Lockout looms: NBA owners tell players at meeting that league is shutting down midnight Thursday
DAILY NEWS SPORTS WRITER
Thursday, June 30th 2011, 4:29 PM
As expected, the NBA is locking out its 450 players, effective Thursday night at midnight, with the expiration of the current CBA. The owners informed the players of their decision when a three-hour meeting in Manhattan ended around nine hours before the midnight deadline, with no progress.
The owners' side was comprised of commissioner David Stern, deputy commissioner Adam Silver, Garden CEO Jim Dolan and Spurs owner Peter Holt, chairman of the owners' labor committee.
"It's with some sadness that we recommend this lockout," Stern said. "This has a very large impact on a lot of people, most of whom are not associated with either side. I'm not scared. I'm resigned to the potential damage it can cause to our league.''
The contract dispute could keep the league's arena doors padlocked for the entire 2011-12 season, a move that Stern has said will lead both sides into "the abyss."
"It's disappointing that they decided to lock us out," said the NBA Players Association president Derek Fisher after a three-hour session produced no movement. "There were no surprises. The talks were direct. But we knew this is what we were faced with.''
Fisher left the midtown hotel with other players reps before Stern met with the media.
The two sides could resume talks in the next few weeks, according to Billy Hunter, the NBA Players Association esecutive director. For that reason, the union is not going to decertify and try to win an anti-trust lawsuit in the courts. Such a legal move would force the union to disband, as was the case when the NFL players went to court when they were locked out by the NFL owners.
"The closing agreement we made was that we would not let the imposition of the lockout stop us from meeting," Hunter said. "We'll probably meet in the next two weeks or so."
But owners continue to push for a hard salary cap and demand major rollbacks in players salaries and benefits that could total $800 million per season. Players want to continue with the current soft-cap system that has given them 57% of the revenues, totaling in excess of $2 billion annually. So it doesn't look like there will be any settlement anytime soon.
The Founding Fathers, Unzipped
June 26, 2011
The Constitution’s framers were flawed like today’s politicians, so it’s high time we stop embalming them in infallibility.
He may have written the Declaration of Independence, but were he around today Thomas Jefferson wouldn’t have a prayer of winning the Republican nomination, much less the presidency. It wouldn’t be his liaison with the teenage daughter of one of his slaves nor the love children she bore him that would be the stumbling block. Nor would it be Jefferson’s suspicious possession of an English translation of the Quran that might doom him to fail the Newt Gingrich loyalty test. No, it would be the Jesus problem that would do him in. For Thomas Jefferson denied that Jesus was the son of God. Worse, he refused to believe that Jesus ever made any claim that he was. While he was at it, Jefferson also rejected as self-evidently absurd the Trinity, the Virgin Birth, and the Resurrection.
Jefferson was not, as his enemies in the election of 1800 claimed, an atheist. He believed in the Creator whom he invoked in the Declaration of Independence and whom he thought had brought the natural universe into being. By his own lights he thought himself a true Christian, an admirer of the moral teachings of the Nazarene. It had been, he argued, generations of the clergy who had perverted the simple humanity of Jesus the reformer, turned him into a messiah, and invented the myth that he had died to redeem mankind’s sins.
All of which would surely mean that, notwithstanding his passion for minimal government, the Sage of Monticello would have no chance at all beside True Believers like Michele Bachmann. But Jefferson’s rationalist deism is not the idle makeover of liberal wishful thinking. It is incontrovertible historical fact, as is his absolute determination never to admit religion into any institutions of the public realm.
So the philosopher-president whose aversion to overbearing government makes him a Tea Party patriarch was also a man who thought the Immaculate Conception a fable. But then real history is like that—full of knotty contradictions, its cast list of heroes, especially American heroes, majestic in their complicated imperfections.
Take another of the Founders routinely canonized in the current fairy-tale version of American origins that passes muster for history by those who don’t actually read very much of it: Alexander Hamilton. Outed by the Andrew Breitbart of his day, James Thomson Callender, for having had an “amorous connection” with the married Maria Reynolds, Hamilton responded by making an unapologetic preemptive confession—insisting that since on the truly serious issue of whether he had profited from the management of public finances he was innocent, the rest was nobody’s business but his own. Callender retorted that Hamilton had owned up to the sexual impropriety as a cover for the more serious financial one.
True history is the enemy of reverence. We do the authors of American independence no favors by embalming them in infallibility, by treating the Constitution like a quasi-biblical revelation instead of the product of contention and cobbled-together compromise that it actually was. Even the collective noun “Founding -Fathers” planes smooth the unreconciled divisiveness of their bitter and acrimonious disputes. History is a book of chastening wisdom to which we ought to be looking to deepen our understanding of the legitimate nature of American government—including its revenue-raising power, an issue that deeply captivated the antagonized minds of that first generation. But unfortunately, there is little evidence of citizens engaging in close, critical reading ofThe Federalist Papers,of the debates surrounding constitutional ratification, or of the dispute that pitted Hamilton and James Madison against Patrick Henry over what was at stake in Congress’s authority to make laws “necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the…Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States.”
Instead of knowledge, we have tricorn hats. Staring at a copy of the Constitution in the National Archives and making promotional pilgrimages to revolutionary New England didn’t prevent Sarah Palin from butchering the truth of Paul Revere’s ride, turning it into some sort of NRA advisory to the British to keep their gosh-darned hands off American firearms.
Facts, as John Adams insisted when defending British redcoats after the Boston Massacre, “are stubborn things.” He would be horrified by the regularity with which American history is mangled in the interests of confirming prejudices. It matters when Glenn Beck’s guest Andrew Napolitano pins the responsibility for the 17th Amendment, instituting direct election of senators, on a Wilsonian plot against American liberties, rather than the proposal of a Republican senator in 1911 that was approved by Congress before Wilson ever set foot in the White House. It matters when Bachmann mischaracterizes the Founding Fathers as working “tirelessly until slavery was no more in the United States.” What made the Constitution acceptable throughout the Union was a Faustian bargain that counted slaves as three fifths of a citizen, thus artificially bloating the political representation of the slaveholding South.
With adult history buffs so deluded about the reality of the American past, it’s even more alarming that the National Assessment of Educational Progress recently rated history as the subject at which students are least proficient. This wouldn’t matter if history were just some recreational stroll down memory lane. But it isn’t. In the fiery debates of Americans long dead can be discerned the lineaments of the same core issues that divide us today. Right now, the education that might inform such a debate has turned into a schoolyard shouting match.
As the electioneering rises to a din, those who dare to read history for its chastening wisdom will be fatuously accused of “declinism.” But it is those who reduce history’s hard and honest reckonings to exceptionalist chest-thumping who will be the true agents of degeneration. As one of Jefferson’s favorite books, Gibbon’sDecline and Fall of the Roman Empire,so luminously argued, there is no surer sign of a country’s cultural and political decay than an obtuse blindness to its unmistakable beginnings.
Schama, a professor of history at Columbia University, debuts as a NEWSWEEK/DAILY BEAST contributor in this issue.
Books: The Historical Founders
Revolutionaries:A New History of the Invention of Americaby Jack Rakove.
Compulsive and compulsory reading on the Revolution and forging of the Constitution.
Defiance of the Patriots:The Boston Tea Party & the Making of Americaby Benjamin L. Carp.
A wise and illuminating study of the original tea party.
American Scripture:Making the Declaration of Independence by Pauline Maier.
The definitive book, and a thrilling read, on the writing of the Declaration.
The Federalist Papers.The priceless document of two mighty intellects, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, united in common cause of creating an enduring American government.
John Lennon Closet Republican, Ronald Reagan Fan
Jun 29th 2011 at 9:35 am
Sounds at though John Lennon might have grown up before his untimely death:
John Lennon was a closet Republican, who felt a little embarrassed by his former radicalism, at the time of his death – according to the tragic Beatles star’s last personal assistant.
Fred Seaman worked alongside the music legend from 1979 to Lennon’s death at the end of 1980 and he reveals the star was a Ronald Reagan fan who enjoyed arguing with left-wing radicals who reminded him of his former self.
In new documentary Beatles Stories, s thought he was while he was his assistant.
He says, “John, basically, made it very clear that if he were an American he would vote for Reagan because he was really sour on (Democrat) Jimmy Carter.
“He’d met Reagan back, I think, in the 70s at some sporting event… Reagan was the guy who had ordered the National Guard, I believe, to go after the young (peace) demonstrators in Berkeley, so I think that John maybe forgot about that… He did express support for Reagan, which shocked me.
What’s crazy is that the failed president known as Barack Obama makes Jimmy Carter look like Ronald Reagan and our current crop of “stars” apparently haven’t yet woke up to that fact. Of course, they might all be in the closet like Lennon. But that would be silly. Don’t they read Patrick Goldstein at the L.A. Times? Don’t they know they have nothing to fear in Hollywood if they openly oppose Obama?
'To Catch a Predator' host Chris Hansen caught on hidden camera cheating on his wife: report
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Wednesday, June 29th 2011, 7:27 PM
Chris Hansen, who has made his name confronting pedophiles on-camera as the host of Dateline NBC’s "To Catch a Predator", was reportedly caught on tape cheating on his wife with a much younger woman, according to the National Enquirer.
Cameras allegedly recorded Hansen taking Florida TV reporter Kristyn Caddell, 30, to dinner at a Ritz-Carlton hotel before spending the night at her Palm Beach apartment.
Hansen, who lives with his wife, Mary, 53, and their two sons in Connecticut, has allegedly been seeing Caddell for four months.
The 51-year-old reporter has been spending time in Florida investigating the disappearance of James Trindale, according to reports.
Hansen has hosted "To Catch a Predator," a show where volunteers from the group Preverted-Justice pose as underage girls to lure pedophiles into homes where he waits to surprise them on-camera, since 2004.
Cincinnati appeals court upholds Obama's health-reform plan
President Barack Obama’s health care reform law won a major victory Wednesday when a Cincinnati appeals court ruled that the government could require people to buy health insurance without violating the U.S. Constitution.
The decision by the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals is the first from a federal appeals court on the health care reform law and likely moves the case closer to a showdown at the U.S. Supreme Court.
The three-judge panel voted 2-1 to uphold the law, with one of the court’s most liberal members, Judge Boyce Martin Jr., and one of its most conservative, Judge Jeffrey Sutton, joining in the majority. Sutton expressed reservations about the law, but agreed with Martin that the requirement to purchase health insurance falls under Congress’ powers under the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
“We find that the minimum coverage provision is a valid exercise of legislative power,” the judges wrote.
The court’s majority rejected claims that the law, known as the Affordable Care Act, is an unconstitutional and expensive intrusion into the lives of millions of Americans.
But the dissenting judge, James Graham, said the law goes beyond what the constitution allows and could, if it is allowed to stand, lead to greater government intrusions in the future.
“If the exercise of power is allowed and the mandate upheld, it is difficult to see what the limits on Congress’s Commerce Clause authority would be,” Graham wrote. “What aspect of human activity would escape federal power?”
The decision Wednesday is based on a case from Michigan and is one of several now winding through the federal courts. A federal appeals court in Virginia has heard arguments in a similar case, but the 6th Circuit is the first to issue a ruling.
Both opponents and supporters of the law expect the U.S. Supreme Court will get the last word, possibly within the next year or two.
LI man busted for 'pretending' to be soldier to get first-class upgrade
PHILIP MESSING, C.J. SULLIVAN and BOB FREDERICKS
Last Updated: 10:51 AM, June 27, 2011
1:24 AM, June 27, 2011
A Long Island man was arrested for donning an Army uniform and brazenly posing as a soldier so he'd get bumped up to first class on a flight to JFK from the Dominican Republic, Port Authority cops have charged.
Rock Diaz, 22, of Freeport, has a history of pretending to be a military man to get VIP treatment, cops said -- he once even smooth-talked his way into a jetliner's pit, where he was photographed sitting at the controls wearing a goofy grin.
The mile-high huckster was finally brought to earth Friday afternoon when a sharp-eyed customs official at JFK asked him his rank -- and he gave an answer that didn't match the insignia on the uniform he was wearing.
"If you knew anything about the military and you looked at him, you could tell he wasn't really a soldier," a cop said.
But Diaz -- in camouflage fatigues and sporting a military-style buzz cut -- allegedly insisted he was the real thing when questioned after getting off an American Airlines flight.
Asked his rank, he said "E-5," referring to a pay grade. But Diaz was wearing the insignia of a staff sergeant, the source said, which is "E-6," a higher pay grade. He also couldn't say where he was stationed, sources said.
Although he was wearing a standard-issue "Army Combat Uniform" and cap, he could not produce a military ID.
Diaz -- who sources said never served in the military -- also had a black POW patch on his sleeve, which an actual soldier would never wear in that spot, the sources said.
And his "dog tags" were comically engraved with the words, "U.S.A. Marines Corp."
The faux soldier allegedly admitted he had pulled the scam at least once before -- when the pit photo was taken in December 2009. Other photos obtained by The Post show him wearing the uniform in Haiti and elsewhere.
Interviewed yesterday, the Spanish-speaking Diaz claimed he did nothing wrong and blamed any confusion on a language barrier.
"I never asked to get upgraded. The stewardess offered me a new seat and I asked why? They explained it to me in English and I did not understand," Diaz said. "I moved where they told me to sit."
He was charged with second-degree impersonation.
American Airlines did not return calls for comment.
June 22, 2011 -- Avoiding weight gain as you age isn't impossible, after all.
If you yearn to be among those who sail through the years without picking up a pound for each birthday, Harvard doctors have a game plan for you. And it goes far beyond the old "eat less, exercise more" mantra.
Reducing your intake of specific foods, sleeping 6 to 8 hours nightly, getting some exercise, and turning off the TV all predicted less weight gain with time, they found.
They also found five foods strongly linked with weight gain and five others linked with less than average weight gain.
''The message here is that the type and quality of food and beverage one eats are incredibly important," says researcher Dariush Mozaffarian, MD, DrPH, associate professor of medicine and epidemiology at Harvard School of Public Health, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School.
The new research, he says, ''shows how multiple lifestyle factors, including diet, were related to long-term weight gain."
The study appears in theNew England Journal of Medicine.
Avoiding Weight Gain: Study Details
The researchers wanted to focus on what leads to long-term weight gain and why the average adult gains about a pound a year.
They tracked 120,000 participants in three studies, the Nurses' Health Study, the Nurses' Health Study II, and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. Every four years, they evaluated the links between changes in lifestyle habits and weight.
On average, the study participants gained an average of 3.35 pounds over each four-year period. That added up to nearly 17 pounds after 20 years. At the start of the three studies, the men and women's average ages were 37, 50, and 52.
5 Foods That Make You Fat; 5 That Don't
When the researchers looked more closely, they found five foods associated with the greatest weight gain over the study period:
They also found five foods linked with less gain and even weight loss:
Deciphering the Findings
"There were huge differences in four-year weight gains based on what people did," he says. "The quantity of fat in the food didn't seem to be strongly related to weight gain." For instance, no differences were seen for low-fat or skim milk compared to whole-fat milk.
Rather, he says, focusing on the quality of food -- not simply total calories, or fat grams, or grams of carbohydrates -- seems most important in avoiding weight gain.
They write: "A habitual energy imbalance of about 50 to 100 kilocalories per day may be sufficient to cause the gradual weight gain seen in most persons."
Yogurt was perhaps the biggest surprise on the list of foods linked with less weight gain, Mozaffarian says. The researchers aren't sure why. They cite some other research finding that changes in gut bacteria from eating yogurt may help in weight control. Or those who eat yogurt may have other healthy habits.
Changes in diet had the strongest link to weight gain. However, the researchers also found that those who slept 6 to 8 hours a night gained less than those who slept less than 6 or more than 8. Weight gain was also linked with changes in the amount of television viewing and changes in physical activity.
''Small differences add up over time," Mozaffarian says. He sees that as both ''a danger and an opportunity." If you don't pay attention, he says, the pounds can pile on quickly. "If you do pay attention, a handful of changes could add up in a beneficial way," he says.
He is not suggesting people completely avoid foods linked with weight gain. "If someone wants to eat some of the foods on the list associated with weight gain, as long as they eat a lot of other foods that are not associated with weight gain, and exercise, and not watch a lot of TV, that would be OK," he says.
Mozaffarian reports receiving honoraria from Unilever, Aramark, and other food-related companies for speaking on diet-related topics.
Avoiding Weight Gain With Age: Perspective
The study provides some good support for factors other experts have assumed are linked with weight gain, says Connie Diekman, RD, director of university nutrition at Washington University in St. Louis. She reviewed the study but was not involved in it.
Diekman says that among the most interesting findings is that the lower the intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and yogurt, the more significant the weight gain. That result jibes with the recommendation in the Dietary Guidelines to shift food intake to more plant foods.
Another important finding, she tells WebMD, is that "a shift in calorie intake of as little as 50 to 100 calories a day may be all it takes to gain or lose weight."
Advice? "I'd encourage consumers to think about one portion you can cut down on each day or one 10-minute walk you can add to your day. These small steps can then become the steps on the path you need to make more changes to achieve, and maintain, a healthier weight."
Father arrested after daughter turns him in for pot
COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS — Two teens apparently fed up with their father's marijuana smoking called police Monday to hand over his bag of weed.
The children, a 15-year-old boy and 13-year-old girl, were visiting their father who had partial custodial rights, said Cottonwood Heights Police Sgt. Scott Peck. The children had reportedly noticed in the past that their father's residence always "smelled funny," he said.
The girl, apparently fed up with her father's smoking and drinking, called police to turn him in, Peck said. When officers arrived, the girl found her dad's bag of pot and took it out to officers, he said.
While the young girl was standing outside her father's residence talking to police, her dad texted her to come back into the house, apparently not realizing police were present, Peck said. The officers had the girl text her dad back and tell him to come outside.
When the 44-year-old father came out, he was arrested for investigation of drug possession and child endangerment.
Milton man says he set parents' house on fire
A Milton man set his parents' house on fire early Monday, then surrendered to authorities, saying his mental illness made it difficult to live in society, and he wanted to go to jail, police and prosecutors said.
Mattie Salminen, 28, was jailed lacking $25,000 bail. A judge ordered a competency hearing for him.
According to court documents, Salminen was living in his parents house at 35 Cherry St. in Milton when, at about 5:30 a.m. Monday, while his parents were sleeping upstairs, he retrieved a gasoline can from a shed in back of the house, tossed fuel into a crawl space and set it alight.
The resulting explosion woke up Salminen's parents, Karlo and Carolyn Salminen, who escaped the home without injury, police said. The couple said their son has schizophrenia that is controlled by medication, but were unsure whether he took the medication Monday morning.
Mattie Salminen approached a police officer and said he wanted to surrender at about 8:40 a.m. at a Simon's convenience store on Park Street in Burlington, according to court papers. He told police he wanted to go back to jail because he couldn't make it out in the real world, police said.
Police asked if he intended to hurt his parents, and Salminen said he didn't, but he also was somewhat unconcerned by the possibility, according to court papers.
The house suffered fire, water and smoke damage. The fire melted soldering on a water pipe in the crawl space, which burst and kept the flames in check until Milton firefighters arrived, investigators said.
Fake Craiglist ad solicited sex for husband's ex-wife, police say
The self-employed operator of a home day care center in Sarasota is accused of placing a Craigslist ad in which she claimed to be her husband's ex-wife soliciting sex with strangers.
The falsified ad led the victim to receive numerous phone calls, text messages and home visits from male strangers, frightening her and making her concerned about her children's safety, according to a police report.
Bradenton Police arrested Natasha W. Larson, 35, of the 2400 block of Arapaho Street in Sarasota, last week on a felony charge of criminal use of personal identification and information.
On Feb. 18, detectives say, the victim started receiving phone calls and text messages from unknown men saying they were responding to her ad on Craigslist.com inviting strangers to come to her home for sexual encounters.
The ad reportedly stated: "I am currently dating a descent man but he is lacking some skills in the bedroom. Its nice but I need to be thrown around a little bit and to be dominated, that is exciting for me. I also like to take charge sometimes but I need a strong man to keep me in check."
The ad then gave the victim's home address.
"Please be respectful if you do stop by," the ad concluded.
The victim told detectives that unknown men soon started coming to her house.
"She also gave them my cell phone number and these men were calling, texting and sending pornographic picture messages to me," the victim, who said she has two children at home, wrote to the Herald-Tribune. "So, not only did she endanger my life and safety by sending these strange men to my home but she endangered her husband's children as well."
The victim also reportedly received a phone call from a man who told her that he wrote to an email address in the ad and received a response giving him the victim's name, address and cell phone number.
The man provided her with copies of the emails and the Craigslist posting, which the woman took to police.
According to court records, the victim earlier last week obtained a temporary injunction for protection against repeat violence filed against Larson.
Detectives say they worked with Google and Verizon to trace the emails and ad to Larson. The charge against her is a felony.
Larson admitted to placing the ad, creating an email address in the victim's name and giving out the victim's phone number, detectives reported.
Michelle Obama’s ‘goodwill tour’ of Africa cost U.S. taxpayers up to $800,000
Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 7:17 AM on 28th June 2011
While her husband continues to battle a flagging economy at home, Michelle Obama's 'goodwill tour' of Africa cost taxpayers an estimated $800,000, it has emerged.
According to Whitehousedossier.com the First Lady's trip to South Africa and Botswana last week will certainly cost well over half a million dollars and could be as much as $800,000.
The cost of local transportation, Secret Service protection, food for her family and staff members, the cost of firing up 'Air Force 2' not to mention the pre-trip preparations would all have contributed to the final amount.
Thanks for the memories: Michelle Obama waves as she boards her private plane after a week-long trip to Africa, which could have cost the taxpayer an estimated $800,000
Costly: Firing up Air Force 2 as it is sometimes known could cost in the region of $12,723 per hour meaning the cost of the plane for the whole trip could work out to be a cool $430,000
Mrs Obama said the trip would help 'youth leadership, education, health and wellness' in southern Africa, according to the White House.
All laudable goals. But with the news agenda endlessly dominated by the deficit, the raft of job loses and general economic misery, many may question why the money wasn't used closer to home.
While in Africa Mrs Obama, who also brought along her mother, daughters Malia and Sasha, and two of their cousins, enjoyed a meet up with Nelson Mandela, visits to historical landmarks and museums and a safari.
Play time: Mrs Obama, her daughters Sasha and Malia and her mother Marian Robinson enjoyed a safari in Madikwe Game Reserve during the trip
Visit: Mrs Obama also took her daughters to visit Nelson Mandela, which she called 'surreal'
According to Defence Department figures the DOD charges other federal agencies $12,723 per hour for the use of a C-32 plane, the same model as the one Mrs Obama was ferried about on during her trip.
When the distance travelled and flight speed of the plane are put together the cost of the plane could be as much as $430,000, according to the White House Dossier blog.
A military cargo plane usually goes with the First Lady on foreign trips in order to bring cars and other large items to the country.
This is how you get my arms: The First Lady also showed Archbishop Desmond Tutu, third from right, how to do push ups, during an HIV awareness campaign in Cape Town
Goals: Mrs Obama said the trip would help 'youth leadership, education, health and wellness' in southern Africa, according to the White House
If Mrs Obama had been accompanied by a military plane it could easily add on another $200,000 to the cost, based on Defence Department rates.
Mrs Obama’s office did not respond to the blog's request for comment.
Marijuana In Long Island Drug Case Disappears During Transport
June 27, 2011 3:01 PM
Marijuana (credit: Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)
Marc Gann, head of a committee examining problems at the Nassau County police crime lab, said it appears someone had tampered with and potentially stolen some of the evidence that was placed FedEx’s custody.
He said the district attorney’s office told him a shipping box on the FedEx truck had been opened, the marijuana removed and the box resealed.
“It just calls into question the propriety of dealing with a common carrier, like FedEx, for purposes of delivering evidence,” Gann told 1010 WINS. “Perhaps a better course of action would be to use an employee of the police department or the county.”
It’s the latest fallout from the shutdown of the Nassau crime lab. A national accrediting agency has put it on probation for failing to meet protocols deemed essential to proper handling of evidence. Since its closing in February, evidence has been shipped to a lab in Willow Grove, Pa.
FedEx is looking into the possible theft. The DA’s office says it’s investigating.
Gann said the case which the marijuana was connected to is now “completely unprovable.”
“It raises a broader issue about the credibility of the evidence in those other cases that were being transported along with the marijuana,” he said.
Father smashed wine bottle over diner's head for complaining that his baby would not stop crying
11:12 AM on 27th June 2011
While trying to enjoy a romantic dinner date, Clive Merrifield and his companion had spent half an hour disturbed by a crying baby at the next table.
The company director suggested to the child’s parents that given it was after 10pm, the seven-month-old might be tired.
The baby’s father’s reaction was to pull a bottle of wine from Mr Merrifield’s ice bucket and smash it over his head.
Billy West (left) with torn shirt pictured shortly after his arrest. He has been jailed for two years and five months for the bottle attack on Clive Merrifield (right), who was left with a four-inch gash on his scalp
Mr Merrifield, 44, who was having a meal at an Indian restaurant in Islington, North London with his girlfriend was left with a deep four-inch gash on his scalp which required 16 stitches and has left him scarred.
The baby’s father, Billy West, was jailed for two years and five months at Blackfriars Crown Court for what the judge called a ‘vicious and cowardly’ attack.
West, 20, who arrived at the restaurant with his partner, their baby and another man, took offence at Mr Merrifield’s comments, the court heard, and asked him to settle the matter ‘outside’.
To the surprise of other diners, the child’s mother held the infant up and sneered sarcastically: ‘It’s a baby’. The family were escorted out of the Parveen Tandoori by staff but West returned alone five minutes later to attack Mr Merrifield.
The brutal assault occurred at Parveen, an Indian restaurant in Theberton Street, Islington, north London
Yesterday the former police constable, who runs his own auditing business, said: ‘The child had been crying and crying at the next table, it was constant. The mother kept getting up to hold it up to the mirror behind us, but it wouldn’t stop.
‘It was very loud – other people noticed but they didn’t say anything, and after about half an hour I just said to my girlfriend: “I’ve had enough”.
'I went over and said very politely that I was sorry but this is a quiet restaurant and we’re trying to enjoy our meal and your baby won’t stop crying. I asked if they could take it outside for a bit, and said it might be tired at this time of night.
‘She just held it up and started shaking it and saying “It’s a baby”. They asked me if I had a problem with children, which I don’t, and the two men told me we could “sort this out outside”.
‘The staff asked them to leave and we carried on eating. The next thing I knew I had been whacked on the back of the head. He had hit me with my bottle of wine.
‘I just remember seeing my girlfriend’s face, looking really worried, and the blood and glass on her top. I got up but he had gone, and I looked down and saw my shirt soaked in blood.’
West was arrested six weeks after the attack in November last year after police found him hiding in a neighbour’s home.
Tom Wainwright, defending West, said the carpenter had ‘just snapped’ and had written a letter of apology to his victim.
Passing sentence, Judge Nicholas Riddell said: ‘This was a vicious and cowardly attack.’
The victim was taken to hospital where he was given an emergency X-ray and 16 stitches.
His attacker was eventually arrested on November 17, after being found hiding under a heap of clothes, behind a mirror, in a neighbour’s bedroom.
In an impact statement the victim said: ‘I have been left with a four inch ragged scar on the top of my head.
‘It makes me feel self-conscious in public and at work.
‘I feel it has changed people’s opinion of me and I am concerned I am seen as a thuggish manager rather than an authoritative manager.
‘I am self-employed and this affects me when taking out prospective clients.
‘Since leaving the Army I have tried to avoid violent situations or confrontations and this incident has taken me back to those times, and destroyed the coping mechanisms I have spent years developing.’
The court heard West has previous convictions for assault, after spraying someone with CS gas, and was on a suspended sentence for aggravated vehicle taking when he attacked Mr Merrifield.
Tom Wainwright, defending West, argued the carpenter had a more productive side to his personality.
‘He was working hard at the time and he had a young child, who had been crying and not been sleeping, and he was extremely tired and stressed,’ said the barrister.
‘He does not seek to excuse his behaviour but highlights this simply to provide some background.
‘He just snapped. This was the last straw.
‘He is genuinely remorseful for his behaviour and has written a letter of apology to the victim.’
The court heard he has helped out at a local youth club and is keen to rejoin his partner and child.
He has already served 218 days on remand awaiting sentence and Mr Wainwright added: ‘Not much more of a reminder is required.’
Passing sentence Judge Nicholas Riddell said: ‘You caused this unfortunate man a serious head wound which has left him with serious permanent scarring and lasting psychological effects.
‘Your counsel has rightly said there is another side to you.
‘Nonetheless this remains an offence that is so serious that only an immediate custodial sentence can be justified.’
West, of Islington, north London, admitted unlawful wounding and breaching a suspended sentence order.
65-year-old Vietnam vet who hit the Lottery four years ago may finally get some of his winnings
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Monday, June 27th 2011, 6:01 PM
A down-on-his luck Brooklyn vet who hit the Lottery four years ago may finally collect some of his winnings.
Walter Carver, 65, won $10,000 in 2007, but officials took more than half the money because he had once worked a welfare-to-work program.
Carver, who got about $1,000 after taxes, challenged the ruling but was slapped down in state court. A state appeals court has paved the way for the Vietnam veteran to get his winnings back.
"It was a scratch-off game," Carver told the Daily News. "I scratched it off and I was jumping around…then they told me there's a red flag on it."
"I said 'Wait a minute, wait a minute. I was working for my money. I'm not a deadbeat dad. I never signed anything that says they can take my money.' We've been fighting for this money for four years. I still haven't seen it."
Carver, who has a high school education and lives with his brother in Gerritsen Beach, lost his Wall Street clerk job in the early 1990s and was forced into a welfare-to-work program that paid about $150 every two weeks.
In return, he had to shovel snow, sort mail, sweep sidewalks and do other menial tasks.
He got off the program after seven years, worked as a messenger clerk for a couple more and is now surviving on Social Security and living with his 62-year-old brother Russell, who cares for him.
The appeals court decision, made public Monday, suggests Carver wasn't even getting minimum wage and sent the case back to Supreme Court, where it's all but certain Carver will win, his lawyer said.
"I don't see any way he doesn't," lawyer Richard Lamborn said. "He worked for his wages. He's a real patriot who gave so much to his country and he doesn't deserve to be treated like this."
State officials have 30 days to appeal the decision. If they don't, Carver could get his money in a few months, Lamborn said.
Carver, who has lost his teeth but couldn't get the Veteran's Administration to help him get new ones, knows exactly what he'd do with the money.
"I'm going to get new teeth," he said. "But its been a long haul and there's no money yet."
Criminal defense attorney arrested while trying to advise client who had been arrested, he claims
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Monday, June 27th 2011, 4:00 AM
A veteran Brooklyn criminal defense lawyer has found himself on the wrong side of the law - and he says it's because he defended a client too well.
Kenneth Perry, who has been representing felons of all stripes for more than two decades, was arrested June 16 in a Family Court waiting room after trying to advise a client who was being arrested of his constitutional rights.
Perry, 61, claims an NYPD detective from the 84th Precinct flipped out because he was trying to stop police from questioning the client.
According to the criminal complaint, Perry was standing between his client - who was being arrested for violating a girlfriend's order of protection - and the detectives when he was ordered to move aside. He refused and pushed the detective, the complaint states.
Perry said he never pushed the detective and insists that the courthouse surveillance tape is going to prove him right.
"I'm looking forward to vindicating myself before a jury as I didn't do anything criminal," Perry told the Daily News.
Lawyer Sanford Rubenstein, retained to sue the city, said Perry was submitting to being handcuffed when he informed the cops that he was going to put his cell phone in his pocket.
"His head was slammed against the wall," Rubenstein said. He added that Perry's head was banged a second time on the roof of a radio car outside the courthouse.
Perry, who has a heart condition, was charged with harassment, obstructing government administration and resisting arrest. He spent about 20 hours in jail, where he handed out all of his business cards to other inmates.
He has subpoenaed the courthouse camera tape and asked the Brooklyn district attorney to investigate the confrontation. The request is being reviewed, a spokesman for the DA said.
Pelosi demands seat at debt talks
06/25/11 12:55 PM ET
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) will demand a seat in the table for the final talks on the national debt limit, putting a strong liberal voice in the room.
Pelosi and House Democrats were left out of the negotiations between President Obama and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) last year that extended nearly all of the Bush tax rates though 2012.
Pelosi didn’t participate in the final high-level talks over fiscal 2011 spending levels either.
But now she’s demanding her say at a time when many of her House Democratic colleagues are disappointed in Obama’s level of consultation with their caucus.
“If they don’t have the votes, House Democrats have to be at the table,” said a House Democratic leadership aide.
Pelosi stayed out of the talks on crafting a continuing resolution funding the rest of 2011 that included $38.5 billion in spending cuts because House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) expressed confidence they would pass it without Democratic help.
But, in the end of that debate, the Republican votes fell short, and GOP leaders needed help from House Democrats. Democrats went along with a deal they had almost no part in negotiating because they wanted to avert a government shutdown.
The experience left a bitter taste in their mouths, and Pelosi won’t let it happen again.
Although she is the minority leader in a chamber that gives the minority party few powers, Pelosi believes she has leverage in the debt-limit debate.
“We know that they do not have 218 votes for any package that increases the debt limit,” said the Democratic leadership aide of House Republican leaders.
Flexing her muscle, Pelosi asked for and got a meeting with Obama on Thursday morning to discuss the next phase in the negotiations.
A last-minute defection of conservative Tea Party-affiliated lawmakers forced Boehner to rely on Democratic help in April. Pelosi believes it will be only tougher for him to round up his conference to support a compromise on the debt limit.
Pelosi is the strongest liberal voice in the Democratic leadership. She kept her position as Democratic leader in November after Democrats lost the House in a landslide by promising her caucus’s large liberal wing that she would fight for their priorities. The debt-limit talks are her chance to make good on that pledge.
Congressional leaders kept Pelosi out of the talks on the 2011 spending cuts and justified it by keeping McConnell on the sidelines as well.
McConnell still had input because he talks to Boehner at least twice a week and their staffs kept in close contact during the negotiations to avert a government shutdown.
Pelosi doesn’t have as tight a relationship with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).
The debt-limit talks that were led by Biden came to an end last week when Cantor pulled out and said it was time for Obama to get involved. Reps. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and James Clyburn (D-S.C.) represented House Democrats in those meetings.
Now the talks have moved to the very highest leadership levels with Obama planning to meet Reid and McConnell on Monday.
The president held a secret meeting with Boehner on Wednesday night.
Pelosi has made it clear that this time she intends be a part of that elite group as well.
Cheerios turn 70; iconic cereal endures, sells
June 24, 2011
BUFFALO, N.Y. — Here's a little quiz for the breakfast table:
What is the most popular cereal brand in American grocery stores?
Hint: It's been General Mills' top name since 1951.
Another hint: If you're a parent, you've vacuumed it from the minivan and under the high-chair cushion by the cupful.
The answer, of course, is Cheerios.
The iconic cereal, known by its distinctive yellow box, is 70 years old this year and still a force on the breakfast cereal market. One out of every eight boxes of cereal to leave the shelf in America carries the Cheerios name.
"They've been around since the beginning of man, right?" said Kathy Scott in Cape Coral, Fla. For her, the cereal's linked to memories of childhood Saturday morning cartoons.
"My mother was very old-fashioned, a stay-at-home mom," Scott, 50, said, "She made breakfast every morning, but on Saturday morning we were allowed to have cereal. Throw some fruit in there, sit on the floor and watch cartoons."
•1 in every 8 boxes of all cereal sold in the U.S. are Cheerios.
•More than 10 shapes and sizes were considered before the current "o."
•It would take approximately 3,155,524,416 Cheerios to circle the earth.
•General Mills sold 1.8 million cases (each containing 12 boxes) in the first year, 1941.
•Cheerios are made with same"puffing gun" technology used to create Kix cereal in 1937. Balls dough are heated and shot out of a gun at hundreds of miles an hour to make the "o."
•Four years after their debut, Cheerioats were renamed Cheerios.
•In 1979, Honey Nut Cheerios were introduced, followed by Apple Cinnamon Cheerios in 1988, MultiGrain Cheerios in 1992, Frosted Cheerios in 1995, Berry Burst Cheerios in 201 and Chocolate Cheerios in 2010.
•Honey Nut Cheerios have outsold the originals since 2009.
Source: General Mills and Cheerios.com
The tradition repeated itself with her own two children.
"Saturday morning cartoons and Cheerios," she said.
To make Cheerios, balls of dough are heated and shot out of a "puffing gun" at hundreds of miles an hour, according to General Mills. The company's waterfront plant in Buffalo has been firing them off since 1941, often cloaking the city with a distinctive toasty-with-a-sweet-finish aroma and inspiring T-shirts announcing "My city smells like Cheerios." More than 10 shapes and sizes were considered before the makers settled on little Os.
Since then, the company's introduced several new flavors, starting with Honey Nut in 1979 and last year, chocolate.
In 2009, sales of Honey Nut Cheerios surpassed the original flavor for the first time and remain in the top spot today.
But Kathleen Dohl, 30, sticks to the originals, the ones she refers to as the "old-school, yellow box, plain Jane" variety. She buys it in bulk at Sam's Club to keep her 6- and 3 year olds happy.
"That's one of the first 'real people' foods that they ate," the Chester, Va., mother said.
"They know when we're having a morning where we're running late, they're like, 'can I get a snack bag of Cheerios?'" she said, "because it's something I can't say no to. I can say no to chips. I can say no to candy. I can say no to a dozen other things, but a snack bag of Cheerios? How can you say no to that?"
So yes, she's cleaned them out of the car seats.
"At least they're not sticky," she said, "so that's a plus. And they're not so colorful. Once you grind them in they just look like the rest of the dirt, they don't look neon-colored."
General Mills began advertising Cheerios (first called Cheerioats) as a first food for toddlers in 1974. Since 1999, the company has focused on promoting the cereal as healthy; it's made from whole-grain oats, with 3 grams of fiber and 1 gram of sugar per serving. But in 2009, federal regulators took issue with the cereal box's claim that it was "clinically proven to help lower cholesterol." In a warning letter, the Food and Drug Administration said only FDA-approved drugs can make such a claim.
General Mills, in its response, stood by the claims and said the FDA's complaints dealt with how the language appears on the box, not the cereal itself. The case is still open, an FDA spokeswoman said.
"I went through a phase in high school where I drank Coca-Cola and carried around a box of Cheerios in my back pack," said Dohl, whose course schedule and yearbook duties often kept her at the computer and in her car through meals.
"That's literally what I ate for breakfast, lunch and dinner," she said. "…At least I felt like it was healthy."
Since cereal is the major source of fiber for Americans, something most people shortchange themselves on, Cornell University nutrition expert David Levitsky said it's actually not a bad idea to eat cereal as a relatively low-calorie lunch or dinner once in a while, even the sugar-sweetened variety.
"They're seducing kids to eat it," he acknowledged. "It's a technique that breakfast food companies have learned and it works… but it's got a good aspect because that's where they're getting their fiber in the morning," he said. "And all these cereals are enriched."
Americans spent $6.4 billion on ready-to-eat cereal in the 52 weeks ending May 15, according to SymphonyIRI Group, a Chicago-based market research firm that tracked sales at supermarkets, drug stores and mass merchandise outlets, excluding Walmart.
In honor of Cheerios' 70th, Buffalo's Citybration Festival will be highlighting its assets including a June 26 Cheerios breakfast in sight (and smell) of the General Mills facility.
"Cheerios are actually a more iconic food to Buffalo than even the ubiquitous chicken wing," said festival organizer Marti Gorman. (The spicy Buffalo wing came along in 1964.)
"There just must be something so gently appealing about the product," said Dave Hassett, a school counselor whose Born in Buffalo site sells the Cheerios T-shirts online and at local festivals. Along with his 4-year-old daughter, he said he eats a bowl daily. "I hope they stick around for 70 more years and beyond."
Meet Yoda the worlds ugliest dog:
05:27 PM ET, 06/23/2011
Can liberals start their own tea party?
At last weekend’s Netroots Nation gathering in Minneapolis, liberal activists expressed frustration that they lacked the political power or media focus given to the conservative tea-party movement. Former White House environmental official Van Jones is hoping to change that with a new political effort dubbed “The American Dream Movement.”
Organizers are hoping to emulate the the success of the tea party, which became a significant force in the 2010 midterms, uniting like-minded people across the country who were previously uninvolved in politics or participating locally but not at the national level.
They hope to motivate unemployed veterans, struggling homeowners and other alienated Americans who are angry at Republicans’ desire to drastically cut government spending in Washington and collective bargaining rights for state employees in places like Wisconsin. And to lure those people simply struggling to find a job while worried about their unemployment benefits ending.
“We think we can do what the tea party did,” Jones said in an interview with The Fix. “They stepped forward under a common banner, and everybody took them seriously. Polls suggest there are more people out there who have a different view of the economy, but who have not stepped forward yet under a common banner.”
Jones is a former Obama environmental adviser who resigned from the White House in 2009 amid controversy over his past activism. But he’s lauded in liberal circles for his charisma and organizing abilities.
“There's a lot of organizational muscle behind the initiative, and Van is one of the most inspiring figures in the progressive movement, so I'm looking forward to these efforts, and they certainly come at a time when Republican overreach has primed progressives to take action” said Markos Moulitas, the founder of the liberal blog network Daily Kos.
Jones’ “Dream” movement will launch Thursday night with a rally in New York City. The Roots are performing; MoveOn.org, a well known liberal advocacy group, is co-sponsoring the gathering.
After the rally, the group will hold house meetings around the country in a bid to crowd-source the group’s platform, asking for ideas and collecting input from economists and activists. It will then use those contributions to form a “Contract for the American Dream” that will serve as an agenda to rally support and pressure politicians in Washington, riffing off the 1994 “Contract with America” that swept Republicans into the House majority.
While the tea-party movement gained clout in part through successful primary challenges to establishment politicians in 2010, Jones said the “Dream” movement is not “about primaries.”
However, should their efforts succeed, MoveOn.org’s executive director Justin Ruben says that the movement will push back against Democrats who don’t adhere to its goals.
Former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean argued that the idea of an interactive “Contract” is an improvement on the tea-party methods.
“The tea party has got technical dominance in their ability to put together a leaderless group that is in the political cloud, so to speak, and what [Jones] does is take the next step after that.”
There is some reason to believe that it’s the right time for a progressive movement modeled on the tea party. Some of the GOP actions taken since capturing control of the House majority in 2010 appear unpopular with voters, including passage of Rep.Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) budget plan, which would turn Medicare into a voucher program by 2022.
Washington Post polling shows that voters don’t want cuts to entitlement spending. A majority of Americans think spending cuts and tax increases should both be part of any deficit-reduction plan, while Republicans have opposed any tax increases.
Jones predicted that the public winds were shifting against drastic government spending cuts like the ones enacted by new Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), who moved this spring to end collective bargaining rights for most state employees.
Thousands have also protested similar moves in Indiana., Ohio and New York, and smaller protests have occurred all across the country. In a general sign that people are fed up with the economy, some activists have banded together under the term ‘99ers,’ to stand up for the rights of people who have been unemployed so long, their government benefits have run out.
As for the “American Dream” movement specifically, the unifying theme is disaffection with the economy and with the debate in Washington over how to fix it. Specifics are lacking at this point, as Jones plans to solicit activist input. One plank advanced by Jones is the idea of a transactional tax that would slap a levy on the sale or transfer of stocks, bonds and other financial assets.
This isn’t the first attempt at a “liberal tea party.” A coalition of liberal and civil-rights groups united under the “One Nation” banner last year and held a rally on the National Mall in October. After the election, the group — in which Van Jones was involved — fizzled.
Unlike One Nation, in which long-standing liberal groups agreed to collaborate, Jones’ movement is hoping to attract people who are ideologically aligned but not politically active. Those people will define their own goals. But Jones is also in conversations with many of the labor and civil-rights groups that were involved in the One Nation effort. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka recorded a web video for the campaign.
Institutional involvement does not go against the tea-party model. The tea-party movement has its own benefactors — Americans for Prosperity, Our Country Deserves Better PAC, and other groups backed by longtime Republican donors and strategists. Those groups capitalized on disparate protest movements around the country, many of whom say they have no connection to the political battles fought in their name.
Still, it will likely be hard to get liberals and supporters of more progressive economic policy to rally in the same way. Tea-party activists tend to be wealthy and well-educated; Jones is hoping to reach unemployed veterans, struggling homeowners, and other groups who likely have less time to organize and grow more politically active,
A year from now, will the “American Dream Movement” be on everyone’s lips the way the tea party is? It seems unlikely. But it’s a sign that liberals are making a more concerted effort to organize outside groups in ways that don’t rely on the power or personality of President Obama.
By Rachel Weiner | 05:27 PM ET, 06/23/2011
4:19 p.m. Thursday, June 23, 2011
Undercover cops exposed to drug dealers
Jacksonville, FL —
An employee of the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office is now gainfully unemployed after being arrested on Wednesday in connection with illegal distribution of confidential information.
Kenitra Casper, 27, worked in the JSO records office and now faces felony and misdemeanor charges after she confessed to sending out texts and emails containing information about and photographs of undercover narcotics agents to known drug dealers in the Jacksonville area.
Casper had worked for JSO for 7 years, according to Undersheriff Dwain Senterfitt, who says he's very concerned that Casper's actions could have compromised the identity of detectives working undercover.
She is being held in the Pre-Trial Detention Facility at the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.
Further investigations are ongoing at this time.
Police: West Hartford Man Claims God Sent Him To Smash Up Farmington House
Levon T. Sarkisyan (Courtesy Farmington Police Department / June 23, 2011)
The Hartford Courant
5:03 PM EDT, June 23, 2011
A West Hartford man with a history of bizarre and threatening behavior was arrested this week in Farmington after he allegedly broke into a house, smashed statues and a marble table with a fireplace poker, then told the homeowners as they arrived home that he'd been sent by God, police said.
Levon T. Sarkisyan, 27, of Eustace Drive, West Hartford, was charged with third-degree burglary and first-degree criminal mischief and was initially held by Farmington police with bail set at $50,000. He was released on a promise to appear in court after his arraignment Monday at Superior Court in Hartford.
Police said a Middle Road resident arrived home Sunday and noticed the front door had been kicked in. Sarkisyan, who identified himself as Leon Sark, then walked out the front door and told the homeowner "a light from above told him to do this," Farmington police Sgt. Stephen Egan said.
Sarkisyan then told the homeowner he'd broken into the house because "God wants me to help the world," Egan said, adding that he then told the homeowner, "I mean you no harm."
The homeowner told Sarkisyan to sit down, then fumbled with a phone trying to call 911, Egan said.
Sarkisyan said, "You see, God will not let you use the phone," Egan said.
As they waited for police, the homeowner asked Sarkisyan how he broke into the home.
Sarkisyan then stood up, "flexed his arm and said, 'You see, super-human strength,' " Egan said.
Officers arrived moments later and took him into custody without incident.
Later, Sarkisyan told officers he'd smoked "a strange strand of herb" that caused him to do what he did, Egan said.
While in the house, Sarkisyan used a fireplace poker to smash statues, including one of a Roman soldier, and a marble table, causing about $10,000 in damage, Egan said. Sarkisyan also rummaged through closets, took a shower, then dressed in the clothing of a deceased former resident, Egan said.
The homeowner did not know Sarkisyan, Egan said.
In 2008, University of Connecticut police arrested Sarkisyan after he allegedly made bizarre threats against members of the Kappa Sigma fraternity. Sarkisyan is a UConn graduate.
The UConn incidents stemmed from a trip to Miami that Sarkisyan took with two fraternity members and a fourth man.
According to the warrant for Sarkisyan's arrest prepared by UConn police, Sarkisyan treated the trio to an all-expenses-paid trip to South Beach in February 2008. He bought them expensive jewelry, cocaine and the services of a prostitute.
Sarkisyan told the men to "keep quiet" about the trip, court records say, but someone told another Kappa Sigma member about it, who then asked Sarkisyan about it.
That inquiry triggered the alleged threats against people who told Sarkisyan to leave the fraternity house. The threats became increasingly bizarre, police said.
UConn police provided protection for several days to a target of those threats.
The cases were resolved at Superior Court in Rockville with convictions on charges of breach of peace and criminal trespass. Sarkisyan received suspended jail sentences and two years of probation.
Family Charged in Burger King Robbery
9:46 PM CDT, June 22, 2011
FAST FACTS: -Three relatives are charged in robbing the Burger King on Austin Peay. -One of them is an employee at the Burger King. -Their family members believe the employee was framed.
(Memphis 6/22/11) Three relatives were charged in a robbery of the Burger King near Raleigh Springs Mall Monday night.
One of them, 23-year-old Ashley Fitz, is an employee at the store.
In an affidavit, police said the other two involved named Ashley Fitz as an accomplice, who helped plan and execute the robbery. But her family does not believe that.
"She wouldn't even steal a piece a candy! What is she going to go rob a place for, where she works at?" said Bettie Fitz, Ashley's mother.
Family members describe Ashley as a hard-working person who volunteered for extra shifts. They believe her uncle, Tony Fitz, was the mastermind who framed Ashley.
Police said Tony Fitz walked into the Burger King Monday night and handed a note to Ashley, who was working then.
Ashley Fitz then handed the note to a co-worker, who instructed Ashley to comply with Tony's demands.
Police said Ashley gave Tony about $1,400 from the cash registers and safe.
Ashley's sister, Cartina Fitz-Childers, allegedly drove the getaway car.
"It makes me angry how Cartina would do her little baby sister like that," said Loraine Fitz, their aunt.
Family members are shocked Ashley would be charged in this crime too, but are not at all surprised at Tony Fitz getting in trouble.
"He's been going to jail for 16 years," said Loraine Fitz.
With Ashley and Cartina both in jail, their mother now has to care for their combined seven children.
Their mother, Bettie, is waiting for real answers on what happened Monday night. She also said she's extremely angry at Tony.
"I want to kill him, but I know it's against the law. You know. I'd be in jail myself," she said.
All three suspects are charged with robbery. Cartina Fitz-Childers is also charged with driving with a suspended license, speeding, and violation of financial law.
LINK TO VIDEO:
Backpack Umbrella: For hands-free rain avoidance
Sleepy Hollow volunteer firefighter arraigned on arson charges
WHITE PLAINS — Sleepy Hollow fire volunteer Trent Bronner was formally arraigned today on felony arson, criminal mischief and reckless endangernment charges, accused in a seven-count grand jury indictment of setting two fires in the village.
Bronner, 22, was charged in a March 20 fire at 13 Cedar St. that spread to the house next door at 19 Cedar St. and left 19 people homeless. He's also charged in a July 19 fire last year at 128 Cortlandt St. that authorities say he confessed to during the investigation.
A former standout athlete at Sleepy Hollow High School, Bronner joined the volunteer fire department three years ago and was honored last year with a plaque for responding to the most fire calls in the village.
He's now charged with two counts of second-degree arson, one of second-degree criminal mischief, one of first-degree reckless endangerment and one of fourth-degree arson, all felonies. He's also charged with two misdemeanor counts of fourth-degree criminal mischief.
He was arraigned before acting state Supreme Court Justice Albert Lorenzo, who ordered that he remain held on $150,000 bail at the Westchester County jail, where he's been since his arrest on April 27. He's due back in court Sept. 28 and faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted of the top count.
A hospital has been roundly condemned for providing elderly and frail patients with a tambourine to attract attention.
The single musical instrument is the only emergency call system available to patients using a day room at the Cardiff Royal Infirmary’s West Wing.
Patients say they are “too scared” to use the day room in case staff do not hear their calls for help.
An NHS watchdog and Wales’ Older People’s Commissioner strongly criticised the hospital for not installing a proper alarm system.
Steve Allen, chief officer of Cardiff and Vale of Glamorgan Community Health Council, said: “This is totally inappropriate – patients shouldn’t have to resort to shaking a tambourine to get a nurse’s assistance.
“It is totally unacceptable and the health board must address this as a matter of concern.”
A concerned relative took a photograph of the tambourine in the day room after visiting his 90-year-old mother over the weekend.
The 65-year-old, who has asked not to be identified, said: “I thought she was joking about the tambourine but I went to the day room and there it was.
“My mother and other patients won’t go to the day room because of their fear of being left in a distressing situation, particularly toileting.
“I gave the tambourine a good hard shaking – after 16 minutes I gave up as no-one responded. Not surprisingly few patients use the day room, and the new television has few viewers.”
He added: “My mother has another six to eight weeks in the hospital and her time there could be made more enjoyable and bearable if she was able to watch the television.
“But she and other patients feel there’s too much of a risk of being left there.”
The man said he was also told there was a pair of maracas in the day room for patients to use to get nurses’ attention.
When he questioned staff at the hospital he was told there was no money available for a more effective call system.
“The staff do make an effort, they’re just stretched beyond belief,” he added.
Ruth Marks, Wales’ Older People’s Commissioner, said: “This does not afford any patient dignity and respect, let alone safety.
“The day room gives an opportunity for patients to relax and socialise away from their beds, which is important as the days in hospital can seem very long.
“Whatever system is in place to call for help, it is vital these areas are checked regularly by staff. If there was an emergency, there may be no opportunity to call for help.
“Resources may be limited, but installing a system so people can easily call for help whilst in hospital must be a priority.”
Ruth Walker, executive director of nursing for Cardiff and Vale University Health Board, said: “It appears well-meaning staff have looked for ways to allow patients to make better use of the day room as part of their recovery and provide a way of calling for help when physio or other staff are not nearby.
“A hand-bell had previously been provided but was deemed too heavy and cumbersome for frailer patients and staff looked for an alternative.
“Sadly the solution, while well intentioned, was not appropriate.
“A lightweight hand-bell will now be sourced as a matter of urgency and patients will be accompanied while using the dayroom in the meantime.
“We will also review dayroom arrangements in other areas.
“The care and dignity of all our patients is vitally important to everyone at the health board and we sincerely apologise for any distress this has caused.”
US crime figures: Why the drop?
BBC News, Washington DC
For 20 years, crime in the US has been falling and new figures from the FBI show a sharp drop in the last two years, despite the recession. Why?
Through Democrat and Republican administrations and through booms and busts, crime has been falling since 1991.
Murder and robbery rates nearly halved from 1991-98, a phenomenon that has saved thousands of lives and spared many more potential victims of crime.
The pace of the reduction slowed in the late 90s but new FBI figures show the sharp drop in crime that began around 2008 continued last year, despite high unemployment.
No-one agrees on the reasons for this. Here are 10 possible theories.
1. The Obama effect could explain the increased pace of the reduction of the last few years, says one of the country's top criminologists, Alfred Blumstein. "The prior expectation was that the recession would have the opposite effect. The question then is what distinctive event occurred in '09?" The election of a black president could have inspired some young black men, who are disproportionately involved in arrests for robbery and homicide, says the professor. It's very speculative, he adds, and probably only one factor of many, as one of the cities with a huge drop in crime is Phoenix, in Arizona, which does not have a large black population. "In the field of criminology, you don't get consistent indicators as you would in physics. There are so many factors that could have contributed." A separate study on school test scores supports the view that some black teenagers were motivated to try harder by the new presidency.
2. The fall in violent crime that began in the early 90s can be partly explained by the fall in demand for crack, says Prof Blumstein, co-author of The Crime Drop in America. Word got round about the dangers of crack use and - aided by aggressive policing - the gun violence associated with its supply decreased. The converse had happened in 1985, when the incarceration of dealers led to a spiral of violence, as younger and more reckless suppliers took their place.
Broken windows theory
3. Smarter policing helped the border city of Laredo in Texas to reduce car theft by 40% last year. Police spokesman Joe Baeza says they introduced a scheme whereby motorists could register their car number plates into a police database and this empowered patrol cars to stop these cars if they were spotted late at night, to verify the owners. Mr Baeza adds that they also targeted car theft networks, educated the community about prevention and promoted anti-theft devices.
4. Number crunching has also helped in Laredo, where overall crime fell 16% last year, says Mr Baeza. "CompStat is a crime mapping project that pinpoints crime peaks in different parts of the city. The police chief then sends a team of officers to reinforce hotspots for burglaries or thefts or robberies, and they hold steady the flow of criminality." The CompStat methods began in New York City and featured heavily in gritty television drama The Wire, set in Baltimore.
5. There is a controversial theory put forward by economist Steven Levitt that the increased availability of legal abortion after the Supreme Court ruling in 1973 on Roe v Wade meant that fewer children were born to young, poor, single mothers. This, says the theory, stopped unwanted babies in the 1970s and 80s from becoming adolescent criminals in the decades that followed. But some of his peers have questioned whether the evidence really supports the theory.
6. A sociologist at Tufts University, John Conklin, says a significant factor behind the fall in crime in the 1990s was the fact that more criminals were behind bars and therefore unable to offend. In his book Why Crime Rates Fell, he says sentencing was lenient in the 60s and 70s, when crime rose, and then more prisons were built and more offenders were imprisoned. But others question why crime has continued to fall recently when budget constraints have kept the prison population relatively flat.
7. An economist at Amherst College in Massachusetts links the fall in violent crime to a decline in children's exposure to lead in petrol. Jessica Wolpaw Reyes says: "Even low to moderate levels of exposure can lead to behavioural problems, reduced IQ, hyperactivity and juvenile delinquency. You can link the decline in lead between 1975 and 1985 to a decline in violent crime 20 years later." About 90% of American children in the 1970s had blood levels that would today cause concern, she says. Her research also found a link at state level between the timing of laws banning lead and subsequent crime statistics.
8. The baby boomers grew up. With birth rates peaking between 1957 and 1961, the proportion of men in the US in their late teens and early 20s was highest in the late 70s and early 80s. As time went on, the proportion of people at "criminal age" decreased.
9. A study released last month suggested video games were keeping young people off the streets and therefore away from crime. Researchers in Texas working with the Centre for European Economic Research said this "incapacitation effect" more than offset any direct impact the content of the games may have had in encouraging violent behaviour.
10. Some people have suggested to Professor Blumstein there is another technological deterrent and that is the proliferation of camera phones, which makes some criminals think twice before risking possible incrimination on film. The impact of other kinds of cameras is unclear. In the UK, the influence of CCTV on crime is disputed.
North Carolina man robs store for a dollar so he can get health care in prison for medical problems
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Tuesday, June 21st 2011, 4:00 AM
With little money to his name and many medical problems, including a growth on his chest, two ruptured disks and an unidentified problem with his left foot, he said the "robbery" was his last resort.
"The pain was beyond the tolerance that I could accept," he told the Gaston Gazette. "I kind of hit a brick wall with everything."
He calculated that a non-violent crime like the bank hold-up would land him in jail, and even enable him to collect Social Security benefits upon his release.
"I'm sort of a logical person and that was my logic, what I came up with," he said.
On the day he committed the felony, Verone mailed a letter to the Gaston Gazette explaining his logic.
"When you receive this a bank robbery will have been committed by me. This robbery is being committed by me for one dollar," he wrote. "I am of sound mind but not so much sound body."
Woman Pleads Guilty To Hiding Stolen Fur In Underwear
June 20, 2011 4:48 PM
Stephanie Moreland was arrested New Year’s Eve by Bloomington Police after the Alaskan Fur Company reported a short mink coat was stolen by a woman who had been in the store and acting suspiciously.
Moreland pleaded guilty to one count of felony theft of property. Police say she hid the mink coat in her underwear for three days while being questioned by police in jail.
The coat was valued at $6,500.
According to police, a sales associate accused Moreland of taking the coat, but she denied it and took off. The sales associate took down Moreland’s license plate number and called police. When police located the car a short time later, they found the coat’s hanger but no coat.
They searched Moreland for weapons and booked her into jail for the weekend on possible theft charges. Three days later, a detective interviewed Moreland who admitted she stole the coat but claimed she had already sold it.
When the investigator informed Moreland he would be sending her to the Hennepin County Jail downtown, he was shocked when she lifted up her dress and pulled out the mink coat from her underwear.
“She had modified her underwear. She actually cut the rear of the underwear out so that from the back it appeared she was not wearing underwear and then stuffed it down the front,” said Bloomington Police Commander Mark Stehlik, at the time of the incident.
Moreland’s sentencing has been set for Aug. 8.
U.S. Mint releases medal marking 9/11 attacks
The one-ounce silver medal's heads side features Lady Liberty with the inscription "always remember 2001-2011," while the reverse side portrays an eagle against the backdrop of cascading water.
"The medal we present to the American public today has been created by the United States Mint to commemorate September 11, 2001, a day that changed our Nation and world forever," United States Treasurer Rosie Rios said at the unveiling. "This medal's design is intended to exalt the memory of those that sacrificed their lives or were injured, and the families who continue to show dignity and strength in the face of terrible loss," she said.
The U.S. Mint will produce up to 2 million medals, according to a press release.
The medal, which went on sale Monday, is available at an introductory rate of $56.95 through August 18, after which the price will go up to $66.95. A $10 surcharge collected from the sale of each medal will to go to the National September 11 Memorial & Museum.
The 9/11 Memorial Preview Site, which held the unveiling, includes "models, renderings, films and real-time images of construction so that visitors can understand the plans and progress" of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, according to its website.
The 9/11 memorial will be dedicated on September 11, 2011, and open to the public on September 12, its website says.
Cops: Drunk, naked man operated on pet Doberman
3:39 PM CDT, June 20, 2011
Alerted by reports of a naked man covered in blood, police rushed to a Near West Side apartment and found a "highly intoxicated" man who had been operating on his pet Doberman, "Foley," officials say.
Stewart Gibbs, 44, was charged with felony cruelty to an animal late Sunday after he told police he had tried to remove a cyst from under the dog's right ear, according to police. Bail of $75,000 was set for Gibbs, whose attorney said is a health care administrator.
Gibbs' landlord got a call from other tenants in the building who said water was leaking into their apartments from the ceiling, according to Assistant State's Attorney Lorraine Scaduto.
The landlord knocked on Gibbs' door, got no response and let himself in, police said. Gibbs then ran toward him, naked and covered in blood, Scaduto said. The landlord also saw a blood-soaked towel in the apartment before he left to call police.
Officers arrived about 10 p.m. and were met at the door by Gibbs, whose hands were covered in blood and who "appeared highly intoxicated," according to a police report.
Gibbs let the officers in, and they found blood on the floor and walls of the hall, kitchen, bathroom and bedroom. They also found the Doberman with a wound under its right ear, police said.
Gibbs told the officers he had been using a butcher knife to remove a cyst from under the dog’s ear, and had turned on the water in the bathtub to clean up the dog, according to police and prosecutors. Gibbs told officers he had been drinking at Trump Tower earlier in the evening, returned to his apartment, had another half-bottle of wine and "proceeded to perform surgery" on his dog, according to a police report.
Gibbs did not claim to be a veterinarian but told officers he was a cardiologist, Mirabelli said. There is no state license information on Gibbs being a physician.
"Foley" was taken to an emergency veterinary center for treatment, authorities said. Gibbs gave up custody of the dog, and the Doberman is now in the care of Chicago Animal Care and Control, officials said.
In court today, Gibbs was attentive and wore dark blue jeans and a black T-shirt with a yellow or gold design on it. Public Defender Anand Sundaram said Gibbs has been in Chicago five years, is a health care administrator and has a degree from the University of California, Irvine.
Stewart Gibbs, 44, has been charged with aggravated cruelty to animals. (Chicago Police)
David and Jenelle York received a card and rose after they were victims of identity theft.
Maple Valley couple receives card and rose by alleged identity thief
A rose in a vase and a thank you card is usually an expression of gratitude and thoughtfulness.
But when it is sent by an identity thief to his victims, it's "like sticking a finger in their eye," as Maple Valley resident David York puts it.
This is what happened to David, 28, and his wife, Jenelle, 27. The couple realized something was wrong on May 31, when they were shopping at Walmart in Covington and their credit card was declined.
"I was frustrated and really confused," David York said.
According to the police report, "Jenelle immediately called her credit/debit card company, (VB) Bank of America. Jenelle was told by Bank of America that suspicious activity was found on their account."
"Nothing really flashed through my mind, until they read the charges," David York said.
At home, Jenelle York checked her account online, and found several charges which neither she or her husband had made.
The purchases had been made overseas to a jewelry website, Netflix and FTD, an online florist company. David York stated the purchases ranged from the East Coast to England and Germany.
Three days later, David York opened his front door to go for a ride and found a black box sitting on their front step. He opened the box and discovered a rose, a vase and a card attached that read "Thank You."
"We were wondering where it was going to go," he said. "We didn't expect it to arrive here. I called up my wife and said, 'Honey, I know where the flowers went. Here.'"
David York said a total of $400 was stolen. Bank of America has given them a full refund of their money. He added the whole ordeal has been a big hassle for his wife.
King County Sheriff's Office spokesman Sgt. John Urquhart stated in an email the investigation is ongoing and no further information about the suspect is known.
"It's pretty straightforward," Urquhart wrote. "Except they got the flower sent to them."
"I'll send flowers to him when he's in jail," David York said.
The parents said police had no right to intervene when the minors agreed.
Police foiled a watta satta marriage arranged between a nine-year-old boy and a 14-year-old girl on Friday.
According to police officials, Moza Surgana resident Ejaz Ahmed was set to marry Shazia and in-exchange their siblings Farzana, 14, and Amir Hussain, 9, were set to tie the knot on Friday afternoon. “There is nothing wrong with this match. All the parties had agreed and the children wanted the marriage,” said the bridegroom Amir’s mother Amira Bibi. “The police has no right to interfere in this instance. This is a private matter and no one was harmed. We don’t have to consult the police before settling on a match for our children,” said Farzana’s mother Mukhtar Bibi.
Mailsi Circle DSP Malik Daud and SHO Mitro Muhammad Aslam said they arrested the parents of the children after they received a tip off that two minors were being wed. “This has nothing to do with the parent’s wishes or the fact that the children agreed to the match.
The marriage of minors is illegal,” said Daud. “We need to raise awareness about the fact that underage marriages are wrong, regardless of tradition or culture. The children may have agreed to the marriage but a nine-year-old boy is not capable of making such a decision,” said an NGO worker Shabnam Batool.
Mitro police officials said that they raided a home on Friday afternoon.
“The entire place was packed with wedding guests and we saw the couples sitting on stage. “Ejaz and Shazia are of the legal age to get married but the watta satta of their younger siblings is wrong,” said Aslam.
Amir Hussain’s father Fida Hussain said “The police has no business to interfere in these matters. This is a custom of our land and we are not going to begin to adopt western customs. My son agreed to marry Farzana and she obeyed her parents,” he said. “There is nothing criminal in it,” he added.
Mitro police interrogated both couples under the Marriage Act and registered separate cases against the parents of both minor’s in the case. “They have ruined our wedding in the process and we cannot tolerate such injustice,” said Ejaz.
Muhammad Nawaz and Fida Hussain told reporters that the police had insulted them and arrested them over a wrong tip. “They thought this marriage was illegal because we were forcing the children but after they asked them both said they had agreed to the match. There is no case here,” Fida said.
“Ejaz and Shazia were going to get married and under the watta satta tradition Amir and Farzana’s nikah was also decided,” Muhammad Nawaz said.
“This has been happening in our family for decades. We will not stop it because the police and forces are trying to force us to adopt western norms,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 19th, 2011.
10 Reasons Obama is a One-Term President
June 20, 2011
Less than two months ago, buzzing from the president’s gutsy call to eliminate Osama bin Laden, liberal pontificators had practically sworn in Barack Obama for his second term.
“For the GOP the sands are rushing through the hourglass,” Roger Simon wrote in a column whose title had wondered whether the president was “invincible.”
He claimed that with Geronimo KIA, “the Republican field has been fried like an egg.”
In reality, the president’s short-term popularity boost had fried the long-term judgment of his supporters.
The reasons to believe Obama a one-term president are many and well-grounded.
10. The Declaration of Independents
Candidate Obama attracted independents. President Obama repulses them. The president entered office with the approval of 62 percent of independents. The latest Gallup poll shows support of just 42 percent of independents. Similarly, the political moderates key to his election have deserted the president as immoderate policies have emerged. There simply aren’t enough liberals for Democrats to lose moderates and win elections. No Democratic candidate over the last half century has won the presidency without winning moderates.
9. A Redder America
Barack Obama faces a redder electoral map than he did in 2008. The 2012 presidential election is more than a year away, but the Electoral College has already shifted twelve votes away from blue states and toward red states. Most of the states gaining electoral votes in the census reapportionment voted for McCain. Almost all of the states losing electoral votes voted for Obama. Even the states that Obama carried that added electoral votes—Nevada and Florida, to name two—don’t seem locks to go for the president in 2012. The loss of electoral votes isn’t fatal to Obama. It is a handicap.
8. The Issues Have Changed
Gallup’s “Monthly Most Important Problem” survey is a problem for the president. What is troubling the American people? Over the first five months of 2011, Americans point to the economy (29%), unemployment (26%), the deficit (13%), and government (11%). The issues most salient to voters uniformly work to the incumbent’s disadvantage. When Iraq, health care, and Republican mishandling of the economy mattered to voters, Obama could go on the offensive. It’s difficult to see how he scores points in 2012 on the issues that resonate with voters. He will be on his heels.
7. The Blank Canvass Isn’t Anymore
Other than William Jennings Bryan and Wendell Willkie, who is the major party nominee with a skimpier record than 2008’s Barack Obama? He could vote “present” in the Illinois legislature and run away from U.S. Senate votes while running for higher office. But presidents can’t remain blank slates for long. Unpopular ObamaCare, a sedative stimulus, ineptness in the face of the BP oil spill, and defiance of Congress in starting a third Middle Eastern war have all painted a presidential picture that has calcified conservative opposition, alienated moderates, and disillusioned liberal supporters.
6. Demoralized Liberals
Left-wing activist Ralph Nader encourages a primary challenge. Ohio Democrat Dennis Kucinich sues the administration over Libya. Netroots conference goers boo White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer. Rather than rejoice at a universal health-care bill that eluded predecessors or the introduction of open homosexuality in the military, liberals decry Obama for retaining Bush-era tax rates, playing warden over Guantanamo Bay, and launching a new war in Libya. Never can Democrats satiate their cannibalistic base. If you think this is an overstatement, feel free to examine the teeth marks on the political carcasses of Al Gore, Jimmy Carter, and Lyndon Johnson. Leftists may not primary this president or siphon votes through a suicidal third-party bid. But neither will they work or give at the levels they did in 2008.
5. Energized Conservatives
After eight years of big-government Bush, an underwhelming primary field, and a sclerotic general election campaign, conservatives could be given a mulligan for sleepwalking through the last presidential election. Conservatives, just 34 percent of the electorate in 2008’s election, comprised 42 percent of voters in 2010. From tea-parties to raucous town halls, the political dynamic of the country has been altered. It showed in 2010, when Republicans added 63 House seats, seven Senate seats, and six governors. Nothing invigorates a party’s base like an aggressive ideologue of the opposing party occupying the White House. The GOP clearly has the momentum heading into 2012.
4. The Political Ground Has Shifted Beneath the President’s Feet
A political lifetime has elapsed since Barack Obama’s election. Bailouts and big-government have yielded to tea parties and deficit angst. Gallup’s ideological identification survey registered the highest percentage of liberals in its history the year of Barack Obama’s election. Gallup’s most recent ideological identification survey registered its highest percentage of conservatives since the inaugural 1992 poll. Between the 2008 survey and last year’s, conservatives have gained seven points vis-à-vis liberals. To know liberalism isn’t to love it.
3. Historic Turnouts Aren’t Every-Four-Year Occurrences
Obama surfed to victory in 2008 on the crest of two historic waves. African Americans constituted a larger percentage of the electorate than ever recorded. And young people voted for the Democratic candidate by the greatest margin ever. Two-thirds of 18-to-29 year olds cast ballots for Obama. A staggering 19 out of every 20 African American voters pulled the lever for Obama. The precarious foundation of the Democrat’s election rested on the remarkable turnout, and the amazing one-sidedness, of two constituencies—African Americans and young people—who traditionally stay home on Election Day. That both groups have been hit especially hard by the economic slump makes it hard to envision a repeat of the amazing African American turnout and one-sided youth vote.
2. A Low Ceiling
Roger Simon wondered if the president was “invincible” in the wake of killing bin Laden. More perceptive observers saw vulnerability. Counterintuitively, the assassination of America’s most reviled enemy revealed Barack Obama’s political weaknesses, not his strengths. The president’s weekly Gallup approval average topped out at 51 percent following the bin Laden operation. The best possible week of Obama’s presidency yielded barely half of the electorate’s support. His enemies should acknowledge the man has a floor of support. His supporters should acknowledge he has a ceiling, too.
1. It’s Still the Economy, Stupid
The Misery Index, popularized by Governor Carter to hound President Ford only to be President Carter’s undoing, haunts Democrats again. The combined unemployment and inflation rates are at their worst level in twenty-eight years. The stock market has just spent six weeks in the red. The GDP grows at an anemic rate of 1.8 percent. The housing market has been in shambles for five years, and seems to be double dipping. Debt approaches GDP. Flat-lining and nose-diving trend lines make the president’s reelection precarious. Even a browbeaten Bill Daley, the president’s chief of staff, conceded to an incensed National Association of Manufacturers convention, “Sometimes you can’t defend the indefensible.” He said it.
Barack Obama is a formidable campaigner. His presidency is not without accomplishment (see, Osama bin Laden). And occupants of the White House have lost general elections just five times in the last hundred years. But he has governed ineffectively and stubbornly against the wishes of the American people. He could win reelection. But the preponderance of indicators suggests his defeat. This should make conservatives hopeful for change.
Oprah’s Next Chapter’ Show Wants O.J. Simpson to Confess
Oprah and Oj Simpson- courtesy of google.com
‘Oprah’s Next Chapter’ Show Wants O.J. Simpson to Confess
Unfortunately, you heard right. Yes, Oprah Winfrey is starting a brand new talk show. It won’t be on prime time television though, but will be aired in January 2012 on her OWN Network.
The new show, “Oprah’s Next Chapter” seems to be a way to bring those low ratings up from her new Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN).
On this show, she plans to get O.J. Simpson on her show and wants him to confess. In an interview Thursday,
“I have a dream of OJ Simpson confessing to me,” she said. “And I am going to make that happen, people. I don’t just want the interview. I want the interview on the condition that you are ready, Mr. Simpson,” reports say at Newser.com.
She also wants to get Susan Smith from South Carolina, who is currently doing time for murdering her two children.
We are not sure how great that show will do. We’d like to suggest that maybe if she takes her name off of everything she does the vanity may not shine so brightly.
The college was mighty nice — and mighty white
Janet Gilbert says living and working in Central Maryland has taught her family to value diversity
12:51 PM EDT, June 15, 2011
My son and I visited a small, private, reputable liberal arts college about 500 miles south of Baltimore during its "Welcome High School Juniors Weekend" a few months ago. We spent a beautifully orchestrated day interacting with so many students who looked exactly like us that it almost felt like we had been on a tour of The Sims University.
Because this is my third and final child entering the college vetting process, I knew enough not to extol the school's merits or denigrate its shortcomings and risk prejudicing my son's impressions. After all, anything I might say could be misinterpreted as meaning I either desperately want or don't want my child to attend this institution — possibly instigating in him the dreaded George Costanza reaction of "doing the opposite."
Also, I finally have gotten it through my head that I am not the one who will be attending the chosen school in the fall of 2012, so it is really of no consequence what I think of its awesome rock wall, fascinating lecture series or mini fridge in every room.
Still, I couldn't help but notice that the student body population didn't seem very … diverse. And I told my son so immediately (because everything I wrote in the second paragraph of this piece is really more of a "goal" for outspoken, opinionated people like me).
He agreed right away. I guess we have both grown so accustomed to the diversity we experience routinely in Howard County and Baltimore, where we work and play, that it has become the new "normal." On any given day, we Gilberts might be getting together with a Ko or a Wang, a Lawal or a Romano, a Zhang or a Dunn.
My point is, growing up in Central Maryland makes diversity a draw to us, not a drawback. And I was struggling to articulate why, until I recalled another recent road trip.
I was driving to a restaurant just over the Maryland line with several of my women friends in order to meet up with another dear friend who had moved to Pennsylvania. We got on the subject of our children's significant others, and whether we would have any problem with them marrying outside of their races, religions or cultures. (You know, just the sort of conversation men would have between innings at an Orioles game, if there were a stadiumwide contest for the most unlikely conversation and the winner got season tickets.)
We all had vastly different points to make, because our upbringings and our ethnicities are, of course, diverse. But we all came around to the fact that we think it is most important to seek out partners with a shared value system — and that all the minor differences will just keep things interesting and work themselves out.
You may say I'm a dreamer. But I'm not the only one. So is my son, apparently. And that is why this elite school, with its merit scholarships and excellent academic reputation, will not be on his list.
We're from Maryland, my Maryland — where we embrace diversity.
Janet Gilbert works in Baltimore and lives in Woodstock. Visit her at http://www.janetgilbert.net.
Fried Kool-Aid a hit at fair, Chicken Charlie says
3:33 p.m., June 14, 2011
DEL MAR — The deep-fried Kool-Aid is selling like deep-fried hot cakes, according to their famed creator, "Chicken" Charlie Boghosian.
Chicken Charlie's is a staple of fried rations at fairs across the country. It sold 400 to 600 orders of deep-fried Kool-Aid per day the first weekend of the San Diego County Fair. That's about double the rate of previous debut items, Boghosian said.
"That's because it tastes so darn good," Boghosian said of the Kool-Aid.
The deep-fried novelty takes the shape of a doughnut-hole. There are five per order. That breaks down to as much as 9,000 balls of deep-fried Kool-Aid eaten over opening weekend.
Boghosian said Chicken Charlie's has already gone through 150 pounds of Kool-Aid powder and 1,500 pounds of flour. Chicken Charlie's debuted deep-fried Klondike Bars and Pop Tarts in past years.
Fairgoers on Tuesday were also buying up the deep-fried Kool-Aid.
"It starts off tart and tangy, and then finishes really sweet... I love this stuff," said Seth Baldwin of Vista.
"It tastes just like a doughnut ball," said Rashed Karram, who said he prefers the deep-fried Klondike Bars.
Chicken Charlie's still sells the Klondike Bars, as well as deep-fried thin mints and even frog legs.
"I don't know if I have the stomach for that," Karram said of the frog legs.
An order of deep-fried Kool Aid Tuesday at the San Diego County Fair. — Jonathan Horn
New Jersey mom, Francine Davis, jailed after kids found roaming Jersey City streets naked, hungry
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Saturday, June 18th 2011, 10:57 AM
A New Jersey woman was jailed after her six children, some of whom were naked, were found abandoned and roaming the streets.
Francine Davis, 40, turned herself in to authorities on Wednesday. She faces child endangerment charges.
The children, who ranged in age from 2 to 14 years old, were saved when two downstairs neighbors, Aaliyah Glover, 16, and Nilaja Wyatt, 17, noticed the kids wandering the streets in Jersey City on Tuesday afternoon.
Three of the children were unclothed, and a toddler was almost hit by a car, according to the Jersey Journal.
The teens then broke into Davis' apartment and found her youngest child alone and crying. Glover and Wyatt called the police before bathing and feeding them.
Glover said the children said they hadn't eaten in days.
"They didn't know how to eat with forks," Glover told the Journal.
Police said the children were left in the care of the oldest child, who is reportedly autistic and unable to care for her siblings.
Witnesses told WABC that Davis eventually returned to that apartment Wednesday at 4 a.m.
The kids are now in temporary foster care, and Davis remains behind bars on a $50,000 bond.
Busted Harlem cocaine kingpin so obsessed with 'Scarface,' he put his face on the film poster
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Originally Published:Friday, June 17th 2011, 3:53 PM
Updated: Friday, June 17th 2011, 6:16 PM
A major East Harlem cocaine kingpin is a wannabe "Scarface," cops say.
Ceferino (Papo) Perez was so obsessed with Al Pacino's portrayal of violent drug boss Tony Montana in the hit 1983 movie that he superimposed his face over the actor's in a movie poster - and kept it on his bed stand.
"He's very proud of what he's doing, obviously, and he's quite arrogant and narcissistic," NYPD Inspector Lori Pollock said when asked why Perez photo shopped the picture.
Cops seized the photo, "pounds and pounds" of diamond-incrusted bling and mountains of cash from his Yonkers apartment and elsewhere.
"This is his business, this is what he's been doing his entire life," the cop said.
Al Pacino in the same scene from the film "Scarface" that busted drug kingpin Ceferino (Papo) Perez doctored with his own face.
Authorities say that for 25 years Perez has operated a well-oiled $650,000-a-year cocaine delivery service on Manhattan's East side and a $1.1 million-a-year wholesale business.
Prosecutors invoked the 2009 "drug kingpin" statute against Perez, 45, who is being held on Rikers Island. The statute, used against "major drug traffickers," carries a sentence of 25-to-life.
The 15-month probe took off after several suspects, some in jail, offered up enough evidence to get court-ordered wiretaps.
Cops zeroed in on Perez and two other accused drug lords, Nelson Rejab, 43, and German (Mouse) Torres, 37, who also were busted on the top charge.
"This \[investigation\] brought down an entire, notorious drug operation, whose kingpin was so well-insulated that for years he was virtually untouchable," Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance told reporters.
Vance said Perez's business accounted for one-third of all the cocaine supply in East Harlem. He said the gang's delivery service operated like a busy dry cleaner or pizza parlor - serving up to 100 customers a day.
Perez's wife, Elsie Detres-Perez, also was arrested.
The Obama-haters' mindless enmity
A perpetually fact-challenged writer from Silver Spring is asserting that Obama's re-election would be a disaster ("Obama's re-election in 2012 would be a disaster," June 9).
I got the same sort of mindless screed against President Obama from friends in a chain email last week. One of my challenges to these sort of folks is, who they would suggest as an alternative?
Mitt Romney, whose health insurance plan in Massachusetts is basically Obamacare? And who wanted to go it alone invading Libya without NATO or the African Union — which would mean the U.S. pays for a third war when we can't afford the other two?
The thrice-married Rudolph Giuliani or Newt Gingrich? Sarah Palin or Michelle Bachman (who is against public transit because it is "European")?
Both women's appeal seems limited to high-testosterone, low-information conservatives.
I've never seen such a bunch of losers vying for the most important political office on the planet. Do any of your rightist readers seriously believe that any of these candidates wouldn't be toast debating President Obama?
I am far from an optimist or an ardent Obama supporter. But the only thing that looks likely to derail President Obama's re-election at this point is the unemployment rate.
Maybe if enough Obama-haters stopped working for six months to create a statistical anomaly, they might get one of their goons in.
There are certainly enough of them around to do so.
Paul R. Schlitz Jr., Baltimore
The Baltimore Sun
COPY OF LETTER CITED
Obama re-election in 2012 would be a disaster
8:45 AM EDT, June 9, 2011
President Obama is bragging he will raise $1 billion for his reelection campaign in 2012. Here are just some of the reasons Mr. Obama should not be reelected.
While Americans struggle to survive in this bleak economy, President Obama is deliberately bringing the economy to its knees. His actions have driven up gas prices, and he is supporting amnesty for millions of illegal Immigrants.
He is trying to force health care on us against our needs and created a huge stimulus plan that so far has failed.
He is supporting a government takeover of private industry and is trying to punish businesses that create jobs. He stuffed the courts with liberal judges and socialist Ideologues, and he is trying to create new gun control measures. He also wants to take over the Internet and conservative talk radio.
Given all the damage Mr. Obama has inflicted on Americans the last two years, his reelection would be a disaster.
Silver Spring, Md
Washington state prison escapee caught near Forks
An escaped convict was caught following a day on the loose after he knocked on the door of a cabin in the woods - only to find out the man renting the lodge was an off-duty guard at the prison he just fled.
DONNA GORDON BLANKINSHIP
An escaped convict was caught following a day on the loose after he knocked on the door of a cabin in the woods - only to find out the man renting the lodge was an off-duty guard at the prison he just fled.
Authorities said 39-year-old James Edward Russell took off from the Olympic Corrections Center near Forks on Tuesday morning. Early the next morning, Russell - still wearing his prison uniform - went to the cabin, knocked on the door and asked to use the phone, said Department of Corrections spokesman Chad Lewis.
The guard recognized the red, prison-issue shirt, a scuffle ensued and Russell took off again, Lewis said Thursday. The guard, whose name being withheld by the Department of Corrections, reported the incident and Russell was caught later Wednesday morning by other corrections officers about from the facility near Forks, on the Olympic Peninsula.
Russell was serving his fourth prison term since 1993 and had been transferred to the minimum security work camp just a day before he ran off, authorities said.
His earliest release date was scheduled for March 2014 - but that could be about to change.
If convicted for the escape, Russell faces at least another year in prison to be served after his current sentence for theft and forgery in Lewis County. And it would most likely be at a higher security facility.
"Assuming he is found guilty of escape, he's not likely to be put in a work camp, because he becomes an escape risk," Lewis said.
Russell has been moved to the Stafford Creek Corrections Center near Aberdeen and is spending 24 hours a day in his cell as officials investigate the escape, Lewis said.
Jefferson County deputy prosecutor Chris Ashcraft said his office does not yet have the case.
It is unclear whether Russell has an attorney and the inmate was not available for comment on Thursday.
It was the first escape from the Olympic Corrections Center since 2006.
Rat bites Baltimore City police officer after hiding in cruiser
Officers kill rodent with umbrella after brief struggle
The Baltimore Sun
7:55 PM EDT, June 16, 2011
Rats are brazen neighbors in many a Baltimore neighborhood.
A city police officer discovered just how brazen they are when one furry scavenger turned criminal and broke into a squad car. The rodent apparently gnawed on some wires and waited.
It chose a less-than-perfect moment to emerge from hiding early Wednesday and climb up the back of a sergeant as his partner drove to a robbery call in South Baltimore.
Thinking his colleague was playing a joke by tickling his neck, Sgt. Marc J. Camarote took a swipe with his arm. The angry rodent bit the officer on the palm and thumb of his right hand, according to a police spokesman.
The rat and officer battled, and Camarote was able to roll down his window and throw the rodent onto the side of the road on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Bridge. With his sergeant bleeding, the driver sped to Harbor Hospital, and was promptly told the rat needed to be found and tested for disease.
The officers returned to the bridge, where a well-placed police source said they found a rat limping along Hanover Street. Another struggle ensued, with the police prevailing. Not with a gun or an espantoon.
An officer beat the rat to death with an umbrella.
Police bagged the dead rodent, and it's being tested. The sergeant is out recovering for a few days.
Details, including the sergeant's name, came from the police source, but the incident was confirmed by the Baltimore Police Department's chief spokesman, Anthony Guglielmi.
Robert F. Cherry, the police union president, said officers from their first days in patrol know that running into alleys and onto streets means not only watching out for broken glass and drug needles, "but also rats."
Camarote can take comfort in knowing that he's not the first officer bitten by an animal other than a dog. Back in 1996, Officer Drew Dorbert was bitten by an 3-foot-long Ornate Nile monitor lizard near Patterson Park.
Getting bitten by a rat will most certainly earn Camarote a bit of unwanted fame and ribbing from his colleagues. His only mention in the newspaper before now was in 2004 — a one-line mention in the police blotter for arresting a drug dealer.
LINK TO VIDEO:
Cops: Mom left 3-week-old in hotel with blind man
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The mother of a 3-week-old baby is accused of leaving her son alone in a Motel 6 room with a blind man.
"The infant was left unattended on a bed across the room from the blind male, who was unaware of where the infant was," the warrant states.
A woman who was supposed to be caring for the child, Carolyn Louise Burns, 41, told police she'd administered methamphetamines by injection throughout the night, the warrant states. In the hotel room, police found meth inside an empty beer can on the bathroom floor.
Both women were arrested early Sunday and transported to the Cobb County jail. The infant was taken into protective custody, the warrant states.
Tilton, of Dallas, was charged with cruelty to children and has a probation violation. She is being held without bond. Burns, of Kennesaw, faces two felony drug charges. Her bond was set at $10,000, jail records show.
Details emerge about ‘child pornography’ yearbook photo [Updated]
An inappropriate "child pornography" picture published in a Big Bear High School yearbook depicts a 17-year-old male student with his hand inside the clothing of a 15-year-old female student, officials said Thursday.
Cindy Bachman, a spokeswoman for the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department, said the students appear in the background of the photo and "are not the intended focus of the photograph." The picture was taken at a school dance.
However, authorities said they were concerned enough about the picture that they demanded that all Big Bear High School students return their 2011 yearbooks to the school so that the photo can be removed or covered up. They also warned that those possessing the photograph risk criminal charges involving the possession of child pornography.
The school has offered to reimburse students who do not want their yearbooks back.
The picture was brought to the attention of school officials after the yearbook was distributed last week, and they notified the Big Bear Sheriff's Station, which is conducting an investigation.
A detective has contacted both of the students in the photograph, Bachman said.
[Updated at 2:30 p.m., June 16: Bear Valley Unified School District officials released a statement saying that after learning about the photograph, administrators "immediately stopped distribution and issued a recall of all yearbooks that had been dispersed," and that a replacement page has been ordered.
Officials from both the school and district are investigating the matter, the statement said, and will "take appropriate action based on their findings."]
LINK TO COPY OF LETTER SENT HOME:
Parents accused of letting 1-year-old girl ingest meth
Two Great Falls parents were arrested for criminal endangerment after allegedly letting their 1-year-old daughter drink methamphetamine-laced orange juice.
Court documents state that a social worker with the Department of Public Health and Human Services, who visited the home as part of an investigation, reported Angela Rose Haas, 23, and Lee Edwin Haas, 29, to the police Tuesday, saying the couple's daughter had tested positive for high levels of the drug. The couple appeared in court on felony criminal endangerment charges Wednesday.
Angela Haas told the social worker that the child drank orange juice that had been left out after a party in their home at 802 5th Ave. S., court documents state. Angela Haas gave the child the orange juice, she told police, but she said she didn't know the drug was in the drink. Someone later told her that it had an unknown amount of meth in it.
Both parents told police that they did not know the orange juice was laced with the drug, but prosecutors allege that the parents did not take the child to the emergency room once they found out what the baby drank.
Lee Haas told police that he noticed the girl was acting strange and would not sleep. The baby then began showing symptoms of meth withdrawal, which lasted for close to a day.
Both Lee and Angela Haas allegedly told police they didn't want to take their daughter to the emergency room because they were afraid of getting in trouble.
The parents were held at the Cascade County Jail as of Wednesday evening. Lee Haas was held on a $5,000 bond and Angela Haas was held on a bond of $5,285. The extra amount for Angela Haas' bond was because of an unrelated misdemeanor warrant that was served at the time of her arrest.
Felony criminal endangerment carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $50,000 fine.
MTA driver suspended for the 15th time after using express bus as private meeting room with gal pal
Pete Donohue and Kerry Wills
DAILY NEWS WRITERS
Thursday, June 16th 2011, 4:00 AM
Edward Meehan - who had racked up 14 suspensions for speeding, running red lights and other infractions - was suspended for the 15th time last week for the unauthorized get-togethers, authorities said.
The New Jersey man was supposed to steer his express bus to his assigned MTA depot in Staten Island after dropping off commuters in Manhattan.
Investigators say Meehan, 45, made a detour in April - more than once. He parked his passengerless coach on a quiet, treelined avenue in Staten Island - where his gal pal boarded the big rig, an investigative report says.
"He claims they were just talking," said a source familiar with the investigation by Metropolitan Transportation Authority Inspector General Barry Kluger's office. "He said he was going through a hard time and she's a friend."
After two of the rendezvous on the X22 bus, Meehan claimed he was delayed about an hour by traffic - and even filed for overtime at his Charleston Depot. There was at least one other onboard session, but Meehan didn't seek the higher pay for it, the report states.
The NYC Transit division suspended Meehan without pay last week, officials said.
From his condo in Howell, N.J., Meehan denied any hanky-panky on his vehicle and called the incidents "a misunderstanding."
"I was just talking to a friend for a little while," he said. "I'm happily married."
The agency is moving to fire him.
NYC Transit hired Meehan in 1999, but he resigned the following year after being questioned about his absenteeism, the agency said yesterday.
Meehan took another bus operator's exam in 2002 and was hired several years later off a Civil Service list, the agency said. A transit official said the agency's ability to reject Meehan's application was hampered by Civil Service rules.
Until last week, Meehan had been suspended 14 times but managed to stay on the payroll, the report states. Bosses in October 2008 charged him with speeding and "gross misconduct." They tried to fire him, but a contract arbitrator on appeal reduced the penalty to a 25-day suspension, authorities said.
Kluger's office launched an investigation after a Staten Island tipster reported seeing bus No. 4314 on North Gannon Ave., between Ingram and Warwick Aves., on April 12, 19 and 22.
Each time, the same woman left after at least 20 or 30 minutes onboard, walked to a car and drove off, according to the report.
"We believe, based on all the facts, he should be terminated," Kluger told the Daily News. "This is an example of why people should come to this office with information whether they think it's big or small, important or not important. As you can see from this, there can be significant results."
Woman charged with endangering kids after crashing car into estranged husband’s
Guadalupe Romero, 27, of the 4000 block of Algonquin Parkway in Rolling Meadows was charged with child endangerment and aggravated battery. Alfonso Fierro, of the 500 block of Mesa Drive in Hoffman Estates, was charged with DUI.
A woman who police said intentionally crashed into her estranged husband’s SUV while driving her three children has been charged with child endangerment and aggravated battery.
Her estranged husband was also charged with DUI, officials said.
Guadalupe Romero, 27, of the 4000 block of Algonquin Parkway in Rolling Meadows, was charged with felony child endangerment and aggravated battery, Arlington Heights police said.
Authorities said her husband, Alfonso Fierro, and his girlfriend were in their SUV in Arlington Heights on Sunday evening when Romero spotted them while she was driving with her three young children, ages 8, 5 and 2, in the car.
Police said Romero began following them, struck his vehicle from behind and then swerved to the left and rammed her car into his again. Fierro lost control of his vehicle and struck a tree on the passenger, injuring his girlfriend, police said.
Romero’s bond was set at $100,000 this morning. She remains in custody, police said.
Fierro, of the 500 block of Mesa Drive in Hoffman Estates, received minor injuries during the accident and was also charged with DUI, police said. He is out on bond.
The three children in the care of a relative, Arlington Heights police Cmdr. Kenneth Galinski said.
Fierro’s girlfriend is in stable condition but has extensive injuries, Galinski said.
Gutsy grandmother escaped clutches of thug who stabbed her by outsmarting him, she says
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Wednesday, June 15th 2011, 4:00 AM
"I outsmarted him," Mazie Garris said, recounting in an exclusive interview Tuesday how she eluded the money-hunting bandit and fled her Harlem apartment to seek help.
The good-hearted senior, who is known to give food to the needy, opened her W. 139th St. home to Larry Brown, 57, on Monday morning - thinking he wanted a hot meal or clothes.
Brown - a nephew of Garris by marriage, according to family - whipped out a knife and stabbed her in the head, back and chest.
He then bound Garris and her husband, Boatman Garris, so he could ransack the place.
"He tied me up on a chair, and he didn't think I could get out," the granny said from Harlem Hospital.
"Well, when he went upstairs to get what he was looking for, I got myself free and ran outside."
Brown stole $1,000 from Garris and then fled. He's on the lam.
Garris was able to make it a few doors down from her brownstone before collapsing onto a stoop.
She said she was very thankful that a plumber who was doing work on the block, Juan Adames, 40, spotted her and called 911.
Adames recalled that all Garris kept saying was how she wanted someone to help her husband, who was still tied up inside their home.
The churchgoing woman said she feels blessed to have survived her nephew's cruelty.
"I'm feeling okay, considering," she said. "It's a miracle that I'm still here."
She was in stable condition Tuesday, police said. She said she needs more rest but is eager to return home.
Police described Brown as 5-feet-9 and 170 pounds. He has graying hair and a gray goatee. He was last seen dressed in black.
"We ask anyone with information to call our tips hotline," Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said.
Why Sarah Palin Must Run in 2012
One of the prevailing debates in the GOP these days (if not the only one) is whether or not Governor Sarah Palin will, or should, run for president. Not only should she, she must if the GOP has any hope of having a legitimate nominee whom everyone can support for the 2012 election.
Why? Without Palin in the race a massive segment of the GOP base—Tea Party patriots and other independent conservatives—will find themselves once again with the prospect of choosing from a manipulated field of Next-In-Line GOP establishment liberals.
And make no mistake—that is exactly who will prevail. Despite the desperate and not surprisingly shallow belief by the boys in control of the GOP, Palin cannot be replaced by another woman, or another Tea Party supporter, or another Brunette (no matter how much they think a Stalking Horse will split the Tea Party vote). Palin’s impact is unique, significant and deep. Her influence rests on background, experience, legitimacy and most important of all—trust. These are the reasons why Palin matters, the same reasons why the GOP machine appropriately sees her, and no one else, as an existential threat to their status quo.
Despite this, if the GOP truly wants to win 2012 (of which I’m not entirely convinced, after all, I hear Jeb Bush would love to beat Obama in 2016) they should be begging Palin to enter the race. Considering their portrayal of her, why not? Look, if you can’t beat Sarah Palin what makes you think you can beat Barack Obama? What are they so afraid of? Do they so not trust the decision-making of the American people they want to make sure you have no choice at all? Those lingering questions would eventually be answered—by an Obama victory on November 6, 2012.
Palin also has a dilemma. The decision to run is one only Palin can make, and she must know that choice is first and foremost a commitment to every voter so they can own the result of the election. No matter what happens, with so much at stake in the process, we must be able to look in the mirror and know the result is something of our doing, not a half-truth of the insecure and self-obsessed political class. This is the only way a large swath of the American populace will not abandon the process, allowing the government to maintain at least a semblance of legitimacy.
Palin must know the importance of her simply being in the arena. If she runs and is defeated for the nomination, the burden is then on the shoulders of the voters, they made the choice, not Palin, not the machine. With her in play, Reagan Republicans, conservative independents and Tea Party patriots will know their circumstances are of their doing, that the decision is truly theirs and will have no reason to resent the result or stay home on election day.
The contempt the GOP machine has for the average Republican voter is best illustrated by their other Big Fear—Palin does win the nomination! And why should we fear that? Well, that would be a disaster, because, uh, there’s no way she could win the general election and they have to stop that catastrophe from happening! You know, because Mr. Next-In-Line is for sure the only one who can beat Obama. Just like in 2008. Or something.
The truth of the matter is quite the opposite. They fear a Palin nomination because they know if she wins the GOP nod, she wins the general election. How? Consider these years of frantic and pathological attacks on Palin, all of which she has survived with the grace and dignity so void in her accusers. Now imagine what the establishment will try to do to her during the nominating process. If she wins the nomination despite what they do, it means she not only has convinced Republicans under extraordinary circumstances, she will have convinced the rest of the nation as well. If she wins the nomination with all that she will undoubtedly face during the Republican primaries, the presidency is hers.
All of America will watch to see if Republicans and conservatives are serious about saving this nation—that seriousness will be reflected in their nominee—if it’s Obama-lite—a mandate-supporting, universal healthcare-making, “the era of small government is over”-stating Big Government Conservative–why would anyone else feel compelled to abandon a cultural icon incumbent who represents those very same things?
For Sarah Palin, there is only one way for her “fundamental restoration of America” to take place—first, she must run.
Pennsylvania teacher Cheryl Bremble suspended for allegedly giving female student a vibrator
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Tuesday, June 14th 2011, 10:59 AM
A Pennsylvania teacher was arrested for making repeated sexual come-ons to a student - including giving the girl a vibrator as a gift during school hours, authorities charged.
Cheryl Bremble, 40, was suspended after the teary special education student told her father about the salacious text messages and lewd face-to-face conversations, officials said.
The teacher's bizarre behavior "is particularly repulsive when you consider the fact you're dealing with a vulnerable child in the special-education program," Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman told PhillyBurbs.com.
The blonde-haired Bremble, currently free on $25,000 bail, is due back in court on June 21 to face charges of endangering the welfare of a child and corruption of a minor.
Her lurid behavior began in October and continued through May, authorities said. As part of her efforts to woo the student, Bremble also took the girl on shopping trips where she picked up the tab for pricey clothing purchases.
After giving the unidentified girl the vibrator, Bremble urged her in a text message to experiment with the sex toy.
"And don't ever say I won't try it, cause u will experience something wonderful..." she wrote.
In other messages, the teacher at Upper Dublin High School told the student that she was "hot." Bremble, the divorced mother of two, also said that she was bisexual.
North Middleton Township couple charged with threatening neighbor over cat feces
Published: Monday, June 13, 2011, 6:53 AM Updated: Monday, June 13, 2011, 12:16 PM
An 83-year-old man and his 89-year-old wife were charged last week by North Middleton Township police after allegedly threatening to kill their neighbor when they found cat feces on their property.
Harold A. and Ruth C. Rought had been feeding stray cats in the neighborhood, police said. When they found the feces on their Pennsylvania Avenue property, they told police by phone and in person that they were going to shoot their neighbor, who they believe was responsible.
Husband and wife were charged with terroristic threats and harassment.
CNN Political Unit
Manchester, New Hampshire (CNN) – Five things we learned at the debate:
1) Michele Bachmann is now a candidate for president. The congresswoman from Minnesota was the only person on the stage who was not officially a candidate at the start of the debate. That changed minutes into the debate, when Bachmann told CNN's John King, the moderator of the debate that "I just want to make an announcement here for you, John, on CNN tonight. I filed today my paperwork to seek the office of the presidency of the United States today. And I'll very soon be making my formal announcement."
2) Mitt Romney is already running a general election campaign. The former Massachusetts governor, who is the front-runner in the most recent national GOP horserace polls, saved his firepower for President Barack Obama, going as far as saying "I can't wait to debate him." At the same time, Romney passed on criticizing any of his rivals on the stage, including former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who had in recent days attacked Romney over his Massachusetts health care law.
3) Tim Pawlenty's missed opportunity? The former Minnesota governor, when asked about his use Sunday of the term "Obamneycare," didn't strongly respond. Pawlenty's muted response, and Romney's lack of criticism of Pawlenty, avoided a political World War Three. Instead of taking on Romney, Pawlenty went after the president, saying "President Obama is - is the person who I quoted in saying he looked to Massachusetts for designing his program. He's the one who said it's a blueprint and that he merged the two programs. And so using the term "Obamneycare" was a reflection of the president's comments that he designed Obamacare on the Massachusetts health care plan."
4) Michele Bachmann's successful debate debut: The congresswoman from Minnesota had some of the best lines of the night, and because of that she received some of the loudest applause. But besides some strong one-liners, such as her "take it to the bank" comment on repealing the president's health care law, Bachmann also appeared to have strong responses on policy.
5) Newt Gingrich is still in the race. He wasn't asked about the mass defection of most of his campaign staff, and he didn't bring it up himself, but the former House Speaker did show that he came to play, that he is a serious presidential candidate. And his comment on loyalty to the government may have been the most shocking moment of the evening. He didn't back down from his criticism of House Budget Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan's Medicare proposal, either. Was Gingrich successful or did he dig himself a deeper hole?
–CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report
Refugio County man died while raping woman, authorities say
Registered sex offender rode bike two miles to the assault
Corpus Christi Caller
June 13, 2011 at 3:03 p.m.
updated June 13, 2011 at 3:05 p.m.
CORPUS CHRISTI — A man died while raping a 77-year-old woman in Refugio County, a sheriff's investigator said.
Isabel Chavelo Gutierrez, 53, complained to the woman that he wasn't feeling well and stopped having sex with her so he could rest. He then went back to fondling the woman before he rolled over and died, said Sgt. Gary Wright of the Refugio County Sheriff's Office.
Investigators believe Gutierrez died of a heart attack after riding two miles on his bicycle to the woman's home in Tivoli, Wright said. The Nueces County medical examiner is conducting an autopsy.
The woman survived the attack.
Gutierrez was armed with a pocketknife, Wright said. He rode from his own home in Tivoli, where he was registered as a sex offender, according to the state's sex offender registry. He was 5 feet 7 inches tall and weighed 230 to 250 pounds, Wright said. He entered the home by lowering the glass pane on a screen door.
Gutierrez was on parole for sex crimes including aggravated sexual assault and indecency with a child in 1986, Wright said. He was released from prison in 2008.
The woman saw Gutierrez at a local post office one day before the June 2 attack, Wright said.
During the attack, she thought Gutierrez passed out from drinking because she smelled alcohol on his breath.
After he lost consciousness, the woman drove away from her house and called her daughter, who then alerted authorities. Gutierrez was dead when they arrived.
Men care more about cars than their health because of 'big boys don't cry' syndrome, new survey shows
Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 8:14 AM on 13th June 2011
Nearly 70% of men find it easier to care for their cars than they do their personal health, a new national survey shows.
Some men may be ignoring symptoms of treatable health conditions and don’t visit their doctors sometimes for as long as six months to a year after experiencing disease symptoms.
Scott Williams, vice president of Men’s Health Network [MHN], said the statistics are scary, considering that many diseases can be treated before they get out of hand.
In denial: Seventy per cent of the men polled in a national survey care for their cars than they do their personal health
MHN commissioned the national online survey with partner Abbott Laboratories. It included 501 men ages 45 to 65 and 501 of their spouses or significant others to see just how pro-active men are when it comes to dealing with health matters.
The results confirmed what men’s health experts have thought for some time: men are in denial.
Mr Williams attributes the mindset to societal values that condition boys to 'tough it out' in the face of injury.
'When a boy is five years old and skins his knee, he’s told that big boys don’t cry,' he said.
Fast forward to adulthood and chest pain evokes the same dismissive reaction, he says.
Wait another day: Men, the surveys says, often go to the doctor six months to a year after first getting symptoms of a treatable condition
Dr Harry Fisch, urologist and clinical professor of medicine at New York Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical College, said: 'At age 40, the body begins to change and men are past the maintenance-free years.'
That is why MHN has been trying to heighten awareness of preventable health problems and encouraging early detection.
In 1994 Congress established Men’s Health Week, which was signed into law by former President Bill Clinton and celebrated each year the week leading up to and including Father's Day.
MHN’s T-Talk Tune-up manual includes Dr Fisch’s yearly medical test recommendations which include cholesterol, blood pressure, prostate and testicular exams and a blood test that determines a man’s testosterone level.
Women also play a part. More than 40 per cent of the respondent’s significant others reported they are worried about their partner’s health.
And 56 per cent of women worry more about their partner’s health than their own, foxbusiness.com reports.
Mr Williams said that is largely because women tend to be responsible for their family’s care and will seek out preventive care more often than men.
A 2001 Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) survey reports the rate of doctor visits for annual examinations and preventive services was 100% higher for women than for men.
While cholesterol and blood pressure, and even a prostate exam, are more commonly talked about when it comes to maintaining men’s health, a regular testosterone level check-up tends to be neglected.
Low testosterone affects nearly 14 million men in the U.S., mainly those aged 45 and older, and it may be overlooked because the symptoms are subtle and similar to those caused by other medical conditions.
Playing safe: Men should be getting annual check-ups for testosterone, which the report describes as a window to general health
Although Low testosterone has usually been thought to be associated with diminished sex drive, current thinking is that it is a window to general health.
While it can lead to sexual dysfunction, decreased sexual desire, and low sperm count, it is also associated with decreased muscle mass and strength, loss of body hair, and decreased bone mineral density or increased body fat.
Dr Fisch says that men exhibiting the symptoms and men with conditions that place them at increased risk – such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, asthma, erectile dysfunction and HIV/AIDS – should consider speaking to their doctor.
He also says erectile dysfunction can precede heart disease by three to five years.
Though this may vary, he recommends a cardiac stress test, a carotid echocardiogram and a calcium CT score of the heart vessels in men with these symptoms.
While testosterone levels can decline with age, not every man will have low testosterone, and not all who do will need treatment, which currently includes regular injections, a patch, or more recently, a gel.
Bus company shut down after officials find people traveling in luggage compartment -- again
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Sunday, June 12th 2011, 11:08 AM
Along with the uncomfortable travelers, authorities also found mattresses, pillows and luggage when the bus was pulled over in Ohio on May 27th.
"People's lives were needlessly placed at risk," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in a statement. "Safety is everyone's responsibility and it begins with practicing common sense. That means not putting human beings in cargo holds."
The bus was run by Haines Tours.
According to the report by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the driver told the officer that he had stashed some passengers in the luggage department because there was no more room on the passenger part of the bus.
Even more frightening? The bus company was warned in August of 2010 that it cannot transport people in the luggage department of its vehicles.
It was not immediately clear why the passengers agreed to sit in the luggage compartment of the vehicle.
The company can operate again if it meets government requirements and develops a plan to ensure that passengers are never stashed anywhere but the passenger area of the bus again.
The incident comes after a series of high-profile bus crashes that have killed dozens this year, including one from New York to a Connecticut casino.
In North Carolina, another bus company was ordered to shut down on Saturday because government inspectors said the company hires drivers who don't have the required licenses or aren't medically qualified, WCTI-12 reported.
The company said it plans on hiring new drivers so it can resume operations.
Biker pulled over by NYPD for sexy outfit: 'I thought he was joking'
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Sunday, June 12th 2011, 4:00 AM
The leggy Dutch tourist said she was pulled over by an NYPD cop for flashing too much skin while on two wheels.
"He said it's very disturbing, and it's distracting the cars and it's dangerous," Rijcken told the Daily News. "I thought he was joking around but he got angry and asked me for ID."
Rijcken, 31, was not given a ticket during the May 3 incident, and did not get the officer's name, but was left feeling baffled.
"I didn't even think for one second that my outfit could be harmful or disturbing," she said.
As general manager of a Dutch bicycle company, Rijcken was in New York to attend the New Amsterdam Bike Show and hopped on her wheels that sunny day to experience biking in New York City first hand.
She says she got more than she bargained for. "I was on my way back to the hotel when it happened and I changed into pants," she said. "I didn't want to get into trouble again."
NYPD Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne said: "Whether this story bears even a modest semblance of what actually occurred is impossible to establish without being provided the purported officer's name and getting his side of the story."
7 Foods Most Likely to Make You Sick
Every day, more than 130,000 Americans are stricken with food poisoning. While the rates of some common food-borne bugs have declined, cases of Salmonella—the most common infection and leading cause of both hospitalization and death from food-borne illness—have risen by 10 percent since 2006, according to a new food safety report issued by the CDC on June 7. About 1.2 million Americans suffer bouts of Salmonella each year.
“The bottom line is that food-borne illness, particularly salmonella, is still far too common,” said CDC director Dr. Thomas Frieden. One reason is that it can taint a wide range of foods, including meat, eggs, poultry, vegetables and nuts. One detail of the report highlights just how entrenched the pathogen is: New US standards to take effect next month call for “allowable contamination” of chicken at processing plants to be reduced to 7.5 percent from the current rate of 20 percent—hardly an assurance of safety. Here’s a look at seven of the riskiest foods for triggering serious health problems.
1. Leafy Greens: Greens like lettuce, escarole, endive, spinach, cabbage, kale, arugula and chard top a list compiled by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) of the riskiest foods regulated by the FDA.
2. Eggs: Eggs and egg products have been blamed for more than 350 outbreaks of food poisoning. Last year they sickened more than 50,000 Americans, leading to the recall of a half-billion eggs.
3. Hot Dogs: OK, you wouldn’t consider them a health food, but you may not know that hot dogs are hazardous to young kids.
4. Tuna: Mercury isn’t the only hazard. A naturally occurring toxin—a histamine-like chemical—can trigger a syndrome similar to an allergic reaction. Affected fish may have a peppery, bitter or metallic flavor.
5. Peanuts: In moderation, peanuts can be nutritious as they contain heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. However, they can be dangerous or deadly to about one percent of the population.
6. Potatoes: Outbreaks of illness are linked to potato salad.
7. Ice Cream: The largest ice-cream outbreak ever occurred in 1994 when a manufacturer transported raw eggs and pasteurized ice cream premix in the same truck.
Suspect Shot in Cordova Armed Robbery
8:19 p.m. CDT, June 11, 2011
Forsyth DUI judge admits to drunken driving
For the AJC
MACON — A Forsyth Municipal Court judge who heard DUI cases has pleaded guilty to a drunken driving charge.
Judge Jeff Davis, who also is chief magistrate for Monroe County, entered his plea in Bibb County court Friday. He was sentenced to one day in jail, a year of probation, 40 hours of community service and an $800 fine.
Bibb County authorities arrested Davis early Saturday at a safety checkpoint in near the Monroe County line.
The next day, Davis resigned from his job with the Forsyth Municipal Court. He has not stepped down from his Monroe County job.
Judges handing down extra-long sentences
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Fulton County Judge Constance Russell stacked life sentence after life sentence after life sentence on rapist Marvin Martin three months ago, ensuring that the 33-year-old truck driver will never be free.
He will have to serve 360 years in prison before he can even be considered for parole.
Martin's is an impossible sentence. But it is indicative of the path some judges are now taking, suggesting a lack of trust that their sentences will mean anything if prison crowding continues or if the state's finances force early releases. Or if the presently conservative Pardons and Paroles Board shifts to more liberal stance on crime and punishment.
They fear a repeat of the late 1980s and early 1990s, when Georgia had to open prison doors to avoid a lawsuit. Other states are already facing the same option.
“It’s a trend,” University of Georgia law professor Ron Carlson said of an apparent uptick in prison sentences that extend many times longer than a lifetime.
Evidence is anecdotal.
Former DeKalb County Deputy Derrick Yancey will be 111 before the Parole Board can consider him for clemency, assuming he lives that long. Yancey murdered his wife and a day laborer and then tried claim Marcial Cax-Puluc killed Linda Yancey and that he simply killed the worker in self defense. DeKalb Superior Court Judge Linda Harper sentenced Yancey to two consecutive life sentences plus 65 years.
Fulton County Courthouse murderer Brian Nichols most likely has the longest prison sentence in the Georgia system. For killing four people, Judge James Bodiford gave him four back-to-back sentences of life without parole, seven life sentences with parole also to be served one at a time and 485 years for all his other crimes on March 11, 2005 -- kidnapping, aggravated assault and escape.
Judges are reluctant to talk about their reasons for stacking on the time.
But prosecutors and defense attorneys say one purpose of insurmountable sentences is to reinforce to the state Board of Pardons and Paroles that these are the worst of the worst criminals and should never be free again.
“The judge is basically giving an indication as to the severity of the offense and is sending a clear message as to what he feels is appropriate,” said Bob Keller, a former Clayton County DA and now one of five Parole Board members.
“It’s all going to boil down to why did the judge think this was an appropriate sentence?” Keller said. “Is it a pile-on situation? He [the judge] didn’t just pull it out of thing air. Something prompted it.”
Nationwide, prison systems are overflowing and there is no available money to resolve those problems.
For example, on May 23, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 38,000 to 46,000 prisoners should be released from California's prisons and about 9,000 others moved to local jails to relieve dangerous overcrowding.
It's an old problem that never seems to go away and lawmakers and parole boards face fierce recriminations if they suggest an alternative that could be viewed as too easy on criminals.
The last time Georgia tried something drastic was in 1989. Threatened with a lawsuit threat that could have put Georgia's prisons under the control of federal courts, then-Gov. Joe Frank Harris created an early release program to buy time until an unprecedented building program effort could be competed. About 8,200 non-violent felons and first-time drug offenders were released early to create room for the more dangerous criminals.
The measure drew criticism from district attorneys and legislators. Twenty-two years later, judges are making sure some of those more dangerous criminals are never set free.
“There are very bad people who don’t need to be walking free among us. They’ve committed such heinous crimes they don’t need to be out,” Clayton County DA Tracy Graham Lawson said.
That is the reason, she believes, judges and prosecutors are using sentences longer than any human can serve: to inform those who hold the keys to the prison system that these criminals are off-limits.
Presently, Georgia’s system is slightly over capacity. The Department of Corrections is holding about 49,420 convicted felons while the system has room for 46,554 men and women -- 35,527 in 30 state prisons, 5,963 inmates in two private prisons and another 5,064 in low-security county prisons.
It is unknown how many of these inmates have prison sentences that exceed life expectancy many times over. Neither the Department of Corrections nor the state Board of Pardons and Paroles tracks these inmates.
“You’re seeing much, much more of the stacking,” said attorney Sharon Hopkin, who specializes in appellate work for those already in prison.
But Carlson, the law professor, wondered if it was getting out of hand.
He referenced a case in Texas in which the judge handed down a 2,500-year sentence. An appellate court opined "these excessive sentences have made Texas sentencing the laughing stock of the nation."
There already are similar concerns being raised in Georgia.
"We need to take a strong look at these sentences that, for the purposes of public relations, have been piled on,” Carlson said. “What is being done here, if it continues, will look ludicrous to the public. ... The trend toward enhanced punishments needs to be weighed against several factors, including costs of confinement as well as the need to shape a sentence which meets confinement objectives without overkill.”
Gov. Nathan Deal created a 13-member commission to recommend sentencing changes because, he said, there are "too many people behind bars." The Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform had its first meeting on Tuesday and heard many of the same warnings on over-crowding sounded repeatedly over the past two decades.
The special council's recommendations are due to the governor by Nov. 1.
At the same time, the State Bar of Georgia has a Criminal Justice Reform Committee working in tandem with the governor’s group.
Both panels include judges and prosecutors but their conclusions may still be difficult for some segments of the criminal justice system to accept.
“You want to control it for the rest of the time and judges are that way,” said Rick Malone, who was a South Georgia prosecutor for two decades and is now executive director of the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia. “It’s a statement as to whether or not this person should ever get out. You hear horror stories about sending them home to die and six years later, he’s still out there and he commits another crime.”
Stewardship? Or ideology?
June 9, 2011
The Republicans swept November’s midterm election by making it highly ideological, a referendum on two years of hyper-liberalism — of arrogant, overreaching, intrusive government drowning in debt and running deficits of $1.5 trillion annually. It’s not complicated. To govern left in a center-right country where four out of five citizens are non-liberal is a prescription for electoral defeat.
Which suggested an obvious Republican strategy for 2012: Recapitulate 2010. Keep it ideological. Choose a presidential nominee who can best make the case.
But in the past few weeks, the landscape has changed. For two reasons: NY-26 and the May economic numbers.
Last month, Democrats turned the race for the 26th Congressional District of New York into a referendum on Medicare, and more specifically on the Paul Ryan plan for reforming it. The Republicans lost the seat — after having held it for more than four decades.
Problem was, their candidate was weak, defensive, unschooled and unskilled in dealing with the issue. Republicans have a year to cure that. If they can train their candidates to be just half as fluent as Ryan in defending their Medicare plan, they would be able to neutralize the issue.
But that in and of itself is a tactical victory for Democrats. Republicans are on the defensive. Democratic cynicism has worked. By deciding to do nothing about debt and entitlements, and instead to simply accuse Republicans of tossing Granny off a cliff, they have given themselves an issue.
And more than just an issue. It gives President Obama the perfect opportunity to reposition himself to the center. After his midterm shellacking, he began the (ostensible) move: appointing moderates such as William Daley to high White House positions; making pro-business, anti-regulatory noises; even offering last month a token relaxation of his hard line against oil drilling.
Ostentatious but not very convincing. Now, however, the Obama pitch is stronger: Leftist? On the contrary, I bestride the center like a colossus, protecting Medicare from Republican right-wing social engineering.
It’s not that the ideological case against Obama cannot be made. Obamacare with its individual mandate remains unpopular. The near-trillion-dollar stimulus remains an albatross. Even the failed attempt at cap-and-trade — government control of energy pricing — shows Obama’s determination to fundamentally transform America. And he is sure to try again to complete his coveted European-style social-democratic project if you give him four more years.
Medicare has nonetheless partially blunted that line of ideological attack. Yet, just as the Democrats were rejoicing in the fruits of their cynicism, in came the latest economic numbers. They were awful. Housing price declines were the worst since the 1930s. Unemployment rising again. Underemployment disastrously high. And as for chronic unemployment, the average time for finding a new job is now 40 weeks, the highest ever recorded. These numbers gravely undermine Obama’s story line that we’re in a recovery, just a bit slow and bumpy.
Suddenly, the election theme has changed. The Republican line in 2010 was: He’s a leftist. Now it is: He’s a failure. The issue is shifting from ideology to stewardship.
As in 1992, it’s the economy, with everything else a distant second. The economic numbers explain why Obama’s job approval has fallen, why the bin Laden bump disappeared so quickly, and why Mitt Romney is running even with the president. Romney is the candidate least able to carry the ideological attack against Obama — Exhibit A of Obama’s hyper-liberalism is Obamacare, and Romney cannot rid himself of the similar plan he gave Massachusetts. But when it comes to being solid on economics, competent in business and highly experienced in governance, Romney is the prohibitive front-runner.
The changing nature of the campaign is also a boost for Tim Pawlenty, the successful two-term governor of a very liberal state (and possibly for another ex-governor, Jon Huntsman).
Nonetheless, despite the changed conditions, I would still prefer to see the Republican challenger make 2012 a decisive choice between two distinct visions of government. We are in the midst of a once-in-a-generation debate about the nature of the welfare state (entitlement vs. safety net) and, indeed, of the social contract between citizen and state (e.g., whether Congress can mandate — compel — you to purchase whatever it wills). Let’s finish that debate. Start with Obama’s abysmal stewardship, root it in his out-of-touch social-democratic ideology, and win. That would create the strongest mandate for conservative governance since the Reagan era.
ICE seizes more than $2.2 million in luxury watches and special cars from members of a drug trafficking organization
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
Among the items seized is a Roger Dubois watch with an estimated value of $100,000 and a special edition Camaro with an engine that runs on jet fuel, valued at more than $75,000.
"These seizures are proof that ICE HSI will continue to aggressively go after those organizations dedicated to the importation of drugs into Puerto Rico as well as their assets," said Roberto Escobar Vargas, special agent in charge of ICE HSI in Puerto Rico.
Jose Figueroa Agosto, 46, the leader of the largest drug trafficking organization in the Caribbean, and 12 other members of his organization were arrested by ICE HSI agents on Nov. 21, 2010.
The group was charged in a 12-count indictment with conspiracy to import narcotics into the United States, conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute controlled substances, and money laundering. The indictment also seeks to forfeit the proceeds obtained as a result of such offenses, up to an amount of $100 million.
According to the indictment, from 2005, the defendants conspired to import multi kilogram quantities of cocaine into Puerto Rico from places outside of the United States, mainly the Dominican Republic, all for significant financial gain and profit. They also conspired to possess, with intent to distribute, the multi-kilogram quantities of cocaine in Puerto Rico. Co-conspirators assumed various roles within the drug trafficking organization in order to further the object of the conspiracy, including but not limited to leaders, transporters, and facilitators.
The leaders of this organization included José David Figueroa-Agosto, aka Junior Capsula; José Miguel Marrero Martell, aka Pito Nariz; Jorge Luis Figueroa-Agosto; and Eddy Brito.
It is alleged that the co-conspirators would smuggle hundreds of kilograms of cocaine into Puerto Rico from the Dominican Republic in private vessels. The narcotics would be distributed in Puerto Rico and the continental United States, and part of the drug proceeds would also be smuggled from Puerto Rico to the Dominican Republic in bulk cash quantities.
The indictment further alleges that transporters of the organization were responsible for the movement of narcotics into Puerto Rico on board the private motor vessels. Many of the transporters purchased luxury motor vessels in order to transport the narcotics into Puerto Rico.
The following co-conspirators acted as transporters in this organization: Diego Pérez Colón, Sixto Boschetti Dávila, Kareem Boschetti Dávila, Elier Martínez Delgado, Rafael Molina Padró, Ivan Crespo Talavera, Raúl González Díaz, Carlos Torres Landrúa, Hector Ramos Rosado, Jonathan Vega Berrios and Joel Vega Berrios. Gerardo Amaro Rodríguez acted as a facilitator, assisting with the placement, layering and integration of the organization's narcotics proceeds within legitimate economic and financial systems.
The defendants would attempt to create the appearance that their narcotics proceeds were legitimate by purchasing assets through the use of "straw owners" or "jockeys." The defendants and their co-conspirators would purchase assets, use nominee bank accounts to deposit narcotics proceeds, and make payments for services with cash and money orders. This would be done in order to conceal the true ownership of the assets, conceal the source of the funds, and avoid tracing by financial institutions and civil and criminal authorities, thereby protecting their interest in the properties.
José Figueroa-Agosto is charged under the Continuing Criminal Enterprise statute, Title 21, U.S. Code, Section 848. The charges set forth in count three of the indictment indicate that from 1994, continuing up to and until July 17, 2010, in the District of Puerto Rico, New York, Venezuela, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, on the high seas, José Figueroa-Agosto occupied a position of organizer, supervisor and manager in a criminal enterprise, which involved the possession with intent to distribute and the importation of cocaine, and from which continuing series of violations, he obtained substantial income and resources.
On July 17, 2010, José Figueroa-Agosto was arrested in Puerto Rico after being a fugitive since November 1999 when he used false documents to escape from a Puerto Rico correctional facility. He was subsequently charged with fraudulently obtaining a passport to travel to the Dominican Republic. As charged in the indictment, he continued his criminal enterprise of drug trafficking. At the time of his arrest, he was also arrested for being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm for which charges are included in the indictment.
José Figueroa-Agosto is also indicted in a second superseding indictment for conspiracy to import more than 2,100 kilograms of cocaine into Puerto Rico between the years 2000 and 2001.
The indictment also includes money laundering allegations from around September 2005 to December 2007, where the defendants would acquire vessels with illegal proceeds for use in drug and currency smuggling ventures between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. They would also transfer ownership or loan the vessels amongst themselves in furtherance of the drug trafficking activities.
If convicted, the defendants face a minimum of 10 years in prison and a maximum of life with fines of up to $4 million. Figueroa-Agosto is facing a mandatory life sentence if found guilty of the continuing criminal enterprise charge.
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Check out the weird photos once you clicked the link above
Lupe Fiasco calls President Obama a terrorist
Lupe Fiasco has never bitten his tongue about his disdain for modern politics, and his latest single “Words I Never Said,” offers a few of his thoughts on the subject.
“Limbaugh is a racist, Glenn Beck is a racist, Gaza Strip was getting burned, Obama didn’t say …/
That’s why I ain’t vote for him, next one either,” he raps on the controversial track from his latest album, “Lasers.”
The rapper has opened himself up to even more scrutiny after appearing on CBS News’ “What’s Trending.” In the interview, which aired Tuesday night he revealed more about his frustrations with the administration, calling President Obama the biggest terrorist in the country.
“In my fight against terrorism, to me, the biggest terrorist is Obama in the United States of America. For me, I’m trying to fight the terrorism that’s actually causing the other forms of terrorism. The root cause of the terrorism is the stuff that you as a government allow to happen and the foreign policies that we have in place in different countries that inspire people to become terrorists. And it’s easy for us because it’s really just some oil, which we can really get on our own.”
Fiasco was a trending topic on Twitter Wednesday and people appear divided by his statements. Some are praising him for speaking out for his own personal beliefs, while others have written off his comments as “stupid” or “moronic.” But we want to hear from readers. Will Fiasco’s words prove troublesome for him?
Woman with open wallet creates uproar at discount store
J. Harry Jones
7:07 p.m., June 8, 2011
Claudia Smith yells at customers inside an Oceanside store Wednesday — Charlie Neuman
OCEANSIDE — A bizarre scene unfolded inside a discount store in Oceanside Wednesday afternoon as a 66-year-old white woman, intent on buying things for “poor Mexican women” paid for $5,000 worth of clothing purchased by about 50 women.
The night before, Claudia Smith, who lives in the neighborhood, had walked into the same store, Everything a Deal on Plaza Drive east of College Boulevard, and bought $2,200 worth of clothing for a handful of customers.
The question was why. The answer, very confusing.
At times Wednesday, Smith screamed out “Aye, Aye Aye Aye, Ayeeeeee!” while standing in the store.
“You’d better laugh when I’m around!” she yelled. She loudly proclaimed her love for Mexican women. She used profanities directed at men in a steady stream, then moments later held a toddler in her arms.
After what had happened Tuesday night, word off mouth spread. At 9:30 a.m. Wednesday hundreds of women had arrived at the store and piled shopping carts several feet high with clothing believing the woman would purchase everything.
The crowd Wednesday was eventually limited to about 50 people and 25 stuffed carts. A security guard blocked the entrance as more tried to get inside. The customers waited for hours. It wasn’t until after 4 p.m., after Smith’s $5,000 check had cleared, that each was allowed to purchase $100 worth of clothing.
As many customers left they stopped to hug Smith, then would roll their eyes as she dispensed nonsensical advice and blushed at Smith’s obscene language.
“This is a blessing that wasn’t asked for,” said Rosa Zamora, 27, of Vista, a single mother raising two small children.
“I’m happy she can do this,” said Karen Leon, 24, also of Vista and also a single mother of two. “I’ve never seen this. It’s never happened to me.”
Smith said she lived for many years in San Felipe, Mexico. She told the women and their daughters to stand up to their husbands and fathers who she said do not treat women with respect.
Marco Mitrowke, director of loss prevention for 15 Everything a Deal stores in the county, tried to keep Smith calm throughout the day. He had the police check her out to make sure she was mentally competent.
Smith said she has been “drinking and drugging” since she was 15. She said she was not under the influence Wednesday, but admitted she suffered through a five-month long alcohol and drug blackout not long ago and had entertained suicidal thoughts.
Store manager Paola Garcia said Smith walked into the store Tuesday night and told the handful of customers inside to buy whatever they wanted. There were just a few people there, and they bought everything they could get their hands on. Nothing in the store sells for more than $9.99.
“They were greedy,” Garcia said.
Smith evaded questions about her financial health. She said her credit cards were maxed out, but she drives a Prius and a Lexus. She said she has invested well and recently reaped a financial windfall by selling her mother’s home after she had passed away.
At one point Smith screamed at one woman, “Get out, Get out,” apparently because she wasn’t from Mexico. Almost the next moment she was holding a small child telling the girl how much she loved her.
Computer tech installed peeping software
An Orange County computer repair tech was arrested on suspicion of installing spyware on laptops that allowed him to photograph women showering and undressing in their homes.
Fullerton police Sgt. Andrew Goodrich said Trevor Harwell, 20, a technician for Rezitech Inc, installed a computer program that took control of the webcam on his clients' Mac laptops.
The software sent fake error messages telling users to "fix their internal sensor soon," and "try putting your laptop near hot steam for several minutes to clean the sensor," Goodrich said.
The error message prompted some victims took their laptops into the bathroom with them when they showered, the detective said.
"Once he had access, he would take photographs of the users, usually women," Goodrich said. "Often, the female victims were undressed or changing clothes."
Harwell was arrested Wednesday and later released on $50,000 bond.
Police began investigating when a Fullerton resident complained about suspicious messages appearing on his daughter's computer last year. They are looking for other victims.
Harwell used his cellphone to control a program called "Camcapture," store the photos on a remote server and download them to his computer.
Goodrich said detectives seized hundreds of thousands of still images and videos from Harwell's computer and identified several victims.
Investigators believe Harwell may have exploited computers connected to Biola University's internal network. Harwell is a former student at the La Mirada Christian college, which many of the victims attended.
According Orange County Superior Court records, Harwell faces 12 felony counts of computer access and fraud, the Orange County Register reported.
Messages left with Rezitech weren't returned late Wednesday. It was unclear if Harwell had obtained an attorney.
Rezitech spokesman Travis Austin said the company took immediate action to cut off Harwell's access to their systems and data, and is cooperating with investigators.
Harwell did not commit any of the alleged offenses while working for Rezitech, Austin said.
Trevor Timothy Harwell, 20
Pennsylvania woman admits to robbing bank dressed as clown; bozo made bomb threat, swiped $7K
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Thursday, June 9th 2011, 10:46 AM
Carolyn Williams, 44, pleaded guilty to robbing a KNBT Bank in Bethlehem Township, Penn., last August while dressed in a polka-dot clown suit, rainbow wig, red nose and candy-cane colored socks.
The Bozo Bonnie Parker made off with more than $7,000 after she told tellers she had a bomb.
"I did it. I'm very sorry that I did it," Williams said in court.
Williams had said she was forced into the heist by a kidnapper who had her children.
She was busted shortly after leaving the bank when cops found her sitting in a car in a nearby parking lot, smoking a cigarette, police said.
Williams told officers she had a bomb in the car, prompting them to evacuate the area and call in the bomb squad.
Cops realized the hoax after a robot found a silver can with rice bags rigged to look like a bomb, The Express-Times newspaper reported.
Williams wasn't totally fooling around, though - cops also recovered two loaded handguns from the car.
In court on Wednesday, she said she hoped the judge would spare her when more details are released during an August sentencing hearing, but didn't elaborate.
She's facing up to 20 years in prison. Prosecutors said they want the maximum sentence.
Mistake led to marijuana bust
COVINGTON- When Mike Finke opened the garage door of what he thought was the foreclosed condominium he had just purchased for his son, he was stunned at what he found.
Forty-eight pounds of high-grade, medicinal marijuana one would typically find in California “dispensaries” with an estimated valued of $150,000, according to authorities.
It turned out Finke had opened the wrong garage door in the condo complex, but it led authorities to a major drug bust in Northern Kentucky.
On Monday, Benjamin Bingham and Nicholas Mann pleaded not guilty in Kenton Circuit Court to conspiracy to traffic in marijuana.
While Finke and his son, Matthew, declined to speak with a reporter, an account of how the elder Finke stumbled upon the cache of marijuana is outlined in public records and police reports.
Two months ago, Mike Finke purchased the condo in the 900 block of Virginia Lane out of foreclosure for $72,500. It has a sweeping view of the Ohio River and Cincinnati’s skyline, and another condo in the complex is currently on the market for $164,900.
The father was cleaning out the condo on April 16 when he went to the detached garage to see if anything had been left behind by the previous owners. Finke said that, when he put the key in the garage door lock, it would not work. The key became jammed and the lock pulled out of the wall allowing Finke to open the garage door.
When he opened two black duffel bags and a brown suitcase, Finke found the marijuana and called Covington police. It was only after police officers arrived that Finke figured out he was in the wrong garage when another resident walked by and told him.
Investigators got a search warrant for the garage and the corresponding condo. The duffel bags each were filled with 16, one-pound bags of marijuana while the suitcase had eight, one-pound bags of marijuana.
In the kitchen, investigators seized a digital scale, grinder, Tupperware filled with marijuana and a vacuum sealer with heat-sealing bags.
They were the same type of bags used to package most of the marijuana found in the condo. Each one-pound bag found in the condo had the price marked on it. The marijuana was going for between $2,500 and $4,000 per pound.
Investigators searched a bedroom and found Remington rifle with a scope in a black gun case and a Smith & Wesson .38 revolver with more marijuana. There was a box with $41,022 in the closet. Most of money was divided into $5,000 bundles near a ledger that contained names.
The search later led investigators to a safety deposit box at a Chase Bank branch in Bellevue where $107,890 was seized.
In the second-floor master bathroom, investigators opened the top drawer of the cabinet to find an ash tray with several marijuana cigarettes, rolling papers and one marijuana bud.
In the hallway leading to the master bedroom, investigators looked into a red IKEA shopping bag to see two more Tupperware containers with marijuana and plastic bags containing marijuana. A white Adidas outlet store bag contained two one-gallon plastic bags of marijuana and a money counting machine.
As investigators searched the condo, the residents, Bingham and Mann, pulled up in a black Ford Excursion with a woman in the in the passenger seat. The two men, both 30, refused to talk with detectives and were taken to the Kenton County jail where they each posted a $5,000 bond to be released.
The woman in the car said the trio was returning from a day at Keeneland racetrack in Lexington. She said the cash found in the condo was from one of the residents winning $46,000 from a recent gambling junket to Las Vegas.
This is what police recovered from the Covington condominium.
Nicholas Mann (right) and Benjamin Bingham leave Kenton District Court after pleading not guilty to charges of trafficking in marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia.
LINK TO STORY AND PHOTO:
Man guilty in $298,000 gas fraud case
Couple bilked government by using gas cards designed for fleet of cars at Fort Monroe
7:40 PM EDT, June 6, 2011
NEWPORT NEWS — A Hampton man was found guilty Monday of bilking the government out of $298,000 by fraudulently using gas cards designed for a fleet of government-owned vehicles at Fort Monroe.
After deliberating for about three hours, the jury found Lanaire E. White, 38, guilty of all 16 charges he faced: conspiracy to commit wire fraud; nine counts of wire fraud; theft of government property; unauthorized access to a device; and felon in possession of a firearm.
Surveillance video shot in June 2010 showed White using cards to gas up several people's vehicles at a Hampton gas station. Witnesses said they'd pay a cut rate for the gas — $1.50 a gallon in cash — with White pocketing the money. Prosecutors said the scheme went on for more than two years.
Eight people — just a fraction of the actual number, prosecutors say — said they bought gas from White, often at a gas station on Hardy Cash Drive. One trucker testified he bought 80 tanks of diesel fuel at the cut rate. Another man said he bought about 50 tank loads for his Hummer.
Another key witness: White's ex-wife. Colleen Newton-White, 36, once the gatekeeper for 68 base vehicles at Fort Monroe, was originally charged in the scheme along with White. But she pleaded guilty on May 4, saying she took the cards from the base. She testified last week against her ex.
The three-day trial at U.S. District Court in Newport News was not without some theater, with White saying he's a member of the Moorish National Republic, a separatist group claiming not to be bound by U.S. law.
White had previously planned to represent himself, before a judge ruled he wasn't up to the task. White also refused to wear street clothes at the trial, preferring to appear in his bright orange jail jump suit. Then, he refused to acknowledge that he was even a "person," instead calling himself a "sovereign." U.S. District Judge Mark Davis referred to White as "Sovereign" on a few occasions in court last week.
On Monday, White told Davis he wanted to address the jury to tell them "who he was."
"Who are you?" Davis asked, telling him that it was already determined that he was Lanaire White. White cut Davis off, asking him if he ever took an oath. Davis replied that White is to answer the judge's questions, not the other way around.
"You are the public servant," White responded.
Davis, saying that judge determines the law and the jury is the fact finder, again asked White if he would stick to factual elements of the case if he took the stand. "If you're not going to tell me, then you're not going to testify," Davis told him.
White still wouldn't give a straight answer, saying both the law and the facts were in the jury's purview, so Davis denied him the right to address the jury. Later, as the jury left the courtroom for deliberations, White held up a file and demanded to address them, but Davis had the federal marshals restrain him.
Each of the 68 vehicles in Fort Monroe's motor pool had a credit card, to be used for gas and repairs. Newton-White testified that she would secretly remove the cards from the base, returning them in time for the next workday.
The users of the gas card were required to enter the vehicle's correct mileage into the gas pump. Another monitoring mechanism was to compare the gas going into a tank with the tank's capacity. Newton-White would attach post-it notes so White would know what to enter at the pump.
The scheme went on for two years, before the anomalies caught up with the couple. White will be sentenced on Sept. 27.
On Monday, a man named Chuck Stewart testified that White — whom he met through a mechanic friend — filled up Stewart's hummer for $1.50 per gallon about 50 times.
The first day, Stewart said, he asked White if what he was doing was "legit." "He said it was legit, that everything is fine."
Then, Stewart said, he saw a line of people waiting to get gas from White, and thought it must be legitimate "because there's so many other people involved."
Over the course of the next year, Stewart said, he would call and text message White to meet him at gas stations, most often one on Hardy Cash Drive.
Memphis Man Brings Gun To Party After Kids Miss Ice Cream, Cake
1:01 p.m. CDT, June 6, 2011
No bond for man accused of beating wife at divorce hearing
Paul Henry Gonzalez moves to the defense table for his bond hearing on Thursday, June 2, 2011, at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale. Gonzalez, A former Marine accused of attacking his wife at a final divorce hearing, has been in jail since the April 15 beating on charges of battery, domestic violence and resisting arrest. Amy Beth Bennett, Sun Sentinel (Amy Beth Bennett, Sun Sentinel / June 2, 2011)
8:22 p.m. EDT, June 6, 2011
Police: Drunken Driver Punched Himself In The Face To Bolster Bogus Assault Tale
Daniel Vagnini (Courtesy Farmington Police Department / June 6, 2011)
11:25 a.m. EDT, June 6, 2011
Police say a 22-year-old drunken driver punched himself in the face, tore his shirt and threw his wallet and keys in a river in an attempt to convince police he had been assaulted.
Daniel Vagnini, of 10 Butternut Drive, sped through a stop sign at the intersection of New Britain Avenue and Red Oak Hill around midnight Saturday, according to an officer who said he witnessed it. Vagnini nearly crashed into a car that had already entered the intersection.
Police said they found his car on Indian Hill Road and heard Vagnini in the woods. As police searched for him, Vagnini called 911 to report that he was lost in the woods. Vagnini was found near the Farmington River.
He told police he had been drinking in Hartford and was physically assaulted as he got into his car to go home. The beating had caused him to black out, Vagnini said. When he regained consciousness he was in the woods, his clothes were torn and his wallet, keys and ring were missing, police said.
But the story was made up. Vagnini admitted he had punched himself in the face, causing minor facial injuries. He also tore his shirt and tossed his belongings in the Farmington River to bolster his story, police said.
Vagnini was charged with reckless driving, evading responsibility and driving under the influence. He was released on a non-surety bond.
Oregon woman Karen Butler awoke from dental surgery with British accent, she claims
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Monday, June 6th 2011, 4:00 AM
"I don't feel different inside at all. I'm the same old me I ever was," said Karen Butler, 56, of Toledo, Ore.
Butler, who was born in Illinois and moved to Oregon at the age of 1, insists she sounded all-American until she underwent dental surgery in November 2009.
Gingivitis prompted her to have all her top teeth and her front bottom teeth extracted. She was left with dentures and sounding like a Brit, despite never having visited England.
"There's nothing wrong with having an accent," said Butler, who has become a media sensation in her town of 3,500 people, even appearing on the "Today" show to discuss her new voice.
After looking up her condition on the Internet, Butler said she believes she has Foreign Accent syndrome, a medical condition with only a few dozen documented cases.
"We don't know exactly how or why it happens, but it simply affects rhythm of language," said Dr. Helmi Lutsep, vice chairman of the Department of Neurology at Oregon Health & Science University.
He said neurologists will see at least one case in their career.
Four Roman Catholic women ordained as priests in Catonsville
Defying Vatican, group holds ceremony at Protestant church
The Baltimore Sun
8:35 PM EDT, June 5, 2011
Defying canon law and a Vatican decree that promised excommunication, four Roman Catholic women took vows as priests Saturday during an elaborate ordination ceremony full of song and messages of inclusiveness at a Protestant church in Catonsville.
Andrea Johnson, presiding as bishop, ordained two women from Maryland, Ann Penick and Marellen Mayers, one from Pennsylvania and one from New York in the sanctuary of St. John's United Church of Christ. The church was filled with family members — including husbands of three of the ordinands — and friends, including some who are employed by the Archdiocese of Baltimore but who support the ordination of women. Photography was limited to protect the privacy of those attending the ceremony.
In 1994, Pope John Paul II said the church has no authority to ordain women, "and this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church's faithful." In 2008, the Vatican further decreed that women who seek ordination or any bishop who attempts it immediately excommunicate themselves from the Roman Catholic Church.
But the organization that arranged Saturday's ordinations, Roman Catholic Womenpriests, believes Canon Law 1024, which limits priesthood to men, is unjust and self-defeating.
"And we don't believe we can excommunicate ourselves," said Mayers, who was employed as a campus minister and religion instructor at a Catholic high school until her superiors learned of her affiliation with RCWP last year. By then, she was well on her way toward the priesthood. "We are still Catholic. We do not choose to separate ourselves from the church."
Mayers, who grew up in Chicago and Baltimore, worked for more than two decades in campus ministry. "About 10 years ago," she said, "I became very conscious and aware of a new calling — to be in full ministry alongside my brothers as a priest."
Mayers considered converting to the Episcopal Church, which permits the ordination of women. "But the more I thought about it, I could not bring myself to leave the Catholic Church," she said. "I was raised in the Catholic Church, and I wanted to remain faithful to the traditions and the way my parents brought me up. I was a child of Vatican II and Pope John XXIII."
Mayers, whose parents are deceased, said her siblings and other relatives "had a lot of questions" but were "very supportive" of her decision to seek the priesthood.
Roman Catholic Womenpriests traces its origins to the so-called Danube Seven, a group of women who were ordained aboard a ship in the river in 2002 by three male bishops. Two of those bishops were never publicly identified, while the third, an Argentine named Romulo Braschi, was called a "founder of a schismatic community" by the Vatican. The seven women were excommunicated, but RCWP believes their ordinations were legitimate, providing the "apostolic succession" that made all subsequent ordinations legitimate.
Andrea Johnson, the woman who presided at Saturday's ordination, was ordained a bishop by a woman who traces her legitimacy to the Danube Seven. RCWP claims more than 40 ordained priests and four ordained bishops in the United States, and more in Canada and Europe.
Asked for comment, Sean Caine, the spokesman for the Archdiocese of Baltimore, did not specifically address RCWP or Saturday's ordination. "Women have long held positions of leadership and authority in the archdiocese," he said. "They serve as Catholic school administrators, directors of centers of charitable outreach, as well as diocesan and parish leaders. Their dedicated and able service remains and will continue to be an integral component of our ministry to the people of this Archdiocese."
Gloria Carpeneto, a grandmother and leader of a Baltimore spiritual community who was ordained three years ago, says the RCWP mission is less about protest than about establishing "a renewed vision of church" and "a renewed vision of priestly ministry." It's an inclusive vision of what a church should be.
The women who've been ordained through RCWP have day jobs and families, husbands or partners; they are out in the community and not confined to a building or parish, Carpeneto said. They are teachers, social workers, spiritual directors. They do all the things Catholic priests do, and they celebrate Mass twice a month — usually once at St. John's, once at someone's house — and with anyone who wishes to attend.
12-year-old Florida boy, Cristian Fernandez, faces first degree murder charge for 2-year-old's death
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Monday, June 6th 2011, 10:48 AM
Cristian Fernandez allegedly killed the toddler in March. Last week, the boy was indicted by a grand jury for first-degree murder, the first time someone so young has faced such a serious charge in Jacksonville.
If convicted, he would be sentenced to life in prison without parole.
"It is disturbing, but when you know you have to balance the safety of other children in the home and in the community, it is not so disturbing," State Attorney Angela Corey said Thursday, according to The Florida Times-Union.
The harsh charge is a reflection of the brutal murder, authorities said.
The 2-year-old, David Galarriago, was hospitalized on March 14 after being "physically battered" by his older sibling, according to a police report.
The child suffered "a skull fracture, subdural hemorrhage, subdural hematoma, bruising on the left eye, and bruising on the bridge of his nose."
While the toddler was in the hospital, police said Fernandez confessed to beating him. He also allegedly admitted to having broken his younger brother's leg in January.
Two days after he was savagely attacked, David died.
"It's a tragic set of events to say the least," Assistant State Attorney Mark Caliel told The Times-Union.
Fernandez's mother, Biannela Susana, also faces charges for allegedly trying to cover up the beating.
The 25-year-old initially told authorities she was at home when the incident occurred, according to a police report. She later admitted she was not there at the time, and was told the toddler fell from a bunk bed.
Susana told police she tried to help the 2-year-old. She claimed she "changed his clothing, wiped him off, and put ice on his head," police said.
The young mother did not call 911, but drove the toddler to the hospital some two hours after the incident, police said.
The lawyer tasked with defending Cristian Fernandez said the 12-year-old is "clearly a victim."
"The whole system has failed him," Assistant Public Defender Rob Mason said, according to The Times-Union.
Fernandez's mother was only 12 years old when she gave birth to him, Mason said. The two ended up in foster care together, and his grandmother was a drug addict.
The boy was also the victim of child abuse at the hands of his stepfather, who shot and killed himself in front of the boy last year, Mason said.
"It is a complex case," he said.
Cash-strapped states look to roll back tax credits
June 4, 2011
Tough budget times are forcing state governments to rethink the tax breaks they grant.
Michigan last week eliminated several tax credits, including those for small donations made to universities, food banks, museums and public television. The state also capped at $25 million a year the tax incentives it gives the film industry, which has been lured to the state since 2008 by some of the more generous incentives in the nation. The changes were part of a tax overhaul that Republican Gov. Rick Snyder says will spur job growth.
The Oklahoma Legislature has set up a special committee to review tax incentives there. A report from the Oklahoma Tax Commission in October 2010 listed the cost of hundreds of credits and incentives.
"It's like a big Christmas tree," says Larkin Warner, emeritus professor of economics at Oklahoma State University, who serves on the committee. "The legislators ought to take a hard look."
Economists generally favor more uniform taxation but acknowledge that incentives can advance policy goals such as capital investment, cleaner energy use or job creation, says Dana Johnson, recently retired chief economist at Comerica Bank.
"Taxes can be used, just like direct subsidies, to (encourage) certain behavior," Johnson says. "The question you always have to ask is: Is it worth the revenue?"
Three Ohio think tanks have called for a review of tax credits to help solve that state's $8 billion budget shortfall.
"It's holding Ohio back," says Levea Brachman, executive director of the Greater Ohio Policy Center, a progressive think tank that has joined with the libertarian-leaning Buckeye Institute and the centrist Center for Community Solutions in calling for a review of the state's tax policies. Greater Ohio estimates that such tax breaks cost state government $300 million a year.
One of the breaks that Michigan eliminated had allowed taxpayers to get a 50% refund of some charitable donations when they filed their state tax returns. About 550,000 people claimed it in recent years. Without it, Michigan will save $47 million a year, according to state budget estimates.
Eliminating tax breaks isn't easy because each has a constituency, Warner says.
The Montana Legislature earlier this year voted to repeal a host of clean-energy tax credits, although Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer vetoed the changes last month. "To repeal these credits would be to subtract jobs in Montana's energy, construction, and agriculture sectors," Schweitzer said in his veto message.
(CNN) – NFL legend Mike Ditka was giving a news conference one day after being fired as the coach of the Chicago Bears when he decided to quote the Bible.
“Scripture tells you that all things shall pass,” a choked-up Ditka said after leading his team to only five wins during the previous season. “This, too, shall pass.”
Ditka fumbled his biblical citation, though. The phrase “This, too, shall pass” doesn’t appear in the Bible. Ditka was quoting a phantom scripture that sounds like it belongs in the Bible, but look closer and it’s not there.
Ditka’s biblical blunder is as common as preachers delivering long-winded public prayers. The Bible may be the most revered book in America, but it’s also one of the most misquoted. Politicians, motivational speakers, coaches - all types of people - quote passages that actually have no place in the Bible, religious scholars say.
These phantom passages include:
“God helps those who help themselves.”
“Spare the rod, spoil the child.”
And there is this often-cited paraphrase: Satan tempted Eve to eat the forbidden apple in the Garden of Eden.
None of those passages appear in the Bible, and one is actually anti-biblical, scholars say.
But people rarely challenge them because biblical ignorance is so pervasive that it even reaches groups of people who should know better, says Steve Bouma-Prediger, a religion professor at Hope College in Holland, Michigan.
“In my college religion classes, I sometimes quote 2 Hesitations 4:3 (‘There are no internal combustion engines in heaven’),” Bouma-Prediger says. “I wait to see if anyone realizes that there is no such book in the Bible and therefore no such verse.
“Only a few catch on.”
Few catch on because they don’t want to - people prefer knowing biblical passages that reinforce their pre-existing beliefs, a Bible professor says.
“Most people who profess a deep love of the Bible have never actually read the book,” says Rabbi Rami Shapiro, who once had to persuade a student in his Bible class at Middle Tennessee State University that the saying “this dog won’t hunt” doesn’t appear in the Book of Proverbs.
“They have memorized parts of texts that they can string together to prove the biblical basis for whatever it is they believe in,” he says, “but they ignore the vast majority of the text."
Phantom biblical passages work in mysterious ways
Ignorance isn’t the only cause for phantom Bible verses. Confusion is another.
Some of the most popular faux verses are pithy paraphrases of biblical concepts or bits of folk wisdom.
Consider these two:
“God works in mysterious ways.”
“Cleanliness is next to Godliness.”
Both sound as if they are taken from the Bible, but they’re not. The first is a paraphrase of a 19th century hymn by the English poet William Cowper (“God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform).
The “cleanliness” passage was coined by John Wesley, the 18th century evangelist who founded Methodism, says Thomas Kidd, a history professor at Baylor University in Texas.
“No matter if John Wesley or someone else came up with a wise saying - if it sounds proverbish, people figure it must come from the Bible,” Kidd says.
Our fondness for the short and tweet-worthy may also explain our fondness for phantom biblical phrases. The pseudo-verses function like theological tweets: They’re pithy summarizations of biblical concepts.
“Spare the rod, spoil the child” falls into that category. It’s a popular verse - and painful for many kids. Could some enterprising kid avoid the rod by pointing out to his mother that it's not in the Bible?
It’s doubtful. Her possible retort: The popular saying is a distillation of Proverbs 13:24: “The one who withholds [or spares] the rod is one who hates his son.”
Another saying that sounds Bible-worthy: “Pride goes before a fall.” But its approximation, Proverbs 16:18, is actually written: “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.”
There are some phantom biblical verses for which no excuse can be offered. The speaker goofed.
That’s what Bruce Wells, a theology professor, thinks happened to Ditka, the former NFL coach, when he strayed from the gridiron to biblical commentary during his 1993 press conference in Chicago.
Wells watched Ditka’s biblical blunder on local television when he lived in Chicago. After Ditka cited the mysterious passage, reporters scrambled unsuccessfully the next day to find the biblical source.
They should have consulted Wells, who is now director of the ancient studies program at Saint Joseph’s University in Pennsylvania. Wells says Ditka’s error probably came from a peculiar feature of the King James Bible.
“My hunch on the Ditka quote is that it comes from a quirk of the King James translation,” Wells says. “Ancient Hebrew had a particular way of saying things like, ‘and the next thing that happened was…’ The King James translators of the Old Testament consistently rendered this as ‘and it came to pass.’ ’’
When phantom Bible passages turn dangerous
People may get verses wrong, but they also mangle plenty of well-known biblical stories as well.
Two examples: The scripture never says a whale swallowed Jonah, the Old Testament prophet, nor did any New Testament passages say that three wise men visited baby Jesus, scholars say.
Those details may seem minor, but scholars say one popular phantom Bible story stands above the rest: The Genesis story about the fall of humanity.
Most people know the popular version - Satan in the guise of a serpent tempts Eve to pick the forbidden apple from the Tree of Life. It’s been downhill ever since.
But the story in the book of Genesis never places Satan in the Garden of Eden.
“Genesis mentions nothing but a serpent,” says Kevin Dunn, chair of the department of religion at Tufts University in Massachusetts.
“Not only does the text not mention Satan, the very idea of Satan as a devilish tempter postdates the composition of the Garden of Eden story by at least 500 years,” Dunn says.
Getting biblical scriptures and stories wrong may not seem significant, but it can become dangerous, one scholar says.
Most people have heard this one: “God helps those that help themselves.” It’s another phantom scripture that appears nowhere in the Bible, but many people think it does. It's actually attributed to Benjamin Franklin, one of the nation's founding fathers.
The passage is popular in part because it is a reflection of cherished American values: individual liberty and self-reliance, says Sidnie White Crawford, a religious studies scholar at the University of Nebraska.
Yet that passage contradicts the biblical definition of goodness: defining one’s worth by what one does for others, like the poor and the outcast, Crawford says.
Crawford cites a scripture from Leviticus that tells people that when they harvest the land, they should leave some “for the poor and the alien” (Leviticus 19:9-10), and another passage from Deuteronomy that declares that people should not be “tight-fisted toward your needy neighbor.”
“We often infect the Bible with our own values and morals, not asking what the Bible’s values and morals really are,” Crawford says.
Where do these phantom passages come from?
It’s easy to blame the spread of phantom biblical passages on pervasive biblical illiteracy. But the causes are varied and go back centuries.
Some of the guilty parties are anonymous, lost to history. They are artists and storytellers who over the years embellished biblical stories and passages with their own twists.
If, say, you were an anonymous artist painting the Garden of Eden during the Renaissance, why not portray the serpent as the devil to give some punch to your creation? And if you’re a preacher telling a story about Jonah, doesn’t it just sound better to say that Jonah was swallowed by a whale, not a “great fish”?
Others blame the spread of phantom Bible passages on King James, or more specifically the declining popularity of the King James translation of the Bible.
That translation, which marks 400 years of existence this year, had a near monopoly on the Bible market as recently as 50 years ago, says Douglas Jacobsen, a professor of church history and theology at Messiah College in Pennsylvania.
“If you quoted the Bible and got it wrong then, people were more likely to notice because there was only one text,” he says. “Today, so many different translations are used that almost no one can tell for sure if something supposedly from the Bible is being quoted accurately or not.”
Others blame the spread of phantom biblical verses on Martin Luther, the German monk who ignited the Protestant Reformation, the massive “protest” against the excesses of the Roman Catholic Church that led to the formation of Protestant church denominations.
“It is a great Protestant tradition for anyone - milkmaid, cobbler, or innkeeper - to be able to pick up the Bible and read for herself. No need for a highly trained scholar or cleric to walk a lay person through the text,” says Craig Hazen, director of the Christian Apologetics program at Biola University in Southern California.
But often the milkmaid, the cobbler - and the NFL coach - start creating biblical passages without the guidance of biblical experts, he says.
“You can see this manifest today in living room Bible studies across North America where lovely Christian people, with no training whatsoever, drink decaf, eat brownies and ask each other, ‘What does this text mean to you?’’’ Hazen says.
“Not only do they get the interpretation wrong, but very often end up quoting verses that really aren’t there.”
Utah man charged with disorderly conduct for trying to pay doctor's bill with 2,500 pennies
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Sunday, June 5th 2011, 10:59 AM
Jason West, 38, showed up at the Basin Clinic in Vernal, Utah, late last month to dispute a $25 charge, the Deseret News reported.
"After asking if they accepted cash, West dumped 2,500 pennies onto the counter and demanded that they count it," Police Chief Keith Campbell told the newspaper. "The pennies were strewn about the counter and the floor."
When the clinic staff freaked out and called the cops, West fled the office.
Police tracked him down later and gave him the citation, which carries a potential fine of $140.
West wasn't the first person to try to settle a bill using small change this year to send a message.
In January, a University of Colorado student paid his $14,000 spring tuition in one dollar bills.
The student, Nic Ramos, said he pulled the stunt to draw attention to the high cost of college.
Thanks to Truecritic
HIV drug scam: NYC doctor busted for doling out meds patients didn't need, prosecutors say
Michael Jaccarino AND Melissa Grace
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITERS
Friday, June 3rd 2011, 3:12 PM
Suresh Hemrajani, 57, pleaded not guilty to grand larceny and health care fraud Friday and posted $200,000 bond after appearing before Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Carol Berkman.
The charges against Hemrajani followed the indictment of 30 people, all poor Medicaid patients who were recruited off the streets by middlemen, "sometimes 10 at a time," according to court records.
Hemrajani, who lives in a $610,000 White Plains home, was arrested after prosecutors won convictions against 17 of the patients - even securing state prison sentences against some. Many of them are cooperating in the probe, sources said.
The comparatively late prosecution of Hemrajani, who was allegedly at the center of the scam, brought a sharp rebuke from the judge.
He called the putative patients "poor people who were unable to resist the lure of a few easy bucks."
"[That] the people didn't seem to be pursuing the doctor always was a matter of some frustration to the court as well as actually the other defense lawyers," said Berkman. "Where is the doctor? Where is the doctor? I can't tell you how many times I heard that."
A press release issued Friday by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance offered no indication of the scope of the alleged 2008 scam - which the judge revealed.
While the DA's office declined comment on what it termed an ongoing investigation, a source said the delay in prosecuting Hemrajani was caused by the time necessary to build a case involving so many patients.
The office said more patients could be busted.
Hemrajani's lawyer did not return a telephone call for comment. His wife also had no comment.
"I kind of feel bad for him because he doesn't look like he's built for that kind of environment - getting arrested and going to jail," said Adam ¬Diaz, the building superintendent where Hemrajani has an office.
Officials said the recruited patients were brought to the doctor's office where Hemrajani wrote them prescriptions for HIV meds without even conducting an exam.
The patients, who used Medicaid to pay for the prescriptions, were paid cash for the meds by a middleman, who in turn sold the drugs on the black market.
Hemrajani also wrote monthly prescriptions for the patients - whom he never saw again - that were filled at pharmacies, court records show.
The scam was uncovered when some of the patients later tried to get additional prescriptions for HIV drugs from a hospital, where they were tested and found to be HIV-negative, prosecutors said.
Hemrajani faces up to 15 years behind bars.
His White Plains neighbors were shocked by the accusations.
"They are the lowest-key people you'd ever meet. I'm stunned. I thought he was a gynecologist," said a next-door neighbor who only gave her first name, Nancy.
"College must be very expensive these days," she said, adding the doctor has a college-age daughter.
6/4/2011 9:07 AM
Elgin woman charged with sixth DUI comes to court drunk, authorities say
An Elgin woman charged with her sixth DUI had her bail revoked this week when she showed up for court intoxicated, court records show.
Sandra Uher, 54, of the 1200 block of Maroon Drive, was remanded to Cermak Hospital, which is part of the Cook County Jail, for evaluation on Thursday.
The hearing for the filing of pretrial motions was rescheduled for Tuesday in Rolling Meadows.
Uher’s latest arrest occurred in March after she ran a stop sign at Shales Parkway and Summit Street in Elgin and crashed into another car, police said. No one was injured in the accident. If convicted, Uher could face six to 30 years in prison.
Uher failed a field sobriety test and registered .30 on a preliminary blood-alcohol test, Cotter said. That’s nearly four times the legal limit. Uher also was driving on a revoked license, authorities said.
Uher’s initial bail was $100,000, and she was released after posting $10,000. She now will not have that option, pending her next hearing.
Her latest DUI arrest follows several previous DUI convictions. Uher was convicted of DUI in 2005 and sentenced to 18 months in prison. She received two DUI convictions in 1999 for separate offenses that occurred on the same day. And she was sentenced to supervision for drunken driving in July 1997 which became a conviction in May 1999. Uher also was arrested on charges of DUI two years ago in Kane County.
If convicted, Uher could face between six and 30 years in prison.
Man denies drugging rival’s dog at Wheaton show
A man accused of drugging a rival dog handler’s Siberian husky at a kennel club show in Wheaton denies the charges and plans to take the case to trial, his attorney said Thursday.
Ralph Ullum of Claysville, Pa. faces misdemeanor charges of cruelty to animals and attempted criminal damage to property. DuPage County Judge Ronald Sutter set a Sept. 8 trial date.
Ullum, 67, is accused of feeding Protonix and possibly Benadryl to Pixie, a Siberian husky that competed against another Siberian husky owned by Ullum’s girlfriend at a Dec. 17 dog show at the DuPage County Fairgrounds. He was arrested after Pixie’s handler found what appeared to be a crushed pink pill near Pixie’s cage, and after several witnesses said they saw Ullum feed and pet the dog moments earlier, according to police.
On Thursday, defense attorney Edward M. Maloney said Ullum had no motive to harm Pixie because, contrary to an earlier account by authorities, his girlfriend’s husky had already won the competition.
“Mr. Ullum denies he gave any pills to the dog,” Maloney said. “The contest was over. There really was no reason to do anything to harm the dog.”
Police said a veterinarian at the show induced Pixie to vomit, finding an undigested pill marked “Protonix,” along with dog food, chicken and a rubber band. Police said they also recovered a wadded up paper towel containing a white substance and apparent pill pieces from the men’s bathroom trash.
Ullum acknowledged petting Pixie and using the restroom, according to a police report, but he denied feeding the dog and throwing anything in the trash.
Authorities said Pixie wasn’t seriously hurt. The American Kennel Club since has suspended Ullum’s privileges to assist his girlfriend, who competed against Pixie’s handler at several previous shows.
“It’s a very highly competitive world in the AKC,” Maloney said. “I think emotions were flying high that day.”
According to a police report, authorities believe the pink substance near Pixie’s cage might have been Benadryl, an allergy medication that can cause drowsiness and weakness. Protonix is used to treat acid reflux and heartburn, among other ailments.
Pixie’s handler, based in New York, and the dog’s owner, a Florida veterinarian, declined to comment while the case is pending. Prosecutors said Ullum, who has requested a bench trial, faces up to a year in jail if convicted.
LINK TO PHOTO:
Fort Worth buses crack down on saggy pants
Tuesday, May. 31, 2011
Residents who try to board a bus while exposing their rumps can expect to get bumped.
The Fort Worth Transportation Authority is enforcing a new dress code that allows bus drivers to turn away passengers whose pants sag below the waist.
Several riders interviewed took the change in stride, while others said it was an affront to personal expression and hip-hop-influenced fashion.
"People are still going to do it. They don't care about the rules," said Jesse Cardona, 20, who lives in north Fort Worth's Diamond Hill area. On Tuesday, Cardona wore baggy black shorts pulled up to the waist, although he said he occasionally wears pants that sag.
"It's me," he said. "I'm being me."
The T is putting posters in each bus that read: "Grandma says 'Pull 'em up' or find another ride." The advertisements feature caricatures of two grandmotherly figures -- one light-skinned and one dark-skinned -- and the lower half of a person wearing pants low enough for drawers to be seen.
"They'll mess with our freedom. Pretty soon they're going to ban dreadlocks, too," said Cory Shelby, 29, a tattoo artist and former Miami resident who is staying at a Salvation Army shelter in Fort Worth.
Shelby was told to pull up his pants before getting on a bus, even though he said his black cargo shorts were not drooping enough to be distasteful.
"They told me I had to pull up my pants ..." he said, "and my boxers weren't even showing."
An issue of respect
The campaign began in August 2008, but the T recently made an administrative change to its dress code giving bus drivers authority to deny boarding to violators, spokeswoman Joan Hunter said. On May 12, the day the policy took effect, boarding was delayed for about 50 riders until they pulled up their pants. All complied, she said.
"It's not like they have to go home," Hunter said. "They can just pull it up. It's to be respectful of other riders."
The T is acting with the encouragement of Councilman Frank Moss, who has been the local point man for an issue that has played out in cities nationwide. The fashion trend is widely believed to have roots in prisons, where inmates often aren't issued belts, causing their pants to sag. Some musicians adopted the look, and during the past 10 to 15 years, the fashion has spread to youths of various ethnicities and backgrounds.
Around Fort Worth, billboards will soon be put up with the same message as the T posters, said Moss, who has long argued that the saggy-pants look hurts youths' ability to land jobs.
"This shows we have taken the overall concept of pulling them up to a new level," Moss said during a recent City Council meeting, where he showed off the new T posters. "There are some real policies in place to say, if you don't pull 'em up, you can't ride."
But others say a policy prohibiting saggy pants may embolden young people to embrace the look as a sign of rebellion.
"Eventually, it will go out of style. It's hard to make somebody do something just because it's right," said Sam Raymond, owner of Munchie's Hot Dogs, which operates an outdoor stand at the Intermodal Transportation Center in downtown Fort Worth. "Even the hip-hop stars are starting to dress up and grow out of it, but it's going to take time."
Elvis King, 53, who was riding a bus home Tuesday in south Fort Worth after attending an appointment in Dallas, said he often sees younger riders on the bus with saggy pants, "but I don't think anything negative about it."
"People dress the way they feel on the inside," he said.
Jay Michael, 21, of east Fort Worth wore a backward Dallas Mavericks cap as he waited for a Trinity Railway Express train. Michael said he supports the ban on saggy pants.
"It's understandable," he said. "It's about respect."
As the train pulled up, Michael stood and stretched, revealing that his pants were sagging below the buttocks.
But as he stopped stretching and boarded the train, his saggy pants were covered by his untucked T-shirt.
Three arrested, accused of illegally feeding homeless
Orlando police say they violated a city ordinance restricting the feedings.
LINK TO VIDEO:
1:33 p.m. EDT, June 2, 2011
Members of Orlando Food Not Bombs were arrested Wednesday when police said they violated a city ordinance by feeding the homeless in Lake Eola Park.
Jessica Cross, 24, Benjamin Markeson, 49, and Jonathan "Keith" McHenry, 54, were arrested at 6:10 p.m. on a charge of violating the ordinance restricting group feedings in public parks. McHenry is a co-founder of the international Food Not Bombs movement, which began in the early 1980s.
The group lost a court battle in April, clearing the way for the city to enforce the ordinance. It requires groups to obtain a permit and limits each group to two permits per year for each park within a 2-mile radius of City Hall.
Arrest papers state that Cross, Markeson and McHenry helped feed 40 people Wednesday night. The ordinance applies to feedings of more than 25 people.
"They intentionally violated the statute," said Lt. Barbara Jones, an Orlando police spokeswoman.
Police waited until everyone was served to make the arrests, said Douglas Coleman, speaking for Orlando Food Not Bombs.
"They basically carted them off to jail for feeding hungry people," said Coleman, who was not present. "For them to regulate a time and place for free speech and to share food, that is unacceptable."
Orlando Food Not Bombs has been feeding the homeless breakfast on Mondays for several years and dinner on Wednesdays for five years.
Police had not enforced the ordinance while the court battle continued. The U.S. District Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta ruled that city rules regulating how often large groups of people can be fed in a park do not violate the Constitution.
The penalty for violating Orlando's ordinance is 60 days in jail, a $500 fine or both.
Arrest documents state that Orlando Food Not Bombs received permits and fed more than 25 homeless people at Lake Eola Park on May 18 and 23. Coleman said the group rejected the permits.
On May 25, Orlando Food Not Bombs illegally fed a large group of homeless people, the police report states. The group on its website called for members to show up that day and defy the city ordinance, according to the report.
Officers said they found a press release on Markeson when they arrested him stating that group members planned to defy the ordinance Wednesday.
Bail was set at $250 for each person arrested. Cross and Markeson were released from jail early
Thursday. McHenry wants to stay in jail and let the legal process take its course, Coleman said.
'Gunsmoke' actor James Arness dies
Dr. Jack Kevorkian dead at 83
10-year-old boy gets ticket for not wearing seat belt properly
Leander official says officer made mistake.
Updated: 9:40 a.m. Friday, June 3, 2011
Published: 8:29 p.m. Thursday, June 2, 2011
Jay Janner AMERICAN-STATESMAN
ROUND ROCK — On his way home Tuesday from Jim Plain Elementary School in Leander, fourth-grader Marshall May, sitting in the passenger seat of the family minivan, was ticketed for not wearing his seat belt properly.
Problem is, Texas law says a person must be at least 15 years old to commit such an offense. If a child isn't properly secured by a seat belt, the adult in the car would be at fault, according to the law. But Marshall's aunt, Ashley Arredondo, 19, who was driving, didn't receive a ticket.
"I was really scared, I could tell you that," Marshall said Thursday. "I didn't know what to do.
"He made me sign my signature, but I don't have a signature because I'm 10 years old."
Instead, Marshall printed his full name.
By Thursday, the story landed on Austin talk radio, and reporters began asking questions.
Interim Leander City Manager Robert Powers said Thursday that Marshall should not have been ticketed.
"I think it was just a mistake," Powers said. "It wasn't anything egregious or malicious."
The Police Department has taken procedural steps with the city's municipal court that will likely lead to the ticket's dismissal, Powers said. It will be up to the court to dismiss the ticket.
"I don't know if they requested it be dismissed or if they asked that it be taken into consideration, but that's certainly the intent," Powers said.
Marshall was in the passenger seat when he decided to stick his head out the window for some air, he said. As he stretched, the seat belt slipped up toward his neck and shoulder area, he said.
That's when the police officer pulled over the minivan driven by Arredondo.
After a brief discussion, the officer ticketed Marshall.
"He said: 'You were wearing your seat belt incorrectly. Sorry, but click it or ticket,'" Marshall said.
Police said the boy wasn't properly wearing the belt because it wasn't covering the top of his chest, said Marshall's stepmother, Kristy May.
"I thought it was a joke until I saw the actual ticket," said Marshall's father, Gabriel May. "I didn't think there was any gravity to it whatsoever."
Gabriel May said he's not sure whether the incident will lead to a court visit, but he said he'd show up if necessary.
"I will, because I'm a law-abiding citizen," he said. "I think they should drop it."
Fri, Jun. 3, 2011
Woman sues Dunkin' Donuts for sugary brew
Philadelphia Daily News
In a world where people sue McDonald's for serving coffee too hot, a Philadelphia woman has sued a Dunkin' Donuts for serving coffee she says was too sweet - so sweet it sent her into a diabetic coma.
Danielle Jordan, 47, of Oxford Avenue near Langdon Street in Crescentville, filed a personal injury lawsuit against the Dunkin' Donuts on Frankford Avenue near Bridge Street and Northeast Donut Shops Management Corp.
Jordan is seeking unspecified damages after she claims she ordered coffee with artificial sweetener on June 15, 2009, but the server put sugar into the brew, according to the suit, which was first reported this morning by the Courthouse News Service.
After downing the drink, Jordan contends, she suffered light-headedness, dizziness, numbness of the extremities and a diabetic shock that resulted in an emergency trip to the hospital, court papers say. As a result, she had to increase her diabetic medication and "sustained a loss of life's enjoyment" due to Dunkin' Donuts' "defective product." Jordan and her attorney, Kenneth M. Rodgers, couldn't immediately be reached for comment.
Leshia Evans, legal liaison who handles lawsuits for 34 Dunkin' Donuts in the Philadelphia region, said today she couldn't comment on the case.
But she noted "we encounter thousands and thousands of customers on a daily basis. We don't provide a customer with anything they don't request. If they request a medium coffee, they will get a medium coffee. If you fail to request a sugar substitute, we can't read your mind. We sell doughnuts, not crystal balls."
In Evans' 14 years in her job, she has seen more than her fair share of unusual lawsuits. She recounted one lawsuit about three years ago, in which a woman claimed she burned her tongue on Dunkin' Donuts coffee so hot it must have been tainted by terrorists. That plaintiff lost her suit.
Valedictorian fights judge's ban on graduation prayer
SAN ANTONIO (Reuters) - The valedictorian of a high school in a San Antonio suburb where a judge has banned formal prayers at graduation ceremonies on Saturday is fighting for an opportunity to lead the crowd in prayer.
On Thursday, the North Texas-based Liberty Institute, a nonprofit that describes itself as seeking to limit government and promote Judeo-Christian values, filed a lawsuit on behalf of the valedictorian of Castroville's Medina Valley High School, Angela Hildenbrand.
"After all that I've been taught about the freedoms of speech, expression and religion in our country, I am disappointed that my liberties are being infringed upon by this court's ruling to censor my speech," Hildenbrand said at a press conference at the Alamo.
U.S. District Judge Fred Biery ruled on Tuesday that the Medina Valley School District may not proceed with plans to include an invocation or benediction at the ceremony, saying that doing so would make it sound like the school is "sponsoring a religion."
He said student speakers may reference God in their remarks.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott on Wednesday asked a federal appeals court to overturn the order.
"This is part of an ongoing attempt to purge God from the public setting, while at the same time demanding from the court increased yielding to all things agnostic and atheistic," Abbott said.
He said Congress begins each session with a prayer to God, and Biery's ruling would allow a student to "bend over in honor of Mecca," but not lead a prayer to the Christian God.
The case has been seized by both sides in the ongoing debate over references to religion in schools and in public places.
The judge's ruling followed a lawsuit against the district by agnostics Christa and Danny Schultz saying their son might not take part in graduation if he were forced to participate in religious activities.
Ayesha Kahn, an attorney for Americans United for Church and State, which represents the Schultzes, said earlier this week that the district "has been flouting the law for decades."
But some residents of the town of about 3,000 about 20 miles west of San Antonio, which still strongly retains the flavor of the French Catholics who founded it in the 1850s, object to halting the community tradition of invocation at graduation.
"My best friend last year said the prayer, and it was really cool that my best friend, who I have known since I was three years old, said the prayer, and now it turns out that she may be the last one to ever say the prayer at Medina Valley," Kelsey Johnson, who graduated from the high school last year, told Reuters.
(Editing by Corrie MacLaggan and Jerry Norton)
Tamarac woman gets three years probation for demanding divorce with knife
5:27 p.m. EDT, June 1, 2011
A Tamarac woman who held a steak knife to her husband's throat and demanded he sign divorce papers and the deed to their house was sentenced to three years probation Wednesday.
Prosecutors dropped an attempted murder charge, and Tamara Strulovici, 53, pleaded no contest to aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.
In May 2009, Strulovici approached her husband from behind, put the steak knife to his throat, made her demands and slashed the fingers on his left hand, the Broward Sheriff's Office said.
In court Wednesday, Strulovici said through a Russian interpreter that she is "not sure" if she and her husband, James Little, are still legally married.
"I heard the rumors that he did apply for divorce," Strulovici said. "I don't do that because I don't have any money."
Married or not, Broward Circuit Judge Sandra Perlman ordered that Strulovici have no contact with Little.
Strulovici's lawyer said she has no problem with that aspect of her sentence.
"He lives out of state and she has no interest of ever having contact with him," Strulovici's defense attorney, Frank Prieto, said.
Pyramid tossed, dinner plate is new U.S. meals plan
1:48 p.m. CDT, June 2, 2011
Graphic: Helping us eat
June 2nd, 2011
11:10 AM ET
Obama camp wants $60 million by end of June
(CNN) - He won’t face a Republican opponent for months, but President Obama is aiming to kick the campaign season off with a fundraising bang, asking his top donors to bring in $60 million by the end of June.
The request came in a presentation to heavyweight fundraisers Wednesday in Chicago, according to a source who has seen the presentation. The $60 million cash haul would go both to Obama’s reelection campaign and the Democratic National Committee, and is in line with reports that the Obama campaign is ultimately hoping to raise $1 billion during the upcoming campaign cycle.
Meanwhile, the reelection campaign continues to target small donors, sending out an e-mail solicitation earlier Thursday asking for as little as $5. Like in 2008, the campaign has pledged not to take money from lobbyists or PACs, pledging to do “this the right way.”
Spring Hill man accused of stabbing himself, lying about robbery
May 31, 2011 09:49 PM
SPRING HILL — Authorities say a man who claimed he was robbed and stabbed Tuesday made up the story — and in fact stabbed himself — to justify missing his court date and avoid paying back child support.
Michael Cherubino, 51, of 5464 Birchwood Road in Spring Hill had told deputies two men attacked him at his home, stabbed him in the stomach and stole about $4,000 before fleeing in a "beat up" white pickup.
Investigators say he later admitted to Hernando County sheriff's deputies that he had lied and cut himself with a piece of glass so he would be hospitalized, miss his court date and have an excuse not to pay $4,000 he owed in child support.
Cherubino was issued a notice to appear on a charge of giving a false report to law enforcement.
Employment Data May Be the Key to the President’s Job
Published: June 1, 2011
WASHINGTON — No American president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt has won a second term in office when the unemployment rate on Election Day topped 7.2 percent.
Brendan Smialowski/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
President Obama speaking on Monday at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va. The White House is pursuing a number of smaller initiatives to create jobs.
Matthew Staver/Bloomberg News
A sign outside a job fair in Denver last month. New figures on jobs, due Friday, are expected to bring fresh cause for concern.
Shawn Thew/European Pressphoto Agency
Representative Eric Cantor, center, the House majority leader, speaking after a meeting with President Obama on Wednesday.
Roughly 9 percent of Americans who want to go to work cannot find an employer. Companies are firing fewer people, but hiring remains anemic. And the vast majority of economic forecasters, including the president’s own advisers, predict only modest progress by November 2012.
The latest job numbers, due Friday, are expected to provide new cause for concern. Other indicators suggest the pace of growth is flagging. Weak manufacturing data, a gloomy reading on jobs in advance of Friday’s report and a drop in auto sales led the markets to their worst close since August.
But the grim reality of widespread unemployment is drawing little response from Washington. The Federal Reserve says it is all but tapped out. There is even less reason to expect Congressional action. Both Democrats and Republicans see clear steps to create jobs, but they are trying to walk in opposite directions and are making little progress.
Republicans have set the terms of debate by pressing for large cuts in federal spending, which they say will encourage private investment. Democrats have found themselves battling to minimize and postpone such cuts, which they fear will cause new job losses.
House Republicans told the president that they would not support new spending to spur growth during a meeting at the White House on Wednesday.
“The discussion really focused on the philosophical difference on whether Washington should continue to pump money into the economy or should we provide an incentive for entrepreneurs and small businesses to grow,” said Eric Cantor, the majority leader. “The president talked about a need for us to continue to quote-unquote invest from Washington’s standpoint, and for a lot of us that’s code for more Washington spending, something that we can’t afford right now.”
The White House, its possibilities constrained by the gridlock, has offered no new grand plans. After agreeing to extend the Bush-era tax cuts and reducing the payroll tax last December, the administration has focused on smaller ideas, like streamlining corporate taxation and increasing American exports to Asia and Latin America.
“It’s a very tough predicament,” said Jared Bernstein, who until April was economic policy adviser to Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. “Is there any political appetite for something that would resemble another large Keynesian stimulus? Obviously no. You can say that’s what we should do and you’d probably be right, but that’s pretty academic.”
More than 13.7 million Americans were unable to find work in April; most had been seeking jobs for months. Millions more have stopped trying. Their inability to earn money is a personal catastrophe; studies show that the chance of finding new work slips away with time. It is also a strain on their families, charities and public support programs.
The Federal Reserve, the nation’s central bank, has the means and the mandate to reduce unemployment by pumping money into the economy.
As financial markets nearly collapsed in 2008, the Fed unleashed a series of unprecedented programs, first to arrest the crisis and then to promote recovery, investing more than $2 trillion. The final installment, a $600 billion bond-buying program, ends in June.
Now, however, the leaders of the central bank say they are reluctant to do more. The Fed’s chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, said in April that more money might not increase growth, but there was a growing risk that it would accelerate inflation.
Congress charged the Fed in 1978 with minimizing unemployment and inflation. Those goals, however, are often in conflict, and the Fed has made clear that inflation is its priority. Fed officials argue in part that maintaining slow, steady inflation forms a basis for enduring economic expansion.
Eric S. Rosengren, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, said in a recent interview that the Fed had reached the limits of responsible policy.
“We’ve done things that are quite unusual. We’re using tools that we have less experience with,” Mr. Rosengren said. “Most of the criticism has been that we’re being too accommodative. That is a concern that we have to put some weight on.”
Heather Boushey, senior economist at the Center for American Progress, a liberal research group, said that the Fed was being too cautious about inflation and too callous about joblessness.
“We have a massive unemployment problem in this country right now. It is festering. It’s not good for our economy. It’s not good for our society. And we have the tools to fix it,” she said. “We certainly need to be concerned about what happens down the road, but shouldn’t we first be concerned about getting the U.S. economy back on track?”
Ten presidents have stood for re-election since Mr. Roosevelt. In four instances the unemployment rate stood above 6 percent on Election Day. Three presidents lost: Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and George H. W. Bush. But Ronald Reagan won, despite 7.2 percent unemployment in November 1984, because the rate was falling and voters decided he was fixing the problem.
The Obama administration hopes to tell a similar story.
“We have undertaken some of the biggest policy actions to create jobs that any administration has ever done,” said Jason Furman, deputy director of the National Economic Council, which advises the president on economic policy. Mr. Furman said that the economy was still benefiting from last year’s tax cuts, and from the dollop of federal stimulus spending that Democrats pushed through in 2009.
The White House is pursuing a number of smaller initiatives, like persuading China to buy more American goods and services; increasing business confidence in the health of the economy, to spur new investment; and striking a deal with Republicans to overhaul corporate taxation.
It is also pushing to renew federal financing for transportation projects with an important twist: The six-year plan would be front-loaded so that $50 billion would be spent in the first year.
But Christina Romer, who headed the president’s Council of Economic Advisers until fall 2010, said in a recent speech at Washington University in St. Louis that no part of the government was addressing unemployment with sufficient urgency or hope.
“Urgency, because unemployment is a tragedy that should not be tolerated a minute longer,” she said. “And hope, because prudent and possible policies could make a crucial difference.”
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