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APNewsBreak: Jackson wrongful death case refiled

APNewsBreak: Jackson wrongful death case refiled

AP Photo
FILE - In this March 5, 2009 file photo, US singer Michael Jackson is shown at a press conference in London.

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Michael Jackson's father refiled a wrongful death lawsuit Tuesday against the doctor charged in his son's death and added as a defendant a Las Vegas pharmacy that records show sold the physician a powerful anesthetic blamed for his death.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages against Dr. Conrad Murray, who has pleaded not guilty in the separate criminal case to involuntary manslaughter in the singer's June 2009 death.

Joe Jackson initially filed his case against Murray in federal court on the first anniversary of his son's death. A judge, however, refused to hear the case and said it should be handled in state court, where it was refiled Tuesday.

"This has been a long process and the facts of Michael's death have been way too slow in emerging," said Joe Jackson's attorney, Brian Oxman. "There is still much to discover and we're going to find it out."

The lawsuit also names Applied Pharmacy Services, which court records show sold Murray the anesthetic propofol during the month before the singer's death. The pharmacy is accused of selling Murray excessive quantities of the anesthetic, which is normally administered in hospital settings.

Authorities have said the sale was legal.

A receptionist at Applied Pharmacy Services declined comment and refused to give her name. Miranda Sevcik, a Murray spokeswoman, said the refiling of the case was expected.

"We'd like to remind people that Dr. Murray has not been found guilty of anything, and we believe his innocence will be proven in a court of law," Charles Peckham, an attorney for Murray, said in June when the case was initially filed.

The Los Angeles County coroner has blamed Jackson's death on propofol intoxication and ruled it a homicide.

Applied Pharmacy's sales of propofol to Murray were revealed in search warrants unsealed in Las Vegas in November 2009. At the time, authorities said a doctor licensed in two states can buy propofol in one and administer it in another.

Murray is licensed in California, Nevada and Texas - all of which have restricted his medical license to some extent since the allegations surfaced in the death of Jackson.

Attorneys for Murray have said he did not give Jackson anything that should have killed him.

Joe Jackson's lawsuit claims Murray was negligent in administering propofol to Jackson, and he did not tell paramedics or an emergency room doctor that he had given the singer the drug.

The case could be consolidated with a lawsuit filed by Michael Jackson's mother, Katherine, against concert promoter AEG Live.

That suit claims AEG and its agents told Michael Jackson the company would provide medical equipment and hire Murray to care for him as he prepared for comeback concerts in London.

AEG has said through an attorney that Katherine Jackson's lawsuit is without merit.

Cops: Grandma threw child to her death at Va. mall

Cops: Grandma threw child to her death at Va. mall

AP Photo
FILE - This handout photo provided by Fairfax County, Va., Police Department shows Carmela Dela Rosa. A toddler has died after police say she was thrown off a shopping mall walkway in Virginia by a woman believed to be her grandmother. Carmela Dela Rosa of Fairfax was arrested and charged with aggravated malicious wounding, the charge will be amended to murder now that the girl, Angelyn Ogdoc, has died.

McLEAN, Va. (AP) -- A Virginia toddler was walking out of a shopping mall with relatives when her grandmother suddenly flung her over a railing, sending the girl on a fatal plunge to the pavement several stories below, police said Tuesday.

Carmela Dela Rosa, 50, of Fairfax was arrested and charged with murder, said prosecutor Ian Rodway. Authorities said interviews with witnesses and Dela Rosa led them to the conclusion that the girl's fall Monday night was no accident, but they couldn't yet explain why the grandmother threw her.

The 2 1/2-year-old child, Angelyn Ogdoc, died in a hospital several hours later. She fell from a walkway linking the mall's third floor to the parking garage's sixth floor at Tysons Corner Center in Fairfax, just south of Washington, D.C.

Fairfax County police spokeswoman Tawny Wright said Dela Rosa was leaving the mall with the toddler and two other adult relatives when she abruptly picked the girl up and threw her over the railing.

Dela Rosa was being held without bond, and a preliminary hearing in the case was set for Jan. 4, Rodway said. Deputy Public Defender Dawn Butorac, who is representing Dela Rosa, declined to comment on the case.

No one answered at Dela Rosa's home in Fairfax on Tuesday morning, but neighbor Russell Jackson, 51, described them as "a happy family" and said Dela Rosa lived with her husband and a son and often cared for her granddaughter.

"She was a sweet, happy baby," said Jackson, who lives in the rowhouse next door.

Dela Rosa would sometimes leave the blinds in the front window open when she was caring for the girl during the day.

"You could see them in the window waving at you," he said, adding she would encourage the toddler to throw kisses to her neighbors.

Dela Rosa's daughter and granddaughter were frequently at the home, and the group were often seen going on outings as a family, as they did Monday.

A few miles away in Falls Church, no one came to the door at the two-story home where the girl lived.

AP Enterprise: Guards shown watching inmate attack

AP Enterprise: Guards shown watching inmate attack

AP Photo
In a frame grab from video obtained by The Associated Press, an inmate attacks fellow inmate Hanni Elabed at the privately-run Idaho Correctional Center just south of Boise, Idaho. Elabed suffered brain damage and persistent short-term memory loss after he was beaten by inmate James Haver while multiple guards watched at the Idaho prison operated by Corrections Corporation of America.

BOISE, Idaho (AP) -- The surveillance video from the overhead cameras shows Hanni Elabed being beaten by a fellow inmate in an Idaho prison, managing to bang on a prison guard station window, pleading for help. Behind the glass, correctional officers look on, but no one intervenes when Elabed is knocked unconscious.

No one steps into the cellblock when the attacker sits down to rest, and no one stops him when he resumes the beating.

Videos of the attack obtained by The Associated Press show officers watching the beating for several minutes. The footage is a key piece of evidence for critics who claim the privately run Idaho Correctional Center uses inmate-on-inmate violence to force prisoners to snitch on their cellmates or risk being moved to extremely violent units.

On Tuesday, hours after the AP published the video, the top federal prosecutor in Idaho told the AP that the FBI has been investigating whether guards violated the civil rights of inmates at the prison, which is run by the Corrections Corporation of America.

The investigation concerns the prison's rate of violence and covers multiple assaults between inmates, including the attack on Elabed, U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson said.

CCA spokesman Steve Owen said the company is cooperating with federal agents, as it has with other law enforcement overseeing the prisons.

Lawsuits from inmates contend the company denies prisoners medical treatment as a way of covering up the assaults. They have dubbed the Idaho lockup "gladiator school" because it is so violent.

The AP initially sought a copy of the videos shot on Jan. 18 from state court, but Idaho 4th District Judge Patrick Owen denied that request. The AP had already obtained a copy and decided to publish the videos after a person familiar with the case verified their authenticity.

The videos show at least three guards watching as Elabed was stomped on a dozen times. At no time during the recorded sequence did anyone try to pull away James Haver, a short, slight man.

About two minutes after Haver stopped the beating of his own accord, the metal cellblock door was unlocked. Haver was handcuffed and Elabed was examined for signs of life. He bled inside his skull and would spend three days in a coma.

CCA, the nation's largest private prison company, said it was "highly disappointed and deeply concerned" over AP's decision to release the videos.

"Public release of the video poses an unnecessary security risk to our staff, the inmates entrusted to our care, and ultimately to the public," the prison company said in a statement.

Violence behind bars and misconduct by guards is common, regardless of whether prisons are run by the government or private companies. CCA, which oversees some 75,000 inmates in more than 60 facilities under contracts with the federal government, 19 states and the District of Columbia, is no exception.

A year ago, CCA and another company, Dominion Correctional Services LLC, agreed to pay $1.3 million to settle a lawsuit in which the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission claimed male officers at a prison in Colorado forced female workers to perform sex acts to keep their jobs.

In January, Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear ordered some 400 female inmates transferred to a state-run prison after more than a dozen reports of sexual misconduct by male guards employed by CCA. Inmates from Hawaii at the CCA-run Kentucky prison made similar accusations and Hawaii later removed them. In May, agents with Immigration and Customs Enforcement placed CCA on probation and launched an investigation of whether a guard at a central Texas detention facility sexually assaulted women on their way to being deported.

Olson said the investigation is focused solely on the Idaho prison and not any of the other prisons operated by CCA.

Before the Idaho attack, Elabed tried to get help from prison staffers, telling them that he had been threatened and giving them details about drug trafficking between inmates and staffers that he had witnessed, according to his lawsuit. He was put in solitary confinement for his protection but was later returned to the same unit with the inmates he snitched on, his lawsuit said. He was on the cellblock only six minutes before he was attacked.

Steven Pevar, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, said in 34 years of suing more than 100 prisons and jails, the Idaho lockup is the most violent he has seen.

"This isn't even what we know of as a prison - this is a gulag," Pevar said.

Pevar blames the violence on CCA and the former warden, Phillip Valdez, who was head of the prison when Elabed was attacked. Valdez was later transferred to another CCA prison in Kansas. The company refused to disclose its reason for moving him.

CCA officials maintain the prison is safe and run according to state and federal standards. But at least some of those standards appear to be violated in the video - including a requirement that emergency care arrive within four minutes of a disturbance. It took medical workers nearly six minutes to get to Elabed - a delay that can be life-threatening in serious injuries, according to state prisons officials.

"Nurses and medical professionals believe you need to get a heart beating and breathing started within four minutes or the person's going to die," Idaho Department of Correction spokesman Jeff Ray said.

CCA spokesman Owen said employees receive training and supervision designed to protect both themselves and the inmates.

"As Mr. Haver's wanton attack illustrates, correctional and medical personnel must often respond to render aid in dangerous situations, not knowing the extent of the risk they may face when they do," Owen said.

Owen also condemned the attack and said the surveillance videos were key to Haver's guilty plea in the beating. CCA was unable to answer additional questions surrounding the circumstances of the attack due to pending litigation, he said.

Elabed's family learned through medical records that CCA officials pulled him out of the hospital before he could get significant treatment and against his doctor's advice, in order to treat him at the cheaper in-prison facility, the family said.

Elabed, who was originally sentenced to two to 12 years for robbery, was ultimately released on a medical parole because he was too badly injured to be cared for in prison.

A slew of federal lawsuits detail beatings behind prison walls and long waits for medical care at CCA-run prisons in Idaho. Inmate Todd Butters said in his lawsuit he was denied X-rays after he was severely beaten by gang members on his cellblock for refusing to pay $5 a week in "rent." The Idaho Supreme Court threw out the case after finding Butters didn't take the necessary steps to try to solve the problem with prison officials before suing.

In another attack, inmate Daniel Dixon said he was denied X-rays and a doctor's visit after he claimed other inmates beat him until he had broken ribs and facial bones and other injuries.

State officials have long been aware of allegations of mistreatment and poor management at the Idaho Correctional Center, the state's largest prison. A review of hundreds of public records by AP found in 2008 that ICC had a violence rate three times as high as other Idaho prisons.

The AP found in a follow-up investigation that ICC had only marginally improved its violence rate and that inspectors were still finding rampant gang violence and extortion. State auditors have also found widespread problems keeping medical charts updated, excessive wait times for medical care and other problems with treatment.

Even though Idaho Department of Correction officials have increased oversight and top department leaders have spoken out about their concern over the medical issues, state lawmakers have renewed the company's multimillion-dollar contract with Nashville, Tenn.-based CCA and added 600 beds to the prison.

Idaho Department of Correction Director Brent Reinke said in a statement that he couldn't talk about the video because of pending litigation, but said the eight state-run prisons his agency operates are among the safest and most efficient in the country.

Reinke also said his department began beefing up oversight at the private prison three years ago.

"The Board of Correction acknowledges that when you put a group of people who have a history of criminal behavior together in one place, it is likely you will have problems. But that doesn't mean we should tolerate them," Reinke wrote.

Today, the 24-year-old Elabed isn't able to talk much about the assault. He has brain damage and persistent short-term memory loss.

"It's almost like Hanni's autistic after this. I feel like I'm talking to someone who's 12 or 13 years old," said his brother, Zahe Elabed.

Elabed's attorney, Ben Schwartzman, said the footage is tough to forget.

"Guard intervention was appropriate and could have happened in a way that would not have put the guards in danger of their personal safety," Schwartzman said. "They were spectators ... and that seems to indicate a level of callousness that I find shocking. It's an embarrassment to the institution and to the individuals."

Missing Mich. boys' father charged with kidnapping

Missing Mich. boys' father charged with kidnapping

AP Photo
This Nov. 30, 2010 photo provided by Lucas County Sheriff's Dept. shows John Skelton, who was under psychiatric care at a hospital, and has been speaking with investigators after his three sons went missing on Thanksgiving Day. Searchers have been scouring the countryside for four days.

MORENCI, Mich. (AP) -- The search for three young Michigan brothers darkened Tuesday as authorities warned the public to expect the worst and charged the children's father with their kidnapping.

Despite the somber news, a small army of volunteers spent a fourth day scouring corn fields, campgrounds and wooded areas near Morenci, a small community 75 miles southwest of Detroit along the border with Ohio, looking for the smallest scrap of evidence.

Searcher Bill Foster said everyone in the town of 2,000 was hoping for a "Christmas miracle" and the safe return of 9-year-old Andrew, 7-year-old Alexander and 5-year-old Tanner Skelton, who were last seen at their father's home on Thanksgiving.

Morenci Police Chief Larry Weeks' admission Tuesday that police don't expect a "positive outcome" to the case after talking to the boys' father, 39-year-old John Skelton, is not what you want to hear, Foster said.

"We're very saddened by the news, but the search has to continue. We won't quit the search until we bring the boys home."

Locals began combing through fields and woods on Saturday, the day after the boys' mother reported them missing and the day after John Skelton tried to hang himself.

Skelton, who was released from a medical facility in Lucas County, Ohio, on Tuesday, initially told investigators that he gave his sons to a female acquaintance to hand over to his estranged wife. Police say he was lying.

The FBI arrested Skelton after his release Tuesday, and he was charged in Lenawee County, across the state line in Michigan, with three counts of parental kidnapping, Weeks said. Weeks said Skelton has requested an attorney, and his officers had not spoken to Skelton on Tuesday.

Tanya Skelton, 45, filed for divorce in September. A judge gave her custody of the boys, but she and John Skelton reached an agreement on visitation.

Police on Tuesday had the grim job of telling Tanya Skelton's family - her mother, specifically - that it was growing unlikely the children would be found alive.

Her reaction: "Imagine your worst nightmare come true," Weeks said. "How would you respond?"

The search is expected to continue for at least several more days, and then whenever a tip comes in, authorities said.

Lee Ann Underhill, a Morenci resident who went to school with Tanya Skelton, searched for the boys between her long overnight shift at a plastics factory and a few hours' sleep. She said she "knew" the boys, and like others here, she said finding them is personal.

"I've been through fields, creek beds and woods," Underhill said after returning from a search Tuesday afternoon. "We're looking for anything out of the ordinary."

Lenawee Sheriff's Department Corporal Jeff Paterson said he was part of a large group that scoured an 83-acre campsite in Ohio on Monday that's a few miles south of Morenci.

"There were three ponds, sewage lagoons, then a wooded area with a creek," he said. Several barns in the area also were searched.

Paterson said when the terrain allows, grid searches are done, with searchers spreading out 10 feet apart and walking in the same direction. Eyes are focused on the ground at their feet.

"Do it nice and slow so you don't miss anything," he said.

It was only a few weeks ago about 130 miles to the southeast that a huge search effort was undertaken after mother from Howard, Ohio, her friend, 13-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son disappeared. In that case, police say the girl was found bound and gagged in a 30-year-old unemployed tree-cutter's basement, and that he led them to the dismembered bodies of the other three stuffed in a hollow tree trunk.

Pentagon leaders say gays won't hurt the military

Pentagon leaders say gays won't hurt the military

AP Photo
Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen, speaks to reporters on gays in the military, Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2010, at the Pentagon.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Gay troops can serve openly in the armed forces without harming the military's ability to fight, the Pentagon's top leaders declared Tuesday, calling for the 17-year-old "don't ask, don't tell" ban to be scrapped and pointing to a new survey to show most troops won't mind.

President Barack Obama, citing the troop poll, urged the Senate to repeal the ban before adjourning in the next few weeks, but there is still no indication GOP objections can be overcome with just a few weeks left in the postelection lame-duck session. Still, the survey did put new pressure on Republican opponents, led by Sen. John McCain, who say efforts to repeal the law are politically motivated and dangerous at a time of two wars.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the ban on openly gay military service "requires people to lie," and he called for quick Senate action.

"We spend a lot of time in the military talking about integrity and honor and values. Telling the truth is a pretty important value in that scale," Gates said as he released the Pentagon study showing that most people currently in uniform don't care about the ban.

Senate Democrats plan to force a vote in December. Senate Republicans were generally silent following release of the Pentagon recommendations for repealing the ban.

Although historic, Tuesday's recommendation that the military for the first time allow openly gay people came with a caveat that also frustrates many supporters of repeal. Gates wants an indefinite grace period while the Pentagon prepares for the policy change and phases it in.

"It would be unwise to push ahead with full implementation of repeal before more can be done to prepare the force, in particular those ground combat specialties and units, for what could be a disruptive and disorienting change," Gates said.

Critics led by McCain say the Pentagon's report doesn't address risks to morale and fighting mettle. Gates countered: "I obviously have a lot of admiration and respect for Senator McCain, but in this respect I think that he's mistaken."

Obama has called it a top priority to repeal the 1993 law that bans openly gay service. But gay rights groups have complained that he and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have done too little to see it through, focusing their postelection efforts instead on tax cuts and a nuclear arms treaty with Russia before Republicans gain congressional strength when lawmakers return in January.

In the report, the study's co-chairs, Pentagon General Counsel Jeh Johnson and Army Gen. Carter Ham, wrote, "We are both convinced that our military can do this, even during this time of war."

Gates said he didn't think the Pentagon would have to rewrite its regulations on housing, benefits or fraternization to accommodate gays if they were allowed to serve openly.

A defense policy bill that would overturn the law - pending certification by the Pentagon and the president that doing so wouldn't hurt the military's ability to fight - has languished in the Senate since it passed the House this spring.

In the meantime, a federal judge ordered the Pentagon to stop enforcing the law because it was unconstitutional. The Obama administration is appealing that decision.

"Given the present circumstances, those that choose not to act legislatively are rolling the dice that this policy will not be abruptly overturned by the courts," Gates said.

Obama said in a statement released by the White House: "Today I call on the Senate to act as soon as possible so I can sign this repeal into law this year and ensure that Americans who are willing to risk their lives for their country are treated fairly and equally."

The president noted that the Pentagon survey had found most service members willing to serve alongside openly gay and lesbian troops, and said: "I am absolutely confident that they will adapt to this change and remain the best led, best trained, best equipped fighting force the world has ever known."

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said repealing the ban was discussed during a two-hour meeting Tuesday between Obama and lawmakers and was the sole focus of a session Monday with the military service chiefs. He declined to provide more details.

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Tuesday he agreed with Gates that "this is a policy change that we can make and we can do it in a relatively low-risk fashion," given time to prepare forces and leaders for new rules and expectations.

Advocates for repeal said Congress was running out of excuses to change the law before the courts do it for them. The Justice Department is fighting the recent federal ruling that the 1993 law is unconstitutional.

"For senators who were on the fence - Republicans as well as Democrats - this report should address most if not all the concerns that they have raised," said Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a pro-repeal advocacy group.

The Pentagon survey found that some two-thirds of troops don't care if the ban is lifted. Of the 30 percent who objected, most of them were in combat units.

Opposition was strongest among combat troops, with at least 40 percent saying repeal would be a bad idea. That number climbed to 58 percent among Marines serving in combat roles.

A summary of the report said 69 percent of respondents believed they had already served alongside a gay person. Of those who believed that, 92 percent said their units were able to work together and 8 percent said the units functioned poorly as a result.

"We have a gay guy. He's big, he's mean and he kills lots of bad guys. No one cared that he was gay," the report quotes a member of the special operations force as saying.

The report says that many gay troops would be likely to keep their sexual orientation quiet even after the ban was lifted. That discretion would probably be more common in the military than in the civilian world, the report's authors said.

Of those respondents who said they were gay, only 15 percent said they would want that known to everyone in their unit.

The summary included anonymous quotes from gay troops currently serving.

"I will just be me," one person said. "I will bring my family to family events. I will put family pictures on my desk. I am not going to go up to people and say, 'Hi there. I'm gay.'"

Though some troops suggested during the study that there should be separate bath and living facilities for gays, the report recommended against it because it would be a "logistical nightmare, expensive and impossible to administer."

Further, separate facilities would stigmatize gays and lesbians in the way that "separate but equal" facilities did to blacks before the 1960s, it said.

The report said commanders could address individual concerns on a case-by-case basis.

Reid, D-Nev., has promised a vote on the matter by the end of the year, after hearings can be held this week. But if he fails, the bill's chances of survival are dim as the new Congress takes over in January. Republicans have seized control of the House and the Democratic majority in the Senate becomes even more narrow.

US cuts access to files as Interpol seeks Assange

US cuts access to files as Interpol seeks Assange

AP Photo
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs pauses during his daily news briefing at the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Nov., 30, 2010.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The government scrambled Tuesday to prevent future spills of U.S. secrets like the embarrassing WikiLeaks' disclosures, while officials pondered possible criminal prosecutions and Interpol in Europe sent out a "red notice" for nations to be on the lookout for the website's founder.

Interpol placed Julian Assange on its most-wanted list after Sweden issued an arrest warrant against him as part of a drawn-out rape probe - involving allegations Assange has denied. The Interpol alert is likely to make international travel more difficult for Assange, whose whereabouts are publicly unknown.

In Washington, the State Department severed its computer files from the government's classified network, officials said, as U.S. and world leaders tried to clean up from the leak that sent America's sensitive documents onto computer screens around the globe.

By temporarily pulling the plug, the U.S. significantly reduced the number of government employees who can read important diplomatic messages. It was an extraordinary hunkering down, prompted by the disclosure of hundreds of thousands of those messages this week by WikiLeaks, the self-styled whistleblower organization.

The documents revealed that the U.S. is still confounded about North Korea's nuclear military ambitions, that Iran is believed to have received advanced missiles capable of targeting Western Europe and - perhaps most damaging to the U.S. - that the State Department asked its diplomats to collect DNA samples and other personal information about foreign leaders.

While Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, taunted the U.S. from afar on Tuesday, lawyers from across the government were investigating whether it could prosecute him for espionage, a senior defense official said. The official, not authorized to comment publicly, spoke only on condition of anonymity.

There have been suggestions that Assange or others involved in the leaks could be prosecuted under the Espionage Act, but the question could be complicated. Who and what is he and his website? He has portrayed himself as a crusading journalist, and the Justice Department has steered clear of prosecuting journalists for publishing leaked secrets.

Meanwhile, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley sought to reassure the world that U.S. diplomats were not spies, even as he sidestepped questions about why they were asked to provide DNA samples, iris scans, credit card numbers, fingerprints and other deeply personal information about leaders at the United Nations and in foreign capitals.

Diplomats in the Paraguayan capital of Asuncion, for instance, were asked in a secret March 2008 cable to provide "biometric data, to include fingerprints, facial images, iris scans, and DNA" for numerous prominent politicians. They were also asked to send "identities information" on terrorist suspects, including "fingerprints, arrest photos, DNA and iris scans."

In Burundi, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo the requests included information about political, military and intelligence leaders.

"Data should include e-mail addresses, telephone and fax numbers, fingerprints, facial images, DNA, and iris scans," the cable said.

Every year, the intelligence community asks the State Department for help collecting routine information such as biographical data and other "open source" data. DNA, fingerprint and other information was included in the request because, in some countries, foreigners must provide that information to the U.S. before entering an embassy or military base, a U.S. official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters.

The possibility that American diplomats pressed for more than "open source" information has drawn criticism at the U.N. and in other diplomatic circles over whether U.S. information-gathering blurred the line between diplomacy and espionage.

"What worries me is the mixing of diplomatic tasks with downright espionage. You cross a border ... if diplomats are encouraged to gather personal information about some people," U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said.

Crowley said a few diplomatic cables don't change the role of U.S. diplomats.

"Our diplomats are diplomats. Our diplomats are not intelligence assets," he repeatedly told reporters. "They can collect information. If they collect information that is useful, we share it across the government."

World leaders, meanwhile, were fielding questions about candid U.S. assessments of their countries.

In Kenya, the government was outraged by a leaked cable, published by the German magazine Der Spiegel, in which Kenya is described as a "swamp of flourishing corruption." Kenya's government spokesman called the cable "totally malicious" and said the State Department called to apologize.

In Brazil, officials declined to answer questions about U.S. cables that characterized the South American country as privately cooperative in the war against terrorism, even as it publicly denies terrorist threats domestically.

WikiLeaks has not said how it obtained the documents, but the government's prime suspect is an Army Pfc., Bradley Manning, who is being held in a maximum-security military brig on charges of leaking other classified documents to WikiLeaks. Authorities believe Manning defeated Pentagon security systems simply by bringing a homemade music CD to work, erasing the music, and downloading troves of government secrets onto it.

While world leaders nearly universally condemned the leak, the U.S. and Assange traded barbs from afar. In an online interview with Time magazine from an undisclosed location, Assange called on Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to resign because of the cables asking diplomats to gather intelligence. "She should resign, if it can be shown that she was responsible for ordering U.S. diplomatic figures to engage in espionage in the United Nations, in violation of the international covenants to which the U.S. has signed up," he said.

In France, Lyon-based Interpol placed the 39-year-old Assange on its most-wanted list, sent around the world.

His lawyer, Mark Stephens, a prominent media attorney in Britain, said an appeal by Assange remains pending in Sweden, and the lawyer is waiting for prosecutors there to "contact us and with details of the allegations and evidence."

Crowley, at the State Department, showed disdain for Assange.

"I believe he has been described as an anarchist," he said. "His actions seem to substantiate that."

Defense Secretary Robert Gates played down the fallout from the leaks, calling them embarrassing and awkward but saying they would not significantly complicate U.S. foreign policy.

"The fact is governments deal with the United States because it's in their interest, not because they like us, not because they trust us and not because they think we can keep secrets," Gates said Monday.

Crowley would not say how long the State Department would keep its files off the classified network.

"We have made some adjustments, and that has narrowed, for the time being, those who have access to State Department cables across the government," he said.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Monster TEAM Values Comic Strip Creator Van Stone At Philadelphia Front Page News

Monster TEAM Values Comic Strip Creator Van Stone At Philadelphia Front Page News

Eagles Fall To Bears 31-26 On Sunday

Eagles Fall To Bears 31-26 On Sunday

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick (7) is sacked by Chicago Bears defensive tackle Matt Toeaina in the first half of an NFL football game in Chicago, Sunday, Nov. 28, 2010.

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick (7)
is sacked by Chicago Bears defensive tackle
Matt Toeaina in the first half of an NFL football
game in Chicago, Sunday, Nov. 28, 2010

Talk about a frenzied finish.

With each of the NFL's eight divisions tightly jumbled after this weekend's games, the last five weeks of the regular season are sure to be filled with plenty of unpredictable drama.

Take the wild NFC West, where Seattle and St. Louis are matched at the top with records below .500 at 5-6 - with Arizona and San Francisco playing Monday night and the winner moving a game behind at 4-7.

"This was a huge step for this team, taking it to the next level," Rams rookie quarterback Sam Bradford said of his first road win, 36-33 at Denver on Sunday. "It's obviously something we've struggled with earlier in the year. But to finally clear that hurdle, I feel like only things can get better now."

After Sunday, every division has either two teams tied for the lead or the second-place squad only a game behind.

How about the NFC East, where the New York Giants topped Jacksonville 24-20 ,and Michael Vick and Philadelphia fell at Chicago 31-26 to put both in a tie for the division lead at 7-4.

Then, there's the mediocre AFC South, where struggling Peyton Manning and Indianapolis are tied with the Jaguars at 6-5, with Houston and Tennessee just a game behind.

At Baltimore, the Ravens (8-3) improved to 5-0 at home this season with a 17-10 win over Tampa Bay and remained tied atop with the AFC North with Pittsburgh, which squeaked past Buffalo 19-16 in overtime. The division rivals play each other next Sunday night.

New England and the New York Jets won their games on Thanksgiving to earn matching 9-2 records, setting up a playofflike meeting at Foxborough next Monday night.

At Chicago, Jay Cutler tied a career high with four touchdown passes as the Bears (8-3) took sole possession of first place in the NFC North. The win, their fourth straight, put them a game ahead of Green Bay, which lost 20-17 to Atlanta.

"It was a big game for us," Cutler said. "We talked about it in there. We have to keep going."

Vick and the Eagles had won three straight, but were unable to break off big plays against one of the league's stingiest defenses. Vick threw for 333 yards and two touchdowns, but also threw his first interception of the year when he got picked off by Chris Harris in the end zone late in the first half, stopping a potential go-ahead scoring drive.

Chargers 36, Colts 14

San Diego picked off Manning four times, returning two for scores, and handed Indianapolis its most lopsided home loss since the four-time MVP has been the team's starting quarterback.

"Offensively, we didn't do a real good job," Manning said. "I didn't do a real good job."

The last time the Colts lost by this much at home was Sept. 14, 1997, when Seattle won 31-3.

San Diego (6-5) won its fourth straight and kept pace in the AFC West race, one game behind Kansas City.

Manning finished 31 of 48 for 285 yards with two TDs and has thrown seven interceptions in the last two weeks - the most over any two-week span in his 13-year NFL career. Pro Bowl receiver Reggie Wayne walked off the field after getting hurt with 2:45 to go, and the Colts (6-5) finished with only 24 yards rushing.

Falcons 20, Packers 17

At Atlanta, Matt Bryant kicked a 47-yard field goal with 9 seconds remaining to give the NFC-leading Falcons their fifth straight win and remain a game ahead of New Orleans in the NFC South.

The Falcons (9-2) have their longest winning streak since 1998 and assured themselves of a third straight winning season.

"It's great to get a winning season," coach Mike Smith said. "But the expectations and goals we talk about are a lot higher than that."

Aaron Rodgers guided Green Bay (7-4) on a 90-yard drive to tie the game with 56 seconds remaining. But Eric Weems broke loose on the kickoff return and was dragged down by Matt Wilhelm with a flagrant facemask tackle. The Falcons took over at the Green Bay 49, Matt Ryan completed four straight short passes and Bryant made the winning kick.

Steelers 19, Bills 16, OT

At Orchard Park, N.Y., Shaun Suisham kicked a 41-yard field goal with 2:14 left in overtime to lift Pittsburgh.

Buffalo (2-9) blew an opportunity to win it with 10:30 left in overtime. Wide receiver Stevie Johnson got in behind the Steelers secondary but dropped a 40-yard pass on the run, while he was 2 yards into the end zone.

Texans 20, Titans 0

At Houston, Andre Johnson finally had enough from Cortland Finnegan, sparking a fistfight in the fourth quarter that led to both players being ejected and could end up in further discipline from the NFL.

Houston cornerback Glover Quin set a franchise record with three interceptions for the Texans (5-6). Arian Foster rushed for 143 yards and caught nine passes for the Texans, who posted their first shutout since 2004.

The fight came at the end of a tumultuous week for the Titans (5-6), who've lost four in a row.

Rams 36, Broncos 33

At Denver, St. Louis escaped with a rare road win, which came just over a day after the NFL fined the Broncos (3-8) and their coach for a videotaping scandal.

There was more than a smattering of boos when Broncos coach Josh McDaniels was introduced before the game. There were also signs in the crowd calling for his firing following the latest embarrassment that also resulted in the firing of the video operations director who broke NFL rules by taping a San Francisco practice in London last month.

Giants 24, Jaguars 20

At East Rutherford, N.J., Eli Manning threw a 32-yard touchdown pass to Kevin Boss with 3:15 to play and the Giants rallied to snap a two-game losing streak and end the Jaguars' three-game winning streak.

Manning also threw a 26-yard touchdown pass to Mario Manningham, Lawrence Tynes kicked three field goals and the defense came up with three consecutive sacks and a late turnover with 1:25 to go as the Giants rallied from an 11-point halftime deficit.

David Garrard and Rashad Jennings ran for touchdowns as the Jaguars (6-5) lost for only the third time in eight games.

Ravens 17, Buccaneers 10

Joe Flacco threw two touchdown passes and Baltimore won a franchise record-tying eighth straight game at home.

Flacco connected with Todd Heap for a 65-yard score and hit Derrick Mason for a 10-yard touchdown during a three-minute span of the second quarter to stake Baltimore to a 17-3 halftime lead. Flacco now has 53 career TD passes, surpassing Vinny Testaverde (51) for most in Ravens history.

Tampa Bay fell to 7-4 and still has not beaten a team with a winning record.

Chiefs 42, Seahawks 24

At Seattle, Matt Cassel threw three touchdown passes to Dwayne Bowe, Jamaal Charles rushed for 173 yards and Kansas City remained atop the AFC West.

Facing Pete Carroll, his former coach at Southern California, Cassel threw for 233 yards and four touchdowns. Bowe extended his streak of games with at least one touchdown reception to seven straight. The pair connected on TDs of 7, 36 and 9 yards for Kansas City (7-4). Seattle (5-6) has lost four of five.

Vikings 17, Redskins 13

At Landover, Md., Brett Favre was perfect on two scoring drives, and Minnesota won Leslie Frazier's NFL head coaching debut despite Adrian Peterson's early injury.

Minnesota (4-7) ended its nine-game road losing streak, less than a week after firing coach Brad Childress and promoting Frazier. Washington is 5-6.

Browns 24, Panthers 23

At Cleveland, John Kasay missed a 42-yard field goal that grazed the left upright as time expired, allowing the Browns (4-7) to escape and give ex-Carolina quarterback Jake Delhomme a little satisfaction.

Kasay had a chance to win it for the Panthers (1-10) after rookie quarterback Jimmy Clausen drove them to Cleveland's 25, completing a beautiful sideline pass to Brandon LaFell with 5 seconds left. After the play was reviewed, Kasay pulled his kick just wide to the left.

Cleveland's Peyton Hillis rushed for 131 yards and three touchdowns, and Delhomme passed for 245 yards in his first start at home for the Browns, who signed him in March after he was released by Carolina.

Dolphins 33, Raiders 17

At Oakland, Calif., Chad Henne returned from a benching and injury to throw for 307 yards and two scores, and Dan Carpenter kicked four field goals for Miami.

Davone Bess had 111 yards receiving in his first game as a pro in his hometown, and Ricky Williams ran for 95 yards and a score for the Dolphins (6-5), who won for the fifth time in six road games to keep their playoff hopes alive. The Raiders are 5-6.

Philadelphia Officer Arrested in Domestic Assault

Philadelphia Officer Arrested in Domestic Assault


PHILADELPHIA– Authorities say police officer Deric Lewis, a four-year veteran of the force, has been arrested and charged in a domestic assault, after an altercation with his girlfriend on Saturday.

For full story

Police: Missing Mich. boys' dad lied about woman

Police: Missing Mich. boys' dad lied about woman

AP Photo
Volunteer Brett Casey searches a roadside in Holiday City, Ohio Monday, Nov. 29, 2010. Neighbors of three Michigan boys who were last seen the day before their father tried to commit suicide are holding onto hope that the children will be found safe, even though investigators believe the boys are in "extreme danger." Police in Morenci, Mich., about 75 miles southwest of Detroit, plan to resume their search Monday for 5-year-old Tanner, 7-year-old Alexander and 9-year-old Andrew Skelton.

MORENCI, Mich. (AP) -- A father of three missing boys lied about a relationship with a woman he claims to have entrusted with their care, said the Michigan police chief leading the investigation into their disappearance.

Morenci Police Chief Larry Weeks said Monday that police doubt the story of John Skelton, 39, who told them he handed over his children to a woman named Joann Taylor before attempting suicide Friday. The boys -Tanner, 5, Alexander, 7, and Andrew, 9 - were last seen Thursday in the backyard of their father's southern Michigan home and are believed to be in danger.

Authorities haven't named the father as a suspect, but Weeks said they also haven't ruled him out. The police chief said Monday authorities are looking for anyone who saw the three boys in their father's blue Dodge Caravan on Thursday or Friday along the Michigan-Ohio border. The FBI said the vehicle was on the Ohio Turnpike during that time.

"We believe the boys were in the vehicle the morning or evening before" they were reported missing, Weeks said. He said that despite the time since they were last seen, searchers "remain hopeful" they're still alive.

Police said they have extensively searched name records and other sources for Joann Taylor but have yet to find a woman by that name in a relationship with Skelton.

Authorities and volunteers searched Monday afternoon along busy U.S. 20 in northern Ohio highway for any evidence of the boys.

Cambridge Township fire chief Scott Damon said he had a crew searching east of Pioneer, Ohio, about 12 miles from the boys' home in Morenci.

"It's pretty flat land. We're just walking along," Damon said. "We're looking for any type of evidence. My group has not found anything."

Volunteers have been searching around Morenci, about 75 miles southwest of Detroit, for days. Monday morning, they checked fields, farms and wooded areas along the state boundary based on "information we've collected from a number of sources," Weeks said.

Police have searched Skelton's Morenci home and removed items but declined to identify them.

Weeks said Skelton was being treated at a hospital in Ohio for "mental health issues" after he told police that he tried to hang himself on Friday.

The boys were reported missing Friday by their mother, Tanya Skelton, Weeks said. A family friend said the boys were with their father as part of court-ordered visitation and their parents were going through a divorce.

About 200 people gathered Sunday evening for a prayer vigil at Tanya Skelton's church in Morenci, a small, mostly blue-collar and farming community. Lights were strung on poles along the town's main street, and festive decorations adorned windows in some of the shops and eateries in town.

Friends said the Skelton boys had started celebrating the holidays early by making greeting cards. One of the older brothers wrote "Jesus is awesome" on his and drew a Nativity scene, family spokeswoman Kathye Herrera said.

"They love church. They love the interaction, and they know all about Jesus," Herrera said, adding that John Skelton recently began attending services at the church.

Herrera said the boys' parents have been together for about 10 years. Earlier this year, John Skelton picked his two older sons up from school and took them to Florida, but later returned to Michigan, she said. Custody was awarded to Tanya Skelton, though John Skelton "had been seeing the boys with no issues," Herrera said.

Tanya Skelton attends a local college or community college, and John Skelton is a long-haul truck driver who hasn't been working in while, Herrera said. John Skelton's mother, Roxann Skelton of Jacksonville, Fla., told the Detroit Free Press that her son wouldn't hurt his children. She didn't return a phone message from The Associated Press. "I know my son, he's not a monster," she told the newspaper. "He's a good son and he would not harm his boys. I know those children are, you know, still with us."

Authorities said John Skelton told investigators Friday that he wanted the boys out of his house when he committed suicide, and he asked Taylor to take them to their mother. John Skelton claimed he met Taylor several years ago and the two had been involved in an online relationship, and she likely lived in southern Michigan.

But officers haven't been able to find a woman by that name or the silver van that John Skelton said she was driving.

Many of those who attended Sunday night's vigil tried to hold back tears, though others allowed them to flow freely. As "Silent Night" and other Christmas hymns played, people filed slowly past the altar, lighting small white candles before returning to the pews to continue prayers for the boys' safe return.

"Give us courage to face our fears," church Lay Leader Bob Dister said as part of a short prayer before leading into "The Lord's Prayer."

He wept as the vigil ended.

Iran blames Israel after nuclear scientist killed

Iran blames Israel after nuclear scientist killed

AP Photo
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad listens to a question during his press conference in Tehran, Iran, Monday, Nov. 29, 2010.

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Iran's president accused Israel and the West of being behind a pair of daring bomb attacks that killed one nuclear scientist and wounded another in their cars on the streets of Tehran on Monday. He also admitted for the first time that a computer worm had affected centrifuges in Iran's uranium enrichment program.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other Iranian officials vowed that the nuclear program would not be hampered by what they described as a campaign to sabotage it - whether by assassination or by the computer virus. The United States and its allies say Iran is seeking to build a nuclear bomb, a claim Tehran denies.

The two bomb attacks occurred when assailants on motorcycles attached magnetized bombs to the cars of two nuclear scientists as they drove to work in separate parts of the capital Monday morning. They detonated seconds later, killing one scientist, wounding another and wounding each of their wives, who were in the cars, Tehran's police chief said.

At least two other Iranian nuclear scientists have been killed in recent years, one of them in an attack similar to Monday's.

The wounded scientist, Fereidoun Abbasi, is on a list of figures suspected of links to secret nuclear activities in a 2007 U.N. sanctions resolution, which puts a travel ban and asset freeze on those listed. The resolution describes him as a Defense Ministry scientist who works closely with Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, believed to head secret nuclear projects. Iranian media said he was a member of the Revolutionary Guard, Iran's strongest military force.

Majid Shahriar, the scientist killed in the bombing, was involved in a major project with Iran's nuclear agency, said the agency's chief, Vice President Ali Akbar Salehi, though he did not give specifics.

"Undoubtedly, the hand of the Zionist regime and Western governments is involved in the assassination," Ahmadinejad told a press conference. He said the attack would not hamper the nuclear program.

Salehi, who was a former teacher of the slain scientist, wept as he went on state TV later to talk of the killing. "They (Iran's enemies) are mistaken if think they can shake us," he said.

Asked about the Iranian accusations, Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said Israel did not comment on such matters. In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said, "We decry acts of terrorism, wherever they occur. And beyond that, we do not have any information on what happened."

Meanwhile, Ahmadinejad also acknowledged for the first time that a computer worm affected centrifuges in Iran's uranium enrichment program, which the United Nations has demanded Tehran halt.

Iran has previously acknowledged discovering the Stuxnet worm, which experts say is calibrated to destroy centrifuges by causing them to spin out of control, at its nuclear facilities. But Iranian officials - including Salehi - said it was discovered and neutralized before it could cause any damage, and they accused the West of trying to sabotage Iran's program.

But Ahmadinejad told reporters, "They managed to create problems for a limited number of our centrifuges through the software ... installed on electronic parts. But this (virus) was discovered and the problem was resolved."

He said Iranian experts had learned from the attempt and "this became an experience that stops the path for (sabotage) forever."

Earlier in November, U.N. inspectors found Iran's enrichment program temporarily shut down, according to a recent report by the U.N. nuclear watchdog. The length and cause of the shutdown were not known, but speculation fell on Stuxnet.

Iran's enrichment program is of international concern because the process can create both fuel for an electricity-generating reactor and nuclear warhead material. Iran insists it wants to enrich only to run a nuclear reactor network.

The latest attacks come a day after the release of internal U.S. State Department memos by the whistle-blower website WikiLeaks, including several that vividly detail Arab fears over Iran's nuclear program. In some memos, U.S. diplomats say Arab leaders advocated a U.S.-led attack on Iranian nuclear facilities.

Ahmadinejad dismissed the leaks as "mischief" aimed at damaging Tehran's ties with the Arab world.

Monday's bombings bore close similarities to another in January that killed Tehran University professor Masoud Ali Mohammadi, a senior physics professor. He was killed when a bomb-rigged motorcycle exploded near his car as he was about to leave for work.

In 2007, state TV reported that nuclear scientist, Ardeshir Hosseinpour, died from gas poisoning. A one-week delay in the reporting of his death prompted speculation about the cause, including that Israel's Mossad spy agency was to blame.

There are several active armed groups that oppose Iran's ruling clerics, but it's unclear whether they could have carried out the apparently coordinated bombings in the capital. Most anti-government violence in recent years has been isolated to Iran's provinces such the border with Pakistan where Sunni rebels are active and the western mountains near Iraq where Kurdish separatists operate.

Tehran police chief Hossein Sajednia said no one has been arrested in connection with Monday's attack and no one has so far claimed responsibility.

The bombings both took place in the morning, in locations in north and northeast Tehran that lie about a 15-minute drive apart, without traffic. There were conflicting reports on what time each attack took place.

The slain scientist, Shahriari, was a member of the nuclear engineering faculty at Shahid Beheshti University in Tehran and cooperated with the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said Salehi, who heads the organization.

"He was involved in one of the big AEOI projects, which is a source of pride for the Iranian nation," Salehi said, according to IRNA, without giving any details on the project. The AEOI is in charge of Iran's nuclear activities, including its uranium enrichment program.

A pro-government website,, said the wounded scientist, Abbasi, is a Revolutionary Guard member who is a laser expert at Iran's Defense Ministry and one of few top Iranian specialists in nuclear isotope separation - a process needed for a range of purposes, from producing enriched uranium fuel for a reactor, to manufacturing medical isotopes to producing a bomb.

Obama calls for 2-year freeze on federal pay

Obama calls for 2-year freeze on federal pay

AP Photo
President Barack Obama delivers a statement to members of the media in the in the Old Executive Office Building, on the White House campus in Washington, Monday, Nov. 29, 2010.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama on Monday proposed a two-year freeze of the salaries of some 2 million federal workers, trying to seize the deficit-cutting initiative from Republicans with a sudden, dramatic stroke. Though signaling White House concern over record deficits, the freeze would make only a tiny dent in annual deficits or the nation's $14 trillion debt.

"Small businesses and families are tightening their belts," Obama said in brief remarks at the White House. "The government should, too." The administration said the plan was designed to save more than $5 billion over the first two years.

The proposal, which must be approved by Congress, would not apply to the military, but it would affect all others on the Executive Branch payroll. It would not affect members of Congress or their staffs, defense contractors, postal workers or federal court judges and workers.

Obama's move was an attempt to get in front of Republican plans to slash federal pay and the workforce next year, when they will flex more legislative muscle than now. It came a day ahead of Obama's meeting at the White House with both Republicans and Democratic leaders - his first with Republicans since the midterm elections - and two days before the deadline for recommendations by his deficit-reduction commission.

The president said the economy and federal spending were at the top of the agenda for Tuesday's meeting, one he said he hoped "will mark a first step towards a new and productive working relationship" between the two parties. Because of GOP midterm gains, "we now have a shared responsibility to deliver for the American people on the issues that define not only these times but our future," Obama said.

House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio, on track to become House speaker in January, said he was pleased with the president's announcement.

"Republicans and Democrats don't have to wait until January to cut spending and stop all the tax hikes. We can - and should - start right now," Boehner said in a statement. He also suggested that Obama was taking a page from the GOP playbook.

The freeze would take effect on Jan. 1, assuming the lame-duck Congress approves the move by the end of this year. The 2012 pay freeze will be included by Obama as part of his fiscal 2012 budget submission to Congress, due early next year.

In the past, Congress has generally gone along with presidential recommendations on federal worker pay levels.

Without congressional action, federal employees would automatically get a 0.9 percent increase under the formula set by a 1990 law. They received a 1.9 percent pay increase this year.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., in line to be the next chairman of the House committee that oversees federal personnel issues, called Obama's federal salary freeze "long overdue." But labor union leaders balked at it.

John Gage, president of the 600,000-member American Federation of Government Employees, called the decision "a slap at working people. ... To symbolically hit at federal employees I think is just wrong." He said the move would not really save as much as the White House claims because federal employees often get just a fraction of projected raises.

Colleen Kelley, head of the 150,000-member National Treasury Employees Union, said union officials would try to derail the proposal in Congress. She may find some sympathy with union-friendly Democrats still in control for another month.

"We're going to do everything we can to make this not happen and to explore all our options," Kelley said.

The president's move bows to growing budget concerns and pressure from Republicans, and many rank-and-file Democrats, to rein in federal pay and benefits.

The federal government is the nation's largest employer, with about 2 million workers. About 85 percent of them work outside of the Washington, D.C., area.

Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., now the House majority leader, said he would closely study Obama's request.

"Meaningful deficit deduction cannot be achieved through a piecemeal approach to trimming federal spending," Hoyer said. Active members of the military "serving in harm's way" should be exempt, he said, but he questioned the wisdom of leaving out military members in noncombat roles while subjecting their civilian counterparts to the freeze.

"I did not reach this decision easily, this is not a line item on a federal ledger, these are people's lives," Obama said.

But, he added, "getting this deficit under control is going to require some broad sacrifice, and that sacrifice must be shared by the employees of the federal government." He said he was just asking civil servants "to do what they've always done - play their part."

Federal workers are an easy target. Polls show rising public anger toward the federal government at a time of high continued unemployment and Wall Street and auto bailouts.

Federal workers have been less directly affected by the recession than other sectors, with fewer layoffs and continued annual pay increases. Republican and fiscal conservative critics have argued that federal employees are better paid than private-sector counterparts, although public workers' unions dispute this.

Shortly after taking office in January 2009, Obama froze salaries of top White House officials and top political appointees.

Congress, not covered by Obama's new freeze plans as separate branch of government, froze its pay last April, with House and Senate votes to forgo an automatic $1,600 annual cost of living increase.

House members and senators are paid $174,000 a year. Their last pay increase was $4,700 a year at beginning of 2009. The president's pay of $400,000 a year was fixed by Congress in January 2001 and has not changed since then.

The co-chairmen of Obama's bipartisan deficit commission, Republican Alan Simpson and Democrat Erskine Bowles, have proposed a three-year freeze in pay for most federal employees as part of their plan to reduce the nation's growing deficit.

The federal government is on track to rack up the third trillion-dollar-plus deficit in history. Yearly deficits have ballooned primarily as a result of falling tax revenues and rising recession-related costs. Last year's deficit totaled $1.3 trillion, second highest in history, down from the all-time record of $1.4 trillion set in 2009. The government's budget year begins on Oct. 1 and ends on Sept. 30.

The national debt - the total amount owed by the government, essentially the sum of previous budget deficits - stands at $13.8 trillion.

Obama indicated there were other belt-tightening steps ahead. "We're going to have to make some additional very tough decisions that this town has put off for a very long time," he said. At the same time, noting continued economic weakness, Obama said, "We can't put the brakes on too quickly" because of the still-fragile economy.

Jeffrey Zients, deputy White House budget director, told reporters the two-year freeze on Executive Branch civilian workers was "the first of many difficult steps ahead that we'll be taking in the upcoming budget to put our nation on sound fiscal footing, steps that will ask for all of us to sacrifice."

US says leaks are a crime, threatens prosecution

US says leaks are a crime, threatens prosecution

AP Photo
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton makes a statement on the Wikileaks document release, Monday, Nov. 29, 2010, at the State Department in Washington.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Striking back, the Obama administration branded the WikiLeaks release of more than a quarter-million sensitive files an attack on the United States Monday and raised the prospect of criminal prosecutions in connection with the exposure. The Pentagon detailed new security safeguards, including restraints on small computer flash drives, to make it harder for any one person to copy and reveal so many secrets.

The young Army Pfc. suspected of stealing the diplomatic memos, many of them classified, and feeding them to WikiLeaks may have defeated Pentagon security systems using little more than a Lady Gaga CD and a portable computer memory stick.

The soldier, Bradley Manning has not been charged in the latest release of internal U.S. government documents. But officials said he is the prime suspect partly because of his own description of how he pulled off a staggering heist of classified and restricted material.

"No one suspected a thing," Manning told a confidant afterward, according to a log of his computer chat published by "I didn't even have to hide anything."

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton asserted Monday that WikiLeaks acted illegally in posting the material. She said the administration was taking "aggressive steps to hold responsible those who stole this information."

Attorney General Eric Holder said the government was mounting a criminal investigation, and the Pentagon was tightening access to information, including restricting the use of computer storage devices such as CDs and flash drives.

"This is not saber-rattling," Holder said. Anyone found to have broken American law "will be held responsible."

Holder said the latest disclosure, involving classified and sensitive State Department documents, jeopardized the security of the nation, its diplomats, intelligence assets and relationships with foreign governments.

A weary-looking Clinton agreed.

"I want you to know that we are taking aggressive steps to hold responsible those who stole this information," Clinton said. She spoke in between calls to foreign capitals to make amends for scathing and gossipy memos never meant for foreign eyes.

Manning is charged in military court with taking other classified material later published by the online clearinghouse WikiLeaks. It is not clear whether others such as WikiLeaks executives might be charged separately in civilian courts.

Clinton said the State Department was adding security protections to prevent another breach. The Pentagon, embarrassed by the apparent ease with which secret documents were passed to WikiLeaks, had detailed some of its new precautions Sunday.

Col. Dave Lapan, a Pentagon spokesman, said it was possible that many people could be held accountable if they were found to have ignored security protocols or somehow enabled the download without authorization.

A senior Defense Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the criminal case against Manning is pending, said he was unaware of any firings or other discipline over the security conditions at Manning's post in Iraq.

In his Internet chat, Manning described the conditions as lax to the point that he could bring a homemade music CD to work with him, erase the music and replace it with secrets. He told the computer hacker who would turn him in that he lip-synched along with pop singer Lady Gaga's hit "Telephone" while making off with "possibly the largest data spillage in American history." published a partial log of Manning's discussions with hacker R. Adrian Lamo in June.

"Weak servers, weak logging, weak physical security, weak counterintelligence, inattentive signal analysis," Manning wrote. "A perfect storm."

His motive, according to the chat logs: "I want people to see the truth ... because without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public."

By his own admission, Manning was apparently able to pull material from outside the Pentagon, including documents he had little obvious reason to see. He was arrested shortly after those chats last spring. He was moved in July to the Quantico Marine Corps Base in Virginia to await trial on the earlier charges and could face up to 52 years in a military prison if convicted.

There are no new charges, and none are likely at least until after a panel evaluates Manning's mental fitness early next year, said Lt. Col. Rob Manning, spokesman for the Military District of Washington. He is no relation to Bradley Manning.

Manning's civilian lawyer, David E. Combs, declined comment.

Lapan, the Pentagon spokesman, said the WikiLeaks experience has encouraged discussion within the military about how better to strike a balance between sharing information with those who need it and protecting it from disclosure.

So far, he said, Pentagon officials are not reviewing who has access to data but focusing instead on installing technical safeguards.

Since summer, when WikiLeaks first published stolen war logs from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Defense Department has made it harder for one person acting alone to download material from a classified network and place it on an unclassified one.

Such transfers generally take two people now, what Pentagon officials call a "two-man carry." Users also leave clearer electronic footprints by entering a computer "kiosk," or central hub, en route to downloading the classified material.

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said the WikiLeaks case revealed vulnerable seams in the information-sharing systems used by multiple government agencies. Some of those joint systems were designed to answer another problem: the failure of government agencies to share what they knew before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

"These efforts to give diplomatic, military, law enforcement and intelligence specialists quicker and easier access to greater amounts of data have had unintended consequences," Whitman said.

Agencies across the U.S. government have installed safeguards around the use of flash drives and computer network operations, said Navy Rear Adm. Michael Brown, the Department of Homeland Security's director for cybersecurity coordination.

Like the Pentagon, Homeland Security has laid out policies to ensure that employees are using the networks correctly, that the classified and unclassified networks are properly identified, and that there are detailed procedures for moving information from one network to another.

Dale Meyerrose, former chief information officer for the U.S. intelligence community, said Monday that it will never be possible to completely stop such breaches.

"This is a personnel security issue, more than it is a technical issue," said Meyerrose, now a vice president at Harris Corp. "How can you prevent a pilot from flying the airplane into the ground? You can't. Anybody you give access to can become a disgruntled employee or an ideologue that goes bad."

One official in contact with U.S. military and diplomatic staff in Iraq said they already were seeing the effect of a tighter collar on information.

The State Department and other agencies are restricting access among the Army and nonmilitary agencies, the official said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the sharing of classified information.

Former CIA director Michael Hayden warned the latest leak will affect what other governments are willing to share with the U.S. as well as change the way U.S. officials share information among themselves.

"You're going to put a lot less in cables now," he said.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Holiday, Sixers Top Nets 102-86

Holiday, Sixers Top Nets 102-86

New Jersey Nets v Philadelphia 76ers

PHILADELPHIA (AP) – Jrue Holiday had 20 points and 13 assists, and Thaddeus Young sparked a fourth-quarter spurt to lead the Philadelphia 76ers past the New Jersey Nets 102-86 on Saturday night, snapping a three-game losing streak.

Andre Iguodala contributed 16 points and Lou Williams added 15 for the Sixers, who returned to Philadelphia after losing three straight on the road, including a 99-90 loss to the Miami Heat on Friday night. Saturday’s win was their second in 10 games.

The Sixers (4-13) only had five turnovers.

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Delaware Father Arrested For Leaving Infant In Car While Shopping

Delaware Father Arrested For Leaving Infant In Car While Shopping


PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - Delaware state police have charged a 40-year-old Newark man with child endangerment after he is alleged to have left his four-month old son alone in the family car while he did some shopping at a local department store.

Delaware state police allege the incident took place on Saturday at a Sears outlet store along Eagle Run Road in Newark.

Troopers were tipped of the incident around 6:30 p.m. Upon arrival, they found the infant inside the locked car by himself and the car’s engine had been left operating.

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Search Continues For Expensive Puppy Stolen From Pet Store In Camden County

Search Continues For Expensive Puppy Stolen From Pet Store In Camden County

stolen puppy

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The search continues for a $700 puppy stolen from a Delran, Camden County pet shop. The puppy is on a special diet and there are concern’s about her health.

The three-month-old female Jug, which is a Jack Russell/Pug mix, was in her pen Friday night at Pets Plus in Delran when she was allegedly stolen by two young women.

According to the shop’s manager Wayne Harrison, “They were in a white van with a work rack on the top with red running boards. It was probably a Chevy.”

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'Harry Potter' leads holiday weekend with $50.3M

'Harry Potter' leads holiday weekend with $50.3M

AP Photo
In this film publcity image released by Warner Bros. Pictures, Ralph Fiennes is shown in a scene from "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1."

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- A fairy-tale princess gave young wizard Harry Potter a run for his money at the weekend box office.

"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1" remained the No. 1 movie with $50.3 million over Thanksgiving weekend, closely followed by the animated musical "Tangled" with $49.1 million, according to studio estimates Sunday.

The next-to-last "Harry Potter" movie raised its domestic total to $220.4 million after just 10 days in theaters, according to distributor Warner Bros. The film also has taken in $389.2 million overseas, giving it a worldwide total of $609.6 million.

"Tangled" is the latest Disney cartoon musical, with Mandy Moore providing the voice of fairy-tale princess Rapunzel. The movie raised its five-day total to $69 million since opening the day before Thanksgiving.

While "Deathly Hallows" continued to work box-office magic, Disney's "Tangled" far exceeded industry expectations, delivering the second-biggest Thanksgiving debut ever behind "Toy Story 2," which had a $57.4 million opening.

Disney head of distribution Chuck Viane said the studio would have been happy if "Tangled" had matched the $34 million debut of its hit "Enchanted" over Thanksgiving 2007. "Tangled" not only shot past that mark but also challenged "Harry Potter" for the No. 1 spot.

"That was the last thing we were thinking of, but it sure is nice to be even thought of in that situation," Viane said. "'Potter' is such a huge hit. To be that close, it was amazing."

Three other new wide releases had so-so openings, led by Christina Aguilera and Cher's song-and-dance tale "Burlesque" at No. 4 with $11.8 million for the weekend and a five-day total of $17.2 million since premiering Wednesday.

Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway's romance "Love & Other Drugs" debuted at No. 6 with a three-day haul of $9.9 million and a total of $14 million since opening Wednesday.

Dwayne Johnson's action tale "Faster" opened at No. 7 with $8.7 million for the weekend and $12.2 million since its Wednesday debut.

With a $125 million opening weekend, "Deathly Hallows" had the biggest start yet for the franchise about the young wizard. Its 10-day total also surpasses the previous high of $201 million set by "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" and last year's "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," according to Warner Bros.

"That kind of tells you how big the last `Potter' is going to be," said Jeff Goldstein, general sales manager for Warner Bros. "If you look at films like `Lord of the Rings,' when you get to the last one, anticipation is just overwhelming."

"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2," the final installment, hits theaters next July.

Despite big business for "Harry Potter" and "Tangled," Hollywood fell short of the Thanksgiving revenue record set last year, when "The Twilight Saga: New Moon" and "The Blind Side" led the box office.

According to box-office tracker, revenues from Wednesday to Sunday last Thanksgiving totaled $273 million, compared to $267 million this season.

"This one was really close. I thought we might eke out a record," said Paul Dergarabedian, box-office analyst for

Other than "Tangled," the new wide releases did not draw huge crowds, each catering to a segment of the audience.

Sony's "Burlesque," with Aguilera as a waitress seeking stardom at a Hollywood musical club, drew women; 20th Century Fox's "Love and Other Drugs," with Gyllenhaal as a pharmaceutical salesman who falls for an ailing woman (Hathaway), brought in date crowds; and CBS Films' "Faster," starring Johnson as an ex-con out for revenge, attracted male action fans.

In limited release, the Weinstein Co. drama "The King's Speech" got off to a majestic start with $349,791 in four theaters in New York City and Los Angeles. That gave it a whopping average of $87,448 a theater, compared to $13,628 in 3,603 theaters for "Tangled."

"The King's Speech" stars Colin Firth as British monarch George VI, father of Queen Elizabeth II, as he comes to power in 1936 while struggling to overcome a lifelong stammer. The film, which has early Academy Awards buzz as a potential front-runner, gradually expands to more theaters through the holidays.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Final figures will be released Monday.

1. "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1," $50.3 million.

2. "Tangled," $49.1 million.

3. "Megamind," $12.9 million.

4. "Burlesque," $11.8 million.

5. "Unstoppable," $11.75 million.

6. "Love & Other Drugs," $9.9 million.

7. "Faster," $8.7 million.

8. "Due Date," $7.3 million.

9. "The Next Three Days," $4.8 million.

10. "Morning Glory," $4 million.

Obama returns to basketball court after accident

Obama returns to basketball court after accident

AP Photo
President Barack Obama waits as his daughter Sasha walks by after a basketball outing with both of his girls and some of their friends, Sunday, Nov. 28, 2010, in Washington.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama is back on the basketball court, though this time with two players less likely to throw an elbow his way - his daughters.

The White House says that Malia and Sasha Obama joined their father Sunday morning for some hoop time at the gym inside the building that houses the Interior Department.

On Friday, Obama took an elbow to the mouth while playing a pickup basketball game with friends at Fort McNair. He received 12 stitches to close a cut to the left side of his lower lip.

Rio police claim victory after invading gang haven

Rio police claim victory after invading gang haven

AP Photo
Police take position during an operation against alleged drug traffickers at the Complexo do Alemao slum, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Sunday, Nov. 28, 2010. Rio police backed by helicopters and armored vehicles started invading a shantytown complex long held by traffickers on Sunday, slowly moving their way through small alleys amid heavy gunfire.

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) -- Rio police backed by helicopters and armored vehicles invaded a shantytown complex long held by traffickers on Sunday, quickly taking over the key drug gang stronghold in a historic victory meant to help make the city safe for the 2016 Olympics.

Black-clad officers poured into the Alemao slum complex just after sunrise amid heavy fire, with helicopters flying low to support the men on the ground. But the officers encountered less resistance than expected, even if many gang members still remained inside.

"We won," said Mario Sergio Duarte, head of Rio state's military police. "We brought freedom to the residents of Alemao."

The operation was crucial to the city's campaign to push criminals out of slums where they have ruled with impunity, an effort to secure Rio before the city hosts World Cup matches in 2014 and the 2016 Olympics.

Rio de Janeiro Gov. Sergio Cabral told Globo TV that the campaign will go forward: "We will continue to conquer more territories and give peace to our citizens and the foreign visitors who come here."

The invasion came after gangs unleashed a week of violence in the city of 6 million, with more than 100 cars and buses set on fire - many in protest against police raids of the past two years - and at least 35 deaths, mostly of suspected traffickers.

Sunday's operation gripped the nation's attention. Several networks broadcast it live and a mass calling for peace was celebrated at the base of Rio's iconic Christ the Redeemer statue.

At least two people were in injured in the invasion. A man was shot in the chest and a teenage boy was wounded in the right leg, but their conditions were not immediately available. Authorities said the boy appeared to be a slum resident and the man a suspected gang member.

"When we got in, it was a critical moment, but we now have control of the territory, it's all calm," said police inspector Rodrigo Oliveira. "There is no doubt that Rio residents have reason to celebrate today. The complex was seen as a fortress for drug traffickers and in less than two hours we took control."

Police said they captured large amounts of weapons, ammunition and drugs in the complex, which includes a dozen slums that are home to at least 85,000 people.

Television images showed police entering a four-story home at the top of the slum believed to belong to one of the local drug leaders. Its air conditioners, flat-screen TV, computer, whirlpool, pool and new appliances were a stark contrast to the bare wooden shacks that house most of the area's people.

Some gunmen began to surrender and about 10 were arrested in Sunday's operation, but police were still searching the shacks on the hills of the shantytown to try to find those trying to flee. Earlier, authorities said up to 600 gang members were in the slum.

"We have to be careful because they may be trying to set up traps for our men," Duarte said. But he promised that "we won't leave a place unchecked."

At least five police helicopters buzzed above the Alemao, with armed officers leaning out the open side doors searching for gang members.

Police and troops moved into the slum inside armored vehicles as residents watched from their windows in shacks packed along the hills. Big tracked armored personnel carriers rolled in and out of the slum entrances, carrying soldiers with camoflage-painted faces.

Vehicles from the forestry service carried troops to the jungle areas on the perimeter of the slum to cut back trees and eliminate possible escape routes.

Many residents were thrilled with the police operation.

"Fantastic, this is exactly the thing we needed," said Ana Costa, 48, who lives a block from the slum in the Penha neighborhood.

"This community has been so violent for so long that I never thought that I would see this day," she said as armored vehicles rushed by her house. "I still have my doubts, but I'm praying that peace has finally come here."

Hundreds of soldiers in camouflage, along with elite and regular police had been surrounding the Alemao since Saturday night, sheltering behind the armored vehicles. They exchanged intermittent, heavy gunfire with gang members at many of the 44 entrances to the slum.

As the troops and gangsters faced off, Rio saw its calmest night in a week, with only one volley of gunfire heard overnight in the slum. For the first time in more than a week, no vehicles were burned.

Saraiva said police had given gang members until sunset Saturday to surrender, and he described them as "exhausted, hungry, thirsty, stressed out." But they did not give up, so police moved in.

Authorities had already seized the Vila Cruzeiro slum, which was once thought virtually impenetrable. More than 200 armed gang members fled that offensive and ran to the nearby Alemao.

The human rights organization Amnesty International complained that police had been too heavy-handed in their offensive.

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