Monday, August 23, 2010

Kids in prison

Fixing Illinois’ juvenile justice system

By Patrick Yeagle

What do you do when you catch a criminal? Conventional wisdom says you lock them up and hope prison scares them straight. But what if that doesn’t work, and what if that criminal is only 13 years old?

That’s what Illinois lawmakers thought they were providing four years ago when they established the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice. It was to be a place, separate from the prison system, where kids gone wrong could be steered right. But, like Eve from Adam, IDJJ was created from the proverbial rib of the Illinois Department of Corrections, and though the two are now separate agencies, they are still entwined by their shared resources and attitudes toward corrections.

Legislators who pushed for a separate juvenile system hoped to move juvenile justice away from punishment toward a rehabilitative system that has shown promise in other states. The theory is that delinquent kids commit crimes because of exposure to violence, a lack of positive role models or a variety of other factors. Providing a safe, instructive and remedial environment is supposed to change their thinking and turn them into productive members of society, rather than hardening them into career criminals. So far, that dream hasn’t been realized, says Betsy Clarke, president of the Juvenile Justice Initiative, based in Springfield at 413 West Monroe St.

“Nearly four years following its creation, the Department of Juvenile Justice remains disturbingly far from embracing the treatment mission envisioned by the legislature,” Clarke told the Illinois House Appropriations Committee in an April 14 hearing.

She says many of the problems present in the juvenile justice system – understaffing, high recidivism, lack of training, inadequate mental health treatment, poor education and disproportionate minority incarceration – stem from the fact that the system is set up like a miniature version of IDOC, largely focused on punishment instead of rehabilitation. What was supposed to be a therapeutic environment has become a microcosm of the system it was meant to avoid.

IDJJ holds approximately 1,500 youth offenders between ages 13 and 20 in eight “youth centers” – essentially junior prisons – across the state. Young people can land in these prisons for practically any crime from theft to murder, and a disproportionate number of them are minorities, just like in the adult system. Once they are released, they often are sent back for violating parole, just like in the adult system. In fact, about half of the kids who leave IDJJ will return within three years, 40 percent of them for violating the conditions of their release – numbers strikingly similar to the adult system. Their post-release “aftercare” is not handled by parole officers trained in dealing with youth offenders, but by already overburdened officers from the adult correctional system. They are more accustomed to dealing with hardened criminals than with kids who might have made some bad choices.

Understaffing and lack of training

The John Howard Association of Illinois released a study of the juvenile justice system in January 2010 saying staffing levels in IDJJ are too low; counselors, administrators, teachers, clerics and even maintenance staff have dwindled due to retirements and transfers, hindering the effectiveness of youth prisons. Staff-to-youth ratios are 1/24 in some facilities and can reach 1/60 at night, the study says.

“It is difficult to imagine effecting change in a youth’s thinking and behavior with such high ratios,” the study says. “In order to impact youth behavior, one must be aware of the youth’s ongoing behaviors and respond appropriately. … This requires staff-to-resident ratios that are much smaller than in current practice.”

How much smaller? The study says a ratio of one adult to eight youth is most effective, “although 1 to 10 is do-able with well-trained staff.”

But training for IDJJ staff is sparse. Many of the staff in the juvenile justice department are transplants from the Department of Corrections, lacking training in youth rehabilitation and bringing with them the attitudes prevalent in the adult system.

“While the agency has recently utilized outside resources to train a few staff, the majority of staff members remain untrained in juvenile treatment policies and practices,” Betsy Clarke says. “The failure to train all staff in treatment-oriented approaches to youth corrections renders it impossible to fulfill the treatment mission of the new department.”

Education and programming

While youth are incarcerated in Illinois, they are supposed to receive education so they don’t reenter the outside world lagging behind their peers in learning. Sometimes they receive that education, but often they don’t.

Clarke says at least one youth prison offers only half-day education, and the John Howard study says the department’s schools – District 428 – are funded at only one-third the minimum level of normal public schools. IDJJ is working on educational improvements to better train teachers, keep in contact with parents and create a uniform calendar for the whole district, the study says. But still nearly two-thirds of the department’s youth have educational disabilities, and 65 percent don’t even finish the eighth grade. Meanwhile, a lack of consistent educational programming keeps kids from developing real-world skills.

“Vocational programs are a key weakness of the system. They are not consistent through the facilities, often utilize outdated equipment and may not be training youth for jobs which exist within their home communities,” the study says.

Clarke says the lack of adequate programming undermines the reason for the department’s very existence.

“Without a comprehensive range of programming, youth are simply warehoused, and leave without adequate skills to reenter school or enter the job market,” she says.

Mental health treatment

Nearly two-thirds of youth in IDJJ have both a mental health diagnosis and a substance abuse diagnosis, according to the John Howard study. Advocates say available mental health treatment simply isn’t enough.

Illinois does have programs like the Mental Health Juvenile Justice Initiative, which links youth in detention facilities to mental health services. Also, the department has begun to develop a new mental health classification system. But those reforms haven’t been completely implemented, and identifying which youth need treatment is still a challenge.

“There is a disturbing dearth of quality evaluation and validation of the tools used as mental health screening and assessment instruments,” says a March 2010 report by the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority. The methods used to identify mental illness in youth are unproven, the agency says, meaning some kids who need help may slip through the cracks, and those who are treated may not get enough attention.

“Most respondents indicated a need for more standardized practices of screening and assessment, more comprehensive services that continue after a youth is no longer involved with the juvenile justice system, and better quality services,” the ICJIA report says.

Betsy Clarke says the lack of adequate mental health treatment is sometimes replaced by the use of solitary confinement, causing more harm than good. That may have contributed to two suicides at the Kewanee and St. Charles youth prisons in 2009. Kewanee, in fact, has an entire wing devoted to solitary isolation, Clarke notes.

“This discipline technique is directly contrary to a treatment modality for youth with mental health issues,” she says.

Racial disparities

Juvenile justice systems nationwide share a problem known as “disproportionate minority contact.” It’s a bureaucratic name that essentially means a minority youth has a greater chance of winding up in prison than a white youth for the same crime. Since the late 1980s, the federal government has required states to report DMC numbers and make efforts to reduce them, but Illinois has made little progress in this area. Although DMC seems to begin before youth offenders end up in prison, IDJJ becomes the de facto face of the problem because of how many minorities tend to be stuck in its facilities.

According to a December 2009 report by the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority, 765 of the 1,362 youth committed to IDJJ in 2007 were black, a rate of 56 percent. That means black youths were incarcerated at a rate almost triple their representation in the general Illinois youth population. The same data show 459 committed youth were white and 136 were Hispanic. More recent data are not yet available from ICJIA.

From Sangamon County, 22 of the 30 youths committed to IDJJ in 2007 were black, compared with only eight white youths, a rate of 73 percent. That means black youths in Sangamon County were incarcerated at a rate 12 times their representation in the general county youth population, according to ICJIA.

“It’s a horribly, horribly complex problem,” says Pat Connell, juvenile justice consultant with the John Howard Association.

To understand the problem, Connell says, one must look at how youth end up in prison in the first place. Their initial arrest can be problematic because the attitudes of police and youth can negatively affect their interactions, escalating confrontations that might otherwise have seen more reasonable resolutions.

“If you’re not inclined to see the police as helpful or friendly, you’re more likely to lip off, be less forthcoming, or even run when you see them,” Connell says, and that interaction will change how police charge the original crime.

Another factor is the evaluation system used by IDJJ to determine whether a youth will be sent to prison or receive a lesser sentence. Connell says IDJJ uses a supposedly race-neutral point system to assess a youth offender’s options, but certain aspects of that system tend to be biased against minorities. She says points are given for youth from single-parent homes and for having relatives in the custody of the justice system, factors which tend to affect youth of color more often. Black and Latino youth tend to get more points, so they are more regularly sent to youth prisons, she explains.

 The federal No Child Left Behind Act is partially to blame as well, Connell says, because the funding structure based on test scores inadvertently encourages schools to kick out youth who underperform and cause trouble at school.

“Once kids are pushed out of school, many never go back,” she says. “When they’re not in school, they are more likely to commit crimes. It’s a downward spiral.”

Combine that with zero-tolerance school discipline policies and lack of resources among low-income families to deal with delinquency or treat mental health conditions, and a recipe for gross racial disparity in youth prisons emerges.

“In many cases, it’s not a conscious bias that causes these problems,” Connell says. “But we all bring culture to the table, and when we have different cultures, we inevitably have clashes and trouble. Solving these problems is going to require every community to look deep inside itself.”


To deal with the problems facing the juvenile justice system, Gov. Pat Quinn penned an executive order April 15 asking legislators to combine IDJJ with the Department of Children and Family Services.

“…Integrating the Department of Juvenile Justice into the Department of Children and Family Services would best advance a culture change from a punitive approach toward a rehabilitative, treatment-focused model of care that engages families, promotes public safety, and holds youth accountable for their actions while providing better services for young people in facilities and after release,” Quinn wrote.

The change would also likely mean IDJJ and IDOC would no longer share resources such as parole officers.

Dr. Toni Irving, deputy chief of staff for Quinn, says the merger makes sense because DCFS has a better sense of the environment youth offenders need in order to thrive.

“We have a group of youth who we want to put in a very youth-centered department,” Irving says. “The understanding is that youth can be rehabilitated, so we need to think about the services and treatments that are connected to that.”

The merger would improve aftercare services for IDJJ youth, Irving notes, and DCFS could even help IDJJ obtain more federal funding.

“This really gives us an opportunity to examine (IDJJ) from top to bottom and
see where improvements could be made,” Irving says, “For example, we could tap into federal funds through Medicaid, so they could get better mental health and substance abuse treatment. …
Because DCFS so much understands the emotional, psychological needs of youth, they are aware of so many other funding sources that weren’t really tapped into or focused on.”

Pat Connell from the John Howard Association has reservations about the possible merger. Although DCFS is set up to handle children and will likely be more receptive to the rehabilitation model of corrections, it lacks the infrastructure and skills of a correctional system, according to Connell.

“DCFS has not been dealing with this population,” she says. “I don’t know if they have any significant number of staff within the department who necessarily have the experience or skills to deal with this population.”

Additionally, there are some functions that IDOC performs for IDJJ, for which there is no corollary in DCFS, Connell notes.

“The whole intelligence function, figuring out who is in which gang and which gang is in which community, does not exist in DCFS,” she offers as an example. “Identification of people in a justice system is a big issue. Do we have the right person? Is it the same person who’s wanted somewhere else? It requires links to state and local police. All of that stuff is provided by IDOC, and there’s nothing in DCFS that is similar.”

The changes that would need to be made to DCFS to accommodate IDJJ would cost more money, she says, discounting the idea of a revenue-neutral transition.

“I don’t think the director of DCFS would say he has an excess of resources,” Connell says. “A couple of things could happen: child welfare kids could get shortchanged, or DJJ kids could continue to be shortchanged.”

The possible merger would mark a shift for the attitudes and procedures of juvenile justice in Illinois, Irving notes, but there would still be plenty of work to do afterward.

“It gives us an opportunity to fully evaluate the department, open it up, scout it out and see how it’s working,” Irving says. “It’s an indication of the heightened level of attention that delinquent youth are going to receive. It’s going to be an ongoing, constant incorporation of best practices, to constantly be about making the department as strong as it possibly can be.”

Contact Patrick Yeagle at


Decrease Text SizeIncrease Text Size Text Size Tiger Woods and his wife officially divorced Monday, nine months after his middle-of-the-night car crash outside his home set off shocking revelations that golf's biggest star had been cheating on his wife. The divorce was filed in Bay County Circuit Court in the Florida Panhandle.

The couple had married in October 2004 in Barbados and have two children, 3 and 1. "We are sad that our marriage is over and we wish each other the very best for the future," they said in a statement released by lawyers. "While we are no longer married, we are the parents of two wonderful children and their happiness has been, and will always be, of paramount importance to both of us."

Terms of the divorce were not released, except that they will "share parenting" of their three-year-old daughter, Sam, and 19-month-old son, Charlie. Woods is to play this week at The Barclays in northern New Jersey.

The sex scandal cost him millions of dollars in corporate endorsements and forced him to take five months away from the game, including two months in therapy in a Mississippi clinic, when he was trying to save his marriage.


Video: Manila Thriller Over: 6 hostages dead, gunman Mendoza killed in Philippines bus storm R

Conrad Murray Back in Court Today Over Michael Jackson’s Death

Posted by MaraLee

Dr. Conrad Murray is back in court today over the death of Michael Jackson. His appearance today will set a date for a preliminary hearing in his involuntary manslaughter case.

Michael’s death was caused by an overdose of propofol, an anesthesia Dr. Murray has admitted administering to the King of Pop. He contends he gave him much less than was found in Michael’s system.

“The fact [of the way] that he died was a mystery a year ago, and still is,” Houston attorney Ed Chernoff told CNN.

Did Dr. Murray actually give Michael more than he should of? He was being paid a pretty penny and Michael was not used to hearing the word “no.” Or did Michael just give himself another dose? Or was it someone else? Michael employed seven other doctors and a nurse.

Michael’s family seems to think Dr. Murray is innocent. “Dr. Murray’s the fall guy,” Jermaine Jackson said. “This is bulls**t.”

The fans don’t agree. They have planned a protest today outside of the court house and plan to hang banners on the over pass of the Hollywood freeway.

What do you think-Is the doctor responsible or are people just looking for a scapegoat?


Radical Recess Appointments Reveal the Real Obama

By Rick Manning
During the presidential election campaign, Obama supporters regularly dismissed those who thought that his association with the Weathermen Underground leader, terrorist bomber, and alleged murder, William Ayers was a window into candidate Obama’s beliefs.

These same Obama supporters told anyone who would listen that it was unfair to associate Obama’s philosophy based upon the radical liberation theology and outright hatred for America presented by his pastor of over twenty years.

We were assured that his wife’s famous statement during the presidential campaign that “for the first time in my adult life I am proud of my country” should be ignored, and not be viewed as reflective of candidate Obama’s thoughts.

While these past associations gave a clue to Obama’s formative years and comfort with radical thought, the true window into this president’s beliefs lie with the people who he is appointing to office during Congressional recesses by going around the Senate advice and consent process.

The latest example is the just announced recess appointment of Mari del Carmen Aponte to be Ambassador to El Salvador. Aponte’s appointment was mired in questions about her 1986-94 live-in relationship with a man who was proven to be in the Cuban Intelligence Service, and the subsequent memo that was discovered where the Cubans viewed Aponte as a prime target to become a spy for them.

Aponte’s appointment to be the lead U.S. representative in El Salvador is particularly troubling due to historical context. From 1980-92, Cuban-funded communists under the banner of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) sought to take over El Salvador as part of their plan to create a mainland communist foothold in Central America.

In appointing Aponte, Obama was providing her with an opportunity to clear her name through the advice and consent process. By subverting the process, and putting Aponte into the ambassadorship of the very country that her friends in the Cuban government attempted to take over without answering legitimate questions about her very loyalty to the U.S., sends a dire message to those who support America’s interests in Central America.

Obama’s going the extra mile and using the recess appointment process to place someone with these serious questions in her background into an extremely sensitive position in the very country she may have supported subverting shows at best a reckless disregard for America’s interests in the region.
Other Obama recess appointees are similarly revealing about the President’s beliefs and priorities.

Get full story here.

Campaigning With Obama

Get permalink here.

America is Following the Wrong Path

By Rebekah Rast
Remember the saying, just because everyone else is doing it doesn’t mean you have to do it, or the question, if all your friends were jumping off a cliff, would you do the same?
That question implies that being a follower is not always the best thing to be. It’s not only a good question to ask a friend, but the government as well. Even the President.
Putting America on a strict diet to only consume renewable energy in order to cut down on greenhouse gases is not a new trend. In fact, this diet Barack Obama fully supports has left some European countries sick and ailing.

European countries began government-sponsored renewable energy programs in the early to mid 2000’s; Obama began implementing similar ones in America when he took office in 2009. He was confident, and maybe still is, that countries like Spain, Germany and Italy had the right idea.

The economies of these countries are now in a very bad place because each of those governments pushed its involvement in renewable energies to the point of destroying job markets, small businesses, economies and citizens’ lives.

“We see time and time again that when the government gets involved in the free market, it does more harm than good,” says Bill Wilson, president of Americans for Limited Government (ALG). “We are seeing this play out in countries like Spain and now our government is jumping on board and leading America down the same path.”

A Wall Street Journal article taps into the reality of what Spain, Germany and Italy are dealing with after failed attempts by their governments to move these countries toward a dependence on renewable energy.
The article states that many European governments promoted generous subsidies to the renewable-energy market with the hope of meeting the European Union’s goal to have at least 20 percent of its energy come from forms of renewable energy before 2020.

That was before the financial crisis of 2008.
Get full story here.

Are Republicans Losing the Race to the Bottom?

By Robert Romano
In a recent Rasmussen Reports poll published August 16th, Republicans opened up their widest lead yet in the generic ballot poll, with 48 percent of likely voters saying they would vote for the Republican candidate in November, and only 36 percent saying they would vote for the Democrat.
Republicans have not trailed in Rasmussen’s weekly poll since June 21st, 2009. Certainly, on the surface, the consistent poll results bode well for the GOP in November. Since then, their support has solidified, from 40 percent to now 48 percent. Democrats, on the other hand, have not breached the 40 percent mark since September 27th, 2009.

Critically, in the latest poll, Republicans lead amongst Independents 52 to 21 percent, which if it proves predictive, could mean that Democrats are in store for a crushing defeat in November.

The American people certainly have every reason to be unhappy with Congress. The economy is not recovering as was promised, job growth is nearly non-existent, and since Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi have taken control of Congress in 2007, they have added more than $4.3 trillion to the national debt.
Moreover, Americans have increasingly become alarmed at government takeovers of health care and the financial sector, and are aware of Democrats’ designs on the energy sector via their carbon cap-and-tax scheme.

A growing consensus is emerging that voters want Republicans in Congress to act as a counter to the Democrat agenda that has been enacted largely unabated.
Get full story here.

Dr. Keynes Killed the Patient

By Michael Pento
A morbidly obese gentleman labored into Dr. Hayek's office suffering from severe chest pain. The patient also complained that he was unable to consume his usual 10,000 calorie-per-day diet; in fact, he was feeling so sick that he could barely scarf down 9,000 calories. He noted that his love for food remained as strong as ever, but his body just wasn't keeping up with his demands.

After having a thorough look at the patient, the good doctor could not find anything wrong outside of the patient's extreme portliness. After a moment of reflection, he delivered to his patient a troubling diagnosis. He explained that the chest pain stemmed from the strain the patient's 500lb body was putting on his heart, and that the lack of appetite was his body's attempt to protect itself from this imbalance. Dr. Hayek's prescription was simple: the patient had to dramatically reduce his consumption while undertaking a moderate exercise program, with the goal of losing 250lbs as quickly and safely as possible. Dr. Hayek was aware that it would be a physically painful and emotionally difficult process for the man, but it was the only way to avert a life of suffering - or even a heart attack.

Unfortunately, our patient rebelled against such an austere program. He had grown very fond of his high-calorie and high-fat diet and didn't think that now, when he was already depressed from dealing with all these ailments, was a good time to deny himself the few pleasures he had left. In his opinion, the doc's prescription was just too simplistic. He thought there just had to be a way to have his cake and eat it - frequently. So, he waddled out of Dr. Hayek's office as fast as he could, shouting over his shoulder: "I'm getting a second opinion!"
Get full story here.

Quote Of The Day - Carl Paladino

"Instead of handing out the welfare checks, we'll teach people how to earn their check. We'll teach them personal hygiene ... the personal things they don't get when they come from dysfunctional homes. These are beautiful properties with basketball courts, bathroom facilities, toilet facilities. Many young people would love to get the hell out of cities. You have to teach them basic things — taking care of themselves, physical fitness. In their dysfunctional environment, they never learned these things." - GOP New York gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino, saying that the state's poor should be housed in prisons.
By Joe My God

Immigration Debate The Elephant in the Room: Panel on Immigration’s Impact on Health Care, Education, Jobs and Inner Cities

Place: Trenton NJ  State Capital  Complex
125 West State Street in Trenton, NJ  State Annex Bld.
New Jersey Senate Legislative Committee Room 4           
Date: August 26, 2010  Time:  6:00pm  to  8:00pm

MODERATOR: Richard A. Lee, Director of Communications  for the Hall Institute of Public Policy – New Jersey.


Shai Goldstein of Executive Director NJ Immigration Policy Network.

Gayle Kesselman, a physician, is co-chairperson of the New Jersey Citizens for Immigration Control.

Adrianne Knoblochs of

William J. Garces, Esq. is a founder and managing partner at Garces & Grabler.
Joe Siano Libertarian running for US Congress in the 4th Dist.

  Sponsored by Today's News NJ

Informant is key to NY synagogues bomb plot case

NEW YORK — Four Muslim men charged with trying to blow up New York synagogues and shoot down military planes will be reunited at their trial with someone who was in on the plot every step of the way: a wire-wearing FBI informant named Shaheed Hussain.

The government credits Hussain with rooting out radical Muslims at a mosque in Newburgh, a small town north of New York. The defense has sought to portray him as a "fraudster" who lured down-and-out dupes into a phony scheme by offering them a pile of cash.

Hussain's credibility will be tested as the government's star witness at the trial, which is set to begin with opening statements this week in federal court in Manhattan.

James Cromitie, Onta Williams, David Williams and Laguerre Payen have pleaded not guilty to charges that they engaged in a conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction and conspiracy to acquire and use anti-aircraft missiles to kill U.S. officers and employees. They face possible life prison terms if convicted.

Authorities last year called the case a "chilling plot" involving "extremely violent men" who represented a growing, dire homegrown terrorism threat. But the government also concedes the men — targets of an elaborate, tightly scripted sting involving fake weapons, 100 officers and a spy plane — had no ties to actual terrorists.

Pressing that point with prosecutors, U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon said at a recent hearing she had been referring to the case privately as "the un-terrorist case"

Read More

New York Islamic Center Protests Continue

Pedestrians stop to argue with Abu Rahman, right, Matt Sky, second
 from right, and Julia Lundy, third from right, as they stand in front 
of site of proposed mosque near ground zero in New York, 19 Aug 2010
Photo: AP
Pedestrians stop to argue with Abu Rahman, right, Matt Sky, second from right, and Julia Lundy, third from right, as they stand in front of site of proposed mosque near ground zero in New York, 19 Aug 2010

Opponents of the proposed Islamic center near the site of the 2001 terrorist attacks on New York City gathered near the site on Sunday to rally against the project.  Supporters gathered two blocks away, while a national television audience listened to an organizer explain the purpose of the proposed center.  The differing positions are based on each side's view of American liberty.

The protest against the center was announced days in advance and drew a crowd of people that filled a city block.


They cheered speakers who denounced the proposed Islamic center as an affront to the terror victims and their families.  A banner behind an impromptu stage summed up another key concern of opponents.  It read, "Stop Sharia Law Before it Stops You."

"To support Sharia law is an act of treason against the United States," shouted speaker Robert Lawrence.

Lawrence won loud approval when he implied that President Barack Obama, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other politicians are betraying the U.S. Constitution by supporting the right of Muslims to build an Islamic center so close to what is commonly referred to as Ground Zero - the site where the World Trade Center once stood.

Speaking on the perceived threat posed by Sharia, protest organizer Beth Galinsky cited instances in countries where Islamic fundamentalists stone people to death, deny education to women and repress non-Muslims.

"When you are told to accept as equal to our own a system of values and social mores that is harsh and cruel, you will stand up across the country and proclaim, 'I'm sorry imam, hear this:  Sharia is not good for women or other living things," Galinsky said.

About the Imam

The imam she referred to is Feisal Abdul Rauf, who is behind the proposed Islamic center.  He emigrated to the United States 45 years ago.  He currently is on a Middle Eastern speaking tour sponsored by the U.S. State Department.   Rauf also represented the United States in the Muslim world during George W. Bush's presidency.

Rauf's wife, Daisy Khan, appeared on ABC television's This Week program on Sunday.  She said her husband's vision for the center is modeled after similar Christian and Jewish centers that are open to all Americans.  Many include places for worship.

"There will be a 500-seat auditorium; there will be a swimming pool; there will be athletic facilities; there will be cooking classes; there will be schools, you know, small education forums, conferences.  And it will become a place where ideas can be exchanged," Khan explained.


Appearing with Khan on ABC's This Week program was Rabbi Joy Levitt, director of New York's Jewish Community Center.  Levitt said she welcomes the Islamic center.  She argued that Muslims are confronting many of the same prejudices that Jews faced when Peter Stuyvesant was governor of New York.

"Peter Stuyvesant refused to allow synagogues to be built in New York in the 1600s.  It took an act of Congress here in Washington to allow synagogues to be built.  In Connecticut, there were no synagogues allowed to be built in the 1600s and 1700s," Levitt said.

Islamic center supporters gathered on a street corner two blocks from what many opponents are calling the Ground Zero Mosque.  Many critics say they believe that Khan and her husband have ulterior motives for building the center and that they represent a faith that is at odds with American values.  Supporters take the couple at their word and accept them as solid American citizens.

There is little sign of a compromise.  Khan says the Islamic center must be built because there is too much at stake.  Several speakers at the protest rally said it must not be built because it threatens American liberty.

BY Peter Fedynsky | New York

Video: Minnesota Vikings report: What mattered in loss to 49ers

Philadelphia Wants $300 Business License From Bloggers Who Make No Money

WordPress.comThe city of Philadelphia is demanding money from bloggers who were honest enough to report the meagerest - $11, $50 - of revenue from ads or donations.

According to the law, any blogger who enables advertising is required to register as a business, pay for a license and pay taxes on their profits no matter how small, the Philadelphia City Paper reported last week.
hobby-blog.jpgPhiladelphia requires a license for the privilege of doing business when there is "activity for profit," a tax attorney told the paper, even if the activity did not earn a profit the year before or may never turn a profit.
The license is $300 for a lifetime or $50 a year.

But the city only knows about the ads you're placing on your freely-hosted blog if you report that income on your taxes.

At least two small-time bloggers are being asked to pay the price for their honesty. Marilyn Bess earned $50 between a few articles on and her Wordpress-hosted blog about green living. She got a letter from the city demanding she pay $300 for a license plus taxes on her profits.

Another blogger, Sean Barry, writes about music on his blog Circle of Fits, hosted on Blogspot. He earned $11 in profit over two years and also received a letter.
As Barry wrote on his blog Friday
I never expected Circle of Fits to "make money" or be deemed a "business"... I put ads on it as an experiment, and I don't ever expect anyone to click on them..I don't even know how to put the time in to learn how to control which ones are being presented.
Bloggers are just a subset of workers affected by this regressive tax. According to the city's strict rules, any freelancer based in the city qualifies as a business and needs to get the license. We've heard of cities requiring licenses when things like food or building construction are involved. But blogging?

What are the rules for microbusinesses in your city?

Faith Evans Arrested For DUI

Don’t call it a comeback: Grammy-winning R&B songbird Faith Evans was arrested and charged with DUI over the weekend after being stopped at a drunk driving checkpoint in Los Angeles.

The arrest comes more than five years after Evans was collared for cocaine possession after a similar traffic stop in Atlanta.

According to Officer Cleon Joseph of the Los Angeles Police Department, Faith, 37, was arrested Saturday night near Marina del Rey on suspicion of misdemeanor drunken driving. Her car was impounded and the “Good Life” songstress — a mother of four — was released on bail early Sunday.

A reality series chronicling Evans’ return to the spotlight following a hiatus from the industry is reportedly in production. Faith’s latest album is slated for release in October.

Wyclef Jean not giving up bid to become Haitian president

Wyclef Jean is not giving up on his bid to become president of Haiti, even though he was deemed ineligible on Friday by the nation’s electoral council.

It’s been speculated the singer and activist was left off the list of 19 candidates because of residency issues.
Jean told the Associated Press today that his lawyers will appeal the electoral decision in a Haitian court tomorrow.

“Everything is correct,” Jean said, referring to an election document, adding he and his aides “feel that what is going on here has everything to do with Haitian politics.”

Do you think he should be able to run?

Iranian Unmanned Bomber

Iran Defense Ministry photo via AP and VOA
Iran has announced the development of a long-range unmanned aircraft that could be used as a bomber or for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance-gathering. Called the  Karrar, which means  “destroyer” or “striker,” can carry up to four cruise missiles and has a range of up to 620 miles — not enough to reach Israel, according to Iranian government media quoted by the New York Times.

The unveiling of this drone comes a day after Iran began fueling its first nuclear power plant. The government claims it will only use nuclear power for peaceful means but Israel is not convinced and has not ruled out an attack to disable Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Last Friday, Iran tested its latest surface-to-surface missile, the Qiam. In July,  Iran’s Army Research Center  announced the Islamic Republic intends to build new radar-evading drones that can be operated by its submarines. In 2009, Iran’s Air Force commander said that Iran had successfully tested its two home-made drones of ‘Ra’d’ (Thunder) and ‘Nazir’ (Harbinger) and mass production of the drones would begin soon, China’s Xinhua news agency reports.

Iran has been producing its own lightweight surveillance unmanned aircraft since the 1980s, the Associated Press Reports. For more photos of the Karrar from the AP, click here.

Afghanistan War News Updates -- August 23, 2010

Taliban Momentum Reversed In Afghanistan, Gen Petraeus Says -- The Telegraph The momentum of the Taliban in key areas has been reversed, the commander of Nato forces in Afghanistan has said. Gen David Petraeus said the Taliban had been pressed back in southern Afghanistan and in Kabul following a surge in coalition troops. But he said there should not be a sudden exodus of troops from Afghanistan when the process of withdrawing forces begins next year. Read more ....

China may drop death penalty for 13 economic crimes

China is considering dropping the use of the death penalty to punish several economic crimes, Xinhua has reported.

A draft amendment to the country's criminal code suggests that 13 "economy-related, non-violent offences" be dropped from the death penalty list.

China currently sentences to death people found guilty of 68 specified crimes.

China executes more people every year than any other country, and has drawn criticism for its record.

China's state news agency, Xinhua, said the amendment was submitted for a first reading to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress.

In most cases, a draft law will be read two or three times before being voted for adoption, the agency said.

It quoted Li Shishi, director of Commission for Legislative Affairs of the NPC Standing Committee, as saying the country could cope with the effects of such an amendment.

"Considering China's current economic and social development reality, appropriately removing the death penalty from some economy-related non-violent offences will not negatively affect social stability nor public security," he said.

The 13 crimes that would be downgraded from capital punishment include smuggling out of the country prohibited cultural relics, gold, silver and other precious metals, and rare animals and their products.

Various kinds of fraud would also be exempted from the death penalty, such as fraudulent use of financial bills, letters of credit and tax invoices.

Teaching how to commit crimes and robbing ancient ruins would also be made exempt.

China does not reveal how many people it executes each year - but it is thought to be thousands, reports the BBC's Michael Bristow in Beijing.

If that figure is true, that is more than every other country in the world put together.

Chinese officials say the number of executions has dropped since 2007, after a change in the law meant all death sentences had to be reviewed by a higher court.

Source: BBC NEWS, August 23, 2010

Team USA Eurotour- 86-85 Escape From Madrid

Unlike the last two games they have played against France and Lithuania, Team USA was wide awake at the start of this basketball battle with defending FIBA champion Spain at the sold out Magic Box arena in Madrid.

Team USA shot 48.5 percent from the field, had a 39-27 rebounding margin and held Spain to 41.8 percent shooting. They had four players in double figures, with Kevin Durant leading all scorers with 25 points and ten rebounds. Derrick Rose chipped in 13, Khloe's man Lamar Odom had 12 points and nine rebounds, and elder statesman Chauncey Billups contributed 10 points to the win.

Spain was led by Juan Carlos Navarro’s 20 points. Marc Gasol scored 17, with Felipe Reyes tossing in 16 from the bench.

Team USA must have thought they were in Pamplona instead of Madrid. They started fast with a 16-3 run to open the game and kept building on it through the second quarter to hold a 45-33 halftime lead on their hosts.

Spain came out of the locker room fired up. Over a five minute stretch of the third quarter they hit two three pointers and were aided by 6 of 7 free throw shooting to whittle the halftime deficit to 55-53.

Team USA woke up and went on a 8-1 run jump started by Russell Westbrook and Stephen Curry that pumped the lead back up to 63-54. Spain responded with consecutive baskets, and then Team USA responded with a 6-0 run over the final 1:04 of the quarter to take a 69-58 lead into the final stanza.

After getting whistled with three quick fouls to begin the fourth quarter, Team USA went into a defensive shell in order to avoid the bonus and putting Spain on the free throw line. Spain outscored Team USA 20-11 over the next seven minutes and finally tied the game at 80-all with 2:37 to go.

Spain finally took its first lead of the game on a Reyes layup with less than two minutes to go. Kevin Durant hit a bucket to tie the score again at 82-all and after a Rubio turnover Team USA had a chance to regain the lead. Lamar Odom's three pointer was off the mark, Spain grabbed the rebound but missed their shot to take the lead. Odom made up for his miss by grabbing a huge rebound.

With 32.99 seconds left on the game clock and seven seconds on the shot clock Derrick Rose nailed a driving bucket to give the USA the lead back at 84-82.

After a Spanish time out, Juan Carlos Navarro was fouled while scoring on a drive with 27.82 seconds left in the game. He converted the free throw to give Spain an 85-84 lead.

It was Derrick Rose to the rescue again as he shook Ricky Rubio and was fouled on his way to the basket with 16.92 seconds left. As 10,960 fans cranked up the volume Rose calmly sank both free throws.

After another Spanish time out advanced the ball to midcourt, they passed the ball around trying to get somebody open for a game winning shot.

The first attempted three pointer from Rubio was partially blocked by Kevin Durant and after a scramble for the ball Spain came up with it. Rudy Fernandez launched another three pointer that was swatted away by Durant as time expired to preserve the hard fought win.

"It was one of those games that was a learning experience for us and I think we made key plays down the stretch," Durant said. "We also played as a team and stuck through tough times."

Team USA is now 3-0 on this exhibition tour, and they'll hop a flight to Athens to train and take on Greece in their final tuneup game Wednesday. That game will be televised live on ESPN at 11 AM CDT.

They start FIBA Worlds preliminary group play against Slovakia on Saturday
video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player If Team USA keeps playing like this, they'll shed that 'B' Team moniker quickly.

Paul Krugman Thinks Government Owns All Your Income

Paul Krugman thinks the government owns all of your income:
We need to pinch pennies these days. Don’t you know we have a budget deficit? For months that has been the word from Republicans and conservative Democrats, who have rejected every suggestion that we do more to avoid deep cuts in public services and help the ailing economy.

But these same politicians are eager to cut checks averaging $3 million each to the richest 120,000 people in the country.

What — you haven’t heard about this proposal? Actually, you have: I’m talking about demands that we make all of the Bush tax cuts, not just those for the middle class, permanent.

Some background: Back in 2001, when the first set of Bush tax cuts was rammed through Congress, the legislation was written with a peculiar provision — namely, that the whole thing would expire, with tax rates reverting to 2000 levels, on the last day of 2010.
Paul Krugman thinks today's existing tax rates is just the federal government letting you keep Bush's lower tax rates. Maybe, it's time to repeal the Bush era spending levels. But, you'd never hear that from Paul Krugman: he likes Pell grants and student loans.

The Facial Recognition Software That Will Put a Name to Every Photograph in the Internet

A software company is developing revolutionary software which provides the ability to identify people from photographs posted on the internet. has produced technology that can identify individuals on social networking sites and online galleries by comparing their image against a known picture of them.

It means detailed profiles of individuals can be built up purely from online photographs and critics have said it could lead to exploitation by employers.'