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Saturday, July 31, 2010

Rangel using 3-way defense against ethics charges

Rangel using 3-way defense against ethics charges

AP Photo
Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., puts on his jacket as he leaves his office to go for a vote on the House floor on Capitol Hill in Washington Thursday, July 29, 2010.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- To rebut a lengthy list of alleged ethical misdeeds, Rep. Charles Rangel is trotting out this three-way defense: I didn't do it. I did it, but was inattentive. Others lawmakers were allowed to do the same thing without penalty.

It's an approach that nervous Democrats are watching closely in one of the most politically explosive cases in years.

Should it go to a public trial this fall, smack in the middle of the election season, and should his defense fall short, that won't help Democratic candidates forced to defend their party's ethics against Republican campaign attacks.

The GOP already is demanding that specific Democratic candidates give up contributions provided by Rangel's political organizations, and about a half-dozen Democrats have asked the 20-term lawmaker to resign.

He's facing 13 counts of wrongdoing, including providing official favors in return for donations, hiding income and assets, and failing to pay taxes.

If Rangel's predicament wasn't bad enough for Democrats, there's an added complication on the ethics front: Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., also may face an ethics trial this fall on allegations of improperly trying to help a bank, where her husband owned stock, that was seeking a federal bailout.

People familiar with the Waters investigation, who were not authorized to be quoted about charges before they are made public, say the allegations could be announced this coming week.

Rangel, 80, is a former chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee. Waters, 71, is a prominent member of the House Financial Services Committee. Both have influential roles in matters affecting voters' pocketbooks - thereby linking the important issues of congressional ethics and the economy.

A good portion of the Rangel case revolves around his soliciting donations - from corporate fat cats and foundations - to the Rangel Center at City College of New York, founded to support academic programs in public service.

"The undisputed evidence in the record ... is that Congressman Rangel did not dispense any political favors, that he did not intentionally violate any law, rule or regulation, and that he did not misuse his public office for private gain," according to a written statement prepared by Rangel's legal team and submitted to the ethics panel that conducted a two-year investigation of his conduct.

The statement said Rangel didn't "target for solicitation foundations, corporations or individuals with business before the Ways and Means Committee, nor did he offer or provide preferential treatment or favors to potential contributors."

It acknowledged that Rangel "did not devote sufficient personal attention to the preparation of his original annual financial disclosures." Hundreds of thousands of dollars in assets and income were reported years after they should have been. The congressman blamed his former chief of staff for many of the errors.

Rangel's voluntary revisions on those forms "attest to his sincere regret, good faith and acceptance of responsibility for the mistakes that were made in his financial disclosures," the defense statement said.

Rangel acknowledged his failure to pay taxes on rental income from his unit in the Punta Cana resort in the Dominican Republic. He filed amendments, paid the taxes and "has done everything within his power to fulfill his legal obligations," the statement said.

Rangel said he wasn't the only member of Congress to donate papers to a college center and raise money for it from corporate donors.

He cited Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who lent his name to fundraising for a center at the University of Louisville. He said the late Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., had a similar program, and so did other former members of the House and Senate.

Waters came under scrutiny after former Treasury Department officials said she helped arrange a meeting between regulators and executives at Boston-based OneUnited Bank without mentioning her husband's financial ties to the institution.

Her husband, Sidney Williams, held at least $250,000 in the bank's stock and previously had served on its board. Waters' spokesman has said Williams was no longer on the board when the meeting was arranged.

Waters has said the National Bankers Association, a trade group, requested the meeting. She defended her role in assisting minority-owned banks in the midst of the nation's financial meltdown and dismissed suggestions she used her influence to steer government aid to the bank.

"I am confident that as the investigation moves forward the panel will discover that there are no facts to support allegations that I have acted improperly," Waters said in a prior statement.

The committee unanimously voted to establish an investigative subcommittee to gather evidence and determine whether Waters violated standards of conduct.

3 squabbling companies must cooperate to plug well

3 squabbling companies must cooperate to plug well

AP Photo
Harold Cline vacuums up oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill that recently washed up in a cove in Barataria Bay on the coast of Louisiana, Saturday, July 31, 2010.

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- On shore, BP, Halliburton and Transocean are engaging in a billion-dollar blame game over the blown-out oil well in the Gulf of Mexico. At sea, they're depending on each other to finally plug up the environmental disaster.

Workers say the companies' adversarial relationship before Congress, in public statements and maybe one day in the courts isn't a distraction at the site of the April 20 rig explosion.

There, 50 miles offshore, Transocean equipment rented by BP is drilling relief wells that Halliburton will pump cement through to stop the gusher for good.

Workers know all about the clashes among their respective employers, but Transocean senior toolpusher Dennis Barber says they've done an excellent job of focusing on getting the relief wells finished safely.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - On shore, BP, Halliburton and Transocean are engaging in a billion-dollar blame game over the blown-out oil well in the Gulf of Mexico. At sea, they're depending on each other to finally plug up the environmental disaster.

Workers say the companies' adversarial relationship before Congress, in public statements and maybe one day in the courts isn't a distraction at the site of the April 20 rig explosion.

There, 50 miles offshore, Transocean equipment rented by BP is drilling relief wells that Halliburton will pump cement through to stop the gusher for good.

Workers know all about the clashes among their respective employers, but Transocean senior toolpusher Dennis Barber says they've done an excellent job of focusing on getting the relief wells finished safely.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Attorney for Victims Says Duck Boats are ‘Death Traps’

Attorney for Victims Says Duck Boats are ‘Death Traps’

The attorney for the families of two people killed
when a Ride the Ducks boat sunk in the Delaware
River earlier this month is asking the city and the
Coast Guard to keep the boats off the river because
of on-going safety concerns.

KYW’s Jim Melwert reports that attorney Bob Mongeluzzi points to a 2002 NTSB report that says the Duck Boats sink too easily if they become flooded. And the canopy of the boat, he says, essentially cages people in:

“And despite eight-to-ten years of knowledge and recommendations from the NTSB, the industry has not heeded their recommendations and continue to rent out and make available death traps.”

For full story go to:

Source: J-Lo close to deal for `American Idol'

Source: J-Lo close to deal for `American Idol'

AP Photo
FILE - Jennifer Lopez arrives for the amfAR Cinema Against AIDS benefit at the Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc, during the 63rd Cannes international film festival, in Cap d'Antibes, southern France in this May 20, 2010 file photo. Lopez is close to signing a deal to join Fox TV's "American Idol" as a judge, a person familiar with the negotiations said late Thursday July 29, 2010. The person, who was not authorized to comment publicly, spoke on condition of anonymity.

NEW YORK (AP) -- Former "Fly Girl" Jennifer Lopez is poised to return to television - this time as a judge on "American Idol."

The singer-dancer-actor was close to signing a deal to join Fox TV's hit singing contest, a person familiar with the negotiations said late Thursday. The person, who was not authorized to comment publicly, spoke on condition of anonymity.

Fox declined comment. Phone and e-mail messages for Lopez's representatives were not immediately returned.

The "American Idol" opening for Lopez comes with comedian-talk show host Ellen DeGeneres' departure from the show.

Degeneres announced Thursday she was leaving after one year as judge.

"A couple months ago, I let Fox and the `American Idol' producers know that this didn't feel like the right fit for me," DeGeneres said in a statement. The comedian-talk show host said she realized that while she "loved discovering, supporting and nurturing young talent, it was hard for me to judge people and sometimes hurt their feelings."

In May, Simon Cowell exited after nine seasons to start a new talent show for Fox.

Those under consideration for his spot, according to reports, are a varied group that includes Steven Tyler and Harry Connick Jr.

Lopez' films include "Selena," "The Wedding Planner" and most recently "The Back-Up Plan." She has appeared as a mentor on "American Idol."

She was part of the "Fly Girl" house dancers on the comedy show "In Living Color" in 1990 before becoming a backup dancer for Janet Jackson.

Lopez's first album, "On the 6," came out in 1999, launching a career in pop, Latin, hip-hop and R&B. "Love?" is the latest CD from the Grammy-winner, who has twins with husband Marc Anthony.

Two new judges could help "American Idol" reinvent itself for its January return, when it will try to stem a ratings slide and bring in younger viewers. The show's audience has been gradually aging, and advertisers prefer to pitch to young adults.

Judge Kara DioGuardi, who was added to the panel two years ago, is not under contract for next year and Fox has not announced whether she'll return. Original judge Randy Jackson is the fourth panel member.

With audition episodes featuring the judges set to begin filming in September, the pressure is on to announce the panel. On Monday, Fox will have a chance to do that when it presents its 2010-11 programs to a meeting of the Television Critics Association.

When DeGeneres joined the show as a replacement for Paula Abdul, proclaiming herself a fan of "American Idol" and a pop aficionado, observers noted she didn't bring music industry expertise to her role. Some complained she proved more of a cheerleader than an incisive critic in the mold of Cowell.

She had a reported five-year contract.

"American Idol" was the nation's favorite program last season, the seventh time it's held that position. But it showed rare vulnerability, beaten in the weekly ratings several times by ABC's "Dancing with the Stars."

A total of 24.2 million viewers watched the ninth season's final duel between Lee DeWyze and Crystal Bowersox, compared to the nearly 29 million viewers who saw Kris Allen claim victory over Adam Lambert last year.

Arizona sheriff not relenting after court ruling

Arizona sheriff not relenting after court ruling

AP Photo
From left, Maria Duran, Maria Uribe and Giornia Sanchez march in protest Thursday, July 29, 2010 in Phoenix to rally against Arizona's new immigration law, SB1070. Opponents of Arizona's immigration crackdown went ahead with protests Thursday despite a judge's ruling that delayed enforcement of most the law.

PHOENIX (AP) -- Lost in the hoopla over Arizona's immigration law is the fact that state and local authorities for years have been doing their own aggressive crackdowns in the busiest illegal gateway into the country.

Nowhere in the U.S. is local enforcement more present than in metropolitan Phoenix, where Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio routinely carries out sweeps, some in Hispanic neighborhoods, to arrest illegal immigrants. The tactics have made him the undisputed poster boy for local immigration enforcement and the anger that so many authorities feel about the issue.

"It's my job," said Arpaio, standing beside a sheriff's truck that has a number for an immigration hot line written on its side. "I have two state (immigration) laws that I am enforcing. It's not federal, it's state."

A ruling Wednesday by a federal judge put on hold parts of the new law that would have required officers to dig deeper into the fight against illegal immigration. Arizona says it was forced to act because the federal government isn't doing its job to fight immigration.

The issue led to demonstrations across the country Thursday, including one directed at Arpaio in Phoenix in which protesters beat on the metal door of a jail and chanted, "Sheriff Joe, we are here. We will not live in fear."

Meanwhile, Gov. Jan Brewer's lawyers went to court to overturn the judge's ruling so they can fight back against what the Republican calls an "invasion" of illegal immigrants.

Ever since the main flow of illegal immigrants into the country shifted to Arizona a decade ago, state politicians and local police have been feeling pressure to confront the state's border woes.

In addition to Arpaio's crackdowns, other efforts include a steady stream of busts by the state and local police of stash houses where smugglers hide illegal immigrants. The state attorney general has taken a money-wiring company to civil court on allegations that smugglers used their service to move money to Mexico. And a county south of Phoenix has its sheriff's deputies patrol dangerous smuggling corridors.

The Arizona Legislature have enacted a series of tough-on-immigration measures in recent years that culminated with the law signed by Brewer in April, catapulting the Republican to the national political stage.

But the king of local immigration enforcement is still Arpaio.

Arpaio, a 78-year-old ex-federal drug agent who fashions himself as a modern-day John Wayne, launched his latest sweep Thursday afternoon, sending about 200 sheriff's deputies and trained volunteers out across metro Phoenix to look for traffic violators who may be here illegally.

Deputy Bob Dalton and volunteer Heath Kowacz spotted a driver with a cracked windshield in a poor Phoenix neighborhood near a busy freeway. Dalton triggered the red and blue police lights and pulled over 28-year-old Alfredo Salas, who was born in Mexico but has lived in Phoenix with a resident alien card since 1993.

Dalton gave him a warning after Salas produced his license and registration and told him to get the windshield fixed.

Salas, a married father of two who installs granite, told The Associated Press that he was treated well but he wondered whether he was pulled over because his truck is a Ford Lobo.

"It's a Mexican truck so I don't know if they saw that and said, 'I wonder if he has papers or not,'" Salas said. "If that's the case, it kind of gets me upset."

Sixty percent of the nearly 1,000 people arrested in the sweeps since early 2008 have been illegal immigrants. Thursday's dragnet led to four arrests, but it wasn't clear if any of them were illegal immigrants.

Critics say deputies racially profile Hispanics. Arpaio says deputies approach people only when they have probable cause.

"Sheriff Joe Arpaio and some other folks there decided they can make a name for themselves in terms of the intensity of the efforts they're using," said Benjamin Johnson, executive director of the pro-immigrant Immigration Policy Center. "There's no way to deny that. There are a lot of people getting caught up in these efforts."

The Justice Department launched an investigation of his office nearly 17 months ago over allegations of discrimination and unconstitutional searches and seizures. Although the department has declined to detail its investigation, Arpaio believes it centers on his sweeps.

Arpaio feels no reservations about continuing to push the sweeps, even after the federal government stripped his power to let 100 deputies make federal immigration arrests.

Unable to make arrests under a federal statute, the sheriff instead relied on a nearly 5-year-old state law that prohibits immigrant smuggling. He has also raided 37 businesses in enforcing a state law that prohibits employers from knowingly hiring illegal immigrants.

"I'm not going to brag," Arpaio said. "Just look at the record. I'm doing what I feel is right for the people of Maricopa County."

Obama to sell auto bailout good news in Michigan

Obama to sell auto bailout good news in Michigan

AP Photo
President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the National Urban League 100th Anniversary Convention in Washington, Thursday, July 29, 2010.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama is going to the heart of the U.S. auto industry to push an important election-year claim: his administration's unpopular auto industry bailout has turned into an economic good-news story.

With Americans facing a still-limping economy and potentially pivotal congressional elections in three months, the White House sees progress in the auto industry as a concrete area of improvement - and one with direct ties to the president's own actions.

To highlight that progress, which presidential aides believe has received too little attention, Obama will stop at three auto plants over the next several days, visiting General Motors and Chrysler factories in Michigan on Friday and a Ford facility in Chicago next Wednesday. Hoping to ratchet up public notice further, the White House also had the administration's top auto officials brief reporters Thursday.

Following the government-led bankruptcies of GM and Chrysler, the companies have shown signs of improvement.

"You now have all those U.S. auto companies showing a profit. They've rehired 55,000 workers. We are going to get all the money back that we invested in those car companies," Obama said in an interview aired Thursday on the ABC daytime talk show "The View."

He said the government is on track to recover all the taxpayer money his administration poured into GM, Chrysler, auto lenders and suppliers to avert a near-certain industrywide meltdown.

However, the White House said that proclamation referred only to the $60 billion spent by the Obama administration, not the additional $25 billion funneled to the industry in 2008 under the Bush administration. The most recent government estimate found that taxpayers will lose $24.3 billion on the auto bailout.

In a report on the status of the auto industry, the White House said failing to intervene would have led to the loss of nearly 1.1 million jobs. The auto industry has added 55,000 jobs in the year since the automotive bankruptcies, making it the strongest year of job growth in the industry since 1999.

The administration pointed to several signs of progress: plans by GM and Chrysler to skip the typical summer shutdown of several auto plants to meet demand for hot-selling vehicles and the addition of shifts at GM, Chrysler and Ford Motor Co. plants. The report notes that the three companies are beginning to post profits.

White House officials estimate that Detroit automakers could add 11,000 new jobs before the end of 2010.

Obama planned a Friday visit to GM's Hamtramck plant, which is planning to assemble the Chevrolet Volt rechargeable electric car. The plant is one of nine the automaker will keep open during the usual two-week summer shutdown.

In nearby Detroit, Obama will tour Chrysler's Jefferson North plant, which recently added a second shift of production, adding about 1,100 jobs. Next week, the president will visit the Chicago plant where Ford builds the Taurus sedan and plans to assemble a new Explorer sport utility vehicle.

"An investment had to be made in the auto industry. Restructuring had to happen," Obama's spokesman, Robert Gibbs, told ABC's "Good Morning America." "The auto industry for the first time in more than a decade, so there is good news" even though "the economic recovery certainly is fragile."

GM has repaid $6.7 billion that the government considered loans, with the remaining $43.3 billion converted into a 61 percent stake in the company. GM is expected to conduct an initial public offering of shares in the company later this year, a move that could help the government recoup some of its investment.

United Auto Workers President Bob King said in a statement Thursday that GM would file paperwork in mid-August to start the process of selling stock to the public.

Chrysler received about $15 billion in government help and was placed under control of Italian automaker Fiat as part of its bankruptcy. The company has repaid about half of the $4 billion loan portion of its aid and is considering a public stock offering sometime in 2011.

Ron Bloom, the administration's senior counselor for manufacturing policy, said it was unclear how long the government would hold ownership stakes in the companies. "We don't like having this investment, but we're not going to sell it at a fire sale," he said.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Oswalt approves deal, Astros trade ace to Phillies

Oswalt approves deal, Astros trade ace to Phillies

AP Photo
Houston Astros starter Roy Oswalt delivers a pitch in the first inning of a baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds, Saturday, July 24, 2010, in Houston.

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Three-time All-Star Roy Oswalt gave his OK to a trade from Houston to Philadelphia on Thursday, becoming the latest ace to join the hard-charging Phillies.

The Astros dealt Oswalt and cash to the two-time NL champions for pitcher J.A. Happ and two speedy prospects, outfielder Anthony Gose and shortstop Jonathan Villar.

Oswalt joins a rotation headed by star Roy Halladay, acquired from Toronto in the offseason.

This was the second straight year the Phillies made a major trade for a pitcher in the days leading up to the July 31 deadline. Last season, they got Cliff Lee and he boosted them into the World Series - Lee was then sent to Seattle as part of the three-team trade that brought Halladay to Philadelphia.

The Phillies took a seven-game winning streak into Thursday night's game against Arizona. Philadelphia began the day 3 1/2 games behind Atlanta in the NL East.

St. Louis also had been bargaining for Oswalt. He had a no-trade clause in his contract and could decide whether to accept any deal.

The 32-year-old Oswalt was 6-12 despite a 3.24 ERA for Houston. The Astros were shut out in five of his 20 starts.

The righty helped the Astros get to the 2005 World Series, but they are far out of playoff contention this year. Oswalt is 4-0 in the postseason.

Oswalt is 143-82 with a 3.24 ERA in 10 seasons with the Astros. He is due about $5.33 million the rest of this season from his $15 million salary and is owed $16 million in 2011. Oswalt's contract has a $16 million club option for 2012 with a $2 million buyout.

The Astros seemed set to send about $11 million to the Phillies as part of the deal.

Happ has made one start after missing three months with an elbow injury. The 27-year-old lefty went 12-4 with a 2.93 ERA and finished runner-up for the NL Rookie of the Year award last season.

The 19-year-old Gose is speedy, stealing 36 bases and hitting .263 for advanced Class A Clearwater.

Villar, also 19, stole 38 bases and batted .272 for Class A Lakewood.

Gov't warned company about oil pipeline monitoring

Gov't warned company about oil pipeline monitoring

AP Photo
Raul Vervuzco of Eagle Services uses a suction hose to clean oil from atop the Kalamazoo River, Wednesday, July 28, 2010, in a containment area in Augusta, Mich. A company operating a pipeline that dumped more than 800,000 gallons of oil into a southern Michigan river said Wednesday that it is doubling its work force on the containment and cleanup effort.

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (AP) -- A Canadian company whose pipeline leaked hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil into a Michigan river was warned by government regulators in January that its monitoring of corrosion in the pipeline was insufficient.

The U.S. Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration told Enbridge Energy Partners Chairman Terry McGill in a Jan. 21 letter that its corrosion monitoring in Line 6B, the line that ruptured, did not comply with federal regulations.

According to the warning, Enbridge was implementing an alternate way of monitoring corrosion in the pipeline, and had detailed to regulators the steps it was taking to track corrosion in the meantime.

But the agency warned the company in the letter that it was violating code by not using a sufficient amount of certain chemicals used to protect pipe interiors, not using proper monitoring equipment to determine it those chemicals were working, and not examining its monitoring equipment at least twice a year.

"The transition from one technology to another must be implemented in a manner that ensures continued compliance with the regulations," the agency wrote.

Enbridge spokeswoman Lorraine Grymala said Thursday she has no comment about the letter,

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the leak dumped more than 1 million gallons of oil into the Kalamazoo River and a creek that flows into it on Monday. The company's estimate is smaller - 819,000 gallons.

The oil has traveled at least 35 miles downstream from where it leaked in Calhoun County's Marshall Township, killing fish, coating other wildlife and emitting a strong, unpleasant odor.

It passed through Battle Creek, a city of 52,000 residents about 110 miles west of Detroit, and was headed toward Morrow Lake, a key point near a Superfund site upstream of Kalamazoo, the largest city in the region. Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm warned of a "tragedy of historic proportions" should the oil reach Lake Michigan some 80 miles away, and the vacation communities that depend on it.

State and company officials had said earlier this week they didn't believe the oil would spread past a dam at the lake, and that they would be able to contain it there. The company's latest update, on Wednesday, said oil was about seven miles short of the opening to Morrow Lake.

But Tom Sands, the deputy state director for emergency management and homeland security, said during a conference call with Granholm on Wednesday that he had seen oil that had made it past the dam while he was flying over the area.

On Thursday, EPA spokesman Mick Hans said its incident commander was in the same plane as Sands and wasn't convinced oil had passed the dam. Hans said the EPA, however, wasn't trying to take issue with the report.

"We're all working together," Hans said. "Sometimes you get different technical interpretations."

Volunteers gathered Thursday at a wildlife rehabilitation center in Marshall Township, near the spill's origin, to help care for about 20 injured animals, most of them birds, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said. Officials at the center refused access to an Associated Press reporter. Spokeswoman Georgia Parham said the agency didn't want to further stress the animals by letting more people into the area.

Volunteer groups were organizing on Facebook.

Granholm on Wednesday called on the federal government for more help, saying resources being marshaled by the EPA and Enbridge were "wholly inadequate."

The Calgary, Alberta-based company said Wednesday and Thursday that it was ramping up its efforts to contain and clean up the mess. Chief executive Patrick D. Daniel said the company had made "significant progress," though he had no update on a possible cause, cost or timeframe for the cleanup.

Workers and contractors were using vacuum trucks and absorbent booms to contain and clean the spill, and the company was bringing in more help, Enbridge spokeswoman Lorraine Grymala said Thursday.

"We're getting them here as quickly as we can," Grymala said.

The overall workforce on the spill Wednesday was likely more than 400 people. EPA officials said they're ramping up efforts with air and water testing. Local officials said they weren't concerned about municipal water supplies.

Company and EPA officials have said oil is no longer leaking, but the spill's size was considerable. An 800,000 gallon spill would be enough to fill 1-gallon jugs lined side by side for nearly 70 miles. It also could fill a walled-in football field, including the end zones, with just under 2 feet of oil.

Enbridge-related companies have been cited several times in recent years for violations in the Great Lakes region.

Houston-based Enbridge Energy Co., spilled almost 19,000 gallons of crude oil onto Wisconsin's Nemadji River in 2003. Another 189,000 gallons of oil spilled at the company's terminal two miles from Lake Superior, though most was contained.

In 2007, two spills released about 200,000 gallons of crude in northern Wisconsin as Enbridge was expanding a 320-mile pipeline. The company also was accused of violating Wisconsin permits designed to protect water quality during work in and around wetlands, rivers and streams, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources said. The violations came during construction of a 321-mile, $2 billion oil pipeline across that state. Enbridge agreed to pay $1.1 million in 2009.

The Michigan leak came from a 30-inch pipeline, which was built in 1969 and carries about 8 million gallons of oil daily from Griffith, Ind., to Sarnia, Ontario.

An 80-mile segment of the river that begins at Morrow Lake and five miles of a tributary, Portage Creek, have unsafe levels of PCBs and were placed on the federal Superfund list of high-priority hazardous waste sites in 1990. The Kalamazoo site also includes four landfills and several defunct paper mills.

Panel hits Rangel with 13 alleged ethics charges

Panel hits Rangel with 13 alleged ethics charges

AP Photo
Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., leaves his office to go to a vote on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, July 29, 2010.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- House investigators accused veteran New York Rep. Charles Rangel of 13 violations of congressional ethics standards on Thursday, throwing a cloud over his four-decade political career and raising worries for fellow Democrats about the fall elections.

The allegations - which include failure to report rental income from vacation property in the Dominican Republic and to report more than $600,000 in assets on his congressional financial disclosure statements - came as lawyers for Rangel and the House ethics committee worked on a plea deal.

One was struck, people familiar with the talks said, but Republicans indicated it was too late.

The deal between the lawyers will have little meaning if the committee members don't approve it, and Republicans said at the proceeding they were insisting on going forward with a trial. The panel is evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans.

"Mr. Rangel was given multiple opportunities to settle this matter. Instead, he chose to move forward to the public trial phase," said Rep. Jo Bonner of Alabama, the senior Republican on the ethics panel

Chairman Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., has made clear that she wants the committee to be unanimous - leaving little chance for agreement without Rangel capitulating on virtually all counts.

Many Democrats had urged Rangel to settle the case to avoid the prospect of televised hearings right before November congressional elections that will determine which party controls Congress next year.

However, as Friday's public airing of the charges drew nearer, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi seem resigned to the case proceeding.

"The chips will have to fall where they may politically," she told reporters. Pursuing ethics cases against House members is "a serious responsibility that we have," she said.

The alleged violations of House standards of conduct also include using congressional letterhead to solicit donations for a center for public service to bear Rangel's name on the New York campus of the City College of New York.

Rangel was also accused of accepting a rent-stabilized property in Manhattan for his campaign office and initially not paying federal taxes on the Dominican Republic property.

The ethics panel said Rangel failed to report rental income on his original tax returns for 1998 through 2006 from the Dominican Republic villa. It also said he violated federal laws in addition to House ethics rules, including the 1989 Ethics Reform Act, Postal Service laws and government service codes.

The ethics charges, agreed upon after a two-year probe, were read in a public session of the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, as the ethics committee is formally known.

Rangel, 80, did not attend.

The session set the stage for a committee trial, expected to be held in September. Democrats had hoped to avoid such a public confrontation as November elections approach.

"We live at a time when public skepticism about the institutions in our country is very high," said Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., the ethics committee chair.

She said it had been the panel's goal "to by our actions rebuild and earn trust by the public and our colleagues."

Republicans have been trying to turn the case into an indictment of Democratic leadership. Rangel stepped down earlier this year as chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, one of the top posts in the House.

But Bonner told colleagues, "No one, regardless of their partisan stripes, should rejoice."

"It is the duty of the House to punish its members for disorderly behavior. As such, this is truly a sad day," the Alabama Republican said.

Under the tentative plea deal, it was not immediately clear how many of the 13 charges of ethical violations Rangel agreed to accept.

The ethics panel that will judge Rangel's conduct held its first meeting Thursday.

It includes eight members, equally divided between Democrats and Republicans. Thus, for any deal to be accepted it must be approved by at least one Republican.

In the frantic hours leading up to the meeting, Rangel's lawyer, Leslie Kiernan, talked to attorneys for the panel about how to avoid a trial for the 40-year veteran.

Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, the top Republican on the panel that will try Rangel, said that the Democrat had been "given the opportunity to negotiate a settlement during the investigation phase."

However, he said, that phase is now over. "We are now in the trial phase," he said.

A congressional trial could be avoided only if Rangel admitted to substantial violations, or resigned.

Punishment could range from a report criticizing his conduct to a reprimand or censure by the House, or a vote to expel him - which is highly unlikely. Any agreement would have to be approved by Rangel and ethics committee members.

"Sixty years ago I survived a Chinese attack in North Korea and as a result I haven't had a bad day since," Rangel told reporters earlier Thursday. "But today I have to reassess that statement."

"I think everyone is looking forward to getting all the facts out in the open, and people will have to react once we know what we're dealing with," said Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill.

Rangel is tied for fourth in House seniority. He's still vigorous at 80 years old.

He had substantial influence as Ways and Means chairman. The panel handles taxes, trade, portions of health care, Medicare and Social Security.

But he stepped down from that post in March after the ethics committee criticized him in a separate case, saying he should have known that corporate money paid for two trips to Caribbean conferences.

Rangel had repeatedly said he looked forward to a public discussion of the current allegations. A four-member investigating panel, with separate members from the judging subcommittee, brought the charges.

The 42-member Congressional Black Caucus has warned Democrats against a rush to judgment, and any lawmaker with a significant African-American constituency must consider whether it's worth asking Rangel to quit.

However, some Democratic House members in close races may think it's more important to distance themselves from Rangel. They don't want to have to answer negative Republican ads about Pelosi's promise to wipe Congress clean of ethical misdeeds.

Two Democrats didn't wait to hear the charges.

Rep. Betty Sutton of Ohio, a second-term lawmaker who received 65 percent of the vote two years ago, said Rangel needs to resign to preserve the public's trust in Congress.

Rep. Walt Minnick of Idaho, a freshman who got 51 percent of the vote last time, called for resignation if the charges are proven.

Congress adjourns for its August recess after this week.

Hands-only CPR, pushy dispatchers are lifesavers

Hands-only CPR, pushy dispatchers are lifesavers

AP Photo
FILE - In this Sept. 15, 2006 file photo a person participates in an American Red Cross CPR training in Washington. Two new studies conclude that "hands only" chest compression is enough to save a life. The American Heart Association has been promoting "hands only" CPR for two years, though it's not clear how much it's caught on. The new studies should help, experts say.

ATLANTA (AP) -- More bystanders are willing to attempt CPR if an emergency dispatcher gives them firm and direct instructions - especially if they can just press on the chest and skip the mouth-to-mouth, according to new research.

The two new studies conclude that "hands-only" chest compression is enough to save a life. They are the largest and most rigorous yet to suggest that breathing into a victim's mouth isn't needed in most cases.

The American Heart Association has been promoting hands-only CPR for two years, though it's not clear how much it's caught on. The new studies should encourage dispatchers and bystanders to be more aggressive about using the simpler technique.

"That could translate into hundreds if not thousands of additional lives saved each year. What are we waiting for?" said Dr. Arthur Kellermann, a RAND Corporation expert on emergency medicine.

An estimated 310,000 Americans die each year of cardiac arrest outside hospitals or in emergency rooms. Only about 6 percent of those who are stricken outside a hospital survive.

When someone collapses and stops breathing, many people panic and believe that phoning 911 is the best they can do to help.

The larger of the two new studies reported survival rates of about 12 percent when bystanders did dispatcher-directed CPR, confirming earlier research that on-scene CPR can dramatically increase a victim's odds of survival.

The studies also spotlighted the importance of having forceful dispatchers coaching bystanders, said Dr. Michael Sayre, an Ohio State University emergency medicine specialist who helped update the Heart Association guidelines on CPR.

Previous research has suggested that adults who need CPR get it only about one-quarter to one-third of the time when bystanders are around.

One of the new studies found that when dispatchers told callers to start CPR, about 80 percent attempted it when given hands-only instructions, more than the 70 percent who tried the standard version.

Sayre and others credited the increase on dispatchers who immediately told callers what to do, instead of first asking them if they'd had CPR training or if they'd be willing to try it until medical help arrives.

"This study shows that with great training and motivation, the 911 call taker can make a big difference," Sayre said.

CPR, or cardiopulmonary resuscitation, is a technique that's been in use for about 50 years. The standard version now calls for alternating 30 hard pushes on a victim's chest with two quick breaths into their mouth.

The aim of CPR is to do some of the mechanical work of the heart by forcing at least some blood and oxygen to the brain and other vital organs.

Experts have come to believe that pumping is what's most important in most adult cases, and advise doing chest pushes continually at a rate of 100 per minute and skipping the mouth-to-mouth. Some suggest using the beat of the old disco song "Stayin' Alive" as a guide.

Cardiac patients do as well or better when they got hands-only CPR as compared to the traditional version, these and earlier studies have found.

One of the new studies, carried out in London and the Seattle area, involved more than 1,900 people who witnessed someone in cardiac arrest and called 911 or some other emergency number. Emergency dispatchers instructed callers to do either hands-only CPR or an older form of standard CPR that alternates 15 pushes with two quick breaths.

The second study was done in Sweden and included nearly 1,300 people.

In both studies, there was no significant difference in the survival rates of people who got conventional CPR and those who got the hands-only version.

The studies are being published in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine.

While there is no good national data on how often hands-only CPR is used, Dr. Ben Bobrow, who directs the Arizona Department of Health Services' emergency medical system, believes it is catching on.

"We've seen a huge trend in hands-only CPR in Arizona and I believe that trend is spreading across the country. I think these findings will further promote that," he said.

Many people think of traditional CPR as difficult, and to some extent it is. The victim's head has to be tilted back, the airway cleared, the nose pinched and the mouth completely covered with the rescuer's. A lot of people have trouble with it, said Don Pederson, a dispatcher in Seattle's King County, who participated in the U.S. study.

"A lot of the times they weren't getting air in there correctly," with oxygen escaping out the sides of the mouth, Pederson said.

Rea and his colleagues believe some bystanders perform mouth-to-mouth so poorly that the interruption reduces blood flow.

Worry about doing CPR correctly was the No. 2 reason many people don't attempt it, according to a Michigan study published in 2006. The No. 1 reason? People are too panicked.

The "ick" factor of putting lips to a stranger's mouth - and picking up the stranger's germs - was cited by only a tiny fraction of people in the study. However, it may be a more significant issue than the study showed, at least in some communities, experts say.

Traditional CPR is still the preferred form of resuscitation for children or adults who have stopped breathing because of choking, drowning or other respiratory problems.

Gulf cleanup will change once oil stops for good

Gulf cleanup will change once oil stops for good

AP Photo
A large sheen of oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, background, is seen approaching Timbalier Island in the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of Louisiana, Wednesday, July 28, 2010.

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- The government's point man for the Gulf spill plans to meet with coastal parish officials Thursday to talk about what's next now that the oil has stopped flowing.

Retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen said crews are having trouble finding patches of the crude that had been washing up on beaches and coating delicate coastal wetlands since the Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling rig exploded April 20, killing 11 people.

Though no one knows for sure how much oil might be lurking below the surface, most of what was coming ashore has broken up or been sucked up by skimming boats or burned.

"The oil that we do see is weathered, it is sheen," Allen said.

Barring a calamity, the oil won't start flowing again before BP PLC can permanently kill the well, which could happen as soon as mid-August. Allen said the Coast Guard expects oil to keep showing up on beaches four to six weeks after that happens.

Then, he said, the Coast Guard may start redeploying some of the 11 million feet of boom, 811 oil skimmers and 40,000 people that have been part of the oil spill response. Many of the workers are fishermen who have lost their livelihoods because of the spill.

Crews have taken a crucial step toward readying the relief well they need to permanently stop the oil, removing a plug they had popped in to keep the well safe ahead of Tropical Storm Bonnie.

Allen also said Wednesday that a temporary cap put on the busted well two weeks ago is holding firm. Before that, it spewed 94 million to 184 million gallons of oil.

Crews are taking every precaution as they work toward a permanent fix.

"We have always asked for a backup plan for the backup plan," he said. "This relief well, while it is deep, it is something that has been done before. Obviously the depth is an issue here. But we are confident we are going to get this thing done."

Drilling the relief well has been a monthslong task, and BP had used several other techniques to stop the leak that had never been attempted before in mile-deep waters. Some were utter failures and none was totally successful until a carefully fitted cap was placed over the well and the leak stopped in mid-July.

The cap has stopped the flow but is only a temporary measure while crews finish the relief well that will plug up the gusher from below.

The work had to stop last week because of Bonnie, which passed through in weakened form without doing any major damage.

Now that the plug is out, the relief well must be flushed out with drilling mud before casing can be dropped in and cemented. All that should be done around Monday, Allen said, though he cautioned that was just an estimate.

Once everything is in place, crews will begin a procedure known as a static kill, pumping heavy mud straight down the well though the temporary cap and failed blowout preventer. If the well casing is intact, the mud will force the oil back down into the natural petroleum reservoir. Then workers will pump in cement to seal the casing.

The static kill is on track for completion some time next week. Then comes the "bottom kill," where the relief well will be used to pump in mud and cement; that process will take days or weeks, depending on the success of the static kill.

2nd US sailor's body recovered in Afghanistan

2nd US sailor's body recovered in Afghanistan

AP Photo
This photo, displayed on a leaflet that was distributed by the U.S. military to civilians in Logar province, east of Kabul, Afghanistan, on July 25, 2010 shows a missing U.S. Navy sailor. The Navy identified the missing sailor as Petty Officer 3rd Class Jarod Newlove, a 25-year-old from the Seattle area. The Pentagon lists Newlove as "whereabouts unknown," and did not confirm he was captured. Another service member who went missing with Newlove was identified as Petty Officer 2nd Class Justin McNeley _ a 30-year-old father of two from Wheatridge, Colorado. NATO recovered his body Sunday.

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- A second U.S. Navy sailor who went missing in a dangerous part of eastern Afghanistan was found dead and his body recovered, a senior U.S. military official and Afghan officials said Thursday.

The family of Petty Officer 3rd Class Jarod Newlove, a 25-year-old from the Seattle area, had been notified of his death, the U.S. military official said on condition of anonymity, because he was not authorized to disclose the information.

Newlove and Petty Officer 2nd Class Justin McNeley went missing last Friday in Logar province. NATO recovered the body of McNeley - a 30-year-old father of two from Wheatridge, Colorado - in the area Sunday.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told The Associated Press in Kabul on Thursday that two days ago the Taliban left the "body of a dead American soldier for the U.S. forces" to recover. The Taliban said McNeley was killed in a firefight and insurgents had captured Newlove. Mujahid offered no explanation for Newlove's death.

NATO officials have not offered an explanation as to why the two service members were in such a dangerous part of eastern Afghanistan.

The sailors were instructors at a counterinsurgency school for Afghan security forces, according to senior military officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case. The school was headquartered in Kabul and had classrooms outside the capital, but they were never assigned anywhere near where McNeley's body was recovered, officials said.

The chief of police of Logar province, Gen. Mustafa Mosseini, said coalition troops removed Newlove's body about 5:30 p.m. Wednesday. An anti-terrorism official in Logar province, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about the case, also said coalition forces had recovered a body.

Mosseini said he believed the body washed downstream after rains Tuesday night.

He noted in the past several days, the Taliban were being pressured by coalition forces in the area.

"The security was being tightened," Mosseini said. "Searches continued from both air and the ground. Militants were moving into Pakistan."

Mohammad Rahim Amin, the local government chief in Baraki Barak district, also said coalition forces recovered a body about 5:30 p.m. and flew it by helicopter to a coalition base in Logar province, about 40 miles (60 kilometers) away.

"The coalition told our criminal police director of the district that the body belonged to the foreign soldier they were looking for," Amin said.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Jury begins weighing Blagojevich corruption case

Jury begins weighing Blagojevich corruption case

AP Photo
Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, and his wife Patti, right, arrive at the Federal Court for the beginning of jury instructions in his corruption trial, Wednesday, July 28, 2010, in Chicago. Blagojevich and his brother are accused of scheming to sell or trade President Obama's old Senate seat.

CHICAGO (AP) -- Rod Blagojevich's fate was in the hands of jurors Wednesday as they began deciding whether the impeached Illinois governor tried to sell an appointment to President Barack Obama's former Senate seat and schemed to use his political power for personal gain.

Jurors, weighing evidence against the second Illinois governor in a row to be charged with corruption, received lengthy instructions from the judge on how their deliberations should be conducted. Prosecutors loaded two carts of exhibits they introduced at the trial that a marshal would wheel into the jury room.

"I'm not expecting" a speedy verdict, Judge James B. Zagel said before jurors entered the courtroom.

After jurors left to begin their work, Blagojevich appeared relaxed. He cupped his hand over his mouth and said to someone in the spectator's section, "Say a prayer." One elderly spectator walked over and hugged him, also handing him a piece of candy.

He and his co-defendant brother, Robert Blagojevich, have rarely been seen speaking to each other during the trial. But they stood shoulder to shoulder in front of Zagel to say they both wanted to be exempt from having to come to court each time jurors have a question for the judge. The judge granted it.

During the trial, prosecutors portrayed Blagojevich as a greedy, smart political schemer determined to use his power to enrich himself throughout his administration, and who saw the opportunity to appoint Obama's successor as the chance of a lifetime to get a lucrative and well-paying job in the administration.

By contrast, Blagojevich's own attorney characterized him as an insecure bumbler who talked too much and had terrible judgment about who to trust - but never did anything to enrich himself.

Jurors ended the first day of deliberations and left around 5 p.m. Wednesday, courtroom deputy Donald Walker said. He said they'll deliberate 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays.

In more than an hour of dry legal language, and without any of the passion that the attorneys displayed in their closing arguments, Zagel not only explained the charges to the jury and what factors they were to consider but laid out the hurdles they must overcome to reach a verdict.

For example, an instruction that the jury was allowed to make "reasonable inferences" sounded mundane. But it also is the crux of prosecutors' argument that, even if Blagojevich didn't come right out and ask for money in exchange for signing a bill or approving state aid, they could conclude that was exactly what he was doing.

Zagel also explained that it is not illegal to accept a campaign contribution even if the contributor is doing business with the state or believes that a contribution will help business in the future - something that Blagojevich's attorneys have been saying throughout the trial.

But, he said, a person can be guilty of extortion if he or she believes that not coughing up a contribution will hurt business in the future. Prosecutors contend that one witness, a children's hospital executive, had feared if he didn't make a $25,000 campaign contribution to Blagojevich the hospital would suffer financially.

Zagel told jurors they were not to draw any conclusions from the fact that Blagojevich did not take the witness stand. Defendants have a right to testify and they have a right not to testify, he said simply.

After a trial that relied heavily on wiretapped conversations between Blagojevich and his brother, wife and advisers, Zagel warned jurors that their personal feelings about wiretaps were not to enter the deliberations. He said the FBI acted legally in taping the calls.

The judge also reminded jurors that some prosecution witnesses received immunity in exchange for their testimony, and that their comments can be considered, but "with great care." Similarly, he said other witnesses against Blagojevich pleaded guilty to charges and got benefits from the government, including reduced sentences. Zagel said jurors could consider their testimony but, again, "with caution and care."

Zagel also told jurors not to guess about how a person would be punished, that it was the judge's job to sentence a defendant.

Blagojevich, walking past reporters earlier, noted there were fewer people watching his arrival. "Where is everybody?" he asked. During the trial, Blagojevich would sometimes plunge into the waiting crowds to shake hands and sign autographs.

The ousted governor, 53, has pleaded not guilty to 24 counts, including trying to sell or trade an appointment to Obama's vacated Senate seat for a Cabinet post, private job or campaign cash. If convicted, he could face up to $6 million in fines and a sentence of 415 years in prison, though he is sure to get much less time under federal guidelines.

His brother, Nashville, Tenn., businessman Robert Blagojevich, 54, has also pleaded not guilty to taking part in that alleged scheme.

The former governor suggested that he might spend some of the time waiting for a verdict running. He told reporters as he was leaving the courtroom that he ran six miles on Tuesday evening.

Calls for Rangel to quit could escalate if no deal

Calls for Rangel to quit could escalate if no deal

AP Photo
Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., stands in the corner of the elevator as he leaves his office for to go vote on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, July 28, 2010.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The calls from fellow Democrats for New York Rep. Charles Rangel to resign could quickly turn from a trickle to a flood unless he can quickly negotiate a plea bargain to prevent a congressional trial on allegations of ethical misconduct.

With elections nearing, fellow Democrats don't relish the spectacle of that trial.

Thursday is a deadline of sorts. An ethics committee panel of four Democrats and four Republicans has scheduled a public hearing where the charges against Rangel would be aired in public for the first time. The subcommittee's task is to decide whether the charges can be proved by clear and convincing evidence. Just spelling them out would be bad enough, Democrats running for re-election feel.

For his part, Rangel remained noncommittal Wednesday on whether he's still open to a deal to avoid all that.

"Depends on what the settlement is," he said of the lawyer-to-lawyer talks.

The House ethics committee has investigated allegations of Rangel's misuse of his office for fundraising, failure to disclose income, belated payment of taxes and possible help with a tax shelter for a company whose chief executive was a major donor.

"I think everyone is looking forward to getting all the facts out in the open and people will have to react once we know what we're dealing with," said Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill.

But how to react? Create distance from Rangel and his conduct, or somehow remain noncommittal? Each option contains political risk.

If a Democrat calls for Rangel's resignation, returns his campaign donations or just condemns his conduct, he risks alienating the Congressional Black Caucus, a key Democratic constituency, which has warned against a rush to judgment.

But if a fellow lawmaker remains silent, he risks being tagged an inside-Washington hypocrite who broke a promise to rid Congress of corruption.

The charges are the equivalent of an indictment, not a conviction. So condemning unproven allegations against Rangel could smack of the very rush to judgment against which the CBC warned. But for vulnerable Democrats, especially freshmen eager to prove their ethical bona fides to voters, couched statements of condemnation could be beneficial, some Democratic lawmakers and their aides said in interviews - under a cloak of anonymity.

Rep. Artur Davis, D-Ala., a member of the Ways and Means Committee who called for Rangel to step down from his committee chairmanship, said he would not be urging Rangel's resignation. Still, he said of his colleagues, "I'm sure some will."

Two Democrats didn't wait to hear the charges.

Rep. Betty Sutton of Ohio, a second-term lawmakers who received 65 percent of the vote two years ago, said Rangel "needs to resign" to preserve the public's trust in Congress.

Rep. Walt Minnick of Idaho, a freshman who got 51 percent of the vote last time, couched his resignation call on the charges being proven.

While the political stakes are high for Rangel and Democrats with tough races, there also could be consequences for ethics committee members if they leave the perception that Rangel, a Harlem legend, got off too easy.

Voters could decide they were protecting an influential Democrat - the former chief tax writer in the House - if some charges were dropped or if the resulting punishment did not reflect serious wrongdoing.

Rangel could face a report criticizing his conduct, a reprimand or censure by the full House or even expulsion - the latter very unlikely in this case.

If there's no plea bargain, a rare ethics trial would probably begin in September.

Several of those Democrats interviewed Wednesday cited their affection for the former Ways and Means Committee chairman and said that if it came down to it, they hoped to be able to condemn his conduct and spare Rangel himself. Others said they preferred not to think of the tough choice Rangel's situation presents them until they're forced to. The August recess, after all, begins this weekend.

All said, even late in the day, they remained hopeful that Rangel could somehow agree to a deal in which he would admit wrongdoing and accept some sort of punishment. That way, the Democrats could go into the election season without having to answer for an unseemly ethics trial. And Rangel would almost certainly win re-election in the New York district where he is revered.

"The focus right now is let's get outta here," said Rep. William Delahunt, D-Mass.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Drexel Basketball Players Surrender to Robbery Charge

Drexel Basketball Players Surrender to Robbery Charge

Two Drexel University basketball players — including the team’s leading scorer — have surrendered to authorities after being accused along with a third student of taking part in a home invasion robbery last week in West Philadelphia.

KYW’s Steve Tawa reports from Southwest Detectives headquarters that investigators say the team’s starting point guard, Jamie Harris, 21 (above right) — who averaged 14.5 points per game last season — and backup forward Kevin Phillip, also 21 (middle right), each had weapons when they stormed into a female student’s apartment last Wednesday near 36th Street and Lancaster Avenue.

For full story go to:

Blagojevich judge, attorney clash; jury sent home

Blagojevich judge, attorney clash; jury sent home

AP Photo
Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich talks to members of the media at the Federal Court building, Wednesday, July 21, 2010, in Chicago after his defense rested without calling any witnesses. Blagojevich is accused of scheming to sell or trade President Obama's old Senate seat for personal gain. At right is his wife Patti.

CHICAGO (AP) -- A lawyer for Rod Blagojevich clashed with the judge in the former Illinois governor's corruption trial over what he could say in his closing arguments, pledging Monday that he was ready to go to jail for contempt if the judge did not change his mind.

Judge James B. Zagel sent the jury home for the day after Blagojevich's attorney Sam Adam Jr. complained the judge was gutting his closing arguments by not allowing the defense to mention witnesses that prosecutors did not call.

Prosecutors had mentioned some of those witnesses, including convicted fundraiser Antoin "Tony" Rezko, in their closing argument, and Adam argued the defense should be able to do the same.

"Your honor, I have a man here that is fighting for his life," Adam said, turning red and raising his hands.

Zagel responded: "You will follow that order because if you don't follow that order you will be in contempt of court."

"I'm willing to go to jail on this," Adam shot back.

Zagel said he was giving Adam the night to rework his closing arguments, given his "profound misunderstanding of legal rules." He said Adam could designate another defense attorney to give the closing if he couldn't follow the rules.

After court adjourned, Adam told reporters that prosecutors didn't call dozens of potential witnesses, and "the jury should know that."

He said he doesn't know if he will deliver closing arguments on Tuesday.

"My job as a lawyer is to do everything I can for my client and if (going to jail) is what it takes, if it's necessary, in a heartbeat," Adam said.

The prosecution had wrapped up its closing arguments earlier, as did an attorney for Blagojevich's brother, Robert Blagojevich.

Both men have pleaded not guilty to an alleged scheme to sell the Senate seat that Barack Obama gave up when he was elected president, and to plotting to illegally pressure people for campaign contributions.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Niewoehner started his closing Monday by citing the most famous comment on FBI wiretap tapes played in court - Blagojevich calling the Senate seat "(expletive) golden" and saying he wouldn't give it up for nothing.

"He did his absolute best to turn (his) newfound power into something golden for himself," Niewoehner told jurors.

He said Blagojevich was "at the center of corrupt individuals."

Niewoehner told jurors that Rod Blagojevich need not have made money nor gotten a high-profile job in order for his alleged schemes to be illegal. He also said they shouldn't be concerned whether Blagojevich actually managed to trade the appointment to Obama's seat for an ambassadorship or a Cabinet post or any money - only that he made the effort.

"You don't have to be a successful criminal to be a criminal," he said.

Nor, he said, should jurors be concerned that they did not hear Blagojevich outright tell those he is accused of shaking down for money what he was doing.

"It does not have to be x for y," he said.

The prosecutor said that thanks to legal bills and his own lavish spending habits, Blagojevich was deeply in debt. "He needed this golden ticket," he said.

As Niewoehner described the sometimes profanity-laced language on the FBI tapes, Blagojevich showed little emotion, sometimes biting his lip or rocking slightly in his defense table chair. His wife, Patti, sat a few feet to his left holding their youngest daughter on her lap, sometimes handing her pieces candy. It was the first time their two daughters have been in court.

Blagojevich, 53, has pleaded not guilty to scheming to trade or sell Obama's old Senate seat and illegally pressuring people for campaign contributions. If convicted, he could face up to $6 million in fines and a sentence of 415 years in prison, though he is sure to get much less time under federal guidelines.

Blagojevich's attorneys had said earlier that their message to jurors will be simple: "First and foremost, the government has proved nothing," Sam Adam Jr. said over the weekend.

The former governor's brother, Nashville, Tenn., businessman Robert Blagojevich, 54, has pleaded not guilty to taking part in the alleged scheme to sell the Senate seat and plotting to illegally pressure a businessman for a campaign contribution. Earlier Monday, prosecutors dropped one of five counts against him, a count of wire fraud.

Robert Blagojevich's attorney, Michael Ettinger, said in his closing argument that jurors never heard any testimony, any tapes in which Robert Blagojevich said of any campaign contributions: "This is in exchange for something."

"Raising campaign funds is not illegal. It is not against the law," he said.

Select Vets, Rookies Report to Eagles Camp Monday

Select Vets, Rookies Report to Eagles Camp Monday

Are you ready for some football?

KYW’s Mike Dougherty reports that Eagles rookies and select veterans must report to training camp at Lehigh University Monday for the first workout on Tuesday.

The remainder of the team will join them later this week for the first full-squad practice on Saturday.

For the Birds, the future is now. Arguably the best quarterback in franchise history, Donovan McNabb, is history in Philadelphia. For the first time since 1999, someone other than number five will be taking the bulk of the first team reps at camp, as fourth-year veteran Kevin Kolb takes the reins of Andy Reid’s pass-happy west coast offense.

For full story go to:

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Obama signs sweeping financial overhaul into law

Obama signs sweeping financial overhaul into law

AP Photo
President Barack Obama, center, applauds after signing the Dodd Frank-Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act in a ceremony in the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, Wednesday, July 21, 2010.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Reveling in victory, President Barack Obama on Wednesday signed into law the most sweeping overhaul of financial regulations since the Great Depression, a package that aims to protect consumers and ensure economic stability from Main Street to Wall Street.

The law, pushed through mainly by Democrats in Washington's deeply partisan environment, comes almost two years after the infamous near financial meltdown in 2008 in the United States that was felt around the globe. The legislation gives the government new powers to break up companies that threaten the economy, creates a new agency to guard consumers and puts more light on the financial markets that escaped the oversight of regulators.

Obama described them all as commonsense reforms that will help people in their daily life - signing contracts, understanding fees, being aware of risks.

He went so far as to call the reforms "the strongest consumer protections in history." The president added to a burst of applause: "Because of this law, the American people will never again be asked to foot the bill for Wall Street's mistakes."

Republicans portray the bill as a burden on small banks and the businesses that rely on them and argue it will cost consumers and impede job growth. Republican Rep. Darrell Issa of California called Obama's bill-signing a "charade" that ignored the root causes of the financial crisis.

The president said otherwise. He argued that a crippling recession was primarily caused by a breakdown in the financial system that cannot happen again.

"I proposed a set of reforms to empower consumers and investors, to bring the shadowy deals that caused this crisis into the light of day, and to put a stop to taxpayer bailouts once and for all," Obama said to supporters. "Today, thanks to a lot of people in this room, those reforms will become the law of the land."

In a note of irony, Obama signed the bill with great fanfare in the massive Ronald Reagan Building, named after a president who championed deregulation.

The president was joined by scores of consumer advocates, state and local government officials, business owners and executives, and members of Congress who supported the bill. Obama singled out for praise Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., and Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., who shepherded the bill through Congress.

In the midst of a heated midterm election season for many lawmakers, Obama sought to put the complex law in consumer-oriented terms for the nation. He said it would help root out fine print and hidden fees for people, and provide deeper scrutiny of the sophisticated financial transactions on Wall Street.

The law also assembles a powerful council of regulators to be on the lookout for risks across the finance system. Large, failing financial institutions will now be liquidated and the costs assessed on their surviving peers. Borrowers will be protected from hidden fees and abusive terms, but also will have to provide evidence that they can repay their loans. The Federal Reserve will get new powers while at the same time coming under expanded congressional oversight.

"While President Obama pats himself on the back today, families and small businesses are bracing for yet another big-government overreach that will make it harder to create new jobs," said the House Republican leader, John Boehner of Ohio.

Though Obama and his top officials urged Congress to pass the law while the memory of the 2008 financial crisis was still fresh, many of the law's provisions won't take effect for at least a year, as regulators scramble to write new rules and implement them.

Large Wall Street banks have welcomed some provisions in the bill, but have fiercely opposed others that would limit their banking business and cut into their profitability.

Obama has at least one contentious remnant from the bill to address. He must still nominate a director for the independent consumer protection bureau, an agency that became one of the bill's flashpoints and was attacked by Republicans as a broad expansion of government power over private business.

Elizabeth Warren, a Harvard law professor, is considered a leading candidate for the job. As head of the Congressional Oversight Panel for the government's $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program, the bank rescue fund known as TARP, she has periodically clashed with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.

Liberals and unions have been aggressively pressing for her appointment. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka was among the latest to voice support for of Warren, saying Tuesday she is the only candidate "uniquely qualified and equipped to head this new agency."

But opposition in the Senate could make Warren's confirmation difficult, a point Dodd made in a radio interview on NPR Monday. White House spokeswoman Amy Brundage said that while the administration has additional candidates in mind, "We are confident she is confirmable."

Also under serious consideration is assistant Treasury secretary Michael Barr, one of the architects of the financial regulation bill and a close ally of some White House officials. Deputy assistant attorney general Eugene Kimmelman is also in the running for the slot.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Jobless benefits clear Senate hurdle by one vote

Jobless benefits clear Senate hurdle by one vote

AP Photo
Senate Republican Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, speaks to reporters just before the Democratic majority voted 60-40 to end a GOP filibuster of legislation that would extend unemployment benefits for an estimated 2.5 million Americans, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, July 20, 2010. Sen. Carte Goodwin, D-W.Va., newly-sworn as the appointed successor to West Virginia's Robert Byrd who died in June, provided the crucial 60th vote for Senate Democrats. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, listens at left.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Senate Democrats broke through a stubborn Republican filibuster Tuesday and pressed to restart jobless benefits for 2 1/2 million Americans still unable to find work in the frail national economic recovery. The Democrats were victorious by the single vote of a new senator sworn in only moments earlier.

Senators voted 60-40 to move ahead on the bill, clearing the way for a final vote in the chamber on Wednesday.

The recovery from the nation's long and deep recession has produced relatively few new jobs so far, and millions of people's unemployment benefits began running out seven weeks ago as Congress bogged down in an impasse over whether the $34 billion cost of a fresh extension of benefits should be paid for with budget cuts or be added to the $13 trillion national debt.

Democrats emphasized the plight of the unemployed and argued that putting money in the pockets of jobless families would also boost economic revival.

"This bill is about jobs because unemployment insurance goes to people who will spend it immediately," said Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont. "That would increase economic demand. And that would help support our fragile economic recovery."

But the numbers are far smaller than last year's $862 billion stimulus legislation. Republicans have blocked Democratic add-ons, such as aid to state governments.

"It's too small to have any noticeable impact on the economy's growth rate," said Joel Naroff, president of Naroff Economic Advisors. "But the benefits do provide an important safety net for people during these difficult economic times."

The economy has added 882,000 jobs so far this year - but many of those were only temporary positions as the federal government geared up to conduct the U.S. Census.

Many Republicans have voted in the past for deficit-financed benefits extension - including twice under the most recent Bush administration. But with the deficit well in excess of $1 trillion, they now say it should be paid for with cuts elsewhere in the $3.7 trillion federal budget.

"We've repeatedly voted for similar bills in the past. And we are ready to support one now," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. "What we do not support - and we make no apologies for - is borrowing tens of billions of dollars to pass this bill at a time when the national debt is spinning completely out of control."

After initially feeling political heat this winter when a lone GOP senator, Jim Bunning of Kentucky, briefly blocked a benefits extension in February, the GOP has grown increasingly comfortable opposing the legislation.

Democrats said that in tough times the government invariably lengthens the eligibility period for jobless benefits as more and more people chase fewer jobs. Such efforts have been deficit-financed - which policymakers and economists say has a stimulative effect on the economy.

The White House signaled Monday that the administration may seek another renewal of benefits in November if unemployment remains painfully high.

After Tuesday's vote, President Barack Obama assailed Republicans for "obstruction and game playing" and promised to redouble his efforts to win enactment of legislation to help small businesses and cash-starved states and to renew an expired middle-class tax cut.

The vote to break the filibuster was a modest victory for Obama and the Democrats, whose more ambitious hopes for jobs legislation have mostly fizzled in the face of GOP opposition in the Senate.

The jobless benefits fight is looming as an issue for the upcoming midterm elections, with Democrats assailing Republicans as harshly seeking to deny benefits to the almost 5 million jobless people whose six months of state-paid benefits have run out. The measure provides federally financed extensions that allow the chronically jobless up to 99 weeks of benefits averaging $309 a week.

But Republicans cast themselves as standing against out-of-control budget deficits, a stand that's popular with their core conservative supporters and the tea party activists whose support they're courting in hopes of retaking control of Congress.

The filibuster-breaking vote came moments after Democrat Carte Goodwin was sworn in to succeed West Virginia Democrat Robert Byrd, who died last month at 92. Goodwin was the crucial 60th senator needed to defeat the Republican filibuster. The Senate gallery was packed with Goodwin supporters, who broke into applause as he cast his "aye" vote.

Two Republicans, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, voted to end the filibuster. Ben Nelson of Nebraska was the lone Democrat to break with his party and vote to sustain it.

After a final Senate vote, the House is expected to approve the legislation and send it to Obama later this week.

Tuesday's action capped months of battling over the jobless benefits extension, which started in February as just one piece of a broader jobs package that included many other provisions such as restoring expired business tax breaks and helping state governments pay their bills.

That broader measure advanced in fits and starts - including a measure that passed the Senate in March that would have added $100 billion to the deficit. But the sands shifted and it collapsed in June despite being cut back considerably.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., then pressed a bare-bones jobless benefits measure - only to fall one vote short because of Byrd's death.

The measure would reauthorize the extended benefits program through the end of November, providing payments to millions of people who've been out of work for six months or more. Maximum benefits in some states are far higher than the $309 a week nationwide average payment. In Massachusetts, the top benefit is $943 a week; in Mississippi, it is $235.

This would be the eighth extension of unemployment benefits since July 2008, at a total cost to taxpayers of more than $120 billion.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Another Arrest in Last Week’s Wounding of Phila. Officer

Another Arrest in Last Week’s Wounding of Phila. Officer

Philadelphia police have nabbed a second suspect in last Thursday’s shooting of police officer Kevin Livewell in the Kensington section of the city.

Officer Livewell was undergoing surgery over the weekend after being shot in the leg. His partner was able to arrest one man, but two others ran off.

KYW’s Jim Melwert reports that police say when officers tried to pull over a van in the 3000 block of North Water Street on Thursday evening, three heavily armed men opened fire.

After the incident, police recovered a cache of eight high-powered weapons at the scene.

On Saturday evening, police announced that one of those being sought was 27-year-old Anel Cuenas (right). This morning it was announced that he had been captured around dawn.

For full story go to:

Family Discovers Body of Missing Woman in Camden

Family Discovers Body of Missing Woman in Camden

The family of a missing Delaware County
woman says they found her body on
Sunday while searching the streets of
Camden. The discovery is a tragic end to
two weeks of searching.

KYW’s Pat Loeb reports that Jenna Lord, 23, disappeared from a Camden train station while trying to get home the morning after Fourth of July. Family members searched for her themselves every day.

Her cousin, Jillian Monahan, says about 50 people gathered for the final search and within two hours found her decomposing body in a vacant lot:

“We’re just glad that our family went out there and we finally found her and now we can put her to rest because she deserves to be at peace.”

For full story go to

Louie Who scores another win for South Africa

Louie Who scores another win for South Africa

AP Photo
South Africa's Louis Oosthuizen hugs his trophy after winning the British Open Golf Championship on the Old Course at St. Andrews, Scotland, Sunday, July 18, 2010.

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland (AP) -- The South Africans have a new soundtrack of success. The drone of the vuvuzela has been succeeded by the skirl of the bagpipe.

One week after beaming in pride at its historic hosting of soccer's World Cup, the nation torn apart by apartheid just a generation ago had another reason to stick out its chest: Louis Oosthuizen won the British Open in a dominating romp. On Nelson Mandela's 92nd birthday, no less.

A white Afrikaner with a black caddie on his bag crossed over the Swilcan Bridge, tapped in the last putt and lifted the claret jug.

Oosthuizen (WUHST'-hy-zen) just wanted to celebrate the moment with family and friends. Others realized there was something more significant going on at the Old Course, another instance of sports transcending a societal divide.

"It's fantastic," said Gary Player, the most prominent golfer to come out of South Africa. "Wonderful things are happening to South Africa. I went back for the final match of the World Cup, and they did a way better job than people imagined."

Of course, soccer's biggest event won't solve the everyday problems and racial tensions that still linger in South Africa. Nor will one man winning a golf tournament.

But there's no denying the pride felt by those who cheered on Oosthuizen while waving the post-apartheid colors of their nation - red, blue, green, yellow and black - or wearing jackets and shirts bearing the words "Bafana Bafana," the nickname of South Africa's soccer team.

"It is a great event for all South Africans, especially because it is the birthday of Nelson Mandela," said caddie Zack Rasego, who usually converses with Oosthuizen in Afrikaans, the language despised by blacks during apartheid as a symbol of the ruling white minority. "It's a great day for us."

It was a great week for Oosthuizen, who started the week as such an unknown that the R&A felt compelled to put out a fact sheet with 11 things one needed to know about the 27-year-old from Mossel Bay.

Did you know the Stormers are his favorite rugby team back home? Or that he lives on a farm next door to his parents when he's in South Africa? Or that when he won for the first time on the European Tour in March, he couldn't get the trophy through airport security because it was deemed a "dangerous object?"

None of those tidbits was as compelling as his golf game, which was rock-solid for all four rounds and never gave anyone a chance to make it close. He led over the final 48 holes of the championship, closing with a 1-under 71 that left him at 16-under 272 overall.

No one else was within seven strokes.

"It felt a bit special out there," he said.

Oosthuizen, who had made the cut only once in eight previous majors, claimed the lead for good way back in the second round. Some figured he was the beneficiary of a fortuitous tee time - in the morning, before the wind started gusting more than 40 mph - and would surely falter in the spotlight of the weekend.

Indeed, Oosthuizen bogeyed his first hole of the third round, and everyone waited for the collapse.

It never came.

He turned in 13 pars and four birdies on Saturday, giving him a commanding four-stroke lead going into the finale. He started Sunday with seven more pars before his bogey-free streak finally ended with a 6-foot miss at No. 8. Again, everyone wondered if he might finally realize this was a position he'd never been in before. Again, he quickly snuffed out the hopes of England's Paul Casey, the only guy who really had a chance to catch him in the final round.

Oosthuizen drove the green at the par-4 ninth, a tempting 352 yards away, and rolled in a 50-foot putt for eagle.

"I needed one putt to really get my rhythm going," he said. "And that eagle on 9, that got me started."

Three holes later, Casey was done. He drove into a gorse bush left of the fairway and had to take a penalty. Then he made a mess of things: a wedge over the bush came up short of the short grass, then he scooted the next shot through the green. He finally putted up, about 4 feet from the cup, but missed that one and took a crushing triple bogey.

Not that it really mattered; not the way Oosthuizen was playing.

"Even if you take away the mistakes I made," Casey said, "I don't think it was good enough to get near Louis. That was an unbelievable performance. He was very calm, played wonderful golf, and all credit to him. I'm disappointed, but the emphasis has to be on that performance, because that was fantastic."

Casey slipped into a tie for third at 280, closing with a 75 that allowed fellow Englishman Lee Westwood to slip by for a runner-up spot no one will remember.

Oosthuizen had only six bogeys all week, and the last of those was a short miss at the next-to-last hole when he was essentially on an extended walk up 18, reveling in the cheers of the crowd at every stop.

About all that did was cost him a chance to break the Open record for largest margin of victory in the modern era, an eight-stroke win last accomplished a decade ago by Tiger Woods at this very course. He missed a 10-footer for birdie at the easy closing hole, costing him a chance to share the mark.

What about Woods? He had romped to dominating wins at the last two Opens on the Old Course, but putting woes that followed an opening 67 ensured he was never much of a factor. He had changed putters before the week, then went back to the old one Sunday. It didn't make much difference when he made a pair of double-bogeys on the front side, settling for a mundane 72 that left him 13 shots behind the winner.

"Actually, I'm driving it better than I have in years," Woods said. "But I'm just not making the putts. It's ironic that as soon as I start driving on a string, I miss everything. Maybe I should go back to spraying it all over the lot and make everything" on the green.

Joining Woods on the list of biggest Open routs was about the only thing that didn't go right for the man dubbed "Shrek," which is sure easier for most people to pronounce than his actual name: Lodewicus Theodorus Oosthuizen. He didn't seem too bothered as he hugged his wife and their 7-month-old daughter, then collected the claret jug that will be in his safekeeping for the next year.

Back in Oosthuizen's homeland, they were coming up with a new nickname for their newest hero, who joined Player, Bobby Locke and Ernie Els as Open champions hailing from South Africa.

"We have the Big Easy," said Dennis Bruyns, CEO of the Southern African PGA, referring to Els.

"Now," Bruyns added, "we have the Ice Cool."

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