ALBANY, Ga. — A 71-year-old retired Albany man spotted a couple of thieves, grabbed his gun and got his man Friday afternoon.
Herbert Gladin said the backyard at 408 Florence Drive, one house over from his residence, had been robbed many times before and he wasn’t going to take it anymore.
“I heard my neighbor’s dog barking,” Gladin said. “I looked through their yard to my other house and saw two heads moving in the yard. I ran and got my gun and a man was coming out the gate pushing my lawnmower up Patricia Alley.”
Police arrived before 5 p.m. Friday to arrest a man held at gunpoint by Gladin, an Albany Police Department report stated. Two women were also arrested in connection with the crime.
Nicolas Wright, Raquell Richardson and Dominique Johnson, all 23, were charged with theft by taking. Richardson and Wright are also charged with criminal trespass, according police at the scene.
Talking at the crime scene, Gladin told how the afternoon unfolded.
He said Richardson and Johnson sat in a parked silver Ford on Patricia Alley.
Wright pushed the stolen lawnmower in front of the car, Gladin said.
When he saw Gladin with a .38-caliber Rossi pistol heading toward him, he jumped in the drivers seat and drove over the lawnmower, officers said.
The crash-grind sound of metal over metal caught Donnie Rogers’ attention as he grilled burgers in his backyard on Patricia Alley. He grabbed his nunchuck and headed toward the sound.
When the Ford mashed the lawnmower, the three suspects threw open the car doors and ran in different directions.
As Wright circled back, possibly to get his car, Gladin got the drop on him.
“I’m glad that boy showed up with his nunchucks,” Gladin said of Rogers. “I think he (Wright) was getting ready to run again.”
Somehow during the confusion, Gladin found time to call 911, he said. Police corralled all three suspects quickly, he said.
Gladin said, “I am very proud of the Albany Police and how they handled this situation.”
Meantime, a suspect who may be linked to a string of burglaries in the north-central area of the city, was arrested early Friday, stated an Albany Police Department report.
Jeffrey Porter, 35, was arrested on burglary charges at about 2:40 a.m. after he tried to run away from 1216 N. McKinley St., a police report stated.
“After the suspect was captured, he showed the officers where he got the stolen property,” said Phyllis Banks, police spokeswoman. “The property was turned back over to the owner.”
The property returned was a push mower and a riding lawnmower, Banks said. Porter could be connected to other property thefts in the area around First and Fourth avenues and Rawson Circle, she added.
Hotels don't always change the sheets between guests
The Travel Troubleshooter
April 27, 2011
Glenn Robins is grossed out. As a frequent traveler, he assumed the sheets on hotel beds are changed between guests.
But a new TV ad by the Hampton Inn chain calls that assumption into question. It shows housekeepers changing sheets in hazmat suits, at what appears to be a competing hotel chain.
"The implication was obviously that other hotels do not change the sheets for every new guest," he says.
Robins is troubled by that.
"It's a disgusting enough thought that the sheets were not changed," he told me. "It gets even more disgusting when one considers the previous tenant's possible activity."
A confession: I changed the last part of Robins' quote to spare you some graphic detail. Use your imagination.
Room hygiene is a hot topic among travelers. Always is. A recent post on my blog that featured a guest at a budget hotel who discovered her housekeeping staff hadn't changed the sheets in her room and failed to clean a shower between guest visits, sparked a spirited discussion. Some felt the traveler was entitled to a full refund for the lapse in hygiene.
This topic is already well covered -- sorry about the pun -- by the travel press. Sheets are usually changed between guests, and sometimes state law requires it, but there's no guarantee that they will be.
As for bedspreads, forget it. As countless hidden-camera investigative TV programs have confirmed, they aren't washed regularly.
But I digress. Is the Hampton ad right? Kinda.
It's probably safe to say that all major hotel chains, including Hampton, instruct their housekeepers to change sheets between guests. Yes, you'll always find some no-tell motel out in the sticks that tries to skip a guest or two, but as a general rule, the sheets are swapped out.
But here's a situation where the rules may allow a housekeeper to skip it: What if a guest checks in for one night and it appears the bed was unused? Is it OK to just tidy up, or should you strip it down to the mattress and replace the sheets?
I would have said "yes" -- just tidy up.
But wait. What if the previous guest is actually just really neat, and makes the bed like a pro? The housekeeper might assume the guest never used the bed. But that would be wrong.
Point is, it's possible for you to end up sleeping on someone else's sheets. But if you're staying at a major hotel chain, it's highly unlikely.
Still, should there be a law -- perhaps at the federal level -- that hotels meet a certain level of hygiene? Maybe.
Florida charters less diverse than other public schools
Cara Fitzpatrick and Marc Freeman
May 1, 2011
Racial imbalance is making a comeback in Florida's public schools with the new wave of charter schools springing up across the state.
One out of eight charter schools has a student body comprising 90 percent or more of a single race or ethnicity, an Orlando Sentinel analysis of the state's 456 taxpayer-financed charters shows. That compares with one out of 12 traditional public schools.
Those top-heavy charters are adding to the list of out-of-balance public schools that have perplexed educators since integration 40 years ago. They have worked for decades to reduce the racial imbalance through rezoning, school transfer options, magnet schools and other devices to shift students.
More of the charters with skewed enrollments may be on the way as lawmakers and Gov. Rick Scott push for changes in state law to allow more such schools.
"Charter schools really do fulfill the notion of parent choice," said Marie Turchiaro, principal of The Palm Beach Maritime Academy in West Palm Beach, which focuses on maritime studies, science and technology.
Charter schools are taxpayer-funded but privately run public schools.They are exempt from many regulations placed on mainstream schools and sometimes are not graded by the state.
Of Broward County's 68 charter schools, seven are 90 percent or more black; two are more than 70 percent white. In Palm Beach County, five of 32 charter schools have enrollments of 90 percent or more black; two were greater than 70 percent white.
Joseph Littles-Nguzo Saba charter school in Palm Beach County offers an African-based curriculum for an enrollment that is 97 percent black, Principal Cleveland Bryant said.
"Our focus is on children of African-American origin," he said of the 230-student kindergarten through eighth-grade school in Riviera Beach. "The focus is on putting people in front of them who look like them."
But at Imagine Schools at North Lauderdale, the 78 percent black enrollment simply reflects the neighborhood, Principal Rebecca Dahl said.
"We're sitting in a minority area, that's just where we are," she said, noting that the Imagine campus in Coral Springs is mostly white, while the Weston campus is mostly Hispanic.
'We seem to be reverting'
In 1970, Broward County was under court order to desegregate but problems persisted into the 1990s. A grassroots group filed a lawsuit in 1995 over school inequities that was finally settled in 2000.
Now, more than 38 percent of the district's 256,000 students are black, 25 percent are Hispanic and 30 percent are non-Hispanic whites.
Jody Perry, director of charter schools for the Broward County school system, said the district has little control over racial makeup of charter schools.
'It is a choice process, and parents can choose to enroll the student in the charter that best meets their needs," she said.
But critics say creating racially imbalanced public schools is not a model Florida should follow.
"The parents aren't doing the kids any favors because they're going to grow up and have to deal with other kinds of people," said Catherine Kim Owens, a member of the Broward School District's diversity committee.
Ernestine Price, a Pompano Beach activist who attended segregated Broward schools in the 1950s, said she has seen the ups and downs of desegregation. Her children were bused miles to white schools. Her grandchildren were in school when she was part of the grassroots group that filed suit over school inequities.
"We seem to be reverting back to segregation," said Price, who doesn't have a problem with the concept of charters, but worries about the lack of oversight.
In Palm Beach County, 11 of the charters — about a third — are top heavy with black, white or Hispanic students.
Juanita Edwards, director of charter schools in Palm Beach County, said the demographics of charter schools "hasn't been anything we've been monitoring."
'Vanilla public school'
More than 155,000 students across the state, 6 percent, are enrolled in charters, including about 23,000 in Broward and 8,700 in Palm Beach County.
Often there is nothing academically wrong with the public schools that students are leaving. Many earn A's or B's in state grading.
But parents who don't want their children to attend "just another vanilla public school" have a choice through charters, Florida Education Commissioner Eric Smith says.
G-Star School of the Arts for Motion Pictures and Broadcasting in Palm Springs, with 890 students, touts itself as the only high school in the world with a working motion picture studio on campus.
And Ben Gamla Charter School, which has campuses in Hollywood, Plantation and Miami-Dade, offers Hebrew language.
Other schools, such as the ones run by the city of Pembroke Pines, were set up to relieve the school district's extremely overcrowded facilities. Today, that system serves 5,000 students and has a long waiting list.
Other schools also skewed
A lot of traditional public schools are heavily of one race or ethnicity, say charter advocates.
Dillard High in Fort Lauderdale and Blanche Ely in Pompano Beach, for instance, are nearly all-black.
But many of those schools struggle with underfunding, high teacher turnover, poorer quality teachers and low student performance that often are duplicated in charters with similar demographics.
"It is important to consider if we are creating these patterns in charter schools that public schools have worked for decades to alleviate," said Erica Frankenberg, an assistant professor of education at Penn State University, who studies segregation in charter schools.
With high start-up costs, charter schools often struggle for years to get the financial stability of established public schools. Minority charters typically don't have deep-pocket backers.
Some experts say diverse schools help students develop both socially and academically.
New research by the Century Foundation, a nonpartisan think tank, shows the best way to improve academic achievement of low-income students, who often are minorities, is to scatter them among more affluent schools.
Virginia Farace, former education liaison for Boynton Beach, said parents have urged the school district for years to diversify the city's schools with students from a variety of economic backgrounds.
"When schools rely so much on parental support, when you need money for field trips, for PTAs, you don't have a pool to draw from in a poor school," Farace said. "This leaves the poor schools behind."
Staff writer Dave Weber contributed to this report.
Police: Children left alone in feces-filled home
Wednesday, April 27, 2011 5:19 pm | Updated: 5:23 pm, Wed Apr 27, 2011.
Laurie Mason Schroeder
In what prosecutors are calling one of the worst cases of neglect they've seen, a Bristol mother has been charged with leaving her three young children alone in a feces-filled home.
Chelsea Champey, 21, of Spruce St., is charged with felony child endangerment and related counts. She was arrested on Monday after police went to her home to investigate an unrelated complaint and found three children, ages four, two and one in the house with no adult supervision.
"This is about as offensive as a child neglect and endangerment case gets," said deputy district attorney Blake Jackman. "This was pure neglect."
According to a police report, an officer knocked on the door around 10 a.m. and got no response. He saw the 4 year old looking out a window and gestured to him to open the door.
Once inside, the officer saw that there was an open bottle of liquor on the table, as well as the remains of a marijuana cigarette in an ashtray. Under the table was "feces that that did not appear to look like that of a domestic pet, but appeared to be human."
In the kitchen, the officer found food scattered on the floor and bags filled with rotted food stacked against the refrigerator.
"Much of the food in the home was found to be beyond its expiration date, including toddler food," the report states.
Upstairs, police found rooms filled with dirty laundry and more feces. On a nightstand there were a box of opened razor blades. There was no running water in the home and the tub was encrusted with a pinkish substance that had solidified.
"The tub appeared to have not been used in days or weeks," the report said.
A one year old girl was found inside a feces-smeared crib. More feces was on the carpet. Officers then noticed a hallway door that was dead-bolted. From the report:
"Upon unbolting and the opening the door, a strong odor of human feces could be smelled. (An officer) took notice of scape marks on the interior surface of the door. Beyond the door there is a stairwell leading to the third floor..."
The officer found a two year old girl on the third floor. She was naked and covered head to toe in feces, the report said, as was every piece of furniture in the room.
"The scrape marks on the inside of the door were inspected further and were within the reach of (the girl's) height and are suspected to have been from (the girl) clawing at the door to get out."
The children were taken downstairs and seated on a couch while police waited for social workers to arrive. One little girl pulled a cookie from between the couch cushions and began to eat it.
Boro building inspectors were called and declared the home unfit for human occupancy. There was only one smoke detector in the home, on the third floor, and it was chirping because the battery was dead.
Champey arrived home several hours later. Police say she claimed that she'd left the children with a babysitter.
She admitted that she locked the two year old upstairs, police said, telling an officer "if (the girl) was allowed downstairs, she would have the main floor in the same condition as the third floor."
Champey was sent to the county prison after failing to post ten percent of $75,000 bail. She did not have a lawyer as of this afternoon.
The children were placed in the custody of Bucks County Children and Youth.
Jackman said that even if Champey did leave the children with a babysitter, the conditions of the home show that they had been neglected for some time.
"From the state of the home, it would be clear to anyone that this didn't happen overnight," he said.
International theft rings steal hundreds of vehicles in D.C. area every year
Friday, April 29, 9:22 PM
Mary Dunkley had just gotten back from church choir practice when one of the carjackers ripped open the door to her Toyota Camry. The 70-year-old retired secretary said that as she spilled onto the ground outside her Landover townhouse, the man put a gun to her head and demanded that she give up her purse.
“He was telling me, ‘Let it go. Let it go,’ ” Dunkley said. “Someone else came around real quick and jumped in the passenger seat, and they were gone in seconds.”
The men who carjacked Dunkley on March 17 were professional thieves, members of a sophisticated transatlantic car theft ring, police said. Their plan — thwarted by Prince George’s County detectives who arrested them this month — was to ship her 2009 silver Toyota thousands of miles to Lagos, Nigeria, authorities said.
While most cars are swiped for joy rides or cash from selling parts, authorities say the ring and others like it make up a complex, multimillion-dollar network.
Prince George’s police officials lauded the arrests of the ring’s high-ranking members. But they and other law enforcement authorities across the region acknowledged that the international car thieves are difficult to catch and the problem has become almost unsolvable.
“These guys are going to be replaced,” said Prince George’s Sgt. David Mohr, who works on the auto theft team.
Officials estimate that each year in the Washington area alone, hundreds of cars are stolen and shipped overseas. New York authorities announced last June that they had charged 17 people with stealing and shipping hundreds of luxury cars. Other D.C. area police officials and a spokesman for the FBI’s Baltimore Field Office said their detectives have worked similar cases.
Solomon Asare and Gabriel Awuzie, accused of being key players in the ring that stole Dunkley’s car, were arrested April 14 on car theft charges. Awuzie is scheduled to appear in court in May, and Asare in June.
“This has gone on and on and on, and it has become such an enterprise for them in the U.S.,” said Prince George’s County auto theft detective Luis Aponte. “There’s a major market for this.”
The ring’s bosses are usually based in African countries or other developing nations, where it is more difficult to find reasonably priced, mid- to high-end vehicles, authorities said. They order specific cars from middlemen in the United States, and then low-level thieves set out to get their cut.
In the Prince George’s ring, the thieves are paid according to the vehicles they carjack or steal — $1,500 for a Toyota Camry, $2,500 for a RAV4, $5,000 for a Porsche Cayenne, Aponte said. The middlemen handle the rest. They stash the stolen cars in parking lots or neighborhoods, waiting to see whether police are on their trail. Then they load the vehicles onto shipping containers bound for Africa, police said. The rings are especially prevalent in the D.C. area, police said, because of its proximity to ports.
Police say that in tracking Dunkley’s car, they were able to reach into one ring’s upper ranks.
Detectives on the Washington Area Vehicle Enforcement Team — a group of 10 auto theft investigators from Prince George’s and two from the Maryland State Police — long suspected Asare, 35, and Awuzie, 34, were involved in a ring, said Lt. Matt Meterko, who leads the group. But they were difficult to trace.
In March, detectives caught a break: Two men suspected in the carjacking of a Toyota Camry and told detectives Asare and Awuzie were scheduled to pick up a stolen car later that month.
Investigators secretly watched as a man talked to Asare in the parking lot of a Wal-Mart on Russett Green East in Laurel, then let Awuzie drive away in a Toyota Camry, Mohr said. Awuzie parked the Camry nearby, then Asare picked him up, Mohr said. They left the Camry behind, he said.
The moment was pivotal, police said, because it connected Asare and Awuzie to a car police suspected was stolen. Mohr said the Camry belonged to an Enterprise Rent-A-Car in Capitol Heights.
Detectives suspected the area near the Wal-Mart was a “cooling spot,” an area where the thieves would leave stolen cars until they were satisfied police were not trailing them.
Police began monitoring the car’s movements around-the-clock. Then, on March 29, they got their second big break: Anne Arundel County police found Dunkley’s Camry in the same Wal-Mart parking lot.
Investigators put a Global Positioning System tracker on Dunkley’s car, according to police charging documents. On March 31, a tow truck hauled the car to a warehouse on Hanna Street in Beltsville. Detectives began watching the warehouse.
Dunkley’s car and three other vehicles eventually were loaded into a faded red shipping container and hauled north, authorities said. Police stopped the load on April 13, just as it moved past the Fort McHenry Tunnel on I-95. They arrested Asare and Awuzie the next day, charging them with the theft of Dunkley’s Camry while they worked to put together a more comprehensive case.
In all, police seized six vehicles, four from the trailer and two that were in cooling spots elsewhere. Five were Toyotas, which detectives believe were requested because “they’re nice enough cars, but they’re not the high-end luxury cars that have the built-in tracking systems with them,” Mohr said.
Asare, an immigrant from Ghana, told police he lived in a modest Laurel townhome and worked as a trucker, according to court records. Awuzie, who was born in Kansas City, Mo., told police he lived in a Laurel apartment and worked at a Papa Johns Pizza, court records state. Since their arrests, both have been released on bond.
Awuzie declined to comment for this story. Asare, who also is charged with vehicle theft in Mongtomery County, did not return a written message seeking comment.
Richard Finci, Asare’s lawyer in an unrelated case, said charging documents do not identify his client as a higher-up in an international auto theft ring. He said he had not been officially retained to represent Asare in this case, and declined to comment further.
For Dunkley, it was no surprise that an international carjacking ring took her Camry. The thieves, she said, were so quick that she assumed they “must have been professional.”
The damage, Dunkley said, is lasting. She said the Camry was her “retirement car,” and she does not think she will be able to bring herself to drive it once she gets it back. She also had to replace her driver’s license and new prescription glasses, which were lost during the carjacking.
“They don’t know the problem they put people through,” Dunkley said. “It’s devastating.”
How theft rings operate:
Follow the journeys of stolen cars:
Tampa police say woman tried to buy her 80-year-old father a prostitute over Easter weekend
Father and daughter jailed for soliciting hooker
Maurice and Pia Kirchberg
Photo courtesy Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office
ABC Action News
TAMPA - A 51-year-old woman tried to buy her 80-year-old father the services of a prostitute over Easter weekend, Tampa police said.
The pair, who listed their hometown as Dubuque, Iowa, were arrested on Nebraska Avenue, an area of Tampa known for prostitution activity.
According to the arrest affidavit, 51-year-old Pia Kirchberg offered an undercover police officer $20 if she would have sex with Kirchberg's elderly father.
Both Pia Kirchberg and 80-year-old Maurice Kirchberg were charged with soliciting for prostitution.
The father and daughter were among eight people arrested in the sex sting.
"Prostitution is illegal. It doesn't matter how old you are," said police spokeswoman Laura McElroy. "If we catch you trying to solicit a prostitute you're going to jail."
Oil companies are making more money and less fuel
Refiners including Exxon Mobil are raking in profits while producing less gasoline and diesel in the U.S. than usual for this time of year. They're also exporting more to foreign countries. With oil prices rising, that makes for sticker shock at the pump.
Valero Energy, the nation’s biggest independent oil refiner, had “record exports coming from the United States” during the last three months of 2010, Chief Executive Bill Klesse recently told investors and analysts. Above, Valero's Wilmington refinery in October. (Christina House, For The Times / April 29, 2011)
April 28, 2011, 7:08 p.m.
Two men charged with burglary, theft, and robbery in Milton
SR Press Gazette
Monday night Santa Rosa County Deputies responded to a robbery on Reinsma Road in Milton.
According to Sgt. Scott Haines, the victim was sitting in his home when two men entered his residence without permission and took his wallet.
Charged in connection with the investigation were Mickey Allen Adkinson, 48, of Pace, and Michael Alan Goodyear, 46, of Milton.
Haines indicated one of the two suspects pinned the homeowner down in his recliner and grabbed his wallet off of a table next to the chair before both fled the home.
The victim called 911 and also drove around the neighborhood in search of the intruders.
Adkinson was located by deputies while walking down a nearby road and was arrested after being identified by the victim.
He is charged with burglary, grand theft, and robbery by sudden snatching. He bond was originally set at $22,500, but remains in the Santa Rosa County Jail.
According to Haines, Goodyear, the second suspect, was found standing in the backyard of his residence on Carroll Road.
Haines indicated that witnesses observed Goodyear running through his backyard and "acting crazy" making statements that he "didn't do anything wrong" and that he "didn't rob anyone".
The victim was brought to the scene and identified Goodyear, who was charged with burglary, grand theft, robbery by sudden snatching, possession of cocaine, and possession of drug paraphernalia. Goodyear was lodged in the Santa Rosa County Jail on a $30,250 bond, but it was later increased to $53,500.
Goodyear was found to be in possession of 1.7 grams of cocaine and drug paraphernalia when he was taken into custody.
According to Haines, deputies were not able to recover the wallet which was reported to contain $965.
POSTED: 4:48 pm EDT April 27, 2011
Police: Clayton Teacher Strips At School
Reports said Clayton County teacher, Harlon Porter, removed his clothing and walked down the hall of the building on April 22. at 3:20 p.m.
Police said on April 20, Porter learned that his employment contract would not be renewed, effectively terminating his employment.
During Porter's arrest, he stated that he had reached a "new level of enlightenment" and "he wanted everybody to be free now that his third eye was open."
Porter had several books in his belongings that appeared to be on topics such as spirituality and transcendental meditation, according to reports.
Porter also said he wanted to teach on a new level, "with hands in the earth, gathering the essence and learning how to love one another and fully appreciate the spiritual realm."
Wal-Mart: Our shoppers are 'running out of money'
Wal-Mart CEO Mike Duke (left) speaking to a gathering of industry watchers in New York on Wednesday.
Parija Kavilanz senior writer April 27, 2011: 6:17 PM ET
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Wal-Mart's core shoppers are running out of money much faster than a year ago due to rising gasoline prices, and the retail giant is worried, CEO Mike Duke said Wednesday.
"We're seeing core consumers under a lot of pressure," Duke said at an event in New York. "There's no doubt that rising fuel prices are having an impact."
Wal-Mart shoppers, many of whom live paycheck to paycheck, typically shop in bulk at the beginning of the month when their paychecks come in.
Lately, they're "running out of money" at a faster clip, he said.
Wal-Mart (WMT, Fortune 500), which averages 140 million shoppers weekly to its stores in the United States, is considered a barometer of the health of the consumer and the economy.
To that end, Duke said he's not seeing signs of a recovery yet.
With food prices rising, Duke said Wal-Mart is charging customers more for some fresh groceries while reducing prices on other merchandise such as electronics.
Wal-Mart has struggled with seven straight quarters of sales declines in its stores.
Addressing that challenge, Duke said the company made mistakes by shrinking product variety and not being more aggressive on prices compared to its competitors.
"What's made Wal-Mart great over the decades is 'every day low prices' and our [product] assortment," he said. "We got away from it."
Now, with its strategy of low prices all the time back in place, Duke said making Wal-Mart a "one-stop shopping stop" is a critical response to dealing with the rising price of fuel.
Americans don't have the luxury of driving all over town to do their shopping.
Other than competing on prices and products, Duke said Wal-Mart is focused on leveraging technology -- especially social networking -- more aggressively to drive sales.
"Social networking is much more a part of the purchasing decision," he said. "Consumers are communicating with each other on Facebook about how they spend their money and what they're buying."
Cardinal suspends Pfleger: 'You are not able to pastor a Catholic parish'
Cardinal Francis George (left) Rev. Michael Pfleger (Tribune photos / April 27, 2011)
7:28 p.m. CDT, April 27, 2011
Pfleger had publicly feuded with the cardinal about possibly being reassigned to Leo High School, telling a radio show recently that he would look outside the Catholic church if offered no other choice.
"If that is truly your attitude, you have already left the Catholic Church and are therefore not able to pastor a Catholic parish," George wrote in a letter dated today.
"A Catholic priest's inner life is governed by his promises, motivated by faith and love, to live chastely as a celibate man and to obey his bishop," the cardinal continued. "Breaking either promise destroys his vocation and wounds the Church.
"Many love and admire you because of your dedication to your people," the cardinal wrote. "Now, however, I am asking you to take a few weeks to pray over your priestly commitments in order to come to mutual agreement on how you understand personally the obligations that make you a member of the Chicago presbyterate and of the Catholic Church.
"With this letter, your ministry as pastor of Saint Sabina Parish and your sacramental faculties as a priest of the Archdiocese are suspended."
The cardinal ended the letter by saying, "This conflict is not between you and me; it's between you and the Church that ordained you a priest, between you and the faith that introduced you to Christ and gives you the right to preach and pastor in his name. If you now formally leave the Catholic Church and her priesthood, it's your choice and no one else's. You are not a victim of anyone or anything other than your own statements."
Kimberly Lymore, associate minister at St. Sabina Parish, read the following statement early tonight:
"On March 11, 2011, Father Pfleger met with Cardinal George, where he was asked to take over as president of Leo High School.
"On March 19, 2011, Father Pfleger sent a letter to Cardinal George saying he was neither qualified nor experienced being president of a high school, but that he was willing to help Leo High School in any way that he could.
"There has been no response by phone call or letter from the cardinal. Today Father Pfleger was called to a meeting at 4:30 at the Pastoral Center. At that meeting, Father Pfleger was given a letter that he was suspended and Cardinal George did not want to discuss it.
"The leadership of Saint Sabina will have an official response tomorrow. We are in shock. For your information, the press received this letter before Father Pfleger and the church heard about it through press calls."
Lymore said Pfleger was in the church tonight but he did not appear when the statement was read.
During the flap over his possible assignment to Leo, Pfleger appeared on the "Smiley & West" public radio program that he had been banned from speaking at events in the archdiocese and blamed pressure from conservative Catholics and the National Rifle Association for his most recent clash with George.
"I want to try to stay in the Catholic Church," Pfleger said. "If they say 'You either take this principalship of (Leo High) or pastorship there or leave,' then I'll have to look outside the church. I believe my calling is to be a pastor. I believe my calling is to be a voice for justice. I believe my calling is to preach the Gospel. In or out of the church, I'm going to continue to do that."
In a later interview with the Tribune, Pfleger clarified that he feels called to preach and push for social justice in a Catholic context. He said he loves the Catholic Church and prefers to stay there, but he would not go to Leo full time.
"I've always said I could not do something that I don't feel called or equipped to do," he told the Tribune. "A full-time position at Leo is not something I'm equipped to do. I think Leo has made it clear they don't see any need for me to come there. For both sides, it would be a lose-lose."
On the radio, Pfleger said conservative Catholics want to return St. Sabina, a mostly African-American parish, to the way it was before he got there nearly three decades ago and silence what they believe to be progressive messages from the pulpit.
For a couple of years, he said he has been the target of petitions and letter-writing campaigns by the NRA. Letters are often copied to the cardinal, Pfleger said.
"The NRA ... says I've been much too vocal about assault weapons and much too vocal about guns being registered and being accountable to gun owners," Pfleger said on the radio. "So all that combined and I guess the cardinal didn't have anything to do one morning and decided he wanted to get rid of me again."
But in his letter, the cardinal said he had no ulterior motives in wanting Pfleger at Leo.
"As you know, this was an honest offer, not driven by pressure from any group but by a pastoral need in the Archdiocese," George wrote. "You promised to consider what was a proposal, not a demand, even as I urged you to accept it."
The cardinal says his private conversation with Pfleger "was misrepresented publicly as an attempt to 'remove' you from Saint Sabina's. You know that priests in the Archdiocese are 'removed' only because they have been found to have sexually abused a minor child or are guilty of financial malfeasance.
"In all other cases, priests are reassigned, moving from one pastoral office to another according to the policies in place for the last forty years," George wrote. "That process has now been short-circuited by your remarks on national radio and in local newspapers that you will leave the Catholic Church if you are told to accept an assignment other than as pastor of Saint Sabina Parish."
Police: Man Robbed Dunkin' Donuts Drive-Thru On Bicycle, Pedaled Away With Cash Drawer
Vernon Lewis (Courtesy Meriden Police Department / April 27, 2011)
2:32 p.m. EDT, April 27, 2011
A man with 45 previous arrests for robbery was arrested again Friday after allegedly bicycling up to a Dunkin' Donuts drive-through window, threatening the clerk and pedaling away with a register drawer full of cash, police said.
Vernon Lewis, 42, of 6 Lincoln Terrace, then nearly collided with a police officer near City Hall who was responding to another call, police said.
After learning that the Dunkin' Donuts at 255 East Main St. had been robbed, the officer found Lewis near the public library, police said. He was carrying $321 cash, police said.
Dunkin' Donuts employees and customers identified Lewis as the alleged robber, police said.
He faces charges of first-degree robbery, second-degree larceny, second-degree threatening, interfering with police and brandishing a facsimile firearm.
Atlanta cop slugs woman in face during late-night IHOP brawl; police dept. investigating (VIDEO)
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Wednesday, April 27th 2011, 12:08 PM
In the video, reportedly shot at 4 a.m. on Sunday at one of the pancake chain's restaurants in the Buckhead neighborhood, two cops confront a young woman in a booth.
As one of the officers tries to yank the woman out of her seat, a girlfriend grabs the officer's shoulder, prompting him to swat her away with a smack to the face.
The woman then flies into a rage, swinging wildly at the officer's head. The officer ducks and then counters with a hard right cross to the woman's jaw.
Amazingly, the petite brunette says on her feet, and the two officers wrestle her to the ground, before cuffing her and hauling her away in front of dozens of stunned diners.
Roberte Caban, who said she was the woman cops were trying to drag out of the booth, told Atlanta's WSBTV television that she and her girlfriends were having coffee when an officer told them to keep it down.
"I felt so bad for her," Caban said. "It was very obvious that the first officer had contained her. We knew Cynthia didn't do anything. We didn't know who he was, he didn't say who he was."
Caban said she was also arrested and that she and her friend spent more than a day in jail.
The woman took a swing at the cop after he smacked her during a confrontation with the friend.
Cops said they were investigating the incident.
"The matter has been referred to our Office of Professional Standards to determine whether department policies and procedures were followed. Further comment at this time would not be appropriate," the Atlanta Police Department said in a statement.
IHOPs around the country have been plagued by violence this year.
Also on Sunday, Los Angeles Lakers forward Derrick Caracter was arrested after allegedly hitting a waitress at an IHOP in New Orleans. The team was in town for a playoff game.
In February, a group of reporters were attacked in an IHOP parking lot after approaching relatives of a 27-year-old man who had recently been shot to death.
LINK TO VIDEO:
Paint-huffing husband hauled to jail
Updated: Friday, 22 Apr 2011, 4:47 PM EDT
Published : Friday, 22 Apr 2011, 4:33 PM EDT
FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) - A Fort Wayne man was charged with inhaling toxic vapors for the 48th time after his wife called police and told them he was huffing paint in their apartment last Thursday.
According to a Fort Wayne Police Department report, when an officer arrived at the 517 Lawton Place apartment, Elizabeth Gibson said she and her husband Kelly had been in an argument and he had gone upstairs to huff paint.
The report said since she was afraid to go inside, she handed the officer her keys and followed him up.
When the officer opened the door, the entire apartment smelled of paint fumes and Kelly was found sitting on the couch with his shirt off, and his hands, mouth, nose and chin covered in silver paint.
Police said Kelly had a can of silver spray paint in his right hand and a paint-covered plastic bag in his left.
The officer said Kelly had a dazed, glassy-eyed look about him and was unsteady on his feet.
Kelly was taken to the Allen County Jail and charged with inhaling toxic vapors.
This incident was the 48th time Kelly was charged with inhaling since 1992.
St Kilda Chinese restaurant food bill handed to man in ambulance
April 26, 2011 7:21PM
A CHINESE restaurant that slapped a customer with the bill as he was being loaded into an ambulance has defended its actions.
Onlookers called paramedics when the man fell to the ground suffering an apparent seizure while enjoying dumplings with his friend at Shifu Dumpling Express in Acland St, St Kilda, at about 4.30pm today.
As the man was being loaded into the ambulance and his friend was climbing in to join him, a waiter came and handed the friend the bill.
Bella, who did not want her surname used, said she was disgusted at the restaurant's actions.
"I was so incredulous that it had happened,'' she said.
"It wasn't the most expensive restaurant in town, it's a dumpling house and their bill would not have been more than $30.
"It was just so inappropriate, I will never go there again.''
"My opinion is that they ate in our restaurant, they have to pay,'' he said.
An Ambulance Victoria spokesman confirmed a man in his 30s was taken to the Alfred Hospital in a stable condition.
UPDATE AND ONLINE DEBATE:
NFL in 'chaos' as players, league seek clarity in judge's ruling
The NFL remained in a labor fight-induced holding pattern on Tuesday as players reported for work and the league sought to clarify its responsibilities of its post-Nelson ruling reality.
But DeMaurice Smith, the executive director of the NFL Players Association, chided the league for tolerating a day of "chaos" with players being denied full access to team facilities.
In an appearance on ESPN Radio, Smith alleged that some players had been turned away from team facilities.
"To be in a world where guys are showing up ... and being told to go home... it's petty and small at best," Smith said.
Players reported to work at multiple teams on Tuesday -- including the Carolina Panthers, Cleveland Browns, New York Jets and Dallas Cowboys -- but the NFL instructed teams not to allow them to work out or conduct any football activities.
That came one day after U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson invalidated the lockout that was imposed on March 11. The NFL immediately appealed, and has asked Nelson to stay her ruling pending appeal. A ruling on that stay won't come until Wednesday at the earliest.
Also, the NFLPA asked Smith for further clarity about Monday's ruling, perhaps seeking to force the NFL to start the league year. The judge told the NFL to respond to the NFLPA's request by 6 p.m. ET on Wednesday.
Still, to Smith, Monday's ruling was clear that NFL players once again should have access to do their jobs.
"The court ruled yesterday that the lockout was illegal and it's lifted," he said.
"It's not a question of 'Should?' But a question of what's the law of the land and whether the NFL will comply with it."
NFL general counsel Jeff Pash said on ESPN that the league would adhere to the judge's ruling "in an orderly way."
"We anticipated this as a possible outcome," Pash said. "When we have rulings on the scope of the order, on the stay ... we will take all steps we need to take to comply with court orders."
But, in a scene reminiscent of the bickering that has typified the NFL labor struggle for months, Pash disputed Smith's characterization of Monday's ruling.
"I think it's quite a stretch to say what the judge did was say we broke the law," Pash said. He added the league expects to win on appeal.
Many players who reported on Tuesday were mindful of offseason workout bonuses included in their contracts that have been frozen and gone unpaid during the lockout.
Those bonuses were on Smith's mind, and he sounded an alarm of what could be yet another dividing point for the sides in the coming months.
"We expect those bonuses to be paid," Smith said.
High gas prices cut into driving habits — and Obama’s approval rating
Steven Mufson and Jon Cohen
Monday, April 25, 10:26 PM
Soaring gasoline prices are biting into household incomes and nibbling at Americans’ fuel consumption — and support for President Obama, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll.
About six in 10 respondents said they had cut back on driving because of rising fuel prices, and seven in 10 said that high pump prices are causing financial hardship.
Obama, like previous presidents in times of high oil prices, is taking a hit. Only 39 percent of those who call gas prices a “serious financial hardship” approve of the way he is doing his job, and 33 percent of them say he’s doing a good job on the economy.
The Energy Information Administration said Monday that gas prices climbed last week to $3.88 a gallon, up 81 cents since the start of the year. That is the highest pump price since August 2008, before the financial meltdown.
Evidence of motorists’ hardships is littering the roads. AAA says the number of motorists running out of gas has been surging. John Townsend, a spokesman for the automobile association, said that cash-strapped members “are pushing the envelope” and that emergency gas deliveries to stranded members jumped nationwide, including by 40 percent in the District.
That sort of hardship could slow Obama’s reelection campaign. The Post-ABC poll shows that 60 percent of independents who say they’ve been hit hard by surging gas prices also say they definitely won’t support Obama in his bid for reelection.
In a hypothetical matchup with former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, the top GOP performer in the Post-ABC poll, Romney wins by 24 points among the independents who have taken a severe financial hit because of gas prices, and the president is up 7 percentage points among other independents.
At a fundraiser in Southern California last week, where pump prices are the highest in the country, Obama acknowledged the political peril of high gas prices. He said, “My poll numbers go up and down depending on the latest crisis, and right now gas prices are weighing heavily on people.”
He tried to show that he feels motorists’ pain. “I admit, Secret Service doesn’t let me fill up the pump anymore,” he said. “But it hasn’t been that long since I did.”
The poll also shows the stubborn nature of gasoline consumption and the difficulty of weaning the country off its dependence on imported oil. About a quarter of all Americans say they would not alter their driving habits until prices, which are about $1 a gallon higher than a year ago, climb an additional $1.10 or to more than $5.
Although gasoline prices are just a quarter of a dollar short of their all-time record of $4.11 for a gallon of regular set in July 2008, the Energy Information Administration forecast this month that gas consumption would average about 9.3 million barrels a day over the peak summer driving season, a 0.5 percent increase over last summer.
“Population growth and a recovering economy contribute to gasoline consumption growth,” the EIA said, adding that high gas prices and better fuel efficiency standards would dampen demand. Consumption of diesel fuel is expected to climb 2.3 percent because of higher industrial output and trade.
“I think the evidence is strong that people are not very price responsive and that there are no magic thresholds where the effect changes suddenly,” said Severin Borenstein, a professor at the University of California Berkeley business school and director of the California Energy Institute.
In 2008 when prices last spiked, motorists carpooled, households drove the more efficient of their cars when a choice was possible, and many people opted for public transportation. But the impact was slight.
Borenstein says the drop in consumption was 3 to 4 percentage points. “That’s a pretty small demand response when the price of gasoline nearly doubles,” he said. Moreover, he said, “this was happening in context of a giant recession, so there were income effects as well.”
Christopher Knittel, a professor of applied economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said that “consumers are less responsive today than in the past, especially when compared to the 1970s.” With the growth of families with two income earners and other social changes, motorists are less likely to regard their day-to-day driving as discretionary.
But, Knittel said, “if prices continue to be high, they start to change what cars they buy, and manufacturers start to change the cars they offer. So it really depends on the time frame.”
Knittel said that the increase in gasoline prices is partly a result of the recovering economy. “One of the reasons gas prices are high is that we are coming out of the recession,” he said. “So it’s sort of bittersweet. The economy is getting strong, but it’s hurting our pocketbook.”
That could circle around and undercut the recovery. Peter Morici, a professor at the University of Maryland’s business school, estimates that the spike in gas prices since September translates into a 5 percent cut in discretionary income and that Americans “will be eating fewer restaurant meals, wearing fewer new clothes, curtailing summer vacation plans, and postponing furniture purchases and home improvements.”
In the Post-ABC poll, 12 percent of people who consider gas prices a financial hardship said they had slashed spending elsewhere.
The telephone poll was conducted April 14 to 17 among a random national sample of 1,001 adults. The margin of sampling error is 3.5 percentage points.
Polling manager Peyton Craighill contributed to this report.
Gwinnett couple conquers $83,000 of credit card debt
5:53 am April 26, 2011
This is a good-news column about conquering debt, brought to you by Courtney and Michael Wacker of Lawrenceville.
Courtney and Michael Wacker
(Photo by Robin Henson)
Buried in a credit card hole and staring at financial disaster, the Wackers managed to whack about $83,000 in principal and interest in a little over five years.
How they got into the mess — fairly typical — and how they climbed out — determination and good advice — can be an example for consumers facing similar messes.
“We had so many cards full of so much stuff that we started just paying the minimum. That was the big trap,” said Courtney Wacker, a 46-year-old former teacher who works in educational testing.
It wasn’t the house or car payments that got the Wackers in trouble. It wasn’t the two kids. It was the plastic.
“You charge it,” Courtney Wacker said. “It’s the American way. I’m going to pay it off later.” Only “later” didn’t come until after the mountain of debt was about to crush them. As their credit scores kept falling, the interest rates on the nine credit cards shot up to as high as 32 percent. By paying the minimum each month, the Wackers were looking at about 30 years to get out from under the load.
Since they didn’t want to be in their 70s before the cards were paid off and since they were opposed to filing for bankruptcy, the Wackers sought help from CredAbility, the nonprofit group formerly known as the Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Greater Atlanta.
First, the nine cards were cut up. Then, a CredAbility counselor went through their budget, put them on a debt management plan and contacted their creditors. The counselor was able to negotiate a critical change — the interest rate on the debt was cut to 3 percent from 32 percent.
“That’s what saved us,” Courtney Wacker said.
Each month, the Wackers paid a figure they’ll never forget — $1,456, which included a $50 monthly fee to CredAbility.
To hit that monthly target, they had to completely change their spending habits. No impulse buys. No meals out. No vacations, other than driving to see family or friends. No expensive Christmas or birthday gifts. Handmade gifts instead.
“We had to adjust to strictly cash, even to pay for gas and food,” said Michael Wacker, a Georgia Power maintenance specialist. “Once that first year got by, we were OK.”
Did it affect your relationship, which began back in high school?
“You have to be able to work together,” Michael Wacker, 46, said. “You have to be patient with each other.”
They had to establish priorities, which were essentially living expenses, plus one other thing — continuing to pay for the kids’ competitive swimming activities. Everything else was eliminated.
As their debt was being retired, their credit scores steadily rose to 750 from the 500 neighborhood. Now, with all of it paid off, the Wackers still plan all of their spending, and pay with cash. They literally have a written, five-year plan detailing how they’re going to tackle many home-improvement projects they plan to do themselves.
Any advice for others?
“If you can’t pay for it, you can’t get it,” Courtney Wacker said. “If you fall into the credit-card trap, don’t wait long to get help.”
Disgraced cop Emmanuel Tavarez pleads guilty to robbing drug dealers; faces 30 years in prison
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Monday, April 25th 2011, 6:40 PM
Emmanuel Tavarez's wife wept in the courtroom as the 8-year-veteran of the force admitted he sold out his badge.
"I participated in the robberies of drug dealers," Tavarez said. "I was a lookout."
Tavarez, 31, copped to the crimes that could put him away until he's a senior citizen on the eve of jury selection for his trial in Brooklyn Federal Court.
Defense lawyer Raymond Colon said Tavarez made the decision based on the "crushing weight" of the evidence. The cop has no plea deal with the government.
"It's a tragic situation for the Tavarez family," Colon told The Daily News. "This was a young man with a lot of promise."
Tavarez was a promising professional baseball prospect before he joined the NYPD. When he was arrested last May he was only days away from being approved for a tax-free pension for a line-of-duty injury that would have been worth well over $1 million over his lifetime.
But the cop's greed led him to associate with criminals who used Tavarez's status as a cop to carry out the armed robberies. The stolen drugs were later sold and the profits split.
Tavarez said he personally participated in stickups in Connecticut and Long Island.
Prosecutors said Tavarez used his badge to falsify search warrants, provided NYPD raid jackets and other paraphrenalia to the crew and restrained one victim with handcuffs.
Tavarez denied that he loaned his service gun to a crew member.
He faces 30 to 40 years in prison when he's sentenced in July by Federal Judge Sandra Townes.
Members of the NYPD Internal Affairs Bureau informed the lawyer that Tavarez was terminated from the force as a result of his guilty plea.
Hairy heist at beauty supply firm
12:50 p.m. CDT, April 25, 2011
The last time crooks broke into Jay Han's beauty supply store on the Near West Side, they made off with cash.
Early Easter morning, some enterprising thieves made off with more valuable loot: Nearly $80,000 worth of human hair.
The break-in occurred early Sunday morning in the rear of the Beauty One, 616 W. Roosevelt Rd. and was captured on videotape.
Han, 52, who has had the shop in the same location for more than six years said he believes the thieves knew just how valuable the hair could be on the black market.
The tresses, which are packaged with brand names like Indi-Remy, Saga Hair and Bohyme Hair, are used to braid hair and for hair extensions especially in the African-American community, said Han.
He said the thieves targeted the most expensive brands which are more durable and comfortable and left behind poorer quality synthetic locks. They also made off with other hair products.
"They know, because they have a wife and they know what they do to beautify their hair styles and how they invest their money to buy hair," said Han. "They knew that there is a difference between synthetic hair."
According to videotaped surveillance outside of his shop, a white van drove up to the back of the store and three men struggled with a heavy steel door that was sealed tight with two deadbolt locks. According to the video the men used a metal pry bar to open the door.
As two of the men went into the shop, one man stood outside and acted as a lookout. Within seconds, the men were back out of the shop with large plastic bins full of the packages of hair and other items including wigs with natural hair, he said. He said a wall stacked with the premium items was cleared out. He said each of the packs of hair is worth about $200.
While a security alarm inside the shop went off, he faulted police for not showing up quickly enough and letting the men make off with their loot.
"They didn't touch money, they did better," Han said.
NFL lockout has been lifted
Judge Susan Nelson grants request of players for an injuction that forces NFL teams to continue football operations.
4:10 PM PDT, April 25, 2011
The NFL lockout has been lifted.
Judge Susan Nelson of the U.S. District Court in Minneapolis granted the request of the players for an injunction that forces NFL teams to continue football operations.
Nelson's ruling gives the players an early victory in their battle with team owners over a new collective bargaining agreement in the $9 billion business. Owners locked out the players after negotiations broke down on March 11 and the players decertified their union.
Nelson could have granted the injunction but issued a stay to keep the lockout in place until the appeal. However, she decided not to stay the decision, meaning the league must lift the lockout immediately and cannot put it in place while it waits for a decision from the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis.
The NFL issued a statement saying it will appeal Nelson's ruling.
"We will promptly seek a stay from Judge Nelson pending an expedited appeal to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. We believe that federal law bars injunctions in labor disputes. We are confident that the Eighth Circuit will agree. But we also believe that this dispute will inevitably end with a collective bargaining agreement, which would be in the best interests of players, clubs and fans. We can reach a fair agreement only if we continue negotiations toward that goal."
The appellate court has the ability to overturn a ruling when it finds a mistake in the application of the law.
"It means that the NFL is going to go back to business as usual with the old system," said attorney Jerome Stanley, a longtime player agent. "The parties will eventually sit down and negotiate a new system."
DeMaurice Smith, head of the decertified NFL Players' Assn., said he was "happy for our players and for our fans. Today, those who love football are the winners."
Reactions from players was just as positive.
"Today's ruling is a win for the players and for the fans that want to see a full NFL season in 2011," Giants defensive lineman Osi Umenyiora said. "The lockout is bad for everyone and players will continue to fight it. We hope that this will bring us one step closer to playing the game we love."
Times staff writer Lance Pugmire contributed to this report.
Sunday, April 24, 2011 at 10:02 PM
Man makes a rowboat his home under the 520 bridge
William Kaphaem and his dog, Lulu, live in an aluminum 14-foot rowboat in a foot of water under the Highway 520 bridge in Seattle.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Under the concrete pillars of the Highway 520 bridge, anchored in a foot of water, William Kaphaem and his dog, Lulu, live in an aluminum 14-foot rowboat.
They seem to have found peace at the edge of the Arboretum.
Kaphaem has rigged the boat so it's covered by a 20-by-18-foot brown plastic tarp, with a few feet of headroom. It seems to blend in with the muddy bottom by the bridge posts of the Montlake Boulevard East exit.
He has a close-up view of the wildlife there.
"Beavers, muskrats, wood ducks, eagles — lots of eagles — blue herons, green herons, mallards, Canada geese, cormorants, kingfishers, raccoons, coyotes, now and then," says Three Stars about what he's seen.
Among the some 2,400 homeless counted living outside this January by the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness, his is one of the more unusual living arrangements.
The way he sees it, he and Lulu didn't have much choice: the streets or here.
"I've got a lot of stuff. I didn't want to schlep it around town like some tramp," says Three Stars. "I've got more dignity than that."
Early in 2010, after the death of the elderly owner of the West Seattle home in which he was renting a room for $150 a month, Three Stars had to find cheap lodging.
He lives on $636 a month SSI, the government's program to help the aged and disabled.
That allows him to take the bus to the Safeway on Capitol Hill and shop for food for himself and Lulu.
When he leaves for a few hours, Three Stars puts on waders and anchors the boat maybe 10 feet from shore. Once, he knew that somebody rustled through his boat. Another time, somebody untied it and it drifted off.
Now, if somebody wants to mess with the boat, they'll get soaked in 3 feet of water.
Three Stars qualifies for SSI because, as he explains it, he's got the kind of attention-deficit disorder "in which like I had 40 jobs in two years, and I got fired in all of them ... Burger King, grocery store ... sometimes I can't shut my face."
He doesn't mind sharing his life's details, such as growing up in Massachusetts and Florida under less than nurturing family situations.
A vocation that did suit him was as a street musician.
He learned to play the guitar on his own, and traveled around the country. He ended up here in 1980, he says.
"This hippie in New Orleans told me about Seattle, said they wouldn't persecute you for playing in the streets," says Three Stars.
Some of you might recall seeing Three Stars and Lulu on the sidewalk outside of Pacific Place in downtown Seattle.
He would play the guitar and sing a lot of country standards. Lulu, which Three Stars says is a mixture of wolf and husky, and is closing in on 10 years, would keep him company. They'd earn a few extra bucks.
He stopped playing last year, he says, because of tendinitis. "My wrist was falling asleep," he says.
For a number of years, says Three Stars, he even lived a kind of family life, fathering a daughter, living with her mother (now deceased, he says) in motels and subsidized housing.
He says his daughter now is 24 and that he keeps in touch with her. He says she's going to let him use her apartment to wash up and do laundry.
Under the bridge, he doesn't bother anyone; and those who know about him leave him alone.
State Department of Transportation workers working near the bridge one day recently just shrugged him off.
But John Moriarty, the 13th Coast Guard District assistant division chief for waterways management, when asked about a boat such as Three Stars', says, "Now we'll have to check him out."
They have concerns. For example, what is Three Stars doing with his waste? wonders Moriarty.
Three Stars says he either bags it and puts it in the trash bins "that go to a landfill" or uses lavatories.
Moriarty says that also, "We want to make sure he's safe."
So far, Three Stars seems to be.
He just wants to be left alone.
He says, "It's a very peaceful experience."
You wouldn't even know there was somebody inside unless you yelled over the noise of the rumbling cars and trucks above, "Hey, Three Stars!"
Kaphaem, 51, says he has Mohawk ancestry and so he prefers to be called by that name, which reflects the outdoors.
Hearing your voice, Kaphaem — Three Stars — will lift up the tarp that serves as his cocoon.
"Actually, a lot of light gets through," he says.
Inside his rowboat home, he sometimes reads, and often listens to a baseball game or KIXI-AM easy-listening classic hits on a battery-powered radio with a headset. He handrolls cigarettes with filters.
Across a couple of the benches, he has laid a sheet of plywood that serves as the backing for his bed.
He has a Coleman lantern and a stove, making sure to ventilate when heating some soup or frying up fish. For cold nights and days, he wears three or four layers of clothing.
In the boat, he has five spinning rods, and, using worms, manages to catch perch, bass and the occasional trout. He has a collapsible trap for catching crawdads, which he plans to use in the summer when he rows up Lake Washington to the Sammamish Slough.
LINK TO PHOTO GALLERY:
401(k) plans: 'The Smartest 401(k) Book You'll Ever Read' offers insight
401(k) plans can often be a better deal for your employer than for you. This book gives advice on navigating a 401(k) system that's sometimes unfair.
posted April 25, 2011 at 10:34 am EDT
Every Sunday, The Simple Dollar reviews a personal finance or other book of interest. Also available is a complete list of the hundreds of book reviews that have appeared on The Simple Dollar over the years.
About a year ago, I reviewed Daniel Solin’s The Smartest Retirement Book You’ll Ever Read and concluded that it was a strong book to read if you’re a high income earner and concerned about retirement.
It was good enough, though, that I decided to keep an eye out for Solin’s other books and read them over time. Last month, I picked up Solin’s The Smartest 401(k) Book You’ll Ever Read in an effort to take a deeper look at the realities of retirement plans that many people use.
Does the book offer any real advice, or does it just rehash information that can easily be found elsewhere? Let’s dig in and find out.
Rules for All Investments
Solin’s real focus in this book, much like his other books, is that a successful investor focusesheavily on minimizing costs. You shouldn’t worry so much about short term return numbers on the investments you’re looking at. Look instead at things like expense ratios and the fees you’re charged. You’ll find that investments like index funds tend to stand out from the pack. Also, Solin urges people to avoid the hype for various funds out there in the financial media and instead focus on just the numbers.
401(k)Plans: Rigged to Rob Your Nest Egg
Here, Solin argues (quite well) that 401(k)s are fraught with risks. For starters, your employer often chooses a401(k) plan that benefitsthem the most, not the plan that benefits you the most. In short, you’re usually going to get the short end of the stick with your work plan compared to what you could get on an open market. Companies know you’re restricted in your401(k) choices, so they offer up relatively poor investment choices inside those plans. They’re expensive, fraught with conflicts of interest, and can make things even worse if you make poor investment choices.
How to Beat a Rigged 401(k)System
So what’s the solution? Lobby your employer for better options. Minimize the portion of your investment portfolio that’s actually in a401(k) plan. Look for the lowest cost investments in the plan. Invest only enough to get all of your employer’s match, then look for other options. In short, don’t buy into the idea that your only way to save for retirement is through whatever options the “advisor” at work tells you to invest in your401(k).
The Care and Feeding of Your IRA
What do you do if you don’t invest in your401(k)? Solin recommends opening up an IRA, either a Roth or a Traditional depending on whether your income is low enough to qualify you for a Roth. An IRA gives you much more control over your retirement savings, as you get to choose the investment house rather than relying on what your employer has chosen. Look for an investment house that has very low fees (preferably none) and a diversity of investments that have very low expense ratios. I use Vanguard, for example.
403(b) Plans and Annuities – They Make 401(k)Plans Look Good!
403(b) plans are much like 401(k)s, but they’re often even worse than 401(k)s because the problems with 401(k)s are exacerbated with 403(b)s. With 401(k)s, employers are involved but are often looking for a balance of minimizing costs for themselves and providing good options for their employees. With 403(b)s, employers often don’t care at all about the investment plans, leaving greedy investment houses to offer up poor investments to subscribers. Not only that, 403(b) plans often push people into annuities, which are terrible options for such retirement plans.
Alternatives to Traditional Retirement Plans
What can you do? Solin offers a few options here. The most interesting, in my eyes, was to invest in thingsoutside of retirement plans that return a consistent income, never mind the tax burden. He mentions lifetime annuities as one example.
Is The Smartest 401(k) Book You’ll Ever Read Worth Reading?
This book does a great job of making the case that your401(k) plan at work is likely not your best investment option. If you take the ideas in this book and use them to evaluate your401(k) or 403(b), you might not like what you find.
From there, though, Solin’s ideas for alternatives are spare and vague. He does offer some ideas, but he doesn’t offer an abundance of specific pointers to follow.
If you’re willing to use this book as a starting point for evaluating your retirement options and learning more, The Smartest 401(k) Book You’ll Ever Read is a very good choice. It is not, however, a one-stop-shop for everything you need for retirement planning.
Sarah Palin is getting less media attention than she used to
Perhaps Sarah Palin's advisers have a right to be upset about the former Alaska governor's media coverage these days. As FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver reports, press coverage of Palin has been on the decline in recent months. She's now getting only one-fifth the press coverage she did last fall.
Silver notes that Palin's declining coverage coincides with her falling polling numbers among voters but also with the rise of Donald Trump's potential candidacy. But what Silver doesn't mention—and could also be a factor—is Palin's decision to take a lower profile in the aftermath of what even some of her employers derided as her flubbed response to media coverage of January's deadly Tucson shooting.
While she's continued to make occasional appearances on Fox News, Palin has declined several high-profile speaking gigs in recent months, including a coveted spot at February's Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington. Instead, she stuck around Alaska, where she attended her husband Todd's Iron Dog snowmobile race. She also packed her schedule with paid speeches, most of which were closed to the press.
In March, she edged into the spotlight again, traveling to India, where she gave a paid speech at business conference in New Dehli but largely eschewed reporters. She tacked on a visit to Israel, where she met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu but, again, gave little access to the media.
Palin's most high-profile foray back into the public eye was her speech last weekend at a Wisconsin tea party rally, which apparently didn't garner the press coverage one of her advisers had hoped for.
Silver's implication is that media coverage boosts a 2012 candidate's stock with GOP voters--which is no doubt a possibility given Trump's surge in recent presidential polls. But the candidate who gets more media coverage doesn't always win. Just ask John McCain about the 2000 GOP primary or Howard Dean about the 2004 campaign. More than anything, the stats seem to be more of an indication of the volatility of the Republican electorate and the wide open GOP field heading into next year's primary.
1:26 PM Apr 22, 2011
Wilx News 10
There are almost as many "no smoking" signs at Sparrow Hospital as there are cigarette butts along its campus. The hospital banned smoking on site years ago, and whether or not people listened, it's taking the next step in its anti-tobacco policy.
"Anybody who tests positive for tobacco or nicotine products will not be able to gain employment at Sparrow," said John Berg, a Sparrow marketing executive.
Lucky for current employees who smoke, that only goes for new hires starting May 1, 2011. Still, those we talked to--smokers or not--didn't like it.
"See that's crazy to me, your freedom of choice...that's why I live in America," said Jacob McPhail, a non-smoking employee.
"I don't think that's fair. I think if they don't want them smoking on campus that's fine but I think what you do on your own time should be up to you," said employee Michael VanDussen, who does smoke.
The sparrow campus has been smoke free since 2007 and the signs are everywhere to prove it. But there's also proof the policy isn't always enforced. We found a pile of cigarette butts swept up just feet from a no-smoking sign outside the building, not to mention, people coming and going for smoke breaks there too.
LINK TO VIDEO:
Drill baby drill won't lower gas prices
The United States simply doesn't have enough oil to move world markets. Plus, any increase would be offset by OPEC.
April 25, 2011: 5:37 AM ET
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Every time gas prices reach record highs the call goes out for more oil drilling. This year it's no different.
"The Gulf is ready to get back to work to help create jobs and lower gasoline prices," Washington Republican Doc Hastings, head of the House Natural Resources Committee and a big proponent of more drilling, said last week.
The problem is this: While increased oil and gas drilling in the United States may create good-paying jobs, reduce reliance on foreign oil and lower the trade deficit, it will have hardly any impact on gas and oil prices.
That's because the amount of extra oil that could be produced from more drilling in this country is tiny compared to what the world consumes.
Plus, any extra oil the country did produce would likely be quickly offset by a cut in OPEC production.
"This drill drill drill thing is tired," said Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst at the Oil Price Information Service, which calculates gas prices for the motorist organization AAA. "It's a simplistic way of looking for a solution that doesn't exist."
According to a 2009 study from the government's Energy Information Administration, opening up waters that are currently closed to drilling off the East Coast, West Coast and the west coast of Florida would yield an extra 500,000 barrels a day by 2030.
The world currently consumes 89 million barrels a day, and by then would likely be using over 100 million barrels.
After OPEC got done adjusting its production to reflect the increased American output, gas prices might drop a whopping 3 cents a gallon, the study said.
"More production from anywhere would tend to lower prices," said Adam Sieminski, chief energy economist at Deutsche Bank. "But the amount that we're talking about domestically, it wouldn't move gas prices from $4 a gallon to $3."
In fact, more domestic oil is just what we've been seeing and gasoline prices are still going up.
Including liquids from natural gas, biofuels and other products that are all used to make gasoline, the United States now produces 9.7 million barrels of oil a day, according to EIA. That's the most oil this country has pumped in 20 years, and puts it just behind Saudi Arabia and Russia as the world's top producer.
Since 2005 production has been steadily rising. The United States now produces about a million and a half more barrels today than it did six years ago. Over this same time period oil hit a record $147 a barrel.
Oddly, it's largely because of high prices that this new production is possible. The deepwater drilling, shale rock extraction and other techniques used to increase production are pricey endeavors.
It's been a bounty for those that work in the oil and gas industry. In the last ten years the industry has added 2 million jobs, said Rayola Dougher, senior economic advisor for the American Petroleum Institute. The industry now employs over 9 million Americans.
These are well-paying jobs. People can earn $15 to $20 an hour right out of high school. With a just a few years experience, $60,000 a year is possible. Petroleum engineers and others with advanced degrees easily clear six figures.
It's also been good for oil companies. Thanks to lower taxes, companies generally make much more money on a barrel of oil produced in the United States than they do from North Sea or Middle East crude.
Dougher said that if all federal land was open to oil drilling -- not just offshore but Alaska's wildlife refuge and all federal land in the West that isn't a national park -- the country could produce an extra 2.8 million barrels of oil a day by 2025.
Being that she represents the oil industry, Dougher gave the idea a hard sell.
She said it would create another 500,000 jobs, add $150 billion each year to government coffers and shave a significant chunk off the country's foreign trade deficit.
But one argument she didn't make was lower prices.
Belly up to the (tie) bar
The old-school neck-cessory is the hot new thing in men's jewelry.
Tie bars from the Gentry's Salinger collection. "This is for a generation that hasn't had to wear a suit," says co-owner Greg Sato. (Toni Torres / April 24, 2011)
April 24, 2011
1,000 cops may face discipline for viewing sex case reports
More than 1,000 Chicago police officers could face discipline for viewing the arrest reports of two fellow cops accused of sexually assaulting a North Side woman.
Police department officials said Saturday they are investigating why so many officers accessed the arrest reports, and said the officers could face disciplinary action. The police union, however, says the officers did nothing wrong.
Last month, two Town Hall district officers were stripped of their police powers amid allegations they had sex with an intoxicated woman in her home and in a police SUV while on-duty. A third officer was also stripped of his powers soon after the alleged March 30th incident.
According to a memo sent department-wide Wednesday by the Internal Affairs unit, accessing the electronic report constituted “misuse of department equipment.” The memo warned that “access of information for personal or other reasons is strictly prohibited.”
The memo said officers had accessed and printed the reports “without reason or authorization to do so.” It recommended that those officers receive a written reprimand that would stay on their personnel record for a year.
On Saturday, police spokeswoman Lt. Maureen Biggane confirmed “the Internal Affairs Division is looking into the matter, including who accessed the reports and for what purpose.”
Biggane said it was unclear how many officers were involved. Police sources said it was more than 1,000.
But Fraternal Order of Police spokesman Pat Camden said there was nothing wrong with looking at reports unless the reports were printed and distributed to the media.
“Police officers use those computers on a daily basis, looking at various arrest reports,” he said. “It’s just a basic part of the job and it’s not misuse of department equipment.” Camden said the department could have blocked access to the reports, but didn’t.
Camden said he’s never seen such a threat of “blanket disciplinary action.
“On this magnitude, this is a first,” he said.
Religious custody dispute over, dad to attend Easter Mass with daughter
Cook County Sun Times
Apr 23, 2011 10:57PM
As he prepares to take his young daughter to Easter Mass for the first time, Chicago father Joseph Reyes said the Resurrection of Christ and the symbolism of new life is not lost on him.
“It has a lot of meaning for me, to be completely honest,” Reyes told the Sun-Times last week. “For the first time I’m able to observe this holiday and a very important part of who I am with my daughter without fear of being persecuted for that.”
Last Easter, a judge denied Reyes’ request to take his young daughter to mass, citing a temporary order preventing him from “exposing” Ela to any other religion than the Jewish faith. The order was part of an ugly divorce and custody battle between Reyes, who is Roman Catholic, and his then-wife Rebecca, who is Jewish.
The case grabbed national attention after Reyes, who lives in Mount Greenwood on the Southwest Side, had the girl baptized at a Catholic Church in November 2009, and his estranged wife took him to court.
Rebecca Reyes’ attorneys argued the couple agreed to raise the girl in the Jewish faith and that Joseph had converted to Judaism when the girl was born.
Joseph Reyes, a 36-year-old law student who works for his attorney in the case, Joel Brodsky, doesn’t deny the agreement during happier times, but said he returned to his Catholic roots once the couple split.
Today, with the divorce and custody battle in the rear-view mirror — and the court order effectively lifted — Reyes said he now simply wants to share his faith with his daughter. But at age 4, does she understand the tenets of Catholicism or the meaning of Easter?
“I think that she has a very elementary understanding of it. I know I did at her age. And Ela is a very, very bright girl,” he said.
This won’t be the girl’s first time at mass. They’ve been attending on weekends when he has custody. But this Sunday, he says, is special because it will be the first time father and daughter attend mass on one of the holiest days on the Catholic calendar.
Reyes bought his little girl a nice spring dress and a new tiara, a favorite accessory of the 4 year old’s to wear for early Easter morning mass at Queen of Martyrs Roman Catholic Church in south suburban Evergreen Park, the church where she was baptized.
Afterward there will be a brunch with family, including Joseph’s parents, siblings and some cousins who are Ela’s age.
Of course there will be some secular celebrations — an Easter Egg hunt on Saturday, and she’ll be given an Easter basket on Sunday.
Ela, who attends a Jewish school, also celebrated Passover last week, her father said.
The child’s mother did not return a call for comment. Laura Ashmore, Rebecca Reyes’ attorney in the case, declined to comment.
Asked whether the doctrinal differences might be confusing to the girl, Joseph Reyes said the girl is simply too young to understand. And he’s trying to raise her to understand and respect the faiths of both parents.
“We’ll talk about Passover, we’ll talk about Christmas, we’ll talk about Easter. I really want Ela to appreciate these holidays. I don’t want to talk about differences. I think religion is a spectrum. It’s sad people in the world use religion to divide,” Reyes said. “We live in a diverse, multicultural society. It’s important we appreciate the variety.”
Repenting and forgiveness are two strong themes in both religions and they’re something Reyes thinks about as he looks back at his marriage and very public divorce and moves forward as a single parent.
“I’ve put it behind me. I imagine a day will come that what has transpired will come before Ela’s eyes, and I hope Ela can forgive us,” Reyes said.
LINK TO PHOTO OF DAD:
GAO: $1.5B to jail unlawful immigrants
The federal government is spending more than $1.5 billion each year to jail illegal immigrants throughout the country, according to a new report by the investigative arm of Congress.
The report, issued this week by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), found that over the past five fiscal years the number of incarcerated non-U.S. citizens in federal prisons has increased by 4,000, to about 55,000. In state prisons, the criminal alien population has increased by about 75,000 people, for a total of 296,000.
The federal government repays states some of the cost of incarcerating undocumented immigrants through the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program.
Criminal aliens have consistently made up about 25 percent of the federal prison population since 2001, according to the study.
The study comes as the immigration debate heats up on Capitol Hill and the White House. President Obama ramped up efforts this week, hosting meetings with key business, faith and political officials on the issue. And Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), the head of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus's immigration task force, is trumpeting the need for immigration reform in speeches across the country.
Meanwhile, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) used the study to back his push for a fence and a wall that runs along the U.S.-Mexico border as a way to stop people from coming into the country illegally.
Nearly 70 percent of the criminal aliens in federal prisons, and 66 percent in state prisons, were born in Mexico, the report found. About five percent are from the Dominican Republic, and five percent from Colombia.
“We have to secure our southern border with a fence, a wall and a fence,” said King, who sits on the House Judiciary Committee’s Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security & International Law subcommittee.
“That would drastically reduce the ability of criminal aliens to enter the United States, providing needed relief to overburdened state prison systems and to taxpayers. We also have to do a better job of removing criminal aliens who are apprehended.”
Based on a 1,000-person sample of the criminal alien population, the study found that each non-U.S. citizen in prison had, on average, been arrested seven times over the course of their lives.
“About 50 percent of the criminal aliens in our study population were arrested at least once for either assault, homicide, robbery, a sex offense, or kidnapping,” the study reads. “About half of the criminal aliens were arrested at least once for a drug violation.”
Nearly half of the people – 173 of the 399 – that the Justice Department convicted of crimes related to international terrorism were, at the time of charging, non-U.S. citizens with or without legal immigration status, the report found.
Polls show Americans blame Democrats more than Republicans for $4 gasoline prices, and President Obama's poll numbers show it. But people blame big oil companies even more, which may be a political opening for Obama.
April 23, 2011 at 5:02 pm EDT
Presidential campaigns are all about numbers – dollars raised, voters registered, poll results. In the early days of his reelection bid, President Obama is focusing on one number: $4 per gallon gasoline.
It’s a major irritant to most Americans, one that could have significant impact on household economies. And, according to a variety of surveys, Democrats and Obama bear most of the responsibility if not the blame.
That may not be fair, but it’s a fact Obama has to deal with – especially at a time when the latest New York Times/CBS News poll shows 70 percent believing the country is headed in the wrong direction and 57 percent don’t like the way he’s handling the economy.
RELATED: Gas prices: 10 ways you can save at the pump
National Journal’s poll of political insiders shows a great majority – including 75 percent of Democratic insiders – predicting that the Democratic Party will be “hurt more by rising gas prices.”
At the same time, a new McClatchy-Marist Poll shows an opening for Obama. While 11 percent blame Obama and Democrats (7 percent cite congressional Republicans), 36 percent say it’s volatility in the Middle East, and 34 percent say US oil companies are the culprits behind record prices at the pump.
Obama tried to hit the issue squarely in his radio and Internet address Saturday, tweaking Republicans and going straight for oil companies.
“Whenever gas prices shoot up, like clockwork, you see politicians racing to the cameras, waving three-point plans for two dollar gas,” Obama said. “You see people trying to grab headlines or score a few points. The truth is, there’s no silver bullet that can bring down gas prices right away.”
Obama pointed to domestic oil production reaching its highest level since 2003. He noted his new Justice Department task force to root out fraud or manipulation in oil markets. And he repeated his push to end the $4 billion in annual federal subsidies of the oil and gas industries.
“That’s $4 billion of your money going to these companies when they’re making record profits and you’re paying near record prices at the pump,” he said. “It has to stop.”
It’s a theme echoed on Capitol Hill.
Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, both Democrats of Washington State, are blaming commodity speculators for pushing up the price of gasoline. They've called for a crackdown by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), an independent government agency.
“Obviously there are myriad factors impacting prices: the Middle East, Japan and crude transportation issues to name a few,” CFTC Commissioner Bart Chilton wrote to Sen. Cantwell. “At the same time, however, we have speculators coming into energy markets at blistering pace.”
“In fact, the latest data indicates that in the energy sector, speculative positions are at an all time high – up 64 percent from June of 2008 when crude oil prices touched $147.27 per barrel,” Chilton wrote. (The price for crude now is above $112 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.)
According to the AAA, the national average price of self-serve regular gasoline is $3.86 a gallon – 30 cents more than a month ago and a dollar more than last year at this time.
“Even though the economy is growing again and we’ve seen businesses adding jobs over the past year … it’s still not easy out there,” Obama acknowledged Saturday. “Your paycheck isn’t getting bigger, while the cost of everything from college for your kids to gas for your car keeps rising. That’s something on a lot of people’s minds right now, with gas prices at $4 a gallon. It’s just another burden when things were already pretty tough.”
Imagine intersecting lines on a chart: gasoline prices going up, presidential approval ratings going down. It’s a reality for Obama, and he knows it.
"My poll numbers go up and down depending on the latest crisis, and right now gas prices are weighing heavily on people,” he told a fund-raiser in Los Angeles Thursday night.
The question now is, what can he do about it?
Got groceries? Wal-Mart testing home delivery
The Associated Press
BENTONVILLE, Ark. — Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said Saturday that it is testing home grocery delivery in San Jose, Calif., as the world's largest retailer ratchets up competition with online retailer Amazon.com Inc.
With the new "Walmart To Go," customers can order up groceries, health and beauty products such as soap, shampoo and over-the-counter medicines, and household supplies like paper towels and laundry detergent from the company's website. Wal-Mart will then drive the goods over to customers' homes at their time of choice.
Wal-Mart said that the San Jose launch is a limited test only. The Bentonville, Ark.-based company didn't provide details on other possible test markets. But its website already has a section on which interested customers can learn about the service and enter their zipcodes to see if it's available in their area.
If it was to go nationwide, the move may help Wal-Mart wrestle market share away from Amazon.com Inc. That retailer launched its U.S. grocery delivery service in 2007 and has since expanded to Germany and Britain.
Wal-Mart is facing increasing price competition from dollar chains and online retailers. Many major retailers have been beefing up their Web businesses to grab some of the continuing growth online and keep their sites competitive. They're adding millions of grocery and other products, new kinds of services and even alliances with rival retailers.
LINK TO WALMART TOGO:
April 22, 2011
Was teacher fired for getting pregnant?
At age 31, Christa Dias really wanted to become a mother.
The technology coordinator and computer teacher at two Archdiocese of Cincinnati schools gleefully told her bosses in October that she needed maternity leave in a few months because she was 5½ months pregnant.
Then she was fired.
First, she was fired, her federal lawsuit against the archdiocese alleges, because diocese officials believed she'd had premarital sex.
But when they found out how she got pregnant, they were even more upset, she said.
"After being notified of a potential violation of federal and state anti-discrimination laws, Defendants (The Archdiocese) changed their reason for terminating Ms. Dias to her use of artificial insemination to become pregnant, which they claim is also a violation of the philosophy and teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. Defendants have admitted that they had no other reasons to terminate Ms. Dias' employment," Dias' suit filed Thursday states.
Archdiocese spokesman Dan Andriacco wouldn't comment Friday because he had not seen the suit.
Dias, of Withamsville, was stunned by her employer's actions.
"I was obviously outraged that in this day and age it is something that can be done by the Catholic Church," Dias said, as her 9-week-old daughter bawled in the background. Dias isn't Catholic.
"I wanted to bring life in the world and I'm being ostracized for it. Catholic or not Catholic, a lot of people are outraged."
Originally from Michigan, Dias has lived here for three years. She said she loved working for the East Price Hill schools - Holy Family and St. Lawrence - where she split her time, making a combined $36,000 per year.
"I am a Christian and I follow the Bible and I don't see anything in the Bible about artificial insemination," Dias said. "They consider it gravely immoral."
Dias' suit also questions if the diocese applies the same standards to men. Would a man who had a pregnant mate, impregnated either as a result of premarital sex or artificial insemination, be treated the same way, she asked.
"I was fired because I am able to (physically) show I am pregnant. ... To what length would they follow a male employee around" to determine how the pregnancy happened, she wondered.
"Only a woman can become pregnant and she was fired because she was pregnant," Dias' attorney Bob Klingler said.
The archdiocese, she added, also is contesting her unemployment claims, leaving her with no income.
Despite the consequences, Dias said she wouldn't change her decision to start a family.
"Now that she's in my life, I can't think what my life would be without her," she said.
Dias sued, citing breach of contract and pregnancy discrimination.
"The point of the lawsuit is I want to make sure that they can't do this to another woman," Dias said.
The suit seeks unspecified back pay, future pay, attorney fees and compensatory and punitive damages.
Baltimore County McDonald's beating video goes viral
Gay advocacy group says attack on transgender woman a hate crime
Justin Fenton, The Baltimore Sun
10:37 PM EDT, April 22, 2011
A video of a vicious beating at a Baltimore County McDonald's restaurant went viral Friday, garnering hundreds of thousands of views on websites and prompting the fast-food giant to issue a statement condemning the incident.
The video shows two women — one of them a 14-year-old girl — repeatedly kicking and punching the 22-year-old victim in the head, as an employee of the Rosedale restaurant and a patron try to intervene. Others can be heard laughing, and men are seen standing idly by.
Toward the end of the video, one of the suspects lands a punishing blow to the victim's head, and she appears to have a seizure. A man's voice tells the women to run because police are coming.
The three-minute clip was apparently first posted on YouTube, then taken down by administrators who said it violated the site's policies. But it popped back up on other sites and was ultimately linked from the popular Drudge Report, which gave it top billing for much of the day.
By early evening, the video had received more than 500,000 views on one site alone.
County police confirmed that the attack occurred April 18 in the 6300 block of Kenwood Ave. Police said the 14-year-old girl has been charged as a juvenile, while charges were pending against an 18-year-old woman.
Equality Maryland said the victim is a transgender woman and called on state Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler to step in and investigate the case as a hate crime. Police and prosecutors said they did not know whether the victim is a transgender woman.
"It does appear that the victim was a transgender woman, and she was brutalized while people stood by and watched," said Lisa Polyak, vice president of the board of directors for Equality Maryland, an advocacy organization that fought unsuccessfully in the past legislative session for greater protections for transgender individuals. "There's no excuse for that violence under any circumstances, but we would encourage police to investigate as a hate crime."
The police report does not provide a motive, but quotes one of the suspects saying that the fight was "over using a bathroom."
As the video spread online, McDonald's acknowledged that the attack had occurred in a Baltimore-area restaurant and said it was working with local police.
"We are shocked by the video from a Baltimore franchised restaurant showing an assault. This incident is unacceptable, disturbing and troubling," the company said in a statement posted on its website. "Nothing is more important than the safety of our customers and employees in our restaurants. We are working with the franchisee and the local authorities to investigate this matter."
The video received widespread attention part because of the racial dynamics of the attack – the attackers were black, and the victim is white. State's Attorney Scott D. Shellenberger, who said he was unaware of the gender-related issues, said the racial dynamics of the incident could result in hate-crime charges.
"We just received this case, and the Police Department is continuing their investigation," Shellenberger said. "If there is evidence that the crime was racially motivated, we will take a look at those charges and see if we meet those elements. We have the ability, if the facts are there, to upgrade the charges at a later date."
The victim suffered cuts to her mouth and face, and a police report said she had been taken to Franklin Square Hospital Center in fair condition. Police said Friday they had no update on her status.
The video begins with two women near a bathroom door kicking and hitting a woman who is lying on the ground.
An employee repeatedly tries to separate them, but the attackers continue to stomp and kick the victim's head. People yell, "Stop! Stop!" to no avail, though others can be heard laughing. An older woman at one point also attempts to pull the attackers away and is shoved.
About halfway through the three-minute clip, the attackers rip a wig off the victim and drag her by her hair to the front door. That is where the victim is sitting before another blow to the head causes an apparent seizure.
Throughout the attack, a man is filming and does not intervene. But when the victim appears to have a seizure, he yells, "She having a seizure, yo. … Police on their way. Y'all better get out of here."
Through a McDonald's spokesman, the owner of the Rosedale restaurant released a statement. The chain said the owner and employees would not be made available for comment, including an update on possible discipline of the employees.
"I'm as shocked and disturbed by this incident as anyone would be. The behavior displayed in the video is unfathomable and reprehensible," said the franchise owner, Mitchell McPherson. "The safety of our customers is a top priority. We know the police were called immediately, and we are thoroughly investigating this matter."
$5.69 for regular gasoline, $5.79 for premium
Q13 FOX News Online and CNN Web Reporter
4:20 p.m. EDT, April 22, 2011
Gas prices are on the rise nationwide, but one filling station in Florida has earned the dubious distinction of having the highest prices in the country.
Suncoast Energys, located near the Orlando International Airport, was charging $5.69 a gallon for regular gasoline on Friday. That's the highest of any gas retailer in the nation, according to price tracker gasbuddy.com.
By contrast, the average price in the city of Orlando is $3.78 a gallon, a few pennies below the state and national averages.
Patrick DeHann, senior analyst at gasbuddy.com, said many tourists use the station before returning rental cars on the way to the airport, without realizing how expensive the gas is until it's too late.
"The doctor was talking to her about options and she wanted to try all of them to stay alive," says Mills. "I realized how brave she was, trying to keep her life. I was 382 pounds and killing myself."
She cried in the bathroom of the doctor's office, returned home, and took a picture of herself. (The image shown above.) This was a first day of the rest of her life.
"I was finally ready and determined. Taking that first picture was my way of making me accountable to this choice to start this journey," says Mills. "I wanted to have it on my phone to look at every day, especially when I was having not a great day."
Mills has been overweight for as long as she can remember. She recalls "plumping up" at 5 years old and weighing 200 pounds in junior high.
"My family doctor said I needed to get the weight off and if I didn't, I was going to shorten my life," says Mills. "He gave me a piece of paper with four tips to lose weight."
Before the epiphany, she kept that piece of paper in her purse for months, even when she would change purses. And every time, she would look at it and think "I'll start tomorrow."
Tomorrow finally came on August 17, 2009. After snapping that photo, Mills went into her purse and pulled out the tips the doctor had given her:
1. Eat 8 ounces of food every 3 hours
2. No sugary drinks
3. Do not skip meals
4. Do not tell anyone what you're doing
So that's what she did -- or didn't do, really. Almost two years later, Mills has dropped 232 pounds from her body and has trimmed her waist down to 26 inches (a size 6).
And she did it all without a trainer.
"I've always walked, no matter how hard it was," says Mills. "Then, I used Richard Simmons' "Sweating to the Oldies" because it's low-impact. Now I Zumba, which is like Richard Simmons on speed."
She doesn't go crazy with her workouts. She walks about five times a week, sweats to Simmons twice a week and fits Zumba in when she can.
Since following the tips, Mills can't even eat a full 8 ounces of food anymore -- her stomach has gotten so small -- and she needs to be very picky about what she eats. Her body craves the "good food," so she listens to it. Her latest cravings have been fresh pineapples and mandarin oranges.
Don't think that she's a saint either. She still enjoys temptations ... within reason.
"I still go out to eat and I still eat junk," says Mills. "My guilty pleasure for the last 8 months is Breyer's fat free ice cream -- ½ cup a night."
When she goes out to eat, she orders a meal -- anything she wants -- and asks for a to-go box. It helps with eating healthy food portions, even if she's noshing on her favorite meal: fried chicken fingers and deep fried potato chips.
"Out of sight, out of mind," says Mills. "I don't get sick any more from eating too much. You just need to know portion control. I'm accountable for what I put in my body."
The hardest thing for Mills was pushing through her plateaus.
"I would lose (weight) for about seven days and then nothing for about 10 to 15 days, which was the hardest," she says.
But since losing hundreds of pounds, Mills has appeared on the "Rachel Ray Show" for a makeover and talks regularly in schools.
"I tell the kids this doesn't just mean weight loss; if you put your mind to anything, nothing can stop you," says Mills. "If you think, 'This is what I'm going to do,' you can get anything done."
Mills gives all her credit to her supportive family, especially her husband, Charlie, whom she has been married to for nearly 25 years.
She remembers him saying, "I loved her at 382 and I love her now. I love her no matter what. She may look a little different, but she's the same girl."
As a family, they are all living healthier lives and dropping the pounds together. But most importantly, Mills wants to be around to take care of her husband, 23- and 19-year-old sons, and elderly parents for as long as she can.
And she loves every minute of her hectic, thinner life.
"The one thing I can do that I couldn't before is that I can cross my legs and get up and down off the floor," says Mills.
She is trying new things that she never thought were possible. She and her husband are going to Gatlinburg and hopping on a zip line. Mills is also thinking about skydiving sometime in the future. One more thing on her to do list: Ride a roller coaster at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, which she hasn't been about to do since she was about 8 years old, because of her size.
"I have a whole new life," says Mills. "It's fabulous to get to this point."
City man gets 7 years for armed robbery that netted 86 cents
A City of Poughkeepsie man who took part in a robbery that netted him and his accomplice less than a dollar in change will spend up to seven years in state prison.
"You and your accomplice robbed this man, and he was shot, and all you got was 86 cents," Dutchess County Court Judge Stephen L. Greller told 22-year-old Michael Armstrong as he imposed the sentence Wednesday in the County Courthouse.
Armstrong admitted last month that he and 18-year-old Devonte Burks accosted a man Aug. 21 at Academy and Montgomery streets in the city and demanded money.
Burks acknowledged during his plea last month that he was holding a handgun that went off during the robbery, seriously injuring the victim.
He contended that the shooting had been accidental.
Burks faces an 11-year sentence for the crime, Senior Assistant District Attorney Robert Knapp said.
"And the whole thing was over some pocket change," Knapp said.
Both men entered guilty pleas to first-degree robbery, a felony.
As part of their plea agreements, Armstrong and Burks will be ordered to pay the victim $65,031 for his medical bills.
Knapp said the victim underwent surgery after he was shot in the stomach.
Is Donald Trump bankrupting the GOP?
Washington (CNN)-- At this stage in a presidential campaign, there's always someone -- and sometimes it's more than one -- who flirts with running and thinks a few things, as in: Why not me? (I'm smarter than the rest of those clowns!) What's the worst that could happen? (I'll be in demand on the lecture circuit!)
My fill-in-the-blank (book, TV show) will be assured of take-your-pick (readers, ratings) and I will be rich.
Or, in Donald Trump's case, richer.
Usually, these candidates are, er, interesting to watch. GOPer Alan Keyes comes to mind, a conservative presidential wannabe in 2000 who once jumped into a mosh pit during the Iowa caucuses. Then there's Rep. Dennis Kucinich, a liberal Democrat who ran in 2004 and 2008, and who was once a wunderkind known as "the boy mayor" of Cleveland. (That would not be enough, however, to win Ohio.) Or Ron Paul (father and now roommate of son, Sen. Rand Paul), who caught on last time around as the antiwar Republican and who was, always, eminently quotable and good TV.
Speaking of TV, there's Trump.
At least these other men had things to say. Trump just seems to have things to sell. Actually, one thing to sell: himself.
It would all be very amusing (especially the parts where he has easy solutions to all of our problems, such as: What to do with Libya? Take their oil!) if he weren't so, well, Trumpish. By that I mean insufferable -- and not just because he's always the biggest bloviator -- but because he sized up a political situation and figured out how to exploit it. Like a business deal.
The reasoning is as follows: I need to run for president. I need to find a way to get my numbers up in the polls. (Immediately!) So I need to find an instant base of support. And where is that? Among the anti-establishment GOP wing, some of whom are Obama haters, willing to believe just about anything, but most of whom just want to stick it to the regular GOP folks who have betrayed the cause.
So how does a once-liberal (abortion rights? Nevermind) GOPer do that? He tells the world he can fix the deficit problem pronto, calls Obama the worst president ever and becomes a "birther." Deal done! Take it to the bank!
How sad for serious Republicans with real ideas. Just as party regulars were fretting over Sarah Palin and Rep. Michele Bachmann, now they've got Trump the birther. Just as the congressional Republicans were getting up a head of steam as seriously intentioned budget cutters, in walks the carnival barker sending detectives to look for Obama's birth certificate.
"Trump is desperately clawing to the ideological right and using his issue to define himself and his ideology," moans one GOP strategist. "It makes this birther thing a real issue, and that's not what we need."
But alas, it's what Republicans now have. In a way, they have only themselves to blame: While Republicans should have put an end to the birther nonsense at the very start, they stoked it. While a few (like Tim Pawlenty) have called it nonsense, others (Palin) have refused to let it die.
Just as with the "debate" about whether Obama is a Christian, they instead are happy to chant the mantra "I take the president at his word." That's keeping it alive, while trying to sound reasonable. And that's double talk that no one should accept from any politician. It's gives "cynical" new meaning.
Even so, there are some Republicans out there who would like to have a real debate with Obama about things called issues. And, for them, the Trump birther nonsense is worrisome for the party's prospects. Why? Because this is a conversation Republicans are having with each other, not the country.
"Anybody who believes the guy (Obama) wasn't born in this country is already voting for us," says another GOP strategist. "This takes the whole Republican discussion out of the mainstream."
Karl Rove, who knows how to win elections, is clearly miffed, calling Trump's bid a "joke." "If he wants to base his entire campaign upon whether or not Barack Obama was really born in the United States, that's his privilege. I just think that's a losing strategy."
Indeed, recent CNN polling shows that 74 percent of independent voters believe that Obama was born in the United States. Presumably, the birther issue is not among their top concerns.
In the meantime, the president gets to spend the next 18 months talking to independent voters -- which is where the election will be won or lost. And instead of focusing on jobs and the economy, Republicans are sadly engaged in a circular and distracting rant, speaking to no one but themselves.
No matter how this all turns out, Trump will hit the big casino. But he could bankrupt the GOP first.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Gloria Borger.
Sloppy criminal left behind note with name, police say
Heist suspect's post: 'IM RICH'
Boasts on Facebook lead feds to the arrest of 4 in Houston bank robbery
April 21, 2011, 9:26PM
It would take a little over a week and a Crime Stoppers tip before investigators unraveled the plot twist behind the March 23 robbery of the International Bank of Commerce on Eldridge Parkway.
What looked on surveillance video to be a classic bank robbery — with armed, masked suspects and terrorized bank tellers — turned out to be an amateurish inside job, allegedly orchestrated by two 19-year-old tellers with the help of a boyfriend and an older brother.
Using an incriminating trail of Facebook posts left by Martinez and her 18-year-old boyfriend, Ricky "Ricko Gee" Gonzalez, detectives arrested four suspects this week on bank theft charges, alleging they made off with $62,000.
Their Facebook pages held not-so-subtle clues: Two days after the robbery, Martinez posted: "IM RICH …" followed by a rhyming expletive.
"WIPE MY TEETH WITH HUNDEREDS …" her boyfriend allegedly posted the day after the heist. He also boasted of wiping another part of his anatomy with $50 bills.
A lesson to be learned
An attorney for Martinez, Richard Kuniansky, described his client as "young and immature," suggesting there is a lesson in her current predicament.
"I've always heard that you shouldn't post pictures of yourself on Facebook smoking pot or drinking because employers are now looking at Facebook pages," he said. "But I never knew there should be a warning not to post about a bank robbery that's been committed."
The Facebook posts by Martinez and Gonzalez about the bank heist were part of a criminal complaint unsealed in Houston federal court this week.
Authorities allege Martinez and teller Anna Margarita Rivera started planning the bank heist at 1545 Eldridge Parkway about a month in advance. Rivera told investigators that she was working at the same bank during a robbery on Nov. 17 and "believed staging the robbery would be easy" since she'd never heard of anyone being arrested in connection with that theft.
Martinez enlisted Gonzalez, and Rivera recruited her brother, 22-year-old Arturo Solano, according to the complaint.
The tellers told investigators that they made sure they were the only ones working during the robbery. Wearing plastic masks purchased from a dollar store, Gonzalez and Solano entered the bank about 5:45 p.m. and jumped over the teller counter, demanding money, according to investigators. While one suspect cleaned out the cash drawers, the other took Martinez and Rivera to the vault.
Martinez and Rivera took steps to make the robbery look legitimate. They included tracking devices in the money bags, instructing Gonzalez and Solano to ditch them right away, investigators said. One of the suspects left behind his gun, which turned out to be plastic.
'Trying to be funny'
The celebratory Facebook posts started shortly after they divided the loot at Rivera's apartment, officials say.
"U HAVE TO PAST THE LINE SOMETIMES!! TO GET DIS MONEY!!" Gonzalez posted on his Facebook page the day after the theft.
Lance Craig Hamm, an attorney for Gonzalez, said his client was not talking about the robbery on his Facebook page. "He literally was just talking, trying to have fun, trying to be funny," Hamm said.
Two days after the heist, Martinez posted about being "RICH." Kuniansky said Martinez is a single mother and had plans to go to college. Now she faces up to 10 years in prison, he said.
An attorney for Rivera could not be reached for comment. No attorney was listed in federal court records for Solano.
A Facebook page for "Ricko Gee" Gonzalez of Houston was still up as of Thursday evening. Under employer, it read: "Make money both ways Dirty and Clean!!
Law enforcement tool
It's not just tech-savvy, big-city types like the FBI-led Houston Area Bank Robbery Task Force that use Facebook as a law enforcement tool. In March, Texas Parks and Wildlife Game wardens used it to track down the killer of an 11½-foot alligator in Bastrop County.
Andy Kahan, the city of Houston's crime victim advocate, said he was tipped off about a Facebook page on which a probationer, who wasn't supposed to be drinking, posted photos of himself holding bottles of liquor and beer and an open invitation to a party featuring "trash can punch."
One post read: "Probation on the 23rd - party's gotta be moved - sorry folks. On the upside, that just means more time to plan."
Kahan said he contacted the probation department and said: "I've got a gift-wrapped delivery for you."
Iowa professor, Ellen Lewin, under fire for vulgar email telling college Republicans: 'F--- YOU!'
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Thursday, April 21st 2011, 1:16 PM
Professor Ellen Lewin said as much in a response to a mass email from a campus Republican group promoting "Conservative Coming Out Week."
In the email on Monday morning, the UI College Republicans called for conservatives in Iowa City to "come out of the closet" and promote right-wing values that week.
The events included a screening of the 2002 film "Journey's with George," in honor of George W. Bush, a "Red vs. Blue" kickball game and blood drive and an "Animal Rights BBQ."
Less than one minute after the email was sent, Lewin fired back a blistering response: "F-YOU, REPUBLICANS."
SEE THE EMAIL BELOW
The message was addressed to UI College Republicans and included Lewin's email signature identifying her as a professor of anthropology, gender and women's sexuality studies.
After a flurry of responses and a complaint from the group's student leader, Lewin sent two emails explaining the gaffe, according to the Iowa City Press-Citizen.
"This is a time when political passions are inflamed, and when I received your unsolicited email, I had just finished reading some newspaper accounts of fresh outrages committed by Republicans…I admit the language was inappropriate, and apologize for any affront to anyone's delicate sensibilities," she wrote.
She also asked the group not to send mass emails in the future.
In a second message, Lewin called the conservative group's email disturbing and offensive because it used the term "coming out," promoted an "Animal Rights BBQ," and made a lighthearted reference to the recent union protests in Wisconsin.
She also slammed the student president of the group for calling her "Ellen," rather than "Professor Lewin."
University of Iowa President Sally Mason said in an email to the school that the university embraced diversity and urged faculty and staff to be respectful. Her email didn't specifically mention the Lewin or the conservative group.
Lewin admitted to the Des Moines Register that she lost her temper.
LINK TO EMAIL STRING:
"The apology was sincere," she said. "I hope those apologies and my commitment to not reheat such behavior can put the matter to rest."
The UI College Republicans email, and Lewin's response, less than a minute later.
Miramar woman identified in claim that child fired fatal shot from Glock; investigation continues
Neighbor: 'Ain't no way the baby did it'
12:28 p.m. EDT, April 21, 2011
Police on Thursday identified the woman who died in a case in which a 911 caller reported that a woman had been shot by her toddler son.
Julia Bennett, 33, was found dead when police went to a third floor apartment at the Ashlar complex in the 8200 block of Sherman Circle North after the 911 call was made Wednesday evening, authorities said.
Neighbors said they heard one gunshot about 7 p.m.
Outside the complex Thursday, Tania Rues, Miramar police spokeswoman said the 911 call was made by the father of the 2 1/2-year-old boy. The father, who hasn't been identified, told authorities the gun, a semi-automatic Glock, somehow became accessible to the youngster who accidentally fired it.
The father has a concealed weapons permit for the gun, Rues said. The circumstances surrounding the shooting remain under investigation.
Bennett has other children, though the toddler boy is the only one who lives with her. She and the child's father are not married, Rues said.
The youngster is currently in the custody of Florida's Department of Children and Families. A placement hearing has been scheduled for Friday.
When the shot was heard Wednesday evening, several Miramar police officers were already at the apartment complex, searching for a missing 6-year-old who was quickly found unharmed, witnesses said.
After the shot, officers ran to the apartment and kicked in the door, said Abel Hernandez, 19, who lives in an adjacent building in the complex.
"The police brought out a small boy wearing a striped shirt and shorts," Hernandez said.
Detectives on Wednesday night tried to talk to the 2 1/2-year-old child outside the apartment. Rues said the child, who was not injured, did not appear to understand what had happened.
"It appears he is not aware of what exactly occurred," Rues said.
On Thursday, residents leaving the gated apartment complex for work, school or to walk their dogs were talking about what had happened.
Resident Naomi Williams, 49, said she was shocked by the incident and doesn't think a toddler could be responsible.
Williams said officers had the child outside her apartment door on Wednesday night where she saw them check his hands and take a swab from his mouth.
"I was looking at the baby's hands and ain't no way the baby did it," Williams said.
Woman recalls humiliation of going to jail half-dressed as she testifies in suit against Portland police officers
Published: Wednesday, April 20, 2011, 6:35 PM
Updated: Thursday, April 21, 2011, 6:03 AM
LINK TO ORIGINAL STORY:
Special-ed student Joseph Anderson, 7, handcuffed by cops at Queens school after Easter egg tantrum
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Thursday, April 21st 2011, 4:00 AM
Special-education student Joseph Anderson, a first-grader at Public School 153 in Maspeth, was taken to Elmhurst Hospital Center in metal cuffs, even though his mother told school officials she was on her way to pick him up, mom Jessica Anderson said.
"He was crying and saying, 'I want Mommy,'" Anderson said. "Why handcuff him? Why get the cops involved? He's only 7."
The little boy has begun wetting himself in the middle of the day and throwing up since the April 13 incident, his distraught mom said.
"If he hears an ambulance, he runs under the bed and screams, 'They're going to get me,'" said the single mom. "He's really traumatized. I don't let him watch the news anymore, because if he sees cops, he cries."
City Education Department officials said school staff took the drastic step to protect the boy and his classmates.
"The school tried to defuse the situation and then called for outside assistance when there was a concern the child would harm himself or others," department spokeswoman Marge Feinberg said.
Anderson said the school called her about 12:30 p.m. to tell her Joseph - who has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, delayed speech and emotional problems - was not having a good day, and she said she would pick him up.
Turns out, things were far worse than she imagined. The boy told her he became upset because the color on the egg he was painting didn't look the way he wanted, and staffers threatened to send him to the hospital if he didn't calm down.
Scared, the boy then jumped up on the table and said, "I just want my mommy," his mother said.
Anderson didn't get there fast enough. She left her job in Manhattan and arrived at the Maspeth school at 1:45 p.m., but her son was already gone. She didn't find out about the handcuffs until she arrived at the hospital, and a nurse told her how upset her son had been.
"I was crying. I broke down," she said. "They know that my son is special ed. It's like they're trying to get rid of him, and it worked because I'm not sending him back there."
The NYPD defended cuffing the kid, saying in a statement that he was "acting in a threatening manner." A source also said he was waving scissors.
"He was a danger to himself and others in the classroom," a spokesman said. "He started spitting and cursing at the officers. The handcuffs were used to restrain the child because of his behavior. He was a danger to himself."
This is the third time the school has sent Joseph to the hospital for a psychiatric evaluation. The school suspended the boy for two weeks.
Advocates say Joseph's trauma is not an isolated incident.
"I've seen far too many cases of kids this young handcuffed and thrown into ambulances for behavior at school," said Kim Sweet of Advocates for Children. "Just imagine being a little kid and having people come, clamp your hands behind your back and throw you in an ambulance."
The Daily News has reported several cases of handcuffing young children, including a 12-year-old Queens girl cuffed last year for doodling on her desk and a 5-year-old who was cuffed in 2008 for misbehaving in his kindergarten class.
Texas outlaws K2, Spice and other synthetic marijuana products
Apr 20, 2011 10:38 PM EDT
Say goodbye to so-called fake pot.
The countdown has begun for an all-out ban on synthetic marijuana products in Texas. On Friday, products like K2 and spice are being outlawed. It will be illegal to manufacture, distribute, sell, or even possess these substances, which are often marked as herbal incense.
Substance abuse counselor Linda James says make no mistake-- it is very similar to marijuana.
"This is a mood altering chemical. This is another drug, another way that people have found to change reality and get high," said James. "If it didn't alter the way you felt they wouldn't use it and there wouldn't have been such a demand for the product and an outcry."
James works at the Lufkin Alcohol Drug Abuse Council where she says she's treated several clients who have used K2.
"They have been under the influence. Their behavior has become unmanageable. There were several incidents of family violence with youth under the influence," said James. "One female indicated it as addictive and used it. It lead her back to marijuana really quickly she said and then almost back to a couple of other drugs."
Since January of 2010 about 600 calls were made to the Texas Poison Center Network related to K2 exposure. The Texas Department of State Health Services is following several other states in outlawing synthetic marijuana products.
"This is just a step in the right direction that our country and our nation and our people that we realize that addiction is a problem and we're trying to do something about it," said James.
James says the ban will help protect young people while lowering the crime rate.
"Our community will be safer," she said.
Legal penalties include up to a $4,000 fine and jail time.
Again, the ban takes effect Friday. It follows a temporary ban in March making "fake pot" products illegal for at least a year.
(News Release) - The Texas Department of State Health Services is outlawing marijuana-like substances that are commonly found in K2, Spice and other synthetic marijuana products. The ban will become effective April 22.
DSHS placed five synthetic cannabinoid substances in Schedule I of the Texas Schedules of Controlled Substances, making it illegal to manufacture, distribute, possess and sell the substances. Penalties for the manufacture, sale or possession of K2 are Class A or B misdemeanors.
K2 or Spice, often marketed as herbal incense, contain substances that produce psychoactive effects similar to those from smoking marijuana. These marijuana-like substances are readily available through smoke shops, gas stations and the Internet.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration used its emergency scheduling authority to temporarily ban synthetic marijuana or similar "fake pot" products that mimic the effects of marijuana. The DEA action March 2 made it illegal to manufacture, sell or possess these products for at least one year.
Following the DEA's action, DSHS is required by state law to place the substances on the Texas Schedules of Controlled Substances unless the commissioner objects.Schedule I, the most restrictive category on the Texas Schedules of Controlled Substances, is reserved for unsafe, highly abused substances with no accepted medical use. Five chemicals, JWH -018, JWH-073, JWH-200, CP-47,497, and cannabicyclohexanol that are found in K2 were placed on the Schedule.
Penalties for the manufacture, sale or possession of K2 are outlined in Section 481.119 of the Texas Controlled Substances Act. The penalties remain in effect unless the Texas Legislature determines a different penalty group for the substances.
Persons found guilty of a Class A misdemeanor are subject to a fine not to exceed $4,000 and/or confinement in jail for a term not to exceed one year. Persons found guilty of a Class B misdemeanor are subject to a fine not to exceed $2,000 and/or confinement in jail for a term not to exceed 180 days.
Since January 2010, approximately 600 calls were made to the Texas Poison Center Network related to K2 exposure. Reported adverse effects associated with use of these marijuana-like substances include chest pain, heart palpitations, agitation, drowsiness, hallucinations, nausea, vomiting, dizziness and confusion.
--DSHS Press Office
LINK TO VIDEO:
Thanks to pumpi76 for the tip.
Video Of Arrest Shows Memphis Police Officer Grabbing Woman
9:20 p.m. CDT, April 18, 2011
LINK TO VIDEO:
Reds' Mike Leake arrested
He's accused of stealing T-shirts from Macy's
Reds pitcher Mike Leake was booked into the Hamilton County Justice Center by Cincinnati police on Monday, April 18, 2011. / Provided/Hamilton County Sheriff's Office
Reds pitcher Mike Leake was charged with misdemeanor theft hours before Monday's game after being accused of removing security tags from six T-shirts at a Downtown store and leaving without paying for them, store security and police said.
Employees at Macy's called police after they said Leake removed the tags from six American Rag T-shirts, valued at $59.88, and left the store with them.
The incident was captured by security cameras, police documents state.
Leake, 23, was arrested at the 505 Vine St. store at 2 p.m. and booked into the jail at 2:32 p.m. He was charged with theft, a misdemeanor carrying a maximum jail term of 180 days. Leake is scheduled for an initial court appearance at 12:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Leake was in the dugout in uniform at Great American Ball Park for the Reds' game against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Monday night.
"Today, Mike Leake was arrested on a misdemeanor charge of theft from the Macy's store downtown," the Reds said in a statement released during Monday's game. "Right now, he has been advised by his attorney to offer no further statements on this matter. This case will proceed in the justice system, where Mike's story will be told. Until that time, there will be nothing further from Mike on this episode until the court proceedings have concluded," the statement continued. "However, Mike wishes to apologize to his family, the fans, Mr. Castellini, Walt, Dusty, his teammates and the entire Reds organization for this distraction."
Reds CEO Bob Castellini, general manager Walt Jocketty and manager Dusty Baker would not publicly address Leake's arrest, the team said.
"At this time, we are advised to not publicly address this matter because of the pending legal proceedings," the Reds' statement said. "However, we do not condone behavior of the type alleged, which is wholly inconsistent with the principles of this organization and our community and is detrimental to the positive direction we seek to follow. When the legal process has been completed, we will handle this matter internally."
An email to Major League Baseball officials was not immediately returned. In a text message, Jocketty said Monday night that the Reds had not heard from MLB regarding Leake.
Leake was not spotted by reporters before the game. But the Reds' clubhouse was closed to the media after batting practice, a time when media usually have access.
Leake, 2-0 with a 5.40 ERA in three starts this season, last pitched on Saturday against Pittsburgh and was tentatively scheduled to start Thursday against Arizona. Asked whether Leake would make that start, Reds spokesman Rob Butcher referred that question to Baker.
Leake was the Reds' first-round draft pick in 2009 out of Arizona State University, the eighth selection overall. He received a $2.3 million signing bonus and is set to make $425,000 for the 2011 season.
Leake made his debut with the Reds last season without playing in the minor leagues. He went 8-4 with a 4.23 ERA in 2010.
Staff writers Kimball Perry, Tom Groeschen and John Fay contributed.
Cops: Wife found hiding with knife in husband's mistress' closet had 'sinister motives'
1:37 PM, Apr. 19, 2011
PEEKSKILL - A woman found hiding in a closet of her husband's mistress brought a 12-inch carving knife, surgical gloves, duct tape, bleach and garbage bags - and was waiting for the couple to return home, police said.
It is clear she had "sinister motives," said Peekskill police Lt. Eric Johansen, who could only speculate what she planned to do. "Given the items recovered, it lends itself, at the very least, to some semblance of violence."
Lizbeth Hernandez, who is being held without bail at the Westchester County jail in Valhalla, was allegedly seen by a neighbor breaking into the paramour's Peekskill condominium Saturday morning, shortly after Hernandez's husband and his girlfriend left her place.
Police said Hernandez, 47, of Middletown, had secretly followed her husband when he left his job in lower Westchester Friday evening. The husband, who left his wife a few months ago, spent the night at his girlfriend's Woods III condo. Hernandez spent the night outside in her car, waiting. At some point, she allegedly used a key to scrape the cars of her husband and girlfriend, leaving gouge marks along the sides and tops, causing several thousand dollars in damage.
After the couple left, Hernandez walked up to the ground-floor apartment and tried to open a window. A neighbor noticed her and called 911, then described Hernandez's ongoing efforts to enter the unit. Hernandez went back and forth to her car several times, retrieving a hammer and a metal spatula. She pried open a screen, smashed the window, then crawled inside over shards of glass, police said.
Police officers entered with flashlights. They found her - at 5 feet tall and 120 pounds - deep in a closet, hiding under a pile of clothes, Johansen said.
"She had concealed herself quite well," he said. "It appears she was going to lie in wait for them to return."
Hernandez said nothing of substance when officers found her, and she was taken into custody without a struggle, police said.
She was carrying the knife, gloves and tape. Inside her car, police found some garbage bags and a jug of bleach.
"On its own, that wouldn't raise too much concern, but combined with everything else, it certainly raised the level of suspicion as to what her true motive was," Johansen said. "She didn't say what her motive was. However, given the fact all these items were recovered and the fact she broken into the home, you have to think there was a much more sinister plan."
Hernandez, who lives on Oak Hill Road, has had several prior domestic disputes with her husband in which she was the aggressor, Johansen said. The couple, who have no children, have been married at least five years, he said.
She is charged with second-degree burglary and third-degree criminal mischief, felonies. She was arraigned yesterday and is due back in City Court on Monday.
Lawsuit asks state to pay for inmate's sex-change operation
Lyralisa Stevens says she is harassed and sexually assaulted by male prisoners, and needs surgery to be assigned to a women's prison. State officials say they aren't required to provide that level of care.
Thomas Strawn, a transgender inmate who goes by the name Lisa, applies eyeliner inside her cell. She says she is in a committed relationship with a man in the next cell and would not want to be transferred to a women's prison. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)
April 19, 2011, 6:02 p.m.
Lyralisa Stevens, who was born male but lives as a female, is serving 50 years to life in a California prison for killing a San Bernardino County woman with a shotgun in a dispute over clothes.
Stevens is one of more than 300 inmates in the state prison system diagnosed with Gender Identity Disorder, a psychiatric condition addressed in free society with hormone replacement therapy and, in some cases, sex reassignment surgery.
Prison officials have provided female hormones for Stevens since her incarceration in 2003. But now she is asking the 1st District Court of Appeal in San Francisco to require the state to pay for a sex-change operation.
Stevens, 42, and her expert witnesses say that surgery is medically necessary, and that removal of her penis and testicles and transfer to a women's prison are the best way to protect her from rape and abuse by male inmates.
As prison officials have struggled to address chronic overcrowding, the constant threat of gang violence and a health system that federal judges have equated with "cruel and unusual" punishment, they have also gone to court multiple times to answer allegations that they failed to properly treat and protect transgender inmates.
Judges have sided with transgender prisoners — who according to a UC Irvine study are 13 times more likely to suffer sexual assault than other inmates — on some significant cases. In 2009, the California Supreme Court ruled that an inmate could sue guards for failing to protect her from repeated rapes and beatings by her cellmate. In 1999, an appeals court ordered prison officials to provide hormone therapy to inmates who were already taking them when they arrived. The treatments cost about $1,000 a year per prisoner.
A ruling in Stevens' favor would make California the first place in the country required to provide reassignment surgery for an inmate, according to lawyers for the receiver appointed to oversee California's troubled prison health system. They argue that the state should be required to provide only "minimally adequate care," not sex-change operations that cost $15,000 to $50,000.
Stevens, who has a slight build — 5-foot-6 and about 115 pounds — and entered prison with silicon injections in her breasts and hips to feminize her physique, said in a court filing that she feels like she's under threat of sexual assault in the men's facility and wants the surgery, in part, so she'll be sent to a women's institution.
"The male inmate is not expecting to see breasts … in the shower next to him," Stevens wrote. The situation can lead to violent disputes among the men and sparks attacks against transgender inmates, who may have less upper body strength because of the hormone therapy, Stevens said.
In a court filing supporting Stevens' petition, psychotherapist Lin Fraser said she has "grave concerns" for Stevens' safety because she "had been put alone in cells all night long with men who threatened and abused her."
State law requires prisons to assign inmates to men's or women's institutions based on "gender," which corrections officials determine solely by a prisoner's genitals. Richard Masbruch, who tried multiple times to castrate himself while in a Texas prison and eventually succeeded, is in the California Institution for Women inChino. Masbruch, who goes by the name Sherri, was transferred from Texas to serve 40 years for a 1991 rape in Fresno.
While confronting complaints and lawsuits by transgender inmates challenging their housing assignments during the mid-2000s, the California prison system commissioned a study by UC Irvine sociologists to help them understand the small, uniquely vulnerable population. The study found that 59% of transgender inmates said they had been raped or otherwise sexually assaulted behind bars, compared with 4.4% of the general prison population, lead researcher Valerie Jenness told the state Senate Public Safety Committee.
Despite those numbers, 59% of transgender inmates said they did not want to move to a women's institution.
"The advantages of being in a men's prison include the pursuit of sex and the possibility of securing a male partner," Jenness said. "Concern about safety is not a main factor in predicting [housing] preferences."
Stevens declined to join a group of transgender inmates interviewed by The Times recently at the prison system's main medical facility in Vacaville. But six others — of the 30 to 50 transgender inmates housed there at any given time — spoke candidly about their lives in prison.
Thomas Strawn, 52, who uses the name Lisa and is serving a life sentence after a third-strike conviction for burglary, said she is in a committed relationship with the man in the next cell and would not want to move.
"I stayed single for an entire year when I got here," Strawn said. "But now I got with somebody and I've been with him now two years."
Others, such as convicted killer David, or Bella, Birrell, 58, who said she had been raped in prison, would like to be transferred to a women's facility. "You don't have to worry about the constant harassment like you get from the men here," she said.
Only two of the six said they would be interested in a sex change operation if a court order compelled the state to pay the costs.
"I had made plans to try to get [the surgery] done before I committed the crime that I did," said Steve Alamillo, 39, who goes by Nikkas and is serving life for first-degree murder. "If the state can do that stuff, absolutely."
Willie Murphy, 47, who is also known as Mena and is serving life on a third-strike conviction for burglary, was among the majority, preferring to "keep what I got."
Surgery is where the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation draws the line.
"A prison is not required by law to give a prisoner medical care that is as good as he would receive if he were a free person, let alone an affluent free person," attorney Steven J. Bechtold, who represents the receiver, wrote in the state's response to Stevens' petition for the operation.
The prison system has lost on a similar point before. The state provides hormone therapy today because a federal court found in a 1999 case that failing to continue treatment for inmates who were on hormones before coming to prison amounted to cruel and unusual punishment.
"We regularly get questions about why we are treating these patients," said Dr. Joseph Bick, chief medical officer at Vacaville. "The bottom line is, not only is it appropriate, but it's mandated by federal courts."
Stevens, who has fathered three children, argues in her court case that the tail of estrogen and testosterone-blockers the state has provided since her incarceration in 2003 are no longer adequate to combat her emotional distress. Failing to provide surgery could increase her "risk of future self-harm," wrote Dr. Denise Taylor, a medical expert who filed a brief on Stevens' behalf.
Taylor also argued that leaving Stevens on estrogen therapy could lead to the reemergence of a benign tumor removed from her brain in 2005.
Bick, who filed a declaration with the court in January defending the state's position, said the previous tumor was not believed to be caused by estrogen therapy. He said Stevens' treatment in prison has been "adequate and successful."
Perhaps the biggest threat to Stevens' case is the state's budget crisis, in the view of several transgender inmates interviewed. They worried that a judge might be reluctant to rule in her favor with the state facing hard times.
"If I were out there, I wouldn't understand, especially if I was unemployed or trying to support a family," Birrell said.
"But if you could only go into our heads for a day or two to see what we go through internally," she said, "you would get a greater appreciation of how devastating it is to be a transgender individual locked up in a man's prison."
LINK TO PHOTO OF LYRALISA STEVENS:
Mean streak: Obama is not as nice as he looks
By their lights, Reagan could commit the most heinous acts, but their criticisms were usually shrugged off by the American people, who judged him a "nice guy" who deserved the benefit of the doubt. President Obama has enjoyed something similar during his first 2 1/2 years in office. Even as public opposition mounted to his policies -- Obamacare, the failed economic stimulus program, cap and trade, skyrocketing government deficits -- Obama retained a reserve of public good will reflected in consistently strong personal favorability ratings. People who didn't like his policies generally still saw Obama as a likeable guy, somebody they would enjoy having over for dinner with the family.
But that may be changing. Recall that Obama invited House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin to George Washington University to hear his Wednesday address on the federal government's dire fiscal situation. The speech was advertised by the White House as a major address in which the president would join the serious conversation initiated two weeks ago by Ryan in his detailed proposal for cutting spending. What Obama instead delivered, with Ryan sitting in the front row, was, in the Wall Street Journal's unsparing description, a "poison pen" speech dripping with mean-spirited partisanship, gross misrepresentations of fact, and sophistry of the lowest sort concerning Republicans' alleged desire to hurt old people, the poor and mentally challenged children. It was the sort of harangue one would expect from a rabidly devoted partisan hack, with no relation whatever to the thoughtful appeals to reason and common values that historically have characterized presidential leadership in this country.
Obama then spent Thursday evening regaling an audience of Democratic donors with what he thought were off-the-record insider jabs about his recent budget negotiations with House Republicans, including this cheap shot at Ryan: "When Paul Ryan says his priority is to make sure he's just being America's accountant, that he's being responsible, I mean this is the same guy that voted for two wars that were unpaid for, voted for the Bush tax cuts that were unpaid for, voted for the prescription drug bill that cost as much as my health care bill -- but wasn't paid for. So it's not on the level." The reality is that the Iraq and Afghanistan wars under President Bush were regularly funded by Congress, claiming tax cuts must be "paid for" is a hoary piece of Democratic class-warfare demagoguery, and the prescription drug plan Ryan supported cost half as much as the Democratic alternative then on the table. Such fact-free commentary is to be expected from blind partisans, but not the president of the United States.
Odds are we will see more of this meaner side of the Obama persona in the months ahead because, as columnist and former GOP presidential aide Pete Wehner notes, "now that he finds himself intellectually outmatched by Paul Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee, and in a precarious situation when it comes to his re-election, Obama is dropping his past civility sermons down the memory hole. Decency and respect for others has suddenly become passe. Talking about our disagreements without being disagreeable has been overtaken by events. Not impugning the character of the opposition is fine as long as it's convenient, but it's to be ignored whenever necessary." In other words, we're now seeing the real Obama in what promises to be an ugly campaign.
Donald Trump as GOP hopeful: Take him seriously
Monday, April 18, 7:46 PM
It’s time to take Donald Trump seriously as a presidential candidate.
Three, two, one . . . okay, time’s up.
Unbelievably, the waxen-haired real estate tycoon is at the front of the pack of contenders who are racing, or thinking about racing, for the Republican nomination. This isn’t merely improbable. It is literally unbelievable, as if a trout were reported to be leading the Tour de France.
The consensus is that Trump is not really running — that this is just another of his over-the-top publicity stunts. In the unlikely event that he goes through with a semi-serious candidacy, the political establishment seems to believe, he’ll never win the nomination. These skeptics scoff when it’s pointed out that stranger things have happened. Name one, they say.
That’s hard to do. Still, if this is all a big joke, I’m having trouble laughing. For one thing, the likely Republican field is so timid that nobody seems to want to step out there — and so lackluster that Trump’s pizzazz could prove overpowering. No, I don’t believe that Trump is seriously running for president. But what if he continues this charade past the point of no return? What if he pulls away from Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney and the others? What if he wins primaries and caucuses? What if . . .
It’s all too absurd to contemplate. For the record, though, it should be noted that not all of Trump’s headline-grabbing bombast is funny. A lot of it is ridiculous and untrue. Much of the rest is offensive and objectionable.
Begin with his adoption of the “birther” line of attack against President Obama. Questioning the president’s birthplace obviously began as a ploy to grab attention — and it worked — but then swelled into a central theme of Trump’s “candidacy” as he gained traction among the conspiracy theorists who actually believe such nonsense.
For the record, Trump now gives credence to a theory that requires a massive coverup, spanning nearly five decades, that includes not just Obama and his family but also officials of the state of Hawaii — and the cooperation of long-ago clerks and perhaps editors at Honolulu newspapers who printed a “fake” birth announcement in 1961 and waited patiently, all these years, for that baby boy to become president of the United States.
But that’s just for starters. Imagine, if you dare, what the foreign policy of a President Trump would be like.
Trump is in favor of lower gas prices, he told CNN’s Candy Crowley on Sunday. The way to achieve this goal, he said, is simply to tell the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries to lower oil prices. When Crowley tried to point out that OPEC doesn’t necessarily do what U.S. officials want, Trump was undeterred. “Brain power” is all that’s required, he said. “We are not a respected nation anymore. The world is laughing at us. . . . Let me tell you, it’ll go down if you say it properly.”
What about Libya? “Either I’d go in and take the oil or I don’t go in at all,” Trump said. When Crowley reacted with disbelief at what she’d just heard, Trump doubled down. “Absolutely, I’d take the oil, I’d give them plenty so they can live very happily. I would take the oil. You know, in the old days when you have a war and you win, that nation’s yours.”
What about his opponents? It seems that size matters, in terms of their bank accounts. Trump trumpets himself as a better businessman than Romney, claiming that “my net worth is many, many, many times Mitt Romney.”
Moving right along, how does Trump see one of the central strands of American history, the issue of race? He believes he should get support from African Americans, he said in a radio interview last week, but is unsettled by “frightening” polls that show the vast majority of black voters favoring Obama. “I have a great relationship with the blacks,” Trump said. “I’ve always had a great relationship with the blacks.”
Yes, he said “the blacks.” Twice.
Trump hasn’t been a particularly loyal Republican over the years. At various times, he’s given political donations to Democrats such as Rep. Charlie Rangel, Sen. John Kerry, Vice President Biden and the late Ted Kennedy.
What he’s been, consistently, is a headline-grabber extraordinaire. If he now has decided to take himself seriously, I’m afraid we’re going to have to follow suit.
Classic kids games like kickball deemed unsafe by state in effort to increase summer camp regulation
DAILY NEWS ALBANY BUREAU
Tuesday, April 19th 2011, 4:00 AM
That's right, officials have decided the age-old street game - along with Wiffle Ball, kickball and dodgeball - poses a "significant risk of injury."
And classics like Capture the Flag, Steal the Bacon and Red Rover are also deemed dangerous in new state regulations for day camps.
"It looks like Albany bureaucrats are looking for kids to just sit in a corner in a house all day and not be outside," said state Sen. Patty Ritchie (R-St. Lawrence County).
"I don't think Wiffle Ball is a dangerous sport."
The Health Department created a list of supposedly risky recreational activities - which also includes more perilous pursuits like archery, scuba and horseback riding - in response to a state law passed in 2009.
The law sought to close a loophole that legislators said allowed too many indoor camp programs to operate without oversight.
Under the new rules, any program that offers two or more organized recreational activities - with at least one of them on the risky list - is deemed a summer camp and subject to state regulation.
Ritchie said the regulations could cripple small recreational programs, forcing them to pay a $200 fee to register as a summer camp and provide medical staff.
And many parents felt like state officials were being, well, wimpy.
Kimberly Baxter, 27, a medical assistant from South Ozone Park, Queens, said she played freeze tag with abandon as a youngster.
"I never got hurt, maybe scraped my knee once in a while but that was it," said Baxter, mom to a 1-year-old girl.
Deborah Graham, 51, a mother of two from Harlem, said moving around was less harmful than playing video games all summer.
"You could develop Carpal Tunnel Syndrome," she said. "And when (kids) eat, eat, and eat, they get diabetes. That's dangerous."
The state Camp Directors Association backed the 2009 law, and Health Department spokeswoman Diane Mathis said the list of risky activities was crafted with help from camp groups.
She said the list - which labeled Frisbee, tug of war and sack races as safe - was offered only as "guidance" to local governments and organization.
She stressed that not every program will need to hire medical staff. Some simply need to have a plan in place to deal with medical emergencies.
"There will be flexibility in how the law is implemented," Mathis said.
Susan Craig, a spokeswoman for the city Health Department, said the new law is not expected to have much impact since most city programs already meet the state requirements.
While many New Yorkers scoffed at the idea of tag leading to traumatic brain or spinal injury, Bronx resident Kim Wainwright said it's better to be safe than sorry.
"Kids these days are kinda brutal so I can see those games being dangerous," said Wainwright, who has a 5-year-old. "I agree with it."
With Mark Morales and Tanyanika Samuels
Kevin D. Williamson
NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE
April 11, 2011 4:00 A.M.The Rich Aren’t Getting Richer
Actual super-wealthy households saw their income decline.
Are the rich really getting richer? That’s a pretty standard line from the Left, a lament usually cited in the course of calling for higher tax rates. Robert Reich is particularly fond of this mode of attack: A recent post of his was headlined, “For 70 years, the wealthy have grown wealthier.” Professor Reich probably doesn’t write his own headlines, but it’s a common enough sentiment for him, and his prose is rich with phrases such as “the super-rich got even wealthier this year.”
He isn’t alone in employing this mode. Take this from an April 7 Salonarticle: “And surely the rich don’t need that 25 percent top rate in the way poor folks need programs like TANF and seniors need Medicare — about 90 percent of all American income gains since the 1970s have gone to the top 10 percent of earners.”
This is not true.
The numbers generally cited in support of this argument do not actually tell us much about what has happened to the incomes of wealthy households over time. That’s because the people who are in the top bracket today are not the people who were in the top bracket last year. There’s a good deal of socioeconomic mobility in the United States — more than you’d think. Our dear, dear friends at the IRS keep track of actual households (boy, do they ever!), and sometimes the Treasury publishes data about what has happened to them. For instance, among those who in 1996 were in the very highest income group isolated for study — the top 0.01 percent — 75 percent were in a lower income group by 2005. The median real income of super-rich households wentdown, not up. The rich got poorer. Among actual households, income grew proportionally more for those who started off in the low-income groups than those that began in high-income groups.
That wasn’t even an unusually good decade in terms of mobility. During the horrible, horrible Reagan years, as National Review noted back in 1991, the average income growth for actual households in the lowest income bracket was 77 percent over the course of a decade; income growth for actual households in the top group was only 5 percent during those same years. Of those who were in the poorest fifth in 1979, 85.8 percent had moved to a higher bracket by 1988, and 14.7 percent of them moved to the top bracket — which is to say, the poor of 1979 were more likely to be the rich of 1988 than to be the poor of 1988. The poor got richer, and some of them got a lot richer. Reagan’s record has not been matched — Ronald Reagan was the champion of the poor, as it turns out — but economic mobility has been pretty stable for the past 20 years: About 50 percent of U.S. households move from one income group to a different one every decade, and actual households initially in the low-income groups see proportionallymore income growth than do actual households initially in the high-income groups.
When somebody says that that top 1 percent saw its income go up by X in the last decade, they are not really talking about what happened to actual households in the top 1 percent. Rather, they are talking about how much money one has to make to qualify for the top 1 percent. All that really means is that the 3 million highest-paid Americans in 2010 made more money than did the 3 million highest-paid Americans in 2000, the 100,000 highest-paid Americans this year made more money than did the 100,000 highest-paid Americans made in 2000, that the 50,000 highest-paid Americans made more money this year than did the 50,000 highest-paid Americans made in 2000, that the 1,000 highest-paid Americans this year made more money than did the 1,000 highest-paid Americans made in 2000, etc., which is not shocking. But, as the Treasury data show: They are not the same people.
When Robert Reich writes that “super-rich got even wealthier this year,” he is making a statement that is not true in most cases — 75 percent of the Clinton-era super rich were not members of the Obama-era super rich. In fact, Treasury found:
Or, as the authors of the study put it: “While the share of income of the top 1 percent is higher than in prior years, it is not a fixed group of households receiving this larger share of income.” (Incidentally, Treasury underestimates mobility by excluding the most mobile population from its study: those under 25. It does this in order to avoid including school-to-work transitions in the data, though presumably it’s catching a fair number of law-school graduates and freshly minted MBAs.)
Progressives ignore this income mobility when denouncing the wicked, wicked rich and their income-hogging ways. This leads to a lot of bad analysis and stupid rhetoric. From Robert Reich, for example: “[The poor] see people at the very top getting away with, well, the equivalent of murder.” Does he really meanthe equivalent of murder?Yes, and he writes wistfully of the lynching to come: “An angry population and an angry populace could just as easily turn their anger toward the very rich. Again, it is in the interest of the people at the top to actually call for a more equitable distribution of the gains of economic growth and a better tax system.” Listen up, Thurston Howell III: It’s Reichonomics — orelse. But the income-mobility figures suggest that those gains already have been more widely distributed than most people think. (In no small part, incomes are distributed over time: Most people earn more money as they get older.)
So, about those rich, and about that Reich: You’d think a guy who used to be secretary of labor would know better. And I think he does.
Surgeons' 'bottle-to-scalpel' time affects errors
If you're going under the knife, you might want to ask your surgeon what she had to drink the night before.
A new study suggests that surgeons are more error prone and less efficient after a night of drinking than at other times, even if they have no detectable traces of alcohol in their blood.
In the study, researchers threw a dinner party for eight expert surgeons at Yale University and instructed them to drink until they felt intoxicated.
Then, on the following day, the doctors were asked to perform a series of simulated operations via a virtual reality program used to train doctors in laparoscopic surgery, a form of minimally invasive surgery performed with tiny incisions and a fiber-optic camera.
As late as 1 p.m., the surgeons made more errors during the procedure than they did while performing the same operation on the previous day, before drinking. And they were consistently less efficient and less safe when performing a task that involved burning away tissue.
(The surgeons also made more errors at 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., although the differences were too small to be considered statistically significant.)
A second dinner-and-drinks experiment -- this one involving a group of surgery trainees and a control group that did not drink -- found similar differences in next-day performance between the two groups. The findings appear in the Archives of Surgery.
Most patients will agree that a surgeon who's even slightly bleary-eyed is bad news. But it's not clear if the performance lapses seen in the study would be meaningful in real-world operating rooms, says surgeon Emily Boyle, the lead author of the study and a researcher at the Royal College of Surgeons, in Dublin, Ireland.
"Some of the skills required to operate were impaired in the study, but it is difficult to say with certainty how this would translate into real clinical performance," she says.
And although Breathalyzer tests administered before the 9 a.m. procedure failed to detect any blood alcohol content, or BAC, in the study participants, except for one -- who had a BAC that exceeded the legal limit for driving -- Boyle stresses that the surgeons were "tested after a night of excessive drinking. Moderate or mild drinking the night before working might have a lesser -- or no -- effect."
Nevertheless, the findings are worrisome enough that Boyle and her colleagues recommend that surgeons consider abstaining from alcohol on the nights before operating.
Currently there are no guidelines for surgeons comparable to the so-called "bottle to throttle" rules that prohibit commercial airplane pilots from flying within eight hours of their last drink, the study notes.
Although their findings don't provide enough evidence to support a "bottle to scalpel" policy, Boyle and her coauthors call for a "higher level of personal vigilance" from surgeons and others who perform medical procedures.
"It is likely that surgeons are unaware that next-day surgical performance may be compromised as a result of significant alcohol intake," they write
Man attacks wife during divorce hearing in judge's chambers
Bond set at $1 million on Saturday
Paul Henry Gonzalez (Broward Sheriff's Office handout, Sun Sentinel / April 15, 2011)
2:30 p.m. EDT, April 16, 2011
At some Virginia churches, guns are an invisible part of the routine
Susan Kinzie, Sunday, April 17, 8:24 PM
Parishioners carried Bibles in embroidered cases, babies with ribbons in their hair, and flutes, violins and sheet music into Immanuel Bible Church for Palm Sunday services.
And a few carried guns, tucked into waistbands, hidden under suit jackets.
At least a dozen members of this Springfield congregation routinely bring concealed weapons to services, said the Rev. Steve Holley, the church’s pastor of ministries. Since the Virginia attorney general published an advisory opinion last week on weapons in houses of worship, Holley wonders whether more of his flock will have “a Bible in one holster and a handgun in the other as they come to church.”
Virginia law bars guns in religious meetings unless the person has a “good and sufficient reason” to carry a weapon. Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II (R) wrote that personal protection meets the legal standard as a reason to carry a firearm. He said, however, that a church can choose to ban guns on its property.
His opinion sparked strong responses. Some called it an affront to the tradition of the church as a sanctuary from violence. Others said: “Praise the Lord, and pass the ammunition!”
Although gun issues are particularly raw in Virginia — in part because of the way the commonwealth’s population and culture are changing — guns and churches have been together a long time there.
In the earliest days, firearms and religion were enormously important to Virginians, with residents expected to own guns and practice shooting regularly and to worship publicly. Requiring people to attend church and serve in militias bound the community together.
A 1632 law in Virginia required men to bring their guns to church on Sundays. The law was passed at a time of great fragility for the colony, said S. Max Edelson, an associate professor of history at the University of Virginia, when the English colonists had been under fierce assault by Indian tribes.
“In case of an attack on Sunday, when everyone is assembled at church, they don’t have to disperse to get their arms,” Edelson said.
Now, in many parts of Virginia, people carry guns openly at places such as grocery stores, parks and some polling places. Some conceal the weapons if they have a permit to do so. The Rev. Jonathan Barton, head of the Virginia Council of Churches, told of a groom who wanted to keep his gun in its holster during his wedding ceremony.
But as more people move into the state and the culture shifts from rural to urban — especially in Northern Virginia — the way people see guns has been changing, said John Casteen IV, an assistant professor at Sweet Briar College.
Debates over the balance between individual freedom and collective good play out every year in the General Assembly and elsewhere. Some people assume public safety is greater if more people are armed, but others assume the opposite.
Barton was saddened by Cuccinelli’s opinion. “A house of worship is for celebration of life, and to carry a concealed weapon into that space is to violate that sacred space.”
Philip Van Cleave, of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, said people have been carrying concealed weapons to church for years because of the threat of terrorism and church shootings across the country.
“Al-Qaeda has been our reason, as well as many of the recent church shootings around the country,” he said. “Think of it this way: If saving your own life isn’t a ‘good and sufficient reason’ to carry a gun, then what else could possibly qualify?”
At Immanuel Bible, where a breeze sent pear-tree flower petals floating down on families greeting one another before services, parishioners echoed that debate.
“Guns in a church? Why?” said Samy Youssef, a member from Alexandria. “God is our protector. He is our savior.”
But Charles Whitener, who lives near Mount Vernon and has been meaning to get a concealed-weapon permit, said: “After some of the horrible things that have happened in other churches, I think the attorney general did the right thing.”
Church officials declined to identify members who they knew had guns with them; when approached, one member who had a weapon declined to comment.
Holley said that many in the congregation, which has a large number of military families, law enforcement officers and hunters, probably would agree with the attorney general’s opinion.
“The real sad thing for all of us in this is it’s an indication of where our culture is — that public meeting areas, churches, schools, town halls, malls are threats for terrorism,” Holley said. Two years ago, he said, a preacher in Illinois was gunned down in the pulpit.
The Rev. Tom Joyce, a fellow Immanuel pastor, said there was a case in Colorado in which a gunman began spraying bullets in a church but was shot and killed by someone in attendance.
“We rely 100 percent, before any weapon, in the power of the Holy Spirit to protect us,” he said. “It’s also good to have some people here on campus” who are trained and armed.
The people they know are carrying guns are military or law enforcement professionals, Holley said. Of course, with concealed weapons, it’s hard to know who’s armed. “We don’t frisk them, we don’t ask them if they’re packing heat or not.”
He hopes people will keep their guns hidden while at Immanuel. And he hopes that those who do carry will be people who have a license and not those who got their guns illegally.
On Sunday, the choir sang about the crucifixion, and people bowed their heads over well-worn Bibles to pray. A drama with a scene of a military funeral at Arlington National Cemetery was acted out. Joyce, who spent 25 years in the Navy, preached about Christ’s love.
Afterward, talking with Holley at the front of the sanctuary, he spun around suddenly, lifting his blazer to show the back of his waistband. Joyce laughed: No gun.
Violent criminals expand into cigarettes
Larry Penninger, acting director of the tobacco diversion unit of teh Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), says investigations and prosecutions involving tobacco trafficking have been increasing as smugglers flood high-tax states with cigarettes from low-tax states.
From 2007 to last year, 27 states raised their cigarette taxes, according to Michigan’s Mackinac Center for Public Policy, which closely tracks tobacco tax rates across the country. Mackinac describes tobacco smuggling as an “unintended consequence of high cigarette taxes.”
From 2007 to last year, 27 states raised their cigarette taxes, according to Michigan’s Mackinac Center for Public Policy, which closely tracks tobacco tax rates across the country. Mackinac describes tobacco smuggling as an “unintended consequence of high cigarette taxes.”
STORY: State taxes on cigarettes http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2010-03-25-cigarette-tax_N.htm
There is so much illicit money to be made, Penninger says, that some drug and weapon trafficking organizations are adding tobacco to their product lines to boost profits. For example, in low-tax states such as Virginia, where cigarettes cost about $4.50 a pack, smugglers can sell a truckload (typically 800 cases) in New York at $13 a pack. New York is the highest tobacco taxing jurisdiction in the country.
Smuggling costs states and the federal government about $5 billion, according to U.S. government estimates. “Everybody out there (involved in illegal trafficking operations) is tapping into tobacco,’’ Penninger says.
Since 9/11, much of federal law enforcement has focused on terrorism, but tobacco smuggling is attracting fresh interest.
•Last year, the ATF reported 357 open cases involving tobacco smuggling, compared with a handful a decade earlier.
•During the 2010 fiscal year, the Justice Department reported 71 new prosecutions referred by the bureau, a 39% increase from the year before, according to records compiled by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University in New York.
•Seizures of cash and property also have been rising, from $11 million in the 2007 fiscal year to $31.5 million in the 2009 fiscal year.
6-year-old Klamath Falls boy crashes family car, injures one
Sunday, April 17, 2011, 5:13 PM Updated: Sunday, April 17, 2011, 5:26 PM
New Sleep Rules for Air Traffic Controllers:
For richest, federal taxes have gone down; for some in U.S., they’re nonexistent
Sunday, April 17, 8:01 PM
As millions of procrastinators scramble to meet Monday’s tax filing deadline, ponder this: The super rich pay a lot less in taxes than they did a couple of decades ago, and nearly half of U.S. households pay no income taxes at all.
The Internal Revenue Service tracks the tax returns with the 400 highest adjusted gross incomes each year. The average income on those returns in 2007, the latest year for IRS data, was nearly $345 million. Their average federal income tax rate was 17 percent, down from 26 percent in 1992.
Over the same period, the average federal income tax rate for all taxpayers declined to 9.3 percent from 9.9 percent.
The top income tax rate is 35 percent, so how can people who make so much pay so much less than that in taxes? The nation’s tax laws are packed with breaks for people at every income level. There are breaks for having children, paying a mortgage, going to college, and even for paying other taxes. Plus, the top rate on capital gains is only 15 percent.
There are so many breaks that 45 percent of U.S. households will pay no federal income tax for 2010, according to estimates by the Tax Policy Center, a Washington think tank.
“It’s the fact that we are using the tax code both to collect revenue, which is its primary purpose, and to deliver these spending benefits that we run into the situation where so many people are paying no taxes,” said Roberton Williams, a senior fellow at the center.
The sheer volume of credits, deductions and exemptions has Democrats and Republicans calling for tax laws to be overhauled. House Republicans want to eliminate breaks to pay for lower overall rates, reducing the top tax rate to 25 percent from 35 percent. Republicans oppose raising taxes, but they argue that a more efficient tax code would increase economic activity, generating additional tax revenue.
President Obama said last week he wants to do away with tax breaks to lower the rates and to reduce government borrowing. Obama’s proposal would result in $1 trillion in tax increases over the next 12 years. The proposals from the GOP and Obama included few details, putting off hard choices about which tax breaks to eliminate.
In all, the tax code is filled with a total of $1.1 trillion in credits, deductions and exemptions, an average of about $8,000 per taxpayer, according to an analysis by the independent national taxpayer advocate within the IRS.
More than half of the nation’s tax revenue came from the top 10 percent of earners in 2007. More than 44 percent came from the top 5 percent. Still, the wealthy have access to much more lucrative tax breaks than people with lower incomes.
Obama wants the wealthy to pay so “the amount of taxes you pay isn’t determined by what kind of accountant you can afford.”
Eric Schoenberg says to sign him up for paying higher taxes. Schoenberg, who inherited money and has a healthy portfolio from his days as an investment banker, has joined a group of other wealthy Americans called United for a Fair Economy. Their goal: Raise taxes on rich people such as themselves.
Schoenberg, who now teaches a business class at Columbia University, said his income is usually “north of half a million a year.” But 2009 was a bad year for investments, so his income dropped to a little over $200,000. His federal income tax bill was a little more than $2,000.
“I simply point out to people, ‘Do you think this is reasonable, that somebody in my circumstances should only be paying 1 percent of their income in tax?’” Schoenberg said.
Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (Utah), the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, said he has a solution for rich people who want to pay more in taxes: Write a check to the IRS — there’s nothing stopping you.
“There’s still time before the filing deadline for them to give Uncle Sam some more money,” Hatch said.
Schoenberg said Hatch’s suggestion misses the point.
“This voluntary idea clearly represents a mind-set that basically pretends there’s no such things as collective goods that we produce,” Schoenberg said. “Are you going to let people volunteer to build the road system? Are you going to let them volunteer to pay for education?”
The law is packed with tax breaks that aid narrow special interests. But many of the biggest tax breaks benefit millions of American families at just about every income level, making them difficult for politicians to touch.
The vast majority of those who escape federal income taxes have low and medium incomes, and most of them pay other taxes, including Social Security and Medicare taxes, property taxes and retail sales taxes.
The share of people paying no federal income tax has dropped slightly the past two years. It was 47 percent for 2009. The main difference for 2010 was the expiration of a tax break that exempted the first $2,400 of unemployment benefits from taxation, Williams said.
In 2009, nearly 35 million taxpayers got a tax break for paying interest on their home mortgages and nearly 36 million taxpayers took the $1,000-per-child tax credit. About 41 million households reduced their federal income taxes by deducting state and local income and sales taxes from their taxable income.
About 36 million families cut their taxes by nearly $35 billion by deducting charitable donations, and 28 million taxpayers saved a total of $24 billion because their income from Social Security and railroad pensions was untaxed.
Girl Calls 911, Mom Arrested
Case Is 1 Of 3 In Which Children Were Involved
POSTED: 8:50 pm CDT April 13, 2011
UPDATED: 8:13 am CDT April 14, 2011
BELLEVUE, Neb. -- Bellevue Police said they’re concerned about drinkers putting kids in danger after three cases involving adults and children in just the last week.
Lisa Thompson Phillips remained in jail Wednesday booked on felony third-offense DUI, felony child abuse and having an open container.
Police reports indicated Phillips’ daughter called 911 Tuesday evening. The girl, 12, reported a fight and when Bellevue police arrived, Phillips got out of her car and looked drunk. Investigators said a breath test showed Phillips’ blood alcohol level was more than three times over the legal limit.
Investigators said Phillips was driving around Tuesday and eventually picked up her daughter from a volleyball game in north Omaha.
“It’s scary,” said Bellevue police Capt. Herb Evers. “It’s just scary.”
Phillips was just one of at least three adults in the Omaha metro accused of driving drunk with kids in the last week.
“The charges are serious,” said Laurie Burgess, Deputy Sarpy County Attorney. “The judges will hold people accountable for this.”
Burgess discussed a felony child abuse charge against Brian Miedl, 17. Prosecutors said sheriff’s deputies stopped the driver at Highway 75 and Chandler Road. Deputies noted a child in the car and detected alcohol.
“ .103,” said Burgess. “Thank goodness nothing happened to the baby.”
Prosecutors said they planned to add a drunken driving charge once the case goes to District Court.
Wednesday morning, Omaha police stopped a car near 36th and O streets. Officers cited Crystal Algya for DUI and two counts of child abuse and neglect.
Regarding the Bellevue case, Phillips daughter went to stay with family after police took her into custody. Investigators said they hope she gets help, a sentiment echoed by a friend of Phillips.
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Facebook looks to cash in on user data
Profiles, status updates and messages all include a mother lode of voluntarily provided information. The social media site is using it to help advertisers find exactly who they want to reach. Privacy watchdogs are aghast.
April 17, 2011
Reporting from Palo Alto
Julee Morrison has been obsessed with Bon Jovi since she was a teenager.
So when paid ads for fan sites started popping up on the 41-year-old Salt Lake City blogger's Facebook page, she was thrilled. She described herself as a "clicking fool," perusing videos and photos of the New Jersey rockers.
Then it dawned on Morrison why all those Bon Jovi ads appeared every time she logged on to the social networking site.
"Facebook is reading my profile, my interests, the people and pages I am 'friends' with, and targeting me," Morrison said. "It's brilliant social media but it's absolutely creepy."
For Facebook users, the free ride is over.
For years, the privately held company founded by Mark Zuckerberg in a Harvard dorm room put little effort into ad sales, focusing instead on making its service irresistible to users. It worked. Today more than 600 million people have Facebook accounts. The average user spends seven hours a month posting photos, chatting with friends, swapping news links and sending birthday greetings to classmates.
Now the Palo Alto company is looking to cash in on this mother lode of personal information by helping advertisers pinpoint exactly whom they want to reach. This is no idle boast. Facebook doesn't have to guess who its users are or what they like. Facebook knows, because members volunteer this information freely — and frequently — in their profiles, status updates, wall posts, messages and "likes."
It's now tracking this activity, shooting online ads to users based on their demographics, interests, even what they say to friends on the site — sometimes within minutes of them typing a key word or phrase.
For example, women who have changed their relationship status to "engaged" on their Facebook profiles shouldn't be surprised to see ads from local wedding planners and caterers pop up when they log in. Hedgehog lovers who type that word in a post might see an ad for a plush toy version of the spiny critters from Squishable.com. Middle-aged men who list motorcycling as one of their hobbies could get pitches from Victory Motorcycles. If a Facebook user becomes a fan of 1-800-FLOWERS, her friends might receive ads telling them that she likes the floral delivery service.
Marketers have been tracking consumers' online habits for years, compiling detailed dossiers of where they click and roam. But Facebook's unique trove of consumer behavior could transform it into one of the most powerful marketing tools ever invented, some analysts believe. And that could translate into a financial bonanza for investors in the 7-year-old company as it prepares for a public offering, perhaps as soon as next year.
But privacy watchdogs say Facebook's unique ability to mine data and sell advertising based on what its members voluntarily share amounts to electronic eavesdropping on personal updates, posts and messages that many users intended to share only with friends.
"Facebook has perfected a stealth digital surveillance apparatus that tracks, analyzes and then acts on your information, including what you tell your friends," said Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. "Facebook users should be cautious about whether the social networking giant ultimately has their best interests at heart."
Bon Jovi fan Morrison has removed some information from her profile to make it more difficult for advertisers to target her. "I thought, 'Wait a minute, I didn't give you permission to look into my life,'" she said.
Facebook says it does not disclose information that would allow advertisers to identify individual users, but filters them based on geography, age or specific interests. It also lets users control whether companies such as 1-800-FLOWERS can display the users' names to others to promote products. But any information users post on the site — hobbies, status updates, wall posts — is fair game for ad targeting.
Facebook's first experiment with paid ads was a flop. In 2007 it rolled out Beacon, which broadcast information on Facebook about users' activities and purchases elsewhere on the Web without their permission. Facebook pulled the program after settling a lawsuit brought on behalf of Facebook users.
This time around, company officials appear to be proceeding more cautiously. David Fischer, Facebook's vice president of advertising and global operations, says Facebook delivers ads that are relevant to users' lives.
"This is an opportunity for brands to connect with you," Fischer said. "When someone likes a brand, they are building a two-way conversation, creating an ongoing relationship."
A lot is riding on getting it right. Last year, online advertising in the U.S. grew 15% to $26 billion, according to the Internet Advertising Bureau.
People familiar with Facebook say its ad revenue doubled to $2 billion in 2010, and is expected to double again this year as more major advertisers including American Express, Coca Cola and Starbucks climb aboard.
In February, more than a third of all online display ads in the U.S. appeared on Facebook, more than three times as many as appeared on its closest competitor, Yahoo, according to research firm ComScore Inc. Facebook's moneymaking potential has wowed investors. Its market value is estimated at $55 billion on the private exchange SharesPost.
"If you take a look at the history of media, ad dollars go where the eyeballs are," Wedbush Securities analyst Lou Kerner said. "If you look at Google today, with annual revenue of $29 billion, it's not hard to think of Facebook generating that kind of revenue in four or five years. That's why we continue to be bullish on Facebook even at these price levels."
Facebook still faces some skepticism from big brands that question how often people click on the ads or how effective they are in getting people to buy something. One recent survey found that Facebook ads performed about half as well as traditional banner ads.
But Facebook's ability to pinpoint paying customers has dazzled some small-business owners, including Chris Meyer. Over the last 18 months, the Minneapolis wedding photographer had Facebook aim his ads specifically at female users who divulged the following information about themselves on the social networking site: college graduates, aged 24 to 30, who had just gotten engaged and lived within a 50-mile radius of Minneapolis.
Meyer says his $1,700 ad buy generated $110,000 in sales.
"I could not have built my business without Facebook," he said.
It's much the same for Anne Puthoff. Her store, Emmy's Bridal, is located in Minster, Ohio, population 2,800. She managed to pack the shop for a special weekend trunk show of prom dresses — in February, no less. Her secret weapon: $200 worth of Facebook ads targeting high school girls from the surrounding area.
"Our fan base has grown steadily in an economy where stores are going out of business or not thriving," Puthoff said. "I think that's due largely to the new customers we are bringing in via Facebook."
Indeed, Facebook users such as Kara-Noel Lawson say they enjoy receiving ads from merchants they like instead of useless spam. The 30-year-old mother of three from Rancho Santa Margarita in Orange County routinely "friends" businesses on the social media site and clicks on advertising that interests her. More often than not, she said, she is rewarded with coupons, gift cards and discounts.
"I don't feel any weird privacy thing," she said. "We are all putting everything out there already."
DeSoto Co. Preacher Arrested For Child Porn
Preacher on leave from Southern Baptist church
12:39 p.m. CDT, April 3, 2011
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D.C. voting rights proponents’ faith in Obama sinks
Paul Schwartzman and Nikita Stewart
Saturday, April 16, 8:59 PM
President Obama’s arrival in the White House two years ago inspired unabashed optimism among civic leaders in the District, who had long yearned for an ally to trumpet their quest for statehood and voting rights in Congress.
As the country’s first black president, Obama’s words and biography suggested an innate appreciation for political disenfranchisement. If anyone could understand the plight of a second-class citizenry, it had to be a former community organizer on Chicago’s South Side.
That Obama has not met those expectations is disappointing enough for those who view the District’s status as nothing less than the deprivation of a basic civil right. But their frustration is magnified by who Obama is and what they wanted from an African American president residing in the nation’s most prominent and predominant black city.
“The expectations were very high that, since he had made human rights an important part of his platform, he would speak out for D.C.,” said Philip Pannell, a former member of the D.C. Democratic State Committee and longtime advocate for statehood. “It seems that President Obama’s heart and his conscience are missing in action.”
Obama is no different than his predecessors. No president has rushed to invest political capital in a city that Republicans have mocked as a symbol of urban dysfunction. What benefit could there be in championing the rights of 600,000 residents of a city with a sordid history of crime and political corruption?
Yet what distinguished Obama from his predecessors was the anticipation his arrival generated. In the past week, the same people who saw hope in Obama’s jaunts across the city just before his inauguration — remember that half-smoke he ate at Ben’s Chili Bowl? — have excoriated him for relegating the District to the status of bargaining chip in a broader budget game with House leaders.
“John, I’ll give you D.C. abortion,” Obama reportedly told House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) before reaching a deal, effectively trading away the city’s right to fund abortions for lowincome women.
The District’s political leadership was infuriated.
In a city in which Obama won 93 percent of the vote, a D.C. Council member threatened to withhold her support in the next presidential election. The city’s congressional delegate shouted an invective on television. The mayor and six council members were handcuffed in a protest on Constitution Avenue.
After his release, Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) called Obama’s stance on the abortion issue disheartening. “The District should not be a bargaining chip in budget negotiations at the national level,” he said.
A once iron-clad bond was now frayed.
“This is personal,” said Donna Brazile, a Democratic political strategist. “I believe the president is sincere when he says that he believes in D.C. voting rights and home rule. But, as you know, D.C. residents like proof.”
Mark Plotkin, a WTOP political commentator who has made District statehood something of an obsession, said he sees little to distinguish Obama from his Republican predecessor, George W. Bush. Bush angered voting rights advocates by refusing to place the D.C. “Taxation Without Representation” license plate on the presidential limousine. Obama also has not added the plate to his limousine.
“The greatest assault is indifference, and he has the hubris to take us for granted,” Plotkin said of Obama. “He went to Cairo to talk about democracy. He won’t go to Brentwood or Deanwood. He has not made one utterance about D.C. to D.C. in D.C.”
Asked about Obama’s relationship with the District, Hannah August, a White House spokeswoman, said: “Given the severe impact of a government shutdown on the Washington, D.C., economy, the president is confident that the budget agreement that he reached with congressional Republicans is not just in the best interests of the American people, but also the best interests of District residents.”
In North Michigan Park, among the city’s most politically active neighborhoods, the feeling is the budget compromise left the District in a “bad position,” said Ernest Harris, a retired federal employee.
“I didn’t expect him to just be able to do everything that we might want him to do. I understood that he wasn’t just the black president,” said Harris, 74. “But in terms of D.C., he’s throwing us under the bus. He caved too easily. He should have stood up. I know statehood and full representation is a long way off, but he’s taking us for granted. And he can’t do that anymore. . . . I’m not sure if I’m going to vote for him again over this.”
Presidents have long had a tenuous relationship with their host city. Richard M. Nixon ventured into the District in the early days of his first term, when he went to inspect the remnants of the 1968 riots along Seventh Street NW. Bill Clinton, as president-elect, went for a stroll along Georgia Avenue and then spent most of his next eight years here inside the White House. For a rare night on the town, George W. Bush preferred a Mexican restaurant in Virginia.
Beyond the marbled monuments, the District has not always provided an illustrious backdrop, whether it was when Marion Barry was caught smoking crack on videotape or when the city’s homicide rate earned it the title “Murder Capital,” or when the government fell into bankruptcy and Congress ordered its spending monitored by a financial control board.
Even as memories linger, the District is not the same city it was a generation ago. Since moving to the White House, Obama and first lady Michelle Obama have gone about town, whether to their daughter’s soccer games or to eat in restaurants or visit public schools.
The president has expressed support for the District’s cause, his strongest statement uttered as a Democratic candidate when he said, “Residents of Washington, D.C., shouldn’t be treated as tenants, fortunate enough to share the same space as our government.”
Obama was more cautious after his victory, describing himself as a “strong proponent” of voting rights even as he added that “this takes on a partisan flavor, and, you know, right now I think our legislative agenda is chock- full.”
A year ago, while commemorating D.C. Emancipation Day, Obama issued a statement that said in part: “I urge Congress to finally pass legislation that provides D.C. residents with voting representation and to take steps to improve the Home Rule Charter.”
That’s not enough for Robert Jenifer, 76, a Brookland resident who said he thinks that the District’s overwhelming support of Obama has not paid any dividends.
“He probably looks at the District and sees us as automatically supporting him because he’s our first black president,” Jenifer said. “But if you look, on many things, he doesn’t seem like he’s for us. So you have to look at it like your wife says to you: ‘What have you done for me lately?’ ”
A high demand
If D.C. civic leaders want more from Obama, they might be setting a demand that’s impossible to meet in this highly partisan town and for a president managing a full slate of national and international affairs, including two wars.
Even when Democrats held the White House and majorities in the House and Senate, advocates for the District were unable to advance their voting rights agenda.
“Nothing runs more deeply in American ideals than the promise of self-government and voting rights,” said American University law professor Jamie B. Raskin, a Maryland state senator from Montgomery County. “But nothing runs more deeply in American politics than the idea of keeping some people from voting and participating.”
What might be required to enact change, Raskin said, is a “mass movement of protest to test the conscience of the nation. It’s clear that President Obama does not intend to be the personal leader of a liberation struggle. He’s dealing with multiple crises. . . . This is not a crisis until the people of Washington make it one.”
Yet, Raskin added, the city’s traditional role and demographics “make it tricky.” While longtime residents make up a sizable portion of the population, many are transients, as has been the case since the District was established as the nation’s capital.
That complicated reality hasn’t stopped the District’s quest for autonomy, which reached a historic milestone in the early 1970s with Congress’s enactment of home rule. D.C. voters could choose their mayor and council, but the District could not enact a budget or other significant legislation without congressional review.
The quest for self-determination endures. A voting rights proposal died in Congress two years ago when Republicans made its passage contingent on repealing the city’s gun-control laws.
“Historically, it’s not an easy road, regardless of who’s in the White House,” said Douglas Patton, a former D.C. deputy mayor. “It’s just the history of presidents. Not second-class citizens.”
Seniors' sex lives are up — and so are STD rates
Marni Jameson, Orlando Sentinel
April 16, 2011
Across the nation, and especially in the Sunshine State, the free-love generation is continuing to enjoy an active — if not always healthy — sex life.
At a stage in life when many would expect sexually transmitted diseases to be waning, seniors are noticeably ahead of the national curve.
In the five years from 2005 to 2009, the number of reported cases of syphilis and chlamydia among those 55 and older increased 43 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
In Central Florida, the rise is even more dramatic. Among those 55 and older, the reported cases of syphilis and chlamydia increased 71 percent in that same five-year period. That puts Central Florida ahead of the state, which saw a 62 percent rise in those two sexually transmitted infections among the same age group.
The rates at which syphilis and chlamydia increased among older adults outpaced the nation's average. Among all age groups nationwide, reported cases of syphilis increased 60 percent between 2005 and 2009; among those in the 55 to 64 age group, it went up 70 percent. Meanwhile, the incidence of chlamydia rose 27 percent among all ages, and double that among the older group.
As a result of the national trend among seniors, Medicare is considering providing coverage for STD screenings for seniors. Last month, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid office announced that it was looking into adding STD exams to the national health insurance program, which already pays for HIV screenings. Medicare also is weighing the benefits of paying for behavioral counseling for sexually active seniors.
The factors driving the rise of STDs in the older set include Americans living longer, healthier lives and a new class of medications, which include Viagra, that's making more sex possible. Many older adults didn't get the safe-sex messages that younger generations received, say experts, so their condom use is lower. In addition, more seniors are living in group retirement communities where there's more socializing.
"These seniors may lose a spouse, then get lonely," said Dr. Jason Salagubang, a geriatrician on staff at Florida Hospital Apopka. "They're living in retirement communities with others in the same boat, and sparks fly."
Julia Gill, director of the division of disease control for the Florida Department of Health, says the heavy marketing for sex-enhancing pharmaceuticals aimed at seniors and Florida's lure as a retirement destination are likely causing the state's seniors — particularly those in Central Florida — to lead the trend.
"Certainly we've noted the change and will adjust our outreach, testing and marketing efforts to reflect that," Gill said.
Besides Viagra, other medications such as hormone replacements are helping seniors remain sexually active longer. Progesterone and estrogen creams help make sex more comfortable for women, while testosterone replacement drugs give libido a boost in both men and women.
Finally, a more open sexual attitude has contributed to the rising infection rate. "The flower children who were in their 20s back in the 1960s are now in their 70s," said Salagubang. "They're the make-love-not-war generation, and old habits die hard."
Not just for kids
Just because seniors are older and wiser, doesn't mean they're not susceptible to the same diseases as everyone else, Salagubang said. In fact, they're more susceptible.
As people age, their immune systems tend to weaken, and other health problems make them more prone to infection. Medications for heart disease, hypertension and diabetes also cause seniors to be more likely to pick up what's going around.
Because STDs often have no symptoms, they frequently go untreated and make seniors more prone to other infections, said Salagubang. And these infections will make other conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease, worse.
"If I think a patient may be sexually active, I suggest he or she gets screened," said Salagubang. "I let patients know that STDs and HIV are on the rise among seniors, and are a lot more common than many seniors think."
Although older Americans account for a relatively small proportion of new STD diagnoses overall, providing them education and services to help protect them from infection is critical, said Rachel Powell, CDC spokeswoman.
"Many older Americans face unique prevention challenges, including discomfort in discussing sexual behaviors with physicians and partners, and discomfort discussing condom use," she said.
Given the changing sexual climate for seniors, Dr. Connie Micklavzina, a gynecologist at Winnie Palmer Hospital in Orlando has started asking her older patients more questions, including whether they would like to be screened for sexually transmitted diseases.
"Often I see a huge look of relief on their faces, because they are too embarrassed to ask," said Micklavzina, who's been in practice 25 years. "The responsibility of bringing this up should be on the practitioner, not the patient, to make the conversation easier."
Practitioners should not make any assumptions based on a patient's age, or social or marital status, Micklavzina added. "It has nothing to do with it."
She also broaches the subject of condom use. "I'm surprised by the number of women in their 50s and 60s who aren't insisting that their partners use condoms."
A study conducted by sex researchers at Indiana University found that in the United States, condom use was lowest among men over age 50. Men in their 50s reported using a condom only 28 percent of the time with a casual partner. By comparison, men in the 18 to 39 age-range used a condom with casual partners at least 50 percent of the time.
"We often assume that younger people are at greater risk for sexual health challenges like HIV and STD," said Michael Reece, director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion, at Indiana University. "However, these data suggest that younger Americans are using condoms more consistently than older Americans."
The fact that older Americans aren't worried about preventing pregnancy accounts for some of the lower condom use, but this age group clearly needs more education about the risks of unsafe sex, Reece said.
According to a 2007 study reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, 67 percent of men and 39 percent of women aged 65 to 74 surveyed reported having had sex in the previous year; 38 percent of men aged 75 to 85 reported the same.
"We should not be profiling people based on their age, and making assumptions about their sexual activity," said Dr. Stacey Landau, ob-gyn at the University of Chicago and author of the study. "Removing age-based profiling with respect to STD screenings is a good idea."
Woman freed from pet python
City to recognize Lyons police officer who saved owner from snake attack.
John Green - The Hutchinson News
LYONS - City officials here are preparing two citations after a pet 8-foot albino python attacked its owner earlier this week.
The first will recognize a part-time city police officer who reached into the jaws of the massive reptile and pried it from the neck of its owner.
The second, for the snake owner, is a ticket for harboring a vicious animal.
The incident began Tuesday when the homeowner pulled the snake from its cage to feed it, said Lyons Police Chief Chris Detmer.
"It grabbed her by the neck and latched on," Detmer said. "Her kids called 911."
Officer Max Bryant responded to the call.
"I was glad it was him," Detmer said. "Not too many guys will grab one of those."
Bryant grasped the snake by its snout and lower jaw and forced its mouth open.
The snake didn't wrap itself around the woman, Detmer said, so she was freed once the snake's jaws were opened.
The snake owner, a woman in her 20s, moved to the community late last year, the chief said.
She was treated at the local hospital for scratches to her neck and released.
"They don't have fangs," Detmer said of the python. "They've got small gripping teeth."
Detmer would not release the woman's name pending issuance of the citation.
The News was unable to reach Bryant for comment.
The chief and city attorney reviewed local ordinances and determined the snake is a vicious animal because of its propensity to commit an unprovoked attack.
Officials didn't require the snake be destroyed, but did demand it be removed from the home where there were children, Detmer said. A friend of the owner took the snake in.
"It's a little different deal in that it doesn't run around, like with a pit bull," Detmer said. "We don't really have to worry about it getting loose or going after little kids."
The chief noted it was the third albino python the department has had contact with, for various reasons, over the past several years. There is no prohibition against the snakes in city code.
"Some can get to 20-feet" long, Detmer said. "They can get big."
Bryant, who also works part-time at the Rice County jail, will receive a citation from the city, noting his bravery, during an upcoming City Council meeting, said City Manager John Sweet.
"That was a quick response," Sweet said. "I'm a retired Marine and I'm not sure I could do that."
Ex-judge reports to prison on drug-related charges
The Associated Press
ATLANTA — A former federal judge from Georgia who was sentenced to 30 days in prison for drug-related crimes involving a stripper has reported to a federal prison in Oklahoma.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons said Jack Camp reported Friday to the Federal Correctional Institute in El Reno, Okla.
Camp was arrested in a sting in October after authorities say he and the stripper made a drug buy from an undercover officer. The judge was sentenced in March after pleading guilty to three criminal charges in November.
The ex-judge said in court filings that his decades-long battle with depression and a bicycling accident in 2000 caused brain damage that led him to use drugs and start seeing the stripper.
School lesson: Don't yell, run over spilled milk
Northwest Indiana Times
Thursday, April 14, 2011 8:16 pm
VALPARAISO | A 12-year-old student at Benjamin Franklin Middle School could face juvenile probation after a Tuesday altercation with the school resource officer.
According to Valparaiso police, the officer was monitoring the sixth grade lunch period Tuesday when a boy began arguing with a staff member who wanted the boy to clean up milk spilled across his table.
The officer said as he approached the boy, he kept yelling at the staff member. The officer said he repeatedly asked the boy to calm down and help clean the mess he created, but the boy started yelling at him.
After exhausting every warning, the officer told the boy he had to go with him to the principal's office. As he began escorting the boy, the officer said the boy continued yelling at him and tried pulling away from him a few times.
The officer said the boy eventually got away from him and began running through the hallways, nearly running into students.
Catching up with the boy, the officer said he wrapped his arms around him to stop him. The boy continued trying to pull away, the officer said, and eventually both wound up on the floor near the school's gymnasium, where the boy was handcuffed.
The officer took the boy to the school's office, where a teacher helped calm him down.
The boy was released to his father, police said. The matter was referred to the Juvenile Probation office for review.
Musician Loses Temper at Walmart Greeter, Sentenced to Year in Prison
April 14, 2011
Bethleham, PA – James Maurice Barker, 45, was sentenced to six months to a year in prison at the Northampton County Prison and fined $750 for yelling, berating and threatening a Wal-Mart greeter who asked to see his receipt.
“I’m only a human being. I’m flawed, I made mistakes,” Barker said as he cried during his sentencing. “I just want to live my life.”
Barker claims he was working on an album with the Motown record label, and was visiting from the West Coast when he decided to take his two teenage sons shopping.
They drove around in a limo. Barker purchased around $1,000 worth of electronics from Wal-Mart and were taking the purchases out in a shopping cart when the store greeter approached them and asked to see the receipt.
Feeling “disrespected”, Barker started yelling and used expletives 20 to 30 times during his tirade.
After the confrontation, Barker and his sons left in the limo, which police eventually tracked down and found cocaine and a glass bong in the vehicle.
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Day Care Worker Charged With Assaulting Children
Posted: 5:44 pm EDT April 14, 2011 Updated: 6:20 pm EDT April 14, 2011
Investigators said Whitney Belk was seen on day care surveillance video "manhandling" five different children at the Kids Korner day care in Kannapolis."
The day care's administrator, Danielle Mauldin, told Eyewitness News the parent approached the staff last week.
"We were made aware of it, we watched the video tape and it did occur," Mauldin said.
Mauldin said Belk was immediately fired, and the day care fully cooperated with investigators.
The staff met with parents about the incident on Thursday.
One parent told Eyewitness News he was happy the day care acted so quickly, and intended to keep his son at the day care.
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Obama not embarrassed by unguarded comments
1:50 PM CDT, April 15, 2011
President Barack Obama said today he was not embarrassed by remarks made in Chicago and unintentionally released to the media in which he called some government workers “slugs” and said he told Republicans: “You think we’re stupid?”
The remarks, made at a Thursday night fundraiser at MK Chicago restaurant, came after reporters had been escorted from the room. But the comments were piped back to the White House press room, where a couple of reporters heard them and took notes.
The disclosure had some White House officials a bit red-faced, but when the president returned to Washington he said that his private remarks reflected what he has said in public, and that he is not embarrassed about anything he said.
Wire reports and Twitter updates of Obama's remarks show the president in casual mode, a rare thing to slip through his highly disciplined and scripted operation.
According to veteran newsman Mark Knoller, of CBS radio, Obama ridiculed GOP efforts to whittle away at health care reform “by nickel-and-diming me in the budget.”
2:16 p.m. CDT, April 15, 2011
Brutality charges have been filed against a Chicago police sergeant caught on video slapping a handcuffed man -- but an attorney says the officer was justified because the suspect tried to spit on him.
“If I tried to spit on you, wouldn’t you find that offensive?” asked Robert Kuzas, who is representing Sgt. Edward Howard Jr., 48, a 24-year veteran of the police department. Howard is charged with aggravated battery and official misconduct.
The incident took place on Oct. 11, when Gregory Jeffries, 19, and two friends were arrested about 10:15 p.m. on charges of criminal trespass after walking out of a fast-food restaurant at 7904 S. Vincennes Ave., prosecutors said.
After Jeffries was handcuffed, Howard came on scene and walked up and hit Jeffries in the face three times with his open hand, prosecutors said. The final blow was strong enough to knock the man against a squad car, they said.
Jeffries suffered cuts, bruises and swelling to his face, prosecutors said. He and his mother reported the incident to the Independent Police Review Authority, and the case was referred to the state's attorney's office.
"Videotaped footage recovered from the restaurant's surveillance system corroborates both the victim and other eyewitness accounts of the defendant's abuse use of force against the handcuffed victim," the Cook County state's attorney's office said in a statement.
Shortly after the incident, Supt. Jody Weis stripped Howard and six officers of their police powers: Howard for the beating and the other officers are failing to report it.
Two of the officers were later cleared of wrongdoing after GPS proved they weren't at the scene. The two then filed a libel lawsuit against Weis, alleging they were falsely accused. Though Weis never identified Meuris and Vanna by name to the news media, he published their names in an internal communication sent to others in the Police Department, their attorney said.
Last month, Jeffries filed a federal lawsuit against the city and police officers. In it, he claimed he was hit several times by a sergeant, causing Jeffries to spit up blood.
During a bond hearing today, Assistant State’s Attorney Lauren Freeman said the video shows Jeffries was “fully compliant from the beginning to the end during his detention and arrest.”
“It show that he never acts in a physically provocative manner before the defendant strikes him each time,” Freeman said.
But Kuzas said Jeffries provoked the sergeant by clearing his throat and attempting to spit at Howard.
Asked if it gave the officer had a right to react the way he did, Kuzas said, “I definitely think it does.
“I don’t care who you are, if someone is trying to spit on you, of course you have a right to defend yourself,” he said.
Kuzas said Howard has been married for 24 years and has three children, and added that his friends and family are devastated by the allegations.
“This is truly a tragedy for him,” Kuzas said after court. “This is not at all reflective of the type of human being he is, the type of man he is or the type of police officer he is.”
Howard posted a $2,000 cash bond and walked out of the Criminal Courts Building at about 1:30 p.m., flanked by several supporters.
When a TV reporter backed into a fire hydrant and fell over, Howard said, “You OK, man?” He got into a waiting silver SUV without commenting to reporters on the charges against him.
LINK TO VIDEO:
Kentucky Man Invents Car that Runs on Makers Mark
April 14, 2011
The Daily Load
LOUISVILLE - 62 year old Mickey Nilsson of Bardstown Kentucky, finally found a way to make his tinkering hobby pay off. Inspired by the film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Nilsson transformed a collection of “junk” into a motor vehicle that does not rely on foreign oil as it’s fuel source. His car is entirely powered by Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey.
“I was always a fan of Caractacus Potts (the Dick Van Dyke character) from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” said Nilsson. “He was pretty good at re-purposing junk. Always admired that”. Nilsson had his fair share of junk too. Most of it was just rusting when last October he had a knock at his door.
“Them two knuckleheads from that TV show American Pickers (Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz) stopped by here trying to steal from me. Offering me $200 for my old still. Said I had no use for it since making moonshine was illegal. After that smart-mouthed remark, I shot at em” declared Nilsson. “Although I did sell the chubby one with the beard an old oil can for $40 before they ticked me off.”
The visit did motivate Nilsson. “After I’d run them off, I kept thinking about what they kept saying to me, ‘what are you going to do with all this stuff, you might as well sell it to us’. Well that left me pondering. Folks around these parts do a lot of pondering, so it wasn’t really nothing new for me as I ponder about something almost everyday. But this time my pondering gave me an idea, watch Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.”
Inspired and motivated by the film, Nilsson spent the next 6 months, in his workshop turning his one-time still and collection of junk into a whiskey sipping motor vehicle. “The car will run on almost any bourbon, but she really purrs on Maker’s Mark” said Nilsson.
With Maker’s Mark currently at an average selling price of $24 a fifth it’s likely most owners of the new vehicle would fill her up with Old Crow or even Old Grand Dad. Either way, it’s still a pricier fuel option, but before long it may be a bargain. Gasoline prices have been skyrocketing, jumping 50% in the past year. This week the cost for regular gas eclipsed milk and the popular Arnold Palmer Iced Tea-Lemonade beverage per gallon.
The Obama administration has recognized Nilsson’s achievement as “the type of ingenuity that makes this country great. With brilliant minds such as Mr. Nilsson at work, we will soon purge our dependence on the middle east for oil”. But they cautioned our nation still has a large number of winos so securing access to the fuel tanks on these vehicles will be essential, especially in certain urban neighborhoods.
A deal to produce a consumer version of the Nilsson concept car was brokered Wednesday with automobile manufacturer Nissan. Nissan expects to release the vehicle to the public by 2014. Currently referred to as the Nissan Nilsson, several names are being considered for the new model. The Nissan Alky, the Lush or the sporty sounding Inebriator.
Nissan hopes to add a new feature to this model that will incorporate a breathalyzer that will actually generate a small fuel reserve for drunk drivers who run out of gas, ah um, bourbon.
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Man steals judge's gavel from courtroom
April 13, 2011 3:30 PM
LINK TO VIDEO:
Dr. Conrad Murray was distracted with two strippers, third woman night Michael Jackson died: lawyers
DAILY NEWS WEST COAST BUREAU CHIEF
Thursday, April 14th 2011, 9:26 PM
Michelle Bella, a dancer at the Spearmint Rhino in Las Vegas, got a text from Murray at 8:30 a.m. on June 25, 2009 - about two and a half hours before he found the King of Pop unresponsive on a bed, a prosecution motion filed Thursday said.
Prosecutors previously revealed that Murray, who was living with his stripper babymama Nicole Alvarez at the time, called Houston <snip>tail waitress Sade Anding at 11:51 that morning, about an hour after he admittedly gave his famous patient the powerful anesthetic propofol in an IV drip.
The star's personal physical also received two unanswered calls from a third woman he met at the Vegas strip joint Cheetahs in 2003, prosecutors said.
The third girlfriend, Bridgette Morgan, was trying to reach Murray to discuss a plane ticket he promised to buy her during a lunch date earlier that month, court documents stated.
Prosecutors are asking the judge to allow evidence of Murray's wild social life because they think it shows a pattern of "inattentiveness and distraction."
Murray's defense has called the move prejudicial but declined to comment Thursday since jury selection is already underway.
"Evidence which points to a defendant's guilt is, by definition, prejudicial," the deputy district attorneys handling the case wrote in the motion.
Murray, 57, is accused of giving Jackson the hospital-strength anesthetic propofol to help him sleep and then failing to properly monitor him.
Jackson, 50, died of acute propofol intoxication, the coroner found.
Murray told police he gave Jackson Valium, lorazepam and the sedative midazolam between 1:30 and 7:30 on the morning in question and claims he was at Jackson's bedside keeping close eye on a pulse oximeter (connected to Jackson's finger) around the time he allegedly texted Bella.
He said he took a bathroom break after giving the first dose of propofol at 10:40 a.m. and found the singer unresponsive when he returned.
A staff member dialed 911 at 12:21 p.m.
Prosecutors claim Murray broke patient-confidentiality rules by bragging about his Jackson job to the alleged girlfriends but neglected to mention his personal phone communications during his first interview with police.
"He had a pattern of revealing confidential information when it suited him, but he was unwilling to reveal patient information at the most critical time," the DA motion stated. "He was receiving personal phone calls during the hours when he was supposed to be completely focused on the care of Mr. Jackson."
Obama job approval hits 5-month low in Gallup poll
Michael A. Memoli and Peter Nicholas
12:50 PM PDT, April 14, 2011
It could be gas prices, the budget debate, or simply the usual ups and downs of public opinion polling. But President Obama's approval rating has dipped to a five-month low in Gallup's daily tracking poll, reverting to post-midterm election lows.
The survey, a three-day rolling average conducted April 11-13, pegs Obama's approval at 42%, the lowest since Nov. 10-12. For only the 13th time in his term and the first time since late October, his disapproval rating has reached 50%.
Since the self-described "shellacking" of his party last November, Obama's numbers have zig-zagged within a 9-point range, from the low of 42% to a high of 51%. He enjoyed a sustained upward trend after the tax cuts compromise in December's lame duck session of Congress.
Any boost he may have gained from last Friday's 11th hour compromise may be offset by other economic concerns, particularly higher fuel prices.
The White House routinely dismisses polling data. But it's a troublesome footnote as the president kicks off his re-election effort Thursday.
Obama's low approval rating is not the result of the major speech he delivered on Wednesday. Some of the polling took place before he delivered the speech. Rather, a Gallup official believes the results reflect broad public dissatisfaction with the economy.
"You can never discount the economy as a reason," said Frank Newport, editor-in-chief of the Gallup Poll. "It's important to remember that Americans are down on the economy right now. We saw some glimmers of uptick, but that's faded. And there's no way that can't help but rub off" on the president.
The new numbers suggest that gains Obama had recorded after the productive lame duck session of Congress last December have been wiped out. Obama's approval rating registered at 50% by the end of the lame duck session, where Obama reached rare compromises with Republicans on taxes and other major legislation.
"There's a lot going on in the political environment right now, including the (budget) agreement reached last Friday and the wrangling this week over his speech," Newport said. "The economy is perceived as bad, economic confidence data is bad, gas prices are up – so there are a number of proximate causes" for the downturn.
Crying, foul: Kindergartener gets suspended for tearing up
Globe and Mail Blog
Wednesday, March 30, 2011 5:44PM EDT
No, this is not an April Fool’s Day joke. A six-year-old boy in Virginia has been suspended from school for … crying.
Earlier this month, Gary and Heather Clark were notified by officials at Tallwood Elementary School in Virginia Beach that their son Bronson had been suspended from school for allegedly crying in class and disrupting the educational process, according to the Rutherford Institute, a Virginia-based civil liberties organization.
The parents then contacted the Rutherford Institute, which is calling on the school to rescind the suspension.
“There is a suspension for disruptive behaviour on his school record now. And that follows you. And it’s cumulative, meaning that if something else happens, he’s now considered a kid who creates problems,” said John Whitehead, president of the institute.
Officials at the school did not immediately respond to requests for an interview.
In a letter sent on Wednesday to the co-ordinator of student services at the Virginia Beach City Public Schools, Mr. Whitehead, a constitutional attorney, calls the young boy’s suspension perhaps “the most shocking example yet of the extent to which school officials are failing in their duties to create healthy and supportive educational environments for their young charges.
“While crying in class may indeed be inconvenient for the teacher, surely there are other, less draconian means of addressing this type of disruption than an out-of-school suspension.”
The zero-tolerance policies adopted by many schools have seen kids “tossed out for the craziest things,” Mr. Whitehead said in a telephone interview. He cited a greatest hits of seemingly head-scratching insanity: A case where a Grade 4 student who gargled Scope mouthwash after lunch was suspended because it violated the school’s drugs and alcohol policy; a high-school student suspended because the nail clippers he had at school were considered a weapon; even one instance of a youngster bringing a drawing of an uncle, who was then serving in Iraq, carrying his gun, which the school said violated its weapons policy.
As for the boy suspended for crying, Mr. Whitehead points out that crying is something six-year-olds just happen to do sometimes. Dealing with the problem like this should start with consulting mom and dad instead of going straight to a suspension.
“The easiest thing to do is consult parents more,” he says.
Mr. Whitehead had not heard from the school as of late Wednesday afternoon. But he is hopeful the school will rescind the suspension, he said.
Cops: Girl, 5, brings marijuana on school bus
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
A 5-year-old girl in Gwinnett County reportedly carried 10 baggies of marijuana onto a school bus, leading to the arrest of her mother on drug charges.
The girl told the driver that her mother put the sack in her book bag. Narcotics investigators responded to the scene and tallied 19 grams of marijuana.
Police said they contacted the girl's mother, Taneisha Lewis, 23, and searched her vehicle and the Norcross residence where she told them she lived. They found nothing illegal that day, and she was not charged.
The next day, investigators discovered that Lewis had given police a different address, in Duluth, during a recent traffic stop. They searched that residence Wednesday, and found illegal drugs, said Cpl. Jake Smith of the Gwinnett police.
The apartment in the 2100 block of Preston Park Drive contained two grams of crack cocaine and over six dozen pills of the muscle relaxant and anti-anxiety drug Clonazapam, which is illegal without a prescription, Smith said. Police also found clothing, medicine and mail belonging to Lewis and her daughter.
No one living in the apartment had a prescription for Clonazapam. The drug was found in Lewis' bedroom, police said, so she was charged with possession of a schedule IV substance. Police also charged her with possession with intent to distribute marijuana and obstruction of a law enforcement officer.
The crack was in Earnest Boyd's room, police said, so they charged him with possession of cocaine. Boyd is Lewis’ 26-year-old brother.
Lewis and Boyd were taken to the Gwinnett County Detention Center and subsequently released on bond.
The Division of Family and Children Services was notified, and it placed Lewis' child with family.
Oops! Newspaper prints wrong lotto numbers, lets down local couple
Posted: Apr 11, 2011 5:42 PM
Updated: Apr 13, 2011 3:20 PM
Imagine waking up and checking the Sunday paper to find that you've won the lottery, but then learning that the newspaper printed the wrong numbers.
That's just what happened to a Pueblo couple last weekend. Jim and Dorothy Sprague say they experienced a lot of joy and a lot of heartbreak all in the course of an hour Sunday morning.
"I woke up and found out we were millionaires," Jim Sprague said. "(It was) a case of going from rags to riches and back to rags again."
The newspaper had mistakenly published Friday's Matchplay numbers in place of Saturday's Colorado Lottery drawing. In his excitement, Sprague called his children to tell them he'd won the $4.3 million jackpot.
"We had told my son and my daughter and we were getting ready to tell our other kids, but we found the mistake that it was wrong," Sprague said. "It's a good thing that I didn't talk to too many people."
The Sprague's are able to laugh about the ordeal now, but they admit they're still a bit frustrated.
"I tried calling them yesterday, Sunday, as soon as we found it," he explained. "I called and got a recording."
The newspaper published a retraction in Monday's paper, faulting the error on "misinformation and an oversight." Sprague said he decided not to push the issue after reading the retraction. And he says the experience won't keep him from playing the lotto in the future.
"I hope that I'll find the right numbers one of these days."
LINK TO VIDEO:
Brentwood Mayor Evicted From Home Weeks Before Election
5:59 PM, Apr 13, 2011
BRENTWOOD, Md. (WUSA) -- The controversial Mayor of Brentwood was evicted from her home in the small Prince George's County municipality Wednesday.
Xzavier Montgomery-Wright had fallen behind nearly $7,500 on rent, according to eviction documents. She declined to talk about the situation, or her ongoing run for re-election, as workers moved possessions from the house where she had been living on 79th Place in Brentwood.
In March, Montgomery-Wright was censured by Brentwood's town council for the unauthorized use of a town debit card to pay cell phone bills and purchase a plane ticket. A follow up audit is ongoing. No charges have been filed.
Montgomery-Wright is a candidate for re-election. She takes credit for re-establishing the town's police department.
LINK TO VIDEO:
She would not comment on where she will live after the eviction. She cannot serve as mayor, if she is not a resident of Brentwood.
Lack of primary competition gives Obama an edge
With no serious challenges for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2012, the president can target the independent voters crucial to victory, while his Republican rivals must move right to win their party's nomination.
Mark Z. Barabak and Christi Parsons, Los Angeles Times and Washington Bureau
7:36 PM PDT, April 13, 2011
When President Obama swoops into Chicago on Air Force One to formally launch his reelection bid Thursday, his homecoming will have all the trappings of a celebrity event: high-dollar fundraisers at a pair of fancy restaurants, an adoring audience at a waterfront rally and an appearance by NBA star Derrick Rose.
But one of the president's biggest advantages as he seeks a second term will not be visible: the absence of any serious primary opposition. Incumbents forced to fend off a challenge within their own party tend to lose the November election (like Gerald R. Ford in 1976, Jimmy Carter in 1980 and George H.W. Bush in 1992) or choose not to run at all (like Lyndon B. Johnson in 1968).
Spared fratricidal fighting, Obama is free to move toward the political center and target the independent voters crucial to victory. Meantime, his Republican rivals must move right to win their party's nomination, then hope to scamper back toward the center in time for the fall campaign.
Obama's course was vividly demonstrated Wednesday, with his embrace of a $4-trillion deficit-reduction package that calls for tax hikes and benefit cuts. The plan not only allowed the president to embrace an issue that many centrist voters say they care about, but also afforded him an opportunity to paint his Republican opponents as extreme.
"Our leaders came together three times during the 1990s to reduce our nation's deficit," he said in a speech at George Washington University, invoking the names of past presidents and congressional leaders, Democratic and Republican, who forged compromise. "All three agreements asked for shared responsibility and shared sacrifice."
The president's ability to stake out the center this far ahead of election day offers a considerable edge. It is there, and not the fringes, that most presidential campaigns are won.
"From an ideological perspective, it's a huge advantage to spend two years working the middle of the electorate," said Don Sipple, a strategist for Republican Bob Dole in 1996, the last time a Democratic president sought reelection. "While the president repositions … the Republicans are moving out of position as far as the task they'll face in the general election."
None of that suggests Obama's reelection will be easy, or anything close to preordained. His approval ratings nationally are in the mediocre 50% range. Democrats suffered midterm setbacks in several states, including Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Iowa, that Obama almost certainly needs to win in 2012. Joblessness remains high and, worse, economic anxiety is widespread.
He also faces anger on the left, which has built steadily over the last two years and flared in recent days after the president abandoned his pledge to close the federal detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and embraced deep spending cuts as part of a deal with Republicans to avert a government shutdown.
But no one of any real stature has stepped forward to challenge Obama's renomination, and Sen. Richard J. Durbin, his friend and fellow Illinois Democrat, seemed to speak for many on the left when he suggested that the prospect of a Republican president enacting laws passed by a Republican Congress was enough to put down any serious rebellion.
"Certainly, when you look at Paul Ryan's budget, that's not where they're going to go," Durbin said of the plan by the Wisconsin Republican, chairman of the House Budget Committee, to privatize the Medicare program that provides health coverage for older Americans.
The president's political strategists reject the notion of any calculated move to the middle, pointing out, for instance, Obama's stated support for deficit reduction during the 2008 campaign. In the interim, they say, he was forced to take dramatic steps — the $800-billion stimulus bill being the most conspicuous — to address the economic crisis he inherited.
"The notion that somehow he has shifted his thinking is belied by the things he said throughout the campaign," said David Axelrod, one of the president's chief political advisors. "That's what he said then. That's what he believes now."
But politics hardly takes place in a void, and it is notable that fiscal discipline — and its close cousin, deficit reduction — have long been a major concern of the political center. A solid majority of those voters backed Obama in 2008, but they went heavily Republican two years later, concerned about stimulus spending and the national healthcare bill the president and congressional Democrats pushed into law.
"After the fiscal crisis, the public was scolded for irresponsible spending and maxing out on their credit cards," said Sipple, who is neutral in the Republican presidential primary. "So they pulled in their belts and tried to reduce their debt, then watched as the government piled up more debt through profligate spending."
Independent voters stand apart from the faithful of both parties in another significant way: They abhor the ways of Washington, especially the polarization and partisanship that has come to surround all but the most routine business inside the Beltway.
"Independents don't see Democrats as socialists and Republicans as corporate ogres," said Matthew Dowd, who ran President Bush's 2004 presidential campaign and is unaligned this year. "They don't believe that principle trumps process.... They get along with their neighbors, have them over for dinner, sit around the table and, while they may disagree, they don't scream at each other."
They wonder, Dowd added, why Washington can't function the same way.
Lately, Obama has struck the same tone. Although his intervention was required to close the budget deal with Republicans and avert a government shutdown, Obama often positioned himself as standing astride both parties, as though he were not the nation's Democrat in chief.
He took a similar tack on Wednesday, even as he assailed Ryan's proposal and suggested his own deficit plan presented the more reasonable and compassionate course. Acknowledging that many believe Washington is broken, that decisions are too hard and the parties too far apart to take consequential action on the deficit — and even confessing some sympathy for that view — Obama nevertheless said it was possible and necessary to act.
"It isn't a Democratic or Republican idea," Obama said. "It's patriotism."
Reporting from San Francisco and Washington
Coral Springs woman orders lunch from McDonald's drive-thru instead of pulling over for police
Sofia Santana and Danielle A. Alvarez, Sun Sentinel
9:16 p.m. EDT, April 12, 2011
Flashing police lights apparently couldn't stop a Coral Springs woman with a fast-food craving.
Police say when an officer tried to pull over Roberta Spen, 64, Monday for having faulty brake lights, she instead pulled into a McDonald's drive-thru lane and ordered lunch.
The bizarre exchange happened along University Drive just south of Atlantic Boulevard at about 2 p.m., and it spawned an all-out police pursuit.
Officer Courtney Vassell pulled up behind Spen in the drive-thru lane, and got out of the patrol car. With police lights flashing behind him, he told her to pull out into the parking lot for a traffic stop, according to a police report.
Roberta Spen (Broward Sheriff's Office / April 12, 2011)
Spen, though, completed her food order, paid the bill, and then drove her bronze 2001 Chevrolet out of the parking lot and onto Northwest Sixth Court, Vassell said.
Vassell again flipped on his siren and stopped Spen outside the McDonald's, where he said she "rolled her window down one inch and said she was not speeding and she would not roll her window down."
Spen also refused to hand over her driver's license, vehicle registration and proof of insurance, then drove away from Vassell, police said.
Vassell got back in his patrol car, flipped on his emergency lights — again — and followed Spen as she turned north onto Northwest 98th Avenue, east onto Atlantic and then north on University Drive.
Several other police officers joined in the pursuit.
Although the police lights did not stop Spen, a red light at University and Ramblewood Drive did, and several officers attempted to box in Spen's car. Somehow, though, Spen was able to drive in reverse out of the box and continued driving north on University, police said.
Spen finally stopped at the Mobil gas station at 1351 University Drive., where officers again surrounded her car.
This time, when she refused to leave the car, the officers went in and got her — smashing the driver's side window and pulling her out, police said.
After a quick check-up at Coral Springs Medical Center, Spen was taken to a Broward jail, arrested on charges of fleeing and eluding, resisting arrest without violence and driving with defective equipment.
Police said on the arrest report that they found no indication Spen was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the chase, and they could find no explanation for why Spen, who before her arrest Monday had no criminal record in Florida, didn't just pull over.
In bond court Tuesday Judge John "Jay" Hurley ordered her release under the condition she submit to a mental health evaluation.
Spen could not be reached for comment Tuesday evening.
Lakers' Kobe Bryant is fined $100,000 by NBA for anti-gay slur to referee
Bryant made his comment, captured on television, during a game Tuesday after being called for a foul and receiving a technical. He says his actions "were out of frustration during the heat of the game." Gay-rights groups criticize Bryant.
Lakers guard Kobe Bryant strikes a familiar pose as he goes back on defense against the Spurs on Tuesday night. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times / April 12, 2011)
April 13, 2011, 6:15 p.m.
TV Priest Takes Leave of Absence After Affair with Second Cousin
Father Mike Manning hosts a weekly program called "The Word in the World."
Father Michal Manning and Nancy Kotowski (Trinity Network)
9:19 a.m. PDT, April 8, 2011
Man Accused of Stealing Money From Blind, Deaf 98-Year-Old
John Thomas Windsor was on parole for domestic violence and fraud at the time.
John Thomas Windsor, 41. (Courtesy Orange County District Attorney's office)
6:10 p.m. PDT, April 13, 2011
Bonds found guilty of obstruction of justice
Mistrial declared in three other charges against home run king
5:42 p.m. ET April 13, 2011
SAN FRANCISCO - Barry Bonds was found guilty of obstruction of justice Wednesday, but a jury failed to reach a verdict on three other counts that the home run king lied to a grand jury in 2003 when he specifically denied that he knowingly used steroids and human growth hormone.
Following a 12-day trial and almost four full days of deliberation, a jury could not reach a unanimous vote on three of four counts, a messy end to a case that put the slugger in the spotlight for more than three years.
Bonds sat stone-faced through the verdict, displaying no emotion.
The case also represented the culmination of the federal investigation into the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative steroids ring. Federal prosecutors and the Justice Department will have to decide whether to retry Bonds on the unresolved counts.
6:02 p.m. CDT, April 12, 2011
A new initiative offers those who tip off Mexican investigators to money launderers up to one-quarter of the value of whatever is seized.
Sara Miller Llana
April 6, 2011 at 5:13 pm EDT
Catch a criminal, keep his wallet.
In short, that's Mexico's newest plan to crack down on the annual flow of billions of dollars into the hands of drug gangs.
The attorney general's office announced the new initiative against money laundering this week, the latest in a series of government efforts to curtail the flow of money that finances drug gangs. Mexicans who tip off investigators to money launderers will receive up to one-quarter of the illegal funds seized.
But not everyone is enthusiastic about the new initiative, with some analysts cautioning that it shifts the burden of intelligence-gathering to the individual and is a risky gamble in a battle where revenge seems to know no limits.
“You have to take your chances,” says Enrique Cárdenas Sánchez, executive director of the Centro de Estudios Espinosa Yglesias, a public policy think tank in Mexico City that analyzes government laws. He supports the program but has reservations. “The risk involved is very high.”
And what if the new program unwittingly leads to more unsavory behavior? Drug gangs might use the program to undermine commercial rivals, for example, or it might give rise to insurance fraud-type schemes.
“I do not know to what extent it will provoke other sorts of behavior … or entail vendettas,” says Mr. Cárdenas.
Unrealistic risk for citizens?
Under the new reward plan, those who report crimes of suspected money laundering – by phone, e-mail, or face-to-face – could receive up to 25 percent of the value of whatever is seized, be it money or land or goods. The exact amount would be determined by a special committee.
Some say that it, like the money laundering law, places citizens in charge of functions that the police or prosecutors should be carrying out.
“This moves the burden to the individual,” says Arturo Pueblita Fernandez, a professor of law at the Iberamerican University in Mexico City. “It is not a frontal attack on money launderers.”
Some politicians have criticized the reward plan as too high-stakes. Legislator Raymundo Saldaña Ramírez told the local press in the increasingly violent state of Veracruz that the plan puts citizens at risk.
“We cannot as citizens denounce [money launderers] and expose our families,” he said.
An unwillingness to reach out to police and other authorities – as citizens fear they are either incompetent or corrupt – is a long-standing problem in Mexico, where the impunity rate is estimated at 98 percent. Only a quarter of Mexicans are believed to report crime in the first place – though that number might inch up if a cash reward is involved.
Calderón targets illicit funds
All agree that something must be done. Every year between $19 billion and $29 billion flow from the US to Mexico to fuel drug trafficking organizations, according to a recent US-Mexico investigation (pdf). Gangs then use the money to purchase arms, bribe politicians, buy off entire police forces, and intimidate anyone else who might stand in their way.
Some have criticized Mexican President Felipe Calderón for sending thousands of troops and federal police out to the streets to combat organized crime without simultaneously targeting the gangs' cash supplies.
But Cárdenas says the new program, along with several other proposals, has set the government looking in the right direction. Last June, Mexico began limiting anyone without Mexican bank accounts to exchanging a maximum of $1,500 in US dollars per month. President Calderón also proposed a law in August that includes a ban on any cash purchases exceeding $7,700. That proposal also requires businesses such as jewelers to report their largest sales.
Boy Gets Alcohol at Restaurant
Tuesday, 12 Apr 2011, 10:08 PM EDT
FOX 35 News
LAKELAND, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) - Lakeland mom says toddler got drunk at popular restaurant.
30-second spots on Oprah finale fetching $1M
4/11/2011 at 1:09 p.m.
CBS Corp.’s syndication arm is asking $1 million for 30 seconds of national commercial time for the final week of Oprah Winfrey’s TV show in May, ad buyers say.
The stratospheric rate comes close to rivaling events like the Academy Awards, for which ad buyers said they paid between $1.7 million and $1.8 million for a 30-second spot earlier this year.
The rate is being asked without any guarantee of an audience, the buyers say. But they add that many times more viewers than Winfrey’s regular audience of about seven million are expected.
Winfrey’s asking price illustrates the gaping hole she will leave behind in daytime TV as she begins concentrating solely on her cable network, which she owns in a joint venture with Discovery Communications Inc.
Several well-known names are jockeying to grab even a part of her audience. Anderson Cooper will start a new talk show with Time Warner Inc.’s syndication arm this fall. CBS anchor Katie Couric is considering leaving her newscast to start her own talk show for the fall of 2012.
CBS declines to comment specifically on rates for Ms. Winfrey’s final episodes, but it says in a statement: “The final episode of ‘Oprah’ — in fact the final weeks of ‘Oprah’ — will be a TV event,” It compares the show’s end to the finales of “Friends” and “Frasier.”
9 million U.S. adults say they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, study finds
Bisexuals slightly outnumber gays and lesbians, according to survey, which compiled data from other studies.
Ari Bloomekatz, Los Angeles Times
April 12, 2011
About 9 million people in the United States identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, according to a UCLA study released Thursday.
The estimate, which translates to about 3.5% of adults as LGBT and 0.3% of adults as transgender, was created by the Williams Institute at UCLA's School of Law and argues that any estimate of the population is difficult because there are insufficient and inconsistent national surveys.
The study culled data and methods from nine surveys conducted over the last seven years and averaged results from five of those surveys to estimate sexual orientation and results from two surveys to estimate the transgender population.
Among other findings: Of the lesbian, gay and bisexual population, bisexuals were a slightly larger group, representing 1.8% of the adult population compared to 1.7% who were lesbian or gay.
It also found an estimated 8.2% of Americans reported participating in same-sex sexual activity; and an estimated 11% held some same-sex sexual attraction, but neither group necessarily identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
The spending deal to avoid a government shutdown had been agreed to last Friday, but the details of the $39 billion in cuts were not released until Tuesday.
The Environmental Protection Agency will lose $1.6 billion in funding, a 16 percent reduction from last year. Agriculture programs are being cut by $3 billion. President Obama will lose $1.5 billion out of his new $8 billion high-speed rail initiative. And for the first time, the Department of Homeland Security faces a budget cut, to the tune of $784 million, or 2 percent below 2010’s level.
It’s all in the fine print of the House Appropriations Committee roster of budget cuts, released Tuesday. The total $38.5 billion reduction from 2010 levels was the headline late Friday, following a last-minute budget deal that averted a government shutdown. Now the details are coming out.
But even as Democrats lament the spending reductions – some to a point where they will vote against the deal – the bottom line could have been a whole lot worse for those who support federally funded programs. For example:
But Republicans aren’t putting out press releases about government programs that escaped the ax. They’re all about the sea change in Washington’s approach to spending since the GOP took control of the House.
“Never before has Congress made dramatic cuts such as those that are in this final legislation,” said Rep. Hal Rogers (R) of Kentucky, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, in a statement Tuesday. “The nearly $40 billion reduction in non-defense spending is nearly five times larger than any other cut in history, and is the result of this new Republican majority’s commitment to bring about real change in the way Washington spends the people’s money.”
In fact, the House committee scored the bill as cutting $39.9 billion in spending compared with the fiscal year 2010 budget. In the estimation of Senate appropriators, the cuts came to $38.5 billion.
Some of the cuts also belong under the heading “budgetary sleight of hand” – unspent funds that can just be wiped off the books in the name of “savings.” Some examples: $1.7 billion that was left over from the 2010 census, $2.5 billion in highway spending that cannot be used anyway due to legislative restrictions, and $3.5 billion in children’s health-insurance funds that were left unspent.
“Taking away student aid – that’s real,” says Peter Davis, an investment adviser with years of Capitol Hill budget experience. “When you’re taking money out of things that weren’t going to happen anyway, that’s not real.”
On aid to students, he’s referring to the budget provision that bars students from using two Pell Grants in one year – one for the regular school year, and one for summer school. That change is projected to save $35 billion over the next decade.
For some advocates who held their breath during the budget negotiations, and wound up with cuts but not complete elimination of funding, the final result is a glass half full.
One example is international family-planning money. The bill cuts US funding for the UN Population Fund to the 2008 level of $40 million. But Republicans wanted no funding. And they also did not reinstate the so-called Mexico City Policy, which withholds US funds from foreign aid organizations that use their own money to support abortion services.
Posted: April 12
Updated: Today at 10:27 AM
New growth industry: Marijuana State University
The latest business offshoot of a new law teaches medical cannabis cultivation at home.
PORTLAND — Ray Logan has been growing marijuana for 30 years.
Instructor Ray Logan talks about the germination process during a Marijuana State University class held earlier this month. Students Bill Lessard of Saco, left, and Rick Adjutant of Kennebunk look on.
Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer
Logan uses a cayenne pepper plant for demonstrations.
Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer
Visit the Marijuana State University website at http://marijuanastateuniversity.com
When he started, it was a purely recreational -- and illegal -- hobby, and one he naturally kept as quiet as possible.
Now, Logan is turning his experience and knowledge of the plant into a very public business: Marijuana State University.
Logan is offering three-hour workshops for people who want to learn how to grow high-quality marijuana in their homes. It is the latest business to sprout from Maine's medical marijuana law, which allows registered patients, caregivers and dispensaries to grow the drug to treat specific medical symptoms and conditions, from intractable pain to AIDS.
Although marijuana can grow like a weed under the right conditions, cultivating medicinal-quality plants indoors takes some know-how, Logan said.
"There's a huge need for (knowledge), and some people aren't sure where to get it," he said.
Logan, 56, taught the first Marijuana State University class earlier this month in Portland. About 15 men attended, most of them registered medical marijuana patients who want to grow their own drugs instead of paying hundreds of dollars an ounce to registered caregivers or licensed dispensaries.
"We'd like to double that (class size), but we were very happy. It was our first time out," he said.
His second workshop is scheduled for May 7 in Auburn, and he plans to hold future classes in Augusta, Biddeford and Portland.
Marijuana State University is mostly a one-man show, although an indoor garden shop -- HTG Supply in Portland -- provides equipment for the demonstrations.
The class costs $79, or $59 for students, senior citizens and veterans. It will be a while before Marijuana State University becomes a self-supporting business, even if class sizes do double, Logan said.
"For right now, I just enjoy doing it (and) helping people learn how to grow," he said.
To prevent conflicts with police, he uses basil and other legal household plants to teach the class. State regulators and police took note of his recent class in Portland, but nothing more.
Although medical marijuana does create some gray areas for police, "it is possible, certainly, to grow marijuana legally," said Portland police Lt. Gary Rogers.
Education itself is not a concern for the state, although there is some concern that marijuana entrepreneurs could push the law's limits.
"This program was designed to get patients access to quality medical marijuana; it wasn't intended as a business for people to make money," said Cathy Cobb, director of the licensing division for the Department of Health and Human Services. "We don't want to set up a supply network that exceeds the demand of registered patients."
So far, the state has issued 982 registration cards for medical marijuana patients. Each patient must have a medical condition specified in the state law, and a recommendation from his or her doctor.
Logan is one of the 982.
He has been a legal marijuana user for years under Maine law, he said, because of a skydiving accident in 1996 that nearly paralyzed him and left him needing daily prescription painkillers that have various side effects.
"I still get a small amount of the meds, but I don't like being on them," he said. "I usually just use (marijuana) at nighttime. It helps me sleep, takes the pain edge away."
Rick Adjutant, one of Marijuana State University's first students, can relate to that.
The 48-year-old Army veteran has been disabled for seven years because of herniated discs and degenerative disc disease. Doctors prescribed a range of prescription painkillers, which he said gave him violent mood swings.
"It didn't help with the pain, it just messed my head up," he said.
Two weeks after trying marijuana, he got rid of the addictive painkillers, Adjutant said.
"I haven't touched the narcotics in almost two years now," he said.
Adjutant attended Logan's first workshop because he wants to grow a few of his own plants and save money. The class answered all of his questions, such as how to raise the humidity in his growing room, he said.
"Anybody can grow it, but to grow a good, medical-quality marijuana you've got to know the tricks and you've really got to do your research," Adjutant said.
He hopes the school will show people that there is a legitimate use for the drug. "This isn't just fun and games for a bunch of drug addicts," he said.
Marijuana State University is based somewhat on Oaksterdam University in Oakland, Calif., known as America's first "cannabis college."
The school, which offers a range of courses for growers, has enrolled more than 17,000 people since 2007. The money it has made for its founder, Richard Lee, helped finance last fall's unsuccessful referendum campaign to legalize recreational marijuana use in California.
Logan said he doesn't see himself becoming the Richard Lee of the East Coast, financially or politically.
"My political views are definitely not attached to this class. I don't talk about the politics of it or the laws or anything," he said. "Yes, I'd like to see it legal, but that's not our focus."
Logan does share Lee's goal of making medical marijuana more public and more respectable. He recently took a reference to "higher learning" off the Marijuana State University website (http://marijuanastateuniversity.com), saying it didn't promote the right image.
"Because of things like my school, people will say, 'Oh, wow, maybe there is something more to this medical marijuana,'" he said. "I think folks are going to see what an amazing plant cannabis really is."
Police seek robbers who couldn't shatter jewelry cases
04:27 a.m. HST, Apr 12, 2011
Honolulu police are asking the public for help in catching two would-be robbers who attempted a smash-and-grab robbery of a Waikele jewelry store.
Honolulu CrimeStoppers posted on its website yesterday security video from the attempted robbery of the Zales jewelry store at the Waikele Premium Outlets in hopes of generating tips to catch the suspects.
The video shows the men — one armed with a shotgun, the other carrying a hammer — entering the store and attempting to break the jewelry cases. But the cases don't break.
The men kick the cases, smash them with a hammer and even fire a round from the shotgun, but the glass refuses to shatter.
The robbery happened at about 8:40 p.m. Saturday. Police said the men fled in a stolen silver Honda Civic, later found engulfed in flames on Lelepua Street and Leomana Place in Waipahu.
The suspects are described as being in their 20s, weighing about 140 pounds, wearing black masks and athletic shoes. One man wore a black, long-sleeve shirt and white pants; the other wore a gray, long-sleeve shirt with dark pants.
Some personnel in nearby stores say they are concerned for their safety.
Ryan Salazar, assistant supervisor at Brooks Brothers Factory Store, was working Saturday night but didn't know anything about the robbery until he left the store and saw police officers interviewing people.
"It's more of a common thing," he said. "It makes me a little nervous, just general safety around the area. Being a really popular tourist spot, they (visitors) probably feel the same way. Everyone's a little bit nervous."
LINK TO VIDEO:
Should Donald Trump and Sarah Palin run as a GOP presidential ticket?
Donald Trump could appeal to economic conservatives, while Sarah Palin has deep roots among social conservatives and tea party types. Put that together, and you might have a winning coalition.
Should Donald Trump and Sarah Palin run together as a shovel-ready Republican presidential ticket?
We bring this up because over the weekend, the ex-governor of Alaska gave the current reality-show star an attaboy for his embrace of “birtherism.” You know, the school of thought that holds that President Obama was not born in the United States and therefore is not eligible for the job he now has, constitutionally speaking.
“I appreciate that ‘The Donald’ wants to spend his resources in getting to the bottom of something that so interests him and many Americans – you know, more power to him,” Ms. Palin said Saturday on Fox News’s “Justice With Judge Jeanine.” “He’s not just throwing stones from the sidelines; he’s digging in there. He’s paying for researchers to find out why President Obama would have spent $2 million to not show his birth certificate.”
Mr. Trump is doing pretty well among Republican voters at the moment, so he would bring some political appeal into such a partnership. He’s basically running like he’s already a boss, as opposed to some of the other candidates, who by comparison seem like applicants for the job.
Since he promotes himself as a business success and economic maven, Trump might be expected to appeal to economic conservatives. Palin, in contrast, has deep roots among social conservatives and tea party types. Put that together, and you might have a winning coalition.
I know what you’re thinking: How would such a team work? It’s easy. One would simply have to promise to pick the other as his/her VP candidate. Even during the primary season, they could travel the country and campaign together. Just think of it – Donald Trump and Sarah Palin on the same podium, kicking heinie and taking names. That might create an attention vortex so powerful that every political reporter in America would be sucked into it, and coverage of all other candidates would end.
Trump could drag Palin into his “Celebrity Apprentice” series. Underlings might have to prove themselves by tagging along on a moose hunt, say, or serving as a chaperon on Palin’s children’s dates. And Trump could guest on a very special “Sarah Palin’s Alaska” in which he scouts possible casino locations in the frozen northland and maneuvers to keep the fierce Alaska winds off his strands of hair.
Which one would run as a presidential candidate, which would run as a possible VP? We’ll let them solve that problem, as it’s a subject we are loath to touch. However, we will mention one possible creative solution: a co-presidency, in which one is the titular top of the ticket, but promises that the other will serve beside him (or her) as an equal.
Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford discussed something like this at the 1980 Republican convention. The theory was that the Gipper and the ex-president would make an unbeatable Batman-and-Robin political team. But the whole thing faded away when it turned out Mr. Reagan and his advisers didn’t really want to cede much power, and George H.W. Bush got picked instead for VP.
Chicago school bans some lunches brought from home
To encourage healthful eating, Chicago school doesn't allow kids to bring lunches or certain snacks from home — and some parents, and many students, aren't fans of the policy
A Little Village Academy student cringes at an enchilada dish served at his school. Many students throw away their entrees uneaten and say they would rather bring food from home. The school, though, does not allow students to bring in their own lunches, unless they have a medical condition or a food allergy. (Monica Eng, Chicago Tribune / February 17, 2011)
3:42 a.m. CDT, April 11, 2011
Mom jailed after beating son for F on his report card
A Tampa mother was arrested after physically expressing her concern about her son's grades.
According to the Tampa Police Department, 35-year-old Day-maris Vazquez was taken into custody on Sunday on child abuse charges.
Police said Vasquez hit her 12-year-old son with wooden and metal spatulas because he got an F on his report card.
Authorities said Vazquez broke the boy's glasses, choked him and threatened to kill him.
She remains in jail after bond was denied for her Monday morning.
Officials said she will remain in jail on an immigration hold.
She will have a chance to appeal her immigration hold, but not until the criminal charges against her are resolved, according to officials.
Deficit reduction: Why it's smart for Obama to jump in late
President Obama will lay out his 'vision' for deficit reduction Wednesday, a week after the GOP released a 2012 budget proposing big cuts. He is well positioned to occupy the middle ground.
Christian Science Monitor Staff writer
April 11, 2011 at 5:06 pm EDT
President Obama’s speech Wednesday laying out a plan for deficit reduction answers a long-burning question: When will the president join the debate on how to avoid a national fiscal train wreck?
But don’t necessarily expect to hear specifics on deficit reduction. Indeed, White House officials have said that he will lay out a “vision” but won’t go into a lot of detail. Still, Mr. Obama will at least create the appearance that he has joined the debate, following the release last December of his bipartisan fiscal commission’s plan and then more recently, the GOP budget proposal for fiscal 2012 by Rep. Paul Ryan (R) of Wisconsin, chairman of the House Budget Committee.
Obama’s own 2012 budget, released in February, skirted the issue of unsustainable entitlement spending – foremost, on Medicare and Medicaid – and led to a drumbeat of questions over when the president would take up the issue. But even if Obama’s numbers on the two big medical entitlements are “to be determined,” he now has plenty to talk about: Chairman Ryan’s plan, which quietly passed his committee last week.
“It was smart for him to wait, because now he can use the Ryan plan as a benchmark,” says John Kenneth White, a political scientist at Catholic University in Washington. “He can say, ‘We’re not turning Medicare into a voucher system.’ ”
Ryan has said his plan is not a voucher system, though critics disagree. The Ryan budget called for nearly $6 trillion in deficit reduction over the next 10 years, in part by ending Medicare as an entitlement and providing “premium support” for seniors in the private insurance market. But critics say it acts more as a voucher plan because the government's level of "premium support" does not keep up with rising health-care costs.
Medicaid, the federal health-care system for low-income people, would become a block-grant program to the states, limiting the federal government’s outlay.
Bill Clinton's playbook
“What’s striking to me is how reminiscent this is of the 1990s,” says a veteran congressional Democratic aide. “The political landscape changed for President Clinton, and he then played on Republican turf. What he’s trying to do is accommodate the tide that swept over Washington in last year’s election.”
Just as that worked for Clinton politically, so too can it work for Obama. “He has extraordinary leeway with the Democratic base, because he’s not getting primaried,” says the aide.
That opens up a big opportunity for Obama with independent voters, who give high support to compromise – not grand partisan gestures. Obama and the Democrats’ last-minute dealmaking with the Republicans last Friday to avoid a government shutdown allowed the president to come across as a split-the-difference moderate, even if the Democrats ended up giving away a lot more than they intended.
But there are bright lines Obama probably won’t cross – and one of them is changing Social Security, which has many years of solvency left in its trust fund, according to liberal groups. Medicare and Medicaid are a different story. They are significant drivers of the nation’s looming fiscal crisis. Now that Ryan has put out a plan for radical change to both, Obama can jump in with something less dramatic but still claim he’s addressing the problem.
Signals of compromise
Until now, Obama has been saying that his health-care reform would end up saving money in the long run, and cites Congressional Budget Office numbers to bolster his assertion. Ryan crunches the numbers differently, and says his plan would save $1.4 trillion over 10 years by repealing Obama’s health-care reform.
Now, it appears, the Obama administration wants to move beyond the argument that his health-care reforms will save money, and is willing to contemplate further savings in federal health-care spending as a compromise.
“We’ve had a lot of savings in health care, [but] we have to do more,” senior White House adviser David Plouffe said on “Meet the Press” Sunday. “So you’re going to have to look at Medicare and Medicaid and see what kind of savings you get.”
Another major departure point for Obama vis a vis the Ryan plan is taxes. Ryan lowered the top marginal tax rate for both individuals and corporations to 25 percent. On Wednesday, Obama is expected to repeat his call for a tax increase on the wealthiest Americans, which he included in his budget. Though he dealt away that proposal in the tax compromise with Republicans last December, he is still keeping that idea on the table, almost as a symbolic marker, since the current Republican-controlled House would never pass it.
On a larger scale, Obama also faces public opinion. Polls show widespread concern over the nation’s skyrocketing debt – but not much willingness to make budget cuts, except in foreign aid (a minuscule fraction of the federal budget). Obama could scare the public by painting a picture of a nation in default over unmanageable debt, à la Greece. But that’s not his style. He likes to talk about investing in education, research and development, and infrastructure.
“Fear is the easy way to go, but if you want to connect with middle-class Americans, you have to talk about hope,” says Ryan McConaghy, director of the economic program at Third Way, a centrist Democratic think tank.
Nurse anesthetist found guilty of molesting patients
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
A nurse anesthetist faces a possible life sentence and up to $1.8 million in fines after being convicted Monday of molesting female patients after he drugged them.
Superior Court Judge Reuben Green reached a guilty verdict in the bench trial after spending about 30 minutes reviewing the evidence in chambers. Serdula, 48, decided to forgo a jury trial and let a judge decide the case to spare the victims further trauma, his lawyer said.
"He does not want to put these ladies through any more than they've been subjected to," defense attorney Jimmy Berry told the court.
Serdula was arrested Nov. 18, 2009, after a woman at a dentist office where he worked in Marietta found his cell phone affixed to the underside of the bathroom sink. The lens of the cell phone camera was trained upon the commode. Police searched the phone and found multiple videos and images from the bathroom. They also found footage of Serdula touching and sexually assaulting unconscious women at Cobb Hospital, where he also worked.
Serdula did not testify. Once a successful medical professional who leased a Corvette and a BMW and owned homes in Marietta and Panama City, Fla., Serdula's world crumbled following his arrest. While he was in jail last year, his wife divorced him and he lost his nursing license.
Berry said his client was "very remorseful."
"There's not a good explanation for why people commit these kinds of acts," Berry said.
Green did not set a date for the sentencing hearing but said he would wait about a month so victims can attend and the defense can subpoena witnesses to testify about Serdula's mental state.
Berry said he will appeal the verdict based upon a challenge to the search warrant and a motion to recuse the judge. The defense argued that Green, a former Cobb prosecutor, had the appearance of bias because of his ties to the District Attorney's Office.
Woman charged with sending 2 police officers to hospital
Sara Dedek, 26, charged with attacking two police officers and drug offenses. (Chicago Police Department / April 9, 2011)
3:36 p.m. CDT, April 10, 2011
A 110-pound woman arrested on drug charges sent two female police officers to the hospital after scuffling with the officers inside the Monroe District police station on Saturday, authorities said.
Sara Dedek, 26, who is 5 feet, 4 inches tall with blond hair streaked with fluorescent pink dye, was charged Sunday with two counts of aggravated battery of a police officer.
Prosecutors said a female officer broke her ankle when Dedek shoved her down the stairs at the station, and Dedek injured the thumb of another officer who was attempting to restrain her from fleeing. The officers were moving Dedek from another part of the station after she had been searched, prosecutors said.
Dedek, of the 2400 block of North Springfield Avenue, had been arrested for possession of a controlled substance and drug paraphernalia in the 700 block of West 14th Street. A caller reported seeing Dedek and a man both inside a parked car "shooting up" a police report states, and the arresting officers found suspected heroin, a syringe and a can that had been cut to be used in preparing and injecting drugs.
Judge Donald Panarese Jr. on Sunday ordered her held on $150,000 bond.
Donald Trump fires back after White House aide declares that he has 'zero chance' to be President
Lukas I. Alpert
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Originally Published:Sunday, April 10th 2011, 12:48 PM
Updated: Sunday, April 10th 2011, 4:46 PM
Chief Obama adviser David Plouffe unleashed a barrage of stinging comments on Trump, who has recently trafficked in fringe conspiracy theories about Obama's place of birth while taunting America with hints of a presidential run.
"There is zero chance that Donald Trump would ever be hired by the American people," President Obama's chief adviser David Plouffe told ABC's "This Week with Christiane Amanpour."
Plouffe noted Trump's surprise second place showing in a recent poll of New Hampshire voters with glee.
"I saw Donald Trump kind of rising in the polls and given his behavior and spectacle the last couple of weeks, I hope he keeps rising," Plouffe said.
Trump's focus on the wingnut obsession by so-called "birthers" with Obama's birthplace is way out of line with what Americans are really concerned with, Plouffe said.
"There may be a small part of the country that believes these things, but mainstream Americans think it's a sideshow," he said. "That's not leadership, that's kind of sideshow behavior."
Trump countered that he represents Obama's biggest nightmare in the 2012 race and that the White house is running scared.
"I know for a fact that I am the only candidate they are concerned with," Trump told The Daily News. "They are very concerned because I am challenging him as to whether or not he was born in this country where there is a real doubt."
"He should focus on properly dealing with the Chinese, the Saudis and all of the other nations that are ripping off the United States instead of making up quotes about Donald Trump," the "Apprentice" host blustered on. "Barack Obama has done a terrible job as president."
While Trump is not viewed as having a real chance at winning the presidency, experts say his remarks cut to the core of what irks the White House the most, which explains the hostility behind Plouffe's diss.
"There is no issue that irritates the White House more than the birther issue," said Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics.
"They view it as a symbol for those who refuse to acknowledge Obama as a legitimate president," he said. "The fact that someone as prominent as Trump is bringing this up is a source of real frustration."
Sabato predicted that despite the noise Trump is making, he would soon fade away.
"It doesn't mean a thing," he said. "Trump may be the only person who believes he is a serious candidate, but it all seems to be some attempt at self-promotion."
Professional clowns were not offended by the aspersion that Trump was one of them - they say it's only natural.
"The association between clowns and politics goes back a long way, so we don't tend to get bothered by it," said Earl "Orky the Clown" Tempkin, of the World Clown Association.
"Besides, Trump would fit in pretty well - with his hairstyle he wouldn't need a wig," Tempkin said. "It's pretty hard to take a lot of these politicians seriously."
5:46 p.m. Friday, April 8, 2011
Tyler Perry gives Georgia family a new home
The Associated Press
NEWNAN, Ga. — Movie mogul Tyler Perry delivered on a Christmas promise when he handed the keys of a new four-bedroom house to an 88-year-old woman who lost her rural Georgia home to a fire.
Rosa Lee Ransby, right, waved to the media, flanked by her grandchildren, in front of her new house.
Rosa Lee Ransby and her seven grand- and great-grandchildren lost their home a week before Christmas.
Perry saw the story on a local television newscast and decided to rebuild the house. He also fully furnished it.
More than 20 family members attended ceremony in rural Coweta County on Friday.
Perry says he wanted to do something for Ransby when he found out the family didn't have any way to rebuild. He says the main thing was getting her enough space for the children and for them to have room to play.
Federal judge, 103, still hearing federal cases
By ROXANA HEGEMAN
The Associated Press
WICHITA, Kan. — In a courtroom in Wichita, the day begins much as it has for the past 49 years: Court is in session, U.S. District Judge Wesley Brown presiding. But what happens next is no longer routine; it's a testament to one man's sheer determination.
As lawyers and litigants wait in respectful silence, Brown, who is 103, carefully steers his power wheelchair behind the bench, his stooped frame almost disappearing behind its wooden bulk. He adjusts under his nose the plastic tubes from the oxygen tank lying next to the day's case documents. Then his voice rings out loud and firm to his law clerk, "Call your case."
Brown is the oldest working federal judge in the nation, one of four appointees by President Kennedy still on the bench. Federal judgeships are lifetime appointments, and no one has taken that term more seriously than Brown.
"As a federal judge, I was appointed for life or good behavior, whichever I lose first," Brown quipped in an interview. How does he plan to leave the post? "Feet first," he says.
In a profession where advanced age isn't unusual — and, indeed, is valued as a source of judicial wisdom — Brown has left legal colleagues awestruck by his stamina and devotion to work. His service also epitomizes how the federal court system keeps working even as litigation steadily increases, new judgeships remain rare, and judicial openings go unfilled for months or years.
"Senior judges keep the federal court system afloat given the rising case loads," said David Sellers, spokesman for the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. Of the 1,294 sitting federal judges, Brown is one of 516 on "senior status," a form of semi-retirement that allows a judge to collect his salary but work at a reduced case level if he chooses. They handle almost a quarter of federal district trials.
And no one alive has logged more service than Brown, who took senior status in 1979 but still worked fulltime until recently. In March, he stopped taking new criminal cases and lightened his case load a bit. He still takes his full share of the new civil cases.
"I do it to be a public service," Brown said. "You got to have a reason to live. As long as you perform a public service, you have a reason to live."
Brown gets a ride to the federal courthouse at 8:30 a.m. every workday from the assisted living center where he lives. Until he was in his 90s, he climbed the stairs to his fourth-floor chambers. He works until about 3 p.m. presiding over hearings, reading court filings and discussing cases with his law clerks who handle the legal research.
In one concession to age, he keeps court hearings relatively short. But he listens intently to testimony and tells defendants to speak up or slow down if he has trouble following their statements. And, if necessary, he can be stern with lawyers, prodding them in a strong voice not to waste time.
Brown is known for his compassion for defendants, even those he sends to prison. When he sentenced Kassie Liebsch last month to 37 months for her role in a ticket scalping scandal, he told the tearful 28-year-old woman how much he and other court officials wanted her to succeed in the future.
"As an old man, it is hard for me to say I am sorry it happened," Brown told her. "I know you will do the right thing. Good luck and be well."
Brown also serves a senior statesman in the courthouse, giving colleagues the benefit of his long experience.
"He never pressures us or tells us what to do," said District Judge Eric Melgren, 54. "He shares his thoughts and we can benefit as we see fit."
Melgren, formerly the U.S. attorney for Kansas, recalled that Brown took him aside after he became top federal prosecutor and advised him that the most important decisions he would make would be the ones no one knew about — the ones in which he declined to prosecute someone. Melgren found that to be sound advice. Melgren said Brown also shares his thoughts on points of law.
"I don't get the perspective that he is stuck in the last century," Melgren said. "His views are pretty much as the rest of us."
Brown has a computer on his desk that he uses to keep up with current events and trends.
Some parties in lawsuits, however, have been skeptical about the idea of a 103-year-old judge hearing their case.
Last month Brown ruled in favor of Omaha-based Northern Natural Gas Co. in its bid to condemn more than 9,100 acres in south-central Kansas to contain gas migrating from an underground storage facility. The decision angered some of the 173 property owners affected.
"I don't care how good a guy he is," said Dorothy Trinkle, of Preston, one of the landowners. "Your mental and physical attributes diminish with age and I think there should be a cutoff date for federal judges. This is ridiculous to have him in there at that age."
Brown — who was born on June 22, 1907, in Hutchinson, Kan. — is six years older than the next oldest sitting federal judge. At least eight other federal judges are in their 90s, according to a federal court database.
He began his career in private practice in Hutchinson in 1933 and was appointed U.S. district judge in 1962. He has outlived two wives and only moved into an assisted living center four years ago.
Brown was able to play golf with his staff until 2006. Now, because of his physical limitations, his chief hobby is reading. He prefers murder mysteries and borrows Louis L'Amour westerns from his law clerk.
Brown has asked his colleagues to notify him if at any point they feel he is no longer able to do his job.
"I will quit this job when I think it is time," Brown said. "And I hope I do so and leave the country in better shape because I have been a part of it."
FILE - In this June 4, 2007 file photo, U.S. Federal District Judge Wesley Brown poses in Wichita, Kan. Brown is the oldest working federal judge in the nation, one of four appointees by President Kennedy still on the bench. Federal judgeships are lifetime appointments, and no one has taken that term more seriously than Brown.(AP Photo/The Hutchinson
April 10, 2011 02:01 PM EDT
Third graders at Astoria elementary school surf pornographic pictures on school computers
DAILY NEWS WRITER
Sunday, April 10th 2011, 4:00 AM
Once the principal at Public School 85 in Astoria was notified, city technicians wiped the computers clean, installed updated Internet filters and sent the seven pint-size voyeurs to in-school suspension, school officials said.
But the ease with which a group of 8-year-olds bypassed the city's Internet filter system has sparked worries that this could be a citywide problem.
"The concern here is that a Department of Education filter shouldn't fail the [test of] 'Are you smarter than a third-grader?'" said City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria), who is looking into the matter.
"As a parent, I hope that something like this never happens again," he added.
PS 85 Principal Ann Gordon-Chang said it was an "isolated" incident.
"It wasn't porn," said Gordon-Chang, who learned what happened last month after a parent complained. "The kids typed in 'hot girls' and pictures came up."
"When we found out, the children weren't allowed to go into the computers," she said. "It was dealt with immediately, parents were contacted."
Since the incident, the Education Department has installed new filters citywide, Gordon-Chang said.
The city can also block websites that schools deem inappropriate, an Education Department official said. But city officials did not immediately respond to questions about the filters and the updates.
Parents were pleased to learn the city was putting in new measures.
"We need better filtering to make sure this doesn't happen again," said PS 85 Parent Association President Janet Gordillo. "I'm sure if it's happening in this one school, it's happening in other schools."
Monica Major, a Bronx rep on the influential Panel for Educational Policy, agreed.
"Nothing is foolproof, but a lot of security breaches are preventable," she said. "It may be expensive, but you have to put the money out to protect the students."
James Cox, a computer and information science professor at Brooklyn College, said that no filter is 100% effective.
"There are billions of Web pages," he said. And "sites could cleverly disguise their content so they might not initially appear to be inappropriate."
But he added that the city's filter wasn't very good if a group of third-graders were able to circumvent it.
"However, if any of the kids is clever and has a 14-year-old sibling at home that knows how to hack, there's probably no system that would be secure," he said.
Sonya Hampton, Parent Teacher Association president of PS 149 in Harlem, said the solution is paying more attention to students.
"When the children are in the classroom, they should be monitored better," Hampton said. "We should have had more supervision."
Toddler Mistakenly Served Alcohol at Applebee's
15-month-old's blood alcohol level was .10
Updated: Saturday, 09 Apr 2011, 9:23 PM EDT
Published : Saturday, 09 Apr 2011, 9:21 PM EDT
MADISON HEIGHTS, Mich. (WJBK) - A big scare for an Oak Park family, their toddler was accidentally served alcohol in a kids meal at Applebee's. After a few swigs from his sippy cup, the 15-month-old boy needed a ride to the hospital. Taylor Dill-Reese says her son started acting strangely after drinking what she thought was apple juice. So, she tasted it and discovered the cup contained an alcoholic margarita mix.
The incident allegedly happened at 4:30pm Friday at the Applebee's on 14 Mile Rd. After being checked out by doctors, the family learned the boy's blood alcohol level was .10 -- over the legal limit for an adult driver.
"Nobody at the table ordered alcoholic drinks," said Dill-Reese. "So, he definitely shouldn't have received one."
The mom says a manager apologized to the family but didn't know what else to do. Thankfully the child is okay after being checked out at the hospital. Applebee's issued a statement calling the incident "unacceptable" and promised to work with local authorities and even conduct their own investigation.
LINK TO VIDEO:
Former Fast Food Manager Jailed For Beating
Judge revokes bond
6:36 p.m. CDT, April 8, 2011
Father Of Beaten McDonald's Employee Claims Memphis Police Didn't Do Their Job
Jerome Gray Says Officers Were In The Restaurant Eating At The Time His Son Was Beaten
3:38 p.m. CST, February 16, 2010
Is Your Faith Making You Fat?
1:16 AM, Apr 5, 2011
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) -- Could your faith make you more prone to obesity? Does participating in weekly church activities make you fat? That's the premise of one recent study.
Researchers at Northwestern University studied 2, 433 people ages 20 to 32 over a period of 18 years.
All of the participants started at a normal weight and the study concluded "people with a high frequency of religious participation in young adulthood were 50% more likely to become obese by middle age than those with no religious participation in young adulthood."
But Dr. Russ Dean, co-pastor of Park Road Baptist Church in south Charlotte, isn't buying it.
I think it's kind of crazy," he said. "I'm kind of offended by the notion that people who go to church get fat."
The study looked specifically at church activities which, let's face it, often involved food. We're talking pot lucks, bake sales and barbecues.
But even with the regular weekly meal, Dr. Dean says the study's finding are a stretch.
"We serve a Wednesday night meal," he pointed out. "You're here once a week. We do maybe five pot lucks a year. So you eat pot luck five times a year and you're telling me that's going to make you overweight."
Carroll Lane, a long-time Southern Baptist agrees.
"I know that being a southern Baptist we like to eat a lot ... I don't think there's anymore obese people in the church then not. I think it's just like a problem with our whole society."
More important than what his congregation is eating, Dr. Dean said, is the work they're doing.
"You ought to talk as much about the activity that we do and the places our people they go and what they do and where they're helping," he said. "The calories they're expending doing all the mission we do."
While obesity appears to be an issue for religious people according to this study, previous studies have shown that the faithful tend to live longer, be less likely to smoke, and to have better mental health status.
LINK TO VIDEO:
Research: Unemployment plays role in early deaths
Unemployment can be deadly, especially for men, researchers have found. In the new study, investigators analyzed 40 years of data from 20 million people in 15 countries and found that being unemployed increases a person's risk of premature death by 63%. The quality of a nation's health-care system did not affect this level of risk, the study authorsnoted.
They also found that unemployment boosts men's risk of premature death much more than it does women's risk (78%vs. 37%) and that the risk of death is particularly high for people younger than 50.
"We suspect that even today, not having a job is more stressful for men than for women," Eran Shor, a sociology professor at McGill University in Montreal, said in a university news release.
"When a man loses his job, it still often means that the family will become poorer and suffer in various ways, which in turn can have a huge impact on a man's health by leading to both increased smoking, drinking or eating, and by reducing the availability of healthy nutrition and health-care services," he explained.
Shor and colleagues said their finding of a causal relationship between unemployment and increased risk of death is groundbreaking.
"Until now, one of the big questions in the literature has been about whether pre-existing health conditions, such as diabetes or heart problems, or behaviors such as smoking, drinking or drug use, lead to both unemployment and a greater risk of death," Shor said.
"What's interesting about our work is that we found that pre-existing health conditions had no effect, suggesting that the unemployment-mortality relationship is quite likely a causal one. This probably has to do with unemployment causing stress and negatively affecting one's socioeconomic status, which in turn leads to poorer health and higher mortality rates," he stated.
The findings, published in the March issue of the journal Social Science & Medicine, suggest the need for public health initiatives that target unemployed people.
Campbellford artist’s cross and noose protest raises residents’ ire
Artist Brent Townsend erected a 5-metre high cross topped with a noose on his front lawn in Campbellford, Ont., to protest what he describes as "mistreatment" by the municipal government.SUPPLIED PHOTO
A Campbellford artist celebrated for his design of the toonie has drawn the ire of his community after he erected a 5-metre cross on his lawn and hung a noose from the top.
Brent Townsend knows the display is especially controversial in a town that gained notoriety last Halloween when a Ku Klux Klan getup won first place in a costume contest.
But the 48-year-old wildlife artist, who created the cross out of old barn beams, said it’s his last resort in a four-year battle with the municipality over the planned construction of a bridge. His home is slated for demolition.
“I’m not trying to stoke racial fires . . . It’s a symbol of mistreatment,” Townsend told the Star on Saturday. “It’s not a hate crime. If anything it’s a hate crime against me. I’ve been a victim.”
Campbellford resident Troy Varty said it was “bad enough” when one man dressed in a white cloak and draped in the Confederate flag led another in blackface through a party at the Legion with a noose last Halloween. The duo won first place in the costume contest.
The combination of the noose and the cross is especially offensive so close to Easter, Varty said.
“A noose represents hatred — a symbol of death through intimidation, fear, control and degradation of the heart and the soul,” Varty said. “Everyone who I have talked about it to is very upset and all say the same thing — that, yes, it should be taken down. There are many churches in the area.”
The controversial display has been up for five days across the street from the Canadian Tire where Renee Fairman works.
“With everything that has happened in our town at Halloween and the controversy, to do something like this is ridiculous,” Fairman said. “I’m not keen on it.”
The Ontario Provincial Police have received complaints “from neighbours that are upset” but the matter has been referred to the Campbellford bylaw department, said Const. Peter Leon. The display of a cross and noose is not a hate crime, he added.
“It’s obviously his property to do as he wishes. There’s no basis for a criminal investigation,” Leon said.
Townsend is originally from Scarborough but has been living in Campbellford, about 180 kilometres northeast of Toronto, since 1996. He was pleased when the town put up an 8-metre metal toonie in a local park to honour his polar bear design.
“I was fine with that. I thought, if the town wants to create a tourist attraction, and want to have a symbol, that’s great,” Townsend said.
Now Townsend has put up his own symbol — one that he hopes will grab the municipal government’s attention.
“Some people might find that image disturbing — I find it disturbing — but the idea is to be thought-provoking,” he said. “It was out of sheer desperation for the way I have been treated that I chose a very edgy subject.”
Officials with the municipality of Trent Hills, which governs Campbellford, could not be reached for comment.
Why Republican voters are warming to Donald Trump for 2012
'The Donald' has a 52 percent favorable rating among Republicans, a new poll shows. Because Donald Trump acts like the boss, voters may be inclined to think of him that way.
Developer/reality show star Donald Trump appears to be pretty popular with Republican voters right now, in case you haven’t heard. He tied for second with Mike Huckabee, behind Mitt Romney, in a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC poll that measured the presidential nomination preferences of GOP voters. And he’s got a 52 percent favorable rating among Republicans in a just-released Gallup survey.
Why is he doing so well among adherents of the GOP? Perhaps because he’s running as if he were already the party’s boss, as opposed to the other candidates, who may seem like applicants for the job, comparatively speaking.
Mr. Trump’s CEO-like forcefulness has been on full display in his recent spate of television interviews. What do we do in Iraq? Stay and keep the oil! How do we handle China’s rise? Slap a 25 percent tariff on Chinese goods! Was President Obama born in America? There’s no proof – and I’m sending investigators to Hawaii to check into the story!
IN PICTURES: Will these Republicans run in 2012?
“It’s all about leadership. You have to be able to make deals,” Trump said Thursday on CNN.
Trump doesn’t back down when challenged. In the face of tough questions from interviewers, he’s doubled down on the whole where-was-Obama-born question, for instance. He waves away evidence such as Obama’s certificate of live birth from a hospital in Hawaii and contemporaneous birth announcements placed in Hawaiian newspapers.
“He could’ve been born in Kenya and gone over to the United States,” Trump said on CNN.
He’s even summoned an Arizona state lawmaker who’s the author of a so-called “birther” bill to meet him at Trump HQ in New York. Republican state Rep. Carl Seel’s legislation would require presidential candidates to prove that they were born in the United States to be eligible for the state’s electoral votes.
All evidence is that a big segment of GOP voters like this.
“The fact is that Donald Trump is doing a better job when he’s in front of the camera articulating a message against Barack Obama’s second term in office. He doesn’t pull punches, and he just speaks very plainly,” said a recent post on the conservative Red State blog.
Of course, some of that plain speaking is against GOP orthodoxy. Trump has criticized the House Republican long-term budget issued this week by Rep. Paul Ryan (R) of Wisconsin, for instance.
“I think what Paul has done is very dangerous for the Republican Party,” Trump said Thursday.
The electorate as a whole has much more mixed feelings about Trump than does the subset of Republicans. The just-released Gallup survey notes that if Democrats and independents are taken into account Trump’s favorability rating drops to 43 percent, with 47 percent holding an unfavorable view of the “Celebrity Apprentice” star.
Given that polls show no dominant front-runner in the GOP nomination race, Trump could still do well, notes Gallup. (Trump himself says he’ll decide whether to run in June.)
“Trump does enjoy what many candidates strive hard to develop – 90 percent name recognition among all Americans ... [but] whether Trump could parlay that familiarity into voter support in primaries and caucuses is an open question,” writes Gallup analyst Frank Newport.
Fairburn, Ga. Woman Finds $189K Winning Lottery Ticket in Purse
Updated: Wednesday, 06 Apr 2011, 12:54 PM EDT
Published : Wednesday, 06 Apr 2011, 12:07 PM EDT
MY FOX ATLANTA STAFF
FAIRBURN, Ga. - Georgia Lottery officials say a Fairburn woman is $189,000 richer after finding a Fantasy 5 lottery ticket while cleaning out her purse.
Lottery officials say Rhonda Williams' winning ticket had been in her purse since the January 17 drawing.
In a statement released by lottery officials Williams is quoted as saying "“I found the ticket this weekend while cleaning out my purse. I went online to check the ticket, and I just sat there for a moment.”
A Stop N Go in Fairburn sold the winning ticket. The Quick Pik contained all five winning numbers.
Williams says she plans to pay off bills and perhaps take a vacation.
"I am shocked but very grateful," says Williams.
Georgia Lottery officials say a Fairburn woman is $189,000 richer after finding a Fantasy 5 lottery ticket while cleaning out her purse. Lottery officials say Rhonda Williams' winning ticket had been in her purse since the January 17 …
Mont. judge on DUI task force charged with DUI
John Grant Emeigh of The Montana Standard
Friday, April 8, 2011 11:45 am
Charging documents allege a Butte justice of the peace was found wandering around the police station under the influence of drugs on a Saturday in November.
Robert “Bob” E. Lee was charged Thursday in Butte district court with misdemeanor driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Lee is accused of driving his vehicle in Butte on the morning of Nov. 13, 2010, while under the influence of the methadone, which is classified as a dangerous drug, according to court documents.
Assistant attorney general Chad Parker of Helena filed the charge.
An affidavit alleges Butte police officers found Lee at the police station about 10 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 13, appearing confused and under the influence of either alcohol or a narcotic. Lee allegedly was found by police officers knocking on the window in the police station lobby at 225 N. Alaska.
Lee asked officers to let him into the courthouse because he had a wedding to perform that morning. When the officers told him they didn’t have access to the courthouse, Lee allegedly said he would perform the wedding ceremony in the lobby of the police station, the nine-page affidavit states.
Officers reported that Lee appeared to be sweating profusely and appeared confused. At one point, officers reported that Lee walked to the third floor of the police station to get paperwork even though he doesn’t have an office in the police station.
Lee allegedly told officers he had driven to the courthouse that morning, and police say they found his vehicle parked behind the courthouse in a handicapped zone.
Since Lee appeared to be under the influence, police took him to the jail to undergo field sobriety testing, which he allegedly failed to perform properly.
He was taken to St. James Healthcare for a blood draw to be tested for possible drug intoxication. Toxicology results determined Lee had methadone in his system, the affidavit says. Methadone is a synthetic opioid used to manage chronic pain or as treatment for opioid dependency.
Police found a wedding party waiting for Lee at the courthouse about 10:30 a.m. Charging documents claim police also found Lee’s driver’s license and some credit cards on the ground outside the courthouse.
The misdemeanor DUI charge carries a maximum penalty of six months in jail and up to a $1,000 fine. District judges Kurt Krueger and Brad Newman recused themselves from presiding over Lee’s case because they work with him.
District Judge Loren Tucker will hear the case.
Lee, a retired Butte police officer, has been a justice of the peace in Butte for about 10 years. He played an instrumental role in starting the newly formed DUI court along with justice Debra Williams. An earlier story incorrectly reported the Lee served as the DUI court judge. However, Williams is the DUI court presiding judge.
In previously interviews, Lee told The Montana Standard that there is no merit to the incident and declined to discuss the case.
LINK TO COURT DOCUMENTS:
Why Glenn Beck lost it
Wednesday, April , 5:19 PM
On Friday, the unemployment rate dropped to 8.8 percent, as businesses added jobs for the 13th straight month.
On Wednesday, Fox News announced that it was ending Glenn Beck’s daily cable-TV show.
These are not unrelated events.
When Beck’s show made its debut on Fox News Channel in January 2009, the nation was in the throes of an economic collapse the likes of which had not been seen since the 1930s. Beck’s angry broadcasts about the nation’s imminent doom perfectly rode the wave of fear that had washed across the nation, and the relatively unknown entertainer suddenly had 3 million viewers a night — and tens of thousands answering his call to rally at the Lincoln Memorial.
But as the recession began to ease, Beck’s apocalyptic forecasts and ominous conspiracies became less persuasive, and his audience began to drift away. Beck responded with a doubling-down that ultimately brought about his demise on Fox.
He pushed further into dark conspiracies, urging his viewers to hoard food in their homes and to buy freeze-dried meals for sustenance when civilization breaks down. He spun a conspiracy theory in which the American left was in cahoots with an emerging caliphate in the Middle East. And, most ominously, he began to traffic regularly in anti-Semitic themes.
This vile turn for Beck reached its logical extreme two weeks ago, when he devoted his entire show to a conspiracy theory about various bankers, including the Rothschilds, to create the Federal Reserve. To make this case, Beck hosted the conspiracy theorist G. Edward Griffin, who has publicly argued that the anti-Semitic tract “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” “accurately describes much of what is happening in our world today.”
Griffin’s Web site dabbles in a variety of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, including his view that “present-day political Zionists are promoting the New World Order.”
A month earlier, Beck, on his radio program, had described Reform rabbis as “generally political in nature,” adding: “It’s almost like Islam, radicalized Islam in a way.”
A few months before that, he had attacked the Jewish billionaire George Soros, a Holocaust survivor, as a “puppet master” and read descriptions of him as an “unscrupulous profiteer” who “sucks the blood from people.” Beck falsely called Soros “a collaborator” with Nazis who “saw people into the gas chambers.”
Fox deserves credit for finally putting an end to this. Its joint statement with Beck’s production company, claiming that they will “work together to develop and produce a variety of television projects,” is almost certainly window-dressing; you can be confident Fox won’t have Beck reopening what his Fox News colleague Shepard Smith dubbed the “fear chamber.”
In banishing Beck, about whom I wrote a critical book last year, Fox has made an important distinction: It’s one thing to promote partisan journalism, but it’s entirely different to engage in race baiting and fringe conspiracy claims. Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity may have their excesses, but their mainstream conservatism is in an entirely different category from Beck.
Fox has rightly, if belatedly, declared that there is no place for Beck’s messages on its airwaves, and Beck will return to the fringes, where such ideas have always existed. Because his end-of-the-world themes will no longer be broadcast by a mainstream outlet, there will be less of a chance for him to inspire off-balance characters to violence.
There are, happily, signs that the influences that undermined Beck are doing the same to other purveyors of fear. The March Washington Post-ABC News poll found that Sarah Palin’s favorability rating among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents had dropped to 58 percent from 70 percent in October and 88 percent in 2008. Her negative ratings among Republicans are higher than those of other prospective Republican presidential candidates.
In another indication of abating anger, a CNN poll released last week found that the percentage of the public viewing the Tea Party unfavorably had increased to 47 percent, from 26 percent in January 2010. Thirty-two percent have a favorable view.
Beck, in losing his mass-media perch, is repeating the history of Father Charles Coughlin, the radio priest of the Great Depression. Economic hardship gave him an audience even greater than Beck’s, but as his calls to drive “the money changers from the temple” became more vitriolic, his broadcast sponsors dropped him. He gradually faded from relevance as his angry themes lost their hold on Americans and his anti-Semitism became more pronounced.
It is a sign of the nation’s health and resilience that Beck, after 27 months at Fox, is meeting a similar end.
Report: Smyrna Officer Fired For Possession Of Marijuana
COBB COUNTY, Ga. --According to the Smyrna Police Department an officer was arrested on April 7th, for felony possession of marijuana and possession of a weapon during the commission of a crime.
Clyde Cook, 55, was arrested after a traffic stop by MCS Cobra Units from Cobb County on Canton Rd in Woodstock.
During the course of the traffic stop agents could smell marijuana coming from the vehicle, according to reports.
MCS Agents said they conducted a search which revealed narcotics belonging to another person in the vehicle. A subsequent search of each person revealed a quantity of marijuana in Cook’s groin area.
Agents immediately notified the Smyrna Police Department.
At the conclusion of the internal investigation, Chief of Police Stanley E. Hook terminated Cook.
LINK TO PHOTO:
Credit: Gaston County, NC Detention Center
Latasha Danielle Dellinger
$2 tea = 27-day sentence in jail
A Gastonia woman was sentenced to 27 days in jail for stealing a $2 glass of tea.
Judge Robert Sumner on Thursday morning sentenced Latasha Danielle Dellinger to the stint in Gaston County Jail, then gave her credit for time served.
Dellinger was locked up for nearly a month after failing to appear in court on charges of misdemeanor larceny and making a false bomb threat.
The incident that led to the charges happened Nov. 6 at the Shrimp Boat at 120 S. Broad St., Gastonia.
Dellinger, 22, and Kia Tineka Sessoms, 29, both of 213 Willow St., went to the local restaurant to eat. The women ordered water, then poured the drinks out and filled up their cups with tea, according to the prosecutor.
The larceny charges were for the stolen tea valued at $2 each.
The women voiced dissatisfaction with the service and before leaving yelled to customers there was a bomb in the building.
The building was searched by police to make sure there was no actual bomb threat, and both women were arrested.
Dellinger accepted a plea agreement that dropped the false bomb threat charge if she pleaded guilty to larceny.
A mother of two young children, Dellinger was jailed in March. She arrived in court this week in jailhouse scrubs with cornrows in her hair.
She has a previous charge of failure to appear in court from July and a charge of failing to pay child support, according to the Gaston County Sheriff’s Office website.
Sessoms was released from jail on a $5,000 secured bond in November but was on 36 months probation for a 2009 conviction for robbery with a dangerous weapon, according to the N.C. Department of Correction website. Her next court date in Gaston County is April 29.
Man who dressed like priest, stole collection plate from St. John Catholic Church in Jackson gets four to 20 years in prison
Published: Thursday, April 07, 2011, 12:35 PM
Updated: Thursday, April 07, 2011, 4:14 PM
A Jackson man who dressed like a priest and stole a collection plate during Holy Communion was sent to prison Thursday for at least four years.
Alan Fiddler, 52, was sentenced to four to 20 years by Jackson County Circuit Judge John McBain.
Fiddler, who has a history of crime, drug abuse and mental-health problems, stole a collection plate containing about $3,600 from St. John Catholic Church in November. The money was returned to the church.
He pleaded no contest in February to charges of larceny in a building and larceny of more than $1,000 but less than $20,000.
At the time of the theft, Fiddler was on parole for stealing from stores. His lawyer said Fiddler has "an enormous number of prior felonies and probably an equal number of misdemeanors."
Defense attorney Michael Dungan said Fiddler has mental-health problems, including a diagnosis of mental retardation.
Fiddler knows the difference between right and wrong, Dungan said, but he asked McBain to consider Fiddler's "major issues in conforming his behavior."
"Because of the way his brain works, it's just a lot more difficult for him than the average person," Dungan said.
Fiddler said he is an opiate abuser. At the time of the theft, he said, he was trying to monitor his own mental health medication and ran out of pills.
Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Nick Mehalco Jr. urged McBain to show no leniency, arguing that a man who would steal a church collection plate would steal from anyone.
"Nobody is safe — nobody's home, nobody's family," Mehalco said. "He has no limits."
McBain agreed in issuing the prison term.
"You've had nine parole violations, and this time you dressed up like a priest and stole from the church," the judge told Fiddler.
Shutdown threat tests Obama leadership style
Thursday, April 7, 9:15 PM
This has been a season of leadership tests for President Obama. From Egypt to Libya and now the budget, he has been called upon to deal with rapidly unfolding events, and the questions about his leadership style have followed a consistent pattern.
If Obama has shown anything in his two-plus years in the White House, it is a combination of substantive ambition and procedural caution. Add to that an innate distaste for ideological confrontation and his dislike for the demands of the 24/7 news cycle that often rules Washington’s political community.
His advisers argue that his forward thinking, his persistence and his patience have produced desired results and allowed him to achieve notable successes. But they have come at the price of doubts about the strength of his leadership and his commitment to take on the fights that his supporters think are necessary.
The battle over this year’s federal budget is the latest example. For weeks, Republicans have called on the president to get his hands dirty in the struggle to fund the government for the current fiscal year and thereby avoid a government shutdown. For weeks, he resisted. Now, in the past few days, he has dived in.
Obama has summoned House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), the two key players on Capitol Hill, to the White House repeatedly for meetings. He has expressed publicly his exasperation that Congress has not acted. He has prodded lawmakers around the table at the White House. And he has left the details to be worked out by his and the other leaders’ staffs.
His advisers see all of this as part of a larger strategy aimed at minimizing potential damage to the economy by keeping the government running and avoiding a partisan blowup that could vastly complicate what everyone expects will be an even tougher set of negotiations over next year’s budget and the future of federal entitlement programs.
Obama’s critics on the right say he has impugned their motives and used the tea party as a red herring to give him an advantage in the battle for public opinion. They argue that he has not yet shown he is serious about tackling the deficit.
Had he been interested in real compromise, they say, he would have done what he did in December, when he quietly put together a deal to extend the tax cuts passed under President George W. Bush. “Why wasn’t that the model?” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said Thursday. “He could have brought us in in January, February, March and talked to us about this, prior to getting to the expiration point. He didn’t. There wasn’t any interest in doing it.”
Obama’s critics on the left take the opposite view. They fret that he is so committed to avoiding partisan mud fights that he has been unwilling to draw bright lines with Republicans and take the case to the public.
“His instinct is to avoid conflict and to deliver on his promise of getting beyond ideological partisan debates,” said Thomas Mann, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.
But Mann said that style of leadership may have run its course, given the wide gulf between the parties on budget priorities. “I think it’s come close to the end of the line for him,” he added. “And this is a really truly fateful moment in his presidency. ... It’s time for him to engage.”
What explains the president’s approach? Everything from personal temperament to lessons learned to political survival, according to other politicians and independent analysts.
“The public is used to presidents trying to bend history and shape events,” said conservative analyst Pete Wehner. “He seems to be something of a counter-puncher. He’s a person of liberal ambitions but a cautious temperament.”
Obama learned from his long struggle to enact health-care reform the political damage of becoming too closely identified with the messy process of passing legislation on Capitol Hill. That is probably one reason he kept his distance on this round of the budget fight.
The midterm election losses reminded the president’s advisers that his reelection will depend to a great degree on his ability to win back the votes of independents, who prefer compromise to confrontation and results to political point-scoring.
Obama came to Washington promising to change the tone and move beyond partisanship. Although the capital and the country remain deeply polarized, Obama has returned to those themes in the wake of the midterm elections in an effort to appeal to the middle of the electorate.
Republicans don’t fully buy that description. They see a president who can be arrogant, preachy and condescending, whether in his public comments or private meetings with congressional leaders.
Obama set his strategic priorities months ago, once the Democratic-controlled Congress was unable to pass a long-term funding bill during the lame-duck session last year, according to a senior White House official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share some of the administration’s thinking about the budget battle.
“We do not want a government shutdown,” the official said. “It would be bad for the economy. So the question was, how do we maximize our chances of avoiding that — though it may be unavoidable. We worked back from that.”
The official said that led the president to refrain from any public flaying of the deep spending cuts the House approved at the beginning of the year, despite pressure from the left to do so. “You could score points on various cuts they made,” he said. “But to do that would lessen chances of getting a deal at the end.”
Obama might be motivated, as well, by the reality that there may be no clear winners from a shutdown. Sixteen years ago, President Bill Clinton was battling House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) over the budget, a fight that eventually led to a shutdown that badly hurt Republicans.
But Clinton had the upper hand politically, because Gingrich was unpopular. Boehner has a different profile with the public, “not nearly as threatening as Gingrich was,” said Andrew Kohut of the Pew Research Center.
One other factor may have contributed to Obama’s strategy — the recognition that this fight is but a prelude to a more titanic struggle over deficits and entitlements that will begin later in the year, although some people think it has hardened lines.
“Both sides are testing the limits of how far they can go and what the public will accept,” Gingrich said Thursday. “Each side is afraid that caving now will make it even more difficult in the much bigger fights ahead.”
Sen. Michael F. Bennet (D-Colo.) said the current talks seem “to defy the law of physics or the law of negotiation. There’s a lot of arm-waving and politicking around a very small amount of money, compared to the disruption that would be caused by a closure of the government.”
As in all the leadership tests he has faced, the Obama record will rest on whether his style, seen by some scholars as almost unique among presidents, produces productive results. The deadline on round one is coming fast.
Woman protests paddling of her 5-year-old son in Levy County
Paddling opponents urge state to ban the practice
The 5-year-old son of Tenika Jones missed a week of school and still suffers from nightmares of the woman who spanked him -- his school principal.
"That's child abuse to me," Jones said on Thursday during a news conference at the Northwood YMCA.
Jones and the Southern Poverty Law Center, American Civil Liberties Union and a state coalition want to ban paddling, which is still practiced in 27 Florida school districts, including where Jones lives in Levy County.
Jones said she never gave administrators at Joyce Bullock Elementary School permission to paddle her son. The bruises on his buttocks from the February incident led to an asthma attack, she said, and a hospital trip.
“If they don't want us to hit our kids, they shouldn't either,” she said.
No one at the school contacted her about the punishment, stemming from an incident on a school bus, Jones said.
"Every step (the principal) did, she was wrong," Jones said.
Although paddling is practiced in only a third of school districts, more than 3,600 incidents of paddling were reported during the 2009-2010 school year -- more than 100 per week, according to the SPLC.
“Corporal punishment is harmful and ineffective,” said Jerri Katzerman, director of educational advocacy for the SPLC. “It does not make schools safe, and it does not lead to positive academic outcomes.”
Alachua County Public Schools banned paddling several years ago, spokeswoman Jackie Johnson said. Marion County banned the practice last year. Twenty states allow paddling in schools.
State statute dictates the parameters for paddling and prohibits administrators from paddling kindergarten students. Jones' son is a pre-kindergarten student, she said.
It was unknown at press time if the principal was disciplined for her actions.
In New Orleans, hundreds of people marched in support of corporal punishment at a historically black Catholic school this February, arguing that paddling helps build character and maintains a high graduation rate.
According to the Levy County schools code of conduct, corporal punishment should never be given to students with a known physical condition that would cause their life to be endangered.
Jones said her son, who suffers from asthma, falls under that category, as his crying provoked an asthma attack and prevented him from breathing properly.
Shaloma Shawmut-Lessner of the Florida Coalition to Abolish Corporal Punishment in Schools has worked to end the practice, convincing lawmakers to exempt kindergartners in 2010.
“That's all we've won from 1970 to today,” she said.
Katzerman said paddling disproportionately affects black and disabled students. Black students comprise 17 percent of the public school population but receive nearly 40 percent of paddlings, according to the SPLC.
Jones said she hopes her story informs parents and forces lawmakers to reverse their stance.
“I want them to stop,” she said. “It doesn't make sense.”
LINK TO PHOTO:
Is the IRS Being Pennywise and Pound Foolish?
CPAs warn the feds are stepping up audits of the rich -- who already pay the vast majority of federal taxes.
Dallas CPA David Gair of Looper, Reed & McGraw says if you make $10-million, you have a nearly 20% chance of being audited.
"As the infamous bank robber Willie Sutton said, when asked why he robs banks, he said 'well, that's where the money is.'"
But Houston CPA Michael Parmet of Parmet, Chapman & Madison says soaking the rich won't work.
"It damages the economy in that if they do take money from the wealthy, if they do find something, what happens is it lowers the amount of jobs that are happening out there."
The CPAs note the top 1% wealthiest already pays around 50% of federal taxes and the top 5% pays 70 to 80%.
--Story by: Scott Crowder
LeBron James' mother arrested in Miami Beach
Valet worker claims LeBron James' mother assaulted him
4:28 p.m. EDT, April 7, 2011
Maryland man glued to Wal-Mart toilet seat
(CNN)-- Police in Maryland are on the hunt for the perpetrator of what appears to be an April Fools' Day prank that left a man glued to a toilet at a Wal-Mart store.
If caught, the jokester who doused the seat with glue at the Elkton Wal-Mart on March 31 could face second-degree assault charges, said Lt. Matthew Donnelly of the Elkton Police Department.
Police, along with the Singerly Fire Co. and the Cecil County paramedics, were called to the scene at about 7 p.m.
There, they found the 48-year-old victim, who called for help after realizing the sticky situation he was in when he tried -- and failed -- to stand up and leave the superstore's restroom, Donnelly said.
It took responders 15 minutes to remove the victim from the stall, but they were unable to disconnect the toilet seat from his body, Donnelly said.
Instead, the victim was taken to Union Hospital of Cecil County, where the seat was detached. He left with only minor injuries to his buttocks, Donnelly said.
Police do not suspect that the victim was specifically targeted, but that the incident was a random prank, Donnelly said. They have not received reports of glue-laden toilet seats since.
Budget stalemate: Why America won't raise taxes
Budget stalemate has many on Capitol Hill crunching numbers. With any new budget, taxes may be the real third rail of politics. Can the U.S. solve its fiscal woes without more revenue?
Christian Science Monitor
April 7, 2011 at 8:59 am EDT
It was a secret meeting in a city that doesn't keep secrets well, so the congressional and administrative officials agreed to gather at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, away from the glare of the media and anyone who might leak information. Over a series of mind-numbing days, during an intense heat wave, the principals crunched numbers and jockeyed for political advantage. The goal: taming the ballooning budget deficits of the Reagan era.
In the end, Democratic leaders in Congress and aides to President George H.W. Bush both ceded ground. Democrats would accept some cuts in entitlements, while the president would break his famous "read my lips" promise – and raise taxes. President Bush announced the plan from the Rose Garden: It would cut $119 billion from entitlements and $182 billion from discretionary programs while raising tax revenues by $134 billion, mostly through an increase in gasoline taxes.
But the package hit an unexpected roadblock. House conservatives – led by Newt Gingrich, whom Bush had believed to be an ally – revolted, joining with liberal House Democrats to block the plan. For Bush, it was "the most unpleasant, or tension filled" week of his presidency.
Eventually they did pass a budget, which raised income-tax rates for the wealthy and imposed new taxes on luxury goods and tobacco. Only one-quarter of Republicans voted for it, and many remained furious with the president. Two years later, Bush would lose reelection to Bill Clinton.
It was a seminal moment in what has been a subtle but significant shift in the politics of Washington. For generations, Republicans have resisted tax increases. As far back as the 1920s, conservative Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon was arguing that "high rates of taxation do not necessarily mean large revenue to the government, and … more revenue may actually be obtained by lower rates."
But in recent years, the aversion to taxes has become more deeply ingrained. It is more than a policy preference, more than a tenet in a party platform. For many Republican officeholders, raising taxes is a subject they simply won't broach anymore – period. If there is a third rail of politics today, it might not be Social Security. It might be tax increases.
Raising more revenue is not a part of the negotiations going on over the current budget impasse in Washington that is bumping up against a Friday deadline. Nor are tax increases part of the 10-year budget blueprint released this week by Rep. Paul Ryan (R) of Wisconsin, which would cut nearly $6 trillion in spending over the next decade and reshape how Washington works. In fact, Mr. Ryan proposes lowering corporate and upper-income tax rates.
The antitax ethos has been shaped by both politics and principle. To tax opponents, the overall tax burden is still needlessly high – the US corporate tax rate, for example, is one of the highest in the industrialized world – suppressing the activity of businesses and individuals who would otherwise use those resources to stimulate the economy and create more jobs. They say higher taxes would just feed an already bloated government that is getting inexorably bigger by the day. As the nation once again grapples with staggering deficits and some $14 trillion in debt, the real problem, they insist, isn't a lack of revenue. It's too much government spending.
"The federal government is too big and too wasteful and too inefficient," says former GOP House majority leader Dick Armey, who now heads FreedomWorks, a tea party affiliated group.
To critics, however, the refusal to even consider raising taxes is threatening the nation's financial future. Democrats and many independent analysts argue that the debt problem is just too big to be tackled through spending cuts alone, and that any eventual solution must involve higher revenues.
Yet budget negotiations of the sort George H.W. Bush presided over in the early '90s – in which Democrats pushed for higher taxes and Republicans pushed for spending cuts and they met somewhere in between – don't seem to exist anymore. Instead, lawmakers get locked into intractable standoffs in which they can agree on only a smattering of minor spending cuts, while putting off resolving the deeper economic problems.
"We've sort of lost the capacity to raise taxes under any circumstances," says Joseph Thorndike, director of the Tax History Project at Tax Analysts, a nonprofit group in Falls Church, Va. "And as long as tax increases are off the table, then spending controls are off the table, too. There's no happy ending to this story."
One gauge of how institutionalized antitax sentiment in Washington has become is a single-sentence statement known as the "Taxpayer Protection Pledge." Issued by Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), a Washington-based antitax group, it asks candidates for elective office to agree to oppose "any and all" hikes in income-tax rates for individuals or businesses, as well as any elimination of deductions or credits unless offset "dollar for dollar" by further reducing rates.
When first introduced in 1986, according to ATR president Grover Norquist, 100 House members and 20 senators signed on. Since then, the number has crept up steadily, to the point where now more than half the members of Congress have agreed to the pledge: 40 out of 47 Republicans in the Senate, along with one Democrat and one Independent. In the House, 235 out of 242 Republicans have signed on, along with two Democrats – a high-water mark, according to Mr. Norquist.
"It is a factor in every Republican primary," says Norquist. "[Candidates] know voters reward people who take the pledge and punish people who raise taxes."
Even talking about raising taxes can get a lawmaker in trouble. Recently, three Republican Senate members of the bipartisan "Gang of Six" working behind the scenes to come up with a compromise on deficit reduction suggested that revenues would have to be "on the table." Immediately, Norquist sent a public letter warning that any tax package that wasn't "revenue neutral" – that didn't include the same amount in tax decreases to offset any tax increases – would violate the pledge.
The three senators responded with a placating letter of their own, saying: "Like you, we believe tax hikes will hinder, not promote, economic growth," adding, "we look forward to again working with you and all interested parties to support a proposal where any increase in revenue generation will be the result of the pro-growth effects of lower individual and corporate tax rates for all Americans."
So far, most pledge signers have remained remarkably true to their word. If you look over recent tax enactments by Congress, the trend is clear. Over the past 15 years, according to the Washington-based Tax Policy Center, the only piece of major tax legislation passed that increased taxes was the Obama health-care plan, which will impose new levies on upper-income taxpayers starting in 2013. By contrast, some 18 major pieces of legislation have been enacted since 1997 that have served to reduce the tax burden in one way or another, either through rate cuts or deductions and credits.
The most recent was the move last December to extend the George W. Bush tax cuts. The vote came just weeks after President Obama's Deficit Reduction Commission released its report calling for reduced spending, entitlement reform, and higher tax revenues.
Yet with the economy still recovering from recession, Congress voted to extend the tax cuts across the board for two more years, despite numerous polls showing voters favored letting them expire for the wealthiest taxpayers. Several Republicans eyeing a White House run – including Mr. Gingrich and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney – criticized lawmakers for not extending the tax cuts permanently.
"I don't think there's any conceivable way, under current circumstances, that any Republican would vote for any kind of tax increase whatsoever," says Bruce Bartlett, a former economic adviser to President Reagan and a Treasury official during the first Bush administration, who has become an outspoken critic of the Republican Party's current economic policies. "Republicans are absolutely convinced that to support tax increases guarantees their [electoral] defeat."
Nor is the aversion to taxes just a Washington phenomenon. Many states are facing severe economic crunches that may worsen over the next fiscal year as the flow of federal stimulus dollars comes to an end. In response, most Republican and even many Democratic governors are aggressively slashing spending, while generally holding tax increases at bay.
According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, all of the 48 states that have released budget proposals for fiscal year 2012 (which begins on July 1) are proposing deep spending cuts in areas like education, Medicaid, and public employee salaries in order to address budget gaps, while just seven of those states are opting to offset some of those cuts with tax increases. In fact, for the first time since the recession hit, governors of at least seven states – from Wisconsin to Florida to New Jersey – are now proposing large tax cuts, mostly for corporations, which they believe will boost economic growth.
"At the state level, they've been really resistant to raising taxes, even though they've got a dramatic need to do it," says Len Berman, a tax policy expert at Syracuse University in upstate New York.
Several Republican governors, including Scott Walker in Wisconsin, John Kasich in Ohio, and Rick Scott in Florida, also turned down billions of dollars in federal stimulus money that would have gone toward building high-speed rail projects (and, critics contend, would have created thousands of jobs), because they believed the projects would create a future tax drain on their states.
"I just spent a day with the governor of Florida – he's not raising taxes, period," says Norquist. The same goes for New Jersey, Ohio, Wisconsin, Indiana – "you're going to get real spending restraint in those states."
Historically, this has not always been the case. True, politicians have never been eager to raise taxes. But in the past, when economic crises hit, lawmakers have often turned to taxes as part of the solution.
Many of these crises, not surprisingly, came in the form of wars. The nation's first income taxes were levied to help pay for the Civil War. Repealed shortly thereafter, income taxes came back permanently in 1913 with the ratification of the 16th Amendment, enshrining in the Constitution the federal government's right to collect them directly. They became the biggest source of revenue for Washington during World War I.
Lawmakers lowered rates after the war ended, but then increased them again during the Great Depression and raised them even higher during World War II – when the top marginal tax rate hit a staggering 94 percent.
Interestingly, in the war's aftermath, Republican President Dwight Eisenhower and the GOP-controlled Congress chose to leave rates relatively high. During the 1960s, Congress began lowering taxes again, repeatedly bringing them down over the next two decades – but because tax brackets weren't indexed to inflation, which was rising, the overall tax burden on Americans actually increased.
The single biggest change in the postwar era came during the Reagan administration, with the Economic Recovery Act of 1981 – which slashed the top marginal tax rate by more than half. It was a hinge moment for the conservative antitax movement.
"[Reagan] was clearly a passionate tax-cutter, and a little of a devil-may-care tax cutter, at least in the beginning," says Mr. Thorndike. But it didn't last. Just one year after pushing massive tax cuts through Congress, as his advisers grew nervous about spiraling deficits, Reagan agreed to a tax hike, followed by another in 1983, and another in 1984 – restoring roughly 40 percent of the taxes he'd originally cut.
By the time of Reagan's reelection, in 1984, inflation had finally been conquered and the economy was mending. Some former Reagan advisers argue that Republicans internalized the wrong lesson from the period.
"[T]he new tax-cutters not only claimed victory for their supply-side strategy but hooked Republicans for good on the delusion that the economy will outgrow the deficit if plied with enough tax cuts," wrote David Stockman, Reagan's director of the Office of Management and Budget, in The New York Times last summer.
But perhaps an even more critical factor for lawmakers in the years since has been a lack of immediate consequences of deficits on consumers. During the Reagan-Bush years, big deficits still had the power to create a sense of fiscal emergency: They were seen as a drag on the economy and, coming at a time of high inflation and high interest rates, they added to the pressure to control budgets in whatever way possible. Today, that's not the case.
"In the last 25 years or so, we've had relatively low interest rates," says Mr. Bartlett. As a result, "whatever logical linkage people had in their minds between deficits and things that affect things in their lives has been broken." Without that direct link, even lawmakers who might be somewhat sympathetic to fiscal arguments for raising taxes have had far less incentive to risk the political consequences of such a move.
And lately, the likelihood of political consequences has only increased. As tea party and other activist groups target Republican members who fail to uphold conservative economic principles, they are making lawmakers less willing to stray from fiscal orthodoxy.
"The members who try to approach this thing intellectually and honestly – they get called out," says political analyst Charlie Cook of the Cook Political Report. "More traditional, mainstream Republicans – they are being terrorized, and it is affecting behavior."
The defeat last spring of Utah Sen. Bob Bennett was a case in point – and one that reverberated through Republican circles. Many activists saw Mr. Bennett, despite an American Conservative Union ranking of 84 percent, as insufficiently committed to smaller government, as evidenced by his support for the Wall Street bailout and his unapologetic use of earmarks. The Club for Growth, a small-government, antitax group in Washington, decided to try to pick him off.
"Bennett was seen as part of the problem," says David Keating, the club's executive director. "We were the only group to spend any money – we spent about $200,000, which, when you think about it, is extremely cheap." Bennett was slow to perceive the danger, and wound up losing the primary contest to tea party favorite Mike Lee, who went on to win the general election. The Club for Growth also played a key role in defeating former Gov. Charlie Crist in the Florida Senate race and pushing former Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania out of the GOP and eventually out of Congress.
According to Mr. Keating, the total amount of money the club has spent on elections, through its various political arms, has nearly tripled in the past decade – from $8.7 million in the 2002 cycle to just over $23 million in the last cycle. And its overall influence may be far greater. Like Americans for Tax Reform – which pressures candidates to sign its "no new taxes" pledge during the campaign and then monitors their votes and public statements to make sure they comply – the club has become a kind of guardian of Republican values, whose stamp of approval (or disapproval) can be critical.
This time around, conservative activists are looking hard at GOP Sens. Richard Lugar in Indiana and Orrin Hatch in Utah. Notably, Mr. Lugar is one of the few Republican senators who has refused to sign ATR's "no new taxes" pledge. Keating notes that Senator Hatch, feeling the pressure, is now "voting to the right of most every senator." Still, he says, "you have to look at his whole record. We're not really sure if he's had a genuine change of heart."
One question is whether many grass-roots conservatives, particularly tea party conservatives, are driven more by antitax sentiments or by concerns about the deficit – and more important, if they'd be willing at some point to sacrifice one priority for the other. Leaders insist it's a false choice – that the best way to reduce the deficit is by slashing spending and stimulating the economy through lower taxes, and that you won't get one without the other. They also believe high tax revenues reduce the incentive for lawmakers to make hard spending choices.
"When countries have tried to reduce the deficit with tax increases plus budget restraint, it never works," says Norquist.
Yet tax cuts don't automatically lead to spending cuts: The growth of the tea party movement can be traced in part to frustration with the Republican Party's failure to rein in spending under President Bush – despite his many tax cuts – as well as anger at the Obama administration's policies.
"Quite frankly, the Republican Party for the last seven or eight years prior to the last election was pretty disappointing to small-government conservatives," says Mr. Armey.
In fact, there are some indications the public at large may be softening in overall attitudes toward taxes. Since the end of World War II, Gallup has asked Americans every year whether the amount they pay in federal taxes is too much, about right, or too little. Consistently, the top answer has been "too much" – until recently, when pluralities began saying their taxes were "about right."
The shift hasn't been consistent over the past three or four years, "but it's there – you see it," says Karlyn Bowman, a public opinion expert at the American Enterprise Institute. It could simply reflect that more Americans were removed from the tax rolls altogether during the recession – and thus don't have any argument with rates. Or it could reflect a genuine sense among many Americans that their taxes are not, in fact, too high.
Even among those voters who are most unhappy with federal taxes, when asked whether it's the amount they're paying that they object to or how the money is being spent, "it's how the money's being used" that troubles most, says Ms. Bowman.
David Kirk, for one, would be willing to pay more in taxes if he felt the government would use it wisely. To Mr. Kirk, the service manager for a forklift company in Burlington, Vt., that would mean putting more of it toward reducing the deficit rather than what he considers wasting it. Otherwise, he wants the government to keep its hand out of his pockets.
"I think that my family has to live within the dollar amounts that we earn, and so should the government," he says during a visit to Boston's Faneuil Hall.
Others feel the same way about state government. Dave Matherne, a salesman in Alabama for Cintas, a uniform and apparel supply company, won't be getting any taxes back from the state this year. He'll have to pay in, which angers him.
"I don't feel like we get back enough for what we pay into federal, but I'm OK with that," he says. "But the state is just ridiculous. You always hear them talking about how much they give to education, but you look around and it seems like schools don't get enough."
Many Americans, of course, want it all: They tell pollsters that they would prefer not to raise taxes or cut spending – and yet they also want Congress to address the deficit. It's one problem with polling on tax attitudes: Questions are typically asked in isolation, and thus people often give contradictory answers.
But, according to Steven Kull, director of the Center on Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland, when voters are presented with more detailed information – and given the opportunity to make their own trade-offs – they're usually quite pragmatic.
Mr. Kull's group presented voters with a simplified but realistic version of what the budget might be in 2015 and then let them make their own tax and spending choices. They weren't told they had to balance the budget – whether to bring the deficit down or not was up to them. The result: On average, voters reduced the deficit by some $400 billion.
The average voter cut some $145 billion in spending, with Democrats actually cutting more than Republicans. And 91 percent of respondents – including 77 percent of Republicans and 66 percent of self-identified tea partyers – chose to raise taxes by an average of $292 billion.
"Congress has gotten itself in a position where they feel various pressures, primarily from organized groups, and their tendency is to assume that the totality of organized groups is representative of the public as a whole – and that's a big mistake," says Kull. "The average person is not wedded to any particular position."
Indeed, some say Americans have never been as opposed to taxes as the national mythology would suggest. "We've got remarkably high compliance rates," says Mr. Thorndike of the Tax History Project. "You might just as well marvel that Americans have been as willing as they are to pay taxes."
At the Boston Tea Party, after all, colonists weren't refusing to be taxed on principle – they were rebelling against taxation without representation. If there's one overarching tax attitude that has always resonated with the public, it's fairness.
Americans are generally willing to pay into the system as long as they feel it is working for them and that everyone else is also paying their fair share. It's when they sense others are scamming the system, or finding ways around it, that trust – and tolerance for taxation – evaporates.
In the past, politicians have effectively used this argument to push for tax reform and to raise new revenue. President Franklin Roosevelt was a master at this, defending a series of tax increases, largely on the rich, in the name of battling tax avoiders. Reagan also relied on a sense of public outrage when selling his 1986 tax reform bill.
That bill – which eliminated loopholes and deductions, broadening the tax base while also lowering rates – was similar in some ways to the tax proposals recently offered by the Deficit-Reduction Commission, and now being considered by the Gang of Six in the Senate.
Still, unless the changes come in a "revenue neutral" package, as in 1986, it's hard to see how they would pass the GOP-controlled House. And Democrats and many independent analysts say a package without more tax revenue won't do enough to solve the deficit problem this time.
America has faced serious fiscal challenges before. But what makes this situation unusual is both the scope of the problem – historic deficits and debt levels, which are only projected to worsen as the Baby Boom generation ages – and the fact that it is happening at a time when political resistance to raising taxes appears stronger than ever.
As a result, the country may be about to embark on its grandest test yet of a bedrock conservative principle – the idea that nation's wildly unbalanced bank account can be fixed largely by spending cuts alone.
If successful, it could lead to a wholesale change in the size and function of government. If not, it could lead to fiscal peril – and perhaps another revolt at the ballot box.
• Carmen K. Sisson contributed to this report from Mobile, Ala., and Ilana Kowarski from Boston.
Report: Bushnell woman stole from in-laws to support multimillion-dollar gambling habit
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
BROOKSVILLE — A Sumter County woman has been arrested and accused of stealing more than $500,000 from her in-laws to support a gambling habit that saw her spend more than $14 million at a Tampa casino over two years.
The Hernando County Sheriff's Office gave this account: The family of a Brooksville couple knew something was wrong when a check written to a dentist on the couple's account bounced.
Family members knew the couple — Laverne Robert Dennison, 88, and Janet A. Dennison, 73, who has advanced-stage dementia — had sufficient funds to cover the check.
They checked with the bank and learned that the Dennisons' assets — including savings and checking accounts, CDs, annuities, life insurance and retirement funds — had been depleted. The family then reported the incident to law enforcement.
After a five-month investigation, Hernando detectives on Tuesday arrested Jennifer Dennison, 42, of Bushnell on various theft-related charges.
Detective Irene Gray learned during her investigation that Scott Dennison had power of attorney for his parents; however, Jennifer Dennison, his wife, handled all the finances.
Investigators said that Scott Dennison did not know that his wife had canceled all his parents' accounts, transferred funds and then took the cash to support her gambling habit until the check to the dentist bounced last August.
Jennifer Dennison, the report stated, spent more than $14 million at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tampa over a two-year period. Her winnings' were about $13 million, leaving her at a loss of more than $700,000.
Jennifer Dennison closed at least six of her in-laws' accounts and took approximately $513,535, leaving them with nothing, the report states.
Jennifer Dennison surrendered to Detective Gray on Tuesday. She faces charges of exploitation of the elderly, organized scheme to defraud, forgery of checks and uttering forged checks. She was being held at the Hernando County Detention Center on $64,000 bail.
[Last modified: Apr 06, 2011 08:03 AM
Kristi E. Swartz
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
It all started with a man trying to blow his nose.
He was using paper towels off of the maintenance cart at the Ashby MARTA station, however, and that’s when the police got involved.
Alfred Murphy and another man walked up to one of the maintenance carts at the MARTA station Monday afternoon, according to a police report. Murphy grabbed some paper towels from the cart and began blowing his nose.
A MARTA police officer saw Murphy and told him he couldn’t take those paper towels – they didn’t belong to him, a police report said.
Murphy kept on pulling the paper towels from the cart – and blowing his nose.
The officer again told Murphy to stop.
Murphy continued, saying because he paid his MARTA fare, he was entitled to the items on the cart, the police report said.
The officer asked Murphy to leave. Murphy instead went to a MARTA police phone and “began to make incoherent statements about being assaulted and officers trying to kill him,” the police report said.
The MARTA police officer called for assistance.
Murphy “then became violent and began to struggle while holding on to the telephone receiver,” the police report said. He hit one officer in the face, cutting part of his forehead and area under his right eye, the report said.
Murphy also punched the other officer in the nose, causing it to bleed, according to the report.
Officers arrested Murphy and discovered he was on probation.
He was booked in the Fulton County Jail around 2 a.m. on two charges of battery, obstruction and hindering of a law enforcement officer and criminal trespassing.
He remained in the jail Tuesday afternoon.
MARTA spokesman Lyle Harris said the officers did not use excessive force in dealing with Murphy.
“The incident in question, which includes charges of battery against a police officer, is a criminal matter that will ultimately be decided in the courts. We haven’t received any complaints about the use of excessive force in this case. If we do, we would investigate it thoroughly,” he said.
“MARTA officers aggressively patrol our stations, facilities and vehicles, and are required to use their best judgment and discretion at all times.”
Gadhafi, in letter, asks Obama to end air strikes
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi has appealed directly to President Barack Obama to halt what the Libyan leader called "an unjust war," and wished Obama good luck in his bid for re-election next year.
"You are a man who has enough courage to annul a wrong and mistaken action," Gadhafi wrote in the letter that was sent to the State Department and forwarded immediately to the White House, according to a U.S. official who has seen the letter. "I am sure that you are able to shoulder the responsibility for that."
"To serving world peace ... Friendship between our peoples ... and for the sake of economic, and security cooperation against terror, you are in a position to keep Nato (NATO) off the Libyan affair for good," Gadhafi wrote.
White House press secretary Jay Carney confirmed that the White House received a letter from Gadhafi.
As for Gadhafi's call for a ceasefire, Carney appeared to dismiss it for now.
"The conditions the president laid out are clear," Carney told reporters traveling with Obama to New York Wednesday afternoon.
In the letter, received earlier Wednesday, Gadhafi says his country had been hurt more morally than physically by the NATO campaign and that a democratic society could not be built through missiles and aircraft. He also repeated his claim that his foes are members of the al-Qaida terrorist network.
Addressing Obama as "our son" and "excellency," Gadhafi said that his country had been hurt more "morally" than "physically" by the NATO campaign. He
The letter, composed in formal but stilted English, includes numerous spelling and grammatical errors.
"Our dear son, Excellency, Baraka Hussein Abu oumama, your intervention is the name of the U.S.A. is a must, so that Nato (NATO) would withdraw finally from the Libyan affair," Gadhafi wrote. "Libya should be left to Libyans within the African union frame."
Gadhafi said his country had already been unfairly subjected to "a direct military armed aggression" ordered by then-President Ronald Reagan, who famously called the leader the "Mad Dog of the Middle East," in 1986, as well as earlier rounds of U.S. and international sanctions.
Although he listed a litany of complaints, Gadhafi said he bears no ill will toward Obama.
"We have been hurt more morally (than) physically because of what had happened against us in both deeds and words by you," he wrote. "Despite all this you will always remain our son whatever happened. We still pray that you continue to be president of the U.S.A. We Endeavour and hope that you will gain victory in the new election campaigne."
The letter, dated April 5, 2011 in Tripoli is signed by "Mu'aumer Qaddaffi, Leader of the Revolution."
April 06, 2011 01:47 PM EDT
Police find stolen cash under Miami woman's wig
10:05 AM, Apr 6, 2011
WTSP 10 News
HOLLYWOOD, Florida (AP) -- A 20-year-old woman is accused of stealing more than $1,600 in cash from a man staying at a beach-side hotel, and hiding it under her wig.
Police officers stopped Esther Armbrister on Hollywood Beach Monday after the victim told them she had stolen the money from his shorts pocket.
Armbrister turned out her pockets to show officers she didn't have the cash. Then, she showed an officer she wasn't hiding the money in her bra. But the officer noticed something unusual about Armbrister's glued-on wig. When it was removed, officers found 15 $100 bills and six $20 bills.
She was arrested on charges of grand theft and resisting an officer without violence. Armbrister is being held without bail in the Broward County Jail. No attorney was listed for her.
SLIDESHOW OF PHOTOS:
Detroit mom in standoff puts spotlight on medical care for kids
Maryanne Godboldo, right, is embraced during a rally Saturday at Hartford Memorial Baptist Church in Detroit. Godboldo is facing charges including three counts each of assault with a dangerous weapon and resisting and obstructing a police officer. / ROB WIDDIS/Special to the Free Press
DETROIT FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER
Her situation has sparked debate on hot-button issues: traditional medicine versus holistic treatments and state involvement in medical care of children.
Supporters said Maryanne Godboldo was a mother fighting for the right to control her daughter's medical treatment. Some even said the Detroit woman was defending her home from a perceived unlawful entry when police tried to break down doors to get her daughter.
Authorities, however, have accused Godboldo, 56, of firing a gun at police officers while they tried to carry out a court order to take her daughter. She is charged with several crimes as a result of the hours-long standoff last month, in which she barricaded herself and the 13-year-old in their home.
Her case has sparked an outpouring of community support, with hundreds rallying and raising money for her legal fees at a fund-raiser last weekend.
Godboldo will be back in Wayne County's juvenile court today. And on Friday, Godboldo is to appear in 36th District Court in Detroit in the criminal case.
A court order obtained by the Free Press shows Child Protective Services workers were authorized to take the girl into custody. The order, dated March 24, said Godboldo refused to give her daughter medicine for psychosis and was medically neglecting her.
"Mother is in denial about her daughter's mental health issue," the order said. Godboldo said her interactions with CPS date back about a year. She said she believes her daughter's problems began after a series of immunizations in 2009. She said she was weaning her daughter off a drug for psychosis in favor of holistic treatments.
Wayne County Circuit Judge Deborah Thomas -- who arrived on scene during the standoff and spoke to Godboldo by phone, helping to encourage her to come out of the home -- said Godboldo's daughter is a member of the disabilities community.
"She has rights attached to laws to protect people with disabilities," Thomas said. "We must protect children. We must protect their rights, also."
Michael Patterson, district manager with the Department of Human Services children's services administration in Wayne County, would not comment on Godboldo's case, but said failure to provide adequate medical care is considered child neglect.
During an investigation, he said, protective service investigators take many steps. Those include consulting with medical professionals serving the child and interviewing parents, other adults involved with the child's care and the child.
Removal is the last option, Patterson said.
"Our primary responsibility, or mission in child protection, is to identify children and families who are in need of services that will assist families with ensuring the care and well-being of their children," he said.
Don Duquette, a clinical professor of law who directs the child advocacy clinic at the University of Michigan, said parents have the right to determine what kind of medical treatment a child receives, unless the treatment is failing. Then, he said, it is up to the court.
"Parents are in the driver's seat unless a court, after proper process, suspends parental rights," Duquette said. "CPS just facilitates that."
The girl is being held in a treatment facility in Northville.
"I'm very anxious to get my daughter back," Godboldo said after a court hearing last week. "She's been away from me too long."
Special Response Team officers with the Detroit Police Department get in position near a home March 24. Godboldo is charged as a result of an hours-long
Judge gives 'Juror No. 799' indefinite jury duty after she makes racist remarks on questionnaire
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Wednesday, April 6th 2011, 4:00 AM
"This is an outrage, and so are you!" Federal Judge Nicholas Garaufis told the woman, holding up her bile-filled juror questionnaire.
Juror No. 799, an Asian woman in her 20s who said she works in the garment industry, was up for jury duty in the death penalty trial of Bonanno crime boss Vincent (Vinny Gorgeous) Basciano.
It didn't take long for her to start looking worse than the defendant.
Asked to name three people she least admired, she wrote on her questionnaire: "African-Americans, Hispanics and Haitians."
When the judge asked why she answered the question that way, she replied, "You always hear about them in the news doing something."
She also declared that cops are all lazy, claiming that they sound their sirens to bypass traffic jams.
Garaufis flipped forward several pages in her questionnaire.
He landed on the page where she had said she had a relative who was a member of the Chinese Ghost Shadows gang in the 1980s, convicted of murder and still in prison.
"Why didn't you put 'Asians' down also?" the judge asked sarcastically, referring to her list of least-liked people.
"Maybe I should have," she said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Taryn Merkl requested that the woman be disqualified from the Vinny Gorgeous case because of her "inappropriate" comments. The motion was granted.
It is not unheard of for people to try to get out of jury service by making ridiculous statements concerning their views.
It was unclear Tuesday whether that was this woman's motive.
And if it was, it didn't work.
Indeed, the woman was going to be seeing a lot of Brooklyn Federal Court.
"She's coming back [today], Thursday and Friday - and until the future, when I am ready to dismiss her," Garaufis said.
One thousand prospective jurors have filled out questionnaires for the Basciano case, approaching the Eastern District of New York record of 1,089 summoned for the late Gambino boss John Gotti's trial 20 years ago.
Nearly half of the jurors are struck before they even get to court for questioning due to language barriers, fear of the Mafia or their extreme views for and against the death penalty.
The panel members that do get selected for the trial will be anonymous and transported to the courthouse by U.S. marshals to thwart any possibility of jury tampering.
Bristol Palin earns $262K for teen pregnancy work
Rachel D'oro, Associated Press
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Tax documents show unwed mother Bristol Palin earned more than $262,000 for her role in helping raise awareness for teen pregnancy prevention in 2009.
The most recent data for The Candie's Foundation that's posted online by research firm GuideStar shows compensation at $262,500 for the now-20-year-old daughter of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee.
Bristol Palin was 18 when she was appointed as a teen ambassador for the New York-based foundation in 2009, months after giving birth to son, Tripp. She and the 2-year-old boy's father, Levi Johnston, are no longer together.
Palin family attorney John Tiemessen and foundation officials did not immediately return calls for comment Tuesday.
Palin, who still works for the foundation, told The Associated Press last year that girls would think twice about having sex if they knew how tough it is to be a mother. She said she "wasn't prepared at all" for the dramatic changes in her life since becoming a mom.
"I don't think anyone realizes how difficult it really is until you actually have a screaming baby in your arms and you're up all night," Palin said.
When she was first named to the ambassador role, Palin said in a statement she felt she could be a living example of the consequences of teen pregnancy.
"If I can prevent even one girl from getting pregnant, I will feel a sense of accomplishment," she said at the time.
Days after Sen. John McCain picked Sarah Palin to be his running mate in 2008, Bristol Palin's pregnancy was announced. Sarah Palin has not ruled out a run from president in 2012.
The Candie's Foundation is a division of the apparel brand Candie's. It has been raising awareness about teen pregnancy since 2001.
The blog Palingates first reported the compensation figure
Police use pepper spray on second grader
10:07 PM, Apr 4, 2011
LAKEWOOD - When most kids throw a temper tantrum, they get time out. In 8-year-old Aidan's case, he got pepper sprayed.
A Lakewood Police report details the second grader's violent temper tantrum in a classroom at Glennon Heights Elementary on Feb. 22.
According to the report, Aidan "was climbing the cart and spitting at teachers. He also broke wood trim off the walls and was trying to stab teachers with it."
"I wanted to make something sharp if they came out because I was so mad at them," Aidan said. "I was going to try to whack them with it."
The report goes on to say Aidan, "was holding what looked like a sharpened one foot stick and he screamed, 'Get away from me you f---ers.'"
Lakewood Police officers ordered the 8-year-old to "drop the stick." When he refused, they sprayed him with pepper spray twice until he dropped the piece of wood and was handcuffed.
According to the police report, the boy was later treated on the scene for "a red, irritated face."
Aidan's mother Mandy, whose last name 9NEWS has chosen not to disclose, believes the Lakewood Police officers should have handled the situation differently. She says police were called on her son at school twice before, and both times the officers were able to talk to her son and calm him down.
"I'm sure what he was doing wasn't right, but he's 8 years old," Mandy said. "They walked in, asked him to drop the stick, and then sprayed him with the spray... I think it's excessive."
Lakewood Police spokesman Steve Davis defended the officers' decision to use pepper spray on the boy, calling it the safest option considering the circumstances.
"You've got teachers barricading themselves in a room. They are obviously frightened," Davis said. "I think they not only made the right choice, they made a great choice that day to use the pepper spray."
Aidan was placed on a "mental health hold" and was transferred to a school for children with behavioral issues.
His mother says Aidan is seeing a doctor, but has not been diagnosed with any mental illness and is not currently on any medication.
"It's hard," Mandy said. "Do you listen to what the teachers tell you? Or do you listen to your child?"
Aidan admitted he has problems controlling his anger.
"Just kind of like whenever anybody upsets me," he said. "Like I just kind of want to tear them apart... I think it's not ever going to go away... It's just who I am."
LINK TO VIDEO:
In Leesburg, the stripper, the guns and the podiatrist
So things got a little wacky early Sunday morning in the Lansdowne neighborhood of Leesburg. And when it was all over, an apparently drunk podiatrist was in jail, a stripper and her bodyguard were unharmed, and a neighbor with a gun was the hero.
The Loudoun County sheriff’s office said the episode began in the townhouse of Mehul J. Shah, who lives in the 43700 block of Lees Mill Square. Shah, 39, is a podiatrist who practices in Ashburn at the Dulles Foot and Ankle Institute. But no feet were harmed in the making of this mess.
Instead, Shah reportedly enlisted the services of a Fairfax-based agency called Elite Angels [no web link available], and an Angel, with security guard, was dispatched to Lansdowne. But, apparently “highly intoxicated” according to the sheriff’s office, Shah demanded more than just dancing from the Angel, who demurred. Shah allegedly responded by pulling out his shotgun.
The Angel, a 29-year-old Fairfax woman, fled, followed by Shah, who allegedly fired off one round in the direction of her and her bodyguard. The ruckus, at 12:40 a.m., roused the neighbors, and, this being Virginia, one neighbor promptly appeared with his own weapon. Rather than a duel in the parking lot, the neighbor was able to convince Shah to put his gun down, Investigator Vince Dibenedetto said, and deputies arrived to take him to jail.
And there Shah remains, without bond, on a felony charge of abduction by force and the misdemeanors of reckless handling of a firearm, brandishing a firearm, firing a weapon within a public right of way and firing within 100 yards of a building.
“Sounds like a mixture of alcohol and bad judgment,” Dibenedetto observed.
LINK TO PHOTO:
PD: Woman hit daughter with car
Credit: Surprise Police Department
April 5, 2011 at 10:56 AM
Updated today at 1:55 PM
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Surprise police officers arrested a Glendale mother after she allegedly hit her 17-year-old daughter with her car.
According to Sgt. Mark Ortega with the Surprise Police Department, Sylvia Aranda, 37, and her daughter were in a heated argument Friday when Aranda pulled over near Greenway and El Mirage roads to let the girl out of the car.
Witnesses said Aranda then drove her 2006 Chrysler onto the sidewalk, hit the teen with the front passenger tire and drove away.
Ortega said Aranda returned to the scene while police and fire personnel were treating the victim for minor injuries. The teen was released to a family member.
Aranda was interviewed and placed under arrest. She was then transported and booked into Fourth Avenue Jail on one count of aggravated assault-domestic violence.
She has since been released due to a lack of probable cause. No charges have been filed at this time.
Mum ties hit estranged husband with bill for son's $60-a-week McDonald's habit
April 04, 2011 12:00AM
The woman's son will have to cut back on his McDonald's intake after the court cut back her claim from $1400 a week to $800 Source: Herald Sun
A COURT has told a mum she can no longer expect to fund her son's $60-a-week McDonald's habit.
The woman, in court seeking spousal maintenance, sought $1400 per week for living expenses for her and two of her children, who still live at home.
She told the Federal Magistrates' Court, sitting in Victoria, that her teenage son had a "Macca's habit".
But federal magistrate Evelyn Bender said the woman had to alter her lifestyle.
"There is no doubt in my mind that the amount claimed by the wife by way of weekly discretionary expenditure in her financial statement is excessive," Ms Bender said.
"She can no longer expect to live as she may have prior to separation, paying $100 per week in gifts, $150 on jeans for (the youngest child) as well as financing his 'Macca's habit' and providing him with generous amounts of pocket money."
In an interim decision on spousal maintenance, Ms Bender ordered that the husband pay the wife $800 per week.
The court heard that, before the couple split, the husband had given the wife $800 per week for food, clothing, medical expenses and other expenses.
But last March, he reduced the payment to $300 per week.
The wife claimed that since then she had exhausted $24,000 in savings on daily living costs.
She said weekly expenses were $1800, including costs associated with the care of their disabled child.
Ms Bender said the wife was challenged in court about some of the amounts claimed by her, including $100 for telephone, $100 for children's activities, $100 for entertainment/hobbies and $100 for medical/dental.
The woman said her expenses included $200 per week for clothes and shoes.
She said her teenage son's casual clothing was expensive, with jeans costing $150 per pair.
Ms Bender said that when challenged as to why she couldn't buy less expensive brands, she replied "well I could but he wouldn't have what his mates have".
She also told the court she needed $100 a week to buy gifts as her family had a tradition of gift giving.
The husband argued that expenses of $1800 per week were grossly inflated and that he could not afford to pay more than $300 a week.
Ms Bender said she was satisfied the husband could reasonably pay $800 a week.
It Was Only A Matter Of Time: Sarah Palin, The E! True Hollywood Story
Former Republican vice presidential candidate and former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin is about to get the tabloid documentary treatment from E!, according to the network. A network spokesperson tells Mediaite the E! True Hollywood Story: Sarah Palin is set to air April 24.
Known for dramatic tales of celebrity murder mysteries, and the cautionary tales of porn stars and child actors, the E! True Hollywood Story is more about celebrity than politics.
This week’s THS, airing Wednesday night, is all about Charlie Sheen. It’s called “Warlocks and Winning and Tiger’s Blood, Oh My!” And that style of storytelling has some of Palin’s supporters worried about how she’ll be portrayed. “E! is doing a “True Hollywood Story” on Sarah Palin …that sounds like a media-bias nightmare. Should Palin supporters ‘be afraid — be very afraid’?” Hot Air’s Ed Morrissey asked John Ziegler, who has licensed an interview of Palin for use in the E! story.
Ziegler, who produced the election documentary Media Malpractice: How Obama Got Elected and Palin Was Targeted says he has high hopes for Palin’s THS:
I totally agree that on paper this would seem to be a disaster waiting to happen. After all, Hollywood tends to be at least as politically biased as the news media, but I have a feeling Palin supporters might be pleasantly surprised.
I could be wrong and I have been fooled before by lefty media members pretending they will be fair to get access (Howard Kurtz immediately comes to mind), but the E! producer I dealt with on this was far more knowledgeable about what really happened to Palin during the 2008 campaign than any mainstream media member I have been interviewed by since the film came out, including Matt Lauer and Barbara Walters.
E! expects to formally announce the Sarah Palin “True Hollywood Story” this week.
One Dead, Two Arrested in Apple Store Burglary Attempt at Otay Ranch Town Center
San Diego 6 News Team
SAN DIEGO - Police say a private security guard fatally shot a suspect carrying out a smash-and-grab burglary at the Otay Ranch Town Center in Chula Vista.
The guard caught two men and a woman smashing the front glass of the Apple Store apparently to grab iPads, iPhones and other hot-ticket items.
Chula Vista Police Chief David Bejarano says two men and a woman drove to the store just before 7 a.m. Monday. The woman stayed in the car while the two men smashed the store's window and grabbed items when the guard confronted them.
The guard says he opened fire when one of the men pulled a gun.
The suspects drove away but crashed into a light pole.
Bejarano says the driver died from a gunshot wound to the head. The two other suspects were found an hour later.
The second male suspect and female were arrested at a nearby apartment complex. Both were described as being in their mid-20s.
Several nearby schools were put on lockdown while a police helicopter circled nearby neighborhoods advising residents from a public address system to stay inside with doors locked.
LINK TO VIDEO AND PHOTO:
Milwaukee earns dubious distinction of most segregated city in America
Milwaukee beat cities like Detroit, and Cleveland to earn top rank
4:00 p.m. CDT, April 1, 2011
New census data shows Milwaukee is the most segregated city in America, and many are not surprised by this information. This new data has long been the perception, since the city is regularly ranks among the top segregated cities in America. The uncomfortable topic of race is now unavoidable after Milwaukee has been named the most segregated in America.
Milwaukee now has a new way to start tough conversations about race. According to the latest census data Milwaukee beat New York City, Chicago, Detroit, and Cleveland for the dubious honor of being America's most segregated city.
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett says the reason for this is rooted in the region's economic and political history. "We've got housing policies, zoning policies, steering that occurs in real estate industry. Historically that offers, and I think there are still some people who don't want to live with people who have different skin colors than theirs."
Stephanie Harling from Milwaukee predominately white neighborhood Bay View says, "Right now in Milwaukee, there are segregated areas of poverty, and unfortunately that translates to race in Milwaukee as well."
The latest census data shows that 90% of the black population in Milwaukee's metro area, which spans four counties, lives on the north side of Milwaukee.
Mayor Barrett also says the history of suburban opposition of affordable housing means black people are more likely to live in the City of Milwaukee.
LINK TO VIDEO:
Katie Couric to give up 'CBS Evening News' anchor desk, expected to launch talk show in 2011
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Monday, April 4th 2011, 4:00 AM
Katie Couric is giving up her anchor's desk at the "CBS Evening News," according to a report early Monday.
Couric, who five years ago became the first woman appointed solo anchor of a network nightly newscast, is expected to announce she is giving up her prized post soon, a network executive told the Associated Press.
The 54-year-old newswoman's contract is set to end June 4.
"We're having ongoing discussions with Katie Couric," said CBS News spokeswoman Sonya McNair Sunday. Matthew Hiltzik, Couric's spokesman, refused to comment.
Couric, the widowed mother of two daughters, is expected to launch a syndicated talk show in 2012, but for which broadcasting company is unclear.
Several companies have been wooing her, including CBS.
She made television history in 2006 when she replaced Dan Rather as anchor of the "CBS Evening News." She signed a contract worth $15 million a year, making her the highest paid anchor on network TV.
Couric kicked off her gig with huge ratings and won the Edward R. Morrow Award for best newscast in 2008 and 2009.
She was praised for her 2008 interview of Republican vice presidential hopeful Sarah Palin, which exposed the candidate's lack of knowledge of world events.
But the honors didn't translate into ratings, and CBS has remained stuck in third place behind NBC and ABC.
Couric began her broadcasting career at the ABC News bureau in Washington, D.C., and later worked as an assignment editor for CNN and as a reporter for WTVJ in Miami.
While working as a Pentagon correspondent for NBC News in 1989, she got her big break when hired as an anchor substitute for NBC's "Today" show.
She was tapped as the permanent co-anchor of "Today" on April 5, 1991.
Obama about to launch his reelection campaign. It could cost $1 billion.
April 3, 2011 at 4:33 pm EDT
Is anybody surprised that Barack Obama will run for reelection next year? Of course not.
For months, Republican presidential hopefuls have been angling toward challenging him next year, and he’s the man to beat. And given how well organized his campaign was in 2008 (not to mention the wake-up his 2010 midterm shellacking provided), you can be sure the last run in his political life will be just as efficient and even better financed.
The fact that Obama will make it official this week starts the clock ticking toward November 6, 2012 – a mere 583 days from now.
As soon as Monday, he’s expected to file papers with the Federal Election Commission for a campaign operation now forming in Chicago.
“Former West Wing staffer Jim Messina, Obama’s likely campaign manager, has been holding donor meetings around the country, and the president is scheduled to hold a series of fundraisers in New York and California over the next few weeks,” reports Politico.com. “The campaign is expected to raise $750 million to $1 billion.”
That would make his the most expensive campaign in US election history. And there’ll be more in the form of independent outfits of the type so successfully formed and operated by Karl Rove.
“Earlier in March, a Rove-advised group, Crossroads GPS, spent $750,000 in one-week for an anti-union national cable buy slamming Obama,” writes long-time Obama watcher Lynn Sweet, Washington bureau chief for the Chicago Sun-Times. “These early spots will be Obama hits masquerading as ‘issue’ ads, trying to soften up Obama while the many GOP presidential contenders fight it out in their primaries.”
“Because of the outside money threat, the Obama team, which discouraged independent spending for Obama in 2008, is open to it in 2012,” Sweet writes.
Becoming a campaigner on his own behalf finds Obama in a semi-comfortable position.
The economy is recovering, if slowly. Last week’s employment news helps. And the likely GOP challengers are still jostling for position – those who haven’t already dimmed their chances with verbal faux pas, a shopworn image, or general weirdness.
At the same time, the war Obama inherited – Afghanistan – is now fully his own and seems to have no end in sight. And the conflict in Libya – “Obama’s war” for sure – could turn out messy as well, even though the administration has tried to turn it over to NATO and regional allies as quickly as possible.
Obama spent much of his first year dwelling on health care reform, the outcome of which was not particularly gratifying for his base while providing a major target for “Obamacare” haters.
Liberal columnist E. J. Dionne of the Washington Post recently tweaked Obama for failing to push his own priorities in the congressional budget brawl at a time when GOP lawmakers seem intent on dismantling liberals’ favorite programs.
“The White House is so determined to keep the president antiseptically distant from the untidy wrangling on the budget that it will not even allow its allies in Congress to cite the administration's own analyses of how harmful some of the Republican cuts would be,” Dionne wrote. “They can use the facts, but not let on that the administration put them together. What's up with this?”
Obama is doing so-so in the polls. The latest, according to Gallup, is a 47 percent approval rate – including a (for him) troubling 58 percent disapproval rate on how he’s handled the economy.
On the Sunday talk shows, Republicans needled Obama for launching his reelection campaign at a time when the nation faces the threat of a government shut-down because of budgetary squabbling.
"I find it kind of ironic that the week we're trying to engage the President, the Democrats, and the country with an honest debate about our budget – with real solutions to fix this country's problems and prevent a debt crisis – the president is launching his reelection campaign," said Rep. Paul Ryan on Fox News Sunday.
"You see the president really missing in action, and you see him planning his announcement for his reelection bid next week,” Sen. John Cornyn said on CNN’s State of the Union. “And it's kind of like, where are your priorities?”
Woman, 92, is oldest to stand trial for murder
At 92, Clara Tang is accused of bludgeoning, suffocating and stabbing her 98-year-old husband to death. Now she has become the oldest woman in Australia to be committed to stand trial for murder.
After almost 70 years of marriage, Tang - suffering dementia - allegedly killed Tang Ching Yung in their plush sixth-floor unit in the Connaught apartment complex overlooking Sydney's Hyde Park on March 12, 2010.
Documents tendered by police detail how the couple survived the Japanese invasion of China and the Maoist cultural revolution before moving from Shanghai to Sydney 30 years ago.
Tang has entered a plea of not guilty to murder on the grounds of mental illness. A tiny, frail woman, she faced Downing Centre Local Court last week, when magistrate Janet Wahlquist ordered her to stand trial in the Supreme Court on a date to be fixed.
Detectives allege Tang confessed to killing her wealthy husband in a struggle. Her husband could not walk without a cane. Police initially opposed bail, citing ''the level of violence used and for the protection of the community'', but she Tang was granted continuing bail under strict supervision in a nursing home, pending her trial.
In the week leading up to the death, police allege, Tang had taken to phoning her granddaughter saying: ''They are scheming against me; they are poisoning me; they are trying to kill me.''
When arrested, she was almost totally soaked in blood, police said. Her husband had been stabbed twice in the stomach and his head had been bludgeoned.
In a record of interview, she had confessed to killing him after he refused to talk to her.
Police allege: ''The accused states that [he] and her started to push each other … started to hit each other. The accused said: 'You hit me. I hit you.'
''The accused states that she said: 'I'm getting old. If you want to kill me let's die together.' The accused states she grabbed an object similar to a jar and struck [him] as hard as she could to the back of the … head.''
The beating allegedly went on for more than an hour. ''The accused states that she put her fingers under the deceased's nose and could still feel him breathing, so she hit him again [with a stick].''
She had thrown objects on to a neighbour's balcony, telling them there was a young man she had never seen before and he was trying to kill her
Charlie Sheen's Detroit show gets jeers, few cheers at Fox Theatre
DETROIT FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER
Charlie Sheen's "My Violent Torpedo of Truth/Defeat is Not an Option" tour opened in Detroit on Saturday night with a boom. By the time he stepped off the stage a little after 10 p.m., it was an official bomb.
Wearing a Detroit Tigers jersey with "Warlock" emblazoned on the back, Sheen delivered a monologue, played videos, sat in the front row and talked loosely with the audience. But it didn't result in much of his famed catchphrase: "winning."
In front of a rowdy, often-dissatisfied sold-out Fox Theatre audience of 4,700 people, the embattled sitcom actor ranted and raved about anything and everything.
Trust me, "this is going somewhere," Sheen said as the crowd pondered his self-declared "radical" opening monologue. The 20-minute speech included many of his catchphrases, along with sayings like, "one giant heartbeat and one conscious thought."
But about 30 minutes into the show, the usual Sheen-isms started to sound old and tired. From the men's restroom to the expensive seats in front, it was a restless crowd, delivering plenty of jeers and only a few cheers.
The show had video montages throughout, including a "20/20" outtake reel that showed off his self-deprecating sense of humor. His so-called goddesses helped him burn a "Two and a Half Men" bowling shirt. Before it was all over, he asked the crowd if the goddesses should come out again. And then he asked them: How many goddesses do you have?
The show was a reminder that the pop culture phenomenon is serious about his beliefs, but most of the crowd wasn't entertained by the loose and disorganized attempt.
Valerie Piascik, 23, of Harrison Township said the videos were better than Sheen's live performance. "Wow, I am not sure what that was," she said from outside the Fox as Sheen was still on stage.
Bryan Gill, 53, of West Bloomfield said he was hoping for the best but saw the worst. "It was absolutely disappointing," he said. "Truly, it sucked."
Sheen, visibly worried that he was losing the audience, at times appeared close to becoming abrasive. He never completely fell apart, but at one point, he did tell a heckler, "Sorry dude, already got your money."
Near the end of the evening, with the booing intensifying, the 45-year-old Sheen slipped off stage in favor rapper Dirt Nasty. And then at about 10:10 p.m. -- roughly 70 minutes after Sheen's portion had started -- the houselights came on and most of the disappointed crowd headed for the exits, shell-shocked or angry.
For those who hung around, his "true, die-hard" fans, Sheen returned to the stage for about 15 minutes for meet-and-greets and the like.
WRIF-FM (101.1) host Drew Lane said if the tour continues like this, Sheen's career will be in jeopardy.
"It was bad," Lane said. "People were upset, but I don't think they knew what to expect. He's a movie star, not a stand-up comic."
LINK TO VIDEO
GOP shouldn't panic if whites become a minority
I think the picture is more complicated than that. And that the demise of the Republican Party is no more foreordained than it was a century ago when Italian, Jewish and Polish immigrants were pouring into the United States in proportions much greater than the Hispanic and Asian immigration of the past two decades.
The numbers do appear stark. The census tells us that 16 percent of U.S. residents are Hispanic, up from 13 percent in 2000 and 9 percent in 1990, and that 5 percent are Asian, up from 4 percent in 2000. The percentage of blacks held steady at 13. Among children, the voters of tomorrow, those percentages are higher.
But it's a mistake to see blacks, Hispanics and Asians as a single "people of color" voting bloc. The 2010 exit poll shows that the Republican percentages in the vote for the U.S. House were 60 percent among whites, 9 percent among blacks, 38 percent among Hispanics and 40 percent among Asians.
Simple arithmetic tells you that Hispanics and Asians vote more like whites than like blacks. The picture is similar in the 2008 exit poll.
Moreover, while blacks vote similarly in just about every state, there is wide variation among Hispanics. In 2010 governor elections Hispanics voted 31 percent Republican in California, 38 percent Republican in Texas and 50 percent Republican in Florida (where Cubans are no longer a majority of Hispanics).
As RealClearPolitics senior political analyst Sean Trende has written, Hispanics tend to vote 10 to 15 percent less Republican than whites of similar income and education levels. An increasingly Hispanic electorate puts Republicans at a disadvantage, but not an overwhelming one.
The same is true of Asians. In 2010 Democratic Sen. Harry Reid got 79 percent from Asians in Nevada, where many are Filipinos. But the Asians in Middlesex County, N.J., most of whom are from India, seem to have voted for Republican Gov. Chris Christie in 2009.
The 2010 census tells something else that may prove important: There's been a slowdown of immigration since the recession began in 2007 and even some reverse migration. If you look at the census results for Hispanic immigrant entry points -- East Los Angeles and Santa Ana, Calif., the east side of Houston, the Pilsen neighborhood in Chicago -- you find that the Hispanic population has dropped sharply since 2000.
One reason is the business cycle. The 2000 census was taken on April 1, 2000, less than a month after the peak of the tech boom. Unemployment was low, immigration was high, and entry point houses and apartments were crammed with large families.
The 2010 census was taken after two years of recession, when immigration had slackened off. We simply don't know whether this was just a temporary response to the business cycle or the beginning of a permanent decline in migration.
Past mass migrations, which most experts expected to continue indefinitely, in fact ended abruptly. Net Puerto Rican migration to New York City stopped in 1961, and the huge movement of Southern blacks to Northern cities ended in 1965. Those who extrapolate current trends far into the future end up being wrong sooner or later.
Finally there is an assumption -- which is particularly strong among those who expect a majority-"people of color" electorate to put Democrats in power permanently -- that racial consciousness never changes. But sometimes it does.
American blacks do have common roots in slavery and segregation. But African immigrants don't share that heritage, and Hispanics come from many different countries and cultures (there are big regional differences just within Mexico). The Asian category includes anyone from Japan to Lebanon and in between.
Under the definitions in use in the America of a century ago, when Southern and Eastern European immigrants were not regarded as white, the United States became a majority nonwhite nation some time in the 1950s. By today's definitions we'll become majority nonwhite a few decades hence.
But that may not make for the vast cultural and political change some predict. Not if we assimilate newcomers, and if our two political parties adapt, as we and they have done in the past.
Michael Barone,The Examiner's senior political analyst
Man calls police after adult dancers leave him stranded
March 29, 2011
An Illinois man apparently believes a promise is a promise, even if it's from two unnamed strippers.
According to a Franklin Police report:
The 37-year-old Illinois man, who was staying at a Franklin motel went to On The Border gentlemen's club, 10741 S. 27th St., on Sunday night.
The man told police he spent $1,000 on lap dances from two dancers who told him they would come to his hotel room later that morning for private lap dances "on the house."
When the women failed to show up at the man's hotel room, he called police at 1:26 a.m. Monday morning believing he had been cheated.
Cops: 88-year-old man attacked, robbed by woman he hired for sex
Tanya Ross, 44, was arrested Thursday in the March 11 attack, police said.
12:51 a.m. EDT, April 2, 2011
Tanya Ross, 44, was arrested Thursday in a March 11 attack, police said. She's accused of violently robbing an elderly man who hired her for sex, but didn't pay up. (Osceola County Corrections / April 2, 2011)
A woman was arrested in Kissimmee on Thursday after police said she sold an 88-year-old man oral sex, and then returned a month later to violently rob him after he didn't pay up.
Kissimmee police were called to the Elizabeth Avenue home of the elderly victim on March 11. The man told officers that he had been attacked and robbed by a woman later identified as 41-year-old Tanya Ross.
According to police reports, Ross forced her way into the victim's home, knocked a phone out of his hand when he tried to call 911, and then grabbed him by the throat and robbed him.
The man said he sprayed Ross with pepper spray, and she fled on foot. Officers reported damage to his front door and the screen door leading to his patio.
Police said the victim explained that he met Ross in mid-February, when he picked her up while he was driving home. The pair negotiated a deal for oral sex, which she performed at his home, police reports state.
Police said the man claimed Ross returned to his home twice since — forcing her way in both times and stealing cash. He only called police after the March 11 incident.
Investigators interviewed Ross, who they said admitted to selling the elderly man sex. She said he agreed to pay $100, but reneged after the service was rendered, reports state.
Ross said she grabbed $50 from his pocket and demanded to be driven home, reports state. According to police, she said she returned on March 11 to collect the remaining cash she was owed.
Police said the woman claimed the elderly man waved "a large gun" and hit her in the head with a metal pipe during the encounter, but she had no visible injuries.
Reports show the victim later received a letter from Ross, offering to repay his money, apologizing and asking him not to press charges against her.
Police arrested Ross on Thursday on several charges, including home invasion/robbery, grand theft from a residence, battery on a person 65 years of age or older and tampering with a victim in a first degree felony.
Records show neither Ross nor the victim are facing prostitution charges. The Sentinel is not identifying the victim because he has not been charged with a crime.
Teacher suspended for Facebook post: called kids future criminals, parents say
Stacy Teicher Khadaroo
April 1, 2011 at 5:53 pm EDT
Once again, a Facebook post has gotten a teacher into trouble.
The Paterson, N.J., school district suspended a first-grade teacher Friday to investigate charges from parents that she wrote on Facebook about feeling like a “warden” and referred to her students as future criminals, the Record newspaper reports.
“We are seeing more of these cases,” says Francisco Negrón, general counsel of the National School Boards Association.
Paterson school board president Theodore Best told the Record: “You can’t simply fire someone for what they have on a Facebook page; but if that spills over and affects the classroom, then you can take action.”
In February, the suspension of Pennsylvania high school teacher Natalie Munroe for Facebook posts about unnamed students sparked widespread debate about what’s appropriate when teachers use social media.
These cases are “emblematic of a very large social shift that’s taking place in the age of social media ... [where] the boundary between work and home is not nearly as distinct as it used to be,” says Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet & American Life Project.
When people used to complain about their jobs over the backyard fence it usually stayed between neighbors, but when such comments are placed on a social media page, people need to realize they probably have a much larger audience than they intend, he says. “It’s a public act.”
School board president Mr. Best told the Record that he received messages from local NAACP members and others worried about the teacher’s comments.
The local teachers union told the Record that the suspended teacher will be provided with an attorney.
Vicious dog report leads to pot arrest
07:30 AM PDT on Friday, April 1, 2011
A Murrieta man was arrested Thursday after officers responding to a vicious dog report followed the animal home and found marijuana being grown and sold at the house, police said.
Justin Shaun Armstrong, 25, was arrested on suspicion of cultivation of marijuana, possession of marijuana and hashish for sale and theft of utilities, police said.
Armstrong was booked into the Southwest Detention Center with bail set at $25,000, jail records indicate.
The arrest was made after police received a report just before 8 a.m. Thursday of a loose pit bull trying to attack a leashed dog being walked near Whitewood and Alta Murrieta roads, police said.
One of the responding officers tried to control the dog, an Argentine dogo, which looks similar to a pit bull, but it lunged at him, bumping his chest and threatening to bite him on the face, police said. Because the dog posed a danger, the officer pulled his gun and shot it in the head.
The officer was not hurt.
The injured dog ran into the back yard of a house in the 39600 block of Wildflower Road in Murrieta. The officers then spoke with the residents.
During the investigation, officers found evidence that marijuana was being grown and sold at the house, police said. Officers seized an undetermined amount of processed marijuana as well as marijuana plants.
Armstrong, one of two people in the house, was arrested, police said.
"He was the one who claimed responsibility," Murrieta police Sgt. Don Weller said.
The dog suffered moderate injuries and was taken to a veterinarian. The dog's condition was unavailable.
April 1, 2011
'I just reacted'
Amputee, 55, describes how he took down alleged robber
MIDDLETON — Stephen Cornell didn't think about his family or his job when he looked through the glass door at JC Grill & Pizza on Wednesday night and saw a man pointing a black handgun at the owner inside.
"I just reacted," said Cornell, 55, a regular customer at the convenience store. "I said, 'OK, I'll just wait,' and when he tries to come out of the store, I was going to jump him. He just came out so fast I tripped him, and he tripped me and I fell, and he fell."
Cornell, who has a prosthetic leg and recently underwent shoulder surgery, said he actually intended to tackle the suspect, not trip him.
"He stumbled and fell, and God, when I was on the ground I was thinking, 'Oh, my God, the next thing you know, he's going to shoot me.'"
In the meantime, convenience store owner Edson Andrade had come around the counter and ran outside to help.
The suspect, whom police identified as Eric F. Homen, 23, of 7 Raymond Circle, Peabody, got up and fled with the pistol, which turned out to be an air-powered pellet gun, police said.
"He was shooting, and he was firing the BB gun at (Andrade)," Cornell said.
Turning to shoot forced Homen to slow down, Cornell said, and Andrade, who was not hit by the pellets, tackled the suspect, pinning him in a headlock. Cornell stepped on Homen's legs, and the men took his gun and subdued him, Andrade said.
The suspect pleaded with his captors to let him go and gave back the money, $98, according to police.
"He had him in a chokehold all the way back to the store," Cornell said.
When police arrived, they found Andrade and Cornell on top of Homen. They arrested the suspect and charged him with armed robbery while masked and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon. Arraigned in Salem District Court yesterday, Homen pleaded not guilty and was held without bail.
After his arrest, a "nervous" Homen agreed to talk to police, but in a videotaped interview, he claimed he could not recall what happened at the store, according to court papers. Homen said he was driving around Peabody, smoking marijuana, and recalled passing Richardson's Ice Cream on Route 114. Then, he said, he "blacked out" and didn't remember anything else.
Homen's parents were in court yesterday but declined to comment.
'Everything they tell you not to do'
Both Cornell and Andrade said they didn't think the gun was real. Still, in hindsight, Cornell, a father of two teenagers and a 32-year employee at Eastman Gelatine, said tripping an armed suspect wasn't the smartest move. After the incident, Cornell called his wife, Linda, and told her he helped stop a robbery.
"She said, 'You did everything they tell you not to do," Cornell said. "I don't know. I reacted first and didn't think."
Andrade is a 36-year-old father of two who lives in Saugus. He was closing up around 8:50 p.m. when the suspect, with a shirt covering his face, walked in with the gun, the shop owner said.
"I looked down, and he has the gun in front of me," Andrade said. At first, he thought it was a joke. "I thought it was not real, but you don't want to take any chances, you know what I mean?"
The suspect demanded $300, he said, but Andrade said he didn't have that much and told the man to just walk out. His sister, Rozane, was in the kitchen and didn't know what was happening.
"I look outside, and I saw Steve," Andrade said. He threw the money at the suspect, and the man fled.
Police Chief James DiGianvittorio agrees that perhaps Cornell and Andrade should have used more caution.
"On a case like this, where it's a fleeing felon, you really don't want people to corner a person like that because you don't know what they are capable of doing," he said. "You are lucky it worked out the way it did. ... If it was a real gun, we would be dealing with two deaths right now."
Nonetheless, the chief plans to bring Cornell, Andrade, and responding officers Adam Maccini and Robert Currier to the next selectmen's meeting so he can give the civilians citations of bravery and the officers letters of commendation.
Cornell, who has lived in Middleton since 1990, is a regular at the convenience store at 323 N. Main St. (Route 114), which is a short walk from his Piedmont Street home.
He grew up in Malden and lost his leg in 1968 at age 12 while trying to jump on a freight train, disobeying the warning of his mother after he'd attempted the stunt a few days before.
"I saw the train going by again, and I had a race with a bunch of friends, and I guess I didn't run alongside of the train, I just ran straight at it."
Cornell missed the train, and it ran over his leg.
He remembers pulling his leg off the railroad tracks and backing away. Someone in a nearby lumberyard heard his screams.
"They just kept on asking my name, address, telephone number, parents; I was in a state of shock at that point."
Cornell recalls Red Sox great Carl Yastrzemski visiting him in the hospital. Cornell mistook Yaz for Tony Conigliaro, another popular Sox player from the Impossible Dream season.
"At 12, I still had no fear and wouldn't believe in what the doctors told me — I couldn't ride a bike, and I couldn't play sports. I don't accept 'no' that easily."
Cornell remains upbeat despite his setback as a kid. His prosthetic leg sports a Patriots sticker on the thigh, and he calls it "Mr. Patriot" for his love of the team.
"So many people have helped me out with my injury and leg," Cornell said, reflecting yesterday on his actions Wednesday night. "It's just nice to return the favor to someone else."
"The good people, they come through in situations like this," Andrade said. "I told him, you save the day, I buy you dinner."
Staff writer Julie Manganis contributed to this report.
Ex-ref says Wilkins hit him first, tweets about incident
Michael Cunningham and Kristi E. Swartz
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
A former NBA referee was left with a swollen left eye and misdemeanor assault charges after he confronted and fought with Hawks TV analyst Dominique Wilkins following Wednesday night's game over an alleged $12,500 clothing debt.
Court records show Michel filed suit last year against Wilkins in Fulton State Court, claiming the former player owed him money for clothes that Wilkins allegedly purchased from his business, Rashan Michel Custom Clothier. The business was dissolved in 2008, according to Secretary of State records.
On Thursday, Michel tried to explain his actions at Philips Arena in a local radio interview and on his Twitter account.
"I was like, ‘Let's handle this like men, work out a payment plan,'" Michel said on the Frank and Wanda Morning Show on V-103.
"I call what happened at Philips Arena earlier, Operation Repo. ... Next time have my money!” Michel tweeted.
In yet another tweet, this one addressed to Wilkins' Twitter account (DWilkins21), Michel wrote, "Pay your debts, poser."
Hawks spokesman Arthur Triche said the team has instructed Wilkins not to comment.
Wilkins also is a Hawks vice president who, according to the team's media guide, is responsible for "advising senior management on basketball-related issues and working as a strong voice in the community."
The incident took place near the Phillips Arena floor once Wilkins finished his broadcasting duties following the Hawks' game against the Orlando Magic.
Police said Michel made his way to the arena floor and confronted Wilkins along press row. Officer Kim Jones, an Atlanta police spokeswoman, said Michel hit Wilkins in the chest.
TMZ.com posted a low-quality video footage that begins after the incident had escalated and appears to show Wilkins throwing a punch as security personnel try to break up the scuffle.
Sekou Smith of NBA.com tweeted that Wilkins got in three solid punches during the brief fight, while his assailant landed none.
“A scuffle ensued, and we’re not real clear on what happened,” APD spokesman Carlos Campos said.
An arena employee with knowledge of the incident said Michel took a swing at Wilkins, who deflected the blow before shoving Michel into the first row of seats. An NBA security official tried to break up the fight but Wilkins shoved him aside, according to the employee.
Wilkins, who wasn't injured, punched Michel as the NBA security official, arena security and Hawks team security various security personnel broke up the fight, the employee said.
"It's unfortunate that something like that would go down here," Hawks center Al Horford said.
Hawks players' discussion of the incident centered around the police mugshot of Michel posted at AJC.com. Michel's left eye appeared to be nearly swollen shut.
"The results wasn't pretty," Hawks guard Joe Johnson said.
Michel, who is an Atlanta resident, was 23 and the NBA's youngest referee when he started working games in 1997, officiating until 2001. He later opened his clothing business.
Wilkins, 51, played for the Hawks from 1982 until 1994, and was enshrined into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006.
State records showed that Michel owns A and R Motors Enterprises, which has an office address that matches Michel’s home on Summer Land Drive in Atlanta.
Wilkins had problems with the IRS around the time Michel’s clothing business closed. The federal government placed a lien against Wilkins’ house on Wisteria Vine Lane in Lilburn in 2008 for $37,833 in back taxes. The lien was released on Aug. 31.
Staff writers Alexis Stevens, Larry Hartstein and Rhonda Cook contributed to this article.
Haircut feud leads to two women going to the hospital
An argument over a haircut led to two women being cut, one of them by their mother.
Natasha Scott, 24, was mad that Kiara Shuford got her hair cut by Scott’s mother, said Sgt. Phil Demas, with the Hickory Police Department.
Scott and Shuford, 21, got in an argument over it in the parking lot at Civitan Court on 17th Avenue, NE, on Wednesday. It escalated and the pair fought verbally and physically, Demas said.
Scott’s mother, Teresa Jean Imes, got involved in the fight and tried to cut Shuford with a knife. Although she sliced Shuford’s upper left arm, she also cut Scott’s lower left leg, Demas said.
Imes, 45, was charged with assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injuries and was given a $2,000 secured bond.
Scott and Shuford were treated by EMS at Civitan Court before being taken to Frye Regional Medical Center.
Beer for Lent: J. Wilson halfway through his Lenten fast
J. Wilson, beer blogger and newspaper editor, of Prescott, Iowa. (March 31, 2011)
6:21 p.m. CDT, March 31, 2011
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