Friday, July 30, 2010

Video: Chelsea Clinton's wedding draws closer ITN NEWS

Video: Weiner: GOP Are 'cowards' on WTC Health Care Aid The Associated Press

Report: Lorenzen Wright’s body found with knees bent

Police allowed reporters to walk closer to the crime scene, around the bend of a long driveway, past high grass and weeds and into a clearing about 70 yards wide. Atop a small hill, just short of a wooded area, a cadaver dog found the remains, initially hidden from view by thick brush. A black patch of grass in the outline of Lorenzen Wright’s body suggested he was lying with his knees bent and one arm near his face. — Memphis Commercial Appeal

Redskins Albert Haynesworth needed bathroom break during conditioning drill?

Mike Shanahan wouldn’t divulge details of Albert Haynesworth’s failed test, though it’s believed to have consisted of two 300-yard shuttle runs — a series of shorter sprints. People familiar with the results said that Haynesworth performed well on the first half of the running drills but apparently needed a break to visit the restroom midway through the drill. When he returned, the sources said, he had to start the test from the beginning and was too tired to finish. — Washington Post

Texas Man: Death Penalty Issued For Murder of Three Children

After three years in trial for a texas man, death penalty was the decision of a jury for the murder and decapitation of his three young children. Judge Noe Gonzalez has sentenced more convicts to die than any other Judge in South Texas, but he said this case was the most disturbing he had ever presided over. Get the full story, photos, and video below.

The twisted killer was already sentenced to die in 2004, but the decision was overturned in 2007. The $1 Million dollar retrial would have been considered a failure by most local residents if the new verdict was not the same.
The only emotion Rubio showed was during his final statement to the jury. Red eyed and looking down, he said:
“I’m sorry it all had to come to this. I thank the jury for giving me a chance to show what I could.”
After the decision, Judge Gonzalez addressed the Texas man, death penalty already given, and spoke his mind about the trial and decision.

“I don’t know what happened in there, but I know what the jury found,” he said. “I have sentenced more people to death than any other judge in South Texas. I have never seen a case like this. … A lot was said back and forth about forgiveness, a lot was said about apologies. None of that matters. … If you want forgiveness you will have to get it from a higher source.”

For prosecutors, the end of the trial is coming as a relief. For Cameron County prosecutor Charles Mattingly, the most disturbing part of the ordeal was the pictures of the murdered children. Having his fourth child with his wife this year, he obviously harbored some animosity toward the convicted killer.

“I think there’s a special place in hell for Mr. Rubio,” he said after the trial. “Did he show any mercy when he ruthlessly brutally killed his babies? Some of the injuries were inflicted just for pain. What pleasure did he take inflicting pain on the children before he severed their head while they were still alive. … These angels weren’t demons.”

March 11, 2003, after being tipped off by Rubio’s brother, police tracked him down at the apartment he rented with his common-law wife Angela Comacho. 3-year-old Julissa Quesada, 14-month-old John E. Rubio and 2-month-old Mary Jane Rubio were found stabbed, suffocated, and beheaded in the apartment, with broken kitchen knives scattered around them. The killings were the most disturbing in the small town’s history, and Rubio’s sentence was a seen matter of personal vengeance and security for almost every townsperson.

The appeal process is mandatory under state law, and will begin before the end of the year. Do you think the sentence is fitting for the Texas man? Death penalty convictions are the highest in Texas over every other state. Does Rubio stand a chance in appealing the decision? Personally, I hope not. Let me know your thoughts in the comment section! Get more on this story in the video below.

Sources: Slain boy may have been mistakenly targeted

_2shoot612.jpg Theresa Lumpkin is comforted by community activist Andrew Holmes on the 11500 block of South Perry Avenue where her son, 13-year-old Robert Freeman Jr., was shot multiple times and killed Wednesday evening. (Michael Tercha/Tribune)
The blasts, heard blocks away, interrupted a warm summer evening that had drawn children out onto their neighborhood blocks Wednesday.

In the 11500 block of South Perry Avenue in West Pullman, neighbors said they watched in horror as a gunman pumped bullet after bullet into a 13-year-old boy who was already down on the street.

And this morning, a stricken mother made frantic calls to loved ones, asking them to come be with her as she tried to adjust to her new world.
"I'm not going to see my baby no more," Theresa Lumpkin cried. "How soon can you get here? Try to get into Chicago."

Lumpkin's son, Robert Freeman Jr., was shot and killed Wednesday in what family and neighbors say was likely a case of mistaken identity. No one was in custody as of late Thursday afternoon.
Police sources said it appeared the boy was mistakenly targeted.

Although initial reports indicated that Robert, who was most recently enrolled at Oglesby Elementary School, was riding his bike Wednesday, Lumpkin said her son was standing with friends near a car when he was shot by an assailant who ran out from a gangway.

Lumpkin was already surrounded by family and friends Thursday as she remembered her son. He loved basketball and had cut his forehead just weeks ago when the backyard rim came down on him during a dunk. He liked to tinker with machines.

He spent part of the summer cutting lawns with a mower his father gave him, spending earned cash on treats like Flamin' Hot Cheetos. He was new on the block, but he had made friends and rode his bicycle constantly.
But Lumpkin kept returning to the last image she had of her son -- dying in the middle of the street.

"My baby was just lying there,'' she said, crying. "He tried to get up. He tried to fight for his mama. He tried to fight for his life.''

Neighbors, who did not want their names published, heard the shots and came to the front of their house and saw the gunman standing over Robert, shooting repeatedly.

"I was running out [of] the door to say, 'Stop shooting that baby,'" one neighbor said. The resident said he was incensed to see the young teen targeted.

"That boy's young,'' he said. "That's a baby.''

Lumpkin said doctors told her that Robert's body had 22 bullet holes. While it was not clear exactly how many times Robert was shot, the approximate number of bullet holes he suffered was confirmed by police sources.
Neighbors said Robert had a similar haircut, complexion and height as another boy in the neighborhood who they think was the target.
Police are also investigating a theory that the shooter targeted the wrong teen and that the motive for the shooting was a dispute over drugs or money, several sources said.

Robert was the fourth teen shot in the area in a week. In neighboring Roseland, a 15-year-old was shot Tuesday, a 17-year-old was shot Monday and a 14-year-old was shot Sunday. None of the injuries was life-threatening.

This latest round of gunfire sent one mother from two blocks away racing to Perry Avenue to find her own teen son.

After the resident, who did not want to be named, found her son, she took him straight home, where she tried to reassure him.
"I told him it was going to be OK," the mother said. "He said, 'You told me that before.'"
William Lee and David Elsner contributed to this report.
-- Annie Sweeney and Jeremy Gorner
Robert Freeman Sr. (left), father of the slain boy, talks with community activist Andrew Holmes, who was distributing fliers in the West Pullman neighborhood asking anyone who saw the shooting to come forward. (WGN-TV)

DNA clears Houston man 27 years after conviction


Statute of limitations

District Attorney Pat Lykos said the office has identified all four men suspected in the crime, including the three believed to have sexually assaulted the victim.
Three of the men have been convicted of other crimes and spent time in prison. Two are still behind bars, prosecutors said.
Because the statute of limitations elapsed, none of the men can be prosecuted for the crime, according to Lykos.
The prosecutor assigned to the case, Assistant District Attorney Alicia O'Neal, said the victim was aware of the development but declined to comment.
Records show Green appealed his case several times since 1983, to no avail. DNA testing still was years away from common use in 1983, but Green filed a motion for post-conviction DNA testing in 2005. Prosecutors took a swab of his DNA in February 2009.
Last month, O'Neal learned Green had been excluded from the DNA profiles found on the victim's jeans.
Two other men matched DNA that had been recorded in the national DNA database. A third man's DNA also was found.
Through interviews with the two suspects, investigators were led to two more men. Test results returned this week showed that one of those two, not Green, was the third man involved in the sexual assault. One of the suspects admitted he was there and said Green was not.

Faulty identification

Green was picked up the night of the assault by officers looking for a stolen black car in the area where the woman was raped. According to court records, when police spotted the car and pulled it over, the four black men inside fled. Police began stopping all black men walking in the area and detained Green, who is black.
Green and another man were left in a police car that night, illuminated by headlights, while the victim was brought to the scene. Court records say the woman saw both men but said neither was among those who had assaulted her.
Eight days later, how­ever, police showed the victim a photo array that included Green, and she picked him out. Later that day, she picked him out of a live lineup.
The victim identified him in court four months later, after having seen him three times. He was the only person convicted of the crime, according the District Attorney's Office.
Wicoff blamed police for the false eyewitness identification.
"DNA freed this guy. Bad police work put him away," Wicoff said. "This was HPD's fault."
The district attorney's office said its investigation showed no misconduct or negligence on the part of the initial investigators or attorneys involved in either side of the 1983 trial.

'We can start sleeping'

Houston Police Department spokesman Victor Senties said police officials wanted to wait for the court's ruling and see documentation about the case before responding to any allegations.
In a news release, Lykos' first assistant, Jim Leitner, appeared to slam prior district attorney administrations for the length of time the case stalled.
"The evidence in this case had been sitting in the District Clerk's Office for 27 years, and no one had taken the initiative to do anything with it in the past," Leitner said. "The difference now is that you've got the Post Conviction Review Section looking into it - and that made all the difference in the case of Mr. Green."
Lykos declined to comment on Leitner's remarks.
Wicoff said certain court procedures need to be followed to have Green's actual innocence declared.
If Green is released, he said, that paperwork can be completed without the sense of urgency that has marked the last week.
"We can start sleeping at night," Wicoff said.
Green's only other conviction was a misdemeanor of evading arrest, for which he served 45 days. He also was arrested for car theft, but that charge was dismissed, according to court records.

$80,000 per year possible

Wicoff said Green has served the longest prison sentence of an exonerated man in Texas.
If he is ruled innocent, he could be eligible for a one-time payment from the state of more than $2 million, $80,000 for every year he was wrongfully confined.
The final ruling on Green's innocence will be made by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which also is scheduled to review the 1990 sexual assault conviction of Allen Wayne Porter.
Porter, 39, was freed last Friday after the district attorney's office, in a similar investigation, uncovered evidence of his innocence. Porter had spent 19 years in prison.
Lykos said the case was a clarion call for a regional crime lab, a project she campaigned on, noting a backlog of rape kits continues to grow at the HPD crime lab. She has argued for more resources to be used for DNA testing in current and past cases.
"If this case isn't the poster case for the regional crime lab, I don't know what is," the district attorney said.

Economic Growth Drops For Second Straight Quarter, Unemployment Not Expected To Improve

July 30th, 2010 Posted By Pat Dollard.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The recovery lost momentum in the second quarter as growth slowed to a 2.4 percent pace, its most sluggish showing in nearly a year and too weak to drive down unemployment.
Weaker spending by consumers, less growth coming from companies restocking shrunken stockpiles and a bigger drag from the nation’s trade deficits were the main factors behind the second quarter’s slowdown.
The Commerce Department’s report released Friday also showed that the economy grew at a 3.7 percent pace in the first three months of this year. That was much better than the 2.7 percent pace estimated just a month ago.

Still, the recovery has been losing power for two straight quarters. That raises concerns about whether it will fizzle out. Or worse, tip back into a “double-dip” recession.
The economy began to grow in the third quarter of last year after having suffered the worst recession since the Great Depression. And in the following quarter the economy’s growth surged at a 5 percent pace, the high water mark of the rebound.

Much of the expansion was driven by the government’s massive $862 billion stimulus package of tax cuts and increased spending. Also, companies helped energize growth with a burst of spending to replenish inventories that were cut down during the recession.

Now, as those forces are fading, concerns are growing as to whether the private sector can boost spending and investment enough to keep the recovery afloat.
Consumer spending, usually the lifeblood of economic activity, slowed in the second quarter. Such spending rose at an anemic 1.6 percent pace. That was down from a 1.9 percent pace in the first quarter and was the weakest showing since the end of last year.

The 2.4 percent growth rate logged in the April-to-June quarter was slightly less than the 2.5 percent pace economists were forecasting. It was the weakest since a 1.6 percent pace in the third quarter of last year, when a record streak of four straight losing quarters came to an end.

With the economy growing at a subpar speed, the 9.5 percent unemployment rate is not expected to fall.
It takes about 3 percent growth in gross domestic product just to create enough jobs to keep pace with the population increase.
Growth would have to equal 5 percent for a full year to drive the unemployment rate down by 1 percentage point. Neither the Obama administration nor the Federal Reserve expect that to happen.
Gross domestic product measures the value of all goods and services - from machinery to manicures - produced within the United States. It is the best gauge of the nation’s economic health.

The weak economy leaves Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill vulnerable as they head into the November midterm elections. Democrats, who now control both chambers, have the most to lose. The gloomier outlook is also a liability for President Barack Obama.

Consumer confidence is tumbling. The unemployed face fierce competition to find work. Those with jobs are seeing scant wage gains. Home values - often Americans’ single-biggest asset - are weak. That explains why consumers are not in a mood to spend lavishly like they usually do in the early stages of an economic recovery.
It’s also a major reason why the pace of this recovery is considered feeble by historical standards. When the country was recovering from a severe recession in the early 1980s, for instance, the economy’s growth exceeded 7 percent for five quarters.

However, there were some encouraging signs in terms of business spending.

Spending by businesses on equipment and software increased at a blistering 21.9 percent pace in the second quarter, the most in nearly 13 years. Builders boosted spending on commercial projects, such as office buildings and plants, at a 5.2 percent pace. It marked the first increase after seven straight quarters of cuts.
And, home builders, who have cut spending for the last two quarters, ratcheted up their outlays at a hot 27.9 percent pace, the most in nearly 27 years. Still, with the expiration of the government’s homebuyer tax credit, housing activity has started to turn sluggish again.

Looking ahead, though, businesses still aren’t showing signs of ramping up spending that would translate into the explosive kind of growth needed to drive down unemployment.

Uncertain about the strength of the recovery, companies are sitting on record piles of cash, loath to use the money to hire new workers and expand operations. Caterpillar Inc., Dupont Co. and Microsoft Corp. are among companies reporting strong second-quarter earnings in the past two weeks yet they aren’t ready to bulk up their work forces.

“There is a high degree of uncertainty. There is a recovery under way. It is going to be choppy,” said United States Steel Corp. Chairman and CEO John Surma earlier this week.

Overall economic growth was bolstered in the second quarter by strong spending by the federal government. It boosted spending at a 9.2 percent pace, the most in a year. And, state and local governments, coping with budget shortfalls, increased their spending for the first time in a year.

Pentagon: Wikleaks Leak May Go Beyond Military

July 29th, 2010 Posted By Pat Dollard.
Afghanistan Wikileaks
WASHINGTON (AP) - A criminal investigation into the leak of tens of thousands of secret Afghanistan war logs could go beyond the military, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday, and he did not rule out that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange could be a target.

“The investigation should go wherever it needs to go,” Gates said.

He would not be more specific, waving off questions about whether Assange or media outlets that used the WikiLeaks material could be subjects of the criminal probe. But he noted that he has asked the FBI to help in the investigation “to ensure that it can go wherever it needs to go.”

The Army is leading an inquiry inside the Defense Department into who downloaded some 91,000 secret documents and passed the material to WikiLeaks, an online archive that describes itself as a public service organization for whistleblowers, journalists and activists.

The Pentagon inquiry is looking most closely at Pvt. Bradley Manning, an Army intelligence specialist who was already charged with leaking other material to the website.
The FBI would presumably handle aspects of the investigation that involve civilians outside the Defense Department, and the Justice Department could bring charges in federal court.

Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called the release of the documents that WikiLeaks calls its “Afghan War Diary” deeply damaging and potentially life-threatening for Afghan informants or others who have taken risks to help the U.S. and NATO war effort.

Theirs was the most sober assessment of the ramifications of the leak Sunday of raw intelligence reports and other material dating to 2004.
“Mr. Assange can say whatever he likes about the greater good he thinks he and his source are doing, but the truth is they might already have on their hands the blood of some young soldier or that of an Afghan family,” Mullen said.

Assange agreed Tuesday that the files offered insight into U.S. tactics.
But he said that was none of his concern, and seemed irritated when a questioner in London pressed him on whether he believed there were ever any legitimate national security concerns that would prevent him from publishing a leaked document.

“It is not our role to play sides for states. States have national security concerns, we do not have national security concerns,” he said.
Gates said that the Pentagon is tightening rules for handling classified material in war zones as a result of the leak. He did not mention Manning by name, and Pentagon officials caution that Manning may not be the sole target of the Army inquiry.

Manning was stationed at a small post outside Baghdad. If he was the source of the Afghan war logs, he would have been amassing material he had little if any reason to see.

“If the kind of breach involved in the downloading of these thousands of documents had occurred at a rear headquarters or here in the U.S., there’s a very high likelihood we would have detected it,” Gates said.

Caught Red-Handed With Outrageous Salaries, City Officials Take Pay Cuts, Resign

07/27/10 Alexandria, Virgina — The furor we discussed last week over obscene levels of municipal pay in the tiny 38,000-person city of Bell, California — where an average resident’s salary is about $25,000 and the city manager was paid $800,000 — is hurtling toward its initial phases of resolution.
This week its council members voted to slash their own salaries from $100,000 to $8,000 per year and at least two members will not pursue re-election. The Attorney General and District Attorney are looking into criminal charges.

According to the Los Angeles Times:
“‘Since my first day as mayor, my priority has been to make Bell a city its residents can be proud to call home,’ [Mayor Oscar Hernandez] said. ‘I apologize that the council’s past decisions with regard to the indefensible administrative salaries have failed to meet that test.’ Hernandez said he will not seek another stint as mayor.

“A [Los Angeles] Times report revealed that the city’s top officials received some of the highest municipal wages in the nation. City Administrative Officer Robert Rizzo made $787,637 a year, almost twice the salary of President Obama; Police Chief Randy Adams made $457,000, 50% more than Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck; and Assistant City Manager Spaccia made $376,288, more than the top administrator for Los Angeles County.
“All three resigned last week.

“In agreeing to sweep back their salaries, Councilmen Luis Artiga and George Mirabal put themselves on par with Lorenzo Velez, who has been paid $673 a month since he was appointed to the council last summer. Velez said he was unaware his colleagues were making so much.”

Well, that’s ironic… even sharing seats on the same greed-driven board the council members didn’t mind not only earning more than ten times as much as their colleague, but also keeping him in the dark about it. The City of Bell provides an obvious and extreme example of misconduct when it comes to governmental salaries. Yet, it’s easy to imagine there are countless other instances of better-hidden salary shenanigans in municipalities throughout the nation… it’s a system ripe for abuse.

You can read more details in Los Angeles Times coverage of how Bell council members are cutting their own salaries by 90 percent.

P. Diddy Calls Nightline Host Racist For Questioning Son’s Maybach


P Diddy recently told Vibe magazine that Nighline HOst, Martin Bashir’s question about him giving his son a Maybach for his birthday was racist.
“There were times in the interview when I had to give him an ultimatum,” Diddy told Vibe. “The questions weren’t being handled the right way. In hindsight, when I saw him I shouldn’t had done the interview because I know the style of interview that he does . . . The whole thing about giving a Maybach to my son, that’s really like a racist question.”
“You don’t ask White people what they buy their kids,” he continued. “And they buy ‘em Porsches and convertible Bentleys and it ain’t no question. It’s really a racist question and put things back in perspective with money and the way that people still look at you. And I’m not saying that consciously he’s a racist. But he probably don’t even realize that he would not ask Steve Jobs that. He would be like Steve Jobs has that money and that’s the gift his kid is supposed to get.”

Pentagon Report Places Blame For The Rise In Suicides

SUICIDE PREVENTION REPORT - Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Chiarelli discusses the Army's Health Promotion, Risk Reduction, and Suicide Prevention Report during a press conference at the Pentagon, Washington D.C., July 29, 2010. The report was a 15-month effort to better understand the increasing rate of suicides in the force. U.S. Army photo by D. Myles Cullen

Army Suicides: Poor Leadership, Not Repeat Deployments Blamed -- McClatchy News

WASHINGTON — A new Army report has found that inattention to rising rates of drug abuse and criminal activity among soldiers and not repeat deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan is responsible for the record-high levels of suicide among troops.

The 350-page report, which was released Thursday, said that military commanders are so focused on preparing their troops for war that they've allowed troops to engage in risky behavior at home that may lead to suicide.

Read more

More News On The Growing Problem Of Suicides In The Military

Finest Wool Clothing Made in America

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Book: U.S. Universities as Waste of Mone

Political science major Paul Fabsik wears a price ...
Spending as much as $250,000 on a bachelors degree from world-renowned U.S. universities such as Harvard University and Yale is a waste of money, a new book asserts. "Higher Education? How Colleges Are Wasting Our Money And Failing Our Kids - And What We Can Do About It," urges parents and students to consider colleges that spend on teaching instead of sports and which encourage faculty to interact with students instead of doing research, taking sabbaticals and sitting on campus committees.

"Undergraduates are being neglected," author Andrew Hacker, who co-wrote the book with Claudia Dreifus, told Reuters in an interview.

"Higher education has become the preserve of professors ... (who) really have lost contact with the main purpose of higher education, which is the education of students."

Hacker and Dreifus are critical of many U.S. universities, noting the cost of a 4-year degree has doubled in real dollars compared to a generation ago. But education, they say, has not become twice as good as many colleges lost their focus.

Many Ivy League professors don't teach undergraduates at all and at many colleges teaching is largely farmed out to low-cost adjunct teachers, Hacker said.

And, he said, many undergraduate degrees are vocational -- from resort management to fashion merchandising -- and vast sums of money have been spent on deluxe dining and dorm facilities and state-of-the-art sports centers. As the number of administrative staff has risen, he said, $1 million annual salaries for college presidents have become common place.

"Bachelor's level vocational education is, I don't want to say a fraud, but close to it," Hacker said.
"Undergraduate business classes ... are just a charade; 19-year-olds play as if they are chief executives of General Electric. It is a waste of time and money."

Among the examples of unnecessarily vocational degrees listed in the book -- due to be published on August 3 -- are ornamental horticulture, poultry science and ceramic engineering.
"All undergraduate education should be a liberal arts education where you think about the enduring ideas and issues of the human condition," Hacker said. "After that, go on to law school or study dentistry -- you have plenty of time."

Hacker said the high price of tuition often has little to do with teaching.

"Prices got to where they are because both universities and administrators spent like drunken sailors," Hacker said, noting Ivy League graduates often have average careers.

As well as drawing on their experience -- both teach in New York, Hacker at Queens College and Dreifus at Columbia University -- the pair, who are also domestic partners, traveled across America to find the best and worst colleges.

They list 10 colleges they like, where teaching is the priority and where students get value for money. No Ivy League college makes their list.

They recommend Arizona State University for its vibrancy and Kentucky's Berea College for its free tuition and 10-1 student-faculty ratio. They praise Notre Dame for promoting concern for the common good and Massachusetts Institute of Technology for treating part-time teaching staff well.

The book recommends colleges focus on education and strip away sports programs, trim bloated administrative budgets and spin off research and medical facilities. The authors say tenure should be abolished, that there should be fewer sabbaticals and that more attention should be paid to getting students intellectually engaged.
Hacker said the tragedy of U.S. universities is how many graduates now have six-figure loans, doled out with little regard to the students' ability to repay them.

"This is not only unique to the United States but it is new. Ten years ago students were not taking out loans this way," Hacker said, predicting a high rate of default among student loans in the coming years.
Hacker said that to keep costs down, many Americans should consider attending a college close to home to avoid paying as much as $30,000 annually for out-of-state living expenses.

FDA: Menopause drug can harm pets, kids

The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday warned menopausal women using Evamist to avoid allowing children and pets to come into contact with the drug.
Evamist contains the estrogen hormone estradiol and is sprayed on the forearms between the elbow and wrist to reduce hot flashes.
The FDA said it has received eight reports of adverse effects from exposure to the drug in children ages 3 to 5, and two reports of problems with pets.
Read more here.

Judge: Saggy pants are allowed

You have the right to look ridiculous. A Bronx judge has thrown out a summons issued against a Bronx man for wearing saggy pants, finding that “the Constitution still leaves some opportunity for people to be foolish if they so desire.” Judge Ruben Franco said that although Julio Martinez may have offended the fashion police with his low-hanging and underwear-exposing pants, his manner of dress didn’t deserve a ticket from a cop. “While most of us may consider it distasteful, and indeed foolish, to wear one’s pants so low as to expose the underwear . . . people can dress as they please, wear anything, so long as they do not offend public order and decency,” the judge wrote. — NY Post

Army Suicides Due to Lack of Oversight?

By Psych Central News Editor Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on July 29, 2010

The U.S. Army today released the findings of an internal investigation into the rise of suicides in their ranks. The report suggests that it’s been the Army’s “permissive” attitude toward soldiers and their drug and alcohol abuse that has contributed to the increase in suicides.

The internal investigation was commissioned last year by Army commander Gen. Peter Chiarelli, who is the second in command. He says the permissive attitude — where soldiers are allowed to take risks, refuse treatment for drug and alcohol problems, and even commit criminal offenses while remaining enlisted — is linked to a tally of deaths last year that included 160 active-duty soldiers who committed suicide and 146 more who died during risky activity or behavior such as drug use. Seventy-four of those deaths were drug overdoses. The Army noted there were also 1,713 attempted suicides last year.

“This is tragic,” Chiarelli writes in a directive to be sent out to soldiers. “We must realize that on occasion we need to do the right thing for both the soldier and the Army through firm enforcement of discipline, retention and separation polices.”
The report grew out of a series of visits to six Army installations directed by Casey and led by Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Chiarelli in Spring 2009 to look at suicide prevention efforts in the force.

“What we witnessed were real indicators of stress on the force, and an increasing propensity for Soldiers to engage in high risk behavior,” Chiarelli said. “We recognized almost immediately we had to widen the aperture – risk in the force cannot be mitigated by suicide prevention alone.”

“This comprehensive review exposes gaps in how we identify, engage, and mitigate high-risk behavior among our soldiers. After nearly a decade of war we must keep pace with the expanding needs of our strained Army, and continuously identify and address the gaps that exist in our policies, programs and services,” said Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr.

Casey told the Army’s two- and three-star commanders and command sergeants major recently that “our challenge over the next several years will be to maintain our combat edge at an appropriate tempo while reestablishing garrison systems to better care for our soldiers and families. The combination of Comprehensive Soldier Fitness with these health promotion efforts provides the foundation to improve the resilience of the force.”

Unprecedented operational tempo has dictated that leaders remain primarily focused on preparing for their next deployment. As a result, enforcement of policies designated to ensure good order and discipline has atrophied. This, in turn, has led to an increasing population of Soldiers who display high risk behavior which erodes the health of the force.

The U.S. Army report is entitled the Health Promotion, Risk Reduction, and Suicide Prevention (HP/RR/SP) Report, and attempts to be a comprehensive, transparent review. It outlines and defines problems, documents actions taken, and makes recommendations for how the Army can make substantive changes.
Key findings include:

Gaps in the current HP/RR/SP policies, processes and programs necessary to mitigate high risk behaviors;
An erosion of adherence to existing Army policies and standards;
An increase in indicators of high risk behavior including illicit drug use, other crimes and suicide attempts;
Lapses in surveillance and detection of high risk behavior;
An increased use of prescription antidepressants, amphetamines and narcotics;
Degraded accountability of disciplinary, administrative and reporting processes; and
The continued high rate of suicides, high risk related deaths and other adverse outcomes.

“These findings demonstrate that many of our programs are unbalanced and lack integration, while reinforcing recommendations that will help us improve the quality of our programs and services,” Chiarelli said.
Secretary of the Army John McHugh has directed that leaders at all levels become familiar with the report. It informs leaders throughout the force about the consequences associated with high risk behavior; provides a candid, transparent and balanced review of HP/RR/SP issues; documents the Army’s actions to date to improve programs and services; integrates policies, processes and programs for oversight of the force; and recommends solutions to eliminate gaps and unnecessary redundancies.
Programs must be realigned to improve support to the Soldier, Family and unit.

Reporting and data-sharing on high risk behavior among unit commanders, medical and garrison service providers, and law enforcement officials must be synchronized. The report also promotes continued use of the Department of the Army’s Health Promotion Council which has aggressively addressed this issue for a year-and-a-half.

Report recommendations represent the next phase of the campaign which has already implemented more than 200 separate initiatives over the last 15 months. For example, the Army tightened enlistment standards; established a Community Health Promotion Council at each installation; improved access and coordination between primary (medical) care and behavioral health providers; worked to stabilize unit leadership after redeployment; expanded behavioral health screening; instituted a confidential alcohol treatment program; aggressively recruited new behavioral health counselors; and created 72 new positions for chaplains, among other things.

“Continued focus on mentoring and training our leaders and service providers is key to fixing these problems. Part of leadership is creating an environment where it’s okay to ask for help—and where it’s our duty to extend a helping hand,” Chiarelli said. “This, too, is in keeping with the Army Warrior Ethos to never leave a fallen comrade.”

Report findings indicate that there are no universal solutions to address the complexities of personal, social and behavioral health issues that lead to suicide.
“We’ve often said that the Army is a reflection of society, but we have soldiers today who are experiencing a lifetime of stress during their first six years of service. Army leaders at all levels remain dedicated to promoting resiliency, coping skills, and help-seeking behavior across our force,” Chiarelli said.
Source: U.S. Army

Sheriff Joe Arpaio summons the ghost of Bull Connor

by Bryan Farrell July 30, 2010, 8:44 am

Despite a judge’s ruling to delay enforcement of key provisions in Arizona’s notorious anti-immigrant law hours before it was scheduled to take effect, protesters descended on Phoenix yesterday. Hundreds blocked a street near City Hall and were confronted by officers in riot gear, while others beat on the metal door of the county jail. More than 50 protesters were arrested by the end of the day.

Hard line Arizona officials were no less deterred by the ruling as well. Gov. Jan Brewer and State Senator Russell Pearce both called it a “bump” in the road, while Sheriff Joe Arpaio went ahead with one of his controversial crime raids targeting illegal immigrants. But in a moment that should only bolster the resolve of those determined to fight this law nonviolently, Arpaio also told the Associated Press that he is “not going to put up with any civil disobedience.”
As if comparisons to the Civil Rights Movement weren’t already strong enough, such a statement practically summons the ghost of Alabama’s infamous law enforcer Bull Connor, whose aggressive tactics against peaceful demonstrators backfired when broadcast on national television.

But rather than wonder if Arpaio is so blinded by power that he would make this same mistake, protesters should be asking themselves if they are up to the challenge of remaining nonviolent if he does?

So far they have shown remarkable determination.

To Infinity and Beyond: A Look at Media and Elections in the 21st Century

By Richard A. Lee

Right before I left for Italy at the end of June, my two daughters took me to see the movie Toy Story 3 for Fathers’ Day. They are both grown now, but we had enjoyed the Toy Story movies when they were children and I’ve always been fond of Buzz Lightyear, Woody and the rest of the gang.

No matter what we do in life, there is always a little child in all of us, and I am no exception.

Ironically, when my wife and I arrived in Rome, what did we find playing at the cinema just a block from our apartment? Toy Story 3 – in Italian, of course.

We decided we would go see it on a rainy day, but other than a few sprinkles, there have not been any rainy days in Rome since I arrived to teach a course in media and elections at John Cabot University. Nevertheless, Toy Story 3 provides an interesting lesson about media and elections. Let me explain;

To understand the state of the media in the U.S. today, first and foremost, one must be aware that news organizations have dual identities.

As Max Frankel observed in his memoir about working as executive editor of The New York Times: “We could not decide whether The Times had to be a good newspaper to be profitable or profitable to produce a good newspaper”

News organizations are providers of information, but they also are businesses designed to turn profits. Those two objectives are not always consistent with each other. In fact, they often are at odds.

Over the past 30 to 40 years, the business of journalism in America has become more dominant than the actual practice of journalism. There has been tremendous consolidation of news organizations. In New Jersey, we had 33 daily newspapers in 1970, most of them independently owned. Today, we have only 18.Of that 18, 12 are owned by just two chains. On the national level, there now are just about a half dozen mega-corporations that own the bulk of media organizations in the U.S.

This type of media consolidation adversely affects the quality of news in several ways.

First, the news becomes homogenized because there are less independent voices providing news and information.

Secondly, these mega-corporations not only own news organizations, but they also own other types of businesses ranging from book publishers and movie studios to sports teams to job-search companies. From a corporate standpoint, they must make decisions on where to allocate their resources, and the news divisions often come out on the short end of the stick.

Imagine, for example, that you are the head of the Walt Disney Company, which owns ABC News, and you are responsible for deciding how best to use the company’s money. If you put money into ABC News, you produce a product that will bring in some revenue through advertisers, but each newscast has a limited shelf life. You produce a product that is a 30-minute nightly newscast and that is all it is. It's no good the following day. You have to go out and create another program every day.

On the other hand, if you invest your money in something like Toy Story, you are going to have a large upfront cost – $50 million, in fact, for the first Toy Story movie. But you will make it back – and then some – at the box office. Toy Story earned over $191 million in the United States and Canada during its initial theatrical release.

But that was just the beginning. Unlike the limited return on investing in ABC News, Toy Story has continued to generate revenue for Disney long after its initial release in 1995. The movie has generated hundreds of millions of dollars in profits through VHS, DVD and Blu-ray sales; Toy Story toys, video games and software; theme park attractions, soundtracks, sequels, a Disney on Ice Show and more.

This is an extreme example, but it illustrates why the quality of news has diminished. The top priority of the corporations that own news organizations is not to produce quality news; it is to make a profit.

That means less staff and less resources in their news divisions. Costs are slashed to produce news at the lowest possible cost and to turn the greatest profit. As a result, news organizations cannot cover as many stories as they did in the past. What they can cover they do less in depth and with less scrutiny. And they are more likely to be susceptible to the tremendous amounts of spin coming from both the left and the right.

While this trend to focus on profit was taking hold in the industry, two developments took place which exacerbated the situation.

First, the Internet radically changed the way people obtain news and information. We get our news more quickly, more conveniently and in a more specialized manner. We can choose the type of news that interests us – politics, entertainment, sports – and get as much or as little of it as we want.

With the Internet, we also get our news seemingly at no cost. Newspapers never made the bulk of their money from what people paid to purchase a copy. Most of the revenue came from ads. But now the revenue once made from classified ads has all but disappeared, thanks to Craig's List. Meanwhile, larger advertisers, such as retail stores and car companies, are finding that the Internet offers less expensive and more effective ways of reaching potential customers than traditional media outlets do.

Add the global economic crisis to all of this and it is not a very pretty picture for the news business.

So how does what is happening in the media industry impact campaigns and elections?

First, politics in the U.S. has become extremely polarized. With the growth of the Internet – and before it, cable TV – we now have more choices than ever for news and entertainment.

On one hand, this is a good thing. But on the other hand, the people who are most interested in government and politics tend to be those with strong views – on both the left and the right. So we have media such as Fox, which caters to conservatives, and MSNBC, which has more of an appeal to liberals. Media outlets such as these take care of those with strong political views, but the vast majority of Americans are not that focused on politics and government. As a result, they feel disconnected and tune out. Instead of news, they turn to one of the many entertainment choices now available on television or the Internet.

Hand in hand with this trend, the media have been giving us less coverage of substantive issues and more on strategy, competition, and trivia.

Reporters don’t have the time and resources needed to dissect complex policy. It is much simpler to write about what are known as horse race issues, such as polls, endorsements and strategy.

“Most political reporters, particularly those who cover campaigns, are greater experts in politics than they are in policy,” Kathleen Hall Jamieson and Paul Waldman explained in their book The Press Effect. “Since politics is what they know, politics is what they cover.”

As citizens and as voters, we, the public, rely on the media to provide us with the information we need to make informed, educated decisions when we cast our votes for the men and women who will lead our communities, our states and our nation. When that information is not forthcoming, large segments of the public have little use for media or politics.

According to the 2009 State of the Media Report from Project for Excellence in Journalism: “The public retained a deep skepticism about what they see, hear and read in the media. No major news outlet – broadcast or cable, print or online – stood out as particularly credible. There was no indication that Americans altered their fundamental judgment that the news media are politically biased, that stories are often inaccurate and that journalists do not care about the people they report on.”

Meanwhile, a recent USA Today/Gallup poll found that just 20 percent of the American public approve of the job Congress is doing, one of the poorest approval ratings recorded during a mid-term election year. And in a poll released just last week on the favorability of leading political figures in America, President Obama only was fifth on the list. (Interestingly, the person with the highest favorability was Michelle Obama.)

Despite the current state of media and politics in America, there are signs that better days are ahead.

True, the media industry is experiencing tough times. This has had a negative impact on the quality of the news we receive – and, in turn, a negative impact on politics and government. But as consumers of news, we have more ways than ever to obtain news and information – and to obtain it quickly and conveniently.

We are still getting acclimated to this new era in which we live, and there is much that still needs to be addressed.

Blogs and Internet news sites are not held to the same standards as traditional journalism, so we must be more careful about the news we read online. The Internet also has given politicians the ability to bypass traditional media and deliver their messages directly to voters through websites, blogs, email and social networks. This also gives us reason for concern – since information is going directly to voters without the scrutiny of the news media.

On a personal note, I am optimistic because, having spent a good portion of my career as a journalist, I have learned that there is an intangible quality that comes with the job -- a desire and a commitment to provide the public with useful and valuable information, regardless of whatever hurdles stand in the way.

As Monika Bauerlein of Mother Jones magazine put it: “The crisis in journalism right now is primarily a crisis in for-profit journalism, because the sources of that profit have dried up.”

The business side of the media industry is indeed in crisis. The journalism side also is having a tough time, but there are signs of light at the end of the tunnel.

In New Jersey and elsewhere, there are other innovative new media models that are starting to make an impact. The non-profit news site Pro Publica, for example, won a Pulitzer Prize for its work this year.

The Internet also is helping to hold politicians accountable. The ease – and speed – with which we can now record video and post it on YouTube is making it more difficult for politicians to get away with making comments that exaggerate the truth, or simply are untrue. At the same time, as the Shirley Sherrod case taught us, we must be careful in how we react and respond to videos and other material on the Internet.

The technology we enjoy today has made our lives easier in many ways, but it also has given us new responsibilities. To ensure a healthy democracy, we must be more discerning and inquisitive about what we see and hear – from the media, from politicians, and even from one another.

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Richard A. Lee is Communications Director of the Hall Institute of Public Policy – New Jersey. This article was adapted from remarks he delivered at John Cabot University in Rome, Italy, on July 26 as part of a program comparing media and elections in Italy and the U.S.