Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Whats Going On In Newark...

Rampage Jackson to Star As B.A. Baracus In New A-Team Movie, Because There Is A God

Will we go there? Will we say it? Yes we will: We pity the fool who doesn’t think that Rampage Jackson is going to be excellent as B.A. Baracus in the new A-Team movie. Ah, that felt good.

The Sun is reporting that the famed UFC fighter will be featured in the upcoming A Team relaunch, currently in pre-production and scheduled for a 2010 release. The movie will also feature The Hangover’s Bradley Cooper as Face and Liam Neeson as Hannibal, which just sounds miraculous. Jackson beat out fellow hopefuls 50 Cent and The Game, because apparently the casting breakdown called for “mediocre rappers.” The movie’s IMDB page also lists Common as a possibility, which is just silly talk.

Granted, the movie itself could be a total nightmare, and is wading into some tricky waters by updating the franchise to modern day, with the team composed of Iraq War veterans trying to clear their name. Also, the update will break the old show’s no-kill rule, which has already raised the ire of Baracus Emeritus, Mr T. But there is one guarantee: Rampage Jackson doing his Mr. T impression is going to be worth the price of admission alone. Plus, he already has a whole bunch of chains!

Really, he’s absolutely perfect. He’s funny, charismatic, enormous, and probably wouldn’t have a problem with rocking the reverse mohawk. Check out this interview with Jimmy Fallon if you don’t believe us. The guy is a riot and a half, and for once we’re actually excited about one of these 80’s nostalgia-mining tar pits. This one might actually be a winner.

Microsoft Edits Black Person Out of Ad; Everyone Offended

This is what racism in advertising looks like: Microsoft photoshopped a black man out of one of its ads targeting the Polish market (image below). Is this racist against black people or the Polish? Or both? You decide!

Microsoft prepared two web sites touting its IT infrastructure software, one in English and one in Polish. The English one featured the usual politically correct rainbow coalition of smiling everymen: A white woman, a black man and an Asian man.

The Polish site, however, featured a badly edited white man’s head sitting on top of the shirt collar of the man who was black in the English ad. (Here’s the English-language version of the site. Here’s the Polish-language version.)

Microsoft apologized, and has already started a witchhunt internal inquiry to figure out who needs to be fired.

Buzz Exclusive: Usher Divorce from Tameka Foster Finalized

Singer Usher Raymond is officially back to being a bachelor.

BV Buzz has learned that the 30-year-old singer's divorce from his wife, Tameka Foster, has been finalized and an agreement was reached in a pre-court settlement.

The camps aren't talking now – likely preparing to give an exclusive to a media outlet like People magazine – but I hear an official announcement should drop soon.

A rep for the singer did not answer a detailed request for comment.

Foster's publicist refuses to issue any statements to BV Buzz.

"In the future, please don't bother us again for direct quotes or responses from Tameka," a one-named flack identified only as Melody e-mailed last week.

Usher is in Paris celebrating the end of the two-year marriage.

On June 11, this column reported that the singer had filed for divorce. Read 'End of the Road: Reports Say Usher Files for Divorce.'

The 'Confessions' singer and his 40-something ex-wife have two children: Usher Raymond V, 20 months, and Naviyd, 8 months.

Foster has three children from previous relationships.

Sources close the couple tell me that the divorce settlement was "real simple."

"She only got what the prenuptial agreement said she would," the source told me, before adding: "There was no big payday, but Usher is taking great care of his kids."

As previously reported, Usher had been separated from Foster for the last year of their marriage.

Before the Grammy winner announced he was filing for divorce, online sites had photos of him allegedly on a date with Def Jam Records executive Grace Miguel.

Usher, who is currently featured on the covers of both Uptown and Vegas magazines, will release a new album this fall called 'Monster.'

Al Sharpton and Dr. Boyce Talk Barack Obama, Michael Vick

I was a recent guest on "Keeping it Real with Al Sharpton" (audio is below). I like Rev. Al, and for some reason, this was the first time I've appeared on his show. I've appeared on Rev. Jesse Jackson's radio show at least 30 times over the past 2 or 3 years and I've interacted with Al through that venue. Al runs a good show, and I was impressed. I tend to be picky about radio show hosts, since some of them are very bad. Shows with very well known hosts tend to be the worst, since the host enjoys hearing himself speak more than the guest. Rev. Al didn't have that problem. In the midst of his own commentary, he always makes sure there is room for other guests, callers, etc.

Yes, he is a controversial and imperfect figure, I will certainly give you that. But he is also a force to be reckoned with. He manages delicate diplomatic relationships with the intellect of a PhD, but he backs his words up with enough action to let you know he's serious. Here are a few observations I have about the Rev. Al Sharpton.

1) He is a mobilizer unlike any other - Al Sharpton's ability to activate, assemble, organize and scare the living *&^% out of his adversaries is no doubt a reflection of his roots in urban New York. Anyone who spends time in NYC knows that New Yorkers don't have time for BS, they don't usually worry about whether or not you like them, and they will get in your face if necessary. Al Sharpton is a larger-than-life reflection of this New York reality.

2) He is politically savvy - I was curious and observant about how Rev. Al would measure the growing influence of Barack Obama vs. his pre-existing relationship with Hillary Clinton. Al played it like a pro - not taking sides too soon, and leaving all doors open. He didn't make any public mistakes during the election and kept himself in a good position after Obama was in the White House.

3) He is a man of action - Most public figures just talk and don't do much of anything. Sharpton is not in that category. One of my favorite sayings is that "The proof is in the potato salad." Rev. Sharpton keeps the potato salad flowing for days by measuring his ideology against real and concrete activities leading to the specified objective.

4) The President respects him - I was as shocked as anyone to see Rev. Sharpton stepping out giving press conferences on the White House lawn. But it's apparent that Barack Obama is noticing the same things that I'm noticing, which is why Sharpton was, to my knowledge, one of the first African American leaders to meet with the president.

5) He stands up for those who have no voice - This is one of the reasons many people in black America turn to Al Sharpton with their problems. He doesn't just yell about racial profiling when he is the victim, he yells about it when the victim is an anonymous black man or woman in a town he has never seen. I listened to Rev. Al respond to a caller who asked why her Section 8 Housing requires her to release medical records and other personal information. I was curious to see how Al would handle the complicated call: rather than dodging the issue and moving on (which most hosts would have done), he asked the woman several poignant questions and then referred her to the local chapter of the National Action Network. This is the kind of organization that can lead to real and lasting progress.

I admit that I was always one of the people who laughed about Sharpton's perm back in the day. I still expect that Rev. Al, like other leaders, possesses imperfections that wouldn't look very good in the public eye. But when measured against other leaders, politicians and public figures, we've got to give "dap" where it is due. Al Sharpton is a man who knows how to get things done and he is very good for America.

To listen to my conversation with Rev. Sharpton, please click the audio file below. Enjoy!

Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Distinguished Scholar with the Barbara Jordan Institute for Policy Research at Texas Southern University.

S.C. Lieutenant Governor Will Ask Gov. Mark Sanford to Resign

South Carolina’s lieutenant governor Andre Bauer will ask embattled Gov. Mark Sanford to resign at a news conference Wednesday, a spokesman said (via TheState). Bauer will also renew his pledge to bow out of the 2010 gubernatorial race should Sanford resign within a month or so.

With new evidence that the famously frugal Sanford failed to report 35 flights he has taken on private jets around the world in business class ignoring stringent state rules governing travel, the Governor is edging closer to impeachment anyway. Sanford, under fire for the extramarital affair and questionable spending, was also advised today by South Carolina Reps. Nathan Ballentine and Rep. Gerry Simrill that unless he steps down, House Republicans would likely impeach him.

Netanyahu makes a limited bet Barack Obama is a tough serious man? puuuuulllleeeeeeze

Maybe it was a 'little to lose' wager.


Barack Obama is close to brokering an Israeli-Palestinian deal that will allow him to announce a resumption of the long-stalled Middle East peace talks before the end of next month, according to US, Israeli, Palestinian and European officials.

Key to bringing Israel on board is a promise by the US to adopt a much tougher line with Iran over its alleged nuclear weapons programme. The US, along with Britain and France, is planning to push the United Nations security council to expand sanctions to include Iran's oil and gas industry, a move that could cripple its economy.

In return, the Israeli government will be expected to agree to a partial freeze on the construction of settlements in the Middle East. In the words of one official close to the negotiations: "The message is: Iran is an existential threat to Israel; settlements are not."

So they are trading a 'much tougher line on Iran' for a partial freeze in settlement construction (new settlements, which I thought were stopped, or adding a bedroom for a new baby?) in order to get the Palestinians who will not give up right of return, or even PROMISE to arrest and or kill Palestinians who want armed struggle (and therefore kill talks before they start) to the table for talks which will founder.

No set of circumstances more aptly describes the worldview of the Obamanoids than this.

1.They know they are not going to war by air to stop Iran.

2.They know Netanyahu doesn't want to lose the USA, but WILL CHANCE IT if compelled to.

3.They know the Palestinians will never give up right of return.

4.They persist in non-recognition that another round of disappointments will make things much worse in the region with Iran at the brink ..possibly to an uncontrollable intifada..leading to????

Take this same kind of thinking and apply it to Health Care

Take this same kind of thinking and apply it to the economy, inflation, jobs, and free enterprise

Take this same kind of thinking and apply it to .....overseas deployments about man caused disasters

Take this same kind of thinking and apply it to investigations over CIA actions

Failure, disaster, calumny, frustration.

Town halls are just the beginning.

AP source: Sanchez chosen Jets' starting QB

Rookie Mark Sanchez was named the New York Jets' starting quarterback Wednesday, according to a person familiar with the decision.

Sanchez, the fifth overall draft pick out of Southern California, beat out veteran Kellen Clemens with a solid training camp and will be under center for the Jets' season opener at Houston on Sept. 13. The person requested anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the decision.

Sanchez struggled early in his start at Baltimore on Monday night, but threw a touchdown pass to Leon Washington to cap his final series. Sanchez was 3-for-8 for 43 yards and had an interception — his first pass of the game — returned for a touchdown. Clemens was 5-for-10 for 60 yards and a score, but also had an interception returned for a TD.

New coach Rex Ryan said early in training camp that he would like to have made a decision on his starter by the Jets' third preseason game, and he apparently saw enough from the two quarterbacks through two games.

FoxSports first reported the decision earlier Wednesday.

Sanchez, who replaces Brett Favre as the starter, had an up-and-down training camp, befitting of a rookie, but showed lots of poise and good decision-making at times to give him a slight edge in the competition this summer.

Clemens, entering his fourth season with the Jets after being a second-round pick in 2006, also had a solid but unspectacular camp, but threw 12 interceptions compared to the rookie's five.

The Jets signed their franchise quarterback to a five-year deal that could be worth up to $60 million, including $28 million guaranteed, just a few weeks after the draft. Sanchez was already being touted as the new face of the franchise and it appeared it was his job to lose after that.

Sanchez had a sizzling NFL debut Aug. 14, when he came in with 28 seconds left in the first quarter, completed a 48-yard pass to David Clowney on his first snap and engineered an early scoring drive in New York's 23-20 loss to St. Louis.

He struggled against the Ravens in the team's 24-23 defeat at Baltimore, but Ryan said he expected both quarterbacks to have their problems against the defense he helped build during the previous 10 years as an assistant and then coordinator.

Sanchez forced a pass on the second play as he was hit by Ray Lewis, and Haloti Ngata rumbled 25 yards for a score. His second pass was almost picked off by Lewis, who dropped the ball, but Sanchez settled down after that.

Ryan made it clear after the team drafted Sanchez that he wouldn't be afraid to start a rookie quarterback, particularly after watching Joe Flacco lead the Ravens to the AFC championship last season.

The Jets traded up in the draft to acquire the fifth overall pick from Cleveland and former coach Eric Mangini. New York jumped at the chance to select Sanchez, who was considered one of the top prospects in the draft despite a lack of experience.

Sanchez went 14-2 as a starter with the Trojans, leading them over Penn State in the Rose Bowl in January. The Jets were comfortable with Sanchez's ability, putting him through a private workout and holding a classroom session in a hotel room at the owners' meetings in California in March.

Iraqi Shi'ite Leader al-Hakim Dies

A 2008 file photo of Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, head of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council,in Baghdad, Iraq

Sources close to Iraqi Shi'ite leader Abdul Aziz al-Hakim say the cleric has died.

Hakim was being treated for lung cancer at a hospital in Iran, and those close to the man said his health was deteriorating.

A family member and an aide to Hakim, speaking on the condition of anonymity, separately told reporters Wednesday that he had suffered a setback.

Hakim was known for his close links with Iran, and he led the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council, one of Iraq's most powerful Shi'ite groups.

In June, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani visited Hakim in Tehran, where the ailing cleric was seeking treatment.

Michele Brown, former top aide to GOP candidate for Governor of New Jersey, resigned today amid scandal over his undisclosed loan to her

by Joe Sudbay

Last week, we learned that the GOP candidate for governor in New Jersey, Chris Christie, who used to be the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey, loaned a former subordinate a large sum of money and failed to report it as required by law. At the time, I wrote:

Am I the only person who finds it odd that Christie was loaning large sums to his "subordinate"? I'd like to hear more about the relationship between Christie and Michele Brown. This seems very shady -- and shady in that, "there has to be more going on here" way.

Apparently, a lot of people are interested in this situation. So much so, that the subordinate in question, Michelle Brown, quit her job today:

The federal prosecutor at the center of the controversy over a loan made by New Jersey gubernatorial candidate Chris Christie has resigned.

In her resignation letter dated today, Michele Brown, the acting first assistant U.S. Attorney for New Jersey, said it has been an "honor and privilege" to serve, but she does not want to be "a distraction" for the office.

I think she's already a "distraction." Something tells me that we haven't heard the last of this controversy. Keep in mind, both Christie and Brown were federal prosecutors when this loan transpired. From what I've gleaned, it's rather unprecedented for a U.S. Attorney to loan a staffer almost $50,000 -- and, then not report it as required by law. So, yeah, it's a distraction and will be until all the questions are answered.

Black Politicians Face Pressure in New York

New York State has a historic track record with the caliber of Black politicians it has launched onto the national platform.

With congressional dynamos including the late Adam Clayton Powell Jr., Rev. Floyd H. Flake and the current Ways and Mean Chair Congressman Charles Rangel. The Empire State celebrated another milestone with the ascent of Lt. Governor David Paterson, a prominent Black politician and former New York State Senator, to the governorship of New York in the wake of a scandal that ousted Eliot Spitzer.

“There is so much turmoil within the political arena at this time; but with all that's going on there is still much to celebrate, starting with the fact that we have our first Black President,” commented Tiffany Braxton, Founder and CEO of Midnight Management, a marketing and development firm, and community advocate. “As a native New Yorker, I was extremely happy to also celebrate Governor Paterson stepping in for Eliot Spitzer. A Black man in a position of power (I thought), maybe there is still hope for us as a people after all.”

Approval ratings and anticipation was high for the first legally blind, African American governor who was seen by many to be able to work both sides of the room in Albany and get things done. White, Hispanic and Black politicians respected the governor and viewed his upfront approach as a key to “righting the ship” of the state.

Unfortunately, numerous missteps ranging from a botched senatorial nomination process and consistent communications snafus to an ever changing support team and a disconnect with that same legislative body, rendered the dream more a nightmare for New York residents. Thus, the governor’s approval rating and the view about Black politicians began to slide as the business of politics became more of a “win, lose or draw up a new game plan.”

With the mood of the country focused on democracy at all costs and the Democratic party as the flavor of the month, the power shift in Albany turned the tables to create more leadership opportunities for Black politicians in the New York State Senate and that balance of power hinged on a one vote majority.

An unsuccessful political coup that involved two Democratic State Senators shifting their vote to the Republican Party, changed the shift of power and all but shuttered New York’s political and economic process in the ensuing stalemate. Legislative initiatives and budget considerations were delayed and the efforts of the governor, who stated early on that he did not know what was going on, were futile.

"Challenge your elected officials to share their plan to get you, the constituents (the folks who elected them) out of this terrible mess we are in. But, don't be surprised if they don't have one,” stated Wendell Niles, a leading businessman and a Republican

Voting taxpayers rely on their elected officials and Black politicians more so than others, to always be on top of their game. Many of the Black politicians who were involved in the drama were key advisers to the governor and diminished much of the initial positive feelings that residents were beginning to have about Black politicians in key positions.

The infighting and lack of leadership was evident and the outcome, despite the shift returning to a Democratic majority and Black politicians back in prominent roles, has put a scar on the progress. Even as attempts were made by the governor and others to restore order and a sense of responsibility, the very idea is unlikely.

“As an African American with a keen interest in the political process in New York State, it is my position, whether Democrat or Republican, that our political parties exist to represent the voice and ideologies of the communities these elected officials represent,” noted Dr. David Scott, President of Clinical Research Development Associates (CRDA). “And that the fate of these basic principles should not hinge on the self-serving behavior of a few.” Headquartered in New York, CRDA is one of the few African American owned and operated clinical research sites in the country.

Adding insult to injury, these elected officials, Hispanic, White and Black politicians alike, who were not conducting the business they were elected to do, did manage to vote to continue to be paid, despite the governor’s threats to withhold their salaries.

With unemployment soaring, particularly among Blacks in New York, this was a major disappointment with ramifications likely to be felt in the next election. The fate of the New York residents, who rank high among the states that are overtaxed, was hung in the balance of a political game similar to a poker stand off that would generate no winners, but many losers and long term implications.

“My feelings have started to change, and I am not as excited about Governor Paterson as I once was. I am not as confident with regards to him making things better for us New Yorkers; it seems as if things are getting worse,” added Ms. Braxton. “His approval rating will not be at an all time high anytime soon. Can our Black politicians do what is needed for our communities? Well that depends on their agenda. They all have one, but unfortunately it's not always in our best interest. I am watching and waiting.”

As Black politicians continue to aspire to achieve levels of success in local, state and federal offices and watch the examples being set by President Obama, it is clear that there are lessons to be learned in the game of chance that is politics.

There was a popular song that stated, “You gotta know how to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away, and know when to run…you never count your money when you are sitting at the table, they’ll be time enough for counting up, when the dealin’s done.” Unfortunately, the dealing in politics is more serious than cards because it involves people and their hard earned tax dollars.

“The recent political coup d' etat in Albany violated every New York citizens' rights to a basic and fair representation defined by the laws of decency and the Constitution," added Dr. Scott. Too long those who served as the power brokers of these precious assets did not reflect the interests or represent the diversity of their constituency.

In some places in America, that is still true, but those times are slowly changing. However, the role of Black politicians clearly has to take on a different persona than those portrayed by many of the political giants of the past who forgot who they represented. Our communities do not win with “business as usual.”

Ways & Means chair in trouble ... again

Rep. Charles Rangel, the New York Democrat who heads the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, is back under the ethics spotlight.

Charles_rangel_official_photo (2) This latest scrutiny comes after Rangel revealed on his amended 2007 financial disclosure report that he didn't originally detail hundreds of thousands of dollars in assets.

The new information, according to CQ Politics, includes an account at the Congressional Federal Credit Union worth at least $250,000, land in southern New Jersey and stock in PepsiCo and fast food conglomerate Yum! Brands.

Rangel already is under two separate investigations by the House ethics committee. Expect renewed calls, including from me, for Rangel to relinquish his Ways and Means chairmanship.

While I firmly believe in innocent until proven guilty, I also know that when it comes to the folks who have a major hand in how taxpayer money is collected and spent, public perception often is more compelling than facts.

Mr. Rangel, stay on the Committee and do your part, but it's time to let someone with fewer political and financial problems take the helm. You need to focus on clearing up your issues and let some other Representative give full attention to the important task of tax legislation.

Oil prices hover above US$72 in Asia amid concerns over slowing US demand (Oil-Prices)

Oil prices hovered above US$72 a barrel Wednesday in Asia after tumbling more than 3 per cent overnight, weighed down by concerns over slowing demand in the United States, the world´s largest energy consumer.

Benchmark crude for October delivery was up 43 cents at $72.48 a barrel by late afternoon Singapore time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Prices briefly touched $75 per barrel Tuesday for the first time in 10 months, buoyed by new signals of rising U.S. consumer confidence, but fell back to settle at $72.05 after a new report from Washington projected a cumulative $7 trillion U.S. deficit for the next decade.

New data on weak energy demand added further pressure on pricing.

Victor Shum, an energy analyst with consultancy Purvin&Gertz in Singapore, said a report by the American Petroleum Institute showed a substantial gain of 4.3 million barrels in crude oil inventories for the week ended Aug. 21.

The U.S. Energy Department will release its weekly inventories data Wednesday. For the previous week, crude stocks fell 8.4 million barrels, according to that data.

The buildup in stockpiles was largely due to the delivery of crude oil imports that were delayed earlier, and this may further increase due to seasonally lower demand for gasoline as the summer holidays end, he said.

"The momentum in the oil rally has certainly been broken. We are seeing a well-deserved correction right now and could see oil prices fall below $70 a barrel in the coming weeks," Shum said.

Energy prices have risen sharply this year, riding on a rally in equity markets mostly on the belief that the global economy is improving and demand will rebound soon.

The New York-based Conference Board provided a bit of good news Tuesday when it said its consumer confidence index rose to 54.1 from an upwardly revised 47.4 in July. Still, the index is well below 90, the minimum level associated with a healthy economy.

Shum said the pull back in oil pricing was in contrast to gains in stock markets. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 0.3 per cent Tuesday and most Asian markets advanced Wednesday. Oil has often looked to the performance of equities as a gauge of economic optimism and therefore crude demand.

"If oil decouples from the linkage with equities and gives in to weak fundamentals, we could see continuos correction in oil pricing," Shum said.

In other Nymex trading, gasoline for September delivery gained 0.76 cent to $2.0172 a gallon and heating oil added 0.76 cent to $1.8635 a gallon. Natural gas was little changed at $2.881 per 1,000 cubic feet.

In London, Brent crude rose 43 cents to $72.25.

Half of Americans Could Contract Swine Flu This Season

Up to half of the U.S. population could contract swine flu this upcoming flu season, killing up to 90,000 people and hospitalizing 1.8 million, according to a report released by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

Americans lack immunity to the swine flu, which gives the virus the potential to infect more people than the seasonal flu generally does. And although many people who contract the disease might not show symptoms, and most would not be hospitalized, the pandemic would put a strain on the U.S. health-care system … because those patients could occupy between 50% and 100% of available intensive-care beds at the peak of the epidemic in affected regions, while ICU units normally operate close to capacity. Seasonal flu normally causes about 200,000 hospitalizations a year [The Wall Street Journal].

Although the figures put forth by the report sound logical, a number of variables make it difficult to predict whether the actual number of infected Americans will exceed–or fall short of–the White House’s predictions. For example, the estimates are based on various assumptions, including that the virus will not mutate into a more dangerous form or infect more older people. “If it turned out to affect a lot more adults, the severity would be a lot worse” [The Washington Post], says public health expert Marc Lipsitch. On the other hand, the outbreak could also be milder than predicted.

The primary purpose of the estimates was to help guide planning to protect the public. For example, it was estimated that the outbreak could peak in mid-October, so the panel urged expediting the availability of a vaccine [The Washington Post].

Texas Executes Man for Arson Murders. Experts Say Fire Wasn’t Arson.

In a case that’s sure to fire up the debate about the use of the death penalty again (if not buried by news on the recession and the IG report), the Chicago Tribune reports that the state of Texas is reviewing the case of a man that was convicted of murder by way of arson. He was executed in 2004. Since that time, the case has been looked at by nine fire experts, and all have concluded that the arson conviction was based on outdated theories. This new testimony was done for a state panel, and it doesn’t mince words:

Among Beyler’s key findings: that investigators failed to examine all of the electrical outlets and appliances in the Willinghams’ house in the small Texas town of Corsicana, did not consider other potential causes for the fire, came to conclusions that contradicted witnesses at the scene, and wrongly concluded Willingham’s injuries could not have been caused as he said they were.

The state fire marshal on the case, Beyler concluded in his report, had “limited understanding” of fire science. The fire marshal “seems to be wholly without any realistic understanding of fires and how fire injuries are created,” he wrote.

The panel has yet to file its own report on the investigation, but if it sides with the experts, I think it will be a severe blow to death penalty supporters. Surely, if Willingham was unjustly executed, it begs the question of how many people have been as well, and not just in Texas, but all over the country? The situation was already looking dire, with a string of exonerations of death row inmates over the past few years, including five just in 2009. Those people weren’t even dead yet. What happens if it turns out an innocent man was actually executed. What is to be done then? Learn from our mistakes and go on? Or scrap the system altogether?

I mean, I guess you could still make a case for the guy killing the two daughters that were lost in the fire, but according to the Tribune, the only other evidence of significance was a confession from a fellow inmate. I’m inclined to view that with skepticism, as is apparently the Tribune.

I am highly interested in seeing what the panel will report, so I’ll keep following and update once we know. In the meantime: what say you all to these developments?

Chris Brown Sentenced to Five Years' Probation; Judge Issues Warning on Rihanna "Chatter"

Chris Brown was formally sentenced in Los Angeles today after accepting a plea deal to felony assault for beating the crap out of Rihanna in February.

His lawyer, Mark Geragos, named the community service program in Virginia in which Brown will be enrolling in a 52-week domestic violence program.

Brown was sentenced to five years probation and 180 days of community labor. Here are the terms of Chris' probation, as stipulated by the judge:

* He is subject to search and seizure 24/7 for the next 60 months years. He can't own any dangerous weapon, including guns or knives. He must surrender any firearms in his possession within 24 hours.

* Brown must personally come to court every three months during probation. The first appearance will be November 19.

* Chris must report by phone every 72 hours as requested.

* He must provide DNA samples as requested by authorities.

* Chris must perform 180 days of community labor.

* He must get approval before leaving the U.S.

* Brown is ordered not to "harass, assault, threaten or molest" Rihanna. He can't have any contact, even on the phone or through a third person.

Chris Gets Off

Chris Brown will not do time, but his probation terms are no joke.

Regarding the last item, Judge Patricia Schnegg said during the sentencing, "I am not immune to the chatter on the airwaves" - almost certainly a reference to reports that Brown and Rihanna are still talking or have even hooked up.

The judge says she means business and will consider it a probation violation and enforce the appropriate consequences if he does not abide by that order.

Republicans join Democrats in mourning Ted Kennedy

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy was a Democrat's Democrat, so much so that he became a rallying point for those in his party and an object of derision for Republican opponents.

Yet his affability and capability to span the partisan divide on an array of legislative matters prompted an outpouring of condolences from those in the GOP as well as the Democratic Party following his death Tuesday at age 77 from brain cancer.

President Barack Obama led the Democrats, saying in a statement: "For five decades, virtually every major piece of legislation to advance the civil rights, health and economic well-being of the American people bore his name and resulted from his efforts."

The widow of another president, Ronald Reagan, was one of the first to speak out from the Republican Party.

"Given our political differences, people are sometimes surprised by how close Ronnie and I have been to the Kennedy family," Nancy Reagan said in a statement from Los Angeles.

"But Ronnie and Ted could always find common ground, and they had great respect for one another. In recent years, Ted and I found our common ground in stem cell research, and I considered him an ally and a dear friend. I will miss him."

Her husband died in June 2004 of complications from Alzheimer's disease.

For the governor of her home state, the loss was personal.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose wife, Maria Shriver, was Kennedy's niece, said in a statement: "He was known to the world as the Lion of the Senate, a champion of social justice, and a political icon. Most importantly, he was the rock of our family: a loving husband, father, brother and uncle."

Schwarzenegger, who came to politics after careers as a bodybuilder and actor, credited Kennedy with helping him in his current role.

"I have personally benefited and grown from his experience and advice, and I know countless others have as well," the governor said. "Teddy taught us all that public service isn't a hobby or even an occupation, but a way of life and his legacy will live on."

Kennedy's death came just two weeks after that of Shriver's mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, one of the senator's siblings.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a 2008 GOP presidential contender, recalled losing to Kennedy in a 1994 Senate race. Nonetheless, the two joined forces in 2006 to help pass a universal health insurance law in Massachusetts.

"The last son of Rose Fitzgerald and Joseph Kennedy was granted a much longer life than his brothers, and he filled those years with endeavor and achievement that would have made them proud," Romney said, recalling the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Robert Kennedy, as well as the World War II death of Joseph Kennedy Jr.

"In 1994, I joined the long list of those who ran against Ted and came up short. But he was the kind of man you could like even if he was your adversary," Romney added.

The Senate's top Democrat, Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., labeled Kennedy the "patriarch" of the party.

The Senate majority leader promised that Congress, while mourning Kennedy's loss, would renew the push for the cause of Kennedy's life — health care reform.

"Ted Kennedy's dream was the one for which the founding fathers fought and for which his brothers sought to realize," Reid said in a statement. "The liberal lion's mighty roar may now fall silent, but his dream shall never die."

Kennedy's junior colleague, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., lauded him for his cancer fight.

"He taught us how to fight, how to laugh, how to treat each other, and how to turn idealism into action, and in these last fourteen months, he taught us much more about how to live life, sailing into the wind one last time," Kerry said.

"No words can ever do justice to this irrepressible, larger than life presence who was simply the best — the best senator, the best advocate you could ever hope for, the best colleague and the best person to stand by your side in the toughest of times."