Friday, July 31, 2009

Kanye West Proclaims Self New King of Pop?

Michael Jackson has been dead a whole month. That means it's totally time to anoint someone the new King of Pop, and Kanye West thinks he knows just the guy:

Kanye West.

Okay, not really. But would you be surprised?

This is all a sham, as Scrape TV made up a faux interview in which it quoted West as saying so. And as with some satirical jokes that just hit too close to home, the Onion-esque story was picked up as legit by multiple sources.

Ace Showbiz, Celebuzz, the Superficial and a handful of other news sites all reported Kanye's claims as fact. While that's shoddy reporting, and the joke on them, it shows what an egomaniac Kanye West is that this would be blindly accepted:

Despite what some celeb gossip sites are reporting, Kanye West made no quotes about being the new King of Pop. But he probably did think it.

"You know everyone loves and respects Michael, but times change," the humble star said. "It's sad to see Michael gone, but it makes a path for a new King of Pop."

"I'm willing to take that on. There's nobody who can match me in sales and in respect, so it only makes sense for me to take the crown and become the new King."

"First there was Elvis, then Michael, now in the 21st century it's Kanye's time to rule. I have nothing but respect for Michael, but someone needs to pick up where he left off, and there's nobody better than me to do that. I am the new King of Pop."

Unfortunately, these quotes are all made up. Reports of him hooking up with Kim Kardashian and sparking her breakup with Reggie Bush? Less clear.

The world’s fisheries may be seriously depleted, but a comprehensive new study shows that all is not lost–and suggests that when humans really put the

The Union Leader reports:

For the fourth time in the last five years, New Hampshire is ranked as the best place in the country to raise children in a national survey released Tuesday.

The Kids Count report card ranks states in 10 categories such as low-birth weight, children in single-parent households, high school dropouts, teen pregnancy and infant mortality. The information is based on 2007 U.S. census data.

New Hampshire ranks first in two of the 10 categories -- teen birth rate and percent of children in poverty -- and is in the top five in eight of the categories. New Hampshire lags in infant mortality rate, ranking 17th, and low-birth weight babies, ranking eighth.

Done by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, survey officials acknowledge the latest report cards do not reflect the current economic environment which would likely include more children being raised in poverty, the best indicator of children's well being.

The Global Collapse of Fisheries Can Be Averted, Researchers Say

The world’s fisheries may be seriously depleted, but a comprehensive new study shows that all is not lost–and suggests that when humans really put the effort into turning the tide, fish stocks can be returned to good health. The researchers found that efforts introduced to halt overfishing in five of the 10 large marine ecosystems they examined were showing signs of success. A combination of measures - such as catch quotas, no-take zones, and selective fishing gear - had helped fish stocks recover [BBC News].

The new study sprang from another report from marine ecologist Boris Worm in 2006, in which he made an alarming prediction: if current trends continue, by 2048 overfishing will have destroyed most commercially important populations of saltwater fish. Ecologists applauded the work. But among fisheries management scientists, reactions ranged from skepticism to fury over what many called an alarmist report [The New York Times]. Eventually the two groups agreed to collaborate on a study that would bring both their perspectives to the table, and which would determine the best ways to revive and manage the ocean’s fish stocks.

The resulting study identified five rebounding ecosystems: around Iceland, Newfoundland–Labrador, the northeast United States, Southeast Australia, and the California Current, explains fishery management scientist Ray Hilborn. “The biggest surprise was how much progress had been made in the regions viewed as the ‘bad boys’ of fisheries,” says Hilborn. “This shows that we have the tools to manage fisheries, and they work quite well” [Nature News]. However, the scientists note that the ecosystems that are improving are in developed regions with active management and strong enforcement, and say that the situation is more dire in less developed areas.

But the report, published in Science, was certainly not all good news. In addition to looking closely at 10 ecosystems, the researchers also conducted a broad survey of the world’s stocks and found that almost two-thirds of all fisheries are being fished at unsustainable levels. Says marine biologist Daniel Pauly: “The findings demonstrate that the gap between what we could do and what we actually do is enormous in most of the world…. Here are some fisheries that work. Why aren’t they all like that?”

Microsoft announces pricing for Windows 7 family pack, upgrading

Micosoft's announced some Windows 7 pricing today, starting with a "family pack" option, which will allow users to upgrade three PCs to the Home Premium edition of the operating system for $149. The upgrade from XP or Vista to Home Premium for individual users, as previously announced, is $119. The company's also announced the Microsoft Anytime Upgrade option, which will allow users to move from one version of Windows 7 to another for a discounted price. Moving from Windows 7 Starter to Home Premium will run you $79.99, while the move from Home Premium to Professional will set you back $89.99. Finally, the move from Windows 7 Professional to Ultimate will cost $139.99, and Microsoft says that the upgrades can be done in about 10 minutes. The company did not, however, specify what the move from Windows 7 Ultimate to Windows 7 Uber-Super Awesome would run, but we'll keep an eye out for you, and let you know when we do.

GDP Report Second Quarter 2009: A Depression By Traditional Definitions

The latest GDP report from the U.S. Commerce Department shows that the economy shrank at an annualized rate of 1% from April to June of this year. That means the economy shrank in the last four quarters, and five of the last six quarters.

Traditionally, economists define a depression as four quarters of decline in gross domestic product. These days, there is no generally agreed upon definition of a depression, other than that it is a really long recession. The National Bureau of Economic Research declared this recession began in late 2007. By this winter, we’ll have had at least a two-year recession already.

Even if things stop declining in the next few months, it’s unlikely the NBER will declare the recession over until we see some extended period of growth, which even optimistic economists say will not happen for a long time, as reported here.

The Obama administration will be very wary of using the term Depression. The failure of the economy to improve thus far despite a record stimulus package has hurt him politically. However, he’s managed to skirt most of the blame for the bad economic news, by pointing to his predecessor George W. Bush.

Obama may be in big trouble however in the coming months. As pointed out in the Wall Street Journal, there are some fundamental weaknesseses that will haunt this economy for years. Jobs won’t come back until at least late 2010, even by the most optimistic forecasts. Unemployment will hit 10% very soon. Consumer spending will continue to remain flat, meaning the economy may not shrink, but it will not grow at a rapid pace for quite a while.

In other words, while we may be officially out of a recession/depression by the end of 2009, the average American will not feel any of the benefits until much later.

The last President during a jobless recovery was a guy by the name of George H.W. Bush. We all know what happened to his Presidency. No second term.

Only 42 Percent of Republicans Say the President Was Born in America

Ben Smith has the results of a disturbing Research 2000 poll that asks Americans whether they “believe that Barack Obama was born in the United States of America or not.” Independents (83 percent) and Democrats (93 percent) say he is. Republicans are more divided: Forty-two percent say yes, twenty-eight percent say no, and thirty percent aren’t sure.

A 2007 Rasmussen poll about the 9/11 attacks, which found 35 percent of Democrats said Bush might have known about the attacks in advance, became a frequently used bludgeon against the party and its voters. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the same thing happen here.

Judge Guilty In Bribery Scheme

A respected Mississippi judge, who as a prosecutor earned acclaim for the conviction of a white supremacist in a civil rights-era murder, has pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice and is headed to prison.

The popular Hinds County circuit judge, Robert DeLaughter, was indicted earlier this year with five felonies—including bribery and conspiracy—but the plea deal drops the four more serious charges and avoids a messy and embarrassing trial. Prosecutors say that the disgraced judge exchanged favorable rulings for consideration to the federal bench.

A millionaire attorney (Richard Scruggs) in prison for bribing two judges, influenced DeLaughter by promising to help him get the federal appointment through his brother-in-law who at the time was Republican U.S. Senator (Trent Lott). DeLaughter presided over a multi million-dollar asbestos fee dispute between Scruggs and his former business partner when he was bribed and his ruling saved Scruggs $15 million.

The corrupt judge repeatedly lied to FBI investigators about his role in the bribery scheme and confidently demanded the charges against him be dropped because he never received anything of value but rather a “meaningless courtesy call” from the lawmaker who tried to influence him.

In a motion to dismiss the charges, DeLaughter claimed the senator’s phone call did not meet the criteria of a bribe because it was nothing of value. Lott, who abruptly resigned in 2007, has acknowledged calling DeLaughter and telling him that his attorney brother-in-law (Scruggs) had told him what a “fine judge” he was. As a U.S. Senator one of Lott’s duties was to recommend nominees for federal judgeships and DeLaughter had already thrown his name into the pool.

The plea agreement essentially ends the career of a highly regarded jurist who earned worldwide accolades in the 1990s for prosecuting the man who killed Mississippi civil rights leader Medgar Evers in 1963. The trial was the subject of a Hollywood movie (“Ghosts of Mississippi”) in which an award-winning actor starred as DeLaughter.

Miami Herald: Vick Works Out For Patriots Today

It should be noted also that other reliable sources say it’s not true. During a week when New England is rolling out their new mechanical Tom Brady at the beginning of training camp, and with the region still reeling from the Manny/David Ortiz doping news, this comes as another shock to the system. And at least one Patriot fan is not happy about it (see above).

Darlington quotes “a reliable NFL source” on the Vick sighting, which comes on a day in which rumors began flying that Vick was sighted at Logan International.

What is known for certain is that the Patriots so far are the NFL team that has seemed the most receptive to bringing on Vick. Bill Belichick said he “wouldn’t rule out” a deal, and Rodney Harrison is on record saying that Vick would be a good fit for the team. And PRO FOOTBALL TALK said earlier today that they’ve been getting several tips that Vick is in Boston. But one blog, BARSTOOL SPORTS, goes a step further.

He is 100% meeting with the Pats right now. That’s not a guess. That’s a fact.

But in an update, an indication on how BARSTOOL perhaps cannot be trusted:

(Poor choice of words by me. He 100% landed at Logan. I made the mental leap that therefore he is 100% meeting with the Pats. Maybe he’s just hanging at the Vineyard, but I doubt it. In any event I’m turning into John Tomase over here.)

All of this comes a day after Vick said he was “getting closer” to finding an NFL team (John Clayton disagrees with this).

As a reader points out, Vick was in court in Virginia on Thursday, and presumably today, for a hearing on his bankruptcy case. But that makes for a relatively short flight to Boston.

The most humorous take on this whole situation so far, however, as been from FOX SPORTS football writer John Czarnecki. I can only surmise he was serious when he wrote on Thursday that Vick would be unlikely to sign with the Patriots because: “I visited Boston last month and, boy, do they love their dog parks. That might not make for the best environment for Vick.”

Anyway, Brady is back, and he’s always good for a few laughs. When asked on Thursday if wife Gisele Bundchen is indeed pregnant, he refused to confirm it, invoking of all people David Ortiz.

“I heard Big Papi say, ’I don’t have all the information,”’ Brady said. “I don’t have all the facts and it hasn’t been researched enough.”

Red Sox Acquire Victor Martinez

1:38pm: Done deal, says Yahoo's Gordon Edes. MLB Network's Tom Verducci says pitcher Bryan Price is the third hurler going to Cleveland in the trade.

1:35pm:'s Jonathan Mayo says (via Twitter) pitchers Nick Hagadone and Justin Masterson are in the deal (ESPN's Peter Gammons agrees). Gut reaction: nice haul. Mayo also says the two clubs are looking at additional names to add for Cleveland.

1:27pm: FOX now says Clay Buchholz and Daniel Bard are not in this deal.

12:55pm: USA Today's Bob Nightengale via Twitter: the Red Sox are about to acquire first baseman/catcher Victor Martinez from the Indians. Ed Price of AOL Fanhouse, trying to confirm, says it "looks good." FOX Sports agrees, and notes a lack of a third team involved. They also believe this kills the Adrian Gonzalez talks.

Eminem fires back at Mariah Carey

In response to Nick Cannon's open letter and Mariah Carey's latest video, Eminem has released his latest song "The Warning," and it's pretty much everything you'd expect from Eminem. Via PopCrunch:

"Yeah, what you gonna say? I'm lucky? Tell the public that I was so ugly that you had to be drunk to me?
Second base? What the fuck you tell Nick, punk?
In the second week we was dry humping. It's gotta count for something.
Listen, girly. Surely you don't want me to talk about how I nutted early cos ejaculated early and bus all over your belly, and you almost started hurling and said I was gross, go get a towel you're stomachs curling. Or maybe you do.
But if I'm embarrassing me, I'm embarrassing you and don't you dare say it isn't true.
As long as the song's getting airplay I'm dissing you.

You know what would be awesome about this song? If it were 2001 and more than five people know who the hell Nick Cannon is. That said, Eminem's willingness to embarrass himself doesn't exactly make everything he says true. For example, just because I'm willing to admit I only have a two foot long penis that doesn't mean I can honestly claim to be Spider-man. -- Or does it?

Dodd Has Prostate Cancer

Sen. Chris Dodd has been diagnosed with early stage prostate cancer, according to the Hartford Courant.

“It’s something that’s very common among men my age,” said Dodd, who is 65 and the father of two young daughters. “In fact, one in six men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point during their life.” Dodd, a Democrat who is up for re-election in November 2010, said he feels fine. “As you have probably noticed, I’m working some long and hard hours lately,” he said. “And that will continue.”

Though noted that it was caught early, there aren’t many further details about his condition. The Senator will hold a press conference this afternoon at 2pm.

Python patrol bags biggest beast yet -- a 17-footer

As if Florida's python problem couldn't get any bigger, one of the largest snakes found yet in the wild was killed Thursday north of Lake Okeechobee.

The constrictor, found and destroyed on the grounds of Okeechobee Veterinary Hospital, stretched 17 feet, 2 inches and weighed in at a staggering 207 pounds. That's four pounds more than the Miami Dolphins' brawny No. 1 draft pick, Vontae Davis. It measured 26 inches in diameter.

``The capture of this large python shows us how well these snakes can thrive in the wild and create a dangerous situation after illegal release or escape,'' Rodney Barreto, chairman of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said in a press release. ``It also illustrates why the FWC is partnering with other agencies to implement python control measures in South Florida.''

On July 17, the FWC began an experimental permit program that allows reptile experts to capture and euthanize Burmese pythons on state-managed lands around the Everglades. So far, the effort has bagged five pythons and the agency intends to add to the seven existing snake hunters in coming weeks.

The program will end on Oct. 31, and the agency will evaluate data before deciding whether to continue or expand it.

Wildlife officers scanned the python but did not find a microchip, which is required for Burmese pythons kept as pets.

Woman Guilty of Killing 4 Daughters

WASHINGTON — A judge found a District of Columbia woman guilty Wednesday of killing her four daughters and living with their mummified bodies for months in a case that brought scrutiny to the city's child welfare system.

APBanita Jacks, 34, was convicted of four counts of felony murder, three counts of premeditated first-degree murder and four counts of first-degree child cruelty. She was acquitted of one count of premeditated first-degree murder in the death of her oldest daughter.

D.C. Superior Court Judge Frederick H. Weisberg decided the case himself after Jacks waived her right to a jury trial. Bench trials are rare in murder cases, said Benjamin Friedman, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Washington.

Before reading the verdict, Weisberg said the case was one of his most challenging in three decades as a judge.

"It was a very lonely assignment," he said. At the end of the hearing, he buried his face in his hands.

Jacks faces life in prison when she is sentenced Oct. 16.

U.S. Marshal deputies discovered the girls' decomposing bodies in January 2008 while carrying out an eviction at their mother's southeast Washington row house. The girls are believed to have been ages 5 to 16.

Jacks, who walked into the courtroom with a cane, looked at Weisberg as he read the verdict and at times shook her head, but did not show any visible emotion.

In a lengthy interview with police, she said her daughters were possessed by demons and inexplicably died one by one in their sleep. She believed they would be resurrected.

Weisberg said the extreme decomposition of the bodies provided strong evidence of Jacks' guilt but also made it difficult for experts to determine how the girls died. Experts confirmed Brittany was stabbed, but there was not enough evidence to prove who did it and if that was what killed her. That's why Jacks was acquitted on one of the premeditated first-degree murder charges.

But Weisberg said it was clear she contributed to Brittany's death by mistreating her. That's why he kept the felony murder charge, which indicated that Jacks caused her daughter's death while committing a felony, in this case child cruelty.

"I can only imagine the torture and torment Ms. Jacks inflicted on her ... must have really done damage to her psyche," he said.

Weisberg said evidence showed the other three girls were strangled. He said Jacks also starved them and denied them basic necessities.

It was unclear why Jacks killed the girls, but evidence indicated she was extremely depressed. Nathaniel Fogle, her boyfriend and father of the two youngest girls, died from cancer in February 2007. Following his death, Weisberg said Jacks lost her last emotional and financial support and became frustrated with her daughters' behavior.

It appeared that taking care of them placed "a huge burden on an increasingly stressed-out mother," Weisberg said.

Prosecutors said they were pleased with the verdict but noted it would not bring back the girls.

"There's no joy coming out of this courthouse," prosecutor Deborah Sines told reporters.

Peter Krauthamer, one of three public defenders representing Jacks, said they will appeal.

"It's not where we wanted to be," Krauthamer said.

The case prompted the city to review hundreds of child welfare cases and make changes to the agency.

Six social workers were fired last year for not adequately responding to a report of abuse at the home months before the children were found.

A school social worker raised concerns about the family in early 2007 after she visited and thought Jacks was holding the girls hostage. But an investigation was closed because child welfare officials thought the family had moved to Maryland.

Earlier this month, city officials unveiled legislation named for the girls that aims to improve how health and human services agencies share information with one another and coordinate services.

Joe Jackson Says That Omer Bhatti Is Michael Jackson's Son

The one and only Joseph Walter "Joe" Jackson is continuing to stay in the spotlight – a month after his son Michael Jackson died of cardiac arrest. The 80-year-old Fountain Hill, Arkansas native – famously known for giving birth and then managing the Jackson 5, and then overseeing aspects of his children's careers as adults – sat down with Interactive One's Chief Content Officer Smokey Fontaine this week for an intimate interview that has caused a stir in the mainstream media.

Regarding speculation that the "King of Pop's" young protege might actually be his child, Mr. Jackson spoke publicly about the rumors confirming that he did, indeed, have a secret son: 25-year-old Norwegian dancer Omer Bhatti.

"Yes, I knew he had another son," Jackson told Fontaine.

Bhatti was seen in the front row of Jackson's glitzy memorial on July 7.

"He looks like a Jackson, he acts like a Jackson, he can dance like a Jackson... this boy's a fantastic dancer," Joe Jackson said.

E. Lynn Harris: Cause of Death Revealed

The official cause of death for best-selling author E. Lynn Harris has been revealed.

According to Associated Press, a coroner's official said heart disease, complicated by high blood pressure and a hardening of the arteries, is what killed Harris.

Yesterday, county coroner Craig Harvey said that the 54-year-old died of natural causes.

The Flint, Michigan native died July 23 while visiting Los Angeles to promote his latest book. The next morning, a Doubleday/Random House executive confirmed the death to BV Newswire.

Harris, who lived in Atlanta, was considered a pioneer of gay black fiction and renowned as one of the most successful black authors of his generation.

He wrote 11 books – including 'Invisible Life,' 'This Too Shall Pass,' and 'Basketball Jones' -- since 1991 – including ten of which became New York Times best-sellers.

The former IBM executive, who had a new book planned for release later this year, had more than four million of his books are in print.

According to Harris' good friend and literary colleague Eric Jerome Dickey, a funeral will be held on Aug. 1 at Gaines Street Baptist Church in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Dr Boyce: How Companies Make Money off Prisoners

Dr. Byron Price is a black scholar with a mission. His book, 'Merchandizing Prisoners' opens the door for a discussion on how the African American community is being financially pillaged by the prison industry. You may not know this, but private corporations earn money from inmate incarceration and have a direct financial incentive to house more. This is a problem, since unfocused profit maximization does not leave much room for prisoner rehabilitation. Dr. Price is one of the leading scholars in America, and he has taken it upon himself to help solve this problem.

1) What is your name and what do you do for a living?

Byron E. Price, associate professor, political science department, and interim director, Barbara Jordan Institute for Policy Research

2) Tell us about your book? What does it teach us?

According to National Union of Public and General Employees, "This book examines the steady growth of private, for-profit prison firms and the correctional-commercial complex that has developed tangentially with the private prison industry." It also details the strange bedfellows that have been brought together to expand this industry.

I underscore how these for-profit private prison companies have gone public and are trading on the stock exchanges and the inimical impact of prisons being publicly traded. The book debunks many of the claims as to why states seek prison privatization and demonstrates that incarceration is the new form of slavery. ...This work sets the record straight about the decision to privatize state prisons, revealing the political bias that often drives these policy choices.

3) Why do so many black men end up in prison?

The collateral consequences of a felony conviction makes it impossible for African American males to reintegrate into society. A felony conviction for drugs makes one ineligible for financial aid, living in public housing, receiving welfare benefits, obtaining a vocational licenses, such as a barber's license. Social-control strategies are employed to maintain the status quo. Over-policing of the African American community and the criminalization of black males all lead to the disproportionate incarceration of black males. Black males are more likely to be expelled from school, tracked, labeled, placed in special education, be punished for adolescent behavior and criminalized for adolescent behavior. Thus, there is an expectation that black males will end up in prisons, and these expectations are internalized by many black youth. It ends up as a self-fulfilling prophecy.

4) Is there money being made by incarcerating prison inmates? If so, how is it being made and who is earning it?

Corporations such as Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the Geo Group (formerly Wakenhut), Avalon Correctional Services, Cornell Companies and Industry Property Management. CCA has a $2 billion market cap, followed by the Geo Group with a $922 million market cap. The money is made by contracting out the inmates' labor to Fortune 500 companies and, in some cases, they compete for public works contracts. CCA and the others are making money, and their stock trades on the stock exchange. Telecommunications industries pay prisons to put pay phones in prisons. Pay phones in prisons make $15,000 a day. Transportation companies and all sorts of cottage industries develop around the prison industry. UNICOR, or Federal Prison Industries, created by Congress, was one of the first prison industries established to exploit inmate labor. States also pay a per diem per inmate to private prison corporations.

5) Are the prisons being cooperative in reducing the abuse and sexual assault of prison inmates?

Prison rape is encouraged by guards as a form of punishment. They are not very cooperative when it comes to ameliorating prison rape. The increasing HIV infection rate of heterosexual black females can be directly traced to the prison population. It has also placed black women at a disadvantage, because it has reduced the number of marriageable black men and has undermined black women's ability to negotiate better mates. Many end up with men from prison and end up getting infected by these men.

6) Are there any efforts that have been successful at confronting the strange financial incentives of the prison system?

Not at the level they need to be. We should lead a divestiture campaign of private prisons, and we should campaign to abolish private prisons.

7) What do you think are the solutions to the problems cited in your book?

Our community should launch a campaign to get rid of the laws in place that continue to punish black males long after that have paid their debt to society. For example, the inability to get financial aid. We should ban the question on employment applications that ask, "Have you been convicted of a felony?" We should take control of our children's education -- we need to get our children around people who love them. Abolish gangster rap and reduce the influence of hip-hop because it fosters a thug culture and cultivates misogyny and thuggery. Black men should play a more active role in their children's lives. We should also create employment opportunities for our community.

This interview was conducted by Dr. Boyce Watkins, finance professor at Syracuse University. To have Dr. Boyce's commentary delivered directly to your e-mail, please click here.

Cats, Dogs and Kids: The Perfect Formula for Good Press

By Richard A. Lee

The lighter moments that took place during the McGreevey Administration were few and far between. On any given day, those of us in the press office would find ourselves answering questions about the likes of Roger Chugh, Amiri Baraka, Golan Cipel and whoever else managed to find his or her way into the 24-hour news cycle.

One of those rare light moments took place in July 2002 when the Governor was scheduled to sign an Executive Order establishing a task force to determine if changes were needed in the state’s animal cruelty laws. The Governor’s outer office was filled with cats and dogs for the ceremony, which was to be followed by a photo op with a group of students who were visiting the U.S. from Ireland.

As was the routine, I popped my head into the Governor’s office about ten minutes before the first event to make sure he had all the materials he needed. Normally, there was a whirlwind of activity underway inside the office – meetings, phone calls, last-minute changes to the press materials. But on this day I found the Governor sitting as his desk rather relaxed while he engaged in small talk with an aide. When I asked if there was anything he needed, he reminded me that when one is doing press events with cats, dogs and children, there is not too much to worry about. It is about as close as of a guarantee you will ever get that press coverage will be positive.

This episode comes to mind because there have been few, if any, light moments in New Jersey this summer. The gubernatorial campaigns already are in high gear, with charges and counter-charges taking place on an almost daily basis. Over 40 individuals, among them elected officials, members of the clergy and other community leaders, have been arrested in a massive corruption bust. A state cabinet member has resigned, and one of those arrested has died under circumstances that still are under investigation.

Indeed, these are serious matters and they should be dealt with with the seriousness they deserve. But sometimes in the high stakes world of government and politics, it becomes too easy to overlook the human factor. There is something magical about a child’s smile, the wag of a dog’s tale, or the purr of a kitten that remind us of the good things in life and help put things into perspective. The images we saw earlier this year of President Obama and the First Family having fun with their new dog underscored that message. It was a break from the cut-throat world of Washington politics – a place which reportedly led Harry Truman to advise: “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.”

There is some uncertainty over whether Truman ever actually uttered those words, but the advice is sound, and dogs and other pets have long been a part of presidential families. Although earlier presidents had had pets, Warren Harding was the first chief executive to bring the First Family’s dog, an Airedale terrier named Laddie Boy, into the national spotlight. And Laddie Boy had a positive impact on the President’s image with the American public. “In public, he was a celebrity dog who enhanced the First Family’s image as a kind and nurturing unit, sharing the spotlight and burdens of performance that came with the White House,” Helena Pycior, wrote in The Making of the “First Dog”: President Warren G. Harding and Laddie Boy.

New Jersey may have played a peripheral role in Harding’s decision to get a dog – a decision that started a long tradition of presidential pets.

According to a 1921 New York Times story, the topic came up while Harding was riding to his inauguration with the outgoing president – Woodrow Wilson, who had been governor of the Garden State. The newspaper reported: “After Mr. Wilson had entered the automobile Mr. Harding tried to start conversation as they rode down Pennsylvania Avenue, but found it very difficult and was somewhat embarrassed by the lapses of silence. Finally he said: ‘You know, Mr. Wilson, I am very fond of pets, and I want to get a White House pet.’” With that, the silence was broken. Wilson asked what type of pet Harding was considering and they continued their conversation on the topic on the ride to the inauguration.

Since Laddie Boy, presidential pets have become a White House staple. Before the Obamas brought their Portuguese Water Dog Bo to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, George W. Bush had a Scottish Terrier named Barney and an English Springer Spaniel named Spotty , and the Clinton’s made a home for Chelsea’s cat Socks. The list goes on and on – and not by accident. As Lisa Yudin explained in a journal article titled Canine Citizenship and the Intimate Public Sphere, the general populace often has difficulty identifying with the powerful individuals who inhabit the White House, but not so with their pets, which are no different than their own cats and dogs. Using George W. Bush’s family as an example, Yudin wrote: “While it may be difficult for many Americans to easily identify with other members of the First Family – father George, mother Laura, and twin sisters Jenna and Barbara – making a connection with their fun-loving dogs seems to be less of a stretch.”

Here in New Jersey, the pets of governors and other top state officials generally have kept a low profile. The lone exception I recall was Wacky, a golden retriever who belonged to John Russo when he was State Senate President and occasionally accompanied him to work at the State House complex.

But as one might expect in New Jersey, even Wacky could not keep out of controversy. One day while Russo was tied up in a meeting, he asked a Senate aide to walk the dog, leading to a news report in The Record questioning whether such duties were within the aide’s responsibilities as a state employee.

It may very well have been a legitimate question, but in this case, I think man’s best friend deserved a better fate – even here in New Jersey.

(Dedicated to my dog BJ who passed away at the age of 17 on July 23)

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Holocaust Museum Shooter Indicted

Washington, D.C. (AHN) - The 89-year old white supremacist suspected of killing a security guard at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum last month was indicted on Wednesday on seven counts, including hate crimes violations.

A federal grand jury in the District of Columbia charged James Wenneker Von Brunn with the murder of Stephen Tyrone Johns, an African-American who had served as a special police officer at the museum for six years when he was fatally shot on June 10. The indictment also charges Von Brunn with federal civil rights and hate crimes violations, and offenses under the District’s murder, firearms and hate-crimes statutes.

Prosecutors say Von Brunn had acted alone but has connections to the white supremacist movement and maintained “a website that espoused hatred against various groups and government entities.”

Von Brunn’s indictment had been postponed because he was in a D.C. hospital recuperating from gunshot wounds received during the incident. He faces up to life in prison if convicted. Four of the seven charges in the indictment may result in the death penalty.

The shooting came on the heels of a visit to Buchenwald by President Barack Obama with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Nobel laureate and Auschwitz and Buchenwald survivor Elie Wiesel. It had prompted lawmakers on Capitol Hill to pass a House resolution condemning the attack and honoring the courage and dedication of employees of the museum.

The Day the President Turned Black

By Greg Palast
He's in hot water now. For a moment, on national television, the President of the United States turned black!

Last week, when his buddy "Skip" Gates got busted for being Black in Boston, Barack Obama forgot his official role: to soothe America's conscience with the happy fairy tale that his election marked the end of racism in the USA.

Instead, Obama, the excruciatingly middle-of-the-road President, was seized by Barack the militant State Senator from the South Side of Chicago, who reminded us that cops bust Black guys for no goddamn good reason all the goddamn time.

I'm reminded that it was not so long ago that we watched the vicious gang-beating by Los Angeles cops of a defenseless, handcuffed, Rodney King, an African-American. King's beating was unusual only in that it was caught on videotape.

Yeah, I know: we've come a hell of a long way. Obama won, Jessie cried, Beyoncé has her own line of perfume and Tiger Woods plays where 30 years ago he couldn't eat lunch.

Good on them.

But what about Robert Pratt, Mr. President?

Pratt, a United Auto Workers member, has five kids and a mortgage payment of $1,100 a month on a house in Detroit worth no more than $40,000. The payment's astronomical because he pays 11% on his mortgage balance, double the national average interest rate. Now, on those crazy terms, he's sure to lose his house.

How did that happen? Pratt, whose story we've been tracking, was "steered" into a sub-prime loan by Countrywide Financial. "Steering" is the polite term for forcing folk into crappy loan terms. And not just any folk: Black folk, like Pratt. Over 60% of African-American mortgage applicants were (and ARE) steered into "sub-prime" predatory loans.

According to exhaustive studies by the Federal Reserve Board and the Center for Responsible Lending (CRL), African Americans are 250% more likely to get a loan with an "exploding interest" clause than white borrowers - and notably, the higher the income and the better the credit rating of a Black borrower, the more likely the discrimination.

As an economist, I can tell you it's not a stretch to say that Obama's failure to deal with endemic racism in the finance system is killing off hope of the nation's economic recovery. The "exploding rate" attack centered on Black and Hispanic communities has, according to the CLR, caused 40.2 million homes to lose value due to their proximity to foreclosed properties.

Yet, not a peep from the Obama Administration about ending this Ku Klux lending practice which has laid waste Black neighborhoods and taken a hunk of White America's housing values with it.

Instead, Obama's Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel is the honored guest of the Board of Directors of JP Morgan, owner of one of the most outrageous of the financial predators, Washington Mutual. Morgan/WaMu, with its racially-poisoned mortgage trickery, makes the Cambridge Police Department look like the NAACP.

(Indeed, Emanuel's host JP Morgan was sued last week by the NAACP for "systematic, institutionalized racism in making home mortgage loans.")

The cold truth is, financial attacks on the Black community continue as freely under Obama as under Bush, despite Obama's power to halt it instantly by banning loan-sharking as a condition of continued bail-outs for these banks. Obama has directed the FDIC to guarantee JP Morgan loans, saving the bank $3.1 billion this year. Obama has directed the FDIC to guarantee Mr. Pratt, uh, "hope."

And what about Thomas Johnson, Mr. President?

Johnson's a minister in Florida who lost his vote in 2000, alongside at least 94,000 others falsely accused of being felons without the right to vote. Most of the innocents accused and abused were Black, the minister included. I know, because I saw those state records with the carefully recorded "BLA" next to the voters' names.

I had an editor on the story, won't say his name because he was so typical, who asked me why Johnson, an African-American, didn't pound the table and DEMAND his ballot. Johnson's no Harvard professor in Boston with the President's phone number on his speed dial.

My extremely white editor, a Yale graduate, sitting in San Francisco, could not imagine what would happen if a dark-skinned Rev. Johnson had started making a scene in Alachua County, in the Deep Deep South. The Reverend was smart not to pull a "Skippy Gates" and lip-off at authority: just a couple months ago, Alachua cops 'Tased' an angry, but unarmed, Black man, then shot him dead with seven bullets.

Johnson's vote loss, you might say, was "so 2000." This is post-racial 2009. Bullshit. In last year's election, Florida went right back into the racially biased block-and-purge of Black voters, barring thousands from the ballot through new ID laws that would have made Jim Crow segregationists of the Fifties proud. (See the investigative report, "Block the Vote," by myself and Bobby Kennedy, from the October 2008 Rolling Stone).

Yet, the Obama Administration appears quite squeamish about taking down the nouvelle ballot-box Bull Connors.


What I'm saying is that the venom of structural racism in America continues to sicken us all, in our economy, in our voting stations, in our schools (don't get me started), our health care system, our ... well, you name it.

Yes, I joined the Hope Parade and voted for Obama, expecting just this one change: a direct attack on the remaining areas of official sanction of racist policies and practices. I'm still waiting.
It was quite inspiring, last Thursday, to the see a Black man appear, if momentarily, behind the Presidential seal. Unfortunately, Obama's swift demand for equal justice under the law was provoked only when the whip came down on someone, like himself, whose professional and class status had, they presumed, made them exempt from the daily insults and assaults visited on their less privileged brothers.

So much was made of Gates' Harvard post that the issue seemed to be It's not right to cuff a dark-skinned man who's a HARVARD PROFESSOR." The race-neutral rules of class privilege had been violated.

What's missing in America - and in the Oval Office – is any hint of outrage at the endemic, systemic cruelties visited on Black Americans, like Pratt and Johnson, who lack a key to the Harvard Alumni Club.

Boston Police Officer Suspended For Sending E-mail Calling Professor Gates A "Jungle Monkey"

By Logan Murphy

As the story of the arrest of Professor Henry Gates has unfolded, this was bound to happen. Apparently, the Boston Police Department now has their own Mark Fuhrman:

A Boston police officer allegedly sent a mass e-mail using a disgraceful racial slur in referring to Harvard University professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., prompting the commissioner to move immediately to fire the cop, the Herald has learned.

Officer Justin Barrett, 36, a two-year veteran assigned to District B-3, was placed on administrative leave pending a termination hearing yesterday afternoon. When a supervisor confronted Barrett about the e-mail - in which he called Gates a “jungle monkey” - he admitted to being the author, according to officials.

Police Commissioner Edward Davis immediately stripped the cop of his gun and badge, according to officials. Barrett, who could not immediately be reached, has no prior disciplinary history. Read on...

I've tried to understand the minds of scum like this, but it only ends in excruciating pain -- every time. With all the racist hate being spewed on right wing radio and television, it's no wonder guys like Barrett are worked up to the point where they can no longer control their hatred. I guess this would be another one of those "teachable moments?"

Tanning Before 30 Triples Skin Cancer Risk

Tanned golden skin is seen as beautiful and healthy, so many fair-skinned ladies and gents use indoor tanning beds to get a quick sun-kissed glow. We've all heard that UV exposure from this fake sun can lead to skin cancer, but now new research has identified tanning as even more dangerous than first thought. International cancer experts have moved tanning beds and other sources of ultraviolet radiation into the top cancer risk category, saying they are as deadly as arsenic and mustard gas. They add that anyone who's started toasting at the electric beach before the age of 30 has increased their risk for skin cancer by 75 percent. Tanning bed users are also at risk for eye cancer.

Previously, skin cancer rates were highest in people over 75, but now doctors are seeing more and more cases in women in their 20s. It's not just tanning beds you have to worry about, it's UV radiation from the sun too. So if you want a tan, go for bronzers, sunless self-tanning lotion, or spray tans. They'll give you the glow without the risk. If you do enjoy being out in the Summer sun, just protect yourself with sunscreen.

Mel Gibson Attacked Fan or Photog

Mel Gibson attacked fan or reporter for taking his pictures. Mel was in the partying mood last night when he attended the grand opening party for the new hotspot in town, Playhouse with his girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva. Things turned sour when Mel got upset and attacked a fan for snapping photos of him and his pregnant girlfriend.

photos of Mel and his girlfriend; also a photo of the guy with the ripped shirt below..

As reports by Hollyscoop: Gibson and his pregnant girlfriend arrived with a large group of people and settled into their VIP area. One club-goer tells Hollyscoop that “Mel looked so happy and in love” at the club.

However, things turned sour when a Life & Style reporter posing as a fan tried to snap a picture of Gibson and his girlfriend. His security team immediately took the camera and deleted the pictures. The pushy reporter did not stop there as she sent her friend to take another picture. That’s when Mel stepped in and attacked the clubgoer because he was fed up with everyone trying to take his pictures.

“Mel approached the guy who tried to take his picture and ripped his shirt.” says a source.

Apparently the guy that was attacked by Mel Gibson is on his way to the police station to file a report against him.

Mel and his girlfriend left the club shortly after the incident.

Part of the package of being famous is that you really don’t have much privacy. Is it worth it? Heck yes if you asked me!

Strikeforce News: Renato “Babalu” Sobral vs Gegard Mousasi On Aug. 15

The highly-anticipated showdown between Renato “Babalu” Sobral (35-8) and Gegard Mousasi (25-2-1), which was suddenly cancelled by its original promoter last week, has been revitalized and will be contested with Sobral’s STRIKEFORCE World Light Heavyweight (205 pounds) Championship on the line at San Jose, California’s HP Pavilion on Saturday, August 15.

The title bout will be featured during the SHOWTIME televised portion of the STRIKEFORCE: “Carano vs. Cyborg” mixed martial arts (MMA) mega-card.

“I am very happy that STRIKEFORCE has resurrected this fight and that I will have the opportunity to become STRIKEFORCE world champion,” said Mousasi, who is in the midst of a monstrous, 12 fight win streak. The 23-year-old was crowned the first Dream Middleweight Champion and Middleweight Grand Prix Tournament Champion last year in Japan.

“STRIKEFORCE is one of the world’s top promotions and I am proud to be a part of their roster of world-class fighters,” he said.

His wins over Denis Kang, Melvin Manhoef, and Ronaldo Souza last year cemented Mousasi’s place as one of the world’s top three middleweights.

Mousasi’s last victory, a first round (1:20) submission of former K-1 heavyweight champion Mark Hunt in Yokohama, Japan on May 26th of this year confirmed his desire and ability to conquer opponents in a heavier weight class as did his first round (2:32) KO of Japanese heavyweight champion Musashi in a K-1 kickboxing rules bout in Saitama, Japan on December 31, 2008.

The 33-year-old Sobral, a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt and former national wrestling champion for Brazil, will defend his STRIKEFORCE championship for the first time since he seized the title from Bobby Southworth at HP Pavilion on November 21, 2008.

Sobral, a former UFC championship challenger, is riding a five fight win streak that began with his second round (3:30) submission of David Heath at UFC 74 on August 25, 2007. In his last start, he submitted Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou with a brabo choke in the second round (2:36) of their meeting at Affliction: “Day of Reckoning” at Honda Center in Anaheim, California on January 24 of this year.

A year and a half ago, Sobral relocated from his homeland to Orange County, California where

he has since taken on former world championship boxing contender Justin Fortune as a trainer in order to bring his striking skills up to par with his expertise in submissions.

Over the course of 43 career starts, Sobral has faced and defeated some of the sport’s best competitors including legendary K-1 and UFC champion Maurice Smith. On Sept. 6, 2003, Sobral knocked off three top-tier rivals-Jeremy Horn, Mauricio “Ninja” Rua, and Trevor Prangley-during a single-elimination tournament.

In the main event on August 15, mixed martial arts’ (MMA) leading lady, the undefeated and extremely popular Gina “Conviction” Carano (7-0), will square off with rival powerhouse Cris “Cyborg” (7-1) in what is one of the most eagerly anticipated battles of all time.

Carano and Cyborg, the consensus two best female fighters in the world, will be the first women in MMA history to headline a major MMA fight card. In addition, they will fight for the first STRIKEFORCE 145-pound Female Championship.

STRIKEFORCE World Lightweight (155 pounds) Champion Josh “The Punk” Thomson (16-2) will set out to defend his crown against Gilbert “El Nino” Melendez (15-2), the man whom Thomson dethroned by way of unanimous decision at HP Pavilion on June 27, 2008.

Lawyer: Announcement pending on Jackson custody

NEW YORK — The attorney for Michael Jackson's mother says an announcement is imminent on a custody deal regarding the pop icon's two oldest children, but stopped short of saying an agreement had been reached.

L. Londell McMillan said in an interview with The Associated Press that word of an agreement between Katherine Jackson and Deborah Rowe, the biological mother of Prince Michael, 12, and Paris-Michael, 10, would come sometime Thursday.

McMillan has previously said any agreement will be in the best interest of Jackson's children. He declined to go into specifics and would not address reports about what kind of visitation Rowe would get, if any.

E-mail messages sent to Rowe's attorney seeking comment Thursday were not immediately returned.

Michael Jackson, who died June 25 at 50, was the sole parent to his three children. He was married to Rowe, but both had described the relationship as borne out of a friendship and said that Rowe had given birth to his two oldest children as a "gift" to Jackson. They divorced after Paris-Michael was born and Rowe was largely absent in her children's lives. His third child, 7-year-old Prince Michael II, known as Blanket, was born to a surrogate and the mother's identity has never been revealed.

In Jackson's will, he expressed his desire to have his mother take care of his children. But after he died, Rowe expressed interest in raising not only her two children, but Blanket as well. In a phone interview with television station KNBC, she also said she would seek a restraining order against Joe Jackson, Michael's father; Michael Jackson had a complicated relationship with him and often spoke of beatings at the hands of his father.

After Mrs. Jackson, 79, was named by a court as the children's temporary guardian, Rowe won a delay in a guardianship hearing while she decided whether to seek custody. Other hearings were delayed at the request of both parties, and McMillan had described the negotiations between both sides as very cordial.

While McMillan would not discuss details of any agreement, he did say no money exchanged hands. Rowe has taken legal action and demanded retractions as other reports have claimed that she was seeking money from the Jacksons in exchange for dropping any attempt at custody of the children.

Michael Jackson gave Rowe a financial settlement after they divorced in 2000 and she relinquished her parental rights. But they were reinstated by a judge in 2005 after Rowe went to court over the children. The custody dispute was settled in 2006. Terms were not disclosed. Jackson retained primary custody of the children.

All three children have been living with Katherine Jackson since their father's death, where they have been surrounded by their aunts, uncles and cousins.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Plaxico Burress: 'I am truly remorseful'

Plaxico Burress testified before a Manhattan grand jury today and afterwards spoke publicly, expressing remorse for his actions the night of Nov. 29 when he shot himself in the leg and was subsequently arrested for felony gun possession.

"I was truthful, I was honest and I am truly remorseful for what I've done, what happened and what I did," Burress said to a large group of reporters on the sidewalk next to the courthouse. "I just want to thank everybody -- family, friends and fans -- for their support."

Burress did not take questions. He was in the courthouse for over 2 1/2 hours, telling his side of the events of that night to the grand jury deciding whether to indict the former Giants receiver for felony gun possession.

Ben Brafman, Burress' attorney, said today that Burress' case is different from "virtually any other gun case in New York," adding that Burress had lawfully purchased the gun and had registered it another state, presumably Florida, where his primary residence is.

"People have to understand the mitigating factors in this case that have been ignored by everyone, including the mayor and the district attorney," Brafman said.

Brafman said there was an agreement with the DA's office that Burress' bail would be set at $10,000 when he turned himself in.

"Mayor Bloomberg held a press conference and the bail was set $250,000," Brafman said, also citing DA Robert Morgenthau's public comments this week calling for Burress to serve significant jail time.

"We're not asking for special treatment," Brafman said, "we're just asking for basic fairness... My hope is, having seen and heard Mr. Burress, that the grand jury will have a much tougher decision to make."

911 Caller in Gates Incident Says She Was Unfairly Called a 'Racist'

Lucia Whalen spoke during a press conference in Cambridge, Mass., in an effort to clear her name. The appearance came after the city released the 911 tape showing that she did not identify either of the men she thought she saw trying to break into the ...

Political Consultant Charged in New Jersey Corruption Scandal Found Dead

Jack Shaw talks to the media as he leaves federal court Thursday, July 23, 2009, in Newark, N.J. Shaw, who was accused of taking $10,000 in bribes for himself and proposed that the cooperating witness pay $10,000 in campaign contributions for the re-election campaign of an unnamed Jersey City official, was found dead in his apartment.

AP A political consultant involved in a sweeping corruption scandal in New Jersey was found dead Tuesday in his Jersey City apartment, a bottle of bills by his side, authorities said.

Nigerian troops battle Islamic militants in north

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria — An eyewitness says Nigerian army troops are exchanging fire with Islamic militants in northern Nigeria a day after the president insisted the military had the situation under control.

Olugbenga Akinbule, a local journalist, says he saw fighting Wednesday morning in the town of Maiduguri. He says it was outside the suspected hideout of a radical Muslim leader accused of orchestrating three days of violence in Africa's most populous nation.

President Umaru Yar'Adua said the military had surrounded the Islamic camp on Tuesday.

Islamic militants attacked a police station in northern Nigeria on Sunday, sparking the worst violence Nigeria has seen in months. Police said Monday at least 55 people died.

The militants oppose western education and seek a harsh interpretation of Islamic Shariah law in Nigeria's predominantly Muslim north.

Glenn Beck: Obama 'racist?' -- Beer time

by Mark Silva

It'll be beer-time soon at the White House, where President Barack Obama will play host to the black Harvard professor arrested in his own home and the white Cambridge police sergeant who handcuffed him - the president taking the officer up Thursday on an invitation to hash out the issues over a cold beer at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Both the president and Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. are looking for "teachable moments'' in the saga of the Gates arrest. Obama, the first African-American president, has acknowledged making a bad "choice of words'' in initially saying last week that the police had "acted stupidly'' in arresting a fellow who had forced his way into his own home because of a jammed door.'' Nevertheless, the president has suggested that the incident was emblematic of a persistent problem in America: Racial profiling.

There may be little that a cold beer can accomplish, however, in chilling the temperature of some of the rhetoric on the sidelines of this continuing debate. Glenn Beck, the conservative commentator for the FOX News Channel, had some rather provocative things to say about the president's own racial profiling:

"This president, I think, has exposed himself as a guy, over and over and over again, who has a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture, I don't know what it is,'' Beck said (see the video above. "I'm not saying that he doesn't like white people. I'm saying he has a problem. This guy is, I believe, a racist.''

The remarks may say more about Beck than Obama, and perhaps something about the level of political discourse that FOX is sponsoring in Beck.

Retired Amy Gen. Colin Powell, who, like Obama, was the first African-American to achieve one of the nation's highest political posts, knows something about racial profiling, too. The former secretary of state said last night on CNN's Larry King Live that he has been subjected to it.

"Yes, many times,'' Powell said, citing the importance of averting anger at times like these - and also suggesting that Gates could have handled the situation in his own home better than he did. "You know, anger is best controlled.''

Chris Tucker Owes Millions In Back Taxes

Chris Tucker is the latest celebrity that Uncle Sam says owes him money ... upwards of $3.5 million worth.

According to The Detroit News, the actor/comedian doesn't exactly have his taxes in line, and owes back taxes for the years 2001-02 and 2004-07 to the State of California.

California reported filed a $3,594,409 lien against Tucker on June 24 in Sacramento County Court.

The 37-year-old Atlanta native has appear in such films as Ice Cube's "Friday," 1995's "Dead Presidents," and had a starring role in the 1997 film "Money Talks."

However, his biggest box office hits to date came from the "Rush Hour" triolgy alongside Jackie Chan.

Northern Spain Witnesses A Massive Car Bomb Terror Attack

The beautiful country of Spain is not stranger to international terrorism and after a brief period of null in terror attacks, Spain today witnessed a massive terrorist car bomb attack that injured numerous police officers and their family members. The car bomb went off before at a police barrack in Burgos, which located in the northern region of Spain. The explosion rocked the police barracks, that housed about 90 policemen, along with their families.

The severity of the bomb has been deemed intense and it injured 46 people, including six children, which authorities have stated are not grave injuries. The shock wave shattered the windows of the houses and the building near the vicinity of the explosion and sent the car flying high in the air.

The attack has been blamed on the long existing Basque separatist group ETA (Euskadi Ta Askatasuna), which has been long involved in a violent and bloody struggle against the Spanish government to attain a separate autonomous region for the Basques residing in Spain.

The United States of America and the European Union have already categorized ETA as a terrorist organization, that has a kill list of 825 victims due to its numerous deadly spate of terrorist attacks.

Microsoft-Yahoo Search Deal Imminent: Analysts Weigh In

by Michael Arrington on July 29, 2009
As we first reported yesterday, Microsoft and Yahoo are on the verge of announcing a complicated search and search marketing alliance that will combine the no. 2 and no. 3 players in search into something that may have a chance of competing with Google (although combined they will still have less than half of Google’s 65% or so search market share). The deal will be announced shortly after signing, and could come as early as today (Wednesday).

If the deal is completed it will close the 18-month long negotiation that began with a $45 billion merger offer on February 1, 2008. The details of the deal will determine the bump in Yahoo’s share price, something investors really desperately desire.

Here’s what the deal may look like (from a Thomas Weisel Partners analyst report colorfully titled BingHoo! earlier this evening):

Deal (Finally) Inked: After a nearly three-year mating dance, Microsoft and Yahoo have agreed to a joint venture. The official announcement (hopefully with the financial implications) is expected tomorrow, July 29, the day before Microsoft’s annual analyst day.

Bing becomes the algorithm: Importantly, Bing is expected to become the default search engine for Yahoo, as it has become across Microsoft’s network since its launch in June. By combining both companies’ engineering talent, search indexes and ad platforms, Microsoft believes it can improve its ability to drive innovation in emerging areas such as video, mobile, and online commerce; all areas where Google is currently focused. The combined Yahoo-Bing search would have 28% share in the U.S. according to comScore. But combining search indexes and reorganizing a global sales force across two companies is not a trivial matter and a distraction that Google can take advantage of. It is unclear what the cost savings would be to Yahoo. A year ago Yahoo management (headed by former CEO, Yang) indicated outsourcing all of search would yield a $750mn annual benefit. Given this deal covers only the algorithmic side and Yahoo has been cutting costs over the past year, we estimate the savings would be less than half that amount.

Ad sales primarily owned by Yahoo: While details are still trickling out, it appears that Yahoo is slated to sell search inventory across both networks, capitalizing on Yahoo vertical strength in entertainment, finance and sports and Bing’s emerging strength in travel and retail. In addition Yahoo could gain the ability to sell display inventory across both networks along side search. The deal allows the parties to focus on core strengths: for Yahoo it’s selling and Microsoft it’s engineering.

No Upfront Payment—Where’s that “boatload of cash?”: The reported deal does not include an upfront payment to Yahoo, a previous element of prior proposals, which may mute upside in Yahoo shares. Several critical details have yet to emerge: like the revenue share agreement and split levels, renewal terms of the partnership, cost savings and ultimate ownership of the data. For example, if the search deal is an 80/20 split, Yahoo would cede about $400mn of 2010 revenue to Microsoft. In addition, we estimate that Microsoft generates about $2bn in annual display revenue. If Yahoo got to sell half of that at an 80/20 split suggests Yahoo could see $200mn in incremental revenue.

DoJ Scrutiny Risk: Importantly, the deal is likely to face a fair amount of interest from regulators regarding display advertising, which could delay the partnership by several months to several quarters.

The bottom line is, no one expects any upfront payments to Yahoo. Revenue split estimates range from 80% - 110% to Yahoo (higher in the beginning), and there is likely a hefty guaranteed revenue component so assuage the Yahoo board of directors.

This is a much different search deal that Microsoft offered Yahoo a year ago. From our summary of that long-dead offer:

Microsoft’s Last Offer

Microsoft last offered Yahoo a combination stock, asset and business deal that sources with knowledge of the situation summarize as follows:

Microsoft to acquire 16% of Yahoo’s outstanding stock from existing stockholders for $8 billion, or $35/share.

Microsoft to acquire all of Yahoo’s search and search marketing assets - servers, code, advertisers, third party publishers, intellectual property and employees (perhaps 3,000 of them) for $1 billion in cash plus a guaranteed CPC rate that is higher than what Yahoo can generate itself.

Yahoo gets increased search revenue from the deal over what they generate now, and get to remove people and operational costs of search.

Yahoo agrees not to touch the search or search marketing businesses directly ever again. All their searches are controlled by Microsoft.

It’s also much different, and likely much less attractive, than the Google/Yahoo search deal announced last summer and which was terminated before implementation.

We’ll analyze the actual deal terms as they are announced, but our guess is the likely outcome of this is one big complicated mess. The result: Google will take even more search share. Why these two companies don’t just merge is beyond me - everyone we’ve spoken with says everyone, on both sides of the table, would prefer a merger. Everyone, that is, except Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.

Battle Over Michael Jackson's Estate Getting Testy

The legal team for Katherine Jackson, the late Michael Jackson's mother, has asked a judge for the power to request info on her son's estate from the executors.

Lawyers for Katherine asked for authority to subpoena attorney John Branca and former music exec John McClain, the two men named by the pop icon in his last will as the executors. They want to interview them and search their records.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mitchell Beckloff will not respond to their request until Monday. On that day, he plans to consider a wide range of matters.

Some close to the situation have suggested that Joe Jackson is driving Katherine's legal challenges to the late singer's will, and that the family is divided.

Issues include whether the special administrators will continue their roles and whether an allowance will be granted to Katherine Jackson and Michael's three children, Prince Michael, 12, Paris Jackson, 11, and Blanket, 7.

Katherine Jackson was named guardian of Michael's three children.

Debbie Rowe is the biological mother of Prince and Paris. As for Blanket Jackson, his mom is unknown, though recent rumors suggest it may be Pia Bhatti.

Tuesday's filing was meant to expedite the process of obtaining "important personal, business and legal information and documents relating to Michael Jackson."

That's according to written statement from L. Londell McMillan, who is part of Katherine Jackson's legal team, in advance of the upcoming August 3 hearing.

They're also seeking "life insurance policies, settlements and disputes as well as agreements between temporary special administrators and Michael Jackson."

Time will tell whether Katherine Jackson is able to make her voice heard - and what the true agenda behind any of this is, as Michael's will seems clear cut.

Bernie Madoff Opens Up About His Feelings in Jailhouse Interview

Bernie Madoff gave his first long interview about his $65 billion Ponzi scheme since being arrested in December 2008 yesterday. Unfortunately, he gave it to a lawyer — Joseph Cochett of San Francisco, who is preparing a lawsuit on behalf of a group of victims — and thus, the details are scarce. Cochett did give ABC a few tidbits, though. Among them:

• In the Big House, Madoff "looked pretty good — he seems to be working out." "He's actually a bit of a celebrity here." And he's going low-carb: During the discussions, Bernie ordered a can of tuna and a bottle of water from the vending machine.
• Madoff said that "certain" members of his family knew nothing about the fraud. "He cares about Ruth, but he doesn't give a (expletive) about his two sons, Mark and Andrew," the lawyer told ABC.
• Contrary to popular belief, the SEC is a dignified organization impressively committed to due diligence, and Bernie had to be lightning fast and superhuman to evade them. "There were a couple of times I met with the SEC and thought, 'They got me,'" Madoff told the lawyer. Then, no.

Pat Buchanan's Nightmare? Black, Asian, Hispanic Voting Rates Rising

Pat Buchanan and Chuck D. Now that's a show I would pay to see.

In 1990's "Fear of a Black Planet," the third album from Chuck D's influential hip-hop group Public Enemy, the title-track lyrics asked: "What is pure? Who is pure? Is it European state of being? I'm not sure."
Conservative commentator Pat Buchanan would seem to have no such uncertainty. He counseled Republicans to score political points during the Supreme Court confirmation hearings of Judge Sonia Sotomayor by stoking white resentment. On Rachel Maddow's show on MSNBC, he said: "This has been a country built basically by white folks, who were 90 percent of the nation in 1960, when I was growing up, and the other 10 percent were African-Americans who had been discriminated against."

Meanwhile, Republican senators are explaining their votes for and against Sotomayor, with one eye on their base and another on the changing demographic profiles of their districts. What's an embattled candidate to do?
The election of an African-American president was supposed to signal racial reconciliation among Americans who vote. Well, who said there wouldn't be bumps along the way? But when you take emotion out if it, what's left are the numbers. And the numbers in recent census findings and polls suggest a shift in demographics that could affect future elections. One way to predict what happens next is to examine how Barack Obama put together a winning coalition.
Was his a successful permanent strategy or a fluke based on one man and one economic collapse? Could a path to electoral victory be forged with racial division? Will all become clear with the 2010 census?
The fact is, if only whites had voted on Nov. 4, 2008, John McCain would be the president of the United States. In the 2008 presidential contest, McCain won 55 percent of the white vote. (An exception was white voters between the ages of 18 and 29, who went 54 percent for Obama.)

It was nothing new. Democrats have fared badly among that particular demographic. Obama actually made greater inroads than John Kerry and Al Gore.
It's the country that has changed and is continuing to change. In May, the U.S. Census Bureau released national population estimates "showing that our nation is becoming older and more racially and ethnically diverse. The estimates found that nearly half (47 percent) of the nation's children younger than 5 were a minority in 2008, with 25 percent being Hispanic."
A recent census analysis titled "Data Show Significant Increases Among Hispanic, Black and Young Voters" was summarized in The New York Times. It found that while voter turnout in 2008 was about the same as in 2004 (64 percent of voting-age citizens), the makeup of the 131 million who voted changed:

"While the number of non-Hispanic white voters remained roughly the same, 2 million more blacks, 2 million more Latinos and 600,000 more Asians turned out. Compared with 2004, the voting rate for black, Asian and Hispanic voters increased by about four percentage points. The rate for whites declined by one percentage point."

The story said, "One of the biggest changes was the gap between black and white participation. In 2004, the rate of black voter registration was 10 percentage points below that of whites. Last year, it narrowed to four percentage points." Younger blacks and black women, in particular, turned out.

"The electorate in last year's presidential election was the most racially and ethnically diverse in U.S. history, with nearly one-in-four votes cast by non-whites," said an April report on the Pew Hispanic Center Web site. This analysis of Census Bureau data by the Pew Research Center found that "the number of Latino eligible voters rose from 16.1 million in 2004 to 19.5 million in 2008, or 21.4 percent. In comparison, among the general population, the total number of eligible voters increased by just 4.6 percent."
The facts and figures add up to what Bobbi Bowman calls "The Next America." Bowman, a diversity consultant for the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE), writes a column by that name for the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education. Obama's coalition of young and upper-income whites, blacks, Latinos and other minorities is that "next America," she said.
At ASNE, Bowman is putting together a Web site for editors to help them cover the 2010 census because "there is not a lot of institutional memory" in shrinking newsrooms, she said. The 2010 census "will make it very clear that we are going to be a majority-minority nation" in 20 to 25 years, well before the 2043 prediction of the 2000 census.

"That is historic and mind-bending," Bowman writes. New Mexico, Hawaii, Texas and California are already majority-minority states. In her column, Bowman answers the question, "Why is the U.S. becoming majority-minority at breakneck speed?"
"In two words: immigration and aging. Young Spanish and Asian immigrants have flocked to these shores because their labor is needed for both high- and low-skilled jobs. At the same time, white people are aging and having fewer children. Non-Hispanic whites were 69 percent of the population in 2000. They're now 66 percent, and that percentage will continue to fall.

"Ninety years ago immigrants who were Italian, Polish, Jewish and Greek changed the face of the country. The 1920 census showed that for the first time in our history more U.S. residents lived in cities than on farms, because of the arrival of huge waves of European immigrants at the turn of the 20th century. Now in the infant years of the 21st century, immigrants from Mexico, India and Central America are again changing the country's face."

What does that mean for voting patterns? It gets tricky, Bowman said, because so much of the minority population is younger than 18. But the next America would not seem to bode well for Pat Buchanan's divide-and-conquer strategy. Politicians will find it increasingly difficult to categorize voters and their interests. In the next America, they might even have to craft a message of unity and shared goals.
It could happen.

Colin Powell Is His Usual Levelheaded Self

On Larry King Live last night, potential New Most Trusted Person Colin Powell was asked about the whole Gatesgate controversy. Much like President Obama, he sees this as a teachable moment, and, also like President Obama eventually did, Powell spreads the blame around. Skip Gates "should have reflected on whether or not this was the time to make that big a deal," Powell said. As a rule in life in general, people should cooperate with a police officer trying to do his job. But the Cambridge police were also at fault. "I would have thought ... that some adult supervision would have stepped in and said, 'Okay, look, it is his house, come on. Let's not take this any further. Take the handcuffs off. Goodnight, Dr. Gates.'" That all sounds pretty reasonable to us. Though we're not sure how black Americans will receive Powell's advice to just "suck it up" in the face of prejudice — you know, like Jackie Robinson did 60 years ago.

Medical costs of obesity

The latest estimate from CDC on the annual cost of obesity: $147 billion. Ordinarily, I don’t take such numbers too seriously because they are based on assumptions that may or may not be correct. But this number has been challenged by so personal an attack on the new head of the CDC, Tom Friedan, that I’m thinking it should be taken seriously.

The attacker is the supposedly independent - but thoroughly industry-sponsored - American Council on Science and Health (ACSH). Here’s what it says:

Frieden’s Crusade Moves to Washington

A study presented on Monday at a CDC obesity meeting determined that obesity-related diseases account for nearly 10 percent of all medical spending in the United States - an estimated $147 billion per year. The study was sanctioned by CDC director Dr. Thomas Frieden, whose partiality to government-interventionist responses to public health concerns is epitomized by his quote: “Reversing obesity is not going to be done successfully with individual effort. It will be done successfully as a society.”

“The reason he hyped this study was to promote more proactive government interventions, including a three cent soda tax,” says ACSH’s Jeff Stier. Dr. Ross adds, “Whenever I see numbers like this - especially when they are being promoted by someone we know is a fan of big government - I suspect that they have been altered or manipulated. Obesity is definitely a health threat, and it will definitely be a burden on our health care system. How much of a burden, we don’t know. But I don’t trust these numbers.”

Well, I don’t trust ACSH. For one thing, just try to figure out who funds them. For another, note the way ACSH invokes science to make its political agenda seem authoritative.

Whatever the real cost of obesity, its consequences will place a considerable burden on our health care system. And it will take societal responsibility as much as - or more than - individual responsibility to deal with the problem.

New York City Buys One-Way Tickets Home for Homeless Families

They are flown to Paris ($6,332), Orlando ($858.40), Johannesburg ($2,550.70), or most frequently, San Juan ($484.20).

They are not executives on business trips or couples on honeymoons. Rather, all are families who have ended up homeless, and all the plane tickets are courtesy of the city of New York (one-way).

The Bloomberg administration, which has struggled with a seemingly intractable problem of homelessness for years, has paid for more than 550 families to leave the city since 2007, as a way of keeping them out of the expensive shelter system, which costs $36,000 a year per family. All it takes is for a relative elsewhere to agree to take the family in.

Jim Johnson Philadelphia Eagles Defensive Coordinator Dead Of Cancer

Philadelphia Eagles former defensive coordinator Jim Johnson has died at the age of 68 after a 6-month bout with cancer.

He overcame melanoma in 2001, but later developed a metastasized tumor on his spine.

A statement from the Eagles said:

A veteran of 22 years as an NFL assistant, Johnson is regarded as one of the top defensive masterminds in National Football League history. Over the last decade, he gained a great deal of notoriety as the orchestrator of the renowned Eagles defense. His aggressive style kept Philadelphia at or near the top of the NFL in nearly every major defensive category since joining Andy Reid’s staff on January 22, 1999.

Brett Favre Will NOT Play For The Vikings, Remains Retired

All I can say is thank goodness. I like Brett Favre and all, as a person. But, enough is enough and his decision to opt out of playing for the Minnesota Vikings was the right one. (In my opinion.) This decision didn’t come easy today (July 28th) for the legendary quarterback,

“It was the hardest decision I’ve ever made,” Favre said. “I didn’t feel like physically I could play at a level that was acceptable. I would like to thank everyone, including the Packers, Jets and Vikings — but, most importantly, the fans.”

“I had to be careful not to commit for the wrong reasons,” Favre said. “They were telling me, ‘You went through all this, you had the surgery and you’ve got to finish it off.’ But I have legitimate reasons for my decision. I’m 39 with a lot of sacks to my name.”

Makes sense to me. I congratulate Brett on a remarkable career. I think he will live on in the game forever. Good luck in the next chapter of your life, Favre. You did good.

Mass. woman killed, fetus removed from womb

WORCESTER, Mass. — A pregnant woman was found dead in her apartment with her fetus cut from her womb, and police on Wednesday were trying to find the missing baby, which they said could have survived.

Authorities said 23-year-old Darlene Haynes was about eight months pregnant and the child would have needed immediate medical attention to survive.

The exact cause of Haynes' death had not been determined Tuesday, but Detective Capt. Edward J. McGinn Jr. said the autopsy indicated Haynes suffered head injuries.

Her body was found Monday by her landlord, William Thompson, who told WCVB-TV that a "horrifying smell" led him to Haynes' bedroom, where he found her body wrapped in bedding in a closet. Police said the victim had apparently been dead for several days, and that she hadn't contacted family or friends since Thursday.

Officials say Haynes also has a 1-year-old daughter who is safe with relatives.

Police said Tuesday that they had interviewed the father of Haynes daughter, Roberto Rodriguez.

Haynes had a restraining order against Rodriguez, who allegedly pushed her into a glass table in June and cut her arm, then grabbed her by the throat and slapped her, the Telegram & Gazette of Worcester reported, citing court records.

Court records also showed Rodriguez was charged with hitting Haynes in 2008 in a case that was continued without a finding.

In June, Haynes described the 24-year-old Rodriguez as her boyfriend of several years. Her landlord said Rodriguez moved out of the apartment last month.

In an interview with WCVB, Rodriguez said Haynes was "a nice girl."

"She had her problems, you know, but nobody deserves to go (through) what she went through," he said.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Poll: Christie Leads Corzine By 14 Points

The new survey of the New Jersey gubernatorial race from Public Policy Polling (D) finds Republican nominee Chris Christie, a former U.S. Attorney, leading Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine by 50%-36%.

This is even a bit better for Christie than a month ago, when he led 51%-41%.

The internals show Corzine only leading 64%-20% among Democrats in this heavily blue state, with Christie up 86%-6% among Republicans and 54%-26% among independents.

"A visit from Barack Obama and negative ads against Chris Christie haven't gotten Jon Corzine any momentum so far," said PPP president Dean Debnam, in the polling memo. "The key to his chances of getting reelected is going to be moving that 64% of the Democratic vote he's earning right now closer to the 90% mark."

The Michael Jackson Saga: Dr. Conrad Murray And The Deadly Propofol

Well now this doesn't look good does it. After Dr. Conrad Murray's Houston office was raided last week, his Las Vegas was raided this week in search of evidence that he in some way killed Michael Jackson. The main culprit in the manslaughter investigation is our good old friend Propofol, which we all know is dangerous and should never be administered outside of the hospital.

The one thing that I don't understand is that law enforcement and Murray's lawyers are still not referring to him as a suspect. So then what is he? My knowledge of this stuff is limited to what I watch on Law & Order, but I'm pretty positive that if they're raiding your home and looking for "evidence of the offense of manslaughter", you're a suspect. According to Rolling Stone, police confiscated serious meds, like appetite suppressant Phentermine and anti-anxiety med Klonopin, as well as computer hard drives, Rolodexes, and any other document linking Murray to Jackson.

When searching Jackson's rented mansion for evidence of foul play, police found an IV line, Propofol, and multiple oxygen tanks. Cherilyn Lee, Michael's nurse and nutritionist said that Michael was desperate for Propofol the weeks before his death. She was subpoenaed to give police Michael's medical documents, but is not a suspect in the death. Michael apparently did not care that an overdose of Propofol can make someone stop breathing, leading to a buildup of carbon dioxide in the body and can lead to sudden cardiac arrest. Sounds familiar, yes? That's cause Propofol killed Michael.

Dr. Murray's lawyers still maintain that he did nothing wrong. His lawyer, Edward Chernoff, said Murray "didn't prescribe or administer anything that should have killed Michael Jackson." I don't like the "should" in that sentence and it's probably because of things like that "should" that police are searching Murray's offices and homes.

Michael Jackson is thought to have been using Propofol for at least two years and officials are also trying to find out who else gave him the drug. The Associated Press says that Michael used Propofol "like an alarm clock. A doctor would administer it when Jackson went to sleep, then stop the IV drip when the singer wanted to wake up."

Conrad Murray has been identified as the subject of a manslaughter investigation, but he is cooperating. He's probably cooperating just like he did when Michael said that he wanted a bunch of oxygen tanks. As mention before, an IV line was found in Michael's room with three tanks of oxygen in his room and 15 more thanks in the security guard shack.

OK everyone, what has this taught us? Don't take dangerous medicine! Really, it's quite simple. Yes, I'm sure that every once in a while it'll feel really nice, but is death worth that nice feeling? Nope, didn't think so.