Friday, March 20, 2009


TRENTON -- Republican Gubernatorial candidate Steve Lonegan today called for repeal of what he called “the five worst anti-business laws in the nation” and said they are some of the leading reasons New Jersey is the worst state in the nation for small business.

Lonegan cited specifically Paid Family Leave, Project Labor Agreements, Binding Arbitration, Card Check and the $500 S-Corporation Tax.

“Paid Family Leave is a new government program financed by an income tax on working people to pay other people not to work,” Lonegan said. “It is typical of the silly ‘feel-good’ legislation liberals pass because they have no comprehension of what it is like to run a business and make ends meet.”

Lonegan called Project Labor Agreements, where union wages must be paid on all government projects and Binding Arbitration for municipal labor negotiations “two of the reasons property taxes have skyrocketed in recent years and that affects businesses bottom line.”

New Jersey’s “Card Check” law -- a model for legislation being pushed by the Obama Administration today -- would end secret ballots in union elections and replace them with a system where union organizers can intimidate workers into supporting a union merely by signing a membership card.

“This so-called ‘reform’ takes Union elections from an American-style process to the type seen in Cuba where thugs and goons insure people vote ‘correctly’.”

Lonegan said the worst of all the anti-business laws was the McGreevey $500 S-Corporation tax. “This penalizes the job creator who is starting their business because you pay this tax even if your company loses money,” Lonegan said. “That’s not only wrong, it single-handedly tells an untold number of our residents not to bother starting your own business and that’s the wrong approach to take.”


Oil prices rise after news of Hormuz collision

Oil prices reversed course and traded higher Friday on news that two U.S. Navy vessels had collided in the Strait of Hormuz, the portal for about 40 percent of all seaborne traded oil last year.

A submarine and an amphibious ship collided early Friday in the Strait of Hormuz between Iran and the Arabian peninsula, the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet reported.

Benchmark crude for April delivery, which had traded lower for most of the morning, erased those losses and rose 39 cents to $52 on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

The USS Hartford, a submarine, collided with an amphibious ship, the USS New Orleans. Both were operating under their own power.

The Navy said the ships were conducting regular security operations. According to the Bahrain-based 5th Fleet, 15 soldiers aboard the Hartford were slightly injured but able to return to duty.

The New Orleans suffered a ruptured fuel tank, resulting in an oil spill of approximately 25,000 gallons of diesel fuel.

Oil prices rallied this week with a growing consensus that OPEC has cut production substantially.

In a report Friday, analysts with Morgan Stanley said a sharp drop-off in deep water drilling projects could cut crude supplies by another 2.4 million barrels a day in 2011.

That would come on top of 4.2 million barrels a day that OPEC has promised to cut.

With the April contract set to expire Friday, most of the trading had shifted to the contract for May, which rose 29 cents to $53.33.

Traders, however, said the economic downturn was keeping prices in check.

An incident like a collision in the Strait of Hormuz would likely have sent prices skyrocketing just seven months ago.

"One significant bad figure and the whole thing can collapse, so it's really fragile," said Christoffer Moltke-Leth, head of sales trading for Saxo Capital Markets in Singapore.

Oil has been bolstered this week by news the U.S. Federal Reserve plans to buy $1.25 trillion of government bonds and mortgage-backed securities. The announcement sent the dollar down on worries the plan would expand dramatically the money supply and stoke inflation. Oil contracts are often used by investors as a hedge against inflation and a weakening dollar.

"Oil is still strongly correlated to the dollar," Moltke-Leth. "What the Fed is doing — printing money to buy government debt — it's just the most inflationary thing you can do."

The dollar was steady at 94.58 yen Friday, but that was down from nearly 99 yen just two days ago. The euro was trading at $1.3649.

OPEC has also helped boost prices by largely complying with 4.2 million barrels a day of production cuts the group has announced since September. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries decided not to reduce output quotas at a meeting on Sunday, but instead focus on adhering to the existing cuts.

Analysts estimate OPEC has so far fulfilled about 80 percent of the promised cuts.

"They won a bit of credibility by saying they have to stick to their quotas and be disciplined," Moltke-Leth said.

Vienna's JBC Energy forecast future upward pressure, despite Friday's downward move.

"OPEC cuts, declining volumes in floating storage, refiners preparing for the summer driving season as well as ... mentioned inflationary concerns should all contribute to this development," it said in its daily report.

In other Nymex trading, gasoline for April delivery rose less than a penny to $1.4456 a gallon, while heating oil rose 1.5 cents to $1.3715 a gallon. Natural gas for April delivery rose 13 cents to $4.30 per 1,000 cubic feet.

In London, Brent prices rose 50 cents to $51.17 on the ICE Futures exchange.

Apppeals court rules Madoff must stay in prison

NEW YORK (AP) — A federal appeals court has ruled that disgraced financier Bernard Madoff must remain in prison until his sentencing.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan issued its ruling Friday.

The court said Judge Denny Chin was correct in his ruling. The federal judge decided the 70-year-old Madoff should remain behind bars before he is sentenced for defrauding thousands of investors of billions of dollars.

Madoff will be sentenced in June. He faces up to 150 years in prison.

Crooks in the Pulpit, the New Controversial Book from Best-Selling Author, Reuben Armstrong

New York, NY ( - National talk show host and Essence Magazine's #1 best-selling author, Reuben Armstrong, is about to release his next best seller and most controversial book to date entitled Crooks and Homos in the Pulpit. It can be pre-ordered now at ( and will be available in bookstores nationwide May 15, 2009.

Crooks and Homos in the Pulpit focuses on megapastors and megachurches. Critics are calling Armstrong's book an eye opener and a wake up call for the Body of Christ. He held a private news conference in his studio to discuss the book and his concerns about the rampant spread of homosexual and thievery that has taken over the lives of many pastors and ministers. According to Armstrong, crooks and homosexuals are spreading their lies and deception throughout the church world like peanut butter on bread. Their lifestyles are becoming an insidious epidemic in our churches and Armstrong is alarmed that few in Christendom are confronting these false teachers.

"Too many churches have forgotten about saving souls. That's because the pastors and ministers are only think about how many women and men they can sleep inside and outside of the church, and how much money they can steal from God people," said Armstrong. He also pointed out that pastors and ministers are misleading their congregations by teaching more about prosperity (material things) than about having a personal relationship with God.

Could it be that the current economic hurricane battering the USA--and the world--is due to the Church being led into apostasy by the megachurches and megapastors? Is God using this maelstrom as an emergency call to his Body to humble itself and pray as 2 Chronicles 7:14 states? You'll find answers to these questions and many more in Crooks and Homos in the Pulpit.

Synopsis of the Book

Do church leaders such as Bishop T.D. Jakes, Bishop Eddie Long, Dr. Creflo Dollar, Joel Osteen, or reported homosexual Pastor Ted Haggard truly understand God's Word? If so, why have they become corporate CEO's, allowing money, greed, and materialism to take over their souls? These leaders are whoring God's people from the pulpit, while teaching legions of pimps, crooks, liars, and homosexuals, who pose as pastors, to follow in their footsteps.

In Crooks and Homos in the Pulpit, author Reuben Armstrong exposes the false doctrine of prosperity and "feel good" message that Jakes, Long, Dollar, Osteen, and Haggard proclaim. You will discover what the Bible says about false leaders such as these men and the judgment they face. Armstrong points out that too many churches have become corporate meet and meat markets. Through extensive research, he outlines what really goes on inside the "house of worship." He exposes the shocking lifestyles of prosperity preachers, the sexual favors given in pastoral studies and Sunday School rooms, and the church hoochie mommas and puff daddies these leaders attract as their groupies.

Armstrong's book is a wake up call to the Body of Christ. He points to the crooks, liars, thieves, and homosexuals who are flaunting their sickening lifestyles in front of God's people, while taking the last dollar that church folk have. Christians can no longer allow the likes of Jakes, Long, Osteen, Dollar and Haggard in their pulpits. It's time for God's church to rise up against all false teachers and say, "Enough is enough! Take your false doctrines with you straight to the pits of hell!"

About the Author
Reuben Armstrong ( is the founder, executive producer, and host of the Reuben Armstrong Radio and TV shows, and Essence Magazine Bestselling author of Snakes in the Pulpit.

Through the power of media, Armstrong has created an unparalleled connection with people from around the world. As executive producer and host of The Reuben Armstrong Show, he produces the most anticipated talk show on Christian television. Armstrong entertains, enlightens, and uplifts millions of people from around the world with his in-your-face style, and his willingness to "tell it like it is."

New Jersey Needs a Conservative Change

Steve Lonegan is the conservative leader New Jersey needs now. A fighter for taxpayers, Lonegan froze spending and debt, and kept property taxes far below inflation. A winner at the polls, Lonegan was elected, and then reelected twice, by double-digit margins in a town that voted 64% for Barack Obama. What’s more, Lonegan’s conservative record kept GOP Council control for eleven straight elections. Steve’s not just the best candidate we can run against Jon Corzine, he's the strongest candidate we can run. The time is now!

Killer Blue: 'We Were Family' (Part 1 to 4)

AssociatedPress Video Documentry

Men who have spent 15 months or more in Iraq contemplate how to live with and grow from their wartime experiences.

Border Militarization Deepens

The assignment of Mexican military personnel to civilian law enforcement duties along the Mexico-U.S. border is growing by the day. In Tijuana, Baja California, Mayor Jorge Ramos Hernandez named three military men to key policing positions this week.

Mayor Ramos swore in Captain Francisco Ortega Zamora as operational head of the Tijuana police force, while he gave two other officials, Air Force Captain Victor Manuel de la Cruz and Lieutenant Adrian Hernandez, the titles of commander and assistant commander, respectively, of the strategic central Tijuana sector.

Fulfilling a 2007 campaign pledge to put soldiers at the helm of crime-fighting, Mayor Ramos said the goal of the appointments was to root out deep-seated corruption and break the stranglehold of organized crime on civilian law enforcement authorities.

In comments made at the swearing-in ceremony for the trio of new police officials, Mayor Ramos said he was convinced his administration was on the “right road” to reclaiming the rule of law. Besides swearing in the new police commanders, the border mayor took oaths of service from 225 officers who reportedly passed corruption tests.

An unscientific, online poll conducted by the Tijuana newspaper Frontera found an overwhelming majority of respondents agreed the presence of military police chiefs in central Tijuana would curb crime. As of March 18, 348 respondents, or 84.08 percent of the total participants in the survey, clicked on the yes button in answer to the question if military police participation would reduce criminal activities in a conflictive part of the city.

In Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, meanwhile, local officials, in coordination with Mexico’s Defense Ministry, continued placing 14 retired or active-duty military personnel in the highest police jobs. As in Tijuana, Ciudad Juarez’s civilian police force has been the scene of numerous scandals involving police officers and organized crime.

In a surprise but not completely unexpected move, retired General David Julian Rivera Breton, who was appointed as the city’s new public safety chief this week, disarmed an estimated 1,600 local police officers pending corruption tests. Many police officers were then ordered to act as chauffeurs for soldiers patrolling the streets or put on indefinite furlough.

As General Rivera showed an initial firm hand, more details of the new police chief’s background emerged. In addition to previous service in states well-known for drug trafficking, General Rivera was part of the government campaign against the indigenous Zapatista National Liberation Army in the state of Chiapas 15 years ago.

Since thousands of new troops began streaming into Ciudad Juarez late last month, violence has significantly dropped. Armed commandoes, who roamed the streets at will in recent months, have mysteriously melted from the scene. Instead of confronting cartel gunmen, soldiers are carrying out routine police and customs duties. In recent days, army personnel have ticketed motorists for driving older, polluting vehicles or have checked the import/export bays at international bridges.

In U.S. Senate testimony this week, General Victor E. Renuart, Jr., head of the U.S. Department of Defense’s Northern Command, confirmed the U.S. military is collaborating with the Mexican armed forces. General Renuart said efforts to strengthen military capabilities on the border were a positive step.

While the dispatch of fresh troops and the appointment of military personnel to direct civilian law enforcement operations in Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez significantly expand the breadth and scope of the Mexican armed forces’ role in public life, military involvement in anti-drug and other law enforcement campaigns is far from new, even though the Mexican Constitution does not allow for the type of activities currently performed by soldiers on the border and in the interior of the nation.

For decades, Mexican soldiers and marines have been assigned the jobs of uprooting drug plantings and seizing narcotics on highways and sea lanes. In various states of the Republic, retired or on-leave military men are often the choice picks to lead local or state police departments.

A big difference between the current round of border deployments and military appointments and earlier anti-drug campaigns undertaken by the Mexican armed forces is the shift away from rural areas to urban ones.

An official 2008 military document obtained by the Reforma News Agency via Mexico’s Freedom of Information Act provides some details of the change in strategy. According to the news service, the Mexican military plans this year to significantly decrease drug crop elimination programs, which often target poor farmers, and instead focus on high-impact, urban crime areas.

The armed forces intend to more than double the number of personnel assigned to urban zones in at least seven states from 13,000 to 27,000 soldiers during 2009, according to Reforma. Currently, 45,000 troops are active in the drug war across the country, with nearly one-fifth of the total now stationed in Ciudad Juarez alone.

The urban troop “surge” in Ciudad Juarez and other cities takes place less than four months before voters go to the polls to elect a new federal Congress. Aside from a highly visible security presence, a
sensationalistic media atmosphere helps defines and shape the 2009 election year.

The two main television networks, Televisa and TV Azteca, generously fill their broadcast time with stories of narco-violence, decapitations and kidnappings, while a small political party, the Mexican Green Party, plasters the country’s streets with expensive, large billboards and bus banners urging the death penalty for murderers and kidnappers. And to make sure everyone gets the message, the Mexican Greens zap robo-calls into homes and offices.

To put the overall political-social situation in a broader historical context, civilian authorities frequently call on the military during crises. Sometimes, the results are far different than what was officially proposed.

In 1997, for example, a huge scandal erupted after General Jesus Gutierrez Rebollo, head of the National Institute to Combat Drugs and a darling of Washington, was jailed and charged with being on the payroll of the Juarez drug cartel.

Later, another military man highly praised by the Bush administration, General Rafael Macedo de la Concha, served as federal attorney general during the first few years of the Fox administration. With the assistance of the FBI and other US law enforcement agencies, General Macedo de la Concha embarked on a drive to professionalize Mexico's federal police, the main civilian police force responsible for enforcing drug laws.

Yet many analysts agree that drug trafficking and other organized criminal activities flourished to new heights during the Fox years.

“The depth of the penetration of the agenda of the Fox administration by the Sinaloa Cartel was being investigated,” recently wrote prominent columnist and political analyst Raymundo Riva Palacio. “But a leak from Los Pinos (Mexico’s White House) to a journalist caused the failure of this operation.

Despite previous scandals tainting the Mexican military, most Mexicans still view the armed forces as far more resistant to corruption than are civilian police.

By putting men in uniform in charge of the law in Mexico’s two principal centers of the narco war, Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez, the Calderon administration, in collaboration with local and state elected officials from both the PRI and PAN political parties, is embarking on a high-stakes gamble that the public security crisis can be calmed with the threat of or the actual application of the iron fist promised by presidential Felipe Calderon candidate during the 2006 presidential campaign.

The policy not only puts the reputation and institutional integrity of the military on the line, but it creates new sets of circumstances that contain uncertain outcomes for the futures of constitutional law and civilian governance.

Additional sources: Frontera/Sun, March 18, 2009. Diario de Juarez, March 18, 2009. Norte, March 18, 2009. Article by Francisco Lujan., March 18, 2009. El Universal, March 17, 2009. Articles by Luis Carlos Cano and Julieta Martinez. El Sur, February 5 and 18, 2009. Articles by Agencia Reforma and Raymundo Riva Palacio.

Rape Accuser of U.S. Marine Recants, Critics See a Plot

A Filipina who accused a U.S. Marine of raping her two years ago, sparking a huge national outcry, has recanted her story. Her announcement has created shockwaves throughout the country, fueled by President Barack Obama’s recent phone call to Philippines President Gloria Arroyo.

Suzette Nicolas, known as Nicole, submitted a sworn statement to an appeals court on March 17, recanting her accusation of rape against U.S. Lance Cpl. Daniel Smith. He was convicted in December 2006 and sentenced to 40 years in prison.

The woman’s shocked and disappointed supporters say they smell “a plot” to vindicate and release the convicted serviceman in order to remove the persisting cloud of controversy over a military agreement between the two countries.

Critics say Obama’s first official phone call to Arroyo —he also phoned the Indonesian president and Saudi Arabia’s king in what presumably were courtesy calls -- thickens the plot: Obama’s call came just a few days before the woman recanted.

The case sparked popular outrage against U.S. military presence in the Philippines, particularly the Visiting Forces Agreement, which allows American armed forces to hold military exercises in the archipelago.

Within days of Smith’s sentencing in December 2006, he was transferred from a local jail to the U.S. Embassy where he continues to stay. The issue of where he should be held heated up as the Philippine Supreme Court ruled he should be held in a national facility until his appeal winded its way through the courts.

The U.S. Embassy has ignored the high court’s order, further fueling nationalist fervor and triggering calls for the abrogation of the armed forces agreement.

In her affidavit, Nicolas says her “conscience bothered” her because she might have welcomed Smith’s sexual advances at a nightclub at Subic Bay Freeport Zone on the night the reported rape took place.

But adding fuel to the speculation of a plot, Nicolas also stated she received a payment of 100,000 Philippine pesos (about $2,000 USD) from Smith and was releasing him from any claims of compensatory damages. Nicolas reportedly has left for the United States to join her American boyfriend.

Nicolas’ former lawyer Evalyn Ursua said she wasn’t aware of Nicolas' plan and that the law office that defended Smith also prepared and filed Nicolas’ sworn statement. “This is highly unethical,” the lawyer told reporters in Manila.

The Philippine government denies accusations that it arranged Nicolas’ change of heart. A spokesman expressed disappointment at the turn of events, “because the case divided the nation” now apparently for naught.

Some of Nicolas’ supporters said she and her family simply got tired of the controversy and of waiting for justice. Others, however, insist that a more sinister explanation is behind her about face.

Skeptics doubt that the domestically preoccupied Obama administration would be willing to carry out an elaborate plot to disrupt a criminal case in the Philippines just to protect the Visiting Forces Agreement.

But radical elements in the country are still convinced that nothing major happens under the “puppet state” without the imprimatur of “U.S. imperialism.”

Even milder nationalists tend to believe the Philippine and U.S. governments plotted the whole thing because both are heavily invested in the continuation of this treaty.

Undeniably, the virtually ongoing military exercises on the islands serve American force projection in Southeast Asia, especially after the U.S. military bases in the Philippines were closed in 1992.

Near-constant U.S. military exercises are also viewed as a moving platform for operating against Islamist terrorists in the southern Philippines and in Indonesia.

US Navy: 2 vessels collide in Strait of Hormuz

Two U.S. Navy vessels — a submarine and an amphibious ship — collided early Friday in the Strait of Hormuz between Iran and the Arabian peninsula, the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet reported.

The military said in a statement that the collision occurred around 1:00 a.m. local time on Friday (5 p.m. EDT, Thursday).

The USS Hartford, a submarine, collided with an amphibious ship, the USS New Orleans.

According to the Bahrain-based 5th Fleet, 15 soldiers aboard the Hartford were slightly injured but able to return to duty. No injuries were reported aboard the New Orleans.

The New Orleans suffered a ruptured fuel tank, resulting in an oil spill of approximately 25,000 gallons (95,000 liters) of diesel fuel. Damage to both vessels is still being evaluated.

Both ships are currently operating under their own power.

The Navy said both ships were on regularly scheduled deployments to the region and conducting security operations.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — The U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet says two of its vessels — a submarine and an amphibious ship — collided in the Strait of Hormuz between Iran and the Arabian peninsula early Friday.

The military says in a statement that the collision occurred around 1:00 a.m. local time on Friday (5 p.m. EDT, Thursday).

The USS Hartford, a submarine, collided with an amphibious ship, the USS New Orleans.

According to the Bahrain-based 5th Fleet, 15 soldiers aboard the Hartford were slightly injured but able to return to duty. No injuries were reported aboard the New Orleans.

The New Orleans suffered a ruptured fuel tank, and damage to both vessels is still being evaluated.

Both ships are currently operating under their own power.

White man accused of threatening to burn house of black family pleads guilty in Ohio

DAYTON, Ohio —
A white man accused of threatening to burn the house of a black family because he didn't want them living in his Dayton-area neighborhood has pleaded guilty to ethnic intimidation.

Earl McLearran of suburban Jefferson Township entered the plea Tuesday, withdrawing a previous plea of not guilty by reason of insanity.

Sheriff's deputies arrested the 39-year-old McLearran in July after he was accused of yelling a racial slur at neighbor Saundra Ballard's son and threatening to burn her house.

While Ballard and her sons were testifying before a grand jury in the case, her house was set afire. A juvenile was later accused of setting the fire.

Montgomery County Common Pleas Court Judge Mary Kate Huffman says she intends to sentence McLearran to four years in prison.

Sexual Assault in the Military is Sharply Rising

Department of Defense Report Indicates Sexual Assault in the Military is Sharply Rising

The Department of Defense released a report this week that shows an 8 percent increase of sexual assault involving service members from fiscal year 2007. Sixty-three percent of the 2,908 reported sexual assaults were rape or aggravated assault. The report also showed that 8 percent more cases were referred to trial from 2007.

The Department of Defense estimates that only about 20 percent of cases are reported. Dr. Kaye Whitley, director of the Pentagon Sexual Assault and Prevention Office, told the BBC that "Given the fear and stigma associated with the crime, sexual assault remains one of our nation's most under-reported crimes in both the military and civilian community." She also indicated that the rise in reporting could be because "The department has been aggressively pursuing efforts to increase reporting and convince more victims to seek care and support services."

Media Resources: BBC 3/18/09; US Department of Defense Report

Wal-Mart Gang Shooting Hoax Incites Momentary Panic Among Concerned, Email-Forwarding Relatives

A text message sent to authorities in Medford, Oregon warning off a gang initiation shooting at a local Wall-Mart is now determined to the latest such text message in an ongoing hoax.

The message warned that three women would be shot to death at a Wal-Mart, instead of merely being trampled to death or decapitated by Falling Prices. includes an entry on the “gang initiation at Wal-Mart” phenomenon:

Claim: Gang initiates must assault or kill a woman, a small child, or an elderly person at a Wal-Mart


Snopes’ entry on the rumor also contains a little background info on its possible origins:

The rumor seems to have begun with statements about gang initiation violence planned to take place at a mall or shopping that an unidentified woman says she overheard in a bathroom and which she subsequently reported to police in the city. The rumor was unsubstantiated - there was no guarantee the women who reported it actually did hear such a conversation or, even if she did, that the people she heard speaking weren’t playing a practical joke on her.

The hoax has also taken the form of chain emails (we’ve received a few about this in our day, possibly because so many of our friends and family members know our enduring love for scoring bargains on oversized Winnie the Pooh overalls, off-brand cereals or fishing tackle), sometimes specifying an attack on black women.

So guess what, America! You are momentarily safe from marauding gangs of unruly youth who enjoy throwing back Mountain Dews at the parking lot of a Wal-Mart, waiting to shoot you and your babies down.

That little girl still really is going to die of cancer if you don’t forward her poem to then people by midnight, though.

NCAA March Madness Men’s Basketball Western Kentucky Does It Again, Knocks Off Illinois

NCAA March Madness Men’s Basketball Western Kentucky Does It Again, Knocks Off Illinois

Whether they were relieved, tired or expecting it all along, the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers didn’t wildly celebrate their latest NCAA tournament upset.

A.J. Slaughter was the most demonstrative, pumping his fist a few times after 12th-seeded Western Kentucky held off a late charge to beat fifth-seeded Illinois 76-72 on Thursday night in the South Regional.

“I just kind of had a sigh of relief when it ended, because we made it closer than it should have been,” Slaughter said.

But when asked if he was surprised to be moving on, Slaughter shook his head and laughed. The Hilltoppers grabbed attention in the tournament last season with an unexpected run to the second weekend.

“Nah,” he said.

Steffphon Pettigrew had 17 points to lead Western Kentucky (25-8), which led by as many as 17 points. It was the 19th time in the last 21 years that a 12 seed has beaten a No. 5.

Trent Meacham had a season-high 24 points for the Illini, who were without senior defensive specialist Chester Frazier, who had surgery on his right hand last week.

“Chester has been our leader and the heart of our team all year,” Meacham said. “It’s tough when you don’t have him especially because he played the most minutes for us all year. When you play an entire season with someone like that, he’s our iron-man, our leader and we never had to go without him. It was a big blow for us.”

Western Kentucky will face Gonzaga (27-5) in a second round on Saturday.

The Hilltoppers looked as if they would cruise to this upset, but Illinois turned it into a one-possession game in the final minute.

Calvin Brock’s layup for the Illini made it 71-66 with 1:11 to go. Orlando Mendez-Valdez missed a long-jumper for Western Kentucky, and Anthony Salley was called for goaltending on Jeff Jordan’s fast-break layup to make it 71-68.

Pettigrew made a pair of free throws before Meacham scored on a baseline drive to narrow it to 73-70.

Slaughter hit one of two foul shots to give Western Kentucky a slight cushion, but Meacham’s layup made it 74-72. Illinois tried to foul immediately, but didn’t get the call in time and Anthony Salley hit free throws with 0.9 seconds on the clock.

When the buzzer sounded, there was no jumping or yelling. Just Slaughter’s fist pumps.

“We expect this of ourselves now–to play a team like Illinois and win,” he said.

Coach Ken McDonald speculated his team was tired. Forward Sergio Kerusch suggested shock.

“It was exciting, but we were scared for a minute,” he said. “It was such a nail-biter at the end.”

Western Kentucky was also a No. 12 seed last season when it defeated Drake 101-99 in overtime, then beat San Diego 72-63 in the second round before falling to UCLA.

With the key players from that team gone and a new head coach, Western Kentucky was considered a long shot to even return to the tournament. But the Hilltoppers rolled through the Sun Belt to earn an automatic bid.

They came to Portland with a seven-game winning streak.

“People didn’t expect us to do much this year, not even expecting us to be here,” Slaughter said. “And we come out and win a first-round game. It shows a lot of heart and determination.”

A 15-2 run in the first half, capped by Matt Maresca’s put back, made it 27-13 and Western Kentucky went on to lead by 37-28 at the break.

Pettigrew’s 3-pointer put the Hilltoppers up 49-34 early in the second half.

Illinois closed to within 50-41 on Dominique Keller’s jumper, but Kerusch and Jeremy Evans answered for Western Kentucky with a pair of statement-making dunks.

Mendez-Valdez made a 21-foot fadeway to stretch the lead to 61-46 midway through the second half. The Hilltoppers led by as many as 17 points.

After Kerusch scored to make it 70-55 late, Brock rolled his eyes and looked to the scoreboard before heading sheepishly back down the floor.

The Illini were clearly affected by the loss of Frazier. The unquestioned leader of the team and one of the best defenders in the Big Ten injured his hand in practice last week and had surgery on Thursday.

After he missed the conference tournament–Illinois beat Michigan but fell to eventual champion Purdue–there was some speculation that Frazier might play in Portland, but coach Bruce Weber ruled him out on Wednesday.

Illinois was making its ninth NCAA tournament appearance in the past 10 years.

After the game, the Illinois players did not come to the post-game interview area, but because it was the final game of the night, that was their option. Instead they stayed in a quiet locker room.

“We didn’t play with a sense of urgency and intensity until the end,” Meacham said. “We made a great run, but we couldn’t finish it.”

Law and Order: Donte Stallworth

Early reports coming out of Miami media are stating that Cleveland Browns receiver Donte Stallworth had a blood alcohol level that exceeded the legal amount when he accidently struck a pedestrian last week.

Sources are saying that his level ranged from the legal amount of .08 to .16. Miami Dade policed haven't confirmed, nor have Stallworth's legal team, but a supposed source has confirmed to two media outlets that Stallworth was indeed drunk when he struck the 59-year-old victim with his Bentley early sunday morning.

We here at BSO are praying for the victims family and Stallworth during this tragedy.

Written By Terence J. Turner

What They’re Saying About Taxing Bailout-Company Bonuses

The House moved fast to act on Americans’ outrage at the bonuses paid to executives of American International Group (AIG). Here’s a look around the Web at how that’s playing.

The New York Times describes how executives of AIG are being treated as toxic. Private security guards have been stationed outside their houses, and sometimes the local police drive by. A.I.G. employees at the company’s office tower in Lower Manhattan were told to avoid leaving the building while a demonstration was going on outside. The memo also advised them to avoid displaying company-issued ID cards when they left the office and to abandon tote bags or other items with the A.I.G. logo.

At the Chicago Tribune, columnist David Greising says Congress shouldn’t confuse pandering with policymaking. “This sort of disruptive micro-meddling is exactly what goes wrong when government gets too involved in the economy,” he writes. “The House action is the public-policy equivalent of removing a sliver with a monkey wrench.”

A New York Daily News editorial says, “Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats matched the gross excess of the AIG insiders who stood to gain $165 million in bonuses by ramming through a bill that would virtually eliminate bonuses in banks taking substantial federal bailout money.”

The Wall Street Journal’s coverage includes this commentary: “Congressional anger over AIG’s bonuses foreshadows the battle looming if and when the administration asks for more financial-sector rescue funds. The administration may rightly sense that failing to join hands with Congress and the public in outrage over the bonuses would complicate release of those funds. But Mr. Obama does not need to show solidarity by diminishing confidence in the rule of law. That bit of populism will cost the president far more in future credibility than he stands to gain in present popularity.”

The Washington Post sees fallout hitting the White House, writing: President Obama’s apparent inability to block executive bonuses at insurance giant AIG has dealt a sharp blow to his young administration and is threatening to derail both public and congressional support for his ambitious political agenda.

And the Daily Beast illustrates the populist rage in its “Big Fat Story” of the day,

Iraq's Shiites call for end of US occupation

Thousands of followers of the radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr called for an end to US occupation of Iraq on Friday, but the sixth anniversary of the invasion was ignored by the government.

Death tolls have tumbled since Iraq's deadliest days in late 2007 and in just three months time, US forces are to withdraw from major cities and towns in a prelude to a total pullout in 2011.

Neither the Iraqi authorities nor the US military marked the March 20, 2003 invasion that toppled president Saddam Hussein and his totalitarian Baath party from power. But Sadr's devotees used Friday prayers to call for an end to America's presence in the country.

"We reject occupation ... occupiers out," the faithful chanted, fists raised, in Sadr City, an impoverished district of northeast Baghdad, as a US flag was set ablaze.

Sheikh Haidar al-Jaberi, a member of Sadr's politburo, called for a major demonstration on April 9, the anniversary of the fall of Saddam's Sunni regime.

"March 20 should be a festival, but after what the Americans have done, it's a sad day," Jaberi said, referring to the official start of spring.

"They never kept their promises," added Qassem Zamel, who came to pray.

"The Americans came to liberate us from a dictator but they have destroyed the country," said Zamel, who is in his 60s.

He said his three sons were arrested in March 2003 and were still in jail, although he did not know why.

Shiites -- the majority in Iraq -- suffered repeated purges under Saddam's brutal 35-year reign and had at first welcomed the "Iraqi Freedom" invasion.

The campaign that ousted Saddam was supposed to bring democracy and a better life, but most Iraqis were caught in the maelstrom of violence that swept the country. Sunni insurgents and Al-Qaeda fought US troops and unleashed sectarian warfare with Shiite militia such as Sadr's Mahdi army.

A report released on the eve of the sixth anniversary of the invasion underscored that Iraqis are still struggling amid the fear of being killed.

"Millions of civilians are still facing hardship every day," said International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) President Jakob Kellenberger.

"Indiscriminate attacks continue to leave dozens of people killed or injured on a daily basis despite improvements in the security situation in many parts of Iraq."

In 2007, 17,430 Iraqis died in violence but in a sign of progress this fell to 6,772 in 2008. The first two months of 2009 saw 449 die, the lowest official toll since the invasion.

"The humanitarian situation in many areas of the country remains serious despite the Iraqi authorities' considerable efforts to provide basic services such as water and health care," Kellenberger said.

Two major bomb blasts this month that left more than 60 people dead and scores more maimed served as grim reminders of the risks.

Despite such precariousness, US and Iraqi officials offer repeated assurances of a smooth transition as American troops pull out and fledgling Iraqi forces take control.

Fears of a return to high levels of sectarian strife or even all-out civil war are played down by both sides with the authorities working towards a semblance of something like normal life amid the ruins and countless concrete blast walls that litter Baghdad.

The tourism ministry announced Thursday that the first official Western tour group to enter Iraq since the invasion was visiting historic and religious sites.

"This visit is a positive sign for the return of touristic activity to Iraq," ministry spokesman Abdul Zahra al-Telagani said of the five Britons, two Americans and a Canadian on an organised two-week trip.

"It reflects the improvement in the security situation."

Iraq, under UN sanctions for much of the 1990s, has been off limits to all but the most adventurous of Western tourists for many years.

Obama apologizes for Special Olympics gaffe

Bowling just isn't President Barack Obama's game.

Appearing on "The Tonight Show," the president told host Jay Leno he'd been practicing at the White House's bowling alley but wasn't happy with his score of 129. The he rolled a gutter ball by quipping: "It was like the Special Olympics or something."

The audience laughed, but the White House quickly recognized the blunder.

On his way back to Washington on Air Force One, Obama called the chairman of the Special Olympics, Tim Shriver, to say he was sorry — even before the taped program aired late Thursday night.

"He expressed his disappointment and he apologized in a way that was very moving. He expressed that he did not intend to humiliate this population," Shriver said Friday on ABC's "Good Morning America." Obama, Shriver said, wants to have some Special Olympic athletes visit the White House to bowl or play basketball.

Still, Shriver said, "I think it's important to see that words hurt and words do matter. And these words that in some respect can be seem as humiliating or a put down to people with special needs do cause pain and they do result in stereotypes."

Shriver is the son of Special Olympics founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver and nephew of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, whose endorsement early in the Democratic primaries was critical to Obama winning his party's nomination.

Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton told reporters traveling with Obama that the president's offhand remark was not meant to disparage the Special Olympics, only to poke some fun at the commander-in-chief's bowling skills.

"He thinks that the Special Olympics are a wonderful program that gives an opportunity to shine to people with disabilities from around the world," Burton said.

Despite making fun of his score, the president appears to be getting better the more he visits the White House lanes, which President Truman installed in 1947. During a campaign photo op a year ago at a bowling alley in Altoona, Pa., he rolled only a 37 in seven frames. The clip of the disastrous game was replayed on late night television shows such as Leno's — one of Obama's few campaign gaffes.