Thursday, March 11, 2010

NY attorney general recuses self in Paterson probe

ALBANY, N.Y. — New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said Thursday he has recused himself and appointed an independent counsel to probe whether Gov. David Paterson illegally took World Series tickets or had improper contact with a woman who accused an aide of domestic violence.

He appointed former state Chief Judge Judith Kaye to the case, saying he is being cautious in his approach because of heated politics that have raised concerns about a conflict of interest when he says none legally exists.

Cuomo, often floated as the potential Democratic nominee for governor, told reporters in a teleconference that if Paterson had resigned, the case could have been "moot" and been dropped.

A Marist College poll this week showed Cuomo's approval rating fell 13 points in two weeks as he began investigating Paterson, the Democratic governor who until recently was running for a full term and likely would have faced Cuomo in the primary.

Several polls showed New Yorkers preferred an independent prosecutor for the case, not Cuomo, who said the polls had no impact on his decision to use "an abundance of caution."

"There is no technical conflict," he said, now that Paterson has dropped his campaign for governor.

Cuomo was investigating Paterson's role in the case in which a woman accused a trusted Paterson adviser of roughing her up.

Last October, Sherr-una Booker accused Paterson confidante David Johnson of choking her, tearing off her Halloween costume and shoving her against a mirror. She filed a domestic violence complaint but never filed criminal charges.

Paterson has acknowledged that he, two staff members and a member of his state police security detail all talked to Booker before a scheduled family court hearing. He has said Booker called him and he only offered support but did not try to get her to drop her complaint or change her story.

Booker did not show up for the hearing, and the domestic violence complaint was dropped.

Last week, a public integrity commission accused Paterson of violating state ethics laws when he sought and obtained free Yankees tickets for the 2009 World Series and then may have lied about his intention to pay for them.

U.S. State Department Apologizes For Remarks in Response To Gaddafi's Call For Jihad

Les Carpenter III
Colonel Muammar Gaddafi , the dirt bag President of Libya, was given an official apology from the U.S. State Department for comments made by P.J. Crowley, a State Department spokesperson. Comments made by Crowley were in response to Gaddafi's call for jihad against Switzerland. Apparently the remarks were considered to dismissive of the scum ball of Libya and thus our official apology.

Gaddafi's call for holy war against Switzerland was in response to a Swiss referendum last November to ban the construction of minarets on mosques. The call for jihad against a nation that has historically been one of the world's most peaceful nations deserves not only the condemnation of the United States but of the rest of the western world as well.

For the State Department to issue an official apology is as ludicrous as it is stupid. But given the apologist proclivity of our President it is easy to understand how this would be our position. Condemnation of Gaddafi's call for jihad does not amount to a call to arms. However, the U.S. State Department's apology for Crowley's remarks amount to acceptance of an evil that should be denounced by all rational governments.

Read the rest here at RN USA.

Being a lesbian ruins the prom for everyone

Remember in high school when you goofed off at Field Hockey and Coach Lally made the entire team run for twenty minutes?

This story is kind of like that, but instead of acting like a schmuck, Constance McMillen is gay. And instead of Coach making the team run laps, her lesbianism is the reason the Itawamba Agricultural High School in Fulton, Mississippi is canceling the prom for everyone. The school didn’t come out and say, “well thanks to your gayness, no one can go to the prom,” but they did cite “distractions to the educational process caused by recent events” in a statement about the decision. Because the prom itself is totally educational and not at all distracting.

McMillen reacted in a way any kid would react when their request to bring a date caused the whole prom to be taken away:

“Oh, my God. That’s really messed up because the message they are sending is that if they have to let gay people go to prom that they are not going to have one,” she said. “A bunch of kids at school are really going to hate me for this, so in a way it’s really retaliation.”

Of course, the prom isn’t really canceled, it’s just canceled in a way to exclude the gays:

The school board’s statement canceling the official school prom also included a suggestion that a private group could organize an independent prom instead. Ms. McMillen said that’s their way of getting around the issue.

“If they set it up privately they probably aren’t going to allow gay people to go, and there is nothing that you can do about it,” she said. “I’m going to have to change schools or something.”

What a compromise! The anti-gay folks involved get to be martyrs for political correctness, they don’t miss out on any opportunities to pick on the girl and the prom goes on anyway! Just with no pesky gay people!

Is it wrong to hope that Clinton Kelly, that guy who does weddings after Bridezillas is on and other reality-tv fabulousness experts swoop in and give this kid and all her supporters a better prom than her podunk town ever could have thrown? And that at the door they have a no homophobes policy?

Betty White “Saturday Night Live” Host May 8

You Asked for It, You Got It: Comic genius Betty White will host NBC’s Saturday Night Live — for the first time in the show’s 35 year history — on May 8.

Betty’s appearance in a popular Super Bowl ad sparked a Facebook campaign that has actually come to fruition: the funnywoman and former Golden Girl has been tipped to host the upcoming Mother’s Day episode of SNL, series creator Lorne Michaels has confirmed to USA TODAY.

The Betty White to Host SNL (please?)! Facebook page launched shortly after Betty and Abe Vigoda were seen playing football with men young enough to be their great-grandsons in a Snickers Super Bowl commercial. Since then, the group has attracted more than 485,000 whippersnappers. Betty’s so hot right now even Robert Pattinson thinks she’s sexy.

And she won’t be coming to 30 Rockefeller Center alone: The May 8 episode will also feature a reunion of six former female cast members, many of them now moms themselves, including: Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Molly Shannon, Maya Rudolph, Ana Gasteyer, and Rachel Dratch.

Pro Football Hall of Famer Merlin Olsen dies at 69

SALT LAKE CITY — Merlin Olsen, a Hall of Fame defensive lineman and member of the Los Angeles Rams' "Fearsome Foursome" who followed up football with a successful television career in "Little House on the Prairie," NFL broadcasts and commercials, has died. He was 69.

Utah State, Olsen's alma mater, said he died outside of Los Angeles early Thursday after battling cancer. He was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a cancer of the lung lining, last year.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell issued a statement lauding Olsen as an "extraordinary person, friend and football player."

"He cared deeply about people, especially those that shared the game of football with him," Goodell said. "Merlin was a larger-than-life person, literally and figuratively, and leaves an enormously positive legacy."

Olsen was an All-American at Utah State and a first-round draft pick of the Los Angles Rams in 1962.

The giant from northern Utah joined Deacon Jones, Lamar Lundy and Rosey Grier on the Rams' storied "Fearsome Foursome" defensive line known for either stopping or knocking backward whatever offenses it faced. The Rams set an NFL record for the fewest yards allowed during a 14-game season in 1968.

Olsen was rookie of the year for the Rams in 1962 and is still the Rams' all-time leader in career tackles with 915. He was named to 14 consecutive Pro Bowls, a string that started his rookie year.

Olsen was also an established television actor with a role on "Little House on the Prairie," then starring in his own series, "Father Murphy," from 1981 to 1983 and the short-lived "Aaron's Way" in 1988.

Olsen was a consensus All-American at Utah State and won the 1961 Outland Trophy as the nation's best interior lineman. The Rams drafted Olsen third overall in 1962 and he spent the next 15 years with the team before retiring in 1976.

Utah State honored Olsen in December by naming the football field at Romney Stadium "Merlin Olsen Field." Because of his illness, Olsen's alma mater didn't want to wait until football season and made the announcement during halftime of a basketball game.

Olsen was well enough to attend, but did not speak at the event. He stood and smiled as he waved to fans during a standing ovation and chants of "Merlin Olsen!" and "Aggie Legend!"

Utah State is also planning a statue of Olsen at the southeast corner of the stadium.

"This was the voice of a man who not only became one of our country's most decorated athletes, but also one of the most accomplished and respected people ever to hail from the state of Utah," said Stan Albrecht, president of Utah State.

The Rams also honored Olsen during a game Dec. 20, with a video tribute narrated by Dick Enberg, Olsen's longtime broadcast partner. Olsen did not attend because of his health. His name was already part of the Ring of Fame inside the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis along with other franchise standouts.

He was voted NFC defensive lineman of the year in 1973 and the NFL MVP in 1974, and was voted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1982.

Conan O'Brien will take his show to theaters

NEW YORK — Without a TV show to do every night, Conan O'Brien is taking his act on the road.

The former host of "The Tonight Show" announced a 30-city theater tour on Thursday. Sidekick Andy Richter and the former "Tonight Show" band will join O'Brien for what he promises to be "a night of music, comedy, hugging and the occasional awkward silence."

The "Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television Tour" begins April 12 in Eugene, Ore., and concludes June 14 in Atlanta. It will visit theaters in at least 20 states and two Canadian provinces. Additional dates may be added.

O'Brien quipped: "It was either a massive 30-city tour or start helping out around the house."

On the itinerary is New York's Radio City Music Hall, just steps from where O'Brien first gained fame hosting "Late Night," and the Gibson Amphitheater in Universal City, Calif., near the studio where he presided over "The Tonight Show" for eight months.

The tour also will make a stop at the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival, the annual festival that takes place June 10-13 in Tennessee. Aside from performing in the comedy tent, O'Brien will emcee the festival's largest music stage on June 11 and 12, the festival said.

O'Brien quit "The Tonight Show" in January instead of taking NBC's offer to move his start time back by a half-hour to make room for "Tonight Show" veteran Jay Leno's return to late night from a failed prime-time show. He hasn't announced any future television plans.

Leno now is back in his old "Tonight" slot, which he had bequeathed to O'Brien last June.

Willie Clark found guilty in murder of Darrent Williams

DENVER - A Denver jury has found suspected gang member Willie Clark guilty in the murder of Denver Broncos cornerback Darrent Williams.

Judge Christina Habas made the announcement in front of a packed courtroom filled with both friends and family of the victim and the defendant. Clark faced 21 counts and was found guilty of them all.

Before the verdict was announced, Clark, dressed in khaki pants and a long-sleeved button-down plaid shirt, sat with his attorneys in a starkly quiet courtroom.

Habas praised Clark for his behavior during the two-and-a-half week trial just moments before she announced the guilty verdict.

As the verdict was read in open court at 12:10 p.m., the jurors sat silently, many with straight faces. Courtroom observerers say at least one juror was crying.

Clark did not react to the verdict and only slightly shook his head. One of his defense attorneys reached over and put his arm around Clark.

"Today ultimately shows that nobody wins," Rosalind Williams, Darrent Williams' mother, said. "I love my only son and his children lost their father. This doesn't bring him back."

Denver Broncos President and CEO Pat Bowlen released a statement moments after the verdict was read.

"Nothing can ever bring Darrent Williams back or ease the suffering for (his mother) Rosalind and her grandchildren," Bowlen said in the statement on the team's official site. "But after three long years, it is very gratifying to see closure brought to this case. This process has been extremely difficult for the Williams family, his friends and teammates, this community, and the entire Denver Broncos organization."

Bowlen went on to thank the Denver Police Department and the Denver District Attorney's Office for their work, and thanked the community for its support.

"This was a quest for justice," Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey said.

Bowlen added: "Darrent's legacy will live on for all of us in the Broncos organization, and the outstanding work done each day at the Darrent Williams Memorial Teen Center is a tribute to his impact on this community. Our hearts continue to go out to the entire Williams family."

"It's a senseless crime," Rosalind Williams said. "It's a life lost that can't be brought back."

Soon after learning his fate, Clark was taken into custody and handcuffed by one of the more than a dozen law enforcement officers in the room.

Clark had long said he was not in the SUV from which the fatal shot was fired in the early morning hours of New Year's Day 2007. During the course of the trial, Clark's defense tried to place most of the blame on the shoulders of Daniel Harris, a suspected gang member and associate of Clark.

Prosecutors countered saying there was "a mountain of evidence" against Clark, a suspected member of the Denver Eastside Tre Tre Crips. They believed Clark, while driving a white Chevrolet Tahoe, pulled alongside a stretched Hummer limousine and opened fire using his own semi-automatic handgun. Williams was hit in the neck. Two others were hit as well. Brandon Flowers and Nicole Reindl both survived and testified during the trial.

Prosecutors felt Clark became enraged after being "disrespected" by a group of Denver Broncos in and outside of the Safari Nightclub on Broadway just south of downtown. They told the jury that Clark, Harris, Mario Anderson and Kataina Jackson-Keeling hopped in the Tahoe that night with at least Clark bent on revenge.

The trial itself was marked by reluctant witnesses, three of whom were temporarily jailed for refusing to take the witness stand. A number of witnesses, including Harris, were given deals on pending federal drug cases in order to get them to testify at trial. The defense roundly criticized the prosecution for going down that route, and a pair of "alternate" jurors had told the press in the days leading up to the verdict that they were uncomfortable with that fact.

"This was a difficult case for prosecutors because their star witness is a convicted felon (Harris) who got a very good deal in order to testify," 9NEWS Legal Analyst Scott Robinson said.

The case lacked a lot of physical evidence, and the trial lacked a lot of the scientific evidence which typically occupies a lot of the jury's time during the course of a trial.

Clark will be sentenced on April 30 at 1:30 p.m. Habas said Thursday that she would allow a total of 20 people from both sides to speak in court or write letters.

Clark still faces even more legal trouble. Denver prosecutors have also charged him with first-degree murder in the death of a woman, Kalonniann Clark, no relation, who was about to testify in an attempted murder case. He faces life in prison in that case if convicted at trial.

Today's News NJ Book Of The Month: The Devil’s Laugh and Other Stories

By H. Alan Tansson

The Devil’s Laugh and Other Stories is a book of folktales to help you check out your philosophy of life. We all know you don’t believe in “ol Scratch,” and you thought you knew what a sphincter was. You’ve never heard of the Quarry of Suffering, and can’t imagine what it’s like to have the evil eye yourself. Therefore, save this book for emergencies—like the day you need to remember what it was like to discover the joy of reading.

To Buy Goto

H. Alan Tansson lives in Trenton, New Jersey, and believes in a logic beyond any we may ever discover

Greece hit by strikes over austerity plan

ATHENS, Greece — Protesters clashed with riot police as more than 10,000 people marched through central Athens Thursday during a nationwide general strike against the government's harsh new austerity measures.

The strike grounded all flights and brough public transport to a halt. State hospitals were left with emergency staff only and all news broadcasts were suspended as workers walked off the job for 24 hours to protest spending cuts and tax hikes designed to tackle the country's debt crisis.

Fears of a Greek default have undermined the euro for all 16 countries that share it, putting the Greek government under intense European Union pressure to quickly show fiscal improvement.

It has announced an additional euro4,8 billion ($65.33 billion) in savings through public sector salary cuts, hiring and pension freezes and consumer tax hikes to deal with its ballooning deficit, but the measures have led to a new wave of labor discontent.

The cutbacks, added to a previous euro11.2 billion ($15.24 billion) austerity plan, seek to reduce the country's budget deficit from 12.7 percent of annual output to 8.7 percent this year. The long-term target is to bring overspending below the EU ceiling of 3 percent of GDP in 2012.

The new plan sparked a wave of strikes and protests from labor unions whose reaction to the initial austerity measures had been muted. Thursday's strike, which shut down all public services and schools, left ferries tied up at port and suspended all news broadcasts for the day, was the second major walkout in a week.

Riot police fired tear gas to disperse rock-throwing protesters at one point of the demonstration as more than 10,000 strikers and protesters marched through central Athens, banging drums and chanting slogans such as "no sacrifice for plutocracy," and "real jobs, higher pay." People draped banners from apartment buildings reading: "No more sacrifices, war against war."

Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

HSBC data theft: 15,000 affected customers

By: Hema Manchanda

The theft of files from the HSBC bank in Switzerland “perpetrated by an employee of the department three years ago approximately, would involve some 15,000 customers, said Thursday to reporters in Geneva the CEO of HSBC Private Bank ,Mr. Alexandre Zeller.

“It is clear today that the theft was perpetrated by an employee of the department three years ago approximately, would involve about 15,000 existing customers whose accounts have been opened in Switzerland before October 2006, at the excluding former accounts Guyerzeller “said the CEO of the bank.

A total of 24,000 accounts in Switzerland before October 2006 are affected, but holders of 9000 have now left the bank, said Zeller.

“The customer data of Bank branches located outside Switzerland, which works with computer systems and separate security, are not concerned, as well as those from other entities of the HSBC Group,” he added .

“We deeply regret this situation and offer our sincere apologies to all customers who would see their privacy threatened”, said Mr. Zeller on Thursday.

“We are determined to protect their interests and make every effort to do so. The bank could not assess the true extent of data theft until after the Attorney General of the Swiss Confederation had provided with a copy of the files recovered from the French court after a standoff between Paris and Berne.

“This is not a list” of customers, “said the boss of HSBC in Switzerland. “These are sophisticated computer files” very difficult to decipher, “he further stressed.

Mr. Falciani said last December had proposed in May 2009 French investigators to assist in data analysis.

Milestone Demographic Shift Poses New Challenge to U.S. Institutions

by Ajuan Mance

The Associated Press has reported that 2010 will likely mark the point at which the percentage of non-white babies born in the U.S. surpasses 50%. AP writer Hope Yen reports,

[D]emographers say this year could be the “tipping point” when the number of babies born to minorities outnumbers that of babies born to whites.

The numbers are growing because immigration to the U.S. has boosted the number of Hispanic women in their prime childbearing years. Minorities made up 48 percent of U.S. children born in 2008, the latest census estimates available, compared to 37 percent in 1990.

“Census projections suggest America may become a minority-majority country by the middle of the century. For America’s children, the future is now,” said Kenneth Johnson, a sociology professor at the University of New Hampshire who researched many of the racial trends in a paper being released Wednesday.

– “Minority Births on Track to Outnumber White Births, Associated Press, March 10, 2010

For U.S. colleges and universities, too, the future will be determined by decisions made in the present. Babies born in this year will begin enter U.S. colleges and universities in 2018. This means that the nation’s 2- and 4-year colleges have less than 18 years to learn how to effectively attract and educate non-white college students.

At present, most U.S. minority groups have significantly lower college graduation rates than do white students. This trend is reversed for African American students at the most selective of the historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) as well as at many of the nation’s most selective colleges and universities.

The time is now for those institutions that have very poor records of retaining and graduating even their most highly qualified African American students to look to HBCUs and selective majority-white schools and begin to adopt some of their strategies.

The issue of minority achievement on U.S. campuses is no longer a topic that the nation can afford to shroud in racially tinged discussion of I.Q., “reverse” discrimination, and the level playing field. In a nation in which, sooner than later, most college-aged young people will be non-white, the issue of how best to equip college to education educate all kinds of students is far too serious for political grandstanding and sound bite politics. It is an issue of national security, intellectual progress, and economic survival.

Posted by Ajuan Mance

Patrick Kennedy blasts Afghanistan policy, press / Video

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy attacked U.S. policy in Afghanistan as "shameful'' Thursday and excoriated the national press as "despicable'' for what he portrayed as its "cynicism'' and its insufficient coverage of the issue.

Watch C-SPAN video of Kennedy's speech
Photos from C-SPAN video
Raising his voice in a House floor speech on a resolution to pull U.S. troops out of Afghanistan, the Rhode Island Democrat said American troops should not be fighting in Afghanistan. ``What is shameful is our policy that puts them in harm's way when they don't need to be,'' Kennedy said.

U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, offered the resolution, which would require President Obama, under certain conditions, to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan within 30 days of the enactment of the measure.

But the Obama administration, which has twice increased U.S. force levels in Afghanistan, opposes the troop withdrawal measure. The administration aims to begin troop withdrawals in about 16 months.

The Afghanistan policy is ``not about national security,'' Kennedy said. The eight-term House veteran has opted not to run for reelection this year. Kennedy voted for the 2002 resolution that approved of giving then-President George W. Bush authorization to invade Iraq. But he later turned sharply against that war and against the increasing troop levels in Afghanistan.

Feds Charge Colombo Crime Family Members in Kickback Scheme at Ground Zero

By Allan Lengel
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn continues to chip away at the Colombo crime family.

On Tuesday, the office announced the indictment of eight people tied to the notorious crime family on charges including fraud and extortion linked to the World Trade Center.

The indictment alleges that the Colombo-controlled trucking company All Around Trucking paid kickbacks to win a subcontract with a demolition company working at Ground Zero.

Authorities also alleged that the defendants threatened employees with the demolition company when it failed to pay on time.

Consensual recordings captured one of the defendants saying that the demolition company employees were ” “shakin’ in their boots over us” when threats were made, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

“La Cosa Nostra continues to profit illegally in numerous sectors of our economy, allegedly including the World Trade Center construction site,” U.S. Attorney Benton Campbell said in a statement. “Our office is dedicated to eliminating these crime families, which take a significant economic toll.” U.S. Attorney Campbell praised the outstanding investigative efforts by special agents of the FBI and DOL/OIG.
The defendants included Theodore Persico, Jr., Michael Persico, Thomas Petrizzo, Edward Garofalo, Jr., James Bombino, Louis Romeo, Alicia Dimichelle and Mike LNU.

Read Press Release

Congressman John Conyers’ Wife Gets 37 Months in Prison in Bribery Case

Ex-Detroit City Councilwoman Monica Conyers, a combative and divisive figure in a town with too little cash and too much crime, was sentenced Wednesday to 37 months in prison in a bribery scandal, the Detroit Free Press reported.
Conyers, the wife of veteran Congressman John Conyers (D-Detroit), was sentenced even though she told the judge she wanted to withdraw her guilty plea, the paper reported.

U.S. District Judge Avern Cohn said Conyers’ conduct on the city council “fell woefully short” of expectations for a public servant, the Free Press reported.
In June, Conyers pleaded guilty to accepting at least $6,000 in bribes for her support of a $1.2 billion waste disposal contract with Synagro Technologies.
To read more click here.

Iran's Ahmadinejad Criticizes US Role in Afghanistan

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad criticized Washington with his own words, as he appeared at a news conference alongside Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Kabul.

Earlier this week, visiting U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates accused Tehran of playing a "double game" in Afghanistan – being friendly to the Afghan government, while at the same time trying to undermine Afghan and international forces.

Iran denies the allegations, and Mr. Ahmadinejad struck back.

He says that in his view, U.S. officials are the ones playing a double game. He said they created terrorism in Afghanistan and then declared a need to fight it.

The United States supported Afghan rebels more than two decades ago when the Soviet Union fought in Afghanistan. But the support vanished after the Soviets pulled out, and eventually, analysts say instability in Afghanistan created a safe haven for al-Qaida.

While touring an Afghan army training center outside Kabul, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates expressed his concern about the Iranian leader's visit.

"As I told President Karzai, we think Afghanistan should have good relations with all of its neighbors, but we also want all of Afghanistan's neighbors to play an upfront game in dealing with Afghanistan," said Gates.

President Karzai told reporters that relations between Tehran and Kabul are deep and comprehensive.

He says Afghanistan wants good relations with all its neighbors. He says his country does not want to be used as a launching pad for an attack elsewhere in the region, and it does not want its neighbors to fight with others inside its borders.

The president of Kabul's state-sponsored Regional Studies Center of Afghanistan, Abdul Ghafoor Liwal, tells VOA he believes Iranian officials like the fact that U.S. resources currently are tied down in Afghanistan.

"They never talk clearly about the United States leaving from Afghanistan. But they always, they want to fight inside Afghanistan with the United States," said Liwal.

Daoud Sultanzoy is a member of the Afghan Parliament. While he agrees with Liwal's assessment, he tells VOA the Afghan government should embrace Iran with open arms and a watchful eye.

"We should take advantage of those similarities in historic and cultural and linguistic terms. But these similarities should not be for subjugation or domination by Iran," says Sultanzoy.

Earlier, an Afghan presidential spokesman said Mr. Karzai and Mr. Ahmadinejad planned to discuss joint projects, such as building a railway linking Iran and Tajikistan through Afghanistan.

Mr. Ahmadinejad had planned to visit Afghanistan Monday, which ended up being the same day the U.S. defense secretary arrived unannounced in the country. The Iranian president's visit was postponed for unspecified reasons.