Thursday, July 22, 2010

Central Calif. bus crash leaves 5 dead, many hurt

FRESNO, Calif. — A Greyhound bus traveling to Sacramento from Los Angeles has crashed on a state highway in California's Central Valley, killing five and injuring many others.

California Highway Patrol Officer Michelle Sigmond says the bus driver swerved to avoid another crash and slammed into the center divider and a tree at about 2:14 a.m. Thursday just outside downtown Fresno.

She says five people are dead inside the demolished bus. Early reports say there are multiple injuries, but Sigmond doesn't know how many.

The bus departed Los Angeles late Wednesday and stopped in Fresno before continuing on its route to Sacramento.

Northbound lanes of Highway 99, a major route through the San Joaquin Valley, have been closed since the crash.

Tropical Storm Off Florida Coast 100% Certain Within Day

By David Mixner
As always with tropical storms, the area of disturbed weather located currently in the Southern Bahamas is unexpectedly developing a more defined center. The result is that Tropical Storm development, according to the National Hurricane Center, is almost a 100% certainty. The storm will be either known as Bonnie or Colin. There is another area developing off the coast of Mexico and it is unclear which storm will develop first to receive which name.

The Florida storm is expected, at this time to slide through the Florida keys and head into the Gulf and much warmer waters. Oil recovery operations with the BP Spill have been halted to get workers to safety. There is a reasonable chance that this storm could be a hurricane once reaching the Gulf of Mexico. Texas/ Louisiana could be in line to see the power of this storm.

Scientists Discover Super-Sized Star

How do you discover the largest star ever discovered? Not a big star, but a star so big that you have to invent a class for it? Well, when Paul Crowther discovered the hypergiant star R136a1, he used a Very Large Telescope. That’s the official name for the device, which Crowther and colleagues from the University of Sheffield in England used to scan the skies around the Large Magellanic Cloud, 165,000 lightyears from earth. It was there they discovered the largest star ever seen.

You think the sun is big and hot? Guess again. R136a1 is 10 million times brighter than the sun and has a solar mass of, get this, 265 times the mass of our sun! Even more startling, this star used to be even larger before middle age shrank it from its birth mass of 320 solar units. (This is more than twice the original ceiling size of stars, which was thought to be 150 times the size of our sun.)

Owing to the rarity of these monsters, I think it is unlikely that this new record will be broken any time soon,” Crowther said. The star is not visible to the naked eye, or even with a backyard telescope. You need to pay a visit to your local observatory and dial in some help from the Hubble in order to catch a glimpse of the largest star ever seen.

Officer Fatally Shoots “Sexually Engaged” CEO In Park

An undercover officer shot and killed an Atlanta man Friday after he propositioned the officer in a gay pick-up area and became combative.

48-year-old DeFarra Gaymon was fatally shot in the chest in Newark's Branch Brook Park after a plainclothes officer reported that the man approached him while masturbating.

The unidentified officer says when he pulled out his badge and told Gaymon he was under arrest; he shoved the officer to the ground, ran and threatened to kill him if he approached.

Essex County Prosecutor Robert D. Laurino says that the CEO of Credit Union of Atlanta was combative to the officer who had returned to the park to retrieve handcuffs he dropped during a previous arrest.

He tells the Wall Street Journal,

“Mr. Gaymon reached into his pocket and lunged at the officer in an attempt to disarm the officer. The officer, “fearing for his life, shot Mr. Gaymon once, and he died at the hospital three hours later.”

Mr. Laurino's statement was based on an account given by the officer to investigators.

The officer was not interviewed about the case until Monday because authorities report that he was being treated for trauma.

The family of Gaymon has released a statement saying,

“We know that the police killed an innocent man, with no history of or disposition towards violence.”

» by Danielle Canada

Forty-ton whale lands on yacht during Cape Town sailing trip

A couple who took a yacht for a quiet sailing trip were stunned when a 40-ton whale crash-landed on their boat off Cape Town. The pair were enjoying calm seas off the South African coast when the animal flipped into the air and smashed into their mast.

Ralph Mothes, 59, and Paloma Werner, 50, were helpless as the beast thrashed around on their 33ft vessel before slipping back into the water. Miss Werner said: "It really was quite incredible but very scary. The whale was about the same size as the boat.

"We'd spotted it about 100 metres away and thought that was the end of it. Then suddenly it was right up beside us. I assumed it would go underneath the boat but instead it sprang out of the sea. We were very lucky to get through it, as the sheer weight of the thing was huge.

"There were bits of skin and blubber left behind, and the mast was wrecked. It brought down the rigging too. Thank goodness the hull was made of steel and not fibreglass or we could have been ruined." Moments before the animal leapt it had pounded its tail on the surface of the water in a 'lob-tailing' ritual to communicate with other whales.

The shaken couple, who are experienced seafarers with the Cape Town Sailing Academy, used their engine to get back to shore in Table Bay. Whales are a common sight in the Atlantic Ocean off the Western Cape coast at this time of year as they come near the shore to breed.

Thousands of tourists flock to the region's seaside resorts every year to spot the mammals during the South African winter from June to November. Hermanus, a popular destination around 80 miles east of Cape Town, employs a 'whale crier' to walk through the town announcing where whales have been seen.

Foxy Brown arrested in New York

Old-school New York rapper Foxy Brown has been arrested, TMZ is reporting. Foxy was arrested for violating a restraining order her neighbour had against her by “verbally engaging” with them. Brown is currently in custody.

This isn’t the first arrest for Foxy. She’s been arrested multiple times in the last 10 years, and even went to jail for just under a year back in 2007 for violating her probation.

No word on whether the neighbour is going to press charges.

Holliday helps spark Cardinals to 8th straight

Matt Holliday, Colby Rasmus and Jon Jay celebrate with teammates after their 5-1 win over the Phillies. UPI/Bill Greenblatt

The Cardinals won their 8th in a row, a 5-1 win over the slumping Phillies on Wednesday night at Busch Stadium. I know they say the players decide the game with their play on the field, but I thought Phillies’ manager Charlie Manual cost his team a good chance of winning.

The turning point of the game came in the seventh inning. Neither bullpen had anyone warming up and the Phillies loaded the bases with two outs in the seventh inning against Jaime Garcia who was reaching his end point. Instead of getting someone up and ready, Manual elected to trot out Joe Blanton his starting to pitcher to hit in a tie ball game with bases loaded. He hacked at three pitches and Garcia made him look foolish striking out the pitcher the end the threat.

Then Matt Holliday led off the bottom of the seventh with a solo homer and just like that the Cardinals were up 2-1. I just expected against a hot team, bases loaded in a tie game, you’d have someone ready in your bullpen and bring up a position player with a chance to grab the lead in the late innings.

Hey, I’m not complaining…I’ll take it. Blanton marched out there to start the eighth inning as well, but the Cardinals chased him scoring three more runs to put the game out of reach.

Garcia is now 9-4 on the year. He gave up four hits, one of those a solo homer by Ryan Howard, his 22nd. Holliday’s homer was his 18th of the year.

by Bill Pollock

Hornets Chris Paul wants to play for Knicks, Magic or Lakers

Chris Paul’s list of preferred destinations consists of the Knicks, Magic and Lakers, and members of his inner circle already have sent word to the Hornets of his desire to be traded to one of those teams, sources say. If Paul has his way, he’s played his last game in a Hornets jersey. “He feels like they haven’t put the right pieces together,” said the person familiar with the star point guard’s plans. — CBS Sports

Newt Gingrich: America Should Be More Like Saudi Arabia

BY Doug Mataconis

Former Speaker Newt Gingrich became the latest conservative pundit to weigh in on the so-called Ground Zero Mosque story, and his argument is perhaps the most illogical of all:

There should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia. The time for double standards that allow Islamists to behave aggressively toward us while they demand our weakness and submission is over.
Those Islamists and their apologists who argue for “religious toleration” are arrogantly dishonest. They ignore the fact that more than 100 mosques already exist in New York City. Meanwhile, there are no churches or synagogues in all of Saudi Arabia. In fact no Christian or Jew can even enter Mecca.

And they lecture us about tolerance.

If the people behind the Cordoba House were serious about religious toleration, they would be imploring the Saudis, as fellow Muslims, to immediately open up Mecca to all and immediately announce their intention to allow non-Muslim houses of worship in the Kingdom. They should be asked by the news media if they would be willing to lead such a campaign.

Yes, you read that right, because Saudi Arabia (which happens to be an American ally) is a religiously repressive regime, American Muslims should be prevented from using the property which they own to create a community center which happens to include a mosque. Saudi Arabia is also a country where women are not allowed to drive and where alcohol, tobacco, and pork are banned. Is Gingrich suggesting that we adopt those practices as well ?
What’s somewhat ironic, or perhaps hypocritical, about all of this is that elsewhere on his site, Gingrich talks about religious liberty:

Religious liberty in America is under assault.

people of faith have been systematically marginalized in America


It is hard to imagine an America more at odds with the vision of the founding fathers than one where expressions of faith are penalized by the government.

I guess those sentiments don’t apply to Muslims in Gingrich’s mind, or at least not to Muslims who want to use their property as they see fit. Not until they are able to somehow influence an authoritarian religious state half a world away to change their laws.

Its easy to just chalk this up to Gingrich being Gingrich, but it’s part of a pattern. Sarah Palin has already come out with her own bizarrely argued anti-mosque screed, and a group calling itself the National Republican Trust has been trying to air an ad that can only be described as disgusting:

There’s a lot of emotion behind this issue, but there’s also an underlying current of anti-Muslim bigotry and Newt Gingrich just tossed gasoline on that fire.

Obama to sign ‘improper payments’ legislation


WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal agencies would have to redouble their efforts to identify and recover billions of dollars lost annually to wasteful spending under a bill President Barack Obama was signing into law Thursday.
He also was expected to announce a goal of reducing improper payments by $50 billion by 2012.

With the federal debt and people’s worries about government red ink mounting, the bill marked the latest effort by the Obama administration to get a tighter handle on Washington spending.

Improper payments — from outright fraud to checks issued to the wrong person or for the wrong amount because of a typo — reached a high of nearly $110 billion last year, according to the White House. Federal auditors found that millions of dollars in benefits went to dead people, fugitives or others not eligible for them.

Key elements of the bill will require more agencies to report waste and to produce audited, corrective action plans with targets to reduce the errors that lead to such improper payments. The bill also requires all agencies that spend more than $1 million to conduct recovery audits on their programs.

The measure, sponsored by Sen. Thomas Carper, D-Del., and Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Pa., also gives agency heads authority to use any recovered money for purposes not currently allowed, including improving their financial management, supporting the agency’s inspector general or for the original intent of the funding.

Agencies would face penalties for failing to comply with the law.

Since taking office, Obama has taken steps to cut wasteful spending in part by reducing improper payments. Last month, he ordered creation of a federal “Do Not Pay List” — a database that agencies ultimately must search before cutting checks to individuals and contractors.

Toward the broader goal of trimming federal spending overall, Obama has proposed a three-year freeze in spending not tied to national security. He also has instituted changes in how government contracts are awarded to save billions in such costs, and has directed agencies to sell excess or underused real estate.

Obama also has established a special commission that is due to report after the November midterm elections on what spending cuts, higher taxes or combination of the two are needed to control future budget deficits.

Two More Accusations Against Gore Surface

The National Enquirer is reporting that they have unearthed allegations of sexual assault from two other massage therapists:

The first incident allegedly took place at a Beverly Hills

luxury hotel when Gore, 62, was in Hollywood to attend the Oscars in 2007.

The second reportedly occurred a year later at a hotel in Tokyo.

A Beverly Hills hotel source told The ENQUIRER: "The therapist claimed that when they were alone, Gore shrugged off a towel and stood naked in front of her. He pointed at his erect penis and ordered her, 'Take care of THIS.'"

As Jaclyn notes, the Enquirer says the story is "on newsstands now," but their current issue doesn't feature the story. So no more information is available, I presume until the new issue arrives in stores.

Almost certainly, the veracity of the new allegations will be questioned on the basis that they're only being made now, reviving that fun old seeking-fame-by-making-rape-allegations chestnut. But, a couple of points: Delayed reporting of sexual assault does not correlate with the veracity of the allegation, particularly when there is a strong disincentive (such as the perpetrator being a famous and/or powerful man) from reporting at all.

Also, the Enquirer, in its lurid, breathless style—which is seriously distressing when reading about sexual assault allegations—opens its piece with:

The ENQUIRER reports in an exclusive bombshell exclusive that police have investigated charges from TWO MORE WOMEN who claimed they were abused by former VP AL GORE!

That suggests to me that the allegations were not made recently, but discovered recently and are thus only being made widely public now.

After the first allegation was made public, the story got about 1 minute of coverage approximately 15 minutes in the broadcast of the evening news on the local (Chicago) NBC affiliate, which was fairly typical of the media coverage generally. I will be interested to see if the story is pursued with more vigor now, or if the media will, inexplicably, continue to behave as if they believe Gore, a man they've framed as a "serial exaggerator" and "liar" for more than a decade, is suddenly being truthful about this.
Posted by Melissa McEwan

The Senate May Extend The Bush Tax Cuts In August

By Pete Davis

The Senate May Extend The Bush Tax Cuts In August – Stan’s onto something here. Senate Democrats have suddenly shifted into high gear to pass the Bush tax cuts for those under $250,000 before they go out for their August recess. Democratic staff will meet at 12:30 p.m. tomorrow, and Democratic senators will caucus at 4:30 p.m. There’s still a lot of work to do to bridge the big gaps within the caucus on the estate tax and on the top rates for capital gains and dividends. Senate Democratic leaders want to put Republican senators on the spot defending tax cuts for the rich before the election. The Statutory PAYGO Act of last February exempts most of these tax cuts, except for keeping the dividends rate below 39.6%, but that too may be set at 20% or even 15% I’m told. It’s none to soon for the stock market, which has had this as one of its concerns lately.

Bernanke Bears Bad News for the Jobless

Those out-of-work Americans hoping to hear something encouraging from the general direction of Capitol Hill wouldn’t like what Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke had to say to Congress on Wednesday. According to Bernanke, their situation may not improve much for at least two years. —KA

The New York Times:

The unemployment rate in the United States is likely to remain well above 7 percent through the end of 2012 and the duration of President Obama’s current term, according to the Federal Reserve.

Ben S. Bernanke, the Fed chairman, told Congress on Wednesday that it would take “a significant amount of time” to restore the 8.5 million jobs lost in the United States in 2008 and 2009, and warned that “the economic outlook remains unusually uncertain.” He also warned that financial conditions, particularly the European sovereign debt crisis, had “become less supportive of economic growth in recent months.”

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