Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Pitino extortion claims causing buzz in Louisville

The estranged wife of Louisville coach Rick Pitino's longtime friend and equipment manager who finds herself in the center of a brewing storm around the revered coach's claims that someone is trying to extort him said Monday she is waiting for the truth to come out.

After Pitino went to the FBI with the tip, agents questioned Karen Sypher, wife of Tim Sypher, her attorney said. While she declined to say whether she's had contact with Pitino or what she's discussed with the FBI, Karen Sypher claims she did nothing wrong in trying to present her side to a local TV station that ultimately decided not to air what she said about the case and the coach the city credits with turning around the once-foundering program.

"I'm standing up for my rights and feeling like I don't have a lot of them at this moment," she said Monday. "I'm just waiting for the truth to come out."

The FBI has confirmed there was an investigation into Pitino's complaint but did not name who they might be targeting. Tim Sypher said he was "devastated by the bizarre allegations" and has voiced his support for Pitino. Karen Sypher's attorney Thomas Clay says the couple is divorcing.

So far, Petino, the FBI and Sypher have not given any details of what information she or anyone else might have on the coach to attempt to extort him. But the mystery has the hoops-crazed city buzzing about a man who gave it back a college basketball powerhouse and who packs the star power to serve as its top ambassador to the world.

The story has led every newscast since it broke Saturday night and has lit up Louisville basketball chat boards and local radio talk shows.

"Rick Pitino is one of our Fortune 500 companies," said local radio talk show host Terry Meiners. "He is the face of the Louisville program and in many ways he's the steward of our pride and self-image."

WDRB-TV chose not to air its interview with Sypher because it couldn't verify what she said.

On the school's campus a few blocks from their home court, Freedom Hall, one student was unimpressed by the rumors about the coach who led Louisville to Big East regular season and conference tournament titles this year.

"I mean, there will be rumors," said junior Joe Conaghan. "As high profile as he is, anything that happens will be out there in the open, but this is no big deal. It's definitely not private, but this is no big deal."

A school spokesman said Pitino was on a recruiting trip Monday, and his attorney Steve Pence said he was declining comment pending the outcome of the investigation.

When the probe could end is unclear, Clay said.

"The United States moves at its own pace," he said.

University president James Ramsey and athletic director Tom Jurich put out a statement on Saturday night voicing their support of Pitino.

Cavaliers Pistons Game 2 Predictions

It wasn’t much of a game first time around in the Cavaliers Pistons series, as the Cavs crushed the Pistons 102-84 on their home court. The fact that the Cavs won should be no surprise to anyone, as the Cavs were easily the best team at home during the regular season. LeBron James poured in 38 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists on the Pistons, and it doesn’t look like they will have any luck at all stopping him in this series. James wasn’t the only one scoring on the Pistons, as four other players finished up in double figures. Delonte West, Mo Williams, and Zydrunas Illgauskas all finished with 12 points and the veteran Joe Smith came off the bench to score 13. For the Pistons Rodney Stuckey led the way with 20 points, and the Pistons have to be worrying about what is wrong with Tayshaun Prince, who just 4 points on 2-7 shooting. Game two is once again in Cleveland, and everyone is expecting the Cavs to roll over the Piston in this one. Here is a look at what I think each team needs to do to win, and my pick on who I think comes out on top against the spread.

What the Pistons have to do to win: First off this team has to find some way to control James in this one, or they might as well get on the plane and get ready to be down 0-2 going into game 3 in Detroit. What the Pistons have to remember is they only have to steal one game on the road to get home court in their favor, so they need to play this one like its game 7 and try and get some momentum heading to Detroit. The Piston will need Prince to find a way to score the basketball, as they can’t win against the Cavs with this guy scoring less than 10 points a game, not with Allen Iverson sitting on the bench with an injury. I also think the Pistons need to try and find more shots for Rasheed Wallace and Richard Hamilton. They combined to score 28 points while shooting 12 of 24 from the floor, not bad considering Stuckey scored his 20 points on 7-21 shooting. A lot has to go right for the Piston to win this game, and you have to think this team is in for a sweep if they don’t at least keep this one close. Bet Pistons +11 to win at Sportsbook.com.

What the Cavaliers have to do to win: Really all this team has to do is remember its in the playoffs and that every game is important regardless of how much better you are than the other team. The last thing the Cavs want to do is come out flat against the Piston on Tuesday and give them any hope at all to win the game. James looks unguardable to the Pistons defenders, and he can demand control of the game anytime he wants. I wouldn’t be surprised to see James have a few less points in this one, but I look for him to really try and get his teammates involved. I expect both West and Williams to have big games, and all three could end up with 20+ points in this one. I’m sure the Cavs wouldn’t mind seeing Wally Szczerbiak and Daniel Gibson score a little more, but thats being really picky. I expect the Cavs to play very well on their home floor in game 2. Bet Cavaliers -11 to win at Sportsbook.com.

Prediction: Cavaliers -11 at Sportsbook.com. I am actually a bit surprised that the Cavs aren’t favored by more in this one, after cruising to a 18 point win in game 1. James and company know what is at stake this season, and I don’t see them letting up at all this postseason. While the Pistons could sneak inside 11 points, I think that its pretty safe to say it’s a smart bet to take the Cavs in this one.

For those of you looking for a little NBA Betting advice on the games this week, be sure to check out our expert NBA picks and the latest NBA odds at Betfirms.

Obama open to Hill probe of harsh interrogations

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is leaving the door to open to possible prosecution of Bush administration officials who devised harsh terrorism-era interrogation tactics.

He also said Tuesday that he worries about the impact of high-intensity hearings on how detainees were treated under former President George W. Bush. But Obama did say, nevertheless, he could support a Hill investigation if it were conducted in a bipartisan way.

Obama has said he doesn't support charging CIA agents and interrogators who took part in waterboarding and other harsh interrogation tactics, acting on advice from superiors that such practices were legal. But he also said that it is up to the attorney general whether to prosecute Bush administration lawyers who wrote the memos approving these tactics.

As Obama Promises Immigration Reform, State Backlash Continues

Despite the Obama administration's promise to act on immigration reform this year, a backlash against immigrants continues to rage countrywide. One result is a growing patchwork of hardline state and local policies aimed at curbing illegal immigration.

Even immigrant advocates focused now on mobilizing for reform acknowledge their battle will ultimately need to go beyond a Washington D.C.-legislated fix. The backlash against immigrants has sprung up in neighborhoods and far-flung localities, and also needs to be combated at the grassroots.

"This isn't going to be over when comprehensive immigration reform is passed," said Tony Stephens, communications associate with the New York-based nonprofit The Opportunity Agenda, during an online meeting last week with immigration reform advocates.

In Mississippi, over 20 hardline immigration-related bills were introduced in this year's legislative session, according to the Mississippi Immigrant Rights Alliance (MIRA). Utah's hardline immigration law goes into effect July 1. In New Jersey, a directive that orders police to question individuals arrested for a serious crime about their immigration status has been abused, and routine traffic stops become immigration busts, according to a report released this month by the Seton Hall University School of Law.

In Alamance County North Carolina, Sheriff Terry Johnson's participation in a federal program that deputizes local law enforcement to detain undocumented immigrants has fanned a divisive debate on immigration and Mexican culture, casting a pall on all Hispanic immigrants, whether they entered the country illegally or not.

An Elon University study found that Sheriff Johnson was grossly underreporting the number of Latinos his department was pulling over, though he denied racial profiling. And earlier this month, University of North Carolina law professor Deborah M. Weissman testified on Capitol Hill about the same sheriff's "brazenly racist claims about Mexicans."

According to Weissman, Johnson had been quoted saying, "[T]heir values are a lot different -- their morals -- than what we have here. In Mexico, there's nothing wrong with having sex with a 12-, 13-year-old girl ... They do a lot of drinking down in Mexico." Sheriff Johnson participates in a federal program named 287(g) for a section of the 1996 immigration law creating it. Made most notorious by Maricopa County Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, it's meant to partner police and sheriffs with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency and bolster the country's ability to target transnational crimes and deport undocumented immigrants with rap sheets. Instead, critics say, it has become a favorite tool for rounding up Latinos and intimidating immigrant communities.

The federal program is also at issue in one of the get-tough immigration measures that's still pending in the Mississippi legislature (23 bills considered "anti-immigrant or anti-worker" by immigrant rights advocates did not win approval). Gary Chism, a Republican state representative, tacked on a provision to an appropriations bill that would require Mississippi's Department of Public Safety to participate in 287(g) ICE training.

Chism also added an amendment requiring Mississippi's Department of Corrections to participate in a separate ICE program that connects prisons with federal agents to track inmates who are immigration violators and funnel them to deportation proceedings.

Chism said he's optimistic that at least the corrections measure will make into law, but the 287(g) proposal may stall since it's costly. He said the federal government isn't doing enough to control illegal immigration.

"We need to protect Mississippi and Mississippian jobs" from illegal immigrants, he told New America Media.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has launched a review of 287(g) and the program may be in for some changes, but department spokesman Matt Chandler acknowledges it remains popular with state and local law enforcement agencies.

"Participants realized drops in crime and removal of repeat offenders," he said in a phone interview.

He would not say what an overhauled 287(g) program might look like, but gave no indication it would be scrapped altogether, as some immigrant rights groups have demanded.

MIRA Executive Director Bill Chandler sees Chism's 287(g) and prisons proposals as part of a concerted effort by xenophobic politicians to hound Latinos, not just illegal immigrants, out of the state.

A broad, hardline immigration law passed last year includes a plank making it a felony for an undocumented worker to accept work in Mississippi, authorizing penalties of up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. U.S. residents may also sue businesses if they are fired and replaced by an unauthorized worker.

Though officially called the "Mississippi Employment Protection Act" Chandler calls the law the "ethnic cleansing act" and has lobbied furiously for its repeal – so far without success.

In Utah, a similarly broad law will go into effect July 1. Though stopping short of criminalizing the labor of undocumented immigrants, the law requires, among other things, that state and local agencies verify the immigration status of anyone applying for certain services, including healthcare. The law stipulates penalties for undocumented immigrants accessing services they're no longer authorized to receive.

Though the law excludes emergency care, vaccinations and care for communicable diseases, there's still confusion over exactly what services might be off-limits. Community clinics worry fearful immigrants, whatever their immigration status, might forgo health care altogether, potentially creating public health risks.

The law also allows all Utah law enforcement agencies to deputize their agents to enforce immigration law. Already, however, some say they'll opt out of that plank of the law. Park City's Police Chief Wade Carpenter, for example, said he wouldn't participate because it's an idea driven by the politics of immigration rather than an effort to find real solutions.

"I don't think it accomplishes what we need to accomplish," Carpenter was quoted as saying. "It's the tail wagging the dog."

Vaseline Alley: Spider camp calls Silva greasing allegations ‘Ridiculous’


“How much Vaseline can they put on someone’s eyebrows that’s going to make a difference? Where’s he going to wipe it? If he wasn’t wiping it on his shorts, where would he wipe it? It wasn’t like he was rubbing it in. He just took it off. We didn’t put it on. It was [the cutman] that put it on.”

Ed Soares — manager for UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva — responds to accusations made by SI.com that Silva used the Vaseline applied to his face prior to entering the cage at UFC 97 to grease up his arms and chest to possibly prevent challenger Thales Leites from maintaining an effective guard. Silva nabbed a unanimous decision victory in a bizarre and uneventful main event that consisted of little-to-no action that had fans in attendance booing — and fans at home screaming for a refund. Did the “Greasegate” controversy from UFC 94 heighten our awareness of Vaseline applications and prompt a possible overreaction? Or did “The Spider” make his web intentionally slippery?

Pulitzer Prizes For Photography

Photojournalists Patrick Farrell of The Miami Herald and Damon Winter of The New York Times have just won this year's Pulitzer Prizes for Photography. Farrell won the Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Photography, and Winter won the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography.

Farrell won for his coverage of Hurricane Ike's devastation in Haiti and the humanitarian disaster that followed the storm, and Winter won for his coverage of President Barack Obama's campaign to the White House.

Inter-Korean talks end shortly after starting

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North and South Korea ended talks Tuesday in the communist country over a troubled industrial project shortly after they began as officials spent most of the day in a procedural standoff.

The meeting came amid rising tensions on the Korean peninsula after international condemnation of North Korea's April 5 rocket launch and its decision to restart it nuclear program and withdraw from negotiations aimed at disarmament.

Unification Ministry spokeswoman Lee Jong-joo said that the talks began late Tuesday night at the Kaesong Industrial Complex across the border in North Korea after hours of wrangling over how they should be conducted. The ended just 22 minutes later.

Lee had no details about the content of the discussions.

Tuesday's talks marked the first government-to-government dialogue between the sides since conservative South Korean President Lee Myung-bak took office in February last year with a pledge to get tough with Pyongyang and its nuclear ambitions.

The difficulty over getting the talks started underlines how soured relations are between the two countries.

Israeli minister compares Iran to Nazis

OSWIECIM, Poland (AFP) — Iran is trying to replicate Nazi Germany's treatment of the Jewish people, Israeli deputy prime minister Silvan Shalom said Tuesday ahead of a Holocaust ceremony at a former death camp.

"What Iran is trying to do right now is not far away at all from what Hitler did to the Jewish people just 65 years ago," Shalom told reporters before a ceremony at the site of the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp in southern Poland.

Shalom was speaking a day after Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has called for Israel to be wiped off the map and described the Holocaust as a "myth", verbally attacked Israel at a UN anti-racism conference in Geneva.

"Yesterday in Geneva and today here in Auschwitz are showing us unfortunately... the world still has to fight back against those enemies of peace, those enemies of living one with the other," said Shalom.

Ahmadinejad's speech, in which he called Israel "the most cruel and racist regime," sparked a walkout by European Union delegates at the anti-racism conference, which was already boycotted by the United States and Israel, and Poland.

Shalom also called for US President Barack Obama to impose a deadline on Iran over its nuclear programme, which Israel and Western powers fear is aimed at building an atomic bomb. Tehran insists its aims are peaceful.

"I think that if the American administration -- and first and foremost President Obama -- is willing to open dialogue with Iran, I think it should be with a deadline and not dialogue that can last for years that will only enable them to end the programme and to have a nuclear bomb," he said.

"Israel can never live with the idea that Iran will hold a nuclear bomb because we have heard what the president of Iran and other leaders there have said: that Israel has no right to exist and that Israel should be wiped off the map and that they will do everything to destroy Israel," he added.

Shalom was speaking ahead of the annual March of the Living, which commemorates those who perished at the camp in German-occupied Poland during World War II.

He made his remarks under the infamous gateway to the camp on the outskirts of the southern Polish city of Oswiecim, which was Germanised to Auschwitz during the war.

The March of the Living, launched in 1988, draws thousands of people from around the world, including Jewish youngsters and elderly Holocaust survivors, as well as non-Jews -- organiser Oharon Tamir said half of the 8,000 people who had gathered this year were not Jewish.

The event remembers the six million Jewish victims of Nazis genocide and is also meant to still the voices of Holocaust deniers.

Marchers walk three kilometres (two miles) from Auschwitz -- which was set up by the Germans in a former Polish army barracks after they invaded in 1939 -- to the ruins of Birkenau, a vast site purpose-built from 1941-1943 at the village of Brzezinka.

More than one million Jews perished at Auschwitz-Birkenau. The site was one of six German death camps set up in Poland -- home to pre-war Europe's largest Jewish community.

Many were sent to its notorious gas chambers immediately after being shipped in by train. Others were worked to death as slave labourers.

Among the camp's other victims were tens of thousands of non-Jewish Poles, Soviet prisoners of war, gypsies, and anti-Nazi resistance fighters from across Europe.

Auschwitz-Birkenau was liberated by Soviet troops on January 27, 1945, three months before Nazi Germany was finally defeated.

Marin animal rights activist makes FBI's 'most wanted terrorist' list

The FBI has added Marin County animal rights extremist Daniel Andreas San Diego to its "Most Wanted Terrorists" list for bombing two Bay Area biotech firms.
San Diego, now 31, has eluded authorities for nearly six years. The hope is that national publicity about his case, as well as a reminder of the $250,000 reward, will lead to a surge of new tips about his possible whereabouts. But it's also a sign that the FBI takes "domestic terrorism" as seriously as threats from abroad.

"Mr. San Diego and those like him are every bit as great a threat to the peace and security of the United States as any foreign terrorist," said Special Agent in Charge Charlene Thornton of the FBI's San Francisco office.

The Most Wanted Terrorist list includes Osama bin Laden and Ayman Al-Zawahiri, as well as several other Muslim terrorists. San Diego is only the second American citizen and the only domestic terrorist to appear on the FBI's list.

Federal agents say they have evidence that ties San Diego to the two bombs that exploded at the offices of Chiron in Emeryville on Aug. 28, 2003, as well as one bomb that blew up outside of Shaklee in Pleasanton on Sept. 26, 2003.

Federal agents had San Diego, a 1996 graduate of Terra Linda High in San Rafael, under 24-hour surveillance. But he realized that he was being followed and managed to lose the agents who were tailing him. The FBI now assumes that he has slipped into an underground network of fellow activists, and thought at one point that

he was in Costa Rica.
Since 2004, San Diego has been shown several times on the Fox TV network show, "America's Most Wanted."

San Diego is described as having brown hair and brown eyes, is 6 feet tall, weighs about 160 pounds, and has several distinctive tattoos depicting burning buildings and a valley on fire.

His parents, Edmund and Heike San Diego, did not respond to requests for comment. Edmund San Diego is the former city manager of Belvedere.

Iran slams UN chief's reaction to Ahmadinejad speech

TEHRAN (AFP) — Iran criticised as partial on Tuesday UN chief Ban Ki-moon's reaction to a speech by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at a UN meeting hitting out at Israel as "racist".

"The remarks of the UN chief were not neutral," foreign ministry spokesman Hassan Ghashghavi said.

"They displayed a one-sided and unreasonable approach," state television quoted him as saying on its website.

Ban had accused the Iranian president of abusing his speech on Monday to a UN conference against racism in Geneva.

"I deplore the use of this platform by the Iranian president to accuse, divide and even incite. This is the opposite of what this conference seeks to achieve," the UN chief told journalists.

In his speech, Ahmadinejad criticised the creation of a "totally racist government in occupied Palestine" in 1948, calling Israel "the most cruel and racist regime".

His remarks prompted 23 European Union delegations to walk out of the conference room in protest.

Ban had used a meeting with Ahmadinejad before he delivered the speech to remind the Iranian leader that the UN General Assembly had adopted resolutions reversing an earlier position equating Zionism with racism.

Philip Markoff, suspected 'Craigslist Killer' and med student, in custody

Boston police released this video surveillance photo. Police believe this is Phillip Markoff, suspected of killing a masseuse-for-hire at the Marriott Copley Hotel.

Boston police suspect a 22-year-old med student who is engaged to be married is the "Craigslist Killer" who murdered a New York masseuse and attacked at least two other escorts, according to The New York Daily News.

Philip Markoff, a Boston University student, will be arraigned on murder charges today for the death of Julissa Brisman, 26. Police believe Markoff, who has no prior record, has preyed on sex workers for some time.

Brisman, who advertised her services on Craigslist, was shot in a Boston hotel last Tuesday. Markoff also faces charges of kidnapping and robbing an exotic dancer, who also advertised online. Police also are probing Markoff's connection to the armed robbery of a Las Vegas prostitute in a Rhode Island hotel, The New York Daily News reports.

Markoff is engaged to marry Megan McAllister, a fellow med student. She defended him this morning in an e-mail sent to ABC News.

"Unfortunately, you were given wrong information as was the public," McAllister writes to ABC News in an e-mail. "All I have to say to you is Philip is a beautiful person inside and out and could not hurt a fly! A police officer in Boston (or many) is trying to make big bucks by selling this false story to the TV stations. What else is new?? Philip is an intelligent man who is just trying to live his life so if you could leave us alone we would greatly appreciate it. We expect to marry in August and share a wonderful, meaningful life together."
Police stopped Markoff at 4 p.m. Monday on Interstate 95 south of Boston. Earlier in the day, police released security photos showing Markoff strolling to and from the three crime scenes peering at his BlackBerry. Police believe his motive in the crimes was to pay off gambling debts, according to the ABC News report.

Plenty of Fodder for the Warren Panel: TARP Program Marred by Fraud

The Troubled Asset Relief Program’s inspector general, Neil Barofsky is out with a scathing report today, contending the program already is marred by tax and securities fraud, insider trading, and other violations. Barofsky has opened 20 separate criminal probes into the alleged violations - and that’s just for starters, The Los Angeles Times reports.

The cases represent only the first wave of investigations, and the total fraud could ultimately reach into the tens of billions of dollars, according to Neil Barofsky, the special inspector general overseeing the bailout program.

The disclosures reinforce fears that the hastily designed and rapidly changing bailout program run by the Treasury Department and Federal Reserve is going to carry a heavy price of fraud against taxpayers — even as questions grow about its ability to stabilize the nation’s financial system.

Barofsky said the complex nature of the bailout program makes it “inherently vulnerable to fraud, waste and abuse, including significant issues relating to conflicts of interest facing fund managers, collusion between participants, and vulnerabilities to money laundering.”

Looks like TARP oversight chief Elizabeth Warren will have plenty to talk about today with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, when he testifies before her panel for the first time.