Thursday, September 3, 2009

Kennedy memoir reveals remorse over Chappaquiddick

(AP) NEW YORK — Sen. Edward M. Kennedy wrote in a memoir being published this month that he made terrible decisions after the 1969 car crash that killed Mary Jo Kopechne, but said he was never romantically involved with her and was haunted by that night for his entire life.

He also wrote in "True Compass" that he accepted the conclusion that a lone gunman assassinated his brother President John F. Kennedy.

The memoir is to be published Sept. 14 by Twelve, a division of the Hachette book group. The 532-page book was obtained early by The New York Times and the New York Daily News.

In it, Kennedy said his actions on Chappaquiddick Island on July 18, 1969, were "inexcusable." He said he was afraid and "made terrible decisions" and had to live with the guilt for more than four decades.

Kennedy drove off a bridge into a pond. He swam to safety, leaving Kopechne in the car.

Kopechne, a worker with slain Sen. Robert F. Kennedy's campaign, was found dead in the submerged car's back seat 10 hours later. Kennedy, then 37, pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of an accident and got a suspended sentence and probation.

He wrote that he had no romantic relationship with Kopechne, and he hardly knew her. He said they were both getting emotional about his brother's death and decided to leave the party that was hosted by Robert Kennedy's former staffers.

Kennedy also wrote in the memoir that he always accepted the official findings on his brother John's assassination.

He said he had a full briefing by Earl Warren, the chief justice on the commission that investigated the Nov. 22, 1963, Dallas shooting, which was attributed to Lee Harvey Oswald. He said he was convinced the Warren Commission got it right and he was "satisfied then, and satisfied now."

In the book, Kennedy wrote candidly about his battle with brain cancer and his "self-destructive drinking," especially after the 1968 death of his brother Robert.

After his brothers' assassinations, Kennedy said he was easily startled at loud sounds, and would hit the deck whenever a car backfired.

He expressed regret over getting drinks with nephew William K. Smith in Palm Beach in 1991, after which Smith was charged with rape. He was later acquitted.

He also explained why he decided to run for the presidency in 1980, saying he was motivated in part by his differences with then-President Jimmy Carter. He criticized Carter's go-slow approach to providing universal health care.

As a 9-year-old boy at the Riverdale Country School in New York, Kennedy said he would hide under his bed, petrified of a dorm master he thought was sexually abusive.

The book was written with the help of a collaborator and was based on contemporaneous notes taken by Kennedy throughout his life and hours of recordings for an oral history project.

Kennedy died last week at age 77.

Whitney Houston comeback album headed to No. 1

By Mariel Concepcion

NEW YORK (Billboard) - Whitney Houston struggled with her voice during her much-hyped comeback performance on ABC's "Good Morning America" on Tuesday. But industry prognosticators don't expect the diva to trip up on the charts next week.

"I Look To You" -- Houston's first album in seven years -- is expected to sell upward of 200,000 copies during the week ended September 6, which should easily enable it to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart when rankings are released next Wednesday.

Houston would do well to suppress any loud cheers so that she doesn't hurt her famous pipes. During Tuesday's performance for 5,000 concert-goers at Central Park's Rumsey Playfield, she apologized for her voice.

"I'm sorry. I did 'Oprah.' I've been talking so long ... I talked so much, my voice," she attempted to explain. "I shouldn't be talking, I should be singing," she said before breaking into "I'm Every Woman," the last of her three-song set. Other tracks performed included "Million Dollar Bill" and the album's title track, during which Houston choked up.

Other artists with new albums in stores this week include The Used, Trey Songz, Pitbull, Chevelle and John Fogerty.

Ebony Fashion Fair: Decades of fashion, cancels fall shows

For decades a fashion extravaganza fascinated attendees with elegant designer fashions, raised money for charity as well as made history in the fashion world. The fashion with a purpose event is not the anticipated shows in New York or Paris, but the incomparable Ebony Fashion Fair. What would have been the kick off of their fall season this month; the Ebony Fashion Fair show is on hiatus.

“In light of the overall economic challenges that are affecting many, including our potential corporate sponsors, we have arrived at a most difficult decision to cancel Ebony Fashion Fair's fall 2009 season,” said Chairman and CEO, Linda Johnson Rice, of Johnson Publishing Company, Inc.

“In the coming months, we will develop a new business model to ensure that the show is a mutually beneficial endeavor. Our primary goal is to build Ebony Fashion Fair and our other brands in ways that will continue delivering meaningful insight and inspiration to the African-American community,” Rice said.

Known as the “worlds largest traveling fashion show,” Ebony Fashion Fair brought designer fashions to predominately African American audiences at hundreds of shows in the United States, the Caribbean, London and England.

Ebony Fashion Fair under the guidance of Producer-Director Mrs. Eunice Johnson, broke barriers in the world of fashion by – featuring African Americans as models, opening doors for African American designers, such as Kevan Hall and Tracy Reese, and not borrowing but purchasing creations from fashion legends, Yves St. Laurent, Pierre Cardin, Nina Ricci and Bill Blass to name a few.

However, it’s just not about fashions for Ebony Fashion Fair. The show has raised over $55 million dollars for local charities and community organizations, including the United Negro College Fund, the Urban League, and the NAACP.

In love with a stripper: When corporations target young girls

I would like to say this has gone too far, or this crowns the end of civilization, or this marks the decline of society, but I'm afraid that would be too tepid in the face of such sense-suspending stupidity.

In what can only be seen as the specific targeting of little girls under the age of 6, a toy is being sold by an unconfirmed company which features a female doll moving around a plastic stripper poll. Those who've seen it in action describe it this way: "The doll begins dancing when the music is turned on, and she goes 'up and down' and 'round and round'."
This "doll" is being marketed to innocent kids--kids without the wherewithal to decipher the insidious suggestions being transmitted. These kids are being sold an idea, early on, of the stripper lifestyle as fun and chic--the thing to be. (Talk to 'em, T-Pain.)

The Full Story

Three Indicted in Racially Motivated Beating

A grand jury has indicted a man and two teenagers arrested last month on charges of beating an elderly black fisherman in a Baltimore park.

All three suspects are white. One, 27-year-old Calvin Lockner, is nicknamed "Hitler" and has a tattoo of the Nazi leader.

The victim, 76-year-old James Privott, was kicked, punched and beaten with a baseball bat. Authorities say his attackers yelled racial slurs and Lockner told police the beating would not have happened if the victim had been white.

Lockner, 17-year-old Zachary Watson and 16-year-old Emmanuel Miller were indicted Wednesday on charges including armed carjacking, armed robbery, first-degree assault and hate crime.

Privott lost two teeth and suffered a possible broken eye socket and spent a day in the hospital.

Drugmaker Pfizer Pleads Guilty to Fraud and Will Pay Record $2.3 Billion

The government needs to bring more cases like this. This is the largest health care fraud fine in U.S. history.

By Ransdell Pierson and Jeremy Pelofsky
NEW YORK/WASHINGTON - Pfizer Inc agreed on Wednesday to plead guilty to a U.S. criminal charge relating to promotion of its now-withdrawn Bextra pain medicine and will pay a record $2.3 billion to settle allegations it improperly marketed 13 medicines.
The world’s biggest drugmaker was slapped with the huge fines after being deemed a repeat offender in pitching drugs to patients and doctors for unapproved conditions.

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Report Says More than 70% of Illegal Aliens and Contraband Will Make it Across U.S. Border

The borders at Mexico and Canada continues to present a daunting challenge. It’s obvious that the U.S. should and could be doing a better job at the border. Yet, the answers aren’t easy. More inspections might result in untenable traffic jams.

By Homeland Security Newswire
According to DHS, the vast majority — more than 70 percent — of illegal aliens and contraband attempting to move across our border through official ports of entry will succeed

In fiscal 2008 U.S. Border Patrol officers working at checkpoints that are typically set up along roads and highways 25 to 100 miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border stopped three people “who were identified as persons linked to terrorism,” according to information provided by the Border Patrol to the Government Accountability Office.

“In addition,” says a GAO report released Monday, “the Border Patrol reported that in fiscal year 2008 checkpoints encountered 530 aliens from special interest countries, which are countries the Department of State has determined to represent a potential terrorist threat to the United States.”

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Belgian Arms Dealer Busted in Scheme to Ship Jet Parts to Iran

It’s good to see that Iran likes the U.S. for something — even if it is for military parts.

By Spencer S. Hsu
Washington Post Staff Writer
WASHINGTON – A Belgian arms dealer who allegedly tried to smuggle fighter-jet engines and parts from the United States to Iran has been indicted, U.S. officials announced Wednesday, days after he was arrested in New York City after stepping off a flight from France.

Jacques Monsieur, 56, was charged Aug. 27 by a federal grand jury with six counts of conspiracy, smuggling, money laundering, and violating weapons-trafficking laws and export controls related to a U.S. trade embargo on Iran.

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2,000 FBI Agents and Staff Hit Yankee Stadium

Suddenly Yankee Stadium had a lot of folks with guns.

About 2,000 FBI agents and support staff descended on Yankee Stadium on Wednesday for a mandatory annual meeting, something that was ridiculed by several agents as an annoying waste of time, according to a New York-based website Gang Land News.

The session apparently ran from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and included free hot dogs and soda. (The Yankees were nowhere to be seen. They were playing in Baltimore.)

“Are they bringing in (FBI Director Robert) Mueller to toss out the first pitch,” the site quoted one attendee.

“It’s not my idea of what we should be doing today,” said another.

Gang Land quoted FBI spokesman Jim Margolin as saying: “It was an annual employee conference mandated by the Department of Justice. Not all employees attended in order to insure that all operational functions were appropriately staffed. The venue was reviewed and approved by FBI Headquarters in Washington. The use of the stadium was offered by the Yankees at no cost. And as a practical matter there was no federal facility that would accommodate that many people.”

The Afghanistan-Pakistan War: Obama's Vietnam?

"Our interest in Afghanistan is to prevent it from becoming a haven for terrorists bent on attacking us. That does not require the scale of military operations that the incoming administration is contemplating. It does not require wholesale occupation. It does not require the endless funneling of human treasure and countless billions of taxpayer dollars to the Afghan government."
- Bob Herbert, The New York Times, January 6, 2009

"I don't want to just end the [Iraq] war, but I want to end the mind-set that got us into war in the first place."
- Presidential candidate Barack Obama, January 31, 2008

“If we are strong, our character will speak for itself. If we are weak, words will be of no help.”
- John F. Kennedy (1917-1963) 35th U.S. President

“No nation ever profited from a long war.”
- Sun Tzu, author of “The Art of War”

A solid majority of Americans (54 percent) now oppose President Obama's Afghanistan-Pakistan War. In fact, among Democrats, only twenty-six (26) percent support such a foreign war. In other words, by enlarging this conflict, President Obama is governing as if the opinion of a majority of Americans and of his own political base did not matter. In a democracy, a politician can do that for a while, but not for very long.

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New York, NY - $27 Million Jet Carrying New York Mayor Bloomberg Hit By Bird

New York, NY - A bird had struck Mayor Bloomberg's private jet and nearly crippled the landing gear forcing the pilot to declare a emergency.

The official report belies Bloomberg's claim yesterday that there is "nothing to say" about the harrowing incident.

Shortly after takeoff from a Hamptons airport on Saturday, a "large bird" slammed into the nose landing gear, the FAA documents show.

The damage was potentially so severe that the pilot radioed to a central control tower that he had an emergency.

He wanted the Boston-area airfield, where he was bringing the mayor and friends to attend Ted Kennedy's funeral, to be prepared for the worst.

"[Bloomberg's jet] requested emergency vehicles because they struck a bird while taking off," the control-tower supervisor at

the Boston airfield wrote in the FAA incident report.

The pilot then "requested the tower to check if the gear was down" as the plane buzzed overhead for visual verification. The tower reported that "the gear appeared down," and Bloomberg's $27 million Dassault Falcon 900EX landed without incident.


The bird's kamikaze attack came not long after the city's execution of hundreds of Canada geese.

The mayor had joked that gassing the geese "and letting them go to sleep with nice dreams" was a cheap way to rid the airways

of the kind of birds responsible for taking down US Airways Flight 1459, which made a miraculous safe Hudson River landing in January.

Yesterday, the mayor was in no joking mood about his brush with death.

"There's nothing to say," the mogul, who has three Dassault Falcons, said. "A bird hit a plane. Birds hit planes in the New York area 400 times a year."

Also on board the plane were his girlfriend, Diana Taylor, Deputy Mayor Kevin Sheekey, and former UFT President Randi Weingarten. All but Bloomberg, a licensed pilot, were kept in the dark about the danger.

"I think nobody knew," Weingarten said. "It didn't feel scary when it happened. We were all talking about Ted Kennedy. "We knew when we saw the fire engines that something was going on," Weingarten said.

Jesus Take the Wheel: 61 Year-Old Dude Slaps a Baby in Wal-Mart

Some random dude decided that he had the right to slap a 2 year-old baby who did not belong to him in a Wal-Mart in Georgia…
STONE MOUNTAIN, Ga. — Police say a 61-year-old man annoyed with a crying 2-year-old girl at a Wal-Mart slapped the toddler in the face several times. Roger Stephens of Stone Mountain has been charged with felony cruelty to children and is being held without bond. Authorities say the girl and her mother were shopping Monday when the toddler began crying. The police report says Stephens, a stranger, approached the mother and said, “If you don’t shut that baby up, I will shut her up for you.”

Authorities say Stephens then grabbed the 2-year-old and slapped her at least four times. The child began screaming and Stephens was arrested. Police say an examination showed the girl’s face was slightly red. Stephens was not represented by an attorney at his court hearing. A call to his home was unanswered Wednesday.

“If you don’t shut that baby up, I will shut her up for you.” Really??? Wow.

Ouch Pacman Jones. When Winnipeg Does Not Want You…

…where is there to go?

The reports that the NFL’s pariah had a landing spot in Winnipeg proved incorrect. From the Blue Bombers this morning:

“It is unfortunate that this situation became public; however, our position has remained consistent,” Blue Bombers coach Mike Kelly said in a statement. “We will pursue athletes that we believe will contribute to our organization on and off the field. We have completed our assessment and due diligence and at this time we will not be pursuing the services of Adam Jones.”What due diligence? Googling him? Canvassing the opinions of owners of strip clubs in the area?

Where now, for Pacman?

Michael Jackson to be Buried Thursday

TRAGIC Michael Jackson will be buried at sunset Today.

The private funeral will take place at the Holly Terrace Grand Mausoleum at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in the Hollywood Hills. It is expected to start at 7pm and run for 45 minutes.

Media and fans will be banned from the service, which will be attended by a handful of close friends and family.

Michael’s long-time friend Diana Ross is expected to attend and music legend Aretha Franklin will sing as Jacko is lowered into his grave.

After it is interred, the body will be encased in thick concrete to protect it from grave robbers.

The ceremony will be paid for by Michael’s estate, after a judge granted his mother Katherine’s request for financial assistance Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Police Department is preparing to charge someone with killing Michael, after his official death certificate found he died as a result of “intravenous injection by another”.

Michael’s personal physician Dr. Conrad Murray is currently at the center of police investigation, after he admitted to injecting the singer with powerful anaesthetic Propofol shortly before he died.

Michael’s death certificate lists “acute Propofol intoxication” as the cause of death. It also mentions refers to other sedatives and anti-anxiety drugs administered by Murray as a “significant contributor” to his passing.

Unadjusted Year Over Year: Labor Department Initial Jobless Claims Up 26%

Here's the scoop on the Labor Department's weekly initial jobs claims report:

•Associated Press Headline And Lead: "New jobless claims dip less than expected to 570K... New jobless claims fell slightly last week while the number of people receiving unemployment benefits rose, a sign the job market's recovery will be long and bumpy."

•Labor Department News Release: click here.

•Key Numbers: "The advance number of actual initial claims under state programs, unadjusted, totaled 452,271 in the week ending Aug. 29, a decrease of 5,002 from the previous week. There were 358,730 initial claims in the comparable week in 2008."

•My Spreadsheet (click Download 20090903yoy).
Here's my uneducated interpretation - Things remain bad with initial jobless claims still way over the roughly 330K value which historically has represented a bottoming of the economy and stock market. Year-over-year percentages are falling as the economy was hard in recession this time last year.

I think the long-term chart clearly shows how high initial jobless claims are compared to the good times. Infact, seasonally adjusted initial jobless claims are still above the peak of the dot-com recession. This data indicates that the economy is still contracting.

China to buy $50B of IMF bonds

China's central bank will buy the International Monetary Fund's first set of bonds totaling about $50 billion, the IMF announced.

The purchase agreement with the People's Bank of China is the first such in the Fund's history and calls for the Chinese entity to invest up to $50 billion in IMF notes or Special Drawing Rights.

SDRs are interest-bearing reserve assets and a country holding them can convert them into hard currencies. Some countries reportedly have volunteered to arrange for the buying and selling of SDRs.

The bond sale is part of the IMF's effort to increase liquidity to fight the current global recession by boosting its members' reserves through SDR allocations. As much as $283 billion in allocations were announced at the Group of 20 summit last April in London.

When completed, the IMF's outstanding stock of SDRs would total about $316 billion.

IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn said the Chinese investment will help boost the Fund's lending capacity especially to developing and emerging markets and at the same offer investing countries safety and reasonable returns.

Xinhua news agency said besides China, Brazil, Russia and India, which together constitute what is called the BRIC countries, are potential buyers of the IMF bonds.

Retailers report sales declines for August

Retailers on Thursday posted sales declines for August as shoppers held back on back-to-school purchases and continued to focus on necessities, raising further concern about the upcoming holiday season.

Early reports showed 11 retailers missed analyst expectations, while 10 exceeded estimates, according to a poll by Thomson Reuters. The winners were mainly discounters, while more upscale chains fared worse.

"It really was all about value and price proposition here," said Ken Perkins, president of retail consulting firm Retail Metrics. "If you're off-price or discount-oriented and conscious of price points you fared very well in August."

There have been some signs of a stabilizing economy. On Tuesday, the U.S. manufacturing sector grew in August for the first time in 19 months. Also, a gauge of future U.S. home sales rose more than expected in July to the highest point in more than two years.

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EU probes Oracle-Sun deal, cites open-source issue

BRUSSELS — European Union regulators on Thursday launched an antitrust probe into U.S. software maker Oracle Corp.'s takeover of Sun Microsystems Inc., saying they wanted to make sure Oracle was committed to developing Sun's rival open-source database software MySQL.

EU approval is now the main stumbling block for the $7.4 billion deal which has already been cleared in the U.S. by the Department of Justice.

The European Commission now has 90 days — until Jan. 19, 2010 — before it makes a final decision to clear the deal or block it. It often presses companies to make changes that eliminate antitrust worries, such as selling off parts of their business.

EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said Thursday that regulators needed to examine the effect of a deal "when the world's biggest proprietary database company proposes to take over the world's leading open-source database company."

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DOJ Advice on Sleep Deprivation Varied Widely

Documents Suggest Justice Department Lawyers Uncertain About Legality of 'Enhanced Interrogation' Method

Among the many revelations in the CIA inspector general’s report released last week is this curious fact: the CIA did not have a coherent or consistent policy about the use and legality of sleep deprivation as an interrogation tactic. And it was that technique – more than any of the other highly controversial “enhanced interrogation techniques,” as the CIA euphemistically called them — that raised red flags for the Justice Department’s lawyers.

Still, according to the recently released July 2007 memo from the Office of Legal Counsel, the technique was determined not to cause “serious physical pain or suffering” and not to violate the War Crimes Act. The War Crimes Act prohibits torture and “cruel and inhuman treatment.”

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Justice Stevens to Retire?

By Daphne Eviatar

There’s speculation that 89-year-old Justice John Paul Stevens, the liberal stalwart on the court, may soon announce his retirement. Justice Stevens has reportedly hired only one law clerk for the term starting in October 2010. Usually, justices hire four.

Of course, Stevens still has time to hire, and there would be no shortage of brilliant recent law grads eager to fill those spots. But traditionally, that hiring his done more than a year in advance.
If Stevens were to retire, it would likely not fundamentally alter the ideological dynamic on the court, since President Obama would be able to choose his replacement. Still, Justice Stevens, as the most senior judge on the court, commands a level of respect and authority over court procedures that a new justice would not easily be able to replace.

Former Red Sox Curt Schilling Is Interested In Kennedy's Senate Seat

In an interview with The Boston Herald, former Red Sox ace Curt Schilling hinted that he's considering a run for the Senate seat formerly held by Ted Kennedy. He's a Republican in a Democratic stronghold, but he's got more name recognition in the state (due to his World Series heroics) than pretty much anyone in the state.

The 42-year-old father of four threw nothing but high, hard fastballs in an interview with the Herald yesterday, saying too many Bay State politicians have "dirty hands."
"We've got a political system and a group of people that suck, and that needs to change," said Schilling.

The former ace said he's been contacted by Republican officials about a Senate bid, but he still needs the blessing of his wife, Shonda.

If he does decide to run it's worth remembering that nobody though Arnold Schwarzenegger could win the special election (and re-election) in California.