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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Five People Shot Outside Bar In Juniata

Five People Shot Outside Bar In Juniata

Philadelphia (CBS) – Five people were wounded early Saturday morning in a bar shooting in Juniata.

The five victims were leaving a birthday party inside the J Street Café on East Erie Avenue at approximately 2:21 a.m. when they heard gunshots and a commotion.

All five, ranging in age from 17-years-old to 28-years old, were shot in their lower extremities.

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Police: More cars set afire in LA, arson suspected

Police: More cars set afire in LA, arson suspected

AP Photo
A Los Angeles Fire Department firefighter extinguishes multiple cars on fire in a carport in the Sun Valley neighborhood of Los Angeles on Saturday, Dec. 31, 2011. For the third night in a row, a rash of arson fires has sent firefighters scrambling to extinguish car fires in various neighborhoods in Los Angeles. Most of the fires on this night occurred in the San Fernando Valley.

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Several more cars burned in suspected arson attacks in the Los Angeles area early Saturday morning, and authorities investigated if they were connected to nearly two dozen deliberately set blazes a day earlier, police said.

Seven or eight cars burned Saturday in the North Hollywood area, said officer Robert Collier.

He said he didn't have further details of the blazes, but said arson is suspected and there could be a link to the earlier blazes.

"We believe there might be, but we don't know for sure," he said.

Fire officials said the first report came in shortly after midnight, and the most recent about three hours later.

Early Friday morning, fires were reported in nearly two dozen locations in Hollywood and the neighboring city of West Hollywood during a four-hour period before dawn. In nearly every case, the fire started in a parked car.

Flames from torched vehicles ignited some nearby houses early Friday, including one once occupied by Doors frontman Jim Morrison.

But Collier said that although some of Saturday's blazes are in carports and garages, he didn't have any reports of damage to buildings.

Police up a command post in the North Hollywood area and have called a tactical alert, allowing them to call in more officers.

No arrests have been made and no injuries reported.

Another car fire was reported around 7 p.m. Friday in an underground garage in Hollywood that fire officials were investigating for possible links to the series of arson blazes. Los Angeles Fire Capt. Jaime Moore said that a connection hasn't been ruled out.

Arson investigators "consider it to be an incendiary fire similar to the fires from this morning," he told The Associated Press.

The new fires broke out even as authorities beefed up patrols and urged the public to remain vigilant overnight.

Officials announced at least $35,000 in rewards for information leading to the conviction of the person or persons responsible.

All of the Friday's fires were in a 2-square mile area and most were in densely populated residential neighborhoods where residents would likely be asleep.

Authorities interviewed witnesses and looked for any video footage that may have captured the person, or people, responsible for the spate of crimes. Investigators from four agencies met for a strategy session, while Los Angeles officials summoned investigators from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Fire officials couldn't say whether the rash of fires was the work of a copycat. There was a series of other arson fires early Thursday, also in Hollywood. Two people have been arrested and remain in custody for those blazes, officials said.

One of the homes was in Laurel Canyon, where Morrison and his girlfriend once lived, neighbors said. The winding road was the inspiration for the Doors' hit "Love Street," and the house was listed for nearly $1.2 million earlier this year, according to real estate website

Sandy Gendel, who owns a nearby restaurant, said he heard explosions from what he later determined were likely car tires. He saw flames 30 feet high coming from the deck of the former Morrison house and a gutted Mazda Miata.

"It was just like a towering inferno," Gendel said.

Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman Jaime Moore said it is plausible that one person in a car, on a motorcycle or on a bike could have set all the fires, considering the limited area the blazes broke out in.

Hollywood is served by the Los Angeles city police and fire departments. Adjacent West Hollywood is a separately incorporated city served by the Los Angeles County fire and sheriff's departments.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Officials Expect Sears Closures To Have Big Impact On Local Economy

Officials Expect Sears Closures To Have Big Impact On Local Economy

The sign outside the Sears store at the Neshaminy Mall in Bensalem.

The sign outside the Sears store at the Neshaminy Mall in Bensalem.

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – This week, word came that Sears will be closing two stores in the Delaware Valley: on 69th Street in Upper Darby, and at the Coventry Mall in Chester County.

“It’s a sad day, to hear that one of our stores in our premier shopping center on 69th street is going to be closing,” says Upper Darby Township chief administrative officer Tom Judge says he expects the store to close for good in the spring.

“What it means specifically to us in the way of revenue loss or jobs loss, we’re probably going to see the loss of 30 to 40 some full time and part time jobs.”

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Autopsy Confirms Bucks County Musician’s Death Was Homicide

Autopsy Confirms Bucks County Musician’s Death Was Homicide

Danny DeGennaro seen playing the guitar.

Danny DeGennaro seen playing the guitar.

LEVITTOWN, Pa. (CBS) – Authorities in Bucks County say a well-known local musician found shot to death inside his Levittown home Wednesday night was murdered.

Bucks County District Attorney David Heckler confirms the autopsy report shows Danny DeGennaro’s death is a homicide. Heckler says the 56-year-old guitarist died from a single shotgun blast to the middle of his chest.

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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Igoudala Leads Sixers To 103-83 Victory Over Suns

Igoudala Leads Sixers To 103-83 Victory Over Suns

(Credit: Barry Gossage, Getty Images)

PHOENIX (AP) — Andre Igoudala scored 15 points to lead six players in double figures and added six assists and the Philadelphia 76ers routed the Phoenix Suns 103-83 on Wednesday night.

Jrue Holiday and Thaddeus Young also scored 15 each for the Sixers, who used a 19-0 run at the beginning of the third quarter to extend a 14-point halftime lead to 67-34 with 6:44 remaining.

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Former Delaware County Police Officer Facing Sexual Assault, Stalking Charges

Former Delaware County Police Officer Facing Sexual Assault, Stalking Charges

DELAWARE COUNTY, Pa. (CBS) – A former Darby Township police officer is facing some serious charges.

Kevin Joseph Walker is behind bars after Delaware County prosecutors filed rape, sexual assault and other criminal charges against the former officer. According to the criminal complaint, Walker used his authority as a Darby Township police officer to coerce women into performing sex and sexual acts. The women accuse Walker of harassing and stalking them and say Walker committed some of the crimes while he was on duty and in uniform.

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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Philadelphia Councilwoman Marian Tasco Collects $478K DROP PaymentPhiladelphia Councilwoman Marian Tasco Collects $478K DROP Payment

Philadelphia Councilwoman Marian Tasco Collects $478K DROP Payment

Marian Tasco (file photo)

Marian Tasco

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - Philadelphia City Councilwoman Marian Tasco will be retiring at the close of business on Friday, only to return on Monday and be sworn into a new term, along with the rest of council and Mayor Nutter. But, she’ll be able to collect a $478,000 DROP payment.

The city’s Board of Pensions and Retirement confirms Councilwoman Tasco’s temporary retirement. She was one of six council members enrolled in the controversial pension perk to collect six-figure lump sum checks.

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Women Protest At Target For Treatment Of Breast Feeding Houston Mother

Women Protest At Target For Treatment Of Breast Feeding Houston Mother

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - Breastfeeding Moms are showing up at Target stores across the country, after 500,000 of them joined a Facebook page to protest the treatment of a Houston area woman.

Standing in front of Target’s Glen Mills, Pa. location, breastfeeding Mom Jamie Oyugi explains why they are there.

“A Houston mom, was at a Target in late November, and she was harassed by a couple of Target employees who told her to hide that she was breastfeeding. They also told her that she could be ticketed for indecent exposure. So we are here to defend our right to breastfeed in public.”

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Paul gets front-runner's welcome in Iowa

Paul gets front-runner's welcome in Iowa

AP Photo
Republican presidential candidate, Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas speaks during a campaign stop at the Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa, Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2011.

NEWTON, Iowa (AP) -- Texas Rep. Ron Paul received a welcome befitting a man with a suddenly serious chance to win next week's Iowa Republican presidential caucuses as he arrived in the state Wednesday for a final burst of campaigning.

His rivals attacked him, one by one.

If the 76-year-old libertarian-leaning conservative was bothered, he didn't let it show. He unleashed a television commercial that hit Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich. In his remarks, he lumped all his rivals into one unappealing category.

"There's a lot of status quo politicians out there," Paul told a crowd of a few dozen potential caucus-goers who turned out to hear him on the grounds of the Iowa Speedway. "If you pick another status quo politician nothing's going to change."

The audience applauded, but by day's end, it appeared that yet another contender might be rising.

According to public and private polls, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum is gaining ground in the final days of the race, yet another unpredictable turn in a fast-changing caucus campaign. "We have the momentum," he proclaimed.

The politicking was unending.

Paul got a welcome surprise - and rival Michele Bachmann an embarrassing one - when the state chairman of the Bachmann campaign announced Wednesday night that he was throwing his support to Paul. The endorsement came just hours after he had appeared with the Minnesota congresswoman.

Iowa State Sen. Kent Sorenson said he was switching from Bachmann to Paul because the Texas congressman was the most conservative of the top-tier candidates, an assessment sure to encourage those who want Bachmann to drop out of the race and free up her supporters for a conservative candidate with stronger backing.

Two politically active pastors in Iowa's robust evangelical conservative movement were already pushing that idea. They disclosed an effort to persuade either Santorum or Bachmann to quit the race and endorse the other.

"Otherwise, like-minded people will be divided and water down their impact," said Rev. Cary Gordon, a Sioux City minister and a leader among Iowa's social conservatives.

There was no sign either contender was interested.

For months, Romney has remained near or at the top of public opinion surveys in Iowa, as Bachmann, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, businessman Herman Cain and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich rose briefly to challenge him.

Romney has bent without breaking in the face of each challenge, benefiting from his own well-funded campaign, attack advertisements funded by deep-pocketed allies and the missteps of his challengers.

Paul's surge represents the latest threat, and in some respects, the unlikeliest, coming from a man whose views on abortion, the war in Iraq, Iran and other issues are at odds with those of most Republicans.

At the same time, his anti-government appeal appears to tap into the desire of a frustrated electorate for profound change in an era of high unemployment and an economy that has only slowly recovered from the recession.

"In the last couple of weeks I fell into Ron Paul's camp," said Bob Colby, of Newton, who spent 21 years in the military and is a former employee at a now-shuttered Maytag plant in town.

"I threw my hands up" in frustration, said Colby, who added that he supported Romney in the 2008 caucuses and chose Sen. John McCain over Barack Obama that fall.

In his remarks, Paul drew applause when he said, "I want to cut $1 trillion out of the budget the first year," and eliminate deficits in three.

"The debt is unsustainable once it reaches a certain point," he said. "My whole effort is to face up to it."

Paul strongly suggested the United States withdraw its troops from Asia, and drew laughter from the audience when he noted Obama's recent announcement that Marines would be deployed to Australia.

"How long do we have to stay in Korea? We've been there since I was in high school," he said, making no mention of the recent death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and the resulting uncertainty about the nuclear-armed nation.

Nor did Paul refer in his remarks to his recent statement in a campaign debate that he would not consider pre-emptive military action to block Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

His campaign released an ad that showed pictures of Romney and Gingrich as the narrator said "serial hypocrites and flip-floppers can't clear up the mess" in Washington. "Paul's the one we've been looking for."

His rivals weren't nearly as reticent about discussing a nuclear Iran.

"You don't have to vote for a candidate who will allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon to wipe Israel off the face of the Earth. Because America will be next. I mean, I'm here to say: You have a choice," Perry told an early morning audience near Des Moines.

"I'm very uncomfortable with the idea that the commander in chief would think it was irrelevant to have an Iranian nuclear weapon," said Gingrich.

The former speaker has said he could not support Paul in a general election campaign, a position that Romney and Santorum disagreed with during the day.

Even so, Romney also took a poke at Paul. "One of the people running for president thinks it's OK for Iran to have a nuclear weapon. I don't," he said in response to a question from a potential caucus-goer in Muscatine.

Santorum attacked from a different angle.

Acknowledging widespread voter anger in an age of high unemployment, he said: "If you want to stick it to the man, don't vote for Ron Paul. That's not sticking it to anybody but the Republican Party."

In a campaign that began months ago, Santorum stands out as the only contender who has not experienced a surge in the statewide public opinion polls. There was a hint during the day in a CNN survey as well as private polls that he might be peaking at exactly the right moment.

"We're very, very happy with the new numbers," he told reporters in Dubuque. "We're seeing our numbers go up in a lot of polls."

He's told his recent audiences that he faces the challenge of persuading Iowa Republicans that he has a chance to win.

Santorum has campaigned extensively in the state, spending parts of more than 250 days and stopping in each of Iowa's 99 counties.

Yet he has been low on funds, and while Romney, Perry and Paul have been advertising on television for weeks, Santorum began only recently.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Aldridge Leads Trail Blazers Over 76ers

Aldridge Leads Trail Blazers Over 76ers

(credit: Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images)

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — As the Portland Trail Blazers’ lead dwindled, coach Nate McMillan decided to pick up the pace.

Portland pushed the tempo late in the second half with a smaller quicker lineup and beat the Philadelphia 76ers 107-103 in the season opener for both teams.

“We have a lot of weapons,” said LaMarcus Aldridge, who had 25 points to lead the Blazers. “I think as times got tight for us guys stepped up and made big plays.”

Gerald Wallace had 21 points and nine rebounds for the Blazers. Wesley Mathews added 16 points.

For full story go to:

Mothers In Charge Organizes Motorcade Remembering 300 Homicide Victims

Mothers In Charge Organizes Motorcade Remembering 300 Homicide Victims

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – A motorcade through the city streets on Thursday aims to remember the more than 300 homicide victims in Philadelphia in 2011.

Thursday’s 4 p.m. motorcade will make stops at four locations in Grays Ferry, West Philadelphia, Germantown and Brewerytown. At each stop, names of people who have been killed will be read aloud. The event is organized by the antiviolence group, Mothers in Charge, founded ten years ago by Dorothy Johnson-Speight (second from left in photo).

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Mummers, Mayor Nutter Help Re-Open Landmark Broad Street Diner

Mummers, Mayor Nutter Help Re-Open Landmark Broad Street Diner

The newly re-opened Broad Street Diner. (Credit: John McDevitt)

The newly re-opened Broad Street Diner.

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - There was a celebration on South Broad Street this morning, complete with a string band to mark the official reopening of the landmark Broad Street Diner.

Mayor Michael Nutter participated in the ribbon cutting and the re-opening of the Broad Street Diner under new ownership.

“This will be a wonderful addition to Broad Street, thanks for bringing it back to life,” Mayor Nutter said. “Give a big big hand to Michael and his family.”

For full story go to:

Brotherly Love: Filling School Libraries

Brotherly Love: Filling School Libraries

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Many Philadelphia schools suffer from a lack of books. To many adults who grew up with school libraries, it’s inconceivable that some kids today don’t have them. In a repeat airing of one of this year’s Brotherly Love profiles, Ukee Washington introduces us to a woman who is bringing books to schools.

This bright room at Fitler Academics Plus School in Germantown has the bones of a library: shelves, posters, reading light. But it wasn’t until recently that this room had the heart of a library: books! Boxes and boxes of them, all donations collected for the school by Chestnut Hill College professor Jessica Kahn.

For full story go to:

New Year Brings Higher Tolls For Three Area Roadways

New Year Brings Higher Tolls For Three Area Roadways

(Cash tolls are going up 10 percent on the Pennsylvania Turnpike starting January 1st. File photo)
Cash tolls are going up 10 percent on the Pennsylvania Turnpike starting January 1st.

TRENTON, N.J. (CBS) – New Year’s Day will bring toll hikes on three area roads, drivers in New Jersey will be hit especially hard.

The cost of commuting is going up by 50 percent on the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway. But spokesman Tom Feeney says drivers can take comfort from knowing none of the increase is going to operating costs; all of it is going to capital improvements.

“Nobody likes a toll increase, but all of this money is being invested in dozens of projects that will relieve congestion, restore bridges, improve interchanges, expand the use of technology on the roadways and make both roadways safer.”

For full story go to:

Consumer confidence index surges in December

Consumer confidence index surges in December

AP Photo
FILE - In this Nov. 25, 2011 file photo, a shopper rests herself and her bags in Herald Square during the busiest shopping day of the year, in New York.

NEW YORK (AP) -- Americans are gaining faith that the economy is on the upswing.

An improving job outlook helped the Consumer Confidence Index soar to the highest level since April and near a post-recession peak, according to a monthly survey by The Conference Board.

The second straight monthly surge coincided with a decent holiday shopping season for retailers, though stores had to heavily discount to attract shoppers.

The rise in confidence jibes with a better outlook for the overall economy. An Associated Press poll of three dozen private, corporate and academic economists projects U.S. economic growth will speed up in 2012, if it isn't derailed by upheavals in Europe.

But confidence is still far below where it is in a healthy economy. And Americans' mood could sour again if the debt crisis in Europe deepens and spreads to the U.S. Shoppers still face big obstacles - higher costs on household basics and a still-slumping housing market.

"This is encouraging. It's good to be talking about improvement," said Mark Vitner, an economist at Wells Fargo. "But there is still a lot of room for trouble."

The Conference Board, a private research group, said Tuesday that its Consumer Confidence Index rose almost 10 points to 64.5 in December, up from a revised 55.2 in November. Analysts had expected 59. The level is close to the post-recession high of 72, reached in February.

The December surge builds on a big increase in November, when the index rose almost 15 points from October. That month's reading was the lowest since March 2009, the depths of the recession.

One component of the index that measures how shoppers feel now about the economy rose to 46.7 from 38.3 in November. The other barometer, which measures how shoppers feel about the next six months, rose to 76.4 from 66.4.

In particular, shoppers' assessment of the job market improved, according to preliminary results of the survey conducted Dec. 1-14. Those anticipating more jobs in the months ahead increased to 13.3 percent from 12.4 percent while those anticipating fewer jobs declined to 20.2 percent from 23.8 percent.

Economists watch confidence numbers closely because consumer spending - including items like health care - accounts for about 70 percent of U.S. economic activity.

Americans have more reason to be optimistic. The economy has produced at least 100,000 new jobs for five months in a row, the longest such streak since 2006. The number of people applying for unemployment benefits has dropped to the lowest level since April 2008.

According to the AP poll of economists, conducted Dec. 14-20, the U.S. economy is expected to grow 2.4 percent next year. In 2011, it likely grew less than 2 percent.

"We're starting to make some progress," said Kathy St. Louis of Atlanta, who was picking up lunch Tuesday at CNN Center. "It could always be better, but we're trying to move in the right direction." She said she spent $700 on holiday presents, up from the $300 she spent last year, even though not much changed with her paralegal job.

Ahlum Beruk, 22, a Greenville, Miss., resident who was visiting Atlanta, was a student last year and worried about finding a job. This year she works for a hotel and spent about $100 on Christmas presents. She spent nothing on gifts last year.

"I do feel better because I have a job now, and I didn't before," she added.

Shoppers still face many hurdles. In fact, while the job market is steadily improving, the unemployment rate is still high at 8.6 percent. And housing remains wobbly. The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller index of home prices, also released Tuesday, dropped in October in 19 of the 20 cities it tracks. It was a second straight declining month, further evidence of a bumpy housing recovery

Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board Consumer Research Center, noted renewed fears about a second recession hurt confidence last summer.

"While consumers are ending the year in a somewhat more upbeat mood, it is too soon to tell if this is a rebound from earlier declines or a sustainable shift in attitudes," Franco said. "Have we rebounded from a summer lull or are we turning the corner?"

In fact, even with the increase in confidence, shoppers have been focused on deals this holiday season. Shoppers, enticed by expanded hours and bargains, packed stores for the start of the holiday season, resulting in discount-fueled record spending. But then they retreated for a few weeks to wait for better deals.

Based on the stronger-than expected start and rising optimism that more spending was to come in the finale, the National Retail Federation earlier this month upgraded its holiday sales growth forecast to 3.8 percent, from the original forecast of 2.8 percent made in September. More data will be released this week that will help quantify the last-minute sales surge.

Still unclear is how the discounting will affect stores' profit margins. It might not be all bad for retailers: Roxanne Meyer, a retail analyst at UBS Investment Research, says post-Christmas markdowns were not as deep as expected, with less than half of retailers she surveyed increasing promotions from last year.

Police: Neighbor chopped up Ind. girl with hacksaw

Police: Neighbor chopped up Ind. girl with hacksaw

AP Photo
An undated Allen County (Ind.) Sheriff's Department photo shows Mike Plumadore. Authorities said Monday night, Dec. 26, 2011 that Aliahna Lemmon had been found dead and Plumadore, 39, who was watching Aliahna and her two sisters when she went missing Friday, was being held on a murder charge. He and Aliahna's family lived in the same mobile home park in Fort Wayne. He will be formally charged with murder Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2011.

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (AP) -- A babysitter and trusted neighbor has confessed that he bludgeoned a 9-year-old Indiana girl to death with a brick then dismembered her, hiding her head, hands and feet at a home where he was staying and dumping the rest of her remains nearby, police said Tuesday.

Allen County sheriff's investigators said in an affidavit that 39-year-old Michael Plumadore admits he killed Aliahna Lemmon on Thursday.

According to the affidavit, Plumadore told police that after beating Aliahna to death on the front steps of the home in the early morning hours, he stuffed her body into trash bags and hid her in the freezer at the home in a rundown trailer park in Fort Wayne. He said he later chopped up her body with a hacksaw and stuffed her remains into freezer bags.

Police said Plumadore told them he had hidden Aliahna's head, feet and hands at the trailer and discarded her other remains at a nearby business. Police obtained a warrant to search the trailer on Monday and found the body parts.

Authorities didn't say Tuesday why Plumadore killed the child, but Sheriff Ken Fries said investigators suspected Plumadore was involved since soon after she was reported missing Friday night.

Investigators questioned him Friday and Saturday and he was arrested Monday after being interviewed by detectives for several hours more.

Fries said his long police career told him that Plumadore's account of the girl's disappearance had too many inconsistencies.

"Things that were said in 29 years of doing this that just didn't make sense," Fries said during a Tuesday news conference. "We needed to get him to talk."

Fries said Plumadore was "factual" in talking with investigators, but he wouldn't describe Plumadore's demeanor.

A judge ordered Plumadore held without bail or bond at an initial hearing Tuesday, sheriff's department spokesman Cpl. Jeremy Tinkel said. He has yet to be formally charged in Aliahna's death.

Mike McAlexander, the Allen County chief deputy prosecutor, wouldn't say whether anyone else was suspected of being involved and said "nothing has been ruled out."

Paulette Hair, 45, a former manager at the trailer park who lives at a nearby trailer park, said she never would have guessed Plumadore would kill a child.

"But you don't know a person, truly," she said.

"How could you live?" asked Hair. "How could you sit in that trailer, knowing what you did, knowing what's in your household when everybody is out there in the cold and the rain praying to God that she comes home safely and you're sitting there?"

Aliahna was a student at Holland Elementary School, said Fort Wayne school district spokeswoman Krista Stockman. She did not know what grade the girl was in.

"Obviously, this is a horrendous tragedy. For the school, this is devastating. Our teachers knew her, our principal knew her, she had friends at the school. This is going to be a loss for everyone at the school," Stockman said.

Schools are currently closed for holiday break. Stockman expected extra counselors will be made available when students return Jan. 5, and the school likely will plan some sort of memorial, she said.

Aliahna and her two younger sisters were staying with Plumadore for about one week because their mother, Tarah Souders, had been sick with the flu.

Plumadore told The Journal Gazette on Sunday that Aliahna disappeared from the home Friday morning while he was sleeping after having gone to a gas station about a mile away to buy a cigar. Authorities have said the store's surveillance video shows him there about that time.

Aliahna wasn't reported missing until Friday night. Plumadore said the younger girls told him their mother had picked her up and he didn't realize until hours later that this wasn't true.

On Saturday, more than 100 emergency workers searched for Aliahna around the trailer park on the city's north side where Aliahna and Plumadore lived. FBI agents were there Monday.

A state website shows that 15 registered sex offenders live in the park that numbers about two dozen homes. Plumadore is not on Indiana's registered sex offenders list. He has a criminal record in Florida and North Carolina that includes convictions for trespassing and assault.

Aliahna's step-grandfather, David Story, told The Associated Press that Plumadore had cared for Souders' ailing father until his death from emphysema early this month and was living in that man's mobile home.

"He was a trusted family friend," Story said late Monday, saying he was surprised by the arrest.

Richard Patee, 58, whose trailer is next to where Plumadore was living, said he didn't think it was odd that Aliahna's mother had him watching the girls for an extended period.

"They had known each other for somewhere of three to four years, I know that, and he took care of their grandfather," Patee said. "I didn't see any reason to question it at all. I talked with Mike on and off for the past two-and-a-half years and he never had a cross word."

LA coroner says Heavy D died of natural causes

LA coroner says Heavy D died of natural causes

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The Los Angeles coroner's office says Jamaican-born rapper Heavy D died of natural causes.

The self-proclaimed "overweight lover" of hip hop, who became one of rap's top hit makers with a combination of humor and positivity, collapsed outside his Beverly Hills home on Nov. 8. The 44 year-old rapper, whose real name was Dwight Errington, died later at a hospital.

Coroner's office spokesman Craig Harvey said Tuesday that weight and a transcontinental jet flight were contributing factors.

The cause of death was pulmonary embolism and deep leg vein thrombosis. He also had arteriosclerotic cardiovascular disease.

Heavy D became one of the genre's most integral stars in the late 1980s and early 1990s. His hit "The Overweight Lover's in the House" played up his hefty frame.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Researchers Discover 3 Potential Earth-Like Planets

Researchers Discover 3 Potential Earth-Like Planets

(Credit: Getty Images)

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The discovery of new planets continues as the Kepler Mission reports back from space.

The mission began more than two years ago, but we are just getting the information now on the potential for other life-sustaining worlds.

The discovery this month of three potential Earth-like planets from the Kepler mission was exciting news in the science world. Andrej Prsa, research assistant professor of astronomy and astrophysics at Villanova, says that is just the beginning.

For full story go to:

FBI joins search for missing Indiana girl

FBI joins search for missing Indiana girl

AP Photo
This undated photo provided by the Allen County Sheriff's Department shows Aliahna Lemmon. Numerous police officers and others are searching in Fort Wayne, Ind., for Lemmon, 9, who was last seen the morning of Friday, Dec. 23, 2011. Allen County Sheriff's Department Cpl. Jeremy Tinkel says investigators have no indication that Lemmon was abducted or what might have happened to her.

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (AP) -- The FBI joined the search for a missing 9-year-old Indiana girl with physical and emotional problems Monday as agents descended on the mobile home park where she lived and that's a known haven for registered sex offenders.

Authorities in Fort Wayne planned to meet Monday afternoon to plan their next move after two straight days without a search for Aliahna Lemmon, who has been missing since Friday, said Cpl. Jeremy Tinkel, a spokesman for the Allen County sheriff's department.

About a half-dozen people in black windbreakers, several of whom identified themselves as FBI agents, were at the mobile home park Monday where Aliahna went missing from a family friend's home. Some with search dogs were seen at a nearby storage facility.

Tinkel said earlier a new search wasn't planned for Monday unless new leads arise through tips from the public or interviews.

Police haven't said why they didn't search Sunday and were not originally planning to search Monday. They also haven't said what they think happened to Aliahna.

Agents at the scene wouldn't say why the FBI was involved. An agency spokesman didn't immediately return phone calls and e-mails seeking comment.

More than 100 emergency workers conducted an extensive search Saturday for Aliahna around the rundown mobile home park on Fort Wayne's north side where she was last seen. No active search was done Sunday for the girl.

According to a state website, 15 registered sex offenders live at the mobile home park that numbers about two dozen homes.

Elizabeth Watkins, 52, who has lived at the park for six months with her 4-year-old granddaughter, said it's well-known that several sex offenders live in the neighborhood.

"It's scary," she said. "I don't know how a parent could leave their child alone."

Aliahna's mother, Tarah Souders, 28, told The Journal Gazette her daughter has vision and hearing problems and suffers from attention deficit disorder and emotional problems. She also has a history of sleepwalking, family members said.

Aliahna and her sisters were staying at a family friend's nearby home because their mother had been sick with the flu and Aliahna's stepfather works at night and sleeps during the day, The Journal Gazette reported Monday.

Mike Plumadore, 39, told the newspaper Sunday that he left the three girls in his mobile home about 6 a.m. Friday and went to a gas station about a mile away to buy a cigar. Authorities have said the store's surveillance video shows him there about that time.

"I had deadbolted the door," he said. "When I got back, all the girls was here."

He said he smoked his cigar and went back to sleep, then woke up about 10 a.m. when Aliahna's mother called. After that call, he realized the door to the home was unlocked and that Aliahna was gone. He said Aliahna's sisters, both 6 years old, told him that Aliahna had left with her mom.

Plumadore said it wasn't until he talked with Aliahna's mom about 8:30 p.m. that they realized she was missing and police were notified.

Plumadore is not listed on the state's website that lists registered sex offenders.

Tarah Souders said miscommunication between the two of them caused the delay in determining that Aliahna had vanished.

"She's never wandered off," Souders said. "She's never done anything like this before."

But Aliahna does have a history of sleepwalking, even unlocking doors and going outside while sleeping, said her grandmother, Amber Story.

"I just hope that she's not suffering or in pain," Story said.

Souders said her daughter also has vision and hearing problems and suffers from attention deficit disorder and emotional problems.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Eagles’ 20-7 Dallas Victory Doesn’t Put A Shine On Lost Season

The Eagles’ 20-7 Dallas Victory Doesn’t Put A Shine On Lost Season

DALLAS (CBS)— Now it’s over. Mathematically speaking. It didn’t matter whether or not the Eagles beat the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday at Cowboys Stadium.

The game became feckless about halfway through the first quarter, when the New York Giants victory over the New York Jets was final, eliminating the Eagles from any chance of making their impossible four-game parlay from happening.

For full story go to:

Philadelphia Kids Make Stained Glass To Brighten Lives

Philadelphia Kids Make Stained Glass To Brighten Lives

(Credit: TONY KARUMBA/AFP/Getty Images)

Philadelphia (AP) – There’s a special after-school program in Philadelphia where high school kids create beautiful works of art to brighten the lives of those who are less fortunate.

The Stained Glass Project meets every week at First United Methodist Church of Germantown. About a dozen students from Germantown High School next door participate in the program.

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Ancient seal found in Jerusalem linked to ritual

Ancient seal found in Jerusalem linked to ritual

AP Photo
A rare clay seal is displayed during a news conference at the archaeological site known as the City of David in east Jerusalem, Sunday, Dec. 25, 2011. Israeli archaeologists say they have unearthed a rare clay seal that appears to be linked to religious rituals that took place at the Jewish Temple 2,000 years ago.

JERUSALEM (AP) -- A rare clay seal found under Jerusalem's Old City appears to be linked to religious rituals practiced at the Jewish Temple 2,000 years ago, Israeli archaeologists said Sunday.

The coin-sized seal found near the Jewish holy site at the Western Wall bears two Aramaic words meaning "pure for God."

Archaeologist Ronny Reich of Haifa University said it dates from between the 1st century B.C. to 70 A.D. - the year Roman forces put down a Jewish revolt and destroyed the second of the two biblical temples in Jerusalem.

The find marks the first discovery of a written seal from that period of Jerusalem's history, and appeared to be a unique physical artifact from ritual practice in the Temple, said Reich, co-director of the excavation.

Very few artifacts linked to the Temples have been discovered so far. The site of the Temple itself - the enclosure known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary - remains off-limits to archaeologists because of its religious and political sensitivity.

Archaeologists say the seal was likely used by Temple officials approving an object for ritual use - oil, perhaps, or an animal intended for sacrifice. Materials used by Temple priests had to meet stringent purity guidelines stipulated in detail in the Jewish legal text known as the Mishna, which also mention the use of seals as tokens by pilgrims.

The find, Reich said, is "the first time an indication was brought by archaeology about activities in the Temple Mount - the religious activities of buying and offering and giving to the Temple itself."

The site where the seal was found is on the route of a main street that ran through ancient Jerusalem just outside the Temple compound.

Aren Maeir of Bar-Ilan University, a biblical archaeologist not connected to the dig, said the seal was special because it "was found right next to the Temple and is similar to what we see described in the Mishna."

"It's nice when we can connect an activity recorded in ancient sources with archaeological finds," he said.

The seal was found in an excavation run by archaeologists from the government's Israel Antiquities Authority. The dig is under the auspices of a broader dig nearby known as the City of David, where archaeologists are investigating the oldest part of Jerusalem.

The City of David dig, located inside the nearby Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan and funded by a Jewish group affiliated with the settlement movement, is the Holy Land's highest-profile and most politically controversial excavation.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Philadelphia Traffic Court Judge Booted In Naked Photo Flap

Philadelphia Traffic Court Judge Booted In Naked Photo Flap

(Willie Singletary, preaching in a Youtube video from last July.)

(Willie Singletary, preaching in a Youtube video from last July.)

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — KYW Newsradio has learned that four days after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court seized control of Philadelphia Traffic Court, a traffic court judge has been ousted — for allegedly showing naked pictures of himself to a female worker.

A source within the First Judicial District tells KYW Newsradio that traffic court judge Willie Singletary was escorted out late Thursday under orders of the new head of Traffic Court, Common Pleas judge Gary Glazer.

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Wounded Marine inspires AP photographer's search

Wounded Marine inspires AP photographer's search

AP Photo
In this Saturday, June 4, 2011 photo, United States Marines evacuate their wounded comrade Cpl. Burness Britt onto a medevac helicopter from the U.S. Army's Task Force Lift "Dust Off," Charlie Company 1-214 Aviation Regiment, after he was wounded in an IED strike near Sangin, in the Helmand Province of southern Afghanistan. At the Hunter Holmes Medical Center in Richmond, Va., Britt is facing a long recovery after a large piece of shrapnel cut a major artery on his neck. During his first operation in Afghanistan he suffered a stroke and became partially paralyzed.

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) -- Inside the medevac helicopter in Afghanistan, U.S. Marine Cpl. Burness Britt bleeds profusely from his neck. He and two other Marines have just been hit by shrapnel, with Britt's injuries the most serious. The medevac crew chief clutches one of Britt's blood-covered hands as he is given oxygen. I take hold of the other.

With my free hand, I lift my camera and take some pictures. I squeeze Britt's hand and he returns the gesture, gripping my palm tighter and tighter until he slips into unconsciousness. His shirt is ripped, but I notice a piece of wheat stuck to it. I pluck it off and tuck it away in the pocket of my body armor.

In my 20 years as a photographer, covering conflicts from Bosnia to Gaza to Iraq to Afghanistan, injured civilians and soldiers have passed through my life many times. None has left a greater impression on me than Britt.

I knew him only for a few minutes in that helicopter, but I believed we would meet again one day, and I hoped to give him that small, special piece of wheat.

As Britt underwent surgeries and painful rehabilitation, I returned to my job with The Associated Press, yet Britt was never far from my mind. I searched for him on the Internet. I called hospitals. I wondered if he remembered me.

It's been just over six months since that day in the wheat field not far from his small combat outpost "Kajaki Dam," named for a mammoth structure the U.S., British and NATO troops have been trying to protect and repair to help produce electricity.

Afghanistan was Britt's first combat deployment and he was in Sangin, a town in Afghanistan's southwest Helmand province that has seen some of the bloodiest fighting. He knew the mission was dangerous.

He was leading a group of 10 Marines through a wheat field when there was an explosion. He doesn't know how far away, maybe a few yards. He was thrown into the air, and landed with a thump in the field, a searing hot pain raging in his neck. He had been hit by a huge piece of shrapnel from a bomb and a major artery was cut. Britt believes the improvised explosive device was hidden and somebody triggered it from a distance, though he can't say for sure.

"My only thought was my wife," he said recently from his hospital bed in Richmond, Virginia, where the 22-year-old Marine has been recuperating and rebuilding his life and health.

His speech comes with a great deal of difficulty these days, and sometimes he is hard to understand. During the many surgeries that followed his injury, he had a major stroke and is partially paralyzed on his right side.

His smile, though, is unchanged. The nurses at the Hunter Holmes Medical Center in Richmond, where we met for the first time since the helicopter ride, call him "Sunshine" because their youngest patient is always joking and in a good mood.

It was his courage and smile I remember so vividly. After he was wounded, he smiled briefly when he reached the helicopter, as if to reassure us he would be OK.

It was June 4. I was embedded with the U.S. Army "Dust Off" medevac unit, a group that moves quickly, with little concern for their own safety. When the call came that Britt had been hit, the description of his wounds let everyone know it was serious. Within five minutes, the unit was at his side.

Marines from the 2nd Battalion 12th Marines, 3rd Marine Division rushed out of the nearby bushes carrying Britt. We were quickly airborne.

In the helicopter, the scene was one of quiet courage. No words were spoken, no screams of pain. Blood was everywhere.

Britt was moving his legs, checking to see if they were still there. When he realized they were, he smiled once again. The crew chief, Jennifer Martinez, of Colorado Springs, Colorado, held Britt's hand. Another wounded Marine, Lance Cpl. Joshua Barron, looked at his buddy and cried. I had Britt's other hand in mine.

We left Britt at our small outpost called Camp Edi, where medical staff provided the first round of treatment before transferring him to Camp Bastion. From there, he went to the U.S. Military Hospital in Landstuhl, Germany. He was then taken to Bethesda Hospital in Washington and finally to Hunter Holmes McGuire Medical Center in Richmond.

I traveled to Germany, and then to Switzerland where I am based for AP. I kept the piece of wheat with me, carefully stowed away in a small jewelry box.

My search for Britt started almost as soon as I got back to Geneva. I emailed the Marines and the Army, but all they said was that Britt was still in serious condition.

I got in touch with patients at Walter Reed Hospital, where many of the seriously wounded were taken, but they didn't know Britt.

I searched the Internet for his name for weeks. Then one evening, like so many before, I was on the Web and I thought I would play around with the spelling of his name. I immediately discovered I had his first name wrong. That day in the helicopter, I was told his name was Burmess. It was actually Burness.

When I entered the correct name, I found articles about Britt. His local paper in Georgetown, South Carolina, had done a story on him.

I wrote the newspaper several times but got no reply. Then I called the AP bureau in South Carolina. The news editor there gave me the phone number of Britt's father, Neal.

I thought my perseverance had paid off, but there was another setback - the number was out of order.

I refused to give up. A few weeks later, the news editor found another phone number. This time it rang, but no one picked up. I kept calling, every evening for about a week.

Eventually, I found Britt on Facebook. He accepted my friend request and at last, it looked like I we would finally be able to connect. But when I sent him messages, there was no reply.

I worried that he didn't want to reconnect. Maybe he wanted to forget that day in Helmand and everyone involved.

I soon found out that wasn't the case. His paralysis made it nearly impossible for him to chat over the Internet, but I noticed on his Facebook page that he was at the hospital in Richmond. I tracked down the number with the help of an AP photographer in Richmond and when I called, a nurse answered.

I heard her yell: "Britt, there is a phone call for you from a photographer in Switzerland who was there in Afghanistan when you got picked up."

The next thing I heard was Britt's voice. He sounded relieved that I had found him by phone. The memories of Helmand flooded through my head. I fumbled my words. I wanted to come to Richmond, meet him, interview him, show him the images of that day, give him the wheat sheaf and talk about his recovery. I had so many questions.

He listened and in a gentle, soft voice, he said: "Yes, ma'am, I would like to see you. Come."

When we finally met Dec. 13 at the hospital, I saw him in the distance. He walked with difficulty, trying to control his right arm and leg. He was wearing a plastic helmet to protect his head where part of the skull had been removed. His brain had swollen to nearly twice its size because of his injuries and doctors had to open the skull to relieve the pressure.

His helmet had a camouflage cover on it emblazoned with the 3rd Marine Division emblem on its side.

He saw me and that warm smile crossed his face again. He hugged me. Like that day in the helicopter when I held his hand, it seemed he did not want to let go. He kept repeating: "Oh man, it is so good to see you."

In his room, his dark brown eyes sparkled and he tried to tell jokes. He explained what he had been through since we had last seen each other.

Doctors put him into a coma for a month and when he woke up, he was he was at the hospital in Virginia.

He had just started to regain his speech, working his way back from months of "thumbs up, thumbs down conversation," says his 22-year-old wife, Jessica.

He will undergo more surgeries next year to rebuild his skull.

Sitting on his bed, he looked at me and asked: "Did you bring some pictures with you?" He wanted to see those moments in the helicopter.

He studied each photo. When he looked up, he had tears in his eyes. "Thank you so much," he said.

I pointed to one of the pictures with the piece of wheat. I told him I had brought it with me. He couldn't believe it.

We reminisced about Afghanistan. He talked about his Marine buddies, those he had served with and friends who were seriously injured or killed.

He lifted his left arm to his chest, where he has a Marine Corps tattoo.

"The love for the Marines is deep in my heart, they are my family," he said. "I want to return immediately back to Afghanistan to help them keep fighting."

I left the piece of wheat with Britt. He said it was his new lucky charm.

SC voter ID law rejected by Justice Department

SC voter ID law rejected by Justice Department

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) -- The Justice Department on Friday rejected South Carolina's law requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls, saying it makes it harder for minorities to cast ballots. It was the first voter ID law to be refused by the Obama administration.

Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez said South Carolina's law didn't meet the burden under the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which outlawed discriminatory practices preventing blacks from voting. Perez said tens of thousands of minorities in South Carolina might not be able to cast ballots under South Carolina's law because they don't have the right photo ID.

South Carolina's new voter ID law requires people casting ballots to show poll workers a state-issued driver's license or ID card; a U.S. military ID or a U.S. passport.

South Carolina is among five states that passed laws this year requiring some form of ID at the polls, while such laws were already on the books in Indiana and Georgia, whose law received approval from President George W. Bush's Justice Department. Indiana's law, passed in 2005, was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2008.

Those new laws also allow voters without the required photo ID to cast provisional ballots, but the voters must return to a specific location with that ID within a certain time limit for their ballots to count.

South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson said he would fight the Justice Department in federal court. He said the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a similar law in Indiana several years ago.

"Nothing in this act stops people from voting," Wilson said.

The Justice Department must approve changes to South Carolina's election laws under the federal Voting Rights Act because of the state's past failure to protect the voting rights of blacks.

Justice officials are still reviewing Texas' law. Kansas, Tennessee and Wisconsin also passed laws this year, but they are not under the agency's review.

South Carolina's law also required the state to determine how many voters lack state-issued IDs so that the Election Commission can work to make sure they know of law changes. The Department of Motor Vehicles will issue free state photo identification cards to those voters.

Perez said non-whites comprise about one-third of South Carolina's registered voters, and also are one-third of the registered voters who don't have the right ID.

"Minority registered voters were nearly 20 percent more likely to lack DMV-issued ID than white registered voters, and thus to be effectively disenfranchised," Perez wrote, noting that the numbers could be even higher since the data submitted by the state doesn't include inactive voters.

The number of active and inactive voters that should be used to determine how many people would be affected by the law has been in dispute. Department of Motor Vehicles executive director Kevin Shwedo said the state Election Commission knew it was using inaccurate data when it released reports showing nearly 240,000 active and inactive voters lacked driver's licenses or ID cards.

Shwedo sent the state's attorney general an analysis showing that 207,000 of those voters live in other states, allowed their ID cards to expire, probably have licenses with names that didn't match voter records or were dead. He said the commission created "artificially high numbers to excite the masses."

A spokesman for the Election Commission did not respond to an email message Friday. Earlier in the week, Commission officials said the agency will eliminate nearly 60,000 deceased people and individuals whose names didn't match DMV records.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley said the decision was more proof President Barack Obama is fighting conservative ideas like voter ID laws or immigration reform.

"The president and his bullish administration are fighting us every step of the way. It is outrageous, and we plan to look at every possible option to get this terrible, clearly political decision overturned so we can protect the integrity of our electoral process and our 10th amendment rights," Haley said in a statement.

South Carolina ACLU executive director Victoria Middleton applauded the Justice Department's decision, saying the "misguided" law represented "a dramatic setback to voting rights in our state and we are pleased to see it stopped in its tracks."

The decision also was welcomed by civil rights activist Jesse Jackson, who planned to talk about how voter ID laws are a plot by conservatives to keep blacks from voting in his hometown of Greenville, S.C., next week. He said the laws are like modern day poll taxes, targeting elderly people that can't afford to get IDs and students.

"We're fighting wars for democracy overseas and we're fighting democracy at home," Jackson said. "What a contradiction."

Obama on political high, but momentum hard to keep

Obama on political high, but momentum hard to keep

AP Photo
President Barack Obama waves as he boards Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Friday, Dec. 23, 2011.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- On a political high, President Barack Obama capped a bruising year by securing a tax cut for millions of Americans - an achievement that overshadowed Washington's deepening dysfunction and the slow progress of the economy on his watch.

The White House has ended a year with a political victory before. This time around the stakes are higher, and the president is by no means assured of carrying the momentum deep into an election year.

Addressing reporters before heading to Hawaii on Friday, Obama looked like a president in command of the stage again, for now. He left the capital after presiding over a two-month extension of a payroll tax cut - about $40 per paycheck for someone making $50,000 a year - that came when House Republicans caved on demands for a longer deal.

Yet on this issue, like many, enormous work remains for Obama after the new year, just when voters begin choosing a Republican nominee to try to oust him from his job.

Obama initially had pushed for a year-long extension of both the Social Security payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits. He got only two months on both because Congress could not agree on how to pay the bill for more without gutting their own political priorities - the same problem that awaits all sides in the weeks to come.

Although Obama calls a full-year extension a "formality," politically, it is not. So he pushed Congress to work "without drama, without delay" when they return from their own recess.

The whole scene was reminiscent of a year ago, when Obama took a self-described "shellacking" in the midterm elections but still ended up leaving for his yearly Hawaiian holiday on a high note.

In a news conference at the time, a jubilant Obama claimed a "season of progress" after stringing together legislative victories in a lame-duck congressional session, including the repeal of the military's ban on openly gay service members and approval of a new nuclear treaty with Russia.

But progress was short-lived. Obama returned to Washington in January to face a divided Congress and a Republican party prepared to push him to the brink.

This time, Obama left without taking questions from reporters, ensuring no disruption from the narrative all over Washington - a win for him, a capitulation for House Republicans. Had he engaged the press, Obama may well have been challenged about violence in Iraq since a U.S. troop withdrawal, or his own flip-flop over an oil pipeline included in the tax deal.

Obama may have won the messaging war this December, preventing higher taxes for 160 million Americans. But he gave up plenty to get a deal.

In securing the short-term extension, Obama caved on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. The president had boldly said he would reject any effort to tie the payroll tax extension to the proposed Canada-to-Texas pipeline; he later gave in to GOP demands to make a decision on the project within 60 days.

Given that the House Republicans' backpedaling far overshadowed the president's compromises, GOP consultant John Feehery said Republican lawmakers are likely to come back to Washington in January even more motivated to take on the president.

"This is a temporary victory," Feehery said. "We're going to go back to the fight once again in a month and a half. This is one battle, not the whole war."

Obama's willingness to stand firm could help rally support among Democrats who have complained that the president too often seems to give in too much.

Obama's hard line at the end of the payroll tax cut talks sent an important message both to his supporters and Republicans, Democratic strategist Karen Finney said. She said both have misinterpreted Obama's prior compromises as a sign of weakness.

"In this instance it was certainly critical that the president not give any more ground," Finney said. "He showed that he does have a point at which he won't go farther."

The economy has been showing signs of coming around, too, which is vital to Obama's chances for a second term. But this is another area in which today's optimism can turn troubling at any time, with outside forces such as Europe's economic woes threatening to dampen the American recovery.

Each year, partisan debate and unfinished business have forced the president to delay departure for his cherished Christmas vacation in Hawaii. This December's stalemate threatened to derail the trip entirely, given that Obama himself pledged to stay in Washington until a deal to extend the cuts was reached.

Obama's original Dec. 17 departure date came and went.

It was only Friday, after the House and Senate finalized the deal, that the White House announced Obama's departure for later in the day.

The president has no public events planned during what is expected to be about a 10-day vacation. He typically spends his days in Hawaii playing golf or going to the beach with his family, though he makes occasional outings for dinner with friends.

The White House says the president's focus will be on spending time with his family. But there will be a small team of advisers traveling with Obama to brief him daily on domestic and international events - and to help him get ready for the work, and the battles, that wait in January.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Philadelphia School District Laying Off 141 Nurses and Assistants

Philadelphia School District Laying Off 141 Nurses and Assistants

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — It’s another round of layoffs in the School District of Philadelphia, right before the holidays.

Pink slips are going out this week for 141 school nurses and non-teaching assistants, as the school district continues to slash spending to balance its books.

The district has already cut $629 million from this year’s budget, but earlier this month the district said it would have to cut $15 million more.

For full story go to:

New Jersey State Police Issue Amber Alert For 2-Year-Old Boy

New Jersey State Police Issue Amber Alert For 2-Year-Old Boy

MAYS LANDING, N.J. (CBS) - Police in New Jersey have issued an Amber Alert for a toddler they say was abducted from an Atlantic County mall on Thursday afternoon.

The incident happened at about 1 p.m. at Hamilton Mall. Authorities say 2-year-old Mason Ross was taken by a female who may have been the child’s mother, 24-year-old Cassidy Michaela Purdy.  New Jersey State Police Issue Amber Alert For 2 Year Old Boy

Officials say Purdy does not have legal custody over the boy and may have taken the child to Atlantic City.

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Wal-Mart pulls formula after baby dies in Missouri

Wal-Mart pulls formula after baby dies in Missouri

AP Photo
This photo provided Thursday, Dec. 22, 2011, by the Holman Howe Funeral Home, shows Avery Cornett of Lebanon, Mo., who died Sunday, Dec. 18, 2011. Federal health agencies are testing samples of liquid and powdered infant formula and some distilled water used to prepare the powder by the Missouri parents of a 10-day-old boy who died from an apparent bacterial infection. Cornett died Sunday night after he was fed Enfamil Newborn powder bought at a Walmart store in Lebanon, Mo. The store has stopped selling the product, and the company pulled a batch of the infant formula from more than 3,000 of its stores nationwide.

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) -- Wal-Mart and health officials awaited tests Thursday on a batch of powdered infant formula that was removed from more than 3,000 stores nationwide after a Missouri newborn who consumed it apparently died from a rare infection.

The source of the bacteria that caused the infection has not been determined, but it occurs naturally in the environment and in plants such as wheat and rice. The most worrisome appearances have been in dried milk and powdered formula, which is why manufacturers routinely test for the germs.

Wal-Mart pulled the Enfamil Newborn formula from shelves as a precaution following the death of little Avery Cornett in the southern Missouri town of Lebanon.

The formula has not been recalled, and the manufacturer said tests showed the batch was negative for the bacteria before it was shipped. Additional tests were under way.

"We decided it was best to remove the product until we learn more," Wal-Mart spokeswoman Dianna Gee said. "It could be returned to the shelves."

Customers who bought formula in 12.5-ounce cans with the lot number ZP1K7G have the option of returning them for a refund or exchange, Gee said.

The product is not exclusive to Wal-Mart. The manufacturer, Mead Johnson Nutrition, declined to answer questions about whether formula from that batch was distributed to other stores.

"We're highly confident in the safety and quality of our products," said Christopher Perille, a spokesman for the company based in the Chicago suburb of Glenview.

A second infant fell ill after consuming powdered baby formula in the last month, but that child recovered, state health officials said.

Powdered infant formula is not sterile, and experts have said there are not adequate methods to completely remove or kill all bacteria that might creep into formula before or during production.

Preliminary hospital test results indicate that Avery died of a rare infection caused by Cronobacter sakazakii. The infection can be treated with antibiotics, but it's deemed extremely dangerous to babies less than 1 month old and those born premature.

The virus "is pervasive in the environment," Perille said. "There's a whole range of potential sources on how this infection may have got started."

A spokeswoman for the Food and Drug Administration said the agency is investigating the death, along with the Centers for Disease Control and the Missouri Department of Health. Investigators have collected samples from the family and are testing unopened formula purchased at stores.

Siobhan Delancey said the FDA gets four to six reports a year of infant infections related to formula and has not found a powder that tested positive since 2002.

The FDA is also investigating the other case of illness, which involved a baby from Illinois whose case was reported in neighboring Missouri. But the agency does not believe there is any connection between the two, Delancey said.

Public health investigators will look at the formula itself, as well as the water used in preparing it and at anything else the baby might have ingested, Perille said.

Only two to three cases a year are reported. New Mexico saw two in 2008, including one infant who died and another who suffered severe brain damage. A Tennessee infant died in 2001 after being infected.

It could be several days before test results are available.

The family submitted two types of infant formula for testing - the powdered version and a pre-sterilized, ready-to-eat liquid - as well as the distilled water used to prepare the powdered product.

"We're just trying to test anything that was consumed by the baby," Laclede County Health Director Charla Baker said.

Avery was taken to a pediatrician Dec. 15 - a week after he was born - after showing signs of stomach pain and lethargy. When the pain persisted the next day, his parents took him to an emergency room.

He died Sunday at a hospital in Springfield after being removed from life support.

The Missouri Department of Health advised parents to follow safety guidelines for preparing powdered infant formula, including washing hands, sterilizing all feeding equipment in hot, soapy water and preparing enough formula for only one feeding at a time.

A flood of calls from worried parents prompted state officials to clarify that the formula pulled by Wal-Mart is not being provided to participants in the Women, Infants and Children federal program for low-income parents.

Wave of bombings rolls across Baghdad, killing 69

Wave of bombings rolls across Baghdad, killing 69

AP Photo
Iraqi security forces inspect a crater caused by a car bomb attack in the neighborhood of Karrada in Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, Dec. 22, 2011. A series of blasts Thursday morning in Baghdad killing and wounding scores of people in a coordinated attack designed to wreak havoc across the Iraqi capital.

BAGHDAD (AP) -- A terrifying wave of bombs tore through mostly Shiite neighborhoods of Baghdad on Thursday, killing at least 69 people and evoking fears that Iraq could dissolve into a new round of sectarian violence now that American troops have left.

The attacks appeared to be a well-coordinated assault by Sunni militants linked to al-Qaida and targeted markets, grocery stores, cafes and government buildings in a dozen neighborhoods. They coincided with a government crisis that has already strained ties between the two sects to the breaking point.

For many Iraqis, this could be the beginning of a nightmare scenario: The fragile alliance in the governing coalition is collapsing, large-scale violence bearing the hallmarks of al-Qaida insurgents has returned and Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki may be moving to grab the already limited power of the minority Sunnis.

"The conditions that perpetuate civil wars are making a hasty comeback," said Ramzy Mardini, an analyst at the Institute for the Study of War in Washington.

The bombings may be linked more to the withdrawal of the last U.S. troops Sunday than the political crisis, but all together the developments raise the specter of a return to the Shiite-Sunni sectarian bloodshed that pushed Iraq to the brink of civil war in 2006 and 2007.

Al-Maliki is engaged in a showdown with the top Sunni political leader in the country. His government has issued an arrest warrant for Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi for what al-Hashemi says are trumped-up charges that he ran hit squads against government officials.

That has thrown Iraq's political community into a crisis, with Sunnis suspicious that al-Maliki is making a power grab in the wake of the American military departure.

Thrown into this already heated mixture was some of the worst violence Iraq has seen this year.

At least 16 blasts went off across Baghdad, killing 69 people and wounding nearly 200 more. Most exploded in the morning but at least two struck Thursday evening.

The deadliest attack was in the Karrada neighborhood, where a suicide bomber driving an explosives-laden vehicle blew himself up outside a government office. Two police officers at the scene said the bomber was driving an ambulance and told guards that he needed to get to a nearby hospital. After the guards let him through, he drove to the building and blew himself up, the officers said.

"I was sleeping in my bed when the explosion happened," said 12-year-old Hussain Abbas, standing in his pajamas. "I jumped from my bed and rushed to my mom's lap. I told her I did not want to go to school today. I'm terrified."

In Washington, the White House condemned the bombings and said attempts to derail progress in Iraq will fail. Press secretary Jay Carney said the attacks serve no agenda "other than murder and hatred."

Vice President Joe Biden, President Barack Obama's point man on Iraq, called President Jalal Talabani to discuss the situation. It was Biden's second round of phone calls to Iraqi officials this week.

Gen. Ray Odierno, the U.S. Army chief of staff, also visited Baghdad Thursday in what was described as a trip arranged before the political crisis erupted.

It was exactly this type of violence in the early days after the U.S.-led invasion that eventually spiraled into a near-civil war. Sunni militants such as al-Qaida saw Iraq as their battleground against first the U.S. and then Shiites, whom they do not consider as true Muslims.

Shiite militias, fired up by years of anger over repression under Saddam Hussein's Sunni-dominated regime, then fought back in what eventually became a tit-for-tat battle fought mainly across Baghdad. A bombing against a Shiite neighborhood would be answered by residents of a Sunni neighborhood being dragged out and shot.

That's the type of reaction that analysts say al-Qaida is trying to spark with violence such as Thursday's blasts. There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but the bombings bore all the hallmarks of al-Qaida's Sunni insurgents: a mix of sticky bombs, a suicide bomber, roadside blasts and car bombs.

Al-Qaida in Iraq is severely debilitated from its strength in the early years of the war, but still has the capability to launch coordinated and deadly assaults from time to time. U.S. military officials worried about a resurgence of al-Qaida after their departure.

If Sunnis feel invested in the political process and see that they have a future within it, analysts say it's unlikely that al-Qaida and its ilk could gain much traction within the wider Sunni community, especially after the bloodbath that Iraqis have already endured and are not eager to repeat.

Many Sunnis fear the arrest warrant against al-Hashemi is part of a wider campaign to go after Sunni political figures and shore up Shiite control across the country.

In this already tense atmosphere, Hadi Jalo, a Baghdad-based political analyst, said Thursday's violence will likely elicit an even stronger crackdown by al-Maliki as opposed to a conciliatory move.

"What is clear now is that the situation is deteriorating," he said. "I think al-Maliki, who has the absolute power now ... will strike back, and he will escalate his crackdown against his political rivals. The situation now will continue to fuel the sectarian tensions."

Coordinated campaigns such as this generally take weeks to plan, and could have been timed to coincide with the end of the American military presence in Iraq, possibly to undercut U.S. claims that they are leaving behind a stable and safe Iraq.

Iraqis have mixed feelings toward the departure of the American military that invaded nearly nine years ago. Their gratitude for the ouster of Saddam is coupled with anger at the violence that eventually overcame the country.

Now, especially after Thursday's explosions, they wonder whether their security forces are up to the task of protecting the country and whether their political institutions will survive intact.

"Such horrible blasts have occurred just one week after the American withdrawal, and then imagine what would happen after one month or one year after the Americans leaving," said Abdul Rahman Qassim, a 46-year-old lawyer in the northern city of Mosul.

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