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Philadelphia Front Page News Your Top Stories Of The Day (267) 293-9201

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Monday, January 31, 2011

NFL’s Pro Bowl gets highest ratings in 11 years

NFL’s Pro Bowl gets highest ratings in 11 years

Pro_300A Pro Bowl without participants from the two Super Bowl teams may not make much sense to some NFL fans, but the general viewing public does not seem to mind.

Fox's broadcast of Sunday's Pro Bowl, in which the NFC defeated the AFC, 55-41, drew a 7.7 rating and 12 share, the highest ratings for the game since 2000.

Those numbers are up 8% from last year, when the game was first moved from the week after the Super Bowl to the Sunday before the biggest game of the season.

Ratings represent the percentage of all homes with televisions tuned into a program. Shares represent the percentage of all homes with TVs in use at the time.

Sixers Bounce Back With Win Over Nuggets

Sixers Bounce Back With Win Over Nuggets

Denver Nuggets v Philadelphia 76ers

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Andre Iguodala scored 24 points and Thaddeus Young had 21 to lead the Philadelphia 76ers to a 110-99 win over the Denver Nuggets on Sunday night.

Elton Brand scored 15 points and was one of six players in double figures for the Sixers, who swept the season series against the Nuggets for the first time since 2002-03.

Carmelo Anthony was a woeful 3 of 12 for 12 points. Anthony and the Nuggets play Monday at New Jersey for the first time since Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov ended the drawn-out trade talks with Denver.

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New Look, Higher Price For Philly’s Two Dailies

New Look, Higher Price For Philly’s Two Dailies

(Management at the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News sit among displays of new page designs at Monday's announcement.  Photo by Steve Tawa)

(Management at the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News sit among displays of new page designs at Monday’s announcement. Photo by Steve Tawa)

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - As of today, if you buy either of Philadelphia’s major daily newspapers at your local newsstand, the price is $1 per copy.

But management of the two newspapers says the 25-cent price hike brings readers several design, content, and product enhancements.

The Newspaper Association of America says that more than half of the big-city newspapers charge 75 cents these days. (Forty-three percent charge 50 cents and only six percent charge $1 a copy.)

But publisher Greg Osberg (far right in photo) defends the price hikes here.

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Upper Darby Students Arrested In Bullying Attack

Upper Darby Students Arrested In Bullying Attack


UPPER DARBY, Pa. (CBS) – Police have arrested six Upper Darby High School students after they allegedly bullied and attacked a 13-year-old fellow student. A seventh boy — a former UDHS student who had been previously expelled — was being sought.

Those arrested, ranging in age from 13 to 17 years old, were escorted off school grounds in handcuffs today by township police.

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Nutter “Not Completely Satisfied” With Snow Removal Across Philly

Nutter “Not Completely Satisfied” With Snow Removal Across Philly

(File photo)

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - Mayor Michael Nutter says he understands if residents are disgruntled over the condition of city streets — and he admits he’s far from satisfied with the state of smaller roads in the neighborhoods.

Nutter says there are, in his words, “too many areas” of Philadelphia where the condition of the streets are still quite poor.

“We are still working on it. We are committed to working on it,” he told KYW Newsradio on Monday morning. “I understand the concerns that many citizens have expressed. We’re not done, and we not completely satisfied,” the mayor acknowledged.

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Serial rapist suspected of strangling Wash. guard

Serial rapist suspected of strangling Wash. guard

AP Photo
In this undated photo provided by the Washington State Department of Corrections, Corrections Officer Jayme Biendl is shown. Biendl was found strangled Saturday, Jan. 29, 2011, at the Monroe Correctional Complex in Monroe, Wash.

SEATTLE (AP) -- An inmate suspected of strangling a female guard with a microphone cord in a prison chapel during an escape attempt is a rapist who once doused a woman in gasoline and set her on fire, raising more questions about why the officer was alone and unarmed at the time of the attack.

Two days after the death of 34-year-old Jayme Biendl, Gov. Chris Gregoire and the head of the state corrections department called for an outside investigation focused on whether there is adequate staff at the medium-security reformatory unit of the Monroe Correctional Complex about 30 miles northeast of Seattle.

"There's a lot of grief and sorrow, and I think there are probably pockets of anger as well," said Dan Pacholke, the Department of Corrections deputy director of prisons.

The suspect, Byron Scherf, had earned a spot as a chapel volunteer through more than a decade of good behavior. He told officers he was trying to escape when he was found in the chapel lobby after it was noticed he was missing.

Biendl's body was found an hour later, fully clothed and with no evidence of sexual assault. She had a two-way radio with an alarm, but prison officials don't know whether she tried to call for help.

Union officials questioned why Biendl, a nine-year veteran of the department, was alone after complaining to prison supervisors about being the only guard working in the chapel without anyone checking on her.

Recent budget cuts have forced staffing reductions and union members have been worried about the impact on safety, said Teamsters 117 spokeswoman Tracey Thompson.

Prison officials said staffing levels weren't down; just one person worked in the chapel for the past 15 years.

Guards always have been outnumbered by inmates, and prisons are full of people who have committed crimes as bad or worse as Scherf's, Pacholke said. Budget cuts have forced hiring freezes among administrative and support personnel, officials said, but there's been no reduction in the number of "front-line" officers.

Scherf was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in 1997 in the kidnapping and rape two years earlier of a 37-year-old real estate agent near Spangle, 17 miles south of Spokane. Prosecutors said he told the woman he wanted to look at a home for sale, then he forced her at gunpoint into the trunk of his car and later raped her and threatened to kill her and her daughter if she reported the attack. He was arrested several days later in Post Falls, Idaho.

It was his second conviction for rape. In 1981, he was convicted of raping a Pierce County woman before dousing her with gasoline, binding her and setting her on fire. She escaped through a second-story window.

Scherf was paroled in 1993, and despite parole violations that included possession of pornography, the state maintained Scherf "was in substantial compliance" with his parole terms. He remained free until the 1995 kidnapping and rape.

Previously, in 1978, Scherf was convicted of second-degree assault in Pierce County and paroled after serving two years of a 10-year sentence.

During his latest stint in prison, he had not had a serious infraction since 2001, had a prison job, wasn't in a gang and had earned privileges for good conduct, Pacholke said. Everything seemed to indicate he was "serving his incarceration in an acceptable fashion," he said.

However, he said that did little to comfort prison staff trying to cope with their "tremendous sorrow" at the loss of a personable young woman who in 2008 had been named Monroe's corrections officer of the year.

Gregoire said Monday that in addition to the standard department review, she has asked for an outside review by federal officials at the National Institute of Corrections.

The 800-inmate unit was locked down and could stay that way the rest of the week as the criminal investigation continues, Pacholke said.

Judge: Obama's health overhaul unconstitutional

Judge: Obama's health overhaul unconstitutional

AP Photo
President Barack Obama delivers a statement on Egypt in the State Dining Room of the White House, Friday, Jan. 28, 2011, in Washington.

PENSACOLA, Fla. (AP) -- A federal judge in Florida ruled Monday that President Barack Obama's entire health care overhaul law is unconstitutional, placing even noncontroversial provisions under a cloud in a broad challenge that seems certain to be resolved only by the Supreme Court.

Faced with a major legal setback, the White House called the ruling by U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson - in a challenge to the law by 26 of the nation's 50 states - "a plain case of judicial overreaching." That echoed language the judge had used to describe the law as an example of Congress overstepping its authority.

The Florida judge's ruling produced an even split in federal court decisions so far on the health care law, mirroring enduring divisions among the public. Two judges had previously upheld the law, both Democratic appointees. A Republican appointee in Virginia had ruled against it.

The Justice Department quickly announced it would appeal, and administration officials declared that for now the federal government and the states would proceed without interruption to carry out the law. It seemed evident that only the U.S. Supreme Court could deliver a final verdict on Obama's historic expansion of health insurance coverage.

On Capitol Hill, Republican opponents of the law pledged to redouble pressure for a repeal vote in the Democratic-controlled Senate following House action last month. Nearly all of the states that brought suit in in Vinson's court have GOP attorneys general or governors.

Vinson ruled against the overhaul on grounds that Congress exceeded its authority by requiring nearly all Americans to carry health insurance, an idea dating back to Republican proposals from the 1990s but now almost universally rejected by conservatives.

His ruling followed the same general reasoning as one last year from the federal judge in Virginia. But where the first judge's ruling would strike down the insurance requirement and leave the rest of the law in place, Vinson took it much farther, invalidating provisions that range from Medicare discounts for seniors with high prescription costs to a change that allows adult children up to age 26 to remain on their parents' coverage.

The central issue remains the constitutionality of the law's core requirement that Americans carry health insurance except in cases of financial hardship. Starting in 2014, those who cannot show they are covered by an employer, government program or their own policy will face fines from the IRS.

Opponents say a federal requirement that individuals obtain a specific service - a costly one in the case of health insurance - is unprecedented and oversteps the authority the Constitution gives Congress to regulate interstate commerce.

Vinson agreed that lawmakers lack the power to penalize citizens for not doing something. He compared the provision to requiring people to eat healthful food.

"Congress could require that people buy and consume broccoli at regular intervals," he wrote, "Not only because the required purchases will positively impact interstate commerce, but also because people who eat healthier tend to be healthier and are thus more productive and put less of a strain on the health care system."

Defenders of the law said that analogy was flawed. Insurance can't work if people are allowed to opt out until they need medical attention. Premiums collected from many who are healthy pay the cost of care for those who get sick. Since the uninsured can get treated in the emergency room, deciding not to get coverage has consequences for other people who act prudently do buy coverage.

"The judge's decision contradicts decades of Supreme Court precedent that support the considered judgment of the democratically elected branches of government that the act's individual responsibility provision is necessary to prevent billions of dollars of cost-shifting every year by individuals without insurance who cannot pay for the health care they obtain," White House adviser Stephanie Cutter wrote in an Internet posting.

Vinson, who was appointed to the federal bench by President Ronald Reagan in 1983, said in his 78-page ruling that requiring people to buy health insurance marks a break with the nation's founding principles.

"It is difficult to imagine that a nation which began, at least in part, as the result of opposition to a British mandate giving the East India Company a monopoly and imposing a nominal tax on all tea sold in America would have set out to create a government with the power to force people to buy tea in the first place," the judge wrote. "If Congress can penalize a passive individual for failing to engage in commerce, the enumeration of powers in the Constitution would have been in vain."

It would be difficult to recognize any limits on federal power, he added. Defenders of the law said the founders couldn't have envisioned Medicare or Social Security either.

Vinson did side with the administration on another major issue in the case, the expansion of Medicaid to cover more low-income people. About half of the more than 30 million Americans who would gain insurance through the law would be enrolled in Medicaid. However, striking down the law would also invalidate the Medicaid expansion.

Opponents of the health overhaul praised the decision. House Speaker John Boehner said it shows Senate Democrats should follow a House vote to repeal the law.

"Today's decision affirms the view, held by most of the states and a majority of the American people, that the federal government should not be in the business of forcing you to buy health insurance and punishing you if you don't," he said.

Democrats just as quickly slammed the ruling.

"This lawsuit is nothing more than an attempt by those who want to raise taxes on small businesses, increase prescription prices for seniors and allow insurance companies to once again deny sick children medical care," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

Former Florida Republican Attorney General Bill McCollum filed the lawsuit just minutes after Obama signed the 10-year, $938 billion health care bill into law in March. He chose a court in Pensacola, one of Florida's most conservative cities. The nation's most influential small business lobby, the National Federation of Independent Business, also joined.

Officials in the states that sued lauded Vinson's decision.

"In making his ruling, the judge has confirmed what many of us knew from the start: Obamacare is an unprecedented and unconstitutional infringement on the liberty of the American people," Florida Gov. Rick Scott said.

Other states that joined the lawsuit were: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Egypt's army promises no force against protesters

Egypt's army promises no force against protesters

AP Photo
A burnt out car in which Egyptians are depositing garbage is seen in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Jan. 31, 2011. A coalition of opposition groups called for a million people to take to Cairo's streets Tuesday to demand the removal of President Hosni Mubarak. The Arabic on the sign reads "Here is Mubarak's government."

CAIRO (AP) -- Egypt's military pledged not to fire on protesters in a sign that army support for President Hosni Mubarak may be unraveling on the eve of a major escalation - a push for a million people to take to the streets Tuesday to demand the authoritarian leader's ouster.

More than 10,000 people beat drums, played music and chanted slogans in Tahrir Square, which has become ground zero of a week of protests demanding an end to Mubarak's three decades in power.

With the organizers' calling for a "march of a million people," the vibe in the sprawling plaza - whose name in Arabic means "Liberation" - was of an intensifying feeling that the uprising was nearing a decisive point.

"He only needs a push!" was one of the most frequent chants, and a leaflet circulated by some protesters said it was time for the military to choose between Mubarak and the people.

The latest gesture by Mubarak aimed at defusing the crisis fell flat. His top ally, the United States, roundly rejected his announcement of a new government Monday that dropped his highly unpopular interior minister, who heads police forces and has been widely denounced by the protesters.

The crowds in the streets were equally unimpressed.

"It's almost the same government, as if we are not here, as if we are sheep," sneered one protester, Khaled Bassyouny, a 30-year-old Internet entrepreneur. He said it was time to escalate the marches. "It has to burn. It has to become ugly. We have to take it to the presidential palace."

Another concession came late Monday, when Vice President Omar Suleiman - appointed by Mubarak only two days earlier - went on state TV to announce the offer of a dialogue with "political forces" for constitutional and legislative reforms.

Suleiman did not say what the changes would entail or which groups the government would speak with. Opposition forces have long demanded the lifting of restrictions on who is eligible to run for president to allow a real challenge to the ruling party, as well as measures to ensure elections are fair. A presidential election is scheduled for September .

In Washington, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs dismissed the naming of the new government, saying the situation in Egypt calls for action, not appointments.

Publicly, the Obama administration has declined to discuss the subject of Mubarak's future. However, administration officials said Monday that Washington prefers Mubarak not contest the upcoming vote. They spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of diplomacy.

The State Department said that a retired senior diplomat - former ambassador to Egypt Frank Wisner - was now on the ground in Cairo and will meet Egyptian officials to urge them to embrace broad economic and political changes that can pave the way for free and fair elections.

The army statement, aired on state TV, said the powerful military recognizes "the legitimacy of the people's demands" - the strongest sign yet that it is willing to let the protests continue and even grow as long as they remain peaceful, even if that leads to the fall of Mubarak.

If the 82-year-old president, a former air force commander, loses the support of the military, it would likely be a fatal blow to his rule.

For days, army tanks and troops have surrounded Tahrir Square, keeping the protests confined but doing nothing to stop people from joining.

Military spokesman Ismail Etman said the military "has not and will not use force against the public" and underlined that "the freedom of peaceful expression is guaranteed for everyone."

He added the caveats, however, that protesters should not commit "any act that destabilizes security of the country" or damage property.

Looting that erupted over the weekend across the city of around 18 million eased - but Egyptians endured another day of the virtual halt of normal life, raising fears of damage to the economy if the crisis drags on. Trains stopped running Monday, possibly an attempt by authorities to prevent residents of the provinces from joining protests in the capital.

A curfew imposed for a fourth straight day - starting an hour earlier, at 3 p.m. - was widely ignored. Banks, schools and the stock market in Cairo were closed for the second working day, making cash tight. An unprecedented complete shutdown of the Internet was also in its fourth day. Long lines formed outside bakeries as people tried to replenish their stores of bread.

Cairo's international airport was a scene of chaos as thousands of foreigners sought to flee the unrest, and countries around the world scrambled to send in planes to fly their citizens out.

Incidents of looting continued. In Cairo, soldiers detained about 50 men trying to break into the Egyptian National Museum in a fresh attempt to steal the country's archaeological treasures, the military said. An attempt to break into an antiquities storehouse at the famed Pharaonic Karnak Temple in the ancient southern city of Luxor was also foiled.

The official death toll from the crisis stood at 97, with thousands injured, but reports from witnesses across the country indicated the actual toll was far higher.

Mubarak appeared fatigued as he was shown on state TV swearing in the members of his new Cabinet. The most significant change in the shake-up was the replacement of the interior minister, Habib el-Adly, who heads internal security forces and is widely despised by protesters for the brutality some officers have shown. A retired police general, Mahmoud Wagdi, will replace him.

Of the 29-member Cabinet, 14 were new faces, most of them not members of the ruling National Democratic Party. Among those purged were several of the prominent businessmen who held economic posts and have engineered the country's economic liberalization policies the past decades. Many Egyptians resented the influence of millionaire politician-moguls, who were close allies of the president's son, Gamal, long thought to be the heir apparent.

Mubarak retained his long-serving defense minister, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, and Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit.

A major question throughout the unprecedented unrest has been whether protests that began as a decentralized eruption of anger largely by grass-roots activists can coalesce into a unified political leadership to press demands and keep up momentum.

There were signs Monday of an attempt to do so, as around 30 representatives from various opposition groups met to work out a joint stance.

The gathering issued the call for Tuesday's escalated protests but did not reach a final agreement on a list of demands. They were to meet again Tuesday to try to do so and decide whether to make prominent reform advocate Mohamed ElBaradei spokesman for the protesters, said Abu'l-Ela Madi, a spokesman of one of the participating groups, al-Wasat, a moderate breakaway faction from the Muslim Brotherhood.

Unity is far from certain among the array of movements involved in the protests, with sometimes conflicting agendas - including students, online activists, grass-roots organizers, old-school opposition politicians and the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood, along with everyday citizens drawn by the exhilaration of marching against the government.

The various protesters have little in common beyond the demand that Mubarak go. Perhaps the most significant tensions among them is between young secular activists and the Muslim Brotherhood, which wants to form an Islamist state in the Arab world's largest nation. The more secular are deeply suspicious the Brotherhood aims to co-opt what they contend is a spontaneous, popular movement. American officials have suggested they have similar fears.

ElBaradei, a pro-democracy advocate and former head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog, invigorated anti-Mubarak feeling with his return to Egypt last year, but the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood remains Egypt's largest opposition movement.

In a nod to the suspicions, Brotherhood figures insist they are not seeking a leadership role.

"We don't want to harm this revolution," Mohamed Mahdi Akef, a former leader of the group.

Still, Brotherhood members appeared to be joining the protest in greater numbers and more openly. During the first few days of protests, the crowd in Tahrir Square was composed of mostly young men in jeans and T-shirts.

On Monday, many of the volunteers handing out food and water to protesters were men in long traditional dress with the trademark Brotherhood appearance - a closely cropped haircut and bushy beards.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Legacy Live On: The King Of Pop Michael Jackson By Antoinette Cook (215) 469-1902

The Legacy Live On: The King Of Pop Michael Jackson By Antoinette Cook (215) 469-1902

Keeping the legacy alive and well in reference to the King of Pop Michael Jackson the Legacy, man and his music. The winners are: 1st Place Debbie Looney, 2nd Place Liz Blade, and 3rd Place Norma Merten.

Debbie Looney

To Michael Jackson...with all my heart

Waves of emotion touch my heart like wind
Something tugging on me, where do I begin?
I cannot put into words, really how I'm 'feeling
...All I know is that, these emotions send me reeling

Something has a hold on me, will this feeling ever end?
And With a humble heart, I'm missing a good friend
A soul I've never met, but one I know so well
I feel him right beside me, a spirit, I can tell.

A breeze of something other worldly, slips around me, as a Dove
Embracing me with goodness, and with never ending LOVE
Choking away tears, I try to push that part aside
Knowing all along, these feelings won't subside

Keeping hold of every memory, I have deep down inside
Holding onto every word, every dance, and every stride
Sometimes feeling far away, out of every inch of reach
I know you came to LOVE, to entertain, and teach

Grasping at a chance, to feel you everyday
Hoping with all hope, it will never go away
But yet feeling empty, knowing you are gone
Hurts so much some days, hard to just hold on

Cannot rid my heart, of the thought of loving you
You took my breath away, not what you were...just YOU!
A beauty I just can't contain, or understand so well
Without you here within this world, it is a living hell

How can I put a feeling, to what's inside the soul?
You had a way about you, that made many feel whole
There is a time for everything, a time for everyone
I just never did imagine, you would be The One

The one to give the world a hope, the one to bring back LOVE
The one to help the children, the one sent from above
You've done so much for many, and in turn were turned away
By those who would not let you, in their heart to stay

But I've been here all along, and here I'll always be
Loving you within my heart, wrapped in ecstasy
Giving you the best I have, no I'll never go astray
Clinging to your memory, I'll keep you with me everyday.

Written by Debbie Looney 01/11/2011 Copyright
No reproduction allowed without
written permission by Author

Liz Blade

From The Heart

I am writing something and it comes from the heart, I am so filled with sadness and emotions I do not know where to start. But I shall start where I can, but for me to do that I have to take you back from where it all began..

When I was young is when i first saw you, I was so young and I was right into you. I loved the way you danced, sang and smile. Your face stays within me and it imprinted me for awhile.

Days went by and I saw you on TV again, I felt as a child that you were my magical TV friend. You sang songs like Thriller and Bad, I love the way you sing and dance you gave it all you had.

Then I grew older and I still feel the same. I kept on loving you in awe and I still feel the same.

I went to your concert in 1996 It was a day I will never forget when I saw you play at HIStory, I went with my Dad and it meant everything in this world to me.

Then a year later I died during an operation it was due to an overdose of anaesthetic I was given a adult dose, and I almost lost my life, infact I did I died twice... as the long weeks and months went to past I listen to your music and your words that finally got me better at last.

I could not talk, I could not walk or even say your name But I kept on fighting just the same. I was just 15 at the time if memory serves me right. I try to forget that time.. because it makes me sad. But knowing that they saved me and they didn't save you makes me sad. When you Michael you were everything in my life that I had.

I love you today, tomorrow and in the future, I will love you always and I forever will. You are my light, My King my saviour. You are my everything.

Thank you for the songs, the memories and your dance and words. The way you make me feel is something so surreal.

I will love you now until the end of time, and even when my bell has chimed and my life is through I will always utterly and completely LOVE YOU!

Not just as a musician but for everything that you are, I now look into the night skies and I see the brightest star and that my love is where you are. You will never die, for you see you are the special star that never dies, you will never burst in flames.. for a star like you is special to me.. and you Michael will always be.

This is just something for you and you only... LOVE FROM ME!


Norma Merten


Michael smile lite up the world.
His song made you happy or sad and think.
His dancing made you want to get up and dance to.
And the thing he did to help others made you want to do it to.
...loving everyone no mater what you are. love you -Norma.

Grizzlies Use Big Rally To Top 76ers 99-94

Grizzlies Use Big Rally To Top 76ers 99-94

Elton Brand, Tony Battie, Zach Randolph

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Rudy Gay scored 16 points and put Memphis ahead for good with a 6-footer in traffic, helping the Memphis Grizzlies rally from a 21-point deficit and beat the Philadelphia 76ers 99-94 on Friday night.

The Grizzlies trailed by 21 in the third quarter and were down 16 entering the fourth. Gay helped the Grizzlies take over down the stretch. He threw down a thunderous dunk and then hit the contested jumper to make it 87-85.

The Sixers were on the brink of a shot-clock violation when the ball bounced out of bounds. Sam Young made up for a boneheaded basket in the first half with a jumper for a four-point lead and the Grizzlies held on.

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Students Rally For Tuition Vouchers

Students Rally For Tuition Vouchers

State Senator Anthony Williams speaks at a rally in Harrisburg. (file photo provided by Senator Anthony Williams' office)

State Senator Anthony Williams speaks at a rally in Harrisburg. (file photo provided by Senator Anthony Williams’ office)

HARRISBURG (CBS) – Dozens of children from Philadelphia were in attendance as school choice supporters rallied in the state capitol this past week.

The tuition voucher rally in the capitol rotunda featured an impassioned speech by one of the prime sponsors of a Senate voucher bill, and a key advocate on the issue state Senator Anthony Williams, a Philadelphia Democrat.

“Today is the beginning of the next civil rights movement in this nation! Where we free our children,” Williams says.

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PGW Working To Repair Gas Leak Near Recent Explosion

PGW Working To Repair Gas Leak Near Recent Explosion


PHILADELPHIA (CBS/AP) – Philadelphia Gas Works crews are working to repair a leak near the intersection of Tyson and Torresdale Avenues in the Tacony section.

 PGW Working To Repair Gas Leak Near Recent Explosion

Holy Innocents St. Paul Church was evacuated due to a gas leak Sunday morning.

Spokesman Cameron Kline says the leak was reported at about 9 a.m. Sunday, forcing the brief evacuation of Holy Innocents St. Paul Church. The church was evacuated as a precaution, but people were later allowed back into the building and no other residents were evacuated. A main thoroughfare was also closed to traffic as a precaution but was later reopened.

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Hopkins takes 'The Rite' to top of box office

Hopkins takes 'The Rite' to top of box office

AP Photo
In this film publicity image released by The Weinstein Company, Collin Firth, left, and Geoffrey Rush are shown in a scene from, "The King's Speech." The film was nominated for 12 Academy Awards, Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2011, including best picture, best director, best supporting actress, Firth for best actor and Rush for best supporting actor. The Oscars will be presented Feb. 27 at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood.

NEW YORK (AP) -- The Anthony Hopkins horror film "The Rite" topped the box office on a weekend notable for the bump many Oscar-nominated films received, according to studio estimates Sunday.

The Warner Bros. flick earned $15 million from just under 3,000 theaters. The PG-13, "Exorcist"-influenced movie drew most of its audience from the older-than-25 demographic.

In its 10th week of release, the Weinstein Company's "The King's Speech" earned $11.1 million while adding nearly 900 screens.

Now with a cumulative box-office haul of $72.2 million, the story of King George VI's triumph over his stuttering affliction continues to build momentum as the Oscar favorite for best picture. It led with 12 Oscar nominations on Tuesday, and its director, Tom Hooper, won best director from the Directors Guild on Saturday.

Last week's top film, the Natalie Portman romantic comedy "No Strings Attached," from Paramount, slipped to second with $13.7 million.

The other debut this weekend, CBS Films' action film "The Mechanic," which stars Jason Statham and Ben Foster, took in $11.5 million, tied for third with Sony's updated superhero film "The Green Hornet."

Heavily marketed, "The Rite" sought a PG-13 rating less to attract younger audience members than "not to offend" older fans of the 73-year-old Hopkins, said Dan Fellman, head of distribution for Warner Bros.

Fellman credited the film's success to Hopkins, who remains a draw for moviegoers, especially in scary films that recall his famous performance as Hannibal Lecter in 1991's "The Silence of the Lambs."

"The King's Speech" saw the biggest increase after Oscar nominations were announced Tuesday, jumping 41 percent from its performance last weekend.

The Coen brothers' Western "True Grit" was up four percent in its sixth week, bringing its total to $138 million. "The Fighter," in its eighth week, and Portman's "Black Swan," in its ninth week, had only slight drop-offs from the prior weekend.

Still, it was hard to ignore the rising tide of "The King's Speech," which has usurped David Fincher's "The Social Network" as prognosticators' pick to win best picture at the Academy Awards on Feb. 27. Its star, Colin Firth, is believed to be a shoo-in for best actor.

"If I was in Vegas, I'd slip a few bucks on it," said Fellman of "The King's Speech." (Warner Bros.'s dog in the fight is Christopher Nolan's "Inception," whose chances for best picture are considered slim.)

The Screen Actors Guild, whose members make up a large block of academy voters, was to hand out their awards Sunday night.

"The Oscar bump is in full effect," said analyst Paul Dergarabedian.

But the box-office opportunity for Academy Awards favorites is available partially because of the lack of blockbuster dominance in the marketplace. The weekend was Hollywood's 12th down-weekend in a row, meaning total box office was below that of the corresponding weekend a year earlier.

Last year's high January totals were largely due to the enormous success of James Cameron's 3-D epic "Avatar," which went on to become the highest grossing film ever.

"`Avatar' is casting a long shadow, making our comparisons week after week very tough," said Dergarabedian. "It's an anomaly. ... The marketplace is kind of doing what it's supposed to be doing."

Dergarabedian says the streak of down-weekends is likely to continue, possibly passing the 2005 record of 18 consecutive down-weekends.

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

1. "The Rite," $15 million.

2. "No Strings Attached," $13.7 million.

3. "The Green Hornet," $11.5 million.

(tie) "The Mechanic, $11.5 million.

5. "The King's Speech," $11.1 million.

6. "True Grit," $7.6 million.

7. "The Dilemma," $5.5 million.

8. "Black Swan," $5.1 million.

9. "The Fighter," $4.1 million.

10. "Yogi Bear," $3.2 million.

As chaos reigns, foreigners advised to leave Egypt

As chaos reigns, foreigners advised to leave Egypt

AP Photo
Passengers stranded by the curfew and thus prevented from entering the Egyptian capital sleep at Cairo airport, early Sunday, Jan. 30, 2011.

CAIRO (AP) -- Foreign governments stepped up their warnings about travel to Egypt, with several urging their nationals to evacuate as soon as possible, further fueling uncertainty over where the Arab nation is headed after nearly a week of mass protests.

The fears of foreign tourists mirrored those of many Egyptians. Dozens with the means to do so rented jets or hopped aboard their own planes in a mad dash that did little to boost confidence in the future of a country that, until a week ago, had been viewed as a pillar of stability in a restive region. Those leaving included businessmen and celebrities.

The American, Swiss, Turkish and Dutch governments issued advisories encouraging nationals already in the country to leave and telling those who planned trips to Egypt to reconsider. The U.S. Embassy in Cairo said it was making arrangements to transport Americans who want to leave to "safehaven locations in Europe." Flights would begin on Monday.

A growing number of governments - including China, France, Germany, Belgium, Sweden, Finland, Russia and Poland - warned against travel to most parts, if not all of Egypt. Arab nations, including Iraq, either sent in jets to take their citizens home, or offered to do so.

"If I had a visa to anywhere, I'd join them. But that's not going to happen," said Mohammed Khaled, a 28-year-old Egyptian doctor. "Right now, I'd settle for a gun, but I can't even find one of those."

Surging lawlessness on the streets after the much-reviled police essentially melted away has prompted neighbors to form armed patrols. But crowds of men armed with shovels, sticks, clubs, chains, guns and the occasional whips and chains, do little to project an image of stability.

Compounding the problem was a continued Internet outage after the government cut off service earlier in the week to undercut protesters' ability to communicate.

American embassy officials said they were unable to send text message alerts - which have been blocked nationwide since late Thursday - complicating efforts to distribute advisories.

The unrest is sure to affect Egypt's vital tourism sector, at least in the short-run. Tourism accounts for about 5 to 6 percent of GDP, making it one of the top four sources of foreign revenue for the country.

But the unrest also threatens to unravel an economy that officials had proudly pointed to one of the few to withstand the global financial meltdown.

International oil companies and other Western firms began to weigh evacuating their employees' families - a move that may be mirrored by international schools catering to those workers.

One such company was oil giant BP PLC. Spokesman Robert Wine said the company, which has operated in Egypt for 40 years, is "working on what we need to do, and whether we need to bring the families out."

But other businessmen weren't waiting for formal marching orders.

"We left behind a country with no order or security whatsoever," Mehmet Buyukocak, who worked in Egypt for six years, told Turkish news channel NTV upon arriving in Istanbul's airport. "People do as they wish. ... The army does not interfere - they are just watching."

"Even if Mubarak resigns, it will be chaos taking his place," he said, adding that there are other Turks who said they will remain in Egypt. "I pray God helps them all."

Even before the images of roving bands of thugs and neighborhood patrols were etched in their minds, tourists were thronging to Cairo's international airport as Mubarak faced the gravest challenge in his 30-year rule.

Many came without reservations, only to find a growing number of flights canceled, delayed or suspended. National carrier EgyptAir canceled or delayed 25 flights Sunday because of a crew shortage.

Unable to fly out, the passengers' ranks swelled with the addition of others arriving in Cairo after a 4 p.m. curfew goes into effect.

An airport that was the pride of the government took on the appearance of a marble-floored refugee camp. Airport officials said some travelers who had been there for several days came down with diarrhea, and were treated by doctors at the facility.

A growing number of Arab countries arranged for additional flights on larger jets to evacuate their citizens, as did a smattering of other nations including Azerbaijan and Turkey.

Iraq, which has endured more than seven years of chaos of its own, offered to fly out any of its citizens who wanted to escape the mayhem. "It will be free of charge," Transportation Ministry spokesman Aqeel Hadi Kawthar told The Associated Press.

Egyptian pop star Amr Diab, whose hits include "Rag'een" or "Returning," jetted off to London with his family aboard his private plane, said an airport official, speaking on condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to brief the media.

Several other celebrities and businessmen also left, raising to at least 64 the number of private planes to take off over the past two days.

The impact on the Red Sea resorts, favored by Europeans, was still negligible. Some travel companies said those destinations remained unaffected, even though some governments, such as Poland's, began expanding their travel advisories to include those areas.

For some prospective visitors, it wasn't worth the risk.

Tulin Sezer, a 39-year-old math teacher from Berlin, said she and her two friends had just decided to cancel their planned trip to the resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh.

"It just doesn't feel right to go on vacation in Egypt, if the people who live there are not happy," Sezer said. "If people are dying, it is weird to go there as a tourist."

Egyptian reform leader calls on Mubarak to go

Egyptian reform leader calls on Mubarak to go

AP Photo
Egyptian Nobel Peace laureate and democracy advocate Mohamed ElBaradei addresses the crowd at Tahrir Square in Cairo, Sunday Jan.30, 2011.

CAIRO (AP) -- Egypt's most prominent democracy advocate took up a bullhorn Sunday to call for President Hosni Mubarak to go, speaking to thousands of protesters who defied a third night of curfew to mass in the capital's main square. Fighter jets streaked low overhead and police returned to the streets as Egypt's government tried to show its authority over a situation spiraling out of control.

Nobel Peace laureate Mohammed ElBaradei's appearance in Tahrir, or Liberation, Square underscored the jockeying for leadership of the mass protest movement that erupted seemingly out of nowhere over the past week to shake the Arab world's most populous nation.

Now in their sixth day, the protests have come to be centered in Tahrir Square, where demonstrators have camped out since Friday. Up to 10,000 protesters gathered there during the day Sunday, and even after the 4 p.m. curfew, they numbered in the thousands, including families with young children, addressing Mubarak with their chants of "Leave, leave, leave."

"You are the owners of this revolution. You are the future," ElBaradei told the crowd after nightfall. "Our essential demand is the departure of the regime and the beginning of a new Egypt in which every Egyptian lives in virtue, freedom and dignity."

In a further sign of Mubarak's teetering position, his top ally the United States called for an "orderly transition to democracy."

Asked if Washington supports Mubarak as Egypt's leader, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton avoided a direct answer, telling Fox News in an interview, "We have been very clear that we want to see a transition to democracy, and we want to see the kind of steps taken that will bring that about."

Protesters have shrugged off Mubarak's gestures of reform, including the sacking of his Cabinet and the appointment of a vice president and a new prime minister - both seen as figures from the heart of his regime.

ElBaradei, the former head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog, has gained a following among young secular democracy activists with his grassroots organizing. But some demonstrators dismiss him as an expatriate long removed from the country's problems.

"Many people feel he loves prizes and traveling abroad," said Muhammad Munir, 27. "He's not really one of the people."

The outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, which wants to establish an Islamist state in Egypt, has made some statements that it was willing to let ElBaradei act as pointman for the movement. But it also appeared to be moving for a more prominent role after lying low when the protests first erupted. Sunday evening, the presence of overtly pious Muslims in the square was conspicuous, suggesting a significant Brotherhood representation. Hundreds performed the sunset prayers. Veiled women prayed separately.

A senior Brotherhood leader, Essam el-Erian, told The Associated Press he was heading to Tahrir Square to meet with other opposition leaders. El-Erian told one Egyptian TV station that the Brotherhood is ready to contact the army for a dialogue, calling the military "the protector of the nation."

Clinton suggested Anerican concerns over the possibility of the Brotherhood seizing direction of the movement. She warned against a takeover resembling the one in Iran, with a "small group that doesn't represent the full diversity of Egyptian society" seizing control and imposing its ideological beliefs.

The military was taking the lead in restoring order after police virtually vanished from the streets on Friday without explanation after initially clashing with protesters. The disappearance of the police opened the door for a wave of looting, armed robberies and arson in cities around the country.

The anarchy was further fueled when gangs of armed men attacked at least four jails across Egypt before dawn Sunday, freeing hundreds of criminals and Muslim militants. Gangs of young men with guns and large sticks smashed cars and robbed people in Cairo.

The official death toll from the crisis stood at 97, with thousands injured, but reports from witnesses across the country indicated that the actual toll was far higher.

The military, which enjoys far greater support among the public than the police, fanned out in tanks and armored vehicles around the city starting Sunday morning. At Tahrir Square, they appeared to cooperate with protesters in keeping the demonstrations orderly, and there were many scenes of affection between soldiers and protesters, who allowed troops to use their mobile phones to call home or offered them cigarettes.

"I am glad they are continuing to protest. God willing, he (Mubarak) will go," said one Air Force captain in uniform who drove by the edge of the square.

One banner held by protesters summed up the dilemma facing the military, proclaiming, "The army must chose between Egypt and Mubarak."

Minutes before the start of the curfew, at least two jets roared over the Nile, making several passes over the square, dropping lower every time and setting off alarms in parked cars. Some protesters clapped and waved to them while others jeered.

Police on Sunday began reasserting their presence, moving back into some Cairo neighborhoods. In some spots, they were jeered by residents who chanted anti-police slogans.

Interior Minister Habib al-Adly said he was ordering security forces to return to the streets in Cairo and elsewhere to work in tandem with army troops to restore order.

"It is necessary that the police role is quickly restored and that there should be cooperation in the field with the armed forces ... to defend the present and future of the nation."

The police move could put an end to lawlessness and looting, which stunned many Cairenes and which the military struggled to control. But it could also lead to renewed clashes with protesters, among whom hatred of the black-garbed security forces runs deep - though it appeared the police would not be deployed in Tahrir Square.

In a sign of the distrust, many protesters were convinced the police intentionally allowed the looting in an attempt to spread chaos that would undermine the political demonstrations.

"Those people who are looting are from the police, they want to scare us and make us stay home and not participate in the demonstrations," said Walid Ambar, an engineer who joined the crowds in Tahrir along with his 2-year-old son and pregnant wife. "This is a campaign to scare us. But I came here to join the demonstration and I will not leave until Mubarak leaves."

In a bid to show he remained in control, the 82-year-old Mubarak met with his defense minister and Omar Suleiman, the military intelligence chief whom he named as vice president over the weekend, to review the security situation. Later Sunday, a tired looking Mubarak was shown on state TV conferring with Suleiman and the new prime minister-designate Ahmed Shafiq, like Mubarak a former air force officer.

An unprecedented Internet cutoff remained in place for a third day after the country's four primary Internet providers stopped moving data in and out of the country early Friday in an apparent move by authorities to disrupt the organization of demonstrations. Egyptian mobile-phone networks were back up but with text-messaging widely disrupted.

The lawlessness, uncertainty, and indications of an attempted exodus from Cairo were gravely damaging Egypt's economy, particularly tourism, which accounts for as much as 11 percent of the country's gross domestic product.

Banks were closed on orders from Egypt's Central Bank, and the country's stock market was shut on what is normally the first day of the trading week.

On the first day of trading across the Mideast after a weekend of protests and violence, nervous investors drove stocks down sharply. Crowds of foreigners filled Cairo International Airport, desperate and unable to leave because dozens of flights were canceled and delayed.

The U.S. Embassy in Cairo told its citizens in Egypt to consider leaving the country as soon as possible, and said it had authorized the voluntary departure of dependents and non-emergency employees, a display of Washington's escalating concern about the stability of its closest Arab ally.

Egyptian security officials said that overnight armed men fired at guards in gun battles that lasted hours at the four prisons including one northwest of Cairo that held hundreds of militants. The prisoners escaped after starting fires and clashing with guards.

Those who fled included 34 members of the Muslim Brotherhood, whose lawyer, Abdel-Monaem Abdel-Maqsoud, told The Associated Press they were among scores rounded up by authorities ahead of large anti-government demonstrations on Friday. The escapees included at least seven senior members of the group.

State TV later reported that 2,000 escaped inmates were recaptured.

In the southern city of Assiut, officials said riot police stormed the city's main prison to quell a prison riot, using tear gas and batons against inmates. An Associated Press reporter saw army tanks were deployed outside the prison, on bridges straddling the Nile and at the police headquarters.

The pan-Arab broadcaster Al-Jazeera said that Egyptian authorities ordered the closure of its Cairo news hub overseeing coverage of the country's massive street protests, denouncing the move as an attempt to "stifle and repress" open reporting.

The Qatar-based network has given nearly round-the-clock coverage to the unprecedented uprising against Mubarak and had faced criticism by some government supporters and other Arab leaders as a forum to inspire more unrest.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

‘Jihad Jane’ Expected To Change Plea

‘Jihad Jane’ Expected To Change Plea

(file photo)

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The Montgomery County woman charged with plotting to support terrorism has reversed course. Colleen LaRose (pictured), who called herself Jihad Jane, is changing her plea.

Defense attorney Mark Wilson tells CNN that LaRose will plead guilty on Tuesday in Philadelphia Federal court. LaRose had previously entered a plea of not guilty to charges of helping foreign terrorism suspects bent on starting a holy war in Europe and South Asia.

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‘Polar Bears’ Take Freezing Dive For Charity

‘Polar Bears’ Take Freezing Dive For Charity

Scantily clad divers rush to get out of the frigid water. (credit: Hadas Kuznits)

Scantily clad divers rush to get out of the frigid water.

BENSALEM, Pa. (CBS) – About 700 “Polar bears” hit Neshaminy State Park this afternoon, to participate in the Third Annual Polar Bear Plunge.

“You guys ready? Let’s go plunge!” And with that, polar bear plungers jumped into the Delaware River in Bensalem.

“I knew it was cold,” one plunger says. “I don’t like to use the word freezing but…” But, at 32 degrees, the river was in fact freezing. This plunger shrugged it off saying, “It was good.”

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Clijsters defeats Li for 1st Australian Open crown

Clijsters defeats Li for 1st Australian Open crown

AP Photo
Belgium's Kim Clijsters, left, holds the trophy along with runner-up China's Li Na after Clijsters won their women's singles final at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, Jan. 29, 2011.

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) -- Kim Clijsters believes she's now earned the nickname she had for years in Australia.

"I finally feel like you guys can call me 'Aussie Kim' because I won the title," a teary Clijsters said after beating China's Li Na 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 Saturday night to capture her first Australian Open. "It's nice to finally get it this year."

Clijsters lost the 2004 Australian Open final to Justine Henin and lost four times in the semifinals. This was Clijsters' fourth Grand Slam tournament championship, but the first apart from the U.S. Open.

"To win it in this way means a lot," she told a TV interviewer after the match. "This one to me, is the one. When I think back on my childhood, I remember watching the Australian Open and seeing Monica Seles win many times. I think they used to go up into the stands. I remember her doing her speech there, and it was something that I was just amazed by. It seemed like such a fairy tale."

Li was trying to become the first Asian to win a major, and the final was far from a smooth ride. She complained to the chair umpire about the Chinese fans and was bothered by photographers' flashes in the courtside pits. The outbursts from all over the arena were jarring.

"They shouted 'finish her off!' sometimes even when we were hitting the ball," Li said through a translator. "I thought, 'How can they do this?'"

In doubles, Bob and Mike Bryan successfully defended their title, beating Indian stars Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi 6-3, 6-4 for their fifth Australian crown and 10th Grand Slam championship.

The Bryans have held the No. 1 doubles ranking the past eight years. They have also won the U.S Open three times and the French Open and Wimbledon once each.

On Sunday, Andy Murray hopes to win his first major and end an almost 75-year drought for British men at the majors. He meets No. 3 Novak Djokovic in Sunday's final. Djokovic leads their head-to-heads 4-3, but has lost the last three. Djokovic is the favorite and won in Australia in 2008 - the last time neither No. 1 Rafael Nadal nor No. 2 Roger Federer was in the final.

Clijsters didn't win her first major until 2005 - after she'd lost four finals. All the while, the Australian public regarded her as one of their own. And not only because she was once engaged to Lleyton Hewitt, the Australian who won two Grand Slam titles and was ranked No. 1 before Federer began his run. Clijsters is laid back and resilient, and the fans in Melbourne noticed.

"In the past year people have been so supportive," she said. "They have been amazing and I really appreciate it. I always felt bad that I (didn't) give something back - once I got to the final and lost to Justine - and now I feel maybe worthy to be 'Aussie Kim.'"

With no Aussies making it past the third round at Melbourne Park, Clijsters clearly was a popular choice at Melbourne Park.

She had said that 2011 would be her last full season on tour. Now, the 27-year-old Belgian is already saying she'd like to defend her Australian title and possibly play at the London Olympics.

Clijsters' daughter Jada was on court when her mother collected the 2009 U.S. Open trophy - in her third tournament back from a 2 1/2-year break from the tour to get married and have a child. On Saturday night, Jada was in the players' lounge, running and jumping into the arms of her father and uncle.

Clijsters started convincingly, winning the first eight points for a 2-0 lead. Then Li rallied. She got her forehand working and fired winners with her two-handed backhand.

Clijsters looked unsettled, dropping serve four straight times. She then decided to mix it up after Li won the first set and took a 3-2 lead in the second. That's when Li's game started to fold. Perhaps the pressure of being the first Chinese in a Grand Slam final was getting to her.

Li reached the Australian semifinals last year, taking eventual champion Serena Williams to two tiebreak sets. She rallied from 0-5 down in the first set to win the Sydney International final over Clijsters in a warmup tournament two weeks ago. This time was clearly different.

Clijsters sensed Li was getting upset with Chinese spectators late in the second set. In the third, Li asked chair umpire Alison Lang to intervene, saying: "Can you tell the Chinese, don't teach me how to play tennis?"

Lang asked the crowd for quiet - twice. It didn't work.

Li became increasingly rattled. After she held for 3-2 in the second set, Clijsters upped the ante, winning he next three games to regain control. In the third set, Clijsters broke to lead 4-1, and the match was all but over.

Li was not sure to what extent her excellent showing in Australia registered at home. China's official broadcaster said 15 million watched the live broadcast of the final. Li said that was hardly more than Australia, a nation of 22 million.

"Tens of millions is nothing. Over 80 percent of the people in Australia watch tennis; we can't compete," she said.

Li is the first Chinese to win a WTA Tour title and the first to enter the top 10. Still, she does not see herself as a trailblazer.

"My character is not suitable for it," she said. "I just do the best I can. I hope Chinese tennis can grow faster, and I hope more people can get involved. It's like a pyramid, more people playing, and you can achieve higher on the pyramid's top."

Chris Brown completes domestic violence program

Chris Brown completes domestic violence program

AP Photo
R&B singer Chris Brown appears for a progress report hearing in Los Angeles, Friday, Jan. 28, 2011. Brown pleaded guilty to assaulting his pop star girlfriend Rihanna in Hancock Park after a pre-Grammy Awards party in 2009. He was sentenced to five years probation, ordered to complete 180 days of community labor and a year of domestic violence counseling.

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Chris Brown has completed a domestic violence counseling program required as part of the singer's guilty plea to assaulting then-girlfriend Rihanna nearly two years ago.

On Friday, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Patricia Schnegg congratulated the 21-year-old R&B performer for finishing the yearlong program.

As a result of completing the required counseling, Brown will no longer have to appear in court every three months for progress report hearings.

Brown is serving five years of probation after pleading guilty last year to assaulting pop star Rihanna in a rented sports car after a pre-Grammy Awards party.

City News Service reports the judge said she would consider lifting the protective order against Brown at a later date. The order requires Brown to stay at least 100 yards away from Rihanna.

Russia identifies airport bomber as Caucasus man

Russia identifies airport bomber as Caucasus man

AP Photo
A man wounded in a blast is carried away at Domodedovo airport in Moscow, Monday, Jan. 24, 2011. An explosion ripped through the international arrivals hall at Moscow's busiest airport on Monday, killing dozens of people and wounding scores, officials said. The Russian president called it a terror attack.

MOSCOW (AP) -- The suicide bomber who killed 35 people at Moscow's busiest airport was deliberately targeting foreigners, investigators said Saturday, which would mark an ominous new tactic by separatist militants in southern Russia if he was recruited by an Islamist terror cell.

Federal investigators know the identity of the bomber, a 20-year-old native of the volatile Caucausus region, where Islamist insurgents have been battling for years for a breakaway state.

But the country's top investigative body stopped short of naming him, fearing that it would compromise ongoing attempts to identify and arrest the masterminds of the Domodedovo Airport attack on Jan. 24. The blast also wounded 180 people.

There has been no claim of responsibility, but security analysts suspect Islamist separatists of organizing the bombing because of its magnitude and method.

"It was no accident that the terrorist act was carried out in the international arrivals hall," federal investigators said in a statement. "The terrorist act was aimed first and foremost at foreign citizens."

The victims were mainly Russians, but also included one person each from Britain, Germany, Austria, Ukraine, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.

The violence stemming from the predominantly Muslim Caucasus region originates from two bloody separatist wars in Chechnya in the past 15 years. Federal forces wiped out the large-scale resistance, driving the insurgency into the mountains and into neighboring provinces. The rebels seek an independent Caucasus emirate that adheres to Shariah law.

Caucasus rebels have claimed responsibility for a number of deadly attacks over the years, including a double suicide bombing on the capital's subway system in March 2010 that killed 40 people. One of the subway stations hit was under the Federal Security Service headquarters in downtown Moscow. The service, the main successor to the feared Soviet KGB, is known by its Russian language acronym, the FSB.

This time, the terrorists are out to show that it's not just the Russian public who are defenseless, said Pavel Felgenhauer, an independent security analyst.

"There is always a message," he said. "If the message with the metro bombings was to show the FSB that they are not out of reach, then the message here is that foreigners should keep away from Russia, it's a dangerous place. The point was to scare off foreigners, not to maybe kill them but to hit Russia's image, (and) its economy as an investment destination."

"Looking at Medvedev's reaction, it seems that point got through," Felgenhauer said, referring to President Dmitry Medvedev, who postponed his trip to the World Economic Forum in Davos because of the blast. When he eventually arrived on Wednesday, Medvedev condemned the perpetrators and sternly defended Russia as an investment haven.

Rebels in the Caucausus mount regular attacks on police and security forces in the region, according to police reports. Human rights activists say their violence is provoked by a savage crackdown on peaceful civilians by authorities in the region, and hold Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov and his feared private army to blame. Kadyrov, a former rebel himself until he switched sides and was subsequently installed by the Kremlin as president, denies being behind disappearances, torture and extra-judicial killings that rights activists say plague the region.

The Caucasus hosts at least 100 ethnicities including Chechens, who resisted czarist conquest of the region for hundreds of years.

Since the blast at Domodedovo Airport, a half-dozen transport and police officials have been fired. Medvedev said after the blast that Domodedovo's security was in a "state of anarchy."

Russia's parliament has given preliminary approval to a law creating color-coded terrorist threat alerts, a measure rushed forward in the wake of the airport bombing. The proposed law is modeled on the U.S. system instituted after the Sept. 11 attacks, which Washington announced Thursday it would be abandoning by the end of April and replaced with a new plan to notify specific people about specific threats. Critics had complained the general color alerts were unhelpful. Russia's State Duma, or lower house, unanimously approved the bill Friday in the first of three required readings.

The explosion also called into question Russia's ability to safely host major international events such as the 2014 Winter Olympics and the 2018 World Cup, events designed to attract foreigners and their investment capital, to Russia.

In turnabout, Dems say GOP has dropped job focus

In turnabout, Dems say GOP has dropped job focus

AP Photo
In this Jan. 28, 2011 photo, President Barack Obama addresses the Families USA 16th Annual Health Action Conference, in Washington. Families USA is an consumer advocacy health care organization.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Republicans won dozens of elections last fall after claiming Democrats had focused too little on creating jobs. Now GOP lawmakers stand accused of the same charge, using their new House majority to push to repeal the president's health care law, restrict abortions and highlight other social issues important to their most conservative supporters.

Republican leaders say they have a jobs agenda, kicked off by their attempt to unravel what they call the Democrats' "jobs-killing" health overhaul.

Democrats scoff at this notion, and they're hounding Republicans to show how they can put more people to work.

"It's astonishing to me how tone-deaf the Republicans have been in the first weeks of the session," said Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass. "They've talked about everything but jobs."

Few were surprised when House Republicans moved quickly and voted to overturn the law, but the Democratic-controlled Senate will block that effort.

Heads turned when Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, presented the next item on the agenda: writing into law a perennially renewed ban on federal dollars for abortion, and to specify that it applies to health plans.

The abortion proposal "reflects the will of the people," said Boehner. "It's one of our highest legislative priorities."

When reporters asked why jobs weren't the main focus, Boehner said it was vital to vote against the health law because "it's destroying jobs in America."

He and his fellow Republicans say the law could wipe out 650,000 jobs.

Democrats dispute that claim. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office put the law's effect on supply and demand for labor as small.

At best, House Republicans seem to be sending mixed or diluted messages about job creation while they promote social issues that appeal to conservative activists. Examples include limiting jury awards in medical malpractice cases and expanding the District of Columbia's school voucher program.

Democrats are pouncing. Each day, they echo the taunt that Republicans used in the November elections: You're not doing enough to create jobs.

"Republicans waging losing war on health care while Democrats focus on jobs," said a headline Friday from the office of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. He told reporters that "we still recognize that our number one issue is jobs." He said he was preparing a small-business innovation bill "that would also create jobs."

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., sends daily "talking points" to colleagues with suggestions such as "another day, another opportunity lost for Republicans to work with Democrats on job creation."

In truth, there's only so much the government can do to create jobs, short of expensive stimulus bills or public works programs such as those launched by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Numerous and complex factors that affect the U.S. and global economies play a bigger role.

Curiously, perhaps, both parties have accused the other of fixating on health care instead of jobs. Health care, more than any other issue, energized the Democrats' liberal base in 2008 and 2009, and, conversely, fired up the GOP's conservative base as well.

Barack Obama campaigned on overhauling the health care system, and his backers saw his 2008 election as a mandate to follow through. In Congress, the process proved extremely difficult and partisan, with no Republicans voting for the final version.

Raucous protests against the legislation helped launch the tea party movement in 2009. Dozens of GOP candidates ran last fall on a promise to overturn the health law. Once elected, they claimed their own mandate to act right away on the issue, just as Democrats had done two years earlier.

Both parties risk appearing to cater to their hard-core supporters at the expense of political centrists worried mainly about jobs.

A new AP-GfK poll asked 1,000 adults to name the one thing they would want the federal government to do this year, if it accomplished only a single thing. The economy and jobs ranked first, cited by 38 percent of those surveyed. By comparison, 31 percent named health care, with some supporting Obama's health law and some opposing it.

No other issue exceeded 12 percent; abortion barely registered.

Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma, who oversaw GOP House campaigns in past years, defended the early focus on health care and abortion. "These are commitments we made" during the fall campaign, he said, adding that a heavier emphasis on jobs is coming soon.

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