Monday, August 31, 2009

ROTC Student Suspended For Telling Muslim To Respect The Flag

Heather Lawrence loves being in JROTC, loves her Marine Corps dad and loves her country. On Wednesday, anger was the prevailing feeling in her heart when she noticed a student in another classroom had refused to stand during the Pledge of Allegiance. She also refused to recite it. Heather, a junior at Springstead High School, glanced at the other students in the room, all of whom appeared uncomfortable, she said. She saw her later in the day between class periods and told her, "Take that thing off your head and act like you're proud to be an American." The student, whom Lawrence could not identify, was wearing a hijab, a head scarf or garment traditionally worn by Muslim women. A teacher overheard Heather's statement and told two other teachers. The incident made its way to Assistant Principal Steve Crognale, who called the 16-year-old into his office Friday morning, she said. He made her wait outside while he called her father, Mark Lawrence. Crognale told him the school was going to suspend his daughter for five days. "I said, 'That is absolutely ridiculous,'" recalled Lawrence, who would not repeat the expletives used during the phone conversation. "I thought it was very unfair." He asked Crognale to explain his justification for suspending his daughter. "He said it was based on the grounds that she made a threat," said Lawrence, who threw up his arms and shook his head. He sat in his living room across from his daughter, who was dressed in her U.S. Army-issued uniform. She plans to attend basic training in the summer, return to Springstead for her senior year and pursue a career in the military. Crognale, who did not return a message seeking comment, claimed the school's written policy allowed him to suspend her for up to 10 days if he so chose, Lawrence said. When Heather's irate father pressed on and asked him to explain how her statement could be interpreted as a threat, Crognale "backed off" and said his daughter's statement "caused mental duress" for the student, he said. That student never reported the incident, Lawrence said. He conceded his daughter should have refrained from telling her to remove her hijab. Heather was less emphatic. "I wish I didn't say, 'Take that thing off your head,'" she said. "Or maybe I shouldn't have said it loud enough for the teacher to hear it." Her father, a former U.S. Marine, said he and his family have friends who are Iranian and African-American. It is a household that has sworn off racism of any kind, he said. "The student should not have said that," said Ramzy Kilic, the executive director of the Tampa chapter of the Council for American-Islamic Affairs. "If she had said, 'Why didn't you stand for the Pledge and act like an American?' that would have been a more-appropriate reaction." The Lawrence family lived in Cancun, Mexico, for six months in 2004. Both Heather, who was 12 at the time, and her sister attended a school where Spanish was the first language.
Mark Lawrence thinks it's "absolutely ridiculous" that his daughter Heather has been suspended after telling another student wearing a Muslim head covering to "Take that thing off your head and act like you're proud to be an American" for refusing to stand or recite the Pledge of Allegiance in class.
The students stood and recited their country's pledge. Heather and her sister stood, but did not speak because they didn't know the language, she said. Both of them were expelled from the school, Heather said. "They were in a third-world country and they had to honor their culture," her father said. "People don't have to do that here." The original punishment issued by Crognale was five days. Mark Lawrence was under the impression Friday morning he had talked him down to three days. He returned to the school at 12:30 p.m. to pick up the paperwork and was told the original punishment still stood. Heather Lawrence would have to remain at home for five school days because neither she nor her father would sign the agreement form. They refused to do so out of protest, they said. No threat was made. They insisted the school violated her First Amendment rights. Lawrence has been suspended at least twice prior to Friday. She was in the bathroom while another student smoked a cigarette a few feet away. A teacher searched her, found no contraband, but the school still suspended her, she said. The second time occurred last year, when she missed some classes because of her JROTC commitments. She said she got permission from all of her teachers to miss class that day. One of her teachers asked a student to go look for her. When she was not found, she reported her as an unexcused absence. She was suspended again. "At Springstead, the answer to everything is to kick you out of school," Heather said. On the agreement form that she and her father refused to sign, Crognale wrote, "The student yelled at another student in the hallway to take off her head covering because this is America." He went on to write she had begun to "rant" during a conversation with another teacher. She was going to Iraq and because the girl "looked Middle Eastern that makes her an enemy," Crognale stated. Lawrence said she never said those words to any teacher or to anyone else. The only Springstead employee she talked to about the incident prior to her suspension was Crognale and one of the school's coaches. In an apparent reference to her previous suspensions, Crognale also wrote, "Heather had promised to change her behavior this year." A call to Principal Susan Duvall was not returned Friday. It is the second time in less than three months that Springstead has been involved in a First Amendment controversy. School administrators made last year's valedictorian rewrite her graduation speech because they felt it painted the school in a negative light. The student agreed to rewrite it, but argued the school was being unreasonable and claimed at least one administrator threatened her. The story received national attention. Heather's suspension means she might miss up to 18 weeks of JROTC activities, including a military ball and some program-sponsored community service. "That really stinks because it is the only thing I do in school," she said. She said her friends, relatives, fellow JROTC students and even a few school staffers were "absolutely livid" she was suspended over her comments. "I'm not one to be a racist," Heather said.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Pakistan Suicide Training Camp Destroyed

Helicopter gunships destroyed a training camp for suicide bombers in northern Pakistan's troubled Swat Valley overnight, killing six Taliban militants, the army said Saturday. Several more militants were wounded in the camp, located on a small island in the Swat River opposite the town of Charbagh, the army said. It said the operation followed reports on the camp by intelligence agents and local residents. "The place was being used as a launching pad for preparing the suicide attackers," the army said in a statement, adding that those being trained were to bomb targets in Swat, including the valley's main city of Mingora. About a week ago, two suicide attacks on consecutive days killed seven people in Swat. "In the last weeks, the terrorists have been sending suicide bombers to cities in the valley. We have been working to find their source, and today we destroyed that source," Lt. Col. Akthar Abbas, the army spokesman in Swat, told reporters. Abbas said another six militants were killed in two separate operations elsewhere in the Valley. In one operation, five Taliban fighters were killed, including a close aid to a high-ranking Taliban commander, Shah Doraan. The officer said military operations were weakening the Taliban, and that many had chosen to turn themselves in rather than fight. "With every day passing, the noose is being tightened around them, and that's why more and more of them are opting to surrender," Abbas said. Separately, the army said it had arrested another 11 suspected militants in separate search operations in the region. Security forces have been winding down a nearly three-month offensive to dislodge the Taliban from the Swat Valley and surrounding areas, but sporadic clashes continue. The army has also been accused of carrying out extra-judicial killings of suspected Taliban and then dumping their bodies on streets in towns around Swat.Security forces have strongly denied the allegations. The United Nations said this past week that about 1.5 million people who had fled fighting in the wider region were returning home, and the World Health Organization said it was concerned about providing health support for them. Authorities also have been battling militants in Pakistan's lawless and remote tribal belt along its northwestern border with Afghanistan. Police were investigating the possible al-Qaida links of 12 suspected foreign militants arrested Friday on the edge of the tribal area, after they allegedly sneaked into the country from Iran, Punjab provincial police official Mohamad Rizwan said. "One thing is certain, that they are terrorists," Rizwan said. The men from Sudan, Russia, Turkey and Iran were arrested in the city of Dera Ghazi Khan, said Hassan Iqbal, a district official. Police also seized a laptop computer and $10,000 from the men, he said. The detainees "had links with Taliban" and wanted to go to Pakistan's South Waziristan tribal region, Iqbal said, without giving further details. South Waziristan is a stronghold of former Pakistani Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud, who was killed by a CIA missile strike earlier this month. Pakistan has deployed more than 100,000 troops in the tribal regions since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States. Authorities have arrested about 1,000 Taliban and al-Qaida suspects over the past few years, including senior aides to al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri. Al-Zawahri, in a video posted Thursday on Islamic militant Web sites, said a Pakistani offensive against the Taliban in the Swat Valley was doomed to fail. He urged Pakistanis to "back the jihad (holy war) and mujahedeen" with fighters, money and support.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Rush Limbaugh on Glenn Beck: Obama and Free Speech

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Obama Grandmother audio: Barack Born in Kenya

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Kenyan Ambassador admits Obama born in Kenya

Monday, August 24, 2009

World's First Muslim Superheroes, The 99, Are Headed For British Television Screens

Named the 99, as each possesses one of Allah's 99 attributes, the characters include a burka-clad woman named Batina the Hidden and a Saudi Arabian Hulk-type man named Jabbar the Powerful. They have proved a hit from Morocco to Indonesia and were recently named as one of the top 20 trends sweeping the world by Forbes magazine. Now they are being brought to British television by Endemol, the production company behind Big Brother, with a mission to instill Islamic values in children across all faiths. Until now, the superhero market has been dominated by the likes of Batman, Spiderman and Superman who have typically limited their crime-fighting abilities to America and the Western world.They were created by Dr Naif al-Mutawa, a clinical psychologist from Kuwait, who felt Muslim children needed a new set of heroes to look up to, to counter jihadist role models. “It hit me that the stories I was hearing were from men who grew up believing that their leader, Saddam, was a hero, a role model — only to one day be tortured by him,” he told reporters. “I decided the Arab world needed better role models.” However, despite being called the 99, there will never be a full cast of 99 superheroes since it is forbidden to depict all Allah's attributes. Dr al-Mutawa hopes the cartoons will have a universal appeal. He said: “It is based on attributes such as generosity and mercy. These are not things that Islam has a monopoly over.”

Sunday, August 23, 2009

E-Bay Seller Releases Video Of 'Obama Birth Certificate'

A man who had claimed to have a copy of President Obama's Kenyan birth certificate, attempted to sell it on eBay and then disappeared from contact has reappeared, this time with a video of the document he claims proves Obama's foreign birth.
Lucas Smith, a former resident of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and known by the eBay handle "colmado_noranja," claimed online and in phone conversations with reporters to have an authentic document from Coast Provincial Hospital in Mombasa proving Obama's birth there at 7:24 p.m. on Aug. 4, 1961.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Army Delivers Chopper to Patrol Border

With a handshake and the passing of a log book and keys, representatives from the Utility Helicopter Project Office to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency marked the delivery of the first of four UH-60M aircraft that will enter CBP service by July 2010. With an improved airframe, avionics and propulsion system, the UH-60M helicopter is the latest in a series of Black Hawk helicopter variants, and is built by the Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation. These state-of-the-art helicopters will allow the CBP to modernize its rotary-wing fleet from the UH-60A aircraft it now uses to protect the nation's borders, and thus better achieve its mission. The ceremony was a symbol of partnership and team work in an effort to improve U.S. security, said Brig. Gen. William Crosby, program executive officer, Aviation, who hosted the ceremony. "This is about partnership; in order to be able to provide this great capability, this great aircraft, to our partners in the Department of Homeland Security. What enabled that to happen is a partnership within the Army, the Army pulling together with our brothers in (the Aviation and Missile Command) and (Research, Development and Engineering Command) to procure this aircraft and to modify it to meet the requirements that our Department of Homeland Security so validly needs to execute the tough, very, very difficult mission," said Crosby, who is the Army manager for the Apache helicopter, cargo helicopter, utility helicopter, unmanned aircraft system, armed scout helicopter, and Aviation Systems programs. The RDECOM subordinate element, the Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center, teamed with the Utility Helicopter Project Office to integrate Customs and Border Protection mission-specific equipment into the UH-60 L/M model aircraft. AMRDEC's Product Integration Facility is responsible for the management, design, fabrication, integration and installation of mission kits to include navigation, communication, emergency and environmental controls. In addition, the PIF will team with the aviation engineering directorate to obtain and airworthiness release for these aircraft.Handing over the log book and keys to the newest Black Hawk was difficult for Crosby, the aviator. "This is the first of four M-configuration aircraft. Great capability. I'm jealous of you guys flying it out in Arizona. I wish I could go with you," Crosby said. Accepting the aircraft was John Stanton, executive director, National Air Security Operations for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Office of CBP Air and Marine. The CBP is one of the Department of Homeland Security's largest and most complex components, with the mission of keeping terrorists and their weapons out of the U.S., and its Office of Air and Marine is the world's largest aviation and maritime law enforcement organization. "This is a fantastic day in the Department of Homeland Security and for us in the Office of Air and Marine; to accept a brand new, brand spanking new, Black Hawk and a Mike model no less; glass cockpit and everything," said Stanton. The relationship between the Army and elements of Homeland Security has been ongoing for a quarter of a century. Stanton illustrated that history with the story of a Black Hawk that was flown during Operation Urgent Fury in 1983. The Black Hawk crashed at sea, was hoisted out, "hosed off, painted black, it's got a gold strip on it, and its name is 423 and it's in Tucson -- still today." "This is an awesome platform. We will use this every day to protect America from our enemies both foreign and domestic," Stanton said. "We are responsible for the borders and we have a lot of internal missions as well that we use these kinds of platforms for, both in humanitarian roles such as supporting (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) and also in our border security roles to keep bad people and bad things out," Stanton said.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

AARP Loses 60,000+ Members Over Obama-Care Stance

About 60,000 senior citizens have quit AARP since July 1 due to the group's support for a health care overhaul, a spokesman for the organization said Monday. The membership loss suggests dissatisfaction on the part of AARP members at a time when many senior citizens are concerned about proposed cuts to Medicare providers to help pay for making health care available for all. But spokesman Drew Nannis said it wasn't unusual for the powerful, 40 million-strong senior citizens' lobby to shed members in droves when it's advocating on a controversial issue. AARP is strongly backing a health care overhaul, running ads to support it and hosting President Obama at an online forum recently to promote his agenda to AARP members. However, the group has not endorsed a specific bill and says it won't support a plan that reduces Medicare benefits."We take stands on issues that are contentious, it's part of what we do," Nannis said. "And because we have so many members we'll always have a small percentage that disagree with us so strongly they feel they need to cancel membership." The approximately 60,000 number represents members who specifically cited AARP's stance on the health overhaul debate in canceling their membership between July 1 and mid-August, Nannis said. He said that on average AARP loses some 300,000 members a month, but he couldn't say how many more members had quit for other reasons in that time period. He said AARP gained some 400,000 new members during the same period and that 1.5 million members renewed their membership. The membership loss figure was first reported Monday

Monday, August 17, 2009

Mexican Army Takes Over Customs On US Border

Mexico's Army took control of customs Sunday on the busy US border, as federal authorities pulled agents off the job in a massive anti-corruption shakeup, officials told reporters. An Interior Ministry official said the dismissals were being carried out at all Mexican border facilities, and that the customs agents were being replaced. Customs agents were sacked after some were found to be linked to contraband operations, according to sources at the ministry. Agents in Nuevo Laredo, on the border with the southern US state of Texas, were called in Saturday to be told they were fired, and to hand in their badges and weapons. A total of 1,100 agents were sacked, Mexican media said. Army troops took over customs border posts temporarily on Sunday.Mexico and the United States share a border that stretches across some 2,000 miles (3,220 kilometers) and are partners with Canada in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Mexico is in the midst of a raging war on organized crime, and has expressed serious concern about US weapons crossing into the country. During a visit to Mexico last week, US President Barack Obama praised President Felipe Calderon for his controversial military crackdown on the country's drug gangs, which involves more than 36,000 troops. The United States has pledged around 1.6 billion dollars to tackle drug trafficking in Mexico and Central America under the Merida Initiative, which also includes funds for training and equipment to boost security on the Mexican side of the border. The Obama administration has acknowledged the US role in the violence, pledging to stem the flow of weapons into Mexico and curb demand for drugs in the United States, one of the world's top cocaine consumers.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Nasa Does Not Have Enough Money To Spot Incoming Asteroids As They Plummet Towards Earth

Congress assigned the space agency four years ago to watch 90 per cent of potentially deadly rocks hurtling through space by 2020 but never gave it the money to build the necessary telescopes, according to a report by the National Academy of Sciences. The agency estimates that about 20,000 asteroids and comets in Earth's solar system bigger than 460 feet in diameter are potential threats to the planet. Rocks between 460 feet and 3,280 feet in diameter can devastate an entire region Lindley Johnson, NASA's manager of the near-Earth objects program, said. So far, scientists know the whereabouts of about 6,000. Last month, astronomers were surprised when an object of unknown size and origin bashed into Jupiter and created an Earth-sized bruise that still is spreading. Jupiter gets hit more often than Earth because of its immense gravity, enormous size and location.Movies such as Armageddon and near misses in previous years have alerted people to the seriousness of falling asteroids. However, the academy concluded that there had been "relatively little effort" by the US government to addressing the threat. NASA calculated that to spot the asteroids as required by law would cost about $800 million (£483m) between now and 2020, either with a new ground-based telescope or a space observation system. At the moment, NASA has identified about five near-Earth objects that pose greater than a one-in-a-million risk of hitting the planet and being big enough to cause serious damage. Astronomers are watching a 430-feet diameter rock that has a 1-in-3,000 chance of hitting Earth in 2048 and a much-talked about asteroid, Apophis, which is twice that size and has a 1-in-43,000 chance of hitting in 2036, 2037 or 2069.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee Talks On The Phone As A Woman Asks A Question At A Town Hall Event

Jackie Mason: Obama's Spin On July Unemployment Report

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Brazil TV Host Turned Politician Ordered Killings To Boost Ratings

A Brazilian politician who fronts a popular television crime show is being investigated for allegedly ordering a series of executions in a bid to boost his ratings. Wallace Souza, a former police officer who used his lunchtime television slot to rail against the violence sweeping the jungle city of Manaus, is suspected of commissioning at least five murders to prove his claim that the region is awash with violent crime. "Manaus can no longer live with this wave of crime," Souza, 50, frequently told the audience of his daily show Canal Livre. "Nowadays everyone is killing." In a 2008 speech at Manaus's local parliament, Souza boasted that Canal Livre enjoyed complete editorial freedom and was conducted with "journalistic responsibility". But prosecutors in the remote Amazon city say the politician's actions went far beyond the call of journalistic duty, accusing Souza of links to drug trafficking, death squads and organised crime, and possessing illegal arms.
"Our investigations indicate that they went as far as creating facts," Thomaz Augusto Correa, the local police intelligence chief, told a Brazilian news channel. "Crimes were committed in order to create news for the group and for the programme." Souza was the most voted-for politician in the last elections in the state of Amazonas and is in his third term. But his transformation from politician and TV presenter to suspect began last October when his former security guard Moacir Jorge da Costa, an ex-police officer, was arrested and accused of nine murders. Costa reportedly confessed that at least one of the murders had gone to air on his employer's TV show. The arrest triggered a police raid on Souza's house that uncovered more than £100,000 as well as an arsenal that included several high-calibre assault rifles. So far nearly 20 people have been arrested in connection with the case, including Souza's son and several senior police officers. Francisco Balieiro, Souza's lawyer, said that his client denied the charges, blaming them on a political campaign against him. Souza's private secretary, Isabella Siqueira, told the Guardian yesterday that Souza was being targeted because of his involvement with investigations into the smuggling of drugs and weapons into prisons in Manaus.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Obama's Hawaiian Birth Document Fake

The supermarket tabloid the Globe features a cover story this week proclaiming Barack Obama's "official birth document" a fake and suggesting the president may actually have been born in Canada. The Globe, known for sensationalism and entertainment scandals, cites reports by unnamed document analysts as claiming the Hawaiian certification of live birth the Obama campaign distributed to select news agencies and websites is fraudulent. The blogosphere has been rife with such allegations for 10 months. It also cites news reporting about the changing stories about the hospital in which Obama was born. Despite assertions Obama was born in Honolulu, officially no hospital claims him. A letter from Obama saying he was born in Kapi'olani Medical Center in Honolulu was used in fundraising brochure earlier this year and posted on the hospital's official website, but when reporters asked for confirmation, the institution pulled down the letter without explanation.The Globe also quotes Canadian broadcaster Brian Barron as saying Obama's mother gave birth to the child in Vancouver, Canada, before transferring as a student to the University of Washington in Seattle. Reporters last week reported on Stanley Ann Dunham's transfer to that college where she began classes just 15 days after supposedly giving birth in Honolulu. "But when she found out Obama Sr. had another wife, she chose to conceal Barack's Canadian birth and registered him in Hawaii as a U.S. citizen to prevent Obama Sr. from possibly taking him away on his Kenyan passport," says Barron. News agencies have reported on the ease with which people can obtain Hawaiian certifications of live birth with a baby actually being born outside the Hawaiian islands.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Pentagon: Congressional Jets Hurt Defense

The Pentagon is criticizing the House of Representative's request to upgrade Congress' air fleet -- and charge the cost to the Defense Department. "It forces us to take money from things we do need to fund and redirect it for things we don't need," Geoff Morrell, a spokesman for Defense Secretary Robert Gates, told the Wall Street Journal. "And in a time of war, we just can't afford that. The bottom line is, for everything that they appropriate for us above and beyond what we've asked for, it will, at some point require us to find money from programs we do need."Lawmakers slipped the request into the Pentagon's proposed budget for 2010, insisting that Congress' current fleet of executive jets is old and more expensive to operate that newer, more efficient planes. They also say lawmakers use the jets only 14.5 percent of the time, compared to 44 percent usage by military members. President Barack Obama sent Congress a Pentagon budget of $640.1 billion, which the House adjusted and scaled back to $636.3 billion. During that process, members requested $550 million to purchase eight passenger jets. Obama originally sought only $220 million to buy four planes.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

White House Move To Collect Info May Be Illegal

The White House strategy of turning supporters into snitches when they see "fishy" information about the health care debate may run afoul of the law, legal experts say. "The White House is in bit of a conundrum because of this privacy statute that prohibits the White House from collecting data and storing it on people who disagree with it," Judge Andrew Napolitano, a FOX News analyst, said Friday. "There's also a statute that requires the White House to retain all communications that it receives. It can't try to rewrite history by pretending it didn't receive anything," he said. "If the White House deletes anything, it violates one statute. If the White House collects data on the free speech, it violates another statute." Napolitano was referring to the Privacy Act of 1974, which was passed after the Nixon administration used federal agencies to illegally investigate individuals for political purposes. Enacted after Richard Nixon's resignation in the Watergate scandal, the statute generally prohibits any federal agency from maintaining records on individuals exercising their right to free speech. The White House has been under fire since it posted a blog on Tuesday that asked supporters to e-mail any "fishy" information seen on the Web or received electronically to "There is a lot of disinformation about health insurance reform out there," the blog said, adding that "since we can't keep track of all of them here at the White House, we're asking for your help." The blog was posted partly in response to a video posted on the Web that claimed to show Obama explaining how his health care reform plans eventually will eliminate private insurance.The video, featured on the Drudge Report, strung together selected Obama statements that the White House said were taken out of context. The White House said it wanted to be made aware of "fishy" comments about its health care plan because it wants to set the record straight. But critics called White House move an Orwellian tactic designed to control the health care debate. "This is a very troubling attempt to stifle the free speech of Americans who have the constitutional right to express their opinion and concerns about health care," said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice. He called on Obama to repudiate his blog. "This move is an attempt to intimidate those who have legitimate concerns about the health care plan," Sekulow said. "And, worse, it turns the White House into some sort of self-appointed 'speech police.' This new White House reporting program strikes at the heart of the First Amendment and has no place in this important debate about health care." Sekulow said he imagines that opponents of mandatory abortion coverage are engaging in what the White House considers "fishy" speech and should be reported. "What the White House is touting is absurd," he said. But Napolitano said the White House probably cannot be sued because of sovereign immunity, unless someone was harmed by what the government did with the records. But that's unlikely, he said, because the person would probably be unaware of the harm. "That's a silent violation of your right to privacy," he said. The ACLU said in a statement to that the White House blog is a "bad idea that could send a troublesome message." But the organization added, "While it is unclear at this point what the government is doing with the information it is collecting, critics of the administration's health care proposal should not fear that their names will end up in some government database that could be used to chill their right to free speech." The White House Thursday denied that it was playing "Big Brother." "Nobody is collecting names," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said. "We have seen, and as I've discussed from this podium, a lot of misinformation around health care reform, a lot of it spread, I think, purposefully."Texas Sen. John Cornyn, who has called on Obama to end the program, rejected the White House explanation. "Of course the White House is collecting names," he said, arguing that anyone with access to the e-mail account has access to private information. "The question is not what the White House is doing, but how and why," he said. "How are they purging names and e-mail addresses from this account to protect privacy? Why do they need the forwarded e-mails, names, and 'casual conversations' sent to them instead of just the arguments that they want to rebut? Asked by FOX News whether the White House was using the blog post as a way to expand the e-mail list for the administration and Obama's political arm, Organizing for America, Gibbs said the two are "not in any way connected" and repeated that the White House is not collecting names. Pressed about the program's goal, Gibbs said it was to clarify for everybody what the misinformation is, adding that's not a new tactic. "When you make a mistake in your report, sometimes I e-mail you," Gibbs said to FOX News' Major Garrett. "Occasionally, I call. Sometimes I just throw something against the wall. Occasionally, it's all three." Garrett asked why it's necessary to ask so many people to e-mail the White House. "All we're asking people to do is, if they're confused about what health care reform is going to mean to them, we're happy to help clear that up for them. Nobody's keeping anybody's names. I do have your e-mail. ...Maybe that's because I assume future mistakes. But I'm not going to say that," Gibbs said, drawing laughter. "But nobody's collecting information," he added. "Everybody is trying to give people only the facts around what we all understand is a very complicated issue."

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Jefferson Found Guilty Of 11 Of 16 Counts

Former U.S. Rep. William Jefferson has been found guilty of 11 of the 16 charges against him in a federal bribery and conspiracy trial. Among those charges, one of the most serious is a guilty verdict on a RICO charge, or Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organization charge. That charge alone carries a sentence of up to 20 years. Jefferson, a Democrat who served as New Orleans' congressman for nine terms, was also convicted of soliciting bribes, money laundering and depriving citizens of honest services by wire fraud. "This is an important prosecution. Congressman Jefferson owed his citizens his honest service and he violated that trust. This is what brought us here today," said Dana J. Boente, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. About an hour after the verdict was announced, Jefferson appeared before reporters alongside his attorney, Robert Trout. He had few comments in response to the verdict. "I'm holding up," Jefferson said. Prosecutors alleged Jefferson accepted more than $400,000 in bribes and seeking millions more in exchange for brokering business deals in Africa. Federal investigators who raided his Washington apartment discovered $90,000 in his freezer that they claimed was intended bribe money. "Ninety thousand dollars in a freezer is not a gray area. It's a violation. And today a jury of his peers found him guilty," Boente said. The jury's verdict brings to an end the nearly eight-week long trial. Jurors deliberated for just under five days before reaching a verdict Wednesday afternoon."From the amount of time they took to deliberate, jury seems to have done a very efficient and thorough job," said legal analyst Chick Foret, a local attorney who has been closely following the case. Sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 30, and Jefferson could face a maximum of 135 years in prison for the charges on which he was convicted. If sentences for different counts are served concurrently, Jefferson could be released in a matter of decades. If they are served consecutively, Jefferson may be facing a century in prison. Prosecutors asked for Jefferson to be taken into federal custody immediately, but Judge T.S. Ellis denied that request. “He should begin his sentence shortly if not immediately after his Oct. 30 sentencing hearing. He will probably not be allowed out on bond while he waits for an appeal," Foret said. “He should be in custody by the winter holidays if not earlier.” Jefferson may also be ordered to forfeit $400,000 in alleged bribes to the federal government. The jury will reconvene at 9:30 a.m. Thursday to consider that issue. An appeal may not come forward for nine months to a year. "Convictions are not likely to be overturned," said political analyst Charles Rice, who also has been following the case. Below is the complete breakdown of what the jury found:
Guilty on count 1: Conspiracy to solicit bribes by a public official, deprive citizens of honest services by wire fraud, and violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

Guilty on count 2: Conspiracy to solicit bribes by a public official and deprive citizens of honest services by wire fraud.

Guilty on counts 3-4: Solicitation of bribes by a public official.

Not guilty on count 5, guilty on counts 6-7, not guilty on counts 8-9, guilty on count 10: Scheme to deprive citizens of honest services by wire fraud.

Not guilty on count 11: Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

Guilty on counts 12-14: Money laundering.

Not guilty on count 15: Obstruction of justice.

Guilty on count 16: Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organization, pattern of racketeering activity (RICO).

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

New Book Warns Of An Islamic Antichrist

After decades of reading popular prophecy books and even best-selling fiction like the "Left Behind" series, millions of evangelical Christians around the world are dreading the day when a beastly figure known as the Antichrist emerges as a global political and religious dictator. Most expect him to come from a revived Roman Empire, which many have assumed is associated with the Roman Catholic Church and the European Union. Not so, argues a controversial new book that makes the case that the biblical Antichrist is one and the same as the Quran's Muslim Mahdi. Meet "The Islamic Antichrist," a book almost certain to be greeted in the Muslim world with the same enthusiasm as Salman Rushdie's "The Satanic Verses." The author, Joel Richardson, is prepared. He has written the book under a pseudonym to protect himself and his family. "The Bible abounds with proofs that the Antichrist's empire will consist only of nations that are, today, Islamic," says Richardson. "Despite the numerous prevailing arguments for the emergence of a revived European Roman empire as the Antichrist's power base, the specific nations the Bible identifies as comprising his empire are today all Muslim."Richardson believes the key error of many previous prophecy scholars involves the misinterpretation of a prediction by Daniel to Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel describes the rise and fall of empires of the future, leading to the endtimes. Western Christians have viewed one of those empires as Rome, when, claims Richardson, Rome never actually conquered Babylon and was thus disqualified as a possibility. It had to be another empire that rose and fell and rose again that would lead to rule of this "man of sin," described in the Bible. That empire, he says, is the Islamic Empire, which did conquer Babylon and, in fact, rules over it even today. Today, the first day of the book's release, it ranks No. 1 in two religion categories on Amazon and is the 465th best-selling book in the world. Many evangelical Christians believe the Bible predicts a charismatic ruler, the Antichrist, will arise in the last days, before the return of Jesus. The Quran also predicts that a man, called the Mahdi, will rise up to lead the nations, pledging to usher in an era of peace. Richardson makes the case these two men are, in fact, one in the same. In "The Islamic Antichrist," Richardson, a student of Islam, exposes Western Christians to the Muslim traditions. He says most Christians have no idea of the stunning similarities between biblical Antichrist and the "Islamic Jesus."

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Como Zoo's Oldest Sea Lion Dies

The sea lion star of the Como Zoo's "Sparky Show" for two decades, Sparky V, died Monday. He was the zoo's oldest sea lion and the second-oldest sea male lion in the country. Sparky V lived 31 years, considerably longer than the average 15-to-25-year life expectancy for a sea lion. He performed in the popular "Sparky Show" from 1981 until 2001. Since then, trainers continued to work with him daily.Senior Zookeeper Allison Jungheim said "he was eager to please and incredibly patient which allowed us many opportunities we would not have had with a typical male sea lion. He would allow zookeepers to brush his teeth, put eye drops in his eyes, collect blood samples, perform physical therapy for his aging joints, x-rays, and even pull a loose tooth." In the 1990's, trainers were able to teach him to expose his belly so they could use local anesthetic instead of anesthesia during a surgery, which reduced the health risk. The Como Zoo said Sparky V will be missed by all who knew him, including the Zoo's other sea lions; Mystic, Max, CC, Chino & Ginger. CC is the current star of the Sparky Show.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Obama IN HIS OWN WORDS saying His Health Care Plan Will ELIMINATE Private Insurance

Obama Joker Poster Popping Up In Los Angeles

Have you seen this poster? Apparently, it's beginning to appear in odd places in Los Angeles, but nobody seems to know who's responsible for it. Radio host Tammy Bruce posted some pictures of this odd creation at her blog Saturday morning. At this point, all reporters could find on the subject was an April 25 article from Bedlam Magazine:A poster of Barack Obama in Heath Ledger-style Joker make-up with the legend 'Socialism' beneath it has been popping up recently on surfaces around L.A. It does not appear to be in the same category as the many benign take-offs on the Shepard Fairey 'Hope' poster, such as the one by Australian James Lillis (more of a straightforward spoof that merely substituted a Shepardized image of Heath Ledger as Joker on the Obama poster). A version of this poster showed up in Atlanta.

Woman Embezzled $1M From Veterans

A 55-year-old Apple Valley woman has admitted to embezzling about $1 million from veterans in order to support a gambling habit. Connie Marie Hanson pleaded guilty on Friday in U.S. District Court to one count of making a false statement to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to conceal her embezzlement.Hanson was an appointed fiduciary for 33 veterans. In her plea agreement, she admitted to taking money from the veterans' bank accounts between 2006 and 2008. She also admitted to filing false documents to cover up the embezzlement. Hanson faces up to five years in prison when she is sentenced at a later date.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Most Southerners, Republicans Question Obama Citizenship

Dixie may once have been the so-called land of cotton, but it has become the cradle of creeping Birtherism. According to a new poll a majority of Southerners either believe that Barack Obama was not born in the United States (23 percent) or are not sure (30 percent). Only 47 percent of Southern respondents believe Obama was born in the USA. By contrast, 93 percent of Northeasterns said yes, he was born here, 90 percent of Midwesterners did and 87 percent of Westerners. And while 93 percent of Democrats say he was born in the country and 83 percent of Independents, the figure is only 42 percent for Republicans. A majority of Republicans either believe he was born abroad (28 percent) or don't know (30 percent).
If you don't know, Birthers are the people who argue either that Obama was not born in the United States or that credible questions remain surrounding his birth place. There has been a recent uptick in media interest in birthers, apparently spurred by a youtube video showing moderate GOP Rep. Mike Castle getting shrieked at by a near-hysterical birther and then booed when he asserted that yes, the president is a U.S. citizen. I had assumed that the Birthers were a loud, bemusing hyper-minority in the GOP, so the poll numbers are startling both for the region and for the party.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

New GI Bill Launches

Many have called it the most substantial improvement to veterans' education benefits since World War II. Others see it as the nation making up for what it didn't do for those who returned with little thanks after serving in Vietnam. But whatever the sentiment, on August 1, more than a year and a half after it was introduced in the Senate, the "Post-9/11" GI Bill is going live. Featuring a generous housing stipend for vets-turned-students, tuition payments pegged to state university rates, and $1,000 per year for books and supplies, the new program should make college life a lot easier for most veterans. For active-duty troops - who may also use the benefit or even transfer it to a spouse - it offers uncapped tuition payments for any college or university - public or private. But some experts wonder if the Post-9/11 GI Bill is ready for prime time. "The vets right now are in a high state of anticipation," said R.K. Williams, veterans coordinator for Boise State University and president of the National Association of Veterans Programs Administrators. "I don't' want to say 'anxiety' because no one knows how it is going to work." While the new GI Bill is generally viewed as on the right track in terms of improving existing legislation, it isn't perfect, according to Williams and others. For example, the bill does not fund technical training or on-the-job training, and because it was designed with "bricks and mortar" schools in mind, it offers fewer benefits for those who desire online education programs. Tom Philpott, a benefits advisor for, said the GI Bill also does not recognize National Guardsmen called up by their states as qualified for the new benefits, only those called up by the president. By contrast, the previous program, the Montgomery GI Bill and Montgomery GI Bill for Selected Reserve, is open to Guardsmen regardless of who or what activated them. "Frankly, I think there were a lot of little quirks in [the bill]," Philpott said. "It was rushed through. They were trying to get approval for a very complex program."But Philpott called the Post-9/11 GI Bill "a terrific program - a huge enhancement in veterans education benefits." "It's not what was offered to World War II veterans -- where you could go to any school in the country and have your full tuition, room and board paid for -- but it will be pretty close to that for a lot of folks," he said. Benefits experts have also expressed concern that those eligible for the new GI Bill will opt for it without fully thinking through their choice. Once a servicemember signs up for the Post-9/11 bill, he or she cannot switch back to the Montgomery GI Bill. Concern also exists around the fact that tuition coverage varies from state to state, topping out at the highest tuition cost of a state university, which could make it cost prohibitive for veterans to attend private colleges or universities. To help remedy this the VA created the "Yellow Ribbon" program, in which the VA will match funds if a school elects to waive up to fifty percent of the cost that exceeds a state's tuition rate. "That's something [veterans] really need to think about before they make their decision" on which GI Bill to use, said Williams. He also suggested that lawmakers might make adjustments to education benefits without having to go through the process of introducing an entirely new bill. "I hope that the technical changes they're making will modify the bill so it includes all areas of education, like distance learning and [on the job training]," he said. "I don't know if it was fully thought out by the lawmakers … they needed a little more time." Although the program officially starts on a Saturday, the VA's ceremony marking the launch won't be held until Monday, August 3, where Secretary Shinseki will be joined by President Obama, whose scheduled presence evinces the weight the administration places on the Post-9/11 GI BIll. Regardless of the details yet to be ironed out and the rough spots that might arise during the VA's initial execution, this landmark legislation has gained the interest of the latest generation of war veterans. Hundreds of thousands have applied for the program to date. And despite a backlog of more than 150,000 applications, the VA has said it will begin sending out the first round of payments next week.