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.