Tuesday, March 31, 2009
St. Paul officials are making a big message to gangs: You’re not welcome here. Mayor Chris Coleman, along with other city organizers and leaders, took legal action Monday against the Sureño 13 gang, known for committing several crimes in the Twin Cities metro area. The civil legal action comes a month before the non-profit organizers of the Cinco de Mayo Fiesta host the annual event. The action aims to prevent the Sureño 13 from disrupting the festival and the surrounding neighborhood, and it has the support of both the festival organizers and neighborhood activists from St. Paul’s West Side and other neighborhoods. City Attorney John Choi said the civil action announced Monday is just the first in what could become a significant tool to combat gang activity.If the court issues a civil gang injunction order--passed by the Minnesota legislature in 2007--the court would find that the criminal gangs past activities are a public nuisance and restrict their ability to carry on future gang activities in a designated area. A violation of the courts order is a misdemeanor crime. A court hearing on the city’s motion for a temporary injunction is scheduled for April 24. The Sureño 13 gang is one of the fastest growing gangs in Minnesota, according to the Minnesota Gang Strike Task Force. A known member of the gang was recently charged for his alleged role in a shooting at the Southdale Mall in Edina. Sgt. Randy Olson of the Gang Strike Task Force told reporters in February that while it's rare to see gang activity in Edina, a new trend for gangs is to move from outside the Twin Cities metro area and into nearby suburbs.
Monday, March 30, 2009
Jesus Christ Appears On Meteorite
Russian scientists noticed the image of Jesus Christ on the meteorite which fell down on the Earth about 100 years ago. The image is identical to the one that appears on the Shroud of Turin. The meteorite cracked into two as it rammed into the planet in the Far East of Russia. The image of Jesus Christ’s face can be seen on the split. The meteorite was dubbed Boguslavka, after the village where it had been found. The face of Jesus Christ on the meteorite is just the same as on the Shroud of Turin, the linen cloth bearing the image of a man who appears to have been physically traumatized in a manner consistent with crucifixion. It is kept in the royal chapel of the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist in Turin, Italy. It is believed by many to be the cloth placed on Jesus of Nazareth at the time of his burial. The meteorite is now kept at the Moscow-based Geological Museum.
Image of Jesus Christ appears on broken meteorite“The Boguslavka meteorite fell down in the Far East, 220 kilometers from Vladivostok. All the people in the village were watching the meteorite falling. One of the villagers even made a drawing of the remarkable phenomenon with water colors,” says Michael Nazarov, the head of the museum. Russian scientists paid attention to the image of Jesus Christ on the meteorite only a short while ago. They were really surprised to find such an image. They at once recollected the Shroud of Turin, the greatest Christian relic. A face with a beard and moustache, a high forehead and a long nose is clearly seen on the iron meteorite. “Boguslavka Meteorite has a unique large-granular structure and it is considered to be the most beautiful of all meteorites known to man,” says Michael Nazarov.
Sunday, March 29, 2009
Vice President's Daughter Caught Snorting Cocaine
A "friend" of Vice President Joseph Biden's daughter, Ashley, is attempting to hawk a videotape that he claims shows her snorting cocaine at a house party this month in Delaware. The anonymous male acquaintance of Ashley took the video, said Thomas Dunlap, a lawyer representing the seller. Dunlap and a man claiming to be a lawyer showed The Post about 90 seconds of 43-minute tape, saying it was legally obtained and that Ashley was aware she was being filmed. The Post refused to pay for the video. The video, which the shooter initially hoped to sell for $2 million before scaling back his price to $400,000, shows a 20-something woman with light skin and long brown hair taking a red straw from her mouth, bending over a desk, inserting the straw into her nostril and snorting lines of white powder. She then stands up and begins talking with other people in the room. A young man looks on from behind her, facing the camera. The lawyers said he was Ashley's boyfriend of a few years. The camera follows the woman from a few feet away, focusing on her as she moves around the room. It appears not to be concealed. At one point she shouts, "Shut the f--- up!" The woman appears to resemble Ashley Biden, 27, a social worker for a Delaware child-welfare agency and a visible presence during her father's campaign for the White House.The dialogue is difficult to discern, but the woman makes repeated references to the drugs, said the lawyers, who said they viewed the tape about 15 times. "At one point she pretty much complains that the line isn't big enough," said the second lawyer, who declined to identify himself. "And she talks about her dad." Biden has been an outspoken crusader against drugs, coining the term "drug czar" in 1982 while campaigning for a more forceful "war on drugs." The lawyers declined to name the person who shot the video, but said he knew Ashley well and had attended other parties with her at which there were illegal drugs. The lawyers said the shooter used a camera with a hard-disc drive that he later destroyed, drilling into the device and tossing it into a lake. The woman in the video acknowledges the camera in a way that makes it clear she knows she's being recorded, the lawyers said, waving at it during a part of the video not shown to The Post. No one else in the video is seen using the drugs. The portion of the tape shown to The Post ends shortly after the woman's alleged ingestion. The shooter claims that he previously tape-recorded Ashley at a party in August, but was unsuccessful in his attempts to sell that video, they said. An American media company offered $250,000 for the footage and access to the person who shot the tape, according to the lawyers. Another company, based overseas, offered $225,000, they said. The unnamed lawyer hinted that his client had additional information that could embarrass the vice president's daughter. "The higher the price, the more he'll reveal," said the lawyer.
Ashley BidenThe lawyers said the video shooter was afraid of being identified and prosecuted for his role in the alleged drug use. "He's got a criminal-defense attorney," said Dunlap, who has offices in Virginia and the District of Columbia. The other lawyer said Ashley didn't have Secret Service protection at the time of the party because she complained about agents blocking her driveway. "She complained to her dad about it and he got rid of them," he said. This isn't the first brush with scandal for Ashley, who was arrested in 2002 when she yelled at a cop trying to arrest her disorderly friend outside a Chicago club, according to published report. She was charged with obstructing, but the rap was later dropped after she apologized. Ashley is the youngest of three siblings, and the only one born to the vice president and his second wife, Jill. Joe Biden's first wife, Neilia, and 13-month-old daughter, Naomi, died in a 1972 car crash. Her two half-brothers are Beau, 40, and Hunter, 39. Phone messages left at the offices of Vice President Biden and Jill Biden, who were in Chile last night for meetings with South American leaders on economic issues, were not immediately returned. Ashley also did not respond to messages left at her Delaware home.
Saturday, March 28, 2009
Sarah Palin Couldn't Find McCain Staffers To Pray With
Sarah Palin told a group of Alaska Republicans last week about preparing to go on stage for the vice presidential debate. "So I'm looking around for somebody to pray with, I just need maybe a little help, maybe a little extra," she said. "And the McCain campaign, love 'em, you know, they're a lot of people around me, but nobody I could find that I wanted to hold hands with and pray." McCain staffers have taken umbrage at the suggestion that they're not the praying types.
The rest of the anecdote (starting at the 4 minute mark) is actually quite charming. She asks her daughter Piper to pray that God gives her strength and "speaks through me." Little Piper responds, "That would be cheating!" What's politically interesting is that Palin could easily have told the Piper anecdote without dissing the McCainiacs. You can see why religious conservatives love her: unabashed about her faith and her contempt for McCain staffers.
Friday, March 27, 2009
Blundering Afghan Suicide Bomber Blows Up 6 Militants
A would-be suicide bomber accidentally blew himself up on Thursday, killing six other militants as he was bidding them farewell to leave for his intended target, the Interior Ministry said. "The terrorist was on his way to his destination and saying good-bye to his associates and then his suicide vest exploded," a statement from the ministry said. Taliban-led attacks in Afghanistan have escalated in the past year with suicide and roadside bombings insurgents' weapons of choice. The incident happened in Helmand province in southern Afghanistan where mainly British troops are struggling against a growing Taliban-led insurgency.In a separate incident in Helmand, nine policemen were killed when Taliban insurgents attacked a police post in Nari Sarraj district, the Interior Ministry said. Elsewhere, four Taliban insurgents were killed and seven policemen and two civilians wounded during a battle just outside Ghazni city, about 200 km (125 miles) southwest of the capital Kabul, a spokesman for the provincial governor said. On Friday, Washington is set to unveil a review of its strategy in Afghanistan, which is expected to emphasise the need to expand Afghan security forces and strengthen the country's heavily aid-dependent economy.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Cardboard Cut-Out Wanted Poster Mugshot
The family of Lindsay Hawker, the British woman murdered in Tokyo in March 2007, have expressed their anger with the Japanese police for not catching her killer and condemned as a gimmick the latest ruse for solving the crime. Detectives revealed their new device this week: life-size, talking cardboard cut-outs of the suspected strangler. A button on the back activates a recording of his voice. The idea is to jog the memory of members of the public who may have encountered Tatsuya Ichihashi, the 30-year-old man who escaped from police moments before they found Ms Hawker’s body in his apartment. But only three of the cut-outs will be visible to the public. “It would be funny if it wasn’t so tragic,” Ms Hawker’s mother, Julia, said. “At first we thought it seemed like a good idea but when we asked how many there would be, they said five. Two of the cut-outs will be in the police station. “It was really quite upsetting because it seems that they are no closer to finding him now than when he slipped through their fingers two years ago. We would have respected them more if they’d said honestly to us, ‘We’re doing all we can, but we’re struggling’, instead of trying to appease us with cardboard cut-outs.” Japanese police used similar tactics in the hunt for three members of the Aum Shinri kyo religious cult suspected of releasing sarin nerve gas on the Tokyo subway in 1995. The fugitives have not yet been caught and their cut-outs lacked the audio component. The one shown to the Hawkers includes a recording found in his personal computer in which Mr Ichihashi, a former student of horticulture, describes a plant.The case is a grave embarrassment to the Japanese police, who let Mr Ichihashi slip through their fingers after knocking on the door of the apartment where the body of Ms Hawker, 22, was lying in a bathtub filled with soil. Despite distributing tens of thousands of posters, with simulated images showing Mr Ichihashi as he would look dressed in drag or with dyed hair, there has been no confirmed sighting in 19 months. Last year police indignantly denied speculation that Mr Ichihashi had probably committed suicide in some remote spot. “We have always supported the police, trusted them and given them our support,” said Mrs Hawker, who is in Japan with her husband, Bill, and daughters Lisa and Louise. “But now we are really frustrated and angry and we want some results.” Ms Hawker disappeared after meeting Mr Ichihashi in a coffee shop near his home in the suburban town of Gyotoku in Chiba Prefecture. He had approached her at a railway station a few days earlier, and followed her to her apartment, eventually persuading her to give him a private English lesson. When friends reported her missing, police visited Mr Ichihashi’s apartment, having found his telephone number on a piece of paper at Ms Hawker’s apartment. He escaped in his stockinged feet from nine police officers. Afterwards, they found her body in the bath on the balcony. Her hands and ankles had been tied with plastic cord and she was buried in horticultural soil. The post-mortem examination showed that she had been beaten all over her body. Police will not confirm or deny that she was sexually assaulted. Detective Chief Inspector Ally Wright, a senior murder investigator from the Hawkers’ home county of Warwickshire, has visited Japan and taken part in police raids on 24-hour internet cafés where young homeless people often spend the night. Mrs Hawker said yesterday: “We will never give up until he’s caught.”
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Minnesota Man Admits Plot To Export Materials To China
The last of three men has pleaded guilty to his role in a plot to illegally export weapons materials to China, Hong Kong and Singapore. Fifty-year-old Jian Wei Ding of Singapore pleaded guilty Friday in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis to one count of conspiracy to violate export regulations. Two others entered guilty pleas over the past few weeks.According to their plea agreements, Ding and his co-defendants admitted that from March 23, 2007, through April 6, 2008, they conspired to violate export regulations by exporting and attempting to export high-modulus carbon-fiber material without an export license. The carbon-fiber material is used in rockets, satellites, spacecraft and uranium enrichment. The men face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a maximum $1 million fine. A sentencing date has not been set.
Monday, March 23, 2009
Missing Somali Man Believed To Be Back In U.S.
The FBI's search for missing Minneapolis men, believed to have been recruited for terrorism in Somalia, has taken a new direction. Community leaders told reporters at least one man, possibly four, have returned to Minneapolis from Somalia. Those who know the family said the young man is back because he found himself in something he did not sign up for. "We hope he's fine mentally and he's okay," said Omar Jamal with the Somali Justice Advocacy Center. Jamal said he has learned at least one of 12 young men believed recruited to fight in Somalia's civil war has returned. It's a war many of the young men's parents came to America to escape.A month ago F-B-I Director Robert Mueller confirmed he was aware of these men and that some have started to return to the U.S. He is concerned the men are trained terrorists. "These families are understandably worried about the welfare of their children and we too are concerned not only for these families but for the larger community," said Mueller. "We don't know their intentions. I feel that they've been duped. It's up to the government as to what to do with these kids," said Jamal. For now Jamal is giving the young man who returned the benefit of the doubt. "These are very young kids, vulnerable and confused. They became subject to Imams and sheiks in jihadist Philosophy. A kid 17 could get caught in these issues and that's what happened," said Jamal. It is not known if the young man has been interviewed yet by the FBI.
Sunday, March 22, 2009
Saturday, March 21, 2009
Special Olympics Bowler: I Can Beat The President!
The top bowler for the Special Olympics looks forward to meeting President Barack Obama in an alley. "He bowled a 129. I bowl a 300. I could beat that score easily," Michigan's Kolan McConiughey told reporters in an interview Friday. The athletic-minded president made an offhand remark Thursday on "The Tonight Show" comparing his weak bowling to "the Special Olympics or something."
Kolan McConiugheyHe quickly apologized and told the Special Olympics chairman he wants to have some of its athletes visit the White House to bowl or play basketball. McConiughey, who is mentally disabled, is just the bowler for the job. He's bowled five perfect games since 2005. The 35-year-old McConiughey has been bowling since he was 8 or 9. His advice for Obama? Practice every day.
Friday, March 20, 2009
President Obama Jokes About The Special Olympics
The first appearance by a sitting president on "The Tonight Show" may well end up being the last. President Obama, in his taping with Jay Leno Thursday afternoon, attempted to yuk it up with the funnyman, and ended up insulting the disabled. Towards the end of his approximately 40-minute appearance, the president talked about how he's gotten better at bowling and has been practicing in the White House bowling alley. He bowled a 129, the president said. "That's very good, Mr. President," Leno said sarcastically. It's "like the Special Olympics or something," the president said.When asked about the remark, the White House said the president did not intend to offend. "The president made an off-hand remark making fun of his own bowling that was in no way intended to disparage the Special Olympics," White House deputy press secretary Bill Burton said. "He thinks the Special Olympics is a wonderful program that gives an opportunity for people with disabilities from around the world." Facing tough questions about the performance of his Treasury Secretary, $165 million in bonuses for AIG officials and anticipating a fight over his $3.55 trillion budget, the president has not had a particularly good week, and it's unlikely this will help matters.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Fannie Mae Plans Bonuses Of Up To $611,000 For 4 Executives; Freddie Mac Has Similar Plans
Fannie Mae plans to pay retention bonuses of as much as $611,000 each to key executives this year as part of a plan to keep hundreds of employees from leaving the government-controlled company. Rival mortgage finance company Freddie Mac is planning similar awards, but has not yet reported on which executives will benefit. The two companies, which together own or back more than half of the home mortgages in the country, have been hobbled by skyrocketing loan defaults. Fannie recently requested $15 billion in federal aid, while Freddie has sought a total of almost $45 billion. Fannie Mae disclosed its "broad-based" retention program in a recent regulatory filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The company was only required to disclose the amounts for the top-paid executives, who will pocket at least $470,000 on top of their base salaries. The bonuses are more than double last year's, which ranged from $200,000 to $260,000. A company spokesman declined further comment. Fannie Mae said regulators determined that the bonuses were needed because keeping key employees "was essential to ensure our viability through 2010, which would allow Congress, the administration and other parties involved time to determine what the form and function of the company will be in future years."The bonuses were authorized last year by the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which seized control of Fannie and Freddie in September and ousted the companies' former CEOs. "It was critical to retain their most important asset -- their employees -- who are being asked to play a vital role in the nation's economic recovery," James Lockhart, the agency's director, said in a statement. "As the previous senior management teams left, it would have been catastrophic to lose the next layers down and other highly experienced employees." But the generous paychecks could prove politically touchy amid outrage over roughly $165 million in bonuses paid out over the weekend by bailed-out insurance giant AIG. Michael Williams, Washington-based Fannie Mae's executive vice president and chief operating officer, is due to receive a $611,000 retention award on top of his $676,000 base salary. David Hisey, the company's deputy chief financial offer is expected to receive a $517,000 retention award this year in addition to his $385,000 salary and $160,000 cash bonus. The company's two top executives, Chief Executive Officer Herbert Allison and Chief Financial Officer David Johnson, did not receive the awards because they were new to the company last year. Allison is taking no salary, while Johnson is receiving a base salary of $625,000 and no bonus.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Canada's Science Minister Won't Confirm Belief In Evolution
Canada's science minister, the man at the centre of the controversy over federal funding cuts to researchers, won't say if he believes in evolution. “I'm not going to answer that question. I am a Christian, and I don't think anybody asking a question about my religion is appropriate,” Gary Goodyear, the federal Minister of State for Science and Technology, said in an interview with The Globe and Mail. A funding crunch, exacerbated by cuts in the January budget, has left many senior researchers across the county scrambling to find the money to continue their experiments. Some have expressed concern that Mr. Goodyear, a chiropractor from Cambridge, Ont., is suspicious of science, perhaps because he is a creationist. When asked about those rumours, Mr. Goodyear said such conversations are not worth having. “Obviously, I have a background that supports the fact I have read the science on muscle physiology and neural chemistry,” said the minister, who took chemistry and physics courses as an undergraduate at the University of Waterloo. “I do believe that just because you can't see it under a microscope doesn't mean it doesn't exist. It could mean we don't have a powerful enough microscope yet. So I'm not fussy on this business that we already know everything. … I think we need to recognize that we don't know.” Asked to clarify if he was talking about the role of a creator, Mr. Goodyear said that the interview was getting off topic. Brian Alters, founder and director of the Evolution Education Research Centre at McGill University in Montreal, was shocked by the minister's comments. Evolution is a scientific fact, Dr. Alters said, and the foundation of modern biology, genetics and paleontology. It is taught at universities and accepted by many of the world's major religions, he said. “It is the same as asking the gentleman, ‘Do you believe the world is flat?' and he doesn't answer on religious grounds,” said Dr. Alters. “Or gravity, or plate tectonics, or that the Earth goes around the sun.” Jim Turk, executive director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers, said he was flabbergasted that the minister would invoke his religion when asked about evolution. “The traditions of science and the reliance on testable and provable knowledge has served us well for several hundred years and have been the basis for most of our advancement. It is inconceivable that a government would have a minister of science that rejects the basis of scientific discovery and traditions,” he said. Mr. Goodyear's evasive answers on evolution are unlikely to reassure the scientists who are skeptical about him, and they bolster the notion that there is a divide between the minister and the research community. Many scientists fear 10 years of gains will be wiped out by a government that doesn't understand the importance of basic, curiosity-driven research, which history shows leads to the big discoveries.They worry Canada's best will decamp for the United States, where President Barack Obama has put $10-billion (U.S) into medical research as part of his plan to stimulate economic growth. But in the interview, Mr. Goodyear defended his government's approach and the January budget, and said it stacks up well when compared to what Mr. Obama is doing. He also talked about how passionate he is about science and technology – including basic research – and how his life before politics shaped his views. Now 51, Mr. Goodyear grew up in Cambridge. His parents divorced when he was young. His father was a labourer, his mother a seamstress who worked three jobs to the support her three children. His first summer job was laying asphalt when he was 12. At 13, he got a part-time job at a garage, pumping gas. At 17, the young entrepreneur started his own company selling asphalt and sealants. He was in the technical stream at high school, taking welding and automotive mechanics. No one in has family had ever gone to university, but he secretly started taking academic credits at night school so he could get admitted to the University of Waterloo. He didn't want his family to know. He took chemistry, physics, statistics and kinesiology, and was fascinated by the mechanics of human joints. After three years of university, he was admitted to the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College, where he was class president and valedictorian. He had his own practice in Cambridge, where he settled down with his wife Valerie. He worked as chiropractor for two decades, and set up private clinics to treat people who had been injured in car accidents, sometimes using devices that he invented to help them rebuild their strength and range of motion. He had sold that business when, before the 2004 federal election, a friend approached him about running for the Conservative nomination in Cambridge. His two children were then in their late teens, so he agreed. He took the nomination and won the seat. He was re-elected in 2006, and again in 2008, when Prime Minister Stephen Harper named him science minister. “Now I have got a portfolio that I am absolutely passionate about and frankly connected to,” he said, adding that his days of experimenting with engines in high school automotive class gave him an appreciation for what it feels like to come up with something new. “When I was in high school, we were already tweaking with a coil that would wrap around the upper [radiator] hose and it got an extra five miles to the gallon. … So I've been there on this discovery stuff.” Commercializing research – the focus of the government's science and technology policy – is an area where Canada needs to make improvements, he says. “If we are going to be serious about saving lives and improving life around this planet, if we are serious about helping the environment, then we are going to have to get some of these technologies out of the labs onto the factory floors. Made. Produced. Sold. And that is going to fulfill that talk. So yes, we have to do all of it, we have to do discovery … but it can't end there.”
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
International Flu Shot Contained Live Bird Flu Virus
The company that released contaminated flu virus material from a plant in Austria confirmed Friday that the experimental product contained live H5N1 avian flu viruses. And an official of the World Health Organization's European operation said the body is closely monitoring the investigation into the events that took place at Baxter International's research facility in Orth-Donau, Austria. "At this juncture we are confident in saying that public health and occupational risk is minimal at present," medical officer Roberta Andraghetti said from Copenhagen, Denmark. "But what remains unanswered are the circumstances surrounding the incident in the Baxter facility in Orth-Donau." The contaminated product, a mix of H3N2 seasonal flu viruses and unlabelled H5N1 viruses, was supplied to an Austrian research company. The Austrian firm, Avir Green Hills Biotechnology, then sent portions of it to sub-contractors in the Czech Republic, Slovenia and Germany. The contamination incident, which is being investigated by the four European countries, came to light when the subcontractor in the Czech Republic inoculated ferrets with the product and they died. Ferrets shouldn't die from exposure to human H3N2 flu viruses.Public health authorities concerned about what has been described as a "serious error" on Baxter's part have assumed the death of the ferrets meant the H5N1 virus in the product was live. But the company, Baxter International Inc., has been parsimonious about the amount of information it has released about the event. On Friday, the company's director of global bioscience communications confirmed what scientists have suspected. "It was live," Christopher Bona said in an email. The contaminated product, which Baxter calls "experimental virus material," was made at the Orth-Donau research facility. Baxter makes its flu vaccine - including a human H5N1 vaccine for which a licence is expected shortly - at a facility in the Czech Republic. People familiar with biosecurity rules are dismayed by evidence that human H3N2 and avian H5N1 viruses somehow co-mingled in the Orth-Donau facility. That is a dangerous practice that should not be allowed to happen, a number of experts insisted. Accidental release of a mixture of live H5N1 and H3N2 viruses could have resulted in dire consequences. While H5N1 doesn't easily infect people, H3N2 viruses do. If someone exposed to a mixture of the two had been simultaneously infected with both strains, he or she could have served as an incubator for a hybrid virus able to transmit easily to and among people. That mixing process, called reassortment, is one of two ways pandemic viruses are created.There is no suggestion that happened because of this accident, however. "We have no evidence of any reassortment, that any reassortment may have occurred," said Andraghetti. "And we have no evidence of any increased transmissibility of the viruses that were involved in the experiment with the ferrets in the Czech Republic." Baxter hasn't shed much light - at least not publicly - on how the accident happened. Earlier this week Bona called the mistake the result of a combination of "just the process itself, (and) technical and human error in this procedure." He said he couldn't reveal more information because it would give away proprietary information about Baxter's production process. Andraghetti said Friday the four investigating governments are co-operating closely with the WHO and the European Centre for Disease Control in Stockholm, Sweden. "We are in very close contact with Austrian authorities to understand what the circumstances of the incident in their laboratory were," she said. "And the reason for us wishing to know what has happened is to prevent similar events in the future and to share lessons that can be learned from this event with others to prevent similar events. ... This is very important."
Monday, March 16, 2009
The Clock Is Ticking For Liberians In The US
Advocates for Liberians who are in the U.S. on temporary protected status are hoping that President Barack Obama will grant them an extension to stay here. About 3,600 Liberians are in the U.S. on temporary protected status while civil war ravaged their homeland. The war has ended and a fledgling democracy is taking hold. Their status to stay in the U.S. expires on March 31.Kerper Dwanyen is president of the Organization of Liberians in Minnesota. He says many of the affected Liberians are primary providers for their families in both countries. Many have been in the United States as long as 15 years. Alexander Collins is one Liberian who lives in St. Paul. He says his life is here, and it's hard to consider what it would mean to go back to Africa.
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Obama Won’t Label Terrorists As ‘Enemy Combatants’
The administration of US President Barack Obama has scrapped the term "enemy combatant" to refer to terrorists. In a break with the Bush administration, the US Justice Department says its detention policy will from now on adhere to international legislation.The sweeping presidential powers advocated by President George W. Bush allowed the US to circumvent international law and to hold terrorists at Guantánamo Bay. President Obama has previously announced that the Guantánamo Bay is to be closed down.
Saturday, March 14, 2009
Russian Strategic Bombers Could Use Cuba Airfields
Russia expressed interest in using Cuban airfields during patrol missions of its strategic bombers, Russia's Interfax news agency reported. "There are four or five airfields in Cuba with 4,000-meter-long runways, which absolutely suit us," Maj. Gen. Anatoly Zhikharev told Interfax. Zhikharev, who is the chief of staff of the Russian Air Force's long-range aviation, said, "If the two chiefs of state display such a political will, we are ready to fly there."Zhikharev also told Interfax that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has offered a military airfield on La Orchila island as a temporary base for Russian strategic bombers. "If a relevant political decision is made, this is possible," he said, according to Interfax. Zhikharev said he visited La Orchila in 2008 and can confirm that with minor reconstruction, the airfield owned by a local naval base can accept fully-loaded Russian strategic bombers.
Friday, March 13, 2009
Texas Gov. Perry Turns Down $555M In Stimulus
Texas Gov. Rick Perry announced Thursday he turned down $555 million of federal stimulus funding that would expand the state's unemployment benefits, saying the money would have required the state to keep paying for the expanded benefits after the stimulus money ran out. Perry, an outspoken critic of President Barack Obama's $787 billion stimulus bill, did accept most of the roughly $17 billion slated for Texas in the plan. But he turned down the unemployment benefits because he said it would require the state to increase the tax burden on Texas businesses. "During these tough times, Texas employers are working harder than ever to move products to market, make payroll and create jobs," Perry said at a news conference. "The last thing they need is government burdening them with higher taxes and expanded obligations." Other Republican governors have said they will turn down federal stimulus money, including Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who said he would not accept nearly $100 million to expand unemployment benefits. Moments after Perry said he would reject the money, the House Senate Committee on Federal Economic Stabilization Funding voted 5-1 in favor of a motion encouraging the Legislature to make the necessary changes to enable the state to receive $555 million. Republican Rep. Jim Pitts, chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, was among those voting in favor the motion. Perry's announcement was immediately criticized by Democratic lawmakers and advocates for low-income residents. "Without this federal money, Texas businesses face increased unemployment insurance taxes in bad times, and without the modest reforms in state law required to get the federal money, about 45,000 Texas workers will go without unemployment insurance," said Don Baylor, a policy analyst for the Center for Public Policy Priorities.
Texas Gov. Rick PerrySen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, said rejecting the money "demonstrates the height of denial about the challenges confronting this state and its people." Watson said it's now up to the Legislature, which can still try to accept the funds but risks a gubernatorial veto. "I would not jump to the conclusion that we're not going to get the money," Baylor said. "The governor's decision puts a red light in front of the Legislature, but the Legislature still plans to go forward and hold hearings on these bills and try and get votes." To receive the full amount of stimulus money available, lawmakers would need to adjust the time period used to determine whether people are eligible for benefits, using the four most recent quarters to determine how much a person gets instead of the current method that goes back 18 months. Texas would also have to expand eligibility to include thousands of low-wage workers. Lawmakers have said the change would help part-time employees like single mothers, college students and senior citizens. Perry said the requirements attached to the federal stimulus money would require a change in the state's definition of unemployment by expanding it to include part-time employees. He said such an expansion would counteract the package's objective of job creation by leading companies to limit hiring and raise prices. The governor's decision comes despite warnings from Texas Workforce Commission Chairman Tom Pauken that the state's unemployment compensation trust fund could be operating at a deficit by October. Pauken told lawmakers recently that insolvency might not be not far behind.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Iran Caught Red-Handed In Ship Loaded With Weapons
A United Nations Security Council committee confirmed on Tuesday that Iran violated U.N. sanctions by trying to send a ship with weapons to Syria. The high-explosive shells, including those than can pierce armor, and anti-tank explosives may have been destined for Hamas terrorists in Gaza, Hizbullah in Iran or Syrian-backed Iraqis, Council diplomats told reporters. The U.N. has banned Iran from exporting weapons or materials for the manufacture of arms. The ship, chartered by the Islamic Republic of Iran, has been docked in Cyprus since January 29, when Cypriot authorities unloaded it and said there were no weapons aboard, although it found material that could be used to make ammunition.However, United States military inspectors found artillery shells on the ship when it stopped in the Red Sea and said it was destined for Syria. The U.N. Security Council Sanctions Committee told Cypriot authorities that the shipment contravened the U.N. sanctions. Officials from Cyprus said the weapons may be defused "at the appropriate time." Britain offered to help neutralize the explosives. U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice condemned the violation, and France and Britain expressed concern. Iran and Syria were ordered to explain the shipment, but the U.N. has not stated if there will be any punitive action. The sanctions were clamped on Iran after it refused to suspend its program for enriching uranium, a key material for manufacturing a nuclear weapon.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Monday, March 09, 2009
Hugo Chavez Calls On Obama To Follow Path Of Socialism
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Friday called upon US President Barack Obama to follow the path to socialism, which he termed as the "only" way out of the global recession. "Come with us, align yourself, come with us on the road to socialism. This is the only path. Imagine a socialist revolution in the United States," Chavez told a group of workers in the southern Venezuelan state of Bolivar. The controversial Venezuelan leader, who taunted the United States as a source of capitalistic evil under former president George W Bush, added that the United States needs a leader who can take it to a "higher" destiny and bring it out of "the sad role that it has been given, as a murderous, attacking power that is hated all around the world."Chavez said that people are calling Obama a "socialist" for the measures of state intervention he is taking to counter the crisis, so it would not be too far-fetched to suggest that he might join the project of "21st century socialism" that the Venezuelan leader is heading. "Nothing is impossible. Who would have thought in the 1980s that the Soviet Union would disappear? No one," he said. "That murderous, genocidal empire has to end, and some day there has to come a leader ... who interprets the best of a people who also include human beings who suffer, endure, weep and laugh," the outspoken Chavez said.
Sunday, March 08, 2009
Russian Media Teases Clinton Over 'Reset' Button
Russian media has been poking fun at US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton after she gave her Russian counterpart a "reset" button with an ironic misspelling. Clinton's gift to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at their meeting in Geneva on Friday evening was meant to underscore the Obama administration's readiness to "to press the reset button" in ties with Moscow. But instead of the Russian word for "reset" (perezagruzka) it featured a slightly different word meaning "overload" or "overcharged" (peregruzka). Daily newspaper Kommersant put a prominent picture of the fake red button on its front page and declared: "Sergei Lavrov and Hillary Clinton pushed the wrong button."A correspondent for NTV television called it a "symbolic mistake," pointing out that US-Russian ties had become overcharged in recent years due to discord over such issues as missile defence and last summer's war in Georgia. "The friendly US gesture was upturned by a small amusing incident," the news website RBC.ru wrote in an article posted late Friday evening. "Yet this curious episode did not stop Clinton and Lavrov from pushing the button in front of television cameras." US Vice-President Joe Biden spoke of pressing the "reset button" on relations between Moscow and Washington during a speech in Germany last month. It has since been repeated in various forms by both US and Russian officials.
Saturday, March 07, 2009
Court Rejects Franken Bid To Be Seated In Senate
The Minnesota Supreme Court has rejected Democrat Al Franken's petition for an election certificate that would put him in the U.S. Senate without waiting for a lawsuit to be resolved. Franken is ahead of Republican Norm Coleman by 225 votes. Coleman's ongoing lawsuit argues some uncounted absentee ballots were wrongly rejected.Franken sued to force Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Secretary of State Mark Ritchie to sign an election certificate. Franken argued that federal law required it. But the state Supreme Court disagreed. In their ruling Friday, the justices said states aren't required to issue such certificates by the date that Congress convenes.
Friday, March 06, 2009
Bait Shop Cited For First Amendment Banner
The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida and its Pinellas County chapter filed a federal lawsuit Feb. 24 against Clearwater on behalf of a Clearwater business, The Complete Angler. “The ACLU of Florida seeks to prevent the city from further proceeding against (owners Heriberto, “Herb,” and Lorraine Quintero) for exercising their constitutionally protected right to free speech and political protest,” read an ACLU press release regarding the lawsuit. The Quinteros opened the bait shop at 705 N. Fort Harrison Ave. on Feb. 1, 2008, said Herb Quintero, and shortly afterwards commissioned an artist to paint a mural of local game fish on one of the shop’s outdoor walls. The shop began getting notices of code violations in March 2008, claiming that the mural was in fact an additional sign, or advertising, although there are no words or a logo on the image. “We made numerous attempts to talk to the city, but they insisted that the mural, because it’s a depiction of fish, would constitute as additional signage because we are a tackle store,” Quintero said. “Our argument has always been that it was never made or painted to convey any information to the public. There is no logo or text. It just depicts local game fish in the area. It’s artwork and is covered under the First Amendment. It’s freedom of expression.” The Quinteros paid $690 in fines to the city and were ordered to cover up the mural. “Sometimes small cases carry very, very fundamental issues, and even though this is about The Complete Angler and Herb and Lori Quintero, it really is about the First Amendment and political protest and freedom of expression,” said Maria Kayanan, associate legal director of the ACLU of Florida. In January 2009, the shop owners hung a tarp and a banner with the First Amendment of the Constitution over the mural to comply with the city yet protest at the same time. Now the shop has been fined for posting the First Amendment banner. “They sent me a notice of violation that said I put up an illegal sign without the proper permits or anything and it’s additional signage, so we can’t have it,” Quintero said. “Now, because it’s the second violation on the same piece of property, it’s subject to a $500-a-day fine.” The banner was supposed to come down Feb. 27, but Quintero said he will not take it down.“It’s ironic that the very thing I’m using to protect my freedom of speech is now being challenged,” Quintero said. “I can’t in good conscience take that banner down. It goes against everything I believe in and is the whole reason for this fight ... It will stay until a judge tells me differently.” The ACLU lawsuit requests a temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction to disallow the city from issuing additional fines about until a trial can be held about the mural and the First Amendment banner. “It’s a pretty basic First Amendment lawsuit in terms of free speech, and quite frankly, it could be the first time someone has ever been banned by a government entity for displaying the First Amendment, which is ironic beyond imagination,” said Brandon Hensler, spokesman for the ACLU. “... It is such an egregious violation of the First Amendment that appears to be targeting this particular business when there are clearly other examples around town where people have not been targeted.” Hensler said not only is there no text or a logo on the mural or the banner, but if it were a true advertisement, it would imply that the shop sells fish, but it only sells bait and tackle. A hearing was scheduled on March 4 at the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida in Tampa. There has been much public support for the Quinteros, and a Web site has been set up for them at www.keepthefish.com. Quintero said he is grateful for the support as well as to the ACLU for its lawsuit, since the Quinteros could not afford such a suit on their own. “Only in Florida could a business owner be targeted and fined for displaying artwork; and then in protest of the fine, display the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution – and then be ticketed for that,” wrote Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida in a press release. “Unfortunately, public officials disregard constitutional freedoms all the time, but punishing citizens for displaying the Constitution may be a first.” The city of Clearwater has declined comment on the lawsuit at present, issuing the following statement: “We currently are in the process of the case and will determine the appropriate response.”
Thursday, March 05, 2009
Wednesday, March 04, 2009
Marine One Blueprints Found In Iran
A file-sharing program in a defense contractor's computer system allowed outside access to data on the U.S. president's helicopter, a monitor says. Bob Boback, the chief executive officer of Tiversa, told reporters in Pittsburgh his company found blueprints and avionics information on Marine One at a computer network in Tehran. Tiversa, based in Cranberry, Pa., traced the information back to a Maryland company where an employee apparently downloaded a file-sharing program."When downloading one of these file-sharing programs, you are effectively allowing others around the world to access your hard drive," Boback said. Boback said his company notified the federal government of the security breach. In addition to Iran, China, Pakistan, Qatar and Yemen appear to be looking for sensitive information made available by file-sharing, Boback said. Marine One is one of several Navy helicopters used to transport the president.
Tuesday, March 03, 2009
Monday, March 02, 2009
Mitt Romney: Democrats' 'Pet Liberal Projects' Will Bankrupt Nation
Former Massachusetts Governor and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney tells Newsmax that the Democrats’ massive stimulus package is laden with “pet liberal projects” that won’t help the economy at all. He also asserts that President Barack Obama is actually hurting the economy in two ways — and said Republicans in the Senate are close to having “no voice whatsoever.” Reporters asked Romney to discuss his ongoing efforts to help Republicans in the House who have been opposing the stimulus bill. “There are a number of Republicans, actually all Republicans, who voted for a Republican version of a stimulus bill that actually would have created jobs on an immediate basis,” Romney responded. “But instead Barack Obama and Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi came out with a bill that not only had stimulus in it, but also had a lot of pet liberal projects that frankly are not going to help the economy at all. “And those Republicans who voted against [the Democrats’] bill that are in tough districts are being targeted by the Democratic Party to get turned out. Somebody needs to stand up for what I call the undaunted dozen, the 12 congressmen and congresswomen who stood up bravely in very difficult districts and voted no for the waste and the inefficiency and the political agenda of the American left.” Martella asked if Romney was also helping any Republican senators who will be up for re-election next year. “I’m going to work for probably every single Senator where I can be of help in the upcoming elections in 2010,” Romney said. “It’s too early to know which races will be the really contested races, but we’ll focus on those like we did last time.”Last year, Romney campaigned for Saxby Chambliss in Georgia and Norm Coleman in Minnesota. In Minnesota, he added, “not only did I go there but our team has been there since to help in the recount” between Coleman and challenger Al Franken. “We’ll focus our energies on helping get conservatives re-elected and hopefully expanding our position in the Senate, where we’re awfully close to having no voice whatsoever.” Martella pointed out that Obama has proposed a budget of $3.6 trillion and $1 trillion in tax hikes, and asked: “Is this the way to go about bolstering the economy and encouraging job growth?” Romney answered: “He seems to have found a way to hurt the economy in two ways. One is, of course, by continuing to spend massively more than we take in, which will require hundreds of billions, even trillions of dollars of additional borrowing. “That puts very much in question whether foreign investors are going to keep on lending Americans money by buying our Treasury bills, and perhaps if they don’t do that we could see a dramatic rise in interest rates and enormous economic challenges down the road. “On the other hand, he’s also found a way to raise taxes, which will slow growth. So he’s doing two things, both of which will be harmful to the economy and the well-being of job creation in the country. “What he should be doing instead is what he talked about, which is going through the budget line by line and cutting out the things that are unnecessary. “Any time a family faces tough economic times they say, ‘There are a lot of things we like doing but we just can’t afford right now.’ “Well, a lot of things in this country that we do we can’t afford right now, and adding new programs and spending on things that aren’t necessary, those things have to end.”
Sunday, March 01, 2009
Frank Rips CitiField Then Welcomes Bank Money
Massachusetts Representative Barney Frank is one of the most powerful politicians in the country, serving as head of the House Financial Services Committee. And lately, he’s been one of the more outspoken critics of banks receiving bailout money paying big bucks for corporate sponsorships, complaining to the NEW YORK TIMES about Citigroup’s 20-year, $400 million stadium naming deal with the Mets that “marketing expenses should be for real marketing, not ego boosts, which is what I think naming rights are.” Which is a reasonable position to take; I don’t know if I agree with his assessment that no one “has ever opened a bank account or decided to buy a CD because a bank’s name is on the stadium” - if that’s the case, why do any marketing at all - but it’s a valid point. Of course, when you read Darren Rovell’s column on CNBC today, you start to get a sense that his motives might not be so pure.It seems Rep. Frank would rather banks stop frittering away money on sports sponsorships and put it where it can go to good use - into his own coiffers. That’s because the securities and investment industry has been Rep. Frank’s main contributor over the past two years, donating more than $230,000 to his campaign. And two of the five individual companies making the largest contributions - Royal Bank of Scotland and Bank of America - are among the biggest players in sports marketing and sponsorships. We can draw a few conclusions from this: perhaps, as Rovell suggests, Rep. Frank is pretty sure the Wall Street well has dried up for contributions, so it’s safe to bite the hand that fed him; or maybe he is a truly heroic public servant, willing to put his political money pipeline at risk in order to do what’s right for the country. Of course, the third, most cynical option is that he’s talking up his opposition to banks “wasting” millions in bailout money while waiting for their checks to clear. Aren’t you just thrilled that the old way of doing politics in Washington is clearly dead in a post-Obama world?