Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Rihanna is NOT Cooperating With Police

Rihanna is not cooperating with police. Originally, Rihanna stated she would work with police and prosecutors in the case of the Chris Brown smackdown, but now she’s changed her mind. Why? Rihanna is angry with police!

Rihanna is angry with officials handling her case because of the leaked information. She was not happy about pictures getting out showing her bruises and being identified as the victim. From Fox News:

Sources say Rihanna “wants the whole thing” to go away and isn’t helping the district attorney prepare his case against Brown for allegedly beating her to a pulp in the early hours of February 8th, the day the of the Grammy Awards.

Apparently Rihanna is angry, they say, that pictures of her bruises were leaked to the press. She’s not happy, too, that she was quickly identified as Brown’s victim.

How would we deduce it was anyone but Rihanna as the victim? The pair have been dating and were seen together that night. Does Rihanna think the world is a bunch of idiots who can’t put two and two together?

Violence is never the answer and it is a shame that Rihanna is being a poor role models to young girls and women everywhere showing it’s OK to be the victim. It is NOT!

Japan right to defend against NKorea: Clinton

THE HAGUE (AFP) — US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton defended Tuesday Japan's right to protect itself from a planned North Korean rocket launch over its territory, calling the act provocative.

"Japan has every right to protect and defend its territory from what is clearly a missile launch that could very well be aimed at their nation," she told reporters in The Hague on the sidelines of a conference on Afghanistan.

Clinton warned the North Korean launch could have consequences at the UN Security Council.

"It is an unfortunate example of provocation by the North Koreans," she said.

"Their missile launch violates UN Security Council Resolution 1718 and there will be consequences, certainly (at) the UN Security Council if they proceed with the launch."

Pyongyang has said it will launch a communications satellite over northern parts of Japanese territory between April 4 and 8. But the United States and its Asian allies suspect the launch is a cover for a ballistic missile test.

Japan has deployed anti-missile systems to try to bring down the rocket should it start falling towards Japanese territory.

It has dispatched three Aegis destroyers, two of which are fitted with ballistic missile interceptors, to waters around Japan, and Patriot guided-missile units to select locations in the country.

Madonna says she is awaiting judge's ruling

NEW YORK (AP) — Madonna is finally confirming her attempts to adopt a little girl from Malawi.

The pop star says in a statement she is awaiting Friday's court ruling in that African nation on her attempt to bring home 4-year-old Mercy James.

If the adoption goes through, this will be the second child she has adopted from Malawi; She already has a 3-year-old son David.

On Monday she took David to see his biological father for the first time since she took him from the country in 2006. She says she is committed to keeping him in touch with his Malawian roots.

Madonna has been criticized by some of using her fame to try to make the latest adoption go through faster. Madonna stresses that she is following all procedures of Malawian law in her attempts to adopt Mercy.

Christie-Lonegan war chest breakdown

Dear Friend,

Some interesting news stories have been published the past couple of days. Mr. Corruption Fighter seems to have some ethics problems of his own.

from The American Spectator
New Jersey's State of Contributions
By J. Peter Freire

Just came across this little item in the New Jersey Governor's race.

It's complicated, but the short version is that if you give someone a no-bid contract for work and then you run for a federal office, you can't take campaign contributions from them. The same is true for state office.

New Jersey's State of Contributions

Just came across this little item in the New Jersey Governor's race.

It's complicated, but the short version is that if you give someone a no-bid contract for work and then you run for a federal office, you can't take campaign contributions from them. The same is true for state office.

But there's no law that says you can't take a STATE contribution from someone you gave a FEDERAL no bid contract to. And that's exactly what Chris Christie, the GOP favorite to get the nod to take on Jon Corzine in the Fall has done. As U.S. Attorney, Christie gave the firm of Stern and Kilcullen a 7 million dollar no-bid contract. Now that Christie's running for Governor, the partners and their wives contributed $23,800 to Christie's campaign. Since New Jersey has 2-1 matching funds, it's more like they gave him over $70,000.

While this is not illegal, it sure looks terrible, especially when you consider that Christie has based his entire campaign on ethics and cleaning up New Jersey. If Steve Lonegan is smart, he'll take this story and try to turn Christie's strength on ethics into a weakness. If that happens, Lonegan might just be able to change this GOP Primary from a coronation into a fist fight.

This Star-Ledger video lays out the differences between how Steve and Christie are doing their fundraising. Steve has far more donors than Christie and Christie is going after the big bucks from very few, including a couple of huge donations from people who benefited from a no-bid contract Christie awarded them. Looks like a little tit-for-tat, while Steve is appealing to the grassroots rather than the status quo Republican establishment.

'Where's My Bonus?'

More Trouble at Oprah's School

(March 31) -- For the second time in just as many years, a sex scandal has erupted at Oprah Winfrey's South African school for girls, though the details still remain a bit elusive.
According to The Times of South Africa, seven young female students have been expelled from the talk-show host's institution for sexual misconduct. Rapport newspaper, another South African publication, details the incident further, saying that the girls tried to force fellow students (it's an all-girls school) into sexual relationships with each other and also tried to touch them "intimately."

Speaking to the mother and grandmother of two expelled girls, The Times reports that they had received a letter from the school claiming their kids "have been found guilty of physical contact of a sexual nature with another pupil on campus ... bullying other girls and ... not telling investigators the whole truth."
Lisa Halliday, Winfrey's South Africa spokeswoman, responded to the situation on Monday, saying: "We consider this to be a confidential school matter."
This is the second major incident at Winfrey's school. In 2007, Tiny Makopo -- the school's matron -- was charged with indecent assault and one charge based on an allegation she fondled a 13-year-old girl. She has since plead not guilty, and the case is still in the works.

The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls opened in January of 2007. Winfrey said she opened the school because she "wanted to give this opportunity to girls who had a light so bright that not even poverty could dim that light."


Unemployment Hits Harder Among Blacks, Latinos

AP National Writer

The ax fell without sound or shadow: Tatiana Gallego was suddenly called into human resources and laid off from her job as an admissions counselor for a fashion college.

"The way people tried to explain it to me was, I was the last one hired so I was the first one out," said Gallego, 25, who had worked there for 17 months.

Last hired, first fired: This generations-old cliche rings bitterly true for millions of Latinos and blacks who are losing jobs at a faster rate than the general population during this punishing recession.

Much of the disparity is due to a concentration of Latinos and blacks in construction, blue-collar or service-industry jobs that have been decimated by the economic meltdown. And black unemployment has been about double the rate for whites since the government began tracking those categories in the early 1970s.

But this recession is cutting a swath through the professional classes as well, which can be devastating to people who recently arrived there.

Since the recession began in December 2007, Latino unemployment has risen 4.7 percentage points, to 10.9 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Black unemployment has risen 4.5 points, to 13.4 percent. White unemployment has risen 2.9 points, to 7.3 percent.

Gallego, whose parents were born in Colombia, graduated from the University of Rhode Island. Her mother is self-employed, and her stepfather works in construction.

She was stunned when she was told to pack up and leave by the end of the day because enrollment was down at her New York City school. She said she had recently received a positive performance review, and her bosses were planning to send her to a conference.

"Maybe I just don't know that much about the business world, because I felt like I did more, I went above and beyond more than other people in my office did," she said.

William Darity, a professor of economics and African-American studies at Duke University, said that "blacks and Latinos are relative latecomers to the professional world ... so they are necessarily the most vulnerable."

"We don't have those older roots to anchor us in the professional world," Darity said. "We don't have the same nexus of contacts, the same kind of seniority."

There are no recent government statistics that measure jobs lost by race and income. But Darity and others believe that professional Latinos and blacks are more likely to lose their jobs in the recession.

"Many times blacks and Latinos are the last to be hired, so naturally they are first to be fired," said Jerry Medley, who has been in the executive search business for 30 years.

"Not saying that it's racism," Medley said, "but if a manager or a senior executive is looking at a slate of individuals and has to let one of them go, chances are he or she will not let the person go that they spend a lot of time with at the country club or similar places."

The less wealth you have, the harder unemployment hits. Darity cited 2002 data that showed black households with a median net worth of $6,000, Latino households with a median of $8,000, and white households with a median of $90,000.

Philip Salter was creative director for a Chicago advertising firm where about 75 percent of the revenue came from a contract with a Fortune 500 company to create ads targeted at minorities. When the firm lost that contract plus two general-market accounts, Salter's job evaporated.

"When companies cut back their ad dollars, minority budgets are where they start," said Salter, 62, who is black. "Unfortunately in this business, most clients just view (minority advertising) as an overlay or meeting an obligation that social organizations might place on them."

His last day was in January 2008. With alimony payments and two kids in college, Salter moved from his four-bedroom house into an apartment and has scraped by on consulting gigs.

Salter's mother worked as a housekeeper, and his father was a custodian. Before his divorce, Salter's stepdaughter and her four children lived with him for many years.

Professional blacks "don't usually start out with an inheritance," he said. "On top of that, quite often things happen in our families to cause us stress. An unexpected child or grandchild, drug problems. When you try to set aside money to put your kids through college, all of a sudden you have to say, 'I can't let this family member fall and become homeless.'

"I would say eight out of 10 people I know have a similar situation."

Then there are those clinging to the bottom of the ladder, laid off from lower-paying jobs.

For them, "once the primary breadwinner loses his or her job, there isn't much backup," said Harry Holzer, former chief economist for the Department of Labor who now is a professor at Georgetown University and the Urban Institute.

The Great Depression ended after the government created a "safety net" of wide-ranging social-assistance programs. Since then, the overall unemployment rate peaked in 1981-1982, at 10.8 percent on a monthly basis, Holzer said.

Economists believe we could reach that level in the current recession, Holzer said - but he added that unlike in the 1980s, today the safety net has been largely dismantled by restrictions placed on welfare and unemployment eligibility.

"You worry about populations of concentrated poverty and having less access to the safety net," Holzer said. "It could lead to social unrest, higher crime rates - no one knows."

"It will obviously have an effect on the crime rate," said Maya Wiley, director of the Center for Social Inclusion, which recently issued a report stating that nonwhites are bearing the heaviest burden during the recession.

"There also are all sorts of health-related issues connected with that," Wiley said. "We could see higher rates of everything from homicides to tuberculosis."

As racism wanes and blacks and Latinos advance up the economic ladder, many cite this progress as proof that it would be unfair to offer race-based remedies to those left behind. Even many minorities have embraced themes of self-help and personal responsibility.

Others, like the Duke professor Darity, say that America "has never come to terms with racial economic inequality."

"The current situation," Darity said, "is reinforcing and widening those inequalities."

Is the U.S. Experiencing its First Brain Drain?

The United States has long served as a magnet for the world's talented scientists, engineers and mathematicians. But, this trend may now be reversing and the United States may be experiencing the first brain drain in its history.

Between 1990 and 2007, the proportion of immigrants in the U.S. labor force increased from 9.3 percent to 15.7 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Approximately 45 percent of the growth of the workforce over this period consisted of immigrants.

They came for the traditional reasons – education, professional opportunities, a chance at a better life. With them, many of these immigrants brought high levels of education and advanced skills. As a result, immigrants have contributed disproportionately to the most dynamic part of the U.S. economy -- the high-tech sector. In Silicon Valley, over 50 percent of the startups over the last decade have had an immigrant as a chief executive or lead technologist. Immigrants have co-founded firms such as Google, eBay, Intel and Yahoo, to name a few.

Now many are going back. While the economic downturn has caused a rise in xenophobia and the enactment of populist legislation to restrict the hiring of foreign nationals by some financial institutions, the economies of India and China have been rising. Some of the most highly skilled workers in American corporations are returning to the lands where they were born and foreign students who would normally be the next generation of U.S. science and engineering workers are buying one-way tickets home.

There are no hard numbers available, but anecdotal evidence suggests a sizeable reverse migration of skilled talent is in progress. Our team of academics at Duke, UC Berkeley and Harvard interviewed hundreds of company executives, surveyed more than 1,000 foreign students and more than 1,000 returnees, and made multiple trips to India and China to understand the trend.

What we learned should alarm policy-makers who are concerned about long-term U.S. competitiveness.

The average age of the skilled workers we located was in the low 30s, and more than 85 percent had advanced degrees -- precisely the type of people that the United States needs to fuel economic recovery. Among the strongest factors cited by these ex-immigrants as a reason for coming to the United States were professional and educational development opportunities. Ironically, this was the same reason they returned home. And, they had advanced their careers in the process.

Respondents reported that they have moved up the organizational chart by returning home. Only 10 percent of the Indian returnees held senior management positions in the United States, but 44 percent found jobs at this level in India. Chinese returnees went from 9 percent in senior management in the United States to 36 percent in China. Opportunities for professional advancement were considered to be better at home than in the United States by 61 percent of Indians and 70 percent of Chinese. These groups also felt that opportunities to start a business were significantly better in their home countries.

Surprisingly, visa status was not the most important factor determining their decision to return home -- even U.S. citizens and permanent residents were returning home. Three out of four indicated that considerations regarding their visa or residency permit status did not contribute to their decision to return to their home country. In fact, 27 percent of Indian respondents and 34 percent of Chinese held permanent resident status or were U.S. citizens. In addition to job opportunities, the returnees we surveyed were lured by social factors such as closeness to friends and ability to care for aging parents.

The rationale for returnees moving home was echoed by responses of surveyed foreign nationals currently enrolled in U.S. universities. These groups have traditionally represented a disproportionate percentage per capita of advanced degree students. During the 2004–2005 academic year, roughly 60 percent of engineering doctoral students and 40 percent of master’s degree students were foreign nationals, and foreign nationals made up a significant share of the U.S. graduate student population in all STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Medicine) disciplines.

In the past, the overwhelming majority of these students worked in the United States after graduation. The five-year stay rate for Chinese holding Ph.D.s has been 92 percent and for Indians 85 percent. Most end up staying permanently. Yet, the overall consensus among students we surveyed was that the United States was no longer the destination of choice for their professional careers.

Most students in our sample wanted to stay in the United States, but only for short periods. Among respondents, 58 percent of Indian, 54 percent of Chinese, and 40 percent of European students said that they would stay in the United States for at least a few years after graduation, if given the chance. However, only 6 percent of Indian, 10 percent of Chinese, and 15 percent of European students said they wanted to stay permanently. The largest group of respondents— 55 percent of Indian, 40 percent of Chinese, and 30 percent of European students— wants to return home within five years.

Visa concerns were more evident among students. More than three-fourths of these students expressed concern about obtaining work visas, and close to that number worry that they will not be able to find U.S. jobs in their field. Few said they found anything but a warm reception here from the American people. But their concern over work visas could only have been exacerbated by the ongoing attempts to curtail work possibilities for foreign nationals in the United States.

Further, the students' assessment of their individual opportunities mirrored their view for the future of the U.S. economy. The survey found that only 7 percent of Chinese students, 9 percent of European students, and 25 percent of Indian students believe that the best days of the U.S. economy lie ahead. Conversely, 74 percent of Chinese students and 86 percent of Indian students believe that the best days for their home countries’ economies lie ahead.

The anti-immigrant groups will no doubt celebrate the departure of foreigners. But the impact of a reverse brain drain could potentially be profound and long lasting for the United States. The country is effectively exporting its economic stimulus.

Obama: Channeling His Inner Bill Clinton

The duty of fixing America's economic crisis inherited by President Barack Obama has in some ways painted the new leader into a corner. Virtually his every major appointment, decision or announcement or piece of legislation sponsored is connected to addressing our broken economy.

But a successful president has to be more than a one-trick pony. Over time, other facets of Obama's leadership will emerge, but for now, I can't ever recall seeing a new president as limited in what he needs to say to constituents.

That is why I find it interesting that Obama selected the terrible flooding in the northern Midwest for his weekly address topic this weekend. ...

With his words of praise and support for the people of the Dakotas and Minnesota, Obama will likely be channeling his inner Bill Clinton, our beloved empathizer-in-chief who raised the action of feeling our pain to high art.

When Obama makes a likely visit to flood-ravaged areas this week, shakes the hands of volunteers who spent days filling sandbags and evacuating their neighbors, we will see a side of his leadership that has not yet been on display.

For at least a brief respite, Obama won't be the president at the helm of the largest government spending plan ever to fix an economy, which was shattered before he even took the oath of office -- as his supporters say.

And he won't be the president at the helm of the most irresponsible government spending grab bag for the undeserving -- as his critics say.

For a change, Obama will be the president and empathizer for us all, delivering a message of hope for flood-ravaged states that both supporters and critics can support.

'Rihanna's Girl': Clock Ticks for Marrow Donor

Six-year-old Jasmina Anema has three strikes against her -- she has a rare and often lethal form of leukemia, she has no siblings and she is black.

But with a bevy of celebrities taking on her fight to find a bone marrow donor, the New York City child has one last chance to find an elusive cure.

Because Jasmina is African American, she has barely a "one in a million" chance of finding an exact match, according to her mother, fashion designer Theodora Anema, who is white.

The charismatic girl has survived four rounds of chemotherapy and her next line of defense would be finding a sibling donor. But Jasmina was adopted, the "creation of a one-night affair," and has no brothers or sisters or any known close relations, Anema told ABCNews.com.

Family and doctors say it's hard to believe she has only about a month to live, given her extraordinary energy and upbeat attitude. From her hospital bed, Jasmina told ABCNews.com that she was "having fun" playing a Curious George game on her computer at New York University Medical Center.

"She's a happy camper and doesn't know what's happening," Anema told ABCNews.com. "She's a very vivacious child and does have a lot of energy. She is tolerating the chemotherapy so well, she has been up late at night dancing and jumping up and down."

Rihanna, Other Stars Support Ailing Jasmina
The first star to be smitten with the charismatic kindergartner was Rihanna, the pop singer . Soon, others followed: Grammy nominee Calvin Richardson, New York Knicks Chris Wilcox, Boston Celtic star, Paul Pierce and the Hornets' Tyson Chandler.

"When I saw the video, it broke my heart," Rihanna told PEOPLE magazine in February. "It is so unfair that for a black patient it's so much harder to find a bone marrow match."

Singer Kelly Rowland of Destiny's Child helped Jasmina celebrate her birthday, spending hours with the kindergartner, who lives in New York City's Greenwich Village.

"This young, beautiful little girl needs a match," Rowland told ABC's New York station WABC-TV. "When you meet her you just can't help but fall in love."

'Natural Killer' Leukemia
Jasmina was diagnosed with the most aggressive form of leukemia -- NK T cell -- and her doctors say she must find a donor match within one month. The "NK" stands for "natural killer," according to Anema, and occurs in only one percent of all childhood cases.

Fighting the disease is hard enough -- with only a 1 in 4 chance of a cure -- but being a minority makes finding a bone marrow match nearly impossible, due to a shortage of minority donors.

African Americans have more complex HLA (human leukocyte antigen) types -- the "bar code on every one of our cells," according to Dr. William Carroll, who directs NYU's pediatric hematology oncology program, so donors for black leukemia patients must be African-American.

According to the National Bone Marrow Program, of the 7 million Americans listed as donors, only 7 percent, or about 550,000, are African-American. Other minorities are also under-represented: only 3 percent are Hispanic and 2 percent Asian.

They estimate that a marrow or blood cell transplant could benefit more than 10,000 children and adults with life-threatening diseases each year. More than 70 percent of all transplants are for leukemias.

Jasmina and her mother are working with DKMS, the world's largest marrow donor center, to enlist donors from the general population at upcoming events in New York, Boston, Oakland and Dallas. They are targeting African Americans whose HLA types can help Jasmina, but recruitment is difficult.

"There are several reasons why [minorities] don't donate: distress in the health care system, fear of the actual procedure and not enough education about being a donor," said Katharina Harf, co-founder of Germany-based DKMS.

The organization, which has 1.8 million donors worldwide, has set up offices in the United States to recruit more minority donors, particularly those who are Hispanic.

Bone Marrow Donation Simple

In reality, becoming a bone marrow donor is simple: genetic typing is done with just a swab inside the cheek. The information is placed in a computerized national data bank where doctors can look for a patient match.

Donating a bone marrow is not complicated or painful. In most cases, stem cells are collected from donor blood; 20 to 30 percent of the time, bone marrow is withdrawn from the hip, not spine, in an out-patient procedure done under anesthesia.

Campaign Yields 7,000 Potential Donors
"We could be lucky if we found one match in 20,000, and if we're not lucky, a rare type might be one in several million," Harf told ABCNews.com.

Since the celebrity-driven campaign began, Jasmina's cause has attracted 7,000 African- Americans to register as donors, some of whom might eventually be a match after more testing. These donors could also potentially help other African Americans.

DKMS helped to create the video, "ONE For Jasmina," which initially caught the attention of Rihanna. The video is narrated by the girl's best friend, Isabelle Huurman, whose father, like Jasmina's mother, is from The Netherlands.

The girls -- both African Americans with white families --- have been friends since they were 2 years old. Their mothers met at a party and discovered they had adopted daughters, four months apart, from the same agency. They learned Chinese at the same pre-school and both speak Dutch.

Anema, who is a fashion designer and single mother, adopted Jasmina when the girl was 3 days old. The child's racial make-up is three-quarters black and one-quarter Cherokee Indian and Caucasian. Jasmina has always been a healthy child until Jan. 20, when her mother took her to the doctor for what seemed a minor infection on her foot. "It looked like a bug bite, which is rare in the winter," said Anema. "It started swelling and itching and so I went by the pediatrician."

Doctor: 'Hop in Taxi Right Now'

The doctor felt an enlarged spleen and liver and did a blood test. When she found Jasmina's white blood cell count was high, she sent her directly to the hospital. "She said hop in the taxi right now and go there," said Anema.

Mother and daughter have lived at the hospital ever since. Chemotherapy treatments have caused Jasmina to develop painful mouth sores. She wears a cap-like wig with long braids to compensate for the hair that has fallen out.

"You just live in surreal world, saying to yourself, 'This is not happening,' she said. "But it's not difficult just for me, it's difficult for a lot of people," said Anema, who hopes to raise awareness to help all ethnic groups find bone marrow matches.

The highest success rates in bone marrow transplants for leukemia are done when children are in remission, but so far, Jasmina's tumor has been resistant to chemotherapy. "Without a low level of cancer cells, the chance of a cure is remote," her doctor told ABCNews.com.

"We'll go to transplant, but we don't know a more successful option," said Carroll. "Chemo alone is unable to cure this."

Doctors have found "a lot of promising matches," which will require more "granular" analysis to see if they can be given to Jasmina, according to Carroll. But time is running out.

Cord Blood Donation Another Option
Her doctors are also looking for a cord blood donor, which can be effective in children. In some cases, the experimental procedure can yield 50 to 60 percent survival rates, according to Dr. Gary Kleiner, pediatric immunologist, University Miami Medical Center.

"Cord blood has an advantage over marrow for minorities," said Kleiner, who is not treating Jasmina. "Marrow has to be an exact match. Cord can be a mismatch."

Cord blood, taken from placental tissue, is also quicker if a match is found, as it is frozen and does not require live donation.

"We don't know why [it works], but the T cells in cord blood are less mature," he said. "We think the cells are more naive. But it's only good for children and not adults."

Meanwhile, Jasmina's mother vacillates between hope and despair. "One doctor is not optimistic and the other doctor is. One says the glass is half empty and the other half full." Jasmina's doctors agree the challenge to cure Jasmina is daunting. "I'm the optimistic one," said Carroll. "We know a cure is remote, but we haven't taken away any hope."

But it's Jasmina's spirit that makes her fight so inspiring.

"Despite the aggressive chemotherapy, she has sailed through this," said Carroll. "In my career I've never seen anything like this. She is playing and zipping around and animated. We're delighted."

"Obviously, children are smaller and more fragile, but they have an enthusiasm for life," he said. "They live for the day and take one day at a time and it gets them through. The rest of us worry about what's coming down the line."

As for Jasmina's mother, "All I can say is I have great friends, incredible support -- fantastic friends."

WABC-TV's Carolina Leid contributed to this report

Alpha Kappa Alpha's President Denounces Clear Channel's Decision to Fire Tom Joyner

Chicago, IL (BlackNews.com) - Alpha Kappa Alpha's international president, Barbara A. McKinzie, expressed outrage over Clear Channel Communications' decision to summarily remove Tom Joyner's show from the Chicago market. She characterized this as symptomatic of a narrow-minded "marketing mindset" from executives who view the black community as a monolith and who make decisions about the African-American consumer through their misguided perceptions about the urban market.

Dismissing it as a "bad business decision," McKinzie said the view that "all blacks think alike" is an extension of a bygone era of arrogance and ignorance.

In response to this decision, she dispatched an e-blast to Alpha Kappa Alpha's 225,000 members worldwide where she directed those in Chicago to use that time slot to log on to the blackamericaweb.com to hear the show. She also advised members to shed their portfolios of Clear Channel stock (C C Media Holdings, on OTCBB under the ticker symbol CCMO) until this decision is rescinded and Joyner is restored to his place on Chicago's airwaves. She urged members to pen letters of indignation to Clear Channel principals, including those at the corporate headquarters in San Antonio. She said the flurry of letters would serve as a preemptive hedge to signal to other markets that this "type of disrespect" will not be tolerated.

"African Americans represent a wide spectrum of viewpoints and interests and cannot be lumped into one listening pool. Tom Joyner provides a unique mix of information, entertainment, provocative commentary and a forum to incite the community to action," she declared.

Echoing Joyner's self description as a voice who has "super-served" the community, she credits him for being the stimulus that inspired African Americans to vote. "His constant and repeated pleas inspired blacks to vote and played a key role in the election of the first black president," she noted.

She also cited Joyner's novel "Take A Loved One to the Doctor Day", as a valuable vehicle for raising awareness about the importance of being healthy. "It is a documented fact that there are wide health disparities in the African-American community," she stated. "This initiative has been effective in addressing and bridging the health care gap."

She noted that Joyner has single-handedly raised millions so that African-American students can attend historically black colleges and universities. He has also used the power of his platform, she said, to raise funds for HBCUs.

On a sentimental note, she praised him for using his show to raise the profile of courageous black females whose compelling stories inspire all African Americans.

She said that the positions Joyner advance parallel Alpha Kappa Alpha's positions on economic empowerment, health, political awareness, and education. For this reason, she called Tom Joyner "a partner in promoting Alpha Kappa Alpha's mission."

While acknowledging Steve Harvey's unique talent, and appeal, she said the demographic he attracts is completely different from Joyner's and that Clear Channel should embrace this diversity.

"Surely a market as vast as Chicago's can accommodate two different views and two different talents."

Chastising Clear Channel executives, McKinzie offered a basic lesson: "Knowing one's market is taught in Business 101. It's clear that these decision makers have dramatically departed from the principles taught in business school. The pushback against this decision -- and the callous manner in which it was executed -- will result in plummeting ratings, reduced share and a retreat from all of its properties."

"Through Alpha Kappa Alpha's infrastructure and quick-fire response, we will lead the way to make sure that those who issued this misguided decision learn the lesson and suffer the consequences."

North Carolina: Alleged gunman's wife worked at nursing home, police say

A man accused of killing eight people in a shooting spree at a North Carolina nursing home is the husband of a woman who worked there, police said Monday. Robert Stewart faces eight counts of first-degree murder in the nursing home shootings.

The two may have been separated, said Carthage, North Carolina, Police Chief Chris McKenzie. He did not say if the wife was in the building at the time.

The alleged gunman, Robert Stewart, was carrying several weapons, authorities said. Seven patients and a nurse were killed, and three people were wounded, including a visitor and a police officer.

All the wounded are expected to survive, McKenzie said.

Officer Justin Garner was shot in the leg, McKenzie said. "As I understand, there were three pellets in his shin, leg and foot," he said.

Garner entered the Pinelake Health and Rehab Center alone with no backup and brought the shooting spree to an end with a single shot, hitting Stewart in the "chest, upper torso area," McKenzie said.

"If that's not heroism, I don't know what is," he said.

Garner is "in very good spirits, resting at home," he added. McKenzie said he did not know the latest on Stewart's condition.

The alleged gunman's motive remained a mystery.

Stewart has not made a public statement nor has an attorney on his behalf.

His wife has not issued a statement either.

Meanwhile, his ex-wife, Sue Griffin, told CNN affiliate WTVD-TV in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, "He did have some violent tendencies from time to time." She added that when she heard the news of Sunday's shooting, "I couldn't believe it -- then I stopped, thought about it and thought, 'It is possible. It's possible.' "

At a news conference Monday, McKenzie described the shooting spree as "unimaginable" and "horrific."

"Everything that you can possibly imagine that is bad in the world," he said. "This doesn't happen, but it did." He described the small town as "strong, faith-based -- and that faith will get this community through this."

The tragedy draws attention to what McKenzie called the toughest part of training police officers.

Officers are told not to wait for backup when there are many lives on the line, he said. "That's the hardest thing -- to try to convince them you can't wait, you have to go."

If Garner had waited for backup, "there would have been a lot more people [killed]," McKenzie said.

The slain patients ranged in age from 78 to 98, Moore County District Attorney Maureen Krueger said.

A witness told CNN affiliate WRAL-TV in Raleigh-Durham that Stewart was armed with a rifle, a shotgun and other weapons.

Jerry Avant Sr. told WRAL that his son, Jerry Avant, a 39-year-old registered nurse, was the employee who was killed in the shooting. He said a doctor told him that his son had been shot more than two dozen times.

The elder Avant said the doctor told him his son "undoubtedly saved a lot of lives.

Stewart faces eight counts of first-degree murder and one count of felony assault on a police officer, and other charges are pending, Krueger said.

Carthage is about 60 miles southwest of Raleigh.

Andre 3000 Arrested For Speeding!

Raper/Actor Andre Benjamin better known as Andre 3000 was arrested in his home state of Georgia for doing 109 mph in a 65 mph speed limit lane.

Andre was taken to Henry County Jail. He was later released on $1,200 bail post.

Look at Andre's picture B! He usually smiling and shit showing his pearly W's. You don't see not one tooth in this mug shot.

Wagoner: Don’t cry for me, General Motors

By Ed Brayton 3/31/09 7:03 AM
Rick Wagoner may be leaving his position as CEO of General Motors but he’s not going away empty handed. Though he cannot receive a severance package under the terms of the auto industry bailout, he is due to receive some $20 million in retirement benefits after 32 years with with the company.

And this is on top of the $63 million in compensation he received between 1992 and today. The only caveat? Bankruptcy.

If GM is forced into bankruptcy, Wagoner could get much less, according to Dave Schmidt, an executive compensation analyst with James F. Reda and Associates. Less than $1 million of Wagoner’s total $20.2 million pension package appears to be guaranteed if GM goes bankrupt, Schmidt said.

I imagine he’ll manage to scrape by.

FDA says to avoid pistachios amid salmonella scare

Federal food officials are warning people not to eat any food containing pistachios because of possible contamination by salmonella, in another food scare sure to rattle consumers already upset by the contamination of peanuts with the same bacteria.

The Food and Drug Administration said central California-based Setton Pistachio of Terra Bella Inc., the nation's second-largest pistachio processor, was voluntarily recalling more than 2 million pounds of its roasted nuts shipped since last fall.

"Our advice to consumers is that they avoid eating pistachio products, and that they hold onto those products," said Dr. David Acheson, assistant commissioner for food safety. "The number of products that are going to be recalled over the coming days will grow, simply because these pistachio nuts have then been repackaged into consumer-level containers."

Two people called the FDA complaining of gastrointestinal illness that could be associated with the nuts, but the link hasn't been confirmed, Acheson said. Still, the plant decided to shut down late last week, officials said.

The recalled nuts are a small fraction of the 55 million pounds of pistachios that the company's plant processed last year and an even smaller portion of the 278 million pounds produced in the state in the 2008 season, according to the Fresno-based Administrative Committee for Pistachios.

California is the second-largest producer of pistachios in the world.

According to the company's Web site, Setton Pistachio is in the corporate family of Commack, N.Y.-based Setton International Foods Inc. The company sells nuts, dried fruit, edible seeds, chocolate and yogurt-coated candies.

The FDA learned about the problem last Tuesday, when Kraft Foods Inc. notified the agency that routine product testing had detected salmonella in roasted pistachios. Kraft and the Georgia Nut Co. recalled their Back to Nature Nantucket Blend trail mix the next day.

The FDA contacted Setton Pistachio and California health officials shortly afterward, in what Acheson called a "proactive move."

By Friday, Cincinnati-based grocery operator Kroger Co. recalled one of its lines of bagged pistachios because of possible salmonella contamination, saying the California plant also supplied its nuts. Those nuts were sold in 31 states.

Fabia D'Arienzo, a spokeswoman for Tulare County-based Setton Pistachio, said the company was only recalling certain bulk roasted in-shell and roasted shelled pistachios that were shipped on or after September 1.

Because Setton Pistachio shipped bags of nuts weighing up to 2,000 pounds to 36 wholesalers across the country, it will take weeks to figure out how many products could be affected, said Jeff Farrar, chief of the Food and Drug Branch of the California Department of Public Health.

"It will be safe to assume based on the volume that this will be an ingredient in a lot of different products, and that may possibly include things like ice cream and cake mixes," Farrar said. "The firm is already turning around trucks in transit to bring those back to the facility."

Salmonella, the most common cause of food-borne illness, causes diarrhea, fever and cramping. Most people recover, but the infection can be life-threatening for children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems.

Roasting is supposed to kill the bacteria in nuts. But problems can occur if the roasting is not done correctly or if roasted nuts are re-contaminated. That can happen if mice, rats or birds get into the facility.

The national peanut salmonella outbreak was blamed on a Georgia company under federal investigation for flouting safety procedures and knowingly shipping contaminated peanuts.

That outbreak is still ongoing. More than 690 people in 46 states have gotten sick. Nearly 3,900 products made with peanut ingredients from Peanut Corp. of America have been recalled.

California public health authorities have taken hundreds of samples at Setton's processing facility, but lab results have not yet determined whether salmonella was found at the plant, Farrar said. The food companies' own tests of the contaminated products isolated four different types of salmonella, but none were the same strain as the one found in the peanuts, Acheson said.

Gaza offensive: Israeli military says no war crimes committed

Investigation declares Israeli soldiers' confessions exaggerated stories of civilian casualties in Gaza

The Israeli military has concluded that no war crimes were committed during its recent offensive in the Gaza Strip, dismissing as "hearsay" the testimonies of soldiers who allegedly admitted intentionally killing Palestinian civilians.

Closing an investigation into wrongful shootings, the Israeli army declared soldiers' confessions relating to two incidents were "purposely exaggerated" and not supported by facts.

One case involved the killing of an elderly woman by a rooftop sniper, and another involved a sniper fatally shooting a mother and two children who had entered a no-go zone.

After talking to soldiers who made the claims, Israeli military investigators concluded that the two incidents never took place and that the young men who made the allegations had embellished the stories during a seminar at a military preparatory school.

The military police found that "crucial components of their descriptions were based on hearsay and not supported by specific personal knowledge", the army said in a statement.

The army's chief prosecutor accused the soldiers of harming Israel's international image. "It will be difficult to evaluate the damage done to the image and morals of the Israel Defence Forces and its soldiers ... in Israel and the world," Brigadier General Avichai Mendelblit said.

Human rights groups accused the military of carrying out a biased and hasty inquiry that ignored key evidence and urged an independent body be formed to investigate Israeli army activity in Gaza.

The soldiers' accounts set off soul-searching in a country where the military is widely revered and where most civilians are conscripted aged 18. They also echoed Palestinian allegations that Israel's assault did not distinguish between civilians and combatants, and fuelled assertions by some international rights groups that Israel violated the rules of war.

Israel used unprecedented force during the three-week operation, launched against Gaza's Hamas rulers last December to halt eight years of rocket attacks on Israeli border towns. After a week of aerial bombardments, the military launched a two-week ground offensive.

More than 1,400 Palestinians were killed, including more than 900 civilians, according to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, which published a list of names of the dead. Israel has said the toll was lower, and the "vast majority" of the dead were militants. But it did not publish a list to support the assertion.

In a joint statement, nine Israeli rights groups said the decision to close the investigation without bringing charges "only strengthens the need for the attorney general to allow for an independent nonpartisan investigative body to be established in order to look into all Israeli army activity" in Gaza.

Defense minister, Ehud Barak, said the investigation showed that Israel possesses "the most moral army in the world".

The closure of the investigation came as fighting again escalated on the Gaza-Israel border. Today Israeli forces killed two Palestinian militants and wounded three, a Gaza health official said, in one of the worst flare-ups since Israel's ended its offensive in the territory more than two months ago. An Israeli soldier was slightly wounded in the fighting, the military said.

With autos, Obama expands government's role

President Barack Obama's extraordinary auto industry intervention is assertive and coldly pragmatic, with a dose of caution and a sentimental nod to the automobile's place in the American psyche.

Obama's curt rejection of General Motors' and Chrysler's restructuring plans and his abrupt move to muscle out GM's CEO set the stage for a major realignment of the U.S. auto industry. He bluntly raised the prospect of a "prepackaged bankruptcy" that would reorganize the companies quickly under court protection.

But Obama did not upend Detroit in one single swoop. He gave each company a second chance at a federal bailout — 60 days for GM and 30 for Chrysler — though it was evident that from now on little would remain the same.

"We've reached the end of that road," Obama declared Monday.

The administration's analysis of the viability of the two auto giants was merciless and remarkably specific in its critique of their business practices. It said GM's underperforming dealers were a drag on the company and its car of the future, the plug-in Chevrolet Volt, held promise but was too expensive. As for Chrysler, the president said it could only survive with an international partner, the Italian carmaker Fiat SpA.

All in all, the administration and its auto task force concluded that the automakers' plans to change their mix of products, fix their balance sheets, reduce production capacity and launch new vehicles were simply too slow.

"There seems to be a major difference of opinion between the auto task force and GM not about what's desirable, but what's realistic over some undefined business cycle," Malcolm Salter, a professor emeritus at Harvard Business School who has advised Ford and GM, said in an e-mail.

Yet Obama also conceded the intangible nature of the auto industry as a national symbol, and made it clear he would not let it succumb under his watch. He called the industry an emblem of the American spirit and a pillar of the economy.

"We cannot, and must not, and we will not let our auto industry simply vanish," he said.

The forced ouster of GM CEO Richard Wagoner, the detailed review of the companies' business models and the overt threat of bankruptcy represented an increasingly hands-on approach by the government to institutions receiving federal assistance in the midst of the economic crisis.

But the White House on Monday downplayed the difference between Obama's treatment of the automakers and the less stringent conditions it has placed on the financial industry in return for financial infusions worth billions of dollars.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said each institution has distinct effects on the economy and, as a result, the government's response to each would be specific to their circumstances.

On Tuesday, Sen. Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican whose state is home to auto manufacturing plants, said the administration's aggressive intervention in the industry sets "a very dangerous precedent."

It wasn't just the forced ouster of Wagoner that causes him concern, Corker said on CBS's "The Early Show." He accused the administration of taking a "we know best" attitude in connection with the problems in the domestic industry and said that should "send a chill throughout the country."

The president was hardly ambiguous about his desire to use the beleaguered state of the industry to press one of his top policy agendas — an energy policy that emphasizes the manufacture of fuel-efficient, environmentally friendly cars.

"The United States will lead the world in building the next generation of clean cars," he said.

Obama's restructuring conditions include concessions from bondholders, the investors who hold GM and Chrysler debt, as well as from the United Auto Workers, which represents the industry work force. "It will require unions and workers who have already made extraordinarily painful concessions to do more," Obama said.

A committee of GM bondholders issued a statement Monday saying bondholders were willing to exchange "a substantial part" of their debt for stock in the company. But the statement said the committee was "very disappointed that the government and company have had virtually no real dialogue with bondholders while designing the proposed restructuring plan."

Though administration officials insisted Monday that bankruptcy was not a preferred option, the president went out of his way to explain what a court-overseen restructuring would entail. He stressed that bankruptcy would help Chrysler and GM clear old debts and place them on a sustainable path. "What I'm not talking about is a process where a company is simply broken up, sold off and no longer exists," he said.

The idea of using a speeded-up bankruptcy process for the auto industry circulated in Congress last November. But both executives and labor leaders objected to the idea even with the backing of federal guarantees, saying it would taint the companies with consumers and risk retiree health benefits.

A Chapter 11 bankruptcy allows a company to stay alive and retain control of its assets while paying off creditors and reorganizing. In the process, they raise capital, downsize and renegotiate contracts. The companies would still need billions in government assistance, however, because the companies would not find easy access to financing in the currently frozen credit markets.

To encourage consumers to buy new cars, Obama announced that the government will now back new car warranties issued by GM and Chrysler, assuring car owners that their purchases will be protected. The administration also was pursuing other measures that were not tied directly to GM or Chrysler, and would also help their competitors.

The Internal Revenue Service announced a new plan to allow taxpayers to deduct the sales tax and excise tax on any new car they purchase, whether foreign or domestic. Obama said he also was working with Congress on "cash for clunker" legislation that would reimburse car owners who turn in an older car for a new, more fuel-efficient vehicle.

A senior Obama administration official said GM and Chrysler would put together the revised plans with help and advice from the Treasury Department and the auto task force. The official was not authorized to speak publicly about the discussions.

"They're taking significant responsibility now here for the future of the industry and there's upside and downside to that," Sen. Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat who has been active in helping the industry survive, said of the administration's role. "Hopefully there's enough people who know enough about the industry who understand the risks of one course or another."

President Obama's security bubble

You can take the man out of the White House. But you can't take the White House away from the man.

And when US President Barack Obama arrives in London on Tuesday for the G20 summit, he will bring a large contingent of the White House staff with him.

Hundreds of security guards, doctors, chefs and others will accompany President Obama on his visit, and the entourage will include a number of presidential vehicles - including his new armour-plated limousine, The Beast, and aeroplane, Air Force One.

The 4,000 sq ft Boeing 747 is fully equipped for the president to work while he is in the air. The exercise-loving president will even be able to use the onboard gym to keep fit inflight.

The plane is fitted with some robust security equipment including shields to protect its instruments from an electromagnetic pulse. The communications equipment is even capable of withstanding radiation from a nuclear attack.

Blood supply

Once he lands at Stansted Airport in Essex, Mr Obama will be ferried into the heart of London on Marine One, his personal VH-3D helicopter.

Marine One is capable of firing flares to divert heat-seeking missiles - and always flies as part of a convoy of identical decoy aircraft. His helicopter peels away at the last minute only when the convoy has reached its destination.

On the ground, the president rides around in The Beast, a brand new presidential limo finished earlier this year at a cost of $300,000

It comes with a tear gas cannon, a night-vision camera and oxygen tanks. Its reinforced steel plating is said to be able to protect against bullets, chemical attack, and even a missile strike.

And it will not be hard to spot on the streets - it will be accompanied at all times by a motorcade consisting of dozens of support cars, police cars and emergency medical vehicles.

The president's White House medical unit - nurses, surgeons and other medical professionals - will be permanently on call in case Mr Obama is taken ill. A supply of AB-type blood (the president's blood type) will travel with him for emergency transfusions.

As well as medical personnel, Mr Obama's entourage will consist of over 200 security officials, dozens of political aides and a team of personal chefs.

Mr Obama will also be cooked for at 10 Downing Street by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver - although Mr Oliver has been told that he will not be allowed to bring his mobile phone, even though his wife is due to give birth on the day after the event.

For security reasons, no mobile devices will be allowed at the dinner.

World leaders

During his visit, Mr Obama will spend three hours in talks with the British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown.

And - as is customary on presidential visits to the capital - Mr Obama will also meet the opposition leader, David Cameron, and will hold a private meeting with the Queen.

As well as the main G20 summit, the president will fit in bilateral meetings with a number of world leaders - including Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, Chinese President Hu Jintao, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.

With the world economy in turmoil, and the US fighting wars on several fronts, these meetings will be crucial.

So it is easy to see why Mr Obama needs such a large back-up team to keep his presidential bubble inflated while he focuses on doing his job.

'Star Trek' sequel ready for liftoff

Variety reports that Paramount Pictures is planning a sequel to the May 8 reboot of its Star Trek franchise to be produced by J.J. Abrams, who directed and produced the latest installment, along with his colleague Bryan Burk from Bad Robot. Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, and Damon Lindelof have reportedly been tapped to write the screenplay, though prospective storylines remain a mystery.

New Jersey’s Other Election: What Will our New Lieutenant Governor Do?

By Richard A. Lee

Despite its historic nature, the contest to become New Jersey’s first lieutenant governor has yet to generate much statewide attention from the general citizenry.

What we have heard –from Trenton insiders and in State House news reports – have been the names of potential candidates whose qualifications appear to have more to do with their value to balance a ticket than with their ability to step in and run the state effectively.

Based upon the experiences of other states, this is not surprising. A 2006 study published in the Newspaper Research Journal found that lieutenant governor candidates have historically been chosen to balance tickets along geographic, philosophical, gender, racial, ethnic and religious lines.

There is nothing wrong with a balanced ticket, but the determining factors in choosing a lieutenant governor should be that person’s ability to lead the state, not his or her race or gender. From this perspective, although he is unlikely to be on the ballot, Senate President Richard Codey has the best credentials. After all, he has stepped in to run the state for significant periods of time on two occasions in the past five years.

The only other individuals who can boast such credentials are the state’s actual former governors. Perhaps making one of them lieutenant governor wouldn’t be such a bad idea, especially when one considers that many of the nation’s lieutenant governors spend much of their time taking part in ceremonial activities.

Lest there be any doubt, just take a look at the news section of the National Lieutenant Governors Association website. You’ll find some lieutenant governors who are involved in critical state activities, but the news pages (and keep in mind, these are the highlights) also contain items such as these that were posted for March 2009:

• Arkansas Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter questions proposed salary of lottery director.
• Missouri Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder announces addition of Lance Armstrong team to Missouri bicycle race.
• Louisiana Lieutenant Governor Mitch Landrieu announces formation of cultural district.
• Hawaii Lieutenant. Governor James R. "Duke" Aiona praises benefits of Pro Bowl.
• Rhode Island Lieutenant. Governor Elizabeth Roberts unveils new website on insurance.

Idaho Lieutenant Governor Brad Little put his job into perspective when he reflected upon meeting the Swiss ambassador during a Special Olympics event. "What the hell do I know about meeting with an ambassador?” he told The Idaho Statesman.

In New Jersey, whoever wins the Governor’s race will have the option of designating the lieutenant governor as the head of a state department or agency. But there is a good chance we may not learn much about the lieutenant governor candidates’ ability to serve in leadership positions.

The Newspaper Research Journal article found that news organizations provided little coverage for the number two slots in state government. The authors, Eric Freedman and Daniel Thai, conducted a content analysis of news stories published between Labor Day and Election Day 2002 about the open lieutenant governor races in seven states. Out of 242 stories, lieutenant governor candidates were included in only 24. Two major dailies -- the St. Paul Pioneer Press and Topeka Capital-Journal – failed to mention the candidates in a single story.

“It is no exaggeration to say that most candidates for lieutenant governor were barely blips on the radar, if at all, in capital city newspapers during prime campaign season,” Freedman and Thai concluded.

New Jersey decided to establish a lieutenant governor’s position after two governors – Christine Todd Whitman and James E. McGreevey – left before their terms were over, leaving the Senate President to serve as acting governor (while retaining the Senate President post).

The situation raised concern about the separation of branches of government and the amount of power it placed in one individual’s hands. But the truth is New Jersey emerged from both situations no worse for the wear. And how likely is it that another governor may leave office with a significant amount of time left on his or her term (especially now that the rumors of Governor Corzine heading to the Obama Administration appear to be behind us)?

Ironically, New Jersey is creating a lieutenant governor at a time when other states have been making noise – in some cases for several years -- about eliminating the position because they find it difficult to justify at a time when budgets are tightening.

• “Do we need a lieutenant governor? Better yet, can you name the present lieutenant governor and what he does?” the Herald-News of Joliet, Illinois, asked in a 1998 editorial urging elimination of the job.

• “In an era of downsizing I think we could do without. I see this as a cost-saving move," Sheldon Wasserman, a state legislator in Wisconsin, explained to the Capital Times in Madison when he introduced a resolution to eliminate the job in 2003.

• In Rhode Island in 2006, Robert J. Healey Jr. ran for lieutenant governor on a platform that included a promise to abolish the position. "Nobody can say with a straight face that this office has a function," he told The Newport Daily News.

• More recently, in February of this year, The Orlando Sentinel reported that over a period of 22 months, Florida Lieutenant Governor Jeff Kottkamp had nothing scheduled on 60 weekdays, the equivalent of 12 workweeks.

• In March, Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters wrote that “The lieutenant governor's office may be the state's most pointless governmental appendage.”

Perhaps Walters’ comments were inspired by California Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi, whose daily schedule has at times included coaxing a frog at the Annual Frog Jumping Contest at the state capitol. In keeping with a job that calls for playing second fiddle, the contest was only a prelude to a bigger event -- the frog jumping contest at the Calaveras County Fair and Jumping Frog Jubilee that took place later in the year.

# # #

Richard A. Lee is Communications Director of the Hall Institute of Public Policy – New Jersey. A former journalist and Deputy Communications Director for the Governor, he also teaches courses in media and government at Rutgers University, where he is completing work on a Ph.D. in media studies.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Moats accepts Powell's apology

An NFL player said Monday he accepts the apology offered by a Dallas police officer who stopped him with a drawn gun in a hospital parking lot while his mother-in-law was dying inside.

Houston Texans running back Ryan Moats said on ABC's "Good Morning America" that he hopes Officer Robert Powell was sincere in his apology.

Powell stopped Moats' SUV outside Baylor Regional Medical Center in suburban Plano on March 18 after the vehicle rolled through a red light. Moats' wife, Tamishia, and other relatives were also in the car.

The officer pulled out his gun and threatened Moats with jail as the player pleaded to be allowed to go inside the hospital. Moats' mother-in-law died before he got there while Powell write Moats a ticket and lectured him.

Powell, who has been placed on paid leave pending an investigation, issued a statement Friday through his attorneys.

"I wish to publicly and sincerely apologize to the Moats family, my colleagues in the Dallas Police Department, and to all those who have been rightfully angered by my actions on March 18, 2009. After stopping Mr. Moats' vehicle, I showed poor judgment and insensitivity to Mr. Moats and his family by my words and actions," Powell's statement said.

Tamishia Moats said she'd like to hear the apology personally, but that she, too, would definitely accept it.

According to video from a dashboard camera inside the officer's vehicle, Tamishia Moats and another woman disregarded Powell's order to get back inside their vehicle, and they rushed into the hospital. She was by the side of her mother, 45-year-old Jonetta Collinsworth, when she died a short time later from breast cancer.

Powell yelled at Tamishia Moats to stay in the SUV.

"Excuse me, my mom is dying," Tamishia Moats said. "Do you understand?"

Ryan Moats later said the officer pointed his gun at his wife and then at him.

He explained that he waited until there was no traffic before continuing through the red light. When Powell asked for proof of insurance, Moats grew more agitated and told the officer to go find it.

Stampede kills 22 at Ivory Coast qualifier

At least 22 supporters have died and 132 were injured after a wall collapsed following a stampede prior to Ivory Coast's World Cup qualifier against Malawi.

Ticketless fans had gathered outside the gates of the 35,000-capacity Houphouet-Boigny arena in the West African country's main city, Abidjan. There was a crush inside the stadium and a wall collapsed.

A rush by spectators caused the collapse of a wall, officials said. Police then fired tear gas to clear the crowd, causing a stampede which also left many people injured.

"We have 22 dead and many seriously injured," a military source at the stadium told Reuters.

The incident occurred before kick-off, however the game was allowed to proceed.

"Spectators who did not buy tickets were jostling before the match," Sports Minister Dagobert Banzio said on state television. "They smashed one of the main gates of the stadium. They were trampled."

Interior Minister Desire Tagro told state television: "Lots of fans showed up," reported AP news agency.

"They started pushing to get in because the match was about to start and each and every one of them wanted to get in."

The country's interior and sports ministers held emergency talks with leaders of the Ivory Coast Football Federation (FIF), FIF president Albert Kakou Anzouan told AFP.

The tragedy followed similar incidents which have marred international matches in Africa in the last decade, including two separate ones in Zambia and the death of 13 people in Zimbabwe nine years ago.

FIFA instigated a programme of stadium inspections across Africa before the 2010 World Cup qualifiers and Abidjan's Felix Houphouet-Boigny Stadium was passed as safe for international matches.

8 killed in attack on Police Training School in Lahore

LAHORE: Eight people were killed and several wounded when some unknown persons attacked the Police Training School with hand grenades here in Manawan early in the morning on Monday.

According to sources, unkown attackers threw away hand grenades at the Police Training School in Manawan after which exchange of firing began between the armed attackers and the police which still continues.

Reports said that eight persons were killed and several were injured and they are being shifted to hospital.

Massive Chinese Cyberspy Network Discovered

Canadian researchers at the University of Toronto’s Munk Centre for International Studies in conjunction with the SecDev Group and the University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory have discovered a huge cyberspy network based in China and say it’s infiltrated more than 1,000 computer networks in over 100 countries. The investigation initially began as a look into whether the office of the Dalai Lama had been hacked and led to the shocking discovery of a malicious attack that has infiltrated more than 1,000 computer networks in over 100 countries.

In addition to the Dalai Lama’s office, infected computer systems were found at NATO headquarters, several embassies, the Associated Press, and the Ministries of Foreign Affairs in Indonesia, Iran, and the Philippines, and the office of the Prime Minister of Laos among others.

Dubbed GhostNet by the researchers, the cyberspying malware is able to completely control any computer it infects. It can search and download files, turn webcams and microphones on and off, and more. The suspicion that such a network existed and that China was behind it began when the Dalai Lama’s office sent a foreign diplomat an email inviting him to meet with the spiritual leader. Before the staff could follow up their invitation with a phone call, the diplomat received a warning from the Chinese government warning him not to accept the invite.

While China is denying any and all knowledge of such a network and claiming cybercrime is strictly forbidden by their government, they aren’t saying how they found out about the diplomat’s invitation or why they warned him to stay away.

It’s more crucial than ever to have the best security software you can buy and to make sure it is properly updated and maintain. The researchers said it’s not a question of, if, but when, businesses will face similar attacks:

The computer systems of businesses are almost certain to be hacked by similar means, if they have not been already, the experts claim.

“Social malware will be used for fraud, and the typical company really has no defense against it,” since it is so expensive and inconvenient, for example, to keep sensitive information or processes on computers with no Internet access. “We expect that many crooks will get rich before effective countermeasures are widely deployed.”

In this case, such inconvenience may be well more that worth it. You simply can not be too careful with your company’s data!

Obama Announces New Strategy for Afghanistan, Pakistan

Heavy emphasis on training additional Afghan security forces

By Merle David Kellerhals Jr.

03/30/09- — Saying it is an international security challenge of the highest order, President Obama announced a new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan that aims to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al-Qaida and the Taliban.

In addition to 17,000 U.S. troops and Marines that are being deployed to Afghanistan in the coming months to join the 38,000 already there, Obama said he also is ordering 4,000 more troops who will act as trainers for the Afghan army. That training force will come from the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, which is stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and will be in place early this fall.

“We will shift the emphasis of our mission to training and increasing the size of the Afghan security forces, so that they can eventually take the lead in securing their country,” Obama said at a briefing March 27 in Washington. “For the first time, this will fully resource our effort to train and support the Afghan army and police.”

Every American combat unit in Afghanistan will be partnered with an Afghan unit, and more trainers will be requested from NATO allies to ensure that every Afghan unit has a coalition partner, Obama said. The goal, the president said, is to build the Afghan army from about 80,000 troops to 134,000 and expand the national police force from 78,000 to 82,000 officers. Currently, the total number of U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan is 70,140 troops, according to the Pentagon and NATO.

The announcement comes as Obama prepares to attend the 60th anniversary NATO summit in Strasbourg, France, and Kehl, Germany, April 3–4. NATO leads the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan and the alliance’s future course there will be a central topic at the summit. The summit has added significance because it will be Obama’s first trip to Europe since becoming president January 20.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will attend a United Nations conference on Afghanistan March 31 in The Hague, Netherlands. She will join representatives from more than 80 nations.

While the new strategy sets the terms for helping Pakistan enhance its own security as well as that of Afghanistan, the president has set no timetable for the eventual withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan. He previously set a timetable to withdraw the majority of U.S. combat brigades from Iraq by August 2010 and all remaining forces there by the end of 2011.

Obama said achieving stability on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistan border eventually will allow the United States and its allies to withdraw their forces from Afghanistan. Members of the al-Qaida terrorist group and the Taliban, which controlled Afghanistan before being routed by a U.S.-led coalition in late 2001, are believed to be hiding in the tribal regions of northwestern Pakistan in the Hindu Kush mountain range that straddles eastern and central Afghanistan, northwestern Pakistan and northwestern India.

In addition, Obama said he has asked the U.S. Congress to approve legislation authorizing $1.5 billion in direct support to Pakistan every year over the next five years. The funds would be used to build schools, roads and hospitals as well as to strengthen Pakistan’s democracy. The legislation is being sponsored by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry and the committee’s ranking Republican, Senator Richard Lugar.

Obama is also calling on Congress to pass legislation to create opportunity zones in the Afghan-Pakistan border region to develop the economy and bring stability in areas plagued by continual violence.

Obama said he is increasing civilian support to Afghanistan in the form of specialists in agriculture, education, engineering, the law and economics. “That’s how we can help the Afghan government serve its people and develop an economy that isn’t dominated by illicit drugs,” the president said.

Obama also said the United States will not be acting alone. It will include a new contact group for Afghanistan involving the United Nations, NATO allies and other partners from the Central Asian states, the Gulf nations, Iran, Russia, India and China, he said.

“None of these nations benefit from a base for al-Qaida terrorists and a region that descends into chaos,” he said. “The United States of America did not choose to fight a war in Afghanistan.”

The conflict in Afghanistan was thrust on the United States because of the al-Qaida-led terrorist attacks on the United States in 2001, Obama said. But there have been al-Qaida-inspired attacks on other countries of the world since that time. Most of the blood on al-Qaida’s hands is that of Muslims, and the future the terrorist group offers to the Muslim world is one without hope or opportunity, and a future without justice or peace, the president said.

The president spoke by telephone March 26 with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari to brief them on his plans. The new strategy has been under development from the day Obama took office. Consultations have been held with U.S. national security officials, the armed forces, NATO, both the Afghan and Pakistani governments, international organizations and donors, and members of Congress, the president said.

Eight dead in North Carolina nursing-home shooting

Eight people died in North Carolina Sunday after a gunman started shooting people randomly:

A lone gunman burst into a North Carolina nursing home Sunday morning and started “shooting everything,” barging into the rooms of terrified patients, sparing some from his rampage without explanation while killing seven residents and a nurse caring for them.

Authorities said Robert Stewart also wounded three others, including the Carthage police officer who confronted him in a hallway of Pinelake Health and Rehab and stopped the brutal attack.

“He acted in nothing short of a heroic way today, and but for his actions, we certainly could have had a worse tragedy,” said Moore County District Attorney Maureen Krueger. “We had an officer, a well-trained officer, who performed his job the way he was supposed to and prevented this from getting even worse than it is now.”

By late Sunday afternoon, Krueger had charged Stewart, 45, of Moore County, with eight counts of first-degree murder and a single charge of felony assault of a law enforcement officer. Authorities offered few other details, allowing only that Stewart was not a patient or an employee at the nursing home and isn’t believed to be related to any of the victims.

Investigators are still in the dark about Stewart’s motives for killing eight innocent people. His ex-wife told journalists he has “anger management problems.” Sue Griffin said she was married to Stewart for 15 years.

“He would get mad because of things that didn’t go his way. He never really hurt me, but he would get mad and blow up,” Griffin said.

A bad temper, that much is clear. But how does one change from an explosive man into an outright killer? What happened to Stewart? Why did he go into a nursing home?

We hear increasingly more about mass murders like the one in North Carolina yesterday. Something has to change: these things didn’t happen so regularly 20 years ago. Why do we hear about them every couple of weeks / months now? What is happening to Western societies that man turn into killers within the blink of an eye?

[Update]: Police are now saying that the ex-wife of the killer worked at the home, though at present there are no reports that she was his target. Claudia

Dick Jerardi: Think Villanova has no chance in Final Four? Think again

WHEN THE 61 games were done, the Final Four was not unpredictable, but, nevertheless, consists of a combination of four teams that was far from obvious. Nationally, Villanova probably was given less consideration than by those locally who had seen enough to understand the essence of Jay Wright's team. And Michigan State, under the radar in the Big Ten, played a near-perfect game yesterday to take out Louisville, the overall No. 1 seed.

North Carolina and Connecticut were no surprise. And nobody will be terribly surprised if they meet a week from tonight in the championship game at Ford Field in Detroit.

Carolina and UConn will be solid favorites. Anybody who does not think 'Nova has a chance just has not been paying attention. Are the Wildcats likely to beat UNC in the second game on Saturday? No. Is it possible? With this team, almost anything has to be considered, including a national championship.

Michigan State does not appear to have the firepower to hang with UConn, but the Spartans do have some serious athletes. Will that be enough to beat UConn? Again, unlikely.

UNC (32-4), UConn (31-4), Michigan State (30-6) and Villanova (30-7) are a combined 123-21.

Pope AIDS virus by discouraging condom use

The Pope recently claimed that condom use exacerbates the spread of the AIDS virus. While medical professionals are making a large hoo-haa about his statement, it appears to be consistent with the Pope’s other beliefs. After all, if you use a condom, you’re not abstaining and therefore are by default at increased risk of contracting HIV.

Rumour has it that President Kgalema ’seat-warmer’ Motlanthe will be naturalising the Pope as an honourary South African and including him as a member of the prestigious International Dumb Things to Say about HIV/AIDS hall of fame. Current members include ex-South African president Thabo Mbeki, Mr Jacob ‘I took a shower’ Zuma and ex-South African health minister Manto ‘rub my nice herbs on your genitals’ Tshabalala-Msimang.

McCain pleased with Obama’s Afghanistan plan

Washington, Mar.30 (ANI): Former Republican presidential candidate and Arizona Senator John McCain has welcomed President Barack Obama’s strategy for Pakistan and Afghanistan.

“I think the outlines of this proposal are good. The best way to get out of Afghanistan fast is people to think we’re staying,” Politico quoted McCain, as saying.

“The main thing I would have done in that speech, I’m sorry to say, is to tell the American people that it’s going to be long and hard and tough. We’ve got to prepare the American people for a significant expenditure of American blood and treasure,” he added. (ANI)

General Motors Appoints Frederick “Fritz” Henderson As CEO

Rick Wagoner’s chair has barely cooled, but General Motors has already named current GM president and Chief Operating Officer Frederick “Fritz” Henderson as its new CEO.

Henderson will take over the helm of the troubled company from March 31 onward, with the 50 year-old GM veteran the first of a number of new executive appointments.

Kent Kresa has also been named interim non-executive Chairman of the Board of Directors, and had this to say about GM’s corporate restructuring:

“The Board has recognised for some time that the Company’s restructuring will likely cause a significant change in the stockholders of the Company and create the need for new directors with additional skills and experience.”

“The Board intends to work to nominate a slate of directors for the next annual meeting that will include a majority of new directors.”

Outgoing CEO Rick Wagoner was also positive about Henderson’s appointment, and expressed his approval in an internal company memo.

“Fritz Henderson is an excellent choice to be the next CEO of GM,” Wagoner said.

“Having worked closely with Fritz for many years, I know that he is the ideal person to lead the company through the completion of our restructuring efforts.

“His knowledge of the global industry and the company are exceptional, and he has the intellect, energy, and support among GM’ers worldwide to succeed.”

“GM is a great company with a storied history. Ignore the doubters because I know it is also a company with a great future.”

A prophetic announcement, or famous last words? Time will tell.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

State drops warnings over ‘militia’ members - (HOMELAND INSECURITY Waging A Propaganda War On Patriots)

God bless Chief James Keathley of the Missouri State Patrol for standing up against the Obot infested MIAC. Rather than focussing on the real threat of (1) Islam Terrorism (2) the conspiracy of tyranny and usurpation holding the Country in its grip “homeland insecurity” organisations like MIAC turn against the Constitution and those brave citizens who uphold it and are willing to go the extra mile.

To all Patriots

‘Had that report been reviewed by my office it would never have been released’
By Bob Unruh

The chief of the Missouri highway patrol is blasting a report issued by the Missouri Information Analysis Center that linked conservative groups to domestic terrorism, assuring that such reports no longer will be issued.

The report warned law enforcement agencies to watch for suspicious individuals who may have bumper stickers for third-party political candidates such as Ron Paul, Bob Barr and Chuck Baldwin.

It further warned law enforcement to watch out for individuals with “radical” ideologies based on Christian views, such as opposing illegal immigration, abortion and federal taxes.

Chief James Keathley of the Missouri State Patrol issued a statement that the release of the report, which outraged conservatives nationwide, prompted him to “take a hard look” at the procedures through which the report was released by the MIAC.

“My review of the procedures used by the MIAC in the three years since its inception indicates that the mechanism in place for oversight of reports needs improvement,” he wrote. “Until two weeks ago, the process for release of reports from the MIAC to law enforcement officers around the state required no review by leaders of the Missouri State Highway Patrol or the Department of Public Safety.”

He said the militia report was “created by a MIAC employee, reviewed by the MIAC director, and sent immediately to law enforcement agencies across Missouri. The militia report was never reviewed by me or by the Director of Public Safety, John Britt, at any point prior to its issuance. Had that report been reviewed by either my office or by leaders of the Department of Public Safety, it would never have been released to law enforcement agencies,” wrote Keathley

The report simply “does not meet” the needed standard for “intelligence,” he said.

“For that reason, I have ordered the MIAC to permanently cease distribution of the militia report. Further, I am creating a new process for oversight of reports drafted by the MIAC that will require leaders of the Missouri State Highway Patrol and the Department of Public Safety to review the content of these reports before they are shared with law enforcement. My office will also undertake a review of the origin of the report by MIAC,” he ordered.

The warning earlier prompted Americans for Legal Immigration to issue a “national advisory” against relying on any such reports.

The Missouri document, it said, “attempted to politicize police and cast suspicion on millions of Americans. The ‘Missouri Documents,’ as they came to be called, listed over 32 characteristics police should watch for as signs or links to domestic terrorists, which could threaten police officers, court officials, and infrastructure targets.

“Police were instructed to look for Americans who were concerned about unemployment, taxes, illegal immigration, gangs, border security, abortion, high costs of living, gun restrictions, FEMA, the IRS, The Federal Reserve, and the North American Union/SPP/North American Community. The ‘Missouri Documents’ also said potential domestic terrorists might like gun shows, short wave radios, combat movies, movies with white male heroes, Tom Clancey Novels, and Presidential Candidates Ron Paul, Bob Barr, and Chuck Baldwin!” ALIPAC wrote.

It said the report cited the Southern Poverty Law Center as a resource.

“When many of us read these Missouri Documents we felt that the false connections, pseudo research, and political attacks found in these documents could have been penned by the SPLC and ADL,” said William Gheen of ALIPAC. “We were shocked to see credible law enforcement agencies disseminating the same kind of over the top political propaganda distributed by these groups.”

"Freedom Tower" No More, It's Now "One World Trade Center"

The name "Freedom Tower" has been dropped for the skyscraper under construction in New York to replace the World Trade Center towers destroyed in the September 11 attacks, but some locals are not happy about it.

Designed amid much fanfare to symbolize the city's revival after the attacks in 2001, the tower, which will be New York's tallest building, has been beset by delays and its developer has struggled to attract tenants, due partly to fears it could be targeted for another attack.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which is building the 1,776-foot (541-meter) skyscraper, has admitted even its own workers do not want to return to the site where nearly 3,000 people were killed.

On Thursday, it announced it planned to refer to the building by its address -- One World Trade Center -- because that was easiest for people to identify with.

"As we market the building, we will ensure that the building is presented in the best possible way," Port Authority Chairman Anthony Coscia told reporters on Thursday.

The plan was savaged by local tabloids. "Free Dumb Tower," was the New York Post's reaction, while the Daily News' front-page headline was: "No More Freedom."

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said on Friday he was disappointed.

"I would like to see it stay the Freedom Tower but it's their building and they don't need me dumping on them," Bloomberg said on his radio show.

"If they could rent the whole thing by changing the name, then they should do that," Bloomberg said, adding the most important part of the rebuilding was a planned memorial.

"We're not going to forget what happened down there and in the end the real thing that will tell the story and memorialize and hopefully give us a lesson that this should never happen again is the World Trade Center Memorial," Bloomberg said.

George Pataki, who was New York's governor at the time of the attacks, told the Daily News the name Freedom Tower was "symbolic of our commitment to rise above the attacks of September 11." He added the addresses 1 and 2 World Trade Center should never be used again since they were the names of the twin towers.

The Port Authority announced on Thursday that after on-again off-gain talks, it signed its first commercial tenant, Vantone Industrial Co Ltd, which rented several floors for a new China Center.

T.I. Sentenced To A Year And A Day In Prison

As expected, T.I. was officially sentenced to a year and a day in prison on Friday (March 27) for federal weapons violations, stemming from a 2007 arrest by ATF agents in Atlanta.

The rapper (real name: Clifford Harris) originally faced up to 20 years in prison, but pleaded guilty last year as part of a plea agreement in which he was perform 1,500 hours of community service and a reduced sentence.

Since then, he's been running around the country speaking to schools and youth groups about anti-crime, some of which was documented for MTV's reality show "T.I.'s Road to Redemption."

T.I. could also see his sentence reduced, by as much as 15%, with good behavior.

According to Reuters, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Georgia David Nahmias, said in a statement that T.I.'s community service exceeded prosecutors' expectations and that "there is still more to come when he gets out of prison."

The rapper is expected to turn himself in to begin serving his sentence sometime before, or on May 19th.

T.I. was arrested in October 2007, just hours before he was slated to appear at the second annual BET Hip-Hop Awards in Atlanta. Federal agents set up a sting, through the rapper's bodyguard, to catch him in the act of trying to purchase machine guns and silencers.

His bodyguard claimed the rapper gave him cash to purchase guns in the past, because T.I., as a convicted felon, was not able to legally possess firearms.

After his arrest, he posted $3 million bail.

Obama readies auto aid; GM bondholders get offer

After briefings with President Barack Obama this week, his auto task force met Friday, "winding down the decisions that have to be made" about the U.S. auto industry, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said.

Obama is to unveil the latest government plan for aiding Detroit on Monday.

Meanwhile, General Motors Corp. continues working toward a resolution with its bondholders, making a new offer to restructure its debt earlier in the week, a person familiar with the talks said Friday.

The proposal came after representatives for the bondholders committee negotiating with GM complained Sunday that the company and Obama's task force had not responded to their offer to meet the requirements of the $13.4-billion government loan keeping the automaker afloat.

GM must try to shed two-thirds of its unsecured debt and get the UAW to accept half of the money owed to it for the retiree health care trust in the form of company stock.

While bondholders have been criticized for resisting those efforts, the debt holders have said they want a fair deal.

CNBC reported Friday that bondholders were offered two choices: One that involved 8 cents on the dollar in cash, 16 cents in new unsecured debt and a 90% stake in GM.

The other option is unclear, CNBC said, but includes a 90% equity stake.

The Detroit automaker is also said to have offered the UAW $10 billion in preferred stock and $10 billion in cash for the retiree health care trust. The union is owed $20 billion in cash.

A GM spokeswoman declined comment beyond saying the company continues talks and no agreement has been reached.

Obama Notre Dame invite stirs Catholic debate

In American Catholicism, it doesn't get much bigger than Notre Dame. So when the university known for its golden dome, "Touchdown Jesus" mural and rigorous academics invited President Barack Obama to speak at its commencement and receive an honorary degree in May, it stoked both pride and anger on campus and nationwide.

By giving a platform to a politician whose record on abortion and stem cell research clashes with core church teachings about human life, the private Catholic school on the plains of northern Indiana renewed an impassioned debate about what it means to be Catholic.

The Notre Dame administration knew it was entering a political minefield. But the intensity of the reaction in the week since Obama accepted demonstrates the depths to which Catholics are divided about how Catholic individuals and institutions should engage politics in a pluralistic society.

Adding to the rancor, the Obama invite comes after an election that frustrated the Catholic right and featured prominent Catholic voices making a case for Obama. Early moves by the Obama White House — such as lifting restrictions on overseas family planning groups that perform abortions and on stem cell research that destroys embryos — have prompted some U.S. bishops to challenge the new administration.

"This has sparked something beyond the usual right-left controversy," said David Gibson, a Catholic author of books on Pope Benedict XVI and the U.S. church. "Whether you're for or against the decision to invite him is morphing into kind of an X-ray of where everybody stands in the Catholic church."

On one hand, Notre Dame's overture to Obama is in keeping with the university's record of seeking newly elected presidents from both political parties as commencement speakers. Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush have spoken to Notre Dame graduates months after taking office.

Yet with Obama the outcry was swift and fierce. Protests were launched by the Pro-Life Action League and the Cardinal Newman Society, a conservative Catholic group that monitors Catholic universities and colleges for adherence to orthodoxy on abortion, especially. Some Catholics think that view is too narrow.

The Notre Dame president, the Rev. John Jenkins, has said Obama will be honored as an "inspiring leader" facing challenges from the economy, two wars, health care, and immigration and health care reform.

Jenkins also singled out Obama, the first African-American president, as a healer of racial wounds. That is of special significance at Notre Dame because retired university president the Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, 91, linked arms with Martin Luther King Jr. and served on the first U.S. Civil Rights Commission.

The Obama invitation, Jenkins has emphasized, does not condone or endorse Obama's positions on stem cells or abortion but the visit is "a basis for further positive engagement."

That argument has been assailed by Catholics for whom abortion is of paramount importance.

"Commencement is not an occasion for debate," said Catholic theologian George Weigel, a Pope John Paul II biographer. "Commencement is not an opportunity to set the foundations for a dialogue. Commencement and the award of an honorary degree is a statement on the part of the university this is a life worth emulating."

Most U.S. bishops have not spoken out on the matter, deferring to Bishop John D'Arcy of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, who is boycotting the ceremony. Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix made public a letter to Jenkins labeling the invitation to Obama "a public act of disobedience" to U.S. bishops.

Five years ago, bishops adopted a statement that declared: "The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions."

By inviting Obama, Notre Dame is thumbing its nose at the Catholic church and "forfeited its right to call itself a Catholic university," Ralph McInerny, a professor of medieval studies and philosophy, wrote on the Web site The Catholic Thing.

R. Scott Appleby, a Notre Dame history professor, said the last thing the university wants to do is thumb its nose at any bishop or the church. He said it's important to note that Obama is not a Catholic, and that most bishops have focused on dissenting views of Catholic politicians.

Past Notre Dame invitations have drawn protests as well, said Douglas Kmiec, a Catholic law professor and former Reagan administration lawyer whose endorsement of Obama last year was controversial. Many on campus viewed Reagan as unsympathetic to the church's social justice mission, he said. When Bush spoke in 2001 about the disintegration of the family, many graduates wore white arm bands to protest the selection.

Kmiec, who taught at Notre Dame for 20 years and supports the invitation to Obama, called it a sign of a mature university and further evidence that religion is now firmly part of the public discourse.

"Religion has been invited into the public square," Kmiec said. "Our voice is being heard. But we now will presume to exclude from the religious venue the public voices that have the duty and responsibility to people of many different faiths and no faith at all? That seems to be an ironic way to return a favor."

Other Catholic campuses have been roiled by controversies over commencement speakers. In 2007, President George W. Bush's commencement address at St. Vincent College, a small Catholic school in Latrobe, Pa., triggered protests over the Iraq war, which was opposed by the Vatican and U.S. bishops.

This year's scheduled commencement speaker — U.S. Sen. Robert Casey, D-Pa. — canceled last week without explanation. Some Catholic conservatives have criticized Casey, who opposes abortion, for his positions on federal funding of contraception and legalization of same-sex marriages.

On the Notre Dame campus, where crucifixes hang in classrooms and more than 80 Masses are said every week, the Obama invitation is generating a range of responses.

"I don't think you have to cut yourself off from everyone who disagrees with you," said Cathleen Kaveny, a Notre Dame professor of law and theology who served on the Obama campaign's Catholic advisory committee.

"President Obama will see a wonderful graduating class of people who are supportive of his agenda of the common good and supportive of affirming the dignity of every human being, but who also want to say to him 'We want to extend that to another class of people — those who are not born.'"

Most students are excited Obama is coming, and some are embarrassed by "the idea that Notre Dame is a radical place and that everyone is up and arms, when it's not," said Gavin Payne, a senior from Seattle.

"Commencement addresses are supposed to be optimistic: 'Go out in to the world and do good,'" said David Wilbur, a senior accounting major from Washington, who opposes abortion but supports the university's invitation to Obama. "He's not coming here to change us or try to make us be pro-choice."

Even among students staunchly opposed to the Obama invitation, there is angst. Greer Hannan, executive editor of the Irish Rover, an independent Catholic student newspaper, thinks the image of an abortion rights supporter dressed in Notre Dame doctoral robes standing next to the university president will not promote dialogue but rather honor positions in conflict with core Catholic teaching.

At the same time, Hannan worried that third-party groups will use the controversy to promote partisan political agendas and do it "in bad taste," using tactics like graphic posters of aborted fetuses.

"Here at Notre Dame we truly have an integrated understanding of respect for life and social justice — respect for life at all stages," said Greer, a senior from nearby Mishawaka, Ind. "Some of these groups call themselves pro-life but in ways that are exclusive to other marginalized groups in our society."