Father and 12-year-old daughter booked after fake kidnapping prank
December 31, 2009, 6:05AM
A Lacombe man and his daughter hatched an unusual practical joke to entertain themselves as they drove down Interstate 12: tie the girl's hands, duct-tape her mouth and watch the startled expressions as their fellow drivers noticed the apparent kidnapping in progress.
It was apparently a very realistic depiction. But the man's fellow motorists, who boxed the pickup in until law enforcement arrived, and the deputies who arrested him weren't laughing.
Tim Williams, 45, was returning to St. Tammany Parish with his 12-year-old daughter after
St. Tammany Parish Sheriff's Office
"I don't know who in their right mind would want to play at a child abduction with their 12-year-old daughter," he said.
It's unclear when the two first started the stunt, but at least three motorists called 9-1-1 to report an abduction after seeing the girl bound and gagged in the front seat of the pickup about 3:50 p.m. as the vehicle passed the Louisiana 1077 exit on I-12, Beavers said. Deputies rushed to the highway as several motorists surrounded the truck in an attempt to keep the supposed kidnapper from getting away, he said.
The patrol cars caught up with Williams at the Louisiana 59 exit and learned it was all a prank when they pulled Williams over, Beavers said.
Because of the severity of the situation, Williams was booked into the St. Tammany Parish jail in Covington with criminal mischief and contributing to the delinquency of a minor before being released later in the day on a $3,000 bond. His daughter, who was not identified because she is a juvenile, was cited for criminal mischief and released to the care of an uncle, Beavers said.
"Their lives were put in danger as well as the lives of the general public," Beavers said. "Anything could have happened over that prank. That's why we felt he needed to go to jail for that, too many lives were put in danger to let him go on his way."
Though the situation ended up being far less serious than it initially appeared, Beavers said he was grateful for the keen eyes of the motorists on I-12 and said such alertness could prevent a tragedy in the future.
"Even though it was a false alarm, I'm very glad the public called us and I want them to continue to call us," Beavers said. Even though this was a prank, it could easily not have been."
Tim Williams picking her up from his ex-wife at the Texas state line Wednesday afternoon when the two came up with the idea, St. Tammany Parish Sheriff's Office spokesman Cpl. Sean Beavers said. During the stunt, duct-tape was used to bind the girl's hands and cover her mouth, Beaver said.
Deadly Surprise: Funeral Home Cremates Wrong Woman
Updated 3:30 PM EST, Thu, Dec 31, 2009
It was a tough Christmas for the Tuccillo family of Waterbury. Their mother and grandmother, Aurelie Tuccillo, 95, passed away on Christmas Eve.
When the family arrived at Buckmiller Brothers Funeral Home in Prospect, Conn., for her wake Tuesday night, they were shocked to find another woman's body in Tuccillo's casket.
The family called Prospect Police, who together with Connecticut State Police, searched the funeral home and found out Tuccillo's body had been inadvertently cremated.
"This is certainly an unusual case for the State Police to be involved in, but we'll certainly make every effort to answer all the questions surrounding what happened," said Connecticut State Police Lt. J. Paul Vance.
Wayne Buckmiller, the director of the family-run funeral home, said he is devastated by what he called an "identification mix-up."
He released this statement that read in part, "The funeral home is working closely with the family to resolve this difficult situation and extend our most sincere condolences to them at this challenging time."
When reached by phone, a member of Tuccillo's family said they were too upset to talk.
Wayne Buckmiller says in 75 years in funeral business, a mistake like this has never happened before.
Now State Police are heading up an investigation for the Department of Public Health, which licenses funeral home in Connecticut, looking into what led to the mix-up.
"There probably will be no criminal charges. We've been in contact with State's Attorney and right now the State Police involvement is to conduct the administrative investigation for Department of Public Health, so they can determine if there's any enforcement they need to take from their end," Lt. Vance said.
Department of Public Health Spokesperson Bill Gerrish said once the investigation is complete, the finding will be presented to a committee, which will then decide the next step. One option is stripping the funeral home of its license.
LINK TO PHOTO AND VIDEO:
The top 10 biggest TV blunders of the decade
James Hibberd and Nellie Andreeva
Tue Dec 29, 2009 3:56am EST
LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Perhaps executives toiling in the TV industry should get a pass given all the competitive distractions dwindling their audience, from video games to social networking. And yet, some of their decisions were so memorably boneheaded that we must celebrate these milestone mishaps. Let's start with...
10. FOX CANCELING "FAMILY GUY" (AND, SURE, PERHAPS "FIREFLY" TOO)
Axed TV shows usually stay dead, yet two titles canceled by former Fox chief Sandy Grushow in 2002 refused to go quietly. One was Seth MacFarlane's "Family Guy," which was moved around the schedule and even put opposite top-rated hits "Survivor" and "Friends" before getting yanked. After the show's repeats got strong ratings on Adult Swim and netted big DVD sales, the comedy made its way back to broadcast in 2005. "Family Guy" is now Fox's second-highest-rated scripted series and has produced a successful spinoff ("The Cleveland Show"). As for "Firefly," the show lived on as a theatrical movie ("Serenity") and to this day, no TV series cancellation inspires louder fanboy wails.
9. NBC HIRING BEN SILVERMAN
If you have a great dentist, you shouldn't assume he can perform heart surgery. If your gardener is fantastic, they aren't necessarily a good hair stylist. You know where we're going with this? Silverman was a fine agent and accomplished dealmaker ("The Office," "Ugly Betty"), but NBC chief Jeff Zucker falsely assumed Silverman could therefore run NBC and fit with the network's corporate environment. Coming off a devastating writers strike, NBC needed a General Patton. It got Hulk Hogan ("American Gladiators") and KITT ("Knight Rider" remake). The executive Silverman essentially replaced, Kevin Reilly, moved on to Fox, which is having its strongest fall season in years.
8. ABC'S OVERLOAD ON "WHO WANTS TO BE A MILLIONAIRE"
After a surpassingly strong summer run in 1999, the U.S. version of the British quiz show exploded during the next season. Emboldened by "Millionaire's" success, which catapulted ABC to the top of the ratings, executives increased the frequency of the show's airings to four times a week, and dramatically cut development for the 2000-01 season. "Millionaire" quickly fizzled and by November 2000, ABC had dropped from first to fourth in the ratings and had gaping holes on the schedule. Recovery took years.
7. THE CASTING OF RYAN JENKINS
There's been a slew of reality-show blunders over the past decade. But it's pretty tough to beat failing to uncover in a background check the disturbing criminal history of a man cast on a VH1 dating show who ended up murdering his wife. Ryan Jenkins was a contestant on two series produced by 51 Minds Prods., "Megan Wants a Millionaire" and "I Love Money 3" (the latter he supposedly won). Jenkins was then charged with the murder of his spouse and took his own life. The shows were canceled, and the casting process for reality shows are undergoing heightened scrutiny.
6. DUMPING JAY LENO FROM NBC'S "THE TONIGHT SHOW"
Leno's new primetime show is like New Coke: A product nobody wanted replacing a product everybody liked. There are many reasons why NBC moved Leno to 10 p.m. to honor an agreement to give Conan O'Brien "The Tonight Show." But none of the explanations add up to a convincing excuse for ousting a talk show host who dominated his time period every night.
5. ELECTION NIGHT COVERAGE IN 2000
The evening not only went down as TV news divisions' biggest blunder in recent memory, it also led to sweeping changes in how networks announce election results. At 8 p.m. ET on November 7, all major networks called Florida for Al Gore, then moved the state back to the undecided column at 10 p.m. At 2 a.m., Fox News Channel, with George W. Bush's first cousin John Ellis running its election desk, was the first to project Florida -- and the presidency -- for the Texas governor. All networks followed suit until that call, too, was retracted and the state was pronounced again "too close to call" at 4 a.m. "We don't just have egg on our face," NBC's lead anchor Tom Brokaw said that morning. "We have an omelet on our suits."
It was bad enough combining UPN and the WB into one new network -- the CW. But the biggest misstep was what happened to stations that did not join the CW. Regrouped by Fox Entertainment Group into a sixth broadcast network called MyNetworkTV, the company launched a bizarre plan to stock the network exclusively with original low-cost English-language telenovelas. The programing flopped out of the gate, and today MyNetworkTV largely airs syndicated programing and repeats.
3. JANET JACKSON'S SUPER BOWL NIPPLE SLIP
The biggest problem was that it looked intentional. When Justin Timberlake ripped off fabric covering Janet Jackson's right breast for a half-second on live TV during CBS' Super Bowl halftime show, the resulting firestorm saw CBS get slapped with a record $550,000 fine from the FCC -- about a dollar for every complaint the commission received from viewers. The "wardrobe malfunction" led to increased worry about FCC fines and pre-emptive editing of risque content on scripted shows, as well as more vigilance on live telecasts.
2. ABC PASSING ON "CSI"
In the fall of 1999, ABC was pitched a new forensic drama from writer Anthony Zuiker, Disney corporate sibling Touchstone Television and studio-based producer Jerry Bruckheimer. The network passed. Then, in the summer of 2000, when "CSI" went into production as a new series for CBS, Touchstone, which was a 50/50 producing partner on the show, dramatically pulled out, not wanting to finance a show for a rival network. So far, the "CSI" franchise has generated $6 billion for CBS. What's more, the "CSI" snafu prompted Bruckheimer to leave Disney's TV divisions for CBS and its sister studio, generating billions more for them with a string of long-running procedurals such as "Without a Trace" and "Cold Case" and the Emmy-dominant reality veteran "The Amazing Race."
1. WRITERS STRIKE
Has there ever been a longer 14 weeks? The 2007-08 walkout was a largely avoidable mutually destructive act that occurred at exactly the wrong time. In addition to almost wiping out an entire pilot season, the strike sent shows into repeats, driving a ratings crash that broadcasters have not been able to recover from thanks to increased DVR use and viewers fleeing to cable. In the end, writers outmaneuvered the studios, but few felt as if they actually won.
Woman's blood alcohol content topples state records
Wednesday, December 30, 2009 9:15 am
A Sturgis woman had a blood-alcohol level of .708 percent, possibly a state record, when she was found earlier this month behind the wheel of a stolen vehicle parked on Interstate 90, according to Meade County State’s Attorney Jesse Sondreal.
A South Dakota Highway Patrol trooper discovered Marguerite Engle, 45, on Dec. 1 passed out behind the wheel of a delivery truck reported stolen in Rapid City.
Her blood-alcohol level was almost nine times South Dakota’s legal limit of .08 percent.
Checks with local and state labs where blood-alcohol levels are tested suggest Engle’s reading may be the highest ever recorded in South Dakota, Sondreal said.
Sondreal said a state chemist recalled a sample that tested .53, but nothing higher, in his more than 30 years on the job.
Dr. Robert Looyenga, who recently retired from the Rapid City Police Department’s forensic laboratory, told Sondreal that the highest blood-alcohol sample he tested measured .56 percent.
Sondreal’s research indicates that a blood-alcohol level of .40 is considered a lethal dose for about 50 percent of the population.
“Engle’s was almost double that,” Sondreal said.
After she was found, Engle was hospitalized and freed on bond.
She failed to appear in court on Dec. 15, but Sturgis police located her Monday evening in another stolen car sitting in a ditch along S.D. Highway 34 near Fort Meade.
Engle was arrested for second offense driving under the influence and taken to jail.
Engle made her initial appearance in Meade County magistrate court Tuesday. She is being held without bond.
Sondreal said Engle has been living in a hotel after recently moving here from Minnesota. Engle is most likely facing charges in Pennington County since both vehicles were stolen in Rapid City, Sondreal said.
Rush Limbaugh taken to hospital with chest pain
December 31, 2009 1:33 a.m. EST
Honolulu, Hawaii (CNN) -- Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh was taken to a Honolulu hospital with chest pains Wednesday, a show staffer said.
"Rush was admitted to and is resting comfortably in a Honolulu hospital today after suffering chest pains," Kit Carson, the chief of staff for the Rush Limbaugh Show, said.
A source at the Queen's Medical Center told CNN that Limbaugh was admitted late afternoon in "serious condition" and is expected to stay overnight.
The hospital itself would not confirm or deny that Limbaugh was taken there.
Bryan Cheplic, spokesman for the Honolulu Emergency Services Department, would only say that a man was taken from the Kahala Hotel and Resort at 2:41 p.m.
"Whether it was Rush Limbaugh, we cannot say," he said.
Limbaugh was staying at the resort at the time.
Limbaugh's attorney, Roy Black, told CNN he had heard about the hospital trip from media reports. "We are worried about it," he said.
Limbaugh's radio show is broadcast on more than 600 stations and is heard by more than 13.5 million listeners each week.
Last year, he struck a deal with Clear Channel Communications to extend his contract through 2016. The deal is worth more than $400 million.
1:48 p.m. Dec. 30, 2009
Detroit man arraigned in fatal shooting of intruder
NAOMI R. PATTON
FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER
A magistrate in Detroit's 36th District Court entered a not guilty plea today for Tigh Croff, who is charged with second-degree homicide and felony firearm charges after police say he shot and killed a man he believed was trying to rob his home.
Croff was arraigned by video wearing a security guard’s uniform, a blue shirt with black epaulets and black tie with patches on each arm from the apparent security company.
The magistrate, Steve Lockhart, gave Croff a $40,000 cash bond. Though the homicide charge would normally carry no bond, Lockhart said he would “take note of both an arguable defense claim … or an imperfect self-defense claim.”
Lockhart added the defense also could make a heat of passion argument.
Croff told the judge he earns $8 an hour and lives alone in the home in the 9800 block of Manistique.
A pretrial hearing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Jan. 11.
Croff, 31, is accused of shooting Herbert Silas, 53, Monday on the street behind his home.
His home had been broken into three times in the last week. He reportedly found two men in his backyard around 12:30 a.m. and chased them.
One man got away. Silas stopped running, according to police, and taunted Croff asking: “What are you going to do? Shoot me?”
Croff, who has a permit for the gun, shot Silas once in the chest.
Silas was unarmed.
“All of the facts have not been reported,” Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said today. “We have sound reasons for charging as we did in this case. All of the relevant evidence will be presented in court.”
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Escaped Convict Taunts UK Police Via Facebook
Craig "Lazie" Lynch, 28, escaped from the minimum-security Hollesley Bay Prison near the village of Woodbridge in southern England three months ago. Since then, he's been mocking police via Facebook, and he's also managed to gain a huge number of Facebook "fans." His Facebook photo isn't exactly family-friendly, so I had to modify it some, by the way.
In fact, Lynch has 27,000 fans at the time of this writing. Strangely, a number of posts from his fans seem positive, although a few chime in every now and then to remind people they are "cheering for" a felon. Lynch had been serving a seven-year sentence for committing a burglary with a weapon.
Meanwhile, police have appealed to his Facebook fans to help track him down. How well that's going to work is unclear. Reportedly, when the authorities first made their entreaties to his fans, he only had about 3,800. Now he has the aforementioned over 27,000. In fact, according to his Facebook page, the company deleted his first page, when it had 4,000 fans. Now he has a new one and 27,000 fans.
Strange how the U.K. authorities can't close in on him via his IP address. With Facebook's help, they should be able to catch him. His latest post is further taunting, noting he was on the news being interviewed, via the phone.
i'm messaging you all to tell you to check out channel 5 news uk at 19.30 uk time i just gave them an exclusive phone interview so all you supporters and HATERS out there tune in thank you all love your favourite facebook fugitive Lazie
Shoplifting Leads to Stabbing and Wild Scene at Walmart's
December 28, 2009 1:02 PM
It was a wild scene at the Gunbarrel Rd. Walmart Sunday evening as a suspected shoplifting incident led to a self-defense stabbing, according to a Chattanooga police spokesperson.
An off-duty Chattanooga police officer, shopping with his wife, came to the aid of a Walmart greeter who had detained a suspected shoplifter Sunday night. Police say Joseph Anthony Hill was trying to leave the Gunbarrel Rd. Walmart with more than $2,000 worth of merchandise.
It happened around 7:30 Sunday night. Officer Josh Wright was leaving the store with his wife when he says he saw Hill trying to force his way past the Walmart greeter with a shopping cart loaded with stolen TV’s and a computer.
A spokesperson says Officer Wright stepped in and identified himself as a Chattanooga Police Officer and displayed his badge. Hill looked at the badge and said it was fake and tried to get by Officer Wright. Officer Wright took Hill to the floor and placed him under arrest.
Lt. Kim Noorbergen says that within minutes of the arrest, the suspect's wife, Lisa Hill, began acting as if she was having a heart attack. She claimed she did not know Hill. However a witness said she had seen both Mr. and Mrs. Hill in the store together.
The witness then left the store. Police say Mrs. Hill followed the female witness to the parking lot, grabbed her by her hair, threw her to the ground and started hitting her.
That's when the witness got a pocket knife from her purse and stabbed Lisa Hill in the arm in self defense. Mrs. Hill was taken to the hospital with minor injuries where she was treated and released.
The witness who stabbed Mrs. Hill said did not want to prosecute and the surveillance video from Wal Mart confirmed her statements.
Joseph Anthony Hill is charged with Theft over $1,000 and Assualt on a Police Officer.
At this time no charges have been filed on Lisa Hill this part of the investigation is still open and charges are pending.
12.28.09 - 01:00 pm
A local funeral home is doing what it can to keep people from drinking and driving on New Year’s Eve.
Between now and noon on Thursday, drivers can visit McGuire, Jennings and Miller Funeral Home on North Broad Street and sign a contract stating they plan to drink or use drugs and drive on New Year’s Eve. If they are then killed in a wreck while operating a vehicle on Thursday, the funeral home will bury them for free.
Services they pledge to provide include a casket, grave space, limousine and preparation of remains.
Funeral home officials said the program, called “Operation Stop and Think” is designed to save lives by making people think before they act.
Why today's the day we all feel really guilty
Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 12:22 AM on 29th December 2009
Wishing you hadn't tucked into all those mince pies? Ashamed at how lazy you've been over Christmas?Well today is payback time. December 29 is, apparently, the day when we feel guiltiest about all of our indulgences over the year.
A poll of 2,000 adults asked them to specify a moment of maximum embarrassment over our excesses – including eating, drinking and idleness in front of the TV.
December 29 is the crux day when all our guilty pleasures come to a head
More than 40 per cent of those polled said that the day in the middle of the festive period - four days after Christmas and three days before New Year - was the time they felt worst about themselves.
It is also today that millions of us decide on a New Year's resolution - whether it be giving up cigarettes, alcohol or fatty food or joining a gym and getting fit.
The British Dietetic Association says that we on average put on around 5lbs over the Christmas period and that on Christmas Day alone we normally eat and drink our way through 6,000 calories - more than triple the amount recommended for women and double that for men.
Fitness experts also backed up the poll and highlighted the week between Christmas and New Year as the 'guiltiest' time of the year. Health and nutrition professionals at Fitness TV said this week - and particularly today - was a time when we all felt down about Christmas excess.
They said their calculations are based on when a person last exercised, upcoming New Year's resolutions, the weight gain over the festive period, excessive Christmas spending and partying and too much time spent in front of the TV.
Luan Underwood, a health expert at Fitness TV which conducted the poll, said: ' This year has been a difficult one for many so Christmas has been a real opportunity for people to let their hair down and indulge.
And with the festive season starting even earlier, the constant invites for post work drinks, parties and treats at home mean exercise routines go out the window.
'This has left people feeling that they have a mountain to climb to get back in shape in 2010, making December 29 the day we feel most guilty about our indulgences.
'Exercise is the perfect way to ditch those feelings of remorse and feel great again.'
Expert nutritionist Sue Baic said: 'At Christmas we're always surrounded by lots of lovely food and drink and whilst there is no reason to feel guilty about enjoying yourself, it's easy to over-eat.
'It's important to enjoy yourself over the festive period but taking some simple steps can contribute to a healthy and enjoyable festival period and may even stop you worrying about the post-Christmas crash diet.
'While many of the traditional foods are actually very low in fat, it's the trimmings and extra nibbles that can add the pounds. 'Try to take some exercise over the festive period such as brisk walking or cycling.'
The research comes as Fitness TV launches a free 6-week fitness programme on 4 January on Sky 282 and is backed by the Government's Change4Life movement.
The show will be presented by celebrity trainer Elise Lindsay, responsible for getting Coleen Rooney back into shape following the birth of Kai to Manchester United ace Wayne Rooney in November.
Homeless man accused of stealing, crashing plane
Calvin Cox (Handout photo / December 28, 2009)
The Associated Press
2:35 p.m. EST
December 28, 2009
Tomb Of Ancient Chinese Ruler Cao Cao 'Found'
3:49pm UK, Monday December 28, 2009
Archaeologists in China claim to have found the tomb of Cao Cao, a legendary ruler who features as a cunning politician in folklore stories.
They have excavated a 8,000 square-foot (740-square metre) chamber in Xigaoxue, a village in Henan province, according to the China Daily newspaper.
Cao Cao's military talents in the third century AD led him to be the inspiration behind many popular stories.
Several unscrupulous villains in operas and historical novels are based on him.
The Chinese equivalent of the English phrase "speak of the devil" is "speak of Cao Cao and Cao Cao arrives".
In one fictional tale, he is quoted as saying: "Better for me to wrong the world than for the world to wrong me."
Officials excavating the tomb found the remains of a man aged around 60, and the bodies of two women.
The bones suggest Cao, who died in 220 AD, was burried alongside his empress and servant, the archaeologists said.
Tablets carrying the inscription "King Wu of Wei", Cao's posthumous title, were seized from people who had apparently stolen them from the tomb, the report said.
"The stone tablets bearing inscriptions of Cao's posthumous reference are the strongest evidence," archaeologist Liu Qingzhu, of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, was quoted as saying.
"No one would or could have so many relics inscribed with Cao's posthumous reference in the tomb unless it was Cao's."
LINK TO VIDEO
Residents left in dark after woman drains power supply to light cannabis factory
Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 11:26 AM on 28th December 2009
Light sapping: police found cannabis being grown with a watering system powered by the street-lamp network
Residents in a Lancashire town were so puzzled why the street lamps on their road were so much dimmer than everyone else's, they asked the council if it was experimenting with low-energy light bulbs.
But the local authority said the lights on Warrenhurst Road in Fleetwood should be as bright as every other street's.
It was only when the police noticed how dim the area was at night that an investigation began.
They discovered that a 19-year-old woman was illegally draining so much power from the lamp-post lighting system that the bulbs could hardly flicker.
Soon after officers found $100,000 worth of cannabis plants when they staged a raid on her property.
A sophisticated lighting and watering scheme inside the house was being powered by the street-lighting system and officers found plants growing in all three bedrooms of the property.
Lancashire Police confirmed a woman has been arrested on suspicion of growing drugs and illicitly removing power.
Suburbanite shoots 2 home invasion suspects
December 27, 2009 3:45 PM
A homeowner shot two masked men who pushed their way into a far north suburban Wauconda house early Saturday night, sending both suspects to the hospital, police said.
A trail of what appeared to be frozen blood ran from the front door of a home in the 300 block of Indian Ridge Trail in Wauconda on today, but the people in that home refused to comment to the media. On the door of that house, a piece of metal appeared to have been broken off.
Wauconda Police Department Sgt. Tim Burke said the names of the alleged victims and suspects would not be released until or unless charges are filed.
"The investigation is still ongoing," Burke said, adding that they have not turned over the results of their investigation to the Lake County State's Attorney's Office.
The two men who were shot were taken via ambulance to Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington, police said. No more information about their condition was immediately available, but Burke said they remained hospitalized as of early Sunday. A Fire Department official said Saturday evening that their injuries did not appear life-threatening.
The two homeowners present at the time of the apparent home invasion were treated at the same hospital and released Saturday night, according to Burke.
A press release from police said the shooting happened at about 5:47 p.m. Saturday, with the masked men forcing their way into a house in the Country Ridge subdivision, then engaging in "repeated demands and physical altercations." The pair refused to leave, according to police and one of the homeowners shot them.
One of the homeowners shot both suspects, who were found wounded in front of the home when police arrived on the scene, police said.
Burke said investigators do not believe the home was intentionally targeted but said police will not confirm the address to which they were called. The homeowners, he said, are worried about media attention.
"They're shaken up," Burke said.
David Bowen, who lives in the subdivision, said he saw police sirens and heard screaming at the time of the incident. Late in the night, he said, police towed away a pickup truck parked on his street. The alleged home invasion, he said, is unexpected in a neighborhood where everyone knows each other.
"It makes absolutely no sense," Bowen said. "I've been here over 20-some years. I never heard of anything like this happening."
LINK TO PHOTO
December 22, 2009
$70 debt sparks rampage at church
A 56-year-old man who investigators say was so angry over a $70 repair bill he rammed his truck into a Spokane church and ransacked the inside was arrested Tuesday.
Mark T. Heitman, a parishioner of the Country Crossroads Church at 7011 N. Altamont St., allegedly drove his Chevrolet pickup truck into the church building to gain entry Monday night, the Spokane County Sherriff’s Office said. Nearly every window, television, computer and light fixture was smashed during the rampage, which caused thousands of dollars of damage, the pastor said.
The tirade was apparently sparked over a $70 repair bill that the church owed Heitman for some electrical work he had done.
“I tried to pay him with a check and he wouldn’t take a check, so I guess he got mad because I didn’t have any cash here at the time,” said Pastor Dan Eubank. “So I guess he decided to take (the money) another way.”
According to court records, it’s not the first time that Heitman has faced criminal charges for driving his truck through a building in a rage over money.
Documents show he still owes more than $40,000 in restitution and accrued interest stemming from a January 1996 incident in which he smashed his truck into the Child Support Enforcement building, 1600 W. Boone Ave., telling authorities “they were taking all of his money.” Court records state Heitman grabbed a hammer and “went to work on the computers.” He then drove his damaged truck to the Spokane County Jail to turn himself in.
Eubank said Heitman became enraged Monday when the church could not pay him cash, and was also agitated over other personal issues. Eubank said he knew of Heitman’s previous violent outburst and criminal convictions.
Before vandalizing the church Monday, Heitman also allegedly smashed out the windshield and the windows of the pastor’s truck while it was parked at his home in the 600 block of East Rich Avenue.
Heitman was located and arrested at an automotive shop in the 2900 block of North Nevada on Tuesday, and booked into jail on felony charges of second-degree burglary and malicious mischief.
Eubank said the church had to cancel Wednesday services, as well as a candlelight service planned for Christmas Eve for its 120 parishioners.
When asked whether Heitman would be barred from the congregation, the Pastor replied: “We don’t operate that way, we’ve forgiven him. If he wants to come back, he’s more than welcome.”
Old King Coal will stay on the commodities throne for years
Waking up to a stocking full of coal is probably not the most exciting start to a Christmas morning. But at least it's got a better chance of increasing in value by next year than a Wii Fit or a Zhu Zhu Pet.
Rowena Mason, City Reporter (Energy)
6:16PM GMT 27 Dec 2009
Green problems with coal have not tarnished its prospects as a 'key fuel for the future' Photo: Reuters
There are many dismissing coal as the unwanted black sheep of the fossil fuel family, blamed for 40pc of the world's carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to global warming.
But in defiance of environmental concerns, there has been little sign that any fall off in coal demand this year is due to anything other than the recession.
Analysts from JP Morgan reckon that thermal coal, used in power stations, will rise from $70 to $85 per tonne next year, based on rebounding demand from China and India. While global inventories have been unusually high in the downturn, the bank believes stocks may decline from 40m tonnes this year to 22.7m in 2010.
"Supply will be tight in the next two years," said Stevanus Juanda, a mining analyst. "In the second half of 2009, we have observed sizeable imports of coal by China, due to the closure of mines in the Shanxi region and rise in electricity generation."
Experts are also predicting a shortage in coking coal used to make steel over the next year, driven up 12-fold by demand from China.
Macquarie, JP Morgan and Morgan Stanley estimate that prices may jump by between 23pc and 38pc in 2010, as global demand rebounds.
And the International Energy Agency believes that coal will account for 29pc of global energy needs in 2030, compared with 26pc in 2006. For Deloitte's energy consultants, this all goes to show that green problems with coal do not yet tarnish its prospects as a "key fuel for the future".
Listening to the political leaders at the Copenhagen climate change conference, you could be forgiven for imagining that the world was about to be seized with a Thatcherite fervour for closing down the mines.
That was the political rhetoric. But the summit failed to reach agreements on targets for lowering emissions and how they should be financed – mostly because burning coal is still in the national economic interest of most developing countries.
In the aftermath of the Copenhagen chaos, Western politicians have been blaming China and India for sabotaging the talks. If true, it is hardly surprising that they want to resist curbs on the predicted growth of their emissions, largely based on soaring use of coal.
The Copenhagen accord may have been vaguely worded, but its implications for commodities are clear: businesses still have little incentive to invest in more expensive renewables and nuclear power while coal and gas are cheaper.
Europe has decided to start closing coal plants without "carbon capture" facilities and China is keen to get its hands on this future technology, but the fact remains that old coal stations are still being built at the rate of one a day.
With "clean coal" technology unlikely to be commercial for another decade, it at least remains a helpful myth for politicians and companies to justify continued investment in the commodity.
(Yong Kim / Staff Photographer) The home of Pastor Kirk Caldwell on the 100 block of Ridge Ave., in Darby Borough, where Caldwell allegedly killed his son, Jordan Caldwell. Caldwell is the paster of End Times Harvest Mission for Christ church in Philadelphia.
Sat, Dec. 26, 2009
Cops: Phila. pastor shot son
Christmas killing in Darby Borough
Philadelphia Daily News
Pastor Kirk Caldwell wrote last year that at age 15, he found God.
Yesterday, on Christmas, 29 years after he found God, he found himself in the most ungodly of situations.
Police said Caldwell, 44, a father of eight, shot his son Jordan, 21, once in the chest shortly before 2 p.m. during a gathering of between 15 and 18 family members at his home on Ridge Avenue near Main Street in Darby Borough.
Within the hour, Jordan Caldwell was pronounced dead at Mercy-Fitzgerald Hospital in Darby, according to police.
The younger Caldwell was engaged in a physically violent domestic situation with a woman, possibly his girlfriend, Darby Police Chief Robert Smythe said.
"From what we're getting, it was extremely violent," Smythe said. "The father somehow became involved in this domestic thing, and at some point the father had a gun registered to him and fired one shot, striking the boy in the chest."
Kirk Caldwell stayed at the scene until police arrived and cooperated with detectives during questioning, Smythe said.
He will be charged with a crime, but just what charges he will face was uncertain pending police interviews with the numerous witnesses - which continued well into last night - and a review of the case by the Delaware County District Attorney's Office. Smythe said he expected Caldwell to be arraigned sometime this morning.
The violent incident came as a shock to those who know Kirk Caldwell, including neighbors and Smythe.
Caldwell, a pastor at the End Times Harvest Mission for Christ, on Cheltenham Avenue near 18th Street in West Oak Lane, was an outspoken voice against violence this summer when a 17-year-old was fatally shot on a Darby street in July.
"God has said, 'Vengeance is mine,' " Caldwell was quoted by the Delaware County Daily Times as saying at a vigil for the fallen teen. "He can do a better job of it than you can. Retaliation is never the answer. Retaliation is only going to make it worse."
Smythe, who said he met Caldwell a couple of times, was "quite surprised" by yesterday's events.
"I find this is not something I would expect this guy to do," he said.
Donald Mosby, 81, who has lived next door to Caldwell since he and his family moved in a couple of years ago, said Caldwell seemed "like a moderate man."
He said Caldwell worked as a plumber as well as a pastor, and that he used two of the five vans he owned to shuttle parishioners to and from church.
Caldwell and his wife, Sharron, served as foster parents and were redoing the garage behind their home to serve as a rehearsal space for some of their children who played instruments at the church, Mosby said.
"He had good intentions," Mosby said. "He was originally from North Philly, which is a bad area, but he seemed to survive it well."
In his MySpace profile, Kirk Caldwell calls his wife "wonderful" and his eight kids "beautiful."
"My life right now is wonderful because Jesus came into my heart," he wrote on his profile. "What a wonderful joy I have and the world can't take it away. I am a mighty man of God."
Mosby said that on Thursday, one of the Caldwell sons went into the middle of the street cursing and seemed to be drinking. He did not know whether it was Jordan Caldwell.
When Mosby heard the shot yesterday afternoon, he thought it had come from up the street, until one of Caldwell's daughters ran out of the house yelling on her cell phone: " 'He shot, he shot my brother!' " Mosby said.
"I said to myself, 'Of all days.' This is one Christmas they'll never forget," Mosby said.
LINK TO VIDEO OF FIGHT:
How the decade changed education
Tiffany Lankes & Christopher O'Donnell
Published: Saturday, December 26, 2009 at 1:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, December 25, 2009 at 8:36 p.m.
The big theme in education for the past decade: accountability.
Heightened state and federal pressure to do well on standardized tests prompted schools to try everything from community outreach to technology to help their most struggling students.
Those efforts became some of the biggest trends of the early 2000s, as deemed by education publishing company Scholastic. Here's the company list of the biggest education ideas of the decade:
TESTING AND ACCOUNTABILITY
The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 kicked off an unprecedented era of testing and accountability in the nation's school system, charging educators to make every child proficient in reading and math by 2014. The law required states to develop standardized tests and report how well students in different racial groups were performing. Florida students were already taking the FCAT when the federal law went into effect. But No Child forced area schools to add remedial programs, offered parents the option to move their children to other schools and led to the dismissal of several Manatee County principals whose students were not making enough progress.
LITERACY FOR OLDER STUDENTS
One of the most striking statistics to come out of the decade was that just 35 percent of the nation's eighth-graders could read at grade level. In response, schools amped up reading efforts — once reserved for elementary schools — in middle and high schools. Sarasota hired an elementary principal who had successfully raised student test scores to use the same strategies at Booker High. Teachers tapped into students' interests to get them to focus on writing with programs such as the rap class at Bayshore High, in which students write, record and produce their own rap tracks.
AND SPEAKING OF READING...
Schools seized on the popularity of the Harry Potter and Twilight series in their effort to improve students' reading, adding them to school summer reading lists and starting programs to get students excited about books. Last year, Sarasota middle schools started a program in which every student read the same book at the same time. The idea was that students would discuss the book with one another and get excited to read it.
SAY HELLO TO NEW TECHNOLOGY TOOLS
Educators embraced a slew of technological innovations in hopes of getting students more interested in learning. Sarasota County became the world's largest purchaser of Activboards when it installed one in every classroom. In Manatee, many students used the E-folio system, creating an electronic portfolio of their classwork using Web publishing software, iPods, video cameras, scanners and digital cameras. Some schools also adopted initiatives to equip every student with a laptop.
What happens at home can have a dramatic impact on how students do in school, especially among children who live in poverty. So schools have made efforts to try to improve students' lives at home, offering parents GED and English language classes. At Samoset Elementary School in Bradenton, school leaders formed a community coalition to clean up the neighborhood and raze abandoned houses used by drug dealers. They worked with the Sheriff's Office to get regular patrols by deputies on bicycles. An abandoned and vandalized community center was restored and reopened. Sarasota's Booker High School is even now trying to get jobs for area residents as the school is rebuilt.
DATA DRIVES INSTRUCTION
Schools started testing students more often and using scores to pinpoint their weaknesses. School districts hired data and reading coaches to assist with this effort. At the height of the trend, more than 2,500 reading coaches pulled struggling students for intensive one-on-one help. But drastic budget cuts this year forced many districts to cut the extra positions, including Sarasota and Manatee.
GOODBYE TO OLD SCHOOL CLASSROOM TOOLS
The push for more technology ultimately meant the sunset of some traditional classroom tools. Electronic white boards all but replaced blackboards, and even textbooks began to disappear as more schools invested in laptops. In Sarasota, one classroom at Phoenix Academy went entirely paperless.
ALTERNATIVE PATHS TO TEACHING
A shortage of teachers inspired a number of programs that made it easier for people to get into the classroom without going to a traditional education college. In Florida, fast growth in the mid 2000s drove the state to start offering fast-track certification programs through the community colleges and allowing professionals to start working while they earn their license.
The decade brought a rise in the number of charter schools, which are privately run but publicly funded. The idea was to give parents more options. Florida has been at the forefront of the charter school movement, with state laws that make it easy for such schools to open. The state now has nearly 400 of the country's 3,000 charter schools.
One of the last major education trends in the decade could have the biggest impact on schools for the next few years. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act put more than $100 billion into American school systems, trying to help bridge the gap for budget losses because of the economy.
How dare you bring peppermint oil to school?!!
Dec 25, 2009 at 12:37 PM PST
Story Updated: Dec 25, 2009 at 12:37 PM PST
COMMACK, N.Y. (AP) - A 10-year-old girl in New York has been suspended for bringing peppermint oil to her middle school and distributing it to other students.
The Commack School District said in a statement on its Web Site that the oil is "an unregulated over-the-counter drug."
The girl's mother, Corrine Morton-Greiner, said on Thursday that the implication that her daughter Sara was bringing an illicit substance to school was "infuriating."
Morton-Greiner asked school officials to apologize and to revoke her daughter's suspension.
Commack Superintendent James Feltman said Sara's actions violated the school district's code of conduct when she brought the oil to school on Monday. He said the label on the bottle said it should be kept out of reach of children.
Image by Flickr user kfisto.
Schoolboy, 10, arrested after 'stabbing teacher in the chest with a pencil'
Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 5:55 PM on 25th December 2009
The injured teacher was treated at the Blackpool Victoria Hospital in Lancashire
A ten-year-old was arrested after a teacher was stabbed in the chest with a pencil during a class.
The boy reportedly grabbed the pencil from the teacher's jacket pocket and then plunged it through the man's shirt puncturing his chest near his heart.
The stunned primary school teacher then pulled out the pencil himself as colleagues called 999 and paramedics took him bleeding from the wound to Blackpool Victoria Hospital, Lancashire, for emergency treatment.
Police were also called to the school and took the youngster - described as being of very slight build - into custody.
The boy who has just reached the age when he can face the justice system is understood to have admitted what he has done.
A police spokesman said : 'The teacher was very lucky, another inch and the sharp pencil could have punctured one of his main arteries.'
The incident is said to have occurred as the teacher tried to persuade the boy to go into the school's quiet room used when a pupil gets unruly and needs time cool down.
The boy refused and claims the teacher tried to grapple him into the room and it was then he allegedly grabbed the pencil and stabbed him with it.
There had reportedly been an earlier incident in which the same boy kicked the same teacher.
Lancashire Police have confirmed the boy was arrested and questioned by officers about the incident.
If it is decided whether to report him for a wounding offence, a Youth Court is likely to impose a referral order on him as he has not been in trouble before.
Such an order means he could go under the guidance of a team of specialist youth workers and may have to write a letter of apology to the teacher.
Blackpool Education Authority said the boy had been excluded from the school as a result of the incident and would receive home tuition in the meantime.
The teacher is recovering from the attack over the festive break and is expected back in the classroom in the New Year,
Osama bin Laden came within minutes of killing Bill Clinton
Former President Bill Clinton came within minutes of being assassinated in the Philippines by terrorists controlled by Osama bin Laden, a new book has revealed.
Tom Leonard in New York
7:00PM GMT 22 Dec 2009
Bill Clinton came within minutes of being assassinated in the Philippines Photo: AP
The US leader was saved shortly before his car was due to drive over a bridge in Manila where a bomb had been planted.
The foiled attack came during Mr Clinton's visit to the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in the city in 1996.
At one point during his stay, he was scheduled to visit a local politician, his route taking him across a bridge in central Manila.
But as the presidential motorcade was about to set off, secret service officers received a "crackly message in one earpiece" saying intelligence agents had picked up a message suggesting an attack was imminent.
The transmission used the words "bridge" and "wedding" – a terrorists code word for assassination.
The motorcade was quickly re-routed and American agents later discovered a bomb had been planted under the bridge.
The subsequent US investigation into the plot "revealed that it had been masterminded by a Saudi terrorist living in Afghanistan – a man named Osama bin Laden".
Although al Qaeda members have admitted targeting Mr Clinton in the 1990s, no evidence has previously emerged suggesting the group's leader was involved or that the terrorists came close to succeeding.
Ken Gormley, an American law professor, said he was told by Louis Merletti, the former director of the Secret Service, of the bomb plot.
In The Death of American Virtue: Clinton vs Starr, Prof Gormley wrote: "The thwarted assassination attempt was never made public.
"It remained top secret except to select members of the US intelligence community."
At the time, there were media reports about the discovery of two bombs, one at Manila airport and another at the venue for the leaders' meeting.
However, they were linked to a communist insurgency in the Philippines rather than as an external attempt to kill the US president.
A spokesman for the Secret Service refused to comment on Prof Gorman's allegations.
Commentators in the US questioned why the Clinton administration would keep quiet about the assassination attempt when it later needed to justify missile attacks on al-Qaeda training bases.
It could also have ramifications for the widely-held assumption that the Bush regime could not have anticipated the September 11 terror attacks.
Ramzi Yousef, the al-Qaeda member who used a truck bomb to attack the World Trade Centre in 1993, has admitted he plotted to assassinate Mr Clinton after fleeing to Manila, but was dissuaded by his high level of security.
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-described 9/11 mastermind, also lived in the Philippines in the mid-1990s and has admitted he considered trying to kill Mr Clinton.
The president and his national security team have been accused of passing up several opportunities to capture bin Laden and his associates in the 1990s when they were living in Sudan.
Mr Clinton has rejected such claims, insisting he was "obsessed" with the al-Qaeda leader during his time in office.
In the years leading up to the September 11 attacks, al Qaeda was blamed for bombing two US embassies in Africa and attacked the destroyer, the USS Cole.
However, Marisa Porges, a former government counter-terrorism advisor and an expert at the Council on Foreign Relations, a US think tank, said the assassination plot, if true,would suggest al Qaeda was more developed than some thought it was prior to 9/11”.
Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, said earlier this month that it was important to capture bin Laden, a goal that some believe has slipped down America's list of priorities in the years since the September 11 attacks.
Prof Gormley’s book, for which he interviewed Mr Clinton three times, focuses mainly on the former president’s pursuit by Ken Starr, the independent counsel.
Mr Starr’s conclusion that Mr Clinton lied during a sworn deposition about his affair with Monica Lewinsky led to the president’s impeachment.
AP sources: Northwest passenger who tried to blow up Detroit-bound flight linked to al-Qaida
LARA JAKES, LARRY MARGASAK
Associated Press Writer
6:28 p.m. CST, December 25, 2009
White House issues statement on Detroit airliner incident
|J.P. Karas, AP / December 25, 2009
This picture provided by J.P. Karas shows Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on the runway after arriving at Detroit Metropolitan Airport from Amsterdam on Friday, Dec. 25, 2009. A passenger aboard the plane set off firecrackers Friday, causing a commotion and some minor injuries, a Delta official said. Delta and Northwest have merged. (AP Photo/J.P. Karas)
The White House issued a statement about an incident aboard Delta Flight 253 in Detroit, where a man reportedly set off what initially was believed to be firecrackers as the plane arrived from Amsterdam. The Airbus 330 was carrying 278 passengers. A senior U.S. counterterrorism official told the Associated Press that the passenger was trying to blow up the plane but that the explosive device failed.
"The president was notified of the incident this morning between 9:00 and 9:30 Hawaii time by the president’s military aide. The president subsequently convened a secure conference call with John Brennan, his Homeland Security and counterterrorism advisor, and Denis McDonough, [National Security Council] chief of staff. He asked to arrange a subsequent secure call and in that call instructed that all appropriate measures be taken to increase security for air travel. The president is actively monitoring the situation and receiving regular updates. There is currently no change to his schedule."
-- Alana Semeuls
Burglars take presents — and family dog
December 25, 2009
City police were seeking whoever broke into a Gardenville house Wednesday evening and stole several Christmas presents, electronic equipment, video games - and the family dog.
Keith Alioto, 41, of the 5700 block of Belle Vista Ave. said he, his wife and six children left the house about 6:30 p.m. Wednesday and returned about 11 p.m. to find the house had been broken into through a rear window and that the TV, Christmas presents, two computer monitors and other items were missing.
"The rooms were messed up, and at first I thought Max, our 4-month-old mixed-breed dog, had gotten out of the kitchen through a gate and got into things," said Alioto.
He said it suddenly occurred to him that the dog also was gone, and his children are now heartbroken.
"He's a wonderful family pet, and we hope that whoever took him will somehow make arrangement to return Max to us," said Alioto.
The dog is mostly black with brown and white chest and paws. He said the dog had no collar, having outgrown it. Alioto said fliers with a photo of the missing dog have been distributed throughout the area.
December 23, 2009
Student Suspended For Dressing in Santa Suit
Wallingford, DE, United States (AHN) – A Delaware County high school senior was suspended for too much Christmas spirit on Tuesday. The student came to school dressed in a Santa suit and was immediately suspended for the day, according to reports.
Michael Hance, a senior at Strath Haven High School, reportedly said he told teachers and administrators nearly a month ago that he would be wearing the Santa outfit. He said the teachers told him not to wear it, but figured if he did and they told him to take it off, he would.
However, he was never given a chance to take off the suit. Instead, not five minutes after entering the school, Hance said he was suspended, according to reports.
Barbara Hance, the boy’s mother, reportedly said she knew of his plan to wear the suit, and agreed if told to take it off he should.
According to the school’s code of conduct, the Santa suit apparently did not adhere to the guidelines that students should “dress in an appropriate manner.” The code reportedly states administrators have the right to take action if they determine a student’s attire is distracting or disruptive to the teaching and learning process, or endangers the health or safety of other students.
Hance says has no regrets and would do it again if given the chance because he reportedly thinks it isn’t right to suspend a student for wearing a Santa suit.
LINK TO PHOTO:
Boy finally reunited with American dad in Brazil
December 24, 2009
RIO DE JANEIRO – A New Jersey man and his 9-year-old son were reunited Thursday in Brazil after a 5-year international custody battle, and immediately headed home to spend Christmas in the United States.
David Goldman and his son, Sean, left on a charter plane about three hours after the boy was handed over by his Brazilian family, said Rep. Chris Smith, who was in Brazil to support the U.S. father.
Earlier, carrying his luggage and wearing a yellow shirt with the Brazilian flag and Olympic rings, Sean was escorted by his relatives to the U.S. Consulate, where a scrum of journalists tried to get close. His father, of Tinton Falls, New Jersey, was waiting for him inside.
The boy cried as his stepfather and family lawyer tried to get him through the crowd, and guards roughly pushed back photographers and TV cameramen.
His maternal grandmother, Silvana Bianchi, said in tears simply that "this is a very difficult moment."
Sean has lived in Brazil since Goldman's ex-wife, Bruna Bianchi, brought him to her native country for what was supposed to be a two-week vacation in 2004. She stayed, divorced Goldman and remarried, and Goldman began legal efforts to get Sean back.
After Bianchi died last year in childbirth, her husband, Joao Paulo Lins e Silva, a prominent divorce attorney, continued the legal fight and won temporary custody.
The tug-of-war pitted Goldman against a powerful family of Rio de Janeiro lawyers willing to use all legal means available, in a nation where the wealthy are used to coming out on top
Despite numerous court findings in favor of Goldman, Lins e Silva continuously found an a way to delay giving up custody.
But after five years of rulings and appeals, Supreme Court chief ruled Tuesday that Sean be returned to Goldman. On Wednesday, the Brazilian family dropped its legal challenges.
Rep. Smith said Sean appeared to be happy when he and his father were reunited, and he had already spoken with his grandparents back in New Jersey.
"Once he was with his dad they were smiling, with their arms around one another," Smith said. "They looked just like best buddies."
A little more than an hour later, they left the consulate for the airport.
Silvana Bianchi, the maternal grandmother, had wanted to travel with Sean to the United States to ease his transition, but family lawyer Sergio Tostes said that wish was denied by the U.S. government. Tostes said the Brazilian government declined to intervene in the matter.
U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Orna Blum said the U.S. government and the consulate were not involved in the travel arrangements, which she said were handled by lawyers on both sides.
Goldman's New Jersey-based lawyer, Patricia Apy, criticized how the handover was conducted.
"Unfortunately, the Brazilian family, rather than have the handoff take place in a garage, which would have been secure, parked away and walked him through the press, which only serves to make the situation more stressful for the child," Apy said.
Blum also said the tumult during the boy's delivery could have been avoided.
"The family was offered the same access to the consulate as the father," she said. "For whatever reason they chose to get out of their cars and walk in."
The Brazilian family brought the boy to the consulate about 25 minutes before the 9 a.m. (1100 GMT) court-ordered deadline.
LINK TO SLIDE SHOWS/PHOTOS AND VIDEOS:
Associated Press writers Tales Azzoni in Sao Paulo and Geoff Mulvihill in Mount Laurel, New Jersey, contributed to this report.
Senate OKs health care measure, reaching milestone
Associated Press Writer
December 24, 2009
WASHINGTON – The Senate has passed President Barack Obama's landmark health care overhaul in a climactic Christmas Eve vote, extending medical insurance to 30 million Americans. The bill requires nearly all Americans to buy insurance and forbids insurance companies from denying coverage based on patients' pre-existing conditions.
The 60-39 vote on a cold morning capped months of arduous negotiations and 24 days of floor debate. It followed a succession of failures by past Congresses to get to this point. Vice President Joe Biden presided as 58 Democrats and two independents voted "yes." Republicans unanimously voted "no."
The Senate's bill must still be merged with legislation passed by the House before Obama could sign a final bill in the new year.
There are significant differences between the two measures but Democrats say they've come too far now to fail. Both bills would extend health insurance to more than 30 million more Americans.
Vicki Kennedy, the widow of the late Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy, who made health reform his life's work, watched the vote from the gallery.
"This morning isn't the end of the process, it's merely the beginning. We'll continue to build on this success to improve our health system even more," Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said before the vote. "But that process cannot begin unless we start today ... There may not be a next time."
The House passed its own measure in November. The White House and Congress have now come further toward the goal of a comprehensive overhaul of the nation's health care system than any of their predecessors
LINK TO VIDEOS:
Kerrville woman's recipe for finicky husband: 911
Dec. 23, 2009, 8:01AM
KERRVILLE — Prosecutors in Kerrville will review the case of a woman accused of calling 911 to complain that her husband refused to eat his dinner.
A police report says the 53-year-old woman at the scene was also yelling “about things that happened two weeks ago.”
A pair of 911 calls on Friday, including a hang-up and a woman heard screaming, led to police dispatched to the residence.
Officer Paul Gonzales says police were told by her that “her husband did not want to eat his supper.”
Police say the woman has called 911 about 30 times over six months for non-emergency reasons, such as she could not find her clothes. She now faces charges of 911 abuse.
Billionaires wonder if money can buy love
Wed Dec 23, 2009 2:38pm EST
BEIJING (Reuters) - Lonely this Christmas? Spare a thought for Beijing's billionaires.
The country's economic boom over the last three decades may have generated a clutch of super-wealthy Chinese, but it has not guaranteed all of them love. Last Sunday, a privileged group of 21 single billionaires and 22 single women attended what state media called one of the Chinese capital's most expensive parties ever -- a match-making ball with tickets costing 100,000 yuan ($14,650) a head.
The 21 billionaires were all registered members of Golden Bachelors, a Shanghai-based match-making agency dedicated to helping wealthy Chinese men and women find their potential better half, which also organized the event.
"It's very hard for billionaires to meet women they want to marry because they have been so career-oriented during the earlier stages of their lives," Golden Bachelor media director Xiao Pu told Reuters.
"They use our agency to filter through suitable partners according to their physical appearance, personality, level of education, level of income and family background," she added.
Some of the 22 ladies hoping to meet the billionaire of their dreams were also registered with the agency, while a lucky few were scouted to attend for free by the agency's "love hunters," or won tickets at beauty pageants sponsored by the agency.
"Every girl has the right to pursue happiness," a 22-year-old surnamed Dai who is studying at a Nanjing arts university told the China Daily.
"I just want to avoid the problems I may be forced to face before falling in love."
The newspaper said that the bachelorettes, dressed in exquisite ball gowns, sang, danced and even cooked their way into the lonely men's hearts during a talent show at the ball.
China's number of known dollar billionaire has now reached 130, higher than any other country bar the United States, according to the 2009 Hurun report.
Similar high-end match-making agencies and parties have also sprung up in other Chinese boomtown cities such as Shenzhen and Shanghai.
Xiao said she was delighted with the success of the event, adding that 80 percent of the couples who attended the inaugural ball went on agency-organized dates to Beijing restaurants and cultural sites the following day.
"Many couples even took their own initiatives to fit in a few extra-special dates outside of the itineraries we planned for them," she said.
Police search for supermarket bottom sniffer
December 22, 2009
Police in England are searching for a man who crept up 20 times on an unsuspecting supermarket worker while he was stocking shelves and knelt behind him to smell his bottom.
He noticed after 20 times? That's a man really into his work
The man was caught on security cameras sneaking up on the worker as he stacked shelves at a Co-op store in Plymouth, Ananova reports.
The footage shows the sniffer pretending to chose items from shelves before crouching down behind the employee and smelling his buttocks.
The employee became suspicious and informed his manager who checked the video before Devon police were called.
The victim said, “I had no idea what was going on. I thought it was all a bit strange.”
So many butts, so little time
LINK TO VIDEO
Mom calls cops on her shoplifting 6-year-old
December 23, 2009 at 11:08 AM
Updated today at 11:38 AM
COLUMBUS, Ohio - An Ohio woman who asked that police be called after she caught her 6-year-old daughter shoplifting a package of stickers said Wednesday that she was just trying to teach the girl a lesson early in life.
Diane Lyons said she doesn't believe she overreacted when she discovered the girl, Shiane, had taken the $3.11 package of stickers used to make temporary tattoos. An older 10-year-old daughter told Lyons about the theft.
Chief Ronald Yeager of the Carrollton Police Department in eastern Ohio arrived at the Discount Drug Mart Dec. 15 and took the girl to the police station in his cruiser before releasing her to Lyons, according to Yeager's report.
Yeager told Lyons the girl sat quietly in the car on the way to the police. A phone message was left with Yeager on Wednesday.
"I don't think I went too far," Lyons said in a phone interview. "You've got to catch them when they first start if they do something wrong."
Lyons, 31, asked about collecting a $30 reward for turning in shoplifters but decided not to follow up because she felt bad about doing it.
"People think that I set her up or something to get the reward," Lyons said.
Lyons said she's seen parents give children a light spanking in similar situations but felt that wasn't enough in Shiane's case. She's confident the girl learned her lesson.
"I don't think Shiane would do it again, I really don't, because of all that I did," Lyons said.
A Discount Drug Mart spokesman said Wednesday he was not familiar with the case. Chief Financial Officer Tom McConnell said he could recall at least one other time in a store where parents also asked that police be called on a shoplifting child.
A parent's own discipline is typically more effective when dealing with a young child's wrongdoing, said Stanley Goldstein, a child clinical psychologist in Middletown, N.Y.
"You're asking police to do something that's not in their training," said Goldstein, author of "Troubled Children/Troubled Parents."
"They're not experts on kids; they're experts on policing the community."
LINK TO VIDEO AND PHOTO OF MOTHER AND DAUGHTER:
Police stop gift-giving Indiana 5th-grader with $10,000
WSBT 24/7 News
Story Created: Dec 23, 2009 at 7:35 AM EST
Story Updated: Dec 23, 2009 at 7:35 AM EST
SELMA, Ind. (AP) — Police say a fifth-grader handed out about $300 to others on the bus ride to his eastern Indiana school. Problem is that they say the cash was part of some $10,000 he took from his grandparents' safe.
Delaware County Sheriff George Sheridan says the boy was riding to Selma Elementary School when he handed out the money on Friday, the last school day before Christmas vacation started.
Children who received the ones, fives and twenties told teachers and the principal and the sheriff's department was called.
Officers found the boy carrying the rest of the cash, which was returned to his grandparents. Police weren't certain what he intended to do with the money or how he got it from the safe.
Mystery couple hands out $100 bills at laundromat
Dayton Daily News
Updated 9:51 AM Tuesday, December 22, 2009
DAYTON — Christmas came early for eight customers and two employees at Spin City Laundromat on Sunday, Dec. 20, when an anonymous couple came in and handed each one a card containing a $100 bill.
Holly Dunlap and Dana Watson were working at the laundromat at 219 Wyoming St.
“My first thought was that (the couple) had just come in from church,” said Dunlap, adding that she and Watson didn’t recognize the pair. “They were dressed conservatively. The woman had on a long black dress and a bonnet, and the man was dressed in black.”
She said the couple didn’t say anything as they handed out the cards.
“The cards said, ‘Merry Christmas,’ and on the inside said, ‘Happy holidays and many happy days to follow. Jesus loves you!’ ”
Dunlap said after they realized what they had received, a few people caught the couple at the door before they could leave and hugged them.
Watson said they thanked them, and the couple said, “You’re welcome” and “Merry Christmas.”
Watson told them, “God bless you!”
Why Spin City was chosen for this little Christmas miracle might never be known, but Dunlap said the customers and employees can use the unexpected windfall.
“We have a lot of people who are down and out, but are still trying,” she said. “We had one woman who just lost her house, and (Watson) has five kids.”
Anonymous Christmas gifts much appreciated
"I'm usually giving money (at work), for a dry or something like that if (the customer) is short," Watson said. "Nothing like this has ever, ever happened to me before. I can't even win $2 in a lottery ticket!"
The 32-year-old Riverside resident said she is going to finish up her Christmas shopping with the bonus money.
"I'm going to Toys R Us!"
Fellow employee Holly Dunlap, who also was given $100, lost her job about a year ago in California and has been working at the laundromat since this summer.
"It's just a great thing, especially with the economy and people losing their jobs," she said of the actions of the couple.
Dunlap, 29, of Centerville said she plans to use the money for her new career path.
"It will help pay for college this quarter," said Dunlap, who wants to become a dental hygienist. "Maybe pay for my books."
Barry Cooper, one of the owners of Spin City, said he and the staff had just had a meeting on Saturday to talk about customer appreciation.
"We are having a drawing today (Monday) and Tuesday for customers to win $20 to be put on their easy card," which is used to pay for the washers and dryers, Cooper said. "And we are offering free drying today and Tuesday. (The laundromat) is very close-knit."
Also, Cooper said that about six months ago Spin City added four desktop computers for customers. They cost $2 to $5 to use, depending on time.
"Customers can look for jobs on there, get e-mail, etc.," he said. "We're like the first cyber laundromat in Dayton, Ohio."
Cooper added that the business tries to give back to the area.
"We look at the place as a little community," he said.
New Bedford woman charged with threat to kill Michelle Obama
December 22, 2009 06:43 PM
A New Bedford woman is in federal custody in Hawaii after calling the Boston office of the Secret Service and threatening to kill Michelle Obama as the president and his family prepared for a visit to Hawaii, according to the Secret Service.
Kristy Lee Roshia , 35, was arrested by the Secret Service Saturday and charged with threatening to kill a member of President Obama's family, said an affidavit filed by an agent Monday in Hawaii. She was also charged with assaulting one of the Secret Service agents at the agency's field office in Honolulu.
Roshia appeared in US District Court in Honolulu on Monday and is scheduled to return Wednesday for a hearing to determine whether she should be kept locked up until trial, said Elliot Enoki, a spokesman for the US attorney's office in Hawaii.
Beginning in 2004, Roshia deluged the Boston office of the Secret Service with calls, telling agents that she was an assassin whose mission was to kill the president, said the affidavit by the agent, John Woodruff. At the same time, she also said she had "no desire to hurt him," said the affidavit. George W. Bush was president at the time.
For several years, she made angry, rambling calls to the Boston office, sometimes as many as 10 a day, said Woodruff. On Nov. 10 of this year, she allegedly called and told the receptionist, "I will kill Marines," and "I will kill Michelle Obama."
The Secret Service determined through an envelope Roshia had allegedly previously mailed the office that she was in Hawaii. Agents arrested her Saturday. While in federal custody at the Honolulu field office, Roshia lunged at an agent and struck him in the arms and face, although he was not injured, said Darrin Blackford , a special agent and spokesman for the Secret Service headquarters in Washington.
Roshia has lived in several parts of Massachusetts in recent years, including Lowell, Chelmsford, and, most recently, New Bedford.
AP – This photo provided by the U.S. Secret Service shows Kristy Lee Roshia. Authorities say Roshia, accused …
U.S. soldiers in Iraq could face courts-martial for getting pregnant
Washington (CNN) -- A new order from the general in charge of U.S. troops northern Iraq makes getting pregnant or impregnating a fellow soldier an offense punishable by court-martial.
The directive, part of a larger order restricting the behavior of the 22,000 soldiers under Maj. Gen. Anthony Cucolo's command, is meant to prevent losing soldiers at a time when troop strength is stretched thin, Cucolo explained in a statement sent to the troops under his command and provided to CNN.
"I need every soldier I've got, especially since we are facing a drawdown of forces during our mission," Cucolo wrote. "Anyone who leaves this fight earlier than the expected 12-month deployment creates a burden on their teammates. Anyone who leaves this fight early because they made a personal choice that changed their medical status -- or contributes to doing that to another -- is not in keeping with a key element of our ethos."
The rule, enacted November 4, was first reported by Stars and Stripes, a military-focused publication. It prohibits "becoming nondeployable for reasons within the control of the soldier," which include "becoming pregnant, or impregnating a soldier ... resulting in the redeployment of the pregnant soldier."
Pregnancy that arises from sexual assault would not be punished, Cucolo said.
The directive applies to all military and civilians serving under Cucolo in northern Iraq, an area that includes Balad, Kirkuk, Tikrit, Mosul and Samarra, according to the Web site of Multi-National Force Iraq.
Of the 22,000 people under Cucolo's command, 1,682 are women.
Cucolo will decide what cases will be pursued.
"I am the only individual who passes judgment on these cases. I decide every case based on the unique facts of each soldier's situation," Cucolo wrote in his explanation of the new rules.
Cucolo said he considers his female soldiers "invaluable" and he wants to ensure they fulfill their deployments.
"I am responsible and accountable for the fighting ability of this outfit. I am going to do everything I can to keep my combat power -- and in the Army, combat power is the individual soldier," his statement said. "To this end, I made an existing policy stricter. I wanted to encourage my soldiers to think before they acted, and understand their behavior and actions have consequences -- all of their behavior."
In an e-mail to CNN, Cucolo stressed the rule "is just a small part of a general policy on behavior and actions," and is "lawful."
The memo outlines a long list of behaviors that are prohibited, from gambling and using drugs to behaviors that would offend Iraqis, such as entering a mosque or religious site unless "required by military necessity."
While the rules may seem unusual to some, they are not out of line with how the military regulates behavior to a much stricter degree than the general public is used to, said Eugene Fidell, who teaches military law at Yale University.
"Questions of personal autonomy play out differently in the military," Fidell said.
He said the purpose of the rule is mostly to have a "chilling effect" on behavior, but he doubts it would ever be fully prosecuted. If it were, however, it appears to be legal, he said.
"If push came to shove and there was prosecution, I think the rule would be upheld as a reasonable balance of the competing interests," he said.
It is not without precedent, Fidell said. During the Vietnam War, a female troop would be discharged for getting pregnant. That rule was challenged, but the government did not want to defend it at the time.
According to the explanation of the policy that was sent to all those affected, only a few cases have been considered for punishment under the new rules. Four soldiers have gotten pregnant since Cucolo took over command of northern Iraq operations at the beginning of November, he told CNN in an e-mail. Of the eight soldiers involved, none were court-martialed. Instead, all received a written reprimand, Cucolo said.
In one case, a male soldier received the "most severe punishment," according to the explanation sent to those serving in northern Iraq. Cucolo does not give any other details about the case except to say the soldier "committed adultery as well."
LINK TO VIDEOS
MJ sues Jewel and Dominick's for trademark infringement
December 21, 2009 7:52 PM
The next time local grocers Jewel and Dominick's want to salute an accomplishment by Chicago Bulls great Michael Jordan, they might want to just send him a card instead.
Jordan, who led the Bulls to six championships and was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame last September, filed lawsuits Monday against both grocery store chains for two separate ads celebrating the living legend that Jordan considers an infringement on his trademark and business interests.
The full-page ads ran in a special commemorative issue of Sports Illustrated magazine dedicated to Jordan and his career.
Both suits, filed in Cook County Circuit Court, claim the ads, each congratulating Jordan on his long list of achievements, were actually clever and unauthorized ways of linking the former league-leading scorer to their stores.
In the Dominick's ad, for example, the top half of the ad congratulates Jordan and features his trademark number, 23, while the bottom features a coupon on a Rancher's Reserve steak, a trademark of Dominick's parent company, Safeway.
LINK TO LAWSUIT AND AD
Jordan was never contacted about the ad and would never be associated with the Dominick's steaks, as it would conflict with steakhouses and a direct-mail steak business Jordan has lent his name to, the suit states.
In the Jewel ad, a pair of Jordan's Air Jordan basketball shoes with number 23 on the tongues sit below a message of support that ends with Jewel's "just around the corner" slogan.
Officials at both Jewel and Dominick's couldn't be reached for comment. Jordan's longtime attorney, Fred Sperling, declined to comment.
The suits seek unspecified damages, attorney fees and to bar either store from using Jordan's name in future ads.
-- William Lee
World's tallest teen
PERRY CHIARAMONTE and CYNTHIA R. FAGEN
Posted: 3:27 AM, December 20, 2009
Call her Air Anderson.
This up-and-coming New Jersey high school basketball player is only 16, but Marvadene Anderson is already a giant on the court. At just under 6-foot-11 -- and still growing -- she's the world's tallest teenage girl.
The Jamaican-born hoopster, who could tower over legendary ballplayers like Michael Jordan (6-6) and LeBron James (6-8), was the highest-scoring "netball" player in her country -- a sport similar to basketball.
That on-court prowess earned her a scholarship to Rutgers Prep in Somerset, and for the last two months she's been hitting the hardwood to learn the rules of basketball.
Arielle Sherman, 15, 5'2" (left) and Marvadene "Bubbles" Anderson, 16, 6'11"
Photos: World's Tallest Teen Basketball Player
The Argonauts center was a standout with her teammates during a practice game Wednesday, where she played alongside pint-sized point guard Arielle Sherman, 15, who at 5-foot-2 barely reaches Anderson's elbow.
Anderson uses her size to intimidate her opponents, block shots and make easy layups.
"Everyone has come up to me and asked if I play college basketball. I told them I'm only a sophomore in high school. They gasped when I told them," Anderson said.
The gal giant, whose family remained in Jamaica, was taken in by Enid Angus, who discovered her talents.
"She's my heart. I committed to treating her like my own," she told the Asbury Park Press.
Anderson said she got her nickname "Bubbles" because of her good humor.
"People are friendly with me because of my height and my personality. If I was tall and mean, I think I'd have a problem," she said.
The biggest problem "Bubbles" seems to have is adjusting to the cold weather and finding clothes and shoes to fit her 210-pound frame and size-12 feet.
As a schoolgirl back home, Marvadene confessed, she was teased a lot.
"They call me 'baby giant,' and my older sister Kimberly is 6-foot-4. They call us the Twin Towers," she said.
"The rudest thing anybody ever said about my height is that I'm not going to be able to find a husband."
Rutgers coach Mary Coyle-Klinger and her sister, former WNBA coach Pat Coyle, have been working with their new star. Anderson picked up six points in her first game on Dec. 10 and Coyle-Klinger was not disappointed.
"Of course she is going to be a star," she said. "She's a natural. She's only been playing two months and it's amazing how well she's adapted."
Read more and on court photos: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/nj_hoops_gal_huge_star_m1kiRXXzoE4laLi2PRqB5L#ixzz0aNe4Hi8N
Boston mom calls 911 over son's video game habit
December 21, 2009
BOSTON—Police say a frustrated Boston woman called 911 to say she couldn't get her 14-year-old son to stop playing video games and go to sleep.
Two officers who responded to the house convinced the child to obey his mother.
Zanoli says the mother's 911 call over video game obsession "was a little unusual, but by no means is it surprising -- especially in today's day and age when these kids play video games and computer games."
The Boston Herald first reported the 911 call, saying the boy was playing the popular "Grand Theft Auto" game.
Mon Dec 21, 2009 10:00 am EST
Tommy Kelly loses pants, wins game
You'll often hear football announcers talking about players hitting so hard they figuratively knock their socks off. In Sunday's game against the Denver Broncos, you could literally say that about Tommy Kelly. Except instead of his socks getting knocked off, it was his pants.
On a crucial 2nd and goal tackle of Knowshon Moreno, the pants of the Oakland Raiders defensive tackle fell off his waist and dropped to his feet. Kelly had wrestled the rookie to the ground short of the goal line and then lost his balance and pants along the way. Thankfully for CBS the wardrobe malfunction was PG-rated, as Kelly had on a jock strap underneath his compression shorts and pants.
One play later, the Raiders stopped the Broncos again and forced a field goal, which kept it as a one-possession game. Oakland eventually scored the game-winning touchdown with 39 seconds left after a drive that saw one fourth-and-10 conversion and a number of broken plays which turned into big gains. Looks like Tommy Kelly wasn't the only Raider flying by the seat of his pants yesterday in Denver.
Inmate, mother accused of trying to hire hitman
JULIE E. GREENE
December 11, 2009'
Hagerstown/Han-- The man who was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences in October for setting a fire that resulted in the deaths of two Hagerstown/Han girls has been charged, along with his mother, with attempting to hire a hitman to kill the girls’ mother, according to Maryland State Police.
Clarence Franklin Meyers, 39, who is in prison at North Branch Correctional Institution in Cumberland, Md., and his mother, Grace Marie Fink, 67, of 6 W. Main St., Apt. 21, in Hagerstown/Han, each were indicted on a charge of conspiring to kill Meyers’ former girlfriend, Melissa Lindeman, according to state police and Washington County Circuit Court documents.
The indictment alleges that Fink tried to entice an undercover Maryland State Police officer around Sept. 8 to kill Lindeman.
Meyers and Fink were charged in indictments with conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, felony witness intimidation and obstruction of justice, state police said.
Meyers also is charged with solicitation to commit first-degree murder, state police said.
Fink also was charged with solicitation to commit first-degree murder, solicitation to commit first-degree assault and solicitation to commit malicious destruction of property over $500, according to police and Fink’s indictment.
Fink was arrested at her home at 11 a.m. Thursday and was being held without bond Friday at the Washington County Detention Center, police said.
Meyers was served with the indictment at the prison at 8:30 a.m. Thursday.
The Maryland State Police Criminal Investigation Division, with the help of the FBI and detention center officials, has been investigating the alleged murder-for-hire plot involving Meyers and Fink since July, police said.
The matter is still under investigation, according to police.
Washington County State’s Attorney Charles Strong said he could not comment on a pending criminal case.
Meyers pleaded guilty in August to two counts of felony murder.
He admitted to setting the fire at the home at 220 Old Route 40 on Feb. 16, saying he did so to gain sympathy and money from the community. He had lost his job at Rayloc and his unemployment benefits had run out, public defender Eric Reed said in court.
Nicole Gross, 15, and Mary Gross, 12, died in the fire. The girls were students at Hagerstown/Han Middle-Senior High School.
Their mother, Meyers’ girlfriend at the time, escaped the fire.
LINK OF PHOTOS:
Dec 21, 2009 6:01 am US/Eastern
Hagerstown/Han, Md. (AP)
A 67-year-old woman charged with murder solicitation is seeking her freedom in Hagerstown/Han.
Grace Fink of Hagerstown/Han has a bond review hearing scheduled for Monday afternoon.
She has been held without bail since Dec. 10 on charges she tried to entice an undercover Maryland State Police trooper to kill her son's former girlfriend, Melissa Lindeman.
The son, 39-year-old Clarence Meyers, is serving two life sentences for killing Lindeman's two young daughters by setting fire to her house in February.
Both Meyers and his mother are charged with solicitation to commit first-degree murder.
With this job, no fears of a layoff
Published: Monday, December 21, 2009 at 1:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, December 20, 2009 at 10:48 p.m.
In Sarasota, Santa Claus works for the U.S. Census.
At least during the week.
On weekends, 62-year-old Mike Linn wears a red wool suit at the Westfield Southgate shopping mall. He looks the part, with a stout frame, pale blue eyes and a full white beard.
And he loves playing Santa.
"It's hours of fun punctuated by moments that cut out your heart," he said. "You know, when kids ask that their parents don't get divorced, things like that."
When there are no children at his station in the mall, Linn makes wooden toys at a workbench. He carves yo-yos out of maple and reindeer out of black walnut.
LINK TO PHOTOS AND VIDEO:
When Terri Lynn Cordes and her kids visited Southgate for photos with Santa, they got a kick out of his woodcarving.
"I think it's great," Cordes said. "It adds authenticity, definitely."
Linn grew up in Indiana. Yes, he visited Santa Claus as a child.
"In Indianapolis, the primo Santa, you rode a train to see him," he said. "That was cool."
Later, Linn moved to Chicago, working for a company that produced catalytic converters. He was also a Baptist youth minister for a while.
When his hair and beard turned white, more than a decade ago, he started playing Santa during the Christmas holidays. He kept going after he and his wife Janet moved to Florida.
Linn used to work for Wellcraft, until the boat company closed its Manatee County plant last year. He was unemployed until he landed a job as a recruiting coordinator with the 2010 census.
Last Christmas, playing Santa helped pay the bills.
"It's good money," Linn said. "A natural bearded Santa makes a nice amount of money."How much?An experienced Claus make between $100 and $200 an hour.
A wet Christmas
Linn stands 6 feet tall and weighs 250 pounds. He isn't a fat Santa, but he does have a little curve to his belly.
He isn't a loud Santa, either. With children, especially, he goes easy on the ho-ho-hos.
"I use a very quiet voice," Linn explained, "because then they have to pay attention to hear me."
He never promises any gift to any child, unless prompted by parents.
Children are unpredictable. Often they cry. Sometimes other things happen and Santa gets wet.
"Pee, poop, vomit," Linn said, laughing. "They slobber on you, they snot on you. It happens."
He starts working as Santa on the day after Thanksgiving. He finishes on Christmas Eve.
In between, he sees hundreds of children. Many of them are contagious, with colds or the flu, but Linn says he has never missed a day of work as Santa.
"I can will myself through the holidays," he says. "I get sick after Christmas almost every year."
Linn doesn't work for the shopping mall. He works for a national company called Cherry Hill Photography.
The home office in New Jersey keeps his stats.
"I'm approaching 80,000 pictures," he said. "30,000 of them are crying children. I don't take it personally."
Linn's pet peeve is with parents who get upset when their children start to cry.
"There are more difficult parents," he said, "than difficult kids."
He tries to joke with some of the moms and dads. If children ask for Santa's phone number, Linn reels off a 25-digit number no one could possibly remember.
"Then I tell them to ask for Extension 1."
Linn says he doesn't know what he'll do when his census jobs ends next year.
Maybe he'll retire. Maybe he'll find another job. Maybe he'll carve more toys to sell on his Web site, santathetoymaker.com.
Linn does know, however, what he'll be doing on weekends next December.
"I love it," he said. "I love being Santa."
US sends 12 Gitmo detainees to their home nations
WASHINGTON—The U.S. has transferred a dozen Guantanamo detainees to Afghanistan, Yemen and the Somaliland region as the Obama administration continues to move captives out of the Cuban facility in preparation for its closure.
The Justice Department said Sunday that a government task force had reviewed each case. Officials considered the potential threat and the government's likelihood of success in court challenges to the detentions.
Over the weekend, four Afghan detainees were transferred to their home country. Two Somali detainees were transferred to authorities in Somaliland, the semi-autonomous northern region of Somalia. Six Yemeni detainees also were sent home.
The Justice Department said that since 2002, more than 560 detainees have departed the military prison in Cuba and 198 remain.
The Justice Department identified those sent home as:
--Afghans Abdul Hafiz, Sharifullah, Mohamed Rahim and Mohammed Hashim.
--Somali detainees Mohammed Soliman Barre and Ismael Arale.
--Yemenis Jamal Muhammad Alawi Mari, Farouq Ali Ahmed, Ayman Saeed Abdullah Batarfi, Muhammaed Yasir Ahmed Taher, Fayad Yahya Ahmed al Rami and Riyad Atiq Ali Abdu al Haf.
Mohammed Albasha, Yemen's embassy spokesman, said his embassy "hails the release and transfer of six of its citizens from Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility. Yemen will continue its diplomatic dialogue with the United States Government to repatriate the remaining Yemeni detainees."
The administration has announced that five Guantanamo detainees will be tried in a New York federal court and more are likely to be tried in this country.
Up to 100 detainees will be sent to a nearly empty prison in Thomson, Ill.
In Rome, state-run and private television stations said a third Tunisian detainee from Guantanamo Bay is being moved to Italy to face international terrorism charges for having allegedly recruited fighters for Afghanistan.
Private TG5 identified the man as 40-year-old Moez Ben Abdelkader Fezzani, also known as Abou Nassim, and said he was expected to land Sunday night at Milan's Malpensa airport. A prosecutor confirmed Fezzani's name on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
President Barack Obama says he won't set a new deadline for closing the Guantanamo Bay military prison, but does expect the facility to shut down sometime next year.
The administration has abandoned the January 2010 deadline Obama set for closure soon after taking office. Obama has said he realized that things move more slowly in Washington than he expected.
Memphis attorney bit off part of man's nose in restaurant scuffle
Dec 17, 2009 11:06 PM EST
Updated: Dec 18, 2009 12:41 PM EST
MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - A Memphis attorney has admitted to biting off part of a man's nose during a confrontation at a popular Midtown restaurant.
According to a lawsuit filed by Greg Herbers, Mark Lambert bit off and swallowed part of his nose during a dispute last June at Dish on South Cooper Street.
Lambert is a trial attorney with the Cochran Firm.
The incident at Dish began in the men's room when Herbers became annoyed because the urinal and stalls were occupied.
Herbers says two men were together inside the same stall. He says Lambert carried on a conversation with the pair while he used the urinal.
Herbers says he asked the men to vacate the stall because they were not using the toilet. He said the pair refused, at which time Lambert began yelling obscenities and showing aggression towards Herbers.
Herbers says Lambert then pushed and grabbed him and bit off part of his nose.
According to Herbers, Lambert and the other two men fled the scene.
Herbers says he called police and was transported to an area hospital.
In the complaint, Herbers claims he suffered permanent disfigurement to his nose and face and will need plastic surgery and possibly a prosthetic nose.
The police report says Herbers entire left nostril was missing.
In a phone interview with Action News 5 Thursday, Lambert said he only acted in self-defense after Herbers physically assaulted him for no reason.
And while he admitted to biting off part of Herbers' nose, Lambert says he didn't swallow it, but spit it out.
Herbers is asking for $5 million in punitive damages. It's not clear why he waited several months to file the lawsuit against Lambert.
Herbers was not reachable for comment.
LINK TO VIDEO
Good works by 5 men feed Miami's hungry, and their own soul
Amid the scores of organizations feeding the hungry in urban Miami, one of the most popular isn't really an organization at all.
The pickup truck pulled onto a sidewalk under downtown Miami's web of highways. It was 7 p.m., and already the jolt of the workday had flat-lined into a desolate world of silence and silhouettes.
Then, a voice whistled. Within seconds, 18 homeless men and two women were at the back of the truck, forming a single-file line, their hands outstretched. The four men riding in the back handed each two sandwiches and a soda.
They performed their act of charity without the support of any formal organization. The five -- including driver Orlando Mendez -- pay for the food out of their own pockets, about $200 a week.
Sometimes, Mendez will ask the homeless to pray with him before they eat:
``Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.''Three years ago, Mendez heard a speech by Bono describing how God's presence can be found in pockets of poverty. It followed a moving sermon by his church's youth pastor, who urged the congregation to go out and do good.
So he packed a duffel bag with bacon double-cheeseburgers and told his wife he was going to start heading to Overtown once a week to befriend the afflicted. Soon, he was joined by four friends.
Their food came from Wendy's. Their street name came from elsewhere. ``There goes the Whopper Men!'' came the yell from a group sitting in folding chairs on a lot at Northwest First Avenue and 15th Street.
Times being what they are, there aren't any Whoppers right now. Only recession sandwiches.
Mendez makes his living renting out construction equipment -- not the best business when little is getting built. Manny Diaz, 42, installs car sound systems -- not a boom business in the age of the iPod. Tomás Chadwick, 39, got laid off at Bear Stearns. Javier Castellon, 44, works in real estate. Billy Hernandez, 51, does window tinting.
They meet around 4 p.m. Tuesday afternoon at Mendez's sprawling home in West Miami-Dade. On his dining and end tables, they set out slices of oat and white Winn-Dixie bread. Then, a glob of mayo, some bologna and ham, and a swirl of mustard on each. This is what they can afford.
They wouldn't want to consider what would happen if they ever stopped altogether. Not for the people they serve -- and not for themselves.
``Sometimes, I think we get more out of it than they do,'' said Chadwick, who runs a company that operates airports in Latin America. He buys the sodas the group distributes.
They've learned the most appreciated item is Pepsi. Least? Apples. They tried them once, and it was the only time they came back home with food left.
``I guess the homeless don't always have the best teeth, so no one would take them,'' Chadwick said.
Each block has a different mood. Even corners on the same block are different.
The first stop, as always, was a group of 10 at an empty lot behind the Adrienne Arsht Center.
A whistle went out, and a line formed. A man named Micky Barnes approached Castellon, dug into his pocket and pulled out a small orange Bible, its edges dark around the book of Psalms.
``I've been reading the Bible you gave me,'' Barnes said. ``I don't wanna sound cliché, but I've had five job interviews this week. Stuff is starting to happen for me.''
At Northwest 15th Street and Third Avenue, a woman named Bobbie Jean proudly reported she had stayed out of mischief for another week. As she talked to them, a mother and child pull up in a green sedan.
``Can my son have a sandwich?'' she asked. They got one and drove away.
The Whopper Men moved onto a corner underneath an Overtown overpass, where the only brightness comes from crack users lighting their pipes. There were 15 of them here, hunched on a curb, many of them shaking.
The Whopper Men jumped out. They said the Lord's Prayer, but only half of this group joined them. One woman muttered that she didn't want bologna.
Here, at Northwest 14th Avenue and Second Court, was the coldest reception The Whopper Men got all night. Mendez walked a few steps away; his eyes began to glisten.
``This is the place I started,'' he said.
He wonders whether an ephemeral moment once a week can make any sort of lasting change.
``Sometimes, people will say to me, `I listened to your advice last week and called my family -- and at the end of the month, I'm moving back home,' '' Mendez assured himself. ``There are people who get out of here. Will they be back? I don't know. But there are people who get out of here.''
One subtle sign they're making a difference: The people at this corner no longer try to sell the Whopper Men drugs.
And when the truck went out before Thanksgiving, a homeless man gave Mendez a token of appreciation: a bag full of fruit.
The sandwiches were running low. The van snaked into Bicentennial Park, where two separate homeless colonies subsist under a big sky with a bayfront view.
Castellon began to pray with a group of men, their foreheads touching. A woman approached Mendez. Holding the two bologna sandwiches in her hand, she told him how she'd love to be a waitress in South Beach.
``But look at me!'' Edith Bowen told them. ``I'm 52 years old; no one's going to hire me.''
``You're very personable,'' Mendez said. ``I'm sure a place would hire you in a minute. Do you have any family you can call? Maybe they'll help you out. You'll be surprised.''
``Maybe you're right,'' Bowen replied. ``All I need is a little help. . . . Just come check up on me, OK? Make sure I'm still here.''
Mendez smiled: ``We'll be back Tuesday.''
LINK TO VIDEO
Elin Nordegren could be paid more than $50 million extra for sticking with Tiger Woods
The wife of Tiger Woods will miss out on more than $50 million if she pursues a legal split because of his string of affairs, top American divorce lawyers have revealed.
By Philip Sherwell in New York
Published: 5:30PM GMT 19 Dec 2009
Golfer Tiger Woods poses with wife Elin Nordengren Photo: GETTY
Raoul Felder, a celebrity divorce attorney whose client roster has included the former wives of Martin Scorsese and Tom Clancy, said that Elin Nordegren would be "financially ill-advised" to walk out on the philandering golfer for good.
Miss Nordegren, 29, was widely reported last week to be "100 per cent" set on a divorce and in line to receive in excess of $100 million in one of sport's most expensive separations.
But Mr Felder said that if she divorced her husband now, she would only be entitled under Florida law to the sum agreed in the prenuptial agreement before the couple married in 2004 – believed to be $20 million. Woods would also have to pay child support for their two-year-old daughter and baby son.
By contrast, her legal team started negotiating a lucrative postnuptial deal just days after the sex scandal surrounding her husband erupted three weeks ago. Lawyers familiar with the talks said she could be paid up to an additional $55 million to remain with Woods, 33, for just two more years – a figure that may well have risen further as up to 14 alleged mistresses emerged.
"If this is a financial calculation, then I don't think you will see her seeking a divorce," he said. "If she left now, she would only get the prenup deal. You normally don't get extra reparations for adultery or humiliation."
Miss Nordegren has moved out of the family home in a gated community near Orlando and is expected to fly to her homeland of Sweden with the children for Christmas. But if she leaves her husband permanently, it will be because of principle not profit.
Speculation that she might pocket colossal sums from a divorce has been fuelled by reports that she was consulting with Sorrell Trope, one of Hollywood's most formidable divorce lawyers.
Unlike Florida, California is a "shared property state" where all income generated during a marriage – several hundred million dollars in Woods' case – is subject to a 50:50 split in a divorce. But even though they own a property in California, neither the golfer or his wife are residents of the state, so she could not pursue divorce proceedings against him there.
Robert Wallack, a prominent divorce attorney whose clients have included supermodel Christie Brinkley and hip hop impresario Damon Dash, said that he believed Mr Trope would be brought on board to add some heavy hitting power to her negotiating team. "The circumstances present her with a golden opportunity to renegotiate her deal in an extremely favourable manner," he said.
The regular leaks from "close friends" of Miss Nordegren that she was intent on divorce – and her willingness to be pictured without her wedding ring – could also be part of that bargaining strategy, lawyers said.
Mr Trope, 82, who has represented stars from Cary Grant to Nicole Kidman, Hugh Grant and Britney Spears, did not return a request from comment from The Sunday Telegraph.
"He is vastly-experienced and respected divorce lawyer sought out by celebrities because of his prominence and expertise and also his experience in handling sensitive high net-worth cases," Mr Wallack said.
Woods is not known to have recruited a specialist in matrimonial law to his own legal advisers since the controversy erupted but he is "doing everything he can to save his marriage", according to a Team Tiger insider quoted on the TMZ website.
And there is also a strong financial motivation for Woods to persuade Miss Nordegren to remain his wife, even if she ends up leaving him in the future with a much bigger payout than she would receive if they parted ways now.
For as his agent and managers try to restore his battered image and salvage some of the endorsement deals that made him the world's first billion-dollar earning athlete, even the pretence of maintaining his marriage will help.
Woods has not been seen since in public he was taken to hospital on Nov 27 with facial lacerations after he crashed his car near his Florida mansion, reportedly pursued by his aggrieved wife brandishing a golf club.
In the first apparent sightings since that mysterious middle-of-the-night accident, neighbours in the gated community outside Orlando said that he was seeking solace hitting golf balls in the evening on a floodlit range near his home.
Although wife is considering whether to stand by him and some sponsors have already dropped him, Woods does still have some high-profile defenders – it is just that their endorsements may not be the most welcome given their own chequered private lives.
Rudolph Giuliani, the thrice-married former New York mayor who moved out of his official residence after announcing he was leaving his second wife for his mistress, was the latest famous adulterer to proffer his support.
"He's going through a tough period," said the fellow golf enthusiast last week. At an early stage in my [golfer] son's career, he was very kind and nice to him. He's a very, very fine man ... We know he's going to get through it."
Donald Trump, another golf lover, has predicted that Woods will emerge "hotter than ever". The tycoon, who began seeing Marla Maples while still married to his first wife, Ivana, was gushing in his backing.
"[He's] a great athlete ... one of the greatest athletes in the world. He's had a very interesting and traumatic couple of weeks [but] he's a wonderful guy."
P Diddy, the rap and design mogul whose long term girlfriend left him after reports he fathered a child with another woman, tweeted: "Ye without sin cast the 1st stone!!!! Put down your rocks sinner!!!!! Tiger keep your head up! God bless your fam Black man!" Ray J, a rapper most famous for a widely-distributed sex tape with his then actress girlfriend Kim Kardashian, offered some male solidarity.
"Let Tiger Woods be a man," he told Fox News. "Sometimes you're a man and you have a bad night. Let that man be a man."
And Snoop Dogg, a veteran of the often misogynist world of rap music, saved his fire for the various former paramours of Woods. "I'm just disgusted with all these women that keep popping up," he told Esquire. "What do they think- they're gonna get points? That just despicable, you whore."
But, doubtless at the orders of his exasperated management team, Woods is not taking calls from two former hard-partying friends and former basketball stars, Charles Barkley and Michael Jordan.
"I've been trying to reach him and can't get him. It's very frustrating," said Barkley, who has drink driving offences to his name. One alleged mistress, lingerie model Jamie Jungers, told Radaronline that she gambled in Las Vegas with Woods and Barkley, who she said was part of the golfer's "billionaire boys club" of A-list athletes.
In a round-table sports show to be broadcast today, Barkley says he just wanted to tell Woods: "Hey, man, We love you ... You should reach out to your celebrity friends when things go bad. They're the only people who understand.
"I have been disappointed with the people who are around him. They have got him so locked up. I know myself and Michael [Jordan] have been trying to get to him. You need to know in times like this you have got friends."
Jordan, with whom Woods has played golf for more than a decade, ended up divorced having tried to buy the silence of a mistress after what his lawyers said was an extortion demand.
On the same programme, director Spike Lee also expressed his concern that Woods was out of touch. "He's insulated. If Charles Barkley and Michael Jordan can't get to him, and those are his boys, then people are making bad moves," Lee said.
Meanwhile, in yet another financial blow, the luxury Swiss watchmaker Tag Heuer said on Friday that it was dropping from its US advertising campaigns. The management consultancy Accenture has axed him completely and Gillette has also cut back on using his once clean-cut image.
In the latest Davie Brown Index, which ranks a celebrity's ability to influence consumers, Woods had plummeted to 2,252nd place, down from No 96 before the scandal erupted. But it will be Miss Nordegren's decision on divorce that determines whether he has hit rock bottom.
Disabled mom fighting to keep her son
Can a quadriplegic woman be a good parent? Her ex-boyfriend filed a custody suit that says no.
| Kaney O'Neill feeds her baby son, Aidan at her home in Des Plaines. (Antonio Perez, Chicago Tribune / December
December 20, 2009
Kaney O'Neill knows she has limits as a mother.
The 31-year-old Des Plaines woman cannot walk, move her fingers independently or feel anything from the chest down. A decade ago, O'Neill was a Navy airman apprentice when she was knocked from a balcony during Hurricane Floyd, leaving her a quadriplegic.
When she discovered she was pregnant last December, she felt fear and joy, a journey the Tribune chronicled in August. She quickly embraced the opportunity to raise a child, feeling she had the money and family support to make up for her paralysis.
David Trais, her ex-boyfriend and the 49-year-old father of their now 5-month-old son, disagreed that she was up to the challenge.
In September, Trais sued O'Neill for full custody, charging that his former girlfriend is "not a fit and proper person" to care for their son, Aidan James O'Neill.
In court documents, Trais said O'Neill's disability "greatly limits her ability to care for the minor, or even wake up if the minor is distressed."
O'Neill counters that she always has another able-bodied adult on hand for Aidan -- be it her full-time caretaker, live-in brother or her mother. Even before she gave birth to Aidan, O'Neill said, she never went more than a few hours by herself.
The custody case, expected back before Cook County Judge Patricia Logue next month, raises profound questions about what rights disabled parents have to care for their own children.
Ella Callow, the director of legal programs for the National Center for Parents with Disabilities and their Families, said disabled parents are incorrectly "perceived as unable to perform to standard."
"No judge wants to be the judge who sends a child home when the child gets hurt," said Callow, of the Berkeley, Calif.-based advocacy group.
Callow said the bias against disabled parents is such that judges tend to grant custody to an able-bodied partner "even if they have a history that might usually be a heavy mark against them -- not having been in the child's life, a history of violence, etc."
Trais declined to comment to the Tribune when reached by phone. His attorney did not return repeated calls for comment.
But Howard LeVine, a Tinley Park attorney not affiliated with the case, said Trais' concerns are legitimate and may hold legal weight.
"Certainly, I sympathize with the mom, but assuming both parties are equal (in other respects), isn't the child obviously better off with the father?"
LeVine, who has specialized in divorce and custody cases for the last 40 years, pointed out that O'Neill would likely not be able to teach her son to write, paint or play ball. "What's the effect on the child -- feeling sorry for the mother and becoming the parent?"
On a recent morning, O'Neill's caretaker, Sasha Davidiuk, propped Aidan on a pillow in O'Neill's lap and O'Neill held her son. She has full use of her biceps muscles.
When his bottle fell from his mouth, or tipped the wrong way, Davidiuk stepped in to reposition it.
The two worked in tandem, with Davidiuk heading up duties that require manual dexterity -- like changing diapers -- and O'Neill focused more on emotional engagement. When Aidan burst into tears, for example, O'Neill was the one to sooth him with a soft rendition of "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star."
In addition to Davidiuk, O'Neill's brother, an ex-Marine, lives in an apartment attached to her home. O'Neill's mother helps on weekends and the family keeps Pele, a yellow lab service dog, who can open doors, turn on lights and pick up stuffed animals.
Her immaculate, one-story home is filled with photos of Aidan. Her son's room, painted sherbet green and decorated with cheerful zoo animals, has a specially modified changing table and crib that allows for O'Neill's wheelchair.
In an overflowing folder marked "Mommy vs. Daddy," O'Neill keeps a copy of legal filings, tax records and proof of her income, including statements that reflect she receives $91,000 a year in veteran's benefits that pay for her care. She also owns a general contracting company targeting federal government contracts earmarked for businesses owned by disabled veterans. O'Neill said the company, a 2-year-old startup, has not yet generated a profit.
How the Cook County case will play out is impossible to predict, say legal experts, who point out that O'Neill's disability, in and of itself, cannot be the determining factor.
"You cannot categorically discriminate against people because of their disabilities," said Bruce Boyer, director of the Civitas ChildLaw Clinic at Loyola University Chicago School of Law, referring to one of the central tenets of the Americans with Disabilities Act. "You can consider the ways in which someone's circumstances might interfere with a person's ability to have the child's needs met."
Helene Shapo, a professor at Northwestern University's School of Law, said such custody fights often come down to a judge determining "the best interests of the child -- a very nebulous standard that the courts use."
Shapo pointed to a 1979 landmark case in which the California Supreme Court reversed lower court rulings against a paralyzed father who had been fighting to retain custody of his two children. In its opinion, the court found that the "essence of parenting is not to be found in the harried rounds of daily carpooling" but rather "in the ethical, emotional and intellectual guidance the parent gives the child throughout his formative years."
As is common in child custody battles, the plaintiff did not limit his legal complaint to one concern.
Trais, a self-employed Chicago attorney, also charged in legal documents that O'Neill suffers from depression and that she smokes cigarettes and drinks alcohol in front of the infant.
O'Neill said she sees a therapist once a week and has been treated for anxiety, depression and sleep apnea. She denied Trais' claim she smokes or drinks -- though both are legal practices.
"Who is lighting my cigarettes and pouring my drinks?" she quipped.
Despite the acrimonious nature of their current relationship, O'Neill said she is committed to keeping Trais in their son's life. She said she was devastated when she learned Trais had deemed her "unfit" in court papers and said she believes it was motivated by her decision to break up with him shortly after Aidan's birth.
Trais currently has visitation rights from 4 to 7:30 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays, and overnight on Fridays, according to O'Neill.
To be sure, O'Neill is not the first mother to parent from a wheelchair.
Marca Bristo, president of Access Living, a Chicago community center providing advocacy and direct service for people with disabilities, was 23 when she suffered a spinal injury in a 1977 diving accident that left her paralyzed. She gave birth and raised two children when she was in her 30s.
"I won't kid you, it's harder to be a mom with a disability," Bristo said. She said both she and her kids learned to adapt. As her children got older, and starting to walk, verbal cues became increasingly important.
"You develop different voices" for warning children, since physical intervention isn't an option, she said. "My kids knew that 'danger voice.' They would stop in their trails when they heard that voice.
"My kids did fine."
Kosowski shows off his Daily News Hero of the Month award with his daughter Rachele in 1991.
After he was severely injured on 9/11, city cop Mike Kosowski started playing online poker to escape the pain.
All those hours in front of a computer paid off - Kosowski just won $1 million on a TV poker show.
"Talk about lucky," said Kosowski, 53, of Staten Island. "I was one of the luckiest guys in the world to survive that day. And now this."
Kosowski was trapped with eight other people when the World Trade Center's south tower collapsed. He suffered back and leg injuries and was forced to retire from the Police Department in 2004.
Bored and in pain, he began spending hours online playing poker.
His wife, Frances, tried to cheer him up.
"She saw that I was just sitting around," he said. "She bought me a dog to try to get me out of the house.
"I was on a fixed income. I didn't know what was coming next," he said. "I was in a bad way. I wasn't really mobile. I put on a lot of weight."
Kosowski, a Daily News Hero of the Month in 1991 for helping collar three armed robbery suspects, had only played poker a few times before he was injured, but started playing up to six hours a day.
Kosowski heard about the show, Fox's "PokerStars.net Million Dollar Challenge," a five-episode series that also features celebrities, and signed up to be a contestant.
Fox flew him out to Los Angeles, and he beat model Joanna Krupa from TV's "Dancing With the Stars" to get to Daniel Negreanu, a top player on the professional poker circuit. Kosowski defeated Negreanu to win the $1 million. The episode airs Dec. 27.
"I was shocked," he said.
Kosowski can't reveal the lucky hand that earned him the big paycheck.
"Let's just say that eight is my new lucky number," he said.
Kosowski said he plans to pay off his mortgage and set aside money for his two children, Mike, 15, and Rachele, 22.
He's also going to give some cash to a scholarship fund that helps send the children of parents killed in the World Trade Center to college.
"The people that lost their lives down there, their children should be taken care of," he said.
And he's going to give to City Harvest, which helps feed the homeless.
"Being a cop, you see homeless people every day," he said. "You wonder how they can make it."
Kosowski said he's still in shock over his good fortune.
"It makes you think, if you're one of those lucky people to survive that day, life really is worth living," he said.
Credit Card Features 79.9% Interest Rate
Bloated APR Is How Subprime Card Issuer Plans To Skirt Regulations Curbing Abusive Practices
AP Personal Finance Writer
POSTED: 2:34 pm EST December 17, 2009
UPDATED: 7:54 am EST December 18, 2009
NEW YORK -- It's no mistake. This credit card's interest rate is 79.9 percent.
The bloated APR is how First Premier Bank, a subprime credit card issuer, is skirting new regulations intended to curb abusive practices in the industry. It's a strategy other subprime card issuers could start adopting to get around the new rules.
Typically, the First Premier card comes with a minimum of $256 in fees in the first year for a credit line of $250. Starting in February, however, a new law will cap such fees at 25 percent of a card's credit line.
In a recent mailing for a preapproved card, First Premier lowers fees to just that limit -- $75 in the first year for a credit line of $300. But the new law doesn't set a cap on interest rates. Hence the 79.9 APR, up from the previous 9.9 percent.
"It's the highest on the market. It's the highest we've ever seen," said Anuj Shahani, an analyst with Synovate, a research firm that tracks credit card mailings.
The terms are eyebrow raising, but First Premier targets people with bad credit who likely can't get approved for cards elsewhere. It's a group that tends to lean heavily on credit too, meaning they'll likely incur the steep financing charges.
So for a $300 balance, a cardholder would pay about $20 a month in interest.
First Premier said the 79.9 APR offer is a test and that it's too early to tell whether it will be continued, according to an e-mailed statement. To comply with the new law, the bank said it will no longer offer the card that has $256 in first-year fees as of Feb. 21, 2010. However, customers will still be able to use their existing cards. The bank said "no final decisions" have been made regarding any rate changes for those cards.
First Premier noted that it needed to "price our product based on the risk associated with this market."
The bank declined to specify how many people were offered the 79.9 APR card.
According to First Premier's Web site, the credit cards are serviced by its sister organization Premier Bankcard. The company, based in Sioux Falls, S.D., says Premier Bankcard is the 10th largest issuer of MasterCard and Visa cards in the country, with more than 3.5 million customers.
In a mailing sent to prospective customers in October with the revamped terms, First Premier writes "...you might have less-than-perfect credit and we're OK with that." The letter notes that an online application or phone call is still required, but guarantees a 60-second status confirmation.
The letter also states there are no hidden fees that aren't disclosed in the attached form. That's where the 79.9 percent interest rate and $75 annual fee are listed. There's also $29 penalty if you pay late or go over your $300 credit limit.
Even if First Premier doesn't stick with the 79.9 APR, it will likely hike rates considerably from the current 9.9 percent to offset the lower fees, said Shahani of Synovate.
The revamped terms may not be the only changes; First Premier also appears to be moving away from the riskiest borrowers.
The bank typically mails offers to subprime households, meaning those with credit scores below 700. In the third quarter, however, 84 percent of its offers were sent to subprime households, down from 91 percent the same period last year, according to Synovate.
First Premier could be cleaning up its credit card portfolio since the new regulations will limit its ability to raise interest rates. That could mean First Premier won't issue cards as liberally to those with bad credit.
As harsh as First Premier's terms seem, that could be a blow to those who rely on the card, said Odysseas Papadimitriou, CEO of CardHub.com.
"Even when the cost of credit is astronomical, for people in true emergencies, it's much better than not having access to credit," said Papadimitriou.
Until Feb. 21, First Premier is still offering its even-higher-fee card online. So the price for credit the bank charges is at least $256 in first-year fees.
7:43 a.m. Friday, December 18, 2009
DeKalb sheriff's deputy arrested, accused of harboring armed robbery suspect
A DeKalb County Sheriff's deputy was arrested Wednesday on charges she harbored a wanted felon at her home.
Nine-year veteran Landria Odom, 41, is charged with hindering the capture of a criminal and lying to police, for hiding 28-year-old armed robbery suspect Kirkland Smith at her Atlanta in DeKalb home, Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Mikki Jones said.
Smith was wanted in connection with an Oct. 6 armed robbery, and was arrested outside Odom's home Wednesday.
As deputies with the Sheriff's Office fugitive squad surrounded Odom's home, a deputy saw Smith step onto the back patio, but he quickly returned inside, authorities said.
Smith then ran from the front door headed to the parking lot, where deputies tackled him. He was charged with felony armed robbery and possession of a weapon while committing a felony.
After arresting Smith, investigators from the Sheriff's internal affairs division and the DeKalb police were called in to determine how Odom was involved with the wanted felon.
Deputies knew that they were going to a fellow officer's home when they arrived at Odom's east Atlanta address, Jones said. Odom's name had surfaced during the investigation, Jones said.
Deputies arriving at the scene saw Odom's car parked outside the home in the 3400 block of Ivy's Walk, and positioned themselves to move in, authorities said.
An officer called Odom, and when asked could she speak face-to-face with the officer, Odom was evasive, according to reports filed after the incident.
Another deputy knocked on the door while Odom was on the phone, but got no response, Jones said. A fugitive squad lieutenant arrived and continued the phone conversation with her, learning that she was inside.
DeKalb police arrested her.
"It is for the good of all -- for the good of society -- that these persons are weeded out of law enforcement positions," Sheriff Thomas Brown said in a statement released Thursday night.
Both Smith and Odom were taken to the DeKalb County jail.
No bond was was listed for Odom, but Smith was released late Wednesday night on $2,500 bond, according to jail records.
Tenn. Boy, 4, Caught With Beer, Stolen Gifts
POSTED: 12:20 pm EST December 17, 2009
UPDATED: 2:55 am EST December 18, 2009
The child's mother, 21-year-old April Wright, tells WTVC-TV the boy "wants to go to jail because that's where his daddy is." Wright says she and the boy's father are going though a divorce.
The boy, found outside his house in Chatanooga on Tuesday, was taken to a hospital and treated for alcohol consumption.
Hamilton County Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Janice Atkinson says the incident is being investigated but the department declined to release the report.
The boy's mother says she met with child protective services and was told she will get to keep custody of her son.
LINK TO VIDEO:
Is Tiger headed to Arizona for rehab?
December 17, 2009 at 4:44 PM
Updated yesterday at 9:46 PM
WICKENBURG -- Rumors are swirling about the possibility Tiger Woods is headed to Arizona for rehab. A London newspaper, Fox News and others are reporting Woods is coming to Arizona after the New Year to seek treatment for prescription drug abuse and sex addiction.
Arizona is home to one of the most well-known rehab centers in the world -- the Meadows Rehabilitation Center in Wickenburg. They treat a variety of addictions, from sex to drugs. Although Tiger has not been classified as an addict, and he has not come forward and admitted any kind of addiction, a number of therapists told 3TV he displays all the signs.
"He was a cool, calm, collected, very skillful man who seemed to have it all, and who wouldn’t want to be that?” said Robert Weiss, head of the Sexual Recovery Institute in L.A. “But unfortunately the reality of his life was so vastly different from what we were told."
Over the years the Meadows Rehabilitation Center has welcomed a number of celebrities who are drawn to the facility because of the privacy it provides.
"It probably takes a treatment center that has the resources -- financial and otherwise -- to be able to provide that kind of anonymity and privacy," Weiss explained. "You have to have enough space for someone not to come by with a camera and to distance the clients from the public."
David Duchovny, Kate Moss, Whitney Houston and Matthew Perry have reportedly gone to the Meadows Rehabilitation Center for a variety of addictions. Rumor has it Tiger could be next.
LINK TO VIDEO:
Christmas around the world
When we think of Christmas, we think of eating turkey, exchanging gifts, red-and-white-clad fat men climbing down chimneys, and 25 December. But that's not the case everywhere. Here are a few arbitrarily selected examples.
4:52PM GMT 15 Dec 2009
Caganers Photo: AFP/GETTY
Caganers Photo: AFP/GETTY
Celebrated: 25 December
Father Christmas? Yes, but more prone to wearing sunglasses and fur-trimmed red shorts
Food: A vast roast turkey is not so appealing in 40C heat, but some still go for it. Others serve it cold. Prawns are also popular.
Notes: A summer Yuletide feels a bit back-to-front for us Northern Hemisphere chauvinists, but Christmas Day on Bondi Beach is something to behold. Otherwise, it is much like a British or American Christmas – gifts, food, family, telly, booze and arguments all make their appearances.
Celebrated: 7 January
Father Christmas? No
Food: Injera, a local sourdough pancake bread, with rich stews and meats. No turkeys.
Notes: The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church is closely related to the Coptic Church, and still uses the Julian calendar, rather than the Gregorian as followed in the West. Hence their Christmas – or “Ganna” - falling 13 days later. 12 days after Ganna, they celebrate Christ's birth in a three-day festival called Timkat.
Celebrated: 25 December
Father Christmas? Santa Claus, technically; while the British Father Christmas is related to Pere Noel, Santa Claus comes from the Dutch Sinterklaas. They've become interchangeable over time, though.
Food: Lots of it, predictably. Ham or beef is more common than turkey, as the bird (native to the United States) is the traditional centrepiece at Thanksgiving, a month earlier, but there is a wide variety.
Notes: Turkeys, the red-and-white Santa Claus, and many of the modern “traditions” of British Christmas are directly taken from our cross-Atlantic cousins. Perhaps ironically, the pilgrims who colonised America tried to ban the celebration altogether in 17th-century Massachusetts.
Celebrated: 13 June. Not really. 25 December, obviously
Father Christmas? Yes, although (see above) we have moved away from the green-cloaked “spirit of bonhomie” that Dickens would understand, to the red-and-white gift-bringer Santa Claus.
Food: Turkey! Lots of turkey. Although before the big American bird became commonplace over here, a goose was traditional (hence the carol saying “Christmas is coming, and the goose is getting fat”). Trimmings vary from household to household, although roast potatoes and Brussels sprouts are regular features, and the author of this piece would like to make it clear that Christmas dinner without bread sauce is just a warmed-up dead bird.
Notes: Christmas trees, carol singing, the Salvation Army, eating leftovers for a week, Boxing Day football, cold damp weather, the Queen's Speech (and Channel 4's irksome alternative), that infuriating bit between Christmas and New Year where you have to go back to work for three pointless days; it's British Christmas. You know how it goes.
Celebrated: 25 December (although they also celebrate St Nicholas's Day on 6 December)
Gifts: Yes – in a shoe, candy for good children, twigs for bad, on St Nicholas's Day
Father Christmas? No, St Nicholas; although as with so many places, the British/American tradition has taken hold strongly through films and adverts, so the red-and-white image is common.
Food: Hearty fare, as you might expect. Christmas Eve in Germany is called “Dickbauch”, or “fat stomach”, as tradition has it that those who go to bed hungry that night are tormented by demons as they sleep, so the big meal is late that evening.
Notes: Christmas trees first arose in Germany, and go up on 23 December – not a day before. They are decorated with sweets. German Christmas markets, which go up from the end of November, are a famous tradition, selling various oddments, meats and treats.
Celebrated: 25 December
Gifts? Yes, although adults exchange them on New Years' Day
Father Christmas? Oui, mais en France il s'appel “Père Noël”. He visits on 6 December, bringing small gifts, and again on Christmas Eve.
Food: Reveillon, the big Christmas meal, is held late on Christmas Eve and carries on past midnight (hence the name, which roughly means“waking meal”). Goose or turkey is common, but the French being the French they also get some lobster and foie gras in there.
Notes: The Nativity is a big deal in France (although not as big as in Catalonia; see below) and every home will display a small scene somewhere.
Celebrated: 7 January (the Russian Orthodox Church uses the Julian calendar)
Father Christmas? Not exactly; the rather more stern-sounding Grandfather Frost (“Ded Moroz”) and his helper, Snegurochka, split the duties. The exact relationship between Snegurochka and Grandfather Frost is ill defined. Some say she is his granddaughter. Some say....well, never mind. St Nicholas is a famous figure too.
Food: Goose, fish and pork are all served, together with various bean and cabbage stews
Notes: During the Soviet period, Christmas was not a holiday in Russia.
ISRAEL (specifically Bethlehem)
Celebrated: Well, generally not at all – it's a Jewish country, obviously – but in Bethlehem, things are necessarily rather different, and it is marked at various times by local Christians, tourists, and pilgrims
Gifts? Yes, but not for everyone; as it is such a key location in Christian mythology, representatives of all the churches – Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, Coptic and more – appear in the town. So the traditions are many and various.
Father Christmas? Yes. And Grandfather Frost, Santa Claus, and Père Noël.
Food: Well; again, yes. Different kinds.
Notes: The Church of the Nativity is naturally the centre of most celebrations, and various denominations have a procession from there through the town. Christmas decorations are hung around the town like many Western countries. Because Christmas takes place at different times for different churches, the festive period lasts for quite a while: the last church to celebrate it, the Armenian, holds it on 18 January.
Celebrated: 25 December
Father Christmas? Well; sort of... see below
Food: As elsewhere in Spain; there is nothing ubiquitous like turkey, although some do have turkey. Some sort of roast is usual, with soups and veg and so on. That's not the interesting bit though.
Notes: Catalan Christmas is notable for one thing: its scatological obsession.
Every Catalan home will likely have a Nativity scene; so far so standard European. But unusually (though not uniquely), they will all have an additional figure to the Holy Family, shepherds, donkeys etc – the Caganer. The Caganer is a small model of a man having a poo. Traditionally it was a Catalan peasant, but now may be the Prime Minister of Spain, Father Christmas, any number of celebrities – even Gordon Brown and Barack Obama have been immortalised, if that's the word, in Caganer form. It's not the only faecal part of Catalan Christmas: the Caga Tió or “s--- log” is a large stick thrown into the fire by children who entreat it to “s--- presents”.
Choir director takes students to Hooters
Dec. 17, 2009, 2:27PM
It was a surprise to the principal
PHOENIX — An Arizona music teacher whose students performed at a presidential inauguration event is on administrative leave after taking 40 high school students to a Hooters restaurant.
Paradise Valley school district spokeswoman Judi Willis says choir director Mary Segall accompanied the students to a performance in downtown Phoenix last week, and during the outing, they ate lunch at Hooters.
Willis says Segall explained that the restaurant, known for its waitresses' somewhat revealing attire, was the only place that could accommodate a group of that size. But district officials believe there were other options for lunch in the area.
Segall could not be reached for comment.
The teacher plans on retiring in January, and Willis says she does not know if she'll return before then.
LINK TO VIDEO AND PHOTO:
Teacher who took students to Hooters is put on leave
Dec 17, 2009 12:00 AM
The Arizona Republic
A Paradise Valley High School music teacher whose students performed at one of President's Barack Obama inauguration events has been put on administrative leave after taking 40 students to eat at a Hooters in downtown Phoenix.
Mary Segall, a choir director at the northeast Phoenix school, accompanied choral students at a performance at Arizona Center last week. While there, the students ate lunch at the Hooters restaurant, said Judi Willis, spokeswoman for the district.
Segall told her principal that the restaurant, known for its busty waitresses in tight shirts and orange shorts, was the only place that could accommodate a group of that size. She could not be reached for comment.
"We believe that there are many venues for lunch for a large group of people in the downtown Phoenix area," Willis said. "There could have been a choice that might have been more appropriate, given that it was a school-day event with a school employee in charge."Mike McNeill, vice president of marketing for Hooters USA, said he was unfamiliar with the incident and could not comment.
According to Hooters' Web site, each restaurant aims to provide diners with "a unique, entertaining dining experience . . . delivered by attractive, vivacious Hooters Girls."
Although parents knew students would be performing at Arizona Center, it is unclear whether they knew that their children would eat lunch at the restaurant.
"I know that it was a complete surprise to the principal," Willis said.
Several adults who aren't employees of the district accompanied Segall and the students on the trip. Willis said she does not know whether the adults challenged Segall's decision.
Segall, who has taught in the district for more than 23 years, was planning to retire at the end of January before the incident. She took the school choir and strings group to Washington, D.C., in January to perform at the "History in the Making: A Dream and a Change Inaugural Ball."
Willis said she does not know whether Segall will return to the district before she retires.
"I am sure that someone is covering her classes," she said.
'Tater Tot' sticks to guns in hair fight
4-year-old in Balch Springs wants to keep his locks
Dec. 17, 2009, 7:38AM
Mona Reeder AP
Taylor Pugh also goes by "Tater Tot."
BALCH SPRINGS — Taylor Pugh has been suspended from pre-kindergarten because he likes his hair a little on the floppy side.
The four-year-old sat with a teacher's aide in a suburban Dallas school library Wednesday while his friends played and studied together in a classroom.
"They kicked me out that place," said Taylor, who prefers the nickname Tater Tot. "I miss my friends."
Taylor's locks — long on the front and sides, covering his earlobes and shirt collar — violate the school district's dress code. He has been punished with in-school suspension since late last month.
His parents say the boy plans to eventually cut his hair and donate it to a charity that makes wigs for cancer patients. And they are not happy with the district's rules.
The school district appears "more concerned about his hair than his education," said Taylor's father, Delton Pugh. "I don't think it's right to hold a child down and force him to do something ... when it's not hurting him or affecting his education."
Pugh, a tattoo artist, said he used to shave his own head but that his son "made me pinky promise I would let my hair grow long with him."
The follicle fight came to a head last month when Taylor's parents received a signed letter from Floyd Elementary School's principal, threatening to withdraw the boy from school if his hair didn't comply with district standards.
When Taylor's parents didn't budge, their son was suspended.
When the boy returned, his hair was longer than ever. But school officials decided suspension was too harsh and changed the punishment.
"They still have regular classroom work, but in an isolated environment," Mesquite Independent School District spokesman Ian Halperin said of the modified in-school suspension that Taylor is serving. "We expect students ... to adhere to the code of conduct."
According to the district dress code, boys' hair must be kept out of the eyes and cannot extend below the bottom of earlobes or over the collar of a dress shirt. Hairstyles "designed to attract attention to the individual or to disrupt the orderly conduct of the classroom or campus (are) not permitted," the policy states.
The district is known for standing tough on its dress code. Earlier this year, a seventh-grader in the district was sent home for wearing black skinny pants. His parents chose to home-school him.
On its Web site, the district defends its code, saying "students who dress and groom themselves neatly, and in an acceptable and appropriate manner, are more likely to become constructive members of the society in which we live."
A persistent violator could face additional suspensions, but such issues are handled on a case-by-case basis, Halperin said.
Pugh said the issue is about more than hair. He said his son is being singled out, and that he has seen other male students in the district with hair much longer than Taylor's.
"Nobody wants to meet in the middle. It's all or nothing," Pugh said. "He's my son. I love him. I will back him to the end.
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Florida Supreme Court forbids shackling of most juvenile suspects in court
Calling the widespread shackling of juveniles in court ``repugnant, degrading [and] humiliating,'' the Florida Supreme Court on Thursday issued a new rule that forbids the restraint of juvenile offenders unless a judge finds that the youth is likely to be violent.
In a lengthy amendment to the rules that govern Florida's juvenile-court system, the state's highest court adopted the recommendations of a national advocacy group, the National Juvenile Defender Center, which argued that the wholesale shackling of juveniles in Florida was contrary to the purpose of rehabilitating youth.
The new rules reverse a longstanding practice in many courthouses -- including Broward and Palm Beach counties -- permitting juvenile defendants to be handcuffed or leg-shackled for all appearances, regardless of whether they are believed to be violent.
In Broward County, Public Defender Howard Finkelstein said, juveniles facing a court appearance are ``paraded'' through the courthouse in handcuffs.
In September 2006, juvenile judges in Miami-Dade County agreed to a request from the Public Defender's Office to limit the use of restraints only to protect courtrooom staff from juveniles who are at risk of violence.
``We find the indiscriminate shackling of children in Florida courtrooms... repugnant, degrading, humiliating, and contrary to the stated purposes of the juvenile justice system and to the principles of therapeutic justice, a concept which this court has previously acknowledged,'' the high court wrote in an 18-page order.
Public defenders and children's advocates praised Thurday's decision, and administrators at the Department of Juvenile Justice vowed to work with judges and courthouse leaders throughout the state to put the new guidelines in effect.
``Anybody who has ever had a child, or even met a child, knows that it would be severely and emotionally traumatic to shackle a child and parade him through public corridors in a courthouse,'' Finklestein said. ``This decision by the Supreme Court leaves only one question unanswered: Does anybody at DJJ know anything about kids?''
Replied Frank Penela, a DJJ spokesman: ``I beg to differ. We are committed to the health, safety and well-being of the kids in our care.''
``DJJ will, of course, adhere to the Supreme Court's adoption of this new rule and it's provisions,'' Penela added. ``Our detention superintendents will coordinate with the respective juvenile court judges in each circuit for operational preferences -- and how the judges want this procedure to be implemented in their courtrooms.''
Wed Dec 16, 11:19 AM ET
Brazil toddler has 50 sewing needles inside body
SAO PAULO – A 2-year-old boy has as many as 50 metal sewing needles inside his body, apparently stuck there one by one, a doctor treating him said Wednesday. Brazilian media said the boy's ex-stepfather was detained.
Dr. Luiz Cesar Soltoski told The Associated Press that surgeons hope to remove most of the needles — some as long as 2 inches (5 centimeters)_ but those in the lungs will have to wait until the child's breathing improves.
Some needles cannot be removed as they are too close to vital organs or even inside organs, Soltoski said.
The boy's mother, a maid, took him to a hospital in the small northeastern city of Ibotirama last Thursday, saying he was complaining of pain. Three days later, after X-rays revealed many of the needles, doctors moved him to a larger hospital in the nearby city of Barreiras.
The mother told police she didn't know how the needles got inside her son, whose name was not released because of his age. But police Wednesday night detained an ex-stepfather of the boy who confessed, according to Brazil's Globo TV. It reported the man said he inserted the needles with the help of two women who were not identified.
The boy's father, Gessivaldo Alves, earlier told the newspaper A Tarde that he believed his son could have been a victim of a black magic ritual. Alves said he visited the home where the boy was living and found unspecified items that could be used for black magic, A Tarde reported.
The police inspector in charge of the case, Helder Fernandes Santana, told the Agencia Estado news agency that a black magic ritual involving the boy was among the motives that police were pursuing and that officers were casting a wide net for suspects.
"In theory, anyone who had a relationship with the boy is a suspect," Santana said. "All of our officers are focused on this case, gathering information."
Santana did not answer his cell phone Wednesday night to comment on the Globo TV report about the detention and confession of the ex-stepfather. No one answered the phone at the police station in Ibotirama.
The boy's doctor said he believed the needles were stuck into the child's body one by one.
"We think it could have only been by penetration because we found needles in the lung, the left leg and in different parts of the thorax. It couldn't have been by ingestion," Soltoski said.
Doctors found no signs of outside wounds on the boy. X-ray images carried by Brazilian Web sites clearly showed some of the needles inside his body.
The boy is in intensive care, but Soltoski said his condition has improved since he was admitted.
White Americans' majority to end by mid-century
Associated Press Writer
Posted: 12/16/2009 09:25:33 AM MST
WASHINGTON—The estimated time when whites will no longer make up the majority of Americans has been pushed back eight years—to 2050—because the recession and stricter immigration policies have slowed the flow of foreigners into the U.S.
Census Bureau projections released Wednesday update last year's prediction that white children would become a minority in 2023 and the overall white population would follow in 2042. The earlier estimate did not take into account a drop in the number of people moving into the U.S. because of the economic crisis and the immigration policies imposed after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
The United States has 308 million people today; two-thirds are non-Hispanic whites.
The total population should climb to 399 million by 2050, under the new projections, with whites making up 49.9 percent of the population. Blacks will make up 12.2 percent, virtually unchanged from today. Hispanics, currently 15 percent of the population, will rise to 28 percent in 2050.
Asians are expected to increase from 4.4 percent of the population to 6 percent.
The projections are based on rates for births and deaths and a scenario in which immigration continues its more recent, slower pace of adding nearly 1 million new foreigners each year.
The point when minority children become the majority is expected to have a similar delay of roughly eight years, moving from 2023 to 2031.
The population 85 and older
is projected to more than triple by 2050, to 18.6 million.
The actual shift in demographics will be influenced by a host of factors that can't be accurately forecast—the pace of the economic recovery, cultural changes, natural or manmade disasters, as well as an overhaul of immigration law, which may be debated in Congress as early as next year.
As a result, the Census Bureau said the projections should used mostly as a guide.
The agency also released numbers showing projections based on "high" rates of immigration—more likely if more-flexible government policies and a booming U.S. economy attract large numbers of foreigners—as well as "low" immigration, a possible scenario if U.S. policies don't change much while the economy substantially improves.
—With high immigration, the minority "tipping point" is moved up to 2040, two years earlier than the previous estimate. At that time, Asians would have a much larger share, at 8 percent, since their population growth is more dependent on immigration than birth rates.
—With low immigration, the "tipping point" arrives by 2045.
Under a purely theoretical "zero immigration" scenario in which the U.S. effectively does not take in any immigrants, whites would remain the majority in 2050, making up a solid 58 percent of the U.S. population. In such a case, the share of Hispanics would increase to 21 percent because of high fertility rates and a younger population.
Chronicle Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
(12-15) 17:43 PST SAN FRANCISCO -- A lawsuit accusing a Bay Area flight-planning company of aiding an alleged CIA program of kidnapping and torturing terror suspects threatens national security and is too sensitive to discuss fully in a public courtroom, an Obama administration attorney argued Tuesday.
"The case cannot proceed without getting into state secrets," Justice Department lawyer Douglas Letter told an 11-judge panel of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.
Several judges noted that most of the essential facts of the case have been widely aired - the existence of the "extraordinary rendition" program under President George W. Bush, the five plaintiffs' accounts of their abduction and torture, and the alleged participation by Jeppesen Dataplan of San Jose - and asked why the case is too sensitive for the courts to hear.
Letter said he could reply only in a closed session. For the record, he said, "the U.S. government will not confirm or deny any relationship with Jeppesen."
The court met privately with Letter after the one-hour public hearing, a practice that the plaintiffs' lawyer, Ben Wizner of the American Civil Liberties Union, described as common in cases involving government claims of secrecy.
During the public session, Wizner accused the administration of trying to cover up wrongdoing.
"The CIA has engaged in kidnapping and torture and declared its crimes state secrets," he said. Dismissing the suit without deciding whether the plaintiffs' rights were violated, he said, would be "dangerous to democracy."
Extraordinary rendition is the practice of abducting suspected terrorists and taking them to foreign countries or CIA prisons for interrogation.
The Bush administration used rendition extensively but said it always insisted on a guarantee from the foreign country that it would not torture the prisoner. President Obama has issued orders closing secret CIA prisons and barring torture, but has also endorsed Bush's arguments for dismissal of the Jeppesen case and other suits by alleged victims of torture.
CIA's air provider
Jeppesen, a Boeing Co. subsidiary, was described in a 2007 Council of Europe report as the CIA's aviation services provider. In a court declaration in the current suit, a company employee quoted a director as telling staff members in 2006 that Jeppesen handled the CIA's "torture flights."
The five plaintiffs accuse Jeppesen of arranging their flights to foreign or CIA prisons, where they say they were interrogated brutally. Two of the men are still being held in Egypt and Morocco, and the others have been released without U.S. charges.
The Bush administration won a ruling by U.S. District Judge James Ware of San Jose dismissing the suit in February 2008. A three-judge appeals court panel reinstated the suit this past April, saying that neither the CIA nor its contractors were above the law. But the full court then granted the Obama administration's request to refer the case to an 11-judge panel.
The government's argument Tuesday - that allowing the case to proceed would risk disclosure of secrets about interrogation methods and CIA operations - drew a mixed reaction from the court.
Judge Michael Hawkins, author of the April decision, noted that the Obama administration plans to try the alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks in open court and has spoken publicly about interrogation abuses.
But Chief Judge Alex Kozinski said the administration, not the courts, must decide crucial questions of secrecy.
"I understand you think it's not fair, but so what?" he told Wizner.
The plaintiffs could ask Congress to pass a special compensation bill for them without involving the courts, Kozinski said. Congress already allows victims of torture, including foreigners, to sue for damages, the ACLU lawyer replied. "It's not a waste of judicial resources to give torture victims their day in court," he said.
The court gave no indication of when it would rule. The losing side could appeal to the Supreme Court.
Car license plate leads Miami-Dade police to bank robbery suspect
ADAM H. BEASLEY
Miami-Dade police have nabbed the man suspected of robbing a SunTrust Bank after an off-duty cop alertly took down the tag number of the thief's getaway car.
Both the heist and the arrest occurred Monday, with authorities taking Alejandro Camps, 29, into custody at his home -- a mile from the scene of the crime.
According to the arrest report, here's what happened:
Camps entered the SunTrust branch at 8717 SW 24th St. about 9:45 Monday morning, approached a female teller and gave her a note demanding money.
The teller complied, and Camps fled the bank.
As he was speeding away in a 2006 Cadillac Deville, a Miami-Dade off-duty cop -- identified as Officer Munrano on the report -- got a look at the car's license plate.
A records search led police to Camps' home at 3513 SW 90th Ave., where they found the car in the driveway.
They arrested Camps about 7:30 p.m. and charged him with armed robbery with a firearm.
As of Tuesday afternoon, he was held at the Pretrial Detention Center on no bond.
POSTED: 4:54 pm CST December 11, 2009
UPDATED: 10:21 pm CST December 11, 2009
Lamya Cammon is angry, confused, and scared by the incident last week in which the apparently frustrated teacher cut one of her braids off after she wouldn't stop playing with them in class.
Cammon, 7, sports a few dozen braids, but one is conspicuously absent.
"She told me to stop playing with it. Then cut it off and sent me back to my desk," Cammon said.
Cammon's a first-grader at Congress Elementary and said her teacher used a pair of classroom scissors to cut off one of the braids after she absent-mindedly kept playing with them.
"Tell me how you play with your hair. Show me what that means," 12 News reporter Nick Bohr said to Cammon.
"I wasn't playing with it that loud," Cammon said.
She said the teacher called her to the front of the room and cut it in front of the whole class.
"What did you do?" Bohr asked.
"I went to my desk and cried. And they was laughing," Cammon said. "She threw it away, and she said, 'Now what you gonna go home and say to your momma? ' And I said, 'That you cut off my hair,'" Cammon said.
Cammon's mother is furious. She went to the school and confronted the teacher.
"I said, 'Well, you know, you cut a lot of her hair off.' And she was like, 'Well, I do apologize.' She said, 'But I was frustrated,'" Cammon's mother, Helen Cunningham, said.
The Milwaukee Public Schools District said it is going through the disciplinary process with the teacher, who remains in class, although Cammon has been moved to a different classroom by the principal.
"The main thing is, from the heart of the principal, and me speaking for the district, we're very sorry that this happened," MPS spokeswoman Roseann St. Aubin said.
Cammon's mother said she appreciates the apology but said the district should seriously question whether the teacher should keep her job.
"Why would we want someone like that teaching our kids? We trust our kids once they go to school to be safe," Cunningham said.
Milwaukee police investigated the case and referred it to the district attorney for possible physical or mental abuse of a child charges.
When the district attorney's office decided not to file criminal charges, police this week issued the teacher a $175 ticket for disorderly conduct.
The Milwaukee Teachers Education Association can't talk about the incident, but said stress is not unusual.
“As budget constraints get tighter every year, the stress level and frustrations do increase,” said the MTEA’s Sid Hatch.
12 News called the teacher Friday night and went to her home for comment, but someone came to the door and said she did not want to talk.
Warren Brown is highly exercised on Dec. 9, as he returns to the defense table from Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge David Young's bench. "I'll say for the record, your honor," the criminal-defense attorney declares, "that the state can forget about any help from this young lady."
Brown is referring to his client, 21-year-old former prison guard Lynae Chapman, who's in court for her arraignment on misdemeanor charges that she helped procure a cell phone for an inmate—22-year-old murder suspect Ray Donald Lee, an alleged Black Guerrilla Family gangmember who is Chapman's boyfriend and the father of her unborn child—at the Baltimore City Detention Center, where she worked until her Oct. 23 indictment ("A Big No-No," Nov. 4). Chapman, as Brown makes clear, wants to plead guilty, but, due to whatever just transpired at a 10-minute bench conference, the judge won't accept the plea, so Chapman's case is going forward to a trial scheduled for Feb. 12.
"We're prepared to plead guilty today," Brown continues, "but she's gonna be continually held [in detention] until the next trial date, and the state'll come up with some reason to postpone. They're coming up with a reason to postpone a guilty plea! Which, I mean, when have we not allowed individuals to plead guilty unless we have some issue with regard to their competency? The state acts as if they have a right to prohibit a person from pleading guilty! They have a factual basis for the court accepting the plea.
"Quite frankly, as the state knows," Brown says, "it's not a question of guilt or innocence. They've got a very, very, very, very good case against her. Absolutely. And so we don't intend to go to trial. We want only to resolve this as soon as possible and take our lumps." He adds that his client is not interested in pursuing a deal in exchange for pleading guilty: "I mean, no deals, all bets are off."
The rationale behind the judge's refusal to allow Chapman's attempt to plead guilty presumably was discussed during the bench conference that immediately preceded Brown's open-court diatribe. City Paper on Dec. 10 attempted to learn what was discussed by viewing the videotape of the proceeding at the court reporter's office, as has often been done in the past. But under new rules instituted two months ago, the staff there explained, bench conferences are deleted from recordings of court proceedings prior to public viewing, so the discussion about Chapman's case remains a secret between the state, the defense, and the judge.
The unusual twist is not the first odd turn in Chapman's case. A strong indication that there's more going on than meets the eye came from the spokesman for Chapman's former employer, the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services. Mark Vernarelli declined to comment on the case after her indictment, saying that to do so "would jeopardize other law-enforcement agencies' investigations." In addition, the court file of Chapman's case is not available for public review at the clerk's office—indeed, the case is not even listed on the on-line Maryland Judiciary Case Search, the main source of information about court cases. City Paper's reporting has been possible only via open-court proceedings for Chapman's bail review and arraignment.
Also strange was the prosecutor's behavior after Chapman's arraignment hearing, during which Brown did virtually all of the on-the-record speaking. City Paper had been unable to hear her name when she stood to call the case, and, after the hearing was over, asked her to provide it. She repeatedly refused, suggesting that City Paper go look it up in the court file. When City Paper explained that the file in Chapman's case is not publicly available, she again refused to identify herself. In a Dec. 10 e-mail, Baltimore City State's Attorney spokesman Joseph Sviatko disclosed the prosecutor's name: Nancy Olin.
At the end of the arraignment hearing, Brown does the only thing he can do: He pleads not guilty on behalf of his client and requests a jury trial. Chapman, with her hair pulled back tight in a bun, sits beside him and signs the necessary paperwork, struggling with her handcuffs to do so. She's in full restraints—her ankles, wrists, and mid-section are chained—and her pregnant belly shows prominently through her gray Department of Corrections sweatsuit. "You gotta hold on, baby-doll," Brown tells her, before she is escorted out of the courtroom.
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Barack Obama health care bill dealt blow by Joe Lieberman
President Barack Obama's hopes of achieving health care reform have been dealt a body blow by Senator Joe Lieberman, once a Democratic vice-presidential candidate but now one of the party's bêtes noire.
Toby Harnden in Washington
Published: 7:16PM GMT 14 Dec 2009
Barack Obama's health care hopes have been dealt a blow by Joe Lieberman Photo: AP
The new threat to the centrepiece of his agenda came as Mr Obama's popularity sunk to its lowest level yet with a Rasmussen poll that gave him an approval rating of just 44 per cent – the lowest for any president at this stage of his first term.
Mr Lieberman, who became an Independent in 2006 after he failed to win the Democratic party primary but retained his Connecticut seat in the general election, is part of the Democratic caucus but has consistently opposed his former party at key moments.
His refusal to back the latest draft health care legislation incensed Democratic aides on Capitol Hill because they believed he had agreed to support a delicate compromise that gave the party the 60 votes it needs to prevent a Republican filibuster.
Mr Lieberman said bluntly that Senator Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader, had to scrap the proposal to expand the Medicare state health plan to people as young as 55 or he would not vote for it.
"It will add taxpayer costs," he told CBS News. "It will add to the deficit. It's unnecessary." In a subsequent meeting with Mr Reid, he said he would back a Republican filibuster against the bill if it contained the Medicare provision or allowed the government to sell insurance in competition with private companies.
Mr Lieberman's shock move threatened to doom Mr Reid's compromise plan, which had led Democrats to believe that a historic reform – the centrepiece of Mr Obama's agenda – was within their grasp this year.
In an interview recorded before Mr Lieberman's bombshell, Mr Obama had expressed optimism that the crucial breakthrough had been achieved. "I think it's going to pass out of the Senate before Christmas," he told CBS.
A delay of any Senate health care vote into 2010 could spell disaster for Mr Obama because it would push a controversial issue into a congressional election year when many centrist Democrats fear they would lose their seats if voted for an expensive reform.
Mr Reid had trumpeted his deal last Tuesday as a resolution between liberals and conservatives within his party over the thorny issue of the government's role in the insurance industry and had been waiting for cost estimates from the independent Congressional Budget Office to clear the way for a vote.
The prospects of a vote receded, however, after Mr Lieberman's tough words. Any concession to Mr Lieberman would run the risk of alienating liberal senators who already believe that the legislation has been watered down too much.
"We've got to stop adding to the bill," Mr Lieberman said. "We've got to start subtracting some controversial things. I think the only way to get this done before Christmas is to bring in some Republicans who are open-minded on this, like Olympia Snowe."
But Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine – the most likely Republican defector – has flatly rejected Mr. Reid's Medicare proposal.
Mr Obama has staked the success of his presidency on overhauling the $2.5 trillion American health care system and extending medical coverage to millions of uninsured.
But there is increasing scepticism over whether this can be achieved without swelling the already massive budget deficit at a time of severe economic hardship. Healthcare costs currently represent 16 per cent of the American economy.
Mr Lieberman came within a whisker of becoming Vice-President in 2000 when the United States Supreme Court ruled against him and Al Gore and George W. Bush took his place in the White House despite losing the national popular vote.
He ran as a Democratic presidential candidate in 2004 but since then his relations with the party have gone from bad to worse. An outspoken hawk and supporter of the Iraq invasion, Mr Lieberman was defeated by the liberal Ned Lamont in the 2006 primary for his Connecticut seat.
Rather than bow out gracefully as he was urged to do by party bigwigs, Mr Lieberman ran against Mr Lamont in the general election and beat him.
He then supported his friend Senator John McCain against Mr Obama in the 2008 election, prompting calls for him to be expelled from the Democratic caucus.
But as the 60th Democratic vote in the Senate, Mr Lieberman found himself with considerable leverage and he kept his place in the caucus and his chairmanship of the Homeland Security Committee.
Court To Decide Text Messaging Privacy Case
David G. Savage
Tribune Washington Bureau
11:36 a.m. EST
December 14, 2009
Posted: 10:54 a.m. Dec. 14, 2009
U-M study: Pot, prescription drugs more popular among teens
Numbers drop on binge-drinking and smoking
DAVID N. GOODMAN
Smoking marijuana is becoming even more popular among U.S. teens and they have cut down on smoking cigarettes, binge drinking and using methamphetamine, according to a national survey of eighth, 10th and 12th graders released today by White House drug czar Gil Kerlikowske.
More teens also are getting high on prescription pain pills and attention-deficit drugs, according to the 35th annual “Monitoring the Future” survey of 47,097 students by the University of Michigan for the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
The increase of teens smoking pot is partly because the national debate over medical use of marijuana can make the drug’s use seem safer to teenagers, researchers said. In addition to marijuana, fewer teens also view prescription drugs and Ecstasy as dangerous, which often means more could use those drugs in the future, Kerlikowske said.
The “continued erosion in youth attitudes and behavior toward substance abuse should give pause to all parents and policy-makers,” Kerlikowske said.
“These latest data confirm that we must redouble our efforts to implement a comprehensive, evidence-based approach to preventing and treating drug use,” Kerlikowske, the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, said in remarks prepared for his speech today at the National Press Club in Washington.
Marijuana use, while well off peak levels of the late 1990s, has edged up. Among this year’s 12th graders, 20.6% said they used it within the past month, compared with 19.4% in 2008 and 18.3% in 2006.
Among 10th graders, pot use in the past month rose from 13.8% in 2008 to 15.9% this year.
“The upward trending of the past two or three years stands in stark contrast to the steady decline that preceded it for nearly a decade,” said Lloyd Johnston, who has directed the annual survey since it started in 1975.
The percentage of eighth-graders who saw a “great risk” in occasionally smoking marijuana fell from 50.5% in 2004 to 48.1% in 2008 and 44.8% this year.
The perceived danger of using Ecstasy once or twice fell among eighth graders, from 42.5% in 2004 to 26% in 2009.
“When the perception of the danger goes down, in the following years you see an increase in use,” said National Institute on Drug Abuse Director Nora Volkow.
Volkow said teens falsely reason it’s less dangerous to get high on prescription drugs “because they’re endorsed by the medical community.” But she said prescription narcotics like OxyContin and Vicodin are highly addictive and can act as gateways to heroin, a cheaper high.
Use rates of both prescription narcotics rose among this year’s 10th graders, with 8.1% saying they had used Vicodin in the past year compared with 6.7% of the same grade in 2008. For OxyContin, the figure rose from 3.6% to 5.1%.
Recreational use of the attention-deficit drug Ritalin was lower than five years ago. But the attention-deficit drug Adderall, appearing for this first time in this year’s survey, showed use rates similar to those for Ritalin at its peak, which for 12th graders was around 5%.
By all measures, alcohol remained the most widely used illicit substance among teens, with 43.5% of 12th graders reporting taking a drink in the past month. That’s a little change from last year, but down from 52.7% in 1997 — a year that showed high percentages of substance abuse. All three grades reported drops in binge drinking for 2004-2009.
Cigarette use patterns showed a continuation of the dramatic drop from a decade ago. In 1997, 19.4% of eighth graders reported smoking within a month. That fell to 6.8% last year and 6.5% this year. The rate for 12th graders dropped from 36.5% in 1997 to 20.1% this year.
“There’s not going to be much further improvement unless policies change,” such as higher taxes to discourage kids on a budget and further limits on public smoking, Johnston said.
Only 2.4% of this year’s 12th graders said they’d ever used methamphetamine, down from 2.8% in 2008 and 8.2% in 1999.
President Obama with Oprah Winfrey in the Blue Room of the White House earlier this month.
On what was billed as Oprah's "White House Christmas Special," Obama credited his administration with getting the economy on track, winding down the Iraq war and making the right call for a temporary surge in Afghanistan.
He also said America has "reset" its prestige in the world and made progress toward halting development of nuclear weapons in Iran and North Korea.
Passage of health care reform would boost his grade to an A-, he said. Until Americans get back to work, he said, "I can't give myself the grade I'd like."
Oprah interviewed the President and First Lady Michelle Obama separately and together on the ABC special.
Michelle Obama discussed the White House's 390-pound gingerbread house and showed Winfrey how First Dog Bo has been trained to give high-fives.
Obama handled the policy issues and seemed noticeably more relaxed with his old friend and admirer Winfrey than he did discussing some of the same issues earlier with Steve Kroft on CBS' "60 Minutes."
He cut Kroft off at least twice when he disagreed with the premise of a question.
Winfrey at one point asked about his temper, and Obama said that when he is displeased he gets an edge in his voice - exactly what happened when Kroft suggested his speech on Afghanistan had left his plans unclear.
While Winfrey noted Obama had heard some criticism, she mainly tossed softballs, like queries about the importance of his family and whether he "agonized" over the decision to send more troops to Afghanistan.
The less-than-illuminating answers were: family is "the most important thing in my life" and "yes."
Obama did try to dribble around Oprah's observation that his hair was grayer than before he took office. He said he's just at the age when that happens.
He also declared himself unconcerned that his approval ratings have fallen.
"It was inevitable," he said. "We have 10% unemployment. I told Michelle when we got here that in six months my poll numbers will start crashing, so we can't play to the polls. I'm concerned with where we'll be in two to three years."
The interview concluded with the First Couple good-naturedly sparring over who gives better Christmas gifts. Whatever ends up under his tree, President Obama won't get a better Christmas present than a sitdown with Oprah.
In happier times: Tiger Woods with wife Elin Nordegren, daugther Sam and son Charlie.
Lacroix/WireImageTiger Woods infidelity: Waitress Jaimee Grubbs was one of the first to claim and affair with Woods. CLICK FOR MORE PHOTOS OF ALLEGED MISTRESSES.
The Florida Department of Children and Families paid a visit to Tiger Woods' Florida home on Saturday, according to a gossip Web site.
The agency went to the golfer's mansion mid-day, accompanied by a marked police car and stayed for "roughly an hour," radaronline.com reported without naming its source.
State officials did not confirm or deny the story.
"Child abuse, adult investigations, in the state of Florida are confidential," Carrie Hoeppner, an agency spokeswoman, told the Daily News. "I'm just not able by law to give confirmation about whether we visited the family and that is in the interest of protecting the child."
The Orange County Sherrif's Department, however, acknowledged a partnership: "Our deputies met with members of the Department of Children and Families. But all details are being kept secret," Capt. Angelo Nieves told radaronline.com.
Nieves refused to say whether deputies and DCF officials were at the Windermere home Saturday.
Repeated calls to Nieves by the Daily News were not returned.
Meanwhile, the Florida Highway Patrol, which investigated last month's car crash, has stayed out of the picture.
"FHP has not been to the Woods home since the weekend of the crash," Sgt. Kim Montes told the Daily News on Sunday.
Tiger has denied reports that he and his wife, Elin, fought over his cheating, leading to a single-car crash that sparked the recent explosion of media attention of the typically tight-lipped golfer's home life.
The celebrity couple has two children, 2-year-old daughter Sam and 10-month-old son Charlie.
Italian news reports say a man struck Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi in the face at a rally in Milan.
A mentally ill man broke Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's nose and knocked two of his teeth out with a punch to the face at a rowdy rally in Milan Sunday.
Doctors said they will keep him in the hospital under observation for 24 hours. They said he was not badly injured.
It was not clear if the prime minister, who has confessed to having a face lift, will need more plastic surgery.
Italian TV showed the dazed premier - his face cut and his mouth a mass of blood - falling to the ground and then being hustled into a car.
The attacker, 42-year-old Massimo Tartaglia, a graphic designer with a history of mental problems, was quickly bundled away by police.
Berlusconi was gladhanding the crowd after delivering a tirade against the left at an evening rally in front of Milan's Duomo when he was hit.
Witness Doriano Riparbelli told Italian media that Tartaglia was holding a souvenir replica of the famously spikey cathedral and rammed it into Berlusconi's face.
Defense minister Ignazio La Russa, who also saw it happen, told the Corriere della Sera newspaper that the crowd was ready to lynch the attacker.
"Only scraps would have remained," he said.
Video of the aftermath showed a chaotic scene as crowds surged around the president, who is a hearty 73.
An aide was crawling on the roof of his limo as he was stuffed inside the car by security men.
At one point Berlusconi tried to climb out and hoist himself onto the car to show he was all right, but fell back, looking confused.
Distraught fans - some of whom appeared to believe he'd been shot - looked on in horror.
The Italian flair for drama quickly asserted itself.
"Democracy is at risk in this country," said Senate president Renato Schifani.
Far-right politician Umberto Bossi declared the punch "an act of terrorism."
Berlusconi spokesman Paolo Buonaiuti told CNN the growing political attacks on his boss led to the physical attack.
"There has been such a buildup of hatred toward the premier, and this is not good," Buonaiuti said. "This campaign of hatred has been building quite rapidly recently, and I am not surprised that what happened tonight took place."
Corriere della Sera said a handful of protesters heckled Berlusconi, shouting slogans that prompted him to tell the crowd, "They paint me as a monster, but I don't think I am one - firstly because I am good-looking and secondly because I'm a good guy."
Tartaglia was not among the protesters.
Berlusconi faces a number of bribery and corruption trials and has been caught up in a series of tawdry sex scandals.
His wife, actress Veronica Lario, announced in May she would seek a divorce amid allegations he was consorting with teenagers and prostitutes.
The Mail on Sunday in London reported that he spent Friday's European Union summit meeting doodling lady's underwear and then passing his sketches around to shocked world leaders.
The paper said Berlusconi drew a series of female undergarments through the ages - from Victorian bloomers to 21st Century thongs - as the leaders discussed climate change in Brussels.
Among those present: Britain's Gordon Brown, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen.
Berlusconi -- a billionaire who controls many Italian institutions, including the football team AC Milan and major TV networks -- is the longest-serving Prime Minister of Italy, a position he has held three times since 1994.
LINK TO VIDEO:
She says being the first to offer stud service could really boost business, too.
But the Nye County sheriff and a longtime lobbyist for Nevada's legal brothel industry say Davis still needs approval from the county.
And they say they're not sure yet whether the idea will work.
Cop a load of this... Traffic policeman's amazing dance routine on the job
Mail Foreign Service
Last updated at 2:30 AM on 13th December 2009
All traffic police have a repertoire of moves to direct vehicles, but they're pretty functional - after all, the job is about impersonating a traffic light.
However, one U.S. officer has taken the Internet by storm after turning his duties into a spectacularly choreographed artform.
For Tony Lepore, directing traffic is no mere routine - it's a dance routine.
Scroll to end to see Tony in action...
Strictly in the line of duty: Tony Lepore executes a deft dance move while directing traffic
He spins on his heels, drops to his knees, falls back on his hands and springs back upright.
Although Mr Lepore, 62, from Providence, Rhode Island, has been entertaining motorists since 1984, his popularity has rocketed due to the internet.
Inspired by an old set-up on TV classic Candid Camera, Mr Lepore began adding fancy footwork and flamboyant arm movements to his traffic direction.
'I saw Candid Camera and I thought. 'Gee, maybe tomorrow I'm going to try a couple of spins and hand movements... But I didn't know if my bosses were going to like it,' he said.
However, with positive feedback from amused motorists, police chiefs allowed him to carry on.
Crosstown traffic: Tony Lepore has reprises his act for Christmas long after retiring from full-time policing
Drivers not completely distracted by his act will find themselves directed just where they want to be.
'I've had people come down and film me and say, "You're really directing traffic,"' he told local television show The Rhode Show.
The Vietnam veteran has had his share of serious police work, spending nine years on night duty in Providence and being decorated for valour in the line of duty.
He once saved two teenage girls by diving into the freezing river after their car overturned into the water. On another occasion he pulled workers from the rubble of a building levelled by an explosion - just in time to save them from a second blast.
But a transfer to day duty and directing traffic left him bored, he says.
Three years after inventing his trademark dance routine, Mr Lepore retired and went into catering with his brother, but in 1992 a local newspaper interviewed him for a 'Whatever happened to' feature.
Soon he was invited by the mayor to reprise his act specially for the Christmas season - and he's still doing it today.
LINK TO ALL PHOTOS AND VIDEO:
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/worldnews/article-1235268/Cop-load--Traffic-policemans-amazing-dance-routine-job.html#ixzz0ZZROkbL6
Exotic coats stolen in Greenbriar smash-and-grab
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Atlanta police were still looking Saturday for a man who got away with jeans, cash and coats made out of the skins of exotic animals after breaking through the glass door of a store at Greenbriar Mall.
The thief’s biggest score was 12 coats made out of the skins of ostrich, alligator and stingray, ranging in price from $4,000 to $8,000.
The man also made off with 25 pair of Antik jeans, which cost $150 to $200 each, eight $40-vests and $400 in cash that was in the register.
A security guard got a brief look at the man, described as black and standing 5-foot-8, but could offer no more details because the security guard only got a brief look at the criminal.
According to Atlanta police the security guard responded to the burglar alarm at 2:47 a.m. Wednesday at Georgio’s Big and Tall men’s store. Seconds after the security guard parked, a Black Dodge Durrango pulled behind him and a man armed with a handgun came up to the passenger side window.
The security guard sped off.
”The security guard advised that he did not get a good look at the other suspects, because he left,” Atlanta police spokesman officer Otis Redmond told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Saturday.
9:13 a.m. Dec. 12, 2009
Home of St. Clair Shores man robbed while on MySpace date
TAMMY STABLES BATTAGLIA
FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER
Jason Barker is a hardworking St. Clair Shores guy who thought he'd try meeting a nice girl on MySpace.
Instead, as a kind 24-year-old woman from Oak Park chatted with him during their first date at a Chili's restaurant, police say her accomplice was cleaning out Barker' s Downing Street home Dec. 1.
Now charged with two counts each of home invasion and conspiracy are the woman, April Evelyn, and Vernon Henderson, 26, of Mount Clemens, according to police.
"I don’t really go out, I don’t go to the bars much," Barker said today. "Some of my friends had met people on MySpace, so I just figured I’d give it a shot."
Barker said everything seemed normal from the start, but Evelyn insisted she pick him up for the date at his home. Barker didn't think anything of her chatting on the phone and texting during dinner.
But police say Evelyn unlocked a window when she used the bathroom at Barker's home, then called Henderson to let him know how much time he had to rob the place.
"She told him they just ordered their food, so he knew he had time," St. Clair Shores Police Detective Sgt. Dave Centala said. "He actually contacted her and said he was done and she ended the date, and said 'Something’s come up I’ve gotta go.'"
The kicker -- she had Barker pay for dinner.
"And she asked me for $10 for gas," he said. "I’m just glad they caught them."
The pair was arraigned in 40th District Court in St. Clair Shores Wednesday. If convicted of home invasion, they could face up to 15 years in prison.
April Evelyn, and Vernon Henderson are charged with two counts each of home invasion and conspiracy according to police.
Married couple given jail sentence for getting back together
A Spanish couple has been sentenced to prison for breaching a distancing order and reuniting after hitting a troubled patch in their marriage.
Fiona Govan in Madrid
12:46PM GMT 09 Dec 2009
A court found the husband and wife guilty of breaching the order, which forbade them from coming within 500 metres of each other.
The pair, who have not been identified, separated in September 2008 and a court imposed the distancing order after repeated conflict between the two.
The court banned the husband from approaching his wife or attempting to contact her under laws aimed at tackling domestic violence.
But last month, after a trial separation that lasted more than a year, the estranged pair decided to patch things up.
They were arrested when Civil Guard officers discovered them together in their home town of Motril in Andalusia on Spain's southern coast, although both claimed they were with each other by mutual agreement.
The man has been sentenced to six months in jail and his wife was found guilty of being his accomplice and given a lesser sentence of four months.
No jail time for ex-Nevada deputy bribed to sneak food to 'Girls Gone Wild' founder
Associated Press Writer
5:43 p.m. CST, December 11, 2009
Special Chicago unit busts fake cops
December 13, 2009
Elderly, immigrants often victims of brazen impersonators
Police classify the teen -- who is in jail for violating terms of his probation -- as an impostor rather than an impersonator. An impersonator, they said, poses as an officer in order to commit crimes, while an impostor merely seeks to look the part. "We don't know what their motive is," Naleway concedes. "Maybe it's ego more than anything else."
The boy was an extraordinary abnormality, police say, because of his confidence, his attention to detail in assembling his police uniform and his familiarity with police procedure.
The average impersonator can be exposed in brief chit-chat with a real officer.
The Police Impersonation Unit's officers downplay the threat of impostors, saying impersonators routinely rob seniors of their life savings.
"(Impostors are) making up a story, that's all it is," Naleway said. "The impersonators are the ones out there hurting people."
|Brian Cassella, Chicago Tribune / November 18, 2009
A real Chicago police badge (TOP) and a fake one (BOTTOM), photographed at police headquarters.
Keeping safe-- Ask to see both the officer's star and city ID card. Chicago police officers are required to carry both.
-- Be cautious any time a police officer calls you at home to tell you a family member is in custody. Police only call if the family member is a minor.
-- Never meet officers in front of the police station or places such as banks or ATMs.
-- If you believe that the person trying to pull you off the road isn't a real police officer, call police from your cell phone immediately, slow down to 10 mph and go to the nearest busy intersection, gas station or major business.
Woman, 98, charged with murdering 100-year-old roommate
December 11, 2009 04:35 PM
Andrew Ryan and David Abel
A grand jury indicted a 98-year-old woman on a second-degree-murder charge for allegedly killing her 100-year-old roommate at a nursing home in Dartmouth.
Laura Lundquist has been charged with strangling Elizabeth Barrow in the Brandon Woods Nursing Home on Sept. 24. Lundquist was sent today to Taunton State Hospital for a competency evaluation prior to being arraigned.
Defense attorney Carl S. Levin filed a joint motion today in Bristol Superior Court with prosecutors requesting the psychiatric evaluation for Lundquist. The two-page document says that Lundquist's medical records show she "has a long standing diagnosis of dementia and exhibited other erratic behaviors. The records further revealed that the defendant herself had previously expressed concerns that another roommate would strangle her in her bed."
The evaluation could last up to 20 days and a court date has been set for Jan. 5.
"It is my expectation that she will be found not competent," Levin said this afternoon in a telephone interview from his office in Providence, R.I. "It's a very sad event," Levin said. "My client's family -- without acknowledging her responsibility for this act -- they feel great sadness for the family of Ms. Barrow."
The victim's son, Scott Barrow, said in a telephone interview this afternoon that he thinks it would be absurd for prosecutors to try Lundquist.
"I don't see how you can prosecute a 98-year-old woman," Scott Barrow said. "It's like prosecuting a 2-year-old. But it's not for me to decide. The law has to take its course."
He added: "I don't feel vengeful at all; I feel pity for her."
The joint motion filed in Bristol Superior Court also details the relationship between the two elderly women and describes, how just a short distance from a nurses' station, Lundquist was allegedly able to strangle and suffocate Barrow that morning within a window of 20 minutes. Staff found her body at 6:20 a.m. under a bed sheet with a plastic bag tied loosely around her head.
Lundquist "harbored hostility towards the victim because she believed the victim was taking over her room," according to the joint motion. "The defendant made statements prior to the victim's death that she would get the victim's bed by the window because she was going to out live her."
The night before staff found Barrow dead, she complained that Lundquist has placed a table at the foot of her bed that blocked her path to the bathroom, according to joint motion. A nurse's aide moved the table and Lundquist punched her. When staff discovered Barrow's body, the table had been moved back to the foot of her bed.
Lundquist told police she was in the bathroom when Barrow died and heard her scream, but she claimed she did not do anything because she was afraid she would get in trouble. Lundquist also claimed Barrow had "hurt her" and described her as a "sick woman," according to the joint motion.
Investigators initially thought that Barrow had committed suicide, but the results of an autopsy by the medical examiner found Barrow had been the victim of "asphyxia due to strangulation and suffocation."
Nursing home officials have said the two lived together for little more than a year. Picone said staff never received reports that Barrow felt threatened, but he said the tension in the 420-square-foot room -- their beds were separated by 4 feet -- prompted the staff to offer the women new rooms on July 29 and Aug. 5.
Scott Barrow said today he still doesn't know what could have motivated Lundquist. He added that she seemed to have all her mental faculties when he met her on visits to the nursing home.
"She seemed to be perfectly normal," he said. "She seemed lucid, and I had no idea she could be capable of such a thing. But you never know, I guess."
If Lundquist is tried and convicted, he said he would rather she was not incarcerated.
"It doesn't make any sense for her to do prison time," he said. "When you're that age, your faculties can come and go. You can be harmless in one moment and a psychopathic murderer in the next. I'm not a doctor, but the state has a difficult dilemma here. She's just a poor old lady who snapped."
Barrow has described his mother as healthy, amiable, and vigorous, a proud 5-foot-2 grandmother of three who was strong enough to walk on her own and read two books a week.
Aside from books, she loved to shop, chat with friends and staff at the nursing home, and eat the baked stuffed shrimp prepared with a recipe her husband of 65 years used to make for her before he died in 2007.
Barrow said today as much as he misses his mother, he does not seek vengeance.
"I feel very sorry her," Barrow said of Lundquist. "She's going through an ordeal of her own, whether or not she's competent to stand trial or not. It's going to be a terrible ordeal for her."
LINK TO PHOTO:
Teen Racks Up $21K Cell Phone Bill
POSTED: 1:13 pm EST December 11, 2009
UPDATED: 2:09 pm EST December 11, 2009
When he first got the bill in the mail, Ted Estarija couldn't believe his eyes.
Estarija said he thought adding his 13-year-old son to his cell-phone account would cost him an extra $50 a month. Instead, the recently unemployed Hayward father now owes Verizon $21,918.
"I was completely caught off guard," said Estarija. "This is outrageous. It seems like it comes to almost $100 a minute."
Estarija said he asked Verizon to restrict his son's usage to phone calls and texts, but the bill shows his son downloaded about 1.5 million kilobytes of data with his phone.
"This is not completely his fault," said Estarija. "I put more blame on Verizon than anybody. They shouldn't allow this to happen."
A Verizon spokeswoman told KTVU-TV she couldn't comment specifically about the issue while it is being investigated, but said the company planned to work with Estarija to resolve the problem.
Estarija admitted there may be a lesson to be learned here, but at almost $22,000 it comes at too high a cost.
"There's no way I can pay this, so (I'll do) whatever I can to get this resolved," said Estarija.
He said his biggest concern right now is not how to pay the bill, but helping his son. Estarija said his son has become despondent over causing his dad so much financial and emotional distress.
Brownsville woman files lawsuit because legs partially amputated
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
A Fayette County woman who underwent partial amputations because she sat with her legs folded under her for as long as 12 hours while passed out drunk claims a doctor overlooked an acute medical condition because she was intoxicated.
Shanna Hiles, 20, of 101 Water St., Brownsville, filed a medical malpractice lawsuit Tuesday in Fayette County against Uniontown Hospital, Fayette Regional Health System and an emergency room physician, Dr. Mark L. Fennema.
According to the lawsuit filed by Pittsburgh attorney Monte J. Rabner, Hiles "consumed an excess of alcohol" while celebrating her 20th birthday at a neighbor's house May 23.
Hiles lost consciousness while "seated on the floor with her legs tucked under her," according to the lawsuit. She remained in that position for up to 12 hours before a relative discovered her the following day.
Disoriented and complaining of pain in her lower legs, Hiles was taken by ambulance to Uniontown Hospital's emergency room, arriving at 2:30 p.m.
Rabner alleges although Hiles had signs of a reversible condition known as "acute compartment syndrome," Fennema waited nearly six hours before arranging her transfer to UPMC Presbyterian in Pittsburgh.
The 8:15 p.m. transfer began by ambulance, but a medical helicopter was dispatched while Hiles was enroute because of her "deteriorating health," according to the lawsuit.
Within approximately two hours of her arrival at UPMC, Hiles was diagnosed with acute compartment syndrome and had bilateral knee amputations. Compartment syndrome occurs when blood flow is impaired, damaging nerves and muscle, according to the lawsuit. It is reversible through surgery, if diagnosed in time.
The lawsuit alleges Fennema "discounted" indicators of acute compartment syndrome because Hiles was intoxicated. According to the lawsuit, Hiles was diagnosed with acute alcohol toxicity upon her arrival at Uniontown Hospital.
The hospital is named in the lawsuit for alleged failure to properly supervise Hiles' treatment. Fayette Regional Health Care System is the hospital's parent corporation.
Fennema could not be reached for comment yesterday at the hospital. Karen Dei Cas, hospital spokeswoman, declined to comment.
Hiles is seeking an unspecified amount in damages.
Sarah Palin Hedges On Agreeing To A Debate With Al Gore
First Posted: 12-10-09 05:24 PM | Updated: 12-10-09 05:50 PM
Against the backdrop of the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference, former Vice President Al Gore and former sometime Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin have been nipping and tucking at each other over climate change science. Gore, referring to Sarah Palin's recent Washington Post op-ed, said that denialists "persist in an air of unreality," and then Sarah Palin responded by poking Gore on Facebook, or something. On today's edition of the Laura Ingraham show, Ingraham asked Palin if some sort of great climate change debate may be brewing between the two public figures. Palin said no, for every reason she could think of in the next few minutes. ThinkProgress has the conversation:
INGRAHAM: Would you agree to a debate with Al Gore on this issue?
PALIN: Oh my goodness. You know, it depends on what the venue would be, what the forum. Because Laura, as you know, if it would be some kind of conventional, traditional debate with his friends setting it up or being the commentators I'll get clobbered because, you know, they don't want to listen to the facts. They don't want to listen to some reasonable voices in this. And that was proven with the publication of this op-ed, where they kind of got all we-weed up about it and wanted to call me and others deniers of changing weather patterns and climate conditions. Trying to make the issue into something that it is not.
INGRAHAM: But what if it's an Oxford-style, proper debate format. I mean, he's going to chicken out. I mean, if you challenge him to a debate, do you actually think he would accept it?
PALIN: I don't know, I don't know. Oh, he wouldn't want to lower himself, I think, to, you know, my level to debate little old Sarah Palin from Wasilla.
So, there you have it, if you find a venue for this debate where the odds are totally stacked in Sarah Palin's favor -- like maybe a dogsled race that you quit halfway through? -- she's game! Otherwise, she'll get clobbered. This was "proven," you know! Totally "proven!" When she was afforded the opportunity to write an op-ed in the Washington Post -- free from any editors who might normally say things like, "No, this is wrong," or "Sorry, we actually would prefer to not insult or readers intelligence because we'd like them to keep buying our newspaper" -- and when said op-ed wasn't universally showered with praise and accolades, it absolutely "proved" that the media and Al Gore's friends and "commentators" were just out to get her. Millionaire lady gadabout just can't catch a break!
This is sort of Palin's de facto setting for media appearances. May I remind you, she hasn't even bothered to go on any of the Sunday morning political talk shows. Not even Fox News Sunday! She was a candidate for vice-president!
So, per Palin, Al Gore can either agree to a debate set up according to the rules and customs of Alaska's Miss Teen Wordpower, or refuse to do so and be called an elitist who won't "debate little old Sarah Palin from Wasilla."
Meanwhile, I have to imagine that the primary reason that Al Gore will probably never agree to a debate with Sarah Palin on climate change policy, is because what would be the point? Sarah Palin does not, and will not ever, have anything at all to do with climate change policy. But hey, if Al Gore turns out to have some unrevealed, yet deeply-felt opinions on bowling, we can do this.
Stolen greenery was sold in county courthouse
New Hampshire Union Leader Staff
Thursday, Dec. 10, 2009
MANCHESTER – A Hillsborough County bailiff unwittingly fenced stolen goods last week when he sold Christmas wreaths for $10 apiece in the lobby of the Superior Courthouse.
Sheriff James Hardy confirmed yesterday his office and Mark Putney, investigator with the County Attorney's Office, are looking into the incident.
Hardy said a woman in her 70s came to the courthouse last week with the wreaths and asked a bailiff she knew if they could be sold in the courthouse. She said she made the wreaths at home, according to Hardy.
The wreaths -- still bearing price tags from Jacques Flower Shop of Goffstown -- were sold out of the lobby for $10 each and were purchased by workers in the courthouse. Seven courthouse employees bought the wreaths.
Jacques Flower Shop Manager Paul Godbout said the investigation was triggered after a sheriff's department employee noticed his store's price tags on the wreaths and brought it to Putney's attention.
Hardy said the incident is still being investigated but it appears the bailiff was trying to help the elderly woman, who Hardy said has a mental competency issue. Selling items in the courthouse is inappropriate, he said.
Paul Godbout, manager of Jacques Flower Shop in Pinardville, shows off some the approximately 36 wreaths stolen from his outdoor display. (BOB LAPREE)
"Clearly, it was poor judgment on the part of the court officer," said Hardy, who refused to identify the bailiff, saying it was a personnel matter.
The wreaths have since been returned, Hardy said. No judge was among the purchasers, according to the sheriff.
Goffstown Police Chief Patrick Sullivan said his department is investigating, but as of yesterday morning, no one has been arrested.
Godbout said more than $1,500 worth of Van Otis chocolates has disappeared from the shop's front counter over the past six months, as well as individual candy bars his daughter was selling for a school fundraiser.
Putney, he said, told him the woman also gave candy to employees in the sheriff's department.
On Tuesday, Chief Deputy Art Durette sent out a memo to the staff, a copy of which was obtained by the New Hampshire Union Leader, telling them they are not to accept any gift or gratuity, either directly or indirectly.
"Being the holiday season, it is common for people to be in a giving spirit. However, being public employees, we are held to a very high standard. That being said, everyone must comply with our rules and regulations including RR2 VII..." he wrote.
The rule bars the acceptance of any gift, gratuity or reward.
On Monday, Godbout said a manager of a Dunkin' Donuts told him the woman suspected of taking the wreaths was at a Dunkin' Donuts wearing a Santa hat and handing out Van Otis candy.
Godbout said the balsam wreaths were stolen from outside displays at his South Mast Road shop and priced from $29.95 to $39.95 each.
In addition to the price tags, the bows, ornaments, pine cones and signs attached to the wreaths bore Jacques Flower Shop labels, he said.
The bailiff, he said, should have known the items were stolen since they were clearly marked. When they were returned to him, Godbout said they still had the price tags on them.
One of the returned wreaths had a wooden sign that said, "I've been good this year, Santa."
Godbout said the woman suspected of the thefts was a regular customer until he caught her allegedly shoplifting a vase.
When he confronted her, she told him she never stole anything in her life and that she was going to pay for the vase, which he said was in her oversized bag.
She told him she went to Mass every day and her sister was a nun.
"Maybe your sister can pray for you," Godbout said he told her.
Dutch man reports theft of Ecstasy pill collection
AMSTERDAM — A man who said he spent two decades collecting Ecstasy pills of all colors and shapes as a hobby has turned to police for help after they were stolen — because he said some of them are poisonous.
Police say the 46-year-old man, who was not identified, decided to report the theft despite the illegal nature of the collection because he was worried about the possible consequences if anybody were to swallow one of the poisoned pills.
It was not immediately clear why about 40 red-and-white pills out of the 2,400-pill-strong collection would be poisoned, but the police said they fear the drugs could be lethal if swallowed.
"That's really the main reason he came to the police," said police spokeswoman Esther Naber, adding the man "knows he's not goingto get his collection back."
A report in De Volkskrant daily Thursday said the man claimed he was not a drug dealer or user.
"I've tried it before but didn't like it," the report quoted him saying. "My passion for collecting comes from the varied collection of colors, shapes and logos that are printed on the pills."
According to a police statement, the man gathered the pills over a 20 year period and carefully stored them in coin collecting folders.
The folders were allegedly taken during a break-in Wednesday at the man's home in Eerbeek, 56 miles (90 kilometers) east of Amsterdam.
Police spokesman Naber said investigators tended to believe the man's story.
"Why would you make something like this up?" she said.
Prosecutors and drug enforcement officials are still weighing whether to charge him with a crime.
"Given that the pills have disappeared, for the moment there's no evidence to support a possession charge," Naber said.
The pills' street value is estimated at euro11,000 ($16,200).
December 10, 2009 08:20 PM EST
Grits burns lead to battery booking of Boutte woman
December 09, 2009, 6:58PM
A Boutte woman who allegedly poured a pot of boiling grits onto her sleeping boyfriend last month was booked with second-degree battery Wednesday.
Carolyn Brown, 44, of Ponderosa Drive, caused second-degree burns on the man's face and arms, according to the St. Charles Parish Sheriff's Office.
The man told sheriff's deputies that he came home from work on Nov. 7, got into an argument with Brown, told her that he was breaking up with her, then went to bed.
The man was treated for second-degree burns on his face and arm. Brown fled the home after the incident and later was arrested in the 1000 block of Paul Maillard Road.
Brown was being held in the Nelson Coleman Correctional Facility in lieu of $40,000 bail.
Associated Press Writer
Thursday, December 10, 2009
(12-10) 15:15 PST WASHINGTON (AP) --
Black lawmakers who have largely held their tongues during President Barack Obama's first year in office are stepping up their demands that the nation's first black president do more for minority communities hit hardest by the recession.
While still careful about criticizing Obama publicly, they appear to be losing their patience after watching him dedicate more than $1 trillion to prop up banks and corporations and fight wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, while double-digit unemployment among blacks crept even higher.
"Obama has tried desperately to stay away from race, and all of us understand what he's doing," said Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo. "But when you have such a disproportionate number of African-Americans unemployed, it would be irresponsible not to direct attention and resources to the people who are receiving the greatest level of pain."
Dating back to Obama's campaign, many black leaders have pressed him to take more of a stand on the challenges facing minorities. Most voiced criticisms privately for fear of jeopardizing his candidacy or undercutting his popularity after his election. They also have tread lightly so as not to be at odds with their own majority-black constituencies, who strongly support Obama.
But frustration has been building.
The 42-member Congressional Black Caucus flexed its influence last week when 10 of its members held up a financial regulation bill backed by the administration until leaders agreed to add about $3 billion in foreclosure relief for struggling homeowners. Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., the House Financial Services Committee chairman, later added $1 billion for neighborhood revitalization programs.
During the stalemate, the lawmakers issued a statement saying they would no longer support public policy "defined by the world view of Wall Street."
"Policy for the least of these must be integrated into everything that we do," they said.
And earlier this week, the all-Democratic caucus responded to Obama's proposal for a new jobs package by saying it would insist on initiatives targeted to minorities. Pointing to outsized percentages of African-Americans losing their jobs and homes, caucus Chairwoman Barbara Lee, D-Calif., said Obama must live up to his campaign talk that racial disparities cannot be ignored.
"The facts speak for themselves," Lee said. "The gaps are very real."
Some have sought to pin blame on the president's advisers.
"It's not the president. It's his economic team," said Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Fla. "I don't think they're doing their job."
The unemployment rate among African-Americans is nearly 16 percent, almost double the 9 percent rate for whites. Roughly one in four blacks lives in poverty, compared with about 11 percent of whites.
Obama was a black caucus member in the Senate before winning the White House last year, but he has never had a close relationship with the group. In recent interviews, he has addressed their criticisms by saying he must represent the entire country, not any one population, and the best way to help low-income communities is to improve the overall economy.
"I think it's a mistake to start thinking in terms of particular ethnic segments of the United States rather than to think that we are all in this together and we are all going to get out of this together," he said.
Many blacks in Congress take exception to that view, arguing that decades of neglect and discrimination warrant particular attention to minority concerns. Veteran black lawmakers such as Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., and House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., have been among the most vocal.
Conyers told The Hill newspaper that Obama called last month to ask why Conyers was "demeaning" him so much. Conyers has since declined to discuss the call, and Lee wouldn't say whether she has had a similar conversation with the president.
Black lawmakers say the differences are not new and Obama shouldn't take them personally. The caucus has had similar disputes with most recent presidents, including in 1993 when it spurned an invitation to meet with President Bill Clinton over potential budget cuts to domestic programs such as Medicare.
"What I think the CBC is saying is that our voices have to be raised on behalf of our constituents, just as the Blue Dogs or any other caucus does," said Rep. Chaka Fattah, D-Pa., referring to the conservative Democratic group that has leverage because it often holds swing votes. "In politics, what happens is the squeaky wheel gets the oil."
Animal shelters seeing glut of Chihuahuas
The once-fashionable little canines are replacing pit bulls as the breed most often left at shelters.
| A Chihuahua looks out of a cage at the East Valley Animal Care Center. There are so many of the dogs in local shelters that 25 were flown to a Nashua, N.H., facility last week and placed in homes. (Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times / December 9, 2009)
Maria L. La Ganga December 10, 2009
Prez is poll-axed
First-term approval lags behind even Ford, Carter
Last Updated: 6:00 AM, December 10, 2009
Posted: 3:43 AM, December 10, 2009
Numbers are not kind to President Obama so far -- his 47 percent approval rating in the crucial Gallup tracking poll is the lowest ever notched for a US commander in chief at this point in his term.
That under-50 percent figure is less than what unpopular presidents like Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and scandal-plagued Richard Nixon scored 10 to 11 months into their Oval Office tenure, according to Gallup.
Bill Clinton, who came in at a time of economic and political unrest, also stayed above 50 percent.
And Ronald Reagan, who took office in tough economic times, was at 49 percent at this point in his first term.
George W. Bush was at a remarkable 86 percent at this point in 2001, shortly after 9/11. Bush's poll number skyrocketed in the wake of the attacks.
Obama hit the less-than-magic number despite getting a brief popularity bump for his planned Afghanistan troop surge.
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs tried to wave off the number, saying he doesn't put "a lot of stock" in the famous tracking poll that is one of the most venerated yardsticks for rating presidents.
"If I was a heart patient and Gallup was my EKG, I'd visit my doctor," Gibbs said after questions from Fox News.
"I'm sure a 6-year-old with a crayon could do something not unlike that. I don't put a lot of stake in, never have, in the EKG that is the daily Gallup trend. I don't pay a lot of attention to the meaninglessness of it."
That prompted Gallup editor-in-chief Frank Newport to zing back, "I think the doctor might ask him what's going on in his life that would cause his EKG to be fluctuating so much.
"There is, in fact, a lot going on at the moment -- the health-care bill, the jobs summit, the Copenhagen climate conference and Afghanistan."
Obama has faced increasing concerns from nervous Americans over the painful unemployment rate, his health-care reform efforts, and the troubled Afghanistan war. Some question whether he's biting off too much at once.
Meanwhile, in ominous news for the Democrats heading into the midterm congressional elections next year, 59 percent of voters think the country is headed in the wrong direction, a Bloomberg News poll showed.
Just 32 percent are happy with the direction of the nation, the survey found.
While 54 percent approve of the job the president is doing, according to that poll, he gets negative marks on his key policy issues such as health care, the deficit and the economy.
When likely voters were asked for which candidate they'd vote if the 2010 congressional races were held now, they gave Republicans a four-point lead, and independent voters were trending GOP.
Many Democrats have been privately conceding they could face significant losses in Congress if things don't turn around.
The survey was taken from Dec. 3-7.
Firms run by Hillary Clinton pollster Mark Penn stand to make millions from stimulus planDavid Saltonstall
Originally Published:Wednesday, December 9th 2009, 11:51 AM
McNamee/Getty; Miller/NewsFirms run by Hillary Clinton strategist Mark Penn stand to make a pretty penny from stimulus dollars.
Hillary Clinton pollster Mark Penn is looking at some pretty sweet numbers - namely $6 million in federal stimulus contracts awarded to two firms he controls.
The Hill newspaper reported Wednesday that $5.97 million from the $787 billion stimulus package helped preserve three jobs at Burson-Marsteller, the global PR firm headed by Penn.
The Obama administration awarded the contracts to Burson-Marsteller to work on a public-relations campaign to advertise the national switch from analog to digital television.
A portion of the funds also went to Penn's polling firm, Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates, according to federal records.
Hoping to take some of the air out of the story, Burson-Marsteller put out a statement on Wednesday that said of the $6 million allowed under the competitively bid contract, only about $4.36 million was spent.
Of that, about $1.5 million in fees was pocketed by Penn's two companies. The rest went to pay for ads to get out the word on the analog-to-digital shift, company officials said.
Federal records also show that a former adviser to President Obama's 2008 presidential campaign also received nearly $70,000 from that contract to help alert viewers in difficult-to-reach communities that their televisions would soon no longer receive broadcast signals.
The adviser, Alfredo J. Balsera, who heads a PR firm based in Coral Gables, Fla., helped craft Obama's Hispanic advertising message.
The questionable contracts have emerged as Republicans are already bashing the stimulus package as wasteful and ineffectual.
On Tuesday, Arizona Sen. John McCain declared that "much of the stimulus bill has been a failure" at a press conference where he singled out 100 wasteful projects.
McCain and Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., released a report saying more than $7 billion was "wasted, mismanaged, or directed toward silly and shortsighted projects."
Some of the big-ticket items cited by the two GOPers were $1.3 billion in spending for Amtrak, which loses money on most of its passenger train routes, and $1.9 billion to help speed the long-delayed clean-up of the Energy Department's Hanford nuclear weapons site.
White House officials have countered with figures from the Congressional Budget Office, which has estimated the stimulus helped to create 1.6 million jobs.
But the federal contracts awarded to Penn - one of the most controversial strategists inside or outside The Beltway - are sure to ignite a new firestorm of complaint.
As a presidential candidate, Clinton paid Penn millions of dollars as senior strategist for much of her campaign, although his advice was widely considered to be off the mark. Penn cast Clinton as the steady hand whose years of Washington experience made her the better candidate.
But the electorate was clearly looking for change, a theme that candidate Obama used to maximum effect.
As Secretary of State, Clinton has continued to try and pay off what was a $20 million mountain of leftover campaign debt. And she had largely succeeded - her outstanding debt is down to $995,500.
Every penny of that $995,500 is owed to to Penn's polling firm, Penn, Schoen & Berland, records show.
Casual sex, hookups aren't emotionally damaging, study findsAmy Eisinger
Wednesday, December 9th 2009, 1:22 PM
Ney/GettyTeens and young adults are often warned against casual hookups, but a new study found that such encounters don't always result in loss of self-esteem.
A surprising new study reveals that casual sex may not cause emotional or psychological damage.
Despite the pervasive belief that hooking up casually is detrimental to the well-being of young adults, researchers found that not to be the case in a recent study, reports the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
The study asked 1,311 Minnesota-based young adults, between the ages of 18 and 24, about their most recent sexual experiences, their self-esteem and their general well-being after the experience.
Only one-fifth of the subjects said their most recent experience was casual. And overall, their emotional status wasn’t any different from those who said their last sexual experience was with a committed partner.
“We were so surprised,” said Marla Eisenberg, who is an assistant professor at the university School of Public Health.
“The conventional wisdom is that casual sex, 'friends with benefits,' and hooking up is hurtful. That's what we've been teaching kids for decades,” she said, adding that abstinence-only sex education programs in particular enforce this notion.
However, researchers said that this doesn’t mean casual sex is for everyone - and Eisenberg is quick to warn of the physical consequences of casual sex. Rates of sexually transmitted diseases continue to increase and teen pregnancy rates in Minnesota in particular are also on the rise, according to the Star Tribune.
Language teachers Alini Brito, Cindy Mauro caught by janitor having naked romp in HS classroomJoe Jackson, Brendan Brosh and Christina Boyle
Wednesday, December 9th 2009, 4:00 AM
Alini Brito (left) and Cindy Mauro were tossed from James Madison High School after being caught naked with each other, sources say.
Two female Romance language instructors were tossed out of their Brooklyn high school after being caught "undressed" in an empty classroom, sources told the Daily News Tuesday.
Students at James Madison High School in Midwood were watching a talent show in the auditorium while Alini Brito and Cindy Mauro were speaking the international language of love, sources said.
A janitor stumbled on French teacher Mauro, 33, and Brito, 29, a married Spanish instructor, and tattled to school officials on Nov. 20.
Both tenured teachers were removed from the classroom and sent to Education Department "rubber rooms" while they're investigated for misconduct, sources said.
The episode is the talk of the school. Students even set up a Facebook group to discuss the shenanigans - and it already has more than 500 fans.
"Now you guys wished we installed cameras in our classrooms after all hmm?" wrote one student.
Janitor Robert Colantuoni refused to comment Tuesday. "I can't talk about it, I'm sorry," he said.
Brito's husband, reached by phone, said he was unaware of the accusations, but denied them.
"The school district has not informed my wife of these allegations and they are untrue," he said.
Students said both teachers were popular.
"[Ms. Mauro] was pretty fun," said junior Eddie Ramirez, 18.
"She dressed like a teenage girl - she'd wear low-cut tops, shorts, three-quarter length jeans. She was kinda sexy.
"You could see that she was the kind of person who would flirt."
Students said Mauro dyed some of her hair pink over the summer and has an array of sexy tattoos: a sun on her lower back, a flower on her leg, and a star on her foot.
Brito opted for more demure attire.
"She's pretty," said one 17-year-old who took French with her.
"Mrs. Brito was good-looking. Oh, yeah!"
A 16-year-old sophomore said Brito was a teacher students would come to with problems.
"She usually dresses elegant, looks smart," he said. "She's good-looking. And she was friendly, not flirty, just friendly."
Students said gossip about the romp was flying through the school, where staff members were trying to keep a lid on it.
"The teachers don't even want you to bring it up because they say they'll get in trouble if we're talking about it in class," Eddie Ramirez said.
"They just say, 'Let it go.'"
Teachers and administrators at James Madison would not comment yesterday, but the Education Department confirmed the probe.
"There was an incident in the evening when there was a school performance," department spokeswoman Margie Feinberg said.
"The two teachers have been reassigned pending the outcome of [an Education Department] investigation."
Dec. 9, 2009
Groom testifies wedding was just a ruse
FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER
Eugene Pallisco paid for his lavish June 2002 wedding to Lesley Keith, took her and her young daughters on trips around the country, bought her jewelry and helped pay the household bills.
But they were never husband and wife. In fact, they were never intimate. They were "just friends," he said.
Pallisco made those claims to an Oakland County Circuit Court judge on Tuesday during a hearing that is part of a lawsuit Keith has filed against Pallisco. Keith claims Pallisco duped her into marrying him, all while he was married to a West Bloomfield woman who is the mother of his four children -- all younger than 8.
Pallisco insisted to Judge Cheryl Matthews that the $37,000 wedding at the Ritz Carlton in Dearborn was a "Tina and Tony" production, referring to a popular interactive dinner theater play where actors pretend to be part of a wedding party and mingle with the guests.
"Did you intend to marry Lesley Keith at that event in 2002?" his attorney Robert Sheehan asked him.
"No, I did not," Pallisco said.
"Did you consent to marry Lesley Keith?"
"No, I did not."
Instead, Pallisco insisted that his metal recycling business in Detroit had been hampered by an overzealous police officer writing environmental tickets. Keith, he said, was related to a police officer who could convince the zealous cop to back off if he thought Pallisco was married to Keith.
"It was to shield me," he said of the wedding that he claims was staged.
His attorney asked him why have the wedding at the expensive hotel "and not the VFW hall," and Pallisco gave a long account of how difficult it is to do business in Detroit and how he had to make the wedding "look like the real thing."
Pallisco's attorneys also played several voice mails Keith left Pallisco, begging for money and sometimes using profanity.
The judge is expected to hear additional testimony at an upcoming hearing, then decide whether the matter can go to trial. No date has been set.
Keith, who now lives in Arizona, is seeking unspecified damages for emotional distress.
The wedding photo of Lesley Pizzuti -Keith and Eugenio Pallisco on Saturday, June 29, 2002.
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged terror mastermind who will be tried in New York along with other suspected 9/11 plotters
The United States District Court for the Southern District of New York where the trial will take place
WASHINGTON - Dick Cheney has ratcheted up his criticism of President Obama again, calling the decision to try 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed in New York a "huge mistake."
In an interview with Fox News Channels Sean Hannity, the former vice president said the trial, which isn't expected to begin for at least a year in Manhattan's federal district court, will allow KSM an ill-advised showcase to spew his anti-American venom.
"He'll be able to go in whenever he's up on the stand and proselytize, if you will, millions of people out there around the world including some of his radical Muslim friends and generate a whole new generation of terrorists," Cheney said.
"I think it will make Khalid Sheikh Mohammed something of a hero in certain circles, especially in the radical regions of Islam around the world. It will put him on the map. He'll be as important or more important than Osama Bin Laden, and we will have made it possible."
The Obama administration has previously rejected Cheney's argument, saying Mohammed won't be allowed to grandstand by the trial judge and that his conviction and possible execution will show the world the U.S. isn't afraid of putting terrorists on trial in civilian courts.
Cheney also zapped Obama for telegraphing a 2011 exit date for some of the 30,000 surge troops the President has just ordered into Afghanistan.
"When (Al Qaeda) see him announce in advance that there's going to be a withdrawal 18 months down the road, they come to the point where they feel like their strategy, their world view has been validated and in the meantime, your task of trying to control the situation, trying to put down the Taliban and so forth, has simply gotten harder because you're weak and indecisive when you made the decision to do it."
Cheney ducked when served up the chance to label Obama a Socialist, seeming to settle for card-carrying liberal instead.
"I don't want to use that kind of a label," he said. "I think on his part he does not have the kind of commitment to the private sector that most of us have and have lived with in the past."
He also was more judicious than friends say he really feels about his successor, Vice President Biden.
"Joe and I have a different approach to the job and to politics in general," he said.
Sobering news: coffee increases drunkenness
Drinking coffee does not sober you up – and may actually further impair your judgement, new research suggests.
Published: 3:28PM GMT 08 Dec 2009
The combination of alcohol and caffeine produces a potentially lethal mix that just makes it harder to realise you are actually drunk in the first place.
And the study published in Behavioural Neuroscience suggests popular caffeinated energy drinks could also raise risks from intoxication rather than lessen them.
In laboratory tests caffeine made mice more alert but did not reverse the awareness problems caused by alcohol, including their ability to avoid things they should have known could hurt them.
Dr Thomas Gould, of Temple University, Philadelphia, said: "The myth about coffee's sobering powers is particularly important to debunk because the co-use of caffeine and alcohol could actually lead to poor decisions with disastrous outcomes.
"People who have consumed only alcohol, who feel tired and intoxicated, may be more likely to acknowledge that they are drunk.
"Conversely, people who have consumed both alcohol and caffeine may feel awake and competent enough to handle potentially harmful situations, such as driving while intoxicated or placing themselves in dangerous social situations."
Dr Gould and colleagues investigated how alcohol, caffeine or a combination of both affected the ability of mice to negotiate a maze and learn to avoid unpleasant stimuli.
Mice given alcohol alone were found to be less anxious, moved around more but had problems learning to avoid the unpleasant stimuli.
Those given the equivalent of up to six to eight cups of coffee for humans were more anxious, moved around less and learned less well.
If given both alcohol and caffeine, the alcohol was found to block the caffeine's ability to make the mice anxious, but did not reverse the alcohol's effect to inhibit learning. As a result, alcohol calmed the caffeine jitters, leaving the animal more relaxed but less able to avoid threats.
In people, this combination could lead to them thinking they are only slightly drunk and able to function normally – such as drive a car – when in fact, they are unable to do so.
Dr Gould said: "The alcohol-energy drink combinations have skyrocketed in popularity."
He cited other evidence that these drinks produce deficits in general cognitive ability and raise the odds of alcohol-related problems such as drunken-driving citations, sexual misconduct, and needing medical assistance.
He added: "The bottom line is that, despite the appeal of being able to stay up all night and drink, all evidence points to serious risks associated with caffeine-alcohol combinations."
The US Food and Drug Administration is looking into the safety and legality of combination alcohol-caffeine beverages. In November, it sent letters to 30 manufacturers asking for evidence that such drinks are safe and legal under FDA regulations.
To date, the FDA has only approved caffeine as an additive in soft drinks at concentrations less than 200 parts per million and has not approved adding caffeine at any level to alcoholic beverages.
Under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, a substance added intentionally to food such as caffeine in alcoholic beverages is deemed unsafe and is unlawful unless its particular use has been approved by FDA regulation or is generally recognised as safe.
A slow moving horse and buggy led to the arrest Sunday night of a Paradise man, who was charged with drunken driving.
Police said Elmer Stoltzfoos Fisher, 22, was found slumped over and asleep in a buggy that was moving slowly in the first block of North Ronks Road.
East Lampeter Township police received a call around 9:05 p.m. Sunday from off-duty Quarryville police Officer Jesse Blank.
Blank was driving a car on North Ronks Road when he pulled up behind the buggy, which Blank said was moving at a walking pace. The horse was straddling the center line as it pulled the buggy.
Sensing a problem, Blank stopped his car. His passenger, Nate Perry, got out and approached the buggy on foot. Stopping the horse, Perry found Fisher slumped over and asleep, police said.
Perry pounded on the buggy door until Fisher woke up.
Police said Fisher showed signs of intoxication, including a strong smell of alcohol on his breath and bloodshot, watery eyes.
Police said they administered a breathalyzer test, which showed Fisher's blood-alcohol content was 0.18 percent. Pennsylvania residents are considered legally intoxicated if their blood-alcohol content is 0.08 or above.
Tiger Woods' mother-in-law taken from his home to hospital
Related ContentAnyone counting? Tiger Woods tally grows Tiger Woods' mother-in-law stable after 911 call With familiarity, Letterman jokes about Woods
OCOEE, Fla. -- A hospital spokesman said Tuesday Tiger Woods' mother-in-law is in stable condition after an early morning 911 call from his home.
Health Central Hospital spokesman Dan Yates said Barbro Holmberg was admitted early Tuesday suffering from stomach pain. She is the mother of Woods' wife, Elin.
Health Central is the same hospital where Woods was treated after he crashed his sport utility vehicle outside his home last month.
Media attention has been focused on the world's No. 1 golfer since he hit a hydrant and a tree around 2:25 a.m. on the Friday after Thanksgiving.
Media attention has been focused on the world's No. 1 golfer since he hit a hydrant and a tree about 2:25 a.m. on Nov. 27. The Florida Highway Patrol last week cited Woods for careless driving and fined him $164.
The accident -- and Woods' refusal to answer questions about it -- fueled speculation about a possible dispute between him and his wife, Elin.
Just days before the crash, a National Enquirer story alleged Woods had been seeing a New York nightclub hostess, Rachel Uchitel, who has denied it. After the crash, Us Weekly reported that a Los Angeles <snip>tail waitress named Jaimee Grubbs claims she had a 31-month affair with Woods.
Last week, Woods issued a statement saying he had let his family down with unspecified ``transgressions'' that he regrets with ``all of my heart.'' He did not elaborate.
A police report on the crash released Monday showed that a Florida trooper who suspected Woods was driving under the influence sought a subpoena for the golfer's blood results from the hospital he was taken to after the crash, but prosecutors rejected the petition for insufficient information.
A witness, who wasn't identified in the report, told trooper Joshua Evans that Woods had been drinking alcohol earlier. The same witness also said Woods had been prescribed two drugs, Ambien and Vicodin.
The report did not say who the witness was but added it was the same person who pulled Woods from the vehicle after the accident. Woods' wife, Elin, has told police that she used a golf club to smash the back windows of the Cadillac Escalade to help her husband out. His injuries were minor.
The sister of a neighbor who called 911 after the crash told troopers that Woods' mother, Kultida, and mother-in-law, Barbro Holmberg, were also at the scene, but the AP has not been able to confirm that.
Eva Malmborg, a spokeswoman for Holmberg, said Tuesday that she could not comment on the reports about a woman being taken from Woods' neighborhood to the hospital.
``I haven't been in contact with her and like I said I don't know where she is -- and so I can neither confirm or deny anything,'' Malmborg said.
Malmborg confirmed Holmberg had taken a week's leave from her job as Gavleborg county governor in central-east Sweden, but said she did not know where Holmberg had gone.
There was no sign of emergency workers later Tuesday morning at the Woods' gated community, where luxury SUVs and cars drove in and out as a few reporters and television news trucks milled around outside.
Sarah Palin: Tomatoes Thrown During Book Event, Police Arrest Jeremiah Wobbe
First Posted: 12- 7-09 07:59 PM
Updated: 12- 8-09 12:14 AM
A man was arrested for allegedly throwing two tomatoes at Sarah Palin from the second floor balcony during a book signing event at the Mall of America in Minnesota, MyFoxTwinCities.com. reported.
Neither tomato came close hitting the former 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee, but did hit a police officer in the face, the station reported.
The unidentified man may face charges for assaulting a police officer, according to the station.
Police identified him as 33-year-old Jeremy Paul Olson from St. Paul, but they think he also goes by the name Jeremiah Wobbe. Police said he was arrested and booked on assault and disorderly conduct charges. Officers added that when they arrested him, they found two more tomatoes he'd been carrying.
Armored truck drops money on I-75
Police say a crash involving an armored truck that dumped several money bags on I-75 in Clayton County appears accidental.
The crash occurred on I-75 southbound near the Mount Zion Road exit in Morrow shortly after noon on Sunday
A silver Acura was driving south when it struck the back of a Brinks armored truck, Clayton County Police spokeswoman GlenNeta Griffin said.
The crash caused the Brinks truck to spin out of control and hit a cement wall on the interstate, Griffin said.
Police closed all southbound lanes while they cleared the wreckage, including several money bags that fell out of the Brinks truck.
“Three money bags fell out and officers were out there guarding the money,” Griffin said. “The officers stayed there until another Brinks truck could get there and pick them up.”
Nothing was taken in the crash, police said.
Police are still investigating, but will likely not file any charges, Griffin said.
“It looks like an accident,” she said.
Paramedics rushed the Brinks’ driver and another employee to Atlanta Medical Center with non-life-threatening injuries, Griffin said. The driver of the Acura was taken to Southern Regional Medical Center, where he was treated and released.
Their names were not available Sunday.
FORWARD LOOK / THE NATIONAL DEBT
War costs, while high, are small part of budget deficit
Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are not the main reason the publicly held national debt has doubled since the 2001 terrorist attacks.
McClatchy News Service
WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama insisted last week that as the nation confronts record government debt and pressing economic needs at home, it cannot afford a lengthy, ambitious nation-building effort in Afghanistan -- but limiting U.S. involvement is unlikely to make much of a dent in the record federal debt.
Liberals complain the war has been a big contributor to the nation's budget problems, and are insisting some way be found to pay for the buildup.
But the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, though they have virtually all been funded by deficit spending, are not the main reason why the publicly held national debt has more than doubled -- from $3.339 trillion to $7.709 trillion -- since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
``It's a small part of the deficit,'' said Todd Harrison, fellow in defense budget studies at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a Washington research group.
That's not to say the war costs don't matter.
``Over the short term, we are certainly spending a large chunk of money of the wars, money that could be devoted to other priorities or for deficit reduction, at least once the economy improves,'' noted Josh Gordon, policy director at the Concord Coalition, a bipartisan research group devoted to fiscal discipline.
But over the long term, he stressed, ``Our fiscal challenges are substantially larger, and just ending the wars would not change those projections -- because they all assume peacetime budgets.''
Obama last week said he would deploy an additional 30,000 to 35,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan. This year's expected $30 billion to $40 billion price tag for that should boost the total cost of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan past $1 trillion over the last nine years, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO).
That spending accounts for only about one-fifth of publicly held debt accumulated in that time.
National defense spending accounted for 20.7 percent of the federal budget last year. While that's higher than peacetime lows of around 16 percent in the late 1990s, it's less than the 26-28 percent annual shares between 1975, when U.S. involvement in Vietnam ended, and 1992, when first the Cold War and then the 1991 Gulf War ended.
What's driven the bulk of this decade's deficit boom has been spending growth in programs such as Medicare and Social Security. Human resources, which include those and other domestic programs, consumed 63.8 percent of the budget last year, compared to only 49 percent as recently as 1990.
The antidote to high deficits, say independent experts, is making tough choices on domestic spending and taxes.
``The purpose of a budget is to set priorities and make trade-offs,'' said Susan Tanaka, director of citizen education and engagement at the Peterson Foundation, a New York-based fiscal watchdog group.
STILL COUNTINGSince the U.S. invaded Afghanistan shortly after the 2001 terrorist attacks, CBO estimates the U.S. has spent $943.8 billion through Sept. 30, 2009, to meet war and war-related needs, and could spend another $1.6 trillion over the next decade -- no small sum, indeed.
Other estimates put the cost higher: A 2008 study by Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and Harvard University professor Linda Bilmes dubbed the conflicts the ``$3 trillion war.''
Pastor's scandal divides Friendship Missionary Baptist in Liberty City
Congregants at Liberty City's Friendship Missionary Baptist Church are divided as their spiritual leader goes to trial on a grand theft charge.
Political scandal. A church divided. An inner-city community in need.
Miami's Rev. Gaston Smith, the prominent Liberty City pastor with an outsized personality and fiery pulpit presence, gets his day in court this week -- but the subplots stretch far beyond the courtroom.
Smith, 43, is charged with grand theft for allegedly misusing $10,000 in county grant money intended to revitalize Liberty City. Instead, Miami-Dade prosecutors say, he used cash for personal expenses, including $500 at a Las Vegas martini bar.
Jury selection is set to begin Monday.
Political observers will watch the trial closely -- Smith was charged in January 2008 as part of a corruption probe that last month netted the arrest of Miami Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones, a parishioner at his church. She was later suspended from office.
The trial will be attended both by Smith's entourage and a group of his detractors from Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, which has been roiled by allegations of financial mismanagement under Smith's tenure.
``He basically used the church as his cash cow, that's the bottom line,'' said Costello Guyton, a church trustee who resigned with three others in June after fellow board members voted to give Smith a controversial $50,000 gift for his legal defense bills.
Countered Senior Deacon Booker Smart: ``He's our leader. If we can help him against these false accusations, we will help him.''
A CITY INSTITUTION
Founded in 1929, the church, 740 NW 58th St., is a landmark in Liberty City. Smith was an associate minister before he took over the top job in 2002. He could not be reached for comment.
The church drew headlines after a 2004 visit from presidential candidate John Kerry, U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek, D-Miami, and the reverends Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson. The IRS investigated -- and cleared -- the church on allegations that it hosted improper political activity, potentially jeopardizing its tax-exempt status.
Smith's position at the church has not made him immune from money woes. His former employer, the Royal Palm Resort in Miami Beach, sued him in 2002 for ``contract indebtedness,'' a suit that was later settled, records show.
Broward court records show he was evicted from his apartment in 2002, and was sued by Capital One over credit card debt in 2007. He also owes child support in Houston and has an IRS lien against him, according to court testimony in a pretrial hearing Friday.
Authorities say his troubled financial history continued after he created a nonprofit group called Friends of MLK in 2004 to promote the revival of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
Smith later told prosecutors he felt Spence-Jones pressured him into creating the organization and paying her an $8,000 ``consulting fee'' after she helped him secure a $25,000 grant from the county-created agency Metro Miami Action Plan Trust.
At the same time, according to prosecutors, Smith used a Friends of MLK debit card to withdraw thousands of dollars, none of which went to helping the community.
Smith's lawyers, Michael Tein and Larry Handfield, insist Smith used the MLK county money for legitimate expenses and always reimbursed the account for outside expenses.
``The pastor viewed the business of MLK as virtually the same business as the church,'' Tein told The Miami Herald last year. ``They will never be able to show that Pastor Smith stole from MLK or anybody else.''
Prosecutors declined comment on Friday.
The allegations of financial misconduct have roiled the church, which relies on parishioner donations to fund operations. The marquee at the church reads: ``Pastor Smith: We Love and Support You.'' But not all members feel that way.
Smith's detractors say he skirted church rules and ordered a cadre of supporters to routinely order up checks for large and questionable expenses without approval from the board or congregation, as required by church by-laws.
The most brazen expense, they say, came when Smith in 2007 had two deacons authorize the purchase of a Mercedes-Benz in the church's name.
Five ex-board members say they only found out about it when debt collectors began calling to say the auto payments were delinquent. The car was later repossessed.
They said they were shocked to find church checks written to a business called Your Anointed Florist. State records, they discovered later, list Smith as the business' sole officer -- and a vacant building owned by the church as its office.
``Gaston is a person who does not want to be held accountable,'' said ex-board Chairwoman Glenda Wingard-Percell, a retired Miami-Dade police officer. ``He is very good at divide and conquer.''
Handfield dismissed the complaints about the Mercedes and floral shop, saying they were legitimate expenses approved by trustees who controlled the church purse strings.
``You've got some disgruntled members who want control,'' Handfield said in an interview Wednesday.
Wingard-Percell and four other ex-board members approached Miami-Dade prosecutors recently seeking a criminal investigation, but they were told a crime couldn't be proved. Frustrated, they instead will sit in on the trial, looking for a window into their pastor's financial practices.
LINK TO PHOTO
Tiger Woods alienates black community with white loversThe Associated Press
Sunday, December 6th 2009, 7:25 AM
Tiger Woods with three alleged mistresses Jaimee Grubbs (left), Kalika Moquin (center magazine cover) and Rachel Uchitel. Three more women, all white, have since come forward.
Rimer/Scanpix/SipaSwedish model Elin Nordegren is the wife of golf super star Tiger Woods.
Amid all the headlines generated by Tiger Woods' troubles — the puzzling car accident, the suggestions of marital turmoil and multiple mistresses — little attention has been given to the race of the women linked with the world's greatest golfer.
Except in the black community.
When three white women were said to be romantically involved with Woods in addition to his blonde, Swedish wife, blogs, airwaves and barbershops started humming, and Woods' already tenuous standing among many blacks took a beating.
On the nationally syndicated Tom Joyner radio show, Woods was the butt of jokes all week.
"Thankfully, Tiger, you didn't marry a black woman. Because if a sister caught you running around with a bunch of white hoochie-mamas," one parody suggests in song, she would have castrated him.
"The Grinch's Theme Song" didn't stop there: "The question everyone in America wants to ask you is, how many white women does one brother waaant?"
As one blogger, Robert Paul Reyes, wrote: "If Tiger Woods had cheated on his gorgeous white wife with black women, the golfing great's accident would have been barely a blip in the blogosphere."
The darts reflect blacks' resistance to interracial romance. They also are a reflection of discomfort with a man who has smashed barriers in one of America's whitest sports and assumed the mantle of the world's most famous athlete, once worn by Muhammad Ali and Michael Jordan.
But Woods has declined to identify himself as black, and famously chose the term "Cablinasian" (Caucasian, black, Indian and Asian) to describe the racial mixture he inherited from his African-American father and Thai mother.
This vexed some blacks, but it hasn't stopped them from claiming Woods as one of their own. Or from disapproving of his marriage to Elin Nordegren, despite blacks' historical fight against white racist opponents of mixed marriage.
On the one hand, Ebonie Johnson Cooper doesn't care that Tiger Woods' wife and alleged mistresses are white because Woods is "quote-unquote not really black."
"But at the same time we still see him as a black man with a white woman, and it makes a difference," said Johnson Cooper, a 26-year-old African-American from New York City. "There's just this preservation thing we have among one another. We like to see each other with each other."
Black women have long felt slighted by the tendency of famous black men to pair with white women, and many have a list of current transgressors at the ready.
"We've discussed this for years among black women," said Denene Millner, author of several books on black relationships. "Why is it when they get to this level ... they tend to go directly for the nearest blonde?"
This tendency may be more prominent due to a relative lack of interracial marriages among average blacks. Although a recent Pew poll showed that 94 percent of blacks say it's all right for blacks and whites to date, a study published this year in Sociological Quarterly showed that blacks are less likely to actually date outside their race than are other groups.
"There is a call for loyalty that is stronger in some ways than in other racial communities," said the author of the study, George Yancey, a sociology professor at the University of North Texas and author of the book "Just Don't Marry One."
The color of one's companion has long been a major measure of "blackness" — which is a big reason why the biracial Barack Obama was able to fend off early questions about his black authenticity.
"Had Barack had a white wife, I would have thought twice about voting for him," Johnson Cooper said.
So do Woods' women say something about the intensely private golfer's views on race?
"I would like to say no, but I think it garners a bit of a yes," Johnson Cooper said.
Carmen Van Kerckhove, founder of the race-meets-pop-culture blog Racialicious, said there have been frequent discussions on her site about the fine line between preference and fetish.
"Is there any difference between a white guy with a thing for blondes, and a non-white guy with a thing for blondes?" asked Van Kerckhove, who has a Chinese mother, a Belgian father and a husband born in America to parents from Benin.
She claims that Asians don't fully embrace Woods, either.
"There are two layers of suspicion toward him," Van Kerkhove said. "One toward the apparent pattern in the race of his partners, and the second in the way he sees himself. ... People have been giving him the side-eye for a while."
There's nothing wrong with wanting a mate who shares your culture, as long as it's for the right reasons, the comedienne Sheryl Underwood said after unleashing a withering Woods monologue on Tom Joyner's radio show.
"Would we question when a Jewish person wants to marry other Jewish people?" she said in an interview. "It's not racist. It's not bigotry. It's cultural pride."
"The issue comes in when you choose something white because you think it's better," Underwood said. "And then you never date a black woman or a woman of color or you never sample the greatness of the international buffet of human beings. If you never do that, we got a problem."
Chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel created to oversee the banking bailouts
December 3, 2009 10:00 AM
America Without a Middle Class
Today, one in five Americans is unemployed, underemployed or just plain out of work. One in nine families can't make the minimum payment on their credit cards. One in eight mortgages is in default or foreclosure. One in eight Americans is on food stamps. More than 120,000 families are filing for bankruptcy every month. The economic crisis has wiped more than $5 trillion from pensions and savings, has left family balance sheets upside down, and threatens to put ten million homeowners out on the street.
Families have survived the ups and downs of economic booms and busts for a long time, but the fall-behind during the busts has gotten worse while the surge-ahead during the booms has stalled out. In the boom of the 1960s, for example, median family income jumped by 33% (adjusted for inflation). But the boom of the 2000s resulted in an almost-imperceptible 1.6% increase for the typical family. While Wall Street executives and others who owned lots of stock celebrated how good the recovery was for them, middle class families were left empty-handed.
But core expenses kept going up. By the early 2000s, families were spending twice as much (adjusted for inflation) on mortgages than they did a generation ago -- for a house that was, on average, only ten percent bigger and 25 years older. They also had to pay twice as much to hang on to their health insurance.
To cope, millions of families put a second parent into the workforce. But higher housing and medical costs combined with new expenses for child care, the costs of a second car to get to work and higher taxes combined to squeeze families even harder. Even with two incomes, they tightened their belts. Families today spend less than they did a generation ago on food, clothing, furniture, appliances, and other flexible purchases -- but it hasn't been enough to save them. Today's families have spent all their income, have spent all their savings, and have gone into debt to pay for college, to cover serious medical problems, and just to stay afloat a little while longer.
Through it all, families never asked for a handout from anyone, especially Washington. They were left to go on their own, working harder, squeezing nickels, and taking care of themselves. But their economic boats have been taking on water for years, and now the crisis has swamped millions of middle class families.
The contrast with the big banks could not be sharper. While the middle class has been caught in an economic vise, the financial industry that was supposed to serve them has prospered at their expense. Consumer banking -- selling debt to middle class families -- has been a gold mine. Boring banking has given way to creative banking, and the industry has generated tens of billions of dollars annually in fees made possible by deceptive and dangerous terms buried in the fine print of opaque, incomprehensible, and largely unregulated contracts.
And when various forms of this creative banking triggered economic crisis, the banks went to Washington for a handout. All the while, top executives kept their jobs and retained their bonuses. Even though the tax dollars that supported the bailout came largely from middle class families -- from people already working hard to make ends meet -- the beneficiaries of those tax dollars are now lobbying Congress to preserve the rules that had let those huge banks feast off the middle class.
Pundits talk about "populist rage" as a way to trivialize the anger and fear coursing through the middle class. But they have it wrong. Families understand with crystalline clarity that the rules they have played by are not the same rules that govern Wall Street. They understand that no American family is "too big to fail." They recognize that business models have shifted and that big banks are pulling out all the stops to squeeze families and boost revenues. They understand that their economic security is under assault and that leaving consumer debt effectively unregulated does not work.
Families are ready for change. According to polls, large majorities of Americans have welcomed the Obama Administration's proposal for a new Consumer Financial Protection Agency (CFPA). The CFPA would be answerable to consumers -- not to banks and not to Wall Street. The agency would have the power to end tricks-and-traps pricing and to start leveling the playing field so that consumers have the tools they need to compare prices and manage their money. The response of the big banks has been to swing into action against the Agency, fighting with all their lobbying might to keep business-as-usual. They are pulling out all the stops to kill the agency before it is born. And if those practices crush millions more families, who cares -- so long as the profits stay high and the bonuses keep coming.
America today has plenty of rich and super-rich. But it has far more families who did all the right things, but who still have no real security. Going to college and finding a good job no longer guarantee economic safety. Paying for a child's education and setting aside enough for a decent retirement have become distant dreams. Tens of millions of once-secure middle class families now live paycheck to paycheck, watching as their debts pile up and worrying about whether a pink slip or a bad diagnosis will send them hurtling over an economic cliff. America without a strong middle class? Unthinkable, but the once-solid foundation is shaking.
Elizabeth Warren is the Leo Gottlieb Professor of Law at Harvard and is currently the Chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel.
Woods' fall from grace rekindles role-model debate
NEW YORK — Tiger Woods was different, or so he seemed, with his unmatchable talent and carefully burnished image. Unlike some pro athletes, he had welcomed being a role model. He was, it turns out, too good to be true, and his fall from grace calls into question the very idea of sports hero worship.
"No one has approached this level of perfection on and off the playing surface, maybe ever, without a single blot or tarnish," said Dave Czesniuk, director of operations for Northeastern University's Center for the Study of Sport in Society.
"The real story here is the meeting of expectations with reality," Czesniuk said. "The guy's a human being and we forget that."
Woods' apology Wednesday for unspecified "transgressions" — coinciding with reports of repeated marital infidelity — was, on one level, only the latest in a long sequence of superstar downfalls.
Michael Phelps was photographed with a marijuana pipe. Marion Jones had her Olympic medals stripped for doping that she long denied. Roger Clemens and Alex Rodriguez faced dual allegations of steroid use and adultery. And so on.
Woods, however, was unique — a globally recognized brand name that evoked impeccability and historical greatness. His sponsors and handlers, his admiring chroniclers in the media, and especially Woods himself contributed to the image-making.
"The public had become jaded and indifferent — they expected Barry Bonds and Marion Jones and Sammy Sosa to fall," said psychologist Stanley Teitelbaum, author of "Sports Heroes, Fallen Idols."
"But no one really expected that of Tiger Woods," he said. "Now that it happens to him, people are not as indifferent — there's more disappointment and more disillusionment."
Steve Elling, senior writer for CBSSports.com, wrote this week that fans and sportswriters, himself included, were gullible in placing Woods on so high a pedestal.
"We have learned by now to invest admiration in public figures with a grain of salt. With Woods, we just ate the whole salt lick," Elling wrote. "Say it with me: Never, ever again."
Woods, for all his preoccupation with mastery on the course, had managed throughout his career to be viewed as more than just a golfer — loving son to his parents, civic-minded creator of a foundation serving disadvantaged children, devoted father who said he'd play less golf so he could spend more time with his two young children.
He didn't embrace social causes, and sometimes there were brief flashes of temper or crudeness. But as far back as 1997, he was on record aswelcoming the responsibilities of role model.
"I think it's an honor to be a role model," he was quoted as saying in a Business Week article. "If you are given a chance to be a role model, I think you should always take it because you can influence a person's life in a positive light, and that's what I want to do. That's what it's all about."
If that was Woods' goal, Teitelbaum said it had been achieved.
"In terms of a role model, he's A-one," the psychologist said. "The fans, and especially kids, are desperate to have role models to look up to. ... People have made him the designated sports hero.
"When you're among the high-flying and adored, your public will give you unconditional love as long as you continue to perform," Teitelbaum added. "But there's a responsibility to be that much more careful and that much more transparent and, when something does happen, to deal with it openly."
The depths of sudden disillusionment with Woods have been almost tangible. According to Zeta Buzz, which tracks millions of blogs and social media posts, online references to Woods had been 91 percent positive before his recent troubles and by Thursday had dropped to 57 percent positive.
The owner of a youth-oriented Internet site called Role Models on the Web said Thursday he'd been inundated with hateful e-mails and phone calls for leaving a flattering entry about Woods on the site.
"Should he be considered a moral role model? No," said Lamar Brantley of Sarasota, Fla. "But through his foundation, he's done a lot of good."
Above the Woods entry on the Web site, Brantley added this update:
"I will leave Tiger up as a role model as I believe it is probably a good topic for discussion in your family. If you do or do not believe him to be a role model of any kind, discuss it with your children."
Countless parents have been forced into similar conversations in recent years as drug and sex scandals entangled star athletes in numerous sports.
"There's an important parental role to play with kids," said Joe Kelly, founder of a national fatherhood group called Dads and Daughters. "You need to make clear that role models are just models — they're not without flaws, and we will be disappointed by them sometimes, the same way we're disappointed by our parents sometimes."
Kelly said he retained a degree of admiration for Woods because of the golfer's past comments about how much it meant to become a father.
"We have higher responsibilities as fathers, rather than responding to every impulse and desire we might have," Kelly said. "When it comes to being a father, we have to be the grown-up. When we act like children, the fallout is terrible."
Some of Woods' admirers believe he will redeem himself, not only through further golfing excellence but also through a show of character.
"He is distinctive in myriad ways — not only his talent, but his extraordinary level of discipline," said Dan Doyle, director of the Institute for International Sport at the University of Rhode Island. "What I think will happen is Tiger will never make this kind of mistake again."
"The fact that he made what is clearly a big error does not dismiss him as someone who can have a tremendous effect on society and youth in the future," Doyle added. "People will give him a second chance, and he will make good on that second chance."
December 04, 2009 04:55 AM EST
Ga. mall evacuated after man dressed as elf tells Santa he's carrying dynamite; no bomb found
This undated photo provided by the Clayton County Sheriff's Office shows William C. Caldwell III. Police in Morrow, Ga. say Caldwell was dressed in an elf suit Wednesday evening, Dec. 2, 2009 as he waited in line to have his picture taken with Santa Claus at Southlake Mall in suburban Atlanta. When Caldwell reached the front of the line, he told Santa he had dynamite in his bag. Santa called mall security and Caldwell was arrested. (AP Photo/Clayton County Sherriffs Office) (AP / December 3, 2009)
Associated Press 9:10 a.m. EST, December 4, 2009
9:32 a.m. Dec. 2, 2009
Sterling Heights police seek bubble gum bandits
TAMMY STABLES BATTAGLIA
FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER
Police in Sterling Heights are warning merchants there’s a group of bubble gum bandits on the loose.
Police in Warren and Madison Heights also reported similar thefts at gas stations there.
Man arrested after hiding in Fairfield Walmart past closing time, trying to leave with cash
Toraine Norris -- The Birmingham News
December 02, 2009, 6:09PM
A Mississippi man took holiday shopping to a whole new level last week, police in Fairfield said.
Police said James Jefferson Jr. hid inside the Walmart on Aaron Aronov Drive on Nov. 25 shortly after the store closed at 11 p.m. and helped himself to $54,000 in cash and checks.
A store security guard subdued Jefferson after he went to the locked doors and attempted to get out. As Jefferson shook the doors, money bags from the store began falling out of his clothing, police said.
When officers arrived they found money strapped to Jefferson's chest, in his backpack and in his pants. Officers also confiscated a duplicate key from Jefferson he used to enter the cash room.
Jefferson, 35, also told police "I did not do this by myself. You are a cop, how do you think I got the key?," according to the police report. Police have not said whether they think he had an accomplice.
Chief Pat Mardis said Jefferson likely could have made an escape if he had only waited for the employees who were stocking the store to unlock the doors.
"They said if he had waited about 20 more minutes, he could have been gone for good," Mardis said. "But he got nervous."
Jefferson was in the Jefferson County Jail this afternoon on robbery and burglary charges. His bond was set at $60,000.
Mardis said Jefferson is facing the robbery charge because he told the security guard he had a gun and threatened to shoot him. Jefferson did not have a gun.
Wife tried to kill hubby's baby by mistress
Last Updated: 1:43 PM, December 5, 2009
Posted: 4:33 AM, December 5, 2009
A Brooklyn woman concocted a twisted plot to kill the unborn child of her husband’s pregnant mistress — duping her into taking medicine that could make her lose her baby, police said yesterday.
Even after the victim gave birth early because of the toxic drug, Kisha Jones, 31, continued her evil scheme by trying to feed suspicious milk to the baby in the neonatal intensive care unit, sources say.
The bizarre tale unfolded in October, when Jones became enraged after she learned her hubby, Anthony, was cheating and had sired a baby with his lover, Monique Hunter, 25, of Flatbush, cops said.
Late that month, Jones allegedly obtained a doctor's prescription pad and tricked the seven-months-pregnant Hunter into taking a drug used to induce abortion.
Cops said Jones called Hunter using an electronic gadget that transmits bogus phone numbers to caller-ID devices, allowing her to pretend to be the assistant of the woman's doctor.
"I got a call from my doctor's office telling me to pick up a prescription at King's Pharmacy," Hunter, a nursing student at the Borough of Manhattan Community College, told The Post. "I knew something was suspicious because King's Pharmacy was not my normal pharmacy. But I didn't think anything of it."
The new mom said that she thought the call from Jones was legitimate because her doctor's number appeared on her caller-ID. She also was expecting to get a refill of a drug for her cervix.
"I didn't go and pick it up immediately," she said. "A week later I received another phone call telling me to pick up my prescription, so I went and picked it up and I took my pill."
But instead of the drug she expected, Hunter wound up getting a dose of the abortion-causing pill Cytotec, which the unsuspecting mother ingested on Oct. 27. She immediately went into labor and was rushed to Kings County Hospital, where the baby was delivered and put into the neonatal ICU.
Fortunately, the boy was born healthy and she named him Anthony Jones Jr. after his father.
But Jones' alleged plot didn't end there. Sources said she continued to target the innocent infant.
On Nov. 3, she allegedly called the hospital posing as the boy's mother, telling the staff she had pumped breast milk at home and wanted it given to the baby.
Later that day, a man showed up with two 20-ounce water bottles that purportedly contained the milk. Hospital staff immediately became suspicious because the liquid did not have the consistency of breast milk, and they called cops.
Police initially thought Hunter was targeting her own baby. But after investigating the case, cops followed a trail back to Jones, who herself has a few children with her husband, including a baby.
The suspect was arrested Thursday and charged with reckless endangerment, forgery of a prescription, criminal impersonation and attempted abortion, police said.
Police said Jones' husband had no role in the plot, though they were looking for the man who delivered the milk.
December 4, 2009
Tiny treasure ... silicon treeHe was made out of tin by scientists at the National Physical Laboratory, London, who also created a silicon Christmas tree, left, half the width of a hair.
HERE is the world's tiniest snowman - 0.025mm high or a fifth of the width of human hair.
Verizon Wireless doubles early-termination fee for smart-phone users
Critics say charges intended to prevent customers from defecting; company says it offsets costs of pricey handsets
December 4, 2009
Before you go shopping for a new smart phone this holiday season, keep this in mind: Verizon Wireless, the largest provider of mobile-phone services, has doubled its early termination fee for high-end handsets if you decide to go with a different carrier.
The company used to slap you with a $175 charge for jumping ship after a 30-day trial period. Now that penalty is $350. The fee applies to BlackBerrys, the much-touted new Droid and other smart phones capable of sending and receiving text messages and e-mails and accessing the Internet.
"We increased the early-termination fee for advanced devices to reflect the higher costs associated with offering those particular devices to consumers at attractive prices and investing in our network to support these devices," said Ken Muche, a spokesman for Verizon Wireless. "These costs are higher because advanced devices require more complex chipsets, microprocessors and licensed software that perform more functions than other phones."
But consumer advocates and some customers say high early termination fees are little more than a way to hold people hostage.
Denise Netzley, 46, who hadn't been aware of the $350 fee as she shopped for a smart phone at a Verizon Wireless store, said those fees should be clearly posted.
Muche said Verizon smart-phone customers can choose to not have a two-year contract and can pick a one-year plan or pay on a month-to-month basis.
But if you opt for month-to-month payments, you'll have to pay the full price for your smart phone, which typically is a lot more than the price with a contract.
A Google-powered Droid phone, for example, will run you $299.99 with a two-year contract from Verizon. The price jumps to $369.99 with a one-year contract. If you skip the contract, that Droid will cost $559.99, not including monthly service charges beginning at $39.99.
Although Verizon's $350 fee sets a high watermark for such penalties, it's in keeping with the industry practice of offering cool handsets at reduced prices in return for customers agreeing to a long-term contract.
AT&T, for example, will smack you with a $175 fee if you exit your iPhone contract before two years are up. (The fee decreases by $5 for every month you have the phone.)
"This isn't about subsidies," said Joel Kelsey, telecommunications policy analyst for Consumers Union. "It's about punishing people for leaving the provider."
He noted that Verizon will lower its early-termination fee by $10 a month for each month you're with the company. But even if you stay for the full two years, your early termination fee still would be $110. "If this was really a subsidy, that fee should be zero by the end of the contract," Kelsey said. "This shows that the early termination fees they're charging don't actually reflect the cost of the discounted phone."
Moreover, he pointed out that even if you did buy your phone separately, you still would be paying the same amount for a Verizon service plan as someone with a subsidized phone.
"Shouldn't you be paying less, considering that they didn't subsidize your phone?" Kelsey asked.
The way things work now, consumers have a tough time knowing the actual cost of products and services they get from telecom companies. Phone manufacturers and service providers enter into deals, and the pricing gets muddled amid long-term contracts, fees and special discounts.
Consumer advocates say the first way to untangle this would be to end wireless exclusivity. All phones should work on all compatible networks -- particularly with all wireless companies building state-of-the-art networks to accommodate increasingly snazzy smart phones.
They also recommend an end to the practice of service providers "subsidizing" a product they don't make.
Concord's Scraggly Christmas Tree Stirs Controversy
Posted: 10:40 pm PST December 2, 2009
Updated: 12:49 am PST December 3, 2009
The tough economy is why city officials decided to use what they call their live "Charlie Brown-style" tree.
One local woman who didn't want to be identified described the tree as sad. "I think it's sad that they decorated that tree only because it had electricity when we have trees on the corner that are healthy and more the spirit of Christmas," explained the woman. She added the bareness of the scraggly tree reminded her of the economy.
Concord opted for the living tree because a getting a more traditional tree could cost of $20,000 or more.
"The expense of doing a tree at this time when we've asked our employees to sacrifice and give up pay [seemed extravagant]," explained Concord Mayor Laura Hoffmeister. "All of them have given up at least five percent of their salary, some as much as ten percent. Plus we've had layoffs."
In keeping with the Peanuts theme, there's also a blanket drive here for a local domestic violence shelter.
"They're twin blankets so that the kids at Stand Against Domestic Violence can have a blanket that is their own yo keep warm and love and cuddly," said Virginia Thomas of the Todos Santos Business Association. "And again, Linus would have loved that."
Todos Santos Plaza, where the tree stands, has other trees that might have made better Christmas trees. But a farmers market, nearby traffic dangers and the cost of stringing power were other factors that prompted this choice.
"It moves us more towards green and using living things and not cutting trees down," said Concord Assistant City Manager Valerie Barone.
Besides, where it matters most, it seems this Charlie Brown tree passed the test.
Eight-year-old Amye Kirkham expressed her approval. "It still has all the decorations and a big star on the top of the tree," said Kirkham.
City crews tested the lights and by all accounts the tree was impressive. The official lighting ceremony starts on Saturday at 4 p.m.
'Good Without God' Billboards Spark Controversy
The billboards are reaching out to people who don't or aren't sure if they believe in God. Of course, it's got the Christian community talking.
"I don't think anybody can really be good without having a part of the God component inside of them," said Christian Life Church Senior Pastor Dr. Hugh Bair.
"And we believe clearly that one does not necessarily have to have God to have good," said First Unitarian Church Minister Rev. David Carl Olson.
The billboards are not just here in Baltimore. They're in select states across the country. Though they're already stirring up controversy, the real point is to get the conversation started.
"They might feel they're in a minority and this billboard is a way of saying if you're good without God, then you're not alone. There are a lot of people like you, and we're trying to reach out to them," said Emil Volcheck, Baltimore Coalition of Reason.
The United Coalition of Reason paid for the campaign. The local chapter, consisting of atheists, agnostics and humanists, says being vocal about not needing or believing in God can ostracize people in a society surrounded by churches and religion.
"I've only recently told my family and I decided to take a more active role and to help others who may feel afraid to speak up," said Gabriel Lockett, part of the Secular Student Alliance at UMBC.
Traditional churches take offense.
"A church is basically a visible presence that says we need God and what they are saying is they're undermining what church is really all about," Bair said.
The First Unitarian Church supports the billboard and is hosting the group's national speaker this weekend to preach about "good without God" and how it can play into even a churchgoer's beliefs.
"And even in a way of being religious that doesn't necessarily have God in it that we can still live ethical, moral, good lives," Olson said.
The non-theists say they're not trying to recruit people. The traditional church says they've survived these sort of promotions before.
The campaign coincides with a book tour titled "Good Without God: What a Billion Nonreligious People Do Believe." The tour stops in Baltimore on Sunday afternoon.
LINK TO VIDEO
Tiger Woods had a series of crashes
Tiger Woods was driving so erratically before his mysterious car crash that he careered into bushes and hedges, up two concrete curbs and swerved across a whole street before ploughing into a fire hydrant and a tree.
Nick Allen in Los Angeles
Published: 7:16PM GMT 03 Dec 2009
Happy times: Tiger Woods with wife, Elin Nordegren, at opening the ceremony for the Presidents Cup in San Francisco Photo: AP
The pinball trajectory of his Cadillac was revealed in a police sketch of the incident which shows the golfing superstar had a total of three collisions, not two as previously thought.
As he pulled out of his drive at 2.25am he mounted a concrete curb onto a grass verge. He then tried to turn left onto a road but went all the way across, up another curb and into some hedges.
SUV then careered left across an oncoming lanes on to his neighbour's lawn where he hit the fire hydrant, before crossing the neighbour's drive and colliding with a tree.
The bizarre series of collisions will raise further questions over what caused Woods to crash.
As he recovers from the wounds to his face and reputation the superstar golfer, is also facing a hefty hit to his wallet, being forced to renegotiate his prenuptial agreement, which could lead to his wife receiving a record breaking $300 million (£180 million) in any future divorce.
Woods and his wife Elin Nordegren, 29, are desperately trying to save their marriage and have been undergoing marriage counselling sessions several times daily at their home in Orlando, Florida.
When the couple married on Oct. 5, 2004, in a wedding at the exclusive Sandy Lane resort in Barbados, Mrs Nordegren signed an agreement which staggered payments and was initially modest by A-list celebrity standards.
It is said to have given her the right to $20 million (£12 million) after 10 years of marriage.
In light of Woods' recent "transgressions" the amount has been increased to $75 million (£45 million) and the period reduced to seven years.
But experts said Mrs Nordegren could ultimately end up with one of the biggest settlements in celebrity history, dwarfing the $150 million (£90 million) paid by basketball star Michael Jordan to his former wife Juanita.
Mrs Nordegren will also sign a nondisclosure form that will prevent her from ever telling her story.
Woods faced further public opprobrium yesterday from the fellow golfer who introduced him to his wife.
Mrs Nordegern was working as an au pair for Jesper Parnevik, a fellow Swede, when she met Woods at the 2001 British Open.
Parnevik, 44, said: "I'm kind of filled with sorrow for Elin since me and my wife are at fault for hooking her up with him, and we probably thought he was a better guy than he is.
"I would probably have to apologise to her and hope she uses a driver next time instead of a three-iron."
Did you feel it? Are you noticing? The new has fully arrived to replace the old, and the old is going to have to take a long nap under a tree and watch what happens while the new delves in even deeper and does the best it can under the circumstances.
There is much talk, for example, of the man known as President Obama, of his effect and impact so far, his supposed lack of marked accomplishment lo these first dozen months of this most historic and revolutionary of presidencies -- a period, by the way, I am absolutely convinced we will all look back on in 10 or 20 years and go, oh my God, there. Remember that? That was a time, wasn't it? We will sigh and smile and point at the historic pictures and say, dear God, how incredible that was. It was a difficult time, there was much acrimony and resistance, but it was amazing. And it changed everything.
But not so fast. Back here in the dwindling twilight of the '00s, there is much puling from the liberal left that Obama has not done nearly enough, quickly enough, that his list of accomplishments is no list at all and is more of a giant, infuriating shrug. Many are saying he's not all he's cracked up to be because he has yet to completely revolutionize every aspect of human life as we know it by instantly turning everything organic, curing all diseases and setting all gay military personnel free to romp in the fields of boot camp.
Where is the complete ideological overhaul of the entire federal government? Where is the Gandhi-like pacifism? Why are we sending 30K more troops to Afghanistan? What about my new job, my single-payer health care and my tiny car that runs on sunflowers and hemp popsicles? Indeed, rabid impatience has combined with impossible expectation to give many liberals a free ticket to the land of nonstop bitching. Alas.
Conversely, there is all manner of incoherent noise spewing like radioactive urine from the far right, a nonstop wail of childlike panic claiming that, because Obama behaves with unnerving calm, shakes hands with foreign dignitaries and doesn't seem interested in bombing everyone in a turban, he must be a socialist Muslim Nazi hell-bent on banning machine guns and killing all old Republicans in their sleep and replacing them with French-speaking hip-hop jazz musicians.
The good news is, both sides are wildly, fantastically, delightfully wrong. As Slate's Jacob Weisberg rightly points out, Obama has had a very first good year indeed, spectacular even, far better than most in major media acknowledge (but they will, they will). In fact, assuming health care passes, Obama will have accomplished more in his first year than any president in the history of the world, ever.
That might be an exaggeration. But I'm OK with that, because the basic idea is something that needs to be declared a bit more loudly. Nearly everything Bush tore down and decimated and humiliated to its very core, Obama has either restored, is in the process of restoring, or is set to restore. Even Afghanistan appears to have a coherent framework now (we shall see). And that's just the beginning.
Make no mistake, it is not all wine and roses and classy poetry slams in the East Room. Personally, I'm far from the nice swoon for Obama that I experienced when he swept to miraculous, world-altering victory, a swoon born in large part from the nearly unbearable sense of relief that Bush was finally gone. My appreciation is now tempered with harsh reality, as well it should be.
Then again, during the campaign, Obama admitted this exact fact himself, saying he was sure to make mistakes, that you would not agree with every decision, that there would be more bad news before we got back to the good. What a jerk. Oh wait.
Regardless, I had an ambitious idea, way back at the beginning of Obama's term, to keep a loose, running catalog of all his accomplishments, every announcement and policy shift, legislative act and executive order I could find that either reversed a toxic Bush agenda item or put into motion a progressive idea he'd mentioned during the campaign, everything from science to emissions, stem-cell research to women's rights. As the stories came across the wires, I'd grab the link and keep a master list. Just to see.
Ha. It didn't take long before I realized the utter futility of this plan. I simply could not keep up. There were too many, coming too quickly. What's more, many of the changes were not widely reported, were not shouted by the White House by a president seeking applause or a boost in poll numbers from a mal-educated, reactionary "base" who wouldn't be happy until every Planned Parenthood clinic was burned down and Jesus' face was on the dollar bill and the Indy 500 was declared a national holiday. For example.
The good news is, others took up this noble task, have tracked most of Obama's rather stunning, unsung achievements and policy nudges to date. And those changes are voluminous. Here's just one handy list, a quick rundown of about 90 of Obama's more noteworthy accomplishments, right off the top. Can you read it and not be impressed? Or do you get stuck on those handful that you disagree with, personal hot buttons that negate and blinder everything else? Shame.
The amazing thing is, this list is far from complete. Obama has actually accomplished even more, and shows no signs of slowing down. The Washington Post just reported, for example, that the Obama administration is now beginning to ban all lobbyists -- hundreds if not thousands of longtime influence peddlers -- from serving on federal advisory panels. Did you know? Probably not. It didn't get much coverage.
Huh. That's funny. I'm out of room. When I started this piece, I intended to mention Obama only briefly, just one example in a larger list of evolutionary energies that was to include music and food, technology and cars, love and sex, all sorts of myriad evolutions taking place in my world and probably yours as we dance down this wayward road.
But somehow, as I delved in a bit more deeply, as I scanned those lists and noted all the changes in a single year, I found myself reenergized, invigorated, slapped awake at the new tone and direction, the sheer scale of all the changes, and how we are no longer the rogue macho cowboy laughingstock jackass of the world.
Sure, there's still a long way to go. Yes, we're still invading Afghanistan. Wall Street is still packed with jackals and demons. DOMA still exists. All is far from perfect. But times have changed indeed. Things are most definitely not what they once were. I can think of no better news to report.
4:47 p.m. Dec. 2, 2009
Armed cops subdue angry shopper denied a refund at Oakland Mall
FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER
Four Troy police officers, armed with rifles, stormed into an Oakland Mall store today after a man angry that he couldn’t return an Xbox without a receipt threatened to kill someone.
It was an interesting day here at the GameStop,” said store employee David Roman.
According to Lt. Michael Lyczkowski, the 43-year-old Detroit man went into the store at about 11 a.m. After a store employee wouldn’t allow him to return the Xbox, the man became irate and made threats. A store employee called 911, saying the man went out to get something from his vehicle.
When police arrived, they used a tactic called active shooter response, meaning a team of officers works to stop an immediate threat. Roman said coworkers told him officers put employees and a handful of customers in a back room and threw the man up against a counter, handcuffing him.
The man, whose name is not being released pending the issuance of charges, did not have a firearm. But officers found a stun gun in the man’s handbag, which is illegal in Michigan, Lyczkowski said.
“He said he needed it for protection,” Lyczkowski said.
No one was injured in the incident and the man remains in police custody. Lyczkowski said the man could face charges for possession of a stun gun, a four-year felony, and disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor.
Video proves man lied about being robbed
Admits to deputy he needed to explain to his wife what happened to his money
November 30, 2009 09:31:00 AM
TONY SIMMONS / Online Editor
PANAMA CITY BEACH – A man who initially claimed he had been robbed outside a beach store admitted to deputies that he had lied when surveillance video showed no attack.
The man conceded that he had reported the fake robbery “just so that he could tell his wife that his money had been taken and that he had not just spent it,” a Bay County Sheriff’s Office report said.
According to the report, Jordan Paul Dominque, 30, of Panama City Beach was charged with making a false report of a crime. He was arrested and taken to the Bay County Jail.
Dominque had called 911 from inside the Pop Inn Store at 8701 Front Beach Road, claiming he was getting into his car when a man dressed in black hit him and took $100 cash from him.
A deputy consulted the store’s surveillance video and saw no such attack. According to the report, the video showed Dominque enter the store, then leave the store and go to his vehicle. He sat in his car for a short amount of time, then reentered the store and used the store’s phone to call 911.
“When I confronted him, he admitted to me he was having money problems at home,” the deputy noted. “He stated he called 911 knowing that no such crime had actually been committed, just so that he could tell his wife that his money had been taken and that he had not just spent it.”
Woman named Jesus Christ called for Jefferson County jury duty
Erin Stock -- The Birmingham News
December 01, 2009, 4:30PM
Jesus Christ was called for jury duty this week in Jefferson County.
Court officials were skeptical at first when on Monday a potential juror submitted a name change form with "Jesus Christ" on it. But the 59-year-old Birmingham woman, who previously went by Dorothy Lola Killingworth, assured the presiding judge that was her name.
"It raised eyebrows, so I asked her if that were truly her name," Circuit Court Judge Scott Vowell said. "She assured me that it was. She had her name changed in the Probate Court, and she presented her driver's license."
Christ was sent to Judge Clyde Jones's courtroom for a criminal case. She was excused because she was disruptive, court officials said. Instead of answering questions, she was asking them, a court employee in Jones's office said.
Efforts to reach Christ today were unsuccessful.
Court administrator Sandra Turner said she and others in the jury assembly room were somewhat shocked at first when the woman insisted Christ was her name. And when her name was called, several potential jurors laughed out loud.
Unlike some Jefferson County residents, Christ did not try to get out of jury duty, Turner said.
"She was perfectly happy to serve," said Turner.
25 Days of Weird Christmas: Day 1
A very merry South Korean Xmas.
And so it begins.
WATCH IT AND LISTEN
For some, December 1 marks the beginning of that time of year when family and tradition take precedence over all else; when you pull out that thick reindeer print sweater and sip that sweet eggnog and dream dreams of baby Jesus doing a jig with sugar plum fairies, etc...
But for many of us--dare I say, most of us--the beginning of the holiday season mostly forebodes inevitable cold sweats in crowded department stores as you try to remember if your sister already has a blender, or hearing Bing Crosby warble on six different radio stations, or watching (and re-watching) all those Gap ads, with hyperactive be-scarfed dancers frolicking all over the place. If you're like me, you need an antidote to all the sugary sweetness and corporate manipulation of the mainstream holiday traditions. Well, you're in luck.
Starting today, the SFGate Culture Blog presents: 25 Days of Weird Christmas. We'll be sharing bizarre holiday traditions from around the world, unfortunate Christmas cover albums, forgotten Santa origin stories, tacky and disturbing seasonal gifts and all sorts of other bizarro holiday goodies. It's like an Advent calendar, but instead of waxy and stale chocolate bits, you'll get subversive, unexpected and slightly inappropriate factoids, anecdotes and low-cultural gems.
To start things off, I'd like to share one of my favorite pieces from the great master of dissident Christmas commentary--David Sedaris. From the man who brought you the seminal classic in disgruntled elf literature Santa Land Diaries, here's a piece about Sedaris' journey to the Netherlands where he learns about the Dutch version of Santa Claus--a former minister of Turkey with an entourage of six to eight black men. Click below to hear Sedaris read his essay aloud, it's a worthwhile and very hilarious listen.
December 01 2009 at 01:15 PM
Woman Assaulted With Hot Pecan Pie
Woman Suffered First-, Second-Degree Burns
POSTED: Tuesday, December 1, 2009
UPDATED: 5:33 pm CST December 1, 2009
ALGOA, Texas -- A man has been accused of assaulting his sister with a piece of pie, KPRC Local 2 reported.
Galveston County sheriff's deputies said a family gathered for Thanksgiving dinner at a home in the 16700 block of Fir Road in Algoa.
A man, 26, and his sister, 23, got into an argument, investigators said. Their mother tried to stop the argument, but it escalated and the man threatened his sister with the pie.
Detectives said the man shoved a piece of pie that had just been microwaved into his sister's face.
The woman went to an Alvin-area hospital for treatment of first- and second-degree burns to the left side of her face and neck.
Officials said the woman asked for the case to be dropped, but Texas law requires that the state continue with prosecution of cases of family violence.
Assault charges were pending against the brother.
Posted on Tuesday, 12.01.09
Prominent black Americans condemn Cuba on racism
JUAN O. TAMAYO
A group of prominent black Americans has for the first time publicly condemned Cuba's rights record, demanding Havana stop its "callous disregard'' for black Cubans and declaring that "racism in Cuba . . . must be confronted."
"We know first-hand the experiences and consequences of denying civil freedoms on the basis of race," the group said in a statement Monday. "For that reason, we are even more obligated to voice our opinion on what is happening to our Cuban brethren."
Among the 60 signers were Princeton professor Cornel West, actress Ruby Dee Davis, film director Melvin Van Peebles, former South Florida congresswoman Carrie Meek and Dr. Jeremiah Wright, former pastor of President Barack Obama's church in Chicago.
The declaration could add powerful new voices to the chorus pushing for change on the island, where Afro-Cubans make up at least 62 percent of the 11.4 million people yet are only thinly represented in the top leadership, scientific, academic and other ranks.
"This is historic," said Enrique Patterson, an Afro-Cuban Miami author. Although predominantly white Cuban exiles "tried to approach these people before, they lacked credibility. Now they [black Americans] are listening."
A news release accompanying the statement acknowledged that "traditionally African Americans have sided with the Castro regime and condemned the United States' policies, which explicitly work to topple the Cuban government."
But recent changes in black Americans' perceptions of Cuba, the growth of racial activism on the island and the continuing complaints of racial discrimination there created a need for the statement, said U.S. and Cuban activists involved in the declaration.
More black Americans traveling to Cuba have been able "to see the situation for themselves," said David Covin, one of the statement's organizers and former president of the National Conference of Black Political Scientists.
An increase in the numbers of Cubans identifying themselves as racial rights activists also has led more blacks to pay attention to the issue on the island, the California State University at Sacramento professor emeritus told El Nuevo Herald.
The twin developments helped to create "a critical mass of people who have bucked the tradition of support [for Cuba] in the black community," Covin added.
At the same time, Afro-Cuban activists have been casting their struggle more as an issue of civil rights than of human rights, said Victoria Ruiz-Labrit, Miami spokeswoman for the Cuba-based Citizens' Committee for Racial Integration.
"The human rights issue did not make a point of the race issue, and now we have an evolution," she added. "Cuban blacks moved closer to the term ‘civil rights' because those are the rights that the movement here in the U.S. made a point of -- the race issues."
Alberto González, spokesman for the Cuban diplomatic mission in Washington, said it was ‘‘absurd'' to accuse of racism a Cuban government that "has done more for black Cubans than any other in all areas, including health, education and welfare."
The black Americans' statement was "part of a campaign of subversion against Cuba," he added, designed to impact the administration of the first black president of the United States.
The four-page "Declaration of African-American support for the Civil Rights Struggle in Cuba'' demands that Raúl Castro end "the unwarranted and brutal harassment of black citizens in Cuba who are defending their civil rights."
"We cannot be silent in the face of increased violations of civil and human rights for those black activists in Cuba who dare raise their voices against the island's racial system," it added. "As of late, these isolated, courageous civil rights advocates have been subject to unprovoked violence, state intimidation and imprisonment."
The statement also demanded the immediate release of Darsi Ferrer, a well-known Afro-Cuban physician and activist jailed since July while under investigation on charges of illegal possession of two sacks of cement. It called Ferrer a political prisoner.
The black Americans added that while they support Cuba's right to sovereignty "and unhesitatingly repudiate any attempt at curtailing such a right," they "cannot sit idly by and allow for peaceful, dedicated civil rights activists in Cuba, and the black population as a whole, to be treated with callous disregard for their rights as citizens and as the most marginalized people on the island."
"Racism in Cuba, and anywhere else in the world, is unacceptable and must be confronted," their statement declared.
A "briefing sheet'' issued with the statement noted that Afro-Cubans make up 85 percent of the prison population and 60 of the 200 political prisoners, but only 20 percent of the Havana University professors and own only 2 percent of the land in private hands.
The statement was largely driven by Carlos Moore, a highly regarded Cuban author and black-rights activist living in Brazil who has long criticized racial discrimination in Cuba.
Moore persuaded Abdias Nascimiento, a founder of Brazil's black movement and longtime Castro supporter, to send Raúl Castro a letter earlier this year denouncing racism in Cuba, then appealed to friends and contacts in the black community to add their support.
"Without this historic figure, no one would have listened," said Patterson, who predicted that other high-profile black Americans will soon add their signatures to the statement.
3 rob dying man in hospital
Monday, November 30, 2009
November 30, 2009 (WPVI) -- He was an icon in the Philadelphia Puerto Rican community. And in the end police say the man who was revered by many was robbed as he lay dead in the waiting area of a hospital emergency room.
With his skillful artistry as a musician and long track record in the community, 63-year-old Joaquin Rivera was easily the most frequent guest on 6abc's Puerto Rican Panaroma.
"He was also someone who was very active in a number of community based organizations, always fighting to insure that Latino's were and are part of the Philadelphia landscape," said Wilfredo Rojas.
"Let me tell you this guy was great, a great loss, great great loss," said Oscar Rosario who was a close friend.
The story of Joaquin Rivera is portrayed in a mural at 5th and Somerset. He moved here from Puerto Rico when he was 18-years-old. He worked at a factory while going to night school to learn English and complete his GED. Late he studied at community college and Rutgers. For the last 30 years he was a counselor at Olney High School and his family says his second home was the church.
"He was a great man, I can honestly say I've never met a man like him, he's the greatest person I've ever known, I don't think he was a man, I consider him a saint," said Joaquin Rivera Jr.
Tragically, Rivera Sr., who suffered from high blood pressure, experienced chest pains Saturday night and walked himself two blocks to the emergency room of Aria Health Frankford Hospital.
Police say while waiting to see a doctor he died while sitting in the waiting room and was robbed of his watch by 3 other people in the room. One of them, 45-year-old Richard Alten of Port St. Lucy, Florida has been arrested and charged. Two others are being sought.
But that is not how Rivera's family wants him to be remembered.
"I want him to be remembered for what he did to preserve the Puerto Rican culture in Philadelphia. That was his idea that every kid born knew his roots," said is wife Maria. While the police investigation is ongoing, services for Rivera are being finalized. A viewing will be held at Givnish Funeral Home on Red Lion Road Friday night and another viewing and funeral Mass on Saturday morning at St. Ambrosio Catholic Church at 6th and Venango.
Disney stops disabled mayor over wheelchair
North Miami Beach's paraplegic mayor said his pleasant Thanksgiving weekend at Walt Disney World Resort turned into a demeaning experience after park officials harassed him because of his high-tech wheelchair.
According to Mayor Myron Rosner, theme park employees at both Epcot and Animal Kingdom questioned his use of his $30,000 iBOT 4000 -- a four-wheeled vehicle capable of balancing and moving on only two wheels.
Rosner, paralyzed during a construction accident, prefers to ride on two wheels -- allowing him to be eye-level with his wife, Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Sarah Zabel.
But park employees mistook his wheelchair for Segway, according to Rosner and a Disney World spokeswoman.
In front of his wife and four children, park employees demanded Rosner lower himself and use four wheels, citing a Disney policy that prohibits the use of Segways, which it deems as unsafe.
``I was totally harassed by Disney World. It was a nightmare for my wife, myself and my four children,'' he said. ``They gave me the impression I was not welcome here.''
That's not the case, spokeswoman Zoraya Suarez said.
Employees were simply confused, mistaking the wheelchair for a Segway.
``The guest was provided with conflicting guidance. We apologize for any inconveniences this may have caused,'' she said.
In 2007, three disabled people filed a lawsuit against Disney for not allowing Segways at its parks. The lawsuit was recently settled out of court, but the Segway ban remains.
Unlike a Segway, which is used while standing, Rosner's iBOT 4000 keeps the driver seated.
Rosner said Monday he plans to file lawsuits against Disney for what he called an embarrassing experience.
`ON ALL FOURS'``He said I needed to go down on all fours, and I said . . . the only way I'm going down is if the sheriff takes me down,'' Rosner said, noting his wife cried during the incident.
Ironically, Rosner said he was inspired to buy the high-tech wheelchair after seeing it on display at Epcot's Innoventions, which exhibits products that help make human lives better.
FINALLY GETS IN
Although Rosner's entrance to Epcot was delayed Friday, a park manager finally let him through.
But the questioning didn't end there.
Employees and a security guard surrounded Rosner and his family as they toured Disney's Animal Kingdom on Sunday afternoon, when he was again told to lower the chair.
The family soon left after employees followed them around the park, Rosner said.
Rosner said he appreciated Disney's apology, but said, ``it still doesn't make up for how they treated us.''
``It made us feel dirty, disgusted, undignified,'' he said.
Jail guard admits smuggling iPods to inmate
Nov. 24, 2009, 11:57AM
MIDLAND — A former guard at the Reeves County Detention Center faces up to 15 years in prison in a bribery and smuggled iPods investigation.
Prosecutors in Midland say 28-year-old Katherin Elizabeth Terry of Pecos on Tuesday pleaded guilty to accepting bribes.
Terry acknowledged that three times during 2008 she accepted money from the mother of an inmate, totaling $500, in exchange for agreeing to smuggle banned iPods to the prisoner.
A federal judge in March will sentence Terry, who also faces a fine of up to $250,000.
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