Thursday, December 3, 2009

Video: Raw Video: New York Senate Rejects Gay Marriage

Oneida County’s two state senators split their votes Wednesday on a rejected bill to legalize gay marriage in the Empire State.

Joseph A. Griffo, R-47, Rome, was among the 38 senators to vote against the measure while David J. Valesky, D-49, Oneida, was one of the 24 supporters. Every one of the Senate’s 30 Republican members voted against the bill, as well as eight Democrats.

Griffo today said that he believes New York should continue to define marriage as the union of a man and a woman.

"Marriage is one of the most valued and sacred aspects of our society," he said. "It is more than just one of the basic civil rights to which all people are entitled. Marriage between a man and a woman is one of the cornerstone institutions in our culture."

He said he did not believe that changing its definition under state law was appropriate.

"Traditional beliefs that define a family structure as based on marriage between a man and a woman are part of the bedrock values in the region I serve as senator," he said. "Although I believe in the traditional definition of marriage, I also believe that there should be no discrimination based on sexual orientation. All people have value in our society, and no one should be treated unfairly because of their sexual orientation, race, gender or any other category."

But, he said he has not been "persuaded that preservation of marriage in its current form is a denial of basic rights."

Valesky said he has met with and spoken to hundreds of constituents on both sides of the marriage equality issue in recent months. "While considering both sides of the debate and discussing this matter thoroughly, I have come to believe that the civil rights afforded by this legislation do not breach the basic religious freedoms that I so strongly support," he said. "In fact, this legislation specifically states that no member of the clergy can be required to solemnize any marriage, thus affording a church the right to define marriage on its terms and according to its tenets. The state, however, should not, and cannot, determine its definition of marriage based on the definitions of any church. This, too, is one of the core foundations of our democracy, the separation of church and state."

Vaslesky said, in the end, he voted for the bill because "it expands civil rights while providing a safeguard for religious freedom."

Yesterday’s Senate action was the final hurdle for the measure to become law. The state Assembly has passed the measure three times and Gov. David A. Paterson, a longtime supporter of gay rights, had championed for passage.

The Senate vote followed more than a year of lobbying by gay rights organizations. The state’s Roman Catholic bishops had consistently lobbied for its defeat,

Previously, the legislation had stalled in the Senate since it was first passed by the Assembly in 2007. Under Republican control, Senate leaders never brought the issue to the floor for a vote. But Democrats won control of the chamber in 2008. Since then, advocates have been pushing for a vote.

A poll released Wednesday by the Marist Institute for Public Opinion in Poughkeepsie showed that 51 percent of registered voters supported same-sex marriage while 42 percent opposed it.

No. 2 Justice Dept. official leaving for law firm

The No. 2 official at the Justice Department announced Thursday he is leaving the job after less than a year.

David Ogden, a prominent Washington lawyer, is headed back to his former firm, WilmerHale.

As the deputy to Attorney General Eric Holder, Ogden oversaw a crackdown on Mexican drug cartels and coordinated various law enforcement agencies that work under the Justice Department.

Ogden plans to continue in the position until Feb. 5, and no successor has been named for the position, which is a presidential appointment that must be confirmed by Congress.

Holder has gathered a number of strong personalities with impressive legal resumes for senior positions at the department, and in Ogden's case, it seems not to be a good fit.

Jamie Gorelick, a former deputy attorney general during the Clinton administration who works at WilmerHale and knows many of the lawyers now running the Justice Department, said Ogden made important contributions, beginning with his work on the Obama transition team.

"I think the decision reflects differences between Eric and David on what the deputy should do, and that happens," said Gorelick. "It's clear they had different views on what the deputy's office should do, and Eric should have a deputy who does it the way he wants it."

In a statement, Ogden said he was leaving because he had helped put the Justice Department on the right path for the Obama administration, starting with his work on Obama's transition team.

It is unusual but not unprecedented for such a high-level position to empty within the first year of a new administration.

At the beginning of the Clinton administration, then-deputy attorney general Phil Heymann left after less than a year. Heymann and then-attorney general Janet Reno differed over how their offices should interact in managing the department.

Chris Brown Reacts to Rihanna's Emotional 'Good Morning America' Interview

Chris Brown appeared on Thursday's "Good Morning America" with anchor Robin Roberts, seeming to be remorseful as he reacted to clips of his ex-girlfriend Rihanna talking about the night of their domestic dispute.

"I've never, ever had problems with anger, no domestic violence with any of my past girlfriends," he told Roberts. "I never was that kind of person. ... How could I be that person?"

"GMA" showed Brown a clip of Rihanna's early November interview with Diane Sawyer where the pop star describes her ex-boyfriend at the time of the domestic dispute, saying, "He had no soul in his eyes, just blank. So, at that point I didn't know what could happen."

Brown reacted after seeing the clip, saying, "I was wrong for what I did, and I would say it's not something I look past or look over."

The singer said he is "devastated" by what happened and revealed he still has love for Rihanna. "I'm really sorry for what went down and what happened."

Mid-Cycle Meltdown!: Jobless Claims December 03 2009

Today, the Department of Labor released their latest read of Joblessness showing seasonally adjusted “initial” unemployment claims declined by 5,000 to 457,000 claims from last week’s revised 462,000 claims while “continued” claims increased 28,000 resulting in an “insured” unemployment rate of 4.1%.

Today’s results, though still significantly elevated, continues to indicate that the descent to both initial and continued claims is continuing in earnest resulting in an almost textbook peak.

At this point, we are either in the "post-crisis" recovery or the "eye before the storm" of a double-dip.

Could the worst of the job-shedding be behind us? Is a major disappointment shaping up for 2010?

We will have to wait to find out.

Clearly, careful attention needs to be paid to these indices to see how they reflect the state of the job market as we move further into the end of the year and start of 2010.

So Ron Artest Used To Drink At Halftime During His Bulls Tenure?

Yes, according to the latest edition of the Sporting News, he drank at halftime of some games during his 1999-2002 stint with the Bulls:

“I used to drink Hennessy … at halftime,” Artest says in the interview, which hits newsstands this week. “I (kept it) in my locker. I’d just walk to the liquor store (near the stadium) and get it.”

Two things here:

1) Does this surprise anybody? This is Ron Artest here. His entire NBA persona has been built around wild, outlandish stuff. He’s always been a wild child, a bit crazy.That’s what makes Ron Ron. If anything, this anecdote is just another piece that fits perfectly into the Ron Artest puzzle.

2) Shoals brings up a valid point in all of this. We clown Ron all the time, but when guys admit to serious mental health issues like Delonte West and Michael Beasley did this summer, we treated them with kid gloves.

Sorry, people, but you can’t rock the double standard here. If West’s a perpetual patient, and Beasley close enough to one that we’ve changed our tone about him, then now Ron Ron is, too.

But here’s what I’m wondering: All those years we informally called Artest “crazy,” what exactly did we mean? It would be one thing if all he’d done was shave stuff into his head and give the best interviews this side of KG. But fans and media alike blasted Artest for unpredictability, violence, and a certain disconnect from reality. I guess that made him an easy target, and probably not someone you wanted on your team. Still, I fail to see why an athlete deserves sympathy if he admits he has a problem, but if he refuses to, we can clown him for having one.

Or who knows, maybe Artest will never get that free pass. It’s too late for him. Good thing he feels he’s finally gotten himself together, since at this point, his only recourse might be to prove to the public that he’s not “insane” anymore. He owes us that for being such an unstable athlete, doesn’t he?

It probably is too late for Artest. When this public perception has been running for a decade now, and he’s showing up pants-less on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” last week, and he doesn’t appear to be checking into a mental health facility anytime soon, people are going to think of Ron how they’ve always thought of Ron.

Whether that’s right or not, though, is certainly up for debate.

Ron Wood Arrested For Assaulting Ekaterina Ivanova

Ron Wood, a.k.a. Ronnie Wood, a.k.a. the guitarist from the Rolling Stones not named Keith Richards, and whose accent is so thick it requires subtitles even though he allegedly speaks English, was arrested yesterday for assaulting his girlfriend.

Her name? Ekaterina Ivanova.

Wood was arrested in southern England for possible assault on Wednesday evening, and was released on bail Thursday, according to various reports.

Police in Surrey say a man, by all accounts Ron Wood even if they won't name him, was taken into custody in connection with a domestic incident.

The 61-year-old Ron Wood has not commented on the bust.

“I can confirm that there was an incident last night and that Ronnie Wood was arrested,” said David Rigg, his spokesman. “He has since been released.”

"We have no further comment at this time."

Ron recently began dating Ekaterina Ivanova, 21, after divorcing his wife of 24 years, Jo Wood, just last month, on the grounds of adultery.

Who committed it? That we don't know.

Update: details of Climatic Research Unit investigation unveiled - December 03, 2009

The University of East Anglia, UK, today released details about the investigation into the alleged hacking of e-mails from its Climatic Research Unit (CRU), which has sparked worldwide fury, lamentation, gnashing of teeth - and a robust editorial in this week's Nature.

According to a statement, the university has commissioned an independent review to:

Determine whether there is any evidence of the manipulation or suppression of data which is at odds with acceptable scientific practice and may therefore call into question any of the research outcomes.

Review CRU’s policies and practices for acquiring, assembling, subjecting to peer review and disseminating data and research findings, and their compliance or otherwise with best scientific practice.

Review CRU’s compliance or otherwise with the University’s policies and practices regarding requests under the Freedom of Information Act (‘the FOIA’) and the Environmental Information Regulations (‘the EIR’) for the release of data.

Review and make recommendations as to the appropriate management, governance and security structures for CRU and the security, integrity and release of the data it holds.

The review will be led by Sir Muir Russell, a former civil servant and former Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Glasgow. He's also Chairman of the Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland.

Will Comcast, NBC Universal Merger Pass Regulator Scrutiny?

General Electric’s $5.8 billion purchase of Vivendi’s minority stake in NBC bodes well for Comcast. The cable giant could buy a 51% stake in NBC as soon as Thursday. The Guardian has more:

This transaction will mean that GE owns 100% of NBC and it will allow the sprawling US industrial group to press ahead with an imminent plan to sell a majority of the business to Comcast – a buyout that could reshape a significant chunk of the media industry.

NBC’s businesses range from a coast-to-coast mainstream US television channel to Hollywood’s Universal Studios and specialist broadcasting offerings such as CNBC, Bravo and the Weather Channel. The company is valued at $29bn and Comcast could tie up a deal to snap up 51% as early as Thursday.

Analysts say that a sale makes sense to both GE and Vivendi which have seen NBC’s television ratings flounder. But critics are alarmed that Comcast, which is America’s biggest cable operator, will end up with too much sway over consumers. The media mogul John Malone, who chairs the Discovery Channel-to-QVC empire Liberty Media, recently remarked that Comcast would have “too much power” by controlling both content and delivery allowing it, potentially, to charge high prices to other cable operators who want to carry NBC.

The New York Times says that the GE originally bought into media as a hedge, at a time when Japanese manufacturers were an increasing threat. Now, GE is shedding its media unit to focus more strongly on its industrial businesses, while reducing debt incurred by its big finance branch. As far as Comcast, the Times has this to say:

…Comcast was the lone serious suitor (for Vivendi’s stake), a testament to the uncertain future of mainstream media, as the Internet has fractured audiences and few viable business models have emerged for the distribution of content online. Comcast…has long harbored big ambitions of becoming a major producer of television and movies. In 2004, Comcast failed in a hostile takeover bid for the Walt Disney Company.

In the proposed deal, Comcast will contribute its own cable channels, which include Versus, the Golf Channel and the E Entertainment channel, and a modest amount of cash, about $5 billion, to a joint venture in which it will own 51 percent. G.E. will retain a 49 percent stake, and would likely reduce its ownership over several years.

(Some analysts think that) the deal is a bet by Comcast on how it can grow its business. It could use its power in film, with Universal Studios, to expand video-on-demand offerings by altering movie release windows to make movies available on demand the same day they are released on DVD, noted Craig Moffett, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein.

Vatican rebukes prelate denying heaven to gays and transsexuals

A Roman Catholic Cardinal has told homosexuals and transsexuals they would never get into heaven, prompting a rebuke from the Vatican itself.

“Transsexuals and homosexuals will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven, it’s not me who says it but St. Paul,” said Mexican Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, a former Vatican official who recently retired, referring to one of St. Paul’s epistles. Asked if people were born homosexual Barragan, whose comments were posted on a conservative Catholic website called www.pontifex.roma on Wednesday, was quoted as saying:

“One is not born homosexual but they become that way. This is for various reasons: education, for not having developed their identity during their adolescence, maybe they are not guilty but by going against the dignity of the body they certainly will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”

The Vatican distanced itself from the comments in a statement that was highly unusual because it indirectly criticized a top Church official.

Read the full story here.

Pelosi Asks For More Information On Afghanistan Strategy From Obama War Council

Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters this morning she wants more information on President Obama's new strategy for Afghanistan. Though she said "the president has spoken," when asked if Democrats in the House would attempt to stand in the way of Obama's new plan, she said there are still questions about the strategy Congress needs answers to "so we can make some judgment about the nature of the threat" in Afghanistan.

Pelosi called on Obama's war council to come to Congress and brief all members on the details of the strategy. The Secretaries of State and Defense as well as other Pentagon leaders have come to the Hill this week to take questions on the strategy, but Pelosi said those committee appearances were not enough.

Pelosi said she wants to know what changed to lead Pentagon generals to apparently change their recommendations on the war after George W. Bush left office. Pelosi said that during those years, the Bush administration said generals didn't say more troops were needed in the Afghan theater. Now, they do. Pelosi said the nature of what changed "is what members of Congress want to know."

The speaker praised Obama's speech at West Point Tuesday night, calling it a "tour de force." She also said she recognized the difficult political and foreign policy terrain Obama had to navigate when drafting the new war strategy.

"This much is clear," she said, "for seven-and-a-half years, President Bush did not have a plan" for Afghanistan. "[Obama] has been dealt a terrible hand, and now he has to deal with that."

Asked how Congress will handle paying for Obama's new strategy, Pelosi said "the deficit will be a concern" when Congress reviews the costs of sending more troops to Afghanistan. But she personally rejected Rep. David Obey's (D-WI) plan to levy a war surtax on middle class Americans when asked about it.

"I'm not in support of the proposal," she said.

Tiger Woods Mistress Rachel Uchitel Admits Affair During Press Conference

When not owning up to your ho activity goes terribly wrong: The New York woman who previously denied having an affair with Tiger Woods now admits bedding the married golfing legend and will hold a news conference in Los Angeles on Thursday.

Rachel Uchitel was first linked to Woods when The National Enquirer claimed the two were having an affair.

According to RadarOnline, Uchitel now confesses to being involved with Tiger, despite vehemently denying the affair rumors in an interview with The New York Post earlier this week: “I have not had an affair with Tiger Woods…I have never spoken on the phone with Tiger Woods, or texted him, ever.”

A press release about the news conference says Uchitel, a Manhattan nightclub hostess, will not speak but her attorney Gloria Allred will make a statement.

On Wednesday, Woods apologized for “transgressions” with other women in an open letter on his website.

Jesper Parnevik Blasts Tiger Woods Over Affair

Jesper Parnevik introduced Tiger Woods to his wife Elin, a decision he now regrets. ”I would be especially sad about it since I’m kind of — I feel really sorry for Elin — since me and my wife were at fault for hooking her up with him,” Parnevik said. “We probably thought he was a better guy than he is. I would probably need to apologize to her and hope she uses a driver next time instead of the 3-iron.”

Beyonce, Taylor Swift, Gaga Lead Grammy Noms

The Grammy Award nominations were announced tonight during a star studded show featuring past winners. Fergie and the Black Eyed Peas took the stage, but the night's big stars included Beyonce, Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift who all snagged multiple nods — check out the whole list of nominees here! Knowles topped the list with a whopping 10, while Swift was close behind with eight. The Peas and Kanye were among those who got six each while Gaga and Jay-Z are up for five apiece. Katy Perry was busting out of her dress during the festivities while Nick Jonas performed with his new band The Administration. LL Cool J hammed it up as the night's host — congrats to all the nominees!

Bernanke defends his Federal Reserve record

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has defended the central bank's response to the global crisis.

He made the statement to a Senate panel sitting to consider his nomination for a second four-year term.

Under Mr Bernanke's tenure, the Fed has cut interest rates close to zero, as well as spending $3 trillion (£1.8tn) to buoy the credit markets.

He also said that a retreat from low interest rates "will require careful analysis and judgement".

World's mightiest banker humbled

"My colleagues on the Federal Open Market Committee and I are committed to implementing our exit strategy in a manner that both supports job creation and fosters continued price stability," he told the panel.

Opening the hearing, Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd said he would support Mr Bernanke's re-nomination, saying it would send the "right signal" to financial markets.

It is expected that the Senate will vote on the renewal of Mr Bernanke's tenure before Christmas, which is up for renewal at the end of January.

But not everyone is in agreement that Mr Bernanke should remain in the post.

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont is angry about the bailouts and says he will attempt to block the nomination when it reaches the senate floor.

"My colleagues on the Federal Open Market Committee and I are committed to implementing our exit strategy in a manner that both supports job creation and fosters continued price stability," he told the panel.

Opening the hearing, Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd said he would support Mr Bernanke's re-nomination, saying it would send the "right signal" to financial markets.

It is expected that the Senate will vote on the renewal of Mr Bernanke's tenure before Christmas, which is up for renewal at the end of January.

But not everyone is in agreement that Mr Bernanke should remain in the post.

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont is angry about the bailouts and says he will attempt to block the nomination when it reaches the senate floor.

President Barack Obama
"I absolutely will not vote for Mr Bernanke. He is part of the problem. He's the smartest guy in the world, why didn't he do anything to prevent us from sinking into this disaster that Wall Street caused and which he was a part of?" he asked the panel.

And the banking committee's chief Republican, Senator Richard Shelby, has criticised the Fed's pre-crisis policies.

Both houses in Congress are moving legislation to cut the Fed's powers. They want an audit of the central bank's interest rate decisions, weaker regulatory powers over banks, and a reduced role for private bankers in the 12 regional Fed banks.

Presidential support

President Barack Obama nominated Mr Bernanke for another term as chairman of the US central bank, the Federal Reserve, in August.

At the time, Mr Obama said he believed Mr Bernanke's action to bail out failing banks had limited the effects of the economic crisis.

"Ben approached a financial system on the verge of collapse with calm and wisdom, with bold action and outside-the-box thinking that has helped put the brakes on our economic free-fall," the president said at the time.

In partnership with the US Treasury, the Fed organised the $700bn bank bail-out plan in October 2008.

Mr Bernanke was named as Federal Reserve chairman by Mr Obama's predecessor, George W Bush, in 2005.

His reappointment must be confirmed by the Senate.