blackhawks win the inaugural SAC Tournament title with a win over Bangor.
“Obviously, in the midst of celebration, I think shocking is exactly the word,” Fennville Superintendent Dirk Weeldreyer said before Leonard’s ambulance left the high school. “And certainly our deepest prayers are with Wes and his family, and obviously his health is far more important than any game.”
An autopsy will likely be conducted to determine the cause of death, Breed said.
Leonard arrived at Holland Hospital in an ambulance at 9:20 p.m. Before the ambulance left the high school, an EMT appeared to hook him to a defibrillator on the court at about 8:48 p.m.
He appeared to lose consciousness after he collapsed. His teammates started shouting for help.
The gym doors were opened, letting cold air in, and about 10 people tending to him fanned his body with everything from a jersey to a clipboard prior to the EMT’s arrival.
“It’s tough to take in,” said Leonard’s teammate Shane Bale, who stood near the gym’s exit doors with a group of others as the ambulance with Leonard remained outside. “It’s like somebody from your family, you know?”
John Norton, Bridgman’s athletic director, said he didn’t see Leonard collapse, but he could tell something went wrong.
“I just heard the gym go quiet, and I went in with our team and I came back out and helped the managers clean up the bench, and I could tell by the look on people’s faces the severity of it,” said Norton, one of about 30 people remaining in the gym after Leonard’s ambulance left. “I went back in to tell my coach to keep the guys in the locker room, and they already had a pretty good idea of what was going on, and one of our players (Josiah Badger) was leading our team in a prayer when I walked back in.”
After Leonard’s ambulance left from the parking lot just outside the gym, Klingler led a group of teammates from outside back into the lockerroom.
A crying woman outside broadcast a prayer for Leonard on her speakerphone as the ambulance sirens blared in the distance.
“Wes is just an outstanding young man, and he has obviously been a leader for our athletic teams, and he is just an absolutely great kid,” Weeldreyer said.
The game that seemed so important — the school’s parking lots overflowed with cars, fans spilling out of the stands, watching with standing room only cheering their team to a 20-0 record — suddenly became “irrelevant.”
“It’s pretty irrelevant, yeah,” Norton said. “That was a good game, but when something like this happens, sports are pretty irrelevant.”
Leonard was a two-sport standout at Fennville and arguably the Blackhawks’ greatest athlete since Richie Jordan, a member of the National Federation of State High Schools Association’s Hall of Fame.
Earlier in the season, Leonard eclipsed 1,000 points. He scored 21 Thursday to help his team dig out of a 14-point hole against their state-ranked foe.
On the football field, Leonard quarterbacked the team to the Southwestern Athletic Conference North Division championship this season and threw seven touchdowns in the game that clinched it.
In an interview with The Sentinel at Tuesday’s practice, Klingler talked about how Leonard had a great drive to succeed and that he saw the “bigger picture.”
“That’s what makes him a little different. He takes care of his body better than probably anybody I’ve ever coached,” Klingler said Tuesday. “Spends a lot of time on his own in the weight room. He’s a special kid.”
I am an American, not by accident of birth but by choice. I voted with my feet and became an American because I love this country and think it is exceptional. But when I look at the world today and the strong winds of technological change and global competition, it makes me nervous. Perhaps most unsettling is the fact that while these forces gather strength, Americans seem unable to grasp the magnitude of the challenges that face us. Despite the hyped talk of China's rise, most Americans operate on the assumption that the U.S. is still No. 1.
But is it? Yes, the U.S. remains the world's largest economy, and we have the largest military by far, the most dynamic technology companies and a highly entrepreneurial climate. But these are snapshots of where we are right now. The decisions that created today's growth — decisions about education, infrastructure and the like — were made decades ago. What we see today is an American economy that has boomed because of policies and developments of the 1950s and '60s: the interstate-highway system, massive funding for science and technology, a public-education system that was the envy of the world and generous immigration policies. Look at some underlying measures today, and you will wonder about the future.
The following rankings come from various lists, but they all tell the same story. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), our 15-year-olds rank 17th in the world in science and 25th in math. We rank 12th among developed countries in college graduation (down from No. 1 for decades). We come in 79th in elementary-school enrollment. Our infrastructure is ranked 23rd in the world, well behind that of every other major advanced economy. American health numbers are stunning for a rich country: based on studies by the OECD and the World Health Organization, we're 27th in life expectancy, 18th in diabetes and first in obesity. Only a few decades ago, the U.S. stood tall in such rankings. No more. There are some areas in which we are still clearly No. 1, but they're not ones we usually brag about. We have the most guns. We have the most crime among rich countries. And, of course, we have by far the largest amount of debt in the world.
The Rise of the Rest
Many of these changes have taken place not because of America's missteps but because other countries are now playing the same game we are — and playing to win. There is a familiar refrain offered when these concerns are raised: "We heard all this in the 1980s. Japan was going to dominate the globe. It didn't happen, and America ended up back on top." It's a fair point as far as it goes. Japan did not manage to become the world's richest country — though for three decades it had the second largest economy and even now has the third largest. It is also a relatively small country. To become the largest economy in the world, it would have to have a per capita GDP twice that of the U.S. China would need to have an average income only one-fourth that of the U.S. to develop an economy that would surpass ours.
But this misses the broader point. The Harvard historian Niall Ferguson, who has just written a book, Civilization: The West and the Rest, puts things in historical context: "For 500 years the West patented six killer applications that set it apart. The first to download them was Japan. Over the last century, one Asian country after another has downloaded these killer apps — competition, modern science, the rule of law and private property rights, modern medicine, the consumer society and the work ethic. Those six things are the secret sauce of Western civilization."
To this historical challenge from nations that have figured out how the West won, add a technological revolution. It is now possible to produce more goods and services with fewer and fewer people, to shift work almost anywhere in the world and to do all this at warp speed. That is the world the U.S. now faces. Yet the country seems unready for the kind of radical adaptation it needs. The changes we are currently debating amount to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.
Sure, the political system seems to be engaged in big debates about the budget, pensions and the nation's future. But this is mostly a sideshow. The battles in state capitals over public-employee pensions are real — the states are required to balance their budgets — but the larger discussion in Washington is about everything except what's important. The debate between Democrats and Republicans on the budget excludes the largest drivers of the long-term deficit — Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare — to say nothing of the biggest nonentitlement costs, like the tax break for interest on mortgages. Only four months ago, the Simpson-Bowles commission presented a series of highly intelligent solutions to our fiscal problems, proposing $4 trillion in savings, mostly through cuts in programs but also through some tax increases. They have been forgotten by both parties, in particular the Republicans, whose leading budgetary spokesman, Paul Ryan, praises the commission in the abstract even though he voted against its recommendations. Democrats, for their part, became apoplectic about a proposal to raise the retirement age for Social Security by one year — in 2050.
Instead, Washington is likely to make across-the-board cuts in discretionary spending, where there is much less money and considerably less waste. President Obama's efforts to preserve and even increase resources for core programs appear to be failing in a Congress determined to demonstrate its clout. But reducing funds for things like education, scientific research, air-traffic control, NASA, infrastructure and alternative energy will not produce much in savings, and it will hurt the economy's long-term growth. It would happen at the very moment that countries from Germany to South Korea to China are making large investments in education, science, technology and infrastructure. We are cutting investments and subsidizing consumption — exactly the opposite of what are the main drivers of economic growth.
So why are we tackling our economic problems in a manner that is shortsighted and wrong-footed? Because it is politically easy. The key to understanding the moves by both parties is that, for the most part, they are targeting programs that have neither a wide base of support nor influential interest groups behind them. (And that's precisely why they're not where the money is. The American political system is actually quite efficient. It distributes the big bucks to popular programs and powerful special interests.) And neither side will even talk about tax increases, though it is impossible to achieve long-term fiscal stability without them. Certain taxes — such as ones on carbon or gas — would have huge benefits beyond revenue, like energy efficiency.
It's not that our democracy doesn't work; it's that it works only too well. American politics is now hyperresponsive to constituents' interests. And all those interests are dedicated to preserving the past rather than investing for the future. There are no lobbying groups for the next generation of industries, only for those companies that are here now with cash to spend. There are no special-interest groups for our children's economic well-being, only for people who get government benefits right now. The whole system is geared to preserve current subsidies, tax breaks and loopholes. That is why the federal government spends $4 on elderly people for every $1 it spends on those under 18. And when the time comes to make cuts, guess whose programs are first on the chopping board. That is a terrible sign of a society's priorities and outlook.
The Perils of Success
Why have our priorities become so mangled? Several decades ago, economist Mancur Olson wrote a book called The Rise and Decline of Nations. He was prompted by what he thought was a strange paradox after World War II. Britain, having won the war, slipped into deep stagnation, while Germany, the loser, grew powerfully year after year. Britain's fall was even more perplexing considering that it was the creator of the Industrial Revolution and was the world's original economic superpower.
Olson concluded that, paradoxically, it was success that hurt Britain, while failure helped Germany. British society grew comfortable, complacent and rigid, and its economic and political arrangements became ever more elaborate and costly, focused on distribution rather than growth. Labor unions, the welfare state, protectionist policies and massive borrowing all shielded Britain from the new international competition. The system became sclerotic, and over time, the economic engine of the world turned creaky and sluggish.
Germany, by contrast, was almost entirely destroyed by World War II. That gave it a chance not just to rebuild its physical infrastructure but also to revise its antiquated arrangements and institutions — the political system, the guilds, the economy — with a more modern frame of mind. Defeat made it possible to question everything and rebuild from scratch.
America's success has made it sclerotic. We have sat on top of the world for almost a century, and our repeated economic, political and military victories have made us quite sure that we are destined to be No. 1 forever. We have some advantages. Size matters: when crises come, they do not overwhelm a country as big as the U.S. When the financial crisis hit nations such as Greece and Ireland, it dwarfed them. In the U.S., the problems occurred within the context of a $15 trillion economy and in a country that still has the trust of the world. Over the past three years, in the wake of the financial crisis, U.S. borrowing costs have gone down, not up.
This is a powerful affirmation of America's strengths, but the problem is that they ensure that the U.S. will not really face up to its challenges. We adjust to the crisis of the moment and move on, but the underlying cancer continues to grow, eating away at the system.
A crucial aspect of beginning to turn things around would be for the U.S. to make an honest accounting of where it stands and what it can learn from other countries. This kind of benchmarking is common among businesses but is sacrilege for the country as a whole. Any politician who dares suggest that the U.S. can learn from — let alone copy — other countries is likely to be denounced instantly. If someone points out that Europe gets better health care at half the cost, that's dangerously socialist thinking. If a business leader notes that tax rates in much of the industrialized world are lower and that there are far fewer loopholes than in the U.S., he is brushed aside as trying to impoverish American workers. If a commentator says — correctly — that social mobility from one generation to the next is greater in many European nations than in the U.S., he is laughed at. Yet several studies, the most recent from the OECD last year, have found that the average American has a much lower chance of moving out of his parents' income bracket than do people in places like Denmark, Sweden, Germany and Canada.
And it's not just politicians and business leaders. It's all of us. Americans simply don't care much, know much or want to learn much about the outside world. We think of America as a globalized society because it has been at the center of the forces of globalization. But actually, the American economy is quite insular; exports account for only about 10% of it. Compare that with the many European countries where half the economy is trade-related, and you can understand why those societies seem more geared to international standards and competition. And that's the key to a competitive future for the U.S. If Olson is right in saying successful societies get sclerotic, the solution is to stay flexible. That means being able to start and shut down companies and hire and fire people. But it also means having a government that can help build out new technologies and infrastructure, that invests in the future and that can eliminate programs that stop working. When Franklin Roosevelt launched the New Deal, he spoke of the need for "bold, persistent experimentation," and he shut down programs when it was clear they didn't work. Today, every government program and subsidy seems eternal.
What the Founding Fathers Knew
Is any of this possible in a rich, democratic country? In fact it is. The countries of Northern Europe — Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland — have created a fascinating and mixed model of political economy. Their economies are extremely open and market-based. Most of them score very high on the Heritage Foundation's Index of Economic Freedom. But they also have generous welfare states and make major investments for future growth. Over the past 20 years, these countries have grown nearly as fast as, or in some cases faster than, the U.S. Germany has managed to retain its position as the world's export engine despite high wages and generous benefits.
Now, America should not and cannot simply copy the Nordic model or any other. Americans would rebel at the high taxes that Northern Europeans pay — and those taxes are proving uncompetitive in a world where many other European countries have much lower rates and Singapore has a maximum personal rate of 20%. The American system is more dynamic, entrepreneurial and unequal than that of Europe and will remain so. But the example of Northern Europe shows that rich countries can stay competitive if they remain flexible, benchmark rigorously and embrace efficiency.
American companies are, of course, highly efficient, but American government is not. By this I don't mean to echo the usual complaints about waste, fraud and abuse. In fact, there is less of those things than Americans think, except in the Pentagon with its $700 billion budget. The problem with the U.S. government is that its allocation of resources is highly inefficient. We spend vast amounts of money on subsidies for housing, agriculture and health, many of which distort the economy and do little for long-term growth. We spend too little on science, technology, innovation and infrastructure, which will produce growth and jobs in the future. For the past few decades, we have been able to be wasteful and get by. But we will not be able to do it much longer. The money is running out, and we will have to marshal funds and target spending far more strategically. This is not a question of too much or too little government, too much or too little spending. We need more government and more spending in some places and less in others.
The tragedy is that Washington knows this. For all the partisan polarization there, most Republicans know that we have to invest in some key areas, and most Democrats know that we have to cut entitlement spending. But we have a political system that has become allergic to compromise and practical solutions. This may be our greatest blind spot. At the very moment that our political system has broken down, one hears only encomiums to it, the Constitution and the perfect Republic that it created. Now, as an immigrant, I love the special and, yes, exceptional nature of American democracy. I believe that the Constitution was one of the wonders of the world — in the 18th century. But today we face the reality of a system that has become creaky. We have an Electoral College that no one understands and a Senate that doesn't work, with rules and traditions that allow a single Senator to obstruct democracy without even explaining why. We have a crazy-quilt patchwork of towns, municipalities and states with overlapping authority, bureaucracies and resulting waste. We have a political system geared toward ceaseless fundraising and pandering to the interests of the present with no ability to plan, invest or build for the future. And if one mentions any of this, why, one is being unpatriotic, because we have the perfect system of government, handed down to us by demigods who walked the earth in the late 18th century and who serve as models for us today and forever.
America's founders would have been profoundly annoyed by this kind of unreflective ancestor worship. They were global, cosmopolitan figures who learned and copied a great deal from the past and from other countries and were constantly adapting their views. The first constitution, the Articles of Confederation, after all, was a massive failure, and the founders learned from that failure. The decision to have the Supreme Court sit in judgment over acts of the legislature was a later invention. America's founders were modern men who wanted a modern country that broke with its past to create a more perfect union.
And they thought a great deal about decline. Indeed, it was only a few years after the Revolution that the worrying began in earnest. The letters between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, as the two men watched America in the early 19th century, are filled with foreboding and gloom; you could almost say they began a great American tradition, that of contemplating decay. Americans have been concerned about the health of their country for much of its existence. In the 1950s and '60s, we worried about the Soviet Union and its march toward modernization. In the 1980s, we worried about Japan. This did us no harm; on the contrary, all these fears helped us make changes that allowed us to revive our strength and forge ahead. Dwight Eisenhower took advantage of the fears about the Soviet Union to build the interstate-highway system. John Kennedy used the Soviet challenge in space to set us on a path toward the goal of getting to the moon.
What is really depressing is the tone of our debate. In place of the thoughtful concern of Jefferson and Adams, we have its opposite in tone and temperament — the shallow triumphalism purveyed by politicians now. The founders loved America, but they also understood that it was a work in progress, an unfinished enterprise that would constantly be in need of change, adjustment and repair. For most of our history, we have become rich while remaining restless. Rather than resting on our laurels, we have feared getting fat and lazy. And that has been our greatest strength. In the past, worrying about decline has helped us avert that very condition. Let's hope it does so today.
Restoring the American Dream: Getting Back to No. 1 — a Fareed Zakaria GPS Special premieres on CNN at 8 p.m. E.T. and P.T. on March 6 and airs again at 8 p.m. E.T. and P.T. on March 12.
Chick-Fil-A: FREE Fries on March 4, 2011
On Friday, March 4, 2011 you can get a FREE medium order of waffle fries between 2:00pm and 4:00pm when you ask for Heinz Dip & Squeeze and mention the Free Dry Day Promotion.
Limit one per customer.
Available at participating Chick-fil-A locations, so you might want to call ahead to make sure your local store is participating before making a special trip!
Congressional bosses from Hell: Sheila Jackson Lee
A lot of politicians give nicknames to their aides. George W. Bush famously referred to his attorney general, Alberto Gonzalez, as “Fredo.” Mitch Daniels, then head of the Office of Management and Budget, was known as “The Blade.” Barack Obama reportedly called Larry Summers, his chief economic advisor, “Dr. Kevorkian.”
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas also hands out nicknames to the people who work for her. The Houston Democrat addressed one of her employees as “you stupid mother<snip>er.” And not just once, but “constantly,” recalls the staffer, “like, all the time.”
Another Jackson Lee aide recounts the time her parents came to Washington to visit: “They were really excited to come to the congressional office. They’re small town people, so for them it was a huge deal. They were actually sitting in the main lobby waiting area….[Jackson Lee] came out screaming at me over a scheduling change. Called me a ’stupid idiot. Don’t be a moron, you foolish girl’ and actually did this in front of my parents, of all things.”
Yet another staffer remembers requesting a meeting early on in her tenure to ask how best to serve the congresswoman. Jackson Lee’s response: “What? What did you say to me? Who are you, the Congresswoman? You haven’t been elected. You don’t set up meetings with me! I tell you! You know what? You are the most unprofessional person I have ever met in my life.” With that, Jackson Lee hung up the phone.
According to the same staffer, Jackson Lee “would always say, ‘What am I a prostitute? Am I your prostitute? You can’t prostitute me.’”
Capitol Hill is famous for its demanding, insensitive bosses. Yet even by the harsh standards of Congress, Sheila Jackson Lee stands out. She may be the worst boss in Washington. “It’s like being an Iraq War veteran,” says someone who worked for her. Strangers may say, “‘oh I know what you’ve been through.’ No, you really don’t. Because until you’ve experienced it…. People don’t tell the worst of the stories, because they’re really unbelievable.”
For some, a job in Jackson Lee’s office proved not just emotionally but physically perilous. One staffer recalls a frank conversation with his doctor, who told him he needed to quit. “It’s your life or your job,” the doctor told him, warning that the stress and long hours were wreaking havoc on his body.
Only a few on staff fought back. One of Jackson Lee’s drivers became so frustrated with her abuse the person pulled the car over and demand she stop: “She’s screaming and swearing. ‘M.F.’ everything. Finally I slammed on the brakes and told her to get the hell out of my car. I’m like ‘I can’t drive with you like this. Either get out, or you can calm down.’ And she’s like ‘you need to go or get fired.’ I’m like, ‘that’s fine. But I’m either leaving without you or you can calm down,’” the staffer said.
Jackson Lee then threatened to call the police and claim she was being held hostage in the car. But she finally did calm down when the staffer called her bluff, offering to flag down a Capitol Police officer to explain the situation.
Former aide Michael McQueery said his experience with other “difficult” bosses on the Hill prepared him for how to handle Jackson Lee. “I’ve worked for two other members. They did the same thing,” he said.
“It was at first, I’m not going to lie to you, it was a rough patch with her and me. But I took her to the side and I let her know that, you know, ‘Congresswoman, I’m a man before anything else.’ And after that, we had no problems. We had no problems,” McQueery said.
Of the scores of Jackson Lee staffers contacted by The Daily Caller, only McQueery offered an affirmative defense of the congresswoman’s management techniques. “A lot of people just did not know how to go, and say, ‘hey, that’s inappropriate,’” McQueery said.
A congressional torture chamber
In 2007, on a quiet afternoon on the fourth floor of the Rayburn House Office building, Caroline Stephens, then a low-level staffer for California Republican Rep. Gary Miller, walked down the hall to her office, taking note of an open door that was normally closed.
Congress was in recess, and the 435 lawmakers who drive the frenetic pace on Capitol Hill were home in their districts glad-handing constituents. For that reason, the door to Jackson Lee’s office was open and the sounds emanating from inside were pleasant laughter and conversation.
“You could tell when she wasn’t there,” Stephens said. That was because on a day in which Congress was in session, a different set of sounds often came through closed doors to Jackson Lee’s office: screaming and, many times, crying.
Later that day, a skinny young black man with his hair pulled back in a ponytail walked into Miller’s office and asked Stephens for a favor. Could he borrow a knife to cut a birthday cake?
Stephens, who’d seen the man working in Jackson Lee’s office, was happy to help, with only the request to “make sure you bring it back, that’s our only one.”
He laughed. “We would never leave a knife around when the congresswoman was here,” he said. As Stephens put it, “that’s when it all clicked that they are really afraid of her.”
She’ll make you wait
“I am a queen, and I demand to be treated like a queen,” Jackson Lee once said, and apparently she wasn’t kidding. Her employees describe waiting for their boss for hours on end, sometimes late into the night, while she attends events or even sits in her office watching TV.
“You worked really, really, really late for her. When she was in town, you were in the office. So that meant, two, three, four o’clock in the morning – we were there,” one former staffer said.
“She liked to hold her staff meetings — she would individually pull in the deputy chief of staff, myself and some other people individually to go over different parts of her day. But she would literally wait until super late at night. None of us could go home, because she wouldn’t tell when she was coming back or if she wasn’t. And if she called and you didn’t answer, it was like World War III,” the source said.
Jackson Lee’s designated driver picks her up at her apartment one block from her office each morning and waits for her outside wherever she goes throughout the days and nights.
“Whatever time she told me to be there, I would always show up at least 20 minutes late, and expect to wait at least 45 minutes,” said one of Jackson Lee’s drivers. By the end of this person’s tenure, “She was making me wait in the car, sometimes upwards of five to seven hours per day.” With the car running for heat in the winter and air conditioning in the summer, it began to wear down the car’s engine. “My mechanic friend said, you know, your car looks like you’ve driven it twice the miles you have,” the source said.
One woman who interviewed for a job in Jackson Lee’s office arrived at 5:00 p.m. but ended up waiting for hours. “I sat there, no kidding, from 5:00 p.m. until 10:30 p.m. They had me waiting, and this was just for the interview. Her staffers there kept telling me to be patient, that she puts everyone through the ringer…She actually went out to dinner while I was sitting there waiting for an interview,” the woman said. A Lee staffer called the woman at 11:15 p.m. after she’d just arrived home to beg her to come back. The congresswoman was finally ready.
It wasn’t just staffers who have been made to wait. Ray LaHood, the secretary of transportation, cooled his heels for an hour and a half in her office before leaving. “He was there to address transportation issues – getting funding to Houston. So I was just shocked that she would let him leave,” a former staffer said. Jackson Lee was waiting for a chance to appear in front of the C-SPAN cameras on the House floor.
“I would have to wait for hours,” says Gladys Quinto, a former staffer whom Jackson Lee instructed to write a memo about why she was incompetent in front of other staffers. “I missed the last metro once. My roommate had to come pick me up.”
Nathan Williams, who quit his job when Jackson Lee threw a cell phone at him, told the Houston Chronicle in 2002, “I don’t think I ever got home before 11 o’clock at night.”
The ‘Queen’ doesn’t wait…for anything
Even though she delays others for hours, Jackson Lee won’t wait a second for her demands to be met. “She expected you to run – all the time,” says a former staffer. “There was no walking. Nobody could walk, you always had to run – everywhere. She viewed walking as being lazy, so everyone always had to run.”
Another former aide added that the congresswoman would clock her on how long it took her to run an updated schedule print-out from Jackson Lee’s office in the Rayburn building to the House floor. “She would actually physically time you in terms of from office to getting to the [House] floor and finding her, hunting her down,” the staffer said. Then Jackson Lee would demand, “what took you so long?”
Her former drivers say the congresswoman demanded they run red lights and drive on highway shoulders around traffic. This caused at least one accident. As Jackson Lee was yelling at a staffer to drive faster she turned too sharply, smashing the side of her car into a wall.
Jackson Lee’s requests don’t stop at the end of a normal working day. “In the middle of the night, people had to go get her garlic. She’ll call you at two in the morning for garlic because she takes them as supplements,” a former staffer said. Jackson Lee’s garlic runs were confirmed by other staffers, too, though no one could remember the exact brand of the supplement. The deputy chief of staff “would have to go get it, and he would have to go drop it off. It was some kind of a multi-vitamin,” another former staffer said.
On Christmas Eve, one staffer was at a midnight mass ceremony at her church. When the boss called, the staffer didn’t answer. “She got so irritated that I wasn’t answering her call on Christmas Eve. So she called me every minute for 56 minutes,” the source recalled.
Jackson Lee on race
Jackson Lee has always been quick to assign racism as a motive of her political opponents and others. In 1997, for example, The Hill reported that the newly-elected congresswoman asked NASA officials whether the Mars Pathfinder photographed the American flag astronaut Neil Armstrong had planted on the surface of Mars. When it was pointed out that the flag in question was on the moon, not Mars, Jackson Lee cited bigotry. “You thought you could have fun with a black woman member of the Science Committee,” her then chief of staff wrote in a letter to the editor.
Jackson Lee recently blasted a Pepsi advertisement shown during the Super Bowl in which a black woman throws a can of soda at her husband for ogling an attractive white woman next to them. “It was not humorous. It was demeaning — an African-American woman throwing something at an African-American male and winding up hitting a Caucasian woman,” she thundered from the House floor.
In 2009, she helped prevent Rush Limbaugh from becoming an NFL owner. “He does not represent the fullness of appreciation of athletes of all diverse backgrounds, no matter what he wants to pretend to say on his radio station,” Jackson Lee said.
In 2003, she demanded that more Hurricanes be named with African American-sounding names.
A former staffer recalls one revealing episode during the height of the financial crisis in the waning months of the Bush administration. Jackson Lee demanded a meeting with a top Treasury aide, even though she did not sit on any of the committees with jurisdiction over financial matters. As her car pulled up outside the Treasury, Jackson Lee told her driver to park directly outside the door.
Due to the proximity of the Treasury Department’s headquarters to the White House, Secret Service officers told the driver not to park there. After an argument with the agents, who kept telling the driver to back off, Jackson Lee finally emerged from the building.
As the car drove away, a Secret Service van flashed its lights behind them. “Keep driving,” Jackson Lee told her staffer. Ultimately, the driver pulled over in defiance of the boss’s wishes. At this point, Jackson Lee emerged from the car, screaming, “I’m Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee! Who do you think you are?” to a team of Secret Service agents.
Jackson Lee accused the “white” agent at the gate of racism, claiming she wouldn’t have to deal with “this stuff” when Barack Obama became president. She then filed a formal complaint with the Secret Service, which prompted an investigation. A Treasury official later explained that the accusation had been dismissed because the agent in question was Hispanic, not white.
Given Jackson Lee’s apparent touchiness on racial questions, there’s a certain irony in the fact that aides claim she is far harsher to the African Americans who work for her. “’You stupid mother-effer’ was like a constant,” says one. “Like, all the time. But the interesting thing is she would really project that behavior more towards her African American staffers. She would have other ethnic groups in the office, like interns or whatnot. But it was really her African American staffers who she felt comfortable enough to really curse out…. This is something we always talked about. We chalked it up to her just feeling more comfortable acting out her aggression toward a certain group of people versus others.”
“She is very strange in who she insults and how. For some reason, it seemed like she was racist against African Americans,” another said.
Why she would come down harder on black staff was one of many mysteries that provoked endless speculation from those subject to her abuse.
“We would sit around and try to analyze why she was so miserable,” a former staffer said, “We all kind of felt bad for her. She was such a lonely, miserable person. And it must suck to work on Capitol Hill and have all of your colleagues hate you, right?”
The good, the bad, and the zany
And yet for all the nastiness, Jackson Lee also exhibits a zany side. She regularly asks that documents be printed in different colors. She has staff drive her from the Rayburn building to the Cannon building to attend homeland security hearings. She sometimes demands two staffers in two cars pick her up from the airport, one for her, the other for her luggage. On one occasion, she demanded an aide wear a green hat when picking her up.
One day in March of 2004, Jackson Lee told colleagues on her hall in Rayburn that the corridor would be closed from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. to accommodate her visit from Michael Jackson. The House Administration Committee promptly informed her that she had no authority to close a public hallway.
Staffers describe Jackson Lee as a hoarder. For example, she keeps over twenty boxes of the book “Black Americans in Congress” in her office, hundreds of copies in all. From time to time, she adds new copies of the same book to her collection.
Aides who’ve worked for Jackson Lee for years will call her on her cell phone and, despite the caller ID on her blackberry, she invariably answers, “This is Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee.” When getting into the car in the morning, she will give her aide directions to the Rayburn building one block away, even if the aide has been driving her there every morning for months or years.
Jackson Lee’s speeches are frequent and eccentric enough to have occasioned a game in other Capitol Hill offices. Every day, one staffer puts money into a Sheila Jackson Lee jar. If she speaks on the House floor, as she usually does, the jar moves to the next desk. On the rare day she doesn’t speak, the staffer holding the jar wins all the money.
It’s funny, but not really
Not surprisingly, Jackson Lee has one of the highest staff turnover rates in Washington. Over the last ten years, at least 39 staffers have left within one year. Over that time, Lee has employed at least nine chiefs of staff, eight legislative directors, and 18 schedulers or executive assistants, according to records of federal disclosure forms published by the website Legistorm. Nine staffers left within two months, 25 within 6 months.
The many veterans of Jackson Lee’s office meet regularly for drinks and stories. We “still get together to have a cathartic release,” says one. “We sit around and tell these stories and just work ourselves into a state of rage.”
Jackson Lee’s view
TheDC made several vigorous attempts to speak to Jackson Lee about her staff’s accounts of life in her office. Jackson Lee made an even more vigorous effort not to answer the questions.
This Monday, after 6:30 p.m. votes, Jackson Lee spoke to an empty House chamber in celebration of African American history month, veering off topic to blast Republicans for trying to cut spending. “Why do you have to have your way or the highway?” she asked.
Afterwards, she went into the Democratic cloakroom, a lobby alongside the House floor where lawmakers often congregate. After half an hour, I checked with the reliably helpful Capitol Hill police and other assorted staff to see if she’d left by another route, but apparently she had not. By this point, the lights in the House floor had been turned off, and every other lawmaker was gone. I knew from my reporting it could be hours. “She’s just sitting in there, forever!” I said to a group of policemen. They laughed knowingly. Finally, I left.
The following day during House votes, Jackson Lee briefly emerged from the House floor with her cell phone in hand. “Congresswoman, I need to interview you,” I said politely. She looked at me, scanning up from my waist to my face, said nothing and hurried back onto the House floor.
Later, she held two meetings in the wood-paneled Rayburn Room. The room has only two exits, one of them into a hallway, the other to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s office. As the meeting ended and she got up to leave, a staffer whispered to her. Jackson Lee walked quickly toward Pelosi’s office. “Congresswoman! Congresswoman! Congresswoman Jackson Lee!” I said. She muttered something about a “meeting” and escaped into the office.
Finally, I went to Jackson Lee’s own office in the Rayburn building. Her press secretary was not available. I spoke instead to a woman at the front desk, explaining that I had spoken with many of the congresswoman’s former aides, most of whom had <snip>ing things to say about Jackson Lee. The woman laughed. She knew all about the article. I gave her my cell phone number, but Jackson Lee never called.
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas
Read more: http://dailycaller.com/2011/03/02/congressional-bosses-from-hell-sheila-jackson-lee/#ixzz1Fd9k6OVi
Birthday-suit therapist Sarah White conducts naked therapy sessions for troubled New Yorkers
Wednesday, March 2nd 2011, 4:00 AM
Xanthos/NewsSarah White, a 24-year-old psychology buff, conducts therapy sessions during which she progressively removes her clothing. Above, she counsels a News reporter about work-life balance.
There's one sure way to get a man to bare his soul - get naked.
Sarah White, a 24-year-old psychology buff, conducts online therapy sessions in her birthday suit. The naked therapist's unique approach to helping people solve their issues has, she says, aroused interest from dozens of suffering New Yorkers.
"For men especially, who are less likely than women to go to therapy, it is more interesting, more enticing, more exciting," said White. "It's a more inspiring approach to therapy."
White begins her sessions with her clothes on. But as the hour-long appointments heat up, she gradually sheds all of her duds until there's nothing left to take off.
"Freud used free association," she said. "I use nakedness."
The initial sessions, which cost $150, are conducted via a one-way Web cam and text chat. Once she develops a rapport with a client, she'll move on to two-way video appointments via Skype and even in-person consultations.
White said her roughly 30 clients are an eclectic mix of college students with sexual issues, middle-aged men with relationship problems and even a couple of women who just enjoy chatting with a nude peer.
Clients schedule appointments through her website, sarahwhitelive.com.
A freelance computer programmer, White said she got the idea to perform therapy sessions in the nude after being uninspired by the theories she learned as an undergraduate psychology student. She conceded that naked therapy is not approved by any mental health association. And she is not a licensed therapist.
White demonstrated her less-is-more style yesterday, slowly peeling off layers of clothing as she counseled a Daily News reporter on seeking a better work/life balance.
"It sounds like you're not sure if this is really a problem," White said shortly before removing her teal bra.
While White's boyfriend supports her new business, her parents are still in the dark.
"I should probably tell them before they read it in the paper," said White, of the upper West Side.
Not surprisingly, professional psychologists are not sold.
"She's using the word therapy here, but I don't consider this therapy," said Diana Kirschner, a New York-based clinical psychologist. "I consider this interactive soft-core Internet porn."
Kuamell Johnson, 31, said he'd love to experience a therapy session with White, but he's not sure he'd be able to stay on topic.
"She starts to strip, now she's butt naked," pondered Johnson, a messenger from Brooklyn. "It's going to throw my concentration off."
LINK TO VIDEO:
March 2, 2011
Teachers Wonder, Why the Scorn?
The jabs Erin Parker has heard about her job have stunned her. Oh you pathetic teachers, read the online comments and placards of counterdemonstrators. You are glorified baby sitters who leave work at 3 p.m. You deserve minimum wage.
“You feel punched in the stomach,” said Ms. Parker, a high school science teacher in Madison, Wis., where public employees’ two-week occupation of the State Capitol has stalled but not deterred the governor’s plan to try to strip them of bargaining rights.
Ms. Parker, a second-year teacher making $36,000, fears that under the proposed legislation class sizes would rise and higher contributions to her benefits would knock her out of the middle class.
“I love teaching, but I have $26,000 of student debt,” she said. “I’m 30 years old, and I can’t save up enough for a down payment” for a house. Nor does she own a car. She is making plans to move to Colorado, where she could afford to keep teaching by living with her parents.
Around the country, many teachers see demands to cut their income, benefits and say in how schools are run through collective bargaining as attacks not just on their livelihoods, but on their value to society.
Even in a country that is of two minds about teachers — Americans glowingly recall the ones who changed their lives, but think the job with its summers off is cushy — education experts say teachers have rarely been the targets of such scorn from politicians and voters.
Republican lawmakers in half a dozen states are pressing to unwind tenure and seniority protections in place for more than 50 years. Gov. Chris Christie’s dressing down of New Jersey teachers in town-hall-style meetings, accusing them of greed, has touched a populist vein and made him a national star.
Mayors are threatening mass layoffs, including in New York City and in Providence, R.I., where all 1,926 teachers were told last week they would lose their jobs — a largely symbolic gesture since most will be hired back.
Some experts question whether teaching, with its already high attrition rate — more than 25 percent leave in the first three years — will attract high-quality recruits in the future.
“It’s hard to feel good about yourself when your governor and other people are telling you you’re doing a lousy job,” said Steve Derion, 32, who teaches American history in Manahawkin, N.J. “I’m sure there were worse times to be a teacher in our history — I know they had very little rights — but it feels like we’re going back toward that direction.”
Those pressing for teachers’ concessions insist the changes will improve schools.
“This is in no way, shape or form an attack on teachers; it is a comprehensive effort to reform a system,” said Tony Bennett, the superintendent of public instruction in Indiana, where demonstrators have also besieged the Capitol in opposition to bills supported by Dr. Bennett and Gov. Mitch Daniels, a Republican. The legislation would limit teachers’ collective bargaining to pay and benefits and allow principals to set class sizes and school hours and to lay off teachers based on job performance, not years of service.
Dr. Bennett said the state teachers’ union had distorted the legislation to create fear.
There are signs of a backlash in favor of teachers. A New York Times poll taken last week found that by nearly two to one — 60 to 33 percent — Americans opposed restricting collective bargaining for public employees. A similar majority — including more than half of Republicans — said the salaries and benefits of most public employees were “about right” or “too low.”
As for teachers’ mood, an annual poll sponsored by the MetLife Foundation found in 2009, before this year’s blast of opprobrium, that 59 percent were “very satisfied,” up from 40 percent in 1984. In interviews this week, even teachers facing layoffs or pay cuts said they felt a calling to be in the classroom.
“I put my heart and soul into teaching,” said Lindsay Vlachakis, 25, a high school math teacher in Madison. “When people attack teachers, they’re attacking me.”
Although crushing state budget deficits are the proximate cause of lawmakers’ pressure, a further justification for many of the proposed measures comes from the broad accountability movement, which aims to raise student achievement and sees teachers’ unions as often blocking the way.
Accountability, particularly as measured by student test scores, has brought sweeping changes to education and promises more, but many teachers feel the changes are imposed with scant input from classroom-level educators. Nearly 70 percent said in the MetLife survey that their voices were not heard in education debates.
Chester E. Finn Jr., president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative-leaning education policy group, said the decline in teachers’ status traced to the success of unions in paying teachers and granting job security based on their years of service, not ability.
“They are reaping a bitter harvest that they didn’t individually plant but their profession has planted over 50 years, going from a respected profession to a mass work force in which everyone is treated as if they are interchangeable, as in the steel mills of yesteryear,” Mr. Finn said.
Those who oppose the gathering momentum to evaluate teachers based in significant part on student test scores argue that it will drive good teachers from the neediest schools.
Anthony Cody, who taught middle-school science for 18 years and now mentors new teachers in the Oakland, Calif., school district, said many leave at the three-year mark for higher salaries and easier conditions elsewhere.
Oakland has many poor students and schools at the bottom on standardized tests — schools the federal Education Department identifies as candidates to be sweepingly overhauled by removing half their staffs.
“What we need in these schools is stability,” said Mr. Cody, 52, who writes a blog about teaching. “We need to convince people that if they invest their career in working with these challenging students, then we will reward them and appreciate them. We will not subject them to arbitrary humiliation in the newspaper. We will not require they be evaluated and paid based on test scores that often fluctuate greatly beyond the teacher’s control.”
Mr. Cody acknowledged that many of his younger colleagues, who have come of age in the era of test scores used to gauge progress and accountability — first for schools, and now increasingly for teachers — are not as resistant to the concept.
“I’m not too concerned or worried about that,” said Kevin Tougher, 31, who teaches third grade in Lake Grove, N.Y., where a new statewide evaluation system will rate teachers based 40 percent on their students’ test scores or comparable measures.
Last month Mr. Tougher was notified that because of his lack of seniority, he will be laid off, or “excessed,” this year under the state’s proposed cuts to school aid. A union activist, he believes seniority-based layoffs are fair.
“The seniority part, I get that,” said Mr. Tougher, who is single. “While it would be a bummer if I were excessed for next year, that’s just how things go sometimes.”
Former Inmate Breaks Back Into Penal Farm
Natasha Chen 9:08 p.m. CST, March 2, 2011
(Memphis 3/2/11) - A man and woman allegedly broke through a fence to the Shelby County penal farm in attempts to smuggle in contraband.
On Feb. 7 just before 6:00p.m., a corrections officer saw a man leave three packages on the inside of a fenced area by the maintenance building.
A woman was driving the getaway car, a blue Honda Civic whose tag indicated it was rented from Budget Rent-A-Car.
"They had gone up actually to that fence, cut the lock, got through that gate and then ran up to the other gate, and then heaved that stuff over the top of the fence, hoping to get it inside," said Steve Shular, the public affairs officer for the Shelby County Mayor's office.
The corrections officer recognized the man as someone who was in jail last October. The man was later identified as Randy Williams.
"They study the officers, just as much as the officers study them. They look for ways that could be security breaches. And they have a lot of time while they're in there. And so while we're watching them, they're watching us," Shular said.
While the woman driving the car, Martha Arnold, has been arrested, Randy Williams still remains at large as of Wednesday night.
Deputies said that the boxes Williams tried to smuggle contained 24 packs of Kite tobacco with rolling papers attached to each pack, 24 packs of Bugler tobacco with rolling papers attached, two Wet Mango Royal Blunts, and four Samsung cell phones with prepaid minutes.
On Monday, authorities announced two former Shelby County corrections officers had resigned and nine former inmates were indicted for smuggling drugs and other items into the penal farm.
"It's just one of those situations that shows just how desperate people are. There is a desperation among inmates that want to find other ways to get around the rules of the prison," Shular said.
He said that people will always try to smuggle things into prison, but that their security is being stepped up to try and prevent it from happening.
He said that would include training for the officers, finding ways to strengthen the policies and procedures, and more supervision of the officers themselves.
Police: Local Priest Offered Sex to Officers After Arrest
Fox 8 News Reporter
10:51 p.m. EST, March 2, 2011
A local priest may need more than the Lord's forgiveness after what police officers say he did Sunday night.
"I sum it up as unusual at best," said Brimfield Township Police Chief David Blough.
It started just after 11:45 p.m. Sunday when officers received a report of a car off the side of the road at the intersection of Meloy and Sandylake roads.
Father Ignatius Kury was laying down in the back seat of the vehicle.
"He was extremely intoxicated," said Chief Blough.
Kury tested three times the legal limit and was taken to the police station for processing. Officers say that's when things really got interesting.
Police rolled a video tape of the incident to protect themselves and use it as evidence in court.
"Because of the fact that one of my officers walked by the holding cell and he was exposing himself," said Chief Blough.
Kury is heard on the tape saying, "I'll give you a sermon on the mount."
According to Chief Blough, the priest's rant lasted over 20 minutes during which he threatened and propositioned officers.
Kury is heard saying, "I'll pay you whatever you want. What do you want? Want me to give you a [expletive]? Is that what you want ?" "Do you want me to be a sexual slave?"
Eventually, Kury was released on bond.
He could've faced additional charges for his actions inside the holding cell, but Chief Blough says the OVI charge and videotape are punishment enough.
Kury will have his first court hearing March 4, 2011.
No one could be reached for comment at Father Kury's parish, Holy Ghost Ukrainian Byzantine Catholic Church, on Brown Street in Akron.
Jodi S. Cohen and Lisa Black
12:13 PM CST, March 3, 2011
Northwestern University President Morton Schapiro said today he is "troubled and disappointed" by the live sex toy demonstration on campus last week and has launched an investigation.
He released a statement saying the university is looking into the appropriateness of the demonstration, where about 100 students in a psychology class witnessed a naked woman being penetrated by a sex toy.
Schapiro called the decision by Professor J. Michael Bailey "extremely poor judgment."
"Although the incident took place in an after-class session that students were not required to attend, and students were advised in advance, several times, of the explicit nature of the activity, I feel it represented extremely poor judgment on the part of our faculty member. I simply do not believe this was appropriate, necessary or in keeping with Northwestern University’s academic mission," Schapiro said.
"Northwestern faculty members engage in teaching and research on a wide variety of topics, some of them controversial. That is the nature of a university. However, in this instance, I have directed that we investigate fully the specifics of this incident, and also clarify what constitutes appropriate pedagogy, both in this instance and in the future," he said.
"Many members of the Northwestern community are disturbed by what took place on our campus. So am I."
Bailey has defended the demonstration. In a statement Wednesday night, he said "the students find the events to be quite valuable, typically, because engaging real people in conversation provides useful examples and extensions of concepts students learn about in traditional academic ways."
Northwestern has acknowledged paying guest lecturer Ken Melvoin-Berg, co-owner of Weird Chicago Tours, several hundred dollars for a Feb. 21 discussion of bondage, swinging and other sexual fetishes where the demonstration took place.
Bailey gets extra funding from the university’s College of Arts & Sciences for lectures and other activities he routinely holds after class.
After an initial discussion at Ryan Family Auditorium, the class was told a couple was going to demonstrate the use of a sex toy and female orgasm.
“Both Professor Bailey and myself gave them five or six warnings about what was about to happen and it would be graphic,” Melvoin-Berg said.
The woman undressed and got on stage with her male partner, who used a device that looks like a machine-powered saw with a phallic object instead of a blade. Melvoin-Berg said the couple are exhibitionists who enjoy having people watch them have sex, and they were not paid for the demonstration.
Jim Marcus said he and his fiancé hadn’t planned to demonstrate the sex act at first, but decided to do so after the class watched a video on female orgasm that he thought was unrealistic. They already had brought the equipment to show as part of the discussion.
“It seems like a human sexuality class is a smart place to dispel some of the mistakes that we saw in the video,” said Marcus, a musician who also teaches sex education.
He said the demonstration with his fiancé, Faith Kroll, was different from a live sex show or pornography.
“I was more than happy to. We have fun with it,” Kroll said. “I’m an exhibitionist. I enjoy the attention, being seen by other people. It was entertaining because there were a lot of curious minds, so that was cool.”
Marcus insisted that "what we did was not designed to titillate people, but to educate people,” noting that the demonstration was accompanied by a discussion about safety and consent, for example.
“I hope (Bailey) doesn’t take a lot of flak for this," Marcus said Wednesday night. "But I suspect he will."
There were 567 students registered for Bailey’s class. According to a description of Bailey’s class, it “will treat human sexuality as a subject for scientific inquiry,” with topics including human mating, sexual arousal and sexual jealousy.
Bailey is no stranger to controversy. In 2003, he was criticized by several transsexual women who said they did not give him permission to use their stories in his book, “The Man who Would be Queen: The Science of Gender-Bending and Transsexualism.”
The academic world was buzzing over the Northwestern controversy, with articles posted at the Higher Chronicle of Education and Inside Higher Ed websites.
The American Association of University Professors defines academic freedom as the freedom to teach, conduct research, address institutional policy and speak on broader social, economic and political interests, said Greg Scholtz, a director at the Washington-based organization.
He declined to weigh in on the Northwestern controversy, but said “if a question arises as to the fitness of a faculty member, that question should be reviewed by his faculty peers.”
“First, academic freedom does not protect professional misconduct and incompetence in teaching research. The question is, who is to determine whether something is of a nature of misconduct or incompetence?”
LINK TO VIDEO:
LINK TO STATEMENT FROM UNIVERSITY SPOKESPERSON:
What happens to America – and the NFL – if there's no football?
March 2, 2011 at 5:49 pm EST
What if NFL labor talks break down Thursday and football owners lock out their players?
On one hand, lack of agreement by the Thursday midnight deadline wouldn't preclude more negotiations between rich players and even richer owners over the $9 billion chunk of change that is the league's annual honey pot.
But a lockout puts the 2011 NFL season into question. And that prospect is one that the NFL deeply wants to avoid, worried that any lost games – or an entirely lost season – could cost the league its status as the unrivaled king of the American sports landscape.
But would it?
In a press conference before the Super Bowl last month, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said pro football was not immune to the kind of fan backlash that struck Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League in the years after they lost seasons to labor disputes.
“I have said repeatedly that the fans want football and if we are not successful in reaching an agreement that [backlash] will be toward the commissioner, toward the clubs, toward the players, toward everyone involved,” Mr. Goodell said Feb. 4.
Baseball needed a steroid-induced home run chase to recover from canceling the last two months of its regular season and the World Series in 1994. Hockey has only now begun to recover from its 2004-2005 lockout year, boosted by rule changes to make the game higher scoring and the emergence of stars Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin.
Yet the NFL's connection to modern America might be so deep that it can weather labor troubles better than baseball and hockey did. The once-a-week Sunday ritual, the devotion to fantasy football leagues, and the fascination with the gladiatorial nature of pro football makes it a sport that is difficult to replace.
“It will bounce back, because it meets a function in society, even though it goes through readjustments from time to time," says Bowling Green University sociologist Eldon Snyder, author of an article in the Journal of American Culture called "Football and American Identity."
The 1987 players strike, where owners used replacement players, irritated fans and led to less-than-full stadiums but did not irrevocably damage the game. Since that time, the popularity of the game has risen year by year.
The two sides in the current dispute are split about how to divvy up $9 billion in gate and TV revenues. Included in that equation are issues including a rookie wage scale and a proposal to add two more games to the current 16-game season.
If an agreement isn't met by Thursday, players have vowed to decertify the National Football League Players Association ahead of the deadline. While the stated reason is so players can take the NFL to court for antitrust violations, dismantling the union would also give players the ability to sign personal contracts directly with teams.
Given what happened in 1987, when striking players stepped over the picket line after only five weeks of replacement play, owners are confident that a work stoppage would cause today's players to buckle to owners' demands in late spring or early summer rather than August, at the start of training camp, says University of Illinois labor expert Michael LeRoy.
At least publicly, however, the NFL's players and owners aren't taking fans for granted.
"We want the fans to know that we're trying. We're trying," NFL general counsel Jeff Pash told the AP. "We understand our responsibility, and if we don't get it done, we know that we'll have let them down. And we take that very seriously. So do our owners."
Wednesday, Mar. 02, 2011
Police say school employees tried to poison coworker
Police say two South Stanly High School employees tried to poison a coworker.
Eileen Hallamore, 64, and Angela Johnson, 38, are charged with distributing food containing poison. Hallamore and Johnson were arrested Tuesday.
Police say the women tried to poison the victim by putting something in her tea.
Hallamore and Johnson are both out on bond and scheduled to appear in court on April 25, 2011.
By Glenn Kahl
March 1, 2011 1:52 a.m.
Christopher Carroll. (Courtesy San Joaquin County Jail)
Well, That Was Fast: Health Officials Stop Sales of Breast Milk Ice Cream
March 2, 2011
They'll be no more milk from mommy for customers of The Icecreamists, after local government officials confiscated ice cream made from human breast milk.
The action came on Monday, when representatives of Westminster City Council removed the offending dairy products from the central London store. The infamous "Baby Gaga" ice cream was launched last week amid a flurry of press attention.
But it seems not everyone was enraptured by the discovery. A number of complaints arrived at the City Council's door questioning the sale of edibles made from bodily fluids, and the myriad health hazards this could entail. It was these complaints that prompted the confiscation of the ice cream.
Officials from the Council said that the product is now being thoroughly tested with full cooperation from the producers, The Icecreamists. Although the company insists that the milk was screened in line with blood donor requirements before it was processed, this further testing and guidance from the UK's Food Standards Agency will be needed before it can be put back on the market.
The daring dessert is lightly flavored with lemon zest and vanilla pods and is served in a martini glass, to whichever brave customer is willing, and eager to fork out £14 ($22.50) for their taste of the trend. The ice cream sold out as soon as it launched on Friday, but further production is in the pipeline, with more women coming forward offering to donate milk. The first batch was sourced from women, paid by the company, who had responded to an online ad calling for their breast milk.
Matt O'Connor, founder of The Icecreamists said that "As far as we are aware there is no law prohibiting a business from selling breast milk ice cream," and that the company had had a "huge response" to the new product line. The company's website proclaims them to be "Agents of Cool" who are "liberating the world one lick at a time." But it looks like the world might need a bit more time to come round to the idea of 'breast milk' ice cream. (Via Yahoo News)
Westboro Baptist Church Wins Supreme Court Appeal Over Funeral Protests
MARK SHERMAN 03/ 2/11 08:09 PM
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that a grieving father's pain over mocking protests at his Marine son's funeral must yield to First Amendment protections for free speech. All but one justice sided with a fundamentalist church that has stirred outrage with raucous demonstrations contending God is punishing the military for the nation's tolerance of homosexuality.
The 8-1 decision in favor of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., was the latest in a line of court rulings that, as Chief Justice John Roberts said in his opinion for the court, protects "even hurtful speech on public issues to ensure that we do not stifle public debate."
The decision ended a lawsuit by Albert Snyder, who sued church members for the emotional pain they caused by showing up at his son Matthew's funeral. As they have at hundreds of other funerals, the Westboro members held signs with provocative messages, including "Thank God for dead soldiers," `'You're Going to Hell," `'God Hates the USA/Thank God for 9/11," and one that combined the U.S. Marine Corps motto, Semper Fi, with a slur against gay men.
Justice Samuel Alito, the lone dissenter, said Snyder wanted only to "bury his son in peace." Instead, Alito said, the protesters "brutally attacked" Matthew Snyder to attract public attention. "Our profound national commitment to free and open debate is not a license for the vicious verbal assault that occurred in this case," he said.
The ruling, though, was in line with many earlier court decisions that said the First Amendment exists to protect robust debate on public issues and free expression, no matter how distasteful. A year ago, the justices struck down a federal ban on videos that show graphic violence against animals. In 1988, the court unanimously overturned a verdict for the Rev. Jerry Falwell in his libel lawsuit against Hustler magazine founder Larry Flynt over a raunchy parody ad.
What might have made this case different was that the Snyders are not celebrities or public officials but private citizens. Both Roberts and Alito agreed that the Snyders were the innocent victims of the long-running campaign by the church's pastor, the Rev. Fred Phelps, and his family members who make up most of the Westboro Baptist Church. Roberts said there was no doubt the protesters added to Albert Snyder's "already incalculable grief."
But Roberts said the frequency of the protests – and the church's practice of demonstrating against Catholics, Jews and many other groups – is an indication that Phelps and his flock were not mounting a personal attack against Snyder but expressing deeply held views on public topics.
Indeed, Matthew Snyder was not gay. But "Westboro believes that God is killing American soldiers as punishment for the nation's sinful policies," Roberts said.
"Speech is powerful. It can stir people to action, move them to tears of both joy and sorrow, and – as it did here – inflict great pain. On the facts before us, we cannot react to that pain by punishing the speaker," Roberts said.
Snyder's reaction, at a news conference in York, Pa.: "My first thought was, eight justices don't have the common sense God gave a goat." He added, "We found out today we can no longer bury our dead in this country with dignity."
He said it was possible he would have to pay the Phelpses around $100,000, which they are seeking in legal fees, since he lost the lawsuit. The money would, in effect, finance more of the same activity he fought against, Snyder said.
Margie Phelps, a daughter of the minister and a lawyer who argued the case at the Supreme Court, said she expected the outcome. "The only surprise is that Justice Alito did not feel compelled to follow his oath," Phelps said. "We read the law. We follow the law. The only way for a different ruling is to shred the First Amendment."
She also offered her church's view of the decision. "I think it's pretty self-explanatory, but here's the core point: the wrath of God is pouring onto this land. Rather than trying to shut us up, use your platforms to tell this nation to mourn for your sins."
Veterans groups reacted to the ruling with dismay. Veterans of Foreign Wars national commander Richard L. Eubank said, "The Westboro Baptist Church may think they have won, but the VFW will continue to support community efforts to ensure no one hears their voice, because the right to free speech does not trump a family's right to mourn in private."
The picketers obeyed police instructions and stood about 1,000 feet from the Catholic church in Westminster, Md., where the funeral took place in March of 2006.
The protesters drew counter-demonstrators, as well as media coverage and a heavy police presence to maintain order. The result was a spectacle that led to altering the route of the funeral procession.
Several weeks later, Albert Snyder was surfing the Internet for tributes to his son from other soldiers and strangers when he came upon a poem on the church's website that assailed Matthew's parents for the way they brought up their son.
Soon after, Snyder filed a lawsuit accusing the Phelpses of intentionally inflicting emotional distress. He won $11 million at trial, later reduced by a judge to $5 million.
The federal appeals court in Richmond, Va., threw out the verdict and said the Constitution shielded the church members from liability. The Supreme Court agreed.
Forty-eight states, 42 U.S. senators and veterans groups had sided with Snyder, asking the court to shield funerals from the Phelps family's "psychological terrorism."
While distancing themselves from the church's message, media organizations, including The Associated Press, urged the court to side with the Phelps family because of concerns that a victory for Snyder could erode speech rights.
Roberts described the court's holding as narrow, and in a separate opinion Justice Stephen Breyer suggested that in other circumstances governments would not be "powerless to provide private individuals with necessary protection."
But in this case, Breyer said, it would be wrong to "punish Westboro for seeking to communicate its views on matters of public concern."
Associated Press writer Maria Sudekum Fisher in Kansas City, Mo., contributed to this report.
Billboards Claim To Know When Christ Will Return
Candace McCowan 2:22 p.m. CST, March 2, 2011
Obama's 'Where's Waldo?' presidency
Wednesday, March 2, 2011; 12:00 AM
For a man who won office talking about change we can believe in, Barack Obama can be a strangely passive president. There are a startling number of occasions in which the president has been missing in action - unwilling, reluctant or late to weigh in on the issue of the moment. He is, too often, more reactive than inspirational, more cautious than forceful.
Each of these instances can be explained on its own terms, as matters of legislative strategy, geopolitical calculation or political prudence.
He didn't want to get mired in legislative details during the health-care debate for fear of repeating the Clinton administration's prescriptive, take-ours-or-leave-it approach. He doesn't want to go first on proposing entitlement reform because history teaches that this is not the best route to a deal. He didn't want to say anything too tough about Libya for fear of endangering Americans trapped there. He didn't want to weigh in on the labor battle in Wisconsin because, well, it's a swing state.
Yet the dots connect to form an unsettling portrait of a "Where's Waldo?" presidency: You frequently have to squint to find the White House amid the larger landscape.
This tough assessment from someone who generally shares the president's ideological perspective may be hard to square with the conservative portrait of Obama as the rapacious perpetrator of a big-government agenda. If the president is being simultaneously accused of overreaching ambition and gutless fight-ducking, maybe he's doing something right.
Maybe, or else Obama has at times managed to do both simultaneously. On health care, for instance, he took on a big fight without being able to articulate a clear message or being willing to set out any but the broadest policy prescriptions. Lawmakers, not to mention the public, were left guessing about what, exactly, the administration wanted to see in the measure and where it would draw red lines.
That was not an isolated case. Where, for example, is the president on the verge of a potential government shutdown - if not this week, then a few weeks from now?
Aside from a short statement from the Office of Management and Budget threatening a presidential veto of the House version of the funding measure, the White House - much to the frustration of some congressional Democrats - has been unclear in public and private about what cuts would and would not be acceptable.
By contrast, a few weeks before the shutdown in 1995, Clinton administration aides had dispatched Cabinet members and other high-ranking officials to spread the message that cuts in education, health care and housing would harm families and children. Obama seems more the passive bystander to negotiations between the House and Senate than the chief executive leading his party.
He performs best on a stage that permits the grandest sweep. He rises to the big occasion, from his inspiring introduction to the public in his 2004 Demoncratic convention speed to his healing words in the aftermath of the Tucson shootings. The president has faltered, though, when called on to translate that rhetoric to more granular levels of specificity: What change, exactly, does he want people to believe in? How, even more exactly, does he propose to get there? "Winning the future" doesn't quite do it.
My biggest beef is with the president's slipperiness on fiscal matters. Obama has said he agrees with some of his fiscal commission's recommendations and disagrees with others. Which ones does he disagree with? I asked this question the other day of Austan Goolsbee, the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers.
Here's what I got: "The view espoused by some of the . . . commission that we ought to do Social Security 100 percent off of benefit cuts for sure he doesn't agree with." But of course, the plan that 11 of the commission members endorsed did nothing of the sort.
I was unfair to Goolsbee because I asked him a question he didn't have the leeway to answer. You can't blame the aide for ducking when the boss fudges.
Where's Obama? No matter how hard you look, sometimes he's impossible to find.
Thursday, December 2, 2010
Last Updated Monday, Mar 01, 2011 10:09am
Is Sarah Palin smart enough to be president?
Good question. Are you? Come on now — no false modesty. No quips about being smart enough not to run for president, or any other dodges. The question is do you think you are smart enough to be CEO of the United States of America, and to, as the presidential oath puts it, “faithfully execute the office of president of the United States, and … to the best of [your] ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States?” That’s a pretty simple and straight- forward job description — think you’re smart enough to handle it? Or put the question another way: Do you think you’re too dumb to be president? Again, no false modesty. Fess up. If it’s any comfort, I think it’s a good bet that you are smart enough to be president. This isn’t because you’re so <snip>ed smart; it’s because being president of the United States, although it requires some extraordinary personal attributes, doesn’t demand extraordinary intelligence and erudition.
The truth is that when it comes to running the United States, you don’t have to be much above average in terms of smarts. The genius of the Constitution is that it created a government that doesn’t require a genius to run it. Academic credentialing, which supposedly says something about a person’s smarts, hasn’t been much of a predictor of success when it comes to the presidency.
While it is true that most American presidents have had university degrees, the two greatest — Washington and Lincoln — did not.
Washington was home-schooled; his hopes for a formal education in England ended with his father’s death in 1743 when he was 11. (He eventually earned a Surveyor’s Certificate from the College of William and Mary.)
Lincoln had about 18 months of formal schooling. His legal education consisted of reading law books after he was elected to the Illinois legislature.
You would have to be pretty dumb to argue that the lack of formal education, never mind college degrees, rendered either Washington or Lincoln unfit for the presidency.
Between 1789 and 1869, seven of the first 17 U.S. presidents didn’t have college degrees. (Washington, Jackson, Van Buren, Taylor, Fillmore, Lincoln and Andrew Johnson.)
From 1869 to the present, only two presidents lacked college degrees — Grover Cleveland and Harry Truman. History’s judgment of both has been “better than average.”
If you are going to run the United States, it certainly helps to be intelligent and reasonably well educated, but there are more important qualities to have.
What might those be? Well, that’s a question that a senior colloquium in American government could argue about all semester. However, my personal answer comes not from political science, but from poetry. It’s the list of character traits in Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If.” Here are some of them, cast as questions to a potential candidate and semi-delyriced (if that’s a word) to keep the poetry from distracting from the content:
Can you keep your head in a crisis when all your advisers and political allies are panicking and blaming you? (It’s something that can be a big plus when your finger is on the nuclear trigger.)
Can you trust yourself when everyone doubts you, but make allowance for their doubting, too? (Like Bush, ordering the surge in Iraq.)
Can you dream — and not make dreams your master? Can you think — and not make thoughts your aim? ( JFK and Theodore Roosevelt could.)
Can you talk with crowds and keep your virtue? (Obama may have a problem here.)
Can you walk with kings and not lose the common touch? (Reagan could and did.)
Can you wait and not be tired by waiting? (Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Ford, Carter, and Reagan could. That’s why we won the Cold War.)
Do you have the inner strength and tenacity to keep going after you have nothing left in the tank physically, intellectually or emotionally except the will that says to you, “Hold on.” (Think Lincoln in 1864. Think Ulysses S. Grant’s entire life.)
Do all men count with you, but none too much? (The prime directive for any democratically elected political leader is to do the greatest good for the greatest number. In order to do that, all men must count with you, but none too much.)
And so on. These “presidential” qualities are expressions of morality, integrity, character, even wisdom, but not necessarily of smarts.
So to return to the original question: Is Sarah Palin smart enough to be President? Yes, she is, and so are you.
But the real question is does Sarah Palin have what it takes to be president? It’s too soon to say, but I think if measured against the Kipling standard, she would stack up pretty well — probably better than a lot of those who have occupied the Oval Office.
The South's small-government, pro-business, boot-strap ideals are drawing jobs to states in the region. That economic model may hold appeal for Wisconsin's Scott Walker and other Northern GOP governors. But it also has a dark side.
If Gov. Scott Walker (R) has his way in the labor dispute that has rocked Wisconsin for two weeks, will his state in effect look a lot more like those in the South?
Their economies marked by weak unions, a business-friendly climate, a thin social safety net, and lower taxes, Southern states may be an inspiration to some Northern politicians looking to grow jobs and dig out of budgetary holes.
Governors around the United States are "really under tremendous pressure ... to transform their economies," said Bruce Katz, director of metropolitan policy at the Brookings Institution, at a recent symposium. Collectively, states' deficits for the next fiscal year add up to $125 billion, forcing at least 41 states to propose cuts in education. Help from the federal government is probably not on the way, either, with Congress having no appetite for another stimulus bill or a bailout.
That leaves financially strapped states looking around for other solutions, and their gaze may be fastening on what some economists call the South's "moonlight and magnolias" strategy. Under that economic construct, the focus is on creating a competitive place to locate businesses, so the premium is on investments in benefits for corporations and on keeping wages relatively low. Worker rights, social services, even education take a back seat to "job creators" under this model – which critics denounce as a race to the bottom.
"Members of the modern Republican Party, and the 'Tea Party movement' in particular, gravitate naturally toward models of growth that treat public programs and investments as mere obstacles in the path of dynamic corporate 'job creators,' '' writes Ed Kilgore, a fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute, in The New Republic this week. "Many look South in admiration." But "if Wisconsin and other states – not to mention the country as a whole – end up adopting these atavistic economic ideals," warns Mr. Kilgore, "they will simply begin to resemble the dysfunctional Old South societies that spawned them in the first place."
Others note, though, that people are voting with their feet. Northerners – including African-Americans – have decamped in a massive migration to the South during the past two decades, evidently perceiving that's where the jobs are going.
"When you talk about folks in New Jersey, Ohio, and Wisconsin, there's not a lot of optimism about the future right now," says David Woodard, a political scientist at Clemson University, in South Carolina. "They're not as optimistic as someone living in Atlanta."
Of the top 10 states with the smallest share of public employees eligible for collective bargaining, nine are in the South. In Wisconsin, Governor Walker is trying to curtail unions' collective bargaining rights; other states seek steep concessions in pay and benefits from public employee unions to close budget gaps and make their states more competitive.
The top 10 entrepreneurial states, moreover, are all in the South and the West – and all in so-called right-to-work states that ban closed union shops, according to the Kaufmann Index of Entrepreneurial Activity.
For many Southerners, the strategy is hardly a race to the bottom. Blacks on average now make more money in the South than they do in the North. Professor Woodard relates the story of a former South Carolina landscaper who used to drive a beat-up Chevy pickup truck but now works at the nonunion BMW plant in Greenville, S.C. He drives a new BMW, and "you couldn't convince him that he's worse off," says Woodard.
Wisconsin's Walker has said that stronger taxpayer representation in state governments will pave the way for economic recovery – and eventually more opportunity for all. But getting there means breaking a social compact that has been in place since the 1950s and that was strengthened in the 1990s boom years, when many public employee unions secured generous health and pension benefits in exchange for slightly lower pay scales.
Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R), who has without much opposition cut pay and benefits for state workers in order to offer incentive packages for corporations, supports Walker's moves in Wisconsin. (A new Toyota plant is opening in Mississippi this year.)
"When they have collective bargaining in Wisconsin, on one side of the table there's state employee unions or the local employee unions. On the other side of the table are politicians that they paid for the election of those politicians," the potential presidential aspirant tells the Washington Post. "Now, who represents the taxpayers in that negotiation? Well, actually, nobody."
There is a darker side to the Southern model. Former slave states and territories have greater income disparities, receive more in federal subsidies than the tax dollars they send to Washington, and lag behind in educational achievement, especially for the poorest residents. Critics say that's what happens when economic policies put the "job creators" ahead of consumers of state services and benefits, including education.
Southern states receive more than their fair share of federal dollars per resident largely because they get a lot of farm and military subsidies, have fewer high-wage earners, and in effect outsource much of their indigent care to Washington. Obviously, the federal government could not long afford a situation in which a greater number of states get more federal dollars than they give. The US would need to cut entitlements and social programs much more than lawmakers in Congress – including GOP conservatives – are currently contemplating.
"Texas, for example, has a huge debt problem, and it's a state with no social safety net to begin with and they're now planning to cut services for the needy more deeply," says Norm Ornstein, a fellow with the nonpartisan American Enterprise Institute in Washington. "The great irony here is that people who are now most agitated about deficits and debt are the ones who not only want to keep $4 trillion in tax cuts, but want to have even more tax cuts."
That core idea – that tax-cut opportunity trumps tax-paid benefits – is built into the South's Jeffersonian society, which backs limits on federal power and promotes the state's role in safeguarding individual property and rights. It comes at a price. "By design, life is tougher in the South," concedes Clemson's Woodard.
Diagnosing Charlie Sheen, from afar
Actor Charlie Sheen talks to ABC News' Andrea Canning for a "20/20" broadcast airing Tuesday. (Reuters / ABC News)
"WARNING GRAPHIC MATERIAL!!!"
Kayla Henriques confesses to fatal stab of Kamisha Richards in fight over diaper money: cop sources
Originally Published:Tuesday, March 1st 2011, 8:10 AM
Updated: Tuesday, March 1st 2011, 4:32 PM
via FacebookKamisha Richard, left, was allegedly stabbed to death by her boyfriend's sister, Kayla Henriques, right, over a $20 loan for diapers.
A Brooklyn teen was busted Tuesday for fatally stabbing her brother's girlfriend in a fight sparked by an argument over a $20 loan to buy diapers, police sources said.
Kayla Henriques, 18, calmly ate Chinese food after confessing to the Monday night attack in a Brooklyn housing project, sources told the Daily News.
John Jay College graduate Kamisha Richards was knifed once in the chest in the Cypress Hills Houses on Sutter Ave. in East New York about 10:35 p.m., officials said.
"It didn't look like she was stabbed," said a relative of Richard's boyfriend. "She just stumbled, and I caught her. Then all she said was, 'Oh, God.' I tried to help her, stop a rag on to stop the bleeding."
Richards was an on-and-off resident of the Cypress Hills complex, home to her boyfriend of seven years, Ramel Henriques.
Kayla Henriques, known in the neighborhood as KK, is the mother of an 11-month-old boy. She was grabbed by police in a building near the crime scene.
Facebook exchanges from over the weekend showed Richards and Henriques trading online insults.
"Kayla now u getin outa hand...I hope u having fun entertaining the world...Trust, IMA HAVE THE LAST LAUGH!!!" Richards posted Sunday night.
Kayla Henriques offered a terse, ominous reply: "We will see."
Kayla Henriques, 18, is known as KK. Via Facebook.
One of Henriques' uncles said the hard feelings escalated through a series of text messages.
The wounded Richards was discovered by one of her boyfriend's relatives, who came home from work to find the life seeping out of the victim.
"She wasn't panicking," the relative said. "She was calm. I called the ambulance and put pressure on (the wound). I did everything I could to try to save the girl."
Richards - who hoped to apply to law school in the fall - was rushed to Brookdale University Hospital, but never opened her eyes again.
"My daughter's dead!" the victim's father screamed out at the crime scene, where about 25 stunned relatives and friends gathered. "My daughter's dead!"
Richards was a graduate of John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and relatives said she worked security for JPMorgan Chase.
Richards' friends and relatives said the victim had recently loaned the sister $20 to buy disposable diapers and milk for KK's infant - and became angry after learning the money was spent on other things.
"My daughter takes care of the whole family there," Richards' father said. "(The sister) had a baby recently. My daughter gave her $20 to go buy some milk and Pampers. She went and spent the money on something else. They argued about it. ... She (the boyfriend's sister) waited for her to come home from work, and did her."
A relative of the sister said the woman acted in self-defense.
"She said she didn't mean to do it," the woman said. "They were arguing. Kamisha tried to stab her with scissors, and it was self-defense. She said that she came at her and she had to do it. She was sorry. That's all she kept saying, that it wasn't supposed to be like this."
The relative said the boyfriend is "devastated."
"He was just crying, asking why," the relative said. "We were all crying. Kamisha was like my sister.
"I just wish this was a dream."
Poll: Blame for possible government shutdown is divided
Jon Cohen and Paul Kane
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, March 1, 2011; 12:24 AM
Americans are divided over who would be to blame for a potential government shutdown, with large numbers saying Republicans and President Obama are playing politics with the issue, according to a new Washington Post poll.
Thirty-six percent say Republicans would be at fault if the two sides cannot reach a budget deal in time to avert a temporary stoppage of government services, and just about as many, 35 percent, say primary responsibility would rest with the Obama administration. Nearly one in five say the two camps would be equally culpable.
Obama and congressional leaders are on the verge of passing an interim spending bill to keep federal agencies open through March 18, giving themselves an extra two weeks to try to craft a longer-term bill that would fund the government for the remainder of fiscal 2011. The poll results suggest that neither side would likely have much to gain politically in the near term from allowing the government to close.
The new numbers contrast with a Post-ABC poll taken just before the brief November 1995 shutdown, which was followed by a three-week closure of many agencies. There are similarities between then and now: In both cases, a new Republican-led Congress clashed with a Democratic president who was in the second half of his first term.
But in 1995, when Bill Clinton was president, 46 percent said they would blame House Speaker Newt Gingrich and congressional Republicans for the impending stoppage, compared with 27 percent who said Clinton would be at fault.
If there is a government shutdown, the decisive group to watch would be independent voters, who form the bulk of those who said they had not decided who would be to blame. On the question of blame, conducted jointly by The Post and the Pew Research Center, about three-quarters of conservative Republicans fault Obama; a similar proportion of liberal Democrats blame the GOP. Independents tilt marginally toward blaming Obama, 37 to 32 percent.
The chances of a shutdown later this week are waningas Democrats have increasingly embraced the House Republican proposal of providing two weeks of funding at current levels in exchange for $4 billion worth of budget cuts.
White House press secretary Jay Carney said Monday the administration was "pleased" with progress on Capitol Hill toward the stopgap measure, but warned against the prospect of keeping the government open for business by continuing to pass short-term funding resolutions through the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30.
"If we keep returning to this process every couple of weeks, that will be bad for the economy because of the uncertainty it creates," Carney said in a briefing with reporters.
House Republicans expect to approve the interim measure Tuesday, sending it to the Senate for likely passage before the Friday deadline to keep the government functioning through the weekend and beyond. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) called it "really good news" that Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) has signaled his support for the $4 billion in cuts. But Cantor talked tough on the longer-term negotiation involving the rest of 2011 funding, saying that House Republicans still stood behind their legislation that would cut $61 billion in federal agency funding, to return to 2008 spending levels.
"We are where we are, we're at '08 levels," Cantor said, suggesting Reid needs to make the next move.
Democrats pointed to a new report Monday from Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody's Analytics, which found that the Republican plan would cost 700,000 jobs through 2012, giving fresh ammunition to Democrats seeking to block the proposed GOP cuts. Zandi's report comes after a similar analysis last week by the investment bank Goldman Sachs, which predicted the cuts would do even greater damage to the economy.
Republicans have dismissed both reports as flawed. They cited Stanford University economist John B. Taylor, who argued that the macroeconomic models employed by Zandi and many other independent forecasters - including the Congressional Budget Office - overstate the economic impact of government spending.
If the interim spending plan is signed into law by Friday, as expected, that puts the next potential showdown in mid-March. According to the Post poll, Obama does have some advantages over Republicans.
Like Clinton did in 1995, Obama has an edge over the GOP when it comes to public assessments about whether each side is making a real effort to keep the government open. A third of all Americans say Republicans are trying to resolve the budget battle. For Obama, that number is 10 percentage points higher. Still, 50 percent say the president is just playing politics; 59 percent say so of the GOP.
Democrats and Republicans alike overwhelmingly see the other side as not working to resolve the budget impasse. Among independents, 63 percent say the Republicans are politicking the issue, and a similarly large percentage, 61 percent, say the same about Obama.
The telephone poll was conducted Feb. 24 to 27 among a random national sample of 1,009 adults. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
LINK TO VIDEO:
Perry Bacon Jr., Lori Montgomery, Felicia Sonmez and Peyton Craighill contributed to this report.
Texas State students offer scholarships exclusively for white males
Group founder Colby Bohannan says his demographic is often left out when it comes to college funding.
7:59 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 24, 2011
"I felt excluded," said Bohannan, a Texas State University student. "If everyone else can find scholarships, why are we left out?"
So Bohannan, a mass communication major and Iraq war veteran, and others formed the Former Majority Association for Equality — a San Marcos-based nonprofit group that is offering five $500 scholarships exclusively to white male students.
Bohannan, the group's president, said the name comes from the idea that "if you're not a male, and if you're not white, you're called a minority." However, he said, "I'm not sure white males are the majority anymore."
Recent U.S. census data indicate Bohannan is right, at least in Texas, where Hispanics accounted for two-thirds of the population growth over the past decade and where non-Hispanic whites now make up about 45 percent of residents.
The 501(c)3 nonprofit was formally incorporated with the state in March. The group hasn't received any applications, Bohannan said.
A search of public records indicates Bohannan pleaded no contest to charges of theft of property of less than $500 in 2001 and of issuance of a bad check in 2003. William Lake , the group's treasurer, pleaded no contest to issuance of a bad check in 2008.
Bohannan said he was charged with theft after authorities found a county speed limit sign in his Texas State dorm room and with writing a bad check for groceries, also while in college. Lake said he was charged with writing a bad check while managing a now-defunct business he started. Both said the charges have been disposed of.
Bohannan said the group is raising money — as of Monday , the group had raised $485, according to its website — and that he hopes to award scholarships by July 4. The money can be used to go to any college, not just Texas State, Bohannan said.
Applicants need to be at least 25 percent Caucasian, have a GPA exceeding 3.0 and demonstrate financial need.
"There's a scholarship out there for just about any demographic, except this one," Lake said. "We realize it's for good reason — this is a touchy subject."
Bohannan said the nine-member volunteer board includes three women, one Hispanic and one African American.
Bohannan said that in person, he's only been met with support for his group. But online, he said, he's seen some criticism.
One opinion column that ran in the Texas State newspaper, the University Star, offered praise for evening the scholarship playing field, while another argued aid should not be given on the basis of race or ethnicity at all.
Joanne Smith , Texas State's vice president for student affairs, said the scholarship is no different from ones offered to other ethnic groups. "From the university's standpoint, we can't take issue with a scholarship offered to a certain group."
Bohannan's group isn't the first to offer scholarships only for white students. In 2006, Boston University's College Republicans created a program with similar requirements. A Republican group at a university in Rhode Island offered a similar award in 2004.
Those groups claimed the scholarships made a statement against affirmative action. Bohannan said his group is not taking any stance for or against affirmative action.
"It's time in our society to look at the way our culture views race," he said. "It's time to give everyone an equal shot."
LINK TO PHOTO OF FOUNDER:
Free pancakes at IHOP
When: March 1st : 7 a.m. - 10 p.m.
IHOP restaurants will celebrate National Pancake Day by offering a free shortstack of its famous buttermilk pancakes to each guest. In return, diners will be asked to donate to the Make-A-Wish Foundation
|10:46 PM Feb 28, 2011
Police: Naked burglar found in school ceiling
Police searched Cousins Middle School for more than two hours early Saturday morning, looking for a burglar who set off the school’s security system. When they finally found him, they were surprised that he was completely naked.Reporter: Barbara Knowles, News Editor
COVINGTON — Police searched Cousins Middle School for more than two hours early Saturday morning, looking for a burglar who set off the school’s security system. When they finally found him, they were surprised that he was completely naked.
According to a Covington Police Department incident report, officers, the department’s K-9 Unit, deputies from the Newton County Sheriff’s Office and even firefighters with the Covington Fire Department joined in the two-and-a-half-hour search before finally locating the culprit in the ceiling of the building.
Arrested was Ronald Stephens, 21, of 2805 Lee Court, Conyers, who was charged with criminal trespass, burglary and a probation violation warrant out of Rockdale County.
The incident began about 3:30 a.m. when a CPD officer went to the school located at 8187 Carlton Trail to check out the sounding burglar alarm. He reported noticing a stack of plastic crates that appeared to have been used as a makeshift ladder to the roof.
“A boot was about midway up the stack as if a person climbing had stepped out of their shoe,” the report stated. “The security camera above this door appeared to have been knocked free from the wall it was mounted on.”
Inside some glass doors the officer said he saw two media carts full of electronic equipment. A leaf blower, bolt cutters and a crate full of portable radios were on the ground near the door.
When backup officers arrived, the first officer on the scene began to explain what was going on when he noticed a person moving about inside the hall area behind the door. The person was described as “a tall, slender black male wearing a dark hooded sweatshirt with the hood pulled over his head and some type of white cloth covering his face.”
One of the officers went to the front of the building to watch the front door, while other officers formed a perimeter around the building. The Covington Fire Department was called in to provide additional lighting and a ladder truck to access the roof.
Officers went to the roof and found an entry point through a vent near the kitchen, the report stated.
Inside the building, officers went to the cafeteria and reported hearing movement and noises coming from the ceiling. They also found a damaged cash register and ice cream freezer in the area, as well as damage to the art room and technologies room.
The canine alerted on the ceiling in the technologies room, but when ceiling tiles were removed in that room, the officers did not see the suspect. However, after looking in several other rooms throughout the building, officers returned to the technologies room and removed more tiles.
“Several clothing items, including a black hooded sweatshirt with a set of keys, later identified as janitor keys, and a rubber pair of boots were found in the ceiling,” the report states. “Officers then removed a ceiling panel inside a small room within the classroom. Officers then noticed the suspect crouched and completely naked on top of one of the walls which extended past the ceiling tiles.”
In attempting to climb down from the ceiling, the suspect fell and complained of injury to his elbow and legs that he said occurred prior to the fall. A jail jumpsuit was located for him to wear to the hospital for treatment.
CPD spokesman Lt. Wendell Wagstaff said officers theorized that the reason Stephens was wearing no clothes was that the vent where he entered the building was extremely small.
“It was such a tight fit, he had to take his clothes off to get through there,” Wagstaff said. “His pants, socks and shoes were found on the roof.”
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