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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Lester, Varitek Lead Red Sox Over Phillies, Hamels Leaves Hurt

Lester, Varitek Lead Red Sox Over Phillies, Hamels Leaves Hurt

(credit: Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

PHILADELPHIA (AP) – Jon Lester tossed two-hit ball over seven shutout innings, Jason Varitek homered twice and the Boston Red Sox avoided a three-game sweep with a 5-2 win over the Philadelphia Phillies on Thursday.

The Phillies got a scare when lefty Cole Hamels was forced to leave soon after being struck on the glove hand by Adrian Gonzalez’s line drive in the fourth. The Phillies said X-rays were negative and Hamels will make his next start.

For full story go to:

http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/

Romney Visits Defunct Allentown Factory

Romney Visits Defunct Allentown Factory


ALLENTOWN, Pa. (AP) – Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney says President Barack Obama is trying to fix the economy, but doesn’t understand how it works.


The former Massachussetts governor is visiting Pennsylvania and taking Obama to task for saying if he hadn’t turned the economy around during his first years in office, he would face becoming a one-term president.


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Without Donations, Beloved Senior Center To Close

Without Donations, Beloved Senior Center To Close


PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Dancing at the Stiffel Center in South Philadelphia always brings smiles to the seniors who’ve been coming for years.

“You walk in and it’s a friendly face, a nice smile,” beams Evelyn Morowitz, a senior from Northeast Philadelphia who’s been a regular for six years.

Only now there is sadness behind the smiles as the center gets ready to close its doors to about 400 seniors.

“I think there are going to be hundreds of people who get up in the morning and wonder, ‘What am I going to do today?’” says Harry Azoff.

For full story go to:

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Teen Charged With Murder In Deadly Northeast Philadelphia Crash

Teen Charged With Murder In Deadly Northeast Philadelphia Crash


PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - Police identified 15-year-old responsible for a fatal crash in Northeast Philadelphia early Thursday morning.

It happened at about 2 a.m. near the intersection of Academy and Willits Roads.

A 22-year-old man, identified by police as Daniel Fouracre of Mallard Drive in Bensalem, was killed and several others were hospitalized.

According to accident investigators, 15-year-old Winston Charleston of the 7100 block of State Road took his mother’s Chrysler Sebring without her knowledge. Three other teens were also in the car with him as he allegedly sped off the Academy Road exit from I-95 without his headlights on.

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NJ Governor Christie Pares, Signs New Jersey budget Into Law

NJ Governor Christie Pares, Signs New Jersey budget Into Law


TRENTON, N.J. (AP) – New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has taken $900 million worth of spending out of the $30.6 billion budget submitted to him by the Democratic-controlled Legislature.

The line-item veto of the spending plan Christie announced Thursday averts a potential shutdown of nonessential government services. The new fiscal year starts Friday.

The budget the Republican governor signed adds $150 million in public school aid on top of his original budget. It also keeps $447 million for the state’s poorest schools, which was ordered by the state Supreme Court.

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NBA lockout looms as sides fail to reach deal

NBA lockout looms as sides fail to reach deal

AP Photo
NBA commissioner David Stern, right, and deputy commissioner Adam Silver speak to reporters after a meeting with the players' union, Thursday, June 30, 2011 in New York. Despite a three-hour meeting Thursday, the sides could not close the enormous gap that remained in their positions.

NEW YORK (AP) -- Union chief Billy Hunter said Thursday "it's obvious the lockout will happen tonight" after players and owners failed to reach a new collective bargaining agreement, potentially putting the 2011-12 season in jeopardy.

Despite a three-hour meeting Thursday and a final proposal from the players - which NBA leaders said would have raised average player salaries to $7 million in the sixth year of the deal - the sides could not close the enormous gulf between their positions.

"The problem is that there's such a gap in terms of the numbers, where they are and where we are, and we just can't find any way to bridge that gap," Hunter said.

The CBA expires at midnight, after which all league business is officially on hold, starting with the free agency period that would have opened Friday.

Commissioner David Stern said "with some sadness" he would recommend later Thursday to the labor relations committee that the first lockout since the 1998-99 season be imposed. Teams will be prohibited from having any contact with their players, who can't come to team facilities.

Once the NBA takes that action, two of four major professional sports in the United States will be locked out. The NFL locked out its players in March, and the two sides have been in discussions this week, trying to work toward a new deal.

"Needless to say we're disappointed that this is where we find ourselves," Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver said.

The last lockout reduced the 1998-99 season to just a 50-game schedule, the only time the NBA missed games for a work stoppage. Hunter said it's too early to be concerned about that.

"I hope it doesn't come down to that," he said. "Obviously, the clock is now running with regard to whether or not there will or will be a loss of games, and so I'm hoping that over the next month or so that there will be sort of a softening on their side and maybe we have to soften our position as well."

Despite frequent meetings this month, the sides just didn't make much progress.

Owners want to reduce the players' guarantee of 57 percent of basketball revenue and weren't interested in the players' offer to drop it to 54.3 percent - though players said that would have cut their salaries by $500 million over five years.

They sparred over the league's characterization of its "flex" salary cap proposal - players considered it a hard cap, which they oppose - and any chance of a last-minute deal was quickly lost Thursday when league officials said the union's move was in the wrong direction financially.

"I don't think we're closer; in fact it worries me that we're not closer. We have a huge philosophical divide," Stern said.

The NBA's summer league in Las Vegas already has been canceled, preseason games in Europe were never scheduled, and players might have to decide if they want to risk playing in this summer's Olympic qualifying tournaments without the NBA's help in securing insurance in case of injury.

The expected lockout comes exactly one year after one of the NBA's most anticipated days in recent years, when LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and the rest of the celebrated class of 2010 became free agents.

That free agency bonanza - highlight by the James, Wade, Chris Bosh trio in Miami - got the league started on a season where ticket and merchandise sales, ratings and buzz were all up. That weakened the owners' case that the system was broken beyond repair, but it also demonstrated why they wanted changes, with Stern saying owners feel pressured to spend as much as possible to prove their commitment to winning to fans.

"We had a great year in terms of the appreciation of our fans for our game. It just wasn't a profitable one for the owners, and it wasn't one that many of the smaller market teams particularly enjoyed or felt included in," Stern said. "The goal here has been to make the league profitable and to have a league where all 30 teams can compete."

Hunter said he hopes the two sides will meet again in the next two weeks.

The players' association seems unlikely, at least for now, to follow the NFLPA's model by decertifying and taking the battle into the court system, instead choosing to continue negotiations. Hunter said last week he felt owners believe the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis, which is debating the legality of the NFL's lockout, will uphold employers' rights to impose lockouts.

"We'll just continue to ask our fans to stick with us and remain patient with us. As players we want to play. That's who we are; we're basketball players," Lakers guard and union president Derek Fisher said. "Right now we're faced with dealing with the business aspect of our game. We're going to do it the same way we play basketball. We're going to work hard. We're going to be focused. We're going to be dedicated to getting the results that we want."

The NBA projected $300 million in losses this season and said it lost hundreds of millions in every season of this CBA, ratified in 2005. League officials said 22 of the 30 teams would lose money.

But owners don't just want to minimize their losses. They want to make a profit, along with developing a system in which small-market teams could compete with the biggest spenders. The Lakers and Mavericks, who won the last three NBA titles, are annually at the top of the list of highest payrolls.

So they took a hard-line stance from the start, with their initial proposal in 2010 calling for the institution of a hard salary cap system, along with massive reductions in contract lengths and elimination in contract guarantees. Though the proposal was withdrawn after a contentious meeting with players at the 2010 All-Star weekend, the league never moved from its wish list until recently.

About 90 percent of NBA players get paid from Nov. 15 through April 30, so they won't be missing checks for a while. But Stern has warned that the offers only get worse once a lockout starts, so the league could try to push through elements of its original proposal when bargaining resumes.

Like with the NFL lockout, NBA players won't be the only ones affected. Employees of teams and the league also face a very uncertain future. Stern admitted all options would be considered, including furloughs for his employees.

"The people who stand to have their livings impacted by a shutdown of our industry are going to have a negative view of both sides," Stern said. "I think our fans will tend to have a negative view of why can't you guys work this thing out."

APNewsBreak: Dad charged with attempted murder

APNewsBreak: Dad charged with attempted murder

AP Photo
This booking photo provided by the Saginaw Police Department shows 22-year-old Carlos Rico. Police say Rico abandoned his 4-year-old son along a West Texas highway, and the injured boy spent several hours alone in the dark before a passing motorist picked him up.

LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) -- A father accused of abandoning his 4-year-old son along a rural West Texas highway in the middle of the night was charged Thursday with attempted capital murder, prosecutors said.

32nd Judicial District Attorney Ann Reed said she upgraded the charge against Carlos Rico after talking with the Sweetwater police chief.

"As the facts of the case developed it became apparent that the more serious charges were appropriate," Reed told The Associated Press.

The first-degree felony charge replaces the child endangerment charge he faced after another man found his son along Interstate 20 near Sweetwater about 3 a.m. Tuesday. The 22-year-old father is accused of choking the boy and dumping him on the road about three hours before he was found.

Rico remained in the Nolan County jail on Thursday. It is not clear whether he has an attorney.

Police say the boy was picked up by a local high school basketball coach and taken to a hospital, where doctors removed at least 500 cactus spines from his body. He was released from the hospital Wednesday and has been placed into foster care.

Rico was driving from Lubbock to Saginaw when he abandoned his son, and he was taken into custody Tuesday by police in the Fort Worth suburb, Saginaw police spokesman Damon Ing told The Associated Press on Wednesday. Rico's cousin called police when Rico showed up to see him without his son, and investigators determined that Rico was the boy's father, he said.

Al Hunt, the Sweetwater High coach who found the boy, said he initially thought he was looking at a guardrail post until it moved.

"It took me seconds to realize, `it's a little kid there,'" the 54-year-old said.

He said he pulled over and, not seeing a vehicle that the child might have been in, ran across the road and scooped the boy into his arms. He said the boy's lips were cracked as if he were dehydrated, and that the only response the boy was able to give to his questions was to hold up four fingers when Hunt asked his age.

The boy's stepmother in Lubbock came to Sweetwater to be with him. The whereabouts of the boy's biological mother were not immediately known, and it was unclear if she is involved in his life.

Sweetwater is about 125 miles southeast of Lubbock.

Minn. braces for government shutdown over taxes

Minn. braces for government shutdown over taxes

AP Photo
Michael Brodkorb, Senate Republican spokesman, gives an update to reporters outside the governor's office Thursday, June 30, 2011 in St. Paul, Minn., as negotiations between Republican lawmakers and Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton continued in efforts to come to a budget agreement to avoid a government shutdown at midnight.

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) -- In an echo of the debate unfolding in Washington, Minnesota hurtled toward a midnight government shutdown Thursday in a dispute over taxes and spending that could force thousands of layoffs, bring road projects to a standstill and close state parks just ahead of the Fourth of July weekend.

As the deadline drew ever closer without a resolution, people rushed to get driver's and fishing licenses, and park officials began warning campers to pack their gear and leave.

Though nearly all states are having severe budget problems this year, Minnesota stood alone on the brink of a shutdown, thanks to Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton's determination to raise taxes on high-earners to close a $5 billion deficit and the Republican Legislature's refusal to go along.

Negotiations between Dayton and legislative leaders were fitful, starting and stopping with no outward signs of progress, and details were scant, since the two sides agreed to what they jokingly called "the cone of silence."

The showdown was something of a small-stage version of the drama taking shape in Washington between President Barack Obama and the Republicans over taxes and the debt ceiling.

Only four other states - Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Tennessee - have had shutdowns in the past decade, some lasting mere hours.

A stoppage in Minnesota would halt non-emergency road construction, shut the state zoo and Capitol, and stop child-care assistance for the poor. More than 40 state boards and agencies would go dark. Critical services, including the State Patrol, prisons, disaster response and federally funded health, welfare and food stamp programs, would not be affected.

State park officials told campers to strike their tents well before the deadline, even though there was still a chance of a deal. They said it would be too difficult to herd campers out in the middle of the night if talks failed.

In Afton State Park, near St. Paul, Rick Miller of Elko-New Market pushed up a camping trip with his 7-year-old son, Jack, to beat the shutdown. Miller originally hoped they could spend Thursday and Friday nights in the park on the picturesque St. Croix River, but he booked a campsite for Wednesday night.

"With the shutdown we decided we better come and get it in," he said. "We don't know how long it will be before we can get back into a state park." He added: "It's too bad they can't just get the job done."

Dayton is Minnesota's first Democratic governor in 20 years, and Republicans are running the entire Legislature for the first time in 38 years.

The governor has proposed raising taxes on couples earning more than $300,000 and individuals making more than $180,000. In an echo of the debate in Washington, Republicans have opposed any new taxes, arguing instead that the state should rely on spending cuts, including deeper reductions in health and welfare than Dayton is willing to accept.

Some GOP moderates have talked of breaking the impasse with other means of raising revenue, such as eliminating tax breaks or authorizing a casino. Dayton has said he is open to such ideas.

Republican leaders demanded the governor avert a shutdown by calling a special session to enact a "lights on" budget bill that would keep the state running while talks continued. But top Democrats said Dayton would not take such a step.

Some rank-and-file Republican lawmakers said they were starting to feel the pressure.

First-term Rep. Mike LeMieu said his constituents were about evenly split between the Republican line on spending and Dayton's tax push. He said the fallout could come in next year's legislative elections.

"I personally think the Republicans will probably be more damaged than the governor," he said. "The fact is that we're all up for re-election again next year, and he's not up for three years."

Though many states are having budget difficulties this year, those where political power is concentrated in a single party easily passed budgets. And some of those with divided government had healthy reserves, including Alaska, Iowa and Montana.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Lee Tosses 3rd Straight Shutout, Phillies Top Red Sox

Lee Tosses 3rd Straight Shutout, Phillies Top Red Sox

(credit: AP Photo/Barbara Johnston)

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -–Cliff Lee tossed a two-hitter for his third consecutive shutout and the Philadelphia Phillies beat Josh Beckett and the Boston Red Sox 5-0 Tuesday night.

In a series hailed as a potential World Series preview, Lee (9-5) and the Phillies dominated the opener.

Domonic Brown and Shane Victorino each hit a two-run homer for Philadelphia, which improved its major league-leading record to 50-30.

Lee didn’t allow a hit until Marco Scutaro led off the sixth with a line-drive single to left-center. The left-hander ran his career-best scoreless streak to 32 innings with his ninth career shutout and fourth this year.

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

Child Critically Injured In Alleged Fall Down Stairs In West Philadelphia, Police Investigating Abuse

Child Critically Injured In Alleged Fall Down Stairs In West Philadelphia, Police Investigating Abuse



PHILADELPHIA (CBS) —
Philadelphia police say they are investigating to determine if 3-year-old Joaquin Brewton, who was found critically injured inside a West Philadelphia apartment house, was a victim of child abuse.

Investigators say medics were called to an apartment house in the 4700 block of Chestnut Street just after 11:30 a.m. Wednesday morning, after the child’s godmother dialed “911,” claiming he had fallen down the steps from their 4th floor apartment.

Brewton was rushed to Childrens Hospital of Philadelphia and admitted in very critical condition.

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

Police: Texas man dumps 4-year-old son by highway

Police: Texas man dumps 4-year-old son by highway

AP Photo
This booking photo provided by the Saginaw Police Department shows 22-year-old Carlos Rico. Police say Rico abandoned his 4-year-old son along a West Texas highway, and the injured boy spent several hours alone in the dark before a passing motorist picked him up.

SWEETWATER, Texas (AP) -- A father abandoned his 4-year-old son along a West Texas highway, and the injured boy spent several hours alone in the dark before a passing motorist picked him up, police said.

Carlos Rico, 22, stopped his car along a cactus-lined stretch of Interstate 20 near Sweetwater at about 3 a.m. Tuesday and "threw the boy out of the car like a bag of garbage," Sweetwater police Chief Jim Kelley told the Abilene Reporter-News on Tuesday.

The boy was picked up about three hours later by the local high school basketball coach and taken to a hospital, where doctors removed at least 500 cactus spines from the child's body, Kelley said. The boy was in the state's custody on Wednesday.

"I've seen a lot of bad things. This is absolutely a first. I've never seen a 4-year-old angel left on the side of the road for dead. He's such a sweet little boy," he said.

Rico was driving from Lubbock to Saginaw when he abandoned his son, and he was taken into custody Tuesday by police in the Fort Worth suburb, Saginaw police spokesman Damon Ing told The Associated Press on Wednesday. Rico's cousin called police when Rico showed up to see him without his son, and investigators determined that Rico was the father of the boy found near Sweetwater, he said.

Rico told Saginaw investigators that God told him to choke the boy and expel him from the car, Kelley said. There was bruising on the boy's throat, he said.

Ing said Rico had been charged with child endangerment and did not have a lawyer representing him. His bond was set at $50,000.

Al Hunt, the motorist who found the boy, said he initially thought he was looking at a guardrail post until it moved.

"It took me seconds to realize, `it's a little kid there,'" the 54-year-old coach said.

He said he pulled over and, not seeing a vehicle the child might have been in, ran across the road and scooped the boy into his arms. He said the boy's lips were cracked as if he were dehydrated, and that the only response the boy gave to his questions was when he held up four fingers when Hunt asked his age.

"He didn't say a word to me. He didn't say a word to anybody. He never said a word," Hunt said.

Kelley said Rico would be brought to Sweetwater, about 225 miles west of Dallas, where he could face additional charges, including attempted murder or attempted capital murder, which could apply because the boy is younger than 6, he said.

The boy's stepmother in Lubbock came to Sweetwater to be with him. The whereabouts of the boy's biological mother were not immediately known, and it was unclear if she is involved in his life.

Marleigh Meisner, a spokeswoman for Child Protective Services, told The Associated Press that there is no history of abuse involving the boy's family. She said a custody hearing is set for July 7.

Obama reaps victory as judges uphold health law

Obama reaps victory as judges uphold health law

AP Photo
FILE - In a June 13, 2011 file photo, President Barack Obama speaks to a group of supporters at a Miami fundraiser, where he launched his bid for reelection in Florida. In the first ruling by a federal appeals court on Obama's health care overhaul, a judicial panel in Cincinnati on Wednesday, June 29, 2011, affirmed an earlier ruling that Congress can require Americans to have minimum insurance coverage.

CINCINNATI (AP) -- In the first ruling by a federal appeals court on President Barack Obama's health care overhaul, a panel in Cincinnati handed the administration a victory Wednesday by agreeing that the government can require a minimum amount of insurance for Americans.

A Republican-appointed judge joined with a Democratic appointee for the 2-1 majority in another milestone for Obama's hotly debated signature domestic initiative - the first time a Republican federal court appointee has affirmed the merits of the law.

The White House and Justice Department hailed the panel's affirmation of an earlier ruling by a federal court in Michigan; opponents of the law said challenges will continue to the U.S. Supreme Court.

At issue is a conservative law center's lawsuit arguing on behalf of plaintiffs that potentially requiring them to buy insurance or face penalties could subject them to financial hardship. The suit warns that the law is too broad and could lead to more federal mandates.

The Thomas More Law Center, based in Ann Arbor, Mich., argued before the panel that the law was unconstitutional and that Congress overstepped its powers.

The government countered that the measure was needed for the overall goal of reducing health care costs and reforms such as protecting people with pre-existing conditions. It said the coverage mandate will help keep the costs of changes from being shifted to households and providers.

White House adviser Stephanie Cutter called the ruling "another victory" for millions of Americans and small businesses benefiting from the overhaul.

"At the end of the day, we are confident the constitutionality of these landmark reforms will be upheld," she said in a statement.

The law center predicted its case would have a good shot on appeal.

"Clearly our case won't resolve all the issues, because we don't raise the state rights issue, but we are the only one that is currently ripe for Supreme Court review that raises the challenge on behalf of an individual," said David Yerushalmi, an attorney for the law center.

The three-judge 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel delivered a lengthy opinion with disagreement on some issues, moving unusually quickly in delivering its decision less than a month after hearing oral arguments.

"Congress had a rational basis for concluding that the minimum coverage provision is essential to the Affordable Care Act's larger reforms to the national markets in health care delivery and health insurance," Judge Boyce F. Martin, appointed by former President Jimmy Carter, wrote for the majority.

A George W. Bush appointee concurred; a Ronald Reagan appointee who is a U.S. district judge in Columbus sitting on the panel disagreed. Judges are selected for panels through random draw.

"If the exercise of power is allowed and the mandate upheld, it is difficult to see what the limits on Congress' Commerce Clause authority would be," warned dissenting Judge James Graham of Columbus. "What aspect of human activity would escape federal power?"

Judge Jeffrey Sutton, the Bush appointee, delivered the decisive vote, although his opinion raised questions and noted the unusual nature of a law directed at someone who chooses inaction, referring to those "who prize that most American of freedoms: to be left alone."

But the government argued that telling someone to buy health insurance, something that virtually everyone needs and is part of a sweeping effort, isn't the same as ordering them to buy a car or a vegetable.

"The novelty of the individual mandate may indeed suggest it is a bridge too far, but it also may offer one more example of a policy necessity giving birth to an inventive (and constitutional) congressional solution," Sutton wrote.

The opinion by Sutton, a well-respected conservative jurist, will be studied closely by other courts, said a law professor at Virginia's University of Richmond.

"His opinion is comprehensive and cautious and careful, but I think it comes out to pretty much the same conclusion as Judge Martin's," Carl Tobias said in a telephone interview.

An attorney for Thomas More said the center expects to appeal. It could ask for the full circuit court to review the case or go on to the U.S. Supreme Court. The 16-seat 6th Circuit has one vacancy.

Among those supporting the center in court documents in the case - titled Thomas More Law Center, et al, vs. Barack Hussein Obama, et al - were Republican presidential candidates Michelle Bachmann and Ron Paul and several other members of Congress including Rep. Jean Schmidt, R-Ohio.

More than 30 legal challenges have been filed over the health care overhaul, some focusing on different issues such as states' rights. Earlier decisions at the U.S. district court level have found Republican-appointed judges opposing and Democrat-appointed judges affirming.

Confrontational Obama rebukes GOP on debt talks

Confrontational Obama rebukes GOP on debt talks

AP Photo
President Barack Obama gestures during a news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, June 29, 2011.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- In a blistering rebuke of Republicans, President Barack Obama on Wednesday pressed lawmakers to accept tax increases as part of a deal to cut the nation's deficits and avoid a crippling government default. "Let's get it done," Obama challenged, chiding Congress for frequent absences from Washington.

Senators from Obama's own Democratic Party quickly said they'd consider canceling next week's July 4 recess to work on a possible agreement, and as the day went on senators said they assumed they would stay.

In a White House news conference, Obama offered one fresh wrinkle to try to give the economy and pessimistic voters a lift, calling on Congress to pass a one-year extension of the Social Security payroll tax cut that employees got this year. But he used most of the hour-long session to try to sway public opinion his way on the debt debate consuming Washington.

Obama accused Republicans of intransigence over tax hikes, comparing their leaders to procrastinating children and painting them as putting millionaires, oil companies and jet owners ahead of needy students. One Democratic official said that in talks to date, the administration was seeking roughly $400 billion in higher tax revenue over the next decade.

Responding quickly to the news conference, the Republican House Speaker, Rep. John Boehner of Ohio, shot back that the president was ignoring reality.

"His administration has been burying our kids and grandkids in new debt and offered no plan to rein in spending," Boehner said as the day's events seemed only to entrench both sides. "The president is sorely mistaken if he believes a bill to raise the debt ceiling and raise taxes would pass the House. The votes simply aren't there."

Obama insisted he wouldn't support a deal to cut the deficit unless it includes higher tax revenue, not just spending cuts. Republicans have refused to consider that. The stalemate threatens to derail an extension of the nation's $14.3 trillion debt limit, which in turn could lead the government into an unprecedented default.

"They need to do their job," Obama said of Republicans. "Now's the time to go ahead and make the tough choices."

Professing optimism - but with a bite - the president said, "Call me naive, but my expectation is that leaders are going to lead."

Obama's aggressive response came with the country souring on the recovery, the Republican presidential contenders taking aim at his economic record and GOP leaders in Congress challenging him to show more leadership in the debt stalks. His re-election hinges on the economy, and Obama is trying to restore a sense of public confidence.

The Treasury Department says the government is on pace to begin failing to pay its bills by Aug. 2 unless Congress votes to allow the limit on federal debt to rise.

Obama declared that is a "hard deadline" and warned that waiting too long could spook capital markets and prompt investors to bail. Here, too, he tried to put heat on Congress by saying lawmakers should cancel any plans to take days off in July if they can't make substantial progress by the end of this week.

Democratic Senate leaders met later with Obama at the White House and sent word they were considering canceling next week's scheduled recess.

"I think we are going to be here" next week, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D., said. "No announcement has been made, but to me it's pretty clear."

Conrad said he would unveil a Senate Democratic budget that Democratic senators on his panel signed off on Wednesday. He said there would not be a vote on the plan.

Before that, Republican Rand Paul of Kentucky said that if the Democrats keep the Senate schedule "they are running from this debate." And Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., said, "The fact that anyone would even consider recessing at this point in time is absurd."

The House, under Republican control, has been in recess this week but is to return on Tuesday. Democrats hold a majority in the Senate.

Obama said even his daughters, 12-year-old Malia and 10-year-old Sasha, get their homework done ahead of deadline. "Congress can do the same thing," the president said. "If you know you've got to do something, just do it."

Obama sought to reframe the entire debt debate in terms people would care about, accusing Republicans of protecting tax breaks for corporate jet owners on the backs of college students who would lose their federal aid - even though there is no direct relationship between that tax provision and any particular budget cut. He spoke of eliminating tax cuts that favor the rich and oil companies - "I don't think that's real radical" he said - but Republicans contend the White House is pursuing far broader tax changes that would undermine job creation.

At his first formal White House news conference in more than three months, Obama also pushed back against Republican criticism of the U.S.-aided military campaign in Libya, saying congressional concerns about consultation were not substantive.

And he even took a sharp tone toward the business leaders that his White House has tried to court. "The business community is always complaining about regulations," he said in response to one question. "Frankly, they want to be able to do whatever they think is going to maximize their profits."

The president stepped to the podium not long after the International Monetary Fund publicly urged lawmakers to raise the U.S. debt limit, now $14.3 trillion, and warned that failure to do so could produce a spike in interest rates and "severe shock to the economy and world financial markets."

Obama also spoke on the same day that Senate Republicans announced support for a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution that would establish a new requirement for a two-thirds majority of each house of Congress to raise taxes. "Washington has to stop spending money we don't have," said Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.

On the deficit, Obama said both parties must be prepared to "take on their sacred cows" as part of the negotiations, with Democrats accepting cuts in government programs.

Republicans in Congress have been insistent in recent days that any deficit reduction be limited to spending cuts, including reductions in benefit programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, and exclude additional revenues.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said Wednesday that Obama "can't call for tax hikes and job creation. It's one or the other."

At Obama's behest, Vice President Joe Biden met for weeks with bipartisan teams from the House and Senate on a package to cut the deficit and, in turn, earn support to raise the debt limit to pay for costs already incurred. Democrats proposed about $400 billion in additional tax revenue, including ending subsidies to oil and gas companies.

The talks halted when Republicans said there was an impasse over the tax issue, and they called on Obama to get more involved.

He bristled over that at the news conference and suggested that ultimately Republicans will give ground on the need to raise revenue, not just cut spending.

"Here in Washington, a lot of people say a lot of things to satisfy their base or to get on a cable news," he said, "Hopefully, leaders at a certain point rise to the occasion and they do the right thing for the American people."

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Basketball: Temple Product Candice Dupree Now a WNBA Star

Basketball: Temple Product Candice Dupree Now a WNBA Star

(Candice Dupree makes a jump shot during game 1 of the 2010 WNBA Western Conference Semifinals on August 26, 2010.  Copyright 2010, NBAE.  Photo by PA Molumby/NBAE via Getty Images)

Candice Dupree makes a jump shot during game 1 of the 2010 WNBA Western Conference Semifinals on August 26, 2010.

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - Candice Dupree left quite a legacy at her alma mater. By the time she was selected sixth overall by Chicago in the 2006 WNBA Draft, she was the second all-time scorer and third all-time rebounder in the history of Temple women’s hoops.

Throw in two Atlantic-10 “Player of the Year” awards and a pair of Big 5 “Player of the Year” awards, and it’s safe to say that Dupree created some pretty lofty expectations for her pro career.

For full story go to:

http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/

NJ Gov. Christie Signs Bill Cutting Public Employee Benefits

NJ Gov. Christie Signs Bill Cutting Public Employee Benefits

(Photo by David Madden)

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) – New Jersey governor Chris Christie has signed into law landmark employee benefits legislation requiring a half-million public workers to pay more for pension and health benefits.

Christie says the move is necessary to shore up the state’s badly underfunded retirement systems. He predicts New Jersey’s fix will be emulated nationally by other states facing similar shortfalls.

For full story go to:

http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/

Coburn, Lieberman seek to raise Medicare age to 67

Coburn, Lieberman seek to raise Medicare age to 67

AP Photo
FILE - In this June 14, 2011 file photo, Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., talks with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington. Taking aim at huge federal deficits, two Senate rebels outline a plan to raise the age of eligibility for Medicare from 65 to 67 and to charge wealthier seniors more for their care. The proposal by Sens. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., and Coburn, come as budget negotiators face an early August deadline to reach a deal to raise the debt limit.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Two Senate rebels jumped into Congress' cut-the-deficit competition on Tuesday, proposing to raise the age of Medicare eligibility to 67 and increase monthly premiums for millions of current beneficiaries.

"We can't save Medicare as we know it," said Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., who authored the plan with Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma. "We can only save Medicare if we change it," he added in an apparent jab at President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats.

Democrats reacted with criticism of the proposal, which Coburn said was designed to rescue the financially imperiled program and help the nation confront a "wall of debt." Republicans betrayed no sign of support either.

If nothing else, the response underscored the difficulty of legislative free-lancing at a time the Obama administration and congressional leaders are struggling to negotiate a compromise that cuts future deficits and clears the way for an increase in the nation's $14.3 trillion debt.

Without a debt limit increase by Aug. 2, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has warned, the government could default, risking calamity for the U.S. economy and serious effects worldwide.

Republicans walked out of bipartisan talks last week but nevertheless said negotiations had been fruitful. In the days since, Obama has stepped up his personal involvement in the effort.

After meeting separately with the Senate's Republican and Democratic leaders on Monday, he invited the Democratic leadership to a White House meeting on Wednesday.

In the earlier talks, led by Vice President Joe Biden, key lawmakers had outlined a series of proposals to cut several hundred billion dollars over the next decade.

Other proposed cuts were on the table, including nearly $1 trillion from the assumed end of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Officials familiar with the negotiations say Republicans are reluctant to count that money toward any agreement, saying they want more tangible cuts in domestic programs before agreeing to vote for an increased debt limit.

Also in the way of an agreement is a partisan dispute over taxes, which Republicans don't want raised, and Medicare benefits, which Democrats don't want cut.

Lieberman and Coburn were not nearly as reluctant, including both in their prescription for Medicare.

"Nobody's going to like this plan, we understand that," said Lieberman, who was the Democratic vice presidential candidate in 2000 but is now an independent who regularly picks spots to challenge his former party.

His statement that Medicare can't be saved in its current form seemed a direct rebuttal to Obama, who said earlier this year that a House Republican proposal would "end Medicare as we know it" - something he vowed would not happen while he was in the White House.

Coburn is a conservative Republican. But he challenged his party orthodoxy earlier this year when he said he was willing to include higher revenues as part of any deficit-reduction deal.

The plan the two men outlined includes a gradual increase over the next five years in the monthly premium that seniors pay for doctor and other non-hospital services. Aides said it would translate into a monthly increase of $15 to $20 initially.

The age of eligibility would rise gradually from 65 to 67.

For the first time, better-off seniors would be charged more money for Medicare Part A, which covers hospital care.

The same group already pays more for doctor visits as well as for prescription drug coverage and, under the plan, would face even higher monthly premiums.

A major source of savings would come from making sure seniors pay out of pocket for at least a portion of their care. To accomplish that, Lieberman and Coburn proposed barring insurance companies from selling Medigap policies that offer first-dollar coverage.

The plan by Lieberman and Coburn would preserve Medicare as a government program, unlike a House GOP proposal that would require millions of future beneficiaries to purchase coverage from private insurance companies.

Additionally, the plan includes a $7,500 limit on out-of-pocket costs for doctor or hospital coverage, a provision designed to protect seniors who face potentially catastrophic costs.

According to the most recent report by the Medicare trustees, the giant program's insurance fund is projected to run out of money in 2024, five years earlier than last year's estimate.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Halladay, Rollins Lead Phillies Over Athletics

Halladay, Rollins Lead Phillies Over Athletics

(credit: AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Matt Slocum

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Roy Halladay pitched his NL-leading fifth complete game and Jimmy Rollins went 4 for 4, leading the Philadelphia Phillies to a 3-1 win over the Oakland Athletics on Sunday.

Halladay (10-3) gave up eight hits and walked none in tying for the major league high in victories. He struck out four, raising his NL-topping total to 123.

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

NC St national championship hero Charles killed

NC St national championship hero Charles killed

AP Photo
FILE- This April 4, 1983 file photo shows North Carolina State's Lorenzo Charles (43) dunking the ball in the basket to give N.C. State a 54-52 win over Houston in the NCAA Championship game in Albuquerque, N.M. A tour bus official says the former North Carolina State basketball star , was killed when a bus he was driving crashed in Raleigh. Charles was 47.

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- Lorenzo Charles, the muscular forward whose last-second dunk gave underdog North Carolina State a stunning win in the 1983 national college championship game, was killed Monday when a bus he was driving crashed along a highway, a company official said Monday.

Elite Coach general manager Brad Jackson said Charles, 47, worked for the company and was driving one of its buses on Interstate 40. No passengers were aboard.

He grabbed Dereck Whittenburg's 30-foot shot and dunked it at the buzzer to give the Wolfpack a 54-52 win over heavy favorite Houston and its second national title, sending coach Jim Valvano spilling onto the court, scrambling for someone to hug in what has become one of the lasting images of the NCAA tournament.

Whittenburg was despondent when discussing his teammate and friend with The Associated Press.

"It's just an awful day," Whittenburg said. "An awful, awful day."

Charles secured his spot in N.C. State lore in the final moments of that game in Albuquerque, N.M., to cap off an improbable run to the championship. N.C. State entered the NCAA tournament with a 17-10 record, having beaten Virginia to win the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament and an automatic berth into the national field. No one expected much.

"It's still kind of amazing to me that ... people are still talking about it," Charles said in an excerpt from his comments about the championship game on his N.C. State Web page. "I remember when (it) first happened, I figured I would have my 15 minutes of fame and that would be it. Here we are and it is still a conversational piece. I don't really think that was the only great Final Four finish that has been played since then, but for some reason people just single out that game and talk about it. Maybe because it was such a David and Goliath thing."

Police released little about the one-vehicle crash that took Charles' life. Video shows the windshield broken out with tree limbs sticking through the window frame. The rear wheels of the bus were on an embankment, leaving the right front tire elevated from the road.

Charles finished his college career two years after the championship win with 1,535 total points - 15th on the school's scoring list - and his .575 shooting percentage in 1985 remains a school record for seniors.

In the 1983 run, Charles hit two free throws with 23 seconds left in the West Regional finals against the Cavaliers to give the Wolfpack a 63-62 win and the spot in the Final Four.

Their semifinal win over Georgia sent them to the matchup with the Cougars, known as Phi Slamma Jamma in those years and led by stars Clyde Drexler and Hakeem Olajuwon.

Michael Young, director of basketball operations at Houston, was a member of the team that let a national championship slip away. He told KRIV-TV in Houston that he's never quite gotten over Charles' heroics.

"For him to dunk the ball at that moment to win the game, it was one of the most heartbreaking moments I have ever felt in my whole career," Young said. "Twenty-eight years later, it's still with me. Every day somebody asks me about it. I thought I was going to get away with it today and then you called me. I'm very sorry to hear what happened."

Valvano also became famous for his emotional burst onto the court afterward, running around almost in disbelief. Valvano died in 1993 after his public fight with cancer.

NC State retired Charles' No. 43 jersey in 2008, the 25th anniversary of the championship.

Thurl Bailey, one of Charles' teammates on the championship team, said it's tough to accept that the player who made the game-winning dunk is gone.

"But I heard someone say, I was talking to them on the phone about this, that Jimmy V finally found somebody to hug," Bailey told WRAL-TV.

Current coach Mark Gottfried said his staff had just gotten acquainted with Charles and was saddened to hear the news.

"He holds a special place in Wolfpack history and in the hearts of generations of fans," Gottfried said in a statement. "We just reconnected with him last week and our staff was stunned to hear this terrible news."

ACC Commissioner John Swofford said Charles' play had an uplifting impact.

"As a former player, he made us believe in the amazing and all of us in the ACC send out our thoughts and prayers to his entire family," Swofford said in a statement.

Charles played one season in the NBA, averaging 3.4 points in 36 games with the Atlanta Hawks in 1985-86, and played internationally and in the Continental Basketball Association until 1999.

A message left on a phone listed to Lorenzo Charles wasn't immediately returned Monday night.

FACT CHECK: Bachmann bomblets raising eyebrows

FACT CHECK: Bachmann bomblets raising eyebrows

AP Photo
Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., waves to supporters before making her formal announcement to seek the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, Monday, June 27, 2011, in Waterloo, Iowa. Bachmann, who was born in Waterloo, will continue her announcement tour this week with stops in New Hampshire and South Carolina.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Michele Bachmann's claim that she has "never gotten a penny" from a family farm that's been subsidized by the government is at odds with her financial disclosure statements. They show tens of thousands in personal income from the operation.

And, on a less-substantive note, she flubbed her hometown history when declaring "John Wayne was from Waterloo, Iowa," and "that's the kind of spirit that I have, too," in running for president.

The actor was born nearly 150 miles away. It was the serial killer John Wayne Gacy Jr. who lived, for a time, in Waterloo.

Those were among the latest examples of how the Minnesota congresswoman has become one to watch - for inaccuracies as well as rising support - in the Republican presidential race.

Bachmann's wildly off-base assertion last month that a NATO airstrike might have killed as many as 30,000 Libyan civilians, her misrepresentations of the health care law, misfires on other aspects of President Barack Obama's record and historical inaccuracies have saddled her with a reputation for uttering populist jibes that don't hold up.

She announced her candidacy Monday in Iowa with a speech typical for someone joining the campaign. It laid out the broad themes of her candidacy and mostly avoided the Bachmann bomblets that have grabbed attention - and often fizzled under scrutiny - in the long lead-up.

The more the political season heats up, the more that exaggerations and sound-bite oversimplifications emanate from the Republicans going after Obama - and from the Democrats playing defense. Still, Bachmann's record on this score is distinct.

Examining 24 of her statements, Politifact.com, the Pulitzer Prize-winning fact-checking service of the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times, found just one to be fully true and 17 to be false (seven of them "pants on fire" false). No other Republican candidate whose statements have been vigorously vetted matched that record of inaccuracy.

A look at some of her recent statements and how they compare with the facts:

BACHMANN: "The farm is my father-in-law's farm. It's not my husband and my farm. It's my father-in-law's farm. And my husband and I have never gotten a penny of money from the farm." - On "Fox News Sunday."

THE FACTS: In personal financial disclosure reports required annually from members of Congress, Bachmann reported that she holds an interest in a family farm in Independence, Wis., with her share worth between $100,000 and $250,000.

The farm, which was owned by her father-in-law, produced income for Bachmann of at least $32,500 and as much as $105,000 from 2006 through 2009, according to the reports she filed for that period. The farm also received federal crop and disaster subsidies, according to a database maintained by the Environmental Working Group. From 1995 through 2010, the farm got $259,332 in federal payments.

When asked about the subsidies and her income from the farm late last year, a spokesman for Bachmann said only that she wasn't involved in decisions about the running of the farm.

Bachmann told The Associated Press on Monday that her husband became a trustee of the farm because his father had dementia before he died two years ago, and "oversees the legal entity."

"Everything we do with those forms is in an abundance of caution," she said, insisting she and her husband receive no farm income despite the forms reporting it.

---

BACHMANN: "Well what I want them to know is, just like John Wayne was from Waterloo, Iowa, that's the kind of spirit that I have, too." - Speaking to Fox News on Sunday.

Wayne was born in Winterset, Iowa, nearly three hours away, and moved to California in his childhood. John Wayne Gacy, convicted of killing 33 men and boys, was born in Chicago, moved to Waterloo to work in his father-in-law's chicken restaurants and first ran afoul of the law there, sentenced to 10 years for sodomy. He began his killing spree after his release, and his return to Illinois.

---

BACHMANN: "Overnight we are hearing that potentially 10 to 30,000 people could have been killed in the strike." - Criticizing Obama in May for the "foolish" U.S. intervention in Libya, and citing what she said were reports of a civilian death toll from a NATO strike as high as 30,000.

THE FACTS: The U.S. ambassador to Libya, Gene Cretz, said in late April that U.S. officials have seen reports that 10,000 to 30,000 people may have died in Moammar Gadhafi's crackdown on protesters and the fighting between rebels and pro-government forces, but it is hard to know if that is true. He was speaking about all casualties of the conflict; no one has attributed such a death toll to NATO bombing alone, much less to a single strike.

---

BACHMANN: "It's ironic and sad that the president released all of the oil from the strategic oil reserve. ... There's only a limited amount of oil that we have in the strategic oil reserve. It's there for emergencies." - On CBS' "Face the Nation" on Sunday.

THE FACTS: Obama did not empty all the oil from the strategic reserve, as Bachmann said. He approved the release of 30 million barrels, about 4 percent of the 727 million barrels stored in salt caverns along the Texas and Louisiana coasts. It's true that the U.S. normally taps the reserve for more dire emergencies than exist today, and that exposes Obama to criticism that he acted for political gain. But the reserve has never been fuller; it held 707 million barrels when last tapped, after 2008 hurricanes.

---

BACHMANN: "One. That's the number of new drilling permits under the Obama administration since they came into office." - Comment to a conservative conference in Iowa in March.

THE FACTS: The Obama administration issued more than 200 new drilling permits before the Gulf oil spill alone. Over the past year, since new safety standards were imposed, the administration has issued more than 60 shallow-water drilling permits. Since the deep water moratorium was lifted in October, nine new wells have been approved.

Jury convicts ex-Ill. Gov. Blagojevich at retrial

Jury convicts ex-Ill. Gov. Blagojevich at retrial

AP Photo
Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich greets supporters as he arrives home in Chicago, Monday, June 27, 2011, after a jury convicted him of 17 of the 20 charges against him, including all 11 charges related to his attempt to sell or trade President Barack Obama's vacated Senate seat.

CHICAGO (AP) -- Rod Blagojevich, who won two terms as Illinois governor before scandal made him a national punch line, was convicted Monday of a wide range of corruption charges, including trying to sell President Barack Obama's Senate seat.

The verdict, coming after his first trial ended last year with the jury deadlocked on most charges, was a bitter defeat for Blagojevich, who spent 2 1/2 years professing his innocence on reality TV shows and later on the witness stand. His defense team insisted that hours of FBI wiretap recordings were just the ramblings of a politician who liked to think out loud.

Blagojevich becomes the second straight Illinois governor convicted of corruption. His predecessor, George Ryan, is now serving 6 1/2 years in federal prison.

When sentenced later this year, Blagojevich is virtually certain to get a significant prison term that experts said could be 10 to 15 years.

After hearing the verdict, Blagojevich turned to defense attorney Sheldon Sorosky and asked "What happened?" His wife, Patti, slumped against her brother, then rushed into her husband's arms.

Before the decision was read, the couple looked flushed, and the former governor blew his wife a kiss across the courtroom, then stood expressionless, with his hands clasped tightly.

The verdict capped a long-running spectacle in which Blagojevich became famous for blurting on a recorded phone call that his ability to appoint Obama's successor to the Senate was "f---ing golden" and that he wouldn't let it go "for f---ing nothing."

The 54-year-old Democrat, who has been free on bond since shortly after his arrest, spoke only briefly with reporters as he left the courthouse, saying he was disappointed and stunned by the verdict.

"Well, among the many lessons I've learned from this whole experience is to try to speak a little bit less, so I'm going to keep my remarks kind of short," Blagojevich said, adding that the couple wanted "to get home to our little girls and talk to them and explain things to them and then try to sort things out." His two daughters are 8 and 14.

The case exploded into scandal when Blagojevich was awakened by federal agents on Dec. 9, 2008, at his Chicago home and was led away in handcuffs. Federal prosecutors had been investigating his administration for years, and some of his closest cronies had already been convicted.

Blagojevich was swiftly impeached and removed from office.

The verdict provided affirmation to U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, one of the nation's most prominent prosecutors, who, after the governor's arrest, had condemned Blagojevich's dealings as a "political corruption crime spree."

On Monday, he said the key question for the jury was whether to accept the defense suggestion that Blagojevich's activities amounted to "the kind of political wheeling and dealing that is common in Illinois and around the country."

"That," said Fitzgerald, his voice rising, "couldn't be any further from the truth. ... Selling a Senate seat, shaking down a children's hospital and squeezing a person to give money before you sign a bill that benefits them is not a gray area. It's a crime."

Fitzgerald also addressed a question that has hung over the case ever since Blagojevich was arrested: Why did authorities not wait until the governor actually made a deal for the Senate seat? Doing so might have helped ensnare other conspirators.

A U.S. Senate seat "should not be put up for sale. You should not let the sale happen. ... Our job is to try to prevent crime, not just prosecute crime," he said.

Fitzgerald pledged to retry the governor after the first jury failed to reach a decision on all but the least serious of 24 charges against him.

On Monday, the jury voted to convict on 17 of 20 counts after deliberating nine days. Blagojevich also faces up to five additional years in prison for his previous conviction of lying to the FBI.

Blagojevich was acquitted of soliciting bribes in the alleged shakedown of a road-building executive. The jury deadlocked on two charges of attempted extortion related to that executive and funding for a school.

Judge James Zagel has barred Blagojevich from traveling outside the area without permission. A status hearing to discuss sentencing was set for Aug. 1.

The charges carry a possible sentence up to 300 years in prison, but federal guidelines mean he will serve only a fraction of that.

Judges have enormous discretion in sentencing and can factor in a host of variables, including whether a defendant took the stand and lied. Prosecutors have said that Blagojevich did just that.

Two legal experts speculated that Blagojevich would probably receive around 10 years in prison, with little chance that he would get more than 15.

Former prosecutor Jeff Cramer estimated that Blagojevich would get between six and 12 years. Another former assistant U.S. attorney, Phil Turner, guessed closer to six years.

All 12 jurors - 11 women and one man - spoke to reporters after the verdict, identifying themselves only by juror numbers. Their full names were to be released Tuesday.

Jurors said the evidence that Blagojevich tried to secure a high-paying, high-powered position in exchange for the appointment of Obama's successor in the Senate was the clearest in the case.

"There was so much more evidence to go on," said Juror No. 140. Jury members said they listened and re-listened to recordings of Blagojevich's phone conversations with aides. They also acknowledged finding the former governor likable.

"He was personable," Juror No. 103 said. "It made it hard to separate what we actively had to do as jurors."

Still, Juror No. 140 said she found Blagojevich's testimony over seven days at times "manipulative."

"Our verdict shows that we didn't believe it," she said.

The quiet Blagojevich who left the courthouse Monday was a sharp contrast with the combative politician who emerged after his arrest. Back then, he called federal prosecutors "cowards and liars" and challenged Fitzgerald to face him in court if he was "man enough."

Over the months that followed, he engaged in what many saw as embarrassing indignities for a former governor. He sent his wife to the jungle for a reality television show, "I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here," where she had to eat a tarantula. He later showed his own ineptitude at simple office skills before being fired on Donald Trump's "Celebrity Apprentice."

For the second trial, prosecutors streamlined their case, and attorneys for the former governor put on a defense - highlighted by a chatty Blagojevich taking the witness stand for seven days to portray himself as a big talker but not a criminal.

Richard Kling, a professor at Chicago-Kent College of Law who watched much of the trial, said the defense had no choice but to put Blagojevich on the stand, even though doing so was risky.

"The problem was with some of his explanations," Kling said. "It reminded me of a little kid who gets his hand caught in a cookie jar. He says, `Mommy I wasn't taking the cookies. I was just trying to protect them and to count them.'"

Robert Grant, head of the FBI's Chicago office, said the agency's eavesdropping helped seal the verdict.

"A famous artist once said that lady justice is blind, but she has very sophisticated listening devices, and that was certainly the case in this matter," Grant said.

Blagojevich seemed to believe he could talk his way out of trouble from the witness stand. He sought to counteract the blunt, greedy man he appeared to be on FBI wiretaps and apologized to jurors for the four-letter words that peppered the recordings.

He said the wiretaps merely displayed his approach to decision-making: to invite a whirlwind of ideas - "good ones, bad ones, stupid ones" - then toss the ill-conceived ones out.

When a prosecutor read wiretap transcripts where Blagojevich seems to speak clearly of trading the Senate seat for a job, Blagojevich told jurors, "I see what I say here, but that's not what I meant."

Lead prosecutor Reid Schar started his questioning of Blagojevich with a quick verbal punch: "Mr. Blagojevich, you are a convicted liar, correct?"

After the judge overruled a flurry of defense objections, Blagojevich eventually answered: "Yes."

Friday, June 24, 2011

76ers Introduce Newest Draft Picks: Nikola Vucevic, Lavoy Allen

76ers Introduce Newest Draft Picks: Nikola Vucevic, Lavoy Allen

(Photo by Ed Benkin)

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - One day after selecting USC center Nikola Vucevic (1st round, 16th) and Temple University forward Lavoy Allen (2nd round, 50th) in the NBA Draft, the Sixers introduced the two young, big men to Philadelphia.

Sixers’ president Rod Thorn (in center of photo) said the arrival of Allen (left) and Vucevic helps fill the Sixers’ most pressing need.

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

Philadelphia School District, Union Reach Agreement To Move Forward With Layoffs

Philadelphia School District, Union Reach Agreement To Move Forward With Layoffs

(L-R: Philadelphia School District assistant superintendent Lee Nunery, superintendent Arlene Ackerman, and School Reform Commission chair Robert Archie.) credit Mike DeNardo

(L-R: Philadelphia School District assistant superintendent Lee Nunery, superintendent Arlene Ackerman, and School Reform Commission chair Robert Archie.)

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Most of the roughly 1,500 who received layoff notices earlier this month will lose their jobs next week. However, nearly 350 teachers entangled in a legal dispute between the School District and teachers union will remain on the payroll until their status is sorted out through the arbitration process.

The arbitrator will determine which teachers still have to be laid off. 174 instructors at overhauled schools known as Promise Academies were targeted. But the school districted declared them exempt and pink slipped 174 other non-Promise Academy teachers instead.

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

Peter Falk, TV's rumpled Columbo, has died

Peter Falk, TV's rumpled Columbo, has died

AP Photo
FILE - In this Aug. 9, 2007 file photo, actor Peter Falk arrives for the Hollywood Foreign Press Association's annual installation luncheon at The Beverly Hills Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif. Falk, the stage and movie actor who became identified as the squinty, rumpled detective in "Columbo," died Thursday, June 23, 2011 at his Beverly Hills, Calif., home. He was 83.

NEW YORK (AP) -- The best way to celebrate Peter Falk's life is to savor how Columbo, his signature character, fortified our lives.

Thanks to Falk's affectionately genuine portrayal, Lt. Columbo established himself for all time as a champion of any viewer who ever felt less than graceful, elegant or well-spoken.

Falk died Thursday at age 83 in his Beverly Hills, Calif., home, according to a statement released Friday by family friend Larry Larson. But Columbo lives on as the shining ideal of anyone with a smudge on his tie, whose car isn't the sportiest, who often seems clueless, who gets dissed by fancy people.

As a police detective, Columbo's interview technique was famously disjointed, with his inevitable awkward afterthought ("Ahhh, there's just one more thing...") that tried the patience of his suspect as he was halfway out the door.

Columbo was underestimated, patronized or simply overlooked by nearly everyone he met - especially the culprit.

(See: Peter Falk, TV's rumpled Columbo, has died)

And yet Columbo, drawing on inner pluck for which only he (and an actor as skilled as Falk) could have accounted, always prevailed. Contrary to all evidence (that is, until he nailed the bad guy), Columbo always knew what he was doing.

Even more inspiring for viewers, he was unconcerned with how other people saw him. He seemed to be perfectly happy with himself, his life, his pet basset, Dog, his wheezing Peugeot, and his never-seen wife. A squat man chewing cigars in a rumpled raincoat, he stands tall among TV's most self-assured heroes.

What viewer won't take solace forever from the lessons Columbo taught us by his enduring example?

Columbo - he never had a first name - presented a refreshing contrast to other TV detectives. "He looks like a flood victim," Falk once said. "You feel sorry for him. He appears to be seeing nothing, but he's seeing everything. Underneath his dishevelment, a good mind is at work."

On another occasion, he described Columbo as "an ass-backwards Sherlock Holmes."

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"As a person, he was like Columbo. He was exactly the same way: a great sense of humor, constantly forgetting things," said Charles Engel, an NBCUniversal executive who worked with Falk on "Columbo" and was his neighbor and longtime friend.

He remembered Falk as a "brilliant" actor and "an amazingly wonderful, crazy guy," and said a script was in place for a two-hour "Columbo" special, but Falk's illness made the project impossible. In a court document filed in December 2008, Falk's daughter Catherine Falk said her father was suffering from Alzheimer's disease.

Somehow fittingly, Falk - the perfect choice to play Columbo - failed to be the first choice. Instead, the role was offered to easygoing crooner Bing Crosby. Fortunately, he turned it down.

With Falk in place, "Columbo" began its run in 1971 as part of the NBC Sunday Mystery Movie series, appearing every third week. The show became by far the most popular of the three mysteries, the others being "McCloud" and "McMillan and Wife."

Falk was reportedly paid $250,000 a movie and could have made much more if he had accepted an offer to convert "Columbo" into a weekly series. He declined, reasoning that carrying a weekly detective series would be too great a burden.

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NBC canceled the three series in 1977. In 1989 ABC offered "Columbo" in a two-hour format usually appearing once or twice a season. The movies continued into the 21st century. "Columbo" appeared in 26 foreign countries and was a particular favorite in France and Iran.

Columbo's trademark: an ancient raincoat Falk had once bought for himself. After 25 years on television, the coat became so tattered it had to be replaced.

Falk was already an experienced Broadway actor and two-time Oscar nominee when he began playing Columbo. And, long before then, he had demonstrated a bit of Columbo-worthy spunk: at 3, he had one eye removed because of cancer.

Then, when he was starting as an actor in New York, an agent told him, "Of course, you won't be able to work in movies or TV because of your eye." And after failing a screen test at Columbia Pictures, he was told by studio boss Harry Cohn that "for the same price I can get an actor with two eyes."

But Falk prevailed, even before "Columbo," picking up back-to-back Oscar nominations as best supporting actor for the 1960 mob drama "Murder, Inc." and Frank Capra's last film, the 1961 comedy-drama "Pocketful of Miracles."

Paying tribute, actor-comedian Michael McKean said, "Peter Falk's assault on conventional stardom went like this: You're not conventionally handsome, you're missing an eye and you have a speech impediment. Should you become a movie star? Peter's correct answer: Absolutely.

"I got to hang with him a few times and later worked a day with him on a forgettable TV movie," McKean went on, calling Falk "a sweet, sharp and funny man with a great soul. Wim Wenders called it correctly in 'Wings of Desire': He was an angel if there ever was one on Earth."

"There is literally nobody you could compare him to. He was a completely unique actor," said Rob Reiner, who directed Falk in "The Princess Bride."

"His personality was really what drew people to him. ... He had this great sense of humor and this great natural quality nobody could come close to," Reiner said. Falk's work with Alan Arkin in "The In-Laws" represents "one of the most brilliant comedy pairings we've seen on screen."

Peter Michael Falk was born in 1927, in New York City and grew up in Ossining, N.Y., where his parents ran a clothing store.

After serving as a cook in the merchant marine and receiving a masters degree in public administration from Syracuse University, Falk worked as an efficiency expert for the budget bureau of the state of Connecticut.

He also acted in amateur theater and was encouraged to become a professional by actress-teacher Eva Le Gallienne.

An appearance in "The Iceman Cometh" off-Broadway led to other parts, among them Josef Stalin in Paddy Chayefsky's 1964 "The Passion of Josef D." In 1971, Falk scored a hit in Neil Simon's "The Prisoner of Second Avenue," Tony-nominated for best play.

Falk made his film debut in 1958 with "Wind Across the Everglades" and established himself as a talented character actor with his performance as the vicious killer Abe Reles in "Murder, Inc."

Among his other movies: "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World," "Robin and the Seven Hoods," "The Great Race," "Luv," "Castle Keep," "The Cheap Detective" and "The Brinks Job."

Falk also appeared in a number of art-house favorites, including "Wings of Desire" (in which he played himself as a former angel), and the semi-improvisational films "Husbands" and "A Woman Under the Influence," directed by his friend John Cassavetes.

"Today we lost someone who is very special and dear to my heart. Not only a wonderful actor but a very great friend," said Gena Rowlands, who co-starred with Falk in the latter film, and was married to the late Cassavetes.

Falk became prominent in television movies, beginning with his first Emmy for "The Price of Tomatoes" in 1961. His four other Emmys were for "Columbo."

He was married to pianist Alyce Mayo in 1960; they had two daughters, Jackie and Catherine, and divorced in 1976. The following year he married actress Shera Danese. They filed for divorce twice and reconciled each time.

When not working, Falk spent time in the garage of his Beverly Hills home. He had converted it into a studio where he created charcoal drawings. He took up art in New York when he was in the Simon play and one day happened into the Art Students League.

He recalled: "I opened a door and there she was, a nude model, shoulders back, a light from above, buck-ass naked. The female body is awesome. Believe me, I signed up right away."

Falk is survived by his wife Shera and his two daughters.

Gay marriage headed to vote on NY Senate floor

Gay marriage headed to vote on NY Senate floor

AP Photo
Gay marriage supporter Danielle Gannon of Albany, N.Y., holds signs and chants in a hallway at the Capitol in Albany, on Friday, June 24, 2011. Following the latest marathon session on Thursday, the Senate Republican majority plans to again take up a gay marriage bill that could be pivotal moment in the national gay rights movement.

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) -- Republicans in the New York Senate agreed Friday to allow a full vote on legalizing gay marriage, setting the stage for a possible breakthrough victory for the gay-rights movement in the state where it got its start.

New York could become the sixth state where gay couples can wed, and the biggest by far. A vote is expected Friday night after several hours of debate.

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos said the bill will come to the floor and be brought up for an "up or down vote." It will be a "vote of conscience for every member of this Senate," Skelos said.

The heavily Democratic Assembly has already approved one version of the measure and is expected to easily pass the new version, which contains more protections for religious groups that oppose gay marriage and feared discrimination lawsuits.

Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who campaigned on the issue last year, has promised to sign it. Gay weddings could begin 30 days after that.

(See: NY pols begin to clear way for gay marriage vote)

Gay marriage activists were jubilant and applauded Skelos, who is opposed to gay marriage, for keeping his promise to let the conference decide whether to send the bill to the floor.

Though New York is a relative latecomer in allowing gay marriage, it is considered an important prize for advocates, given the state's size and New York City's international stature and its role as the birthplace of the gay-rights movement, which is said to have started with the Stonewall riots in Greenwich Village in 1969.

The effects of the law could be felt well beyond New York: Unlike Massachusetts, which pioneered gay marriage in 2004, New York has no residency requirement for obtaining a marriage license, meaning the state could become a magnet for gay couples across the country who want to have a wedding in Central Park, the Hamptons, the romantic Hudson Valley or that honeymoon hot spot of yore, Niagara Falls.

Gay-rights advocates are hoping the vote will galvanize the movement around the country and help it regain momentum after an almost identical bill was defeated here in 2009 and similar measures failed in 2010 in New Jersey and this year in Maryland and Rhode Island.

The sticking point over the past few days: Republican demands for stronger legal protections for religious groups that fear they will be hit with discrimination lawsuits if they refuse to allow their facilities to be used for gay weddings.

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Now, all 32 Republicans have approved stronger religious protections.

Deputy Majority Leader Thomas Libous of Binghamton, who opposes gay marriage, said that after hours of passionate debate behind closed doors he still doesn't know if there are enough votes to pass the bill.

"We've had some great conferences and nobody was told to vote yes or no," he said. "People spoke from their hearts."

New York, the nation's third most populous state, would join Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Washington, D.C., in allowing same-sex couples to wed.

For five months in 2008, gay marriage was legal in California, the biggest state in population, and 18,000 same-sex couples rushed to tie the knot there before voters overturned the state Supreme Court ruling that allowed the practice. The constitutionality of California's ban is now before a federal appeals court.

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While court challenges in New York are all but certain, the state - unlike California - makes it difficult for the voters to repeal laws at the ballot box. Changing the law would require a constitutional convention, a long, drawn-out process.

Movement on the bill comes after more than a week of stop-and-start negotiations, rumors, closed-door meetings and frustration on the part of advocates.

Online discussions took on a nasty turn with insults and vulgarities peppering the screens of opponents and supporters alike and security was beefed up in the capitol to give senators easier passage to and from their conference room.

Despite New York City's liberal Democratic politics and large and vocal gay community, previous efforts to legalize same-sex marriage failed over the past several years, in part because the rest of the state is more conservative than the city.

If the bill succeeds this time, it would reflect the powerful support of New York's new governor, who lobbied hard for the measure, and perhaps a change in public attitudes. Opinion polls for the first time are showing majority support for same-sex marriage, and Congress recently repealed the "don't ask, don't tell" policy that barred gays from serving openly in the military.

In the weeks leading up to the action in New York, some Republicans who opposed the bill in 2009 came forward to say they were supporting it for reasons of conscience and a duty to ensure civil rights.

Pressure to vote for gay marriage also has come from celebrities, athletes and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the Republican-turned-independent who has long used his own fortune to help bankroll GOP campaigns and who personally lobbied some undecided lawmakers. Lady Gaga has been urging her 11 million Twitter followers to call New York senators in support of the bill.

Representatives of the Roman Catholic Church, Orthodox rabbis and other conservative religious leaders are fighting the measure, and their GOP allies have pressed hard for legal protections for religious organizations that object to gay marriage.

Each side of the debate was funded by more than $1 million from national and state advocates who waged media blitzes and promised campaign cash for lawmakers who sided with them.

But GOP senators said it was Cuomo's passionate appeals in the governor's mansion on Monday night and in closed-door, individual meetings that were perhaps most persuasive.

The bill would make New York only the second state, after Vermont, to legalize marriage through a legislative act and without being forced to do so by a court.

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