Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Is Perry trying to cover up wrongful execution in Texas?

AUSTIN -- Three ousted members of the Texas Forensic Science Commission said Thursday that their abrupt removal by Gov. Rick Perry this week could slow the panel's efforts to determine if a flawed arson investigation led to the execution of an innocent man five years ago.

But Perry said the commission's inquiry will continue, telling reporters that his decision to replace the three commission members was part of the normal appointments process. Their terms expired Sept. 1.

Perry removed Chairman Sam Bassett and commission members Alan Levy and Aliece Watts on Wednesday, two days before the obscure panel was scheduled to discuss a forensic report challenging the arson findings that that led to Cameron Todd Willingham’s execution in 2004.

Willingham, of Corsicana, was found guilty in the deaths of his three daughters in a 1991 fire. Willingham said that he was asleep in his house when the fire started and denied that he deliberately killed his daughters.

In telephone interviews, the commission members who got the boot said they were surprised and disappointed with Perry’s decision to replace them and expressed concern that the shake-up could disrupt or at least slow the pace of the panel’s inquiry. Levy is a top prosecutor in the Tarrant County district attorney’s office. Watts, who lives in Burleson, is a forensic scientist at Integrated Forensic Laboratories in Euless. Bassett is an Austin attorney.

The panel had been scheduled to meet today in Irving to hear expert Craig Beyler, who authored the report challenging the conclusions of the arson investigation. The meeting was canceled after the dismissals.

Wolffe: RNC Chair Steele 'Token' African-American Put in Charge to Hide Party's Racism

Either Richard Wolffe is blatantly shilling for the liberal/progressive agenda in the United States or he really is incredibly cynical about how the Republican Party picks its leader.

Wolffe, appearing on MSNBC's Oct. 5 "Countdown with Keith Olbermann," gave his thoughts on the chairman of the Republican National Committee, Michael Steele. Wolffe, a MSNBC regular and former Newsweek columnist, shared his low regard for the former lieutenant governor of Maryland.

"Well, look - it's certainly being clumsy politics," Wolffe said. "And you know today, Michael Steele says he doesn't do policy. Tomorrow he'll say he doesn't do politics either."

But the most striking claim Wolffe made about Steele is that he was put in charge of the RNC as a gesture to camouflage racism in the movement - because in Wolffe's view, all criticism of President Barack Obama is racist.

"The poor guy has got no leash - it's not even a short leash," Wolffe said. "And to get to the race question you have to understand the Party's calculation in putting him there in the first place. It was a simplistic and crude equation they made - that to cover themselves against any accusations of racism and boy, it's not that hard to find them - they needed to have a black figure going up against an African-American president and they didn't have many people to choose from with this token gesture and so they had to choose someone that plainly wasn't ready for primetime."

Interestingly, Wolffe gave a pass to Obama back in June for attending Rev. Jeremiah Wright's church - Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ, where Wright made outrageous and racist statements. The reason, Obama just wasn't much of a church-goer according to Wolffe.

Nonetheless, Wolffe accused the GOP of having an affirmative action system in place with Steele elected as chairman, despite a contentious race for the spot that included former RNC Chairman Mike Duncan, Katon Dawson, Chip Saltsman, Saul Anuzis, Ken Blackwell and Steele.

"All of that is being played out now because it turns out irony of ironies, they don't even need any cover," Wolffe said. "They can be as outrageous as they like and portray the President as a witch doctor and they get on Fox News. So everything is fine. They didn't need the cover of Michael Steele. It's just ironic for a party that always complained about quotas and affirmative action; they have found themselves with one."
By Jeff Poor

Obama-Corzine 2009?

by Tom Schaller
Democrats continue to trail both the New Jersey and Virginia governors races. Last week, I raised the question of whether Northern Virginia voters can save Democratic nominee Creigh Deeds. This week I ask, Can Barack Obama save Jon Corzine in New Jersey?

As Nate wrote a couple days ago, evidence of a Corzine comeback is mixed. And there is mounting evidence that Corzine knows that perhaps only with Obama's help can he stagger across the finish line ahead of Republican candidate Chris Christie--namely, the mounting of billboard signs around the state juxtaposing the two men's names.

But the real testament is found in the state registration data and recent poll results showing Corzine either tied or potentially ahead--if, that is, one projects an electorate next November that looks like the registered votership in the state as opposed to the likely votership in the state. This key distinction requires a bit of unpacking, so let's start with the party registration data in New Jersey today as compared with the recent past.

Here are the most current voter registration data from the NJ State Board of Elections. If we hold aside the very small fraction of voters who identify as third-party registrants--that is, those registering as something other than "DEM"ocratic, "REP"ublican, or "UNA"affiliated--the three-way splits for registration work out as follows: Democrats, 33.9%; Republicans, 20.4%; and Unaffiliateds, 45.7%. These are not the final data, but registrations in the final month will not alter these shares very much.

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Braylon Edwards Finally Connected on Something

Let’s see, the Browns lost 23-20 in overtime to drop to 0-4 and Braylon Edwards was catchless, putting up a freaking goose egg in the game. Whatever production he lacked against the Bengals he apparently tried to make up for after the game. Edwards has been accused of punching a club promoter in the face, giving him a cut and black eye and sending the guy to the hospital. The club promoter gave his side of the story:

After the club closed, I was outside greeting and saying goodbye to people. Braylon comes up and started saying things, degrading me. He said if it wasn’t for LeBron or the Four Horsemen, I wouldn’t have what I have, nor would I be able to get girls. Everyone knows Braylon has a problem with LeBron. So I had to speak up for myself. The conversation started to escalate. As some of his teammates started to pull him back, he punched me. I have a black eye and a cut. I’m not a violent guy. As long as I’ve known Braylon, I’ve allowed him and his friends to come into our events free of charge. Whatever jealousy he has with LeBron, he felt he needed to take it out on me.”

I’m sure this guy wasn’t as innocent as he’s coming off in the story but I can buy everything he’s saying about Braylon. If your team was 0-4 in a city where all the fans are hardcore, and you feel embarrassed for not having any catches, I could see where you’d be trying to put others down to pump yourself up. Think about it — this is the same Braylon Edwards who shows off how much alcohol he has stocked at his house. He’s not exactly the smartest cat out there.

By Larry Brown

American to launch BlackAtlas.com

American Airlines said Monday that it plans to launch later this month a social networking site, BlackAtlas.com, aimed at African-Americans.

The site will feature discussion boards and blogs on which users can share pictures, video and travel stories and tips, along with rating and recommending businesses and travel destinations. BlackAtlas will also feature video blogs and commentaries on travel by author and film maker Nelson George.

American spokewoman Stacey Frantz declined to reveal how much American is spending on BlackAtlas. In an interview, she said the goal of the site isn’t so much generating revenue as “building brand loyalty in the African-American community.”

American, a subsidiary of AMR Corp., has recently begun using social networking sites to woo specific demographic groups. In a first for the company, American recently began using Twitter and Facebook, along with old-school media such as television, print and radio, to target Hispanics.

Frantz said American is using social media to get the word out about BlackAtlas. “We are deeply involved in talking to bloggers and Tweeters” about the site, she said.

GOP leaders to Michael Steele: Back off

Congressional leaders are miffed that Michael Steele is trying to take such an active role in making policy.

GOP leaders, in a private meeting last month, delivered a blunt and at times heated message to RNC Chairman Michael Steele: quit meddling in policy.

The plea was made during what was supposed to be a routine discussion about polling matters and other priorities in House Minority Leader John Boehner’s office. But the session devolved into a heated discussion about the roles of congressional leadership and Steele, according to multiple people familiar with the meeting.

The congressional leaders were particularly miffed that Steele had in late August unveiled a seniors’ “health care bill of rights” without consulting with them. The statement of health care principles, outlined in a Washington Post op-ed, began with a robust defense of Medicare that puzzled some in a party not known for its attachment to entitlements.

Elected Republicans urged Steele to focus on the governors’ races in New Jersey and Virginia and other political matters, such as fundraising, rather than on attempting to establish party policy.

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Usher's 'Papers' Pulls Back Curtain On Failed Marriage

Lyrics support rumor that Usher's marriage to Tameka Foster-Raymond caused rift with his mother.

The last time Usher's art was inspired by his life, the singer went on to sell 10 million copies of his 2004 ode to breakups and make-ups, Confessions. If his new song "Papers" is any indication, his upcoming album Raymond vs. Raymond may break some sales records.

The track could be heard as a postmortem on his relationship with Tameka Foster-Raymond, from whom the singer filed for divorce in June after nearly two years of marriage. The pair, who have two children together, endured a contentious union filled with speculation over feuding and infidelity. On "Papers," Usher pulls back the curtain, revealing that a rumored rift between him and his mother was very real.

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'Madea' actor-director Tyler Perry reveals history of childhood abuse, molestation on Web site

Filmmaker Tyler Perry, who is promoting a new movie about an abused teenager, has gone public with brutal memories of his own childhood beatings and molestation.

In an email to fans that has Perry's admirers buzzing, he recounts various examples of terrible childhood mistreatment - from his father beating him senseless to a neighbor woman molesting him at age 10.

Even his grandmother, the mother of his hated father, became a threat when she objected to his weekly allergy shot, he recalls.

"Ain't nothing wrong with that damn boy - he just got germs on him. Stop wasting all that money," she said, he recalled.

"She came and got me out of the living room leaving my Matchbox cars on the floor. She said she was going to kill these germs on me once and for all. She gave me a bath in ammonia."

Perry, 38, fled his abusive home in New Orleans and, after a period of homelessness and struggle, became a writer, director, actor and producer.

He is now a mega-millionaire and one of the world's most influential black filmmakers. He is the producer of "Tyler Perry's House of Payne" on TV and his movies, including "Diary of a Mad Black Woman," "Madea's Family Reunion" and "I Can Do Bad All By Myself" have grossed $400 million.

Along with Oprah Winfrey, he executive produced "Precious," the story of an illiterate obese teen mom struggling to rise above horrible sexual and mental abuse. The movie opens nationally Nov. 6.

Perry has made no secret of his unhappy childhood and speaks often of his abusive father, but the raw details in his email were new revelations.

"I'm tired of holding this in. I don't know what to do with it anymore, so, I've decided to give some of it away," he wrote in Saturday's email, which was also posted on his website.

He recounted being beaten by his father for reading books and filching cookies.

"He got the vacuum cleaner extension cord and trapped me in a room and beat me until the skin was coming off my back. To this day, I don't know what would make a person do something like that to a child," Perry wrote.

Without elaborating on what seems to be another molestation incident, he mentioned "a man that I knew from church when I was a kid" who had died broke and whose family asked Perry to pay for the funeral.

"I quickly said no, but I wish I would have said yes. There is something so powerful to me in burying the man that molested me," Perry wrote.

"I would have dug the grave myself."

Perry said God sustained him, and provided comfort in his darkest times.

Terrie Williams, author of "Black Pain: It Just Looks Like We're Not Hurting," praised Perry for sharing his old misery.

"When someone like Tyler Perry posts this kind of personal message it helps to free others," Williams said.

"People are suffering unspeakable, horrific horrors and they live with those secrets that tear them up inside," she said.

"There are countless numbers of people who have been violated and haven't addressed their pain and that leads to depression, or self medicating, drinking, drug abuse, compulsive shopping when you don't have any money or eating disorders. Share your story to liberate yourself and get help."

Rush Limbaugh Attempting To Buy St. Louis Rams

Rush Limbaugh announced Tuesday that he is attempting to become the next owner of the National Football League's St. Louis Rams franchise.

In a statement to St. Louis radio station KMOX, Limbaugh said he was partnering with Dave Checketts, owner of the National Hockey League's St. Louis Blues, in a bid to buy the team.

"Dave Checketts and I have made a bid to buy the Rams and we are continuing the process," Limbaugh said.

The radio talk-show host didn't elaborate much more than that, citing a confidentiality agreement with Goldman Sachs, who is currently reviewing the assets of the estate of former Rams owner Georgia Frontiere, who died in 2008.

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FSU trustee ready to kick Bowden to the curb

FSU trustee Jim Smith told the Tallahassee Democrat on Sunday that he’d like to see the Bobby Bowden era end at Florida State with the program continuing to decline.

From ESPN:

“My hope is frankly that we’ll go ahead, and if we have to, let the world know that this year will be the end of the Bowden era,” chairman Jim Smith told the Tallahassee Democrat on Sunday. ” … I do appreciate what he’s done for us, what he’s done for the program, what he’s done really for the state of Florida.

“I think the record will show that the Seminole Nation has been more than patient. We have been in a decline not for a year or two or three but I think we’re coming up on seven or eight. I think enough is enough.”

Bowden had no comment Monday night.

Interviewed by The Associated Press on Monday, Smith said the arrangement with Bowden as head coach and his successor, Jimbo Fisher, as offensive coordinator isn’t working.

“We’ve got too many bosses out there,” Smith said. “Jimbo is in a very, very tough situation where people assume he has a whole lot more authority than he really has. He’s getting blamed for a lot of things that’s just not his fault.”

This situation reminds me of “Any Given Sunday” when Christina Pagniacci couldn’t wait to get washed up Tony D’Amato out of the way to bring in the young-gun Nick Crozier.

Even though the program has declined over the past couple years, this seems like a shady thing for Smith and the boosters to do. Bowden’s 384 wins are three shy of Joe Paterno’s, who is the career leader in victories among major college head coaches. For a booster to open his mouth and essentially say that Bowden’s time is over is arrogant.

If Smith isn’t careful, Bowden may step down as head coach at FSU and then sprout up at Duke while taking Steamin’ Willie Beamen with him.

Louisiana ACORN Embezzlement Investigation Continues

According to a review of documents provided to the Louisiana Attorney General's office based on an internal review, $5 million was embezzled by ACORN employees in the New Orleans office, and not $1 million. Where did the money go, and more importantly, who took it?

The new amount was reported in a subpoena released Monday from an investigation by Attorney General Buddy Caldwell. It is unclear if the money was taken from state, federal or private funds, according to the subpoena.

ACORN Chief Executive Officer Bertha Lewis said the new embezzlement allegation is "completely false." She said she would comment further after she and ACORN attorneys have a chance to review the subpoena.

Caldwell issued subpoenas in August seeking documents related to ACORN International then-President Wade Rathke and his brother, Dale Rathke, who kept the group's books. Those subpoenas targeted possible violations of state employee tax law, obstruction of justice and violations of the Employee Retirement Security Act.

The attorney general made inquiries in June into alleged embezzlement within ACORN that happened 10 years ago. The group last year dealt with an internal dispute and a lawsuit involving accusations that Dale Rathke made nearly $1 million in improper credit card charges in 1999 and 2000. Rathke's brother and a donor repaid the money.
Bertha Lewis of course is going to claim that the charges are false (and that's even without seeing the charges or other information relating to the case), but she also claimed that the O'Keefe and Giles videos were isolated cases, right before 5 videos showing substantially similar illicit responses made by ACORN employees at offices all across the country.

Curiously, this New York Times article notes that Lewis admits that Dale Rathke did embezzle some unidentified sum of money from ACORN coffers, but disagrees that the amount of money involved was $5 million. That amount apparently comes from two members of the Board of Directors of the national ACORN group that were voted out of office.
The subpoena, part of an investigation into accusations of state tax violations and obstruction of justice at Acorn, said the internal review was raised in a board meeting in October 2008 that was attended by Bertha Lewis, the chief executive.

“Current high-ranking members of Acorn have publicly acknowledged that the embezzlement did in fact occur, but the exact amount of the embezzlement was unknown,” the subpoena said. “It is still unclear if some of the monies embezzled are from state, federal or private funds.”

In a phone interview, Ms. Lewis acknowledged that the internal review found that Dale Rathke, brother of Wade Rathke, the founder of Acorn, had embezzled money from Acorn and affiliated charitable organizations in 1999 and 2000. But she said that the review had found that the amount embezzled was a little less than $1 million, a figure that has already been publicly disclosed and acknowledged.

She said the $5 million figure came from two former directors who had since been voted off the board.
So, based on the aforementioned information, it appears that the AP wire report left out critical information that identifies that Lewis admits that embezzlement did occur, and that Lewis was merely questioning the $5 million sum, which is a figure that links back to two former board members.

Delaware Republican Running for Senate

By David Weigel

Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.), the last major Republican office-holder in the very blue home of Vice President Joe Biden, is set to announce whether or not he’ll run for the U.S. Senate in 2010. Politico reports that he’s in.

As I noted last week, Castle’s numbers have been softer than you’d expect from a pol who hasn’t lost an election in this state since he entered politics in the 1960s. He ran 24 points ahead of the McCain-Palin ticket last year; he’s only leading likely Democratic candidate Beau Biden (son of the vice president, state attorney general) by five points. Nonetheless, a seat that Republicans had no chance at will become a seat they have a real chance at.

Brett Favre, now a Viking, lights up Green Bay

The Packers' former franchise quarterback methodically took over last night's game after the Packers shut down the running lanes for superstar running back Adrian Peterson.

Brett Favre emerged just long enough from Greek mythology last night to hurl a few thunderbolts and lead the Minnesota Vikings to a win over their archrivals the Green Bay Packers in one of the most anticipated Monday night matchups in modern history.

The final score: Zeus 30, the Packers 23.

While the cliché all season has been that the Vikings is running back Adrian Peterson's team, Favre reminded everyone that he's not just a member of the Greek chorus. There are running backs and there are legends.

Favre methodically took over the game after the Packers shut down the running lanes for Peterson, the closest thing the National Football League has to a Humvee in cleats. Favre rolled right and threw left over his body.


Favre pump-faked a short pass and threw long down the sideline to Bernard Berrian,


Favre did one of his trademark shuffles in the pocket, got hit, moved again, got hit, hurled the ball awkwardly off his backfoot to a receiver who was closely covered. As often as not in recent years, that pass would have been intercepted. Not this time.


Just six days shy of his 40th birthday, Favre produced one of the more memorable and emotional performances of his 18-year career. He managed the game well, throwing three touchdowns and no interceptions. In the huddle and on the sidelines, he he was grinning and joking. It was vintage Favre – a night in shoulder pads at Chuck E. Cheese.

The game didn't rest solely on his surgically repaired arm, of course.

Don't forget Jared Allen

The other star of the game for the Vikings was Jared Allen, the lanky defensive end with the metabolism of an Irish setter. Allen spent more time in the Packers backfield than Green Bay running back Ryan Grant. He was chasing quarterback Aaron Rodgers all night, overpowering whatever offensive lineman Green Bay would put up against him with his patented bull rushes.

Allen, who likes to pantomime a calf roping after each sack, staged his own rodeo. He ended up with a career-high 4.5 sacks, one of which was for a safety.

"We just wanted to come out here and be physical," Allen, an avid hunter who wears his hair in a mullet, said after the game.

It wasn't as if Allen's presence wasn't going to be known. Green Bay's offensive line has been banged up all year, which is one reason they had allowed a league-high 12 sacks going into last night's game. They gave up eight more last night and suffered further injuries. At one point, it looked like the Packers were going to have to put pads on the guy who flips the down markers to try to block Allen.

Vikings now 4-0

The Vikings are now in first place in the NFC North with a record of four wins and zero losses. Green Bay drops to 2-2. Still, it isn't as if the Vikings can rest on their knee pads. Rodgers threw for 384 passing yards and at times was moving the Packers down the field with impunity.

The Vikings will also have to figure out how to open up more lanes for Peterson.

Their running game can look monotonous: Peterson to the left behind Pro Bowl guard Steve Hutchinson. Peterson to the left behind Hutchinson. Peterson to the left again. Hutchinson is good, but he can't take on all 11 guys of the opposing team, which it sometimes seems he has to, since it's so well known where the Vikings are going.

Still, Minnesota did open up their passing game more and pulled out an emotional – and important – win, one that is inspiring to the Norsemen masses of the Twin Cities – if not Sophocles.

UN seeks $74 mln in aid for flood-hit Philippines

GENEVA — The United Nations on Tuesday appealed for 74 million dollars in emergency aid for some one million people in the storm and flood stricken Philippines.

Relief agencies reported that flood victims were wading through neck high water to collect emergency food rations, with more torrential rain forecast as typhoon Parma lingered off the coast of the Philippines.

Some 4,000 homes were destroyed by the combined blow from Typhoon Parma over the weekend and by tropical storm Ketsana on September 26, Elisabeth Byrs, a spokeswoman for the UN's humanitarian coordination office (OCHA), said.

About 400,000 people around the capital Manila had fled to emergency shelters and could only return to their homes once flood waters subsided, she added, as UN agencies warned of the threat of waterborne diseases.

"We are today launching a flash appeal for six months for 74 million dollars to bring assistance to one million people following the typhoons that struck the Philippines," Byrs told journalists.

The move followed a meeting with representatives of donor nations in Geneva.

At least 16 hospitals, as well as rural and community health centres, were damaged, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said.

The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) warned that cases of diarrhoea and skin ailments had been recorded, raising fears about epidemics.

WHO spokesman Paul Garwood said the risk was heightened by the damage to water and sanitation systems, especially within areas where health facilities were out of action.

"There are fears of outbreaks of communicable diseases, as yet there have been no reported major outbreaks," he added.

The storms and flooding, which left at least 300 people dead, have also destroyed about 117 million dollars in crops including rice, according to government estimates quoted by OCHA.

About one third of the overall appeal covers food and other relief from the WFP.

"WFP is continuing to expand food assistance to help one million people over the next three months," said spokeswoman Emilia Casella.

OCHA said typhoon Parma was gathering strength off the coast and bringing fresh torrential rains that could trigger more floods and landslides.

Is the Devil in the Details?

As the race for Governor enters its final few weeks, Chris Christie must make a strategic decision that could determine the outcome of the election:

Should the GOP candidate put forth a detailed economic plan that addresses property taxes and other fiscal issues? Or should he continue to speak only in broad generalities and quick sound bites? Had Christie maintained his double-digit lead in the polls, the decision would have been a no-brainer. Why risk getting into details when you’re riding high and it looks like you have a clear road to the State House?

But that scenario has changed over the past 10 days. Three polls now place Democrat Jon Corzine, the incumbent governor, within striking distance -- about four points behind; and a fourth has the race in a statistical dead heat. Not only is Corzine gaining momentum; he is poised to outspend his opponent by a substantial margin; he knows that New Jersey’s Democratic voters outnumber Republicans by more than 700,000, and he can expect a last-minute boost from the Democratic Party’s always-strong “Get Out the Vote” efforts.

Perhaps Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, put it best when he said: “Christopher Christie is still ahead in the Garden State, but when he looks in the rear-view mirror, he sees the bearded visage of Gov. Jon Corzine getting closer.”

New Jersey Democrats are hoping to replicate the results of the 1977 gubernatorial election, which began with little optimism because the incumbent Governor, Democrat Brendan Byrne, was suffering from the fallout of creating the state income tax. But as the campaign evolved, Byrne’s opponent, former State Senator Raymond Bateman, failed to offer an alternative until the waning days of the race, and Byrne was re-elected.

To date, Christie has addressed the state’s fiscal problems with promises to make government more effective and efficient, lower taxes and control spending. But with race tightening, he found himself pressed for details at the first gubernatorial debate last week.

“So everyone asked Christie for his plan,” the Star-Ledger’s Tom Moran wrote. “Corzine and Daggett asked him. The panelists asked him. Even the regular voters that NJN hooked up remotely to ask questions wanted an answer. Christie offered bread crumbs.”

So let’s examine the options.

Christie can stick with his strategy and refrain from details and specifics while he continues to criticize Corzine and his policies, hoping that voters will vent their anger at the polls and cast their ballots against the incumbent. However, he runs the risk of suffering damage similar to what Bateman experienced in 1977.

In addition, any option of shifting the focus of the campaign to another issue has disappeared at this point in the race. The economy has been – and will continue to be – the number one issue on the minds of New Jersey voters. It dwarfs cracking down on corruption, the issue on which Christie built his reputation as U.S. Attorney for New Jersey.

Christie’s other option is to roll the dice and offer an 11th hour fiscal proposal. Although it did not work for Bateman in 1977, the strategy did prove successful in 1993 for Christine Todd Whitman, the last Republican to win a gubernatorial election in New Jersey.

There are many parallels between that 1993 election and 2009’s. The incumbent Democrat, Jim Florio, also was behind in the polls when the campaign began, a result of $2.8 billion in tax increases that were enacted in the first six months of his administration. But just as Corzine has narrowed the gap in 2009, Florio pulled even with his GOP challenger, Christine Todd Whitman, and actually led in the polls until Whitman promised to reduce middle-class income tax rates by 30 percent. She won the election by a narrow margin and the pledge to cut taxes played a big role in the victory.

Whether a similar strategy can work in 2009 in is uncertain. Although Whitman made good on her campaign pledge, critics contend that the tax cuts were a short-term solution whose benefits have been more than offset by increases in state debt. With the benefit of hindsight, today’s voters may be a bit more skeptical about fiscal proposals that emerge suddenly in the final weeks of gubernatorial campaigns.

With any plan or proposal, the devil often is in the details – and this could indeed be the case in New Jersey this year. But with an angry electorate ready to vent its frustration, avoiding the details also could prove to be a successful strategy on the road to the State House.

# # #

Richard A. Lee is Communications Director of the Hall Institute of Public Policy – New Jersey. A former journalist and Deputy Communications Director for the Governor, he also teaches courses in media and government at Rutgers University, where he is completing work on a Ph.D. in media studies.

Poll: US Most Admired Country Globally

A new survey shows the United States is the most admired country, thanks mostly to the admiration that people around the world have for President Barack Obama.

The Statue of Liberty in New York harbor
The New York-based market research company GfK on Monday released its annual Nation Brands Index, after polling 20,000 people in 20 developed and developing countries. In the poll, the United States rose from 7th last year to number 1 this year.

Index founder and consultant Simon Anholt said the 2009 results show the new U.S. administration has been well-received abroad. Anholt said he has never before seen such a dramatic change in the poll standing of any nation.

Germany, which topped the 2008 poll, fell to number 3. France remained at number 2. Rounding out the top 10 were Britain, Japan, Italy, Canada, Switzerland and Australia, with Spain and Sweden tied for 10th.

China rose several spots to 22nd. The last two nations in the survey were Angola at number 49 and Iran at number 50.

Ohio Postpones Death Penalty Cases

The U.S. state of Ohio has postponed its next two scheduled executions to review its death penalty procedures after a failed execution last month.

Ohio Governor Ted Strickland announced the postponements Monday after a federal court of appeals ordered the delay of one of the executions, scheduled for this Thursday.

Both actions stem from the attempted execution through lethal injection of convicted rapist and murderer Romell Broom on September 15. Technicians at a state prison tried unsuccessfully for two hours to find a vein suitable to apply the injection.

The governor issued the stay of execution to allow the state to establish a set of back-up procedures for dealing with long delays in carrying out an execution.

Meanwhile, a federal court hearing is scheduled for November 30 to determine if it is constitutional for the state of Ohio to attempt to execute Broom a second time.

Of the 50 U.S. states, 35 currently have the death penalty.

Swiss Prosecutors Reject Polanski Bail Request

The Swiss Justice Ministry says it has rejected a request to free jailed film director Roman Polanski on bail pending his possible extradition to the United States.

Ministry spokesman Folco Galli said prosecutors opposed the release because the government believes there is a high risk Polanski could flee if released from custody.

The Academy Award-winning director was arrested in Zurich last month on a U.S. arrest warrant for fleeing Los Angeles ahead of a 1978 court sentencing for statutory rape.

Polanski, famed for such films as Chinatown and Rosemary's Baby, was originally charged in Los Angeles with having sex with a 13-year-old girl. He fled the United States in 1978 while awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty.

The fugitive director won an Academy Award in 2003 for the film The Pianist, but did not return to Hollywood to receive the Oscar.

Obama to confer with lawmakers on Afghanistan

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama will confer with a bipartisan group of congressional leaders on the Afghanistan war at the White House on Tuesday as he weighs a decision on whether to send more U.S. troops there.

Obama's top defense and diplomacy advisers said the United States retains the Afghanistan war goal that Obama outlined just two months into his presidency — to sideline al-Qaida — but changing circumstances require a reassessment of how to get there.

A "snap decision" on whether to add more U.S troops would be counterproductive, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Monday.

Whatever the president decides, the military will salute, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said.

"It's important that at the end of the day that the president makes a decision that he believes in," Clinton added.

The question of whether to further escalate the conflict after adding 21,000 U.S. troops earlier this year is a major decision facing Obama and senior administration policy advisers this week.

Obama also will meet twice this week with his national security team.

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