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Thursday, March 31, 2011

76ers Rise Above Rockets 108-97

76ers Rise Above Rockets 108-97

Houston Rockets v Philadelphia 76ers

PHILADELPHIA (AP) – Jrue Holiday had 24 points and 12 assists, and Thaddeus Young scored 22 points to lead the Philadelphia 76ers to 108-97 win over the Houston Rockets on Wednesday night.

Andre Iguodala had 10 assists and the Sixers had 30 of them on 46 baskets. Spencer Hawes and Jodie Meeks each scored 12 points.

Kyle Lowry led the Rockets with 19 points and Kevin Martin had 18. Luis Scola scored 17 and Chase Budinger 15.

The Rockets cruised in a 112-87 win over New Jersey on Tuesday night, moving them within two games of eighth-place Memphis in the West, but their playoff push took a hit down I-95.

The Sixers put this one away with a 10-2 run early in the fourth.

The Rockets made 21 of 22 free throws; the 76ers 11 of 12.

Young gave the Sixers a serious scare after a hard fall in Monday’s 97-85 win at Chicago. Coach Doug Collins thought Young blew out his knee, but it was a strained groin, not severe enough to keep him out of the lineup – or affect his shooting. Young made 11 of 19 shots, all around the basket, and fell a rebound shy of a double-double.

Young scored the first two baskets during the decisive spurt early in the fourth. His short hook late in the game put the Sixers up 102-90 and secured their second straight victory against a team with a winning record.

The Sixers kept pace with Houston’s potent offense in the first half, then kept knocking shots down in the second as Houston faded in the fourth.

The Sixers have no All-Stars and their fourth-month rise in the Eastern Conference standings from a 3-13 start has been all about teamwork in the starting five and major contributions off the bench.

Both were on display against Houston.

In the first quarter, the Sixers had 12 assists on 14 baskets. Young continued his push for recognition as one of the league’s top sixth men, and reserve guard Lou Williams scored 15 points.

The Sixers are so balanced that they have six players averaging double-digits in scoring. But leading scorer Elton Brand (14.8 entering Wednesday) is tied for only 52nd in the league.

Brand’s off night (eight points) was offset by the reserves, and the Sixers are just staying sharp and healthy as their first playoff series in two years looms.

The Rockets will need wins and some help to make the playoffs. Lowry, the former Villanova standout who was cheered in pregame introductions, is trying to lead them there.

Lowry has stopped playing as a drive-only guard and worked to become more of a deep-ball threat. Rockets coach Rick Adelman called Lowry the team leader and “kind of the reason we turned this thing around.”

He showed a little bit of both in his return home. He hit his first three 3-point attempts and a running jumper to end the first half that put the Rockets up 55-52.

Lowry also showed his grit on a high-flying act over Houston’s bench as he went for a loose ball and nearly tumbled into the stands.

Lowry’s next 3 in the third stretched Houston’s lead to 76-70. The Sixers rallied and Williams’ 3 at the end of the quarter gave them an 84-82 lead.

Notes: Philadelphia’s 12 assists in the first were the most in any quarter this season. … The Rockets scored six straight points on six free throws after they were fouled on 3-point attempts in the second quarter. … Lowry was whistled for a technical foul in the fourth.

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Crews Rescue Man Trapped Underneath SEPTA Trolley

Crews Rescue Man Trapped Underneath SEPTA Trolley

Trolley Accident

UPPER DARBY, Pa. (CBS) – A man was rushed to the hospital after being sucked underneath a SEPTA trolley in Delaware County early Thursday morning.

The bizarre incident played out at about 8 a.m. at the 69th Street Terminal in Upper Darby.

According to officials, a 19-year-old man had just missed the route 101 trolley and decided to run next to the trolley near a fence in an attempt to catch the trolley at its next stop.

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Chase Utley Helps Paint Mural At N. Philadelphia School

Chase Utley Helps Paint Mural At N. Philadelphia School

(Credit: Mike DeNardo)

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The Phillies’ Chase Utley is on the disabled list for the season opener with a sore knee, but Utley and wife Jen took time Thursday morning to begin painting a mural in North Philadelphia.

Donning their smocks, Chase and Jennifer Utley joined kindergarten-through-second graders in painting a “Kindness to Animals” mural that will be mounted on a wall of the Anna B. Pratt Elementary School at 22nd and Dauphin.

“I’m not a very good painter,” Chase admitted. “But luckily these kids are very good painters. And there’s a great artist working on it. So it’s going to turn out great. It’s going to be great for the community.”

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Bronx Zoo cobra found in its reptile house

Bronx Zoo cobra found in its reptile house

AP Photo
In this photo released by the Wildlife Conservation Society, the Bronx Zoo’s once missing Egyptian Cobra is seen at the Bronz Zoo’s Reptile House, Thursday, March 31, 2011, in New York. After nearly a week after escaping from its cage, the venomous snake was found alive, coiled in a dark Reptile House corner.

NEW YORK (AP) -- A poisonous Egyptian cobra that disappeared from a Bronx Zoo exhibit was found Thursday after nearly a week on the lam, zoo officials said.

The 24-inch snake was found coiled in a dark corner of the zoo's reptile house, said zoo director Jim Breheny.

"As you can imagine, we are delighted to report that the snake has been found alive and well," he said.

The reptile house had closed last Friday after the snake disappeared and zoo workers couldn't find her.

The snake quickly became the stuff of urban legend. Someone even started pretending to be the cobra on Twitter and sent fake updates to legions of followers.

Breheny said the snake was "resting comfortably and secure" and was being evaluated to make sure she was in good condition.

He said zoo workers put out wood chips that had been used as bedding for mice in order to lure the 3-ounce snake out of hiding.

"We were fairly confident that she would come out and she did," Breheny said.

Breheny said the zoo is evaluating its protocols to make sure the snake doesn't escape again. Zoo officials hope to reopen the reptile house next week.

Ex-cops go to prison in post-Katrina killing

Ex-cops go to prison in post-Katrina killing

AP Photo
Edna Glover, second left, mother of Henry Glover, leaves Federal Court holding his photo, after the sentencing of two former New Orleans police oficers in his shooting death and burning of his body in New Orleans, Thursday, March 31, 2011. Former officer David Warren was sentenced to more than 25 years for shooting Glover without justification after Hurricane Katrina, and his ex-colleague Gregory McRae was given just over 17 years for burning the body. Right is Corey Glover, cousin of Henry, and background right is Patrice Glover, sister of Henry.

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Calling the crimes inexcusable and barbaric, a judge sentenced two former New Orleans police officers to prison Thursday for their roles in the shooting death of an unarmed man whose body was later set on fire in the chaotic aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

The 25-plus years David Warren received for shooting 31-year-old Henry Glover to death was the stiffest punishment so far in the Justice Department's investigations of post-Katrina police misconduct. Ex-officer Gregory McRae was sentenced to more than 17 years in prison for burning Glover's body after he was gunned down.

U.S. District Judge Lance Africk rejected the notion that the cases would deter officers in the future from staying after a storm to protect the public. When Hurricane Katrina hit in August 2005, many officers fled the city, leaving the police department with depleted forces. The National Guard was eventually dispatched to help prevent looting and control much of the city.

Warren said he thought Glover had a gun and posed a threat when he shot him outside a police substation at a strip mall. The judge called his testimony absurd.

"Henry Glover was not at the strip mall to commit suicide. He was there to retrieve some baby clothing," Africk said. "You killed a man. Despite your tendentious arguments to the contrary, it was no mistake."

Prosecutors said Glover wasn't armed when Warren shot him in the back. A good Samaritan drove Glover's body to a police compound at a school. McRae commandeered the vehicle and set it on fire nearby.

"Your conduct was barbaric," Africk told McRae. "The devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina was made uglier by your disturbing actions. ... At a time when more was expected of you, you failed miserably."

Lawyers for the men argued they deserved some leniency, partly because of the horrific conditions and chaos following the hurricane.

"I'm not saying what Mr. McRae did was right," said his attorney, Frank DeSalvo. "It was foolish (but) there's no way he anticipated the pain and suffering it would cause another man's family."

McRae could have received 50 years and Warren faced up to life in prison. Both faced mandatory minimum sentences of 10 years in prison.

U.S. Attorney Jim Letten said the judge's sentences fell within the guidelines, but he couldn't elaborate. Africk also ordered Warren to pay Glover's family $7,642 for funeral expenses.

Edna Glover, Henry's mother, said after the hearing that she was satisfied with the punishments.

"I forgive these men because if I don't forgive them Jesus won't forgive me," she told the judge.

Rebecca Glover, Henry's aunt, said she had expected Warren and McRae to get stiffer sentences.

"It's a joke and I'm very, very upset about it," she said.

Warren and his attorney declined to address the judge before sentencing. Turning to face the courtroom gallery, McRae apologized to Glover and Warren's families.

"I never intended to impede justice, obstruct justice," he said.

Warren, 48, told jurors at the trial late last year that he opened fire because he feared for his life. Warren was guarding a police substation at the strip mall when he said Glover and a friend pulled up in a stolen truck and started running toward a gate that would have given them access to the building.

Warren testified that the men ignored his commands to stop and that he thought he saw a gun in Glover's hand before he fired one shot at him from a second-floor balcony.

His partner that day, Officer Linda Howard, testified Glover and Calloway weren't armed and didn't pose a threat.

Trial testimony showed that Glover and his friend were driving a truck stolen from a nearby business and had gone to the mall to retrieve a looted suitcase, but prosecutors said they were using the stolen items out of desperation so they could evacuate.

"Henry Glover was gunned down because you believed he was a looter," Africk told Warren.

McRae, 49, admitted he drove Glover's body from the makeshift police compound to a nearby Mississippi River levee in the good Samaritan's car and set it on fire. McRae said he burned the vehicle because he was weary of seeing rotting corpses after the storm. Another officer, however, testified he saw McRae laughing after he set the fire.

Jurors also convicted former Lt. Travis McCabe of writing a false report on the shooting. His sentencing has been postponed while his lawyers seek a new trial based on what they say is newly discovered evidence.

The jury cleared Lt. Dwayne Scheuermann of charges he burned Glover's body and beat one of the men who brought the dying Glover to the police compound in search of help after the Sept. 2, 2005, shooting. Robert Italiano, a retired police lieutenant, was acquitted of charges he submitted a false report on the shooting and lied to the FBI.

A total of 20 current or former New Orleans police officers were charged last year in a series of Justice Department civil rights investigations. The probe of Glover's death was the first of those cases to be tried.

Next week, two officers are scheduled to be tried on charges stemming from the July 2005 beating death of a 48-year-old man. And a trial is scheduled to start in June for five current or former officers charged in deadly bridge shootings and an alleged plot to make the shootings appear justified.

Police shot and killed two people and wounded four others on the Danziger Bridge less than a week after Katrina. Five other former officers already have pleaded guilty to participating in a cover-up of the shootings. One received eight years in prison and the other three

Wis. judge halts gov's union law, at least for now

Wis. judge halts gov's union law, at least for now

AP Photo
FILE - In this Feb. 17, 2011, file photo Republican Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker talks to the media at the State Capitol in Madison, Wis. Two officials in Walker's administration say preparations to implement the state's divisive collective bargaining law have been put on hold. The officials spoke to The Associated Press on Thursday, March 31, 2011, on the condition of anonymity because the governor hadn't publicly announced his plans. Walker planned to announce his plans on Thursday.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A Wisconsin judge on Thursday did what thousands of pro-union protesters and boycotting Democratic lawmakers couldn't, halting Republican Gov. Scott Walker's plans - at least temporarily - to cut most public workers' pay and strip them of most of their union rights.

Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi issued a declaration stating in no uncertain terms that the collective bargaining law that led to weeks of large protests at the state Capitol had not taken effect, contradicting Republican arguments that it had because a state office published it online. Hours later, Walker said his administration would comply, despite misgivings about the order.

"In my mind it's not a matter of if the law goes back (into effect), it's just a matter of when," Walker said.

Democrats and union leaders said Sumi's declaration showed the arrogance that Walker and his allies, including top aide, Department of Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch, have shown in trying to push through the polarizing law.

"Mr. Walker and Mr. Huebsch chose to ignore her warning that they were jeopardizing the finances and stability of state government, apparently believing they are above the law. This morning with her added order she has taken away their last excuse," Assembly Democratic Leader Peter Barca said.

Republicans had bulldozed through every attempt to stop the law, including the ear-splitting protests, the Senate Democrats' attempt to prevent a vote by fleeing the state, and an earlier order from Sumi meant to stop its implementation while she considered a challenge to its legitimacy. But Sumi's declaration on Thursday put Walker and his legislative allies on the defensive, leaving them to decide between waiting for the legal challenge to be resolved and trying to pass the measure again.

The Republican leaders of the Senate and Assembly have said they don't plan to try passing the bill again after the Legislature resumes its session on Tuesday, but in a saga that has already included several strange twists, a change of heart wouldn't be surprising.

Re-introducing the measure would almost certainly lead to more demonstrations and Democratic filibusters.

Andrew Welhouse, a spokesman for Senate Republican Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, said in a statement Thursday that the Republicans believe the bill was properly passed and that it did take effect after it was published online. He echoed Fitzgerald's claim earlier this week that Sumi is improperly interfering with state lawmakers' business.

Both sides expect that the law will ultimately end up before the conservative-leaning state Supreme Court, where Republicans are confident they will prevail.

The law would require almost all public sector workers to contribute more to their pensions and health care, changes that amount to an average 8 percent pay cut. It would also eliminate their ability to collectively bargain almost all their work conditions, from hours to vacations. They would still be allowed to negotiate on wages.

Walker has said the bill is needed to help shore up a $137 million shortfall in the state's current budget and, down the road, give local governments the flexibility to deal with their workers while absorbing deep cuts in state aid.

Democrats, though, see the attack on collective bargaining as a political attempt to severely weaken the unions, which have traditionally backed their party.

There are three pending lawsuits challenging the statute, including the one before Sumi that was brought by Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne. He contends that Republican legislative leaders violated the state's open meetings law in the run-up to a vote on the plan.

Sumi issued an order blocking Secretary of State Doug La Follette from publishing the law, typically the last step before it can take effect, while she considered the case.

But Republicans persuaded the Legislative Reference Bureau to post the law online last Friday. They argued the law took effect as a result and began preparations to start deducting money from state workers' salaries, beginning with their April 21 paychecks.

Sumi is expected to take more testimony during a hearing in Ozanne's lawsuit on Friday.

Under the contested law, the higher pension and health plan deductions would cost affected workers $30 million between its implementation and June 30, even if the law is delayed. Walker's administration planned to impose the deductions during the current pay period for paychecks that go out April 21.

Boehner signals compromise in budget talks

Boehner signals compromise in budget talks

AP Photo
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, center, accompanied by Majority Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Va., left, and House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of Calif., speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, March 29, 2011.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Despite fresh pressure from tea party conservatives, House Speaker John Boehner said Thursday that Republicans "can't impose our will" on the White House and Senate Democrats on legislation to cut tens of billions of dollars in federal spending.

At a news conference, Boehner, R-Ohio, denied Democratic suggestions that he has already agreed to jettison nearly half of the $61 billion in cuts passed by the House a month ago.

But as was the case with Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., earlier in the week, he did not say the demand to reduce spending by the full $61 billion was non-negotiable. "Our goal is to cut spending, not shut down the government," he said.

The government is running on the second of two short-term spending bills, and at the insistence of Republicans, a total of $10 billion has been cut so far.

Without action by Congress, the money will run out on April 9. Lawmakers are seeking a compromise that will extend to the Sept. 30 end of the spending year.

Senior House and Senate aides, experts in the intricacies of spending legislation, met during the day to explore a possible compromise.

Yet officials in both parties said Democrats had not yet provided Republicans with a detailed list of their proposed cuts, an indication that negotiations were not far along.

Democratic officials added that some of their proposed reductions would cut $3 billion or so from the Pentagon budget. The House-passed legislation calls for an increase in defense spending, and reserves spending cuts for domestic programs.

Boehner spoke as tea party activists demonstrated within shouting distance of the Capitol and a pair of potential GOP presidential contenders injected themselves into the first big test for the GOP majority elected last fall.

A few hundred protesters bore signs demanding that the Republican majority they helped vote into office remain true to campaign pledges.

"Remember your promises - WE DO," read one. "Extreme spending requires extreme cuts," was another.

They drew encouragement from several Republican lawmakers.

"Stay courageous and I know you will. Don't back down and I know you won't," Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, a potential presidential contender, exhorted on a cold, drizzly day.

"We will stand for cutting the size of government we won't change our principle," she said.

Separately, former Speaker Newt Gingrich, another White House hopeful, met behind closed doors with first-term Republicans.

As speaker, Gingrich led the party into twin shutdowns more than a decade ago that wound up damaging the party politically. He has recently written that the confrontation during the Clinton administration paved the way for a balanced budget agreement a few years later. But he leaves out that, as part of the deal, conservative Republicans were forced to create a new government benefit program - health care for millions of lower-income children - that President Bill Clinton demanded.

Boehner was a junior member of the leadership when Gingrich was party leader in the House. Now the leader of a rambunctious majority, his comments marked a public hint of flexibility two days after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid offered one of his own.

On Tuesday, the Nevada Democrat said his side in the talks was willing to consider limitations on government regulators as well as other non-spending items the House seeks. In exchange, Democrats would expect Republicans to scale back on their demands for spending cuts.

He did not identify any, but other officials have said curbs on the Environmental Protection Agency and other government regulators were likely candidates. Another is a proposed ban on the use of government funds to pay for abortions for poor women living in the District of Columbia.

Additionally, Boehner has made a personal priority of a measure the House passed earlier this week to reinstate school vouchers for District of Columbia students. The program is the only one in the country that uses federal tax dollars to subsidize private-school tuition.

While the showdown over spending has dominated Congress in recent days, it is only the first in a series of collisions expected in the coming months as the Republicans push to rein in the size and scope of government.

House Republicans are expected to unveil a budget for the next fiscal year next week that includes deep spending cuts in domestic programs as well as steps to remake Medicare and Medicaid. Officials have said that in private conversations, Republicans have set an informal target of reducing budget deficits to $1 trillion by next year, down from about $1.5 trillion for the current year.

Details unseen, Democrats are already eager to attack it as too harsh. But conservatives in the Republican Study Conference are expected to outline an alternative with even tighter deficit cuts.

The Treasury also has put lawmakers on notice that an increase in the government's borrowing authority will be needed later this spring. Some conservatives have already announced they will oppose any such measure, while others have laid down conditions that appear unlikely to be met.

Boehner and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky have said the GOP will demand changes to rein in future spending before the increase can pass.

One priority, unveiled in the Senate with the support of all 47 Republicans, is a constitutional amendment to require a balanced federal budget except in cases of war or national security emergency.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Flyers Hold Onto Eastern Conference Lead With 5-2 Win Over Penguins

Flyers Hold Onto Eastern Conference Lead With 5-2 Win Over Penguins

Philadelphia Flyers v Pittsburgh Penguins

PITTSBURGH (AP) – Ville Leino scored twice in the third period, and the Philadelphia Flyers rallied to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins
5-2 on Tuesday night and stay atop the Eastern Conference.

Philadelphia has led the conference and the Atlantic Division since Jan. 8, but the Penguins had won eight of 10 and had a chance to tie their cross-state rivals at 100 points with a regulation victory.

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Brotherly Love: NJ Neighbors Rebuild Beloved Park

Brotherly Love: NJ Neighbors Rebuild Beloved Park


MOORESTOWN, NJ (CBS) — A town is working together to raise money for a neighborhood park. In Moorestown, New Jersey, hundreds of residents are rolling up their sleeves to help.

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Whale that killed trainer returns to SeaWorld show

Whale that killed trainer returns to SeaWorld show

AP Photo
In a March 7, 2011 photo, Kelly Flaherty Clark, left, director of animal training at SeaWorld Orlando, and trainer Joe Sanchez work with killer whales Tilikum and Trua, right, during a training session at the theme park's Shamu Stadium in Orlando, Fla. SeaWorld Orlando officials say Tilikum, the killer whale that drowned a trainer at the facility last year, is slated to perform for the first time since the death, in the park's "Believe" show, beginning Wednesday morning, March 30, 2011.

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- The killer whale that drowned a female trainer at Orlando's SeaWorld flawlessly performed Wednesday for the first time since last year's death, wowing thousands amid heightened safety that included a steel bar protecting the orca's trainers.

Tilikum participated without incident in the marine park's signature "Believe" show for the first time since dragging 40-year-old Dawn Brancheau from poolside by her pony tail and drowning her during a performance Feb. 24, 2010. Trainers on the platform stood Wednesday behind the stout metal bar shaped as an inverted "U" that was designed to prevent a whale from coming up out of the pool and biting and dragging a trainer into the water.

SeaWorld Animal Training Curator Kelly Flaherty Clark said in a statement that returning Tilikum to performing more than a year later was best for the whale.

"Participating in shows is just a portion of Tilikum's day, but we feel it is an important component of his physical, social and mental enrichment," Clark said. "He has been regularly interacting with his trainers and the other whales for purposes of training, exercise and social and mental stimulation, and has enjoyed access to all of the pools in the Shamu Stadium complex."

There was no special reference made in Wednesday morning's show to Tilikum's return. Nonetheless, Tilikum was the main draw for many. Orcas jumped in unison and splashed those in the front rows, delighting a crowd that filled the 5,000-seat Shamu Stadium to capacity. The show lasted just short of a half-hour.

No trainer has been allowed in the water during the shows since Brancheau's death and they remained out of the pool Wednesday. The closest the trainers got was the pool deck, standing behind the steel bar whenever they reached over to occasionally stroke the whales when they flopped on the platform or to toss them a fish treat.

In the accident that killed Brancheau, she was nose-to-nose with the whale when her pony tail floated into the animal's mouth and she was dragged in, authorities have said. They added that she managed to free herself initially, but the whale continued to strike and thrash her. The tragedy unfolded shortly after a "Dine with Shamu" show when some guests were still in the area.

Tilikum also was one of three orcas blamed for killing a trainer in 1991 after the woman lost her balance and fell in the pool at Sealand of the Pacific near Victoria, British Columbia. Tilikum also was involved in a 1999 death, when the body of a man who had sneaked by SeaWorld Orlando security was found draped over him, authorities said.

The park is still working on plans to get trainers back in the water with the whales. The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration last summer accused SeaWorld of recklessly putting trainers in danger. The company is fighting OSHA's citations and a $75,000 fine. SeaWorld contends its parks have a good safety record during more than four decades of shows involving killer whales.

Since the death, SeaWorld officials have drawn up plans to spend millions of dollars on safety upgrades. Measures include installing rising pool floors that can quickly lift people and the whales from the water, underwater vehicles to distract the marine animals in emergencies and portable oxygen bottles for trainers.

Orlando resident Wendy Santiago said her family has been attending SeaWorld shows for years and she and her husband, Marcos, made a point of being present for Tilikum's return Wednesday. She said the tragedy left her sad though she was pleased to see Tilikum performing again.

"You never can tell with any of these animals - they are wild animals," Wendy Santiago said of the trainer's death. But she added, tears welling in her eyes at the show's conclusion, "I'm happy today that I was able to see him perform."

Marcos Santiago said he also experienced a mix of feelings while watching the show with their 3-year-old son and 4-month-old daughter.

"I've loved SeaWorld, ever since I was a little kid and used to come here many times," he said. "I fell in love with Shamu and so did my son. So to me it was very emotional to be here on this day."

But the day was not without protests nearby.

Many of those who went to see Tilikum perform drove past about a dozen protesters gathered outside SeaWorld's gates. The demonstrators complained that killer whales should not be held in captivity and several held up signs reading, "Free Tilly."

Despite the lack of any special reference to Tilikum's return Wednesday, veteran SeaWorld attendee David Wythe said the whale's return was clearly the main draw for many.

"That's exactly why we were here," said Wythe, a Kissimmee resident. "Me personally, I believe Tilikum should have been back in the shows a long time ago."

Budget talks aimed at avoiding shutdown resume

Budget talks aimed at avoiding shutdown resume

AP Photo
Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, and other GOP leaders comment on the Senate Democratic leadership and the problems in passing a long-term spending bill, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, March 29, 2011. He is joined, from left to right by, Republican Conference Chairman Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Congressional negotiators struggling to prevent a government shutdown next week are working on a proposal built around $33 billion in spending cuts over the next six months - considerably less than tea party activists demanded.

The tentative split-the-differences plan would end up where GOP leaders started last month as they tried to fulfill a campaign pledge to return spending for agencies' daily operations to levels in place before President Barack Obama took office. That calculation takes into account the fact that the current budget year, which began Oct. 1, is about half over.

The $33 billion figure, disclosed by a congressional aide familiar with the talks, is well below the $60 billion-plus in cuts that the House passed last month. But it does represent significant movement by Senate Democrats and the administration after originally backing a freeze at current rates.

Tea party-backed GOP lawmakers want more. With a tea party rally set for Thursday on Capitol Hill, it's unclear how many of the 87 freshmen Republicans elected last fall could live with the arrangement between top Democrats and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.

Both sides said the figure under consideration is tentative at best and depends on the outcome of numerous policy stands written into the bill. Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said "there's no agreement on a number for the spending cuts. Nothing is agreed to until everything is agreed to."

The White House said Vice President Joe Biden and budget director Jacob Lew planned to meet Wednesday evening at the Capitol with Senate Democratic leaders.

A Democratic lawmaker familiar with a meeting Wednesday between Obama and members of the Congressional Black Caucus said the administration made it clear that some House GOP proposals restricting the Environmental Protection Agency's regulatory powers would have to make it into the final bill. In order to characterize the White House's position, the lawmaker insisted on anonymity because the meeting was private.

It's not clear which proposals the White House might accept, but those backed by Republicans would block the government from carrying out regulations on greenhouse gases, putting in place a plan to clean up the Chesapeake Bay and from shutting down mountaintop mines it believes will cause too much water pollution.

While some conservatives appear insistent on the full range of spending cuts, others recognize that compromise is required to win Obama's signature and support from Democrats who control the Senate.

"Compromise on the subject of spending is a tough sell. It doesn't mean it's an impossible sell," said freshman Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark. "There is a serious mandate to cut spending. Now having said that, I also live in a realistic world and I understand the dynamics involved in having one leg of a three-legged stool under our control."

Far bigger fights are ahead on a longer-term GOP budget plan that takes a more comprehensive approach to the budget woes. Also looming is a must-pass bill to allow the government to borrow more money to meet its commitments. Republicans hope to use that measure to force further spending cuts on the president.

"I don't believe that shutting down government is a solution to the problem. Republicans and Democrats need to work out a compromise," said Rep. Charles Bass, R-N.H. "Let's get this over with and get on to the budget."

But Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., who earlier warned that "It's time to pick a fight," wants party leaders to hang tough.

"You never get a second chance at making a first impression," Pence said. "Our first impression with the American people needs to be that we kept our word and we found the budget savings that we promised to find. I'm still cautiously optimistic that we're going to do just that."

The talks are between the members and staff of the House and Senate appropriations committees, who understand the details of the legislation better than the leadership offices that so far have conducted most of the negotiations.

"I'm glad that we're beginning to have some conversations," said Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky. "We hope to make them fruitful. We don't want a shutdown, so we'll do the best we know how."

Boehner and his colleagues are still publicly calling for the Senate to pass its own version, and Boehner says the talks are going so haltingly that he doesn't know the shape of any final legislation that Obama might sign.

The legislation would bankroll the day-to-day operating budgets of federal agencies - including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan - through Sept. 30, the end of the current budget year.

Last month, House Republicans passed a measure cutting more than $60 billion from the $1.1 trillion budgeted for such programs last year. All the cuts came from domestic programs and foreign aid, which make up about half of the pot. Senate Democrats said that was too extreme and they killed the plan, citing cuts to education, health research, food inspection and other programs and services.

They also oppose many GOP policy stands attached to the spending plan, including one that effectively would block implementation of the new health care law. Social conservatives also strongly back cutting off money for Planned Parenthood clinics that provide abortions in addition to the family planning services the government funds.

In a gesture aimed at winning the public relations battle, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said the House would consider legislation Friday that automatically would enact the GOP's original measure unless the Senate passed a yearlong spending bill by next Friday's midnight shutdown deadline.

Ohio House OKs collective bargaining limits

Ohio House OKs collective bargaining limits

AP Photo
Protestors gather in the rotunda at the Ohio statehouse after Senate Bill 5 passed through the Ohio House of Representatives Wednesday, March 30, 2011, in Columbus, Ohio. The bill would strip public employees of collective bargaining rights.

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- A bill that would limit collective bargaining rights for 350,000 Ohio public workers cleared the Republican-controlled House on Wednesday, one of its final hurdles before it goes to the governor of the labor-stronghold state.

Chants of "Shame on you!" from onlookers broke out immediately after the full House approved the measure on a 53-44 vote. It was possible a vote in the GOP-controlled Senate, which narrowly approved an earlier version of the legislation, would soon follow.

About 150 protesters started to gather in the Senate chamber, singing "We shall not moved" and chanting "Power to the people!"

Standing in the Statehouse Rotunda after the vote, union steelworker Curt Yarger said he saw the bill as "a preliminary attack on working people."

"I shouldn't have any disillusion that I'll be next in the private sector," said Yarger, 43, of Mansfield.

The legislation is in some ways tougher than Wisconsin's, as it would extend union restrictions to police officers and firefighters. But its reception in Ohio has paled in intensity with the raucous fight in Wisconsin, where tens of thousands of people demonstrated against a similar bill.

On Wednesday, an estimated 700 people went to the Ohio Statehouse to hear the debate.

The Ohio measure affects safety workers, teachers, nurses and a host of other government personnel. It allows unions to negotiate wages but not health care, sick time or pension benefits. It gets rid of automatic pay increases, and replaces them with merit raises or performance pay. Workers would also be banned from striking.

Republican Gov. John Kasich has said his $55.5 billion, two-year state budget counts on unspecified savings from lifting union protections to fill an $8 billion hole. The first-term governor and his GOP colleagues argue the bill would help city officials and superintendents better control their costs at a time when they too are feeling budget woes.

State Rep. Robert Hagan, a Democrat from Youngstown, took issue with the notion that the bill was aimed at saving money.

"Don't ever lie to us and don't be hypocritical and don't dance around it as if it's finances, because you know what it is: It's to bust the union," Hagan told his fellow lawmakers.

Contentious debates over restricting collective bargaining have popped up in statehouses across the country, most notably in Wisconsin, where the governor signed into law this month a bill eliminating most of state workers' collective bargaining rights. That measure exempts police officers and firefighters; Ohio's does not.

The Ohio bill has drawn thousands of demonstrators, prompted a visit from the Rev. Jesse Jackson and packed hearing rooms in the weeks before the Senate passed the earlier version of the measure. Its reception in the House had been quieter, even with the several hundred protesters on Wednesday.

The vote in the House came after the chamber's labor committee added GOP-backed revisions Tuesday that would make it more difficult for unions to collect certain fees.

The committee changed the bill to ban automatic deductions from employee paychecks that would go the unions' political arm. It also altered the measure to prevent nonunion employees affected by contracts from paying so-called "fair share" fees to union organizations.

Unions argue that their contracts cover those nonunion workers and that letting them not pay unfairly spreads the costs to dues-paying members.

The roughly four-hour debate on the bill began with boos, shouts and laughter from protesters in the House chamber who oppose the legislation, prompting the House speaker to slam his gavel to bring order.

Onlookers in the gallery balked as state Rep. Joseph Uecker said the bill would help city officials save taxpayers money and help the middle class.

"You gotta be kidding!" one man shouted.

"We're going to clear the balcony if it's necessary," responded House Speaker William Batchelder, a Medina Republican.

GOP members were coming to the defense of the measure even before floor debate started.

"This state cannot pay what we've been paying in the past," Batchelder said. "Local government and taxpayers need control over their budgets. This bill, as amended and changed, is a bill that will give control back to the people who pay the bills."

He said House Republicans were launching a website,, to correct what they see as falsehoods about the measure.

Democrats oppose the measure but have offered no amendments to it. Instead, they delivered boxes containing more than 65,000 opponent signatures to the House labor committee's chairman.

Kasich supports the proposal.

"We think we have a program here that's going to allow local governments to deal with fewer dollars, it still protects the right of collective bargaining on things that we think are legitimate and will help people be able to cope in a period of time when we do have fewer resources," Kasich told reporters Wednesday at a separate bill signing.

Opponents have vowed to lead a ballot repeal effort if the Ohio measure passes.

"This isn't over," said Rep. Armond Budish, the Democratic House leader. "We've just begun to fight, and we're going to fight like heck."

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Young Has 21 As Sixers Surprise Bulls At Home

Young Has 21 As Sixers Surprise Bulls At Home

Philadelphia 76ers v Chicago Bulls

CHICAGO (AP) – Thaddeus Young scored 21 points and the Philadelphia 76ers built a 23-point lead and held on Monday night, beating the Chicago Bulls 97-85 and ending their 14-game home winning streak.

Chicago, losing for only the second time in its last 14 games overall, got 31 points from Derrick Rose, who also had 10 turnovers. The Bulls still own the best record in the East, leading by two games over the Celtics and Heat. Boston lost to Indiana on Monday night and Miami was idle.

Andre Iguodala added 19 points and seven assists for the 76ers, who lost at the United Center by 45 points in December. Philly had five players in double figures.

Carlos Boozer scored 15 points for the Bulls, and Joakim Noah had 10 points and 13 rebounds.

After the Bulls cut into the big deficit and trailed by only five entering the final quarter, Iguodala converted a three-point play.

Rose made two strong drives for baskets, once with a highlight-film crossover as the Bulls rallied within four.

The lead went back to eight on a layup by Young, who moments later was shaken during a loose ball scramble with just over 5 minutes left. And when 7-foot-1 Spencer Hawes hit back-to-back jumpers, Philly had increased the lead back to 10 with 3:45 to go.

Rose made two at the line and Noah drove for a basket to make it a six-point game before Hawes connected again and Jrue Holiday had a layup after a Bulls turnover to put it back to 10 and put it out of reach.

Young scored 17 points in the first half and the Sixers led by as many as 23 before settling for a 53-37 halftime lead. Philly shot 46 percent and had a strong defensive effort against Rose, holding him to seven points on 3-for-8 shooting.

But Rose responded in the third with three driving baskets and a floater and his 10 points finally brought the United Center crowd into the game. Trailing by 19 early in the quarter, the Bulls turned up the defense and got their break going. They scored the final eight points of the period to close within 69-64 on Kyle Korver’s long jumper from the corner just before the buzzer. Philly was outscored 27-16 in the third.

Young had 13 points in the second quarter and the Sixers kept running, driving and beating the Bulls to rebounds, building a 48-25 point lead.

Philly came out blazing at the outset, making 13 of 24 field-goal attempts in the opening quarter and taking a 27-13 lead after one when Young dunked just before the buzzer. Hawes scored eight points – one more than his season average – and showed an outside touch while shooting 4 of 6.

The 76ers cut Rose off so he couldn’t penetrate in the middle as he missed three of four shots and scored only two in the first. Chicago shot only 30 percent (6 for 20) in the first.

Notes: The Bulls’ season low for points in the first half was 36 against the Lakers in December. Their lowest-scoring half of the season was 30 in the second against Atlanta earlier this month. … It was the Bulls’ first home loss since Jan. 18 against Charlotte. … Philly shot 45 percent for the game and Young was 10 for 16.

Third Grand Jury Report Examined In Philadelphia Archdiocese Sex Abuse Case

Third Grand Jury Report Examined In Philadelphia Archdiocese Sex Abuse Case


PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – In the wake of the sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia, new attention is now being paid to a little known report produced by a third grand jury. Previously, most focus in the case has been on reports produced by two other grand juries.

But a group of victims Tuesday singled out this third report as evidence of the extent of a cover up by the Archdiocese.

For full story go to:

Wal-Mart sex-bias case hits possible court block

Wal-Mart sex-bias case hits possible court block

AP Photo
Betty Dukes, left, stands with other plaintiffs and their families outside of the Supreme Court in Washington, Tuesday, March 29, 2011, prior to attending a case of women employees against Wal-Mart. Fellow plaintiffs Edith Arena is third from left, Deborah Gunter is fifth from left, and Christine Kwapnoski is second from right.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court appears ready to block a massive sex discrimination lawsuit against Wal-Mart on behalf of up to 1.6 million women, and that could make it harder for other workers nationwide to bring class-action claims against large employers.

The 10-year-old lawsuit, argued in lively exchanges at the court Tuesday, claims that Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world's largest employer, favors men over women in pay and promotions. Billions of dollars are at stake if it is allowed to go forward.

The case also could affect the future of other class-action lawsuits that pool modest individual claims into a single action that creates the potential for a large judgment and increases the pressure on businesses to settle.

In Tuesday's arguments, several justices suggested they were troubled by the case and lower court decisions against Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart. Estimates of how many women could be included in the lawsuit run from 500,000 to 1.6 million.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, often a key vote on the high court, said the women's argument points in apparently conflicting directions.

"You said this is a culture where Arkansas knows, the headquarters knows, everything that's going on," Kennedy said to Joseph Sellers, the women's lawyer. "Then in the next breath, you say, well, now these supervisors have too much discretion. It seems to me there's an inconsistency there, and I'm just not sure what the unlawful policy is."

Sellers said that lower courts had been persuaded by statistical and other evidence put forth so far in the lawsuit. He said Wal-Mart's strong corporate culture stereotypes women as less aggressive than men and that translates into individual pay and promotion decisions at the more than 4,300 Wal-Mart and Sam's Club stores across the country.

"The decisions are informed by the values the company provides," Sellers said.

Justice Antonin Scalia said he felt "whipsawed" by Sellers' description. "Well, which is it?" Scalia asked. Either individual managers are on their own, "or else a strong corporate culture tells them what to do."

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said that at this stage of the lawsuit, the issue is not proving discrimination but showing enough evidence to go forward. "We're talking about getting a foot in the door," Ginsburg said, a standard she called not hard to meet.

Ginsburg, who made her name as a lawyer by bringing discrimination claims, said it was possible that Wal-Mart could refute the claims at a trial.

The court's other two female justices, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, and Justice Stephen Breyer also appeared inclined to allow the lawsuit to proceed.

But several of their more conservative colleagues appeared to agree with Theodore Boutrous Jr., representing Wal-Mart, that even subjecting the company to a trial would be unfair.

That split among the justices raised the prospect of an ideologically divided ruling by the court this summer.

Boutrous said the class-action nature of the case deprives the company of its legal rights because it is being forced to defend the treatment of female employees regardless of the jobs they hold or where they work.

"There is absolutely no way there can be a fair process here," Boutrous said.

He pointed to a group of at least 544 women who serve as store managers who "are alleged to be both discriminators and victims."

Two of the named plaintiffs, Christine Kwapnoski and Betty Dukes, attended the argument. Kwapnoski is an assistant manager at a Sam's Club in Concord, Calif. Dukes is a greeter at the Wal-Mart in Pittsburg, Calif.

Their situations were discussed only briefly, with Boutrous noting how different they were as a way to argue they should not be dealt with in the same lawsuit.

Business interests have lined up with Wal-Mart while civil rights, women's and consumer groups have sided with the women plaintiffs.

Both sides have painted the case as extremely consequential. The business community has said that a ruling for the women would lead to a flood of class-action lawsuits based on vague evidence. Supporters of the women say that if the court sides with Wal-Mart, it could remove a valuable weapon for fighting all sorts of discrimination.

David Sanford, who represents plaintiffs in other class-action cases, said after the arguments that the court seemed inclined to rule against the Wal-Mart women. Sanford said such a decision could "have implications for class actions more generally, making it more difficult for women and minority groups to enjoy equality and fair treatment in the workplace."

The Obama administration is not taking part in the case, although it was lobbied by both sides.

The case is Wal-Mart Stores Inc. v. Dukes, 10-277.

Indiana GOP pushes ahead with big voucher program

Indiana GOP pushes ahead with big voucher program

AP Photo
In a March 16, 2011 photo, Heather Coffy, right center, leaves the St. Monica School with her children, left to right, Delano Coffy, 15, Alanna Marshall, 8 and Darius Coffy 11 in Indianapolis. Indiana's Republican leadership is pushing ahead with a proposal that would be the nation's broadest use of school vouchers, allowing thousands of middle-class families to send their kids to private schools using taxpayer money.

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Indiana's Republican leadership is pushing ahead with a proposal that would be the nation's broadest use of school vouchers, allowing even middle-class families to use taxpayer money to send their kids to private schools.

Unlike other systems that are limited to lower-income households, children with special needs or those in failing schools, this one would be open to a much larger pool of students, including those whose parents earn up to $60,000 a year. And within three years, there would be no limit on the number of children who could enroll.

"The goal is to make sure as many kids as possible get choice," said Robert Enlow, president of the Foundation for Educational Choice, an Indianapolis-based advocacy group pushing for school vouchers.

Students receiving vouchers make up less than 1 percent of school enrollment nationwide, but vouchers have been one of the top priorities among conservatives. Indiana's Republican-controlled Legislature hopes to deliver soon on its long-sought overhaul of public education now that Democrats who fled the state have returned.

Democrats in the House stayed in Illinois for five weeks to deprive the chamber of a quorum because they did not have enough votes to stop the voucher proposal and others they oppose. They came back Monday, claiming victory after winning some concessions from the GOP on vouchers and other legislation.

The vouchers are government-issued certificates that can be applied to private tuition, essentially allowing parents to use some of the tax dollars that would normally be sent to public schools at other institutions.

The vouchers do not carry any additional expense for the state because they mainly transfer money between schools. But public-school advocates and many Democrats have long opposed large-scale voucher programs, saying they could siphon tax money from local districts, potentially leading to a steep decline in the quality of education.

"It's a national agenda," said Senate Minority Leader Vi Simpson, a Democrat from Bloomington. "And I think Indiana is the victim of it."

Until now, most voucher programs in the rest of the country have been limited to poor students, those in chronically failing schools or those with special needs.

Indiana's system would be significantly larger, offering money to students from middle-class homes and solid school districts. Though Republicans have agreed to some restrictions - to appease both Democrats and skeptics in their own ranks - the program would still be the most expansive in the United States.

"We fund education for a reason - to give individual children the skills they need to compete in life," said Luke Messer, former executive director of the Indiana Republican Party who now heads School Choice Indiana. "If the money follows the child, parents ought to have the right to put their child in whatever opportunity they think would best serve their family."

Lawmakers in the House are expected to take a key vote on the idea within days. If it passes, the bill would go next to the Senate. Because the GOP controls both chambers and the governor's office, some form of the legislation is likely to pass.

The actual value of the vouchers would be based on a sliding scale and would be less than the amount of tax money a public school would have received for that student. In the case of students in grades 1 through 8, the maximum value would be $4,500.

As originally introduced, Indiana's bill would have provided money to students from families of four making more than $100,000 a year.

The income limits were then lowered to about $80,000, and Republicans on Tuesday reduced them again to about $60,000 for a family of four. Lawmakers also capped the program at 7,500 students for the first year and 15,000 for the second year - a fraction of the state's approximately 1 million students.

By the third year, the caps on the number of participating students would expire.

The limits, which provide a foothold for expansion in years to come, are also intended to ease the minds of Republicans who are wary of an abrupt change or have other concerns.

For instance, state Sen. Brent Steele, a Republican from the small town of Bedford, has raised concerns about tax money being directed to religious schools, saying some Muslim schools teach extremism.

Several states already give certain students money to attend private school if they choose. Voucher programs are available to students in underperforming schools in Ohio, low-income students in Milwaukee and youths with disabilities in Florida, for example.

Momentum for vouchers been building since the 2010 election, which produced major Republican gains in many statehouses across the country. Several new Republican governors are pushing to make vouchers widely available.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's proposed budget would repeal limits on Milwaukee's voucher program and offer them to any city resident. Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Ohio Gov. John Kasich want to expand their voucher systems, too.

And Pennsylvania Republicans are pushing a voucher bill that would subsidize private school tuition for low-income students, first for those in poorly performing schools but eventually for all low-income children in the state.

Voucher critics have watched the debate with alarm, fearing the potential harm to public schools and perceived threats to the separation of church and state.

"It's a blitzkrieg," said Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of Freedom From Religion Foundation based in Madison, Wis. "They're just like drunk with power. This is what we're seeing everywhere. They need to be stopped. Nobody campaigned on 'Let's rob the public schools and give all the money to parochial schools.'"

But some parents are demanding more options beyond public school.

Heather Coffy, a single mother of three in Indianapolis, said her oldest son was struggling in public school when she applied for a private school-choice scholarship. The money she received helped put her three kids in a Catholic school, where she says they are thriving.

"I will do anything possible to give them the education I know they deserve," Coffy said.

Wis. judge halts implementation of bargaining law

Wis. judge halts implementation of bargaining law

AP Photo
Wisconsin Secretary of State Doug La Follette listens to Assistant Attorney General Maria Lazar make her opening arguments at a hearing in front of Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi at the Dane County Courthouse in Madison, Wis., Tuesday, March 29, 2011. With Republican Gov. Scott Walker's administration insisting a new law eliminating most of state workers' collective bargaining rights had gone into effect and other state and municipal leaders disputing that, many were looking to today's court hearing for some kind of clarity

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A Wisconsin judge for the second time directed the state to put on hold an explosive law that strips most public workers of nearly all their union bargaining rights, ordering officials on Tuesday to follow her original instructions to stand down.

"Apparently that language was either misunderstood or ignored, but what I said was the further implementation of (the law) was enjoined," said a visibly annoyed Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi. "That is what I now want to make crystal clear."

Last week, Sumi issued an emergency injunction prohibiting the Wisconsin secretary of state from formally publishing the law - the final step before it could take effect.

Republican legislative leaders responded by directing the law be published by another state agency, and then declared it valid. State officials began implementing the law this weekend, stopping the collection of union dues for state workers and taking more from their pay for health care and retirement.

Sumi said Tuesday that action violated her original order, and she made it clear after a daylong hearing that the law was on hold while she considers a broader challenge to its legality.

The back and forth furthered the often angry debate between new Gov. Scott Walker, his Republican allies in the Legislature and the state's public sector unions.

Walker and the GOP have aggressively pushed forward their effort to remove the bargaining rights of state workers, using a surprise parliamentary maneuver to break a weeks-long stalemate to get it passed and then finding another route to publish the law after Sumi's order blocked the secretary of state from doing so.

State Department of Justice spokesman Steve Means said the agency continues to believe the law was properly published and is in effect. Walker's spokesman, Cullen Werwie, didn't immediately return a message seeking comment.

Wisconsin Department of Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch, Walker's top aide, issued a statement saying the agency will evaluate the judge's order.

"We will continue to confer with our legal counsel and have more information about how to move forward in the near future," Huebsch said.

The law requires most public workers to contribute more to their pensions and health insurance. It also strips away their rights to collectively bargain for anything except wages.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Flyers Lose To Bruins

Flyers Lose To Bruins

Braydon Coburn, Tyler Seguin, Brad Marchand, Mark Recchi

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Brad Marchand picked a perfect time to snap his scoring slump.

Marchand’s power-play goal with 3:43 left in regulation lifted the Boston Bruins to a 2-1 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday night.

Nathan Horton also scored to help the Northeast Division-leading Bruins clinch a playoff spot. Marchand’s goal was his 20th and first in 13 games.

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Police: 19-Year-Old Kidnapped From Atlantic City Home At Gunpoint

Police: 19-Year-Old Kidnapped From Atlantic City Home At Gunpoint

nadirah ruffin

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (CBS) - Atlantic City Police are requesting the public’s help in searching for a young woman who was a victim of an armed home invasion and kidnapping Saturday night.

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Officials: Radiation From Japan Reaches Pennsylvania, Poses No Health Risks

Officials: Radiation From Japan Reaches Pennsylvania, Poses No Health Risks

Limerick Nuclear Power Plants

EAST COVENTRY Twp., Pa. (CBS) – Radiation from the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan has now reached Pennsylvania, but state officials do not believe it poses significant health risks.

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Ex-mistress: Bonds blamed steroids for injury

Ex-mistress: Bonds blamed steroids for injury

AP Photo
Barry Bonds arrives at a federal courthouse as the slugger's trial continues Monday, March 28, 2011, in San Francisco.

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Barry Bonds' former mistress testified Monday that he blamed a 1999 elbow injury on steroid use, and that the body and behavior of baseball's home run king changed during their nine-year relationship.

Called by prosecutors to the witness stand, Kimberly Bell choked up as she recalled Bonds once threatening "to cut my head off and leave me in a ditch," an outburst prosecutors attribute to steroid use. The defense portrayed Bell as an unreliable witness, hungry to capitalize on her affair with Bonds, and Bell acknowledged that the relationship benefited her financially.

Bonds, who holds the major league record for home runs in a career, is accused of four counts of making false statements and one of obstruction for telling a federal grand jury in 2003 - months after his relationship with Bell ended - that he never knowingly used performance-enhancing drugs.

Bell took the stand Monday morning after San Francisco Giants clubhouse manager Mike Murphy nervously testified that Bonds needed a bigger hat for the 2002 season. Prosecutors say that testimony is important because an enlarged head is a side effect of human growth hormone use.

Under questioning from Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeff Nedrow, Bell said she asked Bonds about the problem with his left elbow, which she described as "a big lump ... it looked awful." She testified that Bonds responded by saying his steroid use caused the injury, because the muscle and tendons grew too fast for the joint to handle.

"It blew out," she said.

Bell also said that Bonds talked about the widespread use of steroids among baseball players, including his suspicion that Mark McGwire was juicing during his assault on the single-season home run record in 1998 - a mark that Bonds later broke.

"He mentioned that other players do it and that's how they got ahead, that's how they achieved," Bell said. Dressed in a dark blue suit, Bonds alternately watched Bell on the stand, scribbled notes and whispered to one of his defense attorneys, Allen Ruby, as she testified.

Bell, wearing a gray pantsuit and white shirt, said she and Bonds met briefly on July 3, 1994, and attended a barbecue the next day. From there, they shared a romantic relationship that continued even after Bonds married another woman in 1999.

Bell said that Bonds' sexual performance declined in the later years of their relationship. She said that his testicles changed shape and shrank. She also testified that Bonds grew - and shaved - chest hair and developed acne on his back.

A visibly uncomfortable Bell testified that Bonds' behavior also changed over time. "He was increasingly aggressive, irritable, agitated and very impatient," she said.

Bell became emotional as she testified that Bonds verbally abused her starting in 1999, saying that - in addition to threatening to decapitate her - Bonds said "he would cut out my breast implants because he paid for them."

The second half of the Bonds-Bell relationship was the same period when Bonds noticeably bulked up and started posting unprecedented power numbers for the Giants. The seven-time NL MVP hit a season-record 73 homers in 2001 en route to a career total of 762 by the time of his last season in 2007, not long before he was indicted for his grand jury testimony.

In anticipation of defense attempts to portray Bell as a gold digger, Nedrow asked Bell about an interview and photograph shoot she did with Playboy that appeared in 2007. She posed nude and discussed Bonds sexual performance in the magazine.

"I was trying to put my life together," she testified. "Maybe it wasn't the best decision."

Bell testified that Playboy agreed to pay her $100,000, but sent the money to her agent, David Hans Schmidt. Schmidt committed suicide in 2007 while under investigation for allegedly attempting to extort the actor Tom Cruise and Bell said she saw little of the Playboy payment - "about $17,000 or $18,000."

At times combative, sorrowful and composed, Bell spent most of Monday trying to deflect defense attorney Cristina Arguedas' vengeful portrayal of her. It was the first time anyone other than Ruby had questioned a witness for Bonds.

Arguedas spent long stretches discussing Bell's attempts to write a book about Bonds and steroids after questioning her about the radio tour she went on to promote her Playboy appearance.

Bell said she appeared on a "few" radio shows, and Arguedas shot back "More than 20?" It turned out that she appeared on about 20 radio shows, including the popular Howard Stern talk show.

Bell also acknowledged that she was upset and embarrassed when Bonds told her in 1998 he was marrying another woman. Bonds told Bell that they could continue to see each other when he was on the road with the Giants. Bell testified that after Bonds married, he told her there were "girlfriend cities and wife cities" and that she wasn't allowed to travel with him to New York, Montreal and Atlanta.

Bell said she went instead to San Diego, Houston and Miami. She recalled bitterly how Bonds told her to find her own way home from Houston after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, when commercial airlines were shut down and Bonds was on the team plane.

Arguedas ran through a litany of financial benefits Bell received as a "road girlfriend." Bonds bought her several cars, including a new Toyota Forerunner in 2000, helped pay her taxes one year and provided her with good seats to baseball games, including the 2002 World Series.

Bell also made a $111,000 profit from the sale of a Scottsdale, Ariz., house that Bonds provided her with $80,000 for the down payment.

All such testimony was designed to undermined Bell's credibility, portraying her as a scorned lover who lost a wealthy boyfriend to another woman. Arguedas hoped to convince the jury that Bell had motivation to lie about Bonds' steroid use because of their breakup.

Arguedas also quizzed Bell about an e-mail she sent to Bonds' website in April 2004 listing all the women she knew that Bonds was sleeping with in New York, Phoenix, Las Vegas and elsewhere.

"This is the guy who you described as having penile dysfunction," Arguedas said. "That's a lot of action."

Bonds covered his mouth in an apparent attempt to suppress a grin.

Ind. Democrats return to Statehouse after boycott

Ind. Democrats return to Statehouse after boycott

AP Photo
After announcing the lack of a quorum, House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, announces that he has been told by Minority Leader Patrick Bauer that the Democrats will return from Illinois, ending their nearly six-week-old walkout, and be present when the House convenes at 5 p.m. at the Statehouse in Indianapolis, Monday, March 28, 2011. Most House Democrats fled the state Feb. 22 to derail Republican proposals they consider an attack on labor unions and public education. Since the walkout began, Republicans have agreed to changes to several bills in an effort to appease Democrats.

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Indiana House Democrats who fled the state nearly six weeks ago to protest a Republican agenda they considered an assault on labor unions and public education returned to the Statehouse on Monday after nearly six weeks in Illinois.

Minority Leader Patrick Bauer said he and his fellow Democrats ended one of the longest legislative walkouts in recent U.S. history after winning concessions from Republicans over recent weeks on several issues.

"We're coming back after softening the radical agenda," said Bauer, D-South Bend, whose return was greeted by cheering union workers. "We won a battle, but we recognize the war goes on."

Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma gaveled in the chamber shortly after 5 p.m. EDT, giving the House its first quorum since Democrats fled.

"It's refreshing and pleasant to see a full chamber," he said.

But what Democrats actually achieved with the walkout is a matter of debate.

Republicans vowed throughout the standoff that they wouldn't remove items from their agenda, and by and large they won't have to. The only bill actually killed by the boycott was a "right-to-work" proposal that would prohibit union representation fees from being a condition of employment.

Republicans agreed to changes on several other bills but are still pushing their agenda. For example, they agreed to cap for two years the number of students who could participate in a voucher program using taxpayer money to attend private schools, but it would still be among the nation's most expansive use of vouchers when the limits expire. Last week, Republicans agreed to reduce the number of government projects that would be exempt from the state's prevailing construction wage law, but the amended bill is still expected to pass.

The concessions are likely more than Democrats would have gained had they not boycotted, but won't stop the GOP agenda.

The Democrats' most significant achievement may be the fact that people across the state are talking about these issues. Bauer said the public needed a "timeout" to learn about the agenda pushed by Republicans who took sweeping control of the House in 2010 elections.

Thousands of people attended Statehouse rallies during the walkout, and hundreds of people attended local town hall meetings. Many teachers said they didn't realize Republicans supported vouchers and other measures they think will erode public education, and some union members said they wished they had voted.

In that sense, Democrats "punched above their weight," said Robert Dion, who teaches politics at the University of Evansville.

"They got the attention of the state, and they were able to finagle some meaningful concessions that I don't think were necessarily offered all that willingly," Dion said.

On the other hand, Dion said, Democrats have a bit of a black eye because the walkout lasted so long.

Bauer and most House Democrats had fled on Feb. 22 to protest 11 pieces of legislation, denying the House the two-thirds of members present needed to do business. The state constitution requires a quorum to conduct any official business, and the impasse had the potential to force a special session or even a government shut down if a new budget wasn't adopted before July 1.

The Indiana boycott came a week after Wisconsin's Democratic senators left for Illinois in their three-week boycott against a law barring most public employees from collective bargaining. Wisconsin Republicans used a parliamentary maneuver to pass the law without them, and the matter now is headed to court.

Indiana's standoff got a bit nasty at times - with name-calling, scathing political ads, rowdy rallies and fines totaling more than $3,000 for most absent Democrats - but last week Republicans and Democrats seemed to tone down the rhetoric and were cautiously optimistic that the discussion between Bosma and Bauer could lead to a resolution.

Bosma predicted that lawmakers would have plenty of late nights as they work toward the scheduled end of the regular legislative session April 29.

"It's long past time to get to the people's business," Bosma said. "Hopefully we can make this work in five short weeks."

Bosma said he didn't consider the changes to that government projects bill substantive. That proposal would have originally increased from $150,000 to $1 million the point at which projects were exempt from the state's prevailing construction wage law and removed school districts and state universities from its requirements. Republicans since agreed to set the limit at $250,000 the first year and raise that to $350,000 the second year. They also agreed to delete the school and university exemptions.

On the private school voucher bill, Republicans agreed to cap the program at 7,500 students in the first year and 15,000 in the second year.

Bauer said the compromises aren't perfect.

"Democrats aren't bound to vote for them, and we will make an effort to continue to amend the proposals before us," Bauer said.

More radioactive water spills at Japan nuke plant

More radioactive water spills at Japan nuke plant

AP Photo
A resident of Oshima island of pushes a wheel barrow past the destroyed port as he tries to salvage belongings from his home in northeastern Japan Monday, March 28, 2011, following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

TOKYO (AP) -- Workers have discovered new pools of radioactive water leaking from Japan's crippled nuclear complex that officials believe are behind soaring levels of radiation spreading to soil and seawater.

Crews also detected plutonium - a key ingredient in nuclear weapons - in the soil outside the complex, though officials insisted Monday the finding posed no threat to public health.

Plutonium is present in the fuel at the complex, which has been leaking radiation for more than two weeks, so experts had expected to find traces once crews began searching for evidence of it this week.

The Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant was crippled March 11 when a tsunami spawned by a powerful earthquake slammed into Japan's northeastern coast. The huge wave destroyed the power systems needed to cool the nuclear fuel rods in the complex, 140 miles (220 kilometers) northeast of Tokyo.

Since then, three of the complex's six reactors are believed to have partially melted down, and emergency crews have struggled with everything from malfunctioning pumps to dangerous spikes in radiation that have forced temporary evacuations.

Confusion at the plant has intensified fears that the nuclear crisis will continue for months or even years amid alarms over radiation making its way into produce, raw milk and even tap water as far away as Tokyo.

The troubles have eclipsed Pennsylvania's 1979 crisis at Three Mile Island, when a partial meltdown raised fears of widespread radiation release. But it is still well short of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, which killed at least 31 people with radiation sickness, raised long-term cancer rates and spewed radiation across much of the northern hemisphere.

Tokyo Electric Power Co., which runs the complex, said plutonium was found in soil at five locations at the nuclear plant, but that only two samples appeared to be plutonium from the leaking reactors. The rest came from years of nuclear tests that left trace amounts of plutonium in many places around the world.

Plutonium is a heavy element that doesn't readily combine with other elements, so it is less likely to spread than some of the lighter, more volatile radioactive materials detected around the site, such as the radioactive forms of cesium and iodine.

"The relative toxicity of plutonium is much higher than that of iodine or cesium but the chance of people getting a dose of it is much lower," says Robert Henkin, professor emeritus of radiology at Loyola University's Stritch School of Medicine. "Plutonium just sits there and is a nasty actor."

The trouble comes if plutonium finds a way into the human body. The fear in Japan is that water containing plutonium at the station turns to steam and is breathed in, or that the contaminated water from the station migrates into drinking water.

When plutonium decays it emits what is known as an alpha particle, a relatively big particle that carries a lot of energy. When an alpha particle hits body tissue, it can damage the DNA of a cell and lead to a cancer-causing mutation.

Plutonium also breaks down very slowly, so it remains dangerously radioactive for hundreds of thousands of years.

"If you inhale it, it's there and it stays there forever," said Alan Lockwood, a professor of Neurology and Nuclear Medicine at the University at Buffalo and a member of the board of directors of Physicians for Social Responsibility, an advocacy group.

While parts of the Japanese plant have been reconnected to the power grid, the contaminated water - which has now been found in numerous places around the complex, including the basements of several buildings - must be pumped out before electricity can be restored to the cooling system.

That has left officials struggling with two sometimes-contradictory efforts: pumping in water to keep the fuel rods cool and pumping out - and then safely storing - contaminated water.

Hidehiko Nishiyama, a spokesman for Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, called that balance "very delicate work."

He also said workers were still looking for safe ways to store the radioactive water. "We are exploring all means," he said.

Meanwhile, new readings showed ocean contamination had spread about a mile (1.6 kilometers) farther north of the nuclear site than before, but was still within the 12-mile (20-kilometer) radius of the evacuation zone. Radioactive iodine-131 was discovered offshore at a level 1,150 times higher than normal, Nishiyama told reporters.

The buildup of radioactive water first became a problem last week, when it splashed over the boots of two workers, burning them and prompting a temporary suspension of work.

Then on Monday, Tokyo Electric Power Co. officials said workers had found more radioactive water in deep trenches used for pipes and electrical wiring outside three units.

The contaminated water has been emitting radiation exposures more than four times the amount the government considers safe for workers.

The five workers in the area at the time were not hurt, said TEPCO spokesman Takashi Kurita.

Exactly where the water is coming from remains unclear, though many suspect it is cooling water that has leaked from one of the disabled reactors.

It could take weeks to pump out the radioactive water, said Gary Was, a nuclear engineering professor at the University of Michigan.

"Battling the contamination so workers can work there is going to be an ongoing problem," he said.

Amid reports that people had been sneaking back into the mandatory evacuation zone around the nuclear complex, the chief government spokesman again urged residents to stay out. Yukio Edano said contaminants posed a "big" health risk in that area.

Gregory Jaczko, head of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, arrived in Tokyo on Monday to meet with Japanese officials and discuss the situation.

"The unprecedented challenge before us remains serious, and our best experts remain fully engaged to help Japan," Jaczko was quoted as saying in a U.S. Embassy statement.

Early Monday, a strong earthquake shook the northeastern coast and prompted a brief tsunami alert. The quake was measured at magnitude 6.5, the Japan Meteorological Agency said. No damage or injuries were reported.

Scores of earthquakes have rattled the country over the past two weeks, adding to the sense of unease across Japan, where the final death toll is expected to top 18,000 people, with hundreds of thousands still homeless.

TEPCO officials said Sunday that radiation in leaking water in Unit 2 was 10 million times above normal - a report that sent employees fleeing. But the day ended with officials saying that figure had been miscalculated and the level was actually 100,000 times above normal, still very high but far better than the earlier results.

"This sort of mistake is not something that can be forgiven," Edano said sternly Monday.

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