Thursday, September 17, 2009

Reynolds released from drug rehab

Actor Burt Reynolds has been discharged from a US drug rehabilitation centre where he was treated for painkiller addiction, his manager has said.

It is understood that The Cannonball Run star, 73, became hooked after recent back surgery.

Erik Kritzer said Reynolds sought help after realising "he was in the prison of prescription pain pills".

Mr Kritzer added that the actor hopes his story will help other people in similar situations.

The screen star's manager did not release details on when or where Reynolds was receiving treatment.

He said Reynolds "checked himself into rehab in order to regain control of his life.

Reynolds was one of the biggest Hollywood stars of the 1970s with hits such as Smokey and The Bandit and Deliverance.

He was nominated for an Oscar for playing porn director Jack Horner in the 1997 film Boogie Nights.

Jobless claims drop 12,000 to 545,000

Continuing claims rise 129,000 to 6.23 million

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) -- The number of people filing for state unemployment benefits for the first time fell 12,000 to a seasonally adjusted 545,000 last week, the lowest since mid-July, the U.S. Labor Department reported Thursday. Initial claims have been in a fairly narrow range for the past nine weeks, down about 125,000 from the peak in March, but well above levels typical of a healthy economy.

"Claims should now be falling," wrote Ian Shepherdson, chief U.S. economist for High Frequency Economics. "The economy is expanding, albeit fitfully, and the pace of layoffs is too high relative to current gross domestic product growth. That might be because companies are profoundly skeptical about the sustainability of the upturn."

The number of people claiming benefits of any kind was 9.53 million, not seasonally adjusted. Read the full report.

Economists surveyed by MarketWatch expected initial claims to rise to 563,000 in the week ending Sept. 12. The level of initial claims in the week ending Sept. 5 was revised up by 7,000 to 557,000. See Economic Calendar.

The survey week included the Labor Day holiday. Because state unemployment offices are closed for a day, fewer people are able to file during holiday weeks. But the seasonal adjustment factors take holidays into account.

The four-week average of new claims fell 8,750 to 563,000, the lowest in six weeks. The four-week average smoothes out data to minimize the impact of one-time changes due to weather, strikes or holidays.

The Full Story

FedEx 1Q profit falls, sees improving economy

NEW YORK — FedEx Corp. said Thursday it sees signs of improvement in the global economy as international shipments pick up, but warned its profit will remain weak at least through the end of the year.

The world's second-largest package delivery company, considered a bellwether of economic health, said fiscal 2010 first-quarter earnings fell 53 percent — matching its prediction released last week. It also reiterated a fiscal second-quarter view that implies a modest uptick in worldwide economic activity.

FedEx indicated it might start beefing up schedules for flight crew and hourly personnel as package volume improves, but it doesn't expect that to happen soon. It also doesn't expect to start adding back employees it cut during the worst of the downturn in the near future.

Over the last year, the company has laid off workers and cut wages for thousands of employees to cut costs.

The Memphis, Tenn.-based company reported earnings of $181 million, or 58 cents per share for the quarter ended in August, compared with $384 million, or $1.23 per share, a year ago.

Revenue fell 20 percent to about $8 billion.

The Full Story

UPDATE: Discover Pft Up On Settlement,Cost Cuts;Charge-Offs Up

Discover Financial Services Inc.'s (DFS) fiscal third-quarter net earnings more than tripled from a year ago, bolstered by a legal settlement and lower expenses.

But the company also said it expected losses from souring card accounts to rise next quarter.

The quarterly results reported Thursday morning come as the credit card industry is reeling from credit losses stemming from higher unemployment and a bleak economic outlook. The U.S. unemployment rate rose to 9.7% last month, and most economists believe it is likely to rise further. Cash-strapped card users are increasingly falling behind on payments and cutting back on credit-card spending.

Card issuers are also coping with sweeping U.S. legislation that will take a bite out of their income.

For the quarter ended Aug. 31, Discover posted net income of $577.5 million, or $1.07 a share, up from $180.1 million, or 37 cents a share, a year earlier.

The latest results include an after-tax gain of $287 million related to an antitrust settlement. The company will get another payment related to this settlement.

The company's shares recently traded at $15.73, up 41 cents, or 2.68%. The stock is within striking distance of its 52-week high of $17.70, reached last September.

Unlike most other card companies, which either issue plastic or process the transactions, Discover and bigger rival American Express Co. (AXP) do both. Therefore, in addition to the interest Discover earns on its credit-card loans, a chunk of its revenue comes from fees it charges banks and merchants, such as grocery stores or gas stations, to process card payments.
The Full Story

The Ultimate Fighter: Season 10 premiere

The Ultimate Fighter: Season 10 premiere
Anyone catch TUF 10 premiere after a great Fight Night? Spoiler alert: Rampage Jackson is not a very smart coach. Why he picked the first fight he did is beyond me. That was one of the most one-sided fights I've seen since Demian Maia went down. It was truly shocking too, because how could any fighter lose with Rampage in his corner?

"Get up, get up, get ... up!" was about all Rampage said during the fight. Maybe his fighter couldn't hear him, because he clearly did not take the advice. Maybe the fighter (still not naming him just for those who TiVo'd, although it should be fairly clear after watching 10 seconds of the first episode) didn't even think about that as a gameplan.

It should be an interesting season, especially because of the inclusion of Roy "Big Country" Nelson. How is that guy not anyone's first pick? He's going to win this season and he was picked towards the end.

And how long is it before Kimbo Slice gets knocked out? It has to be in the first fight he has, right?

UFC 103 preview coming tomorrow.

Researchers Use Gene Therapy To Cure Colorblind Monkeys

David Goodhue - Miami, FL (AHN) - Scientists with
two U.S. universities used gene therapy to cure colorblindness in two squirrel monkeys.

The scientists, from the University of Washington and the University of Florida, said in a statement that the experiment was part of ongoing research into using gene therapy to treat adult vision disorders involving cone cells. Cone cells are the most important cells for vision in humans.

The monkeys began gaining color vision about five weeks after they began treatment.

Color blindness is the most common genetic disorder in people, affecting about 3.5 million people in the United States. The condition impacts mostly men, and prohibits sufferers from distinguishing red and green hues.

Details of the experiment are published in the online version of the journal Nature.

Read more:

D.C. Sniper Muhammad Has a Date With Death

By Allan Lengel

WASHINGTON — Convicted D.C. area sniper John Allen Muhammad, who went on a killing spree in 2002, terrorizing the Washington region and sending local and federal law enforcement on a wild manhunt, has a date with death.

Prince William County Circuit Judge Mary Grace O’Brien in Northern Virginia on Wednesday set his execution date for Nov. 10 by lethal injection, the Associated Press reported.

Muhammad, 48, along with his teen partner Lee Malvo, killed 10 people. He lost an appeal last month at the appeals court level. Malvo is serving a life sentence.

Muhammad’s death sentence is tied to the fatal shooting of Dean Meyers at a gas station in Virginia. He is expected to ask the governor for clemency and appeal to the Supreme Court to try and head off the execution.

The execution would take place at the Greensville Correctional Center in Jarratt, Va.

Ex-D.C. Cop Charged in Maryland Cocaine Ring

Whether they’re still in the department or not, getting busted tarnishes the reputation of a police department. For one, you assume when he was on the department that he was crooked. Carter left the department in 2002. The D.C. department has a reputation for having far less corruption than some other big departments.

By Maria Glod
Washington Post Staff Writer
A former District police officer is among a dozen men charged in a cocaine ring based in Southern Maryland that netted more than $1.5 million, authorities said Wednesday.

Darrell Alphonso Carter, 42, of Abell, Md., and 11 co-defendants are charged in federal court in Greenbelt with conspiracy to distribute cocaine. Carter was hired as an officer in 1990 and resigned in November 2002, a District police spokeswoman said.

During raids this month on sites in Prince George’s, Charles, Calvert and St. Mary’s counties, authorities seized about $200,000 in cash, 11 cars, including a Lexus sport-utility vehicle and a BMW 525, motorcycles worth $50,000, and high-end jewelry that included several Rolex watches. A drag-racing car and two engines also were seized, officials said.

For Full Story

Ex-High Ranking U.S. Anti-Drug Official Arrested For Helping Mexican Cartels

We keep assuming that the corruption is limited to the Mexican government — and not the U.S. — when it comes to the violent war on drugs in Mexico. But people like Richard Padilla Cramer are a reminder that the problem long ago crept over the border. Greed knows no geographical boundary.

By Sebastian Rotella
Los Angeles Times
WASHINGTON – As a high-ranking U.S. anti-drug official, Richard Padilla Cramer held front-line posts in the war on Mexico’s murderous cartels. He led an office of two dozen agents in Arizona and was the attache for Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Guadalajara.

While in Mexico, however, Cramer also served as a secret ally of drug lords, according to federal investigators.

Cramer allegedly advised traffickers on law enforcement tactics and pulled secret files to help them identify turncoats. He charged $2,000 for a Drug Enforcement Administration document that was sent to a suspect in Miami by e-mail in August, authorities said.

“Cramer was responsible for advising the [drug traffickers] how U.S. law enforcement works with warrants and record checks as well as how DEA conducts investigations to include ‘flipping subjects,’ ” or recruiting informants, a criminal complaint says.

For Full Story

Feds: Morrow beating may be hate crime

The FBI is investigating a beating of an Army reservist in front of a Morrow Cracker Barrel as a possible hate crime.

.Police charged Troy Dale West Jr. with kicking Tashawnea Hill and yelling racial slurs at her in front of her 7-year-old daughter.

West, 47, was released from the Clayton County jail Friday om a $12,150 bond.

On Wednesday, the Atlanta office of the FBI confirmed they have launched a "preliminary" investigation, at the request of Morrow Police.

"The information gathered during the FBI's investigation will be reviewed jointly by the U.S. attorney's office in the northern district of Georgia and the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division in D.C.," FBI spokesman Stephen Emmett said.

West, of Poulan, was arrested last Wednesday on charges of cruelty to children, battery and disorderly conduct.

West, who is white, yelled racial slurs at the woman, who is black, as he was kicking and punching her in the head, police said.

“She kept saying, 'Sir, I’m a United States soldier, don’t do this,’ ” Morrow Police Capt. James Callaway said.

Hill said Wednesday that she is still in shock.

"I haven't been able to sleep since then," Hill told the Associated Press. "My major concern is that my daughter is OK. Mommy will heal up. Mommy will get better, but she's the future."

West told Morrow police he became upset because Hill spit on him after accusing him of trying to hit her daughter, according to the police report. But several witnesses said they never saw Hill spit on West.

He is scheduled to appear in court at 3 p.m. Sept. 28 for a preliminary hearing.

West could not be reached for comment. His mother told the Associated Press that her son would never hurt a mother, especially in front of a child.

"This just doesn't sound right," Johnny West said.

Staff Reporter Rhonda Cook and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Volcker: Make Banks Less Risky

Extensive participation in the impersonal, transaction-oriented capital market does not seem to me an intrinsic part of commercial banking.”

-Paul Volcker


In his bluntest speech yet on reforming Wall Street former Federal Chair Paul Volcker called on banks to operate with “far less risk.” Banks need to stick to their knitting, taking in deposits and lending money to people who can afford to service that debt. Further, as federally insured institutions, they should not be “making trading bets with their own capital.” Instead, they should be trading on behalf of their clients, not their own prop desks.

You know, more like, well, banks — and less like Hedge Funds.

This is a welcome change from the milquetoast reform proposals coming out of the Obama White House.

The irony of this is that Volcker is chairman of the White House’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board. One unfortunately gets the sense his advice has been mostly ignored by the White House. Hence, his support of much stricter regulation than the proposals we have so far seen from the banker’s friendly defenders of the status quo, Tim Geithner and Larry Summers.


“The activities Mr. Volcker criticized have caused banks to incur major losses in recent years. Nonetheless, proprietary trading and related activities appear to be making a comeback as markets have thawed.Mr. Volcker said banks should be banned from “sponsoring and capitalizing” hedge funds and private-equity firms, which are largely unregulated. He also said “particularly strict supervision, with strong capital and collateral requirements, should be directed toward limiting proprietary securities and derivatives trading.”

The activities Mr. Volcker criticized have caused banks to incur major losses in recent years. Nonetheless, proprietary trading and related activities appear to be making a comeback as markets have thawed. He also said collateral and leverage restrictions against the largest nonbank financial institutions “may be needed.”

The comments reflect Mr. Volcker’s long-held view that banks should act more in line with their traditional role and not take extremely risky gambles, which could threaten the viability of commercial banks and expose the Federal Reserve and taxpayers to large risks. Asked after his speech if his comments represent a break with the White House’s proposal, he replied: “Nothing I said today should be a surprise” to the administration.”

Next week, Volcker will appear before Congress, where one hopes he will testify on their inexcusable acquiescence to bank lobbyists, and their inability to reform finance. “Grow a spine, you corrupt, chicken-shit cowards, before the country goes to Hell,” we wish he was overheard to remark.

Late Inning Heroics Lift Yankees

The Good
Chad Gaudin put up a decent start going 5.2 innings and allowing 3 runs. Why is Mitre still in the rotation? Marte-Coke-Hughes-Rivera combined for 3.1 innings of shutout baseball. Matsui went 2-4 with a homerun and 3 RBI's. The ever energetic Francisco Cervelli hit a walk off single and it was glorious.

The Bad

You'd think we'd do better when the starting pitcher is out after 2 innings but alas Shawn Camp proved to be a reliable backup to Tallet.

The Ugly

Brian Bruney came in and gave up a pair of hits and a run without recording an out. He may very well be pitching his way off the post season roster, if he hasn't already.

Respect Jeter's Gangster is for the Children

The "Respect Jeter's Gangster" blog joined Johnny Damon's home run club, which raises money for the Children's Health Fund. We are pledged to donate $1.00 for every homerun the Yankees hit this season. Matsui hit his 25th homerun of the season last night.

Jorge Posada 21hr = $21.00
Hideki Matsui 25hr = $25.00
Derek Jeter 17hr = $17.00
Mark Teixeira 35hr = $35.00
Nick Swisher 27hr = $27.00
Robinson Cano 23hr = $23.00
Johnny Damon 24hr = $24.00
Melky Cabrera 12hr = $12.00
Jose Molina 1hr = $1.00
Alex Rodriguez 25hr = $25.00
Brett Gardner 3hr = $3.00
Francisco Cervelli 1hr = $1.00
Eric Hinske 7hr = $7.00
Jerry Hairston Jr. 2hr = $2.00
Total = $223.00

If you are interested in Johnny Damon's Homerun Club or the Children's Health Fund you can find links to both at the top right hand corner of our page.

Chris Dodd Inching His Way Back in Connecticut Poll

After a rough few months, Sen. Christopher Dodd is inching back in the polls in Connecticut with improvements in his job approval ratings and his standing against Republican challenger Rob Simmons, a former congressman, according to a Quinnipiac University survey conducted Sept. 10-14.

Connecticut voters still disapprove of the five-term Democrat's job performance by 49 percent to 43 percent, but that's better than the 52-42 disapproval marks he got in July. And in a theoretical match-up against Simmons, Dodd narrowed him deficit by four points and now trails 44 percent to 39 percent. In July, Simmons led by nine points.

Two other Republicans had previously said they'd seek their party's nomination, former ambassador to Ireland Thomas Foley and two-term state senator Sam Caligiuri. And yesterday, Linda McMahon, the chief executive of World Wrestling Entertainment and the wife of WWE chairman Vincent McMahon, said she is running too.
Dodd's stock had plummeted after it was revealed, in the wake of the subprime mortgage crisis, that he had been given VIP treatment by one of the subprime industry's biggest players, Countrywide Financial. Dodd had responsibility for oversight of the industry because he headed the Senate Banking Committee.
That cloud is still hanging over Dodd. Connecticut voters say by 51 percent to 40 percent that he is not trustworthy, and 59 percent said their opinion had not been changed by the Senate Ethics Committee decision in August not to pursue an investigation of Dodd and another senator tied to Countrywide, North Dakota's Kent Conrad.

Dodd's "approval keeps edging up, and he is bringing down his high negatives," said Quinnipiac Polling Director Doug Schwartz. "But the incumbent has made only slight progress against Republican front-runner Rob Simmons. About 40 percent of voters will vote for anybody but Dodd, as evidenced by their willingness to vote for Republican candidates they haven't heard of."
As for the GOP nomination, the poll had Simmons with 43 percent of the vote, with all other hopefuls in single digits. The survey was taken before McMahon's announcement, although it's hard to tell how seriously her candidacy will be taken.

Obama drops missile shield for Czech Republic

The U.S. is to shelve the Bush administration’s plans for a missile-defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic.
Barack Obama confirmed the decision in a telephone conversation with the Czech prime minister, according to the country’s media.

US Decision to reject Czech radar predictable’

RT’s political commentator Peter Lavelle says Obama’s decision to drop missile shield in Czech Republic is reasonable.
Barack Obama confirmed the decision in a telephone conversation with the Czech prime minister

What Obama needs to know about his race-based critics

President Obama's presidency is in peril for two primary reasons. The first, his inability to be a transformational leader to an American public hungry for it, is of his own making. The second, the thinly veiled demonstration of racism unskillfully disguised as "concern for country," is both to be expected and not of his own making.

First, President Obama came into to office promising "change that we can believe in." However, on the signature issue of change, health care reform, he has not led, choosing instead to send a litany of mixed messages as to whether he would turn the Byzantine labyrinth that is the American health care system on its head. A transformational leader takes bold, decisive, innovative action if he or she believes that it is right for the country. Thus far, on health care, the president has not demonstrated transformational leadership; he has pledged fidelity to the status quo.

Time after time, the President and his team have delivered anemic polemics that were amateurish at best and incompetent at worst. These included a dreadful and inept message on the "public option" which seems to suggest that we can expect neither reasoned deliberation nor resolve from this president. Fearing that he was losing the rhetorical war, the president did what he has come to be known for; he delivered a speech.

The problem of course is that a good speechmaker does not a transformational leader make. While he scored some rhetorical points, he also raised grave questions about whether he is a transformational leader. Among them, did he fail to anticipate the pitfalls of changing the American health care system? Is he aware that transformational leadership requires the ability to orate and deliver? How does he define change? Is he counting on a critical mass of the non-critical thinkers among us to follow him because he is not George W. Bush?

The Full Story

Police: Terrorism mastermind Noordin Top dead

SOLO, Indonesia — Noordin Muhammed Top, a militant mastermind who eluded capture for seven years and terrorized Indonesia with a string of deadly al-Qaida-funded bombings, was killed during a raid Thursday, the Indonesian police chief said.

Police hunting for suspects in bombings of two luxury Jakarta hotels raided a hide-out in central Indonesia, sparking an hours-long gunfight that ended at dawn with an explosion. Four suspected militants died, including Noordin, national police Chief Bambang Hendarso Danuri said. Three suspects also were captured.

The operation left behind a charred house with no roof and blown-out walls. Noordin's remains were found inside the house on the outskirts of the town of Solo in central Java, the main Indonesian island, Danuri said.

Fingerprints of Noordin's obtained from authorities in his native Malaysia and stored on a police database matched those of the body, Danuri said. DNA tests have not yet been conducted. The bodies were flown to Jakarta for autopsies.

"It is Noordin M. Top," Danuri told a nationally televised news conference to loud cheers from the audience of reporters, photographers and TV crews. Documents and laptop computers confiscated from the house prove that Noordin "is the leader of al-Qaida in Southeast Asia," he said.

The Full story

Police arrest lab technician in Yale student murder

Police arrested a Yale University lab technician on Thursday in the murder of a graduate student whose body was found inside a wall on the New Haven, Connecticut, campus the day she was to be married.
Raymond Clark, 24, was taken away in handcuffs a day after police grilled him over the killing of Annie Le, a pharmacology student who was found on Sunday in the basement of the laboratory building where they both worked.

Police used DNA testing in the investigation and New Haven Police Chief James Lewis said there were no other suspects.

The case has shocked students at the Ivy League university, whose campus is secured by dozens of surveillance cameras and requires ID swipe cards to access buildings.

Le's body showed marks of strangulation or some other kind of neck compression. After an intensive five-day search, police found her carefully hidden body on the day she had planned to wed her college sweetheart.

Clark had worked at the Yale campus for several years and was in the same building where Le, also 24, carried out her research, but it was not clear whether they were acquainted.

Clark's bond was set for $3 million, Lewis said.

Students at Yale have left flowers and lit candles near the laboratory.