Unemployment Extension Fails: Senate Rejects Jobless Benefits 58-38
First Posted: 06-30-10 10:06 PM | Updated: 06-30-10 10:32 PM
The Senate rejected Wednesday -- for the fourth time -- a bill that would have reauthorized extended benefits for the long-term unemployed, by a vote of 58 to 38. Democrats will not make another effort to break the Republican filibuster before adjourning for the July 4 recess.
By the time lawmakers return to Washington, more than 2 million people who've been out of work for longer than six months will have missed checks they would have received if they'd been laid off closer to the beginning of the recession.
Only two Republicans, Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, crossed the aisle to support the measure. That gave Democrats 59 of the 60 votes they needed to break the GOP filibuster, but without the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), Nebraska Democrat Ben Nelson's nay vote was enough to kill the bill.
(The final tally shows only 58 yea votes due to arcane rules of Senate procedure, which require Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to vote against the bill in order to allow for another vote on it in the future.)
"We will vote on this measure again once there is a replacement named for the late Senator Byrd," Reid said in a statement after the vote. "In the meantime, I sincerely hope that Republicans will finally listen to the millions of unemployed Americans who need this assistance to support their families in these tough times. These Americans and millions more demand that Republicans stop filibustering support for unemployed workers."
Already, more than 1.2 million people out of work for longer than six months have missed checks since federally-funded extended benefits lapsed at the beginning of June.
"Senators had a chance to put election year posturing aside and one too few rose to that challenge," said Judy Conti, a lobbyist for the National Employment Law Project. "It's a sad night, especially for the over one million workers and their families who will have little cause to celebrate this holiday weekend. It is a disgrace and an absolute slap in the face to basic human decency."
During the past several weeks, Reid and Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) trimmed a broader spending bill that included the benefits among a host of other domestic aid programs. They reduced the bill's 10-year deficit impact from $134 billion to $33 billion -- the cost of reauthorizing extended unemployment benefits through November -- but to no avail.
This week, Reid and Baucus pulled out the unemployment benefits as a $33-billion standalone bill, attaching an extension of the homebuyer tax credit, yet it wasn't enough of a sweetener to overcome the deficit demands of most Republicans and Ben Nelson.
Though there is some talk within their caucus of offsetting the cost of unemployment benefits to keep them from adding to the deficit, Democratic leaders refused to cave; they argued that because the cost of federally-funded extended benefits has never been offset, deficit neutrality shouldn't suddenly become a requirement for emergency aid.
Republicans offered alternative bills that would have paid for extended benefits with unused stimulus funds. "The only reason the unemployment extension hasn't passed is because our friends on the other side have refused to pass a bill that doesn't add to the debt," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said after the vote.
Republicans and some Democrats are uneasy about the unprecedented duration of benefits made available to the unemployed by last year's stimulus bill and subsequent acts of Congress, which in some states reaches 99 weeks. Without those provisions, layoff victims are currently eligible for only 26 weeks of benefits in most states, while the average unemployment spell is 34 weeks.
Lurking beneath the deficit concerns for some members is the suspicion that the extended benefits discourage people from looking for work -- even though there are five people vying for every available job and a full third of the 15 million unemployed don't actually receive the benefits.
If Congress eventually does reauthorize the aid, people eligible for extended benefits during the lapse will be paid retroactively. Failure to do so would be unprecedented: Since the 1950s extended federal benefits have never been allowed to expire with a national unemployment rate above 7.2 percent. The current rate stands at 9.7 percent.
Reid vowed earlier on Wednesday that the Senate would try again. "We're not moving away from this issue," he said. "We'll be back to haunt [Republicans] for what they're doing to people who are in such desperate shape."
Pelosi To Boehner: You're Not Taking My Gavel
First Posted: 06-30-10 02:23 PM | Updated: 06-30-10 02:29 PM
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Cali.) said last Friday that she fully expects to hold on to her gavel even as Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) finishes every campaign-related speech by predicting he will be the next Speaker.
"Of course that's what he says," said Pelosi, in an exclusive interview with the Huffington Post. "Of course he does. But we are very confident we will [remain in power] because we don't take anything for granted. We run every race one race at a time, and I make it really clear to my colleagues that my responsibility is to reelect our incumbents, to win our Democratic open seats and then to go after some of their seats."
In a quick detour into the world of electoral politics, Pelosi predicted with gusto that Democrats will retain control of the House even during the likely tumultuous midterm elections. Part of the reason, she said, is that the slate of House Democrats in close races has already "fought the fight" with respect to health care reform, and has the time and confidence to win over their constituents before the election. The main factor, however, is that the GOP has yet to present itself as a threat.
Asked, for instance, about remarks from Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.) apologizing to BP for the pressure it received from the White House to set up a $20 billion escrow fund, Pelosi offered a tongue-in-cheek lament.
"[Gen. Stanley] McChrystal came right in and took him [off the front page]," she said, in reference to the former commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan who was relieved of his post after making disparaging comments about civilian leadership.
"But it's a gift that keeps on giving because you know what, they're saying that it's a gaffe," she added. "No, it's a clear indication of who they are and that's what you're going to see. We were fighting against the health insurance industry, Republicans said no. We're fighting against Big Oil, the Republicans said no. Democrats are fighting the big banks and financial institutions; Republicans said no. Not one of them voted for the regulatory reform. And on Big Oil, what more did we need than them apologizing? When people are desperate in the Gulf and they're apologizing."
These are, of course, the same broad themes that all Democrats, not just Pelosi, have pitched to voters as Election Day nears -- from the "party of no" label applied to the GOP during the early months of 2009, to the president's speech before a Wisconsin crowd this Wednesday.
But in offering optimism about the upcoming campaign, Pelosi also touched on some specifics. In particular, she took near glee in reflecting on the special election that recently took place for former Rep. Jack Murtha's seat in Pennsylvania.
"They were going to win," Pelosi said, reflecting on how much the GOP trumped its prospects for winning the seat. 'They had a big press conference planned the next day for the burial of the now-dead Democratic Party. And we were looking at them saying: 'You don't even know what you're talking about. We own the ground.'"
"Now, I don't put money into TV unless we own the ground," she added, "because you're just wasting money. And so in that race we had a great candidate and [Mark Critz]... 110,000 door knocks, 89-something thousand phone contacts, a message about jobs and message about repealing the law that allows business and [sic] gives them a tax break for sending jobs overseas. So I was thinking maybe about three points, a clear victory. It was eight and a half points. Eight and a half points! I don't know what they were thinking. But they thought... in other words, we had to go big in the Democratic area and try to control the damage in their area and we kept saying, "Wait until their counties come in."
Molly Hagerty, masseuse who claims Al Gore sexually attacked her in 2006, comes out of hidingMichael Sheridan
Wednesday, June 30th 2010, 8:54 AM
Miller for NewsAl Gore, former vice president and present climate change advocate, is facing a claim he sexually assaulted a masseuse in Portland in 2006.
Get ready for more Gore-y details.
The masseuse who made the shocking claim she fought off the frisky former vice president has come out of hiding.
Molly Hagerty, whose 2006 claim that Al Gore attempted to have sex with her in Portland, Oregon, recently came to light, insists her tawdry tale is true.
"Al Gore is a pervert and sexual predator," the red-headed 54-year-old massage therapist tells the National Enquirer in an exclusive interview that hits stands on Thursday. "He's not what people think he is - he's a sick man!"
Hagerty tells the supermarket tabloid she has video surveillance and DNA evidence that her will support her claims regarding her touchy-feely experience with Gore.
The story broke last week, and soon after Portland police released their report on the incident, which Hagerty claims took place in a posh hotel on Oct. 24, 2006.
According to the transcript, Hagerty told police that Gore, who was in town to speak about climate change, was looking for a "happy ending" to their massage session. When she refused, he attempted to have sex with her.
Police ultimately dropped the investigation and no charges were ever pressed due to lack of evidence, and because Hagerty repeatedly cancelled follow-up interviews.
The Washington Post reported last week that Hagerty was looking for $1 million to tell her sordid story.
Gore's personal life has become tabloid fodder in recent weeks since the surprising announcement he and his wife of 40 years, Tipper, were separating.
It was followed by reports that Gore had an affair with the wife of comedian and "Seinfeld" co-creator Larry David. She quickly denied the claim.
"It's a total fabrication," Laurie David, who co-produced the Oscar-winning Gore documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" told The Huffington Post. "I adore both Al and Tipper."
Gore has remained mum on any reports of alleged affairs or Hagerty's claim.
How welfare has managed to take 'work' out of working class
8:41 AM on 30th June 2010
Generous benefits: Frank Field, poverty adviser to David Cameron, says many men are better off staying out of work.
What has happened to a significant number of Britain's working-class men? Well, as Frank Field, the Labour MP who has been made a poverty adviser by David Cameron, has pointed out, for too many of them, the adjective 'working' no longer applies.
Thanks to a generous welfare system, many of them have calculated that they are better off staying at home than they would be doing anything so proletarian as a hard day's work.
According to Field, many young men today feel that jobs paying less than $300 a week are not worth their while.
I know it's unfashionable to say it, but anyone can find work if they really want to. When we were first married, my husband, as a non-EU doctor, was not allowed to practise until he had passed exams proving both his English and his medical competency.
I was working full-time, so he could have stayed at home. Instead, he found a job as a cook in a wine bar. He had no experience, but reasoned that anyone could grill a burger and throw together a salad. Soon, he was working double shifts and earning more than he subsequently did in his first year as a junior doctor.
But instead of finding whatever work they can, too many of Britain's poorest young men choose to stay at home, easily able to afford the satellite television and cans of strong beer that all too often fuel their day.
Unsurprisingly, they feel useless and frustrated - emotions that too many are unable to analyse, but which explode into aggression, violence and crime, together with a terrifyingly feckless attitude to procreating with different women.
I say procreating because their loveless actions have nothing to do with fathering. For any child, the lack of a strong, responsible father figure is a tragedy.
Despite what our politicians think, most single mothers do not want to go out to work, at least until their children are older.
What they, and their children, want is a man to fulfil a role that used to be taken for granted and which these days seems almost quaint: that of provider.
If a young boy does not see his father getting up and going to work every day, why should he go to school - still less aspire to a job afterwards?
And why should he treat women with respect if that role model doesn't? Thus our disastrous welfare system creates a cycle of dependency.
Yesterday the Government announced its new Work Programme, under which millions on benefits will be forced to make daily efforts to find a job - and those who refuse will have their benefits curtailed.
The inspiration for this reform has come from the U.S., where it's claimed similar welfare reforms introduced by Bill Clinton saw dole queues fall by as much as 80 per cent in some states.
And what happens when a man goes out to work is this: he starts to believe in himself and find some self-respect. And then he finds those around him start to believe in him and respect him, too.
'Why can't a woman be more like a man?' asked Professor Higgins in My Fair Lady as he tried to transform recalcitrant <snip>ney Eliza Doolittle into a lady.
The question Professor Higgins might ask these days of a boozed-up man with several children by different mothers is: 'Why can't a man be more like a man?'
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-1290752/How-welfare-managed-work-working-class.html#ixzz0sKhwHdZl
King to step down after 25 years
His future at CNN in question since a recent string of weak ratings became a symbol for the network’s struggle to find its way in an increasingly ideologically divided cable landscape, Larry King, host of the longest-running continuously hosted show on a single network, announced Tuesday evening that he is hanging up his “nightly suspenders.”
King, 76, and CNN/US President Jon Klein made the announcement after weeks of tabloid reports about King’s possible successor at CNN’s 9 p.m. timeslot, which “Larry King Live” has occupied for 25 years.
“I’m incredibly proud that we recently made the Guinness Book of World Records for having the longest running show with the same host in the same time slot,” King wrote on his blog. “With this chapter closing I’m looking forward to the future and what my next chapter will bring, but for now it’s time to hang up my nightly suspenders.”
Kiein said that King would remain “a beloved part of the CNN family” and continue to host periodic specials.
In May, he scored his lowest ratings in 20 years, lagging far Rachel Maddow on MSNBC and Sean Hannity on Fox News. The ratings bounced back a bit in June, growing 28 percent on the previous month, according to Nielsen data released Tuesday. But the movement to replace King was already well underway, according to a New York Times report last month.
King said he'd be in the interviewer's chair until "maximum November," and, when asked who'd he'd like to succeed him said: "I can't be objective because I don't know his interest in politics, but Ryan Seacrest. He's curious, he's interesting, he's likeable. If he has a great interest in politics, I'd recommend him."
Known for his trademark non-confrontational conversations with everyone from Frank Sinatra to Bob Woodward, King did more than 40,000 interviews over the course of his career, according to CNN. But in the media-saturated age of 24/7 cable news and Twitter, his interviews occasionally lacked a sense of timeliness. He was criticized for putting Mick Jagger on the air, for example, during a recent primary night.
The early favorite for King’s replacement was Katie Couric, whose contract at CBS runs out in May of next year. But the New York Post reported yesterday, citing unnamed sources, that she has turned down the job.
The current favorite is Piers Morgan, the former British tabloid editor turned reality TV star on “Britain’s Got Talent” and its American offshoot, “America’s Got Talent.” The British press ran a series of stories last week claiming he was about to sign a contract to take over King’s slot in the fall.
CNN has declined to comment on the matter of King’s successor.
Matthew Freud, the chairman of Freud Communications, husband of Rupert Murdoch’s daughter, Elizabeth, and a friend of Morgan’s, told POLITICO, “He has a big mouth. It is probably half true and he is also trying to renegotiate his deal with Simon Cowell, with whom he has a complicated relationship.”
King’s departure represents the final piece of the shake-up of CNN’s primetime lineup, which began with 8 p.m. host Campbell Brown’s decision to step down due to low ratings. CNN recently announced it would fill her slot with the point-counterpoint format show hosted by former New York governor Eliot Spitzer and conservative columnist Kathleen Parker.
To break the news to his audience, King invited on an old friend, Bill Maher, to open the show by putting him in the interviewee’s seat. What was clear from their banter was that the Times’s reporting on King’s ratings troubles – and particularly David Carr’s column essentially declaring him irrelevant last week – had stung.
“I hope it’s coming from you and not dictated by the New York Times,” Maher said. “I hear people say, ‘Larry didn’t really understand Lady Gaga.’ Who understand Lady Gaga?”
Mayer said he had seen her wearing an aquarium on her head, but never sit down and talk to anyone the way she did during King’s 25th anniversary week earlier this month. King might be in his 70s, Maher said, but “it’s too soon.”
“I pay no attention to that,” King said of the media criticism. “I love what I do. It was time.”
Bill Clinton Endorses Andrew Romanoff For Senate
First Posted: 06-29-10 03:32 PM | Updated: 06-29-10 05:27 PM
Former President Bill Clinton announced in an email Tuesday his support for Colorado Democrat Andrew Romanoff in his bid to unseat incumbent Michael Bennet.
Clinton, who met Romanoff in 1992 when he was a student at Harvard, alluded to Romanoff's career in the Colorado legislature to argue that he gives the party "[its] best chance to hold this seat in November." Clinton did not mention Bennet, who has received strong and consistent support from the White House.
Romanoff the former Speaker of the Colorado State House, announced his Senate bid last September after discussing potential administration jobs with the White House in the event that he stayed out of the race. President Obama endorsed Bennet shortly after Romanoff announced his candidacy.
Romanoff is the first Democratic Senate challenger to receive Clinton's support in a primary this season. In Clinton's home state of Arkansas, the ex-president publicly endorsed incumbent Democrat Blanche Lincoln over challenger Bill Halter. In Pennsylvania, Clinton worked with the White House to lure challenger Joe Sestak out of the Senate race against incumbent and former Republican Arlen Specter.
Lincoln recently defeated Halter, while Sestak beat Specter in Pennsylvania.
Romanoff was an early supporter of Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign.
According to most public polling, Bennet leads Romanoff by double digits among likely Democratic voters. He also holds a commanding fundraising advantage.
Romanoff, however, has ridden the support of long-time party activists to victories in Colorado's Democratic party caucuses.
The Colorado primaries will be held on August 10.
Clinton and a young Andrew Romanoff meet in 1992:
READ Clinton's announcement:
I first met Andrew Romanoff in 1992, when he was a student at the Kennedy School of Government and I was a candidate for President. Four years later, I was running for a second term, and he had just been elected to his first -- as one of Colorado's representatives on the Democratic National Committee.
I was proud to carry Colorado in 1992, but you should be even prouder of what Andrew Romanoff did to turn the state blue. He worked harder than anyone in Colorado to put Democrats in positions of power -- and to use that power to benefit every single citizen.
Andrew led the effort to win a majority in the Colorado House of Representatives for the first time in 30 years, and to keep that majority for the first time in more than 40 years. He built the largest Democratic majority since John F. Kennedy was President.
Even more important, Andrew took on Colorado's biggest challenges and made enormous progress. As the first Democratic Speaker of the House since 1976, he:
* Put together an Economic Recovery Plan to bring good jobs to Colorado and balance the state budget.
* Passed the largest investment in school construction in state history -- a billion-dollar plan to repair, rebuild and modernize schools, especially in rural Colorado.
* Protected Coloradans from the threats they face every day: insurers who deny their claims and refuse to honor their policies, scam artists who prey on seniors and bilk them out of their life savings, polluters who destroy the environment and expect somebody else to pay for the damages.
Andrew won. Colorado won.
In 2008, the editors of Governing Magazine honored Andrew as "Public Official of the Year." They recognized in Andrew the same qualities that the National Conference of State Legislatures, the Council of State Governments, and more than 50 other organizations had already seen -- integrity, courage, compassion. Simply put, Andrew Romanoff is one of the best legislative leaders in the United States.
Colorado is far better off today because of Andrew Romanoff's leadership. America will be too.
As a Senator, Andrew Romanoff will continue to stand up to special interests and fight for working families. We need Andrew's leadership in Washington -- especially now, when so many Americans are losing so much. "It is not enough," as Andrew put it at the Colorado Democratic Assembly last month, "to put a President of real talent and vision and leadership in the White House if the same qualities are not matched at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue."
Andrew won the state assembly by 21 points. With your help, he'll win the primary and the general election.
Andrew brings to this race both an extraordinary record of public service and an extraordinary capacity to lead. I believe that those assets, as well as his deep commitment to Colorado, give him the best chance to hold this seat in November.
I support Andrew Romanoff, and I hope you will too. Please make a generous contribution to his campaign today.
Sarah Palin mocked by reporters caught on open mic after California State University speechMichael Sheridan
Pedroncelli/APSarah Palin, the one-time Alaskan governor and former vice presidential nominee, at California State University, Stanislaus, in Turlock, jokes about writing notes on her hand.
Her speeches generally draw cheers, but Sarah Palin earned jeers for a recent speech in California -- from reporters.
Several journalists were caught on an open mic mocking the ex-Alaska governor following her remarks at California State University, Stanislaus, in Turlock last week.
"I feel like I just got off a roller coaster, going round and round," one reporter is heard saying on audio captured by Fox40 News. "S--- flying out everywhere."
"She didn't finish a statement," another reporter says.
"Did she make a statement?" another asks, drawing laughs.
"I don't know how we're gonna make a story out of that," a voice is heard saying.
"Now I know that dumbness doesn't come from just sound bites," yet another reporter says.
None of the journalists could be identified, but Fox40 released a statement to indicate its reporters were not involved.
"The comments overheard were made by reporters assembled from other newspaper and television outlets," the station said. "At no time was the voice of our photographer or our reporter heard on the stream."
"Unfortunately, there's no way to immediately identify the photographers and reporters making commentary following Sarah Palin's speech," the statement read. "It's very likely that those reporters and photographers were unaware, or simply forgot, that there was one television station with an open microphone broadcasting to the world."
Palin's speech at the university had drawn criticism for the thousands the school reportedly paid out to bring the high-priced former vice presidential candidate to the fund-raising event.
It is estimated the gathering brought in more than $200,000, making it the most successful fund-raiser in the university's history, said university foundation board
CURT ANDERSON and TONY WINTON
Associated Press Writers
(06-28) 08:05 PDT MIAMI (AP) --
Conchita, Lucia and April Marie are used to a luxurious life in an island mansion. With a $3 million trust fund from the will of an heiress, they'll never have to worry about a thing. What sets the three apart is that they're Chihuahuas.
The three little dogs are part of a bitter battle over the estate of Gail Posner, daughter of late corporate raider Victor Posner. Gail Posner's only surviving child, 46-year-old Bret Carr, is challenging her will in Miami-Dade County Circuit Court, contending she was coerced into changing it by several employees while suffering from cancer and drug addiction.
Carr was awarded only income from a $1 million fund in his mother's will. But employees including maids, a personal trainer and bodyguards received $27 million, according to court documents. Some of them, including a caretaker of the pampered pooches, are being allowed to live in the $8.3 million, seven-bedroom Sunset Island mansion with the Chihuahuas.
Carr's attorney Bruce Katzen contends Victor Posner, who died in 2002, set aside a fortune in 1965 that he says is now worth up to $100 million in irrevocable trust accounts for his grandchildren, including Carr. Without telling Carr, Gail Posner made changes before she died March 19, at age 67, that virtually cut him out, Katzen said.
"He is outraged. He feels he has been totally taken advantage of," Katzen said.
The lawsuit also accuses the estate's representative, BNY Mellon bank of wrongly "invading" the trust and transferring assets without authorization. A Mellon spokeswoman declined comment on specific allegations but said the bank would defend its position in court. There was no immediate indication in court records that any of Gail Posner's former employees had hired lawyers.
When she was alive, Gail Posner made such a fuss over her Chihuahuas that she hired a publicist for Conchita to promote her as one of the world's most spoiled dogs. In a 2007 interview with The Miami Herald, she said Conchita had a $12,000 summer wardrobe and a $15,000 diamond necklace that the dog simply refused to wear.
"Conchita is the only girl I know who doesn't consider diamonds her best friend," Gail Posner told the newspaper.
The will provides for Conchita and the other two dogs to live in the mansion in the manner to which they're accustomed until they die. The $3 million doesn't go directly to the animals; it's earmarked for expenses related to their care as well as the mansion's maintenance, utilities and so forth.
Florida law does allow estates to provide for care of animals. Frank T. Adams, an attorney and expert in Florida probate law, said the provisions covering the dogs seemed well-drafted and might pass muster, at least partially, with a judge. The real battle, he says, won't be over the dogs but over whether Gail Posner was fooled into rewriting her will.
The Miami case recalls that of New York hotel queen Leona Helmsley, who left a $12 million trust fund for her white Maltese, Trouble. A judge whittled that down to $2 million.
Carr's lawsuit contends that his mother had existing mental and addiction problems made worse by cancer treatments that included powerful painkillers. The combination, her son claims, made her susceptible to "brainwashing" by her employees and unable to understand the consequences of changes she made in her will.
"She was easily inappropriately induced," Katzen said. "The people that were there taking care of her, instead of taking care of her, took advantage of her."
It will be up to a judge to decide if that is true. No court date has been set.
LINK TO PHOTOS
Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2010/06/28/national/a063508D37.DTL#ixzz0sGJh4rzX
Porn Sites Closer to Getting .xxx Addresses
While the move may help parents stop their children from seeing some seedy sites, it wouldn't force porn peddlers to use the new .xxx address.
A man surfs an internet sex site in Brussels, Friday, June 25, 2010. (Associated Press)
Associated Press 1:38 p.m. EDT, June 26, 2010
The Brooklyn mom jailed for refusing to let her 9-year-old son visit his rapist father in prison was ordered freed Monday night by the judge who locked her up in the first place.
Sukhwant Herb, 29, who defied Brooklyn Family Court Judge Robin Sheares' visitation order, was to be released to her lawyer's custody.
Sheares abrupt change of mind came after the Daily News reported on Sunday how Herb was sentenced to 50 days at Rikers Island on June 10 for refusing to send young Seon into the "horrible, horrific" environment of prison.
High court officials were shocked that Sheares locked Herb up without giving her a chance to post bail, as well as by the judge's comments in court, according to sources.
At a June 10 hearing, Sheares ranted, "Shame, shame, shame, you see how shameful she [Herb] is," according to a transcript. "She's gonna get arrested and her kids are not gonna know where she is."
Last night, the judge said that Herb must appear in court today with her son as a condition of her freedom.
"No bail in a case like this is really shocking," said Herb's lawyer, Dale Frederick. "My client has not been charged with a crime, has never been charged with a crime - and even felons get bail," said.
The case began when Herb, who first agreed to the prison visits last Sept. 15, changed her mind, ignored the order and skipped four court appearances.
Seon Jonas, the father of Herb's son, was convicted in 2003 of raping three women in Phoenix - while he and Herb were living in Phoenix - and is serving 27 years in a state prison.
June 25, 2010 | 2:33 PM ET
Lady Gaga and President Obama’s Facebook Pages in Race for Most Fans
Move aside, John McCain: Lady Gaga is now positioned to be the next big challenger to President Obama. It’s not exactly a race either necessarily chose to enter, but the Facebook pages of the president and the sequined pop phenomenon are deadlocked in a competition to become the first living person to hit the record-busting 10-million fan mark on Facebook.
Obama’s page was beating Lady Gaga’s in the unofficial contest Friday morning, but by noon, Lady Gaga’s 9,126,024 fans had surpassed the president’s 9,104,015. Meredith Chin, a corporate communications manager for the social networking site, tells Fox News that either of them could reach 10-million fans by later today, or this weekend.
Obama’s page is updated by Organizing for America, the president’s political arm that is run by the Democratic National Committee, and the page lists “Basketball, writing, and spending time with kids” as President Obama’s interests, and “Sportscenter” as his favorite television show. Obama’s “Favorite Pages” include Michelle Obama (she has 1,315,884 fans) and Vice President Biden (trailing at 223,830 fans).
The page also features photos from his June 4th trip to Louisiana and excerpts from recent speeches.
Lady Gaga’s page lists her upcoming concerts and includes an article about her rise to fame. “I want to invite you all to the party,” she tells her fans in the article. “I want people to feel a part of this lifestyle.”
For her own part, Lady Gaga’s Facebook page quotes her as saying: “I’m just trying to change the world one sequin at a time.”
It’s not the first time her sequins and his public policy have competed for attention. At a dinner for LGBT rights group Human Rights Campaign in Washington, D.C., on October 10, 2009, President Obama spoke and Lady Gaga performed. He quipped, “It’s a privilege to be here tonight to open for Lady Gaga…I’ve made it.”
The following day at a gay rights rally on the West Front of the Capitol, Lady Gaga yelled, “Obama, I know that you’re listening. Are you listening? We will continue to push you and your administration to bring your words of promise to a reality. We need change now.”
Lady Gaga has been championing for more gay rights and is noted for having a large following among the gay population. President Obama has slowly been implementing more benefits for gays, but has received criticism both from the left and the right for either not doing too enough or doing too much. Just this week he expanded the family medical leave act to gay and lesbian employees.
Facebook says the next runner up in the race to become the first living person to have over 10 million fans is actor Vin Diesel (at 9,047,448), with actress Megan Fox (at 7,666,005) at a distant fourth. Late singer Michael Jackson holds the all time record for the most fans at over 13 million.
Tapes: No one would object to Sen. Winfrey
June 28, 2010 at 4:21 PM
LeBron James to Miami Heat is tantalizing -- if true
I have not experienced becoming instantly mega-rich by hitting the lottery, but I imagine if that happened I'd be afraid to celebrate. I wouldn't believe it. I'd call the state to double-check the numbers I thought I'd heard. I would stare at those numbers on my ticket until the ticket caught fire in my trembling hands or I suddenly sat bolt-upright in bed, awake from my dream.
How do you react when too-good-to-be-true is too-great-amazing-astounding-and-flabbergasting-to-be-true?
That's how Miami Heat fans must feel right now, on the edge of NBA free agency that starts at midnight Wednesday.
A week ago most fans would have been thrilled if the team came out of this able to re-sign Dwyane Wade and then add top-targeted free agent Chris Bosh.
Now fans are being told they get that and something else, too:
LeBron James, the best basketball player on the planet.
It is electrifying, because it might actually be true.
It is terrifying, because what if the dog snatches the lottery ticket and chews it to unidentifiable pulp?
Stephen A. Smith, the former ESPN yakker now of Fox Sports radio, reported Monday that James and Bosh will join Wade in Miami. Not maybe or could, but as a matter of fact. Smith stood behind his bold claim on 790 The Ticket Monday afternoon.
I have enjoyed poking fun at Smith over the years for his bombastic, gesturing, angry persona. Credit where it's due, though. The man knows the NBA.
``I hope to God I'm absolutely right,'' he said.
So do we, Stephen A. Not for your sake. For ours.
If he's right the Heat would instantly be annual title contenders for years to come, a would-be dynasty, the most exciting team, the biggest story in sports. (Two-peat, three-peat, four-peat a dollar. All for a dynasty, stand up and holler!)
If he's right, the Heat would be bigger down here than the Dolphins. That has never happened. It threatened to around 2006 and '07, when the Heat's championship was followed by the Dolphins going 1-15, but the natural order was soon restored.
What we are talking about would be unprecedented here. Pairing James and Bosh with Wade would be bigger than the Dolphins drafting Dan Marino, because that didn't come with the guarantee this would. The Heat trading for Shaquille O'Neal? Not close.
It all seems to make sense, too. Miami offers Wade, South Beach, no state income tax, great ownership, Pat Riley. James and Wade are good friends, legit. Bosh loves to party here and is rumored to be house-hunting in Miami. So many pieces dovetailing.
And yet the unavoidable caution is that Mr. Smith could be wrong. Or right yet proven wrong because LeBron simply had a seismic, NBA-altering change of heart.
You know that teams are violating the official start of free agency by getting out feelers and laying groundwork, and yet you hesitate to imagine players' minds are made up before teams' official visits and presentations have even begun.
You also keep wondering if there are enough shots in a game to keep James, Wade and their egos happy -- if each wouldn't prefer to be The Man in his city without wondering if the other guy is.
You wonder, too, if Miami would be able to work the sign-and-trade with Toronto (likely involving Michael Beasley) that it might take to acquire Bosh.
You want to believe the report. That James-Wade-Bosh will become a reality. But should you?
I was reminded Monday of a favorite song from the 1980s by the rock group Dire Straits, the song describing people ranting from soapboxes in a public park. ``Two men say they're Jesus,'' goes the lyric, ``one of them must be wrong.''
The line bobbed into the mind as dueling reports had James headed to Miami or Chicago.
Two men say they know where the King is bound; one of them must be wrong. Or, as likely, both of them have sources proffering educated guesses -- that can be gossip dressed in a shiny suit -- based on information fluid and subject to change.
The reputable New York Times reported a source indicating that James and Bosh ending up in tandem with the Chicago Bulls was all but a ``done deal.'' Then Smith said the same but with South Beach the destination.
An alternate reality is that both could be trumped if James is overcome by guilt feelings and persuades himself to re-up with his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers. The big-market Knicks think themselves in play. The Nets are trotting out part-owner Jay-Z to help lure James.
All of this will play out over the next week or so. Free agents may not sign with a new team until July 8 but can state their intentions beginning at midnight Wednesday.
Meantime, we embrace that magical, porcelain possibility of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh all at once.
We are holding what we have been told to believe is the winning lottery ticket, but now we must agonize to wait for the confirmation.
Chicago Gun Ban Axed After Violent Weekend: At Least 29 Shot, 3 Dead In Weekend Shootings
First Posted: 06-28-10 12:03 PM | Updated: 06-28-10 02:19 PM
Otis McDonald (center), lead plaintiff in case against Chicago's handgun ban, speaks at a news conference outside the U.S. Supreme Court building after the announcement of a ruling in their case seeking to overturn Chicago's ban on handguns in D.C. Monday. The court overturned the ban, a victory for McDonald and gun rights groups such as the National Rifle Association.
On Monday, the Supreme Court upheld a challenge to Chicago's 28-year-old handgun ban, which ultimately signals the end of the ban on handguns in Chicago and Oak Park. As gun rights were extended throughout the country by SCOTUS, Chicago was recovering from another violent weekend that left at least 29 shot and three dead.
Even with the gun ban in place, shootings in Chicago have been rampant. Last weekend, at least 52 were shot and ten killed in just three days, and this weekend the gunfire continued. According to CBS, shots were fired into a group of about 30 people Sunday night--likely a crowd gathering in Uptown after the Gay Pride Parade. Two men were wounded in the incident, at least one suffered serious injuries.
CBS reports that another rash of shootings occurred between 10:45 p.m. Saturday and 4 a.m. Sunday, where at least 13 people were shot and one person was killed. Most of the incidents took place on the Northwest and Southwest sides.
From midnight to 6 a.m. on Saturday, another 13 people were shot--two fatally, the station reports.
When the Supreme Court ruled Monday, they did take these violent weekends into account. From the Supreme Court decision:
Chicago Police Department statistics, we are told, reveal that the City's handgun murder rate has actually increased since the ban was enacted and that Chicago residents now face one of the highest murder rates in the country and rates of other violent crimes that exceed the average in comparable cities.
Monday's decision did not explicitly strike down the Chicago area laws, ordering a federal appeals court to reconsider its ruling. But it left little doubt that they would eventually fall.
The court did, however, explain that the decision does allow states to continue regulating handgun use, writing that the decision "limits (but by no means eliminates) their ability to devise solutions to social problems that suit local needs and values."
Mayor Daley, expecting the Supreme Court to rule the way it did today, told the Associated Press last week that he had no intention of going down without a fight.
"We're not going to roll over," Daley told the AP, adding that he plans to put in place all sorts of restrictions to make it tougher to buy guns and easier for police to know who has them.
"Just like they did in Washington, D.C., the city of Chicago is going to try to make it as difficult and discouraging as humanly possible to keep people from having guns in their homes for personal protection," Dave Workman, spokesman for the Bellevue, Washington-based Second Amendment Foundation said.
Chicago Reader reporter Mick Dumke wrote Monday that Daley and his allies in the City Council could "act as soon as this Wednesday with legislation designed to curtail handgun access, potentially including regulations on licensing and sales as well as training requirements."
Red light cameras nab police cars speeding
Jun 28, 2010
A Gatso USA systems engineer makes adjustments to the red light camera aimed at the northbound lanes at the intersection of Edgewood Rd. NE and 42nd St. NE on Thursday, April 8, 2010, in northeast Cedar Rapids. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
CEDAR RAPIDS — The Police Department’s new cadre of red-light and speed enforcement cameras are catching the enforcers, too.
Cedar Rapids Police Chief Greg Graham reports that the enforcement cameras had snapped photos of 26 Cedar Rapids police cars speeding or running red lights as of last week.
No, these photos don’t immediately end up being tossed aside, the chief says.
Upon review, Graham reports:
Five of the potential violations were deemed not to be violations; officers were operating in “legitimate” fashion. For instance, they were tailing a speeder at the speeder’s speed.
However, in six other instances, officers were issued letters of discipline because they did not have their patrol car’s lights and sirens operating as they should have when they were speeding to a call. Fifteen potential violations are still under review.
Cedar Rapids officers, Graham said, will get tickets in instances in which they should not have been speeding or running red lights. “Every one of the officers has been told that my me,” the chief said.
Other law enforcement agencies aren’t getting off the hook either.
In Marion, Police Chief Harry Daugherty reports that the Cedar Rapids Police Department has forwarded seven possible camera violations by Marion police officers to him for review.
In four of the seven, officers had a reason to be hustling. In three, the Marion officers have been issued citations, which they must pay, Daugherty says.
Typically, he says, Marion officers are in Cedar Rapids delivering arrested suspects to the Linn County Jail in downtown Cedar Rapids. Often the officers need to hurry back to Marion for calls. In the three instances in which officers are getting tickets, “nothing big was going on,” Daugherty said.
Daugherty says he, Graham and Linn County Sheriff Brian Gardner have agreed to handle tickets to law enforcement vehicles in a similar way.
“We want to be consistent and show no favoritism,” Daugherty says. “If my people have a reason to be speeding, I will excuse them. On the other hand, if they don’t have a reason, I won’t. (Otherwise), I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night if I didn’t.”
Cedar Rapids’ Graham says seven possible camera violations have been sent to the Linn County Sheriff. To date, one has been set aside, and six are pending, Graham says.
Graham also says seven tickets had been issued to other city of Cedar Rapids vehicles as of last week. One was set aside, the others are under review. They’ve involved city buses, a garbage truck and other city vehicles, the chief reports.
Johns Hopkins doctors do brain surgery via eyelid
Procedure reduces recovery time, leaves no visible scar
Jeanne Fogas, an occupational therapist from Gettysburg, Pa., had a transpalpebral orbitofrontal craniotomy surgery at Hopkins last year. A brain tumor was removed through an incision in her right eyelid that is now nearly undetectable. (Barbara Haddock, Baltimore Sun / June 21, 2010)
The Baltimore Sun 8:02 p.m. EDT
June 26, 2010
Hillary in 2012? It could happen
June 25, 2010
The resurrection of Hillary Clinton as a potential president may now be taking place. Hard to believe, but a Rasmussen poll released Tuesday showed the former first lady, U.S. senator and now secretary of state is viewed as more qualified to be president than the current occupant of the White House, who came from nowhere to beat her out for the Democratic nomination in 2008.
Both she and President Obama are thought to be more qualified for the job than three Republicans who have expressed interest in it. Ms. Clinton, according to this poll, is thought to be qualified by 57 percent of the voter respondents, while 34 percent say she is not. As for the president, 51 percent think him qualified for the job he has held for the last year and a half, while 44 percent disagree.
Republican Mitt Romney is close behind with 49 percent saying the former Massachusetts governor is qualified and 32 percent thinking not. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Alaska governor and 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin trail far behind.
It was widely thought to have been a wise political move when Mr. Obama made his 2008 rival secretary of state, since that would make her by definition a supporter of the Obama presidency, which now however, seems to be in the midst of a great unraveling. Is it likely that this president would be challenged in a primary fight if he seeks a second term? No. Is it possible? Sure, if the president's popularity continues to fall.
As I mentioned a couple weeks ago in this space, the more likely thing — as hard as it might be to believe right now — is a decision by the president not to seek another four years in office. Lyndon Johnson stepped aside in '68 and Harry Truman in '52, simply because they knew they couldn't win the upcoming election. Unpopular wars did them in.
Which brings us to the current, increasingly unpopular war in Afghanistan and the remarks attributed to General Stanley McChrystal, the American commander there, and his merry band of intimates who dubbed themselves "Team America."
As you know, "Stan the Man," as his acolytes call him, is portrayed in a Rolling Stone magazine profile as "The Runaway General," a man author Michael Hastings says "is always open to new ways of killing" — and is also contemptuous of his civilian bosses. One subordinate is quoted as saying that the general always kept his eye on the real enemy, the "wusses in the White House." The civilian PR man who arranged for Rolling Stone's access to Stan the Man and his merry band of thugs was "asked to resign." General McChrystal was called back to Washington for a face-to-face dressing down. He apologized to several of those he had insulted and offered his resignation, which the president accepted.
The story created such a sensation it deflected attention away from the ever-expanding disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. It's been likened to the insubordination that prompted President Truman's firing of Gen. Douglas MacArthur during the Korean War, an act that led the way toward the terrible approval ratings resulting in Truman going home to Missouri rather than running for reelection.
Whatever Mr. Obama did with his theater commander was bound to be highly criticized. It represents yet another in a cascading set of circumstances that seem to have reduced the president to being a witness to his own diminishment. He certainly has discovered by now that rhetorical skills, while helpful to winning elections, are not sufficient in exercising executive power, cannot turn around an economy in shambles, cannot stop the BP leak and cannot make people believe the opposite of what they see and experience in their own lives.
If this president continues to stumble and his party is smashingly repudiated in November, it wouldn't surprise me to see Hillary Clinton ride to the rescue in 2012. Meanwhile, the Republicans have quite the job ahead themselves: to see if they can nominate someone electable. Surely they've learned not to select hacks like Bob Dole or John McCain. Haven't they?
|Prisons' new fight: Cellphone smuggling|
6/27/2010 6:05 PM ET
State corrections officials are linking networks of corrupt prison employees to thousands of illicit cellphones being smuggled to inmates in the nation's largest prison systems, according to the officials and public records.The workers, including guards, cooks and clerical workers, represent the most troubling source of the prohibited phones in an increasingly lucrative smuggling operation that also includes criminal gangs and prisoners' family members, state officials say.
"It's only getting worse," says Texas prisons Inspector General John Moriarty.
Prison employees earn $500 or more for each of the phones, which have become ubiquitous from minimum security camps to death row, says Richard Subia, California's deputy director of adult prisons.
Subia says inmates use the phones to keep drugs flowing into the prisons, facilitate escapes and direct criminal activity on the outside.
The problem may be most acute in California, the nation's largest prison system, where there is no criminal law — only prison regulations — directly prohibiting the smuggling of cellphones to inmates.
Last year, 300 employees were disciplined for suspected cellphone trafficking to inmates; about 100 workers were dismissed. An additional 150 employees have been disciplined this year. In one 2009 case, Subia says, a guard confessed to earning $100,000 in kickbacks during one 12-month period.
Because there is no criminal law, the guard resigned and could not be forced to return the money, Subia says. Last year, California prison officials confiscated 6,995 phones, up from 2,800 in 2008.
Among states reporting problems:
• Texas. Since 2007, 230 employees have been disciplined for cellphone-related infractions. In the past five years, 45 employees have been arrested on criminal charges, including bribery, for trafficking phones to inmates.
• New Jersey. Two weeks ago, state prosecutors charged a prison cook along with 39 others — a mix of prisoners and outside associates — linked to the Bloods criminal gang with smuggling phones and drugs to inmates. The charges were announced just a week after New Jersey Prisons Commissioner Gary Lanigan urged Congress to pass a law that would permit technology designed to jam cellphone signals in prisons.
"The proliferation of (prison) cellphones … in New Jersey and throughout the United States has become an epidemic," Lanigan wrote, and some prison workers have been "compromised."
The state does not track discipline for cellphone infractions, but phone seizures in New Jersey jumped from 75 in 2008 to 575 last year, prison spokeswoman Deirdre Fedkenheuer says.
• South Carolina. Prison spokesman Josh Gelinas says state officials in 2003 attempted to discourage staffers from smuggling contraband, including cellphones, by installing metal detectors at prison entrances. He believes the detectors have been effective, but phones continue to pour in.
Americans’ PINs at risk for scams
New places and unfamiliar ATMs are fertile ground for 'skimming'
4:02 p.m. Saturday, June 26, 2010
As you head into summer travel mode, think about arming yourself against more than just the sun and the mosquitoes.
File Experts say the level of ATM fraud in the United States will increase as bordering countries Canada and Mexico move to the higher-security cards.
Watch out for ATMs. Grabbing that extra bit of traveling cash in a new city can turn into a costly headache.
Americans are still traveling: About 176 million passengers will take to the U.S. skies this summer, according to the Air Transport Association. Another 26 million are travelling internationally.
So, going to the World Cup before the finale on July 11? Going out West to visit wide open spaces? Be careful.
New places and unfamiliar ATMs are fertile ground for scams that cost consumers and the ATM industry about $1 billion in annual global losses.
“In general, tourists on vacation travelling tend to have their guard down,” said Mike Urban, an ATM fraud expert with Fair Isaac, the provider of FICO credit scoring. “You may not be as diligent as you normally are in certain situations. Criminals realize this.”
And that makes the situation ripe for “skimming.”
Skimming involves stealing the information from a card’s magnetic strip or pilfering a consumer’s personal identification number, or PIN. It’s the most basic of ATM frauds. It can involve a peek over a shoulder or crooks posting small cameras or using telescopic devices to see the PIN. Skimming also happens with fake card readers and phony ATMs.
Criminals are even taking it up a notch. The basic tactics are being replaced with attacks on software in ATMs and ATM networks, or criminals who “phish” for PINs using false telephone text alerts. Some steal account information to pose as consumers who want to change their numbers.
“Anyone at or headed to the World Cup needs to be very careful,” said Paul Henninger, vice president of products for Actimize, a risk management software company. “These national and international events, like the Olympics or the Super Bowl, are magnets for criminal activity.”
Banks use fraud detection systems to track user behavior over billions of transactions all over the world. But the systems can be thrown off when there’s a spike in unusual traffic, as with high tourist turnouts and variations in times and places of ATM usage that don’t fit consumer patterns.
As a consequence, events like the World Cup in South Africa give criminals a short window of cover.
“What fraud systems look for is strange increases in volume and amount of transactions,” Henninger said.
ATM fraud is a growing problem in the United States. A survey earlier this year found that 10 percent of all fraud victims in the U.S. experienced phony ATM cash withdrawals.
According to financial research company Javelin Strategy & Research, the number of records breached rose 16 percent in 2009.
Actimize surveyed financial services representatives in May 2009, and its report showed 70 percent of respondents saw an increase in fraud claims in 2008 compared to 2007. Of those, 58 percent had double-digit growth.
In the meantime, banks in other countries are moving toward new technologies to stem fraud. New chip-and-PIN cards have encrypted microprocessor chips that are more difficult to clone and require the user to enter a personal identification number.
Experts say the level of ATM fraud in the United States will increase as bordering countries Canada and Mexico move to the higher-security cards.
The encrypted smart cards have already become popular overseas where sophisticated skimming networks have flourished.
This can be a problem for U.S. travelers with their magnetic strip cards. Automated kiosks — like vending machines, bicycle rental racks in Paris, parking meters in some areas of London and toll and gas stations — accept only chip-and-PIN cards.
New York-based United Nations Federal Credit Union (UNFCU), a $3.1 billion institution with 88,000 members across 205 countries, has begun issuing chip-and-PIN Visa credit cards to its top-tier members who have had trouble using U.S.-issued cards overseas.
In May, a payment services director for behemoth retailer Wal-Mart touted its move to chip-and-PIN technology in its stores, a move that might nudge the U.S. to evolve from the magnetic strip card.
In the meantime, consumers, said Urban, need to be alert.
“It’s something that’s growing,” he said. “It’s certainly a global issue. Anywhere there’s an ATM and there’s a criminal that thinks they can get away with something.”
How to protect your ATM info
Here are a few tips to prevent ATM fraud and insights into how criminals steal your personal identification numbers.
Parent brawl breaks out during kindergarten graduation
June 23, 2010 2:03 PM
VICTORVILLE • School officials placed Puesta del Sol Elementary on lockdown after a group of parents got into a fight during a kindergarten graduation ceremony Wednesday morning, officials said.
“According to witness statements, it appears a few parents went over to a field away from the actual ceremony to discuss something when the alleged fight broke out,” Karen Hunt, spokeswoman for the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Victorville station, said.
Hunt confirmed the school was placed on lockdown but couldn’t say if there was a physical confrontation. She said no one was arrested.
“When deputies arrived, they didn’t observe anyone physically fighting,” Hunt stated. “We did receive reports some people did become physical but we also heard it remained only a verbal confrontation. Also no one at the scene came forward as a victim.”
No children were hurt in the incident and no one required medical attention.
According to a witness, several mothers were involved in a verbal argument which turned physical in a field near the ceremony. At that point, several men jumped in, turning the incident into a brawl. The witness also stated someone involved in the fight possibly had a weapon.
Two arrested, 20 ID'd in kindergarten brawl
Melee draw attention from national media
June 25, 2010 9:49 AM
Special to the Daily Press
VICTORVILLE • Two adults were arrested and up to 20 people have now been identified in a Wednesday brawl among parents during a kindergarten graduation ceremony at Puesta Del Sol Elementary School, a school district official said.
Sheriff’s deputies arrested two women Thursday in connection with the fight, which stopped Wednesday’s graduation ceremony and put the school at 15887 Academy Street on lockdown. No parents were allowed on campus for the sixth grade graduation assembly on Thursday.
More arrests could come, Maureen Mills, assistant superintendent for Educational Services for the Victor Elementary School District, said.
“We’re looking at whatever we can do to hold those people accountable,” Mills said. “We cannot control the parents’ behavior. The staff handled it in a very professional way and we will move forward.”
The cause of the fight was still under investigation by school resource officers and San Bernardino County Sheriff’s deputies. The fight ended up in a nearby field, and the participants fled before deputies arrived, a sheriff’s news release stated.
Witnesses called a sheriff’s department tip line overnight Thursday to report the identities of some of the people involved in the fight, leading to Thursday’s arrests of Marina Vargas, 29, of Hesperia and Queiona Burt, 31, of Victorville, the news release stated.
Intruder found asleep in house
Saturday, June 26, 2010
Dyersburg State Gazette
Dyer County Sheriff's deputies arrested a man that allegedly broke into a house and fell asleep once he was inside.
On Thursday afternoon, residents of a home in the 400 block of Nauvoo School Road arrived at their house to find Craig Allen Thurmond, 22, asleep on the couch. Thurmond had broken a window and kicked in the door of the home while nobody was there and had fallen asleep. Deputies arrived and took Thurmond into custody without incident.
Chief Investigator Terry McCreight said an onsite investigation by deputies revealed Thurmond had been an occupant of the residence in the past, but was asked to move from the residence about three weeks ago.
Thurmond was still in the Dyer County Jail on Friday afternoon awaiting his hearing, which is scheduled for Dyer County General Sessions Court on Monday morning. He is charged with felony vandalism and felony aggravated burglary.
People rally for the repeal of the Rockefeller Drug Laws in Manhattan in March 2009.
Hermann for NewsSpecial Prosecutor Bridget Brennan says dealers sell 'cocaine and heroin, but say they are 'addicted.''
The revamped Rockefeller drug laws have let hardened drug dealers escape jail by claiming they're marijuana addicts, the city's top drug prosecutor says.
The goal was to help addicts who sold drugs or committed petty crimes to support their habits, but Special Prosecutor Bridget Brennan said dealers with multiple convictions for non-violent offenses are taking advantage of the reforms.
A Bloods member with two felony drug convictions was charged last October with overseeing a cocaine operation in a Brooklyn housing project. Instead of prison he's in a drug treatment program for marijuana abuse, after years of denying he ever used drugs.
A couple arrested for major cocaine dealing was recorded in a phone call discussing smoking pot to buttress their claim of marijuana addiction.
"If they do wanna be dumb and do offer you a program, you urine need to be dirty," the man says to his wife in the call from Rikers Island. "What they don't realize that they revised, revised Rockefeller drug law, that's why therefore selling drugs is almost legal."
Brennan said her office fought treatment for people who were "not addicts, but businessmen drug dealers, major managers, gang members ...
"It's sending the wrong message, not only to the individual defendant who thinks he may be able to game the system, but to the community at large."
Drug law reform advocates say Brennan is using a few examples to make the program look bad.
"She's tooth-and-nail against the Rockefeller laws being changed," said Anthony Papa, communications specialist for the Drug Policy Alliance. "She is taking one case and blowing it up ...to affect thousands of other people who should get treatment instead of jail."
"Special Narcotics still measures success by the number of people they put in jail rather than effectiveness in reducing crime," said William Gibney of the Legal Aid Society.
Last year, the state repealed most of its mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses imposed in the 1970s under the tough Rockefeller laws.
That allowed the resentencing or release of some prisoners serving exceptionally long sentences, and expanding treatment as an alternative to incarceration.
Judicial diversion, as it is called, allows a judge to dismiss a case against a drug defendant as long as the offender pleads guilty and completes treatment.
Brennan said 217 defendants applied for judicial diversion since the law took effect Oct. 7.
Of those, 158 were referred to a judge, and her office objected to 90 of them. Twenty-seven were granted diversion anyway.
Almost half the people who asked for judicial diversion claimed to be marijuana abusers.
"They are selling cocaine and heroin, but say they are 'addicted' to marijuana," Brennan said.
Nestor Ferreiro, chief of the Bronx district attorney's narcotics bureau, said "some people are trying to take advantage of the law." But, he added, "the judges and the diversion staff are pretty good at catching it."
In Queens, 11 people sought diversion. Prosecutors objected successfully to eight of them, a spokeswoman said. The majority claimed to be pot addicts.
Police sources said the Bloods gang member in the Brooklyn case was arrested with 49 others in Operation Tidal Wave, a three-month probe launched after some gang-related shootings near the Coney Island Houses.
A cop involved in the investigation was shocked the man was allowed to go to treatment.
"He was a manager on the street," the officer said. "If you wanted to purchase narcotics you had to go through him."
Brennan, who said she wanted the man to get at least two years in jail, doesn't blame the judges, saying they are dealing with "a very vague statute."
Although the couple recorded in the phone call were ruled ineligible for diversion, she called the conversation "troubling."
"The assumption was all you do is smoke weed and get a program," she said. "It shows people on the street know how the law changed."
Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/ny_crime/2010/06/27/2010-06-27_smoke_pot_to_get_out_of_jail_prosecutor_sez_fiends_wrangle_treatment_angle_in_ne.html#ixzz0s2mFRNBJ
Census Bureau managers Alvin Aviles and Sonya Merritt are accused of researching phone books and Internet to fake answers on surveys to meet deadline.
Two Census Bureau managers from a Brooklyn field office were fired after their bosses found they faked household surveys to meet deadlines, the Daily News learned.
Instead of pounding the pavement and knocking on doors, the corner-cutting people-counters mined the phone book and Internet to make up answers to questionnaires, regional director Tony Farthing said.
The managers - turned in by whistleblower employees - were caught last week. Now, at least 10,000 surveys need to be done or redone, officials said.
Census officials in Washington only admitted to a string of incomplete forms and poor tracking in disclosing the firings Friday afternoon. But Farthing corroborated worker accounts to the Daily News that managers Alvin Aviles and Sonya Merritt began dummying up responses in the final crush to finish the surveys, which field workers are supposed to compile from in-person household visits.
"Basically, people were being asked to forge [questionnaires]," said one worker in the North East Brooklyn office, which covers 95,000 households.
"We went in and did a full investigation," Farthing said. "We found out two managers on the weekend of the 12th of June cheated by using phone books or Internet sources."
A worker told the Daily News that when field interviewers returned to the office with blank forms, Aviles also enlisted some of them in the scheme. "He had people fill them in," the worker said.
Aviles and Merritt could not immediately be reached for comment.
Farthing said he believes the branch's earlier work is kosher, but the pair decided to break the rules at crunch time when they were looking at a huge stack of unfinished surveys, and their bosses were pushing for results, even if it meant more night work.
"We were telling them to go back on all non-interviews and hit this stuff hard. None of this 9-to-5 stuff, go when they know someone will be home," Farthing said. It was then, Farthing said, that the managers "came up with the bright idea, or not-so-bright idea" - to save time.
The Census bureau was not able to estimate how much it will cost to redo all the work, but a spokesman said it was not an issue because the bureau was under budget on the massive project. Farthing said the honest workers left in the office are redoing 5,000 or so interviews that may be tainted.
"We're not happy about what happened," he said, noting that Aviles and Merritt were turned in by the very people they trained.
Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/2010/06/26/2010-06-26_2_census_bigs_axed_for_fakin_it.html#ixzz0s0VU5ZwD
June 24, 2010 06:37 PM
Nearly a year after she quit her governorship of Alaska, Sarah Palin was found guilty today of another breach of the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act involving her so-called Alaska Fund Trust (AFT), which she established as a private "legal defense fund" while governor.
Timothy Petumenos, independent counsel for the Alaska Personnel Board (and ironically, the same independent counsel who issued the Troopergate findings nearly two years ago while Palin was the GOP vice-presidential nominee), presented the state's Findings, Consent Decree and Settlement Agreement this afternoon from the perfectly named Adventure Room of the Captain Cook Hotel in downtown Anchorage.
In what is an extremely detailed finding, Petumenos ruled that even though Palin assigned the research of forming the fund to her former spokesperson Meghan Stapleton and even though Palin relied on extensive outside legal counsel, that "the Trust itself, as ultimately conceived, violates the Ethics Act."
The finding is a stinging rebuke to Palin, who must now return more than $386,000 in contributions to the AFT.
It also forces her longtime political crony Kirstan Cole to be removed from serving as Trustee of the fund.
Perhaps most significantly, Petumenos demanded that "all donors to the Trust, whether they donated before or after the resignation, as promised in the supporting website information, must be publicly disclosed." Costs of more than $80,000 incurred during Palin's governorship can be defrayed only by contributions made after her resignation. Only $33,546 was contributed to the fund following her resignation.
In April of 2009, while still governor, Palin established the AFT as a means of paying what she alleged were more than $500,000 in legal bills owed to her Anchorage-based attorney Thomas Van Flein. According to its official website:
The Alaska Fund Trust is the official legal fund created to defend Sarah Palin from an onslaught of political attacks launched against her, her Family, and colleagues (sic).
Almost immediately afterwards, Eagle River resident Kim Chatman filed an Ethics Act complaint charging Palin with misusing her official position for political gain and receiving improper gifts.
The fund had the appearance of Palin's formal political action committee, SarahPAC, which was raising funds to fuel Palin's national political ambitions. SarahPAC operates under strict federal guidelines for income and expenditure disclosures. The Alaska Trust Fund, however, is actually a private trust, with no state or federal government oversight.
According to of the Alaska Department of Law's Marjorie Vandor, "There is no executive branch state agency with jurisdiction over private trusts nor does our office handle the administration of private trusts." As such, Palin's AFT is little more than a slush fund with zero public transparency or accountability.
Last July, independent counsel for the Alaska Personnel Board Tom Daniel issued a preliminary "probable cause" finding that:
In light of the evidence that the governor expressly authorized the creation of the trust and the fact the trust website quite openly uses the governor's position to solicit donations, there is probable cause to believe that Governor Palin used, or attempted to use, her official position for personal gain in violation of Alaska statute.
Daniel also found "payment of the governor's legal fees by the Alaska Fund Trust will violate the Ethics Act prohibition against a public officer accepting gifts intended to influence performance of official duties."
He particularly cited the troubling political relationship between Palin and Cole, whom Palin had appointed to several state boards in Alaska, including the Agriculture and Conservation Board and the Royalty Oil and Gas Advisory Board. Cole also serves She's also on the board of the controversial state-owned Creamery Corporation (Matanuska Maid). Cole's previous claims that "the governor is not, was not and has not been involved in this trust" simply did not pass the straight-face test.
Daniel recused himself from continuing with the case because his firm has done work for Democrats; he did not want the findings shrouded in controversy. Apparently Petumenos took over the case sometime in January of this year.
Andree Mcleod, the Anchorage-based government watchdog who has filed five Ethics Act complaints against Palin and who was recently transferred "power of attorney" on the AFT complaint, issued a statement today:
"Sarah Palin continues to disappoint. Today's finding makes it obvious that she's out for herself. I've spent more than two years trying to shed light on many of Palin's wrongdoings while governor. Her typical response: to vilify and deride Alaskans who only wanted to hold her accountable for her misconduct; this should give people pause."
Immediately following the ruling, Palin posted a new website sticking out a hand for the Sarah Palin Legal Defense Fund.
Palin's attorney Van Flein of Anchorage, who was to have been the recipient of the ATF's bounty, had foreshadowed today's ruling with an odd posting last night on Palin's Facebook page. "There will be times when Sarah Palin will have to take one for the team," Van Flein wrote, "in order to continue on with her message to the country and simply resolve matters without having to incur crushing personal debt."
McLeod was not buying into any of Van Flein's excuses:
"Never has a governor lowered the bar as low as Palin has when she breached the public's trust over and over again. Her arrogance, sense of entitlement and recklessness while doing the people's business sets a very bad precedent.
"For her to be portrayed as a role model by the media is an absolute travesty. The more people find out about Palin...the more they learn that a 'servant's heart' does not beat within her."
Drunken couple arrested after bayonet found in baby stroller in Ypsilanti
Ypsilanti police arrested a drunken couple early this morning after they were pushing a baby stroller with two young boys, open containers of alcohol and a bayonet inside, a police news release said.
According to the release, officers responded to the 500 block of Perry Street about 1:30 a.m. after the woman attempted to grab a bicycle off someone's porch.
Security guards had been watching the couple and detained the woman, the release said. Officers found the woman's sons, ages 1 and 4, in the stroller - along with the open containers and a "double-edged bayonet," the release said.
Police said both were highly intoxicated and a "long way" from their residence.
The 30-year-old woman and 52-year-old man, both from Ypsilanti Township, were taken into custody. The woman was taken to a local hospital to be checked out after she complained of abdominal pain, the release said. The children were turned over to a relative who lives nearby, the release said.
It's unclear what charges may be filed in the case. Ypsilanti police officials could not be reached for comment this morning.
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer
Just when you thought the illegal immigration fight in Arizona couldn't get any hotter, the governor lobbed a grenade into the fiery controversy, saying that most illegal immigrants are smuggling drugs across the border.
"We all know that the majority of the people that are coming to Arizona and trespassing are now become drug mules," Gov. Jan Brewer told the Arizona Republic Friday.
"They're coming across our borders in huge numbers. The drug cartels have taken control of the immigration."
Brewer made similar remarks last week during a televised debate between the states four Republican candidates for governor.
One of Brewer's opponents suggested the majority of people crossing the border illegally do so to feed their families. Brewer shot back: "They're coming here, and they're bringing drugs."
Illegal immigrants looking for work are being "accosted" by drug cartels, she said.
Brewer's comments Friday detonated outcries that the Governor's claims were exaggerated and racist.
University of Arizona history professor Oscar Martinez challenged Brewer to produce stats to back up her comments.
"If she has no data and is just mouthing off for political reasons, as I believe she is doing, then she must apologize to the people of Arizona for lying to them so blatantly," he said.
A spokesman for the U.S. Border Patrol also downplayed the comments.
"I wouldn't say that every person that is apprehended is being used as a mule," Mario Escalante said.
Crime rates in Arizona's border towns have been flat for the past 10 years, the Arizona Republic reports, even as drug violence in Mexico intensifies.
Border Patrol and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency were unable to provide data to support or dispute Brewer.
However, the president of the Border Patrol union said that since drug charges carry stiffer penalties, few illegal immigrants trying to find work were willing to take the risk of prison time.
"The majority of people continue to come across in search of work, not to smuggle drugs," T.J. Bonner said.
In April, Brewer signed the controversial SB 1070 law which allows law enforcement to question a person's immigration status if they have reasonable suspicion the person is in the U.S. illegally.
The law is scheduled to take effect July 29, barring any legal challenges.
The Department of Justice says it is exploring the possibility of suing the state.
According to a recent Rasmussen poll, 61% support Brewer in her race to win the Republican nomination for Governor. Further bolstering Brewer, 89% of GOP voters support the immigration law.
Jun 25, 6:17 PM EDT
Anger counselor who pulled out gun gets jail
ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) -- A former priest and anger-management counselor who pulled a gun in a traffic dispute on two men who happened to be U.S. Marshals has been sentenced to a year in prison. Fifty-seven-year-old Jose Luis Avila of Annandale pleaded guilty earlier this year in U.S. District Court to assaulting a federal officer.
In January, Avila was driving by the marshals near his home. He honked his horn because he believed they were standing in the road. When he thought one of the marshals made an obscene gesture at him, he pulled out a loaded handgun.
The 12-month sentence was in line with what prosecutors had sought. Defense lawyers wanted probation or time served; Avila has been jailed since January.
Avila has also been ordered to undergo anger management.
Man wounded in shooting after Beach party for Michael Vick
Quanis Phillips, co-defendant in Michael Vick's dogfighting case, was taken to a hospital.
June 26, 2010
According to guests, hosts and a representative of Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick, the Newport News native came and went from his 30th birthday bash at the Town Center Guadalajara restaurant overnight Thursday without conflict.
But shortly after his departure from the soiree early Friday, tempers flared and shots were fired around the corner from the club, leaving a man with at least one gunshot wound to his leg. Police declined to say who was shot.
Quanis Phillips, a childhood friend of Vick's who was a co-defendant with the football player during his dogfighting trial, ended up in a hospital.
Phillips checked into Virginia Beach General Hospital and was discharged around 3 p.m., said Sentara spokesman Dale Gauding. He would not disclose whether Phillips had been shot.
Shalamar Davis, 29, who attended the party, said she recognized the shooting victim as Phillips.
"His friends were dragging him around the corner and blood was everywhere," she said.
When officers arrived at Guadalajara, the shooting victim was no longer at the scene, police said. He'd been taken in a vehicle, which a Virginia State Police trooper pulled over on Columbus Street near the intersection of Independence Boulevard, according to a police news release. An ambulance then took him to a hospital.
Investigators have made no arrests and say witnesses to the shooting have refused to talk. Vick is not a suspect and "his name has come up nowhere in any of our investigative reports," said Officer Jimmy Barnes, a police spokesman.
Police have described the shooter only as a black male wearing a white tank top and driving a white Cadillac Escalade.
Vick and Phillips are on state and federal probation from 2007 and 2008 dogfighting convictions. Phillips cooperated with prosecutors in their case against Vick, signing papers saying the quarterback had helped kill eight pit bulls that performed poorly in fights. He was released from federal prison on Feb. 20, 2009, after serving 21 months. Vick was released from prison in May that year.
Under the terms of their probation, both men are prohibited from associating with felons unless granted permission by a probation officer. They're also required to notify their probation officers within 72 hours of being questioned by law enforcement.
A source close to Vick said Phillips was not invited to the party. Officials within the court system and several defense lawyers said they've never seen anyone get a probation violation just for associating with a felon without permission.
But the shooting has shoved Vick into the limelight once more. Both the Eagles and the NFL said Friday they're looking into the incident.
"We are already looking into it to determine the facts. And that's really all we can say at this point," said Greg Aiello, the NFL's senior vice president of public relations. "Yes, we're going through the process."
Aiello said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was aware of the incident but would have no immediate statement. When Goodell reinstated Vick to the NFL last July, he told him in a letter that "among the conditions of this reinstatement, you are required to abide by the terms of the supervised release that were imposed on you by the court, which include not committing any further crime, limits on who you may associate with, prohibitions regarding drug and alcohol use, possession of a firearm or other dangerous weapon, and forbidding you to own, possess or be involved with the sale of any dog."
But, Aiello said Friday, "there's certainly no way we can address whether any conditions have been violated."
Vick's party, advertised on Facebook and Twitter as Michael Vick's All White 30th Birthday Bash, was open to the public and drew about 300, organizers said. Celebrities such as LaShawn Merritt, Allen Iverson and Pusha T were invited. Admission was $30 and guests were asked to wear dressy white attire.
The affair went off peacefully, said party promoter JaPharrii Jones and Guadalajara spokesman Allen Fabijan.
"It was a flawless evening. No altercations inside the club," Fabijan said. "This was an event where you dress nice. We had no problem with security at all."
Jones declined to disclose who threw the party. Fabijan said Vick and his entourage of about 10 people, including security, left about 1:55 a.m. The shooting happened about 15 minutes later, police said.
"He was gone before any of the mayhem had taken place," Jones said.
Vick's attorney, Lawrence H. Woodward Jr., echoed that statement.
"Michael was not involved in any shooting there," he said. "Not only wasn't he involved, he wasn't present when any of that happened."
Phillips, known as "Q," and Vick were both integral parts of a dogfighting operation, dubbed Bad Newz Kennels, started in 2001 on land Vick bought in Surry County. They were convicted in 2007 and 2008 of dogfighting charges connected to the operation.
Generally, federal judges have wide discretion in sentencing for a probation violation. For minor violations, a defendant will usually not serve time. Crimes of violence and possession of a firearm require mandatory violations that usually result in jail terms.
During a football camp he's hosting at Hampton University, Vick was asked by a reporter Friday whether he had any comment on the incident.
"Watch what you do. Pick and choose your friends carefully," he said. "You just can't put yourself in vulnerable situations."
Pilot writers Cindy Clayton, April Choi, Jen McCaffery, Tim McGlone and Tom Robinson and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Lakemoor woman falls three stories, wakes up on neighbor's couch
Daily Herald Staff
6/24/201 11:17 AM | Updated: 6/24/2010 2:33 PM
Lakemoor Police said they are trying to determine how a 30-year-old woman fell out of a third-story window and onto a parked car, then walked into a neighbor's house and slept for two hours.
Police Chief Mike Marchese said family members believe the woman woke up about 3:30 a.m. in her townhouse on Pondview Lane and attempted to open a third-story window.
The woman, who police have not identified, may have slipped after opening the window, Marchese said. She crashed through the screen, and landed on the hood of her car in the driveway below, he said.
She bounced off the car and landed on the pavement, he added.
"After hitting the ground, she got up and wandered over to the neighbor's house, where he left the garage door open," Marchese said. "She walked through the garage door, into the house, then fell back asleep on the neighbor's couch."
He said the neighbor saw the woman sleeping on the couch at about 5:30 a.m., two hours after the fall, and phoned 9-1-1.
She was taken by the McHenry Fire Protection District to Centegra Hospital-McHenry. She was not suffering from any life-threatening injuries, Marchese said, but he did not know her condition.
"There is absolutely no indication that alcohol or any drugs played a role in this at all," he said. "There are no signs of foul play or of a break-in or anything. All the circumstances show that this was a freak accident" Police are investigating, and officials plan to interview the woman after she is released from the hospital, he said.
The "Geezer Bandit" shown in sureveillance video pulling off his 11th
California bank robbery.
Courtesy of the FBIThe FBI and local police say the man, who wears prescription glasses and appears to be in his 70s, has robbed 11 banks.
Courtesy of the FBIThis bank surveillance video released by the FBI shows the "Geezer Bandit" Monday, Nov.16, 2009.
The "Geezer Bandit" strikes again!
The geriatric Butch Cassidy blazing a trail along the Southern California coast pulled off his 11th bank robbery Thursday, the FBI said.
The elderly robber went through what's become his trademark routine, once again passing a teller a demand note while pointing a small-caliber revolver, FBI spokesman Darrell Foxworth told The San Diego Union-Tribune.
"The robber carried a leather case which contained a small caliber pistol that he threatened to use, if the teller did not comply with his demands," the FBI said in a statement.
The latest heist occurred around 1:15 p.m. at a Bank of America in Temecula, a town about 60 miles north of San Diego.
Surveillance camera images of the robbery suspect show a dapper older gentleman wearing a white newsboy cap, sunglasses and a crisp, white button-down shirt.
He is estimated to be between 60 and 70 years old and is believed to be responsible for 10 bank robberies in San Diego County, in addition to this latest in Riverside County.
The suspect has eluded FBI agents for nearly a year. His first robbery was in August 2009 and the most recent before his latest heist was on June 7.
He has carried a gun in at least two of the robberies, and the FBI says he should be considered dangerous.
"In these types of crimes, the potential for violence is significant," San Diego FBI spokeswoman April Langwell told CNN.
The criminal has built a following as he continues to stump law enforcement with his capers.
There are at least two Facebook fan pages devoted to following his daring robberies and a growing mystique around theories that his wrinkles and age spots might be a sophisticated disguise.
There are at least three rewards totaling $16,000 being offered for information or tips leading to the Geezer Bandit's arrest and conviction.
Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/2010/06/25/2010-06-25_geezer_bandit_strikes_again_elderly_robber_pulls_off_11th_california_bank_heist.html#ixzz0rtxhy8vz
(06-24) 22:53 PDT Salinas, Calif.
A California couple faces child endangerment charges after police say they tried to sell their 6-month-old baby for $25 outside a Walmart store.
Salinas police spokesman, Officer Lalo Villegas, said Thursday that Patrick Fousek, 38, and Samantha Tomasini, 20, were arrested early Wednesday, hours after Fousek allegedly approached two women outside Walmart and asked if they'd like to purchase his child.
The women initially thought Fousek was joking, but when he became persistent, they became suspicious and reported it to police, Villegas said.
"They did an outstanding job and gave our officers good information. I don't know if they're mothers but they definitely had that instinct to help," Villegas said.
Fousek and Tomasini were arrested at 1 a.m. Wednesday at their home. Officers said the couple appeared high on methamphetamine and the house was in disarray. A police report also claimed that Tomasini told Child Protective Services, who took the baby, that she had breast-fed the infant while under the influence, Villegas said.
The couple was also booked on charges of being under the influence of narcotics, and Fousek was also served with an extra charge of violating probation. Villegas did not have details of Fousek's previous brush with the law.
The couple was expected to be in court for an arraignment Friday, at which time they would be assigned public defenders.
LINK TO PHOTOS
Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2010/06/24/national/a171426D55.DTL#ixzz0rrOWdGOt
Deputies search truck, find drugs worth $45M
Thursday, June 24, 2010
(06-24) 18:56 PDT San Bernardino, Calif. (AP) --
San Bernardino County sheriff's deputies have uncovered a multimillion-dollar haul of marijuana and other drugs in the back of a big rig.
The sheriff's department said Thursday that deputies pulled over a tractor-trailer for a traffic violation on Wednesday and noticed an overwhelming smell of marijuana.
They found the trailer was filled with large cardboard containers on pallets holding thousands of heat sealed packages of narcotics.
Investigators seized approximately 38,000 pounds of marijuana, 2,700 pounds of cocaine and 67 pounds of methamphetamine, valued at $45 million.
The driver, Fernando Luevano, was arrested and detained in lieu of $5 million bail.
Teen: Baby Bong Picture Was A Joke, Child Services: Not Laughing
Morning News Producer
June 24, 2010 5:22 AM
The Florida Department of Children and Families isn't laughing at a picture of a baby holding a bong circulating on the Internet. The agency said the picture shows the baby, from Keystone Heights, holding a bong up to its mouth as if the infant is using it to smoke marijuana.
John Harrell of DCF told out news partner Channel 4 the agency has launched an investigation into the 11-month-old baby's parents.
"We are alarmed that any parent would take pictures of their child next to what is obviously drug paraphernalia," he said.
The 19-year-old mother posted this message on her Facebook page: "If u look at the picture u can see that there is no bowl in the TABACCO (sic) pipe. And i took a pic to show one (expletive) person and it was a mistake. I would never ever ever let him get high."
DCF investigators said they have already been to the home twice, and the mother could face serious charges if drugs were used by or around the baby.
No one has been charged.
Picture Courtesy Of Our News Partner Channel 4
Stephanie Foster, 34, of Terre Haute, Ind. stabbed a husband and wife in attempt to kidnap their son.
This is not what most people think of when they ask, “Where do babies come from?”
An Indiana woman acted like she was pregnant for nine months, then stabbed a couple in an attempt to steal their newborn son and pass him off as her own, police said today.
Stephanie Foster, 34, was arrested yesterday 10 miles from her hometown of Terre Haute after police received a phone call from Ashley Speers reporting she was being attacked.
Foster, who had a history of miscarriages, pretended she was pregnant because she didn’t want her husband to know. As her faux due date approached, Foster decided to attack Spears after finding her birth announcement in a newspaper.
Marvel said Foster showed up at the Speers’ home yesterday “with no intent to hurt the couple at all.” She asked to use their phone, dialed a random number and then hung up. She then went to her car, grabbed a toy pistol and came back to the house.
Foster brandished a knife and began to stab Ashley, while her husband was asleep in the next room, police said. Her husband, Michael, heard the vicious attack, woke up and was stabbed himself before cops arrived.
Ashley Speers was in stable condition and had stab wounds on her arms and back. Her husband was treated for cuts to his arms and legs and was eventually released.
Foster was to appear in court this afternoon. She could face a slew of charges including attempted murder, aggravated battery and attempted criminal confinement.
The Speers’ son was unharmed and slept in his crib throughout the attack.
Inmates got home-buyer tax credits
Although they were in no position to buy homes, 1,300 inmates managed to take advantage of a popular federal tax credit.
WASHINGTON -- Living in prison didn't stop nearly 1,300 inmates -- 241 of them serving life sentences -- from cashing in on a popular tax break for first-time home buyers, a government investigator reported Wednesday. Their take: more than $9 million.
In all, more than 14,100 tax filers wrongly received at least $26.7 million in tax credits meant to boost the nation's slumping housing markets, said the report by J. Russell George, the Treasury Department's inspector general for tax administration.
A common scam had multiple taxpayers using the sale of a single home, with each claiming the credit. One home was used by 67 tax filers, the report said. In other cases, taxpayers got credit for sales that happened before the tax break started.
``This is very troubling,'' George said. ``Congress created and modified the home-buyer credit to stimulate the economy and help taxpayers achieve the American dream, not to line the pockets of wrongdoers.''
The Internal Revenue Service said it is taking steps to get the money back. The agency noted that more than 2.6 million taxpayers claimed the tax credit through April -- claiming $18.7 billion in credits -- with only a tiny fraction going to prison inmates or other scofflaws.
``The IRS will follow up on every instance of an improper prisoner payment and take swift and appropriate enforcement actions,'' the IRS said in a statement.
The report blemishes an otherwise popular tax break that was sweetened once by President Barack Obama's economic recovery package and again when Congress extended it into the spring. The National Association of Realtors said the tax credit has generated a million new home sales that wouldn't have happened otherwise.
``Last year, we learned that children and persons who did not purchase homes were fraudulently claiming the first-time home-buyer credit,'' said Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., chairman of the House Ways and Means oversight subcommittee. ``Although I am pleased that the fraud identified earlier does not continue, I am concerned about prisoners claiming the credit.''
The IG report estimates that 2,555 taxpayers wrongly received $17.6 million in tax credits for homes that were bought before the credit was enacted. An estimated 10,282 taxpayers wrongly received credits for homes that were also used by other taxpayers to claim the credit. Investigators were unable to quantify the amount they received, ``but all indications are that the total will be in the tens of millions of dollars,'' the IG's office said in a statement.
Investigators found 87 IRS employees who may have improperly claimed the credit; the review was ongoing.
Police say Pa. church burglar left behind birth certificate after break-in
June 23, 2010
YORK, Pa. (AP) — Police said a man who stole petty cash from a central Pennsylvania church is in custody after leaving his birth certificate behind when he left. Authorities said 28-year-old Allen Larry Dawes has been extradited to York County to faces charges after being arrested earlier this month in New Jersey.
Investigators said Dawes broke into First St. John's Church in York on May 11. Police said Dawes spent the night sleeping in a hallway and ate cereal from a pantry that holds food for the needy.
Officials said Dawes has no fixed address. He was being held on $16,000 bail at York County Prison on charges including burglary and institutional vandalism. It was not clear if he had an attorney.
Shoplifting Charge Nets Life Sentence
Habitual criminal off the streets permanently
June 23, 2010
Southaven, MS - FAST FACTS
Life in prison for a shoplifting charge might sound a little extreme, but that's the sentence a Memphis man got after getting caught in the web of Mississippi's justice system.
His long record got him classified as a "habitual offender" and a judge sentenced him to three consecutive life terms.
Darnell Wilson made one trip to Mississippi and became a life-long resident. Not because he liked the area so much, it's because he committed three felonies, got caught, and faced a much less tolerant justice system that's putting him behind bars for good.
Darnell Wilson chose the wrong place to commit a crime. He'll soon be on a prison bus headed for a lifetime behind bars, on a shoplifting charge.
It's something that some find rather shocking. "I think that they should have to do quite a bit of time but I don't know about life sentence." said Jessica Riley of Olive Branch.
Law officers say Mississippi is far less tolerant than some places when it comes to repeat offenders.
Down here, it's three strikes and you're out. For good "No matter the cause if you have the three felonies prior, if you come here and you commit another felony, you're going to get life in prison in this state." said Southaven Police Chief Tom Long.
That's just the case with Darnell Wilson.
The road to Wilson's life sentence begins at the Kohl's store in Southaven. Employees reportedly spotted him shoplifting and called police.
Store surveillance cameras caught him in the act.
Police narrowly escaped injury as he got away, speeding down crowded Goodman and Airways roads during rush hour, before officers finally stopped him.
Police found stolen items in his car, charged him with three felonies and then learned about his long record in Tennessee.
"In this particular case, Darnell Wilson, between 1985 and 2009 had eighteen arrests, ten convictions, four felonies and six prior felonies that were reduced to misdemeanors to make up his ten convictions. Somebody, he should have learned by then." said Assistant District Attorney Smith Murphy.
So police and prosecutors made an example out of him, hoping to send a message to other criminals, and the public.
"So before they come to Mississippi, they think about it and that keeps crime away." "Does that make you feel safer?" "Makes me feel a lot safer." said Riley.
"The message is very simple. You know, if you're gonna commit a felony you better keep you stupid self in a state that lets you get away with 'em." added Long.
Wilson's not the first in DeSoto to face this fate. Four others went before him just this year, and Murphy tells me he's got dozens waiting in line to go before a judge, and maybe off to prison, for life.
LINK TO VIDEO
Two people busted with guns at Fulton courthouse
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Two people were arrested in separate and apparently unrelated incidents Wednesday when they tried to pass through Fulton County courthouse security with handguns.
The first case involved an Atlanta lawyer who was toting a loaded .380 Sig Sauer in a leather bag. The second involved a woman with a handgun and bullets in her purse as she entered the courthouse to seek a temporary protection order.
"This is highly unusual," said Tracy Flanagan, a spokeswoman for Fulton Sheriff Ted Jackson. "We are glad that our people are seeing these things when they come through."
In both cases, courthouse security spotted the guns using scanning machines.
The lawyer, Kirby Turnage, 74, placed his brown leather bag on the conveyor belt to the scanner Wednesday morning. He later told deputies that he forgot the gun was in the bag, Flanagan said.
Later, around 2 p.m., Michelle Edwards-Webb, 39, was caught with an unloaded .380 Cobra and seven rounds in her purse, Flanagan said. The Douglasville woman was entering the courthouse to file for a temporary protection order, Flanagan said.
Each will face the same felony charges, Flanagan said: carrying a concealed weapon, carrying a weapon into a public gathering and carrying a weapon without a license. Neither had a conceal carry permit, she added.
Turnage is a member in "good standing" with the Georgia Bar Association, according to the organization's Web site. He was admitted to the Georgia Bar in 1964.
Messages left at his Peachtree Street law office and on his cellphone were not returned. Edwards-Webb could not be reached for comment.
The two incidents mark the second and third time since last month that courthouse security has captured someone trying to bring a handgun into the downtown Atlanta building.
On May 13, Douglas Fitzgerald, 43, of Cantonment, Fla., was accused of placing a leather bag containing a .44-caliber Magnum with six hollow point bullets into the scanner.
He was charged with carrying a concealed weapon, carrying a deadly weapon and carrying a pistol without a license, and was released from the county jail on an $8,000 bond.
On June 3, there was another incident involving a man with multiple bladed weapons.
Reuel D. Channey, 27, was charged with seven counts of bringing a deadly weapon to a public gathering, after he brought a bag into the courthouse loaded with four machetes, an exotic knife and a broken knife he was using to bookmark a Bible, Flanagan said.
Channey, who remains in jail, reportedly asked a deputy at the security checkpoint to hold his bag while he entered the courthouse to determine whether he had any outstanding warrants. When the deputy refused, Channey put the bag through the scanner.
Flanagan said Channey would not have faced charges had he left the courthouse instead.
Courthouse security has been an issue in Fulton since 2005, when Brian Nichols, a suspect in custody, beat a deputy and grabbed her gun. He then killed a judge, a court reporter, another deputy and, later, a federal agent.
The four arrests came soon after Jackson reopened several courthouse entrances that he had closed. The entrances were reopened after judges complained about long lines at one entry.
LINK TO PHOTO OF LAWYER
The match between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut became the longest in
Grand Slam history
Alastair GrantMahut is exhausted after playing for 10 hours.
The longest game in tennis history has come to a stop -- for now.
John Isner of Tampa, Fla., and Nicolas Mahut of France, who have been battling it out on the lawns at Wimbledown for over two days, will resume their epic match again Thursday.
The match was suspended Wednesday night at 59-all, due to darkness.
This is the second time the match has been suspended – it was first paused on Tuesday night because of darkness after four sets, and resumed Wednesday. Isner and Mahut played more than 80 games in the fifth set alone.
The first-round match, which has gone on more than 9 1/2 hours, broke the record of 6 hours, 33 minutes, set in a 2004 French Open match.
Isner and Mahut have played a total of 118 games so far.
Michael D. Shear, William Branigin and Ernesto Londoño
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, June 23, 2010; 1:38 PM
President Obama on Wednesday fired Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal as commander of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan and replaced him with Gen. David H. Petraeus, a White House official said.
Obama's move came shortly after McChrystal met with him one-on-one at the White House to apologize personally for derogatory comments about top administration officials involved in the Afghan war.
The general departed the White House immediately after the meeting, leaving his fate in doubt.
Petraeus moves to take over the Afghan war effort from his post as head of the Central Command, where he has been in charge of all U.S. forces in the Middle East. He previously commanded U.S. forces in Iraq and was credited with implementing a strategy that turned the tide against insurgents and sectarian groups in that war.
McChrystal, 55, who was named by Obama last year to run the war in Afghanistan, saw the president after conferring Wednesday morning at the Pentagon with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The meeting with Obama began at 9:51 a.m. in the Oval Office and lasted about half an hour. It preceded a scheduled conference of Obama's national security team on Afghanistan and Pakistan in the White House Situation Room. Among the top officials slated to attend, according to the White House, were McChrystal and several of the people he and his aides had disparaged in biting remarks reported by Rolling Stone magazine. In addition to Obama, those attendees included Vice President Biden, National Security Adviser James L. Jones and, by video conference, special envoy Richard C. Holbrooke and U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl W. Eikenberry.
Obama later postponed a previously scheduled lunch with senators and decided to skip a 2:50 p.m. event on physical fitness and nutrition, sending first lady Michelle Obama instead.
In response to the disparaging comments, an angry Obama had left open the option of firing McChrystal, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Tuesday.
But in Kabul, Afghan President Hamid Karzai cautioned Obama against replacing the commander of the U.S. and NATO war effort.
In a video conference call with Obama on Tuesday night, Karzai said "that we are in a very sensitive juncture in our partnership and our war on terror," Karzai spokesman Waheed Omar said in a news conference Wednesday. "Any gaps in this process would not be helpful."
During the call, Obama told Karzai that he would not rush to a decision on whether to fire McChrystal, Omar said.
The endorsement illustrated what was seen as McChrystal's best shot at saving his job and legacy: The general was arguably the U.S. official who has the most influence over, and credibility with, the Afghan government.
Omar called McChrystal a "great partner of the Afghan government," who has "increased the level of trust between the partners."
The furor erupted on Tuesday after the Rolling Stone magazine profileof McChrystal, titled "The Runaway General," started circulating.
Aides quoted anonymously in the article accused Obama of being uninformed and disengaged during his first solo meeting with the general, in spring 2009. And they described Karzai as being "locked up in his palace this past year" and out of the loop, even as the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan relied on making the Afghan government a strong and credible partner.
The controversy over the article comes amid a U.S. troop surge requested by McChrystal and a spike in NATO casualties that has raised alarm in Washington and NATO capitals.
On Wednesday, NATO announced that two American troops died the day before in bombings in southern Afghanistan, where the radical Islamist Taliban movement has stepped up attacks as the U.S.-led international force has attempted to wrest control of their strongholds.
So far this month, at least 59 NATO troops, including 43 U.S. service members, have been killed in Afghanistan. That means June is on pace to become the deadliest month for NATO troops in the nearly nine-year war.
The fallout of the McChrystal scandal is also being closely watched in Pakistan, where the general has established close ties with military commanders.
McChrystal has paid several visits to Pakistan in an effort to win support for the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan. Many Afghan Taliban leaders and fighters have established sanctuaries in Pakistan's border regions, and the United States has been pressuring the nation to assist coalition forces by targeting those groups. Pakistan has resisted, arguing that its forces are already occupied fighting domestic insurgents.
But officials from both nations say cooperation and intelligence-sharing between the two nations has improved. McChrystal has established a particularly good rapport with Pakistan's powerful army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, Pakistani officials said.
McChrystal has held monthly meetings with Kayani, most recently on June 14 in Islamabad. Kayani visited the headquarters of coalition forces in Afghanistan last month with McChrystal and Karzai. In January, Kayani took McChrystal on a helicopter tour of the Swat Valley, where Pakistani forces launched an operation last summer to push out Pakistani Taliban fighters.
As McChrystal's meeting with Obama approached, Pakistan -- which is extremely sensitive about allegations that it secretly tries to manage the conflict next door through ties to Afghan insurgents -- made no official statement about whether McChrystal should stay. On Wednesday, Holbrooke, the U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, met with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and other officials.
Pakistani sources said the topic of McChrystal was discussed but that Pakistan made no demands. Speaking on the condition of anonymity, several Pakistani officials said they strongly believed that the U.S. general should remain in place for the sake of continuity.
"He shouldn't be changed midstream," a senior Pakistani intelligence official said before Obama's action. "It's never a good policy to change the military commanders."
Speaking on the record, Farhatullah Babar, Zardari's spokesman, said, "We are not saying anything about this publicly."
Londoño reported from Kabul. Karin Brulliard in Islamabad and Javed Hamdard in Kabul contributed to this report.
Former NFL player Lawrence Taylor was also indicted on charges of endangering the welfare of a child and patronizing a prostitute.
Former Giants great Lawrence Taylor was indicted Wednesday for having sex with a teenage prostitute.
The Hall of Famer was charged with rape, engaging in a criminal sexual act and sexual abuse of the Bronx teen by a Rockland County grand jury.
He was also hit with charges of endangering the welfare of a child and patronizing a prostitute. Taylor was busted on May 6 at a Holiday Inn after the 16-year-old told cops he paid her $300 to have sex with him.
Rockland County District Attorney Thomas Zugibe said the teen told them she'd been driven to the hotel by a Bronx pimp - and that she had been verbally threatened and physically assaulted.
Taylor has denied the charges - and has reportedly come up with a dubious defense, namely that he pleasured himself and never touched the girl.
But in an interview with The Daily News, the baby-faced teen insisted she and Taylor "definitely had intercourse."
"If he's saying we didn't, that's not true," she said.
Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/ny_crime/2010/06/23/2010-06-23_lawrence_taylor_indicted_on_charges_of_rape_criminal_sexual_act_sexual_abuse.html#ixzz0rhER145m
Hero Shot While Foiling Bank Robbery Presses His Case--Against the Bank
Matt Coker, Tuesday, Jun. 22 2010 @ 10:41AM
An Irvine lawyer and his client--a bank customer who was shot and wounded when he tackled the man believed to be the "Sports Bike Bandit"--have gone to the media to press their case, which is not against the alleged bank robber whose gun went off but the bank.
Lawyer Eric Dubin says Richard Camp has amassed $75,000 in medical bills as a result of his daring maneuver, but the only response he received from Farmers and Merchants Bank in Long Beach was flowers, a promised lunch and, eventually, an offer to settle for $10,000.
Around 10:30 a.m. March 5, a man wearing a motorcycle helmet, leather jacket and leather pants walked into the bank in the 2300 block of Bellflower Boulevard.
Employees and customers say the man, who appeared to be wearing body armor under his get-up, whipped out a gun and announced, "This is a hold-up. I'm serious. I'm armed."
But, before he reached the tellers, the gunman was grabbed from behind and tackled by Camp. Shots rang out, and the bandit was wounded in the arm and Camp took a bullet to his upper leg.
Customer David Jones then jumped on the would-be robber and wrestled two guns away from him. Jones and Camp held the man down until security guards arrived. Another customer was shot during the melee. No one suffered life-threatening injuries.
The suspect was later identified as 51-year-old Robert Gordon Lockwood, who the FBI believes is the so-called "Sports Bike Bandit," a serial bank robber who has pulled heists in Los Alamitos, Long Beach and Rancho Palos Verdes before fleeing on a motorcycle.
A bright red motorcycle was found outside Farmers and Merchants Bank.
Camp filed suit against the bank in March and, according to court documents, Farmers and Merchants sent him some flowers and offered to take him and his wife to lunch.
However, the general contractor claims he has been unable to work and has no way to support his wife and daughter.
His suit further claims the bank's security guard was in the parking lot when the armed man entered the bank.
KTLA reports Camp amended his lawsuit last week to include allegations that the bank launched a smear campaign against him to destroy his public image. He says bank representatives lied when they told the news media that the bank offered to pay all of his medical bills but he decided to sue anyway. He claims Farmers and Merchants offered to pay only $10,000 of his $75,000 in medical bills.
As a result of the lawyer and client's media onslaught, bank representatives respond that flowers were sent to all bank customers and a luncheon was planned so that Camp and others could meet top executives, who would decide how to proceed after hearing from the hero.
If Camp's suit leads to a trial, required viewing will be the bank's surveillance video, which apparently shows the entire incident as it unfolded.
|Woman, black pursue GOP nods and possibly history|
Posted 6/22/2010 3:56 PM ET
Liz Sidoti And Jim Davenport
Associated Press Writers
COLUMBIA, S.C. — An Indian-American woman and a black man pursued the Republican nominations for governor and Congress in South Carolina primary runoffs Tuesday in a measure of racial progress in the Deep South and the GOP. Voters in Utah, North Carolina and Mississippi decided on their final nominees for November. State lawmaker Nikki Haley brushed aside allegations of marital infidelity and an ethnic slur to come within a percentage point of winning the gubernatorial nod on June 8. She's the odds-on favorite to win the runoff against Rep. Gresham Barrett and move a step closer to becoming the first female governor in the conservative-leaning state.
Renee McKissick, 53, of Columbia, said she voted for Haley two weeks ago and felt coming out Tuesday would validate that decision.
"I like Haley because she's firm in her convictions and she didn't let any of the attacks of the last weeks get to her," McKissick said.
Tim Scott hoped to become the state's first black GOP congressman in more than a century. Scott, who has the backing of several Republican leaders in Washington, is in a runoff with Paul Thurmond, the son of the late U.S. Sen. and former segregationist Strom Thurmond. The GOP-leaning district stretches down the Carolina coast and includes Fort Sumter where the first shots of the Civil War were fired.
If elected to the House, Scott would be the GOP's first black lawmaker since Oklahoma's J.C. Watts retired in 2003.
Six-term Republican Rep. Bob Inglis was trying to hold onto his House seat in a runoff against prosecutor Trey Gowdy.
In North Carolina, Democrats were deciding whether to nominate Secretary of State Elaine Marshall or state Sen. Cal Cunningham in the race to challenge GOP Sen. Richard Burr in the fall. And Utah Republicans were choosing a GOP primary successor to vanquished Utah Sen. Bob Bennett.
Tuesday's runoffs and primaries played out across a handful of states, the latest cluster of contests to determine matchups for the fall's midterm congressional elections. Already, 2010 is shaping up to be an anti-establishment year with angry voters casting ballots against candidates with ties to Washington and the political parties.
Perhaps no other contest illustrated that better than the runoff between Haley, a state legislator with the backing of tea party activists and Sarah Palin, and Barrett, a four-term congressman who has had to answer for his 2008 vote for the unpopular Wall Street bailout.
Haley handily beat Barrett, two other Republicans and allegations of infidelity two weeks ago, but she didn't earn the 50 percent needed to win the nomination outright, triggering a runoff that has grown nastier by the day.
Should she win the GOP nomination, she'll be considered the front-runner in the race against the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, state Sen. Vincent Sheheen. The disgraced GOP Gov. Mark Sanford is leaving the post because of term limits.
Aside from Barrett, the bailout vote also could thwart Inglis' quest for another term in the 4th Congressional District. Spartanburg prosecutor Gowdy forced Inglis into a runoff after making the race a referendum on the incumbent's bailout vote and casting him as not conservative enough for the district.
In Utah, Republicans chose between businessman Tim Bridgewater and attorney Mike Lee for the GOP Senate nomination. It's likely whoever wins will become the next Utah senator. A Democrat hasn't won a Senate race in Utah since 1970.
Illustrating how fractured the tea party movement is in Utah, one of the founders of the state's tea party movement, David Kirkham, endorsed Bridgewater on Monday. But Lee had already picked up the support of the California-based Tea Party Express, which is weighing in on primary races nationwide.
The victor will succeed Bennett, who lost his bid last month for a fourth term. Conservatives at the GOP state convention punished him for his support of the bailout, officially known as the Troubled Asset Relief Program.
Sidoti reported from Washington. Associated Press writer Pete Iacobelli contributed to this report.
Judge blocks Gulf offshore drilling moratorium; White House will appeal
Published: Tuesday, June 22, 2010, 1:53 PM
Updated: Tuesday, June 22, 2010, 1:58 PM
The Associated Press
A federal judge on Tuesday blocked a six-month moratorium on new deepwater drilling projects imposed after the massive Gulf oil spill.
Rusty Costanza / The Times-PicayuneCapt. Richard Garner stands on the deck of the Carol Chouest, a 280-foot-long, state-of-the-art supply vessel tied up Thursday at Port Fourchon with two identical sister vessels, the Hannah Chouest, center, and the C-Fighter. The Chouest companies have joined the Hornbeck suit challenging the federal moratorium on deepwater oil drilling.
The White House promised an immediate appeal. President Barack Obama's administration had halted approval of any new permits for deepwater drilling and suspended drilling of 33 exploratory wells in the Gulf.
Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Obama believes strongly that drilling at such depths does not make any sense and puts the safety of workers "at a danger that the president does not believe we can afford."
Several companies that ferry people and supplies and provide other services to offshore drilling rigs asked U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman in New Orleans to overturn the moratorium, arguing it was arbitrarily imposed.
Feldman agreed, saying in his ruling the Interior Department assumed that because one rig failed, all companies and rigs doing deepwater drilling pose an imminent danger.
"The Deepwater Horizon oil spill is an unprecedented, sad, ugly and inhuman disaster," he wrote. "What seems clear is that the federal government has been pressed by what happened on the Deepwater Horizon into an otherwise sweeping confirmation that all Gulf deepwater drilling activities put us all in a universal threat of irreparable harm."
The moratorium was imposed after the April 20 explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig that killed 11 workers and blew out the well 5,000 feet underwater that has spewed millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf.
The Interior Department said it needed time to study the risks of deepwater drilling. But the lawsuit filed by Hornbeck Offshore Services of Covington, La., claimed there was no proof the other operations posed a threat.
Company CEO Todd Hornbeck said after the ruling that he is looking forward to getting back to work.
"It's the right thing for not only the industry but the country," he said.
The moratorium was declared May 6 and originally was to last only through the month. Obama announced May 27 that he was extending it for six months.
In Louisiana, Gov. Bobby Jindal and corporate leaders said the moratorium would force drilling rigs to leave the Gulf of Mexico for lucrative business in foreign waters.
They said the loss of business would cost the area thousands of lucrative jobs, most paying more than $50,000 a year. The state's other major economic sector, tourism, is a largely low-wage industry.
Tim Kerner, the mayor of Lafitte, La., cheered Feldman's ruling.
"I love it. I think it's great for the jobs here and the people who depend on them," said Kerner, whose constituents make their living, primarily, from commercial fishing or oil.
But in its response to the lawsuit, the Interior Department said the moratorium is necessary as attempts to stop the leak and clean the Gulf continue and new safety standards are developed.
"A second deepwater blowout could overwhelm the efforts to respond to the current disaster," the Interior Department said.
The government also challenged contentions the moratorium would lead to long-term economic harm. Although 33 deepwater drilling sites were affected, there are still 3,600 oil and natural gas production platforms in the Gulf.
Catherine Wannamaker, a lawyer for environmental groups that intervened in the case and supported the moratorium, called the ruling "a step in the wrong direction."
"We think it overlooks the ongoing harm in the Gulf, the devastation it has had on people's lives," she said. "The harm at issue with the Deepwater Horizon spill is bigger than just the Louisiana economy. It affects all of the Gulf."
The Spill, The Scandal and the President
The inside story of how Obama failed to crack down on the corruption of the Bush years – and let the world's most dangerous oil company get away with murder
Jun 08, 2010 4:30 PM EDT
This article originally appeared in RS 1107 from June 24, 2010.
On May 27th, more than a month into the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history, Barack Obama strode to the podium in the East Room of the White House. For weeks, the administration had been insisting that BP alone was to blame for the catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf – and the ongoing failure to stop the massive leak. "They have the technical expertise to plug the hole," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs had said only six days earlier. "It is their responsibility." The president, Gibbs added, lacked the authority to play anything more than a supervisory role – a curious line of argument from an administration that has reserved the right to assassinate American citizens abroad and has nationalized much of the auto industry. "If BP is not accomplishing the task, can you just federalize it?" a reporter asked. "No," Gibbs replied.
Now, however, the president was suddenly standing up to take command of the cleanup effort. "In case you were wondering who's responsible," Obama told the nation, "I take responsibility." Sounding chastened, he acknowledged that his administration had failed to adequately reform the Minerals Management Service, the scandal-ridden federal agency that for years had essentially allowed the oil industry to self-regulate. "There wasn't sufficient urgency," the president said. "Absolutely I take responsibility for that." He also admitted that he had been too credulous of the oil giants: "I was wrong in my belief that the oil companies had their act together when it came to worst-case scenarios." He unveiled a presidential commission to investigate the disaster, discussed the resignation of the head of MMS, and extended a moratorium on new deepwater drilling. "The buck," he reiterated the next day on the sullied Louisiana coastline, "stops with me."
What didn't stop was the gusher. Hours before the president's press conference, an ominous plume of oil six miles wide and 22 miles long was discovered snaking its way toward Mobile Bay from BP's wellhead next to the wreckage of its Deepwater Horizon rig. Admiral Thad Allen, the U.S. commander overseeing the cleanup, framed the spill explicitly as an invasion: "The enemy is coming ashore," he said. Louisiana beaches were assaulted by blobs of oil that began to seep beneath the sand; acres of marshland at the "Bird's Foot," where the Mississippi meets the Gulf, were befouled by -brown crude – a death sentence for wetlands that serve as the cradle for much of the region's vital marine life. By the time Obama spoke, it was increasingly evident that this was not merely an ecological disaster. It was the most devastating assault on American soil since 9/11.
Like the attacks by Al Qaeda, the disaster in the Gulf was preceded by ample warnings – yet the administration had ignored them. Instead of cracking down on MMS, as he had vowed to do even before taking office, Obama left in place many of the top officials who oversaw the agency's culture of corruption. He permitted it to rubber-stamp dangerous drilling operations by BP – a firm with the worst safety record of any oil company – with virtually no environmental safeguards, using industry-friendly regulations drafted during the Bush years. He calibrated his response to the Gulf spill based on flawed and misleading estimates from BP – and then deployed his top aides to lowball the flow rate at a laughable 5,000 barrels a day, long after the best science made clear this catastrophe would eclipse the Exxon Valdez.
Hours after BP’s rig sank on April 22nd, a white board in NOAA's "war room" in Seattle displays the administration's initial, worst-case estimate of the spill — 64,000 to 110,000 barrels a day.
Even after the president's press conference, Rolling Stone has learned, the administration knew the spill could be far worse than its "best estimate" acknowledged. That same day, the president's Flow Rate Technical Group – a team of scientists charged with establishing the gusher's output – announced a new estimate of 12,000 to 25,000 barrels, based on calculations from video of the plume. In fact, according to interviews with team members and scientists familiar with its work, that figure represents the plume group's minimum estimate. The upper range was not included in their report because scientists analyzing the flow were unable to reach a consensus on how bad it could be. "The upper bound from the plume group, if it had come out, is very high," says Timothy Crone, a marine geophysicist at Columbia University who has consulted with the government's team. "That's why they had resistance internally. We're talking 100,000 barrels a day."
The median figure for Crone's independent calculations is 55,000 barrels a day – the equivalent of an Exxon Valdez every five days. "That's what the plume team's numbers show too," Crone says. A source privy to internal discussions at one of the world's top oil companies confirms that the industry privately agrees with such estimates. "The industry definitely believes the higher-end values," the source says. "That's accurate – if not more than that." The reason, he adds, is that BP appears to have unleashed one of the 10 most productive wells in the Gulf. "BP screwed up a really big, big find," the source says. "And if they can't cap this, it's not going to blow itself out anytime soon."
Even worse, the "moratorium" on drilling announced by the president does little to prevent future disasters. The ban halts exploratory drilling at only 33 deepwater operations, shutting down less than one percent of the total wells in the Gulf. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, the Cabinet-level official appointed by Obama to rein in the oil industry, boasts that "the moratorium is not a moratorium that will affect production" – which continues at 5,106 wells in the Gulf, including 591 in deep water.
Most troubling of all, the government has allowed BP to continue deep-sea production at its Atlantis rig – one of the world's largest oil platforms. Capable of drawing 200,000 barrels a day from the seafloor, Atlantis is located only 150 miles off the coast of Louisiana, in waters nearly 2,000 feet deeper than BP drilled at Deepwater Horizon. According to congressional documents, the platform lacks required engineering certification for as much as 90 percent of its subsea components – a flaw that internal BP documents reveal could lead to "catastrophic" errors. In a May 19th letter to Salazar, 26 congressmen called for the rig to be shut down immediately. "We are very concerned," they wrote, "that the tragedy at Deepwater Horizon could foreshadow an accident at BP Atlantis."
The administration's response to the looming threat? According to an e-mail to a congressional aide from a staff member at MMS, the agency has had "zero contact" with Atlantis about its safety risks since the Deepwater rig went down.
LINK TO ADDITIONAL STORIES
Stanley McChrystal, Top U.S. General In Afghanistan, Summoned To Washington After 'Rolling Stone' Interview
General Stanley McChrystal has been called to Washington after comments made in Rolling Stone.
WASHINGTON (AP)— The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan has been summoned to Washington to explain derogatory comments about President Barack Obama and his colleagues, administration officials said Tuesday.
Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who publicly apologized Tuesday for using "poor judgment" in an interview in Rolling Stone magazine, has been ordered to attend the monthly White House meeting on Afghanistan and Pakistan in person Wednesday rather than over a secure video teleconference, according to officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly. He'll be expected to explain his comments to Obama and top Pentagon officials, these officials said.
Obama has the authority to fire McChrystal. His predecessor, Gen. David McKiernan, was sacked on grounds that the military needed "new thinking and new approaches" in Afghanistan.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen has told McChrystal of his "deep disappointment" over the article, a spokesman said.
The article in this week's Rolling Stone depicts McChrystal as a lone wolf on the outs with many important figures in the Obama administration and unable to persuade even some of his own soldiers that his strategy can win the war.
The interview describes McChrystal, 55, as "disappointed" in his first Oval Office meeting with Obama. The article says that although McChrystal voted for Obama, the two failed to connect from the start. Obama appointed McChrystal to lead the Afghan effort in May 2009. Last fall, though, Obama called McChrystal on the carpet for speaking too bluntly about his desire for more troops.
"I found that time painful," McChrystal said in the article, on newsstands Friday. "I was selling an unsellable position."
Obama agreed to dispatch an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan only after months of study that many in the military found frustrating. And the White House's troop commitment was coupled with a pledge to begin bringing them home in July 2011, in what counterinsurgency strategists advising McChrystal regarded as an arbitrary deadline.
In Kabul on Tuesday, McChrystal issued a statement saying: "I have enormous respect and admiration for President Obama and his national security team, and for the civilian leaders and troops fighting this war and I remain committed to ensuring its successful outcome."
Mullen talked with McChrystal about the article Monday night, Capt. John Kirby, Mullen's spokesman said. In a 10-minute conversation, the chairman "expressed his deep disappointment in the piece and the comments" in it, Kirby said.
The Rolling Stone profile, titled "The Runaway General," emerged from several weeks of interviews and travel with McChrystal's tight circle of aides this spring.
In the interview, McChrystal he said he felt betrayed by the man the White House chose to be his diplomatic partner, Ambassador Karl Eikenberry. If Eikenberry had the same doubts, McChrystal said he never expressed them until a leaked internal document threw a wild card into the debate over whether to add more troops last November. In the document, Eikenberry said Afghan President Hamid Karzai was not a reliable partner for the counterinsurgency strategy McChrystal was hired to execute.
McChrystal accused the ambassador of giving himself cover.
"Here's one that covers his flank for the history books," McChrystal told the magazine. "Now, if we fail, they can say 'I told you so.'"
Caitlin Hayden, spokeswoman for the U.S. embassy in Kabul, said Eikenberry and McChrystal "are fully committed to the president's strategy and to working together as one civilian-military team."
McChrystal has a history of drawing criticism, despite his military achievements.
In June 2006 President George W. Bush congratulated McChrystal for his role in the operation that killed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq. As head of the special operations command, McChrystal's forces included the Army's clandestine counterterrorism unit, Delta Force.
He drew criticism for his role in the military's handling of the friendly fire shooting of Army Ranger Pat Tillman – a former NFL star – in Afghanistan. An investigation at the time found that McChrystal was "accountable for the inaccurate and misleading assertions" contained in papers recommending that Tillman get a Silver Star award.
McChrystal acknowledged he had suspected several days before approving the Silver Star citation that Tillman might have died by fratricide, rather than enemy fire. He sent a memo to military leaders warning them of that, even as they were approving Tillman's Silver Star. Still, he told investigators he believed Tillman deserved the award.
This week's development comes as criminal investigators are said to be examining allegations that Afghan security firms have been extorting as much as $4 million a week from contractors paid with U.S. tax dollars and then funneling the spoils to warlords and the Taliban, according to a U.S. military document. The payments are intended to ensure safe passage through dangerous areas they control.
The payments reportedly end up in insurgent hands through a $2.1 billion Pentagon contract to transport food, water, fuel and ammunition to American troops stationed at bases across Afghanistan.
Associated Press Writer Pauline Jelinek contributed to this report.
LINK TO VIDEO
Sarah Palin to Rahm Emanuel: "U Lie"
06/21/2010 11:59:29 AM PDT
Sarah Palin didn't appreciate Rahm Emanuel's characterization of the Republican Party over the weekend and criticized the White House Chief of Staff on Twitter.
Palin tweeted, "RahmEmanuel=as shallow/narrowminded/political/irresponsible as they come,to falsely claim Barton's BP comment is 'GOP philosophy," adding, "Rahm, u lie."
Palin's comments came shortly after Emanuel said on ABC's This Week that Rep. Joe Barton's (R-Texas) apology to BP CEO Tony Hayward during his congressional hearing exposed a common Republican sentiment that the real victim in the Gulf oil spill is BP.
"That's not a political gaffe, those are prepared remarks," Emanuel told ABC. "That is a philosophy. That is an approach to what they see. They see the aggrieved party here as BP, not the fishermen."
He added, "In case you forgot what Republican governance is like, Joe Barton reminded you."
During the congressional hearing last Thursday, Barton made headlines when he called a White House meeting with BP officials and the $20 billion escrow fund set up for victims of the oil spill a "shakedown" and apologized to both Heyward and BP.
Barton rescinded the statement later that day after facing pressure from both Democrats and Republicans and the threat of losing his position on the Energy and Commerce Committee.
Palin wasn't the only one upset by Emanuel's comments. On CNN's State of the Union, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) called the chief of staff wrong and criticized the Democratic National Committee for running ads tying Barton's comments to the Republican Party. She called Barton's remarks inappropriate and said they should be overlooked for more important issues.
"Let's focus on providing what the people of the Gulf need, not pointing fingers back and forth and saying 'oh what you said is wrong,'" Murkowski said.
Board To Discuss Reinstating Corporal Punishment
10:55 PM CDT, June 21, 2010
Tea party recalls could backfire
Maggie Haberman and Alex Isenstadt
June 20, 2010 06:26 PM EDT
Tea party forces are seizing on a new strategy in their attempt to purge Senate incumbents from office: the recall.
While it’s not entirely clear whether their approach will meet constitutional muster, that hasn’t stopped determined groups of grass-roots activists from trying in nearly a half-dozen states.
The most prominent attempt to recall a sitting senator is currently unfolding in New Jersey, where Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez awaits a state high court ruling on whether a recall effort against him can go forward.
The New Jersey lawsuit — which questions whether tea party forces can legally gather signatures to petition for a ballot recall of a federal official — is emerging as the beachhead for a movement that some activists envision sweeping the country, the next step in the evolution of tea parties as a political force.
New Jersey Democrats have denounced the effort but are nevertheless nervous enough over it — and the press coverage it’s received — to launch a Web page designed to slam it. Party leaders have gone so far as saying it’s racially motivated against a Hispanic official, a claim tea party activists vehemently deny.
Other states where nascent recall efforts have been launched against Democrats include Louisiana, where Sen. Mary Landrieu has been targeted, and North Dakota, where Sen. Kent Conrad is the target. Tea party leaders said their allies in Colorado and Michigan are also closely monitoring the RecallNJ effort for clues on how to proceed.
If the suit succeeds — a decision is expected in the coming weeks — it will almost certainly raise the alarm among incumbent senators, even those who aren’t on the ballot this year.
Still, there are several considerable obstacles to recall efforts: There’s currently no explicit provision providing for the recall of a federal official, and case law in some states has gone against such efforts before.
And if it loses the legal fight, some critics argue, the tea party movement could find itself dismissed as a transitory political force, a high-impact media phenomenon that doesn’t have many legs beyond the peculiar 2010 cycle.
“There’s two trains of thought,” said RoseAnn Salanitri, a 60-year-old, stay-at-home mom who said she came to the idea of pushing for the Menendez recall after doing months of research on the law. “It can be [a loss] if we were inclined to roll over and play dead if they don’t agree with our position.”
But “we’re prepared to take it to the U.S. Supreme Court if need be. Sure, [that would] stall the petition drive in New Jersey, but should it go to the U.S. Supreme Court, it literally opens the door to the entire country to do this. This is not Vegas — what happens in Jersey won’t stay in Jersey.”
Not everyone agrees.
“A recall effort of a U.S. senator is a massive waste of time; it’s a legal impossibility,” said Dan Gerstein, a strategist who’s worked for Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman — another frequent target of recall activism, albeit from the left.
“Courts have ruled, it’s a settled matter, and the only thing the tea partiers will do by pursuing it is show how naive and ineffectual they are,” Gerstein added.
A longtime Democratic strategist who’s worked with senators across the country agreed, saying, “Every couple of years, there’s a recall movement that someone tries to push. It never really goes anywhere.”
Democratic strategist Chris Lehane, who watched the recall of Gov. Gray Davis in California up close, said, “The tea party is going to get to the jumping-the-shark phase here.”
If Salanitri and her allies clear the legal hurdle, they have another challenge: As Lehane noted, can they get the 1.3 million valid signatures to get on the state ballot and then succeed where others have failed at becoming a true national movement?
The Davis recall in California, which led to the election of GOP Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2003, was viewed as an earth-shattering expression of voter discontent, but despite the best efforts of its backers, it never stretched beyond the boundaries of the Golden State.
The Davis recall, however, took place under different circumstances — he was a state official, not a federal one, and the law was clear. In the RecallNJ case, Salanitri argues, New Jersey’s broad recall laws ought to apply at the federal level.
One source close to Menendez said the Davis comparison isn’t apt, since California had been facing rolling blackouts, among other problems — all tangible crises that stoked voter outrage.
“There is nothing as outrageous as what California was going through,” said this source of New Jersey’s current political environment.
Another Menendez source said, “We were all a little surprised by it. It kind of came out of nowhere. There was really no basis for it.”
The source said Menendez is using the recall as an opportunity to begin laying the groundwork for his 2012 reelection and views it as an opportunity to start setting contrasts.
“There’s the opportunity to define yourself,” the source said.
Ruben LeBlanc, who’s spearheading the MoveOnMary.org effort that has Landrieu in its sights, said he and Salanitri are part of a coalition, including activists in North Dakota and Colorado, that make up a movement known as Right2Recall.
“I think this is very different” from past recall efforts, said LeBlanc, claiming he’s heard from activists in 39 other states looking at the possibility of testing their state laws to see if they can be used against federal officials. He said interested groups hold conference calls every week.
LeBlanc also said the Louisiana attorney general’s office has told his group it is watching to see the outcome in New Jersey before deciding whether its anti-Landrieu effort can go ahead.
LeBlanc, a registered Republican, bristled at his effort’s being characterized as tea party driven, arguing that he’s had Democrats ask to join his effort.
And while he acknowledged a loss in New Jersey would be a blow, he said the effort “wouldn’t be over, not by a long shot.”
Menendez spokesman Afshin Mohamadi said, “On one hand, you have a tea party organization that wants to protect the foreign corporation responsible for wrecking the Gulf Coast, wants to limit the Civil Rights Act’s ban on discrimination and has called President [Barack] Obama a communist linked to ‘radical blacks.’
“On the other hand, you have a strong leader in the efforts to hold Big Oil, Big Banks and Big Insurance accountable. That’s an easy choice for mainstream New Jersey families.”
While they’re projecting bravado, the fact that the case has reached the state’s high court has moved New Jersey Democrats to become more aggressive in their pushback, as they try to characterize the efforts as put together by right-wingers going after Menendez on racial grounds because of his Hispanic last name.
Salanitri insisted there was no racial motivation.
“It is so beyond ridiculous,” she said. “We could only pick one. ... Simply, [Menendez] is a younger man, and he’s in better health, and we thought he had a longer career ahead of him.”
Less clear is exactly how the New Jersey court battle — a hugely expensive effort — is being funded. Salanitri said the group now has a 527 committee in place for a legal fund and that lawyer Andrew Schlafly — son of conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly — is handling the case for free so far.
She acknowledged that not every tea party group was on board with the lawsuit, saying some had argued there should be a focus on defeating incumbents up for reelection this year.
“You can’t really paint every tea party with the same brush,” she said.
Salanitri and LeBlanc both emphasized that their Everyman roots were driving them.
“We’re ‘average’ all the way,” Salanitri said cheerily, while LeBlanc, who was in construction but is now unemployed, said, “I’m just a concerned citizen who’s had enough.”
Her husband is a car salesman. Her kids are grown, and she spent years as a Bible teacher who fought against Darwinian theories, writing a book called “GUTs All Tied Up With Strings,” about creationist theories.
Salanitri, a registered Republican who considers herself an “independent,” said she never voted before she was 40 years old and got active only as she got upset about the state of the country.
She and LeBlanc both voiced a wish to “take back our country,” without a clear message of what they would like to do with that control — something Lehane said is going to be to the tea party’s detriment.
“Ultimately, you have to provide people a governing philosophy that has some common sense in it — that is optimistic— and provides some ideas that represent hope — if you truly want to vector the anger into a real sustainable movement,” he said.
“Otherwise, it burns hot but burns fast — and the New Jersey tea party recall effort will signify to many that the tea party folks ... don’t have any real ideas that go at the underlying challenges facing the country.”
Faisal Shahzad, Times Square Car Bomb Suspect, Pleads Guilty To 'Mass Destruction' Charge
First Posted: 06-21-10 05:37 PM | Updated: 06-21-10 10:10 PM
NEW YORK -- Calling himself a Muslim soldier, a defiant Pakistan-born U.S. citizen pleaded guilty Monday to carrying out the failed Times Square car bombing and left a sinister warning that unless the U.S. leaves Muslim lands alone, "we will be attacking U.S."
Wearing a white skull cap, prison smocks and a dark beard, Faisal Shahzad entered the plea in U.S. District Court in Manhattan just days after a federal grand jury indicted him on 10 terrorism and weapons counts, some of which carried mandatory life prison sentences. He pleaded guilty to them all.
U.S. District Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum challenged Shahzad repeatedly with questions such as whether he had worried about killing children in Times Square.
"One has to understand where I'm coming from," Shahzad calmly replied. "I consider myself ... a Muslim soldier."
The 30-year-old described his effort to set off a bomb in an SUV he parked in Times Square on May 1, saying he chose the warm Saturday night because it would be crowded with people he could injure or kill. He said he conspired with the Pakistan Taliban, which provided more than $15,000 to fund his operation.
He explained that he packed his vehicle with three separate bomb components, hoping to set off a fertilizer-fueled bomb packed in a gun cabinet, a set of propane tanks and gas canisters rigged with fireworks to explode into a fireball. He also revealed he was carrying a folding assault rifle for "self-defense."
Shahzad said he lit a fuse and waited 2 1/2 to five minutes for the bomb to erupt.
"I was waiting to hear a sound but I didn't hear a sound. ... So I walked to Grand Central and went home," he said.
Shahzad dismissed the judge's question about the children by saying the U.S. didn't care when children were killed in Muslim countries.
"It's a war. I am part of the answer to the U.S. terrorizing the Muslim nations and the Muslim people," he said. "On behalf of that, I'm revenging the attack. Living in the United States, Americans only care about their people, but they don't care about the people elsewhere in the world when they die."
Cedarbaum also asked Shahzad if he understood that the people in Times Square might not have anything to do with what happened overseas.
"The people select the government. We consider them all the same," Shahzad said during the hour-long hearing.
Shahzad made the plea and an accompanying statement as Cedarbaum began asking him a lengthy series of questions to ensure he understood his rights.
She asked him if he understood some charges carried mandatory life sentences and that he might spend the rest of his life in prison. He said he did.
At one point, she asked him if he was sure he wanted to plead guilty.
He said he wanted "to plead guilty and 100 times more" to let the U.S. know that if it did not get out of Iraq and Afghanistan, halt drone attacks and stop meddling in Muslim lands, "we will be attacking U.S."
Sentencing was scheduled for Oct. 5.
The Bridgeport, Conn., resident was arrested trying to leave the country May 3, two days after the bomb failed to ignite near a Broadway theater.
Authorities said Shahzad immediately cooperated, delaying his initial court appearance for two weeks as he spilled details of a plot meant to sow terror in the world-famous Times Square on a warm Saturday night when it was packed with thousands of potential victims.
The bomb apparently sputtered, emitting smoke that attracted the attention of an alert street vendor, who notified police, setting in motion a rapid evacuation of blocks of a city still healing from the shock of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.
According to the indictment issued last week, Shahzad received a total of $12,000 prior to the attack from the Pakistani Taliban through cash drop-offs in Massachusetts and Long Island.
Attorney General Eric Holder said after the plea: "Faisal Shahzad plotted and launched an attack that could have led to serious loss of life, and today the American criminal justice system ensured that he will pay the price for his actions."
FBI New York Acting Assistant Director-in-Charge George Venizelos called the plea "right on the mark" and praised the work of "ordinary citizens who alerted law enforcement of suspicious activity."
Shahzad was accused in the indictment of receiving explosives training in Waziristan, Pakistan, during a five-week trip to that country. He returned to the United States in February.
The indictment said he received $5,000 in cash on Feb. 25 from a co-conspirator in Pakistan and $7,000 more on April 10, allegedly sent at the co-conspirator's direction. Shahzad said in court Monday that the Pakistan Taliban gave him more than $4,000 when he left training camp.
Shahzad, born in Pakistan, moved to the United States when he was 18.
Pakistan has arrested at least 11 people since the attempted attack. An intelligence official has alleged two of them played a role in the plot. No one has been charged.
Three men in Massachusetts and Maine suspected of supplying money to Shahzad have been detained on immigration charges; one was recently transferred to New York.
Federal authorities have said they believe money was channeled through an underground money transfer network known as "hawala," but they have said they doubt anyone in the U.S. who provided money knew what it was for.
White House Defends Obama's Golfing: Does Us All Some Good
First Posted: 06-21-10 01:43 PM | Updated: 06-21-10 02:35 PM
The Obama administration on Monday brushed off Republican criticism that the president should be spending less time on the golf course and more time focusing on the Gulf, saying it did the country more good than harm for Obama to get some "alone time"
"All of those issues that the president is dealing with, I think a little time to himself on Father's Day weekend probably does us all good as American citizens that our president is taken that time," said spokesman Bill Burton, who was filling in for White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs at the daily briefing. "I don't think that there is a person in this country that doesn't think the president ought to have a little time to clear his mind."
Over the weekend, the Republican National Committee hammered the president for playing 18 holes with several friends on Saturday. The golf-centered critique has been levied during previous outings -- owing primarily to the semblance of hypocrisy (George W. Bush was often ridiculed by Democrats for his golf and ranch outings). But the voices grew louder once the Obama White House rebuked BP CEO Tony Hayward for attending a yacht race two days earlier.
On Monday, Burton seemed to moderate that Hayward criticism (perhaps aware of the optics of Obama's golf outing). The BP CEO was welcome to bring his boat to the Gulf, he said, provided there was a skimmer on it.
"For starters, I welcome his yacht to the gulf," said Burton when asked about the comparison between Hayward yachting and Obama golfing.
Ninety Percent of Stroke Risk Due to 10 Risk Factors
Eighty percent of stroke risk due to five lifestyle factors, international study findsEd Edelson
FRIDAY, June 18 (HealthDay News) -- A large international study has found that 10 risk factors account for 90 percent of all the risk of stroke, with high blood pressure playing the most potent role.
Of that list, five risk factors usually related to lifestyle -- high blood pressure, smoking, abdominal obesity, diet and physical activity -- are responsible for a full 80 percent of all stroke risk, according to the researchers.
The findings come the INTERSTROKE study, a standardized case-control study of 3,000 people who had had strokes and an equal number of healthy individuals with no history of stroke from 22 countries. It was published online June 18 in The Lancet.
The study -- slated to be presented Friday at the World Congress on Cardiology in Beijing -- reports that the 10 factors significantly associated with stroke risk are high blood pressure, smoking, physical activity, waist-to-hip ratio (abdominal obesity), diet, blood lipid (fat) levels, diabetes, alcohol intake, stress and depression, and heart disorders.
Across the board, high blood pressure was the most important factor, accounting for one-third of all stroke risk.
"It's important that most of the risk factors associated with stroke are modifiable," said Dr. Martin J. O'Donnell, an associate professor of medicine at McMaster University in Canada, who helped lead the study. "If they are controlled, it could have a considerable impact on the incidence of stroke."
Controlling blood pressure is important, he said, because it plays a major role in both forms of stroke: ischemic, the most common form (caused by blockage of a brain blood vessel), and hemorrhagic or bleeding stroke, in which a blood vessel in the brain bursts.
In contrast, levels of blood lipids such as cholesterol were important in the risk of ischemic stroke, but not hemorrhagic stroke.
"The most important thing about hypertension is its controllability," O'Donnell said. "Blood pressure is easily measured, and there are lots of treatments."
Lifestyle measures to control blood pressure include reduction of salt intake and increasing physical activity, he said.
He added that the other risk factors -- smoking, abdominal obesity, diet and physical activity -- in the top five contributors to stroke risk were modifiable as well.
High intake of fish and fruits, for example, were associated with a lower risk of stroke, according to the study.
The researchers pointed out several potential limitations of the study, including the sample size, which they said "might be inadequate to provide reliable information" about the importance of each risk factor in different regions and ethnic groups.
Many of the same risk factors have cropped up in other studies, but this is the first stroke risk study to include both low- and middle-income participants in developing countries and to include a brain scan of all participating stroke survivors, according to the researchers.
The countries joining in the study were Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Croatia, Denmark, Ecuador, Germany, India, Iran, Malaysia, Mozambique, Nigeria, Peru, Philippines, Poland, South Africa, Sudan and Uganda.
The INTERSTROKE study confirms that high blood pressure "is the leading cause of stroke in developing countries" as well as developed nations, Dr. Jack V. Tu, of the University of Toronto, wrote in an accompanying editorial. He added that it highlighted the need for health authorities in those countries to develop strategies to reduce high blood pressure, salt intake and other risk factors.
A second phase of the INTERSTROKE study is underway, with researchers looking at the importance of risk factors in different regions, ethnic groups and types of ischemic stroke. They'll also study the association between genetics and stroke risk. The researchers plan to enroll 20,000 participants.
Dr. Larry B. Goldstein, director of the Duke Stroke Center, noted that the study underscored what's already known about stroke risk.
"The bottom line is that the risk factors for low- and middle-income countries seem to be pretty similar to those of Western countries," Goldstein said. "The findings reiterate the importance of attention to lifestyle factors in stroke risk -- diet, smoking, physical activity."
David Jungerman farms 6,800 acres of river bottom land in western Missouri.
He’s not the kind of guy who posts on Twitter or has a Facebook profile.
So when the 72-year-old Raytown man wanted to speak out politically, he used what he had handy: a 45-foot-long, semi-truck box trailer.
Are you a Producer or Parasite
Democrats - Party of the Parasites
He planted the trailer with its professionally painted message in his Bates County cornfield along heavily traveled U.S. 71 about an hour south of Kansas City. He wanted lots of people to see it.
They did. Including at least one with a good case of outrage, matches and a can of gas.
On May 12, Jungerman’s trailer was torched. The Rich Hill volunteer fire department responded. A week later, it was set afire again. The firefighters put it out again.
Then flames erupted in an empty farm house that Jungerman owns.
“They don’t like free speech,” said Jungerman. He put out a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.
The sign is harder to read now because some of the letters are charred; the trailer tires burnt to nothing.
“Things are getting a little out of hand out there,” said Chief Deputy Justin Moreland of the Bates County Sheriff’s Office.
Local Democrats don’t want to be linked to the arsons. Jungerman has every right to speak his mind, said Kay Caskey, a Bates County Democrat and wife of longtime state Sen. Harold Caskey.
“Obviously our country is in disarray now because of economics, jobs and foreclosures,” she said. “We are hurting as a country. But there are too many people who want to tear it down instead of build it up. Yes, there is anger out there, and we are a long way from Washington.
“This man has a right to do what he did, but around here some people might wonder at what point do you cross the line?”
Jungerman said he didn’t mean to direct his sign at local Democrats. Many of those are old-fashioned Harry Truman Democrats, he said.
“They’re more conservative than many Republicans,” he said. “I should have put an ad in the paper to explain that. No, I meant the national Democrat parasite base that is sucking this country dry. The ones that just take from the government and not give anything back.”
Jungerman says he’s not even a die-hard Republican. He voted for Claire McCaskill when she won a U.S. Senate seat in 2006.
He put the sign out to make a point, but also to stir up some fun.
“You should have heard the truckers talking on the CB radio,” he said with a chuckle. “One would like the sign and another would tell him to pull over up ahead so he could whup him.”
Jungerman grew up on a farm, but got tired of the tail of a Jersey milk cow hitting him in the face so he told his father he was going to town to get a job.
“I’ve worked 80 to 90 hours a week ever since,” he said.
He’s a staunch believer in personal responsibility. In 1990, he and his daughter confronted four teens they caught fishing in a pond on their Raytown land. The boys called them names and threatened them, Jungerman said, and one spit on Jungerman’s daughter.
Jungerman pulled a snub-nosed .38-caliber and held them until police arrived.
The police, however, arrested him, took his Rolex watch and threw him in jail. The next day when he made bail, police did not return the watch. They said they didn’t remember him having one.
He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor gun charge.
Five years later, against advice, he sued the city of Raytown for the value of the watch. He represented himself in a three-day trial that he won. But the judge overturned the verdict and the jury’s award of $9,175.
Jungerman appealed, won again and got his money.
Today, he owns a baby furniture company called Baby-Tenda Corp. at 123 S. Belmont in Kansas City’s Northeast area. He manages to get down to his farmland two or three times a week.
His problem now is that corn is looking good. Soon, it will obscure his trailer sign from highway traffic.
“Well, I would have pulled it out of there by now if they hadn’t burned the tires off.”
Posted on Sat, Jun. 19, 2010 10:15 P
Read more: http://www.kansascity.com/2010/06/19/2029960/missouri-mans-incendiary-sign.html#ixzz0rUiuTJmd
Sat, Jun. 19, 2010
Will Smith's friend a big target for armed robber
Philadelphia Daily News
No one - not even the dumbest criminal in the world - would try to rob a 6-foot-7, 280-pound man, right?
Police said a knuckleheaded crook made that very mistake when he tried to hold up Charles "Charlie Mack" Alston, a human skyscraper and friend to Hollywood stars, at a West Philly gas station early yesterday.
It took Alston all of a few seconds to overpower the robber, who was armed - but about eight inches shorter and 80 pounds lighter.
"I guess he felt like he had the upper hand because he had a gun," shrugged Alston, 44, a movie producer, hip-hop-recording manager and longtime pal of Will Smith.
"He was wrong."
Alston said his encounter with the gun-toting thug went something like this:
Shortly after midnight, he pulled into the Sunoco A-Plus minimarket at 38th Street and Girard Avenue in his BMW convertible to get gas.
He chatted on the phone with his daughter, who was celebrating her 21st birthday, and bought a T-shirt from a street vendor nearby.
When he got back into his BMW, he said, "This dude runs up and puts a gun in my stomach.
"I'm looking at him, and he's feeling in my pocket, going, 'Where's the money at? Where's the money at?' "
Alston, a Philly native, said he motioned to a pocket on his right leg that contained about $3,000 in cash.
"I already got two thoughts in my mind: That this dude is not going to let me leave if he gets the money. He's going to shoot me," he said. "And, I'm not going to let him leave."
Alston said he pulled out the cash and immediately grabbed onto the man's gun, then forced the crook to the ground.
The robber screamed for help, Alston said, and then bit Alston on the right hand and scratched his face.
Police said the crook took off after Alston got control of his gun, but not before grabbing about $2,700 of Alston's money.
Alston, who lost two brothers to gun violence and whose annual summer "Party 4 Peace Celebrity Weekend" will again draw celebrities and star athletes to the city July 23-25, said he feels bad for his assailant.
"We never know what the circumstance is," Mack said. "He could be a bad seed, or trying to feed his seed. To me, it's sad."
STEVEN M. FALK / Staff photographer Community activist Charles "Charlie Mack" Alston talks about the man who attacked him.
Michael Jackson a billion-dollar man
Sun Jun 20, 10:44 pm ET
NEW YORK (Billboard) – Michael Jackson's estate has generated at least $1 billion in revenues since the singer died a year ago, thanks in part to a lucrative new record deal with Sony Music and the most successful concert film of all time, according to Billboard estimates.
Through interviews with industry experts and some number-crunching, Billboard examines the various music-based revenue streams flowing into the estate.
MUSIC SALES -- VALUE: $429 MILLION
Since his death, Jackson has sold about 9 million albums in the United States, while the Jackson 5 and the Jacksons have sold about 800,000 units, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Outside the States, Jackson's album sales for the past year stand at around 24 million units. Based on a blended worldwide retail sales price of $11.62 ($12.30 per unit less mechanical royalties), Billboard estimates that Jackson's album catalog generated about $383 million in sales.
On the digital side, Jackson's songs have generated 12.9 million track downloads in the United States in the past 12 months, according to SoundScan. Based on those figures, Billboard estimates that the total number of worldwide downloads is about 26.5 million units, with a value of $34 million (net of mechanical royalties).
Jackson's ringtone sales totaled 1.5 million last year in the States, with the bulk coming after his death. Digital ringtones sales worldwide are about twice that stateside, which brings Jackson's global ringtone tally to 3 million. At $2 per unit, ringtone revenue was about $5 million last year (net of mechanical royalties).
Monies generated from subscription services and digital performance royalties typically amount to about one-third that of mobile revenue, so Jackson's catalog probably generated about $2 million from those streams.
U.S. digital performance royalties represent about 13% of the revenue generated by single track downloads. Applying that rate to global track sales, Jackson's recording catalog generated another $4.5 million from global digital performances.
FILM/TV -- VALUE: $392 MILLION
Sony Pictures bought Jackson's rehearsal footage from AEG for $60 million. In retrospect, the price was something of a bargain. "Michael Jackson: This Is It" was released October 28, 2009, and earned $72 million at the U.S. box office, according to BoxOfficeMojo.com, making it the highest-grossing concert film in history.
Overseas, the film earned $188 million at the box office; of that, $56 million was tallied in Japan alone. After AEG recouped the company's investment of more than $35 million in the canceled shows at London's O2 and the film, the bulk of the theatrical take -- court documents indicate it could be as high as 90% -- went to Jackson's estate.
On the home video front, the "This Is It" DVD has earned $43 million in U.S. sales, with 2.7 million units sold since its January 26 release, according to The-Numbers.com, a division of Nash Information Services. Nash estimates the film made another $25 million in rental revenue.
In Japan -- where the film was also sold as part of a special "This Is It" bundle for the PlayStation 3 -- DVD sales topped $18 million on its first day of release; 351,000 Blu-ray copies have been sold, according to rankings service Oricon, adding about $7 million to the total.
In terms of TV, the industry standard is that exclusive rights for ad-supported TV costs 12% of the domestic box office for a four-year window; this rule of thumb is in flux, however, as the length of exclusive windows extend and the number of outlets involved in the deals increase. In November 2009, Viacom purchased the exclusive U.S. TV rights to air "This Is It" on its MTV and BET family of networks -- including VH1 and Palladia, as well as MTV and BET -- for six years. Given the additional years in the contract and the film's box-office tally, the deal could be worth upwards of $15 million. (By contrast, FX is reported to have paid between $25 million and $30 million for just the U.S. commercial TV rights to "Avatar.")
With its family-friendly rating, "This Is It" can be shown in all distribution media outside of traditional theaters, including airplanes, cruise ships and hotel chains. Licensing fees for nontheatrical performances vary based on the movie and its potential reach and how long it will air after it debuts in theaters, but it's generally forecast to be about 7% of total revenue for a film. For "This Is It," that puts the number at $24 million.
MUSIC PUBLISHING -- VALUE: $130 MILLION
Jackson's music publishing company, Mijac, is administered by Warner/Chappell. Based on a reported value for Mijac of at least $75 million in 2005, Billboard estimates Mijac currently has a value of around $150 million. At that value, it generates about $25 million per year in revenue. In the last 12 months, according to sources, that number could have doubled to as much as $50 million.
Jackson also owns half of Sony/ATV, formed in 1995 when Sony paid Jackson $90 million for 50% of ATV Music Publishing. Barry Massarsky of Massarsky Consulting says that Sony/ATV is comparable to BMG Music Publishing two years ago when Universal Music Group acquired it for $2 billion. Massarsky estimates Sony/ATV is worth about 80% of BMG at the time of acquisition, or $1.6 billion. Jackson's share is half that, or $800 million. Based on a multiple of eight to 10 times net publisher's share, Jackson's share of the company's revenue is $80 million per year.
LICENSING/TOURING -- VALUE: $35 MILLION
Despite being canceled, the 50-show This Is It tour at London's O2 paid big dividends. Revenue from tickets retained by fans as souvenirs and not refunded brought in an estimated $6.5 million, and Bravado's This Is It concert merchandise brought in $5 million, both less AEG's share.
An AEG-produced Jackson memorabilia exhibit is showing in Japan and has brought in another estimated $3.5 million to the estate. Plans call for the exhibit to head to China.
Last August, Bravado followed its AEG/This Is It merch deal with a new pact with the Jackson estate that included a $10 million advance, sources say.
Based on conversations with insiders, Billboard estimates licensing royalties and retail sales accounted for another $10 million in revenue to the Jackson estate. Actual retail sales were far greater.
This week, gaming company Ubisoft announced it will release a dance-oriented Jackson videogame in time for the holiday season. Licensing fees weren't disclosed.
Finally, sources say there wasn't any advance on royalties and no guarantees paid for the estate's two-pronged deal with Cirque du Soleil for a tour and a Las Vegas residency, a deal structure in line with past Cirque tributes to the Beatles and Elvis Presley. After startup costs are shared by the estate and Cirque, revenue will come from box-office receipts and other ancillaries associated with the projects.
The financial tragedy here is what might have been. Billboard reported before Jackson's death that the O2 shows would gross up to $100 million and merch possibly another $15 million. Beyond that, AEG had a 36-month global touring plan in place with Jackson had the run successfully been completed.
RECORDING CONTRACT -- VALUE: $31 MILLION
In March, Sony Music Entertainment reached a deal with Jackson's estate to release 10 albums of the singer's music through 2017. The albums' content will vary -- a collection of previously unreleased tracks is expected in November and a reissue of 1979's "Off the Wall" is expected next year. All told, the estate is guaranteed between $200 million and $250 million for the deal. Some of that amount was likely paid in an advance. No albums have yet been released, however. If just one of the contract's eight years is recognized, that would add $31 million to the money the estate received in the last 12 months.
At the time of the deal, John Branca, who serves as special administrator for the estate alongside John McClain, said that Elvis is the model for Jackson's legacy. "To this day, there's interest in Elvis," he said. "And I think there will be enduring interest in Michael. It's our job to continue to expose Michael to new generations."
June 20, 2010
Historical perspective needed in NBA's 'best ever' debate
FREE PRESS COLUMN
The need for instant historical judgment belittles the definition of true NBA immortality. Why the rush in determining where Kobe Bryant ranks among the all-time greats? I don't believe he announced his retirement upon winning his fifth NBA championship.
But such limited perspective is inevitable in a sport cursed with the attention span the size of a flea. If it didn't happen in the last 5 minutes, it won't register as an actual occurrence.
It's from such narrowness that a ridiculous Michael Jordan or Kobe debate gained traction.
Stop the nonsense right now. Kobe's a great player. He might already rank among the top 10 of all-time. But it's not only crazy suggesting that he and Jordan belong in the same historical sentence, it's sacrilege.
This doesn't happen in baseball or football. But the next guy in basketball must be the best because there's a stubbornness to consider that several aspects of the NBA game could have been better 20, 30 or even 40 years ago.
Baseball embraces its heritage. There's probably only a handful around today who could say they saw Babe Ruth or Lou Gehrig during his peak in the 1920s and '30s, but even the younger baseball historians appreciate what they never saw. Just recite the numbers 714 and 2,130, and they genuflect in reverence.
Jim Brown remains the greatest running back who ever breathed to those whose most vivid personal recollection of him is that of the B movie star. But they trust their elders' stories of Brown as that unstoppable combination of pizzazz and punishment back when 1,000 yards rushing really meant something.
But if you didn't see it in the NBA, it somehow can't qualify when compared with a modern standard.
You're too young to remember and thus appreciate Bill Russell's dominance (11 NBA championships) in the 1960s? Read an NBA history book. Watch a video retrospective of those great Boston teams. You think the NBA athleticism today is unmatched, then try explaining why we've still never seen a 7-footer as physically punishing in the paint yet artistically graceful off the dribble as Wilt Chamberlain more than 40 years ago?
Kobe was a dog offensively in the Lakers' Game 7 victory over Boston in the NBA Finals on Thursday night. He contributed rebounds and played well defensively, but there were too many occasions in that ultimate championship moment where you wondered if Kobe was even on the floor.
That never happened with Jordan, or Russell, or Magic, or Bird.
LINK TO HISTORY OF FATHER'S DAY
It's not just Republicans keeping Reid's tax extenders legislation from advancing
06/19/10 12:15 PM ET
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has blamed back-to-back defeats in advancing the so-called tax extenders bill — which extends unemployment insurance — on GOP opposition.
“The Republicans would not allow people who are out of work unemployment compensation. It’s hard for me to comprehend,” Reid said after the bill’s second failure.
But some members of the majority leader’s own party have been steadfast in opposing the legislation, too. And their message couldn’t be clearer on what it will take to win their support for the measure: Pay for it.
Sens. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) have yet to support the extender bill, but their votes are crucial for passage. Both have said their backing of the package is contingent on it being fully paid for.
“Senator Lieberman understands that millions of Americans are faced with difficult economic times but he believes that it will only further jeopardize our economic future and prospects for job creation if Congress continues to pass unfunded spending bills that add to the deficit and deepen the national debt,” Marshall Wittmann, the senator’s communication director, said. “He believes that just as American families must pay their bills, this legislation should be better financed with either unused stimulus money or by additional revenues.”
Lieberman and Nelson on Wednesday opposed a procedural vote on the $140 billion extender bill that would have added approximately $80 billion to the deficit. The measure failed on a 45-52 vote, with 10 Democrats joining them in opposing the bill.
On Thursday, Lieberman and Nelson were the only members of the majority that opposed a slimmed down version of the bill that would have cost $118 billion and added approximately $60 billion to the deficit. The bill failed on a 56-40 vote.
Like Lieberman, Nelson will continue to oppose the bill until it no longer adds to the deficit.
A spokesman noted the senator has “repeatedly said” the bill should be paid for.
Senate Democratic staffers were expected to work through the weekend and come up with an extender package that can win 60 votes, sources told The Hill.
Bringing a fully paid-for bill forward would go a long way toward winning over not just Lieberman and Nelson, but potentially “gettable” Republicans like Maine Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins.
Both lawmakers have repeatedly said a bill that adds to the deficit troubles them. A spokesperson for Collins, Kevin Kelley, said the senator’s position on the issue would not change.
“She is hopeful the Senate will continue negotiations and work quickly to come up with a compromise plan that she can support that provides assistance to those who are struggling and who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own, but that does not add tens of billions of dollars to our already bloated deficit,” Kelley said.
Collins, Snowe and Nelson supported the extender substitute offered by Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) that was defeated, 41 to 57, on Thursday.
Thune’s bill accomplished many of the priorities Democrats have sought by resuscitating business and individual tax breaks that expired last year and extending social spending programs. It was also fully offset, in large part by using unspent stimulus funds, freezing government salaries and allowing companies to delay funding for their pensions.
“The defeat of my amendment was a missed opportunity for Congress to prove they are serious about tackling our dangerous spending habits and $13 trillion national debt,” Thune said in prepared remarks on the heels of his proposal’s defeat.
“The alternative amendment I proposed was a common sense step toward restoring fiscal sanity to our nation's runaway spending and ballooning deficit,” he added.
Senate Democrats on Friday celebrated a partial victory on extenders when they agreed to pull from the bill a fully funded, six-month extension of the so-called “doc fix,” a term that describes a delay in Medicare payment cuts to physicians. The measure was brought to the floor under unanimous consent and was not objected to by a single Republican.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said the proposal’s passage was a win for bipartisanship.
“I think we’ve come up with a proposal that achieves a goal that both sides wanted to achieve, which was to get a doctor fix for at least a six-month period of time and also it is paid for,” McConnell said. “And I think that’s something both sides can feel good about.”
Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) called the development a “good omen.”
“I hope we can take this cooperation and work out the rest of the so-called extenders,” he said.
Barack Obama takes shot at Bobby Jindal on issue of National Guard activation
Saturday, June 19, 2010, 4:00 PM
Largely overlooked in President Barack Obama's Oval Office speech on the Gulf of Mexico oil spill last week was some implied criticism of Gov Bobby Jindal.
Susan Poag,The Times-Picayune archiveGov. Bobby Jindal was photographed June 9 in Grand Isle during a news conference with Major General Bennett C. Landreneau, head of the Louisiana National Guard.
Obama noted that he has authorized the deployment of more than 17,000National Guard members along the coast, with the costs to be paid forby BP. "These servicemen and women are ready to help stop the oil fromcoming ashore, clean beaches, train response workers, or even help withprocessing claims - and I urge the governors in the affected states toactivate these troops as soon as possible," Obama said.
Jindal hasn'tcalled up anywhere close to Louisiana's allotment of 6,000 Guardmembers, though his spokeswoman insists he's called up the numbersrequested and needed to aid the clean-up efforts.
June 18, 2010
Peddling Relief, Firms Put Debtors
in Deeper Hole
Steve Hebert for The New York Times
PORT IN A DEBT STORM Linda Robertson, right, hugs her aunt Helen Day. Ms. Robertson moved in with her in Kansas City, Mo., after she and her son could no longer afford his apartment. Ms. Robertson paid nearly $4,000 into a debt settlement account, but filed for bankruptcy after a credit card company sued her.
PETER S. GOODMAN
PALM BEACH, Fla. — For the companies that promise relief to Americans confronting swelling credit card balances, these are days of lucrative opportunity.
So lucrative, that an industry trade association, the United States Organizations for Bankruptcy Alternatives, recently convened here, in the oceanfront confines of the Four Seasons Resort, to forge deals and plot strategy.
At a well-lubricated evening reception, a steel drum band played Bob Marley songs as hostesses in skimpy dresses draped leis around the necks of arriving entrepreneurs, some with deep tans.
The debt settlement industry can afford some extravagance. The long recession has delivered an abundance of customers — debt-saturated Americans, suffering lost jobs and income, sliding toward bankruptcy. The settlement companies typically harvest fees reaching 15 to 20 percent of the credit card balances carried by their customers, and they tend to collect upfront, regardless of whether a customer’s debt is actually reduced.
State attorneys general from New York to California and consumer watchdogs like the Better Business Bureau say the industry’s proceeds come at the direct expense of financially troubled Americans who are being fleeced of their last dollars with dubious promises.
Consumers rarely emerge from debt settlement programs with their credit card balances eliminated, these critics say, and many wind up worse off, with severely damaged credit, ceaseless threats from collection agents and lawsuits from creditors.
In the Kansas City area, Linda Robertson, 58, rues the day she bought the pitch from a debt settlement company advertising on the radio, promising to spare her from bankruptcy and eliminate her debts. She wound up sending nearly $4,000 into a special account established under the company’s guidance before a credit card company sued her, prompting her to drop out of the program.
By then, her account had only $1,470 remaining: The debt settlement company had collected the rest in fees. She is now filing for bankruptcy.
“They take advantage of vulnerable people,” she said. “When you’re desperate and you’re trying to get out of debt, they take advantage of you.” Debt settlement has swollen to some 2,000 firms, from a niche of perhaps a dozen companies a decade ago, according to trade associations and the Federal Trade Commission, which is completing new rules aimed at curbing abuses within the industry.
Last year, within the industry’s two leading trade associations — the United States Organizations for Bankruptcy Alternatives and the Association of Settlement Companies — some 250 companies collectively had more than 425,000 customers, who had enrolled roughly $11.7 billion in credit card balances in their programs.
As the industry has grown, so have allegations of unfair practices. Since 2004, at least 21 states have brought at least 128 enforcement actions against debt relief companies, according to the National Association of Attorneys General. Consumer complaints received by states more than doubled between 2007 and 2009, according to comments filed with the Federal Trade Commission.
“The industry’s not legitimate,” said Norman Googel, assistant attorney general in West Virginia, which has prosecuted debt settlement companies. “They’re targeting a group of people who are already drowning in debt. We’re talking about middle-class and lower middle-class people who had incomes, but they were using credit cards to survive.”
The industry counters that a few rogue operators have unfairly tarnished the reputations of well-intentioned debt settlement companies that provide a crucial service: liberating Americans from impossible credit card burdens.
With the unemployment rate near double digits and 6.7 million people out of work for six months or longer, many have relied on credit cards. By the middle of last year, 6.5 percent of all accounts were at least 30 days past due, up from less than 4 percent in 2005, according to Moody’s Economy.com.
Yet a 2005 alteration spurred by the financial industry made it harder for Americans to discharge credit card debts through bankruptcy, generating demand for alternatives like debt settlement.
The industry casts itself as a victim of a smear campaign orchestrated by the giant banks that dominate the credit card trade and aim to hang on to the spoils: interest rates of 20 percent or more and exorbitant late fees.
“We’re the little guys in this,” said John Ansbach, the chief lobbyist for the United States Organizations for Bankruptcy Alternatives, better known as Usoba (pronounced you-SO-buh). “We exist to advocate for consumers. Two and a half billion dollars of unsecured debt has been settled by this industry, so how can you take the position that it has no value?”
But consumer watchdogs and state authorities argue that debt settlement companies generally fail to deliver.
In the typical arrangement, the companies direct consumers to set up special accounts and stock them with monthly deposits while skipping their credit card payments. Once balances reach sufficient size, negotiators strike lump-sum settlements with credit card companies that can cut debts in half. The programs generally last two to three years.
“What they don’t tell their customers is when you stop sending the money, creditors get angry,” said Andrew G. Pizor, a staff lawyer at the National Consumer Law Center. “Collection agents call. Sometimes they sue. People think they’re settling their problems and getting some relief, and lo and behold they get slammed with a lawsuit.”
In the case of two debt settlement companies sued last year by New York State, the attorney general alleged that no more than 1 percent of customers gained the services promised by marketers. A Colorado investigation came to a similar conclusion.
The industry’s own figures show that clients typically fail to secure relief. In a survey of its members, the Association of Settlement Companies found that three years after enrolling, only 34 percent of customers had either completed programs or were still saving for settlements.
“The industry is designed almost as a Ponzi scheme,” said Scott Johnson, chief executive of US Debt Resolve, a debt settlement company based in Dallas, which he portrays as a rare island of integrity in a sea of shady competitors. “Consumers come into these programs and pay thousands of dollars and then nothing happens. What they constantly have to have is more consumers coming into the program to come up with the money for more marketing.”
Linda Robertson knew nothing about the industry she was about to encounter when she picked up the phone at her Missouri home in February 2009 in response to a radio ad.
What she knew was that she could no longer manage even the monthly payments on her roughly $23,000 in credit card debt.
So much had come apart so quickly.
Before the recession, Ms. Robertson had been living in Phoenix, earning as much as $8,000 a month as a real estate appraiser. In 2005, she paid $185,000 for a three-bedroom house with a swimming pool and a yard dotted with hibiscus.
When the real estate business collapsed, she gave up her house to foreclosure and moved in with her son. She got a job as a waitress, earning enough to hang on to her car. She tapped credit cards to pay for gasoline and groceries.
By late 2007, she and her son could no longer afford his apartment. She moved home to Kansas City, where an aunt offered a room. She took a job on the night shift at a factory that makes plastic lids for packaged potato chips, earning $11.15 an hour.
Still, her credit card balances swelled.
The radio ad offered the services of a company based in Dallas with a soothing name: Financial Freedom of America. It cast itself as an antidote to the breakdown of middle-class life.
“We negotiate the past while you navigate the future,” read a caption on its Web site, next to a photo of a young woman nose-kissing an adorable boy. “The American Dream. It was never about bailouts or foreclosures. It was always about American values like hard work, ingenuity and looking out for your neighbor.”
When Ms. Robertson called, a customer service representative laid out a plan. Every month, Ms. Robertson would send $427.93 into a new account. Three years later, she would be debt-free. The representative told her the company would take $100 a month as an administrative fee, she recalled. His tone was take-charge.
“You talk about a rush-through,” Ms. Robertson said. “I didn’t even get to read the contract. It was all done. I had to sign it on the computer while he was on the phone. Then he called me back in 10 minutes to say it was done. He made me feel like this was the answer to my problems and I wasn’t going to have to face bankruptcy.”
Ms. Robertson made nine payments, according to Financial Freedom. Late last year, a sheriff’s deputy arrived at her door with court papers: One of her creditors, Capital One, had filed suit to collect roughly $5,000.
Panicked, she called Financial Freedom to seek guidance. “They said, ‘Oh, we don’t have any control over that, and you don’t have enough money in your account for us to settle with them,’ ” she recalled.
Her account held only $1,470, the representative explained, though she had by then deposited more than $3,700. Financial Freedom had taken the rest for its administrative fees, the company confirmed.
Financial Freedom later negotiated for her to make $100 monthly payments toward satisfying her debt to the creditor, but Ms. Robertson rejected that arrangement, no longer trusting the company. She demanded her money back.
She also filed a report with the Better Business Bureau in Dallas, adding to a stack of more than 100 consumer complaints lodged against the company. The bureau gives the company a failing grade of F.
Ms. Robertson received $1,470 back through the closure of her account, and then $1,120 — half the fees that Financial Freedom collected. Her pending bankruptcy has cost her $1,500 in legal fees.
“I trusted them,” she said. “They sounded like they were going to help me out. It’s a rip-off.”
Financial Freedom’s chief executive, Corey Butcher, rejected that characterization.
“We talked to her multiple times and verified the full details,” he said, adding that his company puts every client through a verification process to validate that they understand the risks — from lawsuits to garnished wages.
Intense and brooding, Mr. Butcher speaks of a personal mission to extricate consumers from credit card debt. But roughly half his customers fail to complete the program, he complained, with most of the cancellations coming within the first six months. He pinned the low completion rate on the same lack of discipline that has fostered many American ailments, from obesity to the foreclosure crisis.
“It comes from a lack of commitment,” Mr. Butcher said. “It’s like going and hiring a personal trainer at a health club. Some people act like they have lost the weight already, when actually they have to go to the gym three days a week, use the treadmill, cut back on their eating. They have to stick with it. At some point, the client has to take responsibility for their circumstance.”
Consumer watchdogs point to another reason customers wind up confused and upset: bogus marketing promises.
In April, the United States Government Accountability Office released a report drawing on undercover agents who posed as prospective customers at 20 debt settlement companies. According to the report, 17 of the 20 firms advised clients to stop paying their credit card bills. Some companies marketed their programs as if they had the imprimatur of the federal government, with one advertising itself as a “national debt relief stimulus plan.” Several claimed that 85 to 100 percent of their customers completed their programs.
“The vast majority of companies provided fraudulent and deceptive information,” said Gregory D. Kutz, managing director of forensic audits and special investigations at the G.A.O. in testimony before the Senate Commerce Committee during an April hearing.
At the same hearing, Senator Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat, pressed Mr. Ansbach, the Usoba lobbyist, to explain why his organization refused to disclose its membership.
“The leadership in our trade group candidly was concerned that publishing a list of members ended up being a subpoena list,” Mr. Ansbach said.
“Probably a genuine concern,” Senator McCaskill replied.
The Coming Crackdown
On multiple fronts, state and federal authorities are now taking aim at the industry.
The Federal Trade Commission has proposed banning upfront fees, bringing vociferous lobbying from industry groups. The commission is expected to issue new rules this summer. Senator McCaskill has joined with fellow Democrat Charles E. Schumer of New York to sponsor a bill that would cap fees charged by debt settlement companies at 5 percent of the savings recouped by their customers. Legislation in several states, including New York, California and Illinois, would also cap fees. A new consumer protection agency created as part of the financial regulatory reform bill in Congress could further constrain the industry.
The prospect of regulation hung palpably over the trade show at this Atlantic-side resort, tempering the orchid-adorned buffet tables and poolside tails with a note of foreboding.
“The current debt settlement business model is going to die,” declared Jeffrey S. Tenenbaum, a lawyer in the Washington firm Venable, addressing a packed ballroom. “The only question is who the executioner is going to be.”
That warning did not dislodge the spirit of expansion. Exhibitors paid as much as $4,500 for display space to showcase their wares — software to manage accounts, marketing expertise, call centers — to attendees who came for two days of strategy sessions and networking.
Cody Krebs, a senior account executive from Southern California, manned a booth for LowerMyBills.com, whose Internet ads link customers to debt settlement companies. Like many who have entered the industry, he previously sold subprime mortgages. When that business collapsed, he found refuge selling new products to the same set of customers — people with poor credit.
“It’s been tremendous,” he said. “Business has tripled in the last year and a half.”
The threat of regulations makes securing new customers imperative now, before new rules can take effect, said Matthew G. Hearn, whose firm, Mstars of Minneapolis, trains debt settlement sales staffs. “Do what you have to do to get the deals on the board,” he said, pacing excitedly in front of a podium.
And if some debt settlement companies have gained an unsavory reputation, he added, make that a marketing opportunity.
“We aren’t like them,” Mr. Hearn said. “You need to constantly pitch that. ‘We aren’t bad actors. It’s the ones out there that are.’ ”
Atlanta expected to pay $20,000 to woman arrested for asking a police officer ‘why'
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
4:33 p.m. Friday, June 18, 2010
The Atlanta City Council is expected to agree pay $20,000 to settle a lawsuit a by a 62-year-old woman who was jailed for asking a police officer “why” she and friends had to move from a sidewalk where they were talking about an upcoming funeral.
A council committee has already accepted the city attorney's recommendation to settle the case, but the settlement must be approved by the entire city council. Minnie Carey spent almost 10 hours in jail on a charge of disorderly conduct brought by an officer who already had a troubled history with the Atlanta Police Department.
“It’s resolved,” said Carey's attorney, Robert Ortman.
APD was named in the suit, and a spokesman for the department said Friday that an internal investigation found officer Brandy Dolson "acted within the parameters of department policies and procedures," which complied with national standards. "Those [national] guidelines are based on a set of proven standards that take into account the difficult situations police officers face every day, and the split-second decisions they must make to protect citizens and reduce their own personal risk,” APD public affairs director Carlos Campos said in an e-mail.
This is one of two settlements the council is expected to address on Monday that involve incidents with Atlanta police officers.
If the other proposed settlement is approved, taxpayers will give 22 cab drivers $425,000 to settle a federal lawsuit. The suit says officers confiscated permits and insurance stickers and then immediately cited or arrested the drivers for not having those stickers on their cars. The drivers were targeted because their checks to APD's Division of Taxicabs and Vehicles for Hire were returned; some of those checks were written as long as two years before they were deposited.
Carey’s suit was filed Feb. 17, claiming Dolson violated her civil rights and falsely imprisoned her. The suit also said the city had not given Dolson training that might have led him to respond differently in his encounter with Carey and her friends on a sidewalk outside a convenience store.
“People don’t usually complain unless there’s something really wrong,” Carey said. “If you have people complaining about the same person, it’s time the city take a look into their background.”
Dolson has been suspended without pay for most of this year, but not for the Carey case. APD said it was other, unrelated infractions that led to the disciplinary action.
Dolson could not be reached for comment Friday but he has previously declined to talk about the matter.
The suit said APD had received more than 10 complaints against Dolson but had “failed to adequately investigate the claims and deter him from further misconduct.”
But in the proposed settlement, the city and APD do not admit any wrongdoing.
Before bring the suit, Carey had filed a complaint with the Citizen Review Board, a panel charged with investigating reports of police misconduct. The board found in favor of Carey last February but interim police Chief George Turner rejected that decision.
Around 4 p.m. on March 26, 2009, Carey and her friends were on the sidewalk in front of the Boulevard Lotto convenience store, just a few blocks from downtown Atlanta. They had been talking a few minutes about funeral plans for a woman they all knew when Dolson and his partner pulled up. Dolson told the women to “move it.”
Three women started walking away but Carey didn’t, asking “why” instead.
Dolson’s answer to Carey was “because I said so,” according to records.
“I’m a citizen and I’m a taxpayer and I have a right to be here. I’m merely trying to find out about a sister’s funeral,” Carey responded.
That's when Carey was handcuffed, put in the back of the patrol car and eventually taken to jail on a city ordinance violation charge.
She was released on her own recognizance around 12:30 a.m. the next day, and the disorderly conduct charge was dismissed several weeks later, at the third court hearing, because Dolson failed to appear.
“This arrest was in violation of her rights under … the U.S. Constitution,” the suit said.
The suit also said Carey was subjected to unjustified and excessive force and that she and her friends were targeted because of their race; the police officers also are black.
“He was a lousy police officer. What else can I say?” Carey said in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
LINK TO ORIGINAL STORY
Police: Census worker abused
Suspect ‘tired of’ visitors stopping by
A Chapel Hill man was arrested after allegedly holding a U.S. Census worker against his will
James T. Brewer, 61, 3026 Highway 270, was arrested and charged with aggravated assault and false imprisonment.
Travis Ryder, 20, told deputies Brewer became aggressive toward him when he went to Brewer’s home June 9 to collect Census information. The victim alleged Brewer was aggressive toward him and took the identification badge from his neck, tore up his census documents and took the keys from his truck, according to an incident report.
The report states Brewer then took Ryder to an outbuilding on his property, melted a Coca-Cola can with a blow torch and asked the census worker if he knew what physical injury the blow torch would do to his hand.
Ryder told authorities throughout the ordeal Brewer acted as if he had a weapon in his pocket and told him that no more census workers should come to his home or “they might not leave.”
Brewer later told authorities he was only trying to scare the worker, saying four others had already been to his home and “he was tired of it.”
He was released from Marshall County Jail after posting $8,500 bond.
Census workers have increasingly been the target of violence.
Since late April, there have been 252 incidents nationwide in which Census workers were threatened or harmed — 86 of which involved weapons such as guns, axes and crossbows — according to The Washington Post.
Ron Lindsey, branch manager for the Columbia census office, said a few of his 800 workers have come across minor incidents since starting their canvas of the area in April.
None of the incidents have been as serious as Friday’s alleged event, Lindsey said.
“Most of it is people not wanting to deal with the public,” he said.
Lindsey said residents do not need to be concerned about workers giving out their private information.
He said Ryder was ready to go back to work the next day.
“He’s a trooper,” Lindsey said.
Jun 16, 2010 - 16:31:43 EDT.
LINK TO PHOTO
Foreclosure crisis hits minorities harder
African-Americans and Latinos are losing their homes to foreclosure at a higher rate than whites.
June 18, 2010: 2:27 PM ET
NEW YORK --CNN Money -- The mortgage meltdown is hitting the African-American and Latino communities harder than whites, a new study has found.
Of borrowers who took out mortgages between 2005 and 2008, some 8% of both African-American and Latino borrowers have lost their homes to foreclosure, compared to 4.5% of non-Hispanic whites, according to a study by the Center for Responsible Lending, released Friday.
The racial and ethnic disparities continued even after controlling for income differences. The center's research shows that African-American and Latino borrowers were about 30% more likely to get higher-rate subprime loans than white borrowers with similiar risk characteristics.
Of the total pool of homeowners, 17% of Latinos have lost their homes to foreclosure or are at imminent risk of losing their homes, while 11% of African-Americans are in that position. By comparison, 7% of non-Hispanic whites have lost their homes or are about to.
The reason for the disparity is that African-Americans and Latinos were marketed riskier, higher-cost loans that became unaffordable during the mortgage and economic crisis, said Keith Ernst, the center's director of research.
"These are more expensive mortgages," he said. "They are more likely to fail."
African-American and Latino communities are likely to lose $373 billion in declining property values between 2009 and 2012.
The report also found that an estimated 2.5 million foreclosures were completed between 2007 and the end of 2009. This is roughly one in every 20 mortgages outstanding at the time of the crisis.
More than eight in 10 of these foreclosures were on owner-occupied homes with mortgage originated between 2005 and 2008.
An estimated 5.7 additional foreclosures are imminent.
"This crisis still has a long way to go," Ernst said.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (CBS)
Watch a video report from WPRI here
Antiabortion message for specialty plate
Woman worked on effort for 7 years
Massachusetts, a state known for its liberal political climate, is about to offer motorists specialty license plates that express opposition to abortion rights.
The new “Choose Life’’ plate, which features an illustration of a woman cradling an infant, becomes one of 18 Massachusetts tags that provide publicity and funding for causes, including breast cancer research, youth hockey, and environmental preservation. They cost drivers $90 every two years.
After the state recoups the cost of producing the “Choose Life’’ plates, the proceeds will go to organizations that encourage women with unwanted pregnancies to consider options other than abortion, such as adoption.
Massachusetts is only the second New England state, after Connecticut, to offer the “Choose Life’’ plates.
First offered by Florida a decade ago and now available in about two dozen states, the plates are coming to Massachusetts because of an often lonely campaign begun in 2003 by Merry Nordeen, 47, a secretary at St. Joseph Parish in Wakefield.
“I prayed really hard for this — I prayed for seven years, and God didn’t disappoint me,’’ she said in a phone interview.
Her goals, she said, are to raise money for groups that counsel women with unplanned pregnancies to consider adoption, or provide financial support to help the woman raise her child if money is tight, as well as to “give people a way to spread the message about life and . . . to get that message to the people who need to see it.’’
Some abortion-rights groups have criticized the plates. But legislative approval is not required in Massachusetts to create specialty tags. Any registered charitable organization can submit a design to the Registry of Motor Vehicles, post a $100,000 bond to protect the state from financial loss, and obtain applications and fees from at least 1,500 drivers who want the new plates. The state returns the bond if more than 3,000 of the specialty plates sell within two years.
“The statute governing the issuance of special plates is very clear,’’ Adam Hurtubise, a spokesman for the Department of Transportation, said in a statement yesterday. “The group seeking this special plate met all the statutory requirements for a special plate.’’
The $90 two-year fee includes $40 for the specialty plates, plus a $50 two-year registration fee. The state will retain $12 of the $40 fee to cover the cost of printing the plates. The remaining $28 balance will go to Choose Life Inc., a Massachusetts nonprofit that says it will direct the money to organizations that counsel women with unplanned pregnancies and that do not “counsel in or refer for abortion.’’ When a plate is renewed, the full $40 fee will go to Choose Life Inc.
Andrea Miller, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts, said she fears the plates “will funnel money to organizations that provide false, misleading, medically inaccurate, and in fact disproven information to women who have unintended pregnancies and who are seeking guidance about what their options are.’’
But she said NARAL had no plans to create a plate promoting abortion rights or to mount a legal challenge.
Nordeen credited a group at St. William’s Church in Tewksbury and other volunteers, including many people from Catholic parishes, with helping her sign up about 1,700 customers. An anonymous donor provided the $100,000 bond, she said.
Brigitte Amiri, a senior staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union’s Reproductive Freedom Project, said legal challenges to the “Choose Life’’ plates generally fall into two general categories: those where proponents have challenged a state’s denial of their application and cases where a state has approved a “Choose Life’’ plate but not provided an equal opportunity for a pro-abortion rights plate.
Courts have disagreed over whether the message on the plates represents government speech or private speech, and whether the government has the responsibility to offer the same opportunity to both sides.
“The courts are all over the map,’’ Amiri said. “I would say that the predominant view is that the license plates are a combination of private speech and government speech, and as a result, the government can’t unfairly pick and choose among which messages it wants on its plates.’’
In South Carolina, the state chapter of Planned Parenthood sued when the Legislature passed a law establishing the “Choose Life’’ plates without also approving a similar plate supporting abortion rights. A federal appeals court found that the government had engaged in viewpoint discrimination. South Carolina lawmakers then used an administrative process for specialty plates to approve the “Choose Life’’ plates a second time, said Amiri.
In Illinois, “Choose Life’’ proponents lost their battle when a federal appeals court upheld the Legislature’s refusal to allow plates that discussed abortion. The court said the government could prohibit categories of content, as long as it did not promote one viewpoint over the other.
But in Tennessee, where the Legislature approved a “Choose Life’’ plate but not a plate with the opposing view, a US appellate court found that the message on the plate was permissible because it was government speech, and the Legislature had a right to author its own message — particularly since purchasing the plates was voluntary.
In Massachusetts a lawsuit does not appear imminent.
“There is a procedure for any organization that wants to get plates like this to follow, and it is open to everyone,’’ said Christopher Ott, a spokesman for the ACLU of Massachusetts.
Worldwide, Muslims leery of Obama
US image better in other countriesAlan Fram
WASHINGTON — Muslims around the globe remain uneasy about the United States and are increasingly disenchanted with President Obama, according to a poll that suggests his drive to improve relations with the Muslim world has had little impact.
There is one glaring exception: Mexico, where 62 percent expressed favorable views of the United States just days before an Arizona law cracking down on illegal immigrants was signed in April, but only 44 percent did so afterward.
The findings by the Pew Global Attitudes Project, conducted in April and May in the United States and 21 other countries by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center, come amid a global economic downturn and US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The poll has been polling people around the world since 2002.
Among the seven countries surveyed with substantial Muslim populations, the United States was seen favorably by 17 percent in Egypt, Turkey, and Pakistan and 21 percent in Jordan. The United States’ positive rating was 52 percent in Lebanon, 59 percent in Indonesia, and 81 percent in Nigeria, where Muslims comprise about half the population.
Few of those figures were improvements from last year. Approval dipped slightly in Jordan and in Indonesia, where Obama spent several years growing up. Egypt saw a 10-point drop, even though Obama gave a widely promoted June 2009 speech in Cairo aimed at reaching out to the Muslim world.
In all seven of those countries, the percentage of Muslims expressing confidence in Obama has also dropped since last year. Only in Nigeria and Indonesia do majorities of Muslims voice confidence in him; just 8 percent in Pakistan do.
“You get a sense of Muslim disappointment with Barack Obama,’’ said Andy Kohut, the Pew president, who attributed it to discontent with US policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and to expectations raised by Obama’s Cairo speech.
The surveys were taken before Israel’s deadly May 31 clash with a flotilla trying to break the blockade of Hamas-controlled Gaza, which sparked widespread condemnation of Israel.
In the rest of the world, the United States and Obama generally fare better.
The 6 in 10 in Germany and Spain who view the United States favorably has doubled from the lows reached under Bush. The US image is also significantly better than it was under Bush in Russia, China, France, Argentina, South Korea, and Japan. Obama is broadly supported, but the percentages expressing confidence in him have ebbed in 14 countries polled.
In only five countries do majorities think the United States considers other nations when setting its foreign policy. Support for US antiterrorism efforts and Obama’s handling of economic problems is generally strong, but there is significant opposition to American involvement in Afghanistan and little faith that a stable government will emerge in Iraq.
VP: Barton's claim is 'outrageous'
06/17/10 4:00 PM
The vice president calls Rep. Joe Barton's comments 'out of touch.' AP Close
Vice President Biden said Thursday that Rep. Joe Barton’s accusation that the White House had arranged a “$20 billion shakedown” with BP is “outrageous.”
"I find it incredibly insensitive, incredibly out of touch,” Biden said at the White House daily briefing.
"There's no shakedown," he added. "I find it outrageous to suggest that if in fact we insisted that BP demonstrate their preparedness to put aside billions of dollars ... to take care of the immediate needs of people who are drowning."
Gulf residents "don't have deep pockets," Biden said, adding that Barton's comment was "astounding."
LINK TO VIDEO
Guess who isn't too uptight about about pot: Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. Key word there: Alaska. Ain't no thing there, as Comrade Fagan recently reminded us.
Mama Grizzly told the Fox Biz Network:
"If somebody's gonna to smoke a joint in their house and not do anybody any harm, then perhaps there are other things our cops should be looking at to engage in and try to clean up some of the other problems we have in society."
Palin is not for legalization. No. But she thinks the fuzz should "not concentrate on such a, relatively speaking, minimal problem we have in the country."
Even without endorsing legalization, Palin's comments could be a fever dream for the green-budders who want to pass a law in California to legalize and tax cannabis. To have a conservative bold-face name like Palin come out and say it's not a big deal...is a big deal.
Meanwhile -- as we first noted a while back -- more unions are announcing their support for California's legalization effort. On Thursday, the Communications Workers of America (CW), Local 9415, said it was all in.
"The labor movement is coming together behind this initiative," said Sally Venable, President of CWA, Local 9415. "With California's state budget in disarray, and people out of work, it's time to harness this incredible revenue stream and create tens of thousands of high quality, union jobs, by controlling and taxing cannabis in California.â€�
June 17 2010 at 06:32 PM
Clayton jailers' blunder frees 4 inmates
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
A Clayton County sheriff's spokesman said Thursday that corrections officers' failure to fingerprint prisoners resulted in the improper release of at least four inmates from the county jail.
Sgt. Sonja Sanchez, spokeswoman for the Clayton County Sheriff's Office, told the AJC on Thursday that the corrections officers could have done several things to prevent the incident from occurring, but "the bottom line is they didn't fingerprint" and the inmates were released after giving false identities.
"Had they fingerprinted, they would have been able to ID them," she said.
Three of the inmates have been captured by the fugitive task force, but one, Jonathan Lemons, remains at large. Lemons, who was arrested under the name Michael A. Turner, was originally charged for violating probation following his arrest on drug charges, Sanchez said.
Sheriff Kem Kimbrough Sr. told CBS Atlanta the corrections officers didn't follow proper procedure when checking the identity of the four inmates, who were released in late April and early May.
Kimbrough told the station that corrections officers, including supervisors, were lazy when it came to checking identities and that they believed what the inmates told them without verifying it.
“These corrections officers, that included supervisors, were just lazy,” Kembrough told CBS Atlanta. "I am absolutely appalled and disgusted and I am not going to stand for it."
The mistake was caught in another department that matches fingerprints with inmates' files, Kimbrough said. That was when the jail realized inmates' fingerprints didn't match their files.
It is possible that other inmates have been released improperly. The jail is in the process of reviewing 1,800 inmates to ensure others did not give fake names. The jail is also overhauling its procedures to ensure incidents like this don't occur again.
The 30 corrections officers involved in releasing the inmates will receive disciplinary action. Kimbrough said once the investigation is completed, officials will release the names of the officers involved.
June 8, 2010
Updated June 14, 2010
The Associated Press
LONDON — Short people have a 50 percent higher risk of having a heart problem or dying from one than tall people, a new study says, though weight, blood pressure and smoking habits remain more important factors.
Researchers in Finland looked at 52 previous papers with data on height and heart problems in more than 3 million men and women.
Experts did not consider patients' heights objectively, but within the context of a particular country's population. They found the shortest people in the population were one and a half times more likely to have heart problems or die from them than the tallest people.
On average, short people were under 161 centimeters (5 feet 3 inches) and tall people were at least 174 centimeters (5 feet 9 inches).
The study was paid for by the Finnish Foundation for Cardiovascular Research and others. It was published online Wednesday in the European Heart Journal.
"We don't want to scare short people, but perhaps they should be extra cautious about their lifestyle," said Borge Nordestgaard, a professor of genetic epidemiology at the University of Copenhagen. He was not connected to the study.
Height's impact on heart disease was still less important than things like smoking, which increases the chance of a heart ailment by up to four times, he said.
Scientists aren't sure why short people might be more susceptible to heart problems, but think there could be several explanations. Being short might be a result of being poor, meaning people of small stature could be undernourished and vulnerable to health problems in general.
Experts also suggested there could be a biological explanation, such as a hormone imbalance that hurts the heart. Scientists also suspect that because short people have smaller arteries, those could theoretically get clogged quicker with cholesterol and be more easily damaged by any changes in blood pressure.
But Joep Perk, a professor of health sciences at Linnaeus University in Sweden and a spokesman for the European Society of Cardiology, said it was too early to conclude short people had potentially problematic hearts.
"We should be very cautious to tell short people they're at risk," he said. "This could unfairly stigmatize them."
He said it was premature for cardiologists to consider height as a risk factor. "We need to understand the mechanism behind it before we can do anything with this information," he said. "This is an interesting observation, but I want to know what I can do for my patients."
Tuula Paajanen, the study's lead author from Tampere University Hospital in Finland, said short people shouldn't be alarmed about the findings.
"Height is only one factor (among many) that may contribute to heart disease risk," she said.
Paajanen recommended people focus on other things like not smoking, eating a balanced diet and exercise. "Those are easier to change than your height."
Nobody can deny it anymore: Obama is failing
1:50 PM EDT, June 11, 2010
It's pretty clear at this point to all except the most partisan that the Obama administration is failing on almost all levels, the lackluster response to the Gulf oil spill being just the latest failure. President Obama is in over his head, his advisors appear unequipped and disengaged, and there's no evidence to suggest that anything is going to get any better anytime soon.
During the presidential campaign, much was made of President Obama's lack of executive experience, lack of experience in the private sector and somewhat questionable views on the role of the federal government. Yet 52 percent of Americans thought such things weren't important. The liberal media told us such things weren't important. We now know otherwise. Unfortunately, a career as a community organizer with a short stint as a senator doesn't prepare someone to lead a nation. Organizing 13 people on a street corner is not the same thing as organizing an international response to an environmental disaster. Reading about private companies in the newspaper, or organizing protests against private companies, is not the same thing as leading or working in a private company, and it doesn't give a person the same insight into what makes the private sector click. Clearly, the private sector is not now clicking.
On the economic front, the news is bad. May retail sales numbers just released indicate a drop of 1.2 percent, an eight month low, adding yet more evidence that the outrageously expensive Obama/Reid/Pelosi stimulus package has been a dismal failure, adding nothing but mountains of debt to the financial picture. The latest jobs report shows that a scant 41,000 private sector jobs were added in May, a rate at which it will take 30 years to find jobs for America's 15 million unemployed. As bad as the private sector economic outlook is, it may get even worse. The Obama administration along with radical Democrats Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, is targeting job-killing cap and trade legislation this week and has already imposed a moratorium on off-shore drilling that's going to decimate the Southern coastal economy. Hence, two more blows to businesses already struggling to overcome misguided health care mandates and other corporate tax increases already imposed by the new administration.
New reports show that the extent of the Gulf oil spill, by far the worst environmental disaster in American history, is even worse than first imagined. The amount of oil spilled may be as high as 100 million gallons, some of which has already invaded Gulf Coast marshlands. Things would certainly have better if the administration had gone into action immediately following the spill, instead of going into "blame BP" mode for a month. While it's clearly BP's fault and responsibility to stop the spill, the Obama administration failed miserably in organizing containment and clean-up efforts. In what can best be termed a stunning failure of leadership, the administration failed to use all of the federal resources available, failed to remove the regulatory burdens that would have permitted international assistance and stood in the way of Gulf Coast border state governors who themselves were rebuffed in their efforts to take clear, concise action to keep the oil off the shore and away from the marshes.
As every Marylander knows, when the Rockfish are too numerous, the crab population suffers. Likewise, when the federal government is too powerful and too overreaching, private industry suffers. Despite the multitude of warnings we were handed down from our ingenious founding fathers regarding the importance of limited government, we appear to have reached the point of no possible near-term turnaround. Many CEOs appear content to sit on their hands, not hire anyone, and wait out the end of this administration.
When Ronald Reagan took the helm of the presidency, he used to say that it was "morning in America." Americans had the sense that things were looking up and were only going to get better with the new man in charge.
Today, the ranks of the unemployed swell, the shrinking middle class is struggling to pay everyone else's bills, children are being born with a mountain of debt on their heads, the earth is spewing 30,000 barrels of black death into the Gulf each day, CEOs are sitting in their country clubs not hiring because they feel under attack by the federal government, and distracted politicians are jet-setting around the country trying to keep the jobs they've failed so miserably at.
Millions of Americans feel that it's midnight in America, the electricity is out, there's oil running down the street, everyone is broke, the terrorist's are trying to kill us, illegal immigrants are flooding across the border through neighborhoods of foreclosed houses and nobody is in charge.
Of course, there's always a silver lining. Americans for generations will consider this a teachable moment in politics. Executive experience and private industry knowledge must be key considerations for any candidate for the White House, as must a pragmatic understanding of the role of the government. Good speeches don't create jobs, good looks aren't a replacement for good experience, and well-worded teleprompters aren't a substitute for real knowledge. American voters will certainly take this teachable moment to the polls for years to come, and our nation will survive and grow stronger as it always does.
Michael P. DeCicco, Severn
'Sorry, you can't have an appointment... you're dead!': Hospital refuses to see cancer sufferer because he's 'deceased'
Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 11:11 AM on 16th June 2010
A cancer sufferer was told he could not book a hospital appointment - because records showed he was dead.
Alan Campbell rang a booking system phone line after becoming worried that the disease may have spread to his throat.
But when he tried to make an appointment with the NHS Choose and Book system, a telephone operator informed him their records showed him as 'deceased'.
Distressed: Alan Campbell tried to book a hospital appointment only to be told by an NHS booking service that he was 'deceased'
Despite trying to convinced the operator he was alive, the 63-year-old widower was unable to make an appointment and now fears the delay in seeing a consultant could affect his diagnosis.
Mr Campbell, from Little Harwood, Blackburn, visited his doctor when he began suffering from throat pains. His GP gave him a code which enabled him to make an appointment over the phone.
Mr Campbell, who has undergone three operations to treat skin cancer on his cheek and nose in the past six years, said: 'It is unbelievable that they could get something like this so wrong.'
'When I rang to take take the appointment I was told, 'Sorry, we can't give you an appointment, our records show you are deceased'.
'I said 'you're joking, I'm talking to you aren't I?' But they said 'you'll have to go back to your GP to get it sorted out'.'
'I couldn't believe it. I was flabbergasted. I'm not one for complaining, but when somebody says you're dead its not on.'
Mr Campbell, who has also survived a stroke and a heart attack, contacted his doctor and was told the problem had been resolved - only to phone the Choose and Book system again to be told their records still showed he was dead.
'He kept saying go back to your GP and I said I've been there already. But he said it about four or five times.
'It is a stressful enough time not knowing what is causing the pain in my throat without having to go through all this.
'It's only three-and-a-half years since I lost my wife Christine and it brought things back. It was very painful.'
NHS Blackburn with Darwen Teaching Care Trust Plus, in Lancashire, which is responsible for the phone service, has now apologised for the error.
Mr Campbell has been told he will contacted within 14 days to arrange an appointment with an oral and maxillofacial surgery specialist.
'I've missed an appointment this month through their fault. I'm taking synthetic saliva and a liquid drink to ease the pain. When I wake up sometimes my mouth is that dry I can't open it properly to talk. I'm worried I won't wake up.
'They've been very good over the years at the surgery and the hospital, so I don't know what was the problem now.'
NHS Blackburn said it was trying to find an appointment as early as possible for Alan
Janice Horrocks, executive director of Engagement Partnerships and Operational Development, said they were investigating the case, adding: 'We are sorry for the distress experienced by this patient
'We would like to reassure patients that using the Choose and Book system, which allows you to choose the hospital, time and date of your appointment, remains the fastest route to getting the quickest and most convenient hospital appointment for the care that you need.'
Plane Allegedly Lands At Port Columbus With 500 Pounds Of Marijuana
Tuesday, June 15, 2010 6:30 PM
Updated: Wednesday, June 16, 2010 7:29 AM
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Federal agents said they arrested the possible heir to a family fortune, after allegedly finding hundreds of pounds of marijuana in her luggage, moments after a private jet landed at Port Columbus International Airport.
Lisette Lee was arrested by federal Drug Enforcement Agency officials Monday night, 10TV's Kevin Landers reported.
Lee, 28, is from Beverly Hills. When she was flying from California, officials said they noticed she was traveling with a large amount of luggage.
SLIDESHOW: Images From Report
The DEA in California tipped off officials in Columbus. When the plane landed, agents were waiting as luggage, containing more than 500 pounds of marijuana, was loaded into three waiting vans, Landers reported.
The DEA said the plane was carrying 13 bags of luggage.
"A very sizable quantity of marijuana," said U.S. Attorney's Office spokesman Fred Alverson. "The investigation is now looking into where this marijuana was supposed to go."
Lee told government agents she had no idea she was transporting drugs when she flew back and forth from Los Angeles to Columbus, but agents said they found cocaine and marijuana in her bag, along with a ledger that showed profits in excess of $300,000, Landers reported.
"She told investigators she was coming here to meet a boyfriend," Alverson said.
Officials said they are trying to confirm information that Lee is an heir to the Samsung electronics fortune.
Agents said she told them her family has several multi-million dollar businesses.
Lee arrived on a chartered Gulf Stream jet that cost $50,000 roundtrip, Landers reported.
She was being held without bond.
Cab driver booked with threatening tourist for a tip
Published: Tuesday, June 15, 2010, 6:36 PM Updated: Tuesday, June 15, 2010, 11:21 PM
A Kenner cab driver was booked with extortion and false imprisonment for allegedly threatening a Texas tourist and refusing to let her out of the vehicle until she paid a 10 percent tip.
The victim, a 57-year-old woman from Bellaire, was staying at the Intercontinental Hotel in New Orleans on business. She took a Yellow-Checker Cab to the airport Friday at about 3:15 p.m. to fly home, according to a Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office incident report.
The woman said she confirmed before entering that cab that she would be able to pay by credit card. But when she arrived at Louis Armstrong International Airport, the woman said, driver Sohail Kahn, 37, told her that in addition to the fixed $33 rate, he would be adding a 10 percent tip, the report said. She refused and demanded the driver process her card and get her bags.
The woman said she tried to get out of the cab, but could not because the doors were locked, the report said.
She said the driver cut off the engine and made a "grabbing motion" for her purse. He clenched his fist, waived it in her face and said, "You will pay me my 10 percent tip, or I will not let you go," the report said.
The woman said argued with the driver for about 30 minutes as the temperatures rose in the vehicle. She eventually called 911 on her wireless phone. When a deputy sheriff arrived, he noted the victim was crying hysterically, shaking and sweating.
Kahn initially told the deputy that the 10 percent tip was actually to cover the credit card transaction fee. But the deputy later confirmed that there are no such fees charged to passengers, and drivers are responsible for their own fees, the incident report said.
Kahn, of 3044 Kansas Ave., was booked with extortion, false imprisonment and simple assault. The New Orleans Taxicab Regulation Bureau also seized his permit, the report said.
LINK TO PHOTO
Tiger Woods may be in the rough on this one after porn star Devon James says he fathered her 9-year-old son, Austin T. James (b.).
It's open season on Tiger Woods.
As the disgraced golfer took to the links Tuesday at the U.S. Open, one of his mistresses claimed she has been caddying around his love child for nine years.
And renewed reports emerged about another paramour's claims that she, too, bore a Tiger cub.
Adult film actress Devon James, 29, claims Woods is the father of her son, Austin T. James - whose middle initial is a secret tribute to the golfer she loved.
"She was 19 at the time, and she was attending a Christian school program" when they met, a source close to James told the Daily News.
"They immediately started a relationship," the source said. "She became pregnant, but she decided not to tell Tiger."
James never had a DNA test to prove her claim, the source admits, but "she knows he is the father of her son because he is the only African-American man she dated at that time," the source said.
James was one of the bevy of babes who came forward with tales of torrid affairs with the world's top golfer after a mystifying car crash outside his Florida home in November.
She is the second woman to claim she has one of Woods' cubs. Theresa Rogers said in December she had Woods' baby in 2004 and negotiated a multimillion-dollar settlement to keep it under wraps.
James first dished on her claims of a 2-1/2-year relationship with the golfer in March. At that time, she claimed a girlfriend invited her to join in a threesome. James said she agreed, and met the gal pal and mystery man - who she claims turned out to be Woods - in Orlando.
"Hi, I'm Tiger. Nice to meet you," James quoted him as saying before they quickly got down to business.
Woods, 34, allegedly paid the two women $2,000 each for what she described as "dirty" sex.
Now James is saying that wasn't the first time she bedded Woods. She says it really was in 2000, when she was just a teenager.
It was the threesome that reconnected the parents of little Austin T. "She showed him pictures of Austin, and told him he was his son," the source said yesterday. "He didn't want to meet the boy, but he did send her gifts for the child."
Woods' lawyer did not immediately return a call for comment.
James' mother, Sandra Brinling, said yesterday that her daughter is a "pathological liar" and that she knows exactly who Austin T.'s real dad is."[My daughter is] only out to lie, steal and cheat," said Brinling, who has custody of the child. "All she is looking for is to get money from [Woods]."
Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/gossip/tigerwoods/2010/06/16/2010-06-16_my_9yrold_is_tiger_cub.html#ixzz0r1jimsIm
Fugitive hid 40 years in plain sight
"They just forgot about me," said Dryman
Updated: Tuesday, 15 Jun 2010, 7:55 AM EDT
Published : Tuesday, 15 Jun 2010, 7:55 AM EDT
Associated Press Writer
HELENA, Mont. (AP) - The aging Frank Dryman, a notorious killer from Montana's past, had hidden in plain sight for so long that he forgot he was a wanted man.
In an exclusive jailhouse interview with The Associated Press, Dryman detailed how he invented a whole new life, with a new family, an Arizona wedding chapel business — and even volunteer work for local civic clubs.
"They just forgot about me," said Dryman, in his first interview since being caught and sent back to the prison he last left in the 1960s. "I was a prominent member of the community."
That is, until the grandson of the man he shot six times in the back came looking.
Dryman had been one step ahead of the law since 1951 when he avoided the hangman's noose, a relic of frontier justice still in use at the time.
Less than 20 years later he was out on parole. Not content with that good fortune, he skipped out and evaded authorities for four decades. After a while he even forgot about hiding and signed up for V.A. benefits from his days in the Navy in 1948.
Now the 79-year-old Dryman is back behind bars, likely for what remains of his life.
He was caught only after his long-ago victim's grandson got curious and started poking around.
Dryman was hitching a ride from Shelby cafe owner Clarence Pellett on a cold and snowy day in 1951 when he pulled a gun and ordered Pellett out of his own car and began firing.
Dryman does not deny the crime — just that he's not the same man today. He has been Victor Houston for decades. At the time of the murder, and after being discharged from the Navy for mental issues, he was going by yet another name: Frank Valentine.
"That kid, Frank Valentine, he just exploded," Dryman says of his crime. "I didn't shoot that man in the back. That wild kid did. That's not me.
"Victor Houston tried to make up for it by being an honor citizen."
Dryman says he served his time, which he did until paroled. But a Montana Parole Board not accustomed to leniency on those who walk away from supervision was not impressed with Dryman's subsequent good deeds. Last month the board sent him back behind bars to serve what remains of his life sentence.
Dryman said he disappeared from parole in California to get away from a wife he didn't like. He said he's not sure why he just didn't leave the wife and remain on parole.
But once gone, he said, he didn't look back. His new wife and family knew nothing of his past. He put down roots in Arizona City painting signs, a trade learned in prison, and performing weddings.
"I never thought I was a parole violator. I was Victor Houston. I never looked over my shoulder," Dryman said. "I just forgot about it."
On his birthday he used to get two cards from his brother: one for Houston and one for Valentine.
"I thought it was cute. I had no fear," Dryman said.
He said the details of his past are just coming back: the shooting, his original sentence and the cause he became for opponents of the death penalty, and his first stint in prison.
"Only since I have been back here did I start to think about it," said Dryman. "To be honest, I didn't even remember the victim's name."
Dryman understands he is not likely to get out again now. And he is not kindly disposed to the victim's grandson, the Bellevue, Wash., oral surgeon who became intensely interested in a piece of family history he knew nothing about. Clem Pellett compiled reams of old documents and tracked down his grandfather's killer with the help of a private investigator.
"I can't blame him for what he did," Dryman said. "But I think it was so wrong he spent so much money getting me here. I feel it is unfair."
Many in the Pellett family do remember the murder. A dozen descendants showed up at the parole hearing when Dryman was rearrested to testify against his release, saying the killing had forever changed the history of the family.
They said as kids they lived in fear of hitchhikers — even in fear of Dryman. Some remembered Dryman's courtroom outburst at his first trial that resulted in conviction and a hanging sentence.
"He turned to the judge and said, 'I'm going to kill you,' he turned to the jury and said 'I am going to kill you' and he turned to the crowd and said some stuff like that," said Clem Pellett. "He was an angry young man who felt powerless."
Pellett only learned the details of the case last year after cleaning out boxes of old newspaper clippings. His own parents never talked about the murder. He had never even really known the Montana side of his family, where the pain of the killing still lingers.
Pellett, without even talking to those relatives, began a quest to learn more, compiling old records, court transcripts, ancient arrest records for Dryman's petty crimes prior to the shooting — all of which he used to track down his grandfather's killer.
Pellett said he was driven by an intense curiosity, and would now like to meet with Dryman to fill in holes in the story that he may chronicle in a book.
Dryman doesn't think he will agree to the meeting.
He also denounces the allegation that he made a courtroom death threat, which Clem Pellett said was confirmed through his research.
Dryman lives in a low security wing of the Montana State Prison, wears prison-issue clothing and due to failing eyesight walks with a cane to avoid tripping. Being interviewed in the same parole board room where was he returned to prison for life, Dryman said of Clem Pellett, "He's already got me here, he should be happy. I think they got their pound of flesh, and I accept it."
One of the original prosecutors in the case also never forgot about Dryman.
"It was a very notorious case, perhaps the biggest of the time," said John Luke McKeon, now 85.
McKeon, a very young assistant attorney general assigned to the case despite his own opposition to the death penalty, said the Montana Supreme Court threw out the hanging sentence amid some of the most intense arguments over the death penalty the state had seen.
McKeon wrote a letter to the parole board in late May asking for leniency, telling the board he thinks Dryman has paid for his crime. But it got there after the board made its decision.
The former prosecutor doesn't see any way out for Dryman this time.
"I don't think the governor's going to give him exoneration," he said. "I think he is going to die in prison."
Frank Dryman, aka Victor Houston sits for an interview with the Associated Press from inside the Montana State Prison in Deer Lodge, Mont., on Monday, June 14, 2010. (AP Photo/Mike Albans)
Wednesday, Jun 16 2010
Too much homework and television leaves just one hour a day for 'children to be children'
Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 3:12 PM on 15th June 2010
Too much homework and television are stopping children from being children, a poll of parents suggests today.
They believe that children's lives are too structured and pressurised with little time to play.
Homework, extra lessons, after-school clubs and television are all preventing youngsters from enjoying playtime, according to the poll of 2,000 parents
Young boy doing homework at the kitchen table. Too much homework and TV are stopping children from being children, a poll of parents suggests
More than half (51 per cent) of those questioned said children are under more pressure today than ever before, while one in 10 (11 per cent) believe their own youngsters' lives are too structured.
And one in five (20 per cent) say they do not believe their children have enough free time just to be children.
Two thirds (66 per cent) of parents said homework, extra lessons and after-school activities are preventing children from having time to play each day, while almost three in 10 (37 per cent) blamed television.
Almost one in four (23 per cent) cited longer travel to and from school, and clubs and activities as the reason for short playtimes.
The poll, commissioned by The British Toy and Hobby Association (BTHA) and Play England found that parents say their child spends, on average, 69.77 minutes a day playing.
But they would like their children to spend an extra 72.67 minutes at play
Nearly half (43 per cent) wished they could spend more time playing with their children.
Dr Amanda Gummer, a psychologist who advises the BTHA, said: 'Play helps a child to develop a whole range of skills from learning how to take turns and share to increasing fitness, creativity and even self-esteem. Through fun and play a child learns about the world around them.
'This research shows that children today are not getting enough time to play and their parents want to change this.'
The BTHA and Play England are asking parents to make a pledge to allocate more of their children's time to playing. The aim is to get the UK collectively to pledge two million extra play minutes over the next three months.
The poll questioned 2,000 parents with children aged under 13 between June 4-8.
Steve King Accuses Obama Of Racism: President 'Favors The Black Person'
First Posted: 06-15-10 12:43 PM | Updated: 06-15-10 01:12 PM
Steve King: Obama 'Favors The Black Person' Get Politics Alerts
(AP) - A Republican congressman suggested that President Barack Obama favors blacks over whites, prompting a GOP candidate to cancel a fundraiser headlined by the Iowa lawmaker.
Rep. Steve King, known for sometimes incendiary remarks about immigration, Abu Ghraib and other issues, criticized Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder, who also is black, in an interview Monday on G. Gordon Liddy's nationally syndicated radio talk show.
"I'm offended by Eric Holder and the president also, their posture," King said. "It looks like Eric Holder said that white people in America are cowards when it comes to race."
King continued: "The president has demonstrated that he has a default mechanism in him that breaks down the side of race on the side that favors the black person in the case of professor Gates and officer Crowley."
He was alluding to last year's incident in which Obama commented on a white police officer's arrest of a black professor from Harvard University.
As news of King's remarks spread, Colorado Republican Cory Gardner canceled a planned $100 per-plate fundraiser where King was to speak.
King, a four-term lawmaker, made similar remarks about Obama in a speech last month.
"When he had an Irish cop and a black professor, who'd he side with?" King said. "He jumped to a conclusion without having heard the facts. And he ended up having to have a beer summit. The president of the United States has got to articulate a mission. And instead, he's playing race-bait games to undermine the law enforcement in the state of Arizona and across the country."
King, a former construction company owner, drew earlier criticism for comments about the Iraq war. He said the news media exaggerated the story of abuses at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison.
And after compiling what he called an accurate civilian violent death rate for Iraq, he said living there was safer than in some U.S. cities, including New Orleans and Detroit.
Christopher Reed, an Iowa conservative activist, defended King.
"He is one of those few politicians who really says what he thinks," Reed said. "One man's controversial is another man's truth."
Tuesday, June 15, 2010;
It's about two years too late, but Hillary Clinton has finally pulled ahead of Barack Obama.
By any measure -- favorability ratings or job approval -- Americans by a sizable margin have warmer views of the secretary of state than they do of the president. This is of little use to Clinton beyond bragging rights, but among Hillary '08 fans there is some satisfaction that the woman Obama once cut down as "likable enough" is now more liked than he is. Depending on the measure and the poll, she leads him by roughly 10 to 25 percentage points.
To understand why, look no further than their calendars for Monday. The president was in Alabama and Mississippi, trying again to change the public perception that his administration has been weak in its response to the oil spill. The secretary of state was in Washington receiving plaudits for being a "passionate leader" and for taking a "resolute and genuine" stand against human trafficking and slavery.
In the ceremonial Ben Franklin Room of the State Department, the passionate and resolute Clinton vowed her commitment "to abolishing this horrible crime" against human dignity. "Traffickers must be brought to justice," she said.
For a public figure, few issues are as politically safe; the slavery and exploitation lobby, after all, was unlikely to issue a rebuttal. Clinton finished her day Monday with a speech on the need for help in sub-Saharan Africa; no criticism from the keep-Africa-poor movement was heard.
Contrast that with Obama, who had only grim tidings for Gulf Coast residents about the BP oil spill. He spoke to them of a "fear that it could have a long-term impact on a way of life that has been passed on for generations."
Give Obama points for honesty, but that's not going to boost his poll numbers
Previous secretaries of state Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice were both more popular than their boss, President George W. Bush. But such a trend is not universal: Warren Christopher didn't have ratings as high as his boss, President Bill Clinton.
Hillary Clinton helped her situation by sticking to relatively low-profile issues. While the White House drove the divisive policies such as Afghanistan, she has busied herself in quieter corners of the world, enhancing the perception that she's above the political fray.
Now the former first lady and Democratic senator from New York is asserting herself in a few domestic areas. Releasing the 10th annual Trafficking in Persons report Monday, she noted that, "for the first time ever, we are also reporting on the United States of America," an effort "to ensure that our policies live up to our ideals." (The State Department gave the United States its top grade.)
Before that, Clinton offered some commentary on the domestic economy, declaring: "You've got countries who are explicitly saying to me in private, 'Well, look, you know, we always look to you because you had this great economy. And now, look, you're in the ditch, and you've dragged other people into the ditch.' "
That statement was enough to send the likes of Bill O'Reilly, the conservative Fox News commentator, to outline a potential Clinton primary challenge to Obama in 2012. There's no sign of such a challenge, but there's no disputing that Obama has fallen below Clinton.
This month's Daily Kos/Research 2000 poll found that 51 percent view Obama favorably, down from 77 percent at the time of his inauguration last year. Clinton, who had a favorability rating in the 40s during her first-lady days in 1996, has stayed in the 60s since she started the job at the State Department. The infrequently asked "job approval" question has produced an even larger Clinton edge.
Of course, Obama bested Clinton in the only poll that mattered, in 2008. But these days, Clinton is entitled to enjoy a measure of revenge. As Obama endured more complaints and sniping in the Gulf Coast on Monday, Clinton was being applauded in Foggy Bottom. Her staff started the applause as soon as she entered from the back, and an audience of human-rights types filmed her with their smartphones. The session had been billed as a "news conference," but no questions were allowed; this was more of an adoration conference.
Undersecretary Maria Otero gushed about "our top diplomat, my boss, our passionate leader and a skilled policymaker" without whom "this issue would not be to where it has gotten." An anti-trafficking activist invoked Clinton's trademark slogan: "It takes a village to raise a child. It takes a whole community to fight slavery."
Clinton was in her policy-expert element. She spoke of something known as "the paradigm of the three 'P's" and proposed a fourth "P" as well. She also reminded the crowd of her early work on trafficking 10 years ago, "in a prior life some time back."
Few could have imagined back in that prior life that the controversial and polarizing first lady would someday win the favor of two-thirds of her countrymen.
Polling director Jon Cohen contributed to this column.
Bad call: Suspect left behind cell phone in car she broke into, Collier deputies say
A suspect's own cell phone placed her at the scene of the crime, according to the Collier County Sheriff's Office.
Amanda Minerva Gallegos, 18, and Jessie Cervantez, 22, broke into several unlocked cars between May 27 and May 28, deputies reported.
Authorities allege the pair stole a stereo, bank paperwork, a wallet, a drill and tools.
Yet while nabbing a couple of cell phone chargers from one of the cars, Gallegos left behind her cell phone, the 20-page arrest report said.
“Yall be-careful!” said a text sent to Gallegos' phone around 2 a.m. May 28.
A few minutes later another text said: “and if you find a badass camera and a badass metro phone yall better give it to me.”
The replies were simple: “K.”
Photos on the phone matched Gallegos and Cervantez's driver's license pictures as well as video taken at a 7-Eleven convenience store where hundreds of dollars was charged on one of the stolen bank cards.
A store clerk also identified the couple as having presented several stolen checks to be cashed.
Over two days, Cervantez cashed nine stolen checks totaling about $2,500.
Gallegos, of the 100 block of Melody Lane in East Naples, and Cervantez, of the 5200 block of Maple Lane in East Naples, were both charged with three counts of burglary, two counts of petty theft and criminal mischief.
Cervantez had additional charges, nine counts of cashing bad checks and grand theft.
LINK TO PHOTOS
The Hill invites two established bloggers from either side of the political spectrum to sound off on a designated topic in original commentary each Saturday. This week, two bloggers based in Southern California take on the intersection of Hollywood and politics:
Hollywood still carefully protecting Obama
When Hollywood turns against someone, you won’t have to ask if they have. You’ll know.
When Leftist Hollywood turns against someone, like they did President George W. Bush, neither our country nor the safety of our men and women in uniform means anything -- for this industry will eagerly waste hundreds of millions of dollars on a dozen-plus lousy films specifically designed to undermine our will to win a righteous war. When Hollywood turns on someone, they not only relentlessly mock, demean and denigrate that individual; they mock, demean, and denigrate their family.
Yes, the children.
Incompetence, broken promises, partisan divisiveness, the Gulf dying before our eyes, deficit forecasts with so many zeroes Einstein couldn’t grasp them, and dirty backroom deals haven’t cooled Hollywood on President Obama one bit. The same industry that stands by a Roman Polanski certainly isn’t going to jump off the USS ObamaWorship over a little thing like double-digit unemployment. If nothing else, Tinseltowners are loyal and their rules are simple: child rape’s fine, just don’t let us catch you with a Rush Limbaugh bumper sticker.
Yes, recently we’ve heard some in the entertainment industry appear to criticize the President. Most notably “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart, who ridiculed His Own Personal One over that oh-so presidential ”ass to kick” comment, and director Spike Lee, who suggested Obama drop the cool, calm professorial act and “go off” over the oil spill. But don’t be fooled. This is simply the president’s own personal Palace Guards doing their duty and guarding the palace.
You have to keep in mind that with a very few notable exceptions, the whole of the entertainment industry is a left-wing propaganda machine manned by those who understand that politics is downstream from the culture, and who fully grasp that their primary mandate is to protect President Obama at all costs. All Threats Must Be Eliminated. The only reason Obama’s been taking a little pop culture heat lately is due to that fact that right now the biggest threat to Obama is Obama and his own incompetence and disconnect.
If anything, Hollywood is worried about and for Obama. Worried about the upcoming mid-terms, his re-election chances, his sliding poll numbers, and his gilded ship sailing off course and landing in Carter-ita-ville instead of Mt. Rushmore. Spike Lee, Jon Stewart and their ilk are certainly a little panicked over how they see things going for their guy. But these recent criticisms from the president’s entertainment community pals should be interpreted as nothing any more serious than dear and close friends staging a helpful tough-love intervention. Hollywood can’t even muster a little criticism for Obama’s mishandling of the Gulf oil spill.
The only exception I would grant to my otherwise cynical observations (but that doesn’t make them wrong) is George Clooney’s recent editorial criticism of the Obama’s administration’s lack of engagement in the Sudan. As misguided as Clooney is in all things (including his decision to make “Leatherheads”), his concern for the Sudan is sincere. But one sentence in an 800-word piece is far from a mutiny.
Rest assure that the president can sleep well in the comfortable knowledge that as soon as any kind of existential threat looms on the horizon -- like, say, a feisty, self-made female governor from some far off state -- the entertainment industry will immediately snap back into line and set their powerful, elite broadcast capabilities on DESTROY.
Hollywood liberals won't blindly follow Obama
Hollywood liberals have been conspicuously silent in 2010 about their slavish devotion to all things Obama, especially since the Gulf of Mexico became polluted, and wildlife picturesquely killed, with oil from offshore drilling approved and supposedly monitored by the Obama administration.
But that doesn't mean that Obama has lost the support of Hollywood liberals. Yet.
A handful of Hollywood celebrities have begun to speak out, albeit cautiously and often with caveats.
Even before BP's oil spill debacle, actor Matt Damon, an '08 Obama campaigner, told the New York Daily News, "I'm disappointed in the health care plan and in the troop buildup in Afghanistan. Everyone feels a little let down because, on some level, people expected all their problems to go away." Damon added that "Obama deserves time."
Robert Redford, director, actor and noted environmentalist, recently appeared in a Natural Resources Defense Council ad urging, "Tell President Obama to lead America toward a clean energy future."
Redford followed up by chatting at length with MSNBC's Keith Olbermann, observing "Voters sent President Obama to Washington to be a bold and visionary leader... We don't need a disaster manager, we need a leader."
Even director Spike Lee, who predicted in July 2008 that Obama's election would cause a "seismic change in the universe," expressed muted disappointment in Obama's Gulf oil spill response, telling CNN, "One time, go off! If there's any one time to go off, this is it, because this is a disaster."
Hollywood liberal activists are not ready anytime soon to desert this young, progressive Democratic president after only 17 months in the White House. And a powerhouse community of African-American celebrities, led by billionaire media mogul Oprah Winfrey, can be counted on to stand loyally by Barack Obama through almost any imaginable politics or situation.
Make no mistake about it, though. "Everyone feels a little let down... " as Matt Damon stated. Let down on a number of issues, including Obama's :
Barring sheer political stupidity by Obama and strategists, such as irrevocably alienating Israel and Israeli supporters, Hollywood liberal activists will support President Obama should he decide to seek a second-term in 2012.
But supporting Obama with votes and a modicum of campaigning is one thing. Supporting Obama with fat contributions and overflowing campaign coffers, as he richly relied upon in his 2008 bid, is quite another kettle of fish. And far from a sure thing in 2012.
As of now, President Obama has not lost the support of most Hollywood liberals. But Democrats in Hollywood are also no longer lavishing praise on Obama as they did in hopeful droves before his triumphant election.
Hollywood liberals no longer view Barack Obama as someone they blindly "want to follow... somewhere, anywhere" as pal George Clooney famously told Charlie Rose in early 2008.
Fayette County News
6:24 p.m. Friday, June 11, 2010
DA: Deputy caught judge, public defender having sex
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
An investigation has revealed a former Fayette County judge had a sexual relationship with a public defender who had 225 cases decided in his courtroom.
W.A. Bridges Jr., AJC Superior Court Chief Judge Paschal English's relationship with attorney Kim Cornwell is the subject of the investigation.
Chief Superior Court Judge Paschal English and Kim Cornwell, an assistant public defender, were caught having sex in a parked car in October 2008, according to documents released Friday by District Attorney Scott Ballard.
A Fayette sheriff's deputy recognized English, and later learned that Cornwell was a public defender, Ballard said. The deputy's dashboard camcorder recorded part of the incident, but that video is no longer available, according to Sheriff Wayne Hannah. No charges were filed after the incident.
"Beyond that, we don't know when the intimate relationship began," Ballard said Friday.
After the two were discovered in the Water Lake subdivision, Cornwell represented defendants in 225 cases in Judge English's courtroom, Ballard said.
Despite the relationship, the investigation did not find evidence of any wrongdoing in the courtroom, according to Jeff Turner, chief investigator.
"I do not find any evidence that any instances where the state or defendant were harmed by actions of the court ever took place in Judge English's courtroom at all, much less when Kim Cornwell was the attorney for the defendant," Turner wrote about his investigation.
Turner also said both English, 66, and Cornwell, 49, declined to comment for the investigation.
In an unrelated incident, English resigned on April 23 after it became clear he had ignored a complaint from an attorney that she was being sexually harassed by another judge in the Griffin Judicial Circuit.
Months earlier, attorney Susan Brown told English that she was being repeatedly harassed with crude comments by Superior Court Judge Johnnie Caldwell. Caldwell resigned April 19. Caldwell and English represented half of the county's Griffin Judicial Circuit’s Superior Court team.
Cornwell was placed on administrative leave when allegations of the romance surfaced. After her resignation, Public Defender Joseph Saia and Ballard were asked to investigate the alleged affair. On June 1, Cornwell was placed on leave without pay, Saia said.
English was a judge for 23 years. He appeared on the reality TV show “Survivor” in 2002.
LINK TO PHOTO OF JUDGE:
The Associated Press
POUND, Va. — For seven days, Robert Gleason Jr. begged correctional officers and counselors at Wallens Ridge State Prison to move his new cellmate. The constant singing, screaming and obnoxious behavior were too much, and Gleason knew he was ready to snap.
On the eighth day — May 8, 2009 — correctional officers found 63-year-old Harvey Gray Watson Jr. bound, gagged, beaten and strangled. His death went unnoticed for 15 hours because correctional officers had falsified inmate counts at the high-security prison in southwestern Virginia.
Now, Gleason says he'll kill again if he isn't put to death for killing Watson, who had a history of mental illness. And he says his next victim won't be an inmate.
"I murdered that man cold-bloodedly. I planned it, and I'm gonna do it again," the 40-year-old Gleason told The Associated Press. "Someone needs to stop it. The only way to stop me is put me on death row."
Gleason already is serving a life sentence for killing another man. He fired his lawyers last month — they were trying to work out a deal to keep him from getting the death penalty — so he could plead guilty to capital murder. He's vowed not to appeal his sentence if the judge sentences him to death Aug. 31.
"I did this. I deserve it," he said. "That man, he didn't deserve to die."
Watson was serving a 100-year sentence for killing a man and wounding two others in 1983 when he shot into his neighbor's house in Lynchburg with a 10-gauge shotgun. According to prison records, Watson suffered from "mild" mental impairment and was frequently cited for his disruptive and combative behavior.
Watson was sent to Wallens Ridge on April 23, 2009, a day after he set fire to his cell at Sussex II State Prison. Gleason and Watson became cellmates on May 1, 2009.
In the days the two spent locked in an 8-by-10-foot cell, Watson would talk about how he had "drowned" two television sets because they "had voodoo in them," Gleason said.
He would also belt out "I wish I was in the land of cotton" from the song "Dixie" and other songs at all hours, scream profanities and masturbate. In the chow hall and in the recreation yard, Watson would get inmates to give him cigarettes for drinking his urine and clabbered milk.
"You can't be upset with someone like that," Gleason said. "He needed help."
Gleason said his requests to separate the two were met with mockery and indifference by correctional officers and prison counselors. He said he knew what he'd do once officials refused to put Watson in protective custody.
"That day I knew I was going to kill him," he said. "Wallens Ridge forced my hand."
It was after midnight when Gleason used slivers of bed sheets to tie Watson's hands and arms to his body and fashioned a gag out of two socks. He later removed the gag and gave Watson a cigarette, telling him it would be his last. Gleason said Watson spit in his face when he went to take the cigarette out of Watson's mouth, so he jumped on his cellmate's back and beat and strangled the man.
He then covered Watson's body with a bed sheet to make it look like he was sleeping.
Gleason kept Watson's death a secret through two mandatory standing counts and two meals. Officers only discovered the body when Watson's psychiatrist came to see him at 4:40 p.m. and found him dead, according to court documents.
Prison employees involved in the case denied repeated requests for comment from the AP. Department of Corrections spokesman Larry Traylor also declined to discuss the situation, but said that two officers were disciplined and two others were fired. One of the fired officers was reinstated upon appeal.
Gleason has since been transferred to the "supermax" Red Onion State Prison.
Watson's sister, Barbara McLeod of Longmont, Colo., said Gleason should be forced to spend the rest of his life in prison with no privileges.
"He doesn't deserve to be able to control his own destiny at this point. He doesn't deserve to have his death on the conscience of the state of Virginia," she said.
McLeod said her brother had a history of mental problems that grew worse during his last decade of incarceration. McLeod said she's upset that her brother was housed with such a violent prisoner — and angry that it took so long for guards to realize he was dead.
"Supposedly they are monitoring these prisoners," she said. "I guess not."
During a hearing a week before his June 1 trial was to start, Gleason warned Wise County Commonwealth's Attorney Ron Elkins that he would kill again if Elkins didn't seek the death penalty.
Elkins had offered to let Gleason plead to second-degree murder. He also offered to drop the capital murder charges and come back with a charge that didn't carry a death sentence. Elkins wouldn't say why he made those offers.
However, capital murder cases are typically lengthy and expensive, especially as appeals wind through the courts. Even though Gleason confessed, Elkins said he proceeded cautiously to ensure the case couldn't be overturned on appeal.
Court records show that Gleason told Elkins he had no remorse for killing Watson. He said he learned from his father to own up to his mistakes, and that he needed to prove to his loved ones that actions have consequences.
"There's nothing you guys can do to me to hurt me. Nothing," he told the prosecutor. "But there's something you guys can do to prevent someone else from getting hurt."
June 12, 2010 12:21 PM EDT
Associated Press Writer
Saturday, June 12, 2010
12:04 PDT LONDON, United Kingdom (AP) --
President Barack Obama reassured Prime Minister David Cameron on Saturday that his frustration over the mammoth oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is not an attack on Britain as the two leaders tried to soothe trans-Atlantic tensions over the disaster.
Cameron's Downing St. office said the two leaders held a "warm and constructive" telephone conversation for more than 30 minutes.
Obama has recently sharpened his criticism of BP PLC as the company struggles to stop millions of gallons of oil gushing from its ruptured deep-sea well. Cameron is under pressure to get Obama to tone down the rhetoric against of a major British company, fearing it will hurt millions of Britons — as well as many Americans — who hold BP stock in investments and pension plans.
Cameron's office said the prime minister "expressed his sadness at the ongoing human and environmental catastrophe," but stressed BP's economic importance to Britain, the U.S. and other countries.
It said Obama recognized that BP — which he has pointedly referred to in public by its former name, British Petroleum — is a multinational company, "and that frustrations about the oil spill had nothing to do with national identity." Obama said he had no interest in undermining BP's value. The company's stock has lost 40 percent of its value since the oil rig fire on April 20 that unleashed the United States' worst oil spill.
Downing Street said the two men agreed that BP should continue "to work intensively to ensure that all sensible and reasonable steps are taken as rapidly as practicable to deal with the consequences of this catastrophe."
The Obama administration walked a careful line Saturday: trying to show toughness with BP, but also reassuring Britons that the president holds no animosity toward their country and institutions. The strategy could be risky if Obama's political opponents use it to reinforce claims that he has been too gentle and diplomatic in dealing with the oil company.
Before the Obama-Cameron phone call took place, the U.S. government told BP it has until the end of the weekend to speed up efforts to contain the oil spill.
Later, the White House let Cameron's office make the first public remarks about Saturday's phone call. Downing Street used the opportunity to stress that Obama is not attacking Britain and that he recognizes BP as a global firm.
When the White House finally released its official statement, only one of the 10 sentences referred to the oil spill. It said the two men discussed the impact of the spill, "reiterating that BP must do all it can to respond effectively to the situation.
Minutes later, a senior Obama administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity to describe the private conversation, confirmed that the president had told Cameron "that our frustration has nothing to do with national identity" but focuses instead on "ensuring that a large, wealthy company lives up to its obligations."
The official said Obama told Cameron that BP "must meet its obligations to those whose lives have been disrupted," and that the administration "will insist everything be done to cap the well, capture the oil, and pay for the cleanup, the environmental damage done and the tens of thousands of economic claims as a result of this disaster."
BP has been ordered by the U.S. Coast Guard to speed up its efforts to stop oil gushing into the sea off the coast of Louisiana.
U.S. Coast Guard Rear Adm. James A. Watson sent a letter to BP officials on Friday expressing frustration with the overall pace of the effort and ordered the company to identify ways to expedite the process in the next 48 hours.
Downing Street also said Cameron and Obama reaffirmed their belief in "the unique strength of the U.S.-UK relationship." It announced that Cameron will visit Washington July 20, his first trip there since taking office in May.
The warm words come after vocal criticism of BP by Obama, who has said he would have fired BP's top executive, if he were in charge, and has supported the idea that the oil company suspend its quarterly dividend.
In a sign the company feels the pressure, BP said Saturday that its board would meet Monday to discuss deferring its second-quarter dividend and putting the money into escrow until the company's liabilities from the spill are known. BP said no decision had yet been made.
Obama also has reproached BP for spending money on a public relations campaign and occasionally refers to "British Petroleum," although the company years ago began using only its initials and is a far-reaching international corporation with extensive holdings in the United States, including a Texas refinery and a share of the Alaska oil pipeline.
This past week, the usually measured Obama said in a television interview, "I don't sit around just talking to experts because this is a college seminar; we talk to these folks because they potentially have the best answers — so I know whose ass to kick."
The angry words from Washington have produced a backlash in Britain, where BP is a corporate pillar. Millions of British retirees depend on BP dividends since pension funds are heavily invested in the oil company, the world's third-largest.
British officials began taking a more hands-on approach Friday, when Treasury chief George Osborne met BP's chairman, Carl-Henric Svanberg, and Cameron spoke to Svanberg by phone.
Svanberg, who has faced criticism for not being more visible in BP's response to the Gulf spill, is to meet with Obama at the White House on Wednesday. Probably joining him will be CEO Tony Hayward and other BP executives. It will be the first time Obama has met with BP officials since the crisis began.
Hayward will testify at a U.S. House of Representatives hearing on Thursday.
Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2010/06/12/national/w002411D71.DTL&tsp=1#ixzz0qfRw6L00
LINK TO OTHER STORIES ABOUT CROWN ROYAL BANDIT:
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, June 12, 2010; A05
The polls hadn't even closed Tuesday when "tea party" activists in Nevada started sniping at one another over whether Sharron Angle, the soon-to-be Republican nominee for U.S. Senate, was the best candidate to bring down Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid.
In Virginia, tea partiers vented on blogs and to reporters about the movement's inability to coalesce around a single, strong candidate in two House races, resulting in the nomination of establishment candidates instead.
The national tea party movement has never had a central organization or single leader; in fact, it has boasted the opposite. But Tuesday's primary results provided fresh evidence of the amorphous network's struggle to convert activist anger and energy into winning results. Frustrated and lacking agreement on what to do next, self-identified tea party leaders say the movement may be in danger of breaking apart before it ever really comes together.
"No one owns the tea party brand, and that's kind of the problem," said Brendan Steinhauser, grass-roots director for FreedomWorks, which organizes tea party groups. "In Virginia -- it breaks my heart. You've got six self-appointed tea party candidates and one establishment guy. You're not going to beat the establishment guy in that situation."
Judson Phillips, founder of another national organization, Tea Party Nation, said some activists are starting to act like mainstream politicians. "It's supposed to be something other than politics as usual, but some of these folks are only looking out for themselves and not for the country."
The discord is not only striking races such as those in Virginia's 2nd and 5th congressional districts, where large fields of tea party candidates lost the Republican nomination to better organized establishment picks. It is also evident in races where tea party candidates have won -- including Nevada, where Angle cruised to victory Tuesday with endorsements from the Tea Party Express, FreedomWorks and the fiscally conservative Club for Growth.
Even more demoralizing for activists, perhaps, is that disapproval of the tea party is at an all-time high, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. The poll showed that 50 percent of Americans have an unfavorable view of the movement, compared with 39 percent in March.Sizzle and fizzle
This wouldn't be the first time an American political movement began to fade soon after an energetic, even sizzling, beginning. And other movements -- think Ross Perot -- had the advantage of a charismatic leader. To survive, the tea party movement has an even steeper hill to climb because there is no central, guiding force.
In Virginia's 5th district, Bill Hay, founder of the Charlottesville-based Jefferson Area Tea party, penned an op-ed piece in The Washington Post Sunday criticizing local tea party activists for failing to coalesce around a single candidate.
Similarly, in the 2nd District, Karen Miner Hurd, the head of the Hampton Roads Tea Party, accused the three last-placed candidates of being "selfish" for not dropping out and coalescing behind her group's preferred candidate, Ben Loyola.
In both districts, the establishment candidate won with less than 50 percent of the vote -- meaning tea party activists might have prevailed if they had rallied behind a single candidate.
Yet even if it comes with a cost, many tea partiers are proud of the movement's decentralized structure.
"We don't want a leader," said Barbee Kinnison of Henderson, Nev., who supported one of Angle's Republican opponents, businessman Danny Tarkanian. Kinnison's testy e-mail exchange with organizers of Tea Party Express was published in the blogosphere last week. "We like it being a collective group of voices. This is the first time in a generation when we feel like our voices are being heard."
Phillips, the organizer from Tea Party Nation, went so far as to issue a statement before Tuesday's primary reminding activists that Angle was not the only conservative in the race.On the 'fringe'
Angle has taken a number of positions that even some Republicans say raise questions about her ability to beat Reid. She has supported a nuclear reprocessing facility at Yucca Mountain and a prison rehabilitation program promoted by the Church of Scientology and involving massage and saunas. She would abolish the federal departments of energy and education.
And the opposition is already doing what it can to exploit the situation. Sen. Robert Menendez (N.J.), chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, has said Angle appeals "to the fringe of her party."
In a year of anti-incumbency fervor, what Republicans may least want to do is to take attention off the Democrats they are seeking to oust. Yet that is exactly what is happening in Angle's race.
Angle seems to recognize the peril; she has avoided contact with the national media in recent days, blocking the kind of unpleasant coming-out party that Kentucky's Rand Paul experienced after his Senate primary win last month. Paul, the son of former presidential candidate Ron Paul and a national tea party favorite, was branded an extremist after describing his opposition to pieces of the Civil Rights Act. Lately, Paul has declined national media requests for interviews.
One bright spot for the tea party Tuesday was South Carolina, where tea party-backed candidates led the GOP nominations for governor -- Nikki Haley -- and three congressional districts. Trey Gowdy's win in the 4th District was particularly sweet for the tea party because he bested incumbent Republican Bob Inglis. None of the leaders in these four races reached 50 percent, however, so all will head to a runoff in two weeks.
A warrant has been issued for the arrest of a Yuma man who sent his jury questionnaire back to the court clerk's office with obscenities written on it.
Timothy Michael Jones was ordered to appear in Superior Court Tuesday morning, on an order to show cause — which required him to appear before a judge to explain his reason for what he did.
But when Jones did not show up for his court appearance, Superior Court Judge Andrew Gould issued the bench warrant. Jones is facing a charge of indirect criminal contempt.
According to court records, Jones was sent a jury summons last month that informed him that he had been randomly selected as a prospective juror for the Yuma County Superior Courts and requested he fill out a questionnaire.
The summons also stated that if qualified, Jones was subject to being summoned anytime from July 1, 2010, for a period not to exceed 12 months.
Instead of filling out the questionnaire, Jones used a black marker to write a vulgar statement in big letters on the summons and sent it back to the court clerk's office.
The court also appointed Jay Cairns of the city of Yuma Prosecutor's Office as a special prosecutor in the case. Court records also stated that Jones is entitled to representation by counsel, but that he is not entitled to a jury trial on the charge.
If found guilty, Jones could be sentenced to up to six months in jail and a fine of no more than $300.
The warrant will remain in effect until Jones appears in court, whether voluntarily or after he is brought before the court in custody after his arrest.
Republican presidential contenders appear to have found a 2012 campaign theme: They’re spreading the word that President Barack Obama lacks enough real-world experience for the job, and that his response to the Gulf oil spill proves it.
No Republican has formally started to campaign, but several are speaking up now to say Obama is out of his league.
“I frankly think that he’s shown that in a crisis setting where there’s a deepwater oil spill, he’s out of his depth,” said Mitt Romney, the former Republican governor of Massachusetts, who ran for president in 2008.
“He just does not have the experience to actually lead. He’s a great speaker but not a great leader.”
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the GOPs vice presidential nominee in 2008, said Obama’s lack of experience has become evident during the crisis.
“I think what the president is realizing is that his lack of executive experience is coming into play right now,” she said. “I know that he mocked and chided others who did have experience in the campaign and he acted like being a community organizer was all that it was going to take.”
Romney and Palin made their comments during appearances on Fox News.
A White House spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.
Republican leaders haven’t said much about Obama’s inexperience since he took office in January last year.
Hillary Rodham Clinton tried in vain to make the issue play to her benefit during the 2008 campaign.
Now the issue is making a comeback as Obama faces perhaps the biggest crisis of his presidency. More than six weeks after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11, thousands of gallons of crude are still gushing into the ocean.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R), another possible White House candidate, is now sounding the same theme as Romney and Palin: that Obama is failing to show leadership at a critical time.
“The administration claimed to be ‘on top of this since day one,’ but the reality is that the president didn’t personally address the issue for many days, until the public outcry was too loud to ignore,” Huckabee said in a statement to The Hill.
Huckabee pointed to the president playing golf five times and hosting celebrity events at the White House, such as a tribute to Paul McCartney, since the rig exploded on April 20.
He also faulted Obama for not quickly convening local governors and private-sector companies to develop a broad response to the disaster.
Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), whom some experts consider the most viable 2012 contender in Congress, also said executive inexperience may have affected the federal response to the oil spill.
“Whether it’s lack of experience or lack of focus, there were a lot of things that probably should have been done that weren’t done that indicated the administration was at a loss as to what to do,” said Thune. “You can tie that back to experience.”
Thune, who is focusing on his 2010 Senate reelection, said the most stunning revelation of the week was that Obama had not personally talked to Tony Hayward, chief executive of BP, since the start of the crisis.
The administration announced Thursday evening it had invited BP officials to the White House for a meeting next week.
Almost all the most likely GOP presidential contenders are current or former governors. They argue that leaders with executive experience, such as theirs, know how to assemble partnerships to solve problems.
But Ross K. Baker, a political scientist at Rutgers University, said that argument is self-serving. “It’s an argument often heard from governors during presidential elections,” he said. “It’s arguable. [Former President] George W. Bush was a governor and he bungled the response to Hurricane Katrina.”
Democratic lawmakers stepped in to defend the administration.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) argued that the spill happened because of the culture of lax federal oversight that developed during the Bush administration.
“It takes a measure of nerve to say that when the Minerals Management Service was put under operational control of the oil industry by Republicans,” Whitehouse said in response to Romney and Palin. “It’s a little like the arsonist party blaming the firefighter for not doing a good enough job.”
Democratic lawmakers such as Sen. Mary Landrieu (La.) say Obama’s administration was on top of the problem from the first day and sent enough federal resources to the area. But Landrieu acknowledges that Obama fumbled the early PR effort by failing to take a more visible role.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) has criticized Obama for not sending more ships to skim oil from the ocean surface. He said the president should have made it clear from the first day that his administration, and not BP, was in charge.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the 2008 GOP nominee, said the president had demonstrated a lack of experience and “also a lack of competence,” and added, “No one can understand why he wouldn’t speak to the head of BP.”
10:39pm | June 10, 2010
Police: Man Arrested Amid Court Appearance
Man Charged With Car Burglary Accused Of Breaking Into Car Outside Court
POSTED: 10:12 am EDT June 10, 2010
UPDATED: 10:38 am EDT June 10, 2010
VERNION, Conn. -- A man appearing in court on charges of breaking into vehicles was arrested and accused of getting drunk and breaking into vehicles outside the courthouse Wednesday, police said.
Police said Thomas Peno, 62, of Amston, was appearing at Rockville Superior Court on Wednesday on charges of stealing a GPS from a vehicle. Police said during the court's lunch break, Peno purchased a bottle of vodka, which he proceeded to drink until he became intoxicated in front of the courthouse.
Police said Peno was then seen attempting to get into vehicles in front of the court and eventually got into a car on St. Bernard's Terrace, which is located next to the court.
Police said Peno was stopped by marshals for being intoxicated when he re-entered the courthouse and that he matched the description of the man who had been attempting to break into cars outside. Police said the victim of the car burglary on St. Bernard's terrace then entered court and reported that their cell phone and keys had been taken.
Police said after the victim entered the courthouse, Peno attempted to flee out the door, and knocked several people down as he went. Peno was detained by a marshal until officers arrived and he was placed under arrest.
Peno was charged with breach of peace, burglary and larceny. His bond was set at $20,000 and he was scheduled to appear in court on the new charges on Thursday.
LINK TO PHOTO:
Alvin Greene A GOP 'Plant'? James Clyburn Warns Of 'Shenanigans' With South Carolina Candidate
The Huffington Post
First Posted: 06-10-10 11:16 AM
Updated: 06-10-10 03:55 PM
James Clyburn accused surprise South Carolina Democratic Senate candidate Alvin Greene of being "someone's plant" on Thursday.
Is something fishy going on with Alvin Greene, the man who clinched an unlikely victory to become the Democratic nominee for South Carolina Senate? Fellow South Carolinian Rep. James Clyburn (D) thinks so, and on Thursday went as far as to say that Greene might be a "Republican plant."
Speaking with liberal radio show host Bill Press, Clyburn questioned Greene's improbable victory (Greene had no campaign signs, no website, and was largely invisible in the lead-up to Tuesday's primary) and said that his candidacy warranted an investigation by the U.S. Attorney's office.
"There were some real shenanigans going on in the South Carolina primary," Clyburn said of Tuesday's race. "I don't know if he was a Republican plant; he was someone's plant."
Clyburn said the circumstances of Greene's entry and eventual upset of the race were baffling.
"What is an unemployed guy doing paying $10,000 to run for the United States Senate? That just doesn't add up," Clyburn said of Greene, an unemployed military veteran who somehow came up with the $10,400 filing fee and decided to use it to mount an unlikely bid against conservative champion, Sen. Jim Demint. Greene ended up taking 59 percent of the vote despite his relative anonymity.
Clyburn went on to say that a U.S. attorney should examine the possibility that his limited campaign was improperly funded by outside political interests.
"I would hope the U.S. attorney down there would look at this," Clyburn said. "I think there's some federal laws being violated in this race...Somebody gave him that $10,000 and he who took it should be investigated, and he who gave it should be investigated."
The South Carolina Democratic party asked Greene to withdraw his Democratic nomination on Wednesday after it came out that he was facing a felony obscenity charge after allegedly showing inappropriate pictures to a college student last fall.
Clyburn gave an interview to Talking Points Memo later Thursday and pushed the issue further, saying that a potential probe by the U.S. Attorney's office should extend to two other African-American Democrats whom he believes may also be party impostors with ulterior motives.
"The party's choice in the 1st Congressional district lost. The party's choice for U.S. Senate lost. Sounds like a pattern to me," Clyburn told Talking Points Memo.
Apart from Greene, Clyburn alleged that Gregory Brown, who mounted an unsuccessful campaign against Clyburn for the 6th Congressional seat, and Ben Frasier, who triumphed over state Democratic party-backed candidate Robert Burton to become the nominee for the 1st Congressional district, were also plants.
Asked by Talking Points Memo about Clyburn's accusations, Burton campaign manager Ann Beser said that something was "radically wrong."
Beser said that since election night the Burton campaign has been doing precinct tallies and has seen numbers that far surpass what turnout had expected to be, including all-white precincts where Greene beat Senate candidate Victor Rawl and Frasier beat Burton. Both Rawl and Burton are white. "None of it makes sense," she said.
Read the whole report here.
Prince Sagala searched for her son and daughter for 15 years, fearing she had lost them forever to the estranged husband who took them to his native Mexico.
Then one day, she typed her child's name into Facebook on a library computer, and suddenly found herself exchanging messages with a young woman who said she was her daughter in what experts say was a rare online success in the search for missing kids online.
But the exchange wasn't a happy reunion.
"She thought I was a stranger woman," Sagala said, with hurt and frustration in her voice. "I wrote back and she deleted it. Then, she disappeared."
Authorities tracked down the children, now 16 and 17, outside Orlando, Florida, and arrested their father, Faustino Fernandez Utrera, 42, on May 26. He faces kidnapping and child custody charges. Sagala is now racing to regain custody of her children before they turn 18 and she loses them to adulthood.
Florida authorities have temporarily placed the children with a non-relative whom the pair know and set a hearing for later this month.
"This has been so traumatic for them. The father, the only person they've known as a parent, is now in jail. When they have children of their own, when they're 25, 26, 27 years of age, it's going to dawn on them what their mother lost," Montclair police Detective Debbie Camou said. "You can't fault them for what they feel."
Utrera did not respond to a request for a jailhouse interview. Florida authorities did not know if he had retained an attorney.
The couple was contemplating divorce in 1995 when Sagala returned from work to find the children, then 3 and 2, gone, Camou said.
Sagala, 43, later learned through her husband's relatives in Mexico City that he was there with the children and didn't intend to come back, Camou said. "At that time, she was afraid to go to Mexico because he had threatened her," she said.
Police eventually referred the investigation to the San Bernardino County District Attorney's office, following the department's policy, but the probe stalled.
During this time, authorities recently learned, Utrera moved to Florida with his children and got a driver's license using a fake name. It's unclear how long the three had been in Florida when Sagala found the Facebook page.
Meanwhile, Sagala raised two younger children she had with a man she said she married three years after Utrera fled and with whom she now lives on a quiet residential street in this city about 35 miles east of Los Angeles. It's not clear if she ever divorced Utrera.
But she always hoped to reunite with her older children. On a visit to a neighborhood library in March, Sagala had one of her children enter her daughter's name into Facebook and her page popped up.
On March 10, she began exchanging e-mails and chatting with her daughter, and hoped to get her to reveal where she lived and re-establish a bond.
Sagala said she sent an old family photo to the teen, but her daughter broke it off, saying in an e-mail that she was happy with her family and that she'd heard bad things about her mother.
Sagala alerted police, who used the names of friends on the daughter's page to track the girl to central Florida — and her high school. Sagala gave police copies of e-mails she exchanged with her daughter, which helped prosecutors build their case against Utrera.
Authorities in Florida began surveillance of the children and Utrera to make sure they did not run off while prosecutors in San Bernardino built an extradition case in California, Camou said.
Investigators checked the children's attendance at school and drove by their house to make sure they weren't packing up. Utrera and the children had been living with another woman whom the children apparently considered a mother figure, said Kurt Rowley, who is prosecuting the case in California.
Once prosecutors said they had enough to charge Utrera, Florida deputies arrested him as he waited at a bus stop to pick up his son from school.
When Utrera was arrested, the family was living in a permanent mobile home on a palm-lined street of neatly trimmed lawns in Davenport, Fla. On a recent day, a minivan parked in the drive bore a speciality license plate with the words "Parents Make A Difference" inscribed on it.
The case is "more heartbreaking because now, with the dad in jail, she does have a right of custody by default, but it's not that simple," Rowley said, adding that courts give weight to the children's opinions because of their age. "If they were returned to her, in all likelihood, they would probably run away."
Even with the array of websites frequented by teens, discoveries like Sagala's are rare because abducted children's lives are so closely monitored by the offending parent that they can't easily get online, said Robert Lowery of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.
For now, Sagala is trying to sort out the pieces of her children's past. Her younger kids, she said, helped her stay strong.
Then, with a sad smile, she summed up what she's missed with the older ones: "Every single day."
Antonio Gonzalez in Davenport, Fla., contributed to this repor
Dems drop empathy in immigration fight
Long pilloried for being soft on illegal immigration, top Democratic officials have concluded there’s only one way they can hope to pass a comprehensive immigration bill:
Talk more like Republicans.
They’re seizing on the work of top Democratic Party operatives who, after a legislative defeat in 2007, launched a multiyear polling project to craft an enforcement-first, law-and-order, limited-compassion pitch that now defines the party’s approach to the issue.
The 12 million people who unlawfully reside the country? Call them “illegal immigrants,” not “undocumented workers,” the pollsters say.
Strip out the empathy, too. Democrats used to offer immigrants “an earned path to citizenship” so hardworking people trying to support their families could “come out of the shadows.” To voters, that sounded like a gift, the operatives concluded.
Now, Democrats emphasize that it’s “unacceptable” to allow 12 million people to live in America illegally and that the government must “require” them to register and “get right with the law.” That means three things: “Obey our laws, learn our language and pay our taxes” — or face deportation.
“We lost control of the message in the 2007 debate,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, a pro-immigrant rights group that worked with Center for American Progress founder John Podesta on the messaging overhaul.
“We were on the inside fighting off amendments, and the other side was jacking up their opponents and getting Rush and Hannity and O’Reilly on fire about this. We needed to do a much better job on communications.”
President Barack Obama uses the buzzwords. So does the congressional leadership. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), author of the Democratic immigration plan, scolds advocates who refer to illegal immigrants as “undocumented workers.”
The revamped message may not face the real-world test anytime soon. The appetite to take on immigration before the November elections has faded as the political environment for incumbents grows increasingly hostile. Supporters of comprehensive reform plan to continue to exert pressure, but privately they say legislative action will need to wait until next year.
Even then, the poll-tested words and phrases will only go so far if Democrats fail to exert discipline and unify behind the get-tough message. And at this point, not all immigration reform advocates have bought into the rhetorical hard line, which aims squarely at winning the political center. Even Sharry, who spearheaded the effort, declines the advice of pollsters to excise “undocumented workers” from his lexicon, saying it feels too much like it plays into conservative efforts to “dehumanize” immigrants.
“When [voters] hear ‘undocumented worker,’ they hear a liberal euphemism, it sounds to them like liberal code,” said Drew Westen, a political consultant who has helped Sharry hone the message through dial testing. “I am often joking with leaders of progressive organizations and members of Congress, ‘If the language appears fine to you, it is probably best not to use it. You are an activist, and by definition, you are out of the mainstream.’”
The shift in language is one of the more dramatic changes in the Democratic strategy since foes of comprehensive immigration outmaneuvered the party in 2007, dealing an embarrassing legislative defeat that set back the cause years. But the tougher tone is only one outcome of a broader effort by Democrats and immigration reform advocates to prepare for the next round of battle.
The country’s largest labor unions, which fought each other the last time around, are now on the same team. The Service Employees International Union mended its differences on the issue with the AFL-CIO, which worked against the bill in 2007 and prompted several pro-labor Democratic senators to vote against it. The upshot is a Democratic message with a more combative approach toward employers that “hire illegal immigrants to drive down wages.”
Lacking a coordinated campaign, advocates organized as if they were managing an election. Sharry left his post as executive director of the National Immigration Forum to start America’s Voice, which describes itself as the communications and rapid response arm of the movement. Angela Kelley, an authority on immigration, signed on to lead the lobbying effort through the Center for American Progress.
And a network of community organizations, advocacy groups and labor unions organized under three umbrellas to push citizenship and voter mobilization drives, raise money and develop a field campaign.
But first, Podesta and Sharry assembled a roster of boldfaced Democratic pollsters — Stan Greenberg, Celinda Lake, Guy Molyneaux — to figure out how the party would ever get away from one of the most devastating GOP lines of attack, that a comprehensive immigration plan amounted to “amnesty” for illegals.
The results made Greenberg a convert.
His surveys of swing districts in 2006 and 2007 concluded that Democrats took a political risk by discussing immigration. Greenberg thought frustration with immigrants would spawn an environment similar to the welfare backlash in the 1990s and that Democrats needed to get tough on border security before talking about citizenship.
But polling that Greenberg, Lake and Molyneaux conducted in 2008 proved to Greenberg that Democrats could talk in a way that won over voters. It needed to sound tough and pragmatic, but not overly punitive, the pollsters said. The message beat the amnesty charge in their polling.
“There was more and more evidence that there were ways to address the issue,” Greenberg said. “I also came to believe the country wanted to do comprehensive reform. ... People want this to be brought under control, and they know you can’t just expel people.”
The most significant shift in language involves the path to citizenship. Pollsters determined that Democrats sounded as though they wanted to reward illegal immigrants, even though lawmakers almost always laid out that requirements and delays that would precede citizenship.
“It comes back to this idea: We give permission; we set the terms; it’s under our control; and if you meet those conditions, you are us, welcome to America,” Westen said of the new frame.
This time around, the message starts with a pledge to secure the borders and crack down on employers. It then moves to this: “It is unacceptable to have 12 million people in our country who are outside the system. We must require illegal immigrants to register for legal status, pay their taxes, learn English and pass criminal background checks to remain in the country and work toward citizenship. Those who have a criminal record or refuse to register should be deported.”
To get any idea of how the language has infiltrated official Washington, here is what Obama said last month at a Cinco de Mayo celebration at the White House:
“The way to fix our broken immigration system is through common-sense, comprehensive immigration reform. That means responsibility from government to secure our borders, something we have done and will continue to do. It means responsibility from businesses that break the law by undermining American workers and exploiting undocumented workers — they’ve got to be held accountable. It means responsibility from people who are living here illegally. They’ve got to admit that they broke the law and pay taxes and pay a penalty, and learn English, and get right before the law — and then get in line and earn their citizenship.”
Bob Dane, communications director of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, predicted the new frame would have limited impact once both sides are fully engaged on the issue.
“They are scrambling to sugarcoat a breakfast cereal that nobody wants to eat,” Dane said.
Jail trusty accused of smuggling contraband in prosthetic leg
Abbey Brown Doyle
The Town Talk
June 9, 2010
A Rapides Parish Jail trusty might not have a leg to stand on after being accused of smuggling contraband into the jail via his prosthetic leg
Joe Lewis Jr., 42, of 2302 Eighth St., Alexandria, was arrested and charged with introduction of contraband into a penal institution and possession of a controlled dangerous substance.
Lewis was serving a four-year sentence for a conviction of possession of a controlled dangerous substance in Rapides Parish Detention Center III. He had earned trusty status -- meaning he worked outside the jail during the day with other special privileges at the facility where Lewis was confined in the evenings.
Herman Walters, Rapides Parish sheriff's assistant chief deputy, said during a routine check of trusties coming back to the facility Friday, correctional officers discovered the contraband hidden in his prosthetic leg.
Inside the leg, the officers found bags of loose tobacco, 10 cigarettes, a container of smokeless tobacco and four Soma pills -- a muscle relaxer.
Tobacco has been considered contraband since Aug. 15, 2009 -- a deadline all correctional facilities were given to go smoke-free. Locally, Rapides Parish jails stopped selling cigarettes July 1, 2009.
The ban was so the institutions could comply with the Louisiana Smoke-free Air Act passed by Legislature in 2006. The correctional facilities were given extra time to implement the indoor smoking ban. Inmates were given the option to use cessation methods, like the patch, although most inmates who smoked decided to quit cold turkey.
Jail officials have said jails have seen an increase in contraband being snuck in with the ban, but a decrease in those attempting to smuggle in illegal drugs. And while an increase in violence was expected with the smoking ban, there have been no major issues.
The Rapides Parish Sheriff's Office displays some of the contraband it alleges trusty Joe Lewis Jr. smuggled into Rapides Parish Detention Center III in his prosthetic leg.
2 years later, ex-cop admits story of shooting was a lie
Fired shot into his vest to stir Gowanda search
Stephen T. WATSON
NEWS STAFF REPORTER
June 09, 2010, 12:30 am
A disgraced former Gowanda police officer has admitted that he lied two years ago when he claimed that a gunman shot him, a disclosure that apparently settles one of the area’s more perplexing police shooting cases, prosecutors said Tuesday.
Jason D. Miller confessed that he staged the 2008 incident by firing a shot into his bulletproof vest as it hung from a tree and hiding the weapon before making his false call, Erie County District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III told The Buffalo News.
Miller made the admission to investigators from Sedita’s office as part of a plea deal in a case that accused Miller of covering up a traffic violation in exchange for free pizza.
“From what I know about this case, it makes a certain amount of sense,” Sedita said of Miller’s statement. “It makes a heck of a lot more sense than the story he’s been sticking to since September 2008.”
Members of the Gowanda police force, the State Police and other law enforcement agencies have long had suspicions about the incident, which occurred Sept. 26, 2008.
Miller, now 36 and a North Collins resident, was a part-time Gowanda officer at the time.
He initially told police that he had been driving on East Hill Street in the village when a man walking on the side of the road threw something at his patrol car, Gowanda police said.
Miller said he got out of his car and chased the man, who Miller said climbed a steep incline and fired two shots at the officer from a plateau. One of the bullets hit Miller in his vest, according to his account.
The call by Miller drew a heavy law enforcement response, with state troopers and Gowanda police leading an intensive investigation into the shooting.
Miller stayed on the Gowanda police force until last July, when he was placed on administrative leave because of his handling of a June 4, 2009, traffic stop.
Officials say Miller arrested the driver for having a suspended license, filled out the required paperwork but never filed those documents with the court. He did this in exchange for three free pizzas provided by the driver, authorities said.
Miller resigned from the force in September and, on the same day, resigned as an investigator with the Cattaraugus County district attorney’s office.
In May, Miller pleaded guilty to official misconduct, a deal that required him to pay back $600 to the Gowanda Police Benevolent Association and reveal what happened in the shooting.
Sedita’s office handled Miller’s prosecution because of his former employment with the Cattaraugus County office.
In his first session with Sedita’s investigators, Miller acknowledged that the shooting didn’t happen the way he reported it, but he did not elaborate.
This didn’t satisfy Sedita, who said he directed Chief Investigator John M. Cleary Jr. and Investigator Mark R. Stambach to interview Miller again.
The investigators talked with Miller on Monday at the office of his lawyer, Daniel J. Henry Jr. There, Miller admitted that he fired a bullet into his vest as it hung on a tree, put the vest back on, buried the weapon and reported that he had been been shot and needed backup, Sedita said.
Miller said he got nervous and returned about a week later to dig up the gun, which he dismantled before scattering the pieces throughout Gowanda.
Monday, Miller contended that he always intended to eventually tell the truth.
“He did say he was going to come clean to the authorities, but it was too embarrassing,” Sedita said.
The two investigators repeatedly asked Miller why he had staged the shooting.
“He said, ‘I don’t know,’ ” said Sedita, who speculated that Miller might have wanted to present himself as a hero — or victim — to his fellow officers.
Sedita said that Miller was not promised immunity for his admissions in the shooting and that he has the discretion to charge him with reporting a false incident, a Class Bmisdemeanor. But Sedita noted that Miller already has pleaded guilty to official misconduct, a Class A misdemeanor, and now has cooperated with investigators.
Henry declined to comment on the details of his client’s admission.
Miller’s confession is gratifying to Gowanda Police Chief Joseph J. Alessi, who said law enforcement officials had worried for two years that a cop shooter may be on the loose. “I don’t understand his thinking,” Alessi said. “It’s very disheartening that he threw away a promising career in law enforcement, . . . and for what?”
Alessi thanked the State Police, Sedita’s office and the Erie and Cattaraugus County sheriff’s offices for their work on the case.
He said he and a number of police officers plan to attend Miller’s sentencing, originally set for Thursday in Collins Town Court but now postponed.
Man forced to help thieves carry TV
Armed robbers on the Southeastside added insult to injury this morning when they forced a man to help them carry out a 32-inch flat-screen television they stole from his apartment.
The thieves also made off with a $1,000 Bulova gold watch and a $600 diamond-studded Rolex watch during the home invasion in the 8100 block of McFarland Road at 1:30 a.m., police said.
Three masked men carrying handguns entered the apartment through a second-floor patio door while Jason Geminden, 30, and his girlfriend were asleep, according to an Indianapolis metropolitan police report.
They told their victims to lie on their stomachs on the bed but at one point instructed Geminden to get up so he could help them carry the flat screen, according to the report.
The robbers stole jewelry, electronics and car keys. They at first said they would tie up the pair before they left but decided against it because the victims were so helpful, according to the report.
Ya Wen, a Chinese girl who was hurt in a traffic accident, smokes cigarettes and drinks beer as therapy.
This three-year-old turned to booze and nicotine to recover from a horrific road traffic accident.
Chinese toddler Ya Wen started downing pints of beer and smoking up to a pack a day after she was struck by a speeding van and spent five days in a coma, her parents told the Yangcheng Evening Post.
"She likes drinking," her mother Gao Wen said.
"Three glasses of beer is no problem to her."
Gao Wen said her daughter's personality changed dramatically and she started acting like an adult shortly after leaving the hospital.
First she was busted hiding in the toilet smoking her dad's cigarettes, then the girl turned to stealing them from a local store - before the owner let her have them on credit.
"The first time I found her smoking was in the toilet," her mother said.
"Before that I often saw cigarette butts in the toilet but thought they were my husband's, until I saw my daughter smoking there."
The store owner said he assumed the child was buying the butts for dear old dad, adding that the child would take up to two packs away at a time.
The girl has been addicted to smoking for a year now and has also changed her preference in clothes, the family said.
"She only likes boy's clothes," Wen's mother said.
"If we don't buy them for her, she cries in protest."
The family lives in a shelter in Huizhou, China, and collect and sell garbage for cash.
Wen's father recently gave up the smokes to set a good example for his child but she still cries for them whenever they are visible.
Meanwhile, a chain-smoking toddler in Indonesia who threw tantrums if he did not have 40 cigarettes a day has managed to curb his addiction, by cutting down to just 15 a day.
Two-year-old Ardi Rizal took up the habit when he was 18 months old.
"He's totally addicted," Ardi's 26-year-old mother, Diana, said recently.
"If he doesn't get cigarettes, he gets angry and screams and batters his head against the wall. He tells me he feels dizzy and sick."
Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/world/2010/06/09/2010-06-09_chinese_toddler_ya_wen_smokes_drinks_beer_as_therapy_from_traffic_accident_injur.html#ixzz0qO2LLs46
Onset grandmother accused in burglary spree with grandson, his frie
An Onset woman is accused of teaming up with her grandson and his friend on a burglary ring that targeted several Wareham homes last week.
The trio stole more than $9,000 worth of items during a three-day spree, police said.
Lee Pires, 57, her grandson Adrian Martin, 21, also of Onset, and his friend Timothy Morrison, 19, of Wareham, were arrested Thursday after allegedly breaking into three residences and stealing jewelry, cash, and electronics, Officer William Fihlman said.
The stolen items include a 42-inch flat-screen television, a laptop computer, and a digital camera, Fihlman said.
After an invesgation, police identified the three suspects and the vehicle believed to be used in the break-ins, Fihlman said. Authorities said they then followed the vehicle to a computer-repair store on Cranberry Highway and confronted Martin.
An officer was injured in a brief scuffle with Martin as the suspect tried to flee, according to police. The officer was treated and released from Tobey Hospital.
Pires and Morrison were also arrested at the store.
Several stolen items were recovered from Morrison's residence after a search warrant was executed later Thursday, police said.
About 95 percent of the stolen items have been returned to the victims, Fihlman said.
The trio will be arraigned Tuesday in Wareham District Court, Assistant District Attorney Bridget Norton Middleton said.
Some of Sarah Palin's riskiest endorsements scored major victories Tuesday. AP
Some of Sarah Palin’s riskiest endorsements scored major victories Tuesday for the former Alaska governor, showing off her power in Republican primaries.
Palin had four primary endorsements in play – Carly Fiorina, Nikki Haley, Terry Branstad and Cecile Bledsoe – and three won or moved on to a runoff.
Palin served different roles for each candidate – sometimes spotlighting conservatives not well known to the national scene while at others validating conservative credentials to an unsure grassroots and even stepping in to deflect nasty attacks.
Perhaps Palin’s most powerful demonstration came in South Carolina, where her endorsement propelled a major swing in the polls for Haley’s primary campaign for governor and sustained the state representative through accusations of two separate affairs.
"Her decision to get - and stay - involved in the race here in South Carolina was a huge boon to our campaign, because it caused a lot of South Carolinians to take a second look at a rising in the polls but once-little known state legislator who was fighting to give them back their government,” Haley spokesman Tim Pearson said of Palin.
Palin was quick to defend Haley from blogger Will Folks, who claimed to have had an “inappropriate physical relationship” with Haley, writing on her Facebook page that Folks was trying to “make things up.”
Palin recorded a robocall for Haley in the closing days, urging South Carolinians to ignore the “made-up nonsense.”
For Fiorina, Palin bucked some of her own supporters in choosing the former Hewlett Packard chief executive over tea party favorite Chuck DeVore in the California Senate race.
After announcing her support for Fiorina, the former governor’s Facebook page was overrun by negative comments trashing Palin’s support of the more moderate candidate with strong establishment ties.
But Palin rebuffed her conservative critics by touting Fiorina’s pro-life credentials as well as her 100 percent NRA rating – thus helping build the conservative grassroots narrative the multimillionaire former businesswoman utilized to dispatch both DeVore and former Rep. Tom Campbell.
“Governor Palin’s endorsement was integral to the success of our campaign,” Fiorina spokeswoman Julie Soderlund told POLITICO. “She provides the ‘good housekeeping seal of approval’ for conservative, outsider candidates. After earning her endorsement we saw an immediate spike in support for Carly amongst conservatives, who represent the vast majority of Republican primary voters.”
Palin also surprised some conservatives with her endorsement of Terry Branstad in the Iowa gubernatorial race over Bob Vander Plaats, a top aide to Mike Huckabee’s 2008 operation in the state and a grassroots favorite.
As with Fiorina, Palin was able to successfully reassure many of her troubled fans that Branstad was indeed a strong conservative amidst protests on Facebook.
Palin frequently uses the Susan B. Anthony List as barometer of suitable conservative candidates, and, as with Fiorina, the group’s support of Bledsoe led Palin to the Arkansas House candidate
Palin labeled Bledsoe one of the “mama grizzlies” the former governor contends are leading a new feminist movement, and the Arkansas state senator turned a distant second place showing a month ago into what looked like a narrow defeat at the hands of Rogers Mayor Steve Womack.
Morris: Obama doesn’t have a clue
Conservatives are so enraged at Obama’s socialism and radicalism that they are increasingly surprised to learn that he is incompetent as well. The sight of his blithering and blustering while the most massive oil spill in history moves closer to America’s beaches not only reminds one of Bush’s terrible performance during Katrina, but calls to mind Jimmy Carter’s incompetence in the face of the hostage crisis.
America is watching the president alternate between wringing his hands in helplessness and pointing his finger in blame when he should be solving the most pressing environmental problem America has faced in the past 50 years. We are watching generations of environmental protection swept away as marshes, fisheries, vacation spots, recreational beaches, wetlands, hatcheries and sanctuaries fall prey to the oil spill invasion. And, all the while, the president acts like a spectator, interrupting his basketball games only to excoriate BP for its failure to contain the spill.
The political fallout from the oil spill will, indeed, spill across party and ideological lines. The environmentalists of America cannot take heart from a president so obviously ignorant about how to protect our shores and so obstinately arrogant that he refuses to inform himself and take any responsibility.
All of this explains why the oil spill is seeping into his ratings among Democrats, dragging him down to levels we have not seen since Bush during the pit of the Iraq war. Conservatives may dislike Obama because he is a leftist. But liberals are coming to dislike him because he is not a competent progressive.
Meanwhile, the nation watches nervously as the same policies Obama has brought to our nation are failing badly and publicly in Europe. When Moody’s announces that it is considering downgrading bonds issued by the government of the United States of America, we find ourselves, suddenly, in deep trouble. We have had deficits before. But never have they so freaked investors that a ratings agency considered lowering its opinion of our solvency. Not since Alexander Hamilton assumed the states’ Revolutionary War debt has America’s willingness and ability to meet its financial obligations been as seriously questioned.
And the truth begins to dawn on all of us: Obama has no more idea how to work his way out of the economic mess into which his policies have plunged us than he does about how to clean up the oil spill that is destroying our southern coastline.
Both the financial crisis and the oil come ever closer to our shores — one from the east and the other from the south — and, between them, they loom as a testament to the incompetence of our government and of its president.
And, oddly, to his passivity as well. After pursuing a remarkably activist, if misguided and foolhardy, agenda, Obama seems not to know what to do and finds himself consigned to the roles of observer and critic.
America is getting the point that its president doesn’t have a clue.
He doesn’t know how to stop the oil from spilling. He is bereft of ideas about how to create jobs in the aftermath of the recession. He has no idea how to keep the European financial crisis contained. He has no program for repaying the massive debt hole into which he has dug our nation without tax increases he must know will only deepen the pit.
Some presidents have failed because of their stubbornness (Johnson and Bush-43). Others because of their character flaws (Clinton and Nixon). Still others because of their insensitivity to domestic problems (Bush-41). But now we have a president who is failing because he is incompetent. It is Jimmy Carter all over again.
Who would have thought that this president, so anxious to lead us and so focused on his specific agenda and ideas, would turn out not to know what he is doing?
Morris, a former adviser to Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and President Bill Clinton, is the author of Outrage, Fleeced and Catastrophe. To get all of his and Eileen McGann’s columns for free by e-mail or to order a signed copy of their latest book, 2010: Take Back America — A Battle Plan, go to dickmorris.com. In August, Morris became a strategist for the League of American Voters, which is running ads opposing the president’s healthcare reforms.
In a new, oddly titled Facebook post, Sarah Palin blasts President Obama for not communicating directly with BP CEO Tony Hayward.
Mr. President: with all due respect, you have to get involved, sir. The priorities and timeline of an oil company are not the same as the public's ...as a former chief executive, I humbly offer this advice to the President: you must verify. That means you must meet with Hayward. Demand answers.
After running through her experience dealing with oil company executives and repeating the most talked about comment she made in her 2008 RNC convention speech - that a community organizer lacks the executive experience of a mayor - Palin has one more piece of advice for Obama (emphasis mine):
Please, sir, for the sake of the Gulf residents, reach out to experts who have experience holding oil companies accountable...They can help you. Give them a call. Or, what the heck, give me a call.
It seems somewhat strange that in a post titled, "Less Talkin', More Kickin," Palin is urging Obama to talk to more people, but she is clearly trying to inject herself into the crisis.
Obama will make a fourth trip to the Gulf next Monday and Tuesday.
THIS IS A COPY OF THE FACEBOOK POST BY SARAH PALIN
Sarah Palin: Less Talkin’, More Kickin’
June 8, 2010
“BP has had more high-profile accidents than any other company in recent years. And now, with the disaster in the gulf, independent experts say the pervasiveness of the company’s problems, in multiple locales and different types of facilities, is striking.
‘They are a recurring environmental criminal and they do not follow U.S. health safety and environmental policy,’ said Jeanne Pascal, a former EPA lawyer who led its BP investigations.”
Limping bandit pleads guilty to 23 bank robberies
Jun 08, 2010 8:44 AM EDT
Updated: Jun 08, 2010 8:58 AM EDT
Cecil Stephen Haire (Source: Charleston County Sheriff's Office)
GA man known as "the Limping Bandit" pleaded guilty in federal court Monday to 23 counts of bank robbery, according to U.S. Attorney William N. Nettles.
Cecil Stephen Haire will be sentenced at a later date after a judge as reviewing pre-sentencing reports. Haire faces up to 25 years in prison and $250,000 fines for each count.
Haire admitted to committing the robberies across the Southeast United States beginning in June 2006. Nettles said Haire first robbed three banks in Georgia, and eight more over the next three years in Florida and Alabama, as well as 13 banks in Summerville, Orangeburg, Aiken, Sumter, Edgefield, Camden, Charleston and Mount Pleasant, SC.
Haire was stopped after he entered the National Bank of South Carolina on US-17 in Mount Pleasant on July 17, 2009. Nettles said he handed the teller a brown paper bag, pointed a gun at her and demanded that she put money in the bag. After he fled the bank, someone followed him and gave a description of his vehicle to Mount Pleasant Police. Officers located Haire about 20 minutes later sitting in his vehicle in the parking lot of a retirement home. Police found the clothing that he wore in a nearby dumpster, as well as a BB gun pistol that he used to commit the robbery.
While he was still a suspect, Haire acquired the nickname "The Limping Bandit" because many of the bank tellers described a noticeable limp in his walk. After his arrest, the FBI confirmed that Haire's limp is a result of childhood polio
In 1986, Haire was convicted in Georgia for seven counts of armed robbery and one count of bank robbery. He was released on parole in 2006.
Arizona state Senator Russell Pearce wants to challenge the 14th Ammendment that makes children citizens if they are born in the United States, regardless of their parents' status.
First, Arizona targeted illegal immigrants. Now the state's eyeing their children.
A state senator is looking to draft legislation that would keep children born in the United States to parents who are in the country illegally from becoming citizens, as well as making them pay tuition to attend public schools.
"My issue is protecting the taxpayers. You can't come here illegally and not be a legal resident and expect the taxpayers to pick up your tab," State Sen. Russell Pearce told the Arizona Capitol Times.
The Arizona Republican is looking to draft legislation that will target the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, which states that, "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside."
Pearce called this "policy" from the Constitution "a magnet that attracts illegal immigrants."
Separately, the senator wants children whose parents are in the United States illegally to pay tuition to attend public school.
"They shouldn't be a burden," Pearce told the Capitol Times. "You don't have a right to be a non-resident of this state and take advantage of the taxpayers of this state."
State Sen. John Huppenthal tried to propose similar legislation earlier this year, but it failed to pass.
Arizona began its assault on illegal immigration last month, when Gov. Jan Brewer signed into law a controversial bill that would allow state police to question the citizenship of suspected criminals.
The law has been criticized across the nation by police commanders and politicians who fear it could lead to racial profiling. However, polls suggest a majority of Americans would like to see similar legislation passed in other states.
Brewer met with President Obama last week over her state's battle with illegal immigration. The White House says it plans to send 1,200 National Guard troops to the Mexican border, as well as $500 million in funding.
Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/2010/06/07/2010-06-07_arizona_sen_russell_pearce_make_children_of_illegal_immigrants_pay_tuition_to_at.html#ixzz0qFyqAK1M
Fox News are among media outlets looking to grab the now-vacant seat held by Helen Thomas, who resigned as White House press icon Monday.
WASHINGTON - Long before Helen Thomas resigned under fire Monday, Fox News had trained its sights on grabbing her coveted front-row seat in the White House briefing room.
Sources within the White House Correspondents' Association, which oversees the seating chart, told the Daily News that Fox, the nation's largest cable news outlet, has argued for years it belongs in the front row, where CNN, ABC and MSNBC (represented by NBC) already reside with the Associated Press and Reuters.
Media sources said The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Bloomberg News and Washington Post are also making pitches for the now-vacant prime real estate.
The association board plans to decide as early as Thursday who gets the seat.
The uproar over Thomas' anti-Israel remarks triggered a feeding frenzy in the briefing room as other news organizations maneuvered to move their own seats up in the musical chairs sweepstakes.
In the George W. Bush administration, press secretary Ari Fleischer - who led the charge to get Thomas fired over the weekend - pressured the correspondents' association to alter the seating chart. He managed to get some organizations considered sympathetic to the administration better seats in the pecking order.
When Thomas left United Press International after the Unification Church bought the wire service in 2000, she would normally have had to relinquish the seat. But she kept what became known as "the Helen Thomas seat" out of respect for her long and distinguished tenure as a White House regular.
Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/2010/06/07/2010-06-07_fox_news_gunning_for_helen_thomas_frontrow_seat_in_the_white_house_briefing_room.html#ixzz0qDyveHIo
The Empire State Building declined the Catholic League's request to light the building blue and white...
Green/AP...to honor what would have been the 100th birthday of Mother Teresa.
The ultra-conservative Catholic League got an unlikely ally Monday in its fight to get the Empire State Building to honor Mother Teresa: City Council Speaker Christine Quin.
Quinn weighed in after building owners denied the Catholic League's request to commemorate the beloved holy woman's 100th birthday with blue and white lights - the colors of her religious order.
"The question of why the building will not be lit is a question that deserves answering," Quinn told The Daily News. "As far as I'm concerned, the answer should be yes."
Quinn, who is openly gay, has often been on opposite sides of the League on issues from gay marriage to whether gays should march in the St. Patrick's Day parade.
Quinn said she reached out to the Empire State Building ownership last week after learning from another Council member that the lighting application had been denied.
"We urged them to try to find a way to light the building," said Quinn. "We are all very disappointed."
Asked if the owners gave a reason for refusing the request, Quinn replied, "Not particularly."
Quinn called on the owners to reevaluate their decision and "choose to honor this wonderful woman who has given so much to the world."
She would have been 100 years old on Aug. 26.
Among other things, the saintly nun best known for her work with poor in
Calcutta also opened the first hospice for AIDS patients in Greenwich Village, said Quinn.
"She was voted the most admired woman in the world three years in a row and even won the Nobel Peace Prize," Quinn wrote.
There was no immediate response from the Empire State Building Lighting Partners, which has been hit with thousands of petitions - egged by Donohue and his group - requesting they reverse their decision.
In a statement, an outraged Donohue pointed out that New York's most iconic building lit up its tower in red and yellow lights last year to mark the 60th anniversary of China's Communist Revolution, which installed a regime that murdered millions of its own people.
Mother Teresa was 87 when she died in 1997. She has been beatified by the Roman Catholic Church, a step before being named a saint.
Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/2010/06/07/2010-06-07_catholic_league_council_speaker_quinn_blast_empire_state_building_over_mother_te.html#ixzz0qDvhFyf1
Cash-for-gold rip-offs prevalent
Metro Atlanta / State News
5:23 p.m. Saturday, June 5, 2010
In recent years, the cash-for-gold mail-order industry has taken off as the price of the precious metal skyrocketed and Americans’ wealth plummeted.
The price of the gold has skyrocketed as Americans’ wealth has plummeted. At the same time, an increasing number of consumers shipping off their Rolexes or class rings say they are getting pennies on the dollar or nothing at all.
At the same time, an increasing number of consumers shipping off their Rolexes or class rings say they are getting pennies on the dollar or nothing at all from companies that claim they never received the goods.
The complaints have prompted lawsuits and investigations. Proposed federal legislation would regulate the industry, making it illegal for companies to melt down jewelry without customer authorization and require companies to give consumers ample time to request a refund.
Typically, the cash-for-gold mail-order business is supposed to work like this: A customer drops unwanted gold jewelry in a postage-paid envelope and a few days later receives a check in the mail. The amount is based on gold content (karats) and the daily price of gold, currently about $1,200 an ounce. If a customer thinks the amount is too low, he or she can send the check back and the jewelry is returned at no charge.
The question is: How could anyone blindly mail their valuables to some business they’ve never dealt with and expect a good result?
“People make foolish decisions when they are under the pressure of hard economic times,” said Michael Galvin with the Better Business Bureau in southeast Florida, where several big cash-for-gold mail-order companies are headquartered.
He recommends that consumers who want to sell their gold approach jewelers in their communities.
“I surely would recommend going to them instead of putting your valuables in an envelope without any insurance and sending it to someone you don’t know,” he said. “I can’t overemphasize the importance of an individual looking in their own community for this service.”
Parkway Gold, with offices in Alpharetta and Cumming, advertises that it pays top dollar for gold. But Bob Weinberg, an owner of the family business, said consumers should not take his word for it.
“Comparison shop, just like you would for tires and shoes,” said Weinberg, who says he’s been dealing with precious metals for 50 years. He happily will provide customers with the names and numbers of his competitors.
If a company won’t quote you a price over the telephone, hang up, he said.
“There are people who will take advantage of those who are not informed,” Weinberg said. “There are a lot of good, legitimate people in Atlanta. We are not the only ones.”
But many people with money problems might be embarrassed to be seen in a local pawnshop or jeweler, said Evan Nierman, a representative of Cash4Gold, one of the largest players in the industry. Many consumers like the convenience that his company offers, he said.
“It is discreet. It is easy and fast. You can do the whole transaction without leaving the couch,” Nierman said.
Cash4Gold, headquartered in Pompano Beach, Fla., aggressively advertises on TV and online. The business took off after a popular 2009 Super Bowl commercial featuring rapper MC Hammer and former “Tonight Show” sidekick, the late Ed McMahon.
The company has done nearly one million transactions since its startup in 2007, Nierman says.
Cash4Gold also has taken a lot of heat. Florida’s attorney general has opened a civil investigation of the company in response to complaints from consumers. The attorney general’s Web site cites complaints from consumers who allege they were paid far too little for their gold, with checks as small as 7 cents; others allege Cash4Gold said it never received the valuables or that when consumers asked for the return of their gold, they were told it had been melted already.
The company said it is cooperating with the Florida attorney general’s office and is “confident that all outstanding issues will be resolved amicably.”
In January, the company upgraded its system so customers can more easily track receipt of their shipments, Nierman says.
“People have a lot of misconceptions about what their items are worth,” he says. “We make an offer. No one has to accept it.”
Cash4Gold sometimes gets mistaken for unscrupulous players with similar sounding names, Nierman says.
The company supports federal legislation to regulate the industry to increase transparency and openness, Nierman said. “We think it is a good idea.”
As gold continues to be so lucrative, financially strapped consumers will continue to look for fast and easy ways to cash in on it
The BBB’s Galvin emphasizes that consumers need to take time to research the companies they might deal with, paying special attention to a company’s terms and conditions. Some don’t give consumers the opportunity to reject the offered payment.
“People go to these Web sites and they see how great they look, but they forget to go to the bottom of the page and click on the terms and conditions,” Galvin said. “The key is the terms and conditions.”
Tips for Selling Gold
• Calculate an item's worth yourself. Note any stamped karat mark and weigh the piece on a good kitchen scale. Use this online calculator, enter karats and weight to learn the value based on the current gold price: www.dendritics.com/scales/metal-calc.asp
• Have valuables appraised by a reputable jeweler who will factor in workmanship and stones, not just gold.
• Verify the current price of gold: check with a local jeweler or online source such as Goldprice or Kitco Metals. Remember, any purchaser will likely offer less than full value to accommodate a profit.
• Consider dealing with local jewelers and pawnshops. When Consumer Reports shopped identical 18-karat jewelry, mail-in companies offered 11 percent to 29 percent of market value while jewelers and pawnshops offered 35 percent to 70 percent.
• Be wary of Internet gold buying deals. Some consumers have lost jewelry and money on fraudulent offers.
• If you use a cash-for-gold mail-in company, insure your valuables for appraised value. Use certified mail or a shipping method that provides proof of receipt.
• Research any company you deal with. Read the terms and conditions. Some companies don't give consumers the option of rejecting an offer. Check the reimbursement policy for lost items – many limit their liability.
Sources: Better Business Bureau, Consumer Reports
Councilwoman seeks boycott of bikini baristas, nearby biz
The Aurora Sentinel
Saturday, June 5, 2010 1:24 PM MDT
Helen Thomas retiring effective immediately
Fewer teens at work — blame adults
Parents emphasize education, older workers take scarce jobs
June 6, 2010
Graphic: Teenager emoployment and school enrollment
|Tribune, Tribune / June 5, 2010
Sunday, June 6, 2010
MEXICO CITY, Mexico (AP)
Prosecutors in the capital charged Sunday that a man who reported his two children kidnapped last week really gave them to a woman to settle a debt of 25,000 pesos, or about $1,925.
The kidnapping report from Javier Covarrubias, 20, set off riots and street blockades in the poor Tepito neighborhood in central Mexico City as dozens of residents demanded that authorities provide more security.
The city prosecutor's office said in a statement that Covarrubias admitted he lied about his children's disappearance to keep his wife from finding out about his debt.
However, when the suspect was displayed to journalists Sunday as prosecutors announced his arrest, he denied the prosecutor's account, according to the websites of the Mexico City newspapers Reforma and El Universal.
Prosecutors said police were still looking for the two children. The office did not give the age of the youngsters, but media reports have said they are 1 and 2.
Kathryn Rogers and Rush Limbaugh are set to wed Saturday in Palm Beach.
It's wedding bells for Rush Limbaugh – for the fourth time.
The conservative firebrand, 59, exchanged vows with Kathryn Rogers – a blond bombshell half his age – in a lavish Hawaiian-themed wedding bash headlined by none-other-than Sir Elton John Saturday in Florida.
It's an odd pairing considering El Rushbo's history of anti-gay commentary on his conservative radio show and the openly gay "Tiny Dancer" singer's longtime commitment to gay rights.
The Palm Beach Post reported the British superstar will pocket $1 million for playing the wedding reception at the posh Breakers Hotel.
The hotel has reportedly staffed about 50 additional security guards for the event.
Limbaugh and Rogers, 33, hosted a rehearsal dinner luau for 400 close friends and family at the hotel Friday night and the wedding will take place at Limbaugh's beachfront mansion at an undisclosed time.
Rogers told the Post in 2008 that the couple's age gap is part of what makes the romance work.
"I grew up so differently, traveling around the world, that I'm sometimes not able to relate to the average person my age," Rogers said. "Rush has such amazing experience."
The always outspoken radio talk show host has been uncharacteristically tight-lipped about his wedding plans – posting only a vague note on his website that he would be "out until Tuesday, June 15."
He made a plea for privacy in an e-mail statement to the Post.
"We try to live our lives as normal people. We do not seek media attention.We do not want it, especially for this," he wrote.
Limbaugh met Rogers in 2004 at a celebrity golf tournament.
He was divorcing his third wife at the time and the pair has dated for three years.
Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/gossip/2010/06/05/2010-06-05_rush_limbaugh_to_wed_gal_pal_kathryn_rogers_today_in_lavish_palm_beach_ceremony_.html#ixzz0q7AfQnp4
Not only did Jacksonville police get thief's license number, but license itself
June 3, 2010 - 11:13am
Be careful what you leave behind — that’s the advice Jacksonville police are probably glad wasn’t followed in the case of two recent burglaries that ended Wednesday with arrests.
In one case, a license plate that fell off a car let police track down its owner. In the other, it was a drop of blood.
Police said security camera video from a March 14 break-in at a San Juan Avenue Hess station shows a dark four-door sedan pulling up to the store about 1:45 a.m. and a man getting out with a garbage can smashing the window.
The video shows the man filling the garbage can with cigarettes from the store and loading it into his trunk. That’s when the video shows the car’s license plate falling off before the perp drives away.
Officers found the license plate and ran it though the computer, tracing it to a Tennessee vehicle registered to 49-year-old Gary Browder at a Foxboro Road address in Jacksonville, according to the arrest report.
Browder was already in the Duval County jail, having been arrested Monday on two unrelated charges, and the latest burglary charge was added.
The other case started with a Jan. 21 burglary to International Bio Resources on North Julia Street. Police evidence technicians found some blood at the downtown crime scene and submitted it to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement laboratory for DNA testing.
The results of the tests recently came back matching 40-year-old Reginald Lawrence Everette of West 41st Street, an arrest report said. Everette was found already in jail following a May 21 arrest on unrelated charges, the latest charge added, police said.
The Florida Times-Union
John Ryan robbed a bank last year wearing a Bill Clinton Halloween mask.
The "Bill Clinton" bank robber made a run for office – the doctor’s office.
Convicted bank robber John Ryan of Cos Cob, Connecticut attempted to escape from corrections officers Friday as they transported the inmate from the Sullivan County Jail to Westchester Medical Center for a biopsy.
The repeat offender was in the process of negotiating a plea bargain when he made his ill-fated attempt.
The Connecticut bandit, who is known for wearing a rubber President Bill Clinton mask during heists, was undergoing tests for throat cancer when he made a dash for the exit.
“He made an attempt to bolt through the door,” Sullivan County Patrol Chief Art Hawker told the Times Herald-Record. “It all happened in the examination room.”
Two corrections officers suffered minor injuries while detaining the thief.
The “career bank robber,” along with an accomplice, entered a Bank of America last October wearing a Bill Clinton Halloween mask. The men claimed they had a bomb and hit the vault, making off with nearly $80,000 stuffed in a bag.
The bomb was a flimsy hoax, like the rubber Clinton mask.
Ryan has been charged with burglary, robbery, grand larceny and unlawful imprisonment.
The “Clinton” robber and his attorney, Stephan Schick, have been trying to negotiate a plea deal in an effort to get him released before sentencing to get treatment for his throat cancer.
The judge had previously deemed him a flight risk. The most recent incident will likely bolster his claim.
Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/2010/06/06/2010-06-06_bill_clinton_bank_robber_tries_to_escape_from_new_york_hospital_.html#ixzz0q709EG2k
Chronicle Staff Writer
Saturday, June 5, 2010
California's white population has declined since 2000 at an unprecedented rate, hastening the day when Hispanics will be the state's largest population group, according to newly released state figures.
There were half a million fewer whites in California in 2008 than in 2000, a period when the state's overall population grew by 4 million to 38.1 million, according to a study released Thursday by the state Department of Finance.
By 2008, whites made up 40 percent of Californians, down from 47 percent at the turn of the century. In 2000, Hispanics comprised 32 percent of the population; that number grew to 37 percent in 2008.
Analysts said the decline can be attributed to two main causes - a natural population decrease as Baby Boomers enter their later years and die at a faster rate than younger whites have children, and a migration from California since 2001 among whites who sought affordable housing as real estate costs soared.
"This is the first decade to see a year-over-year consistent population decrease due to natural causes," said Mary Heim, chief of the Finance Department's demographic research unit.
The study also confirmed projections that a steadily growing Hispanic population will surpass whites as the state's largest racial demographic in 2016. Hispanics are expected to become a majority of all Californians in 2042, Heim said.
Most Bay Area counties reflected the state's shifting numbers - Alameda County, for example, dropped from 41 percent white to 36 percent - while showing spikes in Hispanic, Asian and multirace categories.
Yet, San Francisco's racial mix remained consistent. Forty-four percent of the city was white in 2008, 30 percent was Asian and 14 percent was Hispanic, just as it was in 2000. Only the city's African American population showed a slight decline, from 7 percent to 6 percent.
Below replacement level
Hans Johnson, a demographer at the Public Policy Institute of California, said white women in recent decades have tended to pursue higher-education degrees and stay in the workplace, leading them to have fewer children. The white population is now "below the replacement" level, Johnson said. "They're simply not replacing themselves."
The median age among California's whites is 44, while the median age for the Hispanic population is 28, according to the study.
Stephen Levy, director of the Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy, said the study also reflected how skyrocketing real estate prices pushed workers from California during the housing bubble from 2005 through 2007.
"This is a good look at what happens when your housing prices get way out of line with the rest of the nation," Levy said. "It will be interesting to see what happens when the market corrects itself."
Reverse of a trend
Johnson said migration into California was a national trend until the 1990s, when the number of out-of-state transplants began to decline.
Lower-paid California workers headed to cities like Phoenix, Las Vegas and Seattle, where they could make similar wages but pay less for housing.
"California is no longer attracting large numbers of people from other states," Johnson said. "And a lot of those who did come to California from other states were white, reflecting the ethnic composition of the country as a whole.
"Now," he said, "that flow has dried up."
The decline among whites and increase in other groups in California is a long-standing trend, Johnson said.
"It's just faster now"
Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/06/05/MNSG1DQ1BL.DTL#ixzz0q4IvsDVz
Primaries from Calif. to SC measure voter anger
MICHAEL R. BLOOD
AP Political Writer 10:38 pm
LOS ANGELES – How angry are Americans? People primed for change vote in 12 states Tuesday in contests that will decide the fate of two endangered Washington incumbents — a two-term senator in Arkansas and a six-term congressman in South Carolina — while setting the stage for some of the races that could determine the balance of power on Capitol Hill in the fall.
In an Arkansas runoff, Sen. Blanche Lincoln could fall to a fellow Democrat, Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, who says "the only way to change Washington is to change who we send there." South Carolina Republican Rep. Bob Inglis is trying to fend off primary challengers who have made the race a referendum on his 2008 vote to bail out up the nation's banking industry.
The political strength of the tea party movement faces tests in several states, particularly in Nevada, where three Republicans are in a bruising fight for the chance to take on Democrat Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, in November.
Republicans in California could send two political neophytes, wealthy former business executives Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina, into races to succeed Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and challenge Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer.
In an election season overshadowed by the ailing economy and unhappiness with Washington, three longtime incumbents already have lost: Sens. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, and Arlen Specter, D-Pa., and Rep. Alan Mollohan, D-W.Va. A party switcher new on the scene, Democrat-turned-Republican Rep. Parker Griffith of Alabama, stumbled this past week as voters demanded ideological purity.
A Pew Research Center poll in April found that public confidence in government was at one of the lowest points in a half century. Bennett calls the political atmosphere toxic. Races on Tuesday will provide fresh evidence of how far people want to go to shake up statehouses and Washington.
"I've become frightened over what our government is doing," says Roxanne Blum, 57, a Republican from Pahrump, Nev. She's alarmed by the soaring debt and has seen firsthand, through her work in the mortgage industry, the damage caused by Nevada's highest-in-the country foreclosure rate.
Once excited by Reid's ascendancy in Washington leadership, she now sees him as out of touch with his economically troubled home state. "When he comes here, he does lip service," she says.
Earlier congressional contests have shown that incumbency can be a yoke and that voter discontent is running through both parties, even though the Democrats who control Congress have the most at risk in November. With President Barack Obama's popularity slipping, issues from the health care overhaul law to taxes are defining races.
Tea party-backed Mike Lee, one of two Republicans who advanced to a June 22 primary for Bennett's Utah seat, says there's "a widespread feeling the federal government is growing, taxing, spending and borrowing way too much."
In the Arkansas runoff, Lincoln is suffering blowback from the right and left for her health care votes. Unions backing her rival have spent more than $5 million to defeat her. In one ad, she acknowledges the frustration among voters: "I know you're angry at Washington."
The Republican race to succeed Schwarzenegger has been a display of extraordinary spending as well as a test of how far right the party wants to venture on issues such as illegal immigration in a traditionally Democratic-tilting state.
Republican billionaire Whitman, a former eBay chief executive, has invested more than $70 million of her own fortune in the race against state insurance commissioner Steve Poizner, a wealthy former businessman who has put $24 million into his campaign. The all-but-certain Democratic nominee is Attorney General Jerry Brown, who was governor in the 1970s and 1980s.
Whitman and Poizner have challenged each other's conservative credentials in a torrent of negative ads. Poizner supports Arizona's tough illegal immigration law; Whitman does not. Poizner wants to cut off most state services to illegal immigrants and their children; Whitman would not end services for children.
In a year of tea party insurgency, "all of the Republican candidates in California have been pulled to the right," says political scientist Bruce Cain of the University of California, Berkeley. The question in November will be whether independents who cast decisive votes follow.
Fiorina, a former Hewlett Packard Co. chief executive who has Sarah Palin's endorsement, has a lead in polls over former U.S. Rep. Tom Campbell and state Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, a tea party favorite. Boxer's campaign has depicted the Republicans as out of step with mainstream Californians.
Nevada Republicans appear ready to punish Gov. Jim Gibbons for his messy divorce, potentially making him the first sitting governor to lose a nominating contest in the state in 100 years. Gibbons was trailing former federal judge Brian Sandoval by more than 10 points in a Las Vegas Review-Journal poll released Saturday.
Reid knows he's in trouble. But big-name Republicans skipped the race and he has seen his chances lifted after a caustic Republican primary that could leave him facing tea party favorite Sharron Angle. She wants to abolish the federal income tax code, phase out Social Security for younger workers and eliminate the Education Department.
Angle says she's in the mainstream; Reid supporters depict her as out of step with most Nevadans.
In addition to the Inglis race, South Carolina Republicans chose from a field of four candidates hoping to succeed term-limited Republican Gov. Mark Sanford, who was politically and personally damaged by an affair with an Argentine woman.
State Rep. Nikki Haley has the backing of the tea party and Palin in her bid to become the state's first female governor. In the past two weeks, two men have come forward to say they had trysts with her, which she denies, and the primary will tell whom voters believe.
In north Georgia, Tom Graves hopes his involvement with the Atlanta Tea Party Patriots will help him defeat Lee Hawkins, another conservative, in a runoff to fill a vacant House seat in a heavily Republican district.
Maine voters will choose nominees for governor in a wide-open race to replace Democratic Gov. John Baldacci, who's completing his second four-year term. A seven-way Republican primary includes tea party favorite Paul LePage. Candidates have been talking about jobs and cutting government regulation.
Iowa has a three-way Republican primary for the right to oppose Democrat Chet Culver, considered one of the nation's most vulnerable governors.
Montana, New Jersey, North Dakota, South Dakota and Virginia also hold primaries.
Cheeky inmate overpacked for jail stay, astonished cops say
World staff writer
Thursday, June 3, 2010
WENATCHEE — A full load of contraband came into the Chelan County Regional Justice Center on Wednesday night, leaving law enforcement officers amazed.
Coming in rectally — via one person — were a green cigarette lighter, cigarette rolling papers, a golf-ball size baggie of tobacco, a bottle of tattoo ink, eight tattoo needles, a one-inch-long smoking pipe and a small baggie of suspected marijuana, said Sgt. John Kruse, a Wenatchee Police Department spokesman.
“We were all wondering, ‘How do you put all that up there?’ ” Kruse said. “The tobacco was pretty impressive; it was a good ounce.”
Gavin Stanger, 24, of East Wenatchee, was booked into jail about 10 p.m. on a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct, said Phil Stanley, jail administrator. The inmate had arranged to serve three days in jail on the charge.
He said no contraband was found on a pat-down search or on a later strip search. About 90 minutes later, with Stanger in a single holding jail, a jailer found a plastic bag and duct tape floating in the cell’s toilet. After being questioned by jailers, the man surrendered the contraband.
The man will be charged with another misdemeanor: introduction of contraband into the jail, Kruse said.
03. 06. 10. - 13:00
Pint of bitty please
It's a whole new reason to nip out for a pint.
LINK TO FULL STORY:
Andrew Brian McKnight talks Wednesday about being stuck on the hood of a car on May 30 when a patron allegedly tried to leave without paying for a meal at the Waffle House on Old Fort Parkway. (Aaron Thompson/DNJ)
Shaq and controversy on final day of Spelling Bee
The Associated Press
5:22 a.m. Friday, June 4, 2010
Even Shaquille O'Neal got overshadowed by a bit of controversy at the spelling bee.
O'Neal walked onstage Friday at the Scripps National Spelling Bee and challenged last year's winner to a spell-off, but he didn't generate anywhere near the passion created by a decision to suspend the semifinals so there would be enough spellers left for ABC's prime-time broadcast Friday night.
The result was 10 spellers advancing to the championship broadcast, including six who didn't have to spell a word in the interrupted round. Essentially, the alphabetical order of the U.S. states determined which spellers got to move on the marquee event.
"I would rather have five finalists, than five who didn't deserve it," said 13-year-old Elizabeth Platz of Shelbina, Mo., one of the four spellers who spelled a word correctly before the round was stopped. "I think it was unfair."
Elizabeth's remarks were greeted with applause from parents in the hotel ballroom where the bee is held.
It's one of the pitfalls of the growing popularity of the bee, which has to yield to the constraints of its television partners. There were 19 spellers left at the start of the round, which was too many for prime-time. But when the round turned out to be brutal — nine of the first 13 misspelled — ABC was on the verge of having too few.
"I don't feel bad at all for giving these children the opportunity," bee director Paige Kimble said. "Do I wish we could give it to 19? Yes, certainly, but that's not practical in a two-hour broadcast window. We know it's unpopular and we don't like to do it, but sometimes you can get into a position where that's exactly what you have to do."
Kimble stressed that the move was within the rules and that the round would pick up where it left off. Only the spellers remaining at the end of the round would officially be declared finalists.
Still, the episode renewed the debate over whether the bee has come too close to selling its soul to television.
"They already have," said 14-year-old two-time bee participant Sonia Schlesinger, who represented Washington, D.C., last year and Japan this year. "It kind of seems like the bee should be more about spelling. We're just here to spell words — not about TV."
Even O'Neal unintentionally got caught up in the furor — in the name of TV footage.
The 7-foot-1 center created a buzz when he threw down his challenge to 14-year-old Kavya Shivashankar, the 2009 champion. Reporters were not allowed to watch the showdown, which was taped for O'Neal's "Shaq Vs." reality show, but O'Neal then posed with the 10 remaining spellers who were unofficially being billed as "finalists" — adding more fuel to the debate over whether it was fair for all of them to be there.
The 10 spellers were the survivors of 273 that began the week at the 83rd annual bee. The champion receives the huge trophy and more than $40,000 in cash and prizes.
Two of the three favorites failed to make it to the finals. Thirteen-year-old Tim Ruiter of Centreville, Va., who accumulated some 20,000 note cards to help him study, was stumped by "fustanella" — a skirt worn by men in the Balkans.
It was a doozy of a word, with roots that went from Latin to Italian to Greek to Italian to English.
"The Greeks must have messed it up," Tim said with a wry smile after getting big hugs from his mother.
Returning finalist and four-time bee competitor Neetu Chandak was given a second chance after misspelling "paravane" — a torpedo-shaped underwater protective device.
The 14-year-old from Seneca Falls, N.Y., who finished eighth last year, was recalled to the stage and reinstated after the judges decided that she had received an ambiguous answer to her question about the word's origins.
But she was later eliminated by the astronomy term "apogalacteum."
"I have to thank my mom for that because she was the one who protested to get me back in," said Neetu, who said she plans to take up tennis now that her spelling days are over. "I still got a pretty good ranking."
Calm no more, Obama lashes out at BP on Gulf visit
The Associated Press
Updated: 7:09 p.m. Friday, June 4, 2010
Posted: 9:04 a.m. Friday, June 4, 2010
GRAND ISLE, La. — Dogged for being too calm in crisis, President Barack Obama unleashed frustration for all to see Friday, warning BP it had better do right by the people whose lives it has wrecked.
The president's third trek to the Gulf of Mexico was about the workers with no government titles, the shrimpers and the shopkeepers, the fishermen whose lives have been upended and are running out of people to blame.
Yet Obama's trip was also about him.
He says it serves little substantive point to go around and yell — that people want results, not a show — but presidents face peril if they do not connect emotionally. As the crisis has dragged on — and his poll ratings have slipped — his words for BP's leaders have grown sharper.
"I don't want them nickel-and-diming people down here," Obama said after his latest briefing on the oil response. He promised his government would look over BP's shoulders to ensure it was paying out claims.
His visit amounted to one long I'm-on-your-side passage for reeling communities. Along that same line, he invited family members of the 11 workers killed when the BP rig blew up to visit the White House next Thursday. Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said the president had written to each of the families.
As for BP, Obama cast the oil company as a corporate giant interested in protecting its image with TV ads and its shareholders with bountiful dividends.
"I don't want somebody else bearing the costs of those risks that they took," Obama said. "I want to make sure that they're paying for it."
The president's visit came as engineers with BP worked to settle a funnel-like cap over the deep-sea leak to try to collect some of the crude now fouling four states. It was not clear how much oil was being captured, and some continued to flow, generating frightening photos of seabirds clogged in the muck.
The oil rig that exploded on April 20 has caused a massive, ongoing spill that is polluting the waters and shores of the Gulf states and consuming the attention of the president. Obama scrapped a trip to Indonesia and Australia to deal with it — no small international sacrifice, especially since he had already resorted to that move once before this year to finish a health care law.
Yet in unleashing his most fiery words yet about BP, Obama underscored his awkward situation: To fix the problem, he is reliant on the same people whose motives he now questions. The government is not equipped to handle the tricky, deepwater effort BP is leading to fix its gushing well.
From his briefing outside New Orleans, Obama bounded on a two-hour-plus motorcade drive to Grand Isle, a small barrier island, to hear from the people. The weather made the trip feel fittingly hard. A driving rain forced him to drop plans to travel by helicopter.
Along the way, he passed this roadside sign: "HELP US NOW!!"
At another spot, the side of a building had been adorned with a portrait of Obama reminiscent of his famous presidential campaign posters. Instead of "hope" or "change," the words "what now?" were on his forehead.
In casual clothes, Obama went to a bait shop to talk to fishing industry workers about how the disastrous oil spill is affecting their business.The shop owner was there to meet him along with a shrimper, an oysterman, a marina owner and others.
More than six weeks into the disaster, his demeanor has come into question. The calm-in-crisis state that helped him win the presidency has seemed off in tone.
Just ahead of the Gulf visit, he declared himself furious at a situation that "is imperiling an entire way of life and an entire region for potentially years." He criticized BP for not responding more quickly.
But polls show the public growing more negative toward the president's own handling of the spill, and he was aiming to demonstrate he was staying on top of the situation Friday — without getting in the way. Obama visited the Gulf region twice in May, and this tour surely will not be his last.
"We'll keep on coming back until we have dealt with an unprecedented crisis," Obama promised.
Somewhere between 22 million and 47 million gallons of crude oil have been disgorged into the Gulf since the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded on April 20, according to government estimates. Eleven workers were killed in the blast.
Obama's administration on Thursday handed BP a $69 million bill for recovery costs to date — a figure sure to grow in the weeks and months ahead.
Police say officer shoots man during home burglary attempt
Off-duty 18-year veteran of city force confronts suspect in his Dundalk residence
The Baltimore Sun
4:31 p.m. EDT, June 4, 2010
An off-duty Baltimore police officer on Friday morning shot a 26-year-old Baltimore man who was attempting to burglarize the officer's Dundalk home, according to city and county police.
Antonio Lionell Fenwick of the 1900 block of E. Belvedere Avenue was found shot in the officer's living room at about 6 a.m. in the 1800 block of Willow Spring Road, according to a preliminary investigation.
A county police spokesman said it was unclear if the suspect was armed. Lt. Robert McCullough, the spokesman, said the man was going through the officer's items and was near unlocked weapons when he was spotted by the officer, who came from his upstairs bedroom after hearing the commotion. The suspect was shot once in the upper body after a brief confrontation, McCullough said.
Fenwick was transported to the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center where he is in critical condition, McCullough said.
According to electronic court records, Fenwick had previously faced charges including theft, assault and armed robbery in 2001 but was not convicted.
The officer, who was not hurt during the altercation, is an 18-year veteran of the city Police Department, according to McCullough. He has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation, which is being led by the county department.
June 4, 10:17 AM
After bad PR AT& T Apologizes
AT&T has apologized for threatening an iPhone customer over two emails he sent to CEO Randall Stephenson. While perhaps lulled into thinking that just because the "other iPhone CEO" (Steve Jobs) is open to receiving direct emails, AT&T's Randall Stephenson would be the same, Giorgio Galante certainly didn't need to be threatened with a Cease & Desist order simply for two emails.
The two emails, though definitely to the point and threatening to leave AT&T for Sprint and the new EVO 4G phone, were certainly not enough to require a C&D. After all the bad publicity, however, Galante received an apology phone call from a Senior VP (and let's admit it; the story went national; if it had not, there would have been no apology).
Lori (IDed as the Senior VP) told Galante that Brent (who originally left the threatening voicemail) was " not having the best of days today” and asked if she could do anything to keep Galante. Alas, he's decided to move on (and AT&T's decision to drop unlimited data plans was another reason, by the way).
While accepting of the apology, after a little more thinking, Galante had some comments:
After reflecting on AT&T’s earlier apology, I can’t help but feel that they were forced into apologizing by all the media attention, and I really wish that Mr. Stephenson would have made the phone call. In my mind it reflects on how insulated he is from his customers. First, he delegates all of his emails to an executive relations team, then when they fail him, he delegates to his Sr. VP.
Galante also added that it seems the HTC EVO 4G is in short supply. That is no surprise, and opens up a great possibility for some positive Sprint PR. Hey, Dan Hesse (Sprint CEO), do you take emails?
Wal-Mart partners with online school to offer college credit to workers
FILE - This undated file photo provided by Wal-Mart Stores Inc., shows the company's sign in front of their Bentonville, Ark., headquarters. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. announced a program Thursday, June 3, 2010, in which its workers can receive college credit from the online American Public University and receive a tuition discount from the school. AP Photo
FAYETTEVILLE, ARK. -- Here's a new way to look at Wal-Mart: institution of higher learning.
Under a program announced Thursday, employees of Wal-Mart and Sam's Club will be able to receive college credit for performing their jobs, including such tasks as loading trucks and ringing up purchases. Workers could earn as much as 45 percent of the credits needed for an associate or bachelor's degree while on the job.
The credits are earned through the Internet-based American Public University, with headquarters in Charles Town, W.Va., and administrative offices in Manassas.
"We want to provide you with more ways and faster ways to succeed with us," Eduardo Castro-Wright, head of Wal-Mart's U.S. division, told 4,000 employees during the company's annual meeting. The program is designed to encourage more workers to climb the corporate ladder. Although Wal-Mart says about 70 percent of its managers begin as hourly employees, it estimates that about half of its employees do not hold college degrees.
Jaymes Murphy, 24, a salesman from Victoria, Tex., who was at the annual meeting, said he tried for several years to juggle work and school with little success. He would attend class from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. and then sprint to his job as a cashier at Wal-Mart, working from 3 p.m. to midnight. He eventually quit school but he still dreams of getting a bachelor's degree in political science or communications.
"It gets stressful," he said. The program would allow him to "not have to worry about sacrificing one or the other."
The credits will be given for Wal-Mart's own training as well as on-the-job experience. Many of the courses for which Wal-Mart workers can get credit are business-related, such as retail shipping and receiving, ethics, commercial safety and finance fundamentals.
Those credits could be applied to a degree in retail management from APU or may be used to fulfill elective requirements for other majors. Students would need to complete additional courses outside of their jobs to complete a degree. So in classic Wal-Mart fashion, the company negotiated a 15 percent tuition reduction on other courses at APU in exchange for handling some administrative and marketing duties.
Many colleges allow students to receive credit for work experience, such as internships. APU officials said they have worked closely with the military to develop courses and award credits, but this is the first time they have partnered with a company to create a comprehensive program.
For their work to qualify as credit, full-time employees must be in the job for a year and receive satisfactory reviews, while part-timers must put in three years and get a positive review. About 200,000 workers are eligible for the program, and Wal-Mart said additional positions will be added each quarter.
"People will surprise you if you give them opportunities," said Tom Mars, chief administrative officer at Wal-Mart. "The single biggest competitive advantage we have . . . is our associates."
Daniel Soto of Hardeeville, S.C., works full time at Wal-Mart as a zone manager supervisor, lending a hand in several departments. He had to give up college to work, but said he could see some of his duties translating to academia, such as the algebraic equations he uses to figure out how much merchandise will fit on a shelf or how much of a product to order.
"I do math all day at Wal-Mart," he said.
Wal-Mart is the country's largest private employer with 1.4 million workers, and the partnership will probably provide a significant boost for APU. The college was organized in 1991 as the online American Military University and has since expanded to enroll nearly 71,000 students during the first quarter, up 42 percent from the previous year.
American Public University is one of a growing number of so-called career colleges that operate on a for-profit model, rather than as state institutions or private foundations. APU's parent company is publicly traded and its reported revenue jumped 43 percent to $47.3 million during the most recent quarter, while profit rose 46 percent to $7.6 million.
Mars said the company has recently improved opportunities for workers to be promoted. It removed a ban on promoting employees to store managers within the same store and created a mentorship program that ties some executive bonuses to how they advance the careers of other workers.
Cari Prill, a department manager in Bad Axe, Mich., said the flexibility of Wal-Mart's program is appealing. She has spent seven years at the company and would probably qualify for the credits. Although she once thought about studying pre-law, now she is interested in business management and human resources, especially if her Wal-Mart experience will count toward the degree.
"Money and time go hand in hand," she said.
New York City released gruesome public service announcements as part of the City's new ad campaign against smoking earlier this year.
NYC HealthR.J. Reynolds, Philip Morris and Lorillard claim the color images of cancer-ravaged lungs, a decayed tooth and a stroke-damaged brain are "unappetizing" and violate the First Amendment.
'Golden Girls' actress Rue McClanahan dies of a stroke
11:59 a.m. EDT
June 3, 2010
Thursday, Jun. 03, 2010
Bloom fired up the grill-board to promote its new line of beef. It will "smell" daily during rush hours through June 18.
Bloom's new billboard on N.C. 150 near Lake Norman makes scents. Really. A fan pumps out an odor of grilling meat. JEFF WILLHELM
There's something in the air along a busy local road, and it's not just exhaust fumes: It's the smell of grilled steak, courtesy of what appears to be the nation's first scented highway billboard.
The Bloom grocery chain, part of Salisbury-based Food Lion, hopes to catch shoppers by the nose by wafting black pepper and charcoal smells from the base of a sign along River Highway (N.C. 150) in Mooresville.
And though businesses have been employing specialized aromas to boost sales and create ambiance for years, this, it appears, is a different frontier - one designed to cut through the clutter that commuters encounter every day.
After all, you can tune out noise. You can disregard other signs. But a new smell? "It will definitely catch your attention, because we have to breathe," notes Harald Vogt, founder of the Scent Marketing Institute, a New York-based independent consultancy.
Bloom fired up the grill-board last Friday to promote its new line of beef. It will emit scents from 7 to 10 a.m. and 4 to 7 p.m. every day until June 18, spokeswoman Christy Phillips-Brown said. It shows a towering fork piercing a giant piece of meat, and is visible to westbound traffic.
The company developed the idea with Charlotte advertising agency Birdsong Gregory and Charlotte-based ScentAir, which provides custom scents and fragrance-delivery systems for businesses, including hotel lobbies, casino gambling floors and retail stores. A billboard is a bit outside of ScentAir's usual realm, but it appreciated the creative challenge, marketing director Murray Dameron said.
A high-powered fan attached to the bottom of the billboard pole disperses the aroma by blowing air over cartridges loaded with fragrance oil, Dameron said. ScentAir has also used the system at outdoor events or large indoor spaces, including during the 2008 World Series at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. Yes, he said, fans noticed that the domed stadium smelled like oranges.
For the billboard, he said, "it's basically a blend of black pepper and kind of a charcoal grilling smell," he said. "It smells like grilled meat with a nice pepper rub on it."
When good smells go bad
Such scented outdoor advertising has few precedents, said Jeff Golimowski, spokesman for the Outdoor Advertising Association of America. ScentAir previously erected a fragrant street-level, mural-style sign in Israel, but the most famous example came in San Francisco in 2006, when the state's milk promotion board installed strips that gave selected bus shelters the smell of fresh chocolate chip cookies.
The campaign attracted plenty of publicity, but crumbled after little more than a day, amid complaints from people with asthma or environmental allergies.
Others questioned the tact of placing a tempting food smell in an area where poor and homeless people would encounter it.
The milk board said the smells were perfectly safe, and ScentAir says the same about the fragrances used in Mooresville.
"It's another way that out-of-home advertising is adapting to new technologies," Golimowski said. "You see digital billboards, Bluetooth-enabled bus shelters, mobile phone apps. Something like this that engages all of the consumer's senses, and really evokes a sensation and memory, is another very interesting step."
Scent marketing has been growing slowly because it's difficult for companies to measure the return on investment and justify the expenditure, especially in a recession, the Scent Marketing Institute's Vogt said. But, he noted, it has the potential to break out much more, given the powerful memory links that scent can form.
Still, companies have to be careful not to irritate the very consumers they're trying to win over. Some people are highly sensitive to scent, while others object to prominent scents in public spaces, Vogt noted.
Not easy to catch the smell
Scented outdoor ads also remain rare simply because they're difficult to control, he said. Weather and wind patterns could thwart the scent diffusion.
That could be an issue with the Bloom billboard. Its fan is supposed to have a range of 30 to 50 yards, so someone could catch a whiff while driving by. But results this week suggested it was falling a bit short.
Located up an embankment next to a retention pond, the fan was pointed slightly downward Wednesday afternoon, ruffling the grass around it. Close up, a black peppery, grill-evocative smell was noticeable, particularly in a favorable breeze. Outside of about 15 feet away, however, it was difficult to perceive, and indistinguishable during a ride past with the windows down.
Mahesh Shah, owner of the Quick Mart Shell gas station next door, didn't even realize that the billboard was supposed to smell until the media arrived.
"If nobody tells, you don't know," he said as traffic zoomed by. Not that he'd be tempted anyway: He doesn't eat meat.
Cheryl Reid, manager of the Storage Company, a mini-storage business on the other side of the sign, couldn't smell anything from her door this week. When she walked closer, about 30 feet from the fan, she caught a faint, charcoal-scented breeze that didn't smell strongly of steaks, she said, but also wasn't unpleasant.
"You might can smell it a little bit, but unless people are stopped out there or real close to the sign, I don't know that they're going to get the desired effect from it," she said.
She was unsure, she said, of whether it made her want a steak more.
San Jose bank robber chooses wrong getaway vehicle — light rail train
Posted: 06/01/2010 07:27:43 PM PDT
Updated: 06/02/2010 08:00:20 AM PDT
Ermec Antonio Avalos, 25, was arrested on suspicion of bank...
(San Jose Police Department )
This was no run-of-the-mill bank robbery escape Tuesday in San Jose.
With no getaway car waiting, the bank robber picked a novel way to try to elude police — a light rail train. It turned out to be a big mistake.
"It's not something I've heard of before," police spokesman Dirk Parsons said.
After entering a Wells Fargo Bank branch in the 100 block of South Market Street about 1 p.m., the lone robber gave the teller a note, claiming he had a gun. The teller turned over the money and the robber ran off with an undisclosed amount of cash, police said.
But the thief didn't get far.
Police were ready for him at the St. James Park light rail station after learning he had boarded a northbound train.
Shortly after, they found their suspect on the train.
Ermec Antonio Avalos, 25, of San Jose, was taken into custody without incident and booked in Santa Clara County jail on suspicion of robbing the bank, according to police. Officers retrieved the money. No firearm was found.
Suspect robs Fairfax bank, forgets to flee: Busted
May 28, 2010
In the annals of Criminals Who Are Also Idiots -- what WTOP likes to call "Knuckleheads in the News" -- we may soon add the man police say robbed a Fairfax County bank Thursday afternoon, but was still standing in the bank's parking lot with his ill-gotten booty when the police arrived several minutes later.
The scene: The BB&T Bank branch at 5203 Franconia Road in Franconia.
The time: 4:58 p.m. Thursday.
Habtom. (Fairfax Police)
The crime: A man walked in to the bank, approached a teller and demanded money, Fairfax police spokeswoman Lucy Caldwell said. Money given. Man "fled." Alarm sounded.
The dragnet: At 5:01 p.m., three minutes later, a Fairfax officer pulled into the bank's parking lot. Standing there in the lot, with the stolen money, was the robber, according to police.
Caldwell could not explain why the man stuck around. Three minutes is a quick police response, but it would have still been enough time to at least stroll over to the large strip mall on nearby Rose Hill Road.
Makele G. Habtom, 29, of the 5200 block of Cannes Court, also in the Franconia area, was arrested and charged with robbery.
Police said he was not armed. And he almost certainly was not dangerous.
-- Tom Jackman
Sir Paul McCartney speaks in a press conference at the Library of Congress on June 1 to discuss his being awarded the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song.
WASHINGTON -- After all those hits along the long and winding road to fame, you'd think nothing would fluster Paul McCartney. Think again.
Sir Paul confessed he was "slightly nervous" in the leadup to Wednesday's big concert at the White House, where President Barack Obama was presenting McCartney with the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song.
An all-star cast lined up to perform at the East Room tribute concert, including the Jonas Brothers, Faith Hill, Stevie Wonder and Jerry Seinfeld. Also to appear: Emmylou Harris, Elvis Costello, White Stripes singer and guitarist Jack White and Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl. McCartney himself was to perform as well.
McCartney, 67, is the third recipient of the Gershwin prize, awarded by the Library of Congress. It is named for the songwriting brothers George and Ira Gershwin, whose collections are housed at the library. Previous recipients of the Gershwin award are Stevie Wonder and Paul Simon.
McCartney played a private concert at the library on Tuesday, and said he'd grown up listening to music by the Gershwin brothers.
For all the awards the former Beatle has collected over the years, he said performing before the Obamas in the East Room still would be a pinch-me moment.
"For an English kid growing up in Liverpool, the White House - that's pretty special," he said.
"He's a great guy," McCartney said of Obama, "so lay off him."
Librarian of Congress James Billington credited McCartney for "symbolizing and humanizing the global soundscape," with his music and his activism around the world.
Those not lucky enough to snag tickets to the East Room gig can catch the concert July 28th, when it's televised on PBS' "In Performance at the White House."
Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/gossip/2010/06/02/2010-06-02_paul_mccartney_tells_critics_to_lay_off_of_president_obama_hes_a_great_guy.html#ixzz0pjoLXWsE
President Obama and Gov. Jan Brewer are set to meet face-to-face at the White House on Thursday to discuss Arizona's efforts to combat illegal immigration.
The tough-talking Arizona governor will be taking her case for border security to President Obama on Thursday, and has no plans to back down.
Gov. Jan Brewer, who has been both cheered and jeered for supporting a law aimed at fighting illegal immigration that some call "racist," plans to take the White House to task for failing to secure the nation's border.
"Mr. President, we need our borders secured," she told CNN's John King on Tuesday night. "How can we work together to get it done? We need your help."
She may find herself in an uphill battle, however.
The President has called Arizona's anti-illegal immigration effort "misguided," and the Attorney General has raised the possibility of filing a lawsuit to stop it.
If that happens, Brewer told CNN: "We'll see [Obama] in court."
"I have a pretty good record of winning in court," she added.
Brewer indicated she would not agree to postpone the law, which is set to go into effect at the end of July.
"Eighty percent of American[s] agree with me, agree with the state of Arizona, and I think it's important that the President and I sit down and discuss why it is important."
President Obama announced last month that he plans to ship 1,200 more National Guard troops to the border to beef up security, and also seeks to send $500 million to fund improvements.
"This administration has dedicated unprecedented resources over the past 16 months to fulfill the federal government's responsibility to secure the Southwest border," an official told Reuters.
But Brewer argues more needs to be done, and it needs to be done now.
"The people of Arizona are discouraged, they're fed up," she said. We've had security flaws on the border for years now."
"A nation without borders is like a house without walls," Brewer said. "It collapses. And that's what's going to happen to America."
Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/2010/06/02/2010-06-02_gov_jan_brewer_to_white_house_well_see_you_in_court_to_defend_arizona_immigratio.html#ixzz0pi3I24s4
FBI hopes digital billboards can help snare 'Granddad Bandit'
ST. LOUIS -- FBI agents here hope digital billboards can help them catch the "Granddad Bandit," a prolific bank robber suspected in holdups in St. Louis County and 20 other banks across the eastern half of the country since April 2009.
These billboards are already used in other big cities he's struck -- in Atlanta, for example, where his photo flashed across 50 electronic billboards for weeks. He hasn't robbed a bank in Atlanta since April 2. Agents think the same man has come to the St. Louis area, robbing the Regions Bank at 5600 South Lindbergh Boulevard on May 18.
The picture that will be displayed on a double-sided digital billboard on Interstate 70 one mile west of Lindbergh Boulevard – and other locations across Missouri and a handful of other states -- was taken from the May 18 robbery.
Zack Lowe of the FBI said that the picture taken that day was the best yet of the robber, as he has gradually abandoned the hats and other attempts at disguise used in other robberies.
Investigators believe that the Regions Bank could be the Bandit's 21st bank robbery since the robbery of a Mobile, Ala. bank on Jan. 16, 2009.
Since that time, he has concentrated on banks in the southeastern U.S., but has also, they believe, robbed a bank in Syracuse, New York. He's also wanted in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kansas, Florida, Michigan, Oklahoma, Texas and Virginia.
Lowe said that investigators believe the man travels extensively, and are hoping that the billboard campaign will catch the attention of someone who knows him.
“The right person hasn't seen this picture yet,” Lowe said.
Lowe would not specify how much the robber had stolen from banks, other than saying, “He's taken a lot.”
Chris Kirn, vice president and general manager of Lamar Outdoor Advertising, one of the country's major billboard companies, said that the bandit's picture would appear for eight seconds at a time and alternate with six other images, for a total time of roughly three and a half hours per day.
Kirn said that the other companies could also begin showing the image soon.
It is the first time that the FBI's digital billboard partnership has been used in St. Louis, Kirn said.
The program, begun in 2007, has led to 35 arrests, Lowe said.
The robber is roughly six feet tall and weighs 210 to 230 pounds, the FBI says, and is 40 to 50 years old. He is white, balding and wears glasses, they say.
The FBI started using the digial billboards with Clear Channel, who came up wtih the plan. Since then, three other companies have joined the effort. The FBI says it now has access to more than 1,500 billboards nationwide. The hi-tech nature of the billboard allows photos to be posted quickly.
The man dubbed "the Granddad Bandit" is described as a bald white man with a heavy build, 50 to 60 years old and 6-foot to 6-foot-2. In the holdup at Regions Bank, he wore glasses, a short-sleeve tan or gray polo shirt and dark pants. He walked into the bank at 3:20 p.m.., walked up to a teller and pulled a note from a black billfold.
In other holdups, he has claimed he was armed.
FBI Special Agent Cynthia Myers in Atlanta once described the man's holdups as calm, saying he appears to be deliberate to not attract attention to himself.
"He is balding on top, he sometimes wears a baseball cap and a polo-type shirt, so he just looks like a regular guy when he walks into the bank," Myers has said.
The bandit struck Atlanta four times. Agents don't necessarily think he's from that area, but are hoping he's made enough of an impression on someone who saw him that he'll be arrested.
The FBI has used the billboards for a variety of reasons, including asking for help in tracking a dangerous felon to finding a missing child. In January, the FBI launched a 30-by-40 foot billboard in Times Square in New York City. In Boston this spring, electronic billboards were used to show a Rembrandt painting stolen in an art heist.
The FBI claims the billboards have helped them solve 30 cases. Filbert Romero in New Mexico was in the car with his mother when she noticied a billboard with her son's picture on it. He turned himself in to authorities that day. Police say he is a juvenile wanted for bank robbery. In another case, Richard Franklin Wiggins Jr. was arrested for money laundering and other crimes in Virginia three weeks after his picture was shown on digital billboards.
And in New Jersey, Walter Haskell was arrested in 2008 for an armed robbery after his image was put on digital billboards across the state. FBI officials credit tips generated from the billboard.
"If we have a crack at over a quarter-million people seeing that photo every day, then we have a very good chance at catching the person we're after," Special Agent Sean Quinn, a spokesman for the FBI in Newark, was quoted as saying after Haskell's arrest. "The exposure gets us started."
Anyone who suspects they know the robber is asked to call Crimestoppers at 866-371-TIPS, and could get a $1,000 Crimestoppers reward and up to $10,000 from the FBI.
Guatemala Sinkhole Is MASSIVE, Swallows Building
First Posted: 06- 1-10 09:39 AM | Updated: 06- 1-10 01:10 PM
Associated Press Writer
GUATEMALA CITY - Torrential rains brought by the first tropical storm of the 2010 season pounded Central America and southern Mexico, triggering deadly landslides. The death toll stood at 15 Sunday but authorities said the number could rise.
Tropical Storm Agatha made landfall near the border of Guatemala and Mexico on Saturday with wind speeds of up to 45 mph (75 kph), then weakened into a tropical depression before dissipating over the mountains of western Guatemala.
Although no longer even a tropical depression, Agatha still posed trouble for the region: Remnants of the storm were expected to deliver 10 to 20 inches (25 to 50 centimeters) of rain over southeastern Mexico, Guatemala and parts of El Salvador, creating the possibility of "life-threatening flash floods and mudslides," the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said in an advisory Sunday.
Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom said Saturday night that the rivers in the country's south were flooding or close to it.
Colom said 4.3 inches (10.8 centimeters) of rain had fallen in Guatemala City's valley in 12 hours, the most since 1949.
As of Saturday night, 4,300 people were in shelters and authorities said the number could rise as figures come in from around the country.
Earlier Saturday, Agatha's rains caused a landslide on a hillside settlement in Guatemala City that killed four people and left 11 missing, Guatemalan disaster relief spokesman David de Leon said. Most of the city was without electricity at nightfall, complicating search efforts.
Four children were killed by another mudslide in the town of Santa Catarina Pinula, about six miles (10 kilometers) outside the capital. And in the department of Quetzaltenango, 125 miles (200 kilometers) west of Guatemala City, a boulder loosened by rains crushed a house, killing two children and two adults, de Leon said.
Calls to local radio stations told of many more landslides and possible deaths, but those reports could not be immediately confirmed.
A three-story building in northern Guatemala City fell into a sinkhole but there were no reports of victims.
Cesar George of Guatemala's meteorological institute said the community of Champerico had received 11.8 inches (30 centimeters) of rain in 30 hours.
"It rained in one day what it usually gets in a month," George said.
Colom said authorities have not been able to reach Champerico by "air, land or sea."
In El Salvador, President Mauricio Funes declared a "red alert," the highest level of emergency, after rains delivered by Agatha triggered at least 140 landslides throughout the country and killed two adults and a 10-year-old child. The exact cause of their deaths was unclear.
Civil defense officials said the Acelhuate River that passes through the capital, San Salvador, had risen to dangerous levels and was threatening to overflow into city streets.
Agatha formed as a tropical storm early Saturday in the East Pacific.
Before the rains, Guatemala already was contending with heavy eruptions from its Pacaya volcano that blanketed the capital in ash and destroyed 800 homes.
The volcano, which is just south of the capital, started spewing lava and rocks Thursday afternoon, forcing the closure of Guatemala City's international airport. A TV reporter was killed by a shower of burning rocks.
NORMAN — Cleveland County prisoners wear jail-issue uniforms of hot pink shirts and yellow-and-white striped pants, which some say make them look more like clowns than criminals.
Cleveland County inmates wear jail-issue uniforms. PHOTO BY STEVE SISNEY, THE OKLAHOMAN
Oklahoma County attire Sheriff John Whetsel said Oklahoma County inmates wear different colors depending on their status. All of them wear matching shirts and pants with rubber sandals called jelly shoes. The general population wears orange; Corrections Department inmates wear green; jail trusties wear white, or blue and white if they work outdoors; and juveniles wear red.
Sheriff's officials say the outfits were chosen for security reasons.
"We want our inmates to be identifiable. If one of them slips over the wall, we want to know about it right away,” Undersheriff Rhett Burnett said.
Burnett said the county switched to the colorful new uniforms about 16 months ago.
The old orange uniforms were too similar to outfits anyone could buy at a uniform store and wear on the street, he said.
Attorney Fred Shaeffer said he thinks the outfits were selected to embarrass the people who wear them.
"There's no doubt in my mind that the intent was to humiliate them.
"A lot of innocent people get arrested and go through that jail, and everyone is supposed to be presumed innocent until they are found guilty. It's bad enough to be arrested, but to then be humiliated by having to wear a costume like that is wrong,” he said.
The fact that they're garish is what Sheriff Joe Lester likes about them, Burnett said.
"He wanted something identifiable that couldn't be duplicated,” the undersheriff said.
Medical "scrub” uniforms are similar to the orange outfits inmates used to wear, Burnett said.
"It's become popular to wear those green or blue medical uniforms, and you can also buy similar orange ones. Particularly, in Norman, orange is a popular color because it's one of Norman High School's colors,” Burnett said.
The uniforms were not selected to humiliate anyone, Burnett said.
"They're pretty awful, but then the whole experience of getting arrested is pretty awful,” said Connie Albritton of Big Red Bail Bonds.
Attorney Dave Stockwell said he doesn't mind the outfits. "Hey, you're in jail. That's humiliating in itself. And from what I've been told, there were a couple of false sightings of prisoners on the street when we had the old uniforms. With these, you better be wearing handcuffs if you're walking down the street dressed like that,” Stockwell said.
Read more: http://newsok.com/hot-pink-and-bright-yellow-means-youre-in-jail-in-cleveland-county/article/3465251?custom_click=masthead_topten#ixzz0pcEqfFzt
Job Outlook for Teenagers Worsens
May 31, 2010
This year is shaping up to be even worse than last for the millions of high school and college students looking for summer jobs.
Jim Davis/The Boston Globe
Young people in Massachusetts marched to the State House in Boston to protest cuts in financing for jobs.
Another Dismal Summer for Teenagers
Jessica Ebelhar for The New York Times
Some state governments are cash poor. Kentucky has pulled back on mowing lawns at some facilities to save money.
State and local governments, traditionally among the biggest seasonal employers, are knee-deep in budget woes, and the stimulus money that helped cushion some government job programs last summer is running out. Private employers are also reluctant to hire until the economy shows more solid signs of recovery.
So expect fewer lifeguards on duty at public beaches this summer in California, fewer workers at some Massachusetts state parks and camping grounds and taller grass outside state buildings in Kentucky.
Students seeking summer jobs, generally 16 to 24 years old, are at the end of the job line, behind the jobless baby boomers who are competing with new college graduates who, in turn, are trying to elbow out undergraduates and high school students.
With so many people competing for so few jobs, unemployed youth “are the silent victims of the economy,” said Adele McKeon, a career specialist with the Boston Private Industry Council who counsels students on matters like workplace etiquette, professionalism and résumé writing.
Getting that first job “is an accomplishment, and it’s independence,” Ms. McKeon said. “If you don’t have it, where are you going to learn that stuff?”
The unemployment rate for the 16-to-24 age group reached a record 19.6 percent in April, double the national average. For those job seekers, said Heidi Shierholz, an economist at the Economic Policy Institute, “This is the worst year, definitely since the early ’80s recession and very likely since the Great Depression.”
Or as researchers at Northeastern University, who issued a report in April on youth unemployment, put it, “The summer job outlook does not appear to be very bright in the absence of a massive new summer jobs intervention.”
Still, the poor numbers this year are not solely a symptom of the continued weak economy. For generations, government data shows, at least half of all teenagers were in the labor force in June, July and August. Starting this decade, though, the number of employed teenagers began to drop, and by 2009, less than a third of teenagers had jobs. This year, the number could fall below 30 percent.
That is a stark contrast to the job market for recent college graduates seeking full-time employment — a market where this is actually a slight increase from this time last year.
There is no simple explanation for the large drop-off in summer jobs this decade, though experts say that more high school students are choosing to volunteer and do internships to burnish their college applications. But the Northeastern researchers said a large number of youths had been left out of the work force and wanted to get back in.
The forecast for this summer is so dire that high school students took to the streets this year in Washington, Boston and New York to push lawmakers to come up with money for summer youth jobs programs as Congress did last year, allocating $1.2 billion for a program for low-income youths.
On Friday, the House passed a measure that included the summer jobs provision, though its future in the Senate this week is uncertain.
The Northeastern researchers estimated that an additional $1 billion federal infusion would create some 300,000 job slots this summer, barely putting a dent in the demand for jobs.
Still, those types of positions are desperately needed, said Neil Sullivan, executive director of the Boston Private Industry Council, which works with private and public employers to place students.
For students like Anthony Roberts, 18, and Deandre Briber, 18, at the Prologue Early College High School in Chicago, the federal money offers some hope. Both are applying to the alternative school’s summer jobs program.
Last summer, with the aid of stimulus money, the school hired dozens of students, according to its principal, Pa Joof. This summer, without the money, the school can afford just 10.
“It was great last summer,” he said. “We had 80 to 90 kids kept off of the street seven or eight weeks. They were able to come right back to school without any problem” in the fall, he added. “What’s happening right now in Chicago, you let these kids out there for four or five weeks, we are going to lose some of them. That’s just the nature of the streets.”
Mr. Briber, who graduates next January, said he had applied at T.J. Maxx, Target, Kmart, and at a local docking company, with no luck. Having an income will help ease the burden on his mother, he said. Also, he said, “I feel like I do need to get a job because I’m kind of a handful. I want things, clothes, and to take care of myself. I just want to be on my own, to help out with bills.”
Mr. Roberts, who graduates in June and plans to attend college, said he had been searching for a job for a year and a half. Everywhere he goes, Mr. Roberts says, there are other teenagers ahead of him. “It bothers me, but at the same time,” he said, “I try not to let it bother me.”
In Boston, at the Charlestown High School, Jamila Hussein, 19, said she had been running into the same problem in looking for a part-time job in retail or restaurants. “It’s harder than it sounds,” said Ms. Hussein, who has a summer internship lined up in July to clerk for a judge. “Right now, some of the things, even if they are available, you have adults looking.”
Last week, Ms. Hussein was at the office of Ms. McKeon, the career specialist with the Boston Private Industry Council. The partnership with the private industry council and public schools is well entrenched, about 30 years old, Ms. McKeon said. Even so, she said, “we’ve never seen it like it is now.”
Jada Bonner, 15, another student at Charlestown High, was at Ms. McKeon’s office applying for a summer job through a community program. “I just want a job, independence. I don’t want to ask my mom 24/7 for pocket money, and she might not even have it,” she said.
While cities like Boston and New York have had to cut summer youth jobs programs, Cincinnati has maintained a $1 million budget for its youth initiative the last few years because of the mayor’s commitment to the program, according to Jason Barron of the mayor’s office.
About 700 high school and college-age youths will be hired to create murals, landscape, work in the parks department, serve as junior counselors and intern at neighborhood recreation centers, he said.
Elsewhere, the Interior Department has committed to hiring at least 12,000 youth in 2010 — a 50 percent increase over the 8,000 in 2009 as part of its Youth in the Great Outdoors initiative.
But for the second consecutive year, CareerBuilder.com found in its summer hiring forecast that a vast majority of employers did not intend to hire seasonal help. “Summer hiring plans clearly show that they are still waiting to see what the future brings before they move forward with recruitment,” said Rosemary Haefner, vice president for human resources.
Still, Ms. Haefner said, there have been some positive signs, like an increase in job postings.
Retailers like American Eagle Outfitters are hiring at various locations, including its flagship stores in New York City, where it plans job fairs in June. In tourist spots like Atlantic City, businesses are expecting a rebound in seasonal hires, according to the Convention and Visitors Authority.
Indeed, career specialists say job seekers who persevere can find work. “It’s still going to be a tough summer for teens,” said Renée Ward, who runs the job help site.
To which Mr. Sullivan of the Boston Private Industry Council, said, “Everyone has fond memories of their summer jobs as they grew up.”
“For almost half of this generation,” he said, “that has been lost.”
June 1, 2010
Jackson's kids get $33M each
Editor Detroit Metromix
Despite reports that their father died broke nearly a year ago, Michael Jackson's three children won't have money issues to worry about.
The late King of Pop left $33 million to each of his kids -- Prince, 13, Paris, 12, and Blanket, 8 -- according to a will published by Britain's News of the World.
The legal docs state that the MJ 3 will eventually have access to 40% of their father's estate via trust funds. They'll be able to make partial withdrawals when they reach age 21 and will have full control of their fortunes when they hit 40.
And that's just where it stands today: The Jackson estate is expected to explode thanks to interest and future earnings that include record and merchandise sales.
MJ, who died last June at the age of 50, also listed his mother (and legal guardian to his kids) Katherine Jackson in the will, giving her a 40% share of his estate. The remaining 20% is designated for charities, according to the document published by News of the World.
Cut out of the will? Papa Joe Jackson, MJ's famous sibs and ex-wives Debbie Rowe and Lisa Marie Presley.
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