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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Worley, Phillies Roughed Up By Mets

Worley, Phillies Roughed Up By Mets

(credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

NEW YORK (AP) — Ryan Howard was rested. Chase Utley, too. And even the Philadelphia Phillies who did play on Sunday appeared to need a break.

Vance Worley was whacked around early and Jimmy Rollins made a crucial error at shortstop that helped the New York Mets jump out to a huge lead in a 9-5 victory.

For full story go to:

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Drexel, Peco Give Million-Dollar Boost To Science Education in West Philadelphia Schools

Drexel, Peco Give Million-Dollar Boost To Science Education in West Philadelphia Schools

(Drexel University president John Fry accepts thank-you card from kids at the Powel Elementary School as principal Kimberly Ellerbee, left, looks on.  Photo by Mike DeNardo)

Drexel University president John Fry accepts thank-you card from kids at the Powel Elementary School as principal Kimberly Ellerbee, left, looks on.

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - On the day the School District of Philadelphia adopts a bare-bones budget, school officials also welcomed a big gift from the utility company Peco to promote science learning in West Philadelphia.

For full story go to: http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/

Driver Dies After Plunge From Bethlehem Casino Parking Garage

Driver Dies After Plunge From Bethlehem Casino Parking Garage

Car plunges from seventh floor deck of the Sands casino parking garage in Bethlehem.

Car plunges from seventh floor deck of the Sands casino parking garage in Bethlehem.

BETHLEHEM, Pa. (CBS) — A driver has died after his car plummeted off the roof of the Sands casino parking garage in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

For full story go to: http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/

Sarah Palin’s Secretive Bus Tour Stops In Philadelphia

Sarah Palin’s Secretive Bus Tour Stops In Philadelphia

Sarah Palin visits Independence Hall while visiting Philly on May 31, 2011.

Sarah Palin visits Independence Hall while visiting Philly on May 31, 2011.

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Whether Sarah Palin will run for the White House is still a secret, but we at least know that she is confident she can beat President Obama if she runs.

“To put it concisely, yes,” she told Eyewitness News when our cameras caught up with her in Philadelphia early Tuesday afternoon. “I think most of the Republican candidates who are lining themselves up to run have a very good chance of beating President Obama because I think people are looking for the economy to be put back on track and strong national security measures.”

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Edwards, feds arguing if money was donated or gift

Edwards, feds arguing if money was donated or gift

AP Photo
FILE - In this Dec. 11, 2010 file photo, former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards is seen in Raleigh, N.C. Edwards and federal prosecutors are arguing over whether the money used to cover up his extramarital affair was a campaign contribution or just a gift from his old friends. An indictment of the 2004 Democratic vice presidential nominee appears imminent, but people on both sides still hold out hope for a last-minute deal for a guilty plea to a negotiated charge.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Former presidential candidate John Edwards and federal prosecutors are arguing over whether funds used to cover up his extramarital affair were campaign contributions or just gifts from his longtime friends.

An indictment of the 2004 Democratic vice presidential nominee appeared near, but some people on both sides were still hoping Tuesday for a last-minute deal for Edwards to plead guilty to a negotiated charge.

So far Edwards has refused to admit to felony charges that would likely cost him his law license, according to people with knowledge of the negotiations who spoke on a condition of anonymity because they are supposed to be private. Edwards has said he hopes that once this case is behind him he can revive his legal career, specializing in helping the victims of poverty he championed on the campaign trail.

But the approach of a federal indictment could heighten his desire to stave off a trial that would give wide exposure to sordid details of his affair, the daughter he initially disavowed as his, the vast sums of money that flowed to keep the affair secret and other unflattering tales from inside his campaign. Public airing of those accounts could further damage a reputation he hopes to revive and could bring more pain to his children, who have already endured public scrutiny of their father's infidelity and their mother's recent death.

The prosecutors have decided after a two-year investigation that the hundreds of thousands of dollars that two Edwards donors gave to help keep his mistress in hiding were contributions that should have been reported publicly by his campaign fund because they aided his bid for the 2008 presidential nomination. But Edwards' lawyers have argued the funds were gifts intended to keep the affair a secret from his wife, Elizabeth, who died of cancer in December.

Campaign finance experts say that if the case goes to trial a jury would be asked to decide whether the payments were to influence the campaign, as opposed or in addition to keeping Elizabeth from learning of the affair, and whether Edwards helped coordinate the money, because there's no limit on the amount of money a person can spend independently of a candidate's campaign to influence an election.

"It would come down to a jury weighting the degree to which it was personal verses which it was political," said Paul Ryan, an attorney with the nonprofit Campaign Legal Center. "Often real life isn't as cut and dried as the law."

"He wouldn't be the first person to cause payment of hush money to keep infidelity quiet and hidden from his own family," Ryan said. "But I think the casual observer would likely conclude that keeping his campaign viable was at least a motivating factor if not the motivating factor."

Artur Davis, a former Democratic congressman and assistant U.S. attorney from Alabama, said Tuesday that prosecutors shouldn't be too confident even if Edwards seems unsympathetic.

"Any assumptions about the certainty of a slam-dunk conviction need look no further than the hung jury in the first Rod Blagojevich trial in Chicago," he said, referring to the former Illinois governor's bribery case. "It's hard to imagine a more shattered figure who had endured more public ridicule than Blagojevich, and yet the jury deadlocked on all but one count. Juries are very focused on facts and not personalities."

Edwards has been fighting to avoid criminal charges for months and hired former members of the Federal Election Commission and other experts to argue the case shouldn't be pursued. Edwards lawyer Gregory Craig has called such a prosecution unprecedented and "a matter more appropriately a topic for the Federal Election Commission to consider, not a criminal court."

Prosecutors have cited a little-noticed 11-year-old FEC advisory against personal cash gifts as giving strength to their case, according to people familiar with plea negotiations between the two sides. They spoke on a condition of anonymity because the talks are supposed to be confidential.

In that case, businessman Philip Harvey asked the FEC whether he could give $10,000 gifts to candidates for federal office solely for their personal use in gratitude for their public service. The FEC responded by advisory opinion June 14, 2000, that the gift would be considered a campaign contribution because it would only be given because the recipient was a federal candidate.

The FEC opinion isn't binding on federal courts, but the sources said it is one argument prosecutors have used to support their assertion of wrongdoing because they say the payments for Edwards' mistress wouldn't have been made if he weren't a candidate.

Edwards' legal team contends the Harvey case is significantly different from Edwards' case, according to a person familiar with the team's thinking. For one thing, the money didn't go directly to Edwards and couldn't be used to free personal funds that he could then use to spend directly on the race. Another difference the person cited is that Harvey had no relationship with the candidates he wanted to give to, but Edwards had long-standing friendships with his mistress' benefactors before and after the race.

One was Fred Baron, a wealthy Texas trial lawyer who served as finance chairman for Edwards' campaign and acknowledged before his death in 2008 that he sent money to the candidate's mistress, Reille Hunter. He said the money helped Hunter and Edwards' former campaign aide Andrew Young, who at the time was publicly claiming paternity of the child Hunter was carrying, to move across country out of the media glare. After dropping out of the race, Edwards admitted the child was his.

Baron told The Associated Press two months before his death that Edwards had no knowledge of what he did. "I did it as a friend," he said. But a person familiar with the investigation has said prosecutors have evidence Edwards knew Baron was making the payments.

The other benefactor for Hunter and Young was heiress Rachel "Bunny" Mellon. Young wrote in his book, "The Politician," that he got checks for hundreds of thousands of dollars from Mellon, who used her decorator as intermediary. Mellon's attorney said she didn't know where the money was going but intended it as a personal gift.

Mellon, now 100 years old, and Edwards are still friendly. They had lunch together at her Virginia estate last week.

House to reject debt limit increase without cuts

House to reject debt limit increase without cuts

WASHINGTON (AP) -- House Republicans lined up to reject their own proposed $2.4 trillion increase in the nation's debt limit Tuesday, a political gambit designed to reinforce a demand for spending cuts to accompany any increase in government borrowing.

House Democrats accused the GOP of political demagoguery, while the Obama administration maneuvered to avoid taking sides - or giving offense to majority Republicans.

The debate was brief, occasionally impassioned, and set a standard of sorts for public theater, particularly at a time when private negotiations continue among the administration and key lawmakers on the deficit cuts Republicans have demanded.

The bill "will and must fail," said Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., the House Ways and Means Committee chairman who noted he had helped write the very measure he was criticizing.

"I consider defeating an unconditional increase to be a success, because it sends a clear and critical message that the Congress has finally recognized we must immediately begin to rein in America's affection for deficit spending," he said.

But Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich., accused Republicans of a "ploy so egregious that (they) have had to spend the last week pleading with Wall Street not to take it seriously and risk our economic recovery."

He and other Democrats added that Republicans were attempting to draw attention away from their controversial plan to turn Medicare into a program in which seniors purchase private insurance coverage.

The proceedings occurred roughly two months before the date Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner has said the debt limit must be raised. If no action is taken by Aug. 2, he has warned, the government could default on its obligations and risk turmoil that might plunge the nation into another recession or even an economic depression.

Republicans, who are scheduled to meet with Obama at the White House on Wednesday, signaled in advance that the debt limit vote did not portend a final refusal to grant an increase. And in fact, the White House is negotiating with top lawmakers in both houses on a package of deficit cuts to accompany a debt limit increase in the coming weeks.

The roll call vote was to be held late in the day, when it would be least likely to rattle the U.S. financial markets while still allowing rank-and-file lawmakers to vote against unpopular legislation the leadership has said eventually must pass.

For its part, the administration appeared eager to avoid criticizing Republicans.

"It's fine, it's fine," presidential press secretary Jay Carney said when asked about the Republican decision to tie spending cuts with more borrowing.

"We believe they should not be linked because there is no alternative that's acceptable to raising the debt ceiling. But we're committed to reducing the deficit," Carney said.

The government has already reached the limit of its borrowing authority, $14.3 trillion, and the Treasury is using a series of extraordinary maneuvers to meet financial obligations.

By no longer would making investments in two big pension funds for federal workers and beginning to withdraw current investments, for example, the Treasury created $214 billion in additional borrowing headroom.

At the same time, the Obama administration and congressional leaders are at work trying to produce a deficit-reduction agreement in excess of $1 trillion to meet Republican demands for spending cuts.

Political maneuvering on legislation to raise the debt limit has become common in recent years, as federal deficits have soared and presidents of both political parties have been forced to seek authority to borrow additional trillions of dollars.

Because such legislation is unpopular with voters, presidents generally look to lawmakers from their own political party to provide the votes needed for passage. In the current case, though, Republicans control the House, and without at least some support from them, Obama's request for a debt-limit increase would fail.

However, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, announced months ago that he would demand spending cuts as a condition for passage.

"It's true that allowing America to default would be irresponsible," he said on May 9 in a speech to the Economic Club of New York. "But it would be more irresponsible to raise the debt limit without simultaneously taking dramatic steps to reduce spending and to reform the budget process."

He added that any spending cuts should be larger than the increase in borrowing authority, a statement meant to lay down a marker for the deficit-reduction talks led by Vice President Joe Biden.

Few details have emerged from those negotiations, although Biden said recently the negotiators had made progress. He expressed confidence they would be able to agree on specific cuts in excess of $1 trillion over the next decade, and then look to procedural mechanisms known as "triggers" to force further automatic deficit cuts adding up to another $3 trillion or so.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, a participant in the talks, said afterward, "I am confident that we can achieve over a trillion dollars in savings at this point, and hopefully more."

Earlier, Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., had said the discussions centered on deficit cuts totaling in the range of $150 billion to $200 billion over a decade, but that was from a relatively small category of programs.

Among the areas eyed for spending cuts is the federal pension program, where the White House has signaled it is receptive to a Republican proposal for employees to make greater contributions.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Willow Grove Memorial Day Parade Draws Attention To Future Monument

Willow Grove Memorial Day Parade Draws Attention To Future Monument

An artist's rendering of the future memorial in Willow Grove. (Credit: Brad Segall)

An artist’s rendering of the future memorial in Willow Grove. (Credit: Brad Segall)

WILLOW GROVE, Pa. (CBS) – The VFW post in Willow Grove, Montgomery County held their annual Memorial Day service remembering those who made the ultimate sacrifice defending our country, but this year the service took an added meaning.

For seven years, veterans in the Willow Grove area have been working hard to construct a new veterans monument in Veterans Memorial Park just off Routes 611 and 263. The project is beginning to come to fruition, with a flag raising dedication and the kickoff of a fundraising campaign.

For full story go to: http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/

Oldest Memorial Day Parade In The Country Marches Through Doylestown

Oldest Memorial Day Parade In The Country Marches Through Doylestown

The Doylestown Memorial Day Parade turns on to Main Street. (Credit: Brad Segall)

The Doylestown Memorial Day Parade turns on to Main Street.

DOYLESTOWN, Pa. (CBS) – The oldest Memorial Day parade in the country went off without a hitch in Doylestown today as thousands lined the parade, but didn’t forget the true meaning of the holiday.

The annual Memorial Day parade has been winding its way through the streets of the county seat in Bucks County for 145 years. Under bright blue skies, the parade featured marching bands and floats and a tribute to the men and women who have given their lives defending our freedom.

For full story go to: http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/

Hundreds Gather In Avalon, Cape May County To Remember Fallen Soldiers

Hundreds Gather In Avalon, Cape May County To Remember Fallen Soldiers

memorial Day avalon

AVALON, N.J. (CBS) - The music set the mood, the sun added a bright spot to a solemn day in which the country remembers the war dead and the ones currently in war.

“They sacrificed their lives or limbs, one of the two, and we’re here for that reason,” said veteran Emil Oscar.

Hundreds proudly waved their American flags as they lined Dune Drive in Avalon for a Memorial Day parade.

For full story go to: http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/

Memorial Day marked by parades, flyovers, flags

Memorial Day marked by parades, flyovers, flags

AP Photo
People applaud as President Barack Obama pays tribute to Adm. Mike Mullen, outgoing Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, during the Memorial Day ceremony in the amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery Monday, May 30, 2011.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Americans from Washington to California marked Memorial Day with parades, barbecues and somber reflection in a holiday infused with fresh meaning by the approaching 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The National Memorial Day Parade in Washington honored veterans and America's war dead but also featured special tributes to Sept. 11 first responders, victims and their families. Also fresh in the minds of parade participants and watchers was the killing less than a month ago of Osama bin Laden, who masterminded the attacks.

Elsewhere, military jets thundered through the sky above New York after a wreath-laying ceremony aboard an aircraft carrier that's been turned into a museum, while hundreds of volunteers put small flags on the 25,000 graves at a sprawling military cemetery near Las Vegas. U.S. troops fighting in Afghanistan also took time out to remember fallen comrades.

Along the parade route in Washington, children sat on parents' shoulders and throngs cheered the passing high school marching bands and floats of war veterans. Special guests included Medal of Honor recipients, astronaut and Korean War veteran Buzz Aldrin and actor Gary Sinise, a veterans advocate who played Lt. Dan in the Oscar-winning film "Forrest Gump."

Hamilton Peterson, who lost his father and stepmother when the hijacked United Airlines 93 crashed into a field in Shanksville, Pa., said the looming anniversary of the terror attacks should serve as a reminder to Americans to be vigilant.

"Obviously, bin Laden's death is a highlight of the 10th anniversary. However, we recognize that future attacks are imminent and that, absent using 9/11 as a model for how to respond, all Americans need to get involved. It can't just be the military," said Peterson, 51.

Sgt. James Patrick McMichael of the Arlington County, Va., sheriff's office was among the first responders to the Pentagon and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder about two years later. He said that even though the anniversary was dredging up painful memories, it's still critical that the public never lose memory of the attacks - especially to make sure they don't repeat themselves.

A commercial jet crashed into the Pentagon on Sept. 11, killing 184 people at the sprawling Defense Department headquarters.

"Reliving the event is not something that I look forward to, but I don't think it should be something that's not brought up to the public," said McMichael, who attended the parade in Washington. "I don't think people should forget about what occurred."

The parade featured a Shanksville fire engine and a red, white and blue float bearing the images of the victims on miniature twin towers.

Seventeen-year-old spectator Zach Garrett recalled watching coverage of the attacks as a third-grader.

"Watching it on the TV, it was disturbing at that age," said the Alpharetta, Ga., resident who was visiting Washington with his family. "And here, 10 years later, this big parade - everybody's participating and everybody's on the sidelines cheering everybody on. There's a lot of patriotism here."

President Barack Obama participated in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery near Washington.

"Our nation owes a debt to its fallen heroes that we cannot ever fully repay," Obama said in a speech. "But we can honor their sacrifice, and we must."

In New York, Lynn Berat dressed her young daughters in matching red, white and blue sundresses for a the ceremony at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum on the west side of Manhattan.

"I think it's important that they understand the spirit of Memorial Day instead of just barbecuing," she said.

Hundreds gathered at Los Angeles National Cemetery, where the ceremony included the pledge of allegiance, singing of the national anthem, a flyover and a cannon salute.

U.S. troops fighting in Afghanistan paused for Memorial Day services, with some praying and holding flag-raising ceremonies to recognize the more than 1,400 who have been killed in combat there since the war began a decade ago.

Obama plans to draw down U.S. troops in Afghanistan beginning in July, while NATO has committed to handing over control of security in the country to Afghans by 2014. For now, though, the war continues.

"We reflect on those who have gone before us. We reflect on their service and their sacrifice on behalf of our great nation," said Brig. Gen. Lewis A. Craparotta, who commands a Marine division in Afghanistan's southern Helmand province. "We should also remember those serving today who embody that same commitment of service and sacrifice."

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Boondocks At Philadelphia Front Page News

Boondocks At Philadelphia Front Page News

...


Worley, Phillies Roughed Up By Mets

Worley, Phillies Roughed Up By Mets

(credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

NEW YORK (AP) — Ryan Howard was rested. Chase Utley, too. And even the Philadelphia Phillies who did play on Sunday appeared to need a break.

Vance Worley was whacked around early and Jimmy Rollins made a crucial error at shortstop that helped the New York Mets jump out to a huge lead in a 9-5 victory.

For full story go to: http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/

Crews Rescue 7-Year-Old Girl From Schuylkill River In Montgomery County

Crews Rescue 7-Year-Old Girl From Schuylkill River In Montgomery County

ambulance

UPPER PROVIDENCE, Pa. (CBS) – A 7-year-old girl was taken to an area hospital Sunday afternoon after crews rescued her from the Schuylkill River.

At about 2:30 p.m. Upper Providence Police were called to 400 Towpath after they received reports that a strong current swept a little girl approximately two miles down stream.

For full story go to: http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/

Wheldon wins stunning Indy 500 when leader crashes

Wheldon wins stunning Indy 500 when leader crashes

AP Photo
IndyCar driver Dan Wheldon, of England, douses himself with milk after winning the Indianapolis 500 auto race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Sunday, May 29, 2011.

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Dan Wheldon was zipping toward the final corner of Sunday's Indianapolis 500, surely figuring the best he could do was another runner-up finish.

Then he came upon JR Hildebrand's crumpled car, all smashed up and sliding along the wall.

The rookie had made the ultimate mistake with his very last turn of the wheel, and Wheldon, not Hildebrand, made an improbable turn into Victory Lane.

"It's obviously unfortunate, but that's Indianapolis," said Wheldon, who won Indy in 2005 and finished second the last two years. "That's why it's the greatest spectacle in racing. You never now what's going to happen."

This might have been the whackiest one ever.

In his first event of the year, Wheldon captured the ultimate IndyCar prize. But the 100th anniversary of the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing" will be remembered more for the guy who let it slip away with the checkered flag in sight.

Leading by almost 4 seconds and needing to make it around the 2 1/2-mile track just one more time, Hildebrand cruised through the first three turns with no problem.

The fourth one got him. He went too high, lost control and slammed into the outside wall. Wheldon sped past, while Hildebrand's battered machine skidded across the line 2.1 seconds behind, still hugging the concrete barrier.

"It's a helpless feeling," Hildebrand said.

The 23-year-old Californian got into trouble when he came up on another rookie, Charlie Kimball, going much slower as they approached the last corner. Instead of backing off, the leader moved to the outside to make the pass - a decision that sent him slamming into the wall to a collective gasp from the crowd of 250,000.

"I caught him in the wrong piece of track," Hildebrand said. "I got up in the marbles and that was it."

While Wheldon celebrated his second Indy 500 win, series officials reviewed the video to see if Wheldon passed the wrecked machine before the caution lights went on. He clearly did, and Hildebrand's team said it wouldn't protest the result.

That gave the Brit another spot on the Borg-Warner Trophy.

Not bad, considering he doesn't even have a full-time job.

"I just felt a lot of relief. It's an incredible feeling," Wheldon said. "I never gave up."

He took the traditional swig of milk and headed off on a triumphant lap around the speedway - a lap that Hildebrand should have been taking.

Instead, the youngster stopped by the garage to get a look at his mangled car, which was hauled through Gasoline Alley instead of being wheeled into Victory Lane. He's now in the company of athletes such as Jean Van de Velde, who squandered a three-shot lead on the last hole of the 1999 British Open, and Lindsey Jacobellis, whose hotdogging wipeout at the 2006 Winter Olympics cost her a certain gold medal.

They had it in the bag - and threw it all away.

"I'm just frustrated. It's not because we came in here with the expectation of winning and we didn't," Hildebrand said. "I felt like I just made a mistake and it cost our boys. I guess that's why rookies don't win the Indianapolis 500 a whole lot, and we'll be back next year, I guess."

After losing his ride from last season - with Hildebrand's team, no less - Wheldon had plenty of time to hang out with his wife and two young children, while also dealing with the burden of his mother being diagnosed with Alzheimer's. He longed to get back behind the wheel, and when May rolled around he had a one-off deal with retired driver Bryan Herta's fledgling team.

They came up with a winning combination, which may well lead to a bigger gig.

For now, though, there are no guarantees - even for the Indy 500 champion.

"I think my contract expires at midnight," Wheldon said, managing a smile.

The 200-lap race was dominated much of the day by Chip Ganassi's top two drivers, defending champ Dario Franchitti and 2008 winner Scott Dixon.

But after a series of late pit stops, things really got interesting. Second-generation racer Graham Rahal spent some time up front. Danica Patrick claimed the lead but had to stop for fuel with nine laps to go. Belgium driver Bertrand Baguette had already gotten past Patrick, but he didn't have enough fuel, either.

When Baguette went to the pits with three laps to go, the lead belonged to Hildebrand. All he had to do was make it to the end.

He came up one turn short.

"My disappointment is for the team," Hildebrand said. "We should've won the race."

Not that Wheldon isn't a deserving champ. He has 16 career wins and finished in the top 10 of the series standings seven years in a row, capturing the title in 2005.

But in the peculiar world of auto racing, which runs on sponsorship dollars and not necessarily credentials, Wheldon was squeezed out of his ride at Panther.

He sat out the first four races of the year, but no way was he going without a ride at Indy. He's had too much success around this place.

"Dan Wheldon, he's a great winner," Patrick said. "And what a great story. He hasn't run this year. ... That's really cool."

Still, it was a bitter disappointment for Patrick, who ended up 10th.

"It's more and more depressing when I don't win the race," said Indy's leading lady, who might be heading to NASCAR next year.

Patrick knows about misfortune leading to victory for Wheldon. His first victory came when she led late in the race, only to have to back off the throttle to save enough fuel to make it to the finish.

This time, Wheldon never led a lap until the last one, the first time that's happened since Joe Dawson won the second Indy 500 in 1912.

It was the second time a driver lost the lead on the last lap - it happened to another rookie, Marco Andretti, in 2006 - and it's something Hildebrand will always remember.

"Is it a move I would do again?" he said. "No."

Rahal finished third, followed by hard-charging Tony Kanaan, who came all the way from the 22nd starting spot to contend for his first 500 win, just a year after leaving Michael Andretti's team. Dixon was fifth, followed by Oriol Servia, while Franchitti lost speed in the closing laps and slipped all the way to 12th.

Right from the start, the Ganassi cars showed just how strong they would be on a sweltering day at the Brickyard, where the temperature climbed into the upper 80s and the heat on the track was well over 100 degrees.

From the middle of the front row, Dixon blew by pole-sitter Alex Tagliani before they even got to the start-finish line, diving into the first turn with the lead.

Tagliani ran strong through the first half of the race but began having problems with his handling. Finally, on lap 147, he lost it coming out of the fourth turn and banged into the wall for a disappointing end to an amazing month for his car owner, Sam Schmidt, who watched the race from a wheelchair in the pits.

Schmidt has been a quadriplegic since a racing crash 11 years ago, but he's turned his efforts to building an IndyCar team. He had another car in the race, one-off driver Townsend Bell, who started from the inside of the second row and ran in the top 10 much of the day until he was collided with Ryan Briscoe on lap 158.

Briscoe's crash summed up the day for IndyCar's other elite team.

Roger Penske's trio of drivers capped a disappointing month with a grim performance on race day.

On the very first stop, Will Power drove out of the pits with a loose left rear wheel, which flew off before he got back on the track. While it bounced down pit road, Power set off around the 2 1/2-mile oval on three wheels, sparks flying out from under his machine as it limped back for another tire. He finished 14th - the best showing for Penske Racing.

Helio Castroneves, hoping for a record-tying fourth Indy win, started back in 16th spot after struggling in qualifying and did his best just to stay on the lead lap, much less challenge for the lead. That effort ended when Briscoe and Bell got together - and Castroneves ran off a piece of debris, shredding a tire. He wound up one lap down in 17th.

Briscoe's crash left him 27th.

"It was a tough day," Penske said. "But you've got execute."

There was only one wreck on the much-debated double-file restarts but plenty of thrilling moves - just what IndyCar officials were hoping for when they imposed the NASCAR-style procedure after each caution period.

At one point after taking green, Castroneves had to dive onto the lane that cars normally take coming out of the pits just to get through the second turn. The crowd erupted in cheers, clearly enjoying the show.

For Hildebrand, the cheers turned to groans on the final turn.

"It's just a bummer," he said.

Obama tours twister-ravaged neighborhood in Joplin

Obama tours twister-ravaged neighborhood in Joplin

AP Photo
President Barack Obama, second from left, seen with officials and residents, views damage from the tornado that devastated Joplin, Mo., Sunday, May 29, 2011. He is joined by Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon.

JOPLIN, Mo. (AP) -- Face to face with the legions of homeless and the bereaved, President Barack Obama on Sunday toured the apocalyptic landscape left by Missouri's killer tornado, consoled the community and committed the government to helping rebuild shattered lives.

"We're not going to stop `til Joplin's back on its feet," Obama vowed. A memorial service where Obama spoke punctuated a day of remembrance one week after the disaster, as authorities pressed on with the task of identifying the victims and volunteers combed through wreckage of neighborhoods where nothing was left whole.

The service erupted in cheers when Obama said, "I promise you your country will be there with you every single step of the way," a pledge he extended to all parts of the nation raked by violent storms this season.

The Joplin tornado was the worst to hit the United States in decades, leaving more than 130 dead and hundreds more injured. Thirty-nine people remain unaccounted for. There are four more people whom family members have reported as deceased, but those deaths haven't been officially confirmed.

Air Force One flew over a massive swath of brown - a land of flattened houses and stripped trees - on its approach to Joplin. On the ground, the destruction was even more stark and complete. Obama confronted painful sights at every turn and said nothing in his life measured up to what he saw this day.

Yet he spoke, too, of redemptive moments, the stoicism of the community and tales of plain luck. He told a story of a man he talked to who had taken a chicken pot pie out of the oven, heard the storm was coming, hid in a closet and "came out without a scratch." Obama celebrated the spirit of volunteers who have flocked to Joplin to help, the pickup truck owners who ferried people to the hospital and the citizens who lined up for hours to donate blood to people they don't know.

"You've demonstrated a simple truth," he told the service, "that amid heartbreak and tragedy no one is a stranger. Everybody is a brother. Everybody is a sister. We can all love one another."

The crowd of hundreds at the service reflected a community in the midst of rebuilding: people in shorts and baseball caps, and plenty of babies who occasionally burst out crying. The president talked over the screeching until a baby was hurried out by the mother.

Obama got a notably warm reception in this conservative part of Missouri. His remarks were tailored for a religious service, with quotes from scripture, references to the love that binds people to each other, and comments on the essential goodness of humanity. The stories of the storm lead us to "put aside our petty grievances," the president said. "There are heroes all around us, all the time. So, in the wake of this tragedy, let us live up to their example: to make each day count."

Known for his cool, even-tempered demeanor, Obama offered his own brand of comforting: eloquent words, plentiful handshakes, some hugs, pats on the heads of children, offers of "God bless you." Not for him the raw emotion Americans saw in his predecessors George W. Bush or Bill Clinton.

Before the service, Obama's motorcade pulled into a neighborhood where downed trees cleaved open houses, roofs were stripped or blown off, cars were cratered and splintered wood was everywhere. He saw nothing intact, but rather small domestic sights - a view into a room with a TV still in place, a recliner sitting amid rubble, a washer-dryer standing next to a decimated house. American flags were planted here and there in the mess.

"Sorry for your loss," Obama told an anguished woman, hugging her twice as they talked. Another woman told him that her uncle lives up the road - he survived but his house did not. "Tell your uncle we're praying for him," the president said.

To those working at the scene, the president said: "We appreciate everything you guys are doing. God bless you." One volunteer told him that people were coming in from other states to help in any way they could.

"This is not just your tragedy," Obama said. "This is a national tragedy, and that means there will be a national response." He said: "We are going to be here long after the cameras leave."

Hours after Obama's speech - at 5:41 p.m. Central time, to mark the first report of the tornado - hundreds stood in Joplin's Cunningham Park, in between wrecked cars and twisted poles, for a moment of silence.

Many in the crowd wore white T-shirts emblazoned, "Joplin's Heart Will Sing Again."

"We will rebuild Joplin," City Manager Mark Rohr told the crowd. "You have my word on it."

Obama returned to the U.S. on Saturday from a six-day European tour of Ireland, Britain, France and Poland. After days of focusing on the U.S. relationship with the rest of the world, Sunday was about an even more critical connection: his own, with the American people.

Consoling his fellow Americans is a task Obama has had to assume with increasing frequency of late: after the mass shooting in Arizona in January in which Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was injured; when tornadoes struck Tuscaloosa, Ala., last month; and, more recently, when flooding from the Mississippi inundated parts of Memphis, Tenn.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon and local clergy, some of whose churches were ravaged, spoke at the service. Some people said it will help them grieve and move forward with rebuilding.

"You need to talk about it," said Dorothy Iwan, 67, whose granddaughter was caught in the storm but uninjured. "You need to process it. You need to know people are behind you."

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Gil Scott-Heron, songwriter and poet, dies aged 62




Gil Scott-Heron, the US poet and songwriter credited with helping inspire the development of rap music, has died at age 62.

Scott-Heron died yesterday at a New York hospital, National Public Radio said, citing his book publisher. He fell ill after returning from a trip to Europe, news reports said.


The Chicago-born artist was called the "Godfather of Rap", a term he disliked, for his groundbreaking spoken-word performances set to music, including "The Revolution Will Not be Televised" in the early 1970s.

He recorded more than a dozen albums and was hailed as an important influence by hip-hop performers such as Kanye West. Considered a voice of African-American activism, Scott-Heron was also a musical critic of apartheid and nuclear power.

After serving a prison sentence for drug possession, Scott-Heron released an acclaimed album last year, "I'm New Here".

Friday, May 27, 2011

'Taxi,' 'Grease' star Jeff Conaway dies at 60

'Taxi,' 'Grease' star Jeff Conaway dies at 60

AP Photo
In this Oct. 13, 2009 file photo, Jeff Conaway arrives at the 2009 Fox Reality Channel Really Awards in Los Angeles. Conaway, who starred in "Taxi" and played Danny Zuko's buddy Kenickie in 1978's "Grease," has died at a Los Angeles area hospital. He was 60.

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Jeff Conaway, who starred in the sitcom "Taxi," played swaggering Kenickie in the movie musical "Grease" and publicly battled drug and alcohol addiction on "Celebrity Rehab," died Friday. He was 60.

The actor was taken off life support Thursday and died Friday morning at Encino Tarzana Medical Center, according to one of his managers, Kathryn Boole.

"It's sad that people remember his struggle with drugs. ... He has touched so many people," she said, calling Conaway a kind and intelligent man who was well read and "always so interesting to talk to. We respected him as an artist and loved him as a friend."

"He was trying so hard to get clean and sober," Boole added. "If it hadn't been for his back pain, I think he would have been able to do it."

Family members, including his sisters, nieces and nephews, and his minister, were with him when he died, Boole said.

He was taken to the hospital unconscious on May 11 and placed in a medically induced coma while being treated for pneumonia and sepsis, which is blood poisoning caused by a bacterial infection.

Conaway had failed to seek medical aid, instead trying to treat himself with pain pills and cold medicine, said Phil Brock, Boole's business partner.

"He's a gentle soul with a good heart ... but he's never been able to exorcise his demons," Brock said after Conaway was hospitalized.

Conaway is the second person who appeared in the VH1 reality series "Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew" who later died. In March, former Alice in Chains bassist Mike Starr, who was on the show in 2009, was found dead in Salt Lake City. The month before, police there had arrested him on suspicion of possession of medications without a required prescription.

Messages seeking comment from Pinsky, a physician and radio and TV personality, were not immediately returned Friday.

Conaway had acknowledged his addictive tendencies in a 1985 interview with The Associated Press, when he described turning his back on the dream of a pop music career. He'd played guitar in a 1960s band called 3 1/2 that was the opening act for groups including Herman's Hermits, The Young Rascals and The Animals.

"I thought, `If I stay in this business, I'll be dead in a year.' There were drugs all over the place and people were doing them. I had started to do them. I realized that I'd die," Conaway told the AP.

His effort to avoid addiction failed, and his battles with cocaine and other substances were painfully shared in two stints on "Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew." Conaway, who'd had repeated back surgeries for an injury, blamed his cocaine use and pain pill abuse in part on his lingering back problem.

Conaway was born in New York City on Oct. 5, 1950, to parents who were in show business. His father was an actor, producer and agent, and his mother was an actress.

He made his Broadway debut in 1960 at the age of 10 in the Pulitzer Prize-winning play "All the Way Home." By then his parents were divorced, and Conaway had spent a great deal of time with his grandparents who lived in the Astoria section of Queens.

"I used to hold in a lot of feelings. I'd smile a lot but I was really miserable. I didn't know it at the time, but I've figured it out since. When I was on stage, I could make people laugh," he said in 1985.

He toured in the national company of the comedy "Critic's Choice," then attended a professional high school for young actors, musicians and singers. After abandoning music he returned to acting with a two-year stint in "Grease," on Broadway (playing the lead role of Danny Zuko at one point) and eventually with the touring company.

The musical about high school love brought Conaway to Los Angeles and television, including a small part on "Happy Days" that led to larger roles. He had roles in small films and then in the movie version of "Grease" (1978), although he lost the top-billed part to John Travolta.

In 1978, he won the "Taxi" job - playing vain, struggling actor Bobby Wheeler - that put him in the company of Judd Hirsch, Danny de Vito and Andy Kaufman in what proved to be a hit for ABC.

The tall, gangly actor, with a shock of blond hair and what the late longtime AP drama critic Michael Kuchwara called a "wide-angle smile" and "a television face, just right for popular consumption," appeared a success.

But Conaway, who received two Golden Globe nominations for "Taxi," said he tired early of being a series regular, although he stayed with the series for three years, until 1981 ("Taxi" ended in 1983 after moving to NBC the year before).

"I got very depressed. Hollywood can be a terrible place when you're depressed. The pits. I decided I had to change my life and do different things," he said.

His movie career failed to ignite, however, and Conaway shifted back to TV with the short-lived 1983 fantasy series "Wizards and Warriors," and the 1985 flop "Berrengers," a drama set in a New York department store. He made a bid to return to Broadway in "The News," but the rock musical about tabloid journalism closed within days.

A 1994-98 stint in the sci-fi TV series "Babylon 5" as security chief Zack Allan proved successful, but it was followed by only scattered roles on stage, in films and TV shows. He was in the reality series "Celebrity Fit Club" in 2006 and then in "Celebrity Rehab," in which the frail Conaway used a wheelchair and blacked out on camera.

A fall in 2010 caused a broken hip and other injuries that left him in more precarious health.

Conaway told the Los Angeles Times in a January 2011 article that series producers asked him to "give them drama." But he also said he welcomed the support he received from those who viewed his struggle.

"I got a lot of love from people, and when people stop me on the street and say, `Man, your story touched me so much,' it just makes all this pain worthwhile, you know?" he said. "I don't know where actors go after they die, but I know people who help other people have a nice place to go. And I would like to go there if I can."

Conaway was wed twice, first to Kerri Young and then to Rona Newton-John, sister of singer and Conaway's fellow "Grease" star Olivia Newton-John. Both marriages ended in divorce.

Gas tanks are draining family budgets

Gas tanks are draining family budgets

AP Photo
A motor home leaves a gas station after filling up for the long Memorial Day weekend in Valencia, Calif., Friday, May 27, 2011. With gas prices still topping the $4-a-gallon mark in much of the country and forcing holiday travelers to spend more on fill-ups than they will on hotel rooms.

NEW YORK (AP) -- There's less money this summer for hotel rooms, surfboards and bathing suits. It's all going into the gas tank.

High prices at the pump are putting a squeeze on the family budget as the traditional summer driving season begins. For every $10 the typical household earns before taxes, almost a full dollar now goes toward gas, a 40 percent bigger bite than normal.

Households spent an average of $369 on gas last month. In April 2009, they spent just $201. Families now spend more filling up than they spend on cars, clothes or recreation. Last year, they spent less on gasoline than each of those things.

Jeffrey Wayman of Cape Charles, Va., spent Friday riding his motorcycle to North Carolina's Outer Banks, a day trip with his wife. They decided to eat snacks in a gas station parking lot rather than buy lunch because rising fuel prices have eaten so much into their budget over the past year that they can't ride as frequently as they would like.

"We used to do it a lot more, but not as much now," he said. "You have to cut back when you have a $480 gas bill a month."

Alex Martinez, a senior at Arcadia High School outside Los Angeles, said his family's trips to San Francisco, which they usually take once or more a year, are on hold. As he stopped at a gas station to put $5 of fuel in his car - not much more than a gallon - he said the high prices are crimping social life for him and his friends.

"We're always worrying, `How are we going to get home. We've got less than half a gallon left,'" Martinez said. "We definitely can't go out as much, and we can't go as far."

As Memorial Day weekend opens, the nationwide average for a gallon of unleaded is $3.81. Though prices have drifted lower in recent days, analysts expect average price for 2011 to come in higher than the previous record, $3.25 in 2008. A year ago, gas cost $2.76.

The squeeze is happening at a time when most people aren't getting raises, even as the economy recovers.

"These increases are not something consumers can shrug off," says James Hamilton, an economics professor at the University of California, San Diego, who studies gas prices. "It's a key part of the family budget."

The ramifications are far-reaching for an economy still struggling to gain momentum two years into a recovery. Economists say the gas squeeze makes people feel poorer than they actually are.

They're showing it by limiting spending far beyond the gas station. Wal-Mart recently blamed high gas prices for an eighth straight quarter of lower sales in the U.S. Target said gas prices were hurting sales of clothes.

Every 50-cent jump in the cost of gasoline takes $70 billion out of the U.S. economy over the course of a year, Hamilton says. That's about one half of one percent of gross domestic product.

The Commerce Department reported Friday that consumer spending rose just 0.1 percent in April, excluding the extra money spent on more expensive gas and food, while wages stayed flat for the second straight month.

Mike Nason, a marketing consultant from Laguna Niguel, Calif., says he's clipping coupons to save money for gas and cutting back wherever else he can. His daughter Chandler, 17, recently settled for a prom dress that cost $170 instead of asking her parents to spend $400 for another that caught her eye.

"In prior years we would have spent more money on the dress, but money has become a big object," he says.

The tourism industry is bracing for an uncertain summer. AAA predicts the typical family will spend $692 on its vacation, down 14 percent from $809 last year. Many of those surveyed said they are planning shorter trips and expect to pinch pennies when they arrive.

AAA estimates 34.9 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home this weekend, an increase of about 100,000 from last year. But they will have to do more complicated math to make the summer budget work.

The median household income in the U.S. before taxes is just below $50,000, or about $4,150 per month. The $369 that families spent last month on gas represented 8.9 percent of monthly household income, according to an analysis by Fred Rozell, retail pricing director at Oil Price Information Service. Since 2000, the average is about 5.7 percent. For the year, the figure is 7.9 percent.

Only twice before have Americans spent this much of their income on gas. In 1981, after the last oil crisis, Americans spent 8.8 percent of household income on gas. In July 2008, when oil price spiked, they spent 10.2 percent.

Average hourly earnings, meanwhile, have risen just 1.9 percent in the past year. That's only just enough to keep up with inflation.

The good news is that analysts expect gas to fall to $3.50 a gallon in the coming weeks. In order for household gasoline expenses to return to their historical place in the family budget for the year, gas prices would have to fall by about half and stay that way for the rest of the year.

Demand for gasoline has fallen for eight straight weeks as drivers try to cut back, but higher prices can't keep drivers parked for long. Even with high prices this year, the government expects gasoline demand to grow slightly for the year.

"Drivers try to do what they can, but they have to go almost all the places they go," says David Greene, a researcher at the Center of Transportation Analysis at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and manager of the Department of Energy website fueleconomy.gov. "There's no magic gizmo that will drastically change someone's gasoline use."

Mike Siroub clutched his heart as he described the experience of filling up lately. He owns a Union Oil gas station in Arcadia, Calif., but one of his cars is also a 1975 Oldsmobile.

"Think about it," he said. "If you've got a car with a 30-gallon tank and gas is $4 a gallon and you fill it up, you're out $120."

He says high gas prices will keep him home this weekend. And he runs a gas station for a living. As he greeted a steady stream of customers at his station, he laughed and said, "I have to pay for gas just like everyone else."

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Phils Beat Reds 5-4 In 19-Inning Marathon

Phils Beat Reds 5-4 In 19-Inning Marathon

Wilson Valdez pitched a scoreless 19th and became the first position player to earn a win since 2000.

Wilson Valdez pitched a scoreless 19th and became the first position player to earn a win since 2000.

PHILADELPHIA (AP) – Infielder Wilson Valdez wound up as the winning pitcher early Thursday when the Philadelphia Phillies needed 19 innings to outlast the Cincinnati Reds 5-4.

A dwindling crowd at Citizens Bank Park saw Raul Ibanez hit a bases-loaded sacrifice fly to decide the longest major league game of the season. It ended at 1:19 a.m. after 6 hours, 11 minutes.

Not much time for rest, either. The teams were set to play again Thursday at 1:05 p.m.

For full story go to: http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/

Lee, Phillies Too Much For Reds 10-4

Lee, Phillies Too Much For Reds 10-4

(Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Cliff Lee drove in three runs and worked eight effective innings, leading the Philadelphia Phillies to a 10-4 win over the Cincinnati Reds on Thursday afternoon.

Raul Ibanez hit a three-run homer for the Phillies, who took three of four from the Reds.

For full story go to: http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/

Bodies Found In Search For Drowned Teenagers

Bodies Found In Search For Drowned Teenagers

body found

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – A small group of family and friends held each other for comfort as police pulled a body out of the Delaware River.

They had been there all day, waiting for news from the search for William Wilkinson, 17, who drowned Wednesday evening. Police say Wilkinson drowned when he jumped into the water, trying to save a friend who fell in. But he never resurfaced.

Police boats and rescue teams circled the waters, trying to find any sign of the teenager. In the end, it was a single police boat that found a body thirty feet off the pier at 4:30 in the afternoon. Police say the physical description and clothing description match Wilkinson’s.

For full story go to: http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/

Lawyer: Sex lawsuit involving Ga. pastor resolved

Lawyer: Sex lawsuit involving Ga. pastor resolved

AP Photo
FILE - In this Sept. 26, 2010 file photo Bishop Eddie Long speaks near in Lithonia, Ga. A lawsuit filed by four young men who accused Long of sexual misconduct has been resolved, attorneys for both sides said Thursday, bringing a quiet end to a blockbuster legal complaint that targeted one of the nation's most powerful church leaders.

ATLANTA (AP) -- Lawsuits brought by four young men who accused a Georgia megachurch pastor of sexual misconduct have been resolved, attorneys for both sides said Thursday, bringing a quiet end to a blockbuster legal complaint that targeted a powerful national religious leader.

Both sides declined to discuss terms of the deal, other than to say the civil suits in state court would not go forward against Bishop Eddie Long, pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church.

The four young men had alleged Long abused his spiritual authority and coerced them into sexual relations with gifts including cars, cash and travel when they were 17. One suit also claimed Long had sexual contact with one of them during trips he took them on in the U.S. and abroad. Long denied the allegations, and federal and state authorities didn't investigate because Georgia's age of consent is 16.

Still, the scandal tainted the reputation of Long, who over two decades had transformed his suburban Atlanta congregation of 150 into a following of 25,000 members and an international televangelist empire that included athletes, entertainers and politicians. The 58-year-old husband and father of four has championed strong families and been an outspoken opponent of gay marriage.

Plaintiffs' attorney B.J. Bernstein said Thursday "we can confirm that the matter has been resolved" but would not elaborate. Phone calls to the young men were not returned.

Barbara Marschalk, an attorney for New Birth Missionary Baptist, confirmed the suits had been resolved and said they would likely be dismissed by Friday.

Church spokesman Art Franklin issued a statement late Thursday saying: "After a series of discussions, all parties involved have decided to resolve the civil cases out of court. This decision was made to bring closure to this matter and to allow us to move forward with the plans God has for this ministry."

"As is usually the case when civil lawsuits resolve out of court, we cannot discuss any details regarding the resolution or the resolution process, as they are confidential," Frank said in the statement. "This resolution is the most reasonable road for everyone to travel."

Much of Long's appeal was based on a prosperity gospel - featuring his own lavish lifestyle - and his macho appearance, accented by the muscle T-shirts he often wore in the pulpit.

The TV preacher's ministry was threatened in September when Spencer LeGrande, Jamal Parris, Maurice Robinson and Anthony Flagg sued Long in DeKalb County state court. The Associated Press does not generally identify people who claim they are victims of sexual abuse or misconduct, but Bernstein said the four consented to making their identities public.

Two of the men who brought suit alleged that Long groomed them for sexual relationships when they were enrolled in the church's LongFellows Youth Academy, a program that purportedly sought to guide teens through their "masculine journey" with lessons on financial discipline and sexual control. Two other young men - one of whom attended a satellite church in Charlotte, N.C. - made similar allegations.

Flagg, who enrolled at the academy at age 16, said Long chose him as a "spiritual son" after learning of the young man's challenges growing up without a father. Flagg moved into another minister's home after being arrested on an assault charge when he was 18. The lawsuit alleged Long would visit, crawl into bed with him and the two would engage in sexual acts.

Robinson said his mother enrolled him in the LongFellows program when he was 14. Long started lavishing attention on him the following year, and a church employee soon rewarded the teen with a Chevy Malibu, the lawsuit said. The two began engaging in sexual acts after an October 2008 trip to New Zealand.

Parris, who said his father had not been active in his life, said Long encouraged the teen to call him "Daddy" and later used biblical verses to justify the alleged abuse.

Long denied the allegations in court motions, saying that he often encouraged his flock to call him "daddy" as a term of respect. He acknowledged giving gifts to the plaintiffs, but said he often provided his church members with financial help. During church sermons, he turned to biblical terms to portray himself as an underdog.

Long has remained at the helm of New Birth since the allegations surfaced last year, vowing to fight the allegations.

"I feel like David against Goliath. But I got five rocks, and I haven't thrown one yet," Long said during his first sermon after the lawsuit was filed. He said that although he didn't claim to be perfect, "I am not the man that's being portrayed on the television."

Edwards meets leading figure in criminal probe

Edwards meets leading figure in criminal probe

AP Photo
FILE - In this Dec. 11, 2010 file photo, Former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards is seen in Raleigh, N.C. A person familiar with a federal investigation into Edwards' political dealings says prosecutors have completed their probe of the two-time presidential candidate and could indict him within days.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Former presidential candidate John Edwards met Thursday with a leading figure in the investigation into funds used to cover up his extramarital affair, certain to attract the attention of the Justice Department as it prepares possible criminal charges against him.

William Taylor, an attorney for heiress Rachel "Bunny" Mellon, confirmed they had lunch at her Upperville, Va., home but said they did not discuss the case.

"It was entirely personal and social," Taylor said in a telephone interview. "There was no discussion of anything related to his situation."

Mellon is the 100-year-old widow of banking heir Paul Mellon and was a top donor to Edwards' presidential campaign. She also reportedly gave hundreds of thousands of dollars used to keep Edwards mistress Reille Hunter in hiding while he pursued the White House - funds are at the center of the criminal investigation.

The meeting was first reported Thursday by ABC News. Taylor, a prominent Washington attorney who also is representing former International Monetary Fund leader Dominique Strauss-Kahn against rape charges, said he was at the meeting and Edwards did not ask Mellon for any financial help for his case.

The meeting comes within days of the Justice Department's plans to bring criminal charges against Edwards, a former Democratic senator from North Carolina. Prosecutors have spent two years investigating whether money from political backers, including Mellon, used to cover up his affair and out-of-wedlock daughter should have been reported as campaign contributions since they arguably aided his presidential bid.

Justice Department officials would not comment on what charges might be brought. Both sides refused to say whether a plea agreement was possible.

Edwards attorney Gregory Craig said in a statement Wednesday that prosecutors have never found that campaign funds were misused and the government's theory in the case is without precedent and "wrong on the facts and wrong on the law."

The investigation has centered largely on allegations leveled by former Edwards campaign aide Andrew Young, who as the scandal began to unfold in 2007 publicly claimed to be the baby's father to protect his boss' career.

Young has said that two wealthy Edwards supporters supplied the money and the private jet that Young used to hide Hunter from the news media, first in North Carolina, then in Colorado, and finally at a home in California.

Young has said that Edwards agreed in 2007 to solicit money directly from Mellon. Young has said he received hundreds of thousands of dollars in checks from Mellon, with some of the checks hidden in boxes of chocolate. Another Mellon attorney has said she didn't know where the money was going but intended it as a personal gift.

Investigators also looked at money spent by Edwards' former campaign finance chairman, Fred Baron, who died in 2008. He said he helped Young and Hunter move across the country. Baron said that Edwards wasn't aware of the aid, but Young said in a book that Edwards knew about Baron's money.

Hunter had been hired to shoot video of Edwards as he prepared for his White House bid. Their daughter was born in February 2008, a month after he dropped out of the race.

Edwards initially denied having an affair with Hunter but eventually admitted to it in the summer of 2008. He also denied being the father of her child before finally acknowledging that last year. His wife, Elizabeth, died of cancer in December.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

New South Philadelphia Mural Honors Local Girl Killed Tragically In 2005

New South Philadelphia Mural Honors Local Girl Killed Tragically In 2005

(Detail of mural.  Photo by Karin Phillips)

(Detail of mural.)

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - Ribbon-cutting ceremonies were held Wednesday in South Philadelphia to celebrate a new mural that honors African-American heroes — including a little girl whose life was cut short in a tragic incident.

The new mural, called “The Faces That Shape Us,” covers the east and west walls surrounding Uncle David’s Universal Playground at 15th and Catherine Streets.

Among the figures depicted are Frederick Douglass, Rev. Leon Sullivan, and a little girl named Shakira Hinton.

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Winfrey finale devoted to fans, her 'safe harbor'

Winfrey finale devoted to fans, her 'safe harbor'

AP Photo
FILE - In this May 17, 2011 file photo, Oprah Winfrey acknowledges fans during a star-studded double-taping of "Surprise Oprah! A Farewell Spectacular, in Chicago. The final episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" was taped in Chicago on Tuesday, May 24, and will air Wednesday, May 25, 2011.

CHICAGO (AP) -- There were no free cars or vacations. No favorite things or makeovers. No celebrity guests on stage - though there were plenty in the audience.

The finale of Oprah Winfrey's talk show, taped Tuesday and aired Wednesday, was all about the one thing that made her a billion-dollar success: the unique connection she made with millions of viewers for 25 years. In what she called her "love letter" to fans, she made clear that to her, all those TV friendships went both ways.

"Something in me connected with each of you in a way that allowed me to see myself in you and you in me," Winfrey said. "I listened and grew, and I know you grew along with me."

Winfrey was the only person on stage with little background music and short flashback clips. The show went to commercials with "Twenty-Five Years," a soft song that musician Paul Simon wrote and recorded for her.

She called fans her "safe harbor" and became teary eyed when reflecting on her upbringing in rural Mississippi.

"It is no coincidence that a lonely little girl," Winfrey said, choking up, "who felt not a lot of love, even though my parents and grandparents did the best they could, it is no coincidence that I grew up to feel a genuine kindness, affection, trust and validation from millions of you all over the world."

Winfrey told viewers that sometimes she was a teacher, but more often her viewers instructed her. She called Wednesday's episode her "last class from this stage."

At one point she thanked viewers for sharing her "yellow brick road of blessings" - something she said back in November 2009, when she announced that she would end her show. The program gave rise to a media empire, including a magazine and Winfrey's own cable network, which she launched in January.

Wednesday's show was the last piece of a months-long sendoff, but as the hour wrapped up, Winfrey stopped short of saying farewell.

"I won't say goodbye. I'll just say, until we meet again," she said.

She hugged and kissed her longtime partner Stedman Graham and shook hands with audience members before walking through the halls of Harpo Studios in Chicago, hugging and crying with her staff. She shouted, "We did it!"

The last shot of the finale showed Winfrey walking away with her cocker spaniel, Sadie.

Some fans across the country had parties for the finale. Sharon Evans, 53, of Chicago had pancakes with her mother and girlfriends.

"She was very subdued today and I appreciated that she was taking that last hour not to showcase any celebrities or favorite things," Evans said. "It was truly what she said, a love letter to us."

Amy Korin, 32, of Chicago, was in the studio audience when the show taped on Tuesday. She described Winfrey's monologue as having the feeling of a graduation commencement speech. "It was just amazing to witness," she said.

Celebrities in the audience included Tyler Perry, Maria Shriver, Suze Orman and Cicely Tyson. None of them joined Winfrey on stage. A week earlier, Hollywood A-listers and 13,000 fans bid Winfrey farewell in a double-episode extravaganza at Chicago's United Center.

In the bare-bones final taping there were just 404 audience members, according to Harpo Productions. The show received 1.4 million ticket requests throughout its final season, the company said.

Winfrey became famous over the decades for landing hard-to-get celebrity interviews and her annual giveaway shows, where she bestowed audience members with such stunning gifts as cars and Australian vacations.

Already a television journalist, Winfrey came to Chicago in 1984 to WLS-TV's morning talk show, "A.M. Chicago." A month later the show was No. 1 in the market. A year later it was renamed "The Oprah Winfrey Show."

Winfrey opened Harpo Studios on Chicago's West Loop neighborhood in 1990. On Jan. 1 of this year she launched the Oprah Winfrey Network, which is based in Los Angeles.

AP source: Edwards could be indicted within days

AP source: Edwards could be indicted within days

AP Photo
FILE - In this Dec. 11, 2010 file photo, Former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards is seen in Raleigh, N.C. A person familiar with a federal investigation into Edwards' political dealings says prosecutors have completed their probe of the two-time presidential candidate and could indict him within days.

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- The Justice Department plans to bring criminal charges against John Edwards after a two-year investigation into whether the former presidential candidate illegally used money from some of his political backers to cover up his extramarital affair, a person familiar with the case said Wednesday.

An indictment could come within days unless the 2004 Democratic vice-presidential nominee reaches an agreement with prosecutors to plead guilty to a negotiated charge, said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the case's sensitivity.

It was not immediately clear what charges prosecutors planned to bring.

Federal authorities have been investigating the former North Carolina senator's campaign finances, focusing heavily on money from wealthy supporters that allegedly went to keep mistress Rielle Hunter and her out-of-wedlock baby in hiding in 2007 and 2008 to protect Edwards' White House campaign from a career-ending scandal.

Prosecutors, in an investigation overseen by top Justice Department officials in Washington, have been looking at whether those funds should have been reported as campaign contributions since they arguably aided his presidential bid.

Edwards attorney Gregory Craig said in a statement that prosecutors have never found that campaign funds were misused and said the government's theory in the case is without precedent and "wrong on the facts and wrong on the law."

"John Edwards has done wrong in his life - and he knows it better than anyone - but he did not break the law," said Craig, who is former White House counsel for President Barack Obama.

The statement did not say whether a deal still could be reached. Asked whether a potential deal was off, Edwards' attorneys declined to elaborate beyond the statement.

Edwards' attorneys have long said they are confident the 57-year-old former politician did not violate campaign finance laws.

The investigation has centered largely on allegations leveled by former Edwards campaign aide Andrew Young, who as the scandal began to unfold in 2007, publicly claimed to be the baby's father to protect his boss' career.

Young has said that two wealthy Edwards supporters supplied the money and the private jet that Young used to hide Hunter from the news media, first in North Carolina, then in Colorado, and finally at a home in California.

George Holding, the U.S. attorney in Raleigh, declined to comment. Holding was appointed by President George W. Bush but has remained on the job because North Carolina's senators asked President Barack Obama to let him finish the Edwards probe.

Hunter had been hired to shoot video of Edwards as he prepared for his White House bid. Their child was born in February 2008, a month after he dropped out of the race.

Edwards initially denied having an affair with Hunter but eventually admitted to it in the summer of 2008. He also denied being the father of her child before finally confessing last year. His wife, Elizabeth, died of cancer in December.

Edwards, who made his millions as a trial lawyer, could lose his law license if he enters a guilty plea.

Young has said that Edwards agreed in 2007 to solicit money directly from Rachel "Bunny" Mellon, the 100-year-old widow of banking heir Paul Mellon. Young has said he received hundreds of thousands of dollars in checks from Mellon for his use and Hunter's, with some of the checks hidden in boxes of chocolate.

Mellon's attorney has said she didn't know where the money was going but intended it as a personal gift.

Investigators also looked at money spent by Edwards' former campaign finance chairman, Fred Baron, who died in 2008. He said he helped Young and Hunter move across the country. Baron said that Edwards wasn't aware of the aid, but Young said in a book that Edwards knew about Baron's money.

Young, Hunter, Baron's wife and a cast of other former Edwards aides and supporters have been called to testify before a federal grand jury or have been interviewed by investigators.

Dems rejoice over NY; will Medicare redo 2012?

Dems rejoice over NY; will Medicare redo 2012?

AP Photo
Congresswoman-elect Kathy Hochul, D-NY, pounds her fist while talking with supporters at a restaurant in Depew, N.Y., Wednesday, May 25, 2011. Hochul defeated Republican state Assemblywoman Jane Corwin on Tuesday night, capturing 47 percent of the vote to 43 percent for Corwin, to win the seat vacated by Republican Chris Lee. A wealthy tea party candidate, Jack Davis, took 9 percent.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Jubilant Democrats demanded Republicans abandon their sweeping plans to remake Medicare on Wednesday after casting a House race in upstate New York as a referendum on the popular program and emerging victorious.

"The top three reasons for the election of a Democrat in one of the most conservative Republican districts in America are Medicare, Medicare and Medicare," declared New York Rep. Steve Israel, chairman of the party's congressional campaign committee.

House Republicans made little if any attempt to demonstrate widespread support for their controversial proposal during the day. And the National Republican Congressional Committee offered no explanation for having let hundreds of thousands of dollars in Democratic-funded attacks on the proposed Medicare overhaul go unchallenged in its own television advertising.

GOP officials said the presence of a third-party contender and other factors contributed to their unexpected defeat in New York. They accused Democrats of campaign scare tactics, while the Medicare plan's author, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., released a five-minute video defending his work.

Under Ryan's plan, for anyone younger than 55 the basic Medicare program for medical and hospital care would be replaced by a system in which insurance companies would offer coverage while the government contributed toward the cost of premiums. The program would remain unchanged for anyone 55 or older, including millions who currently receive benefits.

Kathy Hochul's victory over Republican Jane Corwin in a multi-candidate race was the best political news in months for Democrats, who were voted out of power in the House and lost seats in the Senate last year in what President Barack Obama memorably dubbed a shellacking. She gained 47 percent of the vote, to 43 percent for her rival and 9 percent for Jack Davis, a former Democrat who ran as a tea party contender.

At the same time, Democrats stressed they did not view the race as a reason to walk away from high-profile bipartisan deficit-reduction talks being led by Vice President Joe Biden.

For Republicans, the New York race provided fresh evidence of turbulence for a Medicare remake they tout as a long-term answer to the program's financing. In the weeks since they unveiled it, the proposal has been less than enthusiastically received by the public, judging from polls.

GOP presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich criticized it, and while he later apologized to Ryan he has not recanted his opposition. A second contender, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, said during the day he will have an alternative that differs in unspecified areas from the one in the party's budget in the House.

Israel and other Democrats said Hochul's victory showed that the Medicare-overhaul proposal would prove a political dead weight for Republicans in dozens of races in the 2012 congressional elections.

It also is likely to embolden liberals who are not generally supportive of deficit cuts now under negotiation on the order of trillions of dollars.

Yet public opinion polls show strong support for reining in deficits, particularly among independent voters. And Obama, readying for his own re-election campaign, has dispatched Biden and other top officials to negotiations aimed at reaching a compromise with Republicans.

"Budget talks are proceeding in good faith and will continue," said Nadeam Elshami, a spokesman for House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi.

The party's second-in-command in the House, Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, has said repeatedly that changes to Medicare should be on the table as part of deficit reduction talks, although he and others in his party remain implacably opposed to the Republicans proposal.

In an interview, Israel said Democrats would work with Republicans to strengthen Medicare "but not to do away with it."

Republicans want "to end Medicare as we know it," the president told an audience of invited guests last month, Ryan and other GOP lawmakers among them.

Democratic strategists have privately urged the party's leaders to criticize the overhaul plan, in part to try and regain the allegiance of older and independent voters who helped Republicans in the 2010 elections.

Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, chair of the Senate Democratic campaign organization, said she, too, intended to make use of the issue in the fall.

"I'm confident that Senate Democrats will be able to play offense in races across the country by remaining focused on the Republican effort to end Medicare in order to" cut taxes for the wealthiest Americans and big corporations, she said.

In the race in New York, Hochul injected the GOP Medicare plan into the campaign weeks ago. Running in a conservative district, she aired ads saying she wanted to reduce government spending while accusing Corwin of favoring Medicare cuts to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy.

Corwin quickly counterattacked, accusing Hochul of wanting to cut Social Security as well as Medicare.

Both the Democratic campaign committee and the House Majority PAC, an outside group aligned with the Democrats, also aired ads critical of the GOP Medicare plan.

But the National Republican Congressional Committee did not mention the issue in running as much as $400,000 worth of television advertising in the district around Buffalo and Rochester. Instead, the group ran a commercial linking Hochul to Pelosi, an echo of the type of ad that proved effective in the 2010 campaigns.

Paul Lindsay, a spokesman, declined to say whether the organization wished it had acted differently. But in the future, he said, "Republicans will take this result as a call to action to challenge Democrats at every turn on their irresponsible plan to bankrupt Medicare."

American Crossroads, an organization aligned with Republicans, spent more than $600,000 on television ads without seeking to counter the Democratic attacks.

Jonathan Collegio, a spokesman, said polling showed Medicare was the largest policy issue in the campaign "by a superslim and superlow plurality of 21 percent."

He said one out of five voters said it was the most important issue, yet five out of ten voted for Hochul. "When you look at it that way, it's really not the big deal that everyone made it out to be."

Hochul will be sworn in within days, the first Democrat to represent the district in four decades. She replaces Chris Lee, who resigned after shirtless photos he sent to a woman he'd flirted with on Craigslist surfaced online.

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