Thursday, July 23, 2009

Mike Vick Spent His First Night Out of Federal Custody Like Any Guy Would Have: At a Strip Club in Virginia Beach

Former NFL QB Mike Vick had been in prison for 19 months before being released into federal custody in May. Monday, he was released from federal custody. What was the first thing Vick did? The former Falcons QB went to Atlantis strip club in Virginia Beach, Virginia, according to a source who spotted him at the club and a DJ at the jiggle joint who did not want to be quoted by name. Vick was partying with NBA free agent Allen Iverson, the source and DJ both said. [Update: Vick denied visiting a strip club, saying he was "out of town." The AP reported that earlier in the week, he was in Richmond. It's a two hour drive from Va. Beach to Richmond.]

After getting a tip from a reader Wednesday, and seeing this post at YBF saying the same thing, we called the club half a dozen times until we were able to get someone on the phone tonight around 10:15 pm. “Monday’s are crazy here, it’s amateur night, and it’s packed,” said the DJ, who did not to be quoted. He checked with a few of the dancers about whether or not Vick and Iverson were present Monday and said, “yup, both of them were here. It’s the first place I’d want to go as a free man, too.”

ESPN reported this week that Vick will soon be meeting with NFL commish Roger Goodell about a possible reinstatement. It doesn’t seem as if a strip club visit would be a barrier to his return to the NFL - surely even the stern Goodell could understand Vick’s first night excursion, right?

We’ve long thought that Vick has done his time and he should immediately be reinstated by Goodell. We’ve been Vick fans since we covered his first game at Virginia Tech, when he memorably flipped into the end zone during a 47-0 shellacking of James Madison. We thought he was the best player in the country as a freshman when Ron Dayne won the Heisman, we thought Vick did some great things in Atlanta despite a lack of quality WRs, and we thought - yeah, we’ll say it - he got shafted with a 23-month sentence in jail for his role in a dogfighting conspiracy.

Bin Laden son may have been killed

WASHINGTON — Saad bin Laden, a son of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, may have been killed in a U.S. airstrike, U.S. officials said Thursday. The son was likely killed in Pakistan in the last several months, approximately in late spring, said a counterterrorism official, one of three Obama administration officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence.

Though many in the intelligence community believe he is dead, they can't be 100 percent certain because no body or DNA evidence was recovered to prove it, one official said.

The U.S. has carried out more than 45 missile attacks with drones in Pakistan's border region since last August, most targeting foreign al-Qaida militants and those accused of violence in neighboring Afghanistan. Saad was not considered a heavy hitter in his father's organization and was not the target of the strike, but rather was killed during a strike intended for someone else, National Public Radio said, quoting unidentified officials.

Saad was born in 1982 and is one of 19 children Osama bin Laden is thought to have, officials have said.

The younger bin Laden was believed to have fled Afghanistan shortly after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001 that routed his father from safe haven there and overthrew the Taliban regime.

Officials have said he went to Iran and was held under a form of house arrest from 2003 to 2008, before turning up in Pakistan, where his father has reportedly been in hiding somewhere in the ungoverned border region near Afghanistan.

In January, the Treasury slapped financial sanctions on the younger bin Laden and three other al-Qaida figures. In announcing a freeze on their assets held under U.S. jurisdiction, Treasury also said that people from the United States would be barred from engaging in financial transactions with them.

Michael McConnell, director of national intelligence at the time, told a news conference that the move to Pakistan made Saad more vulnerable to being captured or killed by the U.S. or its allies.

"It is better in my world if they are in places that we have access," McConnell said. Pakistan is a U.S. ally in the struggle against Islamic extremists, while the United States has no diplomatic relations with Iran.

NJ official steps down amid corruption arrests

NEWARK, N.J. — A member of the New Jersey governor's cabinet has resigned amid a sweeping corruption investigation that has ensnared three mayors, two state legislators and several rabbis.

Speaking Thursday at a news conference, Gov. Jon Corzine said he asked Community Affairs Commissioner Joseph Doria to step down and that Doria agreed to leave office.

Corzine says Doria could not be effective with such a serious investigation going on.

Among the 44 people arrested Thursday were the mayors of Hoboken, Ridgefield and Secaucus.

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

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — The mayors of three New Jersey cities, two state legislators and several rabbis were among more than 40 people arrested Thursday in a sweeping corruption investigation that began as a probe into an international money laundering ring that trafficked in goods as diverse as human organs and fake designer handbags.

Among 44 people arrested Thursday were Hoboken Mayor Peter Cammarano III, Secaucus Mayor Dennis Elwell, Jersey City Deputy Mayor Leona Beldini, state Assemblyman L. Harvey Smith and state Assemblyman Daniel Van Pelt.

Ridgefield Mayor Anthony Suarez, who is also an attorney, is charged with agreeing to accept an illegal $10,000 cash payment for his legal defense fund.

The number of arrests was noteworthy even for New Jersey, a state that has seen more than 130 public officials plead guilty or be convicted of corruption since 2001.

"New Jersey's corruption problem is one of the worst, if not the worst, in the nation," said Ed Kahrer, who heads the FBI's white collar and public corruption investigation division. "Corruption is a cancer that is destroying the core values of this state."

Gov. Jon Corzine reacted to the probe Thursday morning by saying, "any corruption is unacceptable — anywhere, anytime, by anybody. The scale of corruption we're seeing as this unfolds is simply outrageous and cannot be tolerated."

FBI agents seized documents from Community Affairs Commissioner Joseph Doria's home and office Thursday, but federal officials would not say whether the former Democratic state senator from Bayonne would face criminal charges.

Doria's office did not return messages for comment Thursday.

In separate money laundering complaints, several rabbis from Brooklyn and New Jersey were charged with offenses ranging from the trafficking of kidneys from Israeli donors to laundering proceeds from selling fake Gucci and Prada bags.

Van Pelt is accused of accepting $10,000 from a cooperating government witness posing as a developer who sought help in getting permits for a project in Ocean County.

Smith, the Jersey City Council President, and several other current and former Jersey City public officials also are accused of accepting money to help the fake developer gain permits and approvals.

Beldini, 74, is charged with conspiracy to commit extortion by taking $20,000 in illegal campaign contributions. Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy said Thursday the charges were "a little shocking."

"I have full faith in Leona," Healy said. "She's a good friend of mine — was and will be."

Cammarano, 32, who won a runoff election last month, is charged with accepting $25,000 in cash bribes from an undercover cooperating witness. Elwell is charged with taking $10,000.

Joseph Hayden, an attorney representing Cammarano, said his client "is innocent of these charges. He intends to fight them with all his strength until he proves his innocence."

According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, the investigation initially focused, with the help of the cooperating witness, on the money laundering network that operated between Brooklyn, Deal, N.J. and Israel. The network is alleged to have laundered tens of millions of dollars through charities controlled by rabbis in New York and New Jersey.

Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said he has heard of the story but knows nothing of kidneys being sold by Israelis.

The investigation widened to include official corruption in July 2007 when the cooperating witness approached public officials in Hudson County posing as a developer seeking to build in the Jersey City area.

Hoboken's waterfront has proven to be an especially lucrative piece of real estate across from midtown Manhattan. Developers have put up dozens of buildings in the last 15 years in the mile-square city. It had a prime view on July 4 of fireworks over the Hudson River.

The fears that the city was being overdeveloped has become a hot topic during elections among candidates.

In secretly recorded conversations outlined in the complaint against Cammarano, the candidate made it clear to prospective campaign donors that he was a friend of developers.

A cooperating witness posing as a developer who was donating $5,000 to the campaign told Cammarano just days before the mayoral election that he wanted to make sure he had his support with "some properties we're working on." Cammarano is quoted as responding, "I'll be there."

In Deal, Mike Winnick of the Elberon section of Long Branch was praying inside the Deal Synagogue when it was raided by FBI, IRS and Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office agents.

"Everyone was looking at each other, like, `What's going on here?' " he said.

Winnick said four FBI agents escorted a rabbi from the synagogue into his office and blocked the doorway.

Winnick said he left shortly afterward.

Nearby, FBI and IRS agents removed several boxes from the Deal Yeshiva, a school that educates the children of Sephardic Jews.

Busloads carrying those arrested were brought to the FBI's Newark field office Thursday morning. One agent slowly walked an elderly rabbi into the building as another covered his face with a felt hat.

2 N.J. Mayors Arrested in Broad Inquiry on Corruption

A group of unidentified handcuffed men are walked outside FBI offices Thursday, July 23, 2009, in Newark, N.J.. to a waiting bus for transport to court hearing as part of a major corruption and international money laundering conspiracy probe..

The mayors of Hoboken and Secaucus, a state assemblyman and dozens of others were rounded up early Thursday as the F.B.I. swept across four counties in New Jersey as part of a two-year corruption and money-laundering investigation that ranged from the Jersey Shore to Brooklyn and has even reached into the State House in Trenton.

Agents raided the home of Joseph V. Doria Jr., commissioner of the state Department of Community Affairs, who also is the former mayor of Bayonne, an official confirmed Thursday morning.

Among the roughly 30 people arrested by mid-morning were Hoboken Mayor Peter J. Cammarano III and Secaucus Mayor Dennis Elwell, both Democrats, and Assemblyman Daniel M. Van Pelt, a Republican from Forked River, in Ocean County. Mr. Cammarano, who turned 32 on Wednesday, was elected mayor June 9 and sworn in July 1, after serving as councilman-at-large since 2005.

Also brought to the Newark office of the F.B.I. were the president of the city council in Jersey City, Mariano Vega, and that city’s deputy mayor, Leona Beldini.

Federal prosecutors said the arrests included several rabbis from enclaves of Syrian Jews in Brooklyn and from Deal and Elberon, communities along the Jersey Shore in Ocean County.

The Asbury Park Press reported that the investigation involved the Deal Yeshiva, a religious school which teaches children in the Sephardic Jewish tradition. The United States Attorney’s office in Newark scheduled a noon news conference.

Newark Mayor Cory Booker, who has fought corruption in New Jersey’s largest city, told The Star-Ledger it’s "an unbelievable morning so far."

Human Genome Sciences: Big Surprise Leads to Big Gain

Most investors were not expecting good news. That is why shares of Human Genome Sciences (NASDAQ:HGSI) are soaring after the company released its latest Phase III results.

It has turned out to be my mantra over the past several weeks: big surprises lead to big gains.

Last Thursday, my colleague, Laura Cadden, and I got into a discussion of Human Genome Sciences (NASDAQ:HGSI) and its investment potential.

Knowing that I started in the industry by tracking and trading unique volume patterns, she came to me after noticing a strong up-tick in trading activity last week.

At a company that normally trades just shy of eight million shares each day, a sudden surge to the fifty-million level is going to get attention.

As the group’s in-house genomics expert, Laura knew the company was closing in on a pivotal announcement concerning its lupus drug Benlysta.

After sizing up the charts, reviewing the company’s massive debt and calculating the risk/reward structure, we decided to pass on the move. Why chase a stock (it was already up by 600% from recent lows), especially one filled with risk.

We were wrong.

Shares of the company soared yesterday when Human Genome announced the results of Benlysta’s first Phase III trial.

Judging by the 325% surge in share price, the market was just as wrong as we were. Share price doesn’t soar on news that is widely expected.

Surprise! We’re still in business

Human Genome says 51.7% of the patients taking 1 mg of Benlysta experienced improvement. The folks taking 10 mg experienced an improvement rate of 57.6%. Of the patients receiving a placebo, 43.6% noticed improvement

While statisticians are right to doubt the significance of a study this close with just 865 patients, the market appears to believe the company’s next major hurdle, a second Benlysta Phase III trial, will be equally successful and the drug will hit the market right on schedule towards the end of 2010.

Unfortunately, lupus is not an easy drug to beat. If it were, there would not be a half-century lack of new drugs targeting the disease.

Many lupus sufferers tend to relapse after showing signs of significant improvement. If this is the case with Benlysta, it will show in the November trial results.

If bad news breaks, shares will give back even more than they made over the past two days.

Really, the action has nothing to do with the nearly billion-dollar revenue stream the drug’s eventual approval could bring Human Genome. Instead, investors are aiming for a price target they believe GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE:GSK) would be willing to pay to make the company its own.

Glaxo has a 50% stake in the drug. After telling analysts it is open to “bolt-on” acquisitions, the market is almost positive the company would be willing to pay a hefty premium to make its stake whole.

The key variable is the November trial. After yesterday’s announcement, the Street appears to believe approval is a sure thing. But careful investors know the FDA process is filled with some very large, very expensive hurdles.

If the above-mentioned statistics narrow their range by even the slightest of margins, the statistical data could fall into debate, pushing Benlysta’s approval back indefinitely.

Another surprise could be just around the corner.

If you missed your shot at the triple-digit profits like the rest of us, don’t start chasing Human Genome’s shares trying to get in on the action.

As uncertainty creates volatility over the next few months, you will have plenty of opportunities to get your hands on the shares at prices much cheaper than today.

Just as we picked up on unusual trading volume last week, savvy investors will keep an eye on the bottom of the chart, watching for big trades as word leaks out about possible trouble.

Remember, shares of the company were as low as $0.48 in March. Today’s investors are just one press release away from seeing that level once again.

Woman arrested for muder of twin midget wrestlers

No, that headline isn't the result of a 'stories we'd always click on' competition in the Asylum offices. This actually happened.

A woman in Mexico City has been charged with poisoning two midget wrestlers -- twin brothers Alejandro and Alberto Perez Jimenez -- who were found dead in a hotel room last month.

Prosecutors say that the 65-year-old woman and an accomplice posed as prostitutes and then laced the brothers' alcoholic drinks with eye drops in order to rob them. And let's face it, if you found yourself in a hotel room with a 65-year-old hooker, you'd drink up too.

It's suspected that the ladies failed to take into account the wrestlers' diminutive stature and accidentally gave them a lethal dose.

The brothers fought under the now-ironic names La Parkita ("Little Death") and El Espectrito II ("The Little Ghost") and wore masks as part of the "lucha libre" professional wrestling circuit. Lucha libre was popularised in 1933 and is one of Mexico's proudest cultural traditions, along with piƱatas and originating flu pandemics.

Health Care Reform Headed For Failure?

Last evening, President Barack Obama delivered a press conference in an attempt to salvage health care reform. It didn't work. His answers to questions were rambling at times and far too professorial at other times (and still lacked some much-needed details) and I walked away from the whole affair fairly confused about where reform efforts are headed. It seems to me that the President and many in his own party are at-odds with one another and that doesn't often spell success.

I fear that health care reform is headed either for failure--which would really disappoint folks like me who have no insurance--or it's headed toward a watered down plan that will cover some but not all without insurance and that President Obama and the Democrats will call it victory.

It's a measure of just how frustrated people have become that even MSNBC was criticizing the President last night--and that's the first time I've seen that on the Obama-loving network. That tells you something.

Black scholar arrest angers Obama

The US president has said police acted "stupidly" when they arrested a black Harvard scholar outside his own home.

Prof Henry Louis Gates was held last week in Cambridge, Massachusetts, home to the top university where he teaches.

Barack Obama said the US had a long history of African-Americans being disproportionately stopped by police.

Officers were called to Prof Gates's house after a woman reported seeing two black males - the professor and his driver - trying to force entry.

Although the exact facts of the incident are disputed, Prof Gates was arrested outside his home after providing the officer with identification.

Mr Obama said: "I think it's fair to say, number one, any of us would be pretty angry.

"Number two... the Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home."

An initial disorderly conduct charge was dropped and Cambridge police called the arrest "regrettable and unfortunate".

'Rogue policeman'

Mr Obama said federal officials should work with local police to "improve policing techniques so that we're eliminating potential bias".

He said that when he was in the Illinois state legislature, he had worked towards a racial profiling bill because there was indisputable evidence that African-Americans and Hispanics were being stopped disproportionately.

"And that is a sign, an example of how race remains a factor in the society," he said.

Prof Gates has said he was "outraged" by the arrest and called the officer, Sgt James Crowley, a "rogue policeman". Sgt Crowley has refused to apologise.

During the confrontation between the two men, the 58-year-old professor reportedly said: "This is what happens to black men in America."

His lawyer said Prof Gates had just returned from a trip overseas and, upon arriving at the property with a driver, found his front door jammed and had to force it open.

By the time police arrived at the house, he and the driver had managed to get inside the property.

According to police, Prof Gates shouted at the officer and accused him of racial bias.