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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Judge OKs $139M Court Sale Of Philly Newspapers

Judge OKs $139M Court Sale Of Philly Newspapers


From Ben Bowens

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - A judge quietly approved the bankruptcy sale of Philadelphia’s two largest newspapers to creditors on Thursday, nearly closing a bitter and often chaotic 20-month battle for control of the company.

The sale of The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News is valued at about $139 million, including $105 million cash and the iconic newspaper building.

The senior lenders are essentially paying themselves. All of the approximately 30 banks and hedge funds holding the company’s secured debt will now retain ownership shares, including the hedge fund Angelo, Gordon & Co., which has stakes in newspapers in Los Angeles, Chicago, Minneapolis and other U.S. cities.

Creditors plan to close the sale by Oct. 8. They could close sooner if they can negotiate contract terms with holdout drivers, who derailed the scheduled sale last month.

“We look forward to operating the company out of bankruptcy, revitalizing the Inquirer and Daily News, and building the most successful regional portal in the country,” said incoming Publisher Greg Osberg, referencing the company’s website.

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NJ student's suicide illustrates Internet dangers

NJ student's suicide illustrates Internet dangers

AP Photo
A group participates in a "lie-in" near the Student Center at Rutgers University, in New Brunswick, N.J Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2010. The rally was in support of safe places for gay students, in response to the death of a Rutgers University freshman who jumped off a bridge last week after a recording of him having a sexual encounter with a man was broadcast online.

PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) -- The shocking suicide of a college student whose sex life was broadcast over the Web illustrates yet again the Internet's alarming potential as a means of tormenting others and raises questions whether young people in the age of Twitter and Facebook can even distinguish public from private.

Cruel gossip and vengeful acts once confined to the schoolyard or the dorm can now make their way around the world instantly via the Internet, along with photos and live video.

"It's just a matter of when the next suicide's going to hit, when the next attack's going to hit," said Parry Aftab, a New Jersey lawyer who runs the website WiredSafety.

Last week, Tyler Clementi, a shy, 18-year-old Rutgers University freshman and gifted violist, jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge after his roommate and another classmate allegedly used a webcam to secretly broadcast his dorm-room sexual encounters with another man. The two classmates have been charged with invasion of privacy, with the most serious charges carrying up to five years in prison.

The suicide shocked and disturbed gay rights activists and others on campus.

"Had he been in bed with a woman, this would not have happened," said Rutgers student Lauren Felton, 21, of Warren, N.J. "He wouldn't have been outed via an online broadcast, and his privacy would have been respected and he might still have his life."

The Associated Press found at least 12 cases in the U.S. since 2003 in which children and young adults between 11 and 18 killed themselves after falling victim to some form of "cyberbullying" - teasing, harassing or intimidating with pictures or words distributed online or via text message.

In probably the best-known case, 13-year-old Megan Meier of Daddenne Prairie, Mo., hanged herself in 2006 after she received messages on MySpace - supposedly from a teenage boy - cruelly dumping her. An adult neighbor was later found guilty of taking part in the hoax, but the conviction was overturned.

Earlier this year, 17-year-old Alexis Pilkington of West Islip, N.Y., who had landed a college soccer scholarship, killed herself after receiving a stream of nasty messages.

Gregory Jantz, founder of A Place of Hope, a Seattle mental health care center, said young people who use the Internet to spread something damaging about others often don't realize how hurtful it can be because many of them have grown up in a world that has blurred the line between public and private.

"Our kids are in a different zone now," Jantz said.

Aftab said young people who would never bully someone face to face do it online in part because of the often-false sense of anonymity that the Internet provides.

"They'll also jump on because they don't want to be the next target," Aftab said.

In Clementi's case, prosecutors said that his roommate, Dharun Ravi of Plainsboro, N.J., and Molly Wei of Princeton, N.J., both 18-year-old freshmen, transmitted a live image of Clementi having sex on Sept. 19 and that Ravi tried to webcast a second encounter on Sept. 21, the day before Clementi's suicide. Lawyers for Ravi and Wei did not return calls.

Luanne Peterpaul, vice chairwoman of the gay rights group Garden State Equality and a former New Jersey prosecutor, said authorities might be able to pursue the case as a hate crime under state law if they are able to establish that the defendants acted because they believed Clementi was gay.

Ravi posted a message on his now-closed Twitter account on Sept. 19: "Roommate asked for the room till midnight. I went into molly's room and turned on my webcam. I saw him making out with a dude. Yay."

Prosecutor Bruce J. Kaplan said in a statement: "We will be making every effort to assess whether bias played a role in the incident, and, if so, we will bring appropriate charges."

A lawyer for Clementi's family did not respond to requests for comment on whether Clementi had come out to friends and family about his sexual orientation. He also said the family had no comment.

The mourning continued at Rutgers and in Ridgewood, the suburban New Jersey town where Clementi grew up and attended high school.

"As the father of a 17-year-old, I can't imagine what those parents are feeling today," Gov. Chris Christie said. "Those people who led him to that bridge are going to have to bear that responsibility for the rest of their lives."

Ed Schmiedecke, the recently retired music director at Ridgewood High, called Clementi "a terrific musician and a very promising, hardworking young man."

"Musically, Tyler was destined for greatness," childhood friend Mary Alcaro, who played in a summer music academy with him, said in an e-mail. "I've never heard anyone make a violin sing the way he did."

Students at West Windsor-Plainsboro Regional High School, from which Ravi and Wei graduated, remembered them as nice people who were not in any way homophobic.

Ravi had gay friends, said Derek Yan, 16, a junior. Yan said he chatted online with Ravi about what college life was like, and Ravi "said he was lucky to have a good roommate. He said his roomate was cool."

Lawyer says Whitman's husband saw ex-maid letter

Lawyer says Whitman's husband saw ex-maid letter

AP Photo
California Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman, with he husband Griff Harsh, talks to reporters in Santa Monica, Calif., Thursday, Sept. 30, 2010.

SANTA MONICA, Calif. (AP) -- The attorney for Meg Whitman's former housekeeper released a copy Thursday of a purported 2003 letter that she says shows the Republican gubernatorial candidate knew all along that the maid might be an illegal immigrant.

The letter from the Social Security Administration has emerged as a potentially explosive document in the California governor's race between Whitman and Democrat Jerry Brown. Whitman has called for tougher sanctions against employers who hire illegal workers, and the fact that she had an illegal immigrant on her payroll for a number of years could undercut her credibility.

At issue is whether Whitman knew about the government letter in 2003, as attorney Gloria Allred and the former housekeeper have alleged. Whitman said she and her husband never saw the letter.

But Allred produced a copy of the letter Thursday that she says shows Whitman's husband, Dr. Griffith Harsh, partially filled it out. If true, that would mean Whitman and her husband were aware of the immigration problem years ago.

"At bottom of letter, "Dr. Harsh has written: 'Nicky, please check this. Thanks,'" Allred said, adding that the housekeeper recognized the handwriting as belonging to Whitman's husband.

A message left with the Whitman campaign was not immediately returned. Harsh did not respond to questions from The Associated Press about whether he had seen the letter or whether the writing was his.

Whitman said earlier that she and her husband never got the letter, which noted a discrepancy in Diaz Santillan's Social Security number. Whitman says they fired Diaz Santillan last year after she told them she was in the U.S. illegally.

She suggested that the housekeeper may have intercepted the letter, since she was in charge of the mail at the couple's Silicon Valley home.

For a second straight day, Whitman forcefully denied the allegations and called them a "political smear on me, on my family, and based on lies." She said her Democratic opponent, Jerry Brown, was behind the story and that the housekeeper was being manipulated for political gain.

When asked at a news conference whether the worker might have taken the letter intended for Whitman, she said "it's very possible." The housekeeper was in charge of going through the mail, she said.

"She might have been on the lookout for that letter," Whitman said. "It would pain me to believe that that's what she might have done but I have no other explanation."

Whitman said repeatedly that she and her husband were shocked when Diaz Santillan, their housekeeper of nine years, came to them and confessed she was in the U.S. illegally in June 2009, nearly five months after Whitman had announced an exploratory run for California governor. She said she immediately suspended her and later fired her.

The immigration flap has served as a major headache for Whitman in her tight race against Brown. They are in a dead heat according to the latest polls, despite Whitman having spent nearly $120 million of her fortune so far.

One of the state's largest public employee unions immediately released a Spanish-language attack ad accusing her of saying one thing in her Spanish-language ads and another when she speaks in English.

Whitman has called for tougher sanctions against employers who hire illegal workers, and the allegations could undercut her credibility just weeks before Election Day and damage her image, particularly with Hispanics she has pursued for months.

When asked why she didn't turn the former employee into authorities, Whitman said "I was very fond of Nicky and I didn't want to make an example of her." She said her current housekeeper is "absolutely documented to work there."

"It's not an obligation of the employer to turn in illegal employees and I just thought 'I'm not gonna make an example of Nicky,'" Whitman said.

The campaign released employment applications filled out when the former housekeeper was hired in 2000, including a copy of a Social Security card and a California driver's license, that indicated the woman was a legal resident. Whitman's campaign has said Diaz Santillan admitted to using her sister's documents when she applied for the $23-an-hour job.

The timing of the allegations, the lack of documentation to support the claims and Allred's Democratic ties left her open to questions about motive in the tight race. Allred once gave money to Brown, and she was a Hillary Rodham Clinton delegate at the Democratic National Convention in 2008.

Allred said she hasn't endorsed Brown, made any contribution or even seen Brown "for a substantial period of time."

"This is an attempt by me to help Nicky have a voice and make known what she has suffered in Meg Whitman's household."

The allegations also come ahead of a scheduled Saturday Spanish-language debate that will include questions of importance to the Hispanic community.

Whitman has aggressively wooed Hispanic voters, who are typically Democratically aligned, and recent public opinion polls show she is having some success. Whitman has Spanish-language radio and TV ads and billboards - even Spanish-language posters at bus stops in Hispanic neighborhoods.

The letter at issue - dated April 22, 2003, according to Allred - noted a discrepancy between the Social Security number provided by the housekeeper and the name on file with the agency.

Such letters can be a tip-off about possible immigration problems, although the agency stopped sending them to employers in 2007.

The housekeeper said she was told to "check on this," then never heard about the letter again. Allred said Whitman continued to receive letters about the mismatched Social Security number, which Diaz Santillan found in the trash.

According to the Social Security Administration's website, such letters first go to the employee, and then are sent to an employer about two weeks later - making it plausible that Diaz Santillan could have been on the lookout for it.

Agency spokesman Mark Lassiter said that from 2003-2006 an employer had to have more than 10 employees whose Social Security numbers and names did not match to receive a warning letter. It was not immediately clear how many domestic employees Whitman had during that time.

"An employer with one or two employees in 2003 to 2006 would not have gotten an employer ... letter," Lassiter said.

In 2000, when Diaz Santillan was hired through an agency, Whitman said "we specified with the agent we wanted to make sure we had someone who was here legally to work in the United States."

Whitman gave the name of the employment agency that connected her family with Diaz Santillan, Town & Country Resources in Menlo Park. Jens Hillen, co-president of the company, did not return multiple calls seeking comment from The Associated Press.

Whitman said Diaz Santillan was like a member of the family, frequently bringing her children to Whitman's home, where they played in Whitman's leafy backyard with the family dog.

Brown's spokesman, Sterling Clifford, said in a statement that Whitman apparently thinks the rules don't apply to her.

"After more than a year of Whitman demanding immigration policy that 'holds employers accountable,' we learn that accountability doesn't extend to her own actions," he said.

Clifford said the Browns use a well-known national housekeeping service that comes twice a month to their home in the Oakland Hills. He said Brown has never knowingly employed an illegal immigrant.

Allred is known for savvy - some say manipulative - media skills that get her clients in the public eye. Her decision to withhold "evidence" related to the Diaz Santillan case until Thursday guaranteed her case another day of headlines.

AP sources: Emanuel leaving White House on Friday

AP sources: Emanuel leaving White House on Friday

AP Photo
FILE - In this April 27, 2010 file photo, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel laughs as he takes some good natured ribbing about his recent comment about someday wanting to be mayor of Chicago while participating in the sixth annual Richard J. Daley Global Cities Forum in Chicago. Two people familiar with Rahm Emanuel's plans, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they did not want to pre-empt Emanuel's announcement, said Thursday, Sept. 30, 2010, that he will resign as White House chief of staff on Friday, and will begin his campaign for Chicago mayor by meeting with voters in the city on Monday.

CHICAGO (AP) -- Rahm Emanuel will resign as White House chief of staff on Friday and will begin his campaign for Chicago mayor by meeting with voters in the city on Monday, two people familiar with Emanuel's plans said.

The two people, who spoke Thursday on condition of anonymity because they did not want to pre-empt Emanuel's announcement, said he will return to Chicago over the weekend and begin touring neighborhoods Monday.

"He intends to run for mayor," one of the people told The Associated Press.

Both people said they did not know when Emanuel would make an official announcement about his mayoral bid but that he would launch a website with a message to Chicago voters in the near future.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said President Barack Obama plans to make a personnel announcement Friday.

Emanuel's plans have been the source of widespread speculation both in Chicago and Washington, D.C. ever since Mayor Richard Daley announced this month he would not seek re-election. In an April television interview, Emanuel had called it "no secret" he'd like to run for mayor.

Daley, who has held the mayor's job since 1989 and carried on a family dynasty, surprised many with his announcement. The choice for Emanuel suddenly became whether he would make a dash for the political job he has openly coveted, at a cost of uprooting his family again and quitting his post of national influence sooner than he thought.

When he ultimately announces his candidacy, Emanuel instantly becomes the most recognizable name in what is already a crowded field of candidates and possible candidates. Already with well over $1 million in his war chest and his well documented ability to raise huge amounts of money for political candidates around the country, Emanuel"s campaign would be extremely well funded.

Other possible candidates include Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, who has made a name for himself in the Chicago area for suing Craigslist, among other things; former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun; at least one state senator and a city alderman.

A number of African Americans besides Moseley Braun are considering running, including Rep. Danny Davis and James Meeks, a state senator and prominent black minister. Black ministers, politicians and others have discussed throwing their support behind a single candidate.

A number of possible candidates, including Moseley Braun, Davis, Meeks and Dart, are in the process of collecting the 12,500 signatures necessary to win a spot on the February ballot.

Those running against Emanuel are sure to label him an outsider, and Emanuel will counter by stressing his ties to the city, particularly his tenure in Congress representing the district that includes Chicago's North Side.

In Washington, Emanuel's departure, though expected by the political world for days now, is still an unquestioned loss for Obama. The president has counted on Emanuel's intensity, discipline and congressional relationships to keep the White House focused and aggressive. The job comes with nearly unrivaled pressure and power.

Obama is expected to install senior adviser Pete Rouse, a calm White House presence with his own seasoned understanding of how Washington work, to serve as interim chief of staff. Gibbs said the president has "complete loyalty and trust" in Rouse, though he wouldn't confirm Rouse had been tapped for the interim post.

The president is likely to choose a permanent chief of staff after the Nov. 2 midterm elections. Top contenders are Rouse, deputy national security adviser Tom Donilon and Ron Klain, the chief of staff to Vice President Joe Biden, according to aides close to the president.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Phillies Janitor Who Stole World Series Ring Gets Prison

Phillies Janitor Who Stole World Series Ring Gets Prison

World Series Ring

From edfischer

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – A former janitor at Citizens Bank Park has been sentenced to prison for stealing a diamond-encrusted World Series championship ring from the park in August of last year.

Anthony Mobley previously admitted he stole the ring — valued at well over $10,000 — and stashed it nearby when it was left behind by a Phillies’ executive in an executive bathroom at the park.

Prosecutor AJ Nardozzi argued for prison time:

“The judge imposed a sentenced of three to 23 months, followed by four years of reporting probation. So he will be under the court’s supervision for the next six years.”

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NJ Student Secretly Taped Having Sex Kills Himself

NJ Student Secretly Taped Having Sex Kills Himself

0 Rutgers

From SteveBeck

RIDGEWOOD, N.J. (AP) – A New Jersey college student jumped to his death off a bridge a day after authorities say two classmates surreptitiously recorded him having sex with a man in his dorm room and broadcast it over the Internet.

Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi jumped from the George Washington Bridge last week, said his family’s attorney, Paul Mainardi. Police recovered a man’s body Wednesday afternoon in the Hudson River just north of the bridge, and authorities were trying to determine if it was Clementi’s.

Two Rutgers freshmen have been charged with illegally taping the 18-year-old Clementi having sex and broadcasting the images via an Internet chat program.

Steven Goldstein, chairman of the gay rights group Garden State Equality, said in a statement Wednesday that his group considers Clementi’s death a hate crime.

“We are heartbroken over the tragic loss of a young man who, by all accounts, was brilliant, talented and kind,” Goldstein said. “And we are sickened that anyone in our society, such as the students allegedly responsible for making the surreptitious video, might consider destroying others’ lives as a sport.”

One of the defendants, Dharun Ravi, was Clementi’s roommate, Mainardi told The Star-Ledger of Newark. The other defendant is Molly Wei. They could face up to five years in prison if they’re convicted.

A lawyer for Ravi, of Plainsboro, did not immediately return a message. It was not clear whether Wei, of Princeton, had retained a lawyer.

A Twitter account belonging to a Dharun was recently deleted, but in a cached version retained through Google he sent a message on Sept. 19: “Roommate asked for the room till midnight. I went into molly’s room and turned on my webcam. I saw him making out with a dude. Yay.”

For full story go to:

Congress punts tough choice until after election

Congress punts tough choice until after election

AP Photo
House Sspeaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., left, welcomes Elizabeth Warren, assistant to the president, special advisor to the secretary of the treasury on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2010, in her office on Capitol Hill in Washington.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A deeply unpopular Congress is bolting for the campaign trail without finishing its most basic job - approving a budget for the government year that begins on Friday. Lawmakers also are postponing a major fight over taxes, two embarrassing ethics cases and other political hot potatoes until after the Nov. 2 elections.

With their House and Senate majorities on the line, Democratic leaders called off votes and even debates on all controversial matters.

"It would be one thing if you have a chance to pass something, then by all means have a vote," Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., said Wednesday. "But it was pretty clear that it was going to be mutually assured destruction."

It was a messy end to a session fraught with partisan fire.

"We may not agree on much, but I think with rare exception, all 100 senators want to get out of here and get back to their states," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who is locked in a tough re-election fight against Republican Sharron Angle in Nevada.

One foot out the door, the House and Senate convened just long enough to vote on a "continuing resolution," a stopgap measure to keep the government in operating funds for the next two months and avoid a pre-election federal shutdown. Even that, along with passing a few minor agreed-upon bills, was expected to take into the night and possibly into Thursday.

Staying or going might seem an equally unpleasant prospect for some embattled Democrats, who are facing more than four weeks of defending unpopular votes in favor of President Barack Obama's economic stimulus measure, health care law and uncompleted legislation for curbing global warming.

They also head home without what was supposed to be their closing argument of the campaign, an extension of Bush-era tax cuts for families making less than $250,000.

Republicans and a few Democrats urged Congress to preserve the tax cuts for all Americans, even the wealthiest. Democratic leaders opted to avoid the risk of being branded tax hikers and punted the matter until after the elections.

Republicans applied the label anyway, scolding Democrats for folding the tent without voting on extending former President George W. Bush's tax cuts beyond their Dec. 31 expiration. A motion to adjourn upon completing routine business passed by a single vote, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's, after 39 Democrats joined Republicans in protest.

"If Democratic leaders leave town without stopping all of the tax hikes, they are turning their backs on the American people," said House Minority Leader John Boehner.

Pelosi has vowed that the middle class tax cuts will be passed this year.

Republicans also denounced Democrats for delaying the ethics trials of Reps. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., and Maxine Waters, D-Calif., until after the elections. Both lawmakers had said they wanted trials as soon as possible.

House leaders also appeared unlikely to call a vote on a Senate-passed school nutrition bill favored by first lady Michelle Obama. The bill is opposed by liberals because it would cut food stamp benefits to find the money to pay for better school lunches. The Senate passed the $4.5 billion legislation in August, and many of the child nutrition programs it includes are to expire on Thursday, the last day of the fiscal year. They'll be temporarily extended under the stopgap bill.

In the waning hours before adjournment, Democrats moved what smaller legislation they could.

The House was advancing to Obama's desk a bill setting NASA policy and legislation aimed at strengthening congressional oversight of sensitive spy operations. But a House measure to provide free health care and additional compensation to World Trade Center workers sickened in the towers' crumbled ruins was sure to stall in the Senate.

A single GOP senator, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, was blocking a bipartisan effort on a separate bill to provide $1.2 billion to remedy discrimination claims against the Agriculture Department by black farmers and $3.4 billion to settle claims that the Interior Department mismanaged Indian trust funds.

The stopgap spending measure was kept clean of a host of add-ons sought by the Obama administration, including money for "Race to the Top" grants to better-performing schools and more than $4 billion to finance settlements of long-standing lawsuits by black farmers and American Indians against the government.

Negotiations continued, however, on a separate bill to provide $1.2 billion to remedy discrimination by the Agriculture Department against black farmers and $3.4 billion to settle claims that the Interior Department mismanaged Indian trust funds. Prospects were being helped by the addition of several measures - favored by western Republicans - to resolve Indian water claims.

The stopgap bill is a reminder of the dismal performance by Congress in doing its most basic job - passing an annual budget and the spending bills for agency operations.

Only two of a dozen annual appropriations bills have passed the House this year and none has passed the Senate as Democratic leaders have opted against lengthy floor debates and politically difficult votes on spending.

The breakdown in the budget process includes a senator from Obama's own party holding up the confirmation of a director to head the White House budget office, a critical post. Mary Landrieu, D-La., is blocking the nomination until the administration lifts or significantly modifies a Gulf oil well moratorium imposed after the BP spill.

The end-of session agenda included:

- A legislative blueprint for NASA's future that would extend the life of the space shuttle program for a year while backing Obama's intent to use commercial carriers to carry humans into space. Obama will sign the measure.

- The first intelligence authorization bill since 2004, with compromise language on demands by Congress for greater access to top secret intelligence. The most secret briefings will still only be provided to top congressional leaders, but members of the intelligence panels will receive a general description of the programs. The House was clearing the measure for Obama.

The child nutrition bill ran into trouble after House supporters abandoned their own $8 billion version and proposed passing the Senate version, which would be partially paid for by using future funding for food stamp programs. The bill now faces opposition from hunger groups, and some Democrats have said they will not support it if the food stamp money is used.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Pa. Man Arrives In Philly In Round-The-World Charity Run

Pa. Man Arrives In Philly In Round-The-World Charity Run

stoy_alex runner adkins

A 33-year old man running around the world for charity stopped at the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia today.

It’s been a tough year for Alex Stoy. He lost his mother, several friends, and his dream job, so he decided it was time for a big change.

So now he’s running 30 kilometers and doing 30 yoga exercises in 30 different cities to raise awareness and money for needy kids and mental health facilities.

His local run was a homecoming:

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Sour economic mood in living room and boardroom

Sour economic mood in living room and boardroom

AP Photo
In this Sept. 21, 2010 photo, two unemployed men await interviews at an employment center in San Jose, Calif. Americans' view of the economy turned grimmer in September amid escalating job worries, falling to the lowest point since February.

NEW YORK (AP) -- Americans in both the living room and the boardroom are growing more fearful about the economy, creating a Catch-22 for the job market: Shoppers won't spend until they feel more secure, and business won't hire until people start spending.

The eroding views were revealed Tuesday by two separate surveys, one that found everyday Americans are increasingly pessimistic about jobs and another that found CEOs have grimmer predictions about upcoming sales.

"The economy is stuck in an unvirtuous cycle," said Mark Vitner, an economist at Wells Fargo. "Consumers are waiting for more jobs to be created, and businesses are waiting for consumers."

The monthly consumer confidence index from the Conference Board, a private research group, fell to 48.5 in September, its lowest point since February and down from 53.2 in August. Economists surveyed by Thomson Reuters were expecting 52.5 for September.

It takes a reading of 90 to indicate a healthy economy - a level not approached since the recession began in December 2007.

Meanwhile, a poll by Business Roundtable, an association of CEOs of big companies, found two-thirds of chief executives expected sales to grow over the next six months. That's down from 79 percent in June.

Causing uncertainty for both groups, Vitner says, are the Nov. 2 elections, when voters worried about increasing deficits and the economy's slow recovery will decide whether to keep Democrats in power in Congress.

The Federal Reserve's efforts to pump up the economy and lower the unemployment rate, stuck at almost 10 percent, have fallen short. Fed chief Ben Bernanke has signaled that the Fed is prepared to take new action if things get worse, but there's no easy solution.

Some companies that had big rounds of layoffs during the worst of the recession, such as drugmaker Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., are still trimming work forces to bring down costs.

The CEO survey suggests companies will be wary about adding workers into 2011. Only 31 percent of CEOs said they expected to increase their payrolls in the next six months, down from 39 percent in June, which was the best reading since before the recession.

The recession is technically over - a panel of economists declared this month that it lasted 18 months and came to an end in July 2009 - but Americans are just as downbeat as they were a year ago.

Consumer confidence "remains quite grim," Franco said. "There's been no consistency and no momentum."

While unemployment is the biggest factor in depressing Americans' moods, they're also dealing with tight credit and depressed home values. Home prices ticked up in July for the fourth straight month, helped by the now-expired home credits, but many cities are bracing for declines in the year ahead, according to the Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index.

The declining confidence came as stocks staged a rally in September, putting the Dow Jones industrial average ahead for 2010. Tuesday's report made investors jittery, but major indexes broke even as traders were encouraged by a flurry of corporate deals.

The consumer confidence index was based on a random survey mailed to 5,000 households from Sept. 1 to Sept. 21.

Obama both rallies, scolds Dems in campaign trip

Obama both rallies, scolds Dems in campaign trip

AP Photo
President Barack Obama addresses an invited group of guest at the home of Andy Cavalier, Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2010 in Albuquerque, N.M.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) -- Buck up. Stop whining. And get to work.

Clearly frustrated by Republicans' energy - and his own party's lack of enthusiasm - President Barack Obama scolded fellow Democrats even as he rallied them Tuesday in an effort to save the party from big GOP gains in the crucial midterm elections. In the final month of campaigning, he's trying to re-energize young voters, despondent liberals and other Democrats whose excitement over his election has dissipated.

"It is inexcusable for any Democrat or progressive right now to stand on the sidelines," the president declared in a Rolling Stone magazine interview. He said that supposed supporters who are "sitting on their hands complaining" are irresponsible because the consequences of Republican congressional victories could be dashed Democratic plans.

He gave an example during a backyard conversation with New Mexico voters, arguing that Republicans would reverse the progress he's made on education reform and student aid. "That's the choice that we've got in this election," Obama said, underscoring the stakes of Nov. 2 before heading to a rally at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.

It's the first of four large rallies planned for the campaign homestretch as the president tries to rekindle some of his 2008 campaign magic and fire up young supporters and others who helped elect Obama but who Democrats fear may stay home this fall. Top lieutenants Vice President Joe Biden, Democratic Party Chairman Tim Kaine and Cabinet members also fanned out on other college campuses to call party foot soldiers to action.

At Penn State University in State College, Pa., Biden noted he was criticized a day earlier in New Hampshire for urging Democrats to "remind our base constituency to stop whining and get out there and look at the alternatives."

"All I heard when I got here in Happy Valley was the roar of lion. Folks, it's time for us to roar," Biden said, pressing his audience to knock on doors, make phone calls and commit to vote.

With the elections looming, the White House and Democratic Party are focused primarily on trying to compel their core voters - liberals and minority groups - as well as the ideologically broad coalition that helped elect Obama in 2008 to participate in the first congressional elections of his presidency.

They have little choice.

Midterm contests largely come down to which party can get out more of its backers. And polls show that Republicans are far more enthusiastic this year partly because of tea party anger. Also, polls show Democrats can't count on independent voters who carried them to victory in consecutive national elections.

Mindful of that and armed with polling, the White House has started arguing that voters who backed Obama in 2008 must turn out for Democrats this year because the GOP wants to undo what the president has accomplished, that the "hope and change" Obama backers embraced two years ago is at risk if Republicans sweep these elections.

"We are focused on motivation, not laying blame or pointing fingers, because the consequences for sitting this election out could be disastrous," said Dan Pfeiffer, the White House communications director.

White House aides said House Republicans "Pledge to America" last week made it easier for Obama to do something he's been trying for weeks: to frame the election as a choice between Democrats' ideas and Republicans' proposals. By signaling plans for deep spending cuts in popular areas such as education, officials said, the GOP pledge presented an opportunity for the White House to remind voters, and particularly the base, what's at stake in November.

Aides say Obama was trying to underscore those stakes in his interview with Rolling Stone, and the final-stretch strategy - in everything from rhetoric to events - is to underscore that midterm elections have consequences.

"People need to shake off this lethargy. People need to buck up," Obama said in the interview. "Bringing about change is hard - that's what I said during the campaign. It has been hard, and we've got some lumps to show for it."

"But if people now want to take their ball and go home, that tells me folks weren't serious in the first place. If you're serious, now's exactly the time that people have to step up," Obama added.

He was speaking to all Democrats, including first-time voters in 2008 and liberals who have complained that Obama sacrificed his campaign promises on health care and national security for legislative compromise.

Democratic-leaning groups have largely been missing from the TV airwaves this fall as GOP-aligned organizations pummel Democratic House and Senate candidates with attack ads. Seeing allies outspent 6-1, White House aides recently decided to use that disparity to compel their base to vote.

Several Democratic strategists privately fear that the strategy to motivate Democrats with sternness could backfire partly because it runs counter to Obama's carefully cultivated hopeful, uplifting image. There's also some concern that it could further alienate liberals and other Democratic critics who don't think Obama has done enough to pursue issues important to them.

"It's not helpful," said John Aravosis, the editor of the progressive "The base is depressed and they're depressing it even more, and it's not clear why."

Said DailyKos founder Markos Moulitsas: "They wouldn't be in this predicament if they delivered on their campaign promises, rather than waste the last two years putting bipartisanship above action."

Obama's tough-love comments came just days before more than 300 liberal groups planned to participate in a rally on the National Mall on Saturday.

During the three-day trip, Obama also was trying to counter the notion that he's out of touch as well as sway undecided voters with a series of backyard visits - in Albuquerque, Des Moines, Iowa; and Richmond, Va. - that give him time to explain his policies in everyday settings. He's recently embraced this form of intimate-but-televised event to defend and explain his record on the economy, health care and other topics.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Vick has evolved into a complete quarterback

Vick has evolved into a complete quarterback

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick (7), right, rushes past Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Aaron Kampman (74) for a 17-yard touchdown during the third quarter of an NFL football game in Jacksonville, Fla., Sunday, Sept. 26, 2010. Vick threw three touchdown passes, ran for another score and the Philadelphia Eagles defeated the Jacksonville Jaguars 28-3 Sunday. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick (7), right,
rushes past Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Aaron
Kampman (74) for a 17-yard touchdown during the third
quarter of an NFL football game in Jacksonville, Fla.,
Sunday, Sept. 26, 2010. Vick threw three touchdown
passes, ran for another score and the Philadelphia Eagles
defeated the Jacksonville Jaguars 28-3 Sunday.

PHILADELPHIA -- The new Michael Vick makes big plays with his arm instead of his legs.

Vick's evolution as quarterback is summed up perfectly by the way he operated a hurry-up offense in Philadelphia's 28-3 win at Jacksonville on Sunday. He's no longer a run-first guy who quickly takes off with the ball if his primary option is covered. Rather, he's found success in the pocket.

Vick has an even bigger challenge coming up when the Eagles (2-1) host Washington (1-2) in Donovan McNabb's return to Philadelphia.

But the way Vick is playing now, he might be a better fit for the Eagles than even McNabb, who led them to five NFC championship games in 11 seasons.

"I think both of them are tremendous and playing very well right now, so I'm not going to get into comparisons," Eagles coach Andy Reid said Monday.

With 1:37 left in the first half against Jacksonville, the Eagles got the ball at the Jaguars 47 with no timeouts remaining. The seven-play sequence that followed showed how far Vick has come in his development.

Vick withstood a blitz, took a hit and threw the ball away on first down. The old Vick might have taken a sack by trying to escape the rush, or thrown an interception by passing into coverage.

Vick got pressured on the next play and was nearly in the grasp when he dumped a short pass for a 2-yard gain. Once again, he didn't take a sack or attempt a risky pass.

On third-and-8, Vick threw a 21-yard strike over the middle to Brent Celek. It was a beautiful pass in traffic that was out of the reach of the defenders and hit Celek in stride, keeping the drive going.

After a deep incompletion, Vick fired a 14-yard out to Jeremy Maclin, who failed to get out of bounds. Vick alertly rushed everyone to the line of scrimmage and spiked the ball.

That set up first down at the Jaguars 16 with 12 seconds left. The coaches called for maximum protection on the next play, leaving the tight end, fullback and running back in for extra protection. Maclin and DeSean Jackson were Vick's only targets. He couldn't take a sack or the first half would end. If he ran, he had to score or the clock would expire.

Vick dropped back and focused his eyes on Jackson. He felt pressure despite having eight blockers, darted out of the way, reset his feet, looked off Jackson and threw a backdoor pass to Maclin coming across the end zone for a touchdown that gave the Eagles a 14-3 lead.

The old Vick probably wouldn't have waited for Maclin to come open underneath. He would've run once he saw Jackson was blanketed by the secondary.

But the new No. 7 wears green and white instead of red and black, and is playing like a complete quarterback. This version of Vick is better than the dynamic superstar who went to three Pro Bowls in six seasons with Atlanta.

Vick's progress can be measured by the discipline he showed not just on that touchdown pass, but the entire two-minute drive.

"He's being very decisive right now in his decision-making," Reid said.

Vick benefited from watching McNabb run Philadelphia's offense last year, and improved his study habits and throwing mechanics. It helps he has excellent teachers in Reid and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, and perhaps more importantly, he has outstanding receivers. In Atlanta, Vick had to do it all. Here, he has a strong supporting cast.

"About his study habits, he's really cranked down on those and we have to kind of kick him out of the building here," Reid said. "He's here all the time and that's a good thing. I don't know if that's the way it was always in his career. And then, he has some pretty good receivers there to throw to. I'm not saying he didn't in Atlanta, but I'm saying here he has some pretty good receivers that know that game and he can put it out there and they can go get it."

In 2 1/2 games, Vick has completed 60.7 percent of his passes for 750 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions. He has a passer rating of 110.2, and also has 170 yards rushing and one TD.

Vick has helped the Eagles significantly in the red zone, an area where they struggled under McNabb and in the brief time Kevin Kolb was the starter. With Vick behind center, the offense has seven TDs in eight trips inside an opponent's 20-yard line.

"If you go back to my days in Atlanta, I thought we always did a good job in the red zone and had a high efficiency and percentage in the red zone and were able to score a lot of points," Vick said. "My eyes light up when we get down there and I think everybody else on this football team does, too. You have to go out there and put the ball in the end zone. You work so hard to get down there and you don't want field goals, you want touchdowns."

Vick earned the starting job with a pair of dazzling performances after Kolb sustained a concussion. He backed up Reid's flip-flop decision to make him the starter with another stellar effort against the Jaguars.

Vick threw for 291 yards and three TDs and ran for another. For the first time in his career, he's had consecutive 250-yard games and three straight games with a passer rating above 100.

"He's worked so hard to get back where he needs to be and it's a great opportunity for him to go out there and prove everybody wrong," Jackson said.

Bucks Sports League Head Gets Prison For Embezzlement

Bucks Sports League Head Gets Prison For Embezzlement


The former president and treasurer of the Warrington-Warwick Athletic Association’s girls’ basketball league in Bucks County is headed to prison for stealing tens of thousands of dollars from the nonprofit organization.

Joseph Anderson pleaded guilty today to felony theft charges and was sentenced to 10-23 months in the county prison followed by three years’ probation.

Prosecutors say the 59-year-old accountant wrote more than 100 checks to himself over a five-year period, embezzling about $70,000 they say was used to pay his bills.

Prosecutor Jay Karsch:

“When people are placed in a position of trust and they violate that position of trust, and in a nonprofit organization like this, they need to be punished for it. And also, a message needs to be sent.”

For full story go to:

Mother Of Murdered Philadelphia Tow Truck Driver Speaks Out

Mother Of Murdered Philadelphia Tow Truck Driver Speaks Out

tow truck victim

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The mother of a murdered Philadelphia tow truck driver is pleading for an end to violence that, she says, cost her son his life early Sunday morning on a bar parking lot at Frankford and Lehigh Aves in Kensington.

tow truck victim

From Jessica McWilliams

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The mother of a murdered Philadelphia tow truck driver is pleading for an end to violence that, she says, cost her son his life early Sunday morning on a bar parking lot at Frankford and Lehigh Aves in Kensington.

Ray Santiago, a father of two young sons, was allegedly run down by another tow truck driver, Glen McDaniel, in a fight over tow truck territory rights. McDaniel is now being held without bail on murder and other charges.

Rosaura Santiago says her son was working hard in a tough dangerous business to support his family. Santiago’s death was the most recent, and worst, in a series of violent incidents involving tow truck drivers including towing offices hit by bullets, vehicles torched and another tower shot and wounded.

Police tell CBS that money might be driving the violent rivalries, a single tow potentially netting a driver as much as 500 to a thousand dollars.

For full story go to:

Phillies Clinch Playoff Spot, Wait To Win NL East

Phillies Clinch Playoff Spot, Wait To Win NL East

Phillies, Fans

PHILADELPHIA (AP) – The going-nowhere New York Mets made sure the Philadelphia Phillies took their champagne on the road.

The Phillies, however, are at least assured of going to the playoffs.

Carlos Beltran hit a pair of homers, David Wright also connected and the Mets beat Philadelphia 7-3 on Sunday, preventing the Phillies from clinching their fourth straight NL East title at home.

“The champagne was on ice and the fans here are very passionate. I’m glad we were able to get it done,” Mets manager Jerry Manuel said.

The two-time defending NL champions came in needing a win and a loss by Atlanta to secure the division crown. The Braves lost 4-2 to Washington, dropping Philadelphia’s magic number to one.

For full story go to:

Officer Opens Fire On Robbery Suspect Inside Public Library

Officer Opens Fire On Robbery Suspect Inside Public Library

Library Shooting

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – A Philadelphia Police officer shot a robbery suspect inside of the Philadelphia Free Public Library of Greater Olney just after 3 p.m. on Monday afternoon.

The incident happened near the 5th and Tabor intersection. Officer’s responding to the robbery of a shoe store on the 5500 block of N. 5th street pursued the suspect into the library just down the block.

For full story go to:

Obama presses for longer school years

Obama presses for longer school years

AP Photo
President Barack Obama is interviewed on the NBC "Today Show" and broadcast to an audience in New York at the NBC News' "Education Nation" Summit on Monday, Sept. 27, 2010.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Barely into the new school year, President Barack Obama issued a tough-love message to students and teachers on Monday: Their year in the classroom should be longer, and poorly performing teachers should get out.

American students are falling behind their foreign counterparts, especially in math and science, and that's got to change, Obama said. Seeking to revive a sense of urgency that education reform may have lost amid the recession's focus on the economy, Obama declared that the future of the country is at stake.

"Whether jobs are created here, high-end jobs that support families and support the future of the American people, is going to depend on whether or not we can do something about these schools," the president said in an interview on NBC's "Today" show.

U.S. schools through high school offer an average of 180 instruction days per year, according to the Education Commission of the States, compared to an average of 197 days for lower grades and 196 days for upper grades in countries with the best student achievement levels, including Japan, South Korea, Germany and New Zealand.

"That month makes a difference," the president said. "It means that kids are losing a lot of what they learn during the school year during the summer. It's especially severe for poorer kids who may not see as many books in the house during the summers, aren't getting as many educational opportunities."

Obama said teachers and their profession should be more highly honored - as in China and some other countries, he said - and he said he wanted to work with the teachers' unions. But he also said that unions should not defend a status quo in which one-third of children are dropping out. He challenged them not to be resistant to change.

And the president endorsed the firing of teachers who, once given the chance and the help to improve, are still falling short.

"We have got to identify teachers who are doing well. Teachers who are not doing well, we have got to give them the support and the training to do well. And if some teachers aren't doing a good job, they've got to go," Obama said.

They're goals the president has articulated in the past, but his ability to see them realized is limited. States set the minimum length of school years, and although there's experimentation in some places, there's not been wholesale change since Obama issued the same challenge for more classroom time at the start of the past school year.

One issue is money, and although the president said that lengthening school years would be "money well spent," that doesn't mean cash-strapped states and districts can afford it.

"It comes down to the old bugaboo, resources. It costs money to keep kids in school," said Mayor Scott Smith of Mesa, Ariz. "Everyone believes we can achieve greater things if we have a longer school year. The question is how do you pay for it."

One model is Massachusetts, where the state issues grants to districts that set out clear plans on how they would use the money to constructively lengthen instructional class time, said Kathy Christie, chief of staff at the Education Commission of the States. Obama's Education Department already is using competitions among states for curriculum grant money through its "Race to the Top" initiative.

"The federal carrots of additional money would help more states do it or schools do it in states where they don't have a state grant process," Christie said.

But the federal budget is hard-up, too. And while many educators believe students would benefit from more quality learning time, the idea is not universally popular.

In Kansas, sporadic efforts by local districts to extend the school year at even a few schools have been met by parental resistance, said state education commissioner Diane DeBacker.

"It's been tried," she said, describing one instance of a Topeka-area elementary school that scrapped year-round schooling after just one year. "The community was just not ready for kids to be in school all summer long. Kids wanted to go swimming. Their families wanted to go on vacation."

Teachers' unions say they're open to the discussion of longer classroom time, but they also say that pay needs to be part of the conversation. As for Obama's call for ousting underperforming teachers, National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel said unions weren't the main stumbling block there, as many education reformers assert.

"No one wants an incompetent teacher in the classroom," Van Roekel said. "It's in the hiring, and in those first three to five years no teacher has the right to due process."

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Vick Accounts for 4 TDs as Eagles Rout Jags 28-3

Vick Accounts for 4 TDs as Eagles Rout Jags 28-3

Michael Vick, Jason Peters
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback
Michael Vick (7) is lifted in the air
by teammate Philadelphia Eagles
offensive tackle Jason Peters (71)
after throwing a touchdown pass
in the second quarter during an
NFL football game against the
Jacksonville Jaguars in Jacksonville,
Fla., Sunday, Sept. 26, 2010.

Michael Vick threw three touchdown passes, ran for another score and the Philadelphia Eagles defeated the Jacksonville Jaguars 28-3 Sunday.

Vick completed 17 of 31 passes for 291 yards, mostly staying in the pocket and picking apart Jacksonville's beleaguered secondary. One of the few times he did run, he broke a tackle, juked another defender and scored from 17 yards out.

He made coach Andy Reid's quarterback decision look like the right one.

Vick found DeSean Jackson for a 61-yard touchdown and hooked up with Jeremy Maclin for two scores. Jackson finished with five catches for 153 yards, Maclin had four receptions for 83 yards, and the Eagles (2-1) improved to 2-0 with Vick as their starter.

Vick became the latest in a growing list of quarterbacks to torch the Jaguars (1-2).

David Garrard struggled again for Jacksonville, throwing for 83 yards and an interception.

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick (7) is lifted in the air by teammate Philadelphia..

Boondocks At Phila. Front Page News

Boondocks At Phila. Front Page News


Digital Photographers Urged To Participate In Fairmount Park Contest

Digital Photographers Urged To Participate In Fairmount Park Contest

Love Park

Love Park

PHILADELPHIA (KYW 1060) – The annual Fairmount Park photo contest is underway.

KYW’s Karin Phillips reports this is the third year in a row that Philadelphia Parks and Recreation has solicited digital photographs from those who like to capture the beauty of Fairmount Park.

Mark Focht, executive director of Fairmount Park, says the public gets to vote on the best photos:

“So we take the highest vote getters. We sit down with the calendar. We design it by putting the proper photos with the proper months and also trying to get a good representation of all the assets of the department and all the sections of the city.”

For full story go to:

Mets Prevent Phils From Clinching NL East At Home September 26, 2010 5:04 PM

Mets Prevent Phils From Clinching NL East At Home


PHILADELPHIA (AP) – Carlos Beltran hit a pair of homers, David Wright also

connected and the New York Mets beat Philadelphia 7-3 on Sunday, preventing the Phillies from clinching their fourth straight NL East title at home.

The two-time defending NL champions came in needing a win and a loss by Atlanta to secure the division crown. The Braves lost 4-2 to Washington, dropping Philadelphia’s magic number to one.

Chase Utley hit a three-run homer for the Phillies, who will finish the season on the road with three games at Washington and three at Atlanta.

The Mets roughed up Cole Hamels (12-11) again. Hamels allowed five runs and nine hits in four-plus innings, falling to 0-4 against New York this year. The lefty had been dominant recently. He gave up just four runs in his previous six starts, a span of 43 2-3 innings.

For full story go to:

New Muslim comic book superhero on the way

New Muslim comic book superhero on the way

AP Photo
In this artwork provided by Liquid Comics, LLC, the "Sliver Scorpion" is shown. The new superhero is Muslim, who loses his legs in a tragic landmine accident and must learn to come to terms with the reality of his disability while learning to use his newfound power to fight for social inclusion, equity and justice. The "Silver Scorpion" is the first cross-cultural superhero with disabilities created by bringing together Syrian and American youth with disabilities in Damascus, Syria as part of the Open Hands Initiative’s inaugural Youth Ability Summit.

NEW YORK (AP) -- Comic book fans will soon be getting their first glimpse at an unlikely new superhero - a Muslim boy in a wheelchair with superpowers.

The new superhero is the brainchild of a group of disabled young Americans and Syrians who were brought together last month in Damascus by the Open Hands Intiative, a non-profit organization founded by U.S. philanthropist and businessman Jay T. Snyder.

The superhero's appearance hasn't been finalized, but an early sketch shows a Muslim boy who lost his legs in a landmine accident and later becomes the Silver Scorpion after discovering he has the power to control metal with his mind.

Sharad Devarajan, co-founder and CEO of Liquid Comics whose company is now turning the young people's ideas into pictures and a story line, said the goal is to release the first comic book - launching the disabled Muslim superhero - in early November in both Arabic and English.

Snyder says he was inspired by President Barack Obama's effort to reach out to the Muslim world in his January 2009 inaugural address. Last month, Snyder flew 12 disabled Americans to Damascus to meet their Syrian peers, and one of their main goals was to come up with ideas and story lines for the new superhero.

"The only limit was the imagination these kids had - the opportunity for a great story," said Snyder, a comic book collector who heads HBJ Investments LLC. "They helped create something by their combined talents, and that becomes a gift to the world."

Devarajan found the young people's imagination to be quite amazing.

"The opening question we asked the kids was if you could have any superpower what would it be? I've asked that question in many different groups before and the typical answers are always the ones you'd expect - flying, reading minds, or being super strong," Devarajan said.

"The fascinating thing about this group was that I don't think I heard any one of those three," he said.

"Each of their ideas was so originally distinct, whether the Syrian kids or the U.S. kids," he said, adding that perhaps because of their disabilities, the young people think as individuals without being influenced by outsiders. One girl, for example, wanted to have the power to combine the energy of the moon and the sun.

Devarajan said it was noteworthy that none of the young people wanted the hero's power to be something that cured their disability.

"They were empowered by their own disabilities, and they should not be seen as a source of weakness," he said.

Initially, 50,000 Arabic-language comics will be distributed throughout Syria, and subsequent issues will be distributed elsewhere in the Middle East, Snyder said. The comic will also be available worldwide for free in digital formats through the Open Hands and Liquid Comics websites.

It will be the first in a series of comics with international superheroes, and while one will have disabilities others will not, Devarajan said. He added that almost all the characters being planned "are based on the seeds that were created by these kids together in this trip."

The dozen Americans were selected after a national call for applications by The Victor Penada Foundation, a non-profit educational organization that promotes the rights of young people with disabilities. They included youths who were blind, deaf, using wheelchairs, or suffering from Down syndrome, autism, and cognitive disabilities.

The Syrians were invited by the Al-Amal school for the disabled whose chair, Asma Assad, the wife of Syrian president Bashar Assad, spent an afternoon meeting with the youngsters.

"It must be every child's dream to create a superhero," the Syrian first lady said in a video provided to the AP. "But I really do hope that we can bring our powers together - our human powers together - to be able to make a difference."

Hamza Jaka, 18, of Fontana, Wisconsin, who is co-chair of Kids as Self-Advocates which promotes the rights of young disabled people, said the visit to Syria "was great" because it was people-to-people, "not politicians flying in and blustering." Jaka, a freshman at the University of California at Berkeley who is studying linguistics, said the trip has inspired him to study Arabic.

"There's a lot of hatred, and it really can be dispelled by just sitting down and talking to people and realizing you share experiences in common," he said. "That's what happened when I started talking to one of the disabled Syrians. We both discovered that we had a love of basketball and ... loved the same players," Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal.

"I am a disabled Muslim and I love comic books, so this is like the highlight of my life," said Jaka, who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair.

"As somebody who owns a lot of comics and has studied how they affect social change, it was fun to be part of an exchange that hopefully can do the same," he said, especially in changing attitudes towards the disabled, towards Muslims, and towards Syria.

Abdulrahman Hussein, 20, a Syrian student who was born handicapped and uses a wheelchair, said meeting the young Americans "made me feel that I have to improve my life."

He said he is studying library administration at a university and wants to learn English so he can have contact with more people.

"I like the American people as I found them friendly," Hussein said. "I'd like to visit America because I want to get acquainted with the achievements (of) the Americans."

The Open Hands Initiative was launched last November to respond to Obama's offer to the Muslim world in his inaugural address to "extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist."

Snyder said the initiative's goal is to promote "diplomacy" between ordinary people that emphasizes dialogue, understanding and mutual respect.

It has already started a program to bring Syrian music to the U.S. and is planning to bring leading American artists to Damascus for workshops with young Syrian artists.

In early 2011, Snyder said Open Hands hopes to be on the ground in Pakistan with programs bringing Americans and Pakistanis together in the fields of public health, literature and culture - and later in the year it intends to launch projects in Afghanistan.

Witness describes 'hell' at NJ party shooting

Witness describes 'hell' at NJ party shooting

AP Photo
All vehicles trying to enter Seton Hall University campus tonight were stopped at the security gate after five students were shot, one of whom has died, at an off campus party today, Saturday Sept. 25, 2010 in East Orange, NJ.

EAST ORANGE, N.J. (AP) -- A Seton Hall University student who attended an off-campus house party at which five people were shot said the gunman stood on her back as she lay on the floor and didn't appear to be targeting anyone during the chaos she described as "hell."

"He was just shooting he had no intended target," said a text message from the woman, whose friend was the only person killed.

The woman spoke Sunday by BlackBerry instant messenger on condition of anonymity because she feared for her safety while the shooter remained at large. She said she was too upset to talk over the phone.

She described the Friday night party, which lasted into early Saturday, as a "typical fraternity party" with at least 100 people at the privately owned row house.

Students said the shooter was kicked out of the party when he refused to pay the cover charge.

The woman said she heard a fight erupt before the man was thrown out. Seconds later, she said, he returned with a handgun and started shooting as chaos erupted.

"Everyone was scrambling n stampeding. People were jumping out the two windows n all I cud smell was smoke n blood," the woman wrote. "The next thing I knew I opened my eyes n saw hell..blood n just panic."

The woman said was on the floor when the gunman stepped on her back and shot her friend Jessica Moore, a 19-year-old honors student majoring in psychology. Moore, who was from Disputanta, Va., died later at a hospital.

Authorities had not released the names of the four wounded people, whose injuries weren't considered life-threatening.

Two of the injured are 19-year-old women who go to Seton Hall, and one is a 25-year-old man who attends the New Jersey Institute of Technology. The other is a 20-year-old man from New York who is not a student.

East Orange police were following several leads but had not identified a suspect, spokesman Andrew Di Elmo said.

On Sunday, police had set up an electronic sign, the kind usually used to tell drivers of detours, to ask for help solving the house party shooting, which occurred just after midnight. The message advertised a $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.

The party was primarily for students at Seton Hall, a well-regarded Roman Catholic university with a gated campus in South Orange, about 15 miles from New York City. There are no sanctioned fraternities at Seton Hall and no fraternity houses.

The university, with its collection of red brick buildings tucked behind a wrought-iron fence, stands in stark contrast to the gritty neighborhood where the party was held a mile away. Just a block from the shooting site, the remains of a memorial for another recent shooting victim could still be seen.

There were at least five shootings in the area this summer, said Rabu Anderson, who owns a clothing store there.

"Some of it is gang violence, some of it is just plain ignorance," Anderson said.

East Orange resident Leon Drinks, who lives four doors down from the house where the party shooting occurred, said the violence has become much worse in the past couple of years. He said just after midnight he heard six shots - not an uncommon sound on South Clinton Street.

"I kinda laid low for a minute, then I heard the stampede of people on this side of the street and that side of the street," said Drinks, 54. "People were running in driveways and alleyways trying to get out of the mess."

Seton Hall, which has 10,000 students, knows about the dangers in some of the neighborhoods nearby and advises students not to leave campus alone.

Ga. megachurch pastor pledges to fight accusations

Ga. megachurch pastor pledges to fight accusations

AP Photo
Bishop Eddie Long prepares to speak at a news conference, Sunday, Sept. 26, 2010, at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Atlanta. Bishop Eddie Long, the pastor of a Georgia megachurch accused of luring young men into sexual relationships, has told his congregation of thousands that all people must face painful and distasteful situations.

LITHONIA, Ga. (AP) -- The famed pastor of a Georgia megachurch said Sunday that he will fight allegations that he lured young men into sexual relationships, stressing that he'd be back to lead the church the next week.

Addressing a New Birth Missionary Baptist Church sanctuary packed with thousands, Bishop Eddie Long neither discussed specifics of the lawsuits filed against him nor flatly denied the accusations. But he drew thunderous applause when he addressed his flock publicly for the first time since the first lawsuits were filed several days ago.

"There have been allegations and attacks made on me. I have never in my life portrayed myself as a perfect man. But I am not the man that's being portrayed on the television. That's not me. That is not me," he said as applause interrupted him.

Four young men have filed lawsuits in the past week - three who live in Georgia and one from Charlotte, N.C., who attended one of Long's satellite churches there. Two claim they were members of the church's LongFellows Youth Academy, a program that taught teens about sexual and financial discipline, when Long gave them gifts and took them on trips to seduce them.

Long - who has been an outspoken opponent of gay marriage and whose church has counseled gay members to become straight - has been named as a defendant in the lawsuits, which claim the pastor abused his "spiritual authority." But federal and state authorities have said they will not investigate the allegations because all four men were 17 and 18 years old when the relationships with Long began - older than Georgia's age of consent, which is 16.

Long told the crowd that his lawyers had advised him not to "try this case in the media." He spoke little about the legal case during the service and a news conference afterward, though Long spoke at length about enduring painful situations.

"We are all subject to face distasteful and painful situations. Bishop Long, Eddie Long - you can put your name in that blank - will have some bad situations," he said. "The righteous face painful situations with a determined expectancy. We are not exempt from pain, but He promises to deliver us out of our pain."

Long's final remarks during the service invoked the biblical story of the small David doing battle with the gargantuan Goliath.

"I've been accused; I'm under attack. I want you to know, as I said earlier, I am not a perfect man," he said, briefly pausing for effect. "But this thing I'm going to fight."

"I want you to know one other thing, I feel like David against Goliath. But I got five rocks, and I haven't thrown one yet."

Long is scheduled to speak again at an 11 a.m. service.

Church members who heard Long's speech pledged to stand by their pastor. Annie Cannon, who has attended New Birth for seven years, said she had no plans to worship elsewhere.

"We know and we love bishop," Cannon said, referring to Long. "We love our place of worship. My son goes to school here. We do everything here."

Cheryl Barnett has attended New Birth since Long became senior pastor more than 20 years ago. She said she agreed wholeheartedly with his remarks.

"I was very much fulfilled with what he had to say," she said. "It was simple. It was direct. He's standing in the scriptures. That's what we would expect from our minister."

About 100 people waited at the doors of the church more than an hour before the first service. Some held signs of support, while others prayed for their embattled leader. A small group sang the hymn "White as Snow" while outside.

Members in their seats clapped and swayed as the service began around 8 a.m., with several people with microphones singing on stage. Later in the service, hundreds began dancing and chanting, "Jesus, Jesus." A small group of young people held Apple iPads high over their heads, with the screens scrolling white letters against a black background reading, "It's time to praise him."

Long, a father of four children, came to the stage holding hands with his wife, Vanessa, and wearing a cream-colored suit.

Media access to the services was tightly controlled Sunday. Reporters were required to check in with church officials and were led to a separate part of the church to view the service. The media was also told not to interview church members inside the sanctuary or on church property.

Over the past 20 years, Long became one of the most powerful independent church leaders in the country. He led New Birth as it grew from a suburban Atlanta congregation of 150 to a 25,000-member powerhouse with a $50 million cathedral and a roster of parishioners that includes athletes, entertainers and politicians.

He flashed his prosperity by wearing diamonds and platinum jewelry, while building strong political ties and a close relationship with the family of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. The 2006 funeral for King's widow, Coretta Scott King, was held at New Birth. Their daughter, the Rev. Bernice King, is also a pastor at Long's church and spoke during Sunday's first service.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Michael Vick shows staying power Philadelphia Eagles say he'll remain the starting quarterback for game at Jacksonville.

Michael Vick shows staying power Philadelphia Eagles say he'll remain the starting quarterback for game at Jacksonville.

We should have seen this coming: the Philadelphia Eagles ran a reverse with Michael Vick.

After repeatedly stressing Kevin Kolb is their No. 1 quarterback and would get his job back as soon as he was cleared to return from his concussion, the Eagles announced Tuesday that Vick will remain the starter.

"When someone is playing at the level Michael Vick is playing, you have to give him an opportunity," Coach Andy Reid said, two days after Vick threw for 284 yards and two touchdowns in a 35-32 victory at Detroit.

That adds a different kind of intrigue to Sunday's game at Jacksonville, where Vick will try to keep things rolling. It's very early in the season, but with three teams tied at 1-1, and Dallas 0-2, the NFC East is a wide-open race.

Coming into the season, the Eagles felt good enough about Kolb to trade Donovan McNabb within the division. But Kolb's stint as the starter lasted two shaky quarters; he suffered a concussion midway through the second quarter of the Green Bay loss and didn't play in the second half.

"Kevin is fine. It's not an injury-related issue," Reid said Tuesday. "It's not about judging him. He's going to be a championship-caliber quarterback."

Just not now.

Fox crowns J-Lo, Tyler new `American Idol' judges

Fox crowns J-Lo, Tyler new `American Idol' judges

AP Photo
In this publicity image released by Fox, judges for season ten of American Idol are shown. From left, Randy Jackson, Jennifer Lopez, Steven Tyler and Ryan Seacrest are shown in an undated photo. .

INGLEWOOD, Calif. (AP) -- Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler will join Randy Jackson as "American Idol" judges next season, after months of turnover and speculation about the future of TV's top-rated show.

With pomp rivaling that of a U.S. Supreme Court appointment, Fox finally assembled the new pieces of the "Idol" panel that will be returned to its original three-member format for season 10.

Actress-singer-dancer Lopez and Aerosmith frontman Tyler will have the job of trying to match the offbeat chemistry of former judges Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul.

"This is 'American Idol'!" host Ryan Seacrest said after the new judges joined him on stage at the Forum arena, where the final national audition for next season's singing contest was held Wednesday.

The announcement was made before a crowd of several thousand who had gathered to try out, some cheering loudly for the cameras and all hoping to make it to the next round, when they'll be judged by the revamped panel. The mini-show was streamed live online by Fox.

Tyler said he wanted to join the show because "it's being a part of something much bigger than yourself. ... I want to bring some rock to this rollercoaster and show if you've got the heart, the talent, the feeling to do this you could be the next American Idol."

"I'm so excited," said Lopez, who scored a reported $12 million to join the show. "I'm looking for the next Michael Jackson."

The likely Lopez-Tyler pairing had been reported so frequently that Fox would have had to produce Betty White and 50 Cent instead to generate any surprise.

Cowell announced last January that he planned to leave to launch a new talent show for Fox in 2011, with newcomers Ellen DeGeneres and Kara DioGuardi exiting this summer. Abdul left in 2009 over a contract dispute.

Jackson will be the only original judge when "American Idol" returns in January.

Though gone, Cowell wasn't forgotten at the news conference that followed the judges' unveiling.

The new judges as well as series producers were asked about the loss of Cowell and how much the acid-tongued Brit meant to the ratings.

"Simon is irreplaceable, no question about that," said executive producer Nigel Lythgoe. But he and fellow producer Ken Warwick said that the new judges will bring their own personalities to the mix.

The show has a valuable newcomer in Jimmy Iovine, chairman of Interscope Geffen A&M Records, a division of Universal Music Group, which this season is replacing Sony Music Entertainment as the label that develops, distributes and markets "Idol" finalists. Lythgoe said Iovine would bring his own expertise and style to the show.

Lopez made it clear she has no plans to become the new Simon.

"I believe in tough love, but I'm an artist myself," she said. "I could never be cruel to another artist."

Lythgoe, an original "Idol" producer now back on the show, took a swipe at some of the winners who emerged during his two-year absence. After early idols Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood, he said, "Then we start running out of idols."

"We've got to go back to creating an American idol," he said.

Among other changes the new season will bring, the producers said that contestants won't be forced to stray from their favored genre: country singers can sing country songs; rock singers won't have to sing folk songs. Also, there are no plans to have celebrity mentors come on the show, as was common in seasons past.

Of course, Lopez and Tyler loom as the biggest changes, and the pressure is on them to help "American Idol" reinvent itself for the new season, 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.

But Fox and the show's producers didn't match the new judges to the target audience when it comes to age: Lopez is 41 and Tyler is 62. Jackson is in the middle at age 54.

Lopez, who wore a sparkling silver cat suit, got the full diva treatment as she took the stage clouded in special-effects smoke.

She also arrived with dubious star wattage, given that her last few films have tanked at the box office and she hasn't triggered any real excitement in the record world in years.

Lopez's 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.

"On the 6," Lopez's first album, came out in 1999 and launched 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.

Meanwhile, Tyler, whose band is four decades old, could hardly be called a fresh face.

Tyler brings a colorful and tempestuous history with him to the show. He's fought with his band mates, been in rehab for prescription drug abuse and took a fall off a stage in 2009 that forced cancellation of Aerosmith's summer tour. He also, like many rockers, seemed to show the effects of many years of pounding rock 'n' roll, as several news conference questions had to be repeated because he didn't hear them clearly.

"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.

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