Thursday, July 29, 2010

Rangel to Stand Trial on 13 Ethics Violation Charges

By Jeff Mays

After 40 years as a Congressman, Charlie Rangel will stand trial on 13 counts of ethics violations after his attorneys failed to negotiate a settlement with the House Ethics Committee. Such trials are rare, the last being held in 2002.

It also increases the possibility that Rangel's fellow Democrats will call for his resignation. If found guilty, he faces everything from expulsion to censure. Either way, Rangel's legacy has been scarred because of the charges.

A somber-sounding Rangel could not hide his emotions. "Sixty years ago, I survived a Chinese attack in North Korea and have said that I haven't had a bad day since," Rangel said. "But after today, I may have to revise that statement."

The trial and charges represent a remarkable turn of events for a man regarded as one of the deans of Democratic politics. Rangel coveted the chair of the House Ways and Means committee and waited decades to get it before these charges forced him to step aside.

Rangel is being investigated for his use of four rent-controlled apartments in Harlem, using Congressional letterhead to raise money for a New York City College center for public service bearing his name, not reporting income and assets and preserving a tax loophole for a group that donated to the City College center.

Democrats have been pushing for a settlement to avoid the spectacle of a trial months before the November mid-term elections. Some have begun calls for Rangel's resignation.

Rangel was apparently unwilling to admit to the terms of a deal which would have required him to admit to multiple and serious ethics violations.

A Republican ethics committee member called the charges "very serious.'

"Mr. Rangel...was given opportunities to negotiate a settlement under the investigation phase," said Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Tex.) a member of the ethics committe. "We are now in the trial phase...For Mr. Rangel, these proceedings present a fair and public opportunity to be heard before his peers."

Still, many in Rangel's Harlem district have maintained they will support him because they believe the charges are overblown. He faces a primary challenge in September but many believe he will be re-elected.

Some also think the damage to Democrats will be limited.

"I think it's a sad and isolated case that will have a limited impact," Rep. Gerald E. Connolly told the Washington Post. "I don't think it's going to be a dispositive issue in the election."

"I was at several festivals this weekend in conservative-leaning counties, and I didn't get asked a single time about it," Rep. Tom Perriello told the Washington Post.

Marriage Counselor Stabbed to Death By Her Husband

Marriage Counselor Stabbed to Death By Her Husband

An Ohio woman who helped counsel countless couples experiencing marital discord was found stabbed to death on Monday. The suspect is her husband.

Tonya Hunter(pictured below), owner of the marriage counseling service Success 1 Services in Bedford Heights, Ohio, met her husband, Maurice Lyons (pictured above), last year, when he attended a class that she taught on anger management. The 42-year-old woman married Lyons last December, but almost immediately, the marriage grew sour because it was fraught with financial problems: Hunter owned two homes, which are both facing foreclosure; had college loans; credit cards; and a car loan debt that totaled to nearly $500,000.
Marriage Counselor Stabbed to Death By Her Husband
There were two police reports filed by Hunter against her husband for domestic violence. The last complaint was filed two weeks ago. According to police investigators, this report stated that Lyons appeared to be high on drugs and was demanding money from Hunter. "The defendant then pushed Hunter/spouse against the kitchen sink." Hunter's 4-year-old son witnessed the beating.
Hunter, who was pursuing a doctoral degree in marriage and family counseling at the University of Akron in addition to teaching at the University of Phoenix, ran a domestic violence group session every Wednesday at her office. Ironically, her website states that her company's services will "provide you with the knowledge and understanding of how relationships works and how problems can be resolved in even the most challenging situations."
When Lyons met his wife, he had been recently released from prison. He had served time in Illinois for aggravated battery, intimidation and vehicular invasion. The repeat offender also has a criminal record in Missouri and Ohio. People thought that the pairing of both Hunter and Lyons was very odd. Hunter was viewed as being outgoing and friendly, while Lyons was quiet and reserved.
Two weeks ago, with her young son in tow, Hunter had visited various building personnel where she worked, , to tell them to call the police immediately if they saw Lyons anywhere near the building. Many people in the office building had known about Lyon's prison record, and some even changed the locks on their doors when warned by Hunter.

Hunter called police to complain that she had been inundated with threatening phone calls from Lyons, where he allegedly said he wanted to punch her in the face and kill her. On July 20th, police issued a warrant for Lyon's arrest.
A week before she was found dead, Lyons could not be found. When Hunter was discovered stabbed to death in her garage, her son was dropped off on a street corner. Investigators did not state who abandoned the boy on the street. The little boy was taken to county social workers and interviewed, where he said that his mother was killed and lying in a garage.
Lyons was arrested last Monday and charged two days later with aggravated murder in his wife's stabbing death and domestic violence.

Here's the thing, most past convicts are usually attempting to readjust to society's values, norms and relationships outside prison walls.

Why this educated woman would marry a man who was convicted of aggravated assault is beyond me.

I'm not saying people don't change, but what I am saying is that this man couldn't have had that much to offer her. Lyons was enrolled in Hunter's anger management classes, for goodness sake. Clearly he needed some time to become stable both mentally and physically. Hunter was getting her doctorate in marriage and family counseling. As a professional, she should have left this one alone.

And what of the poor 4-year-old? How will he become anything different from his "father," when he has witnessed battery and possibly murder. With no Mother, and a "Father" who has abandoned him, who will love and nurture this child? As Mothers, we have to do better with our choices in men. If we can't at least do it for ourselves, we should at least do it for our children.

Obama Starting To Look Like Lyndon Johnson

Barack Obama is starting to look like Lyndon Johnson.
Johnson conducted major domestic legislation on civil rights, poverty, Medicare and other social issues while conducting an unpopular war in Vietnam.

Despite his domestic triumphs and widespread support among non-Southerners in his own Democratic Party, he was forced to withdraw in his bid for a new Presidential term because of the increasing likelihood that he could not get his own party’s nomination.

Fast forward forty years later and another Democratic President is in office. Obama, too, has accomplished much on domestic legislation and has other sweeping proposals that most Democrats support.
He also has an increasingly unpopular war on his hands. It looks like Afghanistan is becoming Obama’s Vietnam.
I hear from Democrats their frustration with Obama’s war strategy. Many think this is George Bush warmed over. They appear shocked, surprised, even betrayed.
They should not be. This is what Obama said he would do during the campaign, but it appears that Democrats were not listening.

In July 2008, Obama said that his goals involved “ending the war in Iraq responsibly; finishing the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban.”

Democrats only heard the part about Iraq.

Adding 30,000 soldiers to fight the Taliban this year was not contrary to his promise, but he is increasingly being castigated for it.

A year ago, 32 Democrats dissented on war funding for Afghanistan. This year, 102 Democrats abandoned Obama’s strategy. That means Obama had to continue war funding with Republican votes.
Interestingly, 12 Republicans also voted against continued funding. This is a sign that a war-weary public is starting to influence the Republican Party as well. It is hard to imagine that the continued stalemate in Afghanistan can continue to have support from both parties for another three to four years.

Nevertheless, as much as the Republicans would like to embarrass Obama, they will not deny funding for the Afghan War anytime soon. With the likelihood that they will increase their numbers in Congress, Obama will probably find support for the Afghan War next year from Republicans, not his own party.
If Democratic opposition has tripled in the House in a year (roughly 60% support the President now), then it is a good bet that a majority will disapprove of funding the war next year.

By next year, Obama will be seeking Democratic support for his domestic agenda but Republican support for the essential core of his foreign policy — the Afghan War.
This is a scenario that looks increasingly like 1968.

By the way that the war is going now, it is going to be difficult for Obama to significantly decrease the number of soldiers in Afghanistan by 2012.

By next year, expect a prominent anti-war Democrat to make sounds about running for President.
Rep. Dennis Kucinich is an obvious choice, but he has been on the merry-go-round as a Presidential candidate so many times that he is not likely to get the needed critical support. Another House Democrat may appear as a challenger in the 2012 Democratic primaries to Obama. A more likely scenario might be a senator.
No one is making sounds now, but a strong liberal, anti-war senator like New York’s Charles Shumer, New Mexico’s Jeff Bingaman, Vermont’s Patrick Leahy or Rhode Island’s Jack Reed could turn what should be a simple victory tour into a gut-wrenching disembowelment of the Democratic Party.

Far-fetched? Do not be so sure of that. Since the time of FDR, only one incumbent Democratic President has survived renomination to become re-elected. That was Bill Clinton.
Ted Kennedy nearly grabbed the Democratic nomination from Jimmy Carter in 1980. That challenge contributed to Carter’s defeat in November to Ronald Reagan.

In 1968, Lyndon Johnson withdrew after Minnesota Senator Eugene McCarthy ran a surprisingly strong race in New Hampshire’s primary against Johnson.

In1952, Harry Truman went down to defeat against Tennessee Senator Estes Kefauver in the New Hampshire primary.

Once again, the political stars are aligning for the Democrats to feed on their own. This time it is the Obama presidency on the plate.

Israel settlement freeze ends September 26

Washington Post:

While Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak visited Washington this week to talk about peace gestures toward the Palestinians, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman was planting a tree in a Jewish settlement in the West Bank -- an indication of permanence that few Palestinians would welcome.

The contrast showed the confusion U.S. officials face in figuring out how willing Israel might be to cede territory as part of a two-state solution to the conflict.

President Obama's Middle East envoy, George J. Mitchell, has been laboring for months to move Israelis and Palestinians into direct talks on the core issues that divide them, including the future of Jewish settlements built on land Israel occupied in the 1967 Middle East war.

The peace effort faces a major challenge on Sept. 26, when a 10-month freeze of Israeli settlement construction is set to expire. The United States and Israel for years have quarreled over Israeli construction in the occupied West Bank that is widely considered illegal under international law. The United States, which says settlement construction undermines peace talks, pushed hard for the moratorium on building.

I think the freeze was a mistake. The Palestinians would have more incentive to conclude a peace agreement if they knew that every delay they made meant more settlers would have houses on the West bank. While many buy into the proposition that these communities are illegal, the basis for that opinion is certainly in dispute. Both sides of this dispute see the other as squatters. Right now the Palestinians have little incentive to anything but stall. They must be made to see the September 26 deadline as real. If they are not in direct negotiations at that time they should expect to see more building.

By Merv Benson

French couple held over 8 babies' bodies

Paris, France (CNN) -- French police are questioning a couple detained following the discovery of the bodies of eight newborn babies at two locations in northern France, the French Interior Ministry said Thursday.

Gendarmes found the remains in the village of Villers-au-Tertre, south of Lille, some in a home and others in the garden of another home. Authorities scheduled a news conference for Thursday at 2 p.m. local time (midday GMT).

The woman has been charged with voluntary manslaughter of minors under the age of 15. The man is charged with refusing to expose crimes and concealing bodies, prosecutors told CNN.

Agence-France Presse reported that the couple, both estimated to be in their mid-forties, would appear before prosecutors later Thursday. The woman is a nursing assistant while the man is a member of the local council, a neighbor told AFP.

"These are attractive, helpful, polite and courteous people, who did nothing to make you think them capable of anything abnormal," he said.

Another resident said the couple had two grown-up daughters and were grandparents, AFP said. The pair had lived in the village for at least 15 years, neighbors said.

Former mayor Daniel Collignon said Villers-au-Tertre was a quiet, rural community. "I'm still in shock," he told AFP.

Police with sniffer dogs searched the two homes after the new owners of one of them found the bones of two bodies in the garden. The house had previously belonged to the mother of the arrested woman, AFP said.

Six more bodies were then found at the couple's home in another part of the village, a local councilor told reporters.

Michael Steele, Call Me Irresponsible

By Don Todd
According to public documents obtained by Americans for Limited Government (ALG), Michael Steele, Chairman of the Republican National Committee (RNC), is as fiscally irresponsible in his personal life as he has been in the management of the RNC. A rough estimate indicates that Steele is obligated to pay 117 percent of his take-home pay in mortgages and taxes on his $1.7 million home in Upper Marlboro, Maryland.

This is no ordinary home, but is a 6,440 square foot mansion with 6.5 bathrooms set on an almost four-acre lot.

On January 23, 2008 when Steele purchased the property, there was a mortgage recorded in the amount of $1,909,000. This was later converted to another mortgage on November 5, 2008. There is a first mortgage of $1,537,500 at 6.75 percent (5/1 ARM) and a second mortgage of $195,000 as of that date. This comes to a total of $1,732,500.

The monthly payment on the first mortgage is $9,972.20. The payment on the second would be around $1,200 for a total of around $11,236.20.

The current property tax assessment for this home is $17,468.76 per year, which comes to $1,455.73 a month. Adding the mortgage payments and tax payments suggests that the monthly liability for the house comes to around $12,691.93 (not to mention homeowner’s insurance and utilities.) So how much money would you need to make to pay for an estate of this magnitude? The short answer is a lot. The general rule for mortgage qualification is that your house payment plus property tax and insurance shouldn’t exceed 28 percent of your gross income. Using the 28 percent figure, a person would need a gross annual income of approximately $544,000 to qualify for this type of loan ($544,000* .28 /12 = $12,693.33).

Get full story here.

Holding Politicians to the Fi

By Adam Bitely
In an election year, it is far too common for political parties and certain loyal followers to chastise those that align along similar ideological lines when they criticize policy positions of candidates and elected officials that contradict their campaign rhetoric. While they are trying to protect their brand and their candidates, they sweep information that voters need under the rug.

Only after a new crop of politicians are in office that promised one thing and then do another, do Americans discover that in Washington, D.C., everything is politics as usual.
But, by then, it’s too late.

Consider that in 1994, the year of the Republican Revolution in the monumental mid-term elections during Bill Clinton’s first term as President, the GOP had a platform that was widely composed of hot issues for conservatives. Once in Congress though, the platform known as the “Contract with America” slowly fell to the wayside. Within twelve years, the class of 1994 was unrecognizable — devoid of the conservative ideals that they came to power to champion.
Get full story here.

Union Bosses Seek Monopoly of Construction Industry Through Green Job Subsidies

By Kevin Mooney
So now it’s called a “clean energy jobs” bill, replete with government inducements for contractors operating on pre-approved “efficiency” projects. Concerns over global warming and/or climate change are “so 2009” and are no longer in vogue.
A draft version of the anti-energy legislation Senate Democrats are expected to roll out next week omits politically unpopular “cap and trade” policies, but includes rebates under the “Home Star” and “Silver Star” programs that deserve careful scrutiny. Union bosses who have received very little legislative return on their substantial investments into the Democratic Party view green jobs as an angle into monopolizing the construction industry.

After losing out on “card check” and binding arbitration, the idea now is for congressional leaders to secure union favors through more obscure legislation that escapes media attention. For example, under Section 3003 of the pending anti-energy bill, “The Secretary of Energy, in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury and the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA),” are authorized “to create a Federal Rebate Processing System with a database and information technology system for submitting reimbursement claims by rebate aggregators (RAs).”

Get full story here.

That Giant Sucking Sound You Hear…

By Robert Romano
Last week, the Obama Administration released its Friday afternoon surprise: another $1.47 trillion in debt for the year of 2010. The news comes in the context of imminent tax increases due to occur on January 1st, 2011 as the Bush tax cuts expire.
As reported by Art Laffer in the Wall Street Journal, “the highest federal personal income tax rate will go 39.6% from 35%, the highest federal dividend tax rate pops up to 39.6% from 15%, the capital gains tax rate to 20% from 15%, and the estate tax rate to 55% from zero.”

The Obama Administration is okay with that. So are Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, who have no plans to make the Bush tax cuts permanent. Democrats are telling the American people that rather than cutting unsustainable spending and balancing the budget the way families balance theirs, that instead they want taxpayers to finance Washington’s increasingly indefensible spending habits.

Today, spending reflects revenues as the political class wishes them to be, not as they actually are.
Get full story here.

Second missing sailor's body found

Newlove and McNeley were both found dead in Logar province after going missing last week [EPA]
The body of a second US navy sailor who was captured in eastern Afghanistan last week has been recovered, according to US and Afghan officials.
25-year-old Jarod Newlove's body was recovered in Logar province on Wednesday evening.

US military officials said his family had been notified of his death.
"The coalition told our criminal police director of the district that the body belonged to the foreign soldier they were looking for," Mohammad Rahim Amin, a local government chief in the Baraki Barak district in western Logar, said.
Newlove and another sailor, Justin McNeley, went missing last week in Logar province. McNeley's body was recovered on Sunday.
The Taliban initially said that Newlove was captured alive. Zabiullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban, did not offer an explanation for how he died.

Mujahid did, however, tell The Associated Press news agency in Kabul that two days ago the Taliban left the "body of a dead American soldier for the US forces".

'Security tightened'
Both sailors were assigned to a training school for Afghan security forces, according to US military officials. But the school is headquartered in Kabul.
Nato officials have not explained why the two sailors were traveling in Logar, an increasingly dangerous province in eastern Afghanistan.

General Mustafa Mosseini, the chief of police of Logar province, said Nato troops removed Newlove's body on Wednesday. He said he believed that the body had been washed downstream after rains on Tuesday night.
Mosseini also noted that in recent days, the Taliban were being pressured by Nato forces in the area.
"The security was being tightened," he said. "Searches continued from both air and the ground. Militants were moving into Pakistan."

Witness LeBron Heat Fan Ejected At Indians Game

Fan ejected from Jacobs Field for wearing LeBron James jersey
A reader to was at the game and sent in this account of what happened:
A guy walked into the bleacher seats wearing a LeBron James Miami Heat Jersey. He was booed violently, and by the fifth Inning, people were throwing peanuts and beer cups at him.
That’s when police escorted him out of the section. While walking down the stairs, a guy knocked the beer cup out of his hand, and started swearing at him. By the end of the row, a fat guy in a green shirt (who was previously flicking him off), got up in his face. The police had to restrain him from attacking the Yankees & Indians fans who were booing him.
His girlfriend, who had been flicking people off and swearing was shoved to the ground by a guy in a grey shirt. She started crying, and also had to be restrained.
The police officers who escorted him out, got a standing ovation from the entire bleacher section.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the Heat didn’t step in and offer a consolation prize to the fan in order to engender some sort of positive public reaction. Protip to Heat p.r.: Don’t offer Marlins tickets.

Posted by Brooks

Barack Obama Not Invited To Chelsea's Wedding!

President Barack Obama told the ladies of The View that he will not be attending the upcoming nuptials of Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky.
He explains:
"I was not invited to the wedding because I think Hillary and Bill, properly, want to keep this thing for Chelsea and her soon-to-be husband. You don't want two presidents at one wedding! All the secret service, guests going through [metal detectors], all the gifts being torn apart."
He's a good sport!

Wrist Slap For Gov. Paterson In Handling Aide's Domestic Violence Case

The good news for Gov. David Paterson is that former Chief Justice of the Court of Appeals in New York, Judith Kaye, found that criminal charges weren't warranted in the Democrat's handling of a domestic violence case by his aide David Johnson.

The bad news is that he handled the case poorly and that there were multiple missteps by him and his staff along with the NYPD:
Mr. Paterson personally contacted the woman, Sherr-una Booker, and urged her to help him contain any political fallout from the episode, Ms. Kaye’s report shows, and even called her after he asked the attorney general to investigate the matter for possible criminal prosecution.

But those contacts did not rise to a criminal charge of witness tampering, the report said, because the governor did not specifically try to prevent Ms. Booker from testifying or making an appearance in court.

On Wednesday, Mr. Paterson’s lawyer hailed the findings and said they supported the governor’s repeated insistence that he had never abused his office or broken the law. The governor told investigators that he had contacted Ms. Booker the night before a scheduled court appearance in the case only because he wanted to know whether she was spreading rumors about his personal life. Ms. Booker supported his account in her testimony.

“The governor is pleased that Judge Kaye, after a thorough and independent investigation, has exonerated him” of any criminal wrongdoing, the lawyer, Theodore V. Wells Jr., said in a statement.

Ms. Kaye recommended that the Bronx district attorney consider charges against Mr. Johnson over the episode at Ms. Booker’s apartment on Oct. 31, 2009, in which Ms. Booker said Mr. Johnson tore off her Halloween costume, choked her and shoved her into a mirrored dresser. Mr. Johnson refused to cooperate with Ms. Kaye’s investigation.

Ms. Kaye also said the New York City police erred in their response the evening of the episode.

While Ms. Kaye found that the governor did not break any law, her four-month investigation raises numerous questions about the actions of Mr. Paterson as his administration sought to conceal Ms. Booker’s accusations from the public.
Kaye is also investigating whether Paterson perjured himself in how he obtained tickets to baseball games in violation of state law. That's a far more serious issue, and could result in criminal charges being filed.

Kaye recommended charges be filed against Johnson.

America’s Love Affair With Some Serial Bank Robbers

"Geezer Bandit"/fbi photo

"Geezer Bandit"/fbi photo

By Matt Castello

On the ever-popular Facebook, words of support, encouragement and disbelief plaster a wall with 2,700-plus followers dedicated to the elderly, ever-elusive San Diego bank robber dubbed the “Geezer Bandit”.

“This is the first time I’ve heard of this guy,” wrote one Facebook fan. “And he just became my personal hero.”

“Financial crisis in the US,” another admirer commented. “The old guy rips off banks. I would say totally understandable.”

Similarly, more than 93,000 Facebook users have joined one of the many pages dedicated to the nefarious activities of Colton Harris-Moore, aka the “Barefoot Bandit”, who was recently apprehended in the Bahamas.

The Geezer Bandit and the Barefoot Bandit are among the latest arrivals in a decades long phenomena —America’s selective love affair with serial bank robbers — an infatuation that took hold in the 1930s with such legends as Bonnie and Clyde and John Dillinger. Books have been written. Movies have been made.

“Fascination and hero-worship for undeserving criminals is a pathetic piece of our popular culture,” James Alan Fox, Lipman Family Professor of Criminology, Law and Public Policy at Northeastern recently wrote in a blog entry on “All sorts of offenders, no matter how despicable their crimes, have been revered by a sizable minority of Americans.”

Read more »

Obama Admin. Wants to Give FBI More Access to Email Data

internet-photoBy Allan Lengel

The FBI could be getting more powers when it comes to getting data on Internet activity.
Reporter Ellen Nakashima of the Washington Post reports that the Obama administration wants to change a law so that it would allow the FBI to compel companies over individual’s records of their Internet activity without a court order.

Under the push, the FBI would not be able to get content of the email, the Post reported. But it would be able to get email addresses individuals are writing to; times and dates the e-mails were sent and received;and possibly a user’s browser history.
For Full Story

House Passes Bill Reducing Sentencing Disparity With Crack Cocaine

By Glynnesha Taylor

WASHINGTON — The House on Wednesday passed legislation drastically reducing the sentencing disparity between crack and powdered cocaine — a longtime disparity critics saw as unfairly targeting African Americans.

Previously, under the 1986 law, a person selling crack got the same sentence as someone selling 100 times the amount of powdered cocaine. The ratio will now go to 18 to 1.

The old bill became law while crack-cocaine was spinning out of control and savaging urban areas. But critics said it amounted to giving harsher sentences to African Americans who sold crack and lesser sentences to whites who were selling more of the powder cocaine.

The bill now goes before President Obama for his signature.

The bill also eliminates the five-year mandatory minimum sentence for first-time possession of crack, marking the first time Congress has eliminated a mandatory minimum sentence since the Nixon administration, according to the Associated Press.

“The time is long overdue to fix this law that the U.S. Sentencing Commission agrees disproportionately punishes African-Americans. After many years of hard work on this issue, we are one step closer to eliminating this inequity in federal sentencing,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman, John Coyers Jr. said in a statement.

Attorney General Eric Holder also applauded the bill, saying in a statment:
“I congratulate the House of Representatives on today’s passage of the Fair Sentencing Act. The bill greatly reduces the unwarranted disparity in sentences for crack and powder cocaine offenses, and will go a long way toward ensuring that our sentencing laws are tough, consistent, and fair.”